Fiction Friday. Escape pod here!
The Passenger - Part III
"Captain, I have a whole fracking flotilla on short scan!" Amme called out as the Nereus traveled at sixteen times the speed of light towards the stargate.
The Passenger - Part III
"Captain, I have a whole fracking flotilla on short scan!" Amme called out as the Nereus traveled at sixteen times the speed of light towards the stargate.
"Acknowledged" Tranard replied.
They were committed now. It was impossible to simply cut the warp engines. That would spell doom for the ship. Every faster-than-light trip required precise calculations. The NaviCom needed the exact gravimetric patterns and strength of the sub-space field. For strong areas such as those near planets, moons, asteroid belts and large structures in space it could do it remotely. The crew could also instruct the NaviCom to save the data for a specific location they were in at that moment in time so they could warp back to in in the future. However to enter warp your destination needed to be known point. If it didn't have a bookmark, beacon, planet, moon, belt or structure, you could not warp there without probes.
"We're landing in five, four, three...." Linead gave the countdown as the blurred warp tunnel in front of them started to slow and dissipate. A blinding flash of light and they dropped below light-speed and the vast stargate came into view as the ship, impeded by 4th dimensional drag, slowed quickly.
"Nobody!" Amme gasped.
The crew looked at the scene in disbelief. Their feint had worked. The Amarrian vessels guarding this gate had quickly gone to the other.
"No celebrating yet. We don't know what's on the other side, and this is one of several jumps we've got to do to get safe. Full speed to the gate, let's jump before those Amarr stop scratching their heads and realise we've just tricked them. This was a one time deal. They aren't going to fall for it again so lets move people!"
The Nereus fired its sub-light engines and started travelling to the gate.
Pareh smiled as he scanned the sheer amount of information on the screen. Suddenly it all made sense. He had been baffled why Yvandele was resisting his 'persuasion'. Why would a man put his family through that just to save a business acquaintance and his crew. This treasure trove of information was why. He had known Yvandele was an information broker, he just had no idea he operated in the Empire's space so much, and with enemies of the Amarr. There were details on Matari resistance groups and even Amarrian anti-slavers. Their own people committing treason against the empire. Hundreds, no thousands of contacts and locations. It would be the intelligence coup that the Inquisition would talk about for decades.
"Thank you for this Yvandele. You have done a great service to the Empire."
Yvandele didn't answer. He sobbed quietly, still bound to the chair. His head hung forward in shame and regret. In front of him his son stared straight ahead through lifeless eyes, still bound to another chair. His daughter lay naked face down on the floor. She was dead-still. The shallow movement of her ribcage the only indication she was alive, as her eyes stared straight ahead as her cheek rested on the floor. She was clearly in shock. The only movement was Pareh's men who were finishing redressing and Yvandele's wife. She was crawling towards the door, dragging herself by her left arm. He legs were useless, the achilles tendons in her ankles slashed by the men during their games. Her right hand clutched the gaping wound on the right side of her chest. It was that what had broke Yvandele, when they had started cutting. The Inquisitor whispering in his ear that once they had finished mutilating his wife, his daughter would be next.
Pareh confirmed the download of the files to his datapad and uploaded a particularly destructive virus to the terminal. He considered transmitting the data immediately back to HQ but paused. He could review the data himself. Pick out the one's he'd most enjoy serving the Empresses judgement to himself. He would become a legend. A man seemingly able to sniff out treason and heresy wherever it existed.
He stood from the terminal and picked his sabre from where it rested on the table. It was still red with the blood of Yvandele's son. The Gallente man looked up, resignation in his eyes.
Pareh walked over to Yvandele's wife who was still slowly crawling for the door. He thrust the blade down in the middle of her back. There was a crack of bone and a metallic chink when the blade struck the floor beneath her. He pulled the blade out and strode over to the daughter. He slammed the blade through the side of her skull. The body convulsed for a few seconds and then was still. As he started walking over to Yvandele he pulled his communicator out.
"I've sent coordinates. Inform the fleet that this is the targets destination and set our course for that destination. We'll met them there. Our capsuleer ships will easily overtaken them and we'll be waiting for them."
