Opening Leg Post 104, the Fiolxon pirate, Blackmane, arrives in the Terminus System with his pirate fleet. The tip from Pollos had paid off; the Scion of Divinity had left for Drakonos Prime in Leg Post 99. Only some quinquerene-class battlecruisers remain, but their patrol patten is also known to Blackmane and his ships are the fastest in the Coaleshion. His own ship heads straight for The Vault. However, the Scion of Divinity suddenly arrives in the system after all, much to the anger of the captains that are following Blackmane's lead. It is currently captained by Navitatex Beta Meridian, a drow serving under Navitatex Qemik. The departure of the Scion of Divinity had been a grand trap set by Qemik, though he did continue on for his meeting with Riaken in Leg Post 103, to catch the bulk of the pirates working with Pollos. However, one, small, stealth corsair manages to sneak through and get to The Vault, captained by Tsou de Ming. Of the pirates, only Tsou de Mind devised this was a set-up and positioned herself to avoid the inevitable confrontation with the High Imperial ships. The Bloated Scallywag is hidden by a small stealth device that Tsou de Ming stole from the TARDIS and convinced Xerxes Rumplekirk to modify so that she can change the parameters of the cloaking affect. When she is, predictably, betrayed by Kulimm and her fellow mutineers, de Ming decreases the field of the device so that only she is cloaked and the grey and her followers are suddenly trapped within a laser-cell.
THE GAMBIT, PART THREE: TRIPLE CROSS
Blackmane: "And away! Treasure ho!"
Blackmane: "Looks like Pollos' info was right on the money."
Indeed, the Scion of Divinity is long gone, having left hours ago for Drakonos Prime, and the patrol pattern of the High Imperial Quinquereme-class battlecruisers is just as Pollos described. The pirate fleet streaks through the open corridor of space, straight for the new space station that serves as a vault.
The High Empire reacts swiftly, a well-oiled machine, especially given Qemik's rigorous drilling over the past months. Nanite clouds fluff out of the large HQ station - the Dominarium, or capitol citadel, for this part of the High Empire, this particular citadel known as the Silver River Dominarium - to surround it in a protective cloud, while starfighters soar out of launch bays towards the pirates. The nearest Quinqueremes turn about to race towards the vault.
They're too slow though. The pirate ships Blackmane brought are by far the fastest in Coaleshion, and are already nearly to the vault in the short time that it takes the Remnant military to mobilize. Several pirate ships peel away to ward off the incoming Remnant ships, while Blackmane's galleon rears right up to the vault, taking out its weapons batteries (their exact locations provided based on the schematics Pollos procured) in surgical shots, before launching mag-grapples, so the pirates can tug the vault away.
Blackmane: "Classic snatch and grab. But the biggest prize I've ever snatched and grabbed!"
That's when alarms and astonished cries rise up across the ship's bridge. Blackmane snaps his head away from the vault on the screen to a more distant readout, and swears.
Blackmane: "But it's gone! It's halfway across the universe!"
Except it's not. The Scion of Divinity has just appeared at the edge of the system, right where the pirates warped in, cutting off their easiest path of escape. Drone missiles zoom out in a whirlwind, most taking out several of the smaller pirate ships, and the rest cutting the mag-grapples with surgical precision.
There's a lot of panicked swearing and anger over the pirate's comm channels, most of it castigating Blackmane. He's the foremost pirate captain in Coaleshion, and allied with several other top pirate captains for this job, and they're all here, now caught in the jaws of the massive battleship's ambush.
On board the Scion of Divinity's bridge, everything is calm and orderly. Crew members carry out their assigned tasks efficiently, manipulating the crystalline controls with practiced ease to protect the vault. A young woman sits in the captain's chair that is normally Qemik's seat.
She is a drow, rare among that race in that this is her first incarnation, and so she does not have centuries of experience. Yet she is cunning and brilliant, having risen to the rank of Praefexus on her merits, before Qemik recognized her value and promoted her still further, to Navitatex Beta, making her his acting second-in-command.
The only reason he hasn't made her full Navitatex, and taken the rank Coryphaex, or admiral - a rank which he was effectively already acting in the role of - was due to the blasted Pollos' influence on Proconsul Kim, who was technically the supreme ruler of Terminus and wrapped around Pollos's grubby finger.
Navitatex Beta Meridian: "Deploy the primary nanite cloud in a wide dispersal field."
Lieutenant: "Captain, that won't stop pirate ships from escaping through it."
Meridian shoots the lieutenant a look that tells him he's an idiot.
Meridian: "Of course not. But if we make it a small-enough dispersal to stop them in their tracks, they'll have plenty of room to go around it. Wide-dispersal will slow them down enough that we can pick them off."
Lieutenant: "As you command, Captain. Apologies."
Meridian returned her view to the holographic displays. Inwardly, she was smiling broadly, though she kept her outward expression stern. Qemik's gambit had paid off. He had created this vault precisely for this purpose: bait. When he'd left on the Scion of Divinity for Drakonos Prime, the battleship had only gone a few light-years away from Silver River Dominarium. From there, Qemik had taken his personal shuttle onward to Drakonos Prime, while Meridian took acting command of the Scion and waited for Pollos' pet pirates to fall into the trap.
