Let the Gods Sort Them Out…

The_Space_Pirate_Ship

By: Darryl Kupsch

Tohil System

Escort Mission

07 February 2939

The call came through comms within minutes of transitioning from hyperspace to normal space in the Tohil System.

SOS… This is the trader Marseille out of Castra, en route to Tohil. We are under attack from pirates! There is one vessel but we have no armament and they have disabled our jump engines. Someone please help us.”

The message repeated on a loop and appeared to be only a couple hours old judging by the time stamp, so in accordance with Imperial Law, Jaeger set an intercept course. The armed freighter Dionysius, his current client, followed cautiously. As they closed on the coordinates and heading attached to the SOS recording, there was no response via sub-space radio. Eventually the screens showed the freighter maintaining a steady course, but with no changes in acceleration or direction. For all intents and purpose, the freighter was a hulk tracking across the outer reaches of the Tohil system. Jaeger pulled up the manifest for the vessel and noted ship personnel numbers registered at eight.

His lips curled in a humorless smirk. It must have been a long voyage indeed as a life support scan now showed 28 humanoids on board.

Lothbrok to Dionysius. Keep your shields up and weapons primed. Our scans are showing multiple survivors but no one is responding to hails. Do not attempt any rescue or accept any landing parties unless I give the all clear.” In other words stay the hell out of my way while I check this fucking mess out.

“AI, keep hailing the Marseille and try to ascertain status.” He then glanced at his screens. ” Scheisse. “That’s two different engine signatures, from the ion trails. AI, initiate defense mode alpha delta mike three. Activate all shields and weapon systems. Lothar! Buckle in: we might have to blow some space trash out of existence.”

There was the sound of fabric on leather and then the clicking of harness buckles as Lothar, his co-pilot, valet and all round henchman slid into the second officer’s seat. “Orders, sir?” His deep voice carried just a trace of an accent to hint at his Turkish origins.

“Let the AI handle the guns. Bring up the nav-routines and start looking for origin points for pirate activity out here, and the best way to avoid a potential ambush. Scans are showing two vessels, so the second must be docked with the freighter.”

“As you wish sir.”

“Time to call an end to the bullshit,” he muttered, toggling the hailing frequencies.

Marseille, this is the Lothbrok, escorting the armed freighter Dionysius. We received and responded to your SOS signal and are closing on your position. We see that you have an additional vessel alongside and we are reading multiple life signs. Please respond.”

After a short delay, a signal responded.

Lothbrok, this is the Marseille. The SOS was not authentic, it was a computer glitch from a shipboard drill we were running. We sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or alarms that we have raised but thanks for responding just the same.” There was a pause then another voice spoke across the comm line. “Uhm…Lothbrok, please standby. We might have a problem you can help us with, over.”

Lothar spoke quietly from the XO’s consol. “Sir, the scans are showing the drives on Marseille are crippled. And they didn’t address the fact that the second ship is there with them.” He frowned suddenly then glanced at Jaeger. “I am picking up incoming traffic to the coordinates of the Marseille…no registration signatures and flying with signal scramblers wide open but they look like fighters. Their ETA is 30 minutes to the site…”

Jaeger stared at the crippled ship, his jaw clenching. The combined firepower of the incoming ships and the as yet hidden predator would outgun him. These scavengers always took courage from superior numbers. “Any UEE patrols or commercial traffic in the vicinity?”

Lothar shuffled screen overlays and searched, finally shaking his head. “Closest patrol is 23 hours out.”

“AI, time until we are within weapons range?”

“We will be within missile range in 40 minutes, Captain. Beam weapon range in 2 hrs, 30 minutes.”

Jaeger eyed the ship’s manifest, registering the largely female crew. His lips pressed into a thin line- slavery, torture, and worse awaited these people at the hands of the pirates if they were taken. But the raiders had been clumsy bringing so many crew to a single target. He had an opportunity to cripple this particular band of bottom feeders and possibly knock them out of service permanently, making this sector relatively safe for future voyagers. He made his decision.

“AI, once we are within missile range, we will open with both batteries, full spread. Now open a channel to Dionysius, encryption echo echo charlie seven.”

Lothbrok to Dionysius:  Freighter Marseilles is crippled and has been taken by pirates. Make all haste to Tohil and inform port authorities. We are going to engage and neutralize the pirates. We will be less than a day behind you.”

