Jefferson rubbed his brow wearily. This conversation was doing nothing for his headache.

“Look, there’s nothing wrong with the ship. It’s a very nice ship. Shiny, made of metal, a decent size. If I accidentally find myself in a belt in Molden Heath, I can well imagine the Angels who ambush me are going to be regretting that day’s choices as they run their own corpses through the refinery to try and clean the Pyerite off their bones.”

Jefferson could sense the woman at the other end of the line nodding absent-mindedly as she replied: “We’re glad you’re happy with your purchase, Mr Trent. The Brutor Tribe Treasury are proud of our customer satisfaction record. So I can close the ticket?”

“I would be delighted with your service, and in particular with the three complimentary 280mm Howitzers that have arrived in a crate marked ‘Amarrian Wheat’, if what I’d got was what I’d ordered. This would all be wonderful if what I’d ordered was a Bellicose with an odd selection of pop guns, target painters and one single, lonely Hobgoblin I. That, however, is not what I bloody well ordered.”

Jefferson heard a sigh. He could picture the Treasury employee filing her nails, half listening to his complaint and half listening to a joke being cracked by the office sex pest in her call centre in Rens.

“Mr Trent, I have the order in front of me. It very clearly says you ordered a standard Bellicose with three-“

“If I might stop you there.” The blood was pumping fiercely through Jefferson’s temples as he attempted to keep his anger in check. “If you look at my profile you’ll see I’m a freelance Civire front-line war journalist, specialising in reporting from the space around the Pool of Radiance. What I ordered was a stabbed-up Cheetah with neutral markings, to give me a half-decent chance of catching stories before those lucky bastards at Interstellar Correspondents.” The headache was getting worse.

“What I plainly didn’t order was a massive two-wheeled clown car which may as well have come painted with “Your mum” on the side. I have a hard enough time trying to avoid getting my limbs handed to me by members of the Stain Empire without flying about in a ship so laughable it’d make a Badger look like a bloody speed-fit Claw.”

“Obviously I didn’t order a sodding Bellicose. It’s quite simple: I want a Cheetah or a refund. And no more excuses, please. The only thing that hurts me more than this conversation is my head after that bloody Hobgoblin fell out of the drone bay just as I walked under it.”

The line was silent for a moment, but for the overenthusiastic laughter in the background as the office monster reached his punchline. Finally, the Treasury employee broke the deadlock.

“OK Mr Trent, I’m happy to say that on behalf of the Brutor Tribe Treasury I’m authorised to release an exceptional vessel for your use, free of charge, while we investigate what’s happened: a superb special edition ship that puts a great many Empire vehicles to shame.”

Jefferson exhaled slowly.

“It’s an Echelon isn’t it?”

 “Yes, Mr Trent, with our compliments.”

Jefferson’s skull throbbed. His week stretched out endlessly ahead of him like a courier mission pointlessly carting a thousand crates of Scordite from deepest Lonetrek to Khanid Prime. He closed his eyes, searching for his happy place.

“What holoreels does it come with?”

Written by Adam Reed