3 – A Lost Cause

3rd September 3301 – 0:45

I made my way to Chaudhary Enterprise still wondering how hard Mr Premji was actually trying to protect me.
After countless outings getting close and personal with the local pirate gangs in and around Dinda, after robbing Premji’s competitors of rare trade data, I was now supposed to get involved in a civil war?
I understood LTT 11478 Exchange was an important partner of Dinda Universal Industry and from what I could tell, the second most influential faction in this System, now at war with the democrats in charge.

I asked for docking permission and deployed the landing gear. As I was lining myself up with the Coriolis’ entrance, I noticed a familiar signature on my radar… right in front of me…

[000153]

This dear colonel Matzov, once again showing up where you would least expect him.
We met in Chaudhary’s command center while my ship’s hull was being reinforced in preparation for the upcoming battles. He didn’t seem too impressed with meeting me again nor did he seem too excited about the local conflict, yet we were going to be flying in the same wing for the next few days.

I have to say, the idea of winging up with Ivan Matzov’s Python was relatively reassuring, especially after witnessing how unnerved the returning pilots were.

3rd September 3301 – 23:50

Many of us left Chaudhary Entreprise at the same time, in wings of two to four, while other pilots were limping back to dock.
The Colonel and I took off together, loaded with ammunitions.

Matzov out

Matzov out2

It became clear to me after the briefing that this wasn’t just a simple rebellion. It felt an awful lot like a coup, an attempt to overthrow the local government in order to facilitate trading agreements between the surrounding corporations.
This wasn’t a good war to fight… if there is such a thing as a good war… and if I had needed an incentive to board my ship today, beside the reasons that had led me to follow Mr Premji’s instructions until now, I found it with Chauldhary’s inhabitants and on the look in their eyes. They didn’t care to be ruled by LTT for Equality or LTT Exchange, they could as well have been living under a dictatorship it wouldn’t have mattered much. They just needed this war to end and to go on with their lives.

The battle for Chaudhary Enterprise was only a few light seconds away. The Colonel and I arrived after a very short supercruise…

CZ arrival

I thought to myself that we had just dropped into hell when Ivan Matzov instructed me to maintain formation.
Dozens of ships blowing each over up, everywhere I looked, like an angry swarm of wasps. I was completely overwhelmed until I heard Matzov in the Voice Comms:
“Engaging”

01

02

One after another, we disposed of LTT for Equality’s fleet…

[001273]

[000135]

… but they kept coming back, kept coming at us… relentlessly.

4th September 3301 – 15:24

We fought all night, flying back and forth between the combat zone and Chaudhary to rearm and repair. And every time we jumped back into conflict, more enemy ships would be there, larger every time.
LTT Exchange, under lockdown, was showing more and more difficulties to supply the necessary ammunitions and although most engineers from the shipyard had relocated themselves to the docking bay in order to speed up the repairs, they were struggling to send our ships back into battle.

Admiral McVay, leading the battle, eventually announced that we had lost Chaudhary Enterprise and instructed all pilots to retreat to Mastracchio Terminal.

to Mastracchio

Mastracchio Terminal was the last stand of LTT Exchange, a little further away from Chaudhary Enterprise, and where the battle was still raging.
I asked Ivan Matzov what the hell we were doing here and all he told me was not to worry about it too much and to focus on trying to stay alive. The colonel’s composure was a thing I couldn’t get my head around, given the night we had just been through.

Requesting docking permission…

Mastrachio docking

I have a feeling this will be over soon. I just hope I will live to tell the tale.

6th September 3301 – 12:56

I thought I had seen it all but nothing would have prepared me for this.
The countless ejection capsules returning to Mastracchio Terminal were being sent to an already overwhelmed emergency medical center while many more unfortunate pilots did not even make it this far. Very few of us made it back from the battle for Chaudhary and the pressure and anxiety amongst our ranks was now turning into sheer fear. There were already talks of desertion as the consensus was that we had lost the war already.
Only Matzov didn’t fit in this picture, just as annoyed as he was when first docking at Chaudhary Enterprise.

The latest orders from LTT Exchange’s command was to hit our opponents’ economy. Half of the remaing fleet was sent after the LTT for Equality’s local supply transports, on a search and destroy operation while the rest of us were to target enemy’s FSD’s and Power pants only in order to raise the cost of their effort. We were no longer fighting for supremacy and McVay made it perfectly clear, LTT for Equality would remember this war.

[000020] (2)

[000072]

The next 24 hours were a blood bath.
I can’t express how relieved I felt when Admiral McVay announced that a ceasefire had been declared. We had finally lost.
I locked onto Mastracchio Terminal when Ivan Matzov advised me to return to Dinda instead:
“There is nothing for us here” he said,
“You should go back to Dinda.”
This was the last I heard from Matzov and his signature on my radar suddenly turned into a High Wake.

***

The video screen crackled on and Mukesh Premji’s sallow face came on. Matzov immediately launched into a foul tirade, his pent up fury flowing from him like a volcano spewing lava.
“What the bloody hell was that Mukesh? You didn’t even have the backbone to ask me yourself, you sent your poor lad instead. You’re a cockroach! A snake!”
Mukesh Premji began to reply, but barely got further than the first murmur, before Matzov, barely taking breath, went on implacably, albeit at a slightly less forceful pitch.
“I am a business man Mukesh. I organise deals and contracts. I negociate and mediate. I am not a babysitter, and I’m not a damn solider!”
Mukesh Premji let the torrent expend itself, before quietly replying, “Matzov, I’m so glad you are ok. How is Vauban? I know you are not a soldier, but you are a Colonel” That seemed to reanimate the volcano.
“Oh get stuffed Mukesh. You know I’m not a faffing Colonel. Its a nickname from my gun-running days! What in hell were you thinking, sending us to the front?!”
“But I didn’t… didn’t send you to the front I mean.” The Doctor’s reply was a waspish whisper. “You were business liaison. You were not there to fight” he said more firmly, his cold, pallid complexion accentuating his detachment.
“Then someone didn’t get the memo!2 Matzov thundered. “McVay had us right in the thick of it!”
Doctor Premji broke in forcefully, “Then that was a mistake Matzov. I had thought The Colonel perfect for this job.”
“You are a weasel Mukesh, hard to like, but like you I did. Now…. now you owe me. I will come calling one day, and I will want repayment”.
With that, Matzov snapped off the Videocom. His steaming anger almost crushing the keyboard as he struck the End Call button.
He lent back and looked to the ceiling. It had been a veritble stress storm this last 14 days, and LTT 11478 had been the apogee. 

There was a gentle knock on the office door, and Carpenter came in carrying files. “Ahh, Carpenter, what have you got for me then?”
Carpenter nervously approached and placed the files on the desk. “Latest from Amijara sir.” He half turned to go before timidly adding, “You may not have been in the army sir, but you curse like a navvy”. 

The first wisps of a smile came to the corners of his mouth then. Relief that all was well, of course. Carpenter’s drole pun. But also the realisation that he’d replicated the practice of abruptly ending calls at the moment of maximum impact, as exercised by the Stern faced Young man, and Mukesh would probably realise that and respect it. Moreover, and more promisingly, the realisation that Mukesh Premji now owed him. Now that was a valuable asset for any businessman.

***

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