Fiction Sanctimonious 3305-3306

Hi All,

I recently got asked what the Sanctimonious Crew were doing since the Gnosis event and what they were up to during the Interstellar Initiatives last year. Well, this has taken about a year to write (and re-write) and every time it was ready to go there was a new Interstellar Initiative to think about and include somehow. Really enjoyed playing through those in open (even though I lost a few ships to surprise player combat) and I hope they bring them back in the future. It a bit longer than usual but then again it covers almost a year.

Enjoy

C.


Date: 1st Feb 3306. System: Deciat

Mooka banked the Cobra MK III away from Deciat's main star. She turned her attention to the scanner, as her ship began to cool from her pass at the stellar body. She took note of the fact that the fuel tanks had topped out and let out a sigh of relief. Next task, find her destination. She locked the ship onto the planetary outpost of Farseer Inc. With another quick check of the scanner, she let herself relax into the pilot's seat. She let the new autopilot guide her ship towards the small moon but she couldn't let herself completely relax. Deciat was supposed to be a secure system but, due to the fact that that an Engineer lived here, there was a much higher risk of attack by pirates.

There are a few individuals dotted around the bubble of human occupied space, who’s technical abilities far outstrip even the mega corporations. These unique individuals are sought after because, for a price and some unique components, they can modify and enhance various ships systems to perform far beyond their technical specifications. These are the people the Pilot’s Federation call ‘The Engineers’.

There were some pirates here who would just try and steal the rare commodities brought here. However, there were some who were here to build a rep by causing as much chaos as possible. It was the latter that she was worried about, those pirates couldn't be negotiated with or even surrendered to. They would just shoot your ship from under you and all you could do is hope that you can get to the escape pod in time. Then you would pray that they leave your escape pod alone in space.

Just thinking about it, she found her breathing was getting faster and her heart beginning to race again. She started to slowly count to 4, repeating the count again and again until she could feel the thumping in her chest begin to ease. She knew she wasn't over it just yet, even though it was more than eight months ago.


Date: May 15th 3305. System: Synuefe EN-H d11-96.

'Hey, Mooka!'

One of her adoptive fathers, David 'Davie' Thornton, was calling her from the bottom bridge of the Asp Explorer vessel Sanctimonious.

'Have you got any idea what you want for your birthday yet?'

'A Panther Clipper?' she called back.

'Oh? Ha Ha!' came the sarcastic reply.

They had just finished a successful run, scavenging alien ruins. These dead sites, left by the extinct aliens called 'The Guardians', had vast resources. Research agencies paid top credit to get hold of these guardian artefacts which could be transformed into weapons to be used against the other hostile alien race called Thargoids.

'I haven't seen one of those for almost 20 years,' interrupted Duncan 'Mac' McTaggert, from the main pilot seat.

'They don't fly anymore?' Mooka asked

'They stopped making them about 50 years ago and then they ran out of spares a few years later. ' Mac replied.

'Seriously though, ' her 2nd father. 'It's your seventeenth, which means that you're almost at the age of majority.'

Has it really been five years? Mooka thought to herself.

It felt like only yesterday Davie and Mac had rescued her from a wreaked cargo canister almost 4000 light-years away in the far-off Phenol system. As a stolen Imperial Slave, she had demanded to be taken home to Achenar, which Mac and Davie did as part of a contract with the Phenol Authorities. However, in order to make sure that the crew wasn't arrested when travelling through Alliance and Federal space, both Mac and Davie adopted her. Mac in the Federation and Davie in the Alliance, which meant she was technically a citizen of all three powers. However, her owner in the Empire wouldn't, or rather couldn’t, give her up. Thankfully, an agreement was made where Mac had 'licensed' her from her previous master until she had reached age of majority when she would be freed from Imperial Servitude.

She knew that Mac and her owner had come to arrangement where the license fees that Mac paid would be put aside to help support her once she was free. She may be free at 17 but they all wanted her to be able to support herself and not have to re-sell herself into Imperial Slavery.

'OK, an E-rated Sidewinder and 1000 Credits,' she said.

'Really?' Mac looked back to her, quizzically. 'You want to go solo already?'

'Aww,' I don't want to lose my little girl.' called Davie from the lower bridge.

'You're not losing me just yet,' she replied. 'I'm going to need a training shi…'

She never managed to finish her sentence as the Sanctimonious pitched violently down. Her seat straps stopping her from being thrown into the bulkhead.

'We just got hit by rail guns!' shouted Davie. 'We've lost 90% of our shields.'

'Oh, Flux Stains!' cursed Mac. 'They're not even on the scanners.'

Mooka felt the G-forces push her into her chair as the Asp began evasive manoeuvres. It didn't help as the ship shuddered again. Her Engineering workstation lit up with red lights. She tried to manage her panic as she saw that the indicators showing the ship's hull integrity had plummeted.

'We can't take another hit.' She announced.

'They're running silent! I can't see them,' shouted Mac. 'Prep your Remlock!'

She didn't see what Mac did but before she knew it, the emergency systems had ripped her from her station and placed her into an escape pod. She was strapped into the coffin-like box, unable to move, with a letterbox viewport just in front of her face. There was a quick burst of G-forces and she could see the Sanctimonious disappearing into the distance through the viewport. The Asp Explorer had two gaping holes in it where the rail gun hits had gone straight through the ship. Fuel and cargo spilt out into the void. The entire port side of the ship was on fire. She couldn't tell if anyone else had got out when there was another blue beam strike of a rail gun and the Sanctimonious, her home for the last five years, disappeared in an expanding ball of red and orange flame.

'No, No, No…' She was screaming. 'Davie, Mac, No…'

She tried to move her arms but the safety restraints kept her arms in place. She wanted to reach out, she wanted to grab the ship, put it back together. She as still screaming when she felt the small cold nip of a needle hit the back of the neck as the escape pod began its hibernation cycle. The short-range comms unit picked something up.

