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With renewed vigor, fingers flying over the information board…back out of the function sub-menu, tab across back to status, there at the very bottom, with a yell of victory stabbing at the button like a desperate man.
Again, to no one in particular ...
Either space madness must be encroaching; I could’ve sworn that I just heard a voice on the sub-ether radio, must be static.
“Cmdr Flynzilla, do you read me? This is Cmdr Noduf of the Fuel Rats, we currently have your position as Piscuim Sector EX-JA9-0. Can you confirm that the system is correct and the oxygen timer showing?”
Voices, someone has heard me! I looked out the window, expectantly to see a ship, or at least tried to. Unfortunately, the cold of space had inscribed a beautiful patina of ice over my frozen... floating ship.
“Commander can you hear me, can you confirm your sector and if the oxygen timer is showing?” A quick look left at the galactic map, “aahh hello Noduf, reading you 5 by 5, my system is confirmed as Piscuim Sector EX-JA9-0” quick glance up and right “ship Chrono showing as 6:20 bingo for o2”
The sleek deadly lines of Rat-Wolf, a purpose-built Anaconda and death incarnate. Light seems to fall in to the paintwork, her only insignia is of a Rat with a can of petrol on its back. The running lights were turned off. The Rat-Wolf for all intents and purposes was sitting there like a silent dart, watching, and waiting. The command deck showed the only sign of life.
Commander Noduf looks across the bow of the Rat-Wolf, smiles, clicks to an alternative sub-ether frequency, “Ok, Rats, we have a Code Red at Piscuim Sector EX-JA9-0, Cmdr Flynzilla, Clipper showing 6:20 on the clock, call your jumps” “Computer inject Code Red, 6:20, #6” without waiting for confirmation of this, he looks at Galmap. There, superimposed is a green dot for every Fuel Rat on call.
The sub-ether radio sputters into life, commanders start calling jumps: Shadowrunner 2jumps #6, zephyr 4jumps #6, HungryBear 9jumps #6, Willits 1jumps #6, Lifless_Lion 10jumps #6, Mulehead 2jumps #6
Noduf cuts across the net, “GO 6 Shadowrunner, Mulehead Willits”
Computer auto squeak friend request protocol to Flynzilla”
I am twiddling my thumbs, hopefully, someone heard my sos, the sub-ether blurts out in a mechanical voice: “Flynzilla, please drop from supercruise, come to a complete stop and disable all modules except life support” I blurt out “uhh ok, modules disabled” but the link is closed, I now feel foolish for answering an automated call, and foolish for calling the Fuel rats.
“Computer auto squeak wing request protocol to Flynzilla”
“Flynzilla Please add the following rats to your wing, Shadowrunner, Mulehead Willits”
I knew that the response wasn’t necessary. Done, the wing icons light up, showing various systems my saviours are jumping through to get to me.
“Dispatch, this is Shadowrunner, sitrep #6 system confirmed, friend confirmed, and in wing, (the computer dutifully ticked these off on Noduf’s screen) dropping in, wait out”
What seemed like an eternity, staring at the Chrono, tolling my death, in reality, moments since pressing the button. Suddenly a bright light blinded my cabin, my radar jumps into life, showing one contact, The voice of doubt screaming in my head...”I am dead” and the next heartbeat will be my last. In my blind terror, the monotone voice of my computer nonchalantly reporting: Fuel Limpet Incoming. I was saved! Someone had heard the SOS... Tears of joy sprang unbidden. At my time of need, they had arrived, dispelling the feeling of absolute desperation. Within moments the engine booted itself back online, the frost slowly dissipating from the canopy as my ship was generating heat again and I saw my saviour."
“Dispatch, this is Shadowrunner, fuel confirmed”
Wilco ‘spatch, 10jumps for #0, still friend request unaccepted. I could almost hear Ninjst swearing in his cockpit of GoldyRocks, I know how much he hates my colloquial slang. “Thanks Flynzilla, I will resend protocols, wait out”
Ninjst absently mumbles “computer send friend request protocol to Razer1901, send wing request protocol” waited for the 2 seconds for the computer to process.the request. Slowly he climbed out of the command couch and wandering over to the coffee machine, the soycaf was called “coffee” due to its resemblance to the Terran drink. Dark in colour, smelled like acid reflux, its inherent ability to stimulate, and nothing like real coffee. It didn’t matter, it was hot, black and done the trick at keeping him awake. With a glance over his shoulder, “computer, confirm friend protocol has been sent” -beep-.absently shaking his head, its 3303, is it too hard to program a computer that says yes? Beeeep- -beep- -beeeep-. With a practiced eye, Ninjst looks and analysed the data presented. It showed him multiple occurrences of the client accepting, rejecting and sending friend requests.
With a hurried gait and a furrowed brow, deep in concentration, Ninjst makes his way back to the couch, the soycaf cooling in the dispensing machine. Glancing at the GalMap noting position of the local Fuel Rats near Flynzilla, wondering what the next move will be.
“Dispatch, Johma, are you reading #0 and erratic actions?
“roger, ‘puter is showing multiple requests, Rats, comments?”
The last statement was a call for an open forum that utilised the gestalt of a collective. While a Fuel Rat is focussed on jumping to a client, jetting there as fast as possible, they may not notice the whole battle picture. As ever a disparate collective of equals, united by a common goal, will always look after their own, thereby mimicking the behaviour of terran rats.
