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…
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…