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Three colonies have been attacked by an unknown group of ships on the fringe of human-occupied space.
The Craton is being re-routed from a fleet exercise in the Chonus system to investigate and reassure other colonies in the region that they will be defended.
The identities of these pirates are still in question. Their ships appear to be a mix of common cargo carriers modified with aftermarket weapons systems. Information is still sparse, but command has little reason to believe they pose any serious threat to a ship of the Craton‘s capabilities.
If the pirates agree to that assessment, it is likely that they will avoid any engagement, and we will be chasing ghosts for the next few weeks until patrol frigates are able to reach the area to secure it more fully.
In the meantime, we will be making every attempt to learn the identity of these pirates, as no member of their crew has yet to be seen by a colonist or captured on data.
There are disquieting aspects to this all beyond the obvious, however. The pirates have been able to evade the defenses of each colony they have approached, in ways we cannot fully explain yet. As always, rumors are spreading; is there something more serious going on here?
I hope they are just simple pirates. There’s always the possibility that this has to do with recent tensions with the Glorians or Fesha or even Hev – but already there are other ideas circulating, drawing parallels to ancient stories and relic technology.
It’s not uncommon for pirates to try and draw that mystique around themselves, and no matter how many times it proves untrue, the stories always rise.
Let’s hope for something mundane.
“What sensor data the colonies have captured suggests the pirates have between three and five vessels,” Brooks explained to the assembled group.
It was not simply his command staff present at his briefing, but also some of the under-commanders – as well as Apollonia Nor.
She looked as uncomfortable as he felt about her presence. It was not that he minded someone who was more akin to a civilian than an officer being here, but the knowledge of what he might have to task her to do.
“However,” he continued, dragging his eyes across the whole room. “The surviving readings are sketchy, and we suspect that the pirates have been modifying some of their ships between attacks to disguise their true numbers.”
He brought up an image of a large, bulky ship – it was no monster, being only a kilometer and a half long, but it was strongly built.
“This is the largest ship that has been sighted, and we believe it to be their flagship. This one they do not bother to disguise, and we have given it the designation of PV-1. It is simply a bulk carrier, a modified Evergreen-class hauler constructed by Holdur Conglomerate. As you can see, it allows them a lot of cargo room, though some of that space carries weapons, we believe seventeen private military-grade fast-launch missile systems.”
“Do they have any confirmed point-defense cannons?” Jaya asked.
“We do not know,” Brooks replied. “No colony has had a chance to test their defenses, but we will assume so.”
“Evergreen-class,” Ham sulp noted. “I know that kind of ship well. They’re pretty sturdy – I’d say pretty much designed for pirating work, their internal bracing really lets them fit in a lot of weapons systems.”
“True,” Cutter hissed. “Advertisements for vessel hailed it as being a capable escort with modifications.”
“Union intelligence believes that Holdur frequently sells them to pirates,” Brooks confirmed.
“Um,” Apollonia spoke. “Has anyone considered that this could this be some retaliation for what happened recently on Gohhi . . . ?”
Eyes went to her, and hers grew wider. She shrank back a little. “Just a thought,” she added.
“Not a bad one,” Brooks said. “But this particular vessel has been out in the wild for some time.”
“I know in the initial reports from the colonies we didn’t have a good idea of what they’d been taking,” Urle said. “Do we have a better idea now?”
“Yes,” Brooks confirmed, his eyes unfocusing as he looked into his HUD. “We’re still waiting for the third colony to get us a list. From the first two colonies they took a great deal of equipment, tech, and raw materials that were likely for the maintenance of their ships, as well as chemicals used for food production.”
He focused back on the assembly. “Unfortunately, they also took hostages – fifty from the first and fifty-two from the second.”
“Have they made any demands?” Jaya asked.
“None yet,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of apprehension about this, so we are not spreading word of it yet.”
“They’re kidnapping people?” Apollonia said, speaking up again. “That’s crazy. I mean, even just attacking Union colonies is crazy. Don’t they expect retaliation . . . ?”
“I agree,” Jaya said. “It is very rare for even our distant colonies to face piracy issues outside of single niche events. They must know we will come for them.”
“That is a concern,” Brooks admitted. “There is one more detail that we have learned just in the last hour that warrants serious consideration. While the original copies were lost when the computers at each colony were corrupted, we were able to piece this together.”
A message began to play. It was only audio, and the sound was strange – clearly an artificial voice that did not sound quite right.
“Colonial residents, you will surrender immediately.
Your defenses cannot stand against us. We possess relic technology far beyond your understanding that will wave away any and all attempts to resist. You cannot withstand it, and to try to do so will bring only death to you and your children.
Do not throw your lives away needlessly. Move to your emergency bunkers and stay within them. Any seen outside will be assumed defiant and shot. Attempt no resistance, stay in your bunkers, and you will not be harmed.
So speaks the Dire and Feared Captain Tarsota.”
The voice ended.
A silence lingered, however.
“Do they really have relic technology?” Pirra finally asked.
“We do not know,” Brooks admitted. “It is a common claim made by those trying to invoke some aspect of the legend of the Star Hunter, but usually it is just a claim.”
“The Star Hunter is not a legend, Captain,” Pirra said. “The whole story is true.”
Brooks watched Pirra, listening, but did not reply.
Jaya spoke. “Yet at each colony their computers were completely destroyed, and the colonies reported heavy corruption in them,” she said. “That is consistent with the effects of tenkionic disruption on artificial intelligence.”
“All of these points have been made at Union headquarters,” Brooks said. “Due to the seriousness of anything related to relic technology, this is no longer simply a humanity issue – the entire Union has been informed, and we are to take every precaution.”
He looked to Apollonia. “This is why I’ve brought you in for this briefing, Ms. Nor. Cerebral Readers can protect from krahteonic and tenkionic corruption to a degree. For the duration of this mission, you will be staying in special quarters near the command deck.”
“Oh,” Apollonia said, looking once more on the spot. “Wonderful,” she added, unsure what else she could say to that.
“What I want the rest of you to do,” he continued, “is to go over the data we have. Build me scenarios of the likely capabilities of their ships, plans to knock them out, plans for boarding – any scenario we may encounter. And try to figure out who or what they are – the name Tarsota sounds human, but we are not sure if the pirates actually are due to the strange sound qualities of the message, which we feel are not due to corruption.”
“It does sound like they’re trying to just pass themselves off as human, though,” Urle noted.
“Exactly. If we can figure out who they are, we may have a better idea of what we may face. Now, we are ten hours out from Presna colony. I want your preliminary reports by then. Dismissed.”
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