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…
SLAVE TRADE - Chapter IV: ROBIGO
20 SEP 3305, system Robigo.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Scourge, approaching Robigo Mines. I have fly here in hope of finding a slaver that works for the Robigo Cartel who abducted some prisoners from the Sunflex Group Limited at Asimov Bastion maximum security prison in order to sell them as slaves. My mission is to find and rescue them and, in order to do that I must find the slaver first.
Robigo a system out of the fringe of civilized space. No allegiance to any of the superpowers, but Sirius Corporation holds a tight grip over the whole place. Less than half a million habitants, committed to the extraction and refinery business, spread through a planetary port, an Orbis station and a couple of outposts. What the Inara database does not mention is that this system used to be the main hub of slave traffic in the galaxy not so long ago. And Robigo Mines was the place where all the deals were closed. So there I go.
Tegan Brennan told me that her superior at Asimov Bastion maximum security prison has been dealing for years with a slaver from the Robigo Cartel that flies a Keelback. She thinks he abducted the Sunflex prisoners, that meaning they can be anyplace right now, but the slaver knows. And I intend to find him. It all makes sense. Some years ago a huge scale operation for smuggling slaves into the Bubble was organized from here by the Robigo Cartel with the collusion of Sirius Corporation. The destiny of most of this slaves was to work in extraction or refineries in systems of the Bubble that presume of being civilized, but are not so much when it comes to profits. Many independent commanders made fortunes and bought themselves fancy Cutters thanks to this hideous trade. The situation became so scandalous, with Robigo having more traffic of commanders from the Pilots Federation than Shinrarta Dezhra, that the authorities had to intervene and end the business. But maybe there are still some remnants of the old ways.
I feel I lost a lot of time at Calhuacan and Asimov Bastion. That gave the slaver the advantage and he escaped me. I do not know his identity yet, but at the Robigo Cartel offices someone must know about who he is and, more important, his whereabouts so, on this occasion, I have decided to opt for a more direct approach. I am going to interrogate the Robigo Cartel representative here, a man by the name of prospect Art Lester, and I am going to extract the information I require, one way or the other. I am fastening the Ghurka knife and the pain stick to my belt and heading towards the station hall. I will record the conversation, just in case.
Welcome to Robigo mines, what can I do for you?
My name is Jav Marlo, independent commander. I’m looking for one of your operatives.
And who this operative might be?
I don’t know his name. He flies a Keelback.
I see. Any reasons for looking for him?
He stole something from me.
You’ll have to be more specific sir.
He stole some slaves from me.
You must be mistaken sir, there hasn’t been any slave traffic here in a long time. Everybody knows! We’re legitimate now.
Are you calling me a liar?
Listen carefully fool. I don’t know who you are. But I know a thing. You’re not slaver. I can see crystal clear it’s a pose. That looks of you may be the last scream of fashion in the Pegasi sector, but here, you’re totally out of place. It’s true there used to be a slave business here, but all the operations were about smuggling. You see, you’ve mistaken the disguise. We were smugglers here, not slavers. So you better leave before I become upset. I don’t know your intentions, but you shouldn’t talk about slavery here, not anymore, it can be… dangerous.
Now listen you to me moron. You’re right, I’m not slaver. I’m a bounty hunter. And that operative of yours is on my list. You don’t fool me too. I know your faction still does some slave smuggling from time to time so, here is the thing, if you check the dock roster you’ll see I’ve come in a fully loaded and packed Python with many big guns, and it’s my intention to camp here on this shit hole and hunt any ship from the Cartel with a bounty on it until I find the man I’m seeking. I just asked you because I thought you could save me some time, and save you and your faction many troubles at the same time.
Wait. I need to do a call.
Do whatever you need to do. I’ve got excellent relations with Sirius Corp, by the way. I’m sure they’ll appreciate if I get their system rid of some criminal scum.
The man you’re seeking goes by the name of Galbraith. His ship is called the Dark.
How do I find him?
Sooner or later he’ll go to the nav buoy of the system. He organizes his rendezvous there.
Thanks. That was very helpful.
One last thing commander Marlo. My superiors say that Galbraith has become sloppy, that he has brought undesirable attention upon us, your attention so, you may do whatever you must do with him but, we don’t want him back.
Resuming log. The meeting with the Robigo Cartel went better than I expected. I guess they do not want to be associated with slaves smuggling again and got rid easily of their operative. The concern of the faction for its personnel is very… touching. Anyhow, here I am, lurking at the nav buoy of Robigo, scanning every ship that flies by, waiting for this Keelback, the Dark, to make its appearance.
And here we go. A Keelback just jumped out of supercruise close to the nav bouy. Intercepting course. It is him. The Dark, with Galbraith piloting. He just passed over me. And there is a reward on him. That is perfect. I guess sometimes the stars align. I am pursuing.
This is commander Jav Marlo, on the Scourge. I seek information on the Sunflex prisoners you abducted from Asimov Bastion. Power down your ship.
Do not run away. Lower your thrusters and power down your ship.
Damn! He is running away.
I need to stop him before he jumps. I think I could follow him, but I do not want to take the risk… These beam laser turrets are priceless. Their arc of fire is great and they are so accurate. I can target the different subsystems and disable the ship. My hope is to capture Galbraith alive, but if that is not possible I think that I can extract the flight logs from the black box of his ship. That would tell me where did he sold the Sunflex prisoners.
Damn, he is going to explode… (sighs)
Well, what it will be, the man or the black box?... Lucky bastard.
Finnally. He is mine. I am thinking that maybe the torture room of the Scourge will be useful after all.
Resuming log. I have interrogated Galbraith. He may deal with slavers, but he is not one of them. Like the Robigo Cartel representative said, he is just a smuggler, used to avoid danger, not confronting it. I guess finally my new looks and the appearance of the Scourge were useful. The shock of his ship exploding and being expelled to the void inside a metal coffin probably helped too. One way or the other, Mr. Galbraith wet his pants the moment he regained conscious and found himself tied inside the torture room. My looks and the pain stick I wielded did the rest. He did not hesitate and told me that the Sunflex prisoners are now slaves of the Black Gang, a pirate clan that operates in HIP 17519. That he was paid to take the prisoners there by a representative of the Gold General Partners, just as Chief Aiyanna Winters suspected.
