Part 55: Pirate - Part 03 - July 5th, 1178 NC: SwagJuly 5th, 1178 NC: Swag
Now surrounded by a giant fuckoff ship (we can't officially rename it, but I'm calling her the Scurvy Goonette), we need to raise money for its care and feeding. Luckily, many pirates are willing to provide.
We base out of Rebel II for pirate hunting. An opportunity arises...
You are sitting in the bar when a rather fit, but fairly nondescript man walks in. He sees you, and walks over casually.
"Coronne Harlock, it is good meeting you," he begins pleasantly. "I am Frandall, and I have a somewhat dangerous mission for you. I know this is a bit outside the regular line of work we get you to handle, but I need cargo carried at the same time as a passenger. It will mean going through Federation space with a highly illegal cargo, and if you are scanned, then the game will be well and truly up. The gear is THAT hot."
You smile, casually reminding Frandall that illegal cargo is a constant when you are working for the rebellion, and he chuckles.
"This is even hotter than usual. Are you interested?"
Off we go!
"The cargo must be picked up on Rauther in the Rautherion system," he continues after you nod in agreement. "It is a shipment of new technology that we cannot allow to be sold to the Federation. It will upset the balance of power a lot if the Federation does receive this technology. The only problem is that we cannot tell you what the cargo is. However, I can tell you that the passenger you will be collecting is Tomak Gemmel, grandson of Jiorgen Gemmel, CEO of Rauther Heavy Power Industries. Tomak wishes to defect to the Rebellion, and bring his new technology with him. I need you to rescue him."
You finish your drink, telling Frandall that you will get Tomak back, however long it takes. You may have to lay low for a couple of days, or even weeks. Frandall nods. If anyone understands the complexities of the spy game it is him. You say your goodbyes, and head for Rauther.
Rauther was the third planet ever to be purchased outright, but the first to be purchased by a corporation rather than a government. Rauther Power Industries maintains their primary research lab here, as well as their main office. As you can imagine, this is unbelievably convenient for tax purposes. Rauther also houses a small fleet of gas mining droid ships that mine the planet Rautherion Prime. Rauther's share price is on constant display via laser holographic projection into the thin atmosphere.
It doesn't take long to meet the guy.
Rauther's Bar posted:
This bar is a retreat from the office for the many Rauther executives that live on this planet. The service is good, and the many cubicles allow a fair amount of privacy.
This entire sub-plot is entirely skippable, which makes the Pirate string very short indeed.
You land at the far end of the dock, in an off-peak time. A group of sleepy dock-workers look at your consignments, and load a number of crates into your hold. You head off to the meeting point, but something tells you that the port is a little bit too quiet.
It is with great relief you see a man matching Tomak's description waiting for you. He sees you approach, waves, picks up a large case and heads over to you, just as a squad of Bureau agents round the corner. You whip out your blaster and open fire. Bolts fizz past the two of you as you sprint for your ship. After deft turns and ducking through a bar, you somehow manage to lose your pursuers. At your ship, you breath a sigh of relief when the harbor-master gives you your clearance vector. Breaking any number of port laws, you blast away from the station.
Tomak is visibly shaken, and you can tell that despite his development work, he has never heard weapons fired in anger. As you reassure him that you should be okay now that you have reached open space, the sensors begin to sound alarms. Outside, the Federation Navy is vectoring a large number of ships to stop you. You begin to count, but soon realize that there are simply too many of them and you immediately prepare to jump out...
It's not particularly maneuverable, but the Pirate Carrier makes a great bullet sponge while escorts tear up the Bureau forces. This does not endear us to the local government.
Frandall meets you and Tomak at the hatch, and other rebel operatives begin to examine the extent of the damage to your beloved Scurvy Goonette. Frandall looks vaguely worried about the fact that the entire Federation population seemed to know about the shipment. He tells you that he is going to discuss the matter with the Rebel High Command.
"I have a suspicion that we are going to get you to do something a little different for us next time we send you out."
He shakes your hand, and walks away, calling out orders to his staff. Tomak thanks you quickly, before being whisked away by rebel staff for debriefing.
The ion damage from the pirates in the fleets has lead to a number of close calls, and it has been with luck rather than good management that you have made it this far. The enemy you have faced have all headed straight for you, and you know that you will have to do something or there is every likelihood that the rest of the mission will end in disaster. You are sitting on your ship-ramp when Tomak stops by.
"Coronne Harlock, I may have a solution to your dilemma," he offers tentatively, after you explain your thoughts to him. "The pirates have been ionizing you, trying to disable you to make you an easier catch. In exchange for my political asylum in the Rebellion, I brought along a prototype of an ion dissipation device. If you would allow me, it wouldn't take too long to install it into your ship. What do you think?"
You consider for a moment, before realizing that having such a device couldn't hurt, especially when dealing with pirates and other groups that use ionizing technology. You tell Tomak to go ahead. A few days later, it is all ready to go.
Free upgrades! The Ion Dissipator boosts our already high Ion Dissipation, making us almost immune to the ionization of EMPs and station defense guns. Not bad, since McGowan's base has one of the latter and is defended by plenty of the former.
