2- Piracy Part II: Entering The Pirate Mid Game
The stars shone brilliantly. Dean noticed them more than usual. This instance he noticed everything more. He noticed the flashes of light from the cargo hauler. He noticed the G’s trying to throw him off the dragonfly. He could taste the blood in his mouth and smell the burning electronics in his suit. He could feel the blood in his veins pumping wildly. His head was pounding and his ears rang. Another burst from the Hull D’s turrets ripped all around him. He tried to pull up and avoid them but his maneuvering thrusters were all shot up. He decided to bail.
Using every ounce of reverse thrust he could muster from his light EVA suite Dean tried desperately to slow his trajectory towards the massive cargo ship. With a hard thud Dean smashed against the hull, he felt a sharp pain in his ribs and his head smashed against the steel wall. He was just as well alive though. He quickly regained his composure and looked about. He was fore the main cargo arms. That’s when he looked up and saw it. There in it’s crate. An F7C-M Hornet, packed up and fresh from the factory.
This was a prize of prizes. Very near to the military grade ones he used to fly in the Navy. He used what was left of his EVA thrusters and maneuvered to the crate. Grabbing onto the rail of the crate he swung himself over to the release latch. He flipped the latch and the crate released. Once free he was able to make his way back around to unfasten the ship crate. Finally free of it’s cage the hornet slid from the crate and seemed to breath fresh air. Dean approached it and activated the hatch. He was in.
The system powered on. “Anvil Aerospace. All systems online.” The voice of the Anvil bitching betty was like that of an old friend. Dean smiled as he activated the engines and engaged flight.
“Avast ye old ugly tub, what ‘ave ya got there.” Came Stede’s familiar voice.
“Oh, an old friend and I are getting re-acquainted.”
“Look stern, yer mistress has other suitors.”
A mustang delta from the escort had picked up his trail and was tracking him. Bursts of fire rained down on the shields. Dean pushed the throttle down hard and took off.
“Bring her about, your 3 o’clock low mate. I’ll wash his grave. Have haste to the starboard, you’ve got the glance of the D’s upper turret.”
Dean brought the hornet around, with the mustang in pursuit. Ships are packed in freight without weapons mounted or shields. So while the hornet flew with a quick, she was completely without defenses. Stede had used the angle of approach to hide in the light of the K main sequence star at the center of Magnus. He came out of the shadow of light with guns blazing. Stede had managed to hold onto that old 300i. It had been through a few wrecks, but Stede had been able to salvage it each time and keep her alive, Stede was good with the mechanical operations like that. The mustang veered off and ended pursuit, skulking back to the cover of the convoy turrets.
The rest of the raid was a mop up. They managed to rip about 50% of the cargo off the D, as well as a worthy sum off the E. It would take a few trips to get it all back to grasshopper. Cats would need loading and unloading, cargo would need to be sorted and sold. None of that was on the mind of Dean. He ran his hands along the familiar controls of the hornet. Just like the old days. He thought of his old crew, and of Colonel Blair. He thought of the heavy hand used by the UEE against he and his compatriots…and any unfortunate civilian who happened to live nearby.
Back at Grasshopper was the old mustang in Dean’s hangar. A heaping pile of utilitarian garbage. He’d sell it, get what he could. He had to make room for his prize. Having a hornet of his own made him feel powerful. It made him feel like he was in some way getting back at the UEE. He’d use their own ship against them. He’d find the top weapons for it.
Seeing the F7C in his hangar took him back. He remembered what it was like aboard the old Idris. For a moment he was there, aboard the UEE Stanton, suddenly surrounded by fire. His heart raced, he dived for cover. An explosion rocked the flight deck and he watched as a vanduul ripped at Eugene Morrow’s torso, while biting at his neck. Dean re-lived kicking the vanduul and shooting it in the head, emptying and entire clip. He smashed the bullet ridden face with his boots and kicked it in the stomach until he collapsed. He remembered holding Morrow’s lifeless body, hot blood spilling over his arms like a vast river of regret. He threw up and sank to the floor, back again at his hangar on Grasshopper. Lying in his vomit and a cold sweat. If the old man had just listened to him.
