The IPF Osprey, main bridge
Commander Jarin watched through the view screen as the Night Sky hung like a child’s mobile above a crib. He was calm, but deep in thought of what had just transpired. The bridge crew heard about the loss of the Vulpine pilot, they all heard his last transmission before crashing into the base of the laser lance. Some might have considered it callous, but he could not dwell on that. Especially now, as he took note of the arrival of the Tiger’s Pride.
“Admiral Felan Tal is on approach, Commander,” the helm officer announced.
“I can see that, yes,” he said and turned to the officers at the diagnostic station. “I’ll need a report for the Admiral. Prepare damage report and casualty reports.” The officer nodded in reply then began to gather that information. Most likely the same was being performed on the Kestrel as they spoke. He turned to the communications officer and spoke in a solemn voice. “Please send condolences for the loss of the Vulpine pilot. Let Captain Clarendale know that we send our best to the squadron, and please prepare a message to be sent to the pilot’s family.” Jarin straightened his tunic and cleared his throat before he began issuing new orders. “Open joint hailing frequencies with the Kestrel. We need to greet the Tiger’s Pride.”
Jarin and Yenna remained on open communication as they kept themselves busy with incoming reports of ship’s status. Four dead Kestrel, five dead on the Osprey, all on lower decks when the Night Sky made her initial attack. They were lucky, it wasn’t many ships that survived an attack from a Pantheran destroyer. The combined efforts of the two Stalkers and the Vulpine fighter pilots were enough, but at the cost of ten lives.
Jarin stood at attention as word came in that the Osprey and Kestrel were being hailed by the Tiger’s Pride. He could only imagine that Yenna was performing the same function on board her vessel. Right on cue, Admiral Felan Tal spoke over the comm to both ships.
“Commanders,” Tal said as his image came over the view screen on the communications console. “You’ve dealt the Night Sky a heavy blow, you are to be commended.”
“We had assistance, Admiral,” Yenna spoke up, a smaller image displaying the Kestrel commander next to the Admiral’s on the console view screen. “The Midnight Squadron were most effective in taking out sensors, short range weapons and the Night Sky’s laser lance.”
“Impressive,” Tal replied with a nod. “I will have to commend Colonel Dawkins on the training of his crew.”
“There was one casualty among the fighter pilots,” Jarin informed the Admiral. Tal leaned forward, indicating to Jarin he should continue. “Corporal Maynard, as we are told, was struck by debris from the lance. His craft spun out of control and crashed.”
“Corporal Maynard,” Tal thought for a moment. “A new recruit of Dawkins’?”
“No sir,” Yenna spoke up. “Maynard was a bounty hunter. Royal Vulpine Authority. Under command of Lieutenant Senia Felix of the Nighthawk Squadron. He was part of the group that attacked the laser lance.”
Felan Tal nodded as he thought back to what Tor Clarendale told him. Tal knew that Authority members would be on board. One of them was now dead. Riktar would have a great deal of explaining to do. “I want to see a full report,” Tal finally said. “Structural repairs needed to both your ships and casualty report. As for your actions, you and your crews will be commended. You have helped in protecting the peace. I offer you my congratulations.” He nodded, then ended the transmission. He had Commander Riktar to speak with.
Main bridge of the IPF Night Sky
Riktar was furious and desperate. Two Stalker class ships and a handful of fighters had taken out the effectiveness of a Pantheran destroyer. His crew was scrambling to make repairs and divert power. Charging up the lance had reduced a great deal of the ship’s main power, having it destroyed seemed like it was a complete and total waste.
“Commander,” his communications officer called out, though in a rather timid voice. “We are being hailed. By the Tiger’s Pride.”
Riktar looked to the communications office and scowled. “Don’t answer it. I won’t be speaking with that filthy Jackai today.”
“Oh, I think you will,” a voice came over the communications console. Riktar turned to look at the main view screen, which held the image of Admiral Felan Tal. He looked very angry. “Don’t forget, Commander. I hold the encryption keys to contact any ship I wish to that is under my command. And you are still under my command, Riktar.” Riktar moved to his command console, a look of mixed disgust and dejection covering his face.
“Admiral Felan Tal, if only you…” his words were cut short by a roar from Tal. Even over the vastness of a mere communications link, Riktar found himself slightly startled.
“You will answer for this treason, Riktar,” Tal informed the commander with a voice that displayed not only his displeasure, but the serious nature of the situation. “You have broken several Pantheran laws merely by firing on ships aligned with the Imperial Pantheran Fleet. That will be your treason. But you have also broken code with the Lupine Treaties. Opening fire on a Vulpine vessel, aligning yourself with known pirates, and the destruction and death of a member of the Royal Vulpine Authority.” Tal read the quizzical expression on Riktar’s face. “You didn’t know. Well, maybe you can pass that off when the Vulpine Authority wishes to question you. But let me inform you. The Revenge had three bounty hunters from the Authority stationed on the Revenge. Corporal Maynard, under the command of one Lieutenant Senia Felix, died as they attempted to destroy the laser lance that you ordered to be powered up.” Tal didn’t wait for any reaction from Riktar at all. He punched in the encryption codes into his communications console, and soon his voice went ship wide on the Night Sky.
“This is Admiral Felan Tal. Now hear this,” Tal’s voice seemed to boom over the ship wide intercom. “All hands will surrender weapons and stand down. All on board are effectively placed into my custody. If you are able and willing to present evidence against Commander Riktar for his treasonous actions, that will be taken into consideration. If you struggle and attempt to fight off the squadron of Central Council agents that are on route to the Night Sky now, then you will be meet with a harsh offense. That is all.” Tal switched the communications back to the bridge of the Night Sky, speaking directly to Riktar. “For your actions, Commander, I hereby strip you of rank. You will be placed in my custody where you will be transported to the nearest detention facility. You will await trial there. That is all.”
The final total for this year’s NaNoWriMo:
Now that it’s complete, I’m gonna take a couple of weeks off before tearing it apart and reworking it into a second draft. Divide it into chapters, make some additional scenes, and change around some names. A few other things I must do include:
- changing Tor Clarendale’s first name
- make readers care about Hardy Maynard
- change Hardy Maynard’s gender and first name, as Vulpine is a matriarchal society, it would make for sense to have a trio of bounty hunters be made up of mostly females
- add in more back and forth conversations between Doctor Horatio Cornelius Re and Left-tenant Colonel Artemis Dawkins just to show the rivalry
- put in more description of the Jackai ships, the Pantheran ships and add into some for the Maverick and Nighthawk fighter craft
- add in the suddenly growing relationship between Snow Fall and White Fang
- find a new name for rough ball
That’ll be for the next month, then I’ll take another break, and put a shout out for Beta Readers.
- World Building: The Great Vulpine Pantheran War (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
The IPF Night Sky, main bridge
Commander Riktar was panting heavily again. He was enraged that a pair of Stalker class vessels would have the upper hand in this situation. The addition of the fighter craft peppering the hull of his ship did not add to his annoyance, but it still did register. “What is the status of the shields of the Osprey and the Kestrel?” he barked to his crew, not demanding an answer from any one person.
“The ships are using the patented Stalker maneuver,” one of the officers piped up quickly, some fear in the voice that spoke. The crew could feel his rage. And they were starting to have their own doubts. “They are sharing shields, passing them back and forth as we fire.”
“Curse the day Pantheran engineers came up with that strategy,” he grumbled under his breath. He thought for a moment as his crew continued to fire upon the two Stalkers, finally voicing a command that no one had ever considered would have been made. “Prepare the laser lance.”
The bridge crew became even more silent than they had become. Firing the lance was risky at best. It took a considerable amount of energy and would leave them dead in the water for a short period of time. “Commander,” the weapons control officer finally spoke up, her voice quiet and shaky. “I don’t know if that would be the best of suggestions right now.”
“Oh really!” Riktar cried out in anger. “And just why is that?”
“Long… long range sensors have picked up the Tiger’s Pride on route to our current position,” another officer announced. “Best estimate. Admiral Felan Tal will be here in less than ten minutes.”
“Really?” Riktar cried out as he stood tall from his command position. His appearance became most menacing indeed. “Then Admiral Felan Tal can bear witness as two of his precious Stalkers are blown to oblivion.” He spat his words out as he nearly roared as he spoke. “Prepare! The lance!”
In flight pattern above the IPF Night Sky
Felix and her pilots never let up. They hit ever target they had to, destroying small guns that would pop up, avoiding fire from different locations. They flew as a unit, and all of them kept their eyes peeled for any variation in the Night Sky’s operations. Even energy fluctuations in the ship were taken note of with careful interest.
Which is how they saw a massive power surge in the ship’s systems.
“Nighthawk Leader One to Osprey,” Felix called out as they began another pass from the nose of the Night Sky. “We’re reading a high energy flux in the ship. They theem to be powering up thomething mathive.”
“I see it,” Jarin replied quickly, with a touch of worry in his voice. “Riktar has ordered the laser lance to be powered up.” There was a short silence as the information settled in. Everyone knew what a laser lance could do. It was the most destructive weapon in the Pantheran arsenal, and the most destructive in the entire Lupine Star System. “Do you think you can take it out before it’s fully powered up.”
“Affirmative, Commander,” Felix reported. “We’ll give it all we’ve got. Ath it thtandth, we don’t have much choithe in the matter, now do we.”
“Agreed, Lieutenant,” Jarin replied, and added one thing from his knowledge of Vulpine culture and lore. “May the Great Mother be with.”
Senia Felix adjusted herself in her seat for a moment as she readied for another run, her hand a firm grip on the stick of her fighter craft. “Thith ith Nighthawk Leader One,” she announced to her other pilots. “Pay clothe attention. Commander Riktar ith planning on firing the lather lanthe. We have to take it out. We’ll only have two patheth to attempt thith, tho we cannot afford any mithtaketh. Underthtood?” She was met with quick replies that all pilots were ready, willing and able. “All right, here’th the plan. I’ll take point and hope any gunth we didn’t take out will focuth on me. Hardigar, you and Traft keep a tight pattern behind me and focuth all your fire at the bathe of thothe extenderth. Maynard, you and Compton will have the job of hitting it with your heavy fire. Uthe the torpedoeth on it. Onthe we make the firtht path, we’ll come back around and attack it again. Make every shot count.” She was met with acknowledgment all around, and the five pilots began their run.
Felix was first, dodging weapons fire with ease, as she intended to be the diversion for Hardigar and Traft. As she plowed forward, closer to the lance, she opened fire, hitting it directly. She could see the weapons fire from behind, knowing that Hardigar and Traft were opening fire on the extenders. It was doing some damage, but they’d have to hit it again in a second pass. As she passed underneath the extenders, she felt the rumble of the explosions, as signal that Maynard and Compton hit their targets on the mark. Just one more pass now, and with any luck, the lance would be rendered ineffective.
She banked her craft, knowing the others were following in formation just by looking at her read outs. Time for the final run. Again, she sped forward, acting as a diversion for the others and letting loose with phaser fire. She hit the lance dead perfect, causing more damage to the weapon from what it had taken earlier. As she passed under the extenders for the second time, she saw the explosions as the weapons fire from Hardigar and Traft hit their mark. One of the extenders buckled and began to fall. As Senia drove her fighter to avoid debris, she watched her sensors, expecting the moment when the missiles from Maynard and Compton’s ships to hit the lance. As anticipated, the rumble from the direct hits came. It was time to punch out.
Just as Felix was about to issue the order to go, an explosion at the base of the lance shifted the weapon to the left. Right in the line of Maynard and Compton’s flight path. Both fighters tried adjusting to the change, but a piece of debris from the extenders appeared in the path of Maynard’s fighter craft. He tried adjusting, but it was too little too late. The debris clipped his wing completely off.
“Left-tenant!” he called out quickly as he struggled with his controls. “Ship is unstable, going down hard and fast. Attempting to compensate.” Maynard kept a firm grip on the stick, but the ship just wasn’t responding as it began to spiral out of control.
“I can give you a hand,” Compton announced over his communication link. “You can ride my wing back to the Osprey or the Kestrel.”
“No good, Compton,” Maynard called out. “You’ll only put yourself in danger. “Join the others. I’m losing cabin pressure at an alarming rate, there’s no way we’d make it. Fall in with Left-tenant Felix and meet up with the others.” Maynard clutched the controls as part of him tried in one last desperate effort to gain control of the vessel, but knowing it was all for not. He put out one last call. “Left-tenant Felix.”
“Felix here, Corporal,” she responded quickly, knowing full well what was going on.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back to the Shipyards and have that tankard with you and Billings,” he said as calmly as he could. “Tell Billings I’m sorry. Life has a funny way of interrupting things, don’t you think.” Without waiting for Felix’s reply, he killed the communication link.
Felix was about to call out, but was stunned into silence as she, along with the other pilots, could only watch as Maynard’s ship veered off and crashed into the base of the lance, the explosion that followed silencing Maynard’s comm for good.
Senia tried to keep her composure as she opened her comm channel. She, Billings and Maynard had come up together from the Academy. They all knew each other very well, and had not only become partners in their positions as bounty hunters for the Authority, but also friends. “Nighthawk Leader One,” she announced, trying hard to keep herself composed and professional. “Nighthawk Leader One to Maverick Leader One.”
“Maverick Leader One. Go ahead, Nighthawk Leader One,” Dawkins replied, knowing full well what was coming. There were too many times he’d heard the shaking in the voice of someone about to report a downed pilot. There were too many times he had to report a downed pilot as well. The situation was all too familiar for him.
