Space Race 2
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks to be a fine day for our race today. What do you think, Jim?"
"Oh, I agree, Allyson. These pioneers have great conditions for staking their claims. This should be an exciting event."
"That it should. Our top runner is once again Brett Corning, racing for CompCorp again. They have acquired a lot of prime galaxy territory because of her."
"This is true, and I don't see that changing today, although everyone competing will come away with something." The commentator paused as a new entry flashed across his screen. "Whoa ho, ladies and gentlemen! It seems we have a newcomer to this race, and wow! Would you look at that ship? Amazing technology! My goodness, Allyson, this is suddenly shaping up to be quite a race."
"Yes, Jim, it really is! Do we have any ID on the newcomer? Or their sponsor?"
"No, but it's time for a word from our sponsors, CompCorp."
"CompCorp, leading you to the future and ..."
"Off!" the disgusted figure yelled at the vid screen and watched with no little satisfaction as the screen instantly went black. "I am so tired of hearing about CompCorp and Brett Corning. The race doesn't start until this afternoon. Enough already!"
"And that's why you have her holo sitting in the middle of your desk?" teased the sprawled figure on the form fitting chair.
"She's sold out and you know it," responded the incensed blonde whirlwind who turned to regard her brother's languid form.
"Yeah, we all do. But, what're you gonna do? They've got the biggest credit roll out there, she's probably making a fortune."
"And that makes it okay for her to forget everything she stood for?" the young woman paced from one end of the large room to the other, completely ignoring the moving underwater scenes on the wall. "So much for her speeches about freedom of choice and rights of indigenous life forms!"
"That was years ago, Dray."
"And it's time someone did something about those CC jerks!" Dray continued, ignoring her brother's previous statement.
"Like what? And what if mom's new ship design passes all the tests? She's probably gonna sell to the highest bidder and that's probably gonna be CC."
Dray's movement stopped dead at that statement. "What?"
"I heard her talking to dad about it. CC had already gotten wind of her new design and offered her an exclusive deal."
"But, it's not even been field tested yet!" Dray replied as she slowly turned to face her brother.
"Guess they want to make sure they get it. That's how they got Brett, after all."
"They can't do that, Sen. They just can't." With that, Dray paused for a very long moment and then rapidly moved towards the exit.
Brow furrowing in confusion, the teenaged boy called after his sister, "Hey, where are you going?"
"To do something about it."
"Welcome back to the CompCorp Raceway To The Stars! I'm Allyson Lenrin, here with Jim Rany. We've had a late entry that just snuck under the wire and boy is she causing some comments! Jim, do you have more info?"
"Yes, Allyson. The ship is the Golden Bough and it's registered under Draylen Pardels. It's caused quite a stir because of the apparently new light speed engine design. We haven't seen anything like it!"
"Do we know anything about the pilot, Jim?"
"Only that the pilot is apparently the daughter of Dran Pardels, who is the creator of the current engine being used by Brett Corning's ship, The Emperor. My sources say that Draylen has been quite successful in several minor races previously but has never entered a race of this magnitude."
"Aren't they worried about inexperience being a danger, Jim?"
"Apparently not, Allyson. The word is that Draylen offered the race negotiators a deal that couldn't be passed up but we can't confirm that just yet."
"Well, thank you for that report, Jim. This should be a very interesting race indeed. Let's take a look at Brett Corning's unbeaten status thus far."
"Crap!" Dray spat as the very familiar, and currently quite agitated, voice of her mother filtered through her head set.
"Draylen Pardels, answer me this instant!"
"Communications on," with a deep sigh, Dray instructed the computer, and then paused for just a moment as it complied with her request. "Mom, I have to do this."
"No, you certainly do not. I will not let you risk yourself like this and I've already ..."
Dray nudged her ship into line as she listened to her mother's voice trail off. Mentally cringing, she listened as her mother apparently spoke to someone else that Dray couldn't hear.
"No! This is my ship and my daughter and I will not allow it!"
After a pause of a few seconds, her mother's voice continued, rising in tone. "What do you mean she's legal? This is my ship; it's not been field tested and could ..." Another pause. "I will not allow this!"
Dray interrupted, "Mom, please. It's too late."
"No, it most certainly is not, young lady. I will not have you selling yourself to CompCorp if you lose this race! What are you thinking of?"
"You know this new design can beat anything out here and it was either me or the ship. I figured the ship was worth more, so I told them they could have me if I lost," Dray replied, her matter of fact tone was spoiled by a slight tremble in her voice.
There was a gasp on the other end of the line and Dray closed her eyes to listen as her mother's voice suddenly became much softer.
