~2600 words, ~13 min reading time
I had just been released from his service on the merchant ship he had been serving on for the past 20 years. He had set out from his home planet – 0503 – a swampy, poor agricultural world – looking for adventure. He had hoped that the merchant ship would provide it – but it didn’t. Yes, it was better than just staying on the same world working the swamp land to eek out a living. But, the routes were pretty established, and 20 years was more than enough time to get bored of seeing the same handful of planets over and over again. It was time for a change.
I disembarked on 0604 – a significant trading port in this subsector. Hopefully, this port would offer opportunities to see places I had never seen before.
It wasn’t long before Keith encountered Suzanne Doyle with a job offer. Doyle has been a belter for a while, and the asteroids near 0604 proved to be a great source of wealthy for her. She was assembling an expedition to go hunting on 0604, as she decided she wanted to begin a menagerie, and was looking for a rare local animal to begin the collection. The target: a huge prairie animal which scavenged in packs. While the animals aren’t particularly aggressive, they are large and that can be dangerous, so the expedition was looking for a medic, and I had received some significant medical training during my time with the merchants. While not ideal, the pay was reasonably good, and could help pay for passage to another world. And this expedition could be an interesting adventure.
We managed to snag a pair of these animals out of about a dozen in the pack.
The next week, I was in the market when I heard that Antonio Hammond – a famous performer around these parts of the galaxy – has been mugged in the lower levels of the city, and was having difficulty getting back to the upper city. I entered the lower city to look for where he was – but found that the rumor was a trap! A physician by the name of Darrel Singleton had heard about the hunting expedition I was on, and wanted me to carry a message for him. Dr. Singleton was unhappy with Suzanne Doyle – specifically, how she made her money. He was convinced that the asteroid belts should be left intact, and wanted me to carry this message to her, since I apparently have some connection to her. I thank him for his hospitality (however unwelcome it may have been) and am allowed to go on my way.
Strange as it is, I decided to go ahead and deliver the message. Rather to my surprise, Doyle agreed to shut down her entire belting operation, and made a public announcement about the fact that she was retiring – no longer to mine the belts for rare materials.
That same week, I was contacted by an officer in the Galactic Navy. This subsector was having issues with pirates, I was told, and the skirmishes between the Navy and the pirates left many injured, and also means that the Navy couldn’t really afford to provide all their own medics. I was invited to serve as medic on the Navy base on 0404.
When I arrived, I was shown to Commodore Murphy’s office. Commodore Patricia Murphy was seated behind her desk, looking through her small round glasses at the book in her hands, her hair pulled back in a tight bun. She looked up from her book.
“You must be Mr. Maldonado. Thank you for taking the position here. My previous medic recently resigned, leaving me in a bit of a bind. Your work will mostly be on this base – ensuring that our troops are ready to battle against pirates and dissidents. Pay is standard, room and board provided here on the base. You may occasionally be assigned to ships on a temporary basis. Currently, we have been trying to drive out the pirates in 0505.”
Then, there was an explosion, and someone ran into the room.
“Commodore, the explosion was small – but we fear it may be spreading. It would be best if we evacuate.”
“Agreed.” And the order was given.
As I was briskly walking down the hall – hearing explosions behind me – someone bumped into me – by uniform a Midshipman names Phelps.
“New guy – come with me. We’re getting out of here.” I followed him down the corridor and into a docked Patrol Frigate – not the direction most were going, though no one stopped us.
“I’m Samy Phelps, and we’re going to be free. A handful of us are taking this frigate, and are leaving. We’ll find something else we can do – but we’re done working for her.”
We undocked, and flew. At first it seemed a Destroyer was going to stop us, but we managed to enter jump space before they could stop us.
It took a few weeks and a few jumps, but we managed to find a buyer for the ship we had stolen on 0304.
