The Tigershark had its Janus masking system active. This unique device conceived by Narth Engineers and Mothermachine. manipulated materials, energies and conditions in such a way that it allowed the USS Tigershark to appear as something else.
This was no mere projection but a physical change that withstood the probing of any known sensor and scanning method, including of course sight and touch. The most advanced ship of the Union appeared to the outside world as a heavy modified old Karthanian armed trader.
An old ship with crudely added ISAH pods and Nul weaponry. The simulated hull featured a sloppy paint job, had welded armor plates patching battle damage. Some of that apparent repair patch work was added in a semingly uncaring and hasty way. Somde of the hull damage patches even showed signs of genuine rust. The sides of this simulated ship were decorated with a stylized silver lighting bolt and the name Silver Streak was painted by hand across its bow. The Silver Streak was known to be the pirate ship of the notorious and mysterious render captain Black Velvet.
Behind this disguse was the USS Tigershark . It was the pinnacle of Union Technology and had been in the works under the Codename “Project Fish” for centuries.
Since no Union Ship was allowed to operate in Free Space my ship was masked as Pirate ship and my crew posed as pirates, commanded by me Captain Black Velvet, a mysterious female Pirate of obscure origin.
Our mission was to hunt pirates, gather Intelligence on Union Mil Tech trade, find pirate hide outs and suppress the Slave and Drug trade. Specifically we were to find out more about the Sinister Alliance and eliminate a Pirate Captain called Red Dragon.
Har-Hi the Dai was sitting in the Command Chair of the Tigershark as he had the Conn during second dog watch. It was another hour to midnight OTT and the end of his shift. The USS Tigershark perhaps the most unusual ship in the Union fleet, with the most diverse crew ever assembled was on her way to a place called Brhama Port. This was an independent mining outpost in a shattered star system and also a notorious pirate port.
At the Nav station sat a 12,000 year old Golden who had been the leader of his kind. It was his first time on this posting. Krabbel the Archa spider and Senior Navigation Officer was off duty, but was present anyway sitting right beside the Golden to supervise the Old Merchant handling this post. Since he was here anyway he had volunteered to take Helm. While Krabbel was the ship’s Chief Navigator, he had a sufficient Helm rating to steer the Tigershark.
An Attikan Marine Officer named Fectiv manned Tactical. That a Marine manned a Bridge console was about as unusual as the ship and while it was not against regulations, it was unheard off. But then aboard the Tigershark there were quite a few things stretched to the very limit of standard Navy regulations and procedures. Har-Hi was certain there was no other Union vessel with a genuine Y’All warrior manning the Communications Console.
The Tigershark had its Janus Mask active and looked like a Katarian Armed Trader and pretended to be the pirate ship Silver Streak.
Har-Hi turned a little to face the Engineering Officer. On duty was a small rodent like furry Holdian and said. “Everything alright with the tractors?”
He asked because they were towing a Pirate ship.
The little Holdian answered.
“Yes Sir, once the mass is in motion it takes very little to keep it going. The material stress and shear forces are well within expected tolerances.”
“We once towed a full size Hospital ship with a Barracuda destroyer. Back then we were beyond any tolerance.”
The Golden said without taking his eyes of his read outs.
“I really want to hear all the adventures you and the Captain had. It seems there weren’t many dull moments.”
Har-Hi was both relaxed and highly alert and the tall Dai Than turned to look towards the Ready room door. “Indeed, Mr. Sobody there weren’t many dull moments since I met our Captain.”
Narth sitting at OPS added to the conversation.
“I have not yet managed to understand what the exact definition of a moment is. Is it more than a minute, less than 30 seconds. The expression of taking a moment or waiting a moment is quite confusing. Yet I too agree with our XO, the time we have shared...”
He interrupted himself and said. “Sensor contacts, at 7.9 degrees due course, distance 4.1. Hostile activity possible. It appears quite similar to our other encounter.”
Har-Hi said. “Drop us out of Quasi and cut thrust Mr. Krabbel. SHIP go to Yellow and be so kind and inform the Captain. She said everything that crosses our bow is fair game.”
The voice of the ship AI responded .
“She is on her way.”
Yellow Alert and SHIP’s voice caught me on Deck R just as I was climbing out of the ship’s swimming pool.
“Captain we have three contacts on scanner horizon. First situation assessment suggests two pirates and a third ship of unknown configuration.”
“Nothing for days, but each time I decide to take a swim, there is something.” I sighed and said. “All stop, maintain yellow alert and I am on my way.”
SHIP of course had her audio sensors open and since she wasn’t like any other Ship AI I knew, she said.
“It was you who wanted to be informed about any scanner contact. We could make a big bow around it and you go back swimming.”
