Tag: elite dangerous

Delta-V: Judicious Panic

Previously: The year is 3301. It’s been two weeks since Commander Jason Frimantle committed an act of piracy under Federal law, strong-arming new hires of his father’s shipping company over valuable cargo.

“…and if you look to the starboard side of the spacecraft, you will see what is colloquially known as a ‘hot Jupiter’.”

Jason Frimantle muted his comm and sighed softly. When he’d first seen the astronomical wonder a week ago, he too had been surprised by the vibrancy of color and violence in the storms visible on the gas giant’s surface. Trapped as it was in the competing gravity wells of two nearby stars, the tidal forces in its titanic hydrogen and helium pockets would have torn a planet the size of Earth to shreds. From here, though, the Dolphin-class passenger liner was perfectly safe, and Jason was almost certain that at least a few of his passengers were taking holo-vids, pointing, and making awestruck noises.

All Jason could think of was the paycheck.

The problem with working for a company like Baroness Starsight Tours was that they were tied to one particular place. And at that place, they kept personnel records, bureaucrats… weak points. So far, Jason’s stunt on Abel Prospect had gone unreported, as far as he could find out. And thus far, no bounties had been posted on him at any of the stations near Baroness Starsight’s headquarters and main ports of call.

“Pilot?” The voice crackled from the comm located in the passenger compartment. “Did you bring any food aboard?”

“Refreshments are available in the cabinets located aft. All credit programs accepted.”

“What? We have to pay?”

Jason rolled his eyes. Of course you have to pay, it was in the contract you signed. “Standard Baroness Starsight contracts include the pricing for all refreshments available aboard —”

His comm buzzed. His external comm.

“Jason Frimantle.”

It was a statement. Not a question.

Jason flipped channels. “This is Baroness Starsight civilian vessel ‘Deveraux’, how can I help you?”

“This is gonna look bad on my resume.” Jason looked at the ship sending the signal. It was an F-63 Condor, being flown by a commander ranked as Expert. “Get your passengers into escape pods. They’ll be safe, and I know that ship’s insured. I’ve been told you’re worth more alive, but if you try anything, like holding them hostage, I’ll be a lot less inclined to be gentle.”

“Hostages? What are you talking about?”

“Pirates are known for that sort of thing, Mister Frimantle. Please, I’m asking nice.”

Jason checked the information again. ‘Marcus Corso’. Bounty hunter, more than likely.

Don’t panic. Do not panic. Don’t you dare.

He flipped the comm back over. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Commander speaking. Return to your seats and secure yourselves at all points. I am about to take evasive maneuvers.”

He took a deep breath, then flipped to the external channel. “Commander Corso, I’m not going to hold anyone hostage, and I’m not going to turn myself over to you. I’m plotting a course back to Independent space now. You’re welcome to try and stop me.” He reached under the console, pulled off a particular panel, and tweaked a few of the wires. This ship wasn’t designed for many pilot modifications, and tampering with it could cost him the contract. But this seemed a bit more important.

There was a laugh. “I have to admit, kid, I like your gumption. Your dad said you might be difficult. But you’re in a Dolphin-class space bus. I’m in a cutting-edge Fed fighter. There’s no contest.”

“If I were staying to fight,” Jason said, “I’d agree. But you’re about to eat high wake. I suggest you get clear, this beast can breach pretty big.”

The ship’s computer warned Jason that Corso had deployed his hardpoints. In the next moment, laser blasts spattered against the ship’s shields. Jason banked the ship hard to port, firing the portside reverse engine. As soon as his aft was pointed at Corso, he hit the boost. With a surprisingly dolphin-like whine, the liner leaped forward at maximum velocity. The frame-shift drive charged, and they were yanked across space at super-relativistic speeds.

Jason didn’t hesitate or rest once they dropped back into supercruise. He plotted the course back to the home port and made one jump after another in rapid succession. He barely stopped to scoop extra fuel to make sure they didn’t get stranded. It wasn’t until the ship was in the station and docked that Jason managed to breathe again.

There was no sign of pursuit. Corso hadn’t popped into space outside of the station. In fact, as far Jason could see, there’d been no F-63s at all anywhere near them. He ran a hand through his hair, leaving the cabin behind to greet the passengers as they disembarked. He hoped none of them would note that those blonde locks were matted with sweat.

