Prauf was phlegmatic about Kor’s offer to Mia. “She’s got a good heart,” he allowed, “and she’s already been helping us. I just don’t know if we’ll be able to do it. I know you did it with me, but you still don’t know exactly how you did it. What good is our combined strength if we don’t know what we’re doing?”
“I didn’t know what I was doing with you either,” he countered, “but it worked anyway.”
Prauf conceded the point. “Well, let me know when you want to try. I’ll do my best to help.”
Kor smiled. “As soon as she makes up her mind.”
The object of their conversation walked in and they changed the subject. “Is the hauler loaded?”
“Another hour and it will be,” she said. “Pretty pitiful load though. What’s the point of working yourself to death if your ore is going to be stolen by pirates? The miners have almost given up hope.”
“It’s time to give them some hope,” Kor smiled. “Let’s go get Rolf out of the brig so he can call it into his pirate buddies.”
Kor and Prauf stood over Rolf, watching him like a hawk with the Force to ensure he didn’t try to deceive them or send some kind of coded message. He was thoroughly cowed though and didn’t try anything. “Wolf Den, this is Sector 286, come in.”
“This is Wolf Den, go ahead.”
“We’ve got a hauler leaving here in about an hour. She’s traveling heavy.”
The excitement in the voice was evident. “About time! The loads lately have been tiny.” The voice changed and became cold. “Give us the route and time, then leave it to us.”
Rolf read off the time and route the hauler would be taking. Once Wolf Den had all the coordinates, it signed off abruptly. They hustled him back to the brig.
Kor and Prauf would be accompanying the Class 4 Transporter. Its gigantic cargo bay could hold a hundred ships the size of the Whimsy. They were going to be tucked down on the far side away from the direction the pirates would most likely be coming from. Mia had offered to go with them in the Fair Lady. She’d had extra weapons installed when she bought it. It wasn’t as maneuverable as the Whimsy but it packed a lot of firepower along with heavy metal plating and shields. Prauf disparaged it as a tank but it was solid.
Excited by the prospect of action, they hurried to their ships. By the time they were aboard and floating free of the station, the huge transport was slowly easing away from the connecting arms of the docking bay. Kor flew the Whimsy down to the starboard side of the transporter, as close to it as safety allowed. Mia was right behind them in the Fair Lady. The transport captain wasn’t happy about their ships being so close to his – it was an accident waiting to happen – but agreed to it as a way to spring a trap on the pirates.
The transporter constantly relayed course corrections and information to them so they could keep up. Kor kept a light hand on the controls, not wanting to overcorrect and run into the larger ship. Prauf backed him up, holding his hands just off the controls on his side.
Kor called the Fair Lady. “Mia, how are you doing?”
She laughed. “Fighters fly tighter formations than this at higher speeds all the time. This is a cakewalk by comparison.”
He grimaced. “Well, I haven’t so I’m a little nervous.”
Her voice changed. “Keep a light hand on the controls. Don’t tense up, it causes your muscles to jerk. Just relax and go with the flow.”
He and Prauf glanced at each other. “You sound like a Jedi Master instructing her students.”
“Maybe one day I will be,” she teased.
He perked up. “Does that mean you’ve decided to accept my offer?”
“It’s pretty tempting,” she admitted. “Let’s see how this fight goes with the pirates, then I’ll let you know.”
They settled back, waiting for something to happen. The pirates were taking their time though. They were three-quarters of the way out of the asteroid belt before anything happened. A panicky voice came over the comm from the cargo hauler.
“Three ships have come out from behind an asteroid up ahead. They’re spreading out to surround us!”
Prauf grinned as he powered up their weapons and shields. “Now we’re talking!”
Kor sheered off from the transporter and accelerated forward. As they cleared the transporter, they saw the pirates. The main ship was an older model Y-8 like the Fair Lady but with considerably more wear and tear on it. The hull was scarred, patched, and dented. The other two ships were Tie fighters. His eyes widened. “Uh oh.”
Prauf didn’t wait for the fighters to close, he opened fire right away. Blaster bolts from behind them announced that Mia had the same idea. Their aim was good but the fighters had strong shields that enabled them to survive their initial barrage. They began swooping and turning as they approached, making it hard for the slower moving weapons on the Whimsy and Fair Lady to target them.
Prauf growled in frustration. “I’ve got to get back there and man the upper gun. It’ll never be able to swivel fast enough otherwise.” He dashed out of the cockpit, running through the ship to reach the tiny gun chair for the upper guns. He called over the intercom, “I’m in. Keep the nose pointed in their general direction.”
“I’ll do my best,” Kor said, trying to keep the fighters in front of him. In the Force, he could feel Mia struggling to keep up with the more agile fighters. All her shots were going wide. He hit the comms. “Mia! Let us worry about the fighters. You focus on the Y-8.”
“Roger.” Her reply was short and pithy, but the results were clear. She trained her guns on the pirate ship and began pounding it.
Prauf was letting the Force direct his shots, anticipating the fighters. He’d already clipped one of them and was getting perilously close to the other. He decided to focus on them one at a time. He sat back in his chair, closed his eyes, and reached out with the Force.
Wait for it, he thought, wait for it, wait for it, wait – now!
He squeezed the triggers and hit the first fighter dead on. It exploded in a ball of fire that went out quickly in the vacuum of space.
Kor saw the fighter explode. “Whoo Hoo! Way to go!”
Mia saw it too. “Good shot, Whimsy!” The Fair Lady jerked suddenly as the second fighter swept past her, nearly colliding with her ship. “Yikes! Watch where you’re going! Moron!”
Kor couldn’t help but laugh.
Keep the nose toward him!
Whoops. Sorry. Kor hauled on the controls and the stars outside spun around them. The Whimsy wasn’t as quick as a fighter but it was still nimble enough for Prauf to hit one of the side panels on the remaining Tie fighter. It spun from the impact then managed to right itself.
Mia was still firing on the pirate ship. It was returning fire but her newer, more heavily armed ship was wearing down the older vessel. It tried to turn to run. When it turned, it exposed its engines and she targeted them with everything she had just as Prauf got a bead on the second fighter. Two explosions lit up the sky.
Kor sat back in his chair with a sigh of relief. He sat back up abruptly as he felt a stirring in the Force. “There’s another pirate ship,” he yelled. “They’re trying to get away! Capture them!” He accelerated after them. Put a shot across their bow!
Prauf’s cannons cut a streak through space just in front of the pirate ship. Mia was swinging wide to flank them and she fired across their bow as well.
He hit the comms. “Unidentified pirate ship. Surrender and prepare to be boarded.”
The ship slowed then came to a stop. As Kor drew near he could see men in the cockpit arguing with each other. Examining them through the Force, he could tell some of them wanted to fight it out or make another escape attempt. “Those of you who are surrendering, don’t let the others talk you into something stupid. You can’t outrun or outfight us and you don’t want to die for their mistake.”
He saw a fight break out. Someone fired a blaster and a man went down. Three others raised their hands. The man with the blaster keyed the comms. “Don’t shoot. We surrender.”
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