Captain Oliver Jackson, Captain of the ship, H.M.S. Ulysses.
Lt. Commander Saundra McGee, First Officer, H.M.S. Ulysses.
Lt. Gina Preston, Lead Sensor Officer, H.M.S. Ulysses.
Lt. Giles Wells, Navigator, H.M.S. Ulysses.
Princess Victoria Margaret Consuela Prichard-Marquez, Heir Apparent to the American Empire.
Jacques Colon, Fiancé of Princess Victoria.
Major Dick, Commanding officer of the Imperial Frigate Appalachia.
Captain Ludwig Von Hostig, Pirate and rogue. Captain of the pirate ship, Lucifer.
Captain Vladamir Genchenko, Russian Space Navy, Captain of the ship Lenin.
Chapter 1: Search
Not for the first time in his career Captain Oliver Jackson lifted his glass in silent thanks to the stars for allowing him to be born British. Surveying the crew at work, he sipped his beer and watched the starfield as the ship passed silently through the folds of hyperspace.
H.M.S. Ulysses was a man of war on a search mission. The I.S.S. Garnet was missing. With it the American Empire's Princess Victoria and her consort to be, Jacques Colon the French Ambassador to the Emperor. Two weeks ago the Garnet had left the French colony world of Lyon for it's ten day passage back to Earth and the eager father of the bride, Emperor Daniel Rodrigo Prichard-Marquez. The Imperial decree to find the missing ship came when it was two days late in arriving.
The Royal Navy had wasted no time in diverting the Ulysses from its task of hunting pirates in the asteroid field around Clementine. Arriving on station to begin his search pattern, Captain Jackson held little hope for finding the two lovebirds alive. Pirates had managed to steal an interdiction class cruiser from the Chinese and had been playing havoc on the transit lines between the most populous planets and Earth. For ten hours the crew watched their screens looking for the telltale sign of a ship being forced out of hyperspace or even worse the shockwave of a ship exploding while traveling at supra-C.
Jackson was nodding to sleep in his chair when a sensor tech called, "Breakout, Breakout. Marker away."
Other crew members were already prepping the ship to drop into normal space before he had even fully roused himself.
"What have we got Miss Preston?" Jackson asked the lead sensor tech.
"Gravity anomaly Captain. Weak reading, may be up to two weeks old," she replied. "The Garnet was a small ship and if they knew what they were after..." she left the rest unsaid.
If the pirates knew what they were going after, they knew a small gravity well would break them out of hyperspace and they knew who was onboard. Captain Jackson decided to take no chances.
"Alert the crew. Battle Stations in ten minutes," he told the Officer of the Deck.
"Aye Captain," he replied. Keying the loudspeaker, "Now hear this. Battle Stations in ten minutes. All hands prepare for Battle Stations in ten minutes."
The slight feel of vertigo that accompanies the drop into normal space washed over the Captain and crew. Well trained, most of the bridge crew was already sitting at their stations in anticipation. Immediately after breakout the crew started moving about the cabin, while others entered in preparation for Battle Stations.
"Two micro-jumps Sir and I can plant us right on top of the marker," the navigator said.
"Plot it Mr. Wells," Jackson said, watching the normal stars slide across the view screen as the ship reversed course.
First officer Lt. Commander Saundra McGee took her place at the O.O.D.'s station just as the tones sounded, calling the crew to Battle Stations. The tones hadn't died completely when sections began calling in their readiness. In forty-two seconds all stations had reported manned and ready. Captain Jackson allowed himself a small smile, even with the warning that was impressive.
"Plot set and ready, Ma'am," the navigator said to the First Officer.
With a nod from the Captain she replied, "Initiate jump, helmsman."
Two jumps and eleven minutes later the Ulysses appeared in normal space three hundred meters from the marker. All hands with a view began searching for signs of enemies. The automated defense system found them first. White hot beams leapt from the gun batteries located forward of the bridge.
"Missiles inbound from twelve degrees left, Sir," the Gunnery Officer called out.
Without any orders needed the ship began turning to face the threat.
"Talk to me Gunny," McGee said.
