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Introduction:

This contains all the chapters
Chapter one

Making a name

All my life I have fought for everything I had, food, clothing, education and finally my position as a space pilot. I shifted the power setting again as the huge barge glided above the third asteroid belt towards the next ore dump, “the second reactor just died Lorenz.”

“What else is new? This bucket of scrap is lucky it can stay in space.”

I glanced at her holograph in my display, “having both and the other half of the gravity generators would be nice when we reach the ore.”

She continued to work, “you are asking the impossible again.”

I smiled, “I can always ask.”

She snorted and sat back, “okay the feed is back online.”

I changed the power settings again, “only half the dead gravity generators are back.”

She moved away, “that will take longer.”

I began slowing and rotating the barge until the waiting ore was above us. We came to a stop and I opened the comm, “Bingo three on site and preparing to load.”

“Copy Bingo three.”

I turned after setting the gravity anchors and opened the ore bays. I switched on the gravity tractor beams to begin pulling the raw ore and crushed rock into the bays. One at a time they filled slowly and I finally closed the outer hatches, “How do the reactors look Lorenz?”

I turned and brought up the long range scans to plot our course back to the station and froze, “Lorenz?”

“I am busy Alex.”

I turned to look at the holograph, “there is a Saint fleet attacking Rodney IV.”

Lorenz stuck her head in the holograph, “What?”

I glanced at the long distance scan, “it looks like a battleship with a couple of cruisers, a half dozen destroyers with a few corvettes.”

She frowned, “What is the Imperial fleet warships doing?”

I snorted, “staying away from the battleship and trying to kill the smaller ships.”

I frowned at a few visible explosions on the planet’s surface, “the battleship is firing kinetic strikes at the planet.”

I turned, “go to your life globe.”

“What are you going to do?”

I brought the reactors online, “I am going to jump the barge into the battleship.”

I looked at her, “once you punch out use the override and go to the station.”

She hissed, “you will only get one jump before the jump engine goes.”

I smiled, “one is all I need. Good luck getting back to the station.”

She nodded and left and I watched until the life globe separated. I started turning the barge before slowly accelerating. It took almost an hour before the barge began to shake with strain. I kept glancing at the scan and saw a couple of destroyers turning towards the barge and smiled, “you are going to be to late.”

I started plotting the jump and armed the pilot ejection pod. I took a deep breath before opening the reactors up all the way and starting the jump engine. The barge screamed as the engine came alive, jumping this deep in a system was not normally done. I looked at all the red flashing lights before locking the plot into the jump computer.

There was several long minutes before the wormhole opened and everything turned inside out. Suddenly the barge was back and impacting into the huge battleship. I slammed my hand down as I was thrown forward against the restraints and the pilot’s seat exploded straight up. The life globe snapped around the seat as it erupted out the escape tube.

I was pinned back but kept my eyes on the globe scan. I slapped the override as the corvette was suddenly in the globe’s path. I dialed up the thrusters as I rotated the globe and then scrambled out of the seat. I closed the evac suit I wore before dumping the air in the globe. I grabbed the gravity tractor gun from the back of the seat and opened the globe and leaped into space.

I fired the gravity anchor at the passing corvette and the gun screamed as it tried to compensate and pull me after the ship. The battleship exploded with hundreds of life globes spreading out. Imperial fleet warships started closing in as they began to engage the other ships. The tractor gun was finally pulling me in and I held on until I reached the corvette.

It had turned to accelerate towards the outer system as I used the inset hull guide holds to pull myself to a airlock. I cycled the airlock to vacuum and waited for the green light before opening the hatch, I closed it after slipping in. I moved to one side where the maintenance controls were and opened the panel. I input a maintenance check cycle and closed the panel as the airlock began pressurizing with oxygen.

I started stripping out of the evac suit as soon as the oxygen levels were high enough. The maintenance cycle would prevent a alarm from going off on the bridge. I pulled the small energy knife I carried and waited before opening the inner hatch. I knew generalities about ships like a corvette, they carried a crew of fifteen to twenty. I turned to head towards engineering as I heard the bridge chatter on the ship speakers.

The ship should have two or three crew in engineering and up to five on the bridge, the rest would be in either a missile position or working damage control. I moved as quietly as possible and peeked into the engineering section. I moved quickly and sliced across an older man’s throat before stabbing into the temple of a younger man. I shut the knife off as I looked around before kneeling to search both men.

I slipped into damage control to see two men watching monitors. I had found a second energy knife and switched both on as I stabbed through the back of each man’s neck and up into their brain. I pulled them away before searching them and leaving. I kill two men each in the three kinetic missile bays and two in the weapons fire control section.

When I stopped outside the bridge the captain was cursing and yelling for his crew to answer. I moved when the crewman walked out and shoved a knife up under his ear as I started walking onto the bridge. The captain spun and opened his mouth but I was already to close and jabbed with a knife. It struck through an eye and into his brain as I continued to move.

I stabbed the scan tech through the spine as he turned and shoved the other knife through the pilot’s throat as he lunged for me. I looked around at the dying men before sitting in the pilot’s chair. I quickly checked everything including leaning over to peek at the long range scan. I turned the ship off the course it was on and headed towards the third asteroid belt.

I looked at the scan again to see the Saint fleet spreading out as they headed out of the system. No Imperial fleet ships were close so I took time to start pulling bodies to an airlock. I came back several times to check our route and the scan before sitting and accessing the ship data core. I knew that if I approached the station in a Saint corvette the automated defenses would fire on me.

I altered the SFT (Ship Frequency Transmitter) and replaced it with a private ID under my name. It was a long two days to the station before I slowed and used thrusters to nudge the corvette into an old disused barge slip. I shut down the bridge before heading to engineering and shutting everything down. Next I went to the airlock and cycled out before starting to hook up the station connections.

I did a check for Lorenz and smiled when I saw she had made it to the station. I went back aboard the corvette and to the captain’s cabin. I washed up and cleaned my clothes before going onto the station. I had to walk a long way before I could use a station tram to the central parts of the station.

When I walked into the company office Mr Ashton looked up and frowned, “about time. You destroyed my ship.”

I nodded, “and if the Saints continued to destroy everything they would have been hitting the stations next.”

He waved, “you are fired.”

I sighed and walked to the desk, “you owe me for a year’s pay.”

He snorted, “I do not think so.”

I leaned over the desk as my hand jabbed out and then I was pulling him across the desk by his throat, “you sorry worm.”

His eyes were wide and his face white as I turned and threw him into the wall, “I will take my pay out of your hide.”

I pulled my knife and turned it on as I took a step. He scrambled up, “wait!”

I reached for his throat, “why?”

He moved sideways towards his cabinet, “I will pay!”

I moved after him as he turned and reached into a drawer. He spun, “I will...”

I caught the wrist that held the elegant plasma pistol and twisted as I sliced across the forearm. He screamed and jerked his arm back as he let the weapon go. He backed away, “I did not...”

I followed as I tucked the pistol into the small of my back and he turned to pull a desk drew open, “your money is in here!”

I touched the energy knife to the back of his neck, “It better be or I am carving a big piece out of you.”

He pulled out several large packets of credit notes, “it is here!”

I took the packets and shut the knife off, “I bet you did not pay Lorenz either did you?”

His lips tightened and I smiled, “I was her ship captain.”

I turned him and shoved him into the back corner. I pulled a couple more packets out and slipped all four into my shirt before I looked at him, “I will be contacting all the other barge pilots and engineers.”

I walked out and headed towards a distant lounge, I did not really know what I was going to do. I did stop to contact Lorenz and give her two of the four packets I had taken. I did not pay attention to the news as I went to my small set of rooms. I had lost a lot of stuff when the barge had been destroyed.

I changed into comfortable station lounge clothes when I reached my small set of rooms. I went to answer the door chime and found an Imperial Captain. He looked me up and down, “Alexander Christian Steel?”

I nodded and he gestured, “may I come in?”

I stepped back, “why not.”

He walked in and looked around, “you have guts. Jumping a barge into a large ship like a battleship could have killed you.”

I shrugged as I went to sit in my chair, “actually I jumped barely short.”

He looked at me, “how would you like to work for the empire?”

I snorted, “like they would ever put me in a pilot seat.”

He sat in the other chair, “My name is Captain Jacob Jennings. I guess you could say I am recruiting privateers.”

I looked at him carefully, “privateers?”

He nodded, “we will have to find a ship and a few more crew but I want you as the ship captain.”

I looked at the screen showing an ocean, “and what do I get out of it?”

He stood, “Imperial rank and privileges.”

I shook my head, “I want colony credit for myself and my crew.”

I stood and walked to the small kitchen, “what type of target did you have in mind for us to go after?”
He followed and nodded when I offered tea, “cargo ships.”

I handed the tea to him as I thought and took a sip of my own. I finally nodded, “you pay us for any ship we take?”

He nodded as he absently sipped his tea and I smiled, “you pay for the ship fuel and maintenance?”

He hesitated before nodding and I set my cup down, “and you give me that in writing.”

He stopped at that and sighed as he shook his head, “that I can not do.”

I grinned, “You are trying this off the books.”

The captain reddened slightly, “yes.”

I walked towards the door and opened it, “just so you know, I already have a corvette.”

He stopped and looked at me carefully before smiling, “a Saint corvette?”

I nodded and he grinned, “just for that I will have the contract with everything you wanted delivered within an hour.”

After he was gone I used the station comm and called Lorenz. She was abrupt when she answered, “Alex?”

I smiled, “How would you like to be the chief engineer on a corvette?”



Chapter two

Our first capture

It had taken a week to get everything I wanted including quality meal packs. I also got and modified prospector hard suits for each of the crew. I had picked the people for the pilot, scan and engineering. The ex fleet crewmen were the exception, they were trained in loading and using the missiles.

I had interviewed each and they were competent and easy to get along with. Captain Jennings was the one to start briefing me and Peter, Lorenz’s spouse and the one I had chosen as my executive officer. There were twenty five systems in the Saint League and most were a good target for us.

I had picked Grindal as our first system. Trying to catch a ship on their jump in was difficult unless you knew where they were from. Captain Jennings had told us that the independent systems had claimed neutrality but they suspected several of providing new technology and supplies.

I grinned at Sonia, our third pilot as I sat in the captain’s chair, “okay Sonia.”

She grinned as she turned and used the thrusters to move us away from the station. She rotated the ship above the plane of the asteroid belt before starting to accelerate. It was a couple of hours before we were above the belt and heading towards the heliopause. I stood and turned towards the bridge hatch, “ship is yours.”

We were running three shifts with the six crewmen from fleet doing the daily shipboard chores in equal shifts. Almost three weeks later we jumped and the universe twisted around us until we emerged a week short of Grindal’s heliopause. I nodded back to Peter and he left with Lorenz as I gestured to the scan tech, “passive only.”

I changed course and reached onto the pilot console to flip the switch that shut the SFT off. I accelerated up to thirty percent which was as fast as we could go and stay off the system scans. It was thirty minutes before the scan tech sat back, “nothing within two weeks of us.”

I nodded, “we have another week before we will be in position.”

We were in position for another week after we arrived before I woke to the general quarters alarm. I rolled out of bed and dressed quickly before walking to the bridge. We were accelerating at max speed after a large cargo transport. I sat and brought up all the section holographs, “weapons.”

Samantha glanced at me, “we have him Alex.”

I nodded, “I want a warning shot detonated ten thousand kilometer in front of them.”

She nodded and a moment later a kinetic missile flashed out and a few moments later it exploded. I opened the comm after reading their SFT, “Greek’s Folly come to a full stop or you will be destroyed.”

The cargo ship began slowing, “We are a neutral system ship.”

I opened the comm, “you are in a hostile system. I will be destroying your ship in ten seconds.”

The ship was suddenly coming to a stop, “We surrender!”

