An EV story; threequel to A New Beginning
Once you come down to it, hyperspace travel really isn't all that exciting, and my first trips on Starseeker didn't break the norm in that aspect. I spent most of the first eight hours lazing around, mostly sleeping, but spending some time fiddling with the computer. I had a chance to try out the ration bars for the first time; they were unsurprisingly bland, and just cemented my hate for them in the future.
Really, most of the voyage was like that. Rigel, Centauri and Sirius all have their own sights to see, but I didn't stop long enough to view any of them, so the end result was just four days in a type of limbo, sitting around getting used to my new ship. I dropped by the cargo hold some time the third day; there wasn't much to see there either, since I didn't recognize any of the equipment. Probably it was for some arcane mining operation.
At the fourth jump, in Tau Ceti, the fuel bar in my statistics HUD reflected completely empty; I had enough for indefinite maneuvering, but since I wasn't up to spending the next fifty years trying to lay out a standard space course to Sauron, I decided to stop at New Columbia to refuel.
The main impression I got there was that New Columbia's a rocky place; the climate and life down there seemed nice enough, though not quite as much as Levo's. Some Confed marines were out on patrol, and some plexiglass barricaded off the dangerous areas; I got the vague idea that the city didn't get very many visitors.
I left my shuttle and found the dockmaster quickly enough. He was rather melancholy-looking, but proved helpful regardless. I paid him four hundred credits, and he brought up some amount of machinery, with a significant amount of tubing to begin pumping the fuel into my tanks.
I remained grounded for the rest of the day. Refueling itself took a surprisingly high amount of time; about an hour, and by the time I was done, air control didn't have a spot cleared for me. I mostly sat around in the shuttle, listening to the rain hit my ship, but I had enough presence of mind to drop by a local spacer's store, to pick up some more interesting food.
The special of the day was strawberry-flavored ration bars. They looked boring, but anything was better than the stuff that I normally ate, so I actually spent five credits, for five day's worth, on those silly things. As it turned out, they were stale, but the fake candy flavor was still more enjoyable than nothing at all, so I put up with them, just making sure to eat them quickly. Ration bars were said to last for years, without any degradation, but I figured the extra flavor might have ruined the one good feature in the original product. Awful food has tradeoffs like that.
After getting back in orbit, and resuming my hyperspace trip, the next few days went by in even more tedium. I tried playing 3D Chess, one of the built-in games, against the computer, but even on the lowest difficulty level it still easily beat me. Figures. Part-way through I remembered that Sinclair would occasionally pick up some audio chips, and play them when nothing else was going on, in cases like these. I decided that I'd get some at Sauron, if possible; the sheer monotony of the days I spent in travel was an experience I would prefer never repeating.
Finally, the computer flashed that I was two hours away from landing at Sauron. I acknowledged it, and spent that time preparing for my big landing; shaving over the sink, using the wash tube for an extended forty-five minutes, and eating the last of the strawberry rations.
Hyperspace faded out, with an appropriately grand boom from the surround-sound flight adjustment speakers to mark my arrival into standard space. I entered just moments away from true excitement.
Ahead of me, so large as to virtually eclipse everything else, reflecting a large asteroid's worth of sunlight off of its armored hull, was a Confederation Cruiser, moving into attack position.
A pirate Argosy was near the planet, frail and ant-like compared to the behemoth bearing down on it. Its captain apparently decided to make a stand. That proved to be his last mistake.
Several patrol ships dashed out of the Cruiser's launch bay, like hunting dogs rushing ahead of their armed master. Missiles crashed against the modified freighter with devastating force; the pirate's defense shields struggled to hold off the first salvo, and then failed. The second wave of projectiles greedily gobbled up the minimal armor underneath. Some laser blasts from the Argosy hit their targets, but the proton fire the Cruiser fired in response drowned them out, making the freighter's meager retaliation look even more pathetic.
Almost as soon as the fight began, it ended. The Argosy's hull rapidly buckled under the attack, and the dying ship exploded. The few escape pods that managed to detach from the pirate vessel's hull spun out randomly, and the Cruiser, calling its fighters back, moved slowly to retrieve them.
I sent a message over to the planet rapidly, and maneuvered past the Cruiser as quickly as I could. As I came in towards the planet, and prepared to enter orbit, I saw a new challenger, a triangle-shaped Rebel fighter, coming in to intercept. I don't know if that pilot was crazy or not, but the last I saw of him the Confeds were about to make him drink an unhealthy amount of vacuum.
As I came into orbit, the planet cleared me for my target destination, the second-largest city. I landed on a fairly out-of-the-way pad, and sent a message over to the costumer. He responded, somewhat surprised that I showed up so early, and confirmed that they would be offloaded soon. Several minutes later, a group of dockworkers arrived; I opened the cargo bay for them and they unloaded the shipment of equipment from my cargo bay in a surprisingly short amount of time. Their leader tossed my credit chip, an impressive twenty-five thousand credits, as promised, over to me as they left; I managed to catch it, and then walked out to the city to see what I could spend it on.
I drifted around a while, not looking anything in particular, but eventually I found a city directory, which listed one of my favorite places to visit, the outfitters. I gravitated over there, figuring I could spend some of my cash on some ship upgrades.
