An Elite Dangerous fan-fiction, I don’t own or represent the game, its developers or owners in any way. It’s just a fun universe to write about.
You know what, I’m getting really tired of this, I thought to myself as I pulled out another blanket from the co-pilot’s storage locker. Hopping like a triple jumper across the freezing cold cockpit floor, I quickly dived back under the assortment of jumpers, blankets and, I’m pretty sure my dog Benzo, that was currently decorating the pilot’s chair.
Popping my extremities out from the nest like a cartoon chicken popping out of its egg, I grasped the ship’s cold metallic controls that I’d wrapped in some socks and looked at the ship’s information bar.
Five minutes till arrival and the ship’s ambient temperature was a brisk minus two degrees – perfect conditions for concealing the wanted criminal that was comfortably sat in my passenger cabin. This was annoyingly the only source of onboard heat due to the rather large sum of money that was offered as ‘comfort/risk money’. The only other heat the ship was exerting was from its Frame Shift Drive that was powering the engines – and ergo the ship – towards our destination. Once we were close enough, I’d drop out of Supercruise and put the ship into silent running, gliding past the Feds as their sensors failed to pick up our heat signature and slip into the space station. It was something I’d done dozens of times, so you’d have thought I’d have remembered to buy a heated blanket during one of these trips…
Realising that I was starting to fantasize about how nice the place would be once I’d turned the heating back on, I quickly turned my attention towards something else. Well I tired at least but my thoughts kept returning to the little finger on my right hand that felt like it was about to drop off – despite the three pairs of gloves I was wearing.
In an act of part frustration and part motivation I toggled through the ship’s displays. I’d read them a thousand times before but there was something nice about reaffirming that this was my ship, that the Earl Grey belonged to me and not the passenger who I could see had started to do some press-ups on the ship’s monitoring system.
Three minutes to go…
I re-read the transaction log that… Albeicht had given me. Four million credits for a simple pick up and drop-off. Albeit one that required a long jump in Supercruise across the black and had the risk of a prison sentence at the end should he be logged as present on the ship, but apart from that…
Two minutes to go…
I wish I’d installed a kettle in the cockpit, I don’t care how stupidly dangerous that would be at this point.
One minute to go…
I prepared the control panel for the frantic button mashing that was about to get underway and started removing some of the insulation from around me encase I needed to get about quickly. There was a small yelp as Benzo was hurled across the room with the blankets as he got caught in an old I Can’t Get No Science-Fiction Rolling Stones parody hoody.
Ten seconds to go…
I prepared to throttle down the engines to slow down enough to drop out of Supercruise safely and removed the socks from the controls.
Seven seconds to go…
I pulled back on the throttle, slowing the ship down and setting it on course to hit the correct speed to drop out of Supercruise.
Seven seconds to go…
Due to the retardation of speed and the relativity of the closing distance, the eta would remain the same until we were close enough, so I took a moment to activate the internal communication channel to speak to my guest.
“We’ll be approaching the station shortly, you might feel a little turbulence as we drop out of Supercruise,” I said affirmatively as he got up from his workout and made some sort of ‘okay’ gesture towards the speaker, which was on the opposite side of the room from the camera feed I was watching.
That’s not how speakers work you dolt, I thought to myself. I wondered how in the world he’d managed to make it this far with the reasonable bounty on his head.
Seven seconds to go…
I wish I hadn’t removed the socks from the controls.
Seven seconds to go…
Nor removed the blankets.
Seven seconds to go…
A message flickered onto the ship’s heads up display that told me it was safe to drop out of Supercruise. I flicked the switch and the galaxy came lurching to a stop as a Coriolis Station filled the empty space that had been there previously. A slowly rotating, giant, three dimensional hexagon – the station’s entrance swung into view just as calculated. This allowed me to hit the silent running controls, power the engine down and float gracefully through space until we slipped through the letterbox like opening.
Happy with the ship’s trajectory I breathed a sigh of relief, and immediately misted up the front window.
After using my sleeve to wipe the condensation off the glass, I turned to the panel on the left and sent the automatic docking request message to the station. I often wondered why this was something I had to do? It’s not like they ever said no and they didn’t use this time to scan the ship? All the braindead operator would do is send back the number of a landing pad that I’d be assigned.
Predictably, the message pinged back allocating landing pad 42 to me. As we had a little time I took a look at the activity happening outside the station. It was fairly quiet, a few civilian ships coming and going and one Fed ship doing the rounds. Luckily his attention was on chasing down some other pilot who probably had the same idea as me but was leaving the station with some contraband item of sorts on board. Perfect.
