Chapter 2: Asteroids and Pirates
Stars filled her view screen and Annie sighed. Space was beautiful. Reluctantly she manoeuvred the little fighter back towards the debris field and her next target.
Hokulua Station had shields that would deflect most debris but with a micro-star at its core, it generated enough gravity to pull stray asteroids and rubble with it. Small fighter ships were used to defend the station against big impacts. There were also occasional pirates or planet-hopping wildlife.
“Hokulua tower, I’m on vector to my next target.”
“Roger that Echo 2. Make it snappy, you have your other job to get to.”
The next target was an asteroid the size of a living quarter. Her scans showed that the asteroid was mostly water which would require a wide beam plasma blast. But it wasn’t moving right.
“Tower. Target is moving slower than expected. Can I get a proper scan from Astrometrics?” Annie wished that her older brother James was at the coms. He’d have listened.
“Echo 2, a second scan isn’t necessary. Blow that thing and come home.” Just as she expected, the old man just wanted to get the job done.
“Negative tower. Scans are indicating water but-”
Tower cut her off with, “No Buts, child. Just do your damn job.”
“I’m sorry tower. Without a second scan I’m going to do a scoop-and-shoot.” That old man would rather risk the station than be a few minutes late. Annie was convinced there was something off with the asteroid.
“Stop showboating and destroy that asteroid or I swear to the Eater-Of-Stars you’ll never fly again.”
A scoop-and-shoot maneuver was exactly what it sounded like. She’d fly by the asteroid and then extend the little ships shields. It would scoop the asteroid and she could move it away from the station. Once it was at a safe distance she’d shoot it.
It was a tricky thing to accomplish. Annie swung back around and started to follow the asteroid, matching its speed and direction. She needed to be right on top of the thing to catch it in her shield. The darned thing was moving really slow and she almost bumped it.
It was made harder by the swearing and insults from the tower.
“Tower, this is hard enough without you berating me. I request radio silence.”
“Echo 3, here. I second Echo 2. Shut up tower.”
“Echo 4 agrees with the other Echos.” The rest of the Echos agreed.
She’d forgotten that she wasn’t alone out here. There were a half dozen other ships. She appreciated their backup.
The asteroid took much less force than it should have to move. She overdid the throttle and went twice as far as she should have.
“Tower. I have completed scoop and I’m moving to a safe distance to shoot.”
The normal safe distance is fifty times the size of the object but in this case she doubled it. She shot a short direct plasma blast at the edge of the asteroid. If it was water filled, like the scanners said, it would chip off a corner and nothing else. If it was what she suspected, it was going to explode.
A piece chipped off and Annie sighed. “Tower. I have-” she was cut off by the shockwave from the exploding asteroid. It tossed her ship towards the station with such power that her vision blurred and she thought she was going to lose consciousness.
Everything was ringing and it took a while before she could hear the station Tower. When she could hear clearly she heard her brother James, “Echo 2, do you copy?” He sounded worried.
“Echo 2 here. Tower I copy.”
“Echo 2 get control of your ship. We have bogies incoming.” The ship was spinning like a grounder in zero-g for the first time. She gently took control and directed it away from a crash course with the station.
“Tower. Did you say bogies?”
“Yes. Echo 2. Form up with the rest of Echo wing and get out there.”
The attacks from pirates were rare and Annie had the seconds it took her to meet up with her squad to wonder at the coincidence of the timing. If she’d been at the regular safe distance for a scoop-and-shoot, there would be a hole in the station. That’s not to mention if she’d listened to tower.
Echos were the only squad out there. They didn’t have a regular patrol or military presence. They were so far out from colonised space that no one expected an attack. If they’d showed up just ten minutes later there would have been no one around.
“Echo squad. This is Echo leader. We don’t have to win this one, we just have to make sure no one dies. We hold them back until Alpha squad can come clean up.”
The battle was a blur of ships, asteroids, blasters, and commands. After it was done, Annie barely remembered any of it. They’d been lucky that the Pirates had only sent a scouting party. A few clean shots to their ships and they turned tail and ran.
If they’d come in a destroyer sized ship, the station wouldn’t have been able to defend itself.
As she peeled off her flight suit, James came up to her his brow furrowed in anger. “What the black-hole were you thinking?” His reddish-purple eyes, exact copies of hers, glowed with frustration.
“Something was off and I asked for a second scan. I followed procedure until that mouthy space-monkey tried to cut corners. I was right, too. If I’d followed orders we’d have lost a ring or worse.”
He pulled her into a hug and said, “You scared me, sis.” After a pause, he added, “I’ll check the logs and talk to the bosses. But until a full review, you’re grounded. Except for space walks.”
She’d forgotten about her second job. She hoped repelling space pirates was a good enough excuse.
While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories: