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In The Begining Chapter 2

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#1 Coitster|SF


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Posted 19 January 2006 - 05:33 PM

In The Begining

Chapter 2

Deaths and Malone had been searching through the wreckage for almost 4 hours. The damage inside the hanger bay was extremely extensive. Their where lots of fighters and corvettes in the bay but most of them where completely destroyed. It was obvious fires had burned most of the bay before the ship had finally been destroyed and the vacuum of space and rushed in and extinguished everything. They hadn?t found anything they could use yet. Hitting their pack thrusters they moved back up to the light corvette they had docked up on the ceiling.

Once through the airlock they decided they needed to eat and catch some sleep. This was exhausting work. There was just so much area to cover how could the two of them do it all? They rationed the food out and had their meal. Not much talking was done by either of them. There was really nothing to talk about. When they where done both walked back to the rear of the ship. Malone reached out and hit a button and both beds extended out of the wall. Sleep came all too easily for the two of them.

Deaths was the first to get up, he looked at the chronometer display and realized that he had slept almost 12 hours. ?WOW I must have been tired. He realized that he hadn?t gotten any sleep since before they had run into the Taiidan fleet almost 2 days ago. They where still in a very bad predicament.

For the next couple of hours Deaths did some work on the outside of the ship letting Malone sleep some more. He was able to seal the area where the plazma leak had occurred. As he moved back into the ship he noticed that Malone was up, going over the 3D image of the inside of the hanger bay. Malone was looking extremely intent as if trying to find something.

?What are you doing?? Deaths asked.

?I just realized that we may be looking in the wrong section. This area was completely and utterly destroyed. However if I remember correctly one time aboard our own mothership we had a Taiidan fighter Kamikaze itself into our hanger bay back when we had engaged that supernova research station. The factory section was attached to the hanger and some blast doors dropped down to protect the factory portion of the ship. It makes sense for any design. We should be looking in the ship building facilities? Malone stated.

?You know I had never thought of that, however this ship was pretty badly damaged. I don?t know if it is going to be any different in that section.? Deaths responded.

?I don?t know Deaths, this ships design actually had the factory tucked a lot further inside the ship then ours was. You see that monstrous door right there?? Malone pointed to an entire back wall of the hanger bay. Lots of debris was pilled up in front of the wall and it was scorched very badly. ?I do believe that is the entrance to the factory section. That would sure put it deep inside the ship, and besides that?s a big enough opening to move an entire carrier through? Malone added.

?We aren?t going to get that door open is there an alternate route?? Deaths asked.

?There should be. There is a hatch over here? Malone said pointed to the corner right next to the big wall. ?We could go through there, that makes sense it would lead to there.?

?OK, lets do it, we had better fill our air tanks back to capacity. I was able to seal off the Plazma leak while you where sleeping. Not much else to be done until we get back to a repair facility. Lets do it.? Deaths got up as he finished talking and moved over to the rear hatch and got his EVA suit back on.

As the two of them left the ship they descended down with their thrusters down to nearly the bottom of the landing bay. Moving above all the wrecked ships they floated over to the hatch they hoped would lead them to their desired area. As they got to the hatch Deaths was first and opened the hatch. It led to a rather large dark room. Using their helmet lights they scanned the room and saw that the room was in shambles. Apparently when the launch bay had lost its pressure to space most of the items had been forced to one side of the room where lots of little holes dotted the wall.

At the far end of the room was a sealed door. Malone took cue this time and moved over to open it. As soon as he moved the lever that locked the door the door flew outward and both Deaths and Malone where throw against the wall with all the holes on it, both of them unable to move as gases and debris including bodies came flying out of the door, apparently this was a section of the ship that hadn?t been depressurized. Normally a room of normal size would have decompressed almost instantly, however this seamed to take an eternity.

Whatever was on the other side of that door must have been huge. After a little while the force holding them to the wall finally subsided and Deaths and Malone where able to move. They walked over to the hatch and looked through it. They saw nothing, it was pitch black. Malone took out his hand held device that allowed him to send a signal across the space that would bounce back and give him a reading of what the room looked like.

They walked through the door and Malone activated his scanner. As the image came into view, Malone decided it would be best for them to patch it through to their helmets. The view in front of both of them in their helmets changed. Even though it was pitch black they where able to see the entire area in black and white. The area was monstrous. At least 1 and ? times the size of the factory aboard the Kushan Mothership.