'He He, you see how that ASP popped.'

'Yeah, bet that stupid fluxer never saw that coming.'

'Whoa! Look at all that Alien Stuff.'

'Ah, who cares. Another Space Sheep eaten….'

'Howwwwwl!’ One shouted. ‘Space Wolves Rule!!'

She realised they weren't even pirates. They were just out for the fun of it. They destroyed her home and her family, just for fun. As the hibernation cycle began to take her, the last thing she saw before passing out were three Imperial Couriers flying past at high speed. One of them doing a victory roll. Mooka made sure to remember the blue colour with the custom wolf-like logo on the ship's wing.


Date: 1st Feb 3306. System: Deciat

It passed like it always did. The anger, the nausea, the loneliness. She focused on the scanner to bring herself back to the moment. It may have been clear but her hands gripped the controls tightly as the moon, where the base was situated, got larger through the canopy. Only when the huge communication tower of Farseer base came into view, did Mooka allow herself to relax. No pirate in their right mind would attack any ship approaching an Engineer's base. The defences could take apart a ship in seconds. If rumour was to be believed, when the Federation had attacked the Engineer Ismar Palin, they found that the base had been able to hold off their best Battlecruisers.

She activated the advanced docking computer and a Robot voice acknowledged her docking request. Under the control of the automated system, the ship smoothly approached the landing pad, while Mooka relaxed to the sounds of the Blue Danube coming from the speakers. There was a slight shudder as the ship touched down and then the landing pad was pulled inside the docking station where the ship was placed into a hanger. As the ship was pulled down, she sent off a comms request to talk to Felicity Farseer herself and began to extract herself from the seat.

'Do you want me to carry out Routine Maintenance?' came a soft female voice over the ship's speakers.

'Please do Chase,' Mooka replied.

In the months since the loss of the Sanctimonious, Mooka had found the isolation quite difficult. She had purchased a Virtual Assistant, otherwise known as VAs, from one of the many station vendors. Although not true Artificial Intelligence, VA software would respond to vocal commands and 'talk' back to the commander of the ship. Chase was the closest thing she had to a companion on the long journeys in the black.

'Certainly Commander,' Chase replied. 'You have a communication request.'

'Oh? That was quick,' Mooka replied. 'Put her through.'

A small vid-window appeared on the communication section on the HUD holograms. The picture of elderly lady appeared. Grey haired, with a heavily lined face, she seemed to assess Mooka with those dark grey eyes of hers. Felicity Farseer smiled slowly as she recognised Mooka.

'And how is my youngest Imperial visitor?' the old woman asked.

'I'm good,' Mooka replied. 'Well, actually, I'm a bit frazzled but I've got something that might be worth your time.'

'Been out in the Thargoid worlds have you?'

'You want those Meta Alloys? I'll get you as many as you want if you to look at my frameshift and engines.'

'Get them from Maia?'

'Do I look as if I'm made of fluxing money?' Mooka shot back.

'Good,' Farseer nodded. 'Those picked straight from a barnacle perform much better.'

'I think I've got all the extra materials you need,' Mooka announced. 'Had to do some dashing around Dav's Hope to get some.'

'That's ok. I'll move your ship to the workshops and we'll have a look at her in the morning.'

'Appreciate it.'

'You get some sleep. You look shattered.'

'Yes Ma'am,' Mooka replied and then cut off the connection.

She quite liked dealing with Farseer. She remembered that Davie had hinted that Mac and her might have known each other when they both served in the Federal Military, maybe that's why the old woman seemed friendlier to her than other visitors she saw. The gravity was strong enough that she could switch off the mag boots and walk properly to the crew quarters. She looked forward to sleep when there was gravity, it always felt more real.


Date: 22nd July 3305. System: Achenar

It was a small message that appeared in the comms window.

'CMDR. The destination of the census data has been changed. It needs to be delivered to Capitol in Achenar. If you're able to deliver within the next day, we will add a bonus of 50,000 Cr.'

Without thinking, Mooka selected the accept button and then immediately regretted it. Achenar was her home system but she didn't really know if she was a free citizen yet or still technically an Imperial Slave. Mac had never given her a proper date when the Imperial contact would expire.

Davie had told her that Mac had been secretly planning a 'freedom' party for her but she didn't know when it was supposed to have happened. Without being able to check her status, approaching the Imperial world would be a risk. She didn't know if she'd be repatriated and then sold off to someone for the remainder of that contract. However, 50,000 credits would get her enough money to get a Cobra MK III, so she thought the risk was worth it.

She hadn't been entitled to any of the insurance money from the loss of the Sanctimonious. No bodies or escape pods had been found yet, so the money was on hold for a few years before it would go to the next of kin. It would probably go to Mac's natural daughter, who was a lawyer on the Federal Capital of Mars. This kind of thing happens all the time. Escape pods can keep their occupants alive for years, so claims like that could go on forever.

Thankfully, she had been entitled to the money that Mac and Davie had put aside for her as 'wages' for the last five years. After her escape pod had been recovered, she found there was a small fortune left for her and she almost spent it there and then on a Sidewinder, the craft that most pilots start out with. However, she soon realised that there was actually enough to buy an Adder. The Adder was a perfectly adequate small ship. It was faster than a sidewinder although not as nimble. It had enough cargo space to hold sixteen tonnes of cargo, instead of the sidewinder's 4, double the firepower and shields.

On paper, it looked like a perfect fit, so she bought one. When she'd flown it for a couple of weeks, put it through its paces after a couple of cargo runs and even been involved in a tussle with a brash eagle pilot who thought her cargo of algae was worth stealing, she came to the inescapable conclusion that she hated her Adder.

