A crooked deal
by Escher - 7th Aug 1999
Commander Orion sat alone in VDS-1’s sophisticated war room. For the moment, the computers were quiet, the holoscopes dim. Yet another battle had been won, another skirmish chalked up, but still the situation was grave.
Six more pilots lost. Wave after wave of attacking robots had been destroyed, but the tide was still against them. Those half-dozen pilots were irreplacable, while the robot army swelled it’s ranks with every passing hour. Sometimes, when he closed his eyes, he could imagine them rolling off the assembly line, a mechanical tsunami waiting to strike.
‘Sir?’ A voice interrupted his thoughts. ‘Sir, we just received an automated distress signal from the Dulwich. She’s gone sir.’
‘Gone?’ Orion racked his brains. ‘Dulwich, Dulwich... The fenrisian special ops team? Damn.’ He slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair.
The ensign flinched. ‘There’s no sign of it, sir, either it was destroyed outright, or it’s broken up in planetfall.’
And the Meks with it, of course. Orion had personally spent almost a day talking to Fenrisian high command before they had agreed to loan him the squad, and they were dead already. More losses. Orion sighed.
‘Thank you, ensign. Let me know if anything turns up. I’ll be in my office.’
Thirty minutes later, his door beeped. He looked up from a stack of damage reports, and spoke. ‘Come in.’
Duty officer Haynes entered, frowning. ‘Sir, we have a Kalai vessel on comm channel five, she insists on talking to you in person.’
Orion blinked. ‘I’d rather not be disturbed right now. Is it important?’
‘It’s about the Dulwich, sir.’ Haynes looked uncomfortable. ‘She also said something about wanting to speak to the organ-grinder, not the monkey, sir.’
Intrigued, he nodded. ‘Patch her through.’
Orion swivelled his chair to face the com-screen. The screen flickered briefly, then settled into a dull beige.
‘Who’s that?’ demanded a female voice.
Orion whispered to Haynes. ‘No picture?’
The man shrugged, puzzled.
‘This is Commander Orion of VDS-1. I believe you have some information -’
‘I wanna speak to your boss!’ interrupted the voice.
Duty officer Haynes winced.
‘Captain, as the commander of this base, I AM the boss.’
‘Oh, okay.’ The voice sounded slightly mollified. ‘I’m Aruna Kodan, Captain of the miranda-class cruiser Carnosaur.’
‘Right. Very good. I believe you have some inf-’
‘You just lost a ship over Vendoria, Orion.’
‘I... yes, we know. I was told you have some -’
‘Only there’s a communication drone here, and I figure your boys left it. I reckon you got yourself some survivors, probably on the planet.’
Orion’s heart soared. Survivors! He turned to Haynes again. ‘We need to arrange transport, and get them out of there. We need those Meks.’
‘We don’t have anything available right now, sir.’
The battle had left the fleet badly in need of maintainence. ‘Damn, we need to get those meks out of there!’
‘I can pick ‘em up, if it’s worth anything to ya.’
They both looked at the blank screen. ‘Captain, Vendoria is an occupied planet.’
‘Aye, I know that. S’not a problem.’
Haynes quietly handed him a datapad, and Orion studied it quickly.
+++ Aruna Kodan, pilot, Miranda-class vessel ‘Carnosaur’.+++
Mercenary, transport, affiliated with Ruchai Trammerden.
Ref. Melmar incursion; Patton IV food riots; Khome operation.
+++ end +++
Orion entered another search, and smiled. ‘Captain, is Ruchai Trammerden with you at the moment?’
His smile fell. ‘Damn.’
‘He’s asleep.’ continued the voice. ‘Why the hell would he be awake at this hour?’
Orion shook his head, unsure what to say. Haynes rolled his eyes.
‘Anyhow, Meks, you say? If you give me the keys to their comm channel, I’ll whistle ‘em up and they can cadge a ride. I’m not far from Vendoria now, you can have ‘em back, cleaned up tidy and debriefed in time for lunch. How’s that sound.’
‘That sounds very good, Captain. Thank you.’
‘S’gonna cost you, though.’
Orion groaned inwardly. Mercenaries. Typical.
‘Nothing major, mind, s’only a little job, after all. I just need some fuel cells, some of my shields are burned up, stuff like that.’
Orion thought for a moment. ‘Captain, you bring me those meks, and I’ll have your ship serviced. Do we have a deal?’
‘Done.’ he sighed.
‘You certainly have been. See you in a few hours, commander. Nice doing business with you.’