The Score

In the past, some of you have enjoyed my Eve narratives, and have asked for more. I hope this one doesn’t disappoint.

It’s Thursday, and I’m lying in my bed, listening to some ancient music, as I like to do sometimes, having just returned to dock from an abortive rescue mission. It’s been a tough day! I’d been out in space with the Nightingale, having heard a distress call on the Corporate frequency from a captain in trouble. In the end, he got out ok, crew intact, give or take a few sickbay cases, and Nightingale wasn’t needed… fortunately.

For those of you who don’t know, Nightingale is my newest ship. She’s an Oneiros class logistics support vessel, set up as a repair and hospital ship. She can hold her own in a crisis, but since she’s unarmed, it’s not somewhere I like to be if you know what I mean. Anyway, fun to fly, but not really a ship for taking into enemy territory alone.

So, where were we… ah yes, the communication. Well, I hit the answer switch to see the semi-familiar face of Kueres Malayme on the screen. Not expected! I mean, I’ve worked for her before, but I’m not one of her regulars, so I wondered instantly what was up. Something nasty must have gone down. I mean, I work for IntSec, not international relations… she asked me to see her in her office asap.

I hurried over to FedNav HQ. It’s the biggest complex on the station – unsurprising since FedNav owns it – stopping only for a small Quafe on the way. After making myself presentable, I made my way through the numerous security checkpoints to her office, where she sat me down.

“So”, I said, “you have a job for me?”

“Aye I do.”, she replied, “We got reports of a Serpentis patrol in this sector.  Our surveillance patrol reports they are scouts providing intel back to their leaders for a much larger raiding party. We cannot have them discover our weak points or gather any intel on our convoy travel routes. Teach them a lesson for us.”

“Of course, but why me?”, I asked… “This isn’t the sort of work I usually do.”

“There’s a million in it”, she said, “and another million if you’re quick about it. Just keep this quiet, please.”

I nodded. As I said, I work for IntSec a lot, so I know the value of secrecy. I asked for, and got, the scout reports, and, signing the contract, took a shuttle down to the hanger levels. En route, I called in my best crew, telling them to prepare Vengeance for immediate launch.

Now Vengeance, or more properly Esprit de Vengeance is an Astarté class field command ship – which is to say she’s a heavily modified Battle Cruiser based on the old Brutix class. The third to bear the name, she’s seen me through a few hard times lately. I get aboard and feed the data into the navicomp. Apart from the crew brief, we’re ready to go.

I sit in my command pod, one with the ship. My own senses dulled, numbed by the nanite infested goop that surrounds me, protecting me, and keeping my body alive. My eyes and ears become the ships sensors, my arms, her weapons, my legs, her drives. I feel her come alive around me as the drives start up, and once more, the feeling of awesome power courses through me as I and this massive megatonnage of battle armour become one being in space. The crew, scurrying around my arteries and veins, manning backup systems and local controls, loading weapons, keeping me alive and sane.

I blink once, and a screen opens in my vision. I see my entire crew, and I know throughout the ship, everyone can see my face on screens, on holos and where needed, directly in their minds. I brief them…

“It’s time to settle a score. We are to go to Auvergne, to an asteroid mining post. There to destroy the ships of the Serpentis who have occupied the area. We are to leave none alive.”

And so, in the pseudo-reality of hyperspace, Vengeance warps towards the distant stargate that will catapult us to the Auvergne system, and into battle.

Minutes later, we have made the gate jump and again are warping into the region of deadspace that the scouts reported. “Surely, this will be fast”, I thought, “and I will be claiming my reward.”, but I was wrong. The co-ordinates were jammed, partly by the deadspace region itself, and partly by Serpentis E/W. I had to use an acceleration gate that the miners had used. Sure, it seemed convenient, but I knew, as my enemies surely would, where I’d arrive. We’d be warping into an ambush.

It was bad. I knew it, and the crew knew it, but we had a job to do. I activated the gate, and we were heading into the mouth of the dragon.

As we came out of warp, by awareness turned red. The ships here were countless. We were swarmed, this was surely too much… but I let my head clear, focused, watched and separated the haze of red into separate targeting icons. I gave them a priority and within not much more than a millisecond, kicked the drives into combat speed, and was heading for my first victim.

There weren’t that many, maybe 30 or so ships, and half of them destroyers and frigates. I calculated the risk as low, and while we closed, I looked around for the outpost… it was not here!

