The following is a free chapter from the first book in my Starships at War military science fiction series Strike Battleship Argent
“Neek, what’s the good word?” Hunter removed his coat and stored it in the inboard bay before donning the upper half of his flight suit.
“Welcome aboard, Captain. Status of Command One is nominal,” the pleasant electronic female voice responded over the shipwide intercom. The Argent command computer’s name was “Dominique” but Hunter preferred fewer syllables, so it was quickly shortened to “Neek.”
“What’s the weather forecast on this dark and starry day?”
“The Jupiter primary is relatively quiet. No unusual readings to a distance of point one.”
“Very good. Engage communications autosystems and begin flight checks.” Hunter closed the door to Command One’s aft storage. The boxes of scotch, rum and various brews were stacked eight-high.
“Affirmative. Autosystems engaged.”
The Captain switched his commlink. “Hunter to Argent.”
A brief pause. Hunter pulled on his flight suit pants and began working with the pressure seals on his boots.
“Argent. Ensign Walls here.”
“Walls! Who’s my Officer of the Watch today?”
“Err– uhh–I am, sir.” The young officer’s voice was tremulous. It was pretty clear he hadn’t been in command of the watch for long, and it was also pretty clear he wasn’t used to addressing the Skipper in person.
“Are you taking good care of my ship, Ensign?”
“Outstanding. Plot a course to Jupiter Five and give me a best speed ETA.”
Soft voices could be heard in the background, just loud enough to trigger the pickups in Ensign Walls’ high-gain microphone.
“Sir, uhh– sir, the ETA to Jupiter Five is nine hours best speed.”
“Very well, Argent. Plot your course and bring the ship about. Command One will rendezvous at the Autonav Beacon. Hunter out.”
After bounding into the pilot’s seat, Hunter expertly activated the magnetic locks on his flight harness, sealed the ship’s environmental controls and cleared the moorings. Neek was busy negotiating a departure vector which the computer knew from experience the Captain would ignore. The main idea was simply to let Spacelane Traffic Control know when Command One was going to rocket into the approach and blast its way free of the launch corridor.
“STC, this is Command One, requesting jets and standing by.” The turbine-like whine of the shuttle’s mains filled the ship with the thrum of fusion-energized power. Hunter skillfully tapped out the remaining configuration commands and flexed his gloved hands as the vessel’s maneuvering controls unlocked and rotated into position on either side of his flight couch. HUD readouts glowed on the inner surface of the viewport and Hunter’s tac-suit stabilized pressure and life support with a cheerful bell-like sound.
Hunter activated the “dock lock” release, breaking the last physical connection between the shuttle and Jupiter Station.
“Command One, this is Spacelane Traffic Control. Navigate departure lane One-Four. Autonav is disengaged. Have a nice flight.”
“We are free and clear to navigate, Captain,” Dominique calmly announced.
“Affirmative, STC,” Hunter replied. The sleek white shuttle pivoted weightlessly. Its pilot punched the maneuvering thrusters and blasted free of the shipline. Captain Hunter nudged the lateral flight controls. The vessel banked to starboard. He throttled the engines up to one-quarter power. His ship silently accelerated as the large control bank numbers indicating relative velocity spun higher.
The tiny ship slid into the station’s electronic launch corridor just ahead of an immense commercial freighter. Captain Hunter pinged their navigational comm frequency with a friendly greeting before pulling away into open space.