On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he's DEAD

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Post by stads » Fri, 15. Mar 13, 19:25

thx for the update

smell a vendetta from the split towards a boron :D

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Post by Timsup2nothin » Fri, 15. Mar 13, 21:10

stads wrote:thx for the update

smell a vendetta from the split towards a boron :D
Thanks for reading...and commenting.

The Split already hated me so I figured nothing lost by antagonizing them, and I needed the credits. We'll have to see as the plot thickens whether this sort of conflict becomes a significant weave in the cloth or just a bit of color thrown in here and there...though the next episode will certainly have a fair share of violence.

Easy for me to say, I just finished playing it. :wink:


And here it is.

We Three Fools of Profit Guild Are...er...Were

The Wikstrom shot out of the contained unreality of the gate into the normal space of Elena's Fortune. Immediately the tiny ship's computer started ringing a threat alert. Jula No swallowed his heart deeper into his throat, then relaxed as the 'dangerous Split vessel' less than a kilometer away was revealed as a Vulture freighter. He banked the Wikstrom sharply and hit the throttles to get some distance. Established at a safe remove he killed the engines and took a closer look at the information the Wikstrom's computer had gathered on the Vulture.

Even though the Vulture is of Teladi manufacture, he sees that the pilot is indeed a Split; one Lu t'Ztk. The Vulture is on autopilot, bound for a bio gas factory in Atreus' Clouds. Jula's eyes widen. Trying to do business in Boron space is the Split's first mistake. He looks at the shield strength indicator and sees the Vulture only registers ten megajoules, though it has the capacity for seventy-five. A second mistake. Jula pushes the throttles as the Vulture plunges into the gate.

The Wikstrom emerged into the lawless frontier of Farnham's Legend right behind the Split trader, and Jula pushed the throttles as he swung the little craft around the larger bulk of the freighter. Moving about a kilometer ahead he spun the Wikstrom as he slammed the throttle to idle, then unleashed the impulse ray emitters. The ten megs of shielding melted to nothing before the Split could swing the ponderous hulk away from the tiny fountain of death that was directly in his path, and the hull danced under the pounding particle streams.

Before the turret on the rear of the Vulture could come to bear Jula hit the throttles and shot away. He offed the Split every opportunity to escape death, darting in and away, slowly pounding the sturdy hull into crumbling wreckage. Lu t'Ztk hoped his attacker would make a mistake. One slip and the speeding Octopus would be flattened against the hull, or better yet against the looming face of a nearby astroid. Relying on that hope rather than abandoning his ship was the Split's third, and final, mistake.

Jula wondered at his lack of remorse as he resumed his journey. Then he wondered if exposure to the Split would, over generations, lead to a sturdier, more violent Boron species. With a wry twitch of a smile he wondered if exposure to the universe killing fools like Lu t'Ztk would eventually improve the Split gene pool.

Passing through Elena's Fortune Jula noted that things were very calm. The debris that was all that remained of Yo t'Kt's failed assault had been cleared away and Argon patrols moved about the sector in a desultory fashion. Jula had no interest in tempting fate by returning to the base, opting to fly into the Cloudbase sector southeast of Argon Prime to unload a couple of salvaged missiles he had picked up along the way, then heading into the Ore Belt hoping to find a Boron prospecter he could assist with surveying.

Instead he found a Boron Dolphin freighter, unjustly laboring under the heavy hand of a Paranid pilot. While there was nothing illegal about this it offended something in Jula No's view of the universe. The fact that the Paranid had flown the ship into Argon space, where he would get no assistance or protection from local law, indicated that he was also a fool; unworthy of the sleekly lined craft.

Jula lined up on the dolphin and strafed off about half of its fifty megs of shielding in one slow pass. Built by peace loving Boron the Dolphin has no turrets or other gun mounts. When a second pass had peeled the remaining shields Jula urged the pilot to surrender the vessel. He had no desire to kill the hulking three eyed brute, just liberate the ship. Unfortunately the immensely bloated ego of the Paranid made him blind to the reality of the situation and he refused to surrender to the tiny Wikstrom. Regretfully Jula rode the triggers, pounding the Dolphin to dust.

With no work to be had in the Ore Belt, Jula pointed the Wikstrom towards the mining district of Herron's Nebula. Unfortunately he found no work there either. He stopped to make a quick purchase and set out for the lawless frontiers. If he couldn't make money he could at least make friends, he thought philosophically.

Before he cleared Argon space Jula was again confronted by the offensive sight of a Dolphin piloted by a Paranid trader. Once again he set about stripping the shields in an attempt to liberate the ship. Timenckulok proved to be less the fool than the first Paranid pilot, Ulmankamstras, had been. Before the first pass was completed he launched five Paranid fighter drones and leaned on the throttles, hoping to get the freighter to safety.

Jula shook his head as he pushed his own throttles to the stops. The Wikstrom was not that much bigger than a drone, and its larger engines gave him a top speed that was faster than the drones. He circled an astroid about ten kilometers away, using the huge mass of rock to confuse the drones target tracking mechanisms. The priorities of targeting clashed with collision avoidance in five tiny processors, and Jula sped back to pepper the freighter with IRE fire as he made a high speed pass. He opened the com and suggested that Timenckulok should surrender.

"The Paranid will never surender to you, inferior being," was the reply, "but I will offer Paranid freight." As he spoke huge bay doors opened and a container floated free. Hundreds of units of delaxian wheat. For a superior being Timanckulok had a very poor understanding of how to effectively bribe someone flying an Octopus. Jula could have docked his ship in the cargo container.

There was no time to continue the conversation due to the arrival of the first fighter drone. The astroid had done its work, and the drones were strung out at intervals instead of flying in a dangerous swarm. Timenckulok watched in dismay as they fell one by one to the Wikstrom's blazing guns. Jula reopened the com link as the last one collapsed in a tiny burst of ionized plating. "That drained my laser battery," he said. "Once it recharges I am going to strip your shields and either remove you from that ship or remove it from around you, your choice. The Boron urges you to choose wisely."

Perhaps being spoken to that way by an 'inferior being' was too much for the Paranid. Perhaps he was just a fool and nothing would have persuaded him to make the wise choice. In any event Jula was again left with nothing for his efforts but the sad memory of a Dolphin disintegrating under his fire.

The Wikstrom passed through Elena's Fortune. Perhaps Argon recon units had reported that he was responsible for destroying Paranid fighter drones, which were unwelcome in Argon space. Perhaps the Wikstrom was noted as a friendly because it had happened to be around when the Boron task force had been saving the day. Perhaps it was beneath all notice, like a tiny pimple on the hull of a megalodon. For whatever reason his passage went unremarked, and Jula was glad of it.

He pulled the turn into the approach pattern at fairly high speed, and braked just short of the docking clamps. Tammankulot leapt back, awkward as only a hulking Paranid in light gravity can be. As the clamps locked Jula threw back the canopy and pulsed himself out of the cockpit with his rebreather cocked at a jaunty angle. "I hope you won some credits betting on the Boron my friend," he said breezily. "By the way, you might have reminded me that my cargo bay would be too small for passengers even with that life support system you sold me. But I brought you a rat."

The burly dockhand was trying to decide what to make of this patter. The Boron certainly didn't seem angry. Did Boron even get angry? If the pint size squid was angry should Tammankulot even care?

"I know you would never buy that back, but how about a deal? Uninstall it and pack it back in a crate. Then you can install it on another ship for me. You can keep the rat, or leave him in the hold and I'll freeze dry him for you. Oh, and those crates of Argon whiskey are going to be in your way. Just trundle them up to the bar, would you?"

Cold hard facts

I did hear the 'you have gained recognition' in passing while I was popping drones, but to be honest I forgot to check what my status with the Argon is. It might be high enough to buy something, or it might not, but I had no reason to check since I can't afford much of anything anyway. I forgot to mention earlier that I also picked up some gravidar glasses so I'll mention that now. Not much more to add to the Wikstrom, though I have to say I'm pleased with the little bucket. Would have been sorely disappointing to end this with it smeared down the side of a Dolphin.

Assets...the Wikstrom, 10,920 credits, and a freeze dried rat.
Flight time...5:01
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

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Post by Triaxx2 » Sat, 16. Mar 13, 19:04

Added to the DiD List.
A Pirate's Revenge Completed Now in PDF by _Zap_
APR Book 2: Best Served Cold Updated 8/5/2016

The Tale of Ea't s'Quid Completed

Dovie'andi se tovya sagain

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Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Sat, 16. Mar 13, 20:27

Thanks Triaxx...and once again great thanks for taking on maintaining said list...a service without reward that I greatly appreciate and respect.

Now, on with the show.

Missions and Movements

The debauch at the pirate base lasted until few of the bipeds could stand. Jula No infused some of the whiskey through his rebreather, but tried to keep a level head. He had successfully established some underworld contacts, but was concerned with the consequences. The crew of the base was going to wake up hung over and surly, and they were going to have certain expectations about the Boron they were toasting as a hero tonight. The whiskey would be gone in a matter of days, and those expectations were going to be hard for him to live up to. He slipped away, set the docking clamps to automatic, and boarded the Wikstrom.

He flew more or less aimlessly, north through the pirate sectors. In Bala Gi's Joy the ship's computer emitted a series of beeps. With a start he noted the source; a chip plant hanging just beyond one of the sector's gigantic solar power plants. He brought the Wikstrom around one of the huge solar collecting disks and opened the com link. A Boron appeared on his screen.

Tata Ni made polite conversation, and he responded with meaningless chatter. The ship's computer received a coded data burst hidden in a brief break of static. After a friendly parting with a promise to get together later for old times sake he closed the com link. Jula saw that the first letter of the decoded message was a 'W', set the autopilot for the west gate, and examined the rest of the text.

The chip plant, a Boron operation, had been compromised by a Split spy, Sai t'Lt, posing as a mineral transport pilot. Vital information was taken, and Sai t'Lt was headed for Split space. He had been turned back by Boron authorities in Atreus' Clouds on a customs violation, but there was neither grounds nor evidence to hold him and he was returning to the frontier. Special Branch was tasked with monitoring the Split to ensure that the data was not transferred before the ship could be taken, and Jula was the closest asset. He passed the gate into Farnham's Legend and swung Wikstrom towards the gate to Atreus' Clouds.

The Split Caiman tanker had not reached the gate, and Jula pushed Wikstrom through, then veered away from the trade lanes. From the customs chatter the ship's computer tagged the Split Caiman tanker, and Jula settled into a slow pattern to monitor the freighter's progress towards the gate. Then he followed it through.

Back in Farnham's Legend he steered quickly into the tradelane for the southern gate, as the Split was moving towards the east gate to Bala Gi's Joy. Jula knew from his training that the gates would be the most likely place for a data transfer. He established a safe distance where he could watch unobserved and waited. "There!" he said. A small data drone had been fired by the Caiman just before it stretched into the event horizon of the gate. It was immediately taken aboard a Harrier. The close proximity of traffic at the gate make the close pass unremarkable had Jula not been observing closely.

He sped towards the gate to ensure he logged tracking information on the Harrier. He had to get close. Too close. The Teladi pilot in the Harrier noted his interest and turned on him with partical accelerator cannons flashing. Jula threw the Wikstrom into a sliding corkscrew maneuver to evade the incoming fire and used the superior speed of the Octopus to circle the Harrier faster than it could turn to target him. Once clear of the Teladi's field of fire he slid into a trailing position while matching speeds. The IREs went to work on the Harrier's shielding, followed quickly by its hull.

With the Harrier reduced to dust Jula sped through the gate into Bala Gi's Joy, finding the audacious Split spy on course for the chip plant. He set his autopilot to dock at one of the power plants and watched. When the Wikstrom locked into the docking clamps he bought half a dozen e-cells, exchanged a brief word with the docking crew, and launched, circling towards the chip plant. The Caiman completed the approach cycle and locked in.

He docked, and met Tata Ni in one of the station's comfortable offices. Being able to move around outside the cramped confines of his ship without the restrictions of the rebreather was a luxury and he enjoyed the meeting. Doubly so since his mission had been such a success. The Split had docked to report and apologize that the mineral shipment he had contracted for would be delayed, citing a misunderstanding with Boron customs. His ship's systems had been scanned, as he knew they would, demonstrating that he did not have the data. Business would go on, but both sides knew the espionage had been detected. Sai t'Lt would be watched, he knew he would be watched, and as soon as it could be done smoothly either his 'independent trading' career would draw him away to other markets or the station would 'find another supplier'.

With such an auspicious start to the latest round of his travels Jula was certain he would succeed in his efforts to capture a freighter, or at least a larger ship.

His first candidate was a Vulture in Elena's Fortune piloted by a Paranid trader. The Vulture has the threat of its turret, but is so ponderous that Jula was confident that he could stay in front of it and out of range. He was successful in that, but after an attempt at bribery with a blown cargo hold the Paranid released a fighter drone. As Jula spun the Wikstrom to get some distance a single blast from the drone's twin cannons stripped most of his shields. "Paranid mark two drone, Paranid mark two drone, Paranid..." the threat detector wailed. Jula established a sliding spiral pattern and sped into the astroid field, knowing that the day that had started so promising would end abruptly with one more hit from the PACs.

Fortunately the evasive maneuvers worked, and with the heavy drone's limited speed he was quickly out of range. As he drew a breath of relief he noted that the Wikstrom had actually suffered some light damage to her hull, possibly due to IRE fire from the turret of the Vulture after the drone had stripped her shields. Orbiting among the astroids until his shields had recharged left him angry and impatient, and with the shields over ninety percent he slid into a sharp corkscrew and approached the drone. He dodged the heavy particle bursts from its cannons and shredded it with a burst from the IREs, then closed on the fleeing freighter.

