Chapter Five – Flight For Help
“No wonder no one has heard from the mine in weeks, sir,” said the sergeant, as he and the commander searched the ruins. Shansur’s recent field promotion to commander still made him a little uncomfortable. Being called ‘sir’ by his old friend Jansha took some getting used to. They had been through a lot together during their time in the service of the emperor. They had saved each other’s skin more than once. In a tight spot, you rely on the man next to you to act instinctively to protect his fellow soldier. Shansur and Jansha in the past four years became closer than brothers.
“Sir, over here—two survivors,” the third member of the team, a young trooper, said, waving his disrupter rifle.
“Hmm, they’re Nephile. Must have been prisoners here,” Shansur replied. “Are they dead, sergeant?” he asked, prodding the smaller Nephile with his fusion pistol.
“They’re breathing, sir,” Jansha replied, examining the suits for prison identity marks.
“Sir, they should have tattoos on their necks,” the young trooper pointed out.
“He’s right! They all have bar code identification, sir,” Jansha agreed.
“Trooper, go back to the ship and bring me the bar code reader—quickly now, on the double!” Shansur barked.
While the young trooper ran back to the ship, the two friends sat on a rock a little distance away from the two unconscious Nephile. “That should take him at least two hours,” Jansha laughed, “These damned suits were never designed for ease of movement.” Because of the design of the Drana helmets, Jansha could not easily see the grin on Shansur’s face from where he sat.
“Remember when we were his age?” Shansur smiled, turning to face Jansha.
“Seems a long time ago now,” Jansha replied, shifting his disrupter rifle on his lap. The two Nephile began to stir as consciousness returned. “Get to your feet Nephile scum!” he ordered.
“What happened here?” asked Shansur.
“A terrible explosion down in the mine, commander, that’s what happened!” Seti spat the words out.
“Insolent dog,” Jansha yelled, hitting Seti between the shoulder blades with the butt of his disrupter rifle.
“Easy sergeant, remember our orders. We have to take anyone found alive back for interrogation.” Shansur continued his investigation. “What are your names; don’t worry, my sergeant won’t hit you again,” he assured them.
“My name is Seti, sir, and he is Apis.” Seti replied, still wincing from the blow.
“Where did you get the suits from?” Jansha growled.
“Fortunately for us we were cleaning the guard’s barracks when the explosion destroyed the mine, sir,” Apis said. “Everybody else was on duty in the mine. The fireball from the explosion incinerated everything in its path as it climbed to the surface. We put these suits on and ran for the stairwell.”
“That’s right. The next thing we knew we’re waking up here sir,” Seti chipped in.
The young trooper was just leaving the ship when Shansur and Jansha returned with Seti and Apis. “Put these two in the brig. Whatever you do, don’t let them out of your sight trooper,” Jansha ordered.
Shansur climbed into the pilot’s seat and prepared for take-off. Jansha slipped himself into the co-pilot’s seat as the ship lifted off. A course was laid in for Nazuur. Once the ship left the planet’s atmosphere Shansur switched the autopilot on. At sub-light speed the ship would be in orbit around the planet in fourteen days from now. Plenty of time to question their guests some more.
While the young trooper’s back was turned, Seti began working on the door mechanism while Apis kept watch. Reaching inside his suit to his shirt pocket, Seti pulled out a micro-cutter. He knew it would come in handy someday when he had picked it up in the hanger days earlier. He soon had the panel off and went to work inside the mechanism. Apis felt the door to the brig move with the faintest of clicks, as Seti released the electronic bolt. Apis quickly overpowered the young trooper. When the unfortunate young man regained consciousness in a few hours’ time being locked inside the brig would be nothing compared to being punished for his inattention.
With Seti training the trooper’s disrupter rifle on the commander, Apis seized the sergeant by the scruff of his neck and hauled him backwards over the seat, dropping him down the steps to the bay below.
“Stay at the controls if you please, commander,” Seti insisted, pressing the disrupter’s muzzle into the back of Shansur’s neck to emphasize the point. Apis locked Jansha in the brig and returned to the flight deck. Having relieved Shansur of his fusion pistol, he took over while Seti checked the course and destination, just as Khan had instructed back in the hub.
Nazuur was a ‘Star Class’ strike base at the edge of the empire. Seti scrolled through the information on the screen in front of him. The movement schedule soon caught his eye. The list included ship arrivals and departures. And yes, there was one hyper-drive ship in orbital dock! She was in for an overhaul of her collision avoidance systems, not due to be put back into service for at least two weeks! Apis pushed Shansur into the brig along with the others and welded the door shut. There was nothing to do now until they arrived at the orbital station.
The arrival of another ‘Denash’ class cargo-ship went unnoticed. Its ferry shuttle joined dozens of others as they moved from one part of the station to another. No one took the least bit of notice when it docked with the ‘Minaas’ class hyper-drive ship. However, when the ship left dock without clearance, all hell broke loose!
Following Manouf’s precise instructions to the letter, Apis fed the coordinates for Opaal in the Suron system and hit the execute button. Before the Drana garrison realized what was happening, the ship leapt into hyperspace and disappeared beyond sensor range. At hyper-speed, they would be within communication range in less than three days. Even if the Drana found their drive trail, the course Manouf had plotted would keep the pursuit ships busy for a month or more as they travelled back and forth trying to follow the myriad of way points.
From the reports sent by my cousins, the cautious welcome from Chief Minister Degan over the com-link, once they were in range of Opaal, did not come as too much of a surprise. Lemas had filled them in on the background of the Suraa. They were distant cousins of Lemas’ own race, the Andrasians. There was not much to tell except that the Suraa were loyal to the Alliance, tending to stay out of others’ affairs. The one thing Lemas emphasized was, “don’t ever take them for fools. While they’re not an aggressive people, backed into a corner they’ll fight like demons by whatever means necessary.”
When Degan heard of the Drana intrusion into Alliance space, he was livid. Jalnuur, while uninhabitable, was still well within the Suron system, therefore undisputed territory. He listened as Seti told him about the illegal Negan mine and to what use the Drana put the final product. Now they had his complete attention! Degan invited them to stay with him while he contacted the Alliance and the rest of the Suron system Chief Ministers. This time the empire had gone too far!
Next time – Chapter Six