Dreams of Dancing in the Sky -Part 5

Dreams of dancing in the Sky

Jordan Price was like most boys on New Holland. He dreamed of dancing in the sky like the Sky Dancers. To fly among the clouds under his own power. There is only one problem. Only women could be Sky Dancers, and Jordan was a boy. Then came the day that would all change

Chapter 17

Neo Amsterdam; 10 days after Jordan’s mating flight

Helen Campbell looked at the assembled members of the Grand Council of Flight Leaders. She knew that the first topic was going to be the grounding of Ronda King and the disbanding of her Flight. She knew that she had engineered the situation to remove the woman form political power, but there was going to be repercussions. Especially among this august body. Helen wasn’t surprised by the first voice to be raised in complaint.

“Supreme Flight Leader Campbell! What is to be done to that abomination and its so-called Flight of Thunder Hawks? That thing raped a Flight Leader! We demand Justice! These creatures cannot be allowed to just force themselves on Flight Leaders or any other Sky Dancer at will!” Heather Van Goth shouted angrily up at her from the assembly floor.

“Flight Leader Van Goth, you have made a very dangerous accusation. Thunder Hawk Jordan Price did not rape Ronda Price. The Thunder Hawk exercised their God given right to mate with a Sky Dancer in season. Ronda King knew she was in season and still sought out the Thunder Hawk Jordan Price for a confrontation. SHE, not Jordan Price made the first move, knowing full well the consequences of her actions. SHE decided to ignore our legends and the lessons therein. Now, she and her Flight shall pay the price of her arrogance.” Helen never stood up or raised her voice, but she knew that she got the point across.

“What?! We’re just going to let those things ground one of us whenever they feel like? Have you no pride Campbell?! We need to kill them now before they destroy our very way of life!” This came from one of Ronda King’s strongest supporters, Martha Stone. Another of the High Families Flight Leaders on New Holland.

Helen Campbell now had two of the more vocal Exclusionists rallying behind what they believed to be a crime against one of their own. It won’t take much more to get the rest of them railed up. Helen just needed to push them a little more.

“So, Martha Stone, has your birth into a High Family shown you have more tactical Intelligence than me in this matter? I pray you tell this august body of your peers, some of whom witnessed the firepower of just one Thunder Hawk, how we’re to accomplish this feat? In this very chamber are three Flight Leaders who poured all they had into, an unsanctioned I might add, attack on Jordan Price; just to have her shrug it off as if it was nothing and return fire with enough raw power to shake the very clouds. The very same Thunder Hawk, that destroyed a pirate raider on their own with just two discharges. Oh, and let us not forget that very disturbing show of control during a challenge flight that left three of her own Flight dead on the glass. Please, tell me how are we to fight something like that? I for one would love to know how.”

“We use the weapons that are stored in our city armories. We kill these monsters before they can come into their full power. We strike before the next sunrise and kill them all in their sleep.” Screamed Veronica Keller. The current leader, and second most vocal of the exclusionists’ party. She was also the most blood thirsty of that group.

Helen Campbell looked over at the war leader for the exclusionists, and sighed. Of course, Veronica Keller would be the one pushing for such tactics. The woman lacked the subtlety of a heavy gunboat. Everyone here, on New Holland, knew that the Empress Maiha was not what one would call a true diplomat, but Keller put the Empress to shame.

“How many of you feel this way?” Helen called out. she was not surprised by the number of hands that were raised at this question, or the number that stayed down. “I see. Very well then, if the exclusionists party feel this way then I, nor any inclusionists member, shall stand in your way.”

The cheer at hearing this was almost deafening. Helen held up her hands to call for quiet. “However, you shall not have access to the armories. If you wish to attack another Flight then you shall do so with only the weapons provided by your symbionts. Your attacks will be seen as Challenge Flights between Flights.”

This announcement was met with pure disbelief. Never in all of their history had one Flight challenged another. Individual, Section, Group, and Wing challenges have happened but never a full Flight on Flight challenge. The idea was beyond those gathered here to comprehend. Helen Campbell smiled and then went in for the kill. “And Flight Leaders, if you didn’t understand what Jordan Price was driving at after her Challenge Flight let me clarify. Thunder Hawks only accept Challenge Flights to the death. For them it is kill or be killed. The Thunder Hawks do not take prisoners, and do not spare lives.”

