Pirates of Khonoë #1
Sent to crush space pirates from the inside, he’s in his element. Now he faces betrayals beyond imagination with control of hyperspace at stake.
Pavan Khadorov has tired of treachery and death. He's on his final mission for the Galactic Syndicate Security Service, infiltrating space pirates. A loaded drink and misplaced trust land him on a new ship, the Ravager.
Pavan allies with the alluring pirate Dellatrix Devdan to get the trust of her shipmates. But Dellatrix is not all that trustworthy herself, especially when treasure is at stake. And treasure there is—a secret weapon that can control hyperspace. When Pavan and Dellatrix discover the secret is a village of children that can form a collective Mind, they hit a snag. As pirate treasure goes, children are hard to manage, especially on the pirate world of Khonoë with few rules and fewer trustworthy allies.
Pavan falls back on romance to get Dellatrix on his side. When Pavan gets Dellatrix to double-cross the Captain of the Ravager, they face a slow and certain death if their secrets unravel. And Pavan’s wife won’t help with that.
As crisis engulfs Khonoë, Pavan, Dellatrix, and the kids need a miracle to make it off the planet alive. The Ravager descends into mutiny and chaos. Pavan must use all his black-ops experience to find a path through the maze of deceit and death. He has to discover who is his friend—and who is not.
The Ravager’s raid turned out to be a ruthenium mining station in the Ertes system. Pavan had heard of Ertes before. It was a red star with one gas giant planet, Ertes-1, and a huge asteroid field. Many asteroids now had small mining stations that mined rare elements. The lack of any inhabited planets meant a miner could find an empty asteroid, register it with the Syndicate, and start mining. Eventually, they would form a government and join the Syndicate. But for now, it was independent miners doing their best to make a killing on the rare metals they mined.
Since there was no government, there were no police. Some miners had gotten together and hired a security company to provide protection, but most of the mining stations were perfect targets for a pirate raid. If raids affected trade materially, the Syndicate might send a patrol ship, but that was unlikely given the number of mines. One less mine wouldn’t even be a blip to the Syndicate, but it would provide a pirate ship with a nice boost to the ship’s takings.
Pavan gathered all this information as the pirates on food pond duty talked. Picking space lice was a boring occupation. The lice themselves were tiny, disgusting, translucent creatures. They appeared from nowhere despite the best efforts of the ship’s crew, which weren’t up to the hygiene standards of a normal starship. Space lice withstood radiation and poison and so had to be manually extracted and ejected from the ship. No protein in them, either. Disgusting.
Tig told Pavan that the targeted mining station had a large quantity of ruthenium in storage because of a broken supply chain. The pirates had a buyer ready and waiting for the entire hoard.
Tig headed up the landing party of ten pirates, and he made sure Pavan was part of it. “You need the experience, Pavan.”
Pavan, happy to get away from the space lice, was game. Or so he thought.
The miners had fortified the station with an automated arms system that was no match for blaster rifles. After taking out the blaster ports, the pirates stormed the building and took the couple running the place prisoner. By threatening the wife, they got the husband to open the ruthenium store and started loading the crates of metal onto the transport shuttle. It took three trips to empty the store. Then the shuttle returned to pick up the pirates.
Tig and another pirate commed The Captain and got their orders. They executed the two miners with two rifle blasts.
Tig said, “Pavan, clear the rest of the station. Blast anybody you find. Captain’s orders.” Tig grinned. “I gave him your name, Pavan. The Captain knows who you are, now. Don’t fuck this up.”
Pavan walked through the station, opening doors and checking compartments, until he came to a small room toward the back. He opened the door and found two children, a boy and a girl, sitting on a bed and holding each other. They looked at Pavan with terror in their eyes.
Pavan couldn’t bring himself to shoot the two kids. That would be too much. Their parents were already dead. Nothing he could do about that. But he didn’t have to kill their kids, too.
He whispered to the children, “OK, kids, here’s what you do. You go into that laundry closet down the hall, quietly, without a sound. Hide under the clothes. When we’re gone, you’ll need to call for help on the comm system. Can you do that?”
The girl, older than the boy and showing signs of adolescence, nodded. She helped the boy up, and they crept down the hall with Pavan to the compartment. Pavan shut the door on them, then walked back to the control room.
“All clear. Nobody else in the place,” he told Tig.