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“I've heard back from my contacts.”
Gabe told me after I had finished telling him the tale of my morning. “And?” I asked.
“Not a lot. Some reports of 'person or persons unknown' influencing local governments. Nothing concrete but they seem to be propping up a few and trying to tear down others. It's not like you to get wrapped up in politics.”
“I'm not.” I replied. “Their just another customer to me. Weather I agree with their aims has nothing to do with it. As long as I get paid, it's all good.”
The older man kept his eyes on me for a few seconds longer. He appeared to be about to say something, gave his head a shake and turned back to the computer screen before him.
For my part I gave a shrug. I wasn't going to push him, he'd tell me his thoughts in his own good time.
“So what you going to do? Go mining like Smith suggested?” Gabe asked when he finally spoke again.
“Nope. I might hang here or head out to Uracenufon, see if I can pick up a few quick jobs.” I said absent mindedly.
“Hang out with some friends or with a bunch of ruthless pirates? Tough choice there bud.” He wasn't even trying to hide the disapproval in his voice. So I relented, a little.
“I just thought I'd been taking advantage of your hospitality to long Gabe. You could use a rest from me.” The tut, tutting came back immediately.
“I'll let you know when you've out stayed your welcome, ok.” Again with the disapproving tone. “Now, how about another cup of coffee?”
Well my gut feeling was off this time. I could have made a tidy little sum even from mining in the time it took for The Consortium to get in touch with me. Of course Gabe was happy with the week as it gave him time to try and make me change my mind, or should that be my ways.
I was saying good evening to Gabe and thinking about heading back to the RJ on the night of the seventh day when I received the communication. Pushing the connect tab I sat down at Gabe's terminal.
Before me appeared a heavy set, bald headed, tough looking, dark complexioned giant. The first thing that went through my mind was 'special forces'.
“Greetings Aitken. My name is Noah and I have been given your name by a mutual friend, Mr. Smith. I have a task for you that should see you profit by the end of it.” I said my hello back but did not commit to anything just yet. “I am sending you the details now. Basically we need you to go to Eurybia and help stabilise one of the factions there.”
I clicked on the file that had been sent and started browsing the basic details. Noah continued as I did.
“You'll see there are two factions in that state, we want you to focus on the Blue Mafia.” The look of surprise on my face must have been glaring as I noted Noah nodding.
“Yes, Aitken we wish to keep the leader of that group in place. We can deal with him, we have an idea of who would replace him and they are not quite so open to manipulation.” It was my turn to nod.
“So you would be the Empire guy I take it?” I chipped in when he paused for breath. He eyed me with a look that would have got me running in the opposite direction if he had not been at the other end of a secure connection.
“Sure, you can call me that if you wish. You've got all the details, your contact will inform you of the contracts to do and when your time should end. Any questions?” The look he gave said I dare you, so I dared.
“Jet Major Systems. Do I help them?” I really didn't care either way but getting a little under his skin could be fun.
“No Aitken. Just follow instructions and everything will work out.” The impatience in his voice was obvious. “Oh and one more thing. Added to the mission brief are a few names you may or may not find useful.”
With that the link was terminated.
The names drew my attention, the mission details would work themselves out once I got to Eurybia, but the names were something different. I transferred the file from Gabes terminal to my padd and wondered back into the living area.
“So where are you off to?” The Old Man asked.
“Some place called Farseer Inc. in the Deciat system by the looks of it.” I replied as I read through the details on 'introduction' to each name. I didn't see the shock on Gabe's face but I heard it in his voice.
“Farseer! By Jupiter it's been a long time since I heard that name.” The note in his voice got my attention and I looked up from the padd.
“Do tell.” I quipped, my curiosity peaked.
“Felicity Farseer was an explorer around the same time your Dad and I were. Our paths crossed a time or two, nothing more really. What's she up to how?” I didn't believe the “nothing more really” part but I could push that later.
“She's become an Engineer of sorts, tinkering with FSDs, drives, power plants. Homely old girl by the looks of it.”
“There's images.” Gabe blurted out and was standing next to me before I could answer. “She's actually quite attractive for a lady of her age.”
I may have been adding two and two together to get seven, but I hadn't seen Gabe like this before.
“How long did your fling with Felicity last?” Let's roll for the seven.