I have put Galbraith into one of the cages of the cargo hold. This Black Gang Pirate clan worries me. HIP 17519 is quite far of the borders of civilized space and, according to the Inara database, there is just an asteroid base there, the Pirate’s Lament. I guess its name is quite self-explanatory. There are no other factions there. The pirates rule uncontested. Contrary to Galbraith, these people probably are seasoned killers. I must plan my next step very carefully if I want to rescue the Sunflex Pilots.
To be continue…
SLAVE TRADE - Chapter III: Asimov Bastion
15 SEP 3305, system HIP 32135.
Resuming log. I have arrived to system HIP 32135. The government is a confederacy and they have no allegiance with any of the superpowers. The controlling faction is the Privateer’s Alliance. Mercenaries! The nav beacon is compromised, so I cannot get the system map from there. Let’s see what the Galactic Mapping Project database has to say about this place. I see, there are just two bases here, an orbit outpost controlled by the mercenaries and Asimov Bastion, the maximum security prison managed by the Saptara Colony, which is on the surface of the fifth planet.
HIP 32135 5 A is a small, low gravity, rocky body, quite far from the main star. A barren and freezing place good for nothing, but for installing a prison colony. Truly nobody will bother them here. In fact, the only jobs with a prospect on this system seems to be bounty hunter or jailer.
I can see the outpost now. It is in the middle of a crater. Several landing platforms around a hub of buildings that must be the Saptara Colony. There is a wall surrounding the complex. I see some solar panels and many more security turrets. Between the large landing platforms there is a big bunker. That must be the prison block.
Landed. Now I must find out if the real slaver has arrived and who might him be. Then I should eliminate and supplant him in order to buy the Sunflex prisoners myself. I better wander a bit around the docks and check the system traffic information. I must admit I look quite menacing with my new Mohawk hairstyle and war paint. I have decided to fasten the big Ghurka knife Anahi gave me on my belt, along with my pistol, since I already carry a tactical knife concealed inside my boot. I have found a pain stick in the torture room. I guess that could complete the disguise.
16 SEP 3305, system HIP 32135.
Resuming log. I have wandered along the docks for hours. Nobody tried to stablish contact with me. It seems that my attire not only identifies me as a slaver, but also scares the hell out of the locals. Everybody avoids me. I checked the system traffic information but found nothing interesting. I tried to look for any logs from the prison block, but it seems that all information regarding the prisoners is classified. Maybe I should try a different approach.
I have decided to take the SRV and drive around the installation. My hope is to find a data terminal and be able to crack it. Wait! What the hell is that!... The moment I left the dock platform a huge Goliath class skimmer started following my vehicle. Now it is scanning me. It could tear me to pieces in a matter of seconds with its missiles and plasma repeaters. (sighs)
Ok. It is leaving. I am glad I have no bounties on me. Maximum security they said. I guess a surface runaway is not contemplated.
Well, as expected, I could not find any breach in the station’s security nor accessible data terminals. That leave me no other choice. I must find somebody at the station that has access to this information and gain his confidence. I am sure they have some dirty jobs appropriate by somebody like me. They always have.
Resuming log. I came back to the dock facilities and located the Saptara Prison Colony representative. Her name is Tegan Brennan. Trustee Tegan Brennan. Trustee. A curious tittle. I cannot figure out her ranks on the organization, but I bet is low, she looks very young. Young and pretty, if it wasn’t for the buzz head and the Mohawk hairstyle. She tries to look hard, but I can tell it is a pose. There is something in the way she looks at me, but I cannot tell what it is. She offers the usual crappy jobs for newcomers without any status within their faction. I have no other chances, so I play along.
19 SEP 3305, Prison of Asimov Bastion, system HIP 32135.
Resuming log. I have expended the last few days carrying things and recovering black boxes for Tegan Brennan. She still looks me in that weird way. It is like she cannot stablish eye contact with me, it feels like she is looking over me. Strange girl. Anyhow, I have made no progress here. There is no signal of the slaver, nor its contact from the prison, nor any information regarding the Sunflex prisoners that I came to rescue. I am stucked. This whole operation was a horrible idea.
One opportunity might just have arosen. Tegan Brennan just called me and asked me to meet her at the colony hub. That is very irregular. We always meet at the Saptara office in the docks facilities. For business? Is this a date? Maybe she wants to show me her apartment? Why she…? It does not matter. I am coming.
I met Trustee Tegan Brennan in bar by the name ‘The gallows’. I am afraid the meeting was strictly business. It seems that Brennan is quite career driven and had made a mistake that could jeopardize her ascend goals. Somehow she has misplaced a prison convict by the name Manchester. He managed to run away hidden in a transport ship of his fellow HIP 33368 Purple Riders and now has found shelter in of their installations by the name of Drake Base. I told Brennan that if I take her back the convict Manchester I will require in exchange some information regarding some prisoners that are into custody at Asimov Bastion. She accepted, so I am going to pay a visit to this Drake Base in HIP 33368.
The have a Hauler patrolling around the base. A Hauler! Not very threatening. There is a wall around the facility and several defense turrets too. Brennan warned me about this HIP 33368 Purple Riders. They are hideous criminals, she said. Pirates of the worst kind. She said I will never get any information from them at their base. That they will probably tear me apart. What I did not tell Tegan is that I had no intention of asking the pirates straight.
Contrary to Asimov Bastion, Drake Base datalink is in a building outside the wall perimeter and quite accessible. I managed to hack it and discovered, as expected, that the convict Manchester was not there anymore. He departed recently on a Cobra MkIII. If I run, I may find him before he leaves the system. Wait! Alarms! They are firing at me.
Lucky for me there was not a Goliath skimmer patrolling the pirates base. I managed to run away amidst the fire and arrive to the Scourge. I am looking for the convict Manchester now within the system… and… there he is. Probably looking for some helpless traders. Activating frame shift drive interdictor… Gotcha!
This is commander Jav Marlo. I’m here to take you back to Asimov Bastion. Please comply and surrender your ship.
Do not deploy weapons.
Well! I did not expect this to work anyhow.
Beam laser turrets aiming the power plant. Let’s see if I can get deliver him alive.
