First Hour - By: Peter Cheong Choon Wah


A clip of 12 .45 caliber standard bullets.

Bullets were useless without a gun to fire them. Just dead weight

I had a gun, the M2A3 ‘Talon’ pistol. I could load those bullets into it. But I could not fire it. I did not know how.

Still, I stowed the clip into my backpack. Along with a load of other stuff. Some I could use, others I could not, at least, not just yet.

Weapons training were never part of my OSA experience. Throughout my 4-year stint as an OSA operative, I had always been taught to use my psionic powers, never to wield a firearm.

But that was when I had had liberal access to psi hypos to replenish my psionic reserves when they got depleted. Right now, psi hypos are in short supply. Otherwise, I would be blasting every mutated human hybrid and psionic monkey I run into with cryokinesis.

Maybe I should never have come onboard the Rickenbacker. Then I would never have ended up onboard the Von Braun, the first Faster-That-Light spaceship in human history. Huddling in a shadowy corner with a handful of psi hypos, a psi amp, a backpack of assorted stuff, and a bloody wrench held in my right hand ready to clobber the hybrid sharp enough to spot me and come after me.

Or try to. Those human/alien hybrids seemed incredibly strong. In my first run in with one of those goons wielding an alloy pipe, he had cracked 2 of my ribs and nearly broken my left arm before I managed to freeze him solid with multiple bursts of cryokinesis. That encounter had caused me to learn to depend more on good old fashion brawling than psionic powers. At least until I gather enough nanites to purchase a dozen psi hypos.

Those hybrids with shotguns were even harder to stop with either cyrokinesis or blows from my trusty wrench. At least, getting shot with a solid shotgun slug did not hurt as much as getting whacked in the side by a pipe, though I often had to endure at least one shot before getting in range to pound them with my wrench. Good thing those goons did not seem to have access to incendiary buckshot rounds for their shotguns. Those would really hurt.

Managing to find a suit of personal armour also helped me immensely. Flimsy Dartech class one. Still it was a real boon. Getting shot or pounded on by hybrids and frozen by those rabid lab monkeys did not hurt as much now. Could wish for more though. Like an instant one-way ticket out of the Von Braun through 67 trillion miles all the way to Terra Firma. Anything to get out of this living hell.

But nothing like that would happen. So I had to sneak along those dimly lit corridors and follow Dr. Janice Polito’s instructions. She had wanted me to get to her immediately once I ‘woke up’ after a healing coma that left my head blank of all memories since I joined the Rickenbacker. Only problem was, her office was on Deck 4 Operations while I was on Deck 2 MedSci. And the only elevator between Deck 2 and 4 was without power. No thanks to Xerxes, the Artificial Intelligence that controlled the computer system on the Von Braun. And for some reason, Xerxes seemed to be taking the side of whatever force that had turned most of the ship’s crew into those bizarre human/alien hybrids.

Had to get down into Deck 1 Engineering to do anything about the elevator. There existed a maintenance shaft that lead from MedSci to Engineering. But I needed the access code to the locked door leading to that shaft. I could not even hack the keypad lock.

Hacking. Something new to me. Until the last two hours, I had never been interested in the workings of even a computer laptop. However, stumbling up so many locked security crates obviously filled with something useful (maybe a psi hypo), security cameras monitored by a hostile Xerxes, and even nasty gun turret placements that nearly turned me into Swiss Cheese had convinced me otherwise. I did not recall having volunteered for the cybernetic implant that now occupied the back of my skull, I did not like this turn of events, and I really wondered whether things were really that desperate for me to agree to the operation. But I had it, and I could now use those upgrade stations that I come across to gain access to knowledge I never know about. Things like learning to ‘trick’ those security crates into opening. How to operate a pistol. Even the knowledge of psionic powers that I had yet to master. The sheer wonders of technology in the 22nd century. Such a radical means of ‘learning’ was supposed to be temporary; new skills and knowledge gained in this manner would be lost with a few days. Unless the user in question supposedly exercised those ‘acquired’ skills extensively. I guess that would qualify to my current ‘knowledge’ of hacking computer systems; I had successfully hacked every security crate I come across, well almost. I got overconfident with one crate’s security safeguards and had it blew up in my face. A painful lesson that would not be forgotten rapidly

I was tempted to ‘master’ the use of a standard pistol, several of which I had found over the course of my scavenging. One in excellent condition even occupied space on my bulging backpack. I still did not know why I had kept it. Maybe it gave a sense of security. As if waving a pistol in the face of a hybrid out for blood would scare it off. A more plausible reason was that I might bump into someone that still remained human, in control of himself and willing to watch my back for me.

