Friday Fiction. Escape pod... isn't here! You're doomed! (I'm flying back to the UK for a few days when this posts. Pick something from the column on the right if fiction is not your thing!
Blue Flame of Revenge - Part 4
An alarm sounded informing them they hadn't been fast enough.
"We're pointed by the fighters, warp drive is offline!" Yoshi called out.
Captain Sosa paused, there was no way they could defended against three fighter wings. He need a miracle and needed it now.
"Time to intercept for the attack fighters?" he asked.
"Sir, they are engaging the Nestor, only the support fighters are on us."
The Captain frowned. Why would the carrier Captain send his attack fighters against a disabled battleship that posed no threat? If the roles were reversed, he would have sent everything against the Katsu Maru and dealt with that before even considering the defenseless Nestor. He could only imagine that the Captain was under strict orders to destroy the Nestor as a priority. He sent the support fighters to hold the Katsu Maru from escaping and would deal with the 'hapless' industrial after the primary objective was complete, destroy the evidence that the Guristas pirates had failed to do. Why not do this in the first place he thought? Deniability. A ship destroyed by pirates was a daily occurrence. This carrier could be traced and was only here due to their earlier intervention. That was something he had to think about for the future. Right now he had to figure out how to give them a future. The support fighters were firing but the incoming damage was light. The Katsu Maru's shields were more than enough to keep the support fighters from being a real threat. The attack fighters would be a different story.
"Aki? What's the weather looking like out there?"
"Captain? The... weather? In space?" the tech specialist ask confused.
"Yes. Any chance of hail?"
Realisation dawned across his face.
"Absolutely Captain! Bringing the Hail Storm online!"
"The what?" Riku asked.
"The Hailstorm is a little side project Aki has been working on. Remember that Serpentis base we were contracted to take down a few weeks ago?"
"Oh the one where they had a hard-on for frigates? Easy to kill but so many of they it took ages!"
"Exactly. Aki came to me after with an idea. I told him to build a prototype. Now we get to test it."
The viewscreen on the bridge flickered to a hull mounted camera on the top of the ship. One of the hull plates that was made to look like a make-shift repair slid open and the launcher assembly rose up on its platform. It looked like a rapid-light missile launcher, similar to the ones used on cruisers for attacking frigates. Only this one had more launch tubes with smaller diameter. The launcher tracked the orbiting fighter wing.
"We're locked on Captain, however I'd like to point out that this is a prototype and never used in anger." Aki said.
"Well lets hope for a successful first test then. Fire!"
The rockets streaked from the launcher in their dozens. Each tube had multiple rockets stacked in it and they launched one after the other. The exhaust smoke from so many rockets fogged the view of the screen.
"Sensors show five fighters down Captain. One left."
"Launch a flight of augmented drones but make sure one of them is a special. Web that lone fighter!"
The smoke had started to dissipate as the Katsu Maru projected a graviton beam at the final fighter. Its velocity dropped immediately as the gravitational field built up around it. The five combat drones streaked from a tube disguised as the waste jettison and closed quickly. The fighter tried to evade but the increased mass from the stasis webifier made it as maneuverable as a 'roid. A laser tracker then fired from the Mammoth. The electronic signature radius of the fighter bloomed. The drones targeting computers were able to lock on much better with the painter on the craft. The fighter broke apart in flames as the five drones opened fire.
"OK leave the drones and warp!"
The Katsu Maru slipped almost instantaneously into warp as they had maintained their alignment.
"We're clear." Yoshi confirmed.
"Good. Set a course for Gallente Prime. Apparently the CEO of Thanan Industries is there for a charity event. I've got a feeling they are up to their necks in this and we need to find out what they are up to. I want full background on him and the company. Report in an hour!"
The senior officers sat around the conference table sixty minutes later.
"OK what do we have?" the Captain asked.
"Thanan Fiert. CEO and owner of Thanan Industries. Formed 15 years ago as a specialty mining company. They scan down rogue asteroids away from belts and mine them out. This started was before the real rise of the capsuleers so there was a lot to be made from mining. This is the most recent picture we have of him, but its 12 years old." Riku explained as a picture appeared on the screen. Thanan was a Gallente, late 30's with black hair and a slender build. He was dressed in formal Gallente wear with an attractive blonde woman in an evening gown. It looked to be some social event.
