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Nikki Harlow

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Nikki Harlow last won the day on September 21

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  1. On her way down to the cargo bay, Nikki crossed paths with James, the engineer intern, and Colleen, the cargo mech operator. Colleen was armed with a high pressure paint gun, and James had a shotgun loaded with bird shot and a switchblade covered in fanciful but useless cutouts and serrations. Nikki was glad to be able to hand out some more typical weaponry. Gretchen's voice came over both the intercom and Nikki's headset. "Attention crew. Please tune in to the pre-arranged private channel." They switched their headsets to channel 142. "We're on, go ahead," Nikki said. "I've been watching the security feed. About half of our Capellan passengers went into the breached cargo bay, and the intruders shot down all but one. They set off a bomb in there, and now there's blood and dead hogs and dead people floating all over and-" "Gretta, breathe." Nikki kicked off a bulkhead to propel herself forward, trying to carry the conversation and lead the group at the same time. "You called us for a reason. What was it?" "You shouldn't go down there. The intruders are professionals - like Com Guard level professionals, with lasers and armor and gravity boots. We should barricade the bridge, let them take what they want and go." "They might want the ship," James said. "Just what I was thinking," said Nikki. "We don't have enough escape pods for this many passengers, and the intruders might not give us the chance to use them anyway. We don't really have a choice here. Gretchen, will you let us know if you see anything unexpected on the feed?" "Yes, captain. Good luck." Colleen bounded forward to catch up with Nikki. "We're going to die, aren't we?" Nikki had been avoiding asking herself that question. "Um, maybe. We'll have backup, and we know the ship better. Try not to think about it."
  2. Nikki dove down the corridor. The ship was adrift in space, and it's gravity was almost completely gone. Nikki's headset crackled. "Captain, what is going on out there?" a man barked over the microphone. He was definitely one of the Capellan passengers traveling with the mobile lab, and Nikki thought she recognized him as one of the two scientists. "Wen, send your Ānquán to cargo bay two immediately!" said a woman, presumably Dr. Tao. "Cargo bay? They're needed here, guarding our cargo. Where are you, Tao? What is going on?" Nikki "landed" on a wall at the end of the hallway, and jumped around the corner. She pressed her mic button while traveling through the air. "Dr. Tao, this is an open channel, do not state your position. Dr. Wen, we've been boarded via cargo bay two by a small team of space jumpers. Their vessel has also grappled us. I have no idea what they want, but if you know, this would be a really good time to say so." "Our contract is for transport of a cargo pod! It is not your concern what is inside!" Nikki continued down the hall, grabbing onto doorways and hatch handles to propel herself. "My crew is about to get shot at, so I'm fucking concerned! What the hell is in your 'medium security' lab pod?" Dr. Tao interjected. "Wen, tell your men to move!" "I will not abandon our project, Tao! Captain, station your personnel outside the bay containing the lab pod." "Outside?" "As per our contract." Nikki sighed. "As per our contract, your security will back us up. I'm on my way."
  3. "There's something coming out of the airlock," Gretchen said, squinting at her terminal. Nikki pulled up the aft camera's feed on her screen and zoomed in on the group of dark objects. "Are those body bags?" Gretchen recoiled from her terminal. "You decompressed a morgue! And if it shares atmosphere from the rest of the ship…" "They might not be dead - they're evenly spaced, almost in formation. Well, aside from the one on the left that's flipping around like a dead fish." "So it's a boarding party?" "Looks like it - one of them grabbed the hull somehow. Weird way to board, though." Nikki pressed a button on her headset and addressed the ship. "Attention all hands. Arm yourselves, we're being boarded." She crossed the room and punched a code into a number pad on the wall. The adjacent panel popped open, revealing a rack of pistols inside a compartment. "They're jumping across from the other vessel, about five of them, and it looks like they're trying to enter near-" Nikki squinted at Gretchen's terminal several feet away. Gretchen whispered "bay two". "Near cargo bay two. Intentions are still unclear, but they're not friendly. Gretchen has the bridge, I'll meet you all at bay two. Stay safe everyone." Nikki checked the safeties on two pistols and put them in her jacket pockets, in case she crossed paths with any unarmed crew members on her way aft. She kept the third, and held out the fourth to Gretchen. Gretchen didn't take it. Nikki waited. "I can't," Gretchen said. "It's not hard. Flip this," Nikki tapped the safety, "point it at a pirate, and pull the trigger." "Nikki, I mean it. I don't shoot people." Nikki sighed. "Fine. Use it as a paperweight or something. Whether you pull the trigger is between you and God, but I'd be a shit captain and a worse friend if I didn't give you the option." Gretchen reluctantly took the gun and set it at the far end of her terminal's desk. "Thank you," Nikki said, and headed out the door.
