The Pirate Kingdom Facet 11. Escape

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Facet 11. Escape

The Doctor demanded to know what was happening as he and several nurses joined the rush as they all ran down the hall with half the black clad group in front and the balance covering their escape when the Doctor finally got his question answered.

“Star Empire has attacked the station. There were news releases that the vaccine is a genocide poison against their people.” The redheaded leader of the group answered. “We arrived here to meet with the science and medical teams to show the vaccine was not toxic and meet with investigators of the merchantman attack. Those people who arrived are soldiers, not doctors or scientists. Three Buccaneer ships intercepted the attacking ships, but the Empire ships outnumbered them and they have fallen back to the far side of the planet. The soldiers have made it into the station and have taken control of elevator command center.”

“They caught my fleet in the ambush when the hidden ships set off anti-matter charges.” He shook his head. “I have word that Captain P’ak Sitron was fast enough to change the vector and headed out into deep space to stop the fleet safely. But that will make it two or three hours before they can regroup and return, ready for battle. By then, the Empire will be in place, barricaded and in control.”

Blasters came out as they made a corner. One of the black group pulled out a baseball sized object and rolled it down the hallway.

“Close your eyes.” The warrior said to her rolling a glittering, round crystal around the corner into the corridor, then called “Fire in the hole!”

Phoenix closed her eyes just as a silent flash in rapid sequence illuminated so brightly that her eyes were able to see shadow through her eyelids and she would later swear that she could see the bones in her hands that covered her eyes.

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and propelled her past the point where several people were laying on the ground vomiting and holding their eyes.

“What kind of bomb was that?” She asked no one in particular as they ran down the hallway, explosions followed by a gust of wind in their faces.

“Breach! Hull breach!” Called an obvious human. Of African descent like the doctor, this warrior was shorter than Phoenix but powerfully built, he grabbed the others and dragged them through a doorway and slammed his hand down on an emergency close button and the shrieking wind stopped with everyone’s ears popping.

Through the clear door, Phoenix could see several people sucked around the corner of the last intersection hallway and out of sight.

“That will work against the strike force, they brought that issue on themselves, the Empire has violated every treaty possible just now.” Said the red-headed leader.

“Sir! We can’t get to the transport. We have to find another way off the port.” Phoenix saw on the chest of the man who had pulled her through the hatch wore a name tag “Garr-id”.

“Escape through the utility access. Rhea! Take the civilians to the ship.”

Rhea, a slightly wolfish looking woman with pointed ears interrupted him.

“I can’t leave you, Sir!” She argued.

“You have your orders, now go, these people are non-combatants and do not need to suffer through this. We will meet you at the ship and give you cover, when you are in we will join you.”

A growl like that which Phoenix had never heard from someone before nearly made her laugh, it might have been even comical in another time and circumstance, but now all she did was stare.

Through a small hatch that was quickly sealed behind them and by the sound of debris piled over the access port, hidden.

Rhea and the half-dozen doctors, nurses and former patients ran, crawled, climbed and balanced carefully on pipes as they made their way down the access tunnel towards a destination that Phoenix did not know.

Through the conduits and ventilation systems, sounds of gunfire and high-pitched whine of energy weapons and people screaming dug into Phoenix’s brain.

Rhea held a finger up to her lips as she stopped the group, a low hum from the pipes made their skin tingle. She pressed her ear up against a hatch that looked much like any other, then nodded. Pulling a small flat rectangle out of her belt she pulled a cord from the small palmtop electronic equipment and plugged it into a port next to the hatch.

Phoenix and the others watched as Rhea tapped the screen a few times then a holographic projection appeared over the top of the device showing a hangar door and the hallway was clear. A few more touches and she explained about recording the empty hallway for a few seconds worth.

Rhea smiled and put her hand against the lever of the service hatch and pushed it open and pointed the device at the video sensor.

“Out! OUT! Everyone.” She said in a loud whisper. “Through that door and step to the left and wait for me.”

When the last of the medical team was through the door, Rhea took a bound step and was through the hangar door.

“That last was the most hazardous.” Rhea explained to the group. “They could have seen us, but I blinded the camera for a moment. Okay, to the ship. Quietly, single file behind me.”

The ship was slightly silver-blue in color, Phoenix touched the hull as she walked and it felt like nothing she had ever touched, almost plastic or an oily covering, her fingers came back clean, but they tingled slightly as if from an electric current.

Rhea motioned the people inside and got them seated as she communicated quietly on her headset.

“We are in. Hallway was clear, video camera disabled.” She reported.

“We are already here.” Said the Redhead as the second group appeared from around the corner and through the door. “You are getting slow in your old age.”

The other men half-dragged both the leader and two others who had injuries. It was obvious they had a rough go of it. The smaller ship rocked on the deck as the space port experienced to another impact of heavy weapons fire, only this time red lights lit up and began to flash rapidly.

“Someone finally got the defense systems working.” Thought Phoenix.

In the back of the small ship, Garr-id started pulling at the RedHead’s cloak and armor. “Get this off you, Sir, I have to view your wounds.”

“I’m okay.” RedHead groaned, “It’s a bruise, nothing got through. Next time
someone make sure I’m standing next to a softer wall? Take care of Lieutenant Muir, we have to get this crate launched and out of here to safety, that’s the priority now. We don’t get out of here, your skills with inflicting pain while fixing us will be moot.”

Standing up, the chest had a darkening bruise over the right shoulder. On his back, a large tattoo that was partly hidden by the undershirt, but what Phoenix could see was similar to the markings on all the armor, a bruise growing over his right shoulder-blade. Whatever had knocked this leader down had taken a toll through the armor.

“Sir,” Doctor Concord stood up, “I have had combat medical experience. I am a trauma surgeon, I can help.”

Garr-id looked at the doctor with a quick eye and smiled, “Thanks Doc, I can use you, come here and….” the voices trailed off to the back of the ship as they assessed the other team members condition.

“Rhea, pre-flight emergency launch checks. Let’s get the hell out of here asap. But do it quietly with minimal use of power until the last moment. We don’t want to alert them that we are here. Change the ship markings to that of something more general, a merchant or something.”

Phoenix raised her hand and spoke up.

“Excuse me, but the port defense systems are up— the red emergency lights are up and flashing.”

RedHead looked out the window.

“Good! Thanks! The strike team would not want those systems up, that means one of the control rooms are still in control of the facility. They are fighting back.”

Pressing a few illuminated panels and tapping in a sequence on the panel and a video display came up.

“Foenicks! Good to see you are in control of things.” RedHead laughed into the display. “I’ll keep this short- you look like you are a bit busy.”

“Your gift for understatement would be funny at another time. But we have them contained for the moment. The captain of the transport had called ahead and alerted us that something was up, we just did not know where. We assumed they headed towards the planet.” Fenicks, a tiger-striped face that was bleeding out his nose and one eye was swollen but not shut. “Boru- they are demanding where you are from those that they grab. We have video of them abandoning hallways to follow your direction of travel until they lost you. You are their target Your Majesty.”

“All the more reason to get out of here. Can you give a hand on that?” Boru asked quietly.

“We have decompression problems all over the station, we might have a control problem on hangar door number-5. Yes, yes, I think the controls are overloading and we might have an explosive decompression. Anything in there will be sucked out into space towards the planet.”

“Copy that, Commander Foenicks. We will watch for signs of decompression in about a minute.”

Phoenix looked around and out the ports, no single digit numbers were on any of the doors. There were 21 through 26.

Rhea spoke up. “Pre-flight checks done. We are ready to launch. All power is routed through shielded circuitry.”

“Okay everyone, get your restraints clipped and hold on, we are doing an explosive launch through door two-six.” Boru said. “Rhea, when we move use thrusters only, just keep us from hitting the edges. Let’er drift for a bit once we clear the cloud. No power to the engines, life support or any lights until the last minute.” Turning around and looking at the ex-patients and medical providers, “Folks, it’s going to get bumpy and cold! You civilians will find blankets over your head.  If you get cold? Don’t hesitate to use them, but wait until after we finish bouncing around if possible.”

A shockwave slightly rocked the small ship as door “two-six” blew off it’s track and the atmosphere blew it out. Debris, another small ship slid towards the breach, airtight doors closed around the hangar.

Rhea gently tapped the thruster controls and just gave enough spin to the ship so it rotated out the door directly at the planet appearing to have no control.

The smaller unmanned ship hit the side of the hangar door and split off the starboard engine. Spilling fuel and atmosphere it gained speed and rotation, angling towards the escapees’ ship.

“EVADE!” called Boru as he jumped into the pilot seat next to Rhea. “Z-minus one-hundred. Let’s see if we can keep our cover that was not much of a move.”