Dr. Polito might be one, after I wander through half of MedSci and Engineering. She did sound rather bossy on those email messages, however. She reminded me of my desk-bound superior during my last anti-terrorist mission, ever willing to give instructions and had someone else taking the actual risks and consequences of a possible error. Maybe once I reach her, she would simply give me new things to do while she remained in her office on Operations.

Maybe Dr. Watts would be different. From what I have gathered by listening to log records using my cybernetic interface, he seemed to be taking an active role in trying to determine what had happened to those hybrids, why had they been attacking humans. Some of his logs were even dated very recently. Which would mean he might still be alive. And he also knew the access code to the maintenance shaft. That was why Dr Polito wanted me to find him. But I wanted to find him just so that I would have a companion.

An email from Dr. Polito came to me as I finally entered the Medical sub-sector where Dr. Watts’ office is located.

"Dr. Watts is alive and in his office..." Yeah!

"He should know the code to the maintenance access shaft. Hurry… he’s been badly wounded! Don’t let him die before he tells you that number!"

Oh ****! Better move fast. But I stood my ground when I spotted a camera further down the passageway. It panned over the area I was standing and continued without seemingly to notice me. Probably too far away to make me out. Estimating the distance to be too great to attempt to rush in and beat out it with a wrench before it could sound an alarm, I raised my psi amp and blasted it with a burst of cryokinesis. The bolt struck the camera and froze it, causing the camera to warp and crack under the extreme cold temperature induced by the bolt. A moment later, it cracked into a useless piece of cold-damaged electronics.

I jogged down along the passageway, which ended in two doors to either side. Taking the left door, I was given a momentarily shock when I saw a gun turret to my left pop up and began training itself onto me. When it failed to open fire for some reason, I unfroze and began to examine my surroundings. Apparently, the gun turret was prevented from firing by a thick transparent panel of single-crystal quartz, which was much tougher than conventional glass and could withstand much more severe forces than either my wrench or the gun turret could deliver. The gun turret could detect my presence through the quartz panel, but it apparently realised that firing would be a waste of limited ammunition. Nonetheless, I felt uneasy exploring the remainder of the small room I was currently in. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there was little to find around this room. Another door led to a body that could have been dead for days. Despite the unpleasantness and stench, I had to search to find anything useful given the current state of events. There was nothing useful, to my disappointment. I quickly exited the room and tried the right door previously overlooked, grateful to be out of sight of that **** gun turret. Maybe I should consider learning how to hack turret placements…

The second door opened to a darkened passageway. A crate partially obstructing the passageway and a door to my right beckoned me. Searching the crate yielded nothing, but I found another dead body previously hidden from my sight. The body had a bottle of fresh juice, which was promptly consumed. There was not a lot of food or drinks just lying around, and I took every opportunity to satisfy my hunger and thirst after the lengthy period of isolation following my surgery. Looking into a glass window besides the door made me decide that it was apparently deserted and could wait til after I find Dr. Watts.

As I approached the turn along the passageway, where a bloodied corpse sat propped against the wall facing me, a flicker of motion made me tightened my grip on the wrench, but it lessened as I recognised it…

While I stood mesmerised in front of the corpse, a ghostly figure of a woman bearing a striking resemblance to the corpse appeared in front of me. I read terror on her countenance as she backed away toward the wall, looking pass me at … something coming along the same passageway I was approaching from? Instinctively I glanced backwards in case something was coming down right now, but the passage was empty of anyone else except myself and this … apparition. I looked back as I ‘hear’ the scream that was growing in her throat even as the figure raised her hands. The scream climaxed and I saw her sag, then slowly collapse onto the ground and fade away.

