Authors: Ronald Wintrick
“They do want to give me my credits.” I said surprised I was still alive as I turned to see what Tanya was going to do. When I did and our eyes met Tanya made the decision. I saw it happen, her face hardened appreciably and I knew she was going to fire on the
“I won’t be taken alive.” Tanya said as she acted, as the Alartaw cannon fired its first burst- into nothing. A
small portal or doorway to somewhere else appeared between us and showed on the main screen scan image- which replaced the visual feeds the moment Tanya fired- as a brilliantly energetic rectangle of unknown properties. Last Chance was unable to scan it. The bolt of Alartaw energy simply vanished into it and disappeared. Possibly on its way to another Universe for all I knew. Then the portal winked away as Tanya continued to fire. She raked the cannon along the side of the impossible to miss target and multiple windows opened along her trail of repeating fire but Tanya somehow got a few of those wild shots through. Then Tanya and the rest of us got our first glimpse of how powerful the Alartaw weapon really was.
The destructive power of the Alartaw weapon was unbelievable. Our nuclear warheads wouldn’t have done half the damage- if the K
ievor-made missiles would work against the Kievor and no one thought they would. My main screen scan image gave us a graphic picture of the destructive power of our new weapon as those bolts struck the Station and vaporized massive chunks of the ship that were in volume many times larger than Last Chance herself. I thought of the thousands of beings that would have been killed in each one of those explosions and expected an immediate light show that would put an end forever to the saga of Marc Deveroux, but I didn’t get exactly what I expected.
Several things happened all at once. As the explosions walked across the side of the Station the warp entry proximity alarm sounded and then somehow all power a
board Last Chance was shut down or drained from the ship. I could only guess at the Kievor’s technology but suddenly I was floating within my harness in zero gravity and pitch dark. There is nothing darker than the interior of a dead ship unless maybe possibly the interior of a black hole but the situation for us was much similar. There was nothing I could do without power. “They really do want me back.” I said with the first real hint of trepidation- death was far preferable to capture when taking into account the millennia of endless torture I was sure the Kievor had planned for us. Then Last Chance was buffeted as with a major concussion and power came back, the engine lit and we were once more pushing against the tangible vacuum of space.
Scan was only showing Last Chance alone, no Trade Station, no clue who the new entry had been or where either had gone. Then a scattering of blips ran across my scan screen
. As the visual feeds returned I saw white lights blossoming far-off in the vastness and then nothing more. No more blips, no more lights, no more nothing. Last Chance had attained warp velocity and I wasted no time dallying to see who had interrupted our deaths.
“Are you ever going to sleep?” I asked three days later when I entered the Bridge
to find Tanya still glued to the warp-scan imager. “We do have an automated warp proximity sensor.” I added.
“You’ve mentioned that befor
e,” Tanya said as she looked up, “more times than I care to count.” More times than she cared to hear about, in other words, but no being can say I don’t have a one-track mind. I had expected upon coming on the Bridge this morning to find Tanya with bloodshot eyes and half asleep over her imager- at which point I would be able to gloat over her for wasting her time- but in that I was to be disappointed. She looked as fresh and alert as if she had just had a good sound sleep and three cups of hot-jolt coursing through her veins while I had spent the day yesterday getting extremely intoxicated and felt like death warmed over this morning. She gave me a malicious smile; “
we lost them again though I’ll never understand how. The reasons simply do not matter. There is always a reason but that does not explain anything. There is no logic that can explain how we continue to beat the odds unless the Universe itself is saving you for some later more thorough torture. Now you know why I crew with you. Despite the odds
you always slip the noose.”
puts our necks in,” Bren said as he entered, “but it wasn’t Marc who got us out of it this time, it was the Alartaw. They must have destroyed the Kievor Trade Station.” He had a knack for knowing when to show up to watch the usual interplay. It was an expertise we all seemed to share.
“If it was the Alartaw then why aren’t they
behind us?” Tanya asked.
“You sound as if you miss being chased.” I said.
“Crewing with you I’ve gotten used to beings trying to chase me down and kill me.” Tanya said. “Whatever else can be said for your formula for success- that of making as many enemies as possible as the safest course for survival- seems to be working. Once again we walked through it with our skins intact. Since it is clear I will never understand how your
works I do not bother thinking about it. I
like to know if it
the Alartaw who had come to our rescue
where did they go?
the Alartaw and they had come to rescue us then I would think we could have expected some kind of communication- but they did not communicate. Nor would either these Alartaw or the Kievor have a problem tracking us- but they’re not tracking us. Both sides seem to have forgotten about us.”
“I know I don’t want to see more of the Kievor first.” I said, thinking of how utterly powerless we were against them. I
did not like the feeling.
Alartaw,” Bren said as he sat down at his station, “then we can assume they damaged or destroyed the Station. Otherwise I think we would have seen them behind us already, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Alartaw knew who
were. We may have just gotten in the middle of their war.”
I noticed Tanya scowl at that. She noticed me look
ing and as was her wont had something more to say about the matter. She spoke directly to me; “I want my jewels and I want my Crown. You find these Alartaw and you do not leave that warp-scan imager unattended.” Her scowl in place she left the Bridge, ostensibly to get some sleep but who knew knowing Tanya. She only slept with one eye closed anyway so I could never understand how she ever got any rest.
