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    Thread: Worlds Beyond the Known

    1. #11
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      Chapter 21: Adjusting to Reality...Again


      The Original Cyberdiver, Frank Jackson was back. Now he got paid and took some time off. Having a family then dying right in front of them is hard on anyone, and he needed some time to rest and do regular things.

      At first he just spent his money but as his reputation went up so did his income and he decided he would save it for something special. He didn’t need a fancy vehicle or big apartment or house. His entire life had been testing and playing games. So he owned a small apartment with the best in wide screen and a good computer hookup. It left him see the World every day and watch as countries fought for domination, or wrote Treaties they all knew were bogus from the beginning.

      ‘Hmm two more Senators were being evicted because of espionage’. He thought as he shook his head and looked sad. This world was balanced on a razors edge. Little wars were a daily thing and spies and sabotage were everywhere.Is it any wonder people look for a more stable world, maybe one a little less technical and more old fashioned? The World has 9 billion people in it now, and has had for some time. Food is expensive, the best meats are all but solid Gold, and the average working person eats junk,processed food in ready to eat meal packs that can be eaten cold or heated.

      It’s not great, but it keeps people alive, and thats all that counts in a World ready to explode.

      Frank had a project he started for fun and a special place to live later on. He got a ride and stopped at a small inlet in the sea and saw a little building and dock and 3 men just laying around smoking and drinking. He got out and walked over as one young man jumped up... obviously surprised... and did his best to smile, and Frank looked quickly around and didn’t see anything getting done.

      “Hey Boss.” The young man said as Frank asked where all the building materials were and why nothing had been done since he hired them months ago.
      “Its been 3 months and there’s no materials here and no framework even started, what have you guys been doing?” He demanded as the kid did his best to try and settle him down saying marine lumber was on order and hadn’t come yet and they’d get the work started when it did, and he saw a scam right in front of him and snuck a hand into his pocket and activated an emergency link on his phone, and ignored the voice asking for details in the implant in his ear.

      “I bought this land and set up the work station with tools and a 5000 dollar down payment 3 months ago.” Frank said as the young man agreed.” I went back to work thinking I’d see some work done when I got back and theres no materials here or anything started, so what am I paying you for?” he asked as the men in the background started looking angry and the young talker went on about waiting for materials, and Frank knew he was being scammed.

      “ Oakwood Docks are not easy to buy, and my setup of the Jackson Depot here was all to give you some place to do the job without bothering others.” Frank added as everyone nodded.”Now I see you took the 5000 I gave you and did what? Drank it all away and got high?” he demanded as the young man finally grabbed him by the front of his shirt and demanded everything he had, as his friends rushed to help him. But it was a little late by now for that, since the location had been sent and their conversation heard and a minute later a silent vehicle dropped down not 50 feet away as one man screamed and they turned to run.

      One man took the easy way out and surrendered, and one ran, and got a fine flying tackle from a young woman cop, and then handcuffed, and when it was over all three got loaded as a second vehicle dropped down and landed nearby.

      “So what are the official charges?” An older officer asked as Frank waved him to follow. They went inside the building and checked everything there. The computer showed that the 5000 he gave them for a start was gone and nothing ever ordered for work. It also showed that the blueprint he gave them was copied and they were selling copies of it online for 50 bucks each and had a decent account going from that too.

      “I see...” he said taking notes and after a while he turned to go and Frank ask him about the account they started and he laughed and said it looked like Frank owned a business, since they used his land, blueprints and property to start it, and he agreed and they left with enough charges to keep these three under glass for a long time to come, and Frank needed to hire some better workers next time.

      The blueprint was for a floating home, big enough to travel up and down the coast when he wanted, and the print itself cost him 10,000 to get custom made, and so they were selling it at a fraction of what the company that made it charged, so it was selling pretty well. He gave those fools 5000 to start ordering materials, and they stole that and did this instead, but now he had just over 6000 in this account too, and that meant he was slowly getting his money back either way. But to be honest he raised the price, saying the original cost thousands more, and if anything the sales went up after that proclamation.

      Then he got some decent help and made sure the work got started, and before his next job the frame was getting laid out and the sounds of tools and talk was heard everyday on site as construction got started. That was better, and the income from sales helped cover it and though he could have ordered one made for nearly the same price, he wanted it customized a bit and this way he could do as he pleased.

