Fiction Friday! Escape pod here!
Last week I did a short story on taking a risky fight and the implications of such a "Oh what's the worst that could happen?" attitude with the crew on-board my ship. I got a comment saying would be interesting to have the same story told from a Gankers crew perspective. Which got me thinking...
To Good To Be True?
'The Basement' was the lowest official nightclub on the station being located all the way down on deck 255. There were unofficial clubs and illegal raves located in the five decks lower, but you wouldn't visit these unless you were desperate. At least The Basement had some security in the form of big Matari bouncers and weapon scanners. Less chance of being ventilated after looking at someone the wrong way. However it was still dirt cheap.
Kamaala and Saun walked up to the entrance, the bouncers nodding as they entered. They passed through the scanner and paid the five credit door fee before passing into the club proper. It was still rather early and whilst the club was busy it wasn't packed. After getting a bottled beer from the bar they settled into one of the booths. A sound dampening field was in effect around the booths. The thump of the Gallente hardhouse could still be heard, but you could talk without having to shout.
"Well here's to another shit week!" Kamaala said lifting his bottle. Saun took his and knocked it against the neck of Kamaala's.
"You cannot beat routine maintenance for minimum wage working for an asshole who makes an Amarrian slaveholder seem like one of the Sisters of Eve!" Saun replied laughing.
The two friends worked for Amiernatsu Inc, a maintenance contractor on the lower decks of the station. They were both 'Technician: 3rd Class' which was the lowest of the technician grades. They spent most of their time fixing automatic doors and food dispensers. The work was boring, the pay was poor and they both hated their jobs.
"I don't know what he does, but we need to change careers to his!" Kamaala stated pointing towards the entrance.
Saun swivelled in his seat. A Gallente man in a smart silver suit was entering the club. His suit looked expensive and he wore a lot or jewelry. Brilliant blue gemstones in his cufflinks glinted in the strobing lights. Behind him his entourage followed. Two guys that were clearly the muscle and then half a dozen beautiful women wearing some of the tiniest clubwear either men had seen. They watched in awe as he crossed the club to the VIP area, the bouncer opening the rope for him as he approached.
"Got to be some crimelord. Serpentis or Guardian Angels." Saun said.
"Why you say that?"
"Man, if you have that much money and power what the frack are you doing in this shit-hole?"
"Suppose you are right. If he was legit he'd be up on deck 15. Wonder how you get into that industry? They have interviews?"
Both men laughed and clinked their bottles together again.
"Two Matari Rust Rinses and two Arty Thrasher Headshots please!" Kamaala yelled over the din to the bar tender.
He nodded and opened the two beers and went about making the chasers. It was a shooter containing a mix of very strong but very cheap drinks. The name came from the fact that next morning it almost felt if an artillery destroyer had shot you in the head.
"You going to get us one of those too?" a voice purred into his ear.
He glanced across to find two women leaning against the bar next to him. He smiled at the two very attractive women and quickly tried to do the maths in his head. He was getting low on cash. Shit, he never had enough cash. In the end he decided he probably just had enough and indicated to the barman for two more shooters. These girls were far above his league. Buying them a drink would more than likely get him nowhere but he was already buzzed and thought it was worth a try. He pointed to the booth where Saun was sat as the barman placed the drinks on the bar. The two girls smiled and took the drinks before, surprisingly to him, walking over to the booth.
"Hi I'm Deni and this is Kaila!" the brunette said as they passed into the sound dampening field and the volume of the music dropped dramatically.
"This is Saun and I'm Kamaala."
"Thanks for the drinks!" Deni said downing her shooter in one. "What do you guys do?"
"We run a small tech company here on station." Kamaala replied with their standard lie. Low-grade maintenance techs was not a great line for picking up girls.
"Cool!" Kaila replied finishing her drink.
"What about you girls?"
"Oh, we sort of don't do anything at the moment. Partying mostly." Deni replied. "Wanna dance?"
