Lockdown - 32 by Alexander Shaw

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SUMMARY: Well, thanks to more of my fans, namely Chantel. Keep reading, I'll keep writing.

Chapter 32 – Flyboys.

--/3 Years Previously (Day –949) 14:03 Hours/--
--/Venediction Fighter Briefing Room/--

"...It's a simple operation, we've got potential enemies all around but we shouldn't be drawn into a fire fight. They've got us outnumbered at the moment, but reinforcements will be here in three hours. If we need them at all." The Senior Captain said, going over his clipboard. His voice sounded like it was a synthesised replica of his original, thanks to an old battle injury that had torn out most of his windpipe. He looked up, his eyes scanning the crowd of assembled pilots, many of whom carried equal rank to him. This was a room of veterans. "Any questions, flyboys?"

"Seeing as how most of us should have been on shore leave by now, are we getting damage pay for this?" The voice of Captain Jarek piped up, attracting a ripple of mocking laughter from the toadies that surrounded him. Jarek grinned.

"You're being compensated, don't you worry." The Senior Captain said, giving the upstart a withering glare. "Fleet Command wanted me to say how grateful they are that you could all attend this little gathering." The got another laugh.

"Sir?" Another man put his hand up, at the back of the briefing room.

"Yes... Captain Lunas?" The Senior Captain identified the questioner.

"Do we have any idea what's in the package? I for one am not necessarily in the mood to get into a pointless standoff over a pack of toothbrushes, unless of course their the Governor's own toothbrushes." Farn Lunas asked.

"Rest assured boys." The Senior Captain snapped, drawing the undivided attention from everyone in the room. "Rest assured that we could get into a fight and all of us could die horribly and none of us, not one, will probably ever find out exactly what is in that package." There was another ripple of laughter from the assembled crowd of fighter pilots, but this was tinged with nervousness. "Report to your bays. Good hunting." The Senior Captain barked. With that, the room began to move, pilots began to scramble to their flight decks. Time for flying.

--/+13 minutes 55 seconds/--
--/Outside/--

The vast black of space stretched on for all eternity, highlighted by the burning pinpricks of deeply hidden stars. Four shapes hung in the black, tiny and insignificant compared to the epic ocean of nothingness that surrounded them, but huge and all encompassing to the miniscule people that inhabited them.

The Venediction was shaped almost like a twin-railed brick, with a graceful and deadly architecture. As a Redeemer class battle cruiser, it was one of a new breed of ships, the pride of the Nethrek Fleet. Surrounding it were three Alliance frigates, about as sleek as they were bright. Drab and grey shapes, devoid of imagination.

The standoff had been in position for fourteen hours now. The Venediction was supposed to be at D'Joran by now, only a short hyperspace jump away. But the unseen intervention of the standoff had delayed that.

It transpired that a Nethrek dignitary, not even of the Governor's own staff, had been shipwrecked nearby and ‘recovered' by the Alliance patrol.

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