Long has there been speculation around the core activities of NULL officials, the roles they play and the stakes they hold in galactic events. In the first of a new series of articles, we take a look inside NULL with exclusive access to one of their longest serving officials, one Cmdr Jack Spinner. We were invited to join Cmdr Spinner as a passenger during a routine messenger run for NULL.
The Cobra Mk3 waiting for us on the pad at Conway City is old and battle scarred, her blue paintwork worn and scratched. The ship was named “Last Light”. As we approach, the boarding ramp jerkily whines into place, electrical motors far beyond their expected lifetime straining under the weight of the steps.
“What job am I joining you on today?” I ask.
Cmdr Spinner busily keys in a code that opens the airlock.
“We have a quick trip to Lave today, message delivery and we will probably bring back some rare cargo.”
“Why not? it’s good stuff, though you could hardly call it vintage, the prices are only high because they limit supply now.”
We climb the ramp, the ship’s interior smells damp and cool, a musty and there is a slightly fragrant taste to the air.
After stifling a sneeze I ask my second question; “I take it this isn’t your regular craft?”
Spinner smiles, clearly tired from his previous missions.
“No, this is one of our FF run-a-bouts, they aren’t great for much but we soup up the jump drives.”
“FF? I’ve not heard that one.”
“Ah, that’s easy.. Fast and Fragile.”
The launch provides me with a rare treat, not often do I get the chance to see our orbital home from outside. On the station it is hard to imagine the tumbling metal box that falls away behind us as we head out for the jump to HR 5113. Before I know it, stars are speeding past us like leaps in a child’s playground game.
The first few jumps are uneventful, we are nearly half way to Lave, one of the famous ‘Old Worlds’. Spinner tells me we need to scoop fuel from the star. It is only now that I realize the fuel gauges showing that we don’t have enough to jump anywhere, if this goes wrong we either burn to a crisp or are trapped in this empty system until witch knows when.
“I don’t usually fly to the red line like this, but this message is an urgent one.”
“Doesn’t scooping like this pose a risk?”
“I’ve not failed a scoop since I were a kid, but yes, we drained the tanks so we need longer to fill. Anyone on our tail will have a good opportunity to find us here.”
The ship’s frame begins to vibrate and shudder as we skim the outer fringes of the star’s corona, a strange trickling sound signals that the hull is drinking in the super heated hydrogen the ship needs as fuel.
“Who might be on our tail?” I ask, not succeeding in hiding my anxiety.
“Someone might not want this message to get there, or maybe they are just crazy and want to kill us. It pays to be a little paranoid, that’s why NULL is such a breath of fresh air, we really aren’t nuts.”
Spinner tells me of his life before joining NULL, one running small items of contraband in and out of federation and empire stations, then he had enough.
“I couldn’t live with what I saw. I never really saw slaves, not first hand, only as items on the electronic markets on the more nasty stations. But then, I saw a slave trader, a python jump into the same station as me, a federal system. They must have been carrying slaves for an illegal deal.”
The ship continues to refuel, it’s getting warmer in here but still bearable, I nod for Spinner to continue.
“The ship got scanned the moment it jumped in, normally carrying banned cargo gets you a hefty fine, you have to rethink if your deal is worth it or not or go somewhere else and never come back. But this time the system security ships just opened up, they cut the python up in seconds.”
Spinner closes his eyes, shaking his head sadly.
“I thought they might rescue the slaves, you know, the founding principle of the federation is freedom.. No, I watched as the fed ships targeted and destroyed the slave canisters one by one, they were people getting wiped out like illegal batches of booze. I scooped one of them up, rescued three people and jumped. Never been back to a fed station since.. It makes me sick just thinking about it.”
Spinner looks with troubled eyes out of the ships window, the boiling fury of the sun below painting his face orange.
“What happened to them? The slaves you rescued?”
Spinner smiles and looks back at me.
“They did what I did, they joined NULL.”
The ship computer tells us the tanks are full, Spinner’s hands dash over controls and we accelerate away from the star and into the next jump..
Cathy Makeworthy, Conway Herald