The Oncoming Storm

The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall Page B

Book: The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christopher Nuttall
posing as a freighter.”
    “Aye, aye, Captain,” Weiberg said. “Reducing speed . . . now.”
    “Establish a tight-beam link with the convoy master,” Kat ordered. “Inform him of our situation and order him to keep his ships in formation. I don’t want anyone to come looking for us.”
    “Aye, Captain,” Ross said.
    “And order him not to reply,” Kat added quickly. “We don’t want the pirates to hear it.”
    “They might pick up our signal,” the XO warned softly. No one else could hear him. “This is hyperspace.”
    Kat nodded. Hyperspace did weird things to radio signals, no matter how carefully they were transmitted. It was quite possible that a tight beam signal would be scattered, allowing the enemy to pick up on it despite being on the other side of the transmitter. If that happened . . . the pirate ship would probably open fire, intent on punishing the freighter that had dared defy orders. Kat would have no choice but to kill the attackers as quickly as possible.
    Seconds ticked away. It rapidly became clear that the pirates hadn’t picked up the signal.
    “Picking up another signal,” Ross said. She sounded rather surprised. “They’re ordering us to hold position and be ready to greet them. All weapons are to be stowed in lockers; any onboard security systems are to be disabled.”
    The XO snorted. “Who do they think we are?”
    Kat had to smile. It was common for passenger liners and select shipping freighters to have onboard security systems, but rare for standard freighters to have anything beyond a safe and security locks on the computers. The pirates might have assumed the worst, though; it was a logical precaution. And the order to stow all weapons suggested they didn’t intend to take additional risks.
    Or perhaps it will give them an excuse to break their agreement, she thought, grimly. But they don’t really need the excuse.
    “They’re entering approach vector now,” Roach reported. “I don’t think they’re interested in maintaining plausible deniability any longer.”
    “Good,” Kat said. Her lips curved into a tight smile. The game was about to come to an end. “Neither am I.”
    Pirate crews had never impressed her with their intelligence, but it was unlikely they would get much closer without taking a hard look at her hull. Roach’s passive sensors were already filling in details, suggesting that the pirate ship was an old frigate, probably one dating all the way back to the Breakaway Wars. A number of such ships had gone missing after the wars had come to an end, although no one was quite sure how many. The UN had kept extensive records—every little thing had to be detailed, according to the bureaucrats who actually ran the government—but the records had been destroyed on Earth. Speculation over just how many ships remained in existence had been a common topic of conversation at Piker’s Peak.
    “I have hard locks on their drive section,” Roach reported. He sounded pleased with himself. The locks had been established without needing to run an active sensor sweep. “I can pop a hammerhead missile into their ass, no problem.”
    “Excellent,” Kat said. In normal space, she would have used energy weapons, but they were dangerously unpredictable in hyperspace. There was a reason most people preferred to avoid fighting battles outside real space. “Prepare to fire on my command.”
    She braced herself. One of the other reasons why fighting in hyperspace was so dangerous was that explosions tended to attract energy storms. They could score a damaging hit on their target, allowing them to board the hulk, yet an energy storm could blow up around them and destroy the crippled vessel before it could be claimed. Even a hammerhead missile, a warhead designed to inflict limited damage, ran the risk of drawing a storm to them. But there was no real choice. The only other option was blowing the pirate ship into dust.
    There was a ping from Roach’s console.

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