Chapter 1: Clear Sailing
“Who the hell do you think you are?” The freighter captain’s voice rang out as he pointed his weapon. The woman stood with a smirk on her face, red coat standing out in the dim emergency lighting.
“We are pirates of fortune, and I am Captain Annibon.”
“Leave my ship or else the only fortune you’ll have are holes in yer.”
She scoffed at that, and before he noticed she’d drawn her pistol. He screamed in agony, his weapon now on the floor with what remained of his left hand still attached to it. She then turned her attention to the rest of the freighter crew around her.
“Any more objections?” The crew looked around at the pirates and to their captain, on the floor clutching his left wrist tightly. Deciding their jobs and cargo weren’t worth fighting off pirates; they dropped their weapons and raised their hands in surrender, “Good. Men, tie them up.”
As they were being secured Captain Annibon started opening a few crates to check what was worth stealing and what was just going to weigh them down. Several of them were full of Stewart Whisky, ‘finest in the galaxy’ as the label proclaimed. She instructed those to be taken, while the ones containing school supplies and the branded merchandise for the latest intergalactic pop group sensation were best left behind. The real prize was hidden away where no official would look, crates of the ever increasing expensive fuel source, Terelium. Illegal to ship without the proper containment facilities to avoid tainting it. So the pirates’ guessed right about why this freighter wasn’t on one of the regular shipping routes.
Just as they were getting the last of the crates on board their ship a call came down, “Guardians on their way. 30 pulses and closing.”
Everyone started the move a lot quicker, Annibon just smirked. Good motivation is so hard to find. She told them to forget about the last crate and get prepared to uncouple the ship. She turned to freighter crew before departing, “That is our cue to be on our way, gentlemen. Do tell the esteemed ‘galactic peace officer’ we were so sorry to miss him.” With that she was on her way back to her ship and yelling at her crew to haul ass to Hyperspace. Destination, the Entradie System, and as far away from Guardian jurisdiction as possible. Then it’s smooth sailing all the way to a nice payday.
Next to an unnamed moon of a gas giant hung a decimated star cruiser known as Jinora, an Entradie battleship famed for its combat prowess and the pride of the military. Its 500 crew now dead, their grave is a place devoid of sound, and all their hard work, all that pride, had done nothing to stop their fate. The ship was dead, the computer systems without power, and the chance of them being found by any Entradie ship was miniscule in the short term. On the main bridge, through the darkness and the barely recycled air, two eyes stared out. Blinking and unable to move all they could do was stare at the blackness of space.
The pirate spaceship Vengeance traversed through the Entradie System as quickly and as quietly as possible, metaphorically at least. Their perfectly planned route to avoid everyone also meant there was nothing to do, and that left Captain Annibon incredibly bored.
The Entradie are an isolationist community and inhospitable to outsiders. Their borders are patrolled, but there are ways around that, especially if one has a transponder code switcher that’ll make the ship appear as something else, which the Vengeance has acquired. To anyone else’s sensors they’re an Entradie military transport, so long as no one gets close enough to see them out of a window. So they’re staying far away from anyone else, no ships or inhabited planets. It’s safe, quiet, and boring.
The captain was sorely tempted to switch it off just so there’d be a little excitement. That thought soon faded as they passed a gas giant and she was informed of a scuttled battleship, its orbit decaying. Hung there, lifeless and battered to hell and back.
“On screen.” She said, standing from her captain’s chair, impressed at the sight of one of the famous Entradie warships. Though their invincible nature seemed a little exaggerated right now.
“Captain, I recommend we leave this area before any military vessel comes to investigate, or the attackers return.” Mr Que said, in his usual dry tone. She shot him a look he interpreted as an emphatic no to that suggestion and ignored him.
“Is the hull breached?”
“Mostly intact, Cap. It looks like their emergency bulkheads sealed any breaches.”
“Good. Move in and attach the boarding clamps.” She switched on the PA system, “Attention men, prepare a boarding party. We’re going scavenging!”
“Do you know how many advanced weapons the Entradie military have? They don’t trade with anyone. Anything we can salvage from them is worth a fortune to the right buyer. The vessel isn’t transmitting a distress beacon; no one should come looking for a while.” She turned to the bridge crew, “Continuous long range scans for any other vessels in the area.”
“You heard the Captain! Get to it!” Mr Que shouted at the bridge crew.
There was a fury aboard the ship as all the crew got ready to loot and plunder. The pilots moved the Vengeance alongside the other ship and the boarding clamps where attached, making sure it couldn’t go anywhere. Then the cutting crew got to work, moving down the inside of the clamps and to the hull of the other ship, using plasma cutters they started making an entrance. Doing this at both ends of the ship made it easier cover all of it quickly.