“Colonel Dawkinth,” Senia began, trying very, very hard to hold back any tears. Unlike Dawkins, Senia never had experienced the emotion involved in reporting a downed pilot. “Maynard is gone, thir. Maynard’th fighter craft wath hit by debris, and,” she paused as she took a deep breath. “He crashed into the bathe of the weapon.”
“Understood, Left-tenant Felix,” Dawkins replied with an even tone in his voice. It wasn’t cold, but he needed to put on an air of compassion and calm for Felix. “I’ve been informed by Commander Jarin and Commander Yenna that the lance has been destroyed. They can handle the rest of the clean up, as there are power fluctuations all over the Night Sky. Let’s head back to the Revenge. Do you wish to speak directly to Billings, Left-tenant?”
“If I could, Colonel,” Felix replied, waiting until she heard Billings’ voice over the comm.
“Billings here, Left-tenant,” he said, his voice cracking slightly as he talked. He already knew full well what was coming.
“It ith with great mithfortune that I have to report,” Felix began, still trying to keep her composure. “Maynard will not be joining uth the next time we pull into port at the Shipyardth.” She swallowed hard and continued. “He wanted me to let you know.”
“I understand,” Billings replied with a heavy heart. “We’ll have to schedule time to see his parents. After we get back to the Revenge, perhaps.”
“Indeed,” she said in agreement. Senia coughed and cleared her throat, knowing that the other pilots were feeling what she felt right now. She opened her comm to Dawkins’ ship. “Nighthawk Leader One to Maverick Leader One.”
“Maverick Leader One,” Dawkins responded with a bold voice, trying very hard to be there for the other pilots as they let it register that Maynard was gone. “Go ahead, Nighthawk Leader One.”
“Ready to join up in formation, Colonel,” Felix stated as she guided the pilots back to Dawkins’ group.
“Understood, Left-tenant,” Dawkins said with a clear voice. “Let’s head home.” He flicked a few switches on his communications channel and hailed the Osprey. “Maverick Leader One to Osprey. Commander Jarin, the Night Sky is yours.”
Hangar Bay, The Barrow’s Revenge
The Mavericks and Nighthawks idled on the tarmac of the hangar bay, waiting for the final order to launch. At the bay controls near Colonel Dawkins’ office, Talia, White Fang, Snow Fall and Krillis also waited. They knew that there was a battle going on outside, they knew that two Pantheran Stalkers were taking a beating from a Pantheran destroyer. That in itself was just odd. Never before in the history of the Pantheran fleet had one ship turned on others. The prize in the battle; the Barrow’s Revenge.
Finally, after what seemed hours, the call finally came in.
“Miss Talia,” Captain Clarendale’s voice came across the communications link to the hangar bay control console. “I am routing Commander Yenna Fal to you now for specific instructions.” Talia waited for a few seconds and was soon greeted by the voice of the Pantheran commander.
“This is Commander Yenna Fal,” she said over the communications link. “I understand I am speaking with the chief engineer of the Revenge.”
“Yes, Commander,” Talia responded quickly, feeling as though she had let go of a breath she’d been holding for a very long time. “Colonel Dawkins has the Midnight Squadron ready for launch.”
“Good,” Yenna replied firmly. “We’ll need his assistance. If you please, begin launch.”
“Right away, Commander,” Talia said as she gave Dawkins the signal. She closed off the control area and began opening the bay doors. “I’m transferring Colonel Dawkins communications transponder to you now.”
“Very good, Miss Talia,” Yenna stated. “I’ll speak with Dawkins in the field.” The communication link ended, the Mavericks and Nighthawks began to taxi onto the runway. Dawkins went first, followed by Felix, then Taggart, Billings, Edgewick, Hardigar, Maynard, Compton, Traft and finally Miles. Once the group hit space and were clear of the Revenge, Talia began the procedure to close up the hangar bay and filter air into the main bay.
“Good luck, Blackie,” she whispered as the doors closed.
Outside, the squadron hit stars quickly, banking and moving into formation as they came up on the port side of the Kestrel. As they began moving toward target, Dawkins opened communications channels. “Maverick Leader One to Nighthawk Leader One. Do you read, Left-tenant Felix?”
“Nighthawk Leader One reading you loud and clear, Colonel,” Felix replied quickly.
“Mavericks and Nighthawks, sound off,” Dawkins ordered and was quickly met with the role call of the combined squadron. “Good show. I’m opening up communication with the Commander of the Kestrel,” he called out and switched comm frequencies. “Maverick Leader One to IPF Kestrel. This is Left-tenant Colonel Artemis Dawkins. Do you read me, Kestrel?”
“We read you, Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins,” Commander Yenna replied. There was urgency in her voice, even though she tried to come across as calm and cool in the heat of battle. “Ensign Corr will begin uploading strategic points to you, and a battle history. Looks like the Night Sky has taken a few good hits, but she’s giving it right back to us.”
“We;ll buzz the Night Sky like mosquitoes, Commander,” Dawkins replied as he quickly went over the information transferred to his console. “Left-tenant Felix, are you reading this information?”
“Yeth, Colonel,” she confirmed quickly. “I thee four areath of thtrategic interetht we could focuth on.”
“I believe I know the ones you speak of, Left-tenant,” Dawkins replied as he tapped out the coordinates and transferred them to the other pilots. “Taggart. Billings. Edgewick. Miles. You four are with me. We’ll attack the port side of the Night Sky, focusing directly on their weapons. Lead toward the belly of the ship. Felix, take the rest and work on their shields from the star board side and come around above her. Look for anything suspicious. I don’t like the look of those extenders on top of the Night Sky.”
“Do you think it could be a lather lanthe?” Felix asked.
“It’s possible, Left-tenant,” Dawkins replied with a nod. “But I’m not going to assume at this point. Be ready for anything. Begin approach, I’ll keep Commander Yenna informed of our movements.” He flicked a few switched on his cockpit console and hailed the Kestrel. “Maverick Leader One to Kestrel. Commander Yenna, we are splitting off to attack four strategic areas. I’m taking a group to attack the Night Sky’s weapons and focus along the belly of the ship. Left-tenant Felix and her group will try to divert shield power and weaken the defenses of the ship.”
“Understood, Lieutenant Colonel,” Yenna replied. Dawkins could hear the explosions as blasts hit the Kestrel over the comm link, as well as the continuous drone of the red alert klaxon. “We’ll try to draw cover fire for you. I’ll coordinate with Commander Jarin of the Osprey.”
The plan was set. Dawkins dipped his Maverick and began a run under the belly of the Kestrel, four other other fighter craft quickly following suit. As Dawkins began his run, Felix began her own, taking her Nighthawk above the Kestrel, as she and the four other pilots followed along the ship’s length as she looked for an opportune moment to attack.
As Felix was carefully observing the situation, Dawkins and his fighters began to open fire, targeting any weapons they could see. Their weapons were cycling through different phase harmonics, hoping that a few would land a hit and pass through the shields of the Night Sky. The first volley attempt was unsuccessful, but Taggart made a successful hit.
“Maverick Two to Maverick Leader One,” Taggart cried triumphantly over the communication link. “Sending all pilots the phase modulation. Put her to that frequency and we can punch a hole through her shields.”
“Well done, Taggart!” Dawkins replied with equal excitement. “All right boys, let’s punch this one and see if we can’t weaken her just a bit for the Stalkers.” The five fighters continued their assault, their weapons blasting small explosions over the hull of the massive ship.
Above the action, Felix brought her group into formation and began a run of her own over top of the Night Sky. “Nighthawk Leader One to thquadron,” she called out on her communications link. “The ship hath her thenthor array built in the upper thection of the ship. Let’th knock it out and make it harder for them to target.” Her order was met with hearty agreement from all around. Thanks to Taggart, the job was made easier once they were able to calibrate their phaser fire with the proper modulation.
As the fighter craft continued peppering the Night Sky with phaser fire, on board the Osprey, Commander Jarin was formulating a new plan of attack. The fighter squadron was quite successful, and was helping a great deal in confusing the Night Sky. But he feared that the fighter pilots would become easy targets.
“Let’s give the Midnight Squadron a bit of hand, shall we,” he said in a calm voice as he stood beside his helms officer. “Open hailing frequencies to Colonel Dawkins.” His communications officer quickly patched the Osprey to the lead fighter craft.
“Maverick Leader One here,” Dawkins said over the comm link. “Go ahead, Commander Jarin.”
“We’re going to give you some cover fire,” Jarin informed the fighter pilot. “We’ll fire in a pattern close to you but it should draw Riktar’s attention back to us. It’ll give you ample opportunity to put a massive thorn in his side.”
“Understood, Commander,” Dawkins replied. “Uploading our flight plan to you now. Dawkins out.”
“Star board turn, three point four degrees,” Jarin ordered helm control. “Weapons control, firing pattern on the wing extenders. Try and take out their engines.” Jarin smiled as his weapons control began to fire to either side of the fighter craft. “Ensign, open up hailing frequencies to the Kestrel.”
“Aye sir,” his communications officer called out. Within seconds, the voice of Yenna was acknowledging the hail.
“I’m giving cover fire to Dawkins and his men,” Jarin informed Yenna. “I only see five of the craft, and there should be ten of them.”
“I see the other five,” Yenna quickly replied. “Lieutenant Felix and her formation are breaking across the back of the Night Sky as we speak. She’s making criss cross runs attempting to take out the ship’s sensor arrays.” There was a slight pause as Jarin could hear an officer giving her a status report. “I’m going to target the Night Sky’s aft thrusters. We’ve got a good shot at hitting them right now. If we turn five point seven degrees port side, we’ll have a chance. Kept the Revenge covered between us still.”
“Excellent idea, Commander,” Jarin said with a firm nod. He and the rest of the bridge crew shook slightly as they began to feel the blast of the Night Sky’s weapons. “Oh dear. I think we made him mad.”
“I don’t think it was possible for him to become any more mad,” Yenna said with a laugh. “I’ll keep communication lines open and hail Lieutenant Felix of our plan.”
At present, Felix was guiding her group in a constant barrage of weapons fire, shifting their phase harmonics to match the changing shields of the Night Sky. Each time they found a hole, they’d report to the rest of the squadron, which Dawkins would relay back to the Osprey and the Kestrel. Felix kept her comm channel open as she directed the fighters, so it was no surprise to her when Commander Yenna hailed her.
“Nighthawk Leader One reading you loud and clear, Commander Yenna,” she replied as she banked left to begin another run over top of the Night Sky. The fighters she lead followed in near perfect precision.
“The Osprey is giving Dawkins cover fire,” Yenna informed Felix. “We’re going to do the same for you. Keep clear of the aft of the ship, we’re targeting rear thrusters.”
“Understood, Commander,” Felix replied quickly as she drove her fighter craft down for another firing run over the hull of the ship. “I’ll keep tight formation with the other fighterth.”
The IPF Osprey, main bridge
Commander Yenna Tal watched the main view screen carefully as she stood behind the bridge command console. Long range sensors had picked it up as they were moving into position to escort the Revenge. “Ensign,” she called out to one crew member close to her right. “Open hailing frequencies and try to contact the Night Sky.” The ensign nodded and began attempting all hails. As the ensign continued her attempts at contacting the incoming ship, Yenna opened channels to Commander Jarin and Captain Clarendale. “Commander Jarin, I assume you’ve been watching this,” she said as she seemed to glare at the ship as it grew on her view screen.
“It’s the Night Sky, alright,” Jarin replied, his voice heard by all crew throughout the bridge. “We’ve tried hailing her, but nothing as of yet.”
“As have we,” Yenna replied. “I suggest we begin defensive maneuvers. Pattern U-Drift-Alpha.” The pattern was something new, not a cadet or academy attack pattern. But instead it was one that the pair of commanders had worked on with their respective helms officers.
“Agreed,” Jarin said and could be heard issuing orders in the background. The two ships were used to such maneuvers as Stalkers were often built to have a twin, and the commanders trained to fight in tandem. “Captain Clarendale, be advised to remain on course. Do not change your heading at all. Let us deal with the Night Sky.”
“Understood, Commander Jarin,” Crena’s voice piped up over the communication channel. “If I may suggest, we can stick close to you and act as medical transport if needed. As well, the Midnight Squadron is standing by for additional support.”
“Medical support would be advisable, Captain,” Commander Yenna replied. “Have your helms officer stay in our shadow and maneuver to keep us between the Revenge and the Night Sky. As for the Midnight Squadron, get them ready, but do not launch until I give the command.”
“Understood, Commander Yenna. Captain Clarendale out.”
“This could be decidedly deadly, Commander Yenna,” Jarin stated in one of several moments where each commander gave their thoughts on a situation. Yenna and Jarin often did this, it helped bolster their confidence, the confidence of the crew, and helped them to work together like a well oiled machine. “Maybe having Dawkins’ Squadron on stand by might be a good idea, but then again they could all get slaughtered.”
“From what I know of Colonel Dawkins, he would die defending his ship and those on board,” Yenna commented. The Revenge and even the Midnight Squadron were just as well known among the Pantheran as they were among the Vulpine. “Let’s begin maneuvers, shall we.”
Commander Riktar sneered as he watched the two Stalkers begin their patented maneuver. His refusal to answer hails was signal enough for them. But Riktar did not care in the slightest. A new age was about to begin for the Pantherans, and anyone who was willing to stand in the way deserved everything they got. Riktar rose from his command chair, stood proud and called out in a loud voice to his weapons officer.
