Tight Turn


‘We have a non-human unidentified signal source, bearing twenty-three, zero, zero,’ Mooka announced.

The ex-imperial slave leaned over the engineering workstation of the Asp Explorer, ‘Sanctimonious’, and adjusted one of the controls. The monitor readouts changed subtly.

‘Looks like a Threat level 4.’

There was a grunt from the pilot’s seat to her left.

‘Shouldn’t be a problem then,’ replied Commander Duncan ‘Mac’ McTaggart. ‘You ok with that Davie?’

‘Yeah,’ came a grumbling voice over the intercom. ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’

Even though Mac’s back was to her in the pilot’s seat, Mooka could see his shoulder’s sink as the pilot sighed. She’d noticed an increase in tension between her two adoptive fathers over the last couple of months. Since the appearance of a new type of Thargoid vessel within the bubble itself, the Mac had taken it upon themselves to help defend against these incursions.

‘You think we’ll get enough of them to cover any repair costs this time?’ Davie’s sarcasm cut through the commlink.

There was nothing but a grumble from Mac, Mooka noted. These incursions had introduced a new type of Thargoid vessel. These new ships, which had been called Marauders, were smaller, faster and nimbler than massive ‘Interceptor’ class aliens the crew had encountered before. Thankfully, unlike their larger counterparts, these scout-like vessels were vulnerable to standard human weapons. The upshot being that smaller human ships, like the Asp Explorer, were a lot more effective against them.

The downside was that the Pilot’s Federation paid a pitiful bounty for each Alien Ship. It never seemed enough to pay to repair the damage those Marauders could inflict. The only way to make a bit of money was to run anti-Thargoid missions which were handed out from the AEGIS Mega-Ships. Finding one of those ships was a mini-miracle, in itself, Mooka though to herself when a computer alert broke her out of her reverie.

‘In Range.’ She announced.

‘Dropping in.’ Mac commented.

There was nothing but silence from the gunnery station, which Mooka always took as a bad sign. The Sanctimonious shuddered as the ship’s Frameshift drive returned them into real space. Her hands darted all over the sensor controls, in reflex.

‘We have one human contact so far,’ said Mooka, frowning at the readouts. ‘I think it’s a Krait Mk 2!’

There was a low whistle from Davie’s commlink, he was obviously impressed.

‘That was quick,’ He said. ‘They only started selling them last week.’

Mooka watched the new ship. Larger than the Asp, its large wings reminded her of a large kite, just hanging there is space. Memories fired in her mind. The original Krait Light Speeder design was originally a racing ship but once the design was leaked, the underclass modified it into one of the most notorious pirate vessels in the old Galcop days.

The design had dropped out of favour, as newer and updated designs forced it into obsolescence. The old Krait got a reputation as a flying coffin, especially when it was used against the latest Sidewinder design. However, this new version had enough room for comfortable quarters for the three crew, large weapon emplacements and even a Fighter Bay. All that, while also being almost as manoeuvrable and as fast as the Asp. Mac had admitted he was impressed by the new ship and he claimed he’s been tempted but it was obvious, to Mooka anyway, that he could never sell the Sanctimonious.

The ship’s details appeared on everyone’s screens.

‘Look like she’s called The Paronomasia,’ Mooka read out. ‘She’s commanded by …’

‘Hyperspace Anomaly Detected,’ announced the computer.

‘Here we go,’ muttered Davie over the comm.

Mooka watched the readouts as nine little red triangles appeared on the scanner, all of the began to flash as the sensors detected fire incoming from them.

‘Oh Flux-stains!’ cursed Davie. ‘Nine!’

‘It’s OK,’ replied Mac, sounding maddingly calm. ‘We just go through them one by one.’

Mooka quickly tightened her harnesses to prepare for the high G manoeuvres she new that were coming and watched as Mac selected one of the flashing triangles. Grabbing the shoulder harnesses, she braced as the Asp turned around. She altered the power levels to give the weapons more power. They had found out the hard way that their shields were not as effective against the Alien’s weapons, so rerouting extra power to the shields were a waste of time.