* * *

The Lothbrok docked at Tohil 15 hours after the Dionysius’ arrival, to collect their escort fee and to report to the port guard that one salvo of missiles was fired at the pirate entity. Both vessels were reported as destroyed after what appeared to be a direct hit on the Marseille‘s main drive reactor. The Lothbrok had then ambushed and destroyed two fighters at the scene. Several days after the encounter, salvage crews (who had to purchase the location of the wreckage from Jaeger) recovered partial logs from both the Marseille and the pirate vessel, which was later tentatively identified as the Concordia, an armed freighter that had been missing for approximately 5 years, last known to be on a run from Terra to Stanton. The last recorded crew manifests for both vessels totaled 28 crew. No life boats were recovered by either the salvage vessels or the Lothbrok. Of the two fighters, little remained to identify, though DNA residue identified individuals wanted by the UEE for piracy, murder, extortion, smuggling and a string of petty crimes. Jaeger was awarded a sizeable bounty.

* * *

 the_outskirts_by_whatzitoya-d5hirpd

3 Years Later…

Stanton Station

The Last Resort Bar and Restaurant

21 June 2942

Ursula LeBlanc was late.

This wasn’t like her.  She knew him well enough that she would never keep him waiting if she thought a situation important enough to ask for him.

He hated waiting.

He had no idea what the eccentric waif wanted with him.  It could be some sort of strange favor for his services she coaxed out of his boss Mr. Morgan, or it could be a paying job though he didn’t think it likely.  She had picked the time and place, though at this point the time did not seem not seem to be this place.

So he waited.  In public.  In a place he would usually avoid entirely. He just didn’t do social venues well- unless of course he was on security detail for Mr. Morgan.

The problem with waiting was that sooner or later, someone would recognize him, and either that someone would start talking about the stories, or worse, confront him if they were feeling brave. The most irritating part was that they almost always got the facts wrong… like the tall blonde chick about five meters away by the bar, trying to be “discreet” with her male friend who looked slightly less intelligent than the furniture in the joint.

“Yeah! That’s Von Blucher!  The one they call Jaeger,” she squeaked, trying to keep it as a whisper, but Jaeger heard every word with the amplifiers connected to his dark glasses.  “He’s the guy that blew up that freighter in the Tohil system dusting eight crew! I don’t know how he hasn’t been arrested or spaced or somethin’.”

Her male companion mumbled something (thankfully) unintelligible over the noise of the bar that his amplifiers couldn’t parse.  However the gist of it was pretty clear as she reacted in alarm and grabbed her companion’s arm as he turned to move in Jaeger’s direction.

“Don’t be stupid!”  She held onto him as tight as she could. “He’s probably got something stashed under that jacket! If you want to do something, let’s go to Station Security an’ let them grab him. Maybe we’ll get a reward or somethin’.”

Jaeger shook his head slightly and slowly exhaled, betraying his annoyance as the couple made a quick exit. Station Security knew all about him…he was an Enforcer and worked for the Advocacy after all. He idly pondered arresting the idiots for the crime of public stupidity if they returned…perhaps it wasn’t against the law to be stupid but it certainly should be.

“I wouldn’t worry about them,” came a familiar voice that brought him out of his thoughts, “They’ll just get a shrug and a ‘move along’ from the authorities or you can just flash your badge.  After all I can’t have half my team locked up before we begin,” Marcus said, trying not to laugh at his own joke in front of Jaeger.

Jaeger just stared at Marcus through his glasses without a word.  The big German’s annoyance was palpable as Marcus quickly got to the point.  “If you are waiting for Ursula, she won’t be coming. There’s been a slight change of plan, so I’ve come here to escort you to the new location.  Here, have a look at the mission specs on the way- this is gonna be a sweet haul.”  He handed Jaeger the glas detailing the objectives.

Though Marcus couldn’t see them, Jaeger closed his eyes and summoned reserves of patience to ease his irritation with the garrulous team leader.  He gave a slight sigh and motioned Marcus to lead the way.  He typically kept his distance from this man.  Marcus was a laid back family oriented type, always wanting to play nice with every godamn person he came in contact with. His cheerful easy-going manner just rubbed Richard the wrong way.  Jaeger typically tuned him out every time he tried to strike up a friendly conversation, and did his best to do so now as well.  In a perfect universe Richard mused he’d be able to reach his massive hands around the guy’s neck and squeeze until he was unable to talk or laugh ever again. Ah, the things he endured for the boss…

Despite his misgivings about his cheerful companion, Richard followed Marcus to wherever the hell they were going.  Not because the suggestion of profit had been made, but because Mr. Morgan had told him to go along on this one.  Richard resigned himself that this would mean tolerating Marcus’ talkative tendencies and shit eating grin with no questions asked.

But he didn’t have to like it.

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Of Heroes, Villains and the Parts In-between…

Image

By: Dawniel Kupsch

Tiber System

Fringe of Tiber Orbital Space

Midnight Squadron Mercenary Group Command Carrier ‘MSS Parallax Descent

March 6, 2937

Fall of Tiber

 

In the way of old friends, there wasn’t really a need to discuss it. They already knew each other’s hearts in this, and ultimately the end result was as inevitable as starlight. Yet they spoke of it anyway.

