Rocket-Sliding

From the Story Arc: A Day in the Life...

Previous Story in the Arc: Paragon, You Are Safe!! by Petrograd (Thursday, February 23, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Ghosts by Petrograd (Thursday, January 25, 2007)

(posted Monday, September 18, 2006)

Petrograd moved along the hardened Berkut thigh plates like stepping stones, hunched in the tiny cabin, tugging restraining straps tight. The golden visor slid up on the middle-seater, and John Murdock grinned through.

"Petro, you sure about this? I mean, you said this used to be a nuclear missile launcher, right?"

"Da, SS-N-20, from Typhoon submarine. Why?"

"Well, I ain't never heard of a nuke boat shootin' people."

"Is why you are in capsule. And suit, da? Do nyet worry, are with bolshoi trained cosmonauts, will to be walking cake. Trust me."

"Alright man, just as long as you say so. Hope its worth the trip."

Petrograd smirked to himself as he stepped out into darkness and dogged down the hatch. Murdock was certainly in for a 'trip,' and he would have done anything to take his place.

* * * * *

Belladonna Aura had been on the ship for hours, her schedule in tatters. Some obscure circuit had crossed on the cloning module, and she'd had to dig through fifteen bins of confiscated Crey equipment to find the proper board. Finally, when all the panel lights had been coerced to glow green, she turned towards the galley for something warmer than the frigid ocean air.

The water was just boiling when the roar ripped through the ship, reverberating across the walls and knocking every loose article in the galley flying. Bella brought up her PDA just as the lights died.

"Security status!"

[Dobre viechir. Krasniy-83774-B, D2.] Chirped the PDA frantically. Bella still wasn't sure why she'd let Petrograd copy a Gamaiun AI into the security system rather than just use the LlewellCo software. Still, if the Russian program had anything, it was paranoia, and good charts. The PDA flashed the shortest route to the apparent 'breach' in the generator room, and Bella broke into a run.

The problem was apparent, even through the barest emergency lights, as soon as she stepped into the room. Thick black tentacles strangled every piece of equipment, some of them jumping loose, shooting sparks from their wicked metallic claws. Bella chased the streaking cables down flights of stairs and forward until, at the very bow, the beast showed itself. Its body was a toppled cylinder, still almost twice as high as a man, jutting through a neat hole cut from the hull. Its metallic surface sprouted countless tentacles, spewing steam and smoke and shooting sparks, and two red lights glared down from above its heavy hydraulic maw. A crevice appeared in its side and a sooty invader rolled from it, stinking of burnt nitrates and alcohol…. and began to brush itself off.

It all became clear as the lights flickered back to life.

"Petrograd, I said you could use the ship, not sink it!"

"Schto?" Petro muttered, knocking a breaker 'off' with a pipe-wrench, apparently slaying the writhing beast.

"We're below the waterline! You've knocked out the hull!"

"Oh, da, they finished welding last week, bolshoi workers! Oh, mother of Lenin, the capacitors!" Petrograd began shouting into a radio as a half-dozen men in HES-HI suits ran out to ground cables and patch rupturing hoses.

Bella just stared, slack-jawed.

"Comrade Commissar, if you would accompany me to control room?"

LLewellyn is going to keel-haul him. And me. "Sure, why not?"

* * * * *

The 'Control Room' turned out to be four cargo containers, welded into one unit and furnished like a set from Apollo 13. Bright young men and women in lab coats chattered across headphones at their various stations, glancing occasionally at the central monitor, some kind of chaotic fractal pattern marked off in years and powers of ‘n.’

Petrograd continued to chatter away into the radio as the men in Berkut suits ran between cameras securing loose cables. A few LlewellCo. technicians had cleared her a space at a card table, and appeared to be busily engaged in some kind of gambling based on the screen. She had been watching for a good ten minutes when she caught the eye of one of the scientists.

"Shyft! Don't tell me he's gotten you into this too!"

The young blonde scinetist looked quizically across the room. [Ya ni panila, Amerikanski. Ivan, ti gavarish pa angliski?]

[Da, da.] Petrograd pulled the radio jack from his helmet and slung a chair to the table. "Comrade Commissar, prehaps I should to explain... that is Dr. Cerenje Wolkoff, head astrophysicist. That," he said, pointing to... Krasniy Zakat?, "is Aleksander Rabinovich, in charge of cross-quantum communications. There are others who are... familiar, but not many. They are Soviet portal researchers from bunker complex in Nemesis's dimension. When I came across them, they asked for a place to work outside of Nemesis's reach. Naturally, we did nyet want Nemesis coming through portals, and ship was only place I could to think of quiet enough."

"So, you're telling me that you've hidden a pack of cross-dimensional refugees right under my nose for... who knows how long, and that thing jutting out of the hull is a... an unregistered, probably highly illegal portal?"

"Mostly... is also part missile launcher. Thier portal is nyet beorgois Portal Corp model, people are having to be shielded, as well as accelerated. Spacecraft was easy solution."

"Easy? I think the CIA might take an interest in a rocket-launching container ship off the coast of Paragon."

"Is why is underwater launch. Is easier to show than tell, and they will to be back in... ten minutes."

"Alright, we'll see."

* * * * *

The return trip was much quieter, merely a high-pitched building whine and a decent 'fwhoom' from the ocean. The HES-HI suited Russians (Soviets? Dimensionals? Bella didn't know) threw on dive packs and went over the side on a crane cable. They came back on ladders as the crane creaked and strained under new weight.

The craft was an old Soyuz pod, the mainstay of Russian spaceflight even today, except for the bullet-scars, laser burns, Council robot debris, bright yellow paint, and Llewell-Oceanographic stickers. As it came to rest on the deck, Petrograd kicked a sheared-off Warcry torso from the nearest hatch and spun the handle, and three more red Berkut suits tumbled into the light.

John Murdock popped off his helmet and chucked it to a deck. "Wooooh, what a ride! Got all your shopping done too, Petro, the stuff's stowed in the back."

Petrograd opened a panel, yanking a metal box clear of the craft. "Let us see.... one Reich-made dimensional navigation computer, and all appropriate tracking and sensor equipment. Bolshoi work tovarischi, I am owing you much!"

"Just point me towards the cabins, and we're even. Oh, hey Bella! Got another present too, keep diggin’ Ivan."

Petrograd came out with a bundle of leather, which tumbled out in his hands as a tight women’s outfit with a Germanic eagle spanning the chest. "I have seen this before, somewhere... but is... wrong." A second bundle turned out to be a similar men's outfit.

Bella barely suppressed a chuckle. "Reich Saviour, and Roma. John, don't tell me you..."

"Nah, looks like the lovebirds snuck off, we found these on the beach where we landed. Guess they were the door-guards too, cause the base was empty, save the robots and goons. Figured Natalya'd get a kick out of it."

The tension finally broken, Bella just rubbed her forehead and looked at Petrograd. "Well, what about Llewellyn?"

Petrograd motioned to the LlewellCo. techs, smoking cigarettes and splitting their pile of money, grumbling about 'survival rates.' "She is knowing. Was her request to put in bow, away from her research."

"And the power?"

"LlewellCo. lab has own power, and I will to be fixing ours, now that am knowing nyet to trust cheap Amerikanski capacitors. So…” Petrograd said, his visor not serving particularly well for puppy eyes, “can they stay?”

Bella just sighed. “Get us a backup generator, and don’t blow up the ship. People live here, after all.”

“Spaceeba bolshoi, tovarisch! You will nyet regret this! Oh, also, I may to be needing cargo containers for…. completely unrelated salvage.”

“Sure you will, Petro, sure you will.”