"Epsilon, Alpha, four, two, six, six, Niner-three, this is Hammerfest 14; we have recieved your vector, over." the radio crackled as the voice finished
"Hammerfest 14, this is Epsilon, Alpha, four, two, six, six, Niner-three," Ivan said calmly into his headset as Darron sat beside him, focused on the controls "We are on approach, request permission to land, over."
"Roger that, Epsilon-Alpha." The voice lingered on the 'R' as it spoke clearly "You are cleared to engage graviton field for Hangar 14, Bay 5, over."
"We are recieving your signal, Hammerfest 14." Ivan nodded as he eyed a monitor on the panel above him "We will now engage on-board landing sequences, out."
Hammerfest station appeared, from a particular angle, to be no more than a massive wall of steel and bubble-fiber windows; from a side view, however, one could clearly see the long, narrow pair of steel tubes that ran between the two massive spheres. Portruding from the middle row, like so many teeth on a crocodile's jaw, lay the service bays for the Republic of Yggsadril's massive Starcruisers.
The bay that the Black Phoenix crept into was one normally reserved for military-grade supply frigates, though Darron's contact had arranged what one might call 'special clearance'. The ship coasted gently to a stop in the spacious hangar bay before it touched down and cut power to the engines. There was a short silence before a faint humming was heard, then finally a voice.
"Airlock complete." The voice was monotone, but distinctly human. "You may now exit the craft."
The loading ramp lurched downwards from it's position just to the right of the cockpit, and gently streamed downwards. Three naval crewmen wearing black and blue fatigues with soft cloth caps weilding long, sleek black rifles approached the ramp as it gently touched down with a 'thud' on the metal floor. Darron and Ivan came down side by side, 3 more men waiting in the darkness above.
"Is our shipment ready?" Darron extended a friendly hand to the man in the middle.
"No," the soldier spoke coldly. "Commander Jorgensson is doing drills with his men, then he has some paperwork to attend to. He sent instructions to meet him in his office at 2130, and to give you this."
Clearly ignored, Darron was ready to withdraw his hand when the soldier slipped a small black card into it. The three men saluted Darron and turned to leave.
"Wait," Darron looked confused. "What about our cargo?"
"You can leave it here." the middle soldier spoke again "We will watch over it."
They tunrned again towards the massive blast doors underneath the control tower. A sigh escaped Ivan's lips as he shook his head; all the men looked around and exchanged silent glances.
"That gives us 6 hours to do as we will," Ivan resigned, "McEnroe, Ayers, you wait here with the ship. Metzger, you come with Darron and I; we're going into the commercial district."
"Fine." McEnroe rocked his small, wiry frame against the arch above the loading ramp "But bring me back some vice of some sort, will ya?"
"Sure McEnroe," Darron nodded "Like there's not enough of it in the cargo hold."
"Can I take that as a suggestion?" McEnroe chuckled
"Fuck you," Darron pointed a jokingly accusing finger "You go cutting mass quantities out of the goods and I'll start cutting mass quantities of you."
"Don't sweat it, we'll have the transfer ready by the time you get back." McEnroe dismissed Darron's threat as he retreated into the cabin.
Darron shook his head as he silently turned to lead the procession out of the hangar bay. Metzger was a short, hard-faced man with short pointed black hair; he was great at loading and unloading and could throw a hell of a punch, though he wasn't exactly a singularity physicist. The trio entered a massive elevator shaft just to the left of the enormous blast doors; Darron entered a 6-digit sequence as the doors closed.
The elevator car shuddered as it began to move, and the three slowly leaned to their left as the car shot down it's path. They stood in complete silence, save for the gentle humming of the power supply. The inside of the car was a darkened metallic color with various supply tubes cascading a pristine whitewash with briliant read across the inside, noting a constant upkeep, yet somewhat consistant with military aesceticism.
It was a little more than a minute before Metzger turned to Darron.
"Tell me again, who is this contact of yours?" He looked puzzled
"For the time being," Darron began "All I'm going to say is that he holds some substantial sway within this facility."
"So, he's in the Yggsadril Navy?" Metzger followed with a painfully pointless query
"Yes," Darron humored him "But actually, the local military prefers the label of 'Aesirian'"
"Why?" Metzger curled his lip involuntarily
"I don't know," Darron shrugged "Because Yggsadril is a pain in the ass to say, maybe?"
"What's his name?" Metzger began to probe
"I can't say," Darron shook his head slowly "He stands to lose a lot, should our partnership be found out, so he's requested that I not mention his name while on this station or near people in his organization; he also happens to be someone whom I have a lot of respect for, and whose business, I find, completes a rather lucrative trading circle, so if it's all the same to you, I'd rather honor it."
