Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 14

BY THE HOLY ONES, CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S A TRAP? RUN!

Amidien looked up from the floor. He looked around him. He sat in the captain’s chair on a raised circle that placed him above his crew. Around him was a domed view screen that gave him a three hundred and sixty degree view outside the ship. Nearby and unseen was a second Terallian ship, and the Paskian and Avinion ships. The Eslin system sun was behind him, taking up the entire view and brilliantly lighting the bridge.

Ahead a Merchant Raitor freighter ship was slowing down in the midst of five shattered ships. Despite his willful wishing, the captain of the ship didn’t see the trap and didn’t turn back. The captain was probably following protocol and doing his civic duty by responding to a distress beacon signal. In five minutes, his ship would be issuing its own distress signal to lure another Merchant Raitor ship.

“Proceed,” Amidien quietly ordered.

As it came around the sun, the Avinion ship uncloaked and opened fire on the Merchant Raitor vessel. Amidien’s eyes drifted from the view screen.

“The Jeas is hailing us,” his COM officer told him.

Amidien looked up. His eyes widened slightly. The Avinion ship was taking heavy damage, far more than it was dealing to the Merchant Raitor ship.

That’s it. Fight back! Kill them if you have to, but win. Win!’ Amidien stood. “Open a channel to the Jeas.”

“Sir, our core is destabilizing,” the Jeas captain told him. He sounded frightened, and well he should be. “They made a direct hit to the shield generator. We only have minutes. What are your orders, sir?”

Amidien didn’t respond to the captain’s fear. Instead he ordered, “Captain Carej, ready the Paskian war craft for attack. If the Jeas is destroyed, you are to proceed with the mission orders.”

“Aye, sir,” Carej replied.

“Sir!” the Jeas captain cried.

“You have your orders. Die knowing you served the empire and Emperor Lixu well.”

“Hail the emperor,” the frightened Terallian said.

The transmission ended seconds before the Jeas exploded. The Paskian vessel emerged from behind the Merchant Raitor ship and opened fire. An explosion blasted from the area of the Merchant Raitor ship’s engine. Amidien looked away.

You fought bravely, captain… Whoever you were. Holy Ones, ferry the souls of the crew safely to the realm of their gods.’

“The ship will be destroyed in five minutes,” a crewman informed him.

“Tell Captain Carej to be sure he gets the captain, First Executive Officer, and the ship’s roster.”

“Aye, sir.”

Amidien didn’t look up when the exploding Merchant Raitor ship lit the screens before him.

“Captain Carej asks if you’ll be coming aboard,” his communications officer told him.

“For?” Amidien looked at the officer.

He looked up at Amidien, his face disbelief. “To observe the torture.”

“He can direct it.” Amidien looked ahead.

“He’s asking to speak with you in private.”

Amidien tapped a button and around his chair an opaque, soundproof shield formed. He tapped another control and Captain Carej appeared on a holographic view screen in front of Amidien.

“Yes?” Amidien asked.

“This is the fifth ship I’ve attacked and you’ve never once witnessed me carrying through my orders.”

“I trust you are doing as commanded. Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”

“Didn’t the orders state you were to witness these?”

“No.”

Captain Carej paused. He opened and closed his mouth a few times. He finally snapped his jaw shut, making a smacking sound.

“Permission to return to duties, sir.”

“Granted.”

Amidien disconnected the communication before Captain Carej could attempt another remark, or before his sorrow for the dying showed. In the privacy of the dome, he brought up the ship’s roster and carefully read each name.

“I knew none of you,” Amidien whispered to it.

He cleared the screen and disengaged the privacy shield. It was a good day when he didn’t recognize any names.


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