The Skinnie Gambit
a Roughnecks fanfic by Mr. Hook


Chancellor Kel'Rae fingered the clasp of his robe nervously as proximity alarms rattled the floor plating beneath his feet aboard the bridge of the Valley Forge. The cape didn't really fit over the shoulders of his T'Phetti Power Suit very well, but a non-combatant role such as the chancellorship did permit such indulgences.

Captain Carmen Ibanez was barking orders at her subordinates, the crew struggling to assess the danger the anomalous object posed to the ship, if in fact it posed any danger at all. Ibanez had already scrambled Rico's Roughnecks to man the ship's long-ranged turret guns, just in case.

"Comm, talk to me," urged Ibanez.

"Long range sensors still can't lock on," Ensign Jansen reported, "I can't even make out a silhouette with the sonar scopes."

"Alright. Helm, plot a small Hyper-jump course to put us within 120 clicks of the object's starboard side."

"Aye, sir."

"Might not such a jump so near to the object be interpreted as a sign of aggression?" Chancellor Kel'Rae directed his question at Captain Ibanez.

"It...whatever 'it' is...landed on our doorstep completely unannounced. I think it's only fair that we attempt to land on theirs," Carmen retorted.

Kel'Rae simply shrugged his assent. He reminded himself that he was a non combatant in this scenario and passed a resolution to keep his mouth shut.

Plotting such a short hyper-jump in-system was a tricky proposition. If the pilot miscalculated the exit coordinates by even the slightest of margins, the ship could overshoot its target by several million miles.

Shortly after the Valley Forge re-entered normal space, the ship's sensor array almost blanked out as it attempted to track several thousand tiny projectiles which had suddenly launched from the object's surface. As soon as it was clear that the missile barrage had been launched by the mysterious object itself, Captain Ibanez ordered the turret gunners to return fire. Rico's Roughnecks fired in unison, so it was difficult to tell which shot hit the object first, or which specific ordinance caused the object to explode.

As it happened, the Valley Forge had hit its mark and was only a hundred clicks away from the moon-sized object when it erupted into a ball of toxic gasses. The Forge was buffeted by waves of supper-heated plasma and jagged chunks of debris. By the time the explosion had dissipated, the SICON flagship was drifting dead in space, fighting to keep it's back-up systems on-line.

"Turret stations, report!" Carmen shouted into the comm unit on the arm of her command chair.

"We didn't hit it that hard..." Rico's voice chimed over the comm static, "...must have had a self-destruct..."

"Comm, get me telemetry on those projectiles!"

"Sensor array is off line, sir!" Jansen protested.

"Then launch a probe if you have to," Carmen ordered, "And launch a distress buoy while you're at it."

"Aye, sir! Class three probe, away!"

"Helm, the first order of business is to get the main engines back on-line, and start collecting damage reports."

"Aye, sir," the helm officer replied.

"Distress beacon, away," Jansen updated.

"Alright. Get me that probe telemetry data as soon as it comes in," Carmen directed, "Are you alright Chancellor?"

Kel'Rae picked himself up off the floor of the bridge and dusted off his cape.

"I...persevere..." said Kel'Rae.

"Good," Carmen sighed.

"Sir! Probe telemetry coming in now...switching to main doesn't look like the projectiles were fired at the ship, they're headed on a direct collision course with the planet Earth!" Jansen gasped.

The entire bridge crew watched helplessly as the swarm of small blips appearing on the main screen soared out of the probe's limited sensor range.

"But what are they?" Carmen demanded.

"Whatever they are, they're incredibly dense. I mean, the gravimetric readings are off the scale. They may be tiny, but they're very, very massive. They might not even burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. In's almost as if they were designed not to," a look of abject horror crossed Janson's face.

"What sort of impact would they have on the Earth's ecology?" Carmen wondered aloud.

"Ummmm," Jansen informed, "You know how some scientists think the dinosaurs were wiped out by a comet colliding with the Earth? Well.....this would be...worse..."

For the first time in the living memory of everyone on the bridge crew, Captain Carmen Ibanez cussed like a sailor.

Chancellor Kel'Rae would later recall that it was during this unprecedented string of obscenities that he decided to give the spur on his ornamental clasp a good hard twist.

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