Dean looked once more at his new hornet. This was his new hope, he’d outfit it in the morning. But right now he still had the vision of poor Eugene and the fires of the Stanton. He needed a drink. He needed something to numb the pain. He reached into his liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of brandless Croshaw whiskey. It fell hard into his empty stomach. He could feel the buzz start drowning out his thoughts. But still the image of flesh being torn by the powerful vanduul claws. So few in the inner planets knew the nightmare of a vanduul raid. He needed something more, but he’d promised Stede he’d lay off the stuff. You could already make out the outline of black in his veins. WiDoW was a dangerous lover, but boy did she wrap her loving arms around you.
It was noon when Dean woke up. His head was splitting and his mouth was dry. Stede was ringing on his MobiGlas.
“Ya rest all day ya sluggish bastard? Bring yer ugly face to the Daily Rum I need to talk with ya.” Stede’s voice was thunderous over the MobiGlas. Not that he was speaking any differently, but the hangover made it so much worse.
Dean looked about, found some cold rations and a beer. He walked about his hanger looking again at the hornet and then turned to the pile of yesterday’s loot. He’d go through it in the afternoon. He’d need to get some weapons on the Doris, which is what he named the hornet. The pain in his chest reminded him of yesterday’s injuries, he’d go get them checked, but in the meantime took a hit from the MediPen. He turned on the sink and filled a glass of water, drinking down the silty stuff with a grimace, then chased it with another swig of last nights whiskey.
He left his hangar and went down to the main hall, took a left and made his way down the spine of Grasshopper to the Daily Rum, a shanty bar with dim lights and plenty of vice. Stede was there at a table in the corner waving him over. He went and sat down in the stained booth.
“Ye olde boss’s mate pulled me astern last night.” said Stede lowly “Said the boss had a job what needs doin’ an’ we the boys for it. He’s got a customer what doesn’t pay an’ needs a little help reaching his pocket book. It’s lubbers work an’ nothen’ for it.”
“And?” replied Dean.
“Well are ya in or are ya coward?”
“I thought it was lubbers work?”
“Then we set sail this afternoon. Get yer hornet shape and bristol and I’ll meet you at 1600. Ye should douse the flame on ye olde WiDoW ya bastard. One other bit of note. Lend ear the boss left the station. I eavesdropped on him yelling at one of his skipper’s about being too aggressive. I guess the cats ‘ave been layen’ on a little aggressive and pullen’ too much booty. He’s got a concern what the Advocacy take note. I don’t pretend to know the bosses business, but I’ve a mind to keep a weather eye open.”
Back at the hangar Dean was feeling better. He sorted yesterday’s haul, a few useful components into the keep pile and everything else to be sold to the mercantile exchange. He checked his MobiGlas. Past commodities sold brought in a meager 3,453 UEC. In Grasshopper you could get whatever you needed, but cash was hard to come by.
Looking at his hornet he had a pair of M4A laser’s he mounted in the nose. He had two panther repeaters, one of them was shorting out sometimes, but he wanted to stay away from ballistics since he didn’t know a lot about this mission. M5A’s for the ball turret. On the missile rack he loaded some Behring Pioneer I’s, not his best missiles, but he had a fair stack of them. It wasn’t his favorite load out, but it’s what he had. He then went down to the Mercantile Exchange, picked up his payment and sold the old rusting mustang for 6,000 UEC. Even in it’s condition it was worth more, but he didn’t have time to haggle.
Suddenly a loud shriek split the air of the halls at spider. A skinny man came running through the hall yelling that there was an attack! Dean looked out the window that moment and saw a wing of gladiator bombers screech by. A dozen loud thuds shook the halls. An explosion rocked the main corridor. Dean looked up again to see a wing of Sabre’s fly past shooting at anything that moved. Grasshopper erupted in a race of confusion.
