Surfacing

NILF ABRUSKUR’S RAPIER IN ALDRAT

We’ve had analysts from the Krusual and Thukker tribes going over the doucments you recovered from our agent’s private compound. They’ve made one more promising discovery so far which we want you to follow up.

Something I had learned in my experience was that the more people were involved in keeping a secret, the less likely that secret would remain such.

Too many hands were getting involved in this mix, and it made me much more cautious than I typically would’ve been. It was almost borderline paranoia and conspiracy theory; I was expecting the unexpected at every turn. It wasn’t the way I preferred to live.

As a military pilot, I was very straightforward. If you were my enemy, I’d shoot you in the face. If you weren’t, I’d fly your wing with pride.

Intelligence operatives were masters of making things overly complicated and convoluted for no other purpose than to maintain their mystifying stereotype to outsiders; and in this case anyone not part of the Intelligence Division was considered an outsider, myself included.

There was no trust, no straightforwardness. I needed to know that the person I was talking to, the person assigning me to life and death situations was trustworthy. If not, it was a fool’s errand each and every time. I would be more likely to cheat death by putting a pistol to my head and hoping for an empty round than by continually working for Republic Fleet Intelligence, at least in this “need to know” capacity.

Just the same, I would do my sworn duty. That is who I was. And that was the main differentiation between me and Nilf. If I said it, I’d do it. There was no reason to doubt.

They found a communication from our source inside the Ammatar Consultate. It seems she sent a package of information on the Wildfire Khumaak to the system of Jark for pickup not long ago. Our guess is that due to the sensitivity of the information and the amount of attention it’s attracting, our asset in the Consulate could only get it to the border, not across. This could play in our favour though. Due to its location in the San Matar constellation – the heartlands of Ammatar space – there’s a good chance our agent didn’t make it out there yet. We have to be careful where our operatives are seen sometimes.

I continued to listen to Nilf’s briefing, but at the same time I casually brought up military intelligence on the San Matar constellation. Average security status was 0.8, and it wasn’t deemed Amarr sovereignty, so I would have no outright issues with their military forces. So far, things seemed straightforward, for a change.

The drop-off location inside Jark is a complex known as Tili’s Red Light Palace.

My eyebrow shot up of its own accord. He had my full attention.

Initial Intelligence is that it’s just another merc RR dive, nothing special. Once you have arrived to the area we’ll forward the exact location of the cargo.

I had to re-read the real time transcript on a side monitor to catch up on what Nilf said. My mind was still back at Tili’s Red Light Palace.

Speaking of which, I trust I needn’t remind you how important those documents could be, or indeed, how sensitive. Proceed with caution, do not take any risks.

Sensitive. Caution. No risks. Condoms. Got it.

JARK SYSTEM

The Onslaught was at full crew capacity. I had never seen so many volunteers for a mission. You could smell the testosterone hanging in the air, the pheromones seeping through the air ducts.

I was thankful to be isolated in my pod; I’d wager the body odour levels were high out there as well.

Nilf commed me:

Okay, here we are. Head for the brothel complex on your right. It’s the one in the middle where you’ll find the package.

It’s an odd sensation sometimes, being a Capsuleer. With experience, you learn how to control your thoughts, how to allow Aura to differentiate between commands and random stirrings. Some pilots verbalized these commands, but that was more for their own benefit and focus than for Aura.

Unfortunately, she often read your strongest thought impulses, responding to those core instincts in each of us, ignoring surface thoughts altogether.

In this instance, even before Nilf commed me, my ship was heading towards the brothel, as soon as I saw what it was on my overview.

If my men (and women) aboard were as excited as I was, this would be a fantastic mission. I had already told them that should all go well, we might just dock up here for a day or two, taking some leave time. They deserved it. Hell, I deserved every orgasmic moment of it, though even thinking about sex was a little premature.

We were just out of range to initiate docking procedures when an unexpected comm came my way.

Well boys, looks like we got ourselves another poddie trespassin’ our domain here. Why don’t we show him what happens to uppity eggers who think they can hang with the big boys?

I could never catch a break. Did these yokels really think they could stand against a Command ship of the Tribal Liberation Force with one of the most well decorated and well respected Matar Colonels at the helm?

You would think I would’ve learned that the amount of eating your words done was inversely proportional to the amount of boasting you did ahead of time.

These guys were serious business.

Multiple Battlecruisers, several frigates, they warped in and pounded me with their initial volleys. I had to align my ship away, giving the Onslaught some distance from the Brothel; the last thing I wanted was civilian casualties and being tied publicly to this place.

A second wing warped in with triple the ships of the first. I launched my valkyrie drones, my artillery cannons straining with the exertion of overheating. I hadn’t seen this large a mercenary force in a long while.

They launched spider drones, which quickly snagged me, but I was smart and had a plan. I would micro jump back to the brothel, engaging the bigger ships that had fallen behind in distance, and at the same time putting distance between my ship and those spider drones.

Are you freaking kidding me? I thought to myself as my drones didn’t micro-jump the 300 km with me. They simply sat motionless, watching as the spider drones quickly made their way back to me and webbed me, allowing the numerous battleships I had engaged to pommel me without any drone support on my side.

I spent the next two hours barely surviving what should’ve been a routine encounter, all due to one foolish noob mistake. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

Finally, I had junked all the ships, and was trying to make my way back to my Valkyrie drones. I couldn’t target the fast-moving, hostile spider drones with my artillery, but at a current velocity of 34 m/s, there was no way I would ever get back to my drones.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones.

I warped away, then warped back in at 100km range.

I made it about 100m before the spider drones had closed the distance and webbed me again.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones on the second try.

I warped away, then warped back in at 0 km range, and hit my afterburner, pushing in the opposite direction away from my drones.

I made it about 100m before the spider drones had closed the distance and webbed me again.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones on the seventh try.

I warped away, then warped back in at 100 km range, near my drones, the enemy spider drones finally out of their aggression range on the far side of the brothel.

Take that stupid drones! I mocked myself.

I scooped up my valkyries, and approached the brothel.

Using an RSS specialist that had been assigned to this mission, we managed to retrieve an encrypted transmission the RSS Ammatar spy had hidden on the brothel broadband. Even with the specialist, it was still a wholly incomprehensible string of 1s and 0s.

I bought the specialist a shuttle, and sent him on his way.

After the day we had endured, my crew and I weren’t leaving just yet.

If Nilf had issue with that, well, then it was just that much sweeter now wasn’t it.