Friday fiction! Escape pod here!
Blue Flame of Revenge - Part 8
The hologram of Muryia Mordu looked tired. Well known for his eccentric dress, he was wearing a Gallente Black Eagles uniform with a bright pink bobble hat. Sosa smiled thinking if he had addressed the Caldari leadership council looking like that they wouldn't have taken him seriously. However he knew the Old Man would have been running his usual morphing software when he spoke to them which would have superimposed more sensible dress for the head of New Eden's largest mercenary corporation.
"Not even with the possibility New Caldari could become a fireball in a matter of hours?"
"I expected it. Look at it from their viewpoint. A well respected businessman has built a bomb from a theoretical material that nobody has ever seen and isn't even proven to exist and plans to burn an entire planet. Even coming from us, it sounds a bit far fetched. Are they still in system?"
As soon as Thanan's people had detected the hack, the six transport ships had undocked quickly. The Viator class transport ship was optimized for cloaking and they had quickly vanished into space before the Katsu Maru could catch them.
"Thanan's ship is, the bug we placed inside the old Caldari book is still pinging. However, we have no idea about the other five. They could have slipped through one of the stargates, or they might be waiting it out. Its unlikely they've left as we have probes out and they'd have to decloak to jump through a gate. We also don't know if the device is on Thanan's own ship or one of the others. It wasn't on the one Aleira and Gian infiltrated."
"I'm guessing no word from either of them?" Mordu asked solemnly.
"No. Thanan's people have them. I'm sorry, this op has gone south very quickly."
"I've read the reports. Not your fault. This Thanan guy has spent a decade planning this. Aki said in his update that he believes that there were technicians physically monitoring the network, that's how they saw your hack. Now that is paranoia on a different scale. He's gone to great lengths to achieve his goals. I'm diverting a taskforce to New Caldari. The Council don't like it but tough. We'll do what we can to stop them there."
Sosa nodded and disconnected the link.
Admiral Vikkito looked at the message again. The threat had been dismissed by the Council however once of the CEO's who sat on the board had sent him the details. It sounded like something out of a bad action movie. A bomb capable of turning an entire planet into a fireball in a matter of hours. The build up of Legion ships in New Caldari was another cause for concern. Whilst originally a Caldari corporation, the mercenaries were like any other. They worked for whoever was paying. The threat to New Caldari could be a smoke screen, the Legion could be the actual threat hired by god-knows-who. However, what if they were telling the truth he wondered. Was it worth risking an entire planet?
He rose from his desk and walked over to the huge window. In the distance the planet of New Caldari was bathed in sunlight from his angle. The Leviathan class titan couldn't go any nearer. The 16km long ship had enough mass to affect the gravity on a planet so needed to stay a safe distance from habitable worlds.
"What if they are right?" he muttered to himself.
A shrill beep sounded.
"Come." he said loudly and the door opened. Lieutenant Tenanochi entered the room and stood to attention.
"Lieutenant. The Legion claim they are responding to a potential threat against New Caldari. However our political masters are not taking that threat seriously. A theoretical weapon, a mineral nobody has ever seen, a mercenary corporation putting themselves in danger for no profit. It doesn't feel right."
"I detect there is a 'but' there sir?"
"Yes there is. A huge one. But what if they are right. What if a Caldari-hating business magnet has developed a weapon that could consume an entire planet in fire. What if the Legion has discovered this plot and are trying to save billions of lives of our people whilst we just watch from afar."
The Lieutenant stood silently as the Admiral turned back to the window.
"Sir, its been a while since we have run an Operation Tsunami exercise. May be its a good opertunity give we have no active orders currently."
The Admiral smiled. Operation Tsunami was a tactical scenario involving a direct assault on the system of New Caldari by one of the other Empires. Generally the enemy were taken to be the Gallente but they had also practiced for Amarrian or even Matari forces. Whether the threat was real or not, it would put his forces in the best position if trouble did start.