The Paranid again dumped freight as his shields melted away. Jula hoped the Paranid would abandon ship, but was too angry to suggest it, and assumed the Paranid could think of it for himself. Whether he thought of it or not he didn't do it, and Jula brought his scorched little ship to a frustrated halt as soon as the Vulture exploded into worthless dust.

After some work with the repair laser Jula settled back into the cockpit and sealed the canopy. As the ship's internal pressure mounted he peered through his rebreather at the computer screens, calling up an analysis of the containers spewed by the panicking Paranid. Delaxian wheat, in bulk. He clenched his snout in renewed frustration. Thousands of credits floated in space, and there was nothing he could do to pick them up. Then he noticed another crate, on the very edge of his sensor range.

While Jula had been distracted by the Vulture, a major battle had occured in the sector. He wandered through the debris field, gathering missiles. He was still frustrated, but at least there were valuables he could collect in his tiny cargo bay. Then, with even his peaceful Boron temper still stretched thin by events he was offended by the ultimate insult. A Split courier pilot flew rapidly across his scanners...in an Octopus!

Jula shredded the shields and pounded halfway through the hull with the first burst from his IREs. Then he hit the comlink. Before he could even speak the fierce face of the Split crumpled, and he ejected with some plea for his lost honor. To Jula's astonishment fields formed around the damaged Octopus. Her shield generator had survived the damage. He let the Split move off in his spacesuit, then ejected to claim his prize.

Weary from weilding the repair laser and sick at heart from seeing the mauling the life support system of the Octopus had taken to accomodate the Split, Jula led the captured vessel to the military base. As he was selling off the load of salvaged missiles an officer approached him with the look of a challenge. He looked up through his rebreather with the thousand mile stare of a combat veteran.

"Um, when you were here last..." the officer began, then paused. Jula continued to stare. "Ah, well, there was a misunderstanding about your status. You aren't Boron military..."

"The Boron knows that. The Boron knew that then."

"Ah. Well. We thought that you were...um..."

"I made no such claim. I salvaged missiles. I was here to sell them. Now I have salvaged more missiles. If you do not want them the Boron can sell them elsewhere. I am in the salvage business, as you can see." He waved a tentacle towards the captured Octopus in the next set of docking clamps. "I have to take that home to Boron space, and can easily take these missiles as well."

"That won't be necessary," the officer said stiffly. "As I said, it was a misunderstanding, nothing more. We are happy to have your help."

Jula looked after the retreating Argon with surprise. Facing down an arrogant Argon...perhaps there was something to be said for shedding some of the courtesy Boron life had engrained so deeply in him.

Forced to either wear his rebreather unit, or stay in the cockpit of Wikstrom which wasn't much bigger, Jula could not rest comfortably at the Argon station, but he did get some rest. The long flight to Kingdom End at the slow pace his captured prize would set was daunting enough without some time to relax beforehand. He set out later, somewhat refreshed and in much better spirits. Staying in the same sector to maintain control of the prize would offer him an opportunity to explore the sectors he passed through. He set the autopilot on the prize for the journey through Argon space, and set off with an eye to expanding his database.

As it turned out the Paranid provided opportunities to expand his fleet as well.

Passing through President's End Jula encountered another Paranid trader in a Vulture. Not wanting to be caught by another fighter drone launch Jula opted for fast passes instead of parking in front and eventually stripped the Vulture of its shielding. Unfortunately the encounter took place very close to the huge stargate to Elena's Fortune, and before Jula could start working on the hull a large Argon task force began spilling into the sector. With the Vulture wallowing in their path the Argon ships began swerving out of formation, causing even more chaos as their pilots confronted multiple alarms from their collision detectors. Jula noted that the prize was closing on the next gate of their journey, measured the chances of smearing the Wikstrom over some Argon hull if he tried to race through the swirl of larger ships, and ruefully abandoned the assault.

Continuing onward led to sighting more than a few Split traders operating in Argon space. The Split were consistently flying freighters of their own make, and Jula considered the Caiman freighters and Iguana passenger transports to be too dangerous.

The journey was almost complete, and as the two tiny ships entered the Argon sector of Three Worlds Jula was about to write it off as uneventful. He set off to map out the stations in this final sector while the prize took a straight course to the far gate and Kingdom End. With two scanners illuminating pockets on his sector map there were more ships to see, particularly with the prize in the middle of the main traffic lane, but Jula was still surprised at the timing when not one, not two, but three Paranid tech transports appeared on his screen, at almost the exact same time.

One was flying a Perseus, a Paranid heavy fighter with a rear turret that Jula had no interest in tangling with. The other two were in light fighter craft; one a Pericles Raider of Paranid make and one in a Buzzard. The Paranid seemed to fancy Teladi ships, Jula mused. Neither of the light fighters mounted a rear turret.

Closing first on the Pericles Jula established a position behind the heavier ship and opened fire. With his shields stripped and the hull near disintigrating the pilot abandoned the craft, hoping Jula would not be quick enough in releasing the trigger and would get nothing for his efforts. His hopes were dashed, and Jula claimed the craft by right of salvage. The pilot of the Buzzard chose death over dishonor.

Jula stopped the captured Octopus long enough to patch together the newly taken Paranid ship, then set off with both prizes for the final gate seperating him from Boron territory. The journey had been long, and he looked forward to floating free in the thick methane atmosphere of the shipyard.

Cold hard facts

The Pericles Raider and the Octopus netted a tidy sum. If the Kingdom End shipyard stocked a regular Mako instead of a Vanguard model I could have, and probably would have, bought one. I was a little short for the Vanguard. Kingdom End also only stocks Hauler and Super-freighter XL model Dolphins that I couldn't afford, and the base model Manta was also slightly out of range. So...

I have the Wikstrom, my long suffering Octopus. I picked up a couple missiles of unknown origin along the way and traded them for a trading system extension, CLS 2 software, Nav command and special command software. I keep hoping to get a freighter that I can hire a pilot for and use as a salvage ship.

Credits 429,828
Flight time 6:53

Sometime during the party at the pirate base someone ate the freeze dried rat.

Wow. Just recognized I left a whole chapter out

Lidya Marval's Turn of Good Fortune

Lidya Marval lived with her cousin, Mak, in his small compartment on the Argon equipment dock in the Three Worlds sector. Her relationship with her cousin was constantly strained. He was older, considered himself wiser, and somehow thought that he was responsible for her. That thought led him, about half the time, to call her a freeloader, and another about half the time it led him to call her a tramp. In the tiny sliver of time that was left he was a great guy. She would never admit it, but when he wasn't around she had to admit that he was more or less right. If he hadn't shared his compartment with her when her ride got blown out from under her she would have had to go planetside, and there was nothing she could do on the station to earn her way. And the tedium of station life had admittedly made her less...discriminating.

While he wanted her to find a job, her cousin was convinced that every time she thought she saw an opportunity it was just because she wanted to fly off with some hot captain, which wasn't always true. So she was totally shocked when the compartment com terminal buzzed and it was Mak, saying she should rush right down to docking pod three because there might well be a job for her. As she trotted down the corridor she wondered if the employer would be older than the stars or uglier than the muzzle of a plasma thrower.

While she waited for the lift to the docking pod she saw three of the bays were occupied; a mercury freighter, one of the new fighter designs, and something so tiny she couldn't even see a bit of the hull sticking out under the docking hood. When she stepped off the lift she could see that all three ships were registered to the same account, with no other pilots listed. Someone with three ships, all to themselves! Then she saw the name on the account she understood Mak thinking it would be okay. Working for a Boron should be safe enough to satisfy his protective needs, there was no chance the Boron would be making advances, and the job would get her off his couch. She just hoped the little squid would give her the job.

She helped her new boss shift some freight around.

A cargo life support extension, still in the box but obviously used, came off the tiny ship that had turned out to be an Octopus and got loaded onto the Mercury. She asked if he wanted it hooked up, and the Boron had paused, legs stirring to keep it off the deck. "No," he said, "the Boron will be getting another ship that it will serve better." Another ship? The squid must be loaded.

Next they hauled a Split model fighter drone, a mark 2 no less, off of the Asp and installed it aboard the Mercury. "That will help keep you safe. The Boron has seen one from the wrong end." She took a closer look at the Octopus and noted the partical scoring along the tiny hull and the well maintained but obviously used IREs. She thought maybe her cousin had guessed wrong. This may not be a typically peaceful Boron she was going to work for. She didn't want to screw up a good deal, but...and then it hit her..."Keep me safe? You're giving me the Mercury?"

"Well, the Boron isn't giving her away, but she needs a pilot."

The Boron was hanging over the cockpit of the Asp, disconnecting a docking computer. She slipped aboard the Mercury, looking around the spacious cabin. She had known she wasn't going to fly the Asp, she was no combat pilot. She had been bracing herself for getting stuffed into the Octopus. She activated the computer, dreading the thought that she would find out something that would make it hard to take such a great job. Bought used, with an open credit transfer drawn on some Boron station account, third hand. Her boss might be mysterious, but the provenance on the Mercury was solid enough. She noted the purchase price, 55,000 credits give or take, the boss was mysterious, but he knew a good deal when he saw one.

He floated into the hatch. She gave a guilty start, but the Boron didn't seem concerned that she had accessed the computer. He held the docking computer in his tentacles. "The Boron will install this in the Wikstrom. There is a mineral scanning unit on the Asp that needs to be removed. You can install it while I am gone. I have some things to do in the Kingdom."

She went to work on the Asp. Her boss fluttered over the cockpit of the Octopus. She couldn't help herself. She activated the computer on the Asp. It was wiped.

She watched the Asp launch out of the docking clamps. The autopilot was set for the shipyard in Kingdom End. Her new boss, in the Octopus oddly named Wikstrom, launched right behind her. She hauled the rest of her stuff onto the Mercury and set to work hooking up the mineral scanner.

What did her boss think he was going to do with the Asp at KE yard? When they saw the wiped computer they weren't going to buy it. They wouldn't even repair it. In fact they would report it. Then what? She was logged in as pilot of the Llewelyn. She supposed she could run the ship on her own and do some trading...if she had any capital to get some freight. The screwdriver slipped and jabbed her finger. Damn.

Not long after, the Wikstrom appeared on the station scanners and locked into the approach system. When it settled into the docking clamps and the canopy opened Lidya supposed the shipyard had just confiscated the Asp. Then she realized the Boron fluttering up out of the cockpit wasn't her boss.

"You are called Lidya Marval. The Boron is called Boso Wa. We will be working together."

"Where's Jula No?" she asked.

"He will be along presently. He is getting some equipment for his new ship, and shields for yours."

Lidya found Boso Wa to be good company, but just as mysterious as her new employer. She gathered that Boso and Jula had worked together before, though she could never quite pin down who they worked for, or when that was exactly.

They worked on the Llewelyn's hull plating and internal systems. Jula No had done good work with a repair laser, but no open space repair could match what could be done with the stable footing of a ship in docking clamps. She worked as a pilot should, as if the ship was her own, which it wasn't, and as if her life would depend on it, which it would. Boso worked equally hard, and she wondered if that was part of the Boron culture as well.

But when a huge Dolphin Hauler settled into the docking clamps and Boso said "Ah, here is a ship for the Boron," she recognized the hard work on her ship had been prepayment that would be collected now, with interest. The Hauler was twice the size of Llewelyn, and bore the same repair laser signature; Jula No's work.

The boss himself came over the comlink from a Mako Vangaurd streaking through the system. He had Boso set the autopilot on the Wikstrom to follow him, gave them a cheerful "The Boron shall return," and disappeared again.

"I wonder why he didn't just send the Dolphin on autopiliot," Lidya mused aloud.

"That Boron does not use the gate network com links for remote control," her mysterious companion replied. "It is a good practice."


"Communication across space is not very private. Communication through the gate network is even less so."

"What's the big secret?" Lidya asked.

Boso activated the registry of the Dolphin as he replied. "There are no secrets, the Boron just believes it is a good practice." Lidya saw that the Dolphin had been legally bought, used, for the astounding price of 38,000 credits...drawn on the same Boron bank as the purchase of the Llewelyn had been. At a glance she was pretty sure the account was the same. The ship had been purchased in Rolk's Drift, rechristened the Bernard Lee; all very above board.

She got the feeling Boso had activated the registry specifically so she could see it; to set her suspicions to rest. Then Boso entered himself as pilot. Obviously that was why he opened the registry.

She was acting crazy, paranoid. Boron are peaceful. Gentle. The good guys. And she had a good ship and a good job. She resolved not to screw it up. She put her head down and got to work, helping Boso bring the Bernard Lee into top notch condition.

They had both ships completely ready and retired to their respective cockpits to rest. Lidya would have been thrown even deeper into her paranoia had she seen Boso installing the odd extension to his ship's computer. The Boron settled in the pilot's chair to test the encryption module.

When Jula returned they quickly installed the shield generators he brought, shifted some equipment around, and they were ready to go.

Cold hard facts

I set out with every intention of wandering down to Argon Prime and buying a Mercury. But I ran into this Split in the Asp in Herron's Nebula and he had the good grace to bail out, leaving five crystals, the docking computer, mineral scanner, and the fighter drone that might have messed up my day instead since the Argon would have frowned on me blowing it up. In fact he bailed so fast that the local law didn't even notice the fight as far as I can tell. I got redirected back towards Kingdom End and there in Three Worlds some guy offers me the Mercury for a great price (70% hull). Then I get to KE thinking I'll trade the Asp for one of their spiffy Mako Vanguards and some Boron is selling one used (77% hull) for about half price...and it comes with a 1 MJ shield and six IREs! Bonanza!

