Roberts Space Industries

Serialized Fiction

Short Stories

ID:

12761

Comments:

32

Date:

November 5th 2012

Tales of Kid Crimson: Issue #3

Tales of Kid Crimson: Issue #3

This is not good.  I felt like I was standing on a landmine.  I couldn’t tell if the assassin had left or not, no matter what scan I ran.  Now it seems that I was the victim of my own great idea.  The main reason I chose this spot to jump the hauler was the interference caused by the nearby solar storm.  Now it was boning my scanners like it boned his.  Five more minutes passed.  Hell with it.  I wasn’t going to do anything.  If they wanted to blast me to nothing, they could do it at any time.  Meantime, I can figure out what cards I do have.

First and foremost, there were probably a dozen slaves locked in the cargo hold, dosed and stacked for easier transport.  That’s a good chunk of cred.  Possible the hauler had a shadow keeping watch, make sure he didn’t do anything suspect.  Once he got jacked, the shadow took him out.  These people care about the product, not their employees.  If that was true, why haven’t they raised me on comm?  I’d assume they’d try to strongarm me to finish the hauler’s route.

My computer finished negotiating with the cargo’s onboard.  My screen lit up with controls to monitor vital signs, access the flow of meds keeping them under, change temperature and pressure, etc.  It didn’t have any registration tags attached, probably salvaged and repurposed or stolen and wiped.

I ran another signal sweep of the area, just to see if my friend was dozing.  Apparently not.  Nothing.  It seems ridiculous that they would blast the hauler and then take off.  But then again, who knows, there are some nuts out there.

I gave the flight-stick a little nudge.  One of the ad-thrusters on the wing kicked.  All my defensive monitors lit up with Missile Lock warnings.  The blood boiled into my ears.  I punched the warning indicators quiet, cracking the screen’s housing.  Fine.  Fine.  I couldn’t wait to figure a way out of this and stomp this slug.

But the reality was I didn’t have anything.  I got an assassin with some ridiculous cloaking cap who’s got me dead to rights.  I got a box full of comatose slaves with no origin or reg tags, so it might as well have come from pixie-land.    All in all, I’m pretty fu-

“Unidentified Freelancer Class.  Under Article 43 of the Advocacy Authority Act, you are ordered to power down your vessel.”  It was a woman.  That Agent from the Hub?

Words escape me.  At this point, I can’t even get angrier.  I’m sure the nice Advocacy Agent will be terribly sympathetic to my invisible assassin story, not charge me with trafficking, and not give me thirty years on a Prison World.  Maybe this was the assassin?  I doubt it.  My scanners were still blippy from the storm and it seemed like a lot of hoops to jump through for what?  Nah, I doubt it.  Maybe the assassin dropped a call to them…

“Unidentified Freelancer Class.  You have one minute-”

Screw it.  I kicked the burners full and swung the ship around.  If they want to shoot me, they can shoot me running.  The Advocacy Agent’s Interceptor fired up and raced after me.  Laser fire zipped past the cockpit.  I put my shields back-full.  Should be more than enough to stop her shots, besides she’s not trying to destroy me.  She’s going to go for non-essential drives, ad-thrusters, whatever will hobble me.  It’s also indicating that she knows what’s in the cargo.

I pushed back toward civilization.  I was studying the shipping routes when my shields flared up and ship shook.  She hit me with a dumbfire missile.  Um.  Pretty sure that is not standard operating procedure.

I took a series of laser hits before I could dive out of the stream of fire.  Shields needed some time to get back.  So in the meantime we had a tumble.  She was agile, much more so than my ship, but I had a couple surprises for her.  I had my guns, sure, but I’m not battling an Advocacy Agent.  I don’t need that kind of attention so I put most of my modifications into the ship’s handling; hidden ad-thrusters, back-up engines, suicide brakes.  The works.  She was going to get a full display.

We sliced and twisted through space, never diverting from the path back to the flow of traffic.  I was going for the jump-point and I’m sure she guessed it.  She was fighting for a missile lock and I used every trick in the book to prevent it.

Up ahead, local Police ships broke away from their posts and moved to intercept.  Guess she comm’d them into the chase.  Unfortunately for them, I wouldn’t have made it this long if I couldn’t dodge a police cruiser or two.  Their turn radius is dismal, so first lesson is to head straight at it, zip past and it’ll take five minutes to turn around.  You do have to survive the gunfire and rocket attacks though.

The two cruisers opened up with everything they had.  I split shields and checked what they were throwing at me.  The trick to surviving maneuvers like this is to know your ship.  Know what it can take and what it can’t then divert your defenses to handle what it can’t.  In short though, I was getting chewed up.

I cut a roll, dropped a spread of countermeasures to divert some of the rockets.  I even fired off a missile of my own then cut the engines to trick a FoF.  I went full, rerouting the power from the guns to help offset shield depletion.  Suddenly, they switched to guns.  Guess the Agent told them what was in the cargo.

I raced past them toward the steady flow of commuter and trade ships, queuing to pass into the next system.  I dropped beneath a freighter and raced past the observation deck.  I could almost see the wide eyes of the kids on their trip out to the systems.   I flipped my electroskin off to try and blend with the normal civilians then loaded up the NavPath for this jump-point and punched it.

The Advocacy Agent swung her Interceptor between me and the jump-point.  Her weapons flared to life.  I weaved through the civilians.  If she wanted to take a shot, I was gonna make it an impossible one.

I rolled over her, dropping a little surprise, and plunged into the jump-point.  The stars seemed blur, accelerating and slowing down at the same time.  Right after I disappeared, my EMP bomb exploded.

It wasn’t lethal.  The ships would reset on their own but it would cause enough chaos to give me time to get away.

Emerging through the other side, I gunned it as fast and as far away as I could.  Satisfied that I was clear, I finally had a moment to think.  This whole situation kept finding new ways to rub me ragged.  I had to lay low, try and get a handle on things.

One thing I did know, someone out there was trying to make me dance.  Now I gotta figure out how to change the tune.

. . .to be continued

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