He opened a pouch on his belt and pulled out a silver fist-sized sphere. He tossed it lazily on the ground. Red lights flashed as it struck the floor. The device started to hum as it drew air though its core. It left the oxygen in the atmosphere to ensure the lifesupport didn't register an alarm. However it slowly converted the nitrogen into a much more dangerous gas. It would take an hour but the device could turn the atmosphere of any normal sized room into a highly flammable cocktail of explosive gases. Once it was the right mix the device would give a spark. The heat of the explosion was usually sufficient to erase all evidence.
"Well Yvandele. That is all we need. Thank you for your help. It was a most entertaining afternoon." the Inquisitor say bring the sabre up high.
As the Amarrians left nobody paid any heed to the portable air conditioning unit that steadily blinked by the door, dismissing it as a normal piece of office furniture. However Yvandele had been paranoid about his health. As well as filtering out dust and other particulates the air conditioner also had a similar use to the weapon. Its job was to ensure a perfect mix of 20.9% oxygen and 79.1% nitrogen in the air. The two devices were to do battle.
Tranard stared intently at the viewscreen on the bridge, watching the lone interceptor take a lazy orbit around the stargate. They had just jumped into their desitnation system and had expected to find another 'gate camp' of Amarrian Navy vessels. Instead they had found a single interceptor. Discussions had been quick on whether their earlier feign for a different stargate had led to most ships cross-jumping them. Or whether they had been ordered on a different route to intercept them at another gate.
"30 seconds left on the cloak Captain" Amme called out.
Tranard contemplated warping direct to the location Yvandele had provided them. However he decided to get safe and then take things slowly.
"Prepare to align for planet 6. We'll MWD-Cloak and plot a safe spot enroute. Ready. Engage!"
The crew held their breath as the manoeuvre was carried out. As the lumbering industrial swung around towards the sixth planet its microwarpdrive fired. As soon as it did the cloaking device was activated. The bridge crew watched as the interceptor spin around and align towards them, engaging its own microwarpdrive. Within seconds it was travelling at over 4km a second.
"Captain... that Interceptor is going to miss us. In fact it's going to miss us by a long way."
The Captain looked at the tactical view. They were right. Unlike the previous times where the fast tackle had come close to decloaking them, this interceptor looked like it would miss them by almost 30km. He rubbed his chin. A navy capsuleer should be better than that. The situation didn't feel right. He watch the interceptor rush past.
"Decloak, warp and get us safe. I need to make a call." he grumbled as he stood. The ship shuddering as it passed the speed of light.
The Captain exited the bridge and proceded down to the comm room. Whilst he always tried to limit calls when being hunted he had no choice. Something didn't feel right and it was nagging him at the back of his mind. He slumped onto the sofa and engaged the holo system. The waiting image popped up for only a few seconds. When the image morphed into the view of a man the Captain lent forward. It was not Yvandele.
"Who is this?" the small figure spoke.
"I could ask you the same question." the Captain replied, his finger hovering over the disconnect button.
"This is Detective Rembieres of the Quafe Internal Police Force."
"Goodbye Detective!" Tranard said and went to disconnect the call.
"Yvandele is dead." the Detective quickly spoke. The Captain paused just before his finger hit the button.
"How?" he asked carefully.
"I cannot go into details."
The Captain quickly worked on the other monitor whilst keeping an eye on the holographic policeman.
"How long have you worked in that station Detective?" he asked.
"Then you know who Yvandele is and what he does, did, I assume."
The holographic man nodded.
"Well it can hardly be a surprise this is how he died."
"This wasn't a hit Captain, it was something else." the detective replied.
The Captain quickly looked at the other screen he'd been working on. The search results were up. A headline of "Family butchered at Quafe Station" confirmed his worst fears.
"Are the media reports accurate?" Tranard asked.
"I'm not at liberty to say."
The Captain leaned forward to disconnect the call.
"Wait!" the Detective cut in "It was a brutal attack on him and his family and we believe they were after something."
"Check your logs. You'll probably find an Amarrian ship docked at your station shortly before and is now gone. You'll be looking for military types probably. Black ops. Special forces. Something like that."
"How do you...."
With that he disconnected the call before the detective could finish his sentence.
Detective Rembieres backed away from the holo-comm console in Yvandele's office. His tech's were finishing up. Spraying solutions containing nanites that would consume organic material and remove the large bloodstains. The ones on the ceiling were being problematic. When Yvandele's head had been removed from his shoulders the arterial blood had sprayed as high as the ceiling.