"Yes, I believe that would be a good idea. Lieutenant, make the arrangements please. I'll inform the Legion taskforce commander about our training 'exercise' in the area and that they need to be aware."
Thanan entered the small cargo bay. Two of his men stood by the door, as he passed he nodded towards the door and they left. Another man entered carrying a small camera. Thanan approached the three in the centre of the room, all hanging by their wrists from chains suspended from high above. Captain Bique's eyes went wide in terror as he watched his boss approach. Doctor Gian and Detective Aleira looked at him in disdain.
"Sir.... I didn't know. It was a trap! It's not my fault..." Bique started to cry.
Thanan moved over to a crate and picked up a tarnished grey cylinder. Moving back into the light they could all see it was a handheld plasma torch.
"No! No! No! Please!" the Captain begged as Thanan ignited the torch. The flame roared into life.
"Ladies. Excuse me a moment, I'll be with you two as soon as I show Captain Bique here the errors of his way." Thanan addressed Gian and Aleira.
Thanan moved in front of the begging man.
"You'll not do this again will you?"
"No! I'm sorry! I'll never do it again! I'm sorry!" cried Bique hoping he was just using scare tactics to teach him a lesson.
"That is so true. You won't!" Thanan growled and quickly placed the torch in front of the Captain's trousers. The scream was shrill and almost inhuman. The Captain thrashed as the flame burnt through his uniform and blackened his flesh. The smell of burnt skin rose and Gian and Aleira gagged. After thirty seconds the Captain passed out. Thanan turned off the torch and dropped it on the floor with a resounding clang.
"So now ladies. Good to see you again Detective and Dr Gian it is a pleasure to finally meet you." he said turning to them. The Doctor glanced across at Captain Bique. Thanan had been right, Bique would never disobey orders again chasing skirt if he survived. There was very little left of him to identify him as a man.
"It is clear you both know far too much about me and my plans. At this point it's incidental. The Legion and Navy gate-camp in New Caldari gives me a pretty good idea who has been the spanner in the works all this time and they know where we're heading."
Thanan went back to the crate and retrieved two items. He returned to stand before Aleira.
"Detective. I enjoyed our short time at the university, I hope you won't take offence if I have some fun with the good Doctor."
He walked over to Gian.
"You are Gallente. Why are you helping this Amarrian? A Caldari-sympathiser, trying stop me from destroying our enemies once and for all?"
"Because you're a fracking lunatic!" Gian spat.
Thanan smiled. He took the small silver disk and placed it on her chest. The deep V of her dress allowing him access to her skin. The device stuck to her with a slight hum. As he did he stoked the shining green satin material. Gian was cursing her choice of outfit. The incredibly thin material did nothing to protect her from his touch. She'd picked it to seduce Captain Bique, she hadn't envisaged being chained up in a cargo hold with a psychopath.
"The device will monitor your heart and can save your life by administering an AED pulse if needed so don't worry about that thing" Thanan spoke. "This however, is why you need that device, this you do need to worry about."
He rose a baton in front of her face. The two metallic prongs on the end reflected the harsh lighting of the cargo bay.
"I'm sure you are aware what a terrible toll electricity has on the human body. The heart is the biggest problem. Too much and it fibrillates. It's all about the bloodstream you see. The veins and arteries, they are the path of least resistance for the current. It doesn't matter if I shock you here..." he ran the baton slowly over her chest, deliberately running over her nipple that was erect with fear causing her to flinch "..or here..." he continued down and ran the end of the batten along her inner thigh, circling around under her short satin dress. She flinched at every touch expecting a shock. He pressed the prongs into her flesh but the shock did not come. "The heart is still going to take punishment where ever the point of contact is. Its the way our bodies are built I'm afraid."
"Leave her alone you animal!" Aleira screamed.
Thanan ignored her. He lifted the baton in front of Gian's face. Her eyes focused on the prongs and she jumped as he pressed a button causing the electricity to arc between the two with a crackle.
"So Doctor Gian. Are you ready to scream for the camera?"
"Well this is going to turn into a shit-storm very quickly."
