Friday fiction time! Escape pod here.
I think I'll put this in as a Pod and Planet entry. It can probably go in the lore category as I'm pretty sure I'm not breaking any canon. The Burning Life tells us the boosters we use in-game are available as narcotics to 'norms' and I just need to remember what that Matari weapon is called! Ah, its not what I thought it was. I'll go simple then!
The smartly-suited man sat on the old dusty chair. It looked to be a plastic chair from an old school. The construction lighting in the half built structure was bright white. Plastic sheeting gently swayed from the ceilings. He noisily sucked on the cigar and blew out a cloud of smoke. With no walls and being on what will eventually be the 5th floor of the construction the light breeze quickly dispersed the cigar smoke.
"You know, I don't really blame you." he spoke calmly. "You might have heard some things and thought you knew about me, but the fact is you didn't. Nobody really does. Not you, not the women I share my bed with, not my associates hiding back there in the shadows. You see its been a journey for me to get where I am and I'd like to share that with you tonight."
He took another drag from the cigar and began.
"My earliest memories were not happy ones. My father was a construction worker. Not a rich man and his family, well I never knew them. They had practically disowned him for marrying a Matari immigrant. They were very racist and not what you'd normally expect in Gallente society. So it was me, my father and a cheap apartment in a downtown hab-block. When I was old enough I started to ask about my mother. I was told I was too young to understand and my questions were casually dismissed. By the time I started school I was being bullied. Poor, half-Matari and a single parent family, it was bound to happen. Eventually my father told me my mother was killed in an accident and that was that. The bullying made me tough and I started to fight back. In high-school I finally snapped. Egomo Hitama was his name. Leader of a gang of three other thugs. He thought he was top dog. One day he decided to pick on me. It didn't go well for him. An hour later I was sat in the principal's office battered and bruised. Egomo had gone to the hospital. My father was there and so were the bully's parents, both of them. The Principal was fair and when the snooty bitch started ranting how it was my fault the Principal calmly explained that it was her son who was a known bully. Well that just made her go mad! She started shouting and screaming and saying it had to be my fault. Then she said the line that set me on this journey. 'You only need to look at what happened to his mother to know what kind of boy he is!'. My father jumped up furious, Egomo's dad and the Principal had to restrain him. I just sat there as the grown-ups shouted and struggled.
A few days later I started to look into my mothers past. Have you any idea how much of our lives are available for all to see if someone looks properly? Government records, the GalNet, freedom of information laws and the networks that store information for ever. It soon came apparent why my dad never talked about her. She was a junkie. I found news of arrests and prosecutions in the paper's court session sections. Mindflood, Exile, Blue Pill. She did it all. I went home and confronted my father. We almost came to blows I was so angry. Why didn't he stop her? Why didn't he get her clean? What happened to her? In the end my father opened the small valuables safe and took out an old-style holodisk. He told me he did everything he could to stop my mother from using and tried to save her countless time. With a tear in his eye he said he never, ever gave up on her right to the very end. However she was too far gone. He told me she owed a local gang far too much money and they took her. The amount they wanted for her return was far too much for him to ever be able to pay. He offered them everything he had. He found the holodisk at home after returning from his shift. In the end he went to the Police, however she was never seen again. If I wanted the truth I could watch the holodisk. It also contained the messages back and forth. However he warned me it would also destroy me. I was 18, he said I was a man and could make the choice. He slammed it down on the table, grabbed his coat and left the flat. I looked out the window and saw him cross the street far below to the Thanatos Bar. Man, I miss that dive. Anyway, sitting down on our raggy sofa I stared at the disk. My fathers words swimming through my head.
I made a massive mistake that night. I played the disk. My father had been truthful. The first message from the gang was a simple 'Your wife owes us this much and if you want to see her again pay!'. He said they didn't have that money and offered all they had. Not even a quarter of what she owed. The gang refused and threatened her again. My father offered to pay monthly from his meagre salary cheque. He begged them not to harm her. I sat and cried reading his hearth-felt pleas to the drug pedlars. Towards the end there was a video attachment. I knew I shouldn't open it, but I couldn't stop myself.
It was poor quality. A Matari woman was kneeling on the floor. She was naked and looked completely out of it. Drugged up to the eyeballs. Five or six men where there, their faces hidden by shadows. They used her every way a man could, teasing her with more drugs she'd willingly do anything to obtain. The message finished with one saying the interest on the debt had been paid but the debt itself was outstanding. More begging messages from my father, no interest in negotiating from the gang. The final message was from them 'We know you went to the Police. Game over.'
I ran to the bathroom and threw up. My hands were shaking and my cheeks were an angry red. Tears streaked down my face. Fifteen years ago that gang had abused and killed my mother. That angry young man suddenly had a purpose.
I was able to get a look at the police files. A sympathetic officer understood I needed closure after recently finding out about my mothers death and was happy to take me through the investigation all those years ago. The file was sparse but said it was almost certainly the local Serpentis Syndicate was to blame as no other gangs operated in our area. The Serpentis were very good at holding their territory apparently.
