Legends of the Verse: The Aimless Expedition

When I first started writing this book, it was during a long content drought and I was itching, more than usual, to stroll the halls of my beloved Carrack. And so, in my desperation, I turned inward. I thought to myself; What would manning one of those fine beasts actually be like some day?

That question has lead to the novel that I present to you today. This is my very first project of this size, and it has reaffirmed for me that writing is something that I want to do with my life. In fact, if you like this, please be sure to keep an eye out for my first original to go up on Amazon’s eBook section (…eventually…but soonish.) Until then, enjoy the fruits of my overactive imagination and how they have mixed with my love for Star Citizen!

 

-Leland Brown

The Aimless Expedition  (PDF)

Available in multiple eBook formats HERE

(Big thanks to \u\Alysianah for putting all these different formats together for us!)

 

Han Burgundy Crashes the IAE

The Intergalactic Aerospace Expo was in town last month, so you know what that means; It was time for good ole Han Burgundy, your favorite T3 embedded reporter, to lift a press pass off a gentleman from the INN while he was on the shitter. This, of course, was so I could slip into the grand temple of ship-envy that is the IAE to bring you the hottest scoop on what’s really going down behind the scenes of your favorite manufacturers.

My first stop of the week was at the MISC hangar to check out all the wonderful new workhorses they had to offer. In addition to the 2947 models of their market staples like the Hull series and the ever-trusty Starfarer, MISC also unveiled their new small-op mining ship that was aptly dubbed The prospector. With this two-seater craft it has finally become more manageable than ever before to hammer away at space-rocks for beer money. My only issue with the Prospector at the moment is that there’s nowhere to put my glass of scotch while I’m drilling. (Which is a criticism that I’ve also harbored against EZ-Hab beds for ages.)

I tried expressing my concern of this gross oversight to one of the on-site MISC representatives, but apparently he was “Just there to hand out bracelets” and I was “making a scene”. On a related note: Why set up a demonstration booth for a mining laser if you’re just going to get upset the second someone starts drawing some beautifully depicted genitalia with it? Those barbarians over at MISC know how to make a damn good and reliable ship, but they are rubbish at appreciating fine art if you ask me.

Next, I made my way to the RSI hangar to try and sneak a quick luxurious crap in one of the Constellation Phoenixes that they had on display. I was determined to dump like the big-shots do, and let me tell you, friends; I’ve now seen the top of the mountain and have sat upon the throne of Valhalla. One cannot overstate the pure bliss of having your dangly bits lovingly caressed by the mighty Phoenix. The experience was so satisfying that it didn’t even wreck my mood when I discovered that the ship was only a display model without functional plumbing. The horrible sin that I left in that bathroom will tarnish my soul for all eternity.

After keeping my head low and slipping out of that wing of the Expo, trailed by the stench of shame and yesterday’s Big Benny’s, I decided to swing by the Drake exhibit to hang out with my fellow degenerates. What I found when I arrived was one hell of a party raging in the Caterpillar that they had set up on the show floor. I hit it off with one of their reps once I revealed my TEST origins and was promptly invited up the cargo lift to join in on the exclusive festivities above. Details beyond that point tend to get a little hazy, but I’m fairly sure that I scored myself an awesome deal on a dragonfly and I’m positive that I introduced a few of Drake’s lovely models to some new and exciting venereal diseases.

The next morning I found myself waking up in the botanical gardens of a private residence located three systems away from where the expo was being held. Needless to say, Drake throws quite the humdinger of a hootenanny. I decided not to return to the show for its closing day because I was certain that I’d be wanted for half a dozen felonies by that point, so I chose to do the sensible thing and grabbed a drink instead. Be sure to join me next year when I try raiding the liquor cabinet of that fancy 890 that Origin seems to be so proud of. Until then; You stay classy, Universe!

 

-Han Burgundy

 

 

Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content (including places, characters, concepts, and ships that were produced and created by RSI) relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.

Smoke & Mirrors

(This is an excerpt from a larger work that is in production. Enjoy!)

 

“Captain, I have detected a gravity spike. We’re being drawn off course!” alerted the sensor officer. The captain of the vessel spun his chair to face the young woman and commanded; “Link the fleet’s Inaki drives. We’re being interdicted. If they snag one of us, they’ll have to deal with us all.” The confidant captain rotated his chair back around and sprang to his feet. Clasping his hands behind his back, he walked to the front viewscreen of the bridge to look out his wide sweeping window. He stood, calm and expectant, as he gazed into the colorful nonsense of zero-space surrounding them. The chaos out the window began to boil as a singular point of darkness materialized ahead of them. The inky dot swelled to a sphere that continued to grow until its leading edge consumed the craft. The seasoned captain just remained standing, solid as stone, while the familiar scene played out in front of him.

