Turret duty on a MacLehose class freighter was boring to begin with. Turret duty through Pacified Space was even more so. Nobody was ever attacked out here.
Junior Petty Officer Patten sat back in the harness and watched black nothing pass by in front of his gun barrels. He sighed. Only seven and a half more hours to go on this watch. He daydreamed of a good, old-fashioned void-pirate attack.
Of course, the pirates had been wiped out decades ago. Their flagship, the Betsy, had been destroyed off of Lamma IV. The memories were still fresh enough, however, that every transport ship in the fleet was still required to be armed. The MV Matthew Nathan had the bare minimum, the one that Patten was stuck in. He wondered idly if the guns had ever even been fired.
Lining up the sights on a distant star, he mimed blowing his target out of space. “Kaboom,” he said, amusing himself slightly. He tracked the guns toward another point of light. “Pow,” he murmured as he destroyed that imaginary threat, too. He was aiming a third phantom volley when the ship’s hourly chime sounded.
The noise startled Patten and his finger tightened reflexively on the trigger. A blast of searingly bright blue light flashed from the cannons, lancing into the darkness.
“Oh no,” whispered Patten. The captain would not take an accidental weapon’s discharge lightly.
Patten began to desperately think of an excuse. He watched the laser beams continue on their path. They’d go forever unless they hit something. He hoped they wouldn’t hit something.
Then they did.
Patten saw two fiery flashes as the deadly bolts intersected with a ship.
But that was strange. There had been no ship there a second ago. The vessel had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. That wasn’t possible.
Something tickled at the back of Patten’s brain. What was it called?
A cloaking shield, he remembered. It was the favorite tool of the void-pirates.
Patten quickly dialed up the image-enhancers to their maximum magnification. The ship he’d shot at came into focus. It was turning toward the Nathan. Patten could just make out a name painted on the hull.
“Oh no,” he said again. He checked the power on his guns and radioed the captain. “Bridge, this is Turret. We have incoming.”