(Top Left) Captain Ivanna Starward, (Top Right) Valken Tango, (Bottom Left) Francis Aramov, (Bottom Right) Rarigo Quezar
Chapter 1: Seas of the Past- Towards the Relics’ Shoal
Chapter 1: Seas of the Past- Towards the Relics’ Shoal
“Your suit on Rarigo?” a gruff voice barked from the pilot cabin. Without waiting for a response the voice called out again in the deep drawl iconic of a far belt scavenger. “Better be. We’re about to detach!” Floating in relative zero-g amongst the various crates and packed goods of the small trader shuttle Rarigo was struggling to get the clumsily designed second hand vacuum suit on. It had a bulky design, with a heavy front control panel that attached around the breast line and pouring from the side oxygen cables wrapped down into the thigh sockets. Stretching out the thick round sleeves he managed to get his arms and the finally the rest of his torso in. However, the suspect fitting of the trade goods continued to defy their buckles and freely drift into his path. “Valken damn it!” Rarigo complained, “The loot keeps sliding across the fasten nets!”
Valken hadn’t acknowledged Rarigo’s criticism. Instead his large frame was bent over the complicated buffet of buttons and controls that acted as the Raider Four’s physical command systems. Meanwhile, the on board operating system began internal checks for disembarking. The main monitor embedded into the control panel shown bright green thin texts that scrolled over “all green” labels for every check. Tugging at his beard Valken watched the system’s work with a meditative glance. Beside him, silent as the void, already strapped into his co-pilot seat was Valken’s trader broker for the trip- Francis. Francis Aramov, was the Nao Victoria Fleet’s most reputable trade broker. Any voyage to the scrapper markets near the Relics’ Shoal was done through him.
Luckily for Valken, Francis’ usual ride had been interrupted by mechanical failures, which were common for re-purposed old century space craft relics. But, their unfortune was Valken’s luck. Francis had a reputation within the scrapper markets as a reliable source of working goods. His gamble was this reputation would rub off onto his sales at the market. Francis eyes flickered as he watched Valken at work.
“This thing is alright...right?” said Francis
“Thing?” replied Valken. “Your ship.” Answered Francis.
Valken let out a scoffing burp of a laugh, “Hah.” Francis found the laugh not too reassuring. “She may not be the prettiest but she’ll do fine.” Francis gave the middle-aged space ferrymen a disapproving raise of his brow. Valken’s continued enthusiasm saw him smack one of the metal beams of the Raider before using the opposing force to float down to his seat.
Turning his head around, he caught the sight of the ginger flame of Rarigo’s mop like haircut. The curling tips of his long hair swayed like the waves of a disturbed sea. “You ok kid?” Valken inquired. “Yah, yah I’m alright.” Valken’s long-time cargo hauler whined. Finishing properly fastening down the goods Rarigo pulled himself into a seat that was jutting out of one of the walls. Passing a thumbs up to Valken he punched in the lock buttons of the seat buckle. Swinging back Valken shouted the all ok. “Alright let’s get this show on the road.”
“Sealing port lock” Valken commentated the departing protocols. “Closing hatch and detaching from port.” The entire hull of the Raider Four shook as it separated from the Victoria’s number 5 docking bay. The flash of the side thrusters of the shuttle flared as they burned their fuel adjusting the departure. Rarigo watched his reflection in an adjacent port hole as the shuttle slowly sailed out of the square mouth of the dock hangar. Super imposed over the exposed cabling and wiring of the ad hoc constructed hangar was the deep brown hue of his eyes and the misshapen short scar that ran down from the bottom of his eye-lid- a souvenir from his first day on the job.
The Raider was now completely surrounded by the black embrace of space. From behind the partial figure of the Nao Victoria Scavenger Fleet grew in image. The fleet itself was housed inside a giant potato shaped asteroid. Inside the asteroid had been hallowed out century ago by the survivors of the Old Century’s demise and had been replaced with an O’Neil cylinder colony. Small lights of the ten major hangars glowed like fabricated stars. “First directional free sail burn engaged” Francis’ soft yet strict tone echoed as he too helped announce and carry out flight commands. The melodic rumble of the main engines firing rattled through the ship.
If anyone caught a glimpse of the departing trader they’d probably concur with Valken’s jokes of her appearance. Raider Four was an ugly elongated rectangular box with four powerful engines that protruded from its stern in equally unimpressive box panels. The only distinguishing feature was the pilot bridge that stuck out like a neck from the bow and the pair of beam cannons that were embedded either side the bridge. It was made up of various and mosaic like metal panels salvaged from wreckages found in the shoal seas of old century conflicts. Yet had a mechanical uniformity to its structure. Most of its long space however was for holding goods to be traded for fuel and reactor parts. It only held one mobile doll, and it wasn’t even one of the combat models. Just a plane AMBAC modified Mass Hauler.