"Nothing more recent?" the Captain asked.
"Its strange Captain. From the formation of his company to when this picture was captured there are lots. He appeared to be at some high-society event almost weekly. He was a philanthropist of the highest order. The society pages from the Luminaire rags had him featured weekly. However after this event, which was a charity dinner for wildlife preservation on Gallente Prime, he went dark. He stopped going to the events and fell from the public eye overnight. Nobody claims to have seen him in years."
The Captain picked up his datapad and flicked through the articles Riku has collated. It was exactly how he had said. This man was in the public eye on an almost daily basis and then suddenly 12 years ago it was like he'd been swallowed by a wormhole.
"This is where it gets strange Captain. His file on the Gallente security database is clean except for one entry. A few days after that charity dinner there was a case file opened and attached to his record. No details or even a category. Just a reference number and lead officer. The files are sealed at Federal level."
"So we don't know what that is about? That sounds rather unusual."
"Nothing on the file sir, however during my digging I found something I think may be connected."
The screen changed to a digital certificate. It was a Gallente Death Certificate, the name was Ambelane Fiert and noted next of kin was her husband, Thanan Fiert. It was dated nine days after the charity dinner.
"So his wife died a week after a file was opened concerning him in an active police investigation. Ingvar, you're most likely to pass for a Fed. You'll be paying that investigating officer a visit. See what you can find out."
The Matari nodded. Sosa knew he was most likely not to raise suspicion. 25% of the Matari race lived within the Federation and they had taken jobs in all parts of society. Caldari working for the Feds would be suspicious and as most of the crew of the Katsu Maru were Caldari options were limited.
"Where are we with Thanan's whereabouts?"
"Aki hacked the top hotels in the system and located him at one on the Duvolle Laboratories Factory station. I'll let Aki fill you in."
Aki stood and tapped on his datapad. The viewscreen changed to a picture of the station.
"Thanan checked into the penthouse suite two days ago. The hotel is also holding a charity auction of rare Caldari artifacts later tonight. We assume thats the auction you were told he is attending. Last night was the reception to whet the buyers appetites. I've pulled security camera footage from the hotels system. No cameras on the penthouse level, only the lift."
The screen flickered showing the interior of the lift with a suited Gallente man. The officers recognised Thanan from the previous picture.
"He checks in and goes straight to the room. His luggage is brought up a few minutes later. Then nothing until this guy."
The screen fast forwarded to show a man in a hotel uniform ascending in the lift and stepping out.
"Who is that?"
"Bouey Sadereron, head concierge. I checked the hotels staff database to match faces. He spends five minutes in the penthouse and then leaves. Thanan reappears at 19:30."
The screen showed Thanan in formal dress descending.
"Now it gets interesting. This is 21:00 hours" Aki stated moving the video on again. Low whistles rang out around the table as the picture showed two stunningly attractive women and the head concierge again.
"Very nice." Riku said. "Any idea who they are?"
"Professionals." Aki replied.
"They don't look like assassins to me!" he said concerned. Aki sighed.
"You've been in this game too long. Not those types of professionals! The other type of professionals!"
"Oh!" Riku replied realising his mistake.
"I took facial scans and searched the local GalNet. That is Miss Lisika and Miss Esalion from the Gallente Angels Executive Companion Service. For the bargain price of two and a half thousand creds each, you can have their company for a whole 4 hours."
"Two and a half grand for four hours? Captain I need a raise!" Yoshi joked.
"We then see Thanan return at 21:30 sharp. He left the reception early according to the information I got." the video span on to show Thanan in the lift. He was sweating and clearly agitated.
"Now, things get really interesting. 22:15."
The video showed the empty lift. The door opened and the Caldari woman burst into the lift crying. She was mostly undressed and clutching her dress to her body. The Gallente woman was next. Whilst she was wearing her dress it was obvious she had put it on in a rush. She wasn't crying but looked concerned. She tried to comfort the hysterical Caldari woman. Aki paused the video as the Caldari woman raised her head, showing a bright red mark on her face.
