It’s all in the details.
ENROUTE TO KU5R-W
The Onslaught swam effortlessly through warp. General Mako stood stiffly on the deck of his bridge, surveying his command crew with keen interest. His crew had always followed orders without question, earning them the name they wore proudly, Mako’s Faithful, and as the dreadnoughts continued forward in flawless synchronization, he realized once again he had planned out every single detail to perfection. There would be no escape for his prey; there never was.
FADE REGION – I-UU15
Tessa was not happy, but she was always one to have a plan. PyjamaSam had explained the situation to her, Lady Grey attesting to the truth of it all, reinforcing PyjamaSam’s strong convictions, leaving no doubt in Tessa’s mind as to the severity of their situation. The evacuation she had ordered was already underway, but their were still far too many personnel here in I-UU15, along with billions of isk in ships and goods.
She nudged her battleship forward into warp, heading to VAF’s new home far away, most of the evacuation fleet slaved to her navigation computer, entering warp alongside her.
Lady Grey had stayed with PyjamaSam despite the executive order to evacuate the station immediately. PyjamaSam had rushed them back to his workshop, cursing intermittently as he knocked equipment to the side, searching for things beyond her grasp. “Nothing’s in place, how the hell am I supposed to find anything? Who moved my stuff?!?!” She felt her heart sink at his outbursts. He had no idea how hard she had worked at this, and he didn’t even appreciate her efforts. She shook her head at that, forcing back the tears threatening to overwhelm her.
“What’s wrong with you?” PyjamaSam asked neutrally, and she hated him suddenly for his insensitivity. The reality of the man was nothing like what she had worked up her in head as she had nursed him during his coma. Then again, men usually weren’t what she dreamed they would be. She shook her head again. She should’ve known by now that her dream man didn’t exist, and that trying to force one into that perfect mold of her mind’s eye was childish and foolish.
“Nothing. What are you looking for? I’ll help.” she replied. Together, they rummaged through various components spread out across various tables, taking what PyjamaSam said they needed, quickly ignoring the rest. He kept mumbling about no time, and otherwise seemed to have nothing to say at all; at least not to Lady Grey.
Within fifteen minutes, they had assembled, well, she didn’t know what it was. It was a mishmash of what they had collected, and to her untrained eye, looked like nothing that should physically exist nor actually function. PyjamaSam was busy installing the final component, that ominous black box that sent shivers of dread up and down her spine. She hadn’t asked him about it; he hadn’t offered. That was good enough for her.
“Ok, get the cart. We have to get to the clone vats.” PyjamaSam said, startling her from her quiet reflections, and she nodded, quickly moving to fulfill his request. She didn’t know why they were going to the clone vats, or what he hoped to accomplish there, but she had pledged herself to his cause, and even though he had proven himself not worthy of her, she wasn’t one to go back on her word. That wasn’t the way of nobility.
They quickly loaded the equipment onto the dolly cart, and exited PyjamaSam’s workshop, heading for the clone vats.
SOMEWHERE IN PURE BLIND REGION
Roc Wieler pushed the limits of his Firetail, narrowly avoiding this latest surprise assault against him from the Caldari. He was traversing through their space, a known Minmatar Colonel, and that marked him instantly as an enemy to the State. Every jump he made towards Fade Region, towards VAF HQ, towards Sam, was an increasingly difficult risk. He would not be deterred. He would not turn aside. Sam had gotten into this mess because of him, and he would be damned if he let anything happen to his friend because of it; even if he had to cross all of New Eden to make things right.
“Hold on, Sam,” he mumbled to himself, “I’m coming.”
MEDICAL CLONE VATS, VAF HQ
I-UU15 FADE REGION
“No, not there, THERE.” PyjamaSam said, perhaps with more hostility than needed. There was no time, no time. He had to rescue Elly, and he had to do it now. His mental chronometer had already calculated the time it would take for a Minmatar fleet to arrive from its nearest possible location; they had less than two hours remaining to accomplish this task. He had already disabled the tracking device that had escaped his earlier notice, but having been unconscious for two days, it was a most assured fact that whomever was receiving the device’s signal already had their plans well under way.