I gave the shimmering inviting water a last look and said.
“I can swim anytime, this isn’t a leisure cruise and I am the Captain and must set an example. Why I am even explaining such things to you? You know we can’t leave things unchecked. It’s part of our mission.”
“Because I am your SHIP and I like have things explained to me.”
I jumped into the auto dresser and dialed for my usual pirate outfit. Of course I could have stayed and finished my swim and let Har Hi handle the whole situation, but this would have been highly inappropriate out of a number of reasons. I was the captain and it was my responsibility. We had standing orders to investigate any ship contact during our mission here in Freespace and besides this was what I lived for, I could swim anytime.
While the Auto Dresser assembled the leather outfit around my recently altered body, I once more remembered Captain K’Tngnk while he let me steer his Pounder Class Battleship. Encounters in deep space were usually extremely rare and most situations developed in or near star systems, the usual destination of space ships.
However this was Freespace and the region we traversed right now was called the Devil’s Playground for a reason.
Our current course more or less followed the the outer rim of the Scutum Centaurus arm of our galaxy, somewhere in this region was Brhama Port our first destination to make my first official appearance as Black Velvet and introduce the Silver Streak to local eyes and establish ourselves as major player in this lawless region of space.
A few days ago we intervened as we witnessed a Pirate attack on what seemed at first a harmless civilian freighter. The Civilian freighter belonged to a Union Company but it was everything but harmless and after we captured and boarded the freighter, we found a horror freight consisting of human body parts and human captives intended to be sold on the Togar Meat markets.
The freighter, the pirate crew and the human freight was on its way back to Union Space and we were towing the Pirate ship sans its crew behind us, with the intend to sell it at Brahma Port.
My ship, the USS Tigershark was currently disguised as a Karthanian armed Trader named Silver Streak. To disguise an entire Starship we utilized by a marvelous device called the Janus System. I was quite certain that the Tigershark was the most unique ship not only within the Union fleet but perhaps in the entire Galaxy. It represented the very pinnacle of Union Technology and had been in development under the Codename “Project Fish” for centuries.
We operated not under regular Union Fleet authority but were part of the secretive X Fleet and under Command of NAVINT.
Our disguise and our undercover approach was necessary due to the Freespace treaty. This contract between the Big Four and about 70 independent civilizations, made it a war causing offense if any of the Big Four operated ships inside Freespace territory. No space ship operating under Union Authority was allowed to cross the treaty defined boundaries of this buffer region between the Big Four. This fact was used by pirates and criminals to escape pursuit and prosecution. So my ship looked like a heavily modified Karthanian trader and was known as the Silver Streak and I had taken on the disguise and identity of a female pirate Captain called Black Velvet. A female pirate of that name had raided ships and colonies four hundred years ago and then had vanished under mysterious circumstances. No one outside a very exclusive circle of individuals knew that the Black Velvet and the Silver Streak from back then also had been a NAVINT cover operation.
Our mission was it to hunt pirates and neutralize as many of that murdering scum as possible; to gather Intelligence on Union Mil Tech trade, find pirate hideouts and suppress the Slave and Drug trade. Specifically we were also to find out more about the Sinister Alliance and eliminate a Pirate
The region we were traversing was close to what the Dai called the Thalim Nebula. A region of space where five Suns simultaneous went Supernova.
Part of that Nebula had been claimed by the Union and much of what had been Galactic Council space in that area was now also considered Union Space, claimed after the recent events following the war against the Nogoll. The region was still in turmoil and the final boundaries subject to heated dispute and new friction between the Union and the Kermac led Galactic Council.
We now were clear on the other side of the Thalim Nebula.
I reached the bridge simultaneous with Shea, Mao and Shaka. Like a dance move practiced a million times, Har-Hi got up in a fluent move and so did everyone else, switching and occupying their stations.
I sank into the leather of my Command seat and as always all doubts, all uncertain feelings left me. This is where I belonged.
“Engineering . disengage tractor and set the the Mighty Nine to drift. Tactical give me a full 360.SHIP, Battle view.”
While Circuit confirmed Tractor projectors deactivated, my Command seat was pushed up and my surroundings changed. I now had an unobstructed view of space, a simulated computronic enhanced view of course, bridge stations reduced to icons floating just at the edge of my field of view.
At 11 degrees of our intended course and at 3.9 light years distance were three bright signals.
Har-Hi spoke after he collected the different department reports. “The contacts I am marking now red are known pirate ships. The 340 meter Anarka and the 360 meter Meronka. Operated by the Terrible Twins.
Hans is receiving detailed intel as we speak. Both pirate ships are heavily customized DeNoir Baltic Corvettes,legally sold surplus from almost 700 years ago. Shea’s Power distribution scan confirms Mao’s armament estimate.
