Interstellar Celly (part 2)

Jan 19th, 2018
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  1. "Celestia! Celestia where is my helmet?"
  2. >You slam shut the door of the compartment where your flight suit is normally kept
  3. "I'm not joking around, I need it or I'm going to be late!"
  4. >"Did you check your suit closet?"
  5. >Her voice trails down the hall from her stretched out position on the sofa
  6. "Of course I fucking checked it! It's the only place it ever is!"
  7. >"Try checking again then!"
  8. >You grumble and push another large box out of the way
  9. "Look of this is one of your practical jokes then please stop, I need to leave."
  10. >You hear a groan from the living room, followed by the sound of her getting up
  11. >A pink haired head pokes round the door
  12. "Well?"
  13. >"Anonymous, did you try looking with your eyes?"
  14. "What the fuck else am I supposed to look with horse?"
  15. >"Your feet apparently."
  16. >You're about to follow up on her cheek when she raises her hoof, pointing at the top of the wardrobe behind you
  17. >There sits your helmet, untouched since the last time you used it
  18. "Well... How about that."
  19. >"You're learning fast, my faithful student."
  20. >You can feel the patronising stare even though your aren't looking at her
  21. "Shoosh, now do we need to go over everything again or are you okay?"
  22. >You grab your helmet and walk out of your bedroom door, passing Celestia on your way down the hall
  23. >"I'm well versed in the houses appliances yes."
  24. "Good, now I'll be back at the usual time, heat up anything you want. Don't touch the cake cupboard until you've eaten something at least mildly nutritious."
  25. >You go through the usual list of do's and dont's that she's used to hearing as you load your firearms and zip closed pockets
  26. "I'll call you during the day to check up, but don't call me unless you absolutely have to, okay?"
  27. >"Yes Anon, I am aware of the rules."
  28. >She seems down, and her mane isn't as prismatic and excitable as it usually is >Somethings up
  29. "Hey, you alright?"
  30. >"I'm fine Anon."
  31. "That's exactly what someone who isn't fine would say."
  32. >She huffs slightly
  33. "Go on, spit it out."
  35. >"I want to come with you."
  36. >You pause for a moment
  37. "No."
  38. >One of her eyes twitches
  39. >"Why?"
  40. "Look, it's not you, it's uh... Me."
  41. >"Nice try, why can't I come? Really?"
  42. >You sigh
  43. >It had been over a month since you found her, and things had taken a turn for the worst
  44. >Galactic shipping lanes were being shut down everywhere, and the uprising of anarchist movements had made a once relaxed job into one of constant danger
  45. >Whatever they were fighting for was none of your concern
  46. >You hadn't told Celestia, she didn't need to know about all that, not yet...
  47. "Look, I wish I could take you, I really do... But my ship is small enough, and I don't have any flight seats that would support your proportions."
  48. >"Are you calling me fat?"
  49. "W-what? No! I'm just saying-"
  50. >"Anon, relax... I'm just kidding. I just wonder what's out there sometimes, it was always a dream of mine..."
  51. >You're sure it was, but at this rate you'll be late for work.
  52. >The one thing that seems to have improved about the situation is your pay
  53. >With higher risk comes higher reward, and more demanding deadlines
  54. "Look, I'll see what if I can get some time off over the next few weeks, maybe we'll get out there then, eh?"
  55. >"You promise?"
  56. "I can't promise it'll happen sun horse, but I can promise to try?"
  57. >Her budding smile sinks from her face
  58. "Look I'm really sorry, I'll see you tonight okay?"
  59. >"Alright..."
  61. >You sigh again and turn for the door, before stopping
  62. >Celestia looks up
  63. >"Anon?"
  64. "Yeah, hang on..."
  65. >You turn around, walk past Celestia, and pull the larger plasma rifle off the weapon rack on the wall, slinging it over your shoulder
  66. >You then proceed to the door, and exit the bungalow, leaving the pony to her daily activities
  67. >You trudge down the garden path towards your courier, which is now a shadow of its former self
  68. >Several new layers of armour adorn it's once gleaming white hull, and the whole thing looks a lot more aggressive and intimidating
  69. >The multicannon that used to fold out from the nose had been replaced with a stationary railgun, firing tungsten slugs with enough kinetic energy to crack five meters of hardened steel
  70. >It's wing mounts had also been given a much needed upgrade, gone were the daft laser pointers that you had previously used to tickle enemy shielding, in their place were a set of 'state of the art' torpedo tubes, each warhead completely interchangeable for maximum combat effectiveness
  71. >While a lot of your new stuff had been provided by the company, some of it had been purchased off your own back, at great expense
  72. >Unfortunately, this was still a Courier, and thus would never be a match for some of the larger and more deadly warships out there
  73. >That's just another reason you don't want Celestia coming along, not until you get an upgrade
  74. >That upgrade, with any luck, should be delivered to you later in the year
  75. >You just have to last that long
  77. >Sitting down in your pilots chair, you grip the familiar worn rubber of it's flight stick
  78. >A few buttons clicked, and the ship springs to life, the sound of its fusion reactors cycling up filling the central cabin
  79. >You pull up your route to Kremainn, which keeps you away from the more dangerous regions of local space
  80. >It took you a while to map all this out, but you have safe routes planned both to work, and to some of the larger economical valuable systems, in case you need anything specific
  81. >You also have one to take you out to LHS 3591, where Edwards robot facility is
  82. >Over the past few weeks you had been convening with him more often, mostly to discuss the wing replacement for Celestia, but also to gain more information about her previous owners and their habits
  83. >And any information on her sister... Of which there is little
  84. >The ship begins to rise from the ground, blowing hot air across your neatly cut lawn
  85. >It seemed your hope of Celestia leading you directly to Luna was inherently misplaced
  86. >The connection only works if both conduits are one with uh... You've forgotten
  87. >Some spooky space magic thing
  88. >The point being that while Celestia is capable telepathic communication with her sister, she can only reach out so far if Luna isn't picking up
  90. >Which means she's either without magic, a horn, inside a faraday cage or... Gone.
  91. >The last option on that list is not one you consider in good conscience, bit it remains an option none the less
  92. >As your courier rises from the ground, you take a peak at the window of your home
  93. >Celestia isn't in her usual spot, waving as you depart
  94. >You hope she didn't take what you said too personally, it's just that your job is hard enough without having to worry abo-
  95. >"Frame Shift Anomaly detected."
  96. >Your sensors flicker for a moment, and your info tab reads '1 new contact'
  97. >And then, just as quickly as it appeared, the contact vanishes
  98. "Odd..."
  99. >You shrug to yourself, it was probably just a larger ship dropping in somewhere above you
  100. >Without giving it further thought, you twist your flight stick up, allowing your finely tuned engines to rocket you off into the sky
  102. >"Gutamaya Echo X-ray Oscar, please watch you speed on approach, proceed to landing pad three five."
  103. >The deep rumble of a large frigate passing by as you enter Wohler terminal rattles your teeth
  104. >You curse under your breath and continue to your assigned pad, landing with little difficulty
  105. >You're five minutes late, but given the current situation you know your boss won't care
  106. >"Touchdown, welcome to the station Anonymous, good to have you back."
  107. >They know your name now, which you feel is a plus.
  108. "Thanks Sal, it's good to be back."
  109. >She chuckles over the microphone before disconnecting to assist another vessel with entering the station, leaving you alone to your thoughts
  110. >Hopefully today won't be as bad as usual
  111. >Your pre checked delivery schedule shows you have a relatively quiet route that should take you through the more civilised regions of space, but you know well enough that the job you receive in the morning is rarely the job you end up doing
  112. >You get up from your chair and give an involuntary stretch, eliciting several large cracks from your spine and legs
  113. >With the touch of a button, the landing ramp at the bottom of your ship descends, allowing you to exit
  114. >Your boss waits for you at the bottom, a worried look on his face
  115. >"Good day Anonymous."
  117. >He's using terrestrial language, and the way his feet are shuffling suggests he's about to ask you something risky
  118. "Uh... Good day to you too sir."
  119. >"Look, I'm gonna to cut to the chase."
  120. >Here it comes
  121. >"I need you to run an Intel mission, we've been hired by the Feds to scout pirate activity in one of the more 'active' anarchist regions."
  122. >Wait, what?
