Author : T.C. Powell
After a three-day’s pursuit through nothingness, Rass Det’s cruiser, the Virgil, finally tracked down the green-black war barge known throughout the Terran League as Deathspike. It orbited Regis III with shields up and weapons armed, obviously ready for a fight. Rass opened communications.
“This is Commander Rass Det of the Republic of Mars to the vessel Deathspike. You are ordered to stand down weapons, lower shields, and submit to Terran authority.”
For a few minutes, silence. Rass couldn’t blame them–he wouldn’t say anything either.
“Repeat: this is Commander Det of Mars. Submit now or we must open fire.”
He turned to the gunner’s well. “Make ready, Mr. Sanders.”
Power rumbled under the deck as the forward batteries charged. They would detect it too; it was talk or fight–all or nothing. Talk was the happier option, always, but this time especially: the Virgil was vastly overmatched. Rass hadn’t wanted to give chase, or force a confrontation, but assistance was forever away, and procedure was clear. No point in bluffing. No backing down.
“Arm the cannons.”
Sanders answered dutifully, but Rass could see it in his eyes. He knew–they all knew.
“On my mark.”
Sanders’ hands flew across the controls. The Virgil was a well-run machine, if not well-funded. Her crew was disciplined and loyal–true believers in the system. They’d signed on for adventure, or recognition, or a hundred individual reasons that Rass didn’t know, and didn’t want to. He watched them, going about business. Technicians making minor adjustments to keep the lights on, the heat up. The science station where Dr. Marbay was, even now, analyzing fragmentary sensor data. Maintenance workers who fought to keep the decks clean, even though they never had water enough, or manpower.
All of it–their efforts, their years of service, their dreams of family and old-age–would come down to this one moment, and then nothingness. And for what? The Deathspike?
Yes, Rass thought, for the Deathspike. It was time.
He turned to Sanders, whose finger hovered over oblivion.
“And… fire,” was what he was going to say, but the words stopped short as a soft blink caught the corner of his eye.
“She’s responding,” Lieutenant Montoya said, trying to keep the relief out of his voice, and failing.
The transmission came in, garbled and broken, the words fading in and out of perception like an auditory mirage.
“…surrender… systems frozen… mutiny… hold fire… please…”
Rass closed his eyes and said a silent prayer, then told Sanders to disengage, relishing the feel of the batteries’ hum slowly falling away.
The two ships held course above the planet, one finally submitting to the other. As Rass Det boarded the bridge of the long-sought raider, they welcomed him with tear-soaked thanks and pleas for mercy, the first of which he felt he didn’t deserve, and the second, he couldn’t grant.
He had, however, managed to luck onto one more day’s living. And that, he supposed, was a good day’s work.
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