They both have very good Shimmer Shields in Union Standard triple layer configuration and both are armed with real Nul Froth Casters. Both ships would pose a serious opponent to the Silver Streak, together they would be more than a match to the ship we are supposed to be.
Their opponent is a massive 1000 meter ship of unknown configuration, but energy signature suggests Tech Level 6. Detailed weapon or material scans are not possible with the scanners and sensors we are simulating. The shields of the unknown ship appear to be standard energy and matter repulsors, no para- or transdim signatures present. Situation analysis suggests they are about to engage in hostile activities.”
“Alright then let us welcome the strangers and reduced the number of pirates in these region by two. All hands Battle Stations. Raise Shields. Krabbel take us to the outmost range of our Snipers. If at all possible I like to stay out of the range of those Froth Casters.
Mao, clip their claws before we get any closer, prepare for Micro TL and see if you can time your fire whenever the alien ship fires.”
Har-Hi said.”That’s not a bad idea at all, they never suspect us but think it was the Alien.”
Shipmaster Noldra was actually glad the uncertainty was over and his gut feeling had once more proven to be more accurate than the scanners. Two ships of unknown configuration were approaching.
The Kermac had returned to the bridge and the Prince woke from his nap. Albra blinked with his big brown eyes. “What is the matter, how can anyone find some rest with all this commotion?” Noldra fumed. “Your excellency do you want to lead our vessel into combat against two unknown hostiles and remove me from command?”
“No of course not, I have full confidence in...”
Noldra was close to physically drag the Prince out of his Command stool.
“Then get out of my seat, now and take that pale piece of Alien offense of my bridge, your Majesty.”
The prince got up with a hurt expression and Albra sat down.
“Raise our Energetic Fences at once and prepare to launch Revenge Bringers. Operator see if those Aliens can be raised on the Etherwaver.”
The Kermac did not leave and neither did the prince, but the Command crew around Albra functioned and did their duty. The white skinned ambassador of the Kermac pointed at the visual viewer.
“Don’t waist your time talking to them. Commence all resources to propulsion and continue to approach Kermac space. That space rubble will not dare to follow.”
“Kermac, you return to your quarters and remain there or by the First Emperor’s Holy Manhood I have you dragged there. We can’t go trans light until we have serviced the engines.”
The Kermac was outraged but knew when it was a good time to remain silent.
The Operator of the Ether set turned.
“We made contact to them and they demand our surrender. They will spare our lives if we hand over all valuables. They have not identified themselves.”
“Then our answer will be clear. Let us hand out something valuable indeed. Launch Revenge Bringers one through twenty..”
Xandrao ship to ship missiles were very fast and able to reach near light speed very fast and shut down their space cutting infra fields moments before impact, bringing 500 kilos of relativistic mass to bear traveling at 99 percent of light. They were equipped with the best computers Xandrao engineering could come up with and had the ability to split into multiple attack vector warheads.
The ship shuddered at enemy weapon impact. Lights flickered and seat restraints activated as ship gravitation was lost.
One of the analysts reported. “Enemy is using a Gravitation based weapon and it collapsed shields.
The enemy ships intercepted several Revenge Bringer missiles, but a good number impacted on their shields wearing them down.
One of the Scanner operators reported. “Ship Master, our Revenge Bringers have disabled both ships. For some reason we can’t yet explain our warheads must have penetrated the enemy shields and armor and destroyed some vulnerable spot. The enemy ships lost propulsion and weapons as it appears.
“Finish them off!” Yelled the floating Kermac.
Noldra wanted to finish off the Kermac but he said.
“Reload the Missile tubes and fire a second volley.”
“Ship Master Noldra we are being called from a third ship that just appeared on our scanners.”
Mao grinned proudly. He had just disabled both pirate ships with micro TL loads. Timing them with the impacts of the primitive missiles
“The problem these Pirate sisters had that they are using old Union De Noirs,and we knew exactly where their computronic cores were. No Computronic...nothing works.”
“Let’s make sure they don’t find time to activate some sort of back up.” I said.
To my Helmsman I added. ”Shaka get us closer. Elfi see if you can hail the unknown and establish communications.”
Narth said. “The newcomers are from Downward and it appears they are here for the first time indeed, but they are not here for exploration reasons . I sense two Kermac among them.”
I slapped my hand on my arm rest.
“And here I was wanting to spare newcomers to be victims of a pirate attack, and all we find is yet another GC thrall species. Not that they should be here with a warship like that in the first place.”
Elfi said. “I have made contact, Captain. They are using a simple audio only Tachyon Radio I send greeting in all common languages and they responded to Kermac right away.”
