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Flint Strikes First

Long John Silver strode out his cabin, nodded to the helmsman, and stood by the railing to the bridge watching the busy crew. He hitched up his belt and sighed. “It’s good to be back in space again, Morphy.” Morph bobbled and tweeted in agreement. “Here’s hoping that despite Henry’s misgivings we have ourselves a trouble free voyage.”

Morph made a series of squeaks and formed a big question mark, causing Orfeo to chuckle. “Little one says don’t count on it.”

“I’ve been wondering, Mister Orfeo, how you understand his language so well.” Silver looked over at his helmsman raising his eyebrow while he fed Morph a treat.

“Well, Captain, I….” Mister Orfeo was unable to finish as a claxon began blaring and all the officer’s computers lit up near their faces. The image flashing was of an approaching ship and the words flashing on and off left no doubt. ‘ATTACK ALERT!’ Below it Henry’s glum assessment scrolled. ‘Three mast ship with signals indicating AMWs is approaching on intercept course. It answers to no hailing. Military wing is now in command.’

Sergeant Culbertson had received the same alert. He threw aside the sail he’d been mending and punched in his command sequence. Immediately all ship systems slaved to him. Silver and Mister Arrow could only sit back and watch until either the threat had been dealt with or the sergeant relinquished command.

The idea of this galled Silver even though he saw the necessity for it. He gripped the rail and said. “Morph, I hope the good Sergeant is as good as Jeborah says he is. This is his war now.”

Sarah Hawkins who was in the rigging helping bring in one of the sails heard the claxon at the same time her computer display image in front of her face filled with the order. “BATTLE STATIONS.” Her display also showed a light blinking ahead of them with pulsating red circles and as she looked out over the bow off in the distance she saw a light flashing and she realized it was another ship and it was firing on them.

Since she hadn’t been assigned a battle station she decided to stay where she was rather than cause problems for someone who didn’t need them. The light grew in size but she couldn’t make out what it was and then it exploded. A seething, rolling mass of energy leapt out to embrace the ship. As the fireball swept in it was deflected around them by the ship’s energy field which began glowing and shaking. The whole ship shuddered and she found she was glad she’d wrapped her arms around the ropes as she snapped back and forth like the end of a whip. “That has to be one of those antimatter weapons.” She gasped. Whoever they were they wanted them dead.

Sergeant Culbertson knew immediately what was going on. The other ship had fired an AMW at them and it had self-detonated a ways from them, probably due to a faulty containment field. “Well, you only get one chance sometimes.” He growled to himself. He barked out. “AMW squad, target the bow of that ship. Fire a round for intercept on my command.”

Two lizard-like aliens were at the railing with what looked like a long tube on the kneeling one’s shoulder. The other saluted, bent and opened a silver box. He took a silver rocket out of it and rose with it cradled carefully in his hands. He pushed a button on the rocket and read a display that popped up. “Charge is armed.” He said to his buddy who nodded. He swung open a door on the top side of the tube and laid the rocket in it very carefully. He closed the door and after reading the display turned and saluted. “AMW armed and tracking.” He looked at the display, looked up, and grinned savagely. “Target spot acquired. We’re ready to fire on your command, Sergeant.”

Culbertson peered through a pair of binoculars that were entirely electronic. He could see activity on the other ship which looked to be a three master. A silver flash appeared on his screen. That meant they were arming another AMW. “You’re about to find out, you bunch of mangy murders, what it means to fight a professional.” Another flash on his screen told him the other ship’s AMW had gone live. “Fire!” He shouted.

There was a loud CHUFF as the AMW loaded rocket burst out, sending a signal ahead of it which opened a hole in the energy screen for it. It streaked away with its AM drive causing it to look like a small supernova. In the rigging Sarah Hawkins watched spellbound as the light sped away and dwindled in the distance.

As the AMW neared the attacker it ignored the ship’s energy screen signature. It had other fish to fry. Its drive cut off and now it drifted waiting for its target. There was an electronic burst that meant the other ship was preparing to fire its tube again and the AMW came to life again and its drive kicked in. Its computer had calculated to the nanosecond when the other’s shield would drop and as the ship fired its AMW tube its emerging rocket was met head on by the interceptor.

To Sarah Hawkins it was like experiencing a supernova up close. The flash was so bright that no one could look at it unprotected. When her eyes stopped weeping, she looked at her screen. The screen was showing. STAND DOWN.

The enemy had just been consumed in a gigantic fireball from the AMW interceptor, its own AMW rocket, the normal matter of its ship and crew and all of the other AMWs on board.

Sergeant Culbertson looked at his displays. Henry had written a terse summary. ‘Enemy ship destroyed. No other threats. Command returned to Captain Silver.’ The screens went blank. He turned and saluted the bridge. “The enemy has been destroyed. You have command again, Captain.” Behind him the two lizard-like aliens gave each other high fives.

Silver saluted back. “Thank you, Sergeant.” He looked back towards where the other ship had been. “Well.” He said softly to himself. “I think we’re even for what you did to the Inn, Flint.”

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