"Dray, nothing is more important than you and Sen. Nothing. I know that your father and I get caught up in things sometimes but we love you more than anything. Please, come back in."
"I can't, mom. Did you know that this planet they're racing for has grass and trees and animals running around free? That there's like three million different intelligent life forms? They'll destroy it, just like they destroyed Meroa Prime. Do you remember how you cried as they mined over your home town?"
There was a slight pause before her mother replied, "Dray, we can work through the Central Command to try and protect the life forms. I'll go with you myself, I swear it. Please, back out."
"Well, remember that CC also stands for CompCorp!"
"Thank the stars this is a secure line! I can't believe you remember your father saying that!"
"I remember other things too, mom. Like how you once told me that sometimes you have to upset the people you care about to make a difference. That sometimes something you're doing is worth everything. Do you remember?"
"You were five years old, Dray. We were talking about your project to save the Lyer Beasts of Argus Minor, and how you'd re-programmed the computers of the entire school to keep flashing, 'Save The Beasts!', of course I remember."
"You were proud of me then, mom. I'm going to make you proud of me now."
"Dray, I've been proud of you every day of your life... "
Her mother's voice faded out as Dray glanced over at the side projector. She couldn't help the double take as she realized just whose ship she was next to. Intricate designs covered the ship, as if etched directly into the metal. The engines flared slightly as Brett Corning adjusted her ship to a brief solar wind and kept the ship in line.
"Wow," Dray murmured. "It's her."
"What? Draylen, are you listening to me?"
"Er.. yeah, mom, sorry. But, I gotta go now. It's about to start."
"Dray, I forbid this!"
"I love you, mom." As the numbers floating in space counted down, Dray pressed a button on her front panel to turn off all communications and waited for the race to start.
"You want me to what?' asked the eerily cold voice.
"Just take her out, Brett."
"She's a kid, Rayne!"
"She's a competitor and she's too close, just deal with it," Rayne replied, his eyes half closed as if the topic completely bored him.
"I'm going to win, what's the big deal?" the dark haired pilot replied.
"It's not like you haven't done it many times before, Brett." Even through light years of space and the projection of a hologram, the hole that the ice chips for eyes were boring into his forehead was starting to make him more than a little uncomfortable.
"She can't win. Just let her do her thing and maybe she'll be interested in signing up with CC."
At this, the man laughed and leaned forward to press a button. Instantly, another hologram appeared in both his office and Brett's ship. The hologram was the signed contract of one Draylen Pardels to be indebted to CompCorp for the race entrance fee at a considerable interest rate.
"You've already got her," Brett sighed.
"Oh yeah, and we want to make sure we keep her and that new planet. So, take care of it."
Brett couldn't help but protest. "Dammit, Rayne. We have half the race left, she can't catch up. Why risk it?"
"I have a feeling about this one, that's why. She's got untested engines on that baby and her mother was already considering our offer."
"Her mother?" Brett considered this for a few moments. "Crap, Dran Pardels is her mother?"
"You got it. So, fix it and we'll talk after Terrene Major is ours."
As his holo faded from view, Brett's eyes focused in on the golden ship off her port side. The kid had done a really good job of keeping up, but had always stayed fairly close.
She leaned back in her chair, the material of which molded itself around her body and kept her safe through some of the wild rides she faced as she piloted around the galaxy, and tapped a long finger against its soft arm as she pondered Rayne's words.
It was possible that the kid hadn't really shown her ship's true power yet and that thought almost amused Brett in its boldness. That this slip of a girl could think she could get in her way was something that hadn't happened in so long that the challenge was almost insidious in its ability to consume her thoughts.
She'd talked to the girl a couple of times as the race had progressed and had been very impressed with her ability to recognize problems coming up and work her way out of them.
In fact, during one situation, involving a huge super-freighter that was about to pop out of warp too early, Brett had been ready to contact the kid to make sure she recognized the signatures of the premature arrival and had been surprised to find the golden ship already making course corrections.
She wouldn't have bothered with a warning, normally choosing to let the other pilots face danger as they found it, but Coran Loras had accused her of damaging his ship at the last rest stop and the blonde had stepped forward to give information proving who had actually done the damage.
Brett's lips curved into a smile at that memory. A small crowd of hardened, and usually quite nasty, racing pilots had surrounded her and were obviously worked up into quite a frenzy. Nothing she couldn't handle, but still a little annoying.
Then, the tiny blonde had pushed her way into the middle of the crowd and looked up at them all, shiny disk in hand. What had really shamed the pilots were the words she'd spoken as she slipped the disk into the holo player, "My first real race and I'm the only one who had her recorders on?"
