My First attempt at a Freelancer Story!! - Page 2 - Freelancer Fan Fiction - Lancersreactor

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21

Thursday, March 3rd 2005, 3:28am

When is the next chapter going to be done, this is an excellent story, cant wait to read more.
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22

Sunday, March 27th 2005, 4:14am

This is pure FF GOLD! Keep it up!
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23

Monday, March 28th 2005, 11:35pm

Not to worry, a new chapter will be posted soon. I´ve been out of town lately, but now it´s back to the grind (in law school and on the story)! Thanks for the interest, Micah

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24

Tuesday, March 29th 2005, 11:06pm

Here´s the next installment! More coming soon. Thanks for reading, Micah Part 3 Chapter 3 The bar on Freeport 2 looked exactly like its counterpart on Freeport 4. Except for the color. The unlikely trio had been fortunate enough to make it from the jumpgate to the Texas system, through the trade lane to Freeport 2 without incident. Micah had never seen so many asteroids before; the fact that the giant space rocks were of uniform color and almost uniform size made the asteroid field seem to go on forever. The builders of Freeport 2 had created a small clearing in the rocks and built a space station around a star remarkable for nothing more than the fact that it lit the way from the territory of one House to that of another. Micah had seldom felt farther from home despite the fact that he was closer to Planet Houston now than he had been in the Magellan system. Freeport 2 was every bit as busy as the one he was familiar with. It had been easy for Micah and his companions to lose themselves in the shuffle of traders, shippers, Bounty Hunters, and the ever present criminal element that every Freeport boasted. To Micah, it seemed a minor miracle that such a diverse group could exist in such close proximity; he knew from experience that, while a pirate and bounty hunter might have a drink next to each other at the bar, there was no deadlier crossfire to be caught in outside the dura-steel and transparent aluminum of the station. The three men were now waiting for Kruger’s “contact” onboard the station. Micah did not know whether to expect “a cop or a crook,” as the saying went, but was ready for anything – Micah knew he was in this thing for the duration now. “I know this station is run by the Zoners,” Micah said, leaning toward Kruger across the table, “but which ones are they?” The corners of Kruger’s mouth turned up grimly as he answered. “Hard to tell isn’t it Captain?” he replied. “The Zoners like it that way. They are a reclusive group and their motives are… well, their own. They occupy no territory in the space of any House; they have no enemies and no allies.” “Strange,” Micah replied, shaking his head and taking a sip of his drink. “I don’t really know what to think of them.” “The affairs of Zoners are inscrutable Captain, but I wouldn’t “count them out” as you or Mr. Luther might say; they know more than you think,” Kruger said, leaning across the table toward Micah now and lowering his voice, “more than most of the groups represented in