The Destroyer was in night mode with most nonessential crew bunked for the next several hours, and lighting reduced to a muted luminescence. They watched the fight on the forward array, far enough distant to be ignored by the enemy but close enough that the desperation of those fighting and dying weighed on their souls.

One of the men leaned against the railing of the observation deck over the commander’s station, a steaming mug of coffee loosely grasped in hand. The other stood tall, feet braced as if on an ancient Earth maritime vessel, watching the multitude of distant explosions on the screen. Cigarette smoke swirled in accompaniment to the steam venting from the insul-mug held by his companion. The taller of the two men with dark hair and a lean frame clad in a dark blue flight suit with a Midnight Squadron badge on the shoulder, glanced sideways and spoke the words he knew should be voiced. “We are under orders to stay out of it…” he offered casually. “Civilian corporate entity…private sector…yada yada…”

The other man clad in a matching uniform nodded, not taking his eyes from the screen. “Yup…we are,” he agreed.

The first man took a sip of his coffee then pursed his lips, head canting to the side slightly. “Of course there’s nothing says we can’t work more than one contract at a time…take the occasional government job…,” he speculated.

His friend glanced at him for the first time, a slight smile touching his lips and faded blue eyes. “Technically that contract is almost fulfilled anyway…they took the bait. Now we just take care of loose threads. Besides- we already have another non combat mission going.  Reese is planet-side with a salvage crew grabbing components to subsidise the cost of our presence here. ”

The taller man grunted and stretched his back as he stood to his full height, then rolled his neck. “Hmm…of course we’d have to work up the figures on contractual fees, tally resources, prepare a plan…and we haven’t actually been asked to that particular party out there…we can’t violate the conditions and bylaws of our Mercenary status…” He glanced sideways at his friend, a gleam of mischief in his hazel eyes. “Say Xander…you think maybe you might know a guy out in that mess might wanna hire a couple old space pirates like us..?”

Xander Morgan, CEO of Midnight Enterprises and Officer in Command of the mercenary squadron detachment grinned. “Why Frank, I do believe I might know one or two folks with the authority to make a contract with us.”

Frank LeBlanc scratched at the back of his head thoughtfully.  “Of course, a couple hack pilots like us…can’t ask too much. Only fair. Let’s say…a credit?”

Xander laughed, shaking his head as Frank grinned at him. “Sounds about right to me. A single credit for two old dogs that should know better and are probably going to get themselves killed. Let me make it official. I’ll have Senator Willoby approve it and we can drum up a couple volunteers.”

Frank saluted Xander with his mug held high, then quaffed the contents and turned to the portal. “Meet you at the ships, bossman!” he teased, his energy subtly changing as the promise of a fight flipped some hidden internal switch that instantly changed the man’s energy. He strode through the exit as the door slid open, a fierce light shining from his eyes and purpose evident in the spring in his step. His smile was grim as he mentally switched gears to a state that had earned him the reputation of being one of the most dangerous men in the ‘verse when behind the controls of a fighter.  If Xander had not seen the transformation countless times before, he might have been startled. As it was, he felt an answering intensity stir in his own breast.

Xander pressed a button on the console in front of him. The portal opened again, this time admitting the hulking form of his Security Chief and Enforcer. Richard stepped forward and then waited, his hands crossed in front of him, his stony gaze alert despite the late hour as he looked at his boss. “Yes sir?” came the rumbling question.

“The game is afoot, Jaeger. The trap is sprung and you are now free to find and question our turncoat. I will be allowing you the wherewithal to deal with this issue as Frank and I have other business to attend to. The transmissions we captured should lead you right to our man, and from him to the Senators working against the Imperator, and ultimately identify the corporations involved. I don’t need to tell you how important it is that we glean any and all information from the source here on the ship in order to follow the trail back to the source.”

Pale eyes narrowed slightly. “I may see to this person in a manner I choose?”

Xander met his Enforcer’s eyes, a matching hardness there that lent truth to his reputation as a ruthless and dangerous man that was not crossed without consequence. “Yes.”

Richard nodded, accepting the glas Xander handed to him. He saluted sharply and turned on his heel, joined by his security team as he strode out the door.

Little Wing

commandcenter
(Written By: Michael Kenney, Player of Kieran Sloane)

Stanton System
Stanton IV, Crusader

Kieran gazed out the window of the aero-taxi he had hired to take him to the local Covalex office. A fond smile crept across his face as he thought of the chaos his old friend Ursula LeBlanc must have thrown that office into after finding his gift and cranking up the ship’s speakers. He made a mental note to leave Mr. Fontaine a nice tip and an offer to pay for any damages and clean up.

As the vehicle smoothly maneuvered through the web-like lattice of wires and girders that linked the platforms that drifted in the clouds above Stanton IV, Kieran’s mind slipped back to an old memory, of another web-like network similar to Stanton IV, only constructed from old pieces of starships, random junk and in some spots, nearly fully functional ships – the Spider in Cathcart system. It was due to an assignment there that he had met Ursula.

