Exceeds Man's Might; That Dwells With Gods Above

You are reading: The Final Bounty

Written by Antagony on 08 Jul 2017 22:23.

At their current angle of trajectory, what gas was in the atmosphere scattered a salmon-hued light, giving the planet a sort of halo. A brush of pink on an atramentous canvas. One of the planet’s moons sat on its horizon, and beyond that, spangled the luminous constellation, Arafura.
Their descent to the surface of the planet was like no other for the Makassar. The vacuum of space gave way to a thin upper atmosphere, resulting in minimal drag and little pressure. In fact the air was almost dead at that height, and Maida burned a lot of energy to keep them from making an uncontrolled dive; spiralling to their deaths. And each layer was so vast, so high above the surface compared to that of other planets. The void of space slowly faded away as the globe reflected its starlight back at them.
“Do you need me to help on the controls?” asked Sarawak, sitting in the second pilot’s chair.
Maida replied, “Not yet. Not until we fly into that storm cell ahead of us.”
“Um, into?” questioned Kalimantan.
Half of the crew— the engineers were fastened in their respective stations on the lowest deck, and Rusukan manned the rearward gun— saw for themselves a bright orange mass closing in. It appeared solid and looming. Yet so amorphous it moved quickly, whipped violently, and roiled with lightning.
“We don’t have much choice if we want to land at our exact coordinates. And this storm is at least two thousand kilometres wide, so it’ll be quite the long walk if you want me to fly around it. That said, this will be our last chance to do so.”
“Could you at least, keep us out of the worst of it?”
“I deviate from course accordingly, Kalimantan. But if you must know I’ve already added five minutes to our descent.”
“I think if we can make it through mercury in its gaseous state, then we can make it through this,” added Sarawak. To be sure he conferenced engineering, only for Muara to more or less confirm, “Uh… we’ve closed all locomotive ports on the engines to prevent any heavy particles from entering and damaging the internal components. But probably.”
“I’ll take it.”
“However, this is a bad sign,” said Tarakan. He referred to the low buzzing sound emanating from his console, and the corresponding lambent green light flaring like a laser point.
“What? What is it?”
“Somehow, our guest has unlocked the door to his suite.”
“Shit. That is bad news.”
Immediately Kalimantan volunteered, uncoupling his shoulder straps as he said, “I’ll take care of it.”
“Whoa! Maybe we should all be sitting down for the next phase of our journey?” Maida gruffly suggested.
“If he’s loose, we’ll have a lot more to deal with than some measly sandstorm,” said Kalimantan, irritable. “Captain?”
Given the circumstances, Sarawak was loath to agree. But he gave his nod of assent anyway. “Go ahead. I’ll send Pontianak to meet you. Watch your footing. Hear me?”
“Understood, sir.”
Jogging down to the middle deck, grating clanging loudly underfoot, the first officer converged with the lanky engineer at the brig. Pontianak having been dispatched seconds after Kalimantan. They greeted one another, but eyed the closed door suspiciously.
“Kalimantan. Fancy meeting you here.”
“Yeah. Just came down for a stroll.”
“Same. Stretching my legs.”
While the two quipped, both men drew their weapons and pointed them at the door. With Kalimantan also reaching for the latch.
Before they could barge in however, the ship shook wildly, catching Kalimantan and Pontianak off-guard, and nearly knocking them to the floor.
“What the hell—”
“What the fuck was that!?” Pontianak said into his commlink. “Was that turbulence?”
“No, we’re not at the troposphere yet!” answered Maida.
“So what fucking hit us!?” Kuraman demanded.
“That struck us on the stern…” Sarawak said, realising what was happening.
For a second there was a pause. Total silence, as everyone aboard accepted that Kalimantan was unfortunately right to worry about coming to the planet. Only Kalimantan found no relief or vindication in being proven correct.
Rusukan broke the still and sounded the alarm, yelling “CONTACT!”
The klaxon was more blaring, more emphatic than any other noise aboard the ship. It was a constant disconcerting squawk, like a horn or a trumpet with at least three beats per second. Such a cacophony was surely enough to put a crew to work. Yet it was accompanied by the flash of amber, obnoxiously pulsating in every compartment and every hallway in Varuni.
Of course the crew didn’t even have time to react to the siren when the ship was struck again. This time much harder, and one could sense it hit near to the main engine. Kalimantan and Pontianak barely braced themselves in time.
The crew heard Rusukan returning fire, the gattler sweeping the gun from side to side. They could all picture him cackling as he did.
“Can we outmanoeuvre him?” asked Kalimantan.
“Not really! But we might lose him in this shit up ahead!” Maida growled.
“Him!?” Rusukan laughed maniacally, “Try THEM! We have multiple bogies operating in stealth! HA HA HA!”
“Of course! They’re fucking cloaked!” said Kuraman. “I take it Rusukan is doing most of the heavy lifting!?”
“You’d be right, Kuraman!”
“Well, can we fire torpedoes?” asked Kalimantan, desperate to help. “Can we do anything save run and hide?”
Maida heckled, “Sure! If you see something you’d like us to blow up, let us know!”
“They’re cloaked, Kalimantan! We can’t target them!” said Sarawak.
“No wait,” Pontianak’s mouth gaped open, “it doesn’t matter if they’re cloaked, we can still detonate them.”
“Kuraman, get off your ass! Meet Kalimantan and I at the starboard torpedo hatch.”
Pontianak boldly barreled down the hall, without a second thought. But before Kalimantan joined him, he made sure the prisoner’s quarters were secured. Uncertain if he lay in wait directly behind the door, or if he had fashioned a weapon out of what little lay about in the room he was kept.