As soon as the news came in that they’d breached successfully and that the air recyclers were functioning, albeit on their last legs, the captain left the bridge.
The Entradie military are known for many things, power, force, discipline, a religious system that forbids women to serve, a disturbing amount of crude romantic fiction written about what they could be like, but most of all they never yield. They complete their mission or die trying, no retreat, no surrender. So Annibon knew no one would’ve escaped, and there may be some survivors.
The captain walked lost in her own thoughts and memories, barely making token greetings to the crew members she passed them by. When she got to the boarding dock she was greeted by Rob and Don, two security members on guard duty just in case anything undesirable comes through. She waved off their concerns about heading over alone and proceeded to the derelict.
On the bridge a different conversation was being held, though in a similar vein.
“So why does the Captain go inspect half the ships we scavenge?” 1st pilot Reena asked.
“I hear she needs to be reminded of the smell of death if she hasn’t killed anyone in a while.” 2nd pilot Reachlie answered.
“Nah, she likes to collect the heads of dead captains. It gives her power.” Steve chimed in from his communications post.
Mr Que sat in the captain’s chair, absently tapping the arm rests with his fingers and getting more annoyed with the gossip going on, “Surely you all have better things to do?”
“Not a damn thing. The only blip on the sensors is that moon. There’s an atmosphere but no signs of civilisation, prime vacation spot.”
“Not much time for vacationing here. Not like it’s a good place either, the way these folks treat other people.” Reena started flicking through her controls, absently. Making sure everything was ready to go when the captain gave the word.
“Where would you like to go then?”
“Sinthia Seven is nice when it’s in the height of its elliptical orbit.”
“That’s a female only planet.” Steve said, wanting to quell his crewmate’s comments.
“Yeah, but they let any woman stay there, and they make some fantastic drinks. You should try some, I’m sure they won’t notice you’re not one of us with those fabulous hips of yours.”
“I wouldn’t give you the pleasure.”
Mr Que had started playing solitaire on the arm rest keypad and had stopped listening to them a while ago.
On the Jinora Annibon walked the corridors as the dim emergency lighting set the atmosphere. The air was stale, with a cardboard aftertaste that left the mouth dry. Everything was black with the occasional splash of red on the walls. Nothing but silence and her boots clanking on the metal floor. As she made her way to the bridge she spotted a window facing out into empty space. Black, dark, empty nothingness. Peeking out of it her breath got sharper. Her muscles contracted. She clutched at her chest like it was about to burst. Her other hand grabbed a wall console that was hanging off. She tightened her grip and yanked it away from the wall and in a fit of anger threw it to the end of the corridor.
She took a moment to steady herself, taking slow, deep breaths, and calming down. This wasn’t like before, she was no longer that person, and wasn’t on that ship anymore. She pushed past it all and straightened herself out. She noticed where she threw the console, at the entrance to bridge. She stepped inside and inspected the wreckage.
Through the comms system of the Vengeance Steve heard, “Call Doc, we got a live one.”
Chapter 2: The Faker
In the infirmary of the Vengeance she stirred to life. Her eyes opening slowly, blinking rapidly against the harsh light. When she could properly see again she started to get her bearings. The room was white, all white, with very little colour change except the grey beds. About six beds in total, each in various states of disarray. What was clear was that this was an infirmary, not her infirmary. Another thing was eminently clear, she was naked save for the polymorphic bandages around her chest, right bicep, and left thigh. This wasn’t good.
She tried to move and shuffle off the bed to find out what happened. As sat up she winced and grabbed her sides, those were certainly a few ribs broken. She got a better look at the rest of the room, four more beds on the other side; each looks as well kept as the rest. With two doors on opposite sides of the room. One was the way out and the other to the doctor’s office, or maybe a supply room, she surmised. The good and bad of it were all too eminently clear, this was not an Entradie vessel and she was in deep trouble.
A man walked into the room, he had the posture of every doctor she’d ever met. Arrogant and full of himself. He was probably going to brag about how talented he was at stitching her up.
“Ah, you’re up. And if you want to stay that way you’d better lay down before your bandages pop. I’m not as good as I once was at putting them on naked women. But if you wanna die then keep staring at me blankly and I’ll get a coffin made up.”
“Lucky for her you didn’t handle any of the dirty work.” A voice came from the other room, sounding much younger than the doctor.