I nodded to Sonia as I stood, “the port airlock.”

I started for the hatch,“Tell Greek’s Folly to abandon ship using their life boats.”

Unlike a life globe that could last a few days, a life boat was a small ship capable of a few weeks in space with a ships crew. When I got to the airlock the exfleet crew, Peter, Andy and Edgar where putting the hard suits on. I striped quickly and joined them and once we were dressed I opened the intercom, “they abandoned ship yet Sonia?”

“Two life boats were jettisoned.”

I moved to the airlock as the inner was closed. I opened it and moved through holding the plasma pistol. After everyone was in the other ship’s airlock I opened the inner and stepped into the ship, “engineering party check for traps and get the reactors and engines online. Andy, Edgar with me, the rest of you clear the ship.”

I headed forward to the bridge, checking everything as I went. I cursed when the console did not respond and opened the comm to the corvette, “Sonia, do you still have the lifeboats on scan?”

“Yes.”

I leaned back in the pilot seat, “use the emergency comm freq. Tell them you are going to put a missile in each boat unless they tell us in the next thirty second what they did to the ship.”

“Standby.”

I moved out of the seat and crawled under the console and stared at the improvised bomb. I pulled the power connectors and then removed the bomb before plugging the power connectors back into the boards, “check under the consoles for bombs.”

We found three on the bridge before Sonia called back, “they left bombs scattered through the ship.”

I used the intercom, “Check under all the consoles that do not have power.”

I looked at the one I had pulled out to see the timer, “we only have a few minutes before they detonate. Make sure someone checks the fuel tanks and the reactors.”

I went to check under the captain’s chair and sighed when it was clear. It was a minute before everyone called back and we started the ship moving. I let Andy take the controls as I headed towards the airlock, “prize crew the ship is yours, everyone else back to the corvette.”

I was the last aboard and closed the airlock hatches on both ships before starting to strip out of the hard suit, “Move us away Sonia and fall back to follow.”

When I walked onto the bridge Tana glanced at me, “we have a dozen destroyers heading this way.”

I nodded as I sat and opened the comm, “Greek’s Folly, jump when you are ready.”

I nodded to Sonia as she started the jump engine. I looked at Lorenz in the chair holograph and she nodded, “everything in the green.”

I checked Sonia’s course before watching as the cargo ship in front of us jumped. It was a minute before we jumped and a life time later we appeared just outside Rodney’s heliopause. I relaxed, “turn on our SFT Sonia.”

I looked at Tana, “go active and find the Greek’s Folly.”

She nodded and grinned, “there was a large gravity disturbance in front of us.”

I nodded but waited until she smiled as she look at me, “scans are clear, Greek’s Folly is maybe an hour ahead.”

I smiled as I stood, “close up the gap Sonia and relay to Peter to switch to the new ship name. Tell everyone they did a great job.”

I went to wash and eat before coming back to relieve Sonia. Peter, Andy and Edgar were standing watch on the cargo ship. I looked at Samantha when she sat at the scan console to relieve Tana, “how are your people?”

She grinned, “ready to celebrate.”

She was looking at the scan and frowned, “we have another ship out here.”

I looked at her, “Gypsy’s Curse?”

That was the name we had changed Greeks Folly to. Samantha changed the scan setting, “she is right in front of us. The other ship is approaching from in front of her.”

I frowned, “do you have an ID or SFT signature?”

She straightened, “damn!”

I waited and she looked at me, “it is a destroyer running with a Saint SFT.”

I hit the general quarters alarm, “get to weapons control.”

She left at a run and moments later Tana ran in with Sonia. I glanced at a holograph display of the weapon fire control as everyone started reporting in, “can we fire on them Samantha?”

She looked at me, “are you crazy? This bucket is just a corvette.”

I smiled, “that is not what I asked. They might not see us behind the cargo ship.”

I could see her thinking before she nodded, “if we hit her by surprise with everything.”

I looked at Lorenz, “I need a micro jump.”

She nodded, “the engine is still warm.”

I started it as I began to plot a jump with Tana reading off range and vectors. I looked at Samantha’s holograph, “fire everything on a zero zero baring to our course at my command.”

She nodded and a second later nodded to me again. The plot count took another few seconds and then everything twisted before we were back in normal space, “Fire!”

Six kinetic missile flashed away and then a second set of six more. I brought the ship to full power as I swerved in a spiral, “get them on scan Tana! Lorenz watch the fluctuations in the reactors.”
Tana yelled, “it is exploding!”

I continued the corkscrew maneuver, “life globes?”

She quieted, “I do not have anything.”

I finally turned and slowed, “status?”

Lorenz grinned at me, “engineering is good.”

Samantha nodded, “Fire control is green.”

David in damage control held up a thumb and I relaxed, “secure from general quarters.”

Sonia cleared her throat, “System Fleet control is demanding to speak to you.”

When the cargo ship caught up we docked and anchored the corvette to an airlock. I went aboard and headed to the captain’s cabin. I found a few items I kept like a matching pair of engraved plasma pistols and a large fancy sonic energy knife. I went to the cargo master’s office and accessed the ship’s cargo manifest before making a system comm call.

With the cargo ship and corvette attached together we had more room. After a crew meeting we drew fuel and fresh water from the cargo ship before shutting the reactors down on the corvette. The cargo ship had more than enough of both and we used it the rest of the way in as Lorenz started a detailed check of the corvette.

Just before we reached the asteroid belt station the corvette separated. We docked in the same disused barge slip and the cargo ship slipped into the one next to us. I slipped out of the pilot seat after shutting down and grinned at Peter moving out of the captain’s chair, “have everyone meet me in the lounge on the fourth tear near your quarters.”

He nodded as I headed towards the airlock and then around to the airlock into the cargo ship. I met Lorenz, Sonia and Tana and told them where to meet. I waited and ten minutes later Captain Jennings arrived with an admiral and two men in suits. I led them in and to the cargo master’s office before letting one of the men sit and start looking through the manifest.

He looked up, “it has not been tampered with.”

The other man nodded and looked at the admiral, “we will buy the cargo.”

I looked Captain Jennings, “what about the ship?”

The admiral smiled, “ship and cargo together Mr Steel.”

I nodded and leaned against the door frame, “and is the fleet going to pay us the colony credits for the destroyer we destroyed too?”

The admiral grinned, “yes.”

Thirty minutes later I was walking into the lounge where my people were waiting. I grinned and started handing out credit vouchers before waving everyone to a seat, “we learned a lot on our first mission. What we need to talk about is what we did wrong...”


Chapter 3

A prefect score

I sat in on a few intelligence briefings and selected a new location. Three weeks later we were ghosting on the heliopause of a major Saint system. Saint Michael was normally a busy system with a full fleet but most had been redeployed. The few warships left in the system were deep in the sun’s gravity well. This was where the Saints research and development was.

I sat in the captain’s seat and smiled at Edgar, “is that new ship closer?”

He grinned and nodded, “I was able to get a real good read too.”

I looked at the smaller scan holograph on the chair display before nodding, “okay Peter.”

I hit general quarters as the ship leaped forward. I watched and it was several moments before the cargo ship started to turn. I looked at the holograph of Samantha, “bracket it.”

She grinned and two kinetic missiles flashed out and a few minutes later exploded on each side of the cargo ship. It was already screaming on the system comm as I opened the channel, “Strange Light come to a stop and prepare to be boarded or the next missiles will destroy your ship.”

I nodded when the ship suddenly slowed and then stopped. I opened the system comm again, “all ship’s crew will go to the starboard lifeboat and remain there. If the lifeboat is launched it will be destroyed.”

“We will do whatever you say.”

I stood and headed towards the starboard airlock where the boarding party was waiting. I suited up quickly as Peter edged the ship closer. When the two ships docked we opened the outer airlock and moved to the other ship. I headed to the bridge as a couple of men went to the starboard lifeboat.

I started making checks as soon as I reached the bridge and finally called Andy in engineering, “bridge is clean.”

He grinned, “so is engineering.”

I let Sonia slip into the pilot seat as I headed to the cargo master’s office. I started the data system and frowned when I saw it erased. I stood and walked out and around to the starboard lifeboat. I looked at the people inside, “who erased the cargo manifest?”

They looked at each other but I saw several looking at one woman. The captain cleared his throat, “we do not have to make it easy for you.”

I smiled, “so you do not want air for your trip insystem.”

They shouted and I looked at the cargo master, “the manifest.”

She glared, “my safe but it is bio locked.”

I gestured and she came out and led the way back to the office. I watched her open the safe and cleared my throat when she started to reach inside. She froze and I gestured with the pistol I was carrying. She stepped back and I moved to the safe. I pulled out the data stick and a slim plasma pistol and looked at her, “back to the life boat.”

I followed her and once she was in I stepped back and closed and sealed the hatch, “I am kicking the life boat free Peter.”

“Copy.”

I hit the override and the ship shuddered as the life boat was jettisoned. I went to scan the data stick and grinned at what I saw, “get this ship moving Sonia.”

“Already under way.”

I headed towards the airlock, “how does the scan look?”

“Clear, the ships insystem are moving but it will be a couple of hours before they clear the gravity well and begin skipping out.”

I waited as the others cycled through with me and closed the inner airlock on our ship, “clear for separation.”

I headed to the bridge and sat before bringing up my displays, “we need to make sure the cargo ship jumps first.”

Peter glanced back, “why?”

I grinned, “they have complete prototype reactors and engines as well as new hyper missiles.”

He grinned as he turned back to his console, “falling back to cover it.”

I opened the comm freq we had agreed to use, “We are following you out Sonia. Jump as soon as you can.”

“Copy.”

It was tense as we kept moving for almost an hour before the cargo ship opened a wormhole and jumped. Peter followed several minutes later and we appeared outside the Rodney system. I watched the displays settle, “status Lorenz?”

“Green.”

I nodded as I stood, “secure from station. Peter change the SFT and tell Sonia to change hers.”

I headed to my cabin and sat to make a call. I woke to the intercom and sat up before hitting the accept key, “yes?”

“Four cruisers are skipping out to escort us in.”

I smiled, “let Sonia know and I will be up to relieve you as soon as I wash.”

I walked onto the bridge and grinned as I tapped Peter, “go get some sleep.”

He moved and I slid into the pilot seat, “status?”
Samantha chuckled, “the cruisers should be here in a few minutes and we have no other traffic.”

I nodded as I checked the systems, “has Sonia been told the cruisers are coming out to escort us?”

Samantha nodded, “they are rotating the watch.”

It was awhile before the cruisers emerged from a skip close by and turned to accelerate towards us, “Corvette Steel this is Imperial cruiser Singleton.”

I opened the channel, “this is captain Steel.”

“We are under orders to escort your cargo ship to the military station in orbit around Rodney three.”

I sat back as I thought, “why a military station?”

I looked at Samantha and she grinned, “ask for new ship rations.”

I smiled and finally shrugged, “Singleton this is captain Steel why change our station?”

There was a long pause as the four ships moved into position, “we do not know but I was told to tell you that your call was routed to the system fleet admiral.”

I nodded, “copy.”

I looked at the holograph of David in engineering, “how is our fuel?”

He looked and held up a thumb, “over sixty percent.”

I nodded and made a note for Peter about refueling and adding missiles to replace the ones we used. I opened the system channel we had agreed to use, “Sonia?”

“Down for a shift.”

I nodded to myself, “change course for the military station around Rodney three.”

“Um...”

I smiled and started talking him through it before closing the channel. I glanced at the controls as I changed course too and began closing with the cargo ship, “we need hands at the port airlock.”

Like before I docked and anchored the corvette to an airlock and we started putting everything on standby. I crossed to the cargo ship and went to the captain’s cabin. I stepped in and looked at detailed Saint warship holographs around the room. I found a few things and then had to use a plasma torch to cut the safe open.

