A Long Chase (3)

Macrophage Militant; 2,000,000 miles from the Gal-kiderax stargate.

The better part of a day later, the Flight Commander’s glare had hardly lessened at all.  “Anything new?”

“No status change on target.  No halo, no trailers, and still decelerating into gate intercept – definitely not confident in his ability to make crash transit, I’d say, sir.” The sensor operator’s tentacles flew over his keyboard.  “Gate diagnostics show it’s accepted their transit request.  We have a five by six shooting solution, but we’re going to lose guidance lock as soon as they hit the gate.”

“Very well.  Comms, anything from the Galians?”

“Nothing new, sir.”  A tentacle squeezed a control node, and a grating voice spoke.  “Empire vessel, you are denied passage into Galian space.  Clear.”

“Such gentlesophs, the Theomachrats.  Send this for relay: ‘Gal-kiderax SysCon, this is Macrophage Militant: we are a naval vessel in pursuit of an identified slaver.  It is your obligation under the Accords and the articles of interstellar law to permit us transit and capture.  Is it your intent to impede us, sir? Militant, clear.'”

The Exec leaned over to the Flight Commander again.  “Planning on starting a war, skipper?”

“Is it that time again already?  But no, they’ll back down.  They can afford it even less than we can.”

“Are you sure they know that?”

“Well, if they don’t, a year from now I’ll be on the beach, and you’ll have the Militant.  But either way, those chance-bred tumors will still be vapor.”

A Long Chase (2)

One week earlier, somewhere in the Gal-kiderax System, Theomachy of Galia.

“I’d kill a soph in a fair fight.” The black-cloaked figure paced in circles, long stride carrying him from wall to wall.  “Hells, even before I left my dear stuffy cousins behind, I’d kill a soph in an unfair fight, or better yet in no fight, ’cause Taliní Sarathos didn’t raise her favorite grandson to be stupid.  I’ll haggle at blast-point, make free with what’s not mine, and even work with appallingly tasteless people like you.”

The person he addressed, sprawled on the floor in the room’s center, made no reply.

“But I won’t kill one for no reason, I won’t torture, and I won’t deal with slavers.  I may be a renegade, but I do have standards.”  He shook his head, slowly.  “What did you imagine would happen when you picked those degenerates to team me with?  Or are they just growing them stupid on Gal-kiderax these days?”

The sprawled figure appeared to sigh, slumped, and deliquesced into a spreading puddle of goo.

“At last.  Well, farewell, dear Misent.  I trust your accounts will recompense me adequately for the inconvenience of the hunters this little fracas has called down upon me.”  He flourished his hat, and faded into the darkness.

“But first, I have a naval dance to attend.”

A Long Chase (1)

Slavery violates the Universal Accord on Sophont Rights.  It also violates at least half a dozen other solemn articles of interstellar law – the kind which, as matters which offend everyone’s sensibilities tend to do, are applied ecumenically even to non-signatories – and, indeed, the natural order of things.

None of this means that it isn’t also practiced in the galaxy’s darker backwaters.

Nor does any of this mean that there are an abundance of tools to deal with it.

Flight Commander CGGGTTCACTTTATATGGAACAGT glared at the red dot floating far ahead of his own ship’s position in the tactical tank.

“Freighter identifying as IUS People’s Harvest, this is Macrophage Militant, Imperial Navy.  Under the provisions of the Accord on Uniform Security, you are directed to cut your drive immediately and prepare to be boarded, or be fired upon.  Militant, clear.”  He thought for a moment, leaning back in his command pod to let its cilia ease some of the tensions out of his tissues.  “And, Sensory, punctuate that for me, would you?”

The sensor operator’s tentacles caressed the rounded surface of his console for a moment, and a light-map icon-counter joined the time-to-receipt counter next to the target.  “Pulse away, sir.”

The Exec pushed his drinking bulb back into the retaining clip, and leaned over.  “Do you think there’s any chance they’ll do it?”

“Not if their captain’s got the brains of a rock.  We’ve got more accel, but they’ve got the range advantage in a stern chase.  Our weapons can’t bear at all until he’s within half a light-minute of the gate, and he’s got to know that we can’t fire on him until knife-fight range.  He’s betting we won’t violate Galian volume just to catch one ship.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“He’s betting wrong.  Pass the word to rig for crash transit, if you please.”