“That concludes this evenings Gal-Vision Alliance News. We hope to see you all for the next broadcast and as always thanks for watching.”
I was leaving the bedroom after changing and cleaning up a little as Shoshana finished watching ‘The News’. It had been two or three weeks since the Thargoid structures had been discovered and around two weeks since they stopped being headline news. Sure pilots were still looking into them, they were still a big deal to some but to big media. Nope, they had moved on, looking for juicier more sensational stories. The only mentions in this broadcast were that Ram Tah had started to wrap up his research and reduce his payments at the same time. Also that an Ocellus starport had been sent out to the Pleiades to help with research of the structures. Of course to the general public all that meant very little and the initial interest had faded to an uneasy acceptance.
“You’ve been busy this week.” Shoshana stated as I threw the towel I had been using into the disposal unit. “And even more mysterious than usual.”
Red flag. The tone in her voice let me know that she suspected something. She wasn’t wrong either but she didn’t need to know that.
“Not really. Just some Ratting and a very picky customer.” That was the truth.
“So that explains the five day gap in the tracker you gave me.” She still sounded suspicions but not at the original level.
“Yeah. He was rather insistent that no trace of my movements were recorded. In the end it was no big deal.” That was a mixture of half truths and out and out lies. It had all began six days before.
I was sitting at Julian Hub in the Calor system, reloading Bullseye with limpets. I had used eight of them on a T7. After finishing that refuelling I had ran back up on a couple of cases before jumping to fire the remaining eight at a Federal Corvette. I had taken my time with the debrief to make sure a ship that size would have as little problems as possible. Big thing in the debrief was advising the pilot to fit a fuel scoop while travelling, that seemed to be the main theme in most of my debriefs. I could only hope that the message got through and in most cases I think it does.
The cafe that was popular with pilots was close to the hangar I had docked at so that was were I had headed. The Shift Drive did a very good Paella and with a mug of coffee I was in paradise. Briefly. A waiter called over to me that I had a call and he would have it patched through to the booth I was sitting in.
“Hello Aitken.” The grim looking visage of Mr. Smith swam into view. Paradise interrupted I thought. “Is this a secure line?”
“No not at all I’m sitting in a local cafe.” The image on the screen seemed to lose focus for a second, the horizontal and then vertical holds lost control for a nano second and then it was back to how it looked.
“It is now and you are in the perfect place for me to ask you to do a mission for us.” A public place, a place that I would most likely try to remain calm. “We need you to obtain some Low Temperature Diamonds.”
“Ok, how much do you need?” Not so bad, I had a mining ship sitting doing nothing so a chance to bring it out and do a little work. Ten or twelve units could take a day or so but in mining circles added to other high paying minerals they could be worthwhile.
“100 units minimum.” Deadpan, not a flicker of humour.
“Alright might take awhile but yeah it’s doable. Gimme ten days or so and I’ll call you.”
“We need them in seven.” Again no sign of any emotion.
“Sure get another couple of guys to help me and it shouldn’t cause a problem.”
“Everyone else we use in that role has other assignments at the moment. Aitken we don’t care how you get them, we need them.” I’m not that good at taking hints sometimes and this one took a little while to sink in and I did like what was going down.
“Ah, no. No I am not and do not wish to be a pirate.” Damn the Paella had suddenly got a sour taste to it.
“It’s the quickest way and if done right no one gets hurt.” Easy for him to say, he wasn’t the one having lasers and/or limpets fired at him.
I said nothing. Picked up the mug and had a swig of coffee, thankfully it still tasted good in my mouth.
“We’ll supply the ship so if anything goes wrong you won’t be out of pocket.”
“The answer is still no. Not interested.” Another sip of coffee and I put the mug back on the table.
“Ok. We’ll pay you the black market price for the diamonds.” I didn’t even answer this time and just shook my head. “You do drive a hard bargain. Alright we’ll give you the ship at the end of the contract.”
“What kind of ship are we talking about?” So he had guessed my weakness for ships. What can I say I love to fly.
“Imperial Clipper.” He seemed to pounce on the fact that it was the first time I had shown any interest in his mission. “It’s fully armed and fitted out for the task at hand or so I am told. We could have it delivered to you in abou…..”
“No not here.” I felt a little dirty. I had just accepted a mission to rob some poor schmuck of their hard earned cargo. “Let me have a look for the place I want you to take it to.”
I reached for the padd I had with me and started looking through some systems I knew might be up for the task. Anarchy obviously so no crime would stick. If it had a mining operation all the better but that was not too important as I needed some where to practice first. I knew a little about being interdicted, it happens to us all but not too much on being the one doing the interdicting. I had used it in rescues but there the pilot did not put up a fight and so a 1D had been good enough. I didn’t think it would be like that in the case of robbery.
