The cryopod was old. There was no window that allowed me to see inside, and I could not even begin to recognize the lettering. My digital familiars, however, had no such trouble. The pod was human in origin with a high probability of originating with another fleet that had passed this way since the diaspora. No doubt they were the ones that had seeded this planet.
I wondered how old the pod was. Cryosleep was still a reality of space travel, even if it was regarded as primitive, even punitive by most of us. Resources could become scarce, space was often at a premium, and some wounds required a lot of effort to heal. Even with digitization, cloning, and lifespan extension Cryosleep never really went away.
“Crazy,” said Shrike. She was shaken. Finding evidence of other human beings out here, let alone a descendant of another fleet, was a dramatic revelation. Added to Jessup’s death, It was taking it’s toll, even on my most reliable operator.
“I know,” I said. “Even Captain Otumo, is going to be surprised about this.”
“Sure,” said Shrike, her voice returning to normal. “But I bet he’ll try to claim he knew it was here all along when he reports to Capital Alpha.”
Otumo was the Captain of the DF7-AF233 Falcon, the long range picket we were assigned to. He was an ambitious man, to say the least, and he had taken several risks that sat poorly with me in the last few months. I frequently butted heads with him when he tried to order members of squad Bright Sword around. We answered to fleet command, regardless of whose ship we might be on. He never pressed those arguments, starting a fight with us was unwise, but he wanted to press the issue, show his dominance.
“He’s going to be happy,” I said. “In a way, I can’t think of a better person for this task. He’ll push and push until fleet command takes notice of this thing, just to make sure he gets his share of the glory. I suppose I should call him.”
While I was speaking, I scanned the tactical maps. Everything that Squad Brightsword, drones included as well as any satellite and ship sensor information was translated into that display. I could see that the squad was in order. A remote coffin had cleaned up Jessup’s remains. Salvagers had taken care of my broken shield drone.
I buzzed the Falcon on coms, using a highsec priority code. Naturally Otumo waited for about a minute before answering, even though we both knew that he was monitoring the mission. Prick. His intense gaze met mine in visual.
“Nomad Raven, I assume you have reason to use this Channel,” he said solemnly. Jessup did a great impression of him. “If this is about Nomad Leopard–”
“No,” I said sharply, cutting him off. I savored the way his nostrils flared. “We’ve found a cryopod. Its old and it appears to be human. Sharing the data now.”
His anger melted as he checked the specs. I’ll give Otumo this: he did not waste time. I could see him directing his men. A dropzone marker became visible on tactical almost immediately.
“This is impressive Raven–” he said.
“There’s more,” I interrupted him again, knowing I could get away with it this time. “I can’t see inside, but vital signs are showing.”
Otumo paused for a moment.
“I’m sending a pair of shuttles down, with escorts,” he said. The dropzone on tactical adjusted as he spoke. “I want that cryopod loaded immediately. This is far more important than some distress call or a seeded planet.”
“You sure you want to risk it?” I asked. Otumo was loathe to risk his shuttles and assault craft, stingy in my opinion. “The zone is still hot, we have bugs all over the place down here.”
“Secure the dropzone as best you can, Nomad Raven,” said Otumo. “This find is of pivotal importance. Otumo out.”
I waited for a moment before turning to Shrike.
“You were right,” I said. “He’s even sending in some gunships this time…”
I missed Shrike’s response as I noticed something on tactical. A distortion. A ghost of contact from a remote drop sensor, flashing brief, in and out. I willed one of my scanners off towards it. The little drone sped off. I hit team coms.
“Tighten up people,” I said. “We have priority alpha cargo. Falcon is sending dropships down to pick it up. One of our drop sensor’s–”
I stopped as the scanner I’d sent out went offline, scrambled or destroyed. Not a good sign.
“Sunspear. Sensor flare, move,” I ordered. Tactical displays shivered. A column of bugs, like a spear on tactical, was headed right at us. The fact that they had made it this far undetected was a sure sign that they were receiving direction of some sort.
“Pull in to secure positions,” I ordered. Energy from Sunspear’s beamer flashed from the tower, cutting in to the unseen enemy.
Shrike and Triumph had already moved to the gunports on the side of the bunker closest to the enemy. I joined them. Shrike was unlimbering a frag cannon. I moved my drones into position. Contacts on tactical resolved into individual markers as more data became available. Spitters, rippers, and ticks by the dozen. Sunspear’s beamer flashed again, and I heard an explosion as a mortar drone took its toll. Several larger contacts resolved, just as the scourge came into view.
Leading the charge were three Walbreakers, huge spined forms that dominated the landscape around them, By themselves these behemoths were dangerous, requiring a lot of firepower to put down. Their chitin was treated and lacquered, almost laminated. Leading a charge the wallbreakers offered shelter to any bug that was smart enough to keep behind them. There was no way we would drop all three before they got to us.
I aimed and opened fire, setting my blaster drones to fire at will.