Watching the Gate
Note: This log takes place concurrent with The Dead Cannot Cry Out For Justice, Part 13.
When Cat and Brenda landed their fighters on the Phoenix’s main flight deck, they found Lazaret, Brenda’s regular co-pilot, and D’val, who usually flew with Eddie Kriechbaum, waiting for them. The Narn D’val spoke first, to Cat. “I am to fly as your gunner on this mission,” he said.
“Wait a minute — where’s Eddie?” Brenda asked.
“He’s been kidnapped, and is being held hostage on the planet below,” Lazaret said. “A group of us are already on their way to rescue him — our assignment is to cover the system jumpgate and make sure no one else involved in this business escapes.”
Brenda swore under her breath, turning back toward her fighter at once. “He better be okay,” she said, “’cause I’m gonna kill him ….”
Cat looked at Brenda with a concerned look, “Would she really.. I mean ..would she actually try that?”
“She will try,” Lazaret replied, though he didn’t seem particularly worried about the prospect.
Cat adjusted her collar with a nervous look. “OK, let’s go everybody.” Then Lazaret, D’val, and herself joined Brenda at the fighters. They launched and headed for the jumpgate.
Cat looked around as they flew, when a small, far away, moving object caught the corner of her eye. “What the hell?” She whispered to herself.
D’val must have heard, for he replied almost at once, “Scanning.”
At the same moment, a call came in. “Storm Leader, this is Storm Four,” Brenda said. “I’ve got a read on one ship ahead, making for the jumpgate. Commercial freighter, by the look of her. Still scanning to get her transponder code.”
Then D’val spoke from behind Cat. “I read the other object as a standard cargo container. But … I am also picking up life signs from it.”
“Can you tell how many are in there?” Cat asked D’val.
“Two, maybe three. I cannot tell for certain,” D’val replied.
“Hhhhmmmm..” Cat said. “Storm Leader to Storm Four — proceed with caution to the ship. We can’t let the ship or the cargo container go until we know it’s safe.”
“Proceeding, Storm Leader,” replied Brenda.
“What are you thinking?” D’val asked curiously from behind her.
“I sense there is something terribly wrong about that container. I intend to find out what,” Cat replied and started to glide her fighter forward.
“If there are sentients in that container, they will not survive long,” D’val said. “That type of container isn’t designed for transporting living beings. I wonder –”
As they slowly approached the spinning container, they could hear Brenda over the comlink. “Unidentified freighter. In the name of the Interstellar Alliance, you are ordered to heave to immediately. Do you — oh bugger, they’re packing heat –”
Brenda’s Starfury pivoted, twisting wildly to avoid a pair of vicious looking energy beams from a set of hidden gunports on the freighter.
“Target gunports!” Cat said to D’val. “I’ll bring you in for a shot.”
“OK,” D’val replied as he was working the controls on his console. Cat swerved the fighter in and out, trying to avoid the beams flashing from the freighter. The fighter spun all about while Cat was muttering many swear words under her breath.
“I have a shot,” D’val said. “I am taking it.” He pressed one last button on his console before the guns on the fighter started to fire rapidly. The first of the freighter’s gun ports exploded.
“Brenda, how are you doing over there?” Cat asked.
“Still in one piece, Storm Leader,” came the reply. “Starboard aft stabilizers are roasted, but otherwise fine. We’re targeting her engines …” The cannons on her fighter blazed forth, sending beams of destruction into the freighter’s main drive.
D’val fired again, destroying the second of the freighter’s gun ports. The rogue ship was now completely helpless.
Cat pushed a button on her console. “This is Cat Rosha, Storm Squadron Leader for the ISA Phoenix. We have destroyed your guns, and knocked out your main drive — will you now listen to us?”
A message came back to her, “We have no choice now, Storm Leader.”
Cat responded, “Good. We have been ordered to make sure no ships leave the area without being searched by us. I need to ask you what is in that container you are dragging behind you.”
“Storm Leader, you are welcome to board and search,” the freighter captain responded. “You will find nothing of interest here. We have no wish to antagonize the Rangers. But as for any container, we’re not dragging anything behind us. I don’t know what you are talking about on that account.”
“Storm Leader,” Brenda cut in on a private channel, “My guess is they jettisoned that container. Any contraband they had will probably be there. But it might be tricky to prove.”
D’val spoke from behind her. “We should take the container to the Phoenix, and quickly. If the beings inside are still alive, they’ll be able to say who tried to murder them.”
“OK,” Cat replied to D’val. She looked over at Brenda’s fighter as she addressed the other pilot. “We need to keep the freighter here and get the Phoenix in to investigate the container. Can you contact them and ask them to come in? We might need to tow the freighter. While you’re doing that, D’val and I will try to grapple the container to tow it into the Phoenix once it gets here.”
“Copy that, Storm Leader,” Brenda replied.
“Freighter. We are going to have to ask you to wait here while we call in our superiors to do the search.” Cat said.
“Copy that, Storm Leader,” replied the freighter. “We will wait.”
Brenda keyed her comm. “Storm Four to Phoenix.”
A cheerful voice responded, “Phoenix helm. What have you got, Storm Four?”
“Carlacci,” Brenda answered, “we have disabled a freighter which jettisoned a cargo container and tried to fire on us. We need the Phoenix to bring her in for boarding. Storm Leader will be towing in the container — we think there are sentients trapped inside, so you better have the healers waiting.”
“Copy that, Storm Four. We’re just taking in the last of the raid party, then we’ll be moving your way. You’ll want to know Anla’shok Kriechbaum was recovered, alive and well.”
“Damn good thing, too,” Brenda muttered.
“Copy that too, Storm Four,” Carlacci replied with a laugh. “We’ll be on our way shortly.”
Brenda called back to Cat. “The Phoenix will be here in a few minutes, Storm Leader,” she said. “They know you’ll be towing the container in. I’ll watch these people in the meanwhile.”
Cat’s fighter had been approaching the container again. “I have been able to refine my scans,” D’val told her. “I can now pick out at least five life signs. They are weaker than when we first scanned the container.”
“We must get them inside the ship quickly then,” Cat replied. She slowly maneuvered into grappling range. “Getting ready to grapple on,” she said into the com.
“Confirmed,” D’val replied. Cat got her controls ready and aimed. “Firing grapples,” she said as she launched the set of grapples. She missed.
“God dammit!” she said. “Getting ready to retry grapple.” She fired again and this time was able to get a firm grip on the container. “Yes!” she muttered under her breath. “Storm Four, grappling is a success,” she said over the com.
“Good on ya, Storm Leader,” Brenda said. “Well done. Have a look out there — here comes the cavalry.”
Brenda only wished she could see the look on the face of the freighter captain, as the enormous bulk of the Phoenix glided into view, filling her viewports and blotting out Rolui’s sun.
Copyright (c) 2004 Catie Dwinal and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.