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A note from Erios909

I want to thank all of you for reading. Especially those who left a comment, follow, rating or even a review.

Your support and encouragement has enabled me to keep writing ShipCore even when I had doubts or felt that maybe I wasn't up to the task. 

 


USD: A few days later

Location: 92 Pegasi, Ackman Station, Portmaster Office

Portmaster Whitely frowned as he read another traffic report. The station’s sensor network was not quite as advanced as an inner system station’s, but it was still equivalent to a naval warship, even if the station wasn’t armed.

There was a great need for accurate readings and monitor of system traffic after all.

Over the last month, he had been slammed by the rapid pace of changes in the system economy. On one hand there was a growing undercurrent of excitement and new activity. On the other there were numerous complaints from those who had lost their niche of business and were clamoring for regulations and punishments for their new competition.

That almost invariably led back to one company, Starlight Revolution, and its enigmatic owner, Alex. Just Alex.

He had poured over as much news and data as he could find in reference to the missing Princess from the Imperium. There was precious little, even for an ex-government official that had once worked heavily in the chambers of commerce in Sol itself.

Almost all the data was gossip or hearsay. He had drilled into it, until he had confirmed two facts.

First, a Princess had disappeared from Sol. That had been truth, as Her Imperial Majesty Psi had confirmed it publicly.

Second, and more troubling, was that the disappearance had not been cordial; she had either been eliminated, or revolted against her mother and fled the Imperium.

Which was enough for the Portmaster to finally conclude that said princess was certainly in his system, on the frontier, with plans he did not understand. But he could guess, even if it seemed like madness.

One thing was certain, she was violating the most important treaty the four stellar powers were party to.

He had watched quietly, as she had slowly begun to build up her resources and assets in and around the asteroid belt. Her growing connections with the impoverished miners had granted her station a growing clout as a linchpin in the system’s economy, as small as it was.

He imagined that, in time, the orbital would supplant the aging Ackman Station completely if things continued along as they were.

The system was a natural chokepoint to the inhabited world of Dedia and whatever future systems that lay beyond it.

He could not understand how the Princess thought she would get away with flouting international law, though. Beyond the current disputes and brewing tensions between the Corporate Systems and the Solarian Federation, he was sure both would unite and squash the Imperium’s rebellious darling before she could hope to gain enough traction to become entrenched here.

There were no supply lines to the Imperium to 92 Pegasi that did not go through fortress systems that the other two powers held, and either one would likely respond with its own violation to the Nanite Accords. She’d have no support from her mother, even if the two could be reconciled.

Fear bit at his belly and he reached across his desk to uncork a flask of old whiskey he had been saving for years.

Although he was far disconnected from the news and current goings-on of diplomacy between nations, the situation felt rife with the risk of another interstellar war that hadn’t been seen since the collapse.

As an ex-imperial citizen, Whitely didn’t feel alarm at the Princess’s presence, but he doubted many of the people in the system would feel the same way unless they were also ex-imperials.

The question he asked himself was what could he do about it?

All he could come up was… nothing.

But he could do his best to mitigate the worst of what might happen with the meager resources he had. The first thing that came to mind was that he should contact a certain arms dealer and call in some favors.

It was long overdue that the frontier station be armed with defenses of its own.

War bred the worst sort of vultures and scavengers.

 


USD: Three weeks after the battle of 90 Pegasi

Location: 92 Pegasi, Starlight Revolution Convoy, Tears of Fire, en route to Ackman Station

 

Alex watched the two blips flanking the Tears on the navigational map. The two new freighters had been put into service and were running on automatic. That made them essentially two very, very big drones even if they had all the necessities and trappings a real crew would have needed.

Two very smart, but non-sentient AIs piloted them. She hadn’t desired to create another sub-core yet. Having two was still a trial and she didn’t have the resources to build the computronics to put one in every ship they built. The next core was promised to A31 anyway.

Alex poked a few more keys on the console, then decided to call the station. She had already filled the freighters with as much supplies and food as they had prepared with A31’s food processing module. It still left a lot of space, and she knew that Ackman Station was likely to have built up a surplus since she had carried the relief supplies a month earlier.