The two men nodded quickly and headed onto the dance floor hand-in-hand with the girls. As the started to dance Kamaala wondered what their story was. Rich daddy? Come all the way down here to blow off some steam with the rough-end of society? Rebelling against their family by looking for a bad boy to party with? Someone from the wrong end of the station? Kamaala decided this was probably the right track and if he played his cards right he might get a bit of fun from little miss rich here. He glanced across at Saun who was receiving pretty much the same treatment from her friend. The girls were dirty dancing with them and weren't holding back. Kamaala tried to think how much cash he had left. He needed to buy them a few more drinks probably. As he was trying to think Deni pulled him in close and kissed him.
"Come on! Need some more to drink!" she said tapping Kaila on the shoulder.
Rather than leading them to back to the booth the girls pulled them across the floor to the far end of the room. Kamaala looked on in horror as they approached the VIP area. He barely had enough for one more round of drinks. The VIP tables needed a bottle of spirits or expensive bubbly minimum. Before he could come up with an excuse he saw the bouncer open the rope and let them in. What was going on? Deni pulled in through a curtain into a secluded booth. Inside was the man they'd seen enter the club earlier. He hadn't realised but the girls were with the suspected crime lord. He suddenly became very worried.
"Ahhhh Deni. There you are." said the man with a smile. "And I see you have a new friend!"
"This is Kamaala, his friend is Saun and Kaila's bringing him across."
The man smiled again and gestured for Kamaala to sit. There was a large table were everyone was seated around. As he sat the man poured a generous portion of Gallente vodka into a glass from the bottle and slid it across to him.
"I'm Ralirashi. My friends call me Ral. Please enjoy my hospitality. Any friend of Deni's is a friend of mine."
Kamaala picked up the glass and drank as Saun was led in by Kaila.
"Ah more for the party!" Ral laughed pouring more drinks.
Kamaala surveyed the room. The two 'muscle' were sat at the far end of the table chatting to each other. Two of the other girls were there and were chatting to each other. He tried to remember who else had come in with them. There were at least two other girls missing. Probably on the dance floor he imagined.
"So what do you guys do?" Ral asked.
"They run a tech company!" Deni said.
"Ahhhh." It was clear Ral didn't fully believe that but he didn't press the matter.
"What about you?" Kamaala asked hoping to deflect questioning away from their careers.
"I crew. For a capsuleer."
Suddenly it all made sense to Kamaala. The money, the girls. Capsuleer ship crews were apparently paid massive sums compared to normal ship crews. It was highly dangerous work, and the only way they could get crews was paying huge sums of cash.
"Pretty risky." Saun replied.
"Not really. Don't believe all you hear in the press. These modern ships have pretty amazing escape systems. Plus it depends who you crew for. My egger never leaves high-sec. Lot safer than low or null but the pay is almost as good. You guys should try it. Ten 'K' is ten 'K' after all."
"Ten thousand a year? That's not good money!" Kamaala said surprised as that is what they earned as 3rd class techs.
"A year? Oh no my good man. That is per month. Ten thousand credits per month! And thats for a new inexperienced crewman for their three month probation. It usually doubles after that and can go up to a hundred 'K' a month for some positions on the ship. Plus as the capsuleer does most things its money for old rope."
The two technicians looked at him him shock.
"I'm not on top money but I'm happy with what I get. Plus as its such a safe job there is no need to save like mad. I can throw money around and have a good time. I know, I'll show you."
Ral reached into a bag and pulled out a stack of cred-notes and placed it in front of him. Kamaala and Saun had never seen so much cash.
"Deni. Kaila. Lets have a race. Ten thousand for the team who comes first." Ral stated emphasising the word 'comes'.
Kamaala and Saun just looked on confused as the girls shrieked in delight and suddenly dived under the table.
"What do you mean...." Kamaala started but was cut off as he felt hands on his thighs. He felt his zipper being pulled down. Warm hand. Cold air. He groaned as he felt a hot, wet mouth envelope him.
"Relax boys. It's just a game! Vari! Domori!" he called over. The other two girls gave cheeky smiles and slid under the table too. Ral leaned back with his hands behind his head smiling.
