Big Game VI – Chapter Twelve: Rallying Cry
This is such a shit assignment. Jann Kolten thought as a las round impacted the control console beside her head. She blind-fired her snub-nosed holdout, hearing the rounds ricochet around the bridge of Cruiser M-17.
“Give it up, Jann!” shouted a booming voice. That had to be Commander Wynston. Frelling creep gave her a bad feeling the moment she set foot on this ship. He and his lackeys would always stare at her when they thought she wasn’t looking. Until they staged a violent mutiny of the ship, Jann thought they were just pigs.
Jann blind-fired again over the console, then rolled to the side as las rounds ripped through where she was sitting. She screamed a passable death fake and clattered her pistol against the deck. Footsteps approached from the right. Jann quickly popped up and shot two mutineers in the forehead, then sat back down to avoid the hail of lasfire that followed.
“Fools, stop firing! She’s worth more alive!” Wynston shouted.
“…and just how do you figure that, Wynston?” Jann shouted as she opened the chamber of her stub gun.
“Because…” Wynston said in a breathier voice, “…you can serve the true Lord in ways that we cannot.” Soft impacts of rubber against plasteel approached. “You can be a mother to a whole new generation of servants. Revered, pampered, even…”
Wynston’s tirade was cut off with a squelching sound as the soft lead of a dum-dum round liquefied his chest cavity, exiting his back through a hole the size of a grapefruit.
“Pass.” Jann said through the smoke of her pistol.
Wynston’s corpse splashed a gout of purplish blood as he toppled backwards. Cries of disbelief and rage rose up from the surviving mutineers. Jann was once again forced to seek cover as erratic fire bathed the entire wall of the bridge she was near.
Alright Jann, she said to herself, you’ve been in worse scrapes than this. All you need to do is distract them, kill a couple, and get help. Her internal monologue was cut off as a mutineer ran around the console at her, raising the butt of his lascarbine to smash her face. Jann shot him in the neck and he collapsed as if his bones had melted. Right. That’ll be easy. As long as I’m dreaming, I’d like a lho stick to go with that…
“What is the meaning of this?” shouted a clear voice full of barely contained fury. It cut through the din of the firefight and was accompanied by the coughing noise of a bolt pistol. The torrent of fire around Jann cut off as it swept toward the entrance to the bridge. Jann peeked out to see Commissar Corlett squawk indignantly as he dove out of the entrance back into the corridor to escape the torrent of fire from the mutineers.
Distraction. Check. Jann thought as she opened fire on the exposed backs of the furious traitors. She shot the closest, and then the next, and so on. Four fell before they realized it and turned their attention to her.
Three of them left. Jann thought. “That you, Baughb?” She shouted over the fracas.
“Miss Kolten…” the Commisar scolded. “Although I am charmed by the fact that you are the only person on this ship to pronounce my first name correctly, you will call me Commissar Corlett or I will deliver the Emperor’s Justice into your snark-laden brainmeats!”
“Whatever.” Jann shouted. “Just stay down, I’ve got a frag grenade.” She pulled out a spent clip and tossed it over the console. Yips of fright accompanied the tossed object, and Jann took that split second to once again break cover. Things seemed to move with unnatural slowness as the bang of her pistol announced the death of a mutineer. One. Jann thought as she drew bead on the one next to him. Another report from the pistol left her second victim sprawling and screaming in pain. Two. Jann’s arm seemed to move as if suspended in jelly as she languidly took aim at the final traitor.
The mutineer blinked, then scowled as he raised his lascarbine and aimed directly at Jann.
His eyes went wide as he stumbled forward. Less than a heartbeat later, his upper torso erupted in a shower of purplish gore. Commissar Corlett entered the bridge without fanfare, executing the few remaining mutineers that were injured, muttering under his breath.
“Lieutenant Kolten.” The Commissar said with a curt nod.
“Commissar.” Jann replied.
“I’ve been putting down crazed crewmen left and right. What is going on? Why is the Captain dead? Why do you have contraband weaponry?” Jann tried to speak, but Corlett rolled over her. She sighed.
“First of all,” Jann began, “Commander Wynston and his friends from his weekly games of Suicide Kings announced some kind of transmission from Cruiser M-43, then pulled knives and went after the Ratings guarding the bridge.” Jann held up a finger menacingly, followed by another. “Second, they went after the Captain first, tearing him out of the command throne and executing him. Third, I am a woman on a ship full of men who look at me like a piece of meat, and this…” she waved the stub gun under his nose “…is protection.”
