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Welcome To The Revolution: Chapter 1
Posted By: S7N<n.j.r.jones@brighton.ac.uk>
Date: 15 November 2004, 12:27 AM

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Chapter 1
It's Not How Big It Is...

      "How long has it been there?"
      "Not sure sir, the scopes didn't pick it up until we rounded the planet's third moon."
      "Is it hostile?"
      "From what I'm seeing, sir, it is not a Covenant vessel, and does not fit the profile of a pirate ship either. But we can't start a progressive scan until we are within a hundred thousand kilometres."
      "White" Ruddick turned away from the man sitting at the Navigation console and looked sternly at his First Mate. "Would you like to venture an opinion?"
      The woman standing next of him gazed out of the view screen. Her jaw flexed a few times and then she turned to meet her Captain's gaze. Thin lips parted and a soft voice echoed out. "Look's like bait to me cap."
      "Care to explain that?" Ruddick said.
      "This system is devoid of Covenant activity, but that's not to say pirates don't operate out here." She sighed and placed her hands on the Navigator's chair in front of her. "From here it looks like a UNSC ship. Not big enough to be a Cruiser or a Destroyer, but certainly big enough to be a medium-sized Frigate or a large Corvette."
      Ruddick bit his lip for a moment, then turned and sat in the chair left of the Navigator. He tapped the controls, bringing up an image of the ship they had spotted, and enhanced it enough that it took up two-thirds of the screen in front of him.
      "It certainly does look like a frigate from here, but what the hell is it doing?"
      "There are no power sources being emitted from it sir, " Cox, the ship's Second Navigator replied. "It's either powered down for a reason, or its dead in space." He paused for a second. "We're within a hundred thousand kilometres now sir, starting active and progressive scans."
      A few moments passed and silence washed through the small bridge. Ruddick looked at the Navigator's screen, watching lines of information about the vessel in front of them peel across the screen. He wiped a sweaty palm over his leather flight jacket. "Am I reading that right, Cox?"
      "Yes sir," Cox shook his head and leaned back in his chair, the form-fitting pads moulding to the extra pressure applied by his back. "That ship is over twenty years old."
      "So what?" White added, a hint of irritation in her voice. "There are plenty of ships in the UNSC that are over twenty years old."
      "You're not getting my point, Jen," Cox replied. "It's over twenty years old, yes, but scans show that it has had no power surges of any kind in the last ten years." And these were no ordinary scanners. To any UNSC ship or docking-station, the Virago would seem like a normal trading vessel, on its way to deliver its harmless and completely legal cargo. But ever since buying this little beauty, it had slowly become one of the most illegally upgraded ships in human-known space. Weapons packages and upgrades, engine filters and buffers, and a highly developed Sensor array made this one the most dangerous and notorious smuggler ships around.
      It was a shame that nobody in the UNSC knew about it though, and that its only recognition was from those that they worked for.
      And it wasn't just the ship, it's crew were the best there were. The rag tag bunch that Ruddick called "friends" he had picked up from here or there, finding something in each of them that he valued. They were the best at what they did, and he wouldn't have anyone else touching his ship.
      Ruddick had grown up in a slum on Earth, just outside Paris. When he was only ten he was already part of a vicious street gang, as well as being a very adept thief. At the time, there had been rumour that the outer colonies were nearing a state of rebellion, and that in the next decade or so there would be an all out civil war between the systems. Of course, as a teenager, none of this had mattered to Ruddick.
      Practically an orphan, he had roamed the streets, learning things that a normal education didn't touch on. By the time he was a young adult he was off of Earth and jetting around as a mechanic on a cargo ship. It wasn't long before he found himself smuggling goods for the galaxy's underworld. After he purchased the Virago with money from years of illegal earning, he had travelled UNSC space, delivering everything and anything that was considered contraband.
      "So you're saying" Ruddick said after a moments thought "that this ship has been drifting out here for ten years and nobody has found it?"
      "Pretty much, cap." Cox quickly replied. He tapped a key on his console and brought the ship into sharp focus, then matched it to all known ships in their computer database. Over the years of travelling, their illegal database had built up enough information from UNSC ships that it could have been ripped right from a Cruiser. The crew of the Virago had put most of that information together, but a chance meeting with a rogue UNSC officer had filled their files with all sorts of data that wasn't accessible to civilians. "It's a Millennium-Class frigate, one of ten that were made by the UNSC. It's approximately six hundred metres long, has a crew of twenty and the capacity to house a hundred more. It doesn't say if it carries a marine compliment, but that's not to say it doesn't.