I had seen such ‘visions’ before. Dr. Polito had warned me that these sightings were possibly linked to the cybernetic interface that I had implanted, but even then, they unnerved me. This one more so. Did I see a video feed from a camera showing a woman being cornered by a great hulking beast in similar surroundings? I could not remember distinctly, but nonetheless I felt a sense of unease. If that video feed was accurate, maybe this beast that possibly killed this woman might still be lingering in this vicinity. I made a mental node to get some knowledge of the usage of a pistol very soon; I did not want to go head to head with whatever that might be, and from its size, I honestly doubted that cryokinesis would do much more than make it angry.

I moved forward to search the body for clues, but again there was nothing to find like the first body I discovered since entering the R&D sector. Turning right down the passageway revealed another door set in the right wall. A fourth body awaited me right behind the door. Searching this body yielded a working shotgun, which I unloaded it of ammunition before comparing it with another shotgun that I had found previously and stashed in my backpack. Realising that the latter weapon was in better condition, I dropped the one I was holding and scanned the rest of the room, which yielded nothing of immediate interest except an energy recharge station. Mindful of the pressing need to find Dr. Watts, I exited the door and continued down to another right turn in the passageway

"Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!" Another camera had spotted me! I quickly backed out of sight as I spotted the security camera further down the final right turn along the passageway. Ducking behind the turn, I desperately hoped that the alarm had not been triggered. When no klaxons sounded, I knew I had been lucky. I waited impatiently for the camera to signal the all-clear sign, glancing backing down the passageway to make sure no hybrids were coming up to get at me. When I heard the camera ‘sigh’ as it sounded all-clear, I pulled out my psi amp, leaned around the turn and blasted the camera into scrap with a blast of cryokinesis before it could re-register my presence.

The passageway ended with a door on the left, besides a large sign that read: "Watts. Dr. James R." It opened to a large chamber that looked liked an operating theatre. As I entered and looked down from an overhanging walkway, a pipe-wielding hybrid roaming around below on the ground level noticed me and growled, shaking its pipe threateningly. The place was a mess, with gurneys overturned, and splotches of blood covering the far end of the theatre.

I turned left and took a grav lift down to the ground level in order to face off against the hybrid, stowing away my psi amp in favour of using the wrench. As I stepped forward, it rushed in with an unnerving wail and swung its pipe around suddenly, almost catching me as I ducked to the right. Slipping past, my wrench swung and struck its shoulder with a meaty thud. The hybrid staggered and moaned in pain. I turned around at its back, noticing a whimpering figure lying on a bloody surgical bed. Someone was still alive!

The hybrid recovered from the previous blow and approached me again. This time, I stepped forward, raising my wrench high as if about to initiate another blow, then jumped back. It fell for the feint and swung its pipe upward in a slow but powerful swing that missed me. Before it could recover from its failed attempt, I charged in and sent the wrench downward in a crushing blow onto its head. Blood and grey matter splattered, and it was over. Ignoring the dead hybrid for now, I pivoted and raced for the surgical bed. The figured painfully raised himself to his elbows and met my concerned eyes with rapidly dimming ones. It was Dr. Watts! Despite his bloodied and distorted face, I recognised him from his portrait attached to his log records.

I fumbled for a medical hypo to inject into him, but he stopped me with a weak wave of his hand.

"They’re … not dead, you understand?" His breath rasped. "They want you… alive… as a host… Get away!" Dr. Watts coughed out blood, collapsed, and fell still.

Mechanically, I reached out, and suddenly noticed a couple of log records peeking out from one of his pockets. Wiping away some of Dr. Watts. I woodenly inserted them into my media log player and listened to one of them.

Dr. Watts’ voice came through clearly. "The time is 1630." He sighed wearily. "Autopsy subject: A. Watson. Now we’re going to make the first incision in… hold him down nurse! Nurse! Hold him down! Aahhh!!! Hey! AAAHHH…"

I hurriedly cut off the playback before I could hear any more of the screams of Dr. Watts or his nurse. Staring silently at his dead body, I fervently wished that I could have arrived sooner and possibly saved at least one of their lives. Then I would no longer be wandering alone along the currently treacherous corridors of the Von Braun. I would have a live companion beside me. Someone to watch my back. Someone to share my thoughts, to hear my fears, to show that there could be other people around, to fight with, to save.

