For some time I was hearing strange noises in the back of the AspX, odd banging noises. I put these down to the ship being, well, the ship. They rattle, don't they? They certainly creak and groan when they drop out of super-cruise on the way to the planet. Anyway, I put it down to the ship needing a little bolt tightening at the next stop. There were no indicators showing anything weird, no pressure or temperature issues (other than nearly driving into a black hole or a star).
As I lifted off the moon I'd spent the night on I decided on the old patented power lift off. This involves hurling the ship suddenly straight up, boosting and then flipping into the vertical. It's more fun than it sounds and the G's are exhilarating. It was part way through this maneuver that I heard a massive crash in the back and I was suddenly very worried. Had I managed to pull a wing off? No, I had no wings. Perhaps something had separated.
I go the ship into orbit, zero'd the throttles and headed back into the ship to look at the diagnostic suite computers. There, in the middle of the floor, she lay. Resting on her elbows, looking pretty dazed. She was dressed in this sort of flimsy number, definitely not a space suit. She had a look somewhere between terror and confusion and pain on her face.
I helped her to her feet and gave her a towel to mop the blood off her lip, then helped her to a seat. "Who are you?", I asked.
She looked down, worried that something bad was about to happen, then said, "Linka."
"How did you get aboard my ship?", I asked. "It was in storage. Securely, I thought."
"I spotted you getting ready to leave Jameson Memorial so I stowed away as they were filling the ship with food. " Again, the desperation came out, "I had to leave. They had trafficked me, they made me do......" Her head fell and she burst into tears.
"Alright, alright", I said. "It's cool. You are safe here. But I have to tell you, we are way out in the void. Where were you aiming to get to?"
Weakly she said, "I don't know. I just needed to get away."
I sat and thought for while. I had a spare suit, space travel in anything but a space suit is dangerous. Especially if there is a decompression. But it's clearly made for someone with more male genetics. "Why don't you grab some food and take the spare seat downstairs?", I said. "We'll figure it out as we go."
She nodded and whisped off to the front of the ship. I headed back to the cockpit, turned on the intercom, and had a look to see where the nearest station was. Attenborough station, 400 or so LY away. I plotted the route and headed to the now hollowed out asteroid in the Lagoon Sector FW-W d1-122 system.
As we jumped and jumped I was thinking about what to do about my new partner. I couldn't cut her loose, poor thing. But I didn't know her, anything about her. She looked about my age, had dark hair with streaks of violet in it. Blue eyes? Green? I didn't matter, we were here and I needed to help her somehow. I'd heard about human trafficking and in the context of a galaxy to move about in easy with smugglers about. I could not imagine the life she'd lived. I needed to do whatever I could.
On the way we passed through BLEIA DRYIAE QJ-L C10-9, on the surface just another system. But then I spotted something I'd never seen before, a ringed water-world. Surely it had been discovered before. NO! It hadn't. I was the first. In my glee I headed there as fast as I could. As we got closer I heard Link on the intercom gasp. "It's so beautiful", she said. It really was. I mapped it and then headed into the rings to get to know it a little better, dropping out and driving between the boulders. The laughing in the other cockpit seat, out of view, told me I wasn't the only one enjoying this!
Linka was proving to be good luck.
The next discovery was a biological discovery on a moon, these sort of fungal cone things. I landed and had a look about at them, they are fascinating.
Attenborough's Depot is, as mentioned, an asteroid base. I'd never seen one before. They are what they are, a base carved out of an asteroid. They are pretty rough inside. Not the place to leave a stowaway. If you ever come here be aware. It's lodged in between a gas giant and its rings and I got caught in the planet's gravity well on the way in.
I sold my exploration data, nice to have that in the bank and not in the ship computers. I also got the confirmation that I had indeed been the first to discover the ringed water world, my commander name etched into the galaxy map. The explorer's affirmation that this is what we do and why we do it. Linka and I headed into the station and I kitted her out with a new suit. Now, if we had a decompression, she'd survive. Well, have a better chance at survival. We headed to get some lunch and talked about what we would do. We decided that she'd travel with me until we found somewhere safe for her and headed back to the ship. Besides, she was proving lucky.
I'd overheard two explorers talking about a black hole called Black Treasure. It was just over 1000 LY away so that sounded great! I plotted the course and he headed out. If you ever go here be aware, I jumped into the system and the ship's systems immediately freaked out. You jump out right into the black hole. I dropped immediately out of super cruise, COVAS yelling at me. The thready little voice from the other seat made it clear that Linka wasn't used to this.
If you can ever come out to TRAIKOA FL-P E5-4 then it is so worth it. The black hole lives in its own planetary nebula and the effects in the system are plain stunning. It's 100% worth the trip!
We stayed here for a while, got in some great pictures then plotted where we were headed next. On the next jump I was feeling it so I landed and headed back to get some shut-eye. The AspX is kitted for two so has two beds. Linka headed back and, I know now, snores.
She's great, it's going to be fun flying with her.