      And when he got the message another job was waiting he dropped another 10,000 on the foreman and gave him access to the online account and then went back to work.

      Chapter 22: New Life to Live

      Now to pay for it all...and Frank was in a meeting the next day with the company CEO, his research team and a man wearing a 30,000 dollar suit, telling them all that his company needed the very best, because thats what they were making.

      “A galactic Space Simulation so advanced, so detailed that even some of our company personal started getting hooked on it...in Alpha..” he admitted as people around the room looked a little shocked he might admit that so soon. “ When we get the bugs worked out we’ll have a new Galaxy, accurate down to the trees, grass and bugs, which DO bite by the way.” He said, waving his finger in the air, as a few looked impressed.

      “That’s a lot of details, you sure your people can make it work?” Frank asked as the man looked insulted.

      “You’ll walk along ship hangers so detailed that you’ll smell the heat off the engines from the ship you just shut off. So detailed that if some worker took a leak in the corner somewhere you’ll smell and see the stain.” he went on as even Frank looked surprised.” Food there is real food, and you need food and rest just like a normal life. And instead of giving it a rushed life span we plan on making it only 2x normal life’s speed, so yes, people can spent years in there during whatever they want. Like doing mechanical things,become a ship maintenence man. Like flying then be a pilot. Want a nice slow business to set back and relax in? Mine asteroids and sell your wares. Anything can be done there, legal and illegal, so there’s even military jobs,police work, you name it.” he mentioned as even the company CEO looked a little impressed.

      “Wait...” One researcher said suddenly.” we have the best Divers in any company, but you’re saying that 2 weeks in game is 1 week in reality? It takes months to live a life in a normal game, so it cant be done at that speed. They’d have to live the rest of his natural life in there to finish the testing.” he declared as even the company President said that was asking too much.

      “Same contract as always ...” the man went on” 100,000 dollars a month and full medical including rehab or in game existence forever. So long as the job gets done its worth it to us, and we take care of our people well, just check our reputation.” he added as everyone looked odd for a second, it was like he never heard a word they said.

      “But,” The CEO mentioned as the man waited to hear,” you’re saying he’ll live a LIFE in there then, at 100k a month? Hows that worth it to you?” he asked softly as the man brought out videos and tech manuals and everywhere it went and they looked there were options to work in game, for real money. Millions a month was possible and they looked shocked.

      “There are special items in game that can not be bought outside or in any shop.” he went on” either you need to build it yourself, and thats takes months just to gather the materials or parts, or they are one of a kind things that cant be bought OR made but only appears in game once a year..one item..once a year...” he repeated as the head researcher said right out loud that they were building a economy based on rare objects that many would positively have to have, and he agreed. “And they can be destroyed.” He added as a few sat back to think.

      “Millions a month in real cash running through the economy, bought and sold items on our own auction online, and game cash interchanged for real currency just like other games have done for years.” He added as many saw that if he got it balanced then you really could make a living online in his game.

      “People have earned a living, or partial living online for ages now, usually some exchange of game money for real cash, sold to other players to use in game for huge purchases. But our game will tie DIRECTLY into the outside economy. Things you see in game CAN be ordered for your own home in Reality, and we have companies ready to produce them any time the price is right.” he went on and finally everyone had heard enough.

      “So if I spend years in the game and win or make a Billion dollars in game money, I can take it all out and use it in real life?” Frank asked, almost laughing out loud as a few others smiled pretty wide at that.

      “Of course not..” he got told and he was on the cusp of yelling ‘AHA!’ when the man admitted that a Billion in game was only worth 10million in Reality...and Frank nearly choked on his coffee.

      “How is that even possible?” he got asked as he just smiled and said that was their problem not to worry about it, and the meeting came to an end with Frank saying that anyone going inside for years on end would need time off back in Reality, and it was agreed to, and he would go in for a month then come out for a weekend then go in again. Every bug or cheat he found would be paid for as a bonus, and even now many people on his Team was wondering what the catch was but just didn’t say.

      “There’s something fishy going on here, no company can pay like this over the long haul.” Frank got told and he agreed, but for 100k a month he’d get some work done until they saw what was really happening, and his bed and game set up got checked and was ready as he stepped into another game world again.