Using thrusters only, the ship just sidestepped the spinning debris.

“Passive sensor’s have picked up– SIRE! We’ve been painted with target beacons. We have multiple bogies at multiple vectors coming in from all upper altitudes.” The one with the name badge Timate called out.

Phoenix heard the term, it piqued her curiosity.

“Thems not bogies— thems bandits! Okay, cover’s blown! Cloak the ship, let them lose us in the debris.”

Negative G-forces pulled upward on Phoenix, the only thing holding her down was the multi-point restraints that automatically tightened slightly holding her in place as the ship dropped sharply into the cloud of blown out debris. The ship shook with a concussion.

“They have us! Four Titan A6-T’s” A blond warrior with a at a weapons console that Phoenix did not get the name of.

“Emergency dive! Into the atmosphere. Target the lead ship with pulse cannon.” Boru ordered.

The ship rattled with cannon’s rapid fire. Bolts of particle energy struck the first attacker who dissolved into photons and sparks.

“Three more, we are in the atmosphere boundary, we will be visible!” Garr-id yelled.

“Keep going, we’re outgunned up by the spaceport.” Boru looked up and then at the his displays, “Prepare to abandon ship!”

The outside the ship began to heat by the entry into the surrounding atmosphere of Aquila Nova as they sailed at hypersonic speeds into the atmosphere below.

“Drop the cloak, SIre?” Called Rhea

“No no, we need to fake them out a bit longer. Prepare to jettison empty escape pods two through six in half second intervals. Then the rest of you take the last of the pods and abandon ship. I’ll take the ship back up into space while still cloaked. They will think we broke up on reĂ«ntry for a moment or two, long enough for you folks to get away.” Rhea started to protest but Boru held up a finger, “You are the Captain, but I outrank you, the civilians will need you to fend for them, until I am able to draw the Empire ships off.”

Rhea grumbled acceptance and went back to the controls and primed the empty pods for jettison without shielding as the ship rocked with more hits.

“We are visible!” Garr-id called. “Shields are holding, cloak is disabled.”

Phoenix terrified at the thought that she was about to die.

“Jettison pods two through six!” Boru yelled from his pilot seat. “Everyone in escape pods seven through twelve and deploy on my mark.”

Rhea directed the Doctor back to the seat next to Phoenix, a sudden jerk and the seats backed up an arm’s length and a door slid over the void left by their movement.

“Oh damn, I had forgotten how much I hate this.” Doctor Concord growled. “If I live through this, remind me to schedule that pirate to get his colon scoped with a reamer.”

“Pirate?” She asked.

“Yes, don’t you know? That’s why they are after him– he is Boru U’Maille, the Pirate King. He and his father drove them back in the last wars and forced the peace treaty” Dr. Concord tried to force a smile. “He is a thorn in their side. A big one.”

“THAT is the Pirate King? It must be a mistaaaaaaAAAA…..” Phoenix’s scream mixed with Dr. Concord’s as the ship made a violent roll and ejected the escape pod out at an angle, they did an arc instead of straight line and the motion was enough for Phoenix’s stomach to rise in her throat. She thought she was about to dump her churning stomach on the Doctor.

The autopilot of the pod took over and they rapidly slowed down, banked into a steep angle. Several lights lit up on panels.

An artificial male voice announced: “Vector stabilized, pod is cloaked, programmed destination arrival ETA is four-minutes.”

“Four minutes to arrive where?” Phoenix asked.

“Don’t bother asking, the computer is not interactive, it is just telling us where we are going.” Dr. Concord said. “They will have all the escape pods land close to each other.”

The Doctor did not lie, the pods had landed and the cloaking shimmered and faded as the escapee’s exited and took account of each other.

Rhea looked around as others came out of the trees where a couple of the pods missed the landing area by a few dozen yards.

“King U’Maille is not here.”

Timate, Phoenix could see him well now, an older warrior with stripes on his shoulders as he walked towards Rhea. “He will be here when he can. The bandits were still trying to stalk the pods. I don’t think they were fully convinced that the ship broke up on reentry.””We are near enough to go to the meeting place, besides, I am hungry.”

“I want to sit someplace that doesn’t move,” One of the wounded warriors limped up on his feet. “Or have someone shooting at me.”

The group agreed and walked into the village.

 

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The Pirate Kingdom Facet 10. Surprise

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Facet 10. Surprise

The Thunderbolt fired upon the first Momo ship, the engines of the Buccaneer Co-op’s great battleship flared under a gang-start into full power. An attempt by the Momo battleship to fire on the Thunderbolt was abruptly ended by the Lightning. With a sudden charging of weapons. The high energy discharge flared violet to blue to deep-blue as the frequencies built up. A cold shot against the shields of the MoMo destroyer, changing frequencies in milliseconds as it warmed-up while it was brought to bear against the warship.

The Momo lead ship Destructor lit up in sparkles of overloaded conduits and melted armor as the ship took disabling damage, the Buccaneer Consortium Lightning lived up to the name given to it when it was designed and built, the energy discharge became the first use of the weapon in the history of warfare.

The Buccaneer battle ship, ThunderChild, sped towards the hostile ships firing a Singularity class torpedo at Empire’s Hammer. On contact with the enemy ship, the weapon absorbed all the energy of the shielding while the Thunderbolt charged its massive rotary canon, a ten-barreled helical rail gun, taking  aim at the Power Cubed,  a fighter-carrier before it de-cloaked, surprising the Empire ship that its camouflage was ineffective against the Buccaneer close-combat ship. 

In the abandoned exam room, Phoenix called her ship, telling them to send a distress call for the port. Ducking a shattered air plenum and hanging ceiling panels, she could hear hissing of high pressure gas leaking in the hallway when she saw them through the transparent walls.

A group of men and women dressed in red and black surrounding a tall male with shoulder-length red hair, came moving quickly down the hallway at the opposite end and stopped. They surveyed the carnage at the other end of the hallway and motioned to the standing nurses and doctors, indicating to them to get behind the new group.

One of the women in black armor with a red crowned skull on her shoulder opened the door to the room Captain Phoenix Alexandra took shelter in.

“Quickly! Come with us if you value your life.” Was the raven-haired warrior’s only words.

The Captain did not need a second invitation.

The Pirate Kingdom Facet 9. Port Aquila

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Facet 9. Port Aquila

Captain Alexandra blinked and took a relaxing breath as the lights changed in intensity, indicating arrival after eighteen hours of travel at faster than light speeds. The deceleration into orbit was smooth and practiced by the hand of the pilot and the advanced systems. The ship Alexandra the Great was capable of pulling much greater loads than the combined mass of the Seraph and the Alexandra’s own cargo load. The orbiting port, that served as the upper end of an elevator to the surface of the planet Aquila, talented engineers tethered by way of a graphene ribbon and diamond-nanorod cable that served the elevator to the ground thirty-two thousand kilometers below.

The big ship pulled into the dock slowly while anchors and airlocks maneuvered in place. Disembarking from the cargo super carrier transporter, uniformed agents guided the crews to a clinic for entry to the planet Aquila. Lines were short with the efficiency of the clinic and the professional faces of nurses and doctors went from room to room as the teams they checked for exposure to biological agents and pressed specialized pneumatic injector guns against the visitors and then the guided the crew of Alexandra the Great out to a waiting room.

Phoenix stepped into her room and the nurse invited to her to sit before she needed to remove her clinic garment  and dispose of it in the receptacle to her right.

A Doctor with kind eyes and wide smile stepped through the transparent glass door with a nurse carrying a single-use pneumatic injector.

With a press upon some keys on a flat panel at a terminal, the glass-walls became dark and opaque as he turned to the nurse and requested several items. As the nurse took her thermal and vital signs.

Phoenix watched as a nurse approached with a clear tablet that she could read her name backwards though the transparent device. As the efficient, unsmiling and harried young man tapped her information into the flat panel.

“My name is Skyy, how do you feel? Good? Good. Your blood pressure is a little high. This is your first time traveling this far out?” For the first time he smiled, the nurses pupils were slightly odd-shaped, as if there had been an injury in the past.

“Yes, it has been a stressful trip, investigating the damage to the ship.” Phoenix smiled back, “My first time at a crime scene of this magnitude. I have never been to the leftovers of a pirate attack.”

“Well,” he tapped a few more times on the flat panel, “you need a vaccine before you can go to the surface and that includes some DNA testing time.” he tapped again. “Every crew member that boarded that ship must have micro- graphic scan to see if there are any foreign nano-biologic material picked up that could determine the origin of the previous raiders. Many crew died, there is lots of evidence left by them that the investigators have requested for us to collect.”

