CHEVALIER DE LA

CROIX NOIR

                                                     By 

                                                  Arthur 

 


CHAPTER 2






CONTACT AUTHOR AT;

ARTCART65@GMAIL.COM





I awoke to the high pitched sound of my home com unit sounding the message
alarm, on top of the monitor a blue light was flashing, it meant only one
thing, this was not only urgent but meant danger, the blue light was the
indicator for in house messages for the Knights, it never activated for any
other reason and they would only use the urgent contact when danger
threatened any of us.

I did not bother to dress, my four new charges would be out for the three
days it would take for the nanites to do their first changes, after that I
would put them back under and complete the job like the first six boys were
now going through, reaching the com unit I switched to voice only.

"Yes?"

"Sargasso, we have major trouble, can we meet?"

"San Rio?"

"Yes it's me, this is really urgent; we have to meet somewhere very
quickly."

"Ok, how about Sirius Moon Base in two days?"

"Done, I'll be waiting for you, I'm only a day away from there."

"Ok, see you then."

I switched off the com unit and turned back towards my bedroom, for one of
my Brothers to contact me under the urgent message system meant only one
thing, Trouble with a capital T.

Two days later found me standing in the shadows of the arrival terminal on
Sirius Moon Base, from another set of deep shadows further along the busy
concourse came three figures I recognised from our training school, members
of the Black Cross did not meet each other very often, not that we did not
want to be around others, but it was more to do with security and keeping
us as widely spread as possible.

San Rio nodded to me as did my other two Brothers of the Cross, they wore
their hoods up just as I did, it was not uncommon in these days of space
travel for people to wear hooded cloaks, it had almost become something of
a fashion statement in some system, we all turned together and walked to
the outside of the terminal, from what I could see of their features I
could discern worry and even a little fear, fear was something we did not
acknowledge at any time so this was very serious.

Once tucked away in a small alley with only one exit, San Rio began to tell
me why we had had to meet.

"Sega Corp is dropping us, they have made sure that three of our Brothers
were caught in the middle of a raid by Sigma Corp, Mitsubishi Corp and
Lloyds Corp, we were all sent out on similar jobs, we three did ours faster
than they thought we would so got away, I see you must have had the same
job, the other three spent too much time setting up the kills and were
caught and killed on the spot, the only way that could have happened was if
Sega turned them in. We three have talked it over and we think they are
cleaning house for something big."

"So what does our home base think is going on?"

"Nothing, there's no home base left, I went there first and it looks as
though it was attacked by Corporation forces, everyone is dead but us, we
no longer even have a base to return too."

"So what are you suggesting?"

"The only way I see for us to survive their attack is to stay together,
find somewhere safe and try to use what we know against them."

"You realize that if we go after them, every Corporation will have us on
their shit list, if we aren't already."

"That's why we have to stay together, the four of us are the best there is
at what we do, we've proved that time and again, us four Brothers of the
Cross are all that remains, if we don't do this we will be cut down one by
one, that's not how I want to die after what we have done for the Sega
Corporation."

"Where are your ships?"

"Mines over on the other side of the terminal, Ganius and Brutaria have
left theirs in orbit and come down with me."

"Ok, let's get out of here, I'll meet up with you just outside the terminal
radar range then we can get the other two ships, have you all disabled the
trackers they built in too them?"

"Yes, like you it was the first thing we all did."

"Ok let's get out of here."

San Rio walked away with my other two Brothers of the Cross, after I
returned to my ship and got clearance, I punched the launch buttons and the
ship lifted clear of the cradle, with a small adjustment I was off to the
meeting place, it took little time to get to the rendezvous, the three
other ships were on power down as I pulled up close, we would use intership
sub space coms so we would not be overheard, it was another little safety
feature that the Knights of the Cross used for secrecy.

"San Rio, I need you to all go to your stasis pods, switch over your ship
systems to tractor, set your pods for two days, I'll look after the rest."

I checked the tractor systems and waited enough time for them to enter
their stasis pods, once I thought they were set I pushed power into my twin
drives and set course for home, all their OP systems went through my board
so I knew they were not aware of where I was taking them, I had decided
that for now I had to keep my home asteroid as secret as I could to protect
my little cabal of boys safe.

When I reached my home two days later, I slowed and stopped short of the
asteroid, I then set the wake up modes to on so they would be able to leave
their pods and take the ships into my hidden dock well inside the asteroid,
as they all awoke I gave them the instructions to follow me in and park in
the many empty cradles left by the miners so many years ago.

All went well, once they were cradled I walked over to wait for them to
leave their ships, each ship was different in one way or another, they had
been personalised by each pilot to suit their own style and needs, as mine
was more noticeably longer, when each Brother stepped out and saw how much
the difference was, they gave me an enquiring look.

"I've put in a Jason Jump Dive, had to go to Davidian Prime to have it done
and it cost me everything I had earned for five years, but as you can
guess, I can now outrun and jump in flight out of trouble."

"Damn." San Rio said. "I wish I had done that."

The other two also said the same thing; I asked them how their savings
were, once I found out they had kept and saved most of their income I
suggested we get the three ships to Davidian Prime and get them converted,
with the four fastest ships in the galaxy, no one would be able to stop us,
there was only one thing more that they would need and for that they would
have little in savings left if they agreed.

"There's one more thing I have that you may want to think about, it will
probably send you all to the poor house but I have found it to be handy in
a couple of occasions."

"What's that, Sargasso?"

"Gun pods."

"Gun Pods, are you insane, no one has Gun Pods on a small ship like ours,
it's unheard of."

"That's why I got them, saved my ass a couple of times when the Corps have
come after me after a job."

"What you got in there then?" Brutaria asked.

"I have six Laser Pods in the cone and two Plasma Cannons on extensions in
the hull."

"Where the fuck did you get hold of Plasma Cannons, let alone Lasers."

"I used a contact out on the Rim, it's expensive but now with Sega turning
against us, it's turned out to be the right thing, you should think it
over."

The three looked at each other then to me.

"We do it even if we end up without a credit to our name, by the way, where
the fuck are we?"

"This is my home, it's an asteroid on the edge of the belt of Taurus, it
used to be a mine for one of the Corporations then ran out, I bought it
years ago and have hidden in it since, no one knows about it but me, the
guy who bought it under his name is long gone so now only you, I and my
little army know where we are."

