Incident In Aunia
This is a work of fiction based on an online game I play called EVE. You can find out more about it by clicking on the banner to the right of this article.
Incident In Aunia
Captain Jay Harshaw is a tall man with a strange look and a somewhat addled mind, but one thing for sure, if you need something done, he could probably do it; if you could peak his interest, and that was harder than most would think. He stands 2.1 meters with wild hair in a race between silver and bald, and bald was winning. He has a habit of wearing his old Gallente Military fatigues, holdovers from the Caldari war. In fact, these fatigues are so out of style that they came back in style and are now tragically completely out of style again, not that he cares. But what most people notice first is the strange smirk that is constantly on his face, a smirk that says everything may not be functioning properly upstairs. At 64 years of age Captain HJ (HJ because when asked his name he always replied in military parlance, “HarshawJ, Captain of the good ship Arkenstone, Placcid Mining Corporation, payroll number triple zero two”) was still sharp in most matters, but one can never be certain when he will slip around the bend.
Ensign Benson nudged the Captain and the low sonic noises on the bridge ceased to the relief of the crew. HJ opened one eye and scanned the bridge lazily, his eye stopping on the all too anxious face of Carl Benson, Ensign. “You’re mother mated with a Minmatar; what is so important that you had to disturb my cogitating?”
“We may have a problem Sir.”
“We may have a problem have we? And what exactly is the problem you think we may have Ensign, Benson?” Now he remembered why he hired the moonfaced boy standing next to him; Ensign, Benson; he was worth hours of fun at the dupes’ expense. He chuckled to himself which was of course interpreted by the crew as a sure sign the Captain may be off his medication again.
“Astrometrics reported a blip about 100 clicks out maybe an hour ago. It appeared, then disappeared about 5 seconds later. We didn’t pay it much attention, it could have been another miner passing by. But a couple of minutes ago astrometrics noted a warp signature starting in the same place but no blip. The logs show the ship an hour ago was a small ship, a frigate, maybe an Imicus class ship; they are often used by startup miners.”
“So where exactly is the problem? We get buzzed by other miners every day. They buzz us, they see the hulking HJS Arkenstone and the orbiting Hammerheads and get the picture; leave us alone. Unless you figure the blip an hour ago was not just another miner, is that it?” Of course that was it. HJ knew the signs of a cloaked ship when he heard them. And a ship that could warp out cloaked; he knew what that was all too well, covert ops.
“Sir, it could have been a Helios, a modified Imicus.”
“Is that a question or a statement Benson?”
The Ensign was sweating now; he had heard the rumors of other Ensigns that had not lived up to Capt. HJ’s expectation; rumors of frozen corpses being found amongst the minerals that the Arkenstone mined. In fact he never would have taken the position had the pay not been so monumental! Captain HJ was the only captain in the region that would take on a greenhorn and give him a full share and that was nothing to sneeze at considering the Arkenstone was noted to turn a billion ISK or more in two weeks. By his calculation the crew must all be very well off and he wanted in on that certainly.
Benson bit his lip, straightened his back and pronounced, “That’s a statement Sir!”
HJ looked him over and keyed the comm system on his panel. “Engineering, how many cans do we have out right now?” Lt. Commander Argyle snapped back, “We have eight out sir. Number nine is assembling now and will re-can number one in about a minute.”
“Are you loading the gifts in each can as per protocol Sean?” The sounds of a quick cargo inventory could be heard in the background, “Aye sir, eight cans out, eight toys out, one per can.”
The Captain flicked off the comm and slouched further into his seat. Ensign Benson was still standing there, looking as prim as could be. “Sir, any orders?”
“What would you have me do against a ghost ship that we could not identify and may be nothing at all?” HJ let out a sigh and then, “Resume your station at communications Ensign and open a channel to corporate. Get me the CEO; get me Colonel Tibbets.”