“Vaccination?” she flipped open her own palm sized secretary. “That is not listed, we’ve requested to travel to the surface to meet with the incoming fleet from the High Council.”

“A common thing to overlook. It is in there.” The nurse chuckled, pressing a button and the walls became transparent once again. ”The doctor will explain it all, he’ll be in directly.”

Phoenix saw the doctor walk up to the clear wall stepped through the door, joining her. His smile was in bright contrast to his clothing and the eyes were sharp and missed little, taking all the world in. A deep voice with a wry sense of humor echoed in his greeting. The nurse handed the tablet to the doctor then tapped the panel on the wall that became opaque again.

“I’m Doctor Concord, pleased to meet someone from the boomer fleet. Is there any further findings on that ship? Anything about Captain Metrano? No? Pity, oh well.” He didn’t type, the clipboard he used transcribed their conversation as text. “No allergies to medications, I see.” His glasses seemed a little large for his face, but the well-practiced smile balanced it out.

“We will have to give you a vaccine that is unique to this planet to protect you from the ubiquitous single-celled little bug that a long ago by a wreck introduced. It mutated and now causes serious gastric distress to new visitors, the vaccine is your best prevention.”

Phoenix nodded and entered the subject to look up later. She had not expected any vaccinations from their contact and their towing a ship to the port. But the council wanted to meet with her at the capital on the planet.

“There is no bending fo the rules, this is part of the normal procedures. The collective governments of Aquila Nova also absorb the costs rather than have anyone spend their entire stay and tour of the outer rim in a sick-bed.” Explained Dr. Concord The nurse re-entered the room with a tray with a pistol shaped injector.

“Now you have had no adverse reactions to any medication at all? You have read the forms on possible reactions to the vaccine…” The Doctor broke off as Phoenix shook her head.

“I have not seen any forms.”

The nurse turned to a display and tapped on it. “She came from Durre Menthor.” He shook his head. “They have stopped giving the notices a month ago, and the admin suspended using forms yesterday.”

“The governments are not seeing eye to eye— again.” The Doctor sighed. “This time they have tried to sabotage interplanetary travel. Okay, we will get you a notice, a form and I will explain it to you.”

“It’s just a vaccine, right?” Phoenix was curious what the concerns were.

“Well, this is fifth generation vaccine, the first two generations had some, rather adverse, reactions that ran about one-third of those that received them. Most were minor. It is in the archives and taught around the systems as how the human DNA could be altered with vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded. In the past, from the first blood transfusions to the first allergic reactions to injections filled history books  with first generation problems from medicine to technology.

“The first generations of the vaccine used other mammals that were not susceptible to the amoeba infection. Here is the notice, ” The Doctor smiled as the nurse came in and handed her a hard copy and code to download it to her personal system. “The reactions sometimes altered the looks of the humans. In the case of a feline based vaccination, some people took on cat-like appearances and in the extreme cases, physical agility. In the case of canine there are documented cases of wolf-like changes.”

Phoenix blinked. She recalled that, from school, the social studies that caused many to portray these altered humans as non-human. They needed to fight a war for their freedoms, to move and live between Durre Menthor and Aquila Nova.

She looked at the nurse nodded— she remembered his eyes! He had feline eyes, with almost slit pupils.

“My grandmother was a fur-covered and tailed beauty that was an accomplished dramatic actress on the planet for one example.” Nurse Skyy smiled. “My grandfather was full human, after she moved back to Terra-Dyo and my mother and father were never vaccinated. My mom had the recessive trait and my eyes I inherited from my grandmother.”

The Doctor nodded. “Some were avian based and although in clinical trials it passed, it was found that if the avian mutations developed, it was a critical medical problem and many died if they became avian altered. Some took on other features, but none have been a great problem since the third-generation of vaccines.”

Phoenix nodded and rolled up her sleeve. “Well, better to get it than go back where I came or spend time in the bathroom.”

The hiss of the injector was like a short spit from a cat while Phoenix sat on the chair. The Doctor smiled and looked at her as she felt a slight flush and asked if that happened often.

“That’s normal, although everyone reacts differently…” Dr. Concord broke off as the room shook and a loud boom resonated through the building.

“What the f…” Squawked the nurse as he took a curious cat-like pose on the shaken floor, then walked out with the Doctor into the middle of the hall.

The door closed and lights flickered as the opaque wall became clear, Phoenix could see the Doctor standing in the middle of the hall pointing his finger at a communication console. Power flickered over the central med-station and Phoenix could see other rooms were people were standing and looking around, the walls were clear everywhere. Several nurses and doctors ran to the rooms and opened doors, indicating for people to leave when the a burst of explosives in the waiting room shattered the security knocked everyone down.

Outside, the Buccaneer Cooperative ships, Thunderbolt, Lightning and Thunder Child sat in a parking orbit around the space station, at a distance, keeping the space-control officer on edge, when alerts in the shipping control center beeped to life and began to flash.

Multiple signatures of several huge warp bubbles. Large enough to carry several ships each. Sensors could pick them up several hundred AU’s away. These ships were carrying titanic energy signatures that pegged all read outs.

One Sub-commander running his fingers over his face as he viewed the displays, talking to the command officer over the microphone.

“This big of a signal, there might be over a hundred  ships, sir, we don’t have enough room for them.” Sub-commander Taul spoke quietly into his microphone of his headset.

“Incoming transmission. Fleet commander wants to speak with the Ship control commander.” The communications officer called over the intercom.

Shimmering out in away that was never seen in the five-years in the traffic control, the outer markers shook and vibrated until they blurred from the energy bow-wave of the approaching fleet.

Suddenly, warning lights indicated high-velocity missiles passing through the lanes towards the disturbance. Three explosions bloomed brightly and silently in the dark sky of the interplanetary space and alarms echoed through out the station.

Huge battleships that had been hidden behind the blue gas-giant planet Scorpi, surged out in formation, filling the space of the arriving fleet with giant explosions. Huge detonations of the hyper-fast special explosives collapsed the stretched space fabric, call a Worm Hole, that the massive energy from the ships opened. Any and all ships in that tunnel would be destroyed or seriously damaged. On the side of the battleships, the Momo Empire flag stood out in stark relief.

The Thunderbolt fired. Lightning, in motion and charged weapons with a skeleton crew. Overcoming the lack of personnel who were on Port Aquila.

The flying gun of the fleet shattered the cover of four other Momo ships that had drifted with the dark cloud of small asteroids and dust, hiding in the debris as it orbited the home star or Nova Aquila.

Originally not part of the Pirate Confederation in years of the negotiations. They were not considered under the control of the united pirate agreements.

On the surface of Aquila, Leader of the High Council Peony summoned the Momo Empire Representative to demand the reason of the attack. The representative brought an answer. Looking like a kid caught stealing cookies, clearly not in line with the tone of the notice he carried in his tablet. The ambassador presented to his host the ultimatum.

The demand was to capitulate and all pirate fleets destroyed and the council surrender to the Admiral of the Momo Fleet at Port Aquila.

War had come to Port Aquila.

©2015 Dash McCallen

The Pirate Kingdom: 7. Pirate High Council

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7. Pirate High Council

In the chambers of the Council of Outworlds. Referred by the Momo Empire as the Pirate Realms. This name, embraced as the unofficial title of the united planets. Originally a hegemony with the first colonized planets, it since evolved into the confederation of kingdoms and constitutional princedoms. Each ran as a small empire of its own. A few republics and some monarchies and all were at peace with one and another.

A tenuous peace existed with the empire. The King of the largest of the Pirate Governments, a hybrid-human that had been childhood friends with the, then, crown prince of the Momo. Initially a hereditary monarchy, the two princes developed an infection from the synthetic virus of the Csu Wars. Bio warfare of the Csu had forced the medical emergencies to use a variety of animals for making the vaccine against the virus.

In the end, the geneticists even used lobsters for their immune systems, a vaccine to which few people received the experimental antigen with unexpected results. A mortality rate of infected who received the antigen was unacceptably high. Those that lived had a unique result.

They stopped aging.

In the years that followed, two princes followed their own paths. In the outworld kingdom the King abdicated and withdrew from administrative life. Some said he had gone to a planet that was fully off the grid and would only accept a very few visitors.

In the years that followed, the free and outlying worlds organized, becoming well-known to trade back and forth with each other. Explorers discovered raw materials and scientists of these new worlds developed technology to extract the needed minerals.

The greatest discovery in the Kingdom of Nebulas, the center of the Pirate Confederacy and the seat of power. They discovered how to stabilize hydrogen into a metal and use the material for structural needs and even, rumors implied, in their ships of the line.

