MILK RUN Scene 17v5- Standoff

Below is the Seventeenth Scene From MILK RUN.

Whatever is left of the artificial night in Toby’s cabin quickly dissolves away as the ship’s klaxon once again announces the reappearance of the Telrachnid gunship.  The unwelcomed alert sends him scurrying down the long corridor accompanied by the rapid clanks from crew members’ magboots as they rush to their battle stations. 

The deep throated but somewhat muted alarm seems to grow louder inside Toby’s plexiglass orca suit helmet as he gets closer to the bridge.  The blaring noise jumps several octaves higher upon entering the darkened red lit bridge filled with men and women huddled around holographic instruments and controls.   The klaxon’s volume begins to hurt Toby’s ears as he orders it silenced.

“The Telrachnid gunship managed to d-jump less than 100 meters from the USS Princeton,” reports Chief Stockton. 

“And its blast cannons are picking through the ship’s magneto armor plating,” adds Emerson.

“Can’t take much more before a hull breach,” says the surveillance officer.

“There’re too close for missiles so keep at them,” Toby tells the MRC officer.

The blue hail of sand particles, from the Princeton’s Mass Rail Cannons, accelerated to one third the speed of light pummels the gunship.  Each grain of sand impacts against or pierces through the gunship with the force of almost two sticks of dynamite.

“That’s it! Pepper it like flies on shit!” Emerson says with glee.

“Contact that gunship,” orders Toby.  Tell Smriti to cease fire or we’ll rip her hull in half.”

“Aye aye,” comes the expected response from the communications officer.

And just like that, the gunship stops its attack and backs away.

“Cease fire,” orders a surprised Toby!

“Captain, I recommend we destroy that ship now while we have a chance,” warns Commander Emerson as the angry blue sandstorm from Princeton’s MRC cannons continue to blast away.

“No, my order to board that ship stands, cease fire!”

But the commander’s voice bellows out, “No Captain, MRC, belay that order, continue firing, destroy that ship!”

All eyes turn to a lump throated Toby.

“Commander you are out of line, follow my orders, now!”

“Captain, I relieve you of command,” comes Emerson’s response that echoes off the walls of the bridge.

Then the video communications monitor flashes on to show Smriti’s squinting eyes.  It seems like she is straining to see through the redden darkness of the bridge that feels to be closing in all around. “Toby, why are you still attacking me, I’ve stopped my attack.”

Troubled by this more important problem, Toby yells out, “Security, escort Emerson to his quarters, he is relieved of his duties.”

“No,” shoots back Emerson, “I relieve you!  You have put this ship, crew and mission at risk.”

“MRC, cease fire,” Toby yells out as he trades glares with Emerson.

“Security get him out of here now,” Toby yells out again!

While everyone on the bridge freezes in place, the MRC cannons continue to blaze out, and the two young security officers regard each other as if asking the other what to do.  The surveillance, communications, MRC and missile control officers look like they want to run and hide while Chief of the boat Engineer Stockton just stands there, with his mouth slightly open!  

It seems everyone and time has frozen solid on this bridge.  That is except for Emerson, yelling something like “you only care about a lost fiancée” and there’s Smriti in the viewer asking over and over “why are you still attacking?”

One more time, Toby yells out “MRC, cease fire!”

And once again Emerson countermands the order then adds, “Captain, you will leave this bridge, you no longer have a place here!”

Then Emerson moves between Toby and the viewing screen and points at Smriti’s image.  “I will not let that bug infested woman destroy this ship or its cargo, do you hear me!”

Smriti’s eyes squint narrow as she yells out, “Toby, who is that man?”

Toby smirks at her response to Emerson’s crack. She still doesn’t take kindly to insults.  That’s a sure sign she still has some control of her mind.

Then, suddenly the gunship opens fire again at a rate that seems to be twice that as before. That’s no surprise as the molten fiery red sand particles from the gunship pierce through the USS Princeton’s hull with a rancorous pelting sound that exceeds anything the ship’s klaxon can offer.

Nevertheless, the ship’s klaxon alarm sounds again accompanied by a deep automated voice that announces, “hull breach forward sections A and B, begin evacuation of forward sections A and B!”

Smriti’s voice cuts through the klaxon, “Toby, please stop your attack.”

“Silence that alarm,” yells Toby.

The klaxon stops. 

Satisfied that at least the ship’s automated systems still follow his orders, Toby turns his attention to Chief Stockton. “Chief, you know the rules, you are third in command on this ship.  Make a decision.”

Emerson points at Toby then yells out, “don’t get roped in by him!  It’s like he wants to re-infect this ship, it’s because he is one of them, compromised, drugged out by those fucking bugs.”  The commander points to Smriti’s image, “look! He’s in cahoots with her.  They are trying to destroy this ship.”

The bridge shutters under the intense fire from the gunship.  Parts of the ceiling cave in and some of the holographic control panels spray up a shower of golden sparks and gray smoke.

“Chief, you better decide quickly, because that gunship is cutting us up to pieces,” Toby yells out.

It’s obvious quick command decisions do not wear well on Chief Stockton who looks like he’d rather deal with the ship’s misbehaving GravMag drive than face a mutiny. 

Toby hisses silently to himself as he watches the chief.  The man loves to hide behind those holographic screens. But he can’t hide from the peppering sound of molten sand now piercing through the ship.

“Second and third level decks now compromised and exposed to space.  Deck isolation bulkheads closed and holding,” announces the ship’s deep voice.

“Chief, we don’t have time, make a decision!” warns Toby.

