Sky in the Stars, Part 17



Skylar leads a team to rescue a mining operation from pirates.

12 May 2933

ZanCo. Mining Corporation

Sector 3, Sigma 5 Space

The board members of Citadel Academy have decided to do something a little different this year for your graduation exam. Normally we run the final classmen through several field tests and simulations. This year, we’re taking your skills out to the real world.

Several ships flew in with masked heat emissions and stealth field generators hiding their presence. They drifted slowly toward a large mining vessel that was already surrounded by a fleet of ships. As the cloaked fighters slowly flew closer, the pilots caught sight of the haphazardly painted pirate emblems on the hulls of the surrounding ships. Most of them seemed to be empty, which only meant the pilots were inside the mining vessel. The stealthed ships ceased their movements on the other side of an asteroid, hidden from sight and radar. Out of the three ships came six crewmen, weapons and equipment magnetized to their backs. They crawled over the small asteroid and viewed the mining vessel from afar.

There was a mining vessel that sent out a distress signal in sector eight. While this isn’t a Gray Hunter owned operation, they have contracted for our protection services. We had a patrol run by there every week, and two security officers on board. The signal was only online for a few minutes before it went dead. We don’t know who attacked… that’s where you come in.

Skylar looked to the other crewmen. She tapped the side of her helmet with two fingers twice, then touched her wrist and then raised one finger. The other crewmen nodded and all gave a thumbs up.

“EMCOMM 1 until we get the hostages.” Skylar said. “Are we ready?”

“Good to go.” said Jared, the largest of the crew.

“Lacey, deploy firefly.”  Skylar commanded. Lacey nodded and then quickly swiped through a few menus on her wrist mounted holocom. One of their ships deployed a rocket, small and virtually unseen. “Hold.” The six crewmen waited for nearly 5 minutes before they saw two ships that were hovering around the mining vessel fly off in the missiles direction. Once the ships were clear, Skylar waved for her unit to move forward. “Let’s go.” They all crawled to the far surface of the small asteroid before pushing off with their feet and then propelling themselves with their suits boosters. Skylar took deep breaths, hoping that she wouldn’t begin another panic. She had to remind herself that others were nearby. Still the thought of floating in space daunted her. It took nearly two minutes to reach the vessel before reaching one of the maintenance doors on the side.

“Breaching.” Lacey said with a whisper. She was again, navigating the menus of her holocom. The others waited for her to update them. “Nothing on security near this port. Masking systems check. Activating airlock. And…” The maintenance door opened to the six crewmen who climbed inside before Lacey shut the door. “Pressurizing. Brace for grav.” They all oriented themselves to the floor. Once the chamber was pressurized, the artificial gravity kicked in and they were anchored down. The door to the vessel was now open.

“Good work, Lacey.” Skylar said, removing her helmet. The others followed suit and began to take up weapons. “Everyone, remain on EMCOMM 1, like I said. Weapons cold and stun rounds first. Keep it quiet. I want to hear a pin drop. Lacey, find the admin room. Jared go with her.” The two nodded and exited the airlock, crouching to keep a low profile. Skylar pointed at the remaining three. “Darius, Hans, Gerald. Take second level. I’ll be running recon here.” Before long, Skylar was alone. She took a deep breath and moved down the hallways, exploring every room, and checking every corner. Mission briefing said it was a vessel, but it felt far more like a station. It’s size became more and more apparent as Skylar snuck through the halls, crouching below any rooms with windows, and keeping to cover as long as possible.

“Camera feeds frozen.” said Lacey over the comms. “Stand by.” Skylar waited for a moment before Lacey spoke again. “Skylar. Team 3. Hostages and hostiles located. Marking your HUD’s now.” Just then Skylar’s iris-overlay HUD displayed a direct path to where hostiles and hostages were located. Unfortunately some were moving toward her. She hid behind a pillar as two men walked out from another hallway. Trailing behind them was a hostage, as Skylar judged by his workman-like attire. She poked her head out as soon as their line of sight was broken, but the hostage caught sight of Skylar. She quickly put an index finger to her lips and ducked behind the pillar just before the pirates had seen her.

“All right, Captain. You’re gonna open up this door and get us into the database.” said one of the brutish pirates. Both of them were armed, and looked formidable to say the least.  Skylar closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Just give me a moment. It’s not so simple as a password.” the captive said.

“You got one minute!” said the pirate, pressing a rifle to his back.

