2314/06/18 02:15:30 UTC
1 433 643 330 seconds Privileged Reference Frame time
Captain Yanos massaged his temples. "Is there anything happening on this entire ship that could conceivably be described as "good news", or are we all up shit creek without a canoe?"
The Human Resources Officer shifted her weight. "That's the gist of it, sir. We've got five thousand people on a ship built for less than half that. Most of them are civilians, and most of those are scared and angry. We've broken up a few small fights already, but it's only a matter of time before we have a riot on our hands. And if that happens, we might as well just step out the airlock, because once people start smashing things up in here we'll be flying an inert lump of metal with no life-support."
"Speaking of which..." The Captain turned to his Engineering Officer. "How is the life-support situation? How long will our rations last?"
"Essentially? Zero. The Voidcutter isn't a supply ship, sir, she's not designed for long sieges like this. She's designed for getting into fights, winning them, and then sending the soldiers home for dinner. And we were low on rations when the attack hit. We're down to emergency rations already. We'll do what we can with the recycling algae, but we need to get help or a lot of people are going to die soon. Still," he brightened a little, "the engines work. We can get to a lot of places at 90 kilolights."
"Computer, show us a map." The lights dimmed, and a holographic map appeared over the table. A blinking dot about 2 light-years out from the solar system marked their position. "The nearest colonies to us are Tiny Dog Planet and Phil Plainet. Since they're the closest, they'll be utterly swamped and won't take too kindly to us landing in their lap when we had other options. There's also the orbiting dockyards around Unicode Snowman -"
"- it's pronounced ☃ -"
"- who obviously won't be able to take any refugees, but we could probably sell them some of our missiles for scrap metal."
"What about Laser Noises?" The Science Officer waved a hand at the map. "They're too far away from the carnage to be involved, and begging your pardon sir, they're rich enough that they shouldn't mind having a million refugees dumped on them. Let alone the paltry thousand or so we're..." She slowed down as she noticed the stares the others were giving her.
"Commander," said the Comms Officer gently, "there are rumours flying that the Laser Noisians are responsible for this attack. Either directly or indirectly. Consider who stands to gain from this: Earth will be a wasteland for generations. The colonies that have always wanted their independence: Laser Noises, Cosmic Sands, Pilf, and probably e'); DROP TABLE PLANETS--, now have the freedom to take it. And with independence comes the ability to officially declare war. Which I suspect they will do, retroactively, and announce that the brand-new crater in the Pacific was the first shot fired of a war Earth didn't know about."
"If only it were that simple," said the Captain, standing. "Earth had allies - has allies. Blogosphere, Waist-Deep Cats, and Earth - no, I mean the Gliese one - won't stand idly by. And all the colonies have at least paid lip service to non-proliferation agreements, and they won't stand for this. Laser Noises and Cosmic Sands don't have enough military might to make this attack worthwhile. There's something we don't know going on here - something way above our pay-grade."
He paused. "And I guarantee you any yuppie who can get an Internet connection in our brig has reached the same conclusions. There's a war on now, and we'll have to look to the chain-of-command for instructions. With Earth gone, that means the office at ☃, and if that's gone, it means Waist-Deep Cats."
"And if that's gone, well... You know I can't promise we'll live through this. We're all soldiers, we always knew that risk was part of the deal. But there are people depending on us now, people who we foolishly took responsibility for. I'll not see them die if there's anything in my power I can do to prevent it."
"And once our passengers are safe, then we have an arsenal full of torpedoes and a lot of new enemies to fire them at."
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