Letters to Anais: Pale Sincerity

Relay Transmission: GCRT#8459687

Transmission Date: 03/02/3301

Message Origin: deuilFURIEUX; Star&Garter;  Fisk Port; Eta Draconis System

Message Destination: anaisFURIEUX; Furieux House; Darwyn; Zeta Tucanae System

Encoding: Standard Encoding Protocol

Greetings dear sister.

I have a confession to make. I am back on the booze. Not two days after I sent my last transmission from Darakh trying to convince you that I had turned over some new sober leaf, I was back swigging Gerasian Gueuze Beer by the caseload. It bloody glows in the dark! I have also discovered that I have acquired a taste for Centauri Mega Gin, thanks to Dom, the host at the Star & Garter here on Fisk Port. The guy sure knows how to get a man drunk in a short timeframe and the delights he stocks behind that deceptively small bar are numerous. Drinks from all over the galaxy, every one unique. Mega Gin is almost pure alcohol but tastes like angel tears. I cant get enough of it. I am pretty sure I have drunk my way through Dom’s entire supply of the deliciously decadent substance and though he tells me its mainly used as a base for cocktails given its strength, I prefer it neat.

Anyhow, I am not going to bore you with details of my newly rediscovered drinking habits, I am in fact, in a bit of a quandary. To help you understand, I’ll fill you in on what I have been doing these last four months.

I left Noblehome in Darakh shortly after I sent my last transmission to you at Furieux House, after an ‘incident’ involving a bar girl and her jealous boyfriend, who was particularly good at the card game, ‘Factions’ but apparently terrible in the bunk.  I had to leave in a hurry. I had planned to move on soon anyway after hearing of the actions of Admiral Vincent and the Federal fleet over Panem in Kappa Fornacis on Galnet News.  I sensed trouble brewing, and given that I am normally seen hauling not-quite-legal goods around on the Hazy Jane, the heightened security in Federal systems looked to make life difficult for me. Much bad.

I headed out for Alioth, Alliance capital. I was aware from my previous work with Alioth Independents, most of the systems out there are pretty laid back when it comes to pilots of my ‘profession’. I currently had a hold full of Algerias’ finest Onionhead, the infamous narcotic that all the ‘cool kids’ have been using lately, and even though I was playing with fire even being near Panem, Kappa Fo’, I really wanted to make a quick buck from the stuff.

I arrived at Irkutsk in the orbit of Ousey Rock and as is the norm, I swaggered into the Star & Garter for a quick nip before I went about looking for a buyer for my wares.  I had only meant to have one or two drinks before engaging in business but well, you know me, I ended up  getting a taste for it and consuming far more than I had originally intended. The combination of lag and the booze soon saw me unable to even stand up straight. At some point during my revelry I was approached by a couple of security officials who knew me by name. Thinking that I had been reported by the bar staff for ‘setting a bad example’ in front of other patrons,  I took it upon myself to contemptuously insult them. Boom. Blackout.

The next thing I knew I awoke in some posh minimalist office, slumped on a chair,  in front of a guy I recognised from Elswick, back in Zeta Tucanae. You will remember him, sis, as the guy who offered me the job that led to my arrest.  To cut a long story short, he is an important asset to the Alliance of Independent Systems and president of the Gold Vision Company of Eta Draconis.  He wanted me to ship another ‘package’ to Alliance High Command in Alioth and informed me that should I decline he would ensure that I was fined and  imprisoned for smuggling narcotics into Alliance space. I was acutely aware of the irony but swayed by the fact that his rather appealing daughter and Head of Security, Alessandra Vondell, was to fly with me to see that I completed the mission successfully, how could I refuse?

During the short trip back to Alioth, Miss Vondell disappointed me.  She resisted every flirtation, meticulously avoided every single ambiguous comment, saw straight through my insincere compliments and at one point, colourfully reprimanded me for daring to scrutinize her posterior while she replaced a faulty FSD capacitor. She was about as romantically inclined as a sick Bog Spaniel. Not used to being rejected in such a way,  I chose to ignore her for the rest of the journey.