“As soon as those ships get midway through their maneuver, that should give a window of opportunity to fire on the Revenge,” he said as he pointed to those who sat at the weapons console. “Make the shot count, Lieutenant. I expect to see space trash where the Revenge once sat.” The weapons officer replied quickly, making sure to set the ship’s targeting sights. The movement of the Osprey and Kestrel was going to make it tight, both Commanders were experts at what they did, and the crews of each ship worked well together. “FIRE ENERGY CANNONS!” he bellowed and watched the view screen closely. The cannons fired and all watched as the two Stalkers continued in their maneuvers. They held their breath as the Revenge came into view for only a second. But before the energy blast could move onto it’s target, the Kestrel came into view, taking the full brunt of the blast.
The bridge became silent as everyone waited for orders. They finally came, but not with a roar, with a cool calm. “Forward shields up. Ready phaser fire. Prep the lance, but hold off on it. We’ll be a sitting duck if we end up using it. Leave that in case the battle turns ugly.” He looked out the view screen again, and added in a louder voice which conveyed the urgency of the moment. “Red alert! All hands to battle stations!”
Everything happened simultaneously on board the Kestrel; crew members grabbed hold of anything close to keep from falling as the first energy blast hit, the klaxon announcing red alert sounded out, and Commander Jarin began calling out to his stations.
“Damage report!” he called out quickly as he moved over to stand beside the weapons control, giving them quiet directions as to the best places to target the Night Sky.
“Starboard hull integrity at ninety nine point two percent, sir,” an ensign called out from ship’s diagnostic station. “Shields are holding. Transferring power to starboard shields.”
“Helm, rotate two point three degrees starboard,” Jarin said quickly as he walked with purpose to the helmsman station. “Keep the Revenge between us and the Osprey.”
“Aye, sir!” the officer stated as he punched in the commands.
“Crew status report,” Jarin called out as he punched a comm on his console that hailed sick bay directly.
“Minor injuries on decks fifteen through nineteen,” one of the sick bay nurses reported over the comm. “All injured are being transported to sick bay.”
“Weapons control, I want an even spread of energy blasts along the Night Sky’s port side,” Jarin called out as he motioned to the Night Sky on the view screen. “Aim for the thrusters. Let’s leave her dead in the water.”
“Commander,” the communications officer called out. “Incoming hail from the Osprey.”
“Patch it through,” he called out as he held firm to the command console, another volley from the Night Sky striking home.
“Commander Jarin, we’re coming around from above you,” Commander Yenna warned. “We will be firing above you.”
“Understood, Commander Yenna,” Jarin said through gritted teeth and informed her of the intended location they had their weapons targeted. “We’ve already begun targeting their thrusters.”
“Continue firing on thrusters, we’ll do the same,” Yenna replied quickly.
“Hull integrity at ninety nine point zero percent, sir,” the ensign from diagnostics called out. “Starboard shields are continuing to hold.”
“Incoming transmission from Captain Clarendale,” the communications officer called out over the noise of the surrounding chatter from other officers and incoming reports from all decks.
“Patch it through, ensign.” Jarin called out as he steadied himself on the command console. “Go ahead, Captain Clarendale.”
“Commander Jarin,” Crena announced over the comm, her voice sounding quite tense. “Midnight Squadron is ready for launch on your mark.”
The IPF Night Sky
Commander Riktar sat in his command console, his attention on the priority channel communication from the Osprey filling the bridge. He let a low rumble escape his lips as he considered this news. A calculation he hadn’t considered, he may have to open fire on ships from his own fleet. Such things are sometimes to be expected when a rebellion is on the doorstep. It was time, after all, for the Pantherans to prove they were the force to be reckoned with in the system once and for all.
“Commander,” his navigation office spoke up from helm control. He left his question sit silently, awaiting for orders from Riktar.
“Keep on course,” he finally said with a low growl. “This doesn’t change anything. We still have a mission to fulfill. Each and every crew member knew this when we began, it’s the reason I hand picked everyone. Make sure to alert all decks. We will be engaging in battle when we reach the Revenge.”
“At present speed, Commander, we should intercept the Revenge in approximately five hours,” the navigation officer announced. “Should we increase speed?”
“No,” Riktar said as he sat back in his chair. “I have little doubt that the Osprey and the Kestrel will have their long range sensors sweeping the area, and if they detect our presence, they will move faster to their target. Continue on course, Ensign. The Night Sky is enough to deal with the Revenge and a couple of Stalkers.”
Midway point to the Pantheran Hub, merchant’s run
The long range sensors picked up the pair of Stalkers well before they came into visual range. Norrin tapped her claw on the console as she inspected the readings, motioning to Taffy and Griffin that both ships were running hot. That meant they had weapons systems primed and ready, and shields were fully charged. Part of her didn’t know if she should be worried or relieved that they were getting a strong escort to the Pantheran Hub.
As the ships crept closer, Norrin gave the word. “Captain. The Osprey and the Kestrel are within visual range.” Almost everyone on the bridge turned their attention to the stars above them and they watched as the imposing figures of these pair of sleek attack cruisers came into site. The two were from the same manufacturing cycle, that was clear. They both sported the typical laser lance seen on many Pantheran ships. A formidable weapon, but one that drained energy quickly. Most Pantheran commanders knew that to use the weapon meant they had no other choice. It was a last ditch attack weapon, not one for an opening salvo. The ships were both long in shape and quite narrow in width. They were built for speed, as could be seen with the dual wing stabilizers each ship had. The stabilizers had fore and aft engines built onto them for quick turning, making them perfect for fly by attack runs. The Stalker class had something else that other ships did not, that one aspect that gave the Stalkers their name.
A cloaking device. They would often enter battle cloaked, which made them perfect for patrolling the border with the Wayfarer’s Belt. For the two commanders of these particular ships, they had already recorded a combined attack rate of three ships per month since launch. That was forty Jackai ships taken down by the pair.
“Impressive ships, aren’t they, Mr. Gor’lan” Crena said to Gor’lan as they came closer and closer.
“Aye, that they are, Captain,” Lonny nodded in agreement. “Just glad that they happen ta be on our side.” The pair of ships began to go into a turn as they approached the Revenge.
“Jarin and Yenna are both faithful to the ideals of the Pantheran Central Council,” Townes said as he stepped forward. “With their approach and the knowledge throughout the entire fleet that they will be bringing us in, it means one of two things for Riktar.”
“And those are, Agent Townes?”
“Either Riktar is going to run and hide,” Townes said with a nod. “Or he’s not going to be far behind, and he’ll have his weapons hot.” Townes, Crena and Gor’lan became silent as the pair of Stalkers began their turning patterns, looking like a pair of birds of prey as they began to pull into position. As they settled into position, the crew of the Revenge got exactly a feeling for how large these ships really were. They had to be three times as long as the Revenge and four times as tall.
“Captain,” Griffin called out from the nest. “Commander Yenna is hailing us.”
“Patch her through, Mr. Griffin,” Crena replied as she straightened her jacket. Soon on her visual communications screen, the face of Yenna Fal appeared. “Good morning, Commander. A very early morning it is as well.”
“I would say so, Captain, yes,” Yenna replied with a small nod. “And good morning, Captain. We have you between us and we have coordinates set for the fastest route of transport to the Pantheran Hub. We’ll transfer those coordinates to your helms officer.”
“I’ll make sure that Miss Norrin has it patched in,” Crena said, then looked to the crow’s nest and nodded to Norrin. “We’re ready, Commander.”
“I must warn you, we are expecting some trouble,” Yenna stated with a serious tone to her voice. “Long range sensors have detected fast movement coming from the orbit of the outer most moon of Canin. We believe it’s the Night Sky, so keep your crew ready. Hopefully we don’t have a fight, but we’re expecting one. Keep the Revenge between us at all times.”
Tensions on the bridge rose as Crena began making communication orders across the bridge. “Mr. Krillis, if you and Miss Snow could report to weapons control in the engine room, please. Have Miss Snow assist Mr. Fang on the long guns, and you help Miss Talia keep the engine hot. Colonel Dawkins, have your fighters ready and prepped for launch. Mr. Griffin, keep communication lines open between the Osprey, the Kestrel and ourselves.” She flipped a few of the switches on her console and issued a ship wide announcement. “Now hear this. We are currently under escort of Commander Yenna Fal of the Osprey and Jarin Tor of the Kestrel. Commander Yenna has informed us that their long range sensors have picked up a ship that is on an intercept course with us. She believes it to be the Night Sky. We could be in for a fight, so prepare for battle stations.” Crena ended the ship wide communication link and sighed as she looked to Gor’lan and Townes. “And here I was hoping that we’d have time for a spot of tea before we arrived at the Hub. Ah well, I suppose we’ll have to wait until after this affair.”
Pantheran Hub, officers’ common area
The Pantheran Hub was much different than many of the other orbital platforms in the Lupine Star System. Yes, it had a merchant’s quarter, but the larger bulk of it was set aside for the Pantheran Imperial Fleet. The ship building yards, which built and repaired all of the ships in the fleet, where steadily busy. Troop movements almost always went through the Hub before heading out into space. It was here that Admiral Felan Tal had called two officers that he knew he could trust.
Those two officers were Commander Jarin Tor and Commander Yenna Fal. Both had proved themselves time and time again as loyal to keeping the peace in the sector. Sometimes, that would mean taking offensive action in a situation. But always, they tried to negotiate before using deadly force. Jarin had graduated from the Academy with full honours, and many believed he should have been fast tracked to his own ship, but he wouldn’t have it. He wanted experience in the fleet before he took command of his own vessel. Yenna was similar, but she had to work extra hard. She may not have had the marks or the accolades, but she had the work ethic, and she was able to read situations quickly.
Both were black Pantherans, which was extremely rare in the fleet. It meant they met with some adversity and some prejudice. To the eyes of someone like Admiral Felan Tal, he saw a pair of cadets who knew what they wanted. Tal at a younger age would have thought differently, but his experience from a cadet to his present position taught him a lot. His interactions were more favourable with those who thought in an intellectual manner. Much like his friendship with Tor Clarendale.
Both commanders had been summed from their duties, and asked to meet with the Admiral at their most convenient time. That often meant, right away. Both Jarin and Yenna informed their first officers and went directly to meet the Admiral. If Felan Tal wanted something and asked for you personally, you never questioned it, never hesitated, and never put it on your list to do later. As they met in the hall leading to the Admiral’s quarters, they talked lightly about recent events in the system. They wore the red and black of command officers and held the stripes of those in charge of their own vessels. It wasn’t long before Tal’s personal assistant approached them and asked them to follow her. Both nodded and quickly followed, straightening their tunics as they walked behind the assistant into Tal’s personal chambers.
Inside, Tal was at his desk, going over the details of those ships under his command. As the commanders entered, they saluted smartly. “Commanders,” he said as he rose to his feet and saluted them back. “At ease. Please take a seat. There is a good deal to discuss.” He motioned to his assistant. “Kela, if you please, fetch the commanders tea. I believe there is a ginseng tea in my pantry.” She nodded and went off to prepare the tea. Jarin perked an ear as he took his seat. But it was Yenna that made comment.
“Tea is a common formality for Vulpine,” she stated. “I take it that our reason for being here will be with a ship affiliated with the Authority?”
“Not affiliated,” Tal replied as his assistant brought back a tea service. “However, the ship is commanded by a Vulpine. You may have heard of her history. The Barrow’s Revenge.” Yenna and Jarin looked to each other for a moment. The name was very familiar in Pantheran ranks and did have a history in the sector. “I require that you two have your ships escort the Revenge into port at the Hub.”
“The Revenge is a cargo cruiser, sir,” Jarin spoke up as he took his tea. “Granted, she has weapons systems and has been known to fight off Jackai raiders and even Pantheran pirates. But we’ve never had to escort her before.”
“This is true,” Tal nodded in reply, informing Jarin he was indeed correct in his assumption. “I trust you are familiar with some of my suspicions.” Both nodded quickly. “There is a slight breakdown in the command situation of this fleet. The Revenge at present has a Central Council Agent that they are bringing here. As well, they have the communication logs of a Jackai ship known as the Hyna’s Dread. They encountered it in the Run and managed to fight it off and capture the crew. You remember the wave that went across the command channels about the Tiger’s Claw?” Again, both commanders nodded, knowing fully well what happened. “The Night Sky reported she was lost in battle. Let’s say that was a fabrication on Commander Riktar’s part. Riktar has compromised his allegiance. My suspicions that he has been the guiding hand of the Jackai are becoming clearer. The Revenge now has the proof. Which means the Revenge must be protected.”
“Riktar’s betrayal can’t be his own, Admiral,” Yenna said as she set down her tea. “If I may speak freely, I believe that it might go further.”
Tal nodded, but placed a finger to his lips as though he were shushing someone. “Keep those thoughts to yourself for now, Yenna. If there is a deeper conspiracy, we’ll need commanders like yourself and Jarin. For now, let us concentrate on bringing in the Revenge. I want that evidence. And I need to make sure that a promise I made to Admiral Tor Clarendale is kept. You will make yourselves ready to leave port at once. Contact the Revenge as soon as you do, make it over general hails. If Riktar knows that the Dread was taken, he’ll most likely be going after the Revenge. You two making your presence known, and the fact you are to escort them might make him think twice.”
