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John and the space boat - Derelict, Episode 5

AragmarJan 20, 2020, 8:09:10 PM

Space: Terran Minarchy

Star system: Omia

Planet: Omia Prime

Colony name: Applecrate

Population: 158567... and counting

“So, there was I, my starship’s scanners had just pinpointed the location of this ’ere derelict,” - and Sonny’s finger tapped the large ship painted on his chest - “when this thing, this ’uge thing popped out of hyperspace...” - There was a short pause before the spacer continued. John noticed that most spacesuit-wearing men and women had departed the venue quickly and in an orderly manner. Except the group of feasting Haulers, Sonny was the only other spacer remaining around here. He made a mental note to ask the milky white-haired man about this later; if anyone, the elder was surely in the loop. John reached for and snatched one of the meat skewers, some of the steamed vegetables and wrapped everything a big piece of fluffy bread - there was nothing worse than being a hungry H-logger, listening to a riveting spacer’s tale. What happened to all the food he’d already eaten? He often felt that the excitement of visiting new places, combined with his quick hiking pace, quickly burned most of the calories he put in his body. He was planning to hike through the nearby forest, that is if the weather allowed him this priceless opportunity. As he took another bite of the juicy, covered with some secret Slavic sauce, barbecued meat, his mind stomach growled again. Meat, glorious meat! The storyteller and Eve immediately followed his example; both snatched a skewer each, took sizable bites and then sipped from their drinks. After wiping his short beard from the meat juices with a clean vacfoam handkerchief, Sonny’s green eyes focused on something which only he could see and probably existed inside of his memories. Then, with a mysterious smile, the elder continued:

“This all happened half a century ago, but I still see everything, hear the screech of my starship’s hull when it was hit or the roar of my engines, like it was yesterday! I was prowling across this sector of space on the look for juicy salvage, something to haul back home and make top creds in the process. Of course, one had to be sneaky too. The idea was not to get shot and killed by the pirates – them buggers were all over these here parts back in the day. ’Twas before most border colonies were founded and the only place we Scrappers could drag our arse to when we needed help was Cav. You know, the big asteroid colony, that millions of people now call their home, it was still one barely hollowed out cave. No Blue Wall security ships, no colonial navy patrols, no nothing. Well, nothing if you count out our starships; spacers always go where no one has gone before, son. You see, using my ol’ wormhole jump engine I was sneaking around, the hold of me ship chok-full of foodstuffs and spare fuel containers locked on my outer hull. Everything had to be done via passive scans, optical sensors – no one can detect your eye looking at ’em from a million miles away. The scan rays are another thing altogether, it’s like them ancient lighthouses – everyone can see that ray of light stretching out in the night.” - The senior stopped to take another gulp of cider and then continued, after he and Eve exchanged a look full of understanding. John was not an Ops specialist but he knew the basics and, of course, how sensors worked. Looking through the optics was slower, even with all of that modern software and the aid which ones starship’s mainframe provided.

“One night, me ship wakes me up. I see that big, beautiful holo-slide of something, which my optical sensors managed to spot for me, something that looked almost exactly like that mural you enjoyed looking at earlier. Took me a week to clean the image, do some calculation and attempt to plot a safe FTL jump there. Problem was – to get to this thing, I had to sneak through the space of one, somewhat prominent pirate clan.”

“The ships that you later fought against, those on your chest mural, are they of the same clan?” - Asked John, already tasting the mystery, hoping that Sonny would slip up and share more juicy details. Already his subscribers were flooding the chat with thousands of questions, they also attempted to discern who this obscure pirate clan was. The spacer spoke out and suddenly, even those of John’s patrons who had access to plenty of knowledge, went silent.

“Yes, that’s the Sha’ro pirate clan, now fully wiped out. As far as I know, it was the INS Bremen, that famous destroyer, whose railguns took care of the slaving scum. But that was not a part of this story. John... you are trying to make me sprinkle more information, more bits, as you H-loggers call them! Sneaky, very sneaky.” - Sonny’s very bright green eyes smiled at him almost and then the spacer reached for another bottle of cider. Seems that this grandfather was drinking hard cider, as if the blue, high alcoholic liquid was water.

“I don’t think that your subscribers would like to hear my grizzly, ol’ war stories. Tales of death and destruction are not my favorites - ’sides, they can watch plenty of combat holo-vids on the G-net.”

