Friday Fiction! Escape pod here!
The Delivery Boy - The Conclusion
Kamaala stood as he heard the door to her Captain's Quarters opening. His orders had been to procure her a Raven class battleship and meet her at the station. He was nervous which he found ironic for a supposedly fearless field agent of the State. His job was to operate alone behind enemy lines, deep in Federation space. His small shuttle was equipped with sophisticated covert electronics allowing him to hack and scan, relaying information back to his assigned capsuleer. Whilst he'd messaged her through the encrypted channels many times daily, they'd only met in person a few times. She always intimidated him by her presence. After all he was mortal. She was immortal. A capsuleer. A god of destruction. The door opened and she entered.
"Ma'am!" he greeted, always unsure of the proper etiquette when addressing a capsuleer in person.
"Kam. Is everything ready?" she asked grabbing a bottle of water from the table and downing it in one. He let her finish the drink knowing her new body would be dehydrated.
"Kam. Is everything ready?" she asked grabbing a bottle of water from the table and downing it in one. He let her finish the drink knowing her new body would be dehydrated.
"Yes Ma'am. I took the liberty of upgrading your requested ship. It was reasonably priced and should be able to cope with the Navy better than a Raven. Well, at least long enough for you to complete what you need to do." he paused. "So it went down exactly as you said then?" he asked carefully.
"It did. They blew me away before I had even chance to explain myself. It was expected, although I was hoping to let them know a bit more about me before it happened. Oh well I'm sure they searched the body and found out what I am. I suppose this way will make this next bit all the more terrifying for them."
"What was it like? You know, the other way?"
She sat down and rubbed her neck.
"It was different. I have died so many times in my capsule I cannot count. However that Templar Prototype Implant, it is... different. In the pod, once the AI detects a breach it injects me with a neurotoxin that kills me instantly before scanning and transferring my brain state. I don't really feel all that much. However, that Templar Implant, the Sleeper Tech, it waits until you are dead. I felt the bullet enter me. I felt the pain. I felt myself slipping away, dying. Hopefully the last time I have to do that. Horrible! Anyway, lets see what you got me!" she said rising from the sofa.
They walked out of the captain's quarters along the capsule gantry into the vast hanger. She gave a low whistle. Huge cruise missiles were being loaded into the ships open cargo hold.
"I thought you might need something a bit better than a Raven and this was a steal."
Kamaala stood at the front of the gantry, admiring the ship.
"Given the Navy ships tend to use energy neutralisers I fitted a pair of capacitor booster and there are plenty of charges in the hold. Obviously you've lost your web and point but for the, erm, less subtle nature of your intended mission I thought that would not be an issue. Just remember the Navy has a lot of resource in this area and they will come at you. It'll be a while before they can get any battleships here so expect frigates and cruisers initially." he said turning to face her. "You don't have forever, you'll need to....."
He quickly spun around again to face the ship. Whilst he'd been talking she'd stripped off and was standing there completely naked. He tried to remove the image from his minds-eye. She was perfect, then again she could tweek her body in anyway she wished. Each clone could be slightly different if she wanted. Designer bodies.
"I really do wish you wouldn't keep doing that!" he sighed "Its difficult enough being couped up in that little shuttle for weeks on end without these sorts of... distractions!"
She walked past him towards the steps that led down to the hydrostatic capsule as if nothing was wrong. She glanced over her shoulder and gave him a cheeky smile and a wink. He took a quick look at her perfect skin and the curve of her shapely behind. The skin of a clone only hours old would be softer than anything he'd ever felt. He shook his head to remove the thought.
"Get into space, I might need you to scout!" she said as she turned her back to the pod facing him. Metallic tentacles snaked out of the olive-green capsule automatically attaching to the sockets in her back. He watched in fascination as her head fell forward, her consciousness now within the olive green pod. Trying desperately to focus on her face.
"Now!" came the voice but not from her unconscious body but his datapad.
He turned and quickly headed for his own ship.
