The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Two

(Welcome back. In our last installment the crew of the Beauteous Revenge were about to attack a frigate fresh out of jump.)

     One-Eye crowed triumphantly as a glittering jet of vaporized metal hissed from the targeted craft. "Got it!" The unexpected impulse pushed the cutter away from the frigate and the glowing ion engines began to dim. "Looks like she's down for the count Cap'n!"

     Captain Arcolier nodded regally as she calmly clicked her pointer on the second cutter. "Starboard batteries, don't let Port make you look bad. Get the other escort. Tractor Beam, stand by to acquire the frigate."

     "Cap'n the engines are hot. Both powered vessels are underway." Stinky Pete looked up at his auburn haired captain. "The escort looks like she's delta-veeing to come see us."

     She arched an eyebrow in response. "Starboard banks? You stupid lubbers awake down there?" Just as she spoke the viewscreen lit up with the fire from the second batteries. The second escort was hit and the vapor jet combined with the minor thrust they had built up to precess the ship outward in a complicated widening corkscrew.

     "Glad to see Starboard made it to the party." Captain Arcolier drawled while looking significantly over at One-Eye. He nodded grimly, making a mental note to give the Starboard team extra response time drills over the next week. The Captain wasted no further time on reprimanding the crew, designating the frigate with a different colored icon. "Alright Tractor Boys. Bring me my prize!" The words barely left her mouth before a false-color blue beam sprang out on the tactical display, connecting the center of the Beauty to the fore end of the frigate. The deck shook gently as the artificially induced gravity locked into play. The effect on the stationary Beauty was minimal, but the frigate was more dramatic. As the beam had locked forward it turned the ship off-axis, Newton reaching all the way from the depths of his grave back on Old Earth to cruelly yank at the prize ship. As the ion drive at the rear continued to fire it began to fishtail about. Observers on the deck winced, knowing full well that such a squirrely delta-v wouldn't feel good. Combined with the nausea of phase transition it made good odds that civilians aboard the cargo liner were vomiting right now. Attitude jets on the craft fired, as the distant captain tried to correct his vector relative to the Revenge.

     "Belay that!" Captain Arcolier snapped. "Port batteries! If you're recharged see if you can get me a pinpoint hit on those jets." At this range asking for a pinpoint hit on a maneuvering target was unreasonable. The thing about the crew of the Revenge was that they were the best, and they drilled obsessively. So when Cap'n Arcolier asked for the unreasonable she usually got it. Brief bursts from the port battery traced infinitely fast lines of destruction and the shifting attitude jets fell silent.

     With other sources of delta-v silenced the frigate soon complied with the inexorable force of the Revenge's tractor beam and swung into a straight line approach. A rangefinder appeared on the main viewscreen, showing colored bands for the ranges of the Assault Pods. The Pods were the deep space equivalent of grappling hooks and ropes - the way the boarding parties would swing across and take possession of the frigate. Captain Arcolier nodded at One-Eye. "You take point today. Gather the First Marines and prep Assault Pod One for the grapple."

     One-Eye saluted smartly before punching at his console. "First Marines! Form up in Assault Pod One. Prepare for boarding action!" He unstrapped from his chair and kicked off, soaring high above the crew's head in a graceful arc that sailed right through the main hatch. As One-Eye left the bridge a new display bit a corner out of the main view and showed One-Eye's perspective in an inlaid picture. Captain Arcolier watched the away crew's POV as a matter of course during boarding action.

     One-Eye sailed down the sterile shaft that ran the length of the Revenge, serving a major traffic artery to the different areas of the ship. When the ship was at combat rest it was easy to swim down the air and with everyone at battle stations there was minimal traffic. Towards the aft end of the ship the members of First Marine swarmed out of their ready room, placed just a few hatches ahead of the Assault Pods. If the ship was under spin this would be a wide corridor, with access hatches on the left and right sides brightly painted with various color-coded lines to aid in navigation. Under thrust the hall would be much more dangerous, as it became "vertical" and fell from the bridge at the nose of the ship back to the engine room at the rear. The corridor's "floor" had an embedded ladder for such occasions, as well as a Velcro strip for suit traction and a bewildering proliferation of small rings and clamps for attaching lifelines or stowing gear. As a seasoned traveler One-Eye exploited the zero-g conditions for quick travel but stayed low, always within reach of the ladder in case combat maneuvers began. In a true crisis he would activate the powerful magnets in his soles, and plant his feet, locking to the laddered surface and breaking any fall. No such maneuvering occurred and he soon reached the sturdy airlock hatch that marked the entrance to Assault Pod One. He snagged a grip with an outstretched hand and skillfully pivoted around the entrance and towards the pilot seat for the Pod. "Status Sergeant?" he called out as he settled into the acceleration chair.

     Sergeant Riker snapped off an impressive salute from the folding drop chair beside the Pod airlock. "First Marines all accounted for and strapped in. Ready for launch sir." Crash webbing strained to hold in Riker's impressive bulk against his seat and the bulkhead. Riker stood over six feet six inches and had the etched physique of somebody who combats zero-g with an impressive daily regiment of strict exercises. The First Marines dressed like pirates but drilled like a paramilitary strike force. Riker himself wore an outlandish pair of purple pantaloons stuffed into black combat boots and a large steel cutlass was strapped to the wall beside him. But his garb was loose-fitting and practical for combat and the flat expression on his ebony visage spoke volumes about his battle experience and training.

     One-Eye nodded and punched a button on his panel. The airlock whooshed as the portal irised closed and air began to pump from the lock's interior. "Launching now!" As the green lights on the bulkhead blinked out, replaced by the red bar that read "Vacuum" telltale clanks came from the pod's exterior as the docking clamps released. The coiled spring energy pushed the Pod away from the Revenge in a jarring lurch before One-Eye smoothly brought the small maneuver engine online and rolled the Pod to point directly at the cargo frigate drifting at the end of a shimmering force tether emerging from the nose of of the pirate craft.

(Tune in next week to see Captain Arcolier draw her rapier!)

(See the next installment!)