Cloning is an expensive privilege, not a matter of pride. Keep that in mind as your crews die around you.
In the short time I had known Hiva, I had come to realize she was very passionate about her vocation.
I’ve been a scholar and a historian for many years now, so I know how to handle ancient relics. I will confess, though, that I was about to cut right into the middle of the Blood Obsidian Orb to see what was inside. Yes, I was getting rather desperate for answers. Luckily, the tablet you uncovered was more than just mystical mumbo-jumbo and flowery metaphors. Rather, it was practically an instruction manual to open the orb. Spirits be praised!
I cringed a little. How could someone so blatantly immoral and sexual be so fervent about spirituality?
I found this datacore inside the orb. According to the tablet, there’s a church in this area called the Wildfire Life Chapel. Inside the chapel is something called the Book of St. Arzad. I think what was what you came across in those ruins: parts of this book.
I didn’t show my shock through the vidscreen. I should’ve known she had scanned my ship. And yet, she hadn’t said anything about me not handing over the pages from that book.
My, from the looks of it, this is heavy stuff. I haven’t had the chance to piece it all together yet, but I have a feeling that this book goes beyond a simple relic like the Wildfire Khumaak and into much bigger territory.
This book must be recovered. I’m almost certain that it’s in the chapel. Put the datacore in that chapel and see what comes of it. It’s our only hope. See what happens.
I wasn’t reassured, but my own excitement level at possibly unlocking the mystery of the Wildfire Khumaak pushed me forward.
I had the datacore quickly loaded into my ship. This datacore, found inside the Blood Obsidian Orb, was supposed to reveal the location of the lost Book of St. Arzad.
CHURCH OF ST. ARZAD
I made haste to the church, anxious to get the datacore inserted into the chapel.
I sent out a pre-programmed Valkryie II to insert the datacore, maintaining a safe distance in case things went sour as they inevitably did.
A few ancient mechanisms fired, and container slid out from the side of the chapel. A cursory scan from the Onslaught revealed it contained an old book, and my heart quickened; I had found the lost Book of St. Arzad!
A Tribal Issue Tempest warped in nearly on top of me, managing to insert itself between the Onslaught and the Chruch of St. Arzad. Before I could react, my Valkryie was destroyed, and Aura’s scan showed the book was gone from the chapel.
The nameless villain in all of this finally revealed himself.
Karkoti Rend: Even though the RSS took me off the project, I continued my search for this, the Book of St. Arzad. The RSS have been after this document for a long time now, as well as the Angel Cartel. Luckily, the Angels pay better. I wouldn’t follow me, if I were you. Not unless you want this priceless relic to be destroyed.
I hesitated too long before engaging a lock, and the battleship warped away at the same time as Karkoti’s Cartel allies warped in. Fifteen frigates swarmed towards me, two of them webbing me, reducing my thrust to 40 m/s. Three battleships burned for distance, hitting the Onslaught with salvo after salvo.
I commed Hiva as I engaged the frigates, popping them one after another, my artillery overheated, my patience at an end.
That RSS agent showed up? That’s no good. There’s no telling what he’ll do with the book. You have to catch him and get that book!
“Tell me something I don’t already know!” I snapped back, my ship rocking from another missile salvo.
“Can you give me hand here please? I’m a little pre-occupied!” I yelled over the comm. I realized doing so would more than likely destroy any chance I had of bedding her again, but at the moment, I didn’t care. Besides, there were far more women in the universe I had yet to experience.
The last frigate vanished from my overview as I focused on my attention on the remaining three battleships, my engines revving up to full strength.
We need that book, and that RSS agent has it. This is my worst fear realized: Karkoti Rend was trying to get his hands on the book. The RSS claims that he was working alone, but I don’t know how true that really is.
“Listen, honey, I could care less about the politics of it all right now. We’ll sort that out later. I’m neck deep in battleships and really need less yappy, more results, ok?” I barked at Hiva.
Either way, I’ve tracked down his location to a nearby Angel Cartel base. This compounds the urgency of this mission. I barely trust the RSS as it is, but the Angels are outright scum. Go get the book from there, but make sure it’s safe. The book is of the utmost priority!
That’s all I needed. Hiva had come through for me. I had Aura quickly input the data through the navigational system, disengaged the battleships, and warped off to retrieve the book.
As I left the Church of St. Arzad, Hiva commed me once more:
Karkoti Rend is an agent of the RSS, so he’s bound to have some firepower with him. Be careful.
I was almost touched by her concern. Almost.
If anyone needed sympathy, it would be Karkoti Rend when I was through with him.
Karkoti sent me a private comm while I was in transit, obviously having obtained my frequency and encryption from RSS records.
I had a feeling that you would try to track me down. Not a wise decision. Not only are you outnumbered here, but I have the book. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to it, would you?
He had already made my decision for me. Book be damned, this man was going to die by my hand.
I reverted to normal space to the sound of multiple ship alarms, my overview populating rapidly with enemy vessels locking me.
An energy neutralizer sentry gun was my primary target, followed by the full squad of frigates quickly approaching. I launched my four Valkryie II drones, one a fresh replacement for the loss at the church.
Behind the frigates were three battlecruisers and five battleships. And behind that safety net sat Karkoti Rend.