We arrived in Alioth after half an hour of silence. She never uttered another word to me after catching me admiring her ‘bounty’ and she was too proud and too stubborn to open up conversation again.  After I requested docking permission and smoothly twisted the Hazy Jane into a level approach vector towards the docking bay, she turned to look at me incredulously at my total disregard of subtlety. Many smugglers were known to employ the use of chaff to stop station security from being able to target their ships and initiating cargo scans. I hadn’t fitted a chaff launcher. Chuckling, I fired up the port side thrusters and slipped into position just as the Jane informed me that a security Viper had just commenced scanning the hold. Slamming on the afterburners, I pulled back on the flight stick with all the strength in me, while corkscrewing from the Viper’s line-of-sight. The Viper pilot followed my moves expertly, swinging her nose around to relocate my ship. My thumb twitched, switching off the AI flight assistance module installed on every ship to compensate for momentum, the Jane lurched, as I subtly nudged her around aiming directly for the Viper and the bay behind it. Hitting the burners once more, the Hazy Jane screamed over the cockpit of the security vessel, breaking the lock, and slid directly into the flight path of an emerging Anaconda. Glancing at my fragrant friend, I was amused to see that she was hanging on to the co-pilot seat for dear life as I swung the ship around with an aim to vertically manoeuvre into the gap between the huge ‘conda and the letterbox shaped dock. Ten seconds later we were safely  docked on Irkutsk with an undetected data chip ready for delivery to its recipient. She didn’t admit it, but I could tell she was impressed.

So, Ana, after my first successful mission, I was asked to do more work for Gold Vision. President Vondell assured me that were I willing, he had a lot more work for me on the horizon. I accepted every assignment he gave me. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t care. The credits were beyond anything I had seen before and watched in awe as my Zaonce bank balance steadily grew with each mission. My bar tab never went unpaid anymore.  I saw Alessandra once or twice in passing in the corridors of Fisk Port but she rarely acknowledged me other than a nod in my direction.   I began to notice more and more pilots frequenting the bars and public hotspots ‘after hours’. Engaging in conversation with some them, it appeared that I wasn’t the only commander employed by Vondell. One of the tasks that the Pres assigned me to was in gauging other pilot’s abilities in battle. Why he did this, I have no idea. I am not the greatest of combat pilots and I doubt I ever will be. My current Pilots Federation ranking  labels me as ‘competent’. I can hold my own in a firefight and have taken down many ships larger then the Hazy Jane II but by no means am I anything other than mediocre when it comes to death-dealing.

On one particular mission, I had the pleasure of meeting CMDR Wally Walford, a bounty hunter and freed slave. His talents for ship to ship combat are second only to his adept skill in gambling. Many a pilot has succumbed to his ability to make his opponents feel as if they are winning, only to discover that they were being played all the while. We share a sense of humour, he and I, and though I don’t know all that much about his past, he makes a great asset to the Gold Vision stable. We have shared a lot of tales over drinks in the Star & Garter and it is a far cry from the all the lies, backstabbing and double crossing that goes on back home on Elsworth.  I have lost many credits to him playing ‘Factions’ over a beer or two, but the tales he tells during our conversations are worth the financial loss.

Another noteworthy pilot that joined Vondell’s group of mercenaries is CMDR Lightwarrior. Asked to join the campaign in Eta Draconis by Vidar himself, his two large and artificially sentient ships arrived at Alvares Terminal just I was heading back to my bunk in the early hours of the local morning. A chance meeting of the new pilot outside the S&G gave me ample reason to buy the guy a drink and of course have another myself.  An explorer at heart, he told me of his escapades and adventures across the stars, reminding me of my own aspirations to chart unseen systems that sadly, I haven’t yet managed to fund. Like Walford, he was also a highly skilled combat pilot, and his Anaconda, the USS Michigan, strikes fear in the hearts of any would be rivals in Eta Draconis.