“Put me on.”
“Comm Link open Captain.”
“This is Captain Black Velvet of the Silver Streak. To avoid any confusion. I am a Pirate and we are here to make a profit. Initially I wanted to assist you and keep you unharmed,,but since you speak Kermac you are violating the Freespace Treaty, you are to surrender and shut down all Energy consuming devices.”
“Captain, they are about to release another volley of their missiles.”
“Can we prevent that without blowing them to pieces?”
Mao said. “The missiles are released individually, but we could blow their force field generator and then Tech Stop the whole ship.”
“Alright do it.”
Mao’s approach worked but not before the strangers released a few of their missiles. Both pirate ships were the target and without shields they were defenseless and both ships were destroyed, before we could board them.
Two hours later I had reached what must have been the Alien ships bridge. Our tech stop and paralysators have worked like a charm this time , everyone was asleep and and none of the alien ships equipment worked.
Har-Hi stood beside me and said. “Don’t you think they look like Terran cattle?” He pushed a sleeping alien aside who was still floating, as there was no Artificial gravitation either.”
Now as he said it I had to agree, and I remembered the large feedlots on Wichita Planet and the endless herds of cows.”Yes, there is a resemblance.”
Shea pointing at a large alien strapped to the command chair. He was wearing some sort of colorful harness with lots of gold and a cape like mantle. Otherwise he was his furry self and she said. “At least we can be certain he is male.”
I gave her a side look and said. “And you noticed that huge thing right away.”
“A pure scientific observation and conclusion of evaluating a visual examination.”
“Yes I would have put it exactly the same way. I think they haven’t invented pants or modesty .”
Narth appeared next to me and also looked at the being in the central chair and then at Shea. “How can you determine he is male by visual inspection alone? This being is not registered on GalNet.”
Shea pointed at the being. “They appear to be Carbon based life forms, and have physiological similarities to other mammalian species. The appendix like organic feature so dominantly featured between the beings legs, make me very confident that he is indeed male.”
Har-Hi had strange grin on his face as he said .”You identify as a male Narth right? Don’t you have something like that as well?”
I held up my hands. “Here we are on the bridge of an alien species we just boarded, and what is it my Senior staff is discussing?” I shook my head in a over acting theatrical manner then said. “ Mr. Narth make sure we contain all Kermac before they have a chance to come around. Mr. Hi coordinate with our Security Officer and confine and secure the crew of this vessel; and you Ms Schwartz. I like to read a detailed assessment on their technology.”
They confirmed my orders, but had a hard time to keep my amusement out of my voice as I saw Narth look down on himself saying. “Yes I was supposed to emulate a human male and accessing physiological data I just realized that the corporal shell I was given, is faulty and inadequate equipped.”
Har-Hi put his hand on Narth’s shoulder as they walked out. “Next time you go to your Narth place, that is something they need to fix. “
I missed Narth’s reply as Circuit who was working on the ships systems turned and said. “Sorry Captain their tech is very primitive, simple binary circuits, digital stuff and not well shielded. Our Tech stop melted most of it.”
“Can we hook up something of ours? If life support does not come back on soon, they won’t survive.” I said to him and pulled a floating Kermac on his foot down so I could examine him closer. “
“I am replicating nanites as fast as I can, so we can restore basic life support. In terms of Computronics they are not Tech Level seven, more like five or six at most. Quite interesting solutions but...”
“Do we have to evacuate them before life support conditions deteriorate and become life threatening to them?”
Circuit shrugged his shoulders. “ Hard to say, but maybe 3-4 hours, before temperatures drop to far. Their hull has a sufficient layer of lead to reduce radiation, but not completely opaque to ionizing radiation like Union Hulls.”
“Well it gives me a little time to think what I should do with them.”
Fective, the Attikan Marine and a good friend appeared from one of the access doors and stomped in his camouflaged battle suit across the deck. “Captain, the Golden and I have completed the survey of the pirate ship wrecks. There is not all that much left, but we secured nineteen survivors who managed to jettison or close their suits in time and being far enough of the explosion centers. We secured the survivors in Stasis boxes and a few boxes of loot.”
“Thank you, Lt. Fective. “Now please get every available hand over here and help Mr. Narth and Mr. Hi and fine tooth comb this ship. I want every Kermac in PSI Shielded Zero Stasis with Marine guards and robots watching them, if they are so much as twitch, you have the authority to eliminate. I really don’t trust them.”
Fective nodded inside his suit. “We don’t have much exposure to the Kermac at the LMC, but I went to Union school of course and I never heard much good about them.”