He had been a newly-minted Lt. Commander (well, somewhat newly minted… it was his second time being promoted to the rank) when his squadron captain had summoned him to a meeting with a UEE Marine major that needed a pilot with Kieran’s skills for a mission the marines were planning.

After hearing the plan, Kieran had thought the man was insane. Kieran would have to fly a ship in the wake of a comet traversing the Cathcart system to gather intelligence on a notorious arms dealer called The Widowmaker who had lately expanded into the drug trade.

There was only one small problem…

Garron System
Near Jump Point to Tiber
UEES Terrance Nolan –Bengal Class Strike Carrier
System Defense

Kieran stared in disbelief at Major Wilfred Lidderdale after the man finished outlining his plan. He looked over to Captain Ernst Luke, the leader of the Greyhounds and then back to the marine major. Lidderdale did not look like the stereotypical Marine. The man was slight of frame and short; Kieran guessed he was perhaps a meter and a half tall and may tip the scales at sixty kilos if you weighed him right after lunch. Lidderdale also had a very odd tint to his skin; he wasn’t quite pale but not really jaundiced either.

Kieran cleared his throat and asked, “Permission to speak freely sirs?” Both officers nodded their assent.

“While I can understand the need to take out this Widowmaker fellow, my role in the plan has left me somewhat confused on a few minor details,” a tone of sarcasm woven into his words. “So let me get this straight major, you want me to pilot a 325a – my personal 325a no less – behind the head of a comet? In the area of both the dust and the ion tail?” he asked, letting a note of incredulity slip into his tone. He raised one eyebrow as he continued, “And said cometis on a path through an area of space littered with mines, electronic countermeasures, and at least a dozen fighter craft of unknown specifications guarding what you believe to be a derelict UEE light cruiser from the second Tevarin war?”

A short, sharp bark of a laugh burst out of Kieran. He turned to Captain Luke, and pointed at the plan displayed on the vidscreen in the captain’s desk. “This is insane sir. I could fly behind the comet with my eyes closed and a hand tied behind my back, there’s nothing to following something that closely, “he said. “Anyone in the second month of flight school could do that. But the conditions here…” Kieran slowly shook his head as his words trailed off.

Kieran tapped the animated comet icon on a chart of the Cathcart system displayed in one of the displayed windows. He shifted his gaze over to Major Lidderdale and continued, “Here the stuff streaming off of that comet is another story.” He paused and cocked his head, “What did you call the comet, ‘Orbweaver’?”

“That is the name, yes. No one had ever really named the comets in Cathcart after it was discovered; there wasn’t much need with the system being devoid of planets. But you know the military bureaucracy…“ the major responded dryly. “…everything must be labeled and quantified in a file somewhere.” Lidderdale smiled wanly and motioned for Kieran to continue.

Kieran ran a hand through his close-cropped black hair and gathered his thoughts and his calm before resuming, “That comet is going to be spewing out ionizing radiation, x-rays, chunks of ice the size of small asteroids and possibly even actual rocks depending on the core’s composition. To top it all off, the dust tail would obscure my vision. Which I might add is needed to dodge the rather large balls of ice coming at me through that dust cloud from roughly 100 meters away at closing speeds approaching thousands of meters per second.”

“Dodging will be necessary because to keep the stealth needed for this mission’s success, I will have to fly without shields.” The small scar under Kieran’s left eye twitched involuntarily as he spoke, “The radiation and x-rays being deflected by the shield will give off not only ‘noise’ that can be detected by the electronic micro-satellites you tell me are positioned in the area – they will make the shield glow like a firefly on a warm, moonless summer night.”

“So, it seems to me you are essentially asking me to throw my life away in one way or another.” Kieran glanced over at his captain briefly to gauge his reaction, and then focused back on the major. He inhaled slowly and pressed forward, “I am compelled to ask is this to force an incident that allows you to act in the system or was the planning committee unable to find anyone with knowledge of basic astronomy and astrophysics?”

The major and his captain exchanged a glance, something unknown passing between them. Captain Luke’s normally stoic face split into a wide grin he appeared to be struggling to suppress. Captain Luke waggled one finger at the major, barely controlled mirth threatening to turn his words into laughter, “I told you he was the right one… no other pilot on this ship would have thought of the shields, “ the captain winked at Kieran and continued, a note of pride obvious in his tone. “It’s why he’s one of the best when it comes to scouting Vanduul territory. He not only relies upon his instincts, he thinks about where his ship is and where it is going.” Captain Luke tapped one of his temples to emphasize his point.

