Lucky Moran

From Elite Wiki

The klaxon blared suddenly as the shipcomp went to conred! His fingers curling quickly round the stick, he wrenched his attention away from the navscreen.
What the fuck... where did they spring from?
Four red traces had appeared on the scanner, closing fast - they meant business. The battered old Cobra Mk I responded a little sluggishly as he brought it about to engage the bandits. He locked-on to an Asp and lobbed a hardhead at it. As the Asp ran to evade, he turned to face a Gecko which was scoring heavy hits. A long burst of his mil laser sent it veering away, plasma flying off its hull. That left a Python and a Fer-de-Lance. He fired his last hardhead at the Ferdy, which turned and evaded on injectors, and set about the Python. They slugged it out, nose to nose, and his shields dropped fast. As he began to curse, the Python disengaged and tried to limp away.
Oh no you don't! I'm taking you down, amigo!
He flipped the Cobra and redlined the aft laser. The Python exploded, spewing debris and pods. As he came about again, the Ferdy re-appeared on the scanner, coming-in rapidly on injectors. He hove-to and waited calmly, in the zone now, letting his lasers cool, long-ago Naval training kicking-in. When the sleek form of the Ferdy filled his sights, he redlined the laser, scoring heavily. Venting atmosphere, it kept coming, returning fire, heading straight for him - the energy banks dropped rapidly.
The bastard's going to ram me! Oh no you don't, pal... not this pilot! At the very last second, he rolled ninety. As the Ferdy screamed past, barely metres from his underside, he twitched the stick and poured a full blast from the aft laser into it. Another cloud of debris resulted. Smiling grimly, he came about, boosting hard, and ruthlessly killed the crippled Gecko. The klaxon stopped wailing, the energy banks began to edge back up, and the status display turned from red to yellow. He had survived the ambush, but only just, and there were plenty of red lights on the instrument panel. It was going to be a very expensive refit, when he reached the station. If he reached the station - he was still a long way out. The firefight had started well away from the spacelanes, but this was Lezaer, probably the safest system in Lara'tan, and he wasn't too worried. He relaxed a little, eased back in the command seat, and let out a long whoop. In his late thirties, he was short and wiry, with black hair, and brown eyes set in a thin, pale-skinned face. He set course for the station beacon, and engaged the Torus drive, grinning widely.
Four of the bastards... but I took 'em all... ha! Jump me in deep space, would you... ha!
Almost immediately, the torus drive mass-locked and the klaxon wailed. The scanner showed five red traces, high on the port bow, coming in fast.
Mierda... another bunch! Why now, you sods... the ship can't take another firefight!
Throwing the Cobra into a sickening corkscrew, he scanned the instrument panel. No quirium fuel, no missiles, energy unit, shield booster, ecm - all shot. He managed to cripple a Gecko with a long burst, but his shields were minimal now, as were the energy banks. As the other bandits' lasers raked the Cobra's hull, the energy banks dropped towards zero. Reluctantly, he reached for the eject, a snarl on his face.
One or two, I'd have a go at... but five of 'em, in this state? Fucking bastards!
Glaring angrily from the escape pod as it boosted away, he watched his ship blow, watched the pirates scooping his hard-earned cargo - then the pod's sleep systems put him under. At the station, the local insurance rep informed him that there was a slight problem - his cover had lapsed, and despite his protestations to the contrary, they were unable to offer him a new ship. With a couple of choice epithets, he left the man and made his way to the bar - he needed a drink badly. By station time, it was past three in the morning, and the bar was near empty. He bought a beer from the sleepy-looking barkeep, downed it in one, then wandered over to a wall terminal to check his credit balance, hoping that it had magically increased somehow, since the last time he had checked - it hadn't.
Thirty-eight grand! That don't buy me jackshit... not even a rust-bucket Adder! Bollocks!

He looked around the room - the only other patrons were sat at a table in the corner, playing cards and drinking beer. He wandered over, and stood watching. When the play was done, the dealer, a bald man with shrewd blue eyes and an air of command, looked up.
'Wanna take a hand, son... try yer luck?'
'No thanks, amigo... Lady Luck ain't been smiling on me lately!'
'Tough times, eh? Join us, 'ave a beer on me. I be Tomàs Fenn, an' these ruffians be my escort pilots. Well, they be calling themselves pilots, but sometimes I wonder!'
That produced wry grins all round.
'Right kind of you, sir... I'm Luke Moran.'