  123. "Hang on a second, you want me, a cargo hauler, to run a military scouting operation in the middle of Anarchist territory? Are you nuts?"
  124. >"Look, I know it's a change from your usual shtick-"
  125. "It's more than a change! It's not even remotely related to my job! I'm not a soldier sir I-"
  126. >"They're paying 200,000 credits to the pilot for this Intel!"
  127. "I don't care about-"
  128. >Wait... Did he just say 200,000 credits? That's a lot, more than 6 months of your salary
  129. >If you had that amount of money you could... Well, you could do lots of things.
  130. >It's still not worth it, you aren't risking your life for rainy day money
  131. >Then it hits you
  133. >Celestias wing, you could buy it for her with that and still have change enough to lay off work for a few months...
  134. >You could keep your promise, and maybe use the time to find her sister...
  135. >A smile spreads across your face, and an unnervingly happy one at that
  136. "You know what, I'll do it."
  137. >"Wait, really? What's with the sudden change of heart?"
  138. "Nothing in particular, I just found a use for the money."
  139. >"Something pretty for your lady friend that you keep saying doesn't exist?"
  140. "No sir I- Actually, what the hell, sure."
  141. >I mean she's kind of a lady, and she's your friend right?
  142. >"Thata boy, took you long enough. You should bring the gal round to Wohler some time, lots of good places to eat out here."
  143. "I'll consider it, she hasn't been in the ship yet."
  144. >"I'm sure she'll love it, it's a fine vessel, never failed you once I hear. Now, back to business, if you could just sign here..."
  145. >Her passes you a tablet, which you sign with the provided stylus, locking in the mission as yours
  146. >"Now as always-"
  147. >"Sir?!"
  148. >A fuel caddy with a set of cracked orange goggles runs over, waving a scanner
  149. >"What is it Jonathan? I'm in the middle of something."
  151. >"S-sorry sir, but I was just doing a routine scan of the couriers internals, and I found this in the hold. Heat signature, big one, it's like somethings alive in there..."
  152. >He takes the scanner in hand and looks at it, before frowning
  153. >"Odd, what do you make of this Anon?"
  154. >He flips the scanner over and shows you the heat signature, allowing your growing suspicion to be confirmed
  155. >There, in the hold of your ship, sits a heat outline of a crouched horse, resting on its legs behind what you assume is your lab equipment
  156. >You are beyond livid
  157. "Oh t-that... I think it's just a busted radiator, nothing bad."
  158. >The caddy raises an eyebrow
  159. >"Would you like it fixed? Something like that can cause major problems if left unchecked."
  160. "No! No, it's fine. I'll fix it myself later tonight, gotta work on my mechanic skills right?"
  161. >You make a screwing motion with your hand to emphasise your point, hoping to God they buy it
  162. >Your boss looks at you with the most 'hmm' expression you've ever seen, before shrugging
  163. >"Okay then, suits me. Anyway, good luck Anonymous, I'll wire you your payment once you return with the Intel. You don't need to bother docking on the way back, everything you need to know has already been uploaded to your ships computer system."
  164. "T-thanks, I'll speak to you later then..."
  165. >"Indeed, happy trails."
  167. >With that he marches off, leaving the caddy to linger for a moment awkwardly before going back to his business
  168. >You turn around curtly, stumble back up the ramp, raise it, and them slam your head off the medical cabinet to your right in rage
  169. >You signed the contract, the mission is yours, you can't go back on it without risking a fine, or worse, possible jail time
  170. >Why? Why did she have to do this today, why not any other god damn day?!
  171. >You strut down the corridor, your footsteps rattling the metal containers in the shelves above you
  172. >There's the cargo hatch, near the back of the ship, just in front of the fusion reactor chamber
  173. >You grip the aluminium handle, and rip it upwards, light spilling into the inhabited hold
  174. >Celestia makes no attempt to stifle her gasp
  175. "You. Out. NOW!"
  176. >Her pink head appears from behind a box
  177. >"Anon I'm really so-"
  178. "I don't fucking care, get out of the cargo hold! Before I come down there and drag you out!"
  179. >You step back to allow the now obviously terrified horse to climb the hold ladder
  180. >She soon stands before you, her eyes averted
  181. "Explain yourself."
  182. >"Anon I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"
  183. "I don't want your fucking apology! Tell me why you snuck into my fucking cargo hold after I explicitly told you not to."
  184. >"Anon..."
  186. >She puts on her sappy innocent face to try and pacify you, but you're having none of it
  187. "If the next words out of your mouth aren't an explanation then I swear to god I'll belt you into the next fucking system!"
  188. >You don't know where that came from, possibly a little harsh, but given she disobeyed a direct order of yours the threat of corporal punishment isn't out of the question, even if you don't intend to follow up
  189. >"I just wanted to know what it was like!"
  190. >Her eyes glisten slightly, as of she's about to cry
  191. >"You always vanish, go off on grand adventures and leave me all alone! You come back with new things and stories to tell, and I never get to see any of it! If it isn't dangerous, and the ship is clearly big enough, then why am I not allowed to come along!"
  192. "Because it is dangerous! It's one of the single most dangerous jobs in the galaxy, and you just jumped in on a day I'm not sure I'll fucking walk away from!"
  193. >She opens her mouth to respond, but you cut her off
  194. "I don't want to hear it, you've been a very bad pony!"
  195. >You can feel your anger waining slightly, and that last sentence wasn't uttered with the conviction you desired
  196. >Never the less, the message seems to have gotten across
  197. >"I-I'm sorry M-Master..."
  199. "Celestia... I'm not your master, but you need to learn that when I say things, there's usually a good reason for it. You're old enough to know that, aren't you?"
  200. >She's like a bajillion years old anyway, she shouldn't have to have this explained to her
  201. >Mind you, given what little you know about her past, she may have had no power to choose at all, so perhaps you allowed her a little to much freedom in the chain of command
  202. >Of course you view her as an equal, but she's inexperienced in the galaxy outside of her previous masters home, and thus lacks the judgement of someone who's spent enough time out there to know all the do's and don'ts
  203. >You've noticed she's independent enough, but that independence is seemingly tied to the assumption that she's in charge, which isn't the case, and is probably related to the occasional spouts of wise omnipresent advice she gives you when you're making dinner
  204. >"Yes ma- I mean Anonymous."
  205. >You give her a smile and pat her on the head
  206. "I'm still furious with you, and you'll hear about it later no doubt, but right now we have bigger fish to fry."
  207. >She gulps in response, but you doubt anything will come if it
  208. >A rap on the hull of your ship startles both of you, and a muffled voice quickly follows
  209. >"Anonymous?! You leaving or what?"
  210. "Aye! Sorry sir!"
  211. >"No worries, just get going!"
  213. >You turn from Celestia and jog back down the hall, towards the cockpit
  214. >She follows, stopping occasionally to look at something glowing or otherwise interesting
  215. >Celestias saving grace may be that the mission will leave you enough time to drop her back home before you head out
  216. >You pull up your assignments panel, and flick through the completed (and still not deleted) job forms, before finding the current date
  217. >The mission is listed with a skull and telescope, indicating that it's a recon job, and the target location is... Fuck
  218. >Wolf 217
  219. >A solid 300 light years away
  220. >Celestia appears behind you
  221. >"S-so this is where you fly the ship?"
  222. "Yes, now be quiet a moment."
  223. >The target pirates will be meeting in the ring system of Wolf 217 2A, a large gas giant orbiting the systems second star at an alarming proximity, meaning your weapons will cook in seconds
  224. >The report says that they're making an exchange of some sort, of what you don't know, but from the looks of things it must be valuable
  225. >It also suggests caution, but you knew that, thankfully the belt should give you some cover
  227. "Right... Well, my hope was to take you home, but I don't think that's happening, I've wasted enough time already."
  228. >She nods in understanding, the smile of exhilaration nearly appearing on her thin lips
  229. "But, here's what will be happening. From here on in, you listen to, and do, EXACTLY what I say. Got it?"
  230. >"I understand."
  231. "Can I trust you? Promise me."
  232. >"I can promise to try?"
  233. >Unfunny, but honest, just like a lot of her vocabulary
  234. "Hmm, good enough."
