New Hope Shipyard,
New Hope System
Hud ran a loving hand up the side of his brand spanking new purchase with the beaming smile of a teen aged boy with his first hover flyer. It perhaps wasn't the most attractive craft in the world and had of course, yet to be repainted for his own particular tastes, but to him it was the culmination of nearly seven months hard labor in an elderly and dangerously over worked ship.
As he'd thought the dealer hadn't been happy about the glider's state but some fast talking on his part had managed to keep the price down. He had very little money left, however, he had managed to get his equipment transferred across. That included his mining beam and its second job as a tractor beam. The changes he'd ordered and the transfer of equipment would take a few days, but he knew a rest would not go amiss either.
With that thought in mind, he grudgingly lifted his hand from his new pride and joy and stepped back turning to the dealer as he did so. "So you'll look after her?" he asked.
The dealer smiled in an understanding way. He knew the type, some flyers were like that with their ships, like a father with a child. They were also usually the ones who lasted longer. "She'll be as safe as sleeping babe" the jovial salesman told Hud.
Hud smiled in an awkward sort of way, aware that he was being a little overprotective. This was the first time he had ever made a purchase of this sort. His father had brought his first and only hover flyer when he'd been just 12 years old, he had kept that until he had left for the academy and it had still worked as smoothly as it always had. Then of course the Navy had provided anything else he needed and Hud had only really needed his Starwraith and occasionally a place to rest his head. He was happier in space than on a planet, recently he'd taken to hiding out in high radiation zones to sleep. It was cheap, as in free, and safe as weapons didn't work in those irradiated area's that lay between the systems of the Evochron Sector. It was the perfect solution really and had saved him a lot of money in the process. Luckily his old glider's shields had held up or he'd be glowing in the dark.
"Say," Hud began, "Know any good hotels?"
The Salesman smiled and began to walk towards his office, the other side of the open-air sales area, "I sure do, come with me I'll get you a locater card. My cousin Frank runs this place. It's not the Hilton-Ritz but it's clean and not too expensive. I'll even give him a call, get you a special customer discount"
Hud smiled back at the guy, "Thanks a lot"
"Not a problem, you seem like a decent sort. I don't see too many of those around here any more"
"Whys that?" Hud asked, his curiosity peaked.
The salesman shrugged, "These are dark times, hard times too. Breeds a different sort of man to deal with them. People become hard, selfish even. You don't strike me as either of those things." Hud was told with disarming honesty.
"Thanks; I think" Hud said with a chagrined smile.
"I meant it as a compliment. You think I'd normally be so generous with a wreck like that" he said with a nod towards Hud's dilapidated Glider.
"Erh, yeah about that"
"I told you, I don't really mind, I'm selling it on as scrap anyway" The salesman said with a smile and spread of his hands, "I sure as hell won't be able to sell it on, and you were at least honest about it. I've had other try to pass off worse to me."
"Hmm, I thought..." Hud trailed off feeling stupid.
"Well after the Vonari Wars, I thought people would pull together or something."
The salesman pierced Hud with a suddenly shrewd gaze, "War time brings out the best in people." he said, "But it doesn't take long for the vultures to return to the battle field afterwards."
"Hmm, I suppose" Hud said with a heavy sigh, "Makes you wonder what we were fighting for then."
"The Vonari are nasty, we'd be worse off under them" The salesman said, "I was in infantry during that time. A lot of my buddies went down under their foot soldiers. They're not like us, they don't seem to have any compassion at all. Fight tooth and claw too. Nasty buggers"
"You know, I've never seen one. Just their fighters" Hud said slowly, "Funny that"
"Well imagine a nightmare insect, add a werewolf's face and claws and you're getting close." The salesman paused, "So, you were Navy then?"
Hud nodded, "I was."
"Terrible shame those cut backs"
"That didn't happen to you?"
The salesman reached down and pulled up his jumpsuit leg. Beneath where it had been was gleaming metal. "I was medically retired about two months before the end. A Vonari ripped off my leg from the knee"
"Fragg me" Hud breathed.
"You're not my type, fly boy" The salesman said with a dry chuckle.
Hud joined him and the comrade's in arms laughed together for a moment. "Come on" the salesman, whose name was Jack, said. "Let's get a L-card for you and get you set up with my cousin. It's getting late and I've got to get the mechanoids working on that new ship of yours."
