Sunday, 4 August 2013

Caught in the Trap (Part III)

Continuation of "Caught in the Trap"

Upon my return Oskold is buried deep in projected displays from the station command console, multiple scan screens showing visible, near and far infra red, cosmic ray emission plots hunting for the first signs of our salvation's arrival. "Wouldn't it just be simpler to lock a scope onto each stargate?"

He pauses in his search, "When was the last time you saw a pirate registered ship use a stargate? CONCORD would be onto it in seconds. We have to use alternative methods of travel, not as convenient as using the network of course so we tend not to travel alone. Although with bounty hungry capsuleers so prevalent these days maybe that's all for the better ehh?" His jibe although intended as lighthearted revealed a much darker backstory, so I chose not to pursue it, not whilst the good will of this man was my only way out of here in one piece.

As time passed and Oskold remained immersed in his readouts my mind began to wander so I sat gazing into the infinite beauty hovering silently just outside the ceiling height plate windows encircling the command bridge. I find my eyes drawn to a particular light blue star, gazing idly at it I wonder how close it is, perhaps within the New Eden cluster, perhaps I have visited it even, just as I am making a mental note to check it in the directory when I next get chance I seem to feel it getting closer...

Surely not, stars don't do that, it twinkles, the feint blue light now flashing in and out of existence, vanishing for a second it returns in a blaze of colour gaining size and intensity at an astonishing rate. "Haatomo! ..." my call is interrupted by his own excited cry, "They're here!!"

"But, its not possible, this is Empire space you can't light a cyno here!"

"Who says you can't? his grin suggests he knows both my answer and his response to it"

"Well CONCORD, and there are systems to prevent it... aren't there?"

"What is the first rule of being a pirate??... Don't do what CONCORD tells you."

Turning back to the window, the beacon now burning brighter than the distant yellow star, some of the more aggressive of Valiths ships could be seen racing towards it, their engine trails barely pinpricks against the blue glare. The intense light seems to wobble, turning itself inside out, then it flickers at least a dozen more times, I had started to count the jumps, but my attention is diverted by the ship that had just forced itself back into reality. Classical Caldari lines, if she wasn't my salvation I would have called her ugly, but on this day that slab sided monstrosity was the most beautiful ship I had ever seen.

"A Chimera... in highsec... a Gurista Capital ship, in the Minmatar home systems, its just ... not possible!!"

By now other more regular sized support ships had emerged, a cloud of drones began darting about among the assorted Rattlesnakes, Gilas, and Worms engaging the beleaguered defenders.

Even though the battle between Valith's patrol squadron and the Gurista fleet was raging I wasn't really watching too closely, happy to be saved I had yet to consider if my next predicament would be better or worse. What was it they said about the word of a pirate? I could only hope that these pirates would honour our arrangement.

Valith's squad fought bravely, even suicidally against a force they couldn't hope to beat, one by one the cruisers and smaller vessels burst open under the relentless Guristas fire, Valiths own Typhoon flagship wallowed spilling flames into the void as it aligned for an escape that was not to be.

"Time to go, Miss Incarn8, they are expecting you, fly your pod over to the carrier there will be a berth designated for you, they are sending over a ship for me, I will see you aboard."

Back into my cocoon, even if only for a few minutes. I undock and immediately Aura is screaming threat warnings about pirate vessels in close proximity, silencing them I plot a course directly towards the largest threat. It had looked large from within the relative safety of the station, but now as I drifted up towards the enormous docking bay, the walls of camouflaged plating stretched up and down as far as my camera drones could pan... camouflage in space though, seriously? what were they thinking? Give me my red and gold anyday.

The carrier was not equipped to house a non-piloting capsule, so it was stored in the cargo hold, cracking open the casing shock fluid spilt out across the plating depositing me onto the floor still coughing up the last fluid. A crewman, evidently enjoying himself, takes it upon himself to clean both me and the floor at the same time with a jet of cold water from a hose.

The hospitality improved however after this, given a towel I was led to my own cabin where clothing and food had been laid out, but best of all, hot water in the shower!!

After a quick bite to eat, I had however taken the opportunity to take nutrients from my pod during the transfer, and dressed in combat fatigues designating me as a Gurista Captain I head out to explore my new situation, or I would have done if the door wasn't locked from the outside.

Returning to my bunk I lay down just as the world shimmers and twists around me, smiling at the irony I realise that I have just made my first cyno jump, not even in my pod, but lay on my back deep within a Gurista Chimera. A few jumps later and the deep red of Matari space outside my window is replaced by the warm browns of the Amarrian border regions, no sooner had I relaxed back on the bunk satisfied that they were going to be true to their word, my door slides open. Sitting up with a start, "Ohh Oskold, or should I say, Commander Haatomo! I am glad to see you again"

"As am I Miss Incarn8, or should I say, Captain.. however much I should like to stay and chat alas time is against us. We shall soon be jumping into a high security Amarrian system and will not be able to linger long, you will need to depart with due haste. In the meantime however I have a little task I should like for you to take on our behalf.. walk with me please" And with that he turned on his heel and walked out.

Following Haatomo through corridors that were both Caldari yet also not, tailed by a pair of guards in full combat gear, I realise we are headed back down towards the cargo holds. Stopping just outside a large pair of cargo doors he turns to face me.

"A lady in a profession as varied as yours must be well used to somewhat unusual dealings. We have on our hands at the moment something of a problem, when I disappeared the fleet immediately started gathering intelligence in order to launch a rescue, this involved the taking of captives. Most of these have now been dealt with, however one remains that we cannot eliminate in the usual manor. We should like you, in your capacity as a slaver, to take over control of this specimen."

"What is so special about this one that the Guristas can't deal with a single captive? and if he is so much trouble for you, I am sure you would rather keep him close where you can monitor him"

"The demise of a captive is usually no problem, however with this specimen, we would rather that she remains alive, or at least in her current body.." Haatomo dropped his bombshell with a grace far in excess of that which I expected.

"She? is a clone then? you want me to take on an asset that knows full well that its death will secure escape? I am surprised it is alive even now, if it were I then without a doubt ending myself would be the highest priority."

"Yes, we were prepared for the difficulties in capturing a capsuleer and even containing, however it appears that we did not have a sufficient plan for dealing with her afterwards. We would like you to take her as one of your own, try to learn the locations of her clone contracts and eliminate them, then you can safely eliminate her, or keep her, just so long as our secrets never see the light of day."
The great cargo bay doors begin to slide open revealing the large virtually empty interior, lit by only a circle of floodlights around what looks like some kind of futuristic altar, on top of which a young Sebestor is chained down with a fully combat ready guard stood at either side of her.
Haatomo leads me in towards her, "We have had to restrain her for her, and our own, safety, she has tried many times to manually clone herself. As well as trying to get her guards to kill her, as such we have to change guards regularly, she has quite the venomous tongue."

Approaching the table I can see that she is securely restrained with comically oversized chains to each quarter as well as neck, waist and knee restraints. She appears calm and she is carefully regulating her breathing through clenched teeth. Her nose is quite obviously broken, dried blood still stains her lips and cheek, other cuts on her forehead and around her eyebrow appear to have received medical attention yet still look very fresh.

"I thought the Gurista would have been above such treatment of a prisoner? you always seem to promote yourselves as mercenaries rather than barbarians"

"We have treated her well, the injuries you see are all self inflicted, as I said she has been attempting to manually clone at every opportunity. Our Chief medical officer, who was tending her wounds, is currently receiving stitches to his face after she took a bite out of him. It may not look it, but we [I]are[/I] trying to treat her well, she however is making it very difficult."

I wasn't entirely sure but I thought I saw the edge of her mouth clench restraining a wry smile at that. "She is sedated? can she hear us?"

"She is not, however she has shown little interest in communicating beyond attempting to goad anyone she can into killing her."

Stepping into the circle of light I look down upon her face, her mask of defiance and pure hatred is held strongly in place, yet her eye tracks across to look at me, and somewhere deep in her eye I spot the spark of fear.
"You see me Matari, You know what I am, You know what I can do to you and your type. You belong to me now, you will do and believe as I say, no more, no less. Your life, all of them, are mine you will serve for me the prescribed 10 generations of labour as set down in scripture by her Majesty Empress Jamyl, serve me well and your children's children will walk free, as better people."

Her voice croaks, gravelly and hoarse from hours of screaming at her captors, "Rot in hell slaver scum, I burn people like you, freedom or death, long live the Republic! These Guristas have failed, and you will fail also, I shall die and be reborn faraway in freedom to hunt you down until the end of time."

I cannot help but smile, "Ahh yes, the hypocrisy of a fervent believer, 'let me be free to live my way so that I may stop you living the way you choose.' You see my little Matari, at the end of the day these Gurista are businessmen, they may use combat as their style, but its all about money for them. Me, however, I am a people person, I have devoted my life to the raising of sub-humans such as yourself, into civilised and productive members of society. So believe me when I say that I know you better than you ever will, I have seen hundreds like you, some even as rabid and vicious as you, but never have I encountered a Matari that was not improved through proper training."

