Happy Holidays all! Finals are over for this term and break is well under way. I can’t say I’ve been doing as much writing as I would like to be, but I’ve had a scene that was spurred by a combination of music that I’ve been listening too and an idea that is to come in Jayko’s storyline–not too terribly far in the future from Star Catcher. I had to get it out of my head despite it being a couple of books away at the least. I can’t wait to get to this point in the storyline, but it needs a good amount of development before I’ll be able to reach it and dive into it fully. In the mean time however, enjoy this little excerpt from a future story. Cheers!
“Oi! Come on Chief, you can’t just barge in like this!”
Mason matched Violet’s pace as she marched down the empty corridor of the mining installation. He tried to gesture calmingly to her in an attempt to abate her anger. They’d been left waiting at the dock off the main facility without so much as a greeting from the sole inhabitant of the asteroid.
“Don’t you dare tell me what to do,” snapped Violet. “He called us all the way out here when we should be on the front line trying to take back the capital!”
“I’m sure he’s got a good reason, just wait a little longer,” pleaded Manson.
Neither one of them had heard a peep from Jayko Troven after he’d sequestered himself away on this rock over a year ago while they left to continue fighting. Manson only knew the man through Violet and he could only begin to imagine their history for her to react like this toward him. He’d seen the full force of her anger only several times before, but to have it directed toward one man so easily was something else to see.
She marched down the corridor, ignoring the view presented above their heads of the star-speckled black spanning as far as the eye could see outside. The two of them were headed directly for what was designated as the Workshop on the directory list for the facility.
They reached the end of the corridor quickly, blocked by a heavy blast door. Violet marched up to it fist raised and slammed her gauntleted hand hard on the door, pounding several times before shouting at the top of her lungs.
“Red! I know you’re in there! Get your ass out here now!” she shouted at the cold metal.
“I think the intercom might gain a better response…” said Manson, going over to press the call button mounted next to the hatch.
Violet held out an arm to block him. “He heard me.”
She scowled at the door for several more minutes, then turned and gazed up, out at the speckled black of interstellar space. Raising her left wrist, the thumbed her comm unit with her other hand. “Chaser, you said he was going to be out here. Where the hell is he?”
“He was here last I knew. It’s the same asteroid and these are the exact coords he sent in his message. All he said was to round everyone one up and to meet here.”
Violet made an annoyed sound into the radio. “Tch. He made a promise to us all that we would continue to fight and that we would win. I don’t see that promise being fulfilled on this dead rock. Warm up the engines.”
“Aye, ma’am.” Disappointment rang hard in Chaser’s voice.
“That’s a promise I intend to keep.”
Both Manson and Violet whirled around at the sound of Jayko’s voice.
The door had opened silently on it’s large hinges and standing there was Jayko Troven, the only differences from when they’d last seen him were the circles under his eyes and the thick, red stubble that lined his jaw. His shirt and pants were grease stained and his hands looked like he’d worked them raw at some point in the near past.
“Oi!” said Manson in surprise. “What happened to you?”
Jayko shook his head. “There’s no time for that. Come, we’re going need to move quickly.”
“The hell we are! You explain!” snapped Violet taking a step toward him.
Jayko motioned them through the hatch ignoring her hostility. “I’ll fill you in on the way, we need to leave.”
Violet’s eyes narrowed as he motioned the two of the through the hatch again before closing it behind them and taking the lead down the dim corridor. Despite his appearance, he had an aura of control and seemed no more wearied than someone fresh from their bunk.
Manson jerked his thumb back at the hatch. “The ship’s that way.”
Jayko ignored him. “You were followed. I expected this to happen, but I’d hoped to have a little more time before they showed up.”
As he led them through the Workshop, they passed multiple machining and assembly rooms filled with parts and tools that lined the walls or were piled on every surface imaginable. It was the maintenance sector of the facility where ships and tools were repaired and kept in working condition, noted Manson. The last time he’d explored the derelict asteroid mining facility with the rest of the platoon, it hadn’t looked anything like this.
Jayko led them to a hatch at the far side of the workshop that had originally led to the catwalks outside the large docking bay in the asteroid. When Jayko pulled the hatch open and gestured them inside, Manson was shocked to find a wide hall continuing on.
He stepped in, followed by Violet, and Jayko closed the hatch, spinning the wheel to seal it. He brushed past them taking the lead again.
The floors and walls of the wide corridor were polished to a shining finish and hidden lighting filled the space with a glow that was much softer than the harsh overhead lights in the mining facility.