Once they'd seen a mechanic that had been released from Loras' crew the previous race removing most of the Berola Crystals from his power core, the other pilots had quickly dispersed at the reminder that even they weren't untouchable and should be doing the basic safety steps when docking.
What had amused Brett even more was that the girl had the temerity to admonish her for a lack of manners when she'd started to walk away without saying anything.
"So I guess it's good that my mom taught me manners?" Draylen asked.
"What are you talking about?" Brett turned and placed her hands on her hips.
"You can't even say thank you?"
Brett's lips thinned slightly. "I had it handled."
"Oh yeah, that's right. You can do anything, can't you? Including changing your morals and ideals. I forgot, sorry."
Brett had stared after the girl for quite some time and then spent a good portion of her evening looking into her background.
She'd found out that Draylen Pardels had quite a reputation in the junior race circuits but had never competed in something of this scale. Even more curious was that the girl had top marks in engineering, indicating that her mother had passed along more than her looks to her daughter.
Although it used to be quite common to be both engineer and pilot, there was a clear separation anymore. Both careers having far too many diverse branches to follow and excel in them both.
Brett was one of the few pilots who still knew their way around their ship. Enough to make any of her own repairs, choose her own parts and crew, and know one end of a Corellian Spanner from another.
Like Draylen, she had grown up in the field. However, unlike Draylen, her parents had bet everything on a rival to CompCorp and had been swallowed up and spit out by the rising company.
They'd lost everything, all their designs, ships and assets, and Brett had fought against the company for many years. Speaking out in any way she could against the progression and eventual take over of almost all major mining companies by CompCorp.
Until, finally, with her father dead and mother gravely ill, both from an accident on a new site they were trying to develop, she had sold her soul to the company that had already ripped so much from her family.
Her mother had never really forgiven her for that and although she had recovered completely and they exchanged the occasional call, their contact had been sporadic at best since that time.
Brett thought back to their last call, her mother had been working on a new warp coil and had been explaining about a problem they were having. It had almost been like old times and all too quickly gone.
With a sigh, Brett pulled on the threads of her thoughts and drew them back to the place where she normally kept them, carefully locking them away for another day.
Once more her gaze trailed to the golden ship. "What'm I gonna do with you, kid?"
Dray pushed the capacitator into the casing and nodded in satisfaction as the circuit board lit up with all green lights. "Cool!" she slapped the metal siding and arched her back, stretching it out with a few satisfying pops.
Everyone else had been enjoying their down time in the space lounge and other places she was sure she didn't want to know about, therefore, she'd pretty much had the bay to herself most of the time she'd been working on the ship.
It had been so satisfying to work as the engineer she preferred to be and she knew that her mother would be pleased that the engines were performing perfectly. That is, if her mother would ever talk to her again.
Blocking messages from her mother had been the most difficult thing she'd ever done but she'd had to do it or risk far too many dangerous distractions.
As she pushed away from the ship's hull, she paused as she recognized Coran Loras' voice approaching and winced internally. The pilot simply creeped her out and she had no interest in meeting up with him.
His voice echoed slightly in the space station's tunnels and she backed into the access hatchway again, pulling the hatch almost closed.
"I can do that," she heard him say.
"You have to make sure there are no mistakes," said another voice that Dray didn't recognize.
"When have there ever been?" Loras replied.
"I can think of one time, we almost lost Blue Eyes on that one."
"That was years ago and you got her in the end didn't you? Not my fault they decided to test it themselves." Loras passed by Draylen's position and continued on.
"Where are you?" the other voice's tone suddenly became considerably colder.
"In the hangar bay, almost back to the ship."
"Are you a complete fool?" roared the unfamiliar voice.
"Everyone's in the lounge or holo suites, calm down." Loras' voice started to fade as he moved away.
"Oh, and I'm sure you thought to verify that did you?"
"You know that Brett's the only one who stays away off the station when docked."
"You better hope ... " the other voice faded from Dray's hearing and she leaned against the inside of the hull, releasing a breath that she hadn't realized she had held.
She knew everything about Brett Corning and her blue eyes. The implications of what she'd just heard were already crushing her with their weight and she had no idea at all of what to do about it.
"Stop playback," Brett instructed her computer, only her pale face and clenched jaw indicating the depth of her distress.
She'd listened to the message of Coran Loras and Rayne speaking too many times to count. She'd also had the computer analyze it for edits and corrections.
There was no doubt in her mind that it was real and Draylen's attempts at covering up the originating signal had been inventive but no match for the cutting edge technology that Brett had access to.