This was also obviously a state of the art facility. Looking around the room they saw all kinds of ship berths. They noticed over by the wall that had closed 2 separate resource collector ships had been finished and had been ready to launch but obviously that hadn?t happened. They also noticed an assembly line closest to them that had about a dozen fighter ships at various stages of construction. Several had been very close to being completed.

Almost the entire center of the factory section was dominated by a capital ship construction yard. Deaths could see a destroyer about 2/3rds of the way done. This was definitely a lot more advanced then anything the Kushan had. The entire facility was automated. In the Kushan mothership thousands of people needed to operate machinery to help in the construction of ship. Made sense though because the Taiidan had been in space for over 4,000 years while on Kharak they had been in the dark ages.

Almost all of our own ship designs and idea had come from either capturing enemy ships or learning from the wreckage of other ships. Malone thought to himself. ?How the hell did we ever win this war?? Deaths said to himself out loud. Looking around the shipyard the saw almost no damage. Nothing had penetrated the extra shielding that must have protected this section of the ship. ?I am sure this is about the only section of the ship that survived in tact.? Malone said back to Deaths.

?Poor devils, when the power went out all the people that where in here must have been totally blinded. And then frozen to death with no heat.? Deaths said as he looked around.

?Lets go check out those resource collectors? Malone was very interested in seeing the inside of an enemy ship. As the two of them floated over too the first collector they decided to enter the rear air hatch. As they entered the first hatch, they noticed a control panel lit up. Power was still available on this ship because it had been finished and was ready for launch. As Malone touched the control panel the outer door closed and the room pressurized the second hatch opened and the hallway in front of them lit up.

Moving through the ship took a while. A resource collector ship was the size of a frigate complete with crew quarters for 10 people and a galley. They also noticed that the bridge was extremely spacious. Malone and Deaths where almost reminded of being back on board their ships during the war. ?Hey, this thing even has a hyper drive? Deaths said to himself loudly as he realized he should of remembered that earlier.

?You are just too used too being on a light corvette? Malone responded. ?Hell we could fly this ship out of here ourselves. If we could get this out, we would be rich, we could do our own harvesting and sell it, and man we have two of them? Deaths said back.

?I will bet you this whole factory facility still works if it only had power,? Malone said, then suddenly realizing something said back to Deaths. ?Hey, we can?t tell the counsel about this. If we did they would just come and take it for themselves and give it to one of their lackeys.

?Agreed but we don?t have the ability to man these ships or salvage this factory. It would have to be cut out of the ship with some pretty per-scission cutting equipment. We just need to keep this from falling into the hands of the wrong people. This is a massive find,? Deaths said

?Yea but we still have to get out of here alive. Well let?s turn the power on fully and get the outside lights on, it will make things easier. Besides we could draw some fuel from these tanks to get us enough to make it home, we dare not fill them up all the way otherwise it might make some people suspicious when we return.? Malone reminded him.

Both men agreed on a course of action, they started transferring fuel to the corvette but just enough to make it back home. After it was done, they went back to the collector and powered her back down. And made one last sweep of the factory. Malone made sure he recorded all of it.

Back abroad the light corvette, they powered up the systems and started moving the ship clear of the derelict mothership. Before exiting the debris field, they made sure to do a complete scan of the area to make sure no other ships where around to see them leave. Hitting full power Deaths piloted them back in the direction of the Kushan mothership. The trip would take 8 hours and once they docked the ship for repairs they would take a shuttle down to the surface and take some much-needed time off. During the trip back Malone and Deaths talked about their options and started to hatch an idea that might make them men of importance again.

?Survey 9382 you are cleared to land? the voice sounded over the comm. channel spoke out rather impersonally.

?Roger mothership? Malone said back over the comm. Channel. Deaths piloted the ship around several others large ships in the area. He saw 2 support frigates next to a destroyer; they had cables coming out of them and lots of little 1-man support vehicles working on the Destroyer. This ship must have been damaged in the battle with the Taiidan raiding fleet. Deaths was always amazed at how efficient the fleet engineers where at fixing damage. Standard procedure when a ship was damaged was to bring in a support frigate, Deaths knew that those cables had taken over all the power functions of the destroyer to allow it to power down a lot of its systems so it could be repaired.