I held up my hand showing two fingers. “I like Shiss, Pertharians, Klack and even Y’All. I am the most un-biased Norse ever to step of Nilfeheim. I have Elly friends, got squiggled by Garbinis, get hugs from Archa and trust our Shail. I even did the spooky thing with a Narth, but there are two species my spotted friend I do not trust: Kermac and Thaurans. We are deep in Freespace and what do we find Kermac’s agitating a species of cows and very large squirrels. They have no business here in Freespace in the first place.”
Shea looked up and smirked. “Well technically we don’t either, but I agree with you on the rest.”
With an elegant move Warner the Holdian pushed himself off a panel he was working at and floated before me. “Those are not squirrels , Captain. I don’t know who those big things are but what you call Squirrels are Dolbarians. They have evolved from a once lost Diobane colony and had the distinct fortune that their three planets and 2 systems were on the side of the Galactic Council during the last treaty conference.”
“I stand corrected then Mr. Warner. I must confess I am an expert, as we don’t have any Squirrels on Nilfeheim, but I remember seeing a similar kind in the forests of Green Eden, but how are we doing on the ship’s systems? If we can get their life support going, or we may have to move the entire crew of this big ship.”
The little Holdian sighed. “As Lt. Circuit said, our tech stop fried whatever electronic systems they had and having a Micro load detonate in their computer core made a real mess of their mainframe.” The Holdian re enacted the explosion with a big gesture and was quite successful. “Give us three weeks and the original construction manuals and we might get them working again.”
I sighed with a smile. “Then I better don’t keep you from your work.”
He chirped and moved back to the open panel.
Shea said. “I think we need another Paralysator sweep, I can detect their neural activity picking up.”
I blinked at my Comm link and said. “Har -Hi how far along are we containing the crew?”
“This bucket they call a space ship had more than 600 crew members, thankfully our biosensors have no problem finding them. Narth thinks we got them all except for the ones on the bridge, confined in a cargo hold. We also found 85 casualties.”
“All right then, now all that is left to do is talk to them and figure out what to do.”
To Shea I said. “Let them come around, I need more information so I can decide.”
It didn’t take long and what I assumed was the leader of the aliens recovered from the Paralysator effect. He was still strapped into his command chair. His first impulse was to reach for a weapon as he saw us , but he stopped as he stared into four TKU muzzles at the same time. I am sure however it wasn’t the guns but TheOther holding them that made him think otherwise and freeze in his move. He said something with a loud voluminous voice I did not understand. Shea spoke to him in Kermac and he nodded but said something in a language I did not understand.
She begun with First Contact procedures and her PDD projected simple dots. First one then two then three.
The bovine looking alien understood and responded with guttural sounds. She made fast progress. He made a snorting surprised and somewhat frightened sound as Narth appeared next to me and I felt sorry for the Alien leader. He had his ship invaded saw a real Y’All with guns and now a shrouded Narth appear from thin air. Narth spoke to me on our silent mental connection. “The Kermac are stripped of all devices and sleep in Zero Stasis and the being before you is a Xandrao. They know of the Togar and the Jooltar but have never heard of the Union, the Shiss or the Nul. From what I gather they are on their way to visit Kermac Prime to discuss Galactic Council membership.”
“Why aren’t they using their usual Psi tricks on them?”
“I do not know for certain, but since I had to probe quite forcefully to get into the Xandrao mind, a certain natural resistance to Psionics might be the reason.”
Shea said. “He understands some Kermac, but they used translators of their now defunct shipboard systems. I started Language analysis but SHIP was faster, she downloaded the language data from one of the Kermac Beards. You should now be able to talk to them.”
I turned to address the alien leader. “I am Captain Black Velvet of the Silver Streak, we are an independent group of beings seeking opportunities. Your ship was severely damaged in the altercation and lost all electronics. While my Chief Engineer tries to patch rudimentary life support functions, we still might have to evacuate your vessel. Your crew is for the moment secured but relatively safe.”
He listened to me and I was sure he understood so I continued. “I wanted to spare you newcomers to this side of the galaxy, but once learned you are sympathizers and thralls of the cursed Kermac, I am no longer so inclined. From you I want to know what your plans were and what kind of scheme you and the Kermac have cooked up to cause mischief and mayhem.”
The Xandrao snorted angrily but tried to keep his dignity and said with his loud booming voice.
“I am Shipmaster Noldra Dorrx and this is the First Ship of the Emperor. We are on a mission of diplomatic importance. I will not declare anything else to a stinking pirate, who from the looks of it seems to be a disgusting female. Not that your race seems to have much redeeming features.
Go away female and find me a male and I might talk to him.”
I got closer and put my finger on his wide snout. “You talk to me, or you talk to no one ever again.”
