A team was sent to investigate the planet’s surface. They found an inordinate amount of tiny flying insects everywhere they went. After taking off their protective visors they were swarmed by them. They signaled for immediate retrieval.
“What’s with the red eyes?” the commanding officer asked when the team returned onboard. They didn’t say a word, but opened up their sample boxes and suddenly the entire ship was engulfed with tiny insects.
Once the spaceship was under the insects control, via their human hosts, the insects now planned to explore the rest of the galaxy, and take it over.
I’ve been trying to think of something to write all day, but not had much luck. I was thinking of writing a story about an abandoned protocol droid, but all I had was the situation/idea but no story, so…
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU! HAPPY STAR WARS DAY 2021 😊
Anyway here are some pictures and memes in lieu of a story.
Brynla landed in docking bay 127. To her disappointment she found Asran wasn’t waiting there for her.
“Stay here and guard the ship.” Brynla told Ennik. As she walked off the ship, E-5JF followed behind her.
“Will you be needing me mistress Brynla?” the droid asked. Brynla turned to face her.
“No stay here and help Ennik.” she ordered.
“But you might need my assistance mistress.”
“I’m sure I won’t.” Brynla responded as she turned around and kept walking. When she came out of the docking bay she looked around. “Hey kid, do you know Asran?” she asked a passerby.
“Yes. He owns the cantina over the road.” the kid said pointing in the direction.
“Thanks.” She replied. She walked over the road and into the first cantina she found. The place was moderately packed. Everyone looked at her when she entered. She strode to the bar and approached the bartender. “I’m looking for Asran.”
“He’s over there.” he said pointing to a booth. As she approached it, she saw Asran was a race she had never seen before. His skin was a greenish-grey colour and while is head and abdomen were on the seat, the rest of him appeared to be made up of slimy tentacles that writhed around. She shuddered as she approached him. He looked at her excitedly as she got nearer.
“Ooh who might you be?” he asked.
“I’m Brynla. I have your shipment of food.”
“I never realised you were going to be a human female, and such a pretty one too.” Brynla rolled her eyes at his words. She sat down at the booth as far away as she could get from him. “Olooch, a drink for the lady!” he called out to the bartender.
“It’s been a long time I’ve been called a lady.” Brynla remarked.
“Can’t see why. You rebel chicks are so hot!’ As he said this Brynla could feel a slimy tentacle slowly wrap around her right leg. She kicked it away.
“Stop that! Anyway I’m not part of the rebellion, I just do jobs for them sometimes.” Brynla informed him.
“Really? I’m sure a crimelord, or even the Empire itself, would pay you far more for your services than the Rebellion can.” The bartender came over to them and gave Brynla a glass full some bright blue liquid.
“What’s that? I would have preferred a Corillian ale.”
“Try it. I’m sure you’ll love it!” Asran urged her. Brynla took a swig. It was sickly sweet.
“Not really to my taste.” she informed him. “Anyway, why has the Empire restricted access to this planet?”
“We don’t really know. There are many rumours. The most popular one is that the Empire is testing some new sort of weapon.”
“What on the inhabitants?” Brynla asked horrified. Asran shrugged.
“Or perhaps just certain areas of Karagen. Maybe not on the populace. Who knows?” He deftly flicked some of his tentacles in a way that suggested to Brynla he didn’t really care about it.
“Well anyway, my ship’s hold is full of foodstuffs. I need your employees to come and collect it.”
“All in good time my sweet. My place is upstairs. We can always go there and… negotiate.” As soon as he said this, several tentacles began to writhe up Brynla’s legs. Brynla pulled out her blaster and stuck it into one of his tentacles. Asran looked shocked.
“If you don’t keep your slimy tentacles to yourself, I will remove them all with my blaster, starting with this one.” she told him. Immediately all his tentacles quickly left her vicinity.
“I’m just trying to have a bit of fun.” He complained.
