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    Thread: Something Strange this way Comes

    1. #1
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Cool Something Strange this way Comes

      Something Strange this way Comes

      Chapter 1: Seeing isn’t always Believing

      Frank Samson was traveling along doing his job as usual. He was a courier for a major lawyer firm and as such had to be bonded and approved. It took a while to get this job but it paid well and he got to ride his motorcycle all around the city doing it.

      He had just made a delivery and stopped at a little mom and pop restaurant at the edge of town for dinner on his way home. He finished eating and was getting back on his bike when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was just a flash, something moving fast, but he didn’t like it. And so he snuck that way and peered around the corner of a building into the shadows of the ally between.

      There was a homeless man, being helped to his feet by someone, and Frank assumed that he was getting help from some volunteer, but when the person turned. It wasnt a person at all, but some odd half-animal, with red hair and pointy ears, and he nearly fainted seeing it.

      “What are you doing?” he screamed as the ears went up and the animal grabbed the homeless man, threw him over his shoulder and took off running.

      “Get back here and drop that man at once!” Frank screamed as he ran after them but even carrying the man the animal was very fast and Frank barely kept him in sight. Then something odd happened, a flash of bright light hit them and Frank and the animal were both removed from the road they were running down and he slammed into a wall and down onto his knees.

      “Zara...what have you done?” He heard as he looked up at several other animals, all with red hair and tails, and they had the man they stole from the ally and he looked around at Frank and smiled.

      “Its alright, I came willingly.” he said with a smile and Frank got to his feet and saw he was in some small room filling with bright lights and 4 of these furry little creatures. Now that they were standing still they were actually smaller than him by a little, and the one who grabbed the man seemed to be a female, as she tried to explain that Frank got the wrong idea and chased them back to the transport point.

      “I’m not allowed to have contact with anyone but the client, you know that!” She demanded as the bigger man finally agreed.

      “Now what? We have to finish this contract or forfeit...and the times getting short.” he said and Frank asked them what was going on and one creature stepped forward and said that Frank had interrupted a pickup...that the government had made contact with them years ago and one of the things they agreed to was helping those who had no job, or place on this world, and that through this job hundreds of humans got a second chance on another world, with free education and even placement into jobs there.
      “An interplanetary jobs office?” Frank asked as the man smiled a toothy grin and admitted it might seem that way.

      “Humans are just a small part of the galaxy...” He explained as Frank nodded and listened in.” but you do have certain qualities that many of us don’t. We are Telestrians...what you can Fox Creatures, we are quick on our feet and extremely honest, but we lack skills in many things you Humans are good at. So when we saw thousands and thousands of people living harshly on your world we asked why. The government told us about people that have no hope or family, and some felt out of place here and even wanted to die. We gave them a second chance somewhere else, and they agree to it before we take them. Its an agreement that dates back several decades.” he explained as Frank looked impressed.

      “Zona! Shut the Hell up! What are you doing, dont tell him all that... he isn’t one of our pickups!” The bigger man screamed as the little man looked very sorry and said so.

      “What’s the problem, you’re approved by the government right? So someone like me seeing you shouldn’t break any rules.” Frank mentioned as the bigger man sighed heavily and asked how many times he had heard about them on their news or Internet, and Frank admitted he never did.

      “ It’s part of our agreement...absolute secrecy...if they told everyone that aliens from other worlds were traveling here and taking people back, panic would ensue!” He demanded as Frank laughed and said that the only panic he would see was millions demanding to go, and the man looked surprised.

      “The world isnt in such great shape right now, with wars everywhere and the threat of Atomic or Nuclear war hanging over us...people are tired and looking for a change.” Frank hinted looking sad as the Captain got a big smile and asked if he wanted to join them, to the shocked faces of all around.

      “If you agree to come willingly...then its just another pickup... and we dont need to report it at all.” He hinted and Frank asked how this worked, and they took him aside for a talk and he looked more surprised by the minute.

      Transfers... as they were called... got tested to make sure they didn’t carry any sicknesses and then taught whatever they were suited for. Education was a minor thing, done in a day, and then you were ready for a new life on a new world. The galaxy was a huge place with dozens of civilizations, many of whom had little to no reproduction of their own. So expanding their territories was done with the help of others, and they hired the best to do the job. So work was never hard to find, depending on your specialty.

      “You Humans seem obsessed with space ships.” The creature said as Frank laughed and agreed that it was part of their culture and many were waiting breathlessly to see some real ships being built on the Home World. “If you like we’ll test you for attributes and see what you are suited for.” He hinted and Frank agreed and his official transfer papers were done and he got scanned and asked a hundred questions and after that he got a little while in an education chamber, and he saw videos of things flashing and several screens ran at once, and after a while everything made sense and they opened the chamber and proclaimed him ready.

      “ 93% acceptance rate.” He was told, and he asked if that was good and they laughed and agreed. “ anything over 80% is considered normal for most work so yes, you’re in the upper tier.” The little creature hinted and Frank got new cloths with the proper ID on them and he found he was talented in Flight and Command, with a side skill of weapons, and he smiled that he might get a ship too, eventually.

      Chapter 2: Injection...into the Galaxy

      The little ship jumped away from the planet and in a few hours approached a huge space station. They docked and after seeing all their reports on the new Transfers they got paid, and the side door opened and out stepped Frank and 4 others, all nicely dressed and with their full skills openly shown on their suits on little bars and badges that looked like metals to Frank.

      But to the eyes of a good Dispatcher they stood out like flashing lights, and they barely got to the main corridor when a tall thin man walked up and a few minutes later one man was taken away all smiles.

      “Medical staff worker...” Frank got told and he saw that doctors and staff were in big supply.

      “Might as well get some lunch, come on.” They were told as the report showing who was new here got circulated around and Dispatchers all over the station started looking for them.

      “How long do you think it’ll take to get hired?” One man asked as they were told that their Captain was well known for finding the best people, and so he had Dispatchers that dealt with him every time.

      “Not long at all.” He got told as they got a bite to eat and even before finishing another man was taken away.

      “So...” Frank started with a big grin,” you specialize in finding Transfers and bringing them here to inject them into the work force of the outer galaxy?” He added as the man agreed.” How much does that pay exactly?” he asked as the man nearly choked on his drink.

      “Not much...” Was all he got told and since Economics wasn’t high on his skills he only knew that prices varied by a lot depending on demand and so he smiled and left it go.

      By then several furry little Dispatchers came running in and the man saw them coming and smiled.

      “To answer your question,” he said smiling,” right about...now.” He hinted as they were spotted and they rushed over.

      “You’re the newest Transfers, correct?” One asked looking excited, and the Captain agreed these were his best finds in a while.

      “You need to work for me!” One man said as Frank smiled and asked what he did and he was with the Merchants Gild and they flew merchandise all over the galaxy and good Captains were hard to find.

      “Get away from him you little weasel!” They heard a booming voice, as two big creatures came in with heads held high and demanded that with his skills Naval work was the best for him, and he was told that there were a multitude of good ships out there needing second officers, and thats what they were offering him to start, as one Merchant Gild member gave him a good argument, even though she had to look up at him to say it.

      “Now the auction begins...” the Captain whispered to Frank, who smiled and nodded... he thought as much... here they were needed badly for many jobs and obviously Humans were in demand, so the Captain waited for a chance like this to pad his own account.

      “Please, please lets be civil..” He said standing and Frank tried to look impressive sitting there and they all smiled wider.” This young Human as gotten the highest rating for Flight and Command that we have ever given...93%, so you do understand that he wont be leaving with just anyone.” he hinted as eyes all over opened wider.

      “I’ll give him his own ship!” The Trader screamed as the big creature just laughed saying that freighters had no weapons and were easy pickings for military vessels of all kinds , and she looked away not arguing the point.

      “ 93% huh? Thats impressive...” The bigger officer said and after a second whispering with his friend he declared that he could get him a birth on a Destroyer as the Second in Command... and the Gild Dispatchers seemed to wilt away. “ and a 100,000 credit signing bonus!” He demanded as they finally gave up and ran out looking for someone else.

      Now all eyes were on Frank and he looked at the Captain who smiled and nodded and he stood up and gave the big man a serious stare and agreed, and a cheer went up around the room and one of the creatures put another metal on his suit... and he instantly became a Commander in the military.

      “Come with us...” He was told and after walking a bit they stopped by a small fast looking craft, and Frank got his official ID and the pilot took him out into space and jumped away a second later.

      “How far to my ship?” Frank asked, just killing time more than anything else, as the pilot saluted him and said they’d be there within the hour, and Frank thanked him and sat back and was told if he liked he could read, which here meant study some more, and Frank thanked him and after looking over the menu he saw a video of many types of hand weapons from around the galaxy and was surprised how many there really were. It took not more than 15 minutes and the report on the screen said he passed with 82% and his skills were changed to show the result and it became his first upgrade, as even the pilot smiled to see how quickly he learned.

      Frank took the time to check things he only guessed about before, like...his pay...he got a deposit in his card every cycle (approximately each month), it was his job to budget it accordingly. His Command rank gave him 12k a month base rate, as the lowest Command grade, and his recent upgrade left him just at the edge of a Boarding Specialty, and another 5k a month. A full Captain got as much as 50k a month depending on skills and even studying like he had just done, every report got sent out galaxy wide so your skills were upgraded along with your pay in real time.

      But things were not cheap. A shuttle for short range travel and courier missions cost 250k stripped to the bone, and anything bigger went up by a factor of 2x with every size. Military officers could if they wanted to, purchase their own ships and the military was fine with that, but all expenses were yours too so you needed to consider that carefully.A small fighter...500k, a larger one with more defenses and weapons...1 million. A small frigate class space cruiser...2-3 million depending on type, of course weapons and upgrades were extra, so he saw quickly how the economy balanced itself out, and why 20-30k a month for a military officer was not extreme.

      But it had perks too...like...as an officer he could have females for companionship...any he liked. But there were rules about that of course, and he shook his head and smiled as he got told they would be there in a few minutes. Officers got a minimum salary like he had just learned, but in combat or on missions they can earn bonuses for getting things done. The Captain of course for destroying or saving ships, according to his orders. His second for, well, secondary orders he himself could give. So getting as much in bonuses as your monthly salary was expected, and he saw that this military was more like a Mercenary Gild than any military on his world.

      And as he learned that bit of info they docked at his first ship, the destroyer Pleiades.

      Last edited by kevin398; 04-11-2017 at 11:24 AM.

    2. #2
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 3: Learning the Ropes

      Frank got unloaded right into the arms of a large reptile and ordered to follow him. They went straight to the bridge and he met the Captain...an even bigger reptile who seemed to have an attitude that said he was in charge...learn to live with it.

      Frank gave him the standard salute that he got returned and the big creature looked him over carefully and spent a little time checking out his skills and nodded appreciatively.

      “Welcome to the Pleiades..this is my ship so do as you are told and we’ll get along...dont and you’ll be walking home.” He said as he and several people on the bridge got a good laugh at that.

      “I will do my best to serve this ship well, sir.” Frank added loudly as even a few crew members smiled at that.

      “You have several useably skills but you stopped short of getting certified for boarding, why?” He was asked as Frank gave the man a big smile right back and said he had only been recruited yesterday...give him time. And at that the Captain got a roaring laugh and Frank joined in and many people there saw that they might actually get along. “Well said..very well then...take Command.” he said and stood up and stepped away as Frank sat right down and looked around at what all was happening and asked the crew why they were staring and not getting them back on course, as a few eyes popped and the Captain got a big grin.

      “This is a military vessel,” Frank said loudly.” I’m sure we need to be moving to make a profit.” And at that the Captain got a huge grin and actually went for lunch, leaving his new Commander to watch the space going by.

      Frank sat Command for just over an hour, and when the Captain came back he quickly left him have his seat again, and he asked if they got any messages and was told no. It was a boringly slow day, and he chuckled and turned and ask Frank how he liked his first day of Command and Frank got a huge grin and said that he could get used to this, and the big man said good...’but not on my ship’... like he might have misunderstood, but Frank looked serious and nodded and they seemed to have an understanding.

      “Jump us to Beta 2,” the Captain said as Frank looked surprised. There was no info on that spot in the navigation records but the crew moved immediately and the ship slid out of hyperspace to see several ships nearby, and they turned and attacked at once. “Local pirate hangout.” He hinted as Frank nodded as the ship started taking a few hits.

      “Target and attack that cruiser.” The Captain said as Frank checked the overhead screen and saw several fighters running to get behind them, obviously trying to take out their engines.

      The Captain ignored them for now and slowly with the cruiser up front and the fighters all around their shields started down.

      “Activate rear turret for fighter defense.” Frank ordered and didn’t even look to see what the Captain thought but he watched Frank closely and with a nod the order went through.

      “One fighter destroyed...” he heard as the Captain gave him a slap and said ‘thats your first bonus right there’ and then laughed as Frank smiled as wide as possible, and reminded himself not to upset the Captain or he’d be in trouble. One little slap on his shoulder and Frank knew that was a guaranteed bruise and he didn’t want to see him angry.

      “Cruiser is calling for reinforcements Captain.” he heard as he looked upset.

      “Get those missiles fired! I want him done before they get here!” he screamed as a wave of missiles went in and after a little more of the main guns the ship turned on its side and smoke and flames shot out of several holes along the side... for about a minute... then nothing.

      “Cruiser destroyed, videos of the battle sent to base, bonus adjusted.” Got said as he sat back very happy with himself.

      “Three fighters destroyed, one disabled floating by the main engines.” The report was as Frank nodded and slowly the Captain looked around and Frank felt he missed something.

      “Sir?” He asked as he was quickly told that the disabled ship might be worth something later on, and if Frank didn’t want it he’d take it then, as Frank cleared his throat and ordered the ship brought on board, and a shuttle ran around back and dragged it into the nearest bay.

      “Ahem...” The Captain said as Frank tried not to look surprised.” and thats 200 credits a cycle for docking of a private craft.” he said, as chuckles were heard around the room and Frank just smiled and excused himself to go look at his newest possession.

