Fiction Friday! Escape pod here!
Commodore Gakoho span round as he heard commotion behind him in the combat command and control centre. Supposedly one of the most secure locations on the space-station had a man in a hospital gown wrestling the two MPs that were stationed at the door. He glanced down at the tactical view. The Legion were defeated. Admiral Gakoho could mop up now. He marched over to the disturbance.
Blue Flame of Revenge - Part 9
Commander Meuldia looked at the tactical view from his elevated chair on the bridge. The situation was bad. The Caldari Navy had destroyed most of the Legion's support ships and were now hitting the larger vessels. He'd ordered all ships to fallback to the stargate and the majority of his faster ships were already in a tight orbit around the structure. They needed to be within two and a half kilometres from the vast structure to be able to activate it and jump out.The Barghest class battleship he was commanding was nowhere near that. Interceptors from the Navy had them webbed and scrammed. The micro-warpdrive was offline and the gaviton weapons they were using had increased the ships mass so much that a titan moved quicker. There was no way they'd make it back to gate, not with a wing of Raven class battleships on short-range scan.
"Time for those Ravens?" he called out.
"Under 20 seconds sir."
His fingers danced over his console. He punched in his command codes and the large red button marked 'Abandon Ship' filled the touch screen. He left it there knowing he'd need it in less than a minute. The torpedo volleys from six Raven's would make short work of his ship. He'd not trigger the command early, there was always hope, but he wouldn't leave it to the last minute either. They were not capsuleers or cloned soldiers. Death was permanent and something he really wanted to avoid. He opened a fleet-wide broadcast.
"All ships, this is Commander Meuldia. Set a course for the HQ in 5ZXX-K and burn for it. Get there and dock up. The Old Man will have to sort this mess out himself. Jump! Jump! Jump!" he ordered. The Old Man was a reference to Muryia Mordu, the leader of the corporation.
One by one the Legion vessels under fire by the Caldari Navy activated the massive stargate. Bright flashes pulsed as each was swallowed by an artificial wormhole and flung light-years across space. Three ships were left once all those within range of the gate had jumped.
"What about us sir?" Ensign Tarartault asked worriedly.
"Lets just hope when they scoop our escape pods they don't take us to New Caldari!" he replied as the viewscreen showed six Raven's dropping out of warp 30km from their starboard bow.
At the same time, several AU away on a Naval station in orbit around New Caldari Medical Technician Second Class Eratsaka tapped a command into the datapad he was holding. The coffin-sized unit in front of him hissed as the double doors opened just a crack. The condensation that was misting the glass doors started to clear as the cooler air from the medi-bay mixed with that inside the damp clone revival unit. The doors started to open quicker and the naked, hairless man who lay inside opened his eyes.
"Careful fly-boy, that's a brand new body. You know the drill, stay still whilst we run the tests."
The man blinked confused, his eyes stung even in the subdued lighting.
"What happened?" he croaked, using the vocal chords for the first time.
"You died I guess. Welcome to the afterlife and all that." the Medical Technician joked. "The brain-state transfer was confirmed at 100%, don't worry it'll all come flooding back in a few minutes. I see from your med-file this is your first combat related death and only your second clone after the termination required to graduate from Capsuleer training so take it easy. These clones aren't cheap."
"Combat death?" Eagle Five repeated slowly. "Oh shit!" he gasped. "I need to contact Admiral Vikkito now!" he said trying to stand. His new legs, never used before, gave way and he fell to the floor.
Eratsaka rolled is eyes as if to say 'every fracking time!' and moved to help the pilot off the floor.
The two Viator class transports settled onto the landing pad almost in unison. Whilst normally a deep-space transport ship, Thanan had spent a fortune retro-fitting them to allow atmospheric flight. As the XO started the shutdown procedures Thanan first stopped off at his quarters and retrieved a briefcase. He then left his room and went down a flight of stairs to the main cargo bay. The six molecular lasers were there pointing at the blue crystal sat on the white pedestal. He looked over to the main cargo doors that were open slightly allowing the bright sunshine in. Two of his men roughly pushed Gian and Aleira in at gunpoint.
Thanan watch as his two men fastened their wrists to chains dangling from the ceiling and left.
"Ladies. I've had you brought from the other ship as I thought after all your efforts you should be the first people in history to see a Blue Nova crystal go critical." he said with a smile.
