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"Captain Rulik, I'm receiving a distress call," Ensign Vavro said. "It appears to be coming from Mhajavi space."
Rulik clenched his fists. "Those damned raiders." He turned to his navigation officer. "Ensign Kovar, plot a course to intercept."
Kovar hesitated, but at Rulik's glare, he bent over the nav console, his fingers flying over the controls.
"That will take us into Mhajavi territory," Behrin, his second-in-command, pointed out with a frown. "A violation of interplanetary law isn't a very good way to begin an alliance."
Rulik felt a muscle twitch in his jaw. "I know. But letting one of their ships be captured by raiders is no better, especially if they learn we received their distress call and did nothing."
"It would make clear the need for a military alliance."
"That'll be evident either way. My order stands. I won't stand idly by and watch another civilian ship attacked. Your objections are noted for the record, Behrin, but we will proceed. I want you at weapons."
Behrin grinned and moved to the fire control console. "Good! Let's go get the bastards."
Rulik threw back his head and laughed. "Ensign Kovar, is that course plotted in?"
"Good. Vavro, signal Captain Zadok in the Bodul to follow us in, at maximum speed. And signal the Mhajavi ship that we're on our way."
"Yes, sir," Vavro said.
"Proceed at top speed," Rulik ordered.
As they sped through the blackness of space, he paced the deck of the Borivoy. Too many ships–both Ziganese and Mhajavi–had been lost to the raiders. If he got in trouble for violating Mhajavi space, then so be it.It would be worth the trouble if he saved one ship.
This alliance had been his idea, one reluctantly embraced by his father. Trade with Mhajav began six years ago after they threw off the dictator who had ruled their world for nearly fifteen years. While Havir was in power, Rulik's father had refused to have any kind of relations with Mhajav, and the borders of Ziganese space were diligently protected. As long as the raiders stayed on the other side of the border, Zigan was safe. Until his father's enemies had joined forces with the Mhajavi raiders. Now no merchant ship was safe.
If this attempt at an alliance failed, it would be but one more incident in the string of failures in Rulik's life. He'd long ago given up any hope of pleasing his father, but a successful outcome of the upcoming diplomatic talks would go a long way toward assuaging his bruised ego.
He caught Behrin's eye and stopped pacing, forcing himself to relax in his captain's chair. His agitation would do the crew no good, especially since it had nothing to do with the present situation. His ship was more than a match for anything the raiders possessed, preying as they did on commercial shipping.
"Captain?" Vavro's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"You're the only one I know who has been to Mhajav. Are the rumors true?"
Rulik grinned. "What rumors?" As if he didn't know.
Vavro's fair face flushed slightly. "About the women, sir. Are they as…amazing as I've heard?"
"From what I saw, they're quite lovely, but I won't comment on the rumors of their sexual responsiveness." How could he when he'd stayed at a men-only resort? "But I'm glad you brought up the subject."
He signaled for a ship-wide communication. "This is the captain speaking. We're presently on course to answer a distress call from a Mhajavi ship being attacked by raiders. We may be the first crew to come face to face with our new prospective partners. I expect every man to be on his best behavior and to show the Mhajavi the respect they deserve. Especially the women.
"I take full responsibility for our incursion into Mhajavi space. But if any man on this ship is the cause of an interplanetary incident, he will answer to me."
Copyright © 2007 Lyndi Lamont.