I stared at the red banded classified data disks before gathering them up. I went up to the bridge and sat in the pilot’s chair before checking our heading. I input a text message to captain Jennings and the system admiral before sitting back. It was three weeks before I pulled away from the cargo ship as it approached the station.

I used thrusters to move around to another airlock. After docking I put the ship on standby and headed out. I had a few fleet servicemen try to stop me and several followed with weapons as I went around and found Peter, Andy and Tana arguing with several officers. I pushed through, “what is going on here?”

An admiral with research tabs turned and snorted, “we are taking this ship.”

I smiled, “not without paying.”

He smiled, “want to bet?”

I nodded and glanced at Andy, “activate the remote reactor feed dump.”

The admiral stiffened as captain Jennings pushed through, “I have your money.”

I glanced at him, “next time we do not come to a fleet station.”

I held up the red banded data disks as I looked at the admiral, “the system admiral has asked for these.”

I gave them to Jennings before gesturing my crew away. He grinned and accepted them and handed me a pouch. I nodded and glanced at the admiral before walking away. After coming aboard our ship I opened the pouch and grinned at Peter, “the fleet admiral gave us twice the price and four times the colony credits.”


Chapter four

A sudden engagement

I looked at Peter when he walked in, “I think I want to try Saint Joseph.”

He crossed to the holograph I was looking into, “why?”

I switched to a data screen, “look at the traffic and the ship types.”

He nodded, “very few warships.”

I looked at him, “did you get the new engines installed?”

We had taken new prototype engines as well as a reactor and new missiles from the last ship we had taken. We also had a new skip engine and a new grav screen. From everything we had looked at, it would improve the ship a lot. Of course I waited until we were back in our own station to let captain Jennings know.

Peter grinned, “they went in smoothly and Lorenz said she will be ready for a test in the morning.”

I nodded, “they were the last. If they test out we leave straight from the test.”

He nodded and looked at the holograph again, “we going in a couple of days short and ghosting?”

I touched a spot in the holograph, “right here outside and above the heliopause. I was thinking of ghosting to just above the normal jump point and waiting there.”

Peter grinned, “I will let everyone know to go enjoy tonight.”

I was piloting as we left the station and the ship moved smoothly, almost with a sense of hidden power. Lorenz was grinning from her holograph display as I began to accelerate over the belt and towards the heliopause. I started making turns and rolling the ship and sudden breaking and accelerations.

It was a few hours before I looked at Lorenz, “it feels good but what do you think?”

She and the other two engineers had been watching and she grinned, “perfect.”

I sat back and set course out towards the heliopause. Weeks later the jump went smoothly and we coasted after we came out. I sat in the captain’s chair and glanced at Edgar, “anything?”

He shook his head, “just a few cargo ships deeper in the system.”

I relaxed, “twenty percent Sonia and set course for our site.”

There was a lot of traffic in and out over the next week, all cargo ships. It was early morning when another appeared out of jump. This one was registered to Saint Michael and I nodded to myself as I hit the general quarters button and accelerated. I glanced at Edgar on scan, “any warships?”

He shook his head, “nothing.”

I checked everyone in as we got closer and we fired a warning shot. The cargo ship came to a stop but something did not feel right as we approached. I glanced at Edgar, “do a hull map.”

He looked at me before turning back to do as I told him. He jerked a moment later as the missile warning screamed. I hit the skip button and we were lucky, the wormhole opened and we jumped. It was brief and then we came out of jump. I spun the ship, “target and fire Samantha.”

We had not gone far, in fact we had barely jumped past the cargo ship before coming out. Samantha was good and all six launchers fired as Lorenz began doing something and Tana shoved into the spare scan seat to start electronic countermeasures. All six missiles slammed into the cargo ship before a second set launched and a single missile screamed out towards us.

I was prepared and rolled ship as I skipped past the ship again. We came out and I spun the ship to see it exploding. A wormhole opened beyond the heliopause and another cargo ship emerged and then a cruiser. I cursed, “target that cruiser and get its signature locked in!”

Lorenz and Andy were bumping heads as they began changing settings and the cruiser fired from extreme range and Edgar grunted, “got it!”

I skipped and turned the ship, “fire!”

Samantha had been anticipating me and fired all six missiles before I skipped again. We jumped past the cruiser and came out and I spun the ship, “again!”

Another six missiles raced out as the cruiser bucked and twisted. This time after we came out of jump and spun, it was to see the cruiser as a shattered wreck. I growled, “fire a warning shot past that cargo ship.”

I went after the cargo ship as a missile was fired, “Edgar do another hull map.”

He snarled, “already doing it.”

I accelerated as it tried to flee and after the missile exploded it came to a stop. I looked back and nodded to Peter in the bridge hatch, “prep a boarding party.”

He spun as Edgar looked back, “this one is not a decoy.”

I nodded, “send the warning and tell the captain what to do.”

I glanced at Tana, “go with the boarding party.”

She nodded and stood to leave as I closed with the cargo ship and slowed, “anything else on the scan Edgar?”

“No.”

I edged closer to the port hatch a few minutes later and docked. I was tense as I listened to the boarding parties and kept glancing at the scan station and Edgar. The life boats separated from the cargo ship and Peter called all clear. Most of the boarding party returned and I got the green light from the hatch.

I moved away as I changed the comm setting, “get it moving Peter.”

I watched as the large cargo ship started moving and turned to head out after it. It was awhile before the cargo ship jumped and we followed. I did not relax and looked at Edgar, “go active and start scanning.”

When he found the cargo ship I went after it as I kept looking at Edgar. He finally relaxed and glanced at me, “we have two fleet destroyers and a cruiser in range to skip but that is it.”

I turned on our SFT and watched as I closed with the cargo ship while Peter changed the SFT on the cargo ship. It took a couple of hours to link with and attach the corvette to the cargo ship. When I walked aboard the other ship I went straight to the cargo master’s office. I pulled up the cargo list and grinned, “they really wanted this to get through.”

I glanced at the doorway when Peter stepped in, “would you believe we just took another ship loaded with prototypes?”

He grinned, “we could use the missiles, they seemed to work a lot better than the old ones.”

I nodded and stood, “get with Samantha and have our magazines reloaded.”

He nodded and I turned to go to the captain’s quarters. This time I was not going to announce what we had until we docked. I did send captain Jennings a message as I took a few souvenirs. Three weeks later we separated and docked. I sent the crew to wait in the lounge while I went around to meet captain Jennings.

Peter was with me as we led him and the admiral from our ship to the cargo master’s office. The admiral jerked when he saw the cargo inventory and looked at me, “you should have told us before you docked.”

I shrugged, “last time we were not treated very well.”

He snorted as he stood, “did you keep a log?”

I held out a comp screen and he glanced at me before taking it. The moment it got to the part about the decoy ship he stiffened, “decoy!”

I waited as he looked at us and then back at the screen. A minute later he jerked, “that is a demon class cruiser!”

He looked at us again and I shrugged before he went back to reading. He stopped and held the screen out to Jennings, “I need to see the actual scan reading of what happened.”

Peter grinned and held out a thick data spool, “anything else?”

The admiral took the spool, “intel needs to debrief...”

I shook my head, “if fleet wants a debriefing they can talk to me.”

He looked at me as captain Jennings glanced up from the screen. I continued to look at the admiral, “your people did not treat us well and my crew do not need to take their crap.”

He glanced at Jennings, “remind me to have a word with admiral Dale about courtesy.”

He looked at me and Peter, “the captain will make up the pay vouchers and I will personally make sure your people get their colony credit.”

I glanced at the captain, “we reloaded our magazines from the ship’s cargo.”

The admiral snorted, “from what I saw they will go to good use.”


Chapter five

Two for one

We spent two weeks at the station while rumors spread about a new push by the Saints. I was working with captain Jenning and intelligence on systems I might want to hit. Lindell was the one I finally chose and we began planning. When we left the station it was actually like taking a deep breath.

I glanced at Peter in the pilot seat as he hummed and then at Tana as she whistled the counterpoint. I grinned at Lorenz in the holograph and she shook her head, “Ideal hands.”

I laughed as I stood and headed to my cabin for a few hours of rest. I had chosen a site outside the heliopause of Lindell on a jump point from a primary system. There was a lot of activity in the system with ships jumping in everyday. The first few had warships escorting them which we left alone.

Almost three weeks after we set up and a month after arriving two cargo ships jumped in together. I straightened and then hit the GQ after getting a good passive read on both. I began accelerating as everyone rushed to their stations. I glanced back and made room for Sonia in the spare seat.

I leaned back, “Samantha?”

She glanced up from the holograph, “prepped and waiting.”

I looked at Tana, “map them.”

She nodded and went active and the two ships began accelerating. I waited and Tana glanced back, “clean.”

I looked at Samantha, “put two missiles between and in front of them.”

A second later two missiles streaked out and exploded in front of the ships. I expected one of the ships to keep going or both but when we I ordered them to stop they did. I looked at Lorenz in the holograph and then grinned, “Samantha we are going to need two boarding parties.”

She shifted and frowned, “are you sure?”

I shrugged, “we are going to take Dillon’s Choice first and if everything goes smoothly we will move to the other ship after they kick the life boat away.”

She nodded, “copy.”

We turned to move towards the first ship and an airlock while Tana issued orders to the two ships. It seemed to take longer to dock and I sat stiffly as Peter and the boarding party swept into the first ship. I was watching the second ship with Samantha in her fire control room and sent Sonia to the airlock.

I glanced at Tana, “Tell Traveler that if there is even one trap I will blow up any life boat and space any crew.”

She nodded and turned to call the other cargo ship. It was several minutes before Peter called, “secured Alex and the boarding party is heading back.”

I nodded, “as soon as we move away start heading out and plot your jump.”

“Copy.”

A few minutes later Sonia called, “boarding party back aboard and the outer hatch is sealed.”

I began moving us away on thrusters and headed towards the other ship, “anything on scan?”

Tana shook her head, “nothing close enough to risk skipping out.”

I glanced at her, “the other ship?”

She grinned, “already heading out and accelerating.”

I nodded and maneuvered to dock with the other ship and Tana cursed, “a destroyer is risking it and skipping out.”

I looked at her as the ships came together and we docked, “tell the boarding party to hurry.”

I began shutting a few systems down, “put everything on standby Lorenz.”

She looked at me and I gestured, “now!”

She spun to do as I ordered and I looked at Samantha, “use passives only.”

I looked back at Tana, “get to the other ship and as soon as you kick the life boats away tell Sonia to get out.”

She nodded as she stood and ran out and I glanced at Samantha, “prep the missiles but do not program the seekers.”

She nodded as I moved to watch the scan section before it went dark. I went back to the pilot seat and glanced at the holograph of Samantha, “as soon as they secure the ship and we separate begin a passive track. With our systems down they will not see us until we fire.”

She nodded and I looked at Lorenz, “When I tell you I want everything back online, especially the skip engine.”

She grinned, “I will be ready.”

It was an agonizing several minutes before Sonia called, “we are kicking the life boats free and separating.”

I nodded and used thrusters to push us away as soon as I had a green light from the air lock. The cargo ship started turning and I saw the other one jump. I glanced at Samantha, “I am blind here.”

She smiled, “it is going to be a few minutes.”

I nodded, “wait until they are almost point blank.”

She nodded and I went back to waiting and worrying. She held up her hand and start started counting down. I glanced at Lorenz as Samantha hissed, “NOW!”

The missiles launched and shook the ship. I gestured and suddenly we had power and I waited a second before I was sure the skip engine had power before skipping. I spun the ship when we came out and started a spiral, “again!”

Samantha jerked up, “it exploded!”

I looked at Lorenz in the holograph before looking at Samantha, “get up here on scan.”