this bar would like.” “How do you know so much about them?” Micah asked, eyeing Kruger inquisitively. “I am… well traveled Captain,” Kruger replied, leaning back from the table in their booth. “And let us say that I have had… contact with the Zoners in the past and leave it at that.” “Is Mr. Luther in position?” Kruger asked somewhat condescendingly. Micah took a quick peek over his shoulder and spotted Luther, nursing a drink, sitting alone at a table in the middle of the bar. “Yeah, he’s there,” Micah said. Micah thought it might be useful to have some backup at this meeting, despite Kruger’s insistence to the contrary. Positioned as he was, Luther would be able to keep an eye on the meeting without being noticed himself and would have the element of surprise if anything went wrong – unless, of course, Kruger’s contacts brought their own backup along as well… “My contact has arrived,” Kruger said, looking over Micah’s shoulder toward the door. “Do your best not to turn and look Captain,” Kruger said sharply as Micah began, instinctively, to look towards the door himself. “Hello Kruger,” a voice soon said beside them. Micah looked up to see a tall, blonde man dressed in a faded orange uniform with black and white striped sleeves. His voice, though deeper than Kruger’s led Micah to believe that Kruger’s contact was a Rheinlander too. “Hans, so glad to see you,” Kruger said, as the blonde man sat down in the booth next to Micah. “I am relieved to see that you’ve managed to make it here on time and in one piece, but I must be brief,” Hans replied, ignoring Micah entirely. “It would be better if certain parties do not see us together in this place.” “Do you have the information then?” Kruger asked, lowering his voice. “I do,” Hans replied, “You should be able to get to your destination without attracting too much attention and without leaving a record of your passing. You will essentially disappear.” Micah was suddenly sure that the two Rheinlanders were referring to jump holes, natural links from system to system often used by criminals and, Micah had heard, in the Border and Edge worlds where there were often no trade lanes to speak of and jumpgates were few and far between. “Excellent,” Kruger said. “A thousand thanks to you.” “And now I must be off. We cannot risk being seen together any longer than necessary,” Hans replied as he slid out of the booth. “By the way Captain,” Hans said to Micah, acknowledging him for the first time. “You should choose better backup. Your Bretonian friend sticks out like a sore thumb.” Hans chuckled slightly to himself as he made his way out of the bar. “What information were you talking about?” Micah asked. “He didn’t give you anything or tell you anything.” “If you would be so kind as to put your hand in the left pocket of your flight jacket, I believe you will find the information to which I was referring,” Kruger said nonchalantly. Micah shoved his hand in his pocket and felt what could only be a datapad. “Leave it there for now Captain,” Kruger said. “It will be safe enough until we get back to the ship.” “Then let’s get Luther and get out of here,” Micah replied. Edited by - mdutr0 on 3/29/2005 10:11:34 PM Edited by - mdutr0 on 3/29/2005 10:12:58 PM