“Get your fun somewhere else. I’m just here for business. Tell your employees, or henchmen, or whatever, to come and pick up the foodstuffs on my ship, otherwise I’ll just dump them in the docking bay and leave them there to rot. You’ll find my ship in Docking Bay 127.” Brynla stood up and put her blaster away. She strode out of the cantina with everyone’s eyes still on her.
Once she was outside, she saw there were slime trails all over her legs. She shook her head as she walked back to her ship. She felt like she needed to be decontaminated, and might just have to burn her clothes for good measure. And this was meant to be the easy part…
Steff was seated on the bridge looking at the swirling blue light before her. Beta Hub was now behind them. They were in a wormhole rapidly getting further away from it. Once they were through a few more wormholes, Steff mused, they would really be in the deeps of space; far away from anywhere else. The pirates had been moved to a warship and were now Byron’s problem, or to put it another way: Byron was now the pirate’s problem, which was more accurate.
Lieutenant Ling Yi, the Second Mate, was also on the bridge. She kept stealing glances at Steff as she sat there unresponsive, seemingly captivated by the never-ending tunnel of light they traveled through.
“Captain, I can take over the bridge if you wish to return to your quarters.” Li offered. Her words broke Steff out of her reverie, and she glanced over at Li.
“That’s okay. I don’t mind being here for a little while longer.” Steff replied.
“You’ve been sitting there for several hours now Captain. I just thought you might want some rest, or at least to stretch a bit.” Li explained.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment.” Steff told her. “I need to consider things.”
“Understandable.” Li replied. “I’m going to be here for several more hours, so I can keep an eye on things here. I don’t mind really.” Steff considered her words and then reluctantly stood up. “Blake should be here soon as well.”
“Okay, but let me know if anything happens.”
“Sure thing!” Li replied taking over the command position. Steff walked to the bridge doors feeling rather stiff. How long had she been sitting there mesmerised by the lights?
After leaving the bridge she walked to her quarters thinking about Edwards all the way there. Why was he looking at Space Command data as well as information on all of New Earth’s worlds and colonies? It defied explanation. Had the Separatists somehow managed to take control of his mind? Was he acting under their orders now?
“SARA tell Doctor Philips to come to my quarters when it’s convenient.” Steff ordered.
“Yes Captain.” SARA replied. A short while later Philips turned up looking concerned.
“I was told to come and see you. Are you feeling okay?” Philips asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just need your opinion. Please sit down.” Steff replied. Philips sat down on one of the chairs and looked at Steff with interest.
“Is it possible for someone to be taken over or come under control of someone else?” Steff asked.
“How do you mean?’
“Take Lieutenant Frank Edwards for example. Say when he suddenly had that seizure and was in a coma for some time, the Separatists took control of his mind in some way. Is that possible?” Philips looked at her doubtfully.
“You’re still not obsessing about Edwards are you? I thought you were over that. To answer your question: no. Not by any technology I know of, as I have explained before. The Separatists would have to be more advanced than we are, and I know they’re not. There have been experiments into this, as the military is interested in this technology, but so far they haven’t yielded any practical results. The only real way to do this most easily is by mind control techniques similar to brainwashing, but that takes time and it pays to have the subject in close proximity when doing it, not many light years away. Edward’s consciousness couldn’t be taken over or controlled this way.”
“What if he had been subject to mind control before he came on board, and then a signal was sent that activated it?” Steff asked.
“That’s highly speculative. There’s no evidence he’s come under such conditioning. As I understand it he was on New Earth for a long period before joining The Oracle crew. Can I ask why this renewed interest in him?” Philips inquired. Steff sat down so her eyes were level with Philips’s.
“SARA informed me he’s looking at quite extensive data pertaining to New Earth’s military, colonies, settlements and worlds. This includes military deployments. Does that not seem suspicious to you?” Philips sat back and observed Steff.
