Sometimes things happen that absolutely amaze me. That's saying something when you consider the fact that I've been to the center of the galaxy and back. I've seen some strange things in my travels. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the fallout from Count Stuller's trial and execution.
My family stayed with me in Shinrarta Dezhra while my father recuperated. It was nice to see how proud my parents were of all that I'd accomplished. I guess I don't really think about what I've built. I just keep doing what I feel needs to be done. I must be doing something right.
We were contacted by Ambassador Heinrich from the embassy the day after the trial. He informed us of the court's ruling, specifically the title they'd bestowed upon my father. As the son of a Count, I was elevated to the title of Lord, which is a step up from my previous knighthood. Instead of referring to me as Sir Ryan Elders, I'd now be known as his Lordship Ryan Elders. Somehow that was a source of amusement for me. I'd never required anyone to call me Sir, and I certainly wasn't going to have anyone calling me his Lordship!
It was going to be bad enough when the guys in the maintenance shop heard about this. They'd be ribbing me for weeks. So I quietly accepted the title and all the trimmings that came with it. Fortunately there were no apparent responsibilities to go with it. My plate was pretty full already.I
One other thing came out of the Empire for me. An Imperial Courier arrived that same day. I took it out for a test flight. It's a work of art, only the best materials were used in building it. It's fast, light, and comfortable for travel, but will require some work to make it useful. I'm just going to mothball it for now.
As to the decision with what to do with the Ordinator, I finally finished the rebuild. An Anaconda-class hull gives you plenty of options to work with. It came down to deciding what I really wanted to do with it. My focus for the near future was to continue my service with the Federal Naval Reserve Corps. That meant knowing what they expected of me. In peacetime, as we are in now, that more of less requires you to serve as a Freelancer. The best way to do that is the core of my business model: Diversification.
Traveling between the Federal orbitals, I've discovered that various Federally aligned factions often have similar needs based on their location. Fortunately those needs usually fall into one of several categories. A properly outfitted Anaconda is capable of meeting all the various needs with no downtime for refitting in between.
Combat Support. Whether it's simply being able to fend off hostile ships trying to prevent cargo deliveries, rivals attempting to steal your salvage contracts, or more direct combat such as bounty hunting or attacks on raider gangs, many of the jobs entail being able to hold your own in space. This is where the Anaconda really shines.
Equipped with a spinal mount laser cannon, two heavy burst laser turrets, and five rotary barrel multiguns of various calibers, the Anaconda could deliver an overwhelming amount of firepower. With a solid hull wrapped inside a class six bi-weave energy shield, it could withstand considerable punishment as well. If that wasn't enough, the Ordinator also carried a fighter bay.
Cargo Delivery. Even with considerable space dedicated to combat equipment, the Ordinator still had room for over two hundred fifty tons of cargo. That was more than a Type-7 Transporter could carry in the best of circumstances.
Passenger Transport. With first class accommodations for up to twelve passengers, the Ordinator can easily handle most of the Federation's needs for diplomatic transportation. I almost overlooked this when designing the ship, opting for an additional sixty-four tons of cargo space. Fortunately, one of our newer pilots mentioned the number of travelers he'd picked up through various embassies and the lucrative rates that often accompanied them.
I looked into it and discovered he was right. Aside from the occasional official ambassador, quite a few stranded tourists turn to their local embassy when their travel plans fall through. It's not enough to make a career on, but it's a good side market and a very good way to generate goodwill with Federal government officials. I'd be a fool not to accommodate such needs.
The Ordinator also carried a vehicle bay with two SRV's, which allow for planetary duties as well. Ground salvage, escape pod retrieval, other actions best not discussed here, all within our capabilities.
I plan to operate the ship with a three of four person crew. I keep a ship's steward in case we take on passengers, a gunner, and have been vetting pilots to operate the telepresence fighter carried in the fighter bay. I'm planning to make the Ordinator my personal ship, possibly letting one of my more experienced pilots fly the Vulture for awhile.
- - - -
-An excerpt from the personal log of Stacey Collins
I spent a few years drifting from place to place after I mustered out of FedNav service. I didn't really want to leave the military. I liked being a fighter pilot, and I was good at it. In-seat or telepresence, it didn't matter to me.
I'd fallen for someone. He was a rescue flyer. Handsome, smart, funny; he was the total package. Our ranks were close enough not to be an issue. It felt like everything in my life had finally come together. Naturally, that's when it all fell apart.
He was killed by some scavengers while on a rescue mission. They saw Federal Navy, knew they were in trouble and someone got jumpy and opened fire. It was a stupid way to die. I was part of the team that was sent to hunt down the scavengers, but revenge doesn't bring back someone you loved.
It wasn't the same afterwards, so I left. Flying the bigger ships really isn't my thing, though. I found work here and there, but it all felt so meaningless, empty. I realize now that it wasn't the work, it was me. Too bad I didn't know it back then. I got mixed up with some bad people. I did some things I'm not proud of.
Eventually, the authorities caught up with us. My time in service helped me avoid the worst of it, but I have a black mark on my record to remind me of the lowest point in my life.
I finally got my head straight, but now? No one will give me another chance. I can't find legitimate work. I see how people who get into the lifestyle can get stuck there, now. I'm running out of options myself. I saw an advertisement in the local trade sheets today. It popped up right as I was scanning the classifieds. Small business owner who's looking to fill a few new positions, one of which is a telepresence fighter pilot. What are the odds, right? I'm heading there now.
Maybe being first in line will count for something.
- - - -
I've filled the job for a telepresence fighter pilot. It didn't take long. She was waiting outside the building when the rest of the staff showed up today. Stacey Collins, formerly of the Federal Navy. Honorable discharge, long list of accommodations, clean service record. Only flaw was that she was arrested for piracy shortly after getting out. My instincts tell me that something bad happened, and she lost her way. I'm thinking she's better now, probably needs a second chance.
You should have seen her when she walked into my office. Back straight, precise step, met my eyes easily. Hell, I almost expected her to throw me a salute. I didn't ask about her criminal record and she didn't mention it. I suspect she was as relieved about not needing to make an excuse, as I was not listening to it.
If it weren't for the spotless military record, I might have felt differently. A criminal doesn't serve eight exemplary years in the service, but an exemplary service member can make a mistake. So, I took a chance with her. I hired her to work by my side on the Ordinator. At least this way if I'm wrong, I can see it for myself.