      "Records show that seven of the ten ships have been destroyed or are out of service, and the remaining three have not been used since 2540. The transponder codes on this ship match up to those of the UNSC Frigate Orion Delta, and according to our database..." Cox tapped a few times on the console "...is currently out of service, but not one of those that were scrapped. The Millennium-Class was used exclusively to ferry around VIPs and high-ranking officials. Those that were destroyed were done so for metal to be used in creating destroyers. My guess is that when the war with the Covenant began, there was no point in having ships like this, seeing as they are not very well armoured and have little in the way of fire-power."
      Ruddick stroked the beard on his chin, pulled at a small knot and pondered the situation. If it was decommissioned, why was it here? How had it gotten here? It would be possible that pirates had liberated it from a shipyard, but that would mean getting the access codes for the ship. And it would mean finding twenty people mad enough to enter a UNSC shipyard and take the damn thing. No, this ship was here for a reason, and he wanted to find out what it was.
      He didn't have to voice his opinions with Cox or White, as he knew they would be thinking the exact same thing. If it had been recorded as "out of service", the only true explanation, as well as the most likely, was that it was being used for a black op. But why this system? The Yolandi system was devoid of any human colonies, and didn't house any planets that could sustain any sort of life forms. It had been blind luck that the Virago had picked up the ship on their scopes. They had passed through looking for any sign of salvageable debris after a report had come in that there had been a battle here not but two days ago. They had found an empty escape pod and a scorched piece of Titanium-A Battle plate, and that was it.
      "So, what do we do?" White said, coming to stand by Ruddick's chair. "Do we board it and see what we can find? Or leave it well alone?"
      "What do you want to do?" Ruddick said, avoiding answering the question himself in the hope that she would do so for him.
      "I'd say get the hell out, but this is too good an opportunity to miss. Think of all the data we could get off of it, not to mention cargo." She looked passed him and over to Cox. The younger man glanced up at her and shrugged.
      "I say go."
      Ruddick stood up from the command chair and paced a little. If it was a trap, they would most certainly all be killed. If it was a derelict ship, it could be booby-trapped.
      "Get the others up here, now."
      Cox buzzed the com and spoke quickly into it. "Ruddick," White said, turning to her captain "You might want to know that although the ship has no power to it, it is drifting at approximately five hundred kilometres per hour. On its current trajectory, in seven and a half hours it will pass by the system's second planet, and if my calculations are correct will be pulled into a descending orbit around it."
      "Meaning it will burn up on re-entry," Ruddick finished her sentence. "Well, hopefully we'll be on and off the ship in no time at all." Or we'll all be dead before we get the chance he didn't say.
      The bridge door hissed open and a rugged looking man stepped through, followed closely by a petit female form. The man wore only a grubby vest and a small pair of boxer-shorts, and the look on his face suggested he had been asleep only moments ago. His hair was ruffled and his eyes drooped with what Ruddick could only surmise as sleep deprivation. A cigarette hung out of one side of his mouth.
      The woman, on the other hand, wore a clean blue jumpsuit and had her long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. Her eyes sparkled in the dim light of the bridge, and she smiled as they both stepped up to the captain.
      "Reporting as ordered, Cap." she said.
      "Thank you Garrett," Ruddick replied, wishing the Engineer didn't make so much effort to please him. He had asked her a few times to do so, but her response had been that she felt it necessary to show as much respect as she could to the man who saved her life. Ruddick could only nod and accept it.
      "Yeah, thanks for wakin' me up, Rud." The grubby-looking man said. He gave the Captain a playful slap on the belly and walked over to stand behind Cox.
      "No problem, Phil." Ruddick said with a smile on his face. "No problem at all."
      Phil Jacobs turned and winked at him, then grabbed Cox by the scruff of the neck and hauled him out of the Navigator's chair, taking residence of it once the smaller man was clear. Cox made a comment about Jacobs being overweight in the posterior area and went and stood by White, as if cowering behind the woman.
      "Call me a fat ass again you little punk and I'll feed you to it." Jacbos retorted, getting a laugh from both the Captain and his First Mate.
      "Men" White sighed, then looked over at Ruddick and gave him a playful smile. "Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em."
