I remember the day Da told me he'd never be spacing again. "Too many rads in the big empty, Trav. Not only does it eat away at ya, it don't stop. But you don't need no dying pap to tell you what to do and what not to, and you don't got enough smarts to stay on a dirtball and marry. What you need is a ship..."
And that's how I got Da's Vark Mordi.
Damn, but I couldn't wait to space in it. Small, sleek, fast...almost overpowered, really. Da used to use it for short jumps, hauling in slow ass freighters- I don't think he ever got it farther from Gamma Javat 2 than maybe De Valtos Prime. Sure, I ran his delivery, took a couple more milk runs, and scooted over to Tucanae Javat for a little exploring. Went through a couple crews, but earned enough in the jungles to really trick out the little girl.
Now, I've heard people everywhere yapping about Cadar ordnance, syndicate hardware and ship models, but you ain't ever gonna convince me they got anything on a Javat house greasetech. I went shopping down the star dock, and I swear I think the techies violated some of the laws of physics getting upgrades into the Vark. How else are you gonna fit an 8 hull escape shuttle INTO an 8 hull Vark Mordi, along with dreadnought refits, extra armor, engines, a water tank, and deck guns!?
I started running fine too... Contracts to all the hell over, Yanno, seeing the sights out farther than Da had ever taken a run, into the big money. I was living large, running, juking around, poking holes in ships 4 times the size of the Vark. And then life turned on a dime, just like Da said...
Where wuz I? Oh, right, yeah, so it turned, like Da said it did. It was the glory days, and there was nothing that wasn't laying right down for my tooled up lil Vark, and, well, I was playing it fast and loose with Cadar Syndic. Sure, they had managed to honk off the rest of the system, and were in 3 simultaneous solar wars with each of the Houses, and, sure, I was looking for an in to the so-called Honor ships of the line, so I ran some blockades. For like a year.
Hell, when they moved on to less of a pissin' contest with everyone-the-hell-else, I moved on too, but they started sending bounty hunters. And not just the raff, either, because one day the Vark was brought up short by a ship black as death and 4 times as scary- I mean the starlight just sorta skated across the Terror class ship like it was embarrassed to be there.
The collection of misfit underachievers in the crew were pissy after going on short water after blockading, and while they were unrolling a red carpet to the boarding hatches, I snuck down to the shuttle bay just in time as the bounties holed us easier than a cosmic ray through your optic nerve.
Yeah, a few of the crew ended up in the escape shuttle, barely happy enough to not be breathing vacuum to not mutiny over the water sitch, and it was touch and go back to Tucanae, with an assassination mission at the end of it which was just a wee bit hairy with an undermanned escape shuttle taking down one of my own Clan's Blitecruisers.
The medics patched me up and after a slap on the wrist and a green neon "PDP" stamped on my medical for my post decompression psychosis, I was shopping down the House Stardock again with the payoff for the killjob.
Would you believe the same greasetechie managed to fit a 16 torp unit, a new extra water fuel tank, AND a new escape shuttle into my escape shuttle?
I'm sure some Cadarian officer's got my Vark at home right now, probably having some teen polish it while he drips beer on his undershirt, but I'm gonna find it- you never forget that first love, baby, and life.... well? It turns.
Another thing Da used to say was: "Listen, you stupid kid!" I was never no good at that, not with him, but crawling the space lanes in a hopped up shuttle gives you time to think about all the advice you never took. I had to square things with Cadar Syndic if I didn't want them flinging bounties at me all solar year.
I hired me on a prissy, uptight witch who was stranded on Xenox, who claimed she was a spy. Spyder is more like it- she had this web of intel she sorta hovered in the middle of, and when anything touched a strand she knew it. I swear, I knew about the assassination attempt on Head Preacher before he did. Hell, she even looked kinda like a spider too, but then I didn't hire her as a looker.
Anyway, with her plugged into the whole 'verse, I started to listen. Bit by bit, I built bridges with Cadar Syndic, mostly by pinging away at the Houses- I had their Honor ships, so a few jabs in their asses later seemed to give Cadar the incentive to call off their buzzards, and that gave us some breathing room to take some really long distance contracts, and then I was back in the money. I got myself one of the Thulun Honor ships- nice, slick piece of work, let me tell you. That got us more work, longer trips, and less running careful and small. Once the money was there, I started spreading it around- and turned the spider on to looking for my missing baby.
Yanno, maybe I don't listen so well... but my Spy-der does, and I told her she gets a 50K bonus if she finds the Dock-knocker who has my Vark...
Last Edit: Dec 27, 2012 16:09:54 GMT -5 by travail
So it turns out Da had some of it right, and a lot of it wrong. Puts him up on most jokers, true, but he was right that money wasn't everything. Now I had it, and had crew, and endless water, and could take just the gravy off the top of the routes. I outgrew the Honor and got me new ships, for long transport, for hunting down all sorts of screwballs... hell, I bought me a cruiser and a bunch of itchy-trigger-finger mercs to go hunt down rumors of aliens with a creeptastic Templar and a crochety MO, but we didn't find nothing more than a coupla inbred hillbillies living on back-ass planets with ruins in 'em who came close to alien.
