By: Darryl Kupsch
07 February 2939
The call came through comms within minutes of transitioning from hyperspace to normal space in the Tohil System.
“SOS… This is the trader Marseille out of Castra, en route to Tohil. We are under attack from pirates! There is one vessel but we have no armament and they have disabled our jump engines. Someone please help us.”
The message repeated on a loop and appeared to be only a couple hours old judging by the time stamp, so in accordance with Imperial Law, Jaeger set an intercept course. The armed freighter Dionysius, his current client, followed cautiously. As they closed on the coordinates and heading attached to the SOS recording, there was no response via sub-space radio. Eventually the screens showed the freighter maintaining a steady course, but with no changes in acceleration or direction. For all intents and purpose, the freighter was a hulk tracking across the outer reaches of the Tohil system. Jaeger pulled up the manifest for the vessel and noted ship personnel numbers registered at eight.
His lips curled in a humorless smirk. It must have been a long voyage indeed as a life support scan now showed 28 humanoids on board.
“Lothbrok to Dionysius. Keep your shields up and weapons primed. Our scans are showing multiple survivors but no one is responding to hails. Do not attempt any rescue or accept any landing parties unless I give the all clear.” In other words stay the hell out of my way while I check this fucking mess out.
“AI, keep hailing the Marseille and try to ascertain status.” He then glanced at his screens. ” Scheisse. “That’s two different engine signatures, from the ion trails. AI, initiate defense mode alpha delta mike three. Activate all shields and weapon systems. Lothar! Buckle in: we might have to blow some space trash out of existence.”
There was the sound of fabric on leather and then the clicking of harness buckles as Lothar, his co-pilot, valet and all round henchman slid into the second officer’s seat. “Orders, sir?” His deep voice carried just a trace of an accent to hint at his Turkish origins.
“Let the AI handle the guns. Bring up the nav-routines and start looking for origin points for pirate activity out here, and the best way to avoid a potential ambush. Scans are showing two vessels, so the second must be docked with the freighter.”
“As you wish sir.”
“Time to call an end to the bullshit,” he muttered, toggling the hailing frequencies.
“Marseille, this is the Lothbrok, escorting the armed freighter Dionysius. We received and responded to your SOS signal and are closing on your position. We see that you have an additional vessel alongside and we are reading multiple life signs. Please respond.”
After a short delay, a signal responded.
“Lothbrok, this is the Marseille. The SOS was not authentic, it was a computer glitch from a shipboard drill we were running. We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or alarms that we have raised but thanks for responding just the same.” There was a pause then another voice spoke across the comm line. “Uhm…Lothbrok, please standby. We might have a problem you can help us with, over.”
Lothar spoke quietly from the XO’s consol. “Sir, the scans are showing the drives on Marseille are crippled. And they didn’t address the fact that the second ship is there with them.” He frowned suddenly then glanced at Jaeger. “I am picking up incoming traffic to the coordinates of the Marseille…no registration signatures and flying with signal scramblers wide open but they look like fighters. Their ETA is 30 minutes to the site…”
Jaeger stared at the crippled ship, his jaw clenching. The combined firepower of the incoming ships and the as yet hidden predator would outgun him. These scavengers always took courage from superior numbers. “Any UEE patrols or commercial traffic in the vicinity?”
Lothar shuffled screen overlays and searched, finally shaking his head. “Closest patrol is 23 hours out.”
“AI, time until we are within weapons range?”
“We will be within missile range in 40 minutes, Captain. Beam weapon range in 2 hrs, 30 minutes.”
Jaeger eyed the ship’s manifest, registering the largely female crew. His lips pressed into a thin line- slavery, torture, and worse awaited these people at the hands of the pirates if they were taken. But the raiders had been clumsy bringing so many crew to a single target. He had an opportunity to cripple this particular band of bottom feeders and possibly knock them out of service permanently, making this sector relatively safe for future voyagers. He made his decision.
“AI, once we are within missile range, we will open with both batteries, full spread. Now open a channel to Dionysius, encryption echo echo charlie seven.”
“Lothbrok to Dionysius: Freighter Marseilles is crippled and has been taken by pirates. Make all haste to Tohil and inform port authorities. We are going to engage and neutralize the pirates. We will be less than a day behind you.”