“Quit yer yapping, Boy. Go call the Captain and tell her the guest has woken up.” She guessed the boy was the nurse or something equivalent. He didn’t look that old, early twenties at most, and definitely didn’t look old enough to qualify for any medical position.
She lay back down and waited for this captain to show up. Wondering what kind of ship had picked her up. All the possible answers rolling around in her head weren’t too comforting. It took a short while for the captain to come down and when the other door opened she knew it had to be him. She tried to hide her surprise when she saw this captain was a woman. Tall, long black hair, red uniform coat that made her wonder what type of uniform was that. Definitely not Entradie, that was eminently clear.
The captain made her way over to the doctor and they had a chat that she couldn’t overhear. After they’d finished the doctor came over and adjusted her bed so she was comfortably sitting up. Her ribs didn’t even hurt this time. After that he made his way out without so much of a goodbye.
The captain sat on the bed next to hers and gave her a once over, sizing her up for a moment, “Captain Annibon, at your service, miss?”
After a moment she said, “Myra. What ship is this?”
“My vessel, the Vengeance. So what happened to your ship?”
“It was attacked, I don’t know much else. I stowed away trying to get to Titan.”
“Really? When I found you you were on the bridge, wearing a captain’s uniform and an exoskeleton device my chief engineer is still trying to identify. She’s quite giddy over it; it’s been a while since I’ve seen her like this. Care to revise your story?”
“Why would I do that for a pirate?”
“Pirate? What ever gives you that impression?” A sly smile appeared on her face.
“You’re clearly not Entradie. No transport ship would dare to try to take a shortcut through our space. Only pirates and other militaries try to cross our boarders, and this medical facility isn’t anywhere near military proficient. Also your ship is named the Vengeance.”
“I wasn’t the one who named her.” Was the only thing Annibon would say.
The two of them locked eyes, both trying to get a measure of the other. After a while Annibon decided to go first.
“You can’t be military, your people’s wonderful attitude toward women and all. Unless you snuck through military ranks by pretending to be a man. I’d be almost impressed if that were true.”
“I stowed away. When the ship got attacked I was the only one left alive, so I made my way to the bridge and tried to send out a distress signal. The temperature regulators were malfunctioning so I took the captain’s uniform to stay warm.”
“And the exoskeleton?”
“My exoskeleton kept me hidden from the ship’s sensors.”
The captain responded to that blatant lie by just walking out the door and saying, “Bored now. When you’re ready to be fired off in an escape pod do let us know.” Leaving Myra to ponder her next move. She couldn’t trust any of them, no matter what the captain said they were still not Entradie. This was her matter to solve and there was no possibility they would do anything to help. Unless they had no choice. A plan started to emerge, one that would require a lot of luck to work, but it was all she had at that moment. First thing first, she needed to get out of the medical bay.
The doctor walked back in, with a cheesy grin on his face too. He came over, “Hope the Captain didn’t chew you out too much. She’s a hardarse to new comers, and old comers, and most everyone I know.” He started rambling on and Myra decided to take action.
“Hey, Doc. My chest really hurts, can you check it out?” She tried not to gag when he came closer and the overpowering smell of alcohol radiated off him. As he leaned over her she hooked her arm around his neck and cut off his air flow. After a little bit of struggling his body went limp and she pushed him onto the bed next to hers, unconscious. Before she could make her way out the other door opened and the doctor’s pretty boy assistant came out. Before his mind could process what was happening before him, Myra vaulted over the beds between them and kicked him in the head. He went down like a sack of turnips. As she picked herself up she hoped the rest of the crew had such glass jaws. She then noticed he was about the same height as her and took off his jacket, trousers, and boots, and tried them on. They were a bit tight and the boots were a little too big for her feet, but they would have to do.
She looked into the other room and saw what she guessed was supposed to be an office, except it was full of bottles of various alcoholic drinks in different stages of being drunk. In the middle of it was a computer terminal, still logged in too. Now that was something she could use. She quickly loaded up a map of the ship and plotted out her best route for her plan.
Captain Annibon was studying the computer files they’d retrieved from the battleship. Most of it boring as the really good stuff was locked away for officer’s clearance and she’d have to wait till the decryption program got through it all. As she was skimming the captain’s public profile she got an alert from Steve at the comms, “Yo, Cap. Someone’s trying to send an Entradie coded distress signal.”
“Already done. Someone got into the Communication Hub to send that.”
Annibon grabbed her coat and headed down there, signalling for Rob and Don to meet her, fully armed. Their ‘guest’ was causing some trouble.