  235. >You flick a switch on the dash and press the start up button, allowing the cores to whirr to life
  236. >This also depolarises the canopy, giving your pony companion a good view into the station beyond
  237. >"Woah... Where are we?"
  238. "Wohler terminal, Kremainn."
  239. >"It's... It's huge! Is this the capital of your planet?"
  240. "Heh, we've left my planet far behind Celestia."
  241. >You tilt your stick up, and allow the craft to rise from the landing pad, it's magnetic locks disconnecting independently
  242. >Sal the flight control gal checks in on the comms
  243. >"You've got a clear shot Anon, normally I'd enforce speed restrictions, but knowing you..."
  244. "You know me too well, have a good day ma'am."
  245. >"Fly safe... Ish."
  246. >The radio shuts off just as you align the courier with the station 'mail-slot', the comical name given to the entry/exit port, and allow it to drift.
  247. >"Anon?"
  248. "Yeah?"
  249. >"How fast does your spaceship go?"
  250. "Fast enough to get the job done."
  251. >"And how fast does the job require you to go?"
  252. >You smirk
  253. "You'll see..."
  255. >With practiced grace, you guide the ship out of the station, passing through the protective shielding
  256. >You smile on as the look of amazement on the sunny horses face grows, and her wavy prismatic mane slowly flutters to life, the refection of the massive ringed planet clearly visible on her inflated pupils
  257. >"Wow... It's bigger than I imagined it."
  258. "It's space, it's the biggest thing there is. The universe is filled with amazing sights."
  259. >"And sounds?"
  260. "No, just sights. Maybe if you're on a planets surface there might be some amazing sounds, I dunno."
  261. >As you continue to discuss the wonders of the universe, a new contact slips in
  262. >"What is that? It's huge!"
  263. >You tear your eyes away from the control panel you were busy potting your route on
  264. "Oh, that? That's a Cutter, Imperial ship, reeeealy expensive."
  265. >"It's rather ornate, I'd say it's fit for royalty."
  266. "You wouldn't be far off, that ship is a favourite of..."
  267. >You trail off as you notice the sharp and jagged strip of torn and burnt metal that rides up along the once smooth side, as well as a spattering of bullet holes, suggesting that a group of smaller ships had been punching above their weight
  268. >Celestia hasn't noticed it, she's turned her attention back to the planet that looms overhead
  269. >"So, what happens now?"
  270. >You finish inputting the route, and set it to jump according to distance, as opposed to efficiency
  272. "Now, we activate the FSD."
  273. >"And what does that do?"
  274. >You flick a switch on your flight stick
  275. >"Frame Shift Drive, activated."
  276. >She watches as the little red bar fills up in the centre of your HUD
  277. >"Ready to engage."
  278. >The engine hums, and your heat sinks begin pool, sucking up the FSDs enormous radiation output and venting it into space
  279. >The red bar now reads 'throttle up to engage'
  280. "Well Celestia, you ready to go interstellar?"
  281. >"Whatever do you mean?"
  282. >You slam down your accelerator in response, taking the ship up to 600m/s
  283. >"Three."
  284. >"Two"
  285. >"One."
  286. "Hold on to your teeth Sun horse!"
  287. >"Engage."
  288. >She lets out a piercing shriek as the courier vanishes in a flash of light and two long trails of smoke, leaving Wohler far behind
  290. --------------------
  292. >The light of a golden class K star fills the cockpit of the courier as you exit your final jump
  293. >Celestia pokes her head out from behind your chair, her eyes squinting
  294. "Well, here we are, just a..."
  295. >You look at the destination panel on your right, which shows the in system travel time to your way point around the second star
  296. >It reads 20,675 Light Seconds
  297. "...short trek to where we're going."
  298. >"It's so... Bright."
  299. "I thought you loved the sun?"
  300. >"I loved my sun, these other stars are very presumptuous, and the blue one three systems back was just downright rude!"
  301. >You have no idea what she's talking about, but choose to shrug it off as a little of her trademark horse weirdness
  302. "Well, I guess you'll just have to find a new 'sun' eh?"
  303. >You feel the shudder of supercruise wash over your control stick as the ship accelerates to upwards of four times the speed of light
  304. >You can see the distant glint of the systems second star, a small and dim red dwarf, barely clinging to life
  305. >"So this spacecraft, how does it achieve such speed?"
  306. >You open your mouth to say 'because of the FSD', but then remember she has no idea what that is
  307. >Quite frankly neither do you, you just know it gets you from one place to another very quickly, and has a habit of failing at the worst possible time
  309. "Well, without drowning you in technobabble, it's because there is a special type of engine that allows the ship to warp the space around it, meaning it can travel at speeds that wouldn't normally be physically possible."
  310. >She doesn't look satisfied
  311. "Look I don't want to bore you, it sounds really exciting, but in all honesty it isn't."
  312. >"Anonymous, this is technology my sister and student alike used to rave on about for hours on end when your kind first arrived in our skies, it didn't bore me then, I doubt it will now."
  313. >Her student? So she was a teacher in her past life?
  314. "Well, I don't know an awful lot either Sun horse, as I've said before I'm no scientist..."
  315. >She starts to protest but you raise your hand
  316. "...but! I do know a little about its history, if that might interest you?"
  317. >"Yes, I suppose that's somewhat better than my protégées mad theories."
  318. >Well, here goes nothing, you also have to bear in mind that this is hostile territory, so you need to be on the lookout for pirates and the like
  319. >Luckily they removed your ships federation markings and tracker, so for all intents and purposes you should just look like another scummy ship in a sea of scummy ships
  320. >Anyway, back to business
  322. "Well, if I remember my history correctly, we first discovered your planet in 2354, and um..."
  323. >You lock eyes with her
  324. >"Violently conquered it?"
  325. "I was going to say claimed, but that works."
  326. >That's an awkward subject for both of you, best steer clear
  327. "At that point, we were using the original formula for faster than light travel, Warp, as we called it. It's name actually came from an old TV show."
  328. >"So, what changed?"
  329. "We discovered wormhole generating technology, which allowed two points to be connected via a punched hole in space, drastically decreasing travel times."
  330. >You take another look at your speedometer
  331. >50 times the speed of light
  332. "We called this new method of transportation a WSD, or Witch Space Drive, and immediately there was conflict."
  333. "Nobody new which one was better, and it led to a lot of issues with standardisation of fleets and such, some say it even contributed to the fracturing of the United government into two separate states, but that's neither here nor there."
  334. >She's listening to you with the upmost interest, which you find odd
  335. >You almost fell asleep in this class
  337. "After years of debate, someone finally stood up and said 'enough', claiming that there was an obvious solution to the problem and everyone was just to blind to see it."
  338. >"And that was?"
  339. "If the Warp Drive made the ship go fast by bending the space around it, and the WSD made the ship go fast by bending all of space except the space around it, then why not use both?"
  340. >Her eyes widen in realisation
  341. "And that's what they did, and a few months later it received an official name, the Frame Shift Drive, or FSD for short."
  342. >"I must say that's rather ingenious."
  343. "Yeah, it's really something. I mean now it seems like an obvious solution, but back then it really had them baffled... The guy won like a thousand Nobel prizes, and we went on to find something else to fight about."
  344. >The blood red light ahead of you isn't so dim now, and you can see the murky outline of a ringed giant, a silhouette against the deep crimson of the systems second star
  345. "Hold on Sun horse, I'm going to need a bit of quiet for this."
  346. >You punch in the expected coordinates of the pirate exchange, which prompts you to a certain part of the ring system
  347. >It's near the centre, the densest part of the rings
  348. >Enough cover to hide your ship, but too much to make a quick escape easy
  350. >"Anon?"
  351. "Yeah?"
  352. >"Why did you come here? Seems a bit of an odd place to deliver cargo..."
  353. >Damn, you forgot how observant she can be
  354. "That's because I'm not delivering cargo today."
  355. >Though you have your eyes firmly locked on the approaching ring system, you can feel her gaze narrow
  356. >"Then what, pray tell, are we doing here?"
  357. >You sigh
  358. "Look, I told you today was a bad day. I'm running a military op, the Feds want to know what a few pirates are shuffling around this sector, which is why they called me in to scout out one of their exchanges."
  359. >She doesn't sound pleased
  360. >"Anonymous, turn around."
  361. "No, this is important."
  362. >"For what reason?"
