Fiction Friday. Escape pod here.
I was flying about on SiSi the other day and came across a group of abandoned fighters on a gate. That made me think about a mass brawl in Kedama a few years ago that had escalation upon escalation. Afterwards I had my alt running back and forth in an industrial scooping all the fighters and bombers that were left on field. That got me thinking, what happens to these abandoned fighters and fighter bombers, well not them specifically, the little guy inside....
"Well this is just fracking Dandy!" Bakkata thought as he watched a huge chunk of burning spaceship slowly spin past his cockpit. He'd been watching the flaming wreckage for nearly an hour. At first he was expecting one of the hulking pieces of flaming capital ship would spin into his fighter and end his life. However he seemed doomed to drift endlessly in space. Perhaps a worse way to die.
"Fracking eggers." he cursed.
Bakkata tried the controls again. He knew it was pointless but he had to do something. The Dragonfly one-man fighter he was flying was a good ship, but only when its commanding carrier was still in the system. When it was not, the navi-com lost its signal and the engines would shut down without the short-range carrier signal. The capsuleer Archon class carrier had was assigned to had jumped out of the solar system as it was receiving structural damage. He had been trying to get back but the recall order had come too late for him and several of his wingmen. As the Archon he was speeding towards jumped his fighter immediately lost propulsion and he was a simple spectator for the rest of the battle.
The battlefield was empty now, only burning wrecks remained and the tiny drifting escape pods. They were the lucky ones. The Sisters of Eve would turn up to rescue them. However his much larger fighter wouldn't fit in the rescue ships. There neither was anyway for the S and R craft to extract him from the cockpit without exposing him to the vacuum of space.
He reached out and ran the tips of his gloved fingers over the picture of his girlfriend. She was safe at least on the carrier that escaped.
"Mother fracking eggers." he cursed again.
The loud clunk woke Bakkata with a start. He had drifted off to sleep and had no idea how long he had been out. He glanced around to see if the fires would give him an indication but all he saw was metal. A vast wall of gun-metal grey covered his field of vision from the cockpit. His ship slowly span around, the blue light of the short-range tractor beams of a ships cargo scoop righting his ship to fit into the cargo bay. As the ship turned he saw it was a Badger class industrial. The cargo bay doors swung open and his fighter was pulled inside. It was dark. There was no lighting in the cargo hold. Bakkata looked at the sensors. There was no atmosphere either. It was a freezing vacuum outside and his cockpit would not open in these conditions. He thought back to the academy. He recalled Major Kilori behind the podium.
"Once your carrier is down or has jumped out of the system you are fracked five ways to Divinities Edge. Either you'll die of dehydration after a few days or you'll be scooped. There are only a few people who can and will scoop you as normal search and rescue craft cannot deal with the larger one-man fighters. So if you are scooped it'll be either by the Navy or a capsuleer. With the Navy its simple. If its our guys you'll be back at base and in a new ship within 24 hours. If its the enemy Navy then you'll be a prisoner of war."
"What if its a capsuleer?" one cadet had asked.
"Then you're fracked fourteen ways to Divinities Edge. Those bastards don't give a shit about anyone's life, certainly not anyone one of us who had been likely shooting at them just before. They think in numbers. You are nothing but a line on a spreadsheet to these guys. I know that many of you will end up after Navy service flying for the Empyrean's. Shit, the money is so good even those one or two of you who have two braincells to rub together might even consider it. Therefore being scooped by one of these Angels of Destruction is likely. They'll take your ship and might give you a choice whether to join them. However if you fly for the enemy, you'll be a prisoner of war with frack all rights. These bastards are untouchable. They will be able to do anything they want to you! Expect a long walk along a short garbage shoot."
Bakkata felt the ship vibrate, the Badger was entering warp. He swallowed hard thinking about the Majors words. He was flying for a State Protectorate aligned Capsuleer and the fight had occurred in Gallente territory. Things didn't look good. He wondered if he was going to be given a new assignment or extracted from his fighter forcefully and then flushed into space.
It had been dark and still for some time. Bakkata glanced at the sensors. It was still a vacuum in the cargo hold. How long would they keep him like this? He was convinced that the Gallente had him. Friendly forces would have let him out by now.
The sudden light hurt his eyes. He quickly snapped his helmets visor down and looked around. He was indeed in the hold of a Badger class industrial. The floodlights illuminated the cavernous cargo hold. He could see the sensors showing that the hold was pressurizing. However he could also see the dozen suited soldiers with Isukone Assault Rifles taking up position around his ship. He touched the sidearm mounted on the side of the cockpit and then pulled his hand away. He stood no chance. Even if by some miracle he escaped the cargo hold where would he go? He was more than likely on an enemy station now.
The light on the canopy flashed green. He pulled the lever and the cockpit canopy hissed as it opened up. The soldiers raised their rifles and Bakkata raised his hands rising slowly from the seat.
"Hi boys. Don't suppose you guys speak Caldanese? Eh? No speako the lingo?" he said at the silent troopers with a broad smile.
One of the lead soldiers twitched his rifle indicating for Bakkata to get moving. A ladder had been placed against the fighter and Bakkata slowly climbed down. He was instantly surrounded by the armored soldiers.
"Any chance of a cell with a planet-side view?" he joked as he was roughly pushed towards the open door.
The tray of green paste lay half eaten on the steel table, the plastic spork sticking upright. Bakkata couldn't stand any more. His life had taken a serious downturn since being captured. After exiting the Badger he'd seen rows of other fighters in the stations hanger. They had been salvaging all the Dragonflies they could. He'd been locked in this 6x8 cell for two days. A simple metal bed with thin mattress, a single pillow and sheet and basic toilet facilities. A silent warden bringing him a tray of nutrient paste three times a day with a metal flask of water. Despite Bakkata's best attempts at banter he'd never said a word.