    2. #12
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      Chapter 23: Life in an Economic Hell


      Frank used the character creator and made a VERY close approximation of himself and named him...you guessed it...James Goodman. He used the same name for all his characters so he’d never forget it when in game. He was all ready to see this new Universe and when he opened his eyes he was standing at a door, and he walked through it into a long hallway with people walking everywhere.
      He was told that he’d be given a ID card, a pocket computer really, and it was his entire ID, from his scholastic history to work history to bank account, all in one. He pulled it out to check things, they usually give you a car or plane or ship... something... and a small amount of cash to start you off. His said he owned...nothing...no apartment no nothing but the card had 250k on it so he figured as part of his training he would have to gather whatever he needed.

      He also knew once he made the first deal somewhere then his memories of the outside world would fade until he went out again..no cheating using your schooling or skills from outside in here, and he smiled knowing he’d be in and out pretty often in this game and so he wouldn’t worry about it.

      He walked along testing the sights and sounds and he was impressed, even the tiniest smells were present, and the sunlight felt great on his face and after walking around a bit he decided he wanted a snack and he stopped at a little diner looking place and ordered a cup of coffee and a glazed donut and the waiter dropped in front of him and he handed her his card and she swiped it and handed it back and dropped a receipt and left.

      The donut was good, fresh and tasty and he wondered if all the food was this good, and the coffee was too. He looked at the receipt without thinking and nearly choked. A cup of coffee cost 20 bucks and a donut 5 dollars and he nearly spit it out on the table. He called her over and asked about it and she declared if he didn’t like their prices he could get the Hell out...and with some booing from other patrons he did... and his first lesson in living on this world got handed to him on a platter. The people here don’t take squat from anyone. They are grumpy most times and very few even smiled when he smiled at them. It was like they were all waiting on a war or gang fight any second, and if this was the price of food...he decided he needed a lesson in the local economy.

      By now James was checking around looking in windows of shops and at prices on the screens of things on sale. His card told him he had a education and a pilots license for Class 1 ships. That would include small and heavy shuttles, and small fighters. And he knew when things got better he’d want to get the lessons for bigger ships and study for that test too, living on a planet surface was tough and they could take advantage of anyone who came and went every day. But out in space there were hundreds of worlds and thousands of stations,and out there was his real Life not living here, like the rest of his Family had for generations.

      His meager savings wouldn’t last long, and so he went to the local Labor Office looking for work and after a few tests he got a temporary job with the local Police Force, as a partner for a more experienced officer. It seems they are always short handed, and even sitting there in the vehicle talking or helping chase some criminal down some ally was better than not having any help at all.

      And for 100k a month as a temp officer it would help him while he looked for something else.

      He got assigned to Officer George Comings, and they shook hands and got into his patrol car. He left James know that petty crime was on the rise but that drugs were the biggest problem, and he asked if James could use a gun.

      “Yep...I used to shoot with my dad, he’s a retired police officer too.” James added as the man smiled wide and agreed, and they stopped at a big black van where a skinny little guy looked happy to see them.

      “Hey George what can I do for you today?” he asked as George mentioned that James needed a handgun, and he pulled out a wooden sheet with a cover on it and he had dozens of smaller guns for sale.

      “My new partner needs a gun, something small and cheap.” George mentioned as the man looked James over and looked at his stock for a minute.

      “How about this one?” he said and turned with a tiny semi-auto in his hand and George growled at him and asked if he wanted punched. His next choice was a little heavier but used, real used, but George looked it over and said they could use this...if the price was right.

      “1200 credits and theres no warranty.” They got told as George turned around and fired a shot into a garbage can across the street and people screamed that were walking by.

      “So call a cop!” George screamed back and then laughed and handed the gun to James. “ Charger?” he asked as the man handed him a small coiled wire and said it was standard for all power outlets, and George asked about the price.

      “I said 1200...” The man repeated as George reminded him that he could operate right out in the open like this because HE allowed it. “ 1000...” was the next try and George laughed and slammed him against the wall of his van.

      “ 750 and I swear I got that much in it!” he screamed and George agreed and James paid the man.

      “Now we can go to work.” George added as they both got into his car and disappeared down the street and James saw the black van disappear the other way just as fast.


      Chapter 24: Police Work... in a Tyranny


      They rode around for a couple hours. Stopped once to stop a street fight and one guy got hauled away. Then stopped for lunch at a drive through place, and back out again.