I turned and accelerated after the cargo ship as it was reaching the heliopause. Samantha slid into the scan console and the scan relay sprang up for me to see. She shifted, “there is a couple of life globes.”

I almost decided to leave but knew they would not survive if I did. I cursed, “do we have anyone to lock them up?”

She nodded, “use the starboard airlock.”

I slowed and turned to head toward the first life globe, “watch insystem.”

It was several minutes before the cargo ship jumped. I went to thrusters and then drifted before the intercom came on, “capture!”

I waited and a minute later the intercom came on again, “we have her.”

I glanced at Samantha as she shifted in her seat, “strip her and search her carefully before putting her in the brig.”

That was the only good thing, warships have a brig for prisoners. I began moving towards the other life globe. Five minutes later we had capture and another female prisoner. I turned to head out of the system and before we even jumped the two women were begging us for sanctuary.

I plotted our jump and once we came out I started to relax. I waited for Samantha to get the system scanned as I started us moving insystem. I grinned when I saw the two ships, “call Peter and have him slow so the other cargo ship can dock and then call Sonia and tell her to dock with Peter.”

I changed course, “let Peter know we will dock on his port side and Sonia on his starboard.”

I waited until the two ships were docked before moving closer to dock. We had already made our calls to captain Jennings. Everyone found something to take from the two ships and we filled our tanks on the way to the station. One of the cargo ships had a small cargo of first class meals which everyone helped move to our galley and pantry.

When I walked into the lounge three weeks later it was with some very large credit vouchers. The two females we saved were talking to intel who were very happy with the information they were getting.


Chapter six

In the middle of battle

We took a few extra weeks to relax before going out again. I was looking at a fringe system the Saints had renamed Christopher. One of the things I liked was the fact that it was a high tech system so anything coming out would bring a high price. I started planning and made a few checks on the estimated enemy strength.

I did not like the vague answers or the looks I got from the intel people. While we were at the station Lorenz and Andy had looked at the missiles and found a way to almost triple the yield. They and David started to alter the missiles as I loaded the supplies. I sat in the captain’s seat while Sonia moved us away from the station.

It was actually a relief to head out again and I glanced at Samantha on scan as she hummed. Three weeks later I was the pilot and plotted our jump. When we emerged Tana jerked up, “oh shit!”

I looked at her, “what?”

She relaid the scan as I turned the ship and the holograph repeater sprang up to one side. I jerked as I saw at least a hundred ships fighting in the system. A large freighter was moving through the battle at its fastest speed. I looked another few seconds, “Samantha?”

“I see them.”

I glanced at Lorenz in her holograph, “keep the jump and skip engines ready.”

I turned to Peter leaning forward in the captain’s chair, “see the freighter?”

He snorted, “you want to go into the middle of that?”

I looked at the holograph once more, “they are ignoring it but what strikes me is the enemy.”

Samantha snorted, “they are keeping the fleet action clear.”

I nodded, “if they are trying to get it out I would like to see what they are carrying.”

I looked at Lorenz and she hesitated before nodding and then at Peter who was frowning but nodded too. I turned and changed course as I accelerated straight for the freighter. Tana jerked, “MISSILE!”

I glanced at the display while beginning to spiral the ship. The destroyer that had fired was beyond effective range and the missile would take over ten minutes to arrive. What was worse for the destroyer was the fact that they had turned away from the other warships. It exploded under their concentrated fire.

I glanced at Samantha, “put a missile ten kilometers in front of it.”

I kept our ship on an erratic course and looked at Tana, “when the missile goes off send out our warning.”

The missile streaked away as I slowed the ship, “do not kick the life boats away until just before you jump Peter.”

He stood, “okay.”

The freighter hesitated before slowing and then coming to a stop. I think what helped was someone began jamming all the comm frequencies right then. I rotated the ship as we approached and slowed to use thrusters. The corvette docked smoothly and I waited nervously while watching the scan repeat display.

It felt like a long time before Samantha came on using the intercom from the airlock, “secure and ready to go.”

I nodded, “tell Peter to go.”

I waited a couple of long minutes before beginning to undock. I stayed close as the freighter began accelerating. I glanced at Samantha when her holograph from weapons control came up, “anything heading this way?”

She shook her head, “it looks like the battle is breaking up though.”

I nodded and prayed they would leave us alone long enough to jump out. Samantha hissed, “A cruiser is skipping towards the freighter.”

I cursed as I looked at the scan repeater and then frowned, “prep the missiles.”

She frowned at me and I smiled, “we are not using a SFT and this is a Saint corvette.”

She grinned and then laughed, “we will have one shot.”

I snorted as I looked at Lorenz, “prep the skip engine.”

As the cruiser came out of skip to one side the comm came to life and I turned the ship, “fire!”

It was almost point blank and the six missiles slashed out. The cruiser did not have time to do anything as the six missiles impacted and ripped it apart. I rolled the ship and turned to follow the freighter, “Status Tana?”

She grinned, “most of our side are headed this way and the Saints are forming up on the way into the system.”

I nodded and then glanced at the scan repeater as the lifeboats were ejected from the freighter. It was a minute before it opened a wormhole and jumped. I plotted our jump and hit the jump button and waited for several moments before we jumped out. When we emerged I headed in and waited for the scan.

Tana sighed, “The freighter is ten thousand kilometer ahead and to the starboard.”

I glanced at the repeater and changed direction, “let Peter know we will dock on his port side.”

I maneuvered closer and sent a message to captain Jennings. Once we docked I put the ship on standby, “anything on scan?”

Tana shook her head and I stood, “I will be checking the freighter.”

The ship was huge and it took awhile to find the cargo master’s office. I sat and tried to access the cargo list but it had been deleted. I used a comp to unlock the ship safe and found data sticks which held the cargo manifest. I grinned as I went through it and then headed for the captain’s quarters.

I tossed a fancy engraved plasma pistol to Peter when he walked in and turned back to the captain’s log, “we hit a jackpot.”

He snorted as he walked to the desk, “it better be.”

I frowned at the log entry for the destination, “this is not right.”

He looked over my shoulder and then squeezed it, “I think we just hit a bigger jackpot. I bet when we check the Gal chart that is an unlisted system.”

I used an empty data stick and copied the log, “I need to check the ship’s nav system.”

I headed to the bridge and smiled at Sonia and Tana as I pulled up the nav system. I grinned at Peter who had followed me, “they deleted it here too.”

I sat in the captain’s chair and opened the comm to call captain Jennings. Our trip in seemed longer than normal but I spent it with the crew as I planned a trip to the unlisted system. We had to dock at another bay since the freighter was so large. I waited for Andy with Samantha in the airlock and then sent them back to our ship.

Jennings had two men with him, one was fleet intel. He looked at me as I led the way to the cargo master’s office, “we received a report that an enemy corvette saved and escorted this ship out of Christopher during the battle.”

I grinned, “and destroyed a cruiser with only six missiles.”

He looked at me as the intel officer turned. I smiled, “we did a little tinkering with our missiles.”

Jennings grinned, “send the after action report to me and add the tech details.”

I snorted, “encrypted.”

We made three times as much for the freighter and when I returned to our ship they were already loading six new missiles.


Chapter seven

Stealing a battleship

Gama 09714365 was not listed on the gal chart as an inhabited system. We left the station three days after bringing the freighter in. I was in the pilot seat when we jumped and had my fingers crossed. We did not know the size of the system so I had been cautious when we jumped. We emerged well beyond the heliopause and I started us moving slowly.

Everyone not working at a station was watching from around the captain’s chair. I grinned when Edgar relayed and enlarged the scan holograph, “so it looks like they are mining.”

It would take us several days to get in position but there was not even a warship in the system. The closer we got the more I saw. I was sitting in my cabin a couple of days later and turned when Peter knocked and stepped in, “have you seen the new scans from the asteroid belt station?”

I nodded, “they have a processing plant and on the far side is a shipyard.”

He walked closer, “but did you see the ship?”

I nodded, “a battleship and it looks like it is close to being finished.”

He shrugged, “it looks finished.”

I grinned, “maybe but it is still in the yard.”

I turned and brought up the scan repeater on my desk. He leaned over to look and I sat back, “you know the system planets are almost blocking us.”

He looked at me quickly before grinning, “thinking of taking a trip in?”

I touched points on the scan, “you know I skipped a barge deep in a gravity well.”

He frowned, “yeah but...”

He leaned closer, “you want to use each planets gravity well to skip?”

I grinned, “as a reference point.”

He nodded and then grinned, “they use those on surveys.”

I looked at the scan again, “once we are out from behind the last planet we can come in over the asteroid belt and it will only take a couple of days. If the battleship has a reactor and engines...”

He laughed and turned, “let me tell Samantha and Sonia.”

It was a day before I started plotting the first skip and we jumped out and into orbit around the last planet. Everyone was tense as we ghosted around in orbit before I plotted the next skip and we jumped to the next planet. It took hours to skip in until we finally ghosted towards the asteroid belt under minimal power.

We were only using passive scans and it took two more days to get close to the station. I jerked up as Edger stiffened, “a ship jumping in!”

I cursed and waited and he turned with a frown, “a personal transport?”

I blinked and turned to look at Peter in the other seat. He grinned, “the ship needs a crew.”

I twisted to look at the battleship before sliding out of the seat, “take us in and dock with the battleship’s far side.”

He came and replaced me as I went to suit up with the boarding party. We waited for a couple of hours before Samantha jogged down into the airlock, “just a couple of minutes before we dock.”

I nodded and went to look at the docking hatch vid. A few minutes later I was extending the docking clamps and pulled us in and sealed the hatches. I closed my helmet and opened the outer hatch before checking the other hatch and opening it. There was air in the airlock and I glanced back and signaled before walking into the battleship.

I headed for the bridge as the rest of the boarding party split up. No one was even on the ship and everything was on standby. I checked and it had a quarter tank of fuel. Andy came on my suit comm, “engineering is clear.”

I grinned and sat in the pilot’s seat, “bring the reactors fully on line.”

I started a system test, “find anyone Samantha?”

“Clear.”

I grinned, “send half your people back to our ship.”

I undocked the huge ship with the station before using thrusters to move away. It was like flying a barge again and I shook my head, at least it seemed a tiny bit more agile. The comm came to life as the station controller began calling. I turned and started accelerating as I opened our private comm, “Peter?”

“Yeah?”

I grinned, “I am heading straight out as fast as this barge can go. Stay docked unless we have something jump in.”

“Copy.”

I looked at the holograph of Andy, “how does it look?”

He grinned, “I have to keep moving but everything looks real good.”

I nodded and opened our comm, “Peter ask David to come help Andy.”

“He is on his way.”

I glanced at the new holograph of Samantha when it appeared. She grinned, “this weapon control suite is nice.”

I chuckled as I finally turned and continued to accelerate over the asteroid belt. A few minutes later I saw Lorenz with Andy and blinked. A moment later Sonia leaned over to look at the controls, “looks simple.”

I glanced at her, “you have a few more thruster controls and the engine controls are calibrated for a longer slid bar.”

She nodded, “we are mostly moving in.”

I nodded and relaxed as we went beyond normal missile range of the station. I checked the scan repeater as the transport continued coming in. We finally settled down to shifts as we moved out of the system. Three weeks later we reached the heliopause and the corvette separated before I jumped the battleship.

I began moving insystem as I changed the SFT to my personal id. An hour later Sonia docked with the battleship again. Tana grinned at me, “we have multiple ships skipping out.”

I nodded, “Peter contact captain Jennings and let him know we are bring in a battleship.”

She laughed, “he will love this.”

She gasped, “ships jumping in!”

I glanced at the repeater, “sound general quarters.”

Tana looked at me, “Two destroyers and a demon class cruiser.”

I looked at the image of Samantha, “can we fight?”

She growled, “you bet your ass.”