  363. "It's my job, I have to do it."
  364. >"It's not your job, you work for a cargo delivery company. Why would they ask you to do this?"
  365. >Don't mention the uprising Anon, or you'll never leave the house on her watch again
  366. "Times are tough right now, the company had to expand their list of 'services', if you will."
  367. >"And espionage is included in that package? Seems rather unorthodox for a government to ask a delivery company to spy on dissidents for them, don't they have a secret service or something?"
  368. "I'm sure they do, but they're off doing other things, and freelancers like me have to pick up the slack."
  369. >You point at the canopy of your cockpit
  371. "This ship is unmarked, untagged, and isn't associated with the Federal navy in any way, otherwise we would have been interdicted and boarded as soon as we wandered into the system."
  372. >You twist your head around to face her
  373. "So it's happening, and you shouldn't even be here, so the sooner you accept that, the sooner we can get it done and go home-"
  374. >A blue indicator flashes up on your controls, signalling you have reached a safe drop point from supercruise
  375. >"I'm just concerned..."
  376. "I know, I am too."
  377. >You disengage the FSD, and the vessel exits it's warp bubble back into regular space
  378. >The ship has dropped just above the belt, the murk of dust particles and cosmic fog rolling around beneath you
  379. >"I've been to a lot of unsettling places in my life, but this takes the cake..."
  380. "Celestia there isn't a force in the universe that could possibly hope to remove a cake from your possession."
  381. >"It was figurative."
  382. "Of course."
  383. >The sound of your sub-light thrusters fills the cabin as you guide the ship slowly downwards, riding the top of the rings
  384. "Here goes nothing..."
  386. >With a steady hand, you push your ship under the waves of dust and gas, clouding your vision
  387. >The only light comes in the form of a volcanic and evil red glow from the dying star the planet orbits
  388. >"It's getting hot in here, is that normal?"
  389. "Give the coolant a moment to kick in, these rings are creating quite the greenhouse effect."
  390. >"Greenhouse what?"
  391. "I'll tell you later."
  392. >With your visibility reduced to a few metres, you're forced to rely on your sensors to avoid the shitstorm of rocks and detritus that threaten to smash the ship into fragments
  393. >"Anon I don't like this, can we please turn back?"
  394. "Celestia no, I'm not a fan either but it's a job that needs done."
  395. >"They better be paying you well for this, otherwise I'll be having some words."
  396. >If only she knew the half of it, you find her vain attempts to assert her dominance over the situation rather endearing
  397. "It'll be over soon, we're almost there..."
  398. >Indeed you were, the expected meeting location was dead ahead, but the dust made it impossible to tell what was out there
  399. >You tap your sensor array, which flickers in an unstable manner
  400. >"What's wrong?"
  402. "The damn rings are fucking with my ships navigation system, we're completely blind."
  403. >She walks approaches you front of the cockpit, standing next to you, where you continue to stare at the twitching holo panel
  404. "I bet this is why they're meeting here, it must be impossible to track them in this mess..."
  405. >Celestia turns her eyes away from the control panel, and towards the canopy, staring out at the brown expanse of nothing
  406. >Her horn lights up with a golden shimmer
  407. >"I can feel something... Go forwards."
  408. "What?"
  409. >"I said I can feel something, if you fly the ship forward I should be able to push any asteroids out of the way."
  410. "I like your enthusiasm, but these aren't pebbles, they're 40 tonne boulders."
  411. >"I've lifted heavier Anonymous, I'm sure I can manage a couple of big rocks."
  412. >You shrug, and slowly inch the courier forwards
  413. >An asteroid appears, and you swerve to avoid it, only for its surface to flicker golden for a moment, and retreat back into the fog at high speed
  414. "Huh, impressive..."
  415. >"I have my uses... Outside of making coffee and cleaning out pots."
  416. "And the cabinets."
  417. >"Do you want the next one to hit us?"
  418. "Alright alright... Chill."
  420. >The fog slowly begins to clear, allowing you to see what's on the other side
  421. "Oh, fuck me..."
  422. >"You couldn't handle..."
  423. >She trails off, as the pair of you stare in horror at what you'd just uncovered
  424. >The belt opens up into a massive clearing, with a large asteroid at its centre
  425. >Countless docks and structures are built into its walls, many of which are servicing pirate vessels of all kinds
  426. >That's not what catches your attention though
  427. >At the largest dock, a rugged and worn looking platform, is the last thing you ever wanted to see in the possession of a pirate settlement
  428. >A Farragut battlecruiser
  429. "I guess we know what they were hiding in the rings for..."
  430. >"There's so many... Anonymous we need to leave, now."
  431. "I... No. No the job isn't done."
  432. >"You've got to be kidding me! Look at this! Look at those ships! You can't possibly be thinking of pursuing this 'exchange' further?"
  433. "I am. If the pirates were able to steal a Farragut, then they must have a plan in the making. I am here to find out what that plan is, and report back to the people that can stop it."
  434. >Your burst of patriotism surprises you, but you care more about what might become of your job if this monster of a ship happened to be let loose apon your trade routes.
  436. >As of right now it seems to be in for repair, and won't be going anywhere for a quite a while, but that doesn't mean those massive rail drivers can't turn and punch a hole through your ship from over a hundred kilometers away
  437. "So, for the last time, no. I'm not turning around."
  438. >Celestia doesn't say anything, but looks nervously at the large collection of spiked warships the surround the main entrance to the base
  439. >A heavily modified Federal gunship skulks round the side of the station, all 9 of its weapons locked firmly onto your canopy
  440. "Celestia, get back in the cargo hold."
  441. >"But it's awful in there, hot and stuffy, and one of your radiators is leaking..."
  442. >Shit, you'll need to actually fix that later
  443. "I don't care, hurry up, and no matter what you hear, don't come out and try to rescue me."
  444. >She nods, and rushes down the corridor behind you just as the ship skips through the outer shield of the station
  445. >No need to contact flight control, order doesn't exist out here
  446. >You scan the interior, which looks to be carved directly into the asteroid, with hollows for ships to land
  447. >The lack of rotation in the facilities design suggests they have installed a large artificial gravity generator, and large equals extremely expensive
  448. >These were not your average pirates
  450. >You fly the courier into a vacant spot your size, and slip on your helmet, covering your face from prying eyes
  451. >If this goes south, you want them to have nothing that could be used to identify you
  452. >The ship settles down on its pad with a clunk, and your ramp extends downwards, allowing you to exit
  453. >The air is musty, filled with the smells of spent ammunition and pollution, a far cry from the clean and crisp processed air you might find in Wohler terminal or stations like it
  454. >A deep rumble draws your attention to the stations main chamber, allowing you to see that hulking mass of a type-10 defender and its fighter escort drift past, heading into a dock on the other side of the chasm
  455. >You check your watch, and sure enough, it's the exact time the hint told you they'd be arriving
  456. >Well that's the delivery... Now who is coming to pick it up?
  457. >As if on cue, a smaller and more graceful ship enters the base
  458. >It's white and gold, adorned with the symbols of some unknown faction
  459. >Bingo
  460. >It pulls into the dock adjacent to the type-10, and disappears from view
  461. "Well shit..."
  462. >How the hell are you supposed to find out more from this distance?
  463. >The only things you have on you are a small camera and a bottle of chilled water, hardly a well equipped spy arsenal
  464. >You're then reminded of something you saw Celestia do the other day while attempting to pilfer your stash of luxury space chocolates
  465. >A combination of something she called 'a light illusion spell' (you called it invisibility) and her classic form of whack teleportation
  467. >Now if only you had that type of power at hand...
  468. >...
  469. >God fucking dammit
  470. >You turn around, only to come faceplate to face with the sunny mare herself
  471. >The smirk on her face is evident before she even opens her mouth
  472. >"You called?"
  473. "I thought I told you to stay in the ship?"
  474. >"I had a feeling I was needed."
  475. "What gave you that impression?"
  476. >"Why, magic of course, what else?"
  477. "Celestia, stop."
  478. >"I'm sorry, but being facetious is only in my nature."
  479. >You could strangle her horned head, but as of right now you need her to complete your mission
  480. >You gnash your teeth together in frustration
  481. "Fine, yes I need your help."
  482. >"On one condition."
  483. "You don't get to make conditions here!"
