Weir wasn’t sure about how he felt or how other people would feel about having a child actually rig something lethal in the airlock of a ship. The repairs weren’t complete yet so it wasn’t like Weir could safely pilot the ship away from the connection yet. Sean had never returned and he was worried about him and he worried about everyone else that wasn’t able to make it aboard. The ship was empty and all he had to operate it was himself and a kid. He wondered if anyone that left the ship would still be around to judge him on what he was allowing the kid to do; he started her off with harmless jokes that wouldn’t hurt anyone, and now that those jokes were hurting people, he found himself listening to her ideas which involved pulling the ship free of it’s port anyway — the moment enough pirates filled the hold.
Sean was going to be pissed if he was still alive.
Weir stepped onto the bridge and activated his wrist communicator.
“Get this done as fast as possible. I don’t want you this far away from me for too long while close to that airlock.”
“Don’t worry Weir,” Andrea said. “This is going to be ‘the bomb’,” Andrea’s giggle made it over the wrist-com before communications broke off.
Weir started looking around the bridge for a giant red button labelled LOAD ALL CARGO. At least, he was really hoping it would be something that simple. He was not in the mindset to learn how to operate a cargo arm or push a zero-gravity loading pallet of explosive bundles of antimatter under fire.
Some console started chirping needily. Weir went over to it. It was an encrypted hail on an Ops Fleet channel. Weir slapped the button to connect. “Hello?”
“Captain Takara of the Jackhammer. Who am I speaking to?”
There was a relieved sigh. “Ah good. Mac said you need a hand loading your cargo.”
“I do!” Weir couldn’t help but sound oh so cheerful to have someone else do the dangerous work.
“I don’t have any hands but I do have 8 multipurpose drones and three of your swabbies. Just need you to open your cargo bay doors and we’ll get your shit squared away for departure.”
“Sure!” Weir spun around and looked at the consoles. He found an engineering console, and tapped through options until he found the cargo bay status screen, and tapped each one to open.
“Alright. Your swabbies are coming aboard EVA. The drones will take about an hour. The system patrol ships will be back in about forty. I’m pulling off for some Suppression of Enemy Anti-ship Defences.”
“Are the station’s guns hot?” Weir asked. He went over to the sensors console. There was no indication that the weapons were shooting or even active.
“Not yet. Every turret they have has local power backups and fire control. You want to wait and see if someone turns them on manually while you’re loading antimatter? I don’t. They can bill you guys after the smoke settles. We’re just contractors cleaning up your clusterfuck.”
“Good to know where we stand,” Weir said.
“As long as our fee is in escrow we stand where ever you want us to.”
“About a klick off providing SEAD and overwatch sounds like good standing to me,” Weir said with a smile.
“Aff.” The channel clicked closed.
Andrea had just finished setting up explosives on the outside of the hatch that led to the station when she started hearing people pounding on the other side of the hatch. It was their hatch and not the Barrow’s; this meant that they would get it open sooner or later even if she did use a special adhesive agent to slow the pirates down. She didn’t like pirates at all. She had a lot of explosives ready so that she could express her dislike for pirates. She could read and learn fast and the Opsfleet explosives guidebook gave her extensive knowledge on shaped charges. The little girl placed not one, but five large bombs, all with titanium backed plates and kitchen utensils for shrapnel. Just outside the inner hatch were more shaped charges. She positioned six of them over the top of the hatch cone, and five facing each side. She had a motion sensor connected to explosive layers of floor plating just in front of the hatch cone as well.
“Man I hope nobody sets this off right now or I’m going to be one deaf motherfucker.”
She could have been worried about it but all she did as giggle thoughtfully as she picked up the leftover materials, placed them in a box, and skipped away from the section. Once she put the box away, she ran toward the bridge of the ship with her fingers in her ears.
Sean and Shannon came aboard with very little instruction other than to get to the bridge as soon as possible. The Marine, Hanks, said she had more pressing matters to attend to than go to the bridge and called them both pussies for doing what they were told.
“What do you think happened that caused everything to go so nuts?” Sean asked as they traversed the decks at a moderately fast pace to get to where Weir was.
“It has been my observation that Weir tends to understand the in’s and out’s of mayhem when it happens.” Shannon took a moment to turn her head toward Sean and look at him through deliberately half-open eyes. Sean would have laughed if he wasn’t so worried. One moment he was watching this android singing beautifully to Karaoke, and the next, they were running for their lives. “It’s an adequate deflection if that was your intent, however, we don’t forget.”Shannon added.
