This is our Tales From on FTL: Faster Than Light played on Normal difficulty, following the story of the Kestral’s overly heroic captain, Ryan, and his brave crew, Mange and Nazia. Follow the series here.

The crew of the Kestral prepare for the journey ahead.

“Weapons.” “Check,” says Nazia over the intercom. “Shields.” “Check,” says Magne. We really needs more crew members… The state of this mission is looking only mildly grim. As we head towards the Federation fleet, and likely the battle of our lives soon after, I know that more than anything we need more crew and another gun or two. But given that we’re only in Sector 4, we still have time for that. We venture now into the Mantis Homeworlds, where I’m hoping we can recruit a few of those manic bugs to join our crew.

We make one stop before receiving a distress call. It seems a pirate ship has gotten itself wedged between two rocks in a small asteroid belt. They must have been doing some illegal mining when they got hit. Well… we can’t just leave them like that. “Nazia, see if you can blast that rock off the top of them,” I say over the intercom. She fires a few volleys, and the rock begins to shudder and break apart. The pirate ship takes a beating in the process, but pulls out safely. Out of gratitude give us some much-needed fuel, one drone part, and some scrap.

The rebels are using this automated ship to bully a local re-fueling station.

We make another jump and find a larger Auto-Scout ship belonging to the Rebels attacking a small re-fueling outpost. I’ve seen this before, in the last sector. The scout ship left the station in tact, but did some damage. We weren’t in the situation to help last time, but I think this time we need to act. We move in to defend the station. This ship has a cloaking field on it, level 2 shields, and likely some good weapons to boot. “Nazia, use the Heavy Laser on the shields. Hit their guns with the Burst Laser,” I say over the intercom.

The ship cloaks itself as soon as the battle begins and we wait for it to reappear before charging our weapons. We can see its guns now. All lasers, but nothing to be afraid of. Our first volley of shots miss, with the exception of two beams that get absorbed by the shields. The second volley drops the shields and the weapons to Orange status. The third volley takes the ship out completely. After taking what we can from the wreckage, the intercom fizzles to life. “Thanks for the help,” a voice from the local outpost says. “We’ve been harassed non-stop by those scouts. Take this on the house.” They transport over a couple missiles, a drone part, and some scrap. The crew and I do some repairs on the ship, then leave feeling like heroes.

We find a small Rebel ship that looks like it was re-fitted to serve as a transport. It tries to avoid us—a likely sign that it’s carrying something that may be of interest. I contact the ship over the intercom. “Surrender your goods and you won’t be harmed,” I say. Rather than respond, we detect they’re trying to fire up their FTL system to make a jump. “Nazia, hit their engines with all we have. After that’s out, hit their flight controls with the Heavy Laser and target their weapons with the Burst Laser,” I say over the comm system.

Drat! Right when the battle starts, they beam over two soldiers who immediately head to the shields station where Mange is. Nobody harms my crew. “Mange, you have two coming your way,” I say over the comm system. “Nazia, meet me in the shield room, immediately… bring your guns.” Before leaving the flight controls, I turn off the engines and the med-bay and direct some extra power to the shields. We may need it.

The troops make a run for the weapons room, and the three of us meet them with guns blazing. Before we can finish the job, they beam back to their ship. By this time, our weapons have taken out their engines. While we’re in the weapons room, we redirect all fire to their weapons, then their shields. We watch as their shield room explodes… probably from a fire we can’t see, then the ship crumbles and breaks to pieces. We search the wreckage and find an Anti-Personnel Drone. These drones are like on-ship bodyguards. They’ll seek out and kill any intruders. This must have been what they were transporting—this could come in handy.

As the three of us hang out in the med-bay, I decide it’s time to upgrade this ship. I’ve been saving up funds for a new weapon or two, but we could really use some upgrades. I give more power to the reactor, enough to bring our shields to full power without having to shut down the engines. I also upgrade our Sensors, which should let us see inside enemy ships.