"Six, no eight missiles inbound from an asteroid, range twenty-two thousand kilometers, course now zero, even on. The automated systems destroyed them all as soon as they came within effective range. Sensor sweep shows no other activity," he replied.
"Captain, sensors have a derelict ship, right size and configuration for the Garnet. Getting the plot info now. Range one hundred ten thousand kilometers, Bering two-two-seven, down angle four degrees," Preston called out.
"Plotted," the navigator called before the Captain could even reply.
"Helm, make it so," McGee said to the helmsman.
"Aye Ma'am. Coming right to bering two-two-seven, down angle four," he replied.
The H.M.S. Ulysses moved ponderously to within three thousand meters of the derelict ship. By now the forward cameras had shown everyone on board the hole blasted in the side of the I.S.S. Garnet, its name still visible through the burn marks.
"Search and Rescue team is ready to deploy on your orders Captain," Saundra informed the Captain.
"Do it. Be careful and remember this is more likely a crime scene than a rescue operation," Captain Jackson said. Turning to the Communications Officer, "Send a report to headquarters and copy it to Buenos Aries. We may as well inform the Emperor now what we found."
"Ready Sir. Date, location and search operations beginning. Anything else?" Commo asked.
"Include a shot of the hole in it's side. Let's not raise false hopes."
"Captain can I see you here for a minute?" Preston asked.
Captain Jackson walked over to the sensor suite, "What have you got Gina?"
"Two tracks leaving the area. This one is definitely the cruiser, the Chinese never did shield their ships right. This one however," she said pointing to a different area, "looks like a fresh track and it's kinda hiding in the inbound track from the Ulysses. Weird, like they waited for us to pass then jumped on our track hoping to hide."
"That's what I'd do if I was going after the Emperor's daughter," the navigator commented.
"Explain Giles," Captain Jackson ordered.
"Imperial sensors aren't as good as ours and their crews leave something to be desired," he said. "Most likely they never would have found that second track."
"Not to mention that they would be hot to pursue the cruiser. It's track sticks out like a sore thumb," Gina said, followed by a rude noise. "In fact too much, like they haven't been taking care of the damping fields."
"Or opened them up to make it real apparent where it led," Giles replied.
"Plot the course Giles. We'll follow the second track as soon as Lt. Commander McGee is back on board."
"Aye Sir," he responded to the receding back of the Captain.
"What do you think Giles. Hostage situation?" she asked.
"Stupid any way you look at it. The Emperor is one bad man when it comes to his family," he replied.
"I met his cousin once in Havana. They're all that way. Stephen Prichard couldn't even go to the loo without a bodyguard. Made sex real interesting."
"Tell me about it, Love," he replied.
"You've had sex with a Prichard-Marquez?"
"No, No. Tell me about having sex with an Imperial family member."
"Later. After we get off duty you can give me a back rub and I'll tell you scandalous stories of Imperial debauchery," she said.
"Sounds like fun," he said, turning to his plot table and linking it to Gina's sensor feed.
An hour later Captain Jackson ordered the ship to stand down from Battle Stations. A thorough pounding of the asteroid from which the missile attack had originated had reduced it to rubble. Gina and Giles slipped out a short time later, having been relieved by their less competent counterparts.
"What first? Food or Fuck?" Giles asked as they stepped into a privacy booth.
"My God is that all you Canadians think about is sex and food?" Gina replied.
"No we also think about hockey. But it's hard to keep up with it out here and finding a spot of ice big enough to play is a trick."
Gina had to laugh, "Ha. That's good. Sex, food and fighting."
"What more is there?" he replied, pulling the buttons loose on his jump suit.
Dropping his jumper he leaned over and kissed Gina on her soft warm lips. She returned the kiss as his hands pulled the buttons of her jumper loose.
"Sex it is then big boy," Gina said, letting the material fall.
Chapter 2: Pursuit
Lt. Commander McGee returned four hours later. The S&R team had recovered nine bodies. None of which were identified as that of Princess Victoria or Jacques Colon.
"That leaves three unaccounted for, Sir," McGee reported. "The Princess, her Fiancé and one other that we haven't identified. It may be the Princess' personal maid, but we can't be sure just yet."
"What makes you think it's her maid?" Captain Jackson asked.
.... There is more of this story ...