Back in 1985 I recorded a Merry-go-Round train at Acton heading towards a power station in the south with a load of coal from the midlands. I can’t for the life of me recall the power station involved! The interesting thing from an enthusiast point of view was the motive power – a pair of Class 73 Electro-Diesels. Built for use on the Southern Region they were small as locomotives go and a bit unusual. They could run on third rail electrified lines producing 1600HP but they also had a 600HP diesel engine on board for work in sidings. At the time of their design I doubt anyone realised just how flexible these ladies would prove to be – there are some still in service today and being rebuilt with new diesel engines for tomorrow’s challenges! I suspect (as my memory has failed and I’m struggling to find the full details behind this working) that the train in the original photo was rostered for a class 45 but with those locomotives being phased out in 1985 it was passed to the class 73’s for transit from Cricklewood to the final destination. Very recently, along with a new route, Railworks issued a Blue Diesels and Electrics pack including the Class 73. It gave me the chance to recreate the scene ‘today’. I guess you can treat this as a ‘spot the difference’ challenge (and if you want to, that is great) – but then again, why not just enjoy a glimpse of the past 30 years ago and a modern computer recreation?
An ISS Captain peered round the corner of the door, laser pistol in hand. He acknowledged Border and holstered his weapon before pulling out a scanner. Two junior officers appeared behind him in the doorway. As he viewed the screen of his device it spoke – “Border, Jaxon, recognised; bounty hunter co-opted to assist ISS in this sector.” “Clone, 22nd in series, Anson, non-resident; possible suspect in crime.” It stopped speaking. The Captain waved it over Jenckque’s body in an irritated fashion – “Damned thing – must be on the blink!” then, pointing to one of his subordinates – “You read the victim!”
The young officer took on a bemused look as his scanner also registered nothing. “Captain Hoathe” Border interjected – “Perhaps the two bodies down the corridor?” Hoathe nodded and turning to leave prompted his team “Don’t let the Clone leave – probably our man!” I didn’t protest – this was Border’s show and I felt I could trust him to see me right. Border turned to me – “You’re sure that’s your friend Jenckque? No mistake?” “He’s changed a lot but I guess I’m sure that’s him… I recognised his voice.” Border frowned – “He’s not appearing on the Citraxx system – I’m not reading him either – even dead he should be there!”
A new face appeared at the door – glasses held in place by an extended forefinger… “Hi Jaxon… Chief finished in here yet?” Border shook his head – “He’s having scanner problems and he’s checking the two down the corridor.” “Damn – clear weapons fire Terminates… should be straight forward.” Said the doctor – “those two down there yours?” Border nodded – “they were shooting when I arrived – I didn’t have much choice!” – He said, grimacing, and the doctor looked back down the corridor as the Captain started making his way back.
“This is damned stupid – those two don’t exist either…!” He waved his tablet around for all to see – “What the hell’s going on Border?” “John, I think someone has erased these from the Citraxx system.” Captain Hoathe stared at Border – “You’re givin’ me crap…” He said. “Do you have another explanation?” asked Border. “Have you scanned these bodies Border?” “No, but I did tag the two down the corridor a day or so back – got their info on my tablet. I’ll pass it to you – just watch out for overwrites. Those guys existed yesterday!” After a minute or so Hoathe looked at the files – “That’s amazin’ – These guys aren’t real… they’re angels and they’re shooting?” “Where do you fit in and who’s this?” he said, finally involving me in the investigation!
“I was waiting here for my friend…” I said, pointing to Jenckque’s body. Border caught my eye with a quick shake of the head – (don’t tell too much). “Just came down to my quarters and these guys started shooting at us!” Hoathe looked at me carefully – “I guess that’s the truth then – or you’ve spent too much time with Border!” He broke into a smile… “Don’t leave the station until I give the ok. I probably want the full story from the pair of you tomorrow after the autopsies have been done. Doc, All yours!”
“C’mon,” said Border “You need a beer and somewhere else to sleep.” We wandered off to Dayzee’s.
Jenckque appeared in Dayzee’s bar the following afternoon. He stood there in the doorway looking around the room in a shifty way like he was a criminal expecting the ISS to be hiding in an alcove. I couldn’t believe the change since I’d last seen him – his hair was lank and he had grown a beard that straggled its way down to his chest. Gone was the sharp dressed man with a gaggle of ladies at every station! He was in overalls that were a couple of sizes too big… I guessed that he’d come in on a freighter working as a Loadmaster. He also looked as tired as he was dishevelled. He spotted me and made his way over to my table by the bar – eyes checking every person on the way. I waved a hand to Daisy but I needn’t have bothered because she was there almost before Jenckque sat down to take our order. I knew Daisy was probably ears for Jaxon Border but I didn’t have any problems with that. With drinks served, I turned my attention to Jenckque – “What’s going on?”
