Wednesday, January 2
Sunday, October 28
Wednesday, May 30
Davin's brow furrowed a little bit and he threw his hand around as if he were out of ideas, “I guess you'll have to board their ship and take it by force.”
Wednesday, April 25
Thursday, March 22
Here we sat. In the galley of my ship. The gang. And by gang I mean myself, Jan, Davin, and Chalk. Nirov would have been with us but he's not the type who 'works the field'; preferring to direct things from Teague's Doorstop than risk life and liberty out here with us. We stopped off at a stellar remnant to let the ship's FTL drive take a breather. The hissing noise of the stellar corpse we put the Morningstar into orbit is providing a good shield from detection by wandering ISF patrols or anyone else.
Kind of a strange journey to the DMZ so far. Things have been rather normal on the ship and given all the shit that's been happening I find normalcy a little unnerving. Jan has been glowing a like a nuclear fuel rod ever since Davin returned and Chalk, I've discovered, is a bit of a loner; off doing his own thing in his quarters most of the time. Maybe he just can't relate to a species whose eyes don't have tiny stalks behind them.
We sat at the table in the galley sharing some beer reveling in small talk really. It's weird, frankly, that everyone is so 'ho-hum' given we're heading into a war zone to find a woman who might or might not be dead. I guess pretending to ignore the ineventable is this group's way of dealing with stress or fear. Maybe both.
I hadn't written much. That's obvious. Mostly because there wasn't really anything to go on about- well and that Nirov insisted on a communications blackout. I guess the only thing worth mentioning is that the old Morningstar- my Morningstar- is gone. She had encured too much damage and was under equiped to deal with the demands that were required of my life of late.
Back at Teague's we stripped as much as we could from her super structure before he sold her corpse for scrap to a local salvage barge that came by to pick her up. It sucked seeing her now naked shell being towed into the belly of the barge. We had a lot of history together, but as things go in life nothing is forever- or certain.
The weird part is that my new ship is still called the Morningstar and she even looks just like my old Morningstar. But I don't own this one- the Ashaar Pirate clan does. That's because this current iteration of my ship is an XT model Quasar cruiser. Basically the same model but one teir higher in badassness than mine.
She's the exact same proporsions but now forty percent larger- with an extra deck, and thirty percent faster- if you can believe that. My old ride was one fast ship. There's also some other aftermarket features that the pirates took the liberty of adding to this vessel. Namely military grade weapons and sensor suites and electronic warfare packages. She's had her original factory plating stripped and replaced with armor. They added the original pearl-white paint scheme except for some orange graphics on the perimeter of the hull. I guess the boys who modified this girl wanted to give her a little flair. I like it.
I asked Nirov why the Ashaar were so willing to expend so much financial resources into this ship and then hand it over to me. The only thing he said to me was that the pirates have their own interests in Nirov's vision for the Commonwealth and that that was as much as he could tell me. Sooo now Nirov's colluding with pirates? See, this is why I don't like hanging around Nirov so much. It also made me wonder what side I was really helping.
Nirov had stressed his dislike the direction the Commonwealth was going and that he wanted to wring out the contempt and distrust the government had been festering; returning it to an open government that didn't keep it's citizens in the dark; to have a government with no secrets. But pirates? How are they going to help achieve that? And surely there a cost- there's always a cost when it comes to pirates. It sounds like Nirov's trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.
Like I said earlier, Jan was like a little kid in candy store when the new Morningstar rolled into dock. She'd been pouring over every bulkhead and computer system and basically drooling at everything. Something like this would definitely distract a girl like her from the approaching warzone.
Chalk was impressed with the modifications of the ship but not in such a passionate way as Jan. I've learned over the time he's been with us that he's a fairly reserved person and really only speaks when he feels it's necessary. I don't really think engineering is something that he is all that inerested in but does it because it's what he knows. After all, he was basically conscripted by his father to work on his ship. Now he spends his free time in his quarters with the door closed. I'm not really sure what he does in there. All I know is he's quiet. Unlike Jan, who blasts her music so loud I'm sure the Ry-Q can hear it on the other side of the Galaxy.
I've had a few moments during the trip to chat with Davin. He's an interesting guy. I had him figured wrong when we first met. The man is quite charismatic and very intelligent, but seems to always divert conversation away from matters of family which has me rather curious. What happened that makes him so reluctant to talk about it? Out of all of us the only person who has any chance of knowing anything would be Jan, but Davin can have a tough shell when necessary.
