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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 01:12    Post subject: Cutscenes... Dialogue and Stuff Reply with quote Print

Hello everyone. Here I'm just posting some "cutscenes" that I've written up. They're basically dialogue scenes that fit into the X3 TC Universe... mostly right from the plots that I've played, but not necessarily. These aren't so much a continual story as much as a collection of scenes, snatched randomly from the X3TC world. Many of them will be related, but for the most part will stand on their own. This first one you can probably figure out pretty quickly exactly where in the game it happens.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it. Feel free to give feedback, I ask only that comments are tactful/appropriate.

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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 01:14    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Cullough’s eyes scanned the readout panel. “Everything reads out okay. She’s going to be fine. We can use her for the next phase, once we get her fixed up a bit.”

“Great. I don’t expect to hear from our contact until tomorrow, so that gives us a little time.”

Cullough put his helmet on, sealed the suit. “I’m going back to my ship. I’m going to escort this one to the shipyard in Grand Exchange to pick up some shields for her.”

“Is that really necessary?”

“Heywood,” Cullough spat, “you think it might look a little fishy if this freighter shows up at the rendezvous with no shields and blast marks all over the hull?” He shook his head as he sealed the Caiman’s airlock behind him and began making his way through space back to his sabre. He took the comm silence that followed as grudging agreement.

He settled in the cockpit of his interceptor, removed the helmet, began powering up the engines.

“I should be back in about a couple of hours or so… meet me on board the trading station here, in the Zocolo.”

“What?” came the exasperated reply. “Why on earth should I do that?”

“Because we need to part ways for a little while,” Cullough growled in return, “until things settle down around here. And because we need to talk where no one can monitor our comms and…” he blew out a deep breath, “and I need a drink.”

Two hours later, the Sabre-class interceptor Spirit of Manhattan slipped into a berth at the Tears of Greed trading station. Cullough slid out of the fighter’s hatch and landed lightly on the hangar deck. He looked around quickly, there weren’t many people around. He saw Heywood’s Elite docked across the landing bay. There were a few other ships docked here… two Harrier Haulers, a Pericles, a Kestrel, a Mamba Hauler and two Nova Vanguards, the last two with pirate markings. He didn’t recognize the clan insignia, but at least he knew they were there. At the outside docking clamps he had seen three vultures and a hermes docked during his approach. Fortunately, there weren’t any other stations or facs close to the trading station in this sector… it would be easy to spot any hostiles after he lifted off – including those that followed him from the station. It was no guarantee he and Heywood would make it out of the sector, but it was something.

He took the scenic route to the Zocalo, made sure he wasn’t being followed. When he got there, he found Heywood at a small, dirty little food-court like space off of the main drag, which itself was small and dirty compared to it’s Terran or Argon equivalent. Even for drinks, there was a cafeteria line. He got in line after Heywood, They picked up their drinks and Cullough steered her toward a small table across the floor near the viewports. “Follow me and try not stare at everything like you’ve never been aboard a goddamm Teladi station before.”

She covered her anger with a giggle and answered. “Of course dear.” Then she shot him a quick, venomous glance as they turned toward the tables.

As they sat, he whispered, “I have an interference broadcaster in my jacket pocket. If there are any mikes here they won’t be able to listen in.” Then he leaned into to her, smiling to look like he was making a romantic gesture, whispered, “move six inches closer to me… then the cameras behind you won’t be able to read your lips.”

“How do you know so much about Teladi surveillance?”

“I been around the block a few times… one reason I’m here.”

“Right,” she answered. “So, just what did you need to talk about? And since when do you give the orders around here, pilot?”

Cullough turned back to her, “Lieutenant, given that we’ve established I have some background here in the Commonwealth that you don’t – or “Down South,” as you and Jackson like to call it, you may well want to listen to my suggestions.”

“Fine.” She took a sip of her drink, made a face, swallowed it with an effort.

“And my next suggestion – or think of it as a request – is that if you’re going to engage in all of this racist “Down Souther” shit, please refrain from whining about when we end up having to kill them in the line of duty,” he locked eyes with her, “especially when I’m the one pulling the trigger.”

She glared at him for a second. “Terribly sorry, pilot,” she sneered. “I’ll take care not to offend your delicate sensibilities in the future.” She gulped the rest of her drink, slammed the empty glass on the table and began to stand.

“Wait…”

“What the hell for?”

Cullough glanced around furtively. “Please, just sit down. We don’t want to be attracting attention right now.”

She glared at him for a moment, slowly lowered herself back into her seat.

