Freefall (The Arcturan Adventure) – Episode 2 – Down the Rabbit Hole

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Below we present the complete text of “Down the Rabbit Hole”, episode 2 of our new Space Opera; Freefall (The Arcturan Adventure). This is a brand new (unpublished) series (and continues the adventures of Sarah Tanner and Jeff Chase). If you would like to see these new stories advance from being drafts into polished publications then please consider supporting us by purchasing one or more of our previously published titles (they’re only $6.00 (AUD), less than it costs to buy a good coffee). Every sale directly funds the production of new stories.

Space Opera - SO002 - Freefall

Space Opera – SO002 – Freefall

ACT 2

Scene 4:     INT – ABOARD THE STARSHIP EXCELSIOR (JEFF, SARAH, VULGE, TERG, VASH)

  1. MUSIC: OPENING THEME – LET IT FINISH.
  2. NARRATOR: The invasion by the Council of Six has begun, its target likely to be the Earth’s secret fleet construction facility on Phobos, and Sarah, Jeff, and her crew are observing in their ship from an isolated spot with a clear view of the massing attack force.
  3. SOUND: SPACESHIP BACKGROUND HUM, OCCASIONAL BEEP – ESTABLISH AND UNDER
  4. JEFF: Captain?  Something’s happening.
  5. SARAH: What’s going on?
  6. JEFF: The fleet is starting to move.  All of the fleets are breaking off except the attack on Phobos.
  7. SARAH: This is it, they think they know where the shipyard is.  If they destroy the fleet we have been constructing, they will cripple our ability to defend ourselves. Terg, get me the Admiral.
  8. TERG: Yes, miss.
  9. SARAH: Vulge, are we in their path?
  10. VULGE: Actually, it looks like they are using their wormhole drives.  They’re winking out…
  11. JEFF: And re-appearing over Phobos.
  12. TERG: I’ve connected with the Directorate.  A priority channel is open.
  13. SOUND: STATIC – LET IT FINISH.
  14. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  15. FERRIS: I think I already know what you are going to tell me.
  16. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  17. SARAH: Yes, sir.  The invading forces are converging on Phobos.
  18. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  19. FERRIS: Unauthorised access to our mainframes was made 7 minutes ago.  They now know where our shipyard is.
  20. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  21. SARAH: Phobos, I take it?
  22. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  23. FERRIS: That’s right.  I’m guessing the need to transmit that data is the reason our communications weren’t been jammed on Earth like elsewhere. Unfortunately we only have a few heavy hitting defenders in place.  A handful of super-dreadnaughts backed up by a lot of smaller craft.  We’ll send the main fleet in as soon as we can, drawing everything we can spare from our forces here on Earth, Mars, and from Saturn, but it is unlikely they will get there in time.
  24. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  25. TERG: If I may, Admiral?
  26. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  27. FERRIS: Yes, Mr Terg?
  28. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  29. TERG: I’ve been noticing something strange about the communications traffic coming from the invading fleet.  It all appears to be one way.
  30. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  31. FERRIS: What do you mean?
  32. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  33. TERG: I mean that it appears that the three larger stations are broadcasting but none of the other ships appear to be doing so.
  34. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  35. FERRIS: I see.  And I take it you have an explanation for this?
  36. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  37. TERG: A theory, yes.  We’ve long puzzled over why the pirate station that was destroyed last year seemed so under-manned.
  38. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  39. FERRIS: Yes, our best guess to date, was that a large portion of their forces were away from the station on other missions when it was destroyed.  We have been on guard, rightly it would seem, against infiltration ever since.
  40. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  41. TERG: Yes, but none of our projections regarding the level of sabotage etc. we would expect from the presence of a substantial fifth column in this solar system have come to pass.  In fact, aside from the infiltration aimed at locating the shipyard, we haven’t had a single case.  The current attack would seem ideal for the creation of widespread mayhem, were they here.
  42. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  43. FERRIS: Terg, we have very little time.