Jenckque’s story began with some light transport and courier work near Sol. The jobs had taken him towards Empire space. In the systems along the ill-defined boundary between Empire and Federation, escorting minor Senators and business leaders became a regular job. Pay was good and the risks small – Politicians often have an inflated sense of threat to their person. Normally he’d have expanded into tales of dogfighting with pirates but he pressed on – the urgency of his tale evident in his hushed voice. Regular work arrived in protection escort duties for Senator Marcus and Jenckque travelled for a long time in his retinue. The Senator was a lover of business and political functions at which he played the extravagant host, seeking to boost the standing of the Empire and his own Imperial standing at the same time. Military tales were a favourite with him and he invited his escort pilots to a lot of the functions. At one of these around a year ago, Jenckque had been introduced to Heron.
“Heron?” I exclaimed… “The singer?” “Sssh!” – Jenckque blinked nervously around the room before continuing his tale. “Yes, the singer. I couldn’t believe it when she showed up at one of his shabby political events.” A few days later Jenckque had been offered the opportunity to join the singer’s escort team. “I couldn’t refuse that!” he said “Chance of a lifetime with good credits to boot.” Heron was a Galactic star and very popular. She was a great singer always performing with some of the best musicians, doing a mix of styles from old Sol music of a type that I believe was known as Jazz back a long time past, to modern Galaxart. Her popularity was all the greater because she was always happy to perform even at the small mining stations. She was quite a looker by all accounts with a slender elegant neck from which she gained her stage name. I’d never seen her myself.
After a couple of months on the road Jenckque found himself called to her quarters after a show on a quiet planet. Not sure what to expect, he wondered if he was about to be released from his escort role. Instead he was given a small package and asked to deliver it discretely. It was the first of many – each one accompanied by a cash remuneration for himself. Initially, it seemed that he was delivering gifts to well-wishers and fans but slowly he became suspicious of the contents. When the opportunity arose he got a package scanned – drugs, cash and some unidentified electronics. And that was where it all went west…
Returning to take up escort he was interdicted in LHS 1599 by a squad of Vipers with another larger ship that he didn’t have time to identify. Caught unawares and on his own there was only one outcome – they shredded his ship. They sifted the wreckage too… “They were out to kill me!” “You’re here” I responded – “how?” “I camouflaged the escape pod to appear like wreckage and turned life support off… Got close to dying – God! I thought they would never leave!” The rest of Jenckque’s story was as I had already surmised – He left the LHS 1599 system on a transport initially as a ‘slave’ consignment. Reaching Tlapana the freighter captain dropped him in an escape pod programed for Melchiodi Base. Hooking up with Solly King, a mutual friend, he sent the message to me from King Port. After receiving my reply, he picked up a role as a loadmaster on a transporter that was coming this way – the captain was good enough to divert to complete the drop off at Axon Station.
“They’re here waiting for you – you know?” “Shit… I thought I’d slip them doing the freight route.” “They must’ve intercepted your message to me… Who are they?” “I don’t know… Shit they’re everywhere!” “We need to move” I said – “My ship is ready to go but I need a couple of things from my cabin.” We hurried out of Dayzee’s. There was no sign of the watchers as we left the bar and no sign of security either. I hoped we were in the clear as we headed for the nether regions of the station.
We turned into the corridor outside my quarters and were almost at the door when the two pilots who had been watching me turned in from the other end. They immediately drew weapons and I leapt forward to the door. Punching in the door code happened in slow motion and with a blaze of light from their pistols. We were cowering against the bulkhead as the door started to slide back with the screams of the laser pistols tearing our ears. Then Jenckque gasped and leaned heavily against me pinning me to the door. My arm with my pistol was trapped between us – I couldn’t shoot back and I could hear them running towards us.
Then the door opened. We fell inwards and I found myself on the floor with Jenckque across my legs and my laser pistol sliding away from me as I dropped it. I was scrabbling to reach it as I heard their footsteps approaching but I couldn’t get there. Then I heard a loud flat crack – grenades… “They’re using grenades!” I thought through the fog of it all… I heard a second crack and a scream of pain… and then a shadow appeared in the doorway. Then Jenckque was being lifted off my legs and I was being sat up.
It took what seemed like an age for me to realise that Border was holding me… “Jaxon… What the?” He holstered his projectile weapon. “I’m sorry Anson – I was a little too late… Your friend is dead.” He indicated Jenckque’s body on the floor. I could see a large hole in his right side. Moving towards him, I crouched down but there was no longer any breath – I’d missed his passing. Then I felt sudden pain in my right shoulder – as I clasped it Border put his hand over mine – “It’s a minor laser burn – you’ll be fine – ISS are coming – they’ll be here in a minute or so!”