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Zaitsev





Joined: 02 Dec 2008
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Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 00:07    Post subject: Sea of stars - Litcube's Universe/X3AP DiD Reply with quote Print

I made a thing! Very Happy

A bit of warning for all those who have been waiting - this is probably going to be updated somewhat infrequently, as I'm up to my ears in work nowadays. I'll try to update about once a week, but since I only have a few hours every weekend to play and/or write I can't make any promises.

With that said, I give you ...
----------

Chapter 1 - Setting sail

"How you guys holding up back there?"

The appropriate answer would be 'barely', but despite the fact that we were forty people stuffed into the cargo hold of a transport ship designed to operate at peak capacity with a five man crew, no one complained.

"We're doing all right," someone replied. "How much further?"

"We're approaching the hangar on autopilot as we speak." came the answer.

"Oooh," the guy next to me said to everyone and no one. "Showtime!" Looking around at the band of misfits surrounding me I didn't quite share his optimism, but in a worst case scenario we would at least die quickly.

"… aaand touchdown." The pilot, a grizzled old ex-marine named Leo, unstrapped himself and peeked into the cargo bay.

"All right, ladies. Time to get your asses off the floor." he said. "Hayla, you take point once we got eyes and ears. Gaga Pa, Hebalisos and Tupmanckulot, you cover her ass. Uma, you start working on the sensors. We need intel, and we need it yesterday. The rest of you spread out and cover anything that looks like a door. Now move!"

An "Ooh-rah!" echoed through the ship, then the hatch opened and forty marines fanned out and started pointing guns at anything that looked like it could open and let a hostile through. That is … Forty marines and me.

"All right, hot shot." Leo said as he turned to me. "Work your magic." He then turned to a young girl who looked way too young to be there.

"Uma, you follow her," he said, pointing at me. "She'll show you where to go." The girl turned and saluted me. I snorted a laugh.

"At ease, kid." I said. Funny enough it failed to make her more relaxed. "C'mon, we got a terminal to hack."

We made our way to a maintenance shaft at the back of the hangar, where I opened up a hidden panel and pointed at the terminal behind it.

"This is a low level maintenance station," I said. "It isn't much, but it should give you access to the internal sensors. Think you can get in without alerting the entire ship?"

She just gave me an insulted look and started hooking up her gear to the panel.

"Pardon me for asking, ma'am," she said as she connected the last wire. "But how come you knew where to find this terminal?"

I winced behind her back as old memories came rushing back.

"I … served on one of these ships a few years back." More precisely, I was the captain. But that was none of her business.

"And you ended up here?" 'Here' being the Oort Cloud mining operation, where they put people that Terra wanted to forget. Officially we had 'volunteered' to work at the mines out there. Unofficially they were basically slave camps, and the last stop for Terran criminals, captured pirates, the unlucky ones and those who lacked the financial means or political clout to get them selves out of a pinch. They worked you to the bone, and then tossed you out the nearest airlock when you stopped being useful.

"Yeah," I said. "I had some … disagreements with my commanding officer." She didn't need to know that the officer in question was the commander-in-chief for the entire ATF fleet, rear admiral Anastasia Nikoleva. My mother.

"Oh." I think she managed to put two and two together and get five and a half, but I wasn't about to spur her on.

A few minutes went by, and I could feel the tension in the air. Our chances of being detected increased with every second, and if someone alerted the bridge we would most likely be screwed. Suddenly …

"Got it!" Uma exclaimed. Her enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and I couldn't help but smile.

"Chief!" she said over the comlink. "We got eyes and ears. Two hundred and fifty people on board, most of them in the crew quarters. We got fifteen on the bridge, ten in the engine room, four guarding what appears to be the core, and … oh, shit! Two heading this way! Main entrance, ten seconds!"

I heard the sound of feet running across the deck as the point team took up positions to neutralize who ever was about to enter. The door opened with a soft hiss, and a man and a woman walked in.

"– and then I tell Simmons … Holy crap!"

An EMP carabine, a light repeater, a pair of pulsar rifles and a huge assault cannon met them as they stepped into the hangar.

"Hello," Hayla said. "Just drop those toys, and we can solve this peacefully." She pointed the barrel of her EMP carabine at their sidearms.

"Boron hope you resist, though." Babu Mo shot in. The always chipper sound of her translator unit almost made it sound like a joke, but her twin pulsar rifles made sure no one thought she was joking.

"Logical choice be surrender," Tupmanckulot rumbled. "But your species not always as wise as name implies."

"Uhm …" The man and woman looked at each other, then they dropped their sidearms and raised their hands.

"Smart move," Hayla said. "Stuff 'em in the Baldric, and let's move.

"Be careful out there," Leo said over the comlink. "We don't want to alert the rest if we can avoid it. Uma, you have to guide them and keep the crew of the ship in the dark."

"Will do, chief." Uma replied.

"Mind if I join?" I said. "I know a shortcut."

"No," Leo said. "You're too valuable."

"Aw, come on. Pretty please? I promise I'll be careful."

"Yeah, and I'm the president of GEOSS. No."

"You're no fun at all."

"I know. I also know that unless we get the hell out after we hack the core we're gonna be screwed, and since you're the one who is at all capable of running this ship you're staying put."

"Yes, Pa."

I sat down against the wall and stared into the air. The feeling of restlessness I had in me decided to stick around, and I couldn't really find a comfortable position. I was about to get up when an unmarked hatch suddenly opened and a man came crawling out.

"What the …Freeze, asshole!" He got to his feet, drew his pistol and pointed it at Uma. For a moment I was stunned, not sure what to do. He hadn't seen me, which meant I could probably let him shoot her and get away with it. On the other hand he represented a system that had tried to bury me when I refused to commit murder in its name. A system I had spent the last four years learning to hate. Guess some choices are easier than others …

The man was closing in on Uma when I came up behind and kicked him right across the kidneys. He hit the floor like a ton of bricks and got a foot in the face for good measure.

"Uma! Your gun, now!" He shook his head and got up on his elbows and knees, and I knew I would lose the next fight unless I had some extra leverage.

"Whoaaaaaah …" Great. My pet hacker was freaking out. Wonder if she had seen any action at all before she ended up in that hellhole …

"Uma!" I repeated. "Sidearm! Now!" Damn, this joker was coming around way too fast. Finally she reacted and tossed me her EMP pistol, just in the nick of time.

"Urrrh …" The man on the floor growled and clutched his lower back. "Ya kick like a frakkin mule, kid." he mumbled.

"Yeeeeah … Spending four years in a prison where roughly ninety five percent of the population wants to get in your pants, preferably by force, tend to teach you a few tricks." That, and Ma dearest had started training me for the military career she wanted me to pursue at the tender age of seven. I learned to think on my feet and improvise the best I could, and it had kept me alive so far.

