AMBUSH IN MAIA
11 JAN 3306, Hamilton Gateway, system Wolf 406.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Orion, landed at Hamilton Gateway in system Wolf 406. All systems checked. At last I am ready to depart. The Formidine Rift awaits me. Since I got my pilot license, it has been my intention to discover what happened to my father. He disappeared more than five years ago. His ship was found adrift in Merope. I blamed the Thargoids for that. Now, I am not so sure it was them. It was Bill Turner, the engineer, who put me on the track again when I was losing hope about finding out what happened to him. Turner told me that my father was on a cover operation for the Alliance following the track of a Generation Ship that had been secretly launched in 3270. That only could mean the Zurara. It had sense. The new frame shift drive technology made the mission possible five years ago. But many questions remain unanswered. I recently discover that my father was a Fed. Why was he working for the Alliance? Was he a double agent? Why is the Zurara so important? What is really her mystery? GalNet says that the ship’s logs painted a haunting picture, indicating that the crew sabotaged the vessel before killing themselves. Unofficial sources tell an even darker story. The Generation Ship was sought by the Children of Raxxla, and some say that even by Salome herself. Well, it seems that my father looked for it before. And, who knows, maybe he even found it. I need to find out. I have been studying the charts and the possible routes for an ASP with the jump range and navigation technology of the year 3000 for weeks. I have tinkered with every system of my ASP, the Orion, to push its capabilities to the very limit. It is time that I see the Zurara by myself.
There is only one loose end before I depart. Ayumi, my mysterious passenger, as I used to call her. I promised her one month ago that I would take her to Obsidian Orbital in Maia on my way to the southern regions and Amudsen’s Star. I lied to her about the true purpose of my mission. But I lost track of her the moment we arrive to Hamilton Gateway from our visit to the Guardian Ruins. It is like if she has just vanished. Well, I cannot say that I am going to miss her. There is something creep about her, but I admit that she did a great job acquiring the Guardian FSD Drive Booster. Anyhow, I cannot wait for her to appear anymore.
And you won’t have to.
What the hell. How did you get into my ship?
You authorized me, remember? Weeks ago.
But how…? It does not matter… Where have you been hiding? I did not hear from you in weeks.
That’s not your business. Shall we depart? I’ll be in my quarters.
Charming, as usual. As I was saying, all systems checked. Next stop, Obsidian Orbital.
Resuming log. Amazing! Just seven jumps to Maia. This Guardian technology is priceless.
(Comms buzz) Ayumi, you better get ready, we’ll land at Obsidian Orbital in minutes. (Comms buzz)
Wait! A ship is approaching us directly from the main star. It probably saw us when we arrived to the system. It’s a Mamba. INTERDICTION DETECTED. How? Pirates? Here? What the…!
Damn! He got us. Where the hell is the Mamba? I cannot see it.
PORT SIDE! It’s firing at us!
What the hell are you doing? Get back to your quarters!
No. I’ll take the lower cockpit.
To the Mamba attacking us. This is the Orion. Hold your fire. We pose no threat to you. We’re unarmed and have nothing in our cargo hold.
(Comms buzz) This is the Oblivion. Surrender your passenger! (Comms buzz)
My passenger! What do you mean? (Firing lasers) Waow!
(Comms buzz) I won’t say it again. Deliver the girl or die. (Comms buzz)
The girl? (Firing lasers) Ok, ok. Don’t shot. I am reducing speed. You may approach.
(Comms buzz) No tricks. (Comms buzz)
What do you mean? You’re not going to deliver me, don’t you? Don’t you?... You bastard!
You better tell me why this pirate seeks you or I will deliver you dead.
You try… (sobs) I thought you we’re different.
Nice try. Your time is running out. The Mamba is approaching.
Ok. It’s the Kumo Crew. The Kumo Crew wants me dead. Satisfied?
And you didn’t say anything to me. You risked my life and my ship. I should toss you out of the airlock.
(Comms buzz) Last chance Orion. Comply or die. You cannot scape from me. (Comms buzz)
You’re far away from the Pegasi Sector, Oblivion.
(Comms buzz) Not your business. I can take the girl and leave you on your way on your shiny ship, or I can retrieve her corpse from your debris. It makes no difference to me. What will it be? (Comms buzz)
I’ve heard Mambas are fast. Let’s check it out.
(Comms buzz) Wrong decision. (Comms buzz)
SHUT UP you liar. CURSE ME.
You cannot outrun him.
It’s hitting us.
I KNOW. SHUT UP.
This is an exploration ship. The shields won’t hold much more.
What are you going to do?
I don’t know. I’m thinking.
Well. You better think something fast. He’s on us.
(Comms buzz) YOU’RE MINE. (Comms buzz)
I don’t think so. Follow me if you can.
What are you doing?
I cannot hold this fire anymore. I’m activating the Guardian Frame Shift Drive Booster. I cannot land in Obsidian Orbital with this Mamba patrolling the system. I’m afraid you’re coming with me.
I hope you packed for a long trip.
(Cockpit voice assistant: Frame Shift Drive Charging… 4, 3, 2, 1, ENGAGE)
HACKING THE GUARDIAN TECHNOLOGY
1 DIC 3305, Hamilton Gateway, system Wolf 406.
It is working. The Guardian FSD booster has activated. Amazing! Minimum jump range 61,23 LY, current 63,20, maximum, 67,41. Not bad for an ASP Explorer. That must be the double of the jump range that my father’s ASP had. And these are quite significant numbers. Months ago, while participating in Distant Words 2, I tried to reach system Systae Free AA-A h1, aka the Peak, and I could not arrive it in my Diamondback Explorer. Sitting at 3180.5 light years above the galactic plane, a jump range of 58.7LY is needed to get there, and 66.2LY if you want to get back. I could have gone there in the Orion, now that it has been enhanced with the Guardian Technology. This will make my trip to the Formidine Rift much easy, and I have Ayumi to thanks for it. Well, Ayumi and my brother Zal Marlo, for guarding my back.
The night at the Guardian Ruins of HD 63154 B3a passed without incidents. With the first lights, my brother Zal Marlo arrived, as expected, flying his exploration Krait Phantom the Parymenopus. When Ayumi saw a ship incoming she got nervous and said that we should leave, but I told her that he was my brother and that I have called him. I waited for her to get mad for sharing with Zal the information she gave me about the Guardian technology, but she seemed only worried about if Zal was a friend or a stranger. My theory about Ayumi being running from something or someone grows. The only time that I saw her relaxing a bit was when we went jumping from one system to the other in deep space.
Zal landed his ship on the tiny space at starboard of the Orion. It was great to see him again. Together, we developed a plan for exploring the ruins. He and Ayumi would disembark on the SRVs while I monitor them from the Orion.
According to Ayumi, scattered around the ruins there should be lots of valuable materials, such as power cells and other technology components that we should need. There were some pillars too, and panels that could be destroyed to release more Guardian technology pieces. And to that task we dedicated the following hours.
Ayumi seemed to knew what she was doing. She drove the SRV precisely through the difficult terrain, shooting panels with great aim and collecting the remaining pieces of technology.
After a while, she should have activated something while driving, because some kind of pylon emerged from the earth beaming with energy. Ayumi exclaimed that she had been looking for that.