      Ruddick put on a face of mock-anger, to which White made a gesture to say I love you really. She wasn't a stunning woman, but she definitely was beautiful, which said a lot considering the mess she had been when he first met her. At the tender age of 16 she was orphaned when her parents were killed in an airlock explosion, something that was never solved by the people who lived in the hollowed-out asteroid on which she had lived. Ruddick had been on the asteroid-world getting an engine upgrade, the first of many, for the Virago and had run into her when she tried stealing his wallet. He decided not to press charges against her when he found out it was her father who was installing the engine upgrade.
      Two days before he was scheduled to leave am unknown group infiltrated the asteroid, captured the then-leader and exited by blowing open the airlock doors. Ruddick witnessed Jen's parent's deaths first hand and remembered seeing her anguish as the outer doors had blown out completely, watching as her mother and father were sucked into the vacuum beyond. She had tried to kill herself the following day, but Ruddick stopped her and persuaded her to come with him and start a new life with him. She grudgingly obliged, but soon that grudge turned into friendship, and then into companionship.
      "Am I reading this right?" Jacobs said, his voice interrupting Ruddick's thoughts. "A twenty year old ship, that is supposed to out of service and hasn't had a hint of power for over a decade has appeared...here?" he took a long drag on his cigarette, removed it and tapped the ash onto the deck beside him.
      "You're the main Navigator, Phil." White replied. "So I'm guessin' that means 'yes'." They all gathered round him, staring intently at the screen. Ruddick let Garrett stand in front of him to get a better look. "And we're going to find out why it's here." He heard Jacobs swear under his breath, and a cloud of smoke rose from where he sat. "You have a problem with that?"
      "Hell yeah! First off, we don't know what's on it. Secondly, it's dangerous and lastly..." he paused for a minute "ah hell, don't have a third. But if I did it would be a damn good third!"
      Cox chuckled at the last comment, earning a stern look from the older man. To which Cox gave him the finger.
      "Well, what the Captain says goes." White butted in. "We'll be within shuttle-distance in five minutes so get to your stations and be ready for anything." A series of "yes, sir's" and "of course, ma'am" echoed round the bridge. Ruddick slumped back into the command chair, with White taking the weapons station, Cox sitting at the communications console and Garrett standing just behind her Captain.
      A moment later the door hissed open and Ruddick heard footsteps resound on the metallic floor. He didn't have to turn around to know who it was, seeing as it was the only other crewmember on the ship that wasn't here on the bridge.
      "Thank you for joining us, Jones." Jacobs said. "What took you so long?"
      "Your mother doesn't like to leave things unfinished." The Engineer quipped, earning a guffaw from Cox and White.
      Jacobs glanced over his shoulder. "Boy if I wasn't busy right now I'd make sure you never used those hands of yours again." Of course the whole crew knew that Jacobs wasn't serious, despite the fact that Jones was just as big as the Navigator, and equally as strong. But it would never come to a fight as it was all just playful banter. Jacobs and Jones had grown up together. They'd gone out with girls together, gotten in fights together and eventually ended up working on the same cargo ship. They had hit it off with Ruddick, who was the ship's mechanic at the time. After a year of honest living, the three of them decided to delve into the world of smuggling, and eventually bought their own ship.
      "What's the problem captain? I got engines to grease." He came to stand by Garrett and put an arm around her shoulder, wiping a streak of dirt onto her clean overalls. Ruddick turned to him and laid out what had happened in the last twenty minutes, then asked of his opinion on the situation.
      The Engineer gave a long sigh, then wiped his brow with a mucky hand. "Shit, want us to bend over when we get on board as well?" the comment was meant to be humorous, but there was a hint of anger. He knew just as well as Ruddick that boarding ships with no life signs meant trouble, and the last time they had done so had ended in the loss of a good friend. Jones pushed the image of Gorski being ripped apart by a thousand bullets to the back of his mind and focused on the task ahead.
      "How we doin' this?" White said from the weapons console.
      Ruddick thought for a moment. He didn't want to take all of them with him, and knew that most of them probably didn't want to come anyway. He'd need at least two people here on the Virago just in case anything happened and they needed to get out of there fast. But he also needed at least two with him to cover his back.
      "White," he said, not taking his eyes away from the closing ship. "you stay here with Cox and Garrett. I'm going in with Jacobs and Jones."
      "But..." Garrett was about to protest, but thought better of it and stopped talking. Ruddick glanced to his right and saw the back of White's head. He knew she wouldn't be pleased either, and could tell so from the way she didn't move. He got up out of his chair and walked over to stand behind her, placing his hand on her shoulder. He squeezed it a little and her hand came up to embrace it.
      She turned her head and looked up at him. "You'd better come back."