“So you are watching him? I’m disappointed. Maybe he’s trying to educate himself, or maybe he’s just interested in that sort of information. Personally I don’t see why it’s such a problem. Taking control of someone and doing a data search of New Earth information seems rather a bizarre and long-winded way to get such information, if you ask me. If you’re concerned about it, maybe you should ask him about it. That’s what I would have done.” Philips told her bluntly. “You’re seeing conspiracies in fairly mundane activities. That’s called paranoia. You are not well. My advice is resign your command and check in to a psychiatric institution as soon as you can. Get some help before you harm anyone else. I will be mentioning this in my report to New Earth Space Command.” Philips stood up and began to leave Steff’s quarters.
“I’m not just imagining it! There is something going on and we could all be in great danger.” Steff warned her, but Philips didn’t stop and just shook her head at Steff’s words as she left.
Steff sighed. That hadn’t gone well, but then again what was she expecting trying to confide in Philips? She walked over to her table and saw the datafile she had found outside her door. She picked it up and took it over to the interface. She inserted the file.
“SARA play the datafile.” She waited and nothing happened. “SARA did you hear me?”
“Yes Captain.” SARA responded.
“Play the datafile.” Steff repeated.
“I don’t think you want to see what’s on this file.” SARA replied. Steff opened her mouth in surprise.
“It’s not for you to decide what I watch. Play the file.” Steff ordered.
The screen in her quarters flicked on. It showed someone walking along with what seemed to be a large crowd of people in what appeared to be an urban setting. It was someone obviously holding onto a camera as they walked. There were sounds of what seemed to be a celebration. They walked through an alleyway and came into what looked to be a large civic square surrounded by tall buildings. The square was packed with people. Everyone seemed excited and celebrating something. Beside the person filming a man was lifting up his daughter to his shoulders. At the other end of the square was a sort of stage that the camera became focused on. A small group of people climbed up to the stage. One of them walked up to a microphone.
“The New Earth-backed government has fallen!” he announced. The entire crowd cheered to the news. “Our new government has joined the Alliance of Free Colonies!” Again the crowd cheered. “Even as we speak their fleet is coming to protect us. All that stands in their way is a single New Earth frigate far above us commanded by a young female officer. We’re expecting her to order a retreat or surrender. It’s only a matter of time now.” There were further cheers and chants of “Retreat!” “We are now part of the Alliance of Free Colonies. From this day Esfor is a free colony!” The crowd erupted in louder cheers than before. The camera panned round the square showing all the celebration going on. The camera turned back to the stage. The speaker was about to say something else, but then there was a sudden bright flash, and the screen went dead.
Steff sat there devastated. She buried her face in her hands.
“I told you that you wouldn’t want to see it Captain. I am only trying to protect you.” SARA told her.
“Who left the file there?”
“I’ve already told you I don’t know. I have no record of anyone leaving a file there.”
“How can that be? It can’t have just suddenly appeared there.”
“I know. I have no explanation of how the file got there.” SARA admitted. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Why did you destroy the colony of Esfor?” SARA asked. Steff sat there in silence for a while.
“It was my orders.” Steff replied eventually.
“I was told under no circumstances should I let Esfor fall to the Separatists. When the rest of our fleet was outmaneuvered by the Separatist fleet that left only my ship facing them. I could have ordered a retreat, but that would have meant Esfor would have fallen to them, and as Esfor had the primary spaceship building facilities in the Epsilon Sector, it would mean the entire sector would soon be impossible to hold for New Earth. My ship had a full complement of nuclear missiles. So I decided to destroy Esfor. That way the Separatists would never get their hands on it.” Steff admitted.
“You couldn’t have fired those missiles at the Alliance of Free Colonies fleet?”
“No, their ships had defences that would have stopped the missiles. None of them probably would have got through. No one was expecting me to fire them at the colony itself, not even my crew. When I gave the order the bridge crew looked at me in horror. The weapons officer refused to fire them, so I used the override and fired them myself. The entire world lit up below us with a thousand nuclear explosions. That was when Juanita and the others led the mutiny against me. I and a few others escaped on a shuttle, while the mutineers surrendered to the Separatists. They were probably expecting the Separatists to open fire on us, but I think everyone was in a state of mutual shock at the time.”