The ship shivered as a holograph of David appeared, “shields up!”

I nodded as I continued to accelerate. I looked at the repeater as a dozen missiles appeared heading towards us. I prayed the jump engine was still warm and tried a short skip. Right before the wormhole opened the ship lurched and three dozen large missiles streaked away. We jumped and when we emerged I started turning the ship, “Samantha?”

She was working at her station, “the frigging pests... two destroyed.”

I skipped again and came out and turned the ship to see the cruiser suddenly jumping out right in front of us. Samantha growled and slapped her controls and a dozen missiles streaked out and the cruiser vanished in the explosion. I looked at Tana, “anything?”

She nodded, “I have three lifeboats from the destroyers.”

I turned the ship towards them, “contact fleet control. We do not have enough people to manage prisoners. After you finish try to contact the lifeboats on the emergency channel.”

A minute later Tana looked at me, “one claims to have a leak.”

I looked at the nearest ships skipping out and cursed as I opened the intercom, “Samantha get your people suited up and armed. We will have to bring the people in one of the lifeboats in. Once they are in the airlock seal it.”

She nodded before disappearing from her holograph. It was not long before the lifeboat docked with one of the starboard airlocks. The moment their airlock opened they started firing. I do not think they expected our people to be in hard suits and they really did not expect them to be ready for a fight.

The six men that were in the airlock died as my men fired and killed them. The others in the lifeboat threw down weapons and surrendered. I was pissed, to attack a ship assisting in a space emergency was a serious breach and a crime. I had the lifeboat checked and there was no leak which meant they had declared an emergency falsely.

I called fleet control to report the incident and we sealed them in the airlock. An hour later I glanced at Peter behind me as the first fleet ship skipped and jumped out close by, “see if they can take the prisoners.”

He nodded and opened the comm to talk with the other captain. Thirty minutes later I watched the cruiser dock with another airlock. After they had the prisoners we unsealed the inner hatch and the cruiser captain walked aboard. I glanced back when he walked onto the bridge with Peter.

He was grinning as he looked around, “you really stole a new battleship?”

I grinned, “brand new and the test ride went very well. We even got to test the weapon systems.”

He laughed, “we saw.”

I checked my display before looking at him, “what will happen to those prisoners?”

He growled, “they will be questioned under truth scan. Those that had a part will face a neutral tribunal. If convicted they will be spaced or sent to a penal world and never allowed in space again.”

We talked and watched another ship pick up the two remaining lifeboat. During the three week trip insystem we had the other ships dock and piggy back. I refused captain Jennings request to dock at the military station and then the admiral’s. A crew of fifty was waiting when I docked while Sonia took our ship around to our regular airlock.

The admiral was the first to greet us when I opened the airlock so our people could leave. He had a huge grin as he handed me pay vouchers before leading the men into the ship.


Chapter eight

A pair of aces

Besides the battleship we got another unregistered system. It was strange because the battleship nav listed it as a space anomaly. We chose a system but were going to jump to the anomaly first. Me, Peter and Samantha had to talk to and debrief fleet intel so I let everyone take a few days off.

This time we left with a small fleet, it was strange to have so many ships around us. We jumped in behind the rest of the ships and saw several cruisers moving to engage. I looked at the situation and grinned, “a dead system. Take us in Peter. Leave the fleet to fight and move towards that station. Skip if you can but watch the gravity scan.”

I glanced at Samantha in her holograph, “keep an eye on the cruisers.”

She nodded as we began moving and I kept watching as we started skipping. The cruisers engaged our fleet and I began to relax. I watched the scan repeater and zoomed in on the station when we were halfway into the system, “how does the grav scan look?”

Tana glanced at me, “only from the few planets so far.”

I nodded and sat back, “Samantha we have what looks like two ships moored at the station.”

She nodded, “I see them.”

I smiled, “once we get closer bracket the station with four missiles.”

She nodded and I went back to watching and waiting. We finally came out of a skip and fired the missiles and I opened the system comm after they went off, “that was your only warning. Abandon both the freighters. Leave one booby trap and we will blow the station.”

I glanced at Peter, “take us to the port side freighter first.”

He nodded and I opened the ship intercom, “listen up. The boarding party will use the starboard airlock. As soon as you have checked and cleared the ship get back aboard. Sonia, once you are clear undock and head out. Skip if you can and then jump.”

I glanced at Samantha as she frowned, “what?”

She glanced at me, “I think something is on the far side of the port freighter.”

I looked into my scan repeater and finally looked back at her, “kept your missiles armed and ready.”

As we started over the freighter the edge of another hull appeared and I jerked up, “fire!”

Six missiles launched as Peter used thrusters to push us down behind the freighter. The missile streaked over the freighter and twelve screamed back towards us as Samantha ejected two decoys. I growled as I opened the comm, “we are blowing the station.”

“Wait!”

I looked at Samantha as she shifted in her seat, “the missiles missed.”

I opened the comm, “put the next spread into the station.”

“We surrender!”

I kept my eyes on the scan as Peter began moving us under the freighter, “tell the cruiser to shut its systems down.”

When we saw the cruiser it was dark and I noticed it was attached to the freighter, “dock on the far side of the cruiser Peter and tell the cruiser to have all its crew evacuate through the freighter.”

I climbed out of my seat and ran to the airlock before we docked. I nodded to the waiting boarding crew and as soon as we had a green light I pulled my pistol. The hatch opened and I started through expecting the enemy to be firing at us. I opened the cruiser airlock and slipped in and waited for my people.

Once the inside airlock opened we surged in, one party headed aft to engineering and the other to the bridge. I headed straight across to the other airlock and found it open and so was the airlock for the freighter. I opened my comm, “once you finish clearing meet me at the far airlock to clear the freighter.”

I moved through and into the freighter and stepped into the empty corridor. I waited and finally the boarding party appeared. While they split up I once more headed across to the far airlock. I made sure the outer hatch was closed and sealed before closing the inner. The boarding party finished clearing the ship and I headed back to the cruiser.

I opened my comm, “Sonia move away from the station as soon as we are clear and switch the SFT. The cruiser will stay docked with the freighter so make sure you add its mass when skipping or jumping.”

I led the rest of the boarding party through the cruiser and back aboard our ship. I opened my comm as soon as both hatches were closed, “move us away Peter and head around so we come up behind the other freighter. If there is another cruiser we want to approach it from the back.”

“Copy.”

It was several tense minutes as the ship moved and then Peter came on, “we have another cruiser and it looks dark.”

A few more minutes and I looked through the airlock hatch as we docked. I moved and let the boarding party move into the ship first and I followed and headed across to the far airlock. Once the boarding party finished clearing the ship I stepped into the freighter. As they started clearing the freighter I headed to the bridge.

I slipped into the pilot seat and checked all the settings. Systems came on line as Andy started bringing the reactor and engineering systems alive. I waited until the boarding party gave me the all clear before using thrusters to move us away from the station. I opened the comm, “Samantha?”

“On the way.”

I nodded, “have someone in the boarding party begin to check the cruiser, the rest can return to our ship.”

She jogged onto the bridge, “copy.”

I smiled, “Peter once the boarding party is aboard you can separate.”

“Understood.”

I turned the huge ship as I started to accelerate towards the heliopause. I looked at the scan repeater and the enemy ships had been destroyed and our fleet was headed insystem. I switched the SFT before starting to plot skips. I checked the reading for mass before hitting the skip button. We skipped but it was rough and I frowned when we came out.

I glanced at Samantha, “something was not right. Check with your man in the cruiser.”

She nodded as I opened the system comm, “Sonia?”

Samantha glanced at me while listening to her ear piece, “the cruiser is missing its engines.”

I looked at her as Sonia answered, “Alex something is wrong with the mass.”

I relaxed, “try subtracting the engine weight for the cruiser.”

“Copy.”

I made adjustments and plotted another skip before hitting the button. This time the skip went smoothly and I relaxed. I kept plotting skips until we reached the heliopause and followed Sonia as she jumped out. We appeared outside our system. A few minutes later Peter jumped in with our ship.

I was headed for Sonia as she headed into the system. I opened the comm, “I will dock on your port side Sonia. Peter dock with the cruiser on this ship.”

Peter was faster and caught us and docked before I reached the other freighter. I glanced back at him when he walked in and went back to carefully docking with the other ship. I glanced at the engineering holo of Andy, “we will stay online to power the others.”

He nodded as he continued to work and I sat back and glanced at Peter, “check the cargo manifests while I contact captain Jennings.”

He grinned, “I sent a couple of men to go over the cruiser.”

I nodded, “send someone to the other one too.”

I opened the comm, “you can power down Sonia.”

The two cruisers were missing key components like the engines and life support. What they were missing was in the freighters along with a lot of other things to fit a lot more ships. We resupplied from the freighters on the way insystem and three weeks later separated before docking.


Chapter nine

Taking a councilor

We got a large bonus for the freighters and the two cruisers. Lorenz wanted to go over the ship with Andy and David so we spent two weeks on station. Peter, Samantha and I began going through the reports from systems and chose Saint Siegfried. We left the station and after going up and over the asteroid belt Lorenz grinned in her holo, “skip.”

I checked the grav reading and plotted a skip before touching the button. The ship jumped quickly and smoothly and we came out just as smoothly. I looked at Lorenz and she grinned, “we did some work on the...”

I waved a hand, “do not spoil it. You know us pilot monkeys can not follow it anyway.”

She grinned and I heard Andy and David laughing. I began plotting skips and an hour later we were on the heliopause. I checked the long jump plot before opening the wormhole and jumping. I turned and started towards our spot above the heliopause as Samantha finished her passive scan and put it on the repeater, “two cruiser on the edge of the skip zone and four destroyers deeper in.”

I nodded and relaxed as the ship seemed to run smoothly, “merchant traffic?”

She chuckled, “four cargo transports leaving deep insystem and a single freighter going in on the edge of the skip zone.”

It was a week before we were in position and another three before all the warships were out of immediate range to skip. What made me sit up and take notice was the SFT a small cargo transport was using. I hit the general quarters and accelerated. I glanced at Samantha when her holo appeared, “put a missile in front of the transport.”

She looked, “it is a small...”

I growled, “do it.”

A few moments and the missile streaked away. I glanced at Edgar, “watch the warships insystem.”

I looked at Andy in engineering, “warm up the skip and jump engines.”

He nodded and I looked back at Peter and Sonia, “they may fight when we board. Peter I want you to check the crew in the lifeboats carefully if they do not. At least one is going to be a Saint Councilor.”

His eyes widened and he nodded and I turned back, “send the warning Edgar.”

The transported did not stop and I growled, “put the next missile a couple of kilometers in front of it.”

It flashed out and detonated moments later. The ship rolled and turned but kept going. I shook my head, “tell them I am putting six missiles in them in ten seconds and start a countdown.”

Edger nodded and at the count of eight the ship suddenly slowed and came to a stop. Edgar cleared his throat, “the warships are heading out. One tried to skip but it looks like something went wrong.”

I nodded as I closed with the transport and began slowing to dock. As soon as we had a seal Samantha’s boarders opened the hatch. The crew from the transport began firing but my people were ready and the modified prospector hard suits stopped the rounds. I was watching the scans as another ship tried to skip.

Time seemed to crawl before Samantha growled from the intercom, “we have him and the ship is clear.”

I spun to look at the scan, “close the hatches and kick us loose.”

She came back, “what do I do with this councilor asshole?”

I grinned, “strip him and shove him into the brig.”

I waited until I had a green light on the hatch before I began using thrusters to move away. Peter started the transport moving and kicked the lifeboats out. I hesitated to bring our ship alive and follow as I watched the enemy destroyer skipping out. I glanced at Samantha several minutes later when she appeared in the weapon control holo, “prep the missiles.”

Edgar gasped and I glanced at him before looking at the scan repeater. I cursed as I turned the ship and measured the distance, “fire!”