      “Get yourself some cheap little velcro holster for that later.” George mentioned as James agreed he’d need one. ” And since you’re working and volunteering to help the Police, your permit to carry is automatic, so don’t worry about it. Once you work for us you’re covered, because we need the help THAT bad.” he added sadly, and James nodded agreement.

      Just then a call came in, one car found a drug deal going down while checking the warehouse district and they needed all the help they could get. George flipped a switch and sirens came on and away they went, as James called and said they were on the way.

      “How do you know its a big deal of some kind?” James asked as George got a chuckle and the guy listening in said that a broken down old warehouse surrounded by men and women with guns usually means something... as James apologized for asking something weird.

      “New guy?” the coms unit asked, as George said it was his first day, and the other man laughed saying maybe he was good luck then, and James didn’t understand why.

      They slid in beside another car that was now on fire. And George swore saying these guys had some serious firepower this time. They jumped out and got behind their car as bullets and laser charges went flying by and George fired a few shots back and one man told a shoulder hit and went down.

      “One down and only a dozen to go..” they heard as the man behind the other car chipped in.

      “Oh ya...how many did you get?” George asked as the man admitted he hit one and that he had never popped up to fire again. “ Hey kid...even if you dont hit anything fire a few shots to help keep their heads down, and we can get a few good shots in.” James heard and he agreed and after watching the patterns for a bit he popped up and fired as one man turned towards the other car with a machine gun, and the dumpster he was hiding behind took the hit, but it was really close, and so he turned and ran, and both George and his other friend jumped up and dropped him together.

      “That’s the stuff right there...hey George this new kid might not be a waste after all!” James heard and he smiled and waited to get another shot in between shots going flying by.

      They kept at it and when the radio came on asking if they needed help they refused saying they were doing ok. But James saw the men from the first car were dead now, and so it was just 4 of them, and he wondered why they didn’t take the extra help. But half an hour later and they kicked in the side door to be met with more gunfire and one officer tossed in a gas grenade and after a few minutes of choking and coughing they rushed in and finished them off.

      Now they reported the fight over and a few minutes later a photographer with the police department arrived with their local Captain and they got pics of the whole place and checked the goods and found two small suitcases full of drugs, and one half full of cash.

      “Not the haul I thought we’d get for all that shooting.” George mentioned, and even the Captain agreed. “looks like only about a quarter of a mil in cash and maybe triple that in drugs.” he mentioned and the Captain nodded and put one suitcase under his arm and waved for the photographer to follow him out, and George and the other officer divided up the second case of drugs and threw the other one to James, as he looked surprised.

      “The Captain got his, we got ours so thats yours. Your month is officially paid for the first day, so your going to make a nice profit the way things are going.” George mentioned and they all laughed.” Besides you wouldn’t know where to sell this junk anyways, so your still doing pretty well so far.” He added, as the other officer said that James could ride with him anytime...if they kept having good luck like this.

      “I can pay my house payment this month!” The officer proclaimed as George laughed along, and James knew a lot of people that wished they could say that.

      “Oh no, he was assigned to me, so you keep your hands off. If anything good goes down we’ll let you know.” George said, and they got into their cars and left and James saw that what he had heard about city Police was certainly true.


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      Chapter 25: Week Two and Onward

      James was in pretty good shape for now but he tried to save every cent, because he wanted off this planet one day and a ship of his own, and they cost an arm and a leg even for junk.

      Light shuttles, only good for trips from the surface to stations went for over a Million, and Heavy Shuttles,(light freighters really) with jump capability were twice that. Then light fighters, some so small they barely qualified as fighters at all, were at least 2 million and more. And anyone wishing for a capital ship of any kind should just keep on wishing...because only Moguls could consider such a thing.

      He took the time, and some of his new cash, and bought the book he’d need to study to get a better license someday, and after a few days studying he felt that he’d have a chance at least, when he decided to give it a try. But his little beginners license was enough for now because owning the license doesn’t mean you can fly, you need something to fly IN first. And many people had licenses that they would never use because they either never got the cash for a ship, or slid into the trap of rushing into sex and causing themselves trouble, and then everything had to be enough for two or three after that.

      Sex was nice and all, but to think of settling down before you ever lived wasn’t for him, and he kept a close eye on his bank amount and soon had enough for a used light shuttle if nothing else.
      But that wasn’t good enough, and when his month with the Police ran out he volunteered to stay a while more and they were thrilled to see it.

