– by Jack Carrigan
It was like any other spring day on my grandfather’s farm. I couldn’t have been more than six years old on that fateful day. A warm breeze blew through the orchards, carrying the scent of ripe oranges to my grandfather’s rickety wooden farmhouse. We didn’t have much, but we did the best we could with what we had. The sun warmed my face as I looked up into that blue-green sky, my eyes adjusting to the light as I had stepped out to welcome the day. My grandfather and grandmother had risen early to check the orchards, and repair the irrigation system, which never worked for some reason. Large white and grey clouds rolled in, signaling a spring rainstorm. I ran to the orchards to let my grandfather know that there was a storm coming when the rain started. A loud crack of what we thought was thunder echoed through the orchard as I reached my grandfather. “Grandpa, you and Gram need to go inside, it’s going to rain, and I don’t want you to get sick,” I said innocently. He stood up and wiped sweat from his brow as he looked down to me, “Well Tarish, I think you’re right,” he smiled. “Launa, come on, let’s go get some tea and watch the rain,” he called to my grandmother. As we walked back to the house a deafening boom echoed across the farm, which we all thought was thunder. My grandfather and I sat on the porch, and watched as the rain started to pick up, while my grandmother went inside to make fresh tea.
Another series of loud booms echoed across the farm, but when I looked up, in the middle of that blue-green, shearing through the wispy grey clouds I saw three large balls of fire. “Grandpa!” I shouted, “What is that?” My grandfather looked up, and cocked his head to the side, “Maybe it’s a meteor.” Suddenly, a loud shrieking noise put both me and my grandfather to our knees as heat washed across the farmhouse, and then was suddenly gone. Some kind of metallic monster screamed past us before circling back around. It looked like a metal ball, with blade-like protrusions extending from the center of it, and a ball off to the side. That wasn’t the only break in the quiet solace of a spring rain on our farm. Three gargantuan metal behemoths soon appeared in the sky, appearing as a giant ball of metal with two great arms extending forward, and hovered over the orchard. My grandfather scooped me up in his arms, and carried me inside, slamming the door behind him. He grabbed his old hunting rifle, and walked out on the porch. It was strange seeing my grandfather standing there in his blue coveralls, clutching that rifle like it was going to save us all from these monsters. I was scared, but at the same time curious, so I carefully looked out the window. A deafening roar suddenly filled the air as huge bolts of fire radiated from the metal behemoths, sending dirt up into the air, and ripping entire rows of orange trees down in their wake. My grandfather swore loudly as he watched the orange grove erupt in flame, only to see these metal beasts come down to ground like some predatory bird on prey.
Metal retracted on the sides of these monsters, and men wearing uniforms and carrying automatic rifles poured out of them. These men organized themselves quickly, and began sweeping outward. A shot rang out, and one of the men fell to his knees before slumping over, blood and bone fragments erupting from a wound in his head as my grandfather reloaded his rifle. I heard them screaming orders amongst one another, but couldn’t make out what exactly was said. Just then, one of the men whom had emerged from one of the monsters approached my grandfather. He wore a black wrap about his face, and carried a pistol. In a strange language, he yelled something at my grandfather, who then dropped his rifle on the porch as three of the uniformed invaders advanced on him from the side, weapons pointed at him. I wanted to cry out, but my grandmother grabbed me, and pulled me into the back room of the tiny farmhouse. I was terrified, and could no longer hold my silence when I heard a trio of gunshots, and then footsteps coming into our home. The ancient wooden door of the back room erupted into splinters as one of the men kicked it in, screaming at my grandmother in some strange language. She was pulled out of the room, and another trio of gunshots erupted, that chilling sound echoing through the farmhouse.
I was next it seemed as I was dragged from the room. Grisly images were forever imprinted on my mind as I saw my grandmother slumped over the table we had eaten dinner at so many times, bloody wounds across her back, her life pooling out across the table, and dripping onto the floor. I began to cry and scream, kicking at the man which tried to restrain me. I immediately fell silent when I was dragged out the front door, seeing my grandfather’s lifeless body laying on the ground, face down in his own blood, dirt sticking to the wounds. I wanted to fight them, but a black bag was pulled over my head, and I remember getting suddenly sleepy, and then nothing. I woke up in a small metal room, which I found out was in the belly of one of these monsters which had destroyed my grandfather’s farm, and killed my grandparents. I sat on the bench in there, and quietly cried until a man wearing a black face wrap approached the room. I could see him through the window that was on the door of the room. I quietly pleaded for him to go away, but the sound of the lock catching quickly silenced me. I huddled back as far in the corner as possible as he entered the room. He removed the wrap which covered his face and placed it on the table in the opposing corner of the room. I’ll never forget that face as he had a long scar which ran from his left ear to his nose, and had another which went across his right eye.