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25

Wednesday, March 30th 2005, 7:02am

Hello And... this story is really good, if this is your first story I think you can be one of the best fan fic writers ever here on TLR! Keep it up, it is nice. EcoHooker
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26

Thursday, March 31st 2005, 5:29pm

Thanks for the kind words friend. More on the way soon, hopefully today or tomorrow. Thanks Micah

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27

Wednesday, April 6th 2005, 5:32pm

Here´s the next installment! I apologize for being later than I had hoped with it but I had to make some rather important plot decisions. This chapter is fairly long. There´s no action in it, unfortunately. It´s all VERY important plot development. But fear not! We´ll get back to the action soon enough! Thanks, Micah Part 3 Chapter 4 “The information on the datapad will lead us to a jump hole that will take us to the Hamburg system incognito,” Kruger said back on the Star Chaser as Micah guided the freighter out of Freeport 2’s docking bay. “Pretty slick, that Rheinlander chap slipping that pad in Micah’s pocket like that,” Luther said with obvious admiration in his voice. “Yeah, Kruger and his pals seem to be pretty good at the cloak-and-dagger routine,” Micah replied. “You will soon find that my friends are good at other things as well Captain,” Kruger returned, not looking up from the nav computer screen. “I am feeding the coordinates of the jump hole to the Hamburg system into the navigation computer now.” “Locking on to the nav point and engaging the cruise engines,” Micah replied. The Star Chaser’s massive engine bells began to glow as the cruise engines drew power from the main reactor. Within seconds, the freighter leapt forward and quickly reached her highest possible speed outside the trade lanes. Micah turned on the autopilot, knowing that letting the ship’s computer dodge the asteroids would be easier than doing it manually. “With any luck, whoever is chasing us will be waiting for us at the jumpgate,” Micah said, turning the pilot’s seat around to face Luther and Kruger, “and not the jump hole.” “Don’t you think it’s about time you told us a bit more about what you’ve gotten us into Kruger?” Luther asked. “Who’s chasing us and what is so important on some rotten old Imperial battleship that it’s worth killing over?” “Yes Mr. Luther,” Kruger said, leaning his chair back against the navigation console. “You’ve been patient long enough.” “A few days ago, while we were still in Liberty space, I told you about the war Rheinland fought with the GMG – fought and lost,” Kruger continued. “As I’m sure both of you know, the GMG is the main supplier of H-fuel in all of Sirius. The 80 years war was ultimately a conflict over mining rights in the Sigma systems. Rheinland wanted, essentially, to ‘cut out the middle man,’ as the saying goes.” “That didn’t work out so well,” Micah pointed out, paying attention to Kruger but keeping an eye on the ship’s course at the same time. “But every school kid on Houston learns what you’re talking about now; that’s common knowledge throughout the sector.” “You’re right Captain, that is the generally accepted view of the 80 years war,” Kruger responded, turning towards Micah. “But what I am about to tell you gentlemen is known only to a few outside the Rheinland government.” “At the Battle of the Yanagi Nebula, the last major conflict of the war (and the most famous battle), the GMG managed to decimate the Rheinland Imperial Fleet,” Kruger continued. “That, also, is generally known. But what is not common knowledge, what is known to few, is what such a large portion of the Rheinland fleet was doing in the Crow Nebula that day. That fleet’s mission was to destroy the GMG’s base in Sigma 13, the Gas Miner Naha.” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Luther said, waving his hand at Kruger in dismissal. “How in blazes would they have destroyed the Naha?” “The Munich, the battleship whose remains we seek, had been mounted with an experimental weapon – a weapon of unprecedented capabilities. The Munich had been mounted with a weapon powered by anti-matter.” Kruger revealed. “No such weapon has ever been used but scientists have hypothesized that one blast from such a weapon would be sufficient to disable any space station currently in existence.” “But it’s also a well known scientific fact that a matter/anti-matter reaction can’t be contained; it’s too powerful. There’s no way the Imperial Fleet could have had a weapon powered by one back then,” Micah retorted skeptically. “Besides, even if there had been such a weapon why wouldn’t the Junkers or the GMG themselves have gotten hold