Ayumi and Zal gathered close to our ships and she explained the plan to us. It seemed that there were five more of these pylons lying around and that we should find them. Once located, they should be charged using the plasma repeaters of the Scarab in order to activate the databank of the installation. So Zal and Ayumi started to run among the ruins looking for the other pylons, while I tried to guide them from the Orion.
Some hours later, we had located the three pylons. Ayumi and Zal split and activated them shooting their weapons to the gleaming blue light in the middle. They left the pair of pylons that were close to the structure at the rear of the installation for the end. After that, Zal drove his Scarab to a platform in front of the structure, and deployed there and ancient relic he had picked up from the floor.
What happened after was amazing. The structure activated and released a huge floating orb that started to spin in front ours. Suddenly it opened and the scanners of the SRV recognized a pattern. We scanned the orb and were able to download some data that included the blueprints for some Guardian Technology. That was what we have been looking for. Ayumi had fulfilled her part of the deal. Then, the problems began.
The moment the orb entered again into the structure, a threatening hovering drone appeared from under the ground and scanned us. It was triangular in shape with a blue beaming light in the middle. And it was not alone. Five more were arising from the earth in other points of the ruins. They became hostile immediately, firing short bursts of energy and shock missiles. The consequent battle was fierce. The Guardian Sentinels were much smarter than human skimmers, and used the ruins and the terrain to conceal themselves after every attack. The combined efforts of Zal and Ayumi attacking as a team were needed in order to defeat the drones. The fight took hours and dark felt upon us again making things even more difficult. I discovered that I could help using the point defence turret of the Orion against the shock missiles of the sentinels.
Finally, the Guardian Sentinels were beaten and Zal and Ayumi were able to embark safely. I thanked my brother for his help and watched as he departed. It is good to know that there is somebody in this galaxy that you can count on. Me and Ayumi set course to system Ross 490, to Dunyach Enterprise, where a technology broker by the name of Robt Horton runs his business.
And that is how I got my hands on the Guardian FSD booster. A piece of alien technology that increases the jump range of the Orion in 10.5 LY. That will make my trip to the Formidine Rift and the Zurara much easier. Once back at Hamilton Gateway, Ayumi asked where I was heading with my new enhanced exploring ship. I lied to her and told that my plan was to visit Amudsen’s Star, in system Lyed YJ-I d9-0 and explore the southern regions of the galaxy. I tried to pay her a generous sum for her part on the mission, but she just accepted a meagre pay. She asked me though to take her to Obsidian Orbital, in Maia, on my way to Amudsen’s Star. I said that I still had preparations to do and it could take me a while to depart. She answered that she was in no hurry. I guess I will have to fly with her again.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE ANCIENT RUINS
29 NOV 3305, system HD 63154, Guardian Site.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Orion, landed on HD 63154 B3a, among the alien ruins of a Guardian installation.
She was right. The ancient ruins were exactly where she said. Now, let’s see if she can extract that FSD booster technology she claimed it could be obtained here. But for that we will have to wait. It is pitch black out there. I am not letting her to explore these ruins in the dark. There is something on this place that gives me the creeps. We should better wait for the daylight. And, besides, she does not know, but I am waiting for reinforcements.
I cannot believe that just ten days after I got rid of her, I let her get into my ship again. Specially after what I saw she was capable of doing. But her offer was too good to ignore.
Two days ago I was working in one of the hangars of Hamilton Gateway in my new ship, an ASP Explorer that I bought in Beagle 2 Landing, in Asellus Primus system, the same place where my father left me before embarking in his last exploration mission. The one from he did not come back. Since my father disappeared in the Merope system, I thought that Orion would be a very suitable name for my new vessel.
I guess she had been following me. My mysterious passenger, as I liked to call her, had been wandering around the docks for the last days, keeping track on me. Well, dock security is a serious issue in space stations, ask illegal trespassers for the matter, the galactic commerce depends on that, and nobody likes wanderers around their private hired hangars when working. When the trespasser alarm sounded I run to grab my pistol. When I arrived to the door of the hangar, she had already beaten three guards that were laying at her feet unconscious. I leaned my gun to the back of her head and pushed while screaming her to freeze. The moment she felt the cold cannon of my gun on her nape, she did a lightning fast twist kicking my ankles and unbalancing me. I falled backwards to the floor and when I was able to aim to her again with my gun she had the point of a long thin knife against my throat. I have never seen anybody moving so fast in my life. Lucky for me, two more security guards had come and where aiming at her, this time from a distance, with their plasma rifles. I do not know why, but I told the guards that she was with me and that all the mess has been a misunderstanding; that she was a passenger that has misplaced her access code to the hangar. I had to pay a fine of 200 credits for the mess. But they checked my credentials and that she came to Hamilton Gateway on one of my ships and let us loose.
Of course, she did not payed the fine, but said she would compensate me. I told her that I did not denounce her on respect to the Allied Order of Exemplars, but I wanted to know why she was following me. That is when she came with her offer. She had seen me engineering the Orion for deep exploration, and she said that she knew how I could dramatically increase its jump range using alien technology.
According to the GalNet, the Guardians were an alien humanoid species that became extinct two million years ago. Their Ancient Ruins were first discovered in the Synuefe XR-H D11-102 system on October 27 3302 by Commander XDeath. The mayor galactic expert in the Guardians is the engineer Ram Tah. In the last three years many Guardian ruins have been discovered. I even landed in one of them during Distant Worlds 2. And many commanders have been taking advantage of hybrid Human-Guardian technologies. It seems that the Guardians were at war with the Thargoids millions of years ago, and their weapons are especially effective against them. Alien technology brokers can be found now in some space stations of the Bubble. They deal with Guardian technologies to increase the performance of ships beyond common engineering. I have seen ships with ridiculous jump ranges during my trip to Beagle Point. But getting one’s hands into one of these technologies is not easy. The tech brokers take their toll. They request for special alien components and schematics for their services. And, in order to get those, it is necessary to find a special kind of structure in the Guardian ruins and be able to hack it. And I do not know how to do that. But my mysterious passenger does, or that is what she says.
So there we went. To the black again. In search of the Guardian ruins that keep the secrets of the FSD booster. On this occasion, being my partner and not only a passenger, she gave a name to call her, Ayumi, that I presume false, of course.
The trip went without incident. Ayumi still remained laconic in the little interactions we had. And the Orion proved it to be a true explorer ship. I can tell the difference with my beloved Hyperion. The jump range is a little bite lesser, for the moment, but thanks to its big fuel scoop, the most expensive piece of equipment of the ship, it can refuel from a star as its fly by, without decelerating, thus allowing to travel much faster. And thanks to its engineered power plant, it does not overheat at all. Moreover, it has bigger crew quarters, fit for long range exploration. It is clear that the Diamondback Explorer was designed for medium range trips. I still wonder myself how I managed to not get crazy on the way back from Beagle Point.
In less than 24 hours we arrived to system HD 63154, and that was without neutron star boosting. At this pace, I could reach the Zurara in ten days. There is quite a distance from the entry point to the second star, where the planet with the ruins orbit. I could tell from space that these ruins are not like the ones I saw during Distant Worlds 2. From above they looked like a complex or installation of some sort. Not just a collection of obelisks. I saw a clear in one of the sides of the structure and landed there.