‘Fire at will,’ ordered Mac.

‘Aye aye Sir!’ replied Davie sarcastically.

Any retort Mac had was drowned out by the high pitch whine of the beam laser turrets as Davie opened fired at the closest Alien vessel. These were not the massive organic vessels that were overwhelming the Pleiades. These were much smaller, eight-sided, saucer like ships. They did have some kind of organic tendrils growing from the top and the bottom of them, which reminded Mooka of nests of snakes.

Mooka focused on the readouts on the engineering station in front of her. In addition, to the Engineering controls, there was duplicate of the ships main scanner readouts and a viewscreen which she could flip between Mac and Davie’s viewpoints and several external and internal cameras dotted around the ship.

It was a good job that the screen was there, if she’d turn her head to look out past Mac out the cockpit, the swirling stars would cause her to throw up. Not ideal in a zero G combat situation, you’d never know where, or on whom, the vomit would end up. She looked through the contact list and noticed something weird.

‘Boss?’ she called into ship comms. ‘The computer can’t identify three of the ships.’

‘Which ones?’ Mac called.

‘There seem to be three holding back at the back of the formation.’

‘Aw you fluxstain!!’ Davie’s frustration was boiling over. ‘Every time I almost get this one, it glows green and heals itself.’

‘You mean like the bigger ones?’ Mooka asked

‘Looks like it,’ Davie replied.

‘Right,’ Mac grunted. ‘Let’s see how they handle the AX cannons. Keep any others off us Davie!’

Mooka braced herself again as Mac threw the ship through a tight loop to bring the Sanctimonious’ main guns to bear against the alien ship. She watched on the screen as Mac opened up with the AX cannons. The massive Gatling guns fired shells tipped with an enzyme which did extra damage to the thargoid vessels.

The saucer shaped enemy tried to pull away but the Asp Explorer matched it’s manoeuvre. As Mac continued to pour fire into it, Mooka watched the ammo count depreciate at an alarming rate. The computer readouts on the enemy ship were showing increasing amounts damage, then the ship began to glow green again and it looked as if the ship was regenerating again. However, it wasn’t regenerating fast enough and it exploded, just as the AX magazine emptied.

‘That was tough!’ exclaimed Davie. ‘There’s still another eight out there.’

‘Paronomasia to Sanctimonious,’ A voice came over the ship comms. ‘How did you splash that one? These are regenerating.’

Mooka looked over the scanner, apart from the three ships which were hanging back, four of the five remaining Thargoids were attacking the Paronomasia. It was then she noticed a spike in the readings of the middle Thargoid of the three. As she watched the power spike, she also noticed that any damage that had been done to other vessels began to regenerate.

‘Sanctimonious to Paronomasia,’ replied Mac. ‘We just used AX cannons but it almost emptied the mag.’

‘Boss!’ Mooka called, ‘One of the ships is repairing the others.’

‘Which one?’

‘I’m highlighting it now.’

‘Mooka! Synthesise some new AX ammo,’ Mac ordered. ‘Davie, we’re going after that ship!’

‘Aye Aye!’ Davie acknowledged.

‘Sanctimonious to Paronomasia,’ Mac called. ‘We’ve identified some kind of regenerator ship, can you cover us if we make a run at it?’

‘Sure thing Sanctimonious,’ came the reply. ‘Don’t let it be said that Cmdr Turner won’t help a commander in need.’

Mooka ordered the onboard systems to start generating new ammo for the AX cannons. She fixed the xeno scanner on the middle ship when the ship to the left of it pulsed red. Suddenly the engineering board lit up with alerts. All of the remaining five Marauders locked and fired their caustic missiles at the Paronomasia.

‘Paronomasia,’ called Mac. ‘You have incoming!’