"She's Caldari Militia. A good pilot. Her killboard shows she takes no prisoners." the aide stated to Reuvo leading over her shoulder looking into the datapad. "We can see no connection between her, the three we are holding or the police on Caldari Prime. In fact her kill log suggests she operates typically in Northern Black Rise, far away from here. Hasmijalla, Sujerento, Tama. Nothing as far down as Old Man Star border area and certainly not into Villore."
Reuvo looked at the scrolling list of kills. Thousands of ships destroyed and millions of lives lost. It made no sense why a capsuleer would walk into her club like that. They'd killed an immortal. That would come back to bite them.
The door opened and the three prisoners were led in. She nodded at her aide to leave and stood.
"You are going to sit at this terminal and delete the copy of the video you put on the GalNet!" she said addressing Jullynes.
"No. You've already played your hand so we know what's in store if I do. You'll let us go and once we're clear of Serpentis territory I'll delete it."
Reuvo slammed her fist into the desk making everyone jump.
"No you little shit. You'll do it now or your girlfriend and mother will pay for the delay!"
"I don't think so. You killed a Empyrean. An independent capsuleer. Right now there is likely a fleet of her friends out there looking for you. I think its a better idea you run planet side and hope they don't have orbital bombardment ammo. We'll take the opportunity to relocate. You don't have time and I know you're going to kill us all after I delete the file. We are witnesses to you murdering a Capsuleer. Let us go and we can make a deal over the recording."
Reuvo wanted to beat the pup to a pulp for his insolence but he was right. Her ship was being loaded right now with everything it could carry. They didn't have time for this. However if she was going to continue running she'd need funds, and the hold over the police on that C-Prime city was her best bet for a regular income.
"Take the women. Usual situation, Lock 3 and turn the comms on!" she said addressing Vreau.
There was a brief struggle as the henchmen dragged the two screaming women away as Jullynes fought back pointlessly against the huge henchmen.
Sonnibel had his feet up on the console, he was bored. The Coreli Guardian class cruiser slowly orbited the acceleration gate. They were the first line of protection for the outpost which was located in a 'dead-space' pocket. An area of space where violent sub-space eddies preventing ships from forming a stable depleted vacuum bubble which was required for faster-than-light travel. That was the second line of defense, no ship could warp direct to the outpost. The only way to reach it was to travel at sublight speeds which would take far too long or use an acceleration gate. This massive structure would propel the ship to warp speeds without the need for warp drive. You could not activate the gate or hack it with the cruisers there. They prevented anyone unauthorised from using the gate.
He looked down at the five crew manning the various bridge stations. They looked as bored as he was. Several were on their datapads, probably surfing the GalNet or playing some stupid game. This posting was as boring as it got. The Serpentis went to great lengths to ensure the mega-corps did not care about this outpost. They were more interested in the military sites or narcotic production facilities. Every day the mega-corp's agents sent capsuleers out to deal with these threats, every day the Serpentis rebuilt and gained ground. If only they knew this little, insignificant dead-space pocket housed the command and control of their operation from the low-sec boarder all the way to Caldari Prime.
Amidier glanced up at him with a smile. Whilst both of them were in relationships, they'd been having an affair for the last six months. Her expression changed to a serious one.
"Captain, can I speak to you privately?" she said.
"Yes Ensign. My ready room. XO, you have the bridge."
As they left the bridge the other crew glanced at each other rolling their eyes or smirking. It was not a great secret.
Sonnibel entered the small office off the bridge.
She pounced on him, knocking him back onto the desk. Their mouths clashing. She sucked his bottom lip between her teeth and pulled. He winced in a mix of pleasure and pain. Sliding down his body she pulled his pants down. He gasped as she took him in his mouth. His whole body shook. It took a second for him to realise hit wasn't just him. His eyes sprang open and the room was flashing red. They struggled to their feet as the ship shook violently again, adjusting clothing and burst back onto the bridge.
"Report!" he yelled.
"Contact sir! One ship just dropped out of warp on top of us and opened up!"
"Lets see it!" he commanded.
The viewscreen changed from the local star maps to the forward camera. There were gasps.
"That's..... That's a Golem class Marauder!" he said in shock.
They silently watched the cruise missiles streak from the launchers on top of the huge battleship. Their contrails showing the change of direction, a direction straight towards them.