"Your little army? Who the fuck are they?" Ganius asked in shock.

"You'll get to meet them when they are finished being fixed like us, I have
them on nanites right now, with them we will have our own little army that
can filter into anywhere."

"Ok, Sargasso what now?"

"We get some rest while I set up for your ships to be done, we have to keep
our heads down until they are ready, the boys are on an accelerated program
so as soon as they come out of the pods I'll need you all to help bring
them up to speed, they've also got some nice tail but don't go too hard on
them, most have had a shit of a life up until now."

I led my Brother Knights into the overly large living quarters, I had done
a few alterations over the years I had used the asteroid and the large
living space previously used by the miners and managers had been turned
into what was now a monstrous living space, I also had a training room and
workshop for the more specialised equipment I used on jobs.

For the next six months we stayed hidden in the asteroid, by the time the
boys were ready to be brought back into the world, the ships had been sent
to the Rim for their armaments, their jump drives had been fitted and
tested, we were nearly ready to start our own little war on the
Corporations.

Also during that time, Ganius did what he was best at, gathering
information on the Corporations, his ability in information gathering had
been almost legendary in the Knights, it was his own specialty.

We all gathered to watch the boys wake up, there came the first moans and
groans as their new bodies adjusted to the invasion of the nanites, they
were now as well armoured as we four, it was also time for them to hit the
showers for a long, long clean up, once clean the boys were introduced to
my three Brothers, there was only one more thing to do before they settled
down to eat the first solid food in six months.

"Welcome back boys, now there's one thing left to do, all of you lift your
left arm up and place your hand on your head."

My three Brother Knights and I were holding the small injection sets in our
hands but out of sight of the boys, with a nod we all moved forward at the
same time, once in front of a boy each, we lifted the injectors to the soft
underside of their bicep and hit the trigger, it was almost funny to hear
the loud yelp as the ink was injected, with the quick heal salve covering
their new tattoos they rubbed the sore spot but then tried to look at what
we had done, while they inspected the new paint job, we hit the next four
and then the last two.

The boys looked at the ink work, Scorpio was the first to ask what it was,
on the inside of their arms were the tattoos of what was once called the
Celtic Cross, it was in red ink unlike ours which were in black.

"That's called the Celtic Cross, you boys are now Brothers of the Knights
of the Croix Rouge or Brothers of the Red Cross, we four are the last of
the Knights of the Black Cross, you are going to be the new Knights of
justice, we are going to train you and then we are all going after the
Corporations before they come after us."

After they had had a chance to inspect their new tattoos more closely they
went into the dining room, there the droids had got a huge meal ready, the
boys sat and began to devour anything that looked even remotely like food,
my three Brothers just stood and grinned, they also remembered the times
when we were kids and in training when we were given a special meal instead
of the normal ration packs which we usually lived on.

Later that day I stood in the middle of the room with the others sitting
around on large sofas and chairs.

"Now boys, we are a new army of the Cross, originally I did not know I
would be having three of my Brothers joining us so we will have to work out
a way where we can all have an assistant, Tiger, Snake, Panther and
Scorpion, you'll be with me, where I go you go, you other six can now
decide who you want to go with, each Brother will have two of you, he will
watch over you, train you and probably bed you, everything we do we keep in
house, anyone from outside is to be considered an enemy, boys, we can only
trust those in this room right now, anyone, anyone at all is now an enemy
and will be put down immediately."

I paused to look at each of the boys in turn, my Brothers of the Cross had
heard the same words many long years ago, they just sat back and looked
over the boys like a cat watching a bowl of cream.

"Now, Tiger, you will come with me, everyone else will go into training
under my three Brothers while we are away, on our return I expect to see
you all involved and set for our war, you can also use the time to sort out
who is going with whom, right, Tiger, let's go, we don't have much time."

After a quick wave to my three Brothers, I led Tiger from the room, he had
already shown an aptitude for operating my ship and it's systems, this
flight I would show him really what the ship was about, from now on he
would be my co-pilot.

As mentioned before, my co-pilot sat behind my control platform, he was
also a little higher so he could see over me at the main screens, there
were no windows in the ship, it was a solid metallic skin from nose to
tail, my platform was used as the primary operations with weapons as the
secondary whereas the co-pilots primary was weapons with operations as his
secondary, getting comfortable in my chair I set the drives on standby,
from now on until we reached our destination, Tiger would be both pilot and
weapons officer, it was time to teach him his duties.

"Tiger, look down at your panel, on the left side there is a plain white
button, press that and wait until it turns blue, that's our stealth mode."

I watched as it was switched on.

"Good boy, now under your right hand is a slide control, that's for our
duel pulse drives, set them to 30%, when you have done that, throw the
small black lever at the centre of the panel to `destination' and watch the
screen that comes up."

I again waited and watched as he followed the orders, when the screen lit
up I gave him his next instructions.

"Scroll down the screen until you come to `Sega5', once there select `North
Wilds' then punch in `complete' when that's done you can punch the yellow
launch button."

Tiger followed each instruction to the letter, I then felt the drives
engage and the ship turned a little then powered away from our stand point
1000 kilometres from the home asteroid.

"Good boy, now set the `operations' button to `auto' from now on the
Positronic Brain in the ship will take over for now, you have more lessons
to learn."

I kept a close eye on my own board as Tiger went through each instruction
until we were on auto and the ship was flying itself under the management
of the core systems.

"Now my boy, time to try out the good stuff, on the left arm rest you have
five buttons, the large one is to recline your chair, the others are to set
it up so you are fully comfortable, do that now, when you are good and
settled, press the green button on the right hand rest, a screen will come
down in front of you, this is your weapons and targeting system, do that
now."

I waited until he had everything settled and the screen was down in front
of him.

"Ok, the white button on your chair is to activate the weapons system and
screen, press that to `on' now."

Tiger followed along quickly and sat and looked when the screen lit up and
he saw the weapons array, he had not said a word which I hoped meant he was
taking in everything I was telling him, there may or may not be time for
more practice in the future, I just could not take the chance, our best
defence was our stealth system, there was not a ship or base that could
pick us up once we went into stealth but, with the Corporations after us I
could not take even the smallest of chances if we were to succeed.

