1

While the Mecha secured the hallways, the Klux breaching teams were not idle. They had stormed the staging areas for infantry, the crew bunks, and the engineering bay during the first wave, and the second was well on their way to sweeping the main floor that they had entered from.

Sporadic screaming and the repeated flashing of Laser Rifles said that the breaching team might not be taking the directive to capture the enemy sailors very seriously, but they had brought multiple groups of prisoners to the mecha staging points for supervision within the first ten minutes.

That was a long time for a boarding action, in Max's opinion, but the top-floor blast doors were still secure, and the Command Staff was securely locked on the bridge. Max didn't know enough about the design of their ship to be able to tell if they stood a chance of getting power back online from there, and the computer system had no schematics on the uniquely cathedral-shaped vessel, so the most he could do was wait.

"This is taking too long. Request to manually extract the Holy Truth Command Squad." Nico asked Max very formally, with a professional smile not quite masking the bloodlust in her mechanical eyes.

"Does this plan involve taking Shattered Pride and kicking in the windows of their command bridge to pull them out into the vacuum of space?" Max asked suspiciously.

"I am glad we are on the same page, Commander. Can I take that as permission granted?"

Max placed one hand on each of Nico's shoulders, then grabbed her and moved her back to a chair at the table.

"Sit. Stay. Don't space the Command staff unless the Klux team fails to gain entry. I can see right here on the cameras that they don't have protective suits on, despite the situation. If you kicked the windows out, you would just kill them all, and we can do that with a drone." Max informed her with a grin.

[Second Holy Truth Cruiser incoming] Admiral Drake informed them, and Max sighed while Nico gave herself a congratulatory fist pump.

"Alright, you can deploy. The Cutters will disable the Cruiser after they refuse to stand down, and then you can go to work." Max agreed.

Nico looked a bit crestfallen at the news, and Max realized that she had intercepted the incoming Cruiser's signals and was hoping to get free reign to mangle the incoming ship by virtue of proximity.

[Incoming Holy Truth Vessel, be aware that your nation has attacked the Terminus Trading Company, and we are currently in the process of collecting reparations. Please stand down and leave the system to avoid further hostilities.] Max informed the Holy Truth Captain.

[This is Grand Deacon Blue of the Cruiser Divine Truth. Firing upon a Holy Truth Vessel is Heresy, punishable by death. You have thirty seconds to lower your shields and submit to judgment.] The Cruiser's Captain responded.

"Nico, don't break his ship too badly. This one is even fancier than the last one. I don't know if it can even be made useful, but I want it." Max ordered her before she could leave the cargo bay where the meetings were being held.

"In that case, I will just stay here. I have already sent the weapon modulation for a coordinated blast that will disable the ship with minimal damage, just like last time. We will have to scrap the engines anyhow. They're a Warp 2 relic made out of freeware schematics to begin with, and nobody would accept a commission to pilot such a vessel these days.

Uncle Lu is going to absolutely love you for this, though. You sent him two flying cathedrals after denying him Cathedral-themed Titan Class Mecha. Once he has finished retrofitting them, they will likely be flagship quality vessels, worthy of being the face of the Terminus Trading Company." Nico laughed.

Moments later, the incoming signal came again.

[I repeat, this is Grand Deacon Blue aboard the Cruiser Divine Truth. You have been convicted of Heresy and are scheduled for execution. You have ten seconds to lower your shields and stand down, or your punishment will be increased.]

"They have a punishment worse than death? It's a shame they won't exist long enough to try to implement it." Nico told Lord Joseph, who was looking positively petrified by the announcement.

[All Cutters, fire on the Divine Truth.] Max ordered, and the Orbital Lances flashed again, leaving the second vessel in the same shape as the first, dead in space and drifting.

Max checked his sensors to ensure that the vessel really was disabled, finding that half the Warp Drive was floating freely in space at the moment, but surprisingly the powerless ship was showing signs of activity.

[The rear bay doors on Target 2 are opening. Drones get me a good look at what is happening. Cutters, prepare to fire.]

The drones raced over to see what was going on and sent back the strangest sight that Max had ever seen.

Hundreds of men in space suits were lying down flat on a wheeled cart that four men were pushing into the bay of a standard Kepler-produced civilian cargo shuttle.

"Do you think that is their form of an attack squad? Or is it some sort of lifeboat?" Max asked Lord Joseph.

"That is their version of the breaching ship. They have a strong EMP weapon that shorts out our doors, and they just push the cart out of the shuttle and storm our ships after the doors are unlocked." Lord Joseph informed him.

"Do you not have shields?" Max asked, confused.

"No, all of our ships are repurposed mining ships. Why would they have shields?" Lord Joseph answered.

Max had to try very hard not to vent his frustrations on the incompetence of his new allies. Why wouldn't a mining ship have shields? They are exposed to constant debris and harsh conditions at every single orbital mine site in existence. They normally have even better shields than a military ship the same size because they don't need the power for a weapon system.

"Well, if they think that tactic will work on Terminus, they're about to have a very bad day," Max informed the leader of the Klux, then turned away to watch the parade of idiocy that was the Holy Truth attack plan.

He would have to warn the Cygnus fleet not to take them seriously. These two planetary systems full of oddballs really did deserve each other.

Max was about to issue another order to the drones to stop the shuttle with a gravity beam when Nico asked the most important question of the day.

"How did you let yourselves get embargoed by this group of imbeciles?"

For an instant, Lord Joseph looked outraged. Then the look turned to embarrassment. "You see, the ships are powerful, and the threats are very impressive. How were we supposed to know that they were empty? We just assumed that since they had a Mecha army, they had actually sent some to threaten us with.

Most of the time, they even send out a few squads of Line Mecha as a reminder before they make their demands." He tried to deflect, but even to himself, the words rang hollow.

"Maybe it is a one-off, and they simply didn't have any to send after the failed invasion, and with Cygnus drawing close to their borders? I have already sent a message about this incident to the Cygnus fleet, which will be arriving in the Holy Truth's territory very soon." Nico offered, as a form of apology for her comments and a mollification for the Lord of the Klux.

"Yes, hopefully. But your Trading Company has done very well for themselves today. You got a deal signed, and it seems you will have two Cruisers to add to your fleet. Do we perhaps have any more Rum? This deserves a celebratory sip."