The small arrow shaped ship felt too sluggish to her, too unresponsive to the touch and don't get her started on the way the afterburners sounded when fired. She had to earn her way out of this ship before something bigger and better got the jump on her. Both Mac and Davie had talked favourable about the Cobra MK III, so that's the ship she was aiming for. Six hours and two jumps later, she found herself approaching the massive Orbis station of Dawes Hub above the imaginatively titled world of 'Capitol' in Achenar. Having been born on the planet, her personal profile said that she was one of the few that had the required system permit to allow her access. With a slightly wobbly finger, she flipped the comms control.

'Dawes Hub, this is Adder Smiley-Sun. Requesting Docking Clearance,' she said into the comm, trying to keep her voice level.

There was a pause which seemed to stretch out a little bit too longer than she would have liked.

'Attention Smiley-Sun, you are authorised to land on landing pad zero-seven. Please keep your speed under 100 metres per second and you will be scanned for contraband.'

'Understood Control,' Mooka replied, as she guided the Adder through main docking port and, after a quick glance at the compass, guided the small ship down onto a highlighted landing pad and was immediately taken below deck, freeing the landing pad for another ship.

There was a strong shudder as the Adder was slotted into its hanger area.

'Do you want to perform routine maintenance?' Chase asked.

'Yes please,' replied Mooka, rubbing her neck to relieve the tightness at the base of her skull.

She was just about to raise herself out of her flight seat when the comm's panel alerted.

'You have an incoming call from …' Chase started to announce.

'Accept it!' Interrupted Mooka.

Unfortunately, the face that appeared was not who she was hoping for. It was the Senator, her old master.

My Goddess! they're quick, she thought to herself. He must have had me monitored.

The man in his early thirties stared at her through the screen with his crystal blue eyes. His blond hair cut short, unlike other imperial senators of his rank. His clothes had all the refinery and elegance that a Senator should have.

'Good Morning MOOK99884a,' he announced with a formal tone. 'Allow me to welcome you back to the heart of the Empire.'

Mooka found herself lowering her head in the conditioned motion of respect.

'Thank you, sir,' she said reflectively.

'I'm pleased to bring you tidings and I acknowledge that you have reached the age of Majority and thus, by the power vested in me as your master, release you from my service and welcome you as a full citizen of the Empire.'

'I'm honoured sir,' It was the appropriate response.

'Very well,' He stated in the same calm and measured voice "I will, of course, allow you to visit our families dwelling anytime you wish to visit your father.'

'That is very kind of you sir,' Mooka replied.

The Senator smiled a tight smile. 'His condition has deteriorated substantially since your last visit and I would ask that you perform some duties for my house to help cover the cost with his continued care.'

The hairs on the back of Mooka's neck went up a little.

So, they're not going to let me be as free as I hoped then, she thought to herself. But if it was to help her father…

'What kind of service?' She inquired.

'Oh, nothing underhand I assure you,' the Senator confirmed. 'There are preparations being made to send an imperial expedition out to the Witch Head Nebula. I ask that you contribute your logistical abilities to assist.'

Mooka felt herself relax. Helping to supply materials for big construction projects like that was always profitable. She realised she could actually make quite a bit money working that for a while.

'Certainly Senator,' she replied. 'But I will have to head back to the Guardian sites.'

'That will be fine. I take it that you're looking for your old ship's wreckage?'

How the heck did he know that the Sanctimonious had been destroyed? She thought to herself.

'Yes Senator.'

'I may call on your services again after that,' he said.

'That's quite alright sir.'

'Have you chosen a proper name yet?'

'I was thinking of keeping Mooka, Senator.'

'Very Well. Until next time Citizen Mooka.' And with that his image disappeared from the holographic display.

And with that little ceremony, she was no longer a slave. She could go anywhere she wanted. She let plans form in her mind. First visit her father, then work on the Senator's project, upgrade to a better ship and then head out to look for Mac and Davie. She hoped that nothing would derail those plans.


Date: 4th Feb 3306. System: Deciat - Farseer Base

'Right, Turn the regulator 3 twists.'

Mooka nodded and turned the regulator the right amount, screwing it into the main hyperdrive controller.

'OK, Hold it there!' Came the instruction.

She held the regulator in the right position as she heard Felicity Farseer, type commands into an ancient keyboard. Because Farseer and Mac had been close once, she was getting personal attention. Normally, the reclusive engineer would modify equipment remotely, but Mooka was one of the few exceptions.

'OK, that seems fine,' she said. 'You can let go now.'

Mooka moved her hand away.

'How did we do?' She asked.

'Looks good,' the old woman replied. 'You've got, at least, a 35 light-year Cobra.

Mooka let out a small whistle.

'Oh, my goodness,' she exclaimed. 'That halves the travel time.'

'Halves? You heading back to Synuefe?'

'Of course,' Mooka said. 'They've got to be there.'

Farseer just looked at her with those ancient grey eyes, then her shoulders seemed to sag and she sighed loudly.

'I'm not going to try and talk you out of it,' she said. 'But you can't waste your life going back there again and again, looking for people who aren’t with us anymore.'

'They got out,' Mooka said sharply.

'Mooka…' Farseer said soothingly.

'They got out!' Mooka repeated with a more noticeable edge in her voice.

'OK, Ok,’ Farseer signed again. ‘You've got the best jump range I can give you but I'm no good with scanners. I'm going to send you to Juri Ishmaak. He can modify your scanners beyond belief but understand this; if those scanners don't find anything, then they have gone.’

Farseer gave Mooka a look that she felt pierced her soul. ‘I want you to promise me, that if those scanners don't pick anything up, then that’s it.'

Mooka just glared back at her.

'Mac and Davie hit the eject button to get you out before them. They stayed to make sure that you lived. Don't waste that gift trying to find ghosts.'

Mooka held the glare for a few seconds more, gritted her teeth and then nodded to the older woman. With that Felicity Farseer walked from the underneath Mooka's Cobra and left the hanger. The hiss of door closing echoed across the chamber.