The Sauron outfitters, like many other contemporary refitting establishments, used holographics to provide pictures of the various outfits they had available, as well as a small computer readout to show some basic statistics. I looked over the products for a while, and ultimately decided to purchase a few.
The escape pod was one of my first priorities. Looking back at it, I really should have been more careful, and picked one up at Rigel; spacefaring is dangerous, and Sinclair, even though he usually travelled in the Core Worlds, kept a good number available on his ship, more than anyone would ever need. It supposedly boasted a number of safety features, as well as a powerful transponder; I just figured I'd get along fine with whatever it had available, and pray I'd never have to use it. That particular model of pod had enough room to suit a number of people, at a stretch, so it'd be good if I decided to start transporting passengers any time soon, and disaster came along.
I didn't really need the auto-refueller; it isn't like spending a few minutes to talk to the dockmaster was that hard. But I had the cash to spend, and bought it on impulse, figuring that it might come in handy someday, and that it looked good attached to my ship.
Probably one of the more significant upgrades I decided on was an afterburner. It would drain fuel at a rapid pace, but provide me with a significant speed boost; if I came under attack it should allow me to flee the enemy. It was expensive, but a preferable alternative to looking over at the escape pod whenever a threat came by.
The density scanner was something I noticed as I scanned through the rest of the outfits. It wasn't really necessary, much like the auto-refueller, but it did give me more immediate information about my targets on the radar screen, and I decided that that was a useful feature, if only so I'd know the size of attacking pirates, at a glance.
After I'd decided what I was going to purchase, I marked them down on the built-in holographic list, and pressed the "Buy" button. The salesman that bounded over was tall and energetic. A rather annoying man, due to his quirkiness; he waved his hands around in the air the entire time he spoke.
Eventually, after designating the ship that was to be outfitted, and handing the credits down over, the purchase was completed. A group of technicians and engineers headed over to outfit Starseeker with the new equipment.
Since I was grounded until the stuff was added on, I took the time to drop by a store and purchase a few things. I spent about fifty credits on music, and bought a small collection of stories about some people's experiences plying the spacelanes back during the Great Expansion, while I was there. I also bought up two or three meals with real food, but purchased standard ration bars for the rest of the supply fill, figuring that they were cheap and healthy, if dull.
After two days on the planet had passed, and the engineers stopped clanging around my shuttle, announcing their work complete, I called traffic control and was able to clear out of the planet on the spot, with no required wait. I managed to leave the planet's orbit and enter hyperspace without incident.
The last leg of the trip was shorter than I expected; as it turned out, Zeus was only two jumps away from Sauron. Those two days were rather enjoyable, though, as I listened to the first stories and played some music in-between, usually right before I went to sleep.
Finally, after about two weeks travel, I triumphantly entered the Olympus system. Ten thousand credits awaited me, and I was prepared for it.
A gigantic Confederation Cruiser, more or less the same as the one I had seen a few days before, lumbered slowly throughout the system, in the distant area ahead of me. My new density scanner reported its terrific size as a large dot on the radar, as compared to a small dot. The joys of technology.
I was surprised as a new ship, another Rebel fighter, entered the system. This pilot had a lot of bravado, as he flew down to intercept the Confederation battleship. I almost opened my channel to him, to try to tell him off from attacking it, but realized the futility of such an action and didn't bother. The fight was very short, more or less as I expected. The fighter flew in at dazzling speeds, but one of the patrol ships flew out, firing its missiles, and the cruiser's turrets swung to target its course, spouting out blue flame. The Rebel ship's shielding collapsed and the vessel exploded within seconds. The pilot managed to eject, and the Cruiser, instead of chasing it, simply let it fly out, apparently not interested in further pursuit, satisfied with the destruction of enemy equipment.
I was never very fond of the Rebels; I heard about them attacking a lot of freighters in the Core Worlds, just for flying under Confederation transponders, and their near-suicidal tendencies didn't do much to sway my favor towards them. I only started to really despise them, however, a good while later.
As it turns out, I was actually heading towards Zeus' sister world, Hera; I mentally kicked myself, and then altered course, heading towards the appropriate world. I arrived in moments, and after sending the usual message down to the planet, secured docking close to the destination city.
I arrived and told Starbound Shipping I was there; not long after, a couple of their employees came by, and unloaded the parcels from Starseeker 's cargo bay.
"Thanks for the help," one of them said. "We'll probably have work like this for you to do in the future, so keep your ears open, okay?"
And with that, my first major adventure out in space came to a simple, rather anti-climatic end.
Well, if you can call the ten thousand credits I received anti-climatic.
After opening up one of the special meals to celebrate, and purchasing more food for the future trips, I dropped by the mission computer and found two adequate ones.
One was for a passenger mission, something I hadn't had experience with before, since Sinclair only hauled ore. I decided to take it, since it was at Ruby, which I remembered was relatively close-by, from one bit in Advanced History 501, where there was apparently a Great War battle in that area. Starseeker was a small ship, but with some blankets and the like the passengers should be able to contain themselves in the cargo bay, for just two days.
Another mission grabbed my attention. A load of cargo, heading to Earth.
I never did have the chance to actually see Earth on the ground before, and this could very well be it, I thought.
Needless to say, I took the mission.