The puzzled look on Kieran’s face only deepened as he furrowed his brows. He was uncertain what was more shocking – the captain laughing at something; anything – or the obvious pride he had in his pilot. It had not even been a week ago Kieran was here enduring one of the old man’s infamous verbal sandblastings due to Kieran being late filing a report.

Major Lidderdale was chuckling to himself as he tapped out a quick line of commands into the Captain’s desk display. Several new windows popped open in front of Kieran, one showing a holographic picture of a young woman with alabaster-pale skin and wine-dark hair tied back into a pony tail, others showed what appeared to be shield harmonics equations and blueprints for what he thought might be a capacitor of some sort.

Lidderdale looked Kieran in the eye before he spoke, “Sloane, please believe me when I state that I would never be part of an operation that willingly sacrificed anyone like that. The plan – my plan – does take the issue with the shield’s interaction with the forces in the comet’s tail into account.” The major reached out and tapped one finger on top of the hologram’s head. “This is where she comes in, a rather brilliant if unorthodox engineer named Ursula LeBlanc. She isn’t military – just barely old enough to even be able to enlist truth be told.”

Captain Luke broke in to add, “You have likely heard of her father, his callsign was Gunslinger.”

The major nodded to Luke and tapped on the window that showed the capacitor blueprint. “LeBlanc is a gypsy on her mother’s side. She’s developed a few things to help the clan’s ships be more functional out in space, this is one of those items. She calls it ‘Little Wing’, a rather odd name.”

Kieran softly sang, “Well she’s walking through the clouds, with a circus mind that’s running round… butterflies and zebras; moonbeams and fairy tales…riding with the wind…

Lidderdale blinked in confusion. “Beg pardon?”

Kieran blushed sheepishly, “Sorry sir. It’s an old song from Earth. Benefit of having a music-loving mother who was also a history teacher,” Kieran said with a lopsided grin. “The name makes sense when looking at these equations.” Kieran tapped the window showing the shield harmonics calculations. “These show that the shield’s magnetic and ionic fields can be reconfigured to allow a ship to ‘walk through the clouds’ and ‘ride the wind’ to borrow from the song. Essentially, it acts like a shock absorber to give your ship a smoother ride. She likely had flying through nebulae or the upper atmosphere of gas giants in mind, but it’d work for this as well as the same principle will prevent the aurora-like lightshow.”

The major nodded and cleared his throat, then continued. “That’s correct. So, we are going to be sending you to Terra to have her install one of these ‘Little Wings’ onto your ship. As she is not military and this operation isn’t necessarily completely legal, you will be going in as a civilian. Hence, the need for your own ship…”

With Kieran’s last objection neatly circumvented, he spent the remainder of the meeting listening and making mental notes. He still had serious reservations about his mission, but no one would call his usual recon patrol work routine or safe. At the meeting’s conclusion, he was given a packet of information and a new identity card showing him as a civilian doing research on potentially mining comets and tickets on a civilian ship bound for Sol where he would pick up his 325a. He would fly it to Terra and meet with Miss LeBlanc to get her device installed. They had also given him an account with a rather nice credit balance to use for travel and outfitting his ship. He had approximately six weeks before the comet Orbweaver would be in position.

He quickly packed a bag and hopped the next flight leaving the Nolan back to Garron.

…What’s Good for the Goose…

Kieran Sloane (Written By: Michael Kenney, Player of Kieran Sloane. Bio here: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/stories-of-the-39th-midnight-squadron/characters/kieran-tuatha-sloane)
Stanton System
Stanton IV, Crusader
Crusader Shipyard Platform XJ45-3, Surplus Refit

Kieran fished the vibrating mobiglas out from one of the pockets inside his flight jacket. A quick glance showed him that he had four messages waiting. The mobiglas buzzed again and Kieran muttered to himself, “Make that five…”

He flicked his thumb across the screen to check the message list. Two of them he was expecting, one from the UEE Navy with his packet of information and forms to fill out now that he was a former naval officer and one from Covalex, the freight and storage company he had contracted to transport his personal ship here. One eyebrow rose as the mobiglas buzzed again. “…and six.”

He shook his head and pocketed the mobiglas. Miss LeBlanc would have to wait just a little bit longer. Kieran glanced up to where several UEE Navy engineers were directing shipyard workers in the removal of military-grade weapons and their mounts from the now-decommissioned frigate Praetorian. Several other engineering teams were inside the ship doing the same with the scanners, fire control systems and any other electronic systems the Navy felt the need to keep out of civilian hands. He noticed the foreman he had spoken with earlier walking beside a diminutive naval officer who was half listening to whatever the foreman was saying. Her attention was focused more on the book in her hands – his book. A burly master chief walked just behind the officer carrying a box with what Kieran concluded was the rest of his books. He mentally kicked himself again for leaving them behind after his retirement ceremony last night.

