Category Archives: Vin’s Blog

Outbreak in Van Maanen….

Well – it COULD have been a profitable week.  Vin had checked the station logs – Rex (Hutton’s intrepid and rather hapless roving reporter) had undocked last week, in time for the radio show and singularly managed to NOT check in since.

He had headed for Hutton’s new facility at O’Connor in Van Maanen.  Somehow, despite having control of the whole system from there, pilots still needed to apply for permission to enter from the Sublime Order.

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A “tomb” had been discovered, inscribed with truly ancient Latin words, but only dating from 20 or so years ago.  A series of fatal accidents had been reported, mysterious deaths after the sealed building had been broken open.  Paper shredders catching the tails of a scientist’s lab coat and devouring everything up to the point they hit bone – that sort of thing.

It turns out that Rex found something inside the sealed building and taken it back to a forensic lab at O’Connor.

Within 24 hours, an Outbreak had been declared in that station, and spread rapidly to surrounding stations and systems owned by the Sublime Order, including Tau Ceti.

Now…. news was reaching Hutton Orbital (it’s a long way – it takes a while) that rumours were circulating that the outbreak had spread to our own systems.

Co-incidence?  A trap laid by the Sublime Order? Something more sinister and scary?  Vin was waiting to hear back from Rex….

 

Mysterious things….

The folder on the desk, marked with a Canonn Interstellar logo (yes, that was the right spelling) was slowly growing fatter.

Two years ago, Thargoids were a distant memory and as far as everyone knew, the lack of sentient life out in the Galaxy was a combination of “having been nuked from orbit” by humans of generations gone by and the fact that he hadn’t found any yet.

Then…. there were rumours that strange probes had been discovered in the Pleiades… scanning your ship and broadcasting a signal in return.  Following that, strange organic “barnacles”, then what only can be described as “a pair of space bollocks” and onward to weird ruins and abandoned alien wrecks.

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A few planets had weird organic mushroom growths on them…. The Formidine Rift was just another mystery for crazy people.

Nothing sentient, nothing to talk to, nothing threatening to ask to be “taken to your leader”.

Then. An Alien craft – looking for all intents and purposes like a giant flower, grabbing ships out of supercruise and disabling them, then scanning and flying off without communicating. The ruins woke up – monoliths started reacting to commanders. We had confirmation that the owners of these ruins were “The Guardians”.

“What were they guarding against,” mused Vin. “and if they’re no longer guarding against whatever needed guarding against, is it a coincidence that they have woken up just as we discover this new alien race?”

He printed the latest set of news articles from Galnet – talking of strange Guardian related sexual habits (why did it ALWAYS boil down to sex?).  Digital communications couldn’t be trusted – they could be hacked, deleted, adjusted.  Paper copies of things were essential. you could grab them and run when needed.  A couple of blurry pictures paperclipped to the top.

Something was going on out there and Vin wasn’t convinced it shouldn’t be filed under “bad news”.

“Something wicked this way comes”

 

… from the frying pan into the fire

Vin glanced over at the warning from Nocti again.  It looked like some unscrupulous smugglers had been at it again, dumping unwanted biowaste on Hutton’s stations in the hopes that no one would notice.

Oh, we had noticed about a minute after the smell hit the admin office.  Stank to high heaven (and back a bit).  Worse than cubicle 3.

The Hutton Truckers were locked in a war for their next system – Kappa-1 Ceti.  It looked to be going well, though the conflict zones were a long flight away from the jump in point.

A number of commanders had dropped by the station outfitter to upgrade their Pythons and Anacondas with new ship kits, personalising their ships to within an inch of the ridiculous.

Of course, purple paint didn’t count as ridiculous – well, at least not when you were colourblind.

“Besides,” though Vin, “Purple suits the Shady Lady perfectly.”

So – the warning.  What had started as a bad smell was rapidly turning into an outbreak.  The local population, already susceptible to MODS despite our best efforts, had come down with a mixture of something resembling either dysentry or the morning after a bad curry – this had blocked the plumbing and from there… well, hazmat suits were now the fashion accessory of choice.

The solution? Other than plumbing? Advanced medicines – the kinds that left you clean inside and out and were rumoured to even re-grow lost limbs.  Lael (the Hutton mission mistress) had put forward significant cash reserves to pay for them, meaning commanders could make some serious profits.  If only we could get this damned war out of the way.

“Sod this. Stick time,” said Vin to no one in particular.  He headed for the docking bay and the Shady Lady’s garish, but as of yet un-modified hull.

 

 

Get me those pictures, and be snappy about it.