A couple of the passengers — a concerned father, a bureaucrat who barely stopped talking to her personal comm, a little girl with pigtails who kicked him in the shin — gave him grief over the abrupt end of the trip. Still, they’d hit their goals and gotten home safe. Jason would get paid.

And then he’d leave. Somewhere else, somewhere the Wayfarer could take him even further from Federation bounty hunters and system authorities…

“Commander.”

He blinked, coming back to where he was standing. He was looking at a familiar face. Reddish-brown hair, light brown eyes..

“Commissioner Parker?”

She smiled. It was a wide, warm thing, tinged with mischief. Not an expression worn by the shipping magnate bureaucrat back on Lave Station. It was about then that he noticed that while her fashion was similar to the commissioner’s — pencil skirt, business-style blouse and jacket, heels — it had its own spin on the look. The skirt was just a bit shorter, the cut of the jacket a little more daring, the top two buttons of her blouse unbuttoned. She wore spectacles, which the other had not, and while she wore her hair in a similar fashion, curling locks of it fell to frame her face, and the chopsticks in the bun were more vibrant and eye-catching.

“I see you’ve met my sister.” Her voice, again almost identical to the other’s, was smoother, more relaxed. “Kind of stuck up, isn’t she?”

Jason swallowed, feeling very much on the spot. “She’s a conservative sort, yeah.”

“That’s putting it mildly.” Her smile widened. “Parker’s my name, yes. My twin hasn’t gotten married — can’t imagine why that is — and neither have I. But I don’t commission a thing. You can call me Stephanie.”

He nodded. “And you know my name.”

“I do.” Her lips pursed in an interesting way, at least to Jason’s eyes. “And I’m aware of your skills, and cool head under pressure.”

He thought of the sweat that’d trickled down his cheek. “Thanks.”

“Listen. I represent a… certain organization. We’re always on the lookout for new talent. Especially commanders who can handle themselves in a crisis and aren’t afraid of running afoul of… antagonistic parties. The pay’s fantastic, and we’ll provide your first ship. Interested?”

Jason thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. “Sure. If it gets me out of Federation space, especially.”

She put out her hand. “Shake on it.”

He did. She had a firm grip, and her fingers lingered on his palm for just a moment.

“Good. Be sure to sever your ties with Baroness Starsight. You’ll find your new ship in Landing Bay 24.”

“Twenty-four,” Jason said with a nod. She smiled at him again.

“Looking forward to working with you, Commander.” She turned and walked down the corridor, heels clicking whenever they touched the deck. Unlike her sister’s heels, they were stiletto-style, and the seams of her stockings ran up the back of her legs in clean, straight lines.

Jason really didn’t know how to process what just happened.

He made his way to the Baroness office to collect his pay and hand in his resignation. Then it was to Landing Bay 24. There, he found a small ship that he knew was capable despite its size: a Viper Mk.III fighter. He ran his hand over its hull with a smile. It was already fitted with registry numbers saying it was his. He got in and checked the cockpit. He found a note on the pilot’s seat, shocked to discover it smelled faintly of Stephanie’s perfume. He opened it.

Don’t forget that you owe us. This isn’t a gift; it’s an investment.

A chill ran down Jason’s spine.

What had he just been talked into doing?

To be continued…

Elite Dangerous is a registered trademark of Frontier Developments.

Delta-V: Foundational Barter

Previously: The year is 3301. Six months after Zachary Hudson was swept into office, Jason Frimantle, a young and unregistered Commander, broke with his father to start his own trading business.

One of these days, I’m going to need to get myself a docking computer.

It wasn’t that Jason had trouble easing the Wayfarer through the ‘mail slot’ of a particular station. His more immediate concern when landing was scraping his ship against the guide rails, or bumping up against other ships. It was a reaction based on how the Federation treated incoming or outgoing Commanders — threats of lethal force were commonplace from traffic control. Jason found the attitude of those along this trading route much more agreeable, for the most part. He guided his ship to the landing pad within Lave Station, feeling the reassuring bump of his landing gear against the solid metal.

The pad lowered into the hangar, and Jason felt the faint pull of the access corridor interior’s 0.2 gravity. One didn’t have to worry about a particularly strong step along a corridor putting one into freefall, but handrails were still highly recommended. He moved from his ship into the corridor with a few long yet careful strides, and took hold of the handrail in the corridor. A few minutes later, he was in the Workers trade station, bringing up his manifest to onload some crates of Lavian Brandy.

The woman at the front desk looked up as Jason walked in. “Commander Frimantle?”

