Take Out the Good With the Bad

07 February 2939
Outskirts of the Tohil System
Escort Mission

The call came through comms within minutes of transitioning from hyperspace to normal space in the Tohil System.

‘SOS… This is the trader Marseille out of Castra, en route to Tohil. We are under attack from pirates! There is one vessel but we have no armament and they have disabled our jump engines. Someone please help us.’

The message repeated on a loop and appeared to be only a couple hours old judging by the time stamp. So in accordance with the Laws of Space, Jaeger set an intercept course. The armed freighter Dionysius, his current client, followed cautiously. As they closed on the coordinates and heading attached to the SOS recording, there was no response via sub-space radio. Eventually the screens showed the freighter maintaining a steady course, but with no changes in acceleration or direction. For all intents and purpose, the freighter was a hulk tracking across the outer reaches of the Tohil system. Jaeger pulled up the manifest for the vessel and noted ship personnel numbers registered at eight.

His lips curled in a humorless smirk. It must have been a long voyage indeed as a life support scan now showed 28 humanoids on board.

Lothbrok to Dionysius. Keep your shields up and weapons primed. Our scans are showing multiple survivors but no one is responding to hails. Do not attempt any rescue or accept any landing parties unless I give the all clear.” In other words stay the hell out of my way while I check this fu c king mess out.

“AI, keep hailing the Marseille and try to find out what their status is.” He then glanced at his screens. ‘Scheisse,’ he cursed to himself, “That’s two different engine signatures, from the ion trails. AI, initiate defense mode alpha delta mike three. Activate all shields and weapon systems. Lothar! Buckle in: we might have to blow some idiots out of existence!”

There was the sound of fabric on leather and then the clicking of harness buckles as Lothar, his co-pilot, valet and all round henchman slid into the second officer’s seat. “Orders, sir?” His deep voice carried just a trace of an accent to hint at his Turkish origins.

“Let the AI handle the guns. Bring up the nav-routines and start looking for any place pirates could be based out here and the best way to avoid a potential ambush. Scans are showing two vessels, so the second must be docked with the freighter.”

“As you wish sir.”

“Time to call an end to this bullshit”. He muttered and then toggled the hailing frequencies.

Marseille, this is the Lothbrok, escorting the armed freighter Dionysius. We received and responded to your SOS signal and are closing on your position. We see that you have an additional vessel alongside and we are reading multiple life signs. Please respond.”

After a short delay, a signal responded.

Lothbrok, this is the Marseille. The SOS was not authentic, it was a computer glitch from a shipboard drill we were running. We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or alarms that we have raised but thanks for responding just the same.” There was a pause then another voice spoke across the comm line. “Uhm..Lothbrok, please standby. We might have a problem you can help us with, over.”

Lothar spoke quietly from the XO’s consol. “Sir, the scans are showing the drives on Marseille are crippled. And they didn’t address the fact that the second ship is there with them.” He frowned suddenly then glanced at Jaeger. “I am picking up incoming traffic to the coordinates of the Marseille…no registration signatures and flying with signal scramblers wide open but they look like fighters. Their ETA is 30 minutes to the site…”

Jaeger stared at the crippled ship, his jaw clenching. The combined firepower of the incoming ships and the as yet hidden predator would outgun him. These cowards always took courage from superior numbers. “Any UEE patrols or commercial traffic in the vicinity?”

Lothar shuffled screen overlays and searched, finally shaking his head. “Closest patrol is 23 hours out.”

“AI, time until we are within weapons range?”

“We will be within missile range in 40 minutes, Captain. Beam weapon range in 2 hours, 30 minutes.”

Jaeger eyed the ship’s manifest, registering the largely female crew. His lips pressed into a thin line- slavery, torture, and worse awaited these people at the hands of the pirates if they were taken. But the raiders had been clumsy bringing so many crew to a single target. He had an opportunity to cripple this particular band of bottom feeders and possibly knock them out of service permanently, making this sector relatively safe for future voyagers. He made his decision.

“AI, once we are within missile range, we will open with both batteries, full spread. Now open a channel to Dionysius, encryption echo echo charlie seven.”

Lothbrok to Dionysius: Freighter Marseilles is crippled and has been taken by pirates. Make all haste to Tohil and inform port authorities. We are going to engage and neutralize the pirates. We will be less than a day behind you."

****

The Lothbrok docked at Tohil 15 hours after the *Dionysius*’ arrival, to collect their escort fee and to report to the port guard that one salvo of missiles was fired at the alleged pirates. Both vessels were reported as destroyed after what appeared to be a direct hit on the Marseille’s main drive reactor. The Lothbrok had then ambushed and destroyed two fighters at the scene.

Several days after the encounter, salvage crews (who had to purchase the location of the wreckage from Jaeger) recovered partial logs from both the Marseille and the alleged pirate vessel, which was later tentatively identified as the Concordia, an armed freighter that had been missing for approximately 5 years, last known to be on a run from Terra to Stanton. The last recorded crew manifests for both vessels totaled 28 crew. No life boats were recovered by either the salvage vessels or the Lothbrok. Of the two fighters, little remained to identify, though DNA residue identified individuals wanted by the UEE for piracy, murder, extortion, smuggling and a string of petty crimes. Jaeger was awarded a sizeable bounty.

****

Take Out the Good With the Bad

Stories of The 39th Midnight Squadron Sharhun