Ayumi is eager to commence exploring the ruins, but I have told her that we will wait for the daylight. Besides, I cannot trust her and this will give time to the reinforcements to arrive. I am not crazy enough to come to an alien ruin with an artificially enhanced psycho girl without some backup.
There is something about this place that makes me very uncomfortable. I can see the gleaming blue lights in the pylons outside. They are still active. After millions of years. And the sounds on the surface scanner has a regular pattern, artificial. I would say that we have been probed when we landed. I think something has scanned us.
I better end this log and check what Ayumi is doing. I do not feel comfortable sleeping in my bunk in a place like this, so I am going to rest in the cockpit, so if something happens we can get out of here fast. I am blocking the access door too. I have seen what Ayumi can do, she is a lethal weapon and I do not know what her real plan. It is just a precaution. I better eat something, check the ship and be back fast. It is just a feeling, but I would say that something is lurking out there.
Jav Marlo signing out.
To be continue…
19 NOV 3305, system Upaniklis.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Deimos, on high orbit over Upaniklis B, where the Generation Ship Golconda was recently found adrift.
It is amazing. The inhabitants of this megaship have survived in total isolation for more than a millennium creating a self-reliant society. They have crossed incredible distances, without hyperdrive technology, entirely disconnected from the rest of humanity… until now.
In eighteenth century in the American continent of old Earth, the figure of the pioneer emerged claiming his place in the popular culture. They were soldiers, workers, trailblazers, cowboys, trappers, prospectors, miners and the like that ventured into unexplored territory in search of a new life, looking to establish permanent settlements and colonize the West. Three hundred years later, imbued with that same spirit, the first Generation Ship was launched from Sol, and soon was followed by approximately 70,000 others over the next decades. They were large starships with self-sustaining environments designed to travel interstellar distances at sub-light speeds. All these was before the advent of faster-than-light travel and cryogenic stasis, so the Generation Ships were prepared to support hundreds or thousands of people for centuries. Successive generations of colonists would be born and raised in the confines of a Generation Ship until it finally arrived at its destination world, which the latest generation would then colonize. The first pioneers of deep space exploration.
According to the GalNet, many of these vessels were launched ill-prepared for the arduous journey that awaited them, and many of the corporations that funded the vessels were dissolved or assimilated by other organizations over the years, making it difficult to keep track of their positions and ownership. While the vast majority of Generation Ships reached their destinations without incident and established successful colonies, a fraction counted among "the Missing" were lost in transit and are now sought by explorers and treasure hunters.
Many of these lost Generation ships have been found: the Lycaon, the Venusian, the Hyperion, the Odysseus, the Thetis, the Pleione, the Atlas, the Lazarus, the Artemis, the Phobos, the Demeter and more. And all of them have something in common; their crews died in a horrid way. The commanders that found them tell stories about alien contagions, pirate raids, messiahs, riots, diseases, craziness, homicidal tendencies, genetic anomalies, catastrophic malfunctions, serial killers, human sacrifices and even cannibalism, among other horrors.
One week ago, one of this “Missing” vessels, the Golgonda, was found in the Upaniklis system and, incredibly after more than a thousand years, it was still inhabited. The crew of the Golgonda have reported a lack of maintenance materials and medical supplies and, what is more pressing, that a virus is sweeping through the ship. Despite the dangers, the galactic community has rallied to help this pioneers of one millennium ago, just to find that they have developed and isolationist culture. It seems that they just stablished contact after years of self-sufficient because the viral outbreak has depleted their already meagre supplies. The people of the Golconda has been disconnected from the rest of humanity until now, and are quite reluctant to leave their home or interact with the rest of the galaxy. I do not blame them. The Empire and the Federation have already their ideas about what to do with the inhabitants of the Golconda. I guess none of them asked them what they want.
The Alliance is not taking part on this galactic initiative. And regarding me, I have come here because I wanted to see a Generation ship with my own eyes, since soon I am about to embark in a quest to search for one. But the Generation Ship I am looking for is totally different to these old ones, …and much more mysterious.
Some days ago I finally got to know Bill Turner, the engineer, son of Mic Turner, hero of the Alliance. It was not easy to reach him. About one year ago I knew professor Ishmail Palin in his old base in Maia. I helped him collecting some Thargoid samples and he listened to my story about the disappearance of my father in Merope. He put me on track and suggested that I should investigate what was my father doing there, instead of trying to find what happened to his ship. He also said that I would not be able to get any answers from the government, but there are very influential people that are aware about every cover operation that runs in the galaxy and that, maybe, they could be willing to help me. He gave me two names: Lori Jameson and Bill Turner. He also suggested that Bill Turner may have a hidden agenda. Alas, that is the only lead I have right now. And the information I got from Bill Turner has been quite… disturbing.
I met Bill Turner in his base of Turner Metallics Inc. and I told him everything that I knew about my father’s disappearance, how his ASP was found adrift in Merope and the possible connection with the Thargoids. I skipped the part about him being probably a double agent from the Federation and my recently found brother Zal Marlo. Turner listened patiently and asked me to stay in his base for a day as his guest.
The following day I met again with Bill Turner and he told me that, after digging into the Alliance databases, he has discovered that when my father disappeared he was coming back from a cover operation for the Alliance in the Formidine Rift. His mission was to follow the track of a Generation Ship that had been secretly launched in 3270. He did not mention any connection of my father with the Federation nor why he never made it back. When I asked him about his ship being found adrift in Merope, he just said that the Thargoids probably interdicted him. That many ships have been lost in the Pleiades nebula in mysterious circumstances before we knew that the Thargoids were back. Bill Turner even provided me with a copy of the original route my father was supposed to follow. He said that, according to the data he extracted from the Alliance databases and the route of my father, it is quite plausible that my father might have been looking for the Zurara. And that is all I could extract for him.
The Zurara, the megaship in the middle of the Formidine Rift mystery. A mystery involving the Children of Raxxla and Kahina Loren herself aka Salomé. Is it possible that my father was looking for that haunted ship too? The Zurara was launched in 3270, more than a thousand years later than the first Generation Ship sailed, so it relied in hyperspace technology, at least the old one. It was not until late 3290s that Frame Shift Drive technology became available opening a new era of exploration. The trip of the Zurara to the Formidine Rift may have taken years. With the advent of Frame Shift Technology, and Asp Explorer, like my father’s, could have cover that distance in weeks, or even less.
I first heard of the Zurara more than two years ago, when I was still in Asellus Primus. The story about the discovery of the megaship and the crew that sabotaged their own vessel before killing themselves was published in the GalNet. Years later, while participating in Distant Worlds 2, the leaders of the expedition, Erimus Kamzel and Dr. Kaii lured us to the Conflux Delta Site. The registers the settlers recorded before they died haunted me and that drove me to seek for more information. That is how I got to know about the Dinasty Project and the expeditions to the Hawkin’s Gap, the Conflux and the Formidine Rift. The mystery involving the Children of Raxxla and that probably caused Salomé’s utterly demise.
And now my father may be part of that mystery too. I learned during Distant Worlds 2 that the unregistered comms beacon of PRU AESCS NC-M D7-192, the system where the Conflux Delta Site was found, could be part of a net of several navigational beacons in the regions of Hawkin’s Gap, the Conflux and the Formidine Rift set to provide the planetary location of several settlements. These settlements would be staging posts for the mysterious Dinasty Expedition that traversed these locations three decades earlier and set up bases there. But who sent that expedition? With which purpose? Why the Alliance sent my father to search the Zurara? Did they know he was an officer of the Federation Navy? Alliance secret services does not skip details like that. There are still so many questions unanswered.