Ozzy60Vin kicked back when he got back to his quarters. “His” was a little bit of possessiveness – the Shady Lady, the Asp and his usual home were 200Ly away, along with his collection of 21st Century music and early 20th Century books.

For the last few weeks, a storm had been brewing in the occupied systems. There had been a glitch in the computer systems that ran both the Federation and Empire’s market trading. No word had been released from the Alliance, though he suspected they suffered in the same way.

Ozzy12The factions really were just a choice of way of life. With the exception of the Imperial Clipper, available to high ranking nobles in the Empire and the Federation’s brutal looking Dropship, there was little to tell between them once you were alone, away from station control.

Many of the Empire’s barons were playing both sides – fuelling speculation of rifts within the Empire causing dissatisfaction amongst fringe worlds and bringing Clippers to Federation conflict zones, on the side of the Federation.

So – the market trading systems had broken…. Fleets of Type 9’s had arrived in many boom systems and begun advertising for this month’s “must have” product – which turned out to be performance enhancers. Vin didn’t like to ask what they were for, but rumour had it that it involved the kinds of evenings that could throw your back out and leave you with an embarrassing itch (and someone else’s ship keys).

The type 9’s had bought up every single one they could lay their hands on for well above market price – fuelled by their systems telling them that they were the product to buy. No one had the heart to tell them that they were now sitting on warehouses of stock that would make a forest of weeping willows stiff.

Commanders had cashed in on this error – where once Eagles, Haulers and the odd Cobra were in and out of the stations, Pythons and Type 7’s were the mainstay. Briefly, many were millionaires many times over.

Once the systems were rebooted, small riots broke out in many places – cities and stations that had benefited from the boom, as well as some of the “simpler” commanders had protested about the sudden drop in their income. Many had overstretched themselves on borrowing connected to the new income and were left in negative equity on everything from ships to houses.

A knock at the door to his quarters disturbed him, followed by the very Imperial “swoosh” on opening.

“Vin, you’ve had an hour, where are those pictures?”

“It’s been half an hour and you know they take time to download from the ship and process.”

The station’s press officer, Brand, frowned, looked over at Vin’s console which was doing singularly nothing.

“You’ve been paid for these photographs, in advance and as of yet, we’ve seen nothing. Stop fornicating us around and get off your backside.”

Asp1-betatucanae“Look – I’ve travelled 200 light years to get here, I’ve secured you an interview with some of the area’s most notorious pirates, serviced Gutamaya’s request for some shots of the Clipper and in the process managed to get myself cooked making the Asp look sexy.”

Vin reached over to turn off the terminal. Brand looked unimpressed but raised a hand.

“You’ve got an hour. If nothing’s with me by then, we’ll invoke the penalty clause in our contract and you’ll be fined, then ejected from this station.”

Vin didn’t hear him leave. He’d turned his back and plugged his headset back in.

Clicking through the terminal menus, he cursed the ancient ship systems on the Sidewinder. He hadn’t bothered to name it – for this job, it was a disposable tool. He’d stored the other ships, bought a beaten up old Hauler and travelled over at speed, cashing in the Haluer for nearly all he paid for it (the local used-ship salesmen hadn’t been anything other than typical of his breed). The sidewinder was perfect for the job – pilot’s chair was right up against the canopy – which was clear, flat and didn’t distort images. The ship was easily fitted with equipment to take shots of other ships and easily replaced if he crashed it.

Downloading…… 2%

“Time for a beer,” he said to no one in particular.


Ozzy62An hour later, he was walking back to the station bar, mentally counting the credits. The interview with ZaphodBeeble and his brother had been the clincher, along with the photographs of the Python/Viper combination. He had no idea on the pirates’ real names – Z was certainly a lover of 20th Century literature, just the talking point that gained the interview.

The Gutamaya shots were easier. Oz was the kind of pilot that enjoyed the trade grind, a bit of combat, some bounty hunting and cashing in wherever he could find it. Much the same career as Vin, he’d jumped at the chance to get a framed print for his ship.Ozzy14

As for the Asp – luckily nearby there was a sapphire blue sun surrounded by a wide range of planets and moons. Two hours later, he’d clinched the last one and bid CMDR Heater farewell.

X and his brother had been patrolling extraction zones, hunting for pirates. Unusually for their type, they were as happy on the right side of the law and hunting down other criminals as they were stealing their way across nearby systems. Nearly a year ago, the Pilot’s Federation had been up in arms when they blockaded Freeport, demanding a slice of every trade coming in or out of the station. Running a pair of Vipers with cannons and a heavy loadout of ammunition, they had stood their ground until Frontier had reinstated the local no-fire zone.