Corlett grunted and nodded reluctantly.
“After they gutted the Ratings, and took out the Captain, they tried to override the command functions. I think they were a bit too cocky; they didn’t expect anyone to be shooting at them.” She continued.
“Were they successful? Did they get command control?” Corlett asked.
“Only one way to find out…” Jann groaned as she approached the command throne. She tapped in her security code. “No good. It requires two command level codes to release the lockouts. But they didn’t get in either.”
“Move.” Corlett ordered. He all but shoved Jann out of the chair, and worked for a good minute or so. “Alright, I’ve given you a field promotion to Captain. You should be able to take control of the ship.”
“Me? What about Stein? He’s the Officer of the Watch.”
“No, he’s the Officer of ‘I shot him in the face because he tried to skewer me.’” Coreltt retorted.
“Now who’s brainmeats are full of snark?”
Corlett rolled his eyes. “We need to organize what’s left of the crew. From what I saw on my way here, it’s bedlam on every deck.”
“I’ve got an idea. How good of an impression of Wynston can you do?” Jann asked with a smile.
Corlett’s mouth tightened into a line. “Why?”
Throughout the corridors of the unimaginatively named Cruiser M-17, blood stained the decks red and purple. Intermittent fire broke out as small pockets of Ratings fought back against the ravenous hordes of men who, less than an hour before, were working side-by-side. The fighting stalled as a booming voice came over the internal speakers.
“Brothers, our victory is at hand! All loyal brethren fall back and regroup in the Main Torpedo loading area.”
Each group of loyalists pinned down by the traitors now found themselves breathing a desperate sigh of relief. Some tended their wounded or said a quiet prayer, but most took the initiative and pursued their attackers. Many of these groups began to co-ordinate with each other and with brief, confusing messages from the bridge. Soon, every man who took up arms against the ship had been corralled into the cavernous multi-deck amphitheaters that housed the Torpedo bays. The traitors took defensive positions, moved loading equipment to form makeshift barricades, and prepared to hold against any force that may try to breach the bay.
Their preparations, however, did not take into account the sudden decompression caused by the opening of all six launch tubes. Luckier brethren were merely ejected into the void to die screaming. Less fortunate ones were broken on bulkheads and smashed into chain winches thicker than a man. Less than an hour since the rebellion aboard M-17 began, it ended.
“We’ve regained control of all decks, but we’re down to about 38% of our crew compliment.” Some random ensign Jann had roped into tactical reported.
“Good.” Jann replied. “Do we have an estimate of the fleet’s status?”
Another ensign replied “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but it’s hell out there. M-39 was completely obliterated within the first five minutes. Several other cruisers are crippled. There’s no coherent pattern to which cruisers are loyal and which are traitors. Plus, there’s a sizeable fleet of Chaos ships that just translated in.”
Jann scowled. “Has anyone fired on us?”
“We caught a bit of M-3’s Nova Cannon, but shields are holding. Both sides seem to be ignoring us.”
“Thank you, Wynston…” Jann said under her breath.
“We must take action. What do you intend to do?” Corlett asked.
“Do?” Jann replied. “The enemy disposition is unknown, we are running a skeleton crew, and we have no idea what the hell is happening. This ship is worth more than our lives. I’m disengaging.”
“Oh?” Corlett asked, lazily resting his hand on the grip of his bolt pistol. “…and leave the station undefended?”
“It’s already undefended. We got caught with our pants down. We need to identify loyalist ships and regroup.” Jann said. “Are you going to shoot me, or help me?”
Corlett growled. “A tactical withdrawal is authorized. This time.”
“Someone get me an open channel!” Jann shouted. Eventually the channel was open.
“M-17 to all ships still loyal to the Emperor, this is Captain Jann Kolten. Disengage and rendezvous at the following co-ordinates.” Jann typed as she spoke, sending the co-ordinates to the remnants of the Black Fleet.
“On an open channel, the enemy will be able to follow us.” Corlett offered.
“They won’t.” Jann countered. “They have what they want.”
“Well, then, Admiral Kolten, proceed.”
“Admiral?” she gaped.
“Unless I’m mistaken, that is the traditional rank of someone in charge of a fleet.” Corlett said with a smile.
“Can… can you do that? Promote me to Admiral?”
“Of course not. But we’ll figure that out later.”