“Ok, got it!” Lady Grey’s voice said with a small sense of victory. “Try it again.”
Sam checked all the connections, all the output readings. They had jury rigged a clone tube for this experiment with the DNAC, and Sam’s mind was still processing all the information he had discovered regarding the device from his Null Aura construct.
The DNAC, or DNA computer, was a terran relic, and not a being in all of New Eden today knew exactly when they were created, but there did exist obscure records to their origins and how to operate similar devices, though almost nobody had ever acquired one in the universe’s history, or at least never recorded it.
There was one record, however, a series of journal entries belonging to a noble family, whom could trace their ancestry back to the original exodus into New Eden. This journal was their most guarded legacy, their most prized possession, but Nora had stripped away that secrecy quickly. The journals chronicled the life of one of their ancestors, Ellen, or Elly as she was lovingly known, whom was an accomplished geneticist of the age, a clone technology research specialist without peer. Sam had found all of her research fascinating, and had quickly scanned these journals virtually, completing finding himself immersed into not just the scholarly notes, but also into the personal intimacy she conveyed about herself.
She had invented the DNAC, the original prototype, and the fact it was still intact and functional was a further testament to the brilliance of this woman from a time forgotten. The DNAC was attached to a host via electrodes to certain positions on the cranium, and literally recorded the entire medulla oblongata onto a single strand of living DNA contained within the device. The machine could then be hooked up to a new living host, and the contents of the DNA imprinted over the existing memories of the host, supressing their consciousness. Elly had documented that after only a few months, the existing consciousness of the host would resurface, essentially killing the current personality. It was an endless cycle of death for whomever’s essence was contained within the machine, though of course, unless they updated its content with each successive life, they would never be the wiser. There were even recorded instances where the resurfacing of the original host was so physically traumatic to the body, that it perished, killing both.
Sam wouldn’t make that mistake. He would bring Elly back; he would give her eternal life as only a capsuleer could experience, and her brilliant mind could continue its work in this day and age, to the benefit of all New Eden both scientifically, and historically.
“You ready?” Lady Grey asked.
“Yeah, I’m ready.” PyjamaSam replied.
I-UU15 FADE REGION
150 KM OUTSIDE VAF HQ
A lone Rapier decloaked, having exited warp to its specified coordinates twenty kilometers outside an insystem cyno jammer. The pilot spun up his black ops jump drive, and within moments the first strike assault fleet of Mako’s Faithful was bridging the jump from their end in a system far from here.
He allowed himself to smile at the thought; five hundred Minmatar Hounds were now enroute to his location.
In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
He wanted to pretend it was just another morning. He wanted to pretend that the last 48 hours hadn’t happened. He wanted to pretend that he could erase all of this, and just go back to his regular military life.
Pretending was for children. There was no room for make believe in the adult world.
Roc Wieler inserted himself into the pod of his favoured ship, the Renegade, and slowly undocked from the Evati station. He had awakened earlier, hungover, and had made his way back to his quarters for a quick protein shake, a shit, and a shower. He still couldn’t believe what had happened with Mynxee last night, all night; he shook his head, trying to force the memory away. Instead, he only succeeded in making his hangover worse, and was instantly fighting a wave of nausea.
He quickly put some distance between himself and the station, then directed Aura to bring up the scanning overlay. Evati was in a contested state again, according to militia intel reports, and while he had been busy with Mynxee … while he had been busy with his mission, the Amarr were trying to secure a foothold in this sector.
Roc gave a scan to the Bastards channel; more than a dozen pilots reporting online and active for duty. He opened a broadcast, “This is Roc Wieler asking for a wingman to take out some Amarr trash. Anyone interested?” The channel remained dead. He made his request again. Silence was his only response.