There comes a time when the money is good, and life is grooving, and things are good, and you should be happy. Usually, around that time, some rabid tax collector is just waiting around the next corner with a baseball bat leveled at your trick knee cap, but all that stuff... yeah, it feels good to know you weren't that much a loser as everyone said, but...
You know that feeling when you're in your bunk at ungodly o'clock, and you can't sleep? You need it, bad, but your mind won't shut. Or your mind is zonked, but your body has to juke and jive, and won't quit humming. And you wonder what is effing with you, and all you get is this static-y feeling in your brain like you left something undone, and the whole universe is twisted maybe 4 degrees by a gravity well you can't pull up on scanners.
All that money, and loyalty you can buy off the shelf, and proving Da and everyone is fulla crap- it ain't enough. Not now.
Why can't I put my baby behind me? I got stuff in drydock make my lil Vark look like a tick with the mumps, stuff so slick that next to 'em the Vark flies like a stick through your sinus. But I want it. I want it bad. And I want someone to hurt for taking it.
There's an old line: You do anything long enough, you get used to it.
The faces pretty much look the same every time. Look, you overhaul a ship. You board it, with your marines and bodyguards. Sure, someone paid you to do it because they had a hard on for the target, but in the cold empty, the only thing that matters is what you can bring to bear for you and yours.
They lose. Hell, they better lose or it's your own ass sitting there wondering if you live or die, right? The faces, they're pinched. They know the best they can hope is that they killed someone of mine and that I'll scoop them into the crew rather than leave them in an emptied wreck floating free in vacuum.
Truth is I don't even think about it most times, and that might be the worst of it.
Couple weeks back, we were skirting some uppity quasar with bad indigestion. Seemed like we were taking heavy rads parsec after parsec, and solar sails were being shredded, and I felt like we were crawling slower and slower. And the water was so low I broke out these butterscotch pudding rations we'd picked up out Pegasus way, and the discipline started to crack, just a bit.
We came up on some Independent which wanted nothing better than to boost away. And we overhauled it, boarded it, and raped it for water and rations. No mission, no pay, I just wanted the water and less yapping from the 162 unwashed marines on my crew, you know?
And then I remembered when they took my Vark, and what it felt like.
And those faces, those pinched, hopeless faces. I see shadows of them in the mirror, now.
I need to get home. I need some time in the green of home breathing air that don't come in a can.
Took a while, but I got back to Javat Prime, finally. And in a Tiberia Dark, too. Got back to the green, gave the crew leave, and put her in dry dock. I had more credits than some Princes by now. Hell, I had it all: credits, crew, officers, ships, respect. But I kept seeing all those pinched faces I'd left in pillaged ships in the dark of my cabin, and when I closed my eyes. I'd gotten so far from home, and even farther from that kid who'd inherited Da's Vark and couldn't wait to space in it... Felt like I'd lost him somewhere across the countless time between stars, leaving only me.
Just docking and entering the Star Port brought back the memories of my first trip there as Captain of the Vark. The Prince was older now, but my mind wandered back to the first time I'd been introduced to him and his court...
I remembered how I'd been announced; no rank, no warrant, no edict. He was not a very inspiring figure, being overly thin and with a sharp, long nose which looked more useful for busting up cometary ice than for ornamenting his face. He'd looked at me as if from orbit down his schnoz, and welcomed me to the court in a phlegmy voice which had somehow managed to be simultaneously haughty, whiny, and dismissive.
Now, though, now I was a player. I could have bought enough rank to buy the Honor ships of the line, but I didn't need one. When I came in, people at court whispered, talked. I didn't even have to play by the normal rules of protocol, so I didn't. Amygdala had gotten older, paunchier, and gravity had had its way with him- and not kindly, either. His cheeks had sagged, and he was even uglier than I remembered. I waved, didn't wait for whatever he'd been about to say, and sauntered off with a brand of insolence that kid I'd been wouldn've dreamed of.
I'd gone back to the house, now mine with Da long dead. It was early autumn on Prime, and while the leaves were starting to turn colors, there was still plenty of green showing. I hired some people to clean and update the place, stock it. I was looking forward to at least a month, maybe 2, away from the ship. Hell, I was even happy to be trapped in a grav well. One night, with memories triggered by the house wrapped tight around, I felt really close to Da for the first time in nearly forever, and missed him all over again.
And just then my comm went off. My Spyder was calling, and she had a lead, she said. A solid one, on the Cadar cretin who'd holed me and taken my Vark back when I hadn't known better. Not really.
Damn. Payback was coming, maybe. And maybe she'd earned her 50 k bonus, too, at long, long last...