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The more things change... or, Trapper Tim's first experience in AP
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Timsup2nothin





Joined: 22 Jan 2009



PostPosted: Fri, 13. May 16, 03:46    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

York Sahkarna returned to Herron's Nebula from his hitch in the Argon fleet without illusions.

"It's not just a job, it's an adventure" hadn't really worked out. He'd gotten a couple promotions and wound up a helmsman on a military transport, but he'd seen enough of the military that he no longer thought it represented anything but an arm of the privileged rather than the common people. He had joined up believing the Argon were "the good guys" and come away believing that while they were maybe a little better than others, for the most part everyone would be better off without the military on both sides, and the military on all sides made sure there were always wars just to keep anyone from noticing.

He also had no illusions about where his life was headed. His opinions had influenced his superiors so he hardly had a record of glowing reviews; far from it. He was capable enough, but unlikely to be hired as anything above the lowest level of shipboard grunt. If he was going to be a lowest level grunt he would earn a better living in the mines.

York stepped off the shuttle at the trading station into the docking hood. Passenger shuttles got the courtesy of having the docking hood fully environmentally controlled, so he could walk to the docking pod. His kitbag hung over his shoulder and his hair still met the requirements of a military cut. His brother thought York looked exactly the same as he had when he came home on leave, even though he knew what sort of turmoil was going on under the squared away surface.

"Welcome home," Brent said as the two men started with a handshake that ended in a hug.

"Thanks for being here."

"Wouldn't be anywhere else."

"Thought you had a new job." York had never approved of Brent's association with Bruno Acks, head of the local distilling company. He had been glad to hear that his brother had moved on. But he had also been questioning his own judgements. In light of his new views on government and the social order it was a lot harder to condemn.

"Yeah, I do. There's plenty of down time though."

York looked at his brother out of the corner of his eye as they strode down the corridor towards the lift that connected the docking pod with the station hub. In the somewhat shady world of Herron's Nebula, where they had both grown up, plenty of down time frequently came from jobs that were straddling some sort of line, if not outright criminal.

Brent caught the look. His brother had always been more self righteous than Brent was comfortable with. He had thought that the disappointments of the military might have mellowed him, but the look made him wonder.

Brent plunged ahead. "Look, part of the reason I have time today is that my boss wants to meet you," he said.

York stopped walking. "Why?"

Brent turned to face him. "I don't know."

"What does your boss know about me? And why would you talk to your boss about me anyway?" York's anger was rising.

"I didn't. Not much, anyway. It's a small company; more like a partnership. A partnership where he put up the money, so he wants to know about who is helping him spend it. I told him I had a brother in the military; helmsman on a transport. And now I told him you were mustering out. He told me to take some time off, meet you when you got home."

"And I'm supposed to meet him, just because my brother works for him." York was angry, and it showed.

"This was a mistake. I told Red this was a mistake." It seemed to Brent that every encounter with his brother ended in a fistfight. A farce of a fistfight, since neither one really wanted to hurt the other one. They would end up, both furious and both panting, worn out from dancing around each other, and looking foolish.

Then, surprisingly, York shrugged. "Okay, take it easy." He focused somewhere high and outside of Brent's right shoulder. "I've thought about you a lot. I regret a lot. I know I was always an asshole about how you...rode the lines. Now I'm not sure the lines are in a good place, or that the people who draw those lines aren't actually worse than anyone who rides them. So...I'm sorry, I guess is what I need to say."

Brent really had no idea what to say. He was afraid that if he said anything his brother's entire speech would pop like a soap bubble and be gone like it never happened. He just stared.

Eventually, York brought his gaze in from whatever distant point he was seeing and looked his brother in the eye. "So, where do we meet this boss of yours? I promise to behave."

"Thanks." Brent paused. "Thanks for that." He paused again. As this change in his self-righteous brother soaked in he found something new to be concerned about. "About Red..."

"Yeah?"

"I told him what I said, no more no less."

"Okay."

"But, you should know..."

York let a brief annoyance pass before he spoke. "Go ahead. Out with it."

"He might know more about you than just what I've told him."

York shrugged. "What's to know?"

"He has a lot of sources, York. Red Ellis might know which sock you put on first in the morning. Don't underestimate him. He doesn't meet people just to be social."

Brent's comlink chirped. He checked the screen on the arm of his enviro-suit. "Speak of the devil, he's docked. Hang on a second." He slipped an earwig into his ear and stepped to the side of the corridor. "Hey Red."..."Yeah."..."Yeah, we're in the connector on the way to the hub."..."Hold on." He turned back to York.

"Red is docked, apparently in something bigger than usual. He's invited us aboard, since we haven't settled anywhere yet." He looked back the way they had come, towards the docking pod.

York adjusted the strap of his kitbag where it rode on his shoulder. "Let's do this," he said, and started walking.

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

York was trying not to be impressed, but it wasn't working. The OTAS built Zephyrus was brand new, and superior to the Magnetar he had served on in pretty much every way.

Red Ellis was not what he had expected. He showed off his ship, and no doubt he was proud to own her, but there was an objectivity about it. Yes, he had bought a great ship, but it was clear he wasn't saying that that made him great somehow.

The tour ended on the bridge. There was a soft ping, and almost immediately a door opened in the aft bulkhead. A woman emerged and said "Captain." She didn't salute, but it was in her voice.

"Just touring," Red replied. "Carry on."

The woman nodded to York and his brother and disappeared back into what York guessed was the wardroom.

"Currently my first, and only, officer. The ship is designed for single operator flight during routine operation. Not exactly standard for the military."

"Definitely," York agreed. He looked around, counting quickly and silently. "Looks like full compliment is about the same though."

"Yes," Red pointed to stations as he ticked them off on his fingers. "At battle stations she needs a weapons officer there," he pointed to a lower seat in front of the weapons officer's, "with main battery gunner there." Raised slightly higher on either side were two seats with substantial control consoles; Red indicated them in turn saying "helm and engineer." At the rear of the bridge on a slightly higher tier were four more stations; "Sensors, Flight Ops, Comms, First Officer." Leaving the even higher seat in the center rear as the command chair.

York knew that most civilian operators didn't bother with full compliment crews. "That would be a lot of payroll," he said.

"Ships always make me a lot of money. She'll pay for herself. She also needs two turret gunners and crew for the engine room and the hanger bays, plus a damage control team. I'll happily pay them rather than need them and not have them."

"You going to war?"

"One never knows. I'm not going looking for one, but that doesn't mean one won't find me."

"Your first officer; she's ex-military?"

"No. I don't hire many ex-military. Usually more ex-pirates."

"Hard to get a disciplined crew without disciplined people.

"Oh, pirates aren't as undisciplined as you might think. Ex-pirates anyway. Fighting a ship is fighting a ship, and when a crew knows their lives will depend on the outcomes they are generally just as motivated whether they are military or not. Leadership is certainly more important though. The military standard of assigned authority doesn't really work well." He gestured towards the wardroom portal. "Latasha doesn't follow my orders just because I own the ship and pay her well. She has to know that I'm the best man for the job and offer the best chance of survival...and there's no fleet command somewhere telling her that I am and insisting that she believe it."

York found himself nodding, and forced himself to be still. What Red was saying struck a chord with things he had thought himself at times, when he had chafed under a "superior" officer who demonstrated no particular superiority. "How do you put together a crew like that?" he asked. "It seems like even if you get people who recognize your claim to authority, at some point they have to sort out where they stand in relation to each other. If you can't just say 'this is my first officer because I say so' how do you get one?"

Red laughed. "Well, as I said Latasha is my first officer because at the moment she is my only officer, and truthfully I'd like to get her back to her own ship. When we are in space we rotate six hour watches in the command chair. As soon as I hire another officer we'll take her back to her ship. That officer will help me fill out the rest of the crew, understanding that if we find someone better qualified they will get stepped down."

"So she won't be staying on?"

"No. She has fine skills, but she's spent her whole career as a freighter pilot." He gestured towards the command chair. "Rigged for single seat operations there's nobody I'd trust more, but put people between her and the controls she wouldn't have a clue. You ever flown single seat?"

Of course York had flown small craft, which were single seat, but that's not what was being asked. A ship this size had a host of extra functions to be controlled, and the command chair was surrounded by a fortress of consoles and displays. "No," he said, honestly enough.

"Every officer has to be able to. For routine operations the bridge has a two man crew, ideally. Everyone has to take their share of watches. That's another reason I hire more ex-pirates than ex-military. Flying a freighter, solo, is in some ways better training for the routine."

"Not better training for when you go to battle stations though, since you man a full complement."

"True. Single seat is easy enough to pick up for a skilled helmsman, for example, and having a skilled helmsman in battle is useful."

Brent had stood silently the entire time. Now he spoke up. "You're offering him a job."

Red looked at him. "You thought I wanted to meet him just because he is your brother? But, no, I'm not offering him a job." He turned back to York. "I'm offering you an interview though."

"Let's say I was interested," said York. "When would this interview be?"

"Well, it would start now. I prefer that my employees, especially high value employees like your brother, don't have to stand around waiting for shuttles. So I'm giving him a ride back. If you are interested take that seat." He pointed to the helmsman's chair.

York looked at the crisp new covering on the seat. He was aware again that the ship was brand new. Red spoke as if reading his mind. "No, no one has ever sat there in earnest. I've checked out all the controls, but otherwise no one has ever flown her from there."

York looked back and forth from Red to his brother. He knew that this was part of the test. Would he drop everything and go? Would he be intimidated about taking the helm of a brand new ship of a class he had never flown? He nodded. "Okay then." He looked at Brent. "I was hoping we could spend some time together."

Red said "He has a week off. We can take the long way." He slid into the command chair and danced his fingers over the controls, then started rattling off terse sentences that were obviously going to different places as directed by the comm console. "Prepare for immediate underway," came over the announcing system. "Station control, Zephyrus romeo echo zero zero one, requesting clearance for emergency departure."

