Waste Disposal Collection Port
Gavriel System, Inner Bellus Arm
"You really think it could be pirates?" Arabel asked, her excitement helping her initial fear to subside. "What would they want with a Garbage Port?"
"Pirates, anti-Republic activists, scrap thieves, who knows. I don't plan on sticking around long enough to find out."
Jett climbed up a ladder from the lower deck. His two meter height poking up halfway into the cockpit.
"What's going on, Captain?"
"Bel says someone is jamming all signals in the area. Not sure who, or why," Calrose replied simply, her attention was on the manual controls as she gunned the accelerator.
"I think I've got something."
As Jett pulled himself into the room, he and Calrose turned to look at Arabel. The redhead scanned the readout on her wrist, turning her seat to them, but not actually looking up. Hard tap wired ran from her CDT to her terminal on the wall. Data scrawled across the screens at a blinding speed.
"I've managed to cancel out the source of the jam," she looked up just long enough to flash an impish smile. "Scanners are now reading a large vessel."
She looked up at the two others in the room, a serious look on her purple face.
"And it's coming straight at us!" her voice rose with excitement. "Captain, I suggest you step on it!"
Calrose turned back to her controls, pushing the ship to its limits. Twisting the flightstick she brought the ship around in as tight an arc at the lengthy chain of containers would allow.
"I don't see them!" the captain barked, looking out the side viewports.
"They are there, Captain," Arabel stated. "Trust me."
Jett crawled over the co-pilots seat to look out the viewport.
"They are trying hard to mask their signature, but they are coming in fast." Arabel continued. Looking up, her eyes widened. "I detect weapons fire! Bank right and floor it!"
Calrose twisted the controls to the right, knowing her ship and its cargo would twist in space like a massive planysteel serpent. She just hoped it was enough to dodge whatever was headed their way. Just as the ship lurched to the right, Jett jumped back away from the viewports as a line of blinding light flashed past them, narrowly missing the hull.
Calrose pushed the mass of the ship to go as fast as possible. Contemplating warming the peak drive once they reached enough acceleration. But much of that acceleration was lost as she twisted and turned the ship in space, keeping it from travelling for too long in one direction. The few references they had outside the ship, such as the port or the massive disk of Gavriel went whirling past the viewport, and she was suddenly very glad the gravity nets were working properly.
Repeated blasts of laser fire glanced off the ship.
"Give me more, Bel. Where the hell are these guys?!"
An unseen shot hit the ship somewhere midship on the Gravy's belly. The lights in the cockpit flickered but held. Arabel swiped through dozens of readout screens with one hand, her other hand typing away at a keypanel in front of her chair. Clearing away the noise, she cleaned up a scan that displayed the three-dimensional space around the ship. She pointed at hazy blur of pixels on the screen.
"They're right behind us, two kilometers and closing!"
"Alright you two," Calrose refused to move her head from the center viewport. "I need options. Now."
Jett, still holding on to back of the co-pilot's seat turned to her with a grin that nearly stretched from ear to ear.
"I've got an idea!" he exclaimed, jumping onto the ladder. "Arabel, tell me when they are within one kilometer. Captain, buy us two more minutes of not getting shot."
Jett gripped the sides of the ladder and slid down into the lower deck, a devilish grin on his face. His voice came over the comms as he ran into the engineering bay.
"I have a little surprise for them."
- - -
Calrose looked around nervously. She kept up the chaotic evasive maneuvers, but the blast fire was getting more precise as the chasing ship closed in. She knew that one side of the hull would be blackened from the lasfire. A pain to clean off the ship, but proof that what little energy shielding the old hauler had was still holding. Their assailant was either holding back, or they were only equipped with simple las-cannons.
"Come on, Jett," the captain prayed. "Arabel? How are we doing?"
An audible chime rang out from the girl's CDT.
"Now, Jett!" she screamed over the comms, almost loud enough for the engineer to hear her without the radio communication device. "Eight-hundred meters!"
"Punch it, boss! Hard right!" Jett's voice rang back in Calrose's ear.
She gunned the engines, warming the peak drive as the cruise thrusters reached their maximum acceleration. She fired the lateral thrusters, letting them yaw the nose of the hauler to the right.
- - -
Jett's dirt stained and callused fingers slid over the screens at his engineering terminal. The inertial dampeners were still running, but they struggled to hide the hard yaw the Gravy was making. Watching the mirrored readouts from Arabel's scanners, Jett waited for just the right moment before thumbing a switch.
Warning lights flashed across the viewer, advising against what he was doing. He ignored them and hit another button. The warning lights stopped as he heard a deep groan through the hull of the ship.
Outside, the grav-couplers holding the long chain of WDT canisters behind the ship, shut off. Free from being dragged behind the hauler, the twenty meter long transports, filled with thousands of tons of waste material, flung off into space.
Jett watched from the scanner as the pursuing ship, nearly three times the length of the GRV, tried to make the same turn. The Gravy accelerated suddenly, nearly knocking the engineer off his feet.
"Well, that ought to make us a lot lighter!" he cheered.
The Gravy launched forward with new found acceleration after the loss of so much mass, quickly moving away from the tumbling canisters. The chasing ship wasn't so lucky. It was too long, and moving far too fast to make the turn. Jett watched the little lights indicating the waste transports wink out one by one as their assailant careened into them.
Thousands of tons of planysteel and manufacturing waste exploded as it collided with the nose of the enemy ship. The angular beak-like fore section, just below its command deck, split apart into shards of shrapnel and debris.
- - -
"Did it work?" Jett's voice returned to Calrose's comm.
Calrose leaned forward in her seat, looking out the side viewports.
"Well, you hit is at least. Looks pretty banged up," she sat back down, changing her course from the rightward arc to an upward turn. The inertial dampeners were weakening, and she could feel the sudden shift in G's as it pulled at her stomach. "But you didn't disable it."
Arabel turned as Jett pulled himself back up the ladder and into the control deck.
"You mean," he began.
"Yeah," Calrose nodded her head coldly. "It's coming back for more."
"What the hell are we supposed to do? That thing is way bigger and faster than we are." Arabel chimmed in.
"And tougher too, it seems," muttered Jett.
"It was a valiant effort, Jett." Calrose's voice was calm yet commanding. She knew when her crew was trying their hardest. She also knew a thing or two about mistakes. "Though command is going to have my ass for that lost transport."
"Uh," Arabel interrupted, a concerned look on her face. "I think we have a problem."
"No kidding, Bel!" Jett exclaimed as he leaned against his own terminal, opposite of the redheaded girl. "That psycho 'rat just took a pretty big blast across the bow and it didn't even slow it down."
"No, I mean a bigger problem." Arabel turned in her chair to face the group. She swiped across the readout screen of her CDT then pulled upward into the air. The visual display on the screen followed her fingers, leaping off the two-dimensional panel. Each individual pixel fattened into a glowing cube of light. The readout now showed a fully three-dimensional view around the ship. Arabel pointed to a number of shimmering clumps of voxels. "That ship isn't alone. I am picking up the masked signals of nearly a dozen of those things."
"Cap?" Jett turned to Calrose nervously, "what do we do?"
Calrose glanced at her tiny crew then turned back to the forward viewport, a determined look on her face. She gritted her teeth and felt her fingers tighten around the controls."Well, we dropped off our cargo," she said sarcastically. "I'd say we get the hell out of here. They sure aren't paying us enough to stick around."