So… I am venturing into the black again, to the Formidine Rift. To try to find more clues about my father’s disappearance. To see with my own eyes. I will try to follow the original route of my father that Bill Turner provided me. Maybe that will help to know what he was up to.
But first, I must return to Hamilton Gateway, my base port, the headquarters of Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps, and get rid of my mysterious passenger. She did not complain when I told her about the detour to visit the Golconda. Indeed, I think she was delighted with the delay. I thought she was in a hurry because she did not leave the ship when we landed in New Beaumont Dock for more than 24 hours. But maybe I was mistaken. I think it is the idea of leaving this ship that discomforts her. Well, I do not care. We will arrive to Wolf 406 soon and my mission of carrying her to a safe port will be fulfilled. From there, she will not be my problem anymore. And besides, I have a lot of preparations to do. The Formidine Rift is far away and I do not know what perils will I find there.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE MYSTERIOUS PASSENGER
13 NOV 3305, New Beaumont Dock, Synuefai LX-R D5-28.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Deimos, landed at New Beaumont Dock, in Synuefai LX-R D5-28.
Today is my first anniversary as a commander of the Pilots Federation. It was exactly one year ago when I finally got my license back in Asellus Primus. So many things have happened since then. I have crossed the Galaxy to Beagle Point, made a fortune mining Painite and Low Temperature Diamonds, joined the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps and gained quite a reputation as a bounty hunter. I am rich now beyond my wildest dreams. I should be celebrating. Instead of that, I am landed in one lonely outpost halfway to the Bubble from the California Nebula with an undesired and mysterious passenger on my ship.
My bounty hunting operation in the California Nebula was fruitful. For weeks I have been flying combat operations departing from the asteroid base of Darwin Research Facility in order to enforce the law in the very contested system of California Sector BV-Y c7. Like that, I raised my reputation with the local factions and, finally, General Scout Ramsey, from Turner Research Group, handled me a recommendation letter to Bill Turner. The big man himself has said that he will meet me at his facility in Alioth. It is my hope that he can give me a clue about my father’s disappearance, like professor Palin told me.
During my stay at the nebula, I have been working too for the Allied Order of Exemplars, a theocratic Alliance faction that have made of the California Nebula their home, where they provide security and stability for any travelers that make the pilgrimage to the nebula. I have passed some time among them in their asteroid base of Darwin Research Facility, and have studied their ways. For them, the galaxy is not about material gain but a tool for furthering advancement and understanding of consciousness through spiritual disciplines, para-science, human augmentation, Noetic enhancers, the arts and social politics. The Order takes great pride in its achievements, both past and present, enacting lawful humanitarian and developmental interventions to the benefit of the Alliance of Independents and its citizens. They claim to be pacifists, but fiercely defend against pirates the inhabited systems of the California Nebula. I know. I have been fighting side by side with them. That is why, when I told them that I was coming back to the Bubble, they asked me for a favor I could not refuse.
One of the Exemplars leaders, Elder Arianna Winkler, asked me to take secretly a passenger back to the Bubble. It seems that I have made a reputation of being good smuggling people. And that is how the mysterious passenger, that is how I call her, got into my ship. And I have not felt comfortable in my own boat since then. I have no passenger cabins, so we both have to share the crew quarters. Despite that, we have not exchanged more than a couple of words during the trip. She tries to avoid me and not use the common rooms like the galley or the restroom while I am around, but that is even worse. Is like having a ghost in the ship. A creepy and silent ghost.
How should I describe her? She is young, but there is a hardness and determination in her eyes quite uncommon for her age. Well, at least in one of her eyes. The other one is a cybernetic prosthetic. That is one of the most polemic aspects of the Exemplars. They believe in human enhancement through spiritual disciplines and cybernetics. And my passenger has clearly been augmented. She moves effortlessly, with the grace of a feline. The life in an asteroid base with minimum gravity takes its toll to the body, but her physic seems not to be affected. She has the musculature of an elite athlete. You cannot get that body tone living in such a place, not without using unconventional methods. Like many combat pilots, she opts for the buzz haircut, quite practical for soldiers or those who pass a lot of time in a starship. And there is the scar. A hideous cut crosses the left side of her face from the forehead to the cheek. I have seen many cuts like that and I can tell that was made with a blade. She probably lost her eye because of that cut. Scar and haircut apart, she could have been quite a beauty, …in other circumstances. I have noticed that she has a subtle imperial accent that she tries to conceal, maybe that is why she barely speaks. She clearly was not raised in Alliance territory, nor the Federation. Besides all these, the identity of my passenger is a mystery, same as her name, mission and final destination. She just asked me where I was heading and I said Alioth and then Wolf 406. She said that she will disembark at Hamilton Gateway. She does not look to be in a hurry though… (Sighs) Only one thing is sure about her, I will feel quite relief when she is out of my ship. I am used to be alone on my boat. I hate this situation.
The Deimos is a formidable multirole vessel, but not suited for deep space travelling. Its jump range is mediocre. So, like on the way to the California Nebula, I have decided to make a stop in one of the connection outpost along the route, New Beaumont Dock. From here there are 29 jumps more to Alioth. I will continue my trip tomorrow.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE CALIFORNIA NEBULA
07 NOV 3305.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Deimos, landed at Darwin Research Facility, in California Sector BV-Y c7.
It has been almost a year since I graduated at the Asellus Primus Academy for Novitiate Pilots and got my commander license. Back then, my only purpose was to find out what happened to my father, Cisco Marlo. The official report said that he disappeared in the Merope system five years ago. His ASP Explorer was found adrift with no life signs on board. That was all. And that is way I bought an Adder, the Hesperides, and travelled to the Pleiades. I wanted to know the truth.
In the Pleiades I had my first contacts with the Thargoids and, after many endeavors, got to finally meet professor Palin. Before that I had tried to get more information from the Alliance authorities with no results. It seems that any information concerning my father was classified. Palin put me on track again. He suggested that some powerful and influential engineers, Bill Turner and Lori Jameson, could have some clues about the fate of my father. He also warned me about Bill Turner.
Then came Distant Worlds 2, and my involvement with the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps. I am now an accomplished combat pilot who has crossed the galaxy, owns a flotilla of ships and has vast resources at his disposal. And, nonetheless, I have not yet found my way to Bill Turner and Lori Jameson.
Well, I decided to put it a solution. Lori Jameson is still way out of my reach. She only invites to her base in Shirarta Dezhra to pilots with a huge toll of kills on their backs. I will get to her, with time. But Bill Turner is Alliance. I have been to his base. I just needed to find a way from him to receive me in person.
And that is what brought me to the California Nebula. The Alliance has made a considerable infrastructure investment in the Nebula, and most of this expansion effort has been leaded by Turner Research Group. I thought I could improve my relation with this faction in order to get to know to the big man himself. And I had the Deimos for that task, and incredible efficient multi role ship engineered to the max. I thought such a fringe place would be ripe with pirates and criminals messing with the local authorities. I was not mistaken.
