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The Cleon Memorial Library For discussion of Traveller fiction, both official and fan-written. Fan-written drafts are explicitly welcome.

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  #11  
Old August 25th, 2019, 06:40 AM
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Delany felt himself sink in his command chair as the Crystal Dragon’s engines silently roared in the airlessness of space. Even so the rumble could still be felt and, in this way, heard as the Dragon class SDB kicked out joules of thrust to accelerate four-hundred tons of steel and exotic alloy.

The numbers next to the Greek letter alpha whirred as the ship’s theta adjusted relative to the planet. Similarly the omega value raced upwards, and the computer projected a conic section flight path away from the planet surface, almost accelerating into a polar orbit.

Delany felt the air getting thinner and whipped his head around to make sure everyone was donning or had their vacc suit helmet on before he put his on and locked it in place. Once he felt the lock take hold and the suit’s micro fans whir recycled air in his face, he went ahead and let the computer know that it was okay to evacuate the rest of the atmosphere—an emergency precaution in case of a hull breach to prevent everything and everyone getting convulsed in an explosive decompression event.

“Captain, it’s military grade, whatever or whoever they are.”

Delany didn’t have time to retort or comment with a quip, instead he sat in his chair watching the familiar white light dim to be replaced with a bright indigo blue. The experts insisted that during stress or combat situations blue made things stand out better, and psychologically was calming. Delany always questioned the logic and the psychologists who did those studies. But, nevertheless, lime green paths, red course corrections, sky blue grids against deep blue fields did seem more visible. Whether they were soothing or not had yet to be seen.

If they could get a lock at BVR, or “beyond visual range”, then it wasn’t a survey ship, not a scout ship, and certainly not a merchant. That ship, whoever they were, had caution and paranoia built into her sensor suite. Another vital psychology to surviving combat. That’s when Delany found himself cursing the Crystal Dragon and his mysterious employer who offered a boat load of cash to take down some pirate dog that had gotten its paws on a surplus ship. Even so, whoever he was, had put Delany on edge.

“Weapons, stand by to push out ordinance. We’ll sneaker drop, set them out in an array, and have them go active once the target’s in range.”

No more speculating. Locking onto him over the horizon again meant whoever they were meant business.

“Ops, do we know who it is? Any transponder?”

“Negative, captain. But one thing’s for sure, those are corsair scanners. Wave-lengths and amplitude match a known Vargr scanner variant.”

“Spare me the schematics, ops. Tell me later if we survive.”

“Aye, aye, captain.”

Weapons; “Captain, tubes in launch position. We can push them out any time.”

“Launch.” Delany commanded.

Outside black capped multipurpose anti-shipping missiles were pushed out via slow operation of the tube ejector—a device rarely used unless in this circumstance or if a missile, for whatever reason, could not be brought back into the carousel. They lingered at the same relative velocity, were rotated via wire control, and finally cut loose as the Crystal Dragon continued to accelerate.

Delany only hoped that splurging on the extra “stealthy” ordinance would be worth the price. He didn’t think he would have to use low profile missiles, but it never hurt to have too many advantages. Delany took the liberty of cracking his knuckles through his suits gauntlets, then blew air from his cheeks. Unlike other tacticians he was not the cool headed type. He was the “pray this works” type as he fought back perspiration and nerves, feeling butterflies flutter in his gut.

It was a worthy trick. It had worked in the past. It was a proven tactic. As every pirate or would be marauder of the main discovered the hard way.

“I have a contact, sir. I’ll put it up on your screen.”

The faint sharp edged and pointed nose of a distant contact that had scanner superiority, and was effectively a ghost, had suddenly materialized. It was almost too good to be true. And normally the contact was a bit smaller, but all corsairs he had known or had encountered usually had a little extra punch in their main drives to give them extra acceleration. Well, this time it wasn’t going to help, because closing this fast only meant that the missiles would go active that much sooner.

But they hadn’t. And Delany could see the target. But, if he had visual contact, then the missiles should have gone active minutes ago before an image appeared on any of the ship’s sensors. What was going on? That’s when he saw the mass reading in the kilograms.

Delany’s eyes went wide, “It’s a trick! Ops, that’s a decoy! Weapons, have the birds go wild! Let them lock onto anything as long as it’s not…”

Delany’s words were cut short as the first three crimson beams slashed into the bridge, cutting a trinary molten scar across the Crystal Dragon’s topside, while the Stalker’s Fang secondary laser turret merely danced on her stern engineering plates, splaying bright red focused light in several dozen directions, like a laser flash gone wrong.

Two low yield missiles struck her amidships, and severed the last of the redundancy circuits that connected the bridge with engineering and the rest of the ship.

Though in her death throes, and with the captain either dead or unconscious, the weapons’ officer’s last act was to cycle the remaining launch tubes, and defiantly spit at the Stalker’s Fang with a two missile salvo, knowing that the corsair couldn’t switch her lasers to CIWS mode because they had already discharged.

The first slammed into the Stalker’s hold, the second speared into the starboard thrust drive unit, and erupted in a fury of chemical explosive, rupturing the entire unit and damaging the power plant, forcing her to vent plasma.

On the bridge of the Stalker’s Fang the lights fluttered and the instruments were on the verge of winking out, as they too fought for every amp of electricity that was available.

Gahv growled, as if somehow he could intimidate inanimate machinery and electronics into working with a display of anger and fury. But, through the competence of his engineering crew, and not his display of authority, relative normalcy returned to the dark recesses of the bridge, again only lit by the instruments and the computer graphic of an Imperial patrol craft on the verge of falling apart, as so many of the ships he had attacked in the past.

Gahv regained his cool. Studied the target for a few more seconds, then, “Number one and number two laser batteries, fire.”

Both triple beamed turrets clawed again with high energy ferocity, leaving six red glowing trails of where the Stalker’s Fang had raked the system defense boat.

Gahv studied the ship for a few more minutes. The humans had fallen for an old tactic they themselves had developed, and that Gahv himself employed on occasion. Using a mockup of the ship as a visual decoy was a gamble, but since the Imperial ship, one designed for combat, hadn’t picked them up, or rather hadn’t locked onto them using the planet’s various fields to do so, then they weren’t using their full potential, and were relying on hunter’s instincts alone. Not a bad choice, unless you were going up against someone who knew all about hunter’s instincts.

Regardless, they fell for the decoy, chanced a launch, again a treacherously clever technique of quietly pushing out missiles, and letting them go active once the programmed target was in range. That was a new one for Gahv. But his own tactic had countered it due to circumstance. Had luck actually played a role this time? If the human hadn’t been a hired gun, but an actual Imperial naval vessel … Gahv thought it curious, and did not know how to evaluate this bit of strategic luck.