He easily opened the new bottle with his thumb, its cap flying up in the air. It then bounced off the illumination globe and found its way inside the nearby recycle bin. Apparently unwilling to boast of a feat like this one, the elder continued with his original story, leaving both Eve and John mouth agape and eyes wide. Both knew that this man was a spacer and spacers were by default supremely dexterous, skilled and knowledgeable. However, Sonny was over 130 years old, yet still capable of performing a feat of dexterity such as this. Something nearly impossible for a normal person, even though everyone benefited from restorative gene-therapy and modern, space-age medicine. Even though the humans now lived up to 150 years or more, still, old age was the time of exoskeleton or grav-belt assisted leisurely strolls around the neighborhood. Where said elders were surrounded by their great-grandchildren, not flying laden with weapons spaceships or pistol shooting. After another hefty gulp the man continued, seemingly unaffected by the alcohol.

“I had plenty of fuel to make a long jump, one jump. Therefore, to read the location of this derelict, I decided to navigate through the wormholes. Some were originally charted by me friends – lead to places only I knew about. I won’t go into details, son, but believe you me, after a week or so, I successfully reached the coordinates and undetected.”

“Seems that my subscribers are quite interested by what you just mentioned, Sonny. Could you tell us a bit more, share the locations of those wormholes for example? After all, these pirates are now gone and this part of space – much safer.” - John, still hoping to procure more information for his patrons, asked with the best, most hopeful tone of voice. Sonny answered immediately and with a stern look on his face:

“Absolutely not! Never, it is impossible for me to share the wormhole nav data with you! Do you know how many expert navigators, people who could actually feel anomalies, even telepaths capable of hyperspace folding, died while charting these? I’d be responsible for the doom of those unequipped and/or unskilled enough to brave this dangerous space, if the nav data becomes widely available. Please do not ask me of such things anymore, John.” - The man unintentionally made a spacer sign with his hand, one that John knew the meaning of – deadly danger. He dried out the second bottle of cider, snatched another and while opening it, gave Eve a hand sign. She seemed to have understood what Sonny was trying to say and gently nodded in John’s way. The bunny was sure to share what she was told with him but later. More of the meat was eaten before the old spacer continued his tale:

“Where was I? Yes, the place, I reached the place and nobody was the wiser of me being there. Had to sleep in my spacesuit for most of this trip, the days I snuck through pirate territory. Lucky I was that the slavers were lazy, overconfident. Few of them even bothered to check their optics, they trusted in the power of sensors implicitly. If you turn most of your starship’s systems off, drift on a well-calculated course and connect your spacesuit to a big enough power pack, then the chance of you not being detected is quite high. Although, after a month in that suit, I should tell ya, the odor can be mighty unpleasant thing to endure!” - John had already finished his Shashlik and the first bottle of cider, moreover, he wasn’t at all squeamish. Eve chuckled and scratched her snout, adding:

“I must agree with you and wholeheartedly so, Patron! Indeed for one such as me, who has a heightened sense of smell, caustic adventures like these are most definitely not on my ’to do’ list.” - Both she and Sonny exchanged more hand signs and John suddenly realized that this bunny most probably knew spacer lingo. Sonny raised his bottle, drinking more of its contents but slowly this time.

“See, the second I saw this starship, this alien derelict, I knew it was old, ancient even. We spacers are traveled folk, moreover, all of us make sure to study our craft well. The more one knows about the different types and classes of starships, the better. Therefore and after I’d checked against a list of newly-salvaged vessel shapes I had on my mainframe, I carefully approached. The scrapper’s job ain’t easy, son. You can’t just strap some alien, weirdly designed ship to your own and tug it back home, no sir! What if there is something dangerous lurking inside? What if its mainframe is home to some malevolent AI, bent on exterminating all biologicals? Some of these derelicts we find out there had deadly, capable of resisting the vacuum of space viruses, casually floating inside. Mutants, crazed cyborgs, people who went mad during their voyage, that or worse... The bodies of their long deceased crews might be possessed by some Unlife entity. Whatever it is, the job of discovering what exactly was the reason why this spaceship became a derelict falls upon our shoulders.”

“What did you find inside, Sonny?” - Asked John, his voice laden with anticipation and the spacer smirked.