He paused for a moment, staring at his half empty glass.

“Lieutenant… I… I’m sorry.”

“I beg your pardon?” she said, her voice low. “What did you say?”

“I apologize for what I said. I was out of line.”

She continued to glare at him.

“I was way out of line.”

She paused herself for a moment, then: “Damn right about that.”

“I just, well… I think the same thing is bothering you is also bothering me.”

“And what’s that?”

“I’m a soldier, a combat pilot… not an assassin. Not a mob hit-man. If I have to kill an enemy of Earth, AGI, a terrorist, fine, but…” he paused for a moment, trying to find the right words. “But I can’t stop thinking that I was just bribed by a criminal to kill another criminal. So the first crook could take over the dead crook’s smuggling ring.

“I know,” he continued, “I keep trying to tell myself the big picture; that I had to do what I did so we can find whoever’s behind that Xenon incursion, whoever helped them break into Terran space… that he was just a criminal…”

“He was a criminal,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“So’s the guy who got us to kill him. I know, it’s in the line of duty and I’d do it over the same way a hundred times over. But I still feel… dirty.” He took a long pull on his drink.

Neither of them said anything for a minute. Then Cullough said, “So… I’m sorry I said what I said to you. It was unfair and I was out of line. I apologize.”

“We do what we have to do.” She studied him for a moment. “How long were you in the service?” Her tone softened just a bit.

He gave her a surprised glance. “That obvious, huh?” She nodded. “Twenty three years.”

“Well, that makes sense. The way you handle that interceptor…” she stopped, looked out the window, which stretched from floor to ceiling before them, showing the distant starfields scrolling by as the station spun to simulate gravity. She turned back to him, “What did you do, flight instructor?”

He allowed a smile to touch his lips. “I was a starship captain.”

“Really? What class?” She glanced around quickly, added, “You don’t have to say anything…”

“No that’s okay. I was a destroyer captain.”

Heywood’s eyes went wide. “Really?” Her eyes narrowed again, studying him. “USC or ATF?” Then she guessed. “Osaka.”

He finished his drink. “Yup.”

“Yeah. You don’t really have the ATF vibe.”

Cullough chuckled. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I won’t tell Commander Jackson you said that.”

“Tell him whatever you like. He’s an asshole.”

“Can’t disagree with you there. Wait a minute… you were a starship captain, how did you wind up flying a second hand fighter in the fleet auxiliary? That’s almost like going from USCFI to being a mall cop.”

Cullough laughed out loud, then gathered himself. “I actually retired a few months ago.”

“So this is how you relax into retirement?”

“Well, I had the slight problem that I never got my pension… or even my duty pay for the last duty cycle.”

Heywood’s jaw dropped. “What? Are you serious? How does that happen?”

Cullough shrugged. “Beats me. All I know is that I retired with nearly six months notice. There was no reason for anything to go wrong… you see, I spent two years here in the Commonwealth with my ship, the Richmond; it was one of a handful of ships USC sent as a sort of diplomatic & exploratory mission to the Community of Planets after the Reunion incident. It was part exploration, part diplomacy.” He looked at her, saw a questioning look on her face. “Things were friendlier back then. Met lots of high level state officials from all the major empires.” He smiled. “Two of the best years of my life.”

“That’s how you know so much about the Commonwealth… even what tables they bug on their stations?”

“You know, you meet people, you pick things up. Since they all spy on each other sometimes you’re able to ferret out a thing or two.

“Anyways, I had made some contacts, and when the Commonwealth diplomatic tour ended I decided it was time to retire. What few friends I had in the Admiralty had nearly all retired… I didn’t have many friends left in court, so to speak. I could read the writing on the wall – even though I had just finished a plum assignment, it wouldn’t be long before I was going to be shuffled to a desk.

“So I knew this guy in Herron’s Nebula who could get me a good deal on a used Mercury and I’d try my hand at being a trader out here.”

“Why here, why not at home?” Heywood asked.

“No opportunity at home. The big mega-corps and the cartels have all the markets shut up tight. I’ve patrolled the Sol space lanes for years. There’s very few independent traders there… what few there are don’t last long.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway… so I retired and all is well and good until I’m told to report to the HR Offices above Uranus to get my pension and complete my exit interview.”

Heywood looked puzzled. “Wait, Uranus? Not Fleet Headquarters on Mars?”

