The Ship was elegant in its design. Sleek and birdlike, she glided through space like water moving over ice. The long supine, neck like section that formed the main body glistened in the stellar light as the Ship moved through space. The two wings of the Ship that curve back along the length of the body housed the fifth generation StarJump engines that powered the Ship. Built into the body of the wings, the engine's exhaust faced the rear and ended in panels of what appeared to be greenish light, giving the high speed movements of the Ship a trail that could be followed, if somewhat briefly in the ether. The 'head' of the Ship, ended in a fine point from which extended the scanner and communications antennae, both long, fine and pointed in their own right. The Ship had no weapons that could be seen from the exterior of the Ship, nor could they be seen during a StarJump. During this highly complex mode of travel, all other concerns were secondary, everything was changed to emphasis the aerodynamics of the hull. Weapons were retracted, grappling arms were housed and there was nothing that detracted from the smooth diamond-titanium alloy hull.
Sitting behind the 'eyes' of the Ship was the Pilot. To describe what the Pilot did as controlling the Ship would be doing it a disservice. The Pilot was linked to the Ship via a complex series of neural interfaces. Due to the lack of gravity compensators in the Ship, the Pilot floated in mid air, on its back, with its arms and legs apparently suspended by invisible strings. Along its spine and all over the top of its skull, the Pilot was connected through high density bio-optic wires that plugged into the Pilot's brain and into the Ship's main computer. The Pilot was not human. The Pilot was humanoid in that it shared the same physiological appearance as humans, the Pilot had a head, two arms that ended in hands and two legs that ended in feet, but the Pilot was not human. The Pilot also wore no clothing on its body. As it was not human, it had no sex, it had neither male or female genitalia. Between its legs was an area of blank skin, just as its chest was devoid features, and hair, an attribute that was common across the Pilot's body. Where there should have been fingernails, microfilament cables extended in a multitude of directions, each plugging into a specific receiver in the Ship's hull. Across its eyes was what appeared to be a sleeping mask. In actual fact the mask was made of a lightweight material, that housed microcircuitry that connected the Pilot's optical nerves to the scanner arrays on the outer hull. Feeding out of this mask were hundreds more microfilament cables that appeared to plug into random sockets above the Pilot's head. To a stranger the Pilot looked like a marionette that had been carelessly dumped on its back, its strings in disarray, and no master to control it.
The elegance of the exterior was mirrored on the interior of the ship. There were no square edges to anything on the inside. No surface was rough or harsh to the touch, all was smooth and had a dark coppery bronze sheen to it. Apart from the nano-lights that crawled along the 'veins' of the ship, the only light inside the ship came from the areas of the hull that the Pilot was interfaced with at that particular time. If one were to watch the Pilot carefully and for an extended period of time, one might notice a cable detach itself from one socket, snake its way over to another and re-attach itself to the interior of the hull. This new area would then glow with the same white light that the previous socket had, whereas the previous socket was now dark. Where a conventional view screen would be in a Confederate or Imperial ship, there was nothing, apart from blank sockets, where now and again, cables might attach themselves. The Pilot saw whatever it needed from interfacing with the various scanner arrays that were in place throughout the hull of the ship.
With a flick of one finger, which caused a wire to detach itself from one socket and to reattach to another, the Pilot pulled the Ship out of StarJump and back into normal space time. Slowing the ship down and re-engaging the conventional drive engines, the Pilot moved the Ship through space at a much reduced velocity. The various arrays and scanning devices also re-emerged from different parts of the hull, somewhat detracting from the smooth outline, but simultaneously having the effect of making the Ship more functional and safer to pilot. Underneath the curving wings of the Ship, the weapon systems also re-emerged from their housing inside the hull. Four long needle like pulse lasers, two under each wing were now clearly visible as their lengths glowed with white light, as they powered up under the guidance of the Pilot. From the belly and from the top of the Ship, there extended two more weapon systems, this time more substantial than the pulse lasers on the wings. These two canons fired concentrated chronox particle waves, timeshifting energy that could penetrate any shields, because it shifted through time, merely finding a time when the shield was either powered down or did not exist. Fully stood down from StarJump, with all the weapon systems powered up, the Ship was a fearsome sight and if the Pilot had eyes, it might have appreciated the dangerous beauty of the Ship, but from inside it was merely a tool.