Someone to show that there was still hope left in this hybrid-infested spaceship.

I played the other log. This one was recorded slightly earlier. Dr. Watts was shortly going to commence a scheduled autopsy on a hybrid, one that would cost him his life. He mentioned the maintenance shaft access code: 15061.

I got the code now. But I failed to save Dr. Watts. Would that it could have been the other way around…

"RRAAGH!" I spun around to see two shotgun wielding hybrids rushing into the overhanging walkway from outside. Before they could open fire, I ran forward and ducked under it. The sadness that was consuming me at Dr. Watts’ death suddenly gave way to rage. Barely feeling the pair of shots that hit me as I took the grav lift up, I lunged forward and shoved the closer hybrid back into its compatriot with my left hand, all my experiences in previous melee encounters with other hybrids coming to the fore. Before either hybrid could regain their balance, I had struck the first with two overhead swings using the wrench. As the second hybrid stepped back to fire its shotgun, I grabbed the wounded hybrid by its tattered clothing and pulled it in front of me as a shield. The shotgun discharged its slug round into the first hybrid, killing it. The remaining hybrid struggled to reload its weapon. It never got a chance. Dropping its dead compatriot, I quickly overwhelmed it with multiple swings of the wrench, all directed towards its head.

Head clearing from the surge of adrenaline, I now became aware of the wounds I had sustained in the frenzied battling. The two shotgun slugs had struck me in the chest, punching through the light Dartech armour. Still the steel composite armour adsorbed most of the kinetic energy of the two shots, as they apparently failed to penetrate deeply and damage any vital organs. Nonetheless, they hurt terribly and I was tempted to use a med hypo to numb the pain and heal the wounds. Then common sense reasserted itself. I was in an operating theatre; there might be a surgical unit around. Gasping because of my wounds, I took the lift back down to the ground floor and made a search. There was a surgical unit. And an activated one to boot, which meant that I need not use the surgical unit activation key that I had found in one of the laboratories where research was being performed on monkeys

I lay down upon it and fed the requisite number of nanites, the 22nd century form of currency, into the surgery unit. It hummed, fastened several needles into my left arm painlessly. I knew from biomedical lectures in my high school prior to enlisting with the UNN that it was introducing medical nanomachines into my bloodstream to treat my injuries. As I waited, I felt some movement in my chest. The nanomachines had detected the embedded shotgun slugs and some were working on extracting them. Others were interfacing with my nerves so that the pain would be minimised. A few seconds later, I felt the two twisted pieces of metal being forced out of my body with two slightly audible pops, and my flesh quickly sealing together. When the surgery machine beeped to signal the completion of the repairing process and retracted the needles from my arm, I sat up and jiggled my armour to shake out the extracted shotgun slugs.

I spent another minute ransacking the operating theatre for more supplies, finding a body slumped over the corner with a pistol. Probably Dr. Watts’ nurse who might have tried to fight off the berserk patient Watson with his pistol. I took a clip of 6 armour-piercing bullets from the body, unloaded the pistol for another standard bullet, and then searched the dead hybrids for anything useful. Besides a handful of shotgun ammunition, one of them also had a medical hypo and some nanites. Looking around the operating theatre that once held so much hope for me, I now left it with a sense of despair. I had hoped that Dr. Watts would be alive and ready to accompany me, but he died moments after my arrival. I would leave this place in the same condition that I had arrived, alone, only marginally richer in terms of supplies and the access code that I need to get into Engineering. Would this happen again? Would I chance upon Dr. Polito just as she was about to die as well? Snide and as she had been in her email messages, she was another human stuck in this tin can of madness and fear. I pulled myself together. Dr. Polito was waiting for me to get to her on Operations…

This is my first attempt at writing a story; I hope it was enjoyable for you to read. I apologise for any inconsistencies in the story compared to the actual game. My computer was not equipped with a fully compatible 3D Accelerator, which means most of the background and creature textures during my games were either missing altogether or badly distorted, and I missed out on much of the immersion factor. Still, I was glad I could play System Shock 2. Perhaps if I have time and sufficient motivation, I might attempt a sequel.


Travel to: Fanworks Index / (home) /