Boarding the Reilian communication ship was surprisingly easy. Finding a suitable selection of music was not.
The ship to ship docking was uneventful but that was due entirely to Starshine’s piloting skill and the Slip Shields her rocket was outfitted with which turned away the plasma torpedoes the Reilians were assaulting them with.
The inertial compensators were a pleasant addition as well, at least based on the twirling nightmare patterns the stars outside the cockpit took as Starshine spun the ship to avoid the dense cloud of weapons fire the Reilian fleet used as their “friendly welcome greeting”. From inside the bridge, it felt like they were stationary and there was funny tumbling video playing on the wall in front of them. If physics had its proper due though, the intense turns Starshine powered the ship through would have squashed them into a thin paste.
“These Reilians are a little into overkill aren’t they?” Starshine asked. “I mean, not that I don’t appreciate someone who’s willing to waste enough ammunition to blow up a moon trying to swat me down, but it would be sort of nice if they’d run out of it at some point.”
“They literally don’t have a word for ‘overkill’ in their language,” Beth said. “They believe in ‘insufficient force’ and ‘apparently adequate’. They wait centuries after a battle before admitting they might have been victorious.”
“They sound like real gems to have enemies,” Starshine said, ducking her ship into the shadow of the nearest Reilian fleet vessel.
In practice there was no reason or sense for the fleet to be packed as tightly as it was. True, they all came through the same space warp, so they shared a common starting point, but with the ability to accelerate to speeds that allowed them to cross interplanetary distances quickly there wasn’t any reason they couldn’t have spread out more. Thanks to the depictions of space battle in movies informing the author’s imagination though, the fleet was flying close enough together that there was barely enough room for Starshine’s rocket to fit between them.
“Sorry,” Beth said. “They’re not supposed to be anywhere near here, and they’re definitely not supposed to be on a war footing with the galaxy either.”
“But you think you can do something about that?” Starshine asked. “Seems like a tall order for someone as young as you.”
“Knowledge is power,” Beth said. “And they made the mistake of messing with someone who knows a little too much about them.”
In particular someone who’d read several novels where the heroes had come up with clever plans that defeated vastly superior Reilian fleets with a minimal loss of life. Beth didn’t feel particularly clever for stealing their ideas, but she wanted to keep Starshine reassured enough to stay committed to what was admittedly a pretty reckless plan.
“The music you are searhcing for is related to this?” Lagressa asked as beth flipped through Starshine’s personal music library.
“Yeah, if we can get onboard their communication ship and broadcast the music through the fleet, their security systems will lose signal-to-noise integrity.”
“What will that do for us?” Lagressa asked. “Aside from draw the wrath of the nearest guards.”
“If we have the right music, their systems will detect the ‘noise’ we’re injecting as following an intelligent pattern. The Reilians equate foreign ideas as external corruption and they hate external corruption enough to do all this.” She gestured to the space around and the fleet that surrounded them.
“So they’ll try to kill us harder?” Starshine asked.
“No, they’ll initiate a Full Purge,” Beth said. “Every ship in the system that received our transmission will be cut off from the Reilian Command Voice and ordered to self-destruct to preserve the sanctity of the Greater Reilian Purity.”
“Shouldn’t any music be detectable as following an intelligent pattern?” Lagressa asked.
“In general, yes,” Beth said. “But we need to be a particular type of intelligent threat. We need to hit them on a recognizable, emotional level. It needs to be music that will make even people unfamiliar with music want to dance.”
“They’re weak to emotions?” Starshine asked, an eyebrow rising in disbelief.
“Not specifically, but the Reilian Control Voice that thrums through their minds doesn’t allow them to feel anything except what the leaders need them to. We need the security system to think we’re trying to flood them with non-aggressive emotions on a subliminal level.”
“Well, you better pick out some really peppy songs then, cause we’re about thirty seconds from hard docking with our target.”
“What does ‘hard docking’ mean?” Lagressa asked.
“Some folks like to call it ‘crashing’,” Starshine said.
Beth finished selecting the songs from Starshine’s library and strapped herself in. Even with the inertial compensators, she didn’t think a crash was going to be a gentle experience.
“Won’t your ship be damaged?” Lagressa asked.
“Don’t worry about us,” Starshine said. “The Reilians are going to get the worst of it. Firing landing missiles now!”
‘Landing missiles’ didn’t sound like standard ship attachments to Beth, but she knew Starshine tended to outfit her vessels with all sorts of unusual (and ‘extra-legal’) devices.
The landing missiles turned out to belong firmly in the latter category since their only purpose appeared to be to blasting an enormous hole in the hull of enemy ship to allow for quick entry. Apart from pirates, Beth couldn’t think of anyone who would have a use for a weapon of that sort. Everyone else would have been happier to follow up a hole in the hull of an enemy ship by making a larger one, and then another, until the enemy vessel was tiny pieces of unthreatening space junk.
“Slap the space field emitters on,” Starshine said, gesturing to a wall rack near the airlock. “I can hold position here for about ten minutes, more or less, so get to work and get back here or there won’t be much of a ship left to fly home in.”
“Are you ready for this?” Beth asked.
“Less so than you are perhaps, but I’ll manage,” Lagressa said.
“Sorry to drag you along on something so dangerous,” Beth said.
“I’m seeing worlds I could never have imagined. For an explorer, that’s a treasure more valuable than gold.” Lagressa said. “I believe I am the one who owes you a debt.”
Beth nodded in thanks, and placed the space field emitted on her wrist before passing through the force fields on the air lock and flying out into the cold, dark void of space.