The California Nebula is approximately 1000 light years away from the Bubble, but there are some connection outposts along the way. Viridian Orbital is the first of them, an Orbis starport in system Mel 22 Sector GM-V c2-8, surprisingly well outfitted for such an isolated place. The Alliance did not spare resources when they colonized the California Nebula three years ago. They probably foresaw a war for the resources of the nebula and tried to stablish a solid supply line.
One day after I arrived to California Gateway, an Orbis Starport in system Synuefai EB-R C7-5 and, as before, Turner Research Group was the only faction present.
According to GalNet and the official logs, in October 3302, the Alliance deployed a flotilla to California Sector BA-A e6 to study a number of organic structures called Bark Mounds that were discovered on the system’s fourth planet. On October 13, in a controversial move, the Alliance announced plans to build a research outpost there to continue studying the structures. The campaign was successful, and Mic Turner Base became the first colony in the California Nebula.
The Alliance began expanding its presence in the California Nebula on December 22, with a second campaign personally overseen by Alliance Prime Minister Edmund Mahon. This resulted in the construction of Mahon Research Base in HIP 18077, intended to serve as a center for xenobiological and astronomical research, my first stop.
The Bark Mounds that took the Alliance to the California Nebula years ago are a species of fungal life. They were such an incredible and relevant discovery on that time, right on the verge of this new season of galactic exploration. Another significant discovery decided the location of Mahon Research Base. They found another species of fungus: anemones. Beautiful and orange, like giant pumpkins.
On May 5 3303, the Alliance announced another outpost campaign, this time focusing on the California Sector HR-W d1-28 system, resulting in the construction of Ford Research Laboratory. The found some geological phenomenon in the form of fumaroles that were worth of study.
My final destination was, of course, Mic Turner Base in California Sector BA-A e6. The place where they found the Bark Mounds field. The mysterious biological structure that brought the Alliance here on the first place. The field is right at the side of the base and the security is incredible tight with Goliath skimmers hovering all around the place. Now I only needed to settle for a base from where to start my operation.
After the sightseeing tour, in order to start with the bounty hunting, I decided to head to California Sector CQ-Y C5, where a prison megaship, the Quarry, is stationed. I hoped they could provide me with some juicy hunting pirate contracts, but they operate as an independent faction more focused in providing detention services than law enforcement. Lucky for me, they put me in the right direction.
And that is how I arrived to the rock where I am now. The asteroid base of Darwin Research Facility in California Sector BV-Y c7.
This system is crowded with pirates. I guess the asteroid belts and the high number of landable bodies makes for good hideouts. The nav bouy is compromised. Criminal groups have taken over the place and are harassing every ship stopping by. A deadly Mamba by the name of Hatred tried to scan me. I blew it to pieces with my modified frag cannons.
Turner Research Group has presence on the base, as in most bases of the California Nebula. General Scout Ramsey briefed me on the state of the sector upon my arrival. But Darwin Research Facility is the home of another Alliance faction, the Allied Order of Exemplars. A theocratic group of jaded Alliance operatives and rock hermits that consider themselves custodians of the peace in the California Nebula.
And they have a lot of work. For the last weeks I have been hunting pirates and criminals at the compromised nav buoy of California Sector BV-Y c7. All the modifications of the Deimos made of it, probably, the most powerful ship in the sector. My exploits have gained me an allied reputation with Turner Research Group and, what is most important, the big man himself has allowed to meet me in person at his base in Alioth when I come back.
I have found some old friends here too. Some of the Sunflex Pilots I rescued from slavery have been relocated to the California Nebula by the Alliance Interpol cover operations agents, and a group of them have joined the Order of Exemplars.
One of them, Josslyn Carver, now Acolyte Josslyn Carver, recognized me upon my arrival. She is now in charge of greeting the new comers to the station and organizing low level operations. She felt grateful for her new faith and life, and procured that I felt comfortable during my stay in their rock-home.
Somehow this place has captivated me. A nebula full of mysteries. The fringe of civilization. The raw and simple violence of the combats I have been taking part of. They were not about politics, like the wars of the Bubble, they were simply about greed and survival. A ship like the Deimos may not be a big deal in the core worlds, but here, in the frontier, it can make a huge difference.
It is a pity I will have to return soon. The news that came from the Bubble about the blight, these terrorist biochemical attacks and the hunger are not very appealing. But I cannot delay my responsibilities much longer and, besides, I am going to know Bill Turner.
Jav Marlo signing out.
A JACK OF ALL TRADES
14 OCT 3305, system Wolf 406.
Yes. I think the Deimos is ready.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Deimos, landed at Hamilton Gateway in system Wolf 406.
I am recording this log to register the modifications I have made to the Scourge, the Python I got during the rescue of the Sunflex pilots, and how I have made a great multirole ship of it. Or at least that is what I think.
I must confess I was very impressed by the Scourge performance and high fire power during my combat with the pirates of the Black Gang. It managed to survive the combined attack of two Anacondas even with the poor upgrades I was able to made and its battered and corroded hull. And then was when an idea arose. I have been confining most of my operations to the surroundings of the Wolf 406 system due to the fact that my increasing flotilla is parked there. I mostly own transport and combat ships, besides my beloved Cobra. But I did not own any ship capable of bounty hunting and big hauling at the same time. The kind of ship that can land in an outpost and carry out most missions that are offered. I think my newly acquired Python can be this ship. The perfect Jack of all trades.
So, here is a list of all the modifications I have performed. First of all, I got rid of the old corroded light hull and installed a state of the art reactive surface composite. I removed the old fins, spikes and redundant systems and added some new ones. The final touch was a lay of black paint with a green stripe. A small Alliance touch. I had to find too a new name for the Scourge. Given the hideous past of the ship, I thought something with an ominous sound was in order. So I decided for Deimos, the mythological old Greek personification of terror.
It was the time to tune up the weapons of the Deimos. The main setback of the Python is its sluggish maneuverability. A couple of medium beam turrets will help me deal with nimbler ships. The great hardpoint placement helps counteract the poor turning velocity. In order to deal with the bigger fishes, three grand fragment cannons will shred their shields and hulls. I visited Zacariah Nemo and his cyber friends, and he engineered my frags to the max. Now I can double shot incendiary rounds and corrosive shells that can rip apart a small ship in an instant and cause serious damage to a big one. Before leaving, Zacariah insisted that I should use cyber-implants in my eyes in order to improve my accuracy and get the maximum profit from his weapons. I declined his offer.
As for the core systems. A quick visit to Hera Tani at the Jet’s hole allowed me to improve the output of my power plant and its resilience at the same time. There is something about Hera that makes me uncomfortable. I always try to expend the less time possible at her base.
I concluded my tour around the underworld circles visiting the Dweller, who increased the charging velocity of my power distributor way beyond its specifications.
Regarding the internals. I removed the cages for prisoners and the torture room and gained a lot of space. After installing a proper system for dealing with the canisters I ended with a big cargo bay capable of hauling 128 tonnes of merchandise. I upgraded the collector limpet controller but found it very heavy, so I pay a visit to an engineer I had not contacted before. He goes only by the name of the Sarge, and he do not hide that he is a veteran form the Federal Navy. He also worked for the drone division of Core Dynamics, and is a magician tinkering with limpet controllers. He managed to reduce the mass of my system by an 85 percent just removing redundant circuits and safety systems. He only asks for the scanning data of combat ships in exchange for his services.
