The Beginning of the End (Part 2)
A System Shock 2 Story

By Chris Foncannon

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Chapter 3

For a short eternity, there wasn't a single light or power source active anywhere onboard the Von Braun. The entire ship was deathly silent, even the hybrids (and worse things) were aware of their situation, so they stopped whatever they were doing and waited in silence to see what was going to happen next. Connor and the rest of his team also waited in the pitch-black engineering corridor. As suddenly as the lights went out, they came back on at about half the intensity. Then the voice of XERXES rang throughout the ship.
"Warning, main power has been taken offline in order to prevent a core overload. Emergency power reserves online, The Many apologizes for any inconvenience that this has caused."
"Now we're in trouble," Weihua muttered.
"At least power came back up," replied another tech. Connor knew what to do.
"Alright, we're going to split into two groups. Chief, choose one of your best people, we're going to see if we can get main power online. Weihua, you take the rest and secure the shuttle bay and shuttle control."
"Okay, We'll take care of it." Amy chose one of the techs, whose name floated back to Connor as being Mike. Mike was a short Asian with spiky black hair, no surprise since he and Weihua were best friends. The two groups split and headed into two different directions.
"So what exactly can we do about the power chief?" asked Connor.
She replied, "First, we need to bypass the damaged conduit and purge the coolant tubes. We can do that if we get to Fluidics control. After that, we can make our way back to engineering and manually restart both nacelles and the core." The trio made their way down the dark corridors of the engineering deck, now feeling very alone. They walked through a large set of double doors and once through, took a look around. The two grav chutes and the hole in the ceiling immediately gave the room away as the one below fluidics control. Connor stepped in the chute and was lifted to the next level by the invisible force of the antigravity generators that lined the wall of the chute. As he stepped out onto the upper level, he saw that something had indeed happened there. The walls and ceiling were riddled with bullet holes from a shotgun, which he found laying on the floor next to a pile of spent shells. Amy and the tech sprang from the grav chute and joined Connor in his inspection.
"Well, there's no blood. That could be a good sign," Mike said hopefully. Connor pushed the button to open the door to fluidics control and was dismayed to learn that it was locked.
"Chief, what's the code to this door?" he inquired. The chief gave him a puzzled look and said
"There shouldn't be a code, this door is to remain unlocked in case of emergencies."
"Well, this door isn't opening without a code," Connor replied. He took another look around and found a log entry chip lying on the ground, which he promptly played back. The entry was from a female tech with blond hair. Shouting to drown out the sounds of gun discharges in the background, she explained that she locked the door to keep the invaders from messing things up and that she was going to Cargo Bay B to take refuge from the attack. "I have the feeling that we're about to go on a little wild goose chase."
"It looks that way," the chief replied. Connor dropped the log entry on the floor and the trio made their way down the chutes and on to the cargo bays. They crept down the dimly lit corridor with their various guns out and ready. When they reached the crossroad junction, they heard gunfire coming from the hulking double door that led to Cargo Bay A. Connor signaled for Mike and Amy to get into covering positions as he pressed himself up against the wall next to the door.
"One…Two…Three…Now!" he yelled. He hit the door button and door sprang open. The three of them searched the area in front of them for targets. They saw the remnants of the rest of the engineering crew fleeing for their lives from hybrids and even TriOptimum robots. They were running towards Connor and his trio while blindly firing shots behind them. Connor, Amy and Mike immediately started firing at anything they considered hostile at that moment. As the crew got closer, they were being taken down one-by-one by the pellets from the hybrid's shotguns. The first of the crew made it to the door and ran through to the "safety" of the engineering corridor. When about three fourths of the remaining personnel made it through the door, Mike suddenly lost his cool and started to panic.
"We can't stop them!" he shouted. "We have do something!"
"Stay down and keep firing!" Connor yelled back. However, that's not what Mike did. Instead, Mike pulled out a grenade that only God knows where he got it and stood up to throw it.
"Get down!" Connor screamed as he leap over to bring Mike down. Everything slowed down and Connor realized it was too late. Mike was about halfway through his swing when a tight grouping of pellets from a hybrid's shotgun hit him right in the chest. His scream of agony filled the corridor as he fell to the floor. Connor was more worried about the grenade however, because Mike's interrupted throw had sent the grenade crashing into the access corridor joining the engineering corridor to the cargo bay, the very one the rest of the crew was running through to escape the invaders. The grenade clanked around the corridor and stopped right smack in the middle.
"MOVE!" Conner shouted as he dove around the corner. Everyone scrambled to get out of the area.