Mission accomplished. Let’s see if there is something to recover. Hum. An occupied scape pod. I think I will deliver you just like that: wrapped for gift.
Resuming log. The convict Manchester is back where he belongs and Tegan Brennan asked to meet again tonight at ‘The Gallows’ bar for celebrating, so I am driving again towards the habitational complex of the colony hub.
20 SEP 3305, Prison of Asimov Bastion, system HIP 32135
Resuming log. I am driving back towards the docks. I have spent the night with Tegan at her apartment. I think I screwed up the whole operation. We had some drinks, maybe I left my guard get down. We walked to her apartment. She played a quite disturbing holog video showing a full grown polar bear inside the bridge of a Cutter tearing apart some guys that were shooting each other. Then there was an explosion and all of them, bear included, were sucked backwards into the void through the canopy breach. Tegan thought it was hilarious. She has quite a twisted sense of humor… Anyhow, I think we both relaxed too much. She was not the cold operative anymore and I probably went out of my character. She also told me that there were no records of the Sunflex prisoners on the prison logs. I guess this whole operation was condemned to failure from the very beginning. It is useless to continue posing. I better come back to Wolf 406.
Resuming log. This is Jav Marlo onboard the Scourge. I am ready to depart this forsaken place. I bet I will go to Calhuacan to recover my Cobra and from there back to Wolf 406. I still do not know what to tell the people from the Sunflex. Damn it!... Wait! Tegan is outside… She wants to come in… I guess problems never end…
Hi flyboy, were you leaving without saying good bye?
Listen Tegan, I…
Jeez! This cargo hold is a mess. This whole place stinks. Look at this cages… And… what is it behind that door?
… I don’t want to know it. Where did you get such a boat? It’s clear to me you’re not a slaver.
I got it from some pirate at Calhuacan. I wanted to pose as a slaver in order to rescue some prisoners from the Sunflex Group Limited. They shouldn’t be here, or wherever they’re now. My information was wrong and they probably ended in another maximum security prison and by now they must be cracking rocks as slaves in some asteroid base out of the fringe. I guess I’ll never find them.
That may not necessarily be true. How many were them?
Well. I dived deeper today in prison logs and it seems that the logs of fifty prisoners were recently erased. It happens from time to time.
How is that so?
It happened days before you arrived. Fifty prisoners simply vanished. You know. I have a boss. His name is Marshall Bruno Garrett. I know he has trades with a slaver and, from time to time, prisoners that nobody will be looking for disappear from the installations.
And you know who this slaver might be…
… Well, I don’t know his name, but I'm sure he flies a Keelback. He has been coming here for years, and anytime that Keelback appears, some prisoners disappear.
That’s not very helpful. There’re lots of Keelbacks.
But I know which faction this Keelback is. It’s Robigo Cartel.
Yes, I've got a hunch you will find your slaver there.
Why are you helping me Teagan?
I’m helping you because Marshall Bruno Garrett is a pig and I want his post. This is just a way to undermine him.
Is that all?
Well, I must confess there’s another reason. It’s a kind of weakness of mine. I’ve got a hung for bad boys with Mohawk hairstyles.
To be continue…
SLAVE TRADE - Chapter II: The Scourge
15 SEP 3305, Sakers Holdings, system Calhuacan.
(Thump) Is this thing working? (Thump) I think so. This is Jav Marlo, on board the Scourge, or what is left of it, this ship is a derelict. Well, I think I have managed to restore power and to activate the main console. All these systems are pre holofac display technology. This piece of junk has probably been in service since the days of the Galactic Cooperative of Worlds. It is a miracle it holds together. Most systems are inoperative, the hull is totally corroded and full of breaches negligently covered with patches, and the cargo hold is a gallery of horrors. They lied to me. This Python was not a slave trader. This was a slave hunter.
This devious ship is equipped with beam laser turrets, multi-cannons and collector limpets. The cargo hold is filled with cages, and I have found a room fitted with all kinds of instruments which only purpose must be torture. I have reviewed the records of the ship and I must say that its list of previous commanders is quite colourful, not precisely model citizens, and the number of bounties on it is unattainable. It seems that in the pass years it has operated mainly in the Pegasi Sector; not precisely a vacation destination. It is a miracle it has survived so long. I cannot imagine the horrors that this cargo hold has witnessed.
Time is of the essence, they said. I need to get to Asimov Bastion before the real slaver arrives and abducts the Sunflex pilots. But I cannot fix this ship. Not here. And I cannot carry this mission with the ship in this state. I am not even sure if it will be able to take off. I have no time, nor the necessary pieces and systems in this port. And that is not all. Anahi Bailey, my contact with the Golden Dragons, called me and said she was coming to help me with my looks. She says that I do not look like a proper slaver, whatever that means.
Resuming log. Damn it! Nothing is working here. I do not know what most of this levers do. I wonder how could they operate these things before holofac tech? I need to get this ship airborne and fly to some place where I can fix it properly. Wait. Anahi Bailey is outside. She wants me to let her in. I should have brought a pistol with me! What was I thinking when I accepted coming here? That woman gives me the creeps.
(loading ramp opening noise)
To what I owe the pleasure of your visit Ahani?
Shut up and follow me. You’ll not get very far with that looks of pretty commander.
You see this scar on my face. It was a bar fight.
Ok. I follow you.
Torture room? I’m not su…
Shut up and sit on that stool.
(sound of a knife unsheathing)
That’s it. And… for the final touch, I need some engine grease… Perfect. Not so pretty now. That’s it? They said you’ll help me build my slaver character. You’ve just cut my hair and stain my face. How I am supposed to act, to walk, to talk?
Just remember… try not to be yourself… (chuckles)
Look, I really doubt you will complete this mission. And this naive Sunflex friends of yours used to pay me well for information regarding slavers routes in the past but, since their recent demise, I don’t think they’ll be paying anymore in the future. So I’m not putting more effort on this affair. It’s not worth it.
Perfect. That’s just perfect. Then leave me. I’ve got a lot of work here fixing this piece of junk. I bet you have important criminal stuff to do somewhere else. I'll carry on alone.
…. Damn it! Now she’s laughing at me.