Fine. It was obvious how things were going to be since their last outing. Apparently the Bastards had decided to blame him for the botched mission; so be it. If they wanted to ostracize him from their little gang, he would do it without them.
Roc quickly scanned down a Minmatar minor installation, and set out about his priorities. He was a Colonel. He was a soldier. It was his duty to secure this installation for the glory of the Republic. He was already in warp.
At best, it was uneventful; at worst, it was boring. His mind and heart just weren’t into it, his thoughts continually returning to his night with Mynxee. He was having more trouble focusing today than he was accustomed to. He was thankful his remaining engineer and marines were finished their work, and on their way back to the Renegade.
The Bastards channel came alive. “I’ve got a Firetail on scan.” Mr. Frog said, declaring his intention of combat. Roc responded quickly. “That Firetail is me, Frog.”
“Too late, Roc, I’m already through the gate.” Mr. Frog replied, a light hint of glee in his voice.
Roc looked up on his screen. Sure enough, a Punisher decelerated to normal space 120 km in front of him. It sent angry shivers down his spine seeing the Amarr ship; guess it was just gut instinct now to hate the sight of anything Amarr. The Punisher aligned itself towards Roc’s ship, and began accelerating.
Roc opened a comm to his marines. “All aboard, sir; we’re good to go.” the marine sergeant replied. Roc sighed to himself. He really wasn’t in the mood for this, but if the Bastards wanted to test their mettle against a Colonel of the Tribal Liberation Force, who was he to deny them the educational lesson?
“You sure you want to do this, Frog?” Roc asked over the Bastards channel, making sure there were witnesses to their breach of the alliance agreement. Roc was flagged as a friendly, meaning you did NOT fire on your ally.
“I’m pretty sure.” Mr. Frog’s response was aggressive. Had the Bastards revoked their agreement without having the decency to inform him? Was this just some pissing match with Mr. Frog? Roc quickly scanned Mr. Frog’s ship. He was close range fitted, clearly not a match for the Renegade’s faction fit artillery.
“You’re going to lose if you do this, Frog.” Roc said passively into the Bastards channel.
“They all say that until I kill them.” Mr. Frog replied viciously.
Roc checked the distance between them. Mr. Frog’s Punisher was at 80 km and closing quickly. Roc sighed once again, and urged the Renegade to life, reaching maximum velocity on an intercept course in under four seconds. He heard the warning blare of target lock as Mr. Frog locked onto the Renegade, and Roc responded in kind, his weapons locked and tracking the Punisher.
At 35 km, Roc veered away from the Punisher, setting an orbit around it. At the same time, he reached out with his Domination Warp Scrambler, shutting down the warp drive of the Punisher well outside of its weapons range. He then unleashed a full volley of missiles and artillery shells at the Punisher, and watched with satisfaction as its shields quickly dropped.
Mr. Frog was committed to close range, and had no choice but to minimize the distance between them. The Renegade, with its Gisti B Afterburner, was easily quicker than the Punisher, especially with its micro warp drive disabled, and Mr. Frog found himself at a severe disadvantage. He couldn’t warp away form the encounter, he couldn’t get close enough to fire; he was essentially dead, and they both knew it.
Roc continued firing from maximum range, bombarding the Punisher continually. The ship’s armour was littered with holes as their damage control specialist teams worked quickly to repair the ship. Roc allowed himself a smile at the way this fight was going. Did Mr. Frog really think it was going to go down any other way than this?
In his arrogance, Roc didn’t see Mr.Frog’s course adjustment, which used Roc’s own velocity against him, and quickly put the two ships within distance of the Punisher’s weapons. The Renegade shook against the onslaught, it’s shields dropping to half strength, before Roc could get out of range once again. He quickly redirected power from the capacitor to the shield recharger, and watched as his shield strength hit 100% within seconds.