"Now the screen is a touch screen as you can see, touch the green star,
that's your lasers, there are six of them mounted around the nose cone in
pods, when you fire, they will all go together one after the other, that is
so they never overheat although the rate of fire is very high, on the left
of the screen is the black outline of a space fighter of the Galactic Navy,
press that, it is a training mode, when the ship comes on the screen you
can go at it and see if you can bring it down, just like a gaming console
at home."

I sat back with my hands behind my head as I watched him chase the fighter,
what I had not told him was, when he shot down the first one it was
replaced by two new ones, as he shot each one down they would multiply
until he did not have a hope of getting them all, Tiger outdid even my
highest expectations by the time he got to twenty four fighters and was
still giving them a run for their money, as the last two fighters finally
got through his defences and sharp shooting, the screen went blank then,
with a loud ringing of a siren, the words came up, "You're Dead" I chuckled
as he swore at the screen.

"Don't take it too heart Tiger, I've never seen anyone get more than twelve
fighters before, you'll do just fine, how the hell did you manage to kill
off so many?"

"That's all I used to do was play vid games when I wasn't doing business,
the guys would come and pick me up from the games arcade so I had plenty of
time to learn."

"Good, now for something new, press the red star, these are our two Plasma
Cannons, they are in pods on each side of the ship at mid point, for
practise use the outline of the Galactic Cruiser, it will do the same as
you take one out each time, let's see how you go with only two guns instead
of six, don't forget, you have to wait two seconds between each shot for
the cannon to come back to ready state, ok off you go."

Again I watched as he took control of the firing systems, it did not take
long for him to work out that it was better to fire one cannon after the
other instead of both together, that way he had only a second between shots
instead of two, in a space battle it could make all the difference, Tiger
did well and was only killed after he had taken down seven cruisers, no
mean feat when they have twenty cannons to your two and were well armoured,
I waited until Tiger had stopped swearing, he even had a few names for the
Galactic Navy that I had never heard of before.

"Don't fret yourself Tiger, you did better than anyone I've seen, don't
forget, that was just a training vid, in a real battle you would have your
pilot using evading tactics as well as your own fire power and our stealth
mode, I'm pleased with what you have done, I want you to keep practising
while we travel to Sega5, we have four days so you should be very good by
the time we get there."

I switched flight control back to my platform while he went back to killing
Galactic Navy ships, I did not have a lot to do but liked to take manual
control to keep my hand in for any surprises that might arise in the
future, the continuous chatter and swearing from behind me as Tiger
destroyed the Galactic Navy kept a smile on my face, the boy had a very
dirty mouth that I had not heard before.

I set the ship on auto and left to go back and ready a meal for us both,
the continuous grunts and swear words drifted back to me as I worked with a
smile on my face, young Tiger had been the right choice all along and he
was just as active and noisy in bed where he had shown me a few position I
had never considered.

When the meal was ready I returned and forced him to give up his battle
with the Galactic Navy, as we ate I switched on my screen and checked his
scores, much to my surprise I saw that he had increased his hits on the
cruisers up to twenty one.

"How the hell did you get twenty one cruisers, Tiger?"

"I cheated."

"How, you can't cheat the system."

"I didn't cheat the system, I cheated the cruisers."

"Ok, smart ass, how did you do it?"

"When my Cannons were resetting, I used the lasers, the cruisers were
looking for my cannon traces so the multi firing of the lasers confused
their firing systems, while they were adjusting to the lasers I would have
my cannons ready again and let them have those, again they had to adjust to
the incoming and I would switch back to the lasers, mind you they killed me
four fucking times while I was setting it up."

"Now that might just work for real as long as they are still using the same
sort of tactics as when this was set up."

"It should, I don't think anyone has thought of it before, we can always go
find some Navy ships and shoot at them."

I could almost hear the laughter in his voice as he mentioned taking on
some Navy Cruisers just to prove a point.

"Not on my fucking watch Tiger, still let's keep that one a secret for now,
I want you to keep practicing along those lines, anything new you come up
with just let me know, we may be able to teach the others as well."

"Gottcha, Boss."

Tiger finished eating and turned back to his screen and the battle he was
fighting, once again to the accompaniment of many and varied swear words
that got more colourful as time went on.

We were now close to Sega5, it was time to once again take over manual
control, the place we were going to land was not a normal site, it was in
the middle of the Northern Wilds of Sega5 and a very hostile place for the
unwary, still in stealth mode we set down in a small clearing that was just
big enough for the ship to hover in, switching on the security protocols, I
pulled my cloak tight around me, checked that Tiger had on a warm jacket
and thick snow boots and left the ship.

"Ok, Tiger, this is also a training program but the end result if you don't
do it properly is that you will really be dead, so watch what you do and
say, I'll be close by but in stealth mode, don't give away that I am here
if you can help it, we move through those trees for about a hundred metres
and come to a small clearing, in there is a stone hut, the guy is always
very leery so don't make any mistakes, he will kill you."

I went into stealth mode and left Tiger to make his own way through the
thick snow towards the stone hut, he moved well, perhaps his years on the
street had taught him a certain caution, not that it would help if the guy
was as alert as he usually was, it would depend entirely on what and how
Tiger spoke.

I circled the clearing and came up on the hut from behind just as Tiger
stepped into sight on the edge of the clearing, from the dark doorway came
a deep throaty voice.

"Stop right there mister, one step more and I cut you in half."

The large barrel of the .75 rifle was showing from the doorway, considering
that I knew he used depleted rounds in that cannon, you wouldn't hunt
Skerrit with anything smaller, he would literally cut Tiger in half.

"Sorry Sir, but I'm lost, I haven't eaten in days and don't know where I
am, I need help Sir."

The kid was lying through his teeth but he sounded so convincing I almost
fell for it myself, Kratos walked from the dark insides of the cabin
although he still had the rifle in his hands ready to use.

"How the hell did you get way out here boy?"

"I don't know Sir, I was walking home from school and then woke up out here
not long ago, I just started walking in the hope of finding help."

