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The drones swarmed in and out, closing the gap with the huge League transport. When they reached her, they fired multiple rounds into her engine bay then swooped away, dodging her cannons. Energy bolts sprayed through space, racing back and forth between the smaller drones and the Mammoth.

The entire scene played out in 3D on the bridge screen, with Roddy and the Captain watching.

“Looks just like Christmas, don’t it Cap?”

Raleigh nodded, his eyes on the display. Dark green bolts shot out from the ship’s aft cannons, littering the black night with emerald streaks. The drones fired back with red bolts, leaving patterns of orange circles as they slammed into the ship’s force field. Slowly the transport’s shields weakened.

“There.”

Raleigh pointed at the first explosion visible on the ship, as one of the cannons flared out in a fireball.

Just as quickly, two smaller explosions occurred in the night sky, the drones overwhelmed by multiple blasts of green cannon fire.

“How we doing, Lootie?”

“I remain confident in our chances of success, Captain.” 

In the current conflict, the Republic offered privateering papers to any warship in Lute willing to attack League ships. Privateering papers meant that PLAIR recognized the ship as its agent. Likewise, StarCen would respect a ship from Lute with proper authorization, under the rules of warfare. Of course that meant StarCen could fight back, or even attack the privateer under the same rules.

In this instance, LuteNet hailed StarCen and informed her Ultima Mule was sanctioned as a privateer by PLAIR. PLAIR chimed in and confirmed LuteNet’s assertion. StarCen indicated she would defend the transport ship, but that should LuteNet’s vessel overpower hers, its owners were entitled to all the rights of victory and vice-versa. All of this communication occurred in the background, unbeknownst to humans on either ship. The entire exchange took place inside a nanosecond, their digital thoughts crisscrossing the galaxy instantly across the quantum-computing matrix.

Right now, StarCen desperately wished to defend the transport.

Three more drones blew up, their fireballs flashing silently on the holoscreen.

Raleigh said, “Come on!”

Each drone destroyed meant a loss on profit.

But the tide seemed to be turning. Five more cannons blew, and the shields on the mammoth ship blinked as the drones swarmed closer, guns blazing.

LuteNet coordinated 50 of the drones into formation and they all fired at the same spot. The shields failed and every red bolt from the drones slammed home. Bits and pieces of the ship sailed off into the dark with each hit. The giant cones at the rear of the transport grew dark, the thrusters suddenly dimmed.

“Got her!”

Roddy held up a hand and the Captain gave him high five.

LuteNet said, “Captain, all standard engines are now disabled. The Aquamarine is stranded. Nonetheless, StarCen indicates the captain remains unwilling to negotiate terms of surrender.”

Raleigh sighed. He said, “It figures. Those League guys are full of themselves. They probably don’t think we have the manpower to take them.”

He thought about a few more seconds, but his mind was already made.

He said, “Alright, send in the Intangibles.”

-+-

Whereas the Captain of the Ultima Mule stood three inches taller than her pilot, the First Officer stood three inches taller than the Captain.

Elijah Maxwell traced his ancestry to Ethiopia. A giant six foot six, or 198 centimeters, Maxwell stood taller than most people.

He nodded at the comments he heard through the neural net from Raleigh, and turned to look at the group of five men and one woman staring at him expectantly. Everybody wore identical white t-shirts, grey pants, and brown boots. They were all armed with pistols at their hips and blaster rifles strapped over their shoulders. Several also carried duffel bags, some empty, some full with additional weapons and grenades.

“Cap’n says they’re crippled but unwilling to surrender. It’s up to us to make them see reason. Their teleportation shields are still up, so we’ll go over the long way.”

Everybody smiled back, grimly. Maxwell nodded at the man and woman in front. Both were young and attractive, with matching pale white hair and facial features. They were twins, brother and sister.

Maxwell said, “The Intangibles will take the lead when we get there.”

The two smiled even wider, showing their teeth. They blinked in and out of existence, flickering once. This would have freaked the others out, if they were not used to it. But the Intangibles were accepted as part of the crew, despite their peculiarities.

Maxwell nodded, satisfied. He palmed the door panel and it swished open. Mule’s personnel transport waited, parked on the ship’s flight deck, entry ramp down and ready to go.

Maxwell climbed the ramp and sat down in the pilot’s seat while everyone else strapped into chairs behind him. The ramp pulled up and the door closed.

Maxwell said, “Take us over there, Lootie. You’re sure their cannons are disabled?”

LuteNet’s voice seemed to come from thin air. She said, “That is correct, Mr. Maxwell. You will not have difficulty in transit, however you may expect armed resistance upon arrival.”

“That’s what we’re here for, boys and girls,” Maxwell said, flashing a smile over his shoulder at the rest of the team.

The door closed and the transport floated up, then shot out the bay entrance into space. The craft turned and headed toward the other ship.

The transport’s thrusters quickly closed the gap between the two vessels. Everyone watched the holoscreen, making the front of the cabin appear transparent and open to the stars. As they neared the crippled ship, it’s size quickly filled the view.

One of the men said, “Wow. That thing’s big.”

Maxwell grinned and said, “Jeter, you are a profound observer and master of understatements.”

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