With a snappy “Yes Sir” ensign Benson returned to the comm, happy to have something to do. “Opening channel sir, it will be a minute or so…”
The atmosphere on the bridge got tense even though the captain seemed to be as casual (or distracted) as usual. He stood up, ran a hand through his hair which did not tame it a bit and said, “I bet you don’t even remember the Caldari war, do you Benson?” The crew on the bridge groaned. “Those were the days… the tactics were harsh, the tech was new and incredible and a man could be trusted to give everything for the Federation. Those were the days; it was even before clones.
You know I used to be a frigate pilot? That is where I got most of my training in fact. I flew Atron Mk II’s, before they could fit micro warp drives on them. They were still fast though and they were ugly and I loved them. Ever notice that people love the ugly ships more? They do you know. I wonder why? Well anyways, you learned fast or you died. Heh, we wouldn’t even talk to new pilots until they had at least 5 sorties under their belt and even then there was no respect until they flown 10 and had 10 confirmed kills. After that life was better in the Militia, but it was still hard, always living on the edge. It was that edge that made life sharp and in focus, colors brighter, beer better. I hated the Caldari, but I loved them for giving me that lust for the edge in life. They were real sons of bi…”
“Sir, the Colonel.”
HJ pulled himself out of his revelries and turned to face the forward screen. “Fat Man, what is it you want?” came the crisp booming voice of Paul Tibbets from the screen.
“Little Boy, good to see you. I just wanted to let you know that we may have to play with our toys and all that. Is there any reason we shouldn’t?” Tibbets thought it over a second. “No, it has been a while since you played with them… six years?”
“No sir, seven years going on eight.”
“Really? Well it’s about time then. You know who it is?”
“Well, it’s not Serpentis, Blood Raiders, or Thukkars, they don’t operate this way from the signs I am seeing. Angel Cartel is a possibility, but I think we would have been hit by now. It’s probably a new group, well funded, and trying to be smart about grabbing ore. That’s what I am counting on.”
“Are we going to have problems with Concord, HJ?”
“Not in this system, were still in empire. Unless Concord has changed the rules we shouldn’t have a problem in any case.”
“Well stick to corporate protocol and I will back your play any way you do it. Tibbets out.”
“Captain, new warp trail reading, this one closer. No ship on scanner.” said Lt. Axelrod from the astrometrics station.
HJ sat down again showing no signs of nervousness even if every other member of the crew were now fidgeting and fussing in some manner. “Mr Axelrod, give me 15 degree scans along the system plane of the ecliptic. Look for fleets or gangs forming within about 4 AU. Mr. Haas, recall the drones and launch the Tech 2 drones, just in case. Engineering, Sean you listening? Warm up the invulnerability screens and the afterburners to be on the safe side. Goggles, leave the roids we’re mining targeted, relock the remaining targeting slots on our cans; we may have to pop them ourselves. And no matter what happens, don’t stop mining. Ensign, take us to yellow alert, silent siren.”
The ships’ interior was momentarily bathed in cruel yellow light as the crew went about their tasks preparing for hostiles. The roll call of stations could be heard over the comm as all hands took positions.
“Now where was I… oh yeah, frigates as dog fighters, that was surely seat of you pants flying; fast, gutsy, and more than a little insane. But I have to admit, when it comes down to a duel, a knife fight as it were, I will go against any other pilot out there in a frig before I use a bigger ship… after all why waste a big ship when the small ships are truly skill. You will know the better pilot after a frig fight, no doubt about it.
But that’s not where I earned my rank… no the militia had other ideas for me. It was the battle of Serpents Coil, in Vilinnon. Several of our battle cruisers had spotted and damaged the command ship but couldn’t finish the job. We were low on ships, but we knew that if we could just take out their commander the Caldari would do what they always did and that was turn and run. Three ships were asked to give the ultimate for the war, I was one of them. Two of our Thorax rammed the repper ships supporting the commander and I was to lance the command ship and finish her off. Only right, I was in an early version of the Ishkur. Needless to say our cruisers occupied the attention of the repper ships and that left the command ship open. I made my run. As I lanced that ship through the bridge it blew taking my ship with it of course. I fully expected my pod to eject into the middle of massive explosions and I was a goner. It was what I lived for, it was what I would die for, I was ready for it. But something happened and my pod blew right through the ship. It nearly killed me, but I had just enough cap to warp out and spend the next three months recovering at a station.