The next day found him flying escort. He launched in his loaned Mamba, along with three others, and formed-up on Tomàs Fenn's Boa. One of Fenn's four escort pilots had been taken ill on Lezaer station, and he had been hired as the replacement, having paid a premium of ten thousand credits to Fenn for the privilege - to keep you honest, as the good captain had put it. Fenn's Boa slipped into hyperspace, bound for Xeverive, and the four Mambas dived into the blue cloud, Luke bringing-up the rear. At nearly five lights, it meant twenty-three hours in the tube, and he was intending to spend most of it in the bunk. But after only seventeen hours, he was dragged out of a deep, dreamless sleep by the klaxon blaring. Through bleary eyes he looked at the bulkhead clock.
What the fuck... can't have emerged yet... shit, gotta be a mis-jump! Bugger!
He rushed to the cockpit, where the scanner was full of Thargoid warships and their bots - he counted nine warships. What ensued was the most frantic, desperate, firefight that Luke had ever been engaged in. Swarms of bots buzzing angrily, deadly green beams lashing out, the Mambas fighting back bravely, Tomàs Fenn showing himself to be skilled combatant in his heavily-armed Boa. They were grossly outnumbered, but it was all or nothing - in interstellar space, there are not many options. In just a few minutes, it was over! Luke fragged the final warship, then took a close look at the scanner - nothing but white traces. Inert bots, tumbling debris, but no sign of Fenn's Boa or the other escorts. He was the only one left alive. His was the only ship left intact - a badly-damaged Mamba with half a tank of quirium fuel, and no jump-drive. Interstellar space is vast - mind- numbingly vast - and he was stuck in it.
He lost it for a while - with a manic grin on his face, he lit the injectors and threw the Mamba furiously around, angrily atomising every bot and piece of debris that he could find, burning-up most of the useless quirium fuel. At last, he calmed down, brought the Mamba to a dead stop, and headed for the tiny galley - and a bottle of evil juice.
He awoke with a start. He was laying on the floor beside his bunk, stark naked, with an empty bottle next to him, and a pounding headache. For a while, he just lay there, staring up at the ceiling, puzzled. Then memory returned - he slowly turned his head, and looked at the clock. 'What the fuck... two days... where did that go? Never again... god no, never again.'
The thought made him laugh - he'd never get the chance again, anyway. Then he realised that he needed the head badly, and crawled shakily into the wetroom. He spent a long time in the shower, sitting under the stream, half asleep, his pounding head slowly easing.
Two hours later, he was sat in the cockpit, thinking through his options. There weren't many, only two - he could boost through interstellar space forever, or at least until the food ran out, or he could space himself now, and save days of anguish and eventual starvation. With a shouted curse, he shut his eyes, and pulled the Mamba into a corkscrew for a few seconds, then he let go of the stick.
That course'll do! Let's see how long I can hold-out! There's maybe four days food... hey-ho!
Leaving the drives at full throttle, he headed for the galley - he needed more coffee.
He made the food last six days. By the eighth day, he was very hungry - by the tenth, he'd had enough. He sat in the cockpit, staring morosely out at the featureless, unchanging interstellar void through which his Mamba was hurtling. It may as well have been a fly in amber, for all the progress it was making.
Well then... it's time! Now, have I got the cojones to space myself? Too fucking right, I have!'
As he rose to head for the airlock, something caught his eye, something at the very edge of the scanner - a white trace. He sat back down.
Now what the fuck is that? Some debris from another battle, I bet... still, I'll take a look.
Lightly gripping the stick, he veered towards the trace. Zooming the scanner, he realised with a jolt that this was not debris - it was far too large. At last, he came close enough to get a good visual sighting on it - and gasped in shock.
Stone me, it's a ship... a fucking ship! A Cobra III, at that. Am I dreaming this... or what?
He cruised slowly up to it, circled it suspiciously several times, expecting it to disappear - but it didn't. He brought the Mamba to a dead stop, fifty metres from the abandoned ship. Weak from lack of food, and feeling feverish, he went to the suit locker, and slowly, carefully, he donned the space armour, triple-checking everything - trying not to hope - trying not to think about food - or jump drives - or quirium fuel.
As he jetted over to the Cobra, he saw that both the outer and inner lock doors were open, and the ship was unpressurised - open to vacuum. His heart sank as he entered the lock, but out of habit, he punched the lock control panel. To his surprise, the outer door slid shut. He stepped through into the ship, and punched the inner panel - the inner door slid shut. To his surprise, the basic systems were still working.
Okay... we got power... let's see if we got life support.
