Part 56: Pirate - Part 04 - April 3rd, 1179NC: Lode RunnerApril 3rd, 1179NC: Lode Runner
Welcome to Lodestone! A subsidiary of BHP Billiton.
Prospectors always number among the first people to explore new territories, and space has not proved to be an exception to the rule. Lodestone was discovered to have rich mineral deposits in the second major expansion of the Colonial Council. Many useful metals are mined here, as well as gems and rare earths. Lodestone is officially a Federation member, but is in reality owned by BHP Billiton, who in turn lease out parts of the planet to smaller concerns.
Lodestone's Bar posted:
A more wretched hive of scum and villainy you will not find. In one corner you have a seedy band playing some exotic form of what you think is music, and the rest of the dimly lit bar is filled with dodgy and dangerous looking characters who are all giving you the once over. You decide to spend as little time here as possible.
We must be singing L'Internationale constantly by this point. L'Interstellaire?
You land on Lodestone only to find out that the planet is in the middle of a dockworkers strike. The Federation have removed the dock management, and accused them of being rebel sympathizers. This has caused the workers to 'down tools' and head for the pub.
You head for the consignment office and ask for Billy Booya. A few minutes later, a harried looking man walks over to you.
"Can I help you?" he grunts, barely keeping a civil tone. You explain to him that you are waiting for an urgent consignment, and that you are unable to receive it. "You and every other bloody spacer in this port," he snaps "What makes your case so special?"
By way of answer you hand him the data pad that Olaf gave to you. He reads it, and without thought, picks up a microphone and calls through the loud speaker, "McCauliffe, Spacey, Pitts and Williams, report to bay 96!"
Booya tells you that he didn't realize that the Shipment was for Olaf. They will load your cargo as quickly as possible. You thank him and head down to your ship.
The Cargo handlers load your ship with good cheer, explaining that Olaf had helped out fellow workers on a dozen or more systems in the past, and it was their pleasure to load his cargo for you.
Before too long, you are headed back to Viking.
You watch as the dock workers unload the alloy from your hold, and as you do, you tell Olaf about what happened on Lodestone. He smiles, telling you that it was always important to treat workers well, as all management did was use fancy words for what the workers did. He wanders off to organize the alloy delivery, and you can't help but smile at the means and ways that Olaf got what he wanted. Never with violence, but with just as good results. In fact with better results. You never have to brandish a gun if the other person likes you.
We drop a terraforming team off then come back to yet more demands. This had better be worth it.
Later in the Bar, Olaf explains that the Alloy will enable his scientist friend to build small droids. These droids will perform repairs to your ship while you are in flight, even during battle. They will repair armor and generators and such while the ship is under fire. The real trick is that once he has created the initial units, they will also replicate themselves, creating an almost unending supply of repair droids, without any sense of fear. They will simply do their job every time, without any complications. It sounds good in principle, but you must admit to yourself, you will reserve your judgement until the finished product is delivered.
You wander into the bar to meet Olaf, and he waves you to a seat.
"Coronne Harlock, things are going well on the droid project, but the boffin now wants us to collect something else for him. Only problem is, it hasn't been mined in 400 years. The last ship to transport the stuff was called 'Ryan's Last Chance.' A group of prospectors apparently found the wreck of a leviathan in the depths of space, and their leader, Ryan, had them spend years repairing it to return with its cargo to more civilized space. Their last transmission was sent from the Don'U'Cusyon system, saying that the ship had been repaired enough to attempt the return leg, and listed their stock-take on the cargo, so they could get some market prices. Unfortunately for them, they never arrived, and the ship faded from memory. Now we need you to go and find it. Are you interested?"
This is about the time that I begin to regret making ourselves unwelcome in Polaris space. We approach from the Federation side, and attract quite a bit of attention.
"Good, I'm glad you're game. It isn't going to be easy. The ship was lost deep in what we now call 'Wraith Space'. The last transmission said that they had patched their hyperdrive back into working order, but that it was running off main ship power in order to get them moving. It is presumed that the ship was half ionized by a bad set of power connections, but we really don't know.
"I need you to head out to the Don'U'Cusyon system, find the ship, and take as much forced matrix Iridium Cuprite as your hold can carry. Apparently, we only need a little bit, but I'd like to have a stockpile of the stuff, just in case. It was originally used in old hyperdrive reactors, but a much more stable substitute is now used. However, our man assures me that he can use this stuff to make a better warp bubble, and keep it more stable. It should cut your warp times substantially, but I must admit, I have my doubts. So get out there and see if you can find that ship."
The Wraiths don't bother us too much, however.
Ryan's Last Chance was an apt name. We find it floating alone in deep space.
Several weeks later, we are through the galactic wastes and return to Viking.
Hidden Dialogue posted:
You find "Ryan's Last Chance" drifting aimlessly. Your sensors find no one has moved on that ship for centuries. Your crew are dubious about making the transfer, and you must admit, the thought of setting foot on the derelict makes you shudder.