Myra stood at a terminal trying to work her way around their comms block, several unconscious crew members laid around her. The door locked and broken to buy her as much time as possible. She had nearly figured it out when the door caved it, falling to the floor on top of one of the crew. Captain Annibon strolled in, flanked by two men holding rather large rifles. Myra and Annibon both drew their pistols on each other.
“Captain Mark Reedington, happy to finally make your acquaintance.”
“This is not what I’d call happy.”
“I don’t like breaking my ship.”
“I don’t like people who steal from mine.”
“Salvaging.” She clarified then spoke to Rob and Don, “Boys, can you get Chen out from under that door. I don’t think he’ll like waking up there.” They looked at each other then put their weapons down, moving to pick up what remained of the door and sliding Chen out from it. Leaving the two women at a stand-off.
“What do you hope to accomplish here? Anyone that comes for you will kill you. Maybe you’ll get a show trial before the execution.”
“I’ll die for my people.”
“You’ll still die. Not even a hero’s death. Just another example your government will use to say why women shouldn’t be in space.”
“I get to watch you die. That’ll be enough.”
“I like you.”
“Ma’am, can we shoot her now?” Rob said from behind her. Before she could reply a message from Steve came down, a significantly large ship was coming out of the gas giant. Annibon holstered her weapon as Myra did the same. She ordered Rob and Don to take Myra to the bridge. She wanted to know what the hell was going on.
Chapter 3: The Crazier the Better
The bridge was lively with activity as they watched the ship emerge from the giant. It was quite an impressive sight. The surface of the planet seemed to part as a vessel six times larger than the Vengeance and as black as the void flew out in front of them. At least twenty three cannons were up and armed across the hull, a spire at the back so the bridge would overlook the entire ship, surveying every target in its range. A warship.
Captain Annibon ordered the pilots to keep the moon between them and the warship; it would give them some cover for a little while. Their Hyperdrive needed time to warm up. Time enough for the warship to blast them to atoms. Myra stood at the back of the bridge with a calm demeanour and her hands clasped behind her back, Rob and Don at either side of her. Annibon noticed this.
“This was your plan. You didn’t signal for help, you wanted these bastards to come out of hiding to exterminate the last survivor. And because of that stupid transponder they think we’re one of you.” They kill them, or at least do enough damage before another Entradie ship finds them, Myra wins. The Vengeance gets blown up, Myra goes down fighting and gets to Entradie heaven or wherever. Not exactly a great plan, but one that seems to be working out for her.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Myra stared straight ahead, never locked her gaze with Annibon.
“Who are they?”
“Separatists.” That answer wasn’t enough for her and demanded more, “They’re a small faction who wants to split off their home planets from the main system and the government. But the government won’t let entire planets be independent.”
“Radical, goddamn, extremists.” She turned away from her, having gotten the only useful bit of intel from her she reckoned she’d get, “I hate radical extremists. You can’t pay them off or talk them down. How long till the Hyperdrive is ready?”
“5 Pulses, Captain. Maybe a little longer.”
“Mr Que, I think after this little adventure we need to invest in a new Hyperdrive.”
“That would be wise, Ma’am. But first we need to survive this first.”
“Don’t be a pessimist.”
The crew watched as missiles struck the surface of the moon near them and some sailed over them. The warship was firing blind at them, the missiles unable to tell the moon and the Vengeance apart. For the moment they were safe, but Annibon was sure the warship had more armaments than they had time to flee. The warship started encircling the moon while the Vengeance did its best to keep match their movements. Hiding and waiting to run was slowly becoming a death sentence. Sooner or later one of them would hit. The collision would be a beacon to their targeting sensors, a giant sign saying ‘they’re over here and they’re wounded too!’ In open space without their Hyperdrive the Vengeance was faster and more agile than the warship, it could out run the larger ship, but that means sod all when the enemy can fill all that open space with explosives. Even if the Hyperdrive came on before they all were blown up they’d have to not get hit in the waiting time before the jump into Hyperspace. They’d be hanging fruit waiting to be picked off.
Run and die, hide and die, or wait and die, not the options Annibon liked. Though sadly they weren’t all that unusual for her. A hundred possibilities shot through her mind, most of them unpleasant, some wishful thinking, and only a few that had a survival rate higher than three. Of course she had to pick the crazy one.
“Myra, do your ships weapons cut off for collision detection, like every other sane ship has?”
“Excellent. Battle stations, if you’re not already there! Disengage the automated collision response! Let’s do a Crazy Elmer.” The two pilots looked at each other, nervous as hell.