      They were sitting by the fence to the Space Port drinking coffee when George laughed and handed James his digital glasses. There, about 200 yards out was a man looking very pleased with himself as he crawled into one of the smallest ships James had ever seen. Dark Blue with white trim and small wedge shaped wings it looked pretty good to him.

      “You wish that was you huh? You got a license right?” George asked, as James smiled and said yes he had, as the little ship took off straight up and turned and started their way.

      “Looks like a Hemming Personal Fighter, one of the smallest there is. One seat for the pilot, no cargo space at all and no missile racks. So yes for a new pilot just starting out that would do just fine.” James added as the little ship came flying by and right over their heads as George whistled at the speed of it.

      But as they sat there talking about how long doing this job James would have to stay to get one, something odd happened. The little ship went out of sight and as they talked on, waiting for a call, the back window blew out and bullets flew through the front seat and into the instruments on the dash, as they both baled out before it caught fire.

      “What the Hell??” George screamed as the little ship slowed to a hover over the field and racked the car with machine gun fire, and both James and George opened fire on it hoping to hit something vital.

      It took everything they had but it started smoking and was forced to land, and when it did it was barely 50 yards away, and when the pilot crawled out George put him down quickly as they ran through the old gate nearby and out onto the field, as Port Security ran out to see what was going on.

      “That’s what was going on!” Screamed George pointing to his car, now on fire.” We were sitting there drinking some coffee when this jerk lifted off, turned and opened fire on us.” he said as the security men nodded they understood. They walked over and rolled the man over to see his face and instantly George screamed ‘**** !’ and the older guard smiled and asked if he was one of his fans.

      “We arrested him and his boss about a month ago for pushing drugs, I guess the old man wasn’t too happy about it huh?” He added as everyone agreed.

      “We’ll have a crew come check this out. It might be fixable.” The man said pointing to the little ship sitting there.

      “Give the bill and codes to him...it’s his now...” George said with a wink and James thought he was nuts. Even the smallest, cheapest fighter made was worth a mil and a half, used, and this model wasn’t that old. But if he had learned anything since he got to big city it was to keep his mouth shut.

      “Just the basics...” James hinted as the team agreed and they gave them a ride to the main Port where they could call all this in, since the car was just ashes by now.

      An hour later and George and James had a new car, and James had a bill for 500k, not what he hoped but then an electrical fire can do terrible things. They took the time to look the little thing over, and the Captain agreed that James was a good officer and they left him have it, for service rendered.

      He still had to stay for another month to cover it, but things had been pretty busy lately and they knew it would get paid for quickly enough. James was told to park it there at the Port and he flew it over to spot 34, and parked it there, and one security guard told him they’d keep a good eye on it for him, since they were slow to respond and he and George almost died that day. James thanked them and he and George rode away in their new car...and the guard called someone else... to report the assassination failed, and an older richer man was on a shuttle off world that afternoon.

      Chapter 26: Spaceman

      James rode around and did his best for the next month and just as he felt like taking his ship out...he woke up back in the labs.

      “Hows it going?” The company rep asked as Frank rolled his eyes at their question.

      “I know why our friend said not to worry about withdrawals...” he offered as everyone waited.” In game currency was not worth the credit to transfer it. One cup of coffee at a mom and pop store was 20 bucks, a full meal 300, and a donut 5 dollars. It costs thousands a WEEK to survive there, so game currency is worth less than 5% of the price you get paid for missions in other games. I took a job as a temp fill in policeman, and the economy is such that cops take whatever they find doing the job...just to pay their house payments.” he admitted as everyone nodded they understood. It was a cutthroat world... maybe even Universe... and Frank admitted he got his first ship, and told the tale and the head of the lab looked pretty upset that he didn’t get a better start, and he made sure to call the game company to report that too, hoping it was a bug.

      And when Frank was ready to go back in the test lab got the results, yes...he reported two bugs. One saying that he should have gotten a light shuttle to start and another that said that police should NOT steal cash and drugs they find. Police work was a hard life and was meant to be, but they admitted that they might not be paying them enough to survive in game, so that got checked as Frank disappeared and James walked out of the Police station with a high recommendation from his boss, a lifetime carry permit for weapons, a Law License good within their National Borders, and a Port Permit allowing him to park there anytime he wanted..for free.