He looked at Brent as Latasha burst onto the bridge. "You should take flight ops, even though we aren't going to have any." He indicated the seat to his left.

Latasha was already sliding into the first officer seat on his right. She hit a button and straps spun across her thighs and up over her shoulders. The seat moved with her as it continued to cup her back through the movements she needed to make to reach controls. "Airlock cycled for docking hood withdrawal," she reported. "Board is yellow. Three unsecured on the main bridge." Yellow meant the ship was space worthy, but not rigged for extreme maneuvers.

"Station control, Zephyrus romeo echo zero zero one is clear for hood withdrawal." Red hit his own control and the command chair grabbed him the same way that Latasha's had enfolded her. He hit a couple more buttons. "Helm control station activated." He looked at York, who had just shifted into a run for what was apparently his seat.

"Helm active, aye." He hoped that he recognized a stow master unit on the back of the seat and slammed his kit bag against it. The bag was enveloped in fibrous tendrils. He slid into the seat and hit the straps. "Helm rigged for space." He felt the shudder as the docking clamps released and did a quick visual scan to verify that the docking hood was folding up and away from the ship. He rapidly checked proximity sensors, and verified that all the controls were where he expected them to be.

"Helm shows green, command shows green" Latasha reported. Red looked down at Brent as he locked in. "Flight Ops shows green, green board," Latasha concluded.

Red pressed a button and said "Acknowledged, station control." He released the button and continued, "We are cleared for departure helm. Full throttles on your mark."

York was astonished. This was a brand new ship. Someone he had just met was entrusting him, on thirty seconds notice, to perform a full throttle undocking maneuver. "Proximity sensors are clear," he said calmly. He pressed forward on the joystick with his right hand and switched views on his main screen with his left, saying "Maneuvering," as the thrusters pressed the nose of the ship down and away from the docking pod. On his screen he watched the stern of the ship counter rotate up towards the docking hood, which was still not fully withdrawn. He checked the view out the main port spread across the nose of the ship in front of him and scanned the screens thumbnailed along his main panel screen to verify no ships were in the approach pattern and close enough to cause problems. He kept the primary window of his main panel screen on the narrowing gap between the ship and the hood. "Standby full throttles, and... mark."

"Full throttles," Red said as he activated the engines. "Boost accelerator on your mark, Helm."

"Standby boost and, mark."

"Boost engaged." The ship rapidly accelerated to her top speed, pressing them comfortably into their seats despite the gravity generator straining to compensate. Red continued speaking after switching the comms, "Station control, Zephyrus romeo echo zero zero one is away. Thanks for the fast work." He released the button he had held. "Helm, establish course for the Argon Prime gate. Asteroid clearance at your discretion. Ship clearance five kilometer minimum."

York acknowledged the order. Thirty seconds later he reported "On course for Argon Prime gate." He determined for himself that he would maintain one kilometer clearance on the numerous asteroids in the asteroid field.

Red announced "Rig for routine running, with the exception of the helm station. Latasha, please show Brent to quarters in the wardroom. Written critique of the helmsman's performance of the departure maneuver on my screen in ten."

"Yes sir," she replied. She pressed her release. "Board is yellow."

"Helm, board is yellow," Red echoed as he released his own straps. "Prepare to critique the departure maneuver in fifteen minutes."

York was trying to keep up, and he acknowledged the orders. This was certainly not what he expected as a job interview, but he liked the military precision. He wasn't sure he wanted the job, but he committed himself to excel.

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

"So, what is the biggest thing missing?" Red asked.

"From my performance?" York asked.

"From the ship's performance."

"We are fifteen minutes out of dock, running routine, and I don't have an order for station clearance. If you have a standing order I don't know it."

"And you didn't ask."

That stung. "No sir, I did not."

"We both know you aren't going to pass close to any stations between here and the gate. I don't expect questions in the heat of the moment unless they are critical, and we need to align our judgements as to what is critical. Establishing routine running isn't a heated moment."

"Aye, sir."

"The sir is not offensive, but also not necessary."

"Aye...sir. That one would take a while to break."

"No problem. So, what else was missing, and what do you think of the evolution overall?"

Red listened. York was diplomatic, but not afraid to speak his mind about putting the ship in the hands of an unknown helmsman without even giving the first officer the courtesy of an introduction. Red was pleased to be challenged, and explained that Latasha had known about and agreed with the interview process ahead of time.

They discussed a few other small points. York recognized that Red was weighing every move he made with the ship, as well as the quality of his observations about not only his own performance, but Red's performance. Different, to say the least, but York thought it was probably better than the military approach. As long as you didn't mind turning the helm of a ship over to someone that you just met, of course.

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

The interview lasted a week. York couldn't say exactly when he determined that he really wanted the job, but he knew that he did. They took a seemingly aimless course through the region. Initially York served as helmsman on Red's watches, sometimes staying over when Latasha took the command chair. Then as they entered the bridge Red told him it was time he relieved Latasha himself.

Controlling all functions of the ship was more hectic than he could keep up with at first. He wasn't satisfied with the way things sneaked up on him, but couldn't come up with a consistent sequence of checks. But watches passed without incident as Red watched.

Then, after Red pointed out a ship that had appeared at the edge of the gravidar while he was momentarily stopped, considering an oddly high but not dangerous engine temperature reading he almost snapped. "How do you keep track of everything?" he asked, exasperated.

"I don't."

York stared at him. He didn't know what to ask, so he figured he would just wait Red out.

"I don't keep track of everything."

More waiting. But York's mind was turning that over. This time Red out waited him. "Engine temperatures...it was higher than usual."

"And that could be important. Not as important as fast moving traffic. We have a triplex scanner system, so we get plenty of notice, but even so. The high engine temperature wasn't at an alarm level, so it is either something or nothing. If you think it's nothing, move on. If you think it's something it isn't your job to find out what, or even think about what...unless you are genuinely flying solo seat, with no one else on board. Freighter pilots do that, and I won't promise that it will never happen, but my intention for a ship like this is that it will never leave the dock without at least two pilots aboard. Even though it cost me money you notice I had Natasha aboard myself."

York noted another ship entering the scanner's range and targeted it long enough to establish course and speed. "So, it's something or it's nothing, and if it is something then it is up to someone else to find out what."

"Right."

"My job is to decide if it is something."

"Right."

"If I wake up Latasha and it turns out to be nothing..."

"That can have consequences."

York quickly scanned the engine temperature readings. "It went back down." Red waited. York went back to scanning the gravidar, the main viewport, and what he suddenly determined to call 'primary flight indications' in his own mind. But he was still thinking about the engine temp. "I know it dropped back to normal, but that means two unexplained changes instead of one."

"And?"

"I'll wake Natasha."

"I would too, but since I'm already up you can let her rest." Red turned abruptly and was in the bridge lift before York fully recognized that he was being left alone with the ship.

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

The lift door slid open and Red walked out into the engine room. Walked may be too strong a word, considering that he had to crouch immediately. Even though there was the usual light ship's gravity active he used handholds to maintain his progress as he wormed continuously around equipment.

Latasha was just about to cycle the coolant vent when he came around a corner and caught sight of her. "He caught it the first time," he said.

"I told you so."

"He got distracted thinking about it."

"I'm not surprised at that either."

"No. I think he learned that lesson though. But I'll bet he wakes me up a lot."

"I could stay on. Up to you."

"No, I think he'll be fine. Of course if you want to continue this little vacation I could dock your pay."

She laughed. "Admittedly, standing every other watch does beat dozing in the pilot's chair, but traveling with the boss is too much stress for a vacation. If I'm going to get my pay docked it will be for a stay on a trading station, thanks."

"Like I don't give you enough R and R time." Red joined in the laugh. "Your ship is at the equipment dock in Argon Prime, so I'll order a course change. Any bets on whether he asks for a report on the engine temp issue?"

"Of course he'll ask."

"Ten credits says he doesn't ask, he demands."

"That would be even better." She brought her brows together in a classic 'thinking' face. "I think so too, so you'd have to give me odds."

"Five to one."

"Still a bad bet, but I'll go the two credits."

Red thumbed his comm unit, which was patched into the ship. "Bridge, this is the owner, set course for Argon Prime equipment dock."

Latasha smiled. "Emphasize that you're the owner. Are you trying to lose?"

"Set course for Argon Prime equipment docks, bridge aye," came from the comm unit. "Owner, bridge, report on the engine temperature fluctuation."

"I think his voice went up a little bit at the end there..."

"You would cheat a girl out of two credits?"

"I'm trying to lose. It's ten."

"I'll look for it in my next check. Are you going to acknowledge that order boss, or are you looking for another bet you can lose?"

He pressed the comm stud. "Bridge, owner, I'm on my way. The matter is resolved."

They took their time getting up to the bridge. Red wanted to see how York had handled the course change by himself.

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

Nuts and bolts...

Obviously, I've acquired a TM. The aimless wandering of York's job interview was mostly passenger runs, messenger runs, and of course the occasional slaughter of a Paranid freighter that wandered into Argon space.

--------------------------------------------------------
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
--------------------------------------------------------

The next installment will be long on story, since all the characters are in place and the stage is set. It will feature the death of a character (Oh no! Not Red! ... No, not Red. Well, maybe.) and provide a fitting end to part one.


_________________
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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Timsup2nothin





Joined: 22 Jan 2009



PostPosted: Mon, 16. May 16, 04:11    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

How people chose to live with planetside gravity was completely beyond Brenna Gilharno. She doubted that she was ever going to get over the backache, and wondered if the breasts that had given her the nickname "Big Guns" would ever be the same. Karl didn't seem any less intrigued though, so she wasn't worried about it.

Karl was a little concerned about finances though, and she certainly shared in that. Their planetside honeymoon had cost a mountain of credits. She had not understood how Red Ellis had come back to space nearly broke, but she did now. Argon Prime offered an endless array of pleasures if you had the credits, and Red wasn't known for being disciplined about spending.

