Friday Fiction! Escape pod here.
Another "I'm not sure where I'm going with this one". I have an idea and thought I'd try and see if I can make it up as I go along week by week. Lets see....
From the Ashes
"Stay here on the undock. I'll go in and coordinate the SWAT team." Jorerout's voice sounded calm over the comms.
"What? And miss the takedown? No chance partner." Hoyere replied.
The two Federation Police Comets approached the vast station at speed. They dodged around the lumbering freighters and battleships coming and going from the Nugoeihuvi facility.
"Seriously man. Stay here. You get married in two days. If you are killed out here I'll just have Maison moaning at me that you are bald on your wedding day. Lets not think of the issues if it goes tits up inside!"
Hoyere knew Jorerout had a point but he didn't want going to miss this. The Special Investigations Group had been chasing Zonelle Callor for two years. A prominent gangster and drug lord he had a fearsome reputation. The SIG was an elite unit of the Navy that dealt with cases that the Federal Police could not. As well as being outstanding police officers, they were also capsuleers.
Zonelle rarely visited normal stations. Given he was the most wanted man in the solar system he stuck to the dead-space pirate enclaves. However they had traced him here to the station at Eglennaert 1 Moon 17. Apparently one of his men had been selling a little product on the side. Zonelle had broke routine and secretly come here to dispense his sick version of justice. If it came to a firefight outside the station Hoyere would be OK. Even if his ship was destroyed and they hit his pod, the neural scanner would take a snapshot of his brain and transmit it via the fluid routers faster-than-light to a clone reanimation unit. He'd wake up in a new body on his home station in seconds. In the station and away from his pod, death would be a lot more permanent.
"I mean it man. Abort the dock. Cover their escape path. Don't make Maison bury you on what should be your wedding day. It only needs one of us in there." Jorerout reiterated.
"Frack!" Hoyere sighed and banked the frigate hard to the left. "OK. You get the fun THIS time! I'd say when we near your marriage day then I get all the fun, but we both know you'll never find a woman stupid enough to settle down with you!"
Jorerout just laughed as his ship was pulled inside the vast station by the docking tractor beams.
Hoyere switched the comm channel to the operational one. He heard the swat team talking. He then also activated the channel for the wire. They had an operative already on Zonelle's ship posing as flight crew. Whilst for a normal person listening to the two channels would have been confusing, a capsuleer is able to listen to both at the same time. Within seconds of each other, both channels seam to indicate Zonelle was returning to his ship. Show time.
"Alpha team, we take him on the dock-side. We need him alive. Lets not give this shit the easy way out." Jorerout stated obviously now on site.
The various team members acknowledged the orders.
"Mr Callor is returning, ensure he has chilled champagne waiting for him." a woman's voice sounded on the other channel. Hoyere recognised as Ulkka Has. She was Zonelle's number two. She was Caldari and was wanted for a series of horrific crimes. Zonelle obviously enjoyed dispensing justice himself but when he was busy he used Ulkka as a more than adequate alternative. Hoyere had seen first hand some of her 'handiwork'. He'd found one of his informants hanging by their feet in their apartment after being slowly skinned alive. Intel was that it was Ulkka who had killed him.
"GO! GO! GO!"
Jorerout's voice snapped him back to the present. He swung his frigate in a wide arc and positioned in front of the station undock.
He listened to the shouts and gunfire as the takedown started. Suddenly there was a strange sound. Something akin to a buzzsaw cutting through a tree trunk. The screams where loud, too loud to be Zonelle's men.
"Frack, they have anti-personnel mini-guns on that thing! Retreat!" someone yelled. Hoyere had no intel that the Zonelle's ship had anti-personnel weapons. Why would it? Unless...
"Hoyere you there?" Jorerout's voice sounded strained.
"You OK?" he asked concerned.
"Took one on the shoulder but I'll live. It was a trap. That shuttle had Matari weapons in hidden hatches. They are coming to you!"
Hoyere flipped the safeties off from the twin neutron blasters his ship was armed with.
"This is to any cops outside." Zonelle's voice was clear over the second comm line. Hoyere knew what that meant, he was speaking to their inside man. "Let us go or I'll gut your man here like a fish. Then I'll order my men to track down his family and burn them alive." The transmission ended with a pained scream.
"Captain Hoyere. You are to disable that vessel as it undocks." the voice of the Commander came over the link to ensure Hoyere didn't have any thoughts about complying with Zonelle's threat. He didn't.