      It was quite the nice list of bonuses , and James thought he made some pretty good friends, and he’d return to help them some other time, as he fired up the little ship and lifted off for the second part of his adventure. Now on his way out to the nearest orbiting station.

      Alpha Station was just that, the first station ever build in orbit, and the first one you see when you leave the planet.Its old but still bustling and getting work there wasn’t a problem at all. James’s little ship was small and fast, one thing he had to go with. So he took a mission to deliver important documents that had to be hand delivered to another station further out, and got 150k for doing it.

      Then he signed on to escort a shuttle back to the planet and got paid pretty well again. There were lots of little jobs like this, but he always looked for something new to try and slowly he found the maximum he could do with the little ship, and jobs became boring but steady for a little while.

      But he knew there were thousands of jobs he just couldn’t do in this, and so after a month of steady work he reported to the offices of the Station Manager and paid his tuition and sat down in front of a computer for a long and difficult test.

      It was worse than he thought but after a couple hours he handed it in and a second later the computer congratulated him for passing. 82 points, just over the 80 point minimum, but he got a class 2 license now and his choices went up a bit.

      This opened up things like freighter captain, or miner, or medium fighter, like he could afford one of those. He checked a few things and found that further out was a station called Artemis Station and it was right at the edge of one of the asteroid belts, and they took any and all minerals being mined there and paid a decent price.

      A freighter job hauling from out there back to the stations closer to the planet was a sure thing and mining too would make good money each day and a small mining ship was 2 million, and with his ship as a trade he could just make it. but then he’d be roped into a certain job for a long period of time, and he wasn’t sure he liked that idea. But Life is like that and he made his decision, and after some haggling he got a 1 year old used miner capable of hauling a thousands mineral units, and made sure it was ready and jumped to the next station out, Artemis.

      He reported in to the Station Manager and said he was here to work and they welcomed him with open arms. Prices for most minerals was well up since a few miners had retired not long ago, and it is a boring if not monotonous job for anyone. But James left them know he’d hang around for a while anyways and he started checking daily to see what minerals were worth the most, and started bringing in a few loads of those.

      But he was surprised that considering the high cost of materials, manufacturing was locked up, and even buying small blueprints was frowned on as messing with the local economy. He felt they were being a little greedy but he agreed not to rock the boat, and after that his first few loads coming in seemed worth a bit more than usual, and he appreciated their understanding...and him theirs.

      And with things going pretty well for him here his account was right back to where it had started, and he slowly started gaining a little as a few miners mentioned there were bigger ships with more than one mining beam on board, and he started looking at those and saw that they handled 3x the amount of ore that his could, so maybe it might be good to try this later.

      And during one long mining session he fell asleep and dreamed he was talking to some people in a brightly lit room, and he complained that stations had monopolies on manufacturing things and then he woke up again and got a meal and went back to work.

      “I don’t think he fully came out of it this time.” Got reported and they agreed that maybe he needed a rest in Reality, and they woke him up again and made him stay a while and his ship and life froze in place and after a day to really wake up they got a better report, and he went to see how his new home was coming.

      “He’s been doing this longer than almost anyone, and this is a really long term job.” Got reported, and even the company CEO agreed that they better keep a close eye on him after this, and even the Game Company agreed that his insurance policy was updated to show his willingness to put in the extra effort, and they changed the restrictions on manufacturing in stations to allow miners and others to start jobs doing that as well as make parts for their own vessels.


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      Chapter 27: Reputation Grows, and it Shows

      Frank went to see his new home and was surprised to see the main frame was complete and the solar panels were being added. He looked the blueprints over as the foreman showed him what they had gotten done already and Frank was pretty happy with it too and said so. He dropped another 30k on them to help out, but the foreman mentioned that they got 5k from the web site and it was still running and selling the print online.

      Frank could have bought a similar vessel for maybe a million or so, but doing it this way was slower and got it done perfectly according to his own desires, and in the long run it would be about 50% the cost of ready built. He had around 150k in it now and it was coming along well and he thanked them for their hard work and returned to his job, and was surprised that he too got a raise, or bonus as it were, for turning in obvious flaws in the game and his account barely moved even with his big project underway.

      He was outside for a week solid this time, as his boss demanded, but now he was ready and went back in, and James woke up as his miner’s alarm was going off saying the asteroid was gone, and he checked his cargo and flew to the station to get unloaded and a hot meal.