“Captain, isn’t that a little... well crazy?”
“Yup. But I’d feel guilty if I didn’t give the two best pilots in the galaxy a workout every now and then.” The two nodded. Grabbing each other’s hand and using the free one to mime a silent prayer. She then turned the PA system to full blast, “I want full cannon support, port and starboard, go for the doors, and don’t fire till I give the word! Point Defence Team keep any artillery off us at all costs! There’s a bottle of whisky for everyone once we get through this!”
The crew got to work and was ready for combat in record time, imminent death does improve motivation Annibon had found. From looking at the bombardment pattern of the missiles the safest place to move out from was the South East section of the moon. Meaning the warship was probably near the North West side, at best guess. Though getting out wasn’t the tricky part in all of this. A Crazy Elmer is a piloting manoeuvre of getting so close to the enemy ship to trigger a collision alert and make the targeting computers automatically disengage their weapons because if fired they will severely damage their ship. The key is to keep as close to the enemy as possible without crashing, not an easy feat by any means.
Clear of the moon they had to ramp up the speed to close the gap between them before the warship could react to what they were about to do. They had the good fortune of being both smaller and faster, so it made this marginally less suicidal. The point defence guys were shooting down any artillery coming for them, and there was a lot of it. Any they missed the pilots managed to dodge before it impacted. The closer they got the more near misses they had till they were within collision distance. They dived underneath the ship pulled up sharply, encircling the ship, and Annibon gave the word.
Whichever side face the warship started firing all of their cannons, aiming for the launch and cannon doors. Disabling any of them meant taking out their ability to fire from them, at least for a short amount of time. The Vengeance was now flying in a corkscrew pattern around the warship, disabling as much as they can. It was not a pleasant experience for the crew, but being battle hardened pirates only some of them threw up.
They managed to make a second corkscrew pass before the warship started on its evasive manoeuvres. As they started a third the Vengeance clipped the side of the warship and Annibon called off the attack run, and ordered them to head back to the moon for cover; figuring they did enough damage. The Hyperdrive had warmed up and once they jumped it would be smooth sailing again.
The front of the warship slid open revealing the main weapon, a laser powered cannon. It extended outward as it charged up with blue energy.
The energy build up was noticed by the Vengeance and brought it to Annibon’s attention as they took evasive action. When she saw those readings her eyes went wide and her hands began to shake with recognition. It didn’t take long for the order to be given.
“HYPERDRIVE JUMP NOW!” While they were confused they snapped to it, hearing her anxious tone made it a very serious matter. Some rapid button pushing took place trying desperately to make the jump, and only a moment later the warship’s cannon fired. A humongous blue energy beam shot out and struck the moon. It didn’t take long for the reaction to start and the moon exploded. The light from it filled everything that could be seen and the silent remains floated in the void.
Chapter 4: Wanting Out
Thankfully for the crew of the Vengeance that there was time to jump to Hyperspace before that moon exploded. There was a collective sigh on the bridge once the ship began moving faster than light. Annibon fists clenched tight. She stormed over to Myra, grabbed her by the throat, and lifted her off the ground. Pure rage had taken over her, no composure left there to be seen.
“They have a goddamn planet buster! That was not worth sharing?”
Myra could barely breathe; she looked down and could only force one word through her throat, “No.” Annibon released her gip and she fell to the floor in a heap. Massaging her neck as she gasped for air, coughing a bit at the sharp intake, “No one was meant to know. I was meant to stop them. Ordered to not let it get out.”
Planet Busters are universally outlawed, the only weapon to be so by the Guardians. Even pirates know to respect that law, especially when it makes them a priority one target. No point in buying or selling a weapon that’ll brand you a dead man as soon as you turn it on. If the Separatists had the kind of money and expertise to make one they should’ve put those resources to better use. Unless, “You made it.” Annibon and Myra locked eyes, and she could the acknowledgement and regret coming from the military officer, “Your government thought they could get away with making one of the most dangerous weapon’s imaginable, in secret.”
“It wasn’t meant to get stolen. Don’t know how they found out about it. Maybe they just wanted the ship and didn’t know what it was used for.” Reasons flew through Myra’s head for why this had happened, that there was no malicious intent behind any of it. Unlike what the captain was implying.
“Doesn’t matter. It’s the Guardians problem now. They’ll have already seen that energy discharge and sent their people to deal with it.” She turned to Rob and Don, “When we get to the boarder throw her in an escape pod. Shoot her if she tires anything. Kneecaps preferably, but I’m not fussed. Just get her off my ship.”