      Chapter 4: Ownership and Privileges

      Frank’s idea of what a fighter was just wasn’t based in reality here. He walked down to the hanger and over to the center to see his ship. It was taller than he could even see into, and when he activated the controls via the ships computer the door on the side tilted down until it became a set of stairs and he walked up five steps just to get inside. He went to the bridge and demanded to see the specs and any info on damages and in a few minutes he realized it was a medium built fighter, made with 4 small guns up front and mounts on the wings for up to 4 missiles.

      It had a light shield, which was out now due to damage, and one gun was destroyed along with some damage to the engine. The computer left him know that shrapnel from one of the destroyed fighters entered the engine through the front vents and jammed it solid. Computer proto calls forced it to stop immediately before the engine was completely destroyed and if the shrapnel was removed the computer could try and restart it.

      He went outside and looked around and after a few minutes found the offending chunk of metal, and one of the hanger crew asked if he needed help, and Frank showed him and they got a set of cutters and took it out a small piece at a time, until the engine spun freely again.

      He offered to pay for the members help but he just waved it away saying it was his pleasure to help the Commander, and Frank went back inside and after some checks the engine spun up and sat there running smoothly at idle.

      “I wouldn’t suggest any long term use until further tests are run.” the computer said and Frank agreed, and after a quick lesson in the basic flight controls, he drifted it over and parked it out of the way for now.

      “He certainly does learn quick.” The Captain whispered, as he saw Frank parking his new ship.” I bet he’s one of those really lucky guys that always gets things for free...the *******..” he whispered as people all over the bridge looked away and pretended not to hear.

      Well it seemed that way today at least, and the Captain decided that having a lucky Second Officer might be in his best interest, and giving Frank extra time to decide what he was going to do with treasures like this wouldn’t happen again.

      The scans showed a Grogory Medium fighter. Nicely equipped if not in need of repairs. In good condition...a 1.5 million dollar ship with 4 gun mounts and shields capable of warding off small weapons fire. It had a limited Jump Drive and so was not stuck to one sector like light fighters were. A good first ship for anyone, and he waited to see how fast Frank would take it and run from his duties here.

      But that didn’t happen, and even with paying docking fees for a ship he wasn’t flying at the moment, Frank went on doing his job for 2 months, and the Captain decided maybe his fears were unfounded after all.

      Frank did get the fighter repaired, and took it out salvaging after a few fights, but he never mentioned leaving, and the Captain got more than his money back from the deal that sent Frank to him and that made him quite pleased.

      6 months into his Command and the Captain left him run the ship for days. While he did some other things to make extra cash. It became well known the Captain was looking to trade up...to a lower class Cruiser instead of the old destroyer he had Commanded for a long time now. Until now he worked hard to pay the bills...crews don’t work for free even if the ship itself was paid for...but now his luck had changed and his down payment was getting larger and larger, and he knew who to thank for that.

      Even when things happened and the Captain wasn’t on the bridge he got a cut, and Frank was quite good at finding trouble. Anything from convoys under attack to rescue missions picking up pods from wrecks. Either way he made the ship twice what had been coming in before, and the Captain saw his new ship coming very soon, and called Frank in to talk about it.

      “You called Captain?” Frank asked as he stood by the bottom of the bed as the Captain threw a cover over his newest toy and smiled widely.

      “I have decided to give you a choice...you’ve served me well and with your help I’ll be upgrading to a bigger ship soon, and with that a new and busier patrol route.” he said as Frank nodded that he knew.” Will you stay and help me run my new ship...or go and start a Command of your own? The investment I had in you has since been paid in full, and you do own your own ship, and unless I miss my guess, you have paid back a substantial amount towards something even bigger.” he hinted as Frank just shrugged and refused to say as the Captain burst into laughter.

      “You’re a good officer who doesn’t need me to hold his hand any longer...I release you to start your own Command.” he offered as Frank thanked him for the time to train properly, and turned and walked out to gather his things, and Captain Crag sent a message saying that Commander Samson would be patrolling and working independently from today forward.

      Frank got his hand shook many times as he got ready to leave, and at least one young woman mentioned she had a crush on him while he was here, and he smiled and thanked her without admitting he wasn’t into reptiles.

      His ship was as good as new now and everything was either repaired or upgraded, since not seeing this day coming would have been a mistake. He got his few things on board and with a quick salute from the docking crew he turned and drifted out into space and jumped to the nearest station, a military outpost not far away.

      He got permission to dock and when he stepped out he had a message asking him to report to the Command Officer and he made his way to his office. The man was a different species than Frank had dealt with before, and he was warned not to shake his hand, or expect to, since his skins chemicals would burn his skin badly.

      Frank gave him the needed salute and then waited until the officer checked his records and finally seemed satisfied.

      “We are here...” He said as a map came up on the wall.” there are 5 trade lanes that travel to or past our station. In the past few months small skirmishes with patrol ships have occurred, and convoys have been attacked all along these routes, and our normal patrols always seem to get there too late. If you’re going to work this area I suggest you patrol those lanes. You own a Grogory gunship yes?” He asked as Frank smiled and said it was a medium fighter, as the Officer seemed to think that was close enough.

      “Then consider that your mission..stop or help to stop these attacks, no quarter asked, none given, dismissed.” he said as Frank saluted and walked out with his first assignment and he knew from experience if there was this much trouble there would be salvage everywhere and that wouldn’t hurt either. He had a short range tractor beam added to his cargo area and he was set, and after a good hot meal he was out patrolling and he felt like his new life had just begun, since everything now depended on him, no one else was going to help cover for his mistakes...and that thought made him both happy and a bit stressed too for the first day.

    3. #3
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 5: Feast or Famine

      Frank patrolled for a week and found a few little things along the way. He got 2 missiles that fit his ship and had them mounted, and some supply crates that were too big for his ship and he called it in and got a bonus for finding them.

      He talked to several freighter captains and got told that pirates of all kinds worked the area, some in groups as big as 6 at a time, and Frank felt pretty happy that he had missed those so far, but he reported it all to his boss who seemed to have heard it all before.

      “There are multiple mercenary groups working this area too..so trying to prove any of this is a waste of time.” He was told and he started wondering why the local Military Commander wasn’t the least bit worried about piracy in his sector.

      But Frank just shrugged it off and went on and finally one day a group of ships came running past and one called to welcome him to the sector, and Frank smiled and thanked them.

      “We’re Patrol Unit 3 from Altair Station. We heard there was a new pilot in the area, so we thought we should say hi.” He got told and he thanked them for calling to welcome him and he asked if they had been busy lately and they admitted that they saw their fair share of trouble.

      “This area is a gravy run, get all the escort missions you can here. Its as quiet and boring as anywhere. But the main trade lanes from Altair to the other outer stations gets pretty heavily attacked, so don’t go out there without some help, thats why we travel 6 at a time.” he heard and he said he’d consider it and they were soon out of sight since he was traveling along slowly looking for crates, and they seemed to know exactly where they were going.

      “Altair huh?” Frank thought and after they were well gone he checked to see where that was and it was a trade station on the edge of the system, and so he flew that way and before he even got there he found cargo floating and gathered it and when he approached they scanned his ship and allowed it to dock and he got a call from the station manager thanking him for stopping there.

      “We don’t get enough military crafts stopping here, they usually go to the other station since its purely for military vessels.” he heard and he left them know he was independent now and he’d deal with just about anybody, and they agreed he was welcome here and he sold the cargo he found for a nice price and went inside and got a meal at a nice restaurant. But he noticed that many people shied away from him and he started thinking showing his uniform with all its skills showing might be forcing that problem a bit. So on his way out he stopped at a shop and bought a medium length coat and made sure it covered his uniform as much as possible and that seemed to let people relax more around him.

      “There seems to be some problem between the military and the locals here.” He remarked as his computer reminded him that the station manager thought it strange that he stopped by since he was a military pilot. “But if this area needs more patrols...shouldn’t the military be the first ships here?” he asked and she didn’t have an answer, and he started feeling that the answer might be more than he could handle.

      He was new to the area after all, so while he was there he got ab updated map of the entire sector. To his surprise there were 20 trade lanes, some from station to station, some between mining interests and their suppliers and some that led out of the sector to others nearby.

      “That’s a LOT of miles to patrol.” He commented as his computer made a sarcastic comment that,”Doh, Lightyears are Big’ and it surprised him. “It was the truth though, right?” he asked as she did admit that...technically...several lightyears worth of travel qualified as a lot of trade lanes.

      “Lets go see what else we can find out.” he said and they left the station and turned a different direction, towards another private station half way across the sector. He was traveling that way for nearly an hour when he found wreckage, lots and lots of wreckage, and he stopped and scanned and found more cargo than he could even carry. But he also found bodies, some just floating some in pods that had the air run out ages ago. Whoever did this had some decent firepower and the computer found info on at least 5 ships that had been destroyed, and he called it in and a cruiser jumped in less than an hour later.

      “Did you gather everything you wanted?” he was asked and he agreed he had, and the bigger ship moved in and gathered all the dead and said they would take them back for burial, and their families were finally notified that they had been found, 2 weeks after they went missing.

      “What a terrible loss..” Frank said as the shuttle gathered more bodies.” who did this? It wasnt some fighter, it had some serious firepower.” he said and the cruisers Captain told him they got full scans from the wreckage and that it would all be handed in for research and Frank agreed and went on towards the next station and then docked and sold most of what he found and his account went up considerably.

      The story of the attack and loss of life was on all the news, and as Frank sat having a hot meal one security guard walked in and sat down next to him and Frank looked at him curiously because the man seemed to look everywhere at once then leaned in and whispered as Frank’s eyes popped open.

      “What you did today means nothing, gather whatever you find and tell no one...we know who you are.” And the man was gone as fast as he came, and Frank saw that he wasn’t safe anywhere if these people really wanted him caught, or dead, and he finished eating and walked as leisurely as he dared back to the ship and left, and his personal body camera had gotten a picture of the guard when he spoke and Frank didn’t know wither to report it or see how far away he could fly.

      Chapter 6: Recognition and Sadness

      Frank knew only one thing, out here all alone he was a target and the men that thought they ran this area knew who he was and were watching him. So he needed help, and so he flew as fast as he could back to his home base and asked to see the Commander and after a few minutes he got in. The Colonel was sitting there behind his desk looking as uninterested as he did before and Frank told him the story and dropped a recording of the guard on the desk, and the colonel looked at it and ran it on his computer and looked upset when he saw it.

      “I think I stumbled onto something here.” Frank added as the Colonel gave him a dirty look, and Frank’s stomach turned into knots instantly.

      “You don’t listen well, you were told to drop this investigation.” he said loudly and Frank saw why the military did nothing around here, and who the big boss really was. But he thought fast and slammed his hands on the desk saying that if that fool had said those things to someone else their entire operation might be at risk, and the Colonel sat back suddenly and looked at him in a totally new light.

      “I brought that right back here... so no one else has ever seen it. Tell that fool to be more careful, the next guy he gets photographed by might be from Military Intelligence.” Frank demanded and the colonel finally got a huge grin.

      “I think we underestimated you a bit.” he said softly as Frank looked as serious as he could and said that might be a bad thing if he hadn’t seen this coming.

      “I just wanted to see you in person and ask one thing...out here its every man for himself... are there any other rules I need to know before I really get started? I don’t want a squad after me for stepping on toes.” Frank declared as the Colonel actually laughed, LAUGHED and said...

      “If you go too far we’ll let you know.” And he waved Frank away and he didn’t even salute him and Frank stopped at the door and asked where he might find a good used ship.

      “If I’m going to become a professional Hunter then I’ll need something bigger than that puddle jumper.” And the Colonel nodded and told him about a used ship dealer, and not to ask for guarantees or warrantees, and Frank laughed too and walked out as the Colonel felt like the weight of the world had been lifted. Frank was a stand up guy and was going to do alright out here, and he knew now not to rock the boat, and after he got going better they’d let him know about their taxes, and see what he thought of that, and he called to warn the foolish guard and then had someone follow Frank to make sure he hadn’t been a better actor than he thought he was.

      But Frank understood now...this entire area, and more than one station in it... were under the control of this group and the Military Commander was in charge, or thought he was. So Frank knew he was being watched and that trying to leave the sector...with what he knows...would be out of the question. So he did just as he said, he went to the old scrap yard and told the man the Colonel sent him, and he took him behind a wall of asteroids to see a line of ships sitting, some with burn marks and some looking like new and Frank looked them all over and asked if he had something bigger, as the man looked impressed.

      “I got three heavy fighters right there...” The man pointed as Frank nodded he saw.” and one full sized gunboat on the end, it needs a crew of 4.” he hinted as Frank mentioned that it was barely bigger than a fighter, and the man laughed saying you couldn’t tell from here. And so they rode over and stopped along side and Frank was pleasantly surprised, since it was many times bigger than what he flew now.

      “Armed?” Frank asked as the man laughed saying everything was extra...everything... and Frank laughed too. He went on board and it really was a small cap ship. It had bunks for half a dozen people, a common area with food machines and showers ...the whole works.

      “How much?” Frank asked and the man hinted he didn’t think he could afford it but Frank demanded and so the man took a little time to check on him with the boss and finally told him he got a special discount...2 million credits, and Frank pulled out his card and paid for it.... and the man looked faint. “Now how much will you give me for my old one...minus the guns and missiles?” He added as they both chuckled and Frank got the guns and missiles added to his new ship for free and the ship dealer got a nice medium fighter in exchange for a better shield generator and 2 guns in the rear turret.

      “Come back again..” he joked as Frank took a minute to review the controls then flew away like nothing had even happened, and he got reported back saying he got something bigger, and what it was, and the colonel waited to see what he’d do with it.