      It was boring work but it paid well, and James’s account never looked better. He even bought a better grade mining beam and got loaded faster than before. He was on his way up through the ranks now and got a message from the Miners Guild saying he had passed a milestone, his one hundredth load for sale, and he got awarded a new Traders Rank and discounts anywhere they operated.

      And he felt pretty good about it too, and called home to his Family to let them know he was doing well, and they were proud of him and said so. Of course this had him stuck doing a single type of job. But he knew before he decided to do something else again he’d need cash, lots and lots of cash, and he worked steadily for a while and watched the job boards for bonus missions he could do and everyone knew this was just a step on his way out into the Galaxy, and friends he spoke to often wished him well, and he knew it.

      And with his upgrade in both Traders Rank and the Miners Guild new missions became available, and he saw looking for rare minerals and even isotopes of rare items was a high paying job.

      New maps were available too, and he got one and it showed areas that had not yet been explored or mapped. The guild paid good money for people to take the time to map these, so that everyone could mine what was there,and so to break the monotony of everyday life, James flew into an area far from the main asteroid fields and scanned there for a day. He found really good mining there, and brought back a load of rare ores that got him a huge bonus, and his addition to the maps got him another bonus too, and he saw that exploring was a high paying job indeed.

      And as he flew out and started scanning for another day he found something strange. Far,far from any station he found a ship. Nothing he had ever seen before, but it was as big as his and seemed more heavily armed too. It showed signs of weapons damage, and the single docking port was open to space, so the crew probably escaped in pods or something.

      His curiosity was peaked now so he had his ships computer try and identify it, and after over and hour it did, and James was surprised indeed.

      It was called a Minstrel Class, a heavy military transport that belonged to a civilization they saw and occasionally did trading with, the Alliance of Gulf. A group of three planets that kept pretty much to themselves but came by once in a while looking for rare items they couldn’t find in their own space. So trading with them was possible, but didn’t happen often.

      Its specs surprised James badly, military crafts seem to get the best of everything, two guns up front, medium sized, and a turret in the back with 2 light machine guns in it. More than enough to fight off light and medium fighters, so the reason it was sitting here was because it found something bigger than that. The fire marks showed some good firepower, and one or two penetrated the hull and holes were seen right into the interior.

      It was worth a million at least even in this sad shape, so he asked his computer to take control of it and see if it could be flown, and she all but laughed in his face saying she was a mining ship, not covert ops. And he laughed too but she said that if he entered the craft and tried himself maybe she could help since he would have first hand information she couldn’t get from here.

      And so James’s little exploration mission became even more exciting, as the door opened along the side and he flew across in his space suit and after a few tries got the air lock along the side of the alien ship to open, and he went inside.

      There was junk floating everywhere, and he worked his way to the bridge and looked the system over. The main computer wasn’t even online now and he managed to get a screen up showing the damages, and one conduit along the left side of the ship was severed, and that shut off nearly everything in the rear of the ship. It appeared it still had fuel and power but only up front, and so he got the computer online again after a reset, and this new one and his talked back and forth and soon he got control of the ship and his ID showed as the new owner.

      “Is there any way to do repairs remotely?” James asked as the computer told him that system was offline too, but back in engineering there were sprays that did repairs. They were slow but steady and since only one set of wires was cut they might just help. So she helped him get back there and found storage locker 3 and opened it to find cans of various things for maintenence and he took one large can marked Nano Repairs and found the severed wiring and gave it a good healthy spray.

      “Now we wait.” She told him and he got some of the bulkheads sealed to keep in the oxygen and life support came back on as he sat in the Command chair and waited for a small miracle.

      He actually dozed off waiting but he got awakened by the computer buzzing him to say that some systems were coming online again.

      “Rear maneuvering thrusters are back up, and out of the three main engines one is now working,but not at full power.” She said and he asked if they needed to spray the area again and she agreed it couldn’t hurt, and she found another spot that needed help too and so he went and did that, and tossed the empty can out through the hole in the hull and went back to the control room again.

      Now he could scan the whole rear section and slowly the repairs were getting done. James was pretty happy that being a military craft they had these things on board because they were expensive as hell, but this time it didn’t cost him anything but time, and he felt like things were turning around for him now.


      Chapter 28: Fleet Owner


      James was gone for a week solid but when he returned to the station he had two ships instead of one. The station manager cheered for him saying that he found a good one, and the transfer into his name was official, and he got the time to get the hull repaired and to really go over the ship seeing what it could do.

