Authors: Michael Kotcher
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War & Military, #Genre Fiction, #War
A Greater Interest
Samair in Argos: Book the Fourth
By Michael Kotcher
Copyright 2016 by Michael Kotcher
All rights reserved.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental. All events and characters depicted herein are the results of my imagination.
Proofread and copy edited by Maureen Nealon and Jory Gray.
Cover art by sekido54 on deviantart.com.
Samair in Argos
Pursue the Past
Hold the Star
A Greater Interest
Thank you again to all my fans, you’re a rowdy group, but you’re great fun. Thanks to Jory and Mo for your time helping edit and to Caleb for being a sounding board.
The largest defensive warship belonging to First Principles, Incorporated,
Persistence of Vision
, moved at cruising speed toward the company’s biggest asset on its first real patrol cruise around the system. For two months since leaving the yards after its original shakedown, the destroyer had been kept in close proximity to the shipyard complex, the crew performing drills and running through a proper shakedown. It was very exciting and productive but her captain, Kol Raydor was starting to get antsy.
The lifeblood of the company, of the entire Seylonique system, really, the
system, was contained in the atmosphere of one of the larger Jovians. The Kutok gas mine was a station capable of drawing and processing millions of liters of helium 3 fuel, as well as other volatiles and particulates used in space-based industry. In the nearly twenty months since First Principles was established, the Kutok mine had been supplying fuel for FP’s ever-expanding operations, as well as to the terrestrial concerns. He3 power stations had been constructed and the reactors aboard the orbital station had been repurposed to run on the high-energy fuel. Up until now, the gas mine had been defended by a pair of starfighter squadrons and a roving patrol of now four defensive corvettes. A decent defense, which would be able to ward off attacks from two or possibly as many as five ships at a time.
But now it seemed that the powers that be had decided to beef up security around the mine and that meant that
Persistence of Vision
was being redeployed. It only made sense, really. And this was a move that Kol Raydor heartily approved of, had anyone asked his opinion.
“Incoming burst transmission from
, Captain,” the comms officer called out. The destroyer was still about sixteen hours from the Jovian and it was likely that there might be a few updates from the picket ships, so Kol wasn’t surprised to hear from one of the corvettes. What with the light lag due to the distance between the destroyer and the gas mine, the various communicators were forced to send message packets in lieu of an actual conversation. “It’s marked Priority One-Alpha.”
Kol frowned. “Put it up on the main screen.”
The swarthy complexion and dark-haired visage of Nazan Tariq appeared on the main screen.
’s captain was gruff and no-nonsense, much like most of the commanding officers of the company defense ships. He was also one of the few who had any experience in flying his ship outside of the system, and most of the crew of
had been involved in armed combat.
“Captain Raydor, we have detected a large force of hostile ships coming in at high speed on a direct vector for the Kutok mine. We are scrambling fighters and moving the defense ships out to intercept them, but we are heavily outnumbered. I know that you have departed the shipyard complex and at present course and speed will be about eighteen hours from my position.” The man paused, and Kol could see the red lights flashing in the background, but no klaxons. “I have no direct authority from the COO or the owner, or from the military authority. Hell, I can’t reach anyone as of the time of this transmission. I’m going to get in touch with Ms. Samair, to get proper authorization but I wanted to send a message to you first and let you know. And before you start to doubt me, thinking this is some sort of newbie-patrol prank, this isn’t a drill. I’m including with this message a data packet with all of our sensor information.”
Tariq leaned forward toward the vid pickup, and Kol could see the concern on the other man’s face. “Kol, I know you’re already on the way, but we need you here as fast as you can get here. Redline those engines, Captain.
Kol sat there for a long moment, stunned. He, like the rest of his crew, was a native of Seylonique and the idea that a hostile force of outsiders would come and threaten his home star system was almost unthinkable. But Tariq wouldn’t be playing the invasion card as a prank; he knew better.
Kol turned to the comms officer. “Get the Chief Engineer on the line.” A moment later the Chief appeared on the main screen.
“Chief, I’m going to need as much engine power as you can give me. We’re going to need to accelerate all out for the Kutok mine. There is a hostile force inbound.”
The engineer frowned, then nodded. “I can give a fifteen percent increase in thrust and we can probably hold that for two hours. But after that, we’ll need to power down or we’ll burn out the engines. And that’s going to force us to slow down early if we don’t want to just blow by with too much speed to do anything once we get there.”
Kol nodded. “Understood. We’ll work out the exact engine burn times. Make it happen, Chief.”
“Give me five minutes, Captain,” the Chief said, and turned away from the vid pickup, bellowing orders.
“Navigator,” Kol said, turning to the appropriate station. “Using the Chief’s engine thrust calculations, get with the helmsman and plot us an acceleration/deceleration course.”
“Yes, Captain.” The navigator began running the numbers, her fingers flying over her console. In only a few minutes, she had the corrected course and acceleration and deceleration times and had fed them to the helm. “Assuming we follow this course and speed path, Captain, our estimated time of arrival at the Kutok mine is now nine hours, instead of sixteen.”
It was better, but it might not be enough. “Very well, Navigator.”
It actually took the Chief seven minutes, but as Kol was fuming with impatience, waiting for the response, the lupusan engineer’s face appeared on the screen. “We’re ready, Captain.”
Kol turned to the comms officer. “Comms, shipwide.”
“Ready, Captain,” the comm-tech replied, pressing two buttons. There was a loud indicator over the PA system and he gave Kol a thumbs up.