"Damn it boy, you must be the luckiest son of a bitch on this planet, don't
you know this is Skerrit territory, those things would eat you in one
mouthful, get over here and inside, you got to get warm before we can find
a way to get you back home."

I had sidled up to Kratos while he was watching Tiger, letting one blade
come out just as he began to turn his head, I rested the blade on his
throat and said.

"You're still a big sucker for a sob story Kratos."

"Sargasso, I should have bloody known, next time I will tear your scrawny
neck from your shoulders."

The amusement in his voice belied his anger; he turned and hugged me tight.

"So who is the little one, a fuck toy or are you a father now?"

"He's one of my new boys, come inside and I'll tell you more, the boy must
be getting cold by now."

We all followed Kratos back inside, the fire was roaring as it always was,
Tiger sat on a small round stool while Kratos and I took the only
comfortable chairs.

"So, what's going on Sargasso?"

"Sega Corp has turned on us, there's only four of us left, we got these
boys here and are making up our own little army to hit back but I need ten
new suits for the boys and some cloaks, can you do it?"

"You're lucky, I got four packs of skins in gel ready to go, I can also get
the clothe for your cloaks if you give me a day and a half, when do you
want them?"

"I need for you to come with us, it would be easier for you to go to them
than the other way round, can you do the suit making at my base?"

"Sure, as long as I can get my cutters on your ship along with the hide
packs."

"No problem I have plenty of space, when can we leave then?"

"Day after tomorrow, gives me time to get the cloak clothe and be back
here, you staying in here or on your ship?"

"With every ass hole in the galaxy after my ass I had better stay in the
ship, when you got everything let me know by the usual way and I'll come
land in your front garden, we can load and be gone in ten minutes."

"One other thing Sargasso."

"Yup?"

"I got no home here no more, the Corporation has put a ban on Skerrit
hunting so this is my last hunt, you got a place for an old used up hunter
in your ranks?"

"You still as good as ever with that cannon of yours?"

"You want a hundred metre head start and try to dodge it?"

"Ok, you get the cloak clothe and you can join the motley crew of misfits
and bum boys, see you back here day after tomorrow."

I led Tiger away and back into the newly falling snow, in ten minutes we
were back in the confines of the ship with all security systems on full
alert; taking Tiger gently by the arm I led him back to one of the bunks.

"For being such a good little liar and killing so many Navy ships, I'm
going to bed you until you can't take it anymore, how does that sound?"

"Yes please Sir."

The Sir came out more as a derisive sound, I gave him a light smack on the
back of the head and proceeded to strip him as we walked towards the bed,
it was lucky the ship was sound proof or we would have had every Skerrit in
the country trying to knock a hole in the ship, Tiger went totally
ballistic as the night and exercise got longer and more active.

On the second day, the small blip, blip, blip of the personal com unit told
me Kratos had returned to his hut, I settled Tiger in his chair and took
mine, within a minute we were in the air and did the short hop into his
front yard where he waited with the antigrav discs to load his hides and
other personal things from his hut, in less than half an hour we were
leaving the atmosphere of Sega5, still in stealth mode.

"So tell me Kratos, what have you been doing for a breeder all these
years?"

Kratos wasn't into boys like all the Knights, he was strictly a ladies'
man.

"Lost the interest and the ability five years ago."

"What do you mean?"

"A fucking dead Skerrit got me in the nuts, crushed them beyond use, fucker
nearly killed me, got so angry I nearly chopped him up into small pieces
with the rifle."

"How the fuck could a dead Skerrit nearly kill you?"

"That's what I thought at the time, I had seen this big bull Skerrit out on
the tops, I tracked the fucker for two days before I got a shot into him
behind his ear, his nose buried into the snow and he didn't move, turns out
my shot was just a fraction off target, it went into his head ok but only
nicked the brain, you know how small they are on a Skerrit, anyhow, I got
up close to put a second shot in just to make sure and the fucker swung his
tail around and got me right between the legs, by the time I could breathe
again, he was on his feet and looking down my throat, just managed to get
another shot into his neck from the ground, when he fell he missed my by
inches, that's when I got mad and kept on firing, trouble was my nuts were
now so swollen I couldn't walk, had to call for a medivac, cost me most of
my savings for the season, so since then no action on the breeder front."

"Fuck Kratos, that sucks."

"Hurumph, can't even do that either, fucking Skerrit's, they will be the
death of me one day."

"Not anymore Kratos, there's more chance the Corporation will get you than
a Skerrit now you've joined our merry little band."

"Suppose so, still one pest is like another, now how about you and this
little lying shit with you?"

"His name's Tiger, he's one of four of mine, there's another six but they
are going to join up with my last surviving three brothers."

"Sounds like a plan, you got a target yet?"

"Not yet, we're still setting up."

"How about hitting Sega Corp then, it may just give them a fright that will
keep them on their toes while you go after some of the others, the fact you
hit back will set their teeth on edge and they won't know where you are
going to do it next time."

"So you mean hit and run with no set plan, keep it going with no patterns
for them to follow?"

"That's it, hit, run and disappear, it should drive them crazy, with your
ships and equipment you could keep them guessing forever, even if they
bring in the Navy you can outrun and outfight them."

I settled back into my chair and let the possibilities run through my head
as Tiger went back to working on his weapons console, later, just as we got
to 50,000 kilometres from home, a warning light flashed on the board,
somehow we had triggered a security system somewhere in space, as I was
looking frantically for the answer, the Positronic Core came on line but it
did not sound like the one I knew was in the ship, the voice was more
formal and slightly deeper.

"Commander Sargasso, this is Home Base Security, please verify passenger as
friendly and cargo as cleared, if under duress please signify by replying
"Not clear?"

"Who, what, how?"

"Commander Sargasso, this is Home Base Security, please be advised that
failure to follow security measure could mean the destruction of your ship
for the safety of home base, please reply as directed."

"Uhm, all clear, passenger is safe."

"Thank you Commander Saragossa, you may proceed to home base, I am
returning Positronic Core to your system."

"Core, what the fuck was that all about?"

"I am sorry Sargasso, I am not authorised to reveal that information at
this time, Base Security is now in charge of the safety of Home Base, you
will have to enquire through him, his name is Gareth."