(loading ramp closing noise)
11.82 light years. Yes, that might serve. Just 11.82 light years. Maybe I could make it there. I have been working for fifteen hours straight on the ship thrusters and FSD. There were some modifications there that I did not understood. There is an industrial system nearby, LTT 1739, which seems to have a Coriolis station, Clarke Port, very well equipped. A much more civilized place. If I only could make the 11.82 light years to there I could buy new systems for the Scourge and outfit it properly. I have no time to travel there with the Electra, buy the parts and came back here for the repairs. And, besides, I need the dock facilities too so, I will have to take the Scourge there. I just hope for a quick death if this ship has a malfunction in the void.
I think I am ready to depart Sakers Holdings. Yes. Maybe there is a chance I could survive the trip to LTT 1739. If I manage to arrive there it will be fine. Before leaving I visited a weapons dealer and got myself a pistol. Small and manageable, easy to unsheathe. Anahi Bailey came to see how I was doing. She seems to know her way around a ship and carefully checked all the modifications I made to the Python. I told her that I was continuing with the mission and I will be departing within the hour. She detached the big Ghurka knife from her boot and gave it to me. “To complete your disguise”, she said. I thought I saw a glint of respect on her eyes when she left, or maybe it was just disbelief.
Well. I managed to take off so far. All systems holding or, at least, not exploding. No hull breaches too. Wait. What is that? That must be that modification I saw in the thrusters. My contrail is red. What can be the purpose of that… well, I guess it makes the ship look more dread. Locking on system LTT 1739. The moment of truth. 3, 2, 1, engage.
I found almost everything I needed at Clarke Port. I was able to change most critical systems in a matter of hours. I changed the control console, installed an A rated power plant and distributor, a proper frame shift drive and decent thrusters. I switched the multi-cannons for fragment cannons, personal choice, and tinkered with systems to the best of my abilities to improve the jump range and cruise speed. I did not touch the hull in order to keep the dreadful slaver appearance of the Python. Anyhow, despite all its patches and breaches it made it so far. Feeling much safer, I departed Clarke Port.
Plotting a course to system HIP 32135. I am surprised I made it this far. I managed to fix the Python and in a couple of hours I will arrive to Asimov Bastion, the maximum security prison where the pilots from Sunflex Group Limited are being held. Maybe there is still an opportunity for these guys. The mission seems simple: locate the slave trader, eliminate him, pose as a slave trader myself, make a deal for the prisoners of Sunflex, take them on the Scourge and deliver them back to Nauni. Something tells me it will not be so easy.
To be continue…
SLAVE TRADE - Chapter I: Idealistic folks
14 SEP 3305, Hamilton Gateway, system Wolf 406 (Headquarters of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps)
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Electra, landed at Hamilton Gateway, the headquarters of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps, in system Wolf 406. I have received a quite intriguing message. Chief Aiyanna Winters, from the Sunflex Group Limited, just contacted me with a request for assistance. He said it was of the upmost importance. That they were preparing a covert operation for rescuing some of their pilots and my cooperation was needed. He asked me to come to system Nauni and said that they will make the trip worth.
The Sunflex Group Limited is an anarchist faction that is proudly Federation an operates in the Nauni system. Their principal goal is to rid the galaxy of slavery. Besides that, they also claim to turn a blind eye to criminal activities. Some weeks ago Beaufoy Terminal, a Coriolis station in Nauni, was attacked by the Thargoids and I came with my brother, Zal Marlo, and rescued many of their people with my Beluga. It seems that they need assistance once more. I do not really know these faction, and their request for assistance came by unofficial channels, but I got the impression that they were good people, kind of idealistic folks, so I have decided to pay them a visit and see what they are up to. I will keep a log about my steps on this matter, just in case.
14 SEP 3305, Beaufoy Terminal, system Nauni.
Resuming log. I have landed at Beaufoy Terminal. The Pilot Syndicate 4 faction seems to keep the control of the station, like when I was here for the first time. Chief Aiyanna Winters is waiting for me at the landing pad. They must have contacts at the station traffic control because I did not tell them if I was coming. He is calling me and requesting to came on board. That is odd. He insists.
Commander Jav Marlo, thanks for answering our call. Please let me board your ship. I am unarmed.
Hello chief, I didn’t expect you personally waiting for me. How are things going for the Sunflex Group Limited?
Not well, I won’t lie to you. Since the attack of the Thargoids we’ve been in war with the Gold General Partners and the Jataya Democrats. We lost both. Our organization is barely surviving.
Why cannot we meet at your facilities?
The walls have ears here. It is of the upmost importance that our dealings remain secret. Please, let mi in.
(sound of rear door opening… footsteps)
Thanks for letting me in.
Be my guest. So, what do we do now?
Please set course to Rothman Terminal. It’s a planetary post in the third planet within the system. We will brief you there.
Resuming log. We were received by a group of Sunflex Group Limited operatives upon our arrival at Rothman Terminal. These ones carried handheld weapons. They said that since the last war it is more secure to meet in the surface than in the space station. They took us to some small dependencies within the landing platform and exposed the situation.
According to Sunflex agents, there was a war against the Gold General Partners, a Corporation from the federation that is expanding its influence within Nauni. The Sunflex Group Limited lost it and, soon after, there was an inquiry and many of the pilots that participated in the war were accused of smuggling and some other illicit activities and taken prisoners. With their forces diminished, the Sunflex has been unable to hold its ground against the other factions and they are now in the verge of collapsing.
But there is more. The Sunflex believes that the inquiry and imprisonment of their pilots was due to a plot of the Gold General Partners. They may be involved in some illicit activities like smuggling, but nothing so serious as to involve imprisonment. They claim the trial was a farce and the punishment extremely severe. All their pilots were taken to Asimov Bastion, a maximum security prison in system HIP 32135. But that is not all. They say that they have discovered a plot to sell their prisoners as slaves. Somebody is clearly upset about the ideals and anti-slavery agenda of the Sunflex people, and must have thought that it would be quite ironic and exemplary for these pilots to end as slaves in some forsaken system.
And here is where I come in. They are not sure they will be able to keep track of their pilots if they are sold as slaves. The want them to be rescued before that happens. Time is of the essence, they say. So, the mission, if I am willing to accept it, is to pose as a slaver and buy the Sunflex prisoners. Me. To pose a slaver. They say that I am perfect for the role. An independent commander of the Pilots Federation with no ties with the Federation nor the Empire. I do not see it so clear.