Amy and Logan had remained with A3123Y to continue working on the construction operations.

The comm buzzed and then the station’s automated directory operator answered.

Alex punched in the code for MilTech arms.

She could have looked to purchase the food stuffs and other things for Dedia on the open net, but he was her best contact on the station, and if she could offload that work to him, that would save her time.

The call stretched and she thought she was going to get a busy signal when the call went through. Wyles Hammok, owner of MilTech Arms, appeared on her screen.

“Captain Alex, I was just speaking with Portmaster Whitely about matters that might concern you, would you mind turning this into a conference call?”

Alex blinked a bit surprised but quickly nodded. “That’s fine with me, Mr. Wyles. Please do.”

The screen blipped and the picture of Wyles shrunk while the video of Mr. Whitely filled the other side of the screen. Alex noted that the man looked a bit tired.

“Portmaster, hello, how are you?”

Mr. Whitely gave her her an appraising look before a moment before answering.

“Captain, I’m well considering the circumstances. I was just speaking with Mr. Wyles about acquiring defenses and arms for the station’s protection and security.”

Mr. Wyles nodded. “While I can acquire some of the items that you want, most of it would require shipment from Meltisar. Since you seem to want this done quicker than that…”

The man gestured toward Alex on the screen.

“What kind of weapons are we talking about?” Alex asked.

“Mostly PDC weaponry, of the kinetic variety, and the sensors required to operate them. The station has little excess power generation for laser armaments. I also doubt railguns would be of much use on something nearly immobile.”

“I can certainly accommodate something like that. After all you did help me a lot when we first arrived in the system.”

The Portmaster nodded. “I take it you plan to stay here on a permanent basis, Ms. Alex?”

Alex nodded.

Portmaster Whitely sighed, “I understand. I don’t suppose I could convince you to change your course and decide to do otherwise?”

Alex frowned, slightly hurt. She had thought the Portmaster liked her, so his expression of his desire for her to leave so bluntly stung.

“I… No. I don’t think so. That would upset a lot of my efforts and plans.”

The Portmaster nodded. “Nothing against you, my lady, its just an old man like me would prefer a quieter life. It was one of my choices for coming out to the frontier after all.”

“I’m sorry you feel my actions have disrupted that, Mr. Whitely. It wasn’t my desire to do so.”

“Prin—” Wyles coughed and corrected himself, “Captain Alex, was there something I could help you with? You did call me first, after all.”

Alex nodded. “You probably noticed I am en route to Ackman Station with our two new freighters. I was hoping to get some assistance with purchasing as many food rations as possible, along with other goods that the colonists on Dedia IV might need.”

Concern appeared on Mr. Wyles’ face. “Were the supplies sent not enough? When the news arrived of the destruction of the nest and the Tears returned to 92 Pegasi, I thought things were mostly resolved?”

Alex blinked. Had the news not filtered to Ackman Station, yet?

“I… Did the courier ship not report the news from Dedia?”

Portmaster Whitely frowned, “The latest dispatch ship did fly through the system as it headed back to Solarian space, what news are you talking about? We heard that the Rexxor nest was destroyed.”

A grim expression fell into place on Alex’s face.

“Yes, that much is true. But the way it was accomplished has severely damaged the planet’s climate that will likely cause a cascade of failures resulting in a global cooling period. For at least the next year they won’t be able to grow any crops, and after that it will require winter hardened varieties of plants.”

Mr. Wyles paled, “The dispatch didn’t mention that.”

Alex wondered for a moment. She had only sent dispatches to the proper authorities. She hadn’t thought to ‘spread’ the news, figuring that various news outlets would do that just as well as they spread rumors. It made her wonder if the government in Nu Crateris had worked to suppress the information.

Frowning, Alex continued with a bit of tightness in her voice. “There is also the matter of the Rexxor. They aren’t just ‘fauna’ but actual indigenous sapient lifeforms. Part of the information I sent on the packet ship was a message to be repeated to the IFRB and several embassies.”