Deaths slowed the corvette down to almost a crawl as he brought it into the landing bay of the Kushan mothership. He was very used to procedures now and could have landed the ship in his sleep. It kind of seamed strange to him but this bay seamed kind of small now after the adventure Malone and himself had been on. The Emperor?s mothership had been a lot bigger, especially the landing bay and factory sections.

Deaths landed the corvette in one of the docking stations about midway up the sidewall. Powering down the ship he saw the hatchway in the bay extend to connect with their side hatch. He always liked landing here because he didn?t have to put his EVA suit on to disembark.

?Remember to stick to our story buddy? Malone reminded Deaths as they walked through the hatch tunnel connected to their ship. Once inside they moved down the hallways to the control center. Every non-military ship crew was required to report once the missions where over. Walking into the command center Malone noticed how most of the people didn?t even bother to look up to see who had come in.

?Survey 9382 reporting in? Malone called out. A rather large man with officer tabs on his collar took notice of them and waived for them to come over to him. ?I see the reports of your ship being destroyed where false. Glad to see that, would hate to lose one of my survey crews, welcome home gentleman? the man said with a look of not really caring one way or the other. ?Because of your warning we where able to intercept the Taiidan fleet so I suppose you are due a reward. See the requisition chief and he will see that the proper credits are transferred to your account. Let me know when your ship has been repaired, I am sure you are looking forward to getting back out there? the officer said.

Deaths and Malone knew the officer could have cared less about it, however he had to go through the motions they figured. The two men made their way through the standard red tape that usually always went with getting back from missions. ?We should probably see about getting our corvette fixed up? Malone commented to Deaths.

?Yea we should, I also want to get planet side. We have had a pretty intense last couple of days. I need a good stiff drink and some relaxation? Deaths responded.

?Lets get to it then? Malone said and then walked down to the office for the head of the construction yard with Deaths in close pursuit.

As the two of them entered the office they weren?t prepared for who was standing in front of them. ?Mantas!? Both said in unison. A man of medium build looked up from the computer console he was staring at. ?I don?t believe it, look who dragged their sorry a**?s into my office to grace me with their presence? Mantis said, very thrilled to see the both of them. Walking over to the two of them he shook their hands very vigorously. ?My God, how long has it been at least 9 months? Last I heard you two where doing survey jobs for the military,? Mantis asked.

?Yea we just got back from one of those mission just now, our ship is in some need of repairs. We ran into a few Taiidan raids that shot us up pretty good.? Deaths said as he walked over and handed Mantis a small computer pad with schematics of the ship. Mantis took the pad and looked over it for a few moments. ?This isn?t to bad, being you guys are my friends, I could make sure my crews get to it right away. I say about a day to finish the repairs.?

?No hurry, take your time? Both Deaths and Malone said in unison. ?We aren?t that excited about getting back out onto survey duty. We where kind of hoping to take some time off? Malone finished off. ?Oh I see,? said Mantis. Walking over to one of his assistance. ?Make sure this get put on the bottom of the to do list. I would say maybe get to it in, lets say 2 weeks?? Mantis said looking over to Deaths and Malone for a signal that it was OK.

?That sounds good, gives us some time to do some checking on some things? Deaths responded. ?BTW do you want to join us? We are catching a shuttle down to the surface. There is a bar that a lot of us veterans visit when we are in dock.?

?Sure, its been a while since I took some time off, besides I haven?t had a day off in a week? Mantis responded.

?I think we have a shuttle leaving for the surface in 30 minutes, let?s get down there or we will miss it.? Mantis motioned for Deaths and Malone to follow. The 3 of them left for the shuttle bay.

Drew walked around his interceptor; he was inspecting it for any flaws. Anytime Drew was getting ready for a patrol he would take the time to walk around and check his ship. Most of the pilots in his squadron never bothered with anything like this. They considered it beneath themselves. Besides that?s what the grease monkeys where for. Drew had picked up the habit back during the war when he had been the wingman of the fighter Ace Zulu.

The very first time Zulu and Drew had went out on patrol together Zulu had told him to check his ship. Being a brand new fighter pilot at the time he listened to what he was told to do. He was very grateful he had because he found that one of the technicians that was supposed to be working on his fighter had forgotten to attach his ammo cylinder the correct way. Drew had finished it up and went on patrol with Zulu. During that patrol they ran into 4 enemy scouts. Drew shuttered at the memory of the experience.