He snorted and made a sound like I heard Fangsnappers make, then he added:
“You are only tough because I am restrained and you hide behind the guns of your four armed terror. You would never stand a chance against a Xandrao male, no one does. Not even that four armed beast.”
Just then Artificial gravitation came back on and some of the ships own lights came on.
“Go ahead Xandrao, chose the weapons. Right here and now!”
“You are a weak female, hiding in armor and behind muscle of your male slaves. Your are a cowardly pirate. Go ahead tell your males to kill me.”
Har-Hi sighed loudly. “Captain, this is not...”
But I had already given the suit the Emergency release command and the battle disintegrated into assembly parts and basically spit me out.
The Xandrao slapped on the restrain release that now worked again and lunged forward. He was almost as big as Hans and had his hands immediately on me. Instead of evading him , I grabbed him by the wrist and tried to execute an Aikido move that served me so well against the lumbering Y’All. It did not work as I hoped, the Xandrao was I had to realize, a trained fighter and not a brawler. His other fist grabbed me by the throat. And yes once again I was in trouble and it was trouble I could have easily avoided, I certainly did not act like a Union Captain should act, and this was not how first Contact was made.
He was squeezing the very life out of me and yet I found enough air to gargle.
“Stay where you are!” To Har Hi.
I got angry, not so much about the Xandrao but about myself, but the bovine like alien was really starting to piss me off. He had lifted me of the ground, I was holding to his massive arm with one hand and stabbed my fingers into his right eye. He screamed in pain and as I feigned a second stab against his other he instinctively raised his arms to deflect my second attempt, to do that he let me go and I dropped, ignoring the throbbing pain of my squeezed neck and kicked upward as hard as I could and kicked him at exactly that exposed feature of his anatomy we had talked about earlier. He was as it appeared quite sensitive and groaned in an ear shattering volume, He wiped his big arm through the air, a powerful swing , but far of target. An axe handle blow of mine across his wide snout however found its target.
All my attacks had been done with all my strength, but had done little more than perhaps dazzle the Alien.
He lowered his head and swiped his sharp horns through the air, a perfectly natural move if you had horns like that, but unexpected. I managed to avoid his grabbing arms and the head swing that brought his horns into play, by perhaps a hairs width. In all this I could have ended it easily. Narth was here and so was Har Hi, not to mention TheOther all would have taken was a call for help.
A blow of my fist against his forehead, made me realize just how hard his skull was. It felt like punching a battle ship hull.
Yet I had to end this somehow on my own.
The head swung the other side while the Xandrao drove me backwards as I tried to avoid his horn attacks and his fast grabbing attempts. He was fast, fast enough to prevent me from really getting away. He was mad and full of frustration and it was apparent that his kind trained hand to hand combat, perhaps almost as religiously as the Union Marines did. There was not much room left to back up, the head swung again...his big hands swinging with powerful blows. The only thing saving me was the wonderful agility my altered body seemed to have. Then I acted on an instinct , grabbed the swinging horns just as his neck was at the outmost swing and I added all my body weight to twist it further. I heard a crunching sound and the big alien groaned , even the big Xandrao had to follow physics and his big body had to follow the momentum and he crashed hard on the deck plating almost burying me, I let go and rolled away in the last moment.
The big alien was making strange gurgling sounds and did not try to get up. I came shaking to my feet and with a coarse , laboring voice I rasped.
Har Hi rushed by.
“Captain, let it be, you broke the Xandrao’s neck . He is dying.”
I wiped the sweat of my brow and tried to straighten myself into a more dignified position.
Only now I noticed the bleeding cut along my left arm.”
Har Hi shook his head.
“Narth get the Captain to sickbay.”
I did not remember the teleportation and realized I must have passed out. The next thing I remembered was seeing the face of my CMO and she wasn’t pleased at all.
“That was a close one , Captain. I don’t even know how you kept fighting with a severely bruised larynx, the subsequent swelling caused asphyxia and Lt. Narth brought you in with not much time to spare.”
I did not feel proud and as I sat up I saw Har Hi, Shea and Narth standing there.
Har-Hi had his arms crossed and said.
“Captain I say it right out and in front of everyone, this isn’t working. You are the Captain and for the most part you doing a great job, but picking fights like that is anything but smart. You almost died and in a situation that was not even remotely necessary.”
He spread his arms. “You know we follow you to hell and back, but I am the XO and I must say this.”
I lowered my head and felt a shameful frown creep into my face.
“I know , I can’t even say anything to defend myself. That was extremely foolish.”
“Captain, the warrior in me is full of awe of your fighting skills and I still can’t believe you almost killed that Xandrao, despite an almost lethal injury, but I am not just a Dai Than warrior anymore but a Union Officer and you are no longer just a Nilfeheim viking , but a commanding Officer. I know we do things differently than on other ships. Your instincts and your style is usually head on...”