  484. >"Fine, but as soon as we have what you came for, we're leaving. Okay?"
  485. "You thought I planned to stick around? This place smells like piss, and so do all the people in it, so yes, I will grant you that request."
  486. >She grins
  487. >"Excellent! Hold on to your teeth Anonymous!"
  488. "Wait, wha-"
  489. >You're cut off as she picks you up in her magical aura, and the pair of you vanish in a flash of golden light.
  491. --------------------
  494. >You are 'Captain' Janis
  495. >The most well known and well feared pirate commander in the galaxy
  496. >Or at least that's what you'd have your dim witted crew believe
  497. >You know you're hardly a household name, but it makes it easier to command if your crew thinks this highly of you
  498. "Hurry up assholes! We've got a shipment to deliver, and I ain't puttin’ with crap from none ah you!"
  499. >You watch your lowly comrades push several tonnes of cargo out of the hatch of the Defender cargo craft next to you
  500. "Time's a wastin, and the more you waste, the more likely I am to jettison one of you out the-"
  501. >"Boss!"
  502. >Your lips curl into a snarl at the notion of being interrupted
  503. "What?!"
  504. >"They're here..."
  505. >You look up and spot the gleaming white hull of an ornate Dolphin-class cruise ship float into the hangar
  506. >You're hardly a respectful and upstanding citizen, but doing deals like this never left you in good conscience
  507. >It just feels wrong. Dealing like this, especially given the nature of what you're dealing in. These are rich and powerful people, people that could very easily have you put to death if they so pleased.
  508. "Right then, look sharp. I want the package ready for delivery pronto!"
  509. >"You got it boss!"
  510. >They begin to pull a large crate out the Defender, chains and runes covering its surface
  511. >The runes were a byproduct of forces you didn’t understand. All you knew was that spooky alien shit like this was what brought in the big bucks, and with the recently acquired Farragut battlecruiser in desperate need of repairs, you couldn't afford to pass up this opportunity
  512. >The cruiser touches down beside you, it's gold plated surface glowing in the white light of the docking bay
  513. >You stand next to your prize as a landing ramp descends and a slender woman walks out.
  514. >She has a cane and a pair of thick rimmed glasses on her, which you dare not comment on
  515. "Ma'am, we have your package right here."
  517. >Perhaps that level of forwardness was unneeded, but you weren't taking any chances with this nob-end
  518. >You've dealt with her before, she'll twist anything her way if she finds a spot to criticise
  519. >"And is it what I requested?"
  520. >That voice... Filled with the sadistic tones of a power hungry spoiled bitch
  521. "It's all here... Enough Equish magic to level a city."
  522. >"Equish magic, you'll have to be more specific than that..."
  523. >What?
  524. "What?"
  525. >She rolls her eyes
  526. >"I suppose it was a little ambitious to expect a lowly simpleton like yourself to understand... I asked you for unicorn magic, and what you've brought me..."
  527. >She pulls out a scanning device and hovers it over the case
  528. >"...Is Changeling magic."
  529. "What's the difference?"
  530. >The woman recoils as if struck
  531. >"What's the difference?! There's a huge difference!"
  532. >You stare at her vacantly, before sighing
  533. "Look, this was an absolute pain to get, so please can we just have our money and be over with it..."
  534. >"Your strife means little to me, you haven't brought me what I asked for."
  535. "I lost men for your mission, good men."
  536. >"Please, this is a pirate hovel. There isn't a single person crawling around in this grime pit that could even be considered remotely good."
  537. >You hold your tongue, despite really wanting to rip hers out
  538. "Then what do you plan to do now?"
  539. >"I will take this magic... Consider it your apology for a failed job, it can be put to use elsewhere. If I return here and you are still lacking my order, then I will see to it that the location of your little hideout is shown on every news network in the galaxy. Do I make myself clear?"
  540. "Crystal..."
  541. >"Excellent, have your men put this on board, and for god's sake don't get your filth on anything."
  542. >You bark at your comrades, who uneasily start to push the crate on board the cruise ship
  543. >They walk up the ramp, and you can see how she cringes with every step they take
  545. >"Boss!"
  546. "For fucks sake, what?!"
  547. >"There's a new guy in..."
  548. "And? Why should I give a fuck?"
  549. >"It's a courier sir."
  550. >A courier? Imperial ships were are rare sight out here.
  551. >Not only was this Federal space, but they rarely allowed any opportunity for one of their ships to be pilfered, a far cry from the mass produced and expendable spacecraft the Feds spent their time throwing at your men
  552. >However, this still doesn't explain his need to inform you
  553. "That's nice, why should I care, did you fry your fucking brain on that Terran herb shit again?"
  554. >"N-No sir... You just told me to keep on the lookout for couriers, weren't you after one?"
  555. "I-"
  556. >Oh shit, so you were!
  557. >You'd had a run in with a courier around a month ago, cost you nothing, but the pilot was hauling cargo you, at the time, saw as a threat
  558. >But that's not what you remember it for
  559. >No, instead you only really remember what the pilot said to the one on the end of his phone
  560. >Celestia
  561. >That name is of little value to you, but it's of extreme value to others
  562. >Celestia isn't a human name, nor is it a name any human would ever dare to adopt
  563. >It's a name that had become synonymous with the uptight woman standing before you, and her family, a symbol of their arrogance and will to dominate others both financially, and physically
  564. >You had never told her of your encounter, because you didn't want to be tasked with bringing that 'symbol' in
  565. >"What should we do 'bout it?"
  566. "Watch it, just in case... Don't' fancy a shootout with the wrong guy."
  567. >"Aye aye..."
  570. >Your men reemerge shortly after, looking sullen
  571. >They bumble down the ramp and return to your ship, the hover dolly trailing behind them
  572. >A pirate’s life only seems exotic from the outside, harsh reality is much different from the tales of riches and alcohol each of you were once fed
  573. >That yacht probably rubbed them in the wrong way
  574. "Is that all for ya'?"
  575. >"Thankfully."
  576. >She adjusts her glasses, turning momentarily before stopping
  577. "Can I help you?"
  578. >"It's... It's nothing, I just got a familiar feeling."
  579. "Well alright then."
  580. >She lingers for a few more seconds, then continues up the ramp, the gleaming white doors closing behind her
  581. "Fucking bitch."
  582. >There is a roar as the engines pick up
  583. >Ventral thrusters fire and leave light scorch marks on the pad below
  584. >"What now boss?"
  585. "Get back to work, I need to see about somethin'..."
  586. >"Alright then."
  587. >You watch the ship soar upwards, through the station, passing the ducet that houses the familiar shape of an imperial courier
  588. "Oi, briggy?"
  589. >"Yes Cap’n?"
  590. "That the ship you were on about?"
  591. >"Aye, looks like it's been through a lot."
  592. "Did ya see anyone come out?"
  593. >"Yeah there was a guy, but he vanished, prolly just here for the cheap shit."
  594. >You narrow your eyes at the far off craft
  595. "The 'guy' just vanished?"
  596. >"Well I dunno, he was there one sec, then the next he wus gone. I don't think it's him, it was just some pirate. It's like you said, don't want a shootout with the wrong guy."
  597. "Yeah..."
  598. >You rub your head and pull out a cigarette, then light it
  599. >These things weren't healthy, but they relieved stress like no other
  600. "Awright, get those packages loaded into the defender, I'm gonna take a leak."
  601. >You take one last glance at it before one of your crew shouts, grabbing your attention
  604. --------------------
  606. >You are Anonymous, master of stealth, and your current position is woefully inadequate
  607. "So you're sure they can't see us?"
  608. >Celestia, who is positioned next to you, groans
  609. >"Positive."
  610. "Are you sure you're sure."
  611. >"Anonymous, of course I'm sure, you didn't see me when I emptied those ghastly bits of confectionary down the toilet, now did you?"
  612. She told you you'd eaten them all, but you can deal with that later
  613. >You don a sour face and peer over the cargo crate you're hiding behind, bringing your camera to bear
  614. >"So. What can you see?"
  615. "I dunno, that Dolphin is in the way."
  616. >"Is that enough?"
  617. "No, we need to get closer if we want to see who's involved."
  618. >You can't see her, but you can tell she's glaring at you
  619. >"This is far too risky, what of they detect us?"
