This is the first chapter from my upcoming novella, Scatter the Winds. It’s a stand alone story in the Wings of Earth Universe, and is set between the end of the Shan Takhu Legacy and the beginning of Echoes of Starlight. This story should be a great entry point to both series whether or not you’ve read either of them.
I will be publishing Scatter the Winds in late September and it will go out FOR FREE to my VIP subscribers before it’s available anywhere else (you can sign up to be a VIP here).
Please give it a read and send me your feedback.
“All hands report to stations. Code Red. This is not a drill. ExO and Payload Steward report to Operations. All hands report to stations. Code Red.” Captain Valleri’s voice echoed across the mess hall.
“What’s a Code Red?” asked Kylla Torrance, jumping up to follow the ExO out past stunned crew and passengers, who scrambled down the hallway as if demons were chewing on their heels.
Code Red? That can’t be good.
The ExO hurled herself down the corridor, “Raiders,” she hissed over her shoulder.
Tall, and built like an overly engineered wall of muscle, Ayanna Santore moved with surprising agility, rebounding off a bulkhead as she took the stairs, three at a time to reach the Operations Center five flights above the Commons. By the time the two women leapt out onto the deck, Ayanna was a dozen strides ahead of Kylla.
The floor plating lurched upward as the main drive cut out and they were back in normal space. Even with her limited experience in interstellar spaceflight, Kylla recognized the feel of the field collapsing.
That obviously wasn’t a normal drop into sub-light.
Both women stumbled forward as the clanging of emergency bulkheads slamming shut thundered from somewhere behind them.
“We’re on backup power,” the ExO growled as she caught herself on the edge of the hatch to the Operations Center and waited for the Cargo Steward to catch up. She held the door open with her back as the pneumatics fought her to a stalemate. She waved Kylla through and then jumped onto the Operations deck with her. The hatch slammed shut behind her.
Captain Valleri stood staring at the main viewscreen. “Is only one ship and no match for Agamemnon. Da?”
“What do they want?” Kylla asked.
“Is obvious,” he said. “They are pirate. We have cargo.” He turned and stared at the optic protruding through her cheek orifice. “Is why I wanted you here.”
She knew the extra hole in her face distracted people, and she usually tried to keep it from being annoying. Usually. But she gave it a little flick with the edge of her tongue, and it twitched as she winked at him. “Have they made any demands?”
“Only that we stop. And they made demand with pulse mine.” He turned back to face the screen and shook his head.
“Are they alone?” Santore asked. She’d taken up a position behind the helmsman and was looking over his shoulder.
“We’ve got no one else for at least a light year,” the sensor officer answered from the far side of the deck.
“Seems arrogant for a science vessel to jump a ship this size, doesn’t it?” Kylla asked. The Agamemnon had a crew of 250 and was carrying almost a thousand passengers. “They’re thin on manpower to run a raid. You’ve got them two to one, even without my people.”
“Da, but little science vessel has big pirate gun hidden in hold. And bigger reactor to feed it,” the Captain said. He tapped the surface of his control pad and an EM scan overlaid the image on the main screen. It showed a lot of power going to a weapons mount in the belly of the ship.
“Captain, we’re being hailed,” the comm officer announced.
“Viper, to Colonial Freighter Agamemnon. Stand down and prepare to be boarded.”
“He can’t be serious,” the ExO said. “He has to know we’ve got enough firepower to hold him off all day.”
“It will depend on what is hiding in belly of little whale. Engineering, how long until main reactor is restored?” the Captain asked.
“Until then, is moot,” Valleri said. “No power, means no guns.”
“And he’s pushing a megawatt into that weapon, whatever it is,” the sensor officer said. She had to be pushing her words through a wall of acid, but in spite of that her voice sounded calm. “That could still do a lot of damage even if he doesn’t hit a critical system.”
“Agamemnon, you have ten seconds to surrender or we will open fire.”
“Open audio,” the Captain said. “Captain Grigor Valleri of Agamemnon to pirate vessel. Answer is no. We will not surrender.” He slashed a finger across his throat to mute the comm.
The doors opened on the Viper’s weapons bay and the gun swung up into sight.
