Calm Before the Storm

You are reading: The Final Bounty

Written by Antagony on 04 Jul 2017 18:13.

Though the prow was slightly damaged what with pincer marks indented in the hull, bruises on its port and starboard sides, a horrible gash on the back of the fuselage, and even superficial burn marks throughout, the craft of the Makassar slowed, unburdened. However, the metal creaked where it had been bitten; still adjusting as it decreased velocity. Before then they swiftly approached an ‘x’ on a map; following coordinates given by an anonymous employer. Furthermore, provided by an equally mysterious third party.
Kalimantan thought the coordinates to be just as intriguing however. When first given, fed to the Varuni for research, the man was surprised to find that save for the final destination, there was apparently nothing more to be gleaned about it. Not if it was a planet, a satellite affixed through tractor beam, or even vacant space let alone what dangers the crew might face when they got there. What information he did learn was troubling. Perhaps it was the old ship in a bout of senescence or perhaps it was the firefight, but when Kalimantan punched in the coordinates, Varuni’s computers treated them like a corrupted file, and would glitch. Like it was poison. As if to simply view this unknown position on a chart was hazardous to the ship itself.
Now they had arrived and Kalimantan was no less worried. He expected the onboard computers to seize up, or complete retrograde inversion from the engines. Nothing happened, but somehow that was worse for him.
As soon as the bone had set, Kalimantan flexed his recently broken arm, and the once punctured wrist. He took a deep breath, no longer worrying about his lungs filling with blood, but he was hardly at peace.
Sarawak and the rest of the Makassar were also on the bridge, and were on the other hand, more than eager to see what awaited them. In the foreground, was a planet with no name. It’s clouds of dust were thick giving the land too, a rusted red or ochre tinge. A number of curlicued cells moved quickly and low to the surface. Though it looked mostly arid and lacking, where there were breaks in the cover Kalimantan could make out some patches of green and blue. Thousands of kilometres apart, unfortunately.
“So, Captain,” said Kalimantan, “how do we proceed?”
Sarawak replied, “First thing’s first, Kalimantan. Do we have our final bearings?”
“Aye sir!” said Maida, fulfilling his duties. “Ready to alight.”
“Good. What are the conditions?”
“21.8 hour days; Lower relative gravity,” piped in Tarakan, “average daytime temperatures of 324.15 kelvin; increased levels of iron and ammonia, decreased oxygen and nitrogen, but it’s still breathable so long as you don’t exert yourself too much. No information of wildlife or civilisation… I can’t quite get an accurate reading on the geomagnetic field, but the magnetosphere is highly decayed. So, exposure to solar radiation for any longer than six hours a day would be harmful. If it penetrates the clouds that is. The most worrying thing about this planet are these storm cells. Diameters range from a thousand to well over twenty thousand kilometres. With wind speeds reaching some five hundred kilometres an hour. And if we're hit by that lightning, the electronics will be fried for sure. The planet is essentially one big typhoon.”
“What is it?”
“Mostly heavy silica and ferrous oxide.”
“Then I guess we do need some protective armour,” said Pontianak, concluding a wager with Kuraman.
“Shut up!” Kuraman returned.
And Sarawak echoed him, “Shut up. Both of you. Continue, Tarakan. Tell me about the star.”
“Zaphod B33873840x-934 is an end-stage yellow dwarf, prone to severe flares.”
“And the moons?”
“All three are tidally locked, Captain. But the scanners aren’t picking up too many bodies of water on the planet, so I’d say they have negligible effect.”
“Hmm. Very well, boys!” Sarawak chuckled and rubbed his hands together excitedly. “The landing party will consist of: Rusukan, Kuraman, Tarakan, Muara and myself. Maida, stay on the bridge. With any luck, we’ll be out of here in less than six hours. Pontianak, main engine. Keep it in working order. Kalimantan, eyes and ears. No one is sneaking up behind us to steal our prize. Everybody! suits on, weapons hot! We are landing in…”
“Five minutes, Captain,” Maida filled in.
“…Five! Let’s go!” Sarawak flashed his trademark grin, and everyone else became just as raucous, as they all headed to the armoury. Save for Maida who had his gear stowed on the bridge. Pontianak however seemed disappointed, as he had been certain that he would be part of the landing party and not Muara. So once again, something changed hands between them.
Kalimantan followed close behind everyone, but his brother waited up. When they met, Sarawak placed a reassuring hand on Kalimantan’s back. Apparently he did see the consternation in his brother’s expression.
“You know why I made you look-out?” asked Sarawak.
“Yes,” replied Kalimantan.
“While I’m off the ship, you’re in command. If you see us walking into danger, or an imminent threat, call it off. Understand? We’ll withdraw, and then deliver our cargo.”
“Aye, Captain.”
“No, Kalimantan. You’re the Captain. Now don, brother. Battle or none, I’d like us to be ready.”
The men equipped themselves in a hurry. First distributing the weapons evenly amongst them, and then putting on their respective suits.
All of them shouldered their primary weapons, even clipping them onto specially designed pauldrons to allow them to walk about hands free. Though none of the Makassar seemed to have a standard spare weapon, most of them equipped themselves with some kind of pistol or other handgun or even two; hugging them at the waist.
Kalimantan’s was a modified plasma blaster. High calibre, minimal recoil, long charge, near perfect sights. And with the long barrel it even worked well for sniping. The black frame and ergonomic handle were made especially for him, and the trigger would only respond to his touch.
Their armour was a slate black as well, flat and dull. They resembled the exoskeletons of beetles, with its smooth outer surface, and the spikes pointing out from the collar, and the bicorn helmet. Though they were large and they were bulky. Adding some fifty kilos to slow them all down.
Kalimantan locked and loaded his weapon, and affixed the helmet to his suit, allowing it to fill with air. And the internal computer illuminated in the margin of his visor. He and the Makassar were ready to go, but were ill-prepared for what would happen next.

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