"Leo," I said, activating my comlink. "Got an unwanted visitor covered here. You might want to pick him up."

"Copy that. Soa t'Lt and Lolo Go are on their way."

About half a minute later I heard the slightly metallic clanking of a Boron enviro-suit as it plodded across the floor on its six metal legs. Never send a marine with arachnophobia to fight the Boron …

"Move, human." Lolo said. "And don't try anything funny. Boron has six hundred friends in the mags, and they can all run a lot faster than you." The man in front of me groaned as he got up, still clutching his back.

"Relax," Soa said as he poked the man in the back with his repeater. "We won't hurt you unless you give us a good reason." Which, Split being Split, could get you shot for farting at the wrong time.

"Nice to know." he mumbled as they escorted him away.

I sort of zoned out after that. I halfway overheard Aylin giving orders to our team, directing them around patrols and stuff, but I wasn't really paying attention.

"Yes!"

My pet hacker was jumping up and down, which I assumed meant that Hayla and her team had reached the core without waking the whole Gunne damned ship. Kind of amazing, actually. Especially when you considered the fact that most of our forces were greener than kale, and would probably trip over their own feet and shoot them selves in the face if given the chance.

"They made it! They made it!!!" My pet hacker was still jumping up and down, something that probably meant Hayla and Gaga Pa were busy breaking into the core. Any moment, now …

"We are in," Hayla reported over the comlink.

"Good," Leo replied. "Lock down the ship, but keep the bridge in the dark til we can get there and take control.

"Understood."

"Santana, get your ass back here and join us. There's a show we need to get rolling, and you're the star."

"Will do, chief." I replied. Then I turned to Uma.

"All right, kid." I said to her. "Time to wrap up and move."

"Yes, ma'am." I snorted a laugh.

"I certainly ain't no ma'am. Call me Alice."

"Sure. Ma'am." I sighed and rolled my eyes. She tried to hide a giggle and failed miserably.

"Whatever. Let's go."

I met up with Leo in the main hangar as he was gathering the troops.

"-re's the plan. I take a team of fifteen and head for engineering. Sansi and Monisessas, you go with Uma and find the backup systems. Hayla will guide you. Fifteen go with Alice and take the bridge, and the rest of you stay put and guard the Baldric. Understood?"

A resounding 'Yes, sir!" echoed through the hangar, and for a moment there I was worried someone would hear us. Leo then took his team and wandered off, leaving me with fifteen pairs of eyes staring at me. It made me feel more than a little uncomfortable, despite the fact that I had commanded crews far larger than this. Guess it had something to do with the stakes involved. On the other hand, it might let me hit something. Or someone …

That thought sent warm tingling vibrations down my spine, and I couldn't help but smile.

Now, getting from the hangar, which is at the bottom of the ship, to the bridge, which is at the very top, on a ship that is the better part of five kilometers long, can be a hassle. Especially when you can't use the lifts, as bridge access is highly restricted and you have to go through a biometric scanner to get inside. It is of course possible to disable this, but only from the bridge. So yeah, we walked. And climbed. And swore. And climbed a bit more.

"Contact, left corridor." Hayla warned us. "Thirty meters and closing." At last, some fun.

"I got this," I said. "Stay back and cover me in case there are more of them."

"But Leo –" One of my guys started protesting. I scowled at him, and he shut his mouth so fast I heard his teeth click together. My guys stayed put, and I wandered around the corner.

"Hi," I said, looking at the human brick wall in front of me. "Excuse me, could you tell med the way to the mess hall?" Yep, he was huge. Guess I could stun the frakker, but where's the fun in that?

He blinked a couple of times. I smiled and looked at him with my baby blues, something that for some odd reason made him look a bit green around the gills. I blinked back and asked again.

"Excuse me, mister … Could you point me to the mess hall, please?"

"Uhm … You're not supposed to be here, ma'am …"

"Oh? Why not?"

"Well … Uh … This is a restricted area, and …"

I stepped closer and looked him straight in the eye. My grin grew wider, and now he was looking really uneasy.

"Is something wrong, officer …?"

"Uh, I –"

He got cut short as I clocked him in the jaw. He did a full one-eighty and hit the floor, and moments later four of my team mates were on him like gadflies on an argnu's ass.

"How the frak …" One of my team mates, I believe her name was Jo, looked at the man on the floor. He was still counting stars, and that jaw would probably need medical attention.

"Healthy eating and lots of lifting of heavy ore crates," I replied. "That, and knuckle dusters." I held up my hand and showed her the dull gray metal bands on my fingers. "Never leave home without," I said as I put it back in my pocket. She just shook her head and concentrated on our hostage.

The rest of the trip was surprisingly quiet, and it was quite obvious they were traveling light. If this ship had been fully combat ready we would probably have hit patrols every fifty meters, not to mention that blast doors, force fields and internal sentry lasers would have made progress … difficult. Instead this magnificent ship was reduced to an oversized cargo- and prison transport. Guess the ATF guys had to burn their budget on something …

Ah, the bridge. The monkey cage. The brain of the ship. I watched as my team positioned them selves around the exits, then I called up Hayla.

"Okey, Hayla. Work that hacker magic of yours."

"Hold on … Yeah, okey. In three, two, one, aaand go!"

The doors slid open, and fifteen slack-jawed wankers turned and looked at us.

"Listen up!" I said. "Ladies and gentlemen, you now have two options. One: you sit your asses down and we do this nice and quiet. Two: at least one of you decide to go full retard, and we find out just how good you are at dodging stun bolts at point blank range."

They looked at us, and for some very tense moments I thought one of them was going to lose it. Then they all just … folded.

"We surrender," the man in the captain's chair said. "Just don't hurt us."

"You have chosen … wisely. Boring choice, but wise." Dang, I was so hoping for some action.

"What can I say," he replied. "Guess I want to see the next sunrise more than I want to die some six hundred billion kilometers from home."

"The pragmatic kind, eh? I can certainly understand that."

"More like covering my own ass, but I guess that qualifies as some sort of pragmatism."

I couldn't help but smile a bit. For whatever reason I liked this guy, although he was playing for the other team so to speak. However, I had work to do, so I left him in the hands of my team mates. Now, let's see …

A few minutes later I had access to the mainframe, which meant I could start doing things my way. First thing was to get the ship to acknowledge me as its new owner, something that usually required a thirty two character access code. Or in our case, cheating.

"Leo, you got engineering yet?"

"Yes."

"Hayla, how are we doing down at the mainframe?"

"Ready when you are."

"Uma, how are we doing on the backup systems?"

"Almost there. Just need a few more seconds … And there. We're in. Ma'am."

I sighed audibly and could hear her snicker over the comlink.

"All right, people," I said. "Shutdown in three, two, one aaand go!"

