Welcome to the next installment of Captain’s Journey. In case you have missed the previous parts, here they are in order.
- Bad Dreams
- Call the Question
- Dreams Remembered
- Desperate Measures
- Picking up the Pieces
- First Contact
- Danger Close
”Transport ship. You are now free from pursuit. Do you need assistance to continue your journey?”
“Many greetings and much praise to you for our timely rescue. To whom do we owe this immense gratitude?”
“I am Captain Thelan Jaxx of the Chikara. Your thanks is greatly appreciated. Is your ship in good enough repair to continue your journey?”
“Yes. The damage is minimal and our slipspace drive should be back online momentarily.”
“I am glad to hear it. I will stick around until you are able to make the jump to ensure there are no further troubles on this leg of your journey.”
“You are to kind to us Captain Jaxx. May the Great Ocean welcome you home when you return!”
I close the comms and shake my head. “I have no clue what that means. I’m going to take it as good thing and move on.”
I plop back down behind my console and punch up the last jump coordinates. I have everything reset to take us out of this system and set me back on my path. It takes about fifteen minutes for the transport ship to finally make the jump and leave me drifting alone in space. I waste no time in executing the flight plan. Chikara and I begin the series of jumps that will take me to Down Below Station. My journey home.
We drop out of slip space in the cygnet system. Cygnus V, a gas giant looms large on my sensors. It is here that home awaits. We circle around to catch up to the station. It slides into view; silhouetted against the bulk of planet it orbits. It appears so tiny when juxtaposed against the enormity of a gas giant. It is immense in its own right. It is the size of several terran cities and older than anyone can remember. When I was here last, it housed over six million sentients. There was still room for more despite the numerous areas deemed to dangerous for habitation. The exact purpose of the station is still a mystery. Despite being of alien design and and ancient beyound belief it still functions. The harvesting beam is visible from my vantage point. It lances into the gas cloud and harvests rare compounds. The detritus of this process, which are valuable themselves are controlled by The Hierarchy. A confederation of fences that uses the money to fund their interstellar operations and the army necessary to keep the peace on the station.
The laws of Down Below Station are fairly simple. Don’t fuck with the Hierarchy. Do not go into the interdicted zones. Pay all fees levied by the station. Do not disrupt the flow of business. The punishment for infractions range from banishment from the station to being chopped up an sold as parts to gene pirates. Not a pleasant way to go. Only one of these rules is truly sacrosanct. Do not go into interdicted zones. It is something that all the denizens of the station keep and eye on. The reason being that the Hierarchy is not the one to punish this infraction; the station does. The last time this happened when while I as station side. A firefight broke out on one of the lower levels and a chase ensued. Being drunk and overcome with rage, the combatants did not realize they were crossing into a forbidden area. There were no survivors in that entire sector. The station does not take kindly to invasions of its privacy.
Despite all this, it is my home. After getting my own ship, I needed a place that didn’t care what my past was or what my life was like. As long as I paid my bills and kept my head down, I was a welcome addition the station. I cemented my position here by doing work for the hierarchy as a greatly discounted rate. This made things much easier for me both in terms of security and finding less risky yet lucrative runs. You do what you have to survive and thrive.
The Comms panel lights up and brings me out of my reverie. I open the channel and wait for the query.
“Unidentified star ship, Please state your business at Down Below Station.”
“This is Captain Thelan Jaxx of the star ship Chikara. I am returning home after an extended absence. My registry with the Hierarchy is Alpha Niner Bravo Sigma Omega. Please verify.”
It has been a year since I’ve used my registry. If there is a trap to be spring, this will be the first place that it could occur. the Hierarchy prides itself on its system security but nothing is above being sliced. I hold my breath hoping that the silence does not portend an imminent attack from my erstwhile home.
“Welcome back to the station Captain Jaxx. Your registry has only one standard month left. Your accounts are currently showing zero. Docking will be one thousand credits.”
“For Fucks sake! It was only one hundred credits last time I docked.”
“That was over a year ago. Prices always go up. It does not help that your accounts with us are at Zero and you were reported killed in an altercation with a Terran League destroyer and an alien warship. Your entry is is granted due to the registry still being active and the Hierarchy stands by them. I can offer you a discounted rate if you also renew your registry as well. one thousand credits for both. An excellent offer that I strongly suggest you take.”
The threat implied in those words lets me know that the game is afoot. The trap may not have been sprung but there is definitely blood in the water where I am concerned. A few extra credits to ensure my safety from hierarchy problems is a good investment.
“Sounds like a good deal to me. Same payment protocols in effect?”
“Yes sir! On receipt and verification of payment you will be given docking codes for the section 9.”
“That isn’t near my housing sector?”
“No Sir. It is connected to the administration district. Solinar would like to speak with you after you dock.”
Hmmm, It appears I may be fucked after all.