Now, shipless, we sought out a patron – someone who could give us some kind of job so we could pay the bills, and found a woman – Hope Norman. But, just as we showed up the meeting, we saw Navy troops – along with a familiar face – Commodore Murphy. She announces that the Navy will be aggressively recruiting draftees for the ongoing conflict with the Pirates. We manage to sneak out and find someone willing to sell us a ship, thanks to an old friend of mine – Preston Goodman – who has made some black market contacts here since last I saw him. After escaping a quick run-in with a Navy ship, we are home free!
We spend a couple of months operating as free traders – picking up cargo and passengers and carrying them to neighboring systems. It’s not particularly lucrative, but was enough to make it work.
We were on 0101 doing business as usual, when Lorenzo Cobb – former CEO turned missionary – offered to charter our ship. He wanted us to take him to 0505 to bring his faith to the pirates there.
Just as we prepared to leave, though, we were intercepted by the Navy. They recognized the ship that had evaded capture before. Seeing we were hopelessly outgunned, we surrendered, hoping for mercy.
We were not given it.
We were put on trial, and sentenced to 7 years for the theft of Navy property and to death for fleeing inspection. (Yeah, it’s a weird legal system here on 0101.)
Fortunately, I had enough money from my share of our earnings that I could bribe my way out – so, I was free again, but I need to get off of 0101.
Before I leave the planet, I am approached by Stella Caldwell – a religious terrorist, seeing to eliminate Navy influence in the subsector. She recognizes me as someone who the Navy has in its sights, and asks me to join with the Children of Freedom in taking the Navy down. After all the Navy only has a few bases in this subsector – the main difficulty is that local governments so often bow to the Navy’s demands. In any case, the Children offer to take care of my finances if I can help them in this endeavor. I accept. My first mission: to acquire explosives.
I have to fly low berth – a dangerous process of being put into cryogenic sleep for the Jump, and awoken on the other side of it. Sometimes people don’t wake up. Fortunately, I arrive safely at 0103 – a significantly less lawful planet than 0101, which sits under a Navy base. I acquire the necessary explosives and jump back to 0101 to meet the cell.
Our cell has procured the use of a small shuttle – Stella will serve as captain, I will be the pilot and Gerald Cruz will be our demolitionist. We fly the shuttle up to the base. A meteor shower provides a nice distraction which we can dodge around, but masks our approach. Gerald sets explosives on the outside of the hull and we move away. We are just out of range when the explosives go off – we got grazed by the explosion – damaged our M-drive, so we had to limp away. Fortunately, though, the explosion was enough to take out the base, though many escape pods carried most of the personnel to safety. There are only two more bases left in our subsector – one on 0404 and one on 0704.
0404 is our next target. This is the home of Patricia Murphy, Commodore over this subsector. This base has been focused on fighting the pirates nearby on 0505. Recently, however, they’ve developed a bit more interest in those who keep bombing their bases. We need a plan! Fortunately, Stella has one. The first step: saving one of her allies who the Navy is holding prisoner on 0404. We look for a ship heading that direction.
The Scouts have a ship available, if we are willing to accompany them on an expedition to survey a lesser known world. We agree.
On the way, we encounter a merchant liner in distress. One of the passengers was a psion – and tried to awaken psionic abilities in her lover. But, he reacted poorly – dying in the process. She snapped, and damaged the ship with her abilities. The damage is not severe, but the engineer is quite busy, and could use our help. We help, and get the ship operational again, and they head on their way, and we continue on ours. We arrive at 0403 a few weeks later. The planet isn’t unpopulated – there is a community of about 700,000 here. However, much of the wildlife is unknown, so the Scouts wanted to gather some additional samples. We help them do so, and they take us the last jump to 0404.
Where Patricia Murphy is waiting for us – as soon as we arrive in the system, we are intercepted by a Navy ship. Over the speaker, a cold voice “It’s wonderful to have you back, Mr. Maldonado.”
Upon hearing this, I feel a blow to the back of my head.
I wake up in a cell, alone. Thee are just a handful of cells on the base here. I see a couple of other people here. One is likely Stella’s ally that we’re supposed to secure. They introduce themselves as Tonya Mendoza and Andre Robbins.