The Ship moved effortlessly through the stellar void, scanning, reading and gathering data on the stars it passed by and the ships that crossed its flight path. Ships of all sizes mingled freely at this port, as it was away from the prying eyes of the Confederacy and the Imperium. The Pilot needed information and past experiences that were recorded in the Ship's computer, told it that this was the best place to get it. Slinking deftly between docking stations and satellite arrays, the Ship manoeuvred itself near a Gyrian freighter that bore the legend, Nighla. Effortlessly moving one cable from the many that extended from the fingers on the left hand, the Pilot interfaced with the communications system and addressed the Nighla.
"Gyrian freighter, this is Pilot. Do you have the information Pilot requested?" the Pilot spoke in a deadpan, androgynous voice, which, amplified over the speakers on the deck of the Nighla, made the Gyrian captain shudder, despite himself. He took a deep breath before answering, phrasing his reply carefully, lest he annoy the Pilot.
"No Pilot. I do not have the information you wanted, but I do have something that would lead you to what you asked for." There was a pause of ten seconds before the expressionless voice replied.
"That is acceptable Gyrian freighter. You will transmit what you have acquired on this frequency. Now."
The captain of the Nighla punched in a code at the terminal on his chair and transmitted the information that had cost him two crew members. He exhaled slowly and disconnected the comm-link with the Ship. If he was lucky that would be the last time he would have to talk to that damned Pilot ever again. Two crew members dead and no credit to show for it. Convincing himself that the sacrifice of two good men was worth it for saving the lives of everyone else on board, the captain returned to negotiating with the station master for docking rights and fees.
The Ship glided away from the freighter in search of another ship that Pilot had contacted in its search for information. Docked at Station #5 was the Terran scout ship Avalon, captained by Terence Youngs. The Pilot had encountered Youngs once before and that time, the encounter had gone in favour of the Pilot. Coming up on the rear of the Avalon, to prevent a quick launch and the ship's escape, the Pilot hailed the Terran ship. Terence Youngs was not a man to be trifled with. Youngs had cut his teeth under the tutelage of Commandant Negerov at the Terran Space Academy, finishing top in his class in space strategy and combat sims. Quick advancement in the Terran Interplanetary Fleet had earned him his own ship, which he treasured. He had assembled his own crew, handpicked from the Fleet to include people he trusted and people he knew were the best at what they did. The Avalon's post-deployment modifications were hardly Fleet specs but Youngs was rarely bothered by Fleet protocol. What did bother him was staying alive for as long as possible, something he had become quite adept at in his fourteen years in the service. Currently he and his crew were on leave, which is an Intelligence Division way of saying, stay out of the way, but try and find out some useful information and report back. He did not enjoy being blocked in while docked and he did not enjoy dealing with the Pilot, he only did so out of necessity. No-one who had ever gone into combat with the Ship had ever survived and he had heard rumours that the Pilot could read other captain's minds.
"Terran scout ship Avalon, Do you have the information Pilot requested?"
"Yes Pilot I do. Do you have my payment?"
"Your payment will be transported aboard your ship when I have reviewed the information."
"Unacceptable Pilot." Youngs knew he was pushing his luck, but he also knew that the Pilot could not afford to destroy his ship, and even it could, it would not dare to attempt such a thing in the middle of a free port. "You and I will conduct a simultaneously transfer of information, on this frequency, in ten seconds. Comply."
"Pilot will comply. Ten seconds from mark. Mark."
Youngs punched a code into the comms terminal that was situated to his right on the bridge of the Avalon, compressing the data stream into a high density format, and setting it to transfer to the Ship in ten seconds. Youngs counted down in his head, '3, 2, 1. Now'. Humming softly to himself as he typed yet more codes into the terminal, Youngs quickly reviewed the data he had been sent as payment.
"Captain, is it what we wanted?" asked Zacharias, his second-in-command.
"Yes it is Zee, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me Pilot!" the Captain exclaimed, obvious glee in his voice.
"So it was worth it?" Zacharias asked.
"I wouldn't say it was worth it, but we need these specs Zee, we need 'em bad."
"So badly that it was worth almost getting us killed for?"
"Yeah Zee, that bad. Let's just hope that the Intelligence Division agrees with me, otherwise we'll probably be doing another errand for that damned Pilot."