“If the Revenge has evidence against him, Admiral,” Jarin stated as he rose to his feet. “That will make him dangerous. We’ll make sure that all hands are ready for battle stations as we make our way to the Revenge.” Yenna nodded in reply, not needing to add to what Jarin had already said. In response, Felan Tal rose to his feet and saluted them both. Without another word, the two commanders went to carry out their orders.
The Barrow’s Revenge
They had left the Wayfarer’s Belt far behind them, but they still had a great distance to go before they arrived at the Pantheran Hub. Norrin sat in the crow’s nest with Griffin and Taffy, studying the long range scans, checking patrol movements, and listening for communication chatter. So far, it was quiet, they weren’t close enough to the Hub to hear the general commotion made over comm channels. Most ship traffic was confined closer to the hub, though they had taken note of a few cargo cruisers that were passing close by in the system. When one was in visible range, Griffin would send out a hail, asking about the situation closer to the Hub. Most of these were Lionid vessels, and the Revenge had a good reputation with the Lionids. Norrin guessed that by this time, Red Streak was already busy ripping apart the Dread. In a couple of hours, they should have the ship stripped clean, and begin logging inventory in their reclamation hold.
Griffin’s ears perked up as a signal came across the communication console. He ran it through filters, identifying it immediately. “Captain,” he called out quickly. “We are receiving a hail from the IPF Osprey. Commander Yenna Fal is using a priority one channel.” He looked up from his console, directly to Captain Clarendale. “Every ship in the fleet will hear this.”
“I assume they are doing it so that everyone knows exactly what is happening,” Crena said with a sigh. “An interesting ploy, and nonetheless dangerous. Patch it through, Mr. Griffin.” Griffin nodded and made the connection, soon Commander Fal’s voice was heard across the bridge.
“Greetings, Captain Clarendale,” she stated in a formal sounding voice. “Admiral Tal has instructed the Osprey and the Kestrel to rendezvous with you and escort you to the Pantheran Hub. We should reach you in approximately four hours.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Crena replied. “I do hope this isn’t too much trouble. We don’t wish to put a damper on any fleet movements.”
“Not at all, Captain. We can talk more when we reach you. Commander Tal out.” As quickly as the communication came in, it ended. But in those few words, it spoke volumes to Crena.
“I believe,” she finally stated after some thought. “That was a warning.”
“A warning, Captain?” Gor’lan said as he stood in his usual place next to Crena. “Do ya b’lieve that there could be trouble?”
“I believe that would be correct,” she said as she looked over to Agent Townes, who had stepped forward during Crena’s short conversation with Commander Fal. “Wouldn’t you say so, Agent?”
“Commander Fal is one of Admiral Tal’s trusted commanders,” Townes stated flatly. “She commands a Stalker Class cruiser. Not a destroyer, but it packs a punch and has speed to match. She usually runs with a twin Stalker called the Kestrel, as she stated. Commanded by Jarin Tor. I’ve met both, they’re good at what they do, and very trustworthy.”
“As I recall,” Crena said with a nod of thanks to Townes for his information. “A single Stalker Class took out the RVA Tritan during the Great War.” Townes nodded with the information. “I’d say sending a couple of ships like that is a boon to us. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to see them in action. I’d prefer we get to the Hub with as little bloodshed as possible.”
Hangar Bay, Barrow’s Revenge
The pilots had just completed a few drills, this time the three bounty hunters taking part, and doing quite well. Dawkins took note that they performed as good, and in some cases much better than his own pilots. “All right, lads,” Dawkins called out. “And, of course, Left-tenant Felix,” he added with a nod. It wasn’t necessary, but just something he had grown accustomed to. “We’ve got a long rest ahead of us, no need to get too excited.”
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable just yet, Colonel,” Crena called out from the main hangar console. Dawkins, the pilots, even Talia who usually helped with the pilots’ drilled turned to look to the Captain. Each of them could feel the news that she was about to bring.
“Captain, I don’t like it when you have that look,” Talia stated as she placed her hands on her hips. “We are gonna be expecting trouble, aren’t we.”
“Possibly,” Crena stated with a nod as she walked over to the group. “I just had a conversation with Admiral Tal. He’s sending two ships to escort us to the Pantheran Hub. Should be here in the morning. However, we have to make sure that we avoid the Night Sky. Commanded by Riktar Jenn.” Crena tucked one arm behind her back and the other on the hilt of her rapier as she began to explain the situation. “It’s believed Riktar is working with a secret element that wishes to upset the present status quo in the Pantheran Central Command. Presently, we have all the damning evidence against him.”
“So there is a good chance he’ll come after us,” Dawkins said with a nod, knowing exactly what Crena was thinking. “He will most likely have heard that the Hyna’s Dread was taken down. After all, if he is one of the conspirators behind such a plot, he most likely has a direct communication with each of the Jackai ships involved.”
“Precisely, Colonel,” Crena stated in agreement. “Admiral Tal says he wants myself, along with Agent Townes and Left-tenant Felix to join him and bring this evidence to the Central Council’s attention. I already stated that I would like Mr. Gor’lan there as well, and I’d like you to accompany us also, Colonel Dawkins.”
“Of course, Captain,” Dawkins said a stiff salute. “Only proper to represent the ship in such a manner.”
“So what about the prisoners,” Talia asked. “We’re keeping quiet until this escort comes along?”
“Quiet as a tomb, Miss Talia,” Crena said in a hushed voice, mostly to indicate that Black Eye and his crew had just become the ship’s biggest secret. “We’re essentially smuggling them in until we meet the escort. At that point, we’ll be transferring them to one of the two escort ships.”
“So,” Talia said as she crossed her arms over her chest. “What happens if Riktar catches up with us?”
“Well,” Crena said with a sigh, not wanting to visualize it, but having to see it as a possibility. “I want the pilots at the ready. Dawkins. Felix. All of you. Stay on alert. Keep the jets hot and ready.” Dawkins gave a stiff salute, then turned to the pilots and gave them orders. Rest in shifts, have the craft ready, and all pilots suited up and prepared to go at a moment’s notice. As the pilots went about their orders, Crena turned to Talia. “Get Miss Snow and Mr. Fang down here, let them know the situation. Have them stationed by the weapons control. Even if they have to pull up cots for the evening. Keep the engine primed and ready, we’ll have to shuttle power to the weapons in short notice. Hopefully, if we do meet up with the Night Sky, we can talk our way out of it long enough for the escorts to arrive.”
“I’ll make sure Krilly is down here too,” Talia replied. “He’ll most likely get tea ready for everyone, because knowing what will happen, it’ll happen at just that moment.”
Several hundred kilometers from the Wayfarer’s Belt
The Night Sky was an imposing ship. A fully loaded destroyer, it’s sole purpose was to take out threats to the Pantheran sector of space. She was one of the best in the fleet, only a few class ranks lower than the Tiger’s Pride. Her crew was some of the best trained in the entire Pantheran Imperial Fleet. Almost all were hand picked, or suggested by Commander Riktar Jenn.
When most talked about Riktar, it was either with respect for a glorious career in the fleet, or out of pure hatred for his ambitious nature. He was more than willing to step on a few Pantherans in order to make his mark in the world. His time at the academy, he made few friends. Any friends he had, he usually kept close because they could help advance his career. He was only a few steps away from his goal; Admiral of the Pantheran Imperial Fleet. Just one stood in his way of that goal.
It wouldn’t be long, he often thought to himself, and he would be replacing the Admiral. Felan Tal was an old fool, as it was. Seeking to keep peace when Pantherans were the true masters of this star system. Not long, but there was still so much to do.
Riktar sat on the bridge in his command chair, going over the recent reports that filtered through this sector of space. Cargo ship manifests, escort details, patrol ships, and more. Often, he would attempt to acquire any patrols, stating that even with a destroyer, it should never be taken lightly that the borders of Canin space should not be protected by some of her best. So far, everything was quiet. Just the way he liked it.
“Commander,” his communications officer stated, breaking the silence that filled the bridge. He turned to her, looking up from his data readings. “There is a text wave coming in. A request to speak with you in private. Should I send it to your ready room?”
“Yes, ensign,” he said as he rose to his feet. He gathered his materials together and handed them to his personal attache. “I’ll take it immediately. Yeoman Colls, if you please come with me.” His attentive yeoman nodded and took the materials from him, tucking them into a satchel that hung from her shoulder. She was young, a junior cadet that Riktar saw much promise. Like him, she was a spotted Pantheran. Riktar held his hands behind his back as he walked to his ready room, his yeoman opening the door to let him in. Soon, they both disappeared inside.
Inside, he moved to his desk and brought up his personal communications console. His yeoman stood out of sight from the visual communication that he set up, punching in an encryption so the signal would be traced. “Go ahead, Black Eye,” he said without hesitation. “I caught your wave.”
“Nice,” the voice came over the comm, and a Jackai pirate sat down in the chair that was placed in front of the comm screen. It wasn’t Black Eye. “Except, sorry to say, Black Eye can’t be here right now,” the beige coloured Jackai said with a hint of scorn in his voice.
“You didn’t get in a fight and kill him, did you, Low Howl?” It was evident Riktar knew who he was speaking with. He made it a point to know each of the captains of the Jackai ships before he agreed upon anything with them.
“No, sadly,” Howl stated with his ever sarcastic voice. “But the Barrow’s Revenge did a real good job of that.” Howl sat back in his chair and stretched a bit. “Black Eye got cocky and decided he could take the Revenge on his own. He forgot about the Midnight Squadron. He has a nasty habit of forgetting things.”
“What happened to the ship?” Riktar said with a growl. “What happened to the crew?”
“Either one of two things,” Low Howl explained. “Either the Sifter took Black Eye and his boys and locked ‘em up in their brig. Which, would be bad considering that, as I recall, they were graciously given Pantheran lock tracers to prevent criminals from escaping. Didn’t they?” Howl leaned over to look directly at the screen. He pushed back and didn’t wait for a reply. “Or, they’re sitting in the brig on the Revenge, who just so happens to be traveling to Canin.”
“Why didn’t you stop them?” Riktar said through clenched teeth.
“Ah, let’s see,” Howl said as he looked up in thought. “Maybe it was because Clarendale and her crew already had taken out Ringer and Black Eye, I didn’t really feel like making it the Jackai trifecta.” Howl sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head as though he were having a relaxing evening. “I bet right now Red Streak and her precious Sifter are tearing the Hyna’s Dread apart for salvage. And knowing them, they’re making sure to take down every single piece of inventory and logging it. So you can bet that those parts you gave us are on their way back to Central Council.”
“Black Eye was my contact, you idiot,” Riktar said, trying his best not to roar.
“Yeah, I know he was, pretty kitty,” Low Howl said in a mocking tone. “But as far as I’m concerned, we’re done. I’ve got brothers on three other ships that don’t wanna put their lives on the line for some Pather that wants to climb up some social ladder. The pay kinda sucks as it is. So, this is just to let you know, we quit. You’re on your own from here on in, Commander.” Without another word, Low Howl ended the communication, letting Riktar stew in his own anger.
He clenched his fists and panted heavily. His yeoman stepped back a couple of paces, not wanting to be the target of his wrath. Fortunately, his intercom chirped, diverting any angry attention away from her. “What is it?” he bellowed as he hit the comm switch.
“Um… commander,” the officer on the other end stated in a timid voice. “We’ve detected a ship that just made it’s way out of the Wayfarer’s Belt. The Barrow’s Revenge, sir.”
Riktar didn’t say anything at first, letting the information sink in. The Barrow’s Revenge. As Low Howl just informed him, the Revenge had taken out both Ring Tail and Black Eye’s ships. He put two and two together. Since they wouldn’t just leave the crew to float aimlessly, they probably took Black Eye and his crew into custody, with the hope of turning them over to Pantheran authorities. The Sifter would most certainly tear Black Eye’s ship apart. And if the Revenge didn’t have the communication logs of the Hyna’s Dread, then that would mean Red Streak would be getting her hands on it. Howl was right, she was meticulous when it came to salvage operations.
“I suppose,” Riktar said as calmly as he could. “We’ll have to intercept them. After all, they just took out a ship in Pantheran space, as I have been informed.”
Have you woken up from your food coma yet? We don’t have any time to waste.
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Fight for the Future / AmericanCensorship.org
P.S. Senator Wyden will fillibuster the censorship bill in the Senate, if it comes to that. Sign this petition from our friends at Demand Progress and Sen. Wyden will read from this list during his fillibuster: StopCensorship.org
- Opposing the Senate’s PROTECT-IP Act (nateshiff.wordpress.com)
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- Senator Threatens Filibuster of Protect IP Act as Vote Nears (pcworld.com)
- Against the Blacklist Bills: Congressmen and Senators Speak Up (eff.org)
The Revenge navigated her way through the rest of the Run without incident. Any damage that had occurred, whether during the battle with the Hyna’s Dread or from small asteroids making travel progress difficult, had been quickly repaired. Weapons systems had been replenished. The squadron of fighter craft had been refueled and refitted in the event they ran into more pirates. Here in the Canin territories, they most likely wouldn’t meet Jackai pirates. They’d more than like meet Pantheran pirates, a much tougher breed of pirate, yet somewhat more honourable than the Jackai. Not nearly as cutthroat in their actions. But pirates nonetheless.
There was also the worry and the warning that Renna Townes informed Captain Clarendale about. There could be a ship of the fleet that might hunt them down. They might not know about the crew of the Dread sitting in the brig of the Revenge, but they couldn’t take the chance that someone might have it in for them.