      But Frank was a military pilot from the very beginning and the Colonel was his superior officer, even if he was a pirate. So he went to a few bases and hired a person here and another there and soon he had a full crew...and more money needed to be made to pay them too. They went on patrol gathering everything they could and reporting the rest. To anyone seeing them a common occurrence for a military patrol craft, and for 2 months Frank managed to pay everyone and make a profit...without killing a soul doing it.

      And soon the odd looks he got when he was walking through stations was gone, and he realized they finally had accepted him. But everywhere he went and everyone he spoke to got recorded, and put into a special file in a small clipboard only he knew about, and when the time was right he’d be covered and a lot of other people wouldn’t.

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      Chapter 7: Artemis Travels

      Frank had no idea if this was a standard thing for the military here or if he walked into a little dictatorship without knowing it. So he went on doing the minimum amount needed and got a reputation for being a care bear and not capable of hunting for real. When asked, he reminded people that if too many ships got destroyed people from outside their region would start to wonder, and besides he was doing OK as is and making some good cash, and those he told that too...and their superiors...just thought he was easy to get along with and left it go.

      Of course ships did get destroyed almost daily, but not a single time had the Artemis been there when it happened, and in some cases they got there just after and got their share of cargo, and looked around for survivors and saved a few, and got bonuses for that.

      By now he had been in this part of the Galaxy for over a year, and had learned a lot. The military here was more like a professional mercenary group, everything had a price and every mission was an opportunity to learn more and make a profit. Even back on the destroyer with his first Captain it was all about money, and so he started to see this region might be a little tougher but not entirely different from what he had seen before.

      If the Commander here was average, then making a living here was not that simple, and making too good a living put you under the cross hairs yourself. So mediocrity became the password for Frank and his crew, and while they got teased a bit, no one complained because they got paid no matter what, and gathering cargo and survivors was better for some than killing innocents along the way for a living. And Frank heard about it from time to time and he waved their questions away saying he wasn’t a combat specialist, while his skills showed lots of training in weapons and defenses on multiple levels.

      His ship was well armed and had a dozen missiles on it at all times, and the fighter weapons he loaded that first day were sold and bigger and better added and when he was needed in a fight he decided he’d be more than ready.

      And as he moved from base to base and trade lane to trade lane no one asked a thing because he always returned at some point and his personal reputation went up each time he found a survivor and brought them in and one or two were pirates from other groups, and Intelligence loved that, an big bonuses got paid on a few occasions so they had something to do too.

      And except for a squabble with three pirate fighters over cargo... Frank and his crew killed no one... and some freighters captains asked for them by name for escorts, and the pirates in that area gave them a wide berth after a few got destroyed or shot up and left escape,and even more asked for their help after that and got it.

      On one such trip the convoy got jumped by pirate fighters and the battle got going pretty fast. Frank was protecting 5 freighters, a big convoy for this area, and the pirates knew exactly what they were carrying. the fight got going when they refused to leave peacefully, and after 3 got killed another 4 jumped in and Frank called for reinforcements and went on shooting as fast as possible.

      So hard was the bombardment that his shields dropped menacingly, and two machine guns overheated and stopped, and just as he launched a few missiles to destroy another one a massive jump signature formed right on to of them...and a cruiser class jumped in and opened fire on the pirates.

      “Busy?” Frank heard as he looked up to see his old Captain sitting there laughing and he admitted he was.

      “These fools just keep on coming..” Frank admitted and the old reptile smiled and said it looked like he was doing pretty well for himself, seeing his new ship, and Frank thanked him for saying so. By now the last fighter went boom, and they all stopped to see what damages had occurred, and of course the cruiser got a 10k bonus for assistance and the convoy paid it gratefully.

      “ Who told you those old guns would hold up in battle?” he asked as Frank said he got a guarantee with them and got laughed at. “Try claiming it once.” He got told and then explained that for a heavy battle anything smaller than 9mm would overheat due to the high speed they needed to do any real damages. Against one fighter 6 -7 mm weapons were fine but against big numbers you’re out of time very quickly.

      “Working for Gog now are you?” he asked as Frank just smiled and nodded.” Not too surprising to see this many then, he always did have his hands in everything.” he mentioned and waved and his ship jumped away and Frank knew that the Colonel wasn’t an exception...maybe greedier than most...but not an exception.

      He followed the convoy back to their station and was well paid and since he had never been here before they vouched for him and he docked and sold some of the salvage he got from the battle. And while his reputation was high from all the convoys talk about the battle he asked about different guns and sold one 6mm machine gun for a 9mm semi-auto cannon, and his defense in a battle went up a bunch and he decided he’d see about another this size after a few more trips.

      He gave the crew some time off on a new station and went to check it out himself, and after a few hours they filed back on board and one man winked and thanked Frank for the break, and he knew enough not to ask and so he didn’t.

      His crew was made up of one reptilian in the engineering department, who constantly reminded him that he couldn’t do everything alone. A Solarian amphibian weapons specialist that sat to the right side at his console and breathed through a mask and a tank filled with water. And a fox girl at navigation, a nice little thing that was getting a habit of winking at him a lot, so he had a good idea what that was about.

      So after another round of ‘I cant do everything myself’ Frank asked the station manager about another engineer, and the list was short but had some good people on it. Frank chose well he thought, and a Cateran came on board. A fairly tall good looking cat girl and she had experience in computers and electronics, something they needed in engineering, and so his crew was at full strength, and they drifted back out into space and went looking for something else to do.

      Chapter 8: Balancing the Book

      Gog was doing rather well lately, in no uncertain terms because he left his men do as they please. He had been in Command of this sector for 7 years now and had made a considerable fortune for himself. But that was only the first step. He wanted Power, and to get it you need cash in large amounts, and he watched and waited but his record held him back because it just wasn’t in him to be either compassionate or friendly to anyone.

      He took credit for ridding his area of pirates and kept them away, and reports from captains of ships traveling through proved the area around his station was the safest around. But...it was openly known he controlled many of the ships that he demanded were enemies... and people above him in the Chain of Command sat back shaking their heads as the death toll ran up... right to the edge of having him investigated seriously. But it never quite made it that far, and now his record was improving. Survivors from attacks were rescued, and attacks stopped cold. And his PR Manger wrung it out for all it was worth, and Gog’s enemies above him stepped back and relaxed a bit.

      Now Regional Elections were coming, and he got offered a position as Commander of a bigger station closer to the Core, and he considered it because that area was even more heavily traveled and so with more ships comes more chances at profit. But he also watched closely the Elections for Council Members...his life long dream. They ruled not only their sectors but an entire Quadrant, 4 sectors combined, and the local Council had control over a hundred trade lanes and two dozen stations. And while they were watched more closely by their immediate superiors in the Capital, their chances at enormous profits was beyond doubt.

      His friends in the Mercenary Gilds and the Pirates wanted him to succeed, his success was their success, and so his name got pushed for every advancement that came open, but until now many above him had stopped those plans cold. But now...a few looked his way and wondered if he could be trusted with more...and that made him smile wider than ever before.

      All because one Transfer took up residence here. One man who lived the Law, and killed no one who didn’t deserve it. His success was Gog’s success and he made sure that Franks name disappeared from many reports, and his replaced it, and Frank never questioned it and because of that his name rose within Gog’s crew to near the top. Without him some of these reports would never have happened, and seeing how that had worked out Gog now ordered a few things to happen...just so his people could rush in an make him look good. PR is everything in Politics and he learned more about that lately, and he silently hoped this young Captain hung around a while longer because he was still learning from him and that helped his chances greatly.

      And Frank was not stupid, seeing the way of things here he didn’t doubt for a second he was being watched...he didn’t know the extent of Gog’s ambition... but if some one had mentioned it he would never have doubted a word of it. His name was spread by word of mouth from captains that he worked for. His reputation was better than most and people all the way to the Core heard of him and his deeds, regardless of what Gog did to his reports. So his crew and ship were treated warmly at half a dozen stations and they became small time heros in the area, and he saw that his chances to move into bigger vessels and better areas was very good, and once when he docked a salesman from a local shipyard called him offering him just that ...at a decent price too...but Frank held off until he could pay cash. Something he thought was necessary. Because here owing someone anything was a burden that you could not always afford, and he wanted to do things his own way, and he sat back and worked daily and his account went up some more and his monthly bonuses were looking good and that new ship was getting within arms reach every day.

      His gunboat was nothing more than a advanced fighter. The rear turret was on a few other heavies too and the crew was only 2 members bigger than a standard Heavy. The shields were roughly double a fighter shield, and that was the only real difference. But the next size up was called a Corvette, and while it had a crew of 6, it really wasn’t much more than an Ultra Heavy fighter. A few had 2 turrets, some had again twice the shields of the gunboat, but in battle the difference was neglectable at best, and owning something for bragging rights alone just wasn’t good enough for Frank.

      So his next serious upgrade would be a Frigate Class. Again twice the size and armaments compared to a corvette, depending on the design, they had a crew of 12 and had heavier weapon mounts. Instead of machine guns or small cannons they had universal mounts that could mount basically anything you’d ever find and that made them the first truly small Capital Ship in the Fleet. While corvettes got a lot of escort duties Frigates got called by High Command to take part in large scale exercises and skirmish warfare. It was a big step up and very expensive, but worth it to a career officer like Frank.

      There were several classes and designs with more or less of everything. The Starter Frigate was called an Independence Class. It had the lightest armor and only 2 turrets besides the mounts up front. It had the cheapest shields, only double the corvettes average, and because of that it was used as escorts for larger capital ships a lot, basically for fighter and bomber defense.

      But as with everything else it could be added to later, and with a price of 9 million it was the cheapest of the Class and there were a few more of these around. In high ranking military circles it was called the Economy Frigate and some smiled or even chuckled to see someone flying one. But give them a couple years experience and it could rise up to be as good as any other...with massive upgrades of course.

      And so this was Franks next step, and working daily and rushing from place to place he managed to sneak up on that total, and he’d be more than ready to trade this ship in after having it for so long, and at least one crew member asked softly if they were going along with him after he got rid of this, and he smiled and agreed and more than one face lit up seeing they had hitched their wagons to a Winner.

      Frank’s crew was getting a day off but that would be over in a few hours. So he sat at his favorite drinking hole joking and talking to some other local pilots when a small thin Weasel man came streaking in and stopped beside him. He gently tugged on Frank’s elbow and as he looked down the little man asked if he wanted info today? And Frank smiled. Info Brokers came in all sizes and shapes. Mostly creatures not wanting to be military or miners, they were somewhat shady characters that bought and sold information...and many times no one asked where they got it. But one good deal and you could find great wealth...or nothing...and Frank had done OK with them before.

      “What have you got?” Frank asked softly as the little man turned a pocket screen around for Frank to see a ship...medium sized by the look of it...floating with some panels barely hanging on by some odd wires or cables and not a light on inside at all. “What size is that?” he hinted as the information screen scrolled up and he saw it was a wreck of a Destroyer Class...an older one that was lost in a skirmish war 5 years ago and never found.

      “If it was worth anything the military would have hauled it in.” Frank hinted as softly as he could as the little man chuckled.

      “After the bodies are removed, if it doesn’t fly on its own they let them to float into Eternity.” he got told.” The military doesn’t do used ships or wrecks.”

      “How much?” Frank asked as the little man pondered that for a moment.

      “ 300,000...” It said as Frank thought about that for a minute. Even for scrap it was worth it, and finally he agreed, and they walked to the nearest banking machine and Frank had a card made for 300k and they exchanged it for the little computer. “You wont be disappointed.” It said as a second later it was gone like wisp of smoke.

      “Damn weasels are fast.” Frank whispered and smiled and went back to the ship to do a little research.

    5. #5
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Sit back and relax people, this is Novel length..lol

      Chapter 9: Out on Your Own

      Frank took the time to check into the lost ship. It was part of a patrol sent to check on an enemy fleet near the Northern Boarder during the last Boarder Wars. It jumped right into a massive fleet, and was quickly neutralized. They were out of contact for days, and when the wrecks were found the enemy claimed victory for the first major battle of the war, and the fleet gathered the dead and went on with their plans of crushing the enemy elsewhere.

      It was the cheapest of the Destroyer Class...basically an Advanced Frigate. Crew of 24, 6 medium guns up front, two missile launchers, decent shields and 3 turrets for fighter defense. It was assigned to escort the main ship in the patrol, a Heavy Cruiser that was destroyed as well.

      Not a bad little ship, better than even the heaviest frigate class, but in this condition could it be salvaged at all? He fed all the info into the computer and several scenarios were run.

      First...it was clear by enhancing the pictures that the main reactor hadn’t exploded or the ship would not be in one piece...so that meant power was possible. So getting the computer back online would be a big step in saving the vessel, if the damages weren’t too severe.

      Second...the main computer might be online even now. That would show why it hadn’t run with it engines on into space. Emergency over rides shut it down. With the damage shown, it might be possible to repair the ship. It would be costly to be sure, but not nearly what a new ship would be.

      Three...it had a major fire inside before the plates ripped off, dispersing the oxygen into space, and everything was gone, electrical wiring , computers, consoles, everything. So it was just a large piece of scrap, towing it to a shipyard was the logical choice, there they would get paid by the ton for scrap and Frank would get his money back, with interest.

      Either way he wasn’t going to lose anything but a few days work, and so when the crew returned they turned and left the area where they had been working and Gog got the message that Frank was leaving and cameras showed him buying info in the bar. Well, he couldn’t say he didn’t see it coming, but he got a lot of use out of this one officer, so with what he learned he wished him well, and went on with business as usual.

      It took 2 days flying to get there and a small search to actually find it. It was very slowly drifting into deep space, and when they got along side the computer scanned it and got control of the maneuvering thrusters and brought it to a stop.

      “Ships systems are partially operational.” Was the report as Frank looked pretty pleased. “Main power is on standby, engines are offline, computer offline,life support disabled but operational.” It went on and Frank smiled.

      “Just say it repairable.” He hinted as the computer took some time to check things over better, then said just that.

      “Repair cost... approximately 4 million.” He heard as he nodded seriously and had to think about that. It would break him, but he’d have a vessel better than what he had planned for, if they got it running and out of here before some pirates found it was flyable.