He heard the door unlock. It wasn't time for food. Instead of the warden a thin balding man with a briefcase entered.
"Hello. I'm Arameki. Please do not get up."
The man sat at the table and opened his briefcase. He pulled out a strange device and placed it on the table. Lights blinked on the egg-shaped device.
"Do you prefer cats or dogs?" the strange man said.
Bakkata looked at him puzzled.
"Do you prefer cats or dogs?" repeated.
Bakkata pushed the plate to one side. He couldn't finish the juicy steak, it was too big. He did however finish the beer in its plastic bottle. The last 6 hours had been puzzling. The older man had asked irrelevant question after irrelevant question. Some of the ones had seemed to make sense then he'd be asked some other completely random question. All the time that strange egg-shaped device flashed various coloured lights. A while later an armed guard had brought him here, inside a ship of Amarrian design. Another cell certainly, but a spacious one with a comfy bed and entertainment. He'd just learned that the food and drink was a lot different too. It had to be a battleship or bigger to have such quarters.
He heard the door open and turned expecting to see the guard coming to collect the plate. It was not the warden. She looked Amarian. Glossy black hair cascaded over her shoulders. The clothing was not a uniform but expensive.
"Hello Mr Palken."
"Hello yourself gorgeous. I have to disappoint you though, I'm already taken." he said with his most charming smile.
The woman gave a slight smile and raised an eyebrow.
"You fly-boys are all the same. However your girlfriend is not here and the way things are looking you'll not be playing docking games with her for a while if ever."
Bakkata's mood soured at the harsh words.
"Well I take it I'm on a Frog station so I might be as well as dead. What's your story anyway? Thought the Amarr were supposed to be on our side."
The woman shrugged. "The Empire is, I'm not. Here, look at this." she said tossing him a datapad.
He looked at the datapad. "This is a contract." he stated. "A military service contract!"
"Your extra sharp perception skills are clearly why we want you!" she said sarcastically.
Bakkata read through the contract. It was almost identical to the one he'd had before. The Capsuleers obviously shared a standard one. However this one was slightly better than what he had before in terms of pay.
"Three days ago I was shooting at you guys. Now you are offering me a job? That's a bit risky isn't it? Giving an enemy combatant a combat ship?"
"You're not an enemy combatant, your a mercenary who does it for the money!"
"We've checked the background and tested all the pilots we've captured. We have some honorable men and women come through here. Your not one of them. Many of your fellow pilots believe they are fighting for a cause. That the Federation should be subjugated by the Caldari."
"Hail Heth?" Bakkata joked.
"We don't think you do. You're just an asshat who like flying fast fighters and earning lots of money. We can use a man like you!"
Bakkata shook his head. "You are serious?"
"If I refuse?"
"That is another totally different type of deadly."
Bakkata laughed. "One might say your negotiating tactics leave a lot to be desired. Join us or die. You are not worried I'll just say yes to survive and turn on you in battle?"
"No. As I said you are a asshat, an utter asshat who like flying fighters and lots of money. We are offering both at better rates than the competition. Think about it, we'll speak again in the morning." she said turning to leave "We offer all kind of perks!"
She walked to the door which slipped open automatically, as she exited a scantily clad Matari woman entered with a seductive smile on her face.
Bakkata walked down the corridor shaking his head. He'd signed the contract the next morning when the Amarrian woman had returned and let the Matari woman, who had been amazing, out. After signing she'd simply let him out of the cell and told him where to find his quarters. He was walking through a Archon class carrier, unescorted, that four days ago belonged to the enemy. This Capsuleer must have been crazy. He could do anything, he could go down engineering and try sabotage the ship. Was the Captain that trusting?
He reached quarters 1423 and pressed the open button. He stepped into a spacious and well furnished quarters.
"Well I'd be a furriers uncle!" he muttered in surprise at the large size and high quality of the accommodation and furniture.
"Bakk?" a voice called in surprise from another room. He heard running footsteps and his girlfriend burst into view.
"Oh my god! Bakkata! You're alive!" she cried breaking into tears and running up to embrace him.
"How did you get here?" he asked as she bear hugged him.
"They threw me off the CalMil Firestorm when we docked. Said you were probably dead and needed the quarters for your replacement. I was getting a shuttle back to my parents when a stranger gave me this."
She held her hand out, it was the watch she'd bought him as a present last year. It had been taken from him when he'd arrived at this station.
"What's happening?" she sobbed.
"I suppose I've been, well... head-hunted." he replied with a smile.
"Hows it going?" the man asked, his feet on the desk.
"One, three and five are confessing all to their partners. Usual story, they thought they were here forever and that they'd never see them again. Same crap." the Amarrian woman replied looking at a number of screens on the wall.
"What's four up to?" the man asked casually between sips of his Gallente vodka.
"He's looking guilty as hell but not admitting anything to her" the woman replied. "yet."
"Cut one, three and five loose. They are obviously too loyal and therefore a threat. Keep an eye on four but he's touch and go as far as I'm concerned. Was I right about two?"
The woman pressed a few keys and the large screen on the wall illuminated. It showed a naked Bakkata on a large bed making love to his girlfriend in their quarters.
"How the hell you can predict these fly-boys is beyond me." she said shaking her head. "You said he was the most likely to be a bastard."
"I have an eye for these things. That man is not just a bastard, he's an utter bastard. He spent the night banging a high-class Matari escort and now a few hours later he's making love to his long-term girlfriend. He has no loyalty, he can switch sides at ease. He's in it for the money and the adventure. A man after my own heart and certainly not a risk to us with regard to sabotaging us for the sake of his previous employers. Get him on the combat roster. He's our man in this pitiful catch."