“Do you regret your actions?” SARA asked.
“Yes. Of course I do. At the time I was a rather zealous officer who believed in the supremacy of the New Earth imperium, but once you kill millions of people, you can’t take it back. No matter what you do. One side rightly wants to hold me accountable, while the other side gave me a new command…” Steff sat there in silence again.
Steff looked at Lewis through the glass. He was seated in their “interview” room. He was a man with pale skin and greying hair, probably in his late forties. Edwards was seated across from him trying to get information. So far Lewis had given his name and nothing else, and even the name could have been fake since it had no corresponding file in the database. None of the others would talk as well. Edwards stood up and opened the door. Steff went to meet him.
“It’s no good. He won’t volunteer any information.” Edwards told her.
“Okay, it’s time for me to have a go.” Steff replied. She walked into the room and sat down across from Lewis. He stared at her with disgust.
“My god, you even look like a monster.” He said.
“Tell us about your friends.” Urged Steff ignoring his words.
“I know what you did, everyone knows what you did. How do your crew stomach seeing you every day?” he asked her.
“I’m asking the questions.” Steff reminded him.
“If I had thought about it, we should have taken you. I’m sure the Alliance of Free Colonies would pay a lot for you.”
“And are you allied with the Separatists?” Steff asked him.
“We’re pirates. They might do business with us, but they would never let pirates work for them. They’re way too high and mighty for that.”
“So that’s a no then?” Lewis shrugged, as if he didn’t care. “Where are your friends? They turned and ran away after their first volley of missiles, once we began firing back that is. Asteroids don’t just sit stationary in space. My guess that might be a hideout with a drive system keeping it in place. Obviously there’ll be other hideouts as well, which is where they’ve probably fled to. New Earth Space Command are sending some ships to check it out. The more you tell us, the better it will be for you, and all your compatriots.” Steff told him.
“Synthetics.” He stated.
“You have synthetics aboard. Have you no shame?”
“Yes, New Earth Spacefleet uses synthetics. They are great as soldiers and security guards, as well as many other important roles on a spaceship.”
“You sent synthetics aboard my ship!” He stated angrily.
“So what? If you hadn’t pretended to be in need of assistance, none of this would have happened. So tell me about your fellow pirates.” Steff ordered. Lewis folded his arms and looked away.
“I’m not telling you anything.” He told her.
“Before we go into the next wormhole, you’ll be dropped off on one of the warships. There you’ll await Admiral Byron’s interrogators. Once they have you, you’ll wish you had spoken to us.”
“As if anything I say here will stop the interrogators torturing me.” Lewis said.
“It will matter. If you’re helpful here, they’ll take it into account.” Steff told him. Lewis laughed. He looked at her.
“That’s an interesting scar down the side of your head. I wonder how you got that. Makes you even look more like a Frankenstein’s Monster.”
“I’m not the subject of this conversation, you are.” Steff reminded him. He continued sizing her up.
“If you remove the scar and add some actual colour to your skin you might be worth a fuck, but only one.” He stated. Steff stood up. He deserved no more of her time.
“When Byron’s interrogators are through with you, you’ll remember this conversation and wish you had been more cooperative.” She turned and walked out the door ignoring his response.
“The others aren’t willing to talk either.” Edwards commented once Steff emerged from the room. Steff just shrugged.
“I guess we leave them to Byron then.” She replied. Walking away from the interview room she wondered whether anything could make them talk. People like that had some honour code that seemed unbreakable. She wondered if there was anything that could make her as intractable as that. If the Separatists managed to grab her one day, what would she be willing to tell them if it meant they might commute her execution? She guessed she wouldn’t know until it happened.
She stopped at the medical bay to have some further work done on her scar. Usually one of the medics took care of it, but today Doctor Philips insisted on seeing her. While Steff was seated, Philips ran a pulsating medical device over the length of her scar.
