One to fifteen, bang bang bang.

Each time our ships would lock on to a Federal courier my palms would sweat. We’d interdict him, pull him out of supercruise and then, while both ships creaked in the aftermath, we’d open fire.
Vex was cool as ice. His voice over the comms would be dead calm, barking commands like:
“You go low. I’m coming in from the top.”
I’d mutter something about the demonstrability of ‘going low’ in the infinite void, pull the trigger and hope for the best. Then the local cops would inevitably show up and we’d pull a hyperspace jump as soon as we could get free of their mass lock.
In truth, the Banshee was great right up until that point. She’s a born killer. Fast, however, she is not. When we boosted away from the scene I would be cruising at a serene 200 metres per second, my hindquarters peppered with Federal fire as I entered the jump.
Fifteen times, that happened. After the fifteenth I was discharged. I set a course back to Imperial space. This isn’t my thing.
Candecama is a big system in the heart of The Empire. It lies in the borderlands between Senator Patreus’ territory, several other senators’, and the Emperor’s. As such it’s also a busy system. The station nearest the most massive star is called Horrocks Gateway, controlled by an Empire-affiliated corporation. I keep a hangar there.
It was with gratitude that I climbed out of the Banshee’s flight seat and sent her down to the hangar. I took a walk to clear my head, out onto the habitation ring. The station’s gentle spin gives it something approaching gravity; a refreshing change after two weeks of life at zero-G in a flying tank.
I ambled through the gardens. They were teeming with Imperial citizens: walking their pets, meeting lovers, playing games. I looked up at the miserable red rock this station orbits and pondered my next move.
The Imperial Private Expeditionary Company had somehow become something approaching my employer. They had come out of nowhere in recent years – a mercenary outfit, essentially, doing dirty work in the Empire’s interests.
I’d read that one of the founders was a high-ranking Shield of Justice officer – a woman known as the Octopus. I’d seen the name but hadn’t made the connection. The Empire had given the nascent company it’s blessing and, with it, it’s implicit support and protection. Under these benevolent circumstances IPEC had grown to control several settlements.
As a private military outfit, ostensibly its remit is as a security contractor to the highest bidder. But its Imperial warrant and top brass connections meant that its clients tend to be within the Empire and it tends to direct its efforts to furthering Imperial aims.
Politics has also worked out well for IPEC. Shield of Justice is Arissa Lavigny-Duval’s law enforcement navy. And now that Lavigny-Duval has been crowned Emperor, having ties within Shield of Justice has suddenly become a lot more valuable.
The Octopus… I didn’t know her by that name, of course – I don’t even think I knew her real name. Neither did Vex I shouldn’t wonder. She was a Naval Intelligence officer then. That was a funny time. And now, here I am being strong-armed into working for her company. I wonder if she knows?
Regardless. I don’t much like being manipulated. Time to get away for a while. The thought of the Vortigaunt’s familiar living quarters popped into my mind. It would be nice to go find a pretty nebula, throttle down, set her into a spin and get my nose into a book.
Bounty hunters would likely catch up with me. The Vortigaunt couldn’t outrun them, and probably couldn’t fight off more than one or two. I need to be able to run if I have to.
And that’s why I’m now sitting in the Mule. Nothing can catch up with the Mule.
The Mule is an old Cobra Mk III I’ve fitted with the most powerful thrusters I can. They’re often used as small hauliers, which is exactly what the Mule is – of sorts. Inside, she’s just cargo racks and a socking great fuel scoop, for dredging hydrogen from stars. She has an impressive jump range for a small ship. The ideal light, long-range freighter, for cargo requiring some discretion.
She’s also blisteringly fast. With a periodic boost to the engines I can maintain a cruise speed of over 420 metres per second. Nothing can keep up with that – pirates and inquisitive law enforcement alike.
They’ve finished the station in the Pleiades. It’s been named Obsidian Orbital, after a prominent media type who lobbied hard for its construction. It’s in the Maia system. I’ve been there, once.
Turns out it’s already having power failures a week after going online; that’s what you get for building a space station in the middle of the UA shell, I suppose. Now Ishmael Palin’s building a planetary research outpost somewhere out there to study the alien objects in situ.
The Pleiades is busy, all of a sudden.

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