The quiet that filled the room at hearing this was as heavy as a supermax heavy ore carrier. To these women the thought of fighting to the death between Sky Dancers was an abomination, greater than the black symbionts, and their hosts. Even among the exclusionist party only a very few would be willing to go that far. Helen knew this and moved to set them apart.

“For those of you who wish to take part in this route you have until the Council Chamber doors are again closed. Leave now, and return only in victory. Understand though, that if you stay you will abide by the rulings of these Council. Those are your only choices. I will no longer stand for the infighting.” Helen pushed the button that would unlock the chamber doors and waited.

Helen didn’t have long to wait. Nor was she surprised by the Flight Leaders that stood up to leave. Of the twenty-seven exclusionists Flights present only eight rose up and left. These eight were the hard liners and core of the exclusionist Flights. Of those eight, three were led by High Families Flight Leaders. Helen while not surprised by this turn of events, was disheartened. She knew that sooner, or later, young Jordan Price was going to be in for the fight of her life. Even with her whole Flight behind her it was going to be a hard fight.

“Supreme Flight Leader, are you just going to let them walk out?” asked one of her strongest supporters, Flight Leader Cathy Wright.

“It is their choice Cathy. Remember, each Flight operates independently. As such, each Flight has sovereignty within their own city. I will not be the first Supreme Flight Leader to break this tradition. While I do not agree with them it is their right to act against the Thunder Hawks.” Helen Campbell let a small smile come to her lips before continuing. “That doesn’t mean I won’t be letting Jordan Price know that they are coming.”

“Helen, you are without doubt one of our greatest Supreme Flight Leaders. With Jordan Price knowing who is going to come at her, she has time to plan her responses. Knowing that young hot head though, she is going to attack them before they can even get their Flights organized.” Wright smiled at her friend and Leader.

“Now, you see why I am not worried about what those eight will do. Jordan Price will most likely end our problems with the exclusionist party by the end of the year. She will have either killed them off, or grounded them in pregnancy. Either way will be just fine with me, but I would prefer the later.” Helen looked to where the eight hard line members of the exclusionist party were walking out the chamber. She began to take stock of their individual conditions. “When this is over Cathy we will have eight new Flight Leaders, with five of them being promoted from the Wing Seconds to replace their dead. The other three promotions will be due to groundings. If Jordan Price doesn’t just place her own people in place over those Flights.”

Helen left the reason unsaid for her thinking. She knew form a conversation she had with Jordan just days before that the young woman would place her people in charge of any Flight that challenged her. Helen also knew that Jordan would do so without a second thought to the repercussions of her actions within this hall. As far as Jordan was concerned the Council needed fresh blood. This point had been made abundantly clear to Helen during her last confrontation with the young Thunder Hawk Flight Leader. Jordan told her bluntly that if any Flight dared to challenge her or her Thunder Hawks Jordan would leave nothing behind but ash and blood.

“What I fear more than the removal of our problem children Helen, is that one’s raise to power among our number.” At the questioning look from Helen, Cathy explains her fears. “I am no exclusionists radical, Helen. But, if Jordan Price decides that we stand in her way what’s to stop her? She could very well walk in here an abolish this Council and there would be nothing we could do. Her power alone is enough to cause fear and distrust among our sisters.”

“I do not believe that shall ever be a problem, Cathy. Jordan Price and her Thunder Haws may have no love for this Council, but they do respect it. The problem will be making our sisters understand this fact. Jordan does not seek power, she just wants to remove the exclusionists’ attitudes from this Council and our people. As, much as I want to deny her claims I cannot. Too many of our fellow Sky Dancers look upon our sons as nothing more than genetic suppositories. This has to be changed and we have to allow our sons to bond with black symbionts.”

“I see.” In truth Cathy didn’t. as far as she was concerned the old ways were still the best ways. The idea of treating a son the same as a daughter just didn’t make sense. After all, it was the old Emperor and Cardinal Richelieu’s foolishness that led to the last War of Succession. A war that was won by Empress Maiha Nakatoma.

Helen sighed as she could hear the indifference in the other Flight Leader’s voice. “Cathy, if we keep mistreating our sons it shall be our downfall. For far too long we have committed a most heinous crime against our male children, all in the name of tradition. If you haven’t realized it yet, the Hive Queens have been laying smaller and smaller clutches every year. If you doubt me, look at the records. For the past three hundred years the clutch sizes have dropped from over fifty to barely two dozen. I firmly believe that it has been the lack of new genes in our bloodlines. Those young Thunder Hawks will be our salvation, mark my words.”