“Board her, captain?”

Gahv stood on the bridge, steely eyed as he considered the Imperial ship drifting and again tumbling as so many had in the past.

“Put two more missiles into her, and stand by to land. Damage control, we’ll be landing for refueling and repair. Stay inside until then. Then you can affect repairs. Helm, land us on this planet’s day side.”

Kael spoke up, “An eighteen hour rotational period, captain. It should be enough to allow us to affect repairs.”

“Fuel.” Gahv announced making a demand.

“There’s ice of various forms. Sensors show it has trace elements of rare earths and noble gases. Usable by our drives. Low risk of damage, and no misjumps, though I would recommend we put in for a software upgrade and overhaul at some point, captain.”

But Gahv didn’t reply. He merely stood there with his hands on the console, his fangs bare, but with no noise coming out of his mouth. Whether he was satisfied or not, no one knew, but he took his seat in the command chair, silent to a fault.
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  #12  
Old August 25th, 2019, 11:38 PM
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Had the computer read back some of the chapters, and went back and did some minor editing. I hope it helped.
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  #13  
Old August 26th, 2019, 05:52 AM
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Fleet Captain Tolchin went over the latest data burst, scrolling through the report of another ship fallen to Captain Gahv’s rampage. The usual, a ship with all hands lost. Apparently there was a feint of some kind. A decoy that caught the Crystal Dragon’s captain and crew off guard. Tolchin didn’t hold up much with private security or mercenaries. Security of the realm was a public trust, not a thing for hirelings of any stripe, no matter their background. The man who kills wantonly for pay was on the same level as the woman who offered love for the same fee, and Tolchin held with neither career path.

True, some mercenaries were as good as professional government military, but that had to break or bend at some point. With no oversight, no public scrutiny, no leash or other mechanism to reign them in, they were essentially hired killers let to do a job as they saw fit, and that’s how this captain Delany, subcontracted by a Ling subsidiary, was killed. Tolchin continued stoically with the report, while outside his three ship formation pierced bilious white clouds in a blue sky. The light gray shadows and shafts of brilliant gold light raced over the translucent canopy covering the bridge. Meant to be a combative edge to give pilot, captain and bridge crew in general a more visible field of view and thereby an advantage when it came to combat and maneuvering, it was in fact extremely picturesque, though sometimes annoying as Tolchin covered the pad with his left hand to shield if from sky and shadow as he held it with his right.

According to the Crystal Dragon’s log they had pushed out four low profile anti-shipping missiles, which apparently were to go active once they picked up the right kind of target. Then the sensor’s picked up an object, which by the looks of it, had been thrown out some time after Captain Gahv had exited jump. Tolchin figured Gahv was probably concerned that he had exited jump close to a far orbiting body, and just wanted to make sure that no one was there. Instead what he found out was a trap being laid for him. The thing that got Tolchin was how did Ling Standard or their hired hand Delany know that Gahv was going to be there?

Well, it was a curiosity, but one more for a strategic analyst, which was part of his job, but his more immediate concern was patrolling the space lanes. And apparently fleet captains were being commissioned by the dozens to form flotillas as a response to Gahv.

Tolchin read on, discovering that Delany had fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book—and not a very sophisticated one either. Well, not the oldest, and not all that unsophisticated, but one of the oldest and not all that complex. He was probably so hopped up on his own adrenaline that he and his crew jumped at the first contact they found, which apparently is exactly what happened, and they paid the ultimate price for it. The log showed his weapons’ officer getting a pair of active missiles out of the tubes. Whether they found their target or not was anybody’s guess, though telemetry showed they had detonated after traversing a distance that was coincidental with the corsair’s position. But apparently the ship’s sensors had gone out with the first salvo.

So, Gahv’s ship might or might not be wounded, so to speak. Even so it would take more than a couple of missiles to bring down a corsair. But that was the real question. Some of the ships that came out of Vargr dockyards were as rickety as they could get, while others were virtual tanks that could withstand punishment beyond belief, but usually had some other shortcoming.

Tolchin had it in the back of his mind that Gahv had been roaming or hunting the space lanes for over a year, and had done so without getting caught. That meant he was probably getting help from some one. Odds were he was just getting a free ticket from a number of Vargr ports that recognized him, and probably some free ports outside Imperial and Zho space.

But it wasn’t quite that simple. He may have earned a reputation and following, but then why was he still a lone wolf—so to speak. Vargr were big on whoever wanted to prove themselves the top dog. Lots of fisticuffs, growling, baring of fangs, that sort of thing, just like their more primitive cousins Terran wolves and canines. Even so, you could be the top dog through sheer will, but even Vargr valued technical and scientific know how. It is, after all, how they maintained various star fleets and political hubs, however passing.

The canopy went gray and sheets of water slapped against the hull in the form of dense precipitation, the would be pitter patter of gentle spring rains was a torrent at high mach. Like taking an air raft through an automated wash at full acceleration. It lasted for some minutes before the flotilla exited the thunder head and back into clear skies with low lying clouds.

Gahv didn’t sound like your typical Vargr raider. One who “lawfully” went attacking Imperial or Vargr shipping in the name of the hunt and whatever political rhetoric was popular at the time. Vargr were no worse than humans, and quite the same in many things other than sharing a common home world, but Tolchin, in spite of having a couple of Vargr crew and two marines who were also wolves (dogs being the racist term given the context) simply didn’t trust their tendency to flock from one cause to the next simply because one leader could bare more fang, growl with more intimidation, or, quite literally, prove their physical prowess in a dog-fight. But if Gahv had those traits, then why didn’t he have a fleet? Unless he didn’t feel the need for one.

Tolchin decided that Gahv was a most unusual Vargr corsair captain. One who was brazen and cautious both in his attacks, and had the tactical wizardry to win and the strategic savvy to stay out of harm’s way by out maneuvering attempts to intercept him.

“Captain.” It was Faorsh, the Vargr communication’s officer who had just come on shift in the last few minutes.

Tolchin looked up at him briefly, “What is it, ensign.”

“Flash traffic from the subsector admiral. It’s an update on that rogue corsair.”

“Go ahead and put it on the net. I’ll grab it here.” Within moments Tolchin was looking at a computer schematic of the four sectors that made up the tri-space region; Ziafrplians (however it was pronounced, Tolchin bemused), the infamous Gvurrdon (what Tolchin often referred to as Pirate or dog central), Foreven, and the Marches, where it seemed like most political tension and other things took place.

A three-dimensional schematic with crossed sabers showing where Gahv had raided or engaged in combat, and a path outlaying his course from system to system. Then, following that, a projected course that the admiralties AI had come up with. A “most likely” course or path set for Captain Gahv. Tolchin sighed, an unusual habit for him since he usually kept his disappointment to himself, but this time the boys, or computers rather, back on Regina or Efate had outdone themselves by trying to predict Gahv’s movements. And by outdoing Tolchin meant putting both electronic feet in their collective mouths.

