4 – From Riches to Rags

13th March 3301 – 11:24

It is time.
There is nothing more for me to get from Kempston Hardwick or even Rochester for the Cobra MkIII, so I have set the Navigation Systems to New Yembo. It’s over 200Ly away and will allow me to visit several High Technology Systems on the way. I have high hopes that I will find the equipment needed before reaching Unity, in New Yembo.
LHS 3564 is quite close and known within the Frog System for their precision work and high quality products.

LHS 3564 WEB

Unfortunately, Frog’s main exports are, for most, illegal in LHS 3564, and there are no metals or minerals in the vicinity worth bringing over. No doubt a full hold of Cobalt would have been the perfect ice breaker when getting to deal with the local merchants, but I opted for a load of pharmaceuticals instead. Surely basic medicines are always welcome.

Basic Meds WEB

So this is a goodbye to the Frog System. I’m hoping the final pre-flight check won’t be the last time I set foot on Kempston Hardwick’s platform.

CobraMkIII WEB

14th March 3301 – 13:11

LHS 3564,

LHS 3564 A WEB

Lord, I missed that ship! After nearly a month in the Sidewinder, wandering around the Frog system on the lookout for wanted wildcats, I almost forgot how much of a beast the Cobra MkIII was. From the lift-off vibrations to the wicked engine boost rumble, I felt right back on track.
It was a fairly brief trip from Frog to LHS 3564, still requiring a quick refueling on arrival. During that time, I realized I landed in a quite crowded System. I’m obviously not the only one after top-end equipment. I was sure all this high value material and apparatus traffic would not fail to attract unscrupulous pilots so after having tormented a few of them I decided to head for the nearest station, Froude Enterprise.

Froude enterprise2 WEB

The Coriolis station is orbiting a red metallic planet near LHS 3564-A’s twin star, bathing the night in its blood red glow, and approaching the docking bay felt like delving at the heart of a hustling foundry.
I have permission to dock now and will off-load my cargo for a start. No doubt this place has what I am looking for.

16th March 3301 – 12:45

I would have expected a better welcome, really.
First off, the shipyard engineer shattered my dreams. Yes, they had the Frame Shift Drive on stock but installing it would also mean replacing the Power Plant and double the cost, which I could not afford. The other thing is that although they could provide with the Power Plant, it was not going to be ready for at least another week as they were still in the production line.
To finish ruining my day while I was still coming to terms with the disappointment, two men from customs walked in the shipyard asking me to follow them for questioning. I was led to an office to explain what business had brought me here. They did not seem too convinced with my exploration plans and kept bringing the “Independent LHS 3564 resistance” up, an organization I had never heard of before and that was linked with the Federation. After a day and a half trying to explain that although I grew up in Federal space, I held no special affection for the Federation, they finally allowed me to go.
I returned to the shipyard feeling like a criminal, only to find the Cobra MkIII stripped of both its Frame Shift Drive and Power Plant. Apparently, they were waiting for full payment in order to install the new equipment. As I was arguing that I never asked anyone to begin any sort of work on my ship, the chief maintenance engineer took me aside and explained that it wasn’t about money and orders to ground the ship were coming from above. And by “above” he meant above the shipyard’s administration. He was kind enough to provide with a replacement ship, only asking to stick around the System for the time being.

Hauler WEB

What am I going to do with such a piece of junk, I don’t know.
I still cannot believe what is happening to me.

17th March 3301 – 13:51

After spending the early morning staring at a cup of coffee and wondering how things had turn into such a disaster, I finally decided to go and have a look at my replacement ship. Although a little beat up, this Zorgon Peterson’s Hauler was quite comfortable I have to say. Being equipped with a Refinery and a Mining Laser, it became clear to me that unless I was going to remain station side, grieving about my situation, selling mineral and metal was going to fill the next few days and hopefully my bank account too.
While leaving Froude Enterprise and after a quick system check, I had a look at the few informations I had on the LHS 3564 System…

leaving Froude WEB

resistance 0 WEB

This didn’t make any sense. The so called Resistance was insignificant, no wonder I had never heard of them. Being held for that long in a room like a potential terrorist suddenly felt quite disproportionate considering how little of a threat this organization was posing. There must be more to this, but there is nothing I can do about it as it stands, and no one I can turn to for help or even advise.
Feeling completely lost, I jumped out of the system to a nearby Extraction Site. No doubt this place would already be dried up, being so close to LHS 3564, but I had to start somewhere so I did…

belt hauler WEB

mining hauler WEB

Drifting between those giant asteroids, I thought about the crew of miners back at Kempston Hardwick and Henck.
His best friend died in one of those ship. Many miners and traders did, actually. Remembering how unarmed and how much of an open target I was, I disabled as many modules as I could to reduce my heat signature and avoid attracting unwelcome attention.
After filling my hold with relatively precious metals, I set course for Froude Enterprise.

back to froude WEB

I am not overly joyed to be going back there and selling my hard day’s work to Froude Enterprise, or should I say “Fraud” Enterprise.