Jason blinked. “Um. Yes?”

“Commissioner Parker would like to see you.”

Most of the dealings Jason had had with the Workers of Lave Liberals had been through a contact that worked directly with the system market. Parker was the overseer of the faction’s trade, a subordinate to their leadership; from what Jason had gathered, they were a middle manager who tracked inventory and ship traffic. He wasn’t sure why such a person would want to see him, since he was still starting out in terms of being a freelance trader. Regardless, it wouldn’t hurt to make new friends, or at least establish new contacts. He thanked the receptionist and found Parker’s office.

Parker stood in front of a floor-to-ceiling holo display of Lave’s market, a tablet in one hand and a stylus in the other. She was an older woman, still in her middle years but definitely showing the signs of working hard on her career. She wore a business-style blazer and knee-length pencil skirt that flattered her figure yet projected an air of professional austerity, backed up by the unadorned blouse that came to her neck. Her reddish-brown hair was drawn back in a conservative bun, but the chopsticks holding it in place were lavishly decorated with flowers and branches that seemed to fly in the face of her steely demeanor.

Jason adjusted his jacket, which he’d opened after exiting the Wayfarer, suddenly aware of the fact that both it and his pressure suit were due for a cleaning. His hair was probably mussed, as well, from the last few trade runs being uninterrupted by stopping for anything other than food and sleep. Parker looked up from the tablet in her hand at the motion, looking at Jason over the rims of spectacles that complimented the light brown color of her eyes.

“Commander,” she said, her voice reminding Jason of a schoolmistress. “Thank you for coming to see me.”

“Nice to meet you, Commissioner,” Jason replied. “What can I do for you?”

She turned away from the display to lay her tablet on the desk. Jason noted she was wearing high heels, which couldn’t have been easy at lower gravity. They weren’t stiletto-style, but still…

“I have need of a trader who can take care of a matter of some urgency. Your efficiency in the Zaonce trade route leads me to believe you can accomplish such a task.” She turned back to him, regarding him for a long moment. “Do you believe I am correct?”

Jason nodded. “Lots of Commanders starting out like this run, ma’am. It’s got decent profit margins and there’s enough of a gap between deliveries that no markets get too flooded, nor do they dry up. The items are always in demand, be it Lavian brandy or blue milk.”

“I see you have a head for the greater business picture as well as your own credits. I do believe we can work together.” She picked up a different tablet, took a step towards Jason, and handed it to him. “How is your planetary landing experience?”

Jason regarded the tablet. It was information and telemetry for a settlement called Abel Prospect, located in the Arque system. “I’ve been a spacer all of my life. Making planetfall hasn’t really been a priority, but I’ve done it a couple of times. Usually with my father guiding me.”

Thinking of his father filled Jason with a mix of emotions that weren’t entirely pleasant. He tried to keep that out of his voice, but Parker was studying his expression closely. After a moment, she nodded.

“Very good. The settlement has indicated a need for medical supplies. There has been a minor epidemic of a rare skin disease. None of the in-system stations have what they need to deal with this, and they want to combat it lest it become a system-wide outbreak.”

Jason studied the layout of the settlement and the planetary landscape around it. “I don’t see any landing pads.”

“That is the other concern. They lack the facilities to accommodate starships in the usual manner. They also have no means to take in a SRV. So the supplies must be hand-delivered.”

Jason’s brows furrowed. “How’s the gravity there?”

“0.09 on the surface. They need two tons of specialized medical supplies, and are paying 200% above market price. You will be entitled to 50% of the profits.”

Jason looked over the figures, and hoped he wasn’t suddenly showing signs of his excitement. With that amount of money, he could buy several enhancements for the Wayfarer — a frame-shift drive with longer range, an improved fuel scoop, a more comfortable pilot’s seat…

Maybe even a new ship, he thought.

“I do believe you’ve got yourself a pilot, Ms. Parker.”

“Excellent. The sooner you can depart, the better.”

A short jump or two later, the Wayfarer‘s planetary approach suite was guiding Jason into a low orbit over the rocky body where Abel Prospect had been established. The gravity of the body was negligible, but he definitely felt the tug of it when his ship dropped out of supercruise. The Wayfarer creaked slightly as he adjusted his approach, unused to flying in any sort of atmosphere or planetary gravity. Granted, Abel Prospect’s host body had only the thinnest of gas layers drawn to it during its formation, and a human being would still suffocate in about 15 seconds if they found themselves outside without a pressure suit.