I was half expecting another monologue, but apparently the first outburst had sapped her strength, clenching her teeth together she returned to glaring at the distant ceiling.

Walking back towards the hanger doors I muse for a few moments before nodding "Ok Haatomo, I will take her on, she will be quite the handful but oddly enough I see a little of myself in her, and I do love a challenge, breaking her will be fun."

"Excellent" grinning more in relief than actual joy Haatomo fires off a pre-written message from his datapad. "We shall be jumping into Arshat, a remote high security system in the Domain region, within the next 30minutes, you will be provided with a shuttle to transport you wherever you desire. Our only condition is that word of this little adventure never leaks from you or your cargo."

Returning briefly to my cabin I change into a set of civilian clothes, as much as I like to make an impact with the way I dress, walking out in an Amarrian station dressed in a Gurista Captains uniform is probably a little much. I arrive back into the main hanger in time to see the Gurista technicians swarming over a plain Caldari shuttle, sealing the exterior hatches around my capsule. Whilst a separate procession advances from the far wall, fully eight combat fitted soldiers escort four technicians who had decided it was easier to remover the legs from the table and transport the prisoner in-situ than risk releasing her. I follow them up into the shuttle and watch as my newest acquisition is chained, tabletop and all, to the floor of the cargo hold.

Passing the last few minutes exchanging pleasantries with Haatomo technicians vacate the hanger as a five minute warning is sounded. Running final pre-flight checks I dredge up long unused memories on non-capsule flight procedures, finally satisfied I am ready I send my final farewell to Haatomo as the Chimera jumps into Arshat.

The hanger doors are opening almost as soon as we hit reality, lifting off the deck I slip out as soon as a shuttle sized opening is achieved. Aligning to the nearest planet I spin around for one last view, a Gurista Chimera with an escorting fleet madly pumping energy in to recharge the jumpdrive before the Imperial Navy arrives... I still cannot quite believe it.

Auras Caldari accent grates on my ears as she announces our escape, the mad vision is left behind as we accelerate away, bouncing off a few planets I perform a thorough scrub of the shuttles memory before daring to access a stargate and start the long trip home.


Thanks for sticking with me through this story .. it certainly hasn't been the fastest release, but I hope you have enjoyed it.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Caught in the trap (Part II)

The welcoming thud as the docking clamps grip my capsule.

Loss of control, the world twists sickeningly as the cybernetic connections release and I am dropped bewildered back into reality. I feel a current in the pod fluid around my ankles the thick syrup that had been nurturing and protecting me whilst in flight was being drained out by the stations maintenance systems. Coughing out my breathing tube I inhale deeply, regretting it almost immediately as I expel a lungful of the oxygenated shock fluid. The pod casing cracks open, light floods in, my eyes sting, it has been near on 6 days since I last used them. Behold the immortal pod pilot, weak, struggling to breathe, confused and nearly blind, I hardly feel like a demi-god.

Gripping the railing weakly I head for the pilot prep room. Where was I? it would be a few minutes before my biological brain was up to speed sorting itself out from the cyberneticly enhanced cocoon it had been hooked up to. But, what I could see was not promising, this place looked rough, and I'm not talking bad neighbourhood rough, this place looked rough even by Minmatar standards.

Lukewarm water, but at least the shower worked, I peel off my flight suit letting the water wash away the reminants of pod fluid. My memories are beginning to return as I discover my wardrobe has not been delivered from my ship, I dress in my "blending in" outfit from the emergency kit I keep stored in my pod, simple working trousers and shirt, the coarse fabric rubs on my skin. I know where I am now, I know why I am here, today is not going well already, and it is only going to get worse.

A trap, Republic Security had somehow blocked my access to the jumpgate, and destroyed my ship, they blew up my beautiful fucking ship! Leaving me in this God-forsaken rusting shithole junkheap of a station stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

No doubt the RSS would be infesting the place by now, some jumped up wannabe officer would be waiting to greet me, a shit eating grin spread across his face. Well, I had news for them, I am a capsuleer and as stipulated by CONCORD law, I am untouchable within the walls of this station.

A plan, well fairly simple, escape. I need a ship, an opportunity and a whole heap of luck, but first I need a drink. My fucking ship! I loved that damn ship, how very dare they.

At least one thing was in my favour, this was a Matari station, therefore getting a drink should be very easy so long as I wanted something strong enough to make a Fedo pause for thought before consuming it.
Attempting a bold, confident exit from the capsuleer restricted section of the station was halted in its tracks by a shuddering automatic door that would only open halfway before showering the passerby in sparks.

Upon entering the common areas of the station a cool yet musky breeze wafted down the seemingly long abandoned  corridors, only seemingly as you could never tell with Matari technology, which often came out of the factory looking centuries old.

A metallic whir and clank of ill fitting plating caused me to spin about suddenly, only holding at the last second from drawing my concealed laser pistol. One of the small Godsends of this stations decrepit infrastructure, its weapons sensors had been inoperative, due to the multiple bullet holes in the console no doubt.

The small droid carefully aimed itself at a point a good meter to my left and introduced itself, "Welcome to Hek, Captain, May I ask of your name for our official visitor log?"

"My name, droid, is none of your concern, I do not intend on staying long"

"Thankyou, Miss Concern, I hope you will enjoy your stay however long you intend it to be."

Miss Concern. I allow myself an indulgent grin, some might call it a rarity for me, but you gotta love a stubbornly polite droid, at least it was better than that Gallente service bot that had followed me around for 3 days believing my name was "Miss Off".

Tuning back from the fading memories to the real world I realise that the droid is still talking to an imaginary point just off my left shoulder;

"Core Complextions apologises for the lack of a formal greeting at this time, as the stations official welcoming committee is currently otherwise engaged...."

"What that bucket of rust means is that what is left of them is busy orbiting that planet out there. along with just about every other person who lived here"

Spinning around suddenly I drop into a crouch and this time I do draw my pistol, levelling it at where the gravelly voice had originated from. I see the shadowy outline of a man emerging from behind what was probably once a delicatessen.

"Who the hell are you?"

"This," interjected the droid, "is Mr Dawson, he is currently one of our security consultants on temporary assignment from the Caldari State Protectorate."

"I didn't ask you droid, I asked him"

"It is correct though, technically. That was the cover story we arrived under and like a good little machine this scrapyard still believes it. You can put the pistol away, as you can see I am unarmed and to be honest you probably couldn't kill me with that pretty little thing anyway."

Huffing indignantly I reluctantly re holster my pistol, it had been the only weapon available. One of a pair of ornamental duelling pulse pistols I carry in the 'Oh Shit' cabinet in my pod, along with a few necessities that a pilot recently deprived of a ship may require. Mainly though for sentimental reasons it was a gift from my father as a peace offering when he had finally forgiven me for leaving home to become a capsuleer.

Returning upright to as much of an imposing stance as I could muster I address the man "I am in no mood for riddles, talk straight and talk fast, today is not a good day and you are low on my priority list"

"Republic University should like to remind you Miss Concern, that the carrying of personal firearms is prohibited on all interior areas of the station, I should warn you that campus security has been summoned to escort you from the premises immediately."

The old man grinned, "Ignore that bucket of bolts, as I said just now, you and I are the only living occupants of this station. I can imagine you have many questions to ask, and I'm the only one here capable of answering them, I would also advise you that I am a much more err, elaborate talker when I have a drink or two inside me"

"Actually no, I have only one question and its more of a demand to be truthful, I need a ship, I have to leave as soon as possible"

Stopping dead in his tracks the old man turns to me, "You don't have a ship? what is the point in you then huh? A mighty powerful capsuleer without a ship, that's just great" the pain in his eyes belays it as sadness rather than anger.

"I had a ship, not 2 hours ago I had a ship, but out there and soon to be in here is the reason I no longer have a ship. That is why I need to get out of here, because for some reason they are not playing by the rules, and I don't like that, its not right."

The old man stood rooted to the spot, "Sansha is back? why would he come back? there is nothing left for him here, he already took everything he wanted, I can't face them again, I cant, not those things ...."

"Not Sansha, RSS, they have a small fleet out there still, they got my Pilgrim and they damn near got me too. Somehow they shut down the gate, and that shouldn't even be possible. Sure there was that thing with the Caldari guy a year or so back but that was just a cheap holovid, you can't shutdown a Stargate, outside of the Jove, it's just not possible."

The old man seemed to have mostly recovered from his panic and we started off again along the deserted corridors. Thinly veiled but ultimately empty threats from the enraged greetings droid echoing off the walls dwindling into the background as we move further from its operation zone.

"Why would RSS bother to set such an elaborate trap just for you? other than being a capsuleer you ain't anything special are ya?"

