(Originally posted in the Fuel Rats Thread on FD, by ianw, re-posted here with permission)
CMDR Astrodamus eased the fully laden Anaconda slowly through the station entrance, stowing the landing gear as he aligned to the jump point. Nor for the first time he silently cursed the new speed limit as he crawled to thd edge of the no fire zone. It was the last run for the day and he was looking forward to a (hopefully) hot date at the other end of the run.
She was a notorious bounty hunter he’d literally bumped into at some station bar a couple of months back. As she picked herself up off the floor he’d fully expected her to punch his lights out but a timely cheesy quip about enjoying her trip broke the tension and somehow they’d ended up chatting – when they went their separate ways Astrodamus still couldn’t quite believe he’d got a date out of it!
It was two months later and this would be his last opportunity before she was off on some long range assignment that would take her out of reach for months and by the time she got back she’d have probably given up on the idea. He glanced across the cabin at his overnight bag and was thankful he’d remembered to pack his lucky shorts..
A couple of jumps later the ship juddered as it dropped out of supercruise in the destination system. Astrodamus checked the scanner, set the throttle and lined up for the final run to the station – still on schedule – when the peace was noisily shattered by the interdiction alert.
Where the f did that come from!?
He cursed as he wrestled with the stick before deciding submission to the interdiction would be less damaging. Ordinarily he’d laugh at such an interruption – sometimes he’d even toy with the interloper a little but A – he didn’t have the time to spare right now and B – he’d recently dropped to a much smaller shield generator for more cargo space and had stripped off all the weapons for more range – fortunately he still had a full complement of boosters so hopefully that would do the job.
Within seconds of dropping into normal space the icon on the scanner resolved into a flashing red triangle and he knew this wasn’t a standard security stop and search. He flicked the hat switch to target the attacker and his heart sank a little as he saw it was another Anaconda.
Gonna have to be a high wake on this one..
The shields were starting to fail as he flicked down the list of targets in the destination panel till he finally found some and just went for whichever one he happened to be on – Lock and Hyperspace. The drive spooled up and within seconds the ship fired into Hyperspace. He slumped back in the chair hands trembling slightly as he let the ship do its thing.
Close call but looks like we made it..
Astrodamus checked the clock and was pleased to see he was still on schedule as he brought up the map and selected the nearby Teaka system. Then his stomach churned slightly as he saw the dotted lines on screen indicating insufficient fuel – a quick glance at the fuel gauge confirmed he barely had enough for a couple of tiny jumps as the system map confirmed there were no large pad stations in the current system.
He quickly scanned the galaxy map and was dismayed to see no detailed information for any of the systems within reach – a couple of minutes and 2 final jumps later his worst fears were confirmed – only platforms – no large pads and he had no fuel scoop as he’d never seen the point of a fuel scoop whilst doing local shuttle trade runs…
He thumped the dash in frustration.
Life threatening? Probably not. Embarrassing? Very. Chance of making the date? Fading fast.
He figured someone would be along soon enough – hopefully friendly – or at least bribeable. He thought back to the times when the old emergency beacon system was still running – basically you turned it on and very quickly someone arrived PDQ with emergency fuel at eye wateringly expensive prices – but at least you got a full tank.
He slumped back in the chair in resignation – then he remembered that guy Badger he’d been introduced to a while back at some do in one of the independent systems – intense looking bloke with a strip of bristly hair going right across the top of his head front to back. He was going on about some free fuel service collective – at the time it had sounded like a load of BS to Astrodamus but Badger had given him an old school type business card so he’d kept it as a novelty thing anyway.
Gotta be worth a try – nothing to lose..
He rummaged through the pockets on his flightsuit and eventually found the card. It had a little logo of a rat in bubble holding a fuel hose and wearing one of those comedy goldfish bowl space helmets you used to see on the space films from the old Earth collections in the 20th century. Next to the logo it said in big red caps THE RAT CAVE – then underneath “We have fuel, you don’t. Any questions?”
He flipped the card over and on the back there was a private comms channel address and underneath the instructions were – Just type in “RATSIGNAL”.
The despatcher had just eased himself into the chair with a mug of extra strong coffee when the familiar alarm sounded and one word flashed large on screen;
Time to go to work
He took a big swig of the coffee and hunched over the keyboard. He knew that at the same moment all the rats on watch would now be glued to their screens – regardless of their location – awaiting the location details. Some would even be sprinting to their ships now just in case.
They were a dedicated bunch from all walks of life, traders, miners, explorers, smugglers even some who’d been known to commit the occasional act of piracy. They all shared the same philosophy – maybe they were paying it forward – who knew? They asked for no fee they just got the job done and between them had spared many a Commander’s blushes – not to mention cargo and insurance claims. And on quite a few occasions they had snatched a Commander from the jaws of death itself.