“Crew of the
Persistence of Vision
, this is the Captain. We have an emergency situation at the Kutok mine. A fleet of ships has entered the system and is moving with hostile intent toward the gas mine and our other company ships are moving to intercept them. However, the size of the incoming fleet is such that our current standing forces at the mine are insufficient. So it’s going to be up to us to try and turn the tide. All hands, brace for acceleration; we are going to be going at full military power and it will probably strain the inertial compensators.” He waited for a long moment, hoping that his crew was taking that time to get themselves ready. Finally, he straightened his shoulders and gave the order. “Helm, engage engines.” He watched the displays. Sure enough, engine output increased to 116%, and as the ship accelerated he felt himself being pressed into his command chair.
It was going to be a long trip and a heavy weight pressed against his chest. He tried to breathe normally, putting conscious thought into the process, something he normally wouldn’t need to do. He was trying very hard to ignore the weight and concentrated on the sensor scans. “Tactical,” he said, grimacing in discomfort.
“Yes, sir?” the young woman at the station asked, breathing heavily.
“Obviously the tactical situation is going to be wildly different by the time we get there. I want to be sure we have a full rundown of all the ships that are in this invader fleet.”
She nodded, the look on her face a cross between discomfort and determination. “Yes, sir. Would it be all right to request regular updates from the Kutok mines so we can refine our plans?”
Kol chuckled. “I’m sure they’re going to have their hands full in short order,” he said, putting one hand palm up. “Comms, request updates every half hour to start. Hopefully, by the time we get there,
and the others will have at least worn them down enough that we can make a serious dent.”
hoping that by the time we get there that there are still some pirates left for us to burn,” the Tactical officer said, a smirk on her face. The rest of the bridge crew laughed.
“Comms, perhaps we should send a message to the defense ships to save enough of them for us.” More laughter. It was good that morale was high. He had the feeling that they would need it.
“Commander Skygexx, we are coming into range of the defensive turrets for the mining station,” the zheen Kufazik reported from the sensor station.
The Master and Commander of Lord Verrikoth’s destroyer
waggled his antennae in satisfaction. For too long he and his ship and his crew had been cooped up defending a shipyard that no one ever came to. But their time of exile was over. They were here with the fleet now, moving to do what they did best. And before them was a rich target, relatively undefended.
He could not explain to anyone the amount of excitement coursing through him at this chance, at this opportunity and it was one that he would be sure not to squander. “Make sure that all weapons are targeted on the closer of the two turrets.”
“Yes, Commander,” Hekai, the zheen at the Tactical station replied, his voice hungry. “Forward lasers and rail guns locked on.”
“Comms, make sure that
follows us in,” he ordered. “We’re to hit that turret together. Once we send out the initial salvo, break off and go evasive.” The defensive turrets cut loose, a score of missiles launching toward the larger of the two ships. Not to be left out, the turret’s quad of heavy lasers started firing on the pirate corvette, which was on a slightly different vector than
“Shift fire,” Skygexx ordered, feeling the anxiety rising but he managed to keep his voice calm and authoritative. “Put all weapons on point defense, shoot down those missiles. Helm, evasive maneuvers.” There was a groan as the ship’s inertial compensators and grav plates tried to cover for the turn.
is taking fire,” Kufazik called out. “They’re going evasive as well.”
“Tell them to keep with us,” Skygexx said, keeping his eyes on the four displays up in front of him, his compound eyes easily able to take in all the data. “Bring us back around, helm. And make sure to keep this platform between us and the other one. Tactical, hit that platform again!”
looped around, as her guns pumped out near-constant salvos. Missiles exploded when the beams of coherent light tore them apart and as the storm of metal slugs smashed into them.
“Fourteen down!” Hekai crowed, his mouthparts writhing. He stabbed another control and then nodded. “Sixteen! Brace for impact!”
The zheen at the helm yanked the control levers to the side, managing to get the nimble destroyer to squirm away from two of the incoming weapons, which passed by the ship and were easily picked off by
’s broadside guns. The other two got through the point defense and slammed into the destroyer’s shields, detonating on impact.
The ship shook under the hits. “Shields spotting!” the tech at the operations station cried. “Port shields down to 72%.” There was a series of shakes as the destroyer took several hits from the turret’s heavy lasers. “64%... 58… 51!”
Skygexx’s antennae swirled. “Roll ship!” he shouted, a slight hum in his voice. “And return fire, blast it all!”
The salvo from the weapons of the two pirate ships hit the defense turret at the exact instant that another volley of missiles was launched. The ordinance exploded, an expanding ball of twisted metal, shrapnel and for an instant glowing energy. The missile pods disintegrated, and the force of the blast whipped the turret around, throwing it out of its normal position. A follow on volley from
hit the platform dead center and the small reactor blew, shredding the weapon station.
saturated the area with energy blasts, making sure there was nothing left of it.
“That’s one down!” Hekai shouted with glee.
Skygexx hissed. “Enough of that!” he snapped, irritated at the display of emotion, but he guiltily admitted to himself that glee was bubbling up in his own thorax. “Helm, bring us around again. We’re going after that second platform.”
“Aye, Commander!” the pilot hissed. The destroyer writhed around and then accelerated on a course for the weapons’ platform.
“Guns, keep up a concentrated salvo,” he ordered. The commander shrugged. “It worked well the last time.”
Hekai buzzed a chuckle and pressed the appropriate commands. “Aye, Commander.” The destroyer moved straight at the platform and
easily kept pace. This time, however, all the weapons from the platform focused on the smaller corvette, instead of splitting fire between the two ships.
“Covering fire,” Skygexx ordered, irritation tinging his voice. He’d wanted to simply pound the defense turret until it crumbled, but
wouldn’t be able to hold off that many missiles as well as heavy laser blasts without
assistance. Hekai shifted the guns’ targeting from the platform to the space between, aiming for the missiles.