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A note from Erios909

[Participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge!]

Expect a chapter everyday during the challenge!

Full steam ahead!

USD: ~18 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi

Location: Ackman Station, Mooring Arm D-2, Observation Deck


 

Alex and a MilTech Arms technician watched the outer hatch of the Tears from inside the mooring arm of the station. Eight of their combat bots were floating in space around the hatch in a show of force. As much as she had liked Wyles, she wasn’t letting anyone onboard the ship that she didn’t trust. So, their cargo drones had neatly organized the pallets and single missile and were carrying the bundle out into vacuum.

The MilTech Arms shuttle had stopped a polite distance away from the ship and awaited the goods. Its pilot had already opened the hatch and a few men in EVA suits were floating outside, suit lights illuminating the shuttle's cargo bay that ran down its spine. She wondered how much it would cost to buy or make one.

It would have fit in the Shrike’s cargo bay, barely. Although then it would have taken up all the space. Maybe Nameless could figure out how to design extra hangar space between the outer and inner hulls. It didn’t really need to be vacuum sealed, since most of their workforce was robotic. She made a note to ping him about it later.

As the cargo bots reached almost halfway to the shuttle the technician spoke, breaking Alex out of her musings.

“Ma’am, if you’re ready I can do the funds transfer now.”

She turned to him and nodded, producing her datapad and handing it to him. She had trusted Nameless to integrate the CEC’s chip into the ship computer, and now she could easily make transfers without having the chip present.

Which was good, because if anyone ever got physical access to the chip, they could essentially take all the money inside of it without permission.

The datapad’s scanner read the man’s retina and then he placed his palm on the screen. A few seconds later Alex heard a pleasant di-ding sound and a green entry on her HUD.

|Incoming Balance + 20,109,120 SE|

|New Total: 18,359,120 SE|

Mentally, Alex translated that into 215,989 kebabs or 367,182 cheeseburgers. She was set for a long time of good food! If she had intended to stay idle, that was. She didn’t. As soon as she had woken up, she had started setting up a catalogue of things that they could purchase on the station that would be useful.

The first one was already awaiting retrieval on the MilTech Arms shuttle.

“Right, let me go ahead and pay for the mining lasers.”

“Boss said to hand them off to you free as a first transaction bonus. Says to remember him fondly and let’s do business again, soon.”

“Humm. I see your boss is a smart man.”

“There’s a reason MilTech is considered one of the best jobs on the station, Ma’am.”

Alex glanced back toward her ship’s airlock. The mess of pallets and random station tidbits obscured some of the view, but the two combat bots she had left on guard duty at the ramp were clearly visible from where they stood. The Portmaster’s rules be damned, she wasn’t going out on the station without Elis watching her back.

The Mooring arm seemed safe enough though, since the Tears was so close by.

“Tell him his trick worked; If I need any new toys, I’ll come to him first.”

She looked to the transfer taking place through the station’s glass for a final time before deciding to go back to start her ordering spree.

“Everything seems to be in order, and I am needed back on the ship, so I’ll be heading back.”

“Of course Ma’am. Honestly surprised you came yourself and your quartermaster didn’t handle it.”

Alex smiled, of course she didn’t have a quartermaster, but she couldn’t tell him that.

“Just wanted to see things through to the end, see the new toys.”

“Yes Ma’am. They are a decent pair of mining lasers; ore calibration settings are all tip-top. I did the diagnostics and testing myself last night.”

“That’s good to hear. Thanks for your work.”

“I’m sure you’ll put them to good use.”

Oh, she would. She would.

 

USD: ~18 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, after the transfer

Location: Ackman Station, IND Tears of Fire, Mess Room


 

Alex felt herself on the verge of panic, circling a seated Elis who had forbidden her from coming any closer.

“Elis, how can you do this!”

Elis ignored her, instead focusing on the round mirror in front of her as she continued to use the pair of scissors to finish the final touches of her hair trimming.

Running out of energy, Alex fell to her knees, hands going down to touch the beautiful vivid red locks that had piled up on the floor. “This is a crime.”