Flight Leader Cathy Wright did not have the same confidence that the Supreme Flight Leader did in this new path for the Sky Dancers. Though she would not fight her over this. Cathy Wright felt, like a great many of the Flight Leaders, that the wait and see approach was the best choice.

Chapter 18

Neo Geleen, Office of the Flight Leader

Jordan couldn’t believe the report she was reading. There in black and white, was a breakdown of possible locations for pirate bases. She, like most New Holland citizens, had heard the stories of abandoned mining platforms. Like most, she believed that those stories were just that, stories. Yet, here was confirmation that there were real honest abandoned mining platforms. Looking up at the Reverend Mother Katsumi to confirm her worst nightmare.

“Reverend Mother, I know this is going to sound arrogant, but is this report accurate? And, if it is, just how accurate?”

“Yes, Jordan Price that report is accurate. As for how accurate, I was informed that it is close to ninety percent accurate. Enough so that the Empress gave the Blood Red Knights orders to search for every last one of those platforms. If they find pirates they are to take them into custody to face judgement.” Katsumi kept her face passive as she answered Jordan’s question. She knew the young firebrand was just barely holding in her anger of that report.

“Reverend Mother, do you realize that, for more than three hundred years, Sky Dancers and the DPF have been searching for the pirate bases? Hell, the fact that there may be real abandoned mining outposts is just too farfetched to consider. I mean you do understand just how much goes into just placing a mining platform in this atmosphere? The cost for one, and its upkeep is prohibitive of just abandoning even an exploration platform. Those are the cheapest and smallest by the way, at just over two hundred and eighty-seven thousand gold credits. That is just the purchase price, then you have the setup, and maintenance costs. Those run anywhere between one to two hundred thousand per month. For a platform to be used as a base for operations like your Intelligence Agency is suggesting you would need one almost as big as say oh Neo Geleen or Neo Winterswijk. Even then something that size would be spotted by our orbital satellite network. No, this report has to be wrong.”

“Is it possible to place a platform lower in the atmosphere? As just below the surface clouds? Where the pressure is not so great to cause problems, but if enclosed to sustain life with the use of airlocks?” Katsumi asked pointedly.

Jordan had to sit back and think about that. She had spent her whole life living on one of the cloud cities. In fact, she had even played in the lower reaches as a child. During that time, she had made friends among the maintenance crews that worked and maintained the massive generators that kept Neo Amsterdam aloft. When she had gotten older they even taught her how those great machines worked. It finally dawned on her that a platform could be set deeper into the atmosphere of the gas giant that was New Holland. Then Jordan looked down at the list of abandoned mining outposts. She took more than a few minutes to go over the list and the types of outposts that were abandoned.

There was a total of thirty-eight abandoned outposts, of those only nine were exploratory in nature. Small, light, moveable, and costs effective for what they were designed for. Look for heavy concentrations of Casper Crystals. It was the other twenty-nine platforms that worried Jordan. They were all modular models, that could be connected to form a massive single platform. One, that could withstand the lower reaches of the troposphere, not to mention the stratosphere where they most likely were. More than deep enough for the heavier clouds of the upper atmosphere levels to conceal a platform from the satellite survey and security network.

“Reverend Mother, I really hate to say this, but you may be right. If the pirates have even half of these platforms we have a really big fracking problem. Only eight of these platforms could not survive lower than the thermosphere, which is where we are now. The rest thou are all modular platforms that can be and are sealed platforms. Ones that can be interlocked to form a much larger platform.” Jordan looked up at Katsumi with real worry this time. “The big problem is that five of these modular platforms are station keepers. They each hold and control elevation and station keeping engines for much larger platform formations. We could very well be looking at three to six pirate bases, depending on how they’re put together.”

“Why would that dictate how many we face?” This was something Katsumi had no knowledge of, and followed her lifelong policy of deferring to an expert.

“The larger and more complex the configuration the more station keepers you need. If they put all of the support modules together then you would need four of the station keepers. Now, if they broke them down to one of each type then you only need one station keeper.” Jordan explained for Katsumi.

“I will give you that Jordan, but you said three to six. Why?”