Little did I know that I had just paid the piper into a new fighter wing whose entry ticket was survival of a suicide run. High command moved me to the 108th Stealth Bomber Wing, the Fat Men.”
Benson interrupted, “Ah, I heard of them! They call them Fat Men because they fly Tristans. Right?”
“No that’s not it… we flew a prototype ship back then, what was to become the Nemesis. Common mistake but the name Fat Men came from the ordinance.”
“The ordinance? I don’t get i…”
Klaxons sounded and the bridge of the Arkenstone became awash in the blood red illumination as proximity alerts ripped across the control screens. Two Myrmidon battlecruisers warped in practically on top of them and the whining of being target locked rang from the tactical station.
Goggles looked up, “Both BC’s have locked on to us. We’re being scanned.”
“Stay calm people, remember where we are…”
“Communications open, they want to talk.”
“By all means Ensign Benson, we should talk, open the channel.”
The screen filled with the vision of a Caldari woman, about 2 meters tall, mocha skin, and the most ridiculous uniform you can ever imagine. She came off looking more like a stripper from a pleasure hub than a captain of a ship; certainly she did no work on her vessel. It was almost laughable. “I am Captain Vexia of the corporation Paradise Pirates. Surrender your cargo and we claim the cans in space as free property. And to let you leave in one piece you can deposit 100 million ISK to my account. Or you can die.”
“Captain, captain, right away with the threats and hostility? I’m sure you can be more civil than that? I am Captain Harshaw of the exhumer Arkenstone. To what to I owe the timely visit by you and your…” he looked down over the ships scanner, 9 ships in all had surrounded them, they were organized, “8 companions? Surely not our little mining operation?”
“That is precisely the reason and I have no use for pleasantries… you’re going to give use what I want or would you rather test weather your clone is up to date?”
“My my, we are to the point aren’t we… ok… tell you what, you can have the cans in space. I will withdraw my drones and we’ll be on our way.” HJ nodded to Haas to recall the drones. “As for the ransom… I am not going to pay it. You’re in empire space; you really want to tangle with Concord by firing on me?”
Vexia turned to talk to someone else on her bridge, HJ turned to Benson and had him mute the channel, “How many in their corporation?” Benson looked up, “according to their current charter, 9, this is the whole corporation!”
“Not for long. Unmute. Well Vexia… what’s it going to be?”
She turned back to the screen in anger, restrained herself, “Fine, but jettison everything in your cargo hold too.”
“You mean the ore in my hold? How much is there Mr. Argyle?” “7k plag” “You mean the 7k plag waiting for a can?”
“Yes and whatever is in those small secure containers too”
“There are only two of them, let us at least keep the toys…”
“No, turn them over or damned be Concord, I will vaporize you.”
“One moment…” Benson muted the channel again, “Sean, load it all up, empty the holds, get the screens up and start moving us away with all possible speed. All hands, get to the life pods, this may be a bit rough.” The sound of the Jettison Can being launched shook the ship.
Turning back to address the pirate, “It’s all yours Captain Vexia… you’ll get no problems from us. We’re moving out.”
Captain Vexia laughed. “You carebears are all too predictable… work, work, work and give it all up at the least sign of trouble. You make this job just too easy.”
“Well captain, sounds like we are done then. End transmission.” The last sounds over the channel were the laughs of the crews on the Paradise Pirates ships.
“Sean, we got to get 15km away before they open up one of those toys… move it move it move it. Mr. Axelrod… distance?
“We’re at 9 kilometers. 63 seconds to 15 click mark. Their Badgers are transferring the ore now. They have good ships, each is taking in a whole can or so. They must be rigged.”
“Where’s the Helios?”
“Dead Center, scanning. 12 clicks out.”
“Are they still tightly grouped?”
“All of them within about a 5 click radius. Sir, 15 kilometers out.”