I am convinced that used ship offers come in waves, and I wanted to make the best of this one while it lasted, so I checked every money mission that came in range as I set off looking for shields. Sure enough, at a station in Rolk's Drift I find the DH with 45% hull for 38K. Unbelievable. After that I gritted my teeth and stopped looking though. I have no ability to pass up a good deal if I see it and with the 'unpiloted ships can't be left alone' rule I didn't want to turn my spy story into some sort of sheepdog biography. Besides, the 408K I got for the Asp was only going to go so far.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for freight scanner, jump drive and transporter device that are still pending.
Wikstrom, my Octopus. Full 2 MJ of shielding, 4 IREs, most of the goodies stripped off but still full speed, handling and cargo bay of course.


Boso Wa, pilot of the Dolphin Hauler Bernard Lee, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 8000 unit cargo bay. Boso is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Lidya Marval, pilot of the Mercury Llewelyn, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 3000 unit cargo bay. Lidya is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Credits, 61,693
Flight time 10:54
Last edited by Timsup2nothin on Tue, 19. Mar 13, 07:00, edited 1 time in total.
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 3221
Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Mon, 18. Mar 13, 17:34

Caravan of Coercion

The three pilots met on the lift deck between their ships. Jula No gave the freighter pilots their flight plan; dock at the trading stations in Power Circle, Herron's Nebula, Argon Prime, then The Wall. "This Boron will provide cover, seek any profitable trades, and look for salvage opportunities," he added. "The Rigg will depart first, to ensure there is no danger." He fluttered into the cockpit of his Mako Vanguard and launched.

"No danger?" Lidya asked Boso. "This is Three Worlds, not exactly the heart of the Xenon sectors, or pirate alley. Is he always so cautious?"

"There are others the Boron considers enemies."

Lidya wasn't sure if 'the Boron' meant Jula No, or Boso, or the Boron Kingdom. Before she could ask a low alarm sounded through the station, followed by a computerized voice announcement; "combat in the sector, all pilots stand-by, combat in the sector."

"If it is Xenon, or Kha'ak, they will likely target the equipment dock. We should stand by in the ships," Boso said, and swam towards the Bernard Lee. Lidya thought the likelihood of Xenon or Kha'ak appearing in Three Worlds two minutes after her boss left the dock was somewhere around zero, and that Boso was probably fleeing the conversation. But standing by in the ships was the technically correct thing to do so she couldn't argue.

Some time later the station anouncing circuit sounded through her com link; "combat has ended, the sector is clear, combat has ended, the sector is clear." Almost immediately she saw the docking clamps slide free of the huge Dolphin Hauler and Boso Wa turned the Bernard Lee gracefully into the departure pattern.

Then her com link went active again. "Llewelyn, delay your departure," Jula said as he appeared on her screen. "I need some help Lidya."

"Acknowledged," she replied, just in time as the screen went dark. He counts on his orders being followed and isn't much for conversation she mused. And he says 'I' more than any Boron she had ever met. She shrugged and went out into the docking hub to wait.

She watched a Teladi freighter glide into the clamps. Obviously the ship was on autopilot, as her cockpit canopy was blown. The Vulture had no shields, and some scorching along her hull, but she was in fairly good shape. Apparently her pilot had bailed early. When the ownership registry appeared on the dock monitors she shook her head; a numbered account drawing on a Boron bank. This time she was sure. It was the third time she had seen the account number.

Jula's Mako slid into the adjacent bay and the clamps locked on. He opened his canopy and emerged from the cockpit. "Lidya, we need a pilot," he said in place of any greeting. "Who can you recommend? We are in a hurry. The Bernard Lee is slow so Boso Wa has gone ahead, but I do not want him getting too far ahead."

Urgency displaced questions, and Jula made a few suggestions from among the station personnel that she knew. She was surprised when Jula settled on Endy Jerigan even though she told him that Endy's career involved a lot of bartering in the docks and precious little flying. She had only introduced Endy because she liked him...though less than he liked her. Jula instructed the new pilot, "there is a spare one meg generator aboard the Rigg. Get it installed, quickly, and get your canopy buttoned up. Any other repairs she needs are minor and can be put off. We need to get going. There is freight aboard, have the dock systems transfer it to the Llewelyn." He turned to Lidya, "just Argnu beef, but the Boron will find you someplace to sell it."

Endy had rushed off to his duties. Lidya had even more questions now than she had before. She started with "Why Endy? He's a good guy and all, but there are better pilots..."

"We do not need him to do much flying. And he would fly through a Xenon sector for you. Loyalty is precious." He saw Endy emerge from the Mako with the shield generator and his many legs swirled, speeding him towards his ship. "The Boron must get underway in case Boso Wa encounters trouble," he called over what passed for a shoulder, and then he was gone. Loyalty is precious, but shouldn't the boss be more interested in loyalty to him than in Endy's loyalty to her...which probably came more from his glands than his brain anyway? She shook her head and went to help with the canopy repairs.

The Vulture had a flight plan laid in, direct to a distillery in Herron's Nebula. Lidya said good-by to Endy. She put the Llewelyn into space and sighed happily. However strange this gig was, she had a ship under her again. Anything else would just have to work itself out.

Endy reached his destination. Jula directed Lidya to a cahoona bakery in Herron's Nebula, where they paid a low price for the beef but at least got it off her hands. There were way too many cattle ranches in this region for the demand, and pilots had been known to just eject beef in frustration when they couldn't find a buyer.

Jula tended to give orders right before he threw the Rigg into a gate; usually a contingency flight plan that he interrupted in the next sector. She got used to it. No sooner had she plotted her course for the trading station at Argon Prime than he popped back through the gate and directed her to one of the mines instead, then he disappeared again. The gate network could have carried his orders. She wondered if he was even more of a paranoid than she was, or if she wasn't paranoid at all and he really was up to something. By the time she got docked at the mine he was back in the sector, going full out towards the north. He authorized the purchase in passing, told her to dock at a quantum tube fab in Argon Prime, and sped on out of com range.

She was just docking at the tube fab when Jula came tearing back into Argon Prime. He authorized a sale, but the tube fab couldn't take the full cargo. They did pay a good price. Lidya's eyes fairly popped when she saw a surcharge of almost 170,000 credits attached to the bill of lading. The ore was less than 30,000 credits, how could there be a surcharge bringing the payment to nearly 200,000?

The station's buying agent, a Boron, noticed her expression. "Special handling charge," the Boron said blandly, then swirled away. Special handling? There was nothing special about the load of ore, and even though she was not lacking in self-confidence Lidya knew there wasn't 170,000 credits worth of special about her either. Whatever special handling had been done she was pretty sure Jula had done it...probably somewhere in Power Circle.

She laid in the new flight plan, straight to the trading station in The Wall. Boso Wa was already there, and she hoped to have a minute to ask him some questions about Jula No.

Before she received clearance to leave the docks the station announcing system voice blared through the com link; 'combat in the sector, all pilots please stand by, combat in the sector'. She slapped her hand down on the edge of her control panel. Combat in the sector? This was Argon Prime. Who in their right mind picks a fight in Argon Prime? She started cycling through her exterior views, knowing what she was going to see, and knowing that she wasn't going to like it.

Sure enough, there it was. A Paranid Demeter freighter, partical accelerator cannon popping away from the rear turret, with Jula No's Mako in a tight sliding turn so close that she figured he could see the three eyes of the Paranid gunner in the turret. The Mako straightened out and screamed alongside, then continued straight out along the freighter's path. The Paranid pilot gave the manuevering thrusters all they had, but the Mako hit about a click and a half out front, spun in place braking hard, and opened up with her six IREs.

The little ship fairly leaped at the Demeter as her boost module dumped plasma into her engines. Lidya had a flash of memory, image of the eight restaraint cuffs in the cockpit of the Mako. She could imagine Jula No with one shorter leg clasped in each cuff, his two longer tentacles gripping the control sticks. It must be like being stretched on the rack, a fate she thought her boss just might deserve.

She still felt a burst of concern for him as two drones popped free of the Demeter's cargo bay and braketed the Mako with their cannons. Mark 2 drones. The Mako could outrun them, but just barely. She gasped as the partical streams converged, shredded the Mako's shields, and scorched her hull. So much for outrunning them. That damage would slow her down more than enough.

Jula No bobbed and weaved, putting distance between himself and the freighter's turret and dodging as much fire from the pursuing drones as he could. His shields were charging almost fast enough. Or he was dodging almost well enough. However you like it, the key word was almost. At three clicks he hoped he had enough distance, and that he had enough ship left. He spun the Mako rapidly up and to starboard, swinging head on at the nearest drone. PAC fire lit up his viewscreen, but his IREs demolished the unshielded drone. The second sped by raking his hull, but he was already turning and spun in behind it. The IREs torched it as well before it got turned around.

The Demeter disappeared into the swirling unreality of the south gate, making the jump to Home of Light. The Mako coasted to a halt. The station announcement came through the com; 'combat has ceased, the sector is clear, combat has ceased' followed promptly by the synthesized voice of docking control; 'Llewelyn you are cleared for undocking, clamp release on your mark.' She took one last look at the Mako and saw the small form of a Boron spacesuit emerge from the cockpit. Then she shifted to forward screens and signaled the release to the clamps.

She was still in the departure channel when the com link went active. She caught no hitch in the voice, not the slightest sign that he was in a spacesuit patching the scraps of his ship back together. "Llewelyn, Rigg, there is a salvageable container north of your position. Please pick that up. It should just fit your cargo bay."

"Roger that Rigg, the crate is marked." She set course for the container. 587 cahoonas. With the seventy-seven units of ore she was stuck with it would fit with about twenty-five units of cargo space to spare. Which he apparently figured out while he was floating along in his space suit. The squid weighed freight like a Teladi and was meaner than a Xenon. What in space had she gotten herself into?

She had the sector map open to track the crate, and so she could see when Jula's suit beacon merged back into his ship. The repairs had taken a long time for such a little ship. There couldn't have been much left of her when he dusted those drones. Apparently unfazed Jula sped off through the gate to The Wall. He popped back through just moments later, in time to catch her report as the cahoona container snugged into the bay

"Good work," he replied. "Dock back at the tube fab." As fast as she acknowledged he cut the com link.

When she reported docking he approved the sale of the cahoonas and told her to tell Nila Bu, the station purchaser, that the Bernard Lee was inbound with a load of e-cells. "Every fab in the sector is low on energy," he continued. "Set a flight plan for power plant alpha in The Wall."

"Waypoint set, course locked." As she engaged the system she entered the override code for 'hostiles en route' and cut the com link. Ship status flashed 'idle' on her panel, and she knew it would on Jula's monitor channel as well. She turned the com link volume all the way down. She was talking to Boso Wa before she went anywhere else.

The big Dolphin Hauler slid into the clamps. Boso Wa fluttered into the docking pod, and Lidya watched as Nila Bu completed the transaction on the e-cells.

"The Boron has been trying to reach you on the coms," he said as he approached.

"I was in the hold tracing data runs," she lied smoothly. "Seems to be a malfunction in the threat detection commodity logistics interface."

"Ah. That is why your status shows idle. Jula came tearing into The Wall bellowing about hostiles. I wondered what that was about."

Lidya felt a twinge of guilt. It had not occurred to her that her 'hostiles en route' would have to have been in the sector Boso was flying through. Good to know they had a boss who would rush to their aid. As her last job ended in an expanding cloud of gas and metal fragments her boss didn't even bother to jump into the sector to give her a ride. Then he filed a complaint with the pilot's guild because she had abandoned ship forty-two seconds before it exploded.

"I think I found the problem. Could you come in here and give me a hand?...er...?"

"The Boron would be glad to assist you."

She shut the hatch so no one could overhear. "Look, I didn't know I was signing on with a pirate. Did you?"

"A Pirate? The Boron does not think you signed on with a pirate."

"What about that Vulture he turned up with? You think someone just gave it to him because he's a friendly little Boron?"

"Abandoned by a Paranid in Argon space and claimed by right of salvage. If you had done that your government would call it patriotism."

"Jula is no Argon patriot."

"So your government might call him a mercenary. They would not call him a pirate."

"What about those cahoonas I just salvaged? They were en route to an Argon station. Even though they were on a Paranid hauler some people would call that piracy, even some people in the Argon government."

"You salvaged the cahoonas. You sold the cahoonas. Are you sure it is Jula they would call a pirate?"

"I'm just the pilot, Jula owns the ship, he gives the orders."

"Does he give the orders? Did he approve the sale through a gate link, which would have recorded it? No, he did not. Your computer may show that he ordered it, his may show otherwise. Since his could be altered by him, and yours could be altered by you, neither is evidence. Which brings us back to the question. Who mde the transaction? You did."

"The credits from the sale are in his account. He owns the ship. I wouldn't be much of a pirate if I was giving away the credits."

"You only gave away half of the credits. You and I own the ship."

Her eyes nearly popped out of her head, and her mouth opened and closed repeatedly with no sound coming out.

"Very good impression of a Split. The Boron recommends you do not do that around Jula No. He does not like the Split."

"We...you and me...we own the ship..."

"A company owns the ship. As yet the company has no name, just an account at the Kingdom bank. The company has two partners. The bank would not give us an account if the company were not majority owned by Boron, so I hold fifty-one percent. The company would not be allowed to build in Argon space if less than half of the full partners were Argon. One, you, out of two, us. I believe Jula has already hired a station transport, but we need to make a few runs of e-cells before the station can be paid for."

"He's buying a station?"

"No. WE are buying a station. To be blunt, Jula No does not exist. He never has."

Unaware of the dissent among his associates, Jula No docked at the shipyard to wait for the arrival of the hired Mammoth.

Cold hard facts

The 'special handling charge' on the ore was actually payment for a simple transport personnel mission from Nila Bu at the tube fab. Borons with missions were pretty scarce. Borons with missions that I could do and still manage any kind of trading by MORTs under the 'give orders only in sector' rule were just about non-existent.