The Mass Hauler was stored beneath the main deck of the long cargo hold. Rarigo had spent most of his time getting the fat and stout thing into the doll hold. Even though he was a cargo-hauler most of the time he had been spending his time recently as a trainee with the Fleet Militia. It was his goal to become a Vulture Fighter- the warriors who piloted the military type dolls into action against the pirate hordes of the outer belt. Watching the stars and void pass by, Rarigo cast his mind back to the previous day’s training. He was still at the stationary training level. Cooped up inside the cockpit of a military type doll, named Junker Base, he would do simulated trial after trial. The Junker types were the most accessible and reproducible model. The ‘base’ implies it all. All you needed was the schematics and a heap of scrap and you could cobble together a Junker Base. A grin cracked its way across Rarigo’s lips as he noticed that the Junker Bases were rather austere looking as well.
He could still make out in his mind the brutishly mechanical looking facades of the Junker Bases. Single four-sided visor wrapped around its head like a goggle with a robust chin that had catfish like cable whiskers that encased forward sensors, while the bottom whiskers were long feed cables that wrapped around the chin and connected to a lock in socket at the base of the neck. The torsos were stout rectangular frame with a circular sphere that held the cockpit at its center. More electrical cables run from the chest to the power pack at the back. Shoulder armor and leg armor are equally rigid in design and geometrically clunky. Letting out a short snort Rarigo laughed thinking Not as cool looking as the famed Mobile Suits of the Old Century, but they’re scrappy in a fight.
Just thinking about the Junkers made Rarigo more impatient to become a Vulture. The horror stories of the terrors of the shoal belt and the Earth Sphere itself didn’t dissuade him. For some reason, as far as he could remember the call of space always held a strange spell over him. Perhaps it was the ability to be free of the clusterphobic and mundane reality of the Victoria colony or some naïve youthful hubris, or both. Rarigo let out a deep exhale and looked down at the helmet he was resting on his lap. Well at least a trip to Oasis 3 is better than nothing.
“Sending out rendezvous codes to the Beguile, now.” Valken informed. The mention of one of the fleet’s lead space arks shot Rarigo out of his trance. He pushed against his seat in excite before being slung back down having forgot his seat straps were still locked in. Using his voice to reach Valken instead he shot a question to the pilot cabin, “Is Captain Starward coming too?”
Francis called back, “Yes she is. I’ve had reports from my colleagues at Oasis 2 that the pirate hordes have recently become more active in the area of the inner belt and Vinland.” Rarigo took the news with a combination of surprise and awe. The Pirate hordes are back? I had thought they left for the far corners of the asteroid belt? At least I’ll get to Ms. Starward again. The thought of the generously shaped captain of the Beguile placed a questionable smirk on Rarigo’s lips. Captian Ivanna Starward had a mixed reputation within Victoria. Known for being the most beautiful of the four main space ark captain’s she was also known for being the most vicious when it came to battles. Being a former pirate lord herself this part of her personality was not surprising at all. It was still a bit of mystery of why she ended up joining but Rarigo didn’t mind, she was his ticket to becoming a real doll pilot after all.
“Heyo Valken.” Starward’s cool but typically slang tone rang out. “We’re coming up on your vector path. Stay cool and we’ll be on your top twelve in no time.” Valken nodded and winked at Francis while adjusting the flight of the shuttle. Rarigo swung his face to catch a sight and just on cue the Beguile rose up from the space below. The Beguile was a battle-type space ark. It had a long thin arrow like bow that spilt down the middle into an open aisle. Will large rocket engine fins stuck out from its sides at the stern. Unlike the other space arks it had two bridges a longer command bridge and a stouter combat monitor bridge on the bottom side of its hull. Its white painted hull soared overhead and dwarfed the shuttle to its miniscule size. “Alright boys it’s a long ride from here, should be four hours at most.” said Valken, “So feel free to dose off. Ship will be in auto soon enough so should be a quiet ride.” Francis still watching the Beguile let out a scoff only he could hear, “I hope so.”
Aboard the Beguile’s top command bridge, Captain Starward was slouched back into her command chair with her legs propped up on the holographic projector table. Tucked between her lips was a slim pipe that spewed a puff of Oasis 1 grown ember leafs. The green tinted smoke drifted in limbo of the space around her before being sucked into a container that acted as an immediate air purifier. Her lieutenant had it installed secretly into her chair so not to suffocate the crew. “Kraken keep her steady as she goes, we’re cruising from here.” Kraken, the Beguile’s steer was a short and quiet young man but a man with the deftest of touches. Gently moving his arms to move the steering wheel the massive frame of the Beguile slowly titled to the side and slung further up to move ahead of the Raider. “Good.” said Starward, “Have sensors on full and have Fin begin cycling the doll teams in patrol. If you see anything report back. I don’t want any pirates getting the drop on us alright.” The bridge in unison barked a hearty, “Aye! Aye! Captain!”