I plotted a skip as six missile streaked out and hit the button. The battleship did not even have shields up as the missiles impacted and we skipped. I spun the ship as we came out behind the battleship and Samantha did not wait for me and fired six more missiles. I plotted and hit the skip button as the battleship was hit once more.

I twisted and rolled and turned when we came out and once more we fired. I hit the skip button as twenty large missiles launched and we skipped. I was sweating as we came out and turned while rolling and once more we fired. The battleship was ripped apart as something inside went. I turned and headed out and two destroyers jumped in between us and the jump point.

Samantha was cursing as she launched another six missiles, “we only have six more!”

I skipped and spun to see both destroyers being ripped apart. The destroyers skipping out stopped as I turned to head out. Peter had already jumped out and a few minutes later I jumped. When we came out I headed insystem as Edgar began scanning. There were a dozen cruisers on the edge of the system as I reset the SFT.

I found Peter and headed towards him. After we docked I sat back and shook for a minute as Edgar grinned and Samantha began laughing. I stood and looked at Sonia, “watch the ship for me and start shutting down.”

I headed to the brig and walked in to the councilor cursing at one of my men. I smiled and leaned against the wall, “well it looks like we caught a bloated scum sucker.”

My man laughed and then shook his head before heading for the hatch. The councilor glared at me, “I will see you dead.”

I snorted, “how would you like to walk to the station?”

He turned, “you will get nothing from me.”

I smiled, “want to bet? Before we reach the station you will tell me anything I want to know.”

I turned to go to the transport and the captain’s quarters. Mostly the ship was only carrying luxury items for senior officers. What made me grin was what the councilor had tried to delete from the comp in his room. The captain’s comp access let me retrieve it and save it on a data stick.

I sent an encrypted message to captain Jennings before letting the crew move to this ship. I returned to the brig and smiled at the councilor as I opened his cell and held up a shock stick, “first I am going to use this to burn your testicles off. Then I will start on each of your major muscle groups until you are only a quivering blob. That is when I will start asking questions.”

He backed away, “you can not. It is against the conventions.”

I smiled as I stalked towards him, “but I am a pirate and not subject to the conventions and you are not a soldier so they do not apply anyway.”

He hit the wall, “wait! I... I have information.”

I smiled as I waved the shock stick, “you will give it to me when I finally begin asking.”

He looked around in desperation, “I have credits and can tell you how to get more.”

I started extending the stick towards him and he screamed and began talking and talking and talking. He gave me unit positions, system strengths, movement orders and much more. He also gave me the time and place of a major shipment of credits for their fleet payroll. When I walked out he was kneeling on the floor and crying and I had not even touched him.

I returned to the transport and went straight to the fresher in what had been the councilor’s quarters. I opened the access panel for the sewage and reached in to pull out a large bag. I closed the panel before opening the bag to see stacks of credit notes. I grinned and closed the bag before heading to the bridge.

I sat the bag on the captain’s seat when Peter glanced back, “we just got a bonus.”

I gestured to the bag, “fifty million credits from the councilor’s own account. He was going to buy a star yacht.”

He grinned and then laughed, “to bad it is not any good.”

I laughed as I glanced at Tana who smirked, “but we can get it converted and will only lose half.”

He laughed and nodded as I brought up the system comm and sent another message to Jennings. It was answered immediately with a request to dock at the military station. I shook my head and sent my answer and looked at Peter, “they want us to go to the military station.”

I moved to relieve him, “the holds are full of luxury items.”

He grinned as he moved and I sat and began a check. It was three weeks before the corvette separated and moved to our docking bay while I brought the transport to another. Two men stood by the airlock with the councilor while I shut down. I let my people leave first when I opened the airlock.

A dozen fleet officers and two security guards came aboard to take custody of the councilor. The two admirals with Jennings were stone faced as I dropped the data stick into his hand, “he gave up a lot of information.”

He nodded but did not say anything as I held up a data cube, “we had to destroy a battleship and two destroyers to get him out.”

That had an effect as he froze with wide eyes and the two admirals looked at each other. He cleared his throat, “you fought a battleship with a corvette and won?”

I grinned as I started walking, “we only have six missiles left so we would appreciate it if you sent over more to replace what we had to use.”


Chapter ten

Stealing a payroll

I glanced at Samantha as she slipped into the scan seat, “did we get all the missiles loaded?”

She grinned, “and they even made the adjustments to the warheads.”

It had only been a week since we docked but we had a target and a schedule to keep. She grinned and nodded and I finished my system checks. I moved the ship away from the station on thrusters before turning to head out. I went up to head over the belt and looked at Andy in the engineering holograph when he cleared his throat, “yes?”

He grinned, “try skipping now.”

I checked everything twice as I plotted a skip and hit the button. We jumped through the wormhole smoothly and I grinned as I began plotting skips out of the system. An hour later I checked and plotted the long jump and we came out a day outside the system heliopause. I began moving us towards the position we had selected for our ambush.

I looked at Samantha as she sent a scan relay to my console, “anything insystem?”

She grinned and shook her head, “not unless it is docked.”

I took my time, we still had days before the payroll transport was due. That morning I was relaxing in the pilot’s chair when the ships jumped in. I sat up and Tana turned to look at me, “one freighter, one Marshal class small transport and two cruisers.”

I looked at the scan and turned, “general quarters.”

I watched the systems come alive as I plotted a skip and glanced at Samantha in her holo before I hit the button. We had been waiting for this and as soon as we came out six missiles streaked out and I turned and began to accelerate. Six more missiles fired as the first six impacted on one of the cruisers. It did not even have its shields up and vanished in the explosion.

I skipped and when we came out spun the ship only to see the second cruiser ripped apart. I turned the ship and went after the transport, “send the warning.”

The two ships slowed as I headed for the transport and Tana hissed, “four cruisers headed out.”

I nodded and began moving closer to the transport and she shifted in her seat, “I think they just spaced something.”

I glanced at Samantha, “can you snag that with a grav anchor?”

She grinned, “sure.”

I nodded as I docked and opened the intercom, “go!”

I waited and kept glancing at the scan relay. The four cruisers were making long skips but we had time. Peter came on our comm channel, “the payroll is not here.”

I thought of them spacing it and smiled, “I think we already have it. Move away and head out.”

I glanced at Samantha in her holograph, “have one of your men bring in the grav anchor and see what we caught.”

Once I had the green light from the airlock I used thrusters to move away from the transport. As it began to turn away Tana gasped and I glanced at the scan relay. I saw a swarm of space fighters heading away from the freighter and towards us. I brought our shields up and spun the ship as I opened the comm, “kick the lifeboat free and jump now Peter.”

I looked at Samantha, “set the proximity fuses and fire the missiles.”

She nodded and a few moments later six missiles streaked out. A couple of dozen missiles streaked towards us but I had plotted a skip and pushed the button. When we came out I turned the ship to see a two thirds of the fighters missing as well as the transport. Six more missiles fired towards the remaining fighters.

I spun the ship and skipped, “blow the freighter.”

We came out and I twisted the ship in a spiral and turned before we fired six more missiles into the freighter. It was almost point blank and they did not have time to put out decoys. The missiles mostly ripped open holds that were nothing but vacuum. The two that did not blew into the after section and one of the reactors.

The ship exploded as I turned and accelerated and plotted a jump out. I was worried Peter had not made it out but when we came out of jump Tana sighed as I turned to head insystem, “the transport is ahead of us.”

I glanced at the scan relay and adjusted course. I looked at Samantha in her holo, “tell me we got the payroll.”

She grinned and nodded, “and the pay records.”

I laughed and relaxed as we closed with the transport. After we docked I put the ship on standby and stretched. I grinned at the others as I walked off the bridge. What was in the transport was more luxury items. I let the men lose to look through the cargo and select a few things. I also called Jennings and told him we had the pay records for the whole enemy fleet.

He was ecstatic but of course he wanted us to go to the military station. I guess he had learned because he did not argue to much. A little later I was on the bridge of the transport and piloting and Samantha cleared her throat from the scan station, “someone just jumped in.”

I glanced at the repeater and finally after several long moments the ship codes began to appear. I stiffened, “that is a full cruiser squadron.”

Samantha hit general quarters as I thought and finally looked at my grav display. I growled and looked at the holo of Andy in engineering, “warm up the jump engines.”

He looked at me but nodded and turned as I shifted and started plotting, “get Peter to our ship. Tell him to skip in.”

Samantha turned to do as I told her as I watched the cruiser squadron skip closer. I looked at the airlock lights as they flashed red and then green. The cruiser squadron appeared behind us and accelerated. Finally our ship separated and accelerated away and I sighed, “ready to dance Andy?”

He grinned and held up a thumb and I hit the skip button just as the comm came to life, “transport come to a stop and prepare for boarding!”

A wormhole opened and we skipped and came out in orbit around the last planet. I ignored everything but the grav display and readings as I began plotting another skip or jump since it was not going to be short. I glanced at Samantha when she cleared her throat, “what?”

She grinned, “Peter is still skipping in and the fleet is coming out.”

I nodded and finished my plot before hitting the button as the cruiser squadron skipped out. We jumped out as they were skipping in and came out halfway around the system in orbit around the next planet. I went back to work as Samantha refreshed the scan and kept muttering and murmuring. I hit the jump button again and she hissed, “they skipped again.”

We jumped and came out further insystem and around another planet. I glanced at her, “run a check for signals we might be emitting.”

I went back to work as she started and looked at Andy when he frowned, “what?”

He sighed, “we have maybe one or two more jumps before the jump engine goes.”

Samantha jumped out of her seat and began to run out, “I found it!”

The cruiser squadron needed to destroy us to get rid of their fleet pay records. I finished my plot and crossed my fingers before hitting the jump button. This time the jump was very rough and we came out short. I was frantically shutting everything thing down, “kill everything except the life support Andy!”

I finished and turned to look at Samantha as the bridge went dark. She crossed to her seat, “it was in the captain’s quarters.”

I nodded and tried to relax as the tiny emergency lights flickered on. Andy came onto the bridge a few minutes later and sighed as he sat in a jump seat, “the jump engine shut down and will need a complete rebuild.”

I nodded, “hopefully we can sit quietly while they search until fleet chases them out.”

He grinned, “I have a deck of cards if anyone wants to play?”

Samantha snorted, “I will save my luck for the ship.”

After several hours I had Andy bring the power back on line and Samantha used the passive scan. The cruiser squadron was almost to the heliopause so we brought everything online. I started us moving and headed for our station and relaxed. It took several days since we had already skipped most of the way in.

Andy spent it rebuilding the skip engine while Samantha and I stayed on the bridge. By the time we docked Peter had already gotten the payroll converted and handed out pay vouchers. Jennings and an admiral from intel were waiting and took the pay records as soon as the hatch was opened.

We got a more credits for the ship and Jennings gave us the colony credits for the mission.


Chapter eleven

Star yacht

I had decided to head back to Saint Michael so after a week on the station we undocked and headed out. We skipped out towards the heliopause and had reached it when Edgar spun, “a ship just appeared and is headed for us.”

I glanced at him and then at the repeater before looking at Peter in the pilot seat, “a destroyer. Preplot a pattern of skips.”

I looked at Samantha and she growled as she fired six missiles. A few moments later and just before the missiles struck we skipped. Peter spun the ship when we came out but the destroyer was gone. A moment and it jumped out behind us and we turned and skipped as it fired. I was white knuckled as I leaned forward in the seat.

We came out of skip and turned but the destroyer was once more gone. It came out behind us as we skipped and I turned to start plotting and sent a set of coordinates to Samantha as we came out again. Peter turned and once more the destroyer skipped out behind us. I sent the new skip plot to Peter as he cursed and hit the skip button just after Samantha fired six missiles.

