UEE Artemis (Bengal Class Carrier), Briefing Room, Halcyon System
Three hours had passed since the massive explosions crippled the UEE Artemis. The UEE Centurion had pulled alongside and hooked up conduits for emergency power so that life support, environmental shielding, artificial gravity, and lighting could operate. Admiral Koenig and Captain Shaw were in the middle of a tense meeting. Shaw was still in his flight suit and working to hide sore ribs after the fighter he was in was seriously damaged when the bombs went off and smashed it with debris. The image of the Retaliator bomber blasting past him during its escape was ingrained in his mind and enraged him.
“Admiral, if you think you can just wash your hands of this, you are wrong. DEAD wrong!” Shaw made sure to put emphasis on the word “dead”. The Admiral was wavering and threatening to back out and put the blame on Shaw. Shaw wasn’t having any of it. “When I gave you the money, and you pledged your support, did you think you could just walk away if things got difficult? My family has been in business for a long time, and we have a lot of ‘friends’. You might not so easy to damage as the big nobody O’Brian was, but on a crippled ship like the Artemis, many ‘accidents’ can happen.” Shaw let show a sly and wickedly cruel smile. He had no problems flexing the money and power his family had. Much of it came from organized crime, but they have so many legitimate fronts and bought off so many underpaid agents that they have always been able to do nearly anything shy of overt rebellion. Other members of the family operate more subtly, but Shaw had a malicious mind and a desire for way more power than anyone in his family cared for, and he didn’t care who died or was ruined in his quest for power.
“None of this would have happened had you just spaced O’Brian when he first got in the way instead of toying with him! I have long and exemplary service to the Empire and have many friends of my own. Why I ever listened to you instead of tossing you in the brig…” Koenig was furious. He loved his ship. He loved the Navy. But, like many men before him, and many more to come, simple greed was working to destroy him. Koenig feared Shaw, but his real fear was losing his first loves, his ship and career. Koenig was fairly well connected in politics; one doesn’t make Admiral and command a carrier in times of peace without connections of some sort. But, in contrast to Shaw, his connections were legitimate and had no direct links to the underground. He thought he was taking a low risk accepting Shaw’s offer, but it had now become apparent that there was something far bigger going on.
“You didn’t because you knew I could end your precious career. I know your type. You are all high and mighty pretending to be grand Captains of the olden days of wooden ships and iron men, pretending that you will ‘go down with the ship’ and be a leader of your men. Yet, you know in peace you will never find your glory! I offered you a chance for that glory!” Shaw knew he was striking a nerve with the Admiral. Now it was time go to the next step of his backup plan. Shaw gave a brief dramatic pause and had a devilish smile as he looked at the admiral with a horrible gleam in his eye. He pressed a button on the command table and the Admiral suddenly looked dismayed as four marines began to enter the room as Shaw resumed talking. “Admiral, it appears that you have become derelict in the performance of your duties. As the second highest ranking officer surviving on this vessel, I am placing you under arrest and relieving you of your duties until you face a court martial on Earth.”
“You son of a….” Admiral Koenig began to swear at Shaw, but was interrupted.
“ENOUGH!” Shaw harshly bellowed out, “Marines, take this old wind bag and put him in the brig. And tie him down until we get the containment fields repaired” With that command the Marines grabbed and roughly handcuffed Koenig and dragged him kicking and screaming towards the brig. Once the room was cleared, Shaw sat down and slumped over in a chair and rubbed his sore ribs. He had faced some horrible setbacks to his plans, and spent a good deal of money and favors in the last few weeks, but new business ventures don’t always start out smoothly, especially ones as grand as his. He thought to himself “It could have gone much worse, and those who are not with me must be removed from my path.” With that thought he looked out the view port into the darkness beyond it and thought of O’Brian and pictured him on a desperate run like a wounded fox being hunted by horsemen like in the royal hunts of the kings in very ancient times.
On the other side of the system, the “wounded fox” was indeed in a desperate flight, but O’Brian was not finished with yet. In the stolen Retaliator bomber the escapees cleared the large asteroid belt that spanned the far edge of the system, remnants of where two small dwarf planets were destroyed in a collision many millennia ago.
***WARNING FUEL IS LOW… WARNING FUEL IS LOW*** the onboard computer reported breaking the uneasy silence. No one has spoken a word since they decided to press on despite not have the fuel needed to jump out of the system. Franklin was barely clinging to life although they had at least managed to stop the bleeding. The two unknown crewman had finally awoken and outside of serious headaches and bruises had no permanent or serious injuries. One was Lieutenant Jimmy Nelson, a young officer who ran the UEE Artemis’s technology division. He had informed O’Brian that he was the one that taught Franklin how to get into the ships messaging system and bypass some security measures. O’Brian recognized him as the last person to walk through the brig before the containment fields failed and he was transferred to his room. When O’Brian asked about it, Nelson just smiled sheepishly and shrugged. The second was Spaceman Megan Khan. She was an ordnance handler. Khan helped procure the warheads used to make the bombs and modified the flight deck mission plans to ensure there was a fully loaded Retaliator ready on the flight light.
O’Brian sighed. “So here we are. Five minutes from the jump point and no fuel to jump and no way to repair the broken fuel pump to make the jump out. We are outside of the fleet’s scanning range so unless they are following us we are safe. I just hope Franklin had a plan for her people to come look for us if we didn’t show up in the time they expected!” O’Brian stared blankly ahead as if in a daze. He ears were slightly ringing from the gunfight and explosions trying to escape, and he kept wishing that this whole ordeal had just been one big nightmare and that he would soon wake up. Real life had taken an almost surreal feeling to it. He had never felt so numb. He sat back and thought about his now deceased wife and despite his best efforts to hold back tears they slowly worked their way down his face.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by another tone from the computer.
***HIGH PITCH BEEP*** WARNING MISSILE LOCK WARNING MISSILE LOCK ***HIGH PITCH BEEP***
The ships comms came alive with a stern voice “Imperial Bomber, shutdown engines and shields now and state your intent or we will open fire. You have five seconds to comply”