Elis finished, and shook her head, “It had grown out while in cryostasis, don’t know why that stupid thing couldn’t prevent my hair growth, it stops everything else and worked for others. Probably something to do with whatever stupid ancestor decided to add red hair color to my genome.”

Alex looked up and pouted.

“Stop being so dramatic and don’t look at me like that. Long hair is not military reg. It gets in the way and is a liability. It did get in the way, even. First fucker yanked on it pretty good.”

Alex sobered up upon the mention of their unknown assailants and stood up. “Ok. If its that important, I won’t complain. It’s your hair anyway, so I don’t have any right to complain anyway, and I’d rather you be safe. But… but it was so pretty being long.”

Turning toward Alex, Elis tilted her head and showed off her new short bob hairstyle. She flicked one of her side bangs with a grin, “Are you saying it’s not pretty now?”

Alex opened her mouth in surprise, then scooted around to check it from multiple angles.

“Oh! It looks nice. How did you learn to do it yourself?”

“It’s something you learn how to do in my occupation.”

“Umm, could you cut my hair when it needs it? I don’t want to shorten it, but it would be nice to not let it get too long, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure, I can do that. I mean, who else are you going to trust with potentially sharp pointy things around your head.”

“Umm… maybe Nameless?”

“And end up with a buzzcut?”

The horrified look on Alex’s face produced a laugh from Elis. A little round robot scooted into the room and began to vacuum.

[Notice: Discarded material will be recycled and reprocessed by ship systems.]

“Ok. Let’s go to Engineering and finalize our list. There are some interesting things I noticed. I’ll probably be giving Portmaster Whitely a call after this.”

“Oh?”

They left the remains of Elis’s hair to the cleaner bot, and started through the ship’s main corridor. A new selection of bots was on display going to and fro, and Alex couldn’t help but think that Nameless had been iterating on the little robots constantly. There had not been a day since they had arrived in 92 Pegasi where she did not see at least one new design flittering around. She wondered if he was bored.

“Yes, while scouring the listings for supplies and things we could use with Nameless, I also checked out several rental listings on the station for space. They have quite a few sections that have been abandoned or aren’t in use. Not that we need the space or to take up shop on the station, but…”

Crossing into the threshold of Engineering, the screens lit up for them, already displaying the various lists of resources Alex had found available, compared to their stockpiles and projected needs. Their immediate projected needs were mostly met for the current upgrades with the incoming supplies now. The numbers bounced off Alex’s head, but she appreciated the status bars and the conversion to percentages.

“One section used to be a manufactory for elevator cablings. Dedia apparently has a space elevator for receiving and delivering goods, the cable was produced here and then shipped out. Once the need disappeared the owner couldn’t find a use for it and packed up shop. Took almost everything of value, but the main manufacturing plant was too large and deemed not worth the cost of scrapping. It’s mainly a carbon and metal alloy furnace.”

“I see. What were you thinking? How big is it, and how would we use it?”

“Well… it’s about the size of our ship. I priced the cost of building something like that from scratch to be something like 90 or 100 million SE, about half if Nameless did the labor, but it belongs to the station now and that space is being wasted and I think I might be able to talk Whitely down on the price to something we can afford. He gets a big section of his station freed, we get a thing, win-win…”

“That’s… that’s a lot of money, Alex. Why do we even need something like that?”

“We have processing facilities on-board, but they are tiny. We can’t really do what I’d like with them.”

“We talked about it a little bit on the way here, but it sounds like you have a specific goal in mind now?”

“You’re the one that gave me the idea. I’d like to build our own station, then ships. Produce what people need. I saw what Wyles had going, and I like it. He’s just thinking too small. I want to make that on a bigger scale. I guess you could say I want to start a company.”

“That’s… I am just a marine, Alex. Mostly just a grunt. I’m willing to take a leadership position when it comes to security, but something like that needs more expertise than just that. Engineers, pilots, accountants… I don’t even know how we’d get started.”

“Elis. We have Nameless.”

It was Elis’s turn to open her mouth in surprise.

 

USD: ~18 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi

Location: Ackman Station, IND Tears of Fire, CIC


 

Alex sat in her captain’s chair on the bridge while listening to Mr. Whitely’s progress report on identifying their attackers.