Myra resisted as they dragged her to her feet, “What do you think they’ll do now?”
“Don’t care. Threaten your government to give them what they want. Blow up another moon or two to show how serious they are.”
“They know it won’t be long before the Guardians come. Threats are useless. They’ll go after the Capital Planet, take out the central government with one shot.”
“The folks who wanted that thing made get to die. Good.” She didn’t want to think about the rest of it.
“Five billion people didn’t make that decision. Do they deserve to die too?”
Annibon couldn’t look at her in the eyes, couldn’t look at anyone. How can someone weigh the lives of their crew against an entire planet? None of it could matter. Maybe the Entradie military will be able to hold them off. Maybe the Guardians will show up in time. In the end Annibon knew running away wasn’t for the benefit of her crew, she didn’t want to see it again. Never again.
“What could we possibly do to stop them?”
“You can try. That’s all that matters.” Annibon sighed and looked over to the rest of the bridge.
“Change course, we’re going to the Capital Planet. Full speed.” The bridge crew all looked at her, dumbfounded at even more suicidal orders. No one dared speak up, though. Annibon knew several ways to justify her order, but in the end there was only one justification needed, “This ain’t a debate. And this ain’t no democracy.” She punctuated that by drawing her pistol and resting the back of it against her shoulder, “Anyone can leave at any time, if they want.” They went back to work and their new course was set. They knew how futile it was to question her when she gave the democracy speech.
She ordered Rob and Don to help prep for battle, leaving Myra in her care trusting that she wouldn’t do anything stupid since they were now voluntarily helping her. They had some time before they got to the capital so she and Myra stepped off the bridge for a bit; while her Mr Que gave her a knowing glance and nod as she left. She felt it best to leave to bridge crew to gossip at times like this, it seemed to ease their tensions a bit.
Myra didn’t know whether to leave the silence alone until the captain wanted it broken or to end it herself and push her luck. At the moment they were just standing in a corridor a little ways from the entrance of the bridge, for no discernable reason Myra could tell.
“Can I ask you something? Why are you here? Why play pretend gender with your sexist military?”
“They’re not sexist. It’s complicated.” That was not an acceptable answer, being ‘complicated’ rarely was as far as Annibon was concerned, “Men are the protectors, women are the makers. That’s how it’s been since we had to defend our colony from raiders, a millennia ago. Women are the builders, the makers, the creators, the inventors, the ones who literally made the homes for the men who fought off the raiders.”
“So why are you here?” Myra sighed, but she had a story she wanted off her chest for so very long. Being how they were likely to all die soon and no one would believe a pirate captain it seemed like the right time to tell it.
“My mother wanted a boy, for tax purposes. You get more tax breaks from the military, obviously, and you get a shot at the better schools. So when I came along my mother decided to just make me a boy. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. Black market Exoskeletons mask all detectable physical traits.” She was mostly trailing off now, “And some military service is mandatory for men.”
“Is it also mandatory for them to become captains of spaceships? You could’ve served your time in a less conspicuous role, and then gone on to do whatever you want.”
“I just... I want to see the stars. The vastness of space, brimming with infinite freedom.”
“Having to hide as a man didn’t bother you?”
She didn’t get an answer as a rather large burly man came up to them and squared off against Annibon. He was significantly taller than her and had enough muscles to break a steel bar in two, with his pinkie. And he did not look best pleased with the captain.
“Annibon, what the hell’re you doing? We’re all gonna die, and there ain’t even any money involved!” There was a small crowd forming behind him, wanting see the outcome before getting involved.
“Deacon, you know how this goes.” She took off her coat and tossed it at Myra, showing off a rather well built physique she kept hidden, “You wanna change course you’ve got to be the captain.”
She looked up and stared into his eyes, not blinking or wavering. Deacon waved her off turned away, “You’re crazy. I want off this boat next place we stop.”
“As you wish.” The crowd all parted to let him through, all trying not to look at the captain now, “Rest of you lot, get back to work. Unless you all want to die out here, without getting paid?” They quickly dispersed at that. Annibon took her coat back from a confused Myra, “What? You never had to do that on your ship?”
She shook her head, “Who was that?”
Chapter 5: To Death We Ride
As they got to the Capital Planet captains Annibon and Myra watched the fading of Hyperspace into regular space, contemplating the next part. Trying to convince the two patrol ships what was about to happen and who Myra really was.
“You up for this?”
“That looks like the Ingram and the Mayfly. They’ll both put up a good fight till the end.”
“Try not to fill me up with too much confidence.”