The screens on the bridge flickered for a few moments as the mainframe went offline, before the backup systems booted up and returned things to normal.

"Uma, did you get it?"

"Yeah. We're in."

What I was about to pull was considered impossible, but since we had control over engineering, the mainframe and the ship's backup systems it would work. The theory behind it was simple; add a few commands in the startup sequence as the mainframe rebooted, and it would give us access to the very heart of the system. It was supposed to be impossible to do this on the mainframe, but since we had access to power and the backup, which was significantly weaker and only designed to keep the ship running in an emergency, it was doable. It was a back door that only a select few knew about, but as a former captain I was one of the select few.

"Let's get this show on the road … Leo, hit it!"

The screens flickered once again, and then turned black. A few moments later a marker popped up, followed by a flurry of code. A few seconds later, and I got what I wanted …

[root@localhost /]#: Awaiting input

A couple more commands, and I now had full access to the mainframe. I sat down in the captain's chair, put my hand on the palm reader in the command console and typed in the command, then hit enter. The scanner did its thing, and voila. I was now acting captain of a Terran dreadnought. Another reboot, and the system was set and ready to go. Now for one last thing …

"Attention all personnel," I said, turning on the PA system. "My name is Alisiya Nikoleva Santana, but you can call me Alice. I am, as of now, your new captain."

I paused a moment and took a breath, steadying myself.

"I can imagine what you're thinking, and yes, a bunch of Clouder* misfits managed to steal the pride of the ATF fleet. Cause every fortress has a weak spot, and I know this particular fortress very well. But that is not why I'm talking to you. I'm talking to you because you need to make a choice. The choice is simple, yet oh so hard. Do you want to follow the system, or do you want to follow me?

"If you want to follow the system there is a Baldric with cargo life support in the hangar, and it can easily hold each and every one of you, should you choose to leave. If you want to follow me I can promise only one thing; freedom. Freedom to do as you please, not as others have told you. The system will hunt us, and the system will probably try to kill us. They may try, but I will fight tooth and nail, to my very last breath, to keep that from happening. Make no mistake, though. If you jeopardize the safety of this ship and its crew there will be consequences, and if you frak up badly enough I'll use your rotting corpse as a hood ornament. The choice is yours. But choose now."

"Sooo …" the former captain said. "A pirate ship?" He looked at me, and I gave him a nod.

"Basically, yes."

"Sounds like fun …" He looked out through the thick NCC** windows, then his eyes lit up and he grinned to himself.

"Sound like you've made your choice, mister …"

"Alan. Alan McCairn. At least this should be more fun than backwater border patrols, so I guess I'll come along for the ride."

I gave him a brief smile, then I offered my hand. He grabbed it and shook it, all the while looking like this whole thing tickled him immensely.

"Well then, Alan … Welcome aboard the Arcadia."

----------

*; Clouder - person living in the Oort Cloud. Often used as a derogatory term.

*; NCC - Short for NanoComposite Ceramic, a transparent material often used in windows and viewports where high strength and durability is required, such as in space ships and -stations.


_________________
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am Very Happy

DiDs:
Eye of the storm Completed
Eye of the storm - book 2 Inactive
Black Sun - Completed
Endgame - Completed
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Zaitsev





Joined: 02 Dec 2008
Posts: 1895 on topic
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modified
PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 00:07    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Mods:

Litcube's Universe.
Satellite monitoring - Adds hotkey that shows wares, abandoned ships and enemies in any sector where I have an Advanced Satellite.
Bounty board - Add bounties to the game. You kill a ship, you get a bounty on your head from the ship's owning race. Applies to both players and NPCs
Phanon Plus - Give the Phanon Corp, one of the two main enemies in LU, a kick in the pants and make them more dangerous.
Advanced starts - Let you modify your starting assets to a certain extent. Added it because I was sick of slogging through the whole "start as a small fish"-thing.
Stolen Saturn - Set up a Teladi Shipyard in Ianamus Zura that will sell Saturn Complex Hubs.

Also tweaked some of the ships a bit and made a script that drops my Terran rep to the lowest level possible. It will be run once when I'm all set and ready to start.

Assets:

M2+ ATF Forseti dreadnought - "Arcadia"

2x M5 Valkyrie Explorer. Fully tuned and equipped with explorer software and triplex scanners.

2x M5 ATF Valkyrie

M4 ATF Hel

2x M6 Logich

5x M5 ATF Mani

TS Baldric Super Freighter - "Satchel"

M3 Verdandi - "Asura"

3x M3 ATF Fenrir

7x M4 ATF Mjollnir

4x M3 ATF Thor

2x M6 ATF Vali

M6 Vidar

A total of 81 marines, most of them nuggets.

Credits: 5 million

Starting conditions:

To offset my rather beefy assets I start as an enemy to the entire universe, including Yaki and Pirates, with a notoriety of -5 across the board. So I basically have to make do with my brains and the resources I have available for a long time.

Rules:

- Conditional DiD. I can reload if there is a glitch or my computer decide to bork up.

- No buying new ships. I have to board them or make them bail if I want one. Second hand ships are good, though.

- No UTs or STs. Because they won't enter sectors as long as there are hostiles present, and I don't plan on making many friends this time around ...

- No bulk trading. I can trade with Equipment docks, Military Outposts and Corporate HQs, but not factories. Since I need the PHQ and infrastructure to support it down the line I can trade with shipyards if I have a race notoriety of 8 or above.

- No personal trading with Terrans. If I want something I have to go through a middle man, i.e. send in a Commonwealth ship via remote. Also, I can only trade with the shipyard in Uranus (as it sell Terran Stations). Buying large amounts of military stations will raise suspicion, so I can only buy ten at the time. If I need more I will have to send in a different TL, or wait one ingame day. Buying supporting stations, such as SPPs, ore mines or food factories, have no limitations.

- No buying Terran weapons. They can be traced, so if I want some I have to buy the factories and build them myself.

Goals:

Survive.

Make at least one friend, so I actually got somewhere to dump stuff.

Get the Arcadia and her ships up to full combat spec, as her armament right now consist of 12 PSPs in the nose, some EMPCs in the tail and MAMLs everywhere else. So it's basically a battleship armed mostly with pea shooters, and half my ships either lack proper guns, shields or both.

Beat the Phanon Corp and OCV, if I get that far without killing myself Razz

Bonus goal: Capture the Valhalla that patrols Heretic's End.