“Captain, I am sorry to relay this to you, but we haven’t made any progress in identifying your assailants. We’ve uncovered their identities that they have been using on the station, but unfortunately after a deeper profiling they turned out to be fabricated. None of them had any apparent relationship to each other, and I’m afraid this looks like some sort of black ops mission by an unknown group.”

He paused and frowned, seemingly wanting to expand further, but being unable to do so, “I don’t have any further insights myself, other than the group responsible must have had considerable resources and preparation time for this, and there are too many groups like that operating on the station that we simply can’t keep track of that fit that criteria.”

It was much as she had expected and Wyles had warned her of it already. The fact that she had been targeted, in hindsight, wasn’t that crazy of a leap and she should have been more conscious of her security. Just owning and operating a FedTech ship seemed like it had planted a target on her back. If they had known the truth they would have all probably been trying to kill her now, even the people that she had come to respect.

Although she thought that the ambush must have been a surprise to Elis too, otherwise she would have warned her to find more secure route, like say, asking for a shuttle to deliver them or just speaking over the comms. That would have been safer, for sure. Still, it didn’t feel like she had made that huge of a mistake, more like something she needed to account for in the future. She had an in-person meeting scheduled with Captain-Major Thraker for tomorrow, and she planned to ask to see if the Iron Horse MC could provide her some security, at least while she was on Ackman Station.

Then she could safely go back to Jaco’s Kebab Place instead of bothering the Mooring Security team with daily kebab dinner deliveries.

“Thank you for looking into it, Portmaster. It is unfortunate, but what I expected. This wasn’t the exact reason for my call today, however.”

“Oh, is there something I can help you with, Captain?”

“Yes, actually. I’m interested in a certain station rental, Annex 8 – Sub 5 that is listed on the StationNet.”

Mr. Whitely considered for a moment before recognition lit up in his eyes, “The old nanotube manufactory? Whatever have you need for renting that space out?”

“I didn’t want to rent the space exactly. I was interested in purchasing the manufactory itself.”

A look of confusion passed his face, “Whatever would you want it for? It is non-operational and there is no demand for nanotube cabling anymore.”

“I am planning to start a new corporation. I’ve already done the paperwork to set it up, and was going to send in the form to be approved after our conversation, but since we are talking right now…”

Alex smiled and tapped a key on her data pad, sending him the document with a smile. Her plan to sneakily skip the queue of documents awaiting approval was enacted.

|Corporate Forming Request|

|Name: Starlight Revolution|

|Three letter code: SLR|

|Corporate Ship Prefix: IND|SRS|

|System of Incorporation: 92 Pegasi|

|System Authority: Ackman Station|

|Type: Sole Proprietorship|

|OWNER: Alex, GCode: 8Y-384YN83023NB|

|Application Fee: 2,000,000 SE|PREPAID|

|Detailed Incorporation Details (Minimized)|

Portmaster Whitely frowned. Alex watched him through the screen as he looked down to read the contents she had sent him.

“I must say, Captain, that this is the fastest I’ve ever seen someone go from nearly two million credits in debt to pre-paying two million credit letters of incorporation.”

“You can approve it, yes? I’ve read all the relevant laws and had them checked by my ship—ship’s staff. Everything’s in order.”

“Captain, this wasn’t what I envisioned when I pictured our future relationship. I had hoped things would calm down after our meeting.”

“I’m sorry for troubling you so often. I’ve been through a lot over the last few... weeks.”

Sighing, Mr. Whitely seemingly decided and tapped something on his datapad.

|Corporate Incorporation Approved|

|Please see configuration options|

Alex turned off the scrolling text that began to run across her vision, deciding she’d examine it in more detail later on a datapad instead of her HUD.

“Thank you, Portmaster. Let me move to the next point of business. I would like to make a contract with the station. You see I’ve reviewed the regulations on the station prohibiting combat bots being deployed on it. Unfortunately, I have a lack of shipboard marines, so we rely heavily on them. I would like to offer you a defense contract where you approve us to deploy two combat bot units under Station Authority command but controlled by us to Mooring Arm D-1 while we are moored at a cost of 1 SE per day.”

