Friday, February 27, 2015

The Starburst Coders - Part 3

Fiction Friday. Escape pod here!

There is a new novella PDF available. I've basically taken the old Jita Ripper series and put it all together and added the missing chapters which were covered by normal blog entries for the in-game events.

The Starburst Coders - Part 3

Chigas looked at the feed from the security cameras. The three men had cut through the main blast-doors and were cutting into the second security door. That one wouldn't take as long and they'd soon be at the final door. 30 minutes and that would be it. He analyzed the situation. Three trained mercs, possibly agents of another empire, against him and a civilian. He could get one, he might get lucky and neutralize two. He didn't think he'd manage all three. Plus that was assuming a straight firefight where they had to come through a choke-point. These guys might simply toss in a couple of concussion grenades and simply walk in. They'd kill him and then torture Sawara as they had done to Aibi until she sent the Starbursts re-ordering the attack. Operation Cleansing Fire would kill half a billion people on Gallente Prime and many times that number when the Gallente retaliated against the State. It was a hopeless situation. Chigas leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, thinking. There was an option. The unspoken agreement. The coders must not fall into enemy hands no matter what.

Chigas walked into the comms room. Sawara was still sat in her chair looking worried as the cutting laser created a red ring around the door. The red wire was still connected to the socket behind her right ear. Chigas walked to the door and looked through the reinforced window. The men were there behind the cutting laser. He knocked on the window with the butt of his gun. He sought out the man he assumed was the leader and locked eyes with him. Chigas made the military hand-signal of "watch me". He walked back over to the comms console. Sawara watched him nervously wondering what he was up to. Chigas could see the leaders face in the window looking in curiously. Sawara questioned Chigas what he was doing. Chigas just walked behind her and grabbed her by the hair. Sawara cried out in shock and pain. In one fluid movement Chigas drew his pistol, placed it against the side of her head and fired. The report was deafening in the confined room. The left side of Sawara's head erupted. Blood, skull fragments and bits of brain flew against the wall. Chigas took the gun and emptied the clip into the console. He looked up to the window. The leader looked at him impassively. A slight nod followed, perhaps a military sign of respect for doing what he had to do, and then he turned and walked away. The laser cutting through the door stopped and the room fell quiet.

"Are you OK?" Sawara asked sticking her head into the security office.

It made Chigas jump and return to reality.

"Yeah. Just trying to come up with a master plan to save our asses."

Sawara went quiet. "Pity there is no code word for 'come and save our asses' otherwise we could send a Starburst."

Chigas smiled and then suddenly looked serious. She was right, the only communication they could send was Starbursts due the dampening fields around the station. However there was no way they could convey the situation to an Agent. All the orders were three word phrases linked to memorized operations."

He smiled and lent over the terminal. He could still receive data on the network even if he couldn't send it. He pulled up the entertainment listings for the New Caldari Prime holo-channels. Sawara looked over his shoulder.

"The holo-guide. Movies section? Are you seriously planning on watching something later?" she asked "You haven't forgotten about the three goons out there that are trying to kill us? Is there a good rom-com on?" she asked a bit sarcastically.

"Give me a minute, I need to find a movie. I have an idea, you have access to the agent identifiers and go-codes right?"

Sawara looked at his strangely. "Yes, but without the project code words I cannot give any useful message. Unless Command sent the three words, its useless. Even if we say 'help under attack' the agent will not act unless it matches an known op in his inventory."

"I know, and like I said I have an idea. Get the medical kit from the wall in the Comms Room." Chigas replied.

"Are you hurt?" she asked concerned.

"No, its for you. Now get going we've not got much time!"

Sawara looked confused but raced off to grab the medical kit as Chigas browsed through the movie listings for the day trying to find something.


A few minutes later Chigas was set up in the Comms Room. The glowing molten ring around the door was almost complete. Sawara was locked in the side office. Away from the potential fire fight. He leveled his gun at the door. He had thought about shooting out the console, but he was limited on rounds. He couldn't be sure of doing enough damage to make it unrepairable.

A large round section of the heavy steel door fell inwards with a crash and Chigas tensed. His tunnel vision concentrating down the iron sights of his pistol through the smoking hole.

Two round objects were thrown into the room and Chigas looked at them.

"Well, shit. I fracking called that!" he muttered a second before the stun grenades exploded.

The next thing Chigas knew was a stinging slap to the face that brought him round. He was tied to a chair. Sawara was next to him similarly restrained. The effects of the concussion grenade made his head ache. He didn't know how long he'd been out. The glowing metal around where they had cut the door told him it hadn't been long. Maybe a couple of minutes.

"Our lady here says that only you know the unlock code." the leader said pointing at the console screen. 'Enter Passcode' blinked on the red background.

"Yes. I had her set up the encryption then made her look away as I typed in the passcode. She has no idea."

The leader looked at him with a funny smile.

"Then you'd better tell us before we convince you to tell us." one of the other men sneered taking an aggressive step forward. The leader put his hand on the goons chest.

"Cool it soldier. There is no point, he wants us to waste or time. There is a reason we did it this way round. This little thorn in our side is an experienced field agent. He's run the numbers, haven't you? In a little over fifteen minutes the return shuttle will be over-due. Nobody is likely to panic at that point. Fifteen minutes after that we can assume alarm bells are going to start to ring and a Crow class interceptor will be launched from the station. That will be another five minutes total before a Navy Capsuleer is reporting to command that both shuttles are still here. Within ten minutes a unit of Marines will be asking us some really difficult and probing questions. We are not going to break an agent in the forty-five minutes we have left." The leader stated.