Skylar stood up and pulled down on each wrist. The joints between the metal plates of her gloves began to glow a bright cyan color. A robotic voice announced in her headset: ZEUS Gauntlets online. Kinetic mode. Skylar turned from around the pillar and tossed a small metal ball along the floor. The two pirates heard the rolling sphere and looked down at it.

“What the f--” Before the pirate could finish, the ball emitting a flash of light and a high pitched shrill. They were both incapacitated for only a moment, but when they came to, Skylar had made her entrance. She swung an uppercut to the nearest pirate, the kinetic energy of her gloves sending him into the ceiling and crashing to the floor. The other was ready to fire his rifle, but Skylar backhanded it from his grip. ZEUS Mode. Skylar and the remaining pirate exchanged a quick series of blows but the pirate found himself shocked every time he was struck. Finally Skylar broke his defense letting out a quick flurry of jabs to his chest before grabbing onto his head with both hands. The gloves surged with electricity before Skylar let his limp body fall.

“...who are you?” asked the captive.

“Just a student.” Skylar answered. “We need to get you somewhere safe.”

Lacey came over the comms. “Skylar. You’ve got hostiles heading your way. I think they have suit monitors.”

“Shit…” Skylar cursed, reaching for one of the weapons on the ground.

“Don’t!” cried the captive. It was too late, Skylar gripped the weapon’s handle, only the jerk her hand back from a sudden shock. She fell to one knee, shaken by the electricity. “Their weapons have bio-locks on them. Trust me, we found that out the hard way.” Skylar hissed at the pain before standing up and pulled the captive with her. She pushed him down the hall, and waited to the door where the pirates were coming. Magnetic. She held a hand ready at the door before it slid open. Two more pirates walked through, rifles first, as Skylar anticipated. She reached for the front end of the gun, the metal snapped to her gloves and out of the man’s grip. She tossed the rifle away and kicked the pirate in the chest, sending him into his comrade. She gripped the remaining rifle, her glove snapping to it as before, but now she wrestled with the pirate for control as the other stood up from the floor. Skylar fought the two of them, her hand stuck to the rifle as she parried blows from the other pirate. Finally she kicked the unarmed man to the ground and got a better hold on the rifle. She elbowed the pirate in the face, and wrapped her finger around his trigger finger, forcing him to shoot his ally. She then tipped the gun down, shooting the man in the foot. He released his grip of the gun, before Skylar struck him in the jaw, sending him to the floor unconscious.

Skylar took a deep breath before looking at the captive. “Captain. I need you to help me find your crew.”

“I’m… not the captain.” said the man. “My name’s Rufus. They asked for our captain to unlock the control and data room, but they had already killed him when they broke into the station. They said if the captain didn’t reveal himself, they’d start killing us one at a time.”

“You don’t know how to open the room, do you?” Skylar asked. Rufus looked down solemnly. “They would’ve killed you right there… well I’m glad I came in when I did. Where are you all being held?”

“They’ve gathered everyone in the cafeteria. And cuffed us to the tables.” Rufus said.

“Lacey, did you get that?” Skylar said.

“Uh… copy. Just let me… all right.” Lacey paused. “Skylar, Team 3, I’ve uploaded map locations to your HUD. Just be careful, I think they’re a bit stirred.”

“Hm… alright, Team 3.” Skylar said. “Weapons hot, shoot to kill. By my reports they’ve already started killing hostages. Elevating this to situation Code 3.” The rest of her team replied with acknowledgement.

“Skylar, just a head’s up.” Lacey began. “They’re already radioing ransoms with Gray Hunter. They’ll probably keep the negotiations going for a few more minutes. We have to move. Now.”

Skylar looked to her captive. “Everyone get into position around the cafeteria. Lacey, I need you to disable the gravity tethers. Can you do that from there?”

“Yes, of course.” Lacey replied.

“On my mark, then.” Skylar said. “Skylar out.” Skylar pointed down the hall while looking at Rufus. “Mr. Rufus, sir. I need you to get to a safe location, a utility closet, or any other room you can lock yourself in. My team and I will be rescuing the rest of the hostages shortly and then send in for our reinforcements later. They’ll come get you. Can you do that for me?”

Rufus nodded. “Thank you.” He then ran down the hall out of sight.