“We’re through the Run,” Norrin spoke up as the last of the asteroids past them. “Long range sensors are back online and we have full long range communication. Shall I contact the Sifter and inform Red Streak there’s a derelict in the Run?”
“Yes, Miss Norrin,” Crena announced from her usual position at the command console. “Let Red Streak know it was the Dread, and warn her there might be other ships still in that area. We aren’t sure how many in total were part of this venture.” Crena looked to Griffin and she continued issuing orders. “Mr. Griffin. Contact Admiral Felan Tal. According to his schedule, he would have arrived in the territory half a day before we did. His ship, Tiger’s Pride, should have taken the military run through the Belt.” Long ago, the treaty that ended the war between the Vulpine and Pantherans, it was written that for emergency purposes there would be a path set forth by military vessels through the Wayfarer’s Belt. This would be a different path than the one taken by merchant vessels and smaller scout class ships.
“Right away, Captain,” Griffin replied with a nod, then set to work opening a communication channel to the Tiger’s Pride.
“I’ve located the position of the Tiger’s Pride, Captain,” Taffy piped up. “She is currently docked at the Pantheran Hub.”
“Ship’s communications officer says that Admiral Tal is currently in his ready room,” Griffin added. “But, he is willing to speak with you. Only, the officer recommended a secure channel.”
Crena considered this information for a moment, then nodded to Griffin as she began to make her way to the Captain’s quarters. “Let the officer know I’ll take it in my quarters. Mr. Gor’lan, if you could accompany me, please.”
“Right away, Captain,” Lonny said as he fell in step with the Captain.
“Miss Norrin, you have the bridge,” Crena called out to her helms officer. Norrin acknowledged and moved from her place in the crow’s nest to the command console. “Keep her steady, and inform any ships we might meet that we have cargo to be delivered to the Lionid Ice Field Monastery. That is the truth, after all. But keep mum about the prisoners, and Agent Townes. Which reminds me.” She turned to Agent Townes before entering her quarters and motioned to him. He had been watching the crew perform and seemed quite impressed. “Agent, if you could join us, please.”
“Yes, of course,” he said as he walked the small length to the Captain’s quarters.
Once inside, Crena closed the door and moved to her desk. She opened a communications screen and tapped the command key. The colours of the Revenge popped up, flickered a moment, then the face of Admiral Felan Tal appeared. “Good evening, Captain,” he said in his usual gruff manner. “I trust your comms officer managed to scramble this before transferring it to your quarters.” It was more a statement than a question, as Tal peered through the screen, seeing the others with Crena. “Mr. Gor’lan, good to see you again. And…” he paused a moment and snorted lightly. “Agent Townes, I believe I had you stationed on the Tiger’s Claw.”
“Yes, Admiral,” Townes replied quickly and smartly. “I have a full report written up, and can present it to you when we meet face to face. Lieutenant Felix also has a report that you might like to see.”
“Felix,” Townes said as he scratched his chin. “Royal Vulpine Authority, if I’m not mistaken. Bounty hunter, is that correct?”
“Yes, Admiral,” Crena stated with a nod. “Uncle Tor assigned them to our ship in the event any diplomatic negotiations were needed.” She paused and took a deep breath. “Sadly, the only encounters we happened to have involved two Jackai ships. Felix proved her worth, along with the other pilots of the Nighthawk Squadron.”
“I heard about the one ship,” Tal said with a nod. “Tried taking you in open space on the Lupinian sector of space, didn’t he?”
“Yes, not too successfully, either I might add,” Crena stated flatly. “The other was the Hyna’s Dread. The entire crew happens to be sitting in our brig as we speak. I’ve left Norrin in command of the bridge while we speak, leaving her instructions to leave out any knowledge of them. We are on a cargo run, after all.”
“A wise decision indeed,” Tal replied with a nod. “If anyone does get nosey, let them know that I have strict instructions that I wish to meet with you.”
“Admiral, if I may,” Agent Townes spoke up.
“Yes Townes, what is it?”
“I believe you already am aware of my investigation,” Townes informed the Admiral, and to a point Crena and Gor’lan. “The suspicions we have had of a secret group that wants to stir up trouble in the Central Council. Well, it’s not far from the truth.” Townes took a deep breath to compose himself. He felt anger every time he thought of what happened to the crew of the Tiger’s Claw. “The Night Sky was signaled by Black Eye’s ship.”
Felan Tal took a deep breath and attempted to remain calm. His facial features were giving away the anger he was already feeling. Riktar was one of his officers, and in direct command under him. “Listen to me Crena, very carefully. I will send two of my own ships to escort you to the Pantheran Hub. From there, you, Agent Townes, this Lieutenant Felix and myself will go to see the Central Council. Prisoners will be transported to one of the escort ships. If you should run into Riktar, do not let him know what is going on. Lie, if you have to. That goes for you as well, Agent Townes,” Felan stated with a raised finger. Townes nodded firmly in response, letting the Admiral continue. “I gave your uncle a promise, Crena. I do not renege on a promise.”
“Understood, Admiral,” Crena replied with a nod. “Just to be on the safe side, I hope you don’t mind if I have my fighter pilots at the ready. I want my ace in the hole just in case things begin to unravel.”
Hangar Bay, Barrow’s Revenge
The Mavericks and Nighthawks returned to roost without any problems. None of them suffered any damage, thanks to the nimble piloting skills of the squadron and due to the fact the Jackai never even had an opportunity to fire. Once the hangar doors were closed, the pilots began unloading the prisoners and their new passenger.
“Fanger,” Talia called out as she saw the extra figures, most in irons. “Gather a security detail and take anyone in irons to the brig.” She studied the Pantheran with the pilots and walked over directly to him. “You’re a long way from home.”
“You must be the chief engineer,” Townes stated, nursing his left arm. His knowledge of the Revenge didn’t come from spying or intelligence reports, but rather the wonder of the ship itself. Most of the crew was well known throughout the space lanes. “I’d like to speak with Captain Clarendale.”
“Not before you thee the doctor to have that arm bandaged properly,” Senia announced. “There will be more than enough time to talk to the Captain after that.”
“Whole heartedly agreed,” Dawkins said as he stepped forward. He looked over the Pantheran Agent, then moved to Senia’s side. “Well done, Left-tenant. Minor injuries and no fatalities. If you were under my command, I’d be giving you a commendation. Fortunately, I still have some pull with the flyboys still in the Royal Air Corps.” Senia nodded her thanks, hiding a slight embarassment. Dawkins then turned to face Townes. “Dr. Re is the finest doctor in the region. A bit of a stubborn chap, mind you, but he does his work well. He’ll have that wing fixed and then you can see Captain Clarendale. No doubt, she has already been appraised of the situation, and is preparing to talk with you immediately as we speak.” Dawkins turned to two of his pilots, giving them a casual salute, which they returned in kind. “Taggart. Edgewick. Escort the Pantheran to the medical bay at once, and then inform the Captain of his whereabouts.” Both nodded quickly and began to lead Townes toward the lifts.
Dawkins looked to Talia and smiled. “Excellent work on the guns, Midnight. Gave us good cover fire. Took that Jackai ship right out of the fight.”
“Don’t thank me, Blackie,” Talia smiled and drapped her arm over his shoulder. “Give credit to Fanger and Snowy. Krillis was helping me make sure the engine was kept in good working order during the fight.”
“Snowy!” Dawkins said as he rubbed his chin. “New crew member. Transient, I believe. Going back home to Canin, is that right?”
“Yeah,” Talia remarked with a sigh, as the two began walking the length of the tarmac back to Dawkins’ office. Behind them, the other pilots were helping the security detail transport the prisoners to the brig and making certain the fighter craft were securely locked down. “Shame too, she’s good on the guns, plus she’s got a knack with a decent dinner as well.” Talia chuckled lightly and the two went off into Dawkins office. As they disappeared, so too did everyone else from the tarmac of the hangar bay.
Snowy and Krillis had finished shutting down their work stations and making sure the weapons systems were powered down. As they began to make their way back to the lifts, they ran into the small duo of Taggart and Edgewick as they were escorting the Pantheran Agent. The Agent only glanced in Krillis and Snowy’s direction, letting out a snort as he passed, compared to the more polite calls of ‘excuse me, coming through’ from Taggart and Edgewick.
Krillis carefully went to the side, shooting Toiwnes a bit of a glare when the large Pantheran bumped him. The Agent turned and looked to Krillis, nodding in an apology. “Sorry about that,” Townes said in a flat voice.”
“Hallways can be a bit thin at times, lad,” Krillis replied. “No worries at all.” Krillis rushed Snowy along, looking back as Taggart and Edgewick disappeared around a corner with Townes.
“I’m a bit curious to find out why someone of his type was on that ship,” Snowy commented.
Krillis looked to her and snorted a laugh. “Could be any number o’ reasons, Snowy.”
“Think we’ll ever find out?”
“Let me tell you somethin’,” Krillis said as he opened the doors to the lifts. He continued his thought as Snowy stepped on board. “There’s only two people on board this ship that Captain Clarendale confides in b’sides the Doctor an’ Mr. Gor’lan.” He nudged Snowy lightly. “An’ that’s the cook. An’ no doubt, because the Captain has called for you in the past couple of details involvin’ these brutes, you’ll probably get first hand knowledge o’ what’s ’bout ta take place.”
“Wait! We’ll be serving tea?” Snowy said in some shock. “How does that guarantee we’ll find out.”
“An Agent like Townes knows Vulpine tradition,” Krillis explained. “Vulpines respect anyone who can offer an’ serve tea, it’s part o’ their culture. Has been since the time o’ the Great Crossin’. Now, Captain knows that agent ain’t gonna serve tea, but she’ll be able ta detect any trace o’ a lie by the way he drinks it.”
“And we’ll be there to serve it,” Snowy added, almost a question, but making a statement.
“An’ Doctor Re will be there, as he’ll most likely be examinin’ his injuries,” Krillis went on. “Take it ya noticed how he was holdin’ his arm. An’ Lonny’ll be there. An’ Dawkins. An’ in this case, most likely the Left-tenant will be there as well.” The doors of the lift opened and Krillis held out his hand to let Snowy off first, continuing as they disembarked. “An’ so will we. So, that means we best get ourselves ready.”
Townes was taken care of quickly, his injuries were minor. Dawkins had a bit of a rest, and the pilots of both squadrons had changed into less official attire, with the exception of Senia, who had changed into her official uniform. The Left-tenant knew that there would be a debriefing, Dawkins had told her. And the Captain would most likely want both their presence during that debriefing. Taggart had taken the communication logs to Griffin to translate. By the time any meeting would be held, the Captain would have a full docket in front of her. They weren’t members of the Royal Vulpine Authority, but they held onto some of the traditions of the Authority. And Captain Clarendale would announce when such a meeting would take place.
“Attention all crew,” Crena announced over the general comm signal that went across the ship. “Would the following please join me in the Captain’s quarters. Doctor Horatio Re, Colonel Artemis Dawkins, Left-tenant Senia Felix, Pantheran Agent Renna Townes, and would Mr. Krillis and Miss Snow please bring refreshments. Thank you.”
With the general announcement made, those called made their way to the Captain’s quarters. Gor’lan was already going over the transcripts with Crena as Krillis and Snowy arrived first. They both went about setting the tea services, and then stood behind the Captain’s desk. Next came Colonel Dawkins and Left-tenant Felix, both of whom took up seats to the right of the Captain’s desk. Felix handed the Captain a report and sat down. Crena thanked her and quickly read over it, nodding her approval when she came to the part that revealed Townes tackled Black Eye as he was about to attack Billings. As they all came in, Krillis and Snowy set out tea for them, which they accepted politely.
Finally, Doctor Re entered along with Agent Townes. A chair had already been placed in front of the desk, and Doctor Re ushered Townes to sit, and then went to his own chair to the left of the captain’s desk. Krillis offered the doctor some tea and he accepted it, while Snowy took a cup to Agent Townes.
Townes looked at the tea cup in front of him, then to the Captain. “I’ve read you Vulpine do take tea, but I’ve never experienced it for myself.” He lifted the cup and sipped it carefully. “Not bad,” he said with a nod indicating he was quite impressed.
“Never been to the Vulpine sector of space, then Agent Townes?” Crena asked as she stirred her tea.
“I’ve never had the opportunity, no,” Townes replied.
“I suggest that sometime you should, Agent,” Crena said as she opened up the files both Griffin and Felix had given her. “You’ll pardon me if I dispense with the pleasantries for now and get right to business.” She turned to Dr. Re. “I assume his injuries were minor. Felix’s report shows minor bruising and a hairline fracture.”
“Yes Captain,” Re stated with a nod as he set his tea down and retrieved his medical chart. “We managed to cast it for now, it came close to breaking. Possibly due to the quick action Agent Townes took in tackling Black Eye as he was about to advance on the Corporal.”
“With all due respect to the Corporal,” Townes offered with a nod as he held up his tea cup. “I saw an opportunity to take down Black Eye, and I took it.”
“I believe Corporal Billingth would underthtand the thituation, Agent,” Felix offered with a nod. Townes nodded in reply and sipped his tea.
“As we have discovered, Agent Townes,” Crena continued. “Mr. Griffin was able to translate the Hyna’s Dread communication logs, and came across something rather curious. There was a signal sent to a Pantheran vessel. Official fleet registration. The Night Sky.”
