Page 5

Sir, we're getting a hail from an unknown source.”

Commander Hawkins simply stared ahead, hands clasped behind his back, showing no hint of fear. This was what they had been preparing for all those months. This is what they had volunteered to do. Now, the time had finally come and despite dozens of hours of training he was still less than confident. This was the first time he or his crew had ever been a part of any military operation and he couldn't help but feel out of place.

Alright Private, patch em through,” he told the waiting young man after several seconds. The man, relieved he didn't have to repeat himself to a superior, quickly turned to his console and briefly played with some holographic controls before turning again to watch a large holographic screen appear in the middle of the command room. On it, a man's larger-than-life face came into focus.

This is Commander Hawkins of the cargo ship SS Environ. I can't seem to get find the source of this transmission. Who are you and why have you hailed us?” Hawkins said, trying to play it off as if he had no idea who was on the other end and why they were there.

Simply put,” the other man said, “we're here to take your ship.” He stared intently into Hawkins' eyes watching for some hint of understanding. When he found some he continued. “I have 30 very capable men waiting to take off. Once they have boarded your ship you and your crew will be expected to step back while they take command. No one will get hurt if your men don't try anything stupid.”

Hawkins stared back as if contemplating his options. “How do I know you will keep your word, ehhh-”

Captain Kohl of the mercenary ship SS Estrange,” the other man said proudly.

How do I know you will keep your word, Captain?” Hawkins repeated. “Assuming what you have said is true you could easily overwhelm us without much trouble. We're just a cargo ship after all. What's to prevent you from killing every last one of us once on board?”

I can assure you, my employers don't want any more bloodshed than there needs to be. Once my men have taken command, we will deliver you to the nearby colony planet. From there I'm sure you can find a ride back to Earth, eventually.”

There it is, Hawkins thought to himself. There's the confirmation we have all been dreading. Someone has been cleaning house and has been using mercenaries to do it. Even if we do capture some of the boarders to interrogate chances are they won't know anything about who they're working for. All they know is they're getting payed and that's all that matters.

Putting on the best “defeated” face he could manage, he looked at the captain and said, “Well, seeing as I have no other choice I think you better have your men come on board.”

Thank you Commander. I promise I'll try to make this exchange as painless as possible,” the captain feigned.

Yes well, we'll see about that, Hawkins thought bitterly.

The End

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