This is the third and final instalment of Altair’s Acquisition. As soon as I post this I will be uploading it to smashwords for sale. If you enjoyed it and think it was worth 99 cents, please visit smashwords and purchase it or one of my other works. If you liked this or if you didn’t, please leave a comment. Thank you.
Altair’s Acquisition part 3
As the three cargo haulers sat eating their food in the small restaurant they had found they discussed how to find and capture Cramer. Keri was for going in guns blazing and kill everyone. Beech was of a similar mindset, but Derek was less blood thirsty. He wanted something that would allow them to take Cramer prisoner without any contact with the crew of the Altair. By the time they were finished eating all they had come up with was to try to watch the Altair for a while and form a plan from what they saw.
Paying for their food they asked the waitress directions to the main landing pad and headed down the street. Phelon had a population of about three thousand, all living in the same town so the walk across town only took them a few minutes. They watched the people they saw on the street carefully as they walked in case one of them turned out to be their quarry. This kept their nerves on edge and by the time they had reached the landing pad they wanted to get out of sight. Walking along the perimeter safety fence they carefully observed the spacecraft on the pad. Three smaller military craft sat on the tarmac next to the main office. Six cargo vessels sat at loading areas around the pad. They spotted the Altair almost immediately as it was almost the twin of the Patera.
Stopping next to one of the bushes that dotted the fence line Beech produced a small pair of binoculars from a side pocket on his pants. Stepping behind the shrub which was almost tall enough to obstruct his vision, he examined the area around the craft through the lenses. One man was hanging around next to the closest building. He obviously wasn’t a dock worker as he wasn’t wearing work clothes. Probably there to guard against anyone straying close to the ship. Two men lounged in the open cargo door of the ship, probably the second line of defense.
“Some one coming,” hissed Derek, and Beech lowered his binoculars and stepped away from the bush. They started walking along the fence again as small maintenance vehicle approached on the inside of the fence. Stopping, the diver called to them, “Afternoon. How you doin today?”
“Just fine,” Derek answered.
“You folks from one of the ships?” the man asked as he stepped down from the small electric trucks seat.
“We’re from the Patera unloading over at the Austin warehouse,”Derek told the man. “Just looking around town while we get unloaded.”
The man nodded and said, “I wouldn’t go much farther out this way. See down there where the trees start?” He pointed about fifty meters away in the direction they were headed. “We’ve got an animal here that’s kinda like a bear. It doesn’t get to far out of the trees but it will attack. When we have to work on the fence out there we go in pairs so one man can keep watch.”
“We’ll make sure we don’t get too close, then,” Keri told him with a smile.
Looking at her the man blushed slightly and said “Have a nice afternoon,” Climbed in his little truck and drove off, apparently checking the fence for problems.
They walked slowly until the man was out of sight and then stopped behind another bush. Beech started examining the Altai again and saw a third man in the cargo doorway. “There’s Cramer,” he told the others. As Beech watched, Cramer spoke to the men sitting in the doorway, looked around the area and then disappeared into the interior of the ship.
“Our friend is coming back,” Keri told him, “Let’s head back. They began walking back the direction they had come and when the maintenance man drove by they smiled and waved.
“Now what?” Derek asked. “We know Cramer is here for sure and that he has at least three men with him.”
“Probably four or five,” Beech interrupted. “We have to plan for that anyway.”
“Ok, four or five men to get around so we can get Cramer, and then we have to get him back to the ship.”
“We need to get him away from the ship if we can,” Keri spoke up. “That way we only have to deal with one or two.”
Beech was looking thoughtful and said quietly, “Or we could get him in the ship without his men.”
“And how would we do that, exactly,” Derek asked.
“Either we distract the guards or we kill them,” was the answer. Looking at the other two Beech said grimly, “I don’t care which.”
The Patera was unloaded and back in the hands of its owners. The three were preparing to cross town again and take Cramer and the Altair from the main landing area of Phelon. Fully armed and with light jackets covering the extra weapons they carried, Derek and Beech waited by the loading door for Keri. They jumped in surprise when she spoke next to them, “Are we ready?”
“Where did you learn to move so quiet?” Beech asked.
“I guess it just comes naturally,” she answered with a soft laugh. “Let’s go.”
Leaving the ship the trio went around the warehouse so no one would see them leave and headed across town. When they walked through the glow of a security light on the street Beech said to Keri, “Hold on a second. Where did you get all that stuff?”
Looking down at her armament she smiled and replied, “Oh, I found one of the pirates weapons stashes a while back. Thought it was time to put it to use.”
Derek looked her over shaking his head. An automatic under each arm, one holstered at her hip, a machine pistol strapped to her chest, a large knife hanging opposite the holster on her belt, the outline of extra magazines were showing in her pants pockets, and of course she had the knives strapped to her forearms under the black jacket she wore. Also he thought he saw the handle of a knife sticking out of each boot.