His chief weapons building, Haakamon, entered the room holding a datapad.
"Is it ready?" Thanan asked.
"Yes sir. The reactor is offline and the vibrations are zero."
Haakamon keyed some commands into his datapad. The six lasers hummed into life, their barrel's glowing red almost instantly. Clicks and whirrs filled the cargo hold as each one made minute adjustments in its alignment. Haakamon approached Thanan and passed the datapad over.
"If you would like the honour sir?"
Thanan smiled. This was it. His wife and children would be avenged. This wasn't Amarrian justice. An eye for an eye. A life for a life. He was going to repay the Caldari with interest. The pain and grief he had suffered over the last decade justified to him to the death of billions he was about to cause. He pressed the button and the six lasers fired a short burst. The room fell quiet.
"Did it work?" he asked excitedly.
Haakamon retrieved the datapad and looked at the readings.
"Yes sir. Just as expected. It has started!"
Thanan smiled and moved over to Aleira and Doctor Gian.
"Ladies, I'm afraid you and your Legion friends have failed. The cascade reaction has started. It cannot be stopped. That crystal will heat up over the next hour. Slowly at first but gaining in speed. I'm afraid you won't witness the actual moment it goes critical and sets off a chain reaction that destroys all life on this planet. You'll have been burnt to death before then by the heat of the slow reaction. I think its fitting. We used to burn traitors at the stake in ancient times. I'm just upholding Gallente traditions." he laughed and turned to leave.
"They'll get you. The Legion are going to find you and kill you." Gian said menacingly.
Thanan stopped a second, he didn't turn, just paused. After a moment he started walking again and left with Haakamon hot on his heels.
"30 seconds to the New Caldari gate Captain" Yoshi called out.
"Aki, you sure he went this way?"
"Yes sir. The bug in the book is still pinging. When in space it bounces off the nearest stargate so we only know if he's in system and which is the nearest stargate. This was the one the final ping came from before the signal was lost as they jumped."
Sosa nodded. The situation was tense. They had not been able to reach Commander Meuldia or the taskforce in New Caldari. As the Katsu Maru dropped out of warp once they neared the stargate Sora realised why. Part of the task force was this side of the gate, locked in a deadly battle with Caldari forces."
"Captain?" Yoshi asked.
"Hold fire. We cannot help them. If we get flagged for aggression we cannot jump. Thanan is in New Caldari now, every second we lose is to his advantage. We have no choice, jump!"
Reluctantly Yoshi activated the stargate. Leaving their comrades like this stung, but she knew the Captain was right. Billions of lives were at risk right now on New Caldari, at least the Legion crews had a fighting chance in their ships unlike those on the planet of New Caldari.
In a flash of light the Katsu Maru vanished and re-emerged from the artificial wormhole into a war-zone.
"Any chance we can catch a break here?" Sora sighed viewing the battle going on this side of the gate too. Several million kilometres away he was about to.
"WHAT THE BLAZERS IS GOING ON HERE?" he yelled.
The three men snapped to attention.
"WHO ARE YOU?" he screamed addressing Lieutenant Yuatakkeimo.
"Lieutenant Yuatakkeimo sir! Callsign Eagle Five attached to the third combat wing under Admiral Vikkito sir!"
"AND WHY THE HELL ARE YOU OUT OF UNIFORM AND FIGHTING MY SECURITY LIEUTENANT?"
"Sir! There has been a mistake. My Crow malfunctioned. I was not engaged by the Legion, I crashed into them!"
The Commodore stared at the man sternly for a moment.
"Stay there!" he muttered and walked briskly over to a woman at a large console.
"Bring up the logs for Eagle Five."
The woman's fingers danced over the screen.
Last few entries sir show some course corrections, MWD activation... sir, there are error reports from stabiliser assembly control, serious malfunction warnings and then notification of fire in engine compartment. Sir, there is no target acquisition, no hostile fire detected. Eagle Five suffered some catastrophic engine failure."
One of the most senior officers in the Caldari Navy looked at the screen and the only response he could come up with was a single word.
Thanan walked in Waskisen's office with two of his men. Waskisen stood with a huge smile on his face.
"Mr Eratsaka! A pleasure to see you again." he said extending his arm to Thanan.
