Master of Orion

Master of Orion

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Kody Dec 31, 2015 @ 9:03am
The Tarika Runner - A Mrrshan Short Story
Greetings all,

As we close out 2015, we'd like to share the second in our series of short stories. This one takes a look at a band of Mrrshan pirates on the hunt for a valuable artifact. Please feel free to ask questions about Mrrshan lore and we will pass them on to our loremaster!

The Tarika Runner

The Tarika Runner was already an old ship when Akash first boarded as a young hull scrubber some twenty years ago. The first time he saw her, she was painted a deep blue that reminded him of his hometown on the Resting Sea. She was a retired military Skimmer class cruiser, stripped of her armaments and sold off when the newer models were commissioned. Under Natesa Nori’s command, the Tarika Runner was rebuilt with black market parts and an experimental engine core. She was reborn as one of the most discreetly deadly ships in the Mrrshan pirate armada.


Akash’s travels had taken him many places on many different crews, but when he came back to the Tarika Runner as an officer in Natesa Nori’s crew, it felt like coming home. As he stood on the bridge of the old privateer, he couldn’t be sure if the slow creaking sounds came from his own bones or from the core of the ship.


They were drifting quietly on the fringes of Silicoid and Sakkra contested space in the I Region. A lead from Natesa’s network of spies and lookouts had led them to this isolated Silicoid planet where they had hatched an operation to “acquire” an artifact of some importance to the Silicoids—one that would fetch a high price on the black market. Heists in this region of space tended to turn lethal quickly, so Akash kept his eyes trained on the scanners.


He listened to the scanner transmissions carefully for any sign from the special ops team on the progress of the heist. The bridge crew was on edge, their hands trained to pounce on any sign of change. Gunners stared at targeting screens, engineers waited to spin up drives, navigators stood ready to execute a rapid FTL exit—tensions were running high and the crew was ready for battle at a moment’s notice.
The special ops team was made up of Natesa’s stealthiest operators, so the radio silence was to be expected. Natesa herself had gone down with them, unwilling to send any of her team into a battle that she would not personally lead. The promise of this artifact’s value meant that they could all retire comfortably, swimming in a bath of gold coins the Gnolam could only dream of.


Akash paced the bridge quietly, taking his role as second-in-command seriously. Before they began the operation, Natesa had given one final order. If the special ops crew was compromised, Akash was to bomb the location and escape as quickly as possible—no heroics in trying to rescue them. Akash looked over at the gunners manning the main cannons. They looked calm, but Akash knew they had no desire to leave their captain behind or run from a fight.


Screens flashed to life; after the long silence, the alerts seemed like a cacophony of sirens and blips. The movement of a single ship lifting off from the surface had set off all the surveillance monitors that were in place. Akash looked to the comms officer—there was still no sign of radio contact. If it was the Silicoid, they would surely send more than a single ship to retaliate… right?


“Akash!” Natesa’s familiar voice, tinny through the speakers, instantly flooded Akash with relief. “Fire up the engines. We’re landing in the main bay and we need to get out of here. Now!” The crew was already in motion. A second wave of blips, undoubtedly the Silicoids in pursuit, bloomed on the scanners.


The ship lurched as the special ops crew’s scout ship landed safely in the bay even while going combat speed. Natesa herself must have been at the controls to execute such a deadly maneuver, Akash thought to himself. The main engines surged as the Tarika Runner darted away from the incoming ships. She may have been old, and she certainly wasn’t a beauty, but the time and credits Natesa had put into upgrading the ship’s engine and weapon bays had been well spent. The Tarika Runner was a unique combination of firepower and speed; able to outfight most cruisers and as fast as many destroyers.


Moments later, Natesa strode onto the bridge, her auburn fur and black fractal-weave armor spattered with blood and the distinctly heavy dust of Silicoid combat. Her almond eyes were sharp as she surveyed the crew and evaluated the monitors. Of the four crew members she had taken to the surface, only two followed her onto the bridge.


Natesa focused on the pilot, a young prodigy named Kit. “Head for the border! Gunners, be ready.” Kit’s hands were already at the navigation panel, inputting new coordinates. Natesa made eye contact with Akash; for an instant her steely gaze faltered and he knew she was worried.


The ship banked into a curve while the main guns warmed up. Two small Silicoid ships dropped into the Tarika Runner’s path in an attempt to turn them away from the border. The ship dipped effortlessly below them, narrowly missing the back crystalline towers of the Silicoid destroyer. Kit shoved the throttle in front of him with impressive force and the ship responded by smoothly leaping forward.


“They aren’t firing at us!” remarked one of the gunners. They were all fully aware that the Mrrshan privateer was outgunned, but the gunners were always eager for a fight.


“Hold steady. Don’t fire first,” Natesa ordered quietly. Turning back to Akash, she smiled a pained grin and unbuckled her armor, reaching into an inner pocket to reveal a dimly glowing crystal held tightly in her bloodied hand. Akash noticed that her other arm hung limply with blood flowing from somewhere near her shoulder at an alarming rate. “They won’t risk damaging the crystal. They’re going to chase us until they stop us… unless…” Natesa slumped to the ground. The remaining special ops team members were at their captain’s side, pulling her up and toward the infirmary.


An automated transmission was received from the controlled airspace just before them. A gruff and disinterested voice was on a loop, “…territory. You are warned. You are now entering Sakkra territory. You are warned.”