'They got out!' Mooka shouted to the empty room.


Date: 18th Oct 3305. System: Lave

'Attention Smiley Sun! We have you in the pattern,' came the fight controller's voice. 'Unfortunately, there are no free pads at this time. You're 2nd in the queue. We'll give you a call when one’s free.'

'Thank you STC,' she replied. 'You folks mustn’t need this Blight cure very much then?'

'Oh, we need it Smiley Sun.' the voice sounded grumpy. 'But I wouldn't want you to be crushed between all these T-9's we have in the docking bay at the moment.'

'Understood STC.' She said and closed the communications channel.

She smiled to herself, those flight controllers will be having a hell of a day. Since the Blight had hit Lave, the demand for the cure was astronomical. As was the size of the ships that were delivering it. It was an incredibly profitable trade run.

Some eco-terrorists had sabotaged the fertiliser which had been shipped to most of humanity's agricultural planets. This had led to crop failure and one of the worst famines that the human civilisation had ever seen. While some pilots were happy hunting down and eliminating any ship which had supported the terrorists; Mooka was quite happy just to ship the cure and use the profits to upgrade and enhance her new ship.

She couldn't help it. She had fallen in love with her new Cobra MK III. Where she had hated the Adder with a passion, she could not get enough of flying this ship. It responded quickly to her touch and could outrun most unmodified ships in the sky. A couple of Sidewinders had tried to take the cure from her at Leesti, much to their regret. It would have been a difficult fight in the Adder but in a Cobra, she'd handled it with ease.

She let go of the controls and let the autopilot take control of the ship, let it keep the ship in the holding pattern. As there was nothing to do for the moment, she took the time to ship-watch as she relaxed into her seat. There were plenty of cargo vessels, Lakon Type 6s, Type 7s and the massive Type 9s, formed into lines behind her. There were a few security force Eagles and Sidewinders darting about. There were even a couple of the massive Imperial Cutters, leaving the station. It was the ships behind them that caught her attention. Blue Imperial Couriers with a wolf logo.

She grabbed the controls as quickly as she could, recognising the paint jobs on those Couriers. It was them, two of them anyway. She quickly shoved power to the weapons, so the guns would be ready, and cancelled the auto pilot.

She switched the flight assist off and nudged the port yaw thrusters. The slow rotation brought the ship's nose round to help the sensors lock onto the two ships as they lazily flew on an exit vector. The Cobra's scanners began to ID the lead ship. The sensor's ‘awaiting ID’ holding pattern seemed to take a lot longer than usual. She gripped the controls tighter as the Imperial Courier came close. She was beginning to plan the manoeuvres she'd need to take them down when the hub bleeped an alert.

'Clean?!' She blurted out loud.

She quickly targeted the second ship and the scan repeated the same result.

'What the Flux?'

She watched the ships fly past. If she opened fire on either of them, then she would be marked as a pirate. She'd seen how the security forces react when a fire fight starts in front of a station. She forced herself to breath deep. It was so tempting to deploy the weapons but they were clean and that meant she had to let them go.

She checked their registry again. The appeared to be in the same Squadron but their ship names were space wolves 12 and 17. She was sure it was numbers 1, 2 and 3 she had to worry about. The two ships made a jump to Hyperspace.

"What the hell am I thinking?" She said to herself. "I've got a D rated Cobra and you think you can take on 2 high powered Couriers? Get a grip."

She could almost feel Mac glaring at her for being so stupid. Sighing, she pulled the ship round to point back at the station and re-activated the Docking computer. If she was going to have revenge against these 'Space Wolves', She'd have to play the long game.


Date: 06 Mar 3306. System: Synuefe EN-H d11-96.

'Chase?'

'Yes, Commander?'

'Deploy the sensors,' Mooka ordered. 'and put as much power into systems as we can.'

'Aye Aye, Commander,' the VA responded.

The Smiley Sun whined as the power capacitors from the weapon systems were redirected to boost the sensors. She sighed in satisfaction as the sensors started to take in data from the surrounding area. She's done the calculations. She was at the exact spot where the Sanctimonious had been destroyed. In the nine or so months since the Asp Explorer had been destroyed, she knew that if they had been able to use the escape pods, then there would be a huge area of space to scan.

She had spent the entire trip out here working out a search pattern that could cover the whole area and, thanks to the Smiley Sun's speed and agility, she should be able to cover the entire area in a day or so. She'd decided to perform the search pattern twice, just to make sure. Juri Ishmaak had assured her that her sensors were now so accurate, they'd even be able to detect a remlock mask in deep space on low power. Escape pods should be no problem. However, the scanner remained clear.

'Well, you shouldn't have been able to hit it straight off,' she muttered to herself.

A thought occurred to her.

'Chase?'

'Yes Commander?'

'Would we be able to increase our scan range if we ran silent?'

'If the running temperature of the ship was lower, then the sensor's accuracy could be increased.' Chase reported.

Mooka got to work, she cut power to the frameshift drive, the shields, the SRV hanger, the fuel scoop and even the burst lasers and multi-cannons. She saw the heat output of Smiley Sun drop substantially. She even turned off the cockpit lights and let the darkness into the ship. It also made the Cobra a lot more difficult to detect, which might be a good idea considering why she was here.

She brought up her flight plan and started to follow it, keeping the ship below a certain speed so that the engine power wouldn't give herself away. It just felt instinctive to her fly as stealthily as possible, so she settled in and watched the scanner intently.

After four hours, she brought the ship to a stop. There hadn't been a single blip on the scanner, nothing bigger than space dust anyway. She sighed to herself and decided to make herself a coffee. She was just about to get out the chair when Chase spoke.

'Two vessels detected,' the voice assistant announced.

Mooka quickly glanced at the scanner. There were to blips, glowing very brightly. She watched for a second, trying to work out what their course was. She quickly projected their vectors in her head and realised that they would come to within 5km from her position.