  620. "Are you saying they can detect us?"
  621. >"Not visually, but humans were always good at finding ways around our magic. I don't know whether you beat this spell, but we can't be too cautious..."
  622. "We also need footage, you know what I've been hired for. The Farragut was bad enough, but if it's protecting what's going on here- let's just say it has to be something big."
  623. >She sighs
  624. >"Alright... Just keep your distance, I'll follow close behind."
  625. >You stand up and slowly move around the boxes, faint voices becoming audible
  626. >A woman's voice, as well as a gruff sounding man
  627. >The male voice is familiar to you, but you’re not sure from where
  628. >You perch up on an oxygen plant nearby, taking out your camera once more as you begin to observe them
  630. >The plant looks odd, with a jury rigged heat shield protecting the side facing the landed craft
  631. >Safety first, as always, you suppose
  632. >The group of pirates continue to argue with their client, but your location as well as the noise of the hangar around them makes it difficult to tell exactly what's going on
  633. >A large dolly sits nearby, with a mysterious glowing box on top
  634. >Bingo
  635. >You snap a photo of the box, as well as a few of the Pirates nearby
  636. >The woman is facing away from you, making it difficult to identify her, but the box intrigues you
  637. "Psst, Sunhorse, any idea what that is?"
  638. >No reply
  639. "Oi, you there? Celestia?"
  640. >"I'm over here."
  641. >You track the voice to its location, somewhere near the front landing gear of the cruise ship
  642. "What are you doing? Get over here!"
  643. >You whisper harshly, she's getting a little to close for both you and her own liking
  644. >The sound of approaching hoof steps calms you down
  645. "Up here, on the oxygen farm, there's a ladder round the back."
  646. >She climbs up behind you and sits, observing the interaction with you
  647. "Look, do you know what that is?"
  648. >She squints
  649. >"I recognise those runes, that's..."
  650. >The tinkling sound of her horn is heard briefly
  652. >"It's- Oh my..."
  653. "What?"
  654. >"It's magic Anonymous, Changeling magic."
  655. >You remember her mentioning these 'Changelings' on a few occasions, from what you've heard they weren't on the best of terms
  656. "Those are the bug horses right?"
  657. >"Correct..."
  658. "Any idea why they'd want it?"
  659. >"Your guess is as good as mine, it's properties are unique..."
  660. >Chances are, if you know your history well enough, it's to power or control something
  661. >A lot of leaps in technological grace came from the study of magic, so called 'magitech'
  662. >The gravity projector sitting a few floors below you is an example of such tech, born from magic, as were the inertia dampeners in most small spacecraft
  663. >You can't know for sure, it's well beyond your understanding, but Celestia seems far more nervous now, so you're concerned
  664. "Didn't you say it could like, change or something, like shapeshift?"
  665. >"An oversimplification, but sort of."
  666. "And could it be used to change or shapeshift objects? Like without the horse?"
  667. >"I don't know, we were never given the opportunity to try."
  668. "Right... Mortal enemies and all."
  669. >A pair of pirates begin to push the rune covered box into the cruise ship while the dealer continues his conversation with the faceless woman
  670. "I wish we knew what they were saying..."
  671. >"I could try to listen in, my hearing is probably better suited than yours."
  672. "Don't overdo it, I'm still not sure that horn is fully integrated."
  673. >"I'll be careful, I must say this is very invigorating, it's been a long while since I've tried such espionage..."
  674. "Weren't you shitting bricks a moment ago?"
  675. >"Shush."
  677. >Her ears tilt forwards as she begins to examine the conversation
  678. >"The female is threatening the male, she seems uncomfortable."
  679. >Another crew member then approaches the dealer and says something to him
  680. >"Anonymous, I think they're talking about your ship."
  681. "They are?"
  682. >"They're saying they 'don't want a shootout with the wrong guy'."
  683. "Relax, I've never met these pirates, I highly doubt they're talking about us."
  684. >The woman had yet to face you
  685. "Damn, I need a photo of her face if the Feds want to track her down."
  686. >"I wouldn't go any closer Anonymous, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up."
  687. "Got it, here's to hoping she just turns around."
  688. >As if on cue, the discussion seems to come to an abrupt end, and the woman turns to re-enter her ship
  689. >Unfortunately, her face is still hidden behind her bangs
  690. "Come on, come on, turn for me..."
  691. >Your muttering is interrupted as Celestia wobbles slightly on her perch, and her good wing knocks off a bit of piping nearby, the resulting clang causing you to flinch
  692. >Your target takes notice, but the moment is so brief that your concern for the equine almost stops you from taking the shot
  693. >Almost
  694. "Fuck yes, I got it."
  695. >It's a little blurry, but facial recognition software is pretty good these days
  696. >They'll find her
  697. "Right... I got it. We ought to bug out."
  698. >"Finally."
  699. >You clamber down the back of the oxygen generator, making sure to store the camera somewhere secure
  700. "Reckon you can work you magic and get us back up there?"
  701. >A red warning light flashes above you, but you ignore it
  702. >"Yes, I should be able to, give me a moment."
  704. >The sound of hooves on metal is your confirmation to her safe departure from the generator
  705. >Her wing gives you a reassuring pat as she steps does next to you
  706. >"Now all I have to do is-"
  707. >A blaring siren cuts her off, and you immediately suffer from a sense of foreboding
  708. "Shit!"
  709. >Without a moment's hesitation, you dive at her, pushing her behind the plant just as the rear and ventral thrusters of the dolphin spark to life
  710. >She makes it, however you aren't so lucky
  711. >The gust of air catches your leg mid dive, and you're thrown against the stone of the back wall, the air forced from your lungs
  712. >Celestia rolls to a stop and her horn gives off a spark, signalling that something has gone wrong
  713. >You watch the cruise ship take flight, swiftly exiting the bay as you lay gasping for breath on the tarmac
  714. >"Boss! Who's that fucker?"
  715. >Shit... This situation just escalated
  716. >Thundering footsteps follow as a fairly large man tramples across the hanger to 'greet' you
  717. >A pair of strong hands grip your shoulders and pull you to your feet, allowing you to see the assailant
  718. >"What are ya doin here buddy..."
  719. >This guy... He's about as stereotypical as one can possibly be for that mantle of pirate
  720. >The teeth, or lack thereof
  721. >The scars, which look like plasma burns
  722. >And the hair, which is tied back in a red handkerchief
  723. >"Oi, you gonna answer or am I gonna have to start breaking shit."
  724. "I mean no trouble, just passing through... Honest. Got caught in the blast."
  725. >The look on his face shifts to bewilderment at your answer, and he looks over his shoulder to his superior for guidance
  726. >"What'er ya lookin at me for knuckledragger? Search him!"
  727. >The lackey returns his dim gaze to your person and begins to feel you up, clearly looking for weapons
  729. >Of course he doesn't find any, your stupid ass left them all on the courier
  730. >"He ain't got nothin boss, no goods."
  731. "Told you, now can you get your paws off me."
  732. >He goes to release you, but his hand runs over the camera tucked at your side
  733. >You cringe internally
  734. >"Oi, wus this shit?"
  735. >You attempt to twist, but his thieving fingers have the pocket open before you can react
  736. >He holds the camera aloft
  737. >"Boss! This pricks got a snapper!"
  738. "That's none of your concern."
  739. >"Like hell it isn't, what you been doin, taking snaps of our business?"
  740. >You groan, weighing up your options
  741. >1. You can get busted and then probably die
  742. >2. You can try to lie, get found out, and then probably die
  743. >Or 3. You can grow a pair, and attempt something really stupid
  744. >Yeah, there's not much of a choice here
  745. >In one swift movement, you grab the side of the Pirates head, and slam your visor right off the bridge of his nose
  746. >The impact is so great it actually cracks the visor, but the spurts of blood and shouts of agony coming from your opponent suggest it was worth it...
  747. >Until that is, he falls over, and you see the rest of his crew have drawn their guns and are about to make a soufflé out of your extremities
  748. >"Stick 'im boys!"
  749. >You raise your hands futilely, but the impact never comes
  750. >Opening your eyes, a golden shield surrounds you, a hemisphere of translucent energy
  751. >The Pirates empty their clips into the barrier before they even notice it's been raised, the sound of tungsten and plasma ricocheting filling your ears
  752. >They lower their weapons, some of them reloading
  753. >"What the hell?"
