Here’s the first snippet for Renegades: Out of Time.
The Aurore emerged from shadow space into the heart of a maelstrom.
Captain Mike Noguchi blanched as a thermonuclear detonation flashed in front of the ship, close enough that it filled the bridge with light. “What the hell is that!?” Mike demanded.
Simon looked up from the sensors, “Multiple detonations, massive energy releases all around us! We’re in the middle of a firefight Captain!” Of the original crew, Simon was the only one to call Mike by his title. The others mostly just called him Mike. Then again, Simon was also something of an outsider.
Mike didn’t take longer than a heartbeat to consider things. “Pixel, cut power to the drives and defense screens, now.”
The thrum of the ship’s drives dropped to silence and the bridge lighting dropped, “I cut the reactor, too,” Pixel said. “It’ll take us a few minutes to bring it back online, but we’ll be less visible.”
Mike nodded, yet his eyes were for the sensor displays. The ship had enough standby power to still give them some picture of what was happening. If worse came to worse, their weapons had a charge on their capacitors for a single salvo each.
They were in the middle of a battle.
“A few billion square kilometers of space and we show up in the middle of a battle,” Mike growled. He saw Ariadne open her mouth and he pointed a finger at her, “Don’t. Don’t you dare.”
He knew she wasn’t going to make a sarcastic comment. It would be out of character for the cheerful woman, even though Mike had trusted their new navigational officer over her psychic navigational skills. Not that she’d be wrong, if she were to get snarky, he thought. Though that wasn’t fair to Sharric Nelson. He had no way to know there’d be a Chxor fleet in their path.
No, she was probably going to say something cheerful and optimistic and Mike didn’t want to have to deal with that right now. They were in the middle of a battle, he had reason to be grouchy.
The transponders nearest them weren’t Nova Roman. Simon had noted on the display that he thought they were Chxor. Mike hoped that his sensors and communications officer was wrong… because there were a lot of enemy transponders.
“Why do we have such a good count on the enemy ships?” Mike asked. “I thought the Chxor used powerful jamming systems, right?”
Simon nodded, “Yes, Captain, but we’re behind them. They’re directional jammers, I believe.” He cleared his throat, “It doesn’t seem as if the Chxor are paying us any attention, Captain. I think the general detonation of the last wave of missiles hid our arrival.”
“Interesting…” Mike murmured. Simon had begun to populate what he thought were the ship classes. Mike saw forty of the Chxor’s Five-class dreadnoughts. The massive ships mounted heavier guns than he really wanted to think about, with missile tubes and fusion projectors, plus anti-fighter rotary cannons.
“Let’s blast the bastards!” Eric snarled. The former Centauri Commando’s hands hovered over his weapon’s console and his face wore an eager look. With his blonde hair and blue eyes, he looked like an eager child in a candy store. With how twitchy Eric Striker could be, Mike felt tempted to cut power to his weapons officer’s console.
“They have us outgunned by several orders of magnitude,” Mike said shaking his head. “How about we see if it’ll do any good before we die gloriously?”
The Chxor formation was clearly accelerating away from the Aurore… and just as clearly headed towards the inhabited planet. That was bad news for a number of reasons. They had planned on resupply in the Malta system. It was the last human-held system on their route into Chxor space.
“Any signs of human forces?” Mike asked. If the fight was over…
“Captain,” Simon said, and brought up a visual scan. It looked to be the remains of a battleship, possibly one of the Desperado-class battleships. Mike wasn’t certain, because the front end was simply gone and the rear area was twisted wreckage, still glowing in areas from multiple hits.
“Range?” Mike asked.
“Uh, three hundred kilometers,” Simon said.
“Bring us alongside, tuck us in close,” Mike said to Sharric Nelson, “Just use the maneuvering thrusters.” The civilian navigation officer’s dark face was set in a tense expression. Clearly he had hoped for orders to plot a course out of the system.
“Oh, good, we can pick up survivors,” Ariadne said.
Mike looked at his XO. The tall, beautiful blonde woman’s face showed concern. Mike decided not to crush her positive thinking by telling her that he just wanted something to hide behind. Then again, he thought, who knows, there might actually be survivors… and if there aren’t there’s bound to be some valuable salvage.
The Aurore wasn’t a military ship, after all, she was a privateer.