As Blackmane's allied pirate fleet fell apart before Navitatex Beta Meridian's well-executed tactics, a smaller corsair zipped from the nearest asteroid belt to dock with the drifting vault, while everyone else was distracted.
Kulimm is a Grey, and thus is short with a bulbous gray head and huge black eyes. She's quite distinctive for her race, given her many cybernetic replacements and augments, including a bionic eye, both her arms, and one of her legs. She places a hacking charge on the airlock of the vault, which blinks before scrambling the airlock's codes, causing the door to slide open.
Tsou de Ming: "You have no idea, Kulimm."
The tall, green-skinned, three-eyed Cameeli woman, who is one of the most notorious pirate captains in the entire galaxy, steps past her second-in-command and steps into the vault's corridors. She had caught wind of the Coaleshion pirates' grand scheme to rob the vault, and had surmised the whole thing to be a trap. Deciding to take advantage of their stupidity, she had taken some of her pirates in a small stealth corsair - rather than her normal vessel, the star galleon Bloated Scallywag - to sneak into the Terminus system hours ahead of Blackmane's ambush.
They had waited, and now that everyone is distracted, they have made their move!
Random Pirate #1: "Cap'n, what should we take? There's too much for us to get it all out before they take notice of us."
Tsou de Ming: "We can ignore the Sub-Vault Arrays that make up a quarter of this station. Those are all stuffed with incohesive molecules, useless for anything except feeding those weird crystal nanites these High Imps are obsessed with."
Kulimm: "Where did you get such good info on this vault's layout, Ming?"
Tsou de Ming: "A little bird told me."
Gryphon: "Bawk! Leave me out of this!"
The other pirates chuckle and start loading the most likely-looking pallets onto their hover-pad.
Kulimm: "Well, if that's all I can get out of you, no point in waiting any further."
Tsou de Ming: "Eh?"
The tall Cameeli pirate turns around to see the cyborg Grey leveling her blaster at her.
Kulimm: "I'm tired of living in your shadow, Ming."
Tsou de Ming: "Mutiny, then? It'll never work."
Kulimm: "On the contrary."
The other random pirates draw their blasters and point them at Ming too.
Kulimm: "You were very kind to let me choose which of our men would come on this raid."
Tsou de Ming: "Oh, don't mistake it for kindness."
Kulimm: "Ha! So you acknowledge it for stupidity then? I'll be taking this by the way."
She snatches the esoteric compass from Ming's hand. Ming's green skin finally switches to the purple of anger.
Tsou de Ming: "That's mine to steal from that fop earl. Not yours to steal."
Kulimm: "Finders keepers, Ming."
Tsou de Ming: "He's not interested in you."
Kulimm's gaze darkens, and Ming smiles viciously, her skin's purple shade flashing orange in savage glee for a few seconds before returning to angry purple. She has never brought it up before, but she has known for some time that Kulimm fancies Xerxes Rumplekirk, with whom Tsou de Ming has a love/hate relationship. That is, he loves her and she hates him. Usually.
Kulimm: "He will be."
Tsou de Ming: "On the contrary, he'll never have the opportunity. Because you'll be cooling your heels in a Remnant jail cell for quite some time."
Kulimm: "What are you playing at- Ulp!"
Alarms blare throughout the vault, and crystal apertures sprout from the ceiling to project force field bars that hem in the pirates, while laser turrets pop out of the walls and destroy their blasters with pinpoint accuracy.
Kulimm: "What the-!"
Tsou de Ming is the only pirate not affected by the security.
Kulimm: "You sold us out! You filthy bootlicker!"
In response, Tsou de Ming's skin turns even darker purple, and she punches Kulimm solidly in the jaw through the bars, and plucks the compass away again.
Tsou de Ming: "I did no such thing. Didn't you wonder how we managed to sneak into the Terminus system, and stay hidden for so many hours?"
Kulimm: "It's a stealth corsair."
Tsou de Ming: "Please. Our stealth tech is nothing to High Imp tech. But I've stolen the vessel of a particularly advanced race[Ext 1] before - numerous times actually - and picked up quite a few trinkets from it."
She holds up a thingamajig with overlapping circles etched into it as a design. Her skin is steadily brightening into a pleased orange.
Tsou de Ming: "And I once sweet-talked Xerxes into fiddling with it to do what I wanted it to do. Maybe it wouldn't work against topnotch High Imp tech - but that's long gone in the Great Time Lock War. It kept us hidden from their sensors, both in the corsair, and in here. Until I dialed it down, so it only hides me.
Kulimm: "You b-"
Tsou de Ming: "Language, Kulimm. I knew you were planning a mutiny. That's why I let you pick the men for this mission. Wanted to get rid of all of you at once. Like I said... don't mistake it for kindness."
Her skin now fully a bold orange, she pulls the hoverpad down the corridor back to the corsair, as Kulimm and the other mutinous pirates fume helplessly behind her.
As Tsou de Ming's corsair streaks away from the system, the last of the Coaleshion pirates is destroyed or captured by Meridian...