They also had a comradely competitive streak and aimed to be the first on site whenever they could – it was an informal competition but they took pride in being the first and vied to be the top of the unofficial leaderboard – yet there was an unspoken understanding that they all depended on each other and it was the collective effort that really mattered.
Within seconds the comms panel in front of Astrodamus was filled with text.
+++ mib_hy3po3 set to mode +iwxz
If emergency, type: Ratsignal. | Fuel Rats |
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: TIME TO GO
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Please state your CMDR name and tell us the system you are in. If the name is complex, please tell us the name of the nearest SINGLE-WORD system as well.
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: If you are on emergency air or if you only have a small amount of fuel left, turn off every module except your life support.
<Droplifter>: Rust is back, it’s on son.
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: mib_hy3po3, how’re you doing?
Astrodamus hastily punched in;
<mib_hy3po3>: CMDR Astrodamus – CENU KICHS I have fuel – not on emergency air
<AlexTraut|OnDuty>: 11 jumps
<PBzCharlie->: 22 jumps (not it)
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Right, Al’s in the lead.
<Aitken>: 4 jumps, on my way
<AlexTraut|OnDuty>: want me to head that way for backup in case?
<Delvan>: ~60 jumps, I’m out on this one
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: mib_hy3po3, what’s your fuel level? Please await instructions from the rat that jumps to you first
<Domaq>: 2. Support only.
<DougHeisenberch>: 7,6 kLy
<Rusticolus>: Logging in…
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Ok, Aitken’s in the lead.
<[PC]UnarmedWarWolf>: too far for me.
<[PC]UnarmedWarWolf>: 100+ Ly
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Stay aware, Alex, we may need you
<watar>: 6 jumps
<Rusticolus>: 5 jumpa
<Aitken>: Add Aitken to your comms list…nearly there
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Brilliant. As Aitken said, please mib_hy3po3
<AlexTraut|OnDuty>: ok, I’m 9 jumpa so I’m gonna stand down, sounds like this is covered
<AlexTraut|OnDuty>: gl rats
<Domaq>: In system. Support only. Out of limpets.
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Got a 20 on mib_hy3po3?
<mib_hy3po3>: Domaq on the case
<Domaq>: Aitken: please continue inbound
<Aitken>: in system, need comms accept or name
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: name is astrodamus, Aitken
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Ok, making notes, Delvan
<Rusticolus>: I am still jumping, should I stop?
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Rusti, we have Aitken and watar on it.
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: How’s it going, Aitken?
<Aitken>: Shinobi is there
<Oberyn>: he doesn’t have limpets though
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Ok. Still need someone with limpets – Domaq is there without limpets, so is Shinobi
<Rusticolus>: I am in system with limpets
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Great, Rusti got this.
<Rusticolus>: interdicted – am out
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: OK, mib_hy3po3, do you know how to add to a wing?
<Oberyn>: I’ve got a full tank and stash of limpets but im 12 jumps out. I’m moving that way anyway so let me know if I need to skip over
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Ok, will do Oberyn
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: mib_hy3po3, how’s it going?
<AlexTraut|OnDuty>: I’m 8 atm as well, though was about to head further out
Astrodamus was relieved to see the wing icons light up on his screen – DOMAQ – CPT SHINOBI – AITKEN shortly after there followed the repeated metallic thumps of the fuel limpets latching onto the underside of his ship and delivering the much needed fuel as the info panel confirmed FUEL TRANSFER COMPLETE and the ship’s computer announced;
Astrodamus checked the map and entered the original system and nodded with satisfaction as he saw it was now in range – he quickly punched out on the keyboard;
<mib_hy3po3>: CMDR Astrodamus – thanks rats looks like I can reach my destination now 🙂 – a great service – beers are most definitely on me when we meet stationside.
<Cpt_Shinobi>: Alright, fly safe then commander. VICTORY for the FUEL RATS!
<Domaq>: Shinobi took care of the client.
<Xanisselis>: woot woot
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Ok, job done
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Glad we could help, mib_hy3po3
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: Tell your friends!
<[Dispatch]ArcT>: And enemies. Anyone, really.
<mib_hy3po3>: CMDR Astrodamus – will do – thanks again. Astrodamus out.
Astrodamus checked the clock – the whole thing had taken maybe 5 minutes tops which meant he was still on time for that date! He eyed his overnight bag with a smile of anticipation as he punched the Hyperdrive one more time.
Looks like those lucky shorts might pay off after all…