As we neared the open doors of the landing bay, something caught my eye,
suddenly my hands felt sweaty and my senses went on full alert, planted in
gun caves on each side of the open door were some very large twin barrelled
Plasma Cannons, by the look of their size I would suspect they were a pair
of the now banned L768D Plasma Cannons, they had been outlawed years ago
when it was found they could disintegrate a ship with one shot and not
leave much of a city standing after two shots, now I was scared.

I began to run things through in my head, had we been invaded while I had
been away for six days, who was it, how did they get banned weapons built
into my asteroid in such a short time, it was time to take precautions.

"Tiger, set your weapons platform to active, that's the red button on your
right hand rest, have all weapons on full alert standby, if I say shoot
don't ask questions, Kratos, get that cannon of yours fully loaded and
ready, soon as I land and open the doors, sweep the landing bay."

I took the ship in closer, the four huge barrels tracking us as we got
closer to the open doors, once inside I could hear a very faint rumble as
they went back into their nooks, the bay was totally empty and the lighting
had been dimmed down, a sure sign that things were not right, I had
expected the boys and my Brothers to be in there waiting for our return,
shutting down the engines I called up my blades as I nodded to Tiger to
stay at his guns.

I moved to the now open door, Kratos was sweeping the bay with his hand
cannon, as I stepped clear of the doorway, a fast moving shadow caught my
eye, suddenly I had eight dark shadows almost on top of me, as I was about
to take the first one out, a familiar voice called loudly.

"Stop, ok boys, not bad but you have to make sure you are on him before he
feels you there, next time I will let him carve you up a bit."

I turned around, all my sense still on full alert, the shadows now
shimmered and revealed themselves as the other boys, Brutaria stepped from
the shadows in a far off corner, all I could do was look on in shock.

"Tell me what the fuck is going on here Brutaria, I could have killed these
little fuckers and where did they get shade suits from?"

"Home Base Security, there's been a few things happen since you left."

"No shit, so what's going on?"

"You better come with me, there's a lot to tell you, who's the giant with
the hand cannon?"

I had not mentioned that Kratos was over seven feet tall and as wide as a
one of the Skerrit he hunted.

"He's Kratos, friend of my dad's from years ago, hunted Skerrit and made
our suits, he's here to join us and help where he can."

"Good, we need all the help we can get, there's just been a galaxy wide
alert sent out for our hides by Sega Corp."

After getting Tiger to power down and secure weapons, we all followed
Brutaria down into the main room, it did not take long for me to see there
had been some big changes, the once plain white panelling of the quarters
now showed a number of halls leading off in different directions, had they
been there all the time I had been living in this place, none of it was
familiar, the old mine site had just become something entirely different.

Ganius sat at a new huge console, beside him was the Chase boy, had they
not been sitting in separate chairs, the boy would have been on Ganius's
lap.

"So what the fuck is going on?"

"Ferris went hunting and activated the base systems."

"Ferris, who the fuck is Ferris?"

Ganius wrapped one of his long arms around the Chase boy and smiled.

"He is."

"You named him after one of those sneaky little fuckers that chews your arm
off before you know he's there?"

"That's him, and he's just as sneaky, did you know he has an IQ of 197,
that's just 15 points below Gareth."

"Who's Gare... oh yes, the security computer, so what gives?"

"Well, after you left I was trying to find everything I could on the
Corporations, Ferris came in and watched for a little bit then asked if he
could join in the hunt, he showed me things I have never seen, the boys a
genius with systems, anyhow, he started to search the data base when he
came across a file that was encrypted and had an eyes only tag for someone
called Professor Langton, being a nosey little fucker, he went after it,
next thing we know all hell broke loose, lights were flashing, safety doors
were dropping all around, alarms were sending us into a nut house, next
thing we know this voice comes over the system, it asked for verification
within two minutes or the base would self destruct, little Ferris here used
one minute fifty seconds to work out the code, once he input that, the
system told us he was Gareth and we had activated Alpha Base, we then had
to line up one by one to be scanned for clearance, once all that was done
things almost went back to normal."

"But why all this shit for an old deserted mine."

"It's not a mine, never was, this was an experimental security base, it had
been built by Mitsubishi Corporation years ago when the Corporations were
still at each other's throat, it was never activated, I'll let Ferris fill
you in on all the details."

Just as he finished the voice of Gareth filled the air.

"Commander Sargasso, please step forward for verification by eye scan,
finger print, and DNA sample, thank you."

From the console to the side of where Ferris sat, a flat plate appeared, I
stepped up to it and followed the instructions, when I was finished I was
told to step back and for the other two to do the same, once that was done
Gareth came back on.

"Commander Sargasso, you are verified as commander of Alpha Base, what are
your orders?"

"Ah, for now I need an update on all system in the base, please supply."

"Yes Sir, the base was constructed by Professor Langton under instructions
of the Mitsubishi Corporation, it was shut down by the Professor after I
became sentient, I have been waiting for 56 years for activation, all
system are at optimum and ready for activation on your orders."

Something stirred far in the back of my mind, the name Langton I had heard
before, it took another minute or two before it clicked, the old guy I had
bought the asteroid from was named Langton, but he certainly didn't look
like any professor I had ever seen however, there could be no other
explanation, had he moth balled the Base for future use, if so how had he
known that the current situation would arise, and, furthermore, why let an
assassin have it, he must have known who the Knights of the Black Cross
were, everyone else knew about us even though they would not know exactly
who each individual was.

"Gareth, what is our current defensive and offensive status?"

"Commander, all defensive beacons are set at the six points at 25,000
kilometres with a 50,000 kilometre range, all internal blast doors have
been checked and in-house lasers and cameras are active, defensive weapons
are on standby, thirty L768D dual barrel Plasma Cannon are active and on
standby, one hundred and fifty quad barrel .75 laser units are active and
on standby, do you have further requests Commander?"

"Not just now Gareth, thank you, we will be having three more ships the
same as mine joining us shortly, they are to be added to the roster."

"Very good Commander, I shall contact their Positronics when they arrive."

"Thank you Gareth, now Ferris, what the fuck is this all about?"

"It's just like Ganius said, I came across the file and went in for a look,
then all this stuff came up and here we are with a well armed and protected
base, and Gareth plays a real mean game of triple chess, I only managed to
beat him twice so far out of thirty five games."