The chief finally looks up from his holographic console and faces Toby and the commander as more metallic concussions echo through the ship like a runaway locomotive.  The thundering sound rolls up from the ship’s stern and grows louder as it approaches the bridge.  Then something knocks Toby and everyone else to the side as a sound explodes across the bridge.  Dust, metal deck plating, burned plexiglass and unidentified rubble fly about toward the bridge’s engineering section. 

Though still ensconced in his bubble helmeted orca suit, Toby covers his face and eyes from the dirt and ash as he tries to assess the damage.  But it’s hard to see anything beyond the still standing Emerson who, like a heroic fireman, pushes a ceiling tile away from a crewman. 

Beyond Emerson, the rest of the bridge seems OK thanks to the still intact ship’s double hull armor. But in the engineering section curled up beneath a fallen ‘I’ beam lies Chief Stockton. Red ooze drifts away from his head.  He doesn’t move.

Toby joins Emerson and the other bridge crew as they rush towards Stockton. Loud voices now replace the rolling thunder as it continues to move toward the front of the ship.

But Emerson’s voice rises above the others, “move that ‘I’ beam from the chief carefully, we don’t want a zero-g bleed out,” he barks out.   

The commander’s voice seems to gather more authority as Toby makes his way closer to Stockton.

Emerson suddenly turns from Stockton toward Toby and barks out another command.  “And place him in the brig!”

“You are not the captain of this ship!” shouts Toby moving closer to Emerson.

“And neither are you!  I relieved you of that duty!”

“Is this mutiny?” answers Toby.

“No, it’s saving this ship, crew and mission!” yells out Emerson loud enough for all to hear.

The back and forth between Toby and the commander seems timed with the sway of the ship.  But now the current swing seems to accompany the shift in command that Toby is unable to overcome.  After all, compared to his lowly two weeks out from space doc, Emerson has been commander of this ship for over three years.      

The Princeton sways even further from its original course and command hierarchy, pushed aside by a freight train of Telrachnid gunship cannon fire and Emerson’s barks. Their combined impact threatens to warp both the Princeton’s spine and organizational pecking order.  Then the ship suddenly sways the other way as the stabilizing thrusters try to get the ship back on to its original course. 

The Telrachnid cannon fire impacts suddenly stops, no doubt the result of the stabilizers pushing the Princeton out of the line of fire.  The crew’s faces suddenly brighten as the last echoes of the onslaught fades.  

But the ship continues to slide in the opposite direction far past its intended track.  So, the stabilizers on the other side of the ship activate to thrust in the opposite direction, back into the Telrachnid gunship line of fire.  Now, another jackhammering round of cannon fire bangs along the ship’s bow making its way back to the stern.   Having overcorrected again, the ship’s stabilizers fire again in the opposite direction. 

A loud metallic ripping sound is heard each time the ship rocks into then out from the Telrachnid gunship’s constant stream of cannon fire. Each time the strikes move closer and closer to the bridge.  Fear now swells back up in the eyes of the bridge crew as the rhythmic pounding gets louder with each swing of the ship. 

Fear, noise and Emerson’s yelling over and over again to “remove that man from the bridge” fills Toby’s ears. Now the security guards, either because of fear or respect for Emerson’s tenure, finally move in to remove Toby as others rush to aid an unconscious and bleeding Chief Stockton.

At first Toby resists the guards. But what will that do?  The ship is in peril and a course of action, any action, must be taken now! So, he acquiesces but continues to yell, “cease fire, that’s the only way to stop them!”

And once again, Emerson counters with, “MRC continue firing or they will cut us to pieces!”

“Aye aye commander,” comes back the undesired response. 

“Get him out of here!” Emerson barks out again. Then he turns to the ship’s helmsman, “steer course 180 by 20.  Get us away from that cannon fire.”

“Aye aye,” comes the response again as the security guards bring Toby to the doorway leading from the bridge. 

The bridge door clanks shut behind him as another round of cannon fire from the Telrachnid gunship scores more hits.  The gunship has compensated for Emerson’s course correction, thinks Toby. 

It’s a lonely walk to the brig despite being squeezed between two burly security officers.  More hits rattle the ship as its 5-foot-thick magnetized double armor hull continues to take a beating from the gunship.  It seems that with each bang Toby, and the security guards, must squeeze by another crew person rushing off somewhere while also avoiding being struck by flying debris.  Their faces seem to say; we are under attack, what’s going on?

They look briefly at the just commissioned Captain Toby Nathaniel Louis, now under arrest. It’s a stare that brings shame.  But Toby resists the temptation to avoid their surprised gaze. Best to look back with confidence that says stay strong, this is not over. 

After maneuvering from the ship’s main corridor to the perpendicular security deck level, they finally reach the ship’s holding area. Toby always wondered about the practicality of a ship’s jail. After all, when was the last time such a place was needed?  Then crewman Thomson comes to mind.  He was innocent but there was still a need to do what was done.

Squeezing brow muscle tension draws Toby’s thoughts to Emerson.  He obviously thinks this brig is required.  It’s the only way he can become captain. 

Inside the brig is a very small room with iron bars that magically swing open, as if to engulf some sort of prey.  As the ship continues to sway back and forth, Toby walks in alone.

The bar doors close behind him with a soft metallic thud. It’s a sound nothing like the round of bangs from the Telrachnid gunship.  It’s more like an ominous personal pang of failure.  Suddenly as the guards back away from the gate, the rhythmic pounding on the Princeton’s hull stops.

Now, there’s nothing but silence accented with an occasional crackle from the outer brig room and the acidic smell of molten magnetic hull armor plating somewhere.

END SCENE


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