_________________
I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am Very Happy

DiDs:
Eye of the storm Completed
Eye of the storm - book 2 Inactive
Black Sun - Completed
Endgame - Completed


Last edited by Zaitsev on Sat, 2. Jul 16, 03:49; edited 5 times in total
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Sirrobert





Joined: 21 Aug 2013
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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 00:44    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Starting the game with an M2+ huh?
Well I guess that's one way to avoid the early death's you like so much Laughing


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Zaitsev





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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 01:03    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Sirrobert wrote:
Starting the game with an M2+ huh?
Well I guess that's one way to avoid the early death's you like so much Laughing


Yeah, but since the entire universe hate my guts it only takes a few angry missile boats for me to die anyway. Besides, I still have to do scouting, and since the AI is too stupid to avoid getting blasted off the map I have to do it myself Razz Fortunately I have some fairly capable fighters on board, so I might get lucky this time Wink


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I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am Very Happy

DiDs:
Eye of the storm Completed
Eye of the storm - book 2 Inactive
Black Sun - Completed
Endgame - Completed
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Sirrobert





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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 01:08    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Eh Kestrels are there to die

Now that I read your conditions: Check out Stolen Saturn. That lets you buy SCH's from the Teladi


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Zaitsev





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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 02:49    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Sirrobert wrote:
Eh Kestrels are there to die

Now that I read your conditions: Check out Stolen Saturn. That lets you buy SCH's from the Teladi


The advanced start script remove the Kestrels and give you two explorers from the race you chose to start as. So I got two terran Valkyries, and since they are the only ships that are fully tuned and equipped at the moment I'm quite protective of them. Not to mention that I have no way of replacing them right now. Razz

Also, good point about the Stolen Saturn. I'll probably have to do an E/I to make it work, but it might change things up a bit and force our wannabe pirate captain to be nicer to the Teladi. Don't know if it will work with LU 1.7.0, but since I haven't made any significant progress yet I might as well test.


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I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am Very Happy

DiDs:
Eye of the storm Completed
Eye of the storm - book 2 Inactive
Black Sun - Completed
Endgame - Completed
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Triaxx2





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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 04:28    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

DiD Listed. I eagerly await the Xenoning.


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Sirrobert





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PostPosted: Sat, 2. Jul 16, 12:28    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Stolen Saturn just adds the wares to the Ianamus Zura shipyard. I doubt you need an E/I for that
It would make sense for a wanaby pirate to befriend the Teladi Laughing


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Zaitsev





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PostPosted: Tue, 12. Jul 16, 02:38    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Good news, everyone. I'm still alive.

Now, I have a confession to make. This is actually my second attempt, cause the power went out just as I was about to dock and save on my first attempt and thus f#&§ed up about five hours of progress. Just so you know.

----------

Chapter 2 - Yo ho ho, and a bottle of space fuel

Things went surprisingly smooth after my little announcement. Some fifty souls left aboard the Baldric, and the rest stayed with me. We weren't out of the woods yet, though …

"So," I said, "anyone feel like playing navigator?"

"I can do it." Uma, my pet hacker, volunteered in a heartbeat. "I used to be an explorer pilot, before I … ended … up … there." She looked like she just ran into some uncomfortable memories, so I kept my mouth shut and gestured toward the navigational station.

"Whenever you're ready. Uma." She gave me a sideways look, and I gave her my most innocent look in return. I heard her scoff and saw her fire up the navcom."

"So, where to, ma'am?" This was gonna be a long trip …

"That's the tricky part. You have to do a blind jump out of here."

A 'blind' jump meant you just charged the jump drive, targeted some sector of space at random and then hoped you could lock on to a jump gate before things went to hell. Since it had a rather high chance of failing and most of the ships that tried it were never heard from again, it was strictly forbidden to do it. With some jury rigging it could be done, but the chances of getting out alive were still kinda small. Still, it was better than rotting in that hellhole fifty clicks off our port bow.

"A … blind jump, ma'am?" Uma gave me a worried look.

"Yeah," I said, grimly. "I figured anything's better than the mines, but you can of course refuse if you don't want to do it. I meant what I said over the PA system, and I won't hold it against you."

I watched her, and suddenly something snapped inside the young woman.

"All right," she said. "Hold on, cause this is gonna be a bumpy ride."

I couldn't help but smile …

"Attention all personnel. This is the captain speaking. We're about to do a blind jump, so strap yourselves in and cross your fingers, claws, tentacles or whatever else you got. It's gonna be rough, and if we're lucky we'll come out the other side in as few pieces as possible."

My crew stared at me as if I was insane. I couldn't really blame them. It was kinda exciting, though.

"Computer."

"Yes, captain?"

"Inertial dampers to emergency power. Activate blast doors, atmospheric containment and structural integrity fields."

"Affirmative, captain."

"All right, Uma. Hit it!"

"Jumping in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one … Go for jump!"

The ship's jump drive fired, ripping a hole in spacetime itself, and after the usual blinding flash the familiar blue-in-blue spiral appeared in front of the ship. This time it was different, though. Almost … angry, in lack of a better word. The Arcadia creaked and moaned, and while my screens told me both hull and structural integrity were still at a hundred percent, I couldn't help but feel worried for her.

"Warning. Structural stress at eighty five percent of nominal maximum. Structural failure imminent."

"Thanks a lot, but that's not what I want to hear right now."

"Warning. Structural stress at ninety two percent of nominal maximum. Structural failure imminent."

"Ah, shaddap."

"Affirmative, captain." The tin can was right, though. The ship was shaking like some old roller coaster, and it felt like we were being pulled in all directions simultaneously. I knew we couldn't take much more of this.

Suddenly there was another flash, and we were spat out into normal space in the middle of an unknown sector.

"Uma, would you try to get us a position?"

"Can do, ma'am."

In the meantime I flipped through the inventory and found what I was looking for; an Explorer Valkyrie. The explorer bit just meant that it was fully tuned and shielded and had explorer software on board, which meant it could fart around and scout sectors while we were busy doing other things.

"Gate ID beacon says we're in a sector called Senator's Badlands, ma'am. It's in the far southwest corners of the Commonwealth, and home to a pirate faction called the Yaki."

I was about to ask her how she knew that when the computer interrupted me.

"Incoming communication, captain." That would probably be these 'Yaki', wondering why the hell a Terran dreadnought had just appeared in the middle of one of their sectors.

"On screen."

A big man I can only describe as 'furry' popped up on the screen.

"Calling unknown ship. This is Yaki shipyard control to unknown ship. Leave immediately, or we will open fire."

I didn't think they would have anything that could seriously threaten the Arcadia, but I didn't want to take any chances. Besides, why piss off a potential ally?

"Don't worry," I said. "We don't plan on sticking around, so as soon as our little friend find a way out we'll be on our merry way. Note that we will defend ourselves if fired upon though, but if your guys manage to keep it in their pants I think I can persuade my guys to do the same."

The man on the screen snorted a laugh.

"Fair enough," he said. "But be quick about it."

"As quick as we can."

