Black Horizon – An Unexpected Arrival

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Kaila Jinx hated security detail with a passion. It was just so damned boring. She had been patrolling the five kilometer boundary of Raven’s Landing for the past seven standard hours and nothing illegal, unusual or even remotely interesting had occurred worthy of a report. Sometimes she wondered why such a high importance was placed on maintaining law and order when nothing ever happened in Cai. Occasionally some pilots were caught with a few tons of Onionhead or similar drugs, but nothing that demanded  a perpetual, dedicated four man squadron of Vipers and Eagles that essentially played a game of Ring Around the Rosie for hours on endJinx would rather have been scouting for more dangerous criminals further out in the system; pirates, brigands and other ne’er do wells were rife out at the Cai 3 extraction zones, preying on miner and scout vessels. Maneuvering her Viper Mk. IV between the massive asteroids while tearing down the shield of  an outlaw was a far more exciting prospect than scanning new arrivals en route to Raven’s Landing. Jinx was practically born a Raven. The niece of a high ranking member of the Raven’s Scouts, she was born on Xyile into a reasonably safe and sheltered life. As a youth she dreamed of roaming among the stars like her uncle and enlisted at the Xyile School of Flight as soon as she was able. She was now twenty seven years old, rated ‘deadly’  by the Pilot’s Federation and held a steady job in the System Authority Force. She owned a small yet comfortable apartment on Raven’s Landing and had a pet cat named ‘Steve’.

As wing leader, Jinx was expected to maintain a level of professionalism worthy of her rank, but her wingmates knew her better. Whilst a talented pilot, well versed in combat situations, she was something of a hothead, quick to anger, quicker to lose  her patience and not afraid to speak her mind. With only one more hour of patrol left to cover, she was showing signs of frustration.

“You alright there Jinxy? You realise you just deployed your hardpoints, yeah?” came a voice over her comm system.

“I’m good, Alder. And stop calling me that. It’s Jinx. Ginova demands strict protocol remember? Do it again and I’ll make sure your hardpoints are never deployed again.”

Lynwood Alder laughed. Despite Kaila’s response, he knew she was smiling to herself in the Viper. Flying with Jinx was always amusing and he took great pleasure in playfully mocking her.  “No worries boss, but hey, its not like they can hear us anyway. Perks of the job!”

“Dont kid yourself, flyboy. If they wanted to listen in, they could. Stay on my tail and shut up. I’m moving in on this lone Orca here. We have to get at least ONE report in. Not all of ‘Landings visitors can be squeaky clean.”

Jinx swung the ship around effortlessly utilising its lateral thrust to bring it about faster. Locating the Saud Kruger Orca on the HUD, she deftly ran her fingers over a series of buttons on the flight stick and commenced a cargo scan. Saud Kruger were known for building passenger vessels, and its ships were rarely used for anything else other than VIP transports, but Kaila had never trusted pilots who flew them. She was of the mind that had she been a smuggler, these beautiful but useless star boats would be a good cover. It would be very easy to ship a hundred and fifty tons of contraband within their holds and no one would even think twice to check them.

Alder piped up, “An Orca? What kind of pompous fool would smuggle stuff in an Orca? Are you seriously wasting time on that vessel?”

“You never know, Lynwood.  It would amaze you how many successful Onionhead runners use them. You should never rule out…wow!”

“What you got?” asked Alder, excitedly.  “Don’t tell me you actually found something on that ship?”

“I have indeed. Looks like we are in for a good night tonight at the Star & Garter!”

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“One hundred tons of beer. Twenty tons of wine. Thirty eight tons of liquor.”

Alder didn’t respond for a moment, and Jinx grinned at his lack of quick thinking.

“But those aren’t illegal commodities here,” he replied, finally.

“Nope, but that’s an impressive amount of booze. Thankfully we live in a liberally minded system. When we get off, you’re buying,”  she sniggered.

The Orca continued to fly on into Raven’s Landing where it would dock.  The pilot would most likely unload his or her wares and sell them on the open market for reasonable profit. The Raven’s Scouts were self sufficient. The earthlike planet of Xyile produced many tons of agricultural goods on a daily basis and in the rings of the third planet in Cai was an abundance of precious metals and minerals. Trade was encouraged. It was the lifeblood of the controlling party, much like any other populated system throughout the galaxy.

Nevertheless, local policies and major governmental laws meant that certain goods including human trafficking were made illegal. Cai, being an independent democracy, was very relaxed, where very few goods were considered contraband. Despite this, recent reports of increased black market trading, particularly concerning the exchange of Imperial Slaves were becoming a problem.  Halting the flow of illicit cargo was a job tasked to the System Authority Force.

Alder laughed out loud in his Eagle. Jinx rarely bought a round after a shift. Regardless of her rank, she had always been considered ‘one of the boys’ and despite spending the same – if not more – time as the rest of the crew in the bar, many of the Ravens felt obliged to pay for her refreshments. Gender equality had improved vastly over the centuries, yet some old habits died hard. Alder knew that it amused Jinx that many of them felt obliged to pay for her drinks and even more so that she didn’t argue the case with her benefactors.