I was tense and knew sooner or later one of us would not skip in or out in time. This time we came out and Peter twisted and turned the ship down in a spiral. I held my breath as the destroyer skipped out right in front of the last missiles we had fired. They hit the rear of the ship and ripped it apart and I sighed as I sat back and looked at Edgar.

He was watching his scan and smiled as he looked at me, “two lifeboats managed to separate.”

I nodded and looked at the scan repeater, “and six cruisers are almost here.”

We slowed and watched as the lifeboats were picked up by the cruisers. I gestured to Peter and he grinned as he turned the ship and began the plot for our long jump. We came out a couple of days beyond the heliopause. We waited for the passive scans before ghosting towards the spot we had chosen.

There were a few warships in the system but mostly just patrolling closer to the stations and planets. Transports jumped in several times but were to far away. It was almost two weeks before we got something. Samantha was running sims, Peter was the pilot with Edgar on scan. I was lounging in the captain’s chair and thinking of moving to another position.

I glanced at Edgar when he jerked, “wormhole opening ten thousand kilometers away!”

I sat up and hit general quarters, “Samantha prep missiles.”

I had barely spoken when two cruisers jumped out followed by a yacht. I glanced at Samantha in her holo, “take the left!”

Six missiles flashed out as Peter brought the ship alive. It leaped forward as he began to spiral and Edgar began counter measures. The left cruiser exploded as the other turned and accelerated. Six more missiles slashed out before we skipped. I came to my feet, “if you kill that cruiser go after the yacht!”

I ran off the bridge and towards the boarding airlock hatch. Samantha came on a moment later, “second cruiser destroyed! Two life boats free, boarding party prepare for action!”

I suited up as fast as I could with Tana and Lorenz, the others were almost finished and waiting. It felt like hours before Edgar came on the intercom, “standby and do not waste time we have a dozen cruisers coming out.”

We felt the jar of the ship docking and I waited for the green light and hit the hatch release. It slid open and the men rushed into the other airlock. When it opened we moved through the ship and I crossed to the very small lifeboat. I looked at the men crowded together and frowned at three men wearing crew clothing that did not come close to fitting.

I gestured, “you three come out.”

The captain stiffened, “no.”

I smiled, “very well. We will pump the air out before kicking the boat free.”

His was not the only face that went white. I gestured to the three men, “step out.”

They came out slowly and I glanced at one of the men with me, “search them.”

I turned and opened my comm, “how does it look?”

“Clean.”

I closed the hatch, “kicking the lifeboat free.”

He was reaching for the emergency jetuson button when my comm went off, “wormhole opening! Two destroyers!”

I hesitated before slamming my hand down on the button, “secure these men!”

I spun and ran for the bridge, “prepare to get under way!”

“Missiles!”

I sprinted onto the bridge and slid into the pilot seat as I started hitting controls, “undoc...”

The ship lurched and Peter swore, “breach!”

I cursed, “abandoned ship! Everyone get to the yacht!”

I was checking everything and glanced at Lorenz in her holo, “status?”

She grinned, “ready to go.”

I nodded as I finished several plots and Peter came on the intercom, “everyone aboard!”

I used the thrusters and barely waited before accelerating and then skipping as the destroyers fired. When I came out I continued to accelerate and skipped as the destroyers skipped out. Tani spun, “a fleet is jumping in!”

I shook my head as we came out and Peter and Edgar came onto the bridge. I changed the plot I was preparing, “get everyone secured Peter.”
He slipped into the command seat and started checking on everyone. I finally made a long skip and came out by a planet. I started plotting again, “talk to me Lorenz!”

She bared her teeth, “purring like a cat.”

I nodded as I read the gravity scans and plotted a jump and hit the button, “it is going to get rough so watch the skip engine.”

She laughed, “which one? We have two.”

I glanced at her, “rotate them.”

She nodded as we came out and I went back to reading the gravity scan. Tana glanced at me, “they have two cruisers almost in range of the next planet.”

I nodded as I hit the skip button, “Peter start reading the gravity scan and plan a skip ahead.”

He chuckled, “already working on it just watch your preplot list.”

We came out and I tried to ignore the cruisers as I checked the skip. Tana jerked, “missiles!”

I hit the button as Peter chuckled, “not twice.”

When we came out I had the next skip plotted in the preplot which took us past the sun. I input it and we skipped. I glanced at Lorenz and Andy crowding the holo, “how are we doing?”

She shrugged, “they are warming up.”

I nodded as we came out, “try opening the space vents to cool them.”

She stiffened and then grinned, “you get us out of here and we will both give you a kiss.”

I grinned as I checked the preplot, “now comes the hard part Peter. Read the empty space gravity in the system like you would around the planet and use it to plot your skip.”

I hit the skip button and glanced back to see almost the whole crew watching, “Samantha? Take one of the crew and go question those men.”

She laughed, “I will kick one out the airlock if they do not answer.”

It was an hour before we reached the far heliopause and I started to plot our jump. When we came out I relaxed and looked at Lorenz, “how bad are the engines?”

She grinned, “purring like a cat and cool as a chiller.”

I started us moving insystem and then looked at Sonia, “want to take her in?”

Sonia snorted, “since you did all the hard work.”

I moved and let her take over before heading out with Peter falling in. He glanced at me, “that was close.”

I nodded, “and now we do not have a ship.”

He nodded and we stopped to look into a tiny cabin. Samantha glanced back and grinned, “our guests are two Saint councilors and a Norse Republic councilor who is now demanding we free him.”

I leaned against the door, “open the airlock and he can walk to the station.”

The man’s face paled, “how dare you!”

I looked at him and smiled, “you were wearing the clothes of a crewman and did not identify yourself. You were in a Saint ship which we are at war with. Your government has declared itself neutral yet here you are. You are a spy and will answer the questions we ask or we will space you.”

The two Saint councilors stiffened and one spoke, “you can not force...”

I gestured to cut him off, “as for you two. You are not in councilors clothing and spies. Either you will answer or die.”

I looked at Peter, “separate them and the first time one does not answer put him out an airlock.”

That got a lot more answers including the fact a Norse builder had built a prototype pocket battleship smaller than a destroyer. Instead of missiles the councilor said it had automated moveable guns that fired what he called a skip round. That got my attention and I started asking questions, like which system were they building it in.

Peter looked at me and grinned as I got the system details. I returned to the bridge and grinned at Sonia as I gestured her out of the pilot seat. I took her place and started running checks as I glanced at Lorenz who was still in engineering, “how are the skip engines?”

She frowned, “I told you they were good.”

I nodded as I plotted a skip and hit the button. We jumped and came out in high orbit around a planet. I began to plot another skip and glanced at Peter, “when we reach the station everyone needs a new kit. One bag only and store the hard suits aboard the yacht.”

I hit the skip button as he nodded and we skipped.


Chapter twelve

A stalking horse

We were only at the station long enough to turn over the prisoners and resupply before we left. We skipped out and I plotted a long jump into deep space and inside Saint territory. After we came out I turned and began another long jump plot to a system called Vendric which was a Norse system.

When we came out we waited for the scan return before I started in. Everyone was tense since there was a full Saint battle fleet in the system as well as a Norse fleet. Peter talked to the shipyard station control and got us clearance to dock. It was a long three week trip insystem as we worried about discovery.

As we moved closer to the station we continued to scan and saw what could only be the pocket battleship as it tested engines. We docked during the middle of the night cycle and I made sure the airlock hatches to the station were sealed. Everyone had either a hard suit or an evac suit. Now the hard part would start, we had to exit the other airlock in groups.

After everyone was out I used a space grave sled to pull them behind me. I stayed close to the station as we headed up and over and then out a huge construction wing. I slowed when we came to the ship and everyone moved away and spread out. We were looking for any vid cameras or workers or scan arrays.

It was very early when we began slipping into the outer airlock. I moved to the bridge with the other pilots and scan techs while Lorenz took the engineers the other way. Samantha had her people begin searching the ship and every set of quarters. A single Saint lieutenant was nodding in the captain’s chair when we entered.

Peter used a med injector while we held him. Ten minutes and everyone aboard was put to sleep or stunned and then put to sleep. I was checking the pilot controls with Sonia watching. I finally nodded and looked at the holo of Lorenz and Samantha, “well?”

Lorenz grinned, “we have two skip engines and a jump engine as well as two phase reactors to supply all the power we need.”

I looked at Samantha and she grinned, “they were ready to begin testing the guns and the magazines are fully stocked.”

I glanced back at Peter and he grinned, “I will let the men know to start dumping the Saint garbage into the station.”

I grinned as I nodded to Lorenz, “bring the systems on line.”

Five minutes and I was moving away from the station on thrusters. The comm was quiet as I turned and started to head deeper into the system. We did not want to engage or fight an entire fleet plus anything the Norse sent out. I was constantly reading the grav scan as the ship accelerate and Sonia began to plot a skip.

I glanced at Samantha, “think you know how to work the guns?”

She nodded and I took a breath before we skipped. Right after we came out the comm started calling us. I plotted the next skip and we jumped and when we came out Tana turned, “the Saint fleet is skipping around the system.”

I nodded as I accepted Sonia’s plot and we skipped out. I was working on the next before we came out and refined it. We skipped and Tana shook her head, “they are going to be waiting for us.”

I glanced at Samantha, “it looks like you get to test the guns.”

She grinned fiercely, “oh goody.”

I shook my head as I finished the next skip and we jumped. Samantha growled when we came out and Sonia fed me her skip. I started putting it in while checking it and just before we skipped Samantha fired the guns. When we came out six cruisers were only wrecks and two destroyers had lifeboats out.

My fingers were dancing as I plotted another skip and the Saint fleet fired their missiles. Samantha fired again and we skipped before the missiles could strike. When we came out Tana looked at us, “the Saint battleship is trailing debris and the other ships have stopped.”

I nodded as I input Sonia’s skip before we jumped, “Lorenz?”

She grinned, “green and purring like a kitten.”

I grinned as I checked the grav scan repeater when we came out. The Norse fleet had finally skipped all the way around to block us. I began another skip as Samantha fired a quarter of the guns. This time when we came out six destroyers were only wrecks and debris. The Norse fleet was not going to give up and fired as I input the next skip and we jumped.

The ship shook with the rolling impact of several explosions from missiles on our shields. I looked at Lorenz in her holograph and then at Samantha, “damage?”

She grinned, “they did not breach the shields.”

I sighed and then we were coming out and Sonia was working the next skip frantically as the Norse fleet arrived. Samantha fired half our guns before Sonia slapped the skip button while I was working on the next one. Several of the ships fired as we skipped and they missed. When we came out half the Norse fleet was nothing but wrecks.

I finished the plot and hit the skip button as the enemy skipped out. We jumped and I growled as I glanced back at Peter, “this is taking to long.”

He shrugged, “you are still inside the gravity well so...”

My eyes widened as I remembered a story about a survey ship. I spun and frantically searched all the grav scans since we had left the station. We came out as I began a plot and flipped an override switch. Sonia frowned, “Alex?”

I kept working, “Lorenz warm up the jump engine.”

She looked at me in surprise before turning and I glanced at Samantha, “fire everything, just give me a minute.”

She nodded as the enemy skipped out. Peter bent over my shoulder to see what I was doing and hissed, “are you crazy?”

Samantha fired and I turned the ship and hit the jump button. A wormhole opened several moments later and we jumped and vanished as the Norse fleet disappeared. The ship shivered as I began quick adjustments, “Lorenz put the skip engines on line and insync with the jump engine.”

It was ten long minutes before we came out and I sat back and sighed, “damage report?”
Lorenz was staring at me, “the engines are almost cold.”

I nodded, “shields?”

Samantha looked down and then grinned, “still green.”

I slid out of the seat, “want to take us home Peter?”

He looked at me, “you went through the sun.”