He was known for always finding a way to make money though, and she was very glad to see him waiting when they stepped off the planetary shuttle and onto the trading station. She also enjoyed the artificial gravity in the docking pod. What spacers considered "full normal" really was, mathematically speaking, giving her the same weight, but it didn't produce that heavy feeling she had had down on the planet. Maybe it was the inevitable pulsation of the gravity generators.

Even here, where the grav gens were certainly the very top of the line, there was that pulse. She had never realized that it was a bit like a constant massage, a pleasure in its own way. She sighed pleasantly and took Karl's hand.

The trading station above Argon Prime houses the regional stock and commodities exchange. The wealth flowing through the station is staggering, so naturally it offers the most luxurious living short of the planet below. Red took them to the most exclusive restaurant aboard, and had them booked into a suite that he was hoping would make them forget the comforts of the planet below.

They settled into reclining chairs, comfortably holding hands and not feeling the rush towards the bedroom that a younger couple might feel. The anticipation was part of the pleasure, and they had the patience to enjoy it.

They also anticipated that in the morning they would be finding out what Red wanted. Neither of them had any doubt that he wanted something.

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

Over breakfast, again at a five star restaurant, Red told them what he wanted from them. It was certainly too good an offer to refuse.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of meetings. Attorneys, members of the commodities board, representatives from government agencies; too many people to keep straight without their comm units. Of course there was no need to keep them straight without comm units, and in most cases no need to keep them straight at all. They served their function, which was usually to sign off as approving some part of Red's plan, and once they had signed for the most part they could just be forgotten.

Red seemed to keep track of people naturally, though. They saw him many times addressing people by name without referring to his comm unit. People that he said that he "knew in the old days." Karl in particular was surprised, since he had thought of Red as a pirate. Brenna, having been directly associated with pirates for most of her adult life, knew that while Red may have been a pirate he was far from just a pirate. Even the wealthiest pirates wouldn't have lasted a minute on the planet below before they went broke.

They did see Red taken by surprise once in the course of the day. At the offices of the Argon Federal Agricultural Directorate there was a woman, Menika Silarne. She was not someone they had to meet with, but of sufficient importance that when her aides requested a meeting they couldn't say no.

It was immediately obvious to Brenna that she and Karl would not have been invited had there been some way to leave them out. Clearly Menika Silarne in "the old days" had been a minor bureaucrat, working in the offices of someone whose name Red recognized who had since retired. Brenna tuned out most of the conversation, writing it off as "starstruck girl made good meets legend years later" and she was only mildly curious if anything would come of it. She was impressed at how graciously Red handled her though. Brenna was sure he didn't remember her, but doubted that the girl caught it.

The process took nearly a week, but eventually everything was completed. Kingdom Wheat Company was listed on the stock exchange, and eligible to build growing facilities in the region for the purpose of exporting Delaxian Wheat to the Boron. Brenna and Karl were documented as the chief executives.

Spending the last night in their suite they took turns telling the other that it was real, and that they could make it work. Brenna could easily reassure Karl. It seemed to her that his experience at the shipyard would naturally translate to overseeing the maintenance of a factory and a fleet of transports. He was just as confident that after leading a string of girls safely through the rigors of her business, managing pilots and station personnel would be easy for her.

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

The Zephyrus was docked at an ore mine not too far from the trading station in Herron's Nebula, where the lease on a couple of docking ports was cheap. Brent Sahkarna and Kleo Braks arrived in the company Buster. The logo on the hull was distinctive, featuring Teladi folk designs not often found on Argon ships; or Teladi ships for that matter. The spacefaring Teladi consider art to be "not profitable" so such designs are seldom seen off their home planet. The two top mechanics of Herron's Salvage and Shipfitting figured it was good marketing. Besides, they were both making more credits than they had ever dreamed possible, so a little flair was well within their budget.

Brent's brother, York, welcomed them aboard the Zephyrus. "So you're the Captain?" Brent said with a smile. "Well done."

"Who would have thought? Two kids from the mines; now I'm captain of a ship and you have your own company."

"Well, not quite my own. This is my partner, Kleo Braks...and of course there's Red."

Kleo and York shook hands.

"Red tells me the company is yours," York said with a gesture to take in both of them.

"He doesn't have an ownership stake, true enough," Brent replied.

"But at least three quarters of the work we do is for Uncle Red, and mostly he tells us what to charge him, so it's hard to avoid feeling like we work for him," Kleo continued. "No complaint there. He takes good care of us. He's paying probably twice what this job would be bid at, if there were anyone else looking for this kind of job."

York laughed. "Yeah, not a lot of military transports getting luxury office suites added next to the hanger bays I guess, so not a lot of competition for the work. I expected him to just keep the captain's cabin for himself. I was fine in the first officer's cabin."

"You earned it," Brent told him.

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

The two Dolphin freighters hung motionless, side by side. They were well out of the traffic lanes surrounding the Herron's Nebula gate and well clear of the Power Circle asteroid belt. Red brought his Discoverer scout ship to a smooth stop between them.

He verified the remote operations software for the transporter was functioning properly, then opened the comlink to both ships. The two Boron appeared in half panels on his main screen. "If one of you would like to be the host, I can beam myself and the other aboard." Red would much rather have skipped the high pressure methane atmosphere and zero gravity, but even the best encryption isn't perfect and this was a meeting he didn't want broadcasting through the comms. The expansion of Kingdom Wheat Company would not interfere with the way these two kept the distilleries supplied, or the extra pay they received for the operation, but face to face was the only way to tell them so.

"This Boron would welcome you both aboard," offered Fumi Lo.

"This Boron is standing by for transport," said Tata Pa from the other half of the screen.

"Alright then," said Red, sealing his helmet. "We'll be right over."

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

Her position in the Agricultural Directorate gave her some leeway, but it was unusual for Menika Silarne to visit a cloth factory. The manager had been cordial though. The cloth is woven of fibers made the Delaxian Wheat plant, and the farms where the wheat is grown are the purview of the Agricultural Directorate. She explained that she was surveying end users, asked a few questions, and examined some samples. Not completely in the ordinary, but not so far out of it that anyone was overly curious. It gave her an adequate reason to be on the station.

Her real reason for being aboard involved a bar. The establishment catered to the mill workers, and was certainly not up to the standards she was accustomed to from living aboard the Argon Prime trading station. No sooner had she set foot in the place than she was eager to be on her way. "He is in Herron's Nebula, having some work done on his ship. It should be done in a couple weeks."

Across the table the Paranid hulked in the too small seat. The station had a small residential wing with Paranid atmosphere, but here, like most places, he had to wear a breathing unit. The station welcomed Paranid workers, but few chose to work in such conditions. Of course, those who did were viewed with suspicion. Menika knew there were risks in meeting, even in this out of the way place. "There will be traffic provided. The Red Menace will be drawn here." The huge paw pushed a chip across the table. "The reward, with the ship data." Another chip followed. "And for you."

She took both chips. "I'll send him on his way. If he comes back there will be trouble for me."

"We will make sure that he does not come back."

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

Even on the larger stations space was always at a premium. On a ship, one man taking up four compartments was an extravagance almost beyond measure. Red sat at the large desk, surfaced in genuine planet grown wood, and enjoyed it. This ship was his mobile headquarters, and he considered himself a top executive in three separate, though interlocked, companies. He had too much to do to be working from a pilot's chair on the bridge, or the cockpit of a fighter.

Of course, working from a shipboard office would have its distractions. "Captain to the bridge," sounded from the ship's announcing circuit. He could connect with any shipboard comm circuit, but only the main announcing circuit came through the loudspeakers of the suite, over-riding his music program. If your office gets into combat you need to know so you can strap in.

There were a fairly limited number of possible reasons for the officer of the deck to summon the captain. Most of them were more interesting than reviewing the accounts of his one man, well, one Teladi, smuggling operation. He considered heading up to the bridge himself, but decided not to hang too closely over Captain Sahkarna's capable shoulder. Instead he did a brief walk through of his suite to make sure everything was properly stowed, just in case.

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

On the bridge, York Sahkarna received a quick but thorough briefing from the engineer, who was serving as officer of the deck for this watch, assisted by the weapons officer. They had picked up a Paranid registered freighter on long range scans. In accordance with their standing orders they had adjusted their course to close range. Short range scans were used to examine the cargo. In some cases the ship would be allowed to pass with nothing more than a note in the logs.

Even though they were just on a transit run, not actively hunting, the OOD knew the captain would want to see this for himself. "Captain, we have a Paranid freighter, Demeter class, tracking for Cloud Base gate. She's carrying a full load of firefly missiles." Firefly missiles are inexpensive, as missiles go, intended to be fired in huge swarms. Still, a freighter carrying close to three thousand of them by the engineer's quick calculation represented a quarter million credits; worth more than just a note in the logs.

The captain agreed. "Resume course for the Argon Prime gate until we clear their scanner range, then prep for jump drive," he said. He sat down at the comm station and tapped an internal link. "Red, we've got something interesting here."

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

Their relationship had to be managed carefully. On a ship in space the captain's word is law, and on some practical level Red was just a passenger on his own ship...but on another even more practical level Red did own the ship.

When Red arrived on the bridge York beckoned him with a wave and they moved into the ready room, a space designed to provide the captain direct access to the bridge without actually being on the bridge. They both paused momentarily to overcome their habits, then settled into chairs with York behind the desk. "Looks different from this side," Red observed with a smile.

"You should see it from here. Oh, wait, you have." They both laughed, not that it was particularly funny, but to wash out the little bit of tension this new situation had produced.

"Yeah, I have," Red said. "I don't miss it. You run your ship."

"Thanks." York laid out the situation. "I run the ship, but your name is on the registry. Even if you weren't on board I'd contact you before initiating a fight."

"That's appropriate. I assume that you do want to fight here."

