March 14, 3303,
D'eyncourt Gateway, Lalande 27055
How things can change in a day.
After leaving Velas, I made my way first to Payayan to sell the bulk of my data. I'd reached "cordial" status with the Independants of Payayan while earning funds for upgrading the Forbidden Seas and I thought they could use the survey data. From there, I made my way to Lalande 27055 to take advantage of the outfitting facilities there. As it happened, the Independents had a courier job that would take me to that system, and while it didn't pay much, it did offer some high end merchandise I could sell at the next high-tech port as a reward, and anything to increase my coffers for the next upgrade was welcome.
I snatched up a couple more courier jobs at Lalande 27055, thinking they would be easy money. And they were - mostly. But one job - procuring a shipment of advanced medicine for one of the outposts in the system - had a nasty wrinkle.
I got the warning just before leaving Ride Hub, at 45 c Bootis: someone had decided to sabotage the mission, and had dispatched an agent to intercept me. I had a few of these warnings on earlier jobs, and had the good fortune of either evading the pirates entirely, or getting to the safety of my destination before the pirates could take down my shields. Station security dealt with those interlopers for firing in the no-fire zone. Today, however, evasion was not to be.
The agent interdicted me not three light-seconds from my destination. Thinking I could recharge and escape, I submitted, and dropped to normal space. Within seconds, a second ship had joined me - the pirate. They demanded my cargo, and when I tried to escape, opened fire.
I was too close either my attacker or to the planet, for my frame shift drive took far too long to charge. I dodged laser fire as best as I could, but the agent kept on me. I thought to turn around and return fire, but my shields were already buckling; and I still hadn't gotten a good look at the attacker - I didn't recognize the ship.
Then two new contacts appeared on my radar, and broadcast the following challenge: "Police response unit in position. All citizens must submit to authority scans. Do not attempt to flee!"
Of course. Lalande 27055 was an Alliance system, with a high security rating - the agent's attack had been noticed immediately. Relief washed over me as the police craft closed. My attacker broke off and opened fire on the encroaching craft, and in short order the three vessels were locked in a dogfight. No longer in danger, I aborted my jump. All I had to do now was wait.
I don't know what drove me to my next action. Perhaps my experience beyond the bubble, shadowed by pirates, had frightened me more than I thought. Perhaps this was simply one hostile act too many. But after the relief of rescue, I felt rage. I deployed my hardpoints, and turned on my former attacker.
Three on one odds meant the battle was short, and as chance would have it, I scored the killshot. The attacking vessel exploded. It was over.
The police units then scanned me as I stowed my hardpoints and brought my throttle to zero. They then let me go, and returned to their patrol.
With the battle over, I found myself shaking, half from adrenaline, and half from the realization of what I'd just done. I had never killed before, but now...
I searched the debris for a body, or an escape pod, and I found neither. Eventually, I gave up, and resumed my delivery.
* * *
When I arrived at D'eyncourt Gateway, my jobs completed, I was greeted by Alliance police, and a thin, angry man in a business suit and the Federation insignia pinned to his lapel. He was a representative of the Lakota Independents, and wanted to press charges for the brutal murder of one Jesse Kaukonen. The representative claimed Kaukonen had been in the system on another job when I attacked and destroyed the ship.
I swallowed. I didn't know his name. I'm not sure what was worse, the brazenness of the accusation, or putting a name to my opponent - my victim.
It took a couple of hours before Alliance police sorted things out. My ship's recorder, plus footage and statements from the police craft at the scene was enough to clear me. As soon as he realized his case was lost, the representative quickly became conciliatory. He had been misinformed on the nature of the battle, had he only known that Kaukonen had gone rogue... He quickly dropped his charges and apologized for the inconvenience, but I saw the fire in his eyes. I made a mental note to avoid any facilities controlled by the Lakota Independents for the near future.
The police records also confirmed what my own search had revealed - no sign of Kaukonen's remains. After I was released, I pondered the nature of the escape pods fitted on most ships. Each pod had a micro-jump system attached, designed to take the pilot to safety at the last visited starport. Our battle had not broken the canopy - it had been a hit to the agent's thrusters that finished the ship. Assuming the micro-jump hadn't been damaged - or removed to save weight - Kaukonen might be alive. Which would make the harrassment I'd just endured a bit of political theatre, perhaps covering for his failure to complete his mission.
Or perhaps the escape system did fail, and Kaukonen had been volatized by the explosion.
So, was there blood on my hands, or not? There was no way for me to know for sure. As I wrap up this entry, I know I will not sleep well tonight, with that question hovering over my conscience.