And there is one more thing. They do not know who might the real slaver be, so I am supposed to identify and eliminate him in order to prevent the transaction before I rescue the Sunflex pilots from Asimov Bastion.
They have a contact, Prospect Anahi Bailey, from the Calhuacan Gold Dragons, a criminal faction based deep in Empire space that has a lot of experience dealing with slavers. They say she can help me to build my character. They also have a Python there that they ‘liberated’ from a slave trader some years ago and could be used for the mission. The payment for my efforts is the Python. (sighs) I need to give this a thought. This plan seems to have too many loopholes.
14 SEP 3305, Sakers Holdings, system Calhuacan.
Resuming log. I have accepted to travel to Calhuacan and meet their contact from the criminal underworld. I will decide there if I carry on with the mission. I am not really interested on the reward, I could afford a Python if I wanted one, and I think this plan is madness. I do not have a dilated experience in black ops myself, but all this looks like a clumsy operation with many untied details made up by a bunch of people with too many ideals and not much experience organizing cover missions. But I think they really care about the fate of their people. And I do not like what happened to those pilots. One thing is exploding in a ball of fire with your ship in the void as a result of combat, that comes with the job, but being trade as a slave because you were on the losing side of a war is not part of the deal of being a pilot. Not at least in civilized space. Not where I am from. So I am going to meet this Prospect Anahi Bailey and take a look at this Python.
Sakers Holdings is a huge planetary port. There are some imperial factions present, like the Guardian Angels, but the pirates from the Calhuacan Gold Dragons have their grip over the whole system. This city is the kind of place where imperial slaves destined to serve in fancy families are misplaced and end being delivered to mine colonies in anarchy systems out of the fringe of civilized space. I better find my contact.
14 SEP 3305, Sakers Holdings, system Calhuacan.
Resuming log. I found my contact from the Calhuacan underworld in a dark cantina by the name of Tenochtitlan, and I must confess she did not disappoint me. She was exactly as the picture I had, not precisely looking like a prospect but more like a pirate, with many tribal tattoos on her face that I do not know how to read, a dyed pink hair, and a pistol on her hip. She also carries a huge Ghurka stile knife attached to her right boot, the tang reaching way over her knee. I bet she could severe an arm with one single cut of that, or a head. There was an announcement at the door of the cantina stating that weapons were not allowed inside, but Anahi Bailey seemed to not care. She was not the only person there carrying weapons ostensibly there though and, besides, I carry a small tactical knife concealed inside my boot too.
I approached her and used the code phrase the Sunflex gave me: there is a fog covering Chione’s surface. She acknowledged and asked for a bottle and two glasses. I do not know what they served us. Some vile liquor harsh, unflavoured and with too much alcohol. We walked to a table in a shadowy corner that seemed to be ready for us and talked about the details of the mission. She drank glass after glass. I swallowed a couple of gulps of that venom while trying to look dangerous. I could see the disdain on her eyes. When I told her that I wanted to see the Python she called it a piece of junk and said it probably could not fly anyway. I insisted and we went to one of the most remote docks of the station. I must confess that I felt like I needed another drink the moment I saw the Python. She was right. It was a piece of junk.
To be continue…
2 SEP 3305, Dyomin Ring, system Cybele.
After the events of Dav’s Hope I decided to take a rest in my base of Hamilton Gateway, the Headquarters of the AEDC, and put to good use the materials I was able to collect in that cursed mining post. I have had in mind for a long time the idea of building a conflict zone dedicated ship. My Cratos is one hell of a ship, unmatchable in single combat and for bounty hunter missions, but with its frag cannons it cannot hold for long in a fight against multiple targets that come in waves. No, on this occasion I had another build in mind. I wanted to build a war machine.
I took a walk to the shipyard of the station and set my eyes on a beautiful and shiny Fer-de-Lance, the pride of Zorgon Peterson, a heavy combat ship which design has been in production for over two centuries. I talked to the dealer and took a walk inside. Despite the fact that this ship was designed with the only function of killing in mind, the crew quarters and the cockpit are incredible luxurious, all fitted with top of the line components and devices. The ship of choice for bounty hunters. Rich bounty hunters.
For the next two weeks, I engineered every single component of the ship. I liked to be a mechanic and to tinker with a ship’s systems. It felt nice being able to do it again. Indeed, it felt even better than before knowing that, on this occasion, I was working on my own ship. I installed four beam lasers for sustainable damage and made them as efficient as I could. A huge multicannon overcharged would help me to chew the big boys. I installed the heaviest shields I could and pushed the thrusters to the max. Finally, I added some personal touch and painted it black. I called it Nemesis, the goddess who enacts retribution against those who succumb to arrogance before the Gods.
Satisfied with the results, I took the Nemesis on tour around the Bubble seeking for help of some engineers that would push the specs of my ship beyond my abilities. Only one thing rested to do. The final test. I needed a war.
I saw in GalNet that the Sap Core Legion faction had launched an initiative to build a state-of-the-art medical facility in the Heike system. Heike, that is Alliance space, there is a species of tea plant native to that system that played a vital role in the development of a cure for the Cerberus Plague that devastated dozens of systems four years ago killing tens of thousands of people. I understand why this detail makes Heike an ideal location for the new installation. Well, one thing is for sure, whenever an announcement like this is launched, hundreds of independent pilots come attracted by the possible rewards. And wherever hundreds of independent pilots gather, local factions destabilize and wars trigger. So to Heike I headed.
I landed in Braun Enterprise Coriolis Starport and witnessed the huge traffic of the dock, with a constant stream of freelancer cargo ships bringing loads of advanced medicines, thallium and medical diagnostic equipment. I was greeted by manager Arlen Guerra, from the Sap Core Legion and he told me that there was a war ongoing between Heike CO, a local independent corporation and the Heike Revolutionary Party, that pledged allegiance to the Federation. The Feds never miss a chance to set foot on Alliance territory. It was an easy choice, so I offered my services to executive Zion Fischer, from Heike Co. Zion told me that they were losing ground on several combat zones over Heike 7, a high metal content planet. She also offered me 13 million credits if I was able of shoot down more than 70 enemy ships.