He stopped looked at Narth for help then continued.
“I love you like a brother and I don’t really know how to say it or what to say. Just be a little more careful.”
Narth said, not using his mental voice but speaking aloud. “I tend to agree with Har-Hi, but once again these impulsive actions, guided by emotions and instinct all Narth find harder to fathom than the secrets of creation itself, have yielded surprising results.”
I got up after Cateria nodded and I said.
“All I can say I know I acted wrong and I am sorry. I am aware that my actions were inappropriate and unnecessary.”
“The problem is your action was not as unnecessary as we would like it to be, so we could use it to persuade you to take a different approach next time. The Xandrao survived thanks to Shea putting him in stasis and Cateria saving his life. He hasn’t stopped talking about you and swears undying allegiance to you.”
I took his hand. “I promise I will listen to you and try to be less impulsive.”
“Well it would help if you stop picking fights with the wildest , biggest opponents you can find.”
I noticed I was wearing just underwear and cleared my throat. “Enough of this unprofessional behavior and that includes first and foremost me and let us get back to the business at hand.”
Back in my usual outfit I was still turning Har-Hi’s words in my head, knowing he was more than just right. I had reached the Command Chair of a Union ship much earlier than I could ever hoped for. Men like Stahl and McElligott trusted me and more so my crew trusted me. I acted like the a dumb Flicker fish. I could almost hear Egill’s dry voice in my head. I sighed and entered the Marine guarded room, where the Xandrian Ship Master was recuperating.
He sat on a vari-matic chair, as I entered he dropped to his knees.
“I apologize, Captain Black Velvet, you have earned my deepest respect and I pledge my services to you. An apparent weaker female of an apparent weaker race has bested me, almost killed me without any weapons. You are indeed a mighty warrior. I will without reservation answer your questions and accept any fate you have decided upon me.”
“There is no need to kneel. Ship Master Dorrx. I acted out of proportion. I am not out to learn your secrets, but what business do you have with the Kermac? “
“They are not the unchallenged masters as they claim to be. I laughed at the Dolbarians just hours ago as they told me about the Big Four. I could not believe that there are Star Empires as big as the Dolbarians claim the Nul, the Shiss or these Unions control. We had a hard time to really comprehend what the Kermac claimed about the Galactic Council.”
“The Kermac are an old species and they made deception and controlling others to do their bidding into an art form. They do control a sizeable region, but they are far from being the unchallenged masters. They let others fight, work and provide for them.”
“I begin to understand but we are a proud people, we see there are others who are stronger and who control technology superior to ours. We have reason to believe the Togar are preparing to conquer us. I have seen reports and know these Cats love hunting and eating Xandrao. Our Emperor thinks that we could make it a costly endeavour for the Togar Queen, but we would still fall. We are in need of an ally who is strong enough to make the Togar reconsider.”
He spread his big arms, the ones who had almost crushed me to death.
“Captain Black Velvet, we are aware of our boisterous nature and officially we like to see ourselves as strong and unbeatable. I do not know if you have already talked to the prince, but if you have do not heed him. He is a good prince but never an Emperor. Our liege is not as naïve as the Kermac thinks he is and neither am I, but we considered serving the Kermac as it would be better than losing it all and end up on Togar menus.”
“I am a fugitive, a criminal and a Pirate bound to Freespace, but you might find a viable alternative to proceed to the Union. There you would not need to be servants, but could be equal partners. Of course Union membership must be applied for and new members must accept to uphold Union Laws. However it be better if you and your prince see for yourself and then provide your people and your emperor with the information you have gathered.”
“I was informed about the status of my ship. It is not able to return or move ahead. Even if your magnificent robot engineer will be able to patch things. If our encounter is any indication what this region holds for us, without weapons and energy fences covers we will fall prey to the next pirate that is less honorable than you.”
“I find a solution.”
McElligott said as I finished my report.
”Not that I am complaining that you most likely prevented the Kermac gaining another Thrall species, but fighting a 3 meter Minotaur so he would change his mind and contemplate alternatives is not exactly the smartest way of doing things.”
“I know, my XO already made this very clear, Sir.”
The old Admiral rubbed his chin.
“You are at the edge of GalCom range and pretty far from Union Space. I can’t send any Chimera unit to pick those Centaurs up, as they need to remain unknown and can't escort a potential new member species to Union space.“
The old Admiral suddenly chuckled.
“I guess my last sentence was only funny to me. Chimeras and Centaurs...ah well let me think.”
