Vacuum and Steel
an Elite Dangerous story by Erron1701 and Warcrow80
My brief story!
Commander Erron1701 headed for turnover to the new Community Goal at Redi Market in the Lambda Arae system, it was only a short 2 jump trip at about ten minutes, but with a full load out of four hundred and forty tonnes of Superconductors at almost two million credits clear profit, it was certainly a stressful trip.
Mercifully the blue SAFE DISENGAGE READY all clear message appeared in the HUD of his Type10 Defender indicating he was within range of the station and at a safe speed to disengage the frame shift drive. Erron relaxed a little as he dropped from frame space to sub-light speeds in the relative safety of the Redi Market station, with it's regular security patrols and heavy armaments on the station its self.
Erron had come out of Frame Space to the side of the spinning Orbis class station, the outer rings to his left and the middle ring to his right, with the outer ring encircling the docking port and the “letter box” airlock allowing entry to the docking bays. Turning left Erron hit the boost to bring him in range of the port allowing him to request permission to dock.
At seven and a half klicks the automated docking message broadcast over the comms net, “Lakon Sierra Oscar Victor, you must submit a request before docking at this port”
Erron submitted his request and was about to set the throttle to zero to bring the automated docking computer on line as the automated comms confirmed his docking platform.
Just then a Cheiftain buzzed his canopy and blasted the front of the Soverign with its wash.
“Yeehah” came the message over the coms net.
“Crow, you ass, keep your distance!” Erron yelled to the other commander.
“Ah stop being a Pooppol” came the drawl over the net, “you'll have an aneurysm”
“Go sod yourself” Erron chuckled in reply.
“Good haul?” Warcrow asked.
“Good enough this time, you have any luck with the bounties?”
“Yeah man, took down a nice Conda just before I jumped back, nice payout on that too”
Erron chuckled, and suggested they meet in the coffee bar on level twenty.
“Aw man, you always with the coffee, lets get some of that Century Mega Gin from the bar on thirteen!”
Erron chuckled again and killed all forward thrust. “Maybe” was all he said.
“You are approved for automated docking!” the station confirmed. Next followed a litany of messages about keeping to the speed restrictions in the area, how loitering in the docking bay was not permitted and about heavy traffic in the area.
Eventually the Soverign entered the docking bay, behind the faster and more nimble Nightwing piloted by Warcrow, Erron's oldest friend.
Looking out over the expanse of the bay Erron could see some floating debris of what looked to be the remains of an Asp, or Asp Explorer,.
“Looks like some idiot deployed their hard points in the docking bay” he muttered forgetting he had an open mic on the comms net.
“Yeah, and the stupid Doos tried to fire back too, noob Commanders!” came an unexpected reply.
Erron chucked again, “Bar in fifty” he replied.
Warcrow sounded a little too happy about that,“To fuckin right!”
“Docking successful” the pad tower confirmed, “ground crew dispatched, station services are at your disposal.”
Once the docking clamps were in place Erron brought up the starport services screen and proceeded to the commodities market screen to off load the Superconductors, two point one million credits profit, a nice tidy sum. This run now put him in the top seventy five percent for the deliveries in the Community Goal, meaning he'd get another two million credit on top of that, which would come in very handy for upgrading the hardpoints on the Soverign.
Once all the paper work was completed Erron climbed out of the flight chair and walked to the back of the top section of the cockpit. On the Type10 Defender the pilot sat on the upper deck, with the crew sitting on the lower deck to the left and right, at the rear there was a lift that took him to the exit and the gantry to the docking platform and eventually the bar and a Century Mega Gin all the way from Hutton Orbital.
Erron walked into Dunstans bar and scanned the room for Warcrow, nowhere to be seen, must have gotten held up in the queue to hand in his bounty vouchers.
Dunstans was a spartan place, utilitarian, most bar keeps liked to make their establishments a small corner of the home planet they came from, the Empires Rest up in section fifty seven was made like a tavern from Achenar 6d, the Imperial capitol and Gellans Folly on level seven looked like something out of an old holo movie from the old days on Sol. The only problem wit those bars was the clientele, only Feds or Imps frequented those bars, and independent pilots like Erron and Crow stood out like a sore thumb on a very impatient dock master.