"Ohh I don't think this is just business, I crossed paths with an RSS Captain on my last visit to the Republic a month or so ago. I was careless that time and I lost a ship, but he seemed to take it badly. Apparently he has some kind of little vendetta against me, quite cute actually, but I wasn't expecting him to be able to pull anything quite like this"

We arrived at an open doorway in the interior wall, the area around it had been roughly swept clear, this though marked it out against the decrepit backdrop. A solitary chair stood upright alongside a single table atop which stood a half empty bottle of clear liquid. The neatness and precision with which it stood there in contrast to everything else told me this was where the man had been living.

Dragging a second chair from a tangle by the wall he tips it upright and motions for me to take the other at the table.

Halfway through his first glass he turns to me, "So do you know much about your captain then? why he took a liking to you maybe?"

"He is not my captain, don't say it like that, I have never even met the man"

"Well, I think that is about to change" he nods back down the hallway the way we had come, I saw a stocky man in full dress uniform with a brace of guards in escort headed our way.

"Ohh merciful Lord, have you ever seen so much omelet on a single uniform before? what does he think he looks like?"

After a stifled chuckle the old man nods, "True, it is an impressive breakfast but nothing compared to the Caldari Navy, they all go for double portions."

Valith halts abruptly two paces short of the table, flicking his eyes from me to the old man and back again he withdraws a compact datapad from his breast pocket. Drawing a breath, "Pilot 815430912, Graduate of Imperial Academy 10/12 YC107 Callsign Evil Incarn8, I am Captain Valith, Commander of the 351st Republic Security Service Heimatar Patrol Wing.
It is my duty to inform you that under the dictates of the Minmatar Republic and under the appropriate guidelines of CONCORD enforcement I am here to arrest you on charges of multiple counts of Abduction and human trafficking, proliferation of prohibited substances. multiple counts of aggression and violent conduct towards officers of Minmatar security and police forces, Non-consensual combat against Minmatar registered starships, theft and pillage of Minmatar Republic strategic resources and Planetary Genocide."

As Valith pauses to catch his breath the old man turns to me, "He should probably get that done as a recording, would be so much easier that way."

Chuckling lightly I agree, turning back to Valith, "Planetary Genocide though? I would think I would have remembered that one"

Valiths eyes glow slightly as a sly grin appears on his lips, "The burning of Starkmanir Prime, as an Amarrian slaver we hold...."

"I am Khanid, not Amarrian"

"Close enough, as I was saying, we hold all Amarrians, and their associates, responsible for this atrocity, it is a small compensation for the damage your people caused"

Rolling my eyes I blow my cheeks out in a drawn out breath, "Fine whatever, so much for letting the past sleep. Well now Mr Valith, as you so eloquently listed my crimes just now I can assume you are familiar with the laws regarding capsuleers, namely, you can't touch me whilst I'm in here."

"Yes, quite true, but you see I don't need to, my ships guard your only escape and we expect Sansha's minions to return to this station before too long. You are more than welcome to explain your capsuleer protected status to them if you like.
Speaking of which," Valith turns bodily towards the old man, "Oskold Haatomo, well, well I thought I had seen the last of you when we evacuated last week, but no I might have guessed a Gurista would have a hidy-hole somewhere. Either way, Sansha will deal with the pair of you quite nicely, less paper work for me is a bonus" Valith grins before turning on his heel and with guards in tow accelerates back towards the docking bays.

We sit in silence until Valith has disappeared from view, "Haatomo, not Dawson then and a Gurista too huh" raising an eyebrow to indicate curiosity, "bit out of your jurisdiction though aren't you?"

Oskold smiled, "Yeah, Valith caught me passing through, but as he hasn't reported it command don't know where I am or I would be long gone by now. Fortunately, if you can call it that, Valith assumes I am just a regular agent. I am something a little more than that though, if only I could get a message to command they would send a rescue for me, but Sansha's raid fried the stations equipment before I could hack into it."

Tapping my fingers lightly on the table I look up at him before laying out an idea. "If I could get a message out for you, would you be able to put in a word and get me out as well?"

Flicking his eyes intently at me seemingly looking for the doublecross, "A loyal 'Khanid' pilot willing to work with nasty outlaw pirates? when needs must I suppose it draws together strange bedfellows"

"Caught between RSS and Sansha, I'll take a Gurista on a white horse anyday" I let out a soft chuckle.

"Well then, far be it for me to be Devil's advocate but beggars cannot be choosers, if you can get my message into the Guristas commanders then I will be able to ensure you are escorted to a place of safety. However, unless you have some serious electronics hidden under that shirt of yours then we are both out of luck, Sanshas zombies really went to town on the communications system."

"Maybe not up my shirt, but in the docking bay my pod contains a Quantum Entanglement Array, do you think that would suffice?" Barely able to stifle my grin I watch as Oskold joins in, initially hesitant then a wide toothy smile spreads across his face.

"Yes, yes of course that will suffice." Downing the remains of his drink, he scribbles a quick message for me to send. "Get that sent off to this address and then meet me in the command bridge, you will want to see this"

Monday, 5 November 2012

Caught in the Trap (Part I)

Running for the border, it always seemed to end that way these days. Ohh don't get me wrong it certainly beats the milk run it was back in the day, at least this way is more exciting. Exciting, the threat of imminent death flash frozen, burned to a crisp or ejected into the void, and possibly all 3, only a capsuleer could call it exciting.

The job still paid well though, I can demand far more compensation for my services these days than back when the Matari Fleet was little more than a handful of rifters and wishful thinking. True the days of bulk orders and clearing out entire colonies of stock were long gone, these days you had to specialise and that is where my talents came in. I style myself as a huntress, I seek out the best prey, blending in, stalking it until the right moment when I strike. I am well known among my discerning clients. I get them what they want, be that an intelligence tool, a double agent, a competitor, or more often than I would like to admit a gentleman's plaything. Maybe I have spent a little too long among the Matari to think of them simply as animals anymore, it is dangerous to underestimate your foe, I have lost too many friends that way. However I believe in the need for unity in humanity, and the Reclaiming is currently the only way this is being achieved.

This particular run had gone well, 11 assets collected most fairly low level stuff a few technicians for a holders maintenance crew no doubt, although I had collected one special item. The holders son is turning 18 and as any doting father would do he is getting his heir an impressive coming of age gift. I think I chose well with her, a beautiful young thing, they will be pleased.

I like to think I am a good host to my passengers for the brief time they are aboard my vessel, as the methods and requirements of asset retrieval have changed so have the tools employed. Gone are the fleets of bestowers carrying every fit or nearly fit asset in the colony, these days I fly a Pilgrim specially equipped with storage units for live cargo, you don't get paid for bodies anymore. The cloaking technology is also a requirement, Republic Security has tightened significantly and being able to lay low or flit unseen through a blockade is invaluable.

That technology was just about to earn its extortionate price tag once again, scanners were picking up multiple hostiles of assorted size spread around the next gate we had to pass through. Checking that all systems were in order we de-orbited from our temporary hiding spot and with not even the subtlest hint for an observer to pick up we slipped into warp to the gate.

The shudder as the warp drive pulls us out of warp vibrates through every plating every bolt and every crewman aboard, even me buried inside my pod deep in the core, still the shudder penetrates vying with my external senses reminding me of my true self. Close range scanners reveal the nature of the Matari blockade, Republic Security Services, these boys were good, not quite Fleet good though, and definitely not as good as me. Three cruisers, a Typhoon and the ubiquitous swarm of rifters, we only had to cover a few kilometres before I could initiate the gate and inform my hosts that they had once again failed to stop me.

My crew is mostly Matari, all long serving trustworthy types handpicked by myself, I think it is important to make a good first impression on new recruits. They have heard nothing but lies and slander from their own leaders blinded by centuries of hate with little or no actual experiences to back it up with. True there are some bad situations, but there are far more holders who actually care for their stock. Replacements are not cheap, my income proves that much, so it doesn't make sense to waste a limited resource. I try to show them the truth of the situation, my crew is well fed, healthy and happy I hope this helps to dispel the fears of those I collect. I know that it can be a traumatic time for them but one day they will thank me for improving their place not just in this world, but also the next.

I sometimes think of my crew at their posts, I wonder how many of them would make it to the pods if I failed to slip by a blockade, probably not many. My tutor back at old ImpAc would have a fit if he knew how much my mind wandered whilst piloting, he was always a stickler for "pure of mind, pure of purpose." I can't help it, the days of staring fixatedly at the unknowing hulls praying for them to maintain course as I slip by had long since past. 3 ... 2 .... 1 ... gate activation .... failed.

"What?, retry" ... failed

Notify, your cloaking system has deactivated due to the proximity of the stargate

"Ohh shisse"

"Re-align Planet 3 Now! get that warp drive charging, activate damage controls, start getting a firing solution on any ships attempting interdiction"

Panic, total panic, the flood of adrenaline knowing death is sat at your shoulder watching your every move, ohh how I love it.

