Fiction Friday. Escape pod here. I've got some ideas but they need some work and this first week back from holiday has not been the best. This is a start of an older piece I've had for some time in draft. The CCP reveal that Bloody Omir and the Blood Raiders are going to feature this autumn made me think I should get this one finished.
The ship compartment was dimly lit and smelt of burnt electronics and oil. Several of the ceiling lights flickered badly either through loose connections or power conduit problems. Everywhere there was bare metal, some of it rusting badly. The hum of the engines was loud and acceleration and deceleration tended to rattle the room. The inertial dampeners were obviously on their last legs. The ship was old, and it was Matari.
Hakar was sat on the floor with his back to the bulkhead, his wife and two children huddled close and sleeping against him. They had escaped and that was the main thing. A brutal war was raging on their planet. Rumours abound that the Amarrians were manipulating both sides. As a Matari low-sec system close to the Amarr Empire it was plausible that they would want to destabilize the planet. Hakar had bartered space on a drop-ship before transferring to the small cargo ship bound for Federation space. The Gallente offered the hope of a new life. It had been a close thing. He'd just paid the First Mate and his family were walking up the boarding ramp when a small group of uniformed men burst into the open-air hanger from the far side. A flash of light from the doorway they just appeared from and they all fell to the floor. A fine red mist ejecting from their backs. The next group through the door wore a very different uniform and carried large calibre weapons. Hakar and his family had sprinted up the ramp as bullets ricocheted around them. The First Mate drawing his sidearm and firing as he back up into the ship himself. Thankfully the invaders didn't have any heavy weaponry set up by then and the drop ship was able to blast off.
He carefully shifted is weight. His arms and legs were becoming numb having the three laying against him. A few more hours and they would be safe, starting a new life in New Edens only true democracy.
They had been on the orbital station less than an hour. Tensions were running high there. You could feel it in the air. The station was supposed to be independent of the war. However with one third of the stations population from one side and a third from the other it was only going to be a matter of time before trouble broke out. He'd found the industrial ship bound for the Federation and bartered passage for him and his family. He'd never known relief like it when the ship finally slipped into warp away from that station.
Hakar had seen enough of war. Too much death. He was tired. He wanted only peace now for him and his family.
"Jump to Siseide complete Captain. All systems green. Cloak has 45 seconds left."
"Ensign, align to the stargate. Warp and approach. Jump as soon as we are in range." the Captain replied.
Captain Burik was a privateer. His Mammoth class industrial ship regularly travelled between the Gallente core worlds and the fringes of Matari space. With Capsuleer freighters handling most of the high-volume bulk trade between the hubs such as Dodixie and Jita, he found the best money for a person like him was between the core worlds and the fringes of empire space. He'd buy Gallente consumers goods and ship them to out-laying planets in Matari low-sec. He'd then buy raw materials cheap there and sell them for a good profit back in the heart of the Federation. Then there were the passengers. Refugees were a more accurate name in reality. Matari space was brutal and there was always wars kicking off. That led to a steady stream of desperate people looking for a better life. Captain Burik wasn't a bad person, he didn't take particular advantage. However he was a businessman. He filled the supply where there was demand. A good number of passengers seriously bumped up his profits for the run back. He also needed the money, the ship was sturdy, but it was also old. He had three or four major repairs needing that he would get done after one more run. However it was after always one more run for the Captain as his exasperated Chief Engineer kept pointing out.
"Speed approaching 70%, prepare for warp." the pilot called out.
On the forward viewer, space appeared to distort as the ship finalised creating the bubble of depleted vacuum around itself and was propelled to faster than light speeds. The starfield blurred as they entered the warp tunnel. The journey itself was sort. It would have been even shorter in ship equipped with a hydrostatic capsule and piloted by a capsuleer. Those immortal starship captains of New Eden were able to push their ships much faster. However the journey to the next stargate, even without man and machine melded, only took 30 seconds. The warp drive could reach a maximum of five times the speed of light. However, under the Chief Engineers advice, they were limiting to 4 until they replaced the primary plasma injectors. As soon as they dropped from the warp tunnel they knew they were in trouble as red lights flashed.
