Monday, 31 May 2010

Heros of the Empire

I don't normally venture this far into the Amarrian Empire, but as I was here I did what I always do in a new place, hunt down the local bar. Now you may ask, a bar within the Eternal Empire? but yes, they do occur here. Of course they are not the hives of debauchery that you get across the other empires, it is almost a shame to refer to these palaces as bars, but palaces and bars they are, one and the same. I walk in through the entrance way, and am instantly stunned into motionless, the floor appears to pull away from me, deeper and darker than would seem possible, it draws the eye out to the walls where hanging tapestries rich in gold adorned with the vibrantly coloured crests of the local holding families stretch up into what has to be a projection of some kind. Dark purple clouds boil across the ceiling, swirling around the edges of the tapestries, muted lightning flashes across, hidden yet visible, a marvel it has to be said to rival even our own Crystal Boulevard.

The room was large and made it appear far emptier than it really was, small groups of Amarrians huddle around tables, the murmurs of their conversations float across the hall unintelligible, yet obviously solemn and serious. Considering the cosmopolitan cross section of most empires these days there is a remarkable monocultural vibe hanging in the air, other than a few Civire hanging with some of the groups who, I might add, are looking exceedingly out of place, there was only the Matari bar staff to hint at the fact the universe was not solely an Amarrian place. The Matari themselves did not appear to show any signs of their life of manual labour so I expect they were chosen for this duty from a young age. I initially consider that the Amarrians may have been trying to fool themselves into believing that all slaves serve under these conditions? A quick look at the local clientele would suggest that a large number of the patrons were far enough up the social ladder to be holders of some stature. Either way the Matari do not appear to be conductive to any kind of questioning, and as for asking the Amarrians I have no intention of getting deported quite so early in my trip.

I move across to the bar, and engage the proprietor in conversation, the old Amarrian is obviously weary of dealing with a foreigner operating alone as he spent a good 5 minutes inspecting my visa documents before allowing me to purchase a drink. Eventually though I start talking with him, I still have a report to file and as in any situation cluster wide, if you want to find something out go and ask a barman, they, for some unknown cosmic reason, know virtually everything. The old mans eyes light up at the question of knowing any stories I could tell the folks back home. He tells me he knows the story of a great warrior pilot, who took on mighty odds and came out victorious. Expecting a tale of some long dead Imperial general, probably back in the days pre-revolution, I give in and trying to feign interest I ask him to recount the tale. The old man grins a toothless grin at me, his eyes wander across the room and he croaks "why don't you ask her yourself", surprised I follow his gaze to a young lady who is lay along a couch at the far end of the room. Obviously guessing my disbelief he added, "You know capsuleers change bodies just as often as you or I change shirts, she may be  far older than you can imagine, although I wouldn't mention that to her, heh heh"

I gaze across at her and try to see a vicious space warrior, yet all I can see is a petite young Khanid lady perhaps in her early 20s, nothing particularly special about her you may suppose at first glance. She hasn't dressed particularly differently to other ladies I have seen, a simple full length dress mostly an intense satin black with a deep blood red bodice. It has to be said, an unusual colour choice for the bipolar Amarrian dress sense, usually vibrant rich colours or plain to the extreme. She does have a very large slaver hound lying at the foot of the couch, but then this is the Amarrian Empire where slaver hounds are popular pets.

It would seem I have been staring at her for a little too long, she has clocked me, and is returning my gaze with a sly smile that conveys no warmth whatsoever, her eyes gleam from beneath the unconstrained strands of her long black hair. The barman, unseen beside me half clears his throat "seems she likes you, I wouldn't keep her waiting." It appears I had completely missed whatever signal she had sent, but that the barman had picked up on, and I had been summoned to explain myself.

