A Pirate's Gambit

6. Sitting Duck

The bridge was bathed in low, red light. The air was heavy with the smell of burning plastic and molten metal, most emergency indicators were blinking like crazy but at least the alert sirens had stopped, giving Norton and his men a few moments of silence.

"Compartments 3,4 and 7 have been breached and our cargo bays are badly hurt. I've flushed the air to quench the fires but life support is still functional. Not sure about the engines, though" said Martin in a low voice.

Johnson was shaking his head. "I'm checking the engines now, doesn't look good sir..."

"Alright boys, at least we're alive. Damn, I thought Intrepid was still in her dock! What on Earth were they doing out here?"

"They took a lone walk" said Martin. "Seen no escort craft, did you?"

"Didn't see 'em cause there weren't any! Ain't complaining if you ask me!" said Johnson with a faint smile.

Smoke was slowly rising from a nearby console. Norton coughed.

"Any friendlies nearby?"

"Closest I can find is in the Lyman crater, sir. Quite some distance I'm afraid..."

"You think we can reach it with the Eagle?"

"Possibly, but that might tempt our sky friends to do some target practice."

"We'll see about that, check the Eagle!"

7. Friends Nearby?

Pirate's Gambit = Friends nearby?

"The Eagle is dead sir. A blast cut right through its hull, no way we can repair it out here" said Martin.

"The bikes?"

"Still operational, but can't reach Lyman with 'em. Terrain's too rough."

"Better and better" mused Norton.

Martin wasn't very optimistic either. "The bikes are in good shape but the problem is the terrain. Too many craters and too many cliffs and too many holes and... well, too many of bad whatever, sir. My guess is they only have energy for a single trip."

Johnson joined the discussion. "Well, it's either the bikes or rotting here. They have to do!"

Norton nodded. "We'll find something nearer. Heard a lot of colonists were heading out over the last few years, maybe some fancied this hellhole. Can you check the frequencies?"

Martin studied his console. "Can't make much at such low energy readings, but there seems to be a colony just a couple of kilometers to the north."

8. Colony

Pirate's Gambit 8

Norton, Martin, Johnson and Russel were riding their spacebikes along the dark bottom of Vallis Schrödinger. Max pointed to their left and they saw a natural ramp they could use to climb out of the valley.

As they got closer to the rim, Norton signaled them to stop and checked the sky using his portable scanner. The instrument agreed with is eyes: A star destroyer was never easy to hide.

The four men kept riding and eventually Norton pointed further ahead. In the distance they made out a bright spot. Like jewels shining in the gray lunar surface and surrounded by dark walls, they could make out the buildings of a colony.

It was one of the many that were founded on the Moon and Mars after the Exodus. Adventurous souls, cast out from Earth, headed out in the solar system to make their fortune - or meet a grisly end among the wastes.

The four men approached with caution. The leader of that colony could very well be a trigger happy ex-convict, a criminal boss from some overpopulated Earth slums. Norton, out of necessity, hoped for the better.

9. Tensions Rising

Pirate's Gambit

"Halt! Identify yourselves!"

The voice echoed angry and loud in the common frequency and Commander Norton signaled for his men to stop. He raised both his hands, hoping the men in the Hover Tanks ahead would understand he meant no harm.

"Hello there! We mean no harm, we've just had some engine problems and landed nearby. We only need a few spare parts to get it back online"

A few seconds of uneasy silence followed. Norton decided to gamble.

"We can pay!"

"Alright, move closer. Keep your hands where I can see'em. Any fancy moves and you'll be dust!"

10. No Flattery Allowed

Commander Jack Norton and his 3 men were standing in the colony Command Center. A young woman was standing behind a large desk filled with maps and notes. All around the room numerous monitors were steadily pouring out information about the various operations in the colony.

"You're Norton?" asked the woman.

"Indeed I am!" Norton put up his best smile. "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms...?"

"Name's Jane. Jane Calvert, governor of Barmina, this colony." She fixed one eye on him. "And flattery ain't my cup of space-tea."

Norton coughed. "Certainly Governor, I meant no disrespect!" He looked around. The guards lining up behind him had their hands casually on their firearms.

"As I explained to your patrol leader, our ship went down with engine problems beyond the hills to the south. We would appreciate if you give us a hand. Martin here can explain what we need."

"He said they can pay!" half-growled the patrol leader behind him.

"Yes, we have something to pay for your help. Something quite rare, coming from far, far away Governor Calvert..."