"Definitely. To the pirates on the crew she's a quarter million credit prize. To the patriots on the crew she's an enemy of Argon in our space carrying a load of weapons who knows where."

"Captains make decisions, not crews."

"You taught me that to be accepted as a leader sometimes the most important thing was to figure out where everyone was going and get there first. This is an opportunity. Right now I'm the captain because you said so, in most of their minds. Leading them to where they want to go will help settle the routine."

"Fair enough. Just so I know though, what would you want to do here?"

"I'm with the patriots. I don't see any reason to let this one pass."

"I know sometimes we went after Paranids with less significant cargo. Not much patriotism in commandeering a load of soya beans. Even though by law Paranid transports in Argon space are required to provide for their own defense, some people would consider that piracy. What's your opinion?"

"It isn't piracy. Piracy only happens outside the law. I don't have any question about that. I don't always see the bigger picture the same way you do though. I understand it. I grew up on a mining station, so a Paranid ship hauling in a load of Paranid ore; I can understand that that has an impact. I just wouldn't, on my own, set out to do something about it. It seems like a lot of risk and one load of ore more or less doesn't seem like it would make a lot of difference."

"But a load of missiles clearly makes a difference, and not just because of the cash value."

"Right. A difference that even I can see, just at a glance. I don't doubt that a load of ore, or soya beans, or whatever, can make a difference too, and if you want to put us on a patrol to stop all Paranid shipping I'm in. It's just that this is an easy one."

"Yes, it is. So go get her. But, since the opportunity presents itself, how about we make some bonus credits for the crew. Before you engage I want to know as much as we can about where those missiles are going."

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

As soon as the ship cleared the scanner range of the Paranid vessel the officer of the deck announced the maneuvering watch. Every compartment was cleared of loose equipment, and all stations were manned. York settled in the command chair and strapped in. Red stood in his newly installed observation nest, above and behind the bridge crew. He activated the magnetic boots of his suit and gripped the handrail. A voice command would activate similar magnetic grips in the gloves and his suit would protect him as well as a support chair, so he had chosen not to have a seat installed.

They engaged the jump drive, targeting the far side of the Cloud Base gate, emerging into Cloud Base North West well ahead of the target. The brief discomfort, a feeling some described as "like realizing you were turned inside out without having noticed that it happened," was familiar enough to everyone on board. They steered through the gate traffic, then out of the main shipping lanes.

They maintained the maneuvering watch while the flight operations officer coordinated his crewmen in the hanger decks. They deployed an observation satellite. Then they set course across the sector for the Three Worlds gate and rigged for routine operations.

There were only a couple places the Paranid could be making a legitimate delivery, and Red wanted to keep track of the freighter while he checked them out.

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

In his office he established communications links with his two Boron pilots, Fumi Lo and Tata Pa. Even though they were just cargo pilots delivering wheat for his company, they were the best connections he had in the Kingdom of Boron.

He briefly lingered in frustration. There was a day when he could have just called the commander of the military base in Kingdom End personally and gotten access to unclassified, and even lightly classified information, but that was distant past. It took a lot of time and effort to develop that kind of network. He allowed the frustration for one minute; explored it, wallowed in it, then set it aside. By the time the two Boron responded he was ready to work with what he had.

"Who do you know at the military base in Kingdom End that can answer some questions?"

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

Latasha Nedley was dozing in the pilot's chair of her Mercury. The autopilot was holding a course for the shield factory, where the load of e-cells in her hold would be sold for a small but not unreasonable profit.

She snapped wide awake, shaking off a pleasantly anticipatory dream of a couple days in a real bed while the cargo was off loaded. Like any good single seat pilot her first thought was to the proximity detectors, but they were clear. Incoming message.

Most of the time Red just let her run on her own, even though it was his ship that she flew. Primarily her task was to keep the shield factories in the Argon Cloud Base sector and the Boron Rolk's Fate sector well supplied, and make as many friends as she could. He paid her well, never had any problem if she took some extra time in dock, and overall was the best thing that had happened in her career as a union pilot. So she was ready and willing to accept an abrupt change in her routine at his request.

"Get your cargo off as fast as you can, then get to the equipment docks in Three Worlds."

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

Gil Harno held a trading seat at the Argon Prime Exchange. It had been in his family for generations. He had opposed the plan to expand the exchange to include space based commodities and production, and he regretted not being able to stop it. On the planet he knew everyone there was to know, and knowledge meant profit. Not that he, or any trader, engaged in illegal insider trading (he almost winked to himself), but if public information came to the attention of someone better able to process it, the exchange just rewarded that superior individual appropriately. Now he had to deal with information from other planets, and there was so much of it that he hardly had the advantage he felt like he deserved.

"Take this upstart, Vance Gelette," he told his wife as he scanned his morning data stream over coffee. "He's buying up futures on firefly missiles! He's just some newcomer from the sticks, representing a bunch of wheat farmers. But now I have to try to figure out if he knows something."

His wife, who had married for money not scintillating conversation, held the boredom out of her voice and dutifully replied "What could they possibly know dear?" without really taking her mind off of her own data stream. It was full of much more interesting topics than firefly missiles. He answered, but she didn't really hear what he said.

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

The Paranid had emerged from the Ringo Moon gate into Cloud Base Northwest sector within minutes of the time they had calculated. York watched it on the feed from the satellite long enough to establish its course, then reported to Red. In Red's office he would have felt normal facing Red from in front of the desk instead of behind it, but Red got up and moved to a corner outfitted with very comfortable chairs around a small control console. Clearly designed to present an air of a meeting among equals. "It's in the main shipping lane, headed for Three Worlds gate."

"That fits. The Boron are gearing up for an exercise. He's headed for their military base in Kingdom End." Red pressed some keys on the console, and an overview of Three Worlds sector appeared on a large screen in the bulkhead. Red highlighted the symbols for the equipment dock, and a freighter. "Latasha is inbound. I want her on the station before we strike." He pressed more controls and the image shifted to show the sector they were in. He highlighted their target, and projected a course. "He should be about here when she docks." He pointed to a spot further along the Paranid's expected path. "This is as remote as we are going to get. I want you to drive him as far off the shipping lane as you can before you get him to blow his holds. I don't want anyone else salvaging his cargo. In fact I'd rather no one even sees it before Latasha can pick it up."

"We could wait until she is closer..." York said. He tailed off though, recognizing that Latasha could have already been in the sector if Red wanted her there.

Red laughed. "This is your first combat operation as captain. For now you just handle the ship. I'll introduce you to the intricacies of supply and demand in due time."

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

A couple days later the attack went as planned. Even better than as planned.

They closed on the Paranid at top speed. Several days had passed since they had scanned the target with their short range scanner, and they did not repeat the scans. The forward turret gunners opened fire.

The comms officer put an incoming message on the bridge speakers. "Paranids do not want trouble. Paranid freight is being released."

"Small container. Twelve firefly missiles," reported the sensor officer.

"He thinks we don't know what he's carrying," York said through a grin. "Helm, maneuver for pick up, roll for negative aspect for the turrets. Weaps, let the turret crews know we will be blocking their sight lines. Flight, have the hanger crews stand by to bring that container aboard. Let him think we believe him. Give him some time to run."

The Paranid ran exactly as planned, breaking away from the shipping lane in a doomed effort to reach the docks of the nearest station. Once he was well away from the high traffic area they closed again.

"Turrets hold fire. We want all the juice for the main guns. Helm, run up along his port side. Weaps, open fire with the mains as soon as we're in range and maintain until they run dry. Helm, when the guns drop out, take evasive maneuvers at your discretion but complete the run. I want to come out in front of him."

Where the turret mounted impact ray emitters had slowly gnawed on the target's shields, the twin particle accelerator cannons of the main weapons array literally tore the shields off. "Sensors, full scan," York ordered.

"Definitely blew one of his generators, captain. Hull integrity is down twelve percent. Minor loss of cargo."

The ship took some hits from the cannon mounted in the rear turret of their target, but nothing the heavily shielded Zephyrus couldn't handle. Then they were past it and out of the limited firing arc. "Helm, match target. I want to stay off her bow. Comms, open a channel." When communications were established York demanded the Paranid vent his freight, and the Paranid complied.

"Okay, now that our missiles are safe from harm, I want that ship slowed to a crawl. Helm, bring us about. Engineering, cut throttles as soon as we have a firing arc for the mains. Weaps, let him have it, main battery only. Sensors, monitor hull integrity. Count down from five percent. Weaps, cease fire at two percent hull integrity and we'll let him drag it back to Paranid space. Focus fire on his antenna arrays and main engines."

The ship swung rapidly towards the target. The main battery opened up, slicing away the minimal shielding that had regenerated with the first hits. The comms officer shouted "Incoming message," and York called for the gunner to cease fire.

"On this occasion you have bested me. The ship is yours."

Red, in his observation nest, couldn't hold back his cheer. The bridge crew followed his lead, and their new captain basked in a warm glow.

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

Vance Gelette's office was a shambles. He was barely moved in, and only the most critical systems were functional. He was caught in his shirtsleeves, putting a shelving unit in place, when Gil Harno walked in on him. He had seen Harno on the trading floor, of course. No one could miss the august presence, standing like a lord surveying a kingdom; a recently conquered kingdom.

"Getting settled?" the great one asked. The sneer in his voice and the look on his face made clear what he thought of any trader that would be doing his own unpacking.

"Trying. The schedule is so busy I've not had time to get nearly as much done as I'd like."

"You do seem to have jumped in with both feet."

"My employers can be...demanding."

"So, this buying you've been doing...it was their idea?" Vance just looked at him. No trader was going to talk about what motivated their clients' transactions. Harno had to know it. "Just seemed odd, you being brand new on the floor. A word of advice. You need to be careful. Even the appearance of insider trading can ruin a trader, and their client. Buying up all those futures contracts, on firefly missiles of all things, and having it pan out...pretty mysterious first week trading."