“What you ask? Well, the minute I got close, real close to the derelict and activated my sensors with the intention of running one long, careful and best of all passive scan, something caught my attention. I saw a light flicker, reflected off the derelict’s bent hull. Took me a few seconds to realize that it isn’t coming from my ship and then it hit me – someone was exiting hyperspace! First thought running through my mind was that the pirates had found me... somehow. I immediately drifted inside the derelict; thankfully it had a gaping hole on its port side and my ship was small. Then, almost all systems off, my eyes feasted upon a sight most magnificent. This hulking, absolutely ’uge ship, it slowly flew in my direction, one of its enormous engines flickering. It was what I originally saw, the thing leaked drive plasma all over and was barely functioning but it still moved. The hundreds of cannons also moved, their turrets protruding from the vessel’s armored hull and aimed in every conceivable direction! It was an ancient hulk this one, not like anything I’ve ever seen before... or after. Riddled with holes, armor-plating bent and torn, this leviathan was still operational even with some of its decks exposed, open to outer space. Ten miles long it was, ten friggin’ miles and around three miles wide.” - Sonny made another gesture, placing his index and thumb real close:

“This was how wee I was in comparison, John. If ever some deranged, full of himself alien assures me his empire the master of space, his fleet undefeated and all-mighty, I remember those awful minutes. What the hulk did then was even more terrifying to me. Still hiding I was inside the derelict, shaking, thinking that this thing came out of hyperspace looking for my future haul. No, it actually flew around me and so close that if I’d been out and stretched out my hand, I could’ve touched its ravaged by the ages hull.” - John could easily feel the memory of great terror absolutely oozing out from Sonny’s green eyes.

“Looking through another, much smaller hole in the derelict’s hull, I could see a flash of light. The ship fired some weapon – a barely visible beam. I don’t know what it was, don’t ask me, but it was powerful. While the hole I looked through was small, I did use my optics and saw what this hulk fired upon. No, it wasn’t at some planet or something like that. The ship fired upon another vessel, which after comparing the two, looked half the hulk’s size. After one shot, only one, this other ship vanished without a trace...” - Sonny’s voice lost much of its strength and turned into a whisper.

“Half the hulk’s size means five miles long, five... friggin’... miles... Ships that big do not simply vanish into thin space - hell, a simple fifteen meters long shuttle leaves a ton of debris when destroyed! I watched how this hulk, whose builders had probably died out thousands of years ago, slid back inside hyperspace. Don’t know why everything happened. Maybe these two were at war, some long since forgotten conflict or maybe it was something else. What I did was attach my ship to this derelict and breaking the Scrapper rules, dashed all speed away from that hellish patch of space.”

Sonny then made another sign, pointing at John’s holo-cam and he instantly switched the thing off. The old spacer then waved with a slightly shaking hand over his PDA and produced a file. The small data pack he linked directly to John’s device, giving him a somber smile after the fact. It was a collection of old, hazy holo-slides and on them, the H-logger could see that huge, hulking starship. That was yet another reason for him to strongly dislike derelicts and stay as far away from them as possible. Let the thrill seeking C-loggers or those who scoured Fringe space, looking for terrors of old, let them chase after stuff like this! Eve’s paws held the can of Asashi so hard it bent and a few drips of silvery foam had soaked her chest. Sonny offered her his vacfoam handkerchief, then, while the bunny wiped her uniform with shaky paw, he issued another warning:

“Don’t go looking for this place or that ship, John. No amount of loot or fame is worth your precious life.” - Warned him the old spacer and smiled fatherly. He stood up, reached for another bottle then shook John's hand and Eve's paw, adding:

“Sorry if you or some of your subscribers got startled by this story but... you picked it yourself, son. Anyways, I gotta go back to my scrappy hovel - them creds don't fall from trees, ya know!” - Sonny made another hand sign, this time aimed at Amy's bartender and before he walked out of 'The tumbling apple', said - “Food and drink is on me kids.”

After listening to a story like that, John decided to take a short pause. Half the day was over but there were many more places to visit, people to talk to and holo-vids to record. Moreover, John was yet to meet Amy First and interview her too. Join us and our intrepid H-logger, next time on JATB! 

JATB was inspired by a real world netsonality and his many adventures - John Daub hails from our humble dimension. You can find his new Youtube channel and his second one, here!

Links to all episodes:

Part 0 - Introduction - The Walkabout

Episode 1 - Applecrate

Episode 2 - Outskirts

Episode 3 - The little bear

Episode 4 - The tumbling apple

Episode 6 - The fish whisperer

Episode 7 - Stargazers

Episode 8 - Wheels

Episode 9 - Revelations

Episode 10 - Harvest fair