“Target returning fire. Lasers and missiles. Three missiles inbound.”
“Launch sand. Run Gunner Interact programme. Engage Target with Turret 1’s beams.”
“Missile 1 destroyed. Missile 3 destroyed. Missile 2 locked on.”
“Launch more sand. Turret 1, point defence against incoming missile.”
“Missile has lock.”
“Run Evade programme. Launch more sand. Turret 1, engage missile.”
“Missile has lock. Impact in ten seconds.”
“Not again! Turret 1 engage! Run Evade!”
“Missile impact. Explosive decompression aft of frame 24 ... .”
“Darn it! Same again! Every time it comes out this way! I’m so bored!” Aloin pushed the game controller away from him. As the tacsym paused, and the commons lights came up, Captain Elera Lukk glanced up from her reader. “We’ve been here two weeks and I haven’t stepped out of the ship,” Aloin complained, stalking over to the chiller and pulling out a fizz drink.
Elera Lukk frowned and turned her reader off. “We’re waiting, Mr Grathikka,” she said. “We are practising the art of patience.” She glanced at the chrono on her wrist. “I am expecting a call within the next 80 minutes which will determine whether we go out light or heavy.” She touched a couple of buttons on her hand comp. “Until then,” she continued, getting to her feet, “might I suggest you re-run your last exercise on the tacsym as I have just altered the parameters.” As the tacsym sprang into life and Aloin made a dive for the controller, Captain Lukk serenely headed for’ard towards her cabin.
“Right! We have a cargo,” Captain Lukk said, bursting into the crew commons. “Nine tons of the finest, laser-etched, Miazan blade ware. Or so that cutpurse, Itato Surviiros, tells me. Which probably means,” she added, “they were stamped in some Vargr-run sweat shop on Tonivar and Surviiros tricked them out of a dim-witted Outrim trader.”
Kiirgun Atmai pulled a face. “Nine tons, Ma’am? We’ll be running practically empty.”
Lukk nodded glumly. “I’m aware of this, Kiir,” she said. “Light up the board. We’ll take freight for Ektra, via Omega Vasali IX.”
“No passengers. More trouble than they’re worth.”
Kiir raised an eyebrow. “And we’re ignoring our angry cousins?”
Lukk grinned. “With Miazan Traffic Control climbing all over them for leaving their slot on approach? I suspect they’ll be staying quieter than fauxmice.” She chuckled. “The anonymous complaint probably didn’t help, either.”
“You dropped a blank call to M.T.C.?” Kiirgun asked. He laughed. “I think you’ve just made our angry cousins just that little bit angrier,” he said with a grin.
Twenty-seven hours later, and with 30 tons of freight for Omega Vasali IX aboard, the Iridium Queen departed Miazan High Port, dropping away to nadir into the outbound Jump Zone. One hundred and five planetary diameters out from the blue-gray orb of Miazan, the Iridium Queen’s Jump Drive began to spin up. As the ship’s transponder automatically synced departure time and destination with the Jump Zone Buoy, the Jump Drive wrapped the Iridium Queen in a bubble of energy, ripped a small hole in the fabric of the Universe and hurled the ship through it.
With a flash and a burst of neutrinos, the Iridium Queen vanished.
I do feel a bit of a tease after the big build up, but sometimes you roll “no encounter”. And in a Solo game, you then have to come up with a plausible reason as to why the expected confrontation did not occur.
With busy shipping lanes around a major starport, I would expect that Traffic Control would keep a very tight rein over what starships do or not do in the vicinity of the Highport. While space is very big, with traffic converging on a volume only several miles in diameter, the chances that someone not sticking tightly to plot ends up where they shouldn’t be and causes a major accident must be reasonably high (the wrecking of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef, off the port of Tauranga, is a rather salient reminder of what can happen when a navigator attempts to cut the corner on what should have been a simple approach).
Given the agitation evident amongst the Iridium Queen’s crew over the appearance of the Guard Amethyst, a combination of a Traffic Control investigation (into a retro-written illegal manoeuvre) and a policy of staying pretty much aboard while in dock seems a likely explanation as to why there was no encounter – this time.
Anyway, the Iridium Queen is now bound for a new area of space – Ektra and the Kamperelian Republic – where, surely, adventure and daring do must be done.