Friday, March 28, 2014


Fiction Friday. Escape pod here.


"So what is it?"

"I don't know!"

"Is it a ship? A drone? A structure?"

"I. Don't. Know!"

Now agitated, First Officer Bique lent back over the scanner table whilst the Captain looked on. The small red dot blinked in the centre with six larger blue circles surrounding it showing the range of the scanner probes. The salvaging frigate had come to Amarr as they had recently salvaged a lot of starship capacitor parts. Given the Amarrians love of laser weaponry, capacitor salvage always sold at the highest price in this system. It was simple supply and demand. During the downtime Bique had sent a flight of probes to the edge of the solar system. A remote spot he picked at random hoping to get lucky as he was bored. To his surprise the probes had identified a very weak signature. He spent the next few hours narrowing the scan down. Finally he had got a fix on the location but the scanners were reporting the object as 'unknown'. He'd never had this before. It always told him if it was a ship, a wreck, a lost drone, a cargo container. This was simply unknown, and that worried him.

"Can we just warp there and look?" asked Kolmeter. The ships salvaging expert was usually the first to suggest a more direct approach. Kolmeter had spent most of his life in space. He was Matari and if it floated in space, he'd salvaged it at one time or another over the years. Some thought he was crazy and the stunts he pulled regularly scared the crap out of people. The man had no fear, especially when in a spacesuit bounding around an unstable wrecked ship in deep space.

"The probes compare what they are scanning to a database. Whatever that is, its not in the database. It could be some strange probe, or it could be a custom built heavy assault cruiser piloted by a rich sociopath who likes to sit on the edge of the solar system and get people to scan him down and warp to him so he can blow their ship away!"

Kolmeter shrugged and remained quiet. Bique scratched his head. Even though he was right about the rich socio-path possibility, Kolmeter was also right. Unless they warped to the object they'd never know. He re-adjusted the probe settings and ordered another scan. Same result, 'unknown'.

"OK you cannot tell me what it is, best guess then?"

The First Officer sighed. He hated guesses that would put himself and the rest of the crew in danger.

"Whatever it is, it has power and there are some weird short-range radio signals coming from it. Nothing I've ever seen before although they look to be Amarrian. Worst case, its your rich socio-path in a sniper HAC. Bad case it is some long lost probe that's not worth the fuel to warp out there. Best case scenario its an abandoned Jove ship and we'll all be mega-rich. That OK for you Captain?"

The crew stared at him open mouthed.

"Seriously? Jovian?" the Captain asked referring the the reclusive advanced race.

CONCORD had recently removed all Jovian tech from the databases. No Jove had been spotted for years and many believed that they were extinct. As they wanted to clear out the database of all excess signatures, the Jove ships had been removed. If it was a Jove ship then they'd get an 'unknown' reading like they had right now. Bique didn't think for a moment it was really a Jove ship. However unlikely as it was, if it was an abandoned Jovian ship they would be richer than their wildest dreams. Any of the four Empires would give billions for an intact Jove ship. However, none of them were forgetting about the other possibilities that could lay at the edge of the solar system.

"OK, no guts, no glory. Warp us to 100k off it and be ready to warp back if its hostile." the Captain orders.

Bique just groaned. 100km would be the optimal range for any railguns belonging to a socio-path in a sniper HAC.


The tension on the bridge was high. The warp-tunnel was starting to fade and in seconds they would know what it was.

A small dot appeared in the centre of the screen. The First Officer quickly adjusted the zoom and a groan resounded from the assembled crew. The viewscreen was filled by an old style satellite.

Several members of the crew just walked out of the bridge shaking their heads whilst Bique started more detailed scans of the abandoned satellite.

"Well I guess we won't be retiring just yet!" the Captain complained. "Enough of this. Lets get moving to earn some real cash. Helm plot us a course to the Sarum Prime stargate and engage."

"Wait Captain!" Bique called excitedly.

The Captain went over to the scanner table.

"Look, it has solar panels. It must be 400 years old at least! Lets just..." the Captain looked at the datapad Bique handed him and stopped talking.

"Thats impossible!" he finally said.

The short range detailed scan showed that the satellite had over 100kg of enriched uranium inside it. It was far too small to have a nuclear reactor of that size in it. It also didn't look some sort of orbital storage unit.

"Helm take us to within 5k and ready the tractor beam and salvager."


It took nearly 10 minutes for the Kestrel class frigate to reach the satellite. The bridge crew was already working out what to spend their cut on. If the scan was right that old satellite could be worth 1.2 million ISK. Converted to local credits each would be taking home a massive amount.

"Slow to 50 metres per second." ordered the Captain as the ship approached the satellite.

"6000 metres Captain" the Helm announced.

Suddenly there was a bright flash emanating from the satellite. The Kestrel's systems went down like a brick. Confusion broke out on the bridge as the frigate suffered a total power loss. The Captain just stared out of the viewport at the approaching satellite.

"Some sort of EMP defence. All power is down. Nothing is responding." Bique cried out.