"Status?" the Captain said, his voice breaking.
"We've already taken two volleys. Shields are down. Armour at..... oh god..... 45%." came the reply.
They watched the fiery engines of the missiles grow larger. Everyone on the bridge knew there was nothing they could do.
"We've lost contact with the gate defense wing!"
The man bursting into the room looked scared.
Reuvo span around. The holoscreen she stood in front of displayed an airlock. Inside Ylle and Awel screamed pressing their hands against their ears. Jullynes was sat in a chair in front of the screen sobbing. Two men held him in place and forced him to watch. They'd explained to him what would happen if he didn't delete the file. The airlock would very slowly depressurize, however the percentage of oxygen would increase appropriately. The two women would suffer hideous pain but not suffocate as the partial pressure of the oxygen would sustain them until they died of pressure related injuries. Reuvo had boasted that even after the ear drums rupture and the eyeballs burst, a person could still last hours if the pressure dropped slow enough. The lungs were very flexible in that regard and were the last thing to go.
"Put the warp-in on screen!" she quickly instructed. The display of the two screaming women vanished to be replaced by the external starfield. The screams coming from the speakers suddenly silenced as the video feed changed. In the distance a small beacon flashed red indicating the area where ships propelled by the distant acceleration gate would arrive. A bright flash of white light several hundred kilometers away indicated a ship dropping below light speed. The gathered Serpentis held their breath, hoping for one of their cruisers to be the new arrival. The screen was suddenly filled by the rapidly deccelerating Golem.
"Frack me!" one of the men mumbled.
The AI automatically scanned the ship and highlighted something leaving one of the bays. Five small specks on the screen. A green box was overlaid on each as the stations systems tracked and scanned them. Finally details popped up.
"Warrior II's. Fast attack drones. They don't want anyone leaving." another of the men mumbled.
The screen indicated an incoming message. Reuvo pressed the accept.
"So, can we start this conversation again?" the voice spoke. Reuvo gasped recognising the voice.
"Yes, we capsuleers do not die so easily. I have your outpost locked and my drones will destroy anything that tries to leave. You have 2 minutes to put your three prisoners into escape pod 32 and launch it. That is all."
The connection cut. The room fell quiet.
"What are you idiots waiting for?" Reuvo screamed "Do it!"
The men took off, one dragging Jullynes by his collar. Reuvo paced the empty room checking her watch. Capsuleers may be immortal but they were not known for their patience. That Golem could easily destroy the outpost in a matter of seconds. She saw three flashes of light on the view screen. More ships arriving. The AI overlaid details of the new arrivals. These were not Caldari militia, it was the Federal Navy. Hope flashed in front of Reuvo. Of course, this capsuleer was an enemy of the Federation! The Navy would have been tracking her from the moment she entered their space. She was about to recall her men when she looked at the new arrivals. Two frigates and a cruiser. The outside of the outpost lit up as the navy ships opened fire on the battleship. Reuvo didn't even need to look at the tactical overview, she knew those three ships would be hardly scratching the vast Marauder.
"Pod away!" Vreau's voice sounded over the comm system.
Reuvo watched as a bright white beam shot from the Golem and engulfed the small escape pod. A tractor beam. Within seconds the pod was safely aboard the battleship and Reuvo sighed in releaf. Suddenly the Golem started to change shape. Huge glowing blocks appearing from the top of the ship. Reuvo cried out. The Marauder was entering Bastion mode. Meaning it was about to attack.
"We did what you told us!" Reuvo screamed into the comms on a wide broadcast. "We let them go!"
There was a pause.
"Yes you did. However check your logs, I never said what would happen after you did."
Reuvo stood trembling, watching in horror as the Golem continued to completely ignore the small Navy vessels and launched a salvo of cruise missiles. The weapons arced high into space, away from the ship before turning towards the outpost, their intended target. Reuvo started to run.
Ylle and Jullynes stood in the medical bay as the medical drones worked on Awel. They had been assured them it was a simple operation to restore her lost fingers. A flash of light stunned the guests however the medical staff ignored it. The holographic figure walked towards them. They recognised it as the capsuleer.
