- Start Log -

Buggrit and damnation! My head is still pounding. I'm sure that some Thargoid inserted a Neutron star into my head during one of last nights hyper-jumps. Oh blast, that was last night right... and we flew back from Foxtrot's Cantina in that condition? All I can say is, I'm thankful for the docking computer I had installed into the Karaya and the fact that I have Chief Master Sergeant (retired) Hancock aka Ironside working for me as WSO (Weapons Systems Officer for the noobs) .

Old Ironside is the best darn WSO this side of Betelgeuse and most likely beyond too. It's the Navy's loss for retiring him from active duty, just because he had to have half his body replaced by alloy analogues, after being too close to a plasma cannon blast during a bloody battle some years ago. Apparently being half a (natural) man makes you unfit for active service with the esteemed military services, dumb-asses.

I have no idea how we docked safely last night, seeing that Ironside was comatose when the blasted alarm blared in my ear at 6 am to remind me that I had some important documents to deliver and on top of that had to fulfill my weekly obligation to the local authorities to patrol that sector for criminals. Well it's only fair, for the rest of the time they allow freelancers to operate at leisure and provide an extra bonus for keeping the local system safe for business.

For generations our family has had a creed, that the three things one is never late for, are duty, work and parties. We certainly made sure of number three last night.... ouch I shouldn't be so energetic right now, well I made it to the hangar on time to pick up the relevant documents and file the required flight plans. If I looked as green as I felt I'm sure I might have been arrested on suspicion of being a Thargoid, not that the station security would know one if it kissed them square on the lips though.

Then I remembered that Ironside would most likely not be awake much before late afternoon and had the hangar monkeys prepare the Courier. It had been a while since I piloted a ship solo and hungover, it felt like being a cadet in the Pilots Federation training base again.

As I prepared to board the ship, Quibbles, the local man with "any and all products for any and all occasions", sauntered over. I knew this couldn't be good, but  I couldn't exactly avoid him in the hangar.

"Good morning, lad!" he said.

"What's so !@$% good about it and get to the point quickly, I have business to attend to." I replied.

"Now now, there's no reason to be so tetchy about it my boy. I have some extra work for you if you're interested, in fact, I have already had the cargo loaded aboard your vessel, seeing that you're anyway headed where it needs to go. My man over there will pay you handsomely for the service."

"You did What? How the heck did you... oh never mind you've probably greased so many palms around here that there's been a spike in the local grease prices!"

"You wouldn't be trying to imply that I am a dishonest trader now would you laddie? Anyway I'll make it worth your while. Plus, look on the bright side, the chances of getting scanned are slim to nothing, seeing that it's a backwater outpost."

"Oh sure, like the local security services aren't keeping a close eye on you. What is it that I'm carrying then? Oh you know what? Don't tell me, I'd rather not know.... plausible deniability and all that malarkey! Just make sure there's a case of Eranin Pearl Whisky waiting for me when I get back... if I get back."

With that I turned my back on him and climbed aboard. By the time I looked around again, Quibbles had already disappeared. How he manages to do that I'll never know.

So systems check was fine, coffee thermos was full and departure clearance was granted. It turned out to be an uneventful trip to the outpost, surprisingly.

The 'local man' was apparently suffering from lockjaw and merely grunted at me when he handed over the credit disk, which did indeed have a worthwhile sum on it. Maybe his saturnine manner had to do with the fact that I had just delivered 4 pods containing slaves, as I unhappily found out when I caught sight of one of the pods being opened in the storage area. Needless to say my blood was boiling, but there was not much I could do about it and in my state not much I cared to do about it anyway. How the Empire can condone this "improved" slavery is not something I'm prepared to ponder about too much, I take from it the hope that indeed some of these slaves may one day earn back their freedom and enjoy prosperity.

Once the local business was concluded I took off again to commence my patrol of the local sector. The rest of the day went by in a fairly regular if painful manner. Following and scanning the traffic lanes, listening to Radio Sidewinder and from time to time interdicting those petty criminals that had hoped to find their pay day in this system.

Seriously, what is it with these guys? They get their pilot's license and a Sidewinder and instead of finding good honest and probably boring work, they decide that, hey I have a ship with guns, let me acquire some defenseless bastard's hard earned wares. The flip side is I can make a good living hunting these leeches down.

