Close Encounter

Pyramid, on a reconaissance mission.

Pyramid, on a reconaissance mission.

In the depths of Klogori system, a fair distance away from the Orfrold jumpgate, a small, Tristan-class frigate slipped out of warp, then began accelerating away from the gate.

Pyramid was Erbo’s latest creation, a frigate built for the task of scoping out these low-security systems.  Its weapons were little more than an afterthought; its primary defenses were speed, maneuverability, and stealth.  Its microwarpdrive system made it faster than a shuttle for doing these mapping operations, and its cloaking device would allow him to survey asteroid belts and assay their mineral content without attracting the unwanted attention of Angel patrols–or pirates.  And, in case of disaster, it was easily replaceable.  In fact, stored at the Ralpha Dogs’ West Metro offices in Amo, three jumps away, were enough spare parts to assemble two more copies of the frigate, right down to ammunition and capacitor charges.

Still, Erbo preferred to play it safe.

His tac display indicated that he was approaching the 150-kilometer threshold from the gate, beyond which warp drive would jump him directly to the gate in seconds.  He shut off the MWD systems and brought the vessel to a halt, just over a hundred fifty klicks from the gate.

“Store present location as ‘Klogori GS Orfrold Alpha’,” he ordered the computer.

“Done,” responded the computer.  Erbo sighed, knowing that the job here wasn’t finished.  After having criscrossed and recrossed the system to locate adequate “deep safe” spots, and standing off from the jumpgates to make “gate safe” spots, now there was the task of making “station safes” that would allow him, or other Ralpha Dogs pilots, to warp to a station and dock there almost instantly.  And Klogori, for its size, had a lot of stations.

An urgent warning from the tac display caught his attention…another ship was attempting to lock target on him!  Quickly, he entered the command to warp Pyramid to one of the deep safe spots he’d just located.  The ship shuddered under the impact of a missile launched by his antagonist, and the shield status quickly blinked down to 60%, but Pyramid was already aligned with its warp vector and accelerating out of the vicinity.

The deep safe spot would offer some protection, but not for long; as Pyramid dropped out of warp, Erbo was already issuing instructions for another jump, this time, directly to the jumpgate leading to Hadozeko.  After completing the warp and jumping between systems, he sought shelter in one of Hadozeko’s stations.

Now he had time to think more closely about the incident.  Of the other pilot’s name, he could remember only that it started with “snake”; he had also not been able to see what kind of ship was attacking.  He’d caught a fragment of a transmission from the authorities, informing the other plot of his “criminal act” and activating the sentry guns surrounding the gate.  Of course, if there was one thing that had been drilled into Erbo’s head during flight school, it was: “Put not your faith in sentry guns.”

Upon returning to the Klogori system, Erbo saw no trace of the other pilot.  He continued the mapping mission…only occasionally stopping to glance over his shoulder.


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