The torpedo hatch was a small, narrow chamber off the main cabins. In it, Pontianak couldn’t stand, while Kuraman and Kalimantan barely could.
Per hatch were five torpedo tubes. Five large cylindrical sheaths arranged in a quincunx. And a motor could spin them like five different axles attached to a single wheel or gear. They turned on the wheel for easy and discrete loading from inside the craft rather than through the breech door, which was usually closed. While in battle, the wheel turned to fire single torpedoes through the muzzle door.
Kuraman was quick to point out that not only could they not see their enemy to target them, but their enemy was behind them.
“I know, so let’s flip the torpedoes around and fire them out the breech doors,” said Pontianak.
“Are you insane?” asked Kuraman.
“I think he is, but I’m starting to suspect why he wanted you here Kuraman,” said Kalimantan.
“Even if he could,” said Maida, “let’s not forget that we cannot target them!”
Then despite Maida’s finesse with the ship’s controls the Varuni was hit again. This time everyone not strapped down, fell over. And the vents in the corridor directly above Kalimantan broke open, and the pressurized steam nearly killed him; potentially melting through his suit. Had it not been for Pontianak to pull him out of the way. Quickly getting up, Kuraman hit the nearest ball valve, shutting off the flow of gas.
“Fuck, Maida! Do you have any better ideas?” blurted Kalimantan.
“Argh! We can’t!” said Tarakan continuing the argument. “Even if we did, and Pontianak set the torpedoes on a timer— which is what I suspect he’s proposing— we’d have to disable the valves in the torpedo tubes as well. And then we’d have to learn to breathe without fucking oxygen!”
“—He’s right,” Kuraman added.
Sarawak interrupted them all, yelling, “Enough! All of you!” He groaned, “Shit. Kuraman, can you do it or not? Yes or no?”
“Uh, yes, Captain.”
“Then do it.”
“But Captain—” began Tarakan before Sarawak cut him off.
“I know! The oxygen! Well we’re about to enter the troposphere, boys! And there’s sure to be some oxygen in that storm. If we can’t lose them in it, we’ll go with Pontianak’s plan. Saddle up.”
“Prepare for bad weather,” said Maida, “in five… four… three… two… one…”

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