“Frak. That’s a particle cannon. If he’s pushing a megawatt into it, he’s going to feed us to the vacuum,” Santore said.
“I assume that changes the playing field a little?” Kylla asked, nervously flicking the edge of her optic with her tongue. She stopped when the Captain glared at it. It was a bad idea to be distracting him.
Valleri crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot several times before he let out a slow hissing breath. Without main power, they couldn’t do much other than sit and wait to die. And staring down the emitter of a particle cannon made death a lot more relevant consideration.
“What is range?” he asked.
“Two thousand klick,” the helmsman said. “Out of reach for us, but easily in his.”
“Fifteen seconds,” the engineer announced.
“We need to take advantage away from him,” he said, nodding as he leapt over to the helm control and leaned forward to punch in a string of commands.
“Understood?” he asked as his Helmsman watched curiously.
“Aye, Captain,” he said, grinning.
“Open audio to Viper,” he ordered, turning toward the comm officer.
“Is Captain Valleri. State your terms for surrender.”
“Valleri, there are no terms. Surrender is unconditional.”
“We are carrying passengers—”
“Do you not understand the word unconditional?” the pirate asked.
“I do,” he said. “I am offering passengers in exchange for—”
“What?” Kylla gasped, fighting down her sudden scalding rage. He wouldn’t dare.
He snapped a finger up to silence her outburst. “Da, we carry important passengers who would swing big chit.”
“We will have your passengers anyway,” the captain of the Viper said.
“They are worth more alive, no?”
“You’re threatening to vent them? You haven’t got the eggs.”
“If you attack, particle cannon will vent much. Our emergency systems are not in such good repair. It would be shame if no one survives. Da?”
The lights on the Operations Deck flickered as main power came back up, and she realized what was going on.
Valleri had been stalling.
He slashed across his throat again and grabbed the back of the helmsman’s chair. “Now, Mr. Klinestrom!”
The helmsman slapped his hands down on the console and the Aggie lunged directly toward the Viper. At least as much as a thousand-meter-long barge could lunge at anything. It certainly wasn’t fast.
But it was unexpected. And probably more than a little intimidating.
Obviously, that was what the Captain had counted on.
The Viper twisted away to avoid the charging bulk, opening it up to a strafing run across the top of its hull with the belly lasers of the Agamemnon.
The repelling guns of the colonial freighter weren’t powerful, but at close range they were enough. And there were dozens of them.
Most of the beams did minimal damage, but the sheer number of them meant that there were bound to be some critical hits.
A power coupling on the particle cannon’s mounting cradle was one of the first casualties. Spinning wildly, the crippled support hardware bought them several precious seconds as they drove forward across the enemy ship.
Another laser split a cooling line to the primary reactor, spewing a spectacular cloud of vapor over the cannon’s targeting sensor and aperture. Unfortunately for the crew of the Viper, that was in the same instant that its weapons officer fired. The heat of the dense fog as it turned to plasma fused the end of the cannon and sent a feedback surge through their systems.
It was pure luck. But it worked, and the Agamemnon accelerated to cruise and away before the pirate raider’s power grid overloaded and blew out their primary transfer manifold.
“Are they pursuing?” Santore barked as she spun to face the sensor station.
“Negative, it looks like they took heavy collateral damage,” she said. “They’re dead in space.”
“Once they make repairs, they’ll be in pursuit.”
“Da,” the Captain said. “Set course for Kentaurus Colony.”
“We aren’t going to Kentaurus,” Kylla said quietly, shaking her head. It was a fact that only she and the captain shared.
“No, we are not,” he confirmed, turning to face her, and matching her tone. “But they do not know that, and we must appear to be running for safety.”
His expression reminded her of Edison when he was trying to teach her something that she thought she already knew. She shook off the memory of her first husband and cocked her head to the side, flicking at her optic and watching as his gaze locked onto it.
He nodded, closing his eyes, and letting out a breath before he explained himself. “We cannot outrun pirate vessel, but while they are making repairs, we can possibly get sufficient distance to exceed their sensors. Then, we will correct course and be about your business. Is good plan, no?”
Not really, she thought to herself as she stared at the distorted ring of stars through the viewscreen.
But it’s probably our only option.
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