“A little cocky I see.” Mr. Frog said over the Bastards channel.
“Looking in the mirror again then, I wager.” Roc replied.
From his advantageous distance, Roc continued to attack the helpless Punisher. Plates of armour were torn away from the ship, followed by explosions from the internal structure as the ship began its death throes.
It was then that Roc Wieler had an epiphany. It was then that Roc Wieler stopped firing, allowing the Punisher to limp home and fight another day.
The Bastards only had power over Roc that he gave them. They could only get to him because he let them.
It suddenly all made so much sense. The unification of the Republic could not be stopped by the unwilling. It could not be made to happen by the efforts of one man.
The unification of the Republic would only happen when … an emergency call on his private comm. Roc immediately brought up the message.
“Figured it out. Need you here, NOW.” It was signed from Sam. Roc had hoped to hear from him much earlier than this, but was hopeful time was still on their side.
He flicked a private comm link to Frog, addressing him directly. “Better luck next time, Frog.”
“I would’ve had you if you’d been fitted for close range.” Mr. Frog said in a defeated voice.
“Yeah, but I’m not, and you didn’t.” Roc said happily as he aligned for warp, destination, Vanguard Frontiers.
Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
She hadn’t left his side since the incident. She didn’t know why, but she felt it was her responsibility; her obligation and duty to be there for him. She had even cleaned and organized his workshop, no small feat, but it helped her occupy the hours of the day, distracted her from the medical equipment and its incessant beeping. She realized she shouldn’t complain about the beeping, it was a constant reminder that PyjamaSam wasn’t dead.
Lady Grey could feel the tears welling up inside her again. She had only received basic field medicine training, as did all capsuleers, and she had messed up, sending herself into a hysteria when she thought PyjamaSam was dead. She still didn’t know why it upset her as much as it had; she had seen many allies die; she was no stranger to death.
But it had, and she had countless hours since the incident to dwell on those feelings, and other feelings that accompanied it. She shaved PyjamaSam’s face, she sponge bathed his body; she changed his clothes and exercised his muscles to prevent bed sores and atrophy.
The medical team had arrived swiftly when she had sounded the emergency alarm. With ruthless efficiency, they had placed PyjamaSam on a gurney and diagnosed him. She remembered the wave of relief she felt when their doctor had pronounced PyjamaSam was alive; she remembered how her heart sank when he followed that up with a declaration of not knowing what was wrong with him, or how to help him. All they could do was make him comfortable, so she had.
She had received written exemption from her duties to tend to PyjamaSam; he was important to all of them. As the hours stretched by, many of her corpmates had dropped in to check on PyjamaSam, and to check on her. It was a somber mood that permeated VAF HQ. Who would’ve known the eccentric, reclusive man could have such an effect on them all?
She reached her hand gently across PyjamaSam’s face, moving a rebellious lock of hair to the side. He was actually handsome in his own way. She recoiled, admonishing herself quickly. What would people think if someone of her stature, assumed or real, was found to be romantically linked to someone like PyjamaSam. A part of her felt guilty at the thought, but she quickly drowned it out. No, she was here because someone had to be, not because she found herself fantasizing about the catatonic man before her, and the life they could have together.
She just wanted things to go back to normal, well, to go back to what passed as normal for them. She just wanted PyjamaSam to wake up, to do what he did, so she could get stop worrying and get back to her job. A part of her secretly hoped that he would be pleased when he saw how clean his workshop was, how much effort she had made to impress him. She scolded herself once again for allowing such girlish sentiments to rise to conscious thought.
Besides, the doctor said PyjamaSam may never wakeup. They hadn’t even unplugged him from the machine he was attached to. “It’s an unacceptable risk.” the doctor had said. “We have no idea what that machine is, nor how to operate it, and more importantly, how to turn it off without risk to Samual.”