The next jump brings us to a de-activated Rebel Auto-Scout floating near a beacon. It looks like it’s in good shape, and after considering taking it for scrap, I open up the comm systems. “Magne, do you think you can hack it’s systems and download its data stores?” “I can try,” he says. “But we do risk turning it back on.” I think for a moment. “Try anyway. We can take it if things go wrong.” A moment of silence ensues, and then the intercom fizzles back on. “I did it, Captain. We’ve obtained the ship’s data about this sector. We also have access to its fuel and munitions.”

I have a look at the new data. Good. There’s a shop just two jumps from here. With only three units of fuel left, we need that more than ever. Maybe they’ll also have a gun or two, or better yet, maybe some crew members up for hire. It’s still a risky move though. Our sensors show the Rebel fleet is moving into this sector, and there’s some distance between the shop and the waypoint to the next Sector. Still… we have to try.

Our Anti-Personel Drones goes to work on the Matis Raiders.

We begin to move when suddenly two beams of light zip down out of the corner of my eye. Mantis raiders! In the Flight deck! I can’t take this alone. While they’re still beaming in I make a run for the shield room. I open the doors, trying to catch my breath. Magne looks surprised. “Mantis,” I say. “In the flight room.” I look at the security cameras and watch as they rip at the flight systems. “Let’s try out the new Anti-Personnel Drone,” I say to Mange. “We can finish them off after.” We redirect power from the weapons and power up the drone.

A bot in the next room jolts to life, rolls into the control room, and goes to work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. It barely scratches the Mantis raiders before they take it down. Part of me wishes they’d be willing to join our crew, but that’s just a foolish dream at this point. “Open the intercom and ask Nazia to head to the Drone Control room, then come with me,” I tell Mange. “We’ll be waiting for them there once they finish up with the flight controls.”

We hear a blast in the flight deck and soon after, the doors slide open. The two bug-like creatures come crawling out and we greet them with our pistols. Magne and I take a beating, but they finally go down. It’s moments like this when I feel grateful for the med-bay.

The next stop, we reach the shop. Finally. And lo and behold, they have a Burst Laser Mark III, and we have just enough scrap to have it installed. This is exactly what we need. We still need fuel, however, so I sell off the Anti-Personnel Drone and our old Artemis Missile pod—the drone showed how useful it is during the battle with the Mantis, and our teleporting Small Bomb system more than makes up for the Artemis Missile. I buy what little fuel they have, get them to repair our hull, and head out with just 26 scrap remaining. We’ll need to upgrade our weapons systems and our reactor to use the new laser, so we’ll need to start saving some scrap.

We begin our journey to the waypoint where we’ll FTL to the next sector. With the Rebel fleet moving in fast, we have to take the shorter route, and this brings us to two locations where our intel tells us there are ships laying in wait. Sure enough, the first one has a Rebel Fighter looking for a fight. The intercom fizzes to life. “We did not fight a war to let a single Federation ship shatter our dreams of a better galaxy,” a voice says. The Rebel Fighter powers up its weapons.

This ship looks like most of its power is in its guns. There’s no Drone Control and its shields are only at level 2. “Throw all we have at their weapons,” I tell Nazia over the comm system. “Once those are down, turn the Heavy Laser at their shields.” Before we get off a shot, they beam two fighters onto our ship who head straight for Nazia. I run to help her, stopping by the Shield Control room to get Mange.

We bring one of them down. The other beams back just in time. Nazia took some major damage in the attack, so I send her to the med-bay to recover. Meanwhile, our guns have been doing a number on the Rebel Fighter. They come over the intercom “You have made your point, we are beaten,” they say. “Take these and leave us to our shame.”

I look at their offer. It’s a generous amount of fuel, one drone part, and a bit of scrap. Part of me is angry that they attacked Nazia, but then again, while our wounds will soon be healed, they lost a man today. “We accept your surrender,” I say over the intercom.

