USD: One day after arriving to Nu Crateris, a few minutes later

Location: Midpoint to Dedia IV orbit, Tears of Fire, CIC


“While I've attempted to discuss the mission with Captain Walker, unfortunately he has ignored the colony's authority. I’m not sure how the Solarian Admiralty found such a pompous jacksnipe to put in charge of a navy ship. A packet boat has already been dispatched to inform the Solarian Navy of his actions and request help… but it will be weeks, most likely over a month before any assistance could arrive even if they sent it immediately.”

Alex sighed and nodded. She had contacted the Governor right away to inform him of the Grazhdanin’s demands. He had immediately called the Captain to attempt to defuse the situation to no avail.

“His demand will add an extra 36 hours to our arrival time.”

Governor Tyler winced, “Captain that would not be ideal. Every hour is critical and the need for assistance for evacuation and those weapons is not going to get any better. The Dedia council will be meeting in a few hours to discuss and potentially authorize nuclear deployment.”

Alex shook her head. She hadn’t yet had time to look at the video feeds that had been provided, but she couldn’t imagine why they would need to use nukes. The lasting damage to the environment would be catastrophic, even with relatively cleaner AMCN warheads.

“Governor, while I know you might be counting on me to deploy my missiles in an orbit-to-ground bombardment role, I will not just blindly fire them if ordered. I will need to ensure that they aren’t going to be wasted or cause more harm to the people planetside than not using them.”

The Governor nodded, “I’m glad to hear that, Captain. I would hate to know that anyone with these types of weapons would not act in exactly the same way. I assure you if we decide to authorize the use of these weapons, our military command will not request their use unless absolutely necessary.”

[Notice: Sensors have detected an inbound ship has crossed into the system. IFF displays as IND Iron Horse.]

“Captain-Major Thraker has just crossed into the system Governor. I know they were preparing for a quick departure as well; I assume you plan to hire their ground troops to assist?”

Tyler nodded, “Exactly so. Potentially with the same missions as I would ask you to take on. Evacuation and rescue of scattered settlements that are isolated across the continent behind enemy lines.”

“I assume you’ll have enough space for the refugees and there will be supplies for them in orbit, the space elevator?”

The Governor nodded, “That looks like the most prudent option, since flying them overland would likely present more risk than lifting them into orbit. I have already scheduled two freighters to tanker fuel from Crateris Station to assist.”

Alex smiled, “That will solve the fuel problem then. Thank you. I assume we will not be charged for any of the fuel while working with you?”

“That would be acceptable, Captain.”

Alex raised a finger, “We still haven't discussed what kind of remuneration we'll receive from the colony, Governor. I hate to talk about such things under the circumstances, but we will not work for free.”

Tyler took a deep breath, “The standard pay for mercenary warships of the Tear’s size is 10 million credits per day, however, this is increased to 25 million credits during periods of conflict. I can also offer you a 10 million credit bonus per completed mission and successful evacuation. All fuel costs and ammunition expenses will be reimbursed to you."

“That sounds about in line with what I understand the Iron Horse Company has been paid. I am going to have to insist on more though. The Tears is not a standard ship.”

Alex brought up her datapad and began jotting down her thoughts on prices for their services.

“Fifty million credits per day during the conflict, and 20 million credits per mission. Furthermore, while repaying us for the cost of fuel and our standard ammo is fine, I cannot apply that to any of our heavier weapons.”

The governor winced at the doubled price, but Alex was not finished.

“It’s likely we can drop long rod penetrator rounds from orbit semi-accurately. A bombardment task would be fifty million credits for a saturation bombardment volley. We have 30 AMCN missiles on board. One already belongs to you as it was purchased by MilTech Arms and sent with the shipment. For a nuclear strike order the cost will be five-hundred million credits per warhead other than the one that belongs to you.”

The Governor’s face turned dark with a frown, “Captain, I realize you have us over a barrel. I don’t have much choice but to accept your terms.”

Alex held up her hand, “I understand the cost is higher than you’d expect from a ship our size, and while I do not have a large ground force like the IHMC our ship is much more capable than you can imagine. If you want a reference, feel free to contact Captain-Major Thraker.”

Governor Tyler frowned, “I’ll have my aide write up a contract, Captain. I can only pray that you are correct.”

Alex nodded; she was sure that they would earn every single credit.


USD: One day after arriving to Nu Crateris, some hours later

Location: Nearing SMS Grazhdanin, Tears of Fire, CIC


“What the fuck, how is this a freighter? It's an invasion troop carrier.”

Alex was staring at the James entry for the Grazhdanin. Elis chose that moment to enter the CIC.

She looked at Alex with her ‘what are you going on about again’ look, “What?”

“Did you look at this? Those ships are over two and a half kilometers long. It didn’t click in my head until I looked at the James data on it. Three of them dropped half a million colonists.”

A frown creased Alex’s face, “Half of which are already dead, and these bastards are just bugging out like it's none of their concern after they just abandoned them there.”

[Notice: Your alarm will activate in 5 minutes for: closest approach with SMS Grazhdanin.]

“Thanks Nameless, you can turn off the alarm now, we are here. If they try something, it’ll probably be now. Can you keep a close eye on the sensors for us?”

[Informative: Sensor processing priority already places 100% efficiency on tracked nearby contacts. Do you wish to go full active? EM Radar returns will provide more data.]

“No, that would spook the shit out of them. Passive only for now. They haven’t shown any course changes? Separation will still be outside of laser range?”

[Affirmative: No course changes detected. Separation remains nominal.]

Elis taking her seat at comms, brought up the navigation plot to look for herself.

“What are we going to do if they do try something? Those ships are more heavily armed than us. I imagine we could tangle with one, but three?”

“They are going to be out of missile range, judging by the capabilities of the IHMC missiles. Even for us we wouldn’t be firing unless we got closer.”