When the Captain’s craft emerged from zero-space with a shudder, it was immediately surrounded by fifteen of its identical brethren. The group of lumbering behemoths had materialized amid a tight asteroid cluster, inside an empty void created by the floating stone. The ships were heavily armored cargo transports, undoubtedly purchased from a Federal Navy military surplus auction. Known for their ruggedly reinforced hulls, the Juexol: Atlas I3 was the premier combat cargo runner for front line duty. The battle-tested ships were tough as nails, but they could also deal a wallop themselves with their numerous manned defense turrets.

At over four-hundred meters long each, the transport fleet created an impressive shadow against the star-field. The captain of the flotilla squinted out the window waiting for something, anything, to happen. His employer warned him of pirates that were operating in the area, but details about the bandits were limited. As he scanned his field of view, he detected a glint moving through the darkness out of the corner of his eye. “Three inbound ships, sir. Fighter class.” the sensor officer called out. “Only three fighters?” scoffed the captain, “This’ll be good.”

“Attention transport fleet,” demanded a gruff voice over the open radio channel, “Surrender immediately and drop your cargo. If you comply, you will not be harmed.” The captain let out a huff of laughter, then returned; “Attention unknown vessels. You are in no position to demand anything from me. Jump now or be destroyed.” An odd static cut over the speakers, followed by a new artificial female voice; “Aww come on baby! Don’t be so defensive.” Her words were followed by a wail of alarms calling out across the bridge. “Captain, our shields are down and they are not responding to our commands to restart!” shouted an engineer as he was urgently swiping at his console. “Fleet has reported the same thing across the board!” cried out another voice, fringes of panic rising in her tone.

The veteran captain remained steely and activated the fleet’s intercom as well as his radio, then scoffed; “Neat little trick, but the armoring on these ships will be more than enough to outlast your three little toys. Next time you try to engage a fleet, bring one of your own.” To the confident leader’s surprise, laughter returned over the radio’s speaker. The amused chortle echoed through the halls of the flagship as the intercom carried the eerie sound to the furthest reaches of the fleet. “It’s funny that you would mention that.” returned the gruff male voice again, “Seeing as you brought some friends, I took it upon myself to invite a few of my own.” Once again, as if on queue, the sensor officer called out; “Captain! You need to look at this!”

The old man sighed and strode over to his sensor officer’s station; “What is it?” he demanded. The young woman stammered for a second and merely pointed at her display screen. Red dots had flared to life everywhere, swimming intricate orbits around them in the asteroid field. The sensor officer enlarged a readout and explained; “I’m reading 63 craft including several fighter variants and at least five missile tugs. I’m afraid he did bring a fleet, sir.”

“All crews to battle stations!” cried out the captain over the ship’s intercom, “We have about twenty minutes before we can spool up for another jump. Bring the fleet in tight! I want overlapping fields of defensive fire. Once our cover formation is in place, slave the fleet’s controls to me and lower your bridge’s blast shielding. It’s ramming season, ladies and gentlemen.”

In response to the daring plan, fourteen confirmation blips lit up on the captain’s command readout. Out the bridge’s front window, the massive bulk of one of the command vessel’s sister ships drifted over to fill the view. It lumbered closer and closer until the captain was able to make out individual crew members in the other craft’s bridge as they ran about their duties. The fifteen ships grouped into three neat rows then magnetically clamped onto one-another in a neat grid. The maneuver took just over three minutes, forming a nearly impenetrable phalanx of defensive fire coverage. All while those sixty dots on the tactical display continued to orbit the formation, prowling unseen in the dark. It was an uneasy feeling for the captain as he watched the dots swirl on his screen. He could almost feel them, crawling like ants over his skin.

The captain cleared his throat and injected some confidence into his voice that he certainly wasn’t feeling: “Gunners; don’t waste your time shooting at anything outside of three kilometers. Your priority is to target incoming munitions first. They have some missile boats out there, so keep your head on a swivel and watch for those vapor trails. We run in a straight line until we can spool up the jump-drives. Let’s see if we can’t out-run em’. All ahead, max burn!” With that, in unison, the trio of large thruster housings at the rear of each Atlas began to spew a brilliant purple. As the formation started to accelerate, the blast-shielding over each bridge began to glow as it was heated by the thruster-wash created by the craft in front it.