We move on, but quickly find an unlicensed and uncharted Mantis colony. We would have moved right along, but likely from paranoia, they send a Mantis Fighter to try and destroy us. Apparently they don’t want anyone knowing about this place. They have a Teleport system installed, so I’m sure we can count on some fighters coming on board. “Nazia, point the guns at their weapons and turn them on autofire, then you and Mange meet me in the med-bay,” I say over the comm system. “We’ll likely have a few of them onboard sooner than we’d like.”

Sure enough, two beam right into our Weapons Control room. The three of us rush over, blasting as we come through the door. Mange and I take some serious wounds. “Retreat!” I yell, and the three of us run for the med-bay. Right now, our lasers have taken down the guns on the Mantis Fighter, but we’ll have to stop the Mantis soldiers from destroying our weapons systems, otherwise the Fighter will get its guns repaired and we’ll have no defense. With Magne and I still injured, we rush back to the Weapons room and before we can get even a few punches in, the Mantis soldiers beam back to their ship. We quickly begin repairs on the control system. Our Heavy Laser is still firing, but the Burst Laser is down.

We can see through our Sensors that they have two crew members repairing their Weapons Control system. Our weapons are back up, and we have all guns aimed at that room. We ne…..

This is Magne reporting. The Captain… he was killed by a missile. It nearly took my life as well. It hit the Weapons Control room where all three of us were. Our weapons are almost out completely. Nazia and I have agreed to turn on our Small Bomb system. We’ll teleport a bomb right into their weapons room. Hopefully that will allow us to get things repaired on this side. The hull was breached in here. I made it to the med-bay just in time, while Nazia finished up and also made her way to the med-bay.

The Small Bomb system may have saved us. We brought down their guns, and with our Weapons Controls repaired, we’ve turned on the Burst Laser Mark III for the first time. It makes quick work of their shields while we continue to bomb their Weapons room. One more burst and the Mantis ship bursts into pieces. We collect some supplies from the wreckage, but none of this can make up for the loss of our Captain.

Captain Ryan was a good man. He saw us through more battles than we can count. He wasn’t the best pilot… although we would never tell him, but he cared for his crew, and he gave his life to protect us. But such is the life for those of us who drift among the stars. It comes and goes, and all we can do is look forward. Captain Ryan will be remembered well, and his sacrifice will not be in vain. We will deliver this intel to the Federation fleet, or we will die trying.

We made an interesting discovery. An escape pod was floating in open space. We brought it on board, and after dusting it off, we found Mantis markings on it. Nazia and I considered sending it back, but if either of us were ever lost in this lonely expanse, we would hope a ship of kind people would find us. We pry it open.

A man bursts from it, screaming. He pushes us aside, clawing, and hides in the corner. He looks about, a mad look in his eyes. He is still panting, still terrified from some unknown horror. He then glances around, realizing he’s with other humans. “It’s over,” he says. “I’m free.”

After a day, we have brought him back to health. His body wasn’t damaged, but mind was abused in ways we can’t imagine. He told us Mantis had taken him captive. A survivor like him is rare. He tells us his name is Vincent, and he agrees to join our crew—at least until we reach a safe zone beyond the Federation fleet. He agrees to man the flight controls. I will maintain my role as standing Captain of this ship from my post in the Shields Control room.

We finally arrive at the Long-range Beacon, where we can FTL to the next sector. We meet a mercenary ship there that offers its services. I consider destroying the ship at first, but after seeing its level 3 shields, I consider otherwise. I tell the mercenaries we have no need for their services.

We have a choice between a Slug-controlled nebula or an uncharted nebula. Now, I’m not a very big fan of Slugs, and since both systems will likely be too murky to see anything, I choose uncharted space.

So here we are, in a nebula unexplored and filled with mystery. Our sensors can see nothing. Each room, isolated in this field of the unknown. What awaits us here? Raiders cloaked in the darkness? Strange merchants? Lost ships? We shall see.

To be continued…

About The Author

Joshua Philipp is the founder and editor of TechZwn.com. He's also an award-winning journalist at Epoch Times.

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