      “Can our repair bots do some repairs while we gather more help?” He asked and was told that...basically..anything was better than nothing. And so they flew in as close as they possibly could get to one airlock and dropped off the 3 light repair drones they owned for this ship and they flew over and went inside.

      “See if life support can be restarted in the control center or any areas where the doors can be sealed.” he said and one drone went forward while two went to engineering to check on things there. By closing some bulkheads and sealing them, emergency life support was restored to the Command Center, and tests showed many systems offline but functional.

      “Is there a functioning dock?” He asked and one near the front was brought back online, but just barely. “OK lets go see what we got.” he decided and the computer maneuvered them into some odd position and got them docked to a dock that was far from stable. But they were in now and they gathered as much stuff as they could and went on board and in less than an hour his team was checking circuits and restarting emergency systems to see what had survived.

      “If we put all our repair bots to work on it we can have the number 4 engine running today.” The electrical engineer said and Frank agreed and that got started.

      “All but emergency fuel has leaked out because of damage to the main lines...we need to get fuel or restart the recovery system.” The other engineer said and Frank said to try restarting the system, but the damage was pretty bad and so both engineers went to work on that while slowly the damages came into a clearer view.

      The center of the ship took the brunt of the hits. Electrical conduits were cut, halls and floors opened to space, and whatever might have been in some of those rooms was gone long ago.

      Three guns were still here and might be operational. One launcher was destroyed by a missile no doubt, and only 2 main guns survived but were going to be off line for a long time at this rate of repair.

      “Era..” Frank called as his navigator came on line from the gunboat.” Go to the nearest station and get me 2..no...make that 4 more repair drones, the best they have.” he said and she agreed and a minute later the ship jumped away.

      “That’ll help a LOT.” he was told as they all went from room to room looking at things and every system that could be restarted was.

      It took 6 hours until Era returned and docked, and when the hatch opened out ran a wave of medium repair drones, expensive, but they got a lot done in a short time.

      “Put them on repairing the hole in deck 3...” Got ordered by the engineer, and they flew that way and 2 hours later that section got sealed and life support came back online. That reopened a part of engineering that had been closed and when they went in they found several more drones that had been charging when the attack happened, and were still waiting on power.

      Needless to say that got turned on and half an hour later the repair bots doubled and things really started going better. By now the crew was exhausted, and went back to the little ship to rest and get a meal, and that was the first day with the big wreck, and new scans and scenarios were run again. This time much better and only the cost and time involved were in question, and Frank called the crew together and they drank a toast to their new ship, and everyone got a good nights sleep and started again tomorrow.

      Chapter 10: Revival

      Frank’s ship disappeared for nearly a month, only seen when buying parts or other necessities. The local military knew something was up, but he was an officer too and had not ask for assistance, and when the day came that a ‘dead’ destroyer drifted slowly into the shipyard everyone finally knew why he had gone from a successful Gunboat owner... to a very nearly broke young Captain. But with this his fortune was made, and he got some upgrades to finish off his account, like a short range transporter for salvaging, and to replace the one destroyed in the auto fuel replacement system.

      Then a few days off for his crew, and he sat back sighing deeply that they barely made it. Only 2 of the four main engines were operational, and the repairs would have to wait. The life support was fine now and the main computer was back online, and all his repair drones were still in there, doing what they could. But he got it back and transfered the deed into his name, and after a quick check, the Military Governor agreed and it became his officially.

      He was laying back hoping that the drones got more done soon when the coms buzzed and he ran to get it. And there before him was the Military Governor, Admiral Coss, and the man nodded happily and thanked him for saving a fine old ship.

      “Thank you sir!” Frank said with a quick salute that got smartly returned. “I must say though, its far from combat ready yet.” Frank admitted and he was told that as a bonus for his actions a crew was coming on board, and Frank thanked him for his kindness and later that day another engine was online and the ship was ready to travel as soon as one fuel tank got filled. And now Frank was a pauper, and he laid back and took a nap, and dreamed of seeing his account coming back up.

      He sat around and napped while the crew was away and finally remembered that this ship needed a crew of more than 20..and his head started to hurt. Well that wasn’t happening soon, but he had to be careful and so he went to the bridge to see what defenses they still had.

      The main guns had 2 left that worked, a serious threat for sure. The 50mm turret did a huge amount of damage, but were not fast enough to track fighters. The three lighter turrets were repaired and working. One was empty while the others had 9mm auto cannons in them for fighter defense. He was a little surprised because he expected bigger on a ship of this size but it seems even the military tried cutting corners from time to time. But the layout... as is... showed nothing protecting the rear, only the sides and front, so he made a serious decision. He sold the gun boat and used that money to add guns to the rear turret and get him some medium missiles and a few more repairs.

      He was committed now, this ship had to work for him because it’s all he owned, and so he spent a few thousand more getting 4 more crew members, enough to fill out the bridge and add another engineer but not nearly enough to crew the entire ship.

      And when the crew came back they all got introduced and they backed away from the shipyard to see what they could find to help pay for all this, and the local Commander watched and waited to see how much like his mentor Gog this new man was.

      Out of 4 fuel tanks only one was full, but that was enough to run the ship for months and so Frank took that as good enough.All his turrets were full, even though they weren’t maxed out by a long shot.

      The ‘light turrets’ could easily carry weapons up to 20mm cannons but now carried 9mm auto-cannons for defense. The main battery was almost empty, but one round from that could cut through armor and do huge damage inside. So when it came to regular patrols his new ship would get a lot of respect since a fighter patrol had little chance against it.

      But his shields were not the best, they were operational but only at half power, and a frigate class would be his equal, and a corvette could do some damage if it was fully loaded, so Frank took it easy for now, patrolling for a week along the trade lanes, saying HI to convoys, letting them know he was here if needed, and finding some small salvage here and there and his ship got it’s first 2 missiles that way.

      But it was inevitable...and in his second week he got the call from Command. A convoy of military haulers was under attack and their fighter escorts were dropping fast, and Frank ordered jump, and they were in the thick of it a few minutes later. Two corvettes were pounding the freighters, and all fighters were either destroyed or disabled and two pilots were floating in space suits waiting to see the end of the fight.

      Frank ordered fire, and one corvette took a hard hit from the 50 mm and it slid sideways at the force of the blast. It turned and limped away while its friend tried to buy it time. A missile hit the ship and Frank gritted his teeth seeing it but the shields held, and his side guns opened fire and sprayed the little ship with light damage. But in space even light damage can do terrible things, and it too ran after a minute, and the convoy Commander cheered and thanked them for getting there in time.

      “That’s what we’re here for.” Frank remarked as the man agreed and a nice bonus came across for him, and he escorted them to their station for safety, and the Regional Commander saw that Gog had little influence on this man, and he was happy to see it.

      Chapter 11: Influence and Upgrades

      When Frank returned to the base he got a good round of applause for his actions. He thanked everyone for saying good things and he got a email with a coupon in it from the shipyard...50% off one upgrade... and Frank smiled and laid that back since it had no date on it. Upgrades were going to be necessary, and everyone who scanned his ship knew it, but he’d wait a bit and when his monthly pay came in he hired 2 security guards and his crew got a tad bigger again.

      Security on board a space ship, especially a military one, were basically Marines. Used for many different jobs from helping the engineers with heavy lifting, to guarding the ship in port, to repelling boarders, when that happened.But Frank knew what he bought when he ordered them. The cheapest people he could hire, and when they came on board and he shook the Sargent’s hand, he saw they carried little if anything with them. That meant that he’d need to equip them later and he was sure he and the Sargent were going to talk about that soon enough.

      So that was another thing to watch for either on sale or from salvage. Guns,explosives, or body armor of some kind. All expensive and all needed, and Frank wondered if he’d ever get this ship up to speed or not, but then many officers worked their entire career in something this size or even smaller...and so he felt he had plenty of time.

      The first meeting with the Sargent went as planned. He reminded Frank of things Marines were good for, from posting guards on the decks to protect the ship, to boarding other vessels, either enemy freighters or smaller combat ships.

      “Even 6 good Marines can tackle a freighter or corvette from a regular crew.” he mentioned as Frank thought about that.” But they’ll need good equipment...pistols,rifles,grenades if possible. Flash grenades are fairly cheap and even the best soldier cant hit what he cant see.” he added as Frank made mental notes of it all.

      “Thank you Sargent.” Frank said and shook his hand on the way out.” As I’m sure you saw coming in we’re a salvaged vessel and running about half power at the moment. So things aren’t as good as they can be, but they’ll get better I guarantee it.” And the man saluted and went back to his bunk to tell his partner they weren’t going into battle anytime soon.

      But Frank did understand and when they came in after their patrol he went for a walk through the stations auction house, and there found a few pieces of light body armor for cheap and got those, and a set of security pistols. Not the best but something, and he took that back and handed them to the Sargent who thanked him and Frank said it wasn’t much but it was a start, and after that there was an armed guard on the ship in port, and it looked a bit more professional.

      Another month and things got better. A convoy escort and that went well, and some serious salvage from a destroyed civilian convoy that got hit but enemies near one boarder. Franks account was starting back up and he always took time out see the latest auctions, as did nearly every Captain on the station.

      Some items went for nearly new prices, and Frank stayed out of person grudges that drove prices up. But on one trip they advertised a bunch of military ‘lots’ ...groups sold together... and Frank was there seated in the second row where he could see well, and he was ready when the auctioneer mentioned that all materials were used, and some in need of repairs and many just nodded and waited.

      First up was a box filed with grenades, all assorted but nearly 20 of them and when the biding started one captain got them for about half their normal price and he was pretty happy with that. Then a box with several guns in it, and no guarantees they worked. So Frank stayed out of it and they got next to nothing for them anyways. Then a heavy lift vehicle came out and set down a pallet with 4 boxes on it, and people oohed about that.

      “We have 10 of these...” The auctioneer said pointing,” sold as a pallet full, 16 medium missiles, serial number S10987, medium size, self targeting.” he said and Frank saw these going pretty high. But it didn’t happen and the man looked pretty upset, and Frank saw why. He openly told them he had 10 boxes like this and so whatever the first sold for they would all sell for, and no one wanted to run up the price but the man’s face showed that they were no where near the price he needed to get yet.

      “ 2000..” one man said and was told immediately where he could go with that bid, and people laughed.

      “ 5000...” Frank offered and the man didn’t look much better but his face softened a little bit, so they were getting closer.

      “ 6000 “ another man offered and slowly but surely the price snuck up but the person who owned them obviously was getting tired waiting, and the auctioneer reached up to answer his ear coms and after that announced that they would sell them all for 8500 each pallet, and Frank got the first one and they set it aside for him and the rest went just as fast.

      Now onto more things, a set of 9mm cannons, new, and the price was almost as bad as buying from the shipyard, then a pair of used 7mm machine guns, and one corvette captain got those pretty cheap.

      Then a ‘lot’ of machine guns all sizes, and some didn’t even work, and they got next to nothing for those as a salvage dealer took them hoping to find enough working ones to make a profit.

      Frank needed some guns too and was watching. He had been flying as is for a while, but when his engineers checked for maintenence they asked him if he knew the left side only had 1 gun in it, and Frank nearly croaked. He and been flying with 1 gun on the left side and was told that even a pair of 7mm was better than this and he agreed.

      He watched carefully and did bid on a new pair of 7‘s but didn’t get them and finally out came another pallet and on it was something different.

      “This item is one of a kind today. We have just the one. A used 15mm auto-cannon that has been in a fire. Electrical is shot and it doesn’t run. Buy at your own risk no warrentees.” he said and started the bid. The scrap yard owner bid 500 credits and no one else seemed interested, but Frank took a chance and bid 1000...and the auctioneer seemed grateful someone was trying.

      “I have information that the firing mechanism is intact and the barrels are good but no computer or electrical system at all.” he offered and everyone grumbled among themselves.

      “ 1500...” was bid and then nothing and at the last minute Frank bid 2000...and the bid was accepted and the other man dropped out. It was a calculated risk, but a 15 mm gun was damned expensive, and would replace two smaller guns easily, and they set that aside too and Frank went to pay and have his treasures sent to his ship.

      He went home and called the electrical engineer to his office and when she arrived he showed her the specs and asked if she was up to a challenge, and she laughed and agreed. She went right out and ordered the parts and when the gun got delivered she started on it immediately.

      Frank got some things for his security crew, a new gun...maybe...and a nice set of missiles, all for cheap, and he hoped his luck held out to get this crate running more smoothly...and 2 more security men came on board that afternoon.

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      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      dropping faster than writing need to slow down a bit..lol
      Chapter 12: Missions and Conflicts

      A week went by and the marines were training together and everyone had at least a weapon of some kind. The partial box of grenades Frank got at auction helped a lot and the little bit of armor gave them a 2 man ‘frontal assault’ they called it and Frank agreed to whatever training and plans they made because it made the ship safer no matter what.

      Then as he sat the bridge watching space go by he got a buzz, and he opened the holo-coms to see the engineer standing telling him she got the gun to work...but not according to specs.

      “What do you mean not according to specs? What does that mean exactly?” he asked as she cleared her throat and said that it worked well and didn’t overheat, but the original specs called for some outrageous fast firing, and she couldn’t even believe they got anywhere near that with this equipment. “So it shoots...but slower that original specs?” he asked and she agreed.

      “There’s one other thing...” She hinted as he looked sadder by the minute.” They sold you a broken 15mm auto-cannon, but you got a 12mm Gatling Cannon instead.” She said as he looked surprised, the auction house didn’t make many mistakes, but when he checked the original specs and this one then it proved that the specs she was going by were false. This model number on the newly cleaned gun showed it came in several sizes, and the speed of firing changed considerably, and that was why it didn’t match the specs she was looking at.

      “How fast?” he asked looking at the manufacturers specs now and she said 5000 rounds a minute, less than half what her specs called for.” Have it mounted in the rear turret as soon as we can, and move one 9mm to fill the left side.” he ordered and she agreed and went to tell everyone else.