of it by now?” “My superiors do not believe that the weapon itself survived the destruction of the Munich,” Kruger responded. “One of our operatives in the Sigma 13 system recently discovered indications that the reactor chamber of the weapon, however, may have survived. The scanner data he obtained is on an extremely unusual frequency; our scout could not have stumbled across this information accidentally.” “You’ve been looking for it specifically,” Micah said. “You and your ‘superiors’ must have quite an infrastructure.” “Maybe so Micah,” Luther chimed in. “But once they’ve got this reaction chamber gadget, all they’ll need is a barrel and you and I will be responsible for putting a super weapon in the hands of some group we can’t even identify!” “Calm yourself Mr. Luther,” Kruger said, chuckling to himself. “I can assure you that my associates and I have no intention of recreating that weapon. The ability to control a matter/anti-matter reaction has many other beneficial uses besides weaponry. Imagine it, Mr. Luther: infinite power for cities and industry, no more pollution, and… propulsion.” “The GMG, of course,” Micah said, resisting the urge to smack himself in the forehead. “The GMG would have every reason to want to find and suppress technology like this. If space craft were to convert to anti-matter power sources and engines, the market for H-fuel would crash overnight. The GMG would be financially annihilated.” “That would explain all the Hawk fighters,” Luther said, rubbing his jaw thoughtfully. “But if this reaction chamber is so secret, how would they have found out about it?” “We don’t really know,” Kruger admitted. “Our best guess is that the GMG had an operative placed highly enough in the Rheinland military during the war to have had knowledge of the weapon’s existence before the fleet commenced its attack.” “Leading to the desperation tactics used by the GMG to destroy the Rheinland fleet in the gas pockets at Yanagi,” Micah said, putting the pieces together. “The GMG knew their only chance to hang on to Sigma 13 was to stop the Rheinland fleet before it reached Naha.” “And those miners knew that nebula like a Molly knows an ice field,” Luther added, chipping in as well. “They led the Rheinland fleet right into a trap.” “Precisely gentlemen,” Kruger said, smiling his first real smile since he’d met Micah and Luther. “We’ve been looking for the chamber since we learned of its existence. The Rheinland government appears to have no record that it ever existed – the project was kept off the books, so to speak. Probably due to all the internal turmoil after Rheinland’s defeat, combined with the fact that most of the military and scientific personnel assigned to the project died on the Munich, the reaction chamber was forgotten.” Kruger paused. “The GMG, on the other hand, have been looking for the reaction chamber since the war ended.” “They still haven’t found it after all this time?” Luther asked incredulously. “Space is large Mr. Luther,” Kruger said. “Space is very large. And even the GMG, at home in the murky depths of the Crow Nebula cannot search its confines quickly. Our scout was killed by GMG Hawks soon after transmitting his discovery. Fortunately, he managed to wipe his ship’s communication logs before he died. Many of our operatives have reported unusual GMG activity in the past week or two outside their usual range, outside the Crow Nebula. They are looking gentlemen, and we cannot allow them to find it.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Micah said, waving his arms. “We’re talking about this thing like it actually exists. Scientists in Liberty and the Liberty Navy have been trying to come up with a way to contain an anti-matter reaction for decades. They’ve said it’ll be pretty much impossible for the next hundred years or so.” “That, Captain, will have to wait until we reach our destination,” Kruger replied. “When we do, you will be fully briefed on our mission.” “Our destination?” Luther asked. “I thought our destination was Sigma 13.” “Surely, Mr. Luther, you did not expect to go charging into the GMG’s homeland with a single freighter did you?” Kruger asked. “As impressive as your gunnery skills and the Captain’s piloting skills are we will require an escort if we are to have any chance of survival, much less success.” “So where are we going?” Micah asked. “You will see soon enough,” Kruger replied as the nav computer’s proximity alarm began to chime. “Look, we are approaching the jump hole to the Hamburg system.” Turning back toward the controls, Micah turned off the auto-pilot and guided the Star Chaser toward the jump hole. Suddenly, the ship lurched and was pulled, as if by an unseen hand, into hyperspace.