“I can’t confirm nor deny that,” Townes offered as he set his tea and saucer down on the desk. “I can say, however, it does confirm some suspicions that my superiors within the Central Council have had. There has been a feeling that one or two ships in the Pantheran fleet have been issued secret orders to assist the Jackai. Make things difficult for merchant ships.”
“Do you know how many ships are under the Jackai fleet?” Crena asked and took a sip of her tea.
“From what I could gather,” Townes said with a sigh. “There were nine ships in total. That number is most likely cut down by three or four. Now with the Dread taken out and with Ring Tail in custody. When I stowed away on the Dread, I had heard that one or two others were lost when they tried attacking the Sifter.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Crena offered as she rose to her feet. “Red Streak and her crew would sooner die in battle than see that ship taken. They’d defend it tooth and nail. Just glad we happen to be friends with her.” She walked around the desk and stood beside Townes. “I understand you were on board the Tiger’s Claw when it was taken.”
“Yes ma’am,” Townes replied with a firm nod, a touch of sorrow and anger in his eyes at the mention of the Tiger’s Claw.
“Then, might I propose this to you, Agent Townes.” Crena stood straight and tucked her arms behind her back as she spoke to him. “We have been asked by both the representative of the Pantheran Fleet and the Royal Vulpine Authority to investigate this matter. We could use any insight that you may have. With you on board, combined with the Authority bounty hunters,” she said as she motioned toward Senia. “It will prove that this matter is very serious indeed. Also, with you on board, we might be able to circumvent any prejudices that we might run into from Pantheran fleet officers regarding the Revenge.”
Townes looked directly to Crena and studied her carefully. He thought on her words for a moment, then nodded slowly. “To keep the peace. To uncover the traitor who may be beneath this threat. You’ll have my help. I promise you that.”
Oh happy day!
I am way early for the 50,000 mark. As of 11:35 pm local time, I hit 50014 words for my NaNoWriMo. The story is far from complete, but it’s just a joy to have hit the mark. I’ve participated in this for a few years, and this is now the first year I can come out and say that I am a winner. So, what now for the remaining six days of the month? Take a break?
Phht! I have a story to finish.
Also, to let it out, the sentence that pushed it over the top went like this:
“ One of the extenders buckled and began to fall.”
A look at the highway between the Junction of Highway 15 and Highway 45 to Delisle and a couple of points between Delisle and Vanscoy. Set to music, because my car is not conducive to proper sound recording equipment and everything just sounds like it’s being dragged over gravel.
I had to drive to the city yesterday to pick up the bundles of newspapers that usually get delivered to us by bus from Saskatoon. They hadn’t made it to the STC Terminal in Saskatoon from Battleford at the time they were supposed to, so I had to drive to the city (actually, I didn’t, I just said I would).
As it turned out, the papers weren’t there until 9:00 pm. 9:05 pm to be exact. And the parcel package depot closed at 9:00 pm. So, I had to stay overnight, pick up the papers at 7:00 am (actually did it at 6:45 am), head back to Outlook, and insert fliers and label them and deliver them to the post office.
One awesome thing: a trip to the city means Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts!
Just a note, the tune is Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway. I claim no rights to it, and thought it matched the video nicely. Plus I like the song.
On the bridge, the crew was formed up into three groups. Sage Runner and his assistant were working to divert power to life support and keep the ship stabilized. Black Eye was standing in front of his command chair, watching the screen that displayed the Revenge and the pilots of the Midnight Squadron buzzing about. The two navigation officers were studying diagnostic information. And three others were waiting by the door, listening.
“Captain,” one of them said quietly. “I can hear movement in the hallway.”
“How many do you think?” Black Eye said in a calm voice, with just a hint of anger. He was trying to force his fury down, keep calm so that anyone who boarded the vessel might be caught unaware.
“Not sure,” he reported. “But I’d venture we might be dealing with six. Broken Tooth did say there were only four fighter craft buzzing us now, the others could be on board.”
“Or, they could be hanging back of the ship, waiting to see if we launch escape pods,” Black Eye suggested. “Either way, I’ll feel better when I see those ships destroyed. Without weapons, however, I’ll feel even better personally seeing to it that these Vulppies meet their Great Mother.” The last he said with a sarcastic snort. He was about to issue new orders when a loud banging came at the door to the bridge. Everyone was silent, looking directly to the door. Another bang, someone was pounding their fist against it, followed quickly with a muffled call.
“Black Eye,” the voice called out. “This is Agent Renna Townes. Open the door and surrender yourself.”
“Agent?” Black Eye said as he looked to his crew, then replied again directly and in a much louder voice. “As in Pantheran Central Council?”
“Really?” Black Eye said with a snort of laughter. “Nice try Vulppie. The Revenge isn’t affiliated with the Pantherans and last I checked, captained by a Vulpine. You can’t trick us.”
“Black Eye, you know you’re an idiot, right,” Townes stated more than asked. Black Eye scowled, but Townes continued before the Jackai captain could answer. “I came on board during your raid of the Tiger’s Claw. You know, the attack that you and Ring Tail coordinated. Though, I have been informed that Ringer should be rotting in a prison cell soon enough. I can arrange a visit if you like. Oh, but that’s right. You’re in Pantheran space.” Townes chuckled which was muffled behind the door. The Jackai knew well enough he was who he said he was. “I’d really like to talk to you about the third ship that appeared. I never had a chance to identify it.”
“Why don’t you open the door and we’ll talk,” Black Eye said as he brought his axe forward. “A nice, long talk.” He gripped it tight and began walking toward the door.
“Don’t mind if I do,” Townes called out, and with a sudden blast, the doors burst inward. The Jackai took a step back, seeing the dark figure of the Pantheran framed in the doorway. He was snarling a sickening smile, and when he spoke, it was with a low growl. “Say hello to Lieutenant Felix, by the way.”
The quick introduction was followed with heavy phaser fire as Townes stepped back into the hallway, crouching down behind one of the cargo crates. The battle had gone from a planned hand to hand battle, to one involving duck and cover. At least, that’s how Black Eye saw it. The Vulpine, along with Agent Townes, saw it in a completely different light.
Billings barked out whenever a crew member on the bridge had been stunned, once there were three down, they began to advance. Senia and Taggart rolled into the room, covering each other as the moved. Townes crept closer to the door, using the edges of the frame for cover and firing his pistol when he could. Edgewick stayed along with him, encouraging Townes to move to the fallen, unconscious form of a Jackai pirate. When they were safely in cover, Edgewick would lock him in irons, then begin firing as they would move to the next fallen pirate.
Black Eye and his men were caught completely off guard. They had each crawled back into cover, as little as they had on the bridge. Black Eye himself was forced back to take cover behind his command chair, which was proving to be less than helpful. Phaser fire was cutting into it. His men were falling quickly to the attack, much more coordinated than he’d ever seen, or ever tried to muster. Just then, he realized. Some of these Vulpine were Royal Authority bounty hunters. No wonder it was so fast. Combined with a Pantheran Agent, it was brutally fast. Fortunately, they were firing to stun, not kill. That would be their weakness. No ability to kill when they have an enemy cornered.
He quickly took count of where the shots were being fired from. All but one was concentrating on firing. One of the males was busily reading a scanner, and communicating with the Revenge. That would be his target. He took a deep breath, then shouted out with a howl, and lunged toward Billings. Billings could only look up, wide eyed as he tried to raise his phaser rifle. Forunately, for as fast as Black Eye was, Townes was even faster.
Townes saw Black Eye move, and he moved to counter it, leaping from the side with the intent to tackle the Jackai captain. If he managed to break a couple of ribs in the process, so be it. They wanted him for questioning, that meant injury was an option. As long as it didn’t kill him. Black Eye never saw it coming, as Townes slammed against his side. The force knocked the wind out of him for a moment, as Townes momentum carried them against a navigation console. Townes slapped the double axe from Black Eye’s hands with a powerful back hand, and grabbed the captain’s snout with his other hand, squeezing hard.
“Make one move, filth,” Townes said in a low growl. “And I’ll snap this off without another thought.” Black Eye studied the Pantheran, seeing the rage in his eyes. He shrank back, mostly out of fear which he tried to hide, but couldn’t all that well. Edgewick and Billings trained their weapons on Black Eye, as Taggart put him in irons. Townes looked to Felix and nodded firmly, signaling all was clear.
Senia nodded back and began issuing orders for dealing with the pirates. “Billingth. Edgewick. If you could take the prithonerth to the fighterth and lock them in thecurely. Plathe three in the Nighthawkth, they’re build for it.” She turned to Townes and took a deep breath. “If you could take Black Eye to my ship, I’d like you to accompany me. Billingth can show you which one it ith.” Townes nodded and dragged Black Eye to his feet. “Taggart, might be a good idea to download any communication logth on thith tub, take them back to the Revenge.”
“On it, Felix,” he replied as he began running through communication logs, navigation logs and repair logs.
Senia then took out her communicator and signalled the Revenge. “Left-tenant Felix to Barrow’th Revenge.”
“Read you loud and clear, Left-tenant,” came the reply as the voice of Norrin came over the comm.
“All Jackai crew are accounted for and captured,” she said and took a look around at her own unit. The all nodded back to her, a signal they were fine. “No injurieth here, thave for the one Agent Towneth thuthtained earlier. We are ready to tranthport back to the Revenge.”
“Good to hear, Left-tenant,” Norrin replied. “We’ll see you back home.”
Did just a bit of writing this morning before I had to get ready for work, which helped push the total to 46,009 words. Today should be a light day throughout work, even though I do have to stay late (normal for a Wednesday), so I hope to jot down more as the day goes on to help build up the total and bring the story to it’s massive climax!
This morning’s writing spree ended with this ship wide announcement from Captain Crena Clarendale.
“Mr. Krillis, if you and Miss Snow could report to weapons control in the engine room, please. Have Miss Snow assist Mr. Fang on the long guns, and you help Miss Talia keep the engine hot. Colonel Dawkins, have your fighters ready and prepped for launch. Mr. Griffin, keep communication lines open between the Osprey, the Kestrel and ourselves.” She flipped a few of the switches on her console and issued a ship wide announcement. “Now hear this. We are currently under escort of Commander Yenna Fal of the Osprey and Jarin Tor of the Kestrel. Commander Yenna has informed us that their long range sensors have picked up a ship that is on an intercept course with us. She believes it to be the Night Sky. We could be in for a fight, so prepare for battle stations.” Crena ended the ship wide communication link and sighed as she looked to Gor’lan and Townes. “And here I was hoping that we’d have time for a spot of tea before we arrived at the Hub. Ah well, I suppose we’ll have to wait until after this affair.”
This morning’s writing was also helped along by this piece of music from Star Trek The Motion Picture.
It’s down the stretch now. Eight days left and only 5,000 words to go. I’m gonna write in small bursts throughout the day as I’ll most likely be working late tonight at the office. But 5,000 to go! A real feeling of accomplishment. I’m hoping that by the time November 30 rolls around, I’ll be at 60K or higher.
Also, if I really wanna slack, I only need to write 614 words a day over the next eight days. I’ll probably at least triple that mark.
- Ten days left (taholtorf.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo Update (chortleatmygirth.wordpress.com)
- I’m a NaNo Rebel (lynnadavidson.wordpress.com)
- NaNoWriMo Day 23: Quick Slap (lemoncity.wordpress.com)
- Word Count (twowritingteachers.wordpress.com)
- #Nanowrimo: The Common Traits of the Successful Writer (writeitforward.wordpress.com)
- National Novel Writing Month… Give it a try (uw20sciencemediaandculture.wordpress.com)
- Pen For Your Thoughts (pothetic.wordpress.com)
Captain Clarendale watched the bulk of the Hyna’s Dread as it floated in space before the Revenge. They were fortunate they had a good crew, Norrin’s detection of the radiation trail saved them from serious damage to the ship. Now, she just had to wait for Felix and the other pilots to bring the main crew of the Dread back to the Revenge for questioning.
Norrin had already scanned the several times for life signs as the pilots went inside. And she brought up something interesting in her findings.
“Eight crew members, almost all on the bridge,” Norrin informed the captain as she brought up the scanner readings on the command console. “There’s Felix and the others, but it seems they’ve caught someone. And, as odd as this may sound, Captain. With the close proximity of the ships, I’m getting much better readings. I think that is a Pantheran.”
Crena’s ears perked up and she looked to Norrin. “By the Great Mother, what is a Pantheran doing on a Jackai ship? I know that there are Pantheran pirates. There’s even a couple of Vulpine pirate ships, but they usually don’t get along with Jackai raiders very well.”
Norrin merely shrugged and shook her head. “It does appear as though Felix is questioning him. There was no phaser fire, and I think they pulled him out of an airlock. Not one hundred percent sure.”
The mystery was soon solved as the communications link indicating Senia was calling in sounded out. “Go ahead, Left-tenant,” Captain Clarendale said as she quickly opened the channel.
“We’ve found Agent Renna Towneth,” Senia reported. Norrin and Gor’lan, who was ever present next to Crena, listened in carefully. “He ith a member of the Pantheran Thentral Counthil and wath aboard the Tiger’th Claw when it wath attacked. He hath thecretly been on board all that time.”
Crena looked to Norrin and Gor’lan. They were each as surprised as she was to hear that a special agent, close to the Pantheran government, was secretly on board. “Do you believe him to be a threat, Left-tenant?”
“No Captain,” he ith willing to join uth in detaining the Jackai crew.