Although the grenade didn't create a relatively large explosion, it sent out a cloud of shrapnel. The three remaining crewmembers running through the corridor were immediately ripped to bloody shreds. If any of them survived, it didn't matter because the air ducts running along the ceiling of the corridor came crashing down on the bodies. However, Mike's sacrifice was effective. He had stopped the hybrids from surging into the corridor. Just as the survivors were breathing a sigh of relief, they heard the low growling of a group of hybrids, the chirping of monkeys, and the friendly greetings of TriOptimum droids. The sounds were coming from down the very corridor they were in.
"WHAT DO WE DO?" someone yelled.
"They're blocking they only way out!" another survivor screamed.
"Calm down," Connor replied, "Chief, any ideas?"
"There's a shuttlebay down this way," she pointed down the corridor opposite from the sounds, "but there are no shuttles in it right now. However, shuttle control is just above the bay. If we can barricade ourselves up there, we might stand a chance. At least, our chances would be a hell of a lot better than staying here. " Connor sighed. This isn't very encouraging.
"Ok, let's do it," he said, trying really hard to sound confident even though inside he wanted to find the closest hole to hide in. Connor took a quick headcount. Only nine people left, including himself. "Everyone, follow me!" he yelled and took off sprinting down the corridor towards the shuttlebay. The nine of them only had a few dozen yards to go to reach the shuttlebay but their pursuers were right behind them and closing fast. Right as they burst through the double doors, they realized their plan was not going to work. The moment they entered the room, they heard growling coming from the very control room that they were going to hide in. Apparently, they had disturbed the hybrids and other things in whatever it was that they were doing. Connor looked around for something, anything that could be used to their advantage.
"Connor, what should we do?" screamed Amy. But Connor was for once out of ideas. There was no possible way they could hold their own against the aliens they could see advancing towards them through the corridor and the ones stirring about in the control room above them. Common, think. Think Connor damn it, think! There's got to be something we can do. But there was nothing; no cover, no place to run, nothing they could use to their advantage.
"I don't know," he yelled back. His admission of defeat quite obviously showed to everyone, for they all immediately lost what little morale they had left. Connor looked down the corridor; the group of aliens was only a few dozen yards away. Connor closed his eyes and hoped his death wouldn't be extremely painful.


Connor heard a loud noise fly over his head and he saw a blinding orange light through his eyelids. He opened his eyes just in time to see a missile fly over his head and down the corridor. It impacted with the leading front of the group of advancing aliens and exploded in a blindingly bright explosion. The shock wave knocked everyone off of their feet. Most of the invaders were blown apart by the explosion. The few that remained were killed by the resulting shrapnel. Connor whirled around to see a UNN combat shuttle fly through the atmospheric force field and into the bay. The combat shuttle was basically the same thing as the TriOptimum passenger shuttle except for one big difference: the combat shuttle had a full complement of missiles for offensive/defensive purposes. The crew scattered to give the shuttle room to land. By now the aliens in the control room were really pissed off and they started coming down the grav chute
"Open fire!" Connor yelled and he started picking off aliens with his shotgun. Everyone started firing and the bay was suddenly turned into a battleground. The shuttle's landing thrusters fired and the landing gear came down. The moment the shuttle touched down the hatch opened. From it came none other than Corporal Derek Underhill, a tall young guy with brown hair and a serious emotional need to be the best at everything. Derek was carrying an assault rifle, which he immediately used. The sounds of semiautomatic pistol and shotgun discharges were suddenly accompanied by the sound of automatic gunfire. The humans now had the upper hand and soon were victorious. Derek surveyed the bay with satisfaction as if he was almost enjoying himself. Connor really didn't care; he just wanted to get out of there. Apparently the rest of his crew felt the same way for before he even gave the order, they were all piling into the shuttle. Connor leapt in and got into the pilot's seat.
"Come on Derek!" he called. Derek didn't have to be ordered twice. He bolted through the hatch and sealed it. Once Derek was strapped in, Connor lifted off and expertly piloted the shuttle out the door into space.