The flotilla enjoyed a full ten seconds of steady acceleration before their drives went dark and alarms started wailing across the bridge again. “It’s rude to walk away from a conversation, ya know.” chided the gruff voice on the open radio channel again. “Where’s my systems officer?!” demanded the frustrated captain, “I need you to find out how the hell they’re doing that. And Hurry!” The seasoned fleet commander’s mask of confidence was slipping as he continued to issue orders; “Gunners, do what you can to keep them off of us while we get these engines going again.” Once again, the unknown gruff voice returned over the radio; “Guns won’t work either, chief. I’m approaching you now, so go ahead and test em on me if you’d like.” The captain huffed with frustration as he shut down the open radio channel. He turned on the fleet intercom and commanded; “Fire on anything that comes into range and prepare to repel boarders. I don’t know how the hell he is doing what he’s doing, but if he wants what we got; He’s gonna pay for it.”

The captain watched in his screen, a remote camera feed showing the gunsights of his dorsal turret. The view showed a sleek fighter craft slipping across the blast-shielded bow. Painted a dark purple to disappear against the inky backdrop of space, the fighter was hard to visually track. It turned in a swinging arc and stopped to float in front of the bridge’s armored window. “Fire!” urged the captain. He waited a few seconds, then impatiently opened a channel to the turret’s gunner; “What the hell are you waiting for? Shoot!” A frustrated voice quickly returned; “I tried, it won’t work! We’ve all been trying and nobody can fire!” A lump formed in the old captain’s throat as he slumped in his chair. His gray hair somehow serving to show his age now, instead of the distinguished poise it normally afforded him. With the resigned sorrow of any Captain going down with his ship, the old man keyed his fleet’s intercom and said; “Don’t bother with the escape pods. It will just make you easier to collect and sell to the imperial slavers. Surrender if you wish, it will not be seen as a betrayal. I, on the other hand, intend to go down with my ship. It has been a pleasure serving with yo-” The captain’s uncharacteristically heartfelt speech was cut off by the pirate’s pleading voice; “Woah woah! Hang on! We aren’t going to open fire, so cool your jets everybody. We just want to talk, that’s it. Now can you please open your blast shielding and have a private conversation with me, captain?”

The gray haired man in the command chair stood then reluctantly gestured to have his bridge’s blast-shielding retracted. He stepped to the window and clasped his hands behind his back with dignity as the metal plates over his window began to slide away. The old fleet commander found himself nose to nose with an equally old Eagle fighter-interceptor, just like the ones he flew during the territorial war in the Vulpecula sector over 40 years ago. The mass produced nature of the craft made them notoriously difficult to keep in the black for more than a few years before repairing them became cost-ineffective. The Captain noticed with surprise that the gently humming machine, poised in the void outside his window, had been meticulously maintained and obviously lovingly cared for.

The sight made the old fighter pilot in him subconsciously grow a soft spot for the man that he could now see gesturing to him through the fighter craft’s thin cockpit canopy. The captain recognized the other man’s command and held up his arm in response. The action was to present his forearm mounted tablet’s tight-beam comm array to the man out the window. Both men would then exchange an infrared laser connection from tablet to tablet to establish a completely private voice and data network. “Can you hear me?” came the now-familiar gruff voice in his earpiece. The captain nodded and dutifully replied; “What are your terms?” He could see the man in the cockpit across from him shake his head as the pirate replied; “I’m not a terms kind of guy. I’m more of the discussion type.” The captain furrowed his brow and retorted; “That’s an odd thing for a pirate to say.”

“Who say’s I’m a pirate?” asked the unknown voice in a reasonable tone. “You instructed me to drop my cargo and implied the use of force if I didn’t comply.” huffed the Captain, “That is literally the definition of pirating.” There was a short silence, then the gruff man concedingly returned; “Ok Fine, you got me there…But let me ask you this; How much do you know about your employer?” The captain shrugged and said; “He’s the one that signs the checks.” “Is that all that matters?” asked the pirate pointedly, “What if I told you that you were working for a monster?” “I’d probably tell you that I’ve heard that one already.” retorted the Captain flatly. “Why don’t you browse through some of the files I’m sending over.” suggested the pirate, “Take a look at some of your boss’s other business ventures.”

