DrKoobie’s Multimedia Quest for the Stars
Ah, Vasilyev Depot, we meet again, I thought, walking down the ramp built into my ship’s forward strut. The smell of hydrogen fuel, so usual for space stations like Vasilyev’s, was lost behind the thick aroma of space weed. A dreadlocked, black-skinned man twice my size stood by the strut, waiting. The blaster holster on his chest gave him away as one of Vasilyev’s men. Vasilyev, that Russian space weasel. I knew he was not the type to let my very reasonable debt of twenty thousand credits go. But Vasilyev was one thing. There was also the matter of the ninety thousand credit bounty the Labour of Wolf Working Communist Party put on my head for a minor misunderstanding three days ago. Short story shorter, I was in deep to the nuts.
“Commander DrKoobie,” Vasilyev’s man said without exhaling. “Good landing.”
“Had to switch the auto-dock out, it’s learn or die out there, friend. Talking about which, do we know each other?”
“The boss knows you, that’s more than enough. Do you have the credits on you?”
I didn’t, so I did what any two-bit smuggler would have done in my position. I lied.
The credstick in my pocket had exactly zero credits on it, but I had a plan. The trick was to get Vasilyev to hear it before he spaces me out of an airlock. I figured my chances were fifty-fifty, took one last look at River Volga, the best ship I ever owned, and followed the thug across the hangar to an elevator that lead deeper into the station.
He pressed a button and passed me the joint, silent like a menace.
“Take a hit,” he said. “Might be your last.”
I followed his advice.
We navigated ladders and narrow corridors, lit on the cheap with luminous algae Vasylev exported from the woods of Ellison 5. His Command Chambers, how he called the spacious open space office he worked from, was the same as when I’d last seen it. An ivory imitation desk towered on a platform that sat on a grid of rails built into the floor; Vasyelev lost the lower part of his torso in a Purple Brotherhood attack a couple of decades ago, but from what I’ve heard, the incident only made him meaner.
Wheels scraped against unoiled rails as Vasilyev’s desk-train moved forward, the top half of Vasilyev presiding over me like the Grim Reaper. The man who’d escorted me left the room, a trail of smoke swirling in his wake. It’s going to be all right, I said to myself through clenched teeth, knowing that it wouldn’t.
“Doctor Koo-bie,” Vasilyev said, drawling my name in his worst cowboy parody yet. He blinked with his good eye. His other eye, the fake one, continued to stare straight through me. “We meet again.”
“I’ll have your money, I swear.”
“I know you will. And now, you will tell me how, and, more importantly, when. So, Commander Koo-bie. You’ve got two days to get me my twenty five grand, or you’ll be wishing to Randomius somebody collects that ninety kay bounty on your head as I’m tearing you a new asshole.”
He knows about the bounty. I felt myself turn pale. It was probably the space weed, but it didn’t matter.
I told Vasilyev my plan.
There were thirty six tons of silver in my cargo hold and only one Frame Shift Drive Jump to go when it all went to hell in an egg basket.
I jumped out of witchspace near a red dwarf sun with an alphanumeric name I forgot as soon as I read it; it was to be my last stop on the way to the Costeau Asylum station, where I knew a guy who knew a guy who promised to load the River Volga with narcotics. I stood to make at least thirty eight grand if I sold it back at Vasilyev Depot, after which I planned on paying the Russian cripple back, and maybe, just maybe, I could get away from his Friends of Fruzine system before communist hitmen stabbed me to death in a public restroom somewhere.
My meditations were interrupted with a hit to the ship’s shield; the cockpit shuddered, shields falling to twenty-three percent.
The impact of the unknown enemy’s rail gun threw River Volga towards the glowering sun. I turned off Flight Assist, pulled back on the throttle to gain maximum turning speed, yanked the flight stick towards myself and evened out my ship as the onboard computer finally scanned the enemy ship. It was an Eagle, a sturdy old ship built for search and destroy. Registered to one Alek Winson, wanted for murder. My holofac display thought for a couple more seconds before adding, “Affiliated with Friends of Fruzine” under his name.
Vasyliev, you sneaky fox.
I turned Flight Assist back on, pushed the throttle to the max, and prepared to deploy my hardpoints.
“Hardpoints deployed,” my computer told me in her pleasantly chilled voice. The dogfight was on.
To my good fortune, Alek was no ace. He tried to circle around me, missing with the rail gun as I swirled left and right, maneuvered under him, and, maintaining his speed and direction, pulled the trigger. My ship’s dual green laser beams sliced into the Eagle’s shields.
“Target’s shields down,” my computer said. Vasilyev gave his goon a big gun, but forgot to tell him that it’d drain his power faster than an Imperial Senator could gulp down a bottle of wine.
I opened the com-link to Alek.
“Surprise, motherfucker,” I said and pressed the secondary fire button on my flight stick. A dual salvo of seeker missiles shot out towards the enemy ship. Alek Winson’s Eagle flashed in a ball of fire and plasma, my speakers reproducing the explosion’s muffled thump.
Still alive. Imagine that. My wrist hurt from gripping the flight stick too hard, my heart beating so fast I feared cardiac arrest. Gotta get myself together. Costeau Asylum was but one jump away. I spooled the Frame Shift Drive.
“Four, three, two, one, engage,” said the computer.
The acceleration made me sink into my seat. The stars beyond my viewscreen blurred into a tunnel of colors as River Volga changed her point of reference in space to get me to my destination.
“You bet, target destroyed, Computer,” I said, reaching for a pre-rolled emergency joint I kept under the left keyboard. “I ought to give you a name.”
“Command not recognized.”
“Voice setup, manual override. Change computer name to Astra.”
“Change personality to … nice?”
“Of course. Anything else, Commander?”
“Brew me a cup of tea, will you?”
“I’m sorry, Commander. Command not recognized.”
“Blast it all.”
Space-time shifted back to normal, and, a short supercruise flight later, we were within twenty kilometers from the flying fortress of Costeau Asylum. I’ve always ignored the rumors about the place; the staff regularly imported the narcotics I needed, and that was all that I needed to know.
I was sure Vasyliev sent that failed hitman Alek. Why else would a Friends of Fruzine ship go after me? Or maybe he was going after the ninety thousand credits bounty and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time?
No, it was Vasyliev. I knew it. Couldn’t wait for your twenty grand, could you, you greed bag.
Perhaps I should’ve paid him his lousy twenty kay before pouring more than a million credits into my ship. But what fun would that be? I had a living to make too, and the only way I knew how to live was dangerously. The River Volga was one of the best ships the galaxy’s ever seen, and if Vasilyev couldn’t appreciate her, all I had to do was find somebody who could. I had 36 tons of silver in my cargo bay — how hard could it be?
“Would you like me to contact dispatch?” Astra asked.
“Right on. Ask for permission to dock, then send a message to Vasilyev. Tell him that he made a mistake sending his mercenary goon after me. Tell him that he’ll never see me or his twenty grand ever again.”
“Naturally, Commander. Anything else?”
“When we undock, plot course back to Vasilyev Station.”
I wasn’t a naive Jameson to think he’d leave me alone, and, as the adage went, “the best defense is a good attack.”
But Vasilyev would have to wait. For now, I had some silver to unload.
Elite Dangerously was created using assets and imagery from Elite Dangerous, with the permission of Frontier Developments plc, for non-commercial purposes. It is not endorsed by nor reflects the views or opinions of Frontier Developments and no employee of Frontier Developments was involved in the making of it.