The Krait had heard the warning and they watched as it’s point defence cannons started to fire. One of the missiles disappeared. The larger ship pulled into an evasion pattern to the left, showing its underbelly to the Sanctimonious. Suddenly a hatch opened underneath and an imperial fighter flew out from under it.

The small nimble craft was immediately hit by two of the missiles and disappeared in the cloud of orange. Mooka was shocked for a moment but then remembered the fighter was remote controlled with its pilot is safely tucked away either on the ships bridge or the fighter bay of its mother ship.

‘Davie, can you get any of the missiles?’

Davie didn’t answer but his beam lasers did. The two streams of light stabbed through the dark and contacted one of the missiles. It disappeared in a flash of green. There wasn’t time for the other one as it smashed into the side of the Krait. Mooka winced as she new the acid in that missile would start to eat through the ship’s hull.

‘We can stay with you Sanctimonious,’ came a call over the ship to ship comms. ‘Dunno, how long for though.’

‘If you get within a klick, we can launch a de-com limpet on you.’ replied Mac.

‘You’re a star Sanctimonious.’

As Mooka lined up a de-contamination limpet for the Krait, there was a beep from the engineering console.

‘AX cannons reloaded.’ She reported.

‘About time.’ Grunted Mac.

The Sanctimonious pulled round a tight left turn and lined up on the group of three unknown ships. The two Alien ships on either side of the central one, manoeuvred to try and block the Asp explorer’s path, but Mac was way ahead of them. He fired the ventral thrusters and switched off the Flight Assist.
In Newtonian mode, the ship carried on it’s same vector, but Mac pitched the ship down lining up on the middle Thargoid. All three were same design as the Marauder class but a blue/green light could be seen emerging from the targeted ship. The AX cannons roared and the projectiles ripped it apart almost immediately. The effect was immediate, the Krait’s turrets quickly took out two of the Marauders, with Davie claiming the left ship which had pulsed.

The Paronomasia had closed to run on the Sanctimonious’ wing, bringing it into range of the decontamination limpets. There was a small rocking motion as Mooka launched the tiny craft. Mac immediately targeted the remaining vessel in this group. Even as he targeted it, a dark purple pulse emerged from the Alien vessel. It seemed to be some kind of signal as all the remaining Marauders all seemed to focus their fire on the Sanctimonious at once. However, the Sanctimonious kept on flying in a straight line.

‘Fluxing Hell,’ called Davie. ‘We really seemed to have ticked someone off.’

Mooka wondered why Mac wasn’t evading when she looked over to see him slumped in the pilot’s seat. She was just about to move when she saw the cockpit glass being to crack and then eventually give way. She was thrown against her harness as the atmosphere on the bridge was blown out. Thankfully, her spacesuit deployed her Remlock mask as soon as the depressurisation was detected. That would keep her alive for a quite a while.

‘Davie!’ Mooka yelled into the ship comms. ‘Take over the pilot role!’

There was no response but as soon as she said it, the ship changed in pitch. She knew that Davie had taken control. She activated her mag boots and quick released the harness. She got over to Mac as fast as she could, each step making a clump click as worked her way towards the pilot’s chair. It was hard to ignore the spinning star scape outside.

Dreading what she would find, she slowly span the chair round. Mac was slumped in the chair with his Remlock engaged. He had a nasty gash running down the left-hand side of his head, starting just behind the eyes and up over his ear. She followed the line of where the projectile had gone and noticed a small piece of something in the side of the headrest of her seat.

She quickly checked his stats on display on the suit. He was alive but that wound was oozing blood a little to quickly for her liking.

‘Davie,’ She called. ‘Mac’s hurt, we need him to get to a hospital now.’

There was a jerk as the ship turned towards the nearest Coriolis Station. Mooka grabbed the pilot’s chair, realising that there was a very real chance that she’d be thrown out into space if her mag boots failed. She literally held on for dear life as the Sanctimonious jumped into super-cruise, leaving the Thargoid wreckage behind.

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