  754. >They seem confused, which provides exactly the right amount of time for you to bend down and retrieve your camera, as well as the fallen weapon of the unconscious man in front of you
  755. >"Fuck this, hit him again!"
  757. >However, before this command can be realised, you feel a force pull you from your feet
  758. >A white blur passes under you, catching on the padding between your thighs and dragging you with it
  759. >”Anonymous by the almighty-”
  760. >”What in the ‘ell was that shit!”
  761. >”Fucking shoot at it!”
  762. >Sparks flash around you as you grip Celestia’s flowing mane tighter to avoid being thrown from her back
  763. >She jumps over a crate, knocking a box of coils to the floor
  764. “Can you make us- Jesus!”
  765. >A plasma round blinks over your head and shatters a fuel cell, spilling water down the side of what looks like an air compressor
  766. “-Can you make us invisible again!”
  767. >”Not like this, I’m under too much stress!”
  768. “Well just be under less stress!”
  769. >”That isn’t how this works!”
  770. >You can hear the pirates shouting obscenities after you as your ride takes you further through the hanger complex
  771. “Well can you get us up to the ship then?!”
  772. >”Anonymous I am trying!”
  773. >She sides round the side of a crate and lowers herself to the ground
  774. >”Get off!”
  775. >You oblige, crouching next to her and raising the pistol, ready to fire back if need be
  776. >The hail of ammunition has slowed, and they seem to have misplaced you
  777. >You can hear the anguished shouts of the crew, trying to locate their prey
  778. >”Stay still Anon, this might not work if you move.”
  779. “Where did you think I was moving too?”
  780. >Boots pound by, a few stopping near you, the tell tale clink of buckles coming to a rest
  781. >”Boss! Where’d he go?”
  782. >”I don’t fucking know! Find the bastard, now!”
  783. >”Aye!”
  784. >One of the men departs, leaving the boss just out of sight
  785. >The crackle of a radio draws your attention
  786. >”Control, we got a fed spy on the run in bays four through eight, do as a favour and lock the doors will ya?”
  787. >Fuck fuck fuck
  788. “Celestia… Hurry…”
  789. >You gesture desperately at her
  790. >”Almost there, and… I’ve got it!”
  792. >Your feet leave the ground once more, and you are pulled through space and time…
  793. >Before being unceremoniously dropped on the concrete hangar floor
  794. >Your stolen weapon flies from your grip
  795. >”Anonymous hurry!”
  796. >You shake your head, eyes travelling from Celestia to the main doors, which are slowly closing shut
  797. “Shit!”
  798. >Your boots squeak on the flooring as you pull yourself up and locate your courier, which still sits where you left it
  799. >Scrambling up the ramp, you hit the door release as early as possible while simultaneously shoving open the cockpit door
  800. >You sit down and start the ships engines, disregarding your safety harness and gripping the throttle in preparation
  801. >The HUD boots up as Celestia appears behind you
  802. >”Anon the door!”
  803. “I see it damnit I see it!”
  804. >Ventral thrusters roaring, the ship takes off from it’s pad, the from landing gear scraping across the hangar floor as it pulls into the hull
  805. >”Landing gear, retracted, Shields, online.”
  806. >Come on come on
  807. >”Proximity alert, observe caution.”
  808. >You grip your teeth as you turn towards the door, which is dangerously close to shutting over
  809. >”Warning, engaging sublight boosters in current environment will-”
  810. “Emergency Override!”
  811. >The ship rockets forward, eliciting a yelp from Celestia as you barrel down the flight corridor towards the ever sealing crack
  812. >”We’re not going to fit!”
  813. “We’ll fit, I swear to god we’ll fit!”
  814. >You tilt the ship parallel to the doors just as the station defences start shooting
  815. >”Warning, incoming fire.”
  816. >”Shield integrity, 75 percent.”
  817. “Holy shiiiiiiit!”
  818. >The ship aligns perfectly with the narrow passage, and you slide through into open space, your shields flickering from the minor impact
  820. >A light turret on the outside of the door takes a few pot shots, but they mostly miss
  821. “Christ… I think we’re out.”
  822. >”Did we make it?”
  823. >You look over your shoulder at Celestia, who has her hooves over her eyes
  824. “Yeah we did, thank fu-”
  825. >”Warning, hostiles approaching.”
  826. >Oh shit
  827. “Divert power to thrusters!”
  828. >”Thrusters at maximum capacity.”
  829. >Bollocks
  830. >You peer into your rear camera to work out who’s chasing you
  831. >Three pirates, two of which are in modded Federal gunships, and the last being an Anaconda, a rather large and scary warship
  832. >Luckily they’re far too slow to catch up with you
  833. >”Fighter launch detected, four targets.”
  834. >Or maybe not
  835. “Celestia, get out of the cockpit! Go to the cargo hold!”
  836. >”But-”
  837. “Remember what you promised me! Go!”
  838. >She staggers to her hooves and runs out the door behind you, allowing you to turn your attention back the current situation
  839. >”Enemy hardpoints deployed, recommend evasive action.”
  840. >The fighters are gaining on you, and for once you won't be able to beat them in a straight line
  841. >You need to get above the rings, but without Celestia to clear your path…
  842. >It’s fine, you’ll work around it, you need to work around it
  843. >Clutching the stick, you pull back, forcing your ship straight upwards
  844. >”Outnumbered, seven to one, engagement not feasible.”
  845. “Divert power from weapons to shields!”
  846. >”Diverting power.”
  847. >Your shields pulse with energy as the fighters finally get within firing range
  848. >Rays of red light slash at your defences, sending ripples over the barrier
  849. >”Shield integrity, 50 percent.”
  850. >The wispy fog of the rings looms above you as you slam on the boost a second time
  851. >”Shield integrity, 25 percent.”
  852. “Come on!”
  854. >If you can make it to the cloud, you can probably lose them, it’s only a few kilometers more!
  855. >”Warning, energy spike detected.”
  856. “Source?!”
  857. >”Unknown.”
  858. “Location?!”
  859. >You pass into the rings, but the fighters continue their pursuit
  860. >”Scanner obstruction.”
  861. >You dodge a rock that phases out of the mist, spinning the courier over
  862. >“Shield integrity, ten percent.”
  863. “COME ON! FASTER!”
  864. >They’re firing blind, but the shear volume is still brutal on your generator
  865. >There! In the distance!
  866. >Open space!
  867. >You punch the throttle, weaving rapidly through the final wave of asteroids
  868. >A final push sees the ship hurling out of the rings, a fountain of dust rising in its wake
  869. >However the mass of the nearby rock still has your FSD locked, you’ll need to put some distance between it and your ship if you want any hope of making it out in one piece
  870. >That’s all you’re focusing on, so no wonder you miss the flash of blue light from somewhere behind you
  871. >”Spike detected!”
  872. “What the-”
  873. >It’s already too late
  874. >A foot long slug of tungsten, fired from a portside rail battery attached to a Farragut battlecruiser, tears through your right engine nacelle at over 10,000 kilometres an hour
  875. >It doesn’t even register to you, that is until the torpedoes housed there also detonate in spectacular fashion, shards of supersonic debris hitting your canopy and forming fractures across its reinforced surface
  876. >A fraction of a second passes, and your computer recognises that something has gone horribly awry
  878. >”Shields, offline!”
  879. >”Thrusters, malfunction.”
  880. >”Canopy, critical!”
  881. >”Flight assist, offline!”
  882. >”Powerplant, malfu…”
  883. >The AI promptly shuts off, along with all the lights in the cockpit and presumably the life support
  884. >Your ship careens off course, a cloud of metal and polymers showering behind it
  885. >The space outside roars past as the couriers gyroscopics fail, spinning out of control
  886. >Your lack of foresight in the hangar means that the only thing stopping you from making close acquaintances with the opposite wall is the firm grip you have on the side of your seat
  887. >You can see the fighters approaching, having made it through the rings behind you
  888. >Before long they’ll be upon you
  889. >You could recycle the reactor! Jumpstart it, but that’ll only work if-
  890. >”Pf.. Malfu- Over- Powerpla-”
  891. >Hold on…
  892. >”Crit- Fail- Ener-”
  893. >Your display flickers, momentarily displaying a hint of orange
  894. >There!
