Ballistic Logistics Saga - Part VIII

August 2941
Freelancer - 'Course Correction'
Min System

The battle raged in the distance as Matthias, Gedion, and Saskia exited the jump point from Cathcart into Min. The Ballistic Logistics fleet from Spider had only been a few minutes in front of the Course Correction, so the battle had just begun. The BL fleet, comprised of several Constellations, a dozen or so Avengers, and a few Hornets, were tangled in combat with the mysterious alien forces, whose ships numbered about the same.

"Pull us off to the side over there, we'll hide in those asteroids," Matthias pointed to and ordered Saskia.

"But sir, shouldn't we go help?" Saskia asked, confused by the order.

"Something's up, we gotta keep a level head ok?" Matthias replied in a soothing voice, trying to calm his nervous officer. Saskia complied with the order and oriented the Freelancer towards the asteroid field.

"Cut the engines as soon as we have enough thrust to make it into the field. I want minimum power except for long range sensors." Matthias instructed.

A few minutes later we had coasted into the asteroid field, unnoticed by the combatants engaged in their struggle. Saskia spun the Course Correction around behind a large asteroid and strafed upwards, peering just above the top of the asteroid so that we could keep a visual on the battle.

"Now, let's see what our sensors can tell us about these aliens," Matthias said, mostly to himself, leaning into his screens and waiting for data to return from the Course Corrections ample sensor array. Gedion's curiosity was getting the better of him; he had crept into the cockpit and was standing right behind and between Saskia and Matthias.

"Hmmm, Gedion, come here and tell me what you make of... this," Matthias turned around to ask Gedion, being caught by surprise that Gedion was already standing right there. Gedion leaned in past Matthias and took a long look at the sensor information on the monitor.

"Well, they definitely look alien, but they aren't like anything I've ever seen." Gedion said, slowly and thoughtfully examining the data. "They all look like the same type of ships that jumped me and Saskia when we were here, same angular shapes, same hawk-like nose..."

"Power system analysis coming back," Saskia interrupted. "Whoever they are, they aren't THAT alien."

"What do you mean?" Matthias inquired.

"I mean..." The sudden blaring of an alarm cut Saskia's explanation short.

"We've got incoming!" Matthias announced, shutting off the alarm and flipping a few switches to power up the weapons.

The three of them scanned the horizon, looking to see where their attacker was coming from. To their 1 o'clock, they saw it. An alien ship was bugging out, making a run for the safety of the asteroid field. A Ballistic Logistics Avenger was hot on its tail, trying to finish it off.

"Sir, shall I move us to a more defensive position?" Saskia asked.

"No, he's running for it, I don't think he's seen us yet. Let's wait and see what happens," Matthias instructed.

The alien ship was badly damaged and the BL Avenger was gaining on him. Weaving left and right, the alien ship attempted to dodge the incoming fire from the Avenger, with some success. Apparently tired of the chase, the BL Avenger launched a guided missile. A few moments later, it slammed into the right wing of the alien ship, exploding and destroying it. The Avenger, satisfied with the kill, turned to rejoin his comrades in battle.

The debris from the alien ship, however, maintained its vector towards the asteroid field, and the Course Correction.

"Let's get a thorough scan of that debris," Matthias ordered.

"Already on it," Saskia replied, tapping commands into the sensor array. "It'll pass us in thirty seconds."

"You got a tractor beam on this thing?" Gedion broke in. Saskia turned and looked at him, then at Matthias.

"Do it," Matthias ordered.

Saskia began to angle the Course Correction towards the incoming debris and aimed the gimbaled tractor beam towards the largest chunk of the alien ship.

"I'll be able to hook it, but you'll have to go out and get it," She said over her should be Gedion. He nodded in response and ran towards the lockers near the airlock to grab an EVA suit. This was his second ‘mission' with Ballistic Logistics, and both times he had ended up space walking. "I'll never work for these people again," he said jokingly aloud to himself as he pulled the EVA helmet over his head.