      Frank made a call and got the auction house manager on the line, and sent him a copy of the info he got when he bought the gun and the actual specs from the manufacturer, and for a minute there you could hear a pin drop.

      “Ahem...but considering what you paid and got a nice Gatling Cannon...” he started as Frank informed him he was promised a 15mm cannon and that wasn’t what he got at all. It took a few minutes but Frank left him know he didn’t want a full refund or anything like that, but he did want something for his troubles, and the man looked through what Frank had bought so far and what he had laying around, and offered him a box of assorted security gear, no warrantees of course. Some might work... some not... and Frank agreed, and he said it would be waiting on the dock when they returned, and Frank called the Sargent and left him know they got a grab bag of security stuff back at the base and he said they’d check it out as soon as they returned.

      So the rear of Frank’s ship got a lot more hostile and the left side got upgraded too. The grab bag he got had 2 semi-auto rifles in it that worked and another set of medium body armor and a few assorted holsters and some other junk. But it helped, and that made Frank’s ship almost ready for some boarding action...he was told...and he laughed saying not without at least 6 people, and the Sargent saw he was thinking ahead and agreed.

      Frank had been studying his ship for a while now and every time he looked something up he got surprised. The specs said it had a main battery with 6 guns. But at the moment it had only 2 55mm cannons, and the second turret was empty. So that meant he’d eventually need 4 more heavy guns, right? Not so fast! It turned out the electrical system couldn’t run 6 heavy rail guns, they needed a huge amount of power after all. So each turret carried 2 heavies, and a smaller swivel cannon underneath for fighter defense, so they could...in theory...use 4 cannons up to 75mm and two small cannons up to 20mm, so they still had three guns each, but not exactly what Frank thought at first.

      Of course at close range no one wanted a 20mm rail pointed at them but for the moment Frank had the one extra 9mm mounted in one because frankly, thats all he had.

      He’d set looking at the ship as is compared to the original specs, and sadly rub his eyes and frown. Even 55mm cannons used, cost 250k each, and unless he got them at auction maybe even more. Heavy weapons were always in demand by the military and not a single company that made them sold them on sale...ever.

      So he considered watching for heavier small cannons, even 12 mm and 15mm guns did terrible things to ships up to frigate class at close range, and Frank wasn’t staying in a battle with anything bigger until he got a lot more work done.

      So every weekend he went to the auctions and then stopped from time to time at scrap yards, and slowly his money went up until he could honestly deal and he got another used 55mm and mounted it into the second turret, and a pair of 12 mm gatling cannons, one for each side, and now he felt he could take missions he had refused before, and his security force was now 6 people and half had body armor and semi-auto weapons, and the Sargent was much more vocal about what they could do, and Frank took him up on his word, and took a mission to capture a smugglers freighter, hauling and selling illegal weapons across the Northern Boarder, and they got ready and jumped to the coordinates looking for the convoy.

      What he found wasn’t quite what he had been told. The convoy was here alright, and had a large escort of fighters with a corvette class in Command. Missiles started flying and guns came online and ships started being ripped apart. The corvette did a good job showing what it could do, but 2 hits from the main cannons and it was swiss cheese and adrift.

      The fighters kept at it and Frank heard them call for help and just as they got them down to 2 left, another 3 fighters and a corvette appeared and jumped right in.

      The freighters tried running for it but they got too close to Franks ship, and the transporter sent 6 marines over and that fight got started too. In less time than it took Frank to settle with the enemy ships, the freighter they wanted turned and jumped towards the base, and Frank got the message they owned it now and the mission was technically done.

      Another half an hour settling with the last of the fighters, and Frank got a nice load of supplies too, and some more light missiles for fighter defense. He returned to base to the cheers of his men and he docked and got paid for the capture. The illegal goods got unloaded and Frank was given ownership of the freighter...a bonus for his hard work. And for the first time in a while he had a decent banking account the day he sold it to a miner, and finally got a second shield generator to replace the one he never had from the beginning.

      But it was a Destroyer after all...and Frank needed a lot more people... and now he felt he had a chance to keep them all paid. Until this minute he had 6 marines , 4 people on the bridge and 2 engineers, not close to what it needed. So he hired a transporter tech,another engineer, and 3 regular maintenence people, and the ship started to look a little more lived in than empty after that.

      Depending on who you asked it needed between 24 and 50...and Frank knew that two dozen was a better number for him and thats what he aimed for.

      Chapter 13: Official Listing

      Admiral Coss was looking over ratings for ships in his territory. Some went up due to successful missions and wins, some down, mainly due to laziness or loss of a ship, removing them from the Work Schedule. But this one...the Phoenix...he just wasn’t sure. It’s DPS had gone up well lately and they got offered a Class 1 military mission for the first time and did it well enough. Now with that success came a decision...to officially put them on watch as a military craft, taking part in exercises and skirmishes like other military ships... or wait, until they were more ready.

      There’s a chart for this of course...there’s a chart for everything, but the numbers were so incredibly close... by 1 either way depending on a few small factors. Ship age for example. It was a rebuilt wreck, not done often but often enough to be listed. It had less than full armaments, but successfully managed what should have been a level 2 military mission and got paid as a level 1.

      The Captain was young, with less than 2 years experience...but then he was a Transfer...a good thing to the military because for some unknown reason they loved ships and flying, a trait not many civilizations had.

      ‘1 point either way...hmmm’...he thought, as he sat back to consider. The Northern Region was having a few troubles once again. It happened every few years there. The neighboring people beyond that line liked to harass them from time to time, never a full on war, but enough to mess up trade and the lanes nearby.

      Rarely did they attack in force but this last time they had reinforcements waiting, two corvette patrols for escort duty at once, unusual to be sure. But now they knew we wouldn’t allow it any longer...and they saw that little ship first hand. Luckily no one survived to report it...he hoped.

      They loved their vendettas, and if they got signals and video out, then Captain Samson was going to be busy. Might as well let him get paid for it then, and with a click of a button Frank’s Phoenix became Military Ready...and new missions started getting offered that he would not have seen other wise.

      And 5 minutes later Frank got a message, and when he opened it his new Rating was there... staring him in the face...and he didn’t know wither to cheer or cry... because his life just got a whole lot more complicated.

      The last mission they did was considered Military Class 1...the lowest level and they barely got through it. He sent in 6 marines...and 5 came back... and the Sargent reminded him that was normal. Boarding is a very hazardous job, but Frank didn’t like losing people, and so as they got more help he made sure that they had things they’d need so more came back each time, and the Sargent smiled wide hearing him say that, because many others didn’t care about their Marines at all because they were considered expendable.

      Sargent Harris admitted that using a flash grenade at just the right time blinded three enemy soldiers and got them in more safely, and Frank agreed to keep an eye out for more...6 dont last for long ...and their meeting ended with Frank knowing that everything helps, and the Sargent knowing his Commander wasn’t going to throw them at impossible odds, and he seemed happy with that, as 2 more marines came on board and Frank went to the auctions and walked around the base looking for deals again.

      If they were going on Military class missions from now on he wanted guarantees...something no one thought existed... but he was sure things could only get better, and while other officers laid back big funds for their retirement or next ship, his all went into this one, and the shields were at normal ratings now and 2/3 of his weapon slots were full. He still had a missing launcher in the rear but hadn’t found any yet at a price he could afford, and ammo for those too needed stock piled and he checked and saw he did have 14 missiles, an assortment of things he bought and things he salvaged from wrecks. But that wasn’t enough, in a big battle dozens can be used and he saw that maybe his change in ratings was a push to get him to do more to get the ship ready, and he accepted the challenge.

      All the engines worked properly now and they gained some speed. Maneuvering thrusters were at maximum and the fuel supply was back to normal. Now just a few more things and the old ship would be nearly as good as the base specs, and he understood that even then it wasnt a big ship, or heavily armed, so escort duties looked like his niche to fill.And as another ‘lot’ of supplies came from the auction house with more guns and grenades, he took their first escort mission, and fell in line behind two large military freighters headed out to resupply a base near the boarder.

      They traveled for a day and were more than half way there when fighters ran in and Frank’s guns came on. It was only a scout patrol and didn’t last long, and he beamed in some supplies, one small gun, and 2 light missiles, and they went on. But the enemy got a signal out and in less than an hour a frigate class jumped in and demanded their cargo. Frank demanded they leave, and the fight started. Frank managed to get 2 good hits with heavy guns and an open hole was easily seen in the side of the frigate and missiles ran both ways and Frank’s shields started down faster than he liked. Guns chattered and missiles flew and after half an hour the enemy withdrew, a lot worse for wear, and Frank could breath again now and his maintenence crew called saying they were starting emergency repairs, and Frank agreed.

      The mission ended with the freighters making their deliveries, and Frank getting some free repairs at the base. The frigate leaned heavily on 20mm cannons and a few got through, but not enough for them to win, and Frank’s armor took some hard hits and 4 holes went through and a hallway and one storage room got sealed automatically until repairs could be done, but now they were good again, Frank got paid and bonuses for killing the fighters and another glowing report of his abilities made it way back to Command, and Coss saw that maybe he had been right to trust him after all, and Frank’s rating went up a tiny bit more.

      Being approved as a Military ship by the High Command was like putting a Gold Star by your name on mission lists. Even when Frank wasnt busy with orders from Command his offers from convoy Commanders and other stations was enough to keep them busy. And the amount paid for each mission went up substantially, and he soon had the ship in tip top shape and a few credits in the bank for himself.

      After a month of doing some pretty easy jobs Frank got called out of bed one morning and rushed to see what was going on. A friendly heavy cruiser was under attack by the boarder and needed assistance, and one wing of fighters were already on the way, and he got called to assist. His ship spun around and jumped, and soon saw the mess before them. The bigger ship was already surrounded by smaller crafts and they were tearing down its shields pretty fast.

      Frank ordered them in and at optimal range their main guns came online and 4 55mm rounds went flying, and one frigate took the full brunt of the attack and its electrical system failed and it stopped entirely.

      6 enemy fighters ran back to stop him but didn’t last long at all, and another round of heavy fire cut through a second ship who turned and jumped away.

      “Good shooting...” He heard as the ships Captain came online.”We got attacked and surrounded shortly after we jumped in. This is the biggest force we’ve seen out here so far, and we sure are grateful for you showing up when you did! Big Reputation boost for you and some nice bonuses too.” He declared as Frank thanked him and pulled in along side the bigger ship.

      They both called it in and Frank got told to escort the cruiser in for repairs and so they did. The report stated that two waves of ships ran in to attack the heavy cruiser and they called for help and Command sent 6 fighters first... that didn’t last long at all... then Frank jumped in and with careful aiming and precise shooting destroyed one frigate and badly wounded another. Not to mention the fighters they killed, and his pay for this mission was really nice and he was happy he got there in time.

      When the cruiser docked his mission was over, and Frank jumped back to the site to look for salvage. He got some supplies and a few missiles, but he pulled in alongside the floating frigate and gave it a serious scan and was surprised to see most systems still online.

      The Captain had panicked when he got hit, and the second rounds passed through the shields and took out electricity on one deck and caused a main systems shutdown. The engines were fine, and most of the weapons, but the crew evacuated, probably thinking he’d finish them off, and then got picked up by Command for questioning.

      “Think we can get it running enough to take it home?” He asked as his engineers whispered among themselves and said they’d need to go see, and they went over, and after half an hour power was restored and the Command center and engines came back online.

      “Good job...start back and we’ll follow you.” he ordered and the two ships turned and started back towards the main base. The total cost of repairs was going to be substantial...but nothing compared to the cost of a newer frigate. Frank had time as they traveled to make some decisions, and so he decided to sell it as a used ship, and he’d get back nearly everything he had spent on his own and his account...and future...would look a lot brighter.

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      Chapter 14: Success or Failure?

      When they made it back Command was on the coms link instantly and he got big rep gains again. He not only disabled a newer ship...he took the time to bring it home.

      “That’s a new design, so we’ll spend some serious time researching this, thanks.” he heard and his people were pushed off and another crew took it over.

      “I capped it and I intend to sell it to recoup my losses.” Frank declared as the man on the coms looked sad his move got questioned.

      “When Research is through with it we’ll see!” He got told and the link went down and he swore. Some high ranking officer saw it coming in and took it for himself, 'Research my Ass!’ he thought. But Frank had learned a lot about taking care of yourself since he got here, and called High Command to report this at once, and the Admiral nodded while looking very serious.

      “As I’m sure you’re aware...” Frank said respectfully,” I used every credit getting my ship ready to fly. This is my chance to get back a lot of what I spent. Tell Research that I’ll sell it to them and it’ll be settled.” Frank added as the Admiral looked sad and told him that Research had no right taking anything from anyone, and after a quick call he found out they had no idea what he was talking about.

      “I’ll get back to you on this.” He said and the link went down and Frank was stuck holding the bag...so to speak.

      “Damn it!” Frank screamed and pounded the arm of his Command chair as his crew tried hard not to look his way. “I can tell by the look on the Admiral’s face...we got ripped off.” he screamed and everyone looked sad for him.

      “Dock..I’m going on board.” he ordered and they did, and he went around checking docks and finally walked in to see his ship sitting with dozens of workers swarming over it...and a Major standing there giving orders and smiling.

      “Get the ID changed immediately, and get those armor plates repaired! I want this ship out of here within the hour!” he screamed as a few workers looked shocked and the Major looked around slowly to see Frank walking in.

      Frank did a quick facial scan with his pocket computer and found that while this was a Major..he had nothing to do with Research at all.

      “Major Hardess Sir!” he said as he threw a salute and the big Cateran returned it.” Glad to see you’re working hard today and found my stolen ship.” Frank declared as the man looked obviously moved by getting seen here.

      “Your ship? By what standards? It’s my ship not yours, go check the ID scan it’ll tell you for sure.” he offered as he hoped it got changed by now.

