The command crew takes their place around the large conference table and conversations still as Captain Stryker taps his pipe on the table.
“From what I’ve been told by Kenarii, we’ve been successful removing the chips from the salvaged ship that will allow our transponder to broadcast the correct signals.”
“Yes sir,” I add with a nod. “It was a team effort, and they all came through to get the job done.”
“And that leaves us with a choice,” the captain continues. “We can either turn over the information we’ve gathered to the authorities in this sector, or we can investigate them ourselves. We have discovered that the pirate base isn’t a planet as first believed… but instead is the remnants of a large and rather dead ship. Any suggestions?
“Discretion is the better part of valor, sir,” suggests Dr. Blenheim. “Investigating a potentially large number of forces without proper recon is nothing more than a suicide mission.”
“Agreed, sir. We need more information before we bring the fight home to them,” I say as I smack my fist into the palm of my hand. “We should attack their smaller raiding groups first, getting recon from them and working our way in towards their location.”
“That still leaves the question of where to start, ma’am,” Dayne replies.
I scroll through the charts on the computer display at the table and bring up the Regina sector on the larger wall display. “What about Regina? That’s where the ship they were expecting was last seen… perhaps we can find them.”
Dayn smiles slightly. “It’ll be good to be home again.”
“So… anything we tourists should know about Regina, Lieutenant?” I ask with a smile as Dayn
adeptly pilots us into a hangar bay.
“It’s what you’d call a ‘self-perpetuating oligarchy’ ma’am,” he replies. “My father is the architect of the general shipyards here… I would request leave that I might visit with him while we’re docked, ma’am.”
“No problem, Dayn… just keep your communicator handy, and be careful. I wouldn’t want to have to explain to the captain why I’ve got to bail his crew out of jail, understand?” I wink and shake hands with him before turning to the ship comms.
“Allright, crew… I expect you all to act like adults who know how to keep their shit together and realize they’re representing the Angel Corp when you’re off ship. We plan on being docked for 3 days. I expect an orderly disembarking and an equally orderly return, with this ship manned at all times. Any violators of code of conduct on OR off this ship will answer to me. Kenarii out.”
I walk down the hallway towards the boarding ramps and notice Zebediah chuckling to himself as he looks out one of the portals. “Yeah… I don’t think your speech worked too well, ma’am.”
I glance out the portal next to him and growl lowly as I see the crowd of crewman rushing past each other to get off of the ship onto the space station. “Hairless pink monkeys scampering like they don’t have two ounces of self-respect to rub together,” I grumble before looking to Zebadiah in slight embarrassment. “Sorry…. no offence.”
“None taken,” Zebadiah replies. “I’m sure they’ll learn soon enough.” He chuckles again and waves over his shoulder as he walks past me down the boarding ramp.
I’m about to join him when I’m suddenly jostled by three humans hurrying past me towards the bridge. “Excuse me, ma’am… so sorry ma’am…I…” one of them stutters as their face turns bright red.
“Calm down, ensign,” I say with a smile. “You’re not in a hurry to get off the ship with everyone else?” I ask with a raised brow as I point a thumb over my shoulder.
“No ma’am… we’re the relief crew for the bridge. Pardon me, but I really must get going…”
“Oh don’t let me stop you from actually following orders, Ensign… um…”
“Frye, ma’am,” he answers with a salute before turning and hurrying down the hallway towards the elevators to the bridge.
Hmmn… if I punished everyone who left the way I want to, we’d have nobody left to man the ship. Now if I rewarded those who stayed…. maybe THAT will get the message across.
I see the captain dealing with a dock robot out of the corner of my eye as he waves on the rest of the crew. “I’ll stay here with the ship… just make sure you herd them all back here in 3 days.”
Regina truly is a beautiful place… I’m making quick use of the digital camera I picked up as I take in the view of the huge fountains on the main thoroughfare. All the water everywhere is making me thirsty, though…I spy Dayn talking and laughing with someone nearby and figure I should go ask the resident where the best place to get a beer is around here.
“Hey Dayne, do you-OOF!” My question is cut short as a small human child barrels into my side unexpectedly. I reach down and secure him by the back of the collar before I start patting down my pouches with my other hand.
“What’s going on here?” asks the gruff man standing next to Dayn.
“Kenarii, this is Jason Cross, an old friend of the family. He trained me in piloting back in my naval days,” Dayn answers as he claps a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Jason, this is Kenarii, the 2nd in command of my new assignment.”
Jason nods, and then gestures towards the small child struggling with his collar. “And this one?”
“I’m just holding on to him while I finish searching my pockets and pouches,” I reply with a grin. “Usually people go out of their way not to run into me… so when it happens so forcibly, I’ve just got to make sure.”“Is that so… I suggest you empty your pockets, little one,” Cross chuckles as he bends down to look at the child. “I don’t think she’s going to let go anytime soon,” he finishes in a mock whisper.
“What are you… a cop?” mutters the child as Dayn looks at Jason questioningly.