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28

Thursday, April 7th 2005, 7:42am

New chapter, at it was really nice, that`s some really good writing mate, looking forward to the next chapter.
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29

Thursday, April 7th 2005, 11:36am

Thanks very much. I´m enjoying the process of writing a story - I´ve never really done this before. Hopefully, I´ll have another chapter posted soon! Thanks, Micah

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30

Saturday, April 9th 2005, 1:05am

Look, here´s more story!!! Please read and enjoy! Thanks, Micah Part 4 Chapter 1 Micah had to check the nav computer twice to be sure that the Star Chaser had actually entered the Hamburg system; the asteroid field the trio found themselves in now looked almost exactly the same as the one surrounding Freeport 2. “Where’s the nearest trade lane?” Luther asked. “We can’t use them,” Micah said before Kruger could respond to the question. “The trade lanes in Liberty space record the movements of every ship that passes through them. I’d be willing to bet the Rheinland versions are no different.” “They’re not Captain,” Kruger said. “We’ll have to stay clear of trade lanes, Rheinland space or not, until our mission is complete. Besides, my associates would prefer that we did not leave a trail on our way to their base.” “Which way Kruger?” Micah asked, feeding power to the Chaser’s engines. “I’m entering a way-point into the navigation computer now,” Kruger replied. “You should be able to fly directly to it from here.” Micah locked the ship’s course onto the imaginary point in space and engaged the cruise engines. It would take several hours, assuming no interruptions, at cruise speed to reach Kruger’s way-point so Micah set the automatic pilot to do the flying for them. “Let’s keep an eye on those scanners,” Micah said. “If some more of our Hawk friends show up, I’d like to know about it as soon as possible; I’m getting tired of being ambushed.” The course set by Kruger was almost perfectly straight – as straight as any course in a solar system whose bodies were in constant motion could be at any rate. The ungainly freighter was more than capable of finding her way on her own and the men she carried to parts unknown found the time to get to know one another better. Micah and Luther had only known each other for two short months and each of them had known Kruger for less than a week. As space veterans will, talk inevitably turned to stories of past adventures. Through them, Micah thought, one could learn a great deal about a man. Micah quickly realized that Kruger was, perhaps, not the stuffy business man that he made himself out be; he had been in too many systems and too many close scrapes for that. But both Micah and Luther knew that Kruger was holding back, that though he wanted to say more, explain more, he did not yet feel that the time was right to do so. Micah was patient, however, and was prepared to wait. The past few days saw Micah beginning to slip out of the rut that being a trader often entailed. He was beginning to feel, again, the exhilaration he often felt flying his Defender in his Navy days. Luther too, was less the bartender on Freeport 2 and more the Bretonian gunner with each passing hour. But Micah was worried too; he had left the Navy to escape the fighting, the killing, and the wondering whether the next flight would be his last. He wasn’t sure he was ready to face it again, but conflict with the GMG seemed almost inevitable now. Was there some way around it? Wasn’t there any other way? Micah didn’t know but, looking around the command deck of a Bretonian freighter light-years from home at his two companions he was sure they would come through somehow. Micah turned his chair back around toward the view port shaking his head and smiling, wondering what Captain Phillips would think of all this. The Star Chaser streaked its way past a trade lane, Planet Hamburg glittering like a snow ball, growing in the light of the star it called a sun to the starboard side of the ship. Sweeping past the planet, the ship cruised into another asteroid field. The Chaser had just flown into the field proper when the scopes lit up. “I’ve got two fighters incoming,” Luther called out, readying the ship’s turrets. “They register as Stiletto heavy fighters.” The steel gray fighters were streaking toward the ship, literally bristling with weapons. Micah kept his hand over the cruise engine cut-off ready, but unwilling if it was unnecessary to kill the engines and engage the fighters. At 1000 meters the ships were intimidating. At 200 they looked deadly. The fighters blazed past the freighter without firing a shot. “Don’t worry Mr. Luther,” Kruger said, staring into his own scanner at the nav computer. “They’re right on time.” “Friends of yours?” Micah asked, eyebrows raised, breathing a sigh of relief. “An escort, Captain,” Kruger replied. “They’re here to make sure we reach our destination safely… and to keep an eye on you.” “An eye?” Micah asked. “My associates do not trust strangers quickly or easily,” Kruger answered. “When you have met them you will understand why.” “I can hardly wait,” Luther muttered to himself in the gunner’s chair. The Star Chaser plunged deeper into the asteroid field, a Stiletto fighter on either side, at cruise speed. Just as Hamburg was becoming snow ball sized again, the nav computer pinged. Micah could see the reflection of a new object on the scope on Kruger’s face. “Jump hole located,” Kruger said. “Captain, if you would be so kind as to change course and head for the jump hole.” “Where are we going?” Luther asked as the ship and her escorts made arced through the asteroids toward the tear in real space. “The Frankfurt system,” Kruger replied. “Where we will be able to rest and where all your questions will be answered.” The ships, in perfect formation, flew into the hole in space created by unknown forces countless millennia ago and quickly turned light years into minutes.

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31

Saturday, April 9th 2005, 4:13am

Whoho, this is very good stuff! More action in the next chapter? EcoHooker
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32

