Starship: Mercenary (Starship, Book 3)

Starship: Mercenary (Starship, Book 3) by Mike Resnick Read Free Book Online

Book: Starship: Mercenary (Starship, Book 3) by Mike Resnick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mike Resnick
you’re interested?” said Copperfield.
    “Yes, I’m interested,” replied Cole. “It’ll only be two-on-one, neither of them should be as powerful or well armed as the Teddy R , especially since we added the weaponry from Val’s old ship, and we’ll have the element of surprise on our side.” He paused. “And it’s nice to know we’re preventing a warlord from plundering a planet.”
    “Does that really matter to you?” asked Copperfield curiously.
    “It’s what we trained for, David,” answered Cole. “It’s the reason a lot of us joined the military.”
    “I thought it was because you were drafted.”
    “That’s another reason,” said Cole wryly. He paused thoughtfully, then spoke again. “Once we blow this bastard’s first two ships out of the sky, maybe we’ll pay a visit to each of the other four worlds he’s holding captive. One ship apiece, it should be child’s play.”
    “You’d do that just because it’s the moral thing?”
    “Well, if each world we freed felt it incumbent upon themselves to pay us a thank-you fee, I wouldn’t try to discourage them.”
    “By God, Steerforth,” said David Copperfield enthusiastically, “ now you’re thinking like a mercenary!”

    It had been six days since Cole signed the papers that committed the Teddy R to the defense of Djamara II. The ship was not in orbit around the planet—he saw no sense advertising its presence—but was stationed out among the dozen moons of Djamara V. Christine, Briggs, and Domak, the three best hands at using both the computers and sensors, worked the red, white, and blue shifts, eight hours apiece, scanning the system, looking for signs of the Rock of Ages’ ships.
    Cole spent most of his time in his office and his cabin. There just wasn’t anything for him to do until the enemy’s ships showed up—and even once they did, anything that was happening on the bridge could be transmitted to him wherever he was.
    It was on the seventh day that a coded message came through from Singapore Station. Cole had it piped into his cabin.
    There was a moment of static, and then the Platinum Duke’s image appeared.
    “Hi,” said Cole. “No sign of him yet.”
    “Just as well,” said the Duke. “It gives you some time to plan.”
    “I don’t like the sound of this,” said Cole warily. “What’s up?”
    “Evidently there’s at least one turncoat on Djamara II,” said the Duke. “It’s hardly surprising, given the numbers, and given the plunder that’s at stake.”
    “You’re telling me that the Rock of Ages knows we’re here,” said Cole.
    “That’s right.”
    “Well, he was going to know it sooner or later. We’ve lost the element of surprise, but I’ll still put the Teddy R up against whatever he’s got. The Navy scraps its warships, it doesn’t sell them to third parties. We’ll still have the edge in firepower.”
    “I know it, you know it, and the Rock of Ages knows it. He’ll be there tomorrow.”
    “He knows it and he’s still coming?” said Cole, frowning. “What am I missing here?”
    “My sources tell me that he’s decided if he can’t have the mineral wealth of the planet, no one can. He’s got some exceptionally dirty bombs—I don’t know how many—and he’s issued an ultimatum: if the mining company doesn’t send you away by the time he gets there, he’ll fire the bombs at the planet. You may stop one or two, but I gather he’s pretty confident you can’t stop them all. It’s what in a less sophisticated age they used to call a punishment party.”
    “Thanks for the information,” said Cole.
    “What are you going to do?”
    “I’m not sure,” said Cole. “This is going to require some thought.”
    “I’m sorry it’s turning out this way,” said the Duke. “I didn’t mean to give you such a problem, certainly not on our very first collaboration.”
    “It’s not your fault,” said Cole. “I suppose we could meet him in deep space and have it out

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