As he made his descent, he checked his radar to ensure a good position for the transfer of the goods. Then he looked again. There was another contact on the surface. He rolled to starboard to get a visual look. A Hauler, smaller (and, in Jason’s opinion, less elegant) cousin to his own Adder, was parked near Abel Prospect’s sole lock. A bad feeling crept into him, tightening his jaw as he sussed out a similar place to put down the Wayfarer.

Once he was settled on the surface, Jason activated his p-suit’s helmet and seals, and did a check of his equipment — integrated oxygen supply, suit displays, utility & gun belt, and so on. He moved aft, unlocked the crates from their restraints, and opened his hatch before pushing them out towards the lock. As he moved closer, he saw that it was still cycling. Quickly, he tapped a few commands into the control panel. He reset the system, then opened the outer door.

Two men were inside, wearing pressure suits, staring in shock at the outer door. Jason gave them a wide grin.

“Gentlemen! Delivering medical supplies?”

One of them slowly nodded. “Um… yeah.”

Jason nodded, looking over the crates. “Four tons, it looks like. What’s your margin?”

“150% market price,” said the other.

“Undercutting the competition to sell more quantity? Nice.” Before he continued, Jason took in the logo on the crates. He blinked, trying to hold down a sudden surge of shock and anger.

It was the logo of his father’s company.

Without warning, he drew his pistol. Like the flight jacket he’d left in the Wayfarer, it had belonged to his grandfather. It was an old-fashioned ballistic weapon, a revolver, designed to fire without issue in near or full vacuum. He shoved its muzzle against the clear faceplate of the closest trader. The other man didn’t move. Neither of them seemed armed; if they were, their sidearms were somewhere inside their pressure suits. What was the point of that?

“Okay. Before I cycle this lock, you’re going to leave it. And your crates. You’re going to take off, go back to Eravate, and tell my father that he, and you, and any of his other cronies, are staying on your side of the galaxy. Nod if you understand.”

The man nodded. Jason reached behind him with his free hand and opened the outer door one more time.

“Good. Now get out.”

They obeyed. Jason slammed the butt of his pistol into the controls to close the door and cycle the lock. He turned to the crates — now six in total — and tried to ignore the little voice telling him that, technically, he’d just committed an act of piracy.

But what was his father going to do? Put a bounty on his own son?

To be continued…

Elite Dangerous is a registered trademark of Frontier Developments.

500 Words on Elite Dangerous

Courtesy Frontier Development

When I finally get home from long commutes down to and back from the home in which my start-up employer operates, I tend to be tired and mentally drained. It’s difficult for me to muster the juices I need to fuel my writing — a fact I try not to be too hard on myself over. Still, between the fatigue and my growing disgust over the situation in this country and on this planet, I prefer to wind down my day by going to space.

For a while, this was facilitated through Star Trek Online. Star Trek is one of my favorite sci-fi universes, and I’ve met some wonderful people there. However, I slowly came to realize that in terms of gameplay, I was unfulfilled. Like all MMOs, the world is mostly static; no matter how many times to beat up a certain enemy faction, the missions in which you do so never change. It’s hard to feel like you’re having an impact on the world around you. There’s still a hard divide between your reality and that of the game world, unlike something like Skyrim.

Then, I started playing Elite Dangerous.

Digging out my old Attack 3 joystick and G13 game pad, I quickly found myself immersed in one of the best space sims I’ve ever played. A few years ago I played through a few Wing Commander games for charity, and when I was younger, spent hours upon hours in Elite Plus and Wing Commander: Privateer. In addition to the nostalgic feeling of having my hands on a “throttle” and stick, the more I play the game, the more incentive I feel to keep playing. The galaxy is truly vast, with a plethora of options of how to play. Trading, combat, mining, exploration, even hauling tourists to exotic locales — all of these are profitable ways to make your mark on the galaxy. And you can truly make a mark; the game’s background sim and Powerplay functionality mean that if you choose to, you can influence system control, shifts in allegiance, and even the course of superpowers.

I’m trying a bit of everything. My Commander has made his way far from his home system, has joined up with a like-minded group of spacefarers, and I’m fictionalizing the journey. I’m finding more and more ways to make my time in space more rewarding, more immersive, and more challenging. I’m upgrading my joystick, adding voice commands, and I’m very much looking forward to earning enough cash to fund true exploration endeavors to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. I also want to contribute more to the cause of Princess Aisling Duval, the only member of the galactic superpowers outspoken on the idea that owning people is inherently wrong.

