“Five minutes until that gravity mine would have knocked us out of warp, Skipper,” the Caitian, Arrowstraight, ship’s navigator of the freighter William Tell, reminded her captain. “I still think they failed to properly compute our time dilation at high sub-light speeds.”
Captain Chakat Bluebangs’ smile was grim as shi replied, “And what if someone else also noticed their error? How much more suspicious would they be if we crashed out where they wanted us rather than where their bomb would have dumped us?” Bluebangs tapped a button on hir armrest before saying, “Engineering – are you guys ready?”
The chuckle coming from the chair’s speaker would have worried anyone hearing it for the first time. “We’re ready down here; I’ve even planned a little venting, but we’ll still have full warp power when you ask for it, Skipper.”
With a grin to match the chuckle from engineering, the captain tapped a new key and said, “All hands, this is the captain. This is your three minute warning. We will be dropping rather roughly from warp in three minutes … mark.”
“Where the hell are they?” growled an unpleasant voice.
“Told ya the damn idiot set the timing wrong,” muttered another. “Ought ta space ‘er …”
“If screwing up was grounds for the long walk, you two would have been spaced years ago,” a third voice softly purred, but not so softly that the two in question didn’t shiver in fear.
The captain said no more, her words having had the desired effect on two of her more bloodthirsty crew. Not that she really minded, she could be quite bloodthirsty herself when she had the time and place to truly enjoy herself; but this was business, and bloodthirstiness had need to take a back seat to efficiency and profit.
Then again, there was no profit in setting up an elaborate scheme and have it come to naught. Turning towards her navigator, she raised her voice only slightly and added a bit more frost as she said, “And if you had made an error in your timing, where might we expect them to turn up – and when?”
The navigator had barely started querying her systems when there was a happy yowl from their sensors tech.
“There she is! Ten light minutes out and floundering!” he proclaimed.
“Micro-jump us,” the captain commanded. “No sense doing all this work just to let them avoid our little trap!”
If programming gravity bombs wasn’t the navigator’s forte, micro jumps were and she had the needed instructions keyed into her console in seconds.
The sudden leap into – and even more sudden crash out of – warp was hard on the ship as well as the crew, and the captain nodded in approval as her well trained crew shook off the shock and got ready to take their prize.
Before her was the William Tell, a medium size freighter which was slowly tumbling, as plasma vented from one of its warp nacelles. A well-placed and quite expensive bribe had given her the name of the ship to be carrying Star Fleet replacement parts to a major repair base, including three entire phaser bank arrays and a large complement of missiles. Getting the gravity mine on the William Tell had cost her more that the mine had, but even with the error in timing, it was soon to be credits well spent. The venting told her that there was engineering damage on the freighter and they could take their time opening their new present.
The captain was jolted from her happy thoughts by her sensors tech.
“New contact coming out of warp – quarter light second aft!” he snapped. “Profile matches one of Star Fleet’s damn mini carriers – no ID coming up.”
“Active scan!” the captain snapped back. “Find their damn escort – those things never run solo.”
“I’ve got no trailers, Captain, no other warp distortions in detection range. They were running uncovered!”
The captain’s eyes gleamed; she just loved bonuses that gave her crew more time practicing their bloodlust. “Then we’ll just have to remind them why that’s such a bad idea. Launch the fighters!”
Turning away from the crippled freighter, the pirate ship turned to face the lone carrier, a full dozen fighters falling away from her and pairing up in loose formations before they started to move in for the kill.
The carrier for its part just sat there, as if unsure of what to do with what they’d found. As the pirate fighters closed; one, then two, three, and finally a fourth fighter spilled from the carrier before all their shields started coming up. Two of them paired up, but it seemed they couldn’t decide who should lead. Of the other two, one stayed near its carrier while the other started a long fast arch away from the pirate and her fighters as if they thought they could somehow get behind the pirate ship and surprise it.
“What the hell?” the pirate captain muttered, totally bewildered by what she was seeing. “What can they be thinking? Their only real choice was to stay together or we will destroy them one piece at a time.”
“Captain,” her tactical officer said, “With only four of the eight fighters she should be carrying deployed, and neither they nor the carrier seeming to know anything about attacking or evading – could the freighter’s distress call have brought us a Fleet ship being moved to a new command?”
“With a transport rather than a combat crew manning her? You may just have a point,” she admitted. “Send a pair after that loner, another after their pair. The rest are to disable that carrier and her guardian. This day may prove even more lucrative than I had hoped,” she said with a grin.
All four of the carrier’s fighters had finally gotten their shields up, but they were just coasting, making them easy targets for the pirates who gleefully fired into them. They made another firing pass and watched the shield strength drop, but it wasn’t dropping as fast as it should have for the pounding they were taking. Even more unsettling was the fact that those shields were returning to full strength in the seconds it took for the pirates to come around for another pass.
“Some type of new tech in those shields,” the sensors tech muttered. “Our phasers should have cut them in two by now …”
His captain agreed with him and she wanted even more to capture at least one of those fighters; the value of having or selling that shield technology had pushed the freighter completely out of her mind. “Forget the rest,” she commanded. “I want all fighters to concentrate on the loner. Crash their shields and tow them in! Bring it back as intact as you can.”
Abandoning the rest of the fighters and their carrier, ten pirate fighters joined the two battering the lone fighter.
That fighter was at least jinking around a bit now, but still over ninety percent of the shots aimed at it were striking home. Its shields were dropping faster, but they were also regenerating faster in the slight lulls of fire. Then the pilot must have finally found the phaser control systems because twin beams of energy lanced between two of the attacking pirates. But being able to fire wasn’t translating into hitting as every shot was going wide of the multitude of targets offered up to them by the pirates.