***

Alex sips his cocktail as he looks over the logs of recently docked commanders at Froude. 

Ah yes, Commander Vauban. 

Grinning to himself he folds up the report carefully, making mental note to look for his signature again as he goes about his business.

***

18th March 3301 – 15:22

Two days now that I’ve been digging mineral ore for the account of Froude Enterprise, and I don’t exactly have much to show for it. It feels like being back at Dalton’s assembly line, miserable work for a miserable pay, maybe slightly better to be fair.
On the other hand, I’ve had nothing but time to think about the recent events, especially since I’m now staying off the beaten track to maximize my chances of finding rich asteroids as well as avoiding local pirates. I’ve been replaying everything in my head since I left the Frog System in a desperate attempt to understand what happened.
One of the first contact arriving at the LHS 3564 Nav Beacon was a trigger happy pilot, on a hunt for wanted ships. Curious and impatient to test my now weaponized CobraMkIII, and still on a bounty hunt hangover from the last few weeks in the Frog System, I was happy to team up with him for a short while and share the reward…

goodnight maathyas sepiaWEB

… what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time is beginning to feel like I shot the wrong guy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

18th March 3301 – 20:10

The day is coming to an end and my cargo hold is full again. But my mind is elsewhere. No matter how much I turn things around in my head, I can’t make any sense of what is going on.
So I’ve turned all systems off and left the ship to float, trying to clear my head by contemplating the nearby gas giant.

Relax Belt WEB

Looking at the dashboard, I can’t help but thinking of the Cobra MkIII sitting in Froude Enterprise’ shipyard, stripped out of its power plant.
I really don’t feel like docking at Froude tonight but since I’m not willing to abandon my ship and forget about all this just yet, I will have to head back to LHS 3564 anyway.

19th March 3301 – 13:41

I went back to the custom office this morning hoping to argue my case and convince them that all of this was a massive misunderstanding, but found a closed door. I then went and asked around to find out when the offices would be open and realized that customs were actually two levels below, and that I was only trying to gain access to an empty office that was mostly used for rental.
I was astonished. I went back to the shipyard thinking I would be able to explain to the chief engineer that I was being framed but he told me that the grounding order was very real and that all the paperwork was legit. The conversation heated up as my frustration was growing and in a slip of the tongue, the engineer insinuated that it would not be the first time he had to ground the ship of another stupefied pilot.
He would not say anymore and insisted that I kept the Hauler for as long as I needed.
This thing is bigger than me.

20th March 3301 – 20:32

Well, the Cobra MkIII isn’t going anywhere and the nearby asteroid belts are dry. So I started looking at other options and located on my map a few agricultural worlds, the closest of them being Pices. Beside the Frame Shift Drive I was after, Froude Enterprise is also producing agro equipments in very large quantities and at extremely low prices, so I loaded 16t of Crop Harvesters and set course for Pices. I will be looking for new and hopefully richer rings on the way.
Once in the Pices System, an unusual light caught my eye and got me to drop out of supercruise…

Total Eclipse WEB

Growing up in Dalton Gateway, I had learnt these breath-taking phenomenons were only to happen every few hundred years and never got to actually witness one. It is quite fascinating to see how incidental these are once you get to travel faster than light.
This episode gave me a significant lift and for one second, I forgot what I had left behind in LHS 3564 and was rather looking forward to see the profit those Crop Harvesters were going to bring.
I can see Knipling Port in the distance.

Knipling Port WEB

28th March 3301 – 9:48

I’m the talk of the town around Knipling Port. I never fail to stop by the local bar near the docking area where the traders nicknamed me “the courier”, in reference of the pathetic cargo space of my borrowed Hauler. They were also very amused when I explained I was only shifting some goods while looking for a good mining spot without any scanner installed and laughed even more when I told them I left from LHS 3564 as it turns out that one of the most resource rich system in the area was this very same one and its sole ringed planet. It was confirmed to me by Hodkyns, the engineer from Froude Enterprise who explained that my Hauler was part of a mining flotilla that never left the System and was recalled during the economic boom to be replaced by much larger vessels.
I didn’t feel like going into details as to why I was using such an ill-equipped ship but couldn’t help to overhear in conversations tales of explorers being shot down in LHS 3564 or mysteriously disappearing.
Today, I was approached by a man who said that my Hauler would be perfect for a well paid job and invited me to meet him again later this evening for further details. I am not sure whether this is a good idea or not but I can’t see any harm in meeting him in a busy bar and hear him out.
A quick fly by above Knipling Port’s crops before I’ll head out for the day, I will consider the offer upon docking here again later…

