I’ve occasionally lurked here over the last few years. I’ve been needing a creative outlet lately, so I’ve decided to write at least one story to give back to this community and others.
I’m pretty new to writing fiction (I write a lot, but it’s all technical), so I’m interested to see what kind of feedback I get here. Constructive criticism and questions are welcome.
Chapter 1: Astrid in the Asteroids
“Yep, just your basic nickel-iron core with a layer of ice on top,” Astrid muttered to herself. She leaned back in the pilot’s couch and ran her hands through her shoulder-length brown hair. She supposed she should refine her scan of the rock her ship was pacing, but there were about a million more just like it in Xantir’s asteroid belt. The Xantir Mining Company paid for any orbit/composition report on an troid, but they definitely paid better for reports on… more lucrative finds than this one.
Sighing, she recorded the report in her scan log. She’d heard that another mining scout had turned in a report on a pure iridium troid 6 months earlier… and had made enough to buy his own ship. She hadn’t been that lucky. She was 22 years old, and almost a year out of pilot training. She already did own her own ship, but she was barely making ends meet with the pay from scouting reports.
Astrid picked up her mug of coffee and sipped, then turned to the long-range sensor display, and looked for another target. As she manipulated the controls, the sensor unit cut out. With the screen blank, she cursed. “Come on, baby, be nice to me. I’ve got to find more troids, or I’m not going to be able to keep you fueled!”
She hit the reset on the sensor console, and breathed a sigh of relief as the unit restarted normally. She picked out another high mass troid nearby, and swung her ship around towards it, adding thrust to move herself into position to scan it. She felt the smooth thrum of the engines as they responded to her commands.
The Panache, Astrid reflected, was a mostly solid ship. She’d bought it with her inheritance as military surplus. The ship was 20 years old, predating the Fourth Jumpgate War. It had been built as a military scout. Lightly armed, but fast and long-ranged, scouts like it had been designed to find enemy ships and relay that information back to dedicated combat units, rather than to fight. As such, the Panache actually made a rather good mining scout, even if it was a bit of a comedown from military service. The only fly in the ointment was that the sensors had been getting steadily more erratic in the months she’d been scouting.
Astrid finished her coffee and set the mug down. She was starting to feel the need to pee a little from all the coffee, but she was already coming up on the new troid. Something flickered on the long-range scan screen, but when she turned her head to look, nothing showed but troids to the edge of sensor range. She shook her head. She was going to have to spend some serious money to get those sensors repaired, and soon. She just didn’t know where she was going to get it. Well, maybe she’d find an iridium troid of her own…
She turned back to the short-range scanners with a snort. Sure, she would. The scanner was just starting to report back when her comm unit beeped, indicating an incoming transmission.
Astrid started. There shouldn’t be anybody within comm range… not this far out into the asteroid belt… the comm unit beeped again. She keyed it for audio only.
“This is XMS Panache, Astrid Koppel commanding,” she said.
“Panache, this is Menace Alpha! Shut down your engines and prepare to be brought onboard, or we’ll blow you out of space!”
Astrid whirled to her long range scanner, and was shocked to see what the computer read as a light cruiser and a scout entering standard beam range. Her sensors should have picked them up a million klicks out! She cursed. Of course, they were malfunctioning! Now what was she going to do? Menace was one of the worst gangs in the system, and she was sure she didn’t want to find out how they treated women they captured.
She looked at the scan again, searching desperately for some way to escape, but they were already in beam range. Then she saw it. She’d never pushed the Panache as hard as this would take, but she didn’t see any choice.
“Negative, Menace! This is a Xantir Mining Scout, if you interfere with my operations you’ll have to deal with them!” she said, nosing directly toward the troid she’d been scouting. She pushed her throttle all the way forward and gasped as the full thrust of the engines crushed her back into the couch.
“Like we care about XMC, little girl! They haven’t done anything about the other 24 scouts we’ve picked up this month except hire their replacements! Now cut your thrust or we’ll destroy you!” screamed the man on the other end of the comm connection.
“Too late for that,” Astrid said to herself with a tight smile. Within seconds, the troid would cut off their line of sight, giving her a precious second or two to maneuver unobserved. As the Menace ships fell behind the troid, she swung the Panache through as tight a turn as she dared, pulling 8 full gravities of acceleration. As she turned, she was strained by the tremendous apparent weight she had, and she also felt warmth in her seat and hoped that her “mostly solid” ship wasn’t going to pieces on her. A few more seconds, and the Panache was on a course directly back to the previous troid… there was a trick she’d heard about from an instructor that just might work.
She glanced at the sensors as she hurtled toward the troid, and saw the Menace scout coming into view and trying to match her maneuver. Making the turn unobserved had bought her time, but the Menace scout was coming around, and was starting to gain. It would be back in beam range quickly enough, that was sure. But that was alright, the Panache’s shields would hold for long enough… she hoped.
The Menace ship opened fire, splashing lasers across her rear shields. Astrid ignored the warning buzzers, and concentrated on targeting a torpedo on the troid in front of her. She finished programming it, and fired. The torpedo lagged behind the Panache, just as Astrid had wanted. Moments later, she flashed around the troid, and pulled into another hard turn, though not as hard as before.
The torp impacted on the troid, and raised a cloud of ice crystals and iron fragments… right into the path of the Menace scout ship. It’s forward shields flared red, then went down, and Astrid screamed in triumph as it exploded in a ball of flame and debris.
“Now to get the hell out of here,” she said, glancing at the sensor screen, and seeing that the Menace light cruiser was just clearing the first asteroid. No light cruiser was a match for a scout in speed, it seemed. She shoved the throttle back forward and put the cruiser directly behind her, and gleefully watched it recede into the distance.
Finally, she relaxed. And became quickly aware of a damp coolness between her legs. She looked down, and saw that she had wet herself quite thoroughly.
“Great. I’ve pissed myself like a child,” she said, disgusted with herself.