Huge ships that looked like cargo-haulers. But the mass of these ships kept them from being picked up as dreadnoughts of space. Heavy weapons were light in weight and did not trigger sensors immediately, a pirate’s theme from long years past. Sneaking in so close,  prey does not time to mount a defense.

Xenon based weapons and rapid charge helical-rail guns. They earned reputations as builders of the best and speediest ships around.

Once upon a time, they cooperated and helped with the Momo Empire  design a huge ship, a heavy battleship that could lay waste to a planet with a single broadside of it’s multi-barreled weapons. Carrying more small fighters, it was a capital ship of multi-capable tasks. Part fighter-carrier, part dreadnought. The huge vessel was more ship bow to stern than some countries were long, a hundred gun turrets to a side, the design ship-builders considered it the most complex ever built. Abandoned by the Pirate confederation, the empire continued to build them without the support of the pirate patch wearing scientists.

However the disagreement between the Momo and the Pirate Royals over the safety of the ship caused the pirates to pull out of the development and take much of their designs with them. The Stellar class battleship was second to none.

Expensive in the extreme to build, the Momo scientists and engineers were only able to build four of them.

Plus one in secret, exclusively for the Emperor’s family. Ten engines, able to reach speeds of most of the other cargo ships could not reach.

Over the years, the rift between the Hegemony and the Empire grew. With the threat of annexation of the systems, the loose collection of kingdoms came together and wrote articles of confederation. The communities become cooperative entities. the pirate confederation kept evolving into a society of free thinkers and more closely intertwined.

Rogers was of the Gorgon’s Kingdom.  Named by the first King after the defeated creature that he defeated some three-hundred years before.

Gorgon’s Kingdom, among ninety-two others spread over a mapped area seventy-five percent of the size of the Momo Empire. Each with a fleet with combined numbers greater than the Empire.

This was a reason that the Empire had to make the worlds their own, the freedom of the people was an anathema to the worship of the only deity allowed by the ruling theologians. Attempting to sway politics and impose their influence other worlds governments with espionage only caused those the Momo called pirates to unite more tightly for a common defense against the Empire.

Conflicts and disagreements led to the Guild Trade Wars. The United Pirates Confederation in years following showed that despite the size of the Momo Empire, the smaller and, largely unexplored region of space and independent states that were then labeled progressively from “Outworlders”, then “Outlaws”, then Pirates. The last title embraced fully by the largest and oldest kingdom of traders. Free people who lived on twenty-score planets, willing to stand up for each other.

The Great King of the royal pirates, before his abdication — his retirement — Spoke before the high council of fifty-kingdoms.

“Pirates they call us? Pirates we are. From now on, Buccaneer, Pirate, Privateers are welcome to stand with us to a common defense. To freedom everywhere. Stand up and raise a voice against the rape of our resources and raw materials. Of people everywhere who choose to live out from under the boot of the Empire’s enforced religion. For We, The Free People declare in a single voice, WE ARE PIRATES!”

The war continued for years, until the battle of R136, where the combined fleets of the confederation still found themselves outnumbered by the Empire fleet nearly by double.

Still, the tactics around the super massive star negated the superior numbers of the Momo Empire. The future king continued to pace back and forth in the approaching victory.

“To crush the empire would be to risk more than war. The Emperor and I have a friendship.” He pulled at his ear and worried.

With that, the Pirate Prince called for a meeting with the Emperor. Days of meetings resulted, with commanders and leaders, admirals and officers all in the entourage that followed the two leaders. After long hours of speeches and plans for peace, finally the leaders of fleets and warriors went behind closed doors with bottles of wine, cheeses and bread. Coming out days later.

They had slept in their seats. Called each other names, joked about past adventures, gotten drunk with each other, laughed with each other, swore at each other, yelled, slept and wept.

In the end.

Peace.

For two hundred years, the truce had held, treaties written, becoming a peace with unguarded borders. Trade even began to spring up.

But now after the destruction of so much, in so many places, was successfully averted. Sparing tens of thousands, perhaps millions of lives.

Until this report of the Empire violating the truce and treaty.

Port Aquila, the outpost closest to the border systems, sent an encoded message to the red dwarf system, the seat of the high council of pirates.

In response to the information that the fleet of the Momo Empire, outpost sensors detected in the area, the message received and understood and the High Council sent a task force to counter the threat.

The High King was coming to Port Aquila.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 3. Investigation

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Facet 3. Investigation

Teams from the four ships went through the Seraph. Shattered metal from high-speed projectiles littered the floor. Here and there, tables overturned, cargo containers upended and used as barricades. Smoking bodies showed the futility of the resistance.

Edged weapons were in evidence, indicating that pitched hand to hand combat had been widespread. The raiders took to using combat swords that strongly resembled those used by the Pirate’s of the outlands.

“Pirates? This is not their way!” The first officer of the Copper Nugget commented over the intercom system between teams.

She picked up a slim bladed sword that glittered with cruel, hair-thin barbs. Wider at the tip, the single edge serrated in a way that promised hideous wounds.

“This is Royal Pirate style! Damn them! I don’t know why this would happen!” Lieutenant-Commander Pollux’s voice took an edged of anger. “They demand a tax, then slaughter and rob?”

Captain Alexandra walked through in her armored entry suit. “Life support systems are nearly repaired. We should be able to…” and pressed a button.

The lights illuminated and ventilation of the air began.

Emergency lights flashed on a panel, they were venting atmosphere in the bridge somewhere.

Four of the repair crew found where a railgun had blown a hole the size of a fist in the outer hull. Nearly a meter thick of Fendrik Alloy, it was exceptionally tough material that could absorb radiation and meteor impacts without appreciable damage. Very durable and widely used in the boomer ships.

The crews failed to find Captain Metrano’s body. Fine-object scans allayed worries that the attacking force ejected Captain Metrano out into space, scans performed for dozens of kilometers around the ship, searching for his body. Several bodies were found within a few hundred yards but it appeared they had not been forced out of any airlocks. The bodies showed signs that the force of venting atmosphere sucked victims out during explosive decompression.

“Captain to the Alexandra” As the master of the big ship called over the communicator that hung on her shoulder. “Contact the nearest Pirate Hegemony outpost and ask if they had any ships in the area.”

Releasing the mic, she looked at the first officer. “We have to find out if there was anyone in the area. The PH has more information on movements than any one kingdom. If a pirate was here, the best odds is the PH will know who it was.”

“The log said they were in Imperial ships.” First mate Modoc of the Fireball said. His handheld readout reflected off his eyes as he read the transcript.

“Until we can get verification of what is written, at the moment it is all preliminary and we cannot settle this with the conflicting evidence. A written account and then we have pirate weapons stuck in some of these crews. ” One of the Seraph’s engineers pointed out. “Until I can get the computers data banks back online and we get access to the sensor logs.”

“Agreed. We need to return to the ships and organize the information thus far recovered. The confederacy of buccaneers will wish to take charge of the investigation of this crime.” Communications officer Kitt had brought up over the intercom system while he worked under the flooring with the internal data storage units.

“Negative. We are the only ones here. My ship is the most advanced and has the complete facilities to perform a preliminary investigation of the attack. If any of the pirate kingdoms or clans wish to get involved they have to establish their jurisdiction. ” The communicator buzzed in their ears.

“Copy, no need to get short on the radio. You have the more current equipment. But the Buccaneers and Pirates normally have the best of everything.”

“They have been contacted already.” A voice unrecognized as any member of the Fireball. Those that had readouts did not recognize the transponder codes.

Captain Alexandra keyed up her communicator “Crewman, identify yourself, you do not have a transponder address that is on the crew manifest.”

“No surprise captain, as we are not in the ship, we are outside. You should find three extra ships logged into your little network and we have assigned ourselves identifier codes.”

“They have?” The distracted voice of Carla Qualy as she was running file scans of the memory core.

“Yes they have, we have three ships pulling up outside now. Fireball has announced the arrival of the pirates first.” Captain Alexandra spoke. “I’ll be having a word with my ship’s security about this, we have better scanners than the Fireball.”

A collective “Ooh.” came from the several teams over the com network.

Outside three medium-sized ships with crossed lightning bolts and a forward facing skull painted on the side approached and stopped a short ways away from the confab of ships and the smoking wreck.

Leading the way, the ship Thunderbolt came into visual range.

The pirate fleet had arrived.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 2. Incursion

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Facet 2. Incursion Investigated

Thunderbolt, Thunder Child and the Lightning made up the three ship strike-team. To call the lightning a ship was almost an error. it was a flying weapon. More akin to a giant gun with engines.

