Don’t mess with the devil in his own backyard.
I saluted crisply as I approached the restricted access militia hangar bay. Valkear General Stone returned my salute sharply.
“Thank you for coming, Colonel. I figured you’d want to know about this, so I pulled some strings to get you the necessary authorization.” He turned to the ID scanner, allowing the system to authenticate him. The heavy metal door slid open, and he motioned me inside, following closely on my heels, taking a conspiratorial glance around before the door slid securely shut.
I followed him through a few corridors, the deafening sounds of machine work threatening to drown out his voice. He yelled overtop of the noise as we walked. “We reported our findings to Concord regarding that wormhole you stumbled across, as well as submitting our findings from the debris it expelled. Turns out Concord was already aware, and that your anomaly wasn’t unique; there’s been hundreds of sightings across New Eden of such astral events.”
We turned a corner and abruptly stopped at a closed set of berthing doors. They were mammoth, easily able to hold a battleship. General Stone turned towards me, his stern expression urging me to listen even more intently. “What’s more is Concord has managed to ‘acquire’ an intact cruiser from the wormhole, and members of its crew. The pilot ejected in his pod and managed to escape, and yes, you heard correctly, his pod. We’re dealing with capsuleers from beyond the holes. Concord ‘interviewed’ the surviving crew of the vessel, and barely learned a thing about these ‘Sleepers’, as they like to call themselves. Concord also conducted extensive studies on the ship, and made their discoveries available to the Empires. What they’ve uncovered is, well, let me show you.”
He entered a sequence on a nearby keypad, and the massive doors groaned and creaked, splitting from the middle, slowly opening to reveal perhaps the most gorgeous vessel I had ever laid eyes upon. I walked forward into the berth, my eyes wide with wonder, my mind filled with intent, as the General continued speaking.
“They’re calling the ship class ‘Strategic Cruiser’, and we’ve dubbed the project ‘Loki’. She’s of an advanced technology we’ve never really seen before, completely modular in design. It surpasses ‘T2’ tech in everyway; you could even think of it as ‘T3’.” He smirked at his own humour before continuing.
“The ship is made up of five components and highly configurable. We’ve already tested hundreds of configurations through Aura, all with resounding success. She’s really a piece of work.”
I looked closely at her lines, her curves, feeling my palms grow sweaty and my heart race. I had never been so excited by a ship before. I had to have her.
“She can be stripped and reconfigured within a matter of hours, making this class very versatile on the warfront. Though there are some imperfections that neither we, nor Concord, has been able to work through as of yet.”
That got my attention. There was always something; some fatal flaw. My expression must’ve shown my skepticism.
“There’s a lot to learn to fly one of these, Colonel, and our current level of pod transfer technology doesn’t allow for a complete download of a pilot’s neural map. Empire scientists haven’t been able to produce a solution anywhere in New Eden. Basically, if you get blown up in this craft, you’re going to lose some of your memory.”
And there it was, the achilles heel, and a helluva vulnerability it was. A beautiful, magnificent ship, that would exceed my every expectation, but at a very high cost. Like any good mistress she took more from you than you thought you could give, but was always worth the ride.
General Stone continued. “A temporary bypass has been managed in that should you eject from the ship, your mind mapping remains intact. I would hate to see these ships fall into the hands of our enemies, but I prefer that over brain damaged pilots.”
He clasped his hands behind his back while still I was held under her spell. I simply couldn’t take my gaze from her. He smiled knowingly at me, nodding once, waiting for me to take in my fill.
After a few minutes I could finally look away, if only for a moment, satisfied that I had appreciated her fully. I went to speak, but the General raised a palm to me, cutting me off.
“She’s gonna need a name, son.” His slight smile broadened, his expression one of quiet patience, waiting for me to understand the deeper meaning behind what he had just said.
She’s gonna need a name. Realization flashed across my eyes, and General Stone laughed heartily upon seeing my comprehension. “I want you to start training immediately, and prep your crew. She’s yours.”
With that General Stone saluted, and I returned his salute out of rote. He turned stiffly, walking out of the berth, leaving me alone with my thoughts, and with my new ship. My ship, the thought echoed inside my mind.
I found a work sled hovering nearby, and slowly approached her. I ran my hand across her smooth skin, shivers running down my spine at the sensation. She was more than everything a pilot could want, and she was mine.
“Kandjal.” I whispered, not knowing where the words came from, but feeling them to be right. I glided my hand over her hull again, content.
She would become a symbol of Minmatar purity I had been learning about. She would harken back to a time where our people were far more unified and held close to an identity we had yet to regain. And like the ceremonial weapon I had named her after, she would strike fear into the hearts of the Amarr.