Time Flies Over Vesta
High Space Piracy
The retrofitted UES light-cruiser, The Tipped Hourglass, maintained a steady speed and trajectory leaving the orbit of Europa despite being laden with an illegal ice haul.
Leaving the Jovian system at too high of a velocity would tip the UES's hand that they flew under a dark banner.
Which was code for they engaged in high space piracy and terrorism, which is precisely the sort of propaganda that made captain Penelope Renata take the helm of the Tipped Hourglass in the first place.
The United Earth Republic viewed the endeavors that captain Renata, and countless others like her, undertook as driven by greed slicked by blood.
Yet, when people in the Mars colonies couldn't even cry out for help due to how thirsty they were, Renata found herself, and the rest of the ships that flew under the banner of the Steel Eclipse Resistance, not giving much of a shit about what Earth thought of them.
“Sir, we just picked up a vessel on our scope, five clicks out. They slipped in cloaked, sir.” Mitchell called out, voice high in surprise, from his seat at the communications post.
Mitchell rarely lost his composure, yet captain Renata knew he was shaken for it was a rarity when a ship managed to outsmart them like this. Mitchell spoke nine languages, and dedicated himself to engineering every part of the Hourglass’ relays and scopes himself.
She knew they should've gotten their stealth sensor array repaired back on Vesta when he told her it was faulty.
“Give me hard scans, evasive maneuvers, full thrust. Do not let them get missile lock.” Captain Renata commanded, pushing back her greying hair behind her ears. All crew on deck and under strapped in as the deck lights flashed red indicating the Tipped Hourglass entered close-combat conditions.
The ship dove and lurched to starboard, but not enough to jostle the ice in the cargo bay. captain Renata thanked the stars that their pilot, Choi, had such a natural feel for the controls.
“Sir, it's a Kinshasa class heavy-destroyer. All thermal readings confirm that it's the UES Jacinda Ardern.” Mitchell reported back, voice thick.
Any new recruit knew that a Kinshasa class heavy-destroyer outgunned their Hanoi class light-cruiser four to one, despite their upgrades to weapon systems and their scavenged particle lance.
Renata's heart thumped awake in her chest for the first time in decades.
“What's the pirate killer doing out this far past the belt?!” O'Dell postured up from the firing station, dark eyes wide as moons.
“Give me direct wave communications with the Ardern. No encryption.” captain Renata ordered, jaw set, eyes on the holo like laser scopes.
“Uh....yes...yes sir.” Mitchell's hesitancy was understood by Renata, it had been seventeen years since any pirate vessel successfully escaped the clutches of the celebrated pirate hunter, Admiral Seline Huang.
While her name was chanted and rejoiced throughout Earth for bringing terrorists to justice, captain Renata knew her much more personally.
For Seline Huang used to use her father's name, Renata. She was none other than captain Penelope Renata's own younger sister.
Coms lit up right as the United Earth's Ship achieved a firing solution on the Tipped Hourglass.
“UES Jacinda Ardern, this is captain Renata of the Tipped Hourglass. We’re on a routine salvage mission bound for the New Brazil Mars Colony flying a Vesta banner. We would like to know why you’ve engaged us in inter-sol space.” Captain Renata began with formal pleasantries to the Ardern’s too young, and too bright-eyed communications officer.
She intended to throw off her younger sister, who most likely had no idea she captained this vessel, and to ease her crew into the shock of being familiar with the infamous pirate killer.
The Ardern’s coms transferred to their command station, and a face she hadn’t seen in person in twenty years appeared on her holo.
“What a surprise for me, time flies, Pen. How long has it been, seventeen years?” Admiral Huang’s abrupt acknowledgment plunged the Tipped Hourglass into a stiff silence.
Penelope Renata swallowed and picked her cuticles. This weathered, hardened woman with a voice like stalactites was once her cheerful little sister who blew out the candles on a Twinkie that she had stolen for her eighth birthday on Earth's former moon.
“Yes it does, and yes it has Sellie.” Penelope Renata regained her composure, and bantered back.
Her crew on deck, especially Mitchell and Odell who’d been with her the longest, gaped like goldfish.
“In accordance with the United Earth Republic Regulations R-9140, You're a confirmed vessel listed under the terrorist organization Steel Eclipse. You have one minute to power down your reactor, and sever weapons systems to prepare for boarding. If you do not comply, we will open fire, full salvo.” Her younger sister hoped they’d acquiesce, just so they could string them by their necks, and throw them out the airlock to drag like anchors as her ship burned through space.
“Really, this is how you treat your last remaining family?” Captain Renata stalled, knowing full well after Earth's moon exploded twenty years ago, that her sister would never forgive her for joining the Resistance.
For at the time, the Steel Eclipse Resistance was held responsible for detonating the moon, and murdering millions, and changing the course of life on Earth forever.
“You have forty-eight seconds, or you're ash in the asteroids. Goodbye, sister.” Admiral Huang’s smirk was a cold shard of ice as the coms blacked out.
The Tipped Hourglass remained in silence for at least three seconds, and for those three seconds, captain Penelope Renata prepped herself to surrender to a mutiny.
Related to the infamous pirate killer? Inexcusable.
“Sir, what are your orders? The Jacinda Ardern outguns us four to one, and they may have backup coming.” O'Dell asked, composed, firm, and ready just like how she found him on Deimos shooting his rapist to death in an alley.
Captain Renata’s eyebrows rose, wrinkling her forehead.
“We can hail the Tanager, they are just outside Io. if they redline their reactor, they may make it in time.” Mitchell pulled up the entire Jovian system, the blue of the holo making his freckles stand out starkly on his pallid skin.
They all needed more vitamin D supplements.
“The Tanager wouldn’t make it before the Jacinda Ardern overwhelms us. Io’s orbit and their position doesn’t suit a rapid-thrust gravity sling.” Choi informed Mitchell from the pilot seat, popping a piece of bubblegum.
Despite her propensity for pressure sickness, she was still the best pilot to ever come out of Singapore Space Academy.
“Hail the Tanager, but tell them to rally under our banner, but to not engage and to await further instruction.” Captain Renata pointed to Mitchell who whipped around and complied.
“Choi, pull us around, and O’Dell, start the firing sequence for the particle lance. Save our turrets for their torpedoes, prepare a full rack of missiles to launch before firing the lance to distract the Jacinda Ardern.” Captain Renata turned to her beloved crew, and tried not to remember the gritty collage of memories that pushed their way into her mind.
Her crew saluted.
“It's been an honor being your captain, we have lived fully and will die laughing, but we will not laugh today.” Captain Renata nodded, and the Tipped Hourglass spun out of Admiral Huang’s firing solution, ready for a dogfight.
Power in Numbers