Dean sprinted down the main hall to his hangar, flew the door open. He grabbed a small package with his cash in it and a bottle of whiskey. He jumped aboard Doris and powered her up. As the hangar door opened he could see the madness of caterpillars and cutlasses, old aurora’s and mustangs scrambling about trying to escape. Death was all around. He fired up the engines and grabbed the throttle. Doris crawled out of the hangar while dean took a swig of his whiskey. He punched the throttle and spun the ship around trying to find an easy way out. Grasshopper was situated on the edge of an asteroid field. He could quantum out on the starry side, but he figured the Advocacy would have planned for that.
As Dean turned toward the asteroids an Idris-M thundered out of quantum, turrets blazing. It wasted no time, and neither did Dean. As he burned towards the asteroids he saw the Idris come about and spin up it’s Klaus & Warner spinal mount railgun. It ripped the main hall of Spider to shreds. Dean could see the bodies of the poor wretches inside being flung about. Off in the corner a Hull C, one of the blockade runners, loaded with stolen cargo pulled into quantum and disappeared.
Dean made his way to a rally point. There was a group of asteroids his crew would use as a staging point, he figured that to be the best stepping off point.
“Alright, Dean, glad ya’ll could join us. Sorry about that tussle back there” It was the familiar drawl of the caterpillar captain Sherman Colston. “Don’t worry none about Laurent, he and his boys were out on a raid when they got word of Grasshopper. We lost a fair few, but not the lot. Turns out the boss had a hunch we’d be raided as such. He told us to ease off on the shippen’ lanes, but greed is in the blood of a pirate and we just didn’t. What behoves us now is to gather up what we will. The boss already has a new base he’d been scrapping together. It’ll be a little bit like starten’ from scratch, but that’s all sort of the fun aint it?”
A ship then quantumed in. It was Stede’s 300.
“Stede! Thank god you made it.”
“Give yer thanks to the UEE, what can’t shoot when yer all lined up. My eyes are glad to see ya.”
Stede pulled his ship up next to Dean’s.
“Say Sherm” said Dean “Where is that new base you were talking about?”
“I just sent ya’ll the coordinates over the MobiGlas. You boys head on along, I’ll wait here for stragglers, no sense we all stay huddled together with the Advocacy in force. I imagine in a day or two we’ll get some reclaimers down there and see what can be made of the whole thing”
“Dean” said Stede “If thar be no objection we might plot course fer Borea an’ finish what work we started.”
“No objection here.”
Borea is a terraformed world, with an atmosphere that’s quite breathable. It’s dim and covered often in mist and rain. Dean had never been there, but knew it well as the home of Drake Interplanetary. Stede led the way. They were going to a small farming town west of Odyssa. They entered the atmosphere and landed on the damp plains. The village could be seen ahead. It was mostly subsistence dirt farms. A few silo’s and some other prefab structures. The ground was wet beneath their feet.
Dean held his energy rifle at the low ready as he walked. Stede had him put it to his back. This wasn’t a raid, just a debt collection. They approached the door of a farmhouse, a shanty looking building constructed of old industrial pre-fab. Worn out with a little moss growing down the sides. The rain trickled off the roof and ran along the edges.
Stede knocked on the door and a man opened. It wasn’t what Dean had been expecting. He was well dressed, with short military style hair, a collared shirt and a leather jacket. The man looked at Stede and Dean with caution. The smell of cooked meat and rice came wafting through the door.
“You must be here about Mr. Perkins payment. Please, come in out of the rain.”
“Mr. Perkins wants his money” blerted out Dean, guessing Perkins must be The Boss’s name. Stede put his arm over Dean.
“Now cast yer anchor, we be here on business and I reckon the man is privy.”
“Gentleman” the man said signalling with his arms for them to come in. “Please do come in, we’ll make arrangements presently.”
Dean didn’t trust him. He didn’t like this situation at all. He didn’t like the rain and he didn’t like breathing outside air. The sooner they could get the payment and get on their way the better. More than all that Dean didn’t like this man. His hair, his clothes, his mannerisms. They all reminded him of Colonel Blair. He wanted to punch him, smash his stupid face into the carpet and kick him in the stomach.