Commander Meuldia looked at the screen. Around the stargate a dozen of the Legion's ships maintained a 15km orbit. Closer to the stargate a dozen Caldari Navy interceptors had taken up positions.
"You think the training exercise is BS?" Ensign Tarartault asked.
"I'd bet the ship on it. Admiral Vikkito is no fool. Whether he believes the threat from Thanan is real or not, we being here has got him twitchy. By calling this exercise he can position his ships ready if anything kicks off. The irony is, putting these Caldari flyboys in our backyard increases the chance of things kicking off!"
The Ensign just nodded. They had reports from several ships of the Navy buzzing them and even a few bumps where they were so close the two ships shields had touched.
"Should we fall back?"
"Negative. We need to be in range of scrambling the warp drives of those transports if Thanan comes this way. In order to do that we have to stop them cloaking up. Actually the Caldari forces are helping in that, but with so much hardware in such a small area its a lot of risk."
The Commander went back to looking at the screen. One little incident could set of a chain reaction.
"Incoming transmission Captain. Its from Thanan."
Sosa looked up from the screen he was reviewing.
"Seriously? He's opening comms? Can we track him?"
"Negative Captain. Its not live. It's a video recording being bounced off a stargate's fluid router."
"Play it." the Captain ordered.
The main view screen on the bridge flickered and the starfield was replaced by a scene of the cargo bay from the ship Gian and Aleira had infiltrated. The Doctors screams echo'd through the speakers as Thanan repeatedly shocked her with the baton. Aleira screamed for him to stop in the background. Thanan asked no questions, he just stood in silence as he used the stun baton.
"That bastard." Ingvar growled. "I'm going to tear him apart."
The Captain watched emotionless for a few more seconds before ordering Aki to turn it off.
"Thanan is trying to provoke us. Make us angry and desperate. To prioritise finding that ship over the one with the weapon. Everyone take a breath. We cannot let him goad us into making a mistake."
"We won't Captain, but he has." Riku stated rising from his seat and walking over to Aki.
"Thanan wasn't on the same ship as them when he undocked but he is now. We've not had any of those ships show up on scans so he's not docked and he's not linked up with the other ship otherwise the cloak on both ships would have dropped and we would have scanned him with the probes. Therefore there must be a reason he's not shown up of scans."
"System is too small for a deep-safe." Aki replied. "Our probes are pinging several times a second and cover twice the radius of this system. If one of those transports comes within two and a half clicks of anything we'll pick them up."
"Reset the probes. Forget transports, look for any active MSI's." Sosa ordered.
Thanan placed the baton down. The Gallente woman had passed out again. He struggled to understand why she was working against him. He was going to cripple the Caldari. Couldn't she, as a Gallente, see that was for the best. He picked up his datapad. It was time. He needed to move now before the Caldari shored up defenses in their home system. He hoped the video they had sent would have enraged the crew working with the doctor and the Amarrian detective that they would fall for his new plan. He turned to the cameraman and removed his own jacket and the signet ring he wore.
"Put my jacket and ring on. Once I'm back on my own ship this vessel will warp to an asteroid belt. Once there start again on her but ensure the camera only captures that whore's screaming face and your arm wearing my jacket and ring. Make it look good, point-of-view stuff. I need them to think I'm still here and she is suffering badly. Dose her with the exile if she passes out again to keep her awake. Live-stream it to draw them out. Keep going and don't stop even when they board. If she dies, start on the Amarrian." Thanan whispered. "Once they start hacking through the blast door flush the jacket, ring and baton in the waste disposal and kill them. Say I ran out of the service door and you were just following orders."
The camera man nodded and took the items.
Thanan left the cargo hold and walked up to the bridge. The Captain stood as he entered.
"You understand the plan Captain?"
"Yes sir. Do not try to escape, let them board and deny everything. When they have found the cargo bay act shocked and let them take them all including our man. Co-operate with any search but if we can slow them down without them realising do it."
"Good. You have plausible deniability as do all the crew. They'll spend hours tearing this ship apart looking for me. By that time I'll be in New Caldari and it'll be all over."
