Having gawked at the Zende ferry ship, we’re now off to the Synuefe Guardian site. Fourteen jumps for the girls, seventeen for me. Sigh.
Why are we doing the trip ourselves again? I thought this megaship was supposed to be a ferry. Turns out it only jumps one day a week. Sigh. Frown.
You’d think flying around with three young women would be exciting times, but mostly they just tease me over the comm.
“Where’s Simon?” said one of the girls.
“Four systems behind us,” said Jenny.
“Four systems behind you,” I said.
“Would you like me to come back there and keep you company?” I think that was Nadia. She seems the more outspoken of the two.
“If you want,” I said in amusement.
“What’s the jump range on that Courier anyway?”
“Thirty-four light years?”
Jokey gasps. Then a soft, “Oh nooo.”
I have no idea who that was.
“Oh, that would drive me crazy after a while,” said Nadia.
“I once had a Cobra that did thirty-two.” Annika spoke nostalgically. “It took forever to get anywhere, but I loved that ship.”
I arrived at the next system en route and absently turned my ship to scoop off the star. “What got you girls into exploration?”
“University,” said Nadia. “We both studied together, then decided to take a year off after our graduate year to go on a galaxy-wide trip.”
“The scan data paid off our debts too,” said Annika.
“Wish I’d done that,” grumbled Jenny. “I went straight to work hauling freight for my parents. So boring.”
“And now you hunt aliens,” I reminded her.
Nadia’s voice turned cheeky. “What do you do, Simon?”
“I-eee do odd jobs?”
“Do any of them include killing people with those guns on your ship?”
“Are you hot?”
“Eight out of ten,” I said.
“He has a girlfriend already, ladies.” Ah, Jenny, right there to defend my honour. “And she’s kind of mean and bosses him around a lot.” Or not.
“If pirates attack us will you protect our ships?” said Nadia. I could almost hear the coy hair-twirling.
“Maybe if you give me all of your scan data for this trip.”
I mean, the chance of pirates attacking anyone in a remote Guardian system were pretty much slim to none, so it wasn’t exactly like anyone flying a defenceless exploration ship with paper-thin shields had anything to worry about anyway.
I arrived at Synuefe D11-96 about ten minutes behind the girls. I found them all circling around the main star in supercruise.
“There he is,” said Annika.
“Look at all the ships, Si!” said Jenny.
I inspected my scanner. It was covered in blips.
“Wow, what the hell,” I said.
“Right?! I think half the Bubble is out here.”
“Honk the system!” said Nadia.
I obediently did as told. Instantly my nav panel lit up with unidentified signal targets.
“That’s a lot of signals,” I said.
Jenny sounded like she was practically bouncing in her seat. “What do you want to do first?”
“Let’s drop in on some of these degraded signals,” said Annika. “I see threat warnings attached to a few of them.”
“Yeah, there might be some cool salvage we could pick up!” said Nadia.
For a pair of wide-explorers there was a certain mercenarial bent to their life strategy that I had to admire.
There’s a load of Guardian shit in these debris fields!
Okay, let me back up a bit.
Following Nadia’s lead, we all dropped in on one of the degraded signals. The instant we fell out of supercruise we found ourselves surrounded by a broad field of charred and twisted metal.
With little bursts of her thrusters, Nadia pivoted her ship around to take in the sight of the debris. “Somebody had a rotten day.”
“Do you think this happened recently?” said Annika.
“Probably. Some of this junk still looks a bit, uh, smouldery?”
Sure enough, I could spy the fading incandescence of recently extinguished fires glowing within some of the drifting wreckage. It was hard to piece together what kind of ship it had once belonged to, but it appeared to be the remains of some sort of cargo hauler.
“Looks like this guy got jumped,” I said.
“Pirates!” said Nadia.
Jenny loudly squealed.
“Oh my god!” she said. “Scan the debris! There’s a ton of Guardian stuff floating around in the middle of it!”
There was. Power cells, spare tech, that sort of thing.
“People must be lifting it from the ruins to sell it,” said Annika. “I bet Guardian tech sells for a premium on the right market.”
“Sounds about right,” I said.
“So who attacked this poor slob?” said Nadia.
Without warning a solitary little Cobra covered in corrosion and spikes jumped into our midst with a loud bang, like, ‘ah ha!’
“You’ve fallen into a trap!” yelled the pirate over his scratchy comm. “Now hand over all your- uh.”
He awkwardly trailed off as two Clippers, a Krait, and a Courier all slowly turned around to take a good look at him.
“Oh, never mind,” said Nadia. “Hey, did your Cobra have spikes all over it too, Annika?”