If he hadn?t of listened to Zulu he would probably have been dead. Because of that first experience he had tried to learn everything he could from the War Hero. The lessons he had learned had saved his life many times over. Drew found that most fighter pilots where extremely cocky and arrogant. They always thought of themselves as better then anyone else. The first thing that Drew had noticed about Zulu was the fact that he was always extremely nice, especially with the guys who worked on his fighter.

?Always make sure you treat the people who work on your equipment with the utmost respect. Look at them with the equal respect you would show to any fighter pilot? the words Zulu had spoken to him that time had stayed with him forever. It must of worked, Zulu always was put at the top of the list when it came to repairs or getting little extra?s on his ship. So too Drew had became the most popular guy on the flight deck after Zulu had left. He knew all the technicians by first name. Drew knew that if he ever needed anything all he would have to do was ask.

Once Drew was finished inspecting his ship he walked back into the briefing room. 4 fighter pilots where waiting for him. When he entered the room all of them jumped up and snapped to attention. ?At ease Gentlemen? Drew waived for them to sit back down. He hadn?t been looking forward to this patrol all morning. With the reassignment of all the experienced fighter pilots, and the addition of all the new pilots fresh out of flight school the wind commander had decided that Drew should share in the fun of getting to train some of the new pilots.

A 9-hour patrol with 4 new pilots was a great way to ruin Drew?s day. ?OK, for the four of you, this is going to be your first long range patrol mission. I know with the exception of one of you, that you haven?t seen any real combat yet. Today we are going to be piloting scouts,? Drew said to the pilots. Drew glanced over at Higy because he was the only one of them other then himself who had ever seen any combat. He had also nearly gotten himself killed on his first mission to. The kid had talent but he needed to refine it, if he lived to do that. Most naturally gifted pilots wound up getting themselves killed because they took too many risks in the cockpit.

?Make sure you follow my lead and listen to me.? With that statement he made sure that he glared at Higy as he made it. ?If we get into trouble make sure to follow my lead. We are going to start out and patrol along the trade route. If we find any suitable ships in the lanes we will run some attack drills after we have let the captains of the ships know. At the far end of our patrol we will be docking with the Support Frigate Churchill and refuel. On our way back I want to run some dog fighting drills.?

?We launch in 10 minutes, get your stuff together and get to your fighters? Drew finished up and moved to walk out of the room. The pilots again shot up to attention as he left. He had to make sure he remembered all their names. Higy he knew, he had wanted to punch him after stunt him and Epic pulled. Epic had ended up dead in the process. The other pilots seamed to have some promise. Pit had graduated with the best grades and tactical scores of his class. Drew wondered why the fleet hadn?t moved him to a position serving with an Admiral. He was just the kind of person that usually worked with fleet command.

Drew didn?t really know much about Split or Exile. The records of their schooling really didn?t show much. They both had good grades, and did well in simulations and flight trials. However they hadn?t done anything that would warrant extra notes in the files. Guess he would have to find out about them the hard way.

?I sure hope this is a milk run,? Drew said to himself out loud. ?Sir?? a technician next to him said.

?Sorry, was thinking out loud.? Drew responded and the technician went back to work.

Drew suited up in his flight suit and put his helmet under his arm and walked out onto the flight deck. The 4 pilots where waiting for him. ?At least they taught you guys to be fast,? Drew said. ?OK, lets get to it, once we get out there, I want to see a standard claw formation. We will proceed at ?ths speed. No unnecessary talking, I want you watching your sensors. You got me? Drew asked.

?Yes sir? came the response in unison.

The launch of the 5 scouts went by the book. Drew moved his ship to the back of the formation. Watching Higys and Pits scouts move into formation to his right and Split and Exile move in on the left. Drew thought to himself, what had he done to deserve this? Drew had really never had the patience for the newer pilots, mostly because they never seamed to listen too much. He had tried to explain to Higy after the firefight why it was important to not jet off and fly by the seat of his pants. When the kid had responded with the comment ?Next time we will just have to move faster to avoid the fire? Drew had about threw him through the bulkhead.

The patrol was relatively uneventful for the next couple of hours. They would see ships on their scanners but it was usually just resource collectors mining the floating chunks of rock drifting about. In the 3rd hour of the patrol they came across a large freighter moving through space.

