In “High Steaks“, the most recent addition to the Quantum Series, a resistance rises to meet the fascists who’ve overthrown the legitimate local government of the Terran colony Deanna – a resistance with friends in low places. This time, we look at the loderunner Celeste.
A loderunner is a cargo-carrying space craft, more likely capable of interstellar travel than not – and the loderunner Celeste is a pretty average example of most of the loderunners plying the tramp-cargo trade across the Terran Empire. Loderunners are very common ships and there are a great deal of variants and sizes – but the Celeste itself is a Rotanga Class merchant loderunner.
By the time Timaset Skooch is introduced to the Celeste and her crew in “Loderunner” (after winning her in a rather suspicious game of Uno) she’s already 112 years old, and in a pretty awful state of repair! Not only is the crew the most eccentric collection of reprobates and outright down-on-their-luck losers, but over the years the ship’s fixtures and fittings have deteriorated to the point where its interior more resembles a ghost ship than an actual working ship still in use! There’s dust everywhere, the carpets are stained, gray-brown and threadbare! The walls are stained and smeared with decades of grime! The transmatter’s outdated and so dodgy it’s not even safe to send anything through it – living or not!
As with all loderunner, they’re all about cargo – which in terms of business and finances (and keeping the business – and the ship) in the black, is the payload. Consequently, most of the ship’s volume is taken up by cargo space. Loderunners generally have a simple homogenous cylindrical shape, with the engines at the back end, and a cone-shaped front end with a loading door and ramp in it. Obviously form, function, and a little bit of styling applied by shipyards hoping to sell as many loderunners as they could, resulted in diverse models, lines, classes, features and styles over the years.
The previous owner (one Jonn Deire, a large, grumpy older man who didn’t enjoy jokes about his name much) had reached the end of his tether financially and resource-wise, and figured the best way to keep their ship afloat (so to speak) was to bet the ship in a gamble – and lose it to someone else who might have more resources to pour into it. In this case, fortunately, it’s a gamble that pays off.
A brief tour of the ship does little to set Skooch’s mind at rest however – the ship is tethered to the tarmac and can’t leave, at least until an outstanding debt of berthing fees is settled – and the ship’s engine is in pieces due to the resident mechanic’s enchant for dismantling and repairing it at inconvenient times! To give you an idea, even the viewscreen on the ship’s small bridge is slightly skew – apparently to compensate for the skipper’s chair, which has a slight list as well! Then there’s the elevator – whose car-computer’s A.I. seems to have picked up something of a slight flutter; over the years it’s learned to swear like a sailor: IN CAPITAL LETTERS – and few who enter it are quite the same afterward! Consquently, most of the crew (and occasional passengers) use the stairwells around the ship – and not just out of a desire to remain fit and trim!
The deck layout for loderunners is generally diverse, and often specialized. Below are some generic deck layouts for Rotanga Class loderunners like the Celeste – Deck 1, 2, and 3:
Timaset Skooch, as the “lucky” new owner, takes possession of the decrepit old ship and its oddball crew, and although his financial resources are somewhat meager, he has big dreams – of seeking his fortune out in the black, wheeling and dealing cargo! Together, the venture into deep space and have several pretty surreal adventures, before at last, they strike it lucky and find their fortune.
By the end of “Loderunner“, Tim has divided their find equally between them, and on returning home to Deanna, gives the Celeste back to its crew and heads home to Dory and the life he wanted all along in the first place.
The next time we see the Celeste or its crew again, is in “High Steaks” – right in the midst of a fascist revolutionary hijacking of the colony Deanna – and as unlikely as it seems, the Celeste will play an important role in the coming Deannan Uncivil War.
By this time, the crew of the Celeste – now considerably wealthier – have stayed on mainly because they love their way of life, and also because the Celeste is their home… and they regard each other, somewhat reluctantly, as family. Instead, they invest some of their share of the salvage reward they earned in “Loderunner” into refitting the old ship! Celeste is a whole new creature – she’s shiny and clean inside and out, the engine has been completely overhauled and partly replaced with new updated parts – even the elevator has a shiny new positive attitude!
More importantly, a lot of work has gone into improvements like state-of-the-art sensors (and a bridge that looks more like a home theater than before, including a brand new captain’s chair with built-in cupholders!) Celeste also has a brand new transmatter unit, and a camoflage skin projector which allows it to basically disappear from sight by matching its surroundings! As a civilian ship, a loderunner, Celeste isn’t supposed to have weapons – at least, not any military-grade ones – but there may be some surprises in store in future!
All this gives the old ship a new lease on life – and makes it a gods-send to the Resistance and Loyalist Militia as a troopcarrier. Not to mention the – er, bovine torpedoes!
[Incidentally, in order to see the rest of these articles in this series, click on the category name Secret Weapons of the Resistance.]
If you want to read more about the planet Deanna, download the free guide by clicking on the cover below:
…or you might want to pay a visit to Deanna itself – well, good, I’m sure they won’t mind! Here’s the address:
Cheers until next time!
A little about “High Steaks“:
Troubled times had come to the small Terran Colony planet of Deanna – and having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) hadn’t made this quaint little world immune to bad things. After a shock assassination, the three largest cities on Deanna have been overrun by separatist troops and the former Governor has gone into hiding! The quirky little world seems about to be enveloped in a destructive civil war – replete with a supporting cast of heroes, villains, aliens, victims, perpetrators, volunteers, vampires, war veterans, space battles, bovine torpedoes – and a little time travel on the side.
“High Steaks” is the sixth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.