“Just the usual then, eh, Jinxy?” he said. “You know, one of these nights we will get you to put your hand in your pock…what the hell? Do you see it?”

It barely caught his eye. Luck and circumstance made him look in the right direction at the right time, so much that he actually did a double take in his flight chair.  A large, black freighter was powering towards the station entrance at a very high velocity. Alder checked the scanner on the HUD of his Eagle. The black ship had no corresponding blip. That could only mean one thing.

“Affirmative! Target and scan that T9! She’s running cold!” Jinx bellowed down the comms. “I am going to cut her off!”

Rerouting all power to her engines, she shot off in the direction of the docking cage with the intention of forcing the Lakon Type-9 to a halt. She didn’t want to think about what would happen if the pilot wouldn’t – or couldn’t – slow down.  Her Viper would never take a head on collision with such a heavyweight ship. She watched her scanner to get a tag on her partner. Alder had flown directly behind the freighter in order to run his cargo scanner.

“Scan complete, boss! This guy’s packing over five hundred bodies. Imperials. He is slowing down,” he informed her.

Jinx breathed a sigh of relief and hailed the offending vessel using public protocols.

“You have been caught carrying a large amount of illegal cargo in this jurisdiction commander,” she announced. “Shut down your engines and await instructions. Any action on your part from this point on will result in us using lethal force.”

There came no immediate response. “Do you understand, commander?” she added.

The freighter had nowhere to go. Alder had the rear of the vessel secured and it could not enter the bay while Jinx had it covered. A moment passed before Jinx received a communication from the Type-9.

“You wanna know what I understand sweetheart? I understand that you have one of the sexiest voices I have ever heard. At least, as far as Authority pilots go anyway.”

The voice was male, and the words were spoken with a slight sneer. Jinx opened her mouth to say something and closed it again. She had no idea how to even answer that given the situation. She decided to ignore it. She ran through the routine procedures in her mind. In this situation, Alder would close in and escort the wanted ship into a designated bay where she would be already waiting to board and arrest the pilot, although she really wanted to just blast this jackass into space dust with a comment like that.

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of your predicament, commander. Remain where you are. You will be escorted to bay 25 where you will remain on board your vessel. I will then board your ship and take you into custody.”

Jinx watched as Alder began to accelerate towards the freighter as he was trained to do. Following the instruction, the  Lakon began to slowly fly towards her ship and the station.

Her comm alert sounded again.

“I cant wait, cupcake. Will you take me into custody personally? Cuffs and all? Sweet Mother of all Tucans! Am I dreaming?” laughed the smuggler.

Jinx scowled as she turned her Viper around and made a move for the docking pad. Who did this guy think he was? He was about to detained and fined, and here he was joking around like he didn’t give a rats ass. She felt small and she hated it. She knew that Lynwood Alder would be laughing at the comm exchange as he tailed the freighter into Raven’s Landing and it only served to infuriate her more. She would make this cocky criminal pay for his smart ass comments. As she proceeded to an area designated for authority vessels near bay 25, she recieved another hail.

“Kaila. It’s Ginova. The vessel that your detail just intercepted is to be left alone. Upon such times as it is safely docked, you are requested to return to position and continue your patrols. Do not, I repeat, do NOT, board that Type 9. I’ll explain later. However, I thank you for your vigilance.”

“But sir! That ship is a slaver! I am not about to let a half million credit fine slip! We cant allow…”

“Please do as I ask, Kaila. All will become clear soon. I promise you.”

Jinx was furious. The only report she could have made was being taken from her and by the Fleet Admiral of all people! She trusted Ginova, but what was he thinking? How could he allow such a high volume of illegal goods enter the station? No – not goods. Enslaved human beings!

“With all due respect sir, you had better make this clear,” she said, annoyed that her retribution on the smarmy pilot had been denied. “I hope you have good reason to allow this ship into our station.”

She watched as the large black Lakon lowered its landing gear and eased down onto the surface of the pad. Inside the station, Alder’s Eagle passed her and she saw him shrug at her through his cockpit viewport, equally confused.

Before the two Authority pilots headed back out to finish their shift, Jinx took one last look at the freighter under the harsh lights of the pad. It was a standard Type-9 Heavy Freighter but it bore a scar she positively recognised. A wave of familiarity washed over her as she gazed upon its hull.

“Hey Alder, is it just me, but shouldn’t that ship have a white livery?” she asked, hailing her comrade in the Eagle.

“Eh? What are you talking about Jinxy? Don’t creep me out. This whole exercise has been a bit weird. Whats Ginova up to?”

“Look at the scar on the hull. Does it ring any bells?”

“Not really? What are you getting at? Do you recognise it?”

“That ship isn’t just any old freighter. It was Eve’s ship,” she replied with some degree of reverence.  “That ship is the Nineveh’s Kiss.”

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