Friday fiction. Escape pod here.
I've been saving this since early 2015 for a comedy entry for the Pod and Planet fiction contest. Given all this, it's probably going to crash and burn... like any good Matari ship :/
Pod and Planet - Into the Breach
Krar leaned back in the shuttle's passenger seat and glanced at the schematics he'd been sent. The shipyard had some good ideas but it sounded like they were having major problems. Given his recent successes he'd been asked to lend a hand by the fledging Matari government. He was on his way back from a guest lecture at Mikramurka University on Matar. One of his old friends within the Republic's government had asked him to call in at the shipyard and give the team there the benefit of his experience. As the lead designer of the brand new Vigil class frigate he'd be welcomed with open arms he was told.
The journey included a rather unpleasant trip via an acceleration gate into a deadspace pocket. It was quickly over and soon the shuttle docked in the small shipyard and a smartly dressed man was waiting to greet him. He looked to be a Sebiestor, somewhere in his mid-40's and had the look of an intellectual. Krar strode down the ship's boarding ramp and headed to the waiting man.
"Master Engineer Krar I presume?" he asked with a smile and an outstretched arm. "I am Lead Engineer Nerwolfur, head of ship building here. I'd just like to say thank you for stopping off. We all know you have a busy schedule."
Krar smiled and took the man's hand.
"No problem. Always happy to help out. I understand you have been having issues with your new prototype. Can we see it?"
Nerwolfur held out an arm, indicating towards a side door in the hangar and both men started to walk.
"Of course, right this way please. While the computer simulations have shown our designs should be fine, the first few prototypes have suffered, well, a number of mishaps."
Krar nodded. Their modelling software was notoriously poor. If only they could get a copy of the software the Caldari used for testing starship designs; their own version appeared to be able to calculate the rate of rusting of the hull accurately but very little else. The door automatically opened and they stepped into a massive hangar. Inside was a ship that Krar had never seen before. The rear of the ship was unmistakably Matari; a reddish-rust colour with large heatsinks. Parts appeared to be bolted, welded or just strapped to the hull haphazardly. He could have sworn he saw bubble-gum holding some bits together. The front half was completely missing, the area where it should be was surrounded by construction scaffolding.
"What happened?" Krar asked walking towards the half-frigate.
"Well, the front fell off."
"The front fell off?"
"Yes, the front fell off."
"The. Front. Fell. Off?"
"Yes, three times."
Krar shook his head.
"Well you've hopefully seen the design brief we forwarded to you. We are trying to build a speedy missile boat, so we have been using advanced shield technology to keep the armour weight down and the speed up. The first ship was working fine until we tried some live fire exercises. The enhanced shield booster fore-emitters weren't strong enough, so under fire...."
"... the front got crushed as the shield bubble deformed?" Krar finished for him. Nerwolfur nodded. They continued walking along the ship's exterior.
"The second one used a more tapered front-end to allow for shield bubble distortion with stronger emitters built with a locally mined carbon-based alloy. However....."
"When you got near any gravity well such as a planet it deformed due the magnetic qualities of the metal?"
"Yes. That's right. I really wish you'd been part of the team back then. Would have saved us a lot of trouble. Anyway our third attempt was to use a low profile, slim, minimalistic front end with a light-weight tritanium alloy relying on the aft section to house everything."
"I would have thought stability at speed may have been a problem there?" Krar mulled. "Heavy back end and a long light-weight front?"
"Why yes! The first high-speed manoeuvring test in a local asteroid field resulted in the ship spinning out of control and shearing the front off when it clipped a 'roid and then span off into space. We are still looking for it unfortunately."
Krar took a step back and looked up at the half constructed ship. "So you need me to design a front half of this ship that doesn't get crushed, deform, bend, snap or fall off in any way, shape or form?"
Nerwolfur just nodded with a sheepish smile. It hadn't been their proudest moment. "Yes, if you could help us with a design where the front doesn't fall off it would be most helpful."
That night Krar lay in his bunk in the guest quarters reviewing the ship's schematics. The design was for a tough ship with good speed and damage projection. It's just with everything in the back half of the ship, the fore half was always going to be the problem. Generally Matari ships were the no-nonsense ships of New Eden; they might not have been pretty but they got the job done. His preference for a vertical design would have worked well here but they were too far down the line to change the shape. He flicked through the photographs and soon came to the middle test where the mildly magnetic alloy had been used. A video in the files showed another shot as it was being moved. By the time it had got to the other end of the ship hangar, a team of men had to bang the nose section clean. As it had passed by all the other parked ships it had attracted the free bits of rust from them, resulting in 12 gleaming silver coloured Matari ships and one covered with the collective rust of 13! The pile was over three feet deep by the time they had demagnetised the cone and brushed the attracted rust particles off.