The captain felt a vibration to signify the arrival of an incoming file transfer, so he tapped a command to pull it open. Inside were countless photos and video files, all of them featuring horrific scenes of brutality and violence. Public executions, corpses discarded in the streets, pictures of gaunt and starving people violently at one-another’s throats over a few packets of rations. Flipping through the depressing content soured the Captain’s already dreary mood. He closed the files with irritation as he heard the pirate ask; “Well what do you have to say about that?” The captain clenched his jaw in annoyance and replied; “I’d say you spent way too much time surfing the net looking for fucked up pictures.”

“I knew you would say that.” sighed the pirate, “Why don’t you take a look at the four pictures that I’m sending you now.” Against his better judgment, the captain opened the folder containing the mentioned images. They were more scenes of violence, but this time they all featured the same man wearing an out-of-place flowered shirt committing each atrocity. The jovial nature of the man’s shirt made for an uncomfortable juxtaposition next to the depicted scenes of violence. The last in the set of images sent a cold chill down the veteran commander’s spine. It featured the man standing behind a woman who was forced to kneel. He had his pistol trained at the back of her head, preparing to execute the young woman. The captain closed the file and left his anger unchecked as he keyed his comm to respond; “You’d better get to your goddamn point in a hurry.” The pilot inside the craft out the window made a show of putting his hands up in a placating gesture as he replied; “That last photo was taken about two hours prior to this one…”

The Captain felt another vibration on his wrist and reluctantly opened the newly arrived attachment. The photo featured the same executioner wearing the exact outfit as in the previous pictures. He was standing on a dock shaking hands with a man. When the captain zoomed the image, his blood ran cold as he recognized himself as the gentleman politely greeting the murderer. “We followed that piece of shit for just over eight hours.” explained the pirate, “By the time he was signing that load over to you in the afternoon, he had already murdered six people. These are the monsters that you’re dealing with here. And we are the ones trying to stop them.”

The captain just stood there stunned for a moment, incapacitated by a sudden rush of guilt. When he regained his composure, he mournfully said; “The pay was unusually good, which to a mercenary means don’t ask questions. But had I known something like this was going on out here….” The fleet commander’s gaze fell to the floor in self-inflicted shame. “It’s not your fault.” urged the pirate, “You have been contracted by a man named Vendrick. The gentleman you met on the dock was one of his lieutenants.” The captain raised an eyebrow; “Was?” he asked pointedly. “Ya know…” replied the pirate with mock nonchalance, “It was the weirdest thing. He committed suicide in an elevator on the night all those photos were taken. Shot himself a dozen times. Heh. Poor bastard. Nobody deserves to die in a shirt that ugly.”

Knowing that the devil he struck a deal with had met his demise gave the old mercenary small sense of closure to his inner turmoil on the subject. Still with a skeptical mind, the captain pressed on; “So who is this Vendrick guy you keep talking about? I have never heard that name. I was initially hired by a man named Ludro on Heldrin city.” The return of the pirates voice was accompanied by a new incoming file; “Vendrick is a self-installed dictator that has seized absolute control over all the stations in the sector.” explained the gruff voice, “Dustin Ludro is one of Vendrick’s face men that deal with passing merchants and traders. He uses his fake merchants to preserve the appearance of a normal marketplace so he can avoid any undesired scrutiny. Vendrick’s organization prolongs his reign with the liberal use of brutality and terrorism. The criminals and scum under his command do a good job at keeping the residents of the stations separated from the cargo pilots and folks just passing through. He has been in complete control of the populous of the Orion sector for over a decade, and has worked very hard to keep that fact a secret. He starves the citizens and forces them to live on unnecessarily meager rations to further his own unknown agenda. He’s the badguy here, not us. What we are out here doing is intercepting his supplies and ensuring that they are delivered to the people who need them. Now; I can just send a command here on my tablet to have your entire fleet jettison their cargo holds on my whim, and I believe I have thoroughly demonstrated my ability to do so, but I would really prefer it if you were the one to press the button. I was listening as you managed your fleet today, sir. Your resolve under the stress of extremely unusual circumstances has proven you to be a good leader. And it’s my firm belief that good leaders are, more often than not, good men as well. Please let me get your supplies to the right people. Help me save some lives today, Captain.”

“It’s Ingram.” said the fleet commander in a new tone, “My name is Ingram.” “Pleasure to meet you, Captain Ingram.” greeted the pirate, “My name is Sergeant Michael Tano and I, like many of my colleagues, used to be a police officer that served and protected the people of this sector. And I like to think that I still do.” Captain Ingram nodded and replied; “It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Sergeant Tano. I believe that you’re telling the truth and will comply with your request. I will instruct the fleet to jettison all cargo.” Ingram lowered his tablet-laden arm and spun to face his crew. He cleared his throat then ordered; “Direct all vessels in the fleet to jettison their holds.”