“Don’t forget what?” Sean asked.
Shannon gave him another one of those looks.
“Nobody here is looking for a family anyway so why does it matter. There’s no reason to consider verbal subterfuge.”
“Why do you think I wasn’t looking for a family?” Sean reached the bridge doors and they opened. Before he could add onto his excuses for pretending to not be interested in Shannon, a tiny little girl jumped between them while skipping from foot to foot, humming and giggling while her fingers were stuck in her ears at the same time.
Once again, Shannon gave Sean that look again.
“Yeah…” Sean agreed with a nod before shaking his head at the little girl.
“Andrea?” Sean asked. “What did you do?””
The little girl snickered and giggled too much for a proper reply.
“Did you set us up the bomb?” Weir asked from inside the bridge while frantically trying to operate two consoles at once. He sighed with relief when he saw Sean and Shannon in the doorway. “Come on guys… It’d be a smoother ship if you’d pick a station and help me here.”
“This ship was never smooth,” Andrea said as she manned the station that consisted of what little weapons a spaceship equivalent of a cruise liner would have. Sean swiftly pulled her out of that chair kicking and placed her at communications, which was probably a weapon in and of itself to do so.
“Would you look at that!” Weir said as he pulled up a set of hacked station cameras. He tapped a spot on his mounted control sheet on the console to bring up the overhead projectors. “We got about five people stationside trying to get into the ship and I don’t think they were looking for a Welcome Aboard.”
Sean tapped his communicator.
“Reeve to Hanks. Heads up, Friendly rigged explosives in the airlock hold. Don’t enter.”
“Thanks for that. Anything else Weir forgot to tell me about?” Hanks asked over the speaker on Sean’s wrist.
“That was me!” Andrea yelled from the comm’s station. Sean sighed and confirmed that it was the only surprise on the menu.
“How old are you?” Sean asked.
“Can I lie?” Andrea answered the question with a question.
“Only hundreds of lightyears away from Earth is the only place Weir could get away with being a legal guardian, much less one that allows kids to play with explosives,” Shannon joked.
“And you thought she was just good at karaoke; she’s able to be sarcastic, too!” Weir said while not taking his eyes off the console.
The next thing Weir and Shannon saw were small craft exiting the station.
On the Yutomaky, Lieutenant Commander Jaime Whitmore cleared the fighter bay along with her entire wing, Ray “Iceman” Heermann, Kyle Mercury, Elton Benson, and Luna Akers. They were met with other fighters from both mercenary ships as well as from the station.
“How do we work this IFF with the Merc’s flying around?” Ensign Luna Akers’ voice asked over the open comm’s.
“At this point it’s more of a mutually assured destruction,” Jaime Whitmore said while sighting in possible targets, tagging, and tracking them on the computer. “One person fires, we all fire, it becomes a big mess. Nobody’s going to do shit unless ordered by some asshole who doesn’t care about our wellbeing.”
“Barrow to OFS Fighter Wing… Why aren’t you opening fire?!” Weir asked. “Just kidding… Hey, just stick tight and don’t provoke anyone. Keep an eye on anyone that fires on us when we pull away. We need to clear the station with the supplies onboard before anything else happens because it’s way too congested over here.”
“Asshole,” Lieutenant Ethan Benson said.
“ATC to Wing – I’ll be in charge of updating your IFF based on actions and characteristics. Don’t worry. Give me enough time and I’ll have them all catalogued for you. Just sit tight and don’t provoke unless necessary.” Came a female voice.
“Thank you, Hanna.” Jaime said.
Jaime made small, easy movements with her flight stick so that her wing could compensate in their formation. She looked to her left to see that Yutomaky pulling away from the station slowly and the Barrow still remained docked.
“Why don’t they pull out?” Kyle asked over the comm’s.
“You haven’t ever piloted a whole starship before, have you?” Ensign Luna Akers whispered over the comms in return. “They have a skeleton crew and they botched their docking. There’s a lot to be done before they can just pull away; so much so that even Weir understands not to hit the thrusters and that’s — saying something.”
“Hey Iceman,” Elton said. “… why don’t you just fly into their docking bay and brain some people and get that undock started.”
There was no reply from Heermann, just the all too familiar interstellar static that leapt onto the short-range 40 mHz link.
“Uh, Iceman?” Elton asked. “Comcheck, Iceman.”
“Loud and clear.” Heermann responded in a low tone.
“Can it,” Whitmore said. “He’s not here to joke.”