"Are you all OK?" she asked. There was concern in her projected voice.
"Yes, but why are you doing this?" Jullynes asked.
"For my daughter." the capsuleer repiled looking at Ylle .
Ylle looked at the hologram stunned. "That's impossible!" she stammered.
"Look we're about to jump. We have the Navy chasing us and I need to get out of Federation space. The State has control of the Quafe station in Old Man Star. Clordilen show our guests to some quarters. I'll join them when we dock."
With that the hologram vanished. Ylle and Jullynes were shown to a cabin where they waited in silence. They felt the jump, the acceleration to warp and the shudder as the ship was docked in the station. Ten minutes later the capsuleer entered. Her hair still wet.
"I suppose you deserve an explanation." she said sitting opposite the two. Ylle could only nod not believing that this woman, who looked only a few years older could be her supposedly dead mother.
"It was twenty years ago. Caldari Prime was a lot different to what it is now. This was before Heth, before the Empyrean Wars. We lived in relative peace. However the tensions still ran high. Some idiot decided it might bring us all together if we had a joint defense force. So they took the new Navy cadets from both sides and mixed us up into the C-Prime Defense Academy. It was a disaster! They paired us up, one Caldari, one Gallente. Individuals could not graduate, only pairs. Work together and pass together, or fail. I was placed with your father." the capsuleer smiled whilst thinking back.
"Oh we really hated each other. The animosity from the war had never left. We studied and fought in equal measures. I truly hated him, that Gallente man. The race that had invaded our planet and conquered us. He hated me back. The Caldari who as they saw it started the war that they finished. Those responsible for the attack on Nouvelle Rouvenor. However in order to graduate we had to work together. It was one night at the end of the first year. We had an astrophysics exam the next morning and your father kept getting the answers wrong. The study areas had closed for the night and we were supposed to be lights out. However I'd sneaked into his quarters to continue revising. We had to pass. There was nothing more that I wanted than to be a starpilot. He'd just got the answer about the red spectrum and quasars wrong for the forth time when I lost it. I wanted to be a pilot more than anything and he was going to make me fail. I slapped him across the face and then, as he sat there shocked that I'd struck him, I flew at him. The fight lasted all of 30 seconds. Before I knew it I was no longer trying to beat him, I was kissing him. We just scraped through the exam next morning. After that we became lovers. At the end of first year they took the highest individual performers for a special medical. We had no idea why. I was one of those chosen for this extra test due to my high individual test scores. At the meeting after the medical I received two shocks. Firstly I was capsule compatible and could be entered into the Navy Capsuleer program. The second was I was pregnant. The Navy gave me 48 hours to decide. I couldn't be both and had to choose.
"As I wept in my quarters unable to make that decision, I got a message. No sender details, totally anonymous. It promised me a way out. I could keep the baby and continue to study. Once I had given birth they would make me a capsuleer. I sat there stunned. Was this a test? A trap? I could not end the pregnancy, but being a capsuleer was such an opportunity. In the end I just said yes. They came for me that night. I was whisked away in a covert operation. Within 24 hours I was lightyears away on New Caldari. The State foresaw what a power we capsuleers could become. They wanted me at any price. I was allowed to contact your father several months later. Without me he'd failed his exams and been ejected from the pilot training program. He'd joined the local police. In a series of messages passed on by undercover State agents I asked him if he would take care of you. I was going to be a capsuleer fighting for the State, you were half Gallente on a world that hated Gallente. So after you were born you were taken across the border to your father."
Ylle sat there stunned. "He told me you died when I was one." she muttered.
"I did. I have died many times. In fact in the training program I was in, it was a requirement to pass. My first time I was laying on a gurney in a med-centre as they terminated my birth-body and transferred my consciousness into my first capsuleer clone. He didn't lie."
"But I look Gallente!" she protested.
"I took gene therapy during the later stages of pregnancy. You still have a hint of Caldari but we ensured you would blend in living with your father."
"The car for my 18th. The expensive one that caused me to suspect he was on the take. That was you wasn't it?"
The capsuleer nodded.