  4. "Gretta, alert the crew and get Bridget up here, then call PAN-PAN on Capellan hailing frequencies only. We've got pirates." Nikki pulled up the weapons interface on the tactical terminal and locked the guns' targeting software onto the rapidly approaching "cruise ship". She didn't arm the lasers; the other ship's sensors would detect that. "Attention all hands", Gretchen said into her com unit, "an unfamiliar vessel is approaching us." The tactical display indicated an incoming message. Nikki hastily put on a wireless headset, jammed its' earbud into her ear and routed the call there. "Cruise Director Marcus Donovan here, is your lucky crewman ready?" Gretchen lowered her voice and continued her announcement. "The vessel is behaving suspiciously and may have hostile intentions. Bridget, report to the bridge. All others, be ready and wait for further instructions." "He sure is!" Nikki's voice was full of fake enthusiasm. "I'll open a channel to his terminal right now." As soon as Nikki released the com button, Gretchen started her next transmission. "Pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan, this is the freighter Hurry Up Bessie." Nikki opened a video call, using the security camera in cargo bay 3 to supply the video. As she dragged the Face-to-Screen window aside to focus on the weapons systems, the transmission connected with static on Fhloston's end, and a pair of brown and grey Jersey cattle eating from a bulkhead-mounted hay dispenser on Bessie's. "We just departed the Eridani Four jump point. We've been approached at close range by a possible hostile- oh no." Gretchen poked at her terminal for a moment. "What?" "EM interference. It looks natural, but the increase was so sudden, it must be-" "Pirates." Nikki fired a short range missile, and the three lasers currently facing the other vessel. She switched her headset over to the intra-ship channel. "All hands. Enemy vessel is jamming ship-to-ship. We've fired. Bridget, get up here now. James, to engineering." Nikki fired a second volley of lasers. Two thunderous clangs rang through the ship from somewhere below them. Nikki fired again. Displays throughout the bridge flickered off, including Nikki's tactical terminal, and when they came back on one laser's status had switched to red. "What was that?" "PPC, and they've got a cable on us," Gretchen responded. "Two, actually. We're hooked like a fish. And now they're- opening a cargo bay?" The displays flickered and another laser flipped to red. "Thanks, I see it now." Nikki took manual control of the one remaining laser, aimed it at the open cargo bay, and fired. A beam of light disappeared into the enemy ship's cargo bay. A blue bolt launched from Fhloston's forward gun and knocked Bessie's last facing laser offline.