“Yeah. I was going through a phase, okay.”
Meanwhile, the Cobra had thrown itself into reverse. It’s forward-facing thrusters glowed bright red as it tried to discreetly back its way out of the debris field. Chunks of wreckage clonked off its rear hull and spun off into the void. My brain helpfully supplied the ‘beep beep beep’ backup noise as the poor stupid bastard sidled out of our immediate blast range.
“Guys, the pirate is getting away,” said Jenny. “Simon, isn’t this your cue?”
I made a dismissive noise like ‘meh.’
“I scanned the guy’s bounty,” I said. “It wouldn’t even cover the cost of the multicannon rounds.”
“Simon! That’s terrible! I’m pretty sure he blew someone up!”
“Yeah, someone died here, Simon,” said Nadia.
In the distance I heard the hastily bang of the Cobra booking it into supercruise.
“And now he’s gone!” said Jenny. “Geez!”
So now all the girls are mad at me because I wouldn’t kill the shit-tier pirate. I’m not made out of ammunition, people.
We found an escape pod amidst the debris. So the girls are all happy again. I felt like pointing out that they were giving me grief for not shooting down a pirate for the crime of murder while they blithely scooped up the victim’s load of pillaged salvage, but ultimately kept my mouth shut. I know when I’m outnumbered.
On our way to the only station in the system. I hope that cargo pilot is comfortable in his escape pod. Having happy dreams. Because I’m pretty sure he isn’t getting his Guardian junk back.
Dropped off the escape pod. Now we’re all sitting around chowing down on lunch at the station food court. It’s really dark in here, with just some strip neon lighting to illuminate the various eateries and their signs. Typical outpost fare.
I think Jenny is thrilled to have new friends. She’s talking really quickly and loudly.
“We should go down to the Guardian site next!” she said. “I’m gonna get an orb as a souvenir. I was thinking a casket, but that might be kind of morbid. And disrespectful? Urns are nice though, I could also go for an urn. Fuck, this is good gazpacho.”
“Have you been eating sugar packets again?” I said.
Nadia and Annika turned out to be a tiny chatty redhead with zero respect for personal space and a really tall dark-haired perpetual frowner, respectively. I was a bit taken aback by the latter, actually. She looks stern, but she’s got this Zen jazz radio DJ thing going on. It’s weirdly calming.
Both girls have decreed that I am indeed at least a seven out of ten. So I’m back in their good books again.
Nadia is sitting right next to me. She keeps trying to pet my hair. Normally I would be down with women combing their fingers through my hair, but I’m not really big on being touched these days. Also I have a girlfriend?
“I’d like to see the Guardian site too,” said Annika. She was calmly eating a salad. I’m impressed they can get real produce out here. “I’ve heard it’s a large one.”
“Oh yeah, it’s huge,” said Nadia. “I think you can scan it for a decent blueprint too. I love your hair! I wish I could dye mine that colour. Or afford the nanite treatment.”
I dodged her incoming hand by leaning back. “Thanks.”
Jenny had more practical thoughts on her mind.
“While I was in line for lunch I heard from this other pilot that the local factions are paying a lot for Guardian commodities,” she said. “So we should definitely get in on that while we’re down on the planet.”
Annika looked dubious. “Aren’t those relics priceless artifacts?”
“I dunno, maybe? They use them to science up new weapons for fighting Thargoids, and I’m totally on board with that.”
Nadia was back on my hair again. It seemed to fascinate her.
“It’s so pretty!” she said.
Didn’t know how to respond to that. “Uh, thanks?”
“When did it go all silver like this?”
“At the age of thirteen I was attacked by a giant monster spider, and the shock turned my hair white.”
“I’m shitting you. I was born this way.”
“That’s really cool!”
Meanwhile, Jenny and Annika were sitting back in their seats with solemn expressions, like a pair of ancient philosophers. It looked they might be in the middle of a pretty serious conversation about the morality of excavating the relics of a long-dead civilization for personal profit, so I tried to eavesdrop.
“I’m thinking late 3305,” said Jenny.
“I’m going to say early 3306.”
So Jenny got up and walked over to this nearby bistro and bent over to check out the expiration date on a box of synthetic jerky. “March 3306,” she said, and Annika put her fists into the air like a champion boxer.
On our way planetside now.
Just arrived at the Guardian site. I’ve landed my tiny Courier right next to to the ruins and the girls are all scuttling around overhead trying to find a suitable patch of rock that will accommodate their much larger ships. HAHAHA.
Just realized I don’t have an SRV bay installed in the Courier.