Didi Vatermann, the shield expert and Lavian Brandy lover of Leesti, helped me with the final pushes to the shields and boosters. Together we found a perfect combination for fast charging shields with enhanced resistances.
My tuning up project ended with a visit to professor Palin at his new headquarters in Abel Laboratory. He squeezed all the raw power possible from the thrusters in order to provide the Deimos with a reasonable combat speed, its Achilles’ heel.
The rest of the modifications consisted majorly in making lighter systems like the sensors or the life support. Modifications that I have learnt to perform on my own.
The final results are amazing. The performance data I get from the workbench is way beyond my expectations. The Deimos is my most powerful ship so far. And the most expensive too. Let’s see if it is up to the task.
Meanwhile, the news about a blight affecting crops all over the Bubble threatens to reduce the availability of foodstuffs in multiple systems. The fear to starvation has caused civil unrest. Independent pilots have been called to help. Pirates and terrorists are coming to the smell of the blood too. I guess there are many systems where the Deimos could mark a difference. There are plenty of Alliance systems that could use some push too. Mmmnnn! There is one going through elections right now. A small corporate system with low security and an economy of extraction. The only station to land there is a tiny outpost. A ship like the Deimos operating there could have a significant impact. Let’s find out.
Jav Marlo signing out.
12 OCT 3305, system Lauksa.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Atlas, landed at the Teller Ring in system Lauksa.
The whole affair of the rescue of the Sunflex pilots from slavery cost me a great a deal, both personally and economically. My account is still pretty heavy, after cashing out all the exploration data I got from Distant Worlds 2, but I invested more than 100 million credits in upgrading the Scourge. So, for the last weeks, I have been looking for a way of getting a good source of funding that can sustain the increasing scope of my operations. I own a flotilla of fourteen ships now. And one concept rose up: Painite mining.
Painite is an incredibly rare borate mineral that typically takes the form of a red gemstone. Highly sought after by socialities throughout occupied space, it is renowned for being one of the most valuable types of gemstones in the galaxy. And right now there is a rush for it.
Some months ago, a group known as the Elite Miners issued a call for locating overlapping Painite hotspots. The results were the finding of six systems where these rare phenomena occurr. And most important, they shared the results of their quest with the whole galactic community. Many commanders have been tuning their mining techniques on these sites since them and, right now, Painite mining is considered a more profitable enterprise than Void Opal mining, assuming that one has the time and a considerable large ship with enough cargo space. Painite mining trips tend to be long. Well, I had a Type 9 heavy freighter, the Atlas, so I installed some mining lasers, a refinery and all the tools necessary for prospecting, and made a heavy bulk miner of it.
I decided to try my luck at the pristine rings of Hyades Sector DB-X d1-112 second planet, and headed to the nearby Crowfor system where I made of the Szebehely Port Coriolis Starport my base of operations. From there, in the following days, I conducted a series of mining trips to the pristine metal rings of Hyades Sector DB-X d1-112 2, a huge waterworld with an ammonia atmosphere.
I must say that the information provided by the Elite Miners and the commanders that collaborated to locate these hotspots is priceless, most of the rocks are ripe with Painite waiting to be scraped with the mining lasers. The limpets work untiringly collecting Painite fragments as I jump from rock to other. A pulse scanner makes it very easy to locate the most promising ones.
From time to time I find some sub surface Painite deposits, that are dealt with displacement missiles, or surface depots, that are torn off with the abrasion blaster. Painite cores are trickier, they require seismic charges to blow them off and carefully navigation through the remaining asteroid fragments, something not easy at all piloting a huge flying brick like the Type 9. Shields are mandatory. But the output of mining a Painite core makes it worth the risks.
The results of the whole operation are that I managed to mine 528 tons of Painite in just three incursions. The major setbacks are the pirate incursions. They are meagre, but there is no room for weapons in the Atlas, like in the Plutos, and running away in a Type 9 is really difficult. I was attacked three times. First time it was a Cobra that followed me before I started mining and lost interest very fast when it realized I was carrying nothing but limpets. The second attack was by an Eagle. Luckily for me an Eagle has not a lot of punch and a couple of Vipers of system security came to my aid. I guess the constant traffic of miners has come to the develop of some kind of security patrols to provide the minimum security. The last attack almost caught me. A dangerous Krait MkII almost blow me off with my cargo hold full of Painite. Such a ship can mass lock a Type 9 and carries a terrible punch. I managed to jump to another system with less than half my hull integrity. Painite mining is highly profitable, but beware of the pirates.
I found the best selling prices in a reasonable distance for my load in Teller Ring, a Coriolis Starport in the independent system of Lauksa, an industrial economy. The profit of the whole operation was over 400 million credits. And it got me the promotion Elite in Trade. Now I feel like I play in the big league. Maybe it is the appropriate time to expand my operations far beyond Wolf 406. I am thinking in investing the money in finishing engineering and upgrading the Scourge, my new Python. I have the hunch that it has the potential of becoming a great multirole ship, capable of allowing me to take all kinds of different missions anyplace, saving me the necessity of transferring my ships. We will see.
Jav Marlo signing out.
SLAVE TRADE - Epilogue
26 SEP 3305, system Alioth
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Scourge, heading back to system Wolf 406, heading back home.
Against all odds, the mission to rescue the Sunflex pilots from slavery went good, so far. Alas they will not be returning to Nauni, the pirates of the Black Gang warned me about that. It could be dangerous for them and there is a chance that the Gold General Partners may retaliate. Besides, after tasting slavery, they were not in a very good shape to fight any time soon. So we had to improvise another solution.
Flying a ship like the Scourge with a cargo hold full of cages and people in rags into a decent system with high security does not seem highly recommended. And some of the Sunflex pilots were in urgent need of medical attention, so I needed to find a not so decent system to land and get some help. That is how I found the system Ongkama. It was near, right in the fringe of the Empire. A terraforming market economy with some military presence and less than four hundred thousand people living there. All kinds of slavery were legal. And there is a small planetary outpost, Hume Lab, that is controlled by the Jet Syndicate. The kind of place where unethical experiments with humans are conducted, but also the kind of place where to get a doctor that does not ask questions.
Hume Lab represents one of the darkest aspects of slavery, besides hard labour. The outpost pretends to be a legitimate research facility, but it is controlled by the mafia, and they have a slave market. I cannot imagine what kind of work is done in those labs. The place is in permanent darkness and the main bunker looks more a prison than a medical facility. Two huge Goliath skimmers patrol the outskirts.
I understand there are different types of slaves. The Empire presents slavery as a voluntarily contract of servitude. Basic human rights are guaranteed. An honourable way of avoiding the shame of incurring in debt, their leaders proclaim. Well, that may be true in the fancy systems like Achenar or Synteini. Here, in a terraforming economy on the fringe of civilized space, imperial slavery may be the only chance the local citizens have to leave this hellish place. Life can be incredibly harsh in a terraforming system. I have checked it, there are two orbit outpost in the system plus a big planetary port. All controlled by imperial loyalist. All of them selling imperial slaves by the hundreds. And also paying a blind eye to the other kind of slave market at Hume Lab. I guess that, from time to time, some imperial slaves are misplaced on those markets and end in a dark laboratory instead of the state of fancy imperial patron. They claim to follow the model of the ancient Roman Empire. Well, I like to read history, it is true that some slaves at service of important rulers became very powerful in the ancient Rome, that some of them were well treated, even freed, there were some revolts though, like happened in Chione some years ago, but mostly there was despair, pain and death. And the Ongkama system is clearly a place of despair. I went into the market and payed a doctor to came to the Scourge and attend the Sunflex ill pilots. He did not hesitate a second about my looks, the appearance of the ship, nor the state of its passengers. He just did his job, took the credits and left.