Moving through the airlock in your e-suit, your torch beams plumb the depths of the darkness. Around you are the floating bodies of the crew, vacuum desiccated. Their corpses drift, like reminders of the souls that still haunt this place. You quickly organize the cargo transfer, then try to retrieve the captains log. Only the final few words remain:
"...foolish endeavor to bring this ship home. Truly......last......chance....finally......death......signing......off"
One poor man had managed to hole himself up in a tiny pressurized area, but had finally died of starvation, or asphyxiation. Over time the cold harsh unforgiving hands of space have finally breached this final bastion, and now claim the entire wreck as its own. You shudder, imagining the few moments before the end...alone...cold...waiting for death...hoping against hope that a ship might come to your aid. You head back to the warmth and comfort of your ship, glad to be leaving the ghosts behind.
Olaf keeps quiet as you tell him about the scene at "Ryan's Last Chance".
Olaf grimaces, " I remember one time, we had a hull decompression in battle. Was serving on a cruiser at the time, and we lost half the crew in a heartbeat. Some of the crew refused to remove their e-suits, even once we reached port. They never served on a ship again."
You nod, and together you both raise a glass to the souls of the departed.
You meet Olaf in the Shipyard as he watches techs crawling over your ship. He indicates the man directing them, "Dr. Ralph Sutherland. The reason you've been flying all over the universe collecting various resources. We are installing his inventions."
The Doctor explains. "This is the "Sutherland Warp Time Compressor." It uses an energy field, created through the use of a forced matrix..."
"Doctor, you've lost me already," you interrupt, smiling. "What does it do?"
"Oh, that's simpler," he grins. "It reduces the amount of time you spend in warp space, by creating a better warp bubble"
Olaf chimes in," Tell him about the droids."
Dr. Ralph explains that his droids will repair your ship and themselves, even replacing droids lost in battle. Repairs can be done in space, saving the need of landfall.
You simply cannot tell Dr. Ralph how impressed you are with him, nor how his new tools will help you in your day to day encounters, and ask if you can do anything for him.
He tells you his wife and two children are being held captive by the Federation to ensure his continued work for their Navy.
You assure Ralph you can help. Bribes are sent, papers produced, and soon you are ready to leave to collect his wife Denise and his children, Rodger and Jenny, from Codec in the Codehaven system.
The warp bubble is nice, but frankly useless at this point, when running deliveries or hiring escorts become harder than just capturing and pirating the ships and goods you need. The repair droid is very handy in Pirate space, however, as it will allow you to limp home after being disabled - your escorts cannot repair your own ship for some strange reason. It doesn't allow constant armour repair, which is a shame. Oh well, a promise is a promise. We head to Codec.
And now we get to test our new toys! The Pirate storyline gives some of the best-balanced fights in the game. Thanks to the huge pile of escorts given, you aren't dogpiled and can actually pick targets and direct the flow of battle rather than run away from a giant horde of enemies.
You are surprised that no one is there to meet you at the spaceport. Your most trusted contacts had organized the exchange, and the Sutherlands should have been here by now. You glance at your chronoputer, and suddenly realize your mistake. The 'Dampener' has saved you so much time in warp that you are two days early for your meeting. You spend a fruitless two days hanging around the port, knowing that there is no point in pressurizing the situation, since it wouldn't get Denise, Rodger and Jenny out any faster. Finally the time comes, and right on schedule, the contact arrives with the Sutherlands. You are about to take off, when you hear the klaxons sounding.
You realize that something (or someone) has given the game away, and quickly blast off the station, breaking several laws in the process. A fleet is coming your way, but you think you can handle it...
The huge amount of shielding and armour on the Scurvy Goonette makes things more fun too. The Federation fleet doesn't last long.
We head back to Viking.
The scene at the hatch is amazing to behold, as a family is reunited. It reminds you of why you attempt the crazy things you do. Olaf heads over to you, clasping your hand, and the two of you head off for a drink, happy to leave the Sutherlands to catch up.
How did the Rebels bring a Destroyer into a major Federation world? Regardless, we still have a missing convoy to investigate. A few months overdue, we head over to Aral.
The 'Dampener' and repair droids have performed better than expected, and now that Dr. Ralph's family are free of the Federation, he is now free to join the rebellion. He and his family tell you once more how much they appreciate your assistance, and they board a rebel destroyer to take them out of harms way. You have become close in the past few weeks. You'll miss them.
Oh shit. The entire Association convoy is drifting disabled in orbit. Now what?
Pose as a team, 'cause shit just got real.
As your ship drops out of warp, you see the remnants of an Association fleet. The burnt out hulks of their vessels drift through the blackness of space. The debris field is huge, and the size of it indicates that the enemy that attacked them pounded them to dust. The desolation is so complete.
When you finally land after looking around, you see that even the supply depot was raided. Your irritation boils over and you make a snap decision to go and see the rebels and inform them of the situation. In a voice made icy by rage you give orders to your bridge crew who snap to comply with an alacrity beyond even their normal excellence. You tell Dala to set course to Rebel II in the Koria system.
Next time: Endgame!