The Tornado Sojourns (2) – Chapter 01 – Androsin Prime
It had been more the 12 months since the Tempest Class Freighter Tornado left Delta 500 with a full complement aboard, full cargo pods, some funds in the coffers and work lined up for several months ahead.
They had left the space port in something of a hurry after rescuing
Asti Alegionaris, a member of the Gouveian Royal family, from the clutches of a Ghambran snatch squad, and tricking the kidnappers aboard their Scorpion Cruiser, into following the wrong freighter through the stargate and into hyperspace.
Asti was now one of the crew, although at the time of her abduction she was the Tornados only passenger, and the reason she was snatched by agents of the Ghambran state was that she was unwillingly betrothed to Prefector Collis of Ghambra and when she ran away from her home world to escape her fate he wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer.
Merionwen Strong was 29 years old and was best described as statuesque, she was tall, straight backed, and proud.
And was blessed with an abundance of red hair that trailed behind her like a mane and penetrating green eyes, and overall you would call her striking and then along with her striking appearance went her forthright, volatile and feisty personality.
She was owner and Captain of the Tornado, and spent much of the quite hours of the night watches thinking about the events of the previous 18 months and the remarkable change in their fortunes.
From their lowest ebb, in the Cammaratian System, when they were stranded on the surface of Alwi, the fourth moon of the seventh planet Aragon, for three months with engine trouble and virtually no crew, to where they were now, a happy ship with a good crew, a plentiful larder, a good cook, friendship, a liberal quantity of love, and the occasional adventure.
Merionwen’s love interest was Parse Sacrod, whom she called Beefy, a former Legionnaire of the Royal Guard of Gouveia who she met after the abduction at the space port.
He was huge in stature, standing 6 feet 8 high and he was broad and powerfully built, his hair was short, curly and the colour of burnished steel, and with the characteristic ivory skin of the Gouveian race and with his mercury coloured eyes he was an altogether arresting figure and he and Merri had become almost inseparable.
After leaving Delta 500 the Tornado had a return load to Alwi, and then a second drop on Lazarion, and a further one after that to Androsin Prime in the Androsinian system and they spent many months ferrying people and goods around the modest collection of planets and moons.
And they might well have stayed for many months more were it not for a chance meeting in a market place while on a visit to Candoran the capital city of Androsin Prime.
When Merri landed the Tornado on Alwi 18 months earlier to make repairs she expected a two or three week stay at most, but weeks quickly turned to months as they discovered the extent of the damage and after half her original crew grew restless and signed on with other vessels, it left her shorthanded and desperate and in danger of losing her ship.
Technically the ship belonged to the Garangon mining company, but as they went out of business when they inadvertently destroyed the moon they were mining, Merionwen’s father Ben kept the Tornado in lieu of payment and it passed to her on his death, but after only three years at the helm, losing it had become a very real possibility.
Fortunately, she still had the loyalty of her remaining crew, co-pilot and navigator Malena Endia and Shiyne, the latter being that rare commodity in any crew, someone who could and would perform any task required of them without question, but her real strength was in the role of negotiator and as an eternal optimist.
The Plasma Turbine Pyroclast Engines were what kept the ship grounded and although Merri was a good enough engineer to keep something limping along she didn’t possess the skillset for fixing something that had stopped limping altogether.
This problem was further exacerbated by the fact that she was the best engineer left among the crew and the ship was sitting on the outskirts of a mining town on the surface of Alwi, in the Cammaratian System, which was the sort of place that aspired to be the back end of beyond but couldn’t even manage that.
But things suddenly turned around for Merri and her friends with the arrival of Visitor Parham, a Christian minister who brought with him two first rate engineers, Pulsat and Vanzyl, who were magicians with all things mechanical and the next day they lifted off and went for a spin among the stars.
It was during that test flight that they had to go to the rescue of the Skeet brothers whose ship, the Phoenix, was attacked by Skav Raiders, and the attack was so severe that they had to eject in a life pod which nearly cost them their lives anyway, but they were saved in the nick of time and when they recovered from their injuries they joined the crew.
And it was the Skeets injuries that brought Sciberran Healer Terrell Vorton aboard the Tornado where two significant happened, firstly he saved Zerrad Skeet’s life, which was crucial in reconciling the unresolved love between him and Malena, and secondly it brought him into the close orbit of Shiyne where they fell for each other.
When the Tornado left Alwi bound for Delta 500 with everyone aboard including Visitor Parham who tended to their spiritual needs and his alter ego Bagg fortified them with his culinary prowess.
So, Merri and her best friends, Malena and Shiyne had all found love.
Also, aboard on the journey to Delta 500 was passenger Princess Asti Alegionaris, youngest granddaughter of the Regent of Gouveia but by the time they departed the space dock after her rescue she and Lyris Skeet were in each other's pockets for good and all.
So, all concerned had the thing they wanted more than anything in the universe, someone to share their life among the stars they all loved so much, so everything for the Tempest Class Freighter Tornado was set fare.
In the Androsinian system they had just completed their 5th run in 6 days so they were looking forward to a couple of days of down time in Candoran, the capital city of Androsin Prime where they could eat, drink and be merry.
After delivering their cargo they landed on the commerce port apron on the outskirts of the city with Merri piloting and Lyris in the co-pilot seat and she engaged the Tornado’s four vertical take-off jumper engines and the Tempest class freighter landed softly on the apron.
It wasn’t a huge ship as freighters go but pound for pound the Tempests had the highest freight to fuel ratio yield of their class.
The front section comprised of a sizable pressurized hold for large freight, accessed via a front loading ramp, above which was the flight deck, living and sleeping quarters, mess facilities and bath rooms, at the rear was the main propulsion and amidships were the universal pod bays, which allowed for a mixed cargo option, which allowed for quick inspection and loading, although sometimes pods were sealed which meant it was either very valuable or very illegal, either way Merri didn’t mind and transporting sealed cargo paid much, much better.
But this time there was no cargo so they landed with only one pod aboard.
The Tornado always flew with at least one pod but then that was because it was where they stowed their gear and where the hidden compartments could be found, or not, which was where they hid the contraband, or even fugitives when necessary.
Those going ashore to enjoy the delights of Candoran would travel into the city in the Stroller but not everyone was leaving the ship because unfortunately there was a large Legion Garrison outside the City and as Parse was still technically a Legionnaire of the Royal Guard of Gouveia, and he knew that there was a large detachment of Gouveian troops in that sector, some of whom might recognize him and inadvertently give away the Tornado’s location, so he had to stay aboard, and as they were a couple Merri chose to stay with him, in the hope that they might actually get a bit of “alone” time.
Similarly, the diminutive Princess Asti was confined to the ship as she was still a fugitive from her betrothed and with her short platinum hair, ivory skin and silver eyes, she was too easily recognised.
As Asti was grounded she was not about to let her six-foot-tall, broad and muscular, black haired, dark eyed boyfriend ashore on his own to be preyed upon by wanton women in the City’s fleshpots, not that she had any personal experience of fleshpots, but she had an imagination and that was quite enough for her.