The Phantom Lady

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station

3 April YC 121

My heart skipped a beat but then adrenaline kicked in and I yelled, “Ger! Ger, can you hear me?”

There was no reply.

As Ampuhaukka decelerated and came out of the warp, I desperately cried, “Ger, hold on! I am coming back!”

Suddenly I heard Gerhardt’s voice, “Whoa there cowboy. Just keep calm and dock after me.”

“What?” I looked at my external camera just in time to see Victorieux disappear in the station entrance tunnel. My jaw dropped, “But how?..”

“Sorry, mate, I am a bit busy now – need to arrange a few things. Let’s talk in my hangar,” replied Gerhardt and signed off.

“This guy never fails to surprise me,” I told Aura. “How could he, flying a cruiser-sized ship, get to the station before us?”

Aura made round eyes, “No idea. Magic?”

“In such case I am wasting my time, being a flight cadet here at the Academy. I should have become a magician’s apprentice instead. Will go and ask Gerhardt if he needs one.”

“Don’t forget your pointed hat,” giggled Aura.

As much as I wanted to see Gerhardt, first thing I had to do was report to Ijumachi for a debrief. I told him about the remote repper mix-up and it took some time to investigate it. What with this and that, it was only an hour later that I finally reached Gerhardt’s hangar. His Victorieux was hovering over the landing pad illuminated by the floodlights. An EVA crew was crawling over the yacht’s surface while a group of cleaners were filing on the catwalk which connected the gallery with the ship’s airlock.

Victorieux Luxury Yacht in a Hangar
Victorieux Luxury Yacht

The man didn’t waste time, I thought to myself and followed the cleaners.

I found Gerhardt in the main lounge talking to Lassi Saito.

“…it was an ingenious solution, Mr Oppenheimer, but unfortunately, it burnt your CovOps Cloaking Device. Do you want us to repair it?”

“No, I would rather replace it with a new one. Please organise delivery and installation, Mr Saito,” said Gerhardt.

“Not a problem. What do you want to do with the old one? We can either refurbish and sell it for you or salvage the parts.”

“Hmm… Let’s do it this way: you can keep the old device as a bonus but in return you will put your best crew on my ship. You know what I mean? No thumb-fingered apprentices, only experienced specialists.”

Lassi’s eyes lit up as even the salvage value of the CovOps cloak was many times higher than the cost of a regular dock service. He bowed his head in gratitude and said, “Thank you very much, Mr Oppenheimer. I’ll make sure that your ship is taken care of as if she were my own.”

While Ger and Lassi discussed technical details of the repairs I took in the interior of the lounge. The place looked like a battlefield: walls were scorched with laser fire, broken furniture was scattered across the room and shards of precious crystalware crunched under my feet. Apparently, the attackers not only crippled the ship but also sent a boarding party. How anyone could do that to the most elusive ship in New Eden was an enigma which I was looking forward to interrogate Ger about.

Having finished his conversation with Lassi, Gerhardt turned to me. We looked intensely at each other for a few moments and then simultaneously stepped forward and hugged.

“Thank you, thank you, my friend,” said Gerhardt patting me on the back.

“Don’t mention it. I am glad to see you in one piece,” said I nodding at the destruction surrounding us.

“Oh, I was never in danger myself, but you’ve saved The Phantom Lady for which you have my eternal gratitude.”

“The Phantom Lady? Oh, you mean the yacht. Funny, I never knew her name. I must say it is quite apt, especially after that little modification we made two years ago,” winked I.

Gerhardt looked around and put a finger to his lips, “Shh! Let it remain our little secret. Although after what happened today I am not sure it still is.”

“Yeah, about that. How come you got attacked by pirates in a ship like this? And how did they manage to disable her without touching the shield, the hull and the armour? And what were you doing in Uitra anyway?”

Gerhardt threw his hands in the air, “Whoa, so many questions! Where do I start?”

“You better start from the beginning.”

“Okay, that will take some time. You better make yourself comfortable.”

Gerhardt lifted a couple of toppled chairs and gave one of them to me. Then he proceeded to the bar where he found one of few bottles which survived the carnage. “That should do,” muttered he and picked a glass, or at least that was his intention. He ended up holding the upper part of the glass in his hand while the bottom remained on the shelf. Gerhardt cursed and smashed the glass against the floor. He then dragged his chair closer to me, uncorked the bottle and took a swig from it.

“Sorry, if you want a drink we are gonna do it street-style,” said Ger and handed the bottle to me.

“I know a nice bar in this station. Should we go there?” asked I.

“Nah, need to finish the repairs pretty urgently. I’d rather stay here and supervise. If you are squeamish about drinking from the same bottle, you can try finding another one.”

I snorted, “Squeamish? After spending so much time in the recycled pod goo? You must be kidding me.” I swigged the liquid and raised my eyebrows, “Good stuff. It would be a shame if it was broken.”

“Yeah, it’s produced in limited quantities by a Vherokior circle and there is a waiting list for the next five years.”

I looked at the bottle with a renewed interest, then took another swig and gave it back to Ger, “Now, tell me how you got yourself in this mess.”

Gerhardt accepted the bottle and said, “It started a week ago when I was contacted by a group of space divers…”

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