Saturday, April 9th 2005, 9:36am

Well .... no, not exactly. I´ve gotta do a couple more chapters of plot development, but they won´t be very long. In fact, here´s the next one! Thanks, Micah Part 4 Chapter 2 This time, there could be no doubt the Star Chaser and her escort had entered a new star system. The loose thicket of asteroids had been suddenly replaced with the thickest nebula Micah had ever seen. Dense and murky, the nebula was a dark maroon. Other, lighter gases, unable to form bonds with the molecules that made up the primary cloud, were visible to the naked eye and appeared as a dark green among the ruddy sky. Micah had the sudden, unpleasant thought that the color reminded him of dried blood. “A way-point would be nice Kruger,” Micah said. “From here on out, we will be following our escorts,” Kruger said. “Enter into formation with them and we can be on our way.” Micah entered the command and the Star Chaser’s engines automatically responded, bringing the ship along side the fighters. The significance of the request was not lost on Micah and, when he looked back at the gunner’s chair, saw that Luther hadn’t missed the move either. By entering formation with the Stilettos and merely following them, the nav computer would have no record of their destination; once the Star Chaser left wherever she was going, she would be unable to find her way back. The three ships oriented themselves and shot to cruise speed, cutting through the nebula with all possible speed. Micah hoped they would be clear of it soon and was not disappointed. Within the hour, the dark veil of gas suddenly lifted to reveal a bright star and her accompanying worlds. To Micah, the sight was beautiful and the effect created by its sudden appearance had all three worn and weary travelers glued to the front view port. Passing across another trade lane, the small convoy zipped past a pair of planets (Holstein and Stulingen, as Micah would later be told) and into yet another asteroid field. The ships cruised directly toward the heart of the asteroid field, the formation occasionally splitting to avoid a particularly large rock but always coming back together again. They arrived at their destination much sooner than either Micah or Luther had expected but neither of them realized it at first. The formation was headed straight for what Micah thought was an unusually large asteroid compared its brothers and sisters in this field. As the ships drew closer Micah thought he saw a light blink on the side of the asteroid. “Surely not,” Micah thought, blinking his eyes to clear what he was sure had been a trick of the light. But there it was again. And again. And again. Micah was now sure of it; there was some kind of artificial beacon on the side of the humongous asteroid directly in front of his ship. He watched in sheer fascination, wondering what this enormous rock could be when Micah witnessed the unthinkable. Right before his eyes a hole opened in the side of the asteroid and a single ship emerged from its depths, a ship that, at least from this distance, seemed to match exactly the configuration of the Stiletto fighters leading the Star Chaser toward the asteroid. “Did you see…?” Luther began breathlessly. “I did,” Micah replied, his eyes widening in utter amazement. He turned toward Kruger. “How…?” Micah began. “It’s a base, isn’t it?” “Indeed it is Captain,” Kruger replied, chuckling to himself at the reactions his two ex-military companions were having to their first sight of what was obviously a secret base. “That is our destination.” “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve every laid eyes on,” Luther said. “Who’s is it and how’d they build it?” “Patience Mr. Luther, patience,” Kruger answered. “We will be landing shortly. You wouldn’t want to miss it would you?” “Not for the world,” Luther said, his eyes still glued to the view port. “Not for the world.” The Star Chaser and her escorts pulled up close, now, beside the base (for one could not truly call it an asteroid). Micah was able to make out view ports and what appeared to be a command deck. Directly below the command deck structure was what could only be a docking bay. Kruger walked over to the pilot’s seat and pressed the comm switch. “This is Kruger,” he said simply, leaning over Micah’s shoulder in the pilot’s seat. “Request permission to dock.” “Permission granted,” a voice replied over the speakers. “Please proceed to dock one.” The docking bay door slid open, relative up, into the asteroid itself and Micah eased the Star Chaser into the bay. After the bay door had closed and the airlock pressurized, the inner bay door slowly opened to reveal a busy hangar deck. Micah guided the freighter to her assigned berth by a path of green lights on the floor of the deck, a common practice among space station docking bays throughout Sirius. Through the view ports, Micah could see dozens of Stiletto fighters and two Falcon heavy fighters, big brothers of the Hawk fighters the Star Chaser had been plagued with for the past several days. He wondered what they were doing here. Micah set the ship down onto the hangar floor with ease and set the equalizers to match the air pressure inside the ship with that of the hangar outside. The ramp lowered with a hiss of pneumatic power and light poured into the cramped corridors of the freighter from the hangar deck. “Captain, Mr. Luther,” Kruger said, looking at each in turn. “Welcome to Bruchsal Base.” Edited by - mdutr0 on 4/9/2005 11:22:05 PM

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33

Saturday, April 9th 2005, 5:05pm

Pretty good, probably could use a little more grammatical streamlining
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34