While Jan and Davin small talked Chalk stood up and returned to his quarters to do whatever it is he does, leaving me to be the third wheel in the couple's convestation on post war plans.
Jan took a sip of her drink and her eyes glared up at the ceiling as she thought about what the future could hold for her. “I'm not sure, really.” She puckered her lips to the righ of her mought as she continued to think about it. “I think I'll probably be doing the same thing; being Jack's engineer I guess.” She pivoted her head over to me and asked the same question. At this point, I was just a passive observer but I guess now that I was on the spot I had better think of something. “Not in jail,” was all I could think at the time. Jan frowned a little now that I'd brought everyone back to reality. It was unintentional but that's honestly all that I could think about at the moment.
“I've been in jail before, Jack. Don't worry about it; you won't end up there.” Davin reassured from across the table.
I half grinned and decided that since I'd just tanked the mood I'd take my leave and wander back to my bed and relax.
Monday, January 24
I've been getting used to my new ship pretty easily and Jan loves everything about it. It doesn't have the charm of the Morningstar but I think those things come with age.
I like my quarters. About the same as before but this one has that factory smell in the air. It'll pass over time as well.
Right now, we're headed to the Demilitarized Zone, the front line of the war with the Sprykon Empire. From the news reels it doesn't look pretty. It's been a war of attrition for the last six months. I've never seen the Sprykon put up this kind of fight before- I don't think anyone in the Commonwealth has. It made me wonder if Jan's Grandfather saw this type of thing in the first Border War fifty years ago.
Jan rapped a couple knuckles on the bulkhead between my room and the hall outside as she poked her head in. “You free? Chalk, Davin and I are gonna dinner soon.”
“You go on,” I said, “I've got to update this entry. It's been a while.”
“You haven't written in that thing since Teague's Doorstop, Jack.”
“Ugh I know; don't remind me.”
Jan grinned and disappeared from the entryway.
Teague's Doorstop seems like forever ago but it's only been a few months. Funny how time seems to be so fluid like that- one moment it speeds by and next minutes seem like hours. I suppose I had my fair share of adventure to keep me distracted and it was the doing of Nirov that provided it.
I never became comfortable being around Nirov. He kind of creeped me out; like he was always holding an extra card up his sleeve. His calculating nature seemed to warrant such behavior but nevertheless, I wasn't a fan and made my contact with him as brief as possible. It was a real balancing act, though. He was a powerful man and had a lot of influence in different sectors of politics and industry. I had to admit I was a bit impressed with network he'd built for himself even though he wasn't that high an officer in the military.
The time that I did spend with him I tried to meet as many people as possible. Nirov didn't seem to mind too much but his cohorts mostly entertained me for Nirov's sake. Despite my efforts I ultimately felt like that guy in the bar hitting on the girl way out of his league and she giving me her 'name'. I'm not sure these contacts would ever pan out and I will likely put them on the plan 'D' list.
Although one person I didn't mind hanging around was my friend Evah. During my time operating off Teague's Doorstop she routinely made port and even worked out a nice trade deal with one of Nirov's industrial contacts for some 'back room' trading.
There was one time she and I took a trip out to a remote location in Outspace. Jan kept refering to it as a date, but I wouldn't think of it like that. Anyways, it was this beautiful white dwarf star nestled deep inside it's blown off outer layer of constituent gases. Over time it had gathered interstellar debris to create this jagged necklace of asteroids and half sheared dwarf planets.
Everything gave had this icy blue glow with wisps of green gas filaments that leisurely wrapped around the star like ribbons.
“The pirate's call it The Devil's Pearl,” Evah added after a few moments of soaking up the view from the observation deck of the Gossamer Willow.
“That name doesn't really seem to fit what I'm looking at,” I retorted.
“Oh it's an old pirate name. Back before astrometric algorithms were improved to make adjustments to filter magnetic noise from K1 type white dwarfs, pirates would often try to use the cloud debris surrounding the star to hide from rivals or whoever. The problem was that the computers at the time couldn't parse all the noise from the magnetic field to lay in a correct course trajectory. Pirates would find themselves in deep shit.”
“So why did they go in here in the first place? Wouldn't they know it was a dangerous star?” I asked.
“In that time the subtle differences of K1 and K types white dwarfs hadn't been clarified. And on top of the fact that K1's are quite rare to begin with.”
“So have you ever had to hide here?” I said with a smirk.