Metzger nodded: Darron's long and defensive monologue shut him up in a real hurry. The gentle humming of the transport resumed for a few moments more, Darron stared blankly into the distance, while Metzger stared down at the floor. Ivan glanced around at the various mechanical components, contemplating something quite technical. Finally, the compartment gently came to a halt. The light from the compartment gushed out into the landing platform as the elevator-shuttle's doors silently slid open.
The three men stepped out into the cold metallic hallway of the civillian sector of the station. Their shuttle dropped them directly in the center of the commercial district. Ivan and Metzger formed up behind Darron as he cut a path through the increasingly dense mass of humanity. Suddenly, they came to a wide road divided by sickly-looking foliage, people flowed in indiscriminate directions on both sides, and low flying shuttles coasted gently by above. Ivan swiftly moved foreward and formed up beside Darron, as he now seemed to understand where they were going.
Metzger decided it might be best not to ask.
As they snaked through the crowd, Metzger noticed a huge blue platform cutting a path through all the buildings as far as the eye could detect in both directions. He looked across the path and saw another one on the other side; he had traveled to spacestations in all regions of the universe, but had never seen anything like that before. Finally, they turned into a tall, narrow, and very dark looking place whose threshold was adorned by a giant sign that read "Honshu's"
Clearly a bar of some sort, Honshu's smelled of liquor and cigar smoke, which blanketed the area like a light fog. The chatter was mild, kept to a dull roar, spotted by the occasional clanking of synthetic glass. A large, bald man in a flight suit with a large scar on his face was idly polishing glasses behind the far counter as Darron wedged his way through the bar up to him.
"Excuse me, are you the racemaster?" Darron seemed surprised to see the man
"Yeah." he grunted
"Uhh," Darron paused in confusion "Where's Honshu?"
"On vacation." the racemaster looked up finally at Darron "You wanna place a bet, or what?"
"Actually, I wanted to enter." Darron took a seat at the bar. "When's the next set?"
"In 20 minutes," the racemaster eyed Darron curiously "You got a number?"
"514-30513A." Darron recited slowly as the racemaster bent foreward and typed the numbers into a panel in front of him; he waited for a short moment before he looked back up, his perpetual scowl in place.
"That's me." Darron nodded assuredly
"Not a bad track record you've got here. You're in lane 6," he tossed Darron an ignition module "Good luck. You'll need it."
"And why is that?" Darron curiosity was piqued by the racemaster's ominous statement
"Obviously, you've never raced Barles Jäger," the racemaster crossed his arms as he shook his head defiantly, a smug grin washing over his dark countenance "Have you?"
"I've seen him race a couple of times," Darron shrugged as he recalled the pilot for whom Honshu had shared the same enthusiasm "I wasn't really impressed."
The scowl returned to the racemaster's face as he bored a hole through Darron's head; Darron only smiled as he cut back into the crowd, where Ivan and Metzger were waiting. Darron nodded knowingly at Ivan as he reached into his vest: From it, he produced a large wad of purple bills, placing it in Ivan's hand.
"Careful," Darron narrowed his stare at Ivan "I'm not so sure about this Jäger guy."
"I thought you said he was a fizzle." Ivan grinned
"Well, we'll se how he pans out." Darron looked nervous "But until then, keep the bets reasonable, if you think you can manage it."
"Me? Unreasonable?" Ivan chuckled as he turned and began to work his way towards a giant black screen dominating the far wall of the establishment. A man wearing a long-sleeved, tight blue shirt was barking things out at the people standing around him, his eyes glued on a screen in a different direction. The man paused for a moment before starting again.
"New entry! Lane 6, 514-30513A: Darron Hotchkiss, Place your bets!" the man seemed to perk up with the flood of new bets that was about to be thrown his way.
"Two and a half million on Lane 6!" Ivan raised his hand, keeping the cash low and out of sight as he grinned smugly.
"Did I hear that right?" the man looked directly at Ivan, speaking more quietly "Two and a half million on Lane 6?"
"Yes, that's correct." Ivan nodded as he calmly handed a white slip of paper to the man, who eyed it, and handed it back to Ivan.
"Uhh..." Metzger's face then brandished a look of confused worry "That's our entire last shipment, isn't it?"
"Yes, and your point is?" Ivan's sardonic bite left Metzger stunned.
"Well... didn't Darron say that... Umm..." Metzger floundered for words as sweat began to bead on his brow.
"I've got a handle on things. Darron's in the cockpit, so it's smooth sailing, Metzger. Take it easy." he slapped Metzger on the back with a smile as they retreated into the interior of the lounge. Metzger wasn't quite sure what just happened or if he'd done as he was supposed to, but it was times like this that definately made him disdain working for the Hotchkiss brothers.