“What in the HELL?!?” the pirate’s tactical officer didn’t quite shout before turning away from his station. “Captain! That thing is firing SHIP grade phasers – not fighter grade weapons!”
“That’s impossible!” his captain snapped back. “Even if they could squeeze them in, there’s no way they could power them!”
“Impossible or not, that thing can match our ship beam per beam, and they’re firing at a higher rate than we could without overheating our systems.”
His captain was looking over her own screens with a growing frustration. She couldn’t plunder the freighter with these damn things at her back. Even with all twelve of her fighters against only one of theirs she wasn’t winning; despite all that firepower against it, the lone fighter’s shields still hadn’t dropped below fifty percent. And she couldn’t just recall her fighters and leave, there was no way that carrier hadn’t gotten a good read on her ship – which meant no port would be safe for them if that carrier made it home to report of this incident.
“Add missiles – kill that damn thing!” she ordered.
Missiles were usually a waste of credits against highly maneuverable fighters, but as poorly as this one had been flying it was well worth a try and a dozen missiles roared into the path of the fighter. For a moment the combined blast hid the fighter from her sensors, and then it slid out of the expanding blast cloud.
“Down to ten percent shields!” she heard one of her fighter pilots cackling in glee. “Let’s do it ag–”
The twin beams from the besieged fighter had burst forth yet again, but this time they had speared out and completely through two of the pirate fighters attacking it. Half a second later another pair of fighters was destroyed, and again and again …
Three seconds after the missile barrage had failed to kill the lone craft and her fighters were no more. “Get us out of here! NOW!” she ordered, but a glance at her tactical screen showed her she had already waited far too long. While she had been staring in disbelief as her fighters were sliced to pieces, the other three carrier fighters had used the distraction to quickly close on her ship.
One of those beams the pirate ship might have easily brushed aside, two with maybe minor damage, three with possibly heavy damage; but no, not six ship grade beams aiming for the same place at the same time. From three different vectors they came, quickly chewing through shields and hull to strike deeply into her engineering section, and the warp core released all of its no longer contained fury into the rest of the ship.
“That was just a bit of overkill, don’t you think?” Bluebangs half asked hir tactical officer.
“You just need to find us better pirates to work with,” he quipped back.
“So, did we get enough info this time? Or do we need to make still another run?” shi wondered.
“I heard the engineers have a power regulation modification they want to try, but that’s just a software change from what they were saying.”
“Heh, is that your way of saying we need still more targets to shoot at?”
“No, Captain,” a new voice said from behind hir. “These pirate hunting tests were just to see how well we could convince them that they were up against Fleet units and not something new and unknown.”
As the engineers’ changes required a momentary drop in power to the affected systems, their electronic illusions dropped and they were able to see what the pirates hadn’t. The four heavy two-seat fighters collapsed into much smaller vessels while the ‘carrier’ became an oversized shuttle-looking object with eight more of the smaller vessels still attached to it.
“Karen, I’m still having trouble believing those little things can carry that much firepower – much less take that much abuse and keep on going,” Bluebangs admitted.
Shi heard Karen chuckle before saying, “So do I sometimes, but those mini cores are working even better than we expected, never mind that the pirates were firing at what should have been the weak points of the fighter they thought they saw. Oh, it seems the engineers want to try something – with your permission of course.”
“You’re just full of good news. Did they say what?”
“Nope, but the snickering I heard in the background didn’t bode well for someone.”
“What the hell, let your kids get it out of their system,” Bluebangs agreed.
The smaller ships disappeared behind their illusions again, but this time they became much larger while the shuttle became even more massive.
“So, what are we seeing?” Bluebangs wondered.
“Shir, tactical claims that those are four Fleet destroyers and the Pegasus.”
“Try for a detailed scan, let’s see how good they did.”
“Hmmm, not too bad, though if we watch it long enough I’ll bet that we’ll see they’re running the ‘warm bodies’ in a loop.”
The screen changed to what looked like Admiral Boyce Kline sitting sloppily in his captain’s chair.
“Cow-a-bung-ga!” he proudly proclaimed, shaking his fist at them.
Bluebangs’s bridge crew lost it. While a couple managed to hold it to a snicker or a snort, most of the others were laughing out loud.
Fighting back a grin of hir own, Bluebangs said, “Enough people, get it together.”
“The engineers are claiming victory for having fully disabled your bridge crew without firing a shot,” Karen reported.
“I win!” the false Boyce declared in agreement from the screen. “And now if you’ll set your scans for high detail, we’ll see how well our next little party trick works.”
Getting a nod from hir tactical and sensor people, Bluebangs said, “Ready when you are, Admiral.”
Fake Boyce seemed to give hir an evil grin as he said, “Then let the games begin!”
Shields went up on all five of the ‘Star Fleet’ ships, and then they began firing on each other.
“Firepower and shields degradation match what we have on them,” tactical reported.
“But no out-gassing of air and debris when they take damage,” sensors countered. “Although that would be harder to notice if we weren’t this close to the battle.”
Bluebangs just shook hir head. “Let’s wrap this up and get back on schedule.”
“Aye, Skipper,” the different stations agreed as they prepared to get under way once more.
Illusions gone, the four baby Zulus reattached themselves to their bigger sister and warped out behind the freighter …
It was hours later that what had appeared on sensors as an iron asteroid seemed to come to life before warping away on a course tangent to those used by the survivors of the battle….
Copyright © 2014 Allen Fesler Redbear1158 (at) either gmail or hotmail dot com
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove and used with his permission.
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