I killed the link and drew a sigh of relief. Glancing at the inventory the Arcadia might be a battleship on paper, but right now she was a mess of thrown together bits and bobs that barely hung in there. We lacked proper navigation software, our targeting systems were basic to say the least, we were under-armed and half our ships lacked either vital software, weapons, shields, missiles or all four. Shielding was also sub-par, with three of our shield slots holding one gigajoule generators instead of the stronger two gigajoule versions. We still had twenty three gigajoule of shielding, but if push came to shove those three extra gigajoules could literally be a lifesaver. So yeah, I might have pulled an fast one, and I think we'll mosey on outta here ASAP.

"Hostile race detected. Designation: Vultur inflatius. Common name: Paranid."

Yeah, looks like our little friend has found something. The sensor feed just showed an orbital weapons platform and a factory, but since I didn't feel like losing one of two fully tuned ships, I ordered it to return home and headed for the unclaimed sector it had discovered on the way. Savage Spur. Some name.

The guy at the shipyard kept his promise, and despite a few close shaves with Yaki salvage ships no one fired at us. Not a single shot. I was actually kinda impressed. Or they just scanned the Arcadia and decided to let us leave. I don't know, and I don't really care. What mattered was that we arrived in Savage Spur without a scratch.

"Uma," I said. "Take us up, one hundred and twenty kilometers above the ecliptic. I'd like to avoid scanners."

"Sure, ma'am."

"At your discretion, miss Bro."

I heard her try to stifle a giggle as the Arcadia's antimatter annihilation engines came to life and pushed us away from the gate. Didn't particularly feel like getting rear ended by something that might piss off the owners either, so the sooner we got away the better.

Some forty five minutes later the engines throttled back, and the ship came to a full stop. Some of you physics nerds might go ballistic, as we technically matched the orbital speed of the gates in the sector and thus only came to a full stop relative to an arbitrary point of reference, namely the sector's center, but I don't really give a flying frak.

But yeah. We needed stuff. And we needed it yesterday. The ATF brass had most likely done a quadruple tit flip by now, and it was only a matter of time before they started thinking about A – how to get their ship back, or B – eradicate us if A wasn't a viable option. I wanted to be very well prepared for that moment.

But yeah, stuff. First of all we needed e-cells, otherwise the Arcadia would go nowhere. We had burned all except a hundred e-cells on our blind jump, and after some searching I found out we had two hundred more in a Baldric Super Freighter someone had parked in our hangar. So three hundred all in all, which gave us a total jump range of fourteen sectors beyond the one we were in. And since we were for all intents and purposes a rogue ATF dreadnought, the Terran propaganda machine had probably turned us into monsters already. Not that I really cared, as it would only give us more targets …

Realistically speaking it would mean finding a pirate sector, as the pirates tended to not care unless you flew a big, fat freighter. There were of course more than a few loose cannons, but that just made things more interesting …

"Uma?"

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Do you happen to know any pirate sectors around here? Apart from the Yaki, since there doesn't appear to be much traffic here …"

"Uhm … There should some to the east, but I'm not sure exactly where."

"Thank you, miss Bro." She looked at me sideways again. I just gave her a smile and a wink, then I stood up and headed for the lift.

"Alan, you have the bridge." I said as I walked past him.

"Uh … Sure, but where are you going?"

"On a little scouting trip."

"But … You're the captain."

"Mhm. I'm also the only combat pilot aboard at this point, which means I have the best chance of surviving. So I'm gonna do what I do best, and then return to pester you in a bit. Maybe I'll even call you and have you come to save my ass."

That raised his mood, so to speak. I do think he put a little too much emphasis on the ass bit, though.

"In the meantime I'd like you to go through the ships we have docked and see if you can't find something useful, more specifically targeting software and navcom upgrades. If I'm right, GEOSS is probably portraying us as the devil incarnate right now, so we're gonna need all the advantages we can get."

"Consider it done, skip."

"Thanks, Alan."

"Just get back in one piece, will ya?"

"Yes, sir." I gave him a mock salute and then headed down to the hangar.

Once in the hangar I did a quick check of the inventory and found the second thing I was looking for, namely a fast and well armed fighter in the form of an ATF Verdandi. According to the ship's computer this could do up to two hundred and seventy five meters per second relative speed, which meant it could outrun most significant threats. The only problem was that it was packing eight gamma ray cannons and three five megajoule shields, and that was kind of not what I wanted.

Cue hauling of weapons and shields. I did get some help from a couple of guys who were mucking about, so in the end I had a total of one hundred megajoule of shielding, ten electromagnetic plasma cannons to point at anything in front of me, and two plasma guns covering my ass. I even managed to scrounge up four Poltergeist missiles, and while they will be sort of a last ditch effort they might come in handy. I also considered a jump drive, but since I can't spare any e-cells I decided to skip that. It would make things a bit harder, but that's part of the fun, eh?

"Arcadia, Asura. Ready to rock 'n roll."

"Asura, eh?" Alan replied. "Interesting choice. But yeah, release in five, four, three, two, one, go."

The magnetic locks released the ship, and the catapult spat me out of the launch tube at a hundred meters per second. Time to enter the big, bad world ...

Okey, first the bit where I twiddle my thumbs while the autopilot fly me to the gate a hundred and twenty kilometers away. Guess I could trust the tin can to fly me across empty space with nothing whatsoever to smash me into between me and my target, although I've seen it pull some very impressive stunts before. Made an impact, so to speak.

But yeah. Big, bad world. Upcoming gate. Set turrets to missile defense, and here we go.

The sector that meets me after going through the gate is called Empire's Edge according to the gate ID beacon. Nifty little thing. Gives you the basic info, like name of the sector, what faction it belongs to and a few other bits and bobs.

"Unholy one!" A Paranid appeared on my communication screen and almost scared the bejesus out of me. "You are not allowed to enter core Paranid sectors due to your current standing. Leave, or we will use lethal force. You have one mizura to comply."

Thanks, but I like it here. It's rather beautiful.

*beep*

Ah, Paranid hospitality. There were a few among Leo's crew, and while they were among the more civilized of the bunch they still had this air of 'I'm better than thou' around them. Whatever. Apparently I had missiles on my tail.

"Computer, analyze incoming ordnance."

"Swarm missile. Designation: Wasp. Yield: Two thousand five hundred and sixty four joule per warhead. Standard configuration of eight warheads. Estimated range: Approximately thirty one kilometers, based on point of origin and remaining fuel."

So not a serious threat, and I would be able to take quite a few before they got through my shields. Still, I wasn't particularly fond of getting shot at, so I didn't plan on sticking around.

"Unholy one!" Ah, my three-eyed friend was back. "You have failed to leave our sectors. Prepare to feel the wrath of the Priest Duke!"

Yeah … Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, you would have to catch me first.