Time seems to slow down, my heart rate doubles, thumping loudly in my ears. I watch as my beautiful Pilgrim obeys my commands slewing her nose around. The distant sun glinting weakly off of the unofficially retained ruby red plating, no way was I letting them put brown on her. The speed climbs, but RSS ships are closing fast.

We are not going to make it. No sooner had I thought it than sirens blare around the ship and within my own mind indicating multiple webbifiers and warp scramblers had activated, seems we were staying for the duration then.

A mixed flight of ECM and light drones launch at my command I would prefer a full flight of either but I need to mix giving and preventing damage in equal measures.

It is the battleship that worries me most, being practically stationary within 30km of a Typhoon is not healthy even for a Pilgrim. My Ewar is top line Caldari tech, when it comes to saving my arse I don't skimp on the ISK. They should have no problem keeping the primitive battleships electronics busy whilst my equally top line Gallente combat drones started working away at the tacklers. The pilgrims own systems were keeping the cruisers long range fire at bay, they had been stationed on the opposite side of the gate so my tracking disruption was working its magic on them.

Notify, Critical hit to drone bay, repair facility inoperative
Notify, armour damage exceeds current repair capacity, please consider upgrading repair capacity at next opportunity.

Despite my best efforts and a decent number of rifters being dispatched this battle was only going one way,

Notify, Oxtail soup dispenser in crew galley inoperative

"General stations, all auxiliary crew are to abandon ship at once, this is not a drill, get out. essential crew are to remain at stations, do not let me down"

Notify, Power failure in main shield generator, backup failure
Notify, Artificial gravity field fluctuating

One by one systems were overloading, critical support systems were shutting down, multiple hotspots were appearing all over the sleek hull faster than the nanobots could heal them. My unique exterior view told me what the remaining crew inside could not see, atmosphere venting from non-essential compartments. She has served me well, over a dozen trips deep into the Republic, but it would seem today Fate caught up with her.

Notify, drone control uplink failure,
Notify, auxiliary power generators overloading
Notify, hull breach on deck 3
Notify, engineering section vented to space
Notify, ... "Cancel warning messages... I know it's over"

"All remaining crew abando..."

Notify, Main reactor critical
Notify pod ejection successful

Incoming message from your friendly local insurance company ....

Neural command, warp capsule to planet 7, realign and warp to 0.5 au below the star.

The initial kick from the ejection system gets my capsule into warp before the feeding frenzy of rifters manage to ensnare it. As my viewpoint streaks into the nothingness of warp, I take one last look at the rapidly expanding debris field around the glowing hull that was all that remained of my Pilgrim. There were nowhere near enough capsules awaiting recovery.

"Aura, check my access rights with the local station owners, find anyone who will let me dock, declare an emergency, whatever it takes. I need a drink."

Damnit, they didn't stand a chance, I waited too long, I should have... I didn't have to do anything, but I should have. I really didn't need this now, Pilgrims are expensive and I was supposed to be saving, damnit it will take months to get a replacement crew trained as well. And the contract, no payment for this trip, I hope the customers understand, I will have to offer discounts on the next trip, the wardrobe fund is going to be tight this month.

I really wanted that new corset too.

Bloody Mataris !!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Recruitment Techniques

Captain Valith paced the bridge of his flagship impatiently, his salvage crews were taking a long time to scout through the single wrecked ship that floated just off the bow. A crackle of static breaks him out of his stride, turning to face the comns loudspeaker he stuffs his hands into the pockets of his Minmatar Militia officers jacket.

"Sir preliminary survey completed," the voice is distant and muffled from the proximity of the microphone to the speaker within his EVA suits helmet.

"It seems the reactor meltdown did a complete wipe of the main datacore, we ain't gonna get anything out of that anytime soon. However we did recover a single datachip from one of the crew quarters, its pretty messed up but I can transmit you at least one complete file for analysis, others may be possible under better conditions in the lab."

Valith sighed heavily, he had been hoping for more, the capsuleer piloting this ship had committed many crimes within the Republic and he was determined to trace and apprehend them, hard evidence however would turn this from a chase to a trap and Valith didn't like chasing.

"Transmitting data stream now, channel two,"


Crewman 3rd Rate Oskold (Ozz) Shikari,
20/11/113 22:38:20

The dark areas of the lower level of any station are a haven of vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells at the best of times, but Boundless Creation had truly created the Haven of Havens with the seemingly never ending labyrinth below the heaving market hub of Hek.

These narrow streets no longer held any fear for me, I was raised here, fought in many a schoolboy scuffle amid the abandoned warehouses of companies long since past. These days the hallways house those who do not wish to be found, the underhanded, the criminal and the downright immoral, they were probably always there but in my youth the true horrors of the world were safely hidden behind monsters and other scary shapes in the dark.

On this particular day I was headed deep into the rabbithole searching for nothing in particular beyond what may be there for the taking, I am not a thief by nature its just the only way to get by when you fall to the bottom of the ladder. It didn't take me long to notice the hooded figure trying not to be obviously following me, it makes me laugh, the harder you try to be unobtrusive the easier you are to spot.

My initial thoughts were law enforcement, as would any honest citizen doing something they knew they probably shouldn't be doing. It was unlikely though, Republic Security or even Boundless' own patrols almost never came down here, and when they did it was not hooded and discrete, it was hundreds of them in full riot gear. I sized up the hooded figure, either they would leave, I would evade them or at some point I would be forced to confront them. The cloak seemed to add bulk to what was probably quite a lithe fellow, a good 6 inches shorter than my 6'4" as well, this served to calm my nerves somewhat I could probably take him without to much trouble assuming he wasn't armed.

Three random turns later and he is still there, slightly closer now that I had started trying to shake him, definitely got me in his sights, my heart begins to pound, fight or flight? the question posed since time immaterial. I had slowed to consider my options expecting the stranger to follow suit and lurk in a shadow somewhere. I was wrong.

Turning I see the hooded figure rather closer than I had expected, a hand is extended from beneath the folds of cloak, small, very small hand wrapped in a skintight leathery glove. It catches my forearm with a grip like a vice, becoming less sure of my position now a voice emits from within the impossibly dark cowl, soft yet sharp exotically accented in a dialect of Matari that was uncommon in Hek, and undoubtedly female.

"Get off the street if you want to see tomorrows sunrise, don't you know they are hunting you? yet here you are wandering down the street like nothings wrong," The hissed warning curls though my consciousness, her tones cut through my confusion and I make to reply, but she cuts me short.
"Move it you great oaf!, you want to get the both of us killed?" she pushes firmly into the small of my back and I allow myself to be guided by her. "In there, the abandoned shop, no don't stand in the window!, how did you manage to live this long already? into the store room"

I am still trying to place her accent when the nevejam crashes into the base of my spine, the world explodes and the floor rushes up to meet me.

As my vision slowly begins to return a dark figure forms against the murky background, the hooded figure is kneeling on the floor just off to my side, beside her another form swims but refuses to hold a recognisable shape. My legs are still tingling from the aftereffects of the nervejam, when I try to reach out to massage some feeling back into them I realise I am shackled to a piece of exposed pipework, rattling my chains I look quizzically at my saviour turned captor,

"Whats with chaining me up? Did you really need to knock me out? Who are you and whats your game?"

Her hood is pulled back slightly now allowing what light there is in the room to illuminate some of her features, my first realisation was that she was no local girl, the high cheekbones narrow eyes and smooth pale skin spoke of a foreign land. She stares at me intently,

"You are restrained for your own, and my, safety I don't know how you will respond to our little chat, and I am not known for taking risks with my own safety. Who I am..." she mulls this one over a while,

"I am known as Evil Incarn8, my real name is unimportant to you, I am an independent capsuleer although I retain links to the Khanid Kingdom, my game as you put it, is how shall we say, recruitment" she grins at this comment.

"Yes recruitment is as good as any other way of putting it. Now to business I think,"

A capsuleer? but they are vastly powerful, vastly rich what was a capsuleer doing in this pit of squalor? and more specifically, an operative of the Khanid Kingdom was interested in me personally, this was more worrying than the other details.

"Your life is in danger, you do not have long to live, as we speak you are being killed by a viral agent in your bloodstream", she spoke in clipped tones, her grasp of Matari good yet the flowery accent spoke of a far different natural language for her.

"Other than your nervejam I feel fine, my last health scan was clear, how can you be sure I have anything wrong?" I was bemused, why should a capsuleer go to such effort to warn me of ill health?

