MammothAboard the Percheron, [System Redacted], Metropolis

The fact of the matter was that the systems in high security space had been mined out ages ago by their populations and the empires. What was left wasn’t worth the expense of going to get it.

So it was to be low-security space. Rhavas knew they would need to get in, and get out, quickly. His skills and capabilites would not be enough to save him from a determined pirate band, and they roamed everywhere in the border systems between high and low security space. Low security space could only loosely be called Republic-controlled, and he was about to go build planetary bases there. To make matters worse, the pirates all knew today was “opening day” and had to be out watching for suckers.

He had picked his targets for quick entry and exit and high resource volumes, and had determined to dedicate the planets to manufacturing as much locally as they could so that he was only forced to export low volumes of high-value goods … or at least that was the theory. No one had done this before, so it was anyone’s guess.

The good news was that he had managed to scrape enough money together to buy two mid-level command centers, as well as a whopping new cargo ship, which he had dubbed the Percheron. Fitting launch rails for the command centers in the cargo bay had been an ugly chore, but no ship manufacturer had made anything designed specifically with command center launches in mind, and his chief engineer had figured out a way that had worked for the first world they had dropped one on.

They were now in orbit high above the second target, a smoking world of lava and ash.

Rhavas activated the holographic image of himself he used to interact with the crew in midflight. The hologram walked over to the Cargo Manager.

“We’re ready for the second one, sir,” the Cargo Manager said.

“Launch when ready. There are no pirates on us now, but I’m not going to sit long and wait for one.”

The Cargo Manager pulled his crew back into the airtight compartment behind the makeshift blast shield window and began the procedure to open the cargo bay doors. Rhavas’ hologram stayed in the middle of the open deck as the air sighed out of the opening doors.

It was eerily quiet as the launch rails fired up and shot the command center module out into the dark of space, vacuum eating what would have been an earsplitting sound. Soon, all that could be seen were the flares of its steering thrusters – and then suddenly a flare of new light as it decended through the planet’s hazy atmosphere.

Without waiting for the landing, Rhavas deactivated the hologram and began to close the cargo doors. The ship was already pre-aligned to a gate; he timed the warp initiation timing well, hurtling forward less than a minute after the cargo bay door locked shut.

The gate appeared before the ship, and the alarms began to sound. The Dramiels on the sensors would not take long to reach him. He punched the microwarp drive, pushing the last few meters to the gate jump threshhold. As the first shot crashed into the ship and tore the shield away, the Percheron jumped to safety.

Had he been in air, Rhavas would have laughed aloud. He felt, rather than heard, the cheers of the crew as they shot out the exit gate and into high-security territory.

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