He tossed the orb in his hand. The techs had confirmed what it was and why it had failed. They'd also pointed out it was an Amarrian weapon. Knowing this he'd already checked the logs. A Prophesy class command ship had visited the station earlier for a few hours. Piloted by a capsuleer few questions were asked. It had no obvious ties to the Amarrian government but the evidence here and what that starship Captain had said clearly showed they were involved. Security footage had been sparse but from the few shots they had, five Amarrian men all dressed in nondescript black had come and gone.
He was out of his depth if the Amarr Government was involved. It was time to call his superiors.
Back in Amarr space Tranard strode onto the bridge having left the comm room.
"Amme give me a D-Scan on that bookmark!"
He watched as she angled the narrow beam scanner to the co-ordinates Yvandele had supplied.
"I have got a couple of structures and an old acceleration gate on scan."
"No sir. Nothing on a 10 degree arc."
The Captain thought about it. That detective did not confirm anything but what had been leaked to the papers made him worried. It could have been a customer of Yvandele's. He did deal with a lot of unsavoury characters. Probably ones that would murder his family in front of him and then kill him for failing them. Send a message to others "Here is what happens when you disappoint us". However there was another possibility.
"I want 60 second scans of that site for the next half hour." the Captain ordered rubbing his chin, deep in thought.
Pareh surveyed the fleet sat inside the deadspace pocket. An area of space where the subspace field churned with magnetic eddies. A warp drive was unable to lock onto any point in this area. They could warp away but it was impossible to warp into this area with normal warp drives. The only way in was to use a massive acceleration gate that used graviton physics to hurl ships at warp speed. The gate was extremely accurate and a small beacon was anchored in space signifying the area a ship using the distant gate would land at. This beacon also gave the acceleration gate something to aim at. Over the years a fraction of a degree drift would lead to the landing zone being massively out. A dozen frigates surrounded that beacon ensuring when the Nereus warped in it would be unable to cloak.
"Nothing on scan yet?" the Inquisitor asked staring out of the large window into space.
"Not yet sir. They have not left system so we assume they are sat a safe spot cloaked. Probably waiting for our probe technicians to get bored so we don't pinpoint their location immediately. The Captain is probably thinking there is no point coming to this small outpost if we probe them down on the acceleration gate and know where they have gone." Borvah replied.
The Inquisitor nodded. He was torn by Borvah. An excellent officer with a keen and analytical mind. He was a great asset to his team. However the Inquisitor knew he didn't have the stomach for what needed to be done. He was too lawful when dealing with the lawless. That's why he'd been left on the ship when Pareh took a team to question Yvandele. Borvah would have lodged official complaints about the methods used and caused problems.
Pareh pinched his fingers along a section of the window. The smart glass zooming in on that location. He smiled looking at the satellite they had positioned just away from the fleet. All was set. Now they would just have to wait.
"Still nothing Captain" Amme called out.
"OK align to the bookmark. Prepare to drop cloak and warp. As soon as we hit that acceleration gate we activate it. Then once in the deadspace pocket we get 3k from the beacon and we cloak no matter what is in there. Understood?"
The bridge crew all confirmed their understanding of the orders.
"OK lets.... NO! ALL STOP!" the Captain shouted. The bridge officers spinning around in shock.
The Captain lept from his seat and ran to Amme's console.
"What did you say you had on scan?"
"As I said, a couple of structures and an acceleration gate."
"Well a small outpost. Two storage silos. An accommodation block....."
"Any beacons?" the Captain cut in.
"No sir. No beacons on scan."
"If there is an acceleration gate there, then there has to be a beacon. There is always a target beacon. Otherwise what is the acceleration gate aiming at?"
The bridge crew went quiet realising the Captain was right. Without the beacon a mere 1 degree drift in the acceleration gate's alignment would lead to the landing zone being over a thousand kilometres from the outpost at least.
"They got Yvandele to talk. They have a scan inhibitor in there. Linead, what's the nearest Federation system from here?"
"Gratesier sir. Three jumps."
"Set a course. Frack it. We're making a run for it... I just have to make a call first."
"Sir, we've got the Nereus on scan. They have decloaked so are likely in warp."
The Inquisitor rubbed his hands together. He would enjoy interrogating the crew.
"Sir. They just left system."
"WHAT?" roared Pareh who stomped to the terminal.