The only drawback, so far, is a relative lack of roleplaying. However, I know that storytellers are out there. I hope we’ll run into one another eventually.

Space is, after all, quite big.

Which is why I can lose myself in it for a while.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

Delta-V: Furious Egress

The year is 3301. Zachary Hudson has been swept into office as President of the Federation. Cuts to healthcare and other social programs has made his corporate sponsors quite happy, but has left casualties among the populace. One of them, Abigail Frimantle, finally succumbed to a debilitating disease after over a year of battle. Her son, Jason, embittered and emboldened, has taken steps to strike out on his own into the wild and dangerous galaxy beyond his home…

Courtesy Frontier

The interior of a station access corridor resembles a telescope when seen from within; for Jason Frimantle, it gave the promise of freedom.

As a boy, he’d looked up at the inner surface of the Ackerman’s Market hub and its traffic with wonder, his head full of dreams. Once he was old enough, his father had entrusted him as an extra pair of hands aboard the Frimantle’s family freighter. Recently, he’d been given permission to run a few missions of his own in his grandfather’s Sidewinder, the same ship that had established the Frimantles as reliable and efficient traders in the Eravate system and several of its neighbors.

He stood alone in the control tower of one of the Market’s many landing pads, gazing at the familiar habitats and conveyance ways, blue eyes focusing on the bright fields dividing the hub from the blackness of space beyond. When he took in that sight, as the sovereign young man he was becoming, he did so with hope, and more than a little impatience. The need to exit Federation space and avoid its stations after said egress was becoming an itch under his skin.

He went down from the civilian observation area of the tower to the hangar below. Perched under the lights was an Adder, its cobalt blue hull shining in the overhead lights. It was freshly washed, fueled, and its stock equipment had been replaced with everything Jason needed. The plates declared its registration code, and the name Jason had given it: Wayfarer. With the Civil War having calmed down, and interdiction rates at an all-time low, Jason knew it was time for him to leave. He tugged at the collar of his somewhat weatherbeaten flight jacket, a relic of his grandfather’s time with the Federation Navy, and was about to climb aboard his new ship when he heard the door open behind him.

An unctuous and preening man in a suit about a size too large ambled towards Jason with a big smile. “Ah, young master Frimantle! I thought I’d find you in the Trader’s Lounge. I bring good news! We’re all set.”

Jason took the tablet from the man’s outstretched hand and gazed at its screen. It did, in fact, lay out all of the payment information for the Wayfarer behind him. It included the sale price he’d gotten for the old Frimantle Sidewinder, which tugged at one of Jason’s heartstrings, just a little. But it was a small discordant note in the growing feeling within him, like an orchestra tuning up.

“Are you sure I can’t interest you in a Cobra Mk III? It’s one of our best sellers!”

Jason smiled and shook his head. “For the last time, Mister Cornwall, no thank you. I have a long journey ahead of me, and the more credits I hold onto for that journey, the better. Besides —” Here Jason’s smile became knowing, his tone chiding. “— you and I both know there are no refunds on customizations like paint jobs and name plates.”

Abashed, Cornwall tugged at his mustache, a tick Jason recognized as his unconscious “I’ve been caught red-handed” expression. “Now, now, no reason I can’t make an exception there, my boy. Your old Sidewinder is in excellent condition; I’m sure I can extend a line of credit. I’m always willing to work out a deal! Remember, once you’re a Cornwall customer, you’re a customer for life!”

Jason stopped smiling. That my boy made him bristle, and the idea of being tied to Ackerman’s after today was too much. “My life isn’t going to be here, Mister Cornwall. Or anywhere near your dealership.” He pressed his thumb to the marked square on the tablet, and it chirped, indicating the finalization of the sale. “Thank you. I’m sure you’ll find that Sidewinder a good home.”

Cornwall’s frustration at a loss of potential revenue seeped past his genial expression, which suddenly froze on his whiskered face when he looked past Jason as another door opened behind him. “Well… ah… excuse me, master Frimantle, I have to finalize the transfers. Nice doing business with you!” The little salesman scuttled off. Jason didn’t turn around.

“I hope you have a damn good explanation for this.”

Jason shrugged. The irritated voice of his father no longer had the terrifying effect on his guts it used to. Now it just served as one more obstacle to overcome before he left this place forever.