That wasn't close enough to be picked up on visual but even the small amount of heat and EM she was generating might be detectable. They were about 10K out, so she waited. 9K … 8K… 7.5K

'Chase? Set the ship for silent running,' She ordered.

The Cobra whined again, as all the heat vents closed. Mooka knew that there was limited time before the heats sinks would overload. At that point, it would be a case of dropping a heat sink, which would give her ship's position away, or the increased heat would burn the ship up from the inside. That included herself.

The lead vessel, which the computer identified as an Imperial Courier, began a slow turn away from her position. Their wingman began to copy their manoeuvre. Something, niggled at the back of Mooka's mind.

'These two are on patrol,' she muttered to herself. 'It might not have been a random attack after all, these ships might be protecting something.'

With the ships at extreme range, she ordered Chase to secure from silent running and then altered the power systems of the Cobra. She slowly increased the ship's speed, switched off the flight assist and then powered down the engines, letting the ship drift towards the couriers. Hopefully, her ship's heat signature was so low that the Cobra wouldn't appear on the other ships scanners. The heat signature indicator on the left of the HUD looked almost flat, which was a good sign.

After ten minutes, her forearms were beginning to ache from keeping such a tight grip on the controls when a third blip appeared on the scanner. Even at this distance, the bright glow meant whatever the contact was; it was either very, very big or it was expending a huge amount of energy.

She switched the engines back on and made a couple of subtle course changes towards the glowing contact. She switched them back off again, as the Cobra completed it's turn. Her heat signature was still flat. As long as no-one made visual contact, she was practically invisible.

'Contact Identified!' Chase announced loudly, almost making Mooka jump out of her skin because she'd forgotten to change the ship's volume.

'Volume down,' Mooka ordered. 'Contact details?'

'It is a capital size vessel,' Chase explained in a much lower voice. 'Heat signature is consistent with an Imperial Majestic class interdictor.'

'Oh Fluxing Hell!'

'I thought we were keeping the volume down?' Chase said.

Sometimes, when Chase responded like that, Mooka did wonder if the VA had evolved into some kind of AI, or whether it was just good programming.



Date: 30th November 3305. System: Upaniklis - The Galconda

'That was unfortunate,' commented the Senator. 'Still, we win some, we lose some.'

'That's very gracious of you, sir.' Mooka said.

The pair of them were walking through the corridors of the Generation ship 'Galconda' back to their ships in the hanger bay. Mooka wished she could stay a bit longer to examine the 1000 year old vessel, but the crew had just made it abundantly clear that they would only deal with officials from the Federation from now on.

She's been one of the first on the scene, after a Commander Malick had rediscovered the huge vessel. She had reported the entire issue to her former master, the senator she was walking with, and had been instrumental in helping to mobilise the imperial effort to influence the Galcondians to ally themselves with the Empire.

It hadn't worked, the Federation had promised a huge new facility in space for them, while the Imperials offered a planetary base. Maybe it was because the Galcondians had been in space for 30 generations, that they didn't want to go planetside but the upshot was that the Federation had just scored a major PR victory over the Empire.

'The cost of the facility that the Federation will build them will be astronomical,' the senator commented. 'I'm quite sure to use that when questions are asked in the senate. I'll be able to spin it that we weren't going to waste our resources on such a unreasonable endeavour.'

'If you are sure?' Mooka asked.

'It will be fine, the one thing the senate can always agree on is they shouldn't waste money,' the senator reassured her. 'Even though this event didn't end in the Empire's favour, your actions have earned a little prestige and respect.'

'It was nothing really sir!'

'Nonsense, without your help, we wouldn't have even known about this until the Federation would be boasting about it. That in itself is worth something.'

Mooka said nothing her head was still bowed as she walked, a leftover of the slave conditioning. They arrived at the hanger, she spotted their ships on the far side of the vast space. Her Cobra, The Smiley Sun, was dwarfed by the Senator's Imperial Clipper. As they arrived next to his huge ship, The Senator bid Mooka to wait as he entered his ship. He returned a few minutes later, holding a sword in his hand.

'Kneel!' He ordered.

Fluxing hell, Mooka thought, is he going to execute me?

She knelt anyway. The senator moved in front of her, and placed the tip of the sword on her left shoulder.

'With the power invested in me, I elevate your rank within the Imperial Naval Reserve to Knight of the Empire!' He announced, lifting the sword to touch the other shoulder. 'You may rise.'

'Thank you Sir,' She said, a bit flustered.

She couldn't believe it, a few months after her release, she was now considered a Knight of the Empire. The senator passed the sword, hilt first to her.

'This sword is yours,' the senator continued. 'You'll find it has my personal override codes for various facilities in the hilt. The only thing I ask is that you destroy those codes, if you leave the Empire's Service.'

'Of course sir.' She replied, taking the sword.

'Very well, ' He said as he turned to enter his ship again. 'You might want to think up a surname though, Sir Mooka lacks a certain regal tone.'

'I'll give it some thought sir.'

As Mooka returned to her own ship, she had just realised how much trust the Senator had just shown her. These codes could probably get her into any Imperial facility and should be kept from both the Alliance and Federation. However, he could go flux himself about the right regal tone. Sir Mooka she was and that wasn't going to change.


Date: 06 Mar 3306. System: Synuefe EN-H d11-96.

There was a small shudder as the Smiley Sun' dorsal hatch linked with a small hatch at the rear of the Interdictor. Mooka blew out a breath that she hadn't realised she was holding. At least hidden underneath the main engine housing, her Cobra was going to be difficult to spot.

It had taken her quite a few hours to get this far. She had watched the ship at a distance for about an hour, plotting out the various routes that the Interdictor's fighters flew on patrol. She realised that there was a four minute window that would be open every half hour. Four minutes when the fighters wouldn't be able to see a ship approaching their capital-ship.