      “I can do better than that...” Frank added saying that there were rounds inside from his 55mm cannons and that checking them will show...beyond a doubt...that he captured this ship just today, and the Major saw trouble coming.

      “I refuse such a request from a subordinate officer..get out my sight or I’ll see to it you’re drummed out of the Military all together!” he screamed, as Frank stood his ground and didn’t flinch.

      “Oh please do sir...” Frank said softly,” then I can return to being a civilian and build my own fleet and sell my services to the highest bidder for a bigger profit.” Frank added as the man looked surprised he came up with that so fast. Civilian fleets were a Reality but they were usually mercenary’s that did small jobs...or became pirates themselves. A Military Trained officer with his own Fleet for hire would be a disaster, at least on paper.

      “I’ll look into this and let you know, now be gone!” The Major said turning his back immediately and Frank saw he wasn’t gaining anything here.

      “I’ll remember this too...” Frank whispered and walked away as the Major had to consider if stealing one ship was worth the hassle. But he had lost a few this month and his Fleet was in need of help. And so the repairs and renaming of the ship went on...and as Frank stomped his way back to the docks and gave his crew a day off...Admiral Coss was watching the security feeds and saw the whole thing.

      Hardess was one of his best officers...if reports said everything...but he had a private Fleet that did his bidding, and many of his missions. He sat back and made huge profits, unless he lost a bunch of ships due to carelessness, and then his profits dropped quickly. He had been in the military for nearly 10 years now, and his way of doing things had caused a lot of hard feelings even in his superior officers, and thats why he knew, and had been told, that Major was as high as he was ever going to go.

      So he traded a possible Admiralty for a chance at a Political Career instead. All you need is backing from the right organizations...and cash, lots and lots of cash. So he had his eye on a few minor positions in government that would come open from time to time, and being in politics would give him a chance to get revenge on those that held him back before...a win/win.

      After a long time thinking about it Coss came up with a plan to both help Frank..and upset Hardess at the same time. Frank had been in the military since coming over as a Transfer and he had done well. Dozens of finished missions, good words from everyone even other Captains and station and Sector Commanders, and his willingness to go the extra mile for both his job and himself... like bringing in this new ship...which was quickly taken away. But Hardess worked hard too and lost ships patrolling the Northern Boarder this month, obviously trying to show his resolve by doing so...even if he personally wasn’t anywhere near the action. But he worked for promotions tirelessly, knowing full well he wasn’t going to get one. If he had been a better officer he’d be at least a Full Colonel by now...but that wasn’t going to happen. So instead of giving Hardess a promotion...Admiral Coss moved a few things around in Frank’s file and got some recommendations from his superiors, and within the week Frank was a Captain...Rank 2... halfway to Major himself, in less than 2 years, and everyone who saw it decided that he was on the fast path to success, and Hardess saw that he made someone else of importance angry with him, and swore as he threw his drink glass against the wall. Instead of giving him a promotion they saw his treachery and gave it to Frank instead...no greater insult could ever be given an officer...and he’d never forget it.

      Chapter 15: Moving Up

      Rumors started around about how this happened, and even now Frank heard whispers as he walked by and some were totally off the wall.

      “I heard he’s Lady Grossmen’s boy toy.” he heard once and he had to actually look up who the Hell that was. It appeared that Lady Grossmen was an Admiral, and a Cateran, and known for trying out other species on her time off. So he said nothing and decided that silence was his best option, as other rumors just as bad went around.

      “I heard he flew in here with a shot up pirate fighter and took a wreck out of the scrap yard and put it back into commission with his own hands!” Got said.

      “I hear he’s secretly some Superman from some outer world brought here to fix the problems in the Alliance.” Was another... but no matter what it was it was huge... and with his new rank a few things changed. Like at auctions and other events, high ranking officers get front row seats, and his new rank gave that to him. Other lesser officers had to salute him no matter where they met, and Frank’s arm got tired saluting half the staff in bases now, and saw why many ranking officers waved people away like they didn’t care.

      And getting all this attention gained him something else...female attention...and since he came here he had dated twice, and that was fine since his future was never guaranteed. But now it seemed it was, and he got offers from women on and off his ship and he started seeing how some officers had a list of females everywhere they went.

      He always thought they were just horn dogs with Harems, but it seemed that saying no forever just hurt feelings. And saying yes to one race meant you had preferences that way, and narrowed who asked next time.

      Of course that wasn’t always bad, no matter how nice they were reptilians just didn’t do it for Frank, cold blooded creatures were just too...well,cold...but fox females and cat females were quite sexy...and they knew it and knew how to use it to their advantage.Nice smooth toned bodies with tiny pointy ears and tails, not bad by anyone’s idea of fun on weekends, if you overlooked the pointy teeth they were just as attractive as any human female he had ever met.

      So..so far Franks list seemed to be Terestrains (foxes) or Caterans (cat) Females...and he had to hint once or twice that FEMALES was the optimum word, as a few others just smiled and walked away.

      But Admiral Coss got asked by his friends and superiors too why he chose to do this, and after showing in great detail that Frank deserved it, he secretly told them that while some older officers were in line for promotions, many were nothing but cowards, or pirates in uniform, and they didn’t please him. If he was going to let his name mean anything, it would be that an officer in his ranks needed to be brave and honest, and if they couldn’t be those two things then they didn’t need to think he’d go out of his way to help them.

      And while some agreed completely, they had to admit they had helped lesser officers up the ranks too, and they silently decided that maybe it was time to fix some of the troubles that had sprung up in the Alliance Military over the last few decades.

      And while Frank was now a senior officer to many he too knew that until he put in more time and effort this was his highest ranked ship. The Phenix was a Destroyer Class...the smallest and cheapest but still. He had 2 more sizes he could watch for both slightly larger and more heavily armed than this but Cruisers, Battle Cruisers, etc...all those truly huge things that Admirals and others fly could only be owned by high ranking officers... and if he ever wanted to own something truly impressive someday then he’d need to be a higher rank even than this.

      He had tried adding modules and armor to upgrade this frame, but the shipyard was quick to tell him this wasn’t made for it and they refused some requests because of safety reasons, so now the Phenix was as heavy as it was ever going to be, and Frank had to decide to take jobs accordingly until he either found a heavier ship later on, or moved into some other job and gave up on the military life.

      So Frank specialized in escort missions, either following and protecting convoys or escorting other military vessels on their patrols. Needless to say when an order came down for him to join a military convoy, they were expecting trouble, and often found it.

      To his credit Frank’s ship killed dozens of fighters, several corvettes and two frigate class ships, and people noticed that while others had wings of fighters at their Command...it was mostly for looks... since capital ships took out fighters pretty quickly. But Frank was on the front lines, right there saving and helping others, and over time other high ranking officers started pointing towards him when they were asked what the Hell they wanted from their officers, and some looked sad and went away unhappy thinking that they just didnt have it in them to be like that.

      Frank had not tried bringing in any ships after that time, and others noticed. Admiral Coss finally sent him a message saying that if he wanted his own Fleet he’d support him, and so Frank had to think about that for a while.

      And in the beginning of his third year in the Alliance, Frank towed in a corvette class and repairs got started on it, and he got approved for it to be his escort, and he officially had a wing of ships under his Command.

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      Chapter 16: Fleet Operations

      Frank was going to be very careful about using a corvette in his Fleet. Most corvette Captains thought they had a capital ship and acted like it, and here it sat because that wasn’t true. It was basically an Ultra Heavy Fighter, with main guns consisting of up to 20mm cannons up front, several lighter gun turrets on the back and along the sides and a missile launcher, sometimes even capable of multiple launches at once.

      If you had the right tools then any ship can be deadly, but running an Economy Corvette was a bad idea, since anything bigger than a fighter made quick work of it. This one wasn’t even the smallest but it had been flown with 9mm guns all around and generic missiles that had little in the way of firepower, or tracking abilities. Probably some young officer just starting out, too bad he didn’t take the time to research his ship first, or get a loan to equip it properly.

      Frank gathered salvage after each fight, if possible, and he had a good assortment of lighter missiles he didn’t use himself unless it was an emergency. They were pretty good fighter missiles usually, but he liked medium missiles against bigger ships. So he quickly took out the rockets and generic things the ship had in it and sold them, and added 12 light self-tracking fighter missiles, so his escort had a nice long range fire-and-forget ability, and that would help a lot more than running in with light guns and getting shot up by bigger weapons.

      After two missions together Frank left it go out by itself escorting a convoy and it went well. That meant after the Captain got more experience in the way Frank wanted it flown then he could be doing two missions at once, and his reputation would climb some more.

      He also sold two of the 9mm it had up front and added a pair of used 12mm instead and its fighter defense ability went up pretty fast after that. 12 mm had longer range, more punching power and even fired fast without overheating as much, an upgrade for sure. And Frank reminded his officer that it didn’t mean that his plans had changed, he just wanted them back alive every time, and they had a deal.

      And this deal worked out better than expected. A month later and Frank got a call when they were both in the docking area together. His corvette took a mission to attack and capture a freighter owned by smugglers, and Frank agreed he did a few of those in the past. The convoy had 3 ships but only one was targeted for capture, but they all opened fire on the small ship with machine guns and after destroying one and disabling another the target surrendered and they called for back up and the military towed the disabled ship away and told them they could have anything in the wreck, and a page from the inventory came up and Frank laughed out loud.

      “Keep as many fighter missiles as you like,sell all the rest.” he said as the Captain agreed “ Then move one 12mm from the front to the back and the other to the turret underneath and add that 20mm up front...and I’ll be taking half those medium missiles.” he ordered and it was done, and Frank made a good profit, got a load of free missiles, and his corvette was as well armed as ever...all in one messy mission.

      Frank decided to give everyone some time off after a few weeks of hard work. They went their merry ways and he went out to see about a hot meal and maybe a few drinks. He went to his favorite place near the base and sat there eating when he looked up to see two gorgeous Caterans walking up and sitting down at his table. One leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek and he looked very pleased and said welcome to one of his off duty friends.

      “ Car, its been too long...no really...it has.” he said softly and with a wink as she laughed and gave him a quick hug.

      “Frank I want you to meet Kess, Kess this is my friend Captain Frank Samson from the ship Phenix.” she said as they shook hands and Frank got a good look at her too. They were nearly twins both very attractive and Frank said so as Kess thanked him for saying it and Car just chuckled.

      “Have a drink ladies, my treat.” Frank said and they ordered one and after a while they were talking and laughing and Frank wondered why Car brought her along tonight... but he certainly wasn’t complaining.

      “I know I promised to spend the evening with you but things have changed. My Commander called minutes before I was ready to leave and told me I have duty, so I must go.” Car said as she got up.” But I leave you Kess in my place. We talked and she agrees she’s up to the challenge.” She said with a wink and Frank got up and gave her another hug as she smiled and left the room.

      “Are you sure about this, its not necessary if you don’t want to.” Frank offered as the woman smiled and asked for another drink, and Frank got her one.

      They talked and she asked him a million questions about Earth and then when he said he was going to go she offered to show him her place, and he smiled and they went there. It was a grand night and undressed she was as beautiful as before and she gave him a night to remember and he thanked Car in the back of his mind a dozen times that night.

      When he finally walked to the door she thanked him for coming, and he her for having him.

      “If you liked tonight, call anytime.” She offered and he smiled and gave her a last kiss and went back to the ship for some sleep.

      It had been wonderful and exciting, and while he and Car had seen each other a few times, he saw Kess as being high on his list from now on too. He needed to thank Car for introducing them and so he called her before he started duty, and she giggled and said she was glad he had a good time.

      “Kess is amazing, thank you for introducing us.” He offered as Car got red faced and said it was the least she could do since she was the one backing out of their date.

      “Mother needs to get out more too, so I thank you for your help as well.” She said as Frank started laughing saying she had a weird sense of humor, and she asked why. “Saying that beautiful woman is your mother, what a joke..” he said laughing as she got a good laugh to... for about a minute.

      “No really...she is.” She added while Franks mind went completely blank in this second.” She never does anything but work these days, so when this happened I ask her to fill in...and after seeing your image you agreed... to my surprise.” She said chuckling as Frank said she looked so young, and she reminded them that Caterans lived to over 150 years old and that she personally was only 20, so he was cradle robbing, and then she laughed some more.

      “My mother is 12 years older than me and hasn’t really dated much in years. I hope you two can get along as well in the future.” She added as Frank looked lost and said he was seeing her...and now her mother...wasn’t that odd? And she asked why.

      “But I’m seeing you...and now your mother...” he repeated as she looked lost.

      “I assure you my mother is in tip top shape.” She said and seemed to get upset as Frank was still looking for the right thing to say.

      “Oh that much I can certainly agree to.” he blurted out, and she got happy again and said it was all good. “You have no problems with me seeing you AND your mother both?” he asked shocked as she shrugged and said she didn’t see why not.

      “My mother is a great person and an attractive lady isnt she?” She asked and Frank agreed,” So why shouldn’t she see someone as nice as you..I told her all about you already... so she was very pleased for us.” she added and Frank decided this was one of those culture things he hadn’t learned about yet, but it seemed seeing sisters or even mothers and daughters wasn’t unusual, and his mind was still a little blank when he closed the link and got ready for work, realizing the number he’d call looking for a date...was the same for both of them.

      Chapter 17: Forgiveness or Revenge

      Things went well for weeks and Frank got some good payments from both his ship and his corvette. He assigned it to escort missions and salvaging and both worked out well. He went on military missions and did a few large convoys too and killed a lot of fighters and a corvette or two doing it.

      His account was coming up nicely probably for the first time in a while, and with the smaller ship maxed out now he had little to spend it on, which was good for a change. He was just returning from a mission when he got an emergency summons. A fleet of friendlies was under attack, and reinforcements were on the way, but the mission paid top dollar, and Frank turned to go and he saw it was the Hardess Fleet...and he thought about that for a second as his navigator looked oddly at him.

