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Gunfights and Gap Year Girls. [SEWC 2016]

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posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 06:18 PM
“Heave to and lower your shields, Commander. This is your only warning. Federation Corvette Indomitable, out.!

God, even the tone of that cow's voice sent the hairs on the back of my neck rising. Not to mention that it was backed by several megaJoules of particle beam killing power and a belly full of missiles. I looked round at the girl...well, technically woman, in the co pilot seat. If her jaw dropped any lower I was sure it would have landed on the radar console.

“Don't panic, kid.” I said. “We'll heave to, you just keep your fingers hovering over the shield boost button and as soon as I hit the throttles, punch it, ok?”

She blinked, then her teeth clacked before she nodded and swallowed. Looking serious as she said, “Yeah, got it”. All business now, gone was the little girl lost look of a few seconds ago. Replaced instead by the sort of expression you'd expect to see on the face of an Imperial Princess of the Duval Dynasty and probably only a couple of dozen deaths away from the throne herself

I know, I called her kid. A capital crime in most parts of Imperial space, not using the proper title. Thing is, we were in Fed space now, hence the great hulking lump of metal pointing all its biggest guns straight at my little ship.

I fly an old Starfire. small, but faster than anything else you'll find in space, even now, 30 years after it was built at Britannia Base on Mars, it has no peers for pure speed. Other ships have better range, most have more firepower and a few have better shields.

Boanerges, that's her name. An old Earth guy called T. E. Lawrence used to be a motorcycle nut and named all his bikes Boanerges. I must have watched the vid about him over a thousand times during long, boring trips from system to system with my mum. She was an intensely independent person and rather than settle down and be someone's wife, she sold everything she had, took out a bunch of fraudulent loans and bought a slow old rust bucket and headed into space. Over the years, she made enough to eventually get into a Cobra, one of the big, fast cargo ships. She met my dad on some R&R weekend she planned in the 61 Cigni system. There's a photo I look at sometimes, in my data pack. She never did find out his name...Nor try. That's mum for you. She always said, “I don't need no damned man when I have this ship and the whole galaxy and you don't need anything else either.” She taught me everything, from the basics of literacy and numeracy through to Astro-navigation, trading and, more importantly, how to fly a ship. I haven't seen her for ten years at least, but every birthday, without fail, I get a little note arrive at which ever station I call into. She taught me two important lessons – always have a plan and always have faith in yourself.

I waited until the stern doors started to open on the corvette....then I gunned the engines. Twisting the stick to perform a series of wild, savage loops and jinks as the shields came up. The blackness of space erupted around us in flares of red and blue while the forward guns opened up on us. Even with the upgraded jump drive I have, it takes ten full seconds from a standing start to transit into ftl (faster than light) travel. Ten seconds can be a long time, a life time when someone is shooting at you, but I'd guessed that the prospect of taking a high ranking member of the Imperium into custody would mean that the captain would insist on leading the boarding party, so that he could make the best possible case for promotion later on. This meant that the ship would lose at least a couple of minutes before it could begin to power up its engines and give chase, by which time we would be long gone.

My heart rate started to slow from the 300 beats a minute it felt like it was doing after we transited our fourth system and crossed the border back into Imperial space. I don't normally spend much time there. I don't like the slavery and the silly social class structures. Right now though, there was nowhere I wanted to be more, and I slumped back in my seat and let out a breath I'd seemingly been holding since that corvette first appeared on my radar. I set a course for the nearest station and let the Boanerges take us in and dock while I went back and splashed a bit of water on my face and then tried not to throw up from the stress of my latest near death experience.

When I came back to my seat, she was leaning forward, staring up at the front of the space port, her brow furrowed as she read the dedication to the Emperor over the main doors “What's up?” I asked.
“It says 'Hail Emperor Sylvanus' on the front, but that can't be right. It was Empress Alexandra when I left, Uncle Sylv is twentieth in line, just in front of my father. I wonder what can have happened?”
I wondered myself, too. As dangerous as life was before, if I was scurrying around the seedier parts of the galaxy with the third in line to the throne on board, everything from scummy pirates in their Adders right up to Imperial battlecruisers would be after me and I was in no doubt whatsoever that my description, or more properly, that of my ship would be filtering through the systems like a dose of the pox.