The other two looked worried.

"Best we can do is give it 30 minutes on the woman whilst he is made to watch and hope he cracks. Then we can get out of here. You!" he said to one of the men. "See if you can hack the shuttle and get it out of here on autopilot. At least the scout might think it was lost between here and the station. That might buy us enough time."

The man nodded and jogged back towards the exit. The leader pulled out the pliers from his pocket. They were still bloody from their last use.

"Right, lets see if we can persuade you to unlock the console." the leader sneered to Chigas. "I'm pretty sure you're trained to hold out but lets see if you can watch your partner her take it."

"You won't make it in time if you do her the same way as you the other. You really don't know what you are doing. Take off these cuffs and I'll show you how you do it to her properly." Chigas said nonchalantly.

"Oh really? You'll torture her for us?"


The leader put the pliers down on the side and pulled his gun out aiming at Chigas. He looked at his remaining man.

"Uncuff him." He said to his comrade. The man looked at the leader incredulously. "Do it, I'm calling this assholes bluff! Uncuff him!"

The other man uncuffed Chigas as the leader kept his gun trained on him. Chigas slowly rose not making any sudden movements, he took the pliers from the desk and walked over to Sawara who was begging him not to do it. Chigas took her left hand which was tied to the chair and grabbed her little finger.

"You just ripped them off quickly last time. That's like taking off a plaster." he said in an instructing tone gripping Sawar's fingernail with the pliers as she cried for him to stop. "You need to do it slowly and at an angle, twisting as you go."

Sawar's scream hurt their ears as Chigas slowly ripped the nail out, working it from side to side, taking his time. Sawar was panting hard between sobs when he finished. Tears streamed down her face. Her screams returned as he slowly worked on the next finger. She was begging him to stop as he dropped the second bloody nail onto the floor.

"Enough." barked the leader. "Man you really are one sick puppy. Your file was right, you'll do anything for the State. I get it, this isn't going to work, plus her screams are hurting my ears. So stop."

Chigas shrugged and back off slightly nearer the console.

The sound of a gunshot echoed down the corridor. All of them glanced down but couldn't see anything.

"Go check!" the leader said to the remaining man who grabbed his carbine and headed out of the Comms Room. A tense minute later another single shot rang out.

Chigas backed up to the desk fully and sat down on top of it smiling. The leader training his gun on him whilst giving nervous glances back down the empty corridor.

"We all have ops like this. Don't worry about it."

"Shut up!" the leader snapped.

"I'm sure your command will understand. Occasional things get fracked up. Its not your fault. You know what they say, no plan makes it past first contact with the enemy."

"Shut up!" the leader snapped again stepping forward and jabbing the gun in Chigas face. "Say one more thing, one more thing and I'll spread your brains over the wall! In fact I might just do that now!"

"Fine, but I really think you should be pointing the gun at that guy." he said nodding over to the door. The leader span around bringing his gun to bare. As he spun he realized the school-boy error he'd made. Chigas reached underneath and grabbed his back-up gun that he had taped under the desk earlier. He had already fired before the leader could react. His shoulder went limp as the hybrid round burst through it and he dropped the gun as he fell to the deck. A second shot from Chigas shattered his knee. He went for the fallen gun with his one remaining good arm but Chigas put a round through his palm.

"Stay!" he said moving over to Sawara and releasing her from her bonds. She stood and held her lip bloodied fingers in front of her face. She poked them with her other hand.

"How long will that local anesthetic last that you dosed me up with?" she asked continued poking her numb fingers with her right hand.

"Long enough to get you back to station and to a medical bay. Good acting by the way, those screams were eerily realistic."

Sawara took a little bow. "Well I was part of the amateur dramatics group at university." she said.

"Come on, we need to identify ourselves as friendlies to our friendly neighborhood assassin before he takes us down too!"


"War is Coming - The Luminaire Hijack? That awful B-movie made by the Gallente?" Chigas' boss asked with a laugh. Chigas was being debriefed at the Navy Intelligence office several hours later.

"Yes. We needed to send a Starburst but only had three words. 'Channel 623 2100' was enough to identify that movie. It worked didn't it? The agent realized that just as in that bad movie, a secret government listening post had been compromised."

His boss nodded. "You can probably guess our surprise as our local deep-cover counter-intelligence agent contacted us out of the blue suggesting that the Starburst facility had been compromised and our people taken hostage. He was already in orbit so we simply sent him the data he needed. He got the location, access codes and the files on the four of you to make sure he didn't take you down by mistake. As it turns out between you and him we didn't need the Marine unit we also sent. They were disappointed to arrive late and find most the bad guys dead!"

"How is my coder?" Chigas asked.

His boss laughed again.

"Apparently the local anesthetic from the med kit you dosed her fingers up with was wearing off by the time she got to the station's sick-bay. The nurses report they learned fourteen new swearwords used to describe someone called Chigas. Apparently the re-grafted nails were a success and she's fine now. Twenty minutes relatively light pain compared to what she would have got is all she suffered."

Chigas smiled.

"What about our 'special' guest?" he asked.

His boss turned and flicked on a large view screen. The leader of the intruders was strapped to a medal chair in an interrogation room. His shoulder, knee and hand were bandaged. Needles connected to hoses were being placed in various veins in his arms.

"He's just getting comfortable. Don't worry, he'll be telling us all about who he is, why he wanted to start all-out war with the Gallente and who he works for. I read your report, I let our men down there know what he did to our people and your counterpart's wife. I'm sure they are going to take very, very special care of him."

The boss shut off the screen just as the intruder let out a blood-curdling scream of agony.

The end.