      It had nearly the same cargo capacity as his miner and guns forward and aft. The rear turret had two light machine guns for missile defense, and light fighters wouldn’t want to get too close to those either.

      The front guns were a little bigger, the rear guns were 30 caliber machine guns using armor piercing rounds, pretty much standard for light turrets. But the 3 front guns were light pulse lasers, and even light armor wasn’t getting away from those unscathed.

      His miner had no guns except for the mining beam so defense alone was triple what it had. Also miners have a generic 25 mega-joule shield, mostly for bumping into rocks while mining, but this new ship had room for 4 of those, more than many fighters.It was also faster, about 1/3 faster than his miner, and James saw some nice times ahead and he started to think about hiring someone to mine for him so he could go do other things.

      It got mentioned that he really did have more firepower than many fighters, and a missile launcher too, made for light missiles and rockets. Of course rockets are dirt cheap compared to missiles, but homing missiles are another thing altogether. Depending on what you bought they could go from 3200 a missile for short range generic types to 50k a missile for more payload and longer range. But James wasn’t looking to own a battleship, just something to do more missions with, and so after paying for the repairs he got a couple cases of ammo for the rear turret and removed one pulse laser up front and mounted a mining beam. It was made for 4 guns but he needed the money now and the mining beam would help pay for the rest, and two pulsars are nothing to laugh at, so that was it.Now he could do anything, and with the new speed he could go places he hadn’t been before too, and if he found something truly rare he wanted the option to bring it back with him.

      James hired a young kid to run his old miner, and they made a deal for a percentage of the haul. Now he had money coming in and his own personal ship to work with. He took it out and flew around a while and got used to the way it handled. It wasn’t much different from the little miner, but with the new weapons he had a lot more options.

      So for something different he hired on as a escort for a large convoy of materials going to another station. There had been some trouble lately, and so they wanted a little protection, and he agreed. So he fell in beside them as they flew along, and about 2/3 of the way there they got attacked by a wing of light fighters, and he chased them away easily. They obviously weren’t expecting an escort, and at first glance it wasn’t clear what type of ship his was, so it might have passed for a corvette class star ship, but either way they left pretty fast when his guns came on, and he got paid big time for saving the convoy when it finally docked.

      His account came up nicely after that and he made sure both of his ships had the best of everything and by that time he went to sleep one night...and woke up as Frank again... and for a second looked around a bit scared, then slowly things came back to him and he could finally breath again after the scare.

      “Welcome back..” One researcher said as Frank just nodded and they got him up and around again. It had been another month and once he was fully awake they had a meeting and he told them everything that had been going on. “Doesn’t sound like any malfunctions this time.” he heard and he agreed things seemed pretty normal, and that was the report sent back to the main offices.

      Again he got walking around and went out and went to see his project, and the foreman told him they needed more cash because some of the furnishings he asked for weren’t cheap, and Frank dropped another 25k on him and they shook on it. His floating home was nearing completion, and it was nice. But as he walked around the little garden that ringed the house itself he felt that it was smaller than he had hoped, and he mentioned it. So the blue prints got altered and became a MK II version, and the construction crew was told to add another 10 feet down the length, and they agreed. With this change it would have enough room for a jogging path around the edge of the platform. Not big you understand, but walking or running around a 100 foot x 50 foot platform was better exercise than nothing. And Frank saw some nice days coming, sitting out here fishing and watching other boats going by, and that was a relaxing thought.

      According to the specs the solar farm on the roof of the house and the roof of the pavilion over the picnic area had enough power to run everything, and a little extra. So that was one thing he didn’t need to pay for again, power. And he added a small rotating windmill on top of the pavilion, the type that lays down and spins, not like a big propeller blade, and it was smaller and less dangerous than the others he saw and that added another 1 kw of power for days and nights when solar wouldn’t be working well.

      So another couple months and it would be done, and Frank thanked them for doing such a good job, and added the new blueprints to the web site too and it started looking like a real business now. He even added a small section called ‘tips and tricks’ where he mentioned things like the walking path and solar power and the windmill, and the people coming to his site went up nicely and he sold even more stuff. And because he mentioned their products and left links to their stores, he got cash for everything someone from his site bought, and that added a little more to his retirement account.


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