If the system also had a mining operation, good as the other method was to lure a ship away from the Res beacon and rob it at leisure. Of course I had only read about these things or had personal dealings on the receiving end. I hit lucky and found an Anarchy system not only with a mining operation but also with an ice ring around one planet. All the while I was looking l continued to talk to Smith and in the end got possibly the best deal I could. Highest black market price on the diamonds, about 52,000 per unit and the Clipper and all it’s fittings. If it worked out I stood to make a good 40 to 50 million from this task. It didn’t make it right of course but it did make it worthwhile. I sent the station and system I wanted the Clipper delivered to and after a few fake pleasantry’s the link was closed.
It was a remote part of the bubble with Anarchy and Independent Dictatorships as the main systems. Lots of Hips, Wolfs and Sector in their names with long and short number strings. Not the kind of area you would take your mother to visit. As I entered the system I had designated for what had to be the lowest thing I had ever planned, I kept a careful eye on the traffic. Hey if I had chosen it for my caper others would be doing similar unfriendly activities. I saw the usual mix of ship types and I could almost picture it as a normal system if it had not been for the lack of Belugas. Plenty of Orcas and Dolphins but the big brother of those two would make just too tempting a target for the crooks and pirates that hung out here.
Dropping out of supercruise I was greeted by the familiar shape of a Coriolis with what were called Noob Hammers swinging round as the starport rotated. I docked with no trouble and as I had expected the Clipper was still on route. The large cargo vessels that would be carrying it had various stopping points and I doubted that this would have been its first. Nothing else for it I locked and secured Bullseye and headed in search of coffee. As I left the hangar area I asked the Port Master to contact me when the Clipper arrived.
Half an hour later or half a cup of coffee later I received the message and after thanking the Port Master I headed for Bay Four-Zero. First impressions were that it was a black Clipper, a very pretty ship, I’d flown Clippers before so that was no surprise. The Kumo insignia on the sides gave away it’s sordid past (and future) and once again I shook my head at what I had agreed to do as I climbed aboard. Sitting down in the command chair I powered up the systems to see what I had to work with. Interdictor, Hatch Breaker Controllers, Collector Controllers and Manifest Scanner. The 7 slot was given to a cargo rack and that was all the space it had. Most things were A rated and modified, this included the Burst Lasers on all the hard points. Saracen as the name on the side said was made not to kill but to sting, incapacitate and then rob. That’s what I did for the rest of day 1. I poked, prodded and got to know this new variate of a familiar ship type.
Day two was different, day two was interdiction practice. I quickly became aware that this was probably not the method I would use. Not because I wasn’t very good with the interdictor, I wasn’t but knew I would get better with practice, but because I had no idea what the ship I was dragging into normal space had in it. Then even when you did get them into normal space and started scanning with the Manifest Scanner they jumped out before it finished. Twice that happened before I let them know I was there meaning business. A quick splash across there shields with the lasers let them know I was serious, followed by a limpet to break the cargo hatch and it went well. For me that is not, so good for the other ship of course. I started off small, Haulers, Adders. Then moved on to the transport ships, T6, Keelback, T7 and the T9 Heavy. Checking their load out for the miners refinery I soon found that even that would only give me a 50-50 chance of finding LTDs but I continued to practice the rest of the day and even managed to get 20 units of LTDs and other cargo. That was another issue that if the cargo ship had mixed commodities I couldn’t separate the wheat from the chaff so not only did I get the diamonds but also the hydrogen or whatever other cargo they were carrying. So just dump them I hear you say. Easy and I tried but the limpets just picked them up again. So day two came to an end with mixed results. Doing my heist using the interdictor was possible but had a few flaws. Also with no where to store the 20 units of diamonds I sold them, along with the other tat and made a little over a million for my day.
I made nothing on day three as I had hopped back into Bullseye. I had fitted the DBX with a Cargo Manifest Scanner so I could see just what type of ships would be mining diamonds in a RES. Apart from finding out the two types of ship I would be going for the only other highlight was the panic scanning some ships caused. The odd pilot got in such a state that they would boost into the asteroid they were mining. Just to show how far I had descended into the role I could not help but giggle at the sight. After seeing the third pilot do that and having a quiet laugh to myself I called it a day and headed back to the station. The main aim of the day had been achieved. I wanted to get the 100 units in one go, hopefully. Now while most ship types could and did carry diamonds I knew I would be going after T7s and T9s. Only those two had I seen carrying over my target figure.
Day four started by changing the interdictor for a cargo rack. Sure the extra space for 16 tonnes more wouldn’t have meant much in itself but it added or nearly, an extra million if I filled everything with diamonds. Next I loaded 70 limpets and I was ready, after coffee that is.