"Captain! Hostiles on grid! We have three frigates and a cruiser. The CONCORD threat indicator shows they are known pirates!"
"What Faction?" the Captain asked nervously.
There were several options in this area. A number of small local pirate factions commonly preyed on shipping. These would generally be less of an issue. They were thieves and would take his cargo and may be rough up some crew but it was unlikely anyone would die if he cooperated. Then there were the big organisations. The Angels owned this territory so were most likely to be the ones burning towards them. Again, they would not be the worse. He'd lose his cargo but he could cover that with what he main on the outward run. Serpentis were unlikely but also a possibility. They knew the same as he did about the lucrative trade run from the Gallente core worlds to Matari low-sec and occasionally send ships far from their usual operating bases to raid the pipe. The outcome would be no better or worse than the Angels or local pirates. There was only one that would spell doom for him and his crew and he thought they should be far enough away from their space. Six systems was surely far enough from the Covenant surely.
"Oh shit." the ensign gasped "Its the Blood Raiders!"
Captain Burik sank visibly in his seat as alarms sounded.
"They are using a warp scrambler on us. Warp drive is offline. Gravimetric forces increasing, its stasis webifiers! Speed down to 25 metres per second Captain!" the pilot called out nervously.
The Captain looked at his screen. Unlike Capsuleer vessels which could navigate much more accurately, his vessel had to drop out of warp 15km from a stargate and travel the rest of the distance on their main sub-light engines. 15km was nothing in astronautic terms. An interceptor could cover that in under two seconds. With the webs on them it would take 10 minutes, plenty of time to be boarded. All was lost.
The Blood Raiders didn't want the physical cargo, they wanted the people on board. Their goal was in their name. The Captain subtly unclasped the strap on his side arm so it was ready to draw. He'd go down fighting leaving the last bullet for himself. Better that way then ending up on a Raider ship, slowly having the blood drained from your body.
Hakar snapped his eyes open. He had managed to drift off to sleep. The feint sound of an alarm had woken him. He carefully detangled himself from the limbs of his family. There were murmurs but his exhausted wife remained asleep. He walked up to the door and unlocked it. It was an old sliding door covered in rust. Matari engineering was always seen as the most basic in the cluster. He pulled the door back a fraction. The sound of the alarms was louder now. He heard panicked voices and saw crew members running. Placing his hand on the bulkhead he felt the vibration of the ship. Something was wrong. The engines were firing but they were not moving as fast as they should. They were being raided, probably by pirates. Potentially slave traders in this region of space. A young couple couple sprinted past and Hakar saw sheer terror on their faces. He closed the door, locked it and leaned his back against the cold, rusting steel. There were only two possibles that could instill looks of sheer terror like that on hardened space crews. Sansha's Nation was one, but they were far from their space unless they'd entered a system under incursion. The other chilled him to his bones. He gazed at his sleeping family and muttered "The Raiders."
He look around. It wasn't proper passenger quarters, it was a store room. He needed a weapon but had no time and limited selection. He rattled through the containers quickly.
"What are you doing?" his wife asked groggily as he searched through the various crates.
"We have problems. You need to hide with the kids." he whispered not stopping his search.
His wife looked puzzled and then worried as she heard the alarm.
"Slavers?" she whispered.
"Worse!" he replied.
Raysere stepped through the airlock into the Matari ship. His fellow team fell in behind.
"I want everyone alive this time. Anyone who kills unnecessary will find themselves in a bleeding chamber!" he snarled remembering the last raid.
The sterile tanks on his vessel The Red Star were not even 10% full. He'd been given too many green crew. To often they were putting their own safety in front of capturing their prey. Too much of the blood had been split on the deck plates of the ships they had boarded.