“I’ve seen the reports. I’ve already seen those two bots at your airlock.”

“Yes, so this would make it so you don’t have to turn a blind eye, you can just look at it and know everything is above-board.”

The man looked exasperated, “Fine, Captain. Fine. We can do that.”

It only took a second to approve the contract that Alex had already prepared.

“Thank you! Now can we return to the manufactory?”

“The space is offered for rent for 1,000,000 SE per week, but that’s hardly the value of the industrial plant. I believe the stated value was 120 million SE before it was… mothballed. I would say that the station could sell it to you for approximately 80 million SE. Do you have the funds?”

Alex smiled, “That is a bit more than our budget I’m afraid. However, I have an alternative proposition. I would like to purchase it for 10 million SE—”

For the first time the Portmaster looked annoyed for real, “Captain Alex, please I have accommodated and accepted many of your requests out of courtesy and a hope for mutual courtesy, if you are going to continue to abuse this—”

Alex held up a hand, “Please, Portmaster, let me finish.”

Mr. Whitely took a breath and then nodded to her.

“While 10 million SE is much below the cost, I have reviewed the relevant data on the matter thoroughly. The reason that the manufactory is still sitting in this section unused is it has no real economic value anymore, although I have a use for it. The reason it hasn’t been scrapped is because removing it is going to threaten station stability. I’ve pegged the costs of the materials to repair the station at 30 million SE. I’ve also deduced the labor costs for that work would be an additional forty million SE. Allowing for a ten million credit fee for the manufactory, your price seems incredibly reasonable and at cost.”

“Exactly, and so you must understand why I cannot sell it to you at such a price.”

“In addition to the 10 million SE, I will acquire the materials and provide the labor and expertise for repairing the sections of the station that need reinforcing after it’s removal. I think this is a good deal for you, we will do all the work, you will make a small profit, and you will have a section of the station newly freed up for rent. If you wish you can provide us blueprints if you want it built for a specific purpose and we can do the base work without fittings for you, or if you would like we can add the fittings for a reduction in prices equivalent to their costs.”

“I thought you were the Captain of a warship, not a construction crew.”

Alex smiled at him quietly. It took a few moments, and he turned his attention to his screens. Alex expected him to do his own examination of the specifics, and she had prepared herself for giving him several days to consider, but she was surprised when he nodded.

“Captain, I believe we can make a deal with these terms. Shall I draw up a contract and have my construction master contact your Ship’s Engineer to discuss the specifics?”

‘Nameless, do you think you can handle that?’

[Notice: While human personality simulation and voice synthesis is possible, it is a highly expensive use of processing time.]

‘So yes. Great! You’re our new Ship’s Engineer.’

“That would be fine, Portmaster. I will shake your hand next time I see you.”

“It will help the station; it is not exactly a favor to you.”

“It will help both the station and Starlight Revolution. I hope you’re not bothered by all this; I believe we will be working together a lot in the future!”

“I am less bothered, and perhaps baffled by how rapidly you are moving in ways I didn’t expect. Have you considered that by following this course of action you will become a very public face? While slow the news will eventually reach the core.”

“I’ve come to the furthest frontier already, there is nowhere else to go for me, and I don’t think hiding would help now.”

“Maybe not, Still, there are ways people can ‘disappear’ and live a quiet life. If you would like I could help you with that option.”

Alex smiled at him, “Thank you for the offer. Really. I just don’t think it is an option for me.”

Portmaster Whitely nodded solemnly. “Very well, Captain. It was interesting, but if there is no more business to discuss…”

“Actually, Portmaster, I would like to ask about a license fee for an orbital station near the asteroid belt…?”

Mr. Whitely closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.

Alex replied with her friendliest smile.

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A note from Erios909

Thanks for reading!

If you are enjoying the story, please leave a comment, rating, or review! They help me out! And I love you for them!

Enjoy some fanart!

 

Next: Chapter 29 – Security Service Agreement

See you space core...


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Erios909

  • West Virginia, USA
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Bio: Still alive, yes.

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