As we entered attack range, I opened fire. All 7 of my 250mm railguns opened onto a catalyst class destroyer, and before even it’s captain knew what was happening, it was a ball of expanding vapour in the inky blackness of space. The next were not quite so easy, for the death of their colleague warned them. I pity them more though. They were aware of their deaths, as one by one I focused on them and wiped them from this universe.

The screen gone, I started in on the real warships, thorax class cruisers and a few brutixes too. They lived longer, due to their size, but not by much. A more one sided battle I’ve not been in for an age. This was not a fight, this was slaughter, and I began to suspect that Kueres had known it from the start.

The region clear, I headed towards the one clue I could see, another gate. I gave orders to reload all guns, and prepared for the next jump.

Again we arrived, but no ambush. There were enemies here, but they seemed complaisant. Three groups, one to port, one to starboard, and one, more distant, ahead, orbiting another gate. I picked the group to port, more numerous, but the smallest ships, and went to carry out my gruesome task.

As we approached, nothing seemed to stir, it was as if we’d not been noticed. Now, I know Serpentis pilots are not known for their vast intelligence, but this was crazy, they did nothing… I closed on the nearest destroyer and spat my thorium death from 50km out. He never knew what hit him.

And then the world went mad. Detectors registered radar, lidar, gravitics and all sorts of targeting sensors as I was locked up by half the fleet, the rest being for now, at least, out of range. The hits started raining down on my shields as Vengeance twisted and bucked in the vortex, trying to keep a lock on the enemy. We, no I, I take the blame, aimed for the smallest and the weakest, the ships that would die from a single broadside volley, to reduce the incoming fire as fast as possible, because in among the countless heavy cruisers were at least 6 brutix class Battle Cruisers, and worse… there were 5 Battleships closing on us fast.

A megathron class battleship can throw out a LOT of damage. I know, I own one. Right at this moment, I wished I was sitting inside her, rather than this Astarté, a fraction of the size… I watched my shields drop to 75%, to 50%… to 40%… The drop slowing as I killed off the smaller ships, one by one by one. And we launched drones, fighter planes to attack anything that could avoid the thorium death of my railguns, until all the cruisers and battlecruisers were gone. The capital ships faced me. 5-1 odds if we were in the same class, but my shields were recovering, and I was not yet ready to quit.

The first megathron died, railguns and drones in a fury of fire as I concentrated everything on the one ship. It was followed by a second, and then the first of the three dominix class. Vengeance writhed and bucked, screaming as her afterburners tried to keep her out of the fire, her shields dropping 30%, 20%…

And then there was space…

We floated, letting the shields recharge while my gunners reloaded the weapons. I recalled the drones, ordering them into an orbit pattern ans we raced the 100km to the reserve fleet that had missed us. One more dominix, and 4 thoraxes… easy meat now my blood was up… There would be no mercy.

There wasn’t. During the cruise toward them, I was distracted by a call from corporate command. I was within gunnery range before I realised, and before I could pull away to orbit, I was under heavy fire. It didn’t matter. One by one they dropped, and the fire lessened. Until at last, under the fire of the final Core Admiral, my shields failed me.

My guns and drones were focusing fire, but this one was bright, and had done the same. The sheer weight crushed my shields, but his were gone too, and then his armour, and finally, his hull collapsed. I had won. Damage control reported minor damage to my armour. It wasn’t worth activating repair systems. The ship could, I suppose, run them all the time… it has the power, but for 2% damage? a waste. We reloaded and headed for the gate.

When we came out, it was oddly quiet. Sure, we were being locked up and hard… this was the real ambush, but the weight of numbers wasn’t there, and I’d taken my time getting here so my shields had all but recharged. I left the armour as a badge to those who could see, that it no longer mattered. And it didn’t. We took our time, picking our range, and letting the drones finish off the weak. Slaughter yes, we slaughtered them. They never got through our shield again. One by one they fell, disintegrating into iridescent explosions of starlight until all that was left was Vengeance, her drones and there, looking small and helpless, a mining outpost.

Kueres called it a score to be settled, revenge, justice. The mining outpost was manned by 120 souls, and though, none of them were members of my crew, the “rescue” mission must have killed 100 times that many. It was not justice, this was vengeance.

And the politicians wonder why war is coming to Eve…

I completed my mission. I earned my money. My brave crew will live to fight another day. I pray there will be no repercussions.

2 thoughts on “The Score”

  1. What an engaging story! Had an enjoyable time reading it, I hope you write many more. Keep us posted whenever you write another one.

    Erien

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