"Ok, ok, I meant how did the base even come to be here and why don't the
Corporations know about it, surely if they spent this sort of money they
would want a return on it?"

Ganius took over.

"From what Gareth told us, when the base was finished, the Professor was
still working on the core, that's Gareth, what the Corporation didn't know
was that Gareth was so advanced that it would take at least three years for
him to get full sentience to be able to run the base, they thought it had
all been a failure when they couldn't get him online immediately, From what
Gareth told us, the Professor never did like the way the Corporations were
doing things so stayed quiet about how long it would take to get Gareth up
and running, he then resigned on the pretext he had failed the Corporation
and retired out here, the Corporation was glad to get rid of the base so
let him have it for next to nothing as a place he could retire in, of
course he knew something they didn't, all he had to do was wait for Gareth
to become sentient and then he would seal the base away from the
Corporations."

"So he never wanted them to have it in the first place."

"No, I think he fully intended for it to be used against the Corporations
when he found the right man to do it, looks like you were chosen when he
sold it to you, according to Gareth, the Professor then spent a lot of time
and credits making sure any knowledge or sign of the base was eradicated
from any Corporation files, as far as we know, no one knows the base
exists."

"Ok, so how big is the base in real terms?"

"It takes up perhaps 70% of the internal area of the asteroid."

"70%, are you sure?"

"Yup, I've seen the overall plans."

This asteroid was not a small chunk of rock, it was in fact one of the
larger ones in the Taurus belt, for 70% of it to be a base made it huge, of
course Mitsubishi had always done things on a very big scale so it should
not really have surprised me, what did was the fact they had just thrown it
away when they thought it had failed.

"So what takes up so much space?"

Ferris took over the explanation as he had more intimate knowledge of its
workings.

"The main core is at the centre, that's where Gareth lives, he is a dual
phsi mentat core attached to all systems within the asteroid, our power is
supplied by Ion generators with a duel pulse engine backup, there are four
training rooms that are all holographic, then there are the workshops which
operate under droid control, anything we want made can be done in those
shops, the armoury covers seven hundred square metres, it has things in
there that even the Corporations don't know about, most of it was developed
by the Professor after he retired so none of them have ever been seen
before, there are two hydroponic gardens, there is only a need for meat to
be shipped in but it can produce a protein mix similar to meat products if
needed, the main hanger has rebuild capabilities if the droids are
programmed for it, what we have is one hell of a good well protected home
base."

"Thanks Ferris, well guys, our three ships should be ready in another week,
in the mean time I need info on Sega Corp and where we can hit them hard
then get out before they know what's hit them, Ganius, start your search in
that area, now the last thing before I get Panther on his back, who is with
who and what are their cover names?"

"Well as you know I have Ferris with me and Spider wants to work with me as
well, most times Ferris will stay here to keep a watch over everything when
we are away, Spider will be my co-pilot." Ganius replied next San Rio spoke
up.

"I've got the brothers, you will not believe what they can do together, the
older one is now Gravis because he is as deadly as that little viper by the
same name, the young one is Baktra after the Ice Tiger of Canus Major, he
will be my co-pilot."

"The other two boys are mine." Brutaria said, "The little one is Kabbit
from the Kramer desert beetle, he can see and smell things even I miss, the
older one is now Karrum from Sega3, you know what those little fuckers can
do to your blood system, he will be my co-pilot."

"Ok, guys, I'm off to the barracks for some R&R."

"No you're not." Replied Ganius, "no such thing anymore, the droids worked
on them while you were away, you now have special quarters with the extra
rooms for your boys attached, you also now have full displays built in so
you can see what's going on anywhere inside or outside of the base,
congratulations Commander, you just got the shit job."

Ganius laughed as the others smirked behind their hands, grabbing Panther
by the arm I headed for my new quarters, I was now in the mood to seriously
break some nice little butt.

First thing in the morning I had Kratos strip the boys and get them
measured for their Skerrit suits, it was a long process which also included
having the hides taken from their gel and laid on the boys to make the
forms, Kratos would then begin the cutting and final shaping until he had
the correct fit and all the needed pockets formed, he would then put them
in his dryer and set them to the final shape.

After lunch the boys had been finished and they then started on more
training on the use of the many weapons we hid about our bodies when on a
job, they also had to go through the unarmed combat sessions which took us
through until a late dinner was served then back into the training rooms,
by late in the night the boys were ready for bed, it was gruelling but
necessary if they wanted to stay alive.

When the time finally came for us to retrieve the three ships, I set the
boys that were staying behind tasks and training schedules to keep them
busy until we returned, it would be sooner than they thought as we would
use the jump drives going both ways, a round trip of only two days in real
time, when the three Brothers and their co-pilots were seated and belted
in, you did not use jump drive without being well secured in the six point
harness, I had Tiger power us up and take the ship to 2,000 kilometres from
the base, as normal we were in stealth mode.

After instructing him carefully in the procedure for the jump drives, I sat
back but ready as he set everything in motion, I was the only one of us all
that had been in a jump before so the others soon appreciated the six point
harnesses, as the ship around us shimmered into bright light I felt the
heavy pull of the jump, it made you a little nauseas at first but, as the
jump finished you came back to almost feeling human again.

When Tiger had got his head back he looked into the screen and saw we were
a long way from the starting point, now we were right out on the rim of the
galaxy, in front of us was the small planet of Kaydor, it was run by what
once would have been called `Pirates' or `Rebels' but they were also well
known for not being or having anything to do with the Corporations, in fact
they were known for making life very difficult for those same
organisations.

After landing at their port I went in search of the man who had enlarged
the ships to accommodate the new weapons and drives, everything was in
order and my Brothers handed over what remained of their bank accounts,
they were all now broke but well supplied, Santos, who had once been a
Naval Admiral and was now the man in charge, looked at me with raised
eyebrows.

"Can I ask you what you want with all four ships armed to the teeth?"

"Yep, we're going after the Corporations, they made the mistake of trying
to take us out of the picture so now they have to reap the results."

"So you're going to join us then?"

"No, this is our show, we won't bring in anyone that could be savaged by
them, you keep the pressure on like you have been, we are going inside to
do what we have to do."