* * *
The Lothbrok docked at Tohil 15 hours after the Dionysius’ arrival, to collect their escort fee and to report to the port guard that one salvo of missiles was fired at the pirate entity. Both vessels were reported as destroyed after what appeared to be a direct hit on the Marseille‘s main drive reactor. The Lothbrok had then ambushed and destroyed two fighters at the scene. Several days after the encounter, salvage crews (who had to purchase the location of the wreckage from Jaeger) recovered partial logs from both the Marseille and the pirate vessel, which was later tentatively identified as the Concordia, an armed freighter that had been missing for approximately 5 years, last known to be on a run from Terra to Stanton. The last recorded crew manifests for both vessels totaled 28 crew. No life boats were recovered by either the salvage vessels or the Lothbrok. Of the two fighters, little remained to identify, though DNA residue identified individuals wanted by the UEE for piracy, murder, extortion, smuggling and a string of petty crimes. Jaeger was awarded a sizeable bounty.
* * *
3 Years Later…
The Last Resort Bar and Restaurant
21 June 2942
Ursula LeBlanc was late.
This wasn’t like her. She knew him well enough that she would never keep him waiting if she thought a situation important enough to ask for him.
He hated waiting.
He had no idea what the eccentric waif wanted with him. It could be some sort of strange favor for his services she coaxed out of his boss Mr. Morgan, or it could be a paying job though he didn’t think it likely. She had picked the time and place, though at this point the time did not seem not seem to be this place.
So he waited. In public. In a place he would usually avoid entirely. He just didn’t do social venues well- unless of course he was on security detail for Mr. Morgan.
The problem with waiting was that sooner or later, someone would recognize him, and either that someone would start talking about the stories, or worse, confront him if they were feeling brave. The most irritating part was that they almost always got the facts wrong… like the tall blonde chick about five meters away by the bar, trying to be “discreet” with her male friend who looked slightly less intelligent than the furniture in the joint.
“Yeah! That’s Von Blucher! The one they call Jaeger,” she squeaked, trying to keep it as a whisper, but Jaeger heard every word with the amplifiers connected to his dark glasses. “He’s the guy that blew up that freighter in the Tohil system dusting eight crew! I don’t know how he hasn’t been arrested or spaced or somethin’.”
Her male companion mumbled something (thankfully) unintelligible over the noise of the bar that his amplifiers couldn’t parse. However the gist of it was pretty clear as she reacted in alarm and grabbed her companion’s arm as he turned to move in Jaeger’s direction.
“Don’t be stupid!” She held onto him as tight as she could. “He’s probably got something stashed under that jacket! If you want to do something, let’s go to Station Security an’ let them grab him. Maybe we’ll get a reward or somethin’.”
Jaeger shook his head slightly and slowly exhaled, betraying his annoyance as the couple made a quick exit. Station Security knew all about him…he was an Enforcer and worked for the Advocacy after all. He idly pondered arresting the idiots for the crime of public stupidity if they returned…perhaps it wasn’t against the law to be stupid but it certainly should be.
“I wouldn’t worry about them,” came a familiar voice that brought him out of his thoughts, “They’ll just get a shrug and a ‘move along’ from the authorities or you can just flash your badge. After all I can’t have half my team locked up before we begin,” Marcus said, trying not to laugh at his own joke in front of Jaeger.
Jaeger just stared at Marcus through his glasses without a word. The big German’s annoyance was palpable as Marcus quickly got to the point. “If you are waiting for Ursula, she won’t be coming. There’s been a slight change of plan, so I’ve come here to escort you to the new location. Here, have a look at the mission specs on the way- this is gonna be a sweet haul.” He handed Jaeger the glas detailing the objectives.
Though Marcus couldn’t see them, Jaeger closed his eyes and summoned reserves of patience to ease his irritation with the garrulous team leader. He gave a slight sigh and motioned Marcus to lead the way. He typically kept his distance from this man. Marcus was a laid back family oriented type, always wanting to play nice with every godamn person he came in contact with. His cheerful easy-going manner just rubbed Richard the wrong way. Jaeger typically tuned him out every time he tried to strike up a friendly conversation, and did his best to do so now as well. In a perfect universe Richard mused he’d be able to reach his massive hands around the guy’s neck and squeeze until he was unable to talk or laugh ever again. Ah, the things he endured for the boss…
Despite his misgivings about his cheerful companion, Richard followed Marcus to wherever the hell they were going. Not because the suggestion of profit had been made, but because Mr. Morgan had told him to go along on this one. Richard resigned himself that this would mean tolerating Marcus’ talkative tendencies and shit eating grin with no questions asked.
But he didn’t have to like it.