Engagement part 1 by Ronald Faltus

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SUMMARY: The Azorean Grey responds to a distress call. Part of a lager work. All comments are quite welcome.

"Twenty seconds to contact, breaking dives at stand by."

In complete silence, the ship passed through the endless expanse of space, stars slowly drifting by. A hazy field surrounded the craft, distorting its hard lines, making the ship resemble some specter haunting the night. Inside the translucent orb was the GPS cruiser Azorean Grey, protected form the effects of faster than light travel. Physics dictate that the faster an object moves through space, the slower time passes. If it were not for the Vent-Nor Spatial Distortion Engines affixed to the ship, its crew would be ripped apart by the uneven pull of time each time it approached the light barrier.

On the bridge, a pacing figure stared thought the distortion out into space. "Tracking stations, prepare for target acquisitions." Captain Brice Aswaud spoke the words, fully aware that they were almost unnecessary. His crew was well prepared, each able to anticipate his orders before they were issued. Form the command pedestal he scanned the bridge, confident that the rushed preparations for combat were going smoothly.

As his eyes crossed over the bridge, they stopped at his new navigation officer, Lieutenant Saline Myers. She had been assigned to the Azorean Grey less than two mounts ago, and preformed her duties admirably. Younger than her rank would signify, she had rapidly climbed the command ladder before coming to the Grey. Aswaud had instantly recognized in her the taint of the academy, the constant drill of procedures and discipline. Her stoic expression never faded as she settled into her duties which she executed with textbook precession. In light of the approaching combat situation, it was an asset. Other times though, it tended to chafe against his more relaxed leadership.

It had been less than ten minutes since they received the distress call form the cargo hauler, Sable IV. The interplanetary transport ship had relayed that it had come under attack by forces unknown, and that it need immediate assistance. It was a call that Aswaud had been expecting, dreading its eventual arrival.

In this sector of space, piracy was not unheard of. Located on the edge of colonized space, there were so many locations for gangs of bandits to operate from. Small fighters could easily find and jump lightly guarded prey, disable and board a ship, overpowering the crew. Then it was a matter of carrying off all the valuable goods that they could stuff into their holds. The better organized groups would actually go so far as to hijack the ships themselves, piloting them back to their secret bases. But for the most part these crimes were rare, more of a nuisance rather than a serious threat to interstellar commerce. Usually that is, what was happing now was completely different.

"Gunnery, as soon as you have a solid lock, open fire. Don't wait for my command." Aswaud was tense, a feeling that the rest of the bridge shared with him. If this attack was anything like the dozens of others that had occurred during the last few months, this wasn't a case of common piracy, but full fledged terrorism.

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