Episode Twenty-Eight
Captain Westland followed Yamir and his ship, the “Reliant” for a quarter of a million miles. He ordered the “Bellerophon’s” forward guns to fire constantly at the fleeing ship. Ceaseless laser barrages bounced off the heavily battle-scarred “Reliant”.
But, even dragging the forward remnants of the “Grand Marquis” in tow, Yamir managed to outpace and elude the slower “Bellerophon.
Seeing he was wasting his time in any attempt to capture the “Reliant”, Westland ordered a dozen drones launched to follow it, then turned the “Bellerophon” about.
“We’re needed back at Callisto,” he said. “Calculate a course.”
“Aye, sir,” came the answer.
A moment later, “Course calculated. Arrival at Callisto in one hundred and eighty seconds, sir.”
“What’s it looking like down there?” Westland asked, generally, of the command officers on the bridge of the “Bellerophon”.
“Recon tells us no more large transports, sir. Those are gone,” a lieutenant at Westland’s side said. He wore the blue jumpsuit of Earth Space Forces, and was reading from several screens arrayed throughout the bridge.
“The one that we broke up, sir, and the other one that’s now transporting the hulk of the first. Those were the large transports they had, and they’re out of action. They still have fighter ships, single and two seater... forty of those. Those ships are good for close combat, but they have no interplanetary range.
“And as for ships that do have interplanetary ranges, they have barges, freighters, and so on... eighty of those.”
“All right,” Westland said. “And what are all these ships doing?”
“Almost all of them, sir, are converging on Callisto. We track two small transports on Europa, and we track three small transports on Ganymede. They are attacking the bases there. But the rest, they are all moving on Callisto.
“Makes sense,” Westland said, thinking out loud, for the benefit of those who stood near.
“With their large transports out action, we’ve broken the back of their invasion force. Fighter ships have no way to get their pilots back home. Those boys’ll be desperate, real quick. They’ll want to sign up with a barge or a transport and do it real quick, or, the only other chance they’ll have, will be to take Callisto.
“Well, we have some big guns to bring to the game.”
“Arrival at Callisto in twenty seconds, sir.”
There were no taunts between them, no bravado, no braggadocio.
There was only the briefest instant of silence, when the two men looked at each other, each recognizing the other. Ward was here to kill Mokem Bet, and Mokem Bet knew it.
There was nothing more to say.
Ward slugged Mokem Bet hard, a solid punch in the face. Mokem Bet shook the punch off, and swung at Ward. Had his fist connected, Mokem Bet would surely have crushed Ward’s sternum, but Ward lightly sidestepped the blow. He spun on his foot, swinging his combat knife in a circle. The tip of the knife met Mokem Bet’s abdomen, slashing a bloodied gash lightly through fabric and flesh.
Mokem Bet grunted. He stepped backward and brought his laser pistol out of its holster. But before he could aim it at Carter Ward’s head, Ward leaped forward and grabbed Mokem Bet’s wrist. He jerked Mokem Bet’s arm downward while simultaneously tripping him up with a heel to his ankle.
The two men fell to the floor in a bloodied pile of sweat and stinking flesh.
Somehow, they managed to scramble back up to their knees. Mokem Bet fought silently, trying to aim his laser pistol at Ward’s face. Ward let no sound escape him, as he wrestled with Mokem Bet, tasting the man’s stench in his mouth. Mokem Bet was a powerful man, his arms hard and thick and brawny.
Ward struggled to keep the barrel of the laser pistol pointed anywhere but his head.
And then Mokem Bet’s head exploded.
Blood and brains covered Carter Ward from head to shoulder.
He looked around, blinking.
“What the hell?”
“Quit screwing around,” Illara said, holstering her plasma pistol. “We don’t have time for play games.”
Ward looked back at the still twitching stump that only a moment before head been Mokem Bet’s body. His head was simply gone. The stump below was charred, blackened and smouldering.
Ward pushed Mokem Bet’s body away from him.
He wiped his face with a cloth pulled from an inner pocked, staring at Mokem Bet’s body. And then Illara.
Mokem Bet was dead. And Illara got the kill.
Ward grunted. Oh well, she deserved the kill just as much as he did, maybe more. Who the hell cares. The asshole is dead. That’s all that counts.
“Good shooting,” Ward said to Illara.
Illara pointed upward.
“Like I said,” she said. “We don’t have time.”
The ship Turhan Mot had stolen rose above the landing bay and hovered over the many ships parked there.
The three Scroungers who had been trying to open the hatch to the ship shot at it with their laser pistols, a futile gesture, only but laying scorched trails on the outer hull.
Illara, Carter Ward and Mud stood side by side and silently. They had to think fast, and then quickly realized that the fastest thinking in all the worlds wouldn’t help them now.
Their ships were on the other side of the Landing Bay. Just as Turhan Mot was fleeing in his stolen ship, dozens of other ships were crowding the Callistoan sky, pushing their way into the Space Port of Callisto Base 1. And after them came more ships, and more after those, a ceaseless onslaught of space pirates.
They watched, futilely, as Turhan Mot fled away.
“What now?” Illara asked.
They charged down the hall, for those final feet. The Scroungers threw away the panels they had used as shields and rushed Captain Waverley’s platoon, dug in behind a temporary wall of desks and chairs and cabinets and other office furniture.
Waverley’s platoon stood fast. Their uniforms were black and purple. Thirteen men and women and Captain Waverley, too, half his face burned away earlier in the battle. He wrapped a bloodied bandage around his head to cover the burned half of his face.
They hit them with the plasma pistols, but for everyone they shot down, it seemed, two more jumped up to take his place. They cut through the crowd with their laser pistols, but it was a futile gesture. Even their small hand-held stun bombs had no more effect in slowing down the onrush of Scroungers, than to render a half dozen or so unconscious for a few moments, while many others surged over their supine bodies.
And then the Scroungers were upon them.
The massacre was swift, brutal and merciless.
And in less than a minute after the massacre started, Captain Waverley and his platoon of thirteen men and women were dead. Cut down by laser bursts and plasma blasts, at last the slaughter had come down to Waverley and Lieutenant Carole Streeter who were cut apart with plasma fire while fighting back with combat knives.
The last of the defenders were dead.
The Scroungers surged over their still warm corpses in a mass and came to the tunnel that led to the colony of Callisto Base 1.
When they saw that the tracks to the colony had been destroyed, they threw themselves into a rage, many of them. The destruction of the tracks had been Captain Waverley’s bidding, of course, and events proved him right in ordering it.
Others among the Scroungers took the setback more philosophically.
“Let’s get marchin’,” they said.
So they marched on Callisto Base 1. In very short time, their numbers swelled. The transparent tunnel leading across the frozen deserts of Callisto, to Callisto Base 1 were crowded with Scroungers moving against the colony.

Carter Ward’s earlier adventures, along with those of other interplanetary rogues, are chronicled in Warlords of the Asteroid Belt and Deep Space Dogfights.



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