"Ok Sargasso but, if you ever need help, just call."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind, with luck you might be able to cause some
trouble for them when they come after us, you'll know when the shit hits
the fan."

"Good, we'll keep our eyes and ears open, good luck, we've checked all the
weapons systems and you're good to go."

"Thanks Santos, I hope we live long enough to see you again."

"So do I Sargasso, so do I."

With all four ships now ready and fully armed, we all set our course for
home, the new co-pilots being instructed as we flew, this time I waited
while the new boys had time to get used to the rebuilt ships before calling
for jump drive, at least this time they knew what to expect, we did our
jump and were soon approaching our outer beacons, as expected the call came
over our com units from Gareth.

"Commander, please halt while I reconfigure security systems to the new
ships."

I slowed the ships down and then realised we were still in stealth mode,
how the hell did he see us, was something faulty in our systems after the
upgrades.

"Gareth, we are in stealth mode, how can you see us or detect us?"

"My detections systems are set on your Positronic cores not on the ship
itself, it is the easiest way to find any ship in the galaxy as they can't
hide their cores from me."

"Thank you Gareth, remind me not to get on your bad side anytime soon."

"I do not have a bad side Commander, I am not programmed for feelings, it
would impair my operations."

"Thank you Gareth, are we now clear for approach?"

We started up again and headed towards the open doors, I noticed that the
two Cannon turrets were still out and tracking all four of us, Gareth was
certainly a very careful being.

After securing the ships on their cradles, we went into the now larger
common room where the boys awaited us, Ferris jumped to his feet with a
huge smile on his face, I noticed that Ganius also had a huge smile for
him.

"What is it Ferris?" I asked him.

"Commander."

"I'm not a Commander, in this group we are all Knights of the cross we do
not have officers, you know my name so use it, same goes for you other new
Knights."

"Sargasso, I think I have a perfect target for you."

"Tell me about it Ferris."

"I have been looking in the Sega Corporation computers, every six months
they send a freighter with the credits to cover wages and salaries for the
next six months, next week it is the turn of Sega5 to get its money, the
freighter will be escorted by five Navy cruisers so that could be a problem
for us, it is written in the report that there will be twenty nine billion
credits on the freighter."

"That sounds ideal Ferris, they will put up with losing a few people or
products but they will shit themselves at the loss of so many credits, well
done boy, you've earned your place on the team, keep up the good work and
find us some more targets for a later date, you will have to try to watch
all of the Corporations though, can you handle it?"

"Of course, I've got Gareth on my side, he's been keeping an eye on the
others while I worked on Sega."

"Ok, my Brothers and new Knights, time for some rest and then we can check
over our three new ships ready for our next little jaunt."

We all left Ferris to his systems, he seemed to like it just fine and
settled back into his chair, we all went to the new dining room and ate our
fill, after any jump I always felt more hungry than at any other time, this
time was no different, Kratos came in and smiled.

"The new suits will be ready in the morning, the boots are ready now if the
boys want to put them on to try them for fit."

He plopped ten pairs of Skerrit hide boots on the floor by the end of the
table before sitting down and filling his plate from the large dishes on
the table, the boys left their plates and jumped for the new boots, as each
put them on he would smile and gasp, if they had not been treated with the
nanites they would have hardly been able to lift their feet, the armour was
even heavier.

For the rest of the week we took the boys through more training, I felt we
did not have time to look over the armoury as yet, it could wait until we
finished our first raid, as the time neared when we would go after the
freighter, we still were trying to work out how to distract five Cruisers
with only four ships, the night before we were to leave, Ferris came up
with the answer, devious, dishonest and also brilliant.

"Sargasso?" called Ferris, "I think I know a way to lessen the odds with
the Cruisers."

"How?"

"Tell some of them to go somewhere else."

"And how do you propose to do that?"

"Simple, send them an urgent message that they are needed somewhere else."

"How will you get away with that?"

"I'll pretend to be from Corporate Headquarters, I will say they have a
problem at one of their other planets and need two of the Cruisers to go
there for security."

"It might work except they will have special codes for such messages; they
will know right away that it is false."

Ferris laughed before laying out his plan.

"I already have their codes, Sega Corp has the worst security of all the
Corporations, I will use the CEO's code for authenticity, with luck you
will only have three Cruisers to deal with, I've already got the message
formed, do you want me to send it over their secure band?"

"Send away, if it works we're a shoo-in, if not then we only have to change
our target to someone else."

Ferris bent over his console and, after two minutes, lifted his head and
smiled.

"Orders received and acknowledged, two of the Cruisers are leaving for
planet Fenton at their highest speed, you have four days before they
realise what's happened and come looking for you."

All I could do was smile at the boy; he certainly had a very devious part
to him. "Ok everyone, looks like we only have three Cruisers to take out,
you all know the tactics for that as Tiger proved to you, I will go after
the freighter to make sure she doesn't get off any alarms, don't forget to
hit the communications and targeting arrays with the lasers first before
you take out their drives with your Plasma cannon, and for god's sake,
don't use full power to your cannon, we want something left, no need to be
called murders for nothing, let's get underway, we have some credits to
collect."

Only Ferris stayed behind, my idea was to capture the freighter and bring
it back to the base to unload, it would then be sent to the rim for
breaking down, Santos had agreed to make a credit account for me if we sent
him anything he could use, if we got enough ships to him I would be able to
get something made for the boys, every young boy needed a toy at some stage
of his life.

Gareth had given us our co-ordinates for the jump, we came out only five
thousand kilometres away, well within the range of our weapons systems,
still in stealth mode, the other three lined up to take out the overhead
arrays as I settled in behind the freighter, telling Tiger to get ready.

"Ok Tiger, the blue button on the top left hand of your console is a
frequency jammer, hit that and the freighter can't get a message out but we
can get one into him, wait until the Cruisers have their hands full then
hit the button."

My other three boys were strapped in their seats behind us, they were
dressed fully in their new Skerrit suits as was both Tiger and myself, all
their new hand weapons were in place and they had all practiced with them
so they were now quite proficient, not yet full Knights but a few more
months practice and they would be close.

