“So I had three planets in my hand, and this crankshaft plays one to the field! I couldn’t have signaled it stronger, so I threw my cards down and drew my—"
Indra flipped the ship’s comm unit off with an exasperated sigh. Most miners he had flown with over the years were tolerable, even companionable in their own right. But this low-rent job buzzing asteroids for starmetal bits had somehow attracted all the boisterous lowlifes that gave miners a bad name. Indra ignored the uneasy feeling of turning off coms, normally a dangerous proposition even this close to a Star Citadel’s protection. Communication was the real lifeline out here, not the sputtering patrol ship assigned to escort, with its half-functioning gyrolaser turret and a pilot who was barely out of flight school. And certainly not his ship’s mining laser, which took a while just to cut through unmoving asteroid rock.
But Indra loved the special quiet of a coms-dead ship in space, especially when compared to the current alternative, and he leaned back in his seat to drink it in for a moment. Best not to linger, though; there were plenty of dark, mineral-rich pockets in these rocks that a nest of kaions, dangerous magnetic space squids, would love to call home. Indra pulsed his ship’s thrusters and careened around the nearest asteroid’s rocky surface, eyes sharp for the telltale glint of any of several starmetals.
Soon enough, a dull pulsing crackle began to issue from the ship’s ore-detection system, increasing in intensity as he strafed the skyscraper-sized space rock. “What’d we find, B1? More thasteron dregs?” Indra had noticed he’d started talking to himself more and more lately on these uneventful jobs, maybe a bit too much. So he’d taken to talking to his onboard AI instead, which he’d named after all that was left of its worn serial code. Of course, it couldn’t understand anything beyond basic commands, or even respond—it was, at best, a glorified metal detector—but it made him feel better just the same.
“Oh, my—is that…” Indra trailed off as his scanners confirmed what he could plainly see, a dust-dulled hunk of pale-green crystal. It was a sizable chunk of noqual, and Indra quickly set to work flipping switches and toggles to begin extraction. He expertly guided his ship’s mining laser to carefully etch a frame around the embedded starmetal. Periodically, Indra turned off alarms meant to alert him to nearby magnetic disturbances that might signal the presence of a kaion pod—but that were just as likely to be false positives from the aging ship’s own engines.
A few tense minutes of precise cutting later, the ship shuddered and rattled as its extraction arm ratcheted out, snaking among the recently cut debris toward its prize. This particular deposit was shaped perfectly for the arm’s triple-pronged gripping mechanism, and as the noqual wrenched free, dust bloomed from the pocket, the remaining rock looking somehow even more barren and forlorn.
Just as the hunk of noqual ore reached the deposit basket at the rear of his ship, the asteroid in front of Indra began to glow a dull red, bathed by pulsing emergency lights. Confused, Indra tapped his console—had he accidentally turned them on? Then a cold realization struck him in the stomach and he slammed the comms back on.
“—PIRATES! Turn on your comms, you damned fool!”
Indra wrenched the flight stick, the sudden motion disorienting him and causing the ship to groan and shake, to see their escort fighter dead in space, its emergency lights flashing bright red and its slight frame a tangle of shredded hull and transparent aluminum. The other miners were already halfway back to the Star Citadel, and two sleek and deadly Free Captain ships arced around lazily to face Indra’s virtually defenseless vessel, much closer to him than he was to safety.
Thinking quickly, Indra scanned the pitted surface of the asteroid. There, near a shallow-looking cave, were piles of floating scales, shed from at least a pod of kaions—odds were at least even that they were still in there.
“Well, B1, we don’t have to fly faster than the squids…” A few careful shots from his mining laser into the cavern had the desired effect, setting off a flurry of activity as the tentacled creatures began to silently spew forth from their resting place. “…just faster than those pirates.”
About the Author
Joe Pasini is the Starfinder Lead Designer at Paizo. He is steadfast in his belief that gaming is for absolutely everyone, and he’d love to play a game with you sometime! You can find him on Twitter at @joeadultman. His most recent passion project, the Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds, is out now.
About Tales from the Drift
The Tales from the Drift series of web-based flash fiction provides an exciting glimpse into the setting of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. Written by members of the Starfinder development team and some of the most celebrated authors in tie-in gaming fiction, the Tales from the Drift series promises to explore the worlds, alien cultures, deities, history, and organizations of the Starfinder setting with engaging stories to inspire Game Masters and players alike.