“Be on the watch, Felix,” Norrin stated as she placed a hand on Crena’s shoulder. “Sensors detect there’s at least eight crew, mostly on the bridge.” Crena nodded to Norrin, a wise choice to inform Senia about the extra crew.
“Thank you, Mith Norrin,” Senia replied quickly. “That will help a great deal. I can contact Colonel Dawkinth, let him know our thituation.”
“No Left-tenant,” Crena stated. “I’ll do that. You take your team and contain the Jackai. Captain out.” She hands flew over the console again as she brought up Dawkins comm signal. “Captain Clarendale to Maverick Leader One.”
“Maverick Leader One reading you loud and clear, Captain,” Dawkins responded quickly. “What’s the situation?”
“Felix found a Pantheran on board the Dread. And Norrin has detected only eight crew on board.”
“Running a bit light for a ship this size, aren’t they?” Dawkins scoffed. No wonder they were out matched by the Revenge and the Midnight Squadron.
“All things considered, they’re lucky,” Crena said with a sign. “Had they met with any Pantheran vessel, they might be floating in space right now. Request you send two more pilots to assist the team in the ship.”
“Done, Captain,” Dawkins replied, anticipating her orders as was the usual case in situations like these. “I’ve sent Maneyard and Hardigar inside to join them. That should even things up a bit.”
“Well done, Colonel,” Crena said. “Let’s make sure this is quick.”
The four Vulpine and the Pantheran waited behind a control shield as the two extra pilots landed their craft. Billings and Hardigar soon joined the small unit when the doors were closed and the air reset. Once together and weapons check, along with Agent Renna, they began to move slowly down the halls of the ship.
“One thing before we continue on, Agent Renna,” Senia said in a low voice as the group stopped in the hallway not far from the bridge. “We may be in Pantheran thpathe right now, but they attacked our ship. I’ll take command. Are you willing to take orderth from me?”
“Part of me wants revenge for the slaughter of the Tiger’s Claw and her crew,” Renna stated with a low growl. “But I also know that you want them alive. They do need to be questioned. This is your operation, I’ll follow your lead. Besides, I don’t think you’d act any different if our roles were reversed.”
Senia nodded and began motioning to the others to come closer. “Billings, can you get a read out on the bridge crew and their pothitionth?”
“I’ll have a three dimensional map in just a few seconds, ma’am,” he said with a nod and began reconfiguring his scanner.
“We’ll thtay in cover of the hallway for the time being,” Senia informed them all as she pulled a phase pistol from her hip holster. “The hallway will give uth cover, and give them no choithe but to try and rush uth all.” She handed her pistol to Renna. “I notithed you are without a weapon. Familiar with thith kind?”
“A bit small, but I can handle it,” he said with a nod as he took the pistol and checked it over, making sure it was on the stun setting. “Personally, I’d like a face to face lashing of the captain, but I know the situation well enough.”
Senia nodded and began directing the pilots to take up positions in the hallway. With Renna’s help, they dragged in cargo crates to use as cover, littering the hallway with obstacles that would make it difficult for the Jackai should they attempt to make an offensive and bring the fight to the seven in the hallway. Taggart and Senia flanked the doorway, as Billings and Edgewick crouched down behind a cargo crate that had a full view of the door and hopefully would give solid location of those inside. Maneyard and Hardigar each took a position next to a service door, busily welding it shut to counter any rear attack in case one of the Jackai used an air vent to come at them.
“I’ll knock on the door,” Renna suggested. “It’ll be a surprise and make the captain mighty angry. You stay in positions and wait. Take out the guards as they come out. I’ll duck into cover as soon as the firing starts.”
“There’s three near the doorway,” Billings piped up as he looked over his scanner. It had been rigged to give a display of the room in front of them. “Two on the left and one on the right. Two more at what could be a command console an’ I figure the captain is right behind them. There’s two other figures to the right, maybe tryin’ ta get power diverted.”
Renna stepped back to look at the scanner display. He growled and looked back to the doorway. “Something’s wrong. The signatures aren’t moving like a crew desperate to repair their ship, it looks more like…” He paused and looked to Senia. “They’re getting into defensive pattern. They know we’re here.”
The Revenge had stopped firing her energy cannons long ago. The first wave that Snowy let loose pretty much took any fight out of the old Jackai ship. The sting of the fighter crafts did the rest to drop her dead in the water. By Captain Clarendale’s command, the squadron of fighters began criss crossing the surface of the ship, watching for any activity. In a pass made by Senia Felix and Edgewick, Senia spotted something. The doors to the Hyna’s Dread cargo bay were wide open.
“Nighthawk Leader One,” Senia announced over the comm. “I thpotted thomething. Not sure if it’th a trap, but the cargo bay doorth are open. I’m thcanning now to thee if there ith anything amith.” There was silence over the comms as Senia scanned the situation. Satisfied, she continued. “No weaponth are inthide, and no thignth of life either. Permission to invethtigate.”
“Granted, Nighthawk Leader One,” Dawkins replied quickly. “Take Edgewick with you. Billings, Taggart. Meet with Left-tenant Felix and continue the investigation there. I’ll radio the Revenge and keep her appraised of our situation.” Dawkins received acknowledgment from both pilots and the two fighter craft went off to join Felix and Edgewick. When Dawkins was satisfied that the group would be together, he contacted the Revenge. “Maverick Leader One, do you read, Captain?”
“Captain Clarendale, reading you loud and clear, Maverick Leader One,” Crena said over the comm system. “What is the situation, Colonel?”
“Felix found an open cargo bay,” Dawkins reported quickly. “She, along with Edgewick, Taggart and Billings are going to investigate.”
“Make sure they have rifles and pistols at the ready,” Crena replied and added without hesitation. “Set any phase weapons to stun. I want them alive. Maybe we’ll get a chance to grill them before turning them over to the Pantheran Central Council. After all, they fired on my ship and my crew. An action such as that makes me a tad angry.”
“Understood, Captain,” Dawkins stated, then relayed the orders onto the four fighter craft.
Senia lead the four carefully into the cargo bay. It was large enough to fit two craft at a time. The pilots took note of the emergency lighting, splashing eerie light throughout the bay. “Edgewick,” Senia called out through her comm. “Any chanthe you can hack the thythtem, clothe the doorth and vent air back into the room?”
“Working on it now, Left-tenant,” Edgewick replied. “I think I’ve got it, not a lot of power by the look of it. Seems they tried diverting everything to weapons systems, including life support. Here we go,” he called out as there was a muffled hum. The doors closed slowly, shaking slightly as the airlocks connected. Edgewick then began venting air back into the bay. “Bet you anything someone on board knows that we’re here.”
“Agreed,” Senia replied as she monitored the air content of the bay as it began to fill up again. “Weaponth at the ready, and keep a sharp pair of eyeth open. We should expect hothtile actionth.” She gave the signal and opened her cockpit, the other pilots watching for a moment before opening their own. They disembarked in pairs, Senia and Edgewick dropping down first as Taggart and Billings watched the area for any signs of movement. When they were on the ground safely, Senia and Edgewick found cover and Taggart and Billings climbed down to join them.
Wordlessly, they moved through the piles of boxes and crates that seemed strewn throughout the cargo bay. A sign the Jackai were more interested in the financial gain of plunder than the repair, maintenance and security of their own ship. The four Vulpine crept through the maze of crates, holding their rifles ready in case anything came out to surprise them. Billings had point and had his scanner mounted on his rifle, reading any life signs that might be in front of the group. He stopped quickly as they approached a doorway, holding up his hand to stop the others quietly. Pointing toward a large ventilation hatch, he said in a low whisper. “Heat signature in there. It’s big, ’bout the size of a Jackai.”
Senia nodded, then motioned for Taggart and Edgewick to flank the vent on the other side as she and Billings took the side by the door. Taggart nodded when he was ready and Billings pulled the grating off slowly, setting it aside as Taggart shone a light inside with his weapon trained. “I think it’s dead,” he reported when he saw no movement.
“Can’t be,” Billings stated as he checked his readout one more time. “I’m definitely getting’ a life sign pattern off of it. Hold up,” he said as his ears fell back on his head. “This can’t be right. Permission to drag the body out, ma’am,” he said, looking to Senia. She nodded firmly, and Billings and Taggart reached inside the dark shaft. Felix and Edgewick kept watch while the other two Vulpine dragged the body out.
“Well, Billings was right,” Taggart said from inside the shaft. “Bloke’s breathin’ alright.” He and Billings grunted and struggled a bit to drag the body out, pausing only when the four got a good look at whoever it was. “He also ain’t Jackai,” Taggart said with a sigh.
Taggart was right. They had pulled out a wounded Pantheran from the shaft. A muscular one at that, with black and orange fur markings, and groaning lightly as though at the edge of sleep. Billings brushed away some of the debris from the shaft away from the Pantheran’s tunic and stopped. He looked up to Senia and pointed out the familiar insignia on the tunic. “He’s also Pantheran Central Council. By the Great Mother, what’s a Pantheran Council Agent doin’ on a Jackai ship?”
“Couldn’t've been workin’ for the Jackai,” Edgewick offered. “Council Agents would never stoop that low. But the Jackai would haveta be dim as dirt not ta detect this one on board.”
“They are dim as dirt,” the Pantheran said with a groan. The four Vulpine came to attention, weapons drawn and aimed on the Agent. “And no, we wouldn’t stoop that low.” The Pantheran slowly sat up, rubbed his head and looked to each face through squinting eyes. “I don’t recall smelling any Vulpine on this ship, so I’ll assume…” He paused as he looked over the uniforms for a moment. “Since when did the Barrow’s Revenge have Royal Vulpine Authority bounty hunters detailed to their vessel?”
“A better quethtion might be why ith a Pantheran Central Counthil agent on board a Jackai pirate ship,” Senia said in her best authoritative voice as she stepped closer to the Agent.
“Easy, Lieutenant,” the Pantheran said as he raised a hand to signal he meant no harm. “I’m not about to want to start an intergalactic war, and I doubt you are either. You’ve got questions, so ask them. But let me answer the first question you probably have.” He motioned back to the ventilation duct. “How did I survive in there when the cargo bay was open.”
“The thought had crothed my mind, yeth,” Senia replied, then moved back to allow the Agent to answer. She looked to the others and they lowered their weapons, but didn’t holster them. Billings listened, but kept a trained eye on his scanner.
“The cargo bay opened just when the attack came,” he said as he looked to the four Vulpine. “I assume you had something to do with that.”
“Captain Clarendale was protecting her ship,” Taggart answered, a tug of pride in his voice. “The Jackai tried to ambush us.”
“They’ve gotten very good at that,” the Pantheran replied with a shrug. “When combat began, the cargo bay doors blew open. I had just enough time to crawl into there and seal it behind me. The rush of air was enough to jar me, though. I passed out. Obviously not for long, though. Before I went under, I put a portable shield up, to block any air from going out. Not only saved me, but most likely everyone else on board.”
“Quick thinking, that,” Senia replied. “What ith your name?”
“Agent Renna Townes,” he said with a nod. “I was dispatched to help the border patrols look into Jackai raids.” He looked to Senia and perked an eyebrow as he studied her. “You know, I don’t talk to many Vulpine but the way you talk…”
“Yeth, I am fully aware of my thpeech impediment, Agent. That ith not the issue at prethent, however.” She cleared her throat and steered the line of questioning back on course. “And jutht how did you get here on board thith ship.”
“I was on board the Tiger’s Claw, a standard class scout ship,” he explained as he sat back against the wall. “We were patrolling the borders, as I said. We were surprised by two ships, this one and another lead by Ring Tail.” The four Vulpine looked to each other for a moment, then back to Renna. He chuckled lightly, groaning a bit and held a hand to his chest. Senia motioned to Edgewick to scan him for injuries. “You know that’s not necessary,” he said, but never stopped Edgewick. “And I’ll assume by your looks that you already dealt with Ring Tail.” Senia only nodded to confirm this, motioning for Renna to continue. “Anyway, they hit us hard and fast. As is usual with Jackai, they don’t destroy a ship outright. They knocked out all our weapons systems, scanners, engine drive… everything. Though, our helmsman thought she saw another ship. I couldn’t confirm it, because by the time I would have check we were fighting hand to hand.”
He winced a bit as Edgewick found a small fracture in his arm and began to put a splint on it. “Hold still,” he warned. “We can get you fixed up proper on board the Revenge.”
“Okay… ow! Maybe there was some wounds needing attention,” he hissed and winced as a shot of pain went through his arm, but he continued his explanation. “The commander of the Tiger’s Claw ordered me onto the Jackai ship. He knew why I was there, and he felt my mission was more important than his own survival. He and the crew died so I could get on board. And I found out a few things.”
“There’s a traitor in the ranks of the Pantheran Central Council.”
On board the Hyna’s Dread
“They seem to be moving at an angle of 8 degrees down, Captain,” Sage Runner called out. Black Eye looked over from his command chair and smiled wickedly. “And all communications I’ve managed to hear have all been concerning tea and scones,” Sage Runner replied with a scoff of a laugh.
“Those Vulpine did like their tea time,” Black Eye shook his head. “They’re moving into a trap, and they don’t even realize it. By the time we make our move, it will be too late for them to react.” He leaned forward in his chair and watched the view screen at the front of the bridge carefully. He could see the Revenge off in the distance, maybe ten or twenty kilometers away, a small distance to close. Even at that distance, they’d still take them by surprise. “Weapons control, you’re ready?”
“Aye, Captain,” the weapons control crew announced quickly. “Weapons are primed and ready, sir.”