Knipling crops WEB

28th March 3301 – 18:03

What more do I have to lose?
I kept repeating this question in my head while approaching my docking pad and kept at it all the way into the Travel Plaza, where I was to meet my mysterious contractor. He stood up and signaled me to join his table and was in the company of another man who remained seated, sussing me out as I was walking towards them. This busy and loud environment was actually very suited for a discreet conversation, and very casually, one of them laid out a rudimentary map on the table…

williams reformatory WEB

It was a map of the Gangbetae System, not too far from here, and hosting a Maximum Security Prison. They mentioned an extraction operation and 100.000 credits before giving me the opportunity to leave the table. Needless to say that I was not going to refuse such a payout even though I somewhat suspected that by “extraction”, they meant “prison break”.
Going into more details, it became apparent that it would not be a one day operation as the first stage was for me to get in contact with the Gangbetae Prison Colony in order to collect their Biowaste and dispose of them at neighboring Agricultural Worlds that they also pointed out to me…

gangbetae map WEB

I was free to sell meat or vegetables on the return trips to the colony to cover the operating costs and also free to leave the meeting at this point.
I was now left to get to work and wait for further instructions.
I might just get some excitement out of that tin of a Hauler in the end.

29th March 3301 – 15:00

After reviewing the little data I had to hand, I settled for Aldrin Market in the Fincien System for a temporary base of operation and loaded basic supplies for the Gangbatae Prison Colony.

inside aldrin market WEB

Food supplies WEB

I only needed to jump through the Kongoloca System before reaching Gangbetae but there was another 20.000Ls or so between the Nav Beacon and my destination, Williams Reformatory. It was no surprise that they were pleased to see a new face bringing supplies and offering to clear some of their wastage. This outpost was indeed, pretty remote.
It didn’t take very long to offload the cargo and replace it with the Biowaste Canisters, and I was finally ready to go.

inside williams reformatory WEB

biowaste WEB

So far, this job didn’t pose too much of a challenge and I could see how boredom was going to chase the excitement during the multiple return trips to come.

2nd April 3301 – 8:05

As expected, boredom had gotten to me, but those mindless trips between Williams Reformatory and Aldrin Market began to make sense in the last couple of days as I noticed to experience less and less random search of my cargo at the Prison Colony. And last night, while I was trying to put the bigger picture together, I received a transmission from my employers: I was to dock one last time at the prison with the usual goods, with the instruction of getting allocated Docking Bay 1 and to not leave the ship during the transfer of cargo. My destination this time would no longer be Aldrin Market but Froude Enterprise in the “good old” LHS 3564 system.
The timing was perfect and my progress was obviously being followed as approaching Williams Reformatory, the outpost showed a green light for the first time on my radar…

approaching Williams WEB

friendly prison WEB

I am now waiting for the Biowaste to finish loading and will set course to Froude.

2nd April 3301 – 18:28

Shortly after I took off from Williams Reformatory, I heard a muffled rattling in the cargo bay. I dropped out of supercruise, picked up the emergency axe and carefully made my way down there. Dumped in between the canisters, there was a gagged and tied up man sitting there. He looked petrified and as I took the gag off his mouth, he begged for mercy. I tried to explain that I had no idea who he was or what he was doing here, only that he didn’t look like the escapist I pictured.
When I mentioned where I was supposed to take him, fear turned him livid and as he was pleading for me to take him away from Froude Enterprise, I heard a distinctive chime coming from the cockpit. Two Vipers had joined us and locked onto my Frame Shift Drive. I was ordered through Voice Comms not to do anything stupid and to resume my course to LHS 3564. Immediately after, the onboard computer informed me that the two Vipers had deployed Hardpoints.
I sat back in the cockpit and complied by charging the Frame Shift Drive. My passenger was screaming in the back, swearing I was taking him to his death, but doing otherwise would most likely mean death for the both of us.
By the time I received docking permission from Froude Enterprise, he seemed to have accepted his fate and understanding my limited involvement in his situation, he implored me, as a last request, to seek for a man named Hugh Caplin at Maine Hub and tell him the system he was looking for was “Bumbindal”

My passenger has been removed from the ship and I’m now left alone on the platform with an uncomfortable feeling, not particularly proud but with 100.000 credits more than yesterday.

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