Writer’s Note: Brothers In Arms: Part Three was published originally in Jump Point 3.7. Read Part One here and Part Two here.
Rhedd Alert got hit two more times over the next several escort missions between Min and Nexus. The first was an overzealous solo pirate who had camped himself just outside the jump gate from Min. The memory of the Hornet attack was still fresh and had Gavin and the team on edge.
The hapless pirate attacked as soon as the first Rhedd Alert ship entered Nexus. There wasn’t a thruster on the market that could turn him fast enough once the gate spat out six angry Rhedd Alert fighters and their transport.
They recovered the unconscious pirate in hopes of a bounty. There wasn’t much left of his ship to salvage.
The next incident occurred inside the Tyrol system near the rendezvous at Haven. As they neared Tyrol V, the trio of ramshackle Hornets struck again. Walt was the first to see them coming.
“Gav, we’ve got incoming from behind the planet.”
Gavin’s team was a cluster of green icons on his HUD. Snuggled protectively within their perimeter was UEE Cassiopeia carrying a fresh batch of researchers. He zoomed the display out and saw a trio of red marks hurtling around the planet toward their position.
“Is that . . .?”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“How the hell did they find us?”
Gavin silenced his team with a curt word and considered a headlong race to Tyrol V. Haven was a reasonably large settlement for an otherwise underdeveloped system. Tyrol V didn’t have any planetary defenses, though. The entire system was subject to the inevitable and imminent nova caused by its binary stars. Haven warranted both UEE and private investment in support of the unique research possibilities provided by the impending disaster. However, since the entire system was ultimately waiting to evaporate, there wasn’t much sense in dumping money into defense systems.
Gavin started crossing options off their list. Tyrol offered them no protection. If they fled the system, they could lead the Hornets on a merry chase, but prolonging the risk to Cassiopeia and its staff seemed a poor gamble.
On the other hand, their first head-to-head confrontation hadn’t gone so well. After seeing the marauders’ teamwork in Nexus, Gavin was reluctant to take another tilt at them. Plus, he could already imagine Walt’s reaction to willfully engaging them head on.
Perhaps something a bit more diplomatic than fight or flight would yield better results.
Gavin tripped his comm link to broadcast on all local frequencies. “Hornet privateers above Tyrol V, this is Rhedd Alert One with a team of fighters and UEE transport vessel. We are moving little of value other than civilian lives. Please reconsider your approach.”
“Huh,” Walt made what sounded like an appreciative sniff into his mic, “you think that’ll work?”
“Can’t hurt to try.”
Moments passed with no response and no change to the marauders’ course. “Well maybe something more ominous will get their attention.” Gavin triggered the open broadcast again. “Hornet brigands above Tyrol V, this is Rhedd Alert One with a team of fighters and UEE transport vessel. We have little of value other than our ammunition, which we will happily deliver directly to your ships if you do not reconsider your approach.”
“Well that’s definitely not going to work.” Walt said. Gavin saw his brother’s weapon systems go live.
Gavin left Boomer and Mei to guard Cassiopeia and Rhedd Alert engaged four-on-three with neither side holding the advantage of surprise. This time, Walt and Jazza were both on the front line. The ensuing dogfight was far less one-sided than their first encounter with the Hornets.
Rhedd Alert gave a good accounting of themselves. Contrary to their ramshackle appearance, the marauders’ ships were surprisingly quick, their weapon systems in good repair. Despite the ferocity of the fight, Rhedd Alert kept the marauders’ away from Cassiopeia. Walt seemed content to drive them off. Jazza gave chase.
“Let ’em go, Jazz,” Walt said.
“Like hell,” she said. “I’m gonna swat me a Hornet.”
“No, you’re not,” Walt snapped the order. “They’re going to turn around just long enough to pound you into a fine red mist, and we’re going to have to sweep up whatever parts are left.”
“Guys,” Gavin said, “cool it. Rendezvous at the transport.”
Jazza broke off pursuit and moved to rally with Boomer and Cassiopeia. “I just don’t like him giving me orders.”
“Hmmm,” Walt’s temper was clearly under some strain, “let’s see. I’m part owner of the company. You might wanna start associating my voice with imperative statements.”
“Knock it off, both of you. Jazz, fall in. The Navy is paying us to escort staff, not fight a turf war with a hungry pack.”
“You should have figured that out in Nexus,” Walt said. “You made it a grudge match when we turned to fight.”
“Enough! If either of you have anything else to say, it can wait until we’re back on Vista Landing. Got it?”
Both squads limped away with damaged fighters. Rahul took a hit to his legs and would need to visit the med techs at Haven before leaving the system. The job and the injured were Gavin’s first priorities, but Walt’s deteriorating attitude had to be addressed. Before starting Rhedd Alert, they had always been opportunistic aggressors. This job was all about holding ground, and Walt’s reluctance was becoming a real problem.