This caused a stir among the crew and an alarmed bridge officer blurted; “Do we have any guarantees of safety?! How do we know they won’t still kill us when they get our cargo free of the blast zone?” “Enough!” snapped Captain Ingram, “I issued an order, now carry it out. I can assure everyone that we will be alright. Turns out we were playing for the wrong team on this one. Once our cargo is dumped, our systems will be returned to us so we can jump out. Once we are clear of the operational zone, I will brief you all about what happened today. But for now, I need you to focus and get that cargo unstrapped ASAP. Let’s move everybody!”

“Mr. Tano,” said Ingram over their private channel, “I never thought I would ever thank someone for pirating me, but in this case I will make an exception. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know. I’m sure you’ve been through enough of my systems to know my encryption channel by now, so drop me a line if you ever want to hire some firepower.” “I will keep that in mind.” responded Tano, “and as far as helping; You can spread the word to your fellow contractors about whats happening out here. Taking a job from Vendrick just isn’t worth it. Not if you have a soul, anyways. People outside the sector need to know what we are fighting against here. If enough folks are informed, maybe some will decide to come and help us do something about it.”

“I will gladly spread the word for you, Sergeant.” promised Captain Ingram, his unbreakable word a professional courtesy from one soldier to another. “I appreciate that, Captain.” returned Tano, “I see that your cargo has been offloaded and you’re all zipped back up. I have set a short jump for your fleet out into interstellar space. Once you pop into zero-space, our command signal will drop and full control will be returned to your fleet. Thank you for your donation.” The captain nodded agreeably as systems all around his ship began to warm up. “You have to tell me Sergeant or it’s going to drive me nuts,” urged Captain Ingram, “How did you do this to my fleet? I need to know so I can prepare a defense for when someone less civilized tries the same thing some day.” Tano laughed and said; “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I don’t know too many other pirate gangs out there with an AI on their side. But if you must know, you might want to encrypt your fleet’s entertainment media server. And might I add that lieutenant Dallas has excellent taste in music.”

“Thanks for the tip.” laughed the Captain. The bridge came to life with a low hum that normally preceded the massive discharge of Inaki energy that would propel them into zero-space. Ingram activated his comm one last time and said; “Your fleet showed impressive restraint in not firing on our defenseless ships. Thank you for sending my people home to see their families.” Tano laughed and retorted; “Oh yeah, no problem. I’m as dependable as can be. Wasn’t sure about the other two guys though.” Ingram cocked his head and asked; “Other two?”

“Smoke and mirrors, captain. Smoke and mirrors. Have a safe trip home.” With that, the fleet distorted then appeared to stretch into a singularity as the ships slipped into zero-space.

 

-Leland Brown

My ascension to Captain of the Starfarer Nogas

Every captain has a story about the day they officially took the helm of their ship. Many look back onto that day as a fond memory of accomplishment. But for me, its just a reminder of why I drink so damn much. I joined the crew of the Nogas shorty after I almost got myself killed working for some shady-ass shipping company out of the Breman system. I had my suspicions about them when they kept insisting that I didn’t need to check the cargo hold after a rough re-entry. Turns out they were running illegal stims through to Vega. Thankfully I was able to go AWOL before the Advocacy dropped the proverbial hammer on em’. I ran into the captain of the Nogas in a bar on Aremis after ditching the smugglers and we hit it off. He needed a new systems engineer on his starfarer and I needed a job, so naturally we came to an agreement.

Captain Dardeau was a quietly pragmatic man. He didn’t care about where you came from or what you did on your free time, just as long as you did your job when the time came for work to be done. His right-hand, Li, was a honey badger of a human being. First thing the crazy bastard said to me during introductions was that he would cut me if I ever took any of his yogurt from the fridge. I got along fine with the rest of the crew, but they were already a tightknit group that had worked together for years by the time I showed up. The only person that went out of their way to make me feel welcome was the sensor operator, Sarah. Those first three weeks, she spent the majority of her free time showing me how to work all the systems on the Nogas.

I had never been aboard a starfarer before in my life, so I was surprised and a bit alarmed to learn just how many explosive pipes and pumps were scattered about the damn thing. I began to question my newly chosen profession, but the way I saw it; I’ve faced off with the duul and lived to tell about it, so what’s the worst that could happen? After just over a month serving on the Nogas, I unfortunately became very familiar with the worst case scenario.