'Chase? Transfer to my wrist computer,' ordered Mooka.

The bracelet on her left arm was the latest in portable processing, which created holographic controls to allow the wearer to monitor their surroundings, communicate with others, interface with other computers, including other wrist coms.

'Transfer Complete, ' Chase reported. 'I have full remote control of the Smiley Sun available at any time.'

'Thank you!' Mooka shook her head, she'd forgotten that Chase is just a voice interface, not a person she had to be polite to.

Mooka, adjusted the tools on her belt. The was a gun, locked into her holster, a multi-tool and her sword from the Senator. She was wearing her flight suit with the standard ship's helmet. She had the visor tinted so no-one could see her face. There was moment of doubt but she had to know if the people on this ship had recovered any escape pods from the Sanctimonious. It would explain why nothing had been found from the Asp Explorer's wreckage.

She powered down the ship, with the exception of the remote startup control, and then walked up to the top hatch. She unlocked the hatch and faced the Interdictor's equivalent. She reached over to a small panel to the left of the hatch. She drew her sword and then, after mentally crossing her fingers, held the hilt close to the panel.

The panel immediately turned green and the hatch began to cycle. Mooka slipped into the airlock and let it pressurise. Putting the sword back into the scabbard, she activated the wrist computer and activated the map and motion sensor.

The corridor in front of her seemed clear, so she drew her gun as soon as she left the airlock. She saw how much her aim was wobbling, so she holstered the gun again.

'Chase?' She whispered urgently. 'Show me the best route to the main cargo hold.'

'There are sixteen major cargo holds within a Majestic class interdictor,' the VA replied. 'Which one do you require?'

'The closest one,' Mooka whispered back. 'But avoid major crew areas.'

A holographic map of the ship appeared and a red line appeared from her present position, through the ship to a huge cavernous area in the ship. She allowed herself a quick smile and set off, following the line. It was surprisingly easy to find the first cargo bay, whoever crewed this ship wasn't really worried about internal security. If it had been crewed by an imperial crew, there would be guarded checkpoints throughout the vessel. The crew she had spotted, didn’t even wear a uniform, so Mooka kept her helmet visor tinted and casually walked around the ship.

She opened up the first cargo rack and found racks and racks of cargo canisters. They were marked with various logos and an awful lot of carbon scoring. That suggested to Mooka that they'd been removed forcibly from their owners. Judging by the huge number of these cargo pods, this crew had been very busy.

She spotted a large terminal on the opposite side of the bay. She started to creep round to it, sticking to the shadows. Then she realised that doing that would probably draw attention to her. If she acted as if it was her job, then if there was anybody monitoring this bay, they might just ignore it as a normal interaction. So she walked purposefully over to the terminal and sat down in front of it.

She called up the manifests and saw the huge list of commodities onboard. She quickly narrowed the list down just to life pods.

Maybe they're holding them to sell at slave markets, she thought to herself. Although, if someone tried to sell Mac and Davie, it would probably be a death sentence for all involved.

She started to scroll through the list of life pods. She was looking for two serial numbers that she knew was on the Sanctimonious. There were almost 2000 pods here, all frozen and awaiting rescue. She knew she had to do something but she didn't know what. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw a number she recognised.

SANC-FED-001 and next to it SANC-FED-002. That was them, they had been in hibernation sleep for almost nine months. Cargo bay 3. She found her hands were beginning to shake as she looked up where cargo bay 3 was.

Of Course it would be the furthest from the Smiley Sun, She thought to herself bitterly.

'Chase?' she ordered her VA. 'Plot a route to Cargo Bay 3, avoiding main crew areas again.'

Again the holographic map appeared with a red direction line, to guide her way. She shut down the terminal and strode off as if this was perfectly normal. As she walked through the the corridors, she tried to think of ways to get the two pods back to her ship. She didn't know if walking through the corridors with some kind of trolly would work. As nobody seemed to pay her the slightest bit of attention, it just might.

It took 20 minutes to find cargo bay 3, by which time her jaw hurt because she's been clenching her teeth all time. A quick glance around revealed nobody about and on the far side of the bay, there were racks and racks of escape pods.

She tried to think of a reason why these pirates were keeping the pods. Slavery might be the obvious answer but it might be as simple as they didn't want the galaxy to know what they were doing here. She walked over to the console she recognised from the first cargo bay and called up the inventory.

Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she called up the status of the Sanctimonious' pods. The life signs on both appeared to be stable. She blew out the breath in astonishment. Her two adoptive fathers, alive and well, even though she thought she lost them over eight months ago.

She found it difficult to focus on the screen, her vision kept on getting blurry. She selected the two pods but then found there were only two options on the console; Dispose or Revive.

Oh Fluxing Hell, she through. I wanted to do this on the ship.

Taking a deep breath she selected 'Revive' and then watched as the automated system's robot arms extract the two pods and brought them close to the console where she was sat. The pods began to hum gently and a few minutes, both of the top of the pods opened.

'Oh Fluxing hell!' came Davie's voice groaning from the far pod. 'This is the Mother of all hangovers!'

There was a groan from the closest pod, as Mac sat up. Taking in his surroundings. She couldn't help herself, She ran over and hugged him.

'Mac!' She whimpered. 'You are alive.'

'Mooka?' Mac struggled to say, as Mooka held him tight.

'We're in trouble,' she tried to explain while gripping onto her adoptive father as hard as she could. She didn't want to let him go.

'How much?' He whispered back. 'And can I breathe please?'

She pulled back from him and watched him as he looked at her. It was obvious that he recognised that some time had passed since he'd been put into the pod.

'How long?' He asked.

'Eight or Nine months.' She said.

'What!?! Nine months!!' Davie exclaimed as he sat up. 'And where the flux are we?'

'Shh!' ordered Mooka. 'What part of "We are in trouble" did you not understand?'

