20 August 2009

Planetary Control Part I

The following is the fictional narrative portion of Crazy Kinux's Planetary Control Contest which I conveniently missed the deadline for.


The Mindrill Refinery in Taisy’s a filthy place with more than its share of reprobates, but it’s the first quasi-friendly place we could get to. The Cairn’s a mess. The crew repped the armor back as best they could but the hull’s breached in at least seven places. On the chase here we overloaded four of the five pulses, not to mention the microwarp drive. They’ll need fixing before we move on. I’ve got the scratch in my personal account to get the repairs sorted, but the company’s sit-rep is FUBAR at best. Sixteen billion down the corp drain; additional personal losses probably equaling four billion more.

And Barker made it sound so damned easy.

Two months ago when the news broke on the wire about advances ship tech Barker and a few other high-ups got it in their head that here, finally, was something the Foundation could make a killing at. "We’ll find ourselves a little spot," he said. Somewhere "out of the way," he said. "There’s ISK here for the taking." Some of us were skeptical that we could swing it. We’re a small group by most standards, numbering a little shy of two hundred. Even then weeks would pass when I won’t hear even a peep from most, but Barker and Tesh insisted.

My experience back with the Expeditionary Company down Hiematar way pretty much dictated my role in the folly. Those many months learning the finer arts of advanced electronics, cloaking techs, astrometrics and signal acquisition; all that may have just saved my and my crew’s collective skins.

Once the ball got rolling it took me the better part of two weeks to find it, but find it I did. An entirely uninhabited class 1-A. I couldn’t believe it when the hit came back off the globe probe. It was in the wee hours. Most of the crew was bunked down and only one other pilot was logged into the corp comms. I pinged Fedder.


"Hor! You’re up late. How goes?"

"I think I found it."

"Well, it’s pretty small from what I hear. You better check again before you call the ladies."

Nice. "I think I found what Barker’s sent me after."

There was a long pause.



"Is it good?" he asked.

"Better than good, Fed. An zero-pop 1-A. Data’s still coming in but it looks like a 99.5 or .6 match. Gravity’s nominal. Weather looks … looks perfect."

"Where at?"

"Way out there. 85-B52."

Another pause.

"Nice neighborhood. How are the locals?"

"The usual types. Always looking to separate a pilot from his pod."

I waved Fedder off, we exchanged "fly safes" and I shut the comm channel. I desperately wanted some sleep but needed to finish the geologicals and ship them up the food chain.

And so it began. My findings proved to be just what Barker was looking for and three days later Carlisle and Qu’eser showed up in-system. Carlisle’s Pilgrim-class recon dropped a cyno and seconds later the upper atmo around my little find was peppered with fifteen ships, among them a Panther and two Widows, Possy’s Orca, and Barker in the Sower. I’d never seen one before, having only read the specs on it, but damn if she wasn’t an odd looking thing. Massive and odd. Barker moved her into position, giving minimal orders over comms. The Sower barely seemed to move, but slowly crawled into her high-orbit position.

Barker’s colonizer was fitted for a light landing. With no indigenous population to contend with he saw fit to only send down five hundred marines under the control of a green officer, a Colonel Ashram from somewhere in the north of Empire. Perimeter, maybe? No matter. There were only forty-five hundred colonists; nothing Ashram couldn’t control.

Once in position the Sower fired up her telemetry package. The instrument pulsed for a cycle as it scanned down a landing site.

Five minutes later Barker came over fleet comms. "Found a nice spot," his voice crackled. "Nice stretch along a river on number two land mass, hugging right up to a fat vein of Bistot."

Thirty seconds later the Sower was locked into geo-sync and the first of the twelve landers crept out of her hanger. That first one had the marines, I think. At least that’s what Barker said he wanted to start with. Marines then supplies, then the industrial kits, followed by the colonists.

The crew and I watched from the Cairn. Barker and the Sower were about a hundred and fifty clicks off starboard, with the remainder of the fleet bunched closely on the Sower’s far side. By all estimations we’d be done here by lunch.

Or not, as it all turned out.

I caught it first. A new ship signature came through the local beacon. Before I could open the fleet ops channel the local beacon started getting flooded. By the third I had the channel open, but local kept growing. Seventeen, then thirty-two, then …

Shit on a stick.

"Break," I said, my voice cracking against my will, "This is Horace. We’ve got company, people. Last count … Eighty-seven in local."

"Eighty what?" screamed Barker. The Sower was on its second lander. With no override on the geo-sync Barker and his eleven-hundred member crew weren’t going anywhere until the last of the ten remaining landers were planet-side.

That wasn’t going to happen.

The new fleet arrived within thirty seconds of appearing on the beacon. Maybe fifty ships in all, and mostly heavies. Glancing over HUD I counted three carriers, two Moros and a Nix; the rest being battleships, mostly, with some support including a handful of interceptors. This wasn’t going to end well by anyone’s standards. Fighters immediately streamed from the bellies of the carriers. The Cairn informed me she was picking up target acquisitions from no fewer than six ships. Six out of fifty-odd? I felt a bit slighted.

Barker dialed up the local comm channel. "Morning, gents. We’re all a bit busy here at the moment. Can we wrap up here and then reach some sort of an agreement?"

After a brief pause a familiar voice came through the wire.

"No, that doesn’t work for us," said Fedder.

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