Thunderbolt was a broad, fast, ship with twin engines, rotary cannons fore and aft. She had bays along the underside and top of the ship to launch light fighters and interceptors. In effect, a small battle-base, but still an effective warship in its own right.

Thunder Child, the third, middle-sized ship. Carrying the latest in weapons systems. It was capable of producing a huge amount of energy and the phased array energy weapons were terrifying. Swift and sly, the ship could cloak like the other three, but with more power to conceal itself, it could get much closer before opening fire in such a way that few ships could mount any resistance. It was the way of the pirate, get a drop on someone and take a ship without a shot.

And these ships were capable of many, many shots.

This was the pirate fleet and the Pirate Kingdoms were the undisputed power in this area.

Several small shuttle pods detached from the ships and made their way to the wreck, docking to the airlocks that had not been damaged, doors opened with grating sounds from damaged hardware revealing the dark clad teams who stood at the threshold.

“I am Commander Che of the Thunderbolt. My associates, Commanders Centari and Jacking. Their teams and mine are here to assist you. And you are Captain…..?”

“Captain Phoenix Alexandra of the ship Alexandra the Great.” she held out her hand.

The pirate took the hand. “Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

“Granted, but it is not my ship. The ship belongs to Captain Metrano.”

“Iridium Metrano?”

“The same.” She looked at the Commander. “You know him?”

“Aye, he has recently traded medical supplies to our ship some time ago. Our business with him was very agreeable. We enjoy trade with him often.” Che looked around the entry. Pits of projectiles and burns from directed energy discharges overlapped on the walls and bulkheads. There had been a desperate, pitched battle inside the merchantman.

The crews returned to the Alexandra and met in the briefing room. The pirates walked in and sat down together with one of them looking around from the Lightning.

“This is one big damned ship. This room is bigger than all our crews quarters, combined!” Commander Centari whispered to Jacking who nodded, when the Pirate Captains walked in.

The Pirate Kingdom: Facet 1. War against Empire

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Note: This is a concept story that came out of my head. Might not be developed.

The Winged Sword

 Facet I.

In the outer reaches of the systems, the cargo ship Seraph shuddered as he pushed the engines to the limit. The Captain, Iridium Metrano was twelve years its master. He loved the position. Out away from the worlds, trading with the different outworld’s. It was a great life, an adventurous one. Pirates, traders, empires, rogue black holes that were uncharted.

 And the lovers in each port. Captain “Eye” (as his crew called him with affection) slipped a soft, secret smile into his morning as he recalled the last port of call.

 One Captain he had met a year before and had kept in touch with the woman adventurer in a virtual world of “Spacelife” for the out-system shippers. She was… Fun.

 An alert light at the navigators position lit up, bringing the Captain out of his pleasant memory. It had been an uneventful trip thus far, well more than half-done. This trip was to be well profitable with their trading for a pure solvent and coolant purchased at Storis for a pittance. One-hundred thousand metric tons of oxidane and another ten-thousand metric tons of oxane — oxidane binary solution. The bottom line would be very profitable. The biggest problem was more of the fact that the cargo was not as dense or compact as it could be. The danged stuff was potentially hazardous.

 As a solid it could fracture bulkheads if the cold of space got to the loads. In the gaseous state, the potential of lethal burns was very real. It took only a little of it to be inhaled to cause health problems up to and including death.

 Handled properly? It was very safe. But bulky. At a kilogram per cubic meter, it was a lot of cubic meters. The engines strained with the Alcubierre drive doing it’s best to contain the volume of the mass. The weight was not a serious problem, it was the volume that kept the warp bubble unstable.

 For the twenty-fifth time the intercom beeped on the captain’s headset from the engineering department, another complaint from Engineer Lockesly from the outworld systems. He was closed about what he was doing on a boomer.

 The colloquial names of the big cargo ships. Long lost to history, the name boomers had a long and proud tradition. Occasionally called outlaws or even pirates. They did not rob, but did strive for freedom on the shipping lanes outside the empires rule.

 Another light on the navigator’s panel lit. A proximity alert. Something had entered the ship’s sensor range.

 Sir! Incoming electromagnetic pulse!” Yelled the weapons officer. “It’ll knock out or drives!”

 The worst had happened, the warp bubble collapsed and they dropped to normal space. Seraph was built as a very tough ship, but the sudden change in speed put the entire ship under strain. Noises and groans as the ship held together as the structure was strained to the limit.

 “Incoming message.” Kitt the burly male human-siberian tiger hybrid whose arms were more the size of most men’s legs with shoulders to match. Kitt would laugh and say that the only exercise he ever did was to lift a beer to his lips and pour. His striped white fur so very fine on his skin, it gave him a look that glistened in the light.

 “Prepare to be boarded.” was the only message as impacts of weapons fire lit up the weapons officer’s panel.

 “They are hitting the hanger doors, Sir!”

 “Hail them! Tell them to stand down, we surrender.” The Captain responded.

 But it was too late.

Facet II. Captain’s Log Found

 The pinging of the emergency beacon, detected on the coded sub-channel by the incoming rescue ship. A channel often used by Boomer’s when wanting to keep conversations out of the ears of pirates or empire raiders.

 The cargo ship power section, that included crew’s quarters and medical facilities responded. Leaving their cargo orbiting a planet, the good ship “Katrina” was pushing her graviton engines to the maximum while relaying the beacon’s coördinates to other cargo-haulers in the area. The “Copper Nugget” was responding but was a half-day away at full speed.

 Another ship answered the call for help, from the distant outlands. “Fireball Express” was pushing its Alcubierre drive until they reported that they had set a personal speed record and would be there shortly after the Katrina. The Seraph was going to have all the help she could use.

 The super-cargo hauler “Alexandra the Great” had dropped its load in the orbit of a gas giant and was responding. Known as one of the most modern superships in the lanes. The captain was a good friend of Captain Metrano.

 “Keep it to the wall Mr. Tox. I don’t want to lose a single heartbeat to the clock.” Captain Phoenix Alexandra, owner and operator on this mission. Her own messages had alerted her company and all ships were responding to the broadcast location of the Seraph.

 A few hours after the ships had arrived in the area. Evidence of a violent battle had taken place on the Seraph. The ship’s log by Captain Metrano had been found.

 Facet III. Captains log:

 

We are under attack, hanger doors were hit first when we dropped out of light-speed.  The first attack has disabled our dorsal engine (number-2 engine) and the warp field collapsed. We hove to and signaled that we were just a merchant ship.  No injuries initially but they shot their way through the hangar doors.  Crews set up defensive positions but we have only minor weapons and cannot hold out.

 

Markings on the ships involved show them to be of the Momo Empire, we have identified one as a capital ship of the DreadStar class.  We sent a general distress call but they have jammed all frequencies. We do not know who have answered and if any are en route with help, but they will be too late I fear.  We will try to hold out, but our ship is no match for Imperial weapons. They have blown holes through the doors and pushing through out of the hanger.  They are assaulting the cargo area where we are carrying twelve-thousand units of Oxonium in armored containers for trade to the Oriak Mining Syndicate as coolant that they desperately need.  

Captain’s Log final entry:

I sent a message to the Pirate Hegemony, but there is none that is close enough to answer in the time on the channels I have used. All other communications are down, I have no other access for standard frequencies. How this will pan out, I will only ever wish and hope against all odds,  it is too late we have lost the ship.  I have been sending out surrender message on all channels but no response….

They have broken through the below decks and have taken over. They are attacking up the stairs, there is no time to finish. I will launch this log to outside the ship with a beacon.

Tell my family I was going home for the holidays. Tell them I love them.

They are coming.

 

Iridium Metrano  

Captain and Master of the Merchant ship Seraph

 

Facet 3. Investigation

 

Teams from the four ships went through the Seraph. Shattered metal from high speed projectiles littered the floor. Here and there, overturned tables lay about, cargo containers upended and used as barricades. Smoking bodies were testament to the futility of the resisting crew.

 Edged weapons were in evidence of a very pitched hand to hand combat had been widespread. The raiders had taken to using combat swords that strongly resembled those used by the Pirate’s of the outlands.

 “Pirates? This is not their way!” The first officer of the Copper commented over the intercom system between teams.

 She picked up a slim bladed sword that glittered evilly. Wider at the tip, the single edge, serrated in a way that promised hideous wounds.

 “This is Royal Pirate style! Damn them! I don’t know why this would happen!”

 Captain Alexandra walked through with her armored entry suit. “Life support systems are nearly repaired. We should be able to…”

 The lights illuminated and ventilation of the air began.

 Emergency lights flashed on a panel, they were venting atmosphere in the bridge somewhere.