I talked with the Sunflex pilots once they were feeling safe and better. They agreed not to come back to Nauni. But what to do with them? The Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps had the solution. Political Asylum was quickly discarded, we did not want to attract undesirable attention, given the way I had conducted the mission and, besides, cover operations has always been the way of the Alliance. So, we came up with a plan to hide the Sunflex people into different systems in the fringe of Alliance space. They would have to split, and they will be given new identities and will be relocated within different Alliance factions like the Sap Core Legion or the Allied Order of Exemplars. The whole operation would be coordinated by Aide Marin Mason, from the Alioth Independents. The only problem is that I needed to get to system Alioth, where the capital of the Alliance is and, with ship like the Scourge full of refugees, it was not going to be easy. After all, it seemed that I was going to smuggle some slaves into Alliance territory.
The Scourge leaving Hume Lab (Ongkama)
I flew the 258 light years of distance to Alioth in less than an hour, just stopping for fuel scooping. Soon, the magnificent blue-white star, Epsilon Ursae Majoris, also known as Alioth, greet me. The birthplace of the Alliance.
Alioth is a permit restricted system with a population of over fourteen thousand million citizens. The perfect place to hide among the locals and go unnoticed. The main problem is to surpass its tight security. There are several Orbis and Coriolis stations over Wicca’s World, Turner’s World and Argent’s Claim, all of them orbiting the fifth planet. Impossible to approximate there without being scanned. But there is a tiny commercial outpost orbiting the first planet of the system: Laird Dock.
It is unlikely that there are security patrols there, and the proximity to the entry point reduces the chances for the local security force to notice one’s presence on that short trail. Smugglers are aware of this loophole and there is a well stablished black market within the outpost. That was the place for the rendezvous.
Aide Marin Mason was waiting for us. I guess Mohawk hairstyles must be the trend now. She had everything settled when we arrived. I shook hands with the Sunflex pilots and said goodbye. I doubt I will be seeing them again. Marin Mason rushed us. She wanted all the Sunflex pilots to be at their new homes as soon as possible. She did not reveal any details of the operation.
And like that, with a shake of hands and a rush goodbye, this whole operation ended. I must confess I never imagined it would carry out like this. I am sorry for Chief Aiyanna Winters, back on Nauni. He will not be recovering his pilots. Hard times for the Sunflex Group Limited are ahead. At least, they will not end their days in that remote hell of Pirate’s Lament. As for me, I have invested considerable credits in order to keep up with this task, most of them went to the Scourge. The Scourge (sighs), it was supposed to be the reward for my efforts, and it has become a constant pain. But… I see a lot of potential on this ship. I think that with a complete update, it could be a great acquisition to my fleet. I must admit that, even with the sub optimal modifications I made and a paper thick corroded armour it was able to beat the combined attack of two pirate Anacondas. It also has a huge cargo bay while being able to land in outpost. It is a bit slow though, but that can be fixed. Yes. It is decided. I am keeping the Scourge. I will consider it my personal tune up project.
I must confess that this whole affair took me out of my control zone. Pirates in a RES zone, I can manage, face to face is a totally different business. I tend to think that I am a tough man. But I am still amazed about how easily and fast the Sunflex pilots broke in Pirate’s Lament. I doubt I would have endured better than them. Slavery is a scourge, no matter what kind. But I am not as naive as the Sunflex people. Slavery has never ceased to exist, and will not end any time soon. Right now, as the Sunflex pilots fly to their new homes, Galbraith, the slave smuggler, will probably have a new prosthetic arm and a shiny new ship to continue smuggling slaves to fuel the Black Gang mining operation at Pirate’s lament. I may have changed the fate of 50 people, but in the big scope I have achieve nothing. Just the relief of doing what I thought was right. That is the thought where I find solace. I would do it everything again if I had the chance.
Now, coming back home, to Wolf 406, I feel so lucky for being Alliance, and I cannot take off my mind the words of an old poem about slavery I once heard when young, back at Dublin Citadel. It was by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet from the eighteenth century and, if a remember correctly said like this:
The burden I must bear, while the cruel scourge I fear, In the lands of Virginia,-ginia, O; And I think on friends most dear, with the bitter, bitter tear, And alas! I am weary, weary O: And I think on friends most dear, with the bitter, bitter tear, And alas! I am weary, weary O:
SLAVE TRADE - Chapter V: Pirate’s Lament
24 SEP 3305, system HIP 17519
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Scourge, arriving to system HIP 17519. I have fly here to rescue some pilots from the Sunflex Group Limited that were sold as slaves to the pirates of the Black Gang. The man who brought them here is tied inside one of the cages of my cargo hold. My plan is simple: Kill some pirates within the system, make them fear me, then come to their base, make a deal for the Sunflex Pilots and leave this pirate den as soon as I can. But in order to lure some pirates to my trap, I am going to need a bait, so I have loaded some gold on my ship. Pirates love gold.
I have drop out of super cruise at the nav buoy of the system… This place is crowded with pirates looking for prey. Let’s see if they bite the bait.
A group of Imperial Couriers and Eagles are approaching. They are scanning me… They are deploying weapons… They are opening fire and launching hatch breaker limpets. Big mistake. They are not a big catch. My beam laser turrets will shred them to pieces…
Wait… A Mamba is joining the fight. That is another thing. Let’s see if the sub optimal modifications I made to the Scourge weapons and shields are enough to hold a combined pirate attack.
Five pirates down, including the mamba fighter Rebuke. I have lost my gold cargo though. More ships are coming. They smell the blood. My shields are at minimum. I better leave.
Right now the pirates must know of my presence in their system. Let’s spread the terror a little bit more. I see an ASP Scout of the Black Gang. It is flying towards the third planet of the system, a ringed gas giant with water based life. That is where the pirate base must be. Interdicting.
Another one down. Now I am approaching the asteroid belt. The sight is beautiful.
There it is: Pirate’s Lament. Perhaps it is a little bit early to knock the door. Maybe I should cause more mayhem in the system. It has become clear that my slaver disguise does not fool anyone. Continue posing is futile. But I am an accomplished combat pilot flying a dreadful and powerful ship. And most pirate ships are easy to hunt. Much more easy than war ships. Mostly they have no armour and the limpets and other tools for looting take away space for weapons and shields reinforcement. Let’s see if I can provoke them.
I have been ostentatiously waiting outside the asteroid base for one hour and nothing happened. They did not send any ship after me, not shot me from the station, not contacted me nor even scanned me. Maybe they just expect me to get bored and leave. Wait… An Anaconda is departing the station. Maybe they are rising the bets…. Nope. It is not coming after me. It is moving away… It just left a low wake. That means it is going someplace within the system. I am pursuing. An Anaconda is a juicy prey.