The hell of it was, I didn't know she was a princess. I'm a cynic, I really am. I was sitting in a dive bar inside the Galton Hanger station orbiting Ross 128, less than eleven light years from Earth. I'd come back to meet up with some other Starfire enthusiasts at their big bash on Mars. It had been a good couple of days and now, here I was, nursing a hangover in the gloom, sitting on a shiny, plastic seat just off from the stage, not quite ignoring the girl dancing in front of me and the small crowd of slightly more enthusiastic perverts on this Monday Lunchtime. It's always Monday somewhere in the Galaxy and to tell the truth, I never know what day it is because, when you can travel up to 300 light years in a day, it really doesn't matter anymore.

She was doing that bored, half hearted stuff, just going through the motions and looking like she'd rather be anywhere else that strippers do when it isn't a Friday or Saturday night and I couldn't have cared either way. She was nice enough looking with long, electric blue hair. Violet eyes that actually looked real, and a body that looked as natural as one of those video girls you can call up off the Galnet, but without seeming all fake and plastic.

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 06:19 PM
I concentrated on the last little bit of real, honest to god scotch in my glass. It came in at a hundred creds a shot, about the same as enough fuel to go from Earth to Eta Cassiopea (about nineteen and a half light years). Just as I laid the glass down on the table and leant back to savour the last little treat of my vacation, one of the guys made a grab for her. A table went over and one of the other patrons tried to stop him, only to stumble back with blood fountaining from his neck. It seems the grabber had a knife, which he then held to the girl's throat as he backed towards the door. Now I ain't anyone's hero, but, I don't know, this all seemed to flick the right switches in me and I was up and and on him before he could blink. I grabbed his knife hand by the wrist, twisting and pulling it way past the point where it gave an audible crack, and the heel of my hand drove into his chin, making him bite the end of his tongue off amid the sound of snapping teeth. His eyes had rolled up and he was already going down when a gunshot tore off the lobe of my right ear and before I had time to react, the girl had grabbed my hand and led me on a mad sprint through the metal walled alleys of the roughest part of that rough as hell station.

“Thanks,” she said after we had run about five hundred meters and were squatting down behind a stack of scrap metal by one of the maintenance yards.
“Hey, anytime.” I answered glibly then asked “So tell me, a guy with a knife, I can kind of understand in a place like that, but a secret accomplice with a bloody gun? What's the story, kid?”

Her lips pursed as she considered the question and she said “There have been people after me for ages. I can't seem to settle anywhere for long before someone turns up. That's why I have to take crappy jobs like dancing in places full of grotty weirdos.” She caught my gaze and added “Present company excepted, of course, sorry”

She sure didn't speak like a stripper and the look she carried off just screamed Empire. Though a lot of people copied that look, simply because it was exotic and different. She didn't strike me as a fake though and I thought perhaps it might be fun to have her ride along as I made my way back across the galaxy.

She agreed, didn't even want to go back for her stuff, said I could pick up something for her on the way and over the next few weeks we moved further and further away from Earth's spiral arm and closer to Imperial space as she started to open up to me.

Succession in the Empire is a messy business involving lots of assassinations and not a small number of actual wars, With the old Emporess approaching her seventies, all the big families were manoeuvring to be ready to stake their claims and after a close shave with a dart drone while she was sleeping at her home, she packed a few clothes, as much money as she could get and headed off planet to live a quiet life.

She hadn't counted on the tenacity of the sort of people who take up assassination for a living though, and the money was gone pretty swiftly from having to pay top dollar for a safe berth on a ship heading off system.

She was pretty fed up with the whole thing really. Her family, her society, her own fate. She told me about her life, her family and I told her about my life and my mum. One thing that hit me was she said that she couldn't stand most of her family yet was always totally surrounded by their cloying presence. In fact, the only one she ever liked was her uncle, the guy that now seems to be Emperor “He was the only one who ever treated me like a little girl, not some future bargaining chip or brood mare whose sole reason for existence is purely to benefit the family.”
“Isn't it strange?” She went on. “I can't stand my family, yet couldn't get a minute away from them and you obviously adore your mother yet never see her? Is life supposed to be as messed up as that?”