Seeing that he was out of the way I took a gamble and powered the engines back on, lightly throttling them up to close the gap a little faster, as well as make it a little less obvious that we were trying to sneak in.
As the reverberation of the engines hummed through the hull, a dog shaped head appeared from the pile of blankets to take stock of what was happening. Well it would have if he wasn’t blindfolded by my flight jacket.
“Don’t worry boy, we’ll be there shortly.” I said reassuringly, “Go back to sleep you numpty.”
Whether he’d heard me or was simply fed up with trying to untangle himself, the periscope like shape disappeared into the mound of fabric with a dog-like moan that closely resembled an old U-Boat heading to the depths of the sea with an active sonar.
As we reached the last few hundred metres, I booted the ship’s systems back on, lighting the inside of the ship up like some sort of disco as the bulbs warmed up with a flicker and the wonderful warm breeze of the heaters kicked in.
As though on cue, Benzo exploded out of his nest, scattering the various items around the cockpit like a tin of tuna that’s been exuberantly opened and dived on to the copilot’s seat. Sat bolt upright – and with a prideful look on his face – the breeze from the heaters blowing his flappy spaniel ears around made him look like he was posing for some sort of photoshoot.
Rolling my eyes at Vanity Fluff and returning to the task at hand, I quickly aligned the ships rotation to match the spinning letterbox of an entrance. Before too long we were gliding gracefully into the Starport and started heading towards the big illuminated 42 hanging over our allotted landing pad.
Without any drama I deployed the landing gear, slowed the ship down and neatly parked it on the landing pad before powering down the engines and giving Benzo a quick rub behind the ears.
“We’ve touched down,” I said, activating the ship’s intercom system to address our guest. “Give me five minutes and I’ll come and let you out. It’s better to wait a little before you get off to make sure the starport’s services aren’t watching.”
I took great satisfaction in seeing the notorious criminal sigh heavily, his shoulders dropping at the thought of having to wait around in my small but luxurious cabin any longer. Of course in a station this busy, no one would be watching us. But if he could have the heating on all the way here, he could bloody well wait until I’d warmed up.
Eventually satisfied that I’d thawed out, I took off the wooly cardigan I had on and grabbed my leather flight jacket that Benzo had so very carefully flung over the copilots weapon controls, before heading through the ship to the passenger cabin. Sometimes you had to look the part to be taken seriously out here, plus I kept a pistol in the lining of the jacket, I saw no need in taking any chances with a wanted criminal.
Knocking on the door, I waited a decent amount of time for my guest to get his personal effects together before I pressed the button that slid the door open with a slight hiss, whereupon I was greeted by the same cocky face that he’d been wearing when I picked him up.
“Last stop.” I said, addressing the tall, tanned man wearing what could only be described an an entire llama’s worth of alpaca fur and enough gold jewellery to entice magpies to start developing their own means of space travel. “No setbacks as promised.” I added, as I held out my ID card.
Swaggering over to me as he pulled out his own ID card – as though it was a dance routine he’d been practicing – he touched his card to mine to initiate the satisfying beep of four million credits being added to my account.
Happy that the transaction was successful, I stepped aside and gestured for him to lead the way out of the ship. I chose to walk him out partly as a courtesy and partly to make sure he didn’t try to pinch anything. Not that I had anything particularly valuable on board but as a matter of principle, it was still all my stuff.
After what felt like an eternity of following someone who appeared to be trying to imitate a penguin, we finally reached the exit where he cautiously stuck his head out of the door and looked around to make sure no one was watching. Almost like a cat would do when getting out of a carry case to make sure they weren’t at the vets. Happy with his new surroundings he stepped out onto the ramp, turned back to me and and very patronisingly added, “Not too bad Commander.” Accusing my title like I’d stolen it from someone. “See you around!” then tipped his hat before disappearing into the station.
I instinctively balled my hand up into a fist. You’d have thought by now, what with it being the year 3304 and all, that sexism had died and everyone would just accept that women were wholly capable pilots too.
Having assumed that he was the sort of person who would have this opinion by his appearance alone, I collected myself with the comfort of having the forethought to ‘mess’ with his luggage whilst he was asleep on the trip over. Calling Benzo, I allowed myself a mischievous smirk, did up my jacket, booted the ship’s door closed and headed off to the nearest bar to see if I could make a dent in my very healthy bank account.