?Freighter come in this is Kushan patrol. Everything all right?? Drew asked over the channel. ?Yes everything is fine, nice to see you guys patrolling this route? came the reply.

?Freighter if you don?t mind I would like to run some test bombing runs and use your freighter as our primary objective. Our weapons will be deactivated. Do you mind? Drew talked over the channel back to the captain of the freighter. ?Sure go ahead, its nice to see you guys taking this seriously, just please don?t shoot any shots, I don?t want to have to send the repair bill to your superiors? came a laugh back over the channel. ?Thanks, out? Drew finished up.

?OK gentleman, I want to simulate some bombing runs, I want you guys to run in formations of 2 ships each. The key for this exercise is to hit the target from multiple trajectories at once. In your first run we are going to target any weapons that are designed to take out fighters. Let?s say those blinking lights are weapons platforms. I want you to start your runs from 50 kilometers.? Drew said over the private channel to his wing.

Drew watched as the 4 new pilots made several runs on the ship and made sure to record them so he could go back over the recordings with the pilots to make suggestions on how they could improve. One thing he did notice was that Split and Exile seamed to work very well together. They stuck to the traditional attacks taught at flight school, they seamed to have some good solid techniques. Higy and Pit though where another story. They seamed to keep trying to out do each other. Both had been taking unnecessary risks for a strafing run.

The two of them must seamed to view this like a competition. Drew knew this was an attitude in lots of new pilots. However this was the real world now. No one cared what the score was as long as you got the job done. Drew himself didn?t care on missions who got the most kills or who had the best flying techniques, all he cared about was getting back alive with as many of his fellow pilots as possible. Back when he had trained with Zulu he had remembered many times other pilots had taken bad risks to try and out do him, however Zulu had always been patient when fighting the enemy. He always waited for them to make a mistake and then he had them. Drew had really taken those lessons to heart. He was going to make sure he tried to pass this knowledge on to the new pilots.

The scouts formed up and went back to their patrol. Again the rest of the trip to the support frigate was uneventful. As the patrol came within range of the frigate they each called over the comm. channel asking for permission to dock and refuel. Once the permission was given each ship moved in and docked with the support frigate. As the scouts came into contact with the frigate small hatch?s opened and refueling hoses came out and attached themselves to the fighters.

The total refueling only took several minutes. As the scouts disconnected from the frigate the got back into claw formation for the long trip back home. Drew made sure that during most of the trip back he had the 4 new pilots practicing dog-fighting skills. He watched them all very intently identifying flaws and strengths in each pilot. He noticed that both Split and Exile where very cautious in their attacks, in contrast Higy and Pit seamed to charge right in hoping that their natural talent would keep them safe. By the time they where done dog fighting both teams had racked in about the same amount of practice kills on each other.

?OK good gentleman, I am going to boost ahead. Let see how you adapt to what I am going to try on you guys? Drew said over the channel. ?Sir wait, you are going to take on all 4 of us?? Pits voice sounded over the channel. ?That?s right ensign, let see if you can keep up with the old man, you guys should have no problem killing me? Drew responded over the channel trying to keep all hints of laughter out of his voice.

Shooting ahead Drew was able to put some distance between him and the 4 new pilots. As he came around he saw the 4 scouts move into a standard delta formation. Watching them come in Drew already knew what he was going to do before he did it. Kicking his afterburners on he brought the scout up to full speed. The distances closed in just a minute. As he came within firing range he activated his side and bottom thrusters kicking his ship into a sidespin at an upward angle from the other scouts. Keeping his nose trained on the closest ship he squeezed the trigger.

The computer immediately registered a hit on Exiles ship. The other 3 pilots realized that Drew had maneuvered his ship into a great firing position they all broke and went into different directions. Drew decided to pursue Pits scout. Pit did a series of evasive maneuvers to try and shake Drew while the other scouts where trying to get into position to take Drew out. Drew was a much more experience pilot and knew what Pit was doing. As Higy came in behind Drew and was just about to get a shot on him, Drew hit the thrusters again, which flipped Drew ship around to face Higy. Drew hit the afterburners, which pinned Drew to the back of his seat. Squeezing the trigger to his guns his computer showed hits being scored on Higys scout before Higy had a chance to return the shots.

