EV/EVO Chronicles: The lost ship, part 1 of 2

(Posted on 12-19-2000)

Authors note: My first go. Please have a look, and don’t flame me for spelling misstakes – English isn’t my native tounge.

Part 1 of 2

The Hook

Strands of smoke drifted towards Leery where he slumped over the bar. Newscasters mouthed voiceless the latest urgent developments from the warzone on the muted overhead screens. A steady beat of muzak from the bars P.A. made the talking TV-heads look like badly synced singers.

A crumbled assignment from Frys Inc. by his elbow had slowly began to absorb the spilled drink. He still hadn’t decided to take the offered cargo run outlined in the document. A strange feeling hit him between the shoulders. He’d felt it before – someone was watching him, and not necessarily with pleasant motives.

Deliberately, slowly he lifted his gaze to the almost perfect mirror of polished stainless steel wall behind the bar. He could make out three dark figures, outlined against the well lit entrance with its active security sensors scanning the trio.

When they were accepted and let through the thick glass door, Leery had swiveled his chair and awaited them, hands on knees. Suddenly, he was sober and alert. Fear can do that sometimes.

The two hulking figures flanking the meek person between them were of no importance. But the third figure made that up by being the more influential.

Twice before he’d met the same person, twice before he’d wondered if he’d make it back home alive. Perhaps trice isn’t a lucky number after all.

“Busy?” Quite a husky voice, sounded more like it would fit one of the main characters in a soap-vid.

“Not really, no.”

“Good. One more of what ever it is he’s drinking.” The last remark was directed to the bartender. He’d come to take the newcomers orders – or more likely - to ogle the only female person in the room.

A bystander would have seen a delicate brunette of average height, not quite fit for hanging about in rundown bars in the spaceport area. Leery saw instead a sharp, tactical mind coupled with a honeysweet, inventive tounge and the strong-arming techniques of an mining corporation. A lady with a knack for getting him into deadly trouble.

Rinna Diskmaskin seemed to idly study her own reflection while the bartender went to and fro with the filled glass. But Leery knew she was preparing her opening gambit.

Twice before he’d been lulled by her promises, it would not happen a third time.

”You know,” she said absentmindedly. ”You know, it would prove difficult to get any more transports in this sector if you‘re trying to figure out how to let me down again. I doubt that you’d even have the means for shifting homebase to another planet, let alone another sector.”

A raw, brutal threat. Now that was a change. ”As far as I know, my records are straight and I’ve got enough credits to spend to prove it.”

”Ah, yes - but you should change the tense of that sentence. It’s far more correct to say that you had straight records.”

She motioned to the bartender, who with a drooling obedience came to heel. ”Could you change the channel to local news and turn up the sound, please?”

Faster than you could say ”go fetch a bone", the bartender disappeared below the bar and reappeared with a remote. The sudden silence woke up the sleeping drunkard in the corner and made a heated discussion by the pool table to end abruptly. The newscasters lowpicthed voice replaced the beat.

“Another inside burglary has hit the bayside docks. During the early shift this morning Frys Inc. lost most of it’s inventories when their warehouse was raided.” The picture changed to a still photograph of a clean shaved male, with unrurly blond hair and thin eyebrows.

“The police is looking for this man in connection with the burglary. He is known under the name Gladje, but it’s presumed that this is a alias. Our police sources tell us that he’s wanted for several other burglaries.”

Leery looked blankly at the television screen, until he jerked upright with recognition – it was the photo from his freightmaster licence they showed on the screen!

With his short beard and a slighly crocked nose after an old time accident with the opening hatch of an old freighter, he didn’t really notice the likeness immediately.

“You know, you were quite handsome once. But now you have instead those unpolished, raw looks that are so fetching for weak females as myself. I’d even be inclined not to turn you in. You can put it down to mother's instinct if you want.”

A frantic race of thoughts swept through his brain. The two thugs leaned casually against the counter, looking around themselves but with one eye on him all the time. That left no room for surprise attack. And even if he made it through the security corridor from the bar and out into the street, he’d still have to get back to the ship and get space bound. By then he figured that Rinna Diskmaskin would have issued a more lifelike photo of himself, maybe even his real name and freight master licence number.

The surge of resistance died down in him. With a deep breath he tried to say with steady voice: “What do you want from me?”

“Oh, how nice of you to think about me, when you’re the one in need. I appreciate that, more than you’ll ever know” she said with a hint of mockery. “Would you care for a walk?” she said while she rose from the chair and tossed a disposable credit card on the counter for the bartender to fetch.

The Mission

Outside her transport awaited. When he was securely seated between the two thugs and Diskmaskin had the opposite seat all to herself, she began her briefing in a military manner.

“One and a half standard months ago one of our security probes along the uninhabited systems along Voinian territory went dead. It’s not supposed to happen. We spend considerable time and effort on finding the right asteroids to implant the probes for the exact reason that they shouldn’t be found. You probably have seen our probes without realising it – they look and act like any other asteroid. I do not need to tell you that the work is made in outmost secrecy. The technicians are brought to the anonymous systems in stasis and work only when no other space crafts are present.”

Since it made sense, Leery nodded.