“And if they try to burn toward us?”

“We’ll burn as well to keep the distance open, and we have a much higher thrust-mass-ratio. Unless they can move much faster than I believe then they have about zero chance to get even a few seconds of engagement time. We’re literally flying past each other at fractional C.”

[Notice: Another message from SMS Grazhdanin has arrived. It is more pointed than the last twelve. Do you wish to play it back?]

"Ignore it like all the others," Alex responded immediately.

Turning to look over to Elis, she wanted to touch on their upcoming mission.

“I know you said you could handle it, but are you alright with managing the groundside part of things? I’m not likely going to be able to leave the ship, and managing the shuttles is going to be up to you.”

Elis nodded, “I can lead the ground operations. It might be a bit weird having only tin cans for backup though.”

Alex nodded, “I’ve already had Nameless convert the construction drones into combat types. Almost all of them are ready.”

“Kind of putting a dent in our industrial capacity.”

“Yes and no. The drones are still mostly construction drones, but they have extra frontal plating and a medium caliber pulse weapon and rapid fire gauss rifle. The exception is—”

The door to CIC slid open and Beeper emerged in his brand-new chassis.

“Beeper and Booper got upgraded.”

Elis looked at the now massive bi-pedal robot from head to toe from behind her console, “Yeah. I see that. Looks like an old mechanoid type.”

[Informative: While the newly developed Y-268A chassis design is based on a human shape and configuration, it has a limited relation to previous Federation designs. This unit has expended considerable processing time to create a highly effective improvement within the limited confines of a quasi-human form.]


Beeper caught itself in the doorway and had to duck down and tilt itself to fit into the room.

Alex shook her head, “Might uhh, be a bit big for the ship now?”

[Informative: New heuristic motor-processing unit requires calibration before achieving high degree of mobility. Recommend allowing Drone #3132 to acclimatize itself before conducting a performance review.]

“Uhm sure. But isn’t he still kinda big?”

Elis looked at Beeper again, “Big, but he’d make a sturdy doorway blocker, especially if his front plating can take AP rounds.”

“Ok. Hide behind Beeper if bad things happen and we are being boarded, got it.”

Elis rolled her eyes, “That’s not inaccurate.”

The ship’s siren suddenly began to blare and the CIC lighting switched to a slowly flashing red.




Alex straightened up in her seat and the telltale sound of her suit’s spinal brace clicked into the command seat, “Nameless?”

[Notice: Incoming railgun fire from SMS Grazhdanin, 24 projectile salvo. Low speed evasive maneuvers initiated.]

Alex’s eyes tracked to the plot, the sudden fear that they’d just had an entire barrage of smart munitions sent their way. Tracked lines showing the trajectories of the railgun rounds assured her that they did not have to worry.

“What’s that stupid fuck doing?” Elis blurted out.

“They are far beyond the max range for railguns, and the specs indicated those are for orbit-to-ground bombardment only. Even if we were closer, they wouldn’t be accurate enough to hit anything.”

[Interrogative: Should this unit cycle missiles into tubes and load smart munitions?]

"No. Ignore them. They are trying to provoke us for some reason I don’t quite understand, but it is probably related to them being total pieces of shit for abandoning the colonists to die.”

“This is going a bit beyond ‘leaving them to die'. It seems like they are actively trying to incite things.” Elis mused.

[Notice: Incoming transmission from Dedia IV, Governor’s Office.]

“Put it through.”

Governor Tyler’s worried face appeared on the CIC’s main screen.

“Captain, we detected weapons fire between the Grazhdanin and your ship. Is everything alright?”

Alex raised an eyebrow, “I wouldn’t consider being shot at ‘alright’ but we are not in any danger. I was discussing with my head of security the possible reasons that Captain Walker seems to want you all dead.”

“Unfortunately, I do not know either. While the current government on Dedia IV is recognized by the Solarian Executive Committee as the local governing authority of Nu Crateris, there has never been a lot of back and forth at high levels. I’ve already sent multiple reports on the incident and ongoing events. I’ve also requested that the Admiralty send a protection fleet and assistance and classified this as an ongoing class one crisis.”

Alex looked at the plot. All the rail rounds had missed by almost half a light second. She let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding.

“Governor, we seem to have mostly escaped the danger. The slight course correction has only added an hour to our arrival time so we will be with you some time tomorrow. I will likely have more questions for you then, but I need to speak with my chief of operations in order to get things prepared.”

“Of course, Captain. Feel free to contact me when needed.”

The video call closed, and Alex turned to Elis who was grinning at her.

“Chief of Security, Chief of Operations, Master-Sergeant, Running Ground Ops, any more hats you want to give me?”

“Umm. Sorry.”

“I’m kidding, since we don’t really have a crew, we just have to pull our weight. I just worry because while I’ve had some basic naval experience a lot of this is outside my MOS by quite a bit. Running the drop shuttles and getting refugees out sounds much more comfortable than trying to pretend to be a squid.”

“A squid?”

“It’s what we call people in the navy.”

“But… why squid? Aren’t those some type of fish?”

“Yeah, it’s an ancient term of endearment that dates all the way back to wet-navy days.”

“Well, let's go over the list. Nameless has a few concerns about the shuttle operations we should look at.”

Elis nodded and the two of them went to work.

A note from Erios909

Thanks for reading!

If you are enjoying the story, please leave a comment, rating, or review! They help the story out! And I love you for them!

I can't promise to respond to every comment, but I do read them all, and feedback is appreciated. Always remember that the this is essentially my first rough draft of the story with no real editing and only a loose plot outline. (Sorry! It's not a novel, its a webnovel and I am writing it as we go! And I'm hardly perfect!) 

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Next: Chapter 37 – Dedia IV

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