Hopkins Terminal, Ross 193
After a couple of days eating mostly real food and fraternization with mostly real women (and a couple of fellas checking out the flight patterns), and repeated visits to the bulletin board, I concluded that things weren’t going to get any better at Hopkins. The Feds were still on my case to take out The General, as I’ve started to call him, but not many other peeps were peeping. Time to move on.
My preferred mode of transportation at subluminal speeds incorporates maxing out the power distribution to the engine at the expense of weapons and systems. Under normal conditions, that’s fine – there’s more than enough juice to keep life support up and running, for example. The trick is to hit the panic button whenever you get jumped by a pirate or other belligerent.
I’ve got a panic button, right? Right!
Cheli Terminal is one busy station. This is one of those big stations with a lot of internal docking bays – no waiting, unlike those outposts that have two or three landing pads on the surface – the busy ones always have a line waiting for a shot at landing, and sometimes the applicants can get a bit on the nasty side. I’ve been threatened with harm if I dared take “his” landing pad. Station police says, “go ahead, we’re bored.”
I thought I had hit it lucky at Cheli. Not only is it busy – I almost got run over three or four times in the process of getting into the internal landing bay – but the bulletin board, however, was full of the same usual combat, bounty, and piracy ads. And one lone courier mission to some place named Huh. Huh? Huh!
My luck appeared to be turning for the better in that comically named star system, though, as the bulletin board there had not one but two Black Box missions just waiting for an adventurous – and maybe stupid – pilot to pick it up. And if anyone’s stupid enough to retrieve black boxes, I’m their guy.
Black boxes are usually the remains of ships that got splashed, and usually contain details about the splashee. To that end, the Feds, Imperials, and other governing agencies tend to look askance at people picking them up without express governing agency permission. I’ve gotten in trouble with the Feds once or twice over such things, but the fines are small and the pay is good, so I usually take my chances. Oh, I’ve had a Fed shoot at me playfully a few times over it, but after I playfully hulled his ship, we tossed back a few drinks, I paid a few fines and we had a few laughs. Good times.
Black boxers are a gamble, though. There’s a very high chance that you’ll run into someone that has already retrieved it, and has the wherewithal to hang on to it. Usually, however, they’ll pay you a finder’s fee to walk away and forget you saw anything.
Well, ten percent is better than cryo sleep in an escape pod. With my luck, the entertainment deck will be stuck on Adolph Hitler’s audiobook collection next time. I don’t want to wake with a German accent and pounding headache. So best avoid testing that theory.
And, at least, there’s no fine associated with taking the finder’s fee.
All this landed me back at Cheli, a few hundred credits ahead of my usual game but not nearly close to a shield upgrade. I resolved to not spend all my profits on booze and holo-suite rentals this time around, all the while aware that I’d probably not meet my own meager expectations.
Well, it’s not just lonely in the Big Black. Sometimes it’s insanely boring, too.