“Updated… You have your full package, Flight.” Hanna Swan stated from her ATC room.
Jaime looked down at her screen and there were Red Markers, White Markers, and Blue Markers. “House Takes Blue, Merc’s White, and Fuckers Red. Standby for authorization to upload this data to the Merc’s.”
“Yutomaky SIGINT to Control, TTL that data and send it,” Chief Warrant Officer Kaito Wang was listening upon seeing IFF work go through the computer. It was his job, after all. The Time To Live request made sense. If the Merc’s switched sides, they’d lose the data packets the moment the link was cut. If they relied on that information, they’d be suddenly blind in a fight. It was the best insurance the Blue’s could have in the event of betrayal.
“Roger, Transmitting IFL, TTL.” Hanna said.
The computer in front of Jaime alerted her to a strong transmission in the clear from the station’s amplitude modulator antenna running at 100 mHz. She added that to the receiver in the cockpit as did everyone else. The non-digital communication made the man’s voice sound canned but it came through loud and clear.
“Attention Crew’s of the Yutomaky and the Barrow,” It was the Russian station commander. “You have not yet overstayed your welcome. I am willing to overlook the incident on the count of our lies and deceptions and offer an apology. Please, come, dock back with us and negotiate. There is no need to fight.”
“If this ship had an AM transmitter, I’d give that fucker a piece of my mind,” Kyle Mercury stated over the personal communications.
The radio cracked and the sound of someone they hadn’t even heard before cut in on the line.
“This is Eulalia Celino Tatiana Maricruz Pablo Candelaria, commander of Fighter Wing One of the Jackhammer. When addressing in open air you will respond to me, do I make myself clear?” Her voice was authoritative.
“Ah, Miss, Celino…” The Russian said. “I take it the Yutomaky isn’t as strong as she seems if they had to get you to protect it…”
“Pablo Candelaria!” The woman corrected. “I’m here by full authority of McArthur!” Her screams on the AM Freq were enough to over-modulate her transmitter and fill the latter half of what she said with complete static as she talked. Jaime found herself wanting to take off her helmet but chose instead to twist the audio knob to the left of her MFD display in front of her flight stick to make the yelling bearable.
“What the fuck is she talking about?” Kyle Mercury asked on their full clarity frequency that didn’t transmit to their AM frequency. Only they could hear their short range communications so they were able to speculate without setting off the Latino. Before anyone could answer, another voice clicked onto the AM frequency.
“This is Lieutenant Junior Grade Jane Finn, Communications Officer onboard the Yutomaky. Pablo Elias is in no way affiliated with the command structure of Opsfleet and is operating independently of herself or on behalf of her fleet only. However, we are not willing to return to the station, and we assure you, we are fully armed and equipped to deal with any hostile situation —,”
The frequency was morphed with the overbearing yelling of the mercenary pilot.
“Eulaia Pablo CandelariaaaaAAA!”
“Fuck me!” One of the other male pilots yelled over their short range.
“I’d give real credits if she’d shut the fuck up,” Iceman finally spoke.
“I am the Flight Leader… Of Flight NUMBER ONE! NUMBER—ONE! UNO! And that’s final… Do — you — Understand — Me… And I’m in command here, by order of Captain Jun Takara of the Jackhammer. And to the Station Commander. Yes, I am their protector. They are nothing but a cruise liner and we are their muscle for now. Yutomaky, we will negotiate the payment, and you’re WELCOME… Our space!”
“Good to know… So it’s you who we have to go through…”
“This is Yutomaky Actual,” McArthur’s voice finally came in on the comm’s. There was loud booms heard over the line of his M1 Garand firing at psycho killer sex robots. “Flight Leader, Number One… We need you to divert your communications and heed to Actual to Actual Traffic. We are an Opsfleet vessel operating in open space, conducting operations concurrent to colonial treaty stipulations and are capable of defending ourselves with snap-count if necessary. Your orders are to cover the Barrow, not the Yutomaky. Heed to operations command, and we will all get out of this situation with no further loss of life.”
“The loss of life is on you,” The russian stated. “Cruise Liner…”
“Commander, what’s the status of that cargo?” McArthur asked over the secure line.
“Still loading,” Weir answered.
“I need you to standby after you finish, I’ll be coming to you with our POWs. I trust the Barrow will have a hole big enough for my ego when I get there.” McArthur’s tone was severely biting.
The communications cut and another line opened on Jane’s short-range. Before accepting, the pilots on Janes wing talked amongst themselves, mostly about how they just got fucked over by a woman with the worst case of A-Type Personality Disorder in the history of the universe.