Exploding out of the chair, Brett slammed a hand into the hull of her ship and cursed the safety shields that stopped her from causing herself any damage by taking the force of the blow and absorbing it.
"Orma's Blessing, what a fool I've been. What a complete fool."
Pacing the spacious cabin, Brett thought about everything that had just happened. There wasn't enough in the recording to prove anything but she knew the truth. CompCorp, or at least Rayne, had killed her father and injured her mother.
The reason this had happened was the thing that was truly killing her inside. CompCorp had almost certainly wanted her and she'd fallen right into their hands.
All those years spent doing their filthy work. Earning them the spoils of her talents. All of it built on the blood of her parents and who knows how many others.
That couldn't continue.
It had been an interesting last few days. Two of the other ships had come down with mysterious engine problems during their last rest stop.
The best part was, though, that Coran Loras had been found in a very compromising position with the daughter of a very stern space station commander. Even better, quite a number of credits that had been stolen from the station's casino had been found on his person. Not to mention the illegals subsequently found in his bloodstream and room.
Not exactly the perfect remedy but a solution that was keeping Brett at least somewhat cheerful until she could delve into what really had happened to her parents. It also kept Loras in one place for that time.
Attuned as she was to the vacuum around her ship, Brett sensed another ship closing in.
"You ready for this, kid?" Brett spoke to the pilot of the ship just to the side of her space wake.
"I'm not a kid!" Dray's voice piped up.
"Uh huh." Brett smiled, the knowledge that this was her last race for CompCorp taken such a huge load from her shoulders that everything seemed so much easier, so much brighter. She already had the holo ready to send, as soon as this race was over.
She'd wanted to resign her commission instantly, but realized that Rayne might be able to track down who else wasn't in one of the lounges the night that he'd talked to Loras and she needed to be careful. Plus, it was quite likely that Rayne had others who could damage Dray's ship or harm Dray herself and Brett wasn't going to let that happen.
It was just a short time to wait after years of bowing to CC. She certainly owed Draylen that much, and a fair race if at all possible.
That in mind, she'd told Rayne that the Golden Bough's engines would fail on the last run and although he'd admonished her to be sure, he'd believed it without further comment. That was just the start of her rebellion.
What he didn't realize was that Brett had no intention of winning her last race for CompCorp, and a look at the information compiled by CC on the new engines, plus a sneaky look for herself when Draylen was occupied with dinner, showed that it was quite likely that the race would be fair and little doubt that Draylen would win.
After the look at the engines, Brett had been impressed, Draylen had apparently made her own changes to the engines and there was little doubt that the changes would only serve to enhance the throughput. Barring something dire, Dray and her parents were pretty much set for life with the engine contracts that were sure to come in and after winning the freedom of Terrene Major.
Once the race was over, Brett had plans to deal with Rayne but it would take some time and she knew that. Things had to be put in place and revenge would be very sweet.
"Magnetic pulse ahead," Brett announced automatically to Dray, the holos still being open between the two of them.
"Got it," Draylen replied.
Brett chuckled. "You're gonna show me what you've got under that golden skin pretty soon, aren't ya?"
"No idea what you're talking about."
"Right, just like you have no idea how I got to hear a certain conversation."
Inside the Golden Bough, Dray froze. After a split second, her ship took over the controls for her but she quickly shook off her surprise and picked them up again. Unsure of what to say, she just kept quiet.
Brett's holo flickered to life and she saw a slightly stunned blonde look up. "Thank you, Draylen."
"I uh... "
"You did a wonderful thing for me, thank you. Seems like you taught me some manners too," Brett teased.
"I didn't realize that was possible," Dray chuckled. Considerably more comfortable with the other pilot since Brett had been making an obvious effort to be friendly.
"Oh boy, give you a parsec and you take a galaxy!"
Dragging her eyes away from the sparkling eyes looking at her from the holo, Dray looked back at her console, hoping that the blush warming her cheeks, from the comfortable teasing, wasn't too visible.
Being kind, Brett asked, "How's about we race for Terrene Major?"
"Earth," Dray replied.
"I researched the planet and life forms. They call the planet Earth," Dray answered, her eyes on the spinning blue and white planet in her view port.
"Yes, and it's beautiful."
Brett smiled as she looked up and caught the look of wonder on Dray's face, her breath caught for a moment. "That it is, kid. That it is. Let's go meet these people that have you so interested."
Dray grinned, it was finally time to show off the new engines and save a planet from certain devastation.
One command and the engines trembled slightly with the new power flowing through them. A few quick adjustments had the power filtering correctly. "I'll leave room for you when I dock. See you there."
Brett chuckled and replied, "That you will, Draylen Pardels. That you will."