"Frack!" Hoyere muttered in his head. With a thought he sent and order back to base to send a protection detail to Blalt's home. He had a wife and son. One thing he knew about Zonelle was that he'd never let Blalt live. Whatever the outcome, he would still kill Blalt if Hoyere did not engaged.
The shuttle left the undock and Hoyere quickly targeted the vessel. As soon as the computer locked the ship he activated a warp disruptor and stasis webifier. The two graviton based systems disabled the shuttles warp drive and slowed it by 60%.
"Oh dear, oh dear" Zonelle's voice sounded. Hoyere knew there was no point saying anything as the channel was one way. Hoyere maintained the electronic warfare modules on the frigate as a huge Brutix class battlecruiser approached to scoop the shuttle into its cargo bay where there would be no escape for the vicious criminal. The screams of agony from Blalt echoed in Hoyere's ears.
A transmission burst onto the local channel.
"Man, that agent had guts! And now they are all over my deck. This is Zonelle Callor. The Federal filth are about to take me. 10 million credits whoever springs me".
The channel went silent as the shuttle was pulled into the Brutix and the transmission was cut.
Hoyere was stood on the cliff top looking out at the vast ocean. The music signified that it was starting. He turned around and looked back. The guests had stood up and Maison appeared from the back. He father walking beside her. The white wedding gown billowed slightly in the afternoon breeze.
"If I propose now, do you think she'll change her mind and go for the handsome one?" Jorerout whispered in Hoyere's ear.
"We are twenty metres from the cliff edge. Do you think I can throw you off and find another best man before she gets here?" he replied.
"Fair point!" Jorerout conceded.
Finally Maison took her place beside him. He glanced and she returned the smile. The Minister took his position in front of them.
"Dear Citizens. We are here today to witness the joining of this man and this woman....." he started.
Following the cliff top ceremony they had the wedding meal inside. The speeches were entertaining with Jorerout stealing the show recounting some of the more repeatable escapades of him and Hoyere in the academy. It was soon the evening and dancing. By midnight things quietened down. The barman had nobody to serve and was discretly watching the news on his datapad. The waiters were cleaning the majority of the tables that were unoccupied. Think Jorerout is going to get lucky tonight Maison asked nodded to Hoyere's partner who was slow dancing with a bridesmaid. "May be, but you first" he whispered pulling her out of her seat and towards their private villa on the edge of the resort. The barman briefly looked up as the newly weds left and then turned his attention back to the lead story about an infamous crime lord who had escaped after an attack on a police convoy.
"Are you sure you are sober enough for this?" Maison giggled.
Hoyere carried her in his arms whilst trying to open the door to the secluded villa.
"I can command vast starships with the power of my mighty mind!" he slurred slightly "A door is......."
He stumbled and fell against the wall for support.
"Apparently a lot more difficult!" he laughed finally getting the keycard close enough to the sensor so the door unclicked. He kicked it open and carried Maison inside giggling.
"Lights" he commanded and the room illuminated. He stopped, stunned. Stood in front of him were two men with guns drawn. He slowly lowered his bride to the floor and guided her behind him, shielding her from the two men.
He went to speak but they pulled the triggers first.
Hoyere was vaguely aware of the sharp pain in his arm. Suddenly he snapped to, screaming. The adrenaline coursing through his system. He quickly took everything in. He was hanging by his arms inside what appeared to be an old factory. In front of him Ulkka was stood smiling with a syringe. Behind her he saw a makeshift hospital set up complete with a surgeon drone standing by.
"Where is my wife?" he said calmly.
"Oh you'll see her soon enough. In fact we need to make sure you see it all." she replied sending a chill through him. Zonelle's right-hand woman put the syringe down and picked up a small laser scalpel that was sat with a collection other implements and bottles on some old machinery next to her. He knew Ulkka's reputation, his only hope was she'd mess up and accidently kill him. The small bottles of clear liquid made his blood run cold. He'd heard stories of her and her organic acid.
"This may sting a bit and I'd advise you not to move." she said menacingly as she reached for his face. She pulled on his eyelid and raised the scalpel. Hoyere grunted as she quickly removed his eyelids. The heat of the laser cauterizing the wound so no blood affected his vision. She stepped back as Hoyere heard footsteps. His wife was still wearing her wedding dress as she was roughly pulled into the factory between the two men who had taken them. There was a third following behind in the shadows. A menacing shape in the black. As they reached the light Hoyere's blood ran cold. It was Zonelle.