We grew close over time. We didn't sleep together or anything, but she was a damn good co pilot and had a knack of getting a deal out of whatever tight fisted merchant we had to deal with.
Then came the corvette.
As we sat in the now empty hold of Boanerges drinking an ersatz tea and not speaking, she looked lost in thought for an absolute age. Normally I found our silence companionable, but this was a bit different and I found myself saying “It's no good. We have to get you to your uncle. Out here, every dog and rat will be out to get you and hold your fate over the Emperor for whatever they can get” She looked at me then, her eyes red rimmed from holding back tears of frustration and said, “There will also be people out to kill me, just to stop that happening.” She took a sip of the muddy brown liquid and continued. “But you are right, the question is, how the hell do we get to Achenar?”
The Imperial seat was roughly two hundred and fifty light years away still and was possibly the most heavily guarded system in the Milky Way. I nodded, my mind racing through the possibilities and said, “We need a permit, which means finding a courier job that requires us to go there. If we head to Vequess, we can maybe pick up a job from the Imperial Navy.” I'd done some work for them in the past, and as far as I was aware, was still in good standing with them, never having done any jobs for the Federal Navy.

We finished our tea and spent the next few hours poring over the astrogation console, plotting our route. Next we took on a load of grain, because there is nothing as suspicious as a private ship, even a fighter, arriving at a station with an empty hold.

It took nearly a week to get to Vequess. We had to stick to the lesser known spaceways and put in at every backwater on the way, trading whatever was in our hold for something else of a pretty low value, little more than enough profit to pay the fuel and buy a meal. It would have been like painting Boanerges day-glo orange to carry anything worth stealing.

Just as we entered the docking bay at Cuffey Orbital I caught a hint on the scanner. Just a whisper of something dropping in system. I could easily have just been feeling paranoid, what with everything that had happened, but mum always said to trust your gut in everything and it was a lesson that had proven to be worth the learning, time after time.

Melanie stayed behind on Boanerges while I went off to the local Navy office to have a word with the chief on duty about any upcoming courier jobs. She told me her real name one night when we got drunk on rotgut brewed on station in the Sirius system. Actually she had about ten names. Which would give even the uninitiated a clue as to how far up the chain of royalty she was. It was a few days later that I looked her up on Galnet and nearly dropped dead when I saw she was an honest to god princess.

I didn't like the idea that I may have been her frog, but I kept my new found information to myself. In hindsight, it was almost definitely that search that brought the corvette after us...another reason to keep schtum.

The navy office was small, but walled in marble and oak. The floor was cleaner than any plate I have ever eaten from and the chief's boots shone like black diamonds. He looked about sixty. Barrel chested and with shovel like hands. Exactly the type to be dispensing the captain's discipline below decks in a man o' war.

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 06:19 PM
After checking my records, he handed me a chit for passage to Achenar and punched a few keys on his terminal before spinning it round so that I could enter the passcode for the Boanerges data core. That was it, the encrypted files were downloaded to my ship and I could take off at my earliest convenience if I pleased...code for get a bloody move on. I walked back to the ship with my heart beating hard and a sense of relief...I'd half expected alarms and flashing lights and men with guns to appear when he put my name into the system, but I guess it was my lucky day.

We left within ten minutes of me arriving back and cruised away from the station towards our jump point. The scanner gave a shiver at approximately our six o'clock and just as I was thinking about the ghost that I'd seen before, the drives kicked in and we made our jump.

If you've never been in space and never made a jump between systems, it's kind of like going over a hump on a rollercoaster. All your insides lurch and you feel a moment's disorientation. There's also the visual element, it looks like the whole of space rolls around you, forming a tube that flickers with lightning and roiling clouds. Typically it lasts about twenty seconds, then you are ejected into your chosen system with a huge bang to continue on under normal power or select another jump. Some people reckon they see ghosts or visions of things from long ago or yet to come as they look out of the windows. Some insist it's the realm of demons and attribute the madness that some spacers experience to some kind of possession. To me it just looks like a storm.

