The DSV Dundee was sliding through flux, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. That was, until the ship dropped out of flux quickly and unexpectedly. Commander David Steele awoke with a start as Red Alert began to sound throughout the ship. He quickly raced to the bridge.
"Report!" he cried as he headed to his chair.
"Sir," Sub-commander RU-486 replied, "engineering reports that the flux core and bio-crystal reactor have both shut down mysteriously. There appears, at this point, to be no logical reason."
"There's always a logical reason, Rue. And we're going to find it. Since we've exited flux disengage the chrono-shield." The thin sheets of neo-steel which made up the coating that kept time equal in flux travel rolled up and into their secure holds on the ship. "Status on our energy reserves!"
"We have fully charged batteries that will keep the ship going safely and life support working well only if no one uses the infinity room." Major Robert Wayne, science officer, spoke with both authority and his usual gravitas. He could always be trusted to keep a level head in any situation.
"Commander?" Lieutenant Lakota Bear Woman turned from her spot at communications. "I get no response from the hails I've been sending. No hostile or friendly reactions at all. I think, for the moment, we're alone here, where ever here is." Commander Steele steepled his fingers and pondered just what could have happened. His answer would soon come.
"Commander Steele?" The voice of Chief Engineer Todd Bennett sounded from the intercom by David's elbow. "You're going to need to come to engineering. You're in for a surprise."
Engineering was unusually quiet. The holographic chaplain had been engaged and, much to David's surprise, the ship's cook, usually as tough as nails, was on his knees, bawling like a baby and begging for forgiveness. But, as much of a surprise as that was, the next surprise would top it. Todd was lying on his back next to the bio-crystal reactor. In one hand he held a screwdriver and in the other a frayed bit of wire. A bit of wire that looked like it had been chewed. Todd glanced up and, upon seeing David, jumped to attention.
"Commander, have we got trouble. I think rats did this." David Steele, veteran of the Climate Wars, long time DSV Commander, the pattern for synthoid troops and normally very tough, grew pale.
"Rats. Where in the hell did we get rats?" David's eyes grew wide with realization. On Epsilon 7 King Osla had tried to marry off his daughter, Cloudless Sky, to Todd. When Todd had refused, much to Cloudless Sky's delight, King Osla had threatened to retaliate. With rats. At first, David had laughed at this; rats were bad, sure, but deadly? His laughter soon ended when Behed, the King's jester, showed him the rat lair on the outskirts of the kingdom. Rats on Epsilon 7 were the size of armadillos. And now those super sized pests were onboard the Dundee.
Every crew member had gone to Solarfleet Academy and taken Basic Marksmanship under Sergeant Major Samuel Terry. His number one rule was in every mind; "There's no stun, you moron!". And so, the Firing Crew of 36, 18 regular ray gunners and 18 R class ray gunners, readied for war against the rats. There were no rifles in the Dundee's armament; none were needed. The R class ray gun had a larger bore in the barrel and a slight kickback. Only the 18 strongest ray gunners could handle them. But the fact that they were small made it easy to carry a rifle grade weapon on your hip. And those little babies had come in handy more than once.
Lieutenant Lakota Bear Woman was meditating in her quarters. Her wife, Anne Guillaume, was at her post in engineering and so Woman, as she was often called, attempted to gain peace and balance her charkas. She wouldn't admit it out loud, but she was truly nervous. She'd seen what those rats could do on Epsilon 7, and it wasn't pretty. As if on cue Anne walked through the door, swept her wife up in her arms and held her close.
"Woman, no rat can get us. We will make it through this." Woman believed her, and for a few precious moments, the universe was once more calm.
"When this is over we'll party with Gatsby in the infinity room." Commander David Steele felt like Braveheart, ready to do battle. And, since he felt that way he figured why not inject a hint of levity. "They make take our lives, but they'll never take our...CHEESE!" Surprisingly he got a few laughs from that and, as in Woman and Anne's quarters, the universe, for a few precious milliseconds, was calm. But, things began to heat up again. Scratching was heard behind walls and the chittering and chattering of the rats grew louder. Whines sounded as ray guns were powered up. Final prayers were being sent up to multiple deities and a few couples were preparing for a possible life alone. The sound of the rats became louder by the second and, with a strength that weakened the strongest heart, they tore through the bulkhead, only to be met by unrelenting ray gun fire. Hundreds died in the first wave but hundreds more appeared right behind them. Fangs bared they leapt and sank those very fangs into necks, throats, arms, legs and various other body parts. Cries were heard up and down the corridor, which was filling up with the stench of burned rat and seared human flesh.
"Jesus, help me, Jesus!"
"Allah, I beg thee, have mercy, Allah!"
"Diana! Great Goddess! Rescue your servant! Save her, please!"
"Jehovah, please, rescue your lowly servant!"
The sound of the dying sent chills up David's back but he knew they had not died in vain, as the hundreds had dwindled to dozens and was now one lone rat. He slipped his ray gun from its holster, aimed and fired. The rat gave one last squeal and flew backwards, landing in the pile that the cleaning 'bots had placed before the airlock door. He dismissed the 'bots and, grabbing a shovel, he scooped up the corpses of the rats and threw them into the airlock. Then, with the survivors looking on, he hit the button that opened the outer door and smiled with grim satisfaction as the rats were sucked out into the vacuum of space.
"Commander's Log, Solardate 7501.21: It's been entered into the record at Solarfleet Headquarters and at Solarfleet Academy that no ship can ever go to Epsilon 7 again. King Osla has been declared the enemy of the Galactic Alliance and no contact is to be made with him ever again. Sadly, this will make Cloudless Sky suffer, but I have a feeling she'll get over it. Funerals for our dead will be held in one week. Families will be able to watch through a flux messaging system. Now I shall go to the infinity room where wine, women and song awaits. Commander David Steele, out."