“For all the two of you know I made that story up about you and Tanya being the rulers.” Bren said with a sly smile after Tanya left. I looked at him only a moment before I spoke;
“I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when she finds out she’s really not an Empress.” I said, but the story was too fantastical to be made up and there was no denying the technology.
“I didn’t make it up.” Bren said seriously.
“Can you find these Alartaw?” I asked, not sure really whether I wanted to find them or not, not quite as sure as Tanya they’d want us back.
“I can build a transmitter and we can find out.” Bren said.
“Do it.” I said. “I’m tired of hearing Tanya bitch about those jewels.”
The Universe is chock full of diversely intelligent, aggressive and deadly life. In fact you could hardly turn around these days without running into somebeing and that was exactly what happened. I honestly had no part to play in this. This was just the way the old Universe turned round. These weren’t old enemies who finally tracked me down. We were so far from human space that I hadn’t bothered asking Bren to figure it out exactly and could imagine no enemy who would track me for this distance other than the Kievor themselves- and I was trying to think of
as little as possible. No these were just your average cut-throat pirates who thought they had found an easy meal. Cut us to slag and then
the remainder. I was familiar with the process they just weren’t familiar with me.
“Who is it?” Tanya demanded as she charged into the Bridge- about two seconds after the proximity alarm went off. Bren was in the machine-shop working with some of the raw materials we had
just harvested from a small asteroid-field and I had been right where I was supposed to be when we were out of warp and friends far and few between. In my pilot’s seat and prepared for the inevitable instances such as these.
“Three unknowns,” I told Tanya and the ship at large over com, “closing with evil intent.” I knew evil intent when I saw it.
We were drifting passive so I doubted they had just come across us. They must have detected our entry and tired of waiting for us to come out and fall into their trap were taking a more direct approach. Our own scan was limited because of the asteroids around us and the pirates were almost on us by the time the alarm went off. “Good job letting them get so close.” Tanya said as she landed in the gunner’s seat. As she landed I hit full thrust- crew with me for more than a day and you learn to get buckled in quick when the proximity alarm goes off.
One of Last Chance’s rear plasma cannons began firing and I saw that it was Melanie’s gun and felt a twinge of guilt that possibly Janice or Manuel had been trying to get to their guns when I hit thrust. “Everyone alive back there?” I asked. I honestly hadn’t thought anyone would be bothering with those plasma cannons.
on my way.” Manuel came back over com. “Now I’m not.”
“In my gun.” Janice said as she opened up as well, but the odds of either doing any real damage
before Tanya finished them off with the new cannon were long in my opinion. Scrap metal the mass of which we would be better off without.
The red beam of a photon sliced out of nowhere through some obscure passage amongst the constantly moving asteroids. It struck just forward of our
bow and burned through the monstrous chunk of rock I was racing Last Chance alongside for cover. The photon beam barely missed us but cut the monolithic chunk of rock completely in half right beside us. I plunged Last Chance under the forward section of the now separated asteroid as the two halves began to go their own ways. I had to do anything I could to get us away from the accuracy of the alien ship’s targeting abilities and all the while expecting to be attacked by the others. It was a small field and we would be out of it shortly where the odds were going to get even longer. Three against one with targeting abilities like those already displayed and suddenly we were in a fight for our life that left my throat dry at the thought.
returned the fire of our unseen attacker though by now whatever random clearing which had appeared and which had given the attacking ship a momentary avenue to fire on us was long closed. We watched on the main screen as the scan image brought us the computerized recreation of the white/yellow blasts of explosions marching along behind us through the asteroid-field as Tanya targeted the red blip and the cannon threw its energy into the weaving panorama of the constantly shifting field. The red blip remained determinedly on the scan screen as the bolts were blocked by the field itself. This would give them an idea of what they were up against but I did not think that would scare them into calling off their attack. We were one ship and they were three and they were not early space-farers. This bunch had been around the block and this was what they did for a living. They would be confident and assured of their success. I wasn’t so unsure of it myself.
“We’re not going to have any cover back there in a moment.” I said tersely as
Tanya continued to blow away the asteroid-field behind us. In an attempt to vaporize the whole thing I could only surmise so that our enemies would have nice clean shots at us. I was fighting to hold Last Chance as close to the monolith as was possible expecting them to take advantage of the newly cleared field but it was at times like this that I didn’t bother voicing my opinion. The blurring black haze above us on the forward screen was the best recreation the scan computer could give us of the cold rock surface whipping past us. I brought Last Chance under and around it mostly on intuition alone- never knowing if it would be a jutting crag sticking out from the monolith that we never see coming or the photon fire of one of the attacking pirates- which we would not see either- which would get us first. Then the monolith was behind us, between Last Chance and our stern enemy and Tanya was swinging the cannon around to fire on our bow attackers.
There were two enemy ships in front of us as I brought Last Chance up and around the massive half-asteroid. The two red blips were showing on scan but both ships those blips represented were still outside visual range, our main-screen visual feed still only showing what seemed an endless asteroid-field though scan showed we were almost clear of it. Clear of it and coming into range of those red blips which represented ships which wanted to cut us to slag. One of the red blips was to starboard-bow and the other to port-bow and both advancing on Last Chance in a pincer movement. All three of the enemy ships were closing, the ship now to stern already within the asteroid-field as it followed to close the pincers of the three pronged attack.