"Thanks" Hud said shaking the other man by the hand, "It's good to know there's guys like you still out there"
Jack smiled, "Likewise"
New Hope System.
"Jack was right" Hud said to himself as he surveyed his room with a grimace, "This ain't the Hilton-Ritz"
"However", Hud reflected, "it IS at least clean." Some of the places he'd seen in his travels couldn't boast the same.
He walked over to the window and glanced out at the teaming street below. He was just off the main strip here, a stone's throw from the Shipyard and close enough to just about make out his ship as the mechanized shipyard tools worked on his baby. He would like to say he could smell the combined scents of New Hope, however pretty much all he could smell was himself at that moment in time.
Grimacing slightly Hud glanced around the room and located the door to the bathroom. He dropped his bag on the bed and quickly stripped off his clothes bundling them and stowing them in the reclamation unit. Then almost reverently he took of the black rocked pendant that hung on his neck and placed it carefully on the mirror.
He then walked into the bathroom and grimaced again. There was an actual water shower. Oh how he longed for the sound actuated shower systems of the Navy. They massaged muscles tense from long hours of flight and washed away grime in only a few short seconds. You then left feeling as fresh as a Saturn moon flower and smelling as sweet too. Grumping to himself Hud slipped into the shower.
A few seconds later a passing customer of the hotel was startled into dropping his luggage at the very unmanly scream coming from Hud's room.
Ten minutes later and some tinkering with both the pressure and temperature gauges of the shower later Hud arrived back in his room and claimed his clothing from the reclamation's out shoot. His clothes looked as good as new, even his battered old leather flight jacket looked better. Hud smiled for the first time since arriving at the hotel and quickly dressed, slipping on his jacket with a happy sigh. He was feeling human again for the first time in months. A one man craft doesn't have any sort of room for anything resembled personal hygiene units, nor did he have access to one of the Navy's special self cleaning jumpsuits that also helped to keep the wearer clean and dry. So after his long haul, he had been somewhat ripe.
He turned to the mirror and quickly checked himself over, "You'll do boy" he told himself with a smile. His black hair, which in a far cry from navy regulations, was now long and swept back away from his face in a loose pony tail. It wasn't like he had time to get it cut after all. His green eyes were bright and clear despite living off of ration packs, or perhaps because of them. They were perfectly balanced with nutrition and had everything the body needs. They did however also taste like used engine oil.
He was broad in the chest and long in the body, he had only just scrapped in under the maximum height for the Starwraith at 6 foot 4 inches, the highest being 6 foot 6 inches to fit in the cockpit. His glider cockpit had been even smaller, but he'd managed to find a way to shoe horn himself in. Luckily the Archer actually had room for two in the main cockpit, though with his large frame in there it would have to be a very small someone else. He reached out and took the obsidian colored rock pendant into his hand and marveled once again at the fact it was warm to the touch.
The pendant, that had long since become his personal good luck talisman, was a bit of an oddity. It had been passed down his male family line since so far back that no one even his great, great grandfather could remember for sure, but there was a story. The story went that it had been picked up on an alien planet by one of the very first explorer's of his family. Another Michael Hudson in fact. No one was sure if that was really were the stone had come from but two things were known about it. One, it wasn't any mineral that was found on any system or planet found so far, and two various scanning technology had been unable to penetrate it. There had been a time when the Navy had been very interested in his little charm. Hud had kept his families secret though and played it down as a bit of Dermo-Plastic knock off from Moonbase Alpha he had picked up on a shore leave home.
Hud slung the gold colored chain up over his head and settled it around his neck and dropped the pendant itself down the front of his tee-shirt. Then realizing he was hungry he turned towards his door. It was time to go out and find something to do for a while he told himself.
As he wandered down the filled to capacity streets of New Hope's largest city Hud was reminded once again why he rarely made it planet side any more. Even a Carrier with a few thousand flyers packed into it was more airy than the street he was walking down. Despite his size he constantly found himself jostled and more than once had grabbed a pickpocket's hand before it had made away with his Identi-Chip and the credits that were stored there. It was a strange skill, but he attributed it to his flying instincts, but he always knew what was going on around him, and how close people were. Perhaps that was why he was so claustrophobic. It made sense, to him at least.
