Life in the Space Lane

S.S.Sundays

S.S.Sunday: Pax Goonorum, part I

Last week I decided to start adding fiction to the blog under the title of “Something Something Dark Side Sundays”.  I have a feeling that this will come back to bite me right in the tush, but I’ve decided to do a serialized story with a new section posted each week, despite previous experience telling me that that’s such a freaking dumb move.  Anyway, this story’s called “Pax Goonorum”, because I appreciate shitty puns.  No, it’s not a puff piece or political rant about the Goons, they just happen to be a motif throughout the story.  I have no idea how long this story is gonna run, but seeing as I have plenty other projects on the boil (like I said, this is a really stupid move on my part), I doubt it will run much more than ten or fifteen mini-chapters long.  Still, it’s a story I want to tell, just for teh lulz.  Enjoy :)

— Hatchet xo

 

 

Pax Goonorum, part I

 

“I’m usually the one in control.  Today, I’m a passenger.”

Her companion smiled thinly.  “Bit of a change, huh?”

“You’re telling me.”

“Speaking of change, you haven’t changed a bit.  Then again, you’ve changed several times.”

The small Achuran woman leaned forward, elbows on the table, trying to figure that statement out.  “I’m the same… but I’ve changed?”

“You’re still the same person, still look the same, still the same voice.  But it’s just… creepy, knowing that the body in front of me was grown in a vat, like the several others before it.  Worse, knowing that the original was incinerated months ago.  Just… memories, I dunno.”

Memories of walking along a beach and wrestling in the surf, of curling up together under the burgundy silk sheets of her bed.  Life had been hard whenever they were together, like the universe was trying to torture them for something.  Her smile wavered slightly, and she was glad that he couldn’t see the pain in the watery grey-blue eyes behind her dark sunglasses.  “Well, it’s still me on the inside,” she said thickly.

He grinned and leaned back in his seat, plucking a deep-fried chunk of potato out of the dish between them.  “Yeah, still you.  It’s good seeing you again.”

“You too, and thanks for helping me out on short notice like this.”

He waved a hand as the other tossed the wedge into his mouth.  They were good quality potatoes, too, grown locally in the soil as opposed to a hydroponic array off-world.  The price reflected it, of course, but neither of them was exactly hard-up for cash.  For a capsuleer, the girl was working-class, but by planetary standards she was richer than a queen.  Her oldest and dearest friend was no slouch, either: in his line of ‘business’, six figure sums changed hands with the ease of passing someone a glass of rum and Quafe.

Arran sipped from his glass of dark, honey-like Matari beer and licked a dab of foam from his upper lip.  “No problem.  Anything for you, Hatchet, and I mean anything.”

She smiled at the use of her old nickname.  “Don’t say that, or it’ll came back around to bite you.”

He acknowledged with a shrug.  “Perhaps, but I don’t think you’re about to bleed me dry anytime soon.”

“Don’t tempt me.  I just saw the estimated cost to replace that Crane; turns out even Platinum-level insurance isn’t enough to replace half the crap I had tacked onto it.”

She checked the time on a little data pad, then paused as she saw her bank balance.  “You bastard.”

The Gallentean shrugged.  “Pay me back later.  You’ll probably be needing that Crane.”

She knew that he knew that she knew better than to argue or try to send the money back.  This was exactly the kind of smug, smarmy shit he pulled that made it so hard for her to say goodbye.  Eventually, she figured, they’d either get tired of it and settle down to suburban monogamy and 0.4 children, or get tired of it and never see each other again.

A stranger approached their table.  Hatchet’s hand slid to her hip and the small pistol concealed there.  He had the strong jaw and hooded eyes of a ‘true’ Amarrian, but his clothes had a very spartan Caldari sensibility to them.

“Hey, Marius,” said Arran cheerfully.  “Don’t shoot, Hatchet, he’s one of the good guys.”

“Afternoon,” said the stranger, with a nod to Arran.  “This your cargo?”

“This is she.  Hatchet, Marius, Marius, Hatchet.  Shall we?”

He downed the last of his beer and stood up.  Hatchet hadn’t ordered a drink, and the salty nuggets of potato had dried her mouth and lips.  As they followed Marius down the street, she swung past a street vendor and bought a cup of some ethnic drink, fermented bean curd water or something.  It tasted pretty good, mainly because of the amount of sugar in it.

Marius spoke over his shoulder as they walked.  “In case we get split up, I’m in Bay Four One Oh Two, down at the Ishukone yards.”

Arran glanced at Hatchet.  “You get that?”

She nodded over the rim of her cup.  She was looking at the dull grey discs on the back of Marius’ neck.  Of course, every capsuleer had them, but she always found them a little weird, knowing that there was a network of contacts and circuits built right into the flesh of each clone, but that you couldn’t feel it.  She had tried, lying on her back and shifting her weight to see if she could feel the metal in her skin, but she could never feel anything more than the ports that ran from the base of the skull to the middle of her back.  It creeped the hell out of her.