Cullough cocked an eyebrow. “I know. It gets worse. So I show up at the offices at the Orbital Patrol Base at Uranus – takes me forever to find the office – it’s a tiny operation on a huge station. When I get there, they have no idea who I am or what I’m doing there. They have no record of me or my career or, more importantly, my freaking pension.”

“Oh my God.”

“On top of that, ATF has completely wiped my access… I was born on Earth, I have an apartment in New York. But now I couldn’t even enter the Jupiter sector. And since my bank is on Earth-”

“They cut off your access to your accounts?!?”

Cullough nodded. “Fortunately I put about 200 credits on my credit chit, so I had a little “cash”, but…”

“Were you able to get it fixed?”

“They’re still working on it,” he said dryly. “After about a week, a woman from the USC Auxiliary named Erin Iovis approaches me, tells me that she’d heard about my case and wants to see if she can help.

“I ask her if she can get me access to my home and my bank accounts and my pension but she said that’s not her area.” Cullough gave Heywood a wry look.

“What she is able to do, is while the USC and ATF offices are sorting out my situation, the SC Auxiliary and the Orbital Guard are in need of pilots. I could fly for them and make a little money – both from trading and combat -”

“But you said you can’t make money as a trader in the Sol system -”

“It ain’t easy, but what choice did I have? Hopefully between flight pay and whatever I could scrounge together…” he noticed Heywood’s eyes looked over his shoulder. He dropped his voice. “What?”

She turned back to the viewport, looked out and said softly, “I think you’ve just been made.”

Cullough tried to appear nonchalant. “What, here? Now?”

“Don’t look but ten meters behind you on your left two men just sat down… and they keep looking at you.”

“Any idea who they are?”

“One of them – the younger one – I noticed him in the landing bay when you docked. He had taken quite an interest in your ship.”

“It does kind of stand out, doesn’t it?”

“Makes me wonder why Command didn’t give you something more discreet.”

“I think they wanted the trade-off for performance instead of inconspicuousness. What does he look like?”

“Mid-thirties. Big. Nasty. Not someone I’d want to mess with.”

Cullough closed his eyes. “Terrific.”

“But the other one I do know.”

“Really?”

“Name’s Zarev. He’s a middleman. Works a lot with the pirate clans in this area. Before this assignment I was researching and cataloguing the pirate gangs and crime syndicates in this area. Good thing, it seems. I guess maybe they had a stake in the weed operation you just blasted to hell?”

“Maybe. Both human?”

“Yes, both Argon.”

Cullough sat and thought for a moment. “Does Zarev ever work for the pirates out around PTNI? Do you know?”

Heywood pondered, “Hmmmm… that seems a bit of a long hike, but it’s possible, I guess.”

“This might not have anything to do with our little firefight today.”

“Really? What do they want?”

“Not long ago I was doing some… reconnaissance… out around that area. Had a bit of a run in with some pirates out there.”

“What happened?”

“I’m here. They’re not. All there is to say, really.”

She glanced surreptitiously over Cullough’s shoulder again. “Zarev’s leaving. But the other one’s staring a hole in your back.”

Cullough smiled, leaned in close to Heywood like he was going to kiss her. “As sparse as the crowd is here, I don’t think he’s going to try anything here. I have a small sidearm. You?”

Heywood nodded.

“Okay, whatever they’re going to try, they’re going to try it tonight, I think. You booked a room for the night, right?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So did I. But I think we should spend tonight in the same room. We’ll set up some surprises for any visitors and we’ll stand watch in shifts. Early tomorrow morning we blow this joint and head for Grand Exchange and hope your contact gets back to us with something useful.”

“Do you really think they’ll try something on board the station?”

“They may wait until we undock. Either way we’re wearing a bulls-eye and we need to be careful.”

“How much danger can we be in? We’re in a core sector…”

Tears of Greed may be a core sector on a map but look around… this is as ghetto a core sector as you’re ever going to find.” He nodded at the bulkhead where the viewport ended and the hull began. “Look at the paneling peeling off the wall – it’s not even real teladianium. Hell, I just shot up a half dozen ships today in full view of everyone within three hundred clicks and Company Security didn’t even take notice. Or when I scanned half the ships in the sector afterwards.

“Long story short, we’re on our own out here. Like I said, I don’t think they’ll touch us here in public, but once we’re out of plain sight we could be in trouble.” Cullough stared out the window intently for a moment, searching. “The planet should come into view in a couple of minutes… you’ll see that we’re on the dark side of the planet. That means it’s getting “night” here too – look around, you can see people are either going to their rooms or boarding their ships to depart. Pretty soon the halls won’t be safe either, neither will this place. We should leave soon.