He looked around with a bored air, the feeling of such a solid base at his feet was something he found it hard to stomach these days, strange really. He hadn't shown much interest in flying before the Navy. Now he felt like a fish out of water on a planet. Hell even space stations made him want to jump into the nearest ship and fly away.
"Will you just go Fragg with someone else!" Hud snapped as he grabbed yet another Pick Pocket's hand and gave the slender man's arm a good twist. "I'm not in the mood for being touched up thanks" he said, shoving the guy away with enough force to send him to the other side of the street. They pick pocket had a moment to blink owlishly at Hud before the crowd closed ranks again and Hud was lost to his sight.
Deciding that he was going to kill someone soon Hud made his way towards a bar. Bar's were also not great for his sense of well being, but at least in a bar there was the possibility of picking up a contract or trade mission.
He walked into the Bar named Vesuvius's Well and almost let out a sigh of annoyance. The place was packed from floor to ceiling and there was a loud rhythm filled track playing on a high end sound system. Not that the music bothered him, he liked music. But the likelihood of picking up a contract in a bar like this was highly unlikely.
He was about to turn away and leave when his attention was attracted to a shady corner of the bar. A small, almost weasel-like man was being shoved around by three much larger men. Hud frowned, on one hand this was none of his business, on the other. He disliked bullies and from their tattoo's and clan markings these bullies were of the sort he disliked most: Pirates.
He paused for all of a second before one of the Pirates made his mind up for him by pulling a gleaming blade from his vest and started to menace the smaller man with it.
Moving quickly Hud streaked over to the small knot of people and raised his voice to just above the volume of the music. "Hi there" he said, "Is there a problem?"
"Fragg off!" The Pirate with the knife said pushing the small man to one of his cronies.
"I don't think this guy wants to play" Hud said in a calm voice. He was not unreasonably sure of himself. He was both highly trained, the Navy had the best training regime off all the Alliance's forces, and he was also naturally strong and agile. But these pirates could be on any number of the performance enhancers that were so in vogue, so he had to be careful all the same.
"What Frilly?" the guy said like he had a bad taste in his mouth, "This contractor piece of phlegm dropped a cargo on us."
"So he lost us 250,000 credits" The Pirate retorted. "He should've fought like a man, but Frilly here is a wimp and so cost us a lot of money. Now he don't have the money to pay us back. So unless YOU want to pay it, I'd leave; Now"
Hud met 'Frillys' eyes, the guy was scared for his life, he knew that look. Had seen it in the mirror just before some of his more dangerous missions. "No, I'm not paying you anything. And If you were being attacked by a stronger foe you'd drop too. Trust me."
"We never drop cargo!" The Pirate said affronted.
Hud almost laughed, "Who knew; a Pirate with a code of honor." Then he smiled, "Besides you do drop cargo I've seen it, when you go bang after trying to tangle with a real pilot"
The shot he was expecting wasn't long in coming after that. Hud leaned backwards slightly and slapped the pirate's hand shifting the other man off balance slightly just in time to hit him under the arm in the arm pit with a hard thumb strike. The man turned white before dropping to the ground.
"Now" Hud said after the shocked pause had stretched on for a while, "Why don't we all just have a drink?"
The other two pirates glanced at each other and the downed man, the largest of them. They quickly came to the only decision available to them. "We'll buy" they said together.
The pirates in fact had waited just long enough for the drinks to arrive before making their excuses and dragging their downed comrade off leaving 'Frilly' and Hud alone.
The small man looked at Hud and smiled, "Thank you. That was really cool"
Hud smiled, "So, what's your name?" he asked guessing that it wasn't really frilly.
"Philuis Andrews, now in your debt" the man said. At least Hud now knew why the pirates had called the smaller man 'Frilly'
"So, Philuis, what happened to get those guys so mad, was it like they said?"
"Call me Phil," Philuis quickly said, "And yeah it was sorta, but I out numbered three to one, there was nothing I could do. Those bastard's from the Federation" he spat.
"Huh, them again." Hud said, with a frosty tone of voice.
"You know of the Trade Federation?" Phil asked his eyes narrowing in thoughtful contemplation.
"The only people higher on my personal shit list than the Pirates?" Hud said with a smile, "Oh yeah, I know them."
"I guess you don't like then either then" Phil said with a sardonic smirk. "They nearly blew me away, it's not right ganging up on a guy like that. I can hold my own against a ship, maybe even two. But three?" Phil blew out an annoyed breath, "Who could?"
