The Inos Incursion
Part I - The Locked Ship Mystery
Strike Cruiser Dakhan’s Fist
Approaching Inos Thirteen
“You have your orders Commodore.”
“I am unclear about them, Quaestor,” Auturra Krill’s voice replied, “you have sent me with an entire task force and battalion to search the moons of Inos without even an indication of what we are looking for.”
“You will know when you find it.”
“And supposing we find nothing?” the officer asked.
“Then you will go back to the beginning and start again. Is that clear?”
Auturra Krill’s mind snapped back to the present as he observed the image of the corvette growing larger on the view screen. He frowned as he observed the Hydra rotating, lights flashing on and off along its surface indicating that something was wrong - at least some parts of the ship still had power.
“Are they still failing to respond to hails?” he asked.
A crewmember turned to him. “Not so far, Commodore,” she replied, “the scanners detect systems are reporting as normal.”
Krill turned to the passive figure sitting next to him. “Is there anything you can tell us?”
Malik opened his eyes. “I sense nothing,” he replied.
The Neti turned to him. “More accurately, I can feel yourself, those on this ship around us, and that is all, Commodore.”
Krill frowned. “Bring us into range of Hydra and prepare the boarding party. Order Wyrm to hold position to support where necessary.”
With a burst of sparks the heavy hatch finally opened, and a few seconds later Locke led the Disciples of Dakhan through the airlock. “Be careful everyone, we do not know what to expect here. Keep your helmets on, even if the power is on there may be airborne contaminants.”
He led the members into the corridor and they stopped, looking around them in surprise. The corridor was still brightly lit and revealed a grisly sight. Along the floor and splashed on the walls were trails of red and other colours of various species’ blood and above along the surface of the walls were black scorch marks, the telltale signs of blaster fire. Scattered about the floor were also several discarded weapons, but of the owners there was no sign.
“What happened here?” Scarlet asked, as her gaze took in the scene.
“I think we can confirm this was more than a simple communications problem,” Etah added drily.
Macron moved forward and removed his molecular analyser from his belt, kneeling by some of the blood trails. “This is fresh, coagulation shows this has been here less than twelve hours. It matches species registered among House personnel.”
“That matches the timing of the distress signal, Augur,” the quiet voice of the short woman in the Warhost flight suit reported to Locke, “what we received of it anyway.”
“We need to move out and secure the bridge and the hangar,” Locke reported, “Macron, Rivio, with me. Etah, Scarlet and Malevek proceed to the hangar, I want regular reports. Captain Dagen you will accompany us and stay in the middle. If there is trouble keep low and let us handle it.”
“That’s an affirmative, Augur,” the diminutive officer replied quietly.
Locke led them slowly along the corridor, passing through an open doorway, Macron still holding his analyser in one hand and his saber in the other. “Still no bodies,” the Adept commented quietly as he observed the trail of the presumed fighting, “on either side.”
“They may be holed up somewhere,” Rivio replied. “It seems odd though there was no sign of entry or exit from the exterior views.”
“They may have entered and left by the hangar, hopefully we will learn more.”
“Hold up,” Macron told them suddenly as he studied the wall, “there’s scratch marks here.”
“Caused by what?” Locke demanded as he turned to the Alchemist.
“Looks like they’re claw marks,” Macron replied, “the analyser isn’t picking up any DNA though.”
“Augur,” Captain Dagen said suddenly, “there is a substance here I do not recognise.” She knelt by the floor.
Locke came over and knelt by it. “It looks luminous? Macron?”
The Adept joined them and waved the analyser over it, studying the readings. “It has a cell structure that matches known species blood types, however the analyser fails to match its components to any known element.”
“Is that possible?” Rivio asked.
Macron shrugged. “It ought not to be. I need to get a sample back to the laboratory for deeper analysis.”
Locke led them further into the ship, heading for the bridge. The three disciples and their warhost companion kept their eyes peeled and their weapons ready as they turned a corner. Then a voice came over the communicator.
“Etah to Locke.”
“I hear you Etah. Report.”
“We are at the hangar. There are major signs of battle here and damage, but the doors are sealed and pressurised. Nothing has entered or left the ship through here in the last twenty four hours.”