I shot up a couple Split couriers and had to calm down the cops, so I avoided Split frighters. Destroying a bunch of Split fighter drones would be adverse to my Argon rep...which is slowly progressing on the backs of Paranid fighter drones. And yes the two mark 2s had me under 20% hull. I have got to get a freight scanner before someone pops out a half dozen of those and DiD stands for 'DiD is Done'.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for freight scanner, jump drive and transporter device that are still pending...and best buy/best sell which I had forgotten about before.
Wikstrom, my Octopus. Full 2 MJ of shielding, 4 IREs, most of the goodies stripped off but still full speed, handling and cargo bay of course...which is driving me slowly insane because of the 'ship with no pilot left out of sector is abandoned' rule. I can't just have it follow me or it will undoubtedly end up splattered on a gate somewhere, but getting it moved from sector to sector more or less coincident with me is a monster pain in the butt. I'm rushing the station build mostly just to get a parking space.


Boso Wa, pilot of the Dolphin Hauler Bernard Lee, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 8000 unit cargo bay. Boso is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Lidya Marval, pilot of the Mercury Llewelyn, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 3000 unit cargo bay. Lidya is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Endy Jerigan, manager of the nameless Vulture parked at SF distillery alpha in Herron's Nebula. It's a bare hulk with 88% hull.

Credits, 260,473
Flight time 13:31
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 3221
Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Tue, 19. Mar 13, 06:46

So I just recognized that I didn't post an entire chapter. For those who have been confused, that is completely understandable. If you go back a couple posts you will find 'Lidya Marval's Turn of Good Fortune' edited in at the appropriate place. Sorry about that.


"Dock at the ammunition fab Boso. They will take the rest of the load." The Bernard Lee's cargo bay could hold far more energy cells than a single small factory could. The tube fab had taken all they could, but the Bernard Lee still carried over three thousand.

"Ammunition fab, acknowledged," Boso Wa replied, and his image faded from the com link. The familiar image that had sported a gold bracelet on the short tentacle on the left side of his head. Too short to be of much use other than eating, the short tentacles were often used for such adornment and no one would have remarked about such a bauble. Jula requested departure clearance and hit the clamp release. He set course for the ammunition fab.

Jula No waited while Boso Wa completed the sale of the e-cells, then floated along with him to the Bernard Lee. He stopped at the hatch and made a fair impression of a bosun's whistle through his snout as Boso went through, then said "permission to come aboard, captain?"

Boso snorted. "Funny."

Jula floated in through the hatch and hit the closure mechanism so they would not be overheard.

"Surely you have told the girl by now that you are not just the pilot of this fine vessel?"

"I had to. As expected she thinks you are a pirate. Considering that every time she sees you you're blasting away at some trader that's not too surprising. In fact she was so convinced I think she was ready to quit.

"Ah, but it's not so easy to quit when you own the ship. You told her that part as well, no doubt."

"Of course. And that we are buying a station. She'll be hauling e-cells with a little more spring in her step."

"Perfect. This isn't what you needed to see me about..."

"No." Boso slid the bracelet off his feeding tentacle and stowed it, then looked pointedly at the clock. "Nila Bu has a courier that needs to be on the military base in Atreus' Clouds in seventeen minutes. You better get going."

"Rolk's fins! You might have told me straight away!" Jula spun and swam for the hatch.

"You're going to Boron space. I figured if you were pressed for time you wouldn't get sidetracked popping off at every Split trader you saw."

The hatch closed on the lilting sound of Boron laughter and Jula raced for the Rigg. The canopy was still cycling closed and he was requesting departure clearance.
Toto Mu slipped aboard as soon as the canopy opened in the docking pod of the tube fab. "The Boron is strapped in and you are clear to depart. Go, go, go!" He said. Once the Rigg was settled on course he said, in a calmer tone, "Thanks for the ride."

"The Boron is pleased to be of service," Jula replied. They were rapidly approaching the gate. He brought up a remote command console and tipped a few keys. The Wikstrom appeared on the monitor in the upper left corner of the main viewer.

"What's that about?" Toto asked.

"The Boron cannot leave her behind," Jula said with a gesture towards the monitor. "A parked empty ship attracts questions, and her registry would attract even more under close scrutiny. Keeping her in the same sector prevents...problems."

"I see."

They chatted idly as the sectors sped past, then the Rigg emerged into Atreus' Clouds. Toto Mu pointed at a ship symbol on the monitor. "That Buzzard. That is a pirate vessel. He is traveling fast, and we have...three minutes to spare...follow him."

The pirate was heading out into the murky reaches of the cloud. They had not gone too far out of their way when a distant station appeared on the monitor. "Pirate base," Toto Mu advised. "You can park the Wikstrom there without concern. I'm sure your locks would exceed the skills of anyone aboard...anyone who could be bothered trying to hack an Octopus, anyway. And no one is going to be over concerned for her registration. The only thing you have to worry about is the fleet blowing up the station, and I don't see that happening in the immediate future." Jula tapped in the docking commands gratefully and watched the Wikstrom speed past into the murk.

They docked at the military base and Toto Mu leapt out of the cockpit without ceremony and hurried off. But he did call back over his shoulder. "They'll have another assignment for you momentarily. Boso Wa said it would be wise to keep you occupied." The coded message was already coming in through the docking umbilical.

He doubled back to the pirate base while he decoded the message. Arrangements for the Wikstrom took just a minute, and he bought a freight scanner for a reasonable price while he was at it. Then he headed to a plankton farm hanging in the glowing soup of the cloud, following his instructions. Meet Boso Du, transport five to Menalaus' Frontier, further details from contact there.

The five to be transported were a mixed lot; two Borons, two Teladi, and an Argon. They had the hard character of an assassination squad, and Jula didn't ask any questions. They landed at a mixery and debarked. Jula reveled in the sweet smell of the spice and wondered where his contact would be. A stunning beauty swam out of a shadowed corridor and threw her tentacles around him. "Jula No! It is like bright surf to see you again at last!" Her mouth came close to his ear and he barely heard "This Boron is called Suli Li. Best if you use my name." Jula returned the passion of her embrace and led her to the ship.

"Thanks be to Menalaus, it is good to be out of there," she said as the canopy slid closed. "I need to get to the teladianium foundry in Farnham's Legend. You know the place?"

"Yes," Jula said as he hit the docking clamp release. Through the canopy he saw a Split burst out into the docking pod.

"Ha t'Ktt," his passenger said and gestured with a delicate tentacle. Jula could still feel his skin burning where that tentacle had wrapped around him. "About now he is realizing that the transport I arranged for his team is departing...with only me on board. It would be wise to depart in haste. His own ship is disabled but it never pays to underestimate an angry Split. Once we are out of here there is no hurry."

Jula set the autopilot for Farnham's Legend.
In Atreus' Clouds Suli pointed at the sector map. "I see you have the pirate base noted. Toto Mu did his work." She winked.

The hectic pace, the beautiful girl...Jula had been played. He recognized the fine tendrils of Boso Wa's planning. The girl was beautiful though. Hard to be too upset with his partner. Probably wouldn't have served well if he had gotten in a shooting war with the Split traders who seemed to travel through the region as if they owned it.

Suli laughed, a throaty sound that ensured he could not hold a grudge. "Swing within com range of the pirate base," she said. At twenty kilometers she activated the link. A glowering Paranid face filled the screen, then burst into a leering grin. "Kelmanckigtab," she said in a sultry tone. "I miss you so, but I have business that I cannot delay."

"And I miss you," said the gruff Paranid pirate. "Can you be back tonight?"

"I don't know. Let me consult my pilot." She blew him a kiss and closed the link. "Anything for the Kingdom, eh?" she said to Jula, arching an eyebrow. Then her laughter trilled out again. "Rolk's grippers, you should see your face! It's not like that. She pulled up a replay of the comm on the main screen and froze it. "Zoom in there." She pointed to a small frayed patch on the curtain behind the Paranid. Under magnification it resolved into a series of odd shapes. She decoded them quickly.

"Okay, there are two ships in Home of Light, bound for one of the solar plants in The Hole. After you drop me off, you destroy them...but not until they are in The Hole. That would make sense, less Argon security to contend with. And whatever you do, no parley. Just blast them both to atoms. Got it? Now, just nod for the com link." She snapped it on before he could agree, or disagree. They were getting close to the limit of the com link's range.

The Paranid's face loomed on the screen. "Well?"

"Sorry darling," Suli moaned with her tentacles drooping sadly. "He will be too busy to bring me back."

Jula nodded. The Paranid growled at him and cut the link.

"Congratulations. You just accepted the contract. That should do wonders for your reputation among the pirates. Far more than bringing them a dribble of space fuel. And don't worry, Argon security will have the pilots removed and detained long before the ships reach The Hole. Not that they don't probably deserve to get vaporized. They are from a rival pirate clan, delivering missiles that would no doubt be used most violently. But Argon security will get more out of them than we would learn from their screaming death wails."
Despite the attractions of waiting in Farnham's Legend Jula dropped Suli at the foundry and headed directly back to Argon Prime. HIs associates had been cooling their heels long enough that the power plants in The Wall were both badly overstocked and he gave them quick orders to get the goods flowing. He docked to have a word with Boso.

"I see you made it back without pasting yourself to the hull of some Caiman," Boso greeted him in the docking pod of the power plant.

"Yes. I still have more to get done though." He waited until they were aboard the Bernard Lee before he explained the convoy ambush. "We have to keep this away from Lidya," he concluded. "I saw the ships crossing Argon Prime. Vultures. Dead slow. But they are flying Argon registry. Considering how she took it when I opened season on the Paranids she won't go for this at all."

Boso mused. "Once she has an owner-manager compartment on a factory she'll be in deep enough to get over some bumps, but for now I think another dose of reality is in order. When you make the break to The Hole send her to wait it out at the tube fab. We'll be needing Nila Bu anyway, and she can talk some sense to our reluctant recruit."

Jula appreciated the way his comrade got right to the strings that needed to be pulled with people, even though sometimes the strings were his own. "Good plan. I'm glad you're on my side. You are on my side, right?"

"Of course. The Boron is on the side of keeping you alive. You have done fine with shooting up Vultures and Demeters, but leave the Split freighters alone. At least until I have my owner-manager compartment. Then even if you get yourself killed I'll be too well placed an asset to recall."

They shared the bitter laugh common to those in the espionage trade, and Jula went back to his ship. When the targets were close to their final gate Jula sent Lydia and Boso to the tube fab and set about his business.
Lydia guided the Llewelyn into the docking clamps. It had been a long day of hauling e-cells. The runs were easy, but gave her a lot of time to battle with her conscience, and her fears. When Jula told her to dock at the tube fab, empty, and sent his Mako screaming through the gate to The Wall she immediately thought that he was going to be a while. His odd disappearances were wearing on her. Seeing Nila Bu waiting in the pod when she had no cargo did nothing to set her mind at ease.

"The Boron was not very...forthcoming...when last we met. Deepest apologies. Jula trusts you, and this Boron trusts his judgement. He will be gone for some time. Would you care for refreshments?"

"I'd prefer some straight answers."

"The Boron was thinking of the recreation deck, but perhaps it is good that I brought this." She produced a flask, a well known quality label identifying the contents. "Permission to come aboard? Much better for private conversation."

The hatch closed, and Lidya produced two glasses. The Boron could, and did, take them both and pour the whiskey as well. Lydia considered that her guest could have played the piano at the same time and shook her head slightly. Paranoia aside she needed to remember these were not her species, and try as she might there was a good chance she would not figure them out.

"So," Nila said, "the surcharge is bothering you, yes?"


"A simple thing. Jula performs...services. Services he is uniquely qualified to perform because he moves without leaving a record. Our company needed information. We have people who can get that information, but if they were known to be in Power Circle their task would be much harder. Jula got them there unannounced. We paid him for it. He chose to have that payment directed to your account. That is all there is."

"So you knew it was my name on that account?"

"Yes. That is why I didn't understand when you were surprised. The Boron assumed Jula had told you of the arrangements."

"It must have slipped his mind."

"That is doubtful. But perhaps he just had not had the time."

"What if someone looks into it? That's a lot of credits."

"Your bank is a Boron bank, and though you have never met you may assume that your banker is your friend. Jula has many friends, and they are yours as well. They will not be looking into your account. Here on this station this Boron keeps the books. There will be no questions here."

"Was what we did against the law?"

"No, though an over-zealous investigator could make it appear so."


"There is no record of any service performed, other than the delivery of ore. If the authorities believed that this Boron had embezzled the funds and passed them to you there is little that could be done to prove otherwise."

"Little? You mean nothing...without Jula coming forward."

"Which he would not do. Though he would certainly arrange some sort of daring rescue and take me safely home to the Kingdom."

"You've known him a long time."

"Not really, but I know that much. And I know he would do the same for you, though I don't know what you would do in the Kingdom and in that sort of circumstance he could not very well deposit you back on your cousin's couch. He would not leave you stranded in Split space, like your former employer."

"How do you know that?"

"We needed an Argon. Jula chose you based on his own senses. You would call it gut instincts. Boso and I are more...pragmatic...in our approach."

Lydia noted that the question that was answered was 'why' though she had asked 'how'. "So you are all in this together."

"No. Boso and this Boron, like you, are just his associates."

The ship's com announced that the Bernard Lee was approaching the docks.

"We should adjourn to the recreation decks. Your command deck would be cramped with all three of us, and Jula is going to be a while."

And I won't be able to ask about where he is or what he's doing, Lydia thought. It was nice to be part of something though, even if she didn't know quite what it was. These were Boron after all. Their only war was with the Split, and she wasn't too fond of the Split herself.