It all started in the middle of the night, when bad shit always seems to go down. Mid-sleep, I was thrown from my bunk and slammed into the wall. I felt the deck lurch beneath my feet when I tried to stand, and had to grab onto my locker to avoid falling over again. I was intimately familiar with that feeling. We were under attack. I ran to the window of the crew’s quarters and saw the blue shimmer of our shields outside reacting to a hit. Dante saw me standing there as he strapped into the dorsal turret and yelled at me to go down to the bridge and see the captain. I didn’t get a chance to respond before his seat rose through the ceiling into the turret’s hatch. Shortly after it sealed closed, I heard the twin reports of the defense turret’s weapons open fire.

Our return fire was short lived, however. Soon after the turret began its rebuttal to the incoming assault, the deck beneath me bucked violently again. I lost my footing and fell on my ass just in time to see, through the galley’s skylight, the flaming wreckage of the dorsal turret as it was destroyed in a brilliant bloom of blue-white. Not good. I sprang to my feet and ran as fast as I could to the maintenance access room. I slid down the ladder that lead me through a maintenance tunnel to another ladder that brought me to the walkway above the cargo hold. The ship continued to buck beneath me as I rushed to find the captain. By the time I got to the escape pod room behind the bridge, I began to hear impacts ringing out through the hull which meant our shields had finally bit the dust.

I stepped onto the bridge just in time to hear the captain announce that our center engine had been destroyed and we would no longer be able to overpower the pull of our enemy’s tractor turret. Sarah was buried up to her elbows under her console trying to get the shields back up while the pilot struggled to maneuver the ever-increasingly sluggish craft. Li thrust a P4 rifle at me and told me I had to zip up and head out onto the external catwalk. Fuel pod #7 was damaged and could no longer vent its accumulated pressure, so it needed to be manually cut loose before it exploded and took the rest of us with it. I wasn’t too thrilled with the task, but I guess being the new guy did have its disadvantages.

I quickly shrugged into a pressure suit from the escape pod room then circled the walkway above the cargo hold to the external catwalk’s airlock. When the lock cycled and I stepped outside, the reality of the damage we had sustained really hit home. The decimated engine mount above my head was sparking wildly and gave off enough RADs to set off the alarms built into my pressure suit. At the far end of the starboard line of fuel pods sat pod #7. It was canted at an angle and was visibly dented along its side. I didn’t see any incoming fire at the moment so I figured then would be as good a time as any to rush to the end of the damaged catwalk to complete my task.

I got to the tank’s control panel and hit the command to release it then let out a sigh of relief as the potential bomb began to drift away. My respite did not last long, though. I felt ballistic rounds hit the catwalk in front of me and was forced to leap backwards. When I landed on my back, I saw who had been firing at me. Floating in the dark about 50 meters above me was a silhouette that was momentarily illuminated by another muzzle flash. The incoming rounds peppered the catwalk nearby, forcing me to retreat towards the airlock. When I got under the protective cover of the central thruster housing, I knelt and readied my rifle. As the first EVA pirate drifted into my view, I squeezed the trigger. I could tell my burst had hit home when I saw atmosphere venting from his helmet that sent the pirate spinning aimlessly off into the dark.

Unfortunately, the pirate hadn’t come alone. A group of six more of his comrades drifted into view from above the damaged thruster and began to shoot. Their gunfire chewed up the catwalk surrounding me kicking up some shrapnel that pierced my suit above the knee. I sent some suppressive fire in return, scoring another hit, as I turned and high-tailed it back to the airlock just in time. As the outer door was sliding closed, a ballistic round snuck through and bit into the airlock’s window that overlooked the cargo hold. Li watched wide-eyed as the crack materialized in the glass then turned to inform the captain we had boarders. I then hurried out of the airlock and moved to take up a defensive position on the port side of the walkway surrounding the hold.

Captain Dardeau locked down all the ships external control panels and door releases, but this only slowed down the determined boarders. I sat crouched nervously on the opposite end of the hold’s walkway from the catwalk’s airlock and waited for the inevitable. It wasn’t long before I could see sparks pouring into the airlock through its wide window. The outer lock was pretty tough and took a couple minutes to cut through, which gave Li and his two security officers time to set up a defensive barrier on the starboard side of the elevated walkway. When the pirates finally broke the seal on the outer airlock and moved inside, Li had his defenses in order. Our guests decided to push through into the ship on Li’s side, but they were prepared for his defense. The airlock door opened and gunfire erupted from the small room. Vic, one of the security officers, was first to go when he was caught in the chest by a blast from a devastator shotgun. I couldn’t shoot back because none of them had actually stepped out of the airlock exchange room yet, so I decided to move to get a firing angle. I stood and started to run to Li’s side to provide support. As I was passing the door to the bridge, the pressure wave from an explosion punched me in the chest and sent me flying backwards. A grenade must have found its way behind Li’s barrier because all I could see through the haze was thick smoke that smelled of burning electrical components where Li and the other security officer had been.