"Captain Hoyere. Good to see you. I must say I admire your tenacity. You nearly got me. Well, technically you did get me." he stated lighting a fat cigar. "Luckily I have friends in low places."
He slowly circled Maison who was being restrained by the two men.
Another shape appeared from the gloom and approached. Hoyere's hopes jumped and were suddenly dashed as he saw Jorerout.
"Your money is there." Zonelle said pointing to a case on the floor. "10 million".
Jorerout walked over and picked it up. He looked at Hoyere . "Sorry partner, but 10 mil is 10 mil." he shrugged.
"Bastard! I'll kill you!" Hoyere hissed.
Jorerout gave an awkward smile and looked over at the sobbing Maison. He looked at Zonelle, his expression unsure. "What are you going to do with her?" he asked.
"We are going to party. Stay if you want, you can join in!" Zonelle said cheerfully.
"Let her go. It's me you want." Hoyere pleaded knowing it would be useless. Maison looked into her husband's eye's, her pleading eyes were wet and mascara streaked down her face.
"I could, but where is the fun in that?" Zonelle smirked as he wandered behind her looking over her shoulder direct into Hoyere's eye. He maintained the stare as he pulled the cigar from his lips. A second later there was a hiss and Maison's body went rigid as she screamed.
"Bastard!" Hoyere screamed thrashing in his bonds.
"Oh that? That's just the beginning. Wait until we get really started. A bride should always have an unforgettable wedding night!" he laughed.
Jorerout turned and started to leave "I'll leave you to it. Have fun." he said with a wave.
Zonelle didn't reply. He was looking at Hoyere with an evil smile. He gripped the shoulders of Maison's wedding dress and ripped it down as Maison screamed.
Ulkka appeared back in front of him. She smiled seductively at him as she picked up one of the small bottles of liquid from her assembled equipment.
"Oh, did you think all these things were for you? Sorry darling, we have something special for you later." she nodded to the makeshift surgery set up in the corner "All my toys here are for the blushing bride!"
Hoyere's scream echoed through the vast room as Ulkka picked up a few more of the wicked impliments and turned, approaching the trembling Maison.
The Commander put down the file. The intelligence officer sat opposite his desk sat impassively.
"You seriously want me to sign off on this?" the Commander asked.
The older man reached into his desk, pulled a bottle of Gallente vodka out and poured two glasses. He downed his in one.
"Operation Phoenix was just theory crafting. A potential way to get around the restrictive CONCORD laws on advanced AI and Empyrean technology. Not something ever seriously considered." he sighed.
"No sir. That was because none of the egg-heads could get it to work. The psych guys also said a normal person couldn't handle it. However the technological advances since the Jove Observatories decloaked mean it is now viable. Plus we have a test subject who has motivation that will override the psychological issues the quacks feared. Its perfect."
The Commander fell silent. Thinking about the options.
"What is the Captain's condition?"
"The doctors call it stable. I'd call it hell. He's nothing more than a shell. They took him apart and made sure they did enough nerve damage so implants and prosthetics would be unusable. He's blind, deaf, cannot touch, smell or taste. They cannot get a clear brainscan so cannot clone him due to that radioactive shit they injected him with. The radiation poisoning will kill him, but it'll take a few years. Until then he's locked into what is left of his body with no senses and no way to take his mind off....." the officer paused a second "...what happened at the end. He has nothing to think about other than those last hours he was forced to watch and endure. That's why they call it a 'hell cell' Chief. His capsuleer implants are OK. That's why he's the perfect candidate for Phoenix."
Both men fell silent.
"Frack. I spoke at his wife's funeral yesterday. A closed coffin as nobody should ever see a body in that state. Frack, and that is all Hoyere has to think about laying there locked into the silent blackness! If that happened to me someone better put a bullet in my brain. In fact I'm having that put on my file. Frack that and frack Zonelle the sick bastard and his hell cell."
The intelligence officer paused waiting to see if the commander was going to say any more. When he didn't he pushed the datapad forward with a single finger.
"I agree sir. However, personally, I'd relish the chance to even the score. Operation Phoenix would allow Captain Hoyere to do that."
The Commander looked at the orders awaiting his thumb-print authorisation. He shook his head and reached forward.
"Operation Phoenix approved and may Captain Hoyere forgive me for not putting a bullet in his brain instead."
To be continued...