The screen in front of me suddenly flashed as three bright spots in the
darkness of space showed up behind me, Tiger hit the button and I opened a
channel to the freighter, my three Brothers would make short work of the
Cruisers, I could see they were already falling rapidly behind the
freighter, our three ships still in stealth mode were unseen, I hailed the
freighter.

"Freighter S.C. Argos, you are requested to shut down your drives and heave
too, failure to do so will force us to take drastic action."

In my left ear came the call of my Brothers, they were now all in line with
me, the Cruisers were now just floating hulks, their drives were cinders,
they would have to use some of their escape shuttles to send a message for
help, it should take them some time to think that one out, a reply came
from the freighter.

"Unknown, unknown, this is Captain Sevarius, where are you we have no
visual?"

"We are above and on your beam, shut down your drives and heave too, this
is the last warning."

I watched as the triple drives on the freighter began to shut down, the
freighter lost speed rapidly as he attempted to follow orders, he was
totally unarmed and the sudden disappearance of his escort told him not to
play around, I set my ship to come out of stealth, I was almost beside his
forward control room when he got his first look at me, as I appeared so did
my three Brothers, one of us he might have tried to escape from but not
with four armed speedsters surrounding his ship.

"Captain, what are your crew numbers?"

I already knew what they were as I had my scanners on all the time.

"I have two junior officers, myself and twelve crewmen; we are unarmed and
only carrying cargo for Sega5."

"Captain, my scanners show thirteen crewmen, why are you trying to hide one
of your men?"

"Thirteen, oh my, yes but he is not really crew, I bought him from the last
port as a ships boy, he is not paid as a crew member so I forgot him, sorry
I was not trying to trick you, it was an honest mistake."

"Very good Captain, you will call all personnel to the bridge and wait for
me there, any attempt to dump cargo or destroy the ship before we meet will
cause you a lot of problems."

"Confirmed, we will await your arrival, I don't want my crew hurt."

I watched as the personnel markers on my scanner all moved to the forward
control station, once they were all there I sent a message to my Brothers
to join me on the ship with my three boys, our co-pilots would watch over
our ships, my plan was to set the Captain and his crew free in escape pods,
they could easily reach Sega5 in ten days, by then we would be long gone
and the freighter would be well on the way to the rim to be broken up.

I made it through the airlock and into the main hold, it was only seconds
before my Brothers and their boy along with my three boys joined me, for
the boys it was a new experience to do a space jump from one ship to the
other, apart from a few bruises where they used a little too much force,
they made it successfully, wasting no time I went towards the control room
where the good captain and crew waited for us.

On entering the control room I saw the ship was well used, it was an older
model and the Captain looked to be the same age as the ship he must have
been close to retirement age, it was little wonder he did not want to fight
us off, the crew stood passively around him, most were old hands except one
of the young officers, he was not much more than a cadet, he looked to be
about sixteen, beside him stood a very young boy about ten years old, for
some reason he looked vaguely familiar, as I looked over the rest I felt a
very light tickle in the back of my mind, I quickly looked the crew over
one more time, it was the furrowed brow on the young teen that gave it
away, with a glance at my four Brothers and a nod from them, I opened my
mind a little more and sent a short blast of phsi power at the young teen,
he immediately collapsed on the floor of the control room.

The Captain looked at us with surprise on his aged face.

"What happened to my junior officer, what have you done?"

"Nothing Captain, he's just taking a rest, perhaps too much excitement for
him, he'll be coming with us when we leave, who is the boy?"

"We only know his name as Knot; I was told he has a slave chip implanted."

Ever since my boyhood on Sega7 I had an aversion to slavery, it was after
all what they did to us on my home planet although they called it by
another name, I looked the strangely familiar boy over.

"He will also be coming with us, now Captain, I don't want to cause any
harm to your crew or yourself, I will ask you to go to the escape pods, you
are only ten days from Sega5 so you should make it safely, we will be
taking your ship, you may leave now and don't look back."

"I would like to take my logs and personal items with us if we may?"

"Very good Captain but, no tricks, gather your stuff and leave the ship you
have five minutes and we leave."

Wisely the Captain made no overt moves, he and his crew gathered their
belongings and left in the escape pods, as soon as they were gone I looked
at the young teen lying on the floor, I sent a short release command to his
mind and watched as he moaned and tried to regain his feet, the small boy
just stood there his impassive face showing no signs at all.

As the last pod disappeared into the darkness I got the ship ready to
leave, Brutaria and Ganius would attach their tractor beams to the ship to
help with its speed, Tiger would fly my ship along with San Rio in his they
would keep watch as a patrol, I would pilot the freighter with the help of
the young teen, as long as we did not have an emergency in the drive room
we should be ok, the base was four days away with the slower speed of the
freighter and the help of the tractor beams to increase its speed.

When the young teen officer was fully awake, I told him what to do and why
he was going with us, again the small boy just stood by the console without
a word, I decided to get him to find some food for us, his reply was like
all slave boys, "Yes Sir" and he took off quickly to find something for us.

"What's your name young man?"

"Sarraton Sir, why are you taking me with you?"

"I think you already know the answer to that Sarraton, you're a mentat, I
felt you trying to look in my mind, that's why I sent you too sleep, did
the others know you had phsi abilities?"

The teen looked embarrassed.

"No, I kept it a secret, they would have thought me some kind of weirdo,
everyone else who knew did, I couldn't make any friends in school because
of it so I tried to keep it hidden."

"Well Sarraton, if you come with us then you will find friends that won't
mind, in fact all three of my Brothers have the same ability as well as me,
if you want to return to the other world you can have the last escape pod
and I will release you, the choice is yours."

"Are you pirates?"

"No, we are all that's left of the Knights of the Black Cross, we are going
after the Corporations, they've had their day now it's time for people to
run their own lives, are you in?"

"Do I get to wear one of those neat suits and fly a ship?"

"In time, if you are happy where we are going you should have no trouble
fitting in, so, are you in?"

"Hell yes, I've got little to look forward to in the cargo and freight
business."

I smiled at him as the little boy came up with a large plate of food, I
punched in the co-ordinates for home just after I felt the tractor beams
get a hold of us, our first foray against the Corporations was successfully
over, I only hoped our next one would be as good and as easy.



TBC.


Artcart65@gmail.com



 

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