Asp4-betatucanaeVin reached the bar with the prints tucked under one arm. For every one he had sold to the Empire, he had a spare that remained his own property and these would be the prints that bought him his ticket back to the Shady Lady.

Overconfidence can be a killer…..

Right. That was more like it – 150,000 credits in the bank and “Mostly Aimless” on the board. The nearest systems had plenty of unexplored locations and whilst the 500ls limit on the basic scanner wasn’t great, the odd extra few thousand every time he jumped was well worth it.

Missions paid out very little at the moment – probably due to his poor ranking…. Only a few thousand once again here or there. The temptation was there to stay in the area, zipping between Drew Colony and the other nearby stations and build a local reputation. He’d met a few seedy types in the bars of the unsanctioned outposts but without the Lady being tooled up, discretion was the better part of valour and he had stuck to the duly sanctioned authorities.

The local station had a few simple upgrades – essential for the “beginner”. Chaff to drop gimbal fire away from him if he was interdicted, a simple fuel scoop to keep a lid on the travel bills. A K scanner to boost the income from any combat.

Vin had evaded the first few interdictions but with a little tougher setup, he felt comfortable submitting to the next few. A couple of wanted sidewinders and a token eagle for another 10k in the bank. One had even been wanted in Imperial space – heaven knows where that was from where he was at the moment, so it sat in his “transactions” log, tempting him away from the local systems.

The ship hummed though supercruise on the latest run, a pile of computer components on board. Probably no great shakes on the income front but it would have to do.

Dropping in to the next USS, space came alive with cannisters – all labelled “secret plans”. Damnit – a full cargo hold and there was plenty out there to scoop. Pity he hadn’t paid enough attention to where the nearest black market was. Vin reassured himself that it was probably a trap – after all, who in their right mind would label their cannisters “Secret Plans” and not ” Jettinsoned Droids” or “toxic waste”????

The next USS caught him by surprise. A giant Lakon 9 nearly ripped the top off the canopy as he dropped into normal flight. Next thing, they’d taken delivery of all of his cannisters – without his permission, he noticed, and his bank balance suddenly looked a whole lot healthier.

This was more like it – a bit of colour to the encounters.

Then…. his next mistake. A nav beacon close to the star. A Fed dropship.

Yet again, the itchy trigger finger took over and his brain forgot all caution. The screen lit up with laser fire as the turrets mounted on the dropship opened up on him. He pounded away at it with the pulse lasers until it turned to face him and he dropped a quick pile of chaff to throw off the shots in the face to face battle. Boosting past the dropship, he kicked the flight assist off, yanked the throttle back into the blue and spun around to get behind it.

The damned thing was faster than he expected, but underside facing him, he managed to drop its shields before it opened up on him again. Lateral thrusters and a little yaw, another chaff dump.

He was at 60, it was at 80. This wasn’t going well. Rinse and repeat. Ping shots at it, dump chaff, boost, turn, fire again. Its hull dropped a single digit at a time. He was down to 40, it was at 25 when the scanner came alive with ships – the police had arrived and were trying to steal his bounty.

All he had to do was keep a bead on it and ping away in the hopes that the last shot was his. 7%.

A police Eagle passed in front of his cockpit and survival instinct kicked in – his finger lifted off the trigger to avoid a fiery police death. As the Eagle passed – he lost sight of the dropship. It was dropping Cobalt all over the place now – this was far more like it – plenty to scoop once the police left.

2%. Final pass. Next thing he knew, a railgun shot blasted lines across his vision and left him momentarily blinded. The dropship detonated and Vin swore as he realised he didn’t have a bounty awarded. Illegitimate sons of a female dog. Stealing his kill. With the damage to the hull, the reload fees for the chaff and his battered pride needing a beer, he was going to be way down on this encounter.

The worst part was, during the encounter, a stray shot must have hit the police. He had less than 40% hull left. A bounty on his head and he was surrounded by police. Not a hope of scooping those cans.

Vin “Sir Robined” out of there in a hurry and headed back to the station to lick his wounds…… The authorities had a lot to answer for.

First Encounters…..

Getting back into the cockpit after a few weeks enforced absence from the testing felt good. They’d done a good job with the Shady Lady – his ancient ship, the one that he’d chopped in to pay to work on the new systems was a far cry from the year 3300 version of the Cobra Mkiii but the bare bones were still there.

First things first – head out to find the free Eagle that he’d been promised and flog it to the first used ship salesman he could get his hands on. “Delivery miles only” would bag him a few credits, though Vin suspected that he wouldn’t be alone in flogging it off as soon as it arrived.

