X-HFPY Frail Harpy
I wasn’t prepared. Reports had indicated it was alien, it was large and it was old. But I wasn’t prepared.
x-HFPY – Frail Harpy
Krait Mk II – Special Operations vessel
As I retired the Vigilant Bard I prepared myself for a new ship. One a bit faster and more aggressive, able to out-maneuver many ships in it’s size class and capable of mounting a short-range fighter bay. No, this will certainly be an interesting ship to fly. New opportunities in my organization will have me monitoring and supporting several systems as well as the occasional foray into deep space.
Briefly when it was introduced to the public I tested it as an alternative to Python. The same internal configuration as the Python and Krait Phantom means that should I wish, I could easily transfer between three ships with relative ease. But I’m a one-ship kind of person. I live in this beast, for better or worse. While she won’t be moving hundreds of tons of cargo or dozens of passengers she’ll jump farther and fly faster than anything else I’ve flown recently.
I had been briefed, I reviewed the analysis and I had the necessary tools. But nothing prepares you better than live experience.
I reminded myself of this as the station burned around me and secondary explosions pushed my ship off of landing alignment.
The station groaned around me, like a great beast that had been struck a mortal blow. I knew it would recover, in time all things do. But time was not my ally right now. Explosions pushed debris into my path. I carefully dodged them, setting down on the assigned pad.
Funny how in a crisis we have to cling to what scraps of order we can find. Clamps secured and my ramp lowered I hastily descended to meet with the technician coordinating evacuations.
“I’ve got room for 96 and not a person more!” I bellowed, trying to be heard over the roar of alarms and fires raging out of control. The tech nodded, started waving at another tech and together we ushered them into my waiting ship.
All passengers aboard I carefully threaded a path through the tumbling debris and out of the station. Heat sinks trailing behind me as I struggled to escape without melting a critical system or overloading thruster control.
The FTL hop from damaged station to rescue ship was less than 2 minutes. Awaiting rescue teams helped disembark the passengers while I had technicians reload the heat sink magazine. It was only 11am and the day was already looking long.
It’s not enough to hope answers come to you. You have to search them out at times.
It wasn’t enough that I was chased, they were waiting for me. Three Federal Assault Ships were lurking near the belt in tight formation. Ambush. The fight was quick but brutal and as my shields started to buckle I devised a hasty plan. I punched up my remlok and braced for the explosion and ejection of atmosphere as my canopy was ruptured. Secondary explosions crippled my ship and while the hull was battered my suited body tucked into a ball and drifted away. Too small for conventional sensors to detect with no mass or heat signature I waited. A minute later, satisfied their target was done for and my ship riddled with holes they leapt into FTL and were gone in a flash.
Rescue ships were quick to pick me up once I’d activated my recovery beacon. The insurance payout was sufficient and while recovery of my ships wreckage and subsequent repair would be forthcoming I set about arranging for another ship. Changed IDENT codes and registration, the Frail Harpy was waiting for me in berth. As her systems were installed I’d thought about my next steps.
I had been looking into my fathers’ death closely. More so recently than I had been. The clues all pointed one direction. First to a shipping station in Ao Qin. A system now controlled by pirates. A pirate faction that was demolished in a brutal wave of “pacification” conflicts as some agency bankrolled a small war designed to ‘clean up our system’. If you looked closely you could see the money trail vanish behind anonymous donors and faceless bureaucratic agencies. Someone had clearly hired pirates and was now cleaning up the trail. But the more I poked the more someone poked back.
At first I thought the attacks were convenient, that the cargo I was carrying was tagged or the agents I worked for bought. But the ships coming after me escalated and the pretense of “hand over your cargo” faded. No, whomever was after me wasn’t interested in the cargo. They came guns blazing.
So now I planned my next steps. Opened some quieter lines of inquiry, reaching out to some people I knew with ties to criminal operations. And I waited.
1800 Light-years, 48 jumps with only me and the quiet hum of the FrameShift Drive to keep me company.
Everything seems so far away now and I know I’m not even a tenth of the distance to the far edge of the Galaxy, let alone the farthest anyone else has been out. No, I’m practically down the road picking up milk.
And yet, pad 37 is a welcome respite from the short journey.