Once I struggled to my feet, I tried to get to the bridge to defend it. Before I could get to the door, I began to get shot at by the pirates now crossing the starboard walkway above the cargo hold. Their suppressive fire was too much and I had to retreat down the hall behind me and up the stairs to the second floor. I knew that they would be making a B line for the bridge, so I had to loop back around behind them and re-engage. Thank god Sarah took so much time showing me all the nooks and crannies, because I had an idea. I quickly crossed to the starboard side of the second floor and ducked into a maintenance corridor. From there I could see the ladder that would lead back down to the walkway that the pirates had just conquered. Staying as quiet as possible, I crept to the hole to look down it. I saw one pirate standing in the doorway beneath me while his comrades had moved on to work at cutting through the bridge door.

I carefully took aim at the clueless man below and squeezed off a burst that bit into his faceplate. He instantly went limp and fell to the floor, so I jumped down the hole after him to press my element of surprise. I landed pretty hard and got tripped up on the pirate’s body as I tried to cut the corner to the bridge’s outer door. In my delay, I lost the element of surprise. One pirate kept cutting away at the door while his comrade turned to fire at me. I barely managed to squeeze back behind the doorframe before his rounds tore past my face. I stuck my rifle around the corner and blind fired a long burst. I must have missed, because seconds later I saw a grenade roll to clink against my foot.

I quickly kicked the device away and lept over the walkway’s railing. The explosion at my back propelled me forward while raising heat blisters across my neck and shoulders. I overshot my predicted trajectory and slammed into a shipping pod before falling to the deck of the cargo hold. I’m pretty sure that’s what broke my rib, but I didn’t have time to worry too much about my pain on account of the pirate above me moving in to finish the job. I got to my feet and dodged through a couple crates as gunfire erupted from the elevated walkway. I had nowhere to go but through the door at the front of the cargo hold that led me to the maintenance EVA ready room. I locked the door behind me then took a moment to catch my breath and make sure all my limbs were still attached.

Satisfied that I was still equipped with all my important body parts, I began to wrack my brain for a plan to get out of the situation in a similar shape. I decided that I had nowhere left to go, but outside. I grabbed an EVA suit from the rack and slipped into it. Once zipped up, I started the decompression of the room. When I was fully in vacuum and had checked to make sure my suit’s integrity was intact, I opened the porthole in the floor. It slid open to reveal the lonely backdrop of empty space and I slipped through the hole into the void. I made sure to hug the belly of the Nogas as I made my way back to the external catwalk between the fuel pods.

As I carefully floated up to the forward-most fuel pod on the craft’s starboard side, I spotted a man working on one of the other pods’ input panel. His back was turned to me so I pulled myself along the fuel pod’s mounting rail. Once I emerged from behind the massive fuel tank, I could see that a cutlass was trying to dock up to the Nogas’ refueling arm. I decided that a free fuel stop wasn’t going to happen that day, so I lined up my sights on the man working the refueling arm on the catwalk. The pirate never knew what hit him. I didn’t see any reaction from the ship floating behind the Nogas, so the pilot must not have seen what happened to his comrade.

I floated over and pulled myself up onto the catwalk then made my way forward. The airlock door was mangled and slagged shut from the inside, so I opted to take the starboard elevator up to the Refueling ready-room. Once inside, I removed my helmet and checked my remaining ammunition. My heart sank when I removed the magazine to find it empty. I always did think Li was crazy for carrying around four assault rifle mags strapped to his thigh at all times, but at this point I really wished I had developed that habit as well. Since I didn’t have a gun with ammo, I decided I needed to find one that did.

This line of thinking reminded me of the defense turrets mounted at the rear of the ship on either side. The cutlass that was refueling would make an easy target because in order to link with the fueling arm, you had to disengage your shields. Deciding on a plan, I left the ready-room and passed through the gravity generator room. I took the starboard-side door forward and was alarmed to see the sheer volume of smoke and flame roiling in the engine room through its observation window. I decided that was something for future me to worry about, so looped around a corner and sprinted down the long hallway that led to the rear turret. I then jumped into the gunner’s seat and hit the command to descend into firing position.