Jordan got up and went over to the holo-tank they used for training flight simulations and patrol flight patterns. Keying in the needed information Jordan began to configure layouts of the modules. She started with the station keepers. Then went through the other twenty-tree modules. Once she input all the module types Jordan entered a command to randomly configure the modules. Breaking them down into just three to six total configurations. The biggest deciding factor was the limited number of docking and repair modules. With only six repair modules and ten docking modules as being the primary limiting factor.

“Jordan, how low into the planetary atmosphere could one of these configurations be placed? The reason I am asking is the need for what type of force to attack them with first. Secondly, would it be possible to use Jump Infantry to attack these installations? And lastly, could these types of modular constructed bases be moved from one point to another. What I mean are they mobile or fixed.” It was the first-time since starting this conversation that Katsumi showed any emotion. Concern.

“I’ll answer the last question first, Reverend Mother. It depends on the configuration. The larger four and three the base configurations are more than likely to be a fixed position platform. These five and six smaller configurations can be mobile. The set of five will need additional resources to move them such as two or three dropships acting as tugs. The ones that we need to worry about as far as being a mobile repair and resupply platform are these six configurations. They can move under their own power. Not only at their current altitude, but change in altitudes as if there are bloody damned elevators.” Jordan stopped and took a deep breath before continuing with answering Katsumi’s questions.

“As for your first question. Any of these configurations can drop to the lower reaches of the troposphere, with the exception of one of the larger configurations. That one configuration is the largest of them all, and is my greatest fear. Before you ask the reason is simple. It takes all eight station keeper modules just to keep it from falling into the center of the planet. It is also the one that will have the greatest likelihood of being armed and armored like a battle platform.”

Katsumi interrupted Jordan at this point. “Wait are you saying that there could be the equivalent of a battle platform floating around the lower clouds of New Holland?”

“Yes, ma’am. That is exactly what I am saying. However, that is an unlikely event. One of the things about pirates we must remember is their mentality. To build this type of platform they would have to work together. Pirates are not normally a community minded people. They’ll only band together out of need for self-preservation. They have been able to act independently for just too long. The reason for this is simple. The individual city Flights refuse to work in form of coordination or as teams. You, me, hell even the Empress, could stand before the Grand Council with a two-hundred-fifty-point power point presentation how working together they would still refuse to see the benefits. There just too many hide-bound old betties on the Council to do any good.” Jordan let her disgust at the Grand Council fill her voice and show on her face.

“I see. Neither I, or the Empress, realized it was that bad. As for my question for using Jump Infantry; is it possible?” Katsumi needed this information more than the rest. What Jordan and the members of the Grand Council didn’t know was the Blood Red Knights were planning an attack on these installations.

“If you want to waste good infantry, go right ahead.” Jordan’s very blunt comment brought Katsumi up short. “Reverend Mother, you have to understand something here. There is a reason we use deep diver crabs to go after Casper Crystals. Those damned things are engineered to handle the pressures of the lower atmospheres. It’s those pressures that the mining companies fight to get the sons of Sky Dancers as drivers for the crabs. We’re less effected by the changes in pressure as the crab goes deeper and deeper into the lower atmosphere.” Jordan pointed at the list of three configurations that were the largest. Then pulled up a display of the pressures at the lower depths. “Remember, how I told you that only one of these couldn’t reach the lowest troposphere? Well, all the others can. At those depths, even with powered Armor standard Jump Infantry will be crushed before they can even get on the platform. Forget about getting into position to carry out an attack on the station itself. Not even Sky Dancers can handle the pressure at those levels. The lowest any Sky Dancer has ever reached without specialized gear is the Mesopause.”

“Jordan, what kind of pressures are we talking about here?” Once again Katsumi was trying to figure out a way to attack a pirate platform in the stratosphere.

“High enough at that a point prick hole in the armor of a deep dive crab will cause total failure of the armor. A failure so fast that the driver would never know what happened.” Seeing that Katsumi didn’t truly understand the dangers faced by the deep dive crab drivers Jordan gave her a demonstration. Walking over to the office cooler she reached inside a pulled out a bottle of water.