Skylar waited a few moments before rushing down the hall as quickly as she could, her soft-soled boots keeping her moments to nothing more than a whisper. She crawled through vents and avoided popular hallways, stairways, and elevators. It wasn’t long before she was in a vent that overlooked the large open area of the cafeteria. From what she could see through the vent, the cafeteria was the center of the vessel, a room that was at the center of all the floors. Looking down she was at least 20 feet in the air, and another 20 feet before the walls met the ceiling. Rufus wasn’t lying however. There was at least 50 hostages all kneeling on the floor, and nearly half as many pirates.

“Skylar in position.” Skylar whispered.

“Team 3 Actual. We’re in position.” Darius said.

“Jared, in position.” Added Jared.

“Lacey. Kill the tethers. Now.”

“On it.” Lacey said. Skylar crawled to the back of the vent, facing the opening. She stared intently waiting for the moment to happen. There was a loud hum that quickly died down. Suddenly the pirates felt themselves floating uncontrollably in the air. The hostages floated too, but only as far as their cuffs would allow.

“Breaching.” Skylar said. She activated the rocket thrusters in her boots and propelled herself through the vent and burst through the vent cover. She continued to fly forward, reeling back a fist. Kinetic. One distraught pirate tried to right himself, only to spin around and find Skylar’s fist hunting for him. As he was struck in the face, he was sent across the room and into a wall. Skylar continued to fly toward him, grabbing his motionless body and pushing off the wall. She took out her pistol, and began to fire at the pirates, using the man’s body as cover. The rest of her crew had burst in, adding chaos to the firefight. The pirates tried their best retaliate but were caught off guard and quickly gunned down. Skylar spun around, keeping her human shield close while shooting each pirate with pinpoint accuracy. It wasn’t long before the firefight was over. Skylar and her comrades righted themselves and floated down toward the floor, shifting the floating bodies away from the hostages and into a single corner.

“Lacey, you can enable the tethers now.” Skylar said. Moments later the gravity tethers activated and all was set to normal again. “Let’s head back to extraction and radio in command.”

“I’ll meet you guys there. I just have one thing to take care of.” Lacey said.

Skylar furrowed her brows. “Lacey, we’re in and out. We don’t have time to stick around.”

“It’ll only take a minute! Seriously, just go---h-hey!” Lacey cried. There was a few gunshots followed by Lacey’s scream before another set of louder gunshots sounded over the comms.Skylar looked at her squadmates and pointed toward the door.

“Go ahead, I’ll go after Lacey.” Skylar said, darting down the halls. She used the map on her HUD to guide her to Lacey’s beacon. She ran as fast as she could, using any hallway necessary to get there. She encountered a few straggler pirates who were rushing toward the cafeteria, but Skylar had done away with them with precise shots. A few more halls, and a few more pirates later, Skylar found herself at the control room where Lacey was hunched over typing into a computer. A dead pirate lay on the ground behind her, bleeding from his chest. “Lacey!” Skylar rushed over to her friend who was typing rigorously, despite blood coating some of the keys.

“I said… I’ll meet you guys there.” Lacey rasped. She stopped typing and pulled a small plastic datastick from the computer. Skylar ran over and turned Lacey’s chair to face her. She was in bad condition, bullet wounds in her shoulder and stomach. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

“I told you to leave immediately.” Skylar said sternly. “Why were you still here?”

Lacey held up the datastick. “Needed to get this to command.”

“What? No one told me about this… or anyone for that matter.”

Lacey tried to stand, only to fall forward. Skylar caught her and then used herself as a crutch. “Didn’t want you to know, I guess…” Lacey nearly lost all of her strength and fell completely limp.

“Shit…” Skylar took the datastick from Lacey and then picked her body up, cradling her in both arms. “Everyone get to extraction. Lacey’s down. Radio medical immediately!”

“Wilco.” said Jared.

Moments later Skylar was in the vessel’s ship bay where dozen of mining drones were docked. One of Gray Hunter’s ships was already docked and its bay doors open.  Skylar continued to walk toward the ship as a medical crew rushed out to take Lacey from her hands. They quickly put her on a stretcher and pushed her to the ship. The rest of her squad was conversing with other Gray Hunter members while Captain Snow walked to approach Skylar who’s spacesuit was coated in Lacey’s blood.

“She’s in bad shape.” Snow said. “But I think she’ll make it. What happened?”

“That’s what I want to know.” Skylar said, clenching a fist, nearly crushing the datastick in her hand. She stormed onto the ship, hardly giving Captain Snow so much as a glance. “Let’s get out of here.”

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