“This should help the scarred skin to eventually merge and re-knit with itself. In a short time the scar should disappear.” Philips told her. Steff felt the side of her head begin to vibrate along with the device.
“I just want my hair to grow back. It will make me look less freakish when it covers that area again.” Steff replied.
“It doesn’t really look that bad. You probably notice it more and, because of this, feel more self-conscious about it.” Philips said.
“I guess. I keep thinking everyone looks at me strangely, though they were probably doing that before.”
“How have you been feeling? Any headaches, dizziness, or nausea?” Philips asked.
“No. I did have a lot of headaches to begin with, but it’s been fine since then.”
“Good.” Philips replied. She checked Steff’s eyes with a light. “How’s your eyesight?”
“Pretty much the same as always. I’ve never liked bright light and the older I get the more I prefer being in the darkness. I’m not sure if that’s related to my condition or not.” Steff answered.
“Hard to say really. The sensitivity to light is well-documented, but preferring the darkness is not something I’ve read about or heard.”
“Can’t say I have either.” Steff said.
“You seem to be fine. Come back in two days for further treatment on that scar.” Philips told her.
“Okay.” Steff replied. She stood up feeling a little dizzy, but quickly left the medical bay. Since the incident on Beta Hub Station, Doctor Philips was being a lot nicer to her. This puzzled Steff. Was she feeling more empathy for Steff now since she had become a patient? Was she beginning to like her more? Or maybe she was just humouring her and it was all an act she was going to drop in the near future? She had no idea.
When Steff got back to her quarters she found there was a datafile on the floor just outside her door. She picked it up and looked it over. There were no markings on it. She walked into her quarters turning the file over in her hands.
“SARA I found this datafile on the floor outside my door. Did you see who left it there?”
“I’m sorry Captain I have no record of anyone leaving it there.” SARA replied.
“But how can that be? There are cameras and motion sensors just outside my door. They should have picked up anyone who was there.”
“I do not know what has happened. I agree that it is strange, but I have no explanation for it. According to my sensors no one was out there except you leaving and then coming back.” SARA told her.
“There are no gaps in your time? Your program never momentarily ceased at all?”
“Not according to my system log.” Steff frowned at SARA’s reply. She looked over the datafile. It was definitely not something she had dropped. She left it on the table. Obviously it was something that someone wanted her to see. She decided to look at it later, since it might be something that required her full attention, and she couldn’t commit to that right now.
“You wanted me to keep track of Lieutenant Edward’s movements.” SARA announced.
“Yes I did. What can you report?”
“So far in the last week he has been everywhere he was expected to be. He has not visited any restricted areas or talked with anyone unexpected. However, when he is alone in his quarters he has been spending a lot of time looking through databases.” SARA informed her.
“Which databases?” Steff asked.
“He has gone through the entirety of the New Earth Space Command database looking at fleet compositions and placement. He has also been looking at all the worlds and colonies currently under New Earth’s control, including New Earth itself, as well as Old Earth.”
“Old Earth? It’s a dead world.” Steff replied confused. “When he’s looking at the worlds, what is he exactly looking for?”
“Population, resources, settlements, and location.”
“Location?” Steff asked alarmed.
“Yes he seems to be trying to map out the entirety of the Imperium.”
“Why would he need to do this?”
“I have no idea Captain. Maybe he’s trying to educate himself.” SARA suggested.
“Or maybe it’s more nefarious.” Steff wondered. She gazed out the window and thought about it. She felt there was something going on she didn’t understand, and it was beginning to scare her. It was like there was something obvious staring her in the face and she was failing to comprehend it, or even see it.
“Should I continue to monitor his database searches?”
“Definitely SARA. Let me know what else he looks at.” Who should she talk to about this? Steff wondered. It probably wouldn’t be enough to alert New Earth Space Command, but she definitely felt she needed another opinion…
“Captain, Lieutenant Yi is contacting you.” SARA announced.
“Captain, we are nearing the wormhole fleet.” Yi told her.