  5. "Look, mister, um, cruise director. We're on our way to make an important, time sensitive drop, and we can't stop til it's completed. If you'd like to rendezvous with us, it has to wait til after the drop. I imagine that would cut into your schedule, so perhaps this ticket can be transmitted electronically?" While speaking with the cruise director, Nikki searched the ship's database for a list of White Swan vessels. This situation wasn't impossible, but it was stupid enough to be worth verifying. The com unit crackled. "I suppose it could, but our live studio audience would be so disappointed!" "What." Nikki said. "How are you transmitting to a studio? In case you haven't noticed, you're in the middle of nowhere." "We are the studio," the cruise director said, "and we have an audience of vacationers right here in our ship's auditorium who can't wait to meet your winning crew member - and I must say, your commentary is really building the suspense. Can't you spare a few minutes so we can bring him on board?" "You're broadcasting this conversation?" "To every room on the ship!" Nikki turned to Gretchen and mouthed, "kill me". Gretchen snickered and went back to tinkering with the sensors. "I'm sorry to rain on your parade, director, but you need to schedule these things ahead of time when other vessels are involved. We have an obligation to our client. We can't be late." The voice on the other end gave an exaggerated sigh. "I suppose we'll have to set up video conferencing, in that case. We'll hold our course, vessel-to-vessel picture quality improves with proximity. Do you have ComStar SynerSpeak?" "We're still running the old version, Face-to-Screen." "We'll have to install some compatibility patches, in that case, please stand by." The transmission cut off. Nikki keyed in a transmission to James's quarters, and set it to ring on arrival: "Nearby vessel wants to call you on screen. It's about a contest you entered. Be ready." Then she started scrolling through the list of White Swan's vessels in her search results. "Nikki, I think you'd better look at this," Gretchen said, tilting her monitor towards the captain. "If that's a monarch, or really any aerodyne liner, it shouldn't be going that fast. Their engines just don't have the juice." "Weird. Maybe it had an engine upgrade?" "It's a cruise liner. Why would it need to go three times its' safe speed?" Nikki's terminal pinged. James's reply popped up on the screen: "What contest? I didn't enter nothing." "Shit. It's not a cruise liner."
  6. "Attention all hands: we're beginning our descent to Epsilon Eridani Four. Passengers, gravity might be squirrely for a few minutes, so hang onto your cookies. Off-duty crew, you're on call, so please be sober for the next few days in case you're needed. That means you, James." Nikki released the button on the com unit, and a staticky snippet of her low, Mac-Ridge accented voice echoed over the speaker before it clicked off. Nikki laid in a course for the drop site and activated the autopilot, while Gretchen logged into a computer terminal to monitor their descent. Once the autopilot took over, Nikki picked up her noteputer and resumed her game of Laser Catgirls 2: Return of the Grays. Epsilon Eridani IV appeared through a couple of the bridge's windows, then swung out of view as the ship set its' new course. The ship's engines hummed, and stars slowly drifted downward. The tactical terminal pinged. Nikki paused her game, spun her seat to face the terminal, and zoomed in on the highlighted area. “Gretta, what do you make of this?” Gretchen put a bookmark in the GE 2080 drive manual and joined Nikki by the pilot’s seat. “‘Fhloston Paradise’, Monarch class - a cruise ship.” “Yep. Visiting a cowpie across the crick from nowhere.” Nikki typed in a command to run a more detailed scan. “Shall I recalibrate the sensors again?” Gretchen asked. “No, this doesn’t look like those other identification errors - I’ve got more sensor data coming in now, and it all checks out. Maybe it’s a discount cruise, I don’t know.” Gretchen checked the sensor suite’s settings, and Nikki returned to her game. Her catvatar vaporized two grays and defeated a third using claw-fu. Then the terminal pinged again. “They’re on an intercept course,” Gretchen said. “Closing fast.” Nikki tossed her game aside. “The cruise ship?” She swiveled her chair toward the tactical terminal. Her noteputer played a feline yowl, indicating game over. “I’m not sure what it is. There’s no reason for a cruise ship to intercept us.” Gretchen pushed buttons and swiped aside prompts on the tactical terminal so fast that Nikki couldn't keep up with reading them. “The radar’s had moths in it ever since somebody reset it to factory specs. Could be anything from a warship to a rock.” “Good thing we're not carrying anything worth sending a warship after. I hope we've at least got their name right, or I’m going to look like an idiot.” Nikki sighed and picked up the com unit. "Fhloston Paradise, this is Nikki Harlow, captain of the freighter Hurry Up Bessie. Please state your intentions.”
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