The officer stopped when the foreman placed a hand on her arm and gestured with his other arm over to where Kieran was standing. The officer nodded to the foreman, said something to him and flipped the book closed. Without looking back, she handed the book to the master chief. The foreman tapped his brow as a mock salute and turned back to the ship, gesticulating and shouting wildly at work crews.

Kieran smiled as the officer approached and pulled out his identity card from the breast pocket of his flight jacket. He handed it over to the officer – a lieutenant he noticed- before she could even ask for it. “Afternoon ma’am, I apologize for interrupting the work day. Paperwork and forms should be on the datachip in the card.” He nodded at the card.

The officer smiled slightly, took his card and her eyes flicked down to give it a cursory glance. “I am sure everything is in order Mr. Sloane. Just a few moments to transfer your forms over so they can be tucked away safe and sound lost in the Navy central filing datacenter like everything else.” She pulled out a mobiglas and pressed his card to the back of it. She tapped out a quick command on the mobiglas, it made a few electronic noises. She held her hand out to him while the hand-held device worked, “I’m Lieutenant Rasia Khamisi, and this is Master Chief Mondesir.” The mobiglas chirped, and then she nodded slightly to herself before handing Kieran his card back.

“All set.” She turned her head to the master chief and spoke, “Chief, the books are now no longer Navy property.”

The master chief grunted and moved to place the box on the ground beside Kieran, then stepped back into place beside the lieutenant.

Kieran nodded his thanks and knelt down on his haunches to make a quick inventory of the books. They were all there; the one on the top that had captured the interest of Lieutenant Khamisi was Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers.’ “She’s got good taste,” he thought to himself as he rose to stand.

“Mr. Sloane, a question if I may?” she asked, her head tilting to one side.

Kieran flashed a quick grin, the one he knew that set women at ease but that made fathers nervous. “You want to ask why I have books, right?” He cocked one eyebrow

The chief muttered something and the lieutenant laughed and nodded to him. “Exactly, why books? They are bulky and when you can store entire libraries on a mobiglas it seems to be an oddity. I mean I know pilots are quirky, but to be honest the first thought that crossed my mind when the request came in was that they were either contraband or a strange auto-correction that should have said ‘boots’.”

The chief gestured at the box with his chin, “Aye, mum. Starman Chisick didn’t know wot to do with ‘em. Poor fella had a bit of a scare when he picked one up.” The chief chuckled to himself before continuing, “He had never seen one other than on vids, when the book fell open ‘cause he only had a hold of the cover, he threw it away from him like it were a snake. Squealed like a l’il girl too.”

The chief blanched slightly and glanced at the lieutenant, “Beg pardon, mum. No offense to yerself meant.”

The dark-haired lieutenant only smiled up at the chief, “None taken, chief. We heard the squeal all the way up in the bridge area. Petty Officer Owens thought a bulkhead had given way or something.”

The three of them chuckled and Kieran gestured down at the box with one hand.

“Simple answer really. For most of my career, I was a long-range recon pilot. I spent a lot of time on my own in Vanduul space, a good bit of that time with almost everything on the ship powered down to blend in with the background noise of space.”

Kieran pondered things for a moment before continuing. “A glas unit, mobi or otherwise, still leaves an electronic signature. Faint though it is, it might have been enough to give me away at times combined with whatever signal the essential items would be putting out. A chemlight and a book leave no signal at all if there are no windows. It gets rather boring sitting there in space for days at a time waiting on passive scans to gather data or for a random Vanduul scout to happen by.”

They all spoke for a bit longer before the lieutenant’s mobiglas chimed and informed her she was needed to explain to a civilian engineer why he was not able to go into the communications room just yet. He left with his box of books – and Rasia’s contact information. She wanted to meet him later for drinks and to discuss books. One corner of his mouth twitched up into a rakish grin and he glanced back over his shoulder to see the pretty lieutenant striding back over to the ship with the master chief and another foreman dragged along in her wake. She looked back over her shoulder to say something to the foreman. When she noticed him looking she grinned impishly. Kieran wasn’t certain, but he would almost swear that she sashayed the rest of the way back to the old Praetorian.

His mobiglas buzzed insistently once again. A few seconds later the buzz repeated accompanied by a series of audible blips that notified him it was a priority message.

He muttered something to himself about an impatient mechanic getting her tribal tattoos all twisted up with her oriental dragons as he shifted the box to tuck it under one arm and slipped out his mobiglas in the other. To his surprise, the priority message was from a Covalex representative needing to speak to him urgently about his ship.

He furrowed his brow in thought and touched the button to return the call.

A frazzled-looking older man answered the call. Kieran heard the unmistakable sounds of Cream’s ‘Strange Brew’ echoing in the background, as well as the unintelligible sounds of another man trying to make himself heard over the sound of the music. “Ah, Mr. Sloane, thank you for getting back to us quickly. I am…”

The old man flinched and looked off to the left in response to a loud, jangling crash of noise, like several steel items of some sort being dropped onto concrete.

