Trying to “teach someone a lesson” never works.
When the war first began, pilots were eager and we felt ourselves more than able. I remember the first fleet I led into Caldari space; it seemed so long ago. Over one hundred proud Minmatar pilots, along with thousands of crew members, travelled through dozens of systems, on our way to show the State the folly of siding with our enemy.
We made a stop at each system in Old Man Star that long day. You would think the Caldari would’ve reacted aggressively with such a massive display of force in the heart of their territories, and they did react, though not in the way any of us, full of bloodlust, had hoped for. The Caldari hid in stations, remaining docked up, warning each other about the mighty invasion force that had befallen them. They were unprepared. They were inferior. I hadn’t gone back since.
Now, as my Firetail was webbed and scrammed, I realized that war had separated the wheat from the chaff. Those that had survived had grown strong; those that hadn’t grown strong hadn’t survived. I gave the order to jettison the life pods, not wanting to have a single death on my conscience, nor as a card for that cursed Sister Alitura to use against my efforts on her behalf.
The crew escaped, our enemy not even targetting the pods speeding away from my ship. Their entire focus was on me. My brow furrowed, my anger focused, and I gave them the only fight I knew how; I gave them everything I had. Two frigates and an interceptor was my final tally before the hot flash of light engulfed me. As I mentioned earlier, the strong survive. I kept my senses about me and warped away in my pod, denying them the victory of my death, denying them the destruction of the implants in my brain. It was foolish, I know, having hundreds of millions of ISK wired into my head in hostile territory. It was something I would’ve reprimanded any of my pilots for doing, yet here I was, breaking my own rules.
I docked up, found an overpriced Rifter, and fitted it up with a passive shield tank. I hired a local merc to pick up my crew, then paid a civilian charter to see them back to Dal. I wasn’t going to risk anyone’s life in this but my own. Reluctantly, they had complied. It was hard to get a Matari marine to desert his commanding officer. I waited out the gate camp, then made my way unopposed through space, hoping the trail hadn’t gone cold, hoping I could still track down my lead in Manarq.
The emission trails were almost invisible, and were a challenge to isolate from all the other traffic that has passed through this system in the last few hours, but I managed to make my way after the ship. I warped to where Aura estimated the craft should’ve been given standard velocities and time passed; I arrived at nothingness.
I made several dozen micro jumps, backtracking my path, until I arrived at a scene of destruction. Wreckage littered the area, and Aura confirmed it had the markings of a recent ambush. I had arrived too late.
I commed Tevis Jak, the Concord agent Sister Alitura had me dealing with on this leg of my journey, and informed him of my failure, patching him into the live feed of my camera drone. Inwardly, I felt this second failure hard. In my two outings for the Sisters of Eve, I had arrived too late to be of any use. I thought about Shakor and how my deficiencies here might reflect on both my personal record, and on our overall standing with the Sisters. Shakor’s documents had stated how politically imperative success was in this venture, and I had experienced the polar opposite of success thus far.
“My sensors are picking up a strange bit of tech in that can. I’ve marked it on your HUD. Bring it to me.” Tevis said. I maneuvered the Rifter ably to the can, extending a robotic arm to tear open the canister and bring its contents into the small cargo bay of the frigate. I took a quick look through the cargo cam, observing the item.
Engaging my warp drive, I hurried back to Tar System, and Tevis Jak, the anomolous piece of tech secured. What had transpired here remained a mystery to me. Had I lost my only lead? Would this odd item provide a new clue for me to follow? Or would it all end here, the Sisters disappointed, an opportunity with them lost? Worrying about it now wasn’t going to change the outcome.
After returning my cargo to Tevis, I opened an encrypted comm directly with Maleatu Shakor. He wasn’t pleased with the information I delivered, and told me to get things back on track no matter what the cost. He disconnected abruptly, reminiscient of Sister Alitura, leaving me with a sinking feeling in my stomach about the whole matter. I felt like a pawn being used in a game I didn’t understand, and suspected if I were privy to the machinations of this puzzle, would disapprove wholeheartedly.
My comm beeped. It was Tevis Jak.
“Ok, I found your first guy, but it looks like he’s already shipped out again. What a fighter, huh? He’s down in the crew manifest as ‘Red’, and his convoy has him listed under the same handle, so there you go.” Tevis said.
I manually prepped my ship, Aura cycling all systems to green.
Jak continued. “I’m giving you coordinates to intercept the convoy now. You should be able to catch them before they get too far. I’m worried that they don’t have enough security to deal with the number of rats – sorry, pirates – where they’re headed. They might need your help.”
I hastened across the stars towards the intercept point, the entire time wondering what the point of all of this was once again. Could they not provide their own security wing? And if they were truly that inept why did Shakor want to win their favour so badly? My head hurt. I was always better off simply doing what I was told, being a good soldier. Do something with all you have or do nothing at all. That was one of my many rules.
I decelerated to normal space, and realized that I was once again too late. The convoy lay in tatters around me. Aura scanned the system for signs of the pirates that committed this atrocity. The trail was cold. I scanned the destroyed ships for signs of life. There was none. I matched up corpses against the crew manifest I had been provided. It was a grim duty I performed, but one that would be appreciated by the families whom had lost their loved ones this day. It was near the end of the scanning that I came across the corpse of “Red”. He was just one more victim of a conspiracy I could not fathom.
I opened a comm with Tevis, to let him know the latest in what was becoming a long series of failures.
“Dead is he?” Tevis began. “Figures. I’ll keep the investigation open but unless something changes, there’s little Concord can do.”
What the hell did he mean by that? Investigation? Figures? I felt myself growing more and more lost in this convulted tapestry that had been woven.
With nothing left for me to do at the scene, I headed back to meet up with Tevis Jak. About three systems out, I received a transmission from him.
“Just got a message from Sister Alitura.” Tevis said. “I sent her that weird datacore you found at the previous site. She says they weren’t able to decipher it. Pity.”
It was quickly becoming clear to my limited intellect that something untowards was going on here. The Sisters of Eve working with Concord, seemingly random people linked only from a mysterious incident aboard the Damsel turning up dead, encrypted datacores not willing to give up their secrets. To top it all off, Shakor himself had sent me here in the first place. I hated not being in the know. I became more easily agitated when I didn’t know the bigger picture. Needless to say, my ire was growing.
Tevis was still talking. “Still, she’s very interested in consulting with you. So go do what she wishes. The Sisters are good people.”
As I laid in my course for Arnon, I couldn’t help but think to myself, That remains to be seen.