The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Four

(Welcome back. In our last installment Captain Arcolier had discovered that the supposed civilian frigate was actually a disguised Cantrellan destroyer. She attempted evasive action just as a false bulkhead broke off and was hurtled right at the Beauteous Revenge. If you're new to our tale you'll want to start here.)

     Captain Arcolier called for evasive action a split second too late. The false hull was abnormally massive, as it was designed to serve this exact purpose. On the one hand it slowed down the trojanned destroyer, making it maneuver like a pregnant guppy. On the other hand after it was jettisoned it might work in precisely this case - a secret projectile aimed at the brash pirate who dared lock it with a tractor beam. The energy dumped into the hull by the Revenge's own tractor beams now propelled the masking shell towards the pirate ship. Jaimie's intuitive leap meant the modern-day cestus struck a glancing hit instead of the the crippling strike the Cantrellan engineers envisioned but it was still a mighty blow. The hull of the Beauteous Revenge rang like a bell as the heavy mass struck aft. The Revenge spun erratically as the delta-vee was imparted, and Captain Arcolier reflexively gripped her armrests as the bridge wobbled erratically.

     "One-Eye! That ship is a trojan. I'd expect Imperial Forces to greet you soon. We'll be there as soon as we can, but I'm afraid you'll be on your own for a bit. Acknowledge!" Captain Arcolier knew this fight wasn't over, and the best ratings came from tight battles. She wasn't licked yet, not by a long shot, and her communique was cool and collected. Her stomach told the lie here, as acid boiled away and etched into her awareness. Luckily nobody had managed to develop true nerve system recordings yet, so as long as her face remained impassive her fans would never know what burned inside her gut.

     The display from Assault Pod One flashed brighter as One-Eye spoke, raising an eyebrow sardonically at his Captain. "Oh a trojan? Y'think? I'll alert the Marines. We'll need the calvary soonish. Bring it, would you? Thanks!" Through his entire spiel his hands never stopped flying over the control boards, trying every trick in the book and a few that had never been written down. If anyone could break the tractor beam, One-Eye would bring it home. Even in these dire straits he never stopped playing to the cameras. Jaimie smiled inwardly, even as her stomach roiled from the sacrifice her crew was making. One-Eye was a trouper, in all senses of the word and she knew the First Marines would play along. How could their Captain do anything less? The show must go on and she'd be damned if some crazy Cantrellan plot would bring the Revenge low.

     "Damage Report. Status?" Captain Arcolier rapped out in her famous ice-cold tones. Fanboys in dozens of systems would eat this up. All she had to do was make this out alive.

     Stinky Pete chuckled quietly to himself. One day he'd see the jam that would crack Cap'n Arcolier's cold reserve, but this? This was a walk in the park! Who did the Cantrellans think they were dealing with? "Engineering reports no significant damage. Electro-shielding absorbed most of the impact, and ablative shielding took the rest. Oh, Tammy says that ablative is down five percent. Shall I order some more padding?"

     Jaimie smiled wryly to herself, despite the dire situation. Stinky Pete was almost too much of a ham to bear. If he wasn't such a genius at his board she'd have to scold him. But he was a genius and enough talent excused any amount of showboating. And besides, Stinky Pete always tested in the top five 'Q' ratings for her bridge crew. He'd never be his own captain, but a sizable crowd followed his exploits. And truthfully, in her secret heart of hearts there was a tiny little voice of doubt that Pete always reassured.

     "Alright my pretties, I think the Cantrellans have shown their claws. Maybe we should show ours. Close and engage. I want to see One-Eye and the First Marines come home safe. Oh, and whoever is controlling that? I'd like to see him in our brig. Make that happen would you?" Jaimie made a show of stretching luxuriously in her padded chair as she highlighted the revealed destroyer with her pointer. Oh that stretch! Jaimie smiled inwardly, knowing that she just provided all sorts of mental fodder to underaged youth in all of the central systems. Her hair could go take a flying flattish leap - she was on fire today, and this recording would smoke up the sales charts! Assuming One-Eye made it back she would easily gross enough to cover any repairs and refueling.

     The pilot was just a young whelp of an ensign, freshly recruited, and he stuttered out his call for full thrust. Tammy in engineering flickered into view in a corner of the viewscreen as the Revenge leapt forward. "Full thrust? William? You sure you can handle what I can put out?" Tammy chuckled throatily as the young pilot blushed crimson. Tammy locked eyes with Jaimie and arched an eyebrow. "Seriously Cap'n. How do you find them so young and innocent? You know I love it!"

     Jaimie threw her head back in a full-throated guffaw. "Down girl! I promised his Ma we wouldn't hurt him. Get us into grapple in the next minute and I promise you an extra week of shore leave. Hell, I'll go with you. Haven won't know what hit them, but we'll have a full squad of new marines when we launch. That's a Captain's Promise there lassie!"

     Tammy tugged a raven forelock in a mock salute. "Aye, aye Cap'n! It's a date!" her screen faded out as William swallowed ineffectually and continued to guide the Revenge into Electro-Grapple range. Jaimie returned her attention to the tactical display as the icon representing the Revenge leapt forward. The destroyer wasn't likely to escape but it was doubtful that was the Cantrellan goal anyway. One-Eye and the First Marines would take the brunt of the fighting that was about to break out. It looked like all his evasion was for naught and the Cantrellans would be burning through the hatch within a minute. The Revenge wouldn't even be in range for the Electro-Grapple for another three at best. It was probably a good ten minutes before she could bring additional forces into the melee.

     A clang rang in Assault Pod One as the Cantrellans clamped firm. One-Eye threw up his hands in disgust and powered down the piloting board. "Sergeant Riker! Looks like we earn our booty today. Prepare for hostiles!" One-Eye unclasped his crash webbing and leapt up from his seat. Fast as he was, he marveled at the speed of the Marines who were already lined up and warily scanning the hatch. A thin acetylene blade of fire jetted through the hole, hissing as the unseen welder began to carve an impromptu entrance.

(Tune in next week to see if Captain Arcolier can rescue One-Eye and the first Marines before the Cantrellans overwhelm Assault Pod One.)

(See the next installment!)