The 2 surviving scouts had moved off to regroup and Drew thought to himself why not let them have a chance. As they moved back in formation, Drew moved at them straight on, head to head like the first time. They figured he was going to pull his trick again of the side slide. This time though Drew went erratic and moved his ship from side to side as he came straight for them, neither Pit or Split where able to get a hit on his scout. As Drew?s scout shot by them he did a high G flip that almost caused him to loose consciousness but it put him in a great position tailing the two scouts.

Both Pit and Split moved in opposite directions, Drew angled his scout after Pit and closed the distance. Drew?s knew what Pit was going to do because he had watched his flying style during the whole mission. Pit made to move up, but quickly hit his afterburners and went into a dive. Drew already had seen him do this before and already moved into a downward position before Pit, and in so doing caused Pits scouts to move right through Drew?s line of fire. Again the computer showed a hit.

Drew quickly dispatched Split over the next few minutes. Drew smiled to himself. He loved it when cocky new pilots always thought they where hot stuff. Drew always had to take their egos down a few notches so that maybe they would realize that they didn?t know everything. Maybe new pilots like Higy and Pit would listen to him now.

The rest of the flight went very quickly. As the carrier came back into view Drew hoped that he hadn?t hurt the 4 new pilot?s egos so badly that they wouldn?t realize he had been trying to teach them something. He would know the next day though. If he found them watching the recordings of the flight, especially the schooling he had given them, then he knew they would listen. If they didn?t watch them then he would know that they either didn?t care or where to stubborn to admit they had something to learn. Only time would tell.


Zulu walked into the cantina with Doom at his side. It was the sort of place that most people wouldn?t be caught dead in. The cantina was run down and very dark. It had once been a very nice place back before the war and the occupants had plenty of clientele that had used it. However since the ending of the war that had brought all the Kushan home most of those previous clients had stopped using the place. The war veterans from the Kushan fleet who had been put back into civilian life had found the place and made it a regular hang out.

The owners of the cantina had tried to sell the place but the feelings on Hiigara between the Kushan and Taiidan people where still very tense to each other and no one would buy it. It was very strange to see people like Zulu and Doom getting along so well. Zulu thought to himself, maybe we can make it together, our two races that is. Looking around the room Zulu spotted 3 people who he knew very well. Walking over to the table it smiled at the 3 men.

?Hey, long time no see guys? Zulu mentioned to Malone, Deaths, and Mantis. ?How the hell are you guys?

?Pretty good, I see you haven?t gotten yourself killed yet? Mantis commented back with a playful tone.

Doom and Zulu grabbed two chairs and seated themselves next to the trio.

?What the hell is that?? Deaths said to Doom seeing that a little creature was sitting on Dooms shoulder. ?Oh, this is Daisy, I found him on a planet in the Regulas system several years ago. The forests there are teaming with them, they call them monkeys. This one had been abandoned by his family and was on the verge of starvation. I figured I would keep him, he is so darn ugly and pathetic sometimes I just don?t know what came over me? Doom finished up.

The trio eyed the pathetic creature. It had very big eyes and patchy fur and a long tail. ?Looks like it might have been a tree dweller? Malone commented. ?Yea they are, and boy can they steal things. Make sure you hid any shiny things? Doom commented back.

?So why aren?t you guys on survey duty?? Zulu?s question was directed at Deaths and Malone. ?Well we ran into a little bit of trouble? Malone replied and the two of them told the story of what had happened.

?You where lucky to get out with your skins, if you would have had me along you we could of taken on that whole fleet single handed? Zulu joked back. Mantis got up from the table and headed over to the bar, when he returned he had several pitchers of beers for the group.

Over the next several hours as the group became more intoxicated they brought each other up to day on what was happening in their lives. The entire group laughed as they watched Zulu try and pick up on a lady who had entered the bar to ask for direction. The lady realizing Zulu was very intoxicated had decided to play along and even dared Zulu to wear a skirt she pulled out of her bag. Zulu got up on the stage where local bands had used to play but hadn?t for along time and tried to serenade what he thought was his new found prize.

The 4 men back at the table had a hard time keeping the tears back as they where laughing very hard. They where always entertained by Zulu and his antics. The guy was incorrigible; he feared nothing and never cared what people thought of him that?s why he had so many friends. The guys where very shocked when Zulu came back to the table after the lady had left. He had her planetary intercom channel number. ?How does he do it?? Mantis said out loud to no one in particular.