“I don’t want to head to the hangar… we might not make it there. Besides, we’re both spent as it is – I need a few hours sleep before I’ll be any good in a cockpit.”

“One of us will stand watch during the night?”

“We’ll go in shifts. That’s the plan.”

“Good. Because I want you to know, we may be sharing a room tonight, but nothing’s going to happen.”

“I hope not.” Cullough answered.

“That’s not what I mean.”

“Oh!” whispered Cullough. “I know, I saw the indent on your ring finger earlier. Besides, I realize I was being awfully charming before.”

Heywood shrugged, began to stand. “It’s okay. I work in the military. I’m used to dealing with assholes.”

Cullough nodded, stood. He followed her out of the zocalo food/booze court and they made their way to the residence deck. He didn’t turn to look at their visitor but he could feel the man’s stare boring into his back as he left.

This was going to be a long night.

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Sabrina Bergin





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PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 09:28    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

JJ:

I like this its a shame you don' want to turn it into a story your characters have depth, I hope you go on further a it has a lot of potential.

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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Wed, 9. Apr 14, 00:12    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it. I might continue this one, we'll see. I have a few more short stories I want to post first, then I'll see where to go from there. Thanks again for reading!

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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Tue, 19. May 15, 02:12    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Hello again, everyone. Been a while, but I have a little more of this story. Not a DiD, but just stories that have come to me from playing the game and the plots. Hope you enjoy...

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Cullough pulled three items out of his duffle bag and quietly placed them on the table. He glanced over to the bed where Heywood was sleeping. He saw he hadn't awakened her, went back to his task.

Three small pistols lay on the table. The first, that he was wearing when he came aboard, was an old model Terran phased plasma gun or PPG. It was quite small and excellent for concealment. The design went back before the Terraformer war - it was the earliest application of plasma based weapons... it basically fired a blast of superheated helium at the target. It had enough power for twenty shots. While devastating at short range, it had a fairly long reload time between shots and was ineffective against modern body armor.

The second weapon, slightly larger, was a small phase pistol. Phase weapons were sometimes called the "poor man's disintegrator rifle" or sometimes the "scramble gun." It fired a burst of subspace energy that briefly disrupted bonds at the cellular level in organic matter, rendering it "out of phase." When the effect subsided less than a second later, the cells frequently joined back together is haphazard fashion. A well placed shot could render a large portion of the victim's body as simply pulped organic mass. Organs would cease to exist, leaving behind a scrambled mass of organic tissue. Medical treatment for a major phased weapon wound was practically unheard of; only in the past few years had Boron medical science begun to find ways to treat major organ damage from Phase weapons. Unlike disintegrator weapons, however, it was largely ineffective against inorganic targets, including many types of body armor.

The last was an ancient design... a small 9mm Beretta handgun with 6 rounds in the magazine. He picked up the Beretta and began to check it as he had the other two weapons.

He blinked back drowsiness... the adrenaline high of combat and then being stalked by criminals here on the station had long faded. He had taken the first watch so he could sleep the second watch and be fresher when he climbed into his Sabre to (presumably) fight his (and Heywood's) way out of this sector. Fatigue was taking its toll.

Cullough caught himself dozing and nearly fell out of his chair. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs... the fatigue was nearly overwhelming. He looked over at the door, where he and Heywood had set up a couple of surprises for anyone who opened the door from the outside. There were two small antipersonnel stun drones on standby, waiting to attack anyone who came through the door. There was also a small stun grenade with a sensor set to go off if the door were to open, along with a couple of other, less tech-y surprises.

Cullough could feel his head getting heavier and his body began to ache for sleep. Maybe I can just close my eyes a bit, he thought, our little booby traps will wake us if anyone tries to get in the room...

Suddenly there was bright flash and a hard impact on his forehead. Cullough tried to move but his limbs wouldn't obey. Finally, he began to feel his arms, slowly, sluggishly, start to respond to his commands. Feeling returned to his body.

He was hunched over the table. He slid off the seat and landed in a heap on the floor. I passed out and hit my head on the table. I can't open my eyes, he realized. There's something wrong here. Something seriously wrong.

With a herculean effort, he finally forced his eyes open. His arms worked, barley. He slapped himself weakly to force himself awake. Again. Again. Again.

Culllough stood weakly... he then tore into his duffel bag. He pulled out a toxyrad gauge... one of the lights was blinking, warning of a dangerous amount of toxic chemicals in the air.