Davie, at least, had the good grace to look embarrassed. He mouthed 'I'm sorry' and started to get out of the pod.

'We are on an privately run imperial interdictor,' she explained. 'My ship is docked on the far side of the ship. We have to move.'

Mac nodded and, with obvious discomfort, he got out of the pod. Both of the men were still in their flight suits from before, which restricted their movement.

'Do we have any disguises?' Mac asked?

'Fraid not.' Mooka replied. 'Chase, plot me a route back to the ship and avoid heavily populated areas.'

She transferred the route to Mac and Davie's wrist computers and the three of them set of at a run.

***

They had almost arrived at the docking port ten minutes later. The Smiley Sun was visible through one of the many view ports of the ship.

'Oh, A Cobra III,' observed Davie. 'Nice!'

'Someone's been following my advice.' Mac commented.

His tone sounded impressed.

'She could outfly the Sanctimonious but can't jump as far.' Mooka said proudly.

'You been to see Felicity then?'

'Of course.'

'I'm just glad we're getting off this thing.' Said Davie.

A second later, the smiley sun vanished in a flash of light. The three of them stopped dead in the corridor.

'My Ship,' cried Mooka. 'Not my Cobra!'

'You just had to jinx it,' Mac grimaced.

'Hey, you cannot blame that one on me,' Davie shot back.

'Don't worry, you'll get one back as soon as we're back,' said Davie, matter of factly.

'No I won't!' Mooka yelled. 'I was that desperate to get out here, I was down to my last Thirty Thousand.'

'Aw Mooka,' Mac sighed. 'What did I tell you; Never fly without a rebuy!'

'And there was me actually worried about you, which is why I came out here as quickly as I could.' Mooka snapped back.

'I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like tha…' Mac was interrupted.

'Attention hitch-hikers!' The Ship wide intercom blared into life. Even from those two words, Mooka could tell whoever was on the comms had a Imperial cultured female voice.

'I don't know why you're here or what your plan is.' The voice continued, 'But now your little escape vessel is destroyed, we're going to find you and put you out the airlock with no remlock. Try to run, or hide. It won't matter, you're dead anyway.'

With that, the PA clicked off and red lights began to flash along the corridor walls, leaving the three of them looking at each other nervously. Apart from Mooka's sword and small side arm, they had nothing. Mooka looked at the expanding ball of wreckage that the Simley Sun had been turned into and felt her vision blurring again.

'Right, Options?' Asked Davie.

'We get off this ship,' said Mac.

'How?'

'Mooka? Where is the nearest ship hanger?'

'The private hanger is not far from here.' She said examining her map.

'You going to try to steal something?'

'Hell, I'd make us all fit in an Eagle, if I thought we could get out of here.'

The three of them followed the map around. As they ran, it was hard not to notice a lot of the blast doors and bulkheads were closing to them.

'Do you think they're herding us?' Davie asked, out of breath as he ran.

'Hope not,' Mac Replied.

They quickly turned a corner and ran straight into two guards. All three of them ending up in a heap on top of them. Davie didn't waste any time and smashed his fist into the head of the first one and then the second, rendering them both unconscious. He then cradled his hand, with a pained expression.

'Oww,' he exclaimed. 'Why do I always get the hard ones.'

'I'm saying nothing to that,' replied Mac as he ripped the IDs and passed a rifle to Davie.

He held up the guard's ID tag. 'But hopefully this will get us through the blast doors'

'The hanger bay is the next left,' said Mooka.

'We don't want the hanger bay,' replied Mac. 'We need the pilot's ready room.'

'One floor up, through that blast door.' She said pointing at a sealed blast door.

'Davie? Can you carry those guards?' Mac asked.

'Easily. Dump them in the ready room?'

'Yup. Then we'll use Mooka's sword to jemmy open some of the lockers.' Mac said and ran over to the blast door.

He waved the security ID tag next to the door and the blast door opened. Mooka followed him through, while Davie carried the two inert bodies over his shoulders behind her. Mooka was glad that Davie had spent so much time down the gym. It was funny that she was thinking about the gym as the room they arrived in reminded her of changing rooms. Lockers were set into the wall down the left-hand side, on the right they could see the hanger itself. She counted between seven ships in the hanger. Five Imperial Couriers, an imperial Clipper and a Krait MK II.

They dumped the bodies in a corner and Mac gestured for her sword. She drew it and was about to hand it over, when she reversed it and tapped the closest closed locker to her with the hilt of the sword. The locker popped open.

'Oh Nice,' said Dave.

'Show off,' grunted Mac. 'Open the others, see what we've got.'

Mooka ran down the lockers, tapping the sword hilt on each of the closed ones. Davie quickly searched through the opened one, shaking his head in disappointment each time. Mac looked into the locker at the end and then smiled. He punched a small panel on the side of it and pulling out some kind of small fob on a ring.

'Backup startup key.' He said. 'Pirates use this to steal ships from stations.'

'Oh Cool,' replied Dave. 'We've got a ship.'

'But which one?' Mooka asked.

Mac pressed down on the fob and through the window they could see the boarding ramp on the Krait MK II lower to the ground.

'That one,' said Mac.

The three of them, ran back down the stairs to the main corridor and then round the corner to the hanger. They saw a few people milling about over the far side of the vast building, who shouted and pointed at them. Mooka put her head down and ran as fast as she could to the Krait. There were the sounds of gun shots but she ignored them and pumped her legs as fast as she could for that landing ramp. She barrelled up the stairs and into the ship itself.

Her two fathers weren't that far behind her and she knew that Mac would seal the ship as soon as he could. They spent a minute running around the ship trying to find the bridge, when all three burst in. Mooka recognised the Engineering station and ran to it, while Davie ran to the Gunnery chair.