“Begin maneuvering,” Black Eye ordered. “Come above them and from the front of their ship. I want them to see why they made such a mistake.”
Bridge of the Barrow’s Revenge
The crew was continuing their basic routines on the bridge. To the untrained eye, it was all routine, but secretly, they had set things in motion for a surprise attack. They knew about the Jackai ship following them. They also knew it was the infamous Hyna’s Dread. The fighter craft were in position, weapons had been quietly primed and the crew was ready. All they had to do was wait.
It wasn’t much longer, now.
Norrin made a motion and whistled as she caught sight of movement on her scanners. The crew silently watched as the radioactive trail began to grow, the burst of pulse engines pushing a ship forward. Finally, they saw the bulk of it beginning to crest a small asteroid that it was hiding behind. Norrin was the first to call out, but as instructed by Crena, she did not sound the red alert klaxon.
“Jackai ship, bearing down on us, Captain,” she called out with some urgency, but kept her voice calm.
Crena looked up and saw the ship, picked up a sugar cube from the sugar bowl at the command console, dropped it into her tea and stirred carefully, then sipped it for taste. “Mr Gor’lan,” she said in a calm voice.
“Aye, Captain,” Gor’lan replied in a very dignified manner, ready to take his orders.
Crena took up another sugar cube, dropped it into her tea cup, stirred carefully and sipped. Satisfied, she looked to Gor’lan and grinned. “Set the plan in motion, Mr. Gor’lan. Fire at will.”
“Fire at will!” Gor’lan called out.
Norrin had already opened the channel frequencies that would hail the squadron of fighter craft and the weapons consoles below decks. As Gor’lan finished his command, she repeated with her own, sounding just like a roar for attack. “Fire at will!”
Below decks, White Fang and Snowy heard the command, and quickly they began targetting. They had the tracking sensors of the squadron fighters locked to avoid targeting them inadvertently. Snowy let loose with a full spread of the forward energy cannons, crying out with glee as she saw them meet their mark with success. White Fang was swept up in the emotion of the moment as well, calling out as he let loose with the Revenge’s wing cannons, targeting positions on the Hyna’s Dread that read as weapons control.
From under the belly of the Revenge, the squadron attacked, bobbing and weaving gracefully, they held their fire until they were within range, adding their own damage to the Dread just as Snowy’s volley hit the ship. The ten fighters moved in perfect coordination, weaving together like a flock of birds and striking out with weapons fire at proper intervals. The Hyna’s Dread never knew what hit them.
“Report!” Black Eye bellowed as the ship rocked with each cannon strike.
“They’re… they’re attacking, sir,” Sage Runner said in a dumbfounded voice. He couldn’t understand, they were talking about tea and scones. How do you coordinate an offensive when you discuss tea and scones.
“I can see that, Sage Runner,” Black Eye shouted back, beyond furious. “Weapons control! Return fire! Now!”
Outside, the Dread was being peppered with fire from the squadron, each pilot reporting sightings as they went, Dawkins changing attack patterns to compensate for any changes in the Dread’s weapons system.
“Maverick Leader Three to squadron,” Hardigar called out over the comm link as he kept firing in a uniformed pattern with the rest of the craft. “The Dread is preparing to fire port side torpedoes, sir.”
“That’s it, pilots!” Dawkins called out. “Full spread, break formation. Hunt down this beasts guns and take them out. On my mark… NOW!” At his command, the fighter pilots began to veer erratically all over the Dread’s hull, homing in and targeting the Dread’s weapons. The port side guns were the first to fall, exploding as they were about to fire. For good measure, Senia and Edgewick took out the starboard side weapons as well, leaving only small weapons to fire against attackers.
“Nighthawk Leader One,” Senia announced over the comm. “Thtarboard thide gunth taken out. Well done, Edgewick. Beginning thweepth for thmaller weaponth.”
“Taggart. Billings,” Dawkins called out. “Just in case they’ve got any tricks, take out any aft guns you see. The rest of you with me. Form up, we’re going to plow the field. Our target is their navigation control.” Dawkins was greeted with an affirmative from each pilot in reply.
The red alert klaxon blared on the bridge of the Hyna’s Dread, as the crew rocked back and forth with each blast from the Revenge’s cannons and each strike of the Midnight Squadron’s weapons fire. Black Eye sat in his command chair, dumbfounded by what was happening. All around him, his crew was desperately attempting to return fire. They were only mildly successful, firing off three volleys before the ship’s weapons system went completely dead.
“Where did we go wrong,” Black Eye muttered to himself. He took a deep breath and screamed it out again. “Where did we go wrong!” He looked to his other crew members, a wild look in his eyes and panting heavily. “Status of weapons!”
“Offline, sir,” the weapons control officer announced, somewhat sheepishly. “Power is drained, or the weapons are damaged.”
“What about auxiliary power?” Black Eye snarled.
“Diverted to the navigation system, sir,” the bridge engineer piped up. “We have just enough for quarter pulse power. Not nearly enough to fire weapons effectively, we’d need power to the weapons and the targeting system…”
“I don’t care!” Black Eye bellowed. “Divert all power to weapons and targeting. I want the Revenge destroyed!”
“Sir,” the weapons officer began to explain in a shaky, timid voice. “The only other available power is life support. I could divert some of it to make a run to the Jackai territories on the home world, but we can’t use it to power weapons and targeting. We’d be dead in the water. If we make a run…”
“No!” Black Eye shouted. “They’ll try to board us. They’ll try to take what they can.” He jumped from his chair to look to the rest of the crew. “You think about it, it’s exactly what I’d do!”
“Sir, I think we’d be doing something diff…” Sage Runner began, only to have his sentence cut short by a glare from Black Eye.
“Well let them come,” he said with a sneer. “Kill the main lights on all decks, run with emergency lighting.” He flipped several buttons on his command chair and barked his orders to the entire ship. “All hands. We’re going to make a stand. Retrieve pistols and blades. If you see any Vulpes, kill on sight. They’ll most likely attempt to board the ship.” Black Eye shut off the ship wide comm and slumped into his chair. “Someone get me my double axe.”
I broke 40K words today with a run of 2300 words on the day. Quite happy that I’m at this point after twenty days. This story will not finish up in 10K words, but I’ll strive to finish it in ten days. This is a great feeling of accomplishment for me, and I’m riding this feeling right to the end.
That’s what it looks like with just ten days left. According to the counter, I should complete the 50K mark on the 24th of November. I won’t hold my breath, but I will try to hit that. Maybe even earlier.
I have one ship battle left, still with the internal debate of having one of the characters get killed off. I won’t give anything away at present. Other things are coming to mind, such as changing the genders of a couple of minor characters, such as Hardigar and Edgewick, both Vulpine pilots, and both with the Midnight squadron. Currently, both are labelled as male, but I will most likely change that to female, as Vulpine society is more matriarchal. That will most likely come with the first round of edits for the story.
Engineering, Barrow’s Revenge
“Getting a text wave from Norrin,” White Fang piped up. “She says there’s movement in the Belt. She can’t tell if it’s a ship, but there’s something jostling the asteroids around in there. Magnetic field is still a pain, so nothing confirmed as to what it is.”
“That should still give us a target,” Snowy replied as she tapped her weapons console screen. A map of the Run popped up on her view screen, flickering every so often. There was no sign of a ship, but there was a large radioactive signature. “That’s probably her,” Snowy said as she pointed to her screen.
White Fang looked over and studied it for a moment. “Never understood why Jackai run ships so hot.”
“That’s because they know how to put a ship together,” Talia said as she came up behind them. She had on a tool belt with various tools, and appeared as though she’d been manhandling some of the engines more cumbersome parts. “They just don’t know to put them together properly. It’s a wonder they didn’t fasten the hull together without getting sucked out into space when they first launched.” She sighed and leaned over to take a closer look at the view screen. “Great Mother, how are they moving those asteroids?”
“Probably a Pantheran deflector dish,” Snow replied, then coughed and tried to hide a blush. She was new to the ship, but she was often quick to respond to questions, especially on subject matter she was familiar with. Talia looked to her for a moment, waiting for Snowy to continue. “Vulpine have something similar, but the newer vessels have the scoop that drags in energy just loose in space. Pantherans can either deflect or attract objects with their dishes. The military fleet is rigged with them.”
“Were you studying more than gardening on the Critainian hub?” Talia asked with a smirk as she stood up and crossed her arms over her chest.
“No,” Snowy replied with a chuckle. “I studied ships when I was still in school on Canin. My family lived on the border territories with the Lionids, so I had the chance to go to school at a Lionid monastery.”
“That the reason why you didn’t enlist with the Pantheran cadet program?” White Fang asked. The cadet program was just as well known as the Royal Vulpine Academy.
“The thought did cross my mind,” Snowy said softly. “And I also had the idea to join the Academy. But, I decided I wanted to learn more than just how to fight.”
“Well, we’re about to get into the thick of it here,” Talia said as she holstered a wrench and moved back down to the engine room. “Send a text wave to Norrin, tell her you two are monitoring the situation as well. Maybe you three can coordinate some plan of attack.”
The Bridge, Barrow’s Revenge
Crena watched the navigation screen on Norrin’s console in the crow’s nest. It was crowded, but not too much so. Norrin was the tallest of the four, and even that didn’t hamper them as they silently went about attack plans and sipped their tea. Norrin went through a large number of text waves back and forth with Fanger and Snowy, using the information gathered and informing the captain.
“Miss Snow is proving quite capable,” Crena said as she sipped her tea. “Don’t you think, Miss Norrin.”
“She’s an excellent cook,” Norrin commented. “She helps out Krillis quite well. And, she’s very knowledgeable about ship systems. I’ve heard Krillis is wanting to see if she’ll consider full time employment with the crew.”
“Yes, Mr. Krillis has informed me of that,” Crena said with a small nod. “I haven’t given it much thought, but after our encounter with Ring Tail, I understand she proved most valuable in the engine room.” She sipped her tea, stopping as a thought came to mind. “Heavens, I do hope that Colonel Dawkins and the others are doing alright. Shame they aren’t up here for tea.”
“I can hail them if you want,” Griffin piped up as he looked to Crena. He pushed his small glasses up on his snout just a bit, giving him the impression of a Vulpine more suited to scholarly pursuits.
“That would be an excellent suggestion, Mr. Griffin,” Crena nodded in reply. “Please do so.” Griffin nodded and opened the channel frequency that connected to Dawkins comm signal in his fighter, but he made certain to hide it in a trace signal that appeared to be calling another deck of the ship. When the signal was open, he nodded to Crena. “Colonel Dawkins. I must apologize, sir. We’re having tea right now. A little early, but I felt it would help to ease the tensions.”
“Ah, Captain,” Dawkins replied over the communications link. “No trouble at all, we’ll just have to make up for it this afternoon. I do hope everything is alright.”
“Yes indeed, Colonel,” Crena replied, making sure that each word was crisp and well enunciated. “We’re going to drop a bit as we travel through the run, give us a good look of the underbelly of some of these asteroids.”
“As I understand it, Captain,” Dawkins replied with a tone that said he was about to explain some tid bit of information. “These asteroids can be quite a scientific marvel. Should we have time, it might be an excellent place to provide some studies.”
“I believe that would be most advantageous, Colonel,” Crena replied with a broad smile. “And I do hope you are doing well, and again I apologize for the unscheduled tea time. Captain out.” Griffin turned off the comm link and looked to Crena. Phase two of the plan had been set in motion.
Belly of the Barrow’s Revenge, Midnight and Nighthawk Squadrons
The crew of the Revenge had grown used to Crena’s ability to speak in code. It wasn’t so much what she said, but how she said it that the idea could be drawn forth. Colonel Artemis Dawkins had heard that many times before, and knew well enough that Crena had learned that from her father. He quickly opened a channel to the other fighter craft.
“Maverick Leader One, calling all Midnight Squadron pilots,” he said over the communicator. “Maverick Leader One to Nighthawk Leader One, I want you and your fliers in on this as well, Left-tenant.”
“Nighthawk Leader One, reading you loud and clear Maverick Leader One,” Senia replied over the comm.
“Listen up, everyone,” Dawkins began in his most authoritative voice, the voice he used when he was getting the pilots ready for battle. “We have company. Norrin has all but confirmed that there is a Jackai ship just starboard of our present position. Captain Clarendale will be taking us down a few degrees, force the pirates to launch an attack from above. She’ll have us wait until the ship makes it’s move and when it does, we pounce.”
“What attack pattern, thir?” Senia asked over the comm.
“Attack pattern Tritan Omega,” Dawkins said without hesitation. “A flight school pattern, but one that should work well with these Jackai. Felix, I want you up here with me on point. Billings, join Taggart and Hardigar. Maneyard, stay in the rear with the others. With any luck, these Jackai won’t realize we’ve got Nighthawks with us and we can use that to our advantage. Everything clear?” His question was quickly acknowledged by all those in the mixed squadron. “Alright, begin moving into position and sound off as you do so.”
The fighter crafts began moving into their attack pattern, each pilot sounding off when he, or she, was ready. As Senia settled her Nighthawk in beside Dawkins, she looked out her window to nod to the Colonel, then opened the comm channel again.
“If I might ask, Colonel,” she began, her voice giving away that it was not an official question for the record. “What gave it away that we are being watched?”
“The Captain had tea served a half hour early,” Dawkins replied quickly, Senia could see him giving a firm nod through the view ports of his fighter craft. “The Captain never serves tea a half hour early.”