"So we cannot even sound the 'brace for impact alarm?" the Captain asked calmly.

Bique turned to him in confusion and saw the viewport. The momentum of the ship meant they were heading for the satellite.

There was a screech of metal on metal as the Kestrel frigate smashed into the the satellite. With the inertial stabilisers offline as well as the artificial gravity the crew were tossed around like rag dolls. Finally the noise died down after a few minutes and the crew struggled to right themselves. A couple of minutes later the emergency power sprung on. The Captain made his way over to the communicator.

"Onodora, report."

Onodora was the ships engineer. He had spent 20 years with the Caldari Navy before going freelance.

"Its not good Captain. I've got the emergency power back up but every single isolator on the ship has tripped. I have no idea what damage is done until I can manually reset them. Going to be a good few hours before I know how bad things are."

The Captain looked out of the viewscreen. It was blocked by the satellite that looked like it must be embedded in the front prongs of the ship. He looked over at their Salvage expert who was trying to get a better look out of a different viewport.

"Kolmeter, suit up. You are going for a walk!"

Kolmeter just groaned. He loved to hate EVA.


"So hows it looking?" the Captain asked.

"It's Amarr space, its a shitty yellow!" Kolmeter replied sarcastically.

The salvage expert was used to being suited up and on the exterior of vessels in space. However it was rare he would be walking along his own vessel. Ahead he could see the satellite embedded into the front prongs of the Kestrel frigate. It looked to be a mess. It took him 20 minutes to reach the front of the ship. The damage to the Kestrel appeared light, but the satellite was jammed in and would take a major operation to free it. He looked at the bottom end of the structure.

"Captain. We have an issue. This is no reactor and certainly no storage pod."

With partial power restored to the bridge the Captain and First Officer were looking at a small screen which was being fed images from Kolmeter's helmet mounted camera. It clearly showed the 10 tubes that surrounded the satellite were in fact missile launch tubes and the covers had been ejected to expose the warheads.

"Kolmeter can you mount the comm link on that port at your 9 o'clock?" Bique asked.

"Seriously, you want me to touch THAT!"

"Just do it."

Carefully Kolmeter made his way over to the access port Bique had indicated. He took out a small box from his pouch and placed it over the port. It secured itself magnetically and started to interface with the satellite. He looked down at his feet were he could see one of the warheads exposed, the collision had ripped the top of the launch tube clean off. It had also pealed a section of the missile cone away exposing two warheads. Kolmeter pushed himself down to go for a closer look at the two exposed weapons.

Inside the ship Bique watched on his datapad as the comm unit communicated with the satellite. As expected the satellites data systems were encrypted and firewalled. However, it took only two minutes for the Kestrels computer to gain access. Whilst the satellites security had been state of the art when it was commissioned, the Kesrels computer have several centuries of computing advancement on its side. It broke through the archaic encryption easily. Bique slumped in his chair as he read the screen. They were in trouble.


The senior crew were gathered around the table as Bique started his briefing. Most systems were still down including long-range communications and all propulsion systems, but life support had been restored.

"OK, quick history lesson. Apparently this thing was in orbit of a planet some 350 years ago. We suspect it got hit by something and over the last few hundred years it has been slowly spinning its way out here. It had a short-range radio handshake which it eventually lost. Given the gradual decrease of the signal strength over the years the satellite assumed it was a technical failure and has been trying to re-establish contact ever since."

"So?" the Captain asked.

"Well when we got close to it activated its automated self-defence systems and EMP'd us. That made us crash into it which made it reset its systems. To the satellite, someone attacked it and it cannot get a handshake from its ground-base. So therefore it thinks its ground-base has been destroyed."

"Sooo?" the Captain asked again more cautiously.

"It thinks its at war and the enemy it was designed to target have destroyed its ground-base. Therefore its gone to action. If the ground-base doesn't respond within six hours it launches its missiles. Ten missiles with six warheads each. Three of the missiles are likely to get stuck on launch as the tubes are blocked by our ships structure. The warheads are on a 60 second timer being air-burst first strike weapons. So seven of the missiles will launch and then release their warheads. I estimate that they'll detonate some 300km away meaning we should be OK if we can get shields up in time. Three of the missiles aren't going anywhere and will breakup against our armour plating so we'll have 18 warheads floating around the ship for sixty seconds before they detonate."

The crew muttered to themselves.

"Any good news?" the Captain groaned.

"Well as one of those warheads is enough to vaporise us, the other 17 aren't really an issue."


"Its not going to go any faster no matter how many of you stare at me"

The Engineer was on his back under one of the plasma turbines. Whilst his head was under the 4m long piece of machinery he knew they were still there. There only chance was to reverse the engines and hope to separate the ship from the satellite and get to a safe distance before the missiles launched. Many of the crew, with nothing better to do, had gone to engineering to help. However given their lack of technical knowledge Onodora was finding them to be more of a hindrance. The only one he could count on was his assistant Eszur. She was a young Matari woman and very shy. However, she was a great engineer and had made his life easier over the last six months. He was attracted to her but had never made any advance to her given he was her boss and had a decade on her.