Now Vance nodded. "I can see that." He waved towards the only chair that wasn't stacked with stuff, and cleared another for himself. "It isn't all that mysterious," he said once they were seated. "Kingdom Wheat started as a Boron company, and is still focused on the export market. They are deep in the datastreams around Kingdom End and Queen's Space, so they knew the military exercises were coming and expected there to be some demand on the Argon markets. Plus, their headquarters is under construction in Three Worlds, and you know the equipment dock there is the Argon fleet's primary storage for the firefly. A lot of available information, but all above board. Of course no one expected it to go quite as well as it did."

The Boron fleet in Kingdom End had been caught short when their shipment got lost, and appealed to the Argon to supply them, after Vance had gathered all the available futures contracts at minimum price. The Argon had supplied the needs of their allies, and now the bidding to restock their storage at Three Worlds was driving prices through the roof. "Quite," said Harno. "Are you sure your client will be able to meet the obligations?" He wanted to add "Where is this bunch of backwater farmers going to come up with a year's production of missiles, at any price?" but left it hanging unsaid.

"They seem confident," Vance replied, but there was some hesitation.

"You're new," Harno said with a new tone of bonhomie. "I'd hate to see an over eager client stumbling into a windfall get you in trouble before you're even unpacked. I'd like to make an offer on those contracts. A strong profit, immediate, for your clients, and I have the resources to fulfill on them no matter what the fleet demands. You never want to be caught with a contract you can't meet when the other end is in the hands of the military."

"I'll have to consult my clients. I'd guess they would want to split the deal somehow..."

"No. I'm afraid that just wouldn't do. I know I can fulfill in whole or in part, but I don't want to have part of a missile contract...with the fleet...depending on a wheat farm. I'm sure you understand, and I'd count on you being able to make them understand." The 'brokers united against their silly clients' hung thickly in the air.

"I'll get back to you by the end of the day," Vance said, rising. "And I really appreciate this."

He walked Harno out to the corridor, wondering how long it had been since the great man had deigned to visit the lowly deck where beginning traders such as himself kept their offices. Then he went back to his unpacking.

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

The Mercury slowly nosed into the fields of the docking clamps at the Boron military outpost. Latasha Nedley sighed as she unstrapped from the pilot's chair. The transaction was completed remotely and Boron dock workers were swarming to get the cargo off. She had no need to leave the ship. She also had no desire. She would spend the time in dock catching up on sleep instead of flopping around in the zero gravity. She settled into her cabin and turned on an entertainment vid.

The com unit chimed. She pressed the acknowledgement. A Boron face, framed by tentacles, filled the screen. "This Boron requests permission to come aboard."

She held back a groan. "I haven't got an atmosphere chamber prepared. Best I can do is zero the gravity."

"That will suffice. The Boron has a space suit."

"Great. Five minutes, at the secondary airlock."

The Boron floated in from the lock. Latasha was firmly anchored by her mag boots. She was glad to see the squid like creature was adept with the suit. She didn't relish the idea of being crashed into, or scorched by a thruster blast. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"The Boron government would like to thank you for your help in delivering the cargo."

"I was at the dock, and glad to be of help," she replied as graciously as she could, which was no doubt ten steps short of polite by Boron standards. But the run had been of almost no profit and she was certainly hoping that Red was getting something more out of it than this obsequious squid having to don a space suit to interrupt her rest.

"Your ship appears to be equipped for salvage operations?"

She was further annoyed by the Boron way of turning statements into questions, but she nodded. Then she said "Yes," when she realized the Boron might not recognize the gesture. No doubt if she had tentacles on the side of her head to wave about she could have done better.

"Then, please, accept this chip. It contains the coordinates where our expected shipment was lost. Possibly you could retrieve the cargo, and profit thereby. Also, this would prevent any inconvenience the good allies of the Kingdom might suffer from having made up for this loss." The chip extruded through a port in the Boron's suit, and she plucked it out of the air.

"Unnecessary on your part, but the Kingdom has my gratitude."

"We have expedited the unloading so that you can be on your way. May Rolk smile upon your salvage efforts." The Boron jetted back to the airlock. Latasha pondered the cartography chip as she clumped her mag boots back to the gravity of the ship's main access corridor.

As soon as she was clear to depart she jumped directly to Cloud Base North West, arriving at the gate closest to the coordinates in the chip. She cleared the gate traffic, set the autopilot and surveyed the starfield ahead. "Computer, magnified view, dead ahead, ten times," she instructed. She studied the screen. It looked like two ships had beaten her to the prize. Oddly enough though, one was a Zephyrus, and she had to guess it was probably Red.

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

Latasha pulled back the throttles and the Mercury glided to a halt as the gravity field her engines generated around her collapsed. York Sahkarna appeared promptly on her comm screen. "Can we beam you aboard? I'd offer the hospitality of the captain's table, but you've got a better offer."

She grinned. "Congratulations on your promotion, captain. I can't imagine there's more charming company floating around these parts than you. Maybe I could turn down the other offer."

"Well, I'll be very happy to accompany you, but you really should see what we've done with the place."

"Good enough." She secured a few key controls. "Ready to beam," she finished.

It was the same food as was served in the wardroom, and in fact the same as the crew's mess, but she had to admit that the conference/dining room of Red's suite was pretty amazing for being on a transport.

She was admiring the furnishings and letting her meal settle. Red was obviously enjoying playing host. York was laughing as he finished a hilarious story about a stuffy Argon bureaucrat who had begged them for a ride back to his crisis ridden offices, then haughtily told them he would only tolerate a passenger transport. Latasha had ridden a lot of passenger transports, most of them of the cockroach infested local shuttle variety. The humor of the story was not lost on her.

A comlink chirped quietly, and Red acknowledged. "The call you were waiting for is in, sir," said the officer of the deck.

"Patch it through please." The face of Vance Gelette appeared on a com screen at the open end of the table. "Vance." Red made sweeping gestures of introduction. "Captain York Sahkarna, Merchant Captain Latasha Nedley. Vance Gelette, trader on the Argon Prime stock and commodities exchange. Hopefully bearing good news."

"Indeed. I've sold the contracts, in a block. Exact numbers are in the attached documents, but the net is well north of a million."

"I hope you don't consider the buyer a friend."

"Not at all. He is a pompous bastu, and I hope he loses his ass."

"Well, we shall have to see what the market decides." Red winked broadly at the screen. "Good work, Vance."

"Pleasure, sir. Making a million credit deal before I've even finished setting up my office certainly makes me look good."

"Take your commission and hire some movers Vance. Or, as long as you shop for reasonable rates you can send me the bill. You earned a little bonus here."

"Thanks. I'll make sure to find someone affordable."

Red laughed. "You just made me a million credits. Don't let that influence your ideas on what is affordable." Vance was laughing as he signed off.

Red turned to Latasha. "I trust you kept a contact number for the procurement officer you worked with at Three Worlds."

"Of course," she said.

"Good. Contact him and let him know you have located the lost Boron shipment and will be able to fully replenish his stocks at a reasonable price. Be sure he knows that the Boron gave you the coordinates. Then I need you to claim that Demeter that's floating out there. The guys at Herron's Salvage and Shipfitting are expecting your call and will make a fair bid on her."

"Your name nowhere to be heard?"

"Correct. I had nothing to do with this."

"Other than making a million credits trading on firefly missiles, of course." She smiled while shaking her head in mock disapproval.

Red looked at York, who was trying to follow but not quite staying in his own depth. "Quarter million in cargo, plus a hundred and a half for the ship. Four hundred grand. Captain and crew shares come to sixty percent, which is two forty." Red flipped him a cred chip. "There's an extra fifty thousand in there to cover the expenses for ten days liberty call at the trading station. Make sure nobody tears up my ship." He looked back to Latasha. "I'll take the Buster and give you an escort. Pretty valuable cargo, and some people are going to be seriously pissed off."

York looked more confused. Latasha smiled at him, with laughing eyes that he was a bit further lost in. "Trading is different, captain. Some bastu just got over a million credits shot out from under them in one volley, without anyone even showing up on their scanners. It's a harsh world."

Red nodded. "I told you I'd be introducing you to supply and demand. That's enough for today though. Dessert, and then Latasha has to get to work."

=============================================

Okay, I lied. This was supposed to be the conclusion of part one. I do know how I want it to end, and the mission that inspired the ending is actually long since done, so creative license on shifting the order, blah blah blah.

I just thought there was a little more development to be done on a few of the characters before I could write this proposed ending. Plus, my first adventure with the stock market offered too interesting an opportunity to pass up. I won't use it as an exploit, but I will certainly manipulate it when the opportunity presents itself in the ordinary course of events.

Seriously, NEXT time will be the big conclusion, and someone WILL die.


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Timsup2nothin





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PostPosted: Mon, 16. May 16, 07:08    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I'm curious about a couple things...

Is anyone mildly, or even actively, speculating about who I'm going to kill off?

Which supporting characters do people think are interesting?

Note that I already know who is dying, so don't worry about influencing events...unless you want to influence events. I suppose if every reader said "oh the most interesting character by far is [fill in blank]" and it was the one I'm about to snuff that would complicate matters. But mostly I'm looking ahead to part two.


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Sirrobert





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PostPosted: Mon, 16. May 16, 12:55    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I'm a little confused about what you did with the stock market, but that may be because I never really did much with it.

As for the characters, it always takes awhile for me to learn the supporting characters, so I don't know yet which is the most interesting, and aren't that invested in them yet. York seems the most developed for now, so I'll just say that he's the most interesting.

As for who's going to die: My trope senses tell me it's one half of that couple you put in charge of the Wheat farm. Or York or his brother. Those are the only ones that have anyone to lose (as far as we know yet)


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Timsup2nothin





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PostPosted: Mon, 16. May 16, 16:41    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Sirrobert wrote:
I'm a little confused about what you did with the stock market, but that may be because I never really did much with it.