This was gonna be a helluva fight, I thought to myself, as my shields quickly dropped to half strength from the initial volleys.
I immediately called for backup.
Not a single Tribal Liberation Force pilot was close enough to render assistance, and were engaged in Dal with a massive fleet from the 24th Imperial Crusade. That was something to be dealt with for certain, so I looked elsewhere for aid.
I hit up two corporations I had done work with in the past, hoping to cash in a favour. Again, nobody within 15 jumps.
I was on my own in this. So be it.
I grimaced in my pod as the Onslaught took another massive hit, my shields nearly depleted. I quickly injected an 800 stock capacitor booster, and activated my Gist X-Large Shield Booster, letting it finish three cycles, nearly draining my newly topped off capacitor reserves.
The battle waged back and forth, the frigates quickly falling before the combined might of my artillery cannons and the Valkries, my shields barely holding at 10% strength.
One of my Valkryies exploded, and I noticed too late that Karkoti had his attention focused on them. I redoubled my efforts, a newfound respect for his tactics in mind. He had experience, that was obvious, and he knew that without my drones I wouldn’t be able to sustain enough DPS to take out his fleet.
I recalled the Valkryies.
Right then, I received a comm from one Talus Veran, a name I had never heard before, but was thankful to have remembered since.
Turns out he had gone to great lengths to get in touch with me, citing himself a supporter of my efforts in the war, and for the Republic.
Without trying to be rude, I assessed him of my situation, and implored him for help.
He was 12 jumps out. I felt my resolve weakening until he said he would be there as soon as he could.
I just needed to hold out a little longer.
Two 800 capacitor battery charges remaining. Three battleships and Karkoti Rend still to go.
I wouldn’t even want to know the odds on this.
I launched my drones anew, and watched as Karkoti quickly targetted them, destroying one quickly. That left two.
I was in trouble.
If I was going to go out in a blaze of glory, I was going to take Karkoti with me.
I made him my primary target, and overheated my cannons, directing my remaining drones at his Tribal Issue Tempest.
Again and again I hit him. Again and again he repped his shield nearly as fast as I could deplete it. I used another 800 on the capacitor. One left.
My ammo reserves were well stocked, but I was concerned that I simply wouldn’t be able to break his tank. In my mind, I could see him laughing on the other end, secure in his ship, knowing that his own reinforcements would undoubtedly arrive soon, while I probably had none coming.
Talus Veran commed me; six jumps out. Dammit.
My weapons were in serious jeopardy of being overheated, but still I pushed them, the Tempest’s shields down to 5%. I needed to get past his shields before he cycled his booster so I could ascertain how strong the rest of his ship was.
And then it happened. His shields fell.
My artillery quickly shredded through his armour, despite his best efforts to take evasive maneuvers.
All the while the battleships pounded against the Onslaught, and I used the last 800. It was now or never.
Two of my artillery cannons blew, overheated beyond stress capacity. I quickly cycled them down to regular performance. My afterburner winked out from secondary damage to the systems.
My shields rocked as my transverse velocity fell, and I engaged my booster until my cap was drained.
My two invulnerability fields went offline, as well as my Damage Control II.
The Onslaught was drained. I was thankful that projectile weapons didn’t take any capacitor.
Karkoti hit his shield booster, and I could feel the tide of battle turning against me. My shields dropped, and I couldn’t boost them. My armour began to tear away under the assault of the enemy battleships.
I maintained my focus on the Tempest, stripping away the little shields he had regained, and pushing hard into his armour.
Smoke and fire began to stream from the Tempest, and I knew I was close to victory, though I had not a clue how I would survive against the battleships.
One thing at a time, Roc. Focus.
Karkoti commed me, and surprised me when he didn’t taunt me, but rather imparted remorseful and what I believed to be heartfelt wisdom.
The truth is a weapon and must be wielded with care. That was my greatest mistake. I could handle its power. The Khumaak is just a thing, an empty item; this book holds the true power. Use it wisely, but understand what it is saying. It could change everything.
A single container ejected from the Tempest, before it exploded brilliantly, and I felt a great depth of satisfaction in my gut.
I turned the Onslaught to face the remaining three battleships, knowing my personal celebration would have to wait, but to my shock and trepidation, my weapons lock disengaged.
An immediate sense of panic flooded through me; I thought I was being jammed. But then I watched as the Angel Cartel ships warped away, their employer dead, their guarantee of pay gone.
Apparently, I wasn’t worth it. Smart choice on their part had my ship been fully functional. Still, it was a win, and I was thankful it was over.
I ordered my drones back to their bays, turning my attention back to the cargo container that had been on my overview. Unfortunately, the container was gone.
I felt a surge of panic, but Aura informed me that one of the drones had retrieved an item from the container. It was the Book of St. Arzad.
My mission had been a success. Right then, Talus Veran warped onto the scene. We both laughed as his impeccable timing.
My hands were shaking, it had been a fierce and drawn out battle. I just wanted to be gone from this place.
Talus offered to salvage and loot the scene for me, splitting the haul. Instead, I simply left it to him, as payment for his willingness and quick response.
We spoke briefly before each going our separate ways, and he assured me that he would come by Dal in the near future with an item I may find of great interest.
I thanked him, and headed back to Hiva Shesha.
It was finally over.