Now, my plan was to head east, and I even had a nice lock on the east gate since my scout managed to spot it before it turned around. There was a problem though, in the form of a Nemesis corvette and something called a Hades, which my computer classified as a bomber. If they were anything like our Claymores I would be dodging whatever passed as bomber missiles around here as soon as I exited that gate, which I had no intention of doing. Sooo … North, I guess?

Oh yeah, much better. A Zeus, apparently the Paranid fleet's carrier, was heading the same way. I could of course try to dodge it and head south, but neh. Besides, this would be more fun.

Y'know, getting excited about something while flying a fighter is something special. You can hear your own heartbeat inside your flight suit, along with your breath. It's close and intimate, and can even be a bit scary at times. There is the rumble of the ship's engine a few meters behind you, a sound that you can feel in your bones as well as hear. The feeling of the seat against your body, your grip on the stick and throttle tightening ever so slightly, and the rush of adrenaline as the anticipation of action takes hold. Mmm … It put a smile on my face.

*beep*

Looks like I'm gonna find out what these bombers can do up close and personal, as they had one in their group and it started chucking these 'Tomahawks' at me. Kinda funny to name a heavy missile after a twelve hundred year old Terran weapon, but what the heck. My sensors showed that it could kill the Asura in two hits, so I'd rather stay away from any close encounters.

Hm, these 'Nids are smarter than I gave them credit for. They're trying to cut me off from the jump gate, and they have the front end of that gate nicely covered. The back end was another story …

*beep*

*beep*

*beep*

The missile alarm was going off roughly once every other second now, and from the looks of it that bomber really wanted my hide. I had a steady stream of Tomahawks coming my way, and it looked like the fighters had finally picked up on what was going on as well. I was about to do something that among Terran pilots is known as the 'wormhole Immelmann'. The short and sweet of it is that you enter the event horizon from the back and get sucked through in reverse once you reach it. The wormhole will spit you out nose first at the other end, but suddenly going from two hundred and seventy five meters per second forward to just as much in reverse in zero point two seconds flat was a little … unpleasant.

The faster fighters had just reached me as I entered the 'ball' that marked an active gate, and started peppering me with their pea shooters. Nothing to worry about, cause in five seconds I would be gone. Four. Three. Two. And here goes!

"Huuurgh …"

Yeah, if I do that again the eleventh of never at not-gonna-happen-o'clock it would still be too soon.

*beep*

Oh, and another one of these Hades bombers. With company, of course. The Hades was the nice looking ship, by the way, but I kinda doubted they would sell any to a rouge Terran that might use it to blow previous owners to smithereens.

I didn't have time to stick around and play either, cause I had places to be and ships to rob. Or something.

*beep*

Hm, a weapons lock this time. Well, shit … Four little Paranid Pegasuses … Uhm … Pegasi? Whatever. Four scouts who wanted to play in the big league. I couldn't shake them, and since the four of them were taking a pretty noticeable bite out of my shield I kinda had to get rid of them.

"Okey, guys … You wanna play hard, let's play hard."

Weapons hot, Poltergeists loaded in case I need them, rear turret is set strictly to missiles and the front turret can shoot at whatever flags as hostile. Rock and roll.

One of the Pegasuses came in for a second round, so I kicked the rudder, pulled the stick up and sent the Asura tumbling nose over tail. A volley from my EMPCs connected, shorting out his shield and blowing away a good chunk of his hull. He still raced past me, so I turned around and hit him with a second volley that pierced the hull from ass to nose and turned the Pegasus into pega-dust.

A second one suffered the same fate. The third one …

"You have bested me, wretched being." he announced over the radio. "I leave you my ship."

Unfortunately another EMP volley was already on the way, and turned his ship into a fireball just as he left the airlock. He survived, although I think his space suit got a bit singed in the process. Not that I had any intentions of stopping to claim a ship in the middle of a goddamn hostile sector, but they say it's the thought that counts.

The next sector, Priest Rings, was surprisingly quiet. At least compared to the action I just saw in ol' Paranid home sweet home. The only thing worth mentioning was a few leftovers from what I imagined was some kind of fight, and while the missiles and weapons were useless to me I knew we could use the shield generators. So yay.

"Hm, that's odd …"

I had just wandered into Priest's Pity, and spotted a freighter coming into scanner range seemingly out of nowhere. Since it was a fairly clear sector the ol' mark one eyeball outperformed the gravidar, and the north gate was slightly off to the right while this sucker was coming in from the left. Naturally curiosity got the better of me, so I headed north to check things out.

Lo and behold, a pirate base. I called them up just for the heck of it, and to no one's surprise they told me to kindly frak off. Guess having a pretty face and a big smile didn't quite cut it. I stuck around nonetheless, because there was a lot of radio traffic going in and out of that base, and even though most of it was encrypted there were a few who were stupid enough to talk over open channels and thus give me much needed intel. That, and scanning a few of the ships that stopped by, gave me at least a basic idea of what was going on.

So yeah, according to these wankers there is a pirate sector north of here called Split Fire. Then there's an Argon sector sandwiched between Split Fire and another pirate sector, and there seems to be a string of pirate sectors stretching east from Split Fire to Gunne knows where … So, let's have a look.

Oh, presents. Or … More like garbage, as it was completely and utterly useless to me. There was a grand total of thirty one e-cells floating around, which was kind of like pissing in the ocean and expect to see it rise. I needed more like a thousand before it would be worth it to have the Arcadia jump here. So no, keep looking.

Now, this might be interesting …

The dingus was carrying over four thousand energy cells, which would be able to keep the Arcadia operational for at least a few days. Let's see if I cant persuade him to drop some of those …

"Hi there. I see you're carrying quite the load of energy cells, which I unfortunately need. Care to drop 'em?"

"Huh? Go play with an asteroid, pirate scum!"

All right, if that's how you wanna play it …

"Please, stop shooting!"

"Okey. About those e-cells …"

"I'd rather die!"

"Well, that can be arranged …"

It went a bit back and forth there, with him whining and complaining with every bit of hull I blew off his ship, while still refusing to drop his cargo.

"Please! C'mon, stop shooting! I'll do anything!"

"Then. Drop. Your. Cargo."

"I'd rather –"

He was cut short by my EMPCs, which blew away the last of his hull integrity and reduced him to a ball of expanding gasses and shrapnel. Frakkin' idiot! It was some four thousand e-cells, and even at max price it would only net him something like eighty three grand. Guess stupid really is as stupid does …

After that I kinda hit a dry spell, and the only thing that turned up was either worthless shit or empty ships returning home. Frakkin' great. So what does one do? In my case the answer was to explore, so I poked my nose into Elena's Fortune to see what the Argons were up to. And, y'know, scout for useful stuff I could grab.

Yep, that is a lot of red dots …

My original plan was to continue north and see if this other pirate sector was worth a visit, but since there was a Titan-class destroyer screwing around near the north gate I didn't particularly feel like pushing my luck. Back to Split Fire, then.