“Oh no… I retired from that business; I teach at the academy now,” he replies.
A quick check of my gear reveals that nothing is missing, so I pull out a few coins from one of my pouches. “Look kid… I know what it’s like living on the streets, and I know what you can hear, too.” I show him the coins and then place them in his hand. “We’re looking for any kind of information about the pirates, you got me? Bring me good intel and there’s more where this came from. Betray me or my friends, however, and I will show you how we punish foolish children on the Aslan homeworld.” I show off my metal hand in front of his face for effect and hide my smile as his eyes widen in fear. Let him think I’m going to chop his hand off if he steals again… that’s what fear is for: to keep us from doing something stupid and dangerous without a damn good reason.
“You realize you probably won’t be able to shake him off now that you’ve given him money, right?”
“I’ve lived on the streets before and I know what it’s like to scavenge for my next meal, Mr. Cross. Call me a softie, I guess,” I reply with a shrug. “So how about a drink, eh? Who serves the best liquor in this town?”
“Between you and me, Dayn, the Navy is running a little thin. We just don’t have the manpower to truly investigate these pirates right now,” mutters Cross as he looks sourly at his empty beer.
Hmmn…so much for that lead. Maybe if I leave him and Dayn alone for a minute… “Hey guys, I’m going to go get some refills, I’ll be right back.”
Dayn nods and I make my way through the crowd of navy uniforms looking to drown their worries when suddenly a hand reaches out to grab my shoulder. I clench my hand and start counting in my head as I’m trying to be good…I really am.
“Well boys, apparently these folks don’t know when they don’t belong! I think they should have to play the game, don’t you?” a voice bellows out as my claws dig into my palm and I take a deep breath.“You want to play a game? I think I know this one…” I manage to say through my forced grin as I take in the disheveled Imperial Navy uniform and try not to smell the lingering stale alcohol on his breath. “It’s Who’s the Racist Bigot, right? Aww… but you won already!”
“Hey we’re just playing… someone needs to walk the plank,” he replies as he jerks his hand away and pouts.
“Then lets play without sounding like a bunch of ignorant hicks then, shall we? Besides… does it look like I want to get this fur wet?”
I have to fight to keep the grin off of my face as the man’s face reddens with anger… or perhaps it’s just the beer he’s been drinking too much of. Either way, I’m hoping he’ll throw the first punch.
“Who’s your commander here?” Dayn’s voice booms from behind me.
“Rear Admiral Beck….sir…” the drunken man replies, momentarially stunned out of his drunken stupor.
“Could you turn around so I can get the name of you and your friends?” Dayn asks graciously. “Jason… what’s Beck’s email again? R.Beck@Navy.net.co, right?”
“Aw shit… he knows the old man! Leave these guys alone!” the drunken man mutters as he quickly scurries away into the crowd.
“Leave your initiations to a younger crowd… you’ll get in a lot less trouble that way,” Dayn calls after him.
“You gave them a run for their money, didn’t you?” chuckles Jason Cross as we return to our seats.
“I’m getting to old to play games, Jason.”
“I seem to remember when you did the same things as them,” Jason adds with a knowing smile. “I also remember the trouble it got you into. I had you peeling potatoes for a week!”
“Let’s hope they learn their lesson much quicker,” Dayn laugs before taking a swig of his beer.
“So… before all the excitement…” I nudge, hoping that Dayn got more information out of the man.
“As I told Dayn, we’re spread very thin right now,” Jason says with a sigh. “There’s been disappearances on the edge of the Great Rift that we’ve been sent to investigate, but we haven’t been able to come up with much. We’ve got our hands full because supposedly the Zhodani are arming themselves and the Darrians are getting itchy trigger fingers. We just don’t have time for pirates right now. Our desks are stacked high with reports and we try to answer what we can…” he sighs again and takes a drink from his beer.
“Thankfully that’s where groups like us come in,” I reply. “Have you heard anything about Dhengae with your reports?” Cross shakes his head. “We have intel that leads us to believe that they may have their base stationed there.”
“That would explain why they’ve been hitting targets south of there, and we keep losing them in that area. We just haven’t heard much thanks to the x-boats constantly getting jacked,” Cross replies.
Hmmn… what is that I smell over the stale beer and sweat? Ah yes… profit.
“So… has the Imperium considered hiring outside sources to help with their overflow? If there’s a reward from the Navy, I’m sure it would go far to help support our crew working hard to stop this pirate menace from terrorizing the galaxy.”
“I’m sure there’s got to be something, considering the hassle they’ve been giving us. Let me check the official lines and I’ll meet you back here tomorrow.” He sets down some credits on the table for his tab and shakes hands with Dayn as he gets up from the table. “It was good to see you again, my friend. Good night to you all.”
“Well we do have that one prisoner,” Dayn offers as a suggestion. “I believe that there was a bounty out for him, at least.”
“That we do…” I reply as a slow grin crosses my face. “I’m sure the crew who’s manning the ship will appreciate his life of crime whole heartidly when I split the bounty between them.”