Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The speaker hums as the decoder scans for the encrypted channels that the Chendrin use. I know I shouldn’t give in to this ghoulish need to eavesdrop, but I cannot help myself.

“Seventy-four. Seventy-four. Anything on your sweeps?”

“Negative, command. Nothing except asteroids and bits of the last twenty-nine ships sent to find out what happened.”

The Chendrin are a superior race, when judged by their own opinion. They consider us intergallactic upstarts who should remain within a few AU of Earth until we learn respect for our elders. As you can guess, Earthers didn’t take to that idea. So the Chendrin started interdicting us. Pretty soon, it was a war. Problem is, now they’ve stomped our colonies and fleets, they have to prise us from the little outposts and marauder stations. Not that they have worked out the difference yet.

I run a marauder station. I have a whole asteroid field that spans one of the main supply routes for the battlegroup resident in our solar system. I spent a year setting up after I got here, then the fun started. Since then, the Chendrin armada have not received any letters from home. Or anything at all.

“Command, we’re coming up on the wreck of the Cladrana. It looks like it took a pair of direct hits from something with a half-kilometre diameter impact field.”

“We’re sure the Earthers don’t have pressor field technology. It must be something else.”

That’s right, kiddies. The Cladrana played tag with a pair of asteroids and lost. Time to cause an accident. I press the red button.

“Command, encoded burst transmission just rec-“.

The message fragments as the Cladrana explodes, her drives, armoury and anything else that could go bang wired to do just that.

“Booby trap! Taking evasive action to exit vicinity!”

“High and fast, Seventy-four. Rise above the asteroid field.”

“Obeying.”

That is the last Command will hear from Seventy-four. At flank speed it rises, collecting a terribly advanced thin cable sheathed in stealth wrap. Each end of that cable is firmly attached to a small asteroid. They work out what is going on faster than any so far, then target the asteroids to give them just enough of a push to miss. I watch as maintenance luggers start work on severing the cable.

My turn: I hit the blue button and countermeasures reduce their high tech to ornamental lights for a while. Said while being long enough for the real shipkillers to plow into Seventy-four like a pair of titanic sledgehammers. A pair of 550 metre diameter asteroids with five metres of stealth coatings and a lot of engines will do that.

Oh, that has got to hurt. Seventy-Four just became forty-one and thirty-three.

Threat broken, I release the drones from their hangars deep within another asteroid. They’ll finish up anything that’s warm or beeping then return to base. Meanwhile I can go for a juice pack and a piece of cake, then indulge in a shower and some sleep.

After that, it’s scavenging the pieces of Seventy-four while waiting for the next target or targets. No matter. I have enough traps rigged to take a dozen vessels at once, plus multiple concealed silos to dispense anti-voyeur nastiness against any ships who won’t venture into the asteroid field.

I have every luxury that twenty-five salvaged Chendrin freighters can give me. I have every weapon too. But I also have human ingenuity and no reason to quit. They will lose a fleet for every second it took my family to die when they cracked the domes of Mars.

 

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