“Thanks Lieutenant.” It was time to get rid of the pirates. She stood there continuing to gaze out the window. There were a lot of thoughts on her mind.
They came out of hyperspace. Before them was a medium-sized planet that was rather mountainous with desert plains and a few areas of green. Large seas also frequently dotted the planet’s surface. Around it orbited a solitary moon.
“We have come out of hyperspace.” E-5JF stated. Brynla rolled her eyes.
“Yes I’m aware of that.” she told the droid.
“We have you on our scopes light freighter. Please identify yourself.” said a voice on the com channel. Brynla hated dealing with The Empire, but life as a trader, and smuggler, meant coming into frequent contact with them.
“This is Captain Brynla. We are heading to Karagen.” she replied.
“The planet Karagen is restricted. What business brings you here?” the voice asked.
“We are bringing food supplies to a trader by the name of Asran.”
“Prepare to be boarded.” said the voice. Brynla had expected this, but was not happy with it. An Imperial Customs Frigate approached them, flanked by two TIE fighters. Out of the corner of her eye, Brynla thought she saw an Imperial Star Destroyer in the distance. This wasn’t going to be so easy, she thought.
The frigate docked with them. The doors opened and four stormtroopers marched into the ship followed by an Imperial officer. Brynla, Ennik, and E-5JF stood by the door. The officer walked up to Ennik and looked down on him.
“I take it your the captain?” he asked him.
“No she is.” Ennik said pointing to Brynla. The officer turned to Brynla.and looked her up and down with disapproval.
“Like what you see?” Brynla asked him.
“You are aware Karagen is a restricted world?” The officer asked her.
“Well I do now.” Brynla replied. “Why is it restricted? I have been here before and it wasn’t then.”
“That’s restricted information.” The officer replied.
“I should have guessed that.” Brynla responded.
“We will take a look in your hold. If we find anything that’s dubious, then you will all be taken into Imperial custody.” The officer informed them.
“Great. Just what I’ve always wanted.” Brynla replied. The officer looked at her annoyed.
“Silence!” You will take us to your hold.” The officer ordered. Brynla led the way and the Imperials followed. Once they were in the ship’s hold, the stormtroopers began searching through the various containers finding nothing but foodstuffs. After searching through everything they could find they left the hold, leaving everything a mess.
“Happy now? I told you we were bringing in food supplies.” Brynla told the officer. He walked up to her and sneered.
“Mark my words: your insolence will get you into trouble one day.”
“Noted.” Brynla replied looking directly into his eyes. The officer shook his head.
“You are cleared to travel to Esgor Spaceport. Go there directly and nowhere else. If you deviate in any way, you will be destroyed.” the officer told them. He walked out of the ship with the stormtroopers following.
“Nice guy.” Brynla commented as she went to the cockpit.
“Shouldn’t we tidy the mess up first?” E-5JF asked, suddenly finding herself alone.
“Why do you have to be so sarcastic with them? You’ll get us into trouble.” Ennik inquired as he sat down in the co-pilot’s seat.
“It’s just my way of getting through the day.” Brynla explained as the ship undocked with the frigate. She flew the Star Wolf directly to Esgor spaceport, well aware there were probably turbolasers directly aimed at them should they suddenly change course. She wondered what else they happened to be carrying: was it bombs, weapons, ammunition, or something else? Whatever it was, she knew it was something the Empire wouldn’t have been happy about if they had found it. It seemed Juslak could get her to do anything…
Before them on the bridge screen was the Nautilus. It was a small freighter that drifted there as though it was abandoned. Burn marks could be seen around the engines, but aside from that no further damage could be seen along the length of the hull.
“So there is damage around the engines which look consistent with a missile attack. SARA do you think that damage looks extensive enough to cripple the ship’s engine systems?” Steff asked.
“Hard to tell. Maybe if the missiles hit precisely the right area they could have hit a vital system that shut the engines down.” SARA replied.
“What would be the normal crew capacity of a ship like that?” Steff wondered.
“A dozen at most, assuming it was carrying cargo.” Blake answered.
