“Hello, Yo-yo!” A loud voice came over the ship system.
“And to comply with Fleet regulations, let me say Hail, Medjay! Nice to see you too!” said the speaker, undoubtedly the other ship’s captain, and from the looks of it, the squadron commander.
“Rear Admiral Darryl Stephen of Europa Fleet Command at your service. Heavy Escort Squadron 74. A moment, please, while I tell my boys to have fun.”
Elric could hear the commander give his orders. It was faint but came through the comm system.
“Fuck them, boys! And Section Three to get that base.”
“Shit! There goes our salvage rights! Sorry, Captain. Just couldn’t myself,” said Jan of Engineering.
“It’s fine, Jan. At least, we’re not staring death in the face anymore,” replied Elric. But the yo-yo reference rankled. A bit. He was an underclassman then, fresh as a virginal bride, when he ran afoul of a group of seniors. They left him up the flagpole, but not before playing him like a yo-yo.
To be fair to Darryl, the guy was the one who climbed up and brought him down. Only a year ahead of him, the two became fast friends, though Darryl’s ebullient nature sometimes got under his skin. Thankfully, no quizzical looks from his crew accompanied Darryl’s greeting. But Henry, his TacSci, was bound to ask him soon or later.
Elric busied himself with his information displays and was impressed. Europa had sent a full squadron to the system. While not heavy hitters, the three sections, each with two Helios Class assault frigates and headed by a Jaeger heavy frigate, was bound to give even a battlecruiser second thoughts.
He did notice Darryl’s Jaeger flagship held back, probably covering the Medjay, while the rest wreaked havoc. The pirate squadron had immediately turned to engage the section nearest their position, for all the good it did them. Flying obsolete craft, the result of the battle was a foregone conclusion. In a way, after all the adrenaline, it was an anticlimactic end to the planetary struggle.
“Darryl?” Elric called his counterpart. “How come you’re not joining the fun?”
“Orders, Yo-yo,” replied the other on Elric’s private channel. “I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know why.”
Elric watched dispassionately as the Bataan Class ship slowly left the battle line, its body wracked by small explosions. The same thing was happening to the remaining Escobar Class convoy escort craft, formerly called the Malvinas, the display told him. The other pirate craft was already totally destroyed, courtesy of a swarm of projectiles from the attacking Europa ships.
The space around the sector was filled with life pods, escapees from the hell of the burning, and soon to explode ships. With the Jaeger standing overwatch, the Helios frigates kept their distance, but their numerous point defenses were destroying the floating escape pods.
Mercy was a luxury rarely afforded to pirates and mercenaries, especially in the unclaimed border systems. At least they’ll get a quick death instead of dying slowly as their air or the systems on their lifeboats ran their course, reflected Elric. He also had his share of hunting down pirate survivors, even those sponsored by other conglomerates. That kind of killing was an ironclad rule in the Federation.
Elric could now see the other Europa ships land their marines on the main asteroid facility. The automated defense batteries had been destroyed, and the marine assault crafts had just touched down on several locations on the asteroid. The pirate or mercenary humans didn’t matter. What was important was the data and the tech which could be obtained from the ruins of the base.
Figures. They must have located the entry points already, he thought morosely. Jan was right. That would have been a sweet bonus of a salvage effort. The tech and evidence itself would have been worth a lot of credits. Probably not enough for a second ship, but we could add more modules to Medjay. Give her longer fangs.
The ancient right of salvage had survived to this futuristic time, albeit with a few modifications. In an unclaimed system such as this one, full salvage rights would have accrued to the Medjay, with shares apportioned among the crew under rules laid down by the Federation.
Unfortunately, the Medjay wasn’t the one who’s taking the base, so Europa got full rights with bonuses to the personnel involved. Since what was involved was a full squadron, Elric doubted if the resulting premium was substantial, even if one included the added cash incentives for each pirate eliminated. Still, for company employees, every bit helped.
“Hail, Medjay. Nice to see you again, my friend, even if your ship now looked like an abused meteor pooped from a black hole. But I brought news for you. If you don’t mind, could you access your private terminal? I’ve got a packet here from Mama and Papa. Oh, and get one of your personnel, Stefan, I believe, to adjust the captain’s ports in your room. I was told it needed some adjustments for the packet’s activation, and Stefan was trained on the required protocol.”
With an on my way, Elric stood up and gave the instruction for Stefan to meet him in the Captain’s room. He wasn’t surprised to find the android already waiting for him. Elric entered his room, with Stefan following him. Activating his personal panel, he looked at Stefan.
“Well? Aren’t you supposed to do something? Poke around and such?” he asked. Stefan was merely standing there beside the holographic display prominently showing a revolving Europa company logo.
“I am supposed to activate the packet, Captain. After which I will leave the room. It’s an Extremely Top Secret transmission authorized to be sent only between ships in close proximity. I doubt if any conglomerate could decrypt it. Europa is the leader in such tech anyway,” replied Stefan in a conversational tone.
Elric stared at the android, he still couldn’t believe how lifelike Stefan looked and acted. If this android experiment is successful, it will save countless lives, at least for the lower ranks, by minimizing human presence. It took a long time to train a human in the countless specialized skills demanded in a spacefaring society. Unfortunately, it definitely also encourages war. Androids are infinitely easier to replace than human beings.
“Uh, okay. How are we going to go about this? I can’t let you see my lock code,” asked Elric.
The equipment does check his retina and general body physiology for identification purposes, however its designers, for some reason, still required the entry of a password. Though Elric surmised it must be an excuse for a closer examination of his fingerprint and DNA.
“Don’t worry, Captain. I could easily deduce the lock code you’re using, but I can never pass as you,” said Stefan.
Touche, thought Elric. You just confirmed my suspicion.
He entered the required code and the display changed. The picture of a mail packet now spun in the middle of the hologram. Stefan stepped up and held up his right hand. The android then android turned around and walked out of the room, locking the door as he did so.
The image before him changed. It was Ben.
“Hello, Elric. Long time, no see. In an Einsteinian sense, of course,” said his mentor.