Once more you are sitting in the bar when Frandall comes in. He doesn't mince words.
"Coronne Harlock, are you able to do a special mission for me?" He waits for you to nod. "Going back to Rauther Prime and picking up another shipment?"
You groan, thinking about the trouble you had last time. But Frandall goes on before you can protest too much.
"The last time you went to Rauther there was obviously a security leak, or somehow the Federation sent word to the Pirate organizations in the area that you were an inviting target. We don't think the latter could have happened quickly enough to cause you as much trouble as it did, so we need to send you out again, in order to try and ascertain where the leak is.
"Are you game?"
And back to Rauther. Remember Polaron Cannons from the Federation string? Probably not, since they're easily skippable.
"On Rauther, collect your shipment from docking bay 94, and deal only with the cargo handlers there. You manifest will say 'engine manifolds', but instead they will load a number of crates of Polaron Cannons. Another group of techs will also take some time installing a Light Polaron Cannon to your ship. They are still only prototypes, and won't be coming into the Federation Lineup for at least a few years. If we implement them first, we will have a HUGE advantage over the Federation. The other great thing about this mission is that all the pirates that attacked you last time will come out again, because the leak will tell them to do so. But armed to the teeth and with Ion Dissipators, you will have the upper hand. Kill them all. Blow them from this world. While you take care of that end, we will take care of the leak."
You point out to Frandall that the entire Federation Navy wants to catch up with you, and that landing on Federation-controlled planets with your record will be more than a little tricky. He grins at you, before explaining that rebel techs were cleaning your Federation record even as he is speaking. You ask him to thank them, grab your gear, and head for your ship.
The Polaron Cannon does quite a bit of damage, similar to a mid-tier Vell-os beam with a bit less range. It comes in handy - we build up our fleet quite a bit.
You are in a state of total awareness the entire time you are on Rauther. The loading of the "Engine Manifolds" takes very little time, but installing your new hardware is a trickier task. Work can only progress while there is little chance of discovery by security patrols.
Finally, the cannons are in place, and the tests have been run. Your targeting computers recognize the weapon, and you are impressed at the size of the things. Each side of your ship there is an innocuous little hatch, yet when you climb into the inner workings of the ship, you see the impressive expanse of accelerators, focusing crystals and powerplants. You grin wickedly at the thought of taking your revenge on the scum that caused so much trouble on your last trip back to Rebel II. Now you will have the whip hand.
Rebel cargo handlers begin to unload the crates from your hold, while rebel tacticians begin downloading your sensor banks for study. You are more than happy to let them, since it will lend some credence to the stories you are going to have to tell during your debriefing. The cannons are stupendous in battle. You cannot wait to let the rebels loose with them. The Federation will never know what hit them.
And with that, Frandall is out of our life for quite some time. Let's get more free stuff!
With the data from your sensors as backup, you are able to convey to the Rebels the power of the new weapon in their arsenal. Frandall is especially happy at the result, and glad at the havoc you were able to wreak on the way back to Rebel II.
As you leave your debriefing, Frandall walks up beside you. "Coronne Harlock, you might like to hear this," he says, taking you aside. "I didn't want to say too much just then, but the leak that caused all the trouble was located. Lets just say that there won't be any problem from that particular double agent again."
You remember a time when war was something you didn't have to think about, but now you realize that you are glad that Frandall is capable of being as ruthless as he is. His ruthlessness means that agents and operatives like yourself have the best chance of survival.
Altia's one of the seedier worlds on the edge of Pirate space, but we've got a big black ship and a lot of backup.
You are sitting quietly in the bar, going over the latest reports from Olaf, when the man himself walks in. He heads in your direction, and you are secretly relieved. You never did have much time for paperwork, and all in all whenever Olaf heads your way, you know that you'll be headed off into the depths of space again.
Olaf doesn't disappoint, and he tells you about a pirate outfitter organization operating out of Altia in the Altair system, using a large asteroid as a base. Apparently, they are building some very powerful engine upgrades out there, and are prepared to sell them to the highest bidder. Olaf thinks it would be worthwhile heading out there and having a look at least.
"But just be careful," he finishes "They are apparently a pretty rough bunch."
Solidarity forever! We're not going to betray a comrade-in-arms.
On arrival, you cycle the hatch, and see four burly men facing you, each holding a wickedly oversized blaster. A skeletal man steps out from behind them, and starts rasping at you.
"Don't be causin' any trouble about he'er," in a thick and uncouth accent, "or you'll be dealin' with ma boys, Reggie, Ronnie, Mikki, and Rodger." You nod to the four mutant apes, who grunt a monosyllabic greeting to you.
You tell Skinny Man that you have been sent by Olaf Greyshoulders to view the engine upgrades for sale.
"Olaf," Skinny sneers "He be just ay'nutha uppity central boy. He don't know jack about reel eng'ine work. Always too busy stickin' he's nose where it aint wanted." You bite back an angry retort, and ask the man if he has any upgrades available, and if so, how much does he want for them.