A truly wicked smile grew across her face, "I am sure you are infected as I myself have just infected you."
She raises a hypodermic gun from her lap, the charge vessel clearly empty.
"This is one of the most recent strains of Vitoc, a rather useful, if unpleasant substance. Without antidote you will die a most horrific death within 24 hours, unfortunately this is no permanent cure, the antidote is more of a.. hmm, a stay of execution should we say, another 24hours of life. As such it forms a very neat method of controlling people without physical force, no point in escaping as you will only die and your captor holds the only key to staying alive. Elegant, don't you think?"

I am horrified by her words, my initial impulse is to run, my stomach turns over when I realise that's my worst option, "What do you want with me? why me, what have I done to you to deserve this?"

"So many questions, but alas none of them the correct one. What do I want with you? nothing, you are nothing to me. Why you? you made yourself an easy target, prime specimen; strong, plenty of stamina and educated just enough to be useful in a technical field. What have you done to deserve this? Ha, nothing at all, you probably don't deserve it, but since when has the universe ever had a sense of whats fair?"

"I am going to release your restraints soon, and you have a choice to make; You can run, see if you can make it to the door before Reggie here makes lunch of you." She motions towards the form beside her,  my vision has steadied enough to make it out now, a large; dog doesn't do it justice wolf perhaps, sits obediently beside her. Its head is held high, as high as the woman's own, it holds my gaze firmly, panting slightly exposing a row of razor sharp fangs. "Or", she continues, "you can take my offer, get out of this hellhole, see the stars, go to the edge of space to meet interesting people in exotic locations, I am offering you a job Matari, a job for life, a job you will only get one chance at."

So what choice did I have? I agreed to her conditions, she very graciously allowed me time to sort my affairs, to remove myself entirely from existence. It didn't take as long as I had hoped, seems I wasn't having much of an impact on the world around me. This sobering thought fresh in my mind I clutched my small satchel standing at the foot of the crew gangway looking up at a golden wall of armour plate. The Brutor crew chief smiled knowingly as I signed aboard a full 4 hours earlier than Evil had asked of me, I wasn't taking any chances however advanced she claimed this Vitoc stuff was.


"OK, kill the feed we don't need anymore of that", Valith shook his head in dismay, harvesting slave crews from within the heart of the Republic? the very guile, how very dare she? He skimmed over the preliminary reports from the encounter earlier that morning between his squadron and the sole capsuleer battlecruiser. He had lost 4 Rupture class cruisers, 3 Rifters and a Thrasher class destroyer for this, almost 100 good honest warriors lost fighting for the freedom of their brothers. Now it turns out the capsuleer ship was entirely crewed by Matari as well? counting crew as well as those being transported into the bowels of the Empire that left another 50 dead.

"Dammit all," Vailith cursed, hurling the datapad back at the startled comms officer he turned on his heel and headed for his personal quarters.

"Set course back for base," Vailith calls over his shoulder, "No point lingering around here, leave this mess for the vultures to deal with".

Alone in his quarters Vailith puts in a secure data link to the Concord database, "Pilot Ident 'Evil Incarn8', Search" the command is answered immediately the face of a young Khanid woman unfolds onto his screen.
Looking upon his face Vailith allows himself to grin despite the days setback,

"Once it has a name you can kill it, and now I know your name my dear".

Drawing his fingers softly across her image he cuts the link.


This story is effectively a prequal to my "Caught in the Trap" series.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Sansha's Nation

It was a small street cafe, probably the pride and joy of the owner who had spent every day looking after a small group of regulars with idle chat on the important topics of discussion that day. Elizabeth tried to imagine how it had been, but all she saw were the boarded up windows and the street furniture they had piled up as a makeshift barricade.

The three avatars had been crouched here for near 6 hours now, the position would have been impossible for a human, but Elizabeth and her colleagues bodies were housed much deeper into the station, held suspended in full immersion sarcophagi with only their minds active keeping vigilant watch over the deserted street.

Sansha's zombie army had crashed into the system two weeks previously and had quickly overrun the native Imperial defence fleet, not that there had been much deployed to defend such an out of the way system to begin with. Now that the colonies planet side had been bled dry it was the turn of the main station, huge ships of designs only capable of emerging from Sansha's own insane mind had been patrolling just outside the defencive perimeter since they first appeared, they burned any ship foolish enough to try and run the blockade with fiery lances of laser energy, the weak commercial vessels singeing black before rupturing and spilling atmosphere, debris and biomass into space forming tiny nebulae around the slowly spinning metallic skeletons.

It had been on that very first day soon after the Imperial message clipper had beamed its terse message to the commanders of the defence forces that they were to expect no assistance or reinforcements before turning tail and burning back for the gate that the call had gone out for volunteers. To Elizabeth it had been a simple choice as soon as she saw the first refugee transport with its hurriedly painted Sisters Of EvE medical corps logo, disabled then boarded by the patrolling battleships. Elizabeth had been watching the departure from a viewing platform high above the garden deck, bunking an afternoon off from her day job as a waitress in the commercial sector, hoping against hope that the transport would get away but with a forboding knowledge that it probably wouldn't. She had walked straight from the view port in the upper deck garden to the Fleet recruitment office and sat at the tail end of the que, not even bothering to submit her notice to the manager at the cafe. After 3 hours she had seen a young overworked rating who had simply asked her name, taken a scan of her implant and handed her a commission paper into the cybernetics division.

Now here she sat, a sergeant with her two troopers, guarding an intersection in that very same upper garden deck, the professional soldiers had been given the important areas to defend, docking bays, factories, military installations and as this was Sansha's Nation they also guarded the primary residential areas. The volunteers had been assigned all other areas as well as being used for logistics and the only reinforcements in system.

There had been nearly six thousand recruits since the invasion, most of those being in the first three days, heavily outnumbering the Imperial Guards five hundred professional career soldiers. The entire industrial capacity of the station has been requisitioned to build them all mechanical warrior bodies and the sarcophagi to operate them from, as well as the fully autonomous drones and other paraphernalia of modern urban warfare. Those who had not volunteered had thrown themselves at the few remaining transport vessels still docked, some got through the blockade, however most didn't and were swallowed whole by the Nations military machine.

Elizabeth could understand the desire of people to escape whole, the scriptures spoke of the evils and sin of living your life in a body crafted not by God but grown in a laboratory cold and lifeless until your consciousness was burned from your skull and poured in, did your soul follow you? was it destined to burn in purgatory until you finally rejoined it? would that separation taint you in the eyes of the Lord on His Day of Reckoning? Certainly the few capsuleers Elizabeth had encountered and the stories she had heard led her to believe cloning did not involve the soul in any way they were cold, arrogant and distant in the extreme. Why she had chosen to volunteer then sometimes confused her, with its golden promise of a one shot clone escape to the heart of the Empire, provided she fought to her very last breath, death would be her escape to the rest of her life.

Scanning the far reaches of the road for the 3rd time in as many minutes Elizabeth returned to the open forces comm channel to listen for any signs of action from any of the other volunteer detachments, as for the last few hours it had degenerated into random chatter on any number of topics, least of which was the impending firefights. It seemed people wanted to think about just about anything else she didn't mind this but hoped it would clear up when Sansha finally made his move.

She was getting used to her adopted body, she had been living, working and training in it solidly from the moment she was first immersed in the cold fluid back in the cybernetics division barrack room. That had been a shock, lying back into the vat of fluid, the interface socket smoothly connecting into the base of her skull and her thoughts immediately transferring to the towering construct stood over her, she had been able to look down in time to see the thick fluid cover her own face and the capsule lid seal her inside. The construct itself was a terrifying beast, it had been designed by the best military minds in the Empire to be just that. Standing two meters tall a body of interlocking matt black armour plates protected a biological mix match of organs and  electromechanical devices that was part bred, part grown, part built, all for the purpose of destruction.

Mounting an incorporated weapon on each arm it was capable of laying down heavy fire, and accurate too utilising the fire support programming and servo assisted muscles, whilst moving as nimbly and faster than any human soldier, Elizabeth's construct was armed with a simple but effective chain gun on her right arm capable of spewing out a stream of solid projectiles from a large box magazine, the left arm was a twin barreled grenade launcher, capable of loosing 5 rounds a second of a variety of ammunition types. However the Fleet had restricted the volunteer corps to the use of EMP and stun grenades after the first few days in simulation suggested explosive grenades were not the best idea.

Adrian spotted it first, crouching to Elizabeth's left, as he gazed up through the crystal dome, a star had begun moving across the backdrop, then another and another gradually expanding and gaining a pale blue halo of the drive plume, Sansha was on his way.

After a few minutes 15 of them were visible as large vessels, but not of the fearsome nightmare configuration, these had a more businesslike look, blunt nosed with multiple swellings around a central docking port come airlock for grapple magnets, these were boarding vessels and they weren't headed for the docking bays.

