Ok, lets set the stage.
Space. Empty, black, silent.
I’m in an Avenger this time. I’ve named her the Arctic Hare. Because she’s white. Atna says I have a way with words. I think she’s being facetious.
Right, stay on track.
There we are, me and Atna, floating in the crushing black of space, hours from any astronomical body of note.
Atna’s in the back, checking over her equipment. She’s got a medium EVA suit on, but her helmet’s floating haphazardly near the door. I wish her hair was free; I love the way her locks drift in 0G, but loose hair doesn’t play well with EVA suits.
I watch as she cycles her shotgun, checking its action, making sure the barrel is clear before loading a magazine. She moves fluidly, like the professional I know she is. Watching her work is like watching a dancer, each movement planned, controlled. Watching her is lovely. But still, I’m just…
‘Bored!’ I yell, exasperated, throwing my hands up and trying to sink down in the pilots chair. The straps don’t let me. I feel defeated.
‘Patience,’ Atna tells me, because of course she does.
‘I don’t WANT patience, Atna. He was supposed to be here hours ago.’
‘Yes, dear,’ she says, reaching towards the helmet floating by the exit.
‘Did you just roll your eyes at me?’
‘I wasn’t even looking at you!’
‘I heard it in your voice!’
‘Look, Sheane,’ Atna says, pushing off and floating towards me. ‘I’m about to go and get shot at. While I’m very used to getting shot at, it’s not something that I particularly enjoy.’
I make noncommittal noises, because what else am I supposed to say?
‘I love you dearly,’ she continues, reaching me and taking my hands in hers, ‘but please, let me concentrate. We can be bored together after the job’s done.’
‘I love you too, Atna’ I say, kissing her lightly on the forehead. She smiles, pushes away, and returns to her weapons.
I tap a switch above my head, and the pilots chair swings around, showing me the ships panels. Everything’s dark, except for the scanning software, and that’s still showing the space around as empty.
I stare off into the black. I’m useless, here. This far out, spotting a passing ship with my eyes would be…next to impossible.
I know I need to let the software do its trick, but, again, boredom. The courier was supposed to pass hours ago. If the route we’d bought was wrong, we’d be kissing tens of thousands of credits goodbye.
Find the courier, take his data. Sounds simple enough, but…
Space is empty, remember?
I start thinking about space whales, because why would anyone ever not think about space whales?
Whales. In space. What more do you need?
I wonder what they’d eat…
Daydreams are banished as the scanning software ticks to life. One quick beep, moving closer.
‘Get ready to go Atna, he’s here,’ I yell back over my shoulder as my hand punches the ignition button.
The engines take seven seconds to warm up. Seven seconds in which the ship coming our way can notice us, bug out before we can reach her.
‘Yes,’ I hiss as the HUD springs to life in front of me. ‘Here we go!’
Gravity comes back on in the ship as I mash the throttle forward, boosting forward on an intercept course. The target’s running a Herald, he’ll be able to outrun us with time, but if I can get close enough…
The target notices, banks hard away from us, but I’ve got the drop on him. Missile lock…Missile one away.
He deploys chaff, the missile misses.
A minute more, and he’ll be out of range.
I launch a bevy of dumb fire rockets, slightly above his ship. He angles down, I anticipate, fire, and…
‘Got him! His engines are out, Atna, get ready to move!’
I fire another disruptor burst at him, keeping his power plant offline as I slide in close. I line up his engines and fire up the Tigerstreik, put a few dozen high-velocity rounds through his engines, then throttle up again. His engines out of action, I pass him over head and stop. I hit the controls, the door behind me closes, separates me from Atna as the cargo hold vents, and the back door lowers.
A few more jabs at the controls, and video from the back of the ship appears. Atna’s standing at the edge of the ramp, one hand on the ceiling, shotgun crutched in the other.
I smile. Damn, she looks the part.
Another tap of the console, comms channel open, and…
‘Hellooooo there!’ I drawl, smarmy as I can.
‘Bastards!’ the courier’s angry, obviously, ‘What do you want from me?’
‘No bastards over here, hun’ I reply sweetly. Atna laughs.
I love her sometimes.
‘You’ve got some information we want, hun. You’re going to send it over to us now, or my pretty friend back there’s going to start blowing pieces off your ship. What do you say?’
‘You won’t get away with this!’ he starts, because of course he does. I mute the comms link, give Atna the word to go ahead.
‘Why do they always start by telling us we won’t get away with it? I mean, we already have, clearly’ I ask Atna.
She responds by blowing one of the Herald’s information dishes off the side of the hull, one tungsten slug ripping through the connecting arm, sending the dish tumbling off into space.
‘Couldn’t someone start with “take whatever you want” someday? Just to make things easier?’
Atna blows another information dish off the Herald.
‘Let’s get this over with. I’m bored.’
I can see Atna shrug through the monitor, line up the Herald, and start putting slug after slug into the ships canopy.
After seven slugs, cracks start appearing on the view-pane, and I un-mute the comms.
‘How many slugs till it cracks, do you think?’
The courier just swears.
‘Send over the info now or I guess we’ll find out.’
‘Fine! Fine you crazy bitch, take it!’
‘See? Wasn’t that easier?’
I shut off the comms, take another few swipes at the keys, and…
‘Atna! We’re good’ I say, closing the loading bay door and starting to re-pressurize the cabin as Atna floats back in. Thrusters to max, I set a course for the nearest space lane. Time to put some distance between us and the stranded courier.
Oxygen and gravity re-established, Atna opens the hatch to the cockpit and squirms up to lie beside me.
‘Now what?’ she asks.
Space. It can be empty, cold, even boring sometimes.
At least I’m never lonely.