Evah grinned slightly, “No. But I sometimes come here when I want to be alone.”
I put my arm around her waist and held her near me. “I hate to break it to you, Evah but you're not alone this time.”
Evah coyly gazed up at me and gave me the look and I softly held her cheek with my other hand and pressed my lips to her's. We spent some more time in the lounge with her in my arms. We exchanged some stories and more kisses before we retired to her room for the night.
I'm sure I'll see her again. The matter is when given how long we'll be in the DMZ. It sounds crazy to be going there – where open fighting is the new norm in an eighteen thousand lightyear strip of space- but our current objective lies in that direction.
While in Nirov's base of operations inside Teague's Doorstop we learned of a certain individual in the DMZ that could be the nail in the coffin for the Commonwealth government. And Nirov was excited at that prospect.
His 'war room' as he noted it, was really just a converted cargo bay they lay deep inside Teague's. It was shielded from eavesdropping technology because of the cocktail of different ores in the sediment and only had two ways in or out.
As like all the rest of the station the lighting was dim and red. Only desk lamps really emitted the light worth seeing with. The chamber was scattered with computer equipment, military in origin, that had been jury rigged to the stations primary power generators. Many of Nirov's loyalist 'ex-pats', as they referred to themselves, commanded the myriad of consoles doing I don't know what.
Off to one corner of the bay was a large circular table that projected holographic consoles and other imagery where Nirov could conduct wide scale plans or network with other people friendly to his cause. This section of the room was also equipped with an anti-vocal amplifier that could cancel out the noise outside of the field and vice verse.
I remember clearly standing at that table many times with Nirov and Davin working out ideas and plans for the immediate future. It was the same spot where I learned I'd be going to the DMZ.
“Given the intelligence I have on hand. I would have to conclude that that chances of us finding this person aren't good,” Nirov spoke aloud as he studied the streaming information floating above the table before him.
“It's still very possible. It's not like we're looking at one in a thousand odds here,” Davin through back as he leaned against a power conduit across from Nirov.
Nirov nodded vigorously. “I know that. But we have to go into this with the attitude that we may not find her at all. The DMZ is very big.”
I leaned on the table with my hands and I admit, I was a little dubious of this whole thing. “Nirov, the intel is based on the merit of a few gas miners and a faint signal, so yeah, I wouldn't say the odds aren't one in a thousand but more like one in a million. Are we really gonna risk sticking our asses out in the wind for this?”
“My lead analyst confirms that the signal will strengthen as we near it's source and the information from the gas miners appears legitimate enough to make an operation worthwhile.” Nirov replied while he manipulated some information before him.
“Everyone thinks she's dead, Nirov.” I said flatly. I had to make sure that Nirov knew what he- what we were getting ourselves into. This place we are going to is a war zone for God's sake. “It's been over a year since the news came out; what makes you think Captain Riarstedt is still alive?”
Davin quietly looked over at Nirov waiting for his answer. His safety was at risk just as much as anyone else's at the table, not to mention he's already a wanted criminal.
Nirov paused for a moment and thought. “A gut feeling. I know that sounds horrible, but I've always followed my instincts and they've never let me down before. And the manner and timing which she vanished just doesn't feel right. This whole war doesn't feel right. If Captain Riarstedlt is a piece of this whole puzzle then we have to take that risk.”
I remained silent and I peered over at Davin to see his reaction but he looked to be less thrilled than before.
Nirov promptly accessed the a news archive of the SCNA, the news conglomerate that covered the story. “Look at this. She disappeared while patrolling the DMZ in response to the fleet build up by the Sprykons. Not to mention that she's missing not dead. Even if you look up the casualty roster from the war she's not listed on the death lists.”
“She went missing before the war officially started, though. And how does she connect to what we learned about the stealth fleet?” Davin asked.
Nirov threw out an irritated wrinkle on his forehead, “when she went miss is irrelevant, the point it's very possible she's alive.”
“Okay, but what makes her relevant to the stealth fleet?” I repeated.
“That's why we have to find her. It's the manner she vanished and the time that it happened that is giving me this instinct she could be connected.”
“Think about it, guys. We've all seen first hand how the government will lie to it's people to meet it's own ends. That's not the Commonwealth I swore an oath to when I joined up. That's why all the people who follow me expatriated themselves. It's why you're wanted and looking for justice for your family,” Nirov turned to Davin, “and why you're living the life you live.”
Davin sighed, “well, fuck it.”
“I guess we're going to look for Ashli.”