Cullough brought it along in case he found himself aboard a ship - he couldn't be sure where he might end up on this op - that had issues with its life support system, which is also why he brought a rebreather module as well. It could filter out most toxins from breathable atmosphere, could also separate out hydrogen to supply oxygen when underwater. It even had a 5 minute supply of oxygen for use in an environment with no oxygen - which would give him an extra five minutes to don a spacesuit should his life support cut out suddenly.

He switched it on and shoved the mouthpiece into his mouth. Immediately his head began to clear. He checked the toxyrad meter. Carbon Monoxide, he thought. Clever. Odorless and colorless. We both fall asleep and never wake up; they just pick the lock and waltz right in. Game over.

He rushed over to Heywood, shook her. No response. He shook her harder. Nothing. He took a deep breath, held it, then pried open her mouth and inserted the rebreather mouthpiece. He held her nose to force her to breathe though her mouth. He took her pulse. Slow, but still steady. Come on, wake up, dammit. Whoever is trying to gas us will be walking through that door any minute. Wake up!

He took a couple of breaths from the module, then gave it back to Heywood. Collough grabbed the medkit, took out the mini-hypo and two vials of adrenaline. He slammed the syringe into her neck.

Heywood began coughing. Cullough slapped her. Her eyes stayed shut. He gave her another shot of adrenaline and then slapped her harder. He snatched the breather module and took a quick breath.

Heywood's eyes opened. "Wha-?" she muttered. "Robbie?"

"Try again," Cullough said. "Put this back in your mouth... breathe through your mouth. Our friends will be here any second."

"What's going on..."

Cullough wet a rag and put it over his nose and mouth. It wasn't as good as the rebreather but it would have to do. "Wake up Heywood. The party's about to start." He went over to check the surprises they had left by the door. The stun grenade and the two drones were dead. Small, localized EMP, Cullough thought. Looks like the door's shorted out too. They're on the other side of the door.

Cullough rushed back to Heywood, now on her feet. "Heywood, they're here. They're coming in. Get ready."

She stared at him blankly for a moment, then saw the news sink in. Wide eyed, she nodded. Hope she's sobered up, he thought as he grabbed the Phase pistol and the PPG from the table, leaving the Beretta for Heywood.

Cullough killed the lights and threw himself on the floor across from the door... about four meters away. He hoped everything he knew about smoke rising from a fire also applied to carbon monoxide if there wasn't a fire. He pulled the bag over next to him. He still had a couple surprises the EMP hadn't knocked out.

Cullough heard a creaking noise from the door... it was being opened manually. He pulled a small sphere out of the bag, about 7cm in diameter. He held the rag to his face with his left hand and the sphere with his right. Hopefully they think we're already out or dead.

Cullough didn't know what Heywood was doing and he didn't have time to care. He saw a bright crack as the door slowly slid open. It was bright in the hall... giving him three clear silhouettes to shoot at while he had a second until their eyes adjusted to the darkness.

He pressed the "on" switch on the flare and tossed it at the intruders’ heads, then he shut his eyes tight. He heard the flare discharge and the shouting began. He opened his eyes and saw two humans and a Paranid covering their eyes, stumbling into the room. Two plasma shots to each of the humans took them down. Another shot to the Paranid wounded him but he staggered back out into the hall before the plasma gun could power up for another shot.

Another human and a Split appeared in the doorway, firing rapid fire laser weapons. The barrage hit the bulkhead behind Cullough, who was still lying prone on the floor. Another Split filled in behind them as the three slowly entered the room, weapons at the ready, eyes not quite adjusted to the darkness. As they were stepping over the bodies of the first two humans, Cullough tossed his last flare. The three were blinded and began firing blindly.

Cursing to himself as laser fire landed all around him, Cullough took down the human and the first split. The second Split, however, was the first of the thugs to have some sort of body armor that blocked the plasma fire. He also wore a clear plasteel bubble helmet that protected his head from the plasma fire as well. He was still blinded from the flare... Cullough jumped up, wound up and kicked the Split as hard as he could in the groin.

The Split howled in pain. Yup, guess theirs is in the same place, Cullough thought. A small furtive figure appeared at the door - a Teladi. She tried to train her weapon on Cullough but Cullough shoved the reeling Split at the newcomer and the Teladi's laser fire hit the large Split instead. Whether the Split was not armored in the back or the Teladi's modern laser rifle was more powerful than Cullough's archaic plasma gun, Cullough couldn't say but he didn't care as the dead Split collapsed on top of the Teladi. The Teladi deftly deflected the much larger thug so he landed on the floor next to her but in the second it took for the Teladi to shove the Split out of the way, Cullough raised his PPG at the small reptile and opened fire.