Along the next eight hours, I fought against wave after wave of enemies in two conflict zones and I estimate that my role on these battles was pivotal to make the Heike Revolutionary Party retreat. The performance of the Nemesis was beyond my expectations, with it shields holding against every attack while its lasers shred through the ones of the enemies. With two battles won, I refitted the Nemesis at Braun Enterprise and headed to a high intensity conflict zone where things were not going good fort the Heike CO.
When I arrived, the combat was clearly unmatched favoring the Heike Revolutionary Party, and things were just about to get worst. The COVAS warned that a massive jump was about to happen and suddenly, out of thin air, a huge Farragut Battle Cruiser appeared and started to tore apart the Heike CO ships. The vision of the two kilometers long ship against the planet was quite intimidating. It fired lasers in every direction, and I could hear the screams of the Heike CO pilots trough the comms before exploding in balls of fire. Those company hired pilots were clearly not prepared for facing a Federation military combat operation of this scale.
I diverted all power to shields and faced the Farragut Battle Cruiser. It was impossible to destroy it but, if I could destroy enough of its exposed Heat Relays, maybe I could force it to retreat. The question was if I was going to endure time enough under that fire.
It worked. After several flybys, the Farragut Battle Cruiser retreated from combat. It was glorious. The Federation ships ran away and me along with the few Heike CO survivors headed back to Braun Enterprise. I had shot down way more than 70 ships so I had a 13 million credits reward waiting for me. Alas, our arrival celebration was bitterer than expected. It seemed that, despite our efforts, the Heike CO had been forced to retreat from the other conflict zones and, finally, they had surrendered to the Feds. The war was over. We had lost.
Executive Zion Fischer, from Heike CO apologized for not being able to pay me my 13 million credits, but offered 2 million credits for my combat bonds as a compensation. A meagre compensation. Like that, I left Braun Enterprise and headed back to the AEDC headquarters in Hamilton Gateway.
I was two jumps away from Wolf 406 when I received a message from commander Khorolev, a diplomat from the AEDC. He wanted me to join him in a Combat operation in Cybele system to protect some Wolf 406 Transport & Co assets. That was going to be my first shared operation with another member of the AEDC.
I met commander Khorolev in deep space in Cybele. He was flying a massive Type-10 Defender, the Stakhanov, armed with lasers and cannons. He called it the fortress. Later I was able to understand why, when I witnessed the amount of punishment that his ship could endure. My tiny Fer-de-lance, that I thought so fearful and menacing, looked ridiculously small in front of his hulking ship.
Khorolev and I exchanged the compulsory salutations and I followed him to the nearest conflict zone. Straight to the task. For the next hours, Khorolev and I fought in several combat zones in the Cybele system on behalf of Victoria Wolf and Wolf 406 Transport & Co. I must say that his Stakhanov is fearsome. A true fortress with huge shields and hull that causes mayhem in the conflict zone with its three medium beam lasers and four big cannons. I guess its name pays homage to the Alexsei Grigoryevich Stakhanov a Russian Soviet miner, Hero of Socialist Labor in the twentieth century.
We made the Feds of the Green Party of Cybele retreat from three conflict zones. At the end of the third battle Khorolev hailed me and requested my assistance because he was having problems with his thrusters and needed to repair them. Somehow someone was able to penetrate the hull and snipe the systems of his ship. Probably railguns. I approached his vessel in order to protect him, but the enemy was already in retreat. That allowed me to take a close look to the Stakhanov. I could see Khorolev inside the cockpit running repairing routines.
When his thrusters were functional again, we both headed back to Dyomin Ring Orbis Starport. That has been my first combat experience with another commander of the AEDC. I hope to have been up to the task and I am looking forward to joining again my comrades in the future for more missions. I thank commander Khorolev for the opportunity.
On the side, the Nemesis has proved herself to be a formidable war machine. I am sure she will fight many more battles on behalf of the Alliance.
Jav Marlo signing out.
THE MYSTERY OF DAV’S HOPE
8 AUG 3305, Hyades Sector DR-V c2-23 A5.
I did not expect to find this. I knew that this was some sort of cursed place. But the register I have just heard gave me the creeps. (Sighs). I think I should record this.
Let’s commence for my reasons for being here. My recent diamond mining operation has allowed me to start thinking about scaling the range of my operations. There is always a conflict or a war in some system where the AEDC may be involved, and it is about time that I participate on these missions. But in order to do that I was going to need a new ship. A war ship. My Chieftain, the Cratos, is an incredible fighter, unmatched in single combat, but not fit to sustain a long battle. I have been thinking in building a shield tank with heavily engineered lasers. A ship able to spend long periods of time in a combat zone. But engineering requires materials, and high tier materials do not come easy. And that is how I got to know about this forsaken place.
I was in the planetary outpost of Webb Enterprise, in system Nabygold, Alliance Space, having a drink at the local bar when I overheard a heavily drunk woman whispering a local folk a tale about a mining settlement where she used to work that had to be evacuated in a hurry. The patron did not look interested on the story, but the part about the company leaving tons of valuable materials behind caught my attention. I approached her and introduced myself as a fellow miner and freelancer. I think she liked the first part, and offered to tell me the whole story in exchange for a drink. Her name was Lucy. She was middle-age, hardened by work, retained some beauty, but looked like she has aged very fast. I attributed it to alcohol. I paid her another ale and listened her incoherent narration full of babbles, sorrow and regret. The only thing that I got clear was that she felt guilt about something that happened there, the name of the system and, most important, the coordinates where this facility was. This were not fresh news though. I checked the GalNet and could see that the place Lucy was talking about was discovered abandoned a couple of years ago. And, besides, it seemed that poor Lucy used to tell her story to anyone willing to hear. When I asked the bar attender he told me that everybody around knew about that place, but few were willing to talk about it, and even less were willing to fly there, like if there was a pact of silence about what happened.
Well, I do not believe in ghosts and I cannot resist a mystery, so I decided it may be worth it to take a look to the place. I took my Diamondback Explorer, the Hyperion, and travelled to system Hyades Sector DR-V c2-23. The installation was easy to find right before the slope of a huge mountain. It was abandoned so hastily that the emergency beacon announcing the evacuation was still working. From above, it looked like one of the ancient settlements that thrived in the American west back in the nineteenth century. A small town with some buildings aligned along a central road. It even had an arched door with the name of the place: Dav’s Hope.