They didn’t walk far before coming to a bulkhead standing open that led to another, wider hall that stretched a short ways perpendicular to the one they’d exited. At one end was a lift leading somewhere Manson had no knowledge of, and at the other end was a heavy door leading somewhere he could only imagine.
Striding confidently toward the door at the end, it parted for Jayko silently. Revealed beyond was something both Manson and Violet didn’t expect to see.
The bridge was smaller than they remembered. The layout was similar, but the consoles were devoid of any screens or displays that they could make out and the command chair that stood in the center lacked the familiar control console that would have surrounded it. At the front of the bridge, was a single large, curved viewport that was currently blocked by thick metal shutters.
As they entered, the lighting rose to full levels and the systems started to come alive.
“Jessica, prepare us for launch and bring us up to full combat readiness,” said Jayko as he settled himself into the command chair and started punching commands into a set of controls inset into the arms of the chair.
“What is all this?” asked Violet quietly in awe as the rest of the consoles started to come alive, holograms appearing above each.
“Jessica?” asked Mason. “You mean… this is the…?”
Jayko shook his head. “No, this is the Mark Two. The Laser Lancer. Jessica, bring up the outside radar, please.”
The bridge filled suddenly with a hologram of a cluster of large cruiser class ships surrounded by their smaller frigate counterparts. All were bristling with weapons and bore the TechCorp insignia.
Tapping in several more commands he said, “You’ll want to take a seat.”
Both Manson and Violet moved to stations situated around the bridge. The console lit as they sat down, holographic representations of controls and screens appearing around them.
“Bringing Laser Light core online. Chambers holding at twenty percent output, plasma production initiated. Jessica, open the docking bay to space and release docking clamps.”
There was a pause, then the ship vibrated and Violet felt her stomach do a flip briefly before settling again as the floor seemed to fall out from under her only to hold firmly once again to her feet.
“Transitioning to internal gravity systems, hanger in free-fall,” announced a female voice.
A hologram materialized in the center of the bridge taking the form of a tall woman dressed in dark jumpsuit that was accented by blue glowing seams running the length of her body. Armor plated boots clad her feet coming up to just below her knees; sleek electrical components encircled either side of her head around her ears and her light blue hair cascaded down below her waist. A small blue crystal adorned the suit at the top of her breastbone.
“At your command, Jayko,” she said with a smile.
“Launch!” called out Jayko with a grin of his own.
The hum of the ship’s engines started low and rose in pitch and they felt the ship start to move ever so slowly forward. The shutters at the front of the bridge started to retract, reveling the long sloped nose of the ship and beyond the open hanger doors showing the speckled black of space. In the distance they could just make out the shapes of the TechCorp ships in formation.
As the walls of the bay slid past giving way to the emptiness of space, Violet turned in her seat toward Jayko. “The Archer II!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll have her dock with us before we leave. First we have to greet our friends,” replied Jayko, tapping in more commands. A holographic overlay appeared, encircling the command chair.
One symbol was flashing. “They’re hailing us,” reported Jessica holding a hand to the electronics hovering over her right ear.
She reached up and touched the electronics on other side of her head and an audio message started to play.
“Stand down. Repeat, power down your ship and prepare for boarding or you will be fired upon.” The emotionless voice started over, repeating it’s message.
“Cheery,” said Jessica making a face.
Jayko depressed a button on the left arm of his chair. “JayDee, do we have firing control yet?”
“Attaching the last of the controls lines now,” came the mechanized reply almost instantly.
“And suddenly I can see…” said Jessica her eyes focusing on something far off.
“Load Type Two plasma shells. Let’s give them a reply message. Targeting lead cruiser. Ranging?”
“Complete,” replied Jessica. “Ready to fire.”
Jayko flicked his hands at the hologram of the ships enlarging it. “Fire!”
The ship shuttered under them briefly and Violet caught sight of the rounds just in time to see them speed past the sides of the bridge toward their target. The moment they vanished out of visual range she turned toward the hologram. The rounds impacted it, buckling armor and hull, ripping into the superstructure of the lead TechCorp cruiser before exploding in a brilliant wave for blue-white fire.
“They’re charging railguns,” reported Jessica with a small smile.
“Bring us up to speed and around the edge of their firing range.”
The ship started to accelerate beneath them, and Violet watched the screens about the bridge update and the ship started to come around steadily on a new course away from the asteroid. The maneuver seemed almost leisurely but Violet soon saw that they were moving faster than a ship the class or size of the Lancer should have been able to.