Diskmaskin continued. ”Perhaps it wasn’t anything important, but the brains at intelligence noticed that the dead system provided an unguarded pinhole into our territory. When the issued repair crew dropped into the system in the disguise of neutral traders, the pilot were overwhelmed by the sight of an Voinian armada. When hailed by the Voinians about the flightplans, he had to stick to the story as being trader delivering tools. And then he had to jump further into Voinian territory. Since then we’ve had no contact with him. We reckon he was shot down in the next system.”

Leery was bewildered. Where was she aiming? A dead pilot, a couple of lost service technicians and a freighter spilling its goods into zero-G. Terrible, but worse things happened every second along the frontiers. And how would he fit into the picture?

She continued. ”Until we picked up an emergency repeater call from the crew. Apparently the ship had been attacked by Voinian loyal pirates, knocked dead and almost boarded. It seems as if our pilot managed to fight back at the last moment and destroy the pirate ship.”

Diskmaskin took a look at Leery's curious face, and explained. “We do have a few tricks up our sleeve not known by ordinary freight captains.”

She folded her hands in her lap and leaned slightly forward. “They’re still floating around unnoticed, the pilot fighing to keep the stasis systems working while the ship slowly disintegrates around him. The technicians frozen stiff, unaware of their peril. And we can’t go in there and save them, not without considerable force. But you can.”

Leery was lost in thoughts about the dangers of his trade, memories from emergency drills at freight captain's training facility and his tutors warning - ”If you are ever caught in an uninhabited system, without fuel, you can rely on other captains' mercy. But if you are ever knocked out you can only rely on death”, until the last remark.

A two stop jump into enemy territory, to find and rescue a undercover military crew and get back - preferably alive. A tall order by any means. “How do you figure that? You’ve got to have better pilots in the military, and better ships too.”

“Yes, we do. But we can’t sneak through Voinian frontier guards without battle. Only you can do that. You got the perfect alibi.” She nodded slowly. “A struggling, honest freight captain bites the bullet and goes renegade. Staging burglaries was only the first step, now you’ll go the whole way to be pirate and run errands for the race who pays you the best.”

The enormity of her words clawed it’s way through his thoughts. She proposed to make him an outlaw, to pull his name and rank from the freight masters bulletin and instead put it on the black list, barring him from the safety of UE stations.

“How. Why...” Words failed him. For 23 years he been the good citizen of UE space and made the voluntary cargo runs to military outposts to gain his reputation. Now Diskmaskin was about to end that. The path to pirate was a one-way street, once you strayed down the street there was no way back.

“How? Well, that part is already taken care of. You’re wanted for burglary at Frys Inc. cargo bay, and probably for a couple of others. If that’s not enough, we’ve filled your ship up with medical supplies, hard currency for Voinians. Your route is downloaded to the ship’s computer. You’ll jump space and deliver the goods, restock on whatever they’re providing and jump back here. Make sure you stop by to pick up the crew, jettison the cargo and get the hell out of there. That’s all you got to do. And we’ll pull you off the black list, get the cops of your back and fill you account with much needed credits. Agreed?”

It actually wasn’t a question, it was a command. Leery responded almost without thought. “Aye, ma'am!”

The Take-off

Three hours later he was running through take-off routines. The cargo was already locked down when he got back to the ship. For twenty minutes he had studied the route that Diskmaskin supplied. It looked straight as an arrow into Voinian territory. Too straight. If he really was running from the law, he would prefer to run in a crooked path. But it was not his call.

In the car racing toward the port, she had explained the time frame. How they calculated that the wounded ship would only hold together for so long, how the chances for discovery grew for every day and the reason for extracting the repair crew as fast as possible.

“The security probes are not supposed to break and they’re virtually impossible to detect without knowing where to look. So we had to send our top scientists to investigate why it stopped functioning. In hindsight this was a bad decision, putting all our eggs in one basket. But at the time, we were focused on solving the mystery.”

Leery, the egg-man. Not the words he’d like have on his tombstone. “I’d better make it out of this alive” he told himself bitterly.

The go-codes were authenticated, he had an outbound vector cleared and all systems flashed green. He pulled the straps a bit tighter in the chair and punched the activation buttons.

Acceleration pressed his body against the cusions, the panels updated his relative position against the space port and other star ships. The burners died and the ship continued to drift out of the system. He ran the last checks and prepared for jump. All systems were go and the jump commenced.

He had arrived at the system as a poor, but decent trader. He left as a framed blacklisted pirate on a wild goose chase after military scientist, but with the prospect of getting his name and reputation back – and a considerable amount of credits. If he made it alive, that is.

(Probably to be continued...)

(This message has been edited by moderator (edited 12-19-2000).)

GREAT story. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE contienue it.

The Person who joins the United Earth Communism knows not true might and he knows not true wisdom.

My objective is to live forever. So far so good.
Books of the new millennia:Left Behind, Tribulaton Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark.

Cool story, can't wait to here the rest of it!:D

What else do you burn than witches?
More witches!
"The Holy Grail", Monty Python

Very nice! clap, clap, clap please continue it soon! 🙂

I`m a bomb technician. If you see me running...try to keep up.

I agree; enjoyable story and well-drawn characterizations, especially of Rinna Diskmaskin. Waiting for the next installment...

i'm only one man

Not bad for English being your second language. Not bad at all... Bye the way, what is your first language, just out of curiosity?


EXCELLENT for English not being your native tongue. I hope to see more.