      “We have an emergency summons, fly to these coordinates..half speed.” he said as she gave him an odd look but set the jump. He also called his corvette from salvaging and they joined him and he ordered them back and told them to fire missiles from range, and the Captain agreed.

      He jumped in to see a big battle going on, ships were firing in all directions and the Hardess Fleet were surrounded and losing badly. He opened fire and one frigate class took a hard hit, all 4 rounds hit it on the side and went very nearly all the way through and it drifted to a stop. The other frigate turned away from the old fleet and fired at him and his nose took a hit and lights blinked for a second and came back on.

      “Level 2 has lost power...” he heard and he nodded he understood. His corvette jumped in and missiles went flying from both ships, and another corvette started tumbling out of control, and several fighters exploded and disappeared from scanners. The enemy fleet was now reduced to half of what it once was, and Frank pulled alongside of another enemy frigate and raked it a good solid hit with his smaller guns and it tried to turn away but his marines were on board now and they found some dead security men from the heavy gun fire that came through the hull. It helped them greatly, and as Franks ship pulled away the smaller frigate class stopped firing and jumped away and Frank cheered as the battle turned in his favor.

      Command had more ships on the way but by the time they got there the battle was all but won. A few fighters were messing with them and one corvette jumped away when reinforcements arrived. But the enemy fleet was in ruin, and the Sector Commander declared it a win in their war, and Frank asked for property from the battle and was told he could take anything he wanted, and he got a good amount of salvage, and stripped two 20mm cannons from one destroyed corvette and then went home...and Major Hardess said nothing..it was embarrassing enough to have Frank save his fleet, but he refused to say anything that gave him credit for it, but the payment was greater than expected and Frank just smiled and went to see how much his next project was going to cost him.

      The new frigate was top of the line, for the enemy, it was a medium frigate so not the economy size at all. It had only 2 main guns both 55mm, and thats what cost Frank a day of electrical repairs and hull patches. But the side guns were small and did next to nothing, and Frank added the new 20 mm guns he salvaged to it instead and the repairs got underway. This made him 3 ships and his reputation went up some more. It was technically a Fleet now but he still called it his wing. He wasn’t an ego maniac and even the Admiral smiled to see him gaining yet again.

      He had no problems hiring a crew who were willing to work cheaply, his rep said that people he liked stayed with him long term and that was a nice incentive. And so after a month of repairs the Hostage Taker pulled out of dock for it’s first mission. It had a decent crew, good front guns and enough missiles to fight off a wave of fighters, and the 20mm along the sides and the rest were 9mm for missiles defense and against fighters.

      As usual it escorted him for a few missions as he told the new Captain what he expected them to do. Some weren’t too sure about his plans but they waited and saw he was being on the cautious side, but that was fine too and his ship got into more than their fair share of fights but came home a lot more often than others had in the past, so no one fought it too hard, and soon three ships were working under the Samson Fleets flag and Frank got his investment back pretty quickly this time.

      When the corvette came in a week later and called, Frank had a problem to deal with that he never had before. They found a wealth of salvage... missiles and 2 7mm machine guns and 1 9mm cannon from a large field of debris. They asked what he wanted done with it all and he realized he needed a storage area, so he told them to wait and he got in touch with the Dock Foreman, and rented a small storage area near the docks and got the security codes for it. Then he sent those to his Fleet saying anything they didnt need could go there, and he’d decide after that what to do with everything, and the deal was done.

      So once a week he checked it and either moved some to his ships or sold it to the auction house and he had another source of income, and supplies that saved him money in the long run. A set of 9mm guns for fighter defense was worth 100k and with anything bigger the savings went up accordingly. He even mentioned to watch for bigger guns and take the time to gather them, and he hired a few more maintenence men for the corvette and they started actively taking parts off of wrecks they found. That helped a lot, and soon Frank kept nothing in his area smaller than 12mm, and his name was on every auction that they ran, and even Command says nothing bad about having an excess of good equipment, especially during a war.

      Frank got a call one day and the Sector Commander looked upset, as Frank saluted him and waited.

      “I have a purely voluntary mission if you’ll take it.” he said softly and Frank wondered why the Commander questioned why he’d accept an order.”We have received a request for assistance...from Commander Gog...it appears his pirate friends have grown tired of him and are attacking his base.” he added as Frank asked if that wasn’t a military base anyways, and was told Gog owned it free and clear, and so they technically weren’t allowed to be there assisting him without special permission.

      “He made it clear years ago that was his base and his sector, and no one has doubted it since. Now of course his little Kingdom is falling down around his ears and now he calls us for help.” he admitted as Frank saw the problem, by his own admission Gog had become something less than military and only now needed more help than he had of his own. “I asked a few with more ships to use...he admits there’s a sizable force out there attacking him, but no one seems interested in getting in his way...it appears his own reputation for not caring about others is coming back to bite him. But if the sector falls, then we’ll need to assign someone else to run it, and then have to rebuild or build a new base, and thats a terrible cost we cant afford right now.” he added as Frank saw that he was between a rock and a hard place and he thought about it.

      “I’ll assist...but no promises... if its too much, he’s on his own.” Frank said as the Admiral agreed, and Frank called his frigate in and together they jumped back to Gog’s base, to see dozens of ships, mostly fighters, attacking it and the shields were ready to fail any minute. They showered the place with missiles and Gog called thanking them for coming, and Frank sat there, as serious as ever and said it wasn’t for free, and Gog got a big grin and agreed, and the battle went on.

      Two corvettes got destroyed and many fighters. One corvette ran around behind Frank’s destroyer trying to get an open shot at his engines and power system, but the 12mm saw it coming and after a good hard burst, the little ship drifted to a stop not 100 meters behind them.

      A frigate class got ripped by 4 big shells and armor flew and open wounds were seen along the side, and as it turned to go they hit it again, and it rolled over and played dead. The battle went on for over an hour, Franks ships took some hits and got damaged but he refused to leave, and after a while the area around the base looked like a scrap yard, and finally the last of the enemy ships limped away and Frank sat back in his seat and breathed again after holding his breath for God knows how long.

      But he sent a team of marines into the corvette and in a minute got a message showing a man wearing a spacesuit throwing Frank a big thumbs up.

      “Dock at the station.” Frank ordered and the little ship moved that way as Frank called ahead and Gog looked like body fluids were running from every orifice of his body. “The battle is over and you live for another day.” he said seriously as Gog nodded silently and thanked him for coming.

      “I’ll be sending my ships to dock now..repairs are free...right?” he asked sliding forward towards the screen and Gog choked and agreed and Frank had each ship dock and get checked over, and his marines flew the corvette back to the main base as Frank watched over the repairs of his frigate.

      “You’ve come a long way...” he heard as his coms buzzed and Gog was looking a lot better now.

      “Remember this day...” Frank said sourly, “out of the entire military I was the only one that came... remember it well.” he added and closed the link and Gog looked sad that his life had left him this way but he would remember, and if he was ever needed...within reason of course...he’d be there, but only for him.

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      Chapter 18: Reputation gained...and Lost

      Frank’s Fleet came drifting into dock at the main base and instead of cheers from every vessel nearby they got a few, but others ignored them completely. Frank knew Gog had few friends but even this was more than he expected, and he got called into the Admiral’s office and he sat there while a video ran from Gog’s base and the gun footage from both of his ships, all patched together.

      “Don’t let the silence around here bother you, you did the right thing. Gog is a fool and thinks he’s above the law. He’s stepped on a lot of toes in his time, and that lead to you being the only officer willing to help him. I wasn’t sure you would, or if you would be enough to save him, but he is technically an officer in the Navy so we had to try at least, or face scrutiny from the Core Sectors later.” he explained as Frank said good ships and training got them through, and Coss agreed with a big smile.

      “This footage is being sent to the Capital and even now they are watching it. The Supreme Commander has said it was a miracle you survived, and there’s talk of a medal, or maybe something else for you for this fight. It’ll be called the Battle of Altair Sector,since naming a private base would belittle the achievement, so they say.” he hinted and winked as Frank looked away. “The footage might even be shown at the Academy for graduating Seniors I hear. Your name is out there now, floating around the best rooms and offices in the Alliance, and don’t think you wont hear about this later either.” he added and sat back down as Frank looked too surprised to speak.

      “You were warned...dismissed.” he said as Frank jumped to his feet and saluted and walked out as Admiral Coss smiled wide and turned on the viewer and asked the Commander if that was sufficient, and the Supreme Commander smiled very wide indeed saying this was the exact way a real officer should act, and changes were made at the Academy to make officers a little better than before, and the video was leaked to the media, and everyone who knew Frank was shocked and thrilled, and Car and Kess called immediately and had to hear the whole story first hand, and they planned a heros welcome for him on his next weekend, and Frank got a huge laugh about that and went back to work.

      Another month and another corvette. His Commander mentioned that now he technically had a corvette wing and a capital ship wing, with 2 on each, and Frank said he didn’t care about technicalities, just so long as they did their jobs and no one got killed. Of course no military ship can claim that, but he hoped, and Coss sat back and watched as many around the Fleet watched Frank closely, and tried to see if his luck would rub off on them.

      For years many blew chunks out of ships and left them floating into deep space, now a few more got dragged in and repaired and a new ship here and there went into service because of it. The Fleet was holding its own against the enemy and Coss got told he was doing a good job out there by his boss as well from the Military Chiefs at the Capital, and he admitted he wasn’t doing anything special, but just watching over his men and guiding them when necessary.

      But there was a ceremony a week later on the news, and Coss got another star for his actions, and Frank felt pretty good that things were getting better all around, and a few looked at him like he was crazy for not seeing that his actions helped others around him, and when it got mentioned he waved it away and just kept on going.

      Finally the weekend came and with it the great dinner Car and Kess promised him. The taxi stopped by their home and he got out as Car rushed to get him and walk him in. They stopped by the front door and she gave him a nice kiss and said ‘everyone’s waiting’ and he asked who she meant by that, and got dragged in to see nearly a dozen people sitting around a larger table that was covered in food and drinks.

      “Here he is ladies and gentlemen the hero of the Battle of Altair, Frank Samson, as promised.” Car exclaimed, and Frank got caught off guard as people cheered and Kess saw right away this wasn’t the dinner he was planning on.

      “Now, now... let the man sit down and eat, thats why he’s here after all.” Kess added quickly and Car saw that maybe making such a big fuss she’d gone a little too far, as her mom nodded and she sat Frank at the head of the table and everyone got food to eat and drinks and even then people had to ask a hundred questions and Frank smiled his best smile and answered them until they started around a second time, and Kess saw the drinks setting in.

      “I think thats enough questions for tonight.” She added, as Frank smiled and his eyes said thank you for him.” Frank has been working hard every day to protect us all, so lets finish our dinner and let him rest for a while.” She added and several people agreed and desert came out and everyone eat and slowly they worked their way to the door and got handshakes and hugs from friends until they were finally left alone.

      “We’re sorry Frank, when I planned the dinner it was just going to be us but friends heard about us seeing each other, and one thing led to another.” Car mentioned as Frank finally sat back in a large stuffed chair and sighed. Thanking them for a very fine dinner.

      “It’s OK to tell your friends about us, I do too, but big things like this need a little warning.” Frank admitted, as she looked a little worried he might be mad. “But it was fun so no harm done I guess.” He added and she looked a little better.

      “Next time we plan better and tell you all about it in advance.” Kess added and Frank agreed that would be better. “Are you....too upset with us to stay for a while?” She hinted as Frank got a huge grin.

      “I’m, very seldom ever that upset.” he admitted and their real night finally got started. And what a night it was, Car took him to the master bedroom, her moms room really, they had drinks ready and ice and soft music playing and they slid in bed together for a while until Car decided she was feeling much better now, and she took a break and put on her long robe and left, and Frank laid back and smiled to himself thinking he was a blessed man, and the door opened and Kess came in, and dropped her robe on the floor and slid in bed too and Frank whispered ‘oh my God’ and the night continued.

      Some time later as daybreak came in the windows Frank opened his eyes to see two beautiful naked women in bed with him, one on either side, and he smiled and wondered when this happened. But he didn’t say a word and just laid back and dozed off again. Until he heard Kess calling him, and he looked around as she mentioned that ‘lunch is ready’ and he realized he slept all morning and it was now noon. He got up and got dressed, slowly and a bit painfully, and went out to eat and they both gushed about him making them both so happy, and Kess said they had been researching Earth and decided that if it was necessary to keep him... they’d both marry him...to honor his customs... and Frank laughed and said that on his world old fashioned ideas like that were slowly dieing out and that he’d stay with them as long as they wanted and then would go when they told him to, and everyone agreed, and by Cateran Law they became his property and his wives ...by mutual consent...and Frank saw getting married here could easily happen with a slip of the tongue, if he hadn’t been warned ahead of time.

      Chapter 19: Culture Shock

      Frank found out later that it wasn’t really being married, more like ownership. He mentioned to a few females that he had someone now, a pair actually, and by mutual consent they would stay together for a long time...he hoped. He was quickly told that that was fine, but in the open galaxy there is no real marriage, only consent, and he could see or keep as many females as he could handle...or support...depending on the civilization they came from.

      Catarans were very open minded and took mates from any other civilization they liked. But some others only mated within their own kind and demanded it...loudly. Luckily for people like Frank those were usually reptilians who prided themselves on purity of the culture.

      Now the Telestrians were also pretty open about mating, but in their culture a man supports his women financially forever after they decide to mate and stay together. They also believed in large families, and so supporting as many as 5 children for life was no joke to them.

      When it came to children Caterans were more modest. They enjoyed the dating process more than having children. But its not impossible, and when researching it Frank found evidence of other Transfers having children with a few other species, including Caterans.

      Cateran females got very protective of their children and often stayed home to raise them, but not always. In the case of Frank and his new wives it was possible that one would continue to work feeling it was her duty, while the other helped raise any children as well as looking to Frank for support, which he had figured out already.

