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Chains – Chapter One

The air was humid and still, birds chirped occasionally from the dense trees around the edge of the field. Figures relaxed in the warm sunlight, a pair engaged in a card game, some asleep in old wicker chairs with straw hats pulled over faces and others reading cheap literature. A black and white spotted dog sat upright staring down the long field, panting with tongue hanging happily. The dog stood up on all fours and gave a gleeful bark.

Euan Fairbanks jerked awake, catching his home made hat as it fell to the floor. He blinked in the bright sunlight as he turned his head  down field. His eye caught a grey speck just above the trees some distance away. He blinked and saw it grow slightly in size, then in another blink it was upon them. The old Condor sliced past silently above the group and pulled up into a hard vertical climb. Two seconds later the scene was split wide open as a thunder clap blasted the sleepy men and women awake, several of them falling off chairs.

Euan picked himself up off the grass as the dog came over to lick his face.

The group of men and women together made up the 3rd Norfolk Air Squadron. All of them volunteers from the various small towns and farmsteads that dotted the surface of Breckland, a quiet and picturesque green world with little in the way of industry or high technology. Euan was a pilot, spending a week with the 3rd, otherwise known as “The Lancers” away from his usual job with the 2nd. It wasn’t really true to say he was away from the 2nd, since Euan was the sole member anyway, but a change was a good thing from time to time.

“Does he do that often?”

Bexly Tanner, the lead engineer of the ground crew smirked.

“Only when he knows the other space cadets over there are having a good kip. Anyway you’ll be back off to your old brick tomorrow, I’m surprised you aren’t tearing up the sky in one of our birds like him.”

“Better a brick shit house than a metal coffin! I spend more time in space than these guys, I like to make the most of it down here when I can.”

“Ahh, too much beer yesterday?”

“Yep, can barely hear you over the hangover mate.”

A middle aged, auburn haired woman in a green jumpsuit and black sunglasses made her way out of the small hut that served as their combined crew room and mess.

“Bex, when zippy up there gets down make sure he hasn’t torn anything again. If he tries to tell you that he wasn’t over Mach 3 then remind him that I’m not stupid.”

“Aye boss.”

The engineer gave a nod and made his way over to a hanger on the edge of the clearing where a single Eagle sat in bits and two grubby kids stood underneath bolting on a panel.

“Euan, tomorrow your stint here is up. But I don’t want you to head back to your brick alone. I want you to train up Morris as a backup.”

Morris was the new kid from Thymland, a good sized island on the equator. He was also the one who just nearly popped everyone’s eardrums.

“What? Er.. ”

Euan caught her glare, even through the shades.

“I mean, yes Ma’am. Does he know yet?”

“No. I’ll probably get the others to wait until he’s asleep and seal him in a cargo can for you to pick up tomorrow.”

He wasn’t quite sure if she was kidding or not.

As pilot of the colony’s sole type-6. Euan had been blessed with a lot of freedom. As long as he did his job not many questions were asked and he was left alone most of the time.

Breckland was the second planet in the system and had no orbital station. The system only had a very small mining outpost around the third planet. It was a relatively unremarkable place from a resources or strategic viewpoint. Breckland itself had no volcanism and was pretty much just rock all the way down.

Without significant mineral deposits and being out of any trade routes there had never been any sound financial reason to build a space station. Instead the colony were mainly self sufficient for energy and food with much of the land near settlements put over to farming or solar arrays. Piracy was minimal but enough that the colony invested in a handful of ex federation Condor fighters and operated them from the surface to deal with lone pirates or slavers who might try to take advantage of the relaxed simple farm folk.

Euan’s job had been done by his aunt before him. He flew a battered Lakon Type-6 as a light transport and refueling tanker for the small fighters.  She had shown him how to scoop from the stars of neighbouring systems and how to run the hose system to refuel fighters once they got to orbit. The first time out he’d asked why she didn’t use refueling drones.

“You see a cargo bay on those things lad?”

The Condor was small, unshielded and was little more than a gun mounting with engines. The cockpit and fuel tank seemed to be more of an afterthought. They had enough fuel to get up into orbit and loiter for about ten minutes before needing to land. Euan’s tanker job meant the whole squadron could remain space-bourne for a whole hour. Once a week he would venture out to a neighbouring system to scoop more fuel or get parts, occasionally picking up bootleg holos from passing traders.

The freedom he had meant that the T6 was more like his home than a ride. Although he had nothing against the lad he couldn’t help the stab of annoyance. He would have to put the other bunk back in too before Morris would even be able to sit down.

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