“See this bottle. Its full and stronger than it looks.” Katsumi nodded her head at the very obvious point watched as Jordan pored the water into a flower planter. Jordan then blew air into the empty bottle before capping it. “Now, it’s full of air. This is your standard crab with its armor in working order.” Taking a letter opener form her desk Jordan punched a small hole in the bottom of the bottle. “This is a crab at depth with weekend armor.” Jordan crushed the bottle between her hands. “This is a deep dive crab on its way to the core.” Then Jordan dropped the now crushed bottle on the floor. “From the time of first failure to total collapse and burnup in the lower atmosphere, twenty seconds.”

“BY THE GODDESS!” Katsumi couldn’t believe what Jordan just demonstrated. “And your friends and cousins willingly go to the mining companies knowing what can happen?”

“For so long that has been one of the few choices that males of Sky Dancer families have. Before you ask. Nobody knows how many dead Sky Dancer sons in crushed crabs rest in the lower reaches. It the mining companies it is an acceptable loss every time one goes missing. They just write a check and pay off the families. Those of us who get a chance join the Ariel Defense Forces or Planetary Defense Forces as pilots. Our natural affinity for the air currents make us phenomenal pilots. Our last choice is joining a dropship crew and working our way off planet to join the Death Dealers.” Katsumi could hear the anger once again to the forefront over the way the sons of Sky Dancers were treated.

“If you want to attack those platforms Reverend Mother, you’ll need ships that can handle the pressure at those levels. I’m not talking by light or heavy corsairs here either. You need heavy destroyers, and up for that kind of attack. Even then I doubt that your Captains really know what they’re in for at those depths.”
Jordan sighed as she thought about her childhood friend now dead in those cold dark depths that is the hell of the New Holland Stratosphere. The more she thought about how to attack something like a resupply and repair platform capable of operating at those depths the more a plan formed in her mind. She knew that only the deep dive crabs could operate as one-man craft at those depths. Heavy assault shuttles would be nothing more than a suicide mission at those depths. No, they needed another way to get troops onto and into those platforms. That or force them to the high altitudes where Sky Dancers could attack. First though they needed to know where those platforms were.

Jordan walked over to the window of her office. She needed a few minutes to get her anger under control. Katsumi watched this very enigmatic, passionate, head strong, young person, once again thinking about someone was very similar. ‘Jordan Price, one of these days in the near future you and I will have to sit down with the Empress Maiha Nakatoma and her wife the War Princess Allison. You are wasted as a mere Flight Leader. Your passion like hers will not let you stay in the shadows for much longer my child. No, I see it dragging you kicking and screaming onto the world stage, and under fame’s ugly spotlight.’

Chapter 19

Pirate platform 3, The Black Watch

Captain Randal Kidd looked out the porthole of his office in the central tower as the tugs pulled the newest addition to his platform into place. With this latest addition, he would command the largest resupply and repair platform on New Holland. It would also be the heaviest armed platform of the three main platforms. His was also the richest for one simple reason. If his fellow pirates wanted to arm or armor their raiders they had to come to him. His was the only platform that had construction docks that could perform the work.

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of his executive officer Jacob Bonny. “Sir, I have the latest report from our spies in the main cities.”

“Just put them on my desk Number One. Unless there is something I should know about now?” Kidd never turned around or took his eyes off the new module.

“Yes, sir. There are five cities nearing the point of shipping out full loads. The city of Neo Geleen hasn’t seen fit to replace the dead Hive Queen, or its Flight as of yet. It is also one of the five on the list. I know that it is not my place skipper to tell what targets to hit, but this one sounds like a trap.” Jacob didn’t know why, but his gut feeling was telling him to stay away from Neo Geleen.

Kidd turned around to face his XO. “Jacob, you know for a damned fact that I hate ‘yes men’. Now tell my why you think we should leave a city with no aerial protection from Sky Dancers? This shows that we can hurt the Sky Dancers and they don’t have the resources to replace lost Queens or whole Flights. If we keep targeting the Hives from now on we’ll own the cities in this hemisphere.”

“Sir, the Red Dragon got lucky with that shot. Captain Hunt won’t admit it, but it was pure unadulterated luck that made that shot possible. As for why I believe we should stay away, I have no solid proof, just a gut feeling. It’s not like the Sky Dancers to just abandon a city this way. We’ve put a hurting on more than one city’s Sky Dancer Flights, and the other cities just sent members from their Flights until the injured city rebuilt its Flight. Then there are the reports of a Flight made up of some new color Sky Dancer that is being trained by those do-gooders Knights of Ida-ten. From what our spies have seen they are magnitudes of power stronger than the most powerful gold or Flight Leader. Some reports from the spies say that this Flight is made up of Sky Dancers that are similar to the one that destroyed the Blue Max during the raid on Neo Workum.” Bonny didn’t want to bring up that very painful subject. The lose of the Blue Max had hit the fleet hard.