“Remember,” Derek told the girl, “We don’t want to kill anyone unless we have to.”
“Well, if we have to I’ll be ready,” was the answer.
Moving away from the security light they continued on toward the landing field. As they left a shadow moved on the other side of the street and a man moved along matching their pace. He was talking quietly into a com headset as he walked.
The three cargo haulers turned bounty hunters, moved along the fence they had walked next to the day before. They paused and using the night vision on Beech’s binoculars examined the Altair for a few minutes. The cargo door was still open and they could see the shape of a man standing watch just inside. Apparently they didn’t think the man next to the warehouse was necessary in the dark. Moving to a point along the fence that couldn’t be observed from the Altair, Derek and Keri climbed the fence and dropped on the other side. Beech then told them, “Get in the shadows next to the warehouse. I’ll join you in a couple minutes.” And he faded into the darkness before they could ask any questions. Crossing the short open area to the building, the pair looked back toward the fence and waited. A short time later a shadow moved up to the fence where they had crossed. The unknown man moved slowly and carefully as if he didn’t want to be seen. The man reached up as if to start climbing the fence when another shadow appeared and the two blended into one. There was a barely audible grunt of pain and then the shadows moved away from the fence and out of sight.
Derek and Keri exchanged glances in the dark both unsure what had happened. After a short wait one of the shadows returned, climbed over the fence, and approached. Keri’s hand was on her belt knife and Derek was preparing to shoot when the shadow whispered, “Let’s go!” Both relaxed a little when they heard Beech’s voice. The three moved quietly down the building to the end away from the Altair and then across to the front corner. A quick glance showed no movement or light around the dim form of Cramer’s ship.
“The man who was following us was wearing a com headset and was talking into it just before I jumped him,” Beech told the others in a grim whisper. “They know we’re coming.”
“What did you do to him?” Derek asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” was the reply, “We don’t need to worry about him.”
Derek wasn’t happy that his partner had killed the man but he knew they couldn’t have an enemy at their back that might surprise them. Beech had been military and knew what was best in these situations. No matter how much he disliked killing, these were the men who had killed everyone on the Aphelion not to mention Keri’s uncle.
“Ready?” Beech asked and at their nods, “Give me one minute to get in position and then go.” Turning away he headed back around the warehouse.
After the appropriate amount of time the two slipped into the darkness. Keri along the building and Derek moving across to the piles of freight sitting on the tarmac. Just as they started moving there was a scuffling noise at the other end of the warehouse. As they moved they could see the dark shadow of Beech moving noisily across the concrete to a stack of cargo containers. Anyone standing guard would here the noise and be looking at the form moving in the dark. This gave the others a chance to move unseen.
As Keri moved along the side of the building she came up to one of the pirates standing watch. He was looking in Beech’s direction and holding his machine pistol at the ready. This left him vulnerable from the rear so she could come close pulling a slender knife from her boot as she moved. With his attention on the movement by the shipping containers he didn’t know she was there until her hand clasped over his mouth. Then it was to late to stop the slight pain he felt as the knife broke through the skin at the base of his skull. Then nothing.
Wiping the knife on the dead pirates shirt she slid it back into her boot and moved on till she was straight across from the ships open loading door. She squatted down behind a stack of lube canisters and waited.
Derek was moving slowly from one pile of cargo to another as he approached the Altair. As he moved to the last pile he noticed something hanging over the edge of the stack. Looking closely he realized it was a pair of boots. One of the pirates was keeping watch from on top of the container. Derek moved to the column of indentations on the container that served as a ladder when access to the top was needed. Slowly climbing the five steps he hoped the man on top wouldn’t feel the vibration as he stepped from on indentation to the next. Pulling out his automatic as he reached the top Derek made a slight scraping sound. As his gun came around the pirate turned his head to look toward the noise. There was a pop as Derek pulled the trigger shooting the man in the face. Dropping back to the ground he waited for his eyes to adjust. The suppressor on the gun kept the noise to a minimum but did little to reduce the muzzle flash. Anyone looking in his direction would have seen a brief flash of light. When his eyes had settled down and he could see again he moved up underneath the ship hoping none of the pirates had seen him.
Keri had been watching when Derek fired and knew it was almost time to move on the ship. Seeing Derek’s form moving under the Altair she was preparing to move when she heard a pop nearby. Turning quickly she saw a form fall to the ground about three meters away from her. Coming up the side of the building another form came close and gave a slight wave. Her nerves settled a little as she realized it was Beech. The two turned to face the Altair and waited.