Dunstan was different, anyone could come here and have a drink, no matter who they were allied with, any messing about and Dunstan, well lets just say that he Dunstan'd you, which is something you never forgot in a hurry, kinda humiliating and painful all at the same time.
Erron walked to the bar and ordered two Mega Gins, one for him and one for Crow, who walked through the door not too long after.
Erron had decided to sling on some surface boots slacks and a jacket before coming down, Crow was still in the sleek Remlok flight suit, Erron cocked an eyebrow, “no time to change?” he enquired.
“Nah, some Doos was arguing with the paymaster in the Security Office about the level of his payout kept us over fifteen minutes before he accepted the payout and let everyone else get their turn.” Warcrow took the offered Gin and held the cup up momentarily to say thanks before slamming the contents back and ordering another. Erron smiled and sipped his own.
“Anyhow, what's next?” Warcrow continued after downing his next Gin, “more shuttle runs?”
“Nah, was thinking of bringing in my Cheiftain and coming back out with you to grind some bounties, I just don't know how to break it to the missus, you know how she worries!”
“Yeah man, Nat's Ouma thinks I'm sooo brave, Nat not so much. I gotta do some delivery runs to keep her sweet, ya know?” Erron indicated he did, “tell ya what, why don't you and I take that Type10 Defender of yours and my Type9 Heavy and do a few more delivery runs?”
Erron smiled, “You know I just made two mil. on Superconductors for the CG, you've got twice as many cargo racks as me, you'd make a killing.”
Warcrows eyes sparkled and he threw back his current Mega Gin, “when do we start?” he asked.
Erron1701 sat in the bar on Hausers Reach in Robigo nursing a Azure Milk from Leesti. He'd been out to Colonia and back, done some high value cargo runs and made a decent turn over. He'd also visited the Molly Nobe museum, at first he'd thought the background story was a bit far fetched, but he was in system when one of the sisters hattacks had happened, that was a big NOPE, the Asp Ex was turned around and he'd put as much distance between him and that system as he could. Now he was now taking sightseers from Robigo out to Sirius Atmospherics in Sothis which was turning a TIDY profit margin.
The Soverign had been ditched months ago, sure she was a nice solid ship, great hard points and could carry onboard fighters and had a decent cargo space, but she turned like a planet and was too much to maintain. So The Sovereign had gone to make way for the Ark, an Anaconda from Faulcon DeLacy, not as large in the cargo capacy, but still able to embark fighters and was more manoeuvrable, with slightly better hard points, all in all making the passenger runs a profitable venture.
Erron had tested the waters with a beluga liner and was getting just as good turnover with that, with as good manoeuvrability as the 'conda but not as great hard points and the sheild gen was not sparkly either, so although Erron liked to avoid combat as much as possible, he was definitely not looking for any trouble in this unit.
That was all moot at the moment though. The last dock he'd made 24hrs ago was when the Dock Master had been waiting for him with a holo-board and bad news, the pilots federation had pushed a COVAS firmware update out and the Ark was in need of an update. This was now in progress on all his ships, which meant that Erron was stuck in port for the duration.
After several hours of sitting in a bar drinking a variety of hard and soft beverages, Erron decided to grab a coffee and make his way back to the Temp Cabin he'd been assigned for the duration of his enforced hiatus onboard Hausers Reach, the 8x8x8 cube was big enough, but with just a bed, a desk and shared toilet and shower facilities at the end of the corridor, he wouldn't want to stay there for any length of time.
So he pulled a bottle of century gin from his flight bag taken from his private stash on the Ark, that was a ball ache of a run. He'd taken the Python out to Hutton Orbital completely forgetting that the flight out was over an hours travel from the primary, after the first repeat of the Gal net he was getting bored, so he'd pulled up the Hutton Orbital truckers radio station, it wasn't bad, just maybe not his usual taste, mostly local stuff and out of date tracks from before hyper was discovered.
Erron threw himself on the bunk and made inroads on the Century Gin, which could be a bit messy in the morning, but as he had to wait for the firmware upgrade, it didn't make much difference.