"What was that?" Matthias asked him over the commlink.

"Nothing, just a comm check," Gedion replied, realizing he had accidentally had the comm button pressed against the locker he was leaning against, giving him an open comm.

"Opening the hatch in fifteen seconds, grab it and get back in, quick," Matthias ordered.

"Right," Gedion replied.

The rear cargo bay of the Freelancer pealed away and opened up the empty cargo bay to the vacuum of space. Gedion worked his thrusters and powered out into space, around the back of the ship, and out towards the chunk of the alien vessel, still held in Saskia's tractor beam. Within a few moments he had reached it.

Gedion slapped a magnetic clamp to a flat surface and hooked himself to the clamp.

"I'm towing it in now," He informed them. Saskia released the tractor beam. With a few blasts of thrust, Gedion pulled the chunk of wreckage around the Freelancer, cleared the corner, and flew safely into the center of the cargo bay.

"Reinitialize the grav system," Gedion said over the comm.

"Reinitializing, and closing the hatch," Saskia replied. The chunk of debris thudded to the floor of the cargo bay as artificial gravity was restored. Gedion's feet caught him and he firmly planted. ‘Maybe I'm getting the hang of this EVA thing' he thought to himself.

No sooner than he had his EVA helmet off, Matthias and Saskia were in the cargo bay standing next to him.

"It's pretty charred," Gedion commented, noting the black, smoky, blast damaged condition of it. Saskia went into a tool cabinet and grabbed a rag and a can of degreaser. Spraying a copious amount on the largest flat metal surface of the chunk, she began to wipe away the soot.

As she wiped, a dull grey metal began to show through.

"Wait, this is just sheet metal, it's just tin!" Gedion remarked, examining the metal closely. "It's just tacked on to something. Grab me a cutting torch," he ordered.

Saskia jogged back over to the tool locker and brought Gedion a small cutting torch.

"See, it's just tack welded on, here, here, and here. Why would they do that?" Gedion said, mostly to himself.

"Only one way to find out," Matthias replied.

Gedion sparked up the cutting torch and a hot, blue flame leapt from its nozzle. Tracing the edges of the tin panel, he burned the welded areas off, one after another. When he burned off the fifth weld, gravity did the rest and pulled the panel of tin off. It hit the cargo bay floor with a dull thud.

"Son of a..." Matthias said, wiping away the soot and char from a chunk of the hull underneath. The wiping of his hand back and forth produced a smooth, grey piece of spacecraft with lettering... D... R.... A... and half a K were visible.

"Back to Spider, now! It's a setup!" Matthias frantically ordered, turning and running for the cockpit. Saskia followed right behind him. Gedion glanced one last time at the chunk of wreckage. It was just a ship, a regular Drake ship, probably a Cutlass. Why had they disguised it to look like an alien ship? Why had they attacked him and Saskia on their mission, and why were they fighting with Ballistic Logistics now? As the thoughts raced through his mind, The Course Correction's engines roared to life and powered the ship out of the asteroid field, knocking Gedion off his feet. He picked himself up and returned to the cockpit determined to get answers.

"Ok, what the hell. Why are these guys pretending to be aliens? Why did they attack me and Saskia on our mission? What the hell is going on here?"

"We'll be at the jump point to Cathcart in two minutes," Saskia informed Matthias.

Gedion waited impatiently for a response, but none came. He wanted to argue but he knew he had to strap himself in before they hit the jump point, so he went to his seat behind the cockpit area and buckled in.

The ship shuttered and shook as it traversed the jump point. As soon as it was safe to unbuckle, Gedion ripped the straps off of him and went back to the cockpit. What he saw froze him dead in his tracks. A large pirate fleet was headed for Spider, while only a few Ballistic Logistic fighters toiled with them in vain.

"It was a rouse... They were trying to lure you out..." Gedion said, still frozen where he stood.

Matthias turned and pointed his laser pistol at Gedion. With a gleam of hatred in his eyes he snarled through his clenched teeth "and you helped them..."