Cullough heard more thugs in the hallway and retreated from the foyer back into the room. At least with the door open we're airing out the CO, Cullough thought. He reached into his duffel and grabbed his combat knife.

"UNHOLY CREATURE!!!" bellowed the Paranid out in the hall, apparently recovered from the plasma burn he'd suffered just a minute before. "I WILL GRIND YOU INTO DUST! YOU WILL WISH YOU HAD DIED IN THE WOMB!!!"

Guess I got his attention, Cullough thought. Terrific. He slowly shuffled over to where his last surprise waited.

A human head appeared in the doorway. Cullough fired, missed. The human appeared in the door again, about to enter, but was suddenly shoved out of the way from behind. "INFIDEL! HE IS MINE!" bellowed the Paranid. The incensed Paranid then charged through the door straight for Cullough. Cullough's plasma gun was still charging for another shot. The phase pistol was over on the floor where Cullough had laid when the attack began. Unfortunate oversight, Cullough thought. This could be bad.

The Paranid himself was rather short for his race, being about human height. He was, however very stocky and far stronger than any human. However, his height was the key in the unfolding of the next couple of seconds.

It is a testament to the level of desperation of both Cullough and Heywood that, when going through an old equipment closet down the hallway they found, of all things, an old Argon garden rake. Had they not been so desperate for any manner of defense Cullough never would have suggested taking the rake and Heywood never would have grudgingly agreed to it.

As it was, Cullough had laid the rake on the floor with the tines sticking up, in a line between the door and where Cullough was now standing. The enraged Paranid charged at him, his heavy combat boot on his right foot landing squarely on the exposed rake with all of the might of the most physically powerful spacefaring race in the known galaxy. The rake's handle shot upward like a rocket, with a force no human could possibly generate, to smash squarely into the face of the charging Paranid, snapping the wooden handle at the point of impact and stopping the enraged creature cold.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!"

The Paranid staggered backward, blinded by pain. Cullough drew his knife and planted it in the rib cage of the Paranid and twisted. The Paranid screamed again.

However, as Paranid are incredibly powerful creatures, even the short ones have stamina far beyond that of most humans. The rake handle to the face was extremely painful but not incapacitating. Even the knife wound was not immediately life threatening. Powered by adrenaline, the Paranid backhanded Cullough before he could withdraw his knife. Cullough flew across the room into the wall. Before Cullough knew it, the Paranid's right claw had seized him by the neck from behind and hurled him across the room into the facing wall.

Cullough ricocheted off the wall and landed on the bed. Stunned, he just managed to roll off the bed before the Paranid smashed the bed with an overhead blow, snapping the bed frame in half. Cullough spun around and grabbed the knife hilt, still protruding from the alien's midsection. He twisted the hilt, making the Paranid scream in pain once again. However, Cullough had once again underestimated the Paranid's endurance, as wounds that would have finished a human still could not stop this creature. A punch to the face sent Cullough back against the wall behind him. The Paranid seized him by the throat and lifted him off the floor, pinning him, back against the wall, feet kicking impotently a full meter off the ground.

"Impudent piece of trash," the Paranid growled. "Now shall you know the true meaning of agony... before you go to meet the Great Beyond," said the Paranid, before adding, with what sounded like a laugh, "and are found wanting."

Cullough tried kicking at the Paranid's face, even at the knife still buried in his rib cage, but none of the blows had any effect. The room was starting the spin and get dark and the only thought in his mind was that this was really hampering his ability to enjoy the air now without all of the carbon monoxide.

Then there was a flash. Then another. Then many more in rapid, staccato fashion.

When Cullough opened his eyes, he saw Heywood standing over him, peering down, her own blaster pistol in her right hand. "Are you all right?" she said.

"Sure," he groaned. "Never felt better."

"Can you move? We need to get going."

Cullough sat up slowly. "I think so." He looked around the room. The Paranid was dead, multiple laser wounds in the back. The other human thug was lying in the door, also dead.

"We need to go, Cullough. Even if they don't have any more friends aboard, we can't get caught here by Teladi authorities."

Cullough's body felt like a big, jellied mass of pain. He staggered over to the table to collect his things. "Roger... that," he replied slowly.

"I packed all of your stuff. Your bag is by the table. Let's GO!"

"Right. Let me grab it." He picked up the bag, staggered to the door. They took off down the hall.

"Which way?" asked Heywood.