The form of Derek moved up under the cargo door and they could see his arm extend upward. Raising there guns they prepared to fire. There was a muffled bang and the cargo hold of the ship was bathed in light exposing two pirates, one on each side of the doorway. Keri and Beech raised their guns as they moved forward, each sending a burst of three bullets into a pirate. Keri taking the one on the right, Beech the one on the left. Continuing to move the pair joined Derek under the open door of the Altair.
There was no platform with stairs or even a ladder to get up to the cargo door with so Derek gave the other two a boost up and into the ship. With the pair inside he moved back the way he had come, past the dead pirate who’s blood he could see running down the container in a dark streak. Through the stacks of containers, around the warehouse , over the fence, and then he headed back through town to the Patera.
On board the Altair Keri and Beech were slowly moving through the hold searching for Cramer or any others they might find. They had killed five pirates and that should have been all by their count but they didn’t want to take any chances. The cargo door had been closed as soon as they entered so that their quarry couldn’t escape. If the doors were opened they would hear it and find him. They should also be able to hear if the boarding hatch or the emergency air lock was entered. They moved quickly through the hold, leapfrogging past one another so as to search and protect at the same time.
Moving up the steps to the catwalk that crossed between the drive housing, the boarding platform, and flight control, they saw nothing of their prey or any one else. Reaching the catwalk Beech saw a slight movement in the door to flight control and hissed at Keri, “Down!”
Ducking back down the steps they heard a triple pop and three bullets sparked off the grating next to them and went bouncing around the hold. When the jagged pieces of lead finally quit flying the two hunters raised their heads and looked towards the flight control door. It was closed and they saw no movement at all. Starting to move upward again they stopped when they heard the main drive start to wind up. Exchanging glances, the two nodded at each other and move back down the stairs to the hold. Taking off the small packs they were wearing they hurriedly changed into their thermal suits and grav boots and then slipped back into their fighting gear. Finding a spot they could sit with their backs against a solid surface they waited as the Altair started to move.
The Altair vibrated slightly and started to move. Beech and Keri felt themselves pressed into the bulkhead they were sitting against. The forces of acceleration and gravity combined was painful at times and made it hard to breath but it soon subsided and the felt the familiar weightlessness of space. Standing in their grav boots the team pushed off and floated up to the flight control door. Standing on each side of the door they waited. Their wait drug on for several minutes and they were starting to lose patience when there was a slight noise from inside and the door moved slightly. Keeping themselves pressed firmly against the wall they waited as first a gun and then the hand holding it eased out the opening.
Reaching out and grasping the gun and hand Beech pulled the man out onto the catwalk. Letting out a loud yell Cramer reach down and pulled a knife from his belt but before he could sink it into Beech’s back he froze. The blade of Keri’s fighting knife was against his jugular and pressing hard. “Let go of your weapons and back up,” she growled at the man.
Releasing the knife and the gun Cramer stepped backwards as Keri pulled him in that direction. Beech took hold of the gun and turned plucking the knife out of the air it was floating in. He then turned and told Keri, “I’ve got him. You can move away now.”
Slowly moving the knife from the man’s throat she stepped back, sheathed the blade and started searching him. She removed a knife from his boot, one from his left forearm, and another gun from his shoulder holster. “Now strip down to your thermal suit,” she ordered.
The two watched carefully as he removed his outer clothing in case they had missed any weapons. When he was standing in only his thermals, she searched him again finding a small flat knife taped to the inside of his calf. Taking him to one of the spare bathrooms they removed a chain from Beech’s pack and chained him to the bulkhead inside. Finally they removed his grav boots and left him floating.
Back in flight control Keri entered their course back to the refueling station and then they waited.
Derek moved as quickly as he dared through the town and back to the warehouse where the Patera was docked. He had heard the Altair take off and watched as it disappeared into the early morning sky. Continuing on to the Patera he had a brief moment of fear when he was moving past the warehouse and onto the tarmac. A small electric truck came rushing up and stopped next to him. The driver called out for him to stop and he did so.”What are you doing here?” the security guard asked.
“Just checking on my ship,” Derek answered as calmly as he could. “Just want to make sure the warehouse guys didn’t leave anything open or turned on when they finished.”
“Oh, I recognize you now. I couldn’t tell who you were in the dark,” the guard said. “Go ahead and have a good evening.” He then climbed into his little truck and headed off towards the building.
Breathing a sigh of relief Derek hurried the rest of the way to his ship and jumped up into the hold. Closing the doors he went quickly through the dim light up to the flight control room and settled into the control chair. Going through preflight as fast as he could he fired up the drive and left the field.
As he broke free of the atmosphere he sent a short query transmission that was immediately answered by Keri with the proper wording so he knew all was well. Setting his course for the fueling station he sent a brief message to Dobson on the agreed upon frequency and settled in for the trip thinking about things.
They had ensured their freedom by capturing Cramer plus they had acquired the Altair. Not a bad for a simple cargo delivery.