I didn't do well at many things in school however I found I had a natural talent for chemistry. That was my way in. I finished school, moved out of home and got a fake identity from an old contact and used it to get a job in a bar. It wasn't hard as I wanted a dive-bar where my prey would frequent and they were always looking for staff. Its funny when you think about it. An eighteen year old boy going up against the Serpentis. Anyway I started cooking my own product. I made sure I used high quality ingredients. I needed my shit to be better than theirs. I started selling it on the side at the bar at a substantial loss. I knew this would attract the bad guys. Of course it did. Thankfully I was waiting for it and prepared. They sent some low-level thugs. I left one alive, gave him a sample of my product and told him to report back to his bosses. The next day they came. I realised it was the real deal when the bar suddenly emptied. A smartly dressed man entered alone, however I noticed shadows moving in all the exits. He sat at the bar and ordered a Gallente Sunrise. A difficult cocktail but I pulled it off. He then casually placed a Douvalle Labs pistol on the bar top and asked why he should not unload the clip into my face. I told him I was a great cook and could look after myself, as the goons he sent the previous night found out. I said honestly I thought it would be the best way to attract the top guys without too much hassle. He appeared to chew over my reasoning whilst tasting the drink. He had a surprised look on his face as he sampled the cocktail and nodded to himself. He finished the drink in silence, stood and walked out taking his gun with him. Two guys entered the moment he left and took me away with them. I had no idea if I was in or whether they were taking me out back to blow my brains out or to offer me a job. Nothing I could do about it. These weren't simple street thugs. These were professionals. The real deal.
I was driven to the up-market side of town. We entered a property through a secure gate with armoured guards carrying Ishukone assault rifles. The grounds were amazing, but also dotted with more heavily armed guards holding drooling Slaver Hounds on short leashes. If I had even found out about this place there is no way I could have got in myself. However, here I was being driven in by the gang themselves.
The first few days there were a blur. I was the hired help. I had a small lab which I was expected to make high-quality shit for the personal consumption of the top guys and their guests. They didn't want the cheap mass produced poison they peddled to women and kids on the street. I was also expected to man the bar during parties, and there were parties all the time. As time went by I was given more freedom and spent more time in front of the bar than behind it. One day the man who had come to the bar that night came to my room. His name I knew was Tuvan but what I didn't know was who he was other than he was fairly highly up in the food chain. I was playing the long game. I wanted to take the whole lot of them down. I knew he was leadership but not high enough. He took me to a room. I felt sick. It had hardly changed in the 15 years. It was the room from the video. A naked man was tied to a chair. His eyes wide with terror. A white rag stuffed in his mouth stifling his cries. I was told he was a street dealer, skimming money from the organisation. The only thing worse than informing on the Serpentis was stealing their hard-earnt drugs money. I was to punish him. A big Matari hunting knife was handed to me. They probably thought it was funny, give the half-Matari guy a knife from Pator. I knew this was my chance. I could have plunged the knife into his chest, game over. However I needed to show I could be more useful. I told myself this guy was old enough to have been one of the ones in the holovid. That's all I needed. Whether he was or not didn't matter to me. He was a means to an end. After twenty minutes Tuvan said enough and finish it. One of his men had even thrown up. I looked at Tuvan and he looked at me. I was a state, panting, covered in sweat and the man's blood. He gave a smile and the same nod I'd seen at the bar. I'd done a good job.
From then on, I was Serpentis. Whilst I still got behind the bar occasionally when people begged for one of my specials or I cooked up something nice for a special occasion I was beyond that. I was a lieutenant in the biggest crime-syndicate in Gallente space. I played the part. I partied every night, my bed was never empty of a beautiful woman, or women. The money, the power, it was like a drug. I still needed to know how high the local leadership went. I still couldn't take my vengeance yet. So I continued playing the part. I was expected to dole out punishments and became one of the most feared members. One of our own even tried to kill. After what I did to him nobody else tried. I justified everything by thinking I was paying them back, the whole stinking organisation, for what they did to my mother. I never realised what I had become. How deep I was sinking into the filth.
It all came to a head later that year. I was told we were going to a party. Every party had been at the mansion where I lived. I'd not left the estate since arriving. If I thought Tuvan's place was amazing, this other one was fit for an Amarrian Emperor. It had military scale defences and the house itself was the size of an average spaceport. The party was posh. I saw the planetary governor and the chief of police who I reconsigned from the news reports. They had the entire planet in their back pocket. At on point Tuvan came over and ushered me to a side door. Inside the elegant room as a smaller party. My boss led me over to a corner where a man was sat with four scantily clad women. He saw Tuvan approach. He introduced me and the man stood and shook my hand. He introduced himself as Raikanen and welcomed me to his home. He said he'd heard a lot about me and was impressed. We joined them and out of nowhere more girls arrived to ensure we were entertained. Towards the end of the night the girls begged Raikanen to do the 'thing'. He laughed and took his shirt off, flexing his massive muscles making them dance to the delight of the inebriated girls. I looked in stunned silence. The tattoos were familiar to me, I had seen them before. He had been one of the men.