AI was just that. Computers, no matter how many conversations he had with one, still didn’t have the right combination of “if then” statements in their electronic heads to get a sense of what biological life was doing. The admirals and other tactical wizards tried coming up with a scheme to track down Gahv, but it was all based on logic; where he could get supplies, where he could get crew, where he could get stores, where he could get safe harbor, where he could affect repairs, and the most likely outcome of those decisions. It all made sense. And, Gahv was logical enough to possibly take some of those options, but Tolchin concluded that Gahv knew how the human mind worked, and was using his Vargr’s intuition and cunning to use human thinking against them.

Tolchin put down the pad momentarily, stared out at the brilliant sun and clouds before him as his flotilla continued their relative low level patrol, and had come to a realization. Tolchin tried calling up the dossier on Gahv. Again, things were sketchy, the navy and polity he served in no longer existed, and records going that far back and that deep into Vargr space were hard to come by, and if you could get them then they were questionable at best. But it did show him as being favored and one of the more successful captains. It didn’t list all of what he commanded, and Tolchin wondered about the list of engagements, but if half of what he was looking was true, then Gahv was a force to be reckoned with.

As for Efate’s strategic AI wizardry, well, as far as he was concerned they might as well be throwing darts at a dart board.

“Ensign.” He said to Faorsh, “Acknowledge that I’ve got the latest intel, but tell command that I disagree with the conclusions therein. Tell them that we’re moving outside Imperial space, and are moving to intercept. Then signal birds two and three, and tell them that were going to be jumping out of Imperial space.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Faorsh dutifully replied, then in the background Tolchin could hear the ensign repeating the message with the usual officialities required for fleet communications. There were one or two wary glances at him, but Tolchin ignored it. He had an idea of what to do, and where to go. And it had nothing to do with whatever group of minds, electronic or biological, the Imperial Navy could muster.

Gahv didn’t care about charisma, just how to show it, and maintain control. He had no need of followers, just a clear objective, and raiding was in his blood. If that was the case, and it was, then Tolchin knew exactly what kind of captain he was, and how to bring him down.
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  #14  
Old August 27th, 2019, 05:35 AM
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Zhegh’s fur was thinning. He had more gray and white strands than when he was a new recruit going through the High Lord’s naval academy. Even so, even with aged eyes, it didn’t take a genius to see that the starboard drive had been virtually destroyed. Virtually, because the intake and exhaust were still intact, but the plasma coil and whole high-energy drive-train that spun up energy so that it’s angular velocity could be kicked aft to produce thrust, had been melted and torn asunder, with whole sections vaporized to leave a gaping hold of melted alloy.

“Fix it.” Gahv ordered.

Zhegh was leaned over inside the breach that was the starboard drive, looked over his shoulder at his commanding officer, cocked his head slightly before pushing himself from the exploded maw, and looked his captain squarely in the eye.

“No offense, captain, but the unit’s been completely destroyed. I’m sure you can see that. I couldn’t get this working in a life time. No one can. It needs to be replaced.”

The ship was air tight once again. Patches welded to her exterior hull and interior spaces were checked against the computer’s atmospheric routine. Air was still escaping through the spaces within the maze of tightly fitted conduit, wiring, pipes and vents that constituted the corsair’s life support, control systems, and just her overall mechanics, but it was within acceptable tolerances—provided they not keep her flying like this permanently.

Zhegh explained, “Even if I had a foundry and fabrication shop to smelt new parts, the working apparatus, the high energy coils and all the other pieces that have high super-heat tolerances, are made in special factories designed to create them. The work shop here in engineering can make small parts and patch the hull, but this is beyond catastrophic. If it were a different design, then it might have blown up altogether. Thankfully our former High Lord had the good sense to invest in rugged engines. It’s why we’re still flying and didn’t get caught up in the civil war all those years ago. But a direct hit is a direct hit, and this engine is no more.”

Zhegh let that sink in. If Gahv wanted to express his cool temper by ruthlessly punishing or even killing him, then there was nothing he could do about it. Just as there was nothing he could do about the starboard drive. It was nothing but a hunk of melted and exploded metal.

Gahv stared at the engine. He hadn’t foreseen this.

“Captain,” Zhegh continued, “I recommend we limp back to where we came from, put in at a freeport somewhere, and with all the treasure you’ve amassed, simply replace this unit. In fact have the entire ship overhauled, stem to stern.”

Zhegh wasn’t sure if he was getting through. Gahv seemed to be in a stoic state staring at the destroyed unit. Happy? Sad? Angry? Zhegh couldn’t tell.

Kael stepped into the work space behind main engineering where Gahv, Zhegh and Zhegh’s two mates were waiting for Gahv to say something.

“Captain,” Kael began, “the hold checks out, but the fuel tanks were breached, and we lost a lot of fuel.”

“You said this world’s ice was rated for our drives.”

“Aye, sir, but it’s going to take some time. We can do it, but I wanted to let the engineer know that a lot of the stuff has magnetic ore in it. Mostly iron. Our power plant can take the chemistry. Sulfur, iron, cobalt, whatever is in it, but the magnetism might play havoc with our power plant. And possibly our jump drive if we aren’t extra careful.”

Gahv didn’t reply. He hadn’t foreseen this, and felt an unmitigated rage developing within. How had this happened? He had point defense programmed into his laser barbette, but, he recalled with rage, the cycle time for the lasers to recharge was longer than the missile’s flight time. Even the most ardent anti-missile screen, with no power, was simply ineffective against a well timed launch.

Gahv turned with a snarl. Kael’s eyes widened before he cowed his ears and lowered his gaze. “Get a team to start loading planetary ice into the tanks, and double check the seals.”

“Aye, captain.” Kael quickly left the cramped space and into the lower deck calling for available hands.

Gahv turned back to Zhegh, “We need to make it back to our home territory.”

“If we don’t engage any more vessels, then we should be able to reach home.” Zhegh flatly stated without any regard to Gahv’s mood. Zhegh could work miracles when needed, but even he couldn’t raise the dead, starship engines included.

“I’ll be on the bridge.” Gahv asserted, then left.

Outside a group of a half dozen Vargr in battered and patchwork space suits left the starboard air lock, and silently descended the ladder to the essentially airless light gravity glittering snow covered landscape, with a portable pump that was the size of a small file cabinet. Hooking up hoses to the Stalker’s Fang’s underside to the pump, and working in the strangely red, yellow stained blue nitrogen snow, they began the laborious process of sucking up frozen crystals that would act as a fuel substitute until they got home, or to another world where they could refuel properly.

