Hind Sector EB-W b2-0
"Fuel scoop complete" - announced Betty. James barely noticed that, lost in thoughts. He spent the New Years Eve with Sib in the medical bay on Hind Mine, passing on the good news about the promise by Pilot's Federation to perform lab tests and possibly find a cure for her condition. She was happy, of course, but he was worried. Dr Cole said that her condition was deteriorating - slowly, but constantly. He was hoping that the results from Werapana would come rather sooner than later... As he didn't want to sit idly around, he retrofitted Lepricon III for mining and headed off to his asteroid hunting grounds in Hind Sector EB-W. Mining somehow always calmed him down.
"1 new contact detected" - the text and familiar sound brought James back to reality.
"Yer ball hopping me... another ship? Here? Betty, lock him up" - he turned around in his chair towards the left console and checked the ID. Keelback. Piloted by someone by the name Jav Marlo
. That rang a bell... a distant one. Or maybe it didn't? Combat rank: Expert. Higher than his... Quick equipment scan: no offensive weapons. James relaxed a little and opened up a comms channel.
"Whoa, I thought I was alone in this system. Keelback pilot, state your business here."
There was a few moments of silence before the answer came.
"Nothing to worry about, I am just a miner. Learned about this location from a fellow back in the Hind Asteroid base. I mean no trouble"
"And here I was certain this place was my own little secret... alright, since we both came here for the same thing we might as well get to that ring together and have a chat on the way, it's a bloody long flight."
He set the power to full and turned towards his usual mining spot. A few moments later he heard Marlo's voice again.
"The name Barrett sounds familiar to me. Is it possible that we have crossed paths before?"
James raised his brows. Definitely not a coincidence. They must have met. But he decided to play it safely and said:
"I dunno. I crossed path with many people. Where are ye from?"
"Alliance space, Dublin Citadel. And yourself?"
"Funny, how small this galaxy seems sometimes. Me too, exactly same place. Perhaps we have met over there".
They paused, as both were trying to recall possible previous encounter. That would have been quite some time ago... Marlo broke the silence first.
"So, what brought you to this remote corner of the galaxy?"
"That's a long story. Let's just say that my former employers tried to get rid of me after I found out things about them they would prefer to keep hidden".
"Sounds bad. Whom did you work for?"
"Asellus Primus Gold Legal. Bastards, every fucking last one of them."
There was a silence again. James checked his comms. It seemed to be running OK. Finally he asked:
"And how about you?"
"I also worked for them. Left three months ago. Now I remember where I saw your name. You were on the company black list, accused of stealing important information together with quite a lot of money..."
Just in case James switched to only weapon installed on the Lepricon - plasma accelerator. Still more than what Marlo had a his disposal. What if he was sent by APGL? What if it was just a plot to lure him into some kind of trap?
"Bullshit. They killed my friend who worked as an accountant for them. He discovered some nasty business they were behind and they first jailed and then killed him in an <<accident>>. So, why did you leave?"
"I was a tech specialist and SRV driver. Got bored and the payment sucked. They didn't make it easy for me in the end, so I'm not exactly a great fan of APGL, just as you I guess".
James relaxed a little. Still, he decided it was better to change the subject.
"So, Jav.. how good a miner are ye?"
"It's my first time. I am more of an explorer".
"Let me then give you a few pointers, lad..."
Icy Ring, Low Temperature Diamonds Hotspot
Hind Sector EB-W B2-0 C5 Gas Giant
They worked together, finding asteroids with the greatest yield, blasting them to pieces with seismic charges and then picking up the spoils. They mined and they talked. James told his story between leaving Asellus Primus and getting here, mostly focusing on Sib, their trip to Pleiades and her current problems. Jav told about his father who disappeared four years ago without a trace and how he was trying to find out more about his fate. They quickly found a common denominator for most of the trouble they recently endured: Thargoids. Marlo was freshly after his meeting with Prof. Palin
and having his share of first - hand encounters with the bugs or with the mess they left behind.
James described his recent experience in the station attacked by the Thargoids
. All that in between blowing asteroid after asteroid...
James disengaged the Pulse Wave scanner and opened up his comms.
"Hey, Jav, found another one, full of void opals. Move your ass over here and let's crack it open".
There was silence on the other end. He checked his scanner. Nothing. No sign of Marlo.
"What the... Betty, run the BIT test for the comms system. Maybe the damn things is having troubles again".
"Scanning.... Tests Complete. Fault in communications system detected. Warning. Numerous faults detected in thrusters 1 and 3. Critical failure of generator 1. Warning, auxiliary oxygen generation system failure."
"You have to be kidding me! Reset all systems and repeat the BIT test"
"Roger that commander. Reinitiating BIT tests. Warning: numerous failures detected. Full list available now on the main display"
James looked up at the long wave of text and cursed. He glanced outside the pit hoping to visually acquire Marlo. Not a trace.
"OK, Betty, run a hard reset of all systems and reinitiate the scans".
"Roger that, commander. Hard reset in 3...2...1... now".
Everything went black. James waited for the systems to flicker and come back to life.