“Damn that black Sky Dancer! We had the Rainbow Archers on the ropes before it showed up with that damned portable plasma cannon. An entire crew captured or killed, not to mention the loss of a raider ship in the process.” Kidd pounded his fist on his desk. “Any word on where that bitch went to?”

“The same as our last report, Captain. Our spies have tried repeatedly to find the bitch, but luck. It’s as if the planet opened up and swallowed the whore whole.”

“I want that whore found and killed, Bonny. If you have too, place a bounty on her head. In fact, do just that. Make the bounty for her at twenty thousand, dead or alive, preferred dead. If someone can bring her in alive pay a bonus of ten thousand. That should take care of the problem. One way or another.” Kidd had a grim smile on his face. A smile that did not reach his eyes.

“I’ll set it up sir. Will you be inspecting the new additions later today?” Bonny asked to see if he had to make adjustments to the Captain’s schedule.

“No. I’ll take care of that tomorrow. How is our latest guest liking his new quarters?” Kidd didn’t really care, but he always found entertainment in the misery of those captains that crossed him.

“Captain Hood, I mean, Former Captain Hood is fast becoming a useful member of our High Priest system. We should get about four to five months of use out of him before he goes stark raving mad.” Bonny said with a smirk. He never liked his old boss.

“You know Bonny, if you weren’t such a decent person I would swear that you are enjoying the thought of Hood going mad.” Kidd smirked.

“I will admit that I do find some satisfaction in that man facing insanity rewarding. He damned near got me and the rest of the Revenge’s crew killed taking on that cruiser class dropship two years ago. If it hadn’t been for our Engineering Office we wouldn’t be talking right now. You’ll not see me shed a tear over that one’s lose.”

Kidd just nodded his head as he understood the man’s anger. Part of the job of every pirate captain was to insure safe, acceptable, and profitable conquests. Captains did not go hunting bigger, bitter armed, heavier armored, like the Empire’s ships of the line. You only took on those as a last resort. As it was that dammed fool almost led that cruiser back to the Black Watch. Kidd was shaken from these dark thoughts by a heavy thud shaking the platform. Kidd looked back out the porthole. Then smiled a really smile.

“Looks like the Golden Swan has made final contact. I figure it should take another two days to complete the tie in of the new additions. This will make us the largest of the resupply and repair platforms sir.” Hunt said happily.

“In more ways than one, Number One. Only the Dark Horizon will be bigger. Thankfully, with the profit off that Neo Den Helder raid was higher than expected. Those blue Casper Crystals paid for more than a few upgrades around here.” Captain Kidd had a very pleased tone in his voice over that sale. The seventy tons of blue Casper crystals brought in close to nine and a half million gold credits. Those credits paid for the new anti-aircraft emplacements, and additional armor plating for the dry docks. It also allowed him to set the trap for Damion Hood. “Have our spies in the Grand Council reported anything on that emergency meeting?”

“I am still waiting on those reports, Captain. I doubt that there will be any new developments though. There are still too many opposing party hardliners for Supreme Flight Leader Helen Campbell to make any real changes. In a way, this is both good and bad for us.” Bonny had learned to except these questions from his Captain, and kept his face expressionless.

“How so Number One?”

“Good in the fact that so long as there is a deadlock in the votes she cannot push through any changes in their organization and effect a stauncher defense. Bad in that a deadlock keeps what we know about how each Flight is going to react to us a flip of the coin. Even now, the inclusionists Flights are attack our ship with portable heavy weapons like the one at Noe Workum. They’re not as powerful, but when they use them in massed attack the result is devastating. Only the exclusionist Flights are keeping with their traditional forms of attack, refusing to use nothing more than their symbiont given weapons. Our problem with them though is they have taken to using more coordinated attacks. Attacking in groups on a single point.” Bonny reach over and picked up a hard copy file on the last raid by one of their ships. “The raid on Neo Landgraaf was against the best of the exclusionist Flights. Not only were they driven off, but the Dutchman is in need of heavy repairs.”