Kael looked around at the mountains encircling the battered yellow and black ship. All beyond was black with dim points of light against a velvety black. He could hear his own breathing, his own heart beat, and his tongue rubbing over his teeth as he took the opportunity to yawn and relax now that he was outside Gahv’s sphere of influence inside his vacc suit. How he wanted to go back to his home, to see the green fields where he spent his youth, and feel the summer breezes again. The place where he came of age before joining the High Lord’s navy.

Recycled air, frozen meat cooked in a starship’s convection oven, recycled water … it was no life for him. And he would have quit a long time ago had it not been for the treasure rewarded. After this, especially since the High Lord’s realm was no more (replaced by some high-minded sounding political name) , he would go home, stake out a place along a lake or river side, spend the rest of his days enjoying the forest and coastal scents.

Space was space. Grim, black, alien, few places to run, and nothing to smell. He was a dedicated spacer, much like any human or other alien in known space, but space was not his native habitat, and how he longed for the open air spaces that seemed to beckon him.

The Stalker’s Fang had been a fine ship, but a year out without good support from any tenders or fully equipped military bases, and only corsair or pirate freeholds to do whatever maintenance needed to be done, had aged the vessel. She had never been new when Kael was first assigned to her, but he recalled her exterior being more pristine than her faded yellow and black camouflage scheme that had been pitted by meteors and scarred by laser fire and now missile impacts. The black streaks radiating out from the impact points, partially covered by square patches hastily welded over them, were another scar on a vessel that had escaped more than one no-win situation.
For that Kael was grateful. Gahv had proven to be a competent corsair captain, but he had ignored all offers of aid and assistance unless it benefitted himself and the ship somehow. He was bigger and stronger than most Vargr, and had little use for the usual flashing of fangs and perpetual growls and barks that other captains so often employed to get the message across that they were the pack leaders. Gahv was somehow strangely quiet in that regard, but somehow many times as fearsome for that very trait.

Kael turned to the dim star in the distance. It’s white flame cast a dim white light across the landscape, and added to the mysterious and almost frightening feel of the world. Cold, distant, covered in strange frozen crystals and a variety of blue, grays and yellows to Kael’s eyes and that of the rest of the crew, it was a ghost world. There were no forests, no water that he could see, no plants of any kind, just minerals and more minerals, some with strange qualities, others with even stranger qualities. But all of it dead or inanimate. It was the kind of place one expected to find a dead miner in his pressure tent, or the skeletal remains of one who had struck out to find riches, but instead died of starvation or a lack of air—alone and with no friends except the gems and rare earths he had extracted. Wealth unspent.

Kael could appreciate the strangeness of far flung worlds. Their visuals were interesting enough, but the ice could not be melted and drunk—at least not without high energy conversion and the technology to perform the such—nor could one even hope to bring seeds for herbs and flora to create a paradise, as he often desired to do or dreamt of while in his cot.

Well, only a month or two more of traversing vacuum, and they would be in friendlier stars. At that point Kael would resign. The thought of it made his tail twitch with happy ideas of creating the ideal homestead. Perhaps even sire some pups. The good life. And with that thought the ends of his mouth curled upwards.
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Old August 27th, 2019, 07:05 AM
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The port engine sputtered as it was brought back to life. After several hours of gathering every last bit of loose crystal, and even quite literally chipping away with hand axes and picks at hardened super cooled formations to gain more, the Stalker’s Fan was fully laden with fuel. Strange, exotically magnetic, and otherwise unrefined, the fuel otherwise topped her tanks. And with some coaxing and careful watching of gauges and controls, the Stalker’s Fang grew an appetite for the scientifically magical elixir that brought her new life.

The port engine whine and protested as its induction coils choked and coughed on the chemical and magnetic impurities, but plasma was plasma (mostly at least), and eventually super heated induction won out over all. The port engine was brought to life, and the grav drive pushed against the world’s one-fifth-gee pull, and the Stalker’s Fang was silently thundering over the planet’s mountains, valleys and craters before rocketing beyond orbit.

Gahv sat in his command chair. Again the bridge was a black morass populated by illumination from the various screens and read outs. Some Vargr preferred a fully lit bridge, others preferred the dim glow of gray lighting (which to humans was some kind of color that no Vargr had ever seen), but Gahv preferred no lights. It heightened the visual acuity of all the displays and readouts. Another advantage that had won him engagement after engagement.

And even though the starboard engine was no more, the ship ran just as it had before, only on paper she was not as quick as she had been before the attack. Even so Gahv sensed no real loss in performance, but the message of a destroyed engine, and his chief engineer telling him that it was irreparable had outraged him. Only unlike other Vargr he hadn’t expressed his wrath, merely let it be known he was not satisfied. That, apparently, was enough to get the message across to his crew that once again they had better be on their toes.

Repairs had taken days instead of hours, and refueling, even with a pump, took many hours. Hours were nothing if there was no enemy around, but the hunter was the hunted, and at some point the most ardent hunter needed to find safe haven less a group of packs decide to overthrow him.

Local corsairs and even pirates had offered assistance, but Gahv had silently dismissed them. He knew how to survive, and had no need for a pack. Though, logically, any assistance offered now would prove useful. Gahv stared out at the black vista, again the computer readouts lit his deep gray face. Images of flight paths and other graphically depicted data had turned the bridge into a dark warehouse illuminated only by her control consoles. Functional, as Gahv preferred.

Hours went by before, “Rigged for jump, captain. Course?”

Gahv looked at the map long and hard. The borders of the three polities created a cavern for escape. A kind of canyon pass, and unlike the Imperial and Zhodani navies, he knew where the freeholds were. For that matter probably so did some of the more savvy Imperial naval commanders, but probably not the Zhodani, or they would in time given their psionic abilities.

“Set course, three-two-two, mark one-five. One point five sector jump.”

Ghadagh, the ship’s pilot was about to question his captain with cowed ears, but noted that there was a freeport there. Run by criminal scum, even by Vargr standards, it was nevertheless a place to get parts and other stores. “Aye, captain.”

“Initiate jump.” Gahv commanded.

“Aye, captain.”

The lights over the armored door dimmed briefly as did the various displays as a silvery blue swirling field twisted before them. The Stalker’s Fang stretched away from real space and into the realm of jump space.

* * *

Tolchin’s type-T had had its hold’s gills stuffed with supplies, mostly food. Even the ship’s main corridors were lines with boxes of pasta, boxes filled with cans of soup, protein bars, or any consumable that could be made portable and to last months or years. Tolchin had cleaned out the stores of long time foods, and had made many a mom and pop frontier general shop’s quota for the next several months.