*beep*

Speaking of luck, a pirate Barracuda and friends expressed an uncomfortable amount of interest as I returned to Split Fire. Bollocks. I could of course blast them into oblivion, but since I was on a roll and the computer told me I had two percent better rep among the pirates than all the other known factions my guns stayed quiet. The Asura was fully capable of outrunning the whole bunch, and I dodged them for a while, but in the end it got boring. Time to head north again and see if that Titan has moved, me thinks.

Yep, it had moved. In fact I found it at the north gate in the next sector, Farnham's Legend. I also found an OTAS energy transporter that was carrying a hair shy of a thousand e-cells.

"Arcadia, Asura. Alan, do you copy?"

"Loud and clear, captain. What's up? You want us to come save your ass?"

"Not literally, but I got an energy transporter making its way across the sector I'm in, and since the last one was stubborn enough to go down with his ship I figured maybe some bigger guns could help me talk this one into dropping his cargo. Also, if you could scrounge up a crew and enough two hundred megajoule shields to max out that Vidar you got in your hangar I'd be quite happy."

Alan grinned at me.

"I'm sure I can fix that. Uma's got a lock on you, so we're gonna come visit you as soon as the jump drive spools up."

"Good. Asura out."

Ten seconds later, and the miracles of modern technology transported the Arcadia to me. I docked in a hurry, and Alan was waiting on the hangar deck as I got off the Asura.

"Here's the crew you wanted." he said. "Engineering, navigation, sensors, communications and a weapons officer. You'll have to take the wheel yourself though, cause apart from me all we got are a couple of nuggets."

"Been a while since I flew a Vidar, but I guess I'll manage. We're gonna have to train some pilots at some point, though."

"I hear ya. Now go get that energy transporter."

"I'll do my very best." All right, time to hunt!


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Zaitsev





Joined: 02 Dec 2008
Posts: 1895 on topic
Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Tue, 12. Jul 16, 14:55    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

More? No? Eh, I'm gonna give you more anyway.

----------

Chapter 3 - First blood

"All right," I said as we climbed aboard the Vidar. "Go find your stations. I have no idea who you are or what you're good at, so go find the spot where you think you'll do best. Just keep in mind that we need to actually run this ship, ok?"

They all looked at each other, then started to sort them selves out. Not the most efficient way of doing things, but since that energy transporter was slogging its way toward the east gate at some fifty meters per second I could afford to wait a bit. Me, I took a few moments to savor the moment of flying a Vidar again.

"All stations, report." I said after things had settled down.

"Communication, ok."

"Sensors, ok."

"Engineering, all green."

"Navigation, go."

"Turrets one and two, both green."

All right, time to rock.

"Arcadia, Swordbreaker. We are go for launch." I could hear Alan chuckle, and I think he finds my ship names funny.

"Swordbreaker, Arcadia. Good hunting."

Hydraulic arms lifted the Vidar up to the launch deck and loaded us into a tube. A few moments later the launch tube depressurized, the hangar doors swung open and we were free. Free to hunt.

It made me … smile.

We approached the energy transporter from the side and gave it a few good shots, dropping its shields almost to zero.

"All right, patch me through to our target."

"Channel open, captain."

A clearly flustered man popped up on my screen.

"What do you want!?"

"Oh, just your cargo."

"Yeah, right. Go fly into a black hole!"

"See, this is what I don't understand. You're in a freighter that's barely capable of defending itself against a couple of fighters, while we on the other hand, have six times your shielding and three times as many guns. Still your oh so wise decision is to basically tell us to frak off, like you're flying a destroyer or something. I've heard that space can affect the mind, but seriously?"

His response was to cut the link, so I decided to blow a few holes in his ship and see if that made him more cooperative. The Swordbreaker's ten matter-antimatter launchers were more than capable of vaporizing his ass in ten seconds flat, so I grouped four of them together and used them to nibble away at his shields and hull.

Finally, after listen to this wanker switch between bitching because he's getting shot at and telling us to perform anatomically impossible actions for five minutes, he finally coughed up some of his cargo. It appears that persistence is the key here, although I worry that I'll blow a gasket and simply shoot these frakkers if I have to listen to them bitch for ages before they suddenly realize they're in a fight they can't win. Maybe I should just use the Arcadia's forward battery next time and hope something survive the calamity …

"So," I said, calling him up again. "What about the rest?"

"The rest!? THE REST!!? Gunne's hairy balls, woman! Are ya tryin' to ruin me!?"

"Naaah … I'm just trying to feed that monstrosity you see over there, at the center of the sector. So c'mon, cough it up and I'll let you be on your merry way."

"Motherfrakkin' sunnuva …"

"Daughter, thank you very much. But yeah, she was a bitch. Still is. Now. Give. Me. The. Rest. Of. Your. Cargo!"

"Here. Here! Ye're bleedin' me dry, ya harpy!"

"Good boy. Now shoo."

He didn't give us all of his cargo, but since he only had about a hundred e-cells left I figured I had harassed him enough. Besides, he had given us some much needed jump fuel, and that was the important part.

"Communications, get me Alan on the horn."

"Will do."

A moment later Alan's face popped up on my screen.

"We got it," I said. "Almost a thousand e-cells."

"Good girl." For a moment there I thought he was going to pet the screen, but he didn't.

"I know," I replied, giving him my best 'good girl'-face. "Swordbreaker out."

Five minutes later we were standing on the Arcadia's hangar deck. The e-cells were being offloaded, and I was already in my flight suit on my way to the Asura. Our immediate needs had been covered, but we still needed some friends for things we couldn't fix our selves. And for that we needed to know where to find said things, which meant I was back on scouting duty.

East still appeared to be a good option, not to mention that I wanted to avoid the risk of running into another Titan, so I locked on to the east gate and sent the Arcadia up above the ecliptic. Old habits die hard and all that.

Bala Gi's Joy. Sounded like some Boron had named this sector. It held a couple of nice solar power plants though, which meant there would probably be a few energy transporters there I could harass if I ever needed jump fuel. Speaking of which, I scared one of them enough to kick out all his fighter drones just by scanning him. Maybe word about his colleague had gotten out already? Anyway, he didn't have anything exciting on board, so I left him to play with his drones and headed down south instead.

Olmancketslat's Treaty was a bit more exciting, but not the kind of excitement I was looking for. A bunch of pirate fighters launched from the shipyard and gave chase, but since they had nothing that could keep up with the Asura I felt relatively safe.

Next on the list was Brennan's Triumph, which apart from having a pirate base was boring as shit. Radio traffic suggested they had a mechanic there who was good at tuning ship engines and maneuvering thrusters, so I made a mental note of stopping by once I had made the pirates hate me less.