I left the Hyperion outside and ventured into the village on my SRV. An automated alert voice indicated through the comms system that the cause of the evacuation was a compromise of the mine structure. It was a scarce explanation, so I tried to dig more.
I found a personal data recorder that belonged to someone called Franklin James, a foreman of one of the mining teams. The last log said:
Team 6 to base, what the hell was that?! It felt like the whole planet was going to come down on top of us! Base do you read me? Base are you there? Guys, pack it up, we’re heading back to base! Something’s not right here, comms are down and with that last quake, I’m calling it. Follow me, we’ll head for shaft 48, there’s a wired comms station there, maybe we can find out what’s happening.
That quake was probably the cause of the compromise of the mine structure. Nothing really mysterious about that. Meters away there was a comms console from where I could extract the following exchange of messages:
Sent: 23 May 3286 15:19 UTC To: Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison Site Report Log: Sir, seismic activity has increased and we’re seeing cave-ins in sections 3, 4 and 6 now. I would like to request permission to pull all mining teams out until we can secure the site. Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator
Sent: 23 May 3286 15:30 UTC To: Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator Have you lost your senses? Do you know how much it will cost us to shut this place down while you “secure” the site? We’ll lose billions of credits every hour. I can’t authorise that. No, the miners keep on going, they know vhat they signed up for. Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison
Sent: 23 May 3286 15:32 UTC To: Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison But sir! With this level of activity it could bring the whole installation down, not just the mine shafts, we have to evacuate, the site is no longer viable. It’s just too dangerous. Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator
Sent: 23 May 3286 15:34 UTC To: Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator Who do you think you’re talking to Miss Minneux? What you need to do is do your job or we’ll have to renegotiate your contract. I trust I have made myself clear. Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison
Well, there you were Lucy. And you have a beautiful family name. So, you were co-ordinator here, a quake happened and the man from the corporation did not want to shut down the place. Typical. Always looking after the security of workers. According to the date, whatever happened here it happened nineteen years ago. And there are still tens of tons of valuable materials lying around. After so many years. Without being reclaimed by the corporation. There had to be more, and the answer was in a call log I found:
Shaft 48 Call Log: Team 6 to base, can you read us? What the hell is happening? We’re trying to evacuate section 4, but all access tunnels must have collapsed in that last quake. We’re stuck down here. Repeat, access has collapsed, team trapped in Shaft 48. When can we expect a rescue crew? Base are you reading us?.
One section tunnels collapsed and left some miners stuck. Damn greedy corporations. I looked for another comms console trying to find more information about the fate of the miners. I found another message from Lucy to the man of the corporation:
Sent: 23 May 3286 21:59 UTC To: Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison Sir, Team 6 did not report in at shift change and our survey team have reported that the cave-ins are more widespread than we first feared. There’s a very high possibility that they are trapped somewhere in section 4. I’m prepping the rescue team now. They should be ready to leave within the hour. Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator
It seemed that Lucy organized a rescue operation. But there was more. A corporate memo by the company man stated the following:
Corporate Memo: Sent: 26 May 3286 06:23 UTC Ref: Mining Operations no longer viable. Site shut down with immediate effect. All resources and confidential materials to be move to alpha site. Regarding ongoing situation: Mining Team 6 Missing, considered acceptable loss. No further action. Commence site shutdown immediately. Message ends
A mining team missing is considered an acceptable lost. I must confess that it does not surprise me. I had to knew what happened to the miners. The last piece of the puzzle was in another comms console:
Sent: 26 May 3286 15:30 UTC To: Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator It seems like corporate agree with you, Miss Minneux. This site is no longer viable and is now closed. Shut it down. Shut it all down now. Give the order to detonate the charges, collapse the site. Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison
Sent: 26 May 3286 15:35 UTC To: Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison You can’t do that, damn you. We have twenty people down here! You can’t just leave them to die like this. They have families, children. What are you going to tell them? Those charges are only meant to be used at the end of the operation. We have to do something to get our people out first! We can’t just leave them buried alive down there. We have a responsibility! Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator
Sent: 26 May 3286 15:35 UTC To: Lucy Minneux: Site co-ordinator My responsibility is to this corporation and its shareholders. There are plenty more miners to take their place, and yours for that matter. If you won’t follow orders, we’ll just find someone else that will. Now do it! Nicholas Baker: Corporate Liaison
THE DAMN BASTARDS. That is why nobody wants to talk about this place. THEY LEFT THE MINERS BURIED ALIVE. Poor Lucy. She never got over it. Not even after nineteen years.
After all this time, it amazes me that most systems of the settlement are still working. The place has clearly been sacked recently, but there are still lots of materials lying around. According to Cannon Research, Dav’s Hope was discovered two years ago. The company probably managed to bury the logs about what happened here along with the bodies of the miners. I understand now why pilots do not want to fly here, even knowing about the abandoned equipment. This place is a ghost town.
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Hyperion, landed at the abandoned mining settlement of Dav’s Hope, in system Hyades Sector DR-V c2-23.
4 AUG 3305, Hamilton Gateway, system Wolf 406 (Headquarters of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps)
This is Jav Marlo, on board the Plutus, landed at Hamilton Gateway, the headquarters of the Alliance Elite Diplomatic Corps, in system Wolf 406.
After the events of the Witch Head Nebula and the combat with the Thargoid Cyclops, I think I have developed a rapport with commander Zal Marlo, my alleged brother, so I thought it was time to check on his story and pay him a visit in his home base of Herbert Dock in Wolf 906.
I took the Cratos and flew to system Wolf 906, in Federation space. Upon my arrival I was received by Zal himself flying in a super engineered Sidewinder, the Orestes. I am still amazed by the fleet and the resources Zal owns.
Herbert Dock is a Coriolis Starport aligned with the Federation with a High Tech economy and a democracy government. Right now, it is ruled by the Values Party of Wolf 906. There is a planetary outpost within the system too, Rice Hub, and between the two of them they hold a population of over five million people. The place has all the amenities a commander may need and a reasonable security. A nice and cozy base of operations.