Currently his three ship formation were combing the position of the Crystal Dragon. As expected her corpse had been picked dry, first by the Imperial Scouts who found her, then the navy, then the scavengers who waited for the big boys to leave, and finally the marshal’s service, who also left after taking some redundant photos and nabbing whoever they found that was picking up the leavings. In short there were a few hunks of hull left over, but not much else.

Tolchin wasn’t surprised, and hadn’t expected to find any evidence or physical clues laying guilt on Gahv and his crew. Everyone by now knew who had attacked Ling’s hired merc-SDB crew. But, Tolchin was hoping his flotilla could trace a path. He had had scout survey sensors crammed into the nose of his type-T. It wasn’t the full packet, but enough of a group of antennas and other sensors that could pick up a starship’s signature, or a trace of one.

But no amount of electronic blood hounding on his part could reassemble the particles of a jump bubble, nor really trace where that bubble had gone. Sometimes there was a residue of energy, something like a wake, but it was long gone after a week or however long ago Gahv had been here.

Tolchin got up and went over to his sensor ops’ officer, a young ensign who had been focused and energized due to the importance of the mission. He hovered over him looking at the bank of flat screens arrayed before the young man, each one telling a different fragment of the same story.

“She was here all right, sir. There’s where she landed, the skid marks, some ejected machinery. All of it looks like it was damaged.”

“It looks like that missile did find its mark after all.” Tolchin militarily reminisced on the report.

“Sir?”

“The report says that two missiles detonated in the Fang’s proximity. I’m guessing that’s a result.” Tolchin nosed and chinned towards the micro-display that provided a zoomed up satellite’s overhead view of where the Stalker’s Fang had landed and made repairs.

The ensign zoomed up on the location with two different monitors. “There’s something else, captain.”

“What is it?”

“All this uncovered earth, sir. It looks like someone scooped up all the ice around her, and then chipped off more off of these ice covered rock formations.” The ensign’s tone was confident and near excited.

“That’s interesting.” Tolchin remarked. “It means her tanks were hit. She lost fuel.”

“And here, captain. That machinery. I’ll zoom up even more. I did some engineering courses before switching to ops, but that’s an induction coil, captain. A burnt out one.”

“Not just burnt out, Mister Hansen, but blackened and torn, as if it were caught in an explosion. So, damage to her tanks, and damage to one of her drives, and effectively running on fumes.”

“With all due respect, sir, the corsair is rated for wilderness fueling.”

“I’m aware of that, mister Hansen, but thanks for pointing it out all the same.” Tolchin tried to make his own comment sound like a compliment, “But she’s got one damaged drive, and is running on dirty go-go juice. That, and she’s been without effective fleet support for at least a year, if not more.” Tolchin was silent for a few moments more. “An evaluation, Mister Hansen, where do you think she went?”

Hansen manipulated the sensor suite some more, “From the looks of her take off point, assuming no deviation …” Hansen pulled up the navigator’s station’s star charts, “And assuming, like you said in the briefing, that her captain is one for efficiency, then that means she’s probably headed for here. Port Saluga. Saluga, captain?”

“Interesting.” Tolchin almost grinned. “Saluga, ensign, is an old Solomani pirate haven. It’s not on official charts, not even half the Imperial Navy knows of its existence.”

“Then how is it showing up on our charts, sir? ”

“Because, ensign, our job is hunting pirates. Just like the local PD knows who’s selling drugs and arms, so it is that we know where the pirates run to. The key is getting the authorization to act. Or proving that you acted on good evidence.” Tolchin studied the map and images a few moments more. “Good job, ensign.” Then pushed off and stepped back towards his command seat. “Mister Vanders, rig for jump. Coms, signal birds two and three that we’re jumping for Saluga. We’ll refuel at point Bravo one week from now.”

“Understood, captain.”

Tolchin grimly mused that millennia ago, in the age of sail back on the Terran home world, that Port Tortuga was the pirate haven for the Caribbean or South East Atlantic. A haven that was allowed to thrive until one of the local empires finally sent a fleet to stamp it out. Well, he had three sleek battle ready birds ready to engage anything, but it remained to be seen what they found once they finally arrived at Saluga. Would there be a pirate fleet to greet them, ready to assist and help Gahv out of high space criminal solidarity, or was it a wild goose chase? Time would tell.
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Old August 28th, 2019, 08:45 AM
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The Stalker’s Fang exited jump into deep black interstellar space with a collection of lights sprawled over a black spherical object—a rogue world known as Saluga’s Hold. But the lights were sporadic and few, and what registered on the ship’s sensors was debris. Starship debris and irradiated hunks of metal. Saluga was no more.

Based on a rogue world out in the rarely transited spaceways, Saluga was a one time Terran, not Solomani, base that had been established during Earth’s post war expansionist period of when the Terran navy was attempting to administer the recently conquered first Imperium at the end of the Interstellar wars. Or so the old records made available from the Imperial scouts and transcribed to Vargr databases stated.

But regardless of its history, it was no more. In orbit an empty airless hulk of an orbital facility and on the surface nothing but craters where a Downport used to be, along with the remnants of a few starship hulls, again mutilated by laser fire and missiles.

Had the humans finally decided to address this freeport? It appeared so. Again, Gahv’s plans had been ruined for a third time. According to Veelash they were lucky to have made it this far without misjumping, and now would have to risk jumping to a populated world to get actual fuel and possible repairs depending on the local government’s status in regards to him and his vessel.

More plans ruined. Gahv growled in spite of himself. The fury grew in him and reached a boiling point. But intellectually he knew that no amount of venting his wrath on his crew would help. He needed them to keep the ship running until such time as he could acquire another ship and crew replacements. They had spent several weeks bouncing from rogue world to rogue world, grabbing nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen ice to supplant fuel and life support. And their supplies of food stores were running low. Port Saluga promised to be a friendly port with all of what they needed. And now that was denied.

As long as the engine situation held out then the only thing they really needed were provisions.

“Captain, picking up scanning signals.”

And someone was still here.

“Military grade, captain. Zhodani.”

That explained port Saluga. Apparently the Zhodani had had enough of a pirate stronghold out in the middle of space, and decided to finally take care of it, possibly seeing it as an Imperial fifth column effort designed to harass Zhodani shipping through unofficial letters of marque. But all that meant was that Gahv’s ship, as wounded as she was, would be fair game.

“Power down. All systems, even life support. Have the crew suit up. Helm, set attitude to one-one-five, and give us a one-hour revolution roll. Play dead.”

“Aye-aye, captain.”

One by one the lights and various displays went dead, and the ship’s atmosphere was slowly evacuated until the entire crew was suited up to mask their presence. No heat, no air, no power, tumbling aimlessly amongst the rest of the flotsam and jetsam, whoever was here would hopefully not look them over too closely.

