I could feel the hot morning sun burning down on me in the wheat fields as I squinted over to the West where I could hear the distant rumble, then, out of the shimmering orange light came a phalanx of Rifters. I dropped the shovel I was leaning on and cusped both hands over my eyes to act as a temporary sunblock. Twelve dark-black silhouettes slowly rumbled towards me in formation.
The noise was like a landslide, or a wing of bombers passing over. Knowing the Rebels I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. A planet-side stop off was not rare for the Rebels, but for twelve of them, this must have been a special occasion, perhaps the rumours that their party had hit town were true? I swiftly turned on the spot, my hands now acting as makeshift ear defenders as the noise pummelled down on me as the Rifters passed over my head.
Huge modified autocannons, filthy denim and an aura of barely contained violence; The Black Rebel Rifter Club could paralyse whole towns and outposts with fear, so terrible was their reputation. They call themselves the Black Rebels, most of them are of Brutor origin, capsuleers who have strayed from the programme. They fly, rape and pillage like marauding cavalry - and they claim that no security force can break up their criminal frigate fraternity.
Whole crews of like-minded men and women join them on their frigate crusades. These chosen few, dirty in appearance, shaved heads or greasy dreadlocks and tribal tattoos, mirrored aviator sunglasses and sleeveless leather jackets. These are the hard core, the outlaw elite, they go about their business with a fine, unwashed arrogance.
We're the fucking one percenters, man - the one percent that don't fit and don't care. So don't talk to me about your medical bills and your high security status - I mean you get your woman, your crew and your Rifter, handful of narcotics and your side-arm and you're on your way. We've punched our way out of a hundred rumbles, stayed alive with our boots and our fists. We're royalty among frigate outlaws, baby. - An intoxicated Black Rebel speaking to an unnamed journalist at Rifterball 500.
My mind wandered into thoughts about my old friend . . . Joey Mupoka stands six feet two inches tall, 210 pounds heavy, with massive arms, he is clean shaven with not a speck of hair on his shiny polished brown head. He has a wild, jabbering demeanour not calculated to soothe the soul of any personnel specialist. In his twenty-seven years he has piled up a tall and ugly CONCORD record: a multitude of arrests, from petty theft and battery, to narcotic offences and piracy - all this without a single actual conviction.
Joey was local to these parts before he went off and left for Military School. I wondered to myself if he was flying with the Rifters today, after all if the rumours that the Rebels were having their party here were true then why not?
As the Rifters disappeared into the distance and the rumble softly faded, I grabbed my shovel and got back to work. Tonight I would hit the township and join the party.
To be continued . . . .