Monday, September 21, 2009

A Priority Delivery

"Yes? Calm down. Just repeat what the message said. To where? Now? How
much? Yes, I see how that could be a problem. Notify miss Ashley and
ask her to get the Cowardly Bee to the pickup point. Yes, this takes
priority over her current assignment. Yes, I'm aware of the standing
orders. No, I'll handle it. Yes. Notify the crew, I'll be there

I hurry towards the hangars at an undignified pace, my mind busy
evaluating half a dozen flight paths and scenarios. It's amazing how
far humanity has progressed, yet so few grasp the concept that items
do not magically appear where they are needed. Sizable infrastructures
are planned, created, operated, optimized and maintained to make it
happen. But this time there is no time to do it properly. The alliance
holdings are under attack, a cynosural jammer tower has been disabled
in a key system, and multiple enemy strongholds have been set up. And
now they realize that the replacement tower is sitting in a hangar in
an another region, in a system that attracts a lot of otherwise
welcome attention. But this time I'll have to use the the Invisible
Hand, so subterfuge is not an option.

I quickly greet the personnel and continue without breaking stride
into the locker room. Within a few moments I'm back in the darkness of
the pod. After a few clunks the camera drones activate, slowly
orbiting the freighter. I've never understood why the Thukkers decided
to use camouflage on a spaceship, but this is not a time to complain
about aesthetics. The traffic control gives the go-ahead and I set the
engines to full thrust.


"Miss Ashley?"
"In position as ordered, sir. Why am I here again? The fleet commander.."
"I'll deal with him. What's the status of the system"
"Small enemy fleet on the gate leading to State territory, no contacts
on the inbound gate. Intel reports a small fleet approaching, so it's
now or never."
"On my way."
"Standing by."

With a roar, the engines hurl the freighter towards the gate. During
the approach deceleration, the scanner reports first one, then two,
then six contacts. "Our guests are here. Be ready." With a flash, the
Invisible Hand goes through the gate.

As soon as the sensors recalibrate, I turn the ship towards the
station. On cue, the Cowardly Bee assumes a 10km orbit. Struggling
against the Bee's webification field, the engines roar and whisk the
freighter away.

"Gate activation.. two.. six.. eight hostiles. That was an
unacceptable risk, sir."
"But necessary, as you will find out after I retrieve the cargo. Do
you still have the sound profile I sent you?"
"Yes, but.. it's hardly dignifying to play that on open comms.."
"That's why it was made. It's alliance policy."
"I assume there's a humorous, yet ironic story behind it?"
"Naturally, but that was before my time, so I don't have the specifics."
"Playing it now."

I've heard this before, so I shut down the system communication
channel. While our guests try to triangulate which of my associates'
ships in the system is taunting them, I'm free to examine the cargo
manifest. One large tower, a dozen jammers and two dozens of guns,
fuel for a month.. and the all-important cynosural field jammer. After
the containers have been loaded, I open the comm channels again. Based
on the expletives, our guests are too busy to notice the Invisible
Hand obtaining undocking permissions and entering warp as soon as the
safety protocols allow it.

"That's enough, miss Ashley. Head to the first checkpoint, it's time
to enter the warzone."