The RES I had checked out was only 3ly from the station so it did not take long to cover the distance. I blasted out of supercruise 2km from the beacon point, so I closed the throttle and deployed my hard points. Four burst lasers and a manifest scanner came into play. Unresolved contacts started to show up almost instantly, switching to the contacts panel I started to watch what came into range. The Adders, Asp Scouts and even the T6s I ignored, waiting for the right victim. There it was a T9 slowly making it’s way through the field. Pushing the throttles open a little the black body of the Clipper moved toward the bigger ship like a shark ready for lunch. At 4km I activated the scanner and as before the pilot shut down his mining and started to move away. Too late as I could already tell this was my target. 160 units of Low Temperature Diamonds. Opening Saracens engines to full power it streaked in as if chasing a juicy Tuna but going for the kill was not the plan, yet. A splash of laser fire against the T9s shields and the rectangle on the scanner went from orange to red. I then watched as the big ship turned to the vector I was travelling along and held my course. When the gap from it to me was at 3.75km I eased the throttles closed so that we matched speeds and waited for the distance from the RES beacon to get to a number I could work uninterrupted at.
35km may seem a little overkill but it’s what I had worked out reading over a few other pirates logs. At that distance I flipped the Clipper over to face the now charging T9 and hoped I had enough firepower to stop it.
He opened fire before I did but as the ineffectual fire hit the modified shields of the Clipper I hit 50% power and started moving. My first volley from the four burst lasers took out half his shields, the next left him with barely a ring and then I was hitting hull. I switched so that the two class two mounts would only be firing and targeted his power plant. This guy knew his business and twisted his better armoured side to face my fire. I in turn continued to manoeuvre trying to get the more exposed side to snipe out the delicate module. As we continued this turning and twisting dance I could see we were getting further away from the RES and close to clearing its mass lock. I fired and let loose a hatch breaker as I kept up the pressure on his weaker side and another and one more before the bulky ship jumped out of system. I managed to collect 14 units. Not what I had been aiming for but only 86 to go. I did consider returning to the station, selling these and starting again but my temper was up and I aimed to finish the task at hand this sortie.
Even with just 14 LTDs I ahd no idea the amount of attention that they garner. So I had to fight and end up killing. First up were two Adders who like their chances, quickly followed by a trio of Eagles. After the third one had gone down I had the chance to check the contacts panel and saw a T7 on the list. Targeting it on the scanner I noticed that it’s shields were slowly going down as I hurried over toward it. It was being attacked by an Asp Scout and a Viper Mk. III. Acting as the Good Samaritan I took out both attackers before scanning the T7s hold. 136 units of diamonds, if I did this right I could be finished soon. Once again I splashed the shields of my intended victim and started to pull away from it. Keeping the gap close but not too close I repeated the slow cat and mouse game out to 35km. Once at that distance I turn from hunted into hunter and worked at a better outcome than before. Again I took out the shields and switched to the size 2 lasers only. This time the pilot wasn’t as good as his T9 compatriot before him and with a few well aimed shots the read out on his Power Plant hit 0% as he drift just in front of me. Tapping the secondary fire button I sent a limpet across to break into his cargo hatch, this I would repeat every time I saw the “Limpet Siphon Complete” message on my HUD. Lining up the cross hairs of the lasers directly over the now dead power plant I dispatched six limpets to collect the diamonds that were emptying from the T7. Why the lasers over the defunct power plant? It didn’t happen here but during my practice a few ships had used the reboot/repair function available on their ships. I had learnt that shooting the power plant again disabled it once more. I didn’t want this ship to escape before I had all the diamonds so if anything but zero showed up on the display my finger would have pulled the trigger.
Slowly but surely the hold of the Clipper started to fill up. I had to turn off the controllers once or twice to make room in the hold but at last Betty informed me that the hatch breaker had found no cargo to spill. I turned off the collection controllers once more and fired off the last six limpets I had and waited until I had 144 units of diamonds. As I was sending a message to the T7 pilot about reboot/repair an unresolved target floated onto my scanner and I cycled through the fire groups till I had all four lasers back at my command. The last few diamonds were on board when the unknown target resolved to relieve itself as an Anaconda. Time to go.
I didn’t even get scanned and with no threats on the short journey to the station it had all gone smooth. Not as I had wished but good enough and I had the merchandise.
Day five was spent waiting for Mr. Smiths pick up men and talking to him over Saracens very secure link. He congratulated and thanked me for the job. He even let slip that the diamonds were to be used in some kind of research, I felt like pressing that point but I was in the habit of not asking customers questions and so I let it slide. The bag men had gone and I received my payment, just over 7 million credits and a slightly used Gutamaya Imperial Clipper with all it’s internals. The Clipper would be staying where it was. I hadn’t made up my mind if I ever wanted to fly it again. Mind you in a weird twisted kind of way I had actually enjoyed the whole experience. I hadn’t killed any innocents so I was happy about that. Sorry for those I did shoot down but I had to defend myself and pirates can be persistent. I might not want to fly Saracen again for a while but I certainly did not want to sell it. It was a good ship and very good at what it had been outfitted to do. I headed back to Bullseye. It was time to leave.
“Don’t you usually shower before you get here?” Shoshana asked as I sat down beside her.
“Yeah and I did.”
“So that was your second shower in less than an hour?” She remarked, sounding a little surprised.
“I was feeling really dirty.”