As I made my way down the hill towards the outpost I could make out the domed shields buzzing in the distance as a brisk wind swirled over the hot sand. It was rare for the shields to be up at this time of day, the night was drawing close and the outpost and service areas glowed magnificently under the hundreds of bright lights that sparkled like jewels. Huge artillery batteries overlooked the outpost and attack drones hovered outside the shields, primed and ready should they be needed. The docking pads, protected by the shields were now closed to all inbound traffic.
Nearby a huge camp had formed and as I drew closer I could make out some hundred or so ships parked up in random fashion, rooted in the sand seemingly stuck, some of the ships still had their thrusters running hot and occasionally a booming noisy Rifter would blip its afterburner and then whistle and crackle as it idled to a steady hum. Close to the swarm of Rifters a couple of battered looking Ruptures and the huge frame of a Hurricane battlecruiser stood out like hulking menaces, hundreds of crew and revellers mingled underneath the mighty ships. The Rebels and friends had hit town.
How did the Rebels grow to be such disliked hell-raisers? The answer is that it wasn't at all easy. They worked the hours, put in the grind and overtime and excelled at being crafty, cruel and cowardly.
Music now filled the air, dancing to the heavy beats the thousand or so revellers mixed with the Rebels, the locals standing out with distinction from the tattooed and grimy gang members. A short walk from the hedonistic party-goers and the music a large fire was burning and a main core of around two hundred were warming in the now cool night, drinking beer and whiskey it was calm but the atmosphere electric.
It was here that I bumped into Joey, he was wild with excitement, his eyes glazed as he shoved a bag of red pills into my hand and urged me to take a couple.
'Eat some man, they'll keep you going, it's going to be a long night'.
Remembering Joey's wild ways I asked him what they were in milligrams, but he shrugged and looked back at me blankly.
'Just take about ten and if that don't work, scoff some more'.
I nodded and ate two but Joey had gone, lost again in the crowds. They looked to be about five milligrams each, which is enough in my experience to keep most people alert and jabbering for several hours. Ten pills, or fifty milligrams, would send anybody but a hardened pill freak to a medical facility with symptoms of acute delirium. Later several Rebels assured me that their uppers were indeed 'fives' - at least they said, that was what they were paying for. They never quoted their wholesale price but as the euphoric evening turned into the early hours and the sun began to rise it turned out that they were more like 'ones'. Earlier in the night, when I realised that the pills were having little effect, I took more and more - now I had eaten close to fifteen and that was at best a guess. If the Rebels had been honest I'd probably be gnawing down trees like a beaver right now. As it was, they had helped me stay on my feet and I was in a blissful mood, happy that I had partied hard with the Rebels.
A righteous Rebel loading up for a frigate run or party will consume almost anything, and in any quantity combination or sequence. As I walked through tired and passed out bodies it was evident that some had gone a bit too far - I hoped some of them were indeed still alive. Barbiturates and alcohol can be a fatal mix, but I was told that the Rebels combine enough stimulants with their depressants to stay alive, if not stay rational. This made me somewhat happier as I strolled through the littered landscape.
By now many of the revellers had departed, most of the ships that were strewn across the desert were gone and just a few remained as the crews checked over the remaining hulls preparing for travel. The noise of a plasma welder in the distance irritated me, my head fragile. As I turned to set off in a new direction I froze, stopped in my tracks by a group of about ten Rebels and now in front of me stood the leader of the Rebels, Joker Diablo and with him was the founder, Miura Bull. I gulped and my stomach twisted.
'Hello,' I said, nervously.
To be continued . . . . .