1 – Departure

24th December 3301 – 23:47

The days of PanGalactic empty offices by Wrangell City 42nd Docking Bay seem a long way away today. The company has more than grown. If only a few of Snoquot Labour officials have publicly described PanGalcatic as a ‘bunch of mercenaries’ the indisputable truth is that the company is now feeding several millions of Snoquot inhabitants and is even running subsidiaries in the Imani System, a few light years from there.

Colonel Matzov’s art of tact and diplomacy prove to be a lot more than the unexplained but persistent rumors I was now only beginning to get used to.

In all fairness, none of this would have ever been possible without the continuous support from the Sirius Corporation and Li Yong-Rui himself, on both a financial and logistical level. We were part of the family, per se, and as a member of the family I was rewarded by the corporation with a full refitting of the Nostromo II, the old Lakon Type 9 I took from Wrangell City to 38 Lyncis in order to help with the new Orbis Starport project…

T9 refit

A very different beast indeed.

Through some engineering wizardry, the ship was now significantly lighter. The refinery and various limpet controller modules had made room for auto field-maintenance units, a twin SRV hangar, a rudimentary chemical testing and analysis laboratory and even a green house. The Nostromo II had a clear purpose and Mr Rui’s representative made it perfectly clear when handing the renewed vessel over: Sirius was about discovering new worlds. And regardless of the many pilots having already left civilized space, whether to simply investigate uncharted territories or more recently, to gather new clues about the distant Antares incident, more would never be enough…

It was his understanding that I had caught the explorer’s bug. He couldn’t have been more accurate in his assessment. Ever since I had come back from Sagittarius A*, I had been feeling out of sorts… out of place. So they had naturally thought of me for their next exploratory enterprise.

24th December 3301 – 23.59

Rui’s representative only took a few minutes to outline the mission.

For several centuries, explorers from all walks of life had set out for the unknown in the hope of finding the perfect world. Entire colonies had left even long before the development of our modern Frame Shift Drives, seeing generations come and go during their journey, and might very well still be out there today. The Siruis corporation had already commissioned several ships to go on a blind search in an attempt to find these pioneers.

The Nostromo II was also ready to go if I chose to. A basic A.I. had been uploaded in order to assist me in the search and to effectively help avoiding any potential human error.

I couldn’t have explained why or how, but I instinctively accepted, without even thinking. I felt a huge weight off my mind while boarding the ship and booting the systems ready…

T9 ready

I haven’t even warned Ivan Matzov… He’ll understand…

T9 leaving01

T9 leaving 02

25th December 3301 – 00:06

Six minutes past christmas, and I am finally on my way.

While inspecting, at a quick glance, the latest ship’s installments and the many new onboard systems, I had to take a second look at my jump range, between 18 to 19 light years, a pleasant surprise and not too shabby for a Type 9. Oh, I won’t be able to make it to the extreme boundaries of our Milky Way but then again, neither would the pioneers that have left the homeworlds, throughout the last millennium… Whatever they could possibly have reached by now, surely I can reach it too.

I thought of my family for a minute, they must probably be thinking me dead by now. It has been over a year without me having ever returned or sent even a short message… for their own safety, they said. And then I thought of what Rui’s man said: a basic form of A.I., for my own safety this time. I hadn’t noticed anything different about the ship so far and this A.I. had yet to materialize. I looked around the bridge as to make sure it wasn’t hiding behind my jumpseat, without success of course, and picked a random neighboring star to jump to.

1st jump

Piscium Sector ZE-A C16, nothing of interest over there I know that already but at least I have a vector now and I shall travel this way until traffic dies out.

Goodbye Wrangell City and goodbye Snoquot 5.

***

“Out with it then Carpenter, I can see you have news, and I can tell it isn’t good from the way you are hovering by the door” Matzov said bluntly.
“Indeed sir. I’ve had a call from Mandalay Chin’s office…”
“Ahhh, the delectable Mandalay” purred Matzov.
“… they report that representatives of Snoquot Labour have been preparing dossiers on some of our dealings. They are alleging corrupt practices.”
“They’re what!? The low down rats!” Matzov cried, erupting into a fury. “Of what nature Carpenter? Did Mandalay’s people say?”
“Transportation of illegal goods mostly, but also anti-competitive acts and bullying.”
“Rumours and lies, that they themselves are guilty of Carpenter. We are providing the people here with jobs and prosperity, and some folks just can’t handle that we’re better at it than they were. I will have to thank Mandalay for the information. Send her an invite to dinner on the Melville, and find Vauban, I’ve not seen him for days. He’ll need to attend.” 
“Hmm, that’s the second bit of news sir” replied Carpenter timidly. “Taylor got a message from HQ and passed me a note, to pass to you.” Carpenter handed over a rather shabby piece of scrap paper torn from a ring-bound notebook.
Unfolding it, and reading, Matzov’s face began to pale, then crease, then tense.
“This is absolute madness” he muttered, shaking his head. “He’s gone already?”
“Yes sir.”
“A pity. A real pity. I might at least have told him of that old legend, The Dark Wheel and Raxxla, and maybe even put him in touch with someone I know, who knows a thing or two about Antares. The Missing are missing for a reason. Madness. And right from the top too.” Matzov looked at Carpenter, both sharing a moment of silent reflection.
“He took the T9 sir” Carpenter gently ventured after a few seconds.
Matzov raised his eyebrows and began laughing to himself, “A crazy swine to the end, the bloody fool!” 
Carpenter smiled. “I’ll switch the dinner invite to a more intimate setting then sir” changing subject, as the mood lifted.
“Yes, do, do!” Matzov replied happily, as he turned to look out the window, towards Wrangell City’s entrance slot.
“Fly safe Commander” he added in a whisper.

***

Home – Part Three index – Next Chapter

Advertisements