He had to find a way to increase the length of the ship by at least the same again otherwise the shield emitters would not work and the manoeuvring of the ship would be compromised. The sound of the general alarm broke his concentration. He jumped from his bunk and hastily pulled on his boots before running towards the Command Centre.
He entered the command and control room within a minute. Nerwolfur was there with a number of others peering over a console.
"Problem?" Krar asked.
"Big ones. Blood Raiders."
Krar went white. Tales of the space-faring fanatics were told to scare naughty children. A pirate clan who didn't steal your cargo, ship or crew, they stole your blood. All of it.
"They are engaging the defence fleet at the acceleration gate. We're losing. It'll be an hour before reinforcements arrive. We're in trouble!"
Krar looked over Nerwolfur's shoulder at the console. The two Rifter class frigates had no chance against the four Raiders.
"Run a level 9 diagnostic on the gate now!" Krar snapped, rushing to another console.
The assembled officers looked at him quizzically.
The assembled officers looked at him quizzically.
"NOW!" he shouted "They are not capsuleers, they need full access to the gates navi-com to use it. A diagnostic will disable to gate for 10 minutes to non-capsuleers and buy us some time!"
One of the officers nodded, understanding, and set the diagnostic to run.
"Once they see that they'll be able to jam our controls so we cannot do it again, so we've got ten minutes before we have Raiders kicking the door down to harvest our blood. Fantastic. Wait, what are you doing?" Nerwolfur asked as Krar furiously tapped away at a different console.
"I'm finishing your blasted ship!" Krar snapped.
"It's missing its front half!" one officer exclaimed. "No way you can do it in ten minutes and you cannot fight a Blood Raider attack force with half a ship!"
"We're Matari" Krar growled, not stopping his furious typing. "We're always fighting with half a ship."
Nerwolfur wandered over to see what Krar was doing and looked at the screen as Krar programmed the construction drones and nanite assemblers. "You are using a low density polyethylene-based strip with a powered aluminium coating to hold it together?"
"Yes! We have no time for anything else." Krar snapped. "It'll hold for an hour."
"You cannot be serious!" Nerwolfur groaned, facepalming. "You're taping the ship together!"
The three Blood Raider ships decelerated in a flash of light outside the shipyard as they dropped from light-speed. The fourth ship had been destroyed by the valiant efforts of the Matari defence ships and a third one had suffered armour damage. The Rifters stood no chance outnumbered two to one.
"Report!" the captain of the lead Blood Raider ship snapped.
"The target is dead ahead Captain. An outpost with 52 life signs. The Blood God will be pleased."
"Sir. There appears to be a ship behind the yard, just launched from the dock bay. I'm not getting any details from it though- it's not in the database. It's frigate-sized but an unknown type."
"Relax number one. This is a ship yard, they are likely to have unknown.... what in the splendour of the Blood God is THAT?!" he said, rising from his chair and pointing at the view screen.
The bridge crew all looked towards the view screen. Something was moving from behind the outpost. Long spiked prongs appeared and for a dreadful second they thought it was a Sansha's Nation vessel, but slowly the ship was revealed. The bridge crew paused trying to work out what it was. There was a tense second as they viewed the ship, and then fell about laughing.
"It's... it's.... it's made of scaffold poles!" one officer laughed.
"It's not even half a ship!" another commented between chuckles. "It's still got construction equipment attached to it."
The Captain sat back down chuckling.
"The primary is the flying junk pile. Destroy it Alpha Two. Alpha Four follow us, we're going harvesting!" the Captain said with a smile, trying to maintain his decorum and not break down in laughter at the sight of the Matari ship on the viewer.
"One of the ships is on an intercept. They are locking us!" Nerwolfur said from one of the console stations on the ship.
Krar sat at the captain's chair.
"Lock the frigate to the port that's on the intercept course and load Nova rockets. Lose the thermal cut-off from the shield booster. This is about to get rather interesting" Krar replied in a commanding tone.
The ship rocked as laser fire erupted from one of the Raiders. The other two Raider vessels swung towards the outpost, seemingly ignoring them.