“Alright, keep me posted,” the Augur replied.
“That raises a serious question, Augur,” Captain Dagen said quietly, “if they were attacked, how did anything enter and leave, including the crew? We are talking about ninety four personnel.”
“And forty troopers,” Rivo added darkly.
Without replying Locke led them through the door onto the corvette’s bridge. Like before there were signs of a struggle and blood, and several of the terminals were damaged. Captain Dagen moved forward, and the Miraluka sat at a terminal. “All core systems report as functional, Augur,” she reported, “it appears they were already in a stationary orbit when whatever happened. There is computer damage though, something may have hit the main terminal. I am unable to access logs or security footage.”
“They are a priority once we get the ship back to Aeotheran,” Locke replied, “we need a better idea what happened. I will message the Commodore to send a skeleton relief crew and troopers to continue the search.”
Commodore Krill listened and nodded. “Affirmative, Augur,” he replied, “they will be with you in ten minutes.”
There was a sudden voice from behind him. “We must depart. Signal Hydra.”
Krill turned to the Neti, “I beg your pardon Adept?”
“Now Commodore!” Malik said urgently.
“Sir, we are detecting a gravitational field from the moon,” a bridge officer reported a second later, “growing in intensity. Hydra’s orbit is beginning to decay.”
The Commodore looked up at the screen where the Hydra was beginning to drift downwards towards the moon. “Hydra this is Dakhan’s Fist, your orbit is decaying. You must fire up your engines.”
“We are!” Locke’s voice came back.
"Hydra’s engine’s are at full power sir,” the officer told him, “they are still losing altitude.”
“We must assist them,” Malik said quickly.
Krill nodded. “Bring us closer to Hydra and engage the tractor beam. Order Wyrm to assist.”
“Sir we may be caught in the same field,” the officer replied, “we may not be able to escape.”
“We will take that risk,” Krill replied, “proceed.”
“Are we at full power?” Locke demanded as the view showed the moon behind them, growing slowly larger. The rest of the team had joined them and were now strapped into chairs on the bridge.
Captain Dagen nodded, “I’ve diverted it from everything but the shields,” the Miraluka replied, “our descent speed has slowed but we can not escape. Additionally the engines will not take this pressure for long.”
“Tractor beam locked, Commodore,” the bridge officer reported, “we are also now experiencing the same gravitational pull but we are compensating.”
“Keep us in synchronous orbit with Hydra,” Krill ordered, “full power to engines and tractor beam.”
“We have them sir,” the reply came, “their descent is stabilized. We are trying to pull clear.”
“Where is Wyrm?” Malik asked.
“Moving into position now,” the officer replied, “they are locking onto Hydra.”
Malik closed his eyes, the Neti reaching out focusing his thoughts on the crews of the ships, synchronizing them to one purpose.
“Hydra is beginning to ascend, Commodore,” the officer reported.
“Keep going,” Krill ordered, “shut down all non essential systems.”
Locke sat with the rest of the team on Hydra’s bridge, feeling the vibrations and hearing the scream of the engines as they fought to escape. The view screen had been powered off, leaving them blind except for the sensors. He glanced at the Warhost officer who was sat quietly, her hands flickering over the controls. “Report.”
“Nearly there, the field is weakening,” she replied, “systems are critical however. I am still having to maximise our velocity even with the cruiser and Wyrm’s assistance.”
They waited a few more agonising minutes, then Captain Dagen reported. “We are clear, Augur. The only force on us is the tractor beam.”
“That was close.” Locke replied.
A few seconds later there was a final grinding noise across the ship and then the bridge went dark, except for the team’s personal lights. Dagen tried a few switches. “We’ve lost everything, Augur. Controls are negative.”
Locke nodded. A voice appeared in his head in the crisp tones of the Neti. “We still have you,” Malik told him, “a repair crew will be with you presently.” The Augur relayed the message to the rest of the team.
“None of this makes sense,” Etah commented, “the attack, the lack of bodies, that gravity field.”
“We will find out,” Macron replied, the Alchemist sounding thoughtful, “I suspect this is only the beginning.”