“I do. I’m leaving.”

“The hell you are, boy. Your place is here. Just like mine is, just like your Pappy’s was. Why’d you have to go and sell his Sidewinder? It’s a better ship than this…” His father’s voice trailed off, as if he was searching for the right way to trash-talk the Adder, which was smaller, faster, and definitely prettier than the beat-up Type-7 his father used.

Jason didn’t let his father finish. Instead, he turned.

“Is it better because of the tracking device you had installed in it?”

Joseph Frimantle, his hair going more gray by the day, frowned. It exacerbated the worry lines on his face.

“You taking that tone with me over something I used to keep you safe?”

“It kept me on a leash, Dad. That’s all it ever did.”

“What if you’d run outta fuel out there? Huh? Or how about if you got jumped by pirates?”

“Then I’d be dead.” Or I’d call the Fuel Rats. Jason didn’t want to mention that aloud; his father’s opinion on the altruistic organization usually involved words like ‘socialist scumbags,’ ‘hippy nonsense,’ and more than a few expletives. “I don’t see how you knowing my every movement outside of this station kept me ‘safe’.”

“You’ll understand when you have kids of your own, son. Now, come on, let’s sell this flashy piece of crap back to Cornwall. I’ve got work to do.”

Jason crossed his arms. “I’m not stopping you. Go do work.”

Joseph blinked. “Now, see here…”

“No.” Jason glared at his father. “This is over, Dad. I’m leaving. I made my own credits, I bought my own ship, and I’m leaving.”

“Oh, is that so? And where is it that you’ll be going in your fancy new ship?”

Jason shrugged. “Away. What do you care?”

“What do I—? I am your father, you overgrown snot, and what I say goes.”

“I’m a licensed, independent commander, and I have no outstanding warrants or fines. I can come and go as I please. Emphasis on go.

“Your mother would be weeping if she were standing here to see you talk to me like this.”

“My mother is dead.”

“She’s turning in her grave, then.”

“She wouldn’t be, if you’d let her get the care she needed.”

“She was just sitting around the house, not lifting a finger to help us at all!”

“She was in pain, Dad, every single day, and the fact that the doctors we could afford couldn’t help her wasn’t her fault. And did you think the dishes washed themselves? Or that prepared meals just emerged from the oven at your whim? You’re really dumb if you think all Mom did was sit idle all day.”

“Don’t you dare call me stupid, boy.”

“Oh, I dare.” Jason’s hands were in ever-tightening fists, and they were just starting to hurt, now. He didn’t care. His voice was a growl. “I dare because you could have paid for better care for her. You could have been here more for her. Hell, if I had then the cash I had now, I would have paid for her medical care, and I’d be taking us both away from you.”

“One more word outta you —”

“Go ahead, Dad. Can’t be worse than you killing her. You son of a bitch. Why didn’t you just shoot her, if you wanted her out of your hair so badly?”

Joseph raised his hand to slap his son. Jason’s arm flashed up, grabbing his father by the wrist, blocking the blow. Shocked, Joseph stared at the young man in front of him.

“You’re never hitting me again, old man.” Jason resisted the urge to twist the wrist in his hand, possibly breaking his father’s arm. There were lines, even now, he refused to cross.

He did tighten his grip, though. Joseph’s eyes began to water. “Let… let go of me.”

Jason did, and stepped back. Joseph kept staring, uncomprehending, gently holding his wrist in his other hand.

“Listen to me. And you listen well. This is the result of your actions. You voted for that blowhard, Zachary Hudson, to be the Federation President. You put up all of those signs, about people paying their own way, and how those who can’t work shouldn’t get ‘handouts’ from the government. You barely lifted a finger when Mom started getting sick. You stayed out on longer and longer runs, and when you came home, drunk and exhausted, you yelled at her to keep the house more tidy and to get a job. And when I started working on my own? You took as much of my profit as you could, putting it who knows where.”

He paused. He waited. Joseph was, in fact, listening. Another discordant note sounded in the young man, but he kept on his tirade.

“When Mom died, I set up a way to have credits automatically deposited in an account of my own before you saw my balance sheets. And I worked a lot. Check that tracking data of yours. I’ve been out as far as GD-219 and Macarthur Terminal. And I earned this.” He pointed at the Adder. “I earned my way out of here, and away from you.”

Joseph blinked away tears. “I loved your mother.” His voice was quieter, now, tired and worn out. “I didn’t want to watch her die.”

