On the Verge

The Trap Springs

Marla’s time aboard the Deuce’s Wild had been very interesting. Knowing and hearing about the exploits of her famous relatives in military and wars was one thing, but she had always felt that a trader’s life was more her thing, and the speakeasy discipline aboard the DW was just the thing for her. The recent personnel transfers between the DW and the other ships of Commodore Cenet’s fleet had left a host of new faces and a relatively untrained crew aboard. Captain Himiko had given Marla the responsibility of taking several of the “youngsters” under wing and getting them their spacelegs as rapidly as possible. It was only as they approached Meriden that the Captain had finally confided in Marla their true mission. Trapping and engaging whomever might come to Meriden looking for the Commodore and his crew was one thing, but with orders where “the utmost violence is encouraged” as a part of the mix, Marla began wondering if such things followed her family exclusively, or if they happened everywhere.

Their arrival at Meriden was made several months before anyone could possibly have expected the Commodore to arrive, so they set about first determining the lay of the system. A system with only one marginally habitable moon, but with a number of great asteroid belts, Meriden had been colonized during the first wave of Verge exploration by colonists from several nations that had long since ceased to exist. Their current allegiance was to themselves, although nominally they had been allied with Vieron until that colony was invaded by the Kroath. With Vieron now liberated by the Thuldans, who knew what would come next, particularly given Meriden’s proximity to Hammer’s Star.

Marla had led several teams out into the capitol city of Janesport on the second moon of Meriden V. Their cover had mostly been that they were seeking good prices for ore, particularly for transuranics to take back to Talbott. As well, they had been looking for any signs that anyone had it out for Thorn Industries in general, or for Commodore Cenet in particular. Despite having excellent intel about the band of miscreants following the renegade Fraal that supposedly was dogging the Commodore, no one even batted an eye when she gave descriptions, disguised as “sea stories,” of that rough crowd. In the mean time, the Captain had been pushing the whole crew and drilling them to exhaustion with ship to ship combat exercises, boarding, repelling boarders, and even some usage of remote drones that were purchased in Dewi that Marla didn’t quite understand.

It was late in the ship’s day on the 26th of August that Arnold, the ship’s sensors operator called the Captain to the bridge, and shortly afterwards the ship was called to General Quarters. A ship matching the precise description of one carrying their enemies had just entered the system. Luckily the DW had been transiting to one of the more remote mining roids and was fairly near the newcomer. The new “Communications Kid” as Marla thought of her, announced that she was intercepting their transmission with Janesport control, and she was able to see that the captain of the enemy ship was the fraal they were after!

Captain Himiko wasted no time giving orders that the crew had grown accustomed to, and could respond to with the precision gained by hours of rote practice. Not having a heavy combat ship, but being blessed with sensors and comms, Himiko had always planned on fighting this fight on her terms if it came to it, particularly against an enemy so much larger than her. Now was the time to hatch the egg, and hopefully surprise would be hers. With no warning, one of the drones began homing in on the invader and radiating such chatter that there was no way the enemy would be able to see what was coming next. The other drones did as they had been taught and they sought out the shield generators on the surface of the enemy and tried destroying them before the shields were ever turned on. In the mean time, the seemingly miniscule guns of the Deuces Wild began hurling their slingstones at Goliath.

Things worked about as well as they might be expected in the opening onslaught, but once the enemy began pouring fire into the DW, it was clear which ship had the advantage in a slugging match. It didn’t take long for the two ships to really start knocking each other apart, but Captain Himiko had one final plan. She used one of the drones to tow a boarding team over to the enemy. With the enemy shields already down, and holes in her hull, the boarders went to work. Marla was never sure how she had agreed to be a part of that crazy endeavor, but there she was, tagging along.

It was just as she and her team were entering the enemy ship that they saw a barrage come from the enemy that shook the DW to her bones, and sent her into an unguided deathroll out towards the end of the system. Maybe in a few thousand years gravity would draw her comrades and their metal grave back into Meriden. In the mean time, she and her team needed to make sure the deaths amounted to something. Keeping Lilith back with her, she ordered Grawlk and Malasy to lead the way up the depressurized corridor towards the bridge. The first couple fights had been quick, Grawlk had charged into the disorganized defenders and torn them limb from limb with his weren blade. It was only when they ran into the two dogfaced ones that Grawlk went down, but she and Malasy had fought through. It was then that she realized Lilith was down and gasping for air inside her suit. An enemy had shot her from their rear. Marla grabbed the explosives on Lilith’s belt and hurled them aft, destroying the corridor and killing several enemy who had been hiding in the side shafts. The sudden loss of gravity also told Marla that her explosives had done considerable damage to the enemy ship, although she wasn’t sure just what. As she and Malasy advanced up the corridor, she wondered if her ancestors had thought the same things she was thinking. Had her father and uncle been afraid during their first real fight? How had her great grandfather grieved for the loss of ships in his fleet during the last Galactic War? In any event, Marla steeled herself to break into the bridge, counted down with her fingers, and when she got to 0, Malasy detonated the charges, blowing a hole open into the bridge. Marla and Malasy poured steel and fire into the bridge eventually taking the initiative and charging into the room themselves. When they came in, only two defenders were still alive. The tall fraal, surrounded by a purple glow was in the corner holding two black spheres in his hand one of them held closely to the temple, and across from him a large yellow lizardlike humanoid was wielding an enormous rifle, with which he shot Malasy in the shoulder, vaporizing the upper arm and leaving him defenseless. Marla reacted immediately as she saw the lizard advancing on the downed Malasy. As he leveled his gun to deliver the coup de grace, Marla barreled into him with strength she never imagined she had. As she stood, she shook the cobwebs out of her head from the impact and turned expecting to receive a blow from her opponent, but that blow never fell. Malasy had managed to grab his pistol with his other hand and killed the lizardman dead before falling prone to the ground himself. Remembering the mysterious fraal, Marla scanned the bridge and saw the creature concentrating intently while holding the black spheres. Only as she pulled up her own pistol and was preparing to demand the creature surrender did it open its eyes and lower the sphere in its left hand. It gave Marla a very satisfied look of accomplishment, and held the right sphere up, and with what she thought was a wink, it disappeared without a trace. Not sure what she had seen, Marla went back to Malasy, and was able to get a trauma pack attached to him, but with the DW done for, and no idea how to pilot the enemy ship even if it was able to move, she figured she and Malasy had but a few days to wait to die of starvation or asphyxiation.

It was nearly 18 hours later that several Thuldan troopers entered the bridge and took Marla and Malasy aboard their ship. The Thuldan frigate Skipjack had been sent to Meriden to look into annexing the system. They had witnessed the fight from across the system but it had taken them a while to arrive on the scene. Malasy and Marla were hailed as warriors, despite their protests that one was just a cargo officer and the other simply a merchant.

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