Fiction Friday! Escape pod here!
The Blue Flame of Revenge - Part 2
"OK, so Duvolle confirmed they had seconded one of their scientists for a six month stint at Thanan Industries. They were going to be working interstellar so no communication. They left a month ago. Yesterday they got a partial message from their scientist that appear to suggest the ship was back."
"How did they get interstellar?" Riku asked.
"A probe was launched several years ago and had been slow boating to the destination were it deployed a beacon similar to that used in capsuleer jump bridges. They then jumped the ship."
"Where did the message originate from?"
"The message originated via the fluid-router from the Kedama stargate in Teimo"
"That's remote! Low-sec, dead-end, no stations, no habitable planets. Mostly just capsuleers fighting over sov and thats low key as its not a strategic system."
The Captain nodded. Teimo was a minor solar system very few people ever visited. It was not on any route, it had a stargate connection to Kedama but that was it, if you entered Teimo, you exited the same way. The system was used by some capsuleers for extraction of minerals, compounds and goods but nobody lived there. The planets were mostly barren or gas giants with a couple of more exotic types such as storm or lava. No temperate planets at all. Not great for human habitation and therefore Teimo was quiet.
"We'll be hitting low-sec in a few minutes. When we do, Riku and I will leave in a shuttle. Thanan Industries as their HQ in the OMS system. We'll pay them a visit. Yoshi, continue to Teimo and see if you can find that Nestor. Its a big ship so doubtful its gone far. Also see if you can get a copy of the gate logs. See if any Nestor class ships have been through the gate in the last 24 hours. Any questions?"
The officers shook their heads.
Ahan glanced at the rows of monitors. The various corridors and atriums all appeared empty. The campus was quiet, just the way he liked it. Some security guards craved actions. Wanna-be cops who dreamt of a break in so they could save the day and be heros. Ahan didn't, his dream that nobody ever broke in or did anything that needed him to react to. If he could do his 9 hour shift reading the gutter press and drinking coffee he'd be happy. There was also the big red button. The master alarm that would summon the real police. He wouldn't even leave the secure office if there was a proper break in. Simply hit the button and put his feet up and let the cops do the work. That's what they were paid for. He was just getting into a story about a Gallente politician rumoured to be spending one night a week with a five thousand cred a night bio-engineered call girl when his communicator bleeped. He looked and saw it was he daughter. At 1am the little girl should have been fast asleep. He picked it up and answered.
"Hey sweetie what's up?"
""Daddy...." there was something wrong in the way she spoke.
"I am." the gruff male voice sent a chill through Ahan soul.
"Who are you?"
"That's not important. What is important is I'm here with your daughter and your lovely wife. Both could come through this unharmed, if you are very careful."
"What do you want?" Ahan asked, his voice on the edge of breaking.
"Check camera 45."
Ahan looked up at the monitors. Camera 42 covered the loading dock for the science building. Four men dressed in black with masks waited by the door.
"Open the door." the voice commanded.
With trembling hands Ahan complied, taping the commands into his console. He watched the men travel through the building, opening the doors remotely. They finally reached the advanced molecular physics lab.
"Open the door."
"I can't. That one is a secure area. I need the professors keycodes!"
"Look outside your door."
Ahan rose from his chair and walked over to the door. He peered out of the small reinforced window and saw a small box on the floor outside the door.
"Get the box!"
"No! I'm not unlocking this door!"
He strained to hear what was happening on the other end of the communicator. He could hear a muffled noise. Then a gasp.
"Ahan?" it was his wife's voice.
"Ires!" he sobbed.
There was a strange bang followed by a shrill female scream.
"NO!" he shouted.
"You're wife just lost a rather big chunk of her left foot. Should save you a fortune on expensive shoes in the future." the man sneered. "You getting the box or do I do her other foot?"
Ahan opened the door and glanced either way down the empty corridor. He grabbed the box and retreated back into the security office, locking the door securely. Sitting down he could see the four men still outside the molecular physics lab.
He open the box and was nearly sick. A severed human finger was laying there along with a note.
"The professors ID and code. Now open the door. I doubt a security guards salary is going to pay to put your wife back together if I start again."
With shaking hands, Ahan picked up the severed finger and held it against the reader whilst punching in the codes. The door on the monitor opened and the four men entered. He watched them as they went to a bank of crates, selected one and started to carry it out. They worked fast and within minutes had exited the building.
"Well done Ahan. You've been most helpful." the man on the other end of the communicator said.
"My wife and my daughter! Don't hurt them!" he sobbed.
However the line was dead. He was about to call back when the box that had contained the severed finger bleeped twice and exploded with the force of a grenade.
Sosa and Riku were sat in the plush reception of Thanan Industries. The receptionist had brought them coffee. Sosa was reading up on the company on his datapad. Formed 12 years ago by Thanan Fiert, they had made a great deal of money in the extraction and trade of rare minerals. Low volume high-price. Details on the owner appeared to be scarce. There was a lot more in the first two years. Society magazines covering charity events he attended and business publications featuring interviews. Then a decade ago everything stopped. He just vanished from the public eye. Movement caught Sosa's eye as a tall, skinny Gallente man exited a lift and walked towards them. Sora and Riku stood.