Left led to the lift tubes to the hangar. Cullough nodded to the right. "This way. We'll take the scenic route to the hangar. It involves stairs, the occasional ladder, but it'll be a lot less crowded."

"Let's do it," she answered. "Here, take this," Heywood said, pressing the phase pistol into his hand.

"Thanks, he replied," checking the safety and then stuffing it his belt.

"That PPG of yours is done. And, what was that? A glock?"

"Beretta."

"A slug thrower? Really?"

"Any old port in a storm," Cullough replied.

"So says the guy who thinks a garden rake on the floor is an ingenious booby trap. Who taught you in basic, Groucho Marx?"

"Hey, it worked didn't it?"

"Yeah, worked great," Heywood said dryly. "I especially liked the part where you almost got your neck broken pinned against the wall."

"Yeah, yeah, everyone's a critic," Cullough grumbled.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For the next twenty minutes they took different ladders, stairways and mini lifts to different levels of the station. They took a circuitous route back to the hangar, checking to make sure they weren't being followed. They jumped in the main lift for the last couple of levels back to the hangar. They rode in silence, waiting until they were off the lift to speak.

The doors slid open. Cullough, slowly, gingerly began making his way to his Sabre. "Ohhhh..." he muttered under his breath.
"You all right," Heywood asked, genuine concern in her voice.
"I just hurt everywhere," Cullough replied. “And I haven't slept in over forty hours..."

Heywood winced. "I know, you're a wreck..."

"Thanks a lot."

"After what you went through, anyone would be," Heywood replied, not unkindly. "Look, once we get out of this sector, well, what's the best place to get you some medical attention?"

"To be safe? Heretic's End. Anywhere else they'll start asking questions we don't want to answer."

"I was afraid of that. I guess we're going to Heretic's End, then."

"Wait, don't we have to meet your contact in a couple of hours? We have a mission here..."

"And you're in no condition to continue," Heywood shot back. "He's waiting on us, we're not waiting on him." Cullough saw Heywood clench her jaw, take a deep breath, then continue. "I'll stall him. The op can wait one more day. You need to recuperate."

"Look if we need to-"

"No. If we hit combat, and I'm pretty sure we will, you need to be 100 percent. Or as close to it as you can get. I need you for this Cullough, no one else can do this. We don't have any other shit-hot pilots who know the Commonwealth the way you do. We wait. You rest. That's an order, pilot."

Cullough glanced at her face after the last comment, saw a faint smile there.

"Do you think we'll have to fight our way out of this sector?" she asked.

"I don't know. But the way the sector's laid out we'll be able to see any hostiles from a long way off. So that's good, at least."

"Okay. It's a long haul, though, I'm afraid..."

"Yeah. Once we're back in Federation space we won't have to worry about Teladi Security," Cullough said, looking around, "if they decide to pinch us after that little fracas. But it'll pretty much be backwater sectors until we reach Omicron Lyrae. Nathan's Voyage worries me most... there's a lot of pirate activity there."

"Okay. We'll do this... once we're out of this sector, you lock your autopilot onto my ship and get some sleep. Since I did get to sleep - a little - I'll keep a lookout for hostiles and if I see anything, I'll wake you over the comms. How's that?" Heywood asked.

"Okay, that works," Cullough agreed. "Let's get out of here before-"

Cullough was cut off by an eruption of klaxons and flashing red beacons.

"Guess they found the aftermath of our little party."

"Guess so," Heywood replied.

"ATTENTION. ALL DEPARTING PILOTSSSS SSSSSTAND DOWN. REPEAT, ALL DEPARTING PILOTSSSS SSSTAND DOWN BY ORDER OF TELADI COMPANY SSSSSSECURITY..."

"Their sealing the hangar," Cullough spat. "Dammit!"

"Get to your ship! We don't have much time!"

"They've locked the ship-lifts, Heywood. We can't get our ships from the hangar to the launch bay!"

"I've got a black box on my ship. I can try to override the lifts!"

Cullough stared at her in amazement for a moment. Then he turned and ran for his Sabre.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A minute later he was in his cockpit, hearing the whine of the engines powering up behind him. Heywood, I hope you know what you're doing...

Then he heard a reptilian voice in his helmet comm. "Pilot, we read you powering up your enginessss... do not attempt to depart the ssstation. Repeat, do not attempt the depart the sssstaion..."

Cullough read through the preflight checks on the panel. Engines at 80%... shields powering up... weapons on line...

"We have dissssabled the hangar liftss pilot... you will be unable to lift off..."