On the way to the bridge, he checked the staterooms, the galley and wetroom - all empty. As was the bridge, where he settled into the left-hand seat and scanned the instrument panel, then started hitting buttons. The shipcomp came out of sleep mode, ran its test routines, and crashed. He booted it again - this time it stayed up, and the panel displays lit. Grinning madly, he got life-support up and running, and re-pressurisation under way, then almost reluctantly, he let himself look at the fuel gauge.
Empty... mierda! Still... that's what I expected. Now, let's go see what's in the galley lockers.
In the galley, he hit the jackpot - the lockers were well stocked, enough for several weeks, at least. He'd go crazy long before he starved. That made him think about the previous owner of the ship, and what had become of him.
Was that the way of it, I wonder... madness? Hmm... I'll check the log when the ship's got atmosphere... and after I've eaten.
While he was still suited, he took a slow trip over to the Mamba, packed his few belongings into his kitbag, and returned to the Cobra, where its life-support systems had completed re-pressurisation. Removing his space armour, he felt almost content. In the galley, he set the coffee maker going, then started preparing a large meal, grinning gleefully.
Now for a fucking mother of a feast!
Starship Quicksilver: Commander's Log 2089.476
I've had enough... six weeks now. Still plenty of provisions, but... I've had it. It drives a man crazy out here... I'm having weird dreams... or hallucibations, I'm not sure which, anymore. If this ship is ever found... if this log is ever read... take what you wish, stranger, and remember me. Commander Paulo Bishop... signing off!
Starship Quicksilver: Commander's Log 2089.475
Tomorrow is my fifty-third birthday... I've decided that's the day. I've jiggered the airlock so I can space myself along with the ship's air... when I open the outer door, I'll pop out like a champagne cork. It'll be quick, and I've kept a bottle of evil juice back... just to get me in the mood for breathing vacuum. For a few seconds, I'll get to see the stars... au naturel.

Sitting on the bridge, with a mug of hot coffee and a bulging stomach, Luke scrolled back six weeks to read the log of the mis-jump, of the combat with the Thargoid warships, and of the aftermath. It was all too familiar, and made him shudder. Having read enough, he was about to close the log when a phrase caught his eye... damn that old man. It was out of context at the end of an entry, and he could find no other reference to it, even though he went back many weeks. Only a little phrase, but it lodged in his mind, nagged away at him. He distracted himself by bringing up the local chart on the navcomp. The cursor was set to the nearest system, Atistiso, at zero point four light years. A mere ten minutes in the tube - a blink of an eye, and he'd be back in normal space.
Less than half a light... only a sixteenth of a tank or so... hmm... I wonder.
He had been planning on a nap after his gargantuan meal, followed by more food - and then maybe a snack, washed down by a few bottles of the Riedquatian ale that he had found in the stores. Not anymore - he had a crazy idea, and he went straight at it, pausing only to grab a bottle of ale. Quirium fuel is a highly volatile substance, toxic and dangerous to handle, but Luke was more than prepared to take risks, big risks. Somehow, he needed to transfer just a few kilos from the Mamba to the Cobra. The main problem was carrying the quirium, and neither ship was designed for in-space fuelling, but he had a plan, and went looking for a laser cutter and an empty oxygen tank. The Cobra was well equipped, and he found what he wanted and went to work, humming manically. It took hours to get right, but eventually he had a butchered, re-sealable container that would hold pressure. Pressurised, quirium is semi-solid, somewhat like mercury - he was going to attempt to syphon some quirium into his improvised pressure flask, and port it over to the Cobra, kilo by kilo.
Two long days later, he sat in the galley on Quicksilver, nursing the remains of a badly burnt, vacuum- damaged left arm. He knew the arm was gone, knew it would have to be amputated, but it was well worth it - he'd got the fuel, enough to reach Atistiso, and that was all that mattered. He was going to make it back. As soon as the morphine kicked-in, he would head for the bridge and initiate the jump. He would need to be careful in Atistiso system - one-handed combat flying was not advisable, which meant sneaking in and taking the long, slow, stealthy, route in-system. The icy tendrils of the morphine began to cool his mind, to soothe away the pain - it was time.
He made it to the aegis without mishap, but when he requested docking clearance, it was refused. It seemed that the previous owner of Quicksilver, Commander Bishop, was persona non grata, due to some trouble on the station a year ago. Identifying himself, Luke quickly explained how he came to be in command of the ship, how Commander Bishop had spaced himself, and more importantly, how urgently he needed medical treatment for his arm. They allowed him to dock, but a security team awaited him at the shipbay. Once they had satisfied themselves that he was indeed Luke Moran, and not Paulo Bishop, they got him to the med-bay fast. As they prepped him for surgery, as the anaesthetic put him under, a phrase floated through his mind - damn that old man.