“Simon, you getting anything on communications?” Mike asked
“Negative, sir,” Simon responded, “too much jamming.”
The Aurore didn’t mount an ansible. Radio communications wouldn’t penetrate the jamming. A laser transmission should, though it would be directional so they’d need line of sight to someone…
Mike brought up the course plotted by Sharric and began to fly the vessel himself. They didn’t have much bridge crew and while they did have a spare helmsman, Mike would rather do it himself. Besides, the maneuvering thrusters didn’t have much juice. There was an art to using them for a maneuver like this.
“Sir,” Simon said after a long moment, “I’m picking up a large force near the planet.” He brought up the icons on the main display. While part of Mike wished they’d had the money to retrofit to more modern tactical displays –at least for the Captain’s chair– he was glad the ship had a military-grade main display.
Mike studied the force. It looked to be five or six capital ships, with a host of smaller vessels. Nothing near an even match for the Chxor armada. Too bad, he thought, I really don’t want another world falling to the Chxor Empire. “Transponders?” Mike asked.
“They match Nova Roma,” Simon said. “This ship,” he highlighted what looked like one of the larger vessels, “is a Helot-class carrier, the Furies Wrath, it should be Lord Admiral Valens Balventia’s ship.”
Mike frowned in thought for a moment. He didn’t recognize the name. “Shouldn’t Lord Admiral Roccaberti be the one in command?”
“No sign of his ship, Captain,” Simon said.
They had come up on the wreckage of the battleship and to Mike’s surprise, he saw that distress beacons had begun to appear, drowned out by all the jamming and weapons fire until they came close enough to see them. Mike brought up the intercom, “Rastar, are you suited up?”
“Yeah, Mike,” Rastar said. “I got the rest of the boarding party ready to go.”
“Have Run prep his team, too,” Mike said. The little Chxor acted as the ship’s doctor, not that Mike really trusted him to work on him if he was injured. But since doctors were in short supply during war time and he’d already proven that he could do field surgery, Mike had kept him on. Besides, Run understood the Chxor language, which meant that he might be useful to translate.
On that cue, Run spoke up, “I would advise against remaining in the system. The human defeat is inevitable. Once they have been destroyed, the Chxor Fleet Commander will sweep for surviving vessels and we will be destroyed.”
“Thanks, I’ll take that under consideration” Mike snarled. The little bastard’s assurance of defeat made Mike want to lend a hand to his fellow humans.
As always, sarcasm was wasted upon the Chxor. “Thanks are not necessary, I merely stated the obvious.”
“Rastar, go rescue survivors,” Mike snapped. He looked at Simon, “Get me a channel with this Admiral Balventia.”
“Sir,” Simon said, “there’s a lot of jamming. The range is extremely long for the laser transceiver…”
“Get me a comm line,” Mike snapped. “I don’t care if you need to go out on the hull and wave your hands. I want to talk with Admiral Balventia, now.” Simon’s face grew pinched, but he went to work. “Oh,” Mike looked at Ariadne, “Put the crew at battle stations, I want everyone suited up, just in case.” In all the excitement, he’d forgotten about the rest of the crew.
He was used to operating a smaller ship, one where the entire crew was less than a dozen people. At least, that’s how things had been before. Now, aboard the freighter Aurorae they had a hundred and fifty crew and room for two hundred more, plus passengers. And since slavers had retrofitted the ship, Mike thought, we have life support for all the cargo holds.
Not that he planned on having the ship full of that many people, but they might find a ship in distress or a high priority passenger trip or something. Failing that, Mike thought, I’ve run livestock before, it’s nice to have versatility like that.
“Anubus, is your ship ready?” Mike asked
“The October Sky is ready,” Anubus growled. “Why are we remaining in the system? The human defense is a lost cause.” It amused Mike that Anubus mentioned his combat prowler was ready to fight while at the same time suggesting they should flee. Clearly the disparate parts of their Wrethe were at odds over the situation.
“Plenty of salvage on that wreck,” Mike said. “Or are you too scared to take a few risks?” The Wrethe’s silence was answer enough to that question.
“Captain, I have a link to the Admiral’s carrier,” Simon said.
“Put me on,” Mike said. Hopefully they could do some good. If not, well, Mike would be willing to pass along any last messages to family or loved ones. Maybe there’ll be some pay in that…