"This is the hybrid charge rack. Your job is to ensure that the auto-loader is clear. Our capsuleer overheats regularly so you need to clear any blockage quick. That's pretty much it. Easiest job on the ship and what all the noobies do first time. Just do like what they showed you in training."
Kamaala and Saun nodded to the engineer. It had been a week since that night at the club. A week since Kamaala had got half a years salary simply because he had lasted the least amount of time after the girls had slipped under the table. A week since he had the most amazing night of his life partying back at Ral's amazing apartment. That night when Deni took him to bed and they were joined by Vari a few minutes later! The next morning when Ral offered to put them through crew boot-camp they'd snapped his hand off! In the past seven days they'd been on the intensive crew training course paid for by the mysterious Ralirashi. They'd learnt the basics they needed to know for crewing on a capsuleer destroyer and now were ready. Ready to earn a years salary in 30 days.
The two men shook their head.
"Right. I'll see you when you get back!"
Then they were alone in the gunnery section of the Catalyst class destroyer. They walked around the bay familiarising themselves with the room. It seemed too good to be true. A relatively safe job for a huge amount of money. They approached the hatch at the end of the room. 'ESCAPE POD' was written in big white letters on the front.
"Not far to run if things go tits up!" Kamaala commented. Saun nodded please they were so close to an evacuation route.
"All crew, prepare for undock." a voice boomed over the speakers.
Kamaala and Saun got to work preparing the blaster cannons and ensuring the ammo was loaded. They felt the ship warp and then jump. They had already been dosed up with medication to counter the effects of gate travel.
"I've just noticed something. There is only a few rounds of ammo in each of these blasters." Kamaala said as the red alert indicator flashed.
"What do you mean?" Saun asked looking at the magazine racks.
"I mean each gun has only four charges loaded and the store is empty. Once we've fired four volleys we're out. It makes no sense! We've got room for hundreds of rounds."
"Perhaps that's all we need. Here to destroy a single Serpentis pirate and 4 rounds is even overkill?"
Kamaala shrugged. A warning light lit indicating the thermal cut-offs had been deactivated. The two men prepared to tackle any possible problems as best they could. The rumble of the guns firing was loud, but not as loud as they expected. They watched diligently for any stuck casings or magazines. The second overheated volley went off without a hitch. The explosion that followed a second later was unexpected. A thunderous noise that shook the ship and almost knocked them from their feet. Emergency alarms screamed all around them.
The second one was even louder and even more alarms sounded including the one they recalled from their training. Kamaala remembered the instructor's words well. "If you hear this particular alarm its over. You run and you run for your life. This is the sound of the low structural integrity alarm. Your ship is almost doomed and nothing you or the other mortal crew on the ship can do anything. Its in the hands of the capsuleer at that point. You jump in the nearest escape pod and you get the hell out!"
Both men sprinted for the door marked 'escape pod', almost slamming into it before they could hit the open button. They jumped through the opening door colliding with mops, brushes and buckets. They looked around in horror as they realised this was a cleaning closet which someone had sprayed escape pod on the door. The 3rd strike from the CONCORD ship obliterated the small destroyer.
The hover limo glided through the station boulevard towards the transit lift. Santadan and Kunkkainen were sat in the backseat each with a stunningly attractive girl on their lap. Santadan discreetly felt his inside pocket where 5000 credits were sat. More money than he'd ever had in his life. All because he lasted the shortest time in that club. Now they were heading back to Ral's apartment on the station for the after party.
"So if you are interested I can see about the XO sponsoring you on the week intensive training course. You need to sign up for six months crewing exclusively on the capsuleer's ship but you'll keep all your wages if you do."
Santadan and Kunkkainen looked at each other unsure, as the two girls kissed and fondled them.
"Look guys, we'll talk in the morning. Enjoy tonight at my party. I know I will." Ral said with a laugh.
The two marks went back to concentrating on the girls. Neither thinking that in just over a week their lives would end the same as all those who rode in that very limo each night. Claimed by the vacuum of space after their ship was destroyed by CONCORD as they ran into a janitor's closet.