INT – DAY – Tajemnica’s bridge.
Lag, Helton, Quiritis, Bipasha, Camp XO
Helton: Now we spin up, sound retreat, and get the hell out’a here!
Lag: (thoughtfully, quietly, looking at the AARAS display) … No.
Helton: You just said-
Lag: “take off.” Not retreat.
Helton: But how in the name of all that’s warm an’ fuzzy-
Camp XO: (putting hand on side-arm, voice dangerous) If he says no retreat, then we don’t.
Helton: (hotly) This is MY ship, and I say where we go!
Camp XO: (grimly, gripping gun in holster) It’s only yours as long as Lag says it is.
Lag says nothing, still standing more-or-less at parade rest, looking at Helton.
Suddenly every screen on the bridge goes black. The bridge is dark with stark shadows thrown by the light coming in the thick windows. Then, on the main screen appear the words: “Wrong” in bold white letters. Everyone stares at them, then looks back and forth among themselves. The word disappear, in its place the words “Captain Strom is in charge” appear.
Helton: What just happened?
Lag: (in slightly amused wonderment) The ship likes you.
On the main screen appears: Not like. TRUST.
They all look at the words, rapidly pondering the implications.
Those words blink away. In their place briefly appears: Creative. Thoughtful. Family. Resourceful.
These words disappear, and then on the main screen: No uniform.
Lag: Ahhh… I see… you just got promoted to CinCMOp [pronounced Sink-Mop]
Helton: Say again?
Lag: CinCMOp; Civilian in Charge of Military Operations. (then, crisply) AARAS display, please.
The display reappears on the screen.
Lag: (to Camp XO) Major, this is an decommissioned, experimental mil-surp ship, I can brief you on relevant details later. (to Helton) However unlikely it may be, some of the original military AI programming appears to have survived. I believe it is demanding civilian control of primary decision making aboard. You appear to be that lawful, trustworthy, civilian authority it recognizes. (gestures to AARAS) The data displayed here could only be captured and generated by high-end, even military-grade, hardware and software, and looking at the defensive firing, there appears to be some quality gunnery control remaining as well. Look, we don’t have much time, so I’ll keep this REALLY short. We are surrounded, and have orbital platforms above – there is no place to slip out in retreat. They think we are obliterated, but they are professional enough to verify before moving on to attack the next base with the same method. That kink in paths we saw indicates prohibited terminal guidance munitions, making THEM in violation of the combat contract, so we can now do anything we want, and use any weapons we have-
Helton: Which right now ain’t SHIT!
Lag: -which right now are a couple of missiles, and we can secure the remaining APC on the ramp, and use its gun. The armor on this ship has demonstrated it’s good enough to stop all but the biggest they’ve got, and if we attack the surprise will be-
Helton: We can barely fly, and you want to attack?
Lag: That kink in the trajectory… (he points to it in the AARAS display) everything was going everywhere, then, suddenly, just before our guns opened up when the ship took over, suddenly they went from targeting almost entirely the other equipment and personnel and bunkers, they were re-directed en mas toward this ship, where they impacted without effect. I think the ship flashed them a big “shoot ME” sign, and they all re-targeted. The ship knew its armor was tough enough, and it was protecting us. Nearly a thousand incoming rounds, and we only have six dead and a handful of wounded. All the big stuff got shot down mid-air. No-one who was on board this ship was hurt.
Helton: But we can’t just fly through them, and your plan is to attack a battalion with an APC tied to the front ramp?!
Lag: (grinning) Never underestimate the value of being on the right side of the chaos! Yes, it’s risky, but the options are ALL bad. Fly high, we get hit by heavy SAMs or orbitals. If we make an active attack on… (points to one of the three enemy bases in the AARAS diagram) here, we can fly low and sneak away from the drones, through these badlands, hit them, then (crisply, directed at the ship)- zoom out, pan north to next fire-base – (the AARAS does so, showing the next friendly base past the one they’d attack through) pick up any survivors there, and return to base for any needed repair work and drop off casualties. If we go that route, I’ll absolutely press for the main depot to do everything they can to help refit this ship as best they possibly can, making getting some of the more, ah, regulated, parts rather easier. You have my word on that.
Helton looks at him skeptically.
Lag: I think with the right leverage, I can make the depot commander understand the value of a civilian-registered ship of this ship’s capabilities being available to us from time to time.
Helton looks calculatingly around the bridge for a moment, looks at the countdown (now at 8:03), the AARAS, looks at Lag, rubs his chin.
Helton: Well, shit. It’s gunna make riding a hopped up buffalo covered in fun-lube look easy, but I guess it’s time to cue up the epic music, strap on a new hood ornament, and go play Hero…
Helton: (into mike) Stenson! How soon can we we get her spun up?
Stenson: (VO) Not sure. 15 or so, still.
Helton: We’ll be dead by then!
Stenson: Well, unless you have a miracle in your pocket, or didn’t wind ‘em down after landing-
Helton: Well,I guess we’ll see what happens when I light her up and in seven minutes.
Quiritis, talking constantly, quietly, and fast in the background during this exchange, starts talking even faster going through her checklists.
Fade to black