The Captain smiled and nodded. It had taken years for Thanan to assembled these teams. Gallente patriots who hated the Caldari. All would lay down their lives in order to strike this killing blow to their old enemy. The Captain was the former XO who had taken over from Captain Bique after he brought Gian and Aleira on board. The XO had lost his new wife when the Caldari, led by Tibus Heth, had invaded Caldari Prime several years ago. Everyone one of his ship's crews had reason to hate the Caldari.
"Contact sir! It's a Matari industrial dropping on top of us!" one of the crewmen called out as Thanan was finishing with the newly promoted Captain.
"What? NO!" Thanan shouted shocked.
The Katsu Maru dropped from warp less than 10km from the six transport ships huddled by the satellite. The mobile scan inhibitor hid anything within 30km from the device. However it could not hide itself. The electromagnetic field was easily scannable if you were looking for it.
Sorsa smiled as the Katsu Maru decelerated into range.
"Flag the ship Gian and Aleira are on. Get it scrammed. The others, guns are free." Sosa growled as the warp tunnel fully collapsed and the six transports appeared large on the screen.
A Mammoth class industrial was not considered a threat in New Eden. It was designed for hauling not fighting. However nothing about the Katsu Maru was normal. It was a shell, disguising one of the most advanced ships outside of CONCORD and the mysterious Drifters in the known universe. For close range fighting it was equipped with a number of medium autocannons hidden behind plates that looked like emergency hull repairs. A range of missile launchers were hidden along the top and bottom of the ship. As well as warp core scramblers and disruptors it also carried stasis webifiers that slowed smaller maneuverable ships to a crawl. Finally advanced electronics allowed a significant number of unmanned combat drones.
Thanan looked on in horror as the Katsu Maru approached at speed. He barged the Captain out of the way and slammed his hand on the communicator on the Captain's chair.
"Execute Plan E now!" he screamed.
Back on the Katsu Maru the crew were at red alert.
"Got the ship with the girls on Captain, locking it up. I've also ID'd Thanan's ship but we don't know which one he's on right now. Wait. The other four ships, they are moving at us!"
Sosa watched in surprise as four of the transports quickly swung around and placed themselves between the Katsu Maru and their two targets.
"Go through them!" Sosa ordered.
The darkness of deep space was lit up as the Katsu Maru unleashed its terrifying arsenal. The autocannons along its flank tore through the first ship with the second exploding seconds later as a volley of missiles struck its hull.
"Two down Captain but no L.O.S. to the targets yet. I cannot get a scram on them."
The next two transports went down as quickly. The Republic Fleet phased plasma rounds cutting through the shields and hulls of the ships with a combination of thermal and kinetic power. As the last ship in the way exploded they saw the other two slip into warp. A flash of light in the distance signaling their prey had gone FTL.
"So we know that the device is on that other ship. Lets get after them and inform Commander Meuldia to be ready. We'll herd the target direct to him."
In New Caldari the situation around the stargate was tense. Commander Meuldia read Sosa's message and had called Admiral Vikkito. Even with the possibility the weapon was on its way he wasn't phased nor would pull his ships back and allow the Legion Taskforce to do its work. He called up the tactical view outside. The Barghest battleship was surrounded by support ships and the Caldari Navy were buzzing in and out.
"This is going to go badly" he muttered "I can feel it".
In space, his premonition was about to come true. Lieutenant Yuatakkeimo of the Caldari Navy was bringing his Crow class interceptor around in a wide arc. As a Navy capsuleer he had no fear of death. Consulting his tactical view he focused on a Legion Orthrus class cruiser. In less than a second, the meld of man and machine had calculated a simulated attack run. Yuatakkeimo had even reduced the safety margins to make it look more impressive.
"Hey Eagle Five, watch this!" he boasted to his wingman and activated his micro-warp drive accelerating quickly to over 7000 metres a second.
What Yuatakkeimo didn't know was that one man's wife's indiscretion was about to kill this particular clone, start a major incident and put his entire planet at risk.
