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Old August 23rd, 2019, 06:21 AM
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The Crystal Dragon lazily orbited the ice covered spherical geological store house on the fringe of the system. Too cold for normal miners, though many a belter had chanced a claim, only to be driven off by distance and lack of any real subterranean treasure that could be turned for quick cash. The planet was strictly an industrial storehouse for captains of industry to exploit, not for simple quick-rich belters looking for precious metals and gemstones ready to be cut. Still, it served as a hideout for many a belter on the skirts of the law, and wanting some place to put up a “no vacancy” sign for anyone looking to track them down.

The Crystal Dragon was a Dragon Class SDB, leased by some megacorporation to a well known mercenary outfit that specialized in SAR and wolf-hunting operations. Often on the outskirts of the Extents the two went hand in hand as humans starry eyed with the prospect of hunting or running with wild Vargr had claimed way too many victims to count. Vargr in the Imperium tended to be more civilized, for lack of a better term, but no less cunning, no less capable of breaking the law, though understood the consequences of getting out of line in Imperial space.

The extents were a different story, as the mercurial nature of Vargr society and governments both had a turnover rate that would put most fly by night insurance or fast food corporations within the Imperium or Solomani sphere to shame.

The Crystal Dragon entered the demarcated barrier between faint sunlight and black shadow. The red iron color situated next to yellow and blue told of frozen iron and nitrogen, with a tinge of sulfur. A cursory scan showed that no sizeable crystals could be found here, but standard iron ore and a smattering of other elements might bring a small profit to an automated outfit—if they could get here, or if any company would authorize it.

Captain Samuel Delany sat in the central command chair, a mixture of plush and functionality as the ship’s AG system pulled on his being. The command chair neither induced unwanted sleep nor kept the sitter awake and alert by being uncomfortable. It was a strange mix of the perfect chair that somehow had become with the Dragon class, and was performing its function as the Crystal Dragon slipped into the shadowy night of the planet for half an hour.

Rogue corsairs were not unknown, but Delany’s employer was convinced that it was a scout ship gone rogue by use of its superior power plant processing for raw-“unrefined” fuel to strike terror into the shipping lanes, and had hired Delany and his team to deal with the matter.

Delany had faith in the Dragon Class. It weighed in about the same as a Vargr built corsair, but carried a battery of guided ordinance, with a few beam weapons to put up a counter punch against whatever missiles the Vargr threw at them.

But, this long out in space and given the number of raids she was responsible for, the Vargr must have either spent her missiles, or was about to, depending on the captain’s tactics. The fact that he had been roaming space for years without being taken in by forces on either side of the geo-political barrier, astounded Delany.

Normally a Vargr captain gone rogue would have been rounded up within months. Sometimes, though rarely, one went unchecked for a few years. That happened in anyone’s space; Imperium, Zho, Terran, Aslan, even Hiver from what he understood (though Hiver piracy was so rare as to be unheard of). Delany had only gotten what the navy was willing to release to the public. A Corsair of some unpronounceable class name had went on a virtual rampage through the triumvirate area of where Zhodani and Imperial space met the unbridled frontier of Vargr space, and beyond. Whoever this Captain Gahv was, he wasn’t satisfied with staying in any one area for any length of time, and somehow his crew were tolerating the extended deployment. Delany didn’t know much about Vargr psychology, but if he were part of a human pirate crew (which Vargr also joined with the same regularity), then he would either want out or demand shore leave of some kind. But, that assumed they had been in space the entire time, which, odds were, was not the case.

Pound for pound the Dragon class was the near equivalent of any Vargr built ship of the same tonnage. And given that the Dragon class was specifically designed for intercept and long range as well as what was some times termed as “littoral space” patrol, he couldn’t imagine a lone Vargr outlaw being able too sustain his engines, his power plant, much less his crew or even rudimentary things like lights, for very long.

But, then again, he didn’t know all of what there was to know. This ship may have been on some special mission, maybe was gaining support from sympathetic Vargr throughout Imperial and Vargr space. It was doubtful there were any true sympathizers in Zho space, given how the Zhodani ran their society. And if there were, then the Zhos would just yank the information from who was suspected of helping Captain Gahv via a quick mind scan, and then act on that intelligence.

No, this Captain Gahv, whoever he was or whatever he was, kept ahead of the competition. Delany wondered if he might not be a human reputed as a Vargr. Such instances were rare but known to have happened; a lone human starship veteran commanding a boat load of Vargr was the fantasy of many a human, but the simple truth was that it had happened, though it always ended badly where corsair crews were concerned. Human officers had the edge that they were human and tended to put a little fright into the dogs by virtue of being human. But once one of the Vargr wanted to challenge the human’s authority, then the rest of the pack helped him in taking down whatever human was in charge.

Freighter mutinies weren’t unknown, though rare. Mutinies on board Corsairs happened with some regularity, which made this Captain Gahv all that more extraordinary. How many years had he been out in space? Apparently he had come from some region more coreward than the usual flotsam and jetsam of Vargr society on the Imperial frontier. Again, was he a human? Maybe he was a Zho? A Zho noble with exceptional psionic ability gone rogue, and flaying the mind of any dissenting Vargr crew? That made more sense than anything else, even though Delany reminded himself that it was pure speculation, and not to fall in love with his own theories. Still, it might explain how Gahv knew about Imperial starship tactics and fleet distribution, or so he theorized since Captain Gahv seemed to maintain an edge and keep abreast of the people after him.

Delany grunted in amusing satisfaction, happy with his theory, but curious about how he could go about proving it.

The crescent of the planet that filled the inset ballistic grade windows had been gone for several minutes once the Crystal Dragon entered its shadow. Technically it was night time, and Delany bemused whether he should end his shift early to appease the astral gods of planets, space and interstellar travel. He internally laughed. Someday he would write a children’s book of space fairy stories. He might include his deployment in trying to track down the Stalker’s Fang as one of them.
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Sir Ghost, Knight of Imperial occupied Terra, Sol.
Travels with Blue Ghost; musings of a knight of the Imperium.
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