As for the characters, it always takes awhile for me to learn the supporting characters, so I don't know yet which is the most interesting, and aren't that invested in them yet. York seems the most developed for now, so I'll just say that he's the most interesting.

As for who's going to die: My trope senses tell me it's one half of that couple you put in charge of the Wheat farm. Or York or his brother. Those are the only ones that have anyone to lose (as far as we know yet)


Thanks for the feedback. We'll see how well your trope senses are working.

As to the stock market mechanics:

The only "supply" of firefly missiles recorded by the Argon Prime stock exchange when I ran into the freighter was the ~2400 in stock at the EqD in Three Worlds. This lame Paranid was headed there, actually (dramatic license redirect to the military base) with a full load of ~3200, planning to sell a hundred and top off the only buyer in the universe, AFAIK. I knew if I made him spill the missiles the only thing I could do with them would be sell them out of existence somewhere, netting about 700,000 credits.

But I wanted to see how this stock market thing works, so before I went after the Paranid I bought all the stock in firefly missiles. Then I bought all the missiles from the EqD and shipped them to the military outpost in Kingdom End. Sure enough, my stock tripled instantly as the supply dropped to zero. So I sold, making ~1.7 million in stock profits.

Then I roasted the Paranid, intending to make him spew the missiles. I took down his shields, and as soon as I started hitting hull I commed him to surrender and stopped shooting so I wouldn't destroy any cargo. When I had 2500+ missiles floating around I went back to blasting and to my surprise he immediately abandoned ship.

I jumped out and sent my salvager into the sector, and sure enough as she gathered up the boxes of missiles I could watch the "supply" go up at the stock market...and the stock price fall. I could have done a rinse and repeat, by buying up all the stock again and jumping the collected load into Kingdom End for disposal. I could have totally exploited the system by repeating the transaction as fast as I could jump the ship back and forth. But in the interests of not ruining a good game just because i can I just refilled the EqD and called it good.

Interesting note: the "stock exchange" actually works something like a real world commodities exchange. Major consumers (example, Hostess, the makers of bread sold in every supermarket in America) of a commodity (for our example, wheat) can't afford to just say "let's go buy a few hundred tons of wheat for this month's production. They have to KNOW they have their supply, and they have to PLAN based on how much they pay for it. So they buy their wheat in the form of a futures contract in a commodity exchange. A broker says he will deliver such and such amount on such and such date for such and such price.

Now, if he is committed to deliver, he has to buy the wheat somewhere. If prices are lower than expected, his profit on the contract is more than expected, If prices are higher than expected he makes less. If prices are a LOT higher than expected (HEADLINE: Huge freeze destroys wheat crop!!!!) he loses his ass...because he HAS to deliver at the designated price.

The supply side is similar. Huge agri-businesses can't operate on "let's grow a hundred tons of wheat and then see what it is worth." They sell the wheat as a future, locking in a price that is profitable...and knowing that if their crop comes up short they will have to buy enough to make up the difference. They do this understanding that the locked in price might not be as high as they could sell their wheat for, but they are protected if there is some sort of bumper crop that collapses the market.

Of course in the real world you can't manipulate the market by just jumping ships full of products in and out of the region.


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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
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Triaxx2





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PostPosted: Tue, 17. May 16, 12:36    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

You can manipulate the market to an extent by purposely with holding or destroying some of the wheat, but that's a big problem in the long run. But occasionally farmers get tired of constantly getting screwed by the market and will do that kind of thing to fight back. Dairy Farmers for example, have been known to dump milk to force the buyers to increase the prices being paid.


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PostPosted: Tue, 17. May 16, 14:17    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

So that's why they destroy their own product. I always thought it was silly of farmers to destroy truckloads of food in protest


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Timsup2nothin





Joined: 22 Jan 2009



PostPosted: Wed, 18. May 16, 03:43    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

The Zephyrus left the trading station docks quietly. York Sahkarna didn't see any need for a dramatic full throttle departure. He was fully confident in his crew. He did think of his own first experience aboard his ship, when he had suddenly found himself at the helm for just such an evolution, and he smiled.

In the luxurious office suite, Red sat with Karl Braks in what he called the "casual corner" of his office. Comfortable chairs loosely arrayed around a control console made for a less formal setting than the conference room and were less imposing than talking over Red's desk. The voice of the comms officer interrupted the softly played music program; "Secure from maneuvering, establish underway routine." Both men pressed studs in the arms of their chairs and mesh bindings that had extended from their seats to secure them retracted from their thighs and shoulders.

They put off talking business. With a new wife and a new view on life Karl had plenty to talk about. He was excited about the wheat farm and Kingdom Wheat Company, a feeling that his career in the shipyard had not provided. Good food, an old friend, a perfectly aged Argon whiskey; a great day only made better when the captain arrived and said "We're on approach."

The three of them made their way through the corridors of the ship. Karl was surprised that they weren't headed to the bridge. He had more than enough experience with ships of all kinds, so he knew his way around a Zephyrus. They were going to the hanger bays.

The airlock to hanger bay four had been removed. Karl examined the emergency seal that had been put in its place. "Faster access than cycling through the airlock," York explained. "We never launch from this bay. The seal serves as backup for the grav fields." They walked into the hanger bay, which was open to space on both sides of the ship, except for the transparent gravity fields that held in the atmosphere.

The modified docking cradle was elevated to clear the hanger floor, and held a Discoverer surrounded by a structure that looked far too permanent for the ship to ever be used. "Gear locker," Karl observed.

"Yes sir," agreed York. "We use her engines to stabilize a jump drive. That way we can have one available to install in anything we salvage in a hot sector without having to cannibalize a ship that we use."

"Son, I did an installation just like that for Red, on a Magnetar, before you were born. I didn't tell him that I had installed a full cargo compression package and stuffed her with e-cells until the day he ran out of jump fuel on the wrong side of the Paranid border."

Red shook his head. "Some things you just never live down."

York was trying not to laugh. "Just so you know sir, our gear locker is also loaded with e-cells. It's in the ship's standing orders to change them out every couple months to keep them fresh."

Red nodded. "Captain Sahkarna is much better organized than I was. He'll probably never have to use them."

They entered a partitioned off area along the starboard side of the bay. As they passed through the opening in the teladianium panels there was a shout of "Captain on deck." Sahkarna replied with "As you were" so quickly that most of the gathered crewmen hadn't made it to their feet before they eased back into their seats. There were tables with four stools arranged for playing cards, but most of the seating was more comfortable; couches arrayed to benefit from the unobstructed view. Only people who spent most of their lives aboard ship could really appreciate a lounge like this without being overcome by anxiety about the open to space feel.

"It looks like they held the best seats for us," Karl noted, as he settled on a long couch covered in soft argnu leather. They had a moment to get comfortable, then the station emerged from behind the edge of the forward bulkhead. The ship was making a close pass, and it felt like they could almost reach out and touch the huge plasteel domes that were sliding silently past. "Beautiful, isn't she?" Karl murmured.

The huge wheat farm consisted of hundreds of growing domes laid out along two sides of connectors that stretched for kilometers. The two rows of domes, with the connecting tube between them, stretched like the giant vane of a windmill, with three vanes connected to each of two central hubs. The domes gleamed in the sunlight that poured through them onto the growing beds. They had all seen wheat farms before, and in fact Red had owned them before, but Red and York, and the entire gathering of off duty crew members, could enjoy Karl's enthusiasm.

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

The runabout Buster belonging to Herron's Salvage and Shipfitting floated just outside the traffic lanes at the gate to Argon Prime. "We look like one of those billboards you see along planetside transitways," Brent Sahkarna told his partner.

"Have you ever even been planetside?" Kleo Braks asked.

"Well, no, but I've seen plenty of vids, and we look like a billboard."

"That's why we chose to meet them at this gate. Most traffic. You're the one that pointed it out. Now you're complaining?"

"I wasn't complaining. I think we make a great billboard."

"Okay then." He pointed to the drawing he had been studying. "If we enclose this section there would be better access. Lower maintenance costs, but the initial modifications would be more expensive." They dropped the banter and put the time to more constructive use.

A couple hours passed before the Zephyrus emerged from the gate. Brent docked the Buster in the only open bay. "Too bad the docking clamps can't turn us sideways. People could see us through the grav fields," he said while they waited for the hanger bay to repressurize.

They emerged from the cockpit and joined the hanger crew in verifying the ship was secure in the docking clamps. Some pilots just left the hanger, some pilots had to see to their ship for themselves. The crew were not surprised that the two mechanics would be the latter sort.

Red and Karl cycled through the airlock into the hanger. "I had to see this up close," Karl said as they bounced across the floor in the light gravity. Kleo hugged his father.

"When I dragged her out of storage I felt bad for having left her sitting for so long," Red said. "I guess you guys are making it up to her." The old Buster gleamed in the hanger lights. Every surface was polished, every fitting flawlessly replated. The company logo emblazoned both sides, surrounded by an intricate swirl of colors.

"It pays off. Probably half the calls we get the customer says 'I saw your Buster...'" Brent said with enthusiasm.

Kleo laughed. "Brent had us out here two hours early, just hanging next to the gate. Of course he complained the whole time."

"We worked on the plans the whole time, which we would have been doing anyway." Brent didn't want anyone thinking they had just been joyriding around.

"You're still working on the plans?" Karl asked.

"Just some improvements here and there, dad. There's always room for improvements."

"No doubt you engineering types are about to spread the plans out on the hanger floor and be perfectly happy with it, but I have a conference room for that," Red said. He turned towards the airlock with a lingering glance for the Buster. "Maybe you guys should hire somebody to just fly that thing around."

Before they met in the conference room of Red's suite, Kleo and Brent settled in their guest cabins. Karl, who's experience ran more to the no frills approach favored on military ships, made sport about the accommodations as he led them down the corridor, past his own cabin. He pointed out things that he clearly considered to be totally unnecessary luxuries for a space craft.