?Its amazing he has a girl on every planet we go to? Doom told the group. If one where to look at the physical characteristics of a Kushan or a Taiidan person, you couldn?t tell the difference. Some had even speculated that at some distant point in the past the two people might have even been from the same race. Anytime anyone had ever speculated about this on open entertainment channels they where never allowed back on the air.

As the five men talked Doomed entertained himself by throwing scraps of snacks the 5 of them where enjoying down to Daisy. The little animal scampered all around the bar trying to scoop the pieces up into his mouth.

?How long is your ship going to be in the repair facility?? Zulu asked Malone and Deaths. ?Well we asked Mantis to put the ship to the back of the list so we could get some time off. We hate survey duty; we need a break to find something new. However we have no idea what to do, being that our Kiith is no more we don?t have many opportunities? Deaths responded.

Zulu and Doom exchanged glances and smiled. ?Well you know I have someone I would like to introduce the two of you too.? Zulu smiled as he spoke the words.

?Who? came the collective reply? He had definitely gotten their attention. ?Doom and I know this guy named Coitster, he has a profitable organization and is always looking for more people. Like yourselves his Kiith was also destroyed in the burn of Kharak? Zulu told them.

?What kind of operation does he run?? Malone asked. ?Well official he has a salvage company, unofficially he has a business similar to Dooms here? Zulu responded. ?Does he actually do any salvaging? Deaths asked curiously. ?Oh yea, lots. He skims a lot of the salvage though, he has been able to build a fair sized base at a secret location with what he has skimmed? Doom answered.

?We are going to be leaving in 2 days. I am picking up a bunch of Taiidan civilians who want to leave Hiigara. They want to be resettled on a Taiidan planet in the Galo system. Seems your government hasn?t been making things to easy on the Taiidan who live here? Doom said. ?If you want we can take you with us and make a stop there and drop you off. If you don?t like Coitster we can always pick you up on our way back a week later?? Doom asked.

Deaths and Malone talked over it for a few minutes and agreed. What did they have to lose, they hated what they where currently doing and wanted a change. Besides it would be nice to get away for a while. ?You want to come Mantis?? Zulu asked him. ?Sure why not, I have some leave time coming, it would be good to hang with you guys for a week?. Mantis responded.

?OK, meet us at 1400 hours at docking port 12 the day after tomorrow? Zulu said. The 5 men got up and said goodbye to each other. As they left Malone made sure to remind Zulu that he had pictures of the singing he had done. Zulu laughed and told him he wanted a copy of them.

TWA was extremely tense. He was sitting next to the hatch on the Salvage corvette with his gun ready to go. He had check and rechecked his ammo clips, he was always nervous before a mission started. His entire team of mercenaries had been ready for this mission for almost a week now. His group of mercenaries occupied the 3 salvage corvettes that surrounded a cloaking generator as the 4 ships moved silently through space. Any other ship would not be able to see them because the cloak generator formed a bubble of invisibility around it self and any nearby ships that made anyone passing by them would not know they where there.

Dssoul was at the controls of the lead salvage corvette. He monitored the sensors and saw that their intended target was just ahead. It was an extremely big ship. It was at least the size of a Kushan carrier. Dssoul had remembered the lecture he and TWA had received before they had left the asteroid base. Coitster had impressed on them that it was critical they capture this ship. They needed it to help expand the base.

The target was a mobile colony construction ship. The Imperial Taiidan forces had moved the ship into a sector 8 light years from the asteroid base. Since the split of the Taiidan Empire the imperial forces had really made expanding their remaining empire a major priority. These mobile colony construction ships where not very common. The ships where designed to move into a system and set up an entire colony from scratch.

The ship had a very large manufacturing plant inside of it. While no weapons could be made in these ships they constructed large modular living units and anything else a starting colony would need to get itself self sufficient. TWA was to lead a group of mercenaries, former marines in the Kushan forces during the war, and take control of the ship. All personal from the ship where to be neutralized and put into life pods and then ejected from the ship. Then the ship was to be brought back to the secret base to help in the construction and expansion of the base.

While the Imperial Taiidan would probably consider this piracy if they knew who was doing it, it wasn?t. The Kushan and Imperial Taiidan forces had never signed a cease-fire during the war. Technically they where still at war. TWA figured Paranoid would be getting excited about the prospect of getting a ship like this. It would be like his birthday had come early this year if they could complete the mission and steal the ship.

