Stories

The Mercenaries

We had been hired by a prominent guild trading captain who had the wealth to afford us. The ship was hauling high class cargo through some of the most dangerous routes in the Imperium. All of the cargo was marked as “classified” and even at the Captain’s request the ship commander would not tell him without an Imperial directive.

Despite all of these factors it had been three months and not one attack. As a result the men were bored out of their minds inside the cramped halls of the frigate.

I was in the Astral Lab scanning the route for interesting anomalies or anything to kill the time when a wave of nausea passed over me. Sitting down on the floor to retain my meal I heard beeps come from the console above me.

Choosing my battles I vomited onto the deck floor and then recovered enough to pull myself to the view screen. It was a sea of red unidentified ships coming toward us like a swarm of ants.

“They’re using brain hacking,” Tech-Head’s voice came over the comm “activate your personal encryption devices.”

That explained the nausea I just had as I switched on my neural latency encryption and all sickness passed. I began surveying the battle map, as Company Astrographer it was the least I could do at the moment. “The enemy is launching boarding pods!” I reported over the Company frequency.

The dots were latching on all over the ship, shortly I wouldn’t be much use here. “Get to the bridge Helix!” The Captain shouted over the comm to me which was enough to get me running.

Running through the hallways as fast as I could I almost barreled straight into Highwayman, he was holding his Anti-personnel cannon I almost never saw him without with.  “Hold on there Helix! Watch where you’re going! There’s a breach down that way.” I could hear the pounded on the other side of a sealed blast door. Stark, almost hidden behind Highwayman waved me down a side path right before I heard a blast of metal and the sound of gunfire as I continued my way to the bridge. They could hold their own, I wasn’t worried yet.

The ship’s bridge was located in the center of the frigate. It was a circular room in which the bridge crew was divided by utility with the ship commander and top ranking officers in the center better able to administrate to various divisions. View-screens and readout displays detailed the domed ceiling as if the room was a bubble in space. The Captain was there with the ship’s commander at his own console directing our men throughout the ship. I could also see Tech-Head plugged into an interface running cyber attacks and counter attacks. It was hard to tell which way the battle was going.

Moving up to the Captain’s station I could see the breaches throughout the ship. Our Company was giving them hell but the intruders kept attaching new ships. Looking out across the main view-screen it seemed space was a sea of red pods moving to attach themselves to the vessel.

“Who are they?” I said out load more to myself than anyone else.

“Kri” Teach-Head said behind me. He had opened his eyes in a rare break of concentration. “They’ve broken through my encryptions but I was able to counter spike their docking protocols, we should get a reprieve for a moment but I won’t be able to do it again with my current encryption.”

“Who are the Kri?” I asked dumbly. Those able break Teach-Head’s encryptions were impressive indeed.

“Outsider Cult.” He answered in his usual kurt manner.

“Helix,” The Captain chimed in suddenly looking up from his console. “We need your emergency astromechanic calculations, an emergency jump will get us away from this swarm.”

I nodded and began to access the console along side him. The calculations would take about fifteen minutes, even being prepared, I hoped the time Teach-Head had bought was enough.

Most people see advanced relative physics  as a boarding calculation of unintelligible numbers. I see it as the tapestry of the universe. My fingers flew over the input console as I set up the route calculation. Some used machines for this, but they could be hacked, of course so could my brain through limited implants, but I intently had left some synapses inaccessible through a neurolace interface. An inconvenience in this age but it meant that the earlier attempted of hacking had only ended up nausea, and not the loss of our data.

I was so entranced in my equations that I didn’t notice the bridge had been boarded until one of the crewmen went flying across my vision due to a grenade explosion.

Drawing my sidearm I took cover behind the console. I only had about minute left but if I was dead it wouldn’t mean much. The Captain and Tech-Head were using their own side arms to repeal the intruders and I could see on the other side of the room Ebon and Grimm were closing quarters with their gravity weapons.

The intruders themselves though were a sight. Red clad like their ships, they were decked out in tribalistic gear with human body parts strung out on their armor like trophies. Runes of the Outsiders were scribed all over their armor as well like some kind of protection. It was doing little to help them it seemed as Grim’s gravity sword took their heads just the same.

As they began to be beaten back I reached up to my console and continue the calculations. It was only a few moments until it was complete. The Captain did a quick proof and we entered the Fold.

With their connections cut off the intruders were quickly routed, and we had barely lost a man. But unfortunately we had gained an extra month to our journey. We all began hoping the other half of the trip would be as boring as the first.

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