CMDR Rockstep is an enigma. I first met him while out-of-my-head drunk at a Buckyball Run after race party and he joined Gold Vision soon after I did.  Though he is friendly enough, I get the impression that he doesn’t trust me. Mind you, Ana, I wouldn’t trust me either, truth be told. From what I have learned he is currently working for one of the ‘higher-ups’ in the Alliance, sent here to Eta Draconis in support of Gold Vision Co with every intention of seeing the system signed up to the Alliance charter. I am not sure that I have any kinship with a man who only drinks tea, but he seems a decent enough fellow and his loyalties to his masters are far truer than my own. His political stance is far more all-encompassing than my own self-serving interests and I fear that one day our ideals will clash.

During yet another combat trial, Wally and I were given the job of picking off a targeted enemy Anaconda and were both disappointed to see the rather green pilot run from the battle with his tail between is legs. We two were left to focus our efforts on the enemy vessel and as we commenced our attack we were both surprised to observe the emergence of a brightly coloured Core Dynamics Eagle whip across our viewports on a heading towards the large ship. Amused, I watched in earnest as the small craft reduced the Anaconda’s shields and began eating away at its hull, with hardly any apparent effort. I later discovered that the vessel belonged to yet another of the president’s recruits, a CMDR Talynne Star. Her Eagle, Talyn, is swift, deadly and packs a punch. Just like its pilot. I couldn’t help but smirk when Vondell assigned me the task of debriefing her, but given the disgusted look on his face as he observed my amusement, I decided to remain professional for once in my life.

CMDR Marcus Calvert is an acclaimed trader who, like me, also dabbles in the art of smuggling from time to time. A quiet, shrewd man brought on board by none other than Alessandra Vondell, who had contracted him for station supply and covert acquisitions in particular. Marcus flies a Cobra Mk.III, the ‘smugglers favourite’,  similar to my own Hazy Jane II.  Clearly he his being well paid as all the Gold Vision Co mercs are, and appears to have no real fealty to any of the major galactic powers. A proficient combatant, he dispatched his test enemy ship on arrival to Eta Draconis with ease.

The Star & Garter is often filled with pilots employed by Vondell. Collectively, we are now known as the 8th Dragon Squadron, a name chosen in homage to the Eta Draconis system, our first mission location (you may have seen mention of our attack on Swift Terminal on GalNet)  and much discussion has taken place with regards to our future as a mercenary group. This, dear sister, is where my problem lies. As the catalyst for Gold Vision’s endeavour, many commanders now look to me for guidance. This is somewhat of a mystery to me. When I left the family home on Darwyn, my aim was to cut all ties with the past, and to make certain that no new bonds to anything or anyone were made. My reputation as a spoiled, waster, rich kid from Zeta Tucanae has dwindled the further I get from Furieux House, and I am enjoying the anonymity.

I sit here right now in the bar writing this transmission, and I see all my Dragon brothers and sisters celebrating our recent victory for Vondell and I wonder how long I’ll remain with them before my inherent fear of commitment pushes its selfish way to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes, upon a waking with a raging hangover I feel like firing up the engines of my new Asp Explorer, ‘Pale Sincerity’ and just taking off into the stars, never to return. At others, I feel as if I have finally found a home among this ragtag bunch of traders, pirates, bounty hunters and smugglers. Time will tell I guess.

We have just received a new contract from an Imperial agent who wishes to employ the group in aid of the Emperor’s Grace, a large faction based in Gliese 900.1. I could sure use the credits and it will be good to see the back of Eta Draconis for a while. It is amazing how much of a bar tab I can rack up in three months. Gold Vision and Vidar Vondell may be thankful for our assistance with their campaign, but I fear that once Mr. V establishes that I have been leading his daughter astray, I may need to ‘get the hell out of Dodge’ pretty quickly, as they used to say.

I miss you and I hope you are well, Ana. Write me back.

Yours,

Deu.

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