I shut my eyes, and prayed that this was just a horrible dream, that I would suddenly wake from, with my grandmother comforting me. My attention was suddenly grabbed when I heard a voice full of gravel, speaking clearly in my language. “Listen kid,” he said calmly, “Nothing personal, it’s just business. If the old man wouldn’t have taken a shot at my men, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and maybe he would have been compensated for the loss of that orange grove.” I looked up at him with tear filled eyes, “They were all I had. I never knew my daddy, and my mommy got really sick last year.” “Touching story kid,” the man chuckled, “But you know, maybe this will teach you about the dangers of making rash decisions.” “It’s not funny,” I shouted, hitting the man in the chest, but was only met with a stinging face as he had slapped me prior to walking out, slamming the door.
I got up, and looked out the window of the tiny metal room. I saw a great expanse of space with numerous vehicles, war machines and heavily armed men leaving the large opening in the metal behemoth’s side. I grabbed the door handle, and pulled down on it, but was not prepared when the door opened. I slowly crept out of the room, and started running for the opening. When I got there, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. A giant metal turtle descended from the sky, and when it sat down, massive doors opened on the side of it, and what appeared to be a building was unloaded from it. I was grabbed from behind and heard that voice again, “Don’t bother running kid. No one is going to help you, since they’re all working for us now.” I wanted to argue, but I saw my grandfather’s friend Jerel helping the men unload equipment. To think, if only my grandfather hadn’t have been so stubborn and bitter, he would be alive today. Jerel quickly walked over to me, and told me to go to his home and wait for him. I ran to his house as quickly as I could. His wife Elle took me in, helped me get cleaned up, and made me a meal. Despite how my grandfather had been killed for his bitterness, I couldn’t help but be bitter. The only family I ever had was taken from me, and more metallic monsters arrived by the minute. I walked outside after eating, and saw the first metal monster I had seen, the one with bladed protrusions, screaming toward the old farmhouse. I saw two metal tubes come flying out of it with fire behind them. A matter of seconds later, a deafening boom echoed as the ground shook, and my grandfather’s little farm house erupted in a shower of flame and splintering wood.
I fell to my knees as I saw this, the only home I ever knew was destroyed before my very eyes, adding more sting to the loss of my grandparents. When Jerel returned from working, he sat me down. “I want you to know I am very sorry for your loss,” he said softly, “But this is going to be a big opportunity for us to make a name for this Podunk rock we live on.” “I don’t care,” I yelled back, “They killed my grandparents, and burned down my house.” “Well, accept it, because it happened,” Jerel said, “And there ain’t no way to undo that. So you are going to work for these men until you are old enough to decide otherwise.”
I bit my tongue, and bided my time for twelve years. Twelve long years of backbreaking, nearly slave labor. Twelve years since those Megathrons destroyed my grandfather’s orchard, since those men took the only family I had, and since that Nemesis destroyed my house. Twelve years ago, today, an Obelisk dropped off a Planetary Control Center on my planet. On the land that used to house my grandfather’s farm are numerous harvesting sites, which rob the land of its resources all to turn a profit. Well you know, Jerel said that I could work for them until I was old enough to decide otherwise. Well today is going to be the day that I teach these invaders a lesson. I am going to teach them that they just can’t invade the homeworlds of innocent people, and break their spirits, crush their wills, and take their lives.
It was a spring day, eerily similar to the same spring day where the invaders took my home from me. Well, I planned on taking everything from them. Their lives, their homes, their profits, everything. It was one of my granted days off, and I planned on making the best of it. I sat in my basement, which was secured by a two inch steel door, working quietly on a project of my own. Numerous demolition charges were hanging in satchels along the wall, and I spent the majority of that day putting them together. It was nearly nightfall, and I packed everything in my old work truck. It was a barely functioning hover truck which I had acquired when I was sixteen, and had fixed up. I climbed into the truck, and powered it up, and slowly drove up to the bluffs which overlooked the Planetary Control Center. I knew there was a service elevator there, which I utilized every day to get to the maintenance tunnels which I was forced to work in. I also knew that the only people working right now were the logistics officers, the PCC Foreman, and security. Security at the PCC was nothing to mess around with, as they were all mercenaries working for the highest bidder which controlled the center, and the majority of them were former Special Forces, and still had itchy trigger fingers.
