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    Quarantine

    By Mike Crossman

    A new planet was recently discovered beyond New Africa, the planet was not only inhabitable it was already inhabited by a new alien species. The UREF wants the new species to become part of the republic, but there is a problem. It seems the species releases pheromones that effect all of the major alien races. The actual effects are unknown at this time, but those infected are highly contagious. The ship Lucky Day that discovered the planet has been quarantined and is in orbit around the new planet. The ship's scientist was killed in a recent attack by pirates, and the surviving crew are in dire need of medical attention.

    That was my mission briefing. I was given a scout class ship with a Bot crew along with the coordinates to this new planet. My mission was to evaluate the disease and find a cure and hopefully a vaccine. A sample was requested as well. I named the ship the Bot Bucket Express in honor of my crew, and prepared to warp out when a message came in warning of the possibility of pirate activity in the area.

    My warp calculations put us a mere 18 clicks from the planet, not bad for a first attempt if I say so myself. I was also able to successfully upgrade the combat bot KLLR's armor during the time spent warping in. The moment we arrived the Lucky Day contacted the ship, screaming for assistance against the pirates that were aboard their ship. On the screen I saw that a pirate ship was docked to the Lucky Day, and my stomach dropped when I saw the ship was a destroyer class of Silicoid design more than enough to swat my little scout ship out of existence.

    Shaking off my dread I ran toward the Science Bay, barking orders to my crew as I went. "KLLR, get to the cannon and notify me when you get there! Crank, are you at an Engine console?" [Of course.] Replied the engineer bot.

    "Good, start pumping as much juice as you can to the helm. Flyboy, increase speed, and set up for a fly by!"

    By the time I reached the Science Bay two missiles from the pirate's ship were flying straight at us. My fingers flew across the keypad as I directed my first scan towards the Lucky Day. I directed the scan toward finding out if they had a Tractor Beam, the result came back positive. I opened communications with the Lucky Day. "Captain?" A canosian appeared on the screen, I could tell from the color of the electrical charges that sparked around it that it was sick, but it seemed alert, "Yes?" "I need you to get an engineer to your tractor bay and try to grab one of those missiles and hurl it back at the pirate ship!" The alien's many mouths stretched into a multitude of smiles, "Consider it done."

    "Thank you captain."

    I watched with mounting anticipation as the missiles sped towards us and we sped towards them. Then one of the missiles altered course and turned towards the pirate's ship. Their response was fast, but futile. The missile dodged the multitude of laser blasts from their cannons and struck the ship mid-section. The impact moved the pirate ship enough to break the docking seal. I focused another scan on the Lucky Day, asking if there were more than five pirates onboard the ship. The reply took longer to come back, but fortunately the answer was no.

    [Preparing to go into evasive maneuvers.] Flyboy warned. "No, just fly straight on, we can survive one missile hit." I answered, silently hoping I was right. I glanced at our energy levels and saw our helm power had reached level five. "Ok, Crank, start putting energy into the cannons. KLLR, where are you?"

    [Arrival at cannon station eminent.] Came the reply. I cursed whoever made bots so slow, but put the thought out of my head, I had other worries right now. The pirate ship had begun to turn towards up bringing it's other cannon to bear on us, but a quick check of the range made it less of a concern. I was amazed when they fired a shot.

    "What a waste at this range, even if they are configured to a laser cannon."

    [Unless they are configured to multi-barrel.] KLLR put in. As if in reply their cannon fired again, barely missing us. "Hurry up KLLR we need to return...." The rest of my words were lost in the explosion. The impact threw me to the floor, as the entire ship lurched to starboard. "Damage report!" [Outer Starboard Engine inoperable. Minor damage to Inner Starboard Engine, but it is still operable. Minor Hull Damage, integrity not impaired. Shall I attempt to repair Outer Starboard Engine?] The loss of power would hurt, but by the time Crank got to the damaged engine the fight would be over. "Negative, stay where you are."

    [I have arrived at the Cannon.]

    "Good KLLR, reconfigure the cannon to laser, when you are done get to the teleporter we're going to send you onto the Lady Luck to clear out the Pirates." I knew the laser would do less damage, but it was more accurate and with no military training I was going to have enough problems hitting anything.

