Border Worlds

Border Worlds

Book one of the United Star Systems series

J. Malcolm Patrick

© 2017

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J. MALCOLM PATRICK.COM

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Contents

Chapter 1 – Starship Down

Chapter 2 – Patrick Rayne

Chapter 3 - Inquisition

Chapter 4 – Your Mission Aaron

Chapter 5 – The Un-dynamic Duo

Chapter 6 – Honor Above Loyalty

Chapter 7 - Santiago

Chapter 8 – Journey to Rigel

Chapter 9 – Fight Lee Fight

Chapter 10 – Brutus Bannon

Chapter 11 – Phoenix

Chapter 12 – Spy Games

Chapter 13 – Honor Guide Us

Chapter 14 – No Shenanigans!

Chapter 15 – Shenanigans!

Chapter 16 – Article 39

Chapter 17 – Mission given, Mission accomplished

Chapter 18 – Separatists

Chapter 19 – Fates of Many

Chapter 20 – You Were Deceived

Chapter 21 – Opposing Force

Chapter 22 – Proud Mother

Chapter 23 – Fight—And Run

Chapter 24 – Surrender

Chapter 25 – Fortune Favors the Bold

Chapter 26 – 70 Years of Peace

Chapter 27 – Excalibur

Chapter 28 – Define Irony

Chapter 29 – You’re Not Dead Yet

Chapter 30 – This Madness Ends

Chapter 31 – No One Lives Forever

Chapter 1 – Starship Down

Orion System

United Star Systems Fleet Ship: Trident

Year: 2475

Three hours had dragged by since the distress call.

The first hour filled Commander Aaron Rayne with hope. Trident was less than three light-years away—this time they would arrive in time to make a difference. The second hour, he paced the length of Trident’s bridge as she burned through the void at maximum warp speed. Maybe the faster he paced, the faster the ship would arrive—it was wishful thinking.

The final hour, a sense of hollowness rose inside him each time he replayed the end of the distress call from the freighter . . . “If anyone is out there—help us!”

If he felt this helpless, he couldn’t quite imagine the despair tormenting the crew and passengers aboard the freighter. By now, the raider had jammed the freighter’s comms, and its captain had no way of knowing help was on the way.

Minutes ago, Trident transitioned from warp and entered Orion, receiving sensor telemetry from the powerful sensor relay throughout the system. The freighter was on scan at the far side of the system. Sensors showed it was intact but adrift. There was no sign of the raider. Under maximum sub-light burn, it would take another two hours to reach and assist the crippled vessel.

Aaron slipped away from the bridge into his ready room, needing a brief respite to change his soaked uniform. He pulled the grey long sleeve tunic over his head and sighed. Since receiving the distress call, the conclusions of a United Fleet review into Trident’s last encounter distracted him. Although a success, some in the chain of command questioned his tactics . . . reckless, total disregard for basic regulations, the belief he is always right and doing the right thing in his view, justifies his actions. One day, he will get himself and his crew killed.

Reckless, how was he reckless? Before he could reflect further on the absurd and typical armchair general remarks, the deck lurched beneath his feet. He reached out to steady himself. The pulsing red hue of the alert light gave his pale skin an odd glow.

The ship was under attack.

He flipped on a fresh tunic and bolted for the exit. The hatch almost didn’t part. His heavy boot heels pounded the deck as he stormed onto the bridge. He’d been gone less than three minutes. Trident had detected no other contacts in system. Who could be attacking?

His XO and senior operations officer Lieutenant Commander Avery ‘Vee’ Alvarez looked up and moved towards him. They stepped down the slope along the deck towards the tactical station. Alvarez reported as he fell into step.

“Two contacts, Commander, bearing zero-three-zero mark zero-six-one. Still piecing it together now. They appeared from nowhere. There’s no stealth system in existence that could let them creep up on us like that!”

Alvarez was sturdy and lean. His dark parted hair greyed slightly at the edges. He was a pillar of strength. His features mirrored that of a protective older brother. Aaron absorbed the information displayed across the tactical station. The hostile interlopers were above and ahead relative to Trident. “Yet they crept up on us—like that,” he said.

The deck lurched again. Senior tactical officer Lieutenant Malcolm Lee called out. “Sir! That ship doesn’t match any known configuration. Definitely familiar technologically in its design and power emissions, but nothing even remotely similar in the database. Seven hundred thousand kilometers and closing—and his lasers have quite the sting, Commander!”

Aaron had moved from the tactical station, took the command chair, and adjusted display panels on either side of the seat, which would give him basic information from Trident’s sensors. The attacking vessels were smaller than Trident, but with a much larger power curve, and they were certainly punching above their weight.

Another piercing sound emitted from the bridge speakers, a new alarm.

“Polarization on the outer armor is buckling,” Lee reported. “They’ll start burning into our forward section any moment.”

Time to punch back.

“Helm,” Aaron said. “Come about one-eighty relative to target and ahead flank speed. Get us some distance. We’ve felt their sting. Let’s see what they’ve got for speed.”

“Aye, sir. Coming about one-eighty relative—flank speed,” Ensign Yuri ‘Flaps’ Miroslav said. He looked almost too young to be at the helm of a starship. His eyes were youthful and curious. He had a boyish grin on his face at the strangest times.

Raiders in advanced starships? Aaron couldn’t make sense of it, but it was sure to puzzle the men and women at Fleet Intelligence. He had to get away from these attackers and aid the freighter. Lengthy delays might mean higher casualties if the raider damaged its life support systems. Families crewed and resided on many freighters. It was their home. Much like the Trident was his.

He shook thoughts of the future away. Focus Aaron. This is a—can’t-lose—scenario.

“Lieutenant Lee, deploy starboard and port railgun batteries, keep forward and rear tucked away for now.” He studied the approach of these brazen bandits—the general brute force of their attack was not standard starship combat tactics. But Trident had breathing room for now as they accelerated away. The hostiles would have to come about before engaging a full pursuit.

Alvarez took his station beside him.

Aaron looked over at him. “Vee, clearly they’re relying on the assumption their ship is superior and we’re a mere fly to be swatted with disdain,” he said.

Alvarez cupped his chin. He was an indispensable Executive Officer and a true friend. “I see no fault in your conclusion, Aaron. They simply pounced like a wild animal from the brush. There’s not a trace of tactics or strategy in their approach. But it’s having quite the effect.”

Aaron grunted. “For now . . . those laser strikes were never going to penetrate reinforced armor from the distance they struck. Something isn’t all right with this scenario in more ways than one.”

“That much is certain,” the XO said. “Either they’re reckless or they’re untrained in the intricacies of starship combat. But what if we’re wrong somehow?”

“I’ve been wrong before. Better to choose a strong course of action and stick to it and adapt, than allow indecision to drain the intensity from your actions.”

“Sounds like an all-or-nothing approach, Commander,” Alvarez said. “Some would call it reckless.”

“And some might call it brilliant,” Aaron said, refusing to acknowledge the obvious hint. The XO was notorious for cracking a joke with a straight face, and at the most odd times.

“What would you call it, Commander?” Alvarez asked.

Aaron flashed a wide grin. “Effective.” He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Our priority is the freighter. Either we force the hostiles to disengage or we destroy them. There’s no other outcome. I won’t let them get this one. Not this time.”

Lee interrupted them. “Both targets have come about now and are increasing speed, Commander. Distance eight hundred thousand kilometers. They’re faster than us. High accelerati ...