“Dispatch, johnjack, yeah I was reading that” how vocal was #0, normally if a client squeaks they are very vocal on the air”
“Dispatch, TonyT I concur with johnjack”
“Dispatch, Ravan, I’m 3 jumps for backup in Cat’s Paw for overwatch if needed”
“Ravan, dispatch, go in overwatch, silent running, be ready, sending #0 locstat, wait out”
“Flynzilla, dispatch, remaining jumps?”
“Spatch, Flynzilla, sitrep, 2 jumps scooping, problem?”
Ninjst’s hands curl into fists, “Flynzilla, be advised, possible Rat-Trap, when you get to system, preselect a new system, drop from supercruise, then call ready...standby”
I smile ruefully, not a problem, this is why we drill.
“Ok flynzilla you’ve been around for a while, been on a couple dozen rescues, and even got first limpet on a CR. Any last questions before you start?” It wasn’t supposed to be a question, I knew better.
“Roger Noduf” sitrep at 2084 CET, on line of departure, 16 limpets loaded, awaiting next serial, client has gone code blue, out”
My trusty bucket Diamondback-Explorer “KrikkIt” a clapped out midnight black, paint flaking off, dents from too many “hard landings”, pitting from numerous atmospheric entries that were “too steep and too fast” which defied any orbital entry manual in existence. She found me and I was in love, to some she was just another ship, to me she was perfect. She ran colder than my ex-wife’s heart, could out-boost any stock Imperial Courier, just enough storage racks to turn a profit and most importantly...mine.
“Come on girl, let’s do this”
“Good luck Flynzilla, remember if you need help, squeak…..”
Across the open channel, Noduf in a calm and measured voice “computer, inject, drillstart” I could hear the acknowledgment beeps
The metallic voice of the automated RATMAMA cut across the silence, making me jump like a rookie spacer, “CONTACT ratsignal - Cmdr Antionius O Secundus - system: KOOI Hub, oxygen OK case #7”
With deft movements, Galmap was displayed, the coordinates entered. I managed to get a navcomp repair engineer plastered one night, and he “fixed” my navcomp with a couple of heavy modifications which made Krittit’s computer is faster than most. I also disliked the “mandatory” purge every 6 months. Within picoseconds the screen displays the result...“Dispatch, Flynzilla, 3jumps”
“Tracks rolling 7” yes I know I’m no longer in a tank, yes it’s anachronistic, yes it will get picked up on the debrief...if I pass. However this is me and I am proud.
“Dispatch, Flynzilla, friend confirmed, system confirmed, wing request” It was a shock as I heard nothing…
“Flynzilla, Dispatch, be aware #7 is now CR 1:24 on the clock” What, I thought this was supposed to be a drill?” My heart starts hammering a staccato; my adrenal gland dumps its contents into my system, eyes dart over control panels.
“Dispatch, Flynzilla, are you sure?” Why did I ask that, if course he’s sure, that’s why he’s a Seer (trainer). IDIOT...and the computer tweeted its agreement, that I was an idiot, I will get my nuts roasted...if I’m lucky.
I always think that the transition from witchspace is amazing, the ability to construct a corridor by “folding reality” to 2 points is awe inspiring and a sight I have never grown tired of. With the transition complete, I hit the target button on my throttle control, locked on to the Pink-Pig (Cmdr Antionius O Secundus’s ship) a quick glance at the targeting reticule, thumb the limpet launcher. The computer, fires off a limpet, on the scanner I watch the lazy trajectory of the fuel limpet, watch it transfer…
I watch in disbelief...my hands are darting over the console, double, triple checking settings, feverishly working out every second of the drill, analysing how/where/what went wrong...had I selected weapon systems rather than limpets? A quick glance at the HUD confirmed that weapons were still stowed. Utter failure had rendered me catatonic.
A wry chuckle emanates from the sub-ether, “There is no such thing as an ordinary rescue, some are not clean, some die” The Rat-Wolf glides past me, thrusters barely on tick-over, cargo scoop slides open, takes a cargo pod on board and closes.
“Noduf...what happened?” more laughing...2 people laughing…
“Well Flynzilla are you going to debrief” Antionius’s laughter was the sort that came from a good joke shared by a close partnership that has done this many times…”I dont understand, I saw the Pink Pig, you were destroyed...you’re safe?”
Noduf’s brusque retort cut across the joviality “get on with the debrief”
“Uuhh...I see that you had a fuel scoop fitted Antionius, are you happy with how to select the stars you can scoop from?” The rest of the debrief went by in a nervous blur.
My inner voice screamed in my head, “YOU BLEW IT” My latest “career” as a Rat, was short, 28 rescues as a trainee, 1 Code Red, countless assists. My fingers automatically selected Galmap, punched in a random point on the Galmap, prepared to jump. I don’t know what I was expecting however I just wanted to be away from here, in fact anywhere
“Charlie Charlie 1 (a code word for all stations, go quiet) the chatter across Ratchat decreased, however there was still chatter on the sub-ether. This is Noduf, may I present Flynzilla and his swishy new tail”
The radio chatter was deafening, Rats that I have never met were congratulating me, and some had popped “chaff” (a cloud of metallic strips designed to throw off the lock on certain weapon types) one Rat had let loose a magazine on his multi-cannon…
... read more in the next chapter: Blink 3.
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