Diary of a Fuel Rat

This account was submitted by JDude1, CCN member and Fuel Rat. 


The morning of the 24th October found me following my usual routine. I pulled out my Hutton Mug and rinsed yesterday’s coffee residue, before starting a new pot. With a steamy brew in my hands, I settled on my cockpit chair, and switched the long range comms to the Fuel Rats frequency. Now on-duty, I set to read the morning’s Gazette; it seemed many explorers from the Galactic Nebula Expedition were arriving at Jaques that day, so I made note to escort a few to safety.

Minutes later, I received a direct transmission from Cmdr Synth in Dispatch.

“Jdude1, you’re out at Jaques, aren’t you?”

“Hey, long time no see. Yes I am,” I said.

“We have an urgent call for help in your vicinity. Cmdr Apophis Nemesis is stranded at a neutron star. System designation Wepooe IP-A D4655. Can you provide assistance?” Cmdr Synth said.

I hammered in the system name and traced a finger across the star chart: 6.5 kylies. I glanced at the clock. “Affirmative. Time?” This was going to be a long shot.

“22 hours,” was the reply.

Mental math check indicated it was just enough. “Okay, on it. I’m enroute.”

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I called the dock and submitted an emergency work order for a smaller limpet controller—as I needed the speed—together with eight limpet drones. As soon as they arrived I lifted off and exited the station. I began to shut down all non-essential functions to reduce the thermal load and fuel consumption; I was going to kiss a few stars along the way, and I needed every advantage.

The thrill of the run had finally hit me: 6,500 light years separated me from Cmdr Apophis Nemesis—a relatively close distance as far as long range rescues go—but I had just 22 hours to reach him. Let’s do this. I drained my mug from the last coffee and started the FSD charge sequence, before slotting it back to the coffee maker for a refill. I was greeted by the mournful sputter of an empty coffee machine. Crap, crap, crap.

The trip out was uneventful. When I arrived at the target system, I was greeted by the ultra-hot pin prick of light that emanates from a neutron star and the gravity disturbance of the neutron plumes. I needed to remain close to the star for now, if I wanted to have any hope of finding my client.

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“Cmdr Apophis Nemesis, this is Cmdr Jdude1, responding to your distress call. Can you read me? Over.”

No response.

“Cmdr Apophis Nemesis, if you can hear me turn on your beacon. Over.”

I set the message to repeat automatically and checked the clock. I’d made good time and the client should have enough fuel to give me time to locate them. I stepped out of my cockpit chair to stretch my legs, pressing the coffee refill button out of habit; it responded with the same mournful sputter as before. Cursing under my breath, I headed down to re-check the limpets and ensure the controller survived the trip and was functional.

The familiar sound of a wing beacon came over ship’s comms while I was checking my equipment. This was the moment I had been waiting for. I headed back to the cockpit and powered up all the ship’s systems.

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I still had no comms traffic from the client and I started worrying there was too much interference from the neutron star to get a message through. I was wrong—thank goodness for beacons. I carefully made my way towards the stranded commander and initiated my exit from supercruise. I managed a near perfect drop-in, putting his dark blue Asp well within the operating range of my limpets. I fired my first limpet, opened comms, and fired two more.

“Howdy! Need some fuel?”

“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Cmdr Apophis Nemesis said, just as the first limpet made contact with his ship.

Happy and relieved, I unloaded the remaining limpets and watched the small autonomous drones go to work for the grateful Commander. After the last limpet drained itself, we located a nearby star where he could safely scoop from.

“How can I ever repay you?” he said.

“Our services are free,” I said. My gaze shifted to my empty cup. “Unless…” I hesitated for a moment. “You don’t happen to have any coffee, do you?”

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