Elizabeth hurriedly called out into the intel channels trying to get hold of someone in the command structure, as two of the vessels slowly nudged up to the dome, large rubberised suction cups emerge from blisters around the blunt face and pull the ship tight to the dome. Small nozzles buried within the contacting surface ooze a thick sealing fluid gluing the blunt face to the crystal. A quick flash of laser light and a line is scored in a perfect circle the 2 meter ring of crystal tumbles slowly as it falls and shatters into a thousand pieces on the landscaped park below. There is nothing for a few moments, then the central eye irises open, a sudden roar startles Elizabeth, she turns to see a thin smoke trail rise rapidly from beyond the lake, arcing across the sky it enters the iris, a muffled crump is heard. The external hull of the boarding ship contains the incendiary device easily however the boiling gas spreads throughout the large open interior incinerating the very atmosphere until a blaze of flame billows from the open iris, followed shortly by a few charred bodies tumbling down until they are caught short by flaming abseil ropes.

The second boarding vessel was more cautious, a laser turret mounted within the airlock cut swathes through the neat treeline slicing through gazebos and benches, setting neat rows of flowers to flame, also dislodging the missile emplacement long enough for the first shock troops to leap from the dome free falling until the bungee cords pull them to a halt just off the floor.

"We meet them where they land", the three troopers begin running towards the drop zone, leaping hedgerows and park benches, darting through alleyways between little shops, bars and clubs. creeping up on the final corner Elizabeth launches a volley of mixed EMP and stun grenades high over the buildings, waiting for the first detonations they rush out, chain guns and launchers spreading death and confusion. The most recent landers get cut down where they are, heavy metal slugs ripping through flesh and armour alike, one unfortunate taking a flashbang to his face, those already down drop to a crouch and begin returning fire from light laser carbines, multicoloured beams cut lines through the air around the constructs, glancing blows easily dealt with by the heat dissipation elements within the body armour, some more direct hits blow flakes of the laminate armour off, designed to ablate rather than spread large amounts of heat into other areas of the suit it gave good protection under even heavy fire, provided it was for short durations only.

Elizabeth piled into cover behind a small confectionery delicatessen, the two other troopers taking similar positions nearby, the situation begins to develop into a standoff, with sufficient Sansha forces landed to keep the troopers heads down, they are restricted to taking shots at the newly arriving Sansha as they plummet from the dome. The local comm channel is filled with similar tales, Sansha boarding in unexpected areas, pinning inexperienced volunteers into firefights that are going nowhere.

A thermal warning alerts Elizabeth to a rapidly rising temperature in the gardens boundary wall behind them, turning she sees an arch of metal glowing ruby red, signaling to her comrades they bolt just as a third boarding ship begins unloading its brain dead cargo directly through the hull of the station.
"Its far too open out here, and we are outnumbered, head for the main street,"
Taking a contorted route through the jumble of small buildings they head out of the garden, where the industrial/commercial district met the wide open space of the garden, the narrow corridors hemmed in by any number of shops boutiques and manufacturies of any and all types should serve to focus the zombies into a killing zone.

Reforming a short distance into the passage they take positions behind counters and concrete plant troughs, a brief lul ensues as they await the inevitable assault. A crackle issues through the comms and almost immediately two large black figures charge into the passage, barely holding their fire the 3 troopers allow the newcomers to join the new barricade.

A storm of small fist sized spheres bounce down the passageway registering the danger the constructs turn to protect themselves, an instinctive biological response that turned the weaker side and rear armour to the following detonations. No sooner had they gone off than beams of light began burning holes through the smoke, scrabbling to their feet the troopers begin retreating down the passage loosing volleys of grenades and long bursts from their chain guns at any shadow or swirl in the smoke. A second set of detonations erupt from the ground, from spheres on delayed fuses, one trooper is lifted from the ground his legs blown out from under him. Leaving the man to hold his position the remaining four continue to pull back.

"Hold them off as long as you can, then disconnect and return to base for a fresh body", Elizabeth calls out to the fallen trooper, a short fusillade of chain gun and grenade launcher on full auto is followed by the crack and sizzle of rapid fire lasers, a muffled whoosh and crack of the constructs overloaded powercore detonating  punches a column of heated air high into the air dragging the lingering remains of the smokescreen with it.

The battle rages on throughout the day, each time a construct falls his pilot checks out a replacement from stock returning to the battle as soon as he can get to the frontlines, Sansha's seemingly endless minions march forwards pressing ever further into the station. The cost is high, every corridor, every street, every intersection and shopfront is littered with the broken bodies of unfortunates from a hundred worlds, mutilated long before they arrived on this station they finally find an end.

Despite a lack of actual physical exertion, the mental strain of fighting and dieing over and over many times during the day was beginning to get to Elizabeth, she was making mistakes, everyone was. The supply of constructs was beginning to dwindle as the industrial sections fell, or the supplies of raw materials were used up and still Sansha showed no sign of slowing his advance, huge transport ships had docked once the ports had been captured, pouring zombies in by the thousand.

Elizabeth found herself backing up a corridor she had walked down once a fortnight earlier, they were backing towards the barrack rooms calling into the comm channels again she heard other volenteers abandoning the constructs and engaging the self destruct on their capsules as Sansha broke in. Loosing off a burst of grenades down the corridor she turns to check the label on the nearest door, not hers but not far off. The pause and distraction has allowed Sansha to get a clean shot at her, the blow knocks her from her feet, sliding back down the corridor she comes to rest against the wall, this door is hers, damnation, no time for a change of body, this was the final stand.

Dragging her smashed legs behind her, she drags herself along the corridor to get some cover, the chaingun not providing much purchase on the hard metallic floor, but wriggling along she gets to the doorway propping herself up she smashes the magazine from the fallen marine construct next to her,

"Now its playtime"

She snaps the new magazine into the grenade launcher, its contents immediately registering on her HUD, a 33% mix of HE, EMP and Incendiary rounds, Grinning she swings the barrel down the corridor and lets rip. Shock waves and flashes of flame mix with the blue energy waves from EMP rounds, bringing the chain gun to bare she adds a clatter of heavy slugs into the killing field, not releasing the trigger even after the grenade launcher starts cycling air. She is still walking the chain gun back and fore as the Sansha start picking their way through the glowing deck plates, stepping over the charred and still smoking bodies of the earlier wave.

The low ammunition alarm sounds in her head as the chain gun cycles onto its last clip and automatically switches down to semi automatic fire mode, calling up the targeting cross hair for the first time that day, she begins picking off targets as they leave cover, a single round per man, head shot, body or even legs, the 20mm projectiles are sufficient to take them off their feet or drop them, the lack of supporting fire however allows Sansha's numbers to come into play, the number of strikes to her armour increases, at first flakes knocked of here and there, but it rapidly becomes constant, damage alarms sound as the armour thins dramatically with the increased thermal input, Elizabeth puts the powercore output to critical and continues picking off as many as she can.

The warning tone sounds in her mind for, she cant remember how many times she has died today, the familiar flash of light, wrench on every muscle and stab of pain to the core of her mind and then the awakening in another construct, the start up sequen... no wait this isn't another construct, this is her, the real her. The memories of her latest final moments come tumbling back to her of the battle a mere 100 meters away, the realisation that her body was now in impending danger, that Sansha himself was coming for her, and her alone. Fear rose within her real and powerful for perhaps the first time that day as she engaged the exterior cameras and panned around the bay.

Clear, for now.

Then the door explodes inwards, Sansha's nation swarms inside, and the other capsules around the bay begin to detonate as the pilots flee, burning their bodies and transporting their consciousness deep into the assumed safety of the Empire, Elizabeth engages her own destruct sequence and watches the Sansha for probably the first time, shocked into how human and how ... not they are. The total lack of emotion on the faces even as chain gun rounds tear through flesh and muscle, the bodies go down without so much as a grimace or cry of pain, they simply stop moving forwards, the momentum carried on by the next man. Most of the sarcophagi burst, destroying the body within before the Nation gets to them, Elizabeth however witnesses where they do not, and a pilot is dragged screaming from his fluid he screams all the way out of the barracks.

Sansha turn as one towards her, the eyes fix on the cameras as if boring straight into her own eyes, seeing her hiding deep within, they move forwards, she checks the counter, its going to be close, very close, why did they think a 30 sec timer was a good idea? the first man reaches her platform, climbing up, he stands on the casing, a second and third pile on, fingers scrabbling at the seals, nails tear blood flows along the joins, one gains purchase,

The door begins to yield,

Elizabeth can do nothing,

The door is pulled wider,

Arms reach inside,

One of them grasps her leg and she kicks out,

Another one gets her arm, she is pulled forwards,

Her head breaks the surface of the fluid, she stares with her own eyes into the insane grinning face of Sansha,

The charge detonates

Elizabeth falls to the floor, the fluid running off her body, a medical technician gently takes her arm, she screams, slipping in the fluid she falls on her back, quietly sobbing she curls into a ball,

Safe at last.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A Day In The Life

The gloom slowly fades as the artificial lighting is increased across the vast hanger bay to simulate another perfect morning. Distant echoes of morning prayers filter from congregations of commoners down the main public processions, and from private chapels high up in the walls overlooking the vast open canyons within the station. Smells of cooking begin to sift out from countless cafes and street vendors, from high class restaurants to the greasy spoons hidden down back alleys.

