I can’t say I was pleased with the Captain’s decision to land us on Ataraxia. I mean, I’m all for doing work in the Core – things there are lawful, and there’s always someplace worthwhile to spend your credits when you earn ‘em. Work on the rim just makes me nervous – everyone out there is looking out for nobody but themselves. Not nice places to be.
I was pretty jumpy after we landed. To tell the truth, I didn’t want to leave the Waxwing, and felt like it was in our best interest to just land, dump or cargo, get our credits, and get flying again. But everything went downhill real fast.
In the first place, there wasn’t going to be a clean exchange of goods. With the local Magistrate and the crime boss both showing a keen interest in our business, we had little choice but to hire one of the local mercs to help us move goods. Since every one of them seemed less trustworthy than the last, it fell to me and my people skills to find one that would work. And I felt none too good about my choice.
We sent him off to do an exchange, and waited, tense, in the Waxwing. It was a long while before he returned, bearing a small gem and telling us some story about getting it exchanged for soft currency.
Surprisingly, he was good to his word, and he stayed with the ship for the next two days, serving exceptionally as a guard at the door and making occasional runs, as well as serving as escort when we had to trek out to the mines or go talk to the Alliance.
The Alliance folk sure surprised me. I was used to their slightly abusive practices in the Core, but here, among this untidy mess of desperate and ill-kept humanity, they proved themselves much like the old warriors of ancient times – honor before personal concerns. I was especially impressed by the commander, who more than once got us out of scrapes that would probably have landed us all in the grave. It’s my greatest regret that I betrayed that trust and if I’m ever found out, I’ll likely be running from the Alliance until I’m an old man.
It wasn’t the firefight. That was an accident. We were trying to reach the larger of the two mineheads, and when we got near, my companions sent me ahead to see if there were friendlies or mercs up there (like I said, I can usually talk my way out of bad situations). Well, I heard the people coming down out of the woods, so I put my hands above my head and waited. Out they came, far down the trail but with a clean line of sight. As soon as they saw me they got real aggressive, shouting at me to get my hands up (they already were!) I wasn’t too nervous, because I knew all my friends were hiding behind me – including Mirage, the sniper we had hired on. But these people were advancing rapidly, guns leveled, and I my calm started to leave me, because they were still yelling at me to get my hands up!
It was too much. They were still shouting at me, and I was just standing there, and I just knew they were going to shoot me. So I turned, ducked, and ran.
That’s when I noticed that they weren’t yelling at me. They were yelling at my companions, who weren’t hiding after all, but were just standing next to the small transport ship at the head of the trail. Great.
A moment later I was hunkered down, returning fire as that poor ship took all the damage for us.
We had little choice but to run. We made it about thirty yards into the woods before we found the relative shelter of a fallen tree and decided to make our stand.
Everything after that is a blur. Bullets whizzing everywhere. Mirage taking a hit and me taking over his sniper rifle. The sharp searing pain as a bullet grazed the edge of my ear, taking out a good chunk of flesh. And our relief as we discovered we had surrendered to the Alliance commander and his men.
There were much apologies for the misunderstanding, and he was good enough to escort us all back to the Waxwing where the doctor told me I could get a real nice piece of jewelry for my new piercing.
Yes, we got off Ataraxia. We’re back in the black now, and I couldn’t be happier. But it was in the leaving that things really got bad. That I took all that goodwill the commander of the Alliance granted us and threw it right in his face. I just hope he never knows.
It was pure chaos. Mercs were intent on taking the ship, and I was trying to fire everything up. We had finally gotten clearance to take off, and peace was just moments away.
I was in the airlock feeding off the cockpit, guarding our main entrance. I had an angle on the door, and there was a lot of banging out there – someone shouting to let them in. The captain was at the door, refusing entry, and the man outside was shouting that he was Alliance. He was wearing an Alliance uniform, but I didn’t believe him. After all, he was surrounded by mercs, and they easily could have killed one of the Alliance and taken his clothes. And we asked him to use the code knock that we had given the commander, but he didn’t know it.
There was no way he was getting through that door – the captain never would have opened it. But then we heard him say “there’s more than one way to get in to a place like this”, and one of the mercs handed him a gun. I thought there was a grenade launcher on it – not sure, but it didn’t look good, and the man seemed confident. I was sweating bad by then, yelling to the captain that they were going to force the door, shouting at the man in the Alliance uniform to get away from the door, and then the captain was telling me to fire upon the intruders, and . . .
It was an easy shot – they weren’t far away, and no one was shooting back. I could have just fired some warning shots. But I didn’t. I shot him, and I can’t say I’ve shot a lot of people before, and after that our launch was further delayed for a few minutes, and through all the chatter we discovered that an Alliance trooper had been killed trying to gain entrance to the Waxwing.
I don’t know why he was trying to force the door. I don’t know why all those mercs were with him. I can’t even be entirely sure he was really Alliance, and the captain didn’t just mishear on the radio. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m pretty sure he was one of the commander’s men, and I shot him dead.
Now? I can’t really say. I’m scared they’ll be on to me, ashamed at what I did, and yet, there’s a bug in me – being down on that world, with all the guns blazing and so much chaos – it was a little addicting.
We’re off to safer pastures for the time being, but I can’t help wondering when we’ll next find ourselves landing someplace with a little more excitement than you find in the core . . .
Of course, the best part about this whole thing was the two Companions we met there. Too bad the one got all chewed up by the Reavers, but the other one is now with us. Guess that makes everything all better, doesn’t it?