Hud resisted the urge to tell him anyone from his old squadron, instead he just nodded sagely, "Yeah not good odds"
"So I dropped my cargo. Hell I don't even know what it was, must've been something alright to be worth that much to those guys."
"Think they'll be back?"
"Oh yeah, but I won't be around for them to find. I'm..." Phil paused obviously deciding how far he could trust Hud. Apparently he decided in his favor, "I'm going out past the nebula systems" he said in a horse whisper.
"What?" Hud said, The nebula systems were as far as most, and only those who were very brave, went. He had heard that some merchants went out further, that the Alliance outposts started out past them somewhere, and that there was a great deal of money to be made if you were brave enough.
"Yeah, then I'm getting on the highway all the way up"
Hud smirked, and Phil noticed his expression, "Don't believe it exists?" he asked/stated, "Well I know it does, I've got proof." he said before glancing to either side and pulling a data chip from his pocket. "This is an installation chip" he said with great aplomb. "It installs the Evochron System Registry onto a ship and links you in for updates."
"I've heard of that" Hud said, "Doesn't it cost like a million credits or something"
"Normally" Phil said with an almost evil smile. "I Erh.... Found it out in system 21"
"Been out that far huh" Hud said with an impressed nod of his head.
"You?" Phil asked the chip twirling in his fingers and a thoughtful look on his face.
"Can't afford the maps right now"
Phil looked him in the eye and smiled, "Here" he said tossing the Install Chip at Hud, "I've already installed it. I don't need it anymore and I figure I owe you one."
"Erh... Thanks a lot" Hud said a little stunned, "But truthfully I just don't like pirates. That was pleasure enough for me."
Phil laughed, "I know what you mean, and I'll not be taking any more contracts from them that's for sure. Anyway, I mean this, thanks for helping me out. They would've killed me for sure then stolen my ship. Can't have Bessy falling into their grubby mits now can I?"
"I know what you mean, just got myself a new ship."
"Yeah what?" Phil asked.
"Not bad, Got a Defender myself, took me three years to save up enough credits to get it though." Phil said with a smile. "Had her for two now."
"You've been out here that long?"
"Oh yeah, I actually came out a long while ago, about twenty years ago I think. I had a farm on New Saturn till it was burned down." Phil paused, lost in time for a moment, "It was different then, it was all a grand adventure you know?"
"Now it's not so great round these systems. It's the main reason I'm leaving for the higher systems. I figure it'll be more like it was up there, less people. At least I hope so."
Hud laughed, "I know what you mean. Kinda crowded isn't it."
"Where you from, you look Terran"
"I am, raised on earth. How did you know?"
"You're too tall for most of the other planets. The gravity is lower on Earth than most of the Sol system planets." Phil said, intelligence peeking from his expression. "The only other system with lower gravity is Sapphire and you're too pale for that, the strong sun there makes most of the 'natives' very tanned."
"I'll have to remember that." Hud said
Phil glanced at his wrist, checking his personal chronometer, "I gotta be going. See you on the highway man"
"You too Phil. Names Michael by the way, but people call me Hud."
Phil paused, "Why?" he asked with an amused smile.
"Long story man." Hud said with a chuckle.
"Maybe I'll get to hear it one day. Thanks again" he said, holding his hand out for Hud to shake.
Hud did so, standing as he did. He dwarfed the other man in height and breadth and Phil laughed, "Glad you showed up. Anyone else would've been eaten alive by those guys."
"The navy trained us all well. Anyone from my old squad would've turned them to mulch."
"I don't doubt." Phil commented, "Well, see you"
"Bye" Hud said smiling as the other man left. Sometimes it was good to touch down once in a while after all. He looked down into his palm and the Install chip nestled there and tossed it into the air and caught it a few times. If it was for real, he'd just gained access to the only mapping system in the Evochron system. All of the discovered sectors were said to be recorded on it, and more were being added every day.
Still smiling Hud walked out of the bar, unaware; for once, that someone was watching him very carefully. Dark eyes of almost liquid framed in an olive coloured face that was almost almond shaped, raven hair hanging loosely either side and a pair of full lips twisted into a slight smile as she watched Hud's large form walk out of the bar.
"Oh; he'll do nicely" she said her voice exotic and with an alien accent.