The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
21 February YC 121
Two days after the Hostage Rescue mission I got a call from Tarumo; he had a new assignment for me.
“The lad that you’ve saved is fine; his family still can’t believe their luck and send you their gratitude,” told me Tarumo, “but there is a bit of a complication. The guy transported some secret documents when he was captured. The pirates seized those docs and now demand an astronomical sum for their return. The station owners asked me to resolve this matter for a reasonable fee. Do you think you can handle it?”
“So far, I can’t say Guristas caused me any trouble, so yeah, I can deal with it… for a reasonable fee,” I raised my brow.
“I think you will find the mission reward adequate, Mr Korff. Besides, I grant you two Light Electron Blasters and highly recommend equipping them for this deployment.”
“Thank you for the advice, Mr Tarumo,” said I and left his office.
The blasters were a more-powerful version of railguns but they had a much shorter range. Here are some interesting stats for turrets with antimatter charge installed on a Merlin.
Optimal range (m)
125mm Railgun I
Light Electron Blaster I
As you can see, with my current skills the blaster has 10 times shorter range but 30% higher DPS. It means that with a blaster I should be able to get rid of adversaries quicker but I also need to spend some time getting into the range and be able to stay there. I didn’t know if such setup would work for me so in addition to two blasters I mounted a railgun, just in case.
While I was undocking I woke up Aura.
“How do you feel about some cloak-and-dagger action?” I asked her.
“Ooh, cool,” said Aura excitedly. “In one of the Fanny Giroux’s books the heroine got entangled in an interstellar conspiracy. Do you want me to tell you how it ended, or will you read it yourself?”
“I trust that Fanny couldn’t let her heroine down and everything ended well. Now it is time to write our own chapter and I need your help to ensure that it will also have a happy end.”
Aura’s eyes were shining. “Wow! I feel like Felicie Lilou, that’s the girl from the book. What do you want me to do?”
“I have only one pair of eyes which will be focused on immediate threats. You’ll need to watch surroundings and comms and let me know if I miss anything.”
“Wilco, Cap!” Aura straightened up and saluted.
“That’s my girl,” smiled I and warped to the mission location.
Nothing in that mission went as planned. Tarumo told me that the pirates were expecting me to bring money which they had demanded for the return of the documents. I wanted to approach them as if I intended to jettison cash and pick up the docs and, as soon as they were in the optimal range of my blasters, attack them. Instead, two groups of pirate ships targeted and engaged me as soon as I warped in. I understand that my standing with Guristas was going south but it was nowhere near kill-on-sight level. My guess is that the dishonourable space dogs did not plan to return the documents in the first place. And yes, I realise the irony of the situation, given I didn’t plan to give them the money either.
Each group of pirates consisted of two Pithi Arrogators and a drone. I chose the one with a webber drone and burned toward the nearest frigate trying to get in the firing range. That was a mistake. The bloody drone webbed me before I could reach the Arrogator which started orbiting me at 5 klicks, outside the range of my blasters. Luckily, the drone itself circled me at just the right distance – 500-600 metres. I targeted the pesky bot and the blaster made short work of it.
At that point, the second group caught up with me and I started taking damage from all hostiles. Aura chose that exact moment to ask me, “Do you know Tahamar?”
“If that is one of Fanny Giroux’s characters, can we discuss it some time later. I am a bit busy now,” replied I targeting the second drone called Runner.
“No, it’s a real person and he is calling you names in the local comms channel.”
I was intrigued as I had never heard of anyone called Tahamar. Activating one of the blasters on the targeted drone I turned my attention to the comms. Indeed, there was some Tahamar who egged on the pirates to make a pork chop out of me, while calling me a pig and a sissy.
“Look, he is actually on the grid,” yelled Aura.
All I could notice was that there was a ship called Tahamar that stayed some distance away, but before I could check its details I got a particularly nasty hit from an Arrogator.
“Watch him,” I told Aura and gave the circling pirates my full attention.
My previous tactic of orbiting a target and peppering it from my railgun did not work with blasters – I simply couldn’t get close enough. Then I remembered my Rift in Space mission when I couldn’t get even into a 5,000-metre orbit around a Pacekeeper drone. What helped that time was changing the order from Orbit to Keep At Range. With blasters I had to be as close as possible so I simply commanded Ampuhaukka to approach the Arrogator. Within a few seconds it closed the distance and shredded the pirate ship with hybrid charges. The explosion was spectacular and it was shortly followed by three more.
In the hindsight, my tactic and the choice of weapons were completely wrong. First of all, I should have fitted two railguns and only one blaster, and should try to stay at range from the hostiles. The Arrogators were definitely slower than me so I should have been able to kill them with my rails before they could approach me. If I couldn’t escape the drones then and only then should I have used my blaster whose vastly superior turret tracking would come handy against smaller targets with a high angular velocity.
Having dealt with the immediate threat I turned my attention to Tahamar but he was nowhere to be found. In his last message he said that I had given him “enough amusement for now” and that we might “meet up later”.
“What an arrogant coward!” exclaimed I. “First, he abused me, then he left without a fight. You were right, Aura. It’s only third military career mission and I am already fed up with insults.”
Aura gave me a strange look, “Third mission?”
“Yes,” confirmed I.
“I don’t remember the second one. You didn’t wake me up for it? Or were you podded and I lost my memory?”
“Erm… You see, that mission was a bit special. I had to rescue the kidnapped miner and it might not have ended well. I know how sensitive you are so I decided not to involve you.”
“But it did end well?” asked Aura holding her breath.
“Yes, it did.”
Aura relaxed, “Awesome! But I missed all the action. You should have taken me with you.”
“But the guy nearly died. What if I couldn’t save him? You would be miserable and probably cry. I don’t want to make you cry.”
Aura lowered her eyes, “Oh, you know, don’t make much of the girl’s crying. It actually makes me feel better.”
“But how do you know? You have never cried.”
I was alarmed. “When? Why?”
Aura looked sheepish, “Well, you know not all Fanny’s books have happy ends.”
I rolled my eyes, “You will be the death of me. Take us back home. I have some questions for Tarumo.”
“Didn’t you forget something?”
“What? The pirates are all gone. This way or another,” added I remembering Tahamar’s escape.
“I mean the reason why we came here in the first place,” Aura raised her brow.
“Oh, shit! The documents.”
I found the docs in one of the wrecks and couldn’t help peeking into them. They held incriminating evidence against Mamin Choonka, implicating him with conspiracy with the Khanid rebel forces led by Dez Yobili. I had more questions for Tarumo.
“Who are those people and what does a small mining colony have to do with them?” I asked the agent dropping the memory stick onto his table.
“Mr Korff, you oughtn’t have read these documents,” said Tarumo levelly.
“Mr Tarumo, I think I have a certain right to know what I was risking my ship and clone for,” replied I in the same manner. “And who is that Tahamar and what does he have against me?”
Tarumo suddenly looked alert, “Tahamar? Did you see him?”
“Not personally,” said I and told him what happened.
“Thank you, Mr Korff. This is very valuable information. Sorry, I have to go now. Your mission reward with a bonus has been transferred to your account.”
“Wait a moment. I must know who that guy is.”
“Later, Mr Korff. I really need to hurry.”
With that, he saw me out and almost ran to the lifts.