I took the time to camouflage my hover truck with branches ripped off some nearby bushes, and an old camouflage netting which I used to tarp it when I was at work. I slung the satchels, and took the service elevator down into the tunnels. I looked around cautiously as I made my way toward the centralized maintenance storage center which rested right below the core of the Planetary Control Center. I pulled out a pry bar, and pried the power box open, placing a satchel in it, but not before priming it, and arming it. It wasn’t long before I made my way to the fuel stores, and placed another charge, burying it behind the fuel storage tanks in a pile of tools.
I was walking through the tunnel which led to the shaft that permitted access to the PCC’s elevator when I heard something. Footsteps, approaching quickly from the rear, at a jogging pace, and then I heard a voice, “HALT! PCC Security! I need to see your badge,” the voice called. I froze in my tracks, and reached into my pocket, pulling out a PCC Maintenance Worker badge, and held it out for the man to see. He was much taller than me, but roughly the same muscular build, but he was armed with an automatic rifle, and I was unarmed. The man coldly looked at my badge, and then asked, “What’s in the satchels, kid?” “Specialized tools and equipment to work on the elevator,” I said calmly and showed him the contents of the one satchel that didn’t contain a demolition charge. “Alright, well don’t mess that thing up again, I got stuck in it last week,” he said before walking away. I breathed a sigh of relief as he walked away, and continued until I reached the access hatch for the elevator shaft. I looked in to ensure the elevator was shut down for service, which it was. I climbed through the hatch, and up the ladder which led to the PCC. However, that was not my intended goal. There were large structural supports within the shaft, which helped maintain the structure of the PCC and maintenance tunnels. I carefully stowed satchels in the I-beams which ran across the shaft, and then began to climb down. I exited the shaft, being sure to re-activate the elevator prior to continuing on.
I made my way through the tunnels quickly, my pace nearly at a run. I came across the storage area for the oxygen tanks we utilized when we had to work inside the fueling system. I placed the last charge behind one of the large tanks, and then started heading for the service elevator. I stopped outside of it, and waited for it to return to the tunnel level. I stepped on the service elevator, and rode it to the surface. When I got there, I noticed two PCC security members standing near my truck. One stepped forward, while the other raised his rifle, “What are you doing here?” “Woah, I’m just doing some work on the elevator, since it was sticking again,” I replied calmly. I swallowed, and hoped that they believed me. “Let me see your badge,” the man standing before me said with a commanding tone. I reached into my pocket and produced my badge again, and handed it over to him. “Working on the elevator,” he said, almost a questioning tone, “Well, that’s good to know. Hopefully it’ll stop sticking at floors.” He handed me my badge back, and his partner lowered his rifle. They both started walking back toward the shack which was up on the bluffs, utilized for breaks for perimeter guards. I removed the tarp from my hover truck, and powered it up, driving off quickly. I watched the gauge readout of my distance from the structure, and pulled a small detonation device from my tool satchel. I removed the safety pin, and squeezed down on the hand plunger.
That simple action sent a remote-frequency electronic signal to the strategically placed satchel charges throughout the complex. It would be approximately five seconds before the charges detonated, the fuel supply and oxygen stores detonating first, and then the charges in the elevator shaft. At this point, numerous workers were showing up for work, but the detonation disrupted the entire operation. The tunnels and shaft explosions caused the ground to shake violently, and the Planetary Control Center to collapse into the hollow space below which the ground had collapsed. As it collapsed, it crushed numerous mercenaries and contracted workers, their death falling from above in the form of hundreds of tons of stone and twisted metal. Alarms sounded throughout the security outbuildings, and armed mercenaries rushed from the buildings to the site. I watched from a distance as lights flashed on and the last bits of the fiery structure collapsed into the hole, sealing the fate of those trapped within.
The next few days, the mercenaries which had overtaken my homeworld began hunting me like a dog. The only thing I ever took from them was the lives a few of their buddies, some building materials, and a lot of ISK. Friends are doing their best to hide me while I plan to get off this rock. These men had taken my liberty, my life, my family and my homeworld. I had gotten vengeance for what they did to my grandfather’s farm, but that had only made matters worse. My friend Katarine had given me the idea of stealing a transport shuttle, and fleeing to space. Flying them wasn’t that hard, as I had used them to transport goods for my grandfather. She walked into her basement, where I had been staying, and leaned up against the doorframe, “Hey Tarish, word is there’s a shuttle at Jerel’s farm, it’s kept in an underground hangar.” I nodded, “Accessed through the hydroponics station, and then a maintenance shaft that runs along the east perimeter of the farm.” “It’s not going to be easy,” Katarine said, looking away to hide the tears in her eyes, “And they’ll probably kill you on sight.” I looked at her and sighed, “I know, but I still want you to come with me.” She gasped, “Why would you want me to come with you, knowing we could be killed?” “Because you’re all I’ve got left,” I said.
