“I’ll blast that ship out of the sky!” shouted Captain Calen. She was raising her fist and shouting at the roof of the bridge, and Ensign Trell was watching eagerly, clearly approving of the sentiment. Captain Andrew Ortega hadn’t been sure just how to reveal the news that the ship issuing the distress signal had been a Dyson Empire vessel, knowing that either of the two Morcalans would see it as a chance for some quick vengeance. This was a situation where the Astroguard’s policies came into direct conflict with the standard practices of the Morcalan military.
“That vessel is in need of assistance, and no longer a threat,” said Ortega.
“We’ll leave it in enough pieces to create a new nebula,” said Calen, ignoring Ortega’s attempted interruption. “This Cypulchral Cloud will be engulfed from within by the remains of this vessel!”
“Unlikely,” said Ortega. “The mass that you’d need for something like that would-”
“I know it’s unlikely!” said Calen. “You’re a fool to take such statements literally. Clearly I’ll need to vaporize a great many vessels to come close to anything on the level of this infernal cloud. What right have you to commit mimesis against the poetry of war!”
“This isn’t war,” said Ortega. “We’re rescuing a ship in distress, and that’s amid our attempt to locate Doctor Silas Rogers.”
“That ship directly assisted in conquering this system!” said Ensign Trell. “Morcala has fallen, and vengeance is ours to take against our enemies!”
“This ship might not have attacked Morcala,” said Ortega. He pointed at the dense, purple mist just outside the bridge’s window. “This cloud attacks any standard ship systems that don’t take precautions. The cloud’s small enough to not lie on any galactic star charts, and the hazard it represents is clearly more well known to Morcalans than others. When the Dyson Dogfighters first swarmed your system, my guess is that this one’s flightpath took it through the cloud. Assuming any warp or hyper engine speed, if it dropped into sub-light speeds at the right time he wouldn’t have had any warning at all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Trell. “The odds of that happening-”
“Would be more likely when you consider the number of ships that Dyson used,” said Captain Calen, looking out the window. Ensign Trell hesitated at the sight of Calen being suddenly quiet and contemplative, but continued.
“Captain, even if this one ship had no direct involvement, it’s still clearly sided with our enemies. The terms of Morcalan War are clear to anyone. We have a right to destroy this vessel.”
“We have the right, yes,” said Calen. “But not the need. Curse this sentimental attitude of yours, Ortega, and know you’ve earned a mark against you for staying my hand and preventing me from sating my desire for retribution.”
“Captain, we don’t need to stay our hand if we don’t-”
“Ensign, the survivors of that ship may have valuable information for us, and the ship’s computer itself may be of some value. We will retake Morcala, but even now Dyson is putting ever-stronger defenses into place to prevent us from striking against him. We must use… guile.”
Trell narrowed her eyes and turned back to her station.
“Certainly, Captain. Awaiting your orders.”
“I’m glad you see the sense in not destroying the vessel, Captain,” said Ortega.
“Oh, I still fully intend to lay waste to my enemies, Ortega. But the survivors of that ship have earned a stay of their execution through good fortune that they haven’t earned, and may gain a complete reprieve with helpful behavior. Life in a work camp will be too good for Dyson troops. Give Trell the coordinates to the Dyson dogfighter, Captain. I won’t destroy it on sight now.”
Andrew smiled. He’d intentionally returned from a direction that wouldn’t reveal the Dyson vessel’s location just in case the Morcalans wouldn’t listen to reason. Trell had apparently assumed something of the sort, something that might have helped her to realize how hard it would be to enact her desired vengeance without his help.
Captain Calen watched Ortega assist Trell with the coordinates. The Captain of the Astroguard was playing true to his reputation for undeserved charity. He might have been correct in this particular instance, but mercy was never the first option for Morcalan minds. He’d already created some friction where Trell was concerned, unfortunately.
Mercy would win the hour, but she would have to keep an eye on Captain Ortega to ensure that he was dealt with before it could gain a stronger foothold.