“Stand by to repel boarders.” Gahv finally ordered as he grabbed his heavy sidearm and strapped on his laser pistol.
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Old August 28th, 2019, 09:55 PM
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Captain Keav Veanch watched his command crew aboard the Zhaavsh class guard Escort use conventional scanning to sweep the area for newcomers, who hoped to use the highly illicit facilities of the former Solomani base. The bridge with its bright and hospital like lighting that spread a clinical illumination in every direction, was a combination of light gray and white panels with black control surfaces that had gray and white controls. Perhaps not as efficient nor as sophisticated as Imperial electronics, and perhaps not on par with select Vargr technologies, they did their job, and were as effective as anything the Imperium or scattered Vargr nations used. Or so he told himself. The truth was that even though the Consulate enjoyed a tech curve that matched, and perhaps even surpassed the Imperium in some ways, the Imperials, and even those humans living further out, always seemed to come up with new devices that forced the Consulate to play catch up.

The old Solomani base, or Terran, or whatever it was called was no more. He wasn’t sure what the political situation was on the other side of the Imperium, where the Imperial navy had the old Earth home world under naval interdiction and a lenient version of martial law, but this facility, apparently constructed centuries ago, and long forgotten, but procured more recently by those who had social disorder in their blood, had been permanently deactivated. Veanch mused over the word. Deactivated was a mechanical term, used more for machinery, but it seemed appropriate here. Though whatever word described the killing of an infestation, to his mind, would be more appropriate.

He didn’t hold stock with electronic scanning. Starship and hand held sensor and scanning equipment had their uses, but it never got at the nub of intelligence that seemed vital to all schemes within and without the Consulate. A case in point was this base. Secreted in the deep realms of pure non-stellar void, it required a captive and several mind scans to extract the location of the facility. He doubted the Imperium would or even could effect such an intelligence gathering operation. Yet, at the same time, they, the Imperium, and others did seem to keep abreast of military and commercial intelligence. How that was possible without the employment of gifted personnel, was beyond Veanch’s understanding. Could it be that freedom of thought created devices that were far more effective than the harvesting and nurturing of psionically talented individuals? He dismissed the notion.

Still, the base where many a social malcontent had called home, had been dealt with via a major strike force that comprised more than just his vessel, but an entire mainline fleet that destroyed, captured, or drove off all who were present. Nothing left but the local flotsam and jetsam that constituted the destroyed remnants of a pirate base, a pirate fleet, and whatever else had been here.

Still, even now, there were interlopers who hadn’t heard of the base’s destruction, and were jumping in only to discover the ruins, again only to escape via a quick jump out system—especially when they picked up a six-hundred ton Zhodani escort patroller.

And that was the other thing about non Zhodani ships, Veanch silently wondered to himself, they always seemed to be sleeker and more functional, and again had a technological edge that Veanch and the rest of the consulate didn’t understand all that well, no matter how often they scanned captives or otherwise interrogated them. Not entirely true, freedom of thought was not a foreign concept, and brought its own rewards, but it hardly seemed worth it given the criminal chaos that comprised not just this now defunct base, but entire crime ridden cities within the Imperium and like regions of space. Chaotic and uncivilized. Again, as evident of this Terran base.

At least that was the last report he knew of. And the reason that was important was because this whole establishment had apparently been created by the ancient Terran navy eons ago from what had, over the centuries, changed and altered into the Solomani Confederation. But this didn’t look like a Soli base. And there were few Solis or Terrans or whatever they called themselves, who made it out this far to plant their Zodiac flag—the one with the circle-cross. Yet this thing was here. Again, testament to how a technological edge did not ascribe superiority in any matters.

This facility, now effectively dispatched due to his task force, was one such remnant of the old expansionist regime. A pirate base that had been a thorn in the Consulate’s side for a number of years, but had been elusive until a chance capture some months back that allowed guard interrogators to extract the approximate location. As usual, Vilani and Terran minds were a jumble of ideas and concepts, and often required more than one scan to get the right information. Vargr minds were worse in this regard since they often had aggressive thoughts of how to do things better, coupled with a lot of ego and blended loyalties coursing within their thoughts. Emotional clutter did not help getting at nuggets of truth locked in a person’s mind.

Veanch continued his mental exercise of debating how it was that technology took a close backseat to the psionic talent of reaching into a person’s neural network with inherit powers. Powers that could tap a database, or focus energies into attacks or other extravagant acts that the Imperium and most of the rest of space condemned. That verse the Imperial way of inflicting pain, drugs, or using their own version of psionic talents to probe for what they wanted. For all their technological progress they resorted to the Zhodani way. So it was with social inferiors, and so it was that the caste and general social order the consulate offered its people was seen, by outworlders, as a tyranny in spite of their duplication of interrogation techniques and the obvious social benefits to the Zhodani people.

“Captain, I’m picking up a body near the orbital facility. I don’t recall seeing it before, but she appears dead.”

“Enhance scan.” Veanch ordered. He had already spent much of his mental energies looking for stragglers as they orbited the rogue planet. There were a few officers present, and his detachment of special commandos, but he needed them for boarding action.

“No life signs, captain. She’s sustained considerable damage, but I’m not reading any atmosphere. It looks like she came here on automatic pilot. I’m reading breaches in her hull, the major ones are all patched up. No heat sources. I’m not registering any neural activity by way of our scans. There’s some residual heat, but she’s cooling quickly.”

Veanch didn’t trust Vargr. Few did. Friends one moment, aggressors the next, they were prone to fighting and then fleeing when things went bad. Had that happened here? Cold, airless, no life registering, yet she had exited jump with repairs. A real mystery.

No, he didn’t trust it. Fortunately he had a squad of consular guard on board, and considered mustering them as he watched the sleek yet battered form of the yellow and black corsair slowly gyrate lifelessly amidst a bunch of other debris. Had the captain ordered her to do this? That was a possibility, but if that were the case, then why wasn’t he or any of his crew registering on the sensors?

Veanch personally checked the readouts. Heartbeats? No. Carbon dioxide buildup? No. Heat signatures? Some residual heat, but nothing to indicate an active crew. And there certainly wasn’t any air or other gases registering. Veanch looked up out the sleek forward windows at the Vargr design with sharp edges. There were a number of freshly welded patches over a blast mark on her starboard topside. Odds were that if her condition was true to perception, then that was the culprit. Had she lost a fight, escaped to jump for repairs, and then somehow succumb to her damage killing her crew? It appeared to be that way. But what if it wasn’t?