“Nobody accept that merge request,” Jane said.
“Agreed,” Luna Akers said. “If I have to hear that bitch again I’m going to need some of Riley’s drugs to get rid of a migraine.”
“Can you imagine being on that flight team?” Kyle said.
Jaime giggled and lowered her visor. She half expected Hanna to switch white for red on the friend or foe information after that little exchange.
“Let’s just be on the same page here,” Iceman’s calm, collected demeanor cut into the jovial exchange. “… this bullshit is why a lot of us chose to get as far away from other Humans as possible.”
“Fuckin’ A…” Kyle,
“Damn straight…” Elton,
“Make it sooner rather than later,” Jaime capped it off…
“Bullseye,” Hanna Swan replied from the Yutomaky’s ATC and Combat Info Center.
“If she dies, give me the footage,” Weir’s voice replied from the Barrow.
All of the replies were stepped over on each other in full-duplex as if all six replies came in unison in a mixture of complete agreement. It was followed up by nervous laughter due to the fact that what this long-named woman did was put the pirates in a state of assurance that they could stand a chance against Opsfleet’s flagship of exploration.
“CAP, you have incoming, ADS 6 and Null.” Hanna’s warning kept Jaime from yanking hard on the stick in preparation for an unneeded joint formation between the Mercenaries and themselves.
“God I hate this bitch,” Jaime said as she accepted the comm’s integration.
“Yutomaky Flight Wing,” Eulalia Candelaria’s annoyingly confident voice started talking the moment their comm’s became integrated. Without even asking permission, Jaime had to bank and break up the formation in order to make room for Eulalia’s fighter as she shoved herself into the lead position as if cutting in line for dinner. “As of now, I’m flight lead. Your second in command is Commander Youta Nobu.”
Jaime fumbled with the stick and frantically looked left and right to see that two other fighters from the Jackhammer filed in on a diamond formation and she was filling the hole. Her lidar showed her that the rest of her wing fanned out on the edges of the Mercenaries in order to avoid colliding.
“Uh, we didn’t ask you to be our flight leader, but —,”
“It’s not your job to ask. We’re saving your ass out here, understand?”
“I appreciate the Jackhammer saving some of our crew out there… But you’re encroaching on our personal space. We are trained and seasoned Military fighter pilots.”
“Get out of Slot Position and take your place behind the diamond, LIEUTENANT Commander,” Came a male’s voice. “This is your 2nd on this mission,” He identified himself, “COMMANDER Nobu.”
“Right…” Eulalia Candelaria said in a satisfied tone. Jaime’s grip on her flight stick made her whole arm hurt as she held on with rage and fear. The Merc’s fighters were getting dangerously close to her and she had to nudge out carefully in order to avoid a collision. As soon as she cleared away, she watched as the Mercenary Fighter Squad of Four tightened the diamond formation to show off in front of the Opsfleet fighters. “As you can see, we are superior and we are going to hold your hands through this. Now, follow our orders and —,”
“PERMISSION TO SPEAK FREELY?!” Kyle yelled into the mic.
“Stand down, Kyle.” Iceman said.
“Yes, STAND DOWN!” Commander Nobu yelled.
“Never speak out of turn here,” Eulalia stated matter-of-factly and in a scornful tone.
“Says the BITCH who forced herself into formation and declared herself fucking god…” Luna finally chimed in.
“Leash your insubordinate, LIEUTENANT Commander…” Nobu demanded while emphasizing the Lieutenant part of her Lieutenant Commander rank. It was obviously to enhance the idea that he outranked her and she needed to listen.
“If they demand to lead, let them lead for now,” Jaime conceded. “We won’t do any good to the Barrow if we’re fighting each other up here.”
“For now?” Nobu asked.
“You will heed to our authority for the duration of this mission, do I make myself clear, Lieutenant? Now BANK left and maintain group formation. Weapons hot and await my orders to fire.”
“This is Chief Warrant Officer Hanna Swan. Do not fire until fired upon. It’s too congested.”
“Our rank supersedes yours, Warrant Officer. Stay off Freq. That is an order,” came another dismissive voice. “This Operation is in control from SCIF, Jackhammer. I am Lieutenant Makoto Katsuo.”
“Fine,” Swan stated.
“SCIF to Flight Lead — We just lost all IFF Data!”
“Flight Lead to CIC, Yutomaky!” Eulalia yelled.
