A polite yet unenthusiastic applause reached Morris’s ears. He’d started to feel hot in his new flight suit. This was all beginning to feel like a bad idea. A very embarrassing bad idea, but as his old gran had said, “Bettur to stick yer neck oot than yer tongue oot.” So he ploughed on.
“.. We’re going to leave here with three ships and come back with first place!”
As another flurry of unimpressed clapping and chattering broke out the sound of a repeating metallic bell made its way to them over the heads of everyone.
Jennifer turned and broke out into a run as Sandy Hicks burst out of the crew office a few meters away hopping with one leg in her flight suit.
Suddenly the noise of the crowd rose as parents picked up toddlers and began to scatter.
Kayla Marsh’s shouts reached Morris’s ears.
“Don’t stand there looking gormless Moz, get one up!”
Morris noticed Euan looking equally stunned. The two suddenly caught each other’s eye and started to run for ships.
Morris darted up the steps of the eagle. A QRA shout meant that there were multiple hostiles and that they had gotten in close. He punched the power switch as he fell into the pilot chair. The whine of turbines started to grow as the doors began to hiss closed.
A shockwave rang past as Jennifer’s condor blasted upwards.
The computer’s deadpan voice signalled the ship was now awake, “Engines online.. Shield charging..”.
A musical tone signalled an incoming wideband message.
Morris gestured over the holofac panel and switched the system to open play.
“..ips, all ships. Incoming raiders number five. Sidewinder class. T7 trader disabled. Vector zero point two at three three one starwards.”
Such a big ship was probably full of bulk foods from the surface. Sidewinders didn’t fit that much cargo. There had to be bigger ships on the way for the loot.
Morris piled on the thrust and pulled the eagle towards the sky.
Lucy Fritter hadn’t really considered what she’d do in this situation. Her ship was still there but minus the canopy. When the glass had exploded outwards she had been below decks trying to convince the jump computer to behave. It had been reporting a mass lock despite the scanner being clear of any contacts.
The first shot had torn open the cockpit and the cabin door had sprung closed locking her in the main cabin. It saved her life, she had no remlok mask on. But even with the life support of the spare remlok that now hung ready around her neck, she would not be able to get back to the pilots seat.
She could see one of the pirate raiders out from her small porthole, a bright red Sidewinder fighter with a black skull painted on one side. “Subtle” She muttered.
Flipping open the emergency band radio she was greeted with the words: “Communication Bandwidth Zero.” blinking red in her face. They were jamming. About the only thing she could do down here now was to jettison the cargo in the hope they wouldn’t start cutting open the hull.
She brought up the cargo hatch control from the terminal but movement out the small window caught her eye. The sidewinder thrusted out of view to be replaced by the beetle like shape of a larger ship. It had several collector drones hovering around it already.
She could just make out the words “No witnesses, No problem” on the hardpoint doors before she was blinded by the laser beam.
Euan was trailing the five fighters, Morris had taken the eagle. The extra guns would help a lot here. It wasn’t going to be a clean fight. He’d probably have to pile power into the shields and try to ram the sidewinders. With such even numbers the smaller condors would have to fly rings around their foes.
Sketch’s voice crackled into his ear.
“Surface radar has them above the pole. Drop in five seconds!”
Euan engaged the navigation lock onto Morris’s eagle as she began to count down.
“.. Two, one, drop..”
They erupted into normal space just in time to see the trader ship explode into a cloud of metal, dust and cargo. An Asp explorer hung there alone, collector drones busy at work.
An alarm sounded.
“Four contacts, six o’clock! Break, break, break!”