The price has almost tripled since you left Viking. You tell Skinny this, and he just laughs at you.
"Weeell," he drawls "You could pay us, or you could be doin' us a fay'vor. Wee've been having tru'ble with a pirate over East." That would be 'Daring' Dan McGraw over in the Lalande 21185 system, you think to yourself. You've had some cordial dealings with him through the Association; last time you spoke him via subspace, Dan was having trouble with, as he put it, 'hicks' who decided that they would take resources from his territory, and attack him if he complained about it. At least, that was Dan's version.
According to Skinny, the real problem was that Dan didn't like his boys "takin' rides" in his systems, and that McGraw couldn't understand boys "just bein' boys" and "shootin' and drinkin' and blowin' stuff up". You mutter your agreement, meanwhile thinking that Skinny is a true imbecile.
However, when Skinny finally gets to the point, you have to stop and consider. Skinny is prepared to throw in all of his engineering skills (while Skinny is a ferret, he has done some amazing things with engines) which will make your ship accelerate faster, fly at a faster top speed, and jump "like a Vell-os with a Nuclear Torp up it's butt". You guess this means that it will jump quickly.
However, in return, Skinny wants you to make his problems with McGraw "jus' dissapeer...if ya git ma drift..."
So, do you do it or not? You do have an "agreement" with McGraw regarding each other's shipping, and he's not a bad guy.
We still have two marine platoons at our disposal.
You tell Skinny that Dan is a friend of yours, and that you'd just as soon go without the upgrades than sell out your friend.
Skinny sneers, and tells you to "Git offa his land", and you turn and head back to the ship. The gruesome foursome follow you every step of the way, and Skinny comes behind them, telling you that you had better not hang around. He and the boys are expecting the rest of their 'kin' back from raiding soon, and they would take great delight in killing you.
At least that is what you think he said.
However, you believe that the Boys will be going for a joyride soon, and will be gone at least a couple of days. If you LOOK like you are going, then maybe you can come back and force Skinny to do the repairs for free.
You land on the asteroid, surprised at how empty it is. You almost start to think that Skinny left with his "young'uns" when you hear him whistling away to himself down a long corridor. You pull out your blaster, and wander in. Skinny is elbows deep in the innards of an engine, and in no position to defend himself. At first he is ropeable at being disturbed, but before long he is working on your ship. By the time he has finished, you take him back to his workshop, hog-tie him, and go back to your ship. But just when you think you are going to get away with it scot free, you hear Reggie (or was it Ronnie - they are all so alike) excitedly calling in on the radio saying "Paw, lookie at who we found!"
You quickly turn on your sensors, and sure enough, the boys are coming back, with a fairly major Pirate raiding force following them. You prep the ship for battle, and hope that Skinny wasn't smart enough to do anything foolish!
It's a huge gaggle of Argosies. They spawn surrounding us, which just means they're already divided. They don't last long, and we waltz back in style.
We capture a Manta. It makes a great escort. Of course, we can't go too far into Polaris territory now...
Olaf roars with laughter as you tell him all about the fun you had while getting the upgrades. When you tell him about how the ship handles in combat, he gets very serious.
"I'll have to get the techs to look at what he has done. If it's half as good as you say it is, I'd say that Skinny is a genius with mechanics." You tell him that you readily agree, and you both head off for a drink, your laughter booming down the corridor.
You are quietly going over some Association data, when there is a tap on your shoulder. You turn, and Olaf slides his bulk gratefully onto a chair.
"Have you got a minute?" he asks. You nod and he waves for a drink. "I've been approached by a friend of mine from the old association. A scientist of sorts, but more interested in dabbling in a number of fields. He would have been legendary if he had specialized, but he couldn't keep up the focus on one thing long enough.
"He has been working on a couple of small devices for us, and his work has snow-balled into a couple of major innovations in the fields of robotics and interstellar travel. He's given us first chance to use his work for a practical purpose, because he has been unofficially on the payroll for so long. His creations are currently incomplete, but he is sure we will be able to put them to good use, if we help him by collecting crucial resources for him."
You ask Olaf to tell you what exactly he needs, and where you are supposed to get them. He smiles, shaking his head.
"That's one thing I always liked about you Coronne Harlock, you never were one to beat around the bush. The first resource you need to collect is a shipment of metal. It's on Lodestone in the Fire system. Can you fetch it and return here with it."
Droids and free upgrades are always a great combination.
Olaf takes out a datapad and hands it to you.
"I've heard rumors of problems with workers on Lodestone. If you get into any problems, give this data pad to Billy Booya in the Consignments office. He'll sort it out for you."
You wonder where Olaf finds the time to gather all this information but it would be unwise to question its validity. He is rarely wrong, and even though it has happened, he has never been utterly wrong.
"The shipment we need is a rare alloy, that is very malleable. It will be used in the creation of droids. I don't know exactly how it is useful, but that isn't our concern, is it? All we need to know is that we need that alloy."
You shrug, take the data pad, bid Olaf farewell, and head for the door.
Next time: Kickin' ass for the working class!