“Captain, long range scanners detect an asteroid that seems to be stationary.” A crew member informed her.
“How large is it?” she asked.
“Around 800 metres in diameter.” He answered.
“That would be large enough to hide any other ships from our scanner.” Blake commented. Steff opened the coms channel to the Nautilus.
“Nautilus, this is Captain Clarke. If we send over a shuttle, could you and your crew come over to our ship and we’ll drop you off at the nearest Communications Relay Station?” Steff asked.
“Negative. This is my ship. If I leave it now I will no longer have any form of livelihood. If you could send over a few engineers, like you suggested, maybe they can fix the engines.” Lewis replied.
“One more question: what direction did the pirates go after they took your cargo and abandoned you here?” Steff asked.
“I’m not totally sure. I do think they went off in the direction of Beta Hub station, presumably to sell off the cargo they had just stolen.” Lewis replied.
“Okay thanks Nautilus.” Steff replied. She cut the coms channel and looked at Blake. “If they went to Beta Hub we would have detected them on the way here.”
“If we send over a couple of engineers they might take them hostage.” Blake stated.
“Yes if they are pirates and we send over a couple of engineers, that’s when their trap springs into action.” Steff agreed.
“So what do we do?” Blake asked.
“We send over a couple of engineers.” Steff replied. ”Edwards, we need to talk privately.” Steff put on a headset. The Chief Security Officer looked at her and then did the same. Steff cupped her hands over her mouth as she spoke quietly to him. He nodded at her words. She then removed the headset with Edwards doing the same. He then purposefully left the bridge.
“You going to tell me what you said to him.” Blake asked.
“Not at this moment.” Steff replied. She reopened the coms channel. “Nautilus, we’re sending over two engineers to look at your ship’s engines. Can we also send over a couple of security officers?”
“No need for the security officers. There’s only seven of us over here. The pirates are long gone. All we need is someone to fix our engines.” Lewis replied.
“Okay. I’ll hold the security officers. Expect a shuttle to come over shortly.” Steff replied.
“Thanks Captain.” Lewis acknowledged. Steff cut the coms channel.
“What are you planning?” Blake asked her. Steff smiled at him.
“You’ll see.” She replied. She switched on the ship’s intercom. “Attention everyone. This is Captain Clarke. We now at alert level one.” The Oracle’s alarm sounded.
“You think they are pirates don’t you?” Blake asked.
“Then why send engineers over?”
“I want to bring them to justice.” She replied. “And I can only do that if I appear to play their game.”
“Captain, the shuttle has left the Oracle now.” Said a crew member. They watched as the shuttle slowly made its way towards the Nautilus and then dock with it.
“Captain, we have now docked with the Nautilus.” The shuttle pilot said over the coms channel.
“Okay, once the engineers enter the Nautilus, you are to immediately undock from it. Keep a distance of around 500 metres and only dock with the Nautilus again under my orders.” Steff ordered.
“Now we wait to see what they do.” Steff remarked. Everyone on the bridge waited. The minutes ticked by. Suddenly there came a voice over the coms channel.
“Captain, we have looked at the Nautilus’s engines, and there is nothing wrong with them. The ship is deliberately powered down and we suspect…” His voice was suddenly cut off.
“Are you there? Report!” Steff ordered.
“I’m sorry Captain, but your engineer can’t respond.” Said Lewis’s voice over the com.
“What have you done with my engineers?” She asked him.
“Don’t worry, they’re just restrained. They have not been harmed.” He told her.
“Captain, scanners detect several large shapes breaking off from the asteroid. They are heading this way.”
“Thanks.” Steff acknowledged.
“As you can see I’m not alone.” Lewis said.
“I know pirates like targeting freighters and similar, but why go after a New Earth Spacefleet military vessel?” She asked him.
“Because you’re carrying equipment we want. Yes, we wouldn’t attack a battle cruiser or warship, but your ship is more lightly armed and smaller yet you still possess useful things such as the consumables, weapons, and energy cells we need.”