This time, Boanerges screamed as alarms lit up red across the board and we were dragged out of our transit to come out almost exactly between Vequess and Achenar. This is proper, interstellar space. Nothing at all except vacuum for light years in every direction. Mel started cancelling alarms and bringing systems back online as I coaxed the engines back into life and frantically checked the scanner. The most common cause of dropping out of hyperspace is someone using an interdictor to destroy the waveforms in a ship's engine, making it impossible to maintain the bubble that allows the ship to exist in hyperspace.

Boanerges rocked wildly as as a particle beam knifed into the port side and more alarms started up. Our shields had died from one hit and the cargo bay was venting atmosphere at an alarming rate. I stabbed the bulkhead door switch and sealed us in the cockpit while I spammed the engine start up button, desperately muttering at my ship to “Come on old girl, come on!”
The main drive came up and I punched the throttles to the stop, pulling an easy twenty plus gees as we flicked from side to side and climbed and dived.

Another crash, like some ancient god punching the ship told of another hit from the mystery attacker and...the engines died. A forced shutdown due to the heat damage. I looked at Mel, helpless as the signature of an Imperial clipper flickered into life on the scanner. A big ship, nearly as fast as Boanerges, too and with enough fire power to even keep that corvette away from its business end.

We were out of options as the slick looking ship hove to in front of us. Pointing its shark-like nose threateningly at our faces, letting us appreciate the sheer size of the guns sizzling and crackling with pent up energy.
I hit the comm and said, simply. “Ok, we surrender. Don't shoot.”
I had never felt so dejected, so utterly beaten as I did now. I've had ships shot out from under me before, but damn it, why didn't I pay attention to that bloody ghost on the scanner that had been tailing us. I knew it was a ship, deep down I knew! And I did nothing!”

“Oh, I don't want your surrender.” came the cruelly amused voice through the speaker. “I just wanted to get one last look at you before you're gone.” Then the comm cut and I tossed a mask to Mel. “Put this on and follow me, kid.” I said as I donned my own mask and pulled the emergency catch on the door, heading into the cold vacuum of the hold and towards the pod. I knew it was hopeless, even if we got out and got clear of the blast zone, that clipper would just sit there and wait, then vaporise us in our life pod before returning home to collect his bounty. Again, though, mum had always said “Do what you can, don't do nothing because you can't do everything. Keep on trying and if it doesn't work out...well, at least you tried.”

We were about two hundred metres from Boanerges when it blew. Everything I owned for the last ten years, gone, just like that. I could feel my eyes sting as I watched the expanding debris cloud and felt Mel's hand on mine. I turned to her and she said, “It doesn't matter. I've lived more these last few weeks than in my whole life. We were a good team, weren't we?” I nodded, feeling a lump thicken in my throat and turned to look out of the porthole again, I didn't want to see my failure reflected in her eyes. The clipper was turning slowly, bringing it's nose-mounted cannons to bear and, this time, I could see no way out. I tasted the bitter bile of failure once more and for the last time as I watched our doom approach.

There was a light, bright as a thousand suns. Almost like a nuke going off. We were utterly blinded by it. When my vision eventually came back enough to see, amidst the blobs of purplish, bluish light that swam all over, I could see the yawning maw of a cargo scoop and we were thrown around like cats in a sack as we were dragged into the hold of the ship.

There was a jump, through hyperspace again, then a low rumbling as the ship made its way to whatever station it was going to. We tried to work out what was happening, I was sure the guy was going to vaporise our pod...neither of us had a clue at all.
An hour had passed, or it could have been ten for all I know. We felt the jerks and bumps and clangs that accompany a ship locking into a dock and I found myself hugging Mel as I waited in a sort of panicked stupor. All I had was my mask, a small part of my brain was getting ready to take over my body and smash the mask into the face of the first person I saw when the door to the pod opened.

The glass was misted up by now and I could only make out a shadowy form approach. I readied myself, but they didn't open the door. Instead they clipped a transport line to the pod and soon after, the hold was bathed in bright white light as the main hatch opened. Mel's eyes were wide as she looked at me and I hefted the mask, trying to show her that there was still some fight in me. “First chance you get.” I said. “Bloody run for it. I'll catch up with you in the cheapest bar I can find, ok?”
She nodded then, looking tearful, but no less resolute and part of me thought that she really must be a princess to take everything that has happened with such sang froid.