All this commotion has little effect on the sleeping form of a young lady, sharp shafts of light penetrate through the patterns in the thin curtains painting clear images on the far wall. Three soft taps are heard, a door silently sweeps open. They do not even register to the girl still alone in her mind, a small head appears around the door shortly followed by the body of a small Matari child, she walks across the room and draws open the curtains flooding light into the gloomy chamber. The child pads back to the doorway and retrieves a small hand cart which she guides back towards the bed, kneeling down she addresses the sleeping form softly as if not wishing to awaken her,
"Mistress Incarn8, Mistress Incarn8, morning has risen and I have your meal ready, Mistress?" her voice conveys a mixed message of an eagerness for her to rise with an almost hidden wish that she will not.

An arm emerges from the tangled bedclothes, a muttered curse and a low groan,
"What time is it child, can you not see I am sleeping?"

"Uughh Mistress it is past 10  and ..." the girl is frozen to the spot, a rabbit caught in headlights, the interruption stops the mumbling girl in her tracks,

"Leave the food here and go select my wardrobe, I shall be attending central today, so something suitably intimidating I think, go now", the arm waves dismissively towards the door, and the child quickly leaves, closing the door behind her.

The bedclothes remain motionless for a moment or two more, before a pair of legs emerge, one tanned bronze, well toned and healthy. The other is missing, replaced by a metallic prosthetic from just below the left knee, its slivered glimmer contrasts with the golden hue of the rest of her body, but she shines all over as if oiled or lit from within by some lantern. She regards the trolley briefly before padding, and clicking, across the marbled floor towards her wash room. The sounds of flowing water waft into the bedroom when the young slave girl returns with a second trolley, this one supporting an elaborate full length dress, headdress, a pair of scruffy black combat boots along with all the assorted undergarments and tools required to attach them to a body.

Fully three parts of an hour later, the young girl is again banished from the room as the older woman now ready to face the day, her hair, body and face made up to maintain an image of Amarrian power. Clad from neck to toe the dress screams out, "Yes I am female, but don't you dare treat me like one, I am strong, I am self assured, I am not a man and I don't care." A jet black bodice hides her true curves, yet supplies her with a respectable if discrete profile. Spilling from her shoulders and hips, a dark blood red cape and trailing skirts once again cover up and yet still accentuate her figure, hiding the truth and allowing you to imagine what you will. Her feet, hidden behind the heavy hem line of her skirts, are clad in most definitely not feminine combat boots, thick and heavy they provide a sturdy base for her to pile her image around.

Taking a mechanised walkway to the central district Evil stands gripping the support frame lightly with one satin clad hand. Staring into the distance on not object in particular with her straight black hair streaming behind her as she is whisked along the increasingly busy route. Stepping lightly from the platform, the glove is peeled off and discarded, almost instantly it is collected by one of the stations army of cleanerbots which scuttles back into a small opening in the wall clutching its prize.
Making rapid progress along narrower streets now, her attire is beginning to blend in with more and more of the locals as the incomes and apartment prices begin to soar. Not so much as glancing into the shops and fashionable boutiques lining the route she suddenly stops short causing others matching her pace to avoid the new obstacle.

Turning she looks at the name above the stall that has caught her eye, 'Rigel's Labour Bazzar', it was a simple slave market, tarted up and trying its best to look respectable true, but a slave market all the same. Quite what it was doing on such a prominent street was another matter entirely to the one aspect that had caught her eye deep in the gloom. There was the usual mass lists of Brutor available for hard labour displayed on vid screens along the one wall, no one bothered displaying an example of them as they were more trouble than it was worth to have in polite society.
Along the back and opposite walls there were displayed the house broken sebestors and other members of the less physically able tribes where looks and condition mattered to a potential owning family. Tagged to each cage was an info screen proving genetic stability, training received, expected years of service remaining and all the usual information required by the intelligent shopper, but none of this was what Evil had homed in on.

At the far end next to a particularly old and haggard looking Vherokior cook was a separate cage containing only one example of a young girl who was curled up on the floor dressed in what would take a significant stretch of imagination to describe as rags. Evil stood next to the cage looking down on the girl she realised what had caught her eye, the girl was not Sebestor, nor even Vherokior as she first appeared, she wasn't even Matari, turning to the wizened old man who evidently was Rigal from the way watched every customer come and go,
"Hey, store man get over here," the sharp tone of authority cut straight through to muscle response skipping any thought process the man may have had,

"What is it my dear?" croaked the old man, "You like the look of this one, ehh?"

"Cut the sales talk Rigel, what in Gods good name are you doing with a Jin-Mei in your store? you did know that didn't you? she is from the Federation you know, have you any idea how much trouble that could cause you?" the barrage of questions seemed to confuse the old man, before his eyes widened signaling he had finally got around the concept.

"She is a Gallante? but I don't understand, she came in with the shipment just like all the others" the man began to stumble over his words, "I just put her out here as I thought she looked prettier than the usual ones, I was expecting quite a good price on her"

"Well of course she looks prettier you stupid, blind old man she isn't Matari" the severity of the snapped response was like a slap in the face, and the man visibly reeled from it. "As for getting a good price, HA, you will be lucky to avoid time before the council." Letting her threats settle in she pauses to watch the child again, still curled up, it is obvious that she is now awake and aware of the argument, although whether she spoke enough High Amarrian to catch its meaning Evil couldn't be sure.

"So, what can I do? I have to get rid of her, I cant be dragged to the council not with my reputation to keep I'll be ruined!" Rigel is visibly worried

It should never be this easy, chuckled Evil to herself, "Well, if you are that worried about the authorities Rigel perhaps I can be of some assistance to you? You know full well that capsuleer vessels are off limits to inspections, and I just happen to be a capsuleer with a vessel here in station" she can barely contain the grin at getting one over on the old geezer.

"You would do that for me? ohh bless your soul young lady, I shall be in your debt" the old man confused by the sudden onslaught against him has allowed his experience to be sidewashed, there is no law preventing the salve of slaves of any race, providing the correct documentation is in place.

"Have no fear old man, it would be an honour for me to aid you, I should pay yo a small fee though as I would not like to keep you out of pocket," slipping a small datapad from a concealed pocket, she taps a few symbols on the screen and smiles, "There you go, transferred all legal and proper, she is off your hands and no more concern of yours."

The old man fumbles in his pocket, retrieving a large bunch of keys he fumbles about to unlock the cage, swinging the door wide he switches to a rough tribal tongue, "Get up girl, get out of my shop, you belong to this lady now, do as she commands"

Looking up in vague incomprehension at the man, then the woman standing over her, she attempts to reposition her rags, which are doing little to cover her up, "You have any clothing or material she can wear? it is not proper to take her through the streets like this," Evil commands the man. Then switching to a flowing tongue of contrasting sounds, she commands the girl in her own language to get up and be ready to leave for a new home.
"You speak Gallante? whatever use do you have for that?" queries Rigel returning with a rough sheet of material that looks for all the world like it had been mere moments before a sack of potatoes.
Taking a haughty tone, well more haughty than usual, Evil replies, "Does the Lord not command that 'Know thy enemy that thou shall smite them from the world?' It is hard, is it not, to know your enemy when you cannot even speak to them"

Wrapping the sacking around the Jin-Mei girl, Evil leads her from the shop.
"So what is your name young one?" she whispers as they head back towards the apartment,
The girl looks up, and in a crackled voice "I have no name, I was No 274 in my shipment but I am now yours, I do not know my current name"
"Well child, pick yourself a real name, one you would like to be known by"
After a few moments thought, she look sup again, "Shaharakhh"
A grin spreads across Evils face, "Shaharakhh, daughter of the Matari goddess of fortitude, a somewhat pointed choice of name I feel. Fitting though it is, I feel I should adjust it slightly to make you sound a little less Matari perhaps?" Raising her eyebrows the girl makes no response to the questioning,

"Mmmh," Continues Evil, "You do know where you are at the moment don't you? This is Kador Prime, you are in the belly of the Empire my little JinMei, so how about we round it of to Shan, Shaneyeah, Shania, that works I think. You know what it means, I know you chose it, and co-incidentally in my own native tongue of Khanid it means Petal, which is a nice name I think."

"Shania, hmm" the girl tries on the name, and smiles.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Butlers Tale

It is still dark, I cannot remember much of yesterday my mind is still foggy from the drink and the sounds of the festival. I cant quite remember making it home afterwards so that should explain the hard surface I have awoken on, my ears still thrum with the beat of the big drums. It was a good festival seeing in the new year in style, the whole of planet Byorkholm or Vard VII as is officially known would be waking up with a hammering head but sound in the knowledge that this year would be a good one. It was only my second time at the new year festival as only those who have come of age and proudly wear their tattoos are permitted to spend the night thanking the spirit world for a bountiful year and requesting good harvests in the next.