The Sakkra weren’t any friendlier towards the Mrrshan than the Silicoids were. Akash was in no mood to evade the crosshairs of one foe just to leap into the firing solution of another. The comm in his ear channeled Natesa’s weak but determined voice, still issuing orders from her possible deathbed in the infirmary: “Keep watch for any Sakkra scouts—fire on any of their ships who attack us… and Akash, get over here, now.” Akash gave a few terse instructions to the crew as he spun on his heel, hurrying to the captain.


She lay on the operating table, her hastily removed armor in a jumble on the floor. Akash’s stomach turned uncomfortably as he saw the extent of the damage to her arm, which appeared to be nearly severed at the shoulder. Natesa still held the crystal tightly in her undamaged hand and reached out to hand it to Akash, her jaw set in a firm line to hide the pain. Akash took the crystal from her and she seemed to relax. The crystal emitted a faint glow and seemed to gently warm his hand.


“Do you know what it does?” he asked, his voice wary and suspicious of the alien tech.


Natesa coughed and an ominous rattle shook her frame. “No, but it was heavily guarded. Take it. Make sure it gets to Arctodar in time.”


It was a long and dangerous trip through hostile space to get back to the buyer for the crystal. With Natesa out of commission, it was Akash’s role to command the ship. The safety of all onboard, including his captain, was now his responsibility.


The ship suddenly jolted and the “all hands” warning horn began a high-pitched scream. A bridge tech shouted over the sound through Akash’s comms unit, “They hit us just below the secondary engines!” Natesa appeared to have been correct– the enemy fire was specifically targeting their engines in an attempt to cripple the Runner but not heavily damage the ship. Whatever the crystal was, the Silicoids did not want to risk destroying it.


Akash swore loudly and said a quiet prayer to the Goddesses as he sprinted back to the bridge. Through the deckplates he felt the distinctive vibrations of the Tarika Runner’s guns returning fire. He told himself that Natesa was under the care of the Tarika Runner’s highly skilled medical team… now it was up to him to make sure they didn’t get blown up before they had a chance to save her. He slipped the crystal into a belt pouch as he took his seat in the captain’s chair.


He saw the gunners, Kirsi and Tarak, exchange a look and smile as they rained down carefully calculated fire. The Silicoid ships, dense and rocky in appearance, barely seemed to notice, but they pulled a little further back from the Mrrshan ship.


Kit deftly navigated the ship, throwing in evasive maneuvers without bleeding off speed. The gunners were nearly twins in their movements. Akash checked the visuals of the Silicoid ships on the monitors and mentally promised to give the crew a bonus if they survived this.


The Sakkra border was close now. The pirates were gambling on the tense relations between the Silicoid and Sakkra to chase the Silicoid off, but the Silicoid ships showed no signs of slowing. Would the Silicoid risk war to chase down the crystal?


One of the Silicoid ships made another attempt to block the Tarika Runner’s path, but Kirsi landed a prize-winning shot to the destroyer’s engine bays. The Silicoid ship shuddered violently, immediately losing speed. “Match that,” she muttered. Tarak replied with a hiss and a grin. The Tarika Runner’s railguns, running hot now, had begun to emit a high-pitched whine as they recharged between shots, causing the nearby crew to flatten their ears in annoyance. The repetitive thrum of the guns firing was matched by the satisfying kinetic impacts of the railgun projectiles pounding against the Silicoid ship’s rocky exterior.


The Silicoid were now firing back without hesitation. Most of the shots were narrow misses due to the incredible talent of Kit and some sheer luck, but a few hits were connecting and beginning to take a toll on the ship. Akash was just grateful that the surprise of the heist had held out longer than they had hoped—the Silicoid’s poor response time meant that only a destroyer and a few smaller ships were able to enter the fray. Hopefully the Tarika Runner would be long gone by the time reinforcements could arrive.


The main screen showed a debris field expanding from the Silicoid destroyer. A control vane was seen slowly spinning away from a hole gouged into the living rock. The destroyer swung away from the Tarika Runner, attempting to hide a damaged section that exposed part of the ship’s sparkling, crystalline core. Only the smaller ships were in pursuit now, keeping station and still firing, but no longer attempting to overtake the Mrrshan crew.


The Tarika Runner crossed into Sakkra space under heavy pressure until the Silicoid ships pulled sharply upward at the last moment. The Silicoid must have decided that the risk of detection in Sakkra territory wasn’t worth the diplomatic incident it would cause between the two empires. As the Silicoid ships grew more distant and finally disappeared from sensor range, the crew members became visibly relieved, some laughing quietly as the elation of their success washed through them. The gunners kept their eyes sharp for potential Sakkra entanglements. Akash took a deep breath and settled down for the long flight.
Last edited by Kody; Dec 31, 2015 @ 9:04am
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Showing 1-5 of 5 comments
Sinjen Blackstar Dec 31, 2015 @ 9:10am 
Great story. Please continue.
elpozoleolmeca  [developer] Jan 6, 2016 @ 10:10am 
Originally posted by Sinjen Blackstar:
Great story. Please continue.
Glad you enjoyed it! We have more planned so stay tuned
Luthonius Jan 6, 2016 @ 2:26pm 
Good Story. Cant Wait for Meklar one. I love that Race.
Grim George Jan 7, 2016 @ 8:15pm 
nice!
WolfPAX Jan 9, 2016 @ 5:09am 
Not bad...I do kind of wish the narrator was a bit more possessive, though: less 'the crew' and 'the captain', and more 'his crew' and 'his captain'.
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Date Posted: Dec 31, 2015 @ 9:03am
Posts: 5