“Flight Lead to CIC, Yutomaky! We need your IFF.”
Jaime couldn’t help but grin. She even heard some low chuckles from her wing.
“Actual to Hanna, reactivate the feed. I’ve spoken with Jackhammer Actual. We aren’t paying them a dime unless they obey Whitmore’s ROE, that you will not fire until fired upon. Once fired upon, our team will maintain the demanded upon order of rank.” McArthur was obviously trying not to cuss up a storm and sound professional, while still being accentuated by the sound of heavy gunfire.
“You will NOT disengage that IFF Data, CIC, do you COPY?!” Eulalia demanded.
“Hanna Swan to Flight Lead, Go fuck yourself, and shut the hell up while doing it.”
“When this fight is over, I want a face-to-face,” Eulalia stated; obviously, this was to Hanna.
Jaime looked down at the middle MFD screen a moment to realize that an entire chat session had started on a secure data screen.
Weir to all fighters, just let them screw themselves over. Slow back and give them room. I talked with their CO and he is a reasonable dude. He’s stuck with her just like we are and she is just a jackass. She’s digging her own grave. Keep your heads. These people have no experience.
CWO. Hanna Swan CIC:
Did you hear what that guy in their SCIF said to me?! I’m the ATC! I’m cutting their TTL feed. Let’s see how ‘in charge’ they are when they can’t see a damned thing…
Reactivate it don’t leave them blind just because she’s a jerk. They might be egotistical but they are on our team.
Lt. JG. Kyle Mercury:
OMG Hanna… That was GOLD!!! Listen to her have that freakout!
Jaime looked up just in time to see two large thrusters scrape the canopy and dig into the visual stabilizer on her fighter. Commander Nobu, for no reason at all, attempted to get closer to Jaime’s fighter, no doubt in an effort to show off his superior flight capabilities. The pilots could hear Commander Nobu yell and curse as he spun out of control after the sudden impact. Iceman blasted his dorsal thrusters to full in a successful effort to avoid heavy debris and suffered Red-Out almost instantly before the inertial dampers compensated on his ship, leaving him out of the fight until he woke up.
Jaime heard Kyle, the next in command in her wing,
“CAP Three – SAR!”
“Roger, SAR!” Came the sound of Lieutenant Wayne Mitchell. Another blip entered Jaime’s Lidar screen from the Yutomaky while she tried her best to stabilize the fighter. To no avail, she activated her backup SAFER thrusters. She reached for the master switch of her fighter and flipped it in the off position while cursing. She reached to her flight suit as everything went dark in the cockpit. She could feel the engines winding down to nothing as her ship went dead in space. She flipped her personal battery pack on and switched back to 40 mHz. As soon as she did, she was bombarded with excuses from her new fearless leader, Eulalia Candelaria…
“…. and the sheer incompetence of your CAG lead led to this collision! You are to send that SAR for Commander Nobu first or I will be forced to retaliate against her in order to assure that Nobu is the ONLY one that matters.”
“Just try it, bitch…” Kyle said.
“CAP Two — Present,” Came Iceman’s voice. “Taking Command.” He sounded winded and in pain. “Eulalia… My guns are active and not just pointed at your ship, but on your torso. I’ve had enough of you. You have to the count of three to get the fuck out of my AO before I make you my first kill mark on this bird.”
Jaime looked up from her stabilized yaw to see Iceman’s fighter rapidly advance on the other fighter and stop suddenly in front of the canopy of the lead Mercenary Craft.
There was silence…
Without a reply, Eulalia’s fighter cleared Iceman’s point-blank position and flew away from the combat group toward the Jackhammer.
“Cap Two, SAR, grab COMMANDER Whitmore, and pick up that bag of garbage while you’re at it. I’ll give him a dressing down when the day’s work is done.”
Jaime didn’t hear any objections from the Yutomaky, the Jackhammer, or the Barrow; just silence as the SAR ship hovered above her canopy. Jaime pulled the glass open to Vacuum and EVA’d into the hull of Wayne Mitchell’s shuttle. The atmosphere reactivated and she opened the door to the cockpit.
“Would you consider that a shoot down?” Wayne asked.
“Clusterfuck…” Jaime said… “Sean’s not here to set me up and nothing else is prepared. God damn it… “ She hit the console in front of her. She was out of the fight because of another man’s Ego. “Hurry up and get that asshole onboard so I can stick my foot up his ass…” Jaime shut the door to the cargo section of the shuttle and then pounded her gloved fist into her other gloved hand. “GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!”