"Captain, can I swap assignments? I'd like to have a chat with this Thanan." Ingvar growled.
"Steady big man. We need the full story. I have a feeling you'll get to chat to him at some point."
"OK, but just so you know Thanan Fiert has been promoted to the top of my shit-list."
The Captain nodded. The hulking Brutor was known to have a particular hatred for men that hit women.The Captain paused.
"OK, here is the plan. I need a room at an adjacent hotel. Call Gallente Angels and book me that Gallente girl for 18:00 hours at the room. Next call Duvolle. I'm guessing at such a big auction event on their own station they have been sent an invite, I want that invite. Ingvar, you pay a visit to the officer heading Thanan's old case and find out what you can. Riku take one of the shuttles. See where our lost drone ended up. I need a tuxedo! OK, any questions?"
The staff rose from their seats in silence, ready to enact the Captain's orders.
Evotes Esalion rode the lift alone. It was a last minute booking but was happy that she'd been requested by name. It showed the agency she was in demand. She was thinking about renegotiating her fee with the agency. Their 40% cut was too much and she knew she could get a better deal elsewhere. She look at herself in the mirrored wall of the lift. The Client hadn't made any requests so she'd gone with her default outfit. Smart enough to walk through the hotel without attracting too much attention, but enough so that a few men's heads would turn.
"Just please let him not be like last night" she said quietly to herself.
The lift stopped and she got out. Room 4216 was at the end of the corridor. She knocked on the door and waited. The door opened and the man stood there was Caldari. She'd place him in his late 40's, short greying hair and clean shaven. He was attractive in a rugged way, very fit looking at his body and had an air of authority about him in the way he carried himself. He smiled.
"Please come in"
She entered the suite and the man gestured to a seat by a small table with two glasses of wine.
"Would you care for a drink?" he asked taking the other seat.
"No thank you, I'm fine" she replied. Safety 101. Stay in control and do not drink from already poured drinks when with a new Client.
The man placed an envelope on the table. She could see from its thickness it was around the right amount of cred-notes. He then placed a second, much thicker envelope next to it.
"What's that for?" she asked getting a bit nervous.
"Your fee and a little extra for some information." the Caldari man replied.
"I do many things, talking about Clients is not one of them." she said sternly wondering if this was a test or if he was a reporter.
"Normally I'd expect nothing less. However I am not press or law enforcement. The information I am after is regarding a man who may not be slow in using his fist that you met yesterday."
Evotes' face dropped and she stood.
"Sorry I have to go."
The man also rose.
"The black eye must be a problem in her line of work. There is an extra 10k on the table, that should cover your friend whilst she is unable to work."
Evotes was already half way to the door when she stopped. She spoke without turning.
"If anyone finds out I spoke to you...."
"They won't." the man replied.
She turned and walked back to the table picking up the wine glass and taking a large gulp.
"What do you want to know?" she asked quietly.
"Tell me what happened last night?"
Evotes started the story that she'd been booked along with Lisika. Their outfits had been specified in minute detail, they'd even had to go shopping to make sure they were right. On arriving at the hotel the Concierge had taken them to the penthouse and let them in. They'd found instructions in the bedroom so had gotten undressed and were sat on the bed waiting. The Client had arrived when he said he would.
"What happened where he got back?"
"He came into the bedroom and leant against the wall watching us. We put on a show for him. The note said that's what we should do and Lisika was supposed to be the dominant one. After a while he joined us. He was so tender with me, in fact it was creepy. However, I'll take that over what he was like with Lisika."
"How was he?"
"Rough. Nasty. Like he hated her but he had never met her. We are used to Clients liking that, you know, the rough stuff, but he was really strange. Every time he swap between us he'd change completely. With me tender and loving, with Lisika nasty and starting to get rougher. In the end he lost it. Started screaming at Lisika it was all her fault and hit her. We both ran at that point. He wired double the fee to the agency and they gave Lisika a week off and waived their cut of the fee to keep us quiet."
"Thank you." Sosa said quietly. "Please take the money. You've been very helpful."
The woman looked surprised. She smiled picked up the envelopes and left. Sosa picked up his datapad as soon as the door clicked shut and opened a secure line to the ship which was docked in the hangers below.