Both ships had locked weapons on them and the Ingram opened communications. Annibon had it put on the main Holo-Projector with her in the centre and Myra just a little behind her. The captain of the Ingram appeared in a projection in front of them. He was blond; square jawed, and had the air of arrogant superiority.
“Identify yourself. Your vessel is violating our system, it will be seized. You and your crew will be arrested and charged accordingly. I can assure you, your little ship cannot match the might of mine.”
“I am Captain Annibon; we’re here to help not fight you. We rescued the captain of the Jinora from a group of Separatists, who are now coming to blow up this planet.” Adding ‘We think’, in her mind.
“If this is true return Captain Reedington and we may discuss a leniency of your punishment.”
Myra stepped forward, sternness in her eyes as she faced off with her once friend, “Captain Striker, I am Captain Mark Reedington of the Jinora. IMB978185. I can confirm there is a Separatist warship with a planet buster coming heading here now.” The sound of muffled laughter could be heard from the Ingram bridge, a not surprising thing to hear given Striker’s sometimes lax approach to command.
“Excuse the interruption, miss. But your lie would be a lot more convincing if I didn’t know for a fact that Mark Reedington is indeed a man. Perhaps a bit of research might be best before trying to con us.” Myra had planned for a formal debate, her quoting regulations and her service record till someone listened. With Striker though, informality might be the better course. Even if she would regret it.
“I know full well, Luke. We had some fun times, some not quite legal times. And then some illegal bottles Conque Vodka after boring official receptions times, especially with that one Admiral neither of us remembers the name of.”
“Now those are some crazy ideas you have, and even if they were true there are many ways you could know about our friendship. We didn’t exactly hide our private lives. I know for a fact that Mark was not a Faker and would never betray us like that.” Myra tried filling him in on the relevant details, which he just put down as delaying tactics on her part, “That is an entertaining story. But the friend I’ve known for half my life would never do anything you claim.” He stopped as one of his bridge officers told him something off to the side, “We are detecting an incoming vessel; looks like your Separatist partners have finally arrived. I wish a quick death for you all.” Myra’s heart sank. She had hoped he would recognise her. That they would fight together in glorious battle one last time.
“That went as well as expected.”
“Cap, the Entradie ships are preparing to fire!”
“Evasive manoeuvres and get us behind that warship when it comes out of Hyperspace!” Always looking for a good spot of cover. Even if that cover would also try to kill them.
They did not get a chance to fire at the Vengeance as space began to warp and a vessel emerged from Hyperspace, the Separatist warship. The pirates overheard some comm chatter between the Entradie ships, mostly threats to surrender but it was all stalling tactics. Both sides knew there would be a battle; it was just a matter of when. The Mayfly and the Ingram combined could not match the firepower or capabilities of the warship. The warship however did not have an experienced military crew, nor were more than two thirds of its weapons functional from its last encounter. The Vengeance, at its best, couldn’t match any of them, but it was small and fast so there was a chance it wouldn’t get horribly blown up by the others.
The stalling had broken down and the warship opened half of its gun ports and fired at them. The grand strategy was fairly simple, the warship needed a clear shot at the planet and the others just had to block that shot long enough to disable the warship’s main weapon. The Mayfly and the Ingram stayed between the warship and the planet, using their point defence systems to stave off most of the attacks on them. While firing back with their missiles and cannons, aiming for the front of the warship and hoping to do enough damage to disable their main weapon. It was a sight to behold as seemingly hundreds to explosions were happening between the three vessels as their weapons fires was being destroyed by the point defences.
The pirates were very thankful the majority of the guns were pointed at the other ships as they dodged the relatively small incoming fire and headed for the aft of the warship, aiming to disable its main engines. Unlike the military vessels they weren’t trying to overpower each other, they just needed a distraction. They specifically targeted the point defences, knocking out as many as they could with cannon fire. To do that they had to get in a lot closer than anyone on the ship liked.
It seemed the warship had over compensated from their last encounter. Now the Vengeance could barely get in close enough to do damage to the point defences without taking some serious fire. The ship rocked back and forth with every hit. Annibon clung to her chair as she monitored the battle and called out orders. Pilots Reena and Reachlie were sweating as they tried to focus on the job, doing evasive manoeuvres while strafing close to the aft of the warship. Desperately hoping they wouldn’t screw up. Steve was just heard muttering a prayer of ‘I don’t want to die’, hoping the universe would oblige.
Once they’d managed to hopefully take down enough of the point defences part two of their insane plan could be tried.
“How many explosive charges do we have?”