      So if they were truly mated now then he wanted to understand all this, and spent a day researching it all before going back out on patrol. He was sure he could handle it....if they didn’t mug him like this past weekend too often... but then he was a very happy man, and so he went on about doing his Duty as well, and even Command found out soon enough that their favorite Transfer had found Love.

      That made even High Command smile. Often men with no ties got restless and went out exploring or became thrill seekers and pirates. But Frank was a very settled person from the start, and now he settled down even more. Stability is a very serious thing in a Career Military man, and they saw he already knew that and made the adjustment.

      That added a new line to his portfolio, and as a mated male his chances of advancement went up even more, and the next milestone in his career would allow him access to things not seen before. New larger ships, Command of stations if he chose, negotiator with other worlds and civilizations, and many others. A Class 3 Captain was one step below a Major, and the first step into Galactic Diplomacy. More classes, more lessons and more responsibility...all waiting now just a few more missions...or months away.

      Frank ended his third year in the military with a fleet of 4 ships, one destroyer, one frigate and two corvettes that traveled now as a pair. They were his back side, doing a few escort missions and salvaging everything they could find. He now had a supply room filled with equipment and sold some every week on auction. His monthly income was well over 100k from his base salary and auction income easily, and bonuses started piling up in his account.

      He was seen as what a young officer could become, and a few right out of the Academy called and asked for work within his fleet, and he hired a few this way and his Personal Fleet started taking serious shape, as people higher up watched him looking for signs of excessive Ego or cruelty...and saw none.

      6 months into that year a major battle took place along the Northern Boarder. A dozen ships ran in to assist, and many fighters ran out from hangers on cruisers and battleships. The enemy was serious this time, and attacked a station they felt was too close to their lines. It took serious damage and Frank and his people got there about midway through the battle and scrap and dead ships were floating everywhere and he moved in to protect the flag ship of the fleet, a massive Battleship firing 100mm rounds every few seconds and Frank stopped heavy missiles from getting to it and its shields started back up a little.

      “Glad to see you’re here Samson...” he heard and it was Coss himself Commanding that ship.” Things are getting out of control up here now. The Republic has never thrown so many ships into a fight with us before...something’s different this time.” he went on as Frank just nodded and listened.

      “We’ve decided to send negotiators to end this...and when we did they sent them back in pieces...” he admitted and Frank saw how serious it was really getting. “this might really become a full on War instead of just some skirmishes like in the past. Be careful and get ready, that’s all the info I can give you right now.” he offered as the link went down and Frank saw that things might get even worse.

      The republic forces fell back after a few hours to lick their wounds and Franks team salvaged everything they could carry and then he had his marine team board a drifting destroyer left behind and after some quick repairs it slowly followed them back to base.

      It had been a while since he did this, but Coss’s warnings were not to be ignored. This was a medium destroyer...technically bigger than his ship... with heavier armor and a few more weapon mounts.Its was also 20 meters longer and newer, and Frank decided that when he got it ready then this would be his new Base Ship and the work got started.

      It had 4 major guns up front, but it had another heavy turret behind as well. It held 2 55mm cannons, up front had 2 75mm and 2 55mm, so its firepower was greater by a good amount. It used the standard medium mounts along the sides and on each turret, and some of those were empty or the little guns were destroyed, but he could fix that, and after a month working on it full time The Slayer backed out of dock with Frank in command. His old ship was now commanded by a Captain Harding, a man who had been with him almost since the beginning, and he knew he would be there when needed and he’d be careful not to lose it without just cause.

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      Chapter 20: Open War

      In the year of 3244 of the Empirical Standard Calender... War was officially declared between the Alliance and the Republic. After multiple tries at negotiations it became clear that they weren’t willing to stop, and the Alliance Military went to the Commander in Chief and asked for a Declaration... and after he felt they had tried everything else...he gave it.

      There was no turning back now, every ship,station, and sector went on high alert, and every enemy ship of any design was fired on instantly. The Republic moved a massive Carrier Task Force to within 1/2 lightyear of the Northern Boarder and started daily raids against ships and stations. They had demanded every station within 2 lightyears of the boarder be closed, and when they didn’t get it they moved in to attack.

      Now there were daily patrols to stop them and protect Alliance stations and ships. The mining in that area came to nearly a standstill as ships either got destroyed, or after seeing that happened a few times, refused to mine without escorts. Materials from the boarder started dropping, and factories that needed them had to look elsewhere.

      Officers like Frank had missions everyday, and he ordered his ships to be careful, but losses were going to happen in such a tense environment. After three months of war, Frank had lost a corvette, and many other Captains reported the same results. Everyone was losing something, and the High Command made sure that military supplies were available, sometimes even for free. Without missiles and repairs their fleets wouldn’t last and so they stepped in to help those without the means to keep going, and a few private fleets got some supplies and with them orders to patrol the Front as often as possible.

      Frank patrolled alone most times, or with a few smaller crafts that volunteered to escort him, but had his smaller ships patrol together, with orders to listen for his call. His destroyer could hold its own against some decent sized ships, but if they thought they caught him alone the enemy might jump in something nasty...and he felt for sure that day was coming.

      His totals for destroyed fighters was impressive, and one corvette patrol didn’t jump away in time and they too were left floating. But so far he hadn’t seen anything too big to handle, but others in the same area had.

      So it came as no surprise one day as he drifted along his patrol route slowly, to hear a broken message, someone screaming...and they got the lock and jumped. The station was under heavy attack by hordes of fighters and bombers. Its shields were failing and they were screaming for help. Frank jumped in and saw the carnage and screamed for reinforcements, just as the enemy saw him...and the battle got started.

      Two dozen fighters ran to attack and a few bombers held back and fired heavy missiles. Frank ordered a few light guns to missile defense, and then started firing into the crowd with everything he had. Missiles ran out and in and many fighters went up in the puff of flame that only lasts a second in space, but people died, and ships drifted into deep space silently, and Frank’s shields dropped a lot faster than he hoped.

      He stood his ground for half an hour but was forced to withdraw. The station was screaming for him to return and he said he would, but he needed shields and time for his smaller guns to cool...and so he jumped out a short distance and waited just as his Team got there to help.

      “Where’s the enemy?” Harding asked as Frank looked pretty tired already and he had them form up with him, and they jumped back in...to the surprise of the enemy forces...that were now cut in two.

      “Lots of toys, help yourselves.” Frank called as guns came back on and everyone ran into weapons range. The station manager was frantic but he thanked them for trying even as his shields failed and some damage started getting taken. They managed to get the ships attention again, and they left the station to meet these new ships and after a few minutes Harding asked ‘where the Hell are they all coming from?’ and Frank told him not to jinx them they were barely gaining now.

      Just then Frank got a message saying that the Heavy Cruiser, Halfway was inbound, ETA 5 minutes and Frank saw light at the end of a very dark tunnel. But he wasn’t the only one who heard it...and a minute later a Light Carrier task force jumped in to claim the station... and Frank and every man there wore in unison to see it. It wasn’t the main force but more than big enough, and Frank ordered all missiles fired, and one frigate went up in smoke and fire and rolled over and died, and a corvette got ripped in half by heavy weapons fire too.

      Frank ordered the engines targeted saying that now that the carrier was here dont let it escape, and his frigate jumped away and he hoped they were alright. But a minute later and it reappeared, now running full out towards the rear of the enemy forces. It opened up with its main guns and missiles and the carrier lost an engine, and then a turret, but fighters streamed off and the smaller ship was forced to withdraw.

      Frank moved a bit closer and with a little time for a lock-on in subsystem mode he fired a wave of medium missiles too, and the bigger ship took the hit pretty well he thought, but it stopped dead where it was, and he hoped that was enough.

      The Halfway got there a second later and attacked the escorts and Frank joined in and another frigate jumped in laughing that they finally got into a good battle...and was dead a minute later.

      “Stupid kids...” Harding said sourly, and mentioned that that was a new vessel...with a crew of cadets right out of the Academy, and Frank almost cried that they all died so soon, but his scans showed escape pods, and he moved in to gather as many as he could while the Halfway carried on with the attack.

      “How many did you get?” He heard as the Halfway’s Captain called to ask.

      “ Only Six...” Frank answered sadly, and they both looked bad.” Lets not let these *******s get away...not after this!” he yelled as the other man agreed, and Frank rejoined the fight and more ships jumped in to help, and an hour later the Sector Commander himself was sitting there in his ship, scanning the area for survivors and counting the total number of ships they lost here.

      The Halfway was a blessing just when it was needed, it held back many of their medium ships while Frank and his Team took out as many as possible. The total read like a shipyard inventory list. Dozens of fighters, at least a dozen bombers gone, two enemy frigates, one cruiser, three corvettes, and there in the distance a small Patrol Carrier sat, still waiting to be destroyed, since its guns were all down and all its fighters had long ago been used. Its engines never did come back online, and Admiral Coss took control of it, pending watching the videos of the battle, and ship after ship turned and went home as the station Manager praised them for their sacrifice and offered bonuses for every ship that survived.

      Chapter 21: Repair and Rebuild

      Frank didn’t do too badly, he lost his frigate and all his ships took hits and needed repairs, but most survived. He got on the list for free repairs at the main shipyard and his ships waited their turns, and finally they all got patched up, and Frank got offered a new frigate to replace the one he lost...at half price of course... and he took the deal and after talking to all the people he gathered out of escape pods, he put together another crew and put them on board, as he moved guns from storage to get it set up, if even a little too lightly. But it had a more experienced Captain on board and he had orders to keep them safe for as long as possible.

      Frank added 24 light missiles from his warehouse and the ship was ready for a first run.

      They did a shake down cruise between stations, and Frank gave them a job escorting a convoy...away from the front lines for now. It was a new ship and new crew and everyone who saw it knew he was training them slowly, so they didn’t make the same mistakes that poor ship full of cadets had made. Some of them were on this crew even now, and they admitted they owed their lives to Frank and his Team and not a one refused working for him when he asked, and so now they had to learn to do things his way, and maybe that lesson was just as important as scooping up pods.

      While this was going on the small carrier sat...Admiral Coss demanded it belonged to whoever did the most damage, since the private sector pilots disabled it before anyone else got there. But other officers, like Colonel Hardess, demanded that during war the military needed every ship...and Coss reminded him that he wasn’t even there... so don’t even consider it, to the chuckles of officers listening, and Hardess sat back fuming.

      “According to the videos from all the ships present at the time, two of Captain Samson’s ships disabled it, and the Halfway only kept it’s escorts busy during the mission, destroying a frigate and damaging another. The Naval Frigate that jumped in was destroyed almost immediately, and Captain Samson stopped his attack on the carrier to gather escape pods, saving 6 young officers in the process. But there’s no doubt without his attack and the loss of one of his ships doing it, we wouldn’t have this sitting here today.” he added as many officers there agreed, and Hardess jumped up slamming his computer to the table hard enough it bounced to the floor and screamed that Coss had already made his mind up, and that this meeting was a sham, and stomped out grumbling to himself the entire way.

      “He’s upset he isnt getting it...” Someone said out loud, as Coss agreed saying he never even tried to act like a proper officer anymore, and that was troubling in itself.

      “Then lets have a proper vote, either the Captain of the Halfway gets it or Captain Samson, now vote...” he said and it didn’t take more than a minute for them all to get tallied.

      “Thank you all for participating, this meeting is adjourned.” He said as many chuckled on their way out saying Hardess was going to go crazy over this, and Admiral Coss agreed, silently, but the facts were the facts, and if he’d even made it to the battle he might have a reason to scream, but he didn’t, and he had plenty of time to get there.

      Hardess had a fleet of 10 ships and none were smaller than a corvette. Samson has 4 now, after losing a corvette and having to buy a new frigate to replace one he lost. He did everything out of his own pocket, and didn’t complain, Hardess was on the coms weekly demanding more help to keep his ships going. They were like polar opposites, and everyone knew it.

      So this vote was necessary so that no one could say things were being hidden from view. A Patrol class carrier was worth ten million easily, its small compared to a Front Line carrier. It carries up to 15 fighters while a major carrier can carry 50 or more. Its defenses are light and its smaller and faster, made from a cruiser frame. But it’s worth fighting over and so now the decision was made and Frank got the call and he asked a few times if this was OK and Coss laughed saying it was unanimous, and the local Commanders all agreed he deserved it, and it moved to the shipyard waiting on a crew, and Frank put a crew on his destroyer first and he moved Command to the bigger ship.

      Frank was back studying again, an endless job he saw right away. He got all the info on the little ship and its specs and then on carriers in general and saw they were very specialized. They had large hanger bays and large maintenence crews because of it, and he wondered why no one used this to their advantage, and made sure he had mechanics and electricians enough for major repairs quickly and waited to check on fighters because he just didn’t have a few million to throw into them right now. But he did have an idea, and he took the ship out for a ride to see how it felt and to get the new crew used to it, and his frigate got ordered to follow as an escort, and they flew around getting used to everything, and when they came to a group of wrecked ships Frank ordered them closer and sent a crew across to see what could be salvaged.

      He saw right away salvaging bigger things needed special tools and he made a note of it. But small weapons didn’t need much and supplies got gathered from the wrecks and Franks supply room got a boost again, and he saw that if you’re careful, parts and supplies were everywhere.

      He sold a few things to help regain some cash he spent and bought more tools. Then back out the next day and they came in with a pair of 55mm cannons this time and more small supplies.Those went on his new frigate and it started looking a lot better and they took a convoy escort job, and got into a miner skirmish with some fighters, and when 4 got destroyed the fifth one surrendered, and Frank ordered him on board and he got his first fighter.

      Coss was watching from the base and saw a lot of supplies they all needed coming in. Frank thought outside the box compared to many others. He took a large ship made to haul and launch fighters and used it as a salvager, but still kept it ready for a fight. Sure it needed a lot more, his fighter guns were barely minimal but then its a large ship to try and equip all at once but he was gaining steadily. Now every turret had something and lighter guns dont kill small ships as fast, and he was sure Frank knew that and gained one fighter because of it. He planned well, and through him they all gained something wither some would believe it or not.

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