"Yoshi, had a nice chat with our friendly lady of the night. Sounds like Thanan's a bit unstable, have we heard from Riku or Ingvar?"
"Captain! That was quick! You paid for four hours you know!"
"Very droll number one. Well?"
"Riku is at the Matari station in Tama. It appears he's found the Thanatos. As you assumed, they weren't going to leave drones worth millions floating in space so they grabbed them. The signal on the transmitter on drone 5 is still transmitting. The Thanatos belongs to Black Sun Securities."
"Those Mercs masquerading as private security? How are they involved? Thanan Industries must lodge their accounts at Federal level, see if...."
"Already done Captain. Want to know who Thanan Industries pays to provide private security?"
"I can guess! Tell Riku to scout the facility. We are still missing a dozen scientists including Dr Gian."
"I would Captain but Riku is off-comms."
The Captain sighed.
"Don't tell me, he's already inside the carrier?"
"I did order him to wait for your orders but he had an opportunity to get on board and he took it."
"Roger that. Keep me updated, I've got an auction to attend."
Thanan entered the auction room. It was already too busy and he was sweating. He looked at the glass case on the stage. Various ancient Caldari weapons and armour were displayed along with several paintings, scrolls and books. He clutched the pamphlet tight. They wouldn't tell him what order the items would be auctioned off in. So he had to attend the whole thing. He spotted a waiter carrying a silver tray of drinks and he crossed the room and took one. He avoided people the best he could. He didn't want to be here, but he had to be.
After what felt like an hour, the auctioneer called the room to order. Thanan took his seat and nervously held his paddle. First up was a Caldari sword believed to be some six thousand years old. Bidding was fierce and the weapon sold for near quarter of a million credits. Next was a suit of ceremonial armour, nearly as old as the sword. There were then two paintings showing an ancient Caldari Prime village. A frozen world from a time long forgotten. Finally the lot he was interested in.
"Lot number 16. Written in ancient Caldari its title translates as "War and Rule". The document is authenticated by the Calle University as coming from the Heian dynasty some five thousand years ago. It chronicles a long and hard campaign by a local warlord to conquer the PLAINS of Caldari Prime. A certificate is provided that the document has never been digitised and this is the only copy. A true collectors piece read only by a handful of people ever. Who will start at ten thousand Gallente Credits?" the auctioneer asked.
The bidding start briskly but Thanan held back. Bids started to reduce when it passed fifty thousand. By eighty only two were left. Thanan waited for a pause after what everyone expected to be the winning bid of eighty five thousand.
"One hundred thousand!" he stated loudly raising his paddle.
There were whispered murmurs around the room.
"One hundred thousand from paddle 29. Sir the bid is against you." the auctioneer said to the man who had placed the last bid. He seemed reluctant to go further. "No? I have one hundred thouasand going once."
"One hundred and ten thousand!" a voice from the back called.
Thanan span in his seat searching out who dared try and take this from him. He saw a Caldari man in a suit at the back and his blood boiled.
"One hundred and fifty thousand!" he called, turning back to the auctioneer. Gasps rose from the crowd.
"Two hundred thousand!" the Caldari man called.
Thanan turned red. He breathed deeply and paused trying to stop himself losing control. Why was it always the Caldari. It just proved he was just in his crusade.
"Five hundred thousand!" Thanan yelled, barely concealing his rage.
The crowd was stunned. From ten thousand credits guide price it appeared this book wrote in a language no longer spoken was going to fetch half a million credits.
Thanan span around, hatred in his eyes. The Caldari man just smiled and left the room. Thanan barely heard the auctioneer cry "Sold!" as he slammed the hammer down.
As Thanan left the room moments later he did not see Captain Sosa stood in the shadows. He tapped his finger to his throat mic.
"Yoshi. A manuscript at the auction called "War and Rule" is what Thanan was desperately after. I have no idea how a 5000 year old book ties into current events but it does."
"I take it you couldn't outbid the multimillionaire mining mongol?" his XO asked.
"Not a chance. I had a go which annoyed him. We'll go to plan B. Tonight I'm going to settle down with a good book."
To be continued....