Four of the ships crew sat around the table in the galley. The emergency lighting gave a dim glow to the room. It had been two hours since something had struck the ship and the primary power had gone down. It had over an hour since the captain and the the chief engineer had gone outside suited up to assess the damage. They were just returning. Life-support on the frigate was running on minimal power so they had all gathered in the galley and left other areas of the ship to cool.
"So, is it bad news?" Helena asked.
The captain placed his helmet on the table.
"A small chunk of a roid has penetrated through the outer plating and smashed the primary cooling array. That's why the reactor shut down. Anything more than 5% output will fry us all. To make matters worse, the comms array was also destroyed in the impact. We cannot call for help."
"Will 5% allow us to get home?" Brab was the mining technician. He sounded downbeat.
"No. We'd need 80% output just to initialise the warp drive. That would vaporise us, the ship and anything close."
"So we just sit here?" Helena sounded worried.
"Unless you can build and fit us a new cooling rig or comms array out of raw veldspar, then there is not much we can do but sit here. There are three ways I can see this playing out. Firstly we're in a marked asteroid belt and the next system is high-sec. There is a good chance someone will find us. Yes there is the chance nobody does. In which case, well, it ain't going to be pleasant staving to death whilst drinking our own piss."
"Gee thanks for that motivational speech capt. You've really put my mind at rest!" Gregor was the grunt on the ship. He didn't have an official job title, he was just the muscle. Handy when things got out of hand on low-sec station bars, not much use in an emergency like this.
"Well you've going to love the final possibility then. We're in Blood Raider space."
The room went deathly quiet as the realisation hit them. It had never been a problem before, the small frigate was fast and maneuverable. All of the pirate factions were treated the same, a minor annoyance. At the first sign of trouble the Solar Drift simple warped off. They were a mining frigate, not a combat frigate.
"Oh man!" exclaimed Gregor "So if someone doesn't find us, we're either going to starve to death or have the Blood Raiders drain us dry?"
"That's pretty much the outlook I'm afraid. Now if you'll all excuse me, I need a drink"
The crew all had their faces pressed against the viewports in the galley. Brab had spotted something in the asteroid belt but the slow spin of the ship was making it hard to find it again.
"We're nearly fully rotated, we should be able to...."
"There it is! It's a ship and it's coming towards us!"
Everything went quiet as each person saw the vessel. It was too far away to make out any details, but the glow of the engines and the silhouette of the hull meant it was coming directly towards them.
It had been four days since the accident. Cheif Engineer Trak had died on day two. He had been trying to rig the reactor heat exchanger to the small coolers fitted to each of the three mining laser. Not only did it not work, it had fried him alive in the process. The captain had hardly been seen. His quarters were well stocked with drink and he had been busy drowning his sorrows. Maria the cook had been found yesterday with both of her wrists slashed. She had taken what she thought was the easy way out.
Now with four of them left, someone was finally coming. The tension was high. Was it help or was it something else?
"Can anyone see it?"
"No, not this side."
"There.... it's a...... cruiser of some sort. What the hell is that?"
"It's an Ashimmu." said Gregor as he moved away from the viewport and slid down the wall landing on his backside, "It's a Blood Raider cruiser."
The eerie red light flooded the corridor from the viewports. The emergency lighing flickered as the energy destabalisor beam from the Blood Raider vessel kept their capacitor from operating fully. The four sat behind the makeshift barrier of crates facing the airlock.
"How do we know they won't just blow the lock and let us be sucked out into space?" Gregor asked.
The captain was checking the safety on his pistol.
"First off, we'd be blown into space, not sucked. And secondly, they want us alive. They want to drain the blood from out bodies and that is rather difficult from frozen corpses!"
Helena threw up. The fear was clear on her face.
"You OK in handling that?" The captain changed the subject nodding at the weapon she carried. Helena looked down at the huge portable mining laser she was holding unsteadily in both hands. An old relic from back when mining frigates needed people in suits to cut chunks from asteroids.
"Yeah. I think so. Just point at the Raiders and squeeze right?"
"Just don't hit a viewport. That thing is a relic and shouldn't punch through the plexi-trit, but lets not test it eh?"
A beeping sound came from the captains datapad. The outer hatch was being accessed.
"Right!" said Gregor, heaving his salvaging laser over his shoulder. "Lets do this!"
The captain looked at Gregor and the huge tool he was carrying. It was designed for slicing off bits of spaceships, again an old piece of equipment that had been made obsolete by ship mounted salvage turrets that could scan, cut and tractor beam all in one. No longer did people need to suit up and exit the ship to salvage a wreck. Had he made the right decision giving Gregor a device that was designed for cutting open ships? A man who's solution to everything started and finish with violence.