The pod crashed down onto the dock and I sprang our as the door opened. The mask in my hand smashed into the armoured helmet of an Imperial trooper and at least half the bones in my hand breaking before I was grabbed and held tightly in the servo assisted grip of two more heavily armed killing machines.

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 06:20 PM
“Run kid!” I gasped, my voice shaking with the effort of not screaming from the burning agony in my hand.
She stepped calmly out of the pod and I tried again, “Run!” And I thrashed ineffectually in the iron grip of my captors. I looked around for something, anything...The entire dock was rammed full of armoured troops. All bearing the insignia of the household regiments and moving through them as they parted like water before him was...Sylvanus, the bloody Emperor! Was it him behind the destruction of my ship and our capture? Could he really be so cold? Of course he bloody could. Power was everything to these people and according to Mel, at least twenty people previously stood between this man and the throne that was now his alone.

I turned away, unable to watch him cut her down or shoot her or something and I looked at the ship that brought us in. Though it wasn't the clipper. It was a Cobra. An old one too. “What the hell?” I thought...”Were there two ships after us?” It was then I noticed the Commander standing to one side, half smirking at me as she removed the battered old baseball cap and shook out her long red hair.

“Mum?” I blurted out incredulously and she stepped over, the grip on my arms relaxed and I half stumbled, half walked to meet her. “What the hell?”
“Did you really think I'd let some twat in a clipper shoot my baby?” She asked, an edge of anger in her voice. “I've never been more than one jump behind you since you got that eagle shot out from under your careless arse, boy.”

I hugged her, ignoring the pain in my hand as I picked her up and her back clicked from the pressure of my grip.
“Oof...Put me down you big lump.” She said and indicated with her chin for me to look behind me.

Mel and the Emperor stood there, smiling. He had his arm protectively around her shoulder now and as I stood there open mouthed, Mel laughed and said “So this is your mum?” I still couldn't speak and the Emperor, in all his glory, said “Thank you, commander. For looking after my niece during her...let's call it, summer vacation.” He smiled at his choice of words and continued “And thank you, Baroness, for your service to House Duval. It would have broken my heart to have lost the one Duval I cared for.”

The next few hours and days passed in a blur of pain meds and meetings, press conferences and uniform fittings. Mum has now told me the whole truth. Her story was something like Mel's and I can't wait to see her again tonight at dinner. Even though we will probably be seated a hundred feet apart at the table and with the eyes of over two hundred people upon our every act.
I don't care though, not right now. It sure has been one hell of a summer....Somewhere in the galaxy.

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 08:54 PM
That was great! I liked that very much and I hope you write more.

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 09:08 PM
I love it . . . Robert Earle Keen Jr meets Mel Brooks!

Give more!

posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 09:44 PM
Wow, thanks!

edit on 37pFri, 23 Sep 2016 21:44:37 -050020162016-09-23T21:44:37-05:00kAmerica/Chicago30000000k by SprocketUK because: someone stole the a!

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 02:54 AM
a reply to: SprocketUK

I'm not even going to post mine, I'll save it for another contest, this is great. You got my vote!

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 05:56 AM
a reply to: Alien Abduct

You should. I wasted so many comps by waiting. Am glad I finally plucked up the courage in the end.

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 06:51 AM
Easy to follow and the character development was just enough to follow, care, and understand. Well done.... seriously.

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 10:00 AM
space odyseys rock

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 10:14 AM
That was one helluva ride, Sprocket.

Enjoyed this fast-paced space story a lot. Thank you.

posted on Sep, 24 2016 @ 11:23 AM
Very good. No idea why, but in my mind I kept picturing Han Solo. Probably just the geeky part of what makes me who I am.

posted on Sep, 26 2016 @ 05:20 PM
a reply to: JDHellraiser

There may have been a bit of Han to him. Though the game that inspired the story is intensely individualistic and probably promotes that sort of vision for a protagonist.

I have to admit, after writing that, I want to tell his mum's story. In my head she could be a huge character.

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