Zach Salvage lived for these moments. The sight of another ship out the viewport, its powerful Arcane Engine burning bright in the night sky. At a distance one could mistake them for a string of comets, burning through a distant atmosphere. But to a trained eye, those engines were the biggest giveaway of a ship’s position in the great void. With a smile he pulled on his goggles, tapping the side to activate an electronic vision enhancement system in the lenses, slowly zooming in on the distant lights.
The ship was a beauty, a Coronet-class heavy freighter, the gold standard in Acherion Interstellar’s vast armada of heavily armed, heavily armored transports. Twelve hangar bays, each with 20 drone fighters ready to fly, and four batteries of laser cannons on all four sides of the bow. They’d even added a few extra guns on the stern from the looks of things.
“She’s a real beauty, ain’t she?” A voice sounded behind Zach, and he turned off his goggles, turning and ramming smack into a soft orange tank top stretched over two massive mounds. Staring down at him from above were a pair of bright green eyes, set into a light brown face that was currently expressing a teasing smile, rich purple bangs framing her cheeks.
“Riley. Didn’t expect you to be awake this early.” He said, pulling his face away from her chest and taking a step back. The young woman’s expression didn’t change, though the way she folded her arms she was clearly disappointed in him.
“Well, I would still be asleep if you’d wait until you were outside of the room to put on your boots. Every time you leave you tromp out like some Daveron Home Guard soldier.” She said. “How’s a girl supposed to get her beauty sleep with all that noise, hm?”
“I dunno. Ask the rest of the crew, they don’t complain about it.” Zach said flatly, before putting his goggles back on and turning to look at the freighter out the viewport again. He was just about to get a reading on the distance when Riley’s arms wrapped around him, the young woman pressing her larger frame against his back.
“Come on, Corona’s probably already got a fix on ‘em, you don’t have to be on lookout.” She said, kissing his cheek. Zach simply put his hands under her elbows, lifted her arms off of his shoulders, and walked closer to the viewport. He was focused on the ship, counting the number of guns to himself under his breath. Riley watched him for a moment, before huffing and turning on her heel.
“I’ll be on the bridge then.” She said, scowling back at him as she left. Zach simply waved without turning away from the viewport, his sand blond hair and blue-green eyes reflected back at him through the specialized glass separating himself from the cold void. He paused there for just a few moments, then started walking towards the bridge, pushing a red button on the wall as he went, and sending alarms throughout the entire ship.
It didn’t take long for the freighter to realize it wasn’t alone, but it also was not surprised by this news. The Calitrax System was perhaps the closest thing in the Milky Way to neutral ground, since the habitable regions of the system were blown to atoms by the great wars of the past. When the signal came from the newly arrived ship that it wished to discuss trading goods and information, the Coronet-Class responded with a hard negative, and its mission was too important to allow outside eyes aboard or risk information release. And that was all Captain Sarvik needed to hear.
Captain Sarvik was a giant of a Selachimorph, towering over most of his officers by three heads at least. Only Riley came close to his measure, standing just a head shorter than him at her natural state. His body was carved entirely from thick, bulging muscle, but what often drew the most attention was his face; A pointed snout, with two large black eyes above and a mouth filled with jagged, needle-like teeth. The skin on his back and above his nose was a deep gray-blue, with shocking white below that demarcation and running down his torso and along the insides of his arms.
“Corona. Any indication on how many of those guns are working?” Sarvik asked, turning a solid black eye to the holoprojection of the ship’s Artificial Intelligence, which had chosen today to take the form of a human woman. Before the Projection could speak, however, Zach cut in.
“Two working batteries, one on the port bow, match on the starboard. They’ve had to replace the lower batteries with fakes, and added a few more false guns to the stern.” At the description of the enemy’s weapons, Corona smiled, nodding.
“That is correct, Raid Leader. All indications are that the lower batteries and rear guns are without any power connection to the ship’s Arcane Engine.” The AI said, voice evenly projected to all the assembled Officers. “Long-Range power scans indicate an increased presence of Drones, however.”
“They want to keep a low profile. Drones are expendable and draw less power.” Riley said, pulling up a projection of the Coronet-Class in front of the assembly. As the image became clearer, a series of red lines appeared on the ship, glowing like veins connecting to a red circle at the center of the ship. The lines connected each of the four major batteries on a standard Coronet’s configuration, and the ship was lit up like a comet in solar winds.
“By removing the lower batteries and adding more drones, they can reserve more power for shields and thrusters.” Riley explained. “It’ll be enough to outrun any Man-o-War from the empires…”
“But we’re not a Man-o-War, are we Miss Jun?” Sarvik asked, his wide mouth split into a smile, needle-like teeth flashing in the lights of the bridge. Riley nodded, smiling likewise.
“What’s the call Captain?” Zach asked, standing up slowly from his seat at the table. The assembled officers likewise rose, ready to begin at the first call from their captain. With a heavy groan from the metal seat beneath him, Sarvik rose to his full three-meter height, rolling his head a bit to pop the joints of his thick neck, before nodding and folding his arms over his chest.
“Hoist the Roger.” He said, and in a flash the officers sprinted out of the room to their quarters, Corona’s projection ceasing.
“Heh. Damn do I love saying that.” Sarvik chuckled to himself, walking around the table and towards the doors to the main combat deck, grabbing his greatcoat off the rack next to the door and throwing it over his shoulders.
Zach raced across the combat deck as fast as his legs could take him, barking orders to the boarding teams as he sprinted towards the stairs to the main hangar, racing down the steps and jumping the last few. Attacking a ship was always a chaotic endeavor, as there were any number of things that could tip them off too early. The ship could only close so quickly, but in that time Corona and Sarvik would be watching like a pair of hawks for any change in the target’s disposition. At a moment’s notice Zach’s boarding teams would have to launch, and under a hail of incoming fire somehow attach their boarding craft to the enemy ship. All the while, he and the ship would be providing as much cover fire as they could, both through their own drones, and through Zach’s personal pride.
Standing in the hangar, along one side wall that had been converted into a storage and repair bay just for this magnificent piece of engineering, stood a fifteen-meter-tall beast of steel. It looked like a man made of metal, with armored plating covering every square centimeter that wasn’t occupied by a gun or a jet thruster. The Daveron Federation symbol engraved on its chest was sprayed over with black paint, and over that was stenciled on the symbol of the Liberators: A crossed pair of red Crustacinan claws behind a white skull. Its shoulders were mounted with missile tubes, each arm had a metal fist capable of ripping a drone fighter in half like a wishbone, and attached to the forearms near the “pinky” of each fist was a single laser cannon. Mounted onto the back was a massive particle cannon, capable of blowing a hole in even the hardest ship-borne armor, just in case he needed to make a safe attachment point for his boarding crews.