It requires sacrifice, I read somewhere. You have to give up something for growth.
I put aside the Relentless Augur, my Python, in favor of the sleek and nimble Krait MK 2. The python has served me well and while I find her cockpit appropriately spacious I find my needs drifting after something nimble. The contours on the Krait aren’t anything to write home about. Much has been said about it’s ‘upside down’ style and I don’t have a pressing need for it’s Fight Bay. But I do find it’s top speed a precious commodity and it’s canopy welcoming in the depths of space.
I took a Krait to the Heart and Soul nebula. I took one to the Guardian satellite. And yet I struggle with giving up the Python. Sometimes I feel like I just just rip off the bandage. I keep my Python because losing it means giving up my Inara registration though I could easily never fly one ever again.
49.22 light years Djabara from Paresa where loyalists to Hadrian Duval are marshaling their forces. Too damned close.
I watched as the technicians replaced a cargo bay with the necessary SRV hangar for surface operations. Almost as an after thought I had them pull out another cargo bay for bulkhead reinforcement. Better to go heavy and prepared I thought.
Refitting the ‘Augur took longer than I expected and in those very short hours war erupted in Paresa. Whatever window I had was gone. Now I was going to have to dodge imperial patrols looking to catch fleeing stragglers. What worried me more that if this was a trap I’d be facing twitchy Imperial Security Forces and whatever surprise was waiting for me.
353 light-years later I was descending onto the dark side of Djabara 2’s 4th moon. The rocky surface pushed up at me as I dropped down closer to the planet, the Relentless Augur groaned unnaturally as I descended. The Python wasn’t ever intended for extensive operation in a gravity well. It handles better than some ships, sure but it’s no ballerina . I wasn’t far from my noted coordinates and within a few minutes I found the site in question.
A quick flyby of a mysterious structure showed me a number of docked ships and an excessive amount of defensive positions for anything I wanted to get mixed up in. My first guess said this was a pirate operation but some of the structures looked too robust for a fly-by-night smuggler’s den. No, this had secret government facility written all over it. I didn’t know what I would find here but I landed with the intent to find out.
Almost like it was laying there for me a fragment of message buoy lay on the ground. Waiting.
I pulled down what data I could and killed the lights. I wanted to keep as low a profile as possible. Not that it mattered. As soon as I approached what seemed to be a quiet vector, sentries lit up and started swarming my direction almost immediately.
I bugged out. This was beyond just me and I made a note to ask around before I came back. It was lucky I left when I did, my SRV shield buckled quickly and armor started flaking away as the sentries chased me beyond any typical patrol distance. Someone clearly wanted visitors kept at bay.
Djabara had been on my mind for days. I was out of the ‘bubble for almost a week, outside radio contact and isolated from anyone or anything familiar. I was hardly in the bubble for a day when the message came through encrypted channels without sender or subject. Djabara 2, it said, was important. And a series of coordinates that would guide me to a surface location.
This smelled like a trap. I jumped three systems just to distance myself from the point of reception before I stopped to consider the mission. Alix scanned the file seven times that I know of and probably a dozen more I didn’t. It wasn’t a honeypot. It wasn’t a trojan. The file was safe.
So that meant the coordinates were likely a trap. So I sat on the data while I considered what to do.
Meanwhile reports of Duval and Patreus posturing in the Empire started sounding more and more like civil war. Djabara was smack in the middle of Empire space. If I was going to go I had to go soon, before the shooting started.
Back in the swing of logistics and economics, I was moving cargo when an agent of my organization approached me. I should note that I’m abnormally cagey about revealing who I work for since I have enemies, they have enemies and I’d would behoove me to avoid openly discussing their habits using pronouns and titles. Suffice it to say, I met with a person and they offered me some work.
Seems a group of pirates, not necessarily aligned with each other, had taken to harassing a nearby system and my name came up in conversation. While the technicians looked over the ‘Augur I carefully considered the contract. I’d done a minor refit two stations back so while my jump range wasn’t as robust as it usually is, my defensive measures were more than adequate. Loaders heaved 70 tons of Gold out onto the dock and with a resounding clunk completed their task. With little else on my plate I accepted all the contracts and set course.
The fight itself was almost boring. Two of the would-be assassins jumped me almost immediately. As though working in tandem they arrived at the Nav Beacon just after me and began their campaign of harassment. My shields, reinforced with some unusual tech I picked up along the way, repelled their attack with such ease I hardly noticed. “Weapons Hot” I called out. Alix, my smart agent and COVAS responded by allocating power from engines to defenses and weapons in equal measure. Laser-fire flared out and railguns hammered one target then the other and amidst the fray transports, explorers and other travellers near the beacon gave us wide berth. Within a minute it was over. Normally I’d feel accomplished but these targets were too easy. So bad at their job they were barely pirates. I noted the idea that this was a setup as I conducted a short-range scan for my other targets.
In all I think I was in-system less than 20 minutes. Quiet work, relative ease and minimal danger. I collected my bounty and loaded more cargo for another hop out-system. Keeping on my toes and moving, keeping trouble a step behind me.
Deep Space is quiet. Treacherous and exciting. Preparing for an expedition beyond the reach of Humanity requires careful planning. No laser will fight off the boredom, no shields will deflect the feelings of loneliness or isolation. You’ve got to prepare your mind. Pack sufficient distractions and enough trappings of home. You’re likely to be out there a while. ~14,000 light-years to the Heart and Soul Nebula. I went, I charted some worlds and scanned many systems. Through this I achieved Elite Exploration and learned a thing or two about myself.
Firstly, I’m no explorer. Too many hours in deep space, too long away from a station with cold beer and a warm bed.
Second, I’m a Python guy. The Krait is a fine ship. Thrusters amenable to landings, adequate maneuverability for asteroid fields. No, there’s nothing wrong with the Krait Mk II. I’m a Python guy.
So once I returned to the bubble I put a word in with a guy I know and trust. He arranged for me to buy a fresh Python in exchange for this well used Krait I was looking to get rid of. I paid a premium for fresh tags and identification codes. Overly cautious but I’m doing everything I can do discourage my pursuers.
Getting away from it all takes on a new meaning when you can move hundreds of light-years in a day. When ‘civilization’ is so far away you forget there are people back home.
Day 1 on my self-imposed expedition to the Heart and Soul Nebulas. Many light years crossed, many more to go.
As I started shutting down systems for the night I listened to the hum of the ship dwindle to barely a whisper. Systems slowed, the electrical hum of the shield system diminished while the air cyclers carried on in their solemn duty.
It was here, on this lifeless rocky planet so far from home that I settled in for a few hours of sleep.
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.