"Gentlemen. I am Deuverin Ygymet and the Chief Operations Officer for Thanan Industries. Please, this way." he gestured to a glass fronted room off the reception area. They entered and sat around the small circular table.
"I understand you are from Douvolle Laboratories?"
"We are interested in the whereabouts of Dr Gian?" Sora replied not replying directly to the question.
"Oh yes, our special mission. I'm afraid the location is classified but I can confirm it is deep in interstellar space. I must say Duvolle know this, why are you here?" his tone changing.
"There has been a death in the family and we need to contact the doctor as a matter of urgency. Is there no way of contacting her?"
"I'm afraid not. They are two-light years from the nearest stargate. FTL communications are thus impossible. If they wanted to send a message it would take 24 months for it to be received. Given they will be back in five months they'll be back 18 months before that message arrives."
"There is no reason they would come back early?"
"Well if there was a problem. We have a jump beacon attached to this outpost. Therefore as long as their jump drive is working, then they could return at any time if there was cause. However the beacon out in deep space will not last forever and jump fuel is so expensive we'd hope the Captain would only return in case of a real emergency."
"And they will return here?" Sosa asked.
"Yes. Where else would they go?"
"Is it possible to speak to Thanan?"
"I'm afraid not. Mr Fiert has a charity event on Gallente Prime tomorrow night and has already left. I'm sorry I have not been able to help gentlemen but the ship is uncontactable. It is regrettable that Dr Gian cannot be contacted regarding the death but I'm afraid there is nothing we can do but wait."
The man rose signaling the meeting was over.
"System is reportedly empty sir. Nothing on the local channel."
"Launch probes. I want a scan of the entire system." Yoshi ordered. "We all know there'll be some pirates out there with their transponders off. May be our Nestor is the same!"
The bridge crew worked silently as the probes were launched and warped away. A grid pattern overlaid the solar system map as the probes reached their positions. Each probe then cycled its scan.
"Sir we have about 30 ships in space. Two battleship class." Aki highlighted the general areas of the battleships.
"OK, lets close down on one and see what we have."
Aki programed the probes to change position, forming a larger bubble around the general area of the scan results. After the probes had cycled their scan a more pinpointed reading appeared.
"Its a Scorpion class hull sir. Probably Guristas."
"OK lets try the other."
Again the probes were repositioned around the other location where a battleship class ship had been detected. The probes cycled and the result got the entire bridge crews attention.
"Nestor class. Lets lock that position down!" Yoshi ordered.
The scan result was at 63% strength. The probes were repositioned again and their range reduced. As the range of the scan was reduced, its strength increased allowing better pinpointing. After the scans had cycled they were at 91%. One more time, with the position clearer, the probes were moved and their range reduced.
"Scan locked at 100% sir!" Aki confirmed.
"Helm warp us to 10km from the ship. Sound general quarters. Lets e ready."
The ship accelerated hard before slipping into warp. From the external appearance, most would immediately discount the ship as a threat to anything. A rusting hauler covered in make-shift repairs. However the Katsu Maru was one of the most advanced ships in the Legion. A covert operations vessel packing the firepower of a battlecruiser and the speed of a destroyer. The ship started to decelerate and dropped below light speed in a flash.
"Contacts! We have a Guristas force attacking the Nestor!" Ingvar called out as the ship decelerated. "A Rattlesnake, two Gilas and a Worm."
The pirates saw the industrial drop from warp. One of the cruisers broke off and started to close.
"Lock up all four ships. Once that Gila is in range let him have it. Set a course for that Rattlesnake."
The pirates in the cruiser looked on at the apparently hapless industrial. Their method of operation was always the same. Blow the target up and then sift through the wreckage for loot and salvage. Their ships were generally not designed for boarding actions. As the ships closed within 5km the Gila fired its blasters, the shields on the Katsu Maru lighting up. That was the first clue the pirates got that they were doomed. The volley should have decimated the aging industrials shields, instead it simply dinted them. What appeared to be plates welded to the Mammoth's hull as emergency repairs slid back, revealing they concealed 220mm vulcan cannons and heavy assault launchers. The cruiser banked hard but they were too close. The first volley ripped through the shields, the second penetrating the armour. The ship spinned out of control into the asteroid belt.
"The Rattlesnake is breaking off and heading right for us!"
"Launch drones and have them target the frigate. Primary the Rattler and keep the second Gila locked up."
A flight of modified Hobgoblin drones shot from a launch tube. The Gallente-built combat drones immediately went after the frigate. The Rattlesnake engaged the Mammoth, a salvo of torpedoes fired from its launch tubes. The crew of the battleship looked on in surprise as the industrial accelerated well beyond what should have been possible. Like many things on the Katsu Maru, its engines were battlecruiser rated and powered the vessel to speeds no other ship of its class was capable of, even capsuleer piloted vessels. The slow torpedoes exploded behind the ship, the bast radius making only slight damage to the shields.
"Frigate is down. Rattler is 35% shields. Gila untouched. We are 76% shields."
Seeing that not everything was as it seemed the lumbering battleship started to align towards the distant star. The faster and more agile cruiser entered warp first.
"Looks like they are running sir? Should we point the Rattler?"
"Negative. We're here for the Nestor, keep firing but let them go if they try."
A few seconds later the Rattlesnake slipped into warp and vanished.
"Get us along side the Nestor. Ingvar assemble a team and get over there."
To be continued...