“Not long, she was more interested in 'the black' than me.” He looked at me with a grin and gave a shrug. “It would have been fun, special perhaps but it wasn't meant to be.”
“You want to come along?” I asked not wanting to trample on his memories.
“No, that ship sailed years ago, life's been good to me, I'll let this one lie I think.” I could see the Gabe I knew coming back but I still hung out for the rest of the day. Once I was happy that he would be fine I made my farewells and headed back to the Asp.
Entering the Deciat system my eyes looked at the scanner out of habit. Everything looked normal enough, what ever normal was for any system. Most of the traffic seemed to be heading for Deciat 4 and Garay Terminal. A few others and myself were angling for Deciat 6, 6A to be exact and the mysterious Farseer Inc. base.
I'd already been to Maia to pick up a few tons of Meta-Alloys as my 'introduction gift', I was starting to think that the reward had better be worth it or pandering to this needy engineer was going to be a pain.
Nearing Deciat 6A I throttled back to 75% power and watched as the moons details came into focus. At 6Mm distance the deep valleys looked like a giant bird of prey had raked it's immense talons over the surface before it's beak had pecked out the craters that where dotted here and there. According to the HUD, the base I was heading for was set into one of those craters.
I also noticed that the sun did not shine on Farseer at this time of day as I looked at a orange dot in a sea of black. No worries, nothing that I hadn't done before. Entering orbit and glide all went as normal. I popped out of glide 12km from the base, a few lights gave me the indication that I needed to stay properly orientated, everything looked normal and then that changed.
“Lakon Alpha India Tango, this is the automated docking system. Please ask for docking procedures before attempting to land. You presence has been noted.”
Ok, I thought, different and a little interesting. I continued as I normally would and requested landing clearance at 7.4km. Again the robotic, synthesized voice came back and gave me final approach instructions.
I glanced at the direction indicator at the side of the scanner and noted that the pad was directly in front of the our nose. I looked up but could not spot the raising and falling lights I was accustomed to. It took a moment for my confusion to pass but two details were causing it. The first was a large communications pole that was slap bang in the middle of the complex. Of course my landing pad was directly behind it, no problem, a side slip and there was the second reason for my momentary state. The lights were blue, I had taken the yellow-orange lighting for granted and my brain took a second or two to register the subtle change. Apart from all that it was a normal enough landing. The elevator clanked and clinked as I descended into the hangar area and with a final thump I was in.
“Commander Aitken when you disembark you will see an entrance marked “Workshop”. Please use it.” A female voice informed me, not the mechanical of the automated landing system. I took off my helmet, laid it on the now vacant pilots chair and took a deep breath. Sure it was still the recycled air I had been breathing most of my life but there were subtle differences that could be picked up. With the aroma and taste of this type I was guessing they had real plant life in a few of the structures I had observed on descent to the pad. With solar panels, a few power converters and with the plants to help with air and food, this was as close to self sufficient as could be for a moon of this size. Interesting I thought as I headed for the workshop entrance.
“Aitken, come in, come in. Now what can I do for you? I bet it's FSD range increase, well it would be as you're here.” The older lady before me waffled. She looked around Gabe's age, late eighties I would guess but never suggest. I got the impression that she was a little, madness seemed a little strong so I settled for eccentric. With everything being automated here at Farseer Inc. I could only imagine that the time alone had taken it's toll. “So while the Meta-Alloy is unload, and I have a need for more of those, yes I do, lets you and me become better acquainted. I'm Felicity Farseer, but you knew that, you may call me Felicity.”
With that she dusted off what looked like a chair and motioned for me to sit. A little bemused I followed her instructions.
“I knew your Father. My condolences to your mother and the family on his passing.” Maybe it was the initial meeting or the worry at meeting my fathers son but what ever it had been she seemed to be calming down a little. She continued after I thanked her. “I met her once in Sol, before you were born of course, lovely young girl, well we were all younger back then. Such a happy couple, well suited.”
As she talked she handed me a padd. A small list of components stared at me from the screen under the headline “Level One Frame Shift Drive Range Increase.”
“If you thumb through you'll see the other level one's I have on offer. As soon as you acquire those parts and you want the improvements, come back and I'll get to work.”
“I have everything on the first three pages, FSD, thrusters and for the power plant.” I replied while I could get a word in.