Both Mr. Wyles and Portmaster Whitely paled, for different reasons. They both started talking over one another.

“Princess is that wise—”

“That’s impossible! Depending on what goes on the colonists will be subject to grave sanctions!”

Mr. Wyles voice boomed over the top of the Portmaster’s. Alex gave both men a moment to compose themselves.

“I’m sorry. I played several board games with one of the Queen’s in her hive personally. While I’m not sure that all the members of the hive are sapient, I’m sure they are sentient, while their leaders are most definitely Sapient.”

“Board games?” Mr. Whitely sputtered then went silent.

Mr. Wyles shook his head shocked at the news. Alex understood his distress considering his connections to people there. Shaking away his unease he finally spoke.

“I... I’ll see about preparing a shipment. How many credits were you looking to spend on these food rations?”

“I’ll send you the exact numbers for the cargo capacity that is still available on the freighters. Price is not an issue as long as it isn’t gouging. Starlight Revolution no longer has cashflow problems, and I want to help the citizens on the colony not starve to death.”

The arms dealer nodded, “I’ll get back to you before you arrive on station,” then his picture winked out of the call.

Alex looked to the Portmaster who looked like he wanted to do the same.

“Portmaster, did you want to discuss the specifics of the weapon systems you wanted to purchase for the station?”

He let out a breath, but then nodded. Alex wasn’t sure what had upset him so badly, although she understood that Wyles had friends or Family on Dedia, so that was an easy enough connection to make.

 


USD: Three and a half weeks after capture

Location: System next to 92 Pegasi, SMS Grazhdanin, Crew Quarters

Lieutenant Lavigne sat on a bench with a dozen other officers awaiting their turn to get lunch in the cafeteria. The CS goons that had taken over the ship had split up the officers from the enlisted personnel and stashed them all in separate compartments in the enormous section of the ship that was designated for passengers.

There were not enough of their captors to run the ship efficiently, and multiple times a day the power systems would flicker. The smell of stale air also periodically seeped through the ship which was alarming since the life-support capacity should not have been stressed with such a tiny fraction of people on board.

He did know from the grapevine that the CS soldiers were using some of the enlisted to assist them in engineering and possibly other sections. The sailors didn’t have much choice if they didn’t want to be spaced or executed so he didn’t blame them.

But it burned, having the ship taken by their enemy without a fight, fully intact. Lavigne was not the only officer on board that cursed Captain Walker’s name.

Resistance was not safe, though. Twice already an attempted recapture of the ship—not a mutiny—was suppressed violently with CS marines gunning down the would-be dissenters.

They held the armories and all the firearms and armor on board the ship. A junior officer walked up to him, a slim piece of plastic in hand.

“Lieutenant, here.” Lavigne looked up and took the datapad offered to him by the ensign.

Looking at the information there, Lavigne’s eyes narrowed.

“We didn’t jump into Corporate space, but deeper into the frontier to Theta Corvi? Why?”

The ensign shrugged, not knowing either. “Sir, they spaced all the upper officers. I think you’re the only bridge officer left.”

That explained why the ensign had brought him the information first, but the words sent a chill down his spine. If he had been a rank higher, would he have been spaced with the others?

Lavigne turned his eyes to the datapad, thinking on their situation.

What use was a prize ship going deeper into contested space? More importantly, did this mean they would have a chance to regain the ship?

The ensign turned to go but Lavigne reached out and grabbed the younger man’s arm. “Go to the other senior lieutenants. Tell them I want to speak with them.”

“Best not to do it during lunch, sir. They are watching.”

Lavigne nodded, “After lights out.”

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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 the story out!

Alex and Elis appreciate them!

 

Next time: Chapter 54 – Cold War

There is a lot more interaction with me and other readers on the discord: Here

People like to post their theories in the #Crackpot-Theory-Place and ask questions about things in #Story-Questions, too!

There is also the Integrity Police which point out possible mistakes or problems!

Most importantly, there are a bunch of ShipCore stickers and extra arts. You can see all the failed attempts that don't get included! 

Join today!

 

See you space core...


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Erios909

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

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