As Carrion’s Delight dropped out of hyperspace, proximity alarms blared, the ship bucked and shook in the middle of a storm of debris. Of Scav Leader Faulk’s Revenge, there was no sign on the forward observation screens. A ship detailed as FNV Claws Bared shot ahead of the debris field, and far ahead ranged a much larger, unmarked, white ship and a smaller, Bronco-class freighter darting toward the screen’s horizon.
Ship leader Fleex grabbed the upright wingrests on his command seat, hooking his thumb claws into the harness activators. “Status,” he snapped.
“Ship has taken minimal damage, sir,” came the reply from the crow at navigation. “Forward scanners show no sign of Revenge.”
Fleex rolled his eyes and swore he’d get better crew the next time the ship went in for repairs. “Very well, nav.” She was an idiot, but he knew from experience that compliments—even for those held to such low standards as his crew—went a long way toward improving crew morale. “Raise shields. Where one panther walks, another hangs in the trees.”
“Shields up,” the junior officer at helm said. Fleex couldn’t recall his name; he’d gone through three this past week alone.
“Incoming message from sub-commander Tax,” navigation said, hopping from one board to the other, wings fluttering.
“Put him through,” Fleex replied.
The view screen blinked, flickered, froze with half the screen showing a warped view of the pantera ship stretching itself from the image of the burly, bald-headed Tax leaning forward in his command chair, one wing folded across bent knee, beak apart in mid-order.
“Last relay from Scav Leader Faulk—attack FNV ship!” The image and vocals of Tax didn’t match, much like a badly dubbed Feyleed action flick.
The cond at helm leaned over and kicked the side of nav’s console causing the image to fuzz, then blink out. A second kick brought the image back up, the racing FNV ship and others a subset of the a image showing sub-now-full-commander Tax flapping his wings and cocking his head to stare at the vidcams with a blood-shot eye. “I repeat: ‘Final relay from Scav Leader Faulk to all sub-commanders—attack FNV ship!’ All ship commanders comply. Commander Tax, out.”
The image of the commander flickered away, leaving behind the shrunken view of the scav ships arrayed in a loose cluster, drives firing up as they trailed after the pantera ship.
“Fall into line behind the others, sir,” nav said, assuming the answer would be affirmative.
Fleex shook his head. “Belay the commander’s order. Instead, fire off a tracker toward that freighter ahead.” He tapped one wing against his beak, clicked his tongue in thought. “My guess is scav leader Faulk planned to attack the white ship and freighter but was in turn attacked by Claws Bared. No telling who they are with yet. Hold back until we can find out.”
Helm turned in his chair and snapped his beak shut with indignation. “Sir! Commander Tax gave a direct order from Scav Leader himself. Should we not comply?” The tone was both rhetorical and rebellious.
Fleex tipped his head as though agreeing with helm. Then he whipped a sidearm from the storage in the wingrest of his chair and shot helm between the eyes. “Any other stupid suggestions?” he asked. “Nav, you are now helm.” He replaced the hidden sidearm and flicked a switch on the wingrest. “Engineering, send someone up for nav; she’s been promoted.” He leaned back, thought of something else, then flicked the com switch again. “Galley, send someone up to remove helm. Toss him with some onions.”
The crow at nav-now-helm nervously flittered from her boards across to helm and settled in. “Tracker sent, sir,” she said. “Which heading?”
Fleex snapped his beak shut as he adjusted his seating. “The freighter, of course. Hold far enough back it appears we follow the fleet, but the freighter will be our target. We know its design capabilities. We’ve brought that style craft down many times.”
“Course laid in, sir.”
“Very good, helm.” Fleex smiled. “Helm, what is your designation, again?”
Nav-now-helm ducked her head into one wing, then said, “Spear, sir.”
Fleex just nodded and settled in as the tracker went sailing across the emptiness between Carrion’s Delight and the distant freighter.