Zal had a nice surprise for me when I landed. It seems that he has been talking with the local Federation authorities about our rescue of the refugees from Beaufoy Terminal, and the Federal Navy was willing to grant me the rank of Chief Petty Officer for my efforts. It is true that they asked me to do some easy tasks in return, the kind of deliver this and that to some nearby outposts, but having a military rank with the Feds has its advantages, being the most important of them the permit to visit Sol system, birthplace of humanity and one of the systems with the tightest security in the Galaxy.
In the following two days Zal showed me the scope of his operations. He has quite a fleet at his disposal and is focused mostly in trading. He has managed to amass quite a fortune. It surprised me how eager he was to share the secret of his business with me. I truly think now that he is looking for a partner and wish to see me thrive. Apparently, he has specialised in Low Temperature Diamonds Mining, and has vast knowledge about the best planetary rings to find them and the best markets to sell them. He even gave me some hints to start my own diamonds mining operation myself.
Now I only needed a proper mining ship, and I took a look at the offer of the local shipyard. My recent rank with the Federation Navy gave me access to some military vessels and I set my eyes in the Federal Dropship, the navy’s workhorse. It was perfect for the task: fast, nimble with plenty of hardpoints for all the mining tools, capable of carrying a significant load and with a good armour in case of pirates come sniffing. Its only setback is its tiny jump range, but nothing that a visit to Felicity cannot fix. I bought one, painted it white, added the Alliance decal and named it Plutus after the Greek god of wealth. The final touch was adding big turreted burst laser in the spare hardpoint. There are many occasions when having a big laser may come handy, especially when traveling with a belly full of diamonds.
Now I needed to try my new toy, so I asked Zal for the nearest pristine ice ring and headed there. I had postponed a visit to Bill Turner for a long time, and I needed 50 tons of Bromelite in order for him to receive me. The Plutus behave exemplary swiftly navigating among the asteroids and in less than a working day I was able to collect the bromelite.
I headed to Alioth system, to Turner Metallics Inc, base of operations of the Engineer Bill Turner, son of the famous Mic Turner, hero and one of the founders of the Alliance. On my way there I could only think about the words professor Palin told me about him: “Mark my words. Do not believe everything that Bill Turner tells you, if he tells you anything at all. He is more than he seems”.
I landed and delivered the bromelite. For my disappointment, I was received by and android, and when I requested to see Bill Turner, it told me that in order to do that I had to develop a stable business relation with him. It seems that he only handles personally the top tier engineering modifications and that I still had no enough rapport with him to meet personally. Frustrated, I abandoned the base thinking about if any of my contacts in the AEDC could help me to circumvent these requirements.
I returned to Herbert Dock in Wolf 906 and took again my Cobra, the Electra. I trusted Zal now, but it is never bad to double check things, so I headed to Sol system, the political capital of the Federation. Upon my arrival, I could not help to indulge myself and did a fly by Earth. I had never contemplated it before, and I must admit it was beautiful. It was night over Europe and I could see perfectly the contour of the Mediterranean Sea. On its shores, several ancient civilizations thrived, probably stablishing the first trade and colonization routes of humanity. The cauldron where the first travellers sailed looking at the stars to not lose their aim. And now, thousands of years later, humanity has reached the other side of the galaxy. It made me feel so proud and so insignificant at the same time. I promised myself to visit the planet as soon as possible. But I had urgent matters to attend.
I landed at Mars High, an Orbis Starport above Mars. The station is crowded with businessmen and tourists looking for passage to the surface, so I posed like one of them and booked a passage in a shuttle to the capital city of Olympus Village. That is where Zal’s mother is, the second spouse of my father that he never told me about. But I did not want to visit her. Not on Zal’s back. So I headed to the Federal Congress, seeking to whatever information they may have on Cisco Marlo, my father.
The military record file of my father, Cisco Marlo, was public. According to it, he had been in the Federation Navy long before my birth. He had the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Mostly scout operations in deep space. All track of his whereabouts was lost one year before I was born. First I thought he might be a defector, but that could not be possible. He raised a family in Mars after that. Zal mentioned that he disappeared when conducting a cover operation in Merope. A cover operation. That could only mean the Federal Intelligence Agency. Maybe he was a double agent that infiltrated in the Alliance. I felt I was walking on thin ice, and my flamboyant Chief Petty Officer rank in the Federal Navy was not enough to access the confidential parts of the files, so I left it there, for the moment. At least Zal’s story concurs so far. I needed to find more about my father whereabouts in the Alliance in order to connect the dots.
I headed back to Herbert Dock and took the Plutus. It was time to enter in the Low Temperature Diamonds business. I flew to one of the hotspots usually exploited by Zal and expent the next hours mining the ice rocks. Sometimes a mining laser is needed to scratch the surface of the rock and cut the chunks of minerals. Other times the diamonds appear in clusters in the surface and I can cut them with an abrasion blaster. When I locate diamonds deposits inside I use sub-surface displacement missiles that are equipped with a drill and can dig into the asteroid before exploding. But the most satisfactory of all is to crack the whole rock using seismic charges when they have a low temperature diamond core.
The average price of a ton of Low Temperature Diamonds can rise over the million credits if one is willing to travel a little in order to sell them. Searching in Gal Net, like Zal has taught me, I found a planetary starport, Webb Enterprise in system Nagybold, very near to Wolf 406 and controlled by Wolf 406 Transport Co, that was paying a high price for diamonds. It was perfect. During the next three days I was able to sell them 300 tons of low temperature diamonds, earning more than 300 hundred million credits on the way. I never thought I could make money so fast in my life. My account almost rose again to the point it was when I returned from Distant Worlds 2. I had paid my last four ships with just three days of mining. It is true that I was attacked once by a pirate while I was mining, but I could manage him quite easily with my burst laser. Pirate ships never expect to find heavy resistance from a miner.
Well, thanks to Zal it seems that money will not be ever a problem again. I even got promoted to Tycoon by the Pilots Federation. That means bigger ships, better equipment and endless possibilities to scale my operations. This current Diamond Rush has provided me with a new beginning, a mystery still unsolved and a recent found brother to help me. Business is going well.
Jav Marlo signing out.