The two went in. A short and slender blond woman came in, dressed in a white skirt and a blue blouse. She wore the style of Terra, and looked it. She was attractive by anyone’s standards. She had in her hand a tray of biscuits. She placed it before Dean and Stede before reaching into a cabinet and pulling out a yellow bottle of Sky 24.
“Brandy?” she asked with a Terran accent.
“A spaceward scoundrel like myself takes his run, but he’s not likely to pass on a drought of Sky 24. Thanks be to the host.”
Dean clenched his teeth.
“I’ll pass, thanks.”
“Thank you William,” said the woman “You may leave us.” William bowed and left, the woman then turned to the two. “Now, you’d like to discuss something.”
“Yeah, you owe money to a man we work for and you’re gonna pay or we’re going to blast you and everything you own back to Sol. Got it?”
The woman smiled and extended her hand “Cynthia Schmidt, it’s a pleasure to meet you two fine men. Can I have your names?”
“The name me mother calls me is Stede. This here ornery lad we’ll call Bill Battle, as I guess he ain’t too keen on exchanging graces. M’am we do appreciate the company, but as my friend Bill says we came to parlay.”
“Right, yes. The matter of payment. It will be paid in full first thing in the morning.” turning to look at Dean matter of factly “If you want to kill me to make certain the guarantee, you’re welcome to try. But if I guess correctly you were sent here to let me know Mr. Perkins means business, and I assure you the message is received. Let me jot that down.” She reached for a paper on the cabinet and mouthed as she wrote “One Stede and one Bill Battle on the evening of 18 March 2946 scared me greatly. William, can you come in here.” The man returned. “William, be a dear and transcribe this note. Have it dispatched to Mr. Perkins immediately.”
“Lady, I’m not buying whatever it is you’re selling. Now I don’t know a lot about what’s going on here but I know when I’m being played. You better stop with the games. Stede, call The Boss, tell him this customer is yanking our chain and that we’re going to grease her from here to Sunday.”
Cynthia smiled and stood calmly. Stede’s MobiGlas vibrated with a new message. He opened it and read.
“Well, The Boss says we’ve done a good job and deposited 11,000 UEC into each of our accounts.
‘Eleven Thousand!’ Thought Dean. That was a hell of a lot of cash for a raiding pirate. For something as easy as coming and making small talk with some lady? Still, it didn’t feel right and he wanted to get on with it. He wanted to stop with the pleasantries. Deep down he hated the formality of it all. He wanted to kill. He wanted to feel the rush of excitement. All of this reminded him of home, of his time in the military, and of the UEE.
“Well I’m glad that’s over boys.” said Cynthia with a coy smile. “I suppose you’ll be going now then?”
“It’s a lubbers lard out there and I been on the ground too long for my liken’ ma’am.”
“Oh, sure, but before you go might you be interested in some work?”
‘Oh god’ thought Dean, ‘this soggy hag wants us to work for her?’ He couldn’t reckon why she’d offer them work right after they had come here to rough her up. Of course it was Stede to warm up to the idea.
“What fer plunder have you got in mind?”
We can kind of think of the pirate early mid game starting when a raiding pirate captures their first ship. The MISC hull cargo ships occasionally ship low level single seat fighters, and rarely haul more valuable ones. The ships drop in crates and can be stolen by the pirate raiders. Ships are the only loot not tracked by the quartermaster and become the property of the pirate who gets it.
- Piracy is dangerous and being too brazen gets you in trouble with the UEE. No inheritance means you have to start over from scratch if you grief.
- The chapter covers the idea that a raiding base gets too successful and is hit by the UEE.
- Once a raiding pirate gets a ship they can start taking missions. We meet in this chapter Cynthia Schmidt, who at this point in the story is a mission giver. Mission givers are already confirmed, but what kind of things would you like to see from these NPC partners?
- What kind of missions would you like to see pirates be given at this low level mid game?