Earlier that day....
Technician First Class Ashata slammed the access panel on the Crow and took the auto-ratchet to secure the bolts.
'How could she?' he thought fighting back the tears. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his overalls.
He picked up the small mobile terminal from his tool box and keyed the access codes to open the port engine cowling. There was a whine as the heavy armour plates opened up exposing the Lia Dia engine components.
She had whispered things to him during their love making in the past but he'd thought that was just dirty talk. Never for a moment realised it was anything more than silly fantasy. Just a bit of fun.
He visually inspected the engine on that side of the ship. The conduits looked good and there was no sign of damage. He ran the stabilizer diagnostic. The various sections of the engine moved and hissed as they were dry tested. Stabilizing thrusters rotated smoothly in all directions. Satisfied all was well he tapped the command to close the cowling. As he moved around the starship he thought back to the previous day. Whilst trying to break off some carbon scoring on a Harpy class assault frigate his hand had slipped and he'd taken a chunk out of his other hand with the tool. He'd been sent to the infirmary, patched up and then ordered to rest for the rest of the day.
He reached the starboard side of the ship with tears in his eyes. As he waited for the cowlings to open and expose the engine he recalled approaching his quarters. He knew his wife would be off-duty so might be home. He entered their quarters and froze. The sounds coming from their bedroom hit him like a slap in the face. Was she watching a movie? One of those Gallente skin-flicks? Is this what she did when he was on duty? With his heart racing he slowly moved towards the bedroom door. What he saw was not like a slap in the face, it hit him in the gut like a railgun. He felt sick. His wife was laid on her back on the bed, naked. She gripped handfuls the sheets tightly as she arched her back and moaned in pleasure. He looked down her body in horror. His wife opened her eyes and looked at him shock, clearly not expecting to see her husband of ten years stood in the doorway. Her lover noted her change, looked up to see what was wrong and then slowly turned their head towards the door where she was staring in horror. Ashata stood there opened mouthed. Technician Third Class, Roki, the new girl, fresh out of university and basic training, the girl he was training up and had brought to his home for a meal last week, stared at him in shock from between his wife's thighs.
Ashata snapped back to the present and quickly tapped the commands to close the cowling and quickly moved out of sight behind a stack of inferno light missiles and began to cry. He slumped to the floor hugging his knees and sobbing uncontrollably. He never ran the stabilizer diagnostic that would have clearly shown the major malfunction with one of the starboard thruster modules on the ship.
"Eagle Two you are crazy!" Eagle Five laughed as he watched his wing man race towards the Legion cruiser at high velocity.
"Watch this!" Yuatakkeimo replied as he calculated the manoeuvre and initiated the commands.
The first sign something was wrong was the ship took a micro-second longer to respond than it should have. To a normal pilot it would have not been noticed but to a capsuleer like him it was blatantly obvious and felt that it took an eternity. Yuatakkeimo could feel the ship fighting him. It started to pull to the port side and as he struggled to correct the drift there was a sudden jolt. The starboard primary stabilizer thruster that was jammed and not rotating snapped under the immense pressure of the high-speed maneuver. It sent hardened tritanium alloy fragments ripping into the engine which was running at max power. The Crow entered a spin with fire spewing from its rear starboard side.
Out of control, it slammed into the Legion cruiser at speed, blasting through the shields and crippling the ship as it exploded against its aft section.
"WE'VE BEEN ENGAGED! EAGLE TWO IS DOWN. GUNS FREE. ENGAGE THE LEGION FORCES!" the Caldari Navy squadron commander shouted down the comms.
Eagle Five stared in shock, still not understanding what had happened and far too late to correct the commander even if he did realise what had happened. As the first Caldari ships fired on the Legion Taskforce they returned fire and the entire area erupted into a battle. The light flares from the numerous missiles and railguns reflecting off the massive stargate. That light was drowned out a few seconds later as the stargate fired, signaling an incoming wormhole connection.
To be continued....