We stayed there that night. I lay awake staring at the ceiling as two beautiful women worked on me. I wasn't really interested. Soon it would all be over, I had found him. The man who ruined my life and my father's, the man who killed my mother. Would soon be dead. However he had to be the last. I needed to track down the others first.
The next morning after breakfast I was escorted to Raikanen's office. It was like a museum with various ancient weapons mounted on the wall and ornate suits of armour from the distant past. Raikanen was seated behind a huge desk and explained to me there was a general problem with many of the men skimming money from the organisation. He had heard how many feared me. He wanted me to lead a small team as their own 'internal affairs'. I was appointed judge, jury and executioner. I had to stop myself from laughing. He'd just given me free reign to explore their entire organisation.
Over the next month profits went up. Not because I was stopping the internal corruption. Well, that's not true, I was indirectly stopping it. Using the holovid I was able to identify three of the others who had collected the 'interest'. I simply planted evidence and then dispensed the justice to them and their families. I didn't need to look for those who were really skimming money. They either stopped or fled after the rumours circulated about what I was doing to the men that I punished. I was the most feared man in the solar system.
The next invite I received to the leaders mansion was to a party in my honour. Whilst Raikanen hadn't named the party "Look as this amazing sadistic brute who has stopped our drug dealers stealing from us party" that's what it was. I partied like it was my last night alive, because that's what I thought it would be. I had a great time and when I was summoned I was giddy. This was it. I was taken back to Raikanen's office and he had a stack of cash for me. I was the prodigal son, so trusted I didn't need an escort. His number one man. He said I could ask for anything. I pointed to Matari short sword on the wall. A vicious weapon that bore Thukker markings. He bounded up and got it down for me. As we was walking me out I grabbed a pole-axe from a display and jammed it between the door handles. He looked stunned and suddenly scared. I ask him if he remembered my mother. The name meant nothing to him. Of course his screams brought security. They hammered on the door as I took my time carefully glancing back at the pole jammed in the door as it flex under the blows. As it cracked I brought the cold steel down into his cold, black heart and twisted. Finally the doors burst open and Tuvan leapt into the room gun drawn with half a dozen others. They froze at the scene in front of them. Me covered in blood holding an ancient Thukker sword deep in the chest of their boss' mutilated corpse. I couldn't be taken alive. I pulled the sword free and faced them down. I screamed at them to come at me. They didn't move. They simply stared at the horrific scene in front of them. The bullets I craved never came. Finally Tuvan spoke. His words were not what I expected. He said he'd get the cleaners to clean up MY office and that he'd come back tomorrow to ensure the organisation had a smooth transition period. They left, closing the doors behind them leaving me standing there like some battle-bloodied tribal warrior. I was stunned. Numb. Walking behind the desk I slumped into the huge chair. How could this happen? I was supposed to be dead. My viciousness and drive had got me to the top of the local Serpentis cell. I was their new leader. Now I can look back I see it. I had become worse than those who had killed my junkie mother. You may ask how did that happen? How can a man who went out to destroy the thing that killed his own mother end up leading it. How can a man who suffered such pain now inflict that same pain on others? I'm not sure I can answer that. Is it the power, respect, fear, money, wealth or the women? Likely all of them, it is no different a drug to any other drug my men sell on the corners of the streets. Perhaps I am just wired differently, a hypocrite of the worse kind. I went on a killing spree to avenge the murder of an innocent by killing more innocents. Whatever the reason, I'm sure it would take a lot of highly paid quacks to explain this.
So here we are at the end. The avenging angel of our story is now the demon. What I set out to destroy, I became. And then you turn up thinking you can sell your poor quality shit on MY streets? Didn't you even think for a moment to find out who this territory belonged to really? To find out what sort of beast I am? Its sad to think you could have avoided this by simply asking any low-life scum in this city about me. You'd have not got the finer details but the abridged version of the story would have been enough I'm sure to have you and your pretty petite girlfriend on the next InterBus shuttle out of here."
He sighed, stretched and rose from the chair. The man tied to another chair struggled as he picked up a bucket from the floor and walked to another chair where a woman was tied facing the man. He dumped the contents of the bucket over the screaming woman. A white rag stifling her protests. A strong smell of chemicals filled the air. The tied man screamed behind his gag, his nostrils flaring and his eyes pleading.
"For your transgression your girlfriend here has to pay the price from the lost business." he stated casually taking a lighter and new cigar from his pocket.
The bound man struggled and rocked the chair screaming loudly through his own gag. The suited man flicked the lighter, lit the cigar and then tossed the lighter at the woman. There was a 'whoomp' sound as the liquid caught. Within a minute her screams had stopped and the only sound was the crackling of the dying flames and the anguished weeping of the bound man. He then picked up a second bucket and poured the contents over him making him scream again.
"And you? Well you have to pay the interest I'm owed."
The suited half-Matari turned and walked away, tossing his cigar over his shoulder. The same 'whoomp' sound came a second later as he vanished into the shadows.