"Dad, we built this, remember?" Kleo said, chuckling. "Red spent a lot of time living large planetside. Now he lives on a ship. Not surprising he wants it comfortable. You were planetside. It changes your perspective, right?"

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

After they had reviewed the plans yet again, paying particular attention to the recently made improvements, Kleo and Brent went back to the guest quarters, leaving Red and Karl talking about wheat markets.

"I'm surprised Brenna isn't with him," Kleo observed as they walked down the corridor.

"She's already in Argon Prime, making sure our meetings don't fall off some bureaucrat's schedule. You should ease up about her anyway."

"Easy for you to say. Your dad isn't hooked up with some hooker and turning his life upside down."

"You should spend more time talking to Pruno. He'd inform you better about where you come from. Red's the one turning your dad's life "upside down," and he's doing it because he feels like he owes it to him, and owes Brenna too, for that matter."

"What does Pruno know about it?"

Brent shook his head in disbelief. "Do you pay any attention at all to people, or are you a total machine head? Pruno bought into the distilling business with Red's money, back in the day. He was just a kid from the mines, and Red hired him to make smuggling runs. He started out pretty much like You-Four. Red was a straight up pirate, back then."

"I thought he was in the wheat business?" They stepped through the portal into Brent's cabin, and sat down at the small table.

"Yeah, just like he's going into the wheat business now. He was also "in" half a dozen other businesses. He left them all to his partners when he retired, and most of them promptly fell apart. That's why he feels like he owes your dad." Kleo looked puzzled. "Every pirate needs contacts at shipyards, and Red's contact was your dad. They're best friends, and your dad was a big part of how Red got rich. When he retired he left a lot of people who deserved less with businesses that should have made them rich, and all your dad got was his job at the shipyard."

Kleo looked dubious about the whole story. "How did a 'straight up pirate' wind up retiring on Argon Prime?"

"The same way Pruno, with a record of minor smuggling busts, gets licensed to own and operate distilleries. Unfortunately, I don't really know the story. Pruno doesn't like to talk about it. All I know...you remember when we were kids there was the big 'Paranids taking Argon slaves' thing? With the slave labor factories in Paranid space?"

"Yeah."

"All the news was about Argon intelligence breaking that up, but Red and Pruno had something to do with it. I don't know exactly what, but that's what got them cleared with the government. Pruno got the distilling license, and Red went planetside."

Kleo knitted his brows for a minute, and Brent let him stew on it.

"Well, it's still not your dad that quit his job and ran off with a hooker, even if he is running off to run a company of his own."

"Dude, your girl friend is four hundred years old and covered with scales..."

"She isn't my girlfriend."

"...so you're in no position to throw stones."

"You spend as much time with her as I do."

"Maybe. But she likes you better."

Kleo started to say something else, but Brent put up his hand and turned his face away. "My room, I get last word. Beat it, partner."

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

Traditionally, a badly damaged salvaged ship would be sold to a shipyard, where the hull materials and any other working systems would be recycled. Kleo and Brent had an alternative. Their plan involved restoring the hull integrity and installing direct access loading equipment of their own design. It would allow the docked ship to load cargo from another docked ship without tying up the facilities and personnel of the station.

Costs of the modifications would be offset by stripping any surviving equipment that the permanently docked ship would not need and selling it off. The removal of equipment would make room for living quarters for the necessary cargo handling personnel, and enough of the engines would be left aboard to provide power for environmental systems as well as the cargo handling gear, so the ship would make no demands on the docking facility.

They needed two things. A company willing to buy their modified ships that could convince their own customers that having "right on time" delivery made it worth the sacrifice of a docking port was the first thing. They had that in Kingdom Wheat Company, but that was what made the second thing necessary. Since wheat was the product, their modified ships fell into the purview of the Agricultural Directorate. Whether they had to meet the standards as a bio transport, or the storage functions of a wheat producer, or the storage functions of a processing facility wasn't really clear...but there was no question that the government was going to stick an oar in their water.

They didn't mind having to comply with regulations. Their problem was that in the normal course of events it could take years for the government to decide which regulations they needed to comply with. Until that decision was made they couldn't get licenses for their innovative product. They were counting on Red to shove through the red tape and get a decision...the irony not lost on them.

The meetings seemed endless. Every meeting they had led to scheduling another. Promises were made, favors were called, and the newly scheduled meetings were at least not pushed off into the far future.

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

The Paranid ambassador was allowed a very small compound on the trading station, with access carefully controlled. The Argon and Paranid were deeply into a "cold" war. Communications between the two were considered vital to keeping the war from breaking out in genuine violence, but the reality that the embassy was undoubtedly crawling with intelligence operatives could not be ignored.

One of those intelligence operatives stood double duty, acting as a member of the trade ministry. In that capacity he had every reason to meet with Menika Silarne, ostensibly to discuss the exporting of wheat and beef to facilities operated by the Paranid in disputed sectors.

He also had a message. "There is a Priest-Duke who is becoming impatient."

"I'm sure. No one could have guessed that he would get himself tied up in this business of warehouse ships."

"This delay is unacceptable."

"I understand. But it can be turned to advantage as well. It may take longer to put the plan in motion, but we can use this to ensure that he takes the bait. The Priest-Duke needs to wait."

"It is not your place to counsel the Priest-Duke, but I shall relay the situation to him. I suggest you make sure that the bait is taken, or the delay will certainly be deemed unacceptable. That would cast a dark shadow on your future."

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

"You might think of it as some sort of cheat, but it's time to apply basic male charm to the problem," Brenna said. Red and Karl both looked embarrassed.

"She's a ranking member of the Agricultural Directorate. What does 'male charm' have to do with anything?" Red demanded.

"Don't be obtuse, Red. Why do you think this 'dinner meeting' is just with you? She had eyes for you when we were setting up the company, and anyone with a brain should have been able to see it." Both men looked ready to argue, but she plowed on without giving them a chance. "A little hero worship from back when you were working with her then boss and she was just an invisible bureaucratic drone goes a long way."

"Hero worship?" Karl asked.

"Red's business with her boss wasn't just agriculture." She turned to Red. "He was your contact in Argon intelligence. I know it, and somehow she did too."

"Well, he's dead, so we can't ask him how she knew...if she did," Red said.

Even with full support from Menika Silarne, it still took time to push their plan through. But it certainly progressed much faster after her private meetings with Red started.

Menika saw them off at the docks. There were plenty of good reasons for them to start pitching their newly approved concept in Elena's Fortune. Wheat was in high demand there, with five consumers. Deliveries could be delayed frequently by pirate activity infiltrating from the adjacent sectors. Conditions were perfect for them, and she had been able to guide them in that direction, through Red, without it being the least bit obvious that she had pushed at all.

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

Kleo still thought of himself as just a marginal pilot. He was certainly adequate for basic flying around in the safety of the core Argon sectors, but still relied on the autopilot to dock the Buster. Making some fair part of his living repairing self inflicted damage for hot shot pilots that insisted on docking manually contributed to that.

How he had ended up being volunteered to deliver Brenna to the company offices in Three Worlds was a mystery. Admittedly, the company runabout was a better way to travel than most standard shuttles. The dual seat cockpit modification that Brent had designed for them was unusual, and the cabins they had installed in the cargo hold to give them a place to live and work when they had a remote salvage job were as comfortable as even a luxury transport could provide. Brent had offered his cabin to her without a pause, knowing full well that being stuck in a tiny ship for several days with his father's new mate would make Kleo as uncomfortable as dropping a handful of welding cinders into his mag boot before a long job in zero gravity.

Brenna, of course, recognized his discomfort. They were barely clear of the Zephyrus when she set out to improve their situation. "Did you know I was there when you were born?" she asked.

"You knew my mother?"

She laughed gently. "Well, she wouldn't have invited a stranger. When I escaped from the Paranids I had no family. Nowhere to go. Red probably would have just given me a job and figured it was a favor. Your mom took me in. I'd probably just have gotten a regular job; tending bar, something, if I hadn't fallen for her boyfriend."

"My dad."

"Yeah. He didn't know. You men are so slow witted about some things. I took over running Red's girls to get out of their way."

"You didn't come back when she died."

"Your dad was too...raw...then. He needed time. Besides, With Red playing planetside playboy like an idiot someone had to look out for the girls."

"That had to be tough."

"No doubt. The transition from having a feared pirate captain for a patron to looking out for myself; tough doesn't really cover it."

"That's why he owes you."

"I wouldn't call it a debt. It's just the way things worked out. If it weren't for Red and Pruno I'd have ended up a slave to the Paranids, so I would have called it even. But I'm sure glad he came back. If he felt like he owed me, and your dad, so much the better. We'll do better by him than a lot of other people I saw him put into business ever did."

Kleo's mother had died when he was young. Being able to talk to someone who knew her meant a lot to him. The trip was nowhere near as difficult as he had expected, and he was sorry it hadn't been longer.

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

Red, Brent, and Karl set out to find a place for their 'right on time' delivery system to make a name for itself. It wasn't difficult. Many businesses took advantage of the low license fees in the sector without considering the difficulties that would plague them. Offering a solution of any kind was welcomed. The only question they found hard to field was "Can you supply energy cells too?"

The trading station certainly didn't offer anything to compete with Argon Prime. Still, since the ship was docked and the opportunity was there they explored their options. The three of them were enjoying a dinner, celebrating how well things were going, when Menika Silarne appeared at their table. She looked at Red with a serious expression. "I need your help." The most secure place for a private conversation was aboard the Zephyrus. They settled their tab and made their way to the docking facility.

An hour later Red, Brent Sahkarna, and Brent's brother York, the captain of Red's Zephyrus, sat around the conference table in his office suite. "It's a one point five million credit salvage contract," Red said.

"What are we supposed to salvage, a destroyer?" Brent asked.

"Nooooo," Red replied, "a Buster."

"This smells," York said immediately. "They could buy a whole flight of Buster's for a million and a half."