Boso cocked his head, listening to the com link in his rebreather. "Jula is in sector," he announced, and paddled towards the exit from the recreation deck. Nila followed suit, and so did Lydia. The Argon girl seemed to have mellowed quite a bit, and Boso was pleased with the progress made. He rolled his eyes when the station announcing circuit chimed before they were halfway to the docking pod; 'combat in the sector, all pilots please stand by, combat in the sector'. There was some possibility it was someone else he told himself hopefully. Then he accepted the probable reality. "I told you Jula has enemies," he said wanly.

"How many of them know it," Lidya asked, "and how many only find out when he starts shooting at them?" She sped down the corridor towards a viewing station.

Boso looked at Nila and shrugged. "I'd say about half and half."

"Maybe," she replied. "This would have been a good time for his peaceful nature to resurface, just for a while." They swam slowly along after their larger companion.

When they reached the monitors Lydia turned to them. "Too slow by half, show's over. Dolphin, unarmed. Didn't even put up a fight. You can see the pilot in the space suit headed away." She was near tears. She had had to travel a long way in a space suit and she knew what the pilot was facing.

"The pilot is a Split," Boso said gently. "If their positions were reversed the Split would be strafing Jula with IRE fire, or taking him aboard to haul back to Split space and sell as a slave."

"I understood when you said he was a mercenary. Even when you said that if an Argon attacked Paranids the way he does they would be a patriot. The Argon aren't at war with the Split. That was piracy." She stormed down the corridor.

Boso looked hopelessly after her, then turned to Nila. She shrugged. "Jula can't stand to see a Split in a Boron ship. Maybe if you make him clean up his own mess he will learn there is a time and a place."
"Permission to come aboard," Jula said from the hatch.

"Come ahead, it's your ship."

"Not really. I would be hard pressed to get your name off the registry at this point."

"You could always just shoot her out from under me."

"Perhaps. But I don't shoot at Argon." He ran a tentacle over the command console. "Ships are easier to understand. Sometimes more noble." She looked confused. "Than people," he concluded. "How do you think that Split came to be pilot of a Dolphin? Do you think he wandered into Kingdom End and bought it at the shipyard?"

"So you just set things to rights," she mumbled. "With a gun."

"Yes with a gun. Though the enemy would prefer an 'economic war', I choose greater...clarity."

"What enemy?"

"The Profit Guild fights the Foundation Guild, and the Teladi win."

"There's a difference between racing for trade rights and shooting up independent traders."

"Maybe. But it is a war none-the-less, with the ruin of lives in the balance."

"Ruining them isn't ending them."

"True. Let me ask you a question. When that Elephant crushed your ship, do you really think it was an accident?"

She just stared at him.

"War has no rules unless all sides agree to them, and most people don't agree to the rules because they would rather pretend there is no war. I would never send a pilot to trade rastar in Split space without expecting something to happen. I know there is a war." He floated towards the hatch. "If you want to quit you can keep the ship." The hatch hissed closed behind him.

Cold hard facts

The missions were just as described. Simple taxi, a personnel shuttle, another simple taxi, all for the Boron, then the convoy kill that has me out of the depths with the pirates (hurrah!). They did fall together nicely as a skeleton for a little dramatic license to be stretched over. By the way, there actually was a mission to haul passengers for Ha t'Ktt at the mixery as well as the Taxi for Suli Li.

Despite all efforts I did shoot up a Caiman in Atreus' Clouds on my way back. It was a superfreighter XL with an almost completely expanded cargo bay, my nifty new freight scanner revealed only regular drones and it only had two IREs aboard. I wanted it pretty bad, but the Split chose death before dishonor.

The pilot of the Dolphin bailed with the hull at about five percent. I fixed it, but now I have a bigger problem than I had when the Wikstrom was following me around. Jula would never hire a non-Boron pilot, so I will have to get the great lumbering beast to Boron space before I can activate the CLS and leave it parked anywhere.

Profit was made hauling e-cells, though the MORTs had a lot of dead time while I was out and about. 70K each for the targets plus odds and ends for the other missions more than made it up.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for jump drive, transporter device and best buy/best sell.
Wikstrom, my Octopus. Full 2 MJ of shielding, 4 IREs, most of the goodies stripped off but still full speed, handling and cargo bay of course.

A pilotless Dolphin with no shields, a pretty well expanded cargo bay though I didn't take note of exactly how expanded, or whether its unbearably slow speed is basic or tuned up. I can fly freighters. I can even fly slow freighters. Holding speed down in a fighter to stay with slow freighters is mostly unbearable.


Boso Wa, pilot of the Dolphin Hauler Bernard Lee, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 8000 unit cargo bay. Boso is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Lidya Marval, pilot of the Mercury Llewelyn, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 3000 unit cargo bay. Lidya is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Endy Jerigan, manager of the nameless Vulture parked at SF distillery alpha in Herron's Nebula. It's a bare hulk with 88% hull.

Credits, 422,048
Flight time 15:48
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 189
Joined: Thu, 22. Dec 11, 15:29

Post by stads » Tue, 19. Mar 13, 11:37

thx for the update

poor split first the shame of flying a boron ship then getting defeated by a boron am guesing he no longer wil have anny friends around :D

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Post by Kirlack » Tue, 19. Mar 13, 12:26

Seconded. I'm really enjoying this Tim :) Makes a nice change from the usual first person perspective :)

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Post by Timsup2nothin » Tue, 19. Mar 13, 16:38

stads wrote:thx for the update

poor split first the shame of flying a boron ship then getting defeated by a boron am guesing he no longer wil have anny friends around :D
I'm considering making it a rule that Boron ships must be liberated from Split masters, but need some sort of survivable limitations...can't force Jula No into attacking a Split driven heavy Hydra with the Mako...

Thanks Kirlack...now get that computer fixed and get back to The Way of the Gun.


Facilities and Staff

Boso Wa, Nila Bu, and Jula No floated in the docking pod, watching the Dolphin glide down the approach pattern and talking quietly. Lidya got close enough to hear Nila say "...out of here. Too many ships in the docking bay. We have a business to run here."

"Plus the obvious complications," Boso added. "That quick hack may have gotten the local police off the case, but once that Split reaches a station his employers will be reporting the ship stolen and your hack won't stand up. A Split owned ship can't be salvaged in Argon space."

"I know, I know." Lidya was surprised to hear genuine contrition in Jula's voice. "This will be a delay, and that is my fault."

"More than a delay when Lidya takes the Llewelyn and leaves," Boso added.

"I wouldn't take your ship," Lidya interrupted, and the three Boron turned at her voice.

Boso shook his head. "It's your ship. In fact if our partnership dissolved you would have fair claim to more than that as compensation since the valuation of Bernard Lee is far greater. The Llewelyn can be replaced easily. Finding another suitable Argon partner at this late juncture is far more difficult."

"Well, I don't think you have to," Lidya said softly. "I'm not saying I'll just go along with anything you do. I am loyal to the Federation and won't stand for any harm to Argon. But Jula is right. I never did believe my accident was really an accident. Not all traders are playing by the same rules. And since some of them don't play by any rules the rest of us have to choose a side and make a stand. I choose to stand with you.

"Thank you," Jula said quietly.

Boso sighed. "You should have made him sweat a little longer. He might have learned a lesson."

The Dolphin slid into the docking clamps, and Nila cut them off. "This is all very sweet, but unless you want to be standing with Jula in front of a magistrate you need to get that ship out of here."

"Boso, I have a spare shield generator on the Rigg, get it installed."

"Right." Boso spun in the air and sped towards Jula's Mako.

"I'll help," Lidya said.

"No, we have transactions to complete. Nila."

"Processing," Nila said as she tapped a keyboard with numerous tentacles.

"What transactions?" Lidya asked.

Jula looked at her. "This is the world you are entering. It is not too late to change your mind. I have 140,000 credits in my ship account. Nila is creating a sales invoice for a load of quantum tubes to transfer those credits to the station. Another invoice will transfer the credits to your ship, a delivery of the materials for the quantum tubes. The station accounts must be kept in balance as they may be audited. This moves the credits from me to you without recording a connection between us."

"Where did the credits come from?"

Nila swept in between them with two electronic invoices, passing one to each of them. "As I told you, Jula is uniquely qualified for performing certain services. Not everyone can pay him for such services as easily as my company can. Once your station is built you will be able to do the same."

Jula was pleased when she activated the invoice without asking any more questions. He didn't want to lie to her directly, but he certainly didn't want to explain the destruction of the Argon convoy.

The Dolphin was clearing the clamps, her autopilot set for Kingdom End shipyard.

Lidya watched it go. "You have friends there. That's how you sold the Asp."

"Yes," Jula admitted. "The salvage claim will be logged as having taken place in Boron space. There will be disputes with the Split trader, and the Split government, but there are always disputes with the Split. Eventually the dispute will be settled by convenience. The Split will drop their protest in return for the Boron dropping some other protest. This is what happened with your previous employer's claim after your 'accident'."

"So the Argon government just wrote me off."

"They accepted a balance. Governments do the best they can. Would you prefer to be at war with the Split? More to the point, would you have preferred to have been at war with the Split when you finally reached the trading station in Rhonkar's Fire?"

"No, obviously. They were hostile enough as it was."

"There you go. So governments cannot fight the war at hand. That is why we have to."

"The government could help at least."

"Perhaps, but it is probably wise not to ask them. I must go. You and Boso wait for me at the shipyard. We need to give Nila some space." He swam slowly towards the Mako.
Olmanckabssit woke from a light slumber as the ship's computer intoned "we are scanned". "Sector map," he growled, and the map of Three World's sector appeared on the screen. The only ship in scanning range was a Mako Vanguard. Argon police in a Mako? No, pilot signature was a Boron. Argon issuing police license to a Boron now?

He hit the coms. "Police license," he demanded as the Boron appeared on the screen.

"Surrender and drop your freight," the Boron replied. The com link died and IRE fire danced over the shields.

"By the Priest Duke!" Olmanckabssit roared. He took control from the autopilot and slewed the Demeter freighter into a tight turn, trying to bring the bomb launcher in the turret to bear on the Mako. The ship shuddered as the bomb launcher popped rounds.

His shielding, 75 megajoules, declined slowly as the Mako made repeated passes with the IREs. 'It will take him a long time to bring my shields down with IREs,' he thought, 'bold, for a Boron'. Then 'or desperate, that's why he wants the freight.'

Olmanckabssit opened the com link. "I am inbound to Kingdom End Military Base. The partical accelerator cannons are property of the Boron government. Cease your firing."

"They are your property until they leave your hold. Eject them and you may go in peace." The IREs danced down the port side of the Demeter, eating further into the shielding, which was down to forty percent.

"I will eject freight, with the Priest Duke's compliments!" Olmanckabssit bellowed into the com as he launched his half dozen fighter drones. As the drones closed on their target the Mako sped away, and Olmanckabssit turned to give it a few parting shots from the bomb launcher. As his antagonist passed out of range he swung back towards the gate. Perhaps the drones would take care of the Mako, perhaps not, but if he could make Kingdom End he could appeal to his customer for support.

He watched the battle anxiously. One by one the drones fell to the Mako's guns, but the Mako was taking hits. Her shields were declining, while Olmanckabssit's were recharging. Even as the last drone burst in a shower of debris he thought he just might make it. The Boron would be foolish to approach without waiting for his own shields to regenerate.

"I want no further violence, here is freight," he said into the com and ejected two of the PACs. He kept the freight container under cover of his turret as he sped towards the gate. The Boron could just wait until he cleared the field and collect two PACs that he needed for his ship, leaving Olmanckabssit free to complete his journey.

"Not good enough," the Boron replied. His shields were well above half and the Mako was accelerating towards the gate, moving ahead of Olmanckabssit's Demeter. To bring the bomb launcher to bear he would have to turn away from the gate, still five kilometers away. Not good.

The IREs started punching against the shields, and Olmanckabssit was having a hard time bringing the turret to bear. The Boron pilot wasn't making the high speed raking passes that he had been making before, instead he was keeping the Mako in front of the Demeter with minimal throttle, giving himself a stable firing platform, then darting to a new position as Olmanckabssit tried to turn away. HIs shields gave way, and the Boron spoke through the com. "Drop your freight. Never fear, it will be delivered."

The hull was beginning to groan, and the structural failures were impeding his engines. As his speed dropped the chances of getting the turret to bear and landing a lucky shot were dropping rapidly to zero. Olmanckabssit growled in frustration. "Here is freight." He hit the eject and sent another seven PACs tumbling from the cargo bay. The IREs continued to drum on the hull.

"All of it." He hit the button and blew the hold. Then he sighed in relief as the pounding stopped. "Thank you for your cooperation. Your delivery will be completed." the Boron said as the com link closed. There were twenty one cannons littered about. The military base only stocked sixteen. Olmanckabssit believed the Boron would make the delivery, but he knew what would become of the rest of the cannons. He sent a message to Paranid command, letting them know the Mako Vanguard that had been plaguing their shipping had just become far more dangerous. The Demeter limped away.
"Thank you for your service to the Kingdom," the clerk said, passing Mulu Da his discharge documents. He swam slowly down to the hanger decks. He had been proud to serve, and had performed his duties well. His commanding officer had made it plain that he was sorry to see him go, but Mulu Da had had enough. He wasn't ready for planet life, but there was more in space than military bases and shipyards. Of course you couldn't prove that by the itinerary of a military transport pilot.

He entered the main access hanger, where civilians were allowed to dock. His plan was to catch a ride to the trading station and drink some of his mustering out pay. As they say, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, or in this case with the new friend.

The civilian floated above a shipping container, arguing with a supply officer. "When the Boron claimed the salvage the Boron saw that they were to be delivered here. The Boron does not want to impede the fleet, so here they are."

The supply officer was clearly not satisfied. "The shipping documents say sixteen, not fifteen."