Mac quickly settled into the pilot's chair and Mooka noticed there were people shooting at the ship with rifles and pistols. She wasn't bothered about that, the ship's hull was designed to take worse stuff than that in space. She saw Mac, operate the fob again and the ship roared into life.

'What have we got?'

Mooka scanned the engineering read outs blowing out a breath in surprise.

'We've got an A rated Krait Here,' she announced, '34 ly jump, three Beam Turrets, 2 fixed rails, shield cells and a double fighter bay with 16 fighters!'

'Whoa, Packing some serious heat here.'

'Mean's nothing if we can't get away,' replied Mac as the ship turned to face the exit.

'They're closing the hanger bay doors,' shouted Davie.

'Hang on,' ordered Mac.

Mooka was pressed into her seat, as the massive engines of the Krait flared in afterburner. The ship skipped forward, slipping through just before the doors closed. Immediately, Mac swung the ship into a corkscrew evasion pattern, just as the capital ship began to lay down a huge amount of flak

'Davie, get on those guns and clear us some space,' Mac ordered. 'Mooka, launch a fighter to keep our tail clear.'

'I've never done that before,' she yelled back at him, as she was thrown about in her seat.

'You'll love it,' shouted Davie. 'Just call up the virtual controls and jump right in.'

She operated her telepresence controls and before she knew it, the visor was on her face and she felt she'd been transported into an Imperial fighter. She knew she wasn't really there; she was still sat in her seat on the bridge but the immersion was uncanny. She looked round the fighter's tiny cockpit at the fighter bay where the fighter was stationed when the bay suddenly opened and she was catapulted from the Krait at full speed. The feeling of speed was overwhelming, even though she never felt any of the acceleration.

She quickly evaluated the situation. The Krait they were in was pushing its engines hard, to get away from the Interdictor so they could jump. However, there were several imperial fighters already in space and on an intercept course and there were a couple of Imperial Eagles, powering towards them as well.

'Dibs on the eagles!' Shouted Davie.

'Belay that, ' ordered Mac. 'I need both of you to concentrate on the fighters, I need them clear before we can jump!'

Ignoring Davie's groan of disappointment, Mooka turned her tiny vessel towards the nearest fighter. It was a similar models to hers but it was ignoring her and was going straight after their mothership. She allowed herself a grim smile and locked on with ease. Her fighter's pulse lasers ripped through the enemy's paper thin shields and peppered it's hull with holes.

Her opponent tried to pull up but instead of evading and making it difficult, it actually made it even easier for Mooka. She let fly a second salvo which blew the other craft apart. She quickly locked onto the next fighter. Again, it was flying straight for the Krait. It didn't fare any better than the previous enemy and was soon expanding in an orange fireball.

'This is fun,' she exclaimed when she saw a flash of light to the side and her fighter disappeared around her. She was back on her seat on the bridge with a message saying her fighter was destroyed, and a new one would be ready in two minutes. However, as it was a double bay, there was another fighter ready to launch in.

'Get in another one!' yelled Davie.

'No Need,' Mac yelled back, and with that, there was the 5 second count down to jump and then the swirling lights and clouds of hyperspace.

'I love this Ship!' Exclaimed Davie. 'Can we keep her? Please? Pretty please!'

The ship shuddered as they reverted to real space. Mac quickly changed course as soon as the hyperspace engine had cooled down, made it jump again.

***

The three of them were on the bridge when the Imperial Senator called. He appeared as a hologram near the centre of the bridge. Mooka's former master looked very pleased with himself.

'I thought you might like to know that an Imperial Senator was arrested this morning for mis-appropriating military assets,' he announced. 'Apparently, she was performing illegal weapon research using an Imperial Interdictor and had also captured a large number of shot down escape pods.'

'I see,' replied Mac. 'I take it the Senator has been dealt with?'

'Oh she will be,' Mooka's former master announced. 'However, it appears that her prized Krait is missing from her assets. I've marked it as missing, presumed lost.'

'Well, that's unfortunate for her,' Mac said in a dry tone.

'Indeed,' agreed the senator. 'You must be very grateful to your adoptive daughter.'

'No, just my daughter,' replied Mac. 'And yes, I am incredibly grateful. We'll have her up solo flying again soon enough.'

'Safe flying.' And with that the senator disappeared.

'Crafty sod,' said Mooka. 'He said he'd given me the control codes to every Imperial Interdictor out there. Bet you these codes only worked on that particular interdictor.'

'That sounds like him,' Davie agreed. 'At least you got us out of there.'

'Sorry about taking the time,' she let her head fall forward in embarrassment.

'No need to worry there, I've sorted out everything that needed to be sorted,' replied Mac. 'It might not have the jump range of the old Sanctimonious, but how about making this Krait the new Sanctimonious?'

'Hell Yeah,' shouted Davie, pumping a fist into the air.

Mac gave Davie a withering look. 'Really?'

Bashfully, Davie lowered his arm and just nodded.

'But what are you going to do?' Mac asked, turning to Mooka, 'You are a free Citizen of the Empire now, and of the Federation…'

'And the Alliance, ' interrupted Davie.

'Yeah, even them,' smiled Mac.'We should be able to club together to get you a Cobra, just like the Smiley Sun, if you want.'

She considered it for a moment, but then shook her head.

'I'm not ready to leave my two Dads just yet,' she said. 'Anyway, you need an engineer and a fighter pilot and right now I'm both.'

Mac nodded and Davie smiled at her warmly. She looked at her two fathers on the bridge of the Krait and felt the luckiest recently freed slave in the galaxy.
 
Then I want to see a Special Item 'Solyent Green'.
The Kumo Crew player group has in game lore Soylent White, after a player group disabled Gabriel Enterprise in Harma using Thargoid probes (which was disabled since it messes up inbound powers). With no food coming in, all those slaves became....something else. It was pure coincidence the fast food chain Kumo Burger appeared shortly after...

drunk archon.png
 
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