"It isn't the ship, it's the data in her computer core. Argon intelligence lost the ship, and they need it back."

York sighed. "Spies. Spies are always trouble. Where did they lose this fine piece of space junk?"

"Paranid Prime."

The Sahkarna brothers stared at Red. The only question was which of them was going to tell him that he had lost his mind.

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

Karl had caught the shuttle to Argon Prime, and would have no trouble catching a connection on to Three Worlds. The crew had been brought back to the Zephyrus with minimal complaints. Cancelled shore leave was always offset by the generous bonus program Red offered. Their shares in a million and a half made up for an early departure.

They were well out of the docks when the ship coasted to a halt for a ship wide briefing. If anyone wanted off Red intended to allow it, but they would be put on Latasha's freighter for a slow ride with no communications. He and York were pleased that no one took the offer, despite the obvious risks.

When the Zephyrus emerged from the gate in Paranid Prime it seemed like the entire Paranid fleet was waiting for them. While it was not really the entire fleet, it was true that they were waiting. Their orders were clear though. They were far enough away for the Zephyrus to launch Red's Buster and make its departure. They didn't want the Red Menace to abandon the mission and escape in the heavily shielded transport.

"I appreciate your help," Red said.

"Just a joyride," Brent replied. "We outrun everything but scout craft, and I have every confidence that there is no Paranid scout pilot that poses a real threat. When we get to the prize I'm sure that between the two of us we can get her running and the jump drive installed in plenty of time. Then we jump her out."

"You make it sound easy enough," Red said, eying the gravidar radar, which showed no less than five Paranid Pegasus scout craft closing on them. "Maybe I should let you jump out with the prize and I can just fly this baby out through their fleet."

For a split second Brent thought Red might be serious. Then he got the joke and went with it. "I'll just ride with you then. Sounds like a great idea." His grin was ideal for lying through. Trying to get out of the sector in a ship with no jump drive would be plain suicide. Red's reliable Buster was going to be sacrificed, but the reward made it worthwhile.

"No," Red said slowly, as if he were giving the matter serious consideration. "I've been thinking of picking up a Nova. Losing the Buster gives me a good excuse. We'll just leave it I guess."

Or we'll jump it out of here and abandon this very bad idea, he thought to himself as the Paranid scouts adopted an attack formation and closed the distance.

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

"The Priest Duke's compliments," Hulkantitot said to Fleet Amiral Opundican.

The Admiral was clearly furious. "The future black for five scout pilots. For one lower life form. This is inexcusable."

"Priest Emperor Xaar has given his approval Admiral. The Red Menace must die. If he is allowed to proceed unchallenged he will be alerted to the danger. If his ship is damaged he will jump away. There is no other way."

The admiral turned his broad back. An insult that Hulkantitot had no alternative but to let pass. Someday his honor would be restored, but until then this was his lot.

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

The Paranid scouts closed rapidly. Red studied the gravidar. The Paranids launched missiles.

"Dragonflies," Brent said. Probably couldn't catch up to us before they run out of range, he knew.

"They'll close to force us into evasive maneuvers," Red answered. That gives the missiles a chance to close in. Plus there's those." He highlighted small blips that were slightly further out than the scout ships. "A flail barrage missile coming in behind them. The idea is that we get distracted by their attack and don't notice that the incoming missile alarms are for the much faster flails rather than the dragonflies."

"Clever."

Red cycled through the ten incoming dragonflies, launching a mosquito anti-missile missile at each of them. As the oncoming flail warheads passed the Paranid scouts he rapidly cycled through them also. "Twelve mosquitoes left. Let's hope they go eighteen for eighteen out there." With that he swung the Buster to meet the scout craft.

Brent counted missile strikes. As the range closed Red launched five more mosquitoes at the incoming missiles that seemed to have evaded the defense. Then the Paranid flight leader in his fast moving Pegasus was on them.

The Buster twisted erratically, taking an occasional stream of impulse ray fire but avoiding sustained impact on her shields. Red patiently dodged and weaved. The temptation to line up on an opponent and connect with the particle accelerator cannons was strong, but he chose to fire his own impulse ray emitters instead. The lightly shielded scouts couldn't afford to take the hits from four guns, so it kept them from being able to concentrate on their own attacks, and the Buster's powerful laser capacitor could sustain fire almost indefinitely if he needed it. He quickly checked the gravidar to make sure there were no additional missiles homing in.

"Now," he said under his breath. They were not taking fire. He had a moment where four of the opponents were in the midst of sliding high speed turns, leaving one alone on an inbound attacking line. Red switched to his two nose mounted particle accelerator cannons and squeezed the trigger. Shields melted away and the Paranid pilot ejected just before his hull collapsed under the withering fire.

The brief run to steady the guns came at a cost. Two of the opponents had them braced. The Buster, in its turn, was rapidly losing strength in her shields. Red quickly cycled through targets and fired mosquitoes. The tiny missiles wouldn't really do significant damage, but the pilots would be distracted by the incoming missile warnings. "Three mosquitoes left," Red said. "If there's another flail inbound we'll have to abort."

Suddenly, two of the Paranid scouts were gone. "What happened?" Brent said, mystified.

"Collision?" Red speculated. He locked onto one of the remaining ships and destroyed it with a sustained burst from the cannons. A brief burst as the last Pegasus crossed his sights tore the shields off, and the pilot ejected. Red considered the abandoned ship, but one look at the onrushing Paranid fleet convinced him to leave her. He set course for the coordinates of their objective.

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

"Two good pilots, slain by your hand," the Admiral said. "May you never see the light."

Hulkantitot could not respond. His future was indeed very dark.

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

Red throttled back and the Buster eased to a stop a couple hundred meters from their target. "The transporter activation code is 'execute alpha,' don't say it unless you mean it."

"Right," Brent acknowledged as he sealed his helmet. Red voided the atmosphere and opened the cockpit canopy so they could both float out in their suits. As soon as they were clear he pressed some controls on his sleeve and the Buster established itself near the limits of the range of her transporter. They jetted towards the prize.

The plan was to enter the salvage codes to activate the ship, then get her engines on line. Assuming that went well and no Paranids had gotten too close Brent would beam back to their ship, disconnect the jump drive, beam it and enough jump fuel to the prize to get them out of Paranid space, then beam across and they would get it installed.

It was not an unreasonable plan. The claiming of the ship went well. They entered the cockpit, and Brent wormed his bulky suit into the engine compartment access. Red paused to assess the damage to the ship's control functions. They seemed serviceable enough.

Then he noticed something very wrong. The computer core was wiped. There was no cache of data secreted here. At that moment his comm circuit practically deafened him.

"Reditsatrapgetoutofhere!"

"Execute alpha!" Red shouted, by reflex. "Brent, evac..." He was cut off as he dematerialized. He reconstituted in the cockpit of his own ship just before the blast wave tore her shields off. He slammed his gloved fist on the emergency jump control.

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

The emergency jump beacon for Red's Buster triggered the alarm on the bridge of the Zephyrus. They were waiting near the gate in Cloud Base Southwest for the prize to emerge. As the comms officer silenced the alarm York issued a steady stream of orders. This was an emergency procedure they had drilled on. The orders were anticipated, acknowledged, and followed in a controlled frenzy of activity. In less than a minute the jump drive engaged and they were on their way to the sector known as Olmancketslat's Treaty.

They probed the wreckage with their scanner. The Buster was a total loss. Besides the blast damage, the engine's grav fields had been losing coherence when the jump drive engaged. parts of the ship had extended beyond the collapsing field and been sheared off. Whether they were left in Paranid Prime or lost in the unknown non-space of the jump gates no one would ever know.

They beamed in Red's suit. He was inside, and still alive. Barely. He held onto consciousness long enough to look York in the eye when he shook his head. Then he slipped into the dark.

==============================================

And with that, part one is complete. I'll be back for part two, and hopefully some readers will as well.

So, confession, the mission that inspired this wasn't anywhere near so exciting. I did sacrifice the Buster, because when I tried to go in with my Disco I ran out of my limited supply of mosquitoes in the face of an annoying missile frigate that insisted on shooting flails at me. The Buster could load plenty of mosquitoes, and in reality the only thing that even got close to me was a pair of (not five) Pegasus scouts that were pretty easy to dispatch.

It did seem to be a notable thing though, getting a big payoff to go to Paranid Prime on a ship recovery. Certainly worth a story.

I don't know whether to congratulate Sirrobert on his trope senses or condemn myself for being too predictable.


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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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Sirrobert





Joined: 21 Aug 2013
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PostPosted: Wed, 18. May 16, 11:44    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I spent far to much time on TvTropes, so it's not just you.
Taking away a loved one is a pretty common tactic, but that doesn't mean it's a bad cliché

Although looking back I should have known that Brent was the only option. You put far more character development in York than any one else, while giving his brother just enough to go beyond 'York has a brother'

As for your predictability, I only could have guessed because you told me that someone was going to die. So you're not that predictable


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JJRSC





Joined: 16 Dec 2013



PostPosted: Wed, 18. May 16, 16:08    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

"I don't know whether to congratulate Sirrobert on his trope senses or condemn myself for being too predictable."

JMS once said that if nobody guesses it, you're doing it wrong. If everybody guesses it, you're doing it wrong. If a few people guess it, then you're in good shape.

Again, love the character development, especially the piece with Brenna. Great job.

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Timsup2nothin





Joined: 22 Jan 2009



PostPosted: Wed, 18. May 16, 19:39    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

JJRSC wrote:


Again, love the character development, especially the piece with Brenna. Great job.


Thanks!

At risk of giving a hint that will lead to accurate predictions, I think you will like the direction of episode two.


_________________
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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Timsup2nothin





Joined: 22 Jan 2009



PostPosted: Wed, 18. May 16, 22:27    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

I'm always intimidated by those threads with a zillion pages, so I try to break my stuff into manageable chunks. Here is where you will find episode two.


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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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