  44. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  45. TERG: Then I’ll get to the point.  I don’t think the station was manned in any meaningful sense.  It is my belief that the pirate vessels were drones commanded by the station itself.
  46. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  47. FERRIS: And you believe the attack we are facing right now is being conducted in the same way?
  48. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  49. TERG: Yes, Admiral.
  50. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  51. FERRIS: I’ll give the order to concentrate our defense on destroying those stations.  The super-dreadnoughts will have torpedos developed from the intelligence we obtained through your efforts last year.  We may have a dog in this fight after all.
  52. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  53. TERG: Yes, Admiral.
  54. SOUND: BEEP – LET IT FINISH.
  55. FERRIS: Ferris, out.
  56. SOUND: STATIC – LET IT FINISH.
  57. JEFF: So, what are your orders now, Captain?
  58. SARAH: Let’s see if we can’t get into this fight.
  59. VULGE:   It’s time we saw some action.
  60. JEFF: Hang on a minute.  Something’s happening on my plate.
  61. VULGE: Aw, nuts!
  62. SARAH: What have you got, Jeff?
  63. JEFF: The defenders are breaking formation. But there’s no pattern to it. It’s like they’re boats that have suddenly been cut loose from a jetty.
  64. VULGE: Shut down communications!  Do it now!
  65. SARAH: What?
  66. VULGE: The invaders are broadcasting a virus to your ships.  You’ve got to shut down communications.
  67. SARAH: You heard her, Terg.  Break off communications now.
  68. TERG: Yes, miss.
  69. VULGE: This is classic Council of Six strategy.  They disabled our entire fleet this way when they came for our home system.
  70. SARAH: Was that part of the information you gave to the Patrol when they debriefed you after your captivity.
  71. VULGE: Yes, but I’m not sure they were paying attention.  They were mostly interested in our technology.
  72. JEFF:   The pirates, I mean Council of Six, were operating in solar space for a long time before we even knew what was happening.  They have had plenty of time to learn our computing codes and languages.
  73. SARAH: We used that against them to get data on their base, remember?
  74. JEFF: You think I’ve forgotten.  It was me, who got that data remember.
  75. TERG: I think you’ll find that…
  76. JEFF: Yes, yes. Admittedly I had help.
  77. SARAH: (INTERRUPTING IMPATIENT) So what’s happening around Phobos?
  78. JEFF: The invaders appear to be blowing most of the small ships out of the sky.  Wait, the superdreadnoughts, they’re still maneauvering!  No guns though.  Looks like their weapon systems have been disabled, even if they have found a way to stop the virus overall.  (BEAT) Well, I’ll be.
  79. SARAH: What?
  80. JEFF: They’re taking a lesson from the history books.  They’re flashing messages to each other with lights in old morse code.  I think they’re going to ram the big stations.
  81. SARAH: Put it up on the main screen.
  82. JEFF: Aye aye.  There you go.
  83. SARAH: That’ll be the Victoria coming around.  It’s going to…
  84. TERG: How many on board, miss?
  85. SARAH: 5,000 give or take.
  86. SOUND: BEEP AND POWERDOWN – LET IT FINISH.
  87. JEFF: The Victoria is no longer on the plate… but neither is it’s target.
  88. VASH: They’ve taken out one of the big stations… and look… a large portion of their fleet just stopped dead.  I think you were right about them being drones, Terg.
  89. TERG: Of course I was right. (BEAT) But that was a huge sacrifice the humans just made.
  90. SARAH: And I don’t think it’s the last.  The Shakespeare and the Charlemagne are lining up their targets.
  91. VULGE: What was that flash?  I think the station that the Charlemagne is targeting just launched something.
  92. JEFF: A missile maybe.  No definitely. And it’s heading for the surface of Phobos.
  93. SARAH: Zoom in, if you can, Jeff.
  94. JEFF: We’re a long way away, Sarah.  This is as good as we can…
  95. SOUND: STATIC – HOLD FOR SEVERAL BEATS AND FINISH.
  96. JEFF: Holy smokes.  Did you see that?
  97. TERG: I believe we all saw it, Lieutenant.
  98. VULGE: For an explosion like that to be visible from space, it must have been huge.
  99. SARAH: Damnit! (BEAT) I guess they just destroyed our shipyard… and a sizable chunk of the population of Phobos. (BEAT)
  100. SOUND: BEEP AND POWER DOWN FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY A SECOND BEEP AN POWER DOWN – LET IT FINISH.
  101. SARAH: Am I reading that display correctly, Jeff?  Are the Shakespeare and the Charlemagne lost as well?
