Connection Tales: Empty Space 1
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Chapter 1 (November 1, 2015):
Connection Agent Ana Spears looked through the viewport of the yacht-sized cruiser. “There it is. Empty Space.”
Her new partner – and new agent – Jon Myers shrugged. “I don’t see anything.”
Ana: “That’s Empty Space. ES. No stars there, and any planetary or sub-planetary bodies are… unlike the ones we know.”
“People live there who have never known a sun â€“ not even from a billion miles away. They’ve evolved without light or heat.”
“ESers are different. They evolve not needing light or heat. Some evolve blind. Others evolve with less corporeal abilities.”
Chapter 2 (November 2, 2015)
Ana: “We don’t have to go in yet. The hijacked ships were attacked from Empty Space, but the pirates wouldn’t be from ES.”
Ana: “Empty Spacers don’t need the same things we do. You rarely see them outside of ES.”
Jon asked, “Have you ever been in ES before?” Ana wished he didn’t sound so young. Newbies could be dangerous.
Ana: “That’s why we were assigned out here, despite it being your first case.”
“First, we go to Skilom, last outpost before hitting ES. And the planet hardest hit by the pirates.”
Chapter 3 (November 3, 2015)
Their contact was stocky – by Earthan standards, Jon reminded himself. Was bow-leggedness natural or acquired in Donk’s people?
Donk: “Only ships that go past here are going between Minuk and Keevis or coming here with the food we need.”
Ana: “When was your last food shipment?” Donk: “Three weeks ago. And we’re getting hungry.”
“Pirates boarded the ship, threw our food into space, and their ship gathered it up.”
Ana: “They’re boarding the ships? That’s not easy.” Donk: “The ship’s cameras show them doing it.”
Chapter 4 (November 4, 2015)
Ana asked Donk: “Any witnesses besides the cameras?”
Donk: “They won’t send manned ships to Skilom. Too close to Empty Space. We’ve only got the cameras.”
“But,” Jon spoke up, “If those ships were manned, maybe they could fight off the pirates.”
Donk: “Flights between Minuk and Keevis used to be manned. But the pirates blew them up. Hard to get pilots near ES.”
“And I’m sure the pilots don’t want to die, either,” Ana added. “We’re going to pilot the next ship to Skilom.”
Chapter 5 (November 5, 2015)
“What?” Jon asked. “Us? Pilot a transport ship?”
Ana: “You used to fly freight, didn’t you? That’s what your file said.”
“Well, yes, but if they killed the pilots…”
“Connection agents get different training. That’s why we’re here. And we’ll make sure the ship has good armour.”
Right. Connection training was pretty thorough. Jon doubted the pilots would have known how to fight back. He only hoped he did.
Chapter 6 (November 6, 2015)
Jon sat on the edge of the transport ship’s co-pilot’s seat. Yes, their ship had good armour. Yes, Ana had a plan. But…
“Calm down,” Ana said. “Honestly. You’ve got Connection training, right?”
Jon: “I learned Connection agents don’t always live long.” Ana: “Good. You learned that. Kids who don’t learn that die sooner.”
Ana looked out the viewport. “There it is.” She magnified it. “A cruiser. Looks like the one from the ship’s cameras.”
Jon straightened. The first danger of his career. And probably not the last, he reminded himself. He hoped.
Chapter 7 (November 7, 2015)
Ana: “To board us, those pirates will have to force us out of frame.”
Frame. The warped space that brought everything closer, making it possible to travel in days rather than years.
Jon: “I wish we had more people here.” Ana: “Not enough nearby. And too many on board, and the bad guys will know we’re wrong.”
Ana: “Remember: After we’re out of frame, they’ll shoot magnetized pitons at us, connecting to us with intership cables.”
Ana: “We get them in the hold, incapacitate them, and take them in for questioning. Got it?” Jon: “Yeah.”
Chapter 8 (November 8, 2015)
Ana set the transport on autopilot. “They’ll take advantage of the ship’s automated response to things that might hit it.”
“We’ll let them. We don’t want them to know we’re here. If they knew, they’d just blow us up like the other manned ships.”
The cruiser closed in, looking huge in frame. When it got too close, the transport’s automatic pilot slammed it out of frame.
Normally, that would put the danger in the far distance, making an accidental collision less likely.
But this time, the approaching object kept coming… larger, larger, until it seemed it must be on top of them.
Chapter 9 (November 9, 2015)
Then it shrank as it, too, dropped out of frame. It was still coming, though. Very quickly. Right at them.
Ana: “They’ll leave a pilot on their ship. How many pirates board?” Jon: “3 to 5. When the ships were automated, only 3.”
Ana: “We can handle 3. Let’s get to the hold doors. Got your pressure suit?” Jon grabbed a plastic bag from under his seat.
The plastic provided enough pressure to keep a human alive in spaceâ€“for awhile, anyway. He pulled the skunky thing over his body.
Ana: “Remember. Don’t damage it. We may have some pressure on board, even with the loading doors open, but not much. Ready?”
Chapter 10 (November 10, 2015)
The pirates’ pitons hit the ship, just hard enough to be felt from inside the cargo holding area. Jon’s stomach churned.
Jon glanced over at Ana, waiting on the other side of the hold, her laser ion weapon in hand.
He had his weapon in his hand, too, hoping the laser ion beamsâ€“set on stunâ€“would be enough to take out the boarders.
They wanted to capture the pirates, so they couldn’t just kill them. He really hoped stunning would be enough.
The hold doors opened slowlyâ€“the pirates had to use energy keys, since they didn’t have access to the ship’s computers. Yet.
Chapter 11 (November 11, 2015)
The first creature in was squat, bipedal, and so black he could hardly see itâ€“and it wasn’t wearing a pressure suit.