As my senses gathered I catch sounds of a woman's cry, not of surprise, terror or pain, but a gentle sad sob of someone resigned to the sorrow. I try to peer into the gloom, it is too dark, why is it so dark? even in the middle of the night the stars should show through. No matter I decide to see what the matter is with the woman and attempt to sit up, I am caught short by my wrists which seem to be held in chains. Chains? ohh no what did I do last night? I must be in the cells that would explain the lack of light. I lean back again, and listen into the gloom trying to pick out any voices or a hint to my location.

I slip into dream, I am back in the thick of the festival swirls of colour, people and the flames of torches blur around me as I spin within the crowds around the many bonfires that blaze into the night. I have my eye on a pretty little thing dancing around a far fire, I have been unable to approach her before and tonight when the energy dies down I may make my move, I will be 18 next year and it is about time I chose a wife. Suddenly there are cries of surprise out to the east, people stop dancing the singing falls to silence and eyes rise into the night. Muffled thumps echo across the plain whilst in the dark sky colourful explosions, fireworks spread the celebrations far up into the air, illuminating the countryside with the colour, the crack and boom of them echo off the valley walls.

I am aware of the sound of many people around me, I can hear hundreds of people straining to be quiet. This is wrong, even the city cells cannot contain that many people, and certainly not in one room. The thrumming of drums I had heard before turns out to not be within my own head, but surrounds me, I cannot put direction to it. A sudden flash of light, a vast ceiling is revealed, then disappears, then revealed again as the lighting catches. Blinking in the sudden dawn I catch glimpses of my surroundings, I am lay in the middle of a heavily tanned sea of humanity. Muscled Brutors chained down to the floor as far as the eye can see out to high metallic walls. A door high up in the far wall slides open, three figures step out onto the balcony they are clothed head to foot in dark robes. They are too far for me to hear any sound, yet one carries a datapad or clipboard while another pans some device across the room. As suddenly as they enter the leave and the cavern is once more plunged into darkness.

The sound of fireworks ripple across the sky, the crowd cheering each crack plume of colour, mixing in however is a deep rumble, a star falls from the sky in a streak of orange, then another and another. Screams begin far to the rear of the crowd, I turn in time to see a massive ship, its shields still glowing from the rapid entry into the atmosphere bear down on us and disappear over the lip of the valley followed swiftly after by the crack and whiplash of the punished atmosphere. It starts to rain, large blobs of water splash into the dust, the crowds start to scatter, screaming and running in all directions. The vision of the golden ship only tens of meters above us flashes through my memory. The rain stops as soon as it starts, but it is wrong, the droplets on the ground start to smoke, a mist is forming around my ankles my eyes start to run and so do I.

The room shudders, an echo of metal on metal rolls through the cavern and the thrumming winds down into silence. Large panels in the wall open many hooded figures are silhouetted against the dim yellow light spilling in. They move slowly but deliberately down the ranks of men, leading them out line at a time, before too long I am approached, my chains disconnected from the floor and remaining connected to the man either side of me, we are led from the cavern into the light.
In a small room we stop, our guides leave and the chamber door closes, a metallic voice sounds out in heavily accented but understandable Matari for us to undress, mere seconds later steam erupts from wall floor and ceiling vents, hot to touch but not to scald the water is laden with the tang of a chemical passenger.
Lead out again, redressed in simple but ill fitting garments I feel as though I am on a production line. We are bustled from one room to the next, barrages of tests follow the cleaning, physical exertions, scans and screenings of many types, culminating in an intelligence test. Knowledge of our own world, others in the Republic and then others I had never heard of, questions on belief, my replies of tribal spirituality receiving the obvious scorn of my unseen examiners.
Finally exhausted and confused I am led into a smaller holding room, with only a few tens of other men, and left in silence.

The crowd is now in full panic, not knowing the direction of safety people flee in all directions knocking people down in their haste the mist now burning in eyes throat and leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. Some, the weak, old and youngest are already succumbing falling to their knees clutching at their throats struggling for breath as about them the fit race for distance in blind panic. I hear the bark and snarl of some wild dog, the snap and crackle of some unknown origin I am running, barely able to see I come face to face with a wall of armed men. Cloaks billow in the wind revealing blackened body armour beneath, every third man struggles to hold to heel what I can only describe as a beast from the depths of hell, to call it a dog would be to call the mighty rift valley a crack in the ground. One of them points a gun at me, a flash of blue lightning leaps out and wraps itself around my chest, searing pain floods through me and I collapse to the floor, the world goes dark.

We wait in the room for probably 3 days, I try to talk with some of the other men some of them talk back, others only speak a dialect of basic Matari I have never heard before, they peel off and stay in their own group talking their own gibberish, likewise those I could converse with kept to ourselves. The door slams open suddenly on the third day, the hooded men order us out brandishing short batons that crackle with blue static. Around 200 Matari are assembled into a central hall, hooded guards encircle us and we are sat down, a pair of men, dressed in fine robes walk in, they are not hooded, and the light glinting of their bald polished heads standing at the front they converse quickly and unintelligibly with the hooded guards, nods and quick gestures are exchanged and then a shake of hands. One of the robed men walks out with a guard, the other turns to face the assembled men, "Congratulations, you are now the property of Lord Malakon II," he announces in accented but passable Matari tongue, "I trust you will serve your new Master with the honour and respect due him, consider yourself fortunate as I am told there are far worse fates in this cluster" and with an evil grin he walks out.

After being transported for what seems days on the hard deck of a cheap battered transport, walking out into the marshaling yard of the station seemed to be one of the hardest things I had had to do, I glimpsed through the great windows of the station a small watery world as we were herded back in smaller groups to the dropships. It had been almost 2 weeks since I had felt the sun on my back, that day seemingly years ago, preparing the fires for the great festival, now I walk across a dusty landing strip, chained to the man before and behind me, in the distance there is a small cluster of low buildings, ahead of us much closer is a large warehouse. The snake of humanity wanders across the plain shuffles into the warehouse and once again sits encircled by guards.

A side door opens, robed figures enter, followed by a man who, without needing to tell you you know he is in charge, the way the others watch without watching, keep out of his way and nod their heads before addressing him. I hear a Matari a few rows behind me speak to his neighbour, questioning if this is "That Malakim guy", a guard responds instantly, thrusting his baton against the man nearest him, not the culprit, but the discharge from the rod passes along the chain 20 men twitch and cry out as the shock passes through them.

"Greetings, and welcome to Palas III, I am Lord Malakon the second, this is my installation and you fine young men are here to operate it for me. Now, I am sure you are all eager to get to work but I thought I should come down and see you first, I have need of a few of you who are willing to join my house staff," motioning towards one of his aides, who points out 5 young Matari at the front, 2 men and 3 women, to the guards who unchain and lead them from the room. "Finally one more thing before I stop keeping you from your tasks, today is my daughters birthday the Lord has blessed me with her presance for 14 years now and I have promised her an addition to her personal staff as my gift this year, I hope you all wont mind but I cannot accept volunteers for this role, as she has said she will make the selection personally."

The side door opens again and led by a robed man a young girl rides in on the back of one of the hellish beasts I had seen back at the capture, gripping the animal by its pink collar she casts her gaze across the room her eyes not coming to rest on a single face, she turns back to Malakon "But Daddy they are all sooo ugly, you promised me you would get nice looking ones" her choice of announcing this clear and sharp across the room, in the same accented Matari as Malakon had spoken spoke volumes about her views on our place in the social rank, she saw us as dirt and wanted us to know it. Switching to what I assume was their native tongue Malakim spoke rapidly to the girl obviously attempting to circumnavigate a tantrum, finally it seems he won, and she turned back towards the waiting masses.

Guiding her hell beast down an aisle she cast a scathing glance at the nearest folk who tried to shy away, which is difficult to do when you are shackled to two other people trying to shy away in opposite directions. Eventually she nears me, I return her gaze, probably unwisely but as you can imagine I wasn't exactly in the best of moods to be belittled by a 14 year old, she halts by pulling on the beasts collar, points at me and calls to the nearest guard, "I want this one", he marches over sharply and snaps me out of my chains in broken and barely understandable Matari he says "tough break laddie", my hands still bound are attached to a lead and the girl leads me from the room.

And basically that's how I became head of household for the capsuleer you now know as Miss Incarn8. Of course the first year or so was rough, Mistress was and still is a cruel master but I count myself lucky I avoided the mines. After all, even Reggie, that deamonic hell beast, is a big softie once he gets used to you and its the same with Mistress, a sharp tongue and a wicked sence of humour, but I believe she cares deep down somewhere and for that I will lay my life down for her if she demanded it.

No 43, signing off.