Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Aloin's Saga - Solo Traveller #15

This picks up the Solo Traveller game I was relating back in December ...



Across the field, the A.K.I. Interstellar freighter Carsuhlan lifted off. The roar of its thrusters cracked through the sticky, summer air. Flocks of small, seed-eating avians whirled and skittered in panic amongst the warehouses and gantries that lined the rim of the loading apron. Lying in the shade of the Iridium Queen’s dorsal turret, Aloin glanced up from the book he was reading on his handcomp, automatically watching how the skipper of the freighter handled her heavily ladened ship. The Carsuhlan slowly circled the field, climbing into the green-blue Naltor sky in a long spiral. A kilometer high, it straightened up and began to accelerate hard. Going transonic, the flare of the main drive slowly faded against the light of rising Secthon as the jet stream gently pulled the vapour trail to pieces.

His eyes tracking down from the departing ship, Aloin spotted movement through the heat haze near one of the warehouses. Checking the chrono on his handcomp, he keyed the send button. “Kiirgun, I think our freight’s on the way.” He winced as he heard a metallic crash from the main cargo hatch below.

Grabbing his handcomp, Aloin eeled through the turret’s escape hatch, dogging it closed behind him. Sliding down the service ladder to the gunner’s station, he quickly checked that the hatch was sealed and armed, before sprinted down the corridor to the downladder to the cargo hold.

Sliding down the hand rails, he arrived in time to see Kiirgun scooping tools back into the toolbox trolley. “Frakkin’ thing fell over,” Kiirgun muttered, flinging wrenches and spanners into the toolbox. Holi Pradeen, the ship’s portly engineer, was sitting in a hammock chair in the breeze by the main hatch and shaking with laughter. As Aloin paused, confused, Holi waved a hand. “I told him the tool trolley wasn’t a good seat,” he wheezed, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “The brakes weren’t on. And then his ‘comp went off, and he jumped, and it all fell over.” Holi began laughing again.

As the haulers pulled up in front of the main hatch, Captain Elera Lukk stumped onto the cargo deck, leaning heavily on her stick. She made a great play of casually filling her pipe and lighting it as the driver from Odinventox was obliged to exit his air-conditioned cab and walk up the ramp to present his waybill. Glancing disdainfully at the proffered paper, Captain Lukk extracted her handcomp from her belt pouch. As the driver glared, Lukk downloaded an electronic copy of the waybill from the local Odinventox server and pinged the request for acknowledgement to the driver’s ‘comp in his hauler’s cab.

As the last hauler pulled away from the Iridium Queen, the starport floods were lighting up. Errai, the system primary, was setting, though Secthon was high and bright and Ninix was rising. Lukk glanced at Aloin. “Yes,” she said, “it was a petty thing to do, but Odinventox – the multi-system megacorp – has messed us around over this freight for nearly ten days. And I took it out on one of their drivers. But, you might have noticed, the arrogance of the masters is reflected in the minions.

“Now, we are not a rich ship, but we are owned free and clear by my family. My family is by no means House Major in status but, on Celephais, we are House Minor, and war heroes, and not without lineage or standing. And so as the Captain of a Free Trader, and as the representative of a House Minor, I think I might expect just a little respect from a truck driver, even one employed by a Megacorp such as Odinventox.”

Lukk blew a smoke ring from her pipe. It hung in the still, sultry evening air as she stared moodily out into the growing darkness. The starport floods were not yet bright enough to blot out the conflicting shadows thrown by the two moons, Secthon and Ninix. “When you and Kiirgun finish the tie-downs, report to the bridge,” she said at last. She glanced at Aloin. “You do have permission to shower first,” she added, and then smiled. “We have a launch window at 2315 and you’re plotting our transit to Jump. I would recommend grabbing something to eat, as well.”

As the Iridium Queen climbed out of Naltor’s gravity well, Captain Lukk stared glumly at her boards. “Four frakkin’ weeks being messed around by three megacorps,” she muttered. Aloin glanced up from Scan. “Kiirgun was right,” Lukk continued. “He said Naltor would be a waste of time. Megacorps fill their own, first, then shipping lines they want favours from, and then what’s left goes to the bottom feeders.”

“Where are we heading, now, Captain?” Aloin asked.

“Kamperel,” Lukk said, succinctly.

Miska glanced at her. “Really?” she whispered. “After all the neg’tive chatter we hearin’? You want t’go there?”

“No!” Lukk snapped. “I do not want to go there but, in case you haven’t noticed, we haven’t exactly been swimming in cargo lately.”

“Word is, they want a war.”

“As long as they don’t want it within the next 1400 hours, we will be in, out, and over on Miazan having a jarus steak dinner with Celephaisian Rum Cocktails.”