Whilst most of the circuit breakers had now been reset, Onodora was finding that in some places they hadn't done their job. The electrical surge had broken through and damaged many subsystems in random locations. The first issue was tracking down the damage and the second was getting to it. The tight timescale meant that the many pairs of eyes fixed on his boots was not helping. He slid out from beneath the turbine and stood. After flicking a few switches and seeing nothing he kicked the turbine with his steel toe-capped boots. The machinery hummed into life and a small cheer went up from the assembled crew.

"Sub-light engines are back online Captain, but only 30% power." he said into his communicator with a slight smile.

Back on the bridge the captain acknowledged and thanked his Engineer.

"OK lets see if this works. Reverse the polarity on the tractor beam and engage the engines, full astern."

Whilst Onodora was working on the engines, the Captain had Kolmeter we configuring the tractor-beam. Most salvage vessels had a tractor beam that used graviton physics to pull items towards the ship. In wreckage fields that could be spread over 10's of kilometres it was easier to pull interesting bits of wreckage to you rather than constantly move around. They needed to disengage themselves from the satellite but in deep space with no gravity or air resistance if they moved backwards the satellite would just moved with them.

The noise of the engines increased and Kolmeter confirmed the tractor beam was locked on the satellite. The same horrible screeching of metal on metal resumed as slowly the two ships parted. As soon as they were clear another small cheer went up.

"Swing us around and give it all you've got helm. Try and put as much range between us and that thing as you can. We've got five minutes! Keep using the tractor beam to push it away, at 20km deactivate."

Down in Engineering Onodora was scratching his head. The warpcore should be online. Everything appeared to be green but the warp diagnostic terminal which could tell him in seconds what was wrong had been utterly fried by the EMP. He kicked the nearest console and swore.

"280km Captain. We 'should' be OK if the warheads detonate. They'll be launching in thirty..... oh shit!" Bique exclaimed.

"What?" asked the Captain urgently.

"Get the satellite on screen!" Bique said quickly.

"We can't. Its too far away. We need to be within 100km to magnify. Whats the problem?"

The Captain shut up as the small dot on the screen flared. The missiles were launching. He suddenly realised what Bique was worried about. What direction were those missiles firing in?"

"I've got the missiles on overview sir. Eight of them launched. 6000 metres per second. Heading......"

"Whats the heading!" screamed the Captain.

"They are coming towards us."

Onodora was listening down in Engineering. He ran the numbers in his head. Six K a second. Ten second burn time, 60km. Then the warheads would tumble for 60 seconds. Whilst they didn't have propulsion, the momentum they had in space would keep them moving at the same speed. 420km from the satellite is when they'd detonate. He quickly looked at the ships overview. They had been burning on the same trajectory and were now 350km from the satellite. No matter which way they turned, they couldn't get to a safe distance.

"Onodora, warp drive would be REALLY useful about now" the Captains concerned voice came over the communicator.

Onodora looked at the dead warpcore. He just didn't know what to do. He looked at his assistant with a resigned look on his face as if to say "I'm so sorry I couldn't save us". She gave a half smile back.

"Oh well, I suppose if this is the end!" she said. Onodora looked at her questioningly as she stepped forward, grabbed his head and kissed him deeply.

Onodora suddenly pulled back pushing her away. She looked horrified that even in the moment of death he would reject a kiss from her!"

"No!" he said looking at her excitedly "Not you. Well yes I mean you! You've got it! The injector tongue!!!"

Onodora rushed over to the warpcore and pulled a handle up that re-engaged the what was known as the injector tongue. A hardened piece of titanium that controlled the injection of plasma into the warpcore. Almost instantly the lights around the core turned green.

"Warp drive active!" Onodora shouted and grabbed his assistant and resumed the kiss.

On the bridge the viewscreen showed the warheads spinning past the ship at speed.

"Warp us to station. NOW!" shouted the Captain.

The frigate aligned slightly to one side to line up with the station. Everyone held their breath as the warp drive spun up. The charge level was increasing but nobody had ever experienced a slower two seconds. Then there was a blinding flash.

"Well thats the first time I've ever flown at warp speed through a thermonuclear explosion." the Captain said slumping in his chair as the ship cleared the blast radius.

"Too bad we didn't get rich though." Bique replied "By the time we've paid for repairs we'll be substantially down thanks to that satellite!"

"Oh I wouldn't say that. I'd say we've all done all right out of this." Kolmeter replied "Remember, I'll salvage anything I can get my hands on!"

The Captain and Bique looked at Kolmeter questioningly. He just smiled and tapped a few buttons on his console. The viewscreen swapped to a view of the external airlock. On the floor in the middle lay two of the warheads with various parts removed.

"However, I want a slightly bigger cut as I strained my back getting them inside the ship." he laughed.


  1. Is Kolmeter's last name Darkefyre by the way?

  2. ok. I'll be tuning into fiction fridays from here on out.

  3. So when the heck is someone going to offer you a screenwriting contract? :)