Thanan shook the mans hand and noted Waskisen was not looking at him, but the case he carried. He placed the case on the desk and opened it before spinning it around.
"One million credits as agreed. You need do nothing. Just ensure my ships are left alone on the pad for ninety minutes. One of my associates will arrive at that time and fly them away."
Waskisen just nodded as he pulled the case towards him.
"Yeah, its all arranged. Pad 4 is off-limits to all staff. The personnel transport you requested is on pad 14, fuelled and waiting."
Thanan keyed a quick message on his datapad ordering the crew of both of his ships to leave and get to the shuttle on pad 14.
"Hey! These are Ishukone Credits. We agreed on Caldari Funds Unlimited currency." Waskisen said angrily.
"We had an issue securing that amount of cred-notes in CFU currency back in the Federation. Ishukone is the next best thing I hear." Thanan replied.
"Not good enough." Waskisen said back confidently. "Whatever contraband you have in those transports is worth a lot I'm betting. I want a cut. I'm risking too much for a million in fracking Ishukone creds!"
"I'll make this quick. You have two options and I will lay them out very carefully for you." Thanan started in a weary tone "Firstly you can take the money in front of you and live a long and happy life. The other option is that one of my men here will shoot you in the face and hide you body under this desk." he tapped the desk for effect "Then as we leave we'll do the same to that hot secretary you have outside the door. I'm sure you hired her for her typing skills. Anyone who comes looking for you in the next 90 minutes will probably believe you are in some cheap hotel, balls-deep in that Caldari slut and won't bother making a fuss. By the time someone realises something is wrong and you body is found everything will be finished regarding my dealings here, I'll be halfway back to the Federation and I won't care. So which option?"
Waskisen looked at the man he knew as Eratsaka in a new light. He'd misjudged the seemingly weak businessman. He stuttered his reply.
"Actually I prefer option 2!" Thanan said interrupting him.
Waskisen went to scream but Thanan's bodyguard already had his gun out. The compact rail-pistol snapped as the sub-sonic charge left the barrel and struck Waskisen in the face. The lead alloy round was designed not to penetrate far so could be used on a starship. The front of Waskisen's face caved in and blood and brains dripped from the hole, but there was no splatter on the wall behind. The bodyguard pulled the body from the chair and pushed it into the desks foot-well. He then moved the chair in front looking like the desk was vacant. The sub-sonic nature of the round and the electro-magnetic delivery system also meant it was almost silent. Nobody would come running. Thanan looked around and was satisfied anyone looking in the office would not see anything wrong. He nodded and the three men left the office. The secretary smiled as the men approached. Her expression turned to one of horror as one of the men pulled his gun and fired. The slug hit her in the centre of the chest killing her instantly. The other man hid the body under the reception desk and were leaving when one of the bodyguards spoke.
"Sir, what about the million credits?"
Thanan didn't stop.
"Leave it. In a few hours the value of Caldari credits will be worthless. Their currency will free-fall so much people will be thinking Republic Credits are a sound investment!"
The Katsu Maru was in warp to New Caldari. Sosa was speaking to Commander Meuldia on a secure link.
"We saw it. We had just jumped in to the battlefield when suddenly the firing stopped. What happened?"
"One of their flyboys had an engine malfunction. He slammed his frigate into one of our cruisers and when his ship went down they assumed we'd engaged. Took a few minutes for him to get out of the pot the other end and straighten it out. Shit Sosa, we lost a lot of good men today thanks to a fracking stabiliser breakdown!"
"You are sure Thanan got through?" Sosa asked.
"Yes. The logs show two Viators decloaking after jumping in and then recloaking. Sorry Sosa but we were in a fire fight. Half of our fast-tackle were down and the other half jammed by those damn Caldari Griffins."
"There was nothing you could have done." Sosa replied "Cannot tackle a cloaking transport in the middle of a fire-fight."
"We're heading to Orbital 42. We cannot help evacuating Legion staff from the surface but the station is getting crowded so we're taking on personnel and moving them back to base. Do you think you can stop him?"
"We're going to give it everything! God speed" he replied before disconnecting the comm link.
Sosa walked over to Aki's station.
"We have him sir. He still has the book and is planet side. He's docked at a port near a large city. Both ships are there. I'm hacked into the New Caldari Net. I have satellite coverage too."