“So, the Sky Dancers have changed tactics on all fronts, regardless of politics. Do you still have that raiding plan for massing ships for raids?”

“Yes, sir. I brought it with me. Though as it stands right now, we only have six armored raiders. The rest of our ships still need to be retrofitted. The cost of those retrofits has been the only thing keeping us from doing so.” Bonny knew what his Captain was thinking already and pointed out the needed Intelligence.

“Those six should be enough for now. I think I have a way to use them to keep the Sky Dancers busy while our unarmored ships attack the city dockyards.” Bonny looked at Kidd with questioning eyes. “We send two of our heavies in as cover for the light weights. The Sky Dancers can’t turn their backs on the heavies or they face certain destruction. However, they won’t be able to stop the lighter ships from docking with the city and raiding the dockyards. They’ll be in a no-win situation no matter what they do.”

Bonny only saw one hole in his Captains plan. “What about the ADF or city defenders? Surely they won’t just let our crews dock without a fight.”

“That is why we’ll arm our lighter ships with heavy guns and anti-personal batteries. As they dock those weapons can be used to sweep the defenders from the dockyards. For every heavy we send we will send two light weights.” Captain Randal Kidd was the Captain for one of the largest pirate fleets on all of New Holland for a reason. He was if nothing else a tactical mastermind, with few or no equals on New Holland.

“Which city are we going to hit first Captain?”

“The one that we shouldn’t, Number One. Besides, have you looked at the loadout for Neo Geleen? Four hundred tons of Casper Crystals just waiting for the picking. Fifty tons of blood reds, seventy-five tons of ice blues, another seventy-five of navy blues, thirty tons of clear yellows, thirty of the pinks, thirty-five of dark chocolate browns, and one hundred and five tons of midnight blacks. Enough crystals for a King’s ransom. If we can get our hands on those crystals we will be able to retire for the rest of our lives off just our cuts of the midnights. Besides, if we do as I suggest we’ll be in and out before the Sky Dancers have a chance to think straight in all the confusion. Just think about Bonny me boy. Riches beyond your wildest dreams. Warm sunny beaches on a nice warm water world like Patagonian or maybe you like the idea of year-round skiing and chasing a snow bunny around the slopes of Grindelwald on frozen Dettwiler. Even if we only take a one percent cut we could both retire for life to one of those places or any other we wish too. As it is just taking our standard ten percent we’ll never spend it all.” Kidd was really counting the credits in his head.

For Bonny, the idea of retiring at such a young age was a dream. Like a lot of the sons of Sky Dancers he had resigned his self to working until the day he died in one of the deep dive crabs. What his fellow pirates didn’t know was his real name. He had been born to one of the exclusionists’ families. Not just any exclusionist family but one of the High Families exclusionists. If they could really pull off a raid of this magnitude it would be a massive blow to those families, and most especially his own, the Van Goths. Ever since his mother Heather had thrown him out on his seventeenth Life Day Steven Van Goth had dreamed of revenge.

To achieve that revenge Steven let himself be captured during a pirate raid on the dive docks. Once aboard the pirate ship he swore allegiance to the ships’ crew and captain. For the last twenty years he had worked his way up through the ranks to the XO’s position for his Captain. That Captain had been like a father to the young Steven Van Goth. To hide his real identity Steven took the name of Jacob Bonny. He took his name from two of history’s most famous pirates Jacob Marely and Ann Bonny. Now, here his Captain was handing him his greatest dream on a silver platter. Revenge against the exclusionist Sky Dancers, with the added benefit of early retirement. All at an age to still enjoy that retirement. Then Captain Kidd gave him an even bigger surprise.

“And if this report on Neo Geleen is correct. There is a Monarch class four super cargo dropship in port right now. That is filled with nothing but Purple Haze Casper crystals. Imagine, two hundred tons of the most valuable Caser crystals in all the Empire just waiting for someone to come along and pick it. We could let the other crews take what they want from the other crystals. While we and take fifteen members of the crew from the Challenger Deep seize that Monarch and head for deep space. A few tweaks to the RFID and a paint job later. We have new name and clean travel records. We make landfall on one of the Crystal dealer planets sell off our cargo, then the ship, and we’re home free.” Bonny would have done anything that Kidd wanted when he heard his Captain’s plan for taking the Monarch class dropship.