Marius paused in mid-step, spread his feet, and changed direction with a feline grace.  Arran was able to see past the tall Amarrian, and stopped in his tracks.  “Threat!” he yelled, a sharp bark at the top of his lungs, drawing a gun from a shoulder holster under his jacket.  Everyone around them jumped and looked, but the shout triggered a reflex in Hatchet.  She drew the little pistol smoothly from the waistband of her pants as hundreds of hours of training kicked in.  The gun was up in her hand before she even knew what she was supposed to be aiming at, all in the time it took for Marius to change step and dive sideways.  She saw three men coming down the street, guns drawn, looking straight at them.  That must be the threat, then, she thought wryly as she took aim.

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Something Something Sundays – “Below the Asteroids”

To help flesh out the content here, and because it’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m a little bored, I think I’ll start doing short stories under the heading of “Something Something Sundays”.  The stories will be whatever I come up with, so don’t expect prize-winning literature.  Most of it will be fiction, but all good fiction contains a grain or two of truth.  Below is the first such story, cobbled together and dumped onto the internet like so many stories before it.  Enjoy  :)

— Hatchet xo

 

 

“Below the Asteroids”

Two Matari vessels came to rest in one of the densest parts of Belt Four.  The Rifter-class frigate stood watch over the little Burst-class miner, hanging silently among the rocks a few klicks away.  The miner pilot, a Caldari woman, set her targeting computer on a few of the closest asteroids.  The brief descriptions that came back were more than enough.  Veldspar, Azure Plagioclase, Kernite, all in plentiful supply.  She thought a command, and the ship’s computers responded immediately, spooling up the mining lasers and beginning to chew into two of the ‘roids she had targeted.

“Looks like we’re going to be up to our balls in mexallon soon, Touch,” she laughed.

The pilot of the escort frigate, a hulking Brutor with a sleek pompadour hairstyle, chuckled more to himself than her, but the disembodied sound resonated through his companion’s head anyway.  The ‘baseliner’ crews on the two ships had no idea of the conversations between the capsuleers as the two starships worked silently in the vacuum.  The escort ship scanned the area for hundreds of klicks in all directions, the pilot keeping his eyes and ears peeled.  The miner stripped and stowed ore and mineral from each rock it touched.  Every time the cargo hold filled, the crew would transfer the ores to a container drifting a hundred metres behind the little Burst, freeing up room for more.

The two pilots, safely cocooned in their egg-shaped capsules, didn’t need windows or lights to know what was going on outside.  For them, it was as though their ships were just extensions of their bodies.  Firing a weapon was like throwing a ball.  Taking a round to the armour plating was like being slugged with a steel bar.  They could see and feel everything in their minds.

Half an hour passed calmly, almost serenely.  Both of them felt something, tens or maybe hundreds of kilometres away.  Two ships, moving fast toward them.

“Guristas,” said Touch calmly.  “Hold still, Hatch.”

“Sure thing,” she said, voice taking on an adrenaline-fuelled edge.  “Go get ’em, big guy.”

Touch swung his sleek ship around to point straight at the pirates.  They closed in, and at about thirty klicks out they began pinging their targeting computers at Hatchet’s miner.  Both Touch and Hatchet felt the targeting locks, like cold fingers reaching out from the two aggressors.

“Don’t worry, they’re just underlings,” said Touch.  “Back in a sec.”

Inside his caspule, the Matari stretched his neck and rolled his shoulders, preparing himself for a fight.  The Rifter launched itself forward, gathering speed rapidly as its afterburners kicked in.  The gap narrowed fast, and he cut the afterburners as he swung into an orbit around the lead pirate boat.  He ensnared it in a stasis web and pounded it with his autocannons.  Two volleys was enough to wipe out each pirate, leaving only two small clusters of wreckage spreading out through space.  He looted a few sundry items and returned to his companion.

“All good?”

“All good,” she said, nodding to herself.  “We’re about done here.  Back soon.”

“Sure thing.”

Hatchet jettisoned the last load of ore and aligned herself with the Ichoriya stargate.  The warp bubble formed fast, and she streaked off toward the gate, leaving Touch to guard the canister.  She hopped to the next system over and flew to a factory station belonging to the Kaalakiota Corporation, a major Caldari shipbuilder and arms manufacturer.  They were using the ‘KK’ factory as a temporary base of operations, and all of Hatchet’s ships and materials were hangared there.  She stowed the rusty, trusty Burst in the hangar and fetched her beloved Badger-class cargo ship.  I really should install a mining laser on this old crate so I don’t have to make two trips, she thought as the hauler undocked.  She was towed along an exit channel, where she engaged her thrusters and hit top speed as she was ejected into space again among the other ships being hurled out all around her.  She cruised away from the station for a minute, giving herself some elbow room while she reached out with her sensors and found the stargate she wanted.  The trip back was about as interesting as an empty Quafe can, but soon enough she was dropping back out of warp.  Touch was about ten klicks away, still babysitting the can.  A quick pulse on her micro-warp drive got her there in seconds, and the can yielded its contents willingly.

“No trouble?” she asked.

“Nothing.  Guristas won’t come back this way ’til we’re gone anyway.”

The empty canister self-destructed, and she fired up her warp drive again.  As the big-bellied hauler aligned slowly with the Ichoriya gate, she relaxed in her cocoon.  The stars were out, as always, and it was just beautiful out among the rocks.  Uchomida shone dully through a nebula, and the red-shifted light glinted off the hulls of the two friends as they rocketed off into the distance.

“Race you home, Touch.”

“You’re on.”