"The Boron gathered all of the cannons that could be found. That is a bill of lading for the original shipment. These were claimed salvage in Argon space."

"No doubt you gathered all you could find. I see two mounted on your ship. Add one of those and the delivery is complete."

Mulu Du had encountered more than enough dock officers in his career. Between his peaceful Boron nature and his military discipline he had never been really free to speak his mind, but today was a brand new day. "Listen, the civilian didn't have to bring any PACs. He could have sold them right where he found them, in Argon space. Get the stick out of your vent, pay him his credits, and be glad to get these on the shelves. The base has been out of stock for days."

"Stay out of this pilot"

"The Boron is no pilot, just a civilian, so do not try to give me orders. The Boron will be happy to help my fellow civilian load his cannons right back on his ship so he can sell them elsewhere."

Jula No raised an eyebrow, clearly amused by this turn of events, and intrigued with his new comrade. "That should not be necessary, should it sir?" he asked the dock officer.

"No, that will not be necessary." His short tentacles thrashed the thick methane atmosphere. He passed the invoice across, and the Rigg logged in almost 600,000 credits.

"You are a civilian, but the Boron thinks you have not been for long."

"No. Just mustered out. Looking for a ride to the trading station."

"This Boron must make a stop at the shipyard first. Is that acceptable?"

"Certainly. This Boron is in no hurry."

No hurry turned into not interested in reaching the trading station at all. At the shipyard Jula No put him aboard the Dolphin, newly rechristened as the Burton, and he launched for Argon space to meet his new employers.
Boso Wa floated in the thin air of the Argon trading station in Herron's Nebula, his legs stirring to counter the limited artificial gravity. Lidya stood beside him. They watched the Burton glide into the docking clamps.

"Are you sure it isn't someone Jula knew? He just registered the ship to us, met someone out of the blue, and told them we were giving them a job?"

"The Boron does things like that." Boso turned towards her and raised an eyebrow.

She got the humor. "Okay. Yeah, I should know he does things like that."

Mulu Da floated out of the hatch. "The Boron must be Boso Wa, and the Argon is Lidya Marval. This Boron is pleased to serve."

"We are glad to have you," Lidya said. "Thanks for collecting those e-cells." The Burton, the Bernard Lee, and the Llewelyn were all loaded to varying degree with e-cells salvaged not far from the trading station. They had arrived in time to see a badly damaged Demeter limping away. Only Mulu had seen what had happened to the Paranid, but the others could guess. "I'm surprised Jula let the Paranid get away."

Mula showed surprise. "This Boron saw many Paranid freighters heading south badly damaged. The Boron Jula No let them all go it seems."

Boso nodded. "Jula is still a Boron. He is not as blood-thirsty as you think. If they refuse to jump but give up their freight he will likely let them go...unless they are in a Dolphin."

"The Boron knows him well?" Mulu asked. "Perhaps you could explain something. This Boron saw him attack Paranid traders, and collected freight that surely came from others that I did not witness. But the Boron Jula let one Paranid fly right by him. A Demeter super freighter that seemed a fine prize, in Argon space. This Boron had already started steering in that direction."

"Where was this?" Boso asked.

"Three Worlds. The Paranid came through the East gate. This Boron thought it was the e-cell cargo that Jula No was not interested in, but he took the Paranid here in Herron's Nebula."

"Ah," Boso said. "And this Paranid was in the trade lane to the North gate?"


"Bound for the Kingdom. Jula would not stop that shipment. He is a patriot."

With that explained they fell to discussing the pending construction. When he passed through Argon Prime and told them about the e-cells he had also had two wheat farm units loaded onto the Mammoth, then sent it to Kingdom End. "The docking hub will be Boron," said Boso. "My offices and quarters will be there, and there will be quarters for you as well so you will be able to rest comfortably when your duties allow." Mula nodded appreciation. With the mixed Argon/Boron ownership this reasonable explanation for why the company didn't just get a single large farm provided perfect cover. The fact that the Boron docking hub would offer far more facilities than they needed was coincidental.

"Jula went out the East gate," observed Mulu. "Are you to meet the Mammoth in Kingdom End?"

"No need. Jula has a fast ship and he will get there. He had other business to attend to in Atreus' Clouds. Helping us set up our little company is only one of his tentacles." Boso was pleased to see Lidya smile when he said that. She was starting to accept that Jula would come and go without them necessarily knowing what he was up to. Of course Boso knew Jula was transporting a special branch capture team and their prisoners, but he did not let on to knowing any more than his business partner.

Cold hard facts

Truth is the dratted Argon stiff-necks won't sell me a complex connector. In fact when I set out with the Dolphin I would have just bought a single wheat farm to get things started (since that was all I could afford), but at that point they were so upset about the convoy business they wouldn't even sell me that. I scorched enough Paranid drones to take care of that, but have been more choosy about targets because I was concerned that my fight rank was getting ahead of my available equipment. At least I have PACs on the Mako now.

The PACs also made a huge difference in the credit situation. Smaller but notable help on that score came from a huge load of nostrop that got liberated in Three Worlds, and a Pegasus escort that bailed before I even got the guns warmed up on him. I escorted the Peg to Boron intelligence at KE while my new helper was gathering loot.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 PACs available, 2 mounted with 4 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for jump drive, transporter device and best buy/best sell. I hadn't mentioned it as lacking because I don't think about it much, but I added fight com 2 and fifty mosquitoes this time around so now it has that. Some popped off at drones, but I still got far more with the IREs than with missiles.

Wikstrom, my Octopus. Full 2 MJ of shielding, 4 IREs, most of the goodies stripped off but still full speed, handling and cargo bay of course.

Two wheat farm M on a hired Mammoth somewhere in Ringo Moon, or possibly CBNW.


Boso Wa, pilot of the Dolphin Hauler Bernard Lee, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 8000 unit cargo bay. Boso is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Lidya Marval, pilot of the Mercury Llewelyn, which is fully equipped for speed and handling, carries 25 MJ of shielding, and has the standard 3000 unit cargo bay. Lidya is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Endy Jerigan, manager of the nameless Vulture parked at SF distillery alpha in Herron's Nebula. It's a bare hulk with 88% hull.

Mulu Da, pilot of the Dolphin Burton, which is fully equipped for speed and handling and came with an expanded cargo bay at 4223 units. Currently it still has just my spare 1MJ shield on board, but I'm working on it. Mulu is a qualified salvage pilot (special commands) and a reliable trader (CLS 2).

Credits, 434,331
Flight time 18:55
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 80
Joined: Tue, 21. Feb 12, 00:41

Post by ruger44 » Wed, 20. Mar 13, 16:35

Really neat story please do not stop

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Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Wed, 20. Mar 13, 17:10

ruger44 wrote:Really neat story please do not stop
Thanks. I don't plan on stopping any time soon...of course the side of some Split freighter may change my mind with the typical sudden splat! I'm supremely confident that in an M4 I won't get shot down, but it's still small enough that crashing is a bad option. I'm being far more careful than I normally would though.
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 3221
Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Thu, 21. Mar 13, 16:58

Crop Circle Wheat Exports

Humko Fo was assigned as the mission specialist on the special branch capture team that had taken Bu g'Snt and his band of insurgents. As mission specialist he was second in command to the Lar, who in this case was what Humko considered to be an autocratic gripper stroker. He drifted up next to his captain in the storage bay they had used as headquarters for the op and said "The transport is inbound. It is assigned to docking bay three."

"Good. A Boron ship?"

"Yes. A Mako Vanguard."

"A little cramped, but it will have to do. Have the pilot brought here immediately."

Humko had already arranged for the pilot to be contacted. He considered pointing out that the pilot was either a mercenary courier hired by special branch operatives, or a deep cover operative himself, but in either case he would view the transport as his operation, not the Lar's. The pilot would be informed of their location and would probably make an appearance promptly, but in terms of the pilot's mission the team was cargo not commander, including the Lar. Humko started considering ways that the Lar trying to order the pilot about could compromise the team, and the countermeasures he could take.

When the pilot arrived he went immediately to the four cargo containers bearing the prisoners, who were in cryo-suspension and recoded them. The Lar, obviously annoyed that the pilot did not come to him first, went to meet him. Humko followed, anticipating trouble. He was not disappointed.

"The containers will scan as tractor beams. Mining operations use tractor beams to move the asteroids after a mine is in place to better orient the docking facilities. It is a believable cargo," the pilot said without greeting. "A loading crew will be picking them up in eight minutes. You will want your team to observe them until the containers pass the bay doors, then my ship's security systems will assume responsibility. One of you, preferably a Boron, should meet me in the recreation bay. We will publicly negotiate transportation for your crew of consultants. Departure is in one hour and seventeen minutes," he concluded with a glance at a chronometer clamped high on a primary tentacle.

The Lar puffed himself up in indignation. Humko was glad he did not try some sort of reprimanding of the pilot, who was not under his command, but the Lar did have to say something to vent his ire, and opted to question the pilot's planning. "Tractor beams? Would it not be better to choose some inexpensive freight? If we are scanned by pirates four tractor beams is an attractive prize."

The pilot turned to face the Lar. "The Boron apologizes. Spacesuits are seldom scanned, and you are welcome to swim to Atreus' Clouds. The Boron has business there anyway and will deliver your cargo and your team on time despite any pirates that may be encountered. It would be best if the member of your team who meats the Boron in the recreation bay were someone other than you."

With that the pilot became a blur of swirling tentacles and sped out of the storage bay. 'That went well,' Humko sighed sarcastically to himself.

He met the pilot thirty minutes later on the recreation decks. "The Boron is given to understand you are pilot of the Mako Vanguard Rigg?" he said.

"I am the Boron," Jula No responded with improper formality, and his speech was slurred.

"This Boron is in need of transportation."

"The Rigg is bound for Elena's Fortune."

"The destination will serve. Your ship can bear eight passengers?"

"The Boron would prefer seven, but space can be made. Departure in three minutes or one more round if you are buying, whichever comes first." Three minutes? Should be more like forty. Humko quickly signaled for a round of drinks.

"That's the spirit," the pilot slurred. Behind his rebreather Humko noticed that his eyes were clear and bright, then the pilot looked away, his eyelids drooping.

They left the recreation bay half an hour later and Humko brought the team to the docking pod at the appointed time. Jula swirled into the pod a little unsteadily and ushered them into the cargo bay. The Argon mercenaries were directed to acceleration couches, the Lar and other Boron to harnesses. Jula tapped Humco with a tentacle and said "Cockpit, second seat," then turned to the others. "Strap in. I'll give an all clear once we are beyond the departure lane and you can unstrap, but stay close. If I sound the alarm I promise you thirty seconds before I start maneuvering. No more, no less."

The cockpit canopy slid shut and the atmosphere thickened. Jula and Humko removed their rebreathers. "May I?" Humko asked with a gesture towards Jula's battered rebreather unit.

"Thanks, stow it in that compartment," Jula replied, as if Humko had asked out of courtesy rather than curiosity. As he stowed the unit Humko gave it a passing examination. Under the battered exterior hummed a top of the line unit, with some components added that Humko could not identify at a glance. He was torn between making a closer examination and completing the pretense of courtesy by just stowing the unit. "The modification you are wondering about captures the space fuel as it is infused, releasing an appropriately colored liquid into the environment. I have to be selective about what I drink, but it keeps me sober. If the dock workers realize that I forgot to add you to the manifest they won't reach far for an explanation, writing it off to the drink. Your team is on the manifest of a passenger transport that departed two hours ago, bound for Kingdom End."

"The Boron is very thorough."

"This Boron is."

"The Boron is more than just a mercenary courier. This Boron is honored that you have allowed the opportunity to make that observation."

"So, you recognize it wasn't a slip on my part or great cleverness on yours. Good."

Humko clearly recognized that he had been tested, and was probably being tested still, but could not imagine the purpose. The conversation continued throughout the long passage through the green murk of The Hole, and Humko held his guard.
The Rigg emerged from the gate into Atreus Clouds, and Jula turned his attention to the scanners. Numerous Split traders were highlighted and he cycled quickly through them. Then he flipped back to one in particular, flying a Dolphin Tanker XL and bound for a spice mixery hanging somewhere out in the glowing soup of the cloud. He made a slight course adjustment and said "It is a shame to the legacy of Rolk that Split traders displace good Boron. This trader, for example, no doubt delivers Argon wheat to the mixery. It offers the Split opportunity for mischief, and provides credits to Rhonkar that could be serving the Kingdom."

Humko did not know how to respond. "It is an unfortunate consequence of the free trader agreement," he said, tentatively.

"A widespread consequence. But it can be dealt with in specific cases. His tentacles tapped keys and the ship's computer announced 'brace for maneuvers'. A counter started ticking in the corner of the main screen. It started at thirty, counting down.

Five minutes later Jula locked the controls and released his acceleration cuffs. The ship drifted to a stop alongside the abandoned Dolphin Tanker. He grabbed his rebreather unit and swam into the cargo bay. Humko followed along, trying to anticipate the scene that was surely about to play out.

"By Rolk's fins," the Lar bellowed, "what was that about?"

"We were briefly engaged in combat," Jula replied calmly. "I am a salvager by trade, and I am about to claim an abandoned vessel." He attached his rebreather to a space suit and slid his tentacles inside in a bunch.

"You are under contract for our mission. You will get us to our destination without delay!" the Lar responded. The leader of the Argon mercenaries tensed, ready to put his men into action on the Lar's order. Humko caught his eye and gave a subtle shake of his head. In the close quarters of the cargo bay the repair laser on Jula's suit would shred them in a split second, and he had no doubt that a long and skillful tentacle was caressing the trigger.

"The cargo will be delivered on time, as agreed. For the second time I point out that you could swim. The first time was an invitation. This time it is a suggestion. The remaining journey is short enough that there is little concern for what a third time would involve." The hood of the suit snapped shut and Jula floated it into the airlock.