But with good reason though. Rounds zipped past the viewport and around them as she watched the holographic sensor screen in front of her. TechCorp had brought a size-able amount of firepower to bear on one ship.
“Target each ship, and fire at will.”
“Confirmed,” reported Jessica. “Firing.”
The ship shuttered under them and Violet watched the hologram of the TechCorp ships as their formation started to change, their crew’s reacting to the Lancer‘s movements. Missiles streaked away from the cruisers as they frantically targeted the moving ship. They were not fast enough however.
The rounds struck each ship, rending armor and collapsing superstructure in brilliant explosions. Flack rounds intercepted each of the missiles before it could reach them.
Jessica’s eyes went wide suddenly as Violet watched. “Nuclear payload detected,” she said, her voice a whisper.
“Where?” asked Jayko, scanning the readings showing around him. He moved his hands, gesturing and the holograms changed as he searched.
“Directly aft of us! Tracking!” she said. Here eyes flicking between unseen visuals. “It’s moving too fast for the main guns. Flack rounds have no effect and I can’t get a lock on it.”
“Give me a predictory course! Swing the ship around and cut thrust!” Jayko’s hand flicked to the left arm of his chair. “JayDee, what’s the status of the particle accelerators?”
“They are ready for plasma injection, however they have not been tested as of yet.”
“We’re going to test them now.” His right hand danced over the arm of his chair and the holographic controls changed projecting the path of the large nuclear warhead that was on a course for their position and a targeting setup projected ahead of the large missile.
“Thirty seconds,” said Jessica.
“Plasma injection initiated. Capacitors charged. Readying to fire,” said Jayko hurriedly, his voice steady.
He grasped a set of holographic controls that appeared before him and the ship responded in kind, maneuvering thrusters firing as his eyes narrowed taking in the target readings.
“Calibration is off!” he snapped suddenly.
“Switching you to manual,” replied Jessica smoothly. The controls changed dropping the targeting information and gave him a line of sight reticule for him to gauge with his eyes.
“Shit shit shit shit,” muttered Manson under his breath watching the readings.
Violet could feel sweat beads starting to form on her neck. She could see Jayko’s muscles tense.
“Ten seconds…. nine…. eight….”
“Firing forward super-laser!” he called out, his hands tensing on the controls.
Violet felt the hairs on the back of her neck suddenly prickle as the air around her jumped with static. A microsecond pulse of bright blue-white light lit the sky, lancing out from under the angled bow of the Lancer.
She raised her hand just as space lit with a massive explosion, bracing herself on the console. The viewport polarized as the fire engulfed the ship. In moments they would be pelted with superheated fired from the explosion. Even a ship the size of the Lancer wouldn’t be able to withstand the onslaught of radiation and superheated plasma this close Violet knew. The Mark One Defiance hadn’t above Alpha Prime’s moon and its armor had boiled away alone with any hope of saving the powerful dreadnought.
And in moments this ship would experience the same fate.
“Releasing Gravity Shield,” said Jessica calmly.
Violet lowered her hand as the blast from the explosion was suddenly whisked away from the ship in a swirl of brilliant fire as space distorted briefly before returning to the clear black.
She swung her gaze back to Jayko who was smiling, a confidence and energy in his eye that she had only seen on several occasions. Beside her Manson sagged in his seat, blowing out a relieved breath.
“No more targets remain,” reported Jessica.
The smile on Jayko’s face could not have been bigger. “Good work.”
Jessica returned the smile, turning to look at Violet, giving her a wink.
“I’ll be damned, Red,” said Violet.
Speakers crackled as the radio came alive. “–Vi –Violet! Come in Violet! Gunnery Chief! Anyone?”
It was Chaser’s voice.
“Chaser!” called out Jayko. “You guys alright?”
The radio crackled for a moment before his response came through distorted by the interference from the nuke. “Jayko, boy have I ever been happy to hear your voice. That was a helluva show you put on.”
“Glad to hear it. We’re headed back to rendezvous with you. The Lancer’s main hanger will be open for the Archer Two to dock with us and then we’ll head out.” He nodded to Jessica.
“Roger-doger, Captain!” replied Chaser, his voice betraying his excitement.
Violet felt the ship start to move under her as it accelerated back toward the asteroid.
Jayko turned his gaze to her. “I have a promise I need to keep.”