The Captain engaged the cloaking shield. Now the ship’s presence was invisible to any overt monitoring, or even to the human eye had there been anyone out there to look for it. The Jerez was on a routine patrol in the Auriga system and was not anticipating any trouble, but it never hurt to keep their movements unpredictable. Ion thrusters allowed the ship to glide through the vast space, quiet and unnoticed.
The Jerez was a class P108 military vessel. Although most spaceships were crewed by both men and women, there were still several specialised military vessels which were single sex, the P108 and P112 with men and the M394 and M401 with women. It was considered more effective when crew were placed in combat situations where they risked their lives.
“Mayday!” the vid com on the bridge sprang into life. A gray haired woman in a dark green singlesuit appeared on the screen. Her face drawn with worry, she spoke rapidly as if afraid she was going to be interrupted at any moment. “My name is Jamison, Second Manager at Oriell space station, in orbit above M- 1106 in the Capella star system. We have been attacked by pirates. I estimate twenty are down here on Oriell, perhaps ten more aboard their vessel. We have four fatalities so far. If there are any Patrol ships hearing this, please—”
The transmission ended abruptly.
First Lieutenant Hendriks was already entering the co-ordinates, even as he heard the Captain give the order, “Let’s move it. Sanchez, you’re in charge of the response team.”
Second Lieutenant Sanchez left the bridge, speaking on his wristcom as he went. “Alpha team, prepare for immediate deployment, then stand by at Bay 2.” The men of Alpha team strapped on their weapons belts, belts permanently stocked with stunners and gas grenades. They replaced their soft-soled shoes with heavy boots and were ready to go in moments. Sanchez met with them in Bay 2 where six stealth pods were waiting for departure as soon as the Jerez reached its target.
“Anyone here been on Oriell recently?” asked Sanchez, getting their immediate attention. No one had. “It’s a small space station above the mining planet of M-1106, known locally as Burra because of the copper, I’ve been told. They are under attack by pirates, and we are going to assist. Khan and Nayak, Jaffrey and Chen, you four will take control of the pirates’ vessel. The rest of us will clean up the space station.”
The four men chosen to take control of the pirate vessel donned close fitting spacesuits and carried their helmets under their arms. They would flood the whole ship with paragas which would totally immobilise the crew. Then they could enter and take over at their leisure.
Now they just had to wait for the faster-than-light drive, or FTL as it was more commonly known, to get them to Oriell.
The Jerez came out into normal space on the far side of the space station, cloaked once again so that the pirates couldn’t detect them.
On the bridge, they could see the pirate ship, hovering close to the station, and Hendriks smiled, this was going to be too easy.
Down in Bay 2, the response team loaded themselves into six stealth pods, two men in each. The Jerez’ navigator used the tractor beam to move two of the pods towards the pirate vessel and then, once they were on their way, moved the remaining four toward Oriell station. The stealth pods had no engines or method of moving independently themselves, which meant they were very hard to detect until they attached themselves to their destination and disgorged their highly trained cargo. By then it was usually too late.
Once the pods reached their target, the Jerez navigator activated the magnetic force field on the pods. With minimal impact, the pods attached themselves to the outside of the ship’s cargo bay. The men were ready to disembark in less than a minute.
Silently infiltrating Oriell space station, the two smallest men climbed into the maintenance hatch and crawled through the service ducts behind the walls. The electronic surveillance system inside the goggles they were wearing, showed them the layout of the station and they made their way as quietly as they could toward the ventilation control room. If they had to, they would reduce the level of oxygen being produced throughout the station, rendering everyone on board unconscious, hopefully only for the ten minutes or so it would take for the rest of the team to locate and neutralise the intruders. It was often the best way to avoid further civilian casualties, although there was always a risk that people with health problems might be damaged or even killed by such a tactic.
The rest of Alpha team used heat detecting devices to scan through each room, making a note of where people were located but moving as quickly and invisibly as they could, their primary goal to take control of the command centre. Sanchez led the way, a short heavily-muscled man who could break someone’s back if he had to.
They stunned four men who had been posted as guards before they reached the command centre, without raising an alarm. Then their luck changed. Sanchez scanned the room with his heat sensor and discovered a large group of people inside, evidently a mixture of pirates and hostages. There were also five bodies on the floor.
He motioned to his second-in-command, Fourth Lieutenant Ferris, to hack into the command centre’s comunit so they could get a visual.
A few moments later, they were both looking at the scene inside the command centre.
At least ten men with heavy assault weapons were positioned amongst the group of civilians, holding them at bay. Ferris and Sanchez exchanged glances. Sure they could take them out, but probably not without heavy civilian casualties. Confident that his team’s breathing devices were already engaged, Sanchez gave a signal to his two men waiting in the ventilation room, and in seconds the station’s oxygen was cut. The effects however, were gradual, as everyone—intruders and civilians alike—slowly lost consciousness and fell to the floor.
Sanchez, followed closely by a couple of crewmen, entered the command room and quickly began securing everyone who was carrying a weapon. At the same time, Ferris and the other men from Alpha team deployed through the rest of the station, clearing rooms as fast as they could. The intruders were disarmed, restrained and locked up for the Space Station staff to dispense justice. After ten minutes, Sanchez signalled Private Peters to return the air supply to normal.
The entire operation had taken less than thirty minutes.
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