I grinned as I headed for the bridge hatch, “actually we went around but it was close.”

I went to find the captain’s quarters and closed the hatch behind me after I did. I leaned against it as I started to shake and slowly went to my knees. It was a few minutes before I took a deep breath and stood. I searched the cabin and finally returned to the bridge. Peter had jumped us to the edge of Rodney’s heliopause and was heading in.

I sat in the captain’s chair, “switch our SFT.”

I turned on the chair holos, “Samantha think you will be able to get the rounds made on the station?”

She grinned, “no problem.”

Lorenz cleared her throat, “want to explain what you did?”

I saw Peter and Sonia glance back and sighed, “there was an account in a survey ship journal. Basically we skirted the sun’s horizon and used it to sling shot our way out of the system.”

She blinked before nodded, “makes sense.”

I snorted, “only to a crazy engineer. If we did not have all the grav scans from the time we left the station I could have put us into the sun.”

She grinned, “anyone that knows you will agree that you may be slightly unbalanced but you would never put them in danger.”

Sonia laughed as she looked back, “I went over the plot six times and you left a margin you could have done without.”

I shrugged before looking at the main screen, “so anyway we now have a new ship. Anyone have an idea where our next target should be?”


Chapter thirteen

Capital kill

Two weeks in the station and the Norse were still screaming about acts of war. Of course we were also sending them a formal war noticed since they had allied with the Saints. The Saints had tried sending in a few warships to several systems but Fleet had just shuffled ships around and caught them.

Fleet intel was refusing to give us anything and acted like we were Saints. In fact they had been almost hostile and refused to give any information. We had been very quiet about the ship but captain Jennings, now commodore came for a visit. I was looking at three possible systems and glanced up from my desk when he stepped through the open hatch.

I sat back and he cleared his throat, “new ship?”

I smiled, “the other one had an accident.”

He nodded as he crossed to the desk, “it would not be what the councilors are blabbering about?”

I grinned, “I would not know about that.”

He snorted and touched one of the systems I was looking at, “this is the Saint capital system.”

I glanced at it, “so it is.”

He looked at me carefully, “are you thinking of taking a ship there?”

I shrugged, “since your intel people are no longer willing to provide us with information we are picking blindly.”

He looked back and sat in one of the two chairs, “I told you Fleet was doing a little rearranging.”

I leaned forward, “and we have given them a lot they did not know as well as vital technical information. Now they want to treat us like we are spies?”

I touched the maps, “after this mission we will be taking the colony credits we have earned and leaving. We almost died taking the damn yacht and the councilors and what did we get from you or Fleet? Not a damn thing and we killed two cruisers before we lost the ship.”

He nodded, “and I fought for your people over that. The new system admiral is not accepting your word or your data proving you have destroyed anything.”

I shook my head, “he wants what we can do without paying for it.”

I sat back and looked at him, “we will no longer retrieve data or pass it along to fleet. We will not inform or give any new tech cargo to fleet. As of this moment I am giving you notice, fleet has broken their contract with me. I will be filing a breach of contract note with the crown when we return.”

He leaned forward, “you can not do that.”

I smiled, “actually I can and I will. You tell your admiral I intend to have his ass and his braid.”

He stood, “and if we declare you a pirate now?”

I stood and leaned over the desk, “right now the contract still covers and protects us. You and fleet can say anything you want and I will shove that damn contract down your throat in any court.”

He turned and walked out and I sat before finally opening the ship intercom, “Peter?”

Within an hour we were separating from the station. I was in the pilot seat as I began to plot skips out of the system. We ignored fleet control but contracted the civilian system control. When we reached the heliopause I carefully plotted our jump and we came out a week beyond the Saint capital system.

I turned to start moving towards the system as Edgar began to scan. Peter sighed when the scan return started coming in. I smiled as I glanced at it and kept going. He cleared his throat, “what makes you sure Fleet will not try to blow us to hell when we return?”

I knew the others on the bridge were listening as I glanced back, “I gave a copy of the contract with all our mission logs to a solicitor. He has filed them with the crown ambassador with a letter of intent.”

I grinned as I sat back and relaxed, “by now the system commander is sweating and I am sure the emperor is hoping the newsies do not hear about us.”

He chuckled, “fat chance the newies will not find out.”

Just inside the system three full fleets patrolled. One was always close to the jump points into the system and all ships coming in stopped and had to wait for a boarding party. It was just over a week and I was thinking we needed to try another system. At the moment one of the fleets was around and halfway into the system.

Another was on the far side and would take at least an hour to reach us by skipping. The last had spilt up, half going to the north pole of the system and the other half going to the south. A wormhole appeared and a new cargo ship jumped out very close to us. I sat up and then grinned as I switched the SFT and hit the general quarters.

I brought everything alive and accelerated towards the ship, “keep the scan updated Tana and tell the... Tinker to stand by for a boarding party.”

She grinned and nodded as I let her open the comm and tell the ship to stand by for a boarding party. I watched the scan as I slowed and started to dock with one of the other ship’s airlocks. Tana began jamming as I secured the docking clamps and that was when things started to change.

The boarding crew rushed into the other ship and since we had not done things like normal they were waiting. At least my people were in hard suits and protected. I was nervous as the fleet to the north and south continued to skip towards us, “Samantha when they are a skip away fire. Start with the largest ships first and work your way down.”

She nodded as she turned and went to active scanning. By the time we had the cargo ship the two fleets were closer and then Peter called, “they did something to the control boards.”

I cursed, “we do not have a lot of time.”

I checked and the boarding crew was back aboard so I undocked and moved ahead of the other ship. Samantha growled as I watched the scan repeater and every gun fired. The two fleets had just emerged from a skip and suddenly four vanished as they were ripped apart. I tried to follow the others as they continue to move while they plotted the last skip to us.

I did a skip plot just in case and looked at Lorenz, “we will need power to the shields.”

I glanced at Tana, “when they come out of skip kick out the decoy forward of the ship.”

She nodded as every gun fired again and moments later I looked at the scan. Six more ships exploded and the others finally skipped. Time seemed to slow as I opened the comm, “Peter any luck with the controls?”

He growled, “yeah we found out what they did and are fixing it.”

The enemy ships came out of skip and we both fired. I braced myself as I saw the missiles streaking towards us. The destroyers and cruisers that had been left suddenly vanished in explosions that tore their hulls apart. I stiffed as all the missiles hit the shield and the whole ship bucked and shook.

The shields held and when the scans cleared we were still floating in front of the cargo ship. I relaxed a little and looked at the scan and then sat up, “replay the system scan from a couple of minutes ago.”

I watched as Tana replayed the scan and turned, “incoming fleet! Decoys out! Shield at full! Prepare to fire all guns!”

The fleet that had been on the far side had skipped far enough to get a read and then jump. I accelerated, “decoys and jammers Tana!”

I started a skip plot and waited and the rippling wormhole opened as their entire fleet jumped out. Samantha fired all guns as I opened a wormhole and skipped. I was preparing another skip to one side as soon as we came out. I turned and rolled and we fired everything again. Half the fleet was just wreckage and the other half was doing a skip run.

I skipped as explosions began ripping their ships apart. I plotted another skip and glanced at Lorenz, “they may skip in ahead of us so keep the power to the shields.”

She nodded as I glanced at Samantha, “how is the magazine?”

She snorted, “we are down to forty percent.”

We came out and I turned to head back to the cargo ship. Four cruisers fired as the rest of their fleet emerged from skip. Samantha split her fire as the decoys and jammers sucked most of the missiles away. The cruisers exploded long before the missiles reached us. The shields flared and the ship bucked and shook again.

When we could see again the wreckage of the ships were where the fleet had been. I turned as the cargo ship finally started moving and the last three ships from the fleet appeared, a battleship and two destroyers. Samantha fired as the battleship fired and a moment later it and the other two ships were just floating wrecks.

The other fleet had skipped but I saw them moving in and around towards the planet as if to protect it. The missiles were sucked away by decoys and jammers and I watched as Peter finally jumped out. I sighed as I began our jump plot, “I am getting to old for this.”

Lorenz laughed as Tana grinned at me, “you and me both boss.”

We jumped and I watched the scan repeater until I saw the cargo ship and headed for it. I relaxed, “let everyone know to stand down Tana.”

Samantha laughed, “want the enemy ship count?”

I smiled as I switched our SFT, “sure.”

She grinned, “four battleships, twenty cruisers and another twenty destroyers.”

I winched, “how...”

She chuckled, “the rounds from the guns come out against their hull and not through their shield.”

I nodded and turned to open a comm as I switched my SFT, “Mr Surie please.”

It was a minute before he was on and I was closing with Peter and the cargo ship, “Mr Steel?”

I smiled, “we are back. I will turn over the scan tapes when we get in.”

He chuckled, “send me the ship invoice and I will notify fleet and find a buyer. I also have the credits from your last mission including the colony credits. Fleet is demanding you turn over the pocket battleship. They claim it is intelligence on the enemy ship advancements.”

I snorted, “not going to happen. I intend to send it into the sun before we dock.”

He sighed, “at least give them the ship schematics.”

I shook my head, “no. They made the point that they do not have to pay for intel. That we were civilians with no military clearance and could not be trusted. The fleet system admiral even called us possible Saint spies and traitors. As far as we are concerned they can all go to hell. This was our last mission and we are leaving as soon as we get rid of the cargo ship.”

That proved easier said than done. We had almost a full fleet arrive and move close to escort us. We did move everything out of the battleship as we got closer to the station. They tried to block us but I kept the cargo ship on course until the feet warship had to move or be hit. An hour away I sent everyone aboard the cargo ship.

I separated the battleship before starting an automated program. I ran to the life pod and injected just before the ship skipped into the sun. I guided the pod to the cargo ship and ignored the fleet screaming. When I led the way off the ship after we docked the system admiral and a dozen fleet soldiers were waiting to take us into custody.

What he did not plan on was the crowd of newsies with my solicitor or the imperial marshal. I faced him as my people shoved through the fleet soldiers, “I will trade the plans for the ship for your braid.”

I pushed past him and walked to the newies talking to my people. I handed the scan tape to Mr Surie, “from the last mission. Four battleships, twenty cruisers and another twenty destroyers.”

The newies started asking questions at the same time and one finally asked the one I was waiting for, “What system did you attack?”

I glanced at him, “The Saint capital.”

They went silent and I glanced at Mr Surie, “if you will excuse me. The admiral and fleet still want to charge us with being Saint spies. We have a runner that will take us out but we need to pack.”

We got out before the public went crazy over the total number of ships we had destroyed. The system admiral was recalled to answer questions on why he had misused an asset that had proved extremely effective against the enemy. Of course that was when they found out I had offered the ship plans for his braid, the Saints and Norse surrendered two months later.

I swam through the brightly colored coral until I reached the sand. I stood and looked at the beach a few dozen meters away. I started walking out and smiled at the lovely woman waiting for me. I ignored commodore Jennings who was with her as I lifted the net bag for her see. She waved and grinned as she ran into the water while I continued to walk.

She hugged my arm when she reached me and turned, “that man really wants to speak with you.”

I nodded but ignored him to look at her, “so did you get the power plant working?”

She laughed, “yes and the power lines to the garden domes.”

When we walked out of the surf she took the bag of bright shellfish and headed up the beach to the house. I looked at Jennings, “well?”

He sighed, “first I want to apologize. Our last meeting was not one of my best or proudest days. Admiral Gilbert has been relieved and retired. The emperor has personally reviewed your logs and has asked his court to issue metals...”

I opened my mouth and he held up his hand, “he has on his own authority issued an apology for how you and your people were treated. He is asking... asking, for the plans to the pocket battleship.”

I snorted and started for the house, “see that was not so hard.”

He followed, “you will give them to me?”

I smiled, “of course.”
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