The Lar spluttered with rage. "Override the controls!" The Argon mercenaries shared glances among themselves, then looked to Humko. He was the only one aboard who may have possessed the skills, and also the only certified pilot. The Lar was glaring at him expectantly.

"Should you so order the Boron will make the attempt," he said, "but I must advise you that such an attempt would be most unwise. The Boron would guess that there are many fail safes, and the probable outcome would be the blowing of the airlock." The mercenaries looked very uncomfortable at that, and the Lar as well. They reached a silent but unanimous decision to wait for the pilot to return.

Jula cut off any argument when he returned to the ship with a curt "rig for maneuvering" as he impulsed himself into the cockpit. The passengers had no choice but to hurriedly strap themselves in.

From the second seat Humko noted "The Boron may have made an enemy."

"Probably not," Jula said. "That kind is affronted so easily that the Lar is not able to keep track of them all. Tomorrow he will be insulted so many times that he will forget about today." Humko would not have wanted to test that, but it sounded like an interesting theory to live by.
Humko floated in front of the table that served as a desk for the special branch Admiral in a vacant office. Special branch did not maintain a regular office location, at least not one so obvious as on the military base. The Lar, floating beside him, was concluding his report. The final three minutes consisted of outrage at the courier pilot. The Admiral turned to Humko. "As mission specialist would you say that the pilot's actions impacted the mission?"

Oh my. Humko gathered his thoughts, and his tentacles, trying to gauge just how angry the Lar was, and how much of that anger was about to be redirected at him. "The team and prisoners arrived at the drop point on time, with three minutes to spare. The mission was completed within all parameters, and was by all measures successful. With that result it cannot be said that the mission suffered any impact."

He could feel the rage boiling off of the Lar, and certainly the Admiral could as well, but he looked squarely at him and said "That will be all," then turned to Humko and said "A word about your next assignment." He waited expectantly, and the Lar left in a flurry of stiff outrage. "You expected some time off", he said.

"That would be customary," Humko replied. He actually hoped that he would not get any time off. If he could get to his next assignment before the Lar poisoned all waters against him he may not find himself checking passports for the rest of his career. "The Boron is certainly willing to forgo that time should there be such need."

"There is such need...to get you away from him, if nothing else," the Admiral observed. "But the service has a need as well. You are to relieve the chief liaison officer to the economic analysis unit. This posting has the highest clearance requirement in the Kingdom, beyond any secret you have ever been tasked with keeping. No one below flag rank outside the unit and the liaison officer are even aware such a unit exists."

"Having been told it exists may the Boron ask what this unit does?"

"The unit's charter is 'the manipulation of the universal economy for the benefit of the Kingdom, using any and all means.' As you can imagine, having such a charter allows for a great deal of leeway in action. For example, should the economic analysis unit shoot you right here in front of me with the explanation that some series of odd connections indicate that a beneficial change in the price of Bofu would result, who really has the knowledge to dispute the case?"

Humko's tentacles twitched. The existence of such a unit was shocking, but the idea that he would be assigned to such a post completely beyond fathoming. "How did this Boron...um...what duties...that is...am I really qualified?"

"Apparently you are. The economic analysis unit chose you and you passed the interview. Had you not passed perhaps you would have been sacrificed for the greater good of Bofu prices, who knows?"

"There was an interview?"

"On the flight. The economic analysis unit is Jula No."
Humko was sent to get some rest, which didn't last long. The com unit in the compartment he had been assigned gave an annoying chirp, then reported 'your ship has arrived, docking pod six, bay three'. He looked at the com unit in confusion, thinking perhaps the com system had the wrong compartment. Then it chirped again. 'Please report to docking pod six, bay three for continued docking clearance.' He acknowledged the com and swam into the corridor.

When he arrived at the docking bay he was confronted by the Dolphin Tanker that he had last seen through the canopy of the Rigg. To his utter amazement the docking monitor was showing his name, not only as pilot but as owner as well. An attendant passed him some documents, and he signed for the docking clearance. "Nice prize," the attendant said as she swam away.

Prize? Of course. She had been salvaged after her pilot abandoned ship. The particle burns along the hull, the blown canopy; anyone who worked the docks would see at one glance she was a prize. But how did she come to be his prize?

A voice slightly behind him to his right made him jump. "Surprisingly the Split bailed with two shield generators still functioning... just fives though. We will get you set up properly, but for now I'll need to borrow one of them." Jula No hung in the thick methane atmosphere, his legs stirring gently.

"Is there some obvious explanation I'm not seeing here? How did I get a ship?"

"You claimed her by right of salvage. Actually I did, but I hacked your credentials. I had made up my mind about taking you, but there wasn't really time to explain."

Thoughts collided in Humko's brain. Jula No had decided, but Humko had not accepted the assignment, which technically had not even been offered at that point. Jula No had hacked his credentials. He outright owned a ship, worth somewhere north of half a million credits. His credentials were produced by special branch and were among the tightest secure tech in the universe.

"Do you think you could take one of the shield generators off and install it on that Mako Sentinel over there? I just bought her used and the owner took all theirs with them. I'd do it myself, but I have a meeting. I'm being knighted." With that Jula swam away.

He shook himself, literally shook himself, tentacles flapping in the thick atmosphere. He paddled to the docking port and looked at himself in the polished surface of the hatch as it slid aside, saying "the Boron is going to have to start thinking a whole lot faster."

He got the shield unit off, and installed it on the Mako Sentinel. The registry there showed the purchase, for 62,000 credits which seemed a very good deal. It showed no pilot, and ownership by a numbered account. He considered doing a little research into the account, just to prove he was no slouch at hacking himself, but thought better of it. He set to work getting his new ship in order instead.

When Jula returned Humko was still working, filling the gouges the particle beams had scored in the hull with his repair laser. "A bit of advice for the salvage trade, always fix the canopy first," Jula called out. "You never know when a previous owner may appear looking to reclaim their ship and you want to be ready to depart."

Humko settled closer to the deck. "I'll remember that. Any other advice? The Boron admits he is a little beyond his depth."

"That is expected. Get your canopy fixed so we have somewhere to talk. The Boron must find a pilot for that." He waved a tentacle towards the Mako. "I will be back."

As the Mako cleared the docking clamps Humko was still wondering where he was going to look.

Jula docked a while later, in the Wikstrom, which Humko had never seen. He held off on questions while they swam into the command deck of the Dolphin, and Jula started speaking before he had a chance to ask. "This is secure enough for now, but you need to get it fitted with better security. The Admiral has a team from special branch on the way. Depart as soon as they are done. When you meet Boso he will show you a few tweaks that can be made to their systems as well."

"Where do I meet him?"

"He is at the trading station in Herron's Nebula, but will probably be gone before you can get there. If so you will find him at a newly constructed wheat farm in Power Circle. Approach him as the owner of that wheat farm, presenting yourself as a potential contract hauler. I may contact you with changes."

With that minimal instruction Jula was gone.

The next time Humko saw Jula it was as an icon on his scanners, hidden in the green fog of The Hole. Flashes of weapons fire glowed through from his direction, and it was obvious from the twisting path of the tiny Octopus that Jula was attacking a Paranid Demeter freighter. Dim signatures on the scanner indicated freight containers, declaring as e-cells. The red threat icon of the freighter winked out, replaced by blue, and the icon for the Wikstrom slowed to a reasonable pace. Humko looked out at the fog of stellar gas and considered what it would be like to twist through it at over 400 m/s in a ship hardly bigger than a space suit.

Jula's voice cracked through the com link; "Sakata, Wikstrom, collect those crates."


When he had collected the crates of e-cells Jula directed him to land at the trading station. He found Jula working on the Demeter with an Argon. He waited quietly as Jula broke away. "The Boron has other business. You are certain about the flight?"

"If she breaks down I can fix her. I'm a good mechanic. This is probably the only way I was ever gonna get a shot as a pilot, so I'm taking it."

"Crop Circle is a new company, and there may be opportunity in the future, but you will not be doing any flying once you reach your station."

"I understand."

Jula tapped into the dock terminal. Freight handling systems began shifting e-cells from the Demeter into the Sakata. "Humko, your ship is much faster, so you will deliver the e-cells to Crop Circle's facility in Power Circle. Though they are on your ship they are registered as salvage with this ship, which belongs to them, so there will be no invoice."

"The Boron understands." He and Jula swam towards the Sakata. When they arrived and the hatch had closed he said "You should know that my previous cover with the mineral consultants has ended badly. Special branch apparently thought the best way for my sudden departure to be explained was 'termination with prejudice'. They held my pay. My cover account, which is in fact my only account, has ten credits in it. I was thinking these e-cells would get me on my feet."

Jula nodded. "I knew all that. We are allowed great freedom in our operations. In return we are expected to fund them ourselves. Your account owns this ship. You will be fine. The e-cells are needed to get things running at Crop Circle. Consider them a payment for the knowledge you will get from Boso."

"That is fair."

"The Boron will meet you in Power Circle and we will shift the ghost link in my ships to Sakata. Then all the transactions I direct will accrue to your account instead of Boso's."

"What about your accounts?"

"I have no accounts. Sometimes my ship system holds unregistered credits, as I occasionally do work off the books, but my ships are ghosts. When I confirm a transaction the confirmation registers through your ship."

"But if I'm doing the transaction in the first place what does that accomplish?"

"The Boron needs to think big. Soon we will have a fleet of ships conducting our business, just like Boso."

"We have ten credits between us."

"There's that."

Cold hard facts

The shoestring start of Crop Circle Wheat Exports has been a little bumpy, and those e-cells are needed. So was the Demeter, or something like it. It is on it's way to the second distillery to set up as a trap. I thought I would have to go to Atreus' clouds to reclaim the Rigg from the pirate base before I got that handled, but shot up a couple freighters along the way for cargo and the Paranid bailed. I would like to have had a couple more in place before I spun Boso and Lidya off on their own, but it should still work.

Most chapters I'll just list Crop Circle Wheat Exports as an asset with their cash balance, but since this is their first appearance...they are a complex in Power Circle with two M size wheat farms, and own six ships. Boso Wa and the Bernard Lee are set up to buy energy at 12 from three of the four SPP in Power Circle and feed the complex. Lidya Marval and the Llewelyn deliver e-cells and wheat to the sales bays at the two distilleries in Herron's, though as of now she actually sells directly to distillery beta pending the arrival of the Demeter, which is crawling because I thrashed it pretty badly before the pilot gave up. Mulu Da buys wheat at 25 from a farm in Three Worlds and sells to three buyers in Boron space for 35. Obviously there are the two delivery bays, selling wheat and e-cells at 33 and 17. Then there's Busi La, who I hired at the pirate base to fly the Mako Sentinel Kitzmiller. She's currently parked at the trading station in Herron's waiting for the operation to smooth out a bit, and for some equipment, but I already assigned the ship to the home base. There's 190,410 credits in the station account.

Other than that.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 PACs available, 2 mounted with 4 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for jump drive, transporter device and best buy/best sell. Last seen parked in Atreus' Clouds at the pirate base.

Wikstrom, my Octopus. Only one MJ of shielding because I stuck the other one on the Demeter, but I'll be getting that back. 4 IREs, most of the goodies installed, though actually borrowed from the Rigg. Full speed, handling and cargo bay of course.


Humko Fo, captain of the Sakata, a Dolphin Tanker XL, currently just 5 MJ of shields. Cargo bay has some expansion, eight thousand and some odd units, speed and handling fully upgraded.

Credits, 10
Flight time 21:53
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 189
Joined: Thu, 22. Dec 11, 15:29

Post by stads » Thu, 21. Mar 13, 17:55

thats one way of making a promotion :d

love the chapter and the boron with his mounth open

Posts: 3221
Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Thu, 21. Mar 13, 19:39

stads wrote:thats one way of making a promotion :d

love the chapter and the boron with his mounth open
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

Posts: 3221
Joined: Thu, 22. Jan 09, 18:49

Post by Timsup2nothin » Fri, 22. Mar 13, 03:58


Jula saw the Sakata and the captured Demeter on their way, then took off in the Wikstrom. He was anxious about leaving the Rigg at the pirate base. There was no way to know when the pirates would do something to bring down the wrath of the Boron military. But before he even got out of the sector his com link buzzed. An old friend appeared on the screen.

Popo Du and his partner, Hola Pa were traders. They were in the wheat business, oddly enough. Many of the improved processes used in the mixing of stott spices that involved adding delexian wheat came from their ideas. They were pioneers in developing the export market that Crop Circle was founded to fill, but in this era of independent traders had been drawn to the more lucrative trade opportunities presented by more distant Argon markets.

"Popo Du! How can the Boron be of service?"

Popo Du looked very sad. "The Boron could join me for a nugget and a drink," he said heavily.

Jula saw that the com was originating from the Argon trading station. "The Boron would be most pleased," he said. On a hunch he added "I would like to show you my new ship."

Popo Du nodded. "I will meet you at the docks." As Jula suspected, his friend wanted to meet privately.

The small hanger bay was filled with pressurized methane, and Jula cycled his friend through the air lock. Popo removed his rebreather and sighed. "I believe I shall return to Boron space," he said, "though I'm afraid I've developed Argon speech patterns that will be hard to shake." Popo had provided the contact with the Argon wheat farmers for the business, and had been living in Argon space for years, often stuck in a rebreather for uncomfortably long periods.

"You would certainly be more comfortable. Is the Boron thinking of retirement?"

"More than thinking, Jula. The Boron is out of the business."

"Hola Pa as well?"

"Hola Pa is dead."

