"Confronting the Past"

"A man who steals from others should not 

complain if he is stolen from."

  - Kohzu Wu


             When the convoy reached the cluster all hands were ordered to take up positions.
            Jared, three of his CRF officers, Hayden, Jaime and Iain were sitting in starlings waiting for the signal to launch.
            It began to seem Jaime's thoughts had been wrong as the time grew longer and they got closer to the asteroid field with no sign of any other ships.
            The captain pulled the strap of his helmet and started to take it off, about ready to order them to stand down, when Kassie's exasperated voice came over the com.
            "Captain Bryce, the lead ship just got hit with a torpedo from the asteroids."
            "Starlings, be ready to depart on my mark," said Captain Bryce as he clasped the seat belt buckle across his chest and re-secured his helmet.
            They waited again for what seemed like forever before Kassie's voice came over the com again. "The Gray Hawk just left the cluster and is in full view, bearing down on the convoy."
           "Mark!" shouted Iain as he punched his thrust engines.
            A fiery glow exploded behind the last ship in the convoy as Phoenix appeared, surprising them and the other pirate ship, which had to adjust its course or hit them.
           Kassie called to the convoy to follow her to safety as six starlings burst from Phoenix's belly and swarmed the other pirate ship, hitting its port side in tandem attacks.
          Three falcon fighters came from the Gray Hawk's hanger bay.
          Captain Bryce told Jared to lead his men in an attack on them while his men stayed on the main ship.
          Two of the CRF starlings were taken out quickly; one exploded in place, the other took a hit to the larboard wing, which sent it careening into the cluster. It collided with a clump of rock and disintegrated into nothing but chunks.
          Iain ordered Hayden to keep on the ship while he and Jaime joined Jared's dogfight. One of the falcons was destroyed shortly after, hit by torpedoes from both Jared and Jaime. A second falcon spun out of control with its larboard engine destroyed moments later, it didn't explode but the ship was useless, drifting away at an odd angle. The final falcon put up a good chase before it rammed into the rear of the Gray Hawk taking out half its hanger deck.
          A grizzled voice came over the com moments later asking, "Who is this attacking me?" 
          Iain opened his comlink and answered, "Captain Iain Bryce of Phoenix Enclave. Do you surrender your ship, Captain Riley?"
          "Aren't you jumping the wrong ship, Bryce?"       
         "I think not. Do you surrender, Riley?" Captain Bryce said again, ready to attack his ship again if he didn't get the response he wanted.
          There was no answer.
          Iain swung his starling around to make another pass at the now unprotected aft hull of the Gray Hawk, avoiding the beams of the laser cannons with ease. He struck the larboard side with a direct hit and the ship's atmosphere exploded out in a cloud of gas and debris.
          "Very well, Bryce," came Riley's voice, in a growl that told the captain just how upset he was for this intrusion.
          Captain Bryce told the remaining starlings to stand down and called for Kassie to release the shuttles. He and Jared remained outside in case the crew of the Gray Hawk thought to put up a fight or run. When they got the call from Jaime that all was set the captain call Jared to board.
"Once you open a can of worms, the only way to 
recan them is to use a bigger can."
   - Anonymous
            Jared was waiting for Iain when he set down in the hanger bay, together they walked to the Gray Hawk's mess, where Jaime had Riley's crew gathered, trying not to be sick. The conditions inside the ship were beyond atrocious, the walls were covered in rust and grime, the floors were sticky and littered with refuse and the windows were black with muck and grease and neither of them wanted to think about what they might be breathing in.
           It wasn't hard to pick Dirk Riley out of the group of men before them, for all he wasn't exactly a prize specimen himself; he seemed far more advanced than the rest of his crew. He was a short stalky man of about fifty-five, with greasy black hair, streaked with three different shades of gray, that hung like curtains along his face, past his shoulders and down over his back. He was dressed in burgundy pants, a gray tunic and a black velvet cape, draped over his right shoulder, all soiled and wrinkled as if they hadn't been changed in many days. His face was unshaven and dirty and his teeth were yellowish brown and thick with plaque. The man's crew wasn't much better; it looked like none had seen a bath in weeks.
          Riley's beady black eyes looked like those of a mad man, darting back and forth, never alighting on anything for long, until they locked on the blue-gray eyes of Iain Bryce.
          "Cap'n Bryce, are you gettin' so needy that ya now attack yer own compatriots?"
           Iain said forcefully, "You're no compatriot of mine, Riley!"
          "Them there supplies could buy us both loads of liquor and whores, Bryce," said Riley, laughing wildly.
          "That's not my idea of a good time, thank you. Those supplies are for the Colum colony, you've already deprived them of three convoys; another and they won't survive.?
          "Yer goddamn self-righteous cause, ya make us all sick, you're a fuckin? disgrace to this profession," barked Riley, spitting a glob of black chewing tobacco on the deck as an insult. The soggy globule landed on Captain Bryce's left boot, making Riley smile and break into raucous laughter; many of his crew joining in.
         He stopped when he saw the huge laser rifle aimed at him.