Jacob Bonny, a.k.a. Steven Van Goth, was sold on the idea. Even though his sense of survival was screaming for him to reject the idea as ludicrous. The thought of that much wealth just waiting to be snatched was just too tempting for Jacob. “I’m in my Captain. Just make sure that you pay for your own tickets to Dettwiler. I’ll take care of my own.”

Then Jacob got a very thoughtful look on his face. “You know Captain, we’re the only ones who know exactly how much tonnage there is on the ship. And what type of cargo it is carrying. Nothing says we have to give our prize crew their full share. Why if we do it right, they’ll be none the wiser.”

“I knew there was a reason I always liked you Jacob.” Randal Kidd broke out laughing at his XO’s plan to cheat the prize crew.

Chapter 20

Battleship Fire Wind, New Holland.

Captain Lisa Holts read the report from the Reverend Mother Katsumi a second time. Never in a million years would she believe that she would be following the directions of a snot nosed kid from a backwater mining planet. When she joined the Death Dealers after the Second War of Succession Lisa had already attained the rank of Captain in the regular Empyreal Navy. It was one thing to follow the orders of the Empress and her appointed commanders, quite another to follow the orders of some commoner still wet behind the ears.

She was sure that her heavy corsairs could handle the pressure of the lower atmosphere. Lisa Holts was not about to disregard over more than half of her attack squadron on the word of a civilian. Pulling up a map of the gas giant New Holland Lisa had the computer overlay the atmosphere layers and the pressures at each layer. It didn’t take Lisa long to understand the warnings in the report from Reverend Mother Katsumi. Letting out of soft whistle Lisa reached over and called for her tactical officer Sub Commander Leroy Haskell. She needed the man’s point of view on how to crack this nut.

As she waited for Haskell to join her she also asked for her XO, Tactical Officer, and Weapons Officer to join her in her ready room. As the four command staff officers entered her ready room Lisa activated the holo-tank. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give New Holland’s atmospheric layers.”

“Skipper, I know that I am new to your command, but what does that have to do with our current antipirate mission?” As her Weapons Officer, Sub Commander Arnold Sweeny. The man was a mountain of a human. Standing well over six feet tall, close to the seven-foot mark. He was the perfect example of someone from one of the heavy gravity planets in the Empire.

“Somewhere in the stratosphere are several pirate bases is what Guns. According to this report. There could be as many as six resupply and repair platforms working down there. Our problem is how to take them out. As you can see the pressures at that depth pose a very real and present danger to our smaller ships. What I want is a plan to force those platforms to the upper reaches where we can bring the full weight of this squadron down on them. Suggestions?”

The gathered officers looked at their captain as if she had just sprouted cabbage out of her ears. The idea of a platform being large enough to act as a Resupply/ repair base was not uncommon, but to have them operating at those depths and pressures was. The fact that only the battleship, two destroyers, and four heavy cruisers could safely operate at those pressures limited their responses. The light cruisers, frigates, and corsairs were good for only down to the Mesopause, even then that was being optimistic. Whatever plan they came out with, it could only revolve around the heavy hitters of their squadron. That was until Lisa’s XO got a funny look on his face. One that Lisa was well acquainted with.

“What’s on your mind Bob?”

“I was wondering about those platforms. How are they kept at that depth? Do they need to rise to the upper thermosphere to resupply? Can they be forced to the upper reaches? Just how well armored are they? Can we drop depth charges or fire torpedoes down to that level? If we can will the concussion of those weapons be enough to force them to the upper reaches or crush them? You’ll have to forgive me here Captain but fighting these pirates is similar to fighting a surface war on a water planet. I think we need to approach this battle in that same fashion.” Lisa watched as her XO Robert Kinds began moving icons around on the display.

Once the rest of her Command Staff saw where Bob was going they all quickly put in their own ideas. Four hours, two pots of coffee, lunch eaten, and numerous packs of cigarettes later, Lisa and her staff had a battle plan for going after the pirate platforms. One that would take advantage of their limited resources. Even Lisa saw the value of using this new plan.

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we have a battleplan. Let’s hope that it lasts longer than the first contact with the enemy. Get some sleep people. I have a feeling that the next few weeks are going to be busy ones.” After giving the order, Lisa followed her own orders and got ready for bed.

----- to be continued -----

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