  895. >You slowly reach forward, the stress of the rotation dragging your arm away from your target, the manual override for your ships systems
  896. >If you can just press it, whatever tiny amount of power is left might just be enough to jump start the fusion core
  897. >You form your hand into a fist, inches from its destination
  898. >Something is clattering around in the back of your ship, likely tearing it apart from the inside
  899. >But this does not sway you as you firmly plant your closed hand onto the large red button
  900. >The control panel sparks and goes out, and for a moment, you fear the worst
  901. >You let out a thankful gasp as the suite reappears, only to draw breath in again at the sight of your diagnostics
  903. >No left lateral thrusters
  904. >Rear thrusters crippled
  905. >Your shields aren’t charging, and likely won’t
  906. >And as if to make things worse, your plant is operating at fifteen percent efficiency
  907. >”W-W-elcome P-Pilot- H-Hostiles detected-ed-ed.”
  908. >The fighters are still closing, though the momentum of the blast has carried you well outside the locked zone
  909. >Not that it matters, at this point it’ll take a miracle
  910. >“E-Enemy hardpoints de-de-deployed.”
  911. >You try and reorientation the craft, but without thrusters…
  912. >The small flicker of hope you had for the ships revival, fades, and you sit back in the chair
  913. >Honestly, you thought you’d go out better than this, but alas, not many do
  914. >...
  915. >Wait…
  916. >The reading on your… That can’t possibly be right?
  917. >”Frameshift anomaly detected!”
  918. >”P-Powerplant operating beyond safety limits.”
  919. >”Shields charging, FSD online, surge-”
  920. >Your display increases in brightness, and sparks of yellow energy ripple across the outer hull as something dumps millions of joules of energy into your failing power plant
  921. “What in the ever loving fuck?!”
  922. >”Warning, Frame Shift Drive overcharged.”
  923. >You watch in awe as the shield metre refills faster than it ever has before, that is until the combined fire of four fighters rains hell down upon you
  924. >You don’t even check to see what’s happening as you plot a route back to Kremainn, flashes of light dancing around you as the ship is barraged from all sides
  925. >The shielding miraculously holds
  927. >There is a blip of conformation as the last set of directions are entered
  928. “Anywhere but here Anon… Anywhere but here!”
  929. >You press the button on your electrified dash to initiate the startup process
  930. >”Frame Shift Drive, charging.”
  931. >Looking down at your journey stats, you can clearly see that something is very wrong
  932. >One jump
  933. >Hundreds of lightyears
  934. >You opt not to question it as you frantically jiggle in your seat, willing the FSD to charge faster
  935. >”Warning, align with target destination.”
  936. >The reticle that indicates the direction you’re heading passes through your line of sight as the ship spins, and with just a little timing you should be able to-
  937. >”T-Torpedo launch detected.”
  938. “Deploy countermeasures!”
  939. >”ECM, malfunction.”
  940. >”Point defence, offline.”
  941. >The reticle approaches fast
  942. >You slam down on the accelerator, giving everything the ships got to get her in a straight line
  943. “Come on you haven’t failed me yet! Don’t start now!”
  944. >The rear engines spring to life and you gain that all important moment of alignment
  945. >”Frame Shift Drive, engaged.”
  946. >The space in front of you warps, and you burst into subspace with enough force that the resultant wake throws your pursuers off their course, and they grind to a halt, furious and confused…
  948. --------------------
  950. >“Jesus Anon… Jesus.”
  951. >Your boss pats you on the back as you stare blankly at the wreckage suspended before you by a crane
  952. >Her gleaming white panels, cracked and broken, leaking fluids and fuel on the pad in front of you
  953. >”You’re one lucky guy… How you made it out of there, it shouldn’t have been.”
  954. >He removes his hand from your shoulder
  955. >”Were I a tad more faithful, I would call this an act of god, and given the circumstances I’m almost tempted.”
  956. “How bad is it… Honestly.”
  957. >”Well, I’ve had a talk with my engineers, and I’m afraid to tell you she’ll never fly again. I didn’t understand it all, but every part of that ship is fried, and without that helmet of yours you’d have been dead before we even got close to finding your transponder.”
  958. >You’re sitting on a crate in Wohler hanger terminal, a blanket draped over your shoulders and a mug of something warm in your hands.
  959. >You don’t know what it is, you haven’t as much as touched it yet
  960. >”Lucky lucky fucker… We’ll salvage what we can, but I doubt it’ll be much.”
  961. >Way with words this guy, but you appreciate the brutal honesty
  962. >A soft feathered appendage brushes your back, the invisible horse nearby comforting you with the reminder of her presence
  963. >You’re still shaking, the cracked visor in your hands covered with the crusted blood of your foe
  964. >”Though, there is a diamond in the rough here.”
  965. >He holds up the camera, as well as the flight recorder from your totalled courier
  966. >”You did it, and for that you’ll get your reward.”
  967. >Only the smallest part of you actually cares about the money, you’re just so glad to be alive…
  968. >The ship made the jump, but at the cost of all of your remaining systems
  969. >You were then forced to vacate the cockpit as your FSD failed, and the canopy shattered under the stress
  971. >A weightless stumble down to the engine room revealed it was all but completely torn asunder, and in the piles of coils and ripped metal lay the tired and weary creature responsible for saving your life
  972. >Celestia, in a burst of what was either extreme initiative or blind desperation, had dumped a significant portion of her magical potency into keeping the heart of the ship beating just long enough to get away
  973. >By the time you’d pulled her out of the maelstrom of flying debris, your emergency beacon had been answered, and the ship was rescued
  974. >You owe her more than you can possibly hope put into words
  975. >As your boss finishes making final payment adjustments, he transfers the currency you so painstakingly earned into your account, bringing the mission to a close
  976. >”You probably want to get home eh? Wouldn’t want to keep the missuswaiting, she’ll be worried sick.”
  977. >You don’t even protest as you dimly thank him
  978. >”Here’s the keycard for your replacement, it’s the best I could get for you on such short notice I’m afraid.”
  979. >He passes it to you gently, and you run your thumb over the chrome symbol of the manufacturer Falcon DeLacy
  980. >”Again, I’m sorry. Take the month off, by that time we should have a real replacement for you.”
  981. >You nod, and he gives your hand a light shake before wandering off to tend to other business
  982. >Turning your attention back to the keys, a small yellow tag notifying you that it is for the next pad over
  983. >Your body rises, as does the hidden Alicorn next to you
  984. >Her wing continues to pat you softly as you walk towards the parallel landing pad, laying eyes on your replacement ship
  985. >It’s a Falcon DeLacy sidewinder, one of the smallest and cheapest ships on the market, about as bog standard as you can get
  986. >A sigh escapes your tired lips as your feet clunk up the plain silver ramp and enter the cramped cockpit
  988. >Celestia appears behind you as you sit down, her muzzle still bloody from where she impacted the hard wall of your reactor room
  989. >You place your elbow on the side of the pilots seat and rest your face in your hand
  990. >”Anon…”
  991. ”Y-Yes Celestia?”
  992. >”Can we go home now?”
  993. >A tiny smile appears on your face, one of cooped up feelings
  994. “S-Sure Sun-horse.. Sure we can.”
  995. >The journey back to the bungalow is uneventful and solemn, neither of you uttering a word until the door is closed and you are well within the privacy of your own home
  996. >At that point, all bets are off, and you turn to her and wrap her in an embrace, which she returns instantly
  997. “I-I-I..”
  998. >”Shhh… Shhh, it’s alright, we’re alright.”
  999. >You let out a sad chuckle at the irony of it all, comforted by the very same being who once needed you dearly
  1000. “H-How in the hell did you know how to do it? How did you know that would work?”
  1001. >”I didn’t Anon, I didn’t… I just had faith it was the right choice.”
  1002. >You bury your face in her chest hair, which she allows
  1003. >”They need you, perhaps more than they know…”
  1004. >She wraps her good wing around your back
  1005. >”Would a cup of cocoa make you feel better? You hardly touched that last one…”
  1006. >So that’s what it was...
  1007. “It wasn’t as good as yours.”
  1008. >She smiles
  1009. >”All I needed to hear Anon.”
  1010. >”All I needed to hear.”
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