    [Understood.]

    The stabilizers kicked in and the ship steady itself almost completely, and I thanked the Xeloxian designers for the increased stability of their ships.

    Our ship was nearing the Lady Luck, and the pirate ship that was picking up speed and heading towards us. Checking the time I knew it was only a matter of time before the pirates launched more missiles, but I hoped the tractor beam on the Lady Luck would discourage them. It didn't, instead they fired both missiles straight at us. "Ok, Flyboy, evasive maneuvers this time. Crank, shift power from shields to the cannon." I ran out of the Science Bay and into the teleporter. I thought about waiting for KLLR to show up, but decided I could teleport him remotely, and continued on toward the Cannon. I passed KLLR on his way to the teleporter and dove into the seat of the Cannon. Flyboy managed to dodge the missile. I scanned the screen but couldn't see the other missile at first. Then I saw it heading towards the pirate ship. I started to smile till I saw the missile stop before it hit. We were close enough that I saw why, the pirates had the missile caught in their tractor beam and the two ships were fighting for control of it. I sighted on the ship and fired to Cannon hoping to hit their tractor beam, but I guess I should have hoped to just hit the ship, because I didn't.

    "I'm supposed to be resourceful!" I shouted to no one in particular.

    [I am at the teleporter.] KLLR reported, and I began making calculations on teleporting him over to the Lady Luck. Our ship passed within one click of the Lady Luck and KLLR was teleported over. As we shot past the pirate ship Cannon fire erupted from both of their guns. Our ship shuddered and shook as it took another hit. I looked out the screen and saw the pirate ship pass so close I thought we were going to collide. "Flyboy, what are you doing?!" As if in answer I saw the missile that was following us slam into the pirate's ship causing it to lose it's hold on the other missile that it had been tractor beaming. The other missile slammed into the pirate ship and the ship spun slowly through space out of control.

    "Turn us around Flyboy, and slow us down. Once we finish off that pirate ship we'll need to dock with the Lady Luck." But the pirates had other plans. They turned and began heading away from the planet trying to get far enough away to warp out. I leaned back in the Cannon's control chair content to let them flee.

    "KLLR how are you doing? KLLR?"

    It was the canosian captain that answered, "I'm sorry captain, but your bot was destroyed while fighting the pirate boarders. It was able to kill three of the four pirates before being destroyed though." I cursed softly to myself over the loss of the bot. "What happened to the fourth pirate?"

    "She was teleported back to the pirate ship."

    "Good....wait, was she infected?" I asked, but I knew the answer already and cut communications with the captain before it could respond. "Flyboy, chase after that pirate ship, we can't let them escape!"

    [At our current speed, we'll never catch them in time.]

    There was only one choice. I aimed the Cannon at the fast disappearing ship and squeezed off another shot, but my military training was lacking and the shot missed. "I'm supposed to be resourceful." I muttered again, but it didn't help.

    Before I could get another shot off, the pirate ship disappeared. My shoulders slumped as I thought of a group of infected pirates flying around the galaxy spreading a highly contagious disease, the effects of which we didn't even know. This simple mission just became a lot more serious, but that would be for command to deal with, I had to try and cure the crew of the Lady Luck first.

    "Flyboy, dock with the Lady Luck, and get their captain to tractor beam us in. Crank, try and repair that damaged engine. I'm heading to my quarters to grab an EVA."

    I hated EVAs, but it was the best way to keep from getting contaminated, or at least so I hoped as the door hissed open and I stepped onboard the Lady Luck. It took me less than three hours to cure the crew, and get a sample. From what I learned I discovered a vaccine that would make people immune to the disease, but it wouldn't do anything for someone already infected. Worse yet, I discovered that once the disease ran it's full course the host would mutate into something else and there was no cure at that level.

    After healing the crew I ordered my ship to get us back to base as quickly as possible. Command had to be informed of the infected pirates and given the vaccine so they could mass produce it and distribute it throughout the galaxy.

    On the return flight I took an interactive engineering course which for some reason makes me feel like I'll actually be resourceful now. I was also informed that I was promoted to Lieutenant, junior class. I also spent some time exercising and have increased my mobility. I also received my pay, with it I bought a ToolKit and a couple of Stun grenades.

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