Under cover of darkness, we entered Jerel’s farm, and made our way to the concealed shuttle hangar. It was an older model, of Minmatar design. It honestly looked like a bucket of rust, but it was our ticket to freedom. Katarine looked at me as I strapped myself into the cockpit and she strapped herself in beside me, “Are you sure you know how to fly this thing?” “Yeah,” I replied coldly as I flipped a series of switches, the shuttle reacting with a low whine as the engines came online. I pulled out a handle and turned it, which caused the lights in the hangar to go black, and the massive doors above us to open. I took a deep breath as I punched in a set of coordinates which would take us to a trade hub in the Jita system. The shuttle rose from its berth on the hangar floor, and then took to the night sky. I killed the marker lights as I maneuvered the shuttle into an escape vector.
There was a long silence hanging in the cockpit of that small craft, and then Katarine spoke, “Tarish, I’m afraid. What if we don’t make it?” “Nothing’s going to stop us,” I replied confidently. I looked through the view screen, and saw raindrops hitting the transparent canopy. I swallowed hard as I pushed the throttle forward, the vessel jolting violently, a shudder going through the frame of it before gaining altitude. I pushed the throttle to maximum as the shuttle climbed through the clouds. I looked over to Katarine, her face dimly illuminated by the red emergency lighting in the cockpit. “I just hope that the deal I made can get us safely away from here,” I said with a worried sigh. “I hired a pilot to transport us from Jita to Eram, where we’ll be working for him as hangar maintenance crews until we can learn how to fly something more useful than a shuttle,” I continued. Katarine looked at me, “You hired mercenaries? How could you afford that?” “I sold a little bit of information to some rather shady individuals for a lot of ISK, and this guy seemed pretty honest,” I said very calmly. “He’s going to be escorting us from here to Jita, and so far, he says it’s pretty clear out there,” I said, in hopes of alleviating her fears. Katarine sighed, “Why do you want to become a capsuleer?” “I want revenge for the subjugation of our planet,” I replied before looking out the viewport at the thinning atmosphere. Katarine looked very concerned at this point, “What if they turn us over to the mercs on the planet?” “They won’t,” I replied.
As the shuttle cleared the atmosphere, my eyes grew wide with terror, and Katarine grabbed me and started crying. I looked out the viewport and four Maelstrom battleships and a plethora of frigates. The comms came to life on the frequency I had been given, “Minmatar Shuttle, this is Assault Ship Einherjar, throttle up and cut right through the center of the formation, we have your back.” I followed the instructions, and I saw an Enyo-class Assault Ship drop out of warp, and a matter of seconds later, a pair of Nemesis-class Stealth Bombers decloaked and launched bombs and torpedoes at the ships closest to the planet before cloaking again. The Enyo screamed through the formation, its guns shredding frigates that came too close, and the ones at range fell to the missile launcher. I had to bank hard to avoid being struck by part of a frigate which had been sheared free by one of the explosions from the bombing run. The bombers decloaked, and ran up the midline of the lead battleships, launching torpedoes and bombs before vanishing again. “Shuttle, Einherjar, start your run to Jita, I’ve got a pair of Myrmidons waiting for you at the gate, we’ll cover your escape,” the Enyo pilot’s voice echoed through the cockpit of the shuttle.
I followed his instructions carefully, and soon met up with the pair of battle cruisers, and Katarine finally opened her eyes. She saw the engine wash from the battle cruisers, and a few minutes later, an Enyo and two Nemesis bombers. “Shuttle, Einherjar, as soon as you get to Jita, we’ll transfer you to another vessel, and head for Eram,” the Enyo pilot said. Katarine looked at me, “Tarish, should we trust them?” “They got us this far,” I replied, “So I think they’ll honor their word.”
Hours later, we arrived at Eram by way of a Bestower, and found ourselves in a darkened hangar, surrounded by capsuleers. The man who had been piloting the Enyo approached Katarine and I, “So, you risked your life, and hers to gain your freedom. You can bed down in one of the spare offices, and I’ll have you start working tomorrow.
As more time in the service of these rough pilots, I learned tips and tricks along the way. Katarine gained employment working as the Trade Liaison for this corporation, and I became a pilot. My name is Tarish Hardin, I am husband to Katarine, father to Lena, but I am a capsuleer, a mercenary, and I will have my revenge against them. I will take everything from those who subjugated my planet, killed my family, and destroyed my home. I am hunted still for the things I did on that planet, but with the knowledge and skills I have been granted, I will make that planet’s rivers red with their blood.