Now, speak of the devil …

"Arcadia, Asura. Yo, Alan. Do tell me you managed to find some navigational software and upgrades for our targeting systems."

"Yeah, we did. How come?"

"Well, I've got a squad of Xenon pouring through a gate here …"

"Xe – Oh, terraformers." His voice went totally flat as he said the word 'terraformers', which made me wonder what had happened.

"Yeah. Mind coming down here to save a damsel in distress?"

"Sure. Just point me to this damsel of yours, and I'll save her."

"Funny man. Could you pretty please with sugar on top just jump to the north gate in Danna's Chance? Preferably with all weapons ready to fire."

"Can do, skip. See ya in ten."

While Alan prepared to jump I whipped the Asura around and headed for the north gate at full speed. The thought of commanding the Arcadia in her first real battle made my heart pound a little harder, although I knew we would probably just sit there and tank the pinpricks from the fighters while our own turrets slowly whittled down their numbers.

Once again I docked in a hurry, and still in my flight suit I ran for the bridge as fast as my feet could carry me.

"How are we doing?" I asked as I almost tumbled out of the lift.

"You mean apart from the fact that their combined firepower can barely dent our shields? Pretty well."

"Figured."

I looked around the bridge, and all eyes were on me. Guess this would make or break this ship …

"All right, full speed ahead. We drive by and get their attention, then try to lure them away from the shipping lanes. Watch your fire, and try not to wing any pirates. We're kinda trying to get on their good side."

The Arcadia's engines came to life, pushing us away from the gate. I took the helm myself and skimmed the flanks of the Xenon formation while our gunners took pot shots at them as they rushed by. True to their programming they all turned on us, so I killed the engines and came to a full stop near the center of the sector, letting our gunners have a field day.

In the end it was a one way fight with only one possible outcome, as even the full fury of twenty five fighters never managed to even put any significant strain on our shields. It did have the beneficial effect of improving our pirate rep though, which was my main goal after all.

Speaking of which …

Yep, a mission beacon just popped up. Apparently someone needed me to get rid of some poor sod, which I was more than happy to do.

The mission briefing stated that I had to head over to Nopileos' Memorial and talk to some contact on the shipyard. I also suspected that this could end up taking me anywhere, so I made sure to transfer some e-cells to the Asura before I left. Once clear of the tube, the Arcadia's engines once again came to life and pushed her upwards. No need for unnecessary provocation, me thinks.

"Yeah?"

A girl with a bright red mohawk and a cybernetic eye implant looked at the screen.

"I'm here for the coordinates. Gantelios sent me."

"So, she finally found some shmuck dumb enough to do it, eh. Well, guess you can't be worse than the last one … But yeah, your mark is in Split Fire. Transferring the coordinates now."

"Thanks. I think."

"Whatever."

Yeah, that was odd. Anyway, I got what I came for, so I laid in a course for Split Fire and spooled up the jump drive. Could be interesting.

Coming through the east gate, I immediately did a quick scan and found my target milling about near the south gate. A quick jump to the south gate, and I was on his tail like mosquitoes on an elephant's ass. My Poltergeists dispatched of his escort, and the rest was smooth sailing. He did bitch about getting shot at, but other than that his sense of self preservation was about zero. As in he did jack shit to prevent his ass from getting blown to bits. Easiest money I've ever earned, and I even got a thank you from the 'Pirates government.' So a bunch of cutthroats who can't even be in the same room together without the whole deal turning into either a fight, a pissing contest or both, had a government. Color me skeptical.

The trip back to the Arcadia was a breeze, and since Split Fire still had some e-cells floating around I could jump straight to Danna's Chance without hassle. Now curiosity had gotten a hold, so I switched to the Swordbreaker and headed into Nopileos' Memorial to see if I could find out where those Xenon came from. If they were coming from somewhere inside this 'Pirate Alley' it might be a nice opportunity to gain rep while engaging in my favorite pastime; shooting stuff.

"Abandoned ship ahead, captain. It's a Cutlass! Or rather a pirate version." My sensor operator, a bespectacled, lanky fellow who I had recently learned was named Luke, sounded excited.

"Geez, Luke," my navigator shot in. "It's only a ship, and it's shot to pieces. Don't get your knickers in a twist over there."

"Ah, shut up, Kara. It's my first catch, and I'll be as excited as I feel like."

"Get a room, you two." my weapons operator shot in.

"What!?" Kara managed to sound surprised, exasperated and offended at the same time. "Sol Arnson, are you implying –?"

"– that you should work out your differences in a room containing the two of you and little else, yes. We're flying with a skeleton crew here, so there's plenty of empty, undisturbed space around."

Kara scoffed and turned back to her screens, and I could hear Sol chuckle behind me.

While my crew were arguing something had caught my attention. There was a gate to the south, and with no traffic heading there whatsoever I got curious.

Yep. A gate leading to a Xenon sector, right in the middle of pirate country. At first it was all peaceful and stuff, with the biggest threat being an L and a couple of Ns. I almost suspected it to be all dead, and even went back to claim that Cutlass. Of course, when I came back for seconds things went to hell in a hand basket …

Yep, that's a Xenon frigate. With company. And apparently they all want to kill me for blasting their friend to subatomic dust. Time to call in the heavy artillery, me thinks.

"Arcadia, Swordbreaker. Alan, about asses and saving … We got a Xenon C-class frigate on ours, and it definitely need saving. Nopileos' Memorial, south gate. Preferably five minutes ago."

"Hold tight, we're on our way."

It felt like a friggin' eternity while the Cs fusion beam cannons hammered away at our shields, but ten seconds later the Arcadia came through the gate to save the day.

"Kara, jump to the south gate. Now!"

"But …"

"It's gonna work. Do it."

"Jump drive powering now. Jumping in ten seconds. Five. Aaand jumping!"

We barely cleared the Arcadia's bridge as we came through the gate, but barely was all we needed. I hit the button for a combat docking, and a few moments later the transporter broke us down into energy and reassembled us on one of the landing pads.

The ride up to the bridge had never been so long, but after what felt like an eternity I was finally standing on the bridge of my ship.

"Mister McCairn, would you please make that eyesore go away?"

"With pleasure."

I wanted to see what he was made of, and now seemed to be as good a time as any. His face went blank, his eyes turned into two pieces of obsidian, and he started barking orders with military precision.

"Forward battery, concentrate your fire on that frigate. Port and starboard turrets keep the fighters and corvettes busy, and the rest of you are on anti-missile duty. Helm, get us away from the gate in case that frakker ain't alone. I don't feel like getting rear ended today."

The end result surprised absolutely no one. Even in her reduced state the Arcadia was far superior to the C, and after eating a few volleys from our forward battery it went kaboom. Then it was just a matter of mopping up, and we were all good.

And hey, it looks like we made some new friends along the way as well.


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