The purpose of a reporter, I believe, is to relay the truth. And this is the truth: I was scared. In the presence of a heavily-armed pirate leader in an obscure pocket of the Colonia system and sitting in my unarmed press ship, I had good reason to be. And it was at this moment, close enough to this dangerous rogue to see his languid, deliberate gestures as he explained his plan, that I accidentally hit boost.
A few days before, I’d received a private message from a prominent member of the CCN saying he had a scoop for me. I was to meet with a member of the Colonia Militia outside Jaques Station, where we would receive further instructions. This Militia member, Cmdr [REDACTED] had very recently infiltrated the Screaming Eagles pirate faction, and was taking me to a secret location where I would meet with their leader, Cmdr MesaFalcon, who had a message for the CCN leadership he wished me to pass on. Apparently, I was ideal for this job, as I was, as a respected journalist, likely to present the information without bias, and also I was of little value to the pirates in terms of being snatched and used as a hostage – who would pay big credits to retrieve a simple reporter? Naturally I was nervous, but I decided to go for it – as we say in the press trade – “for the damn STORY!”
My safety was to be guaranteed, and I was to fly a press ship. Of course, I chose my trusty white Eagle, and stripped it to the bare bones to give me a top speed of over 540 m/s should I need to leave in a hurry.
I met Cmdr [REDACTED] at 2100 as planned, and after a few minutes he received the meeting point information.
We dropped into MesaFalcon’s wing beacon in the glittering rings of Colonia 8, where we found a white Fer-de-Lance waiting for us. I was scanned by both MesaFalcon and Cmdr [REDACTED] and then the pirate chief began to explain the reason for the meeting.
The Screaming Eagles, MesaFalcon explained, are pirates, yes, but belong to the Old Tradition:
“We do not wish to kill those we pirate, it being simply business. Indeed, so civil have our interactions been with those liberated of the traditional 50% of their cargo, that the Eagles have even been thanked for the experience by those pirated.”
He went on:
“All this being said, and civil or not, we as pirates have to put steam on the table. This is why we have a demand for the CCN which we expect to be met.”
It was at this point that my nervousness overcame me and I accidentally boosted directly at the pirate leader. I managed to avoid hitting him, but even at 540 m/s he was on my tail almost immediately, and he and Cmdr [REDACTED] took up positions in front and behind me while they scanned me again, me apologising profusely. I knew that, if ordered to, Cmdr [REDACTED] would have to either blow me out of the sky or blow his cover, and I had no idea which way he would jump if pushed.
Happily, things settled down once more; MesaFalcon was getting to the meat of the matter. Quite suddenly, his cargo hatch opened, and into space, directly in front of me, tumbled an Unknown Artefact.
It was beautiful, strange and not a little unnerving. I had never seen one in person before, so I scanned it, and it sang to me. I didn’t have to wait long to wonder why I had been shown this, but I had already guessed.
“We have…acquired…a large number of these artefacts”, MesaFalcon explained. “Our demands are simple – we require 100 tons of palladium in exchange for them, otherwise we will be forced to sell them at stations around Colonia, crippling them.”
With that, we exchanged a few further pleasantries, and I left, finally able to unclench both my fists and other elements of my person.
I sent the Screaming Eagles’ demands to the senior members of the CCN, and it remains to be seen what will happen next – as far as this reporter is aware, the CCN does not enter into negotiations with terrorists. Besides this, especially given the link between the Unknown Artifacts with the alien encounters earlier this week in the Pleiades area, taking possession of a large number of these UAs might pose a danger to the growing communities around the Colonia region.
The CCN’s Chief Scientist, Julian McCoy, said:
“I advise all individuals involved to exercise caution. The artefacts in question are not well-understood, have been associated with the recent extra-terrestrial encounters and may present an as-yet-unknown danger to the Colonia region.”
For my part, I was just happy to survive my encounter with the dread pirate MesaFalcon.
Further meetings are possible, and I must admit I was treated well and with respect by him. Two things, however, struck me later that night, when I was unable to sleep, system still flooded with adrenaline. Why would pirates bring Unknown Artefacts all the way to Colonia to sell for what seems a relatively small price? And why, despite the impressive nature of MesaFalcon’s speechmaking and undoubted power, did I detect the tiniest touch – just a note – of anxiety?
Photos by Zil Zalo