Looking at the screen Borvah was correct. They had just left via one of the stargates.
"Order the fleet to pursue! They must not escape!" he cried.
The fleet of golden ships started to move, the smaller more maneuverable ships slipping into warp before the larger ships. The Inquisitor knew he'd made a mistake. There were too many ships here. He had been overconfident that they would fall into his trap. They didn't have ships protecting the stargates and his prey had a head start. Whilst their capsuleer piloted ships were faster, it was only a few jumps before they reached the Federation border and he could not risk taking the fleet further without risking war. The Prophecy shuddered into warp finally towards the stargate.
10 minutes later Pareh gripped a golden rail turning his knuckles white as they jumped through another stargate. They were not far behind but time was running out. Traffic was quiet and word of a large Amarrian fleet had obviously spread scattering what pirates were about. This gave the Nereus additional help.
"We're only one jump from Gallente space sir." Borvah pointed out.
"How many systems between our border and Gallente high-security space?"
"There is only one sir. However if our fleet even enters low-security it will provoke a response."
"Not the fleet, they will stop in Saidusairos. Just us to continue into Gratesier. We are not registered as Navy, we are registered as an independent capsuleer. We will stop them!" he growled.
As they reached the penultimate gate in they spotted their quarry. They had caught up! The Nereus jumped out of the system as they dropped from warp and coasted to the gate.
"Inform our Capsuleer that he must catch them on the other side! The jump after this one is Gallente hi-sec and if they make it there we have failed." the Inquisitor ordered knowing the capsuleer would be listening anyway.
They felt the strange sensation of gate travel a moment later as their ship was swallowed by the artificial wormhole.
"Sir. We have four Taranis class interceptors here." one of the bridge officers announced as the systems came back online.
"We have no choice but to engage. Decloak now! That industrial must be destroyed. We will engage and then retreat back through the stargate. Four Taranis and these automated sentry guns are not a threat in the time it would take us to retreat even if webbed."
"Nereus decloaking, 14km of the port bow!" Borvah called out.
"Destroy it!" the Inquisitor screamed.
The Prophesy locked the slow turning ship and engaged a warp disruptor. A graviton beam sliced into the warp core of the hapless industrial preventing the warp drive from functioning. A second later the rows of pulse-laser cannons flanking the command ship lit up. The industrial's weak shields, designed to hold out against small pirate vessels, shields were no match for the power of a capsuleer piloted battlecruiser and failed in a bright flash on the first volley. The second ruptured the engineering section and breached the reactor. It was all over in seconds.
"Yes!" the Inquisitor hissed. "Scan for escape pods!"
"No pods detected sir. I think we didn't give them time enough to react. All hands lost. The Taranis have engaged and we are taking gate-gun fire."
"No matter." smiled the inquisitor "Return to the gate and jump once...."
The Inquisitor was cut short as one of the bridge crew interrupted him, pointing at the screen. The bridge went silent as a Gallente taskforce dropped out of warp. Bright flashes of light signifying a great number of ships were dropping below the speed of light.
"Ten Brutix Navy Issue. 10 Vexor Navy Issue. Two Thanatos and a dozen Dominix, Hyperion and Megathron class battleships. They are engaging!"
The Inquisitor looked at the numbers and the small portion that were shown on the viewscreen. They were webbed and scrammed by the Taranis. There was no way they would make it back to the gate. Pareh simply rose and walked briskly to one of the escape pod accesses without saying a word. The crew looked at him opened mouthed for a moment before jumping to their feet and running for the pods.
It took barely 30 seconds for the Gallente force to vapourise the Prophecy.
"I am an Inquisitor of the Amarrian Empire and I demand to speak to my people!" Pareh banged both his fists on the table. Whilst chained together through a metal ring secured to the tabletop he still had enough movement to create noise. The Gallente man in the black uniform opposite didn't flinch and stared in silence at the Amarrian.
"Its like this..." he finally started "By taking an escape pod on your own there are no witnesses. We can deny we have you. That your pod was likely lost in the engagement. An illegal incursion by the Amarr military into Federation space by the way. This facility is also off the books. Nobody save a few high-ranking officers know you are here. So, we're going to start asking you some questions. Your co-operation will decide how well you are treated."
The Inquisitor scoffed.
"You are Gallente Navy. Don't try and frighten me. You cannot do anything, your laws choke and suffocate you. That is why you will never stand a chance of victory against the combined force of the Amarr and our allies in the State!"