Captain Harshaw let out a big sigh of relief. “Yes Ensign Benson, the ordinance. We were Fat Men, the 109th Stealth Bomber Wing were nicknamed ‘Little Boys’, terms whos origins are lost in antiquity. You see, today most Stealth Bombers are relegated to launching Cruise Missiles. Back in the Caldari War our stealth bombers delivered something with a bit more kick, real bombs. We could only carry three at a time, but we would approach cloaked, target and fly the bombs and get the hell out. Hit and run tactics. That’s why they took people who survived suicide runs, because every run in a Stealth Bomber was potentially a suicide run. But the bombs do a bit more damage than the missiles… what the nick names refer to are really big bombs… Like our toys.”
“Sir, 21 clicks out.”
“Benson, inner-ship… Attention, stand down from pods but be ready for shock waves.”
Goggles grabbed his console, “Number 5 was cracked, 7 seconds, 6, 5, 4…”
“Hold on Ensign, this is libel to throw you…”
The forward screen lit up, pure white as a massive explosion engulfed the Paradise Pirates. Every hauler was shredded, the Helios was shattered like so much straw in a tornado. The Myrmidons survived and the comm system blared to life, it was Vexia… “Harshaw…. What the hell have you …” but she never finished the sentence as the remaining bombs made quick work of everything within the 15 kilometer blast radius. There weren’t even asteroids to mine by the time the last bomb popped.
The Arkenstone shook and bucked as the shockwaves moved past it, and while it sustained a fair amount of damage, the structure remained intact. The emergency power and life support kicked in as the bridge crew recovered.
“Activate emergency pressure seals, launch all nanite reppers and internal repair systems. Open sickbay and get anyone who needs it attention. Ok boys, this ain’t over yet. Let’s prey for a Concord Captain with a level head.”
Axelrod chimed in, “Radar and Ladar are down, but I am getting strong Gravametric readings… yes incoming, looks like 4 battleships, 6 battlecruisers, and a mess of smaller ships. They’re all targeting! Damn, in our condition we’ll instapop!”
“Benson, open a channel now, fast.”
“This is Colonel Jay Harshaw, Gallente Militia, retired. Hold you fire, HOLD YOUR FIRE!”
The stern face of a Concord Major appeared on screen. “What in the Blue Blazes of Balthazar’s Binary Nebulas happened here and why the hell shouldn’t I blow you to kingdom come for all the hell you’re going to cause me?”
“Because we didn’t do anything wrong! And to whom am I talking?” Captain Harshaw stood, crossed his arms and managed to look smug. That put the Concord Major off his game; he looked down at his overview.
“I’m Major Dalton, CC4457AKR8331. Let’s see, ambient radiation is 8.2, falling fast thankfully, two battle cruisers, 6 haulers and 5 frigate class ships all destroyed. I also see the wrecks of over 80 escape pods, all empty, all shattered. Incredible. And here you are alive. Care to explain this ‘natural disaster’? Because if it isn’t some freak natural disaster I would surely like to know how one exhumer can cause all this damage.”
“Not so natural Major…” and Captain HJ went on to tell the tale of the last 30 minutes.
By the time HJ finished talking, using his best fast talk and diplomacy, he had Major Dalton convinced that we had single handedly saved the whole system right under his nose. “So no Major, there were no smart bombs used, just good old fashioned bombs, perfectly legal. And in fact you can see by the logs we didn’t even pop them off, they stole them from us first. Check the agro. Then they must have mishandled the bombs and blew themselves up. It just goes to show you the intelligence of some of these pirates.”
“And you did nothing to help it along?”
“Would it matter if I had?”
Major Dalton having just about all he could take just shook his head. “OK, ok. Harshaw, you and your crew would do well to not hang around this system… find somewhere else to “mine”. I am going to call this one a wash. Now get going and don’t let me see you again.”
“Major, your wisdom is immense. You will not see us here again. Arkenstone out.”
Captain Harshaw settled again into the captain’s chair, getting as comfortable as possible. “Mr. Axelrod, take us home to Villore, we need more toys. And you Ensign Benson, don’t disturb my cogitating again.”