“But you could have helped. You could have let me help.” His father’s face took a little of the wind out of his sails. “She needed both of us. All she had was me. And I couldn’t do enough.”

Joseph shook his head. “She used to be so strong. She was making her own way, and she helped make our business become one of the best.”

“She loved you. She honored you. And… you let her down.”

“Okay. Okay. Just… let’s just go home, son. We can talk more when we’re at home. I’ll keep listening. I promise.”

Jason closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “No, Dad. I have to go.”

Joseph frowned again. “You can’t. Jason, you can’t. I’m getting more work requests every day. I can’t be in two places at once.”

Jason shrugged. “I guess that’s because I told everyone I was trading with to contact you. I figured the Frimantle name meant speed and quality of service, and now you’ve got customers far and wide. You’ll be making even more money!”

Joseph’s eyes narrowed. “Then… why are you leaving? You know I can’t do this alone.”

“You know why I’m leaving. And isn’t that your President’s whole thing? Independent businessmen doing business on their own, without handouts or help, ‘personal freedom at any cost’?” Jason spread his arms. “Well, here you go. Plenty of work, no family holding you back, just you and that rattling old rustbucket of a ship. That’s what you voted for, Dad. I’m just making it all happen for you.”

Righteous indignation crept back into the old man’s eyes. “I’ll have your license revoked.”

“By the time you get that paperwork squared away, I’ll be out of Federation jurisdiction. Which means it’ll be a huge waste of your time and money. Go back to your freighter, Dad. Go back to work.” He turned towards the Wayfarer.

“At least take off that jacket. It’s mine.”

Jason looked over his shoulder, one foot on the ramp into his ship. “No, Dad. He said I was a better pilot than you, and that only the best pilots wear jackets like this.” He paused. “Get clear. I don’t want you to get caught in the blast wash when I take off.”

Joseph glared, his hands balled into fists, and turned to leave the hangar. Jason walked into his ship, sealed the ramp, and got his pre-flight checklist completed as quickly as possible, without missing anything. With his flightsuit secured and all systems green, he requested liftoff clearance, and headed for the exit of Ackerman’s Market.

As he cleared the landing lights on the exterior of the station, his comm channel crackled to life.

“Jason! Stop!”

Turning his head, Jason checked his contacts. Sure enough, an old Type-7 freighter had emerged from the station.

“Don’t make me call the Federation Security pilots! I’ll tell them you bought that ship with stolen funds!”

“And when I keep flying away in spite of your cunning ploy?”

“Well then I’ll just shoot your engines out myself, smart-ass!”

“Oh? With what?”

“The guns I got installed by my friend over at Cleve Hub last week! Now turn that ship around!”

“I don’t think you have a single weapon installed on that crate, Dad.”

“You callin’ me a liar?”

Jason cocked his head to one side. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

They had cleared the no fire zone around the station. Jason knew that, given their position, Joseph would feel confident in bringing his weapons online. Jason immediately turned his ship, boosted himself back into range of Ackerman Market. The Type-7 began its slow turn, killing its throttle, and had never left the zone.

The ship automatically switched over to the traffic control channel when the Federation pinged him. “Zorgon Peterson Bravo Lima Uniform, please comply with all Federal regulations —”

“Mayday, mayday, calling Ackerman Control.” He kept his voice calm, but added a hint of urgency, as if he was truly terrified but trying to control it. “This is Zorgon Peterson Bravo Lima Uniform. I am being pursued by a hostile party, their weapons are hot. I am unarmed. Say again, this vessel is unarmed.”

This was true — other than a chaff launcher and point-defense turret, the Adder transport did not have any weapons. Jason had made sure to remove them after he’d bought the ship from Cornwall. They were weight he didn’t need on his trip; once he got where he was going, maybe he’d install something. But, for now, his Harmless status was in his favor.

Federation fighters zipped towards him. He keyed his comm back over to his father’s frequency.

“I think those officers want to have a word with you, Dad.”

“You!” The voice on the other end crackled through the speaker with impotent fury. “You tricked me! You —!”

“Bye, Dad.” Turning off his comm, Jason turned to his map of the galaxy. It was a long way to Lave, but it was out of Federation space, and the trade routes he’d heard of were lucrative, if a bit volatile or dangerous at times.

Nevertheless, he was going. He was putting this system, this station, this family behind him. And he wasn’t looking back.

Courtesy Frontier

Chapter Two: Foundational Barter

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