(This will have tie-ins to a future Flynn book)
Commander Jane Hutchins contemplated the steps that led her to command of the station, wondering if she had offended the stars or celestials in some way that she ended up in a dead-end command. Four Winds Station carried a certain amount of prestige, certainly, but it was the prestige of a dead career. Since Jump drives were invented, there was less demand for a sailing fleet, and the station to service that fleet.
Old captains and admirals looking to retire in peace often vied for Four Winds Station. In fact, Jane expected the next to arrive in a few weeks. But, for now, she was in command, with little to no hope of transferring to command of her own vessel. She barely suppressed a sigh as she looked over the day’s schedule.
“Commander!” Ensign Brandt yelled into his comm piece, blasting his statement across the command intercom.
“Tone it down, Ensign, I’m right here.” Jane scrolled to the next page of the schedule, unperturbed.
“Sorry, ma’am. Ma’am, the Bridgeton just cast off her moorings, and is vectoring away from the station.
Jane frowned, searching through the schedule. “She’s not scheduled to depart.”
“No, ma’am. She also didn’t call into the tower.”
“Get me the Bridgeton,” she said to Ensign Yu.
“Aye, ma’am,” Yu nodded.
“Get me a display of the Bridgeton and plot her vector.”
The display field shifted from the standard status display to the sensor feed of the Bridgeton casting off. The last of the sailing battlecruisers, she was impressive, and almost as large as a jump-capable battleship. The large ship swung around almost gracefully, her engines vectoring thrust before she finished the turn.
An overlay descended, panning back to show the ship and her computed trajectory, directly out of the system.
“Ma’am, no response from the Bridgeton.”
Jane stood, striking a very authoritative pose, and pointed at her officers. “Weapons, bring the guns online. Docking, get the grav beams on that ship. Do not let it leave.”
“Aye, ma’am,” came the affirmative from both stations.
“Ma’am!” Ensign Brandt yelled again. “The other ships, they’re casting off.”
“What other ships?”
“The Four Winds Fleet. All of them in dock. They’re--they’re leaving.”
“Weapons, fire warning shots. If they don’t heave to in three seconds, disable them. Docking, grab them, now. Open a channel to all ships, demanding they heave to, immediately.”
“Commander!” Both the weapons and docking watch standers yelled.
The two lieutenants looked at each other, wondering which would go first.
“I’m locked into a battle drill simulation. Weapons are firing low-power blasts, only.”
“Me, too, ma’am. Grav beams are locked out.”
Jane felt the command chair’s cushion hard under her rear from falling into it. “Someone is stealing the Four Winds Fleet.”
She felt something break inside, and knew it was her career.