TWA knew his men where extremely experienced at this kind of work. During the war they had captured many Taiidan ship, and a few Tiranic Raider ships too. They where well disciplined and extremely efficient. Dssoul called out that they would be attaching to the ship in 2 minutes. TWA and his men got ready. Weapons safeties went off and all the men stood up. The 3 salvage corvettes gently attached themselves to the ship, each at a different hatch. As soon as the corvettes attached themselves they emitted a dampening field. On board the colony construction ship the main power went out and all the communication devices went dead.

Almost in unison the mercenaries burst through the hatches of the now powerless colony construction ship. As the mercenaries moved into the corridors the only lights that where on where the emergency lights. A dull red light filled the hallways. TWA and his squad made there way down the corridor heading toward the bridge of the ship. They where about halfway there when they came across their first group of Taiidan.

The Taiidan where caught completely off guard. TWA raised his gun and fired his shots down the hall. The first two Taiidan men crumpled to the floor. Dead before they had known what had hit them. The rest where dispatched almost immediately by TWA?s squad. TWA loved their assault weapons; they where projectile guns that fired a small lead round at sub-sonic speeds. The rounds didn?t have a long range, only about 50 meters effectively but when you where doing close quarters combat like this it was more then enough. Because the rounds where sub-sonic they made almost no noise.

The guns TWA had fired as a boy back on Kharak where very loud. He used to remember having to wear earmuffs when he fired them, but that was because the boom came from the bullet breaking the speed of sound. With these guns he could fire on full automatic with almost no sound to conceal their presence and they didn?t have to worry about the rounds puncturing the hull.

All across the ship the mercenaries did their job very effectively, the entire rear of the ship was taken within 9 minutes. On the bridge however the crew noticed that section after section of the ship stopped reporting in. During a situation when the power went out, all sections where required to keep in constant communication with the bridge. Sensing something was wrong the captain order a general quarters alert. At least that would make everyone on the ship arm themselves and be ready for any situation.

TWA and his team raced down the corridors as the alarm klaxons went off. Either someone had messed up and alerted the ship to their presence or the crew knew something was wrong. TWA ordered a standard leap frog tactic for all their movements now. Half the squad would race ahead while being covered by the rear group and then take up a defensive position while the rear group would repeat that tactic and race ahead of the first group while they covered them.

TWA knew their squad had been spotted when the man next to him crumpled from a hail of gunfire from up ahead. TWA hit the floor and returned fire taking down one of the assailants. Back behind him one of the men in the rear squad took out his grenade launcher and launched a gas grenade down the hallway. As the gas enveloped the entire hallway TWA crew raced ahead and dispatched the 6 men that had been waiting ahead as they all clutched their throats. TWA squad didn?t have a problem since they had the environmental suits on.

Over his comm. system built into his suit TWA received word that the other two teams had reached their objectives. Beta team had reached the engine room and taken it easily. Delta team had reached the manufacturing facilities but had taken 4 casualties in the process as they ran into the main element of security on board the ship. They had dispatched them but the price had been high.

TWA?s team where now outside the bridge of the ship. They had the two guards killed before they had even realized anyone was there. Bursting onto the bridge they had had taken the whole command crew by shock. They had them subdued and secured before they had known what had hit them. As the bridge crew was escorted down to the life pods TWA?s assigned men took their place.

?Plot coordinates for hyperspace jump and open cargo bay doors? TWA commanded. Speaking into his comm. channel ?This is team Alfa, the ship is secure, we are opening bay doors. Commence docking and we will jump.? Over the course of the next 10 minutes all the surviving crew of the ship where rushed into the life pods and ejected. TWA knew that they would be picked up. Their where shuttles coming up from the surface all the time.

As the cloak generator and the 3 salvage corvettes entered the loading bay they docked with the massive colony construction ship. As soon as the bay doors had closed TWA issued the order to commence jump. The ship disappeared from normal space in route back home.

Out in space watching the former captain of the colony construction ship was in shock. Who the hell had taken his ship? He didn?t know of anyone who would risk the wrath of the Imperial Taiidan fleet. He was also very worried about his own skin. Loosing one ship was a capital offense and he could face a firing squad.

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