Erron woke to the ready beep of his communicator, the room was still dark and the cheerfull chirp was drilling into his skull so he flipped the channel to a audio only pickup.
“hey commander, it's stacy from the Dock Masters office, the Ark will be ready for departure any time after 13:00 local!”
Erron grunted his thanks and Stacy cut the comm.
Rolling out of the bunk Erron groaned as the Century headache took hold, his vision swam a little and then stabilised, a stim took the edge of the effects of a night of drinking, packing all his gear Erron headed out the door to the washrooms and then to the docks.
90mins later Erron was sitting in the command chair on the Ark waiting for Dusty, his fighter pilot to arrive before he requested clearance to leave. Cycling through the Galaxy Map he was looking for a good run out that would be enough to blow the cobwebs out, but wasn't too far out and would take too much time.
He'd just settled for a destination of M. Gorbechev in Sol, cos hell why not, when Dusty entered the bridge.
“Hi Boss.” he said, way too cheerfully, “ready when you are.”
Erron grunted and signalled his departure request to the tower.
The ship restraints withdrawn message came from the pad tower and COVAS confirmed that the docking clamps had been released.
With a small burst of vertical thrust Erron moved the bulk of Ark through the docking bay and out of the air lock. Station control reminded Erron to keep within the local speed limits, but Erron boosted to the hyper limit and activated the FSD.
“Analsys Mode Enable” message appeared on the HUD and the reticle changed from the circular orange to verticle blue lines.
“What the...” Erron muttered looking bewilderd at Dusty, who shrugged his shoulders. Erron tried again to activate the FSD “Combat Mode Enabled”
Erron sighed and pulled up the change log from the Pilots Federation and both he and Dusty settled in to read the review notes before they were able to identify the changes made and update the key bindings, then they were able to activate the FSD correctly
“Frame Shift Drive Charging”
Now they were off again into the black.
Erron sat in the command chair of the Eowyn, his trusty, sturdy, old AspEx. Just him and the stars on this milk run, low volume high value charter of Bio Waste 2 Jumps over, no-one would be able to get the high value on the black market for the cargo, it would only be good the person he'd been chartered to deliver to and only Erron could return to collect the delivery fees.
So for now he sat back and gazed over the dashboard, through the canopy at the stars of the milky way, the dusky reds he could see here from deep inside the bubble of human inhabited space. Erron felt at peace the galaxy streched on for millions, no Billions, of miles, light years to the next star and all he had was his ship, a couple of weapons and 120 tonnes of shit, good job the stuff was sealed in biohaz containers and deep frozen too or the Eowyn would have stank for weeks on end.
The undock was uneventful for him, however, he had watched a large T9 Heavy leave from his landing pad, it's rookie pilot had managed to get stuck in the letterbox and had almost been blown to bits by station security. Thankfully the dunder headed stiff had managed to free himself and boost out of the airlock, only to reappear sheepishly a few minutes later to pay his fines for loitering in the air lock.
Erron received the all clear from station security and went to max throttle for his first jump, a short first leg, the second a little further out, but no big deal for /the Eowyn.
“220.127.116.11.” the C.O.V.A.S counted down until the FSD activated and pushed Erron and Eowyn out through space via hyper, Which sounded a lot like Magic, until you understood the mechanics of it all, which Erron only partially touched on when he landed his first Sidey, since then he'd not felt the need to go back and relearn some of the more esoteric parts of the theory.
The C.O.V.A.S had calculated the jump to the next star with its usual alacraty and Eowyn had exited hyper pointing to the suns North West quad, with Errons target system appearing off the his curent South East behind the sun. Erron move the nimble AspEx through a series of tight turns to bring him to the correct bearing and he manoeuvred around the sun, bringing him close enough to the star so that his fuel scoop could replenish the very small amount of fuel he'd used to get here.
Once the sun had been navigated, Erron aligned with the target system and activated the FSD. A short while later Erron was in the target system looking for the station he needed. It was a small outpost on one of the more habitable planets.