More teams followed them through the airlock. Raysere led the way with four-man teams splitting off down pre-determined corridors. They knew the layout of the ship and also knew time was a factor. Leave the crew long enough and they would realise all was lost. They'd start taking their own lives rather than be captured by the Blood Raiders. They needed to be quick before they came to this decision.
He could hear screams and shouts. That was good. There was the occasional sound of laser discharge and projectile weapon fire. They were bad. They needed the crew alive.
Finally the last team peeled off down a side corridor and Raysere and his team was alone. They started to check the various side rooms as they worked towards the bridge. Most of the rooms were small storage lockers and were empty save for a few crates of supplies. They reached a locked door and Raysere smiled. One of hos men approached with a laser cutter. The bright red beam slicing into the steel. It took less than a minute to cut around the lock which fell to the floor with a clatter. Two of his men entered slowly, guns drawn. The room was dark with no lights. There was a crunch as one stepped on fragments of broken glass. He looked down and then suddenly up. He saw the smashed ceiling light and knew what was about to happen. He just never had time to react as Hakar lunged from the dark corner pushing the metal Hakar into the man's neck. He quickly pulled the bar free and a jet of arterial blood arced into the air. Hakar didn't stop, swinging the bar wide and low as the other Raider was turning to see what the noise was. The bar hit him at the back of the knee sweeping him down. He screamed in terror as Hakar brought the bar up in a wide arc and stabbed it deep into his heart. There was a flash of light and Hakar tumbled across the room. Raysere stood in the door, his solid-state laser pistol smoking.
"Check he's dead and search the room. Its unlikely he was alone" Raysere growled.
One of the remaining team went over to the still body of Hakar and rolled him over with his foot.
"You got him good boss. He's a goner!" the man said kicking the body his tone conveying the dissapoint that they had lost a healthy specimen that would have bled well.
"Its OK boss! We've got more 'ere!" another said cheerily from a corner hidden by several stacked storage crates.
Raysere walked over. He saw a pale foot as his vision swept around the make-shift barricade. They were three of them huddled tight in the corner sobbing. One woman, mid thirties he guessed. A daughter, mid-teens and a son, maybe eleven or twelve. He paused looking at the terrified family. He needed blood, however he also needed money. The reports coming in was the holds were full of lumber. Not worth taking. They had captured a lot of passengers though. He did the calculations in his head.
"Take the woman to deck 8" he ordered referring to the sterile deck where they bled out their victims "Blood for the Blood God." the others repeated the phrase automatically.
"The boy, put him in the locker until we stop by Slaver's Port." The Locker was their nickname for the slave pens in the ship. Raysere knew the boy was too small to make a difference to their blood-stocks. However a young Matari male always got good prices at the slave market.
"Yes sir! Oh, and the girl?" his man asked.
Raysere looked at her and wet his lips by pulling each of them over the other in turn.
"Have her sent to my quarters." he said with a smile.
The men grabbed the screaming family, separating them and dragged them from the room.
Pain. There was only pain and blackness. How long had he been out?
He struggled to his feet and stumbled across the room. His chest burnt and he was struggling to breath. He flipped open a crate, using the shaft of light from the open door to see. It was there, where he'd spotted it earlier. An old Caldari Auto-Aid case. A green light on the exterior showed it was still functioning. He pulled it from the crate and slumped to the floor. Opening the case automatically turned it on and he pulled it onto his lap. A light shone from the open lid bathing him in light.
"Critical injuries. Solid-State laser strike to the chest. Recommend evacuation to suitable trauma centre." it spoke in a robotic voice.
"No evac possible. No assistance possible. Engage category A protocols" he wheezed.
"Acknowledged" the case replied. A pair of robotic limbs unfolded from the case.
"Patient requested to brace. This may be uncomfortable." it continued.
Through the deserted corridors of the Mammoth class industrial a man's scream echoed long and hard.
To be continued........