Popo recounted the whole story, beginning with the decision to shift their market to the Aladana Hill region. This had called for transiting the dangerous sectors commonly called 'pirate alley', which made it a decision of consequence. The greater profits were offset to a degree by the tolls extracted by the pirate clans, but even with the tolls it increased their profit margins. Hola, as the pilot, had had final say, and had pressed for the change. Then he had pushed for using a jump drive.

They signed a fuel contract with one of the power plants here in The Hole and began moving wheat in a big way, and profits had exploded, making them both very wealthy...but the pirate clans were extremely unhappy with this turn of events. Hola Pa had been kidnapped and killed as an example of what happens to traders who try to escape the pirate's tolls.

"Tell the Boron the name of the killer," Jula No said with frost in his voice.

"Warron Cornell," said Popo Du. "There is a bounty on his head, from Hola Pa's estate."

Popo Du let himself out through the airlock as Jula settled into the cockpit of the Wikstrom, tapping keys on his interface unit before he was even cuffed in. The computers at special branch headquarters processed through untold numbers of gate network records and produced the information Jula needed. Warron Cornell was piloting a Buzzard Vanguard, in Rolk's Fate.

The Wikstrom sped through Atreus' Clouds. Jula considered picking up the Rigg, but the pirate base was hidden far from the sector's traffic lanes. Even though the Rigg was fast, it could not compare to the Wikstrom's raw speed and it would take time to get from the base to the gate. Too much time. The Wikstrom shot through the gate into Rolk's Fate.

He identified the Buzzard Vanguard. Warron Cornell was attempting to slip through the sector while a band of pirate vessels provided a distraction. Weapons flashed as beleaguered customs agents pursued the obvious targets. The killer's plan seemed to be working, until the Wikstrom slotted in behind the larger ship and opened fire. With his escorts engaged by the locals Warron Cornell stuttered rapidly through threats and curses, then shouts to his escorts for aid, and finally into pleas for mercy. He got nothing but such justice as four IREs could dispense.

The bounty cycled into his ship's account through the anonymous mechanisms of the pirate station when he docked. Almost 200,000 credits. Jula prowled the decks of the pirate station until he found the huge Paranid, Kelmanckigtab. "I wish you had not killed Cornell, but I had no work for him so no great loss," the Paranid assassination broker said without greeting.

"The Boron is happy that it did not put you out. It had to be done. It was personal."

Kelmanckigtab laughed, a sound like great swells breaking on cliffs. "A couple hundred thousand credits in bounty is always personal! You do good work little squid. If I had any jobs for Cornell I would be happy to pass them on to you instead." Jula recognized this as a compliment in Kelmanckigtab's bloody view of the universe. "I'd buy you a drink, but the spacefly infested scum of a smuggler that is supposed to be keeping us supplied is of no use at all."

"Perhaps the Boron could sell you that drink," Jula replied. "Or better you could direct me to the station's barkeeper. I have three cases aboard the Wikstrom. One of Cornell's band had it in his ship when the Boron police finished him. The Boron saw no reason to leave it in the wreckage."
He left some time later in the Rigg, with the Wikstrom following along on autopilot. He saw no Split trader traffic, which raised some optimism. Perhaps his fellow Boron would take a firmer grip on their trade lanes, despite the free trader agreements. He emerged from the gate into Menelaus' Frontier and his spirits rose further at the sight of the stars unobscured by green murky clouds. A lone Split trader, in a Mamba, was the only thing marring the scene.

Jula targeted his ship's computer on the Mamba, which returned a destination; an equipment dock in Argon space. Being free of the murk really had done wonders for his spirits, and Jula decided that if the Split wasn't stealing trade in Boron space he could be allowed to pass. But the arms dealer could be carrying shield generators that Jula desperately needed, so he closed to scanner range.

When he activated his freight scanner he had a brief glance at a cargo of assorted missiles, in which nothing really caught his eye, then the com link pinged open before he looked closer. "Split say, stand down Jula No. Split and Boron may be at war, but we need not. Split say we can be friends" Jula recognized the Split from having seen him at the pirate base.

He couldn't imagine calling a Split a friend, but he flagged the ship as not hostile. "The Boron are peaceful," he said. "I have no quarrel with you." The com link closed. Would I have attacked a Split that wanted to be friends if he had been loaded with twenty-five megajoule shield generators? Jula decided he would be best served not to dwell on that question. In close proximity to the Mamba flown by Lo t'Pst Jula popped through the gate into Queen's Space. The green murk closed around him and his spirits drooped.

He activated the scanners and looked at the map to distract him from the unchanging view. A freighter icon flashing the universal 'for sale' symbol caught his eye; a Dolphin in pretty good shape. He hit the com link. 86,000 credits the pilot replied, and yes a direct transfer from his ship accounts to her space suit would be fine. Jula completed the purchase. Nothing like a good deal to improve one's perspective.

Of course now he had another freighter in need of shielding. And the transaction from his ship account made the Dolphin a ghost ship that he could hardly use and certainly couldn't leave anywhere that it might be examined. He sighed. Plus the Dolphin would be slow as an ancient Lar in ice cold waters, but maybe if he tightened up her hull. He swam into the cargo bay and slid into his spacesuit, repair laser at the ready.

Even with all the repairs he could do the Dolphin was still too slow, especially facing the long trek through green cloud that was Queen's Space. Jula set her autopilot for the trading station and set off on a tour of the sector. What he found made him even more unhappy than the murk. One of the familiar power plants was gone. The other two showed inventory levels far beyond profitability for their owners. And trader traffic in the sector was barely trickling. He completed the circuit and headed for the trading station, arriving about the same time as his Dolphin. One of the dock workers, who seemed to have little enough to do, agreed to tune up the Dolphin's engines and maneuvering thrusters for the off the books payment from the ship account that was all Jula could manage at the moment. Hard times made such dealing easier, but Jula would rather the port had been bustling. He headed for the recreation levels.

Without the protection of his rebreather Jula sucked carefully on a strong drink pouch, while nibbling Bofu. Another Boron, floating nearby, was less cautious, and well into his cups. Jula put together a few references and recognized the sad Boron was a power plant worker of some sort, and paddled a bit closer, entering the conversation with an eye towards finding out what had happened to the missing plant.

"Packed up and gone, that's what happened," the Boron said. "Maybe to be reassembled down in Argon space, maybe just to be sold for scrap, hard to tell. Market's gone to the abyss. The big Argon plants in The Hole pump out cells, and they're flooding our sectors down south. And getting a free trader to haul west is a joke. Industry in Kingdom End is dying for lack of power, and here we're shutting down plants. Rolk's tears, it's shameful. Speaking of shameful, would you look at that!" The sorrowful Boron thrust a tentacle out, pointing vaguely towards a young Boron, then swam awkwardly towards the exit.

Jula paddled across the space, curious. The young Boron clung to the deck with the tips of four of his shorter legs, like a spawnling holding to the bottom. "Is the Boron alright?" Jula asked.

"What?" Jula glanced down at the floor. "Oh, that. I've found that it makes my Argon friends uncomfortable, me just floating around. This Boron is called Molo Pu."

"This Boron is called Jula No and is most pleased to meet you." Jula realized he was being more formal than he had become accustomed to, because he also spent a lot of time with other species. The actions of Molo Pu were causing a recoil. But the youngster was speaking with great animation so Jula put his musings aside and listened.

"Rolk's Drift. It could be the salvation of these power plants."

"Excuse this Boron. My mind wandered. What about Rolk's Drift?"

"Argon ex-pats. Argon factories in Rolk's Drift, that's the future. Argon haulers would supply them, and they would draw energy from the closest source, right here in Queen's Space. My company just needs to find a station hauler."

"What business is your company in?"

"Ammunition. For mass drivers."

Argon haulers supplying Argon factories making ammunition for weapons that mounted on Argon ships...and Boron clinging to floors like spawn. This was not a future Jula could get excited about. Not in any positive way at least. "One stray shot from an ion cannon would charge that floor and burn your tentacles off. Would your Argon friends be comfortable with that?" He swam for the exit hoping to catch up with Hali Go.

He found the Boron at the transport stand, still sad but sobering. "Can the Boron give you a ride? I have a Mako."

"No thank you. I better take the regular transport. A little queasy for a smaller ship right now."

"Ah. The drink, or the Boron pretending to be a spawnling to please his Argon friends?"

Hali Go snorted. "Both. Maybe more of the latter."

"Does the Boron work in shipping by any chance?"

Hali Go did not work in shipping, but he knew other Boron. With her engines tuned the Dolphin made a stop at the plant, loading 4000 cells on an unregistered invoice. Hard times.
Jula blinked happily in the bright light of Rolk's Drift. He pulled the Rigg out of the traffic lane and let her coast to a stop. The Dolphin shot out of the gate not far behind him, and the Wikstrom was speeding towards the trading station. He accessed the local markets, and shook his head. Perhaps Argon traders could be counted on to traffic energy for Argon factories, but apparently no one was interested in supplying the existing Boron factories. If the Dolphin's cargo were documented he would have his pick of buyers. Since the cargo wasn't documented he set the Dolphin's autopilot for Hila Fa's computer plant.

An Argon would say that Hila Fa worked both sides of the fence, a Boron would not limit him to two sides and would say his tentacles swung with the currents. In any event Jula knew that Hila would be happy to have 4000 e-cells and be willing and able to make the transaction disappear. From Hila's perspective Jula was of a similar mold. They had met when both appeared to be doing contract work for special branch, and they had met other times when both appeared to be following more mercenary pursuits.

"Jula! The Boron is always happy to see you. You are always welcome, but this time your timing is superior. I could use a partner. I find myself with my tentacles in a tangle."

"As does this Boron. The Dolphin inbound is filled with e-cells..."

"E-cells are not a problem. Lack of e-cells is a problem! My factory stalls for lack of e-cells."

"The Boron is correct, e-cells are not a problem. Unregistered transactions are a problem."

"That is no problem either between us Jula. But this Boron has a real problem."

"What can the Boron do to help?"

"I have a product being delivered, and I have a buyer...our old friends at special branch. Unfortunately they are coming here for the product and they will be here in just over an hour, and my supplier can only deliver the product in Menelaus' Frontier." Jula nodded. No doubt the 'product' was of even more dubious origins than his own e-cells, and the supplier only had the contacts to get it through the gate from Teladi space, not move it across Boron space. The claim that the buyer was special branch was probably a reach.

"The Dolphin is slow, and as yet has no shields. The Boron is coming from that direction, not headed there."

"You won't need the Dolphin, I know you are talented with ships and gates."


"The product is a Mamba Vanguard." Rolk's fins! Hila was telling the truth! The buyers almost certainly would be special branch tech division. "The Boron will cut you in for five thousand credits."

Jula scoffed. The Mamba would be worth seven figures. But Hila had paid other costs to get the ship in the first place, and get it as far as he had. They settled on something around twenty thousand. Now sorely pressed for time Jula set out with the Dolphin and the Wikstrom still on autopilot, thrashing his tentacles in frustration at their pace in the cockpit of the Rigg.

Coming out of the gate into Three Worlds Jula hit the com link, opening a channel to the equipment dock. Soon Mak Marval appeared on his screen. The Argon's face creased in a wide smile. "Thank you for all you have done for my cousin," he said.

"The Boron is pleased to be of service, and Lidya has earned all she has received and more. The Boron could use some assistance from you, though, if you would express gratitude?"

"Sure, what do you need?"

"Registered pilots I can leave two ships with. They have Boron life support, so they will not be taking them anywhere, but I do not want to just leave them in long term docking."

"No problem. I'll round up a couple guys."

Twelve minutes later Jula was in the Wikstrom, tearing towards the Kingdom End gate with the engine screaming. Special branch would be at the computer plant in 34 minutes, and they would be looking for a Mamba Vanguard. If it wasn't there they were not going to be happy.

The Mamba was there on time, and the Lar from tech division was thrilled. Hila paid Jula his share, which was just slightly less than Jula had spent getting the Mamba's engines tuned at the trading station in Queen's Space. 'For the Queen!' he thought to himself.

Cold hard facts

Crop Circle Wheat Exports is a mess, currently sitting on two credits. They have lots of product and lots of resources though, and if it were not for the 'must be in sector' rule I would have set up the second selling bay and fixed the Llewelyn's waypoints to smooth out the deliveries. I'm heading that way.

The other complication of the journey was running out of CLS and Nav command software, which would have allowed me to hire a permanent Boron pilot for the Dolphin that I could not pass up. I had a bad case of buyer's remorse as I dawdled through Boron space baby-sitting that Dolphin, but it was a pretty good deal. Ten points to anyone who recognized the problem when the story hit Three Worlds eq dock (or before). Fifty points to anyone who can suggest a really clever way to keep it from happening again.


Rigg, my Mako Vanguard. Full 10 MJ of shielding, 6 PACs available, 2 mounted with 4 IREs. Fully expanded speed, handling, and cargo bay, and all the conveniences I can think of except for jump drive, transporter device and best buy/best sell. Currently sitting at Three Worlds eq dock with a drunken Argon perched on her hood.

Wikstrom, my Octopus. Only one MJ of shielding because I stuck the other one on the Demeter, but I'll be getting that back. 4 IREs, most of the goodies installed, though actually borrowed from the Rigg. Full speed, handling and cargo bay of course.

An unnamed Dolphin with standard cargo bay of 4000 units, max speed and handling. Also parked in care of some Argon.


Humko Fo, captain of the Sakata, a Dolphin Tanker XL, currently just 5 MJ of shields. Cargo bay has some expansion, eight thousand and some odd units, speed and handling fully upgraded.

Credits, 96,512
Flight time 1-00:42
Trapper Tim's Guide to CLS 2

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-Dead is Dead, and he is DEAD

Not a DiD, so I guess it's a DiDn't, the story of my first try at AP
Part One, in progress

HEY! AP!! That's new!!!

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