  102. JEFF: Along with their targets, yes.
  103. SARAH: That just leaves one more of their large stations.
  104. JEFF: And the Galileo is closing in.
  105. TERG: Miss, the remaining station is directing a broadcast towards us.
  106. SARAH: What? Do they know we’re here?
  107. JEFF: No, something else is their target.  It’s small, so I didn’t notice it at first, but the main fleet left something behind back here with us.
  108. SARAH: Can you tell what it is?
  109. JEFF: I’m guessing it’s a ship, baffled like ours to hide its heat signature.  Some kind of observer maybe.
  110. SARAH: Makes sense.  Try to scan it.  See if we can get a sense regarding the armaments it’s carrying.
  111. JEFF: Whoah!  That thing’s almost entirely engine.  When it gets going, it’ll be going fast.
  112. SARAH: And armaments?
  113. JEFF: Very little, though it appears to have some hefty shields.
  114. SARAH: Is it broadcasting anything Terg?
  115. TERG:   It seems to be simply sitting there, but, if I had to guess, I’d say its recording the battle.
  116. SARAH: We may not have been able to stop them from destroying our shipyard, but we can stop them from getting that knowledge back to their headquarters.  Vulge, can we get in close to it?
  117. VULGE: We can but it’ll definitely know we’re coming.
  118. SARAH: Vash?  Any chance we can hit it with the main guns without getting closer?
  119. VASH: No chance.  We don’t have the range.  If you want to hit it with anything more powerful than a frown you’re going to have to order us in a bit closer to it.
  120. SOUND: BEEP AND POWER DOWN – LET IT FINISH.
  121. JEFF: The Galileo has succeeded in ramming the last station.  Both are gone.
  122. SARAH: So many lives. What of the remaining invading fleet ships?
  123. JEFF: Their just sitting there.  Without the command and control vessels telling them what to do they appear to be immobile… but that observer ship is powering up. I’d say it has its instructions.
  124. SARAH:   We’ve got a decision to make.  We can destroy that ship, but there’s a chance we can gather important data on the fleet it came from if we allow it to open a wormhole and follow it through.
  125. VULGE: Is there any reason we can’t try to do both?
  126. SARAH: We can try, but it’s a hell of a risk.  Our ship won’t be able to create a wormhole on the other side for us to use to get back.  We’ll have to steal something or trust to our luck that the originators of that warning message we received will be able to help us.
  127. JEFF: Aw hell.  The ships that have been left behind must have some kind of self destruct.  Now that they’re out of contact with the mother ship, they’re all starting to blow up.  It’s like watching Christmas fireworks.
  128. SARAH: That settles it, we’re going to risk it. We need a ship with wormhole drive technology and this is likely the closest we’re going to get.
  129. VULGE: You are insane!  (BEAT) I like it.
  130. JEFF: You’re both nuts and we’re probably not going to come back from this… but that’s a soldier’s life.
  131. TERG: I’m not a soldier and the chances are approximately three million to one against.
  132. VASH: Just once, couldn’t you keep the statistics to yourself?
  133. TERG: Well, no.  If I’m going to do something stupid, I want to properly document it.
  134. SARAH: Sounds like we’re all agreed then.  Vulge, get us as close as you can. Vash I want you ready to hit that observer ship with everything we’ve got as soon as we’re in range.
  135. TERG: Do you want me to try and jam it?
  136. SARAH: We’re going to need every watt and dyne of power for the guns.  Jeff, you keep an eye on the main battle.  Let me know if anything changes.
  137. JEFF: Yes, Captain, but I think that’s over for the moment.  It’s a damn shame that the Patrol won’t have any enemy ships to scavenge once they get the fleet out to Phobos.
  138. SARAH: Well, here’s hoping we can remedy that and gather some useful intel while we’re at it.
  139. VASH: Captain, something’s happening.
  140. TERG: It’s opening a wormhole!  I guess it’s completed its mission.
  141. JEFF: We’ve got to stop it getting away. Vulge?
  142. VULGE: We’re not close enough.  It’s going through.
  143. SARAH: Are we close enough to follow it?
  144. VULGE: We are, but if the hole closes on us it will tear us in half.
  145. SARAH: Then don’t waste any time.
  146. VASH: I won’t be able to use the guns until we’re through the other side.  We’ll be destroyed if we blow it up while we’re inside the wormhole’s tunnel.
  147. SARAH: Looks like this is a one way trip regardless, folks – at least in this old bucket.  So, hit it!
  148. MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.