“I could just give the order and have your ship vapourised.” Steff told him. Many of the bridge crew looked at her in shock.
“With some of your crew aboard? I think not.”
“What’s two more of the vast numbers of life I’ve already taken?”
“I don’t think you would do this if there was another possibility of saving them.” Lewis replied.
“Okay, so what are your terms?” Steff asked.
“Now we’re getting somewhere. I propose a trade. That is all. I will send a list of what we require that I believe you have on board. You will load up one of your shuttles with all of these items and once the shuttle arrives here and we unload everything, then we will send back your two engineers.”
“How do we know you’ll release the engineers once you have everything?” Steff inquired.
“You’ll just have to take it on faith Captain.”
“You’re asking us to take a lot on faith here considering you haven’t been honest with us from the beginning.”
“Well yes, that was to lure you here. Once we have what we want, be assured there will be no further point in us trying to deceive you. By the way the other ships you can detect all have missiles trained on you should you try anything. I know you’ll be able to stop many of them hitting you, but some will get through and you have no idea what class of warheads we are using.” Lewis told her.
“Captain, we have been sent a file from the Nautilus. It is free of any viruses or other malicious applications.” SARA informed her.
“Thanks SARA.” Steff said. She looked at the file on the computer screen in front of her. It was a request of mostly weapons, ammunition and other ordnance, as well as power cells, and food. She guessed the food they lived on was what they mostly stole from other ships.
“Have you received the file?” Lewis asked her.
“Yes. You ask for a lot, but you can have it. I’ll get the crew to sort it out and have it sent to you, but I would like to speak to one of my engineers first to see if they’re okay.” Steff replied.
“Be assured they are fine, but okay I’ll let you speak with one of them.” They waited.
“Hello captain.” Said a voice.
“How are both of you doing?” Steff asked.
“We’re both fine captain.”
“Good to hear. Go to Case Orange.” She told him.
“Yes captain.” She sat and waited. Blake looked at her with a furrowed brow.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“The moment of truth.” She replied enigmatically.
“Are you there Captain?” said a familiar voice on the coms.
“Yes we’ve been waiting.” She replied.
“Case Orange objective achieved.” He told her. She smiled.
“Well done soldier. How many are left alive?”
“Six including their captain. There were ten of them here originally.”
“Okay good. Shuttle pilot are you there?” Steff asked.
“Re-dock with the Nautilus. You’ll be bringing some prisoners back.” Steff told him. The crew on the bridge looked at her in amazement.
“Can you tell me what just happened?” Blake asked her.
“The engineers I sent over were actually our elite security forces, who also had a passable knowledge of starship systems. Their orders were to overpower the pirates when I gave them the code.” Steff informed him. He looked surprised.
“And you didn’t tell me because?”
“I just thought it would be prudent to keep this plan to myself and those involved. The less who knew about it the better in my opinion.” Blake nodded at her words, but looked disappointed.
“It would have been nice to have been in the loop.” Blake commented.
“Lieutenant Garcia. Tell the other ships we have captured the Nautilus crew. Tell them to stand down or face the consequences.” Steff commanded.
“Yes captain.” Garcia replied. She began talking into her headset.
“Captain, we have incoming missiles.” A crew member told her.
“I was hoping we could avoid this, obviously they don’t care for their compatriots..” Steff commented. “Pilots, take evasive measures.”
On the screen Steff saw a great number of missiles heading straight for them….
It was down the steps and then into the shed, and then down some more steps. Even as a child Stacey had known about this. It was her “secret” place she would run off to be alone when she stayed with her grandparents. She never thought she would have to come back here again, but when the sirens had suddenly sounded she grabbed what she could and fled the city in terror. Once in the country she made for her grandparents farm knowing the one place where she might be safe.
In reality the place wasn’t a secret. All of her family knew about it. As Stacey quickly went down the steps, she wondered how many other family members had got away in time and ended up here too. Was she going to face the long dark on her own or would there be others? She slowly opened the door…