“Ah, as I was saying, I am Mr. Fontaine, the manager of this facility…” The gentleman’s voice trailed off as he was once again distracted by events in the store – this time Sloane thought he caught a glimpse of a clipboard-sized glas unit spinning through the air to land just out of view behind Mr. Fontaine.

The manager continued, a note of desperation twining itself around his words as he spoke, “A young woman dressed most peculiarly arrived at our location and requested access to your ship, one Miss Ursula LeBlanc.”

At that moment, the manager’s face was eclipsed as Ursula LeBlanc’s head poked in from the left side of the view. She waved enthusiastically at Kieran, setting several thin silver and brass bracelets on her wrist to tinkle and chime in an oddly comforting way.

“Hihi Kieran! I went to tune up your ship and found the mixtape you brought me! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!” she said breathlessly and spun out of frame, one braid pleated with multi-colored strips of cloth flicking Mr. Fontaine’s startled face as she disappeared.

Before the manager could recover, Kieran caught Ursula’s voice again singing a verse from Strange Brew, “…‘She’s some kind of demon messin’ in the flue’, C’mon Joe, sing along you know the words! ‘If you don’t watch out, it’ll stick to you…”

“Ahem, as I was saying… Miss LeBlanc was shown to your ship as you requested but then this…” the old man paused while searching for the right words, in the background Kieran heard Ursula’s unmistakable Joplinesque wail, “Straaaange Brewwwww…”

The old man continued, “…noise started blaring out from your ship’s speakers. And her dancing has been quite a disruption.”

Mr. Fontaine’s voice took on a pleading tone as he finished up, “Could you please stop by immediately to collect your ship and your…” The old man glanced over to the left, “mechanic?”

Kieran laughed in spite of himself, “I apologize Mr. Fontaine, Mo… Ursula can be a bit unrestrained when she gets into her music. I’ll be by directly.”

As he closed the call, he could see Mr. Fontaine frantically gesturing to someone on his left. “No, no, no… do not let her dance near the flo-pets!”

After Action Antics

AGT 99

She looked at him suspiciously from under a furrowed brow, her lips pressed into a thin, disapproving line. “So….what you are telling me…is you came back with an empty missile payload…and that “Nothing happened.”

Sapper nodded benignly, rolling his ever present cigar to the corner of his mouth as he bared his teeth in a wide grin. “Totally routine.”

Ursula squinted sideways at Bell as what sounded initially like a snicker turned into a snort then a cough. When she noticed she had won Ursula’s attention she abruptly turned and started tapping the overhead and pretended to be immersed in the information displayed there.  She glanced back towards Sapper only to find he had made use of the distraction and was strolling away from the debriefing. His studied nonchalance made her grit her teeth and she turned back to the fighter abruptly.

“99, I want a full exterior particle scan. Notify me of any carbon scoring or ionic residue.” The cybernetic unit had also been watching the former explosives specialist stroll away and purred in smoky, sensual voice, “Mmm….hubba hubba….”

“99!”

The unit jerked and turned toward the given task, issuing a series of electronic noises that sounded suspiciously like someone muttering under their breath. Ursula began the process of connecting the ship to the diagnostics center, slanting an irritated glance towards Cav as he gave an unabashed guffaw and buttoned up his own fighter in the adjacent hanger slot.

********

 

Sapper glanced down at his wrist readout, checking the elapsed time as he approached the lounge. He counted under his breath, “and… 3……….2………….1……….” He canted his head, listening as he paused.

“SAAAAAAPPPPPPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He began to laugh out loud and hooted in enjoyment as an irate Mother Goose bellowed after him from the hangar. He ducked into the lounge as a muted series of clangs and clattering and an impressive flood of curses followed after him.

Sapper (written by the player of ‘Sapper’)

Sapper (Written by: Robbie Burgoyne , player of ‘Sapper’ Bio here- http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/stories-of-the-39th-midnight-squadron/characters/robbie-sapper-burgundy)

WARNING! PROXIMITY ALERT! MISSILE LOCK!

“No shit,” Sapper mumbled to the flight computer as he put his 325a into a tight corkscrew. “I’m looking right at him.” The ship rocked as another flurry of laser bolts flew past, close enough to make his face shield auto polarize.

With a quick hand Sapper engaged the chaff system and fired off another burst of laser fire and scored a direct hit on one of the six Pirate Cutlasses swarming him. A millisecond later the ship’s engines went critical, and with a bright flash the ship became space junk. With a quick adjustment of his vectoring thrusters, Sapper flipped the ship 180 while killing his mains and coasted through the wreckage of the Cutlass.

MISSILE LAUNCH! 100 METERS…75 METERS…50 METERS…25 METERS…

Firing the chaff and killing all power, Sapper drifted; completely black as the missile passed so close he could have read the manufacturer’s label.