I grabbed the control stick and the turret lurched to life. I then spun to center my reticle on the cockpit of the unshielded pirate cutlass. With a satisfied grin, I thumbed the firing studs and watched the criminal craft erupt into a sphere of glowing death. I didn’t stick around to celebrate, because I was certain they would send someone up after me. I backed out of the turret and sprinted down the hallway for the front of the ship. As I exited the narrow corridor, I ran headlong into a pirate that had come up to investigate. I lowered my shoulder and plowed through him. I wrapped up his legs in a tackle and he went to the deck, dropping his weapon on the way down.

I was able to deliver some hard elbow shots to his head before he tried to stab me in the side with a knife that he pulled from his combat harness. I grabbed his wrist to stop the blow which gave him the opportunity to catch me on the jaw with a punch from his other hand. The shot buckled me a bit and he was able to scoot out from under me. The pirate stood and we squared off; His knife versus my fists. The small junction we found ourselves in did not leave much space to maneuver with a wall of escape pods on one side and closed hatches all around. The glow of the engine room’s fire added an odd primal hue to the ship’s artificial lighting that set a fitting mood for the primitive face-off.

He lunged first, attempting a reaching jab at my stomach with his knife. I jumped back to avoid the blade, but the pirate pressed his attack with frantic follow-up slashes. When I felt that my heel had found the wall behind me, I knew I was running out of space to move. That realization put me on the offensive. I lashed out with a front kick that tagged the pirate in the gut and sent him stumbling backwards. He attempted to retaliate with a slash of his weapon, but I blocked the attack and redirected the blade into the man’s own ribs. The knife bit deep causing the pirate to let out an inhuman howl. I used the man’s painful distraction to my advantage and kicked the sonofabitch into the escape pod behind him. I quickly closed the inner door and made sure to flip him the bird through the pod’s tiny window before shooting him off into the dark to bleed out in a pre-made coffin. An appropriate death for a scumbag like that if you ask me.

I seized the deceased pirate’s weapon and checked its ammo counter. Satisfied, I started for the stairs. I cautiously descended the stairwell then made my way for the bridge. The junction outside the bridges outer doors was empty, which meant I was too late. When I rounded the corner into the escape pod room, my worst fears were realized. Captain Dardeau, the pilot Dez, and Sarah were lying dead in the walkway. It appeared that they had all been executed with a single bullet to the head. Now that got me angry. I thought I was done seeing this kind of shit when I traded in my UEE flight-suit for civvies. I had to force myself to calm down, lest I make an emotionally charged mistake and get myself killed. The door to the bridge itself was closed, so I pressed my ear against it. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I heard two distinct voices inside. It was time to take back my ship.

I hugged myself to the right side of the door and keyed it open. There was a man standing just inside that spun to investigate as the door began to slide away. His eyes widened in surprise, but I had the drop on him. I sent a short burst into his stomach and moved as fast as I could to seize the man as he slumped to fall. I threw my arm around his neck and wrenched him upright to use as a human shield. The final man on the bridge and I exchanged frantic gunfire. His rounds did nothing but tear into his comrade, finishing off what I had started seconds before. My return fire, however, was much more effective. I stitched him up the chest and caught him on the cheek before he fell, lifeless, to the deck.

So there I was; Alone on a damaged ship full of corpses in the middle of nowhere. It took me three days to get the ship repaired enough to limp to the nearest outpost. It turned out that the pirate gang I vaped had a pretty hefty price on their heads. The unexpected windfall was accompanied by the fact that the Captain did not have an established next of kin to transfer the Nogas to. The law of the cosmos is clear; Unless otherwise specified, the Highest ranking officer aboard a vessel acquires ownership of said vessel upon the death of the captain. I used the bounty money to refit and repair the Nogas for its return to duty and have been running fuel with her ever since. To this day, every time I plant my ass in that captain’s chair, I can still almost hear Sarah humming away happily at her console behind me.

-Leland Brown

 

Please note that this is a work of fan fiction, set in the Star Citizen universe. The marks and properties, ‘Star Citizen’, ‘Squadron 42’, ‘Cloud Imperium Games’, and ‘Roberts Space Industries’ are property of Cloud Imperium Games Corp. and Roberts Space Industries Corp (“RSI”). All rights in the content (including places, characters, concepts, and ships that were produced and created by RSI) relating to said marks and properties belong to RSI.