Four of the repair crew found where a railgun had blown a hole the size of a fist in the outer hull. Nearly a meter thick of Fendrik Alloy, it was exceptionally tough material that could absorb radiation and meteor impacts without appreciable damage. Very durable and widely used in the boomer ships.

Captain Metrano remained MIA. Worries that he was ejected out into space by the raiders nagged at the rescue teams, but laid to rest when they performed micro-fine object scans for dozens of kilometers around the ship. Several bodies were found within a few hundred yards but it appeared they had not been forced out of any airlocks. They showed signs of being sucked out the holes during explosive decompression.

“Captain to the Alexandra.” As the master of the big ship called over the communicator that hung on her shoulder. “Contact the nearest Pirate Hegemony outpost and request if they had any ships in the area.”

Releasing the mic, she looked at the first officer. “We have to find out if there was anyone in the area. The PH has more information on movements than any one kingdom. If anyone was here, the best odds are the pirates know who it was.”

 “The log said they were in Imperial ships.” First mate Modoc of the Fireball said. His handheld readout reflected off his eyes as he read the transcript.

 “Until we can get verification of what the Captain Metrano recorded, no one can say for certain, right now it is all preliminary and we cannot settle this with the conflicting evidence. A written account and then we have pirate weapons stuck in some of these crewmembers. ” The Katrina’s engineer pointed out. “Until I can get the computers data banks back online and we get access to the sensor logs.”

 “Agreed. We need to return to the ships and organize the information thus far recovered. The confederacy of buccaneers will wish to take charge of the investigation of this crime.” Communications officer Kitt had brought up over the intercom system while he worked under the flooring with the internal data storage units.

 “Negative. We are the only ones here. My ship is the most advanced and has the complete facilities to perform a preliminary investigation of the attack. If any of the pirate kingdoms or clans wish to get involved they have to establish their jurisdiction. ” The communicator buzzed in their ears.

 “Copy, no need to get short on the radio. You have the more current equipment. But the Buccaneers and Pirates normally have the best of everything.”

 “We have contacted them already.” A voice recognized as the second engineer of the Fireball. Those that had readouts recognized his transponder codes.

 Captain Alexandra keyed up her communicator “Crewman, identify yourself, you are not transponder address is not on the crew manifest.”

“No surprise captain, as we are not in the ship, we are outside. You should find 

 “They have?” The distracted voice of Carla Qualy as she was running file scans of the memory core.

 “Yes they have, we have three ships pulling up outside now. firebrand has broadcast their arrival first.” Captain Alexandra spoke. “I’ll be having a word with my ship over this.”

 A collective “OOooo” came from the several teams over the com network.

 Outside three medium-sized ships with crossed lightning bolts and a forward facing skull painted on the side approached and stopped a short ways away from the collection of ships and the smoking wreck.

 The Thunderbolt had arrived.

 

2 Seconds… T-Minus 3 Seconds

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T-Minus 3 Seconds

Twice the moon’s distance from the earth, photons closed the distance to the growing blue and white sphere that destiny had chosen for them. Of the many photons that left the photosphere of Sol, dust, satellites, Van Allen Belt and the associated atomic debris entrapped around the earth’s radiation belt, while many photons reflected off or absorbed by alpha particles, more than half passed through the region.

Alongside the highway, Lucy saw the opening in the traffic and took her foot off of the brake of her German engineered car and pressed on the throttle. Turning the wheel she pulled out across the lanes in an illegal U-turn. It was perfect, a godsend to get on her way.

The big car spoke with its authority and crossed the lanes of traffic…

AND STOPPED! Jamming her foot down on the brake pedal, narrowly missing a car that turned in, she had not seen the turn signal on the old pickup truck driven by an even older man. Then Lucy took her foot off the brake and began roll forward again more slowly, crossing the lanes midway and trying to figure out if she still had enough space to merge it, Looking down the lane of traffic, not enough room, she looked back and realized the headlight of a motorcycle was close.

Too close!

Station 2315 still had the garage doors open, two bays, two type-3 engines with fully stocked first aid sat, now warmed up with the daily checks. Two full crews did maintenance around the property while Captain Thomas watched the disaster set up.

He didn’t wait.

“Hank, hit the alert button!” He yelled at the engineer sitting in the driver’s seat. “There’s an accident going to happen!”

“Where?”

Hank’s eyes followed the captain’s pointing finger as his hand automatically moved to the control panel.

“Ohshit.” He said it as one word. His right hand mashed on the siren button, not pausing to switch the dial to any other setting.

A hundred-yards behind, “The Hammer” Erikssen saw that the rider in front of him did not seem to react to the big German luxury car that pulled out and stopped in front of him. Even from here, he swore he could see the saucer-wide eyes of the little-old-lady that was piloting the rubber and steel cage on wheels.

He yelled a futile warning to the rider and his passenger. But no matter how loud he could yell, it was not humanly possible for Russell to hear the big Norwegian.

A string of Norwegian profanities issued forth while Stonn helplessly watched what was to come.

Lulu spoke of what she planned for dinner, later with the children and pondered what she had in the ice-box. They would sit on the patio after Russell cooked up the chops she had to get cooked or throw out. Russell agreed that it sounded like a good plan and mentally mapped his route home.

Russell turned the throttle up on Gertrude, preparing to change lanes, just checking his mirror and glancing over his shoulder making sure the lane was clear, he noted a large group of riders was behind him. At least ten riders judging from the headlights. Looking ahead again to see the…

CAR!

Tunnel of Darkness Section 3. Challenged

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Section 3. Challenged

 

Data incoming, the Seraph was on a defensive footing, reporting that the perimeter was under assault and the hospital ship was using all non-lethal means to keep the killing and marauders  at bay. Each group claiming a holy right to kill anyone they deem unworthy of life.

Those wounded that approached with hands up and asking for help, they treated without hesitation, but the armed militias required the Seraph to raise shields.

Those wounded that did not move inside the perimeter before the hospital ship powered up, became stranded. The mob murdered dozens full view of those that swore to treat life as precious. To help and aid, to use wisdom for the healing of those that needed and asked, however they could only watch.

One technician thought to send a message to the rescue teams. The was closed. 

Safsy read the data as it came over the terminal and shook his head.

“James, we have a problem. Exit is cut off.”

“Well, this makes it a lot more difficult. Secondary zone, then. Tell them we’re heading that way now with an ETA of fifteen.” The pilot read his navigation display.  “We will need to take the long way on the water, might be choppy because of a breeze, but it will be safer.”

“Plotting now.” The Colonel looked over the live sat-nav display.  “James, we will head into a large group boats that are moving between us and the secondary, how if we do the tertiary?”

“Negative, that is an hour away as the crow flies and I cannot promise you a straight line.”

“Defense systems up then.” Safsy tapped the smooth panel, powering up the protective hardware.

“Do you have training on the defense systems?” James asked.  He was well versed in the protective hardware of the hover-hybrid, but his task now was to get them to the hospital ship. 

“Minimal, I know how to use the electric hull defense.”

“Excellent! That one’s difficult. We have also noxious gas. Just remember, there is a limited amount of that. The only resource we have in abundance is electricity.”

“Noxious…?”

“Specifically, it is a skunk oil. And not the nice kind, either. This is a mercaptan that they concentrated in the worst possible way and a permanent pink dye.” James laughed. “It can be detected by a human nose in one-part per quadrillion. If you get doused in this stuff, you will be easy to sniff out, and you will be a color that does not exist in nature and lonely.”

“Wow, pungent and pink.” The Colonel gave a grim laugh. “Should be easy to find, they would be alone.” 

“Yes, press the button on that, yell and I will be moving this crate. I want clear out of the area before the canisters discharge, that crap is hell to scrub off the paint and no one wants it in the hangar.”

“Then we are leaving. We have an hour of travel.” Safsy ordered.

“Yes, sir. And Colonel? There is a marsh nearby that leads out over the water, we can move over that and be clear of any crowds, I just cannot navigate this glorified shanty-town.”

“I’m ahead of you, working on an exit route now.” The Colonel spoke into the man-to-man mike. He spoke in relaxed tones with the pilot. “Direction and speed on your display now.” 

“I’m heading away from the groups, to some lower buildings. These skyscrapers around here are an advantage for anyone wanting to take a shot at us.” James said, dust of impacting projectiles were visible across the path they just covered.  But the shots were wide and hit ground in the distance.  They were just shooting wild in their  direction.

“Engage, put distance between us and the rioters.” Safsy had seen the puffs of dirt nearly a thousand paces behind them and did not wish to waste time.

The hovercraft was steady as it moved over the marsh. Surgery continued in the operating theater as the craft navigated the open area.

