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Pirates of the Sun, Chapter II

Posted by Charles Gray on August 14, 2011

And here it is– if you see anything interesting or something that makes you scream at the poor writing, don’t hesitate to point it out!

Chapter Two

“I’m missing Martyrs day,”  Jacob said, frowning.

“Should I read that as you want to keep watch on Stephanie?” his superior asked, a faint smile on his face.

“No, Michael’s a good kid.”  Jacob looked at the holographic image floating above the table and then leaned back.  “So, what is so important it couldn’t wait until tomorrow.”

“Pirates.”

“Okay, you want a new bedtime story for your kids.”

“No, Jacob, this is serious.”

Jacob raised his eyebrows. “Pirates. From where, pray tell?  The Galactics?  We don’t have anything they want and if they did, they could just ask. If for some reason beyond sanity they wanted to take it… Thomas, their ships can fly through stars.  They don’t have to muck about acting like pirates.”

“True, but-“

Jacob cut his boss off, “-And if not them, who?  There isn’t another sentient species, to say nothing of a starfaring species within the range of any of our ships.”

“As I was saying, Jacob,”  Thomas continued, gray eyes annoyed, “that is correct, but equally we have confirmed raids on Miller’s World.  They landed, stunned the daylights out of everyone, and took off.”

Jacob didn’t say anything for several seconds.  “You have records?”

“Yah.  I hope nobody is in the room with you, this is classified.”

“No, and the whispershield is on.  Send it.”

Moments later, Thomas’ face disappeared from the hologram, to be replaced by the image of a ship, at least fifty meters long, Jacob saw from the indicators.  The image was fuzzy, the computer warning that much of what was being seen was actually an extrapolation and enhancement of the real image.

“The colony only had your typical sat nav and traffic control network, so this was the best they got. Notice anything funny?”

“It’s one of ours,” Jacob said. “That’s a human design.”

“Well a human derived design of a galactic drive, yah.”

Jacob nodded.  Humanity still didn’t really understand how the galactic drives operated.  The scout crew had provided designs from far back in their history and mankind had built the gravitic systems that allowed a ship to enter thruspace, but they had done it, and still largely did do it, by rote. Jacob wasn’t certain if that was a bad thing.  He loved his fellow man, but he’d also seen what the Galactics, who did understand their technology, could do with it.

“And that makes no damned sense,”  Jacob muttered.

“Oh?”

“The best our drives can do is one light year every three days, right?”

“Yah.”

“There are no alien worlds within range of that drive, so it’s not some hypothetical band of barbarians the Galactics never noticed, and drives are licensed.”

“It gets better.”  Thomas said quietly. “Wanna hear what was taken?”

“What?”

“Grain.  Parts, the cold fusion units out of every personal car.  Not, mind you, the gravitic flyer units, just the cold fusion units.”

And now things are completely weird, Jacob thought as he leaned back, processing what Thomas had told him. Cold Fusion units were a technology humanity understood, and they were, if not cheap, at least common. Gravitic flyer units, as an example of Galactic technology were neither.  It would be like someone breaking in a house to steal the cheap plastic plates while ignoring the family silver.  And grain…grain? That made absolutely no sense.

“So, we have pirates who are…pretty damned bad at their job, flying around in a ship that shouldn’t exist, stealing things that make no sense,” he finally said.

“That about sums it up.”

“What does the Council say?”

“The Council wants this dealt with and dealt with quickly,” Thomas paused. “Jacob, there’s something odd—the Council didn’t have your reaction.  They didn’t even ask if it was a stolen human craft.”

“Now that is odd,” Jacob said.  “I wonder if some wealthy scion is joy riding… it’d explain their… reticence.”

“Maybe.”  Thomas fell silent for a moment before continuing in a formal voice,  “You are to take your squadron and deploy around Miller’s World, as well as patrolling to find and take into custody, or if necessary, terminate  the individual or individuals responsible for this atrocity.”

That was the Council, alright,”  Jacob muttered.  “I’m certain it’s in the briefing, but just for my sake, how many people were killed in this atrocity?”

“Nobody.  One broken arm from a fellow who got stunned while he was on a ladder, but nobody was killed.”

“And yet we’re being ordered to go in with lethal force.”

“Not much else you can do if the people in a starship won’t stop.”

“Maybe, but it’s still interesting… especially since they won’t be the ones doing the fighting.  Thomas, we haven’t had a ship to ship fight for over a century.  If these pirates have, and it comes down to it…”

“You have been training your crews, right?”

“Certainly.  But training isn’t the real thing, and it especially may not prepare you for killing someone.”

“Maybe it won’t come to that.”

“That’s a lousy assumption to make,” Jacob pointed out.   He drilled his crew, but he knew of other Guard Commanders who didn’t pay much attention to combat drills.

“So far they’ve used only non-lethal stunners.”

“So far nobody has shot back,”  Jacob replied.

“And if we’re lucky you can keep it that way. Jacob, I know that you haven’t trained for this as much as you’d like, but this ship is likely a cargo ship—armed or not it can’t be as tough as a Guard ship because Guard ships don’t haul around that much cargo.”

“So we should be faster and tougher.”

“If you keep your squadron together, you can outnumber them, and hopefully—hopefully, get them to surrender.”

“That’s a big hope.”

“I’ve had five men killed during my tenure as Commodore, Jacob—one training accident and four disaster relief casualties.”  Thomas looked down. “You’ve read the records of the Disunion Time, or worse yet the wars they fought before the Flares.  I’d prefer to avoid anything like that.”

Jacob sighed.  “So would I.  Right, Commodore, I’m going to have to get my crew in order, so with your permission?”

“Of course, Commander,”  Thomas replied formally.  “Best of luck to you.”  The image derezzed.

Jacob sat for a few moments then started keying orders in.  Usually they left one ship on world, but Thomas was right. The best way to bring this, whatever “this” was, he reminded himself, to a bloodless end, was to have overwhelming force on their side. He’d take all three corvettes.

And hope the other side saw things the same way.

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