At that moment, he felt his ship begin to rise - the lift was taking him to the launch bay. He briefly considered making a wiseass comment about the lifts working fine, but then figured he didn't need to leave Security with another voiceprint they could use to identify him. He looked to his left, saw Heywood's Elite also rising through the floor of the launch bay.

"NNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!" screeched the reptilian voice over the comm.

Cullough smirked. Then he saw the hanger doors begin closing. The smirk vanished. "Sorry," he heard Heywood say, "nothing I can do about those." Cullough said nothing. The keyed the boost extension and firewalled the throttle.

The Terran Sabre was the fastest Interceptor class fighter in the galaxy at that time... nearly as fast as the Teladi Harrier M5. With a boost extension unit installed, it left the Teladi controllers dumbfounded as it went from zero to over 200 m/s before even leaving the launch bay.

Cullough saw the doors closing, closing... the top door looked ready to take his head clean off. Then he was through and out in space. He banked left and searched for Heywood's interceptor.

The Argon Elite was a "heavy interceptor"... it was nowhere near as fast as Cullough's ship; on top of that, its engines hadn't been fully upgraded and it didn't have the boost extension. By comparison with the Sabre, it lazily meandered across the bay toward the rapidly closing bay doors...

"Come on Heywood..." Cullough heard himself whisper. "Come on..."

One other thing the Elite did not have in comparison with the Sabre was its girth. The Elite was a much flatter and slimmer (if far slower) ship. And it was a much more heavily shielded ship, so as the Elite was slipping out the bay doors as they closed, they clipped the stabilizer fins on the Elite's outboard engines... but were stopped, however briefly, by its dual 25MJ shields, allowing the ship to escape undamaged into space.

"Yes!" Cullough heard himself exclaim. "Come on, let's make like a tree and freaking run!"

"Great idea," Heywood answered. "Any bogies?"

Cullough checked his display again, then did a visual sweep with his eyes then his scanners. "None. We're clear!"

"Let's move!!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They had carefully skirted around the center - and traffic - of Grand Exchange while maintaining complete comm silence. They reached the Belt of Aguilar Gate with no incidents.

Cullough let out a huge sigh of relief as they emerged in the Belt of Aguilar system.

"You okay over there, flyboy?"

Cullough took another deep breath. "I think I am, Ms. Heywood." He looked around through the canopy. Then he checked the gravidar. "No hostiles to report," he added. "You know, I think I'm going to go sleepytime now..."

"That sounds like a good idea, Mr. Cullough."

"Okay. Locking my autopilot on to your ship," Cullough said. "Keep in mind, keep checking the grav regularly and you should be able to see anything coming our way. Except for Om Ly, we don't have any heavy asteroid fields or major traffic areas from here to HE, so if you keep your eyes on the grav, there's no way anyone should be able to sneak up on us... UNLESS... are you listening?"

"Roger that. Go ahead," she replied.

"Unless they launch at us from a nearby station. So remember to give all stations, no matter what kind, a wide, wide berth. Remember, any station, whether it's a mine or a cattle ranch or a trading station could be launch point for hostile ships - pirates, bounty hunters or what-have-you. So steer us clear."

"Roger. Got it. Thanks, Cullough."

"Thank you for getting us home."

"My pleasure."

There was a pause. Then, "Oh Heywood?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks for saving my ass back there."

There was another pause. "Baloney. Thank you for saving mine."

"My pleasure. Oh, uh..."

"Yes?"

"Who's Robbie?"

There was a long pause. Heywood's voice became cold and distant. "Not now, Cullough. Please, not now."

"Okay. Sorry."

"That's okay. Get some sleep, pilot."

"Yes sir. Wake me when we get there."





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Sabrina Bergin





Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 2166 on topic
Location: Portsmouth UK
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PostPosted: Thu, 21. May 15, 08:39    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

JJRSC:

Nice to see you back again, always ready to read more.

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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Fri, 22. May 15, 02:45    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thank you, Mr. Bergin. I have to give you credit, you planted the bug in my ear to finish this little story. I think I'm ready to write a full story and not just the little snippets I've been posting so far. Thanks again, I appreciate it!

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Sabrina Bergin





Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 2166 on topic
Location: Portsmouth UK
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PostPosted: Fri, 22. May 15, 03:46    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

JJRSC:

Ooops! was that me?

If so I won't apologise you are a good writer and I as I suspect many others like your style.

A full blown story! I am definitely going to be reading that so stop lapping up the praise, and get back to that keyboard.

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