SCENE 5:     INT – ABOARD THE STARSHIP EXCELSIOR
(SARAH, JEFF, TERG, VASH, VULGE)

  1. SOUND: POWERING UP OF GUNS – UNDER
  2. SARAH: Damn it, Vulge.  Faster!  It looks like the hole is going to close.
  3. VULGE: What do you want me to do? With the guns powering up, our speed is limited. We’re at top speed already.
  4. SARAH: Vash, have you locked onto the target yet?
  5. VASH: Nearly there.
  6. SARAH: Damn it!
  7. VASH: We’ve got a lock and we’re coming out. Firing.
  8. SOUND: LASER BLAST. EXPLOSION. – LET IT FINISH.
  9. SARAH Ha ha!
  10. JEFF: Woooo!
  11. TERG: Well done, Vash.
  12. SARAH: Yes, well done.
  13. VULGE: We’re through and the wormhole is collapsing.
  14. SOUND: SHOOP OF COLLAPSING WORMHOLE – LET IT FINISH.
  15. SARAH: (URGENT) Kill the engines.  Kill everything and drift.
  16. VULGE: Oh no!
  17. JEFF: What?  What is it?
  18. VULGE: We’ve come through into the middle of the largest fleet I’ve ever seen.  They’re blockading that planet.  And I have no idea where we are.
  19. VASH: Have they seen us?
  20. SARAH: I don’t know.  Just drift.  With a bit of luck we’re small enough to be mistaken for part of the wreckage.
  21. VULGE: Surely, they’ll send someone to investigate.
  22. SARAH: As sure as the sun is made of incandescent gas.
  23. JEFF: So what are we doing?
  24. SARAH: We came accelerating through that wormhole and straight through the blast when we destroyed the observer ship.  Vulge, am I guessing right that we should be moving with most of the wreckage?
  25. VULGE: If we’re lucky.
  26. SARAH: I’ll take it.  If our luck holds just a little longer we’ll accelerate into the upper atmosphere of that planet and gravity will do the rest.
  27. JEFF: Are you nuts???
  28. SARAH: What was that…lieutenant?
  29. JEFF: Sorry, Captain.  (BEAT) Are you nuts, Ma’am?
  30. SARAH:   My mental state will have to remain an open question for now, Jeff.
  31. TERG: We’re about a billion billion miles from your home and surrounded by enemy craft blockading a world they are in the process of invading… a world that, in all likelihood, is the origin, of the warning that came through the wormhole ahead of the invaders earlier.
  32. JEFF: Got it.  Potential allies are a better bet than known enemies.  We’re heading for the planet’s surface?
  33. SARAH: I knew there was a reason we kept you around, Jeff.
  34. VASH: Besides the cool scars?
  35. JEFF: Yeah, yeah. I know. You can all get a fresh autograph after this is over.
  36. SARAH: (BEAT) Prepare to abandon ship.
  37. ALL: What???
  38. SARAH: If they don’t realize we’re a ship and not part of the wreckage, then they’re going to expect to see us burn up and crash on the surface.  We can’t clue them into the fact we’re enemy combatants.
  39. JEFF: But how will we… Oh… Right. In the excitement I kind of lost track of our situation for a moment.
  40. SARAH: That’s right.  This was a one way trip.  With the ship we were chasing destroyed, we’ve managed to prevent the enemy from discovering just how much damage they’ve done to our defensive capacity with their raid.  Our mission now is to try and find a vessel with wormhole capability and get it back to Earth.  Assuming we can figure out how to fly one…
  41. VULGE: My astronavigation skills can probably extend to plotting a trajectory for a wormhole drive.
