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“Dispatch, roger your last, friend confirmed, system confirmed, in wing #7 preselecting to R CRA prime, 1 jump, 10 Lyr, dropping in...It’s been fun!”
As a Fuel Rat we are a non-political movement, we don’t engage in power plays, the petty squabbles, “kill 36 lords of the dark star” stuff, we have a motto ... We have fuel, you don’t, any questions? It is also a statement. We all know the risks involved ...
Witchspace dissipates, thumb the targeting button on the throttle, acquire target, “firing limpets” I feel the rumble of 2 limpets firing, slow the Krikket down, pull back on the stick, a graceful loop to come face to face with an Imperial Clipper. Beautiful graceful lines of the Gutyama fleet, and her shields were up and looking at me.
My hand tightened on the throttle, inadvertently pressing the pressel and transmitted across the net for all to hear “Holy mother of…DISPATCH, #0 shields up, Frame shift drive cooldown in 7sec prepping to jump!” My finger frantically stabbing at the jump button
“Computer send prep+ language pack-Oolon protocol to Razor1901, Ravan, go hot”
The familiar shape of the “Cats Paw” registered on the scanner about 2 clicks back, 1 click up
“’Zilla got your 6” the familiar voice of Ravan and her Anaconda was a welcome relief. With the precision of a surgeon I’ve seen the Cats-Paw and her engineered weapons clear a hazardous resource site within minutes.
#0’s shields finally dropped. I thumb the limpet button 4 more times, my heart hammering in my chest
“Sorry about the delay ‘Zilla, I needed to find an Oolon translation pack, good work Rats” Ninjst’s gratitude was genuine.
“Dispatch, Flynzilla, fuel confirmed”
A while back I “fell upon” a profitable trade run, not illegal…just slightly dubious. During that period, I managed to amass a modest sum of money, stripped out Krikket, stored what modules I had “modified”, and sold her.
The day I got rid of The Krikkit was the saddest day of my life. We had saved 85 souls together, lost a couple, seen many wondrous sites and completed a scan of a Thargoid. However, the bind of having a 16t cargo hold was taking its toll. 4 rescues then a restock were getting laborious. I was losing the most precious of commodities…time. It was taking too long jumping to a station for a restock. The cases inexorably rolling across my screen, always tantalisingly close and completely unable to do anything about them. This heralded the time for change.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remember a seedy Space Ranger bar nursing the loss of a trusted friend, I overheard an old Rat that was extolling the virtues of the ASP Explorer (quite possibly the same guy that told me originally about the Fuel Rats). Don’t get me wrong I’ve had the misfortune to have owned one previously, and took to it like a cat taking a bath. It was atrocious, slow, ran hot, what seemed like decent hard-point placement was an utter dog. A million different reasons not to like it, any excuse to jump back into HMS Krikket.
Although, here I am, in a Ship dealership, the constant smoke (which I am convinced is there for effect) The Ship salesmen wore his persona like cheap aftershave “I would sell my own mother for a profit” The kind of people that after speaking to them, you’d need a shower. During the jumps to the station, I logged my ship requirements on the sub-ethernet. Nothing fancy, something with a 40t cargo capacity, reasonable jump range, good hull strength and black.
And yet, despite this, we are now standing in front of a Keelback. I’m wondering if they actually read my requirements or looked at me and judged. I have nothing against Keelbacks’, but they are the beige of the ship world. As middle of the road sensible ships go, this was it! Despite my negative comments, declining to “take it for a spin, try it once and you will love it forever” line. If persistence was an attribute, this guy had it in spades. He is trying his utmost to get me to part with my credits
“And here we have the pride of the Imperial Fleet, the Cutter” The numbers flitted behind my eyes. off the shelf 208mil, rebuy 10.8mil, to get her decent, 1.8bn, with a rebuy of 168mil…The ingratiating voice and the weasel smile was wearing thin. My list of “why-I-shouldn’t-draw-my-gun-and-put-a-bolt-through-his-head-list” was growing short.
Hesitantly I cut across the inane prattle, “yeah the Cutter is nice, but the rebuy is too steep, do you have anything that fits my initial requirements?” I thrusted the dataslate under his nose and had the desired effect as a full stop. The small victory of seeing his crestfallen face was worth it.
“If you would care to step this way” the voice was wearing thin. The usual stock of Eagles, Cobra Mk3, the odd hauler, the usual clapped out bangers. The ships that Commanders used in a fight, never bothered to repair or never cared.
