Renegades: Out of the Cold Snippet One

Here is snippet one of Renegades: Out of the Cold, coming April 2nd, 2016.

Out of the Cold

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” the high pitched voice called out over the radio, “this is the Tagon’s Venture, we are a merchant ship delivering emergency supplies to a refugee colony and we’ve come under attack by a pirate vessel…”

Mike tuned out the rest as he brought up the sensor display.  The Ghornath lettering and icons were just as alien after months of looking at them, but he could understand enough to function, mostly.  The two ships were only a few hundred thousand kilometers distant, a small tramp freighter and a smaller, slimmer pirate vessel.  The merchant ship had been screaming for help since the Gebnar arrived in the system while the pirate craft had remained ominously silent.

Mike frowned as he looked around the bridge, “Where the hell is Ariadne and Simon?”  He had put the ship on general quarters as they first arrived in the system, the whooping alarms should have reached both of them, regardless of where they might be on the ship.

Before anyone could answer, the back hatch opened and the pair of them rushed in.  Ariadne looked flushed and breathless.  For that matter, so did Simon.  Must have run here or something, Mike thought absently.  “Simon, get on the sensors,” Mike snapped, “get me as much data on these two ships as you can.”

“Yes, Captain,” Simon said as he moved to the sensors.

“Pirates?” Ariadne asked as she hurried over next to Mike.  Since he had appointed her as his XO, he supposed such a question was warranted, to keep her up to date.  Still, he felt more than a little irritation that she hadn’t been present when they left shadow space.  Besides, he thought, she sounds a little too eager, like she’s looking forward to a fight.  Mike didn’t want a fight, not when half the ship’s systems needed a full overhaul.

“That’s what it looks like,” Mike said.  “I don’t trust it, though, the one ship might well be bait.”

“For who?” Ariadne asked, “We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

That was true enough.  The star system didn’t even have a name, just an alphanumeric code in the navigation system: 567X43.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic out here, a long run around the edge of the Nova Roma Empire, headed towards the Danar system… which was occupied by the Chxor Empire.

Still, the last merchant ship they had run into was a trap.

“The refugee colony,” Rastar said, “The one on record is listed as a Ghornath colony.”  The big alien’s deep voice held a trace of anger, though if that was because most of his remaining people lived in squalid refugee colonies like this one or because the pirate was stealing supplies designated for them, Mike wasn’t sure.

What he was sure about, with a quick glance at the eight-limbed, three meter tall alien was that Rastar’s emotions were getting the better of him.  His normally brown hide had changed to a dull red, with splotches of orange.  Great, Mike thought, I really need him going berserk on me while I’m trying to fight a pirate.

“Ariadne,” Mike said, “Plot me a course for them.”  He saw her step up to the console next to him as she worked.  Since she was a psychic, she was able to plot a route without the need of a navigational computer, beyond using its data for a reference point.

As a bonus, she did it faster than most normal pilots.

He brought the ship’s engines online and matched the course she’d plotted, even as he glanced at Simon, “Any luck?”

“Sensor data coming up now,” Simon said.  Pixel had remotely brought up some basic data, but he wasn’t as proficient in the ship’s sensors as Simon, and Mike would rather have the engineer focused on other things… like keeping their reactor online and powering up weapons and defensive systems.

Mike looked it over.  Simon had identified the freighter as a Nico-class, which matched what Pixel had estimated.  The data he had on the pirate made it out as a frigate, which was bad news, since it was fifty percent larger than they were.  Then again, he thought as he parsed the details, it looks like a Coral-class, which probably means old and decrepit.

Old and decrepit sounded fine by Mike.  The Gebnar’s main gun was still down and their defense screen still only operated at thirty percent, which meant it wouldn’t be particularly effective against anything beyond a light fighter’s armament.  The Ghornath-built corvette’s external missile racks were empty, too, which meant the only offensive firepower they had were the five anti-fighter turrets.  While they were powerful for their size, they were still anti-fighter weapons, not meant for engaging something the size of a frigate.

“Alright,” Mike said.  “We’re going in fast, defense screens up and weapon systems online.”  He looked around the bridge and met the gazes of his crew.

Simon looked calm, though Mike didn’t miss the moue of distaste.  He didn’t think this was necessary, picking a fight with an unknown enemy.  All the same, he wasn’t about to break the chain of command and say that.  Rastar’s mirror-like eyes and unexpressive face didn’t show emotions, though the set of his cat-like ears and red hide suggested that he was more than ready to engage the enemy.  At the weapons console, Eric Stryker just had a smirk, like he was happy to finally get to shoot something, hardly surprising from the former mercenary, in Mike’s opinion.  I wonder if he’s still screwing the Nova Roma Ambassador, Mike wondered absently.  He still didn’t know whether he should be irritated at the complications that would cause later or envious of the man’s skill at bedding women.  The Wrethe, Anubus, merely stood waiting, his black fur and dark eyes disturbing as he cocked his head.  Mike wondered if Anubus expected them to pirate the freighter.  Given his background as a pirate and his demonstrated lack of compassion, Mike would assume so.

“We’re ready down here,” Pixel said from the engine room.  The engineer sounded more resigned than eager, but that was probably because he knew he’d have to repair any damage they suffered.

Ariadne gave Mike a nod, the psychic had a sunny smile.  “Let’s go help those people.”

Mike restrained a groan.  For someone as incredibly dangerous as she was, Ariadne had a tendency to wear rose-tinted shades when it came to measuring people.  Odd trait for a mind-reader, he thought, not for the first time.

“Right,” Mike said.  He flipped through several commands on his console until he finally got the communications system to go through, “Attention pirate vessel, this is the Gebnar.  I’m Captain Mike Smith.  Turn away from the Tagon’s Venture, or we will fire upon you.”

A moment later, the pirate messaged them back, “Look, I can see you’re a Ghornath Privateer, ‘Smith’ or whoever you are.  This freighter is mine.  Find your own.”

Before Mike could say anything, Rastar reached over and activated the transmission, “Fithly pirates, that ship is bound for a Ghornath refugee colony.  If you do not turn aside, we will shred the pathetic piece of don kar that you call a ship.”

Mike sighed, there went any chance of bluffing or faking some kind of bargain with them.  He waited until Rastar stepped back away from the console before he faced the big alien, “Rastar, I am the Captain, let me do the talking.”

“Those honorless xurok will not–”

“You’re right, they won’t,” Mike snapped.  “But let me do the talking.  I am the Captain and if you mess this up, those bastards might just blow the freighter out of spite!”

Rastar’s hide went a darker shade of red, but then he gave a slow nod and his color shifted back to a more neutral reddish-brown, “My apologies, Captain.”

Mike doubted it would be the last outburst from the three meter tall alien, but he would have to settle for what he could get.  What I’d give for a decent crew, Mike thought, and a fully functioning ship… and while I’m at it, wealth, riches, and women…

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