Erron swore profusely as he realised his rookie mistake, he hadn't checked the charter destination before accepting the contract, now he had a 30 min wait to be in range of the outpost he needed to drop off the cargo. He toyed with dumping the cargo and cancelling the contract, but, that came with the risk of a bounty and or a fine if he didn't complete and Erron was not in the mood for some of the nut cases that tried to get bounties. So he settled in, pulled up the Hutton Orbital Truckers P-Cast and settled in to listen to some crap Muzac from the late 20th/21st centuries.
About 5 mins in Erron noted a ship on his radar flying in his wake, he'd not been paying attention to the system message board so he reactivated the messaging system, Damn, some space pirate, or a flunky of the opposing faction in the system had locked on and was pursuing him for his cargo. Why in hell would they want a shipment of crap for gods sake.
Oh well, Erron messaged back to say he had nothing of value, normally a pirate would do a manifest scan at this point and bugger off, this time nothing, silence on the messaging system, ok then. Erron moved deftly to the targeting system and brought up the targeting information on his pursuer. An Adder, the galactic equivalent of a School Bus, well this Adder was going to learn that an Asp has a bigger bite.
Erron slowed slightly to allow the Adder to catch up, which didn't take long, then when the C.O.V.A.S confirmed an interdiction lock had been made, Erron killed the engines and submitted to the interdiction.
Both Erron's Aspex and the Adder tumbled out of Supercruise into N-Space and Erron brought all of Eowyns Targeting systems on line. Erron didn't like combat, however, that didn't mean he couldn't fight, Erron swung the nose of the ship round to make it look like he was fighting with Fixed guns or weapons on Gimbals while the other vessel rabbited on about how Erron should drop such and such a value of cargo, Erron really wasn't paying any attention and was readying his “surprise”. The AspEx has 6 hard points, 4 small and 2 medium Erron had filled them all with turreted weapons, 4 Small multi-cannons and 2 Medium beam lasers, more than enough to see off this idiot, and he'd uprated the shield generator, thrusters, power distributor, power plant, bulkheads and life support.
When the big yellow bus had gotten tired of making demands, and yes it was yellow for gods sake, it started in on its attack run. Erron boosted for maximum effect and opened up with the Beam lasers, which caught the bus all by surprise cos he flinched first, boosting as hard as he could over Erron, but, the bus hadn't counted on the turreted weapons, they tracked him as he flew over, and all Erron had to do was angle his ship sufficiently to keep Eowyn out of the line of fire.
Soon the bus's sheilds were almost all gone, so Erron boosted around so he could open up with the 4 Multi-cannons. Now the bus's messages, still demanding cargo or what have you, started to become a little more panicky as the shields went down and the hull started taking direct damage. Erron Flipped to the Warrant Scanner momentarily to find this douche was wanted in this system, a nice little payout was coming Errons way.
Soon the Addres blew, the explosion was not that large, nor was it noisy, it is space after all. Erron swung Eowyn round towards their target destination and boosted back into Supercruise.
Erron sat back a second time to wait and listen to truly god awful Muzak.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, as he'd closed on the outpost he thought he'd seen another aggressor, but it was a Dolphin liner taking passengers on sightseeing expeditions, now C.O.V.A.S pushed the Safe to disengage message so he could drop from Super-cruise. Erron opened the targeting system and brought up the details on the outpost, his following request for docking was denied. This wasn't uncommon on outposts, they didn't have many medium landing pads and if it was in use you had to wait, altjough this wasn't usually too long.
Eventually Erron was given clearance to land on pad three. Boosting over to the pad, Erron though about bringing the docking computer on line, but he decided to bring her in on manual, which was easy as the AspEx was nice and nimble, even with a full belly of poop, and the full view from the cockpit through that expansive canopy made it all the more easy.
Thinking about the docking computer Erron wondered if there was ever going to be a breakthrough on that promised Advanced Docking Computer that was all over the 'waves, it would have certainly been helpful for that rookie in his T9.
Erron grinned as he landed deftly on the pad, maybe he'd try a T9, then again maybe not, the T10 defender was a pig and a T9 was worse, nah, he'd stick with the 'Conda for a long while till he could get his hands on a pinnacle. Now that would be nice.