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“You are the lead on this case Aitken. Client is Case Red.”
I had one jump left to enter the system when Dispatch past on this information. It wasn't as grand as it sounded, it just meant that I was closest to the client. Not that a Case Red was the end of the line for the in distress commander. With their usual professional efficiency Dispatch had the pilot activate the stasis mode on their Rem-Lock suit. This not often used mode slowed down bodily functions as close to death as was possible, heart rate, brain activity, breathing, you get the picture. It could only be turned on once all ships modules had been shut down and the emergency oxygen had come on line. Of course even with this method being used rescue was not guaranteed, there were just to many variables for that.
“Roger Dispatch. I'm in system and heading for the only station here.” I replied.
This pilot had known his stuff and had given dispatch a good description of his plight. System name, position when he had dropped out of supercruise and of course his lack of life support.
Rolling to the right with a small touch of yaw, I had lined up the bright orange Diamondback Explorer so that I could end my journey 25ls from the station. Yes after numerous jumps to reach this system and just under 2000ls to the station, this unfortunate commander had run out of fuel with the station basically in sight.
I wouldn't be alone in this rescue attempt. As I hit my halfway point a hollow rectangle appear of the scanner behind me. A quick check of the contacts screen informed me that Andrew Creeves, a fellow Rat had just entered the system.
“Greetings commander, how you doing Aitken.” The voice crackled through my ear pieces.
“Doing good mate, just another day in paradise.” I replied.
“I hear ya. How we handling this one.”
“I'm stopping 25ls out from the station, you might want to go to the station or 25 to the other side. Whichever one you don't take our third Rat will take it.” I relayed as I throttled back and started the DBX into a lazy holding circle.
“Who's the third?” Andrew asked. I'd worked with Andrew before on a couple of other cr's but our number three was a newer Rat and not one I had worked with. Again that wasn't a problem, all Rats were trained and drilled to be capable at every rescue attempt.
“P. Badgers. He's about 3 jumps out.”
Of course that plan was changed just as PB entered the system. He was instructed to hold at 100ls from the station. Nothing wrong with that, dispatch has the power to use the tools, us Rats, in the way then deem best. As Rats we are so used to plans changing on the fly that the new instructions to PB were not even questioned. Not always the case I may add as the survival of the client is every bodies aim and if an instruction doesn't make sense or if approaching a different way might work better, Rats will usually speak up. Rats at the scene asking for clarification of instructions is encouraged as losing a client to a misunderstanding isn't what anyone wants. It's all done in a calm and respectful manner, very little if any drama as that helps no one.
As PB moved into position Dispatch took care of adding us to the clients comms list. Just before the client went into stasis mode he gave a limited access to his ships comms controls. It allowed dispatch to do a very necessary step. Now once dispatch sent the wake up up call to the commander in stasis it was all up to him.
“Hey guys, do we know how much emergency oxygen the client has left?” P. Badgers asked as he continued to close the gap between us.
“Last reported time was six minutes.” Andrew answered.
Not that the 'last reported' meant we had six minutes. With the shutting down into stasis mode, restarting out of it, sending wing requests and dropping the beacon. We were looking at five minutes, tops. Still plenty of time if everything went right.
“Ok, Rats call when in position and ready.” Dispatch called as Badgers moved into a 100ls out and Andrew and I kept circling.
Three different voices answered almost simultaneously.
“Position plus. Ready.”
“Activation is go, go, go. Be ready for wing requests and the beacon Rats. Good luck Dispatch out.”
And now we wait. I know this part of the operation must rush past for a client but for me it always and I mean always seems to take forever. To the client a minute must seem like a second but to me circling that second seems like an hour.
Bing. The wing request is in, a quick tap of the controls to move to the appropriate screen and my finger hovers over the control for the nav lock. Another hour seems to tick by and then the pale blue square appears on the scanner. I'm close so my finger drops, nav lock on and I am dropping.
BOOM. I reappeared in normal space and targeted the clients hollow rectangle and pulled the trigger, nothing happened. Then I see the problem as Andrews howl of disgust echoes in my ears. We have both dropped short by 50km. Pewoosh, the engines of the DBX screamed as I hit the boost button. I had just recently upgraded the Power Distributor from a D to an A. The hit in range was minimal but the ability to boost in this situation was greatly appreciated.
“Fuel plus.” Came the call from PB. Holding that extra 75lys out had paid off. The use of three Rats on a Case Red was a standard procedure and here dispatch had made a great call. I would hazard a guess and say that either Andrew or I would have made it in time but the mad dash that we would have done was thankfully not needed.
It was a motley gaggle of ships firing limpets at a Vulture but between two DBXs and an Asp Explorer it was quickly refuelled. After that and a congratulations to Badgers for firing the first limpet it was time to head out of the system. Once the course was plotted I sent my departure message.
“Alright Badgers debrief is all yours, see ya next time Andrew. I'm returning to base. Aitken out.”
I was a couple of hundred light years from Perez Ring sounds a lot but it was only four jumps for Bullseye. I knew of people who had never left the bubble and to them two hundred light years would sound daunting. Having been out beyond Sag A* before Farseer and Martuuk were known about, it felt like 200 light years was just a step outside the front door. Of course that was more to do with the two ladies who worked on the FSD than the selective memory of those trips.
Docking went as smoothly as ever at Perez Ring. I didn't leave the DBX straight away as I wanted to check over the FSD. Of course with it being engineered I doubted that I would find anything that made sense. My doubts proved correct, the original stuff or what was left of it looked fine. The Engineers additions I had no clue about. I gave a shrug and hoped that my problem on the rescue would not repeat itself.
It was late in the day for The Ring and I knew that Shoshana would be asleep back at her quarters. That meant I was not going to return there and disturb her night. Sleeping in Bullseye was a possibility, not a very comfortable one though. I had done it before and no doubt I sleep in the DBX again. Not tonight I thought as I secured that ship and headed over toward the Python, Diamond. More comfort, more room and more to the point it had some CD-75 Kitten Brand Coffee I kept for myself.
After brewing up I settled down to have look at the Galnet feeds. I had heard and kept myself aware of the 'Flower Ship' sightings but this was different. Hundreds of structures had been discover out in the Pleiades. As I watched and listened to the talking heads it was obvious that no one was sure what they meant. Some were saying it was prelude to an invasion, all out war. Others were being more cautious and saying as they had not shot at us yet then their intentions were not known. I even watched one guy try to fly an Eagle and then later on an Imperial Fighter into the structures with hilarious consequences. Hilarious for those watching not so much for him I think.
For me I still was unsure how it would impact my life. Ratting might pick up in those sectors but usually pilots going that far out had enough know how to fit a scoop. Smuggling, well I could branch out into Alien Artefacts if that became a popular collectable. Undercover pawn for a shadowy organisation that might be INRA or might be something just as foul. It was this one that bothered me the most. Rumour had it that 'someone' had known about or had helped or was responsible for their return. Most of the experts were dancing round it but it was becoming clear to nearly everyone else that the Thargoids, for good or bad, were preparing to pay us another visit.
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