I am following the Anaconda on super cruise. Wait… What is that signal?... A convoy! Here! I better take a look… There is a trading convoy! A Type 9 transport and several Type 7s. How did they end here? How is it possible? It is suicide. They are navigating through pirate’s paradise. There is no chance they leave this system unharmed. Crazy fools… And here we go. My Anaconda just appeared into scene, along with a Python, a Viper MkIV and… another Anaconda… The leader of the trading convoy is frantically requesting help, (sighs) like if a swarm of Vipers from system security could come to rescue them. This convoy is doomed. Unless…
Both Anacondas have engaged the Type 9. It does not have a chance. The Type 7s are running away being followed by the Python and the Viper. They do not intend to help their partner… It will have to be me.
The Type 9 is doomed. I better try to save the Type 7s. I am engaging the Python. The Viper pose a lesser threat… Python is down. Not a scratch on the Scourge… Beam laser turrets took easily the Viper. The Anacondas have destroyed the Type 9 and are now closing by. That will be harder… … … The power of the two Anacondas combined is too much. They tore apart my shields with their plasma accelerators. I am taking hull damage… … … I have managed to destroy one of the Anacondas. There is just the Etheria DeLaSombra left, the Anaconda I was pursuing. But I have taken heavy damage… … … It is running away. It tries to jump into super cruise… It escaped… Well. It does not matter. I believe the pirates know me now. Time to visit them at their base.
Approaching the pirate base from an angle outside the range of its defensive turrets. Let’s see if there is anybody home. I better be right about my plan. If I screw up I am doomed. I probably end my days cracking stones on a slave line along with the Sunflex pilots.
This is commander Jav Marlo, on board the Scorge, requesting permission to land.
This is associate Neriah Conner, from the Black Gang. Permission denied. Please, state the nature of your business.
I’m here to buy some slaves.
We’re sorry. We don’t know you, nor your ship. We don’t sell slaves to those we don’t know. We don’t want quarrel with you. You better leave.
In that case I’m selling slaves too. I’ve got a friend of yours tied in my cargo hold. Maybe you would like to make a deal for him. Or perhaps you’re eager to lose more ships.
You may land. Proceed to landing pad 26.
The moment of truth. Outside I am quite safe. The Scourge can outrun most ships that poses a real threat and jump to another system if outnumbered. They do not want me wandering around hunting their ships. But, once inside, the defence turrets of the base can obliterate me. The moment I enter I am vulnerable. I better play right my cards.
I can see they pirates have quite an operation here. They have built a huge hangar inside the asteroid. But that is not all. There is extraction and refining equipment spread everywhere. This is not just a concealed base, it is a full scale mining operation. I wonder what do they extract here. There are tunnels and galleries among the landing pads. No wonder they need slaves. The do not only trade with them, they are using them for labour.
They made me land in an isolated landing pad under construction. It seems that they have evacuated the surrounding area. I was not expecting a welcome committee. But this… I have a bad feeling. I cannot risk to leave the ship. I will be death the moment I set a foot out of the Scourge. This associate Neriah Conner seems a sensible person, I think, he says please and sorry. I must lure him in.
This is Jav Marlo. Associate Neriah Conner, do you copy me?
Yes, commander Marlo, we’re waiting to see your… “merchandise”.
If you’re waiting for me to leave my ship I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. If you want to see whose friend I have on my cargo hold, you’ll have to come down here. Unarmed. You’ve got my word this isn’t a trick.
OK. No tricks. If I see anything weird or something happens to me, the stations defence turrets will obliterate you and your ship, do you understand?
Understood. I am opening the boarding hatch. No tricks.
He is coming, I better get my pistol and the Ghurka knife Anahi gave me.
Welcome on board, Associate Neriah Conner.
Please, commander Marlo, let’s go straight to business.
Well. Here’s the deal. Some days ago, you received a load with 50 slaves.
We do receive many loads of slaves.
I want to buy this 50 slaves in particular.
And why that might be? Slaves are slaves. You do look like a slaver. This looks like a slaver ship. We can sell you slaves if you want, but I don’t know about the ones you’re talking about.
Follow me… (footsteps)… Perhaps your friend here tied in the torture chair can refresh your memory about the 50 slaves I’m looking for.
Ah! You’ve managed to capture Mr. Galbraith… So, you must have been hired by the Sunflex Group Limited. They want their pilots back. I never thought they would go so far… Alas, despite the damage your presence here has cause to our operations, I’m afraid we have a deal with Gold General Partners to keep these prisoners here enslaved, and we do not intend to break it.
I thought you loot from companies, instead of making deals with them.
Don’t be a fool commander Marlo. We do anything that seems profitable, being it legal or illegal. So, here is a new deal. I’m willing to overlook the trouble you caused us, and let you go if you turn over Mr. Galbraith to us. This is my last offer. I won’t bargain with you. Take it or leave it.
If I do that, I’ll be dead the moment you leave the ship. I’ve come a long journey to find these Sunflex pilots and I won’t leave without them. And, besides… why is Mr. Galbraith so important to you. I blew up his ship. He’s of not use anymore.
Ships can be bought.
If that’s so… (sound of knife unsheathing, snap… screams) … I’m afraid Mr. Galbraith cannot fly without hand, he’s of no use for you anymore, I’m taking him with me.
Hands can be reattached. (sighs) You know, Mr. Marlo. We, pirates, have a tendency to lose extremities…, it’s historical. I’m sure the medical facilities in this base will be able to deal with Mr. Galbraith’s injure. But, please, don’t slash our… acquaintance anymore with that big knife of yours. Now release him!
You leave me no choice Neriah… (terror screams).
WAIT. STOP... Mr. Marlo, please, spare the eyes of Mr. Galbraith. I’m afraid that reconstructing eye balls is beyond our capacities… (sighs) I can see you’re a man of will Mr. Marlo. Agreed. Mr. Galbraith is… “useful to us”. You can have your Sunflex slaves on the condition of not taking them back to Nauni. Do we have a deal?
Deal, but I want the Sunflex people here in my ship before I let you go. And you should hurry up Neriah, Mr. Galbraith is losing a lot of blood. You could lose your precious “merchandise”.
Mr. Marlo, you should leave the moment the Sunflex prisoners are on board. I cannot guarantee your safety if you remain in the base or within the system.
Don’t worry Neriah, I’m so eager to end our business relation as you are.
I have the Sunflex prisoners on board. They are in a deplorable state, but alive. It seems that slaves do not last for long in Pirate’s Lament… The Sunflex people is secure in the cargo hold. I have just released Associate Neriah Conner and Galbraith the slave smuggler. Any moment the defence turrets of the base will open fire on me. I better leave.
We did it. We are safe. I rescued the Sunflex pilots. I guess the slave smuggler was too valuable for them to keep up with their operation. I cannot believe the plan worked. I had to improvise though. It was never my intention to cut Galbraiths hand. And I was bluffing about removing his eyes. But Neriah swallowed it. Galbraith too. His screams helped. It is interesting how easy comes to me killing when in a space combat and how difficult seems to do it face to face. Maybe I should work on that. I mean, I know how to handle myself in a fight, have notions of hand to hand and knife combat, been in a couple of pretty nasty fights myself; but I have never kill someone on the flesh. This cover operation tested my abilities to the limit. Some of the people I crossed paths with were really dangerous. They would have not hesitated to kill me with their bare hands. Next time, if there is one, I should not hesitate too.
To be continue…