The Oncoming Storm

The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall

Book: The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Nuttall
defense datanet online, ready to go active on your command.”
    Kat smiled. They’d run exercises nearly every day since they’d left Tyre. They damn well should be at battle stations by now. She thought, briefly, of Davidson and his marines, taking up position to aid with damage control if necessary, then pushed the thought to the back of her mind. There were more important issues to handle.
    “Pass the word to the convoy master,” she said. She wished, suddenly, she knew the man better. But she’d resisted meeting with him after the endless barrage of complaints. “Inform him that we have company and that the convoy is to remain in formation. They are not to scatter.”
    The XO nodded without argument. Kat hadn’t expected one. A single pirate ship could be handled easily—Roach could blow their unwelcome companion out of space now, if she hadn’t wanted to take the pirate ship intact—but scattering would expose the convoy to any other pirate ships in the area. She looked down at the live feed from the sensors, trying to determine if there were any other vessels nearby, then scowled in irritation. It was impossible to be sure.
    But at least there isn’t anyone close enough to be noticed, she thought, relieved. We won’t have to worry about multiple enemies.
    Kat settled back in her command chair and watched as the pirate ship slowly closed in on the rear of the convoy. The ship’s crew seemed to be playing it carefully; unless she was much mistaken, she was sure they could have caught up with her by now. But they had plenty of time to close in on their target, all the while bracing themselves to run or crash back to real space if Lightning put in an appearance. Kat allowed herself a cold smile. She wanted the pirate ship intact, she wanted prisoners to interrogate . . . but she wouldn’t shed any tears if the vessel was accidentally blown apart or destroyed by a hyperspace storm. Pirate crews had gone far outside any standards of morality. They deserved nothing less than death.
    An alarm buzzed. “They just swept us,” Roach said. “I think our ECM fooled them.”
    “Prepare to fire,” Kat ordered, sharply. If the pirates had realized what Lightning actually was, they’d have started to run. She’d only have a few minutes to kill them before hyperspace hid them from her sensors once again. “Lock weapons on target, but do not go active. I say again, do not go active.”
    “Aye, aye, Captain,” Roach said. He would have kept a firm lock on the pirate ship as soon as they’d detected her, but the order had to be repeated. “Weapons locked; I say again, weapons locked.”
    Kat felt her heart thumping within her chest as the pirate ship seemed to hesitate, then glided closer. The pirates had been fooled! ECM was always tricky, even in real space. The slightest mistake could render one of the most expensive systems in the Navy worse than useless. But it had definitely worked. The pirates still thought they were crawling towards a harmless freighter.
    She thought, fast. Civilian sensors were rarely military-grade. What would be a reasonable time for the freighter they were pretending to be to detect the pirates? The pirates knew that anyone who detected them would alert their escort, which meant . . . the pirates would probably issue their demands as soon as they believed they’d been detected. Ideally, they’d want to do it before their target could scream for help.
    “Go active when they reach here,” she ordered, tapping a point on the display. By then, a basic civilian-grade kit should have located the pirate ship. “Sweep them, but make it look sloppy.”
    Roach turned to grin. “Aye, aye, Captain.”
    Kat looked up and saw the XO’s face. He looked as pleased with the situation as Kat felt—more so, in fact. Kat recalled his file and understood. Tyre had never been attacked by pirates—even during the worst days of the Breakdown, the system had been heavily defended against rogue

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