Canto 35 – Stardog Attack
As the Megadeath popped out of jump into the Phoebus IV Star System, the crew was amazed to find a school of Lupin corsairs in an apparent feeding frenzy. The old merchant vessel that they were attacking carried a Psion Empire logo.
“Vince!” cried Tkriashav, “Take us into attack mode!”
“Um… Yeah.” Vince Niell locked on a nearby target and drove at it in flank speed. “Cold Death! You got weapon-duty, dude!”
“Wha…?” Cold Death grabbed the controls for the rail guns in both shaky white hands.
“Vince, babe, we don’t know how to do this stuff!” cried Nikki Sixx. “We never got this far in the space academy!”
“Oh, great!” swore Tkriashav. He probed with his mind and locked onto the weak brainwaves of Cold Death. He took control and aimed the weapons with Cold Death’s hands.
“Wha…?” Cold Death popped three super-accelerated slugs through the hull of the nearest corsair. The Stardog warrior spewed sparks, parts, and dying crewmen into space.
“<Who are you, friend?>” called the merchant ship in the Zaradese language. “<We thank you for the help.>”
“<I am Tkriashav, returning home with great news!>”
“<You are a miracle, then!>”
The Megadeath was faster and more deadly than anything the Lupins had to fight back with. Vince’s able piloting combined with the ship’s superior design to lay waste to sixteen of the clunkier Lupin vessels. Finally the Lupins signaled surrender.
“Prepare to be boarded!” commanded Tkriashav to the Stardog flagship.
“Wha…?” said Cold Death. “How we gonna do that? There’s only four of us!”
“They don’t know that,” answered Tkriashav. “Grab laser rifles and come with me. We will all go across and accept their surrender.”
“Dude, I hope you know what you’re doing,” said Vince.
“I hope I do too,” said Tkriashav with a sardonic grin.
The boarding party took an air-raft, a small open-top anti-gravity vehicle, and made the crossing to the largest Stardog corsair. The Lupin vessel was, of course, in a sorry state of disrepair. These corsairs had all been used excessively with only a bare minimum of maintenance. It was little wonder that the Megadeath, newest vessel in this part of space, could cut through the corsair ships like a hot knife through lukewarm cheese. Xavier could count the scratches on the portal side and classify them as plasma burns, bullet holes, or near-miss collision marks. It was amazing that Lupins could still get these ships to fly.
Inside the airlock, the crew removed their vacuum helmets and breathed the stink of Lupin-befouled air. These space mongrels apparently knew little of the steward skills necessary to maintain shipboard environments.
“Welcome Psion Master,” said a red-furred Lupin female who appeared to be the Lupin leader. “We surrender all our treasures and our ships to you.”
“That’s very generous,” said Tkriashav, “but what are your terms for surrender?”
“Unconditional, right?” She looked at the five crewmen who accompanied her to the docking bay for support. They all nodded vigorously. “Yes, unconditional surrender.”
“Very well, then. Follow us down to the planet. We will put your people under the authority of the planet Zarane.”
“Okay,” said the unnaturally pleased Lupin leader.
“Why are you so darn agreeable?” asked Vince, giving voice to the unease that Tkriashav had hoped not to let slip.
“Oh, we need a new government,” said the Lupin Lady. “Our homeworld has been overrun by Nebulon colonists. There are so many Smurfs on Zaell right now that a Stardog can’t spit without messing one.”
“Nebulons?” asked Tkriashav. “I thought they all lived in stars to the leading edge of the Orion Spur. What are they doing trillions of miles from home?”
“Colonizing,” said the Lupin Lady.
“So why were you attacking a Psion merchant if you meant to ask us for sanctuary?”
“Bad habits, I guess. We don’t mean to offend. We even brought a Psion prisoner here to return him to his home. We thought it would be a sign of good faith.”
“A Psion?” asked Xavier, “Who? And where from?”
“He was living in a Psion colony overrun by Nebulons. Mattey! Produce the boy!”
A blond-haired, blue-eyed boy wearing a white cowboy hat and a white tunic was lead into the docking bay. He smiled shyly as Tkriashav was pointed out to him.
“Are you a Psion, boy?”
“Yes, sir. I’m a Pyro. I can’t help it most of the time. These Stardogs have been bringing me back to Zarane.”
“What’s your name, child?” asked Tkriashav.
“I am Rocket Rogers, sir.”
Tkriashav laughed. “I suppose your father’s name was Buck?” he jested.
“Yes. And my grandfather’s name was Will and my Uncle was Roy. We were all Pyros.”
“What happened to your family?”
“All killed by pirates before the Nebulons tried to colonize our world. The Monopoly Brigade wiped out Bradalanth Colony. Stardogs found me in a raid just as the Nebulons were entering our solar system.”
“So they helped you?”
“Well, yes. They helped me and looted what was left of our colony before the Nebulons got there.”
“All right, Stardogs,” said Tkriashav, raising both arms dramatically. “I may not be the leader of the two Psion planets in this system, but I can promise you help and safe harbor. I come bearing good news to the people of the Psion Empire. The Prophecy of Xan is being fulfilled even as we speak. A new White Spider has arisen! A new realm is about to take shape! You will be a part of that, Lupin and Psion alike! Come with me to Zarane and we will make History!”
Both crews cheered, but being rather slow, neither crew probably fully understood what was being said.