Veanch sighed, “Muster the guard. Have them prepare for boarding action. Inform Sergeant Keelazh that we have an apparent derelict, but I’m not willing to risk docking with her. Give him the scans, and have him report to me when he’s ready.”
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  #18  
Old September 2nd, 2019, 04:11 AM
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Captain Qrel Kiahb double checked his carbine and the cable attached to the huge battery back pack mounted on top of his armor’s environmental suite. Nearby was a team of medics, each with a syringe filled with psionic reagents designed to boost the energy levels of espers. Each medic ported the syringe to an intake in the mostly black armor worn by Zhodani troopers, which interfaced with the wearer on a number of levels, allowing the addition of fluids or medications on a moment’s notice. Notably psionic booster drugs.

Again the interior of the sleek Zhodani “patroller” was lit like a hospital—all bright white lights against white and gray panels, occasionally broken up by a black console or gray or white dial or switch. The black clad troops with the recognizable clam shaped helmet, some unfolded, others clamped shut, milled about checking weapons and equipment as others received booster shots.

Kiahb went over the ship’s sensor logs. A Vargr corsair, apparently exited from jump with no signs of life, drifting out of control in the remnants of what the squadron had done some days ago. Only now the squadron was gone, and only the Escort was left as a clean up crew to see if anyone else decided to chance the port as a place of criminal refuge. A few had, but nearly all had been driven off. But this ship apparently exited jump on its own and was now floating aimlessly.

Captain Veanch didn’t want to risk docking with her in case of some kind of trick or ploy to catch him off guard. Kiahb didn’t have a problem with that. Better safe than sorry, and all that that implied. Still, he would rather have waited for a more opportune time to use his squad’s teleportation ability.

* * *

A broad bright light filled the lower corridor. It shimmered and glowed to life in pitch black of the Stalker’s Fang’s lower deck, coincidentally where her airlocks were situated. The ethereal blue swirled, flashed, and pulsated before finally taking form to reveal twelve black armored Zhodani troopers with what Solomani and Imperials alike sometimes referred to as the bug-eyed helmet, characteristic of all Zhodani soldiers.

In zero gee their feet briefly touched the deck causing creaks and taps on its metal.

With assault laser carbines held at the ready, Kiahb pointed to six of his men to go aft and secure engineering, the other five were to follow him. All with hand signals. No chatter over the tactical channel.

As he and his team pushed forward, gliding through the airless dingey confines of the corsair, they noted a figure in a vaccsuit floating free. He scanned it. An older model from deep in the extents. Regardless, no life readings showed up. No pulse, no detectable neural activity. He folded the scanner away and motioned his men to continue their venture forward. And with that the ship’s emergency battery powered lighting came on, a kind of light orange that to Vargr eyes must have registered as a light gray.

They found an access hatch, again floated up through it until they were all on the top deck just outside the armored sliding door that led to the bridge. Then someone broke radio silence and spoke in his hear.

“Sergeant Kahz, captain. Nobody here except one engineer slumped in his chair. He’s suited up, but I’m not getting any life signs from him.”

“Any indication of what happened?” Kiahb replied honestly. Some commanders demanded answers, but though the situation was potentially stressful, they weren’t under fire, and exercising officer’s bravado right now would be counterproductive.

“According to the readouts his air had run out some days before while he was at his station. I can’t say much beyond that.”

“That doesn’t tell us what happened.” Kiahb suggested.

“No, sir, it doesn’t, but it appears that they were running from a fight. At least that’s my best guess, sir.”

“Thank you, sergeant, carry on.” Kiahb pointed to two of his men to help him try and pry the door open.

Meanwhile in engineering one of the troopers with some rudimentary knowledge of starship operations, puzzled and fiddled with some of the Vargr labeled switches. Using his suits database of Vargr dialects, he was able to get a translation of the controls, and soon gravity was back online. Even so only the dim emergency red lights remained on, and nothing more.

Back outside the bridge Kiahb had noted that things were out of place. Odds and ends were strewn about. A few discharged high energy laser mercenary rated batteries were floating spent of all charge. It appeared as if she had been in a fight of some kind. With all of the damage to the exterior, and some severe inner hull ruptures, this had all the obvious earmarks of a major battle.

He strained against whatever force was keeping the door sealed, but with some effort the armored door silently slid open under the power of four men working together, while the other two watched with hands ready to help if needed. Apparently, the only thing holding her was her mass—being an armored door had its own benefits when it came to defeating potential theft.

Kiahb nodded to his men as a sign of “good work”, then gestured to make their weapons ready before entering the near black confines of the corsair’s bridge.

The work lights on all six men’s helmets illuminated sections here and there as they turned and looked about, creating a kind of head lamp light show for the would be onlooker. Kiahb worked out scenarios in his mind as he cautiously stepped forward, but realized that all he could do was take in when his eyes and armor’s sensors were noting; bulk formed bodies in vaccsuits on the deck, others strapped to their station chairs weapons nearby, but everywhere he waved his scanner it was the same story; no life signs.

A boarding action? Probably not. More like preparation for a boarding action. A boarding action that never came, or so it appeared.

Even as a trained Zhodani talent of the upper caste with noble status, to his well trained and disciplined mind It was beyond eerie, although safe. Dead men, or Vargr in this case, were only as dangerous as one let them be. Still, a death ship, no matter how rational an individual, carried a bad vibe. It went against all reason that he should be scared, for this was a shadow of something that had happened at least a week ago. But the primal emotion was there all the same.

If he could only get the lights back on rather than relying on his squad’s work lights and sensors, as well relying on whatever battery power was left in the vessel’s own emergency lighting. Outside the dual sleek inset bridge windows, themselves almost looking like a wolf’s eyes, he could see the orbital facility and his own Zhodani Escort patroller ever so slowly revolving around an invisible central axis. And even though it was actually the corsair that was aimlessly rotating, it made Kiahb dizzy and sick to his stomach. He dare not ask if any one in the squad felt quessy. They probably did, but no one would admit to it. That and it would detract from the job at hand.

He looked across the bridge and saw his special operations officer, Corporal Qrel, motioning him over to the ship’s log. Kiahb carefully stepped over another vaccsuited body to reach the log station.
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  #19  
Old September 2nd, 2019, 04:12 AM
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“The playback controls are in some odd Vargr dialect,” Qrel informed, “but I think I got a handle on it. Here’s the last playback before she went into jump.” The young corporal put the log back one week where there were two bright flashes below her hold and on her starboard-aft quarter.

“Go back just before that.” Kiahb ordered, and the young officer scrubbed through a few seconds of footage just before the missiles struck home.

The viewer scrolled back further, and showed the Stalker’s Fang’s bridge view of her two laser turrets raking what looked like an Imperial Dragon class system defense boat. The pulses from the corsair’s two triple beam turrets slashed and clawed mercilessly at the SDB, but two missiles had evaded the close in weapons self defense routine, and slammed into what looked like the fuel tanks and engineering.