“That’ll have to do. Load them!”
They made a pass at the engines and prepared to launch their high yield explosives at them.
“FIRE ONE!” They watched as it sailed through space; much slower than a standard cannon round. The crew held their breath as it got closer and closer to the target. Then as it neared the ship it exploded when an undamaged point defence turret locked on to it.
“FIRE TWO!” The second shot flew through the first explosion and remained undetected by the turrets till it made contact with one of the engines. This time the explosion was much bigger as it took out half of the main engines for the warship. The ship lurched to the side before power was cut to the other half of them. The crew cheered as the Vengeance pulled back to a safer distance. Only then did they see the aftermath of the main battle.
The warship was badly damaged, but the Mayfly and the Ingram hung in space, seeming dead to them. Myra looked on in horror as she noticed the warship was pointed directly at the Capital. Their efforts had accomplished nothing. The front of the warship began to open up, revealing the planet destroyer. Annibon gripped her chair tighter as she contemplated the only course of action left to them. As she was about to order them to get closer she noticed the Ingram powering up their engines and manoeuvring themselves in front of the warship. Time seemed to slow down as the planet destroyer powered up and Ingram limped to stop them. The warship fired and the blinding light of an explosion followed.
Myra blinked, desperately trying to see what had happened. When her vision had cleared up she saw the blue and green planet before her and breathed a sigh of relief. Then she saw the wreckage of the Ingram and their sacrifice as her fists tightened. The last conversation with Luke was about how he was about to kill her, and he didn’t even know her. Annibon only saw this as an opportunity and took it, ordering them to get closer to the recharging warship and fire their biggest guns at the exposed weapon. Volley after volley hit it and the main power coils connecting it to the power core of the ship. Explosions started to rocket through the weapon as it started to overload. Blowing up three quarters of the warship. At last the battle was over.
Chapter 6: Moving to a New Universe
The remains of the warship lay powerless; the only movement came with its momentum as it slowly floated backwards. Annibon wished to get as far away as possible before fingers began to point, because inevitably they were the best scapegoats in this entire affair again. However there was one matter left to be dealt with and she turned towards Myra.
“We’ve got a very short window here before more people come to kill us, so I’ll make this quick. We can stick you and your exoskeleton thing in an escape pod and shoot you towards the planet. Maybe you can salvage this mess. Or you can come with us. We might not have the luxuries of Entradie living, but instead of hiding on a planet you can sail the stars.”
“I... I don’t know.” Myra had no good options and the thought of not dying for her actions hadn’t occurred to her. Both choices almost guaranteed living and dying the life of a fugitive, so what choice was there, “Can you promise me a magnificent death in battle?”
“Not the weirdest signing bonus I’ve heard, but sure.” She reached out her hand to Myra but was ignored. Myra took one last look at the Capital before shedding a tear and leaving the bridge.
The Vengeance moved like a burning fuse wire, not wanting to spend any more time in a system where they faced almost certain death if they returned. Thankfully getting past the military was a lot easier when everyone else is more concerned about the state of the Capital and not one little ship.
There was no celebrating from the crew for a while, only waiting on bated breath for the moment they were officially out of Entradie space and away from anyone trying to kill or arrest them for what they were doing there. Finally they had anchored between several moons and a planet, all deserted. No one could find them there, even if they were looking. So it was it was time to relax.
Captain Annibon stood in the cargo bay in front of most of her crew and several crates.
“I know we’ve had a rough time recently. We nearly died doing something incredibly stupid, again. Some say we’re lucky, or blessed from on high. But I say we have the best damn crew in the galaxy!” She kicked open one of the crates of Stewart Whiskey, “So let us drink! And let us celebrate another successful time of not being dead!” She grabbed two bottles out of it and held them aloft as a cheer ran out. The crew scrambled at the alcohol as Annibon was pulled aside by her Mr Que.
“After finally doing damage analysis on all the broken ship parts in the attack, the ammunition expenditure, the medical supplies for the wounded crew, and almost half of our Terelium cargo was compromised, we’d be lucky to break even. That’s not even factoring in the crew’s wages. We don’t have the whiskey to sell anymore.” He brought the numbers up but she just waved him off.
“So that new Hyperdrive is out then? We always find a way to make do. Don’t worry so much about it.”
He sighed and went back to work. She walked all the way down to the crew quarters to find the one person there not out getting blind drunk, their new crew member. She opened the door to see Myra sitting on her bed with her knees pulled up to her chest. No words need to be spoken as she handed the bottle over and left the former captain to be with her thoughts.