Home > Rules of Redemption (The Firebird Chronicles #1)

Rules of Redemption (The Firebird Chronicles #1)
Author: T.A. White



The burned-out wreckage of the alien spaceship drifted in a halo of its own debris. Its end had been violent, full of fire and carnage as it entered its death throes. The scars of the ship’s final battle were visible in the gaping wounds dotted throughout its carcass.

At least half of its body was missing, bits of debris floating in a mass around it. What little remained intact was riddled with scorch marks as it tumbled slowly through space, the story of its end visible to all who neared.

Kira's breath remained steady as she drifted closer to her target, the void of space a relentless presence all around her.

The dead ship was one of many in a debris field spanning thousands of miles. A relic from a battle fought over a dozen years ago, it was the perfect monetary opportunity for the very few brave or foolish enough to attempt salvaging it.

This particular ship was smack dab in the middle of the field. Kira hoped the increased risk of its location meant great reward since most salvagers were smart enough to keep to the outskirts to avoid puncturing the outer hull of their ships.

"Stay alert, Kira. My calculations place the chances of a suit puncture at seventy-six point four three percent."

"We've been over this, Jin. The upgrades to my suit mean I can withstand anything smaller than my fist," Kira responded. It wasn't quite combat grade but it was better than anything her fellow salvagers might have. "The new radar we picked up will detect anything within ten meters."

Jin sniffed, the sound insulted. "That thing is at most ninety-seven percent accurate."

Kira ignored the grumbling. Her friend had fought the radar's purchase and had been grumpy about its presence ever since. Kira didn't care. The new radar would be a valuable tool, especially if they continued going after ships other salvagers were too afraid to attempt.

"The radar isn't going to replace you. It simply frees you up to concentrate on more important tasks," she told him in a soothing voice.

She flicked on the propulsion unit, grinning as the thrusters kicked online. She loved this feeling—the abrupt jolt that took her from drifting aimlessly to becoming the guide and navigator.

She easily dodged the bigger pieces of debris as she wound her way to the misshapen hulk waiting for her.

"I still think we should have gone after the ship the Sweet sisters told us about. This one has disaster written all over it," Jin groused.

"If we'd done that, we would have had to fight off those same sisters once we finished the salvage. You know they have a habit of stealing other people’s work," Kira explained again. "Besides, I'm pretty sure this ship is warrior class. An elite or superior at the least."

"That makes me feel a lot better," Jin said sarcastically. "It's not like they don't have a high mortality rate for salvagers."

"You’re doing a great job in boosting my confidence with this conversation." Kira's voice was dry.

"It's my job to notify you of the potential risk in any salvage operation."

Yes, and Jin was scrupulous about doing his job. Even when she preferred he didn't. Like now, while she was drifting through the void, a few thin layers between it and her.

Kira maneuvered around another set of space junk. Looked like a bulkhead, probably one of the reasons the lower half of the ship was gone.

"I'm approaching the main body," Kira said, the banter of earlier falling away as her focus turned to the job.

"What do you see?"

"The control room looks intact. A few of the weapon chutes are visible."

The main bridge would have been in the upper middle part of the ship, behind several bulkheads. She'd been right. It was definitely a superior class.

During the height of the war, it would have sent the human fleet scurrying. Nearly indestructible, its defensive and offensive capabilities were among the best their enemy, the Tsavitee, had. No doubt it had been responsible for sending more than one of the Consortium’s ships to an early grave along with any unfortunates among the crew.

This one would have been considered midsize—not quite a dreadnought. Though next to Kira’s form, it seemed massive.

She knew the specs for this ship, had studied them and others like it. It would have had a crew of about a hundred aboard when it was destroyed. A hundred of humanity's enemies eliminated in one of the bloodiest battles of a decade-long war.

Built from a dark metal, it nearly blended in with the black of space. Ominous and foreboding, the ship’s lines were full of sharp edges. If it had been intact, it would have bristled with weapons capable of tearing her small ship apart. Kira didn't know if the feelings she got from it were based in her own perceptions and history or because the ship was a graveyard for those who never made it out.

"Any of the cannons look salvageable?"

Kira magnified the ship in her viewer. It was difficult to tell, since it continued to rotate along the same lines it would have when it died.

"No, they're torn to bits. There are pieces here and there, the rest of the parts are likely floating around me," she said.

"Do you think they're worth salvaging?" he asked.

"Not on this trip. I'll focus on the main body for now. We can mark the location and return for the rest."

"All right, I'm ready for you to begin your approach. Remember, these ships tend to have nasty defenses. Try not to trip them this time."

"I haven't forgotten."

"You say that, and yet you always seem to find trouble." His voice was tart. "I'm not coming to get you this time."

"Don't worry. I don't expect you to. Just make sure to keep the Wanderer out of danger," Kira said. Before he could respond, her voice turned businesslike. "Beginning my approach."

"Your trajectory is good. You should reach the ship in four minutes and ten seconds."

Kira maneuvered closer, her heart rate remaining steady despite the danger. She'd made it three meters when her proximity alert went off, the screen in her mask flashing red. She hit her thrusters, shooting left. A silver shape sailed by her.

Guess that meant the ship's defenses were intact. A grin took over her face.

When they finally cracked this nut, they were going to make a mint. Enough for a new food synthesizer capable of making food that tasted like food and not the chalky crap she was currently living off.

"What was that?" Jin asked.

"Nothing," she told him, her voice distracted.

The weapon chasing her through the wreckage looked like a long silvery ribbon. It moved as if it were organic, darting around pieces of metal with a lithe, sinuous glide as it followed Kira. It reminded her of Earth's eels. She'd never seen one personally but she'd seen pictures in books and in video.

This thing moved in much the same way, as if it was swimming through space. If it caught her, it would wrap around her before yanking her apart. That was if it didn't burn through her suit first.

"Is that a strigmor eel?" Jin's outrage was clear even over the comms.

Kira didn't bother denying it, too busy trying not to fly headfirst into any wreckage.

"How did you set off the ship's defenses?" he cried.

"Little busy here." Kira thrust down, the eel just missing her.

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