  42. SARAH: Even more reason not to give up hope. We have to accept that we may be trapped, beyond help and, potentially, beyond returning but it is also possible we may yet find allies.  This ship will be no use to us and, for now, our best chance at survival is to link up with those who are fighting the invaders.
  43. JEFF: At least the atmosphere readings indicate something approaching Earth normal.  The air will be heavier to push in and out, but we’ll be able to breath it.
  44. VULGE: I take it we can’t…
  45. SOUND: SPARKS AND POWER OUTTAGE – LET IT FINISH.
  46. SARAH: What the hell was that?
  47. JEFF: I’ve just lost all screens
  48. TERG: We’ve just passed through some kind of energy dampening field.  It’s fried our electrics.
  49. VULGE: So much for using the escape pod.
  50. SOUND: BOOM AND SHAKING – ESTABLISH AND UNDER.
  51. VULGE: We’ve hit the atmosphere.  It’s a big planet.  Heavy gravity.
  52. SARAH: Things just keep getting better.
  53. JEFF: What do you suggest now, O’ fearless leader.
  54. SARAH: I’m not sure we’ve got a choice.  We can go down with the ship, climb into the escape pod and eject, taking our chances with it when it impacts, or…
  55. JEFF: Oh no.    Not that.
  56. SARAH: …Or we can do a high altitude free drop in heavy gravity.
  57. JEFF: You and I are the only ones trained for that particular manoeuvre and, if you remember rightly, I broke both my legs on our first and only drop.
  58. SARAH: You’re still walking, aren’t you?
  59. JEFF: Yes, but…
  60. SARAH: Then stop whining.  The most likely outcome in high gravity of a crash landing in the escape pod is that it gets crushed like an egg.
  61. JEFF: Damnit!
  62. SARAH: And I don’t want to think about what will happen to us if we stay on this ship all the way down.
  63. TERG: Uh, miss Sarah, I’m not feeling terribly confident about your plan at the moment.
  64. SARAH: See what you’ve done, Jeff. You’ve frightened the women-folk.
  65. TERG: ..
  66. SARAH: Sorry Terg, Earth humour.
  67. TERG: Actually, I’ve heard earth humour… and that didn’t qualify.
  68. SARAH: .. Remind me to talk to you about the proper way to address the captain of a space vessel some time.  You’ve been hanging around Jeff too long.  (BEAT) A high altitude drop is our best chance. After we pass through the atmosphere we’ll be using the escape cannon…
  69. VASH: Escape cannon?
  70. SARAH: It’s for deploying soldiers high in the atmosphere for jetpack and chute descent.  We’ll be forced to use the chutes since the electronics of everything on board (including the jet packs) are fried, and landing’s going to be hell in this gravity, but the cannon will ensure we are clear of the superheated hull when the chutes deploy.
  71. JEFF: Yeah, re-entry will have turned a fair bit of the hull into an oven.
  72. VULGE: We’ll be coming out of this turbulence shortly so we’d better be ready.
  73. JEFF: Okay crew, you heard the boss.  Grab life support and as much weaponry as you can manage, especially any heavy weapons.  We don’t know what’s down there but we’ll need to be prepared.
  74. SOUND: MOVEMENT OF CREW – UNDER.
  75. SARAH: Meet at the cannon port ASAP.  We’re all about to enter a new world… and don’t forget to tuck and roll when you land.
  76. MUSIC: SCENE ENDER – LET IT FINISH.
  77. MUSIC: CLOSING THEME – LET IT FINISH.

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