 

FLASH!

 

The missile detonated soundlessly among the wreckage and chaff mix. Bringing weapons on full power he targeted 4 of the remaining Cutlasses with missiles, and another with lasers cannons as the Pirates crept in to confirm what they assumed was a kill on his ship.  Pressing the firing stud for both weapons, Sapper caught the pirates by surprise. Two of the novice enemy pilots panicked and crashed into each other in a last ditch effort at evasive maneuvers. Engaging full power to engines, Sapper quickly mopped up the remaining heavily damaged Pirates with a few quick bursts from his cannons.

A quick scan of the area Indicated that of the 14 pirates that had attacked the convoy he and the Midnight Squadron detail were guarding, 12 were destroyed and the other two were limping away with his two wingmen spiraling in to give chase.

“Leave them be,” Sapper said over the squadron net.  “It will do MS a favor if we let one or two of them go back to tell their boss that fourteen of their fighters couldn’t take three of ours.” With a slight chuckle Sapper did one more scan of the area before lighting up the cigar pulled from his flight suit.

“Escort flight report in.”

The accented voice of his female wingman sounded into his ear. “Marx, Still here, Ship in the green.”

Cav’s gravelly voice came over the com next. “This sucks too much to be Heaven so I guess I must still be here. Ship in the green”

“Ok, form up on the convoy- same deal as before, we may only have one jump left till we are home, but I’m out of missiles and I don’t want us being complacent. Find a Tanker and stick to his shadow.”

His grin widened as a thought came to him. Why not dodge the after-action debrief and mess with Mother Goose at the same time? Fourteen to three and we hardly even took shield hits. Why tell Ursula about this one and be subjected to the anxious scrutiny she wielded over both crew and ships after a couple harmless dogfights? He could be relaxing in the bar and officially off duty before her post op scans picked up any sign of the encounter.

“Oh and let’s not tell Mother Goose about this one, I think I will be funnier that way”….

 

Night Moves

darkhangar

The music pulsed inside the cavernous metal hulk of the hangar, overlaying the low hum of environmental capacitors and power generators like a fetal heartbeat inside a synthetic womb. Evening cycle was in full effect with non essential lighting turned off and the endless bank of diodes, emergency lighting and function indicators reduced to a soft glow of occasionally flickering ambient luminescence mimicking fireflies in the depths of some primeval, Architectural Grade, Industrial Ship-steel forest.

The psychedelic, cadenced vibration of a modified old Earth Telecaster electric guitar echoed amid the ancient, fuzzy acid sounding Les Paul throbbing out the primary notes of the musical composition. A figure on the floor of the dark hangar spun in delight, dark hair swirling as her head bobbed to the rhythm, athletic form gyrating in appreciation of the sounds filling the bay. When the rhythm was joined by tambourine, drums and the recorded sounds of clapping timed to the sounds of the throbbing guitars and a low rumbling bass, she let out a shout of pure enjoyment, arms raised in the air. She twirled and shimmied, twin lengths of long dark hair fastened to either side of her head jumping and gyrating in enthusiastic accompaniment as the tenor voice of the old-Earth singer added his voice to the chorus of instruments:

“When I die and they lay me to rest, Gonna go to the place that’s the best, When I lay me down to die, Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky!”

She brought her hands together, echoing the efforts made by the musicians in the recording thousands of years in the past, as the backup choir joined the lead singer.

“Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky- That’s where I’m gonna go when I die, When I die and they lay me to rest- Gonna go to the place that’s the best!”

The girl let out an appreciative little howl as she twirled and grabbed for the laser assisted spanner wrench. She waved it about and boogied her way towards the open access compartment on a sleek looking gunship. Her wide, sensual mouth was curved in a smile as she leaned in to eye the bared components of the fighter, the work light hung over the compartment like a spotlight in an operating room revealing the startling color and layers of the young woman’s apparel. She pushed the prickly tulle panels of her skirt back from the sensitive electronics and calibrated the wrench with her thumb as her toes tapped to the music in turquoise flip-flops adorned with a colorful array of plastic flowers. She hummed and sang snatches of the music as she began to work, the tattoos along her arms shifting and issuing a subtle light as she became focused on her task.

On the catwalk far above, a shadow separated itself from a bulkhead, the man turning away with a sigh and a slight shake of his head. He wasn’t sure at what point he had stopped being irritated at Ursula for blaring the vintage American Earth rock in the hangar during night cycle yet again, but he couldn’t help his fingers from tapping the beat as he headed back to the crew quarters to resume the friendly game of poker with the on call team. If loud music was part of the formula that made Ursula the gifted technician she was, he could deal with it. He didn’t notice he was humming the tune as he walked down the dimly lit corridor, a smile curving his lips for no particular reason at all.