"The hatch!" Brab was kneeling behind some crates. He too had one of the old two-handed mining lasers. He leveled it at the inner airlock hatch that was slowly opening. The Captain tried to do the maths. The airlock was only three metres by three metres. The inner door could never be opened whilst the outer door was. So they would have to come in groups. Nine or ten at a time. Could 4 miners armed with makeshift weapons hold out against armed pirates coming in groups of 10? The hatch opened opened and the Raiders spilled out into the corridor.
The first three where cut clean in two by Gregor's salvaging laser. The captain winced as the beam scarred the outer wall near the airlock.
"Careful! You breach that wall and we're all dead!"
Gregor wasn't paying attention, he was stood on the barricade now, rapidly pulling the trigger sending short bursts of fire at the airlock. Another two Raiders fell as they leaned out from the cover of the airlock to fire.
"YEAH! COME GET SOME!" Gregor screamed over the sound of his salvaging laser.
Helena and Brab aimed their mining lasers but were waiting for a good shot. Another Raider lent from the airlock and sprayed fire at the barricade. Gregor screamed in pain as a series of laser bolts stuck his legs. He fell forward. The Raiders poured out of the airlock as soon as the fire from the salvaging beam ceased. Helena and Gregor opened fire. The first salvo took down two of the Raiders. The Captain's pistol, the only real fire arm on the ship took down another two.
"Nine." the captain was counting in his head. Another one or two in there. He thought for a moment how lucky he was to have such an old rust-bucket. Modern ships had multiple points of access and wide, open corridors. This position was defensible.
Two more leaned from the airlock and fired at the barricade. Gregor was still screaming in pain but the Raiders were careful not to hit him as the laser fire streaked over his head. The crew returned fire but the captain noticed the only shots were from his pistol and the mining laser to his right. He spun to his left.
"Brab, what's the pro....."
Brab was slumped against the wall, a blackened scorch mark was present where his right eye used to be. His mouth was open as if in a silent scream, the captain could see he was dead. He span around and fired more shots at the airlock, catching one of the Raiders in the shoulder. As he fell out of the airlock he placed another half a dozen shots into him. The Raiders would offer them no mercy, so he'd offer them none too.
Gregor had composed himself and whilst his legs were useless he had grabbed his fallen weapon and was now firing on the airlock. He took out another before a stray shot fired from the airlock struck him in the top of the head.
"Can only be one left, surely?" the Captain thought. He raised his pistol just as the airlock started to close.
"Captain?" Helena looked to be in shock. The Captain didn't know what to say. They had fought off the first wave. But could the two of them hold off the next ten? Would the Raiders bring in heavier soldiers now, it was probable that they underestimated them in the first place. His datapad bleeped again. He looked in disbelief, the crusier was undocking from them. He rushed to the nearest viewport just in time to see the cruiser align and warp off. Helena had seen it too, the relief was visible on her face. As the frigate slowly spun the asteroid field passed their view. Suddenly the viewport was blocked with a huge wall of metal. Another ship. This one was massive, but he couldn't make out what is was. The captian accessed the ships sensors remotely from his datapad. A Bhaalgorn class battleship. The cruiser must have simply called for reinforcements. A battleship would have a much bigger and heavily armoured boarding party. They had no chance.
"Captain what is it?"
The captain looked at Helena. He imagined her strung up by the Raiders, her blood being slowly pumped from her body as she begged for he life.
"It's a capsuleer! We're saved!" he lied.
"Really? We're going to live?"
"Look here." he smiled and guided her to the viewport.
"See up there" he pointed and she craned her neck to see what he was pointing at as he slowly unholstered his pistol and brought it up behind her back.
"There..." he placed the gun behind her neck pointing up slightly, turned his head away and pulled the trigger. He heard the discharge and the thud as her lifeless body hit the ground.
"Better than the alternative." he thought.
He started running. Within a minute he was in the engine room and at the master control panel. For some reason the pirate battleship was not neutralising their energy systems. They must have realised by now that the frigate was disabled. The captain disabled the safety protocols on the reactor and warp drive and plotted a route. He knew the ship would never get into warp. The only two other things that he did know is that they'd never get any of his blood and that he'd take some of them with him. His datapad showed the airlock was being opened. He hit the engage command and the warp drive started to spool up. The reactors containment field instantly overheated and failed without the cooling systems online. The small frigate erupted in a ball of superheat plasma and anti-matter.
"So is it bad news?"
"I'm afraid so. The active armour hardeners and damage control were offline at the time of the explosion. Decks 14 through 31 took the worst of the blast. Engineering was badly hit and the warp drive is offline."
"What the hell happened?"
"We think they overloaded their reactor on purpose. May be in hindsight, rescuing someone from the Raiders, whilst in a ship commonly used by the Raiders themselves, may have not been a good idea. We were broadcasting to them constantly that we were sending a rescue party. They could have thought it was a deception I suppose. May be their comms were down. I guess we'll never know."
"So what now?"
"Our capsuleer has ejected in his capsule and is returning to high-sec. He's going to bring back help."
"So we just sit here and wait for him to return"
"Yes, but the problem is.......... we're in Blood Raider space."