"Ok, fire on our primary and lock up the other two. Let's see if the booster systems on this boat are what we hope." Krar growled.
The atmosphere was relatively relaxed on the bridge of the Raider ship. They could see their wingmen heading to the outpost and the strange ship's rockets were slowly taking their shields down, but as their ship relied on its armour they were not concerned. The Matari's shields were dropping fast from the electromagnetic damage from their laser fire.
"Shields down to 24% on the enemy.... erm... Sir, what should we call it?"
The Captain laughed "Well as we're going to be poking holes in its hull in the next thirty seconds, let's name it 'The Hull Breached' for now."
"That's a good one sir! I'll broadcast that on the local channel." the comms officer replied, laughing.
"Message on the local channel sir."
"Read it!" Krar said while carefully watching the shield readout.
"Dear sub-humans. We don't know if you have named that scaffolding pile with an engine yet, but as it's going to be leaking 'oh-two' in the next minute might we suggest 'The Hull Breached' or simply 'The Breached' would be appropriate."
"Shields at 12% sir!" the Tactical Officer called.
"Hit it!" Krar growled.
"It's nearly over Captain. The Matari vessel's shields are at 15%, 12%, 10%... oh... no, that cannot be right!"
The captain of the vessel snapped his attention to his fire control officer.
"The Matari vessel's shields jumped! They are at 84% sir!"
Their low shield alarm sounded on the bridge. The ship shook as the anti-amour rockets pounded into the hull.
"Call our wingmen. We need help" the Captain stated, clearly concerned.
They watched from the command deck on the outpost. The first Raider ship exploded in flames as the other two banked heavily, turning from away from the outpost back towards the prototype ship. They stood as space erupted in a dazzling light show. Laser fire from the two Raiders ships sliced into the Matari prototype. It returned fire, with the explosive tipped rockets exploding in flames against the red hulled ships.
"What's the capacitor status?" Krar called out to the back of the ship.
"23% sir!" the Brutor who was manning the engineering station called out.
The second Blood Raider frigate exploded. It was now one-on-one but they were getting into low power reserves; the shield booster was power hungry and could only be used a couple more times before they ran out of juice. They had little hope of beating the last ship.
"Sir, two more cycles on the booster, then we're dead!"
Krar looked at the tactical officer. "Seriously? No more cap boosters? Engineering, can you get us any power from anywhere?"
The bridge went quiet. Nobody had any ideas.
"Vunstede!" a man called Sissur shouted. The crew looked over at the muscle-bound Brutor female manning the Science And Scanning console, who looked confused as to why someone would think she could help with the capacitor situation.
"I heard your vibrator runs on cap booster 400's right?" Sissur finished.
There was a tense pause and then several men broke into laughter. As soon as they saw the hulking woman's expression they quietened down.
"If we survive this you're going for a long walk in a short airlock!" she replied with a evil grin.
"Open comms!" Krar shouted.
The technician at the Comms Station gave him a thumbs up.
"Dear Amarrian Nut-Jobs. Thank you for testing out our new 'Amarrian Scum Shredder'. Before we kill you all I'd just like to let you know we'll be scooping your frozen corpses and shipping them to the Republic. Pator specifically. We'll display them in the Republic Museum of Matari History as the first victims of this ship. It hasn't been given an official name yet. You referred to it as the 'Hull Breached' a few minutes ago. Given we are busy poking holes in your ships while you can't even get through our shields, I think 'The Breacher' is more appropriate. What do you think?"
The bridge crew watched, holding their breath as the last Raider ship banked hard. There was a flash of light and it warped away.
"They ran! They could have had us, but they ran!" one of the men laughed, pointing at the view screen.
Krar stood and nodded. "Yes they could have. However, winning a fight isn't all 'he who dares wins'. They didn't know our energy reserves are as drained as an Amarrian bishop in a Gallente cat-house! I prefer the term for this victory as 'balls and bullshit'. Set course for station and dock us up Helm, before the tape holding this ship together falls off."
"What do we do with this ship sir? We cannot leave it half built like this! Even if it did perform so well."
"When we dock get the engineers to note the position of the construction scaffold that's attached and get them to manufacture a tritanium alloy version. Set course for the station, I know fifty or so people who owe us a drink! Stand down battle-stations."
There was a cheer and then Vunstede rose from her seat. The crew went silent for a second and then laughed as Sissur sprinted for the exit hotly pursued by the big Brutor woman.