We realize that we need to escape, but it’s not clear how we’d do this. However, we know we don’t have long, since Commodore Murphy almost certainly wants me to executed – after all, I escaped a previous execution.
Murphy enters the brig with two guards.
“So, Mr. Maldonado, it’s so nice to have you on board again. A shame it won’t be for too long. See, you’re to be executed. Technically, sentence was given on 0101 several months ago, but I’m sure they won’t mind if their prisoner who mysteriously vanished turns out to have died a few systems away. But, no. I’m not going to execute you now, here, on this base. I have other plans for you. See you tomorrow, Mr. Maldonado.”
I sleep badly that night. The next morning, two guards come to fetch me. I fight them!
Amidst the fight, I manage to free my fellow prisoners. We put up a great fight. And then everything goes black.
6 weeks later
I am saying my prayers when I’m interrupted by a knock on the door. One of my compatriots apologizes, but wanted to let me know about the death of Keith Maldonado and Tonya Mendoza – who died in a failed escape from the Naval Base on 0404. Murphy must pay.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty far from 0404 on another mission. It will take several jumps to get there, but I head that direction.
A few weeks later, on 0103, I learn that there is a medicine shortage happening throughout the subsector. The shortage is leading to fights and drug gangs taking over what is available. One captures me.
The leader is a rather flirtatious woman who introduces herself as Adrienne Moss. She’s convinced that I’m an agent of the pharma corps making it difficult for meds to flow to 0103. I point out that the shortage started before I even arrived, and, if I were an agent of the pharma corps, I’d probably be focusing on planets with more than 90 people on them. She quickly changes her tune – while she may be a bit flirtatious, she is also eminently sensible. I explain that I’m stuck on this planet until I can get transport off – I say I want to get “home” to 0404 (well, half of this is true). Moss believed me, and helped me find a ship.
I jump to a couple more systems on the path to 0404 – help someone repair a computer to get a bit more traveling money.
Finally, it’s just one more jump to 0404. I enter cryosleep on 0304, knowing that in about a week I’ll be on 0404, and ready to get my revenge on Patricia Murphy.
But, Stella Caldwell would never awake.
Midshipman Samy Phelps
I got separated from Keith Maldonado on 0101 when we were sentenced to death. I needed to find some plan to escape – and hope that Maldonado found some way to save himself. Then, Lorenzo Cobb showed up. Apparently, his church had paid the debt. He tried to make some religious analogy of it, but I was just glad to be out. He also made deals to save the rest of the crew – except for Maldonado who had apparently found his own way out of the trouble.
So, Cobb, Goodman, me, and the rest of our crew were approached by Stella Caldwell – she has a mission for us. Wants us to make contact with a supplier of explosives on 0705 – a fairly lawless planet where it’s reasonably likely we should be able to get a reasonable supply.
It takes about 4 months for us to get there and find a supplier, but we do succeed, and convinced them to give us a reasonable discount of the typical black market price.
A smuggler then approached us, asked us to help him impersonate some officials to smuggle something – no questions asked – onto a planet with fairly strict law enforcement.
Just as we were negotiating a pirate crew ran in – they were on the run from the Navy, who had attacked their base in a nearby system. The Navy would likely follow them. I try to convince the smuggler to join us in standing against the Navy, but he refuses – he wants to leave. Cobb joins him while Goodman agrees to stay and join the pirates in trying to fight off the Navy. The pirates’ ship needs a bit of work, but while we are working on it the Navy arrives – Patricia Murphy is there with 20 troops. It’s going to be a tough fight, since there are only 10 of us on the other side.
We fight on one of the landing platforms, well above the planet surface. Both sides were taking losses, and it was getting ugly – but Goodman and I stormed the Navy ship, and found Patricia Murphy – we shot and killed her, and took over the ship, crashing it lightly into the station.
The remaining Navy troops surrendered – leaving the Navy for good.
And with that, the subsector declared independence from the influences of the Galactic Navy. It took some time for the news to spread, but the remaining members of the Navy in our subsector also defected, butting an end to Naval influence in this subsector – for now.