Sunday, April 10th 2005, 1:56am

Very good again, small and good chapters, nice. EcoHooker
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35

Tuesday, April 12th 2005, 8:46pm

Sorry for the delay on the next chapter. I´v been doing a lot of writing lately, but its been for law school. I´ve been working on the next installment bit-by-bit, as I get a free moment here and there. I´ll get it up a.s.a.p. Thanks, Micah P.S. - lots of questions will be answered in this next chapter. But not all... "I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn´t a game for knights." - Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep

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36

Wednesday, April 20th 2005, 5:31pm

mmmmm, bundschuh, any chance the sunslayer will ame an appearance as a WoMD?
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37

Wednesday, April 20th 2005, 7:53pm

@Dragonborn - I don´t have a clue friend, I´m making this up as I go.... sort of.... New update soon. Micah "I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn´t a game for knights." - Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep

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38

Thursday, April 28th 2005, 12:40pm

well i personally think this is so good u shud sell the whole story as a book ure story rocks m8 Eat plasma u navy ****ers
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39

Tuesday, May 3rd 2005, 11:54pm

Sorry folks, having finals. New chapter a.s.a.p. Thanks, Micah

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40

Wednesday, May 11th 2005, 6:13pm

Here´s a new chapter!!! It´s a bit more plot development, but an important piece of information is revealed... Part 4 Chapter 3 The hangar deck would have achieved nightmare status in the mind of any Liberty naval deck officer. The first thing Micah noticed after he and Luther followed Kruger down the Star Chaser’s ramp and onto the deck was how worn out everything around him looked. On a Liberty naval base everything was shiny and new. When a ship was damaged it received new replacement parts and new hull panels. Micah had even known a few pilots who had received brand new fighters when theirs were damaged beyond the point of economical repair. But now, in the middle of an asteroid base, Micah found himself in an entirely different world. He saw Stiletto fighters of various ages and in various conditions all around him. The hull panels on these ships were dirty and scraped with long and hard use. The impact scars, scrapes, and blast points bore silent witness to both the amount of action many of them had seen and their ability to survive heavy combat. The technicians Micah saw were installing parts that were obviously used and wearing uniforms that looked just as bad. He was glad the Star Chaser wasn’t in need of repair… As the three men walked out onto the deck they were approached by two armed guards. “We have orders to escort you to temporary quarters Mr. Kruger,” one of the guards said. “Excellent,” Kruger replied. “Lead the way.” Micah and Luther followed Kruger and the guards across the hangar deck toward a small tunnel that had apparently been cut directly into the surface of the asteroid. Micah looked back at his ship as they left the hangar. The Bretonian freighter had always seemed oddly beautiful to Micah but now it stood out in stark comparison to the deadly Stiletto fighters surrounding it. The exit was, indeed, a tunnel leading into the heart of the asteroid itself. Micah looked down in surprise when he heard the crunch of dirt and rock underfoot; he’d not had his feet on real dirt since leaving Planet Houston so many years ago. The tunnel went on, unbroken, for what seemed to be several hundred yards, twisting deep into the enormous rock. There were no passages or doors splitting off from this main passage that Micah could see and the only light was provided by light fixtures bolted to the face of the rock and connected by an external conduit. Before long, however, the rock and dirt gave way to dura-steel and transparent aluminum. Other corridors began to branch off the main corridor and doors began to appear in the bulkheads around them. Foot traffic had begun to pick up as well in this part of the station; pilots, a few droids, and other personnel making their way to and from various parts of the station. The asteroid field could be seen outside the view ports, smaller versions of the base tumbling and spinning in space. Occasionally, one could just make out a passing patrol, the ships visible only by their engine trails, their hulls the color of the surrounding rock. The guards had been silent during their journey but soon came to a halt in front of one of the dura-steel doors. “You and your party have been assigned to this suite