Not having a clue where he was in the galaxy might have felt a little odd. No familiar faces. No crazy docking lady to hurl abuse at. No familiar deck hands grumbling about the state of the ship. There was the difference. Before, he didn’t care. It wasn’t his ship, just a hastily stencilled name on a test mule. Now, it was HIS. Properly HIS and he could get back out there.

Same with the cash. Virtual “credits” and ranking just didn’t cut it. Having his own meagre 1000cr back in the bank to go with the ship was more than plenty.

Braben and friends had been generous to those that had helped roll the updates out the the wider galaxy. A lifetime discount on insurance (something that Vin hoped he wouldn’t have to cash in on) and a spare ship. Not bad for starters.

Chugging the ship out of the station at docking speeds, Vin rolled the system mode up to “flight” and boosted past the toast rack. 40k for the Eagle, 5 for the loaves and fishes. Someone had a sense of humour – or a religious axe to grind. He reminded himself to make sure no one had stuck a “bumper” sticker on the back of the Lady.

Minor differences throughout the consoles – far more details to the right of his vision – information on rank, not just combat rank but explorer and trader – the three paths to “Elite”. To his left, more minor changes – a magic button to open the galaxy map and it was nice to see that Frontier had finally upgraded the mapping systems to remove the minutes long wait for the projected screens to open. Far too many times he had glanced at the map, only for the ship to plough headlong into the nearest star/station/asteroid.

The news feeds were more alive than he had seen for months with information. New ships, food crises, ECM system recall. One big change was that they’d finally managed to get remote system comms up and working and he was able to call other commanders across the galaxy. That and see what cost what nearby. Well – not the prices – more of a “take this stuff here” and “this is where to find things that import to here”.

The good old fashioned pencil and pad in his top pocket would carry on getting some use. Useful nostalgia. Bit like the Cobra.

As Vin swept out past the planet in supercruise, he spotted some of the updated USS signals. Ignore them for now.

Then – he realised that despite being at the derriere end of nowhere, there was a nav beacon. Dropship must have dropped it there in preparation. Vin was still mystified as to why ships went there. With the latest flight systems, you could bypass them with ease and whilst he enjoyed them being there, they really only served masochistic types who enjoyed a good fight.

Just before hopping up to jump tot he next system – the Interdiction warning went off. Forgetting in an instant that the Lady wasn’t the iron backsided machine it was when he was testing, Vin throttled back and dropped into normal space, “submitting” to whoever wanted.

At first glance, a lone Viper really wasn’t a problem. Switching to combat mode on the flight stick, the gun ports opened and Vin realised that he’d done the space flight equivalent of go out without putting his trousers on. A pair of basic pulse cannons.

No secondary weapons. No uprated thrusters. The turning circle of an ocean bound oil tanker.

Vin buckled up and settled down for a proper fight.

10 minutes later, the Shady Lady had taken her first beating. She’d won, but the hull had its first scratches and was 20% less hull-ish than it had been a few minutes before.

Hot damn, that felt good. Vin opened the first flask of fsd warmed coffee, put his feet up on the console and jumped out to the next system.

At last….. The big wide galaxy.

Vin woke up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. His terminal had been bleeping at him for a few minutes and for the first few seconds of waking up, he hadn’t a clue where he was.

Same anonymous bunk, identical station interior.

Poking the screen, the words “welcome to Laval” appeared.

Where the heck was Laval? Looking around, the room wasn’t any different from any of the previous he had occupied all through his testing of the new systems from Frontier.

Welcome, Commander, please confirm your choice of ship.

There she was – the shady lady. He remembered at some point, with too many ales in him telling the Frontier representative that the ONLY choice was to be put back in the Shady Lady when testing was done. There she was. Not a test mule, but the actual ship. Shiny and new. A few tonnes of cargo, a couple of pulse lasers and a disco scanner.

The poked the “confirmed” button.

Now. Where the blue blazes was he? No portholes in this cabin, so he called up the galaxy map.

Not a single recognisable system.

Moving to the navigation tab, he typed “Sol” into the search and bashed the arrow. It took many many seconds before the screen centred around the birthplace of humanity. 127 LY away.

OK – where was Eranin?

Similarly far.

A big grin spread across his face. Finally. No more test environments. The galaxy was his oyster. All the work had paid off and he’d fulfilled his obligations and had been let loose out there.

Jumping out of his bunk, he shouldered on the flight suit and headed out to say hi to the ship.

The first thing he noticed was that it wasn’t a station, it was an outpost. He almost tripped over the step as he realised quite how tiny it was.

Glancing across at the data terminal, he could see the icon for a stored ship at a station nearby. Hubba hubba. An Eagle to sell. Would fund the first few trading runs.

Swiping his finger across the terminal, he glanced at his status. Harmless, Penniless and Aimless. Not for long…..