“Good. Then if you are ready I can get to work.” She didn't wait for me to answer but stormed toward the door I had just entered. “Help yourself to coffee.” She pointed out a coffee machine at the back of the workshop and was gone.
She was in and out for the next few hours, picking up a tool or other piece of equipment. Now and again she would say something but most of the time I got a smile or a nod. The coffee was palatable which was a good thing.
“Now, you will see minor increases with this level of modification. I have given you on your padd the next set of components and materials that I need if you wish to continue with my experiments.”
I looked over the updated info on the padd and gave a nod. There was nothing on it I saw that would give me a problem.
“I have something I have to take care of for an acquaintance but I'll come back once I have these.” I smiled as I held up the padd and the list of ingredients.
“I'll look forward to it. As we progress, you will see a large increase in jump range. You do understand that you may lose performance in other areas?”
I reassured her that I understood the risks but the better jump range would more that make up for them.
As the Asp R.J. Mitchell ascended and I corrected my flight path to the correct vector for system exit, I gave the side of my helmet a tap with my right hand. It sounded different, it might be my imagination at knowing Felicity had been messing around with the internals but I thought I could hear a distinct growl as it climbed. Not to worry, too much as I could test it out on route to Eurybia. The old lady had been correct, I only saw a few light years of difference in the range but as she had explained that was only a level 1.
I have no idea who Chris and Silvia are or were but I would be using their Paradise Hangout for the time it took to help out the Blue Mafia. As the Asp's landing gear touched down it had earned itself a new name. The Mitchell name had been for a specific reason and I had failed in that. That engine sound had persisted and so I had renamed it 'Growler', it fitted.
“Greetings Cmdr. Aitken, my name is Prospect Jaquelyn Lawrence and I will be your contact for dealings with the Blue Mafia here in Eurybia. I have sent a list of available missions to your computer please complete anyone or more of them. Your help is gratefully received.”
She had short hair, sunglasses and looked mean, not my type but I was looking for work not anything else. I took a few courier missions and set off.
Now, I'd like to tell you tales of daring deed as I swoop between asteroids, avoiding laser fire by millimetres and escaping by the skin of my teeth. But I can't. The 48 hours I spent hauling missions and courier jobs were pretty routine. Well there was this one guy that was very persistent with his interdictor but I have to own that as I was too stubborn to jump to a different system. On top of that I wasn't too impressed with the pay, not that I ran at a loss but I had become accustomed to higher paying jobs for my friendly factions. The high point came on the last day, just as I had returned to Eurybia. Prospect Lawrence approached me, thanked me for my contribution to their cause and loaded a new contact into my computer.
“With the arms load out you have on your Asp you should find her helpful.” With that cryptic line she thanked me once more and departed. I looked over at 'Growler', two beams and four seeker missile mounts, different I admit but nothing that unusual. Looking at the information I had been given I noted that the 'Engineer' was a Liz Ryder, never heard of her, and that she worked on missiles and mines. Ah, now the cryptic sentence made sense. Then I looked at the introduction gift and my eyes opened a little wider. 200 tons of landmines. Wow, someone was a little paranoid. A quick check of the Galmap and I headed out to pick up the tribute. I wasn't sure if I was going to keep the armament load as it was but having a contact that could work on ships systems was always worth having, so I got down to work.
She was younger than I had thought, her picture was a little deceptive I guess. I was guessing, again that she was a little older than Robert but not by too much. We chatted a little about the changes she could make to the weapons on the ship. I was also in luck that I had some of the components need to make a few alterations to two of the missile racks. With that done and the promise of even more exotic modifications if I desired should I ever return to Demolition Unlimited, I sat in the Asp and thought about my next move.
Bunch and the Disc were what I came up with, why not, I got on with the controlling factions and they paid well. Running missions until The Consortium wanted me to do their bidding, if I should agree, sounded fine by me.
I did follow some of the advice Mr. Smith bestowed upon me and became more active with the Fuel Rats. Thanks to Cmdrs. Ethan McAllister, Ratasum and P. Fraser I got a refresher as I followed their rescues as back up. That led to me helping out a few unlucky Cmdrs. with fuel limpets myself.
Mind made up, I plotted in the course. Next stop Uracenufon.
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