Saving the wounded pilot continued as the teams repaired the insult to the pilot’s body. The lead surgeon ordered that the moving emergency room be shown more care or cause the surgeon to become unhappy when James and the Colonel headed out over the water where the craft began to sway unacceptably.

“O.R. to the Colonel. We are working back here, please keep the rocking down to a gentle quake.” It was “Stormy” Knight, six-feet tall of surgeon that was frightening when she became angry. She had no tolerated no interference when it came to caring for her patients.

Sensors beeped and displayed information.

“Seraph is passing overhead. They’ll land on the other side and extract us there.”

“Outstanding.” James sounded pleased as they crossed from the open water back to the marsh area, the rocking motion of the hovercraft subsided. “Thank you for that info.”

In full hovercraft mode over mud and reeds , the surgical team in the operating room remained undisturbed as they repaired the shrapnel filled wounds of the pilot.

Approaching the Seraph, it was a bittersweet end to the mission. The Colonel achieved a successful mission resolution, inwardly pleased as they arrived at the hospital ship. Deploying the tank treads, James rolled them up the ramp into the hangar and powered down the engines once they were safely inside.

The melancholy set in as this would probably be the last time he would head out.

The wounding of the pilot created questions that they required to answer for. Safsy would be held responsible for injuries of the pilot, perhaps relieved of duty.  It was the way of the corporation. 

Downloading the logs into the larger ship’s memory, Safsy shut down the on board computers and stood up, stretching. He needed some fresh air, it would probably be the last time to do so while wearing a uniform.

Walking off the ramp of the Seraph, Colonel Safsy stood on the soil of Sapphire with his hands in his pockets and inhaled the breeze that blew gently into his face.

It was a nice planet, perhaps they could become a tourist destination. Safsy shrugged inwardly.

“COLONEL! Watch out!”  Shouted  a hanger technician.

Safsy looked around and saw a sentry drone with a projectile weapon locked on to him, this was not alarming, corporate drones operated with programing to follow commands of anyone wearing the ID badge with the chip in it.

“Drone! Disarm, power down.” Safsy ordered while approaching. For a moment, it seemed that the machine was turning away when it fired with a strange buzzing sound, blowing a hole in the Colonel’s chest.

The buzzing sound echoed in his dying brain.

Darkness was all around him, the insistent buzzing was annoying, the last sound he would hear in this life.

Yawning, the webs of the dream faded and the Colonel wondered why the buzzing reminded him of a gun.

“Incident assigned.” They received a dispatch to the planet Sapphire for victims of riots. The most violent planet in the outer systems.

Colonel Safsy Gliese sighed, he wished someone would shoot him. 

Arrows of Time: Short story rewrite.

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Section 1. Rough Landing

The energy wave came out of deep space. At one time it was a gravity wave and it registered as such, except that it was beyond the ability for read-outs to display properly. Only using arcane exponent figures, it was not difficult to decide — after the curiosity factor spiraled into…

Screams…

“Shields!” Captain Soofy yelled before the wave hit. “Shields!”

But the shields, strong as they were, were woefully inadequate for the gathered energy being pushed in front of the wave. Warning alarms blared.

“Hold on to something, this is going to hurt!”

Impact!

Then pain, darkness and silence.

His Royal Highness, Prince Bren U’Maile of the Pirate Confederation could hear nothing. He was numb in his face, but pain crept in, waking him from a dream.

An alarm klaxon blared…

Prince Bren hurt in his shoulders as when his bigger cousins had tried to pull out his arms when he was very young.

Bren opened his eyes, a sticky goo covered his right eye and he touched his face.

Blood. He was injured.

No. It was Nician’s blood, his best friend and cousin, they had struck heads and Nician’s nose was broken, bleeding like a hose.

Captain Soofy had grabbed Bren and was holding on to him as they tumbled, Nician Soofy was badly hurt but was hanging on to Bren U’Maille with an inhuman grip powered by his surge of survival instinct.

They tumbled across the ceiling of the bridge towards the nose of the warship.

Bren could see Nician’s lips move but he could not hear any sound in his numbed brain, the sound slowly began to register.

“…spin! We need to get control!” Nician was shouting. “Bren! We are in an inverted flat spin!”

A flat spin, in space it was a minor inconvenience while they would gain control.

This could not be that easy. Struggling to waken from his concussion, Bren could see the horizon of the planet they were near was spinning in and out of view— they falling into the planet’s gravity well.

“Flat spin! Bren, wake up! I cannot hold you!” Nician yelled. “Bren!”

“I’m awake. I have a rail, get to the helm!” Bren said. “Computer. Emergency stabilize.”

Silence.

“Computer systems are down.” The bloodied navigation officer Lt. Yoa said. A member of the elite Pirate Raider force, she rarely raised her voice. Some said to get her to smile was an accomplishment. To get her to panic was impossible.

“We have lost power to critical systems!” She was yelling now, and not because it was loud in the bridge.

“Need to get to a hardline.” Nician said. “Independant power.”

Prince Bren began to climb up the floor. The flat, inverted spin of the big ship made floors into walls. The crazed world, altered by centripetal forces made the climb a challenge.

Klaxons shut down suddenly and the silence was deafening. If the crew was not struggling for footholds on floor and ceiling, all would be quiet and calm.

Profanities and grunts as the command and navigation crews struggled to get into position. The helm officer dangled from his seat restraints limply. No one could tell if he was unconscious or dead.

While he climbed up, Captain Soofy grunted and pulled on the Prince as they leapfrogged along the vertical floor-come-wall.

“It’s only about six-tenths gravity, we are lucky it’s not more.” Bren said.

“Yup. But the rotation rate is increasing. We are going to fly apart if we don’t stop her from spinning.”

“Agreed..ugh! That’s my face.” Bren said as they used each other to climb on.

“Sorry. Next stop, helm.” The Captain said. “Looks like you will be up, I’ll crawl over to navigation.”

“Aye.”

The two cousins struggled with climbing over each other, Bren finally grunted over the edge of the navigation station.

“Ensign Wills! Wake up.” Prince Bren shouted and shook the helm officer. “He’s alive, but he has a nasty head injury.”

“Right. Let’s get him in a spot where he is safe.” The two men struggled with limp officer and finally got him wedged in place.

The prince tapped the communications button on the panel in front of him. Prince Bren bent over awkwardly with the increasing spin making the nose of the big ship “Down” from their position.

“Engineering! Flat spin, we are in an inverted flat spin. Helm is not responding.”

“Engineering here. Bridge apologies! All systems have rebooted, we have another two minutes to get the core computer online before we can reset anything from down here.”

“We are out of service for another two minutes? We will be in the stratosphere in thirty-seconds!”

“Bridge. You can reset systems locally there. Each system is independent. You have reset options on the command chair, helm and navigation.”

“Copy, what is the sequence?” Bren yelled. “We have to do it quick, we have increased our felt G’s to double normal gravity.”

“Afirmative bridge, we have it showing here. We are increasing felt gravity by zero-point-eight G’s per minute.”

“Yeah. I feel it, we are over two-point-zero now.”

“Sequence on reboot. Press the red button and hold for four-seconds all the buttons will illuminate then blue-blue-red, it will ask to confirm then green.”

“Engineering, this is Soofy, I have it up, I will code the reboot.”

“Acknowledged Captain.”

“Seriously? We don’t have that much time. Who the hell designed four-seconds?”

“Your dad.” Soofy answered with a flat tone.

“Oh great, I am going to have a talk with him if we survive.”

Tapping in the code into the illuminated console, lights came back on and gravity systems reset.

“Okay, gravity and inertial damper are online at zero-point-two gee-per-second.” Captain Soofy said.

“Excellent.” Bren said, as he  stood on the floor, then sat at the helm control and began to tap commands into the console. “Helm is responding, I am stopping the spin with reaction jets. We are still without power and are falling, but everyone will have command with their area’s.”

“Engineering to bridge.” The familiar voice of the Hawaiian chief engineer. “Whoever stopped the spin, good job! Our life just got easier down here.”

“We still need power, we’re inverted and falling into the planet still but at least we are not in a flat-spin. I am rolling into a conventional flying attitude and I’ll deploy landing gear.”

“Uh sir, with all due respect, but this ship is not really built for performance in an atmosphere.”

“Understood, but we taken a hell of a beating and if you cannot give me engines, we are not going to get to escape velocity and out into orbit.”

“Copy that, I cannot promise you engines in the next few minutes. We have all other systems coming online. Engines have been reset as well.”

“We are in control, just out of power. Why did all systems reboot?” Ensign Robert Wills asked as he got unsteadily to his feet.

“That gravity wave had a charge to it. The computer shut down to prevent damage.” Bren said. “I remember that from some plans of the designs that. We could have had a reactor overload.”

