Frame

“This is the Sachaan communicating on an encrypted tight beam. Come in, HSS Larem Ka. This is
the Sachaan on the last leg of the patrol, about to enter Sector 12. Everything remains quiet. Not a
bandit to be found.”

Commander Isaac Paktu gave a nod to his Comms officer and his earpiece gave a brief crackle as
the connection was made. “Sachaan, this is Larem Actual. Acknowledging update. Keep your eyes open,
Jonas…this is where a lot of the civilian losses have occurred. “

“Acknowledged. I’m just a plump complacent rare ore carrier waddling all alone through the
densest part of the planetary formation halo…like an idiot. Isaac, just promise me this isn’t some
strange plan of yours to edge me out of Frigates.”

The Commander laughed quietly, “I promise, Captain. Though I have to say, you might want to
consider mustering out and taking up Far Trading; you seem to have the makings of a fine Hiigaran
merchant.”

“…Hiigarans.” The answer came with a resigned sigh.

“And who are irresistible propaganda targets all the way out here?”

Another sigh. “We are.

“Exactly…now get back on watch!”

“Acknowledged. Though I want it entered into the mission log that smug does not look good on
Commander Paktu.

Isaac laughed again. “Acknowledged. Larem Out.” After watching the surrounding debris field on
his screen, he called out, “Nav, keep us as tight as you can with this pack of asteroids. With a li’l luck the
raiders will think our jammers are just part of the clutter. No one should be able to far-scan anything in
this mess.”

“Confirmed, Commander. Using our docking pressor beam to nudge a few more rocks along our
path.”

Over the next hour, the Hiigaran destroyer and her crew drifted along, shadowing the freighter
at maximum sensor range. Isaac was starting to think that this patrol had been for naught when The
Sachaan’s Captain shouted in his earpiece.

“I’ll be damned! You were right to be smug after all, Isaac. A concerned citizen on tightband just
informed me to cut engines and prepare to be boarded or be destroyed. Everyone ready to move?”

The Commander’s reply was quiet and calm. “This is Larem Actual… stick to the plan, Sachaan.
Ignore them and go to maximum thrust.”

“Confirm that, Larem Ka… full thrust… now!” Various alarms sounded on both ships. “Aaaaaand
I guess they want to be sure I am taking them seriously. I have two missiles incoming hot. Targeting my
engines.”

Isaac looked across his bridge. “Intel?”

The Larem Ka’s Intel officer looked up from her displays. “Confirmed, Sir! Launched from
somewhere close to the planetesimal’s surface. I can’t pick up the launching ship against the surface
clutter.”

The Commander raised an eyebrow, “That’s a bit vague, Intel.”

“…Given the missiles and their velocity, I would guess fired from a P’koor Class frigate hovering
no higher than 60 m’s over the surface of that rock.”

“Better,” he smiled and switched back to ship-to-ship. “OK Captain, just like we practiced. Make
them mad on my mark. 3…2…1…MARK!”

“Confirmed, Larem Ka, cargo bins jettisoned!”

On the main screen, the outline of the Hiigaran Freighter suddenly slimmed down as half a
dozen cubes tumbled back behind the freighter and into the direct path of the two pirate missiles. After
a moment, the display flared bright and the missile tracks disappeared along with three of the cargo
bins.

“That did it, Larem Ka! We are being locked by at least a half dozen ships. I sure hope this goes
easier than when we shut down that Belter cult out in the Wastes.”

“You’ll be fine, Jonas. Everybody gets cut out of their cockpit once or twice in a career!”

“Commander, I’ve got visual confirmation,” Intel’s voice was raised with concern. “Phran class
fighters and two…repeat two P’koor Missile frigates accelerating across the surface. We’ll never get a
solid target lock if they stay at that altitude!”

“Keep calm everyone. This is what we ran sims for. We have them right where we want them.
Comms, give me an open channel.” He paused until the click and echoing resonance in his ear confirmed
his order. “Attention Waverider Flight! This is Larem Actual. ENGAGE!”

A new, jaunty voice from over the comm waves, “Confirmed, Larem Ka, Waverider Prime to
Flight! Full thrust now! Weapons to overcharge! Sarah! Abe! With Me! The rest of you, get those raider
fighters out of my way! Let’s show the Commander all that training was worth the fuel!”

From the dark side of the planetesimal, multiple fusion-drive torches blinked into existence as 6
Ravaan fighters rocketed across the rocky surface and into the battle. The first two raider fighters
disintegrated under a hail of projectiles before their pilots could even ask how anyone could be hitting
THEM from below. A third panicked and tried to turn but plowed into a rocky spire, scattering wreckage
in a sooty strip three kloms long across the bright dusty surface. To their credit, the two missile frigates
managed to turn and bring their weapons to bear on the three approaching fighters, but the missiles
impacted uselessly on the surface as the Hiigarans dove into a canyon and broke the line of sight.

The fighter-on-fighter dog fight had already spread to the surrounding asteroids. The raiders
were skilled, but the loss of their usual advantage left them in disarray. They simply had no idea how to
fight an enemy that was taking advantage of terrain. The first two were sucked into a t’aat weave with
the Ravaans and paid the price. After that, the third panicked and tried to break away but as soon as it
cleared the asteroids, it was hit by a long-range missile volley from the Larem Ka and became stardust.

Meanwhile, the two P’koor frigates were adapting poorly themselves. The Hiigaran fighters used
the congested space to their advantage, breaking missile locks against the terrain and going where the
clumsier frigates could not follow. The first finally blew up under repeated strafing runs by Waverider
Prime. The second frigate climbed high from the planetesimal on crippled engines that were hit again
and again by the pursuing fighters.

When the raider’s guns went silent, Commander Paktu tightbeamed the Sachaan. “Would you
like the honors, Captain?”

The reply was immediate. “I take back everything I said about smug, Isaac. You are a kind and
generous commanding officer.” And a moment later, on the open channel. “Attention, raider frigate! This
is The Hiigaran Starship Sachaan. You are ordered to shut down your engines, such as they are, and
prepare to be boarded!”

It was hours later when the HSS Larem Ka finally climbed out of the planetary debris ring and
headed for deep space with its prisoners onboard. A very tired Isaac Paktu lay on his bunk and stared out
of the tiny window in his quarters and wondered what kind of world would be here in a billion years. And
what kind of life would evolve to rule it. The hatch chime interrupted his reveries.

“Enter.”

His Intel officers ducked her way into the stateroom. “Sealed orders just came in, Sir. Thought
you would want to see them ASAP.”

He looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “Have you read them already?”

With a slight smile she closed the hatch behind her. “Of course… It’s a call back to Hiigara.
Seems like they are short an Intel officer.”

Isaac was genuinely surprised. “Wait! Really? I need you here. We’re in the middle of this
WaveRider initiative!”

“Not me, Sir. You.” She looked down at the readout again and grinned. “Sure hope you
remember how to do my job.”