She had watched the screen for the Null Aura more times than she could recall. She wasn’t sure what it was either, but she had an idea about it. It looked like a standard Aura interface, with similar controls, and she had voiced as much many times over, but the decision had been made not to interfere with whatever experiment PyjamaSam had found himself lost in.
Then there was the mysterious black box. It just sat there on a workbench, enticingly. She hadn’t touched it, hadn’t moved it during her numerous hours of cleaning. It scared her. She had no idea what it was, but it just gave off a “vibe”, if one believed in such things, an ominous feeling of dread, and she wanted nothing to do with it.
She assisted PyjamaSam’s body to drink some liquid. It was a protein drink filled with all the nutrients needed to nourish his body. He probably had never taken such good care of himself in his life. That made her giggle a little, but she quickly stifled it, looking around quickly to see if anyone had noticed, but of course, the workshop was empty except for PyjamaSam and herself.
Screw it. If nobody was willing to do anything, he might remain like this forever. She walked over to the Null Aura console. She knew what it was called because of the piece of tape on it, with the words handwritten in permanent marker. She had made many hypotheses on what it could be. Maybe it was some device that bent Aura to the will of the user. Maybe it was a device that was meant to destroy the Aura Network altogether, though she doubted PyjamaSam would ever create something so sinister. Maybe Null was an index of 0, his first version of an improved Aura interface. Nobody knew but him, and he wasn’t in a state to be very helpful.
She tapped some standard informational commands into the keyboard, like it was a standard Aura device. The responses were exactly what she would’ve expected from a public Aura terminal. She typed in some more commands, slowly feeling her confidence build. She could be the one to save him. Her conscience reminded her none too gently that she could also be the one to kill him.
That made her step back for a minute. She really was playing God here, and what gave her that right? She argued with herself internally for a good five minutes before finally setting her resolve and approaching the Null Aura terminal once more.
She inhaled deeply, holding the breath, then typed in the series of command to disengage the program, shutting it down.
There were some confirmation lines which appeared in rapid succession on the screen, then the cursor simply sat there, blinking, taunting her. She didn’t know what else was required. She counted in her mind, chancing a glance towards PyjamaSam. Nothing had changed in his condition. She looked back at the monitor. Ten seconds, twenty seconds…
“Hey.” she heard a voice say nearby, and nearly jumped out of her skin, a small shriek emitting from her mouth. Her breath wooshed out quickly, giving her a mild head rush. She realized she had been holding her breath the entire time.
She felt a small smile creeping onto her face, and some wetness on her cheek. She reached her hand to it quickly. She was crying. She turned back to the source of the voice; it was PyjamaSam, and he was awake.
She ran to his side as quickly as she could, urging him not to move, explaining to him that he had been unconscious for the better part of two days. His eyes rounded in surprise and shock, jittering back and forth rapidly, and she worried something was wrong. His brow furrowed, as his mind processed too many things too quickly. He then looked down at his hand, which until that moment, she didn’t realize she had been holding. She quickly released it, darting her hands behind her back, her face flushing crimson.
PyjamaSam looked her up and down for a moment, then tilted his head slightly. “Lady Grey, yes?” he said in a dry voice. She nodded shyly, then reached to give him a glass of protein drink. He waved it away, shaking his head, and slowly tried to sit upright. She put the drink down nearby, and assisted him to a seated position.
“There’s no time, no time.” He spoke softly, distantly, to her, to nobody. His eyes refocused on her, startling her, and he said firmly, with confidence, “We need to warn the others; the Republic fleet will be coming for us.”
He sounded crazy. He sounded delusional. He sounded like someone who had suffered some type of brain damage from whatever experiment he had been running on his fool self. He sounded unbelievable; yet she believed him. Dammit, she believed him. There was a rightness in her gut about it; a sense of truth. He wasn’t lying. The Minmatar Republic Fleet was coming to VAF, and nobody knew.
“By the way,” PyjamaSam said, “How would you like to meet Elly?”
Only boring people get bored.