“Request permission to return to my post.” A bloodied Ensign Wills stood up.

“I stand relieved, but let us get you a replacement and you report to sick-bay as soon as possible. Dude, you were out like a light.” Prince Bren chuckled.

“Yes, sir.”

“Bridge to engineering,” Soofy called. ”We have attitude control but no directional navigation. We have stopped the spin, but we are going into the atmosphere. ETA on Engines?”

“Engineering to bridge. Cold restart procedures are in effect.”

“Okay, how long, chief?” The Captain asked.

“Five minutes, tops.”

Captain Soofy leaned over to the bleeding but recovering helm officer.

“How long do we have?”

“I figure three minutes.” Ensign Wills said. “Tops.”

“Chief, you gave a power ETA about two minutes longer than we have. Can we get partial power?”

“Nician, I just don’t have it.”

Prince Bren tapped on a calculator and nodded to himself.

“Nician, we can slow our fall with reactive thrusters at emergency override maximum.” Bren read his figures. 

“Bare enough power. I would be happier with a zero point 5 better thrust. But these units are not built for that.” The Captain was ahead of his cousin.

“Can they produce it? It is not like we have a lot of choices, they produce it, or near. Or… Or… we crater.” Bren was looking for a way to not sound hysterical. He stood there with his black ceramic armor on, looking heroic, but in his head, he was in a panic and ran in circles.

“They can produce it but for a short period, we would have to replace them.”

“We will need to replace them anyway with emergency override.”

“Aye, true enough. Okay, helm, I am giving you the override codes.”

“Override’s got a hell of a workout today.” The helm officer said without humor.

“Speed?” Bren asked.

“One-twenty meters per second and slowing.”

“Nician, safe landing speed?”

“Maximum of twelve meters per second, we are one order of magnitude over that.”

“Well, that is just about to ruin my whole day. Set the reactive thrusters and engage, keep them going until they burn out and we crash or land.” Bren said.

“Already below the triple digits in descent. Ninety meters-per-second.” The navigator said

“Captain? Time to impact?”

“Well, with the rate of deceleration it is not a straight…”

“Time to impact?” Bren interrupted.

“Three point five minutes.” Captain Soofy answered. “Subject to change.”

“Time to safe landing speed?”

“Three point two minutes.” The helm answered.

“Pfft, we are all over this.”

“Selected land looks like a shallow grade to a body of water three-thousand kilometers across, sensors show a high salinity and depth exceeding one-hundred meters near the shoreline.”

“An ocean.”

“Aye, sire.” Ensign Wills said. “We are in a trajectory to set down about one kilometer from the water, plus or minus six-hundred meters.”

“Why such a wide field?”

“Deceleration is not a constant.”

“Copy that.”

“Speed?”

“Fifty meters-second and decreasing.”

“Altitude?” Bren asked from his command chair.

“One-thousand meters and falling. Sir, the braking has dropped off.”

“Captain?”

“We have burned out ten-percent of our thrusters. The deceleration is not a constant.”

“Damn.” Bren was no longer smug in his assessment of being “All over this.” He was worried. “Can we compensate.”

“Negative, there is no more to give.” Soofy tapped on his command panel.

“Sirs, we have sensor data,” Orion said from the helm. “The ground we are approaching has a high water content. It’s a delta marsh.”

“Change vector, find some solid land.” The Captain ordered.

“Aye-aye.”

“Bren, divert power from life support to ship integrity field. Take all power you can find and brace up the ship for impact.” The Captain turned to the helm. “Eta to ground.”

“Twenty seconds.”

Pressing a button on his headset for ship-wide communication, it failed to connect to the central computer that was still down, causing Nician Soofy to cover his face with the palm of his hand while he growled, then the Captain jumped to his command seat and press the button on the speaker built into the command panel.

“All stations all stations, prepare for a hard landing, impact fifteen seconds.”

“Bren to engineering, ETA on power?”

“Longer than we have, Sire.” The chief engineer answered. “At least ninety seconds, I can get you power for hull and frame integrity. Diverting power now. I have increased power to dampers with what we have.”

“Impact five seconds.” Helm called.

“Anything you can get us, engineering.” The Captain interjected then asked. “Helm, speed?”

“Eighteen meters-per-second. Four seconds.”

“Bren, anything else you can do, burn them out.”

“This is going to be hard. All stations, all stations, brace for impact.” The Captain’s voice echoed into every corner of the Peacemaker.

“Two seconds!”

“One…”

The impact of the struggling ship overwhelmed the systems, in a tail-low approach, the right-rear landing gear touched first, sinking into the soft marsh of the delta, compressing the wet, springy soil underneath. The nose gear touched second on firmer soil. The roll of the ship, worsened with the rebound, throwing the right side of the ship high while the left of the ship sank into the soil.

The Peacemaker was rolling over with no life-support or artificial gravity. Screams of the unrestrained  echoed in the bridge as they tumbled around inside the ship.

The only ones wearing a seat belt of any sort was Captain Soofy, the Helm officer Yoa and Ensign Wills. Lieutenant. Sifa Yoa had already been injured once and was not taking another hit if she could help it.

Prince Bren not so restrained, thrown out of his seat, hit and tried to hold onto a strut, cursing the high quality of the ship’s finish, he had no corners to hang on and then thrown as the Peacemaker continued to roll. Thrown to his back and lights sparkled behind his eyes when he hit his head on a control panel that tore free and his consciousness faded.

Darkness came as the Peacemaker continued its roll, ending back on the landing gear with one last, violent, impact.

Blessed oblivion held the prince in the arms of darkness.

Nician was less fortunate, he stayed awake during the terror of the ground coming up and hitting the football-field long warship.

Thrusters were pushing two-hundred percent of maximum, Nician reduced thrust on the starboard thrusters to level the ship— but it was not enough.

The shock of the sight of his cousin and prince sailing across the bridge as they inverted during the roll. Bren hit and bounced off the ceiling with a yell and hit a panel as the big ship continued to turn over, the prince’s ceramic armor clattering has he tumbled around the ship.

The Peacemaker gave one slow-motion pause as they tilted three-quarters through a full rotation, Bren’s only purchase with his fingertips was not made to hold against any weight, broke loose and dropped Bren on the floor. A heavy section of the broken panel that landed on top of the prince with a sound of a loud thud under the sapphire-glass display.

For the longest second in his life, Nician hung at an awkward angle out of his command chair— this was worse than if they were at any of the ninety degrees, even upside down would have been…

“HOLD ON!” Orion shouted. “She’s not finished moving!”

Peacemaker gathered speed as it continued her roll, landing violently right side up.

Alarms blared as bodies struggled to stand. Displays flickered for a moment, listed damage to different systems and sensors, then went dark.

The alarms went silent the same time as all lights went out and once again, emergency lighting illuminated the interior of the warship with a ghostly light.

“Report.” Nician moaned, wrenching his back at the last impact.

“All systems are dead. Starting reboot sequence.”

“Thank you Lieutenant.”

Looking around, Bren lay ominously quiet under the heavy, detached display with a growing pool of blood leaking out from his head.

 Then he groaned out a profanity while Nician lifted the panel off his cousin. 

“Remind me to talk to dad about that time-delay.” Bren whispered. Profuse blood coming from his earlobe. 

“Bren, you have an injury.” His cousing pulled up a bandage from the first aid kit. 

“That reminds me, mag-boots on your bridge from now on. I’d rather be stuck than bounce around inside your ship.”

“You are so not hurt. Let’s get you to sick-bay to confirm that.”

Another alarm sounded. On the panel an engineering display came up, the reactor core illuminated in red with the words “Containment Breach.” flashing.

“Oh no. Not now, what else…” Bren said, while reading the words.

“Shut it.” Nician said. “You’ll jinx us.”

The alarm went quiet.

“Engineering to bridge. We have a proper shutdown. Disregard the alarm.”

“Bridge to engineering, you have some folks turning blue up here. We all stopped breathing for a minute.”

“Apologies, Captain. We have some cleanup to do and shutdown procedures to perform. Engineering out.”

“Sickbay for the injured.” Bren adjusted his own bandage.

“We need to inspect my ship for damage from that rollover.”

“The rest of us, too.” Bren nodded. “At least the ships back is not broken.”

“There’s a lot of other things that will keep us grounded. But yes. That is a positive note.”

“Well, let’s get her to rights and get our area surveyed. Whatever we hit that turned us over might also have other surprises.”

“First, you go to sickbay to check that head of yours.  You should’ve been wearing a helmet.”

“Now you turn nanny. Where were you a little while ago?”

Nician laughed and slapped his cousin on the shoulder as the prince walked out.