I was running my last patrol loop when I noticed a large convoy of unprotected cargo vessels heading for the major trade port and decided to follow them and make sure they got there safely, as they certainly presented a lucrative target. I was looking through the HUD and noticed that a couple of the ships were moving in an erratic manner. So I trained my scanners on them and Boom! A wanted Vulture flanked by two Eagles. The Vulture's commander, one Homer Simpson was listed as having Master rank with the Pilot's Federation. This was going to be a massacre if they got into that convoy, but my Courier was not exactly a match for a Vulture, let alone one escorted by two Eagles, I had to hope that my skills and experience would see me through.

I slammed the throttle to max and thankfully saw the closing distance rapidly diminishing. The FSDI indicator lit up to inform me that it had a good tether solution. My head was pounding, ready to explode. I was potentially heading into the worst fight of my career and I've had some close shaves already, but I just could not let that unprotected convoy be attacked. I reached over to the cup holder for one last hit of Kitten Brand Coffee, when I realized that the cup was empty.... here's the problem with coffee cups, they have this great big opening where the liquid can escape, totally inefficient in my opinion, but I digress...

One last systems check, shields charged and nominal, weapons charged and ready, all thrusters at peak efficiency and support systems fully online. It was time to pull the trigger, the HUD lit up with a successful tether message and that old familiar surge of the interdiction tether commenced. For now I had their attention and was allowing the convoy to start gaining some distance, but I had to give it to Homer, he knew how to fight an interdiction. A couple of minutes later though I was starting to win the fight and I felt that I might just have the upper hand in outmaneuvering him.

Interdiction success, drop out of super-cruise, deploy hard-points, lock on to target, select power plant as primary sub-target, set combat power and move thruster lever to optimum setting. Thankfully all of this came from muscle memory. Then the combat dance commenced, luckily I had dropped out on Homers' six and he was a bit slow to recover from the drop induced spin, putting me in a prime position, but I knew this situation could change in a light second.

Luckily I was able to track him fairly easily in the Courier and keep hammering away at his shields. I suspected that he was carrying forward fixed weapons as there were times, if he had gimballed weapons he would have had an adequate firing solution on me. Good news and bad news. Good news being that he was not a fantastic combat pilot and that if I kept moving and out of his firing arc he would not be able to engage me, bad news being that if he got shots in on me they would be hard hitting. That in itself was not so much an issue right now, but the Eagle escorts had completed their drop out of super-cruise and were starting to engage me. I could already see the shield monitor showing the energy draining out of the first ring at a steady pace, in turn I was nearly through Homer's shields, but at this rate I would not be able to survive this fight. I had to make a decision whether to stand and fight and delay them or whether to run and hope that I had bought the convoy enough time and distance.

As I was considering my options a new target appeared on radar. It lit up green. Local security? I had not seen any whilst patrolling the traffic lanes, I could only assume they had been running silently, waiting for any trouble.

This changed the dynamics of the fight, I was starting to wear down Homer's hull when one of the Eagles had to break off to engage the Security Viper. I could now see this potentially becoming a winnable fight, if still very close. I continued to pursue Homer, all the while checking where his wing man was and what my shield status was.

Then the contact alert went nuts. 4 more contacts detected. My heart sank, thinking that this was an ambush, but just as I was about to decide to flee, those contacts turned green on the threat display. Reinforcements called by the initial security vessel. Comms contact was initiated by the security vessels.

"Greetings commander, do you require assistance?"

What? Really guys?

"Thanks for dropping in, I am just about done with Homer over here, if you would be so kind as to deal with the sidekicks, that would be appreciated."

"Err... roger that, you're sure you are okay over there?"

"Affirmative, nothing too difficult for a veteran like me."

And so the battle swiftly concluded as the Vulture's power plant went critical and exploded in a mini super nova ahead of me tearing the Vulture apart. The security vessels rapidly dispatched the Eagles shortly thereafter.

"Thank you for your service and gallant efforts commander" came the call over the radio.

"Always a pleasure, and thank you for stopping by to assist" cough, cough.

"Fly Safe, Commander, out" and off they jumped into super-cruise.

Oh, if only you really knew how close that battle was. But hey another tale to regale the ladies with in the Cantina, that should be good for many free drinks in the next couple of weeks.

It was time to head back to base. As the docking clearance was granted I had to remind myself that this one would have to be flown manually. I honestly couldn't resist, can you blame me? I had just won a good hard fight, my head was one big ball of pain and all I wanted was painkillers, a dark room and a bed. So allegedly I may have been speeding, I may also have performed several barrel rolls and then stopped just short of the controllers' window. But then again these may just be unconfirmed rumors being peddled in the local Cantina. Last time I saw that controller he was holding a bottle of Eranin Pearl Whisky, mouth hanging open and shaking his head, when the lift doors closed.

- End Log -

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