The Gallente man smiled.
"I'd agree with you if I was Navy." pausing for effect "However we in the Black Eagles aren't as suffocated by laws as you might think." he said.
Pareh's face dropped at the mention of the Black Eagles. The officer picked up a small remote and clicked a button. One side of the holding cell shimmered and vanished revealing a room next door. Inside was what looked like a hospital bed and various machines. A stern looking Gallente woman, also in a black uniform, looked on from beside a tray of implements. She was pulling on a pair of black latex gloves.
"So Inquisitor. Do you want to talk to me or Doctor Durrac over there?"
"Do what you want with me you Gallente scum! I will tell you nothing. You didn't do anything. The girl is dead and we are victorious. You achieved nothing."
The Gallente officer smiled.
"Well, that is what your former crew mates will report. They are already enroute back to Amarr by the way after we assisted in their rescue. However, I must ask. Did you ever stop to think why there was a task force so close to that gate ready to pounce? Why those interceptors just happened to be there waiting to ensure you couldn't escape? Finally, did you scan the transponder of the Nereus you engaged or did you just fire first?"
The Inquisitor sneered. "You are bluffing. We won!"
Rising from his chair the Gallente officer picked his cap from the table and placed it on its head.
"You destroyed a remote control Nereus fitted with a cloaking device that we'd positioned near the gate. If you'd looked carefully out of the window of your escape pod you might have seen the other ship decloak after the full 60 seconds of gate-cloak." he said turning "I can tell you this as you'll never leave this facility. It is simply up to you how much pain you endure during your life here.".
The Inquisitor screamed in rage as the Black Eagle Officer left and was replaced by two guards as Doctor Durrac smiled and pointed to the medical bed.
Tranard and Amme arrived at the door at the same time.
"Ready for this?" Amme asked with a smile.
"Not sure, I think I'd rather have the Amarrian Navy chasing us again!"
Amme laughed and pressed the call button. A second later the door opened. Eva stood there in a satin red cocktail dress. The Captains jaw almost hit the floor.
"Looks like someone is getting the royal treatment." Amme complained half jokingly as they entered the spacious apartment. Eva smiled.
"The clothes provided for me were too Amarrian. I had a word with one of the representatives from your Government. I mean OUR government."
The dining table had been set up against a large window that looked down into deep space. The outpost was remote and had been their home for the last few weeks. The rest of the crew had already left with new identities and a decent amount of credits which would allow them to start new lives. As the registered command crew, Tranard and Amme, needed more time. They had undergone some minor cosmetic alterations. Difficult to spot but enough that a facial recognition scan would be fooled.
"You didn't have to do this." the Captain said, whilst he sounded polite, he really did mean that. He'd been hoping to limit contact with Eva. He didn't bear her any ill-will, just he thought it was for the best.
"Nonsense! Its our last night here and I wanted to thank you for saving me."
The Captain simply politely nodded thinking it best not to point out he was saving himself.
Eva gracefully moved over to the table and removed the silver platter covers. As she bent down the Captain noticed that the dress wasn't the only clothing that she'd negotiated. He was pretty sure Amme would not have been supplied lingerie like that given the underwear that was provided for him.
They sat at the table and surveyed the feast that lay before them. The meal was a blend of Amarrian and Gallente specialities. Tranard wondered how the kitchens on this militarised station had managed to come up with such a banquet. Then he thought about all the high-level defectors and prisoners that may have come through here. High-level directors of the State tired with Caldari life, Admirals of the Royal Amarrian Navy looking for the freedoms of the Federation. The food was consumed and the wine drunk. It was a welcome end to a difficult week.
"I could have skipped the surgery! Now I've finished this I'll be so fat any facial scanners will identify me as a potential for a moon mining array!"
"Oh don't worry Captain!" Eva purred "I'll make sure you work it off tonight!"
Amme laughed. "Sounds like your luck's in Captain."
Tranard gave her a stern look, feeling massively uncomfortable with it all.
"Your's too Amme." Eva continued "I want to reward you both... properly!"
Amme's jaw dropped and this time it was the Captain's turn to laugh as his second in command turned bright red.
"To the future." Eva said raising her glass changing the subject.
Tranard and Amme raised their glasses too, glancing at each other with looks of shock and uncertainty on their faces.