Sosa pointed to a big red countdown that read 52 minutes.
"That what I think it is?"
"Yes sir I'm afraid. I'm in the port's network and the ship's status is all logged when docked. From what we know, the lasers need a vibration free environment to work. Even the tiny vibrations from a starship reactor would be enough to misaligned the lasers so they would not break the molecular bond and cause the fission. Given that it will take one hour from firing to the crystal going critical, that's the worst case scenario. The reactor of the ships went down into sleep-mode eight minutes ago. If they fired the lasers immediately we have 52 minutes before it goes critical."
Sosa nodded. Unlike those modified transports, the Katsu Maru could not enter the atmosphere. It would drop like a stone.
"Ingvar, Riku. Tool up and get into the torp. Its down to you two."
The two men rose and left quickly. The "torp" was basically a simple shuttle designed for orbital insertions. It was fired like a weapon and could place two men planet-side in less than four minutes. Whilst it contained the latest in inertial dampening technology, it still wasn't a nice ride for the two occupants.
Sosa counted the minutes. Both Ingvar and Riku were his best fire-operatives and would be ready quicker than anyone else, but as the seconds ticked on he grew more nervous. Yoshi had confirmed they were in position. Finally the two men jumped into the craft and hit the release. Sosa glanced at the clock. 36 minutes.
"Sir, I've done checked the security feed." Aki announced "Looks like the crew of the two ships have transferred to an orbital shuttle that is waiting on one of the pads. I've got a good ping on the bug. its moving from the offices at the far end of the port towards the shuttle."
"Thanan! How long until he gets there?"
"A good ten minutes sir. Its a long way"
"OK, I have an idea."
Thanan walked across the skybridge from the office block. He could just see the tops of his two transports in the distance on their pad. He glanced at his watch. The crystal should be in the hundreds of degrees Celsius by now. He guessed the air temperature in the hold must be nearing sixty Celsius. Those two meddling women should be very uncomfortable be thought with a smile. Another fifteen minutes and they'll be burning he thought with a smile. He glanced over to the shuttle that was closer. It was an elegantly curved white craft with wide fixed wings. Designed for both fast flight between cities and orbital installations. The plan was to join his crew and rendezvous with in orbit with his support vessel. They'd then watch New Caldari burn from a safe distance. Something high above caught his eye. At first he thought it was a bird. The black speck in the bright sky started to grow. Moving too fast for a craft, the small object was plummeting towards the starport. He thought for a moment it might have been a weapon launched by the Navy or the Legion. They were going to destroy the starport in the hope of preventing the crystal going critical. He knew that it was unlikely. If they did know about the plan then they should know that once the fission was started it couldn't be stopped. An orbital strike would be counter-productive as it would prevent them moving the crystal off-world. The only way to stop it.
The object appeared to slow. Thanan looked closely. It looked a little bit like a capsuleer's pod but had metallic petals extended from the rear. Air brakes? He watched it a few seconds more before realising where it was heading.
"NO!" he screamed as the object impacted into the wing of the shuttle. There was a plume of smoke and sections of the wing flew in all directions.
Back on the Katsu Maru there were smiles as they watched through a hacked security camera.
"Riku. Ingvar? You guys OK?" the Captain spoke into the comms.
"Bit of a bumpy landing sir but we're fine. I assume the shuttle isn't going anywhere?"
"Affirmative. You'll see when you get out but that bird is dead on the ground. Ignore the crew. Now get the girls and find that weapon!" Sosa ordered.
"CONTACT!" Yoshi suddenly called out. "Falcon decloaking 20km, he's locking!"
"Launch the drones and set to aggressive. If he jams us they'll engage." Sosa ordered.
"We're jammed, warp drive is offline, he's got a disruptor on us. Second contact! Thanatos class carrier dropping out of warp!"
Sosa looked up at the big screen. The Black Sun Security vessel loomed large. The Katsu Maru was no match for a carrier normally. Jammed and with their warp-drive offline, they didn't stand a chance.
"Riku, Ingvar. You're on your own. We've just run into the ship I assume Thanan was about to meet up with at a guess and we've got big problems! Get the girls and stop that device!" Sosa ordered as he watch the first wing of fighters launch towards them from the carrier.
To be concluded.....