Chapter 4

"Will someone care to enlighten me as to what's going on?" Derek demanded. "I'm out on a recon mission to survey the rest of the Tau Ceti System when I receive a distress signal from the Von Braun saying it's under attack. When I get there, I see no signs of attack but the ship has stopped responding to my hails. So I decide to land in the only shuttlebay with room. When I get there I see one soldier and a bunch of civilians watching a group of nasty looking things coming at them. You know the rest of the story."
"Yes," replied Connor, then he quickly filled Derek in on what happened to him since he was in the coolant tubes.
"I see," was all Derek said in return.
"Now that we're out of there, what do we do?" Amy asked.
"Well we can't make it back to Earth in this thing, it's just a short range shuttle," Derek replied.
"Besides, we can't just leave everyone else back on the Von Braun to die. We have to save them." Weihua added.
"I agree, even if we didn't want go back, we have to because we sure as hell aren't going anywhere in this thing." Connor said.
"Wait a minute!" Amy exclaimed, "Before you showed up in Engineering, I interfaced with the computer to find out what was going on the upper decks. For the most part I was locked out but one of the things I did manage to find out was that XERXES jettisoned all the escape pods. At the time I had no idea why he did that but now I realize that it was to prevent the crew from escaping. Anyways, since the pods were unmanned, they should be drifting around here nearby."
"That's right!" Derek replied, "If we can find and recover the pods, we can use them to get all the way back to Earth!"
"Okay, that will be the final plan. First we'll recover the pods, then we'll go back to the ship to look for survivors. Once we get as many people as we can out of there, we'll set charges to blow up the ship and return to Earth in the escape pods. Corporal, start a sweep of the system for the pods." Connor commanded.
"Yes sir," Derek responded. After a moment of Derek typing things into his panel, he called out, "Sir, I've detected one of the pods about 3,000 miles from here. Laying in a course." The shuttle started moving, sailing seamlessly through space. A few minutes later, a long arrowhead shaped object appeared in the front window. It was an escape pod.
"It appears to be intact," Amy said.
"Beginning docking sequence," Derek rang out. The shuttle rotated until the docking port on the shuttle lined up with that of the escape pod. The two ships became one as the shuttle docked and latched onto the pod with a series of clicks and hisses.
"All right," Connor barked out, "for the moment, we're going to assume that there are aliens on the pod. Therefore, we're going to act accordingly. Wei, Derek, Amy, get your weapons ready, we're going over to secure the pod." The four of them readied their shotguns and Connor opened the hatch. He then opened the escape pod hatch. He crept slowly inside. Since no one was inside, the power was off and the air was stale. Connor signaled for Amy, Derek, and Weihua to come in. While they covered him, he walked over to the power box. Connor flipped the switch and they were suddenly bathed in a bright light. They all looked around wildly to see…nothing. They all breathed a sigh of relief. Connor surveyed the pod. There were four cryogenic stasis chambers for long-term travel (like going back to Earth) and a pilot's panel and seat. In the back of the pod there was a row of seats. Even though each pod was designed for a dozen people, they were really capable of holding twice that many. Since the Von Braun was the first faster-than-light starship, the pods it carried were modified versions of the generic TriOptimum pods. All this really meant was that in each pod, four cryo chambers were installed. Since the pods were meant for three times that many people, it was obvious that the modifications to the pods were there just to meet some requirement; no one ever really expected them to be used. After making sure the pod was completely clear of aliens, Connor and the team returned to the shuttle.
"It's all clear," Connor informed everyone, "Now we have to make another decision. Everyone who wants to volunteer go back to rescue survivors stay on this shuttle. Everyone who doesn't will board the pod and try to locate the other pods. You will then board and secure those pods. The more pods we have the better. Alright, now it's time to decide." Derek, Amy, and Weihua stayed on the shuttle and everyone else went through the hatch to the pod. "Good luck," Connor said to the crew of the pod. He punched the button and the hatches clanged shut. "Let's go," Connor told Derek, who separated the shuttle from the pod. The two ships went opposite directions; the pod out further into the system and the shuttle back towards the looming hulk of the Von Braun.
"It looks so peaceful out here," Amy said, "Almost as if nothing is wrong".
"So where do you want to dock?" Derek asked Connor. Connor thought for a moment.
"Deck 2." He replied. "There we can get medical supplies, spare parts for the cryo tubes, and food from the crews mess on that deck."
"Sounds good," Derek said. "Setting course for the Deck 2 airlock". The shuttle came to within 20 yards of the hull of the Von Braun and started moving along it. They passed view ports, antenna clusters, radar dishes, and all kinds of other unidentifiable protrusions. As they passed one particular veiwport, something caught Connor's eye.
"Hold on," he said. Derek stopped the shuttle and they all looked through the viewport. They saw an unarmed civilian huddling in the corner of a room. The door of the room opened and a new alien came out. Though this one had the torso of a woman and the legs of a machine. The man screamed and the thing advanced towards him. He started talking to it very rapidly, no doubt begging for his life. The creature had no mercy and what happened next sickened them. "There's nothing we can do for him anymore," Connor said in a low tone. "Let's move on". They continued along the hull until it came to a docking port labeled "Deck 2: Medical / Science". Derek pulled up next to it and docked.
"Docking sequence completed," Derek said.
"Lock and load everybody," Connor ordered. Every one started picking up weapons and loading them. Connor picked up an assault rifle from the shuttle's weapon locker and loaded it. Then he put his pistol and his wrench on his belt. Once everyone was ready, he hit the door button and the hatch slide open. "Derek, stay here and keep the shuttle secure. Amy, Wei, after you." He gestured to the hatch. The three of them stepped through into the dark unknown.

To Be Continued


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