The Admiral spoke with me over a 2D connection and the image was projected on a field screen. Due to the fact that we were at the very edge of GalCom reach and already beyond GalNet he could no longer establish an Avatar. “I also would love to get my hands on those Kermac.”
He rubbed his chin. “See if your Engineer can’t patch that Alien ship up, just good enough so it can limp to Auriga Xi and escort him until you know they are safe. We got regular Union Assets there and they can’t go after you as long as you stay in Freespace. Then I arrange a rendezvous with a Chimera unit to take the Kermac off your hands.”
Circuit was sure he and his engineering team could get the Xandrao ship patched up enough to make it, if he Xandrao remained in one room and he did not have to patch the entire ships electronics, but he needed at least a day.
I briefed the Xandrao Ship master and he agreed with this course of action.
I had both of our Gazelles out and fly a cloaked search pattern, to make sure no one else interrupted.
Three days passed without incident . The Xandrao ship would be able to limp to Translight speed and make it to Auriga Xi in five days.
Back on the Xandrao ship I shook the hand of the big alien and he said.
“I have learned a lot in a short time, Captain Velvet. I learned that there are females that have courage and that there are trustworthy pirates . I learned that our galaxy is even more dangerous than we thought it would be and that your robot engineer is not a robot, but a true magician and a genius. However I also learned that my gut feeling about the Kermac was true. I am glad there is an alternative we can present to our Emperor.”
“Fare well then Shipmaster Dorrx maybe our paths cross again under better conditions. I will escort your vessel as close to that new Union system as I dare and then you are on your own, but I am sure you find the United Stars a helpful place and they will restore your vessel so you can return safely.”
“I have much to thank you for. I am not sure if we ever meet again, my prince will still be quite sore about the fact that he is tied up in the freight bay and he will of course blame you.”
“You can release your crew and the prince, but remember there isn’t any life support to most decks.”
“Oh no Captain Velvet, I like to keep him in there as long as possible. I have more peace that way and can blame you the pirates for his misery.”
“I am not sure what this means, but I think I have an idea.” I bade him farewell and went to the next airlock.
Specialist Warner scurried alongside. “Captain, we got all our tools and equipment back and Lt. Circuit is down in the engine room putting final touches to these crude nuclear generators. He should be done within the next ten minutes.”
“Very well then, let us return to our ship. Maybe after the third attempt we make it to that pirate port. “
“What about the Dolbarians, Captain?”
“What about them, Mr. Warner. Did you not say they are Galactic Council?”
“Can we not take them along? I mean they aren’t very happy GC members and what will happen to these two?”
“We can’t take them along. They are GC and we only pretend to be Pirates remember?
“Of course I know that Captain. I mean that we are pirates, but we could keep them in a room. They won’t eat much.”
“When the Xandrao reach the Union System, I am sure Command finds a way to get them back to their home. It’s not that we are at war against the Dolbarians.”
“Captain, you said we can always talk to you and this is an unfair situation. These two will be interrogated and tortured.”
“Mr. Warner of course you can talk to me any time, but we, I mean the Union won’t torture them I promise.”
“Captain, not us, the Kermac of course. These two were sent to escort two Kermac envoys to the Xandrao and what do you think will happen if they return from somewhere Union side? The entire Dolbarian species is under Kermac Control, but not in the nice way where they are mentally controlled but in the demeaning , slave you do what I say way. The Kermac will torture them to find out what happened to their envoys and then kill them for not preventing the Xandrao to go Union Side.”
I had to admit he made sense.
“I sure don’t want them to be tortured, but if we take them we would have to keep them in Zero Stasis for a very long time.” “Could we not fly to their home world, take a delegation Dolbarians to Pluribus? I am sure the Dolbarian want to be Union and free of Kermac tyranny.”
I knelt down to be on his level and said.
“Mr. Warner we have a mission, we are supposed to be Pirates. We can’t simply fly into GC space, land on a Kermac controlled planet. Contact their government and take them to Pluribus.”
“I know it seems impossible, but you are our Captain and you find a way, besides it doesn’t have to be now. Maybe after our mission and when you think about something.”
The Holdian specialist was nowhere near as cute as the little Holdian commander I once knew, but he too had these big black button eyes, a pointed black snout that shimmered wet. His whiskers hung down and his round ears had a somehow sad looking position. He sighed and kneaded his tiny fur covered hand.
”But of course you are right, Captain. What can we, what could you possibly do? I am sorry I bothered you with that.”
“You drive a harder bargain than that Golden Friend of yours. We really can’t do much about the Dolbarian situation, but we can do something about those two. Go ahead and contact Mr. Neugruber and confine those two, we might indeed have to put them in stasis for a while.”
His whiskers snapped up and his ears turned into a happier position.
“Thank you Captain.”