The girl kept her reclined position as I approached and sat opposite her, my new closer perspective had revealed one unusual aspect to her attire, peaking from beneath the hem of her dress were not a pair of close fitting heels as I had expected, but a pair of heavy duty combat boots. "Who are you, and what are you doing this far from home stranger?" her question, blunt and delivered quietly yet with a scathing force. I explain my search for stories and the barman's recommendation of asking her about great heroes of the Empire. The last phrase almost elicits a laugh from her, "hero of the Empire" she rolls the phrase around as if trying it on, "No, I don't think so, I may have worked for the Empire, I may even represent it, but I would not consider to wear such a title, I am independent. Yet stories of great battles, yes those I can give you." Her eyes seem to glitter, and a wicked grin creeps across her face.

She launches straight into a tale before I can begin to question her on anything about herself, and seeing the passion with which she talks, I do not dare interrupt her. "The first I heard of it" she began. "There was a general call to arms, at the time I was attached to a small band of renegades, small time trouble makers really, we based out in Pator right in the heart of the Matari Republic." She explained how a corpmate had become involved in a standoff over a container of ore, facing off against multiple opponents wanting backup before acting. "I raced to get my ship undocked faster, cursing the sluggishness of even the cruiser sized hull, knowing that at any minute something could spark or the whole thing could blow over, either way I would miss it. As I popped into system I was informed it was not over, thanking God for his blessings I kicked my Devoter into warp to the field of battle."

Watching her tell her tale, she appears proud, defiant and just about all the arrogant descriptions you can throw at the Amarrians, yet even though she fits them all I cannot seem to dislike her for it. "Arriving at the scene I found the fight yet to have materialised, but I got my first concrete evidence of the enemies strength, 2 cruiser class hulls, the Minmatar Bellicose and far more deadly Gallante Thorax, 2 Minmatar Thrasher class destroyers, 2 Rifter class frigates, and a Gallante Tristan. Quickly assessing their potential, and perhaps wanting to show off a little in front of my corp" her grin reappears again, "but I was younger back then, I like to showoff a lot more nowadays. Anyway, I decided that I was able to handle them, I believe I even mentioned a line involving being able to tank those muppets, whatever a muppet is" She seems totally absorbed in living the memories of this day, the words hastily shuffled into place to keep up with her racing mind.

"I took the can, and immediately my targeting computer went nuts, klaxons and warnings sounding off as 7 ships locked and began trying to destroy me, the cacophony of autocannons, blasters, missiles of various sizes, mixed with the slow ponderous ping as my systems locked each of the aggressors. 4 pulse laser batteries slowly twist and elevate to position, puring the righteous fury of pure energy across the vacuum of space into the thorax cruiser. Its shielding flickers ripples spread from the point of impact as it struggles to cope with the abuse it is receiving before too long however plumes of gas and flash frozen liquids are venting from numerous gashes burnt into the smooth hull. Its end is spectacular, the reactor core receives a hit, and in a flash the ship is vapourised. The bellicose both thrashers, a rifter and the tristian follow in quick succession, one rifter escapes. The devoter prowls among the wrecks then disappears into warp.

"What surprised me most was that after the Thorax went down the other ships did not leave, despite the fact the Devoter possesses some of the most powerful and specialised warp disruption technology it can only hold one ship down at a time." She leans back, broken from the spell of memories, twiddling with the long fluted glass she has long since drained of contents, switching to an analysis of the events she continues. "Although I destroyed them without mercy I have to respect them for staying to fight before an enemy that they obviously saw they could not beat. Part of that I learned later was due to a mis-identification of my ship, thinking I was flying a simpler version of the same hull they would have assumed an easy kill."

She lapses into silence, focuses directly onto me, raising her eyebrow, "So, does that fit your needs?" I assure her that it does, making my excuses I explain that I need to write up her tale and make for the exit. I can feel her eyes boring into my back all the way out.
I cant explain why, she seemed nice enough to talk to, yet your subconscious keeps tripping the fight or flight reaction an irrational paranoia not to take your eyes of her for fear of being ended in a horrific manor. The casual ease with which she described her many victories, death and destruction, all in a days work, I know combat pilots have to deal with this sort of thing, but she didn't so much as bat an eyelid.

I pack my bags soon after and move on to a different area of the Empire. Evil Incarn8, she only ever told me her callsign, fitting I feel, I shudder involuntarily despite the warmth of my cabin, the last thing I would want would be to end up in one of her tales.

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