"Look its your choice where you want to go. Back to C-Prime, one of the worlds or stations here in low-sec or I can arrange passage to Caldari space. I advise you to go home. We cannot be together but know I do love you and that I am always watching."
"But what about the Police? And the Serps?" Jullynes who had been sat there quietly asked.
"All taken care of. It is safe for you to go home." she said as she left.
Detective Chonettane entered the hotel room and saw his superior standing over what he assumed was the body. A white sheet was draped over it. He went over and lifted the sheet for a look. He jumped back.
"Yeah. This is a weird one!" the senior detective said.
"How longs he been dead?"
"Less than 14 hours."
"14 hours? There is a bleached skeleton under the sheet!"
His superior explained that they had checked the security camera footage from the hotel corridor and he was seen coming back to his room just after midnight station time. The cleaning staff found him the next morning. A datapad was produced and the scene of the hotel corridor played for Chonettane.
"He looks rather happy." he commented.
Chonettane continued to watch Carvaire walking up the corridor. He raised a hand and touched his lips. Even on the camera footage it was clear his hand came away red. As he reached the door he lifted his hand to access the controls and obviously spotted the blood on his hand. He quickly touched his lips again and entered the room in a rush. The senior detective indicated for Chonettane to follow him. They entered the bathroom. Bloody handprints were everywhere. On the counters, in the sink and even the mirrors.
"Shit, this looks like a scene from a bad horror movie! Did he call for help?"
"The control panel by the door is covered in blood. He was desperately trying to call reception or to open the door. For some reason neither worked. His personal datapad shows 104 calls."
"104 failed calls. No connection to the GalNet which is technically impossible."
"Door and comms not working and his datapad fails at the same time? He was murdered then? Method?"
"Did you see the silver dust under the skeleton?"
"Inactive self-replicating nanites. Techs think they were programed to eat organic flesh."
"So as his lips were the first to go according to the security camera footage, something he ate or drank?"
The senior officer nodded. "Or a kiss. The techs have heard of some Amarrian assassins using lipstick containing these nanites. Bio-coded so they don't attack the host."
"Wow. The kiss of death. Shit! Any ID?"
A wallet was passed to him.
"Double shit! One of us. A cop from C-Prime. Better call his Captain and find out what he was going here."
"Already tried. Apparently his Captain was found three hours ago, also dead. His blood sample had a street value of 5000 creds it had so much narc in there. Enough to kill a Patorian Mammoth. No way it was an accidental OD. Murder as well. They also found a memory core on him that shows him and our bony friend here shooting another detective in the back after the poor SOB refused to take a bribe from them and join the Serps."
Chonettane nodded. "Well good riddance then to those two. The less bent cops the better. I assume then the Serps killed them both?
"I'm not sure. The memory core shows the murder of the other detective and implicates the two deceased, but there was another person on the recording, someone we know, who wouldn't want to be seen. Certainly not with accessory to murder."
Chonettane looked questioningly.
"That Serp bitch! You mean we have evidence against her finally? Where is she?"
"Thats the strange thing." the senior detective sighed "All of our informers say the same thing. She's vanished."
Reuvo woke up into darkness. Feeling around she could make out she was in a small cell. Probably only 9m square. It was pitch black so she had no idea where she was. A small window looked out into space, that was her only clue.
On fleeing from the outpost the escape pod had been caught in the blast and she'd been knocked out. She had no idea how she'd got there or even where she was.
Light appeared from the other side of the small room. She moved to the other window. A corridor. The engineering style was Caldari and in the distance she saw someone approaching. As they neared Reuvo felt sick. She watched the capsuleer walk up to the window. They were separated by the glass. Both women stared into each other eyes. The room suddenly illuminated and Reuvo looked around in horror. An airlock. The panels lit up displaying diagnostic information. The capsuleer gave one last look and turned, walking away. Reuvo glanced at the main panel. It read O2 was 20.9% and pressure was 1000 millibars. There was a hiss. O2 jumped to 22% and then 24%. The millibar readout started to drop. 998, 996, 994.
Reuvo moved quickly to the door facing the corridor screaming and banging her fists on the door. The pain in her ears started to grow. The capsuleer just continued to walk.