Mr. Kruger,” said the same guard who’d spoken to them before. “I’ve been ordered to inform you that the conference room is at your disposal.” “Thank you Sergeant,” Kruger said. “You’re dismissed.” The guards spun on their heels in a fair imitation of a military turn and marched back down the corridor toward the tunnel and the hangar deck. Kruger turned and entered a short numeric sequence into a keypad beside the door and it hissed open. “This way gentlemen,” Kruger said, waving Micah and Luther into the large room that appeared before them. A few moments examination revealed that the suite consisted of a large, central common room bordered by four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The furniture was firm and utilitarian in appearance but comfortable. After making themselves at home Micah and Luther pressed Kruger for more information. “Kruger what exactly is this place?” Luther asked. “What is this base and whose is it?” “This is Bruchsal Base,” Kruger replied. “Bruchsal is the home and base of operations of the Bundschuh.” “Pirates?” Luther asked, eyebrows raised and his arms crossed. “Political rebels, Luther, not pirates” Micah replied before Kruger could answer. “I’ve heard of them, read about them in school actually, they fight for political reform in Rheinland.” “Precisely,” Kruger replied. “Many in Rheinland believe that the government in Rheinland is corrupt and overdue for replacement. The Bundschuh have merely chosen an… extreme form of expression for a common sentiment.” “So you’re a member of the Bund-whatever-they-call-themselves?” Luther asked, pointing at Kruger. “I did not say so,” Kruger replied. “Let us say merely that I have friends here that will help us in our mission.” “And when will we be learning more about this ‘mission’?” Luther retorted. “Momentarily,” Kruger said, walking over to a small comm. panel near the door. “This is Kruger,” he continued. “Have my associates arrived?” “Yes sir,” a tinny voice replied. “They are awaiting you and your companions in Conference Room 1.” “Excellent,” Kruger replied, snapping off the comm. “Right this way gentlemen,” said Kruger, opening the door with a sudden hiss and gesturing toward the hallway. The two men followed Kruger out of the suite and down the hallway, their boots clanking an odd rhythm on the dura-steel floor. Around a corner, Kruger led them to a turbolift, stepped inside, and whisked the trio up several decks. Coming to a sudden stop, the three men walked down a short corridor lined with viewports. The view outside was stunning; asteroids danced their tumbling elliptical path around the star, small-looking fighters doing their own dance among them. The corridor ended abruptly in a large door. It hissed open to Kruger’s spoken command and they entered a room dominated by a long central table surrounded by chairs with view screens at every station. To Micah, however, these operations were secondary to the implausibly diverse group of people sitting around the table. Micah saw a tall, intimidating looking woman in the same uniforms as the personnel on this station sitting at the head of the table in the furthest chair from the door. She was in the middle of an animated discussion with what looked like a Rheinland Military officer! Further down the table, a man wearing a Corsair uniform was talking to a man wearing the simple black garb of the Outcasts, cardamine breather and all, like old friends. In fact, there seemed to be a representative from every House military, criminal organization, and major corporation in the sector in the conference room. There was even a Kusari man wearing the same kind of jumpsuit Kruger’s would-be assassin was wearing back on Freeport 4. “Ah, Kruger,” the Bundschuh woman called out. “You’ve arrived. Please, sit down, we must begin.” “Of course,” Kruger replied, taking a seat at the end of the table opposite the woman who had just spoken and pointing Micah and Luther to chairs at his end of the table. Other members of the strange assembly took their places as well and the Bundschuh woman addressed the group. “I see we are all here,” she said, looking around the table as though marking boxes on her mental checklist. “Kruger, perhaps you should begin.” Kruger stood and stepped just behind his chair. “I must begin, I think, by introducing our group,” Kruger replied. “You see, my companions are not members of our organization.” “What organization?” Luther cut in before Kruger could continue. “I’d bet there are folks from fifteen different places here, and most of them hate each other like a Molly hates a bobby! Just who the hell are you?” “We,” Kruger replied, “are the Zoners.” Edited by - mdutr0 on 5/11/2005 5:16:36 PM Edited by - mdutr0 on 5/11/2005 5:18:17 PM

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