Scouting the outermost region of the Kuiper Belt for resources, just a few weeks after leaving Earth, I was wondering… did I knew it would have been so harsh, dead empty and cold? Leaving Earth have been always my dream, the space blackness was calling me every day since I was a teen. But now, I’m just out in the backyard in term of distance from the blue dot, yet I wasn’t prepared to find the void so mind-boggling. I got this signal on my scan, it looked like a beacon, probably a good chance to earn some money and be able to buy the fuel needed to jump to Orion. I’ve got to get there… it looks a very promising system to exploit, UEE still thinking of make a colony there but if I arrive before them I can claim some resources for myself and get rich quickly when the settlers arrive.
The first scan revealed the beacon indeed was a request for an escort job, the man name was Freddy, probably from Earth too judging from the look. He looked friendly in the screen though he has that look… the job appeared easy, just escort his ship from the mine on Cedna to the refinery facility in orbit around Neptune, I had just enough fuel left for that but the payout would have repaid me for the expenses 10 times over. Rendezvous was 300K Kms from Sedna near a duck-shaped comet when my ship arrived there was no one around, no radar contacts, nothing. Then a message came, it was immediately clear it was not an escort Freddy was looking for. The request for handing over all of my cargo or pay the consequences slammed on my head like a stone… I fell into the trap like a dumb deer, damn it!
While trying to keep some distance between my ship and the comet, I could not pinpoint where Freddy ship was, he was probably in stealth mode or behind the rock. In a blink of an eye, Freddy’s friends made my ship AI scream the usual “Alert! Radar contacts!”. They too signaled to me their readiness into blowing a hole in my Aurora if I wouldn’t have complied within 60 sec. Seeing no chance of blasting my way through the blockade or to jump away due to their quantum jammer, I decided to try to talk the situation away if ever was possible, or at least to gain some time while overloading my busters and preparing for a 10G acceleration. Knowing that it could probably mean my last action on the ship commands I instructed the AI to plan a course away and start stealth mode with 5sec burst for a random pattern in the general direction of Sedna. If I passed out, the AI would have to try to make it to Sedna, either I would have been revived or at least they would have granted me a nice funeral. 10G was at the limit of what a human can withstand, and probably just for very healthy and trained humans, not me… Whatever, better then die here on this rock anyway without no-one knowing it, because it was clear that they would not have to let me go be happy with my 3 tons of phosphorus within my haul. They would have taken the ship and disposed of my body in space in the process.
I started talking and mumbling my usual plea of terrified words to assure them I was at their mercy, I made it quite persuasive, yeah I was indeed about shitting my suit so it came out very convincing. This brought me just enough time to enter with my trembling hands the coordinates and override all the security measures which are normally there to avoid that one dude kill himself, or destroy his ship with impossible maneuvers like this one. I tried faking paralysis due to being terrified, I heard them laughing but I managed to convince one of their ship to board me in order to get the haul open. Maybe I could have tried to overcome one of them and take their ship, but it was late to change the plan the busters where overloading and if not ignited within 1 minutes the ship would have exploded. When the man was at my hatch I punched the engage button with the bottom of my fist and in 1 sec. I was crashed into my seat unable to move not even the head. The poor man at the hatch got vaporized by the plume of my engines and his ship badly damaged, not bad I thought…
It was expected that I would not be able to move, I could hear the ship alarm and siren blaring, the monitor was telling me that my body was under 7G acceleration and increasing, exceeding human tolerance by 50%. On the other monitor, I could see structural integrity going down every second, the acceleration was too much even for my old ship. On the radar, I could see incoming but they were lagging behind, sure they would have reached me sooner or later since a normal missile speed is 10 time what my ship can give. My hope was that they would have lost lock on me as soon as I was on stealth mode. Within few seconds the ship reached the maximum 10G acceleration which was kept for 10 seconds and then the stealth engaged. I could not see the missiles on the radar anymore not anything else for that matter, if they still had a lock on me I would have found out the hard way in a few seconds. The first thruster engaged for 5 seconds as expected, the ship changed direction starting the random pattern. At that moment I saw with my naked eyes one of the missiles missing my ship on starboard for about few meters and I realized that the stealth was not working as expected… I was leaking thermal radiation from the busters, of course after the overload they were as hot as the surface of the sun! Quantum drive was not jammed anymore but it was offline overheated by the engine, my only hope was to re-engage the engines and try to move around the asteroids again to try to slam the incoming on them. I fired off all the systems and took manual control overriding the AI, deployed all the chaffs and flares. At that moment I saw 2 of the pirates’ ship in pursuit but at least for them the stealth seems to have worked better, they were on the wrong course 30.000 KM away, though they quickly changed the course as soon as again I was lighting up their radars. Zooming around the close by asteroids I managed to crash 2 of the 6 missiles pointing at my tail but the other 4 were already closing in, at that moment I knew my brief career in space was probably coming to an explosive end…
Incredibly another ship appeared from nowhere, a Cutlass full outfitted, it started firing and at that moment I thought “Jesus! What the hell they all have with me today!”, then I saw that its weapons were not aimed at me but at the missiles at my tail!
The new ship took out all the remaining 4 missiles and then the ship pilot hailed me, presenting herself as The Red Huntress.
In a mix of incredulity and full of adrenaline in my bloodstream, I screamed asking how in even did she managed to find my ship and who she was! She said she was responding to a distress signal. What signal? We were alone there, the pirates sure were not so badly impressed by my trick to send out an SOS… Of course! My ship AI broadcast the distress as soon as my ship systems reengaged, good baby! I knew the upgrades on your system where worth! The Cutlass pilot kindly reminded me that there was 2 ships closing in and that we had to leave immediately. I was out of fuel and damaged so I add no other option to abandon the ship and move on the Huntress Cutlass. I left my Aurora core overloading saddling having to abandon the ship which have been my home since then I left Earth. I opened the hatch and quickly programmed my suit thrusters to reach the Cutlass. Two minutes later we were in quantum travel toward an unknown destination. From the haul of the new ship I climbed to the bridge and was there that for the first time I met in person The Red Huntress. She was fierce and with a lighting gaze, I couldn’t come to 2 meters from her before feeling a gun on my back, likely an energy weapon capable of punching a hole through my body like it was butter! Of course she was not alone in the ship… The man on my back quickly recommended me not to make any stupid move and to sit down on the ground. While I was doing so the Huntress left her command station and came close to me. She scanned me with a portable device and appeared to be happy enough to let me stand again. I was glad to have been saved though very sad because I did lost all of my belongings plus my only one ship. She appeared to understand my feelings and after we made some presentations the man put away his weapon and disappeared from the door. The Huntress invited me on the mess and I was able to drink a decent coffee again after many months. I was still very stressed for my recent experience and I started to recount all my story without even realizing it, she simply sat and listen through all of it without saying anything. When I was done she gently stood up and looking down at me she offered me to enter her organization. She said my skills as pilot were remarkable, she saw how I made 2 of the 6 missiles to crash on the rocks, she was impressed that I managed to do so with a damaged Aurora. She told me about the Talon for the first time, about her and the other founders, about the plans for a strong and rich organization, that was the moment when I decided to join, since then I’m a Talon, proud of what I did and of what I represent now, the strongest, powerful and influential organization of all the known verse!

 

~~By Simeon Veritas