Jon looked at Ana on the other side of the hold. She gestured: wait. The next looked humanâ€“and wore a pressure suit like theirs.
The third was also humanoid, but very large. Another glance at Ana, and he could read her lips. Damn.
She looked at Jon, pointed to herself, then the black guy. She pointed to Jon, then the great big guy. On kill, she mouthed.
He thumbed the strength dial on his laser and waited. On kill, his laser wouldn’t last very long, but he hoped long enough.
Chapter 12 (November 12, 2015)
Ana’s fingers counted three, two, one… Jon fired at the huge guy, melting its pressure suit and scorching its hairy back.
It turned on him. He fired into its ugly face. It fell. Jon couldn’t tell if it was dead, but it was out of the fight for now.
Ana stunned the human, but the black one headed for her. Her laser wasn’t stunning it. Each shot, it paused, then moved closer.
Jon had to get this guy away from his partner. He fired at it, expecting to see it fall the way the big guy had.
The beam disappeared, then flashed out againâ€“at Jon. It struck his chest and he slammed into the wall of the hold.
Chapter 13 (November 13, 2015)
Ana watched her partner’s body slide down the side of the hold. Dammit. She’d said on stunâ€“no. On kill for the big guy. Dammit!
She leapt at the Mikan. An ESer, it absorbed energy and shot it out. She hoped like hell he hadn’t shot the full blast at Jon.
A Mikan wasn’t pure energy, though. It had some solidity. She grabbed that solidity around its neck. It fought back.
Go ahead, she thought. Use that energy you’ve got. This close, you just might give out more than you can take back in.
Then she stuck her fingers into its visual orifice. It exploded.
Chapter 14 (November 14, 2015)
Ana, too, hit a wall. She shook her head against the pain and darkness, but managed to stay conscious.
The Mikan was a pile of sooty blackness now. It might be able to soak in enough light to bring it back, but it would take time.
Even if Jon were alive, his pressure suit was toast. Low pressure, low oxygen… He needed air. She closed the hull doors.
She half ran, half flew to him through the low-pressure hold and grabbed him under his shoulders.
She opened a door to the pressurized ship and fought her way inside. Then she closed the door.
Chapter 15 (November 15, 2015)
If any of the bad guys woke up, they would be trapped now. And weak. The hold was well-armoured.
Ana pulled her pressure suit off then pulled the remnants of Jon’s off him so she could feel his pulse.
The suits off, she pressed her fingers against his windpipe… then let out a breath. There was a pulse.
Now to get him to the cockpit and to medical aid… The ship shook.
Oh crap. The one left in the other ship must be firing at them. She dragged Jon to the cockpit â€“ fast.
Chapter 16 (November 16, 2015)
Ana dragged Jon to the cockpit then leapt to the pilot’s chair. Turning off autopilot, she swung the ship away, into frame.
Something dragged. She checkedâ€“the lines holding the pirate ship to hers still heldâ€“the ship had followed her into frame.
If it hit her while in frame, both ships would be destroyed.
She dropped out of frame again, felt a huge weight on the ship as the other was pulled out of frame, too.
She tried to spin the ship around to fire at the pirate ship, but the ropes were too short. Damn.
Chapter 17 (November 17, 2015)
At this distance, if he shot at Ana, he’d be destroyed in her explosion. Which would be nice, but not preferred.
Then she thought… What will he do to avoid that?
She built up her speed again, the other ship dangling from her like a booger. Then she hit frame again.
She could only imagine the other pilot trying so hard to keep up with her.
Even if he were Mikan, he wouldn’t survive an explosion like that. Of course, neither would she.
Chapter 18 (November 18, 2015)
Finally, the drag on Ana’s ship disappeared. He had let go, if only to save his own sorry butt.
She flew as fast as she could back to Skilom. She dropped out of frame, and brought the ship to a stop on the tarmac.
Once stopped, she leapt behind her again to check on Jon. Yes, still breathing. Still a pulse.
But that nasty burn on his chest had damaged his lungs. They gurgled as she listened. She had to get medical help.
She jumped again for the controls, and hit the communications. “I need medics, now. And security, to take these guys in.”
Chapter 19 (November 19, 2015)
Donk: “We’ve got medics coming. From the looks of your ship, we figured you’d need them.”
Thank God. Ana opened the cockpit door. Skilom security ran to the back.
Medics gathered around Jon, and set to work. Oxygen. Antishock injection. Burn treatment.
One came to talk to her. “Are you all right?” “I think so,” she said. The medic: “You’ve got some burns on your face.”
Oh. Right. “I’ll get them looked at later.” She watched the medics taking Jon away. “I’ve got to see how my partner is.”
Chapter 20 (November 20, 2015)
The first thing Jon knew, he had to cough. And cough.
.. something was placed over his face, something that tasted somehow green… and the need to cough sort of melted away.
A strange voice said, “Hyperhealing. He’ll feel better soon, but healing will take time.” Ana’s voice: “Are you all right Jon?”
Jon opened his eyes to see Ana’s worry. He tried to talk, but it hurt to breathe. Ana said, “You’re going to be fine.”
“The pirates?” he tried to say, though he knew it was muffled behind the mask on his face.
Chapter 21 (November 21, 2015)
Ana grinned. “The pirates are in custody, awaiting a ship to a Connection facility for questioning.”
Jon’s eyelids grew heavier. “Jon?” “It’s okay,” said the strange voice. “Let him rest. We’ll look at your burns now.”
Jon opened his eyes. Burns? “Rest,” said Ana. She did have some burns on her face. Her clothes were torn in places… “Butâ€“”
“Rest,” she said. “We’ve done our job. You’re going to be fine. Now rest.”
He let the fatigue take him over then. He’d done his job. Good.
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