There she was, a black ASP-X. Stock 6.6mil; rebuy 33.3k, getting her up to speed 45mil. The salesman’s drone continued, “This is the Tigers Eye, an ASP-X, she was kitted out for exploration, she’s been to Beagle point, as well as Jaques Station, California Nebula” he droned on, I caught various words like “community” “sulphur”, “Meta-alloy” “Thargoids” and the deal clincher “pilot unable to afford the re-buy”
The leading edges the paint work was worn, the emblems were “burnt off” due to excessive scooping, she was sitting closer to the deck (what I later was to learn was low hydraulic fluid levels) she was wonky, off kilter, but, she spoke to me, the engines had no sign of excessive carbonation around the exhaust coils and I was in love. She had that look, like a black cat about to pounce
“I’ll take her, don’t bother speaking, just load her up into the station outfitting bay” my thumbprint sealed the deal. The ship elevator decended with the pad snugly fitting back into place. I made my way to the cargo truck, and was greeted with the tinny “state destination”, “nearest bar please” the responsive beep from the AI and the slight pickup in engine noise affirmed that I was drawing closer to my next stage.
“Computer, link to base outfitting call up stored modules” The depressingly short list of compatible modules appeared on the screen. “Call up remaining creds”, the somewhat large amount was halved. “Purchase: 6A scoop, cargo racks totalling 40t, 3A limpet controller, 40t of fuel limpets, 5A Frameshift Drive, fit G5 mod, advanced discovery scanner, Wake scanner. “Sell swopped out modules, sell weapons, apply midnight black paintjob, Fuelrat logo on both wings, ship ID FR1799, nameplate….” Time for a drink, and allow her to tell me the name.
Sitting in the bar, nursing a beer or three, and watching the ebb and flow of people. Their movements synchronised with various liners that have docked and will be soon departing…I can hear the captains proudly broadcasting “this is the top 1% of all liners…” Name for a ship? How hard can one question be! To be honest I can’t even remember the thought process for naming the Krikkit! With no apparent resolution, I reached for my dataslate, my logic dictating that the sub-ether will know the answer to that, tap in Krikkit, tap search, wait. With the precision of a professional the bar staff timed her dance perfectly, empty glass swooped up, replacement fresh drink deposited, twirl, smile, wink, pull the bill from a small printer at her hip, flick in air, have it gently float down to my tabletop, twirl next table and repeat.
With its usual happy beep, the dataslate scrolled through a steady stream of words filling the screen with the occasional picture. Looking down, everything was blurred; apart from 2 words “Starship Bistromath” I knew that was the one. My fingers flew over the dataslate I had transmitted my final command to the outfitting computer.
The beep from the data slate indicated that the refit was finished, chugging the last of my beer, fished around my pocket for a tip and grabbing my flight bag, made my way to the pad.
The Starship Bistromath rose on the elevator, spun on its axis and looked like a girlfriend that has tried on a new dress and was eager to show off. She was beautiful. I had to remember to shut my gaping mouth. Righto buddy, to the task at hand. Preflight checks, get her sorted and lets log in with today’s dispatch.
Yes, I know that I am anthropomorphizing, however, I am running my hands over connectors (checking for tightness), pistons (looking to see if there is any leakage), thrust vectoring vanes (yep, they move) and yet, I can feel her purring through my fingers. I know that it’s the power cable that keeps a ship at standby state, but the likeness was uncanny.and in my head she’s leaning into me. I was hooked. Running my hands over the leading surfaces, and a quick spin of the thruster turbines, all ready to go.
The trip through the internals compartments was equally satisfying. Fuel limpets gleaming against oil stained cargo rack, and reminded me of my previous ship, a workhorse, something that I will enjoy flying. The commanders seat fits like a glove, the controls are where my hands are (again this comes from the preloaded biometry from the Krikkit) but it’s still a pleasant surprise.
The preflight checklist is over in a flash, I key the pressel “Tower this is FR1799 landing pad 12, requesting lift-off and disembark” The response was standardised format, “Roger that FR1799, this is ATC, depart pad12, maintain correct speed, fly safe, oh seven commander, FR1799, keep up with the good work, out”
Thumb the vertical lift, ease the power on…She jumped up like a startled deer, microseconds later my brain has compensated for the power, thumb the landing gear up, and ease her forward. My old friend SirKnight would say “ahead quarter” The grin splitting my face. Despite me wanting to gun her through the slot, I kept a respectable 99m/s; after all don’t want to anger ATC. Maintain a stately pace through the mailslot, wait till I clear the toaster rack…
Now for some fun, if it were possible for my grin to get bigger, the thought of gunning her, made me giggle like a kid. With a push gunned the throttle to the stops. My eyes widen in happy surprise, no lag from the engines, and almost instant 300m/s…She is faster than my iCourier…which also made me think what I can do to make her go faster!
“EssesxT this is FR1799, 40 in the hold standing by. “Roger that Flynzilla, glad to have you back, my scope is picking up an ASP-X?” “Your scope is correct, bought me a new Ratter. “When I dock next, I’ll upload details of the Starship Bistromath to the database in Wollheim”. Cutting the comms off, and a quick glance to see the mass lock indicator, turn off, a deft flick of my thumb launched her into supercruise.
... read more in the next chapter soon.
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