The Captain eased his way down the rapidly extending gangplank, a look of sheer rage beaming out in front of him. His hands were pressed neatly behind his back as he strode downwards with a demonic speed. His patrol had not gone at all as he'd hoped, and he silently seethed at the incompetence of his crew, including the young Ensign struggling to keep pace with the Captain's long stride. A young spaceman, second class, by the insignia on his sleeve, jogged quickly down the dock on the far side of the airlock chamber, apparently to intercept the Captain.
"Captain Fenrik, sir!" the young astronaut called from about fifty feet in front of him "I've been given instructions to ask you to wait here, sir."
"I beg your pardon?" the Captain's fury came out in a stiff lump of indignance; he stopped, the Ensign behind him almost crashing into him.
"The Commander would like to meet you here shortly, sir." the astronaut slowed to a walk, his black flight suit grating quietly as he strode
"Here in the airlock?" the Captain, at this point, had had about as much as he thought he could take "Can this not wait until debreifing? What the deuce does the Commander want to meet me here for?"
"I'm sorry sir," the astronaut stopped dead in his tracks, the formality in his voice now laden with apprehension "I'm not sure why the Commander has asked you to wait here, but he did stress utmost urgency, sir."
"Very well." the Captain took in a deep breath and held it for several seconds, deep in thought. This was going to be the day he had to resign his post for going breserk and assaulting a fellow officer, the Captain was sure of it. After the fiasco in Sector 076 earlier that afternoon, he was sure that disciplining his flight crew and sending two pilots to the incinerators was enough to make him lose it.
And now the Commander, of all people, wanted to meet him right in the airlock?
The Captain had always found the Commander an infuriating man. The Captain was sure that he was capable of running this station in a far more efficient manner than the Commander, whom he had always suspected of being crooked as well as incompetent. On top of all of this, there was also the fact that he had to salute a bloody inferior officer! It was madness, a Captain saluting a Commander. Their superiors placed him in this command as a catalyst for accelerated promotion, saying that the Commander was a prodigal officer.
What a load of horse shit.
"Fenrik!" The disrespectful call was murder on the Captain's ears.
"Commander Jorgensson, sir." Captain Fenrik saluted his Commander as he dreaded what was to come next.
"Captain Fenrik, good to see you in one peice!" Commander Jorgensson chuckled lightheartedly at his own joke before moving earnestly foreward, as Fenrik was obviously not amused. "I'll get right to the meat of the situation. Vice Admiral Jengir got wind that something was up in your patrol sector, and he called me up assess the situation. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything to give the Vice Admiral, and now he's pissed."
"Well, what do you want me to do about it?" Fenrik dealt away with decorum upfront, snapping sharply at the Commander.
"First, Captain, I need a full status report." Jorgensson turned and looked at Fenrik.
"Very well," Fenrik nodded and grinned, about to sacrifice a subordinate to lift blame from his own shoulders, and motioned back to the young officer behind him, "I'd like you to meet my personal adjutant: this is Ensign Ludek Jamisson, who has prepared a report of the incident that occured in Sector 076, in orbit above Midgard, earlier today."
The young Ensign's face drained of colour as he realized that he had just become his commanding officer's personal scapegoat. He did, however, have one very vital ace up his sleeve: he could bullshit anyone.
"Well?" Commander Jorgensson raised his eyebrows as he awaited impatiently the Ensign's promised 'report'.
So he made one up.
"Well sir, earlier this afternoon, the AMV Käsjir, a Berserker A-class military vessel assigned to patrol route 7B encountered what appeared to be a small E-class frigate modified with illegal ballistic laser batteries, possibly a smuggling vessel. After running a series of diagnostic scans, the vessel's Captain dispatched a squadron of interceptors to attempt to capture the vessel for a closer inspection. In a supprise attack, the vessel opened fire, destroying two of the aforementioned interceptors. Through a series of evasive maneuvers, the craft escaped towards Midgard, and has not been seen since."
Only the gentle clicking of three pairs of boots sounded as the three continued down a causeway through the hangars. Jamisson had managed to avoid looking like a fool while both calming Captain Fenrik and Commander Jorgensson. Silence continued as Jorgensson appeared to be in silent contemplation.
"Captain," Jorgensson began "About how big did you say that vessel was?"
"Roughly... that big." Fenrik pointed the vessel below in Bay 5 of Hangar 14, one which Commander Jorgensson had not anticipated seeing until later on. Sweat began to bead on his head as he eyed the Captain who seemed not to express outward familiarity at the vessel of which he spoke.
"I... see, Captain," Jorgensson coughed nervously "I'll send a report to the Vice-Admiral immediately. Excellent work. As you were."
"Of course sir." Captain Fenrik gave Commander Jorgensson an obligatory salute as he walked back the way he came, Ensign Jamisson close at his heels. Jorgensson cast a look down into the hangar bay as he let releif wash over him. He started to walk back towards his office, gently puffing a nervous heat out of his dress jacket.
Time to do some paperwork and call in the late shift a little bit early.