“It looks like we have our story.” Kiahb concluded.

“According to this memo on the abstract,” the officer added, “the engineer stated that life support had been knocked out just as they entered jump. They went on emergency reserve, then it looks like the crew tried to fix it, but … they weren’t successful. The ship was already set on automatic to come here and followed that routine even after the crew was long dead.”

“Pirates or no, what a way to go.” Kiahb commented. “We better report this back to—”

A crimson HEL gun beam sliced into his armor at point blank range, its burning glow was the last thing Kiahb saw before life left his eyes as Gahv and the rest of the bridge rose up and fired.

The bridge of the Stalker’s Fang was alit with the strobing flash of columns of crimson red HEL gun beams, lashing out in vengeance at the Consulate’s finest.

Three Zhodani troopers fell as HEL gun beams and ACR sabot rounds seared and punched through their armor. The other three returned fire as best they could, and for a brief moment the corsair’s bridge was alight with crimson laser from both sides, the characteristic electrical snap and high tech whine of the beams translated through what little atmosphere was left as they lazed across the bridge, and slowly grew in strength as the bridge was re-pressurized.

Kael’s ACR spat several four round bursts, each series of bursts ejected foot long flashes lighting up the bridge like a night club. The laser fire hitting home or missing, found its mark or splayed off metal surfaces or melting plastic to create a visual chaos.

In the high-tech maelstrom that was the fire fight, Gahv purposefully got up, bolted to the weapons’ station, and activated the routine that would hopefully prevent more strange Zhodani commandos from teleporting in.

The corporal got off a shot, but the Vargr’s dual layered ablative and reflective ballistic armor shrugged off the Zhodani military grade laser weapon, and his own energy absorbing plates couldn’t withstand the energy from the Fang’s HEL gun armed crew. Death took him as several lasers and ACR rounds slammed and punched through the finest armor the consulate could give their troops.

The remaining troopers sheltered behind consoles, but one by one were put down by Gahv’s crew. One LT jumped Gahv and wrestled with him, but for naught. Gahv was the largest Vargr the young officer had ever seen as the Stalkers’ Fang’s captain quickly threw back his visor to let the image of his face sink into the one man who would engage him in hand to hand combat.

The lieutenant quickly flashed a decision in his mind, did he psionically assault this creature and then make a b-line for the nearest airlock, or did he hope his limited hand to hand training could overcome this creature or at least allow him to escape, and then find and lock himself away so he could meditate and teleport back to the patroller?

It didn’t matter. Gahv slammed the young Zhodani against the deck, the Zho’s helmet did its job, but the force of the impact could still be felt even if the ballistic grade material had spread the energy of the buffeting. But for all that the LT couldn’t concentrate for a mind blast. Again, it didn’t matter as the last image he saw in his lifetime was the massive Vargr pointing a high caliber revolver right at his reinforced faceplate, and the muzzle flash that ended his life.

Gahv put three rounds total into the human, then got up and emptied the remainder of the chambers at the Zhodani trooper who had exchanged two trigger bursts with Kael. The thunder from Gahv’s revolver was nerve wracking for the other Vargr as Gahv snarled and growled as he threw the empty weapon aside and pulled his laser pistol. The Zho trooper smacked Kael in the shoulder, sending him howling in pain as he fell to the deck. But Gahv let out one battery emptying long trigger pull into the Zhodani soldier who had managed to wound Gahv’s computer tech. But it didn’t faze him, and just as the Zhodani was about to immolate Gahv, Veelash slammed the commando with a HEL gun bolt powerful enough to melt the reinforced fibers and plates of his armor.

The bridge was ablaze with laser fire on both sides. Only one trooper remained. Gahv’s bridge crew popped up distracting him enough for Gahv himself to deliver the death blow with two long trigger pulls that seared into the Zhodani’s armor and the body it was supposed to protect.

“Weapons, activate those missiles.” Gahv’s tone again was the hunter’s snarl, and outside, a dozen gifts from the Imperial System Defense Boat Crystal Dragon’s missile magazine went active, then found and locked in on the Zhodani patroller.

* * *

Veanch heard the screams and cries for help. That was all he needed. “Battle stations. Call our people back here. Weapons, lock onto that corsair, and bring it down.”

“Captain, we have multiple inbounds closing in on our position … imperial missiles, captain! All data matches up with a type two-two-five low profile self guided antishipping missile.”

“Spare me the specs—how did we miss them?!”

“I don’t know, sir. Closing fast!”

“Rig batteries for point defense! Helm, hard over, get us some speed, flank speed, now!”

The first missiles slammed her amidships, others in her drives, one actually going into her exhaust and rupturing engineering almost akin to what the Stalker’s Fang had suffered in her ever so brief engagement with the Crystal Dragon. The fiery orange and yellow plume of blast energy and plasma ripped out a significant section of her drives and engineering spaces, forcing her to pitch and yaw uncontrollably.

Another missile plunged into her living spaces causing explosive decompression. She had not been rigged for combat, and was essentially a walking air bubble out in space. Several crewman were instantly killed, if not by the blast then by the immediate evacuation of air from their lungs.

Two other stuck two of her six turrets, killing both gunnery crews, and another hit aft of the bridge, killing nearly all of the off duty personnel.

Her one remaining engine was locked into what Imperials and Terrans called zone-five overdrive, and pushed her far and away, yet without attitudinal control she went into an uncontrollable spin. Her inertia carried her farther and farther away, like a spinning top spewing sparks and plasma. A primitive hypersonic frame had been rendered an uncontrollable mass with energy and debris flying off of her bulk.

Not dead, but vanquished all the same.
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Old September 2nd, 2019, 04:15 AM
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* * *

“I can’t get a proper tracking on her to finish her off, captain. But it looks like those missiles we took from that defense ship some weeks back did their job.”

The plunder from the Crystal Dragon was two fold, though limited. No riches save the ship’s hands on cash, but her magazine was filled with those low-profile missiles. And Zhegh had worked his engineering sorcery via his bank of electronic reagents to simply reprogram them. They were not sophisticated weapons in terms of any on board AI, as there was none. They had a simple single purpose computer that took instructions like the first generation electronic minds in the days of yore, and carried out their instructions with single minded lethality.

Patrollers were rated in the six-hundred ton range. Setting the missiles mass detection window well beyond four-hundred tons, and using a simple densitometer sensor to feel for nearby gravometric disturbances, made sure that the Stalker’s Fang would not be touched.

Gahv didn’t reply. “Is the ship secure?”

“Of the twelve that boarded us, captain, none have survived.”

Gahv seemed satisfied with that
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Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.

Last edited by Blue Ghost; September 4th, 2019 at 04:22 PM.. Reason: minor editing
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