Dead End Intercept

I accepted Nilf’s mission to kill the RSS traitor.

Good. His name is Lomar Vujik. As soon as he emerges, terminate with extreme prejudice. Recover any data that wasn’t destroyed and then report immediately back to me.

I had sworn to myself that I would not kill his family, which he had taken onboard his escaping vessel with him.

What did that kind of action say about a man?

Lomar obviously loved his family; that was respectable. He was obviously in a blind panic; no husband nor father would rationally put his family in harm’s way unless he was completely desperate and without hope.

If Lomar had become that irrational, he would be prone to reckless mistakes, clouded judgements resulting in possible catastrophe for those he sought most to protect.

The very ones he cherished most might suffer if this wasn’t handled delicately.

The soldier’s voice in my head reminded me that he should’ve thought of that before betraying the Republic; and that orders were orders. But things were never that simple. There was always a reason behind action. I was sure the truth would surface before this was finished, one way or the other.

I made good time to Fredagod, warping the Onslaught to the RSS Residential Suites. My crew was made well aware that if they did not respond to my commands within nanoseconds, there would be severe disciplinary action, and past toothbrush bathroom cleaning sessions had instilled a healthy fear in them.

While in warp, I took a moment to review the data Nilf had transferred to me regarding the RSS Residential Suites.

This reconfigured station houses thousands of RSS agents along with their families, and serves as just one of many secure locations for employees to settle down. Often the line of work RSS agents undertake brings with it a risk for recriminations. In order to minimize the threat to their families and keep agent’s minds on the job, the RSS often heavily subsidizes the accommodation at these residential suites. For the RSS it is just another way to approach internal security; the cost of these subsidies pales in comparison to the amounts the Amarr would pay for just one good defector, and the damage done from a high-level leak would be significant for an entity that built itself on the security of information.

I felt uneasy. At first I thought it was because of the nature of the assignment I had been tasked with, but further introspection revealed a more alarming truth; my world view was being challenged.

Thus far in my life, decisions had been very black and white, very clear. There was a line. There were consequences for crossing that line. I had always been able to discern what was right and what was wrong.

I was starting to see just how many shades of grey there were in this universe, and it left me unsettled at how easily the vast majority of the population lived within them. I didn’t like when things became unnecessarily complex, but the longer I lived, the more complex my life became.

I missed clarity from simplicity.

I exited warp 100km from the residential station, my overview quickly filling with RSS ships. Frigates, cruisers, and a single Fenrir freighter. I flagged them all as friendlies to avoid any confusion should things turns sour.

I began moving towards the station when I received an open transmission from the docking authority. At first I thought they were requesting credentials, assuming I was moving to docking proximity, but there was no talking. I was privy to overhear an unauthorized debarkation of a Republic Fleet Tempest battleship, and the ensuing firefight as the ship broke free of the station.

This had all been planned for the benefit of Lomar Vujik, but it gave me all the information I needed. I cycled up weapons, set the crew to red alert, and moved in, locking the battleship and launching my Valkyrie II drones.

This wasn’t going to be an easy fight.

This variant of the frontline battleship of the Minmatar Republic had been heavily modified with only one purpose in mind: destruction. It had been supplemented with decks of top-of-the-line fire control systems, and its entire power distribution structure had been redesigned to provide as much power as possible to its weapons, resulting in a truly fearsome battleship.

Thankfully, the Onslaught wasn’t a stock Sleipnir; I had some surprises of my own for any enemy I faced.

The battleship hammered my shields hard, and I returned fire in kind. Very slowly, I peeled away his shielding and his armour, not letting up as his hull began to flame.

By now Lomar must’ve known he had reached the end, and that his family was going to suffer his fate if he didn’t act quickly. But what was he to do? I had him locked down tight, at my mercy, but had it been me in his situation, I would be of the mind that it was better for my family to die with me than to suffer torture at the hands of the RSS to reveal what they did or did not know. I would take them with me, selfishly, not thinking it through in the heat of the moment.

“Stand down.” I broadcast with authority to every ship within 250km, not knowing the exact frequency he would be using. His ship continued its barrage against me.

“Lomar, stand down. It doesn’t have to end this way.” I said with as much compassion as I could muster. I used his name to try to establish familiarity, relationship; it was a device often employed in negotiations.

Still, his ship continued to assault me, my shield dropping dangerously low.

“You have my word that your family will not be harmed. Simply stand down and…”

“Your word?” Lomar replied on an open channel for all to hear.

“What good is your word, Colonel, when you act as the uncaged bear of the RSS? Your word means nothing to me and my family. You will die, or we will die fighting you.”

Did he not see the dozen frigates and cruisers surrounding him? Did he not realize I was giving him an out? Impressive as his ship was, it would not stand against this fleet.

“You don’t have to do this, Lomar.” I said, genuine sincerity pouring from my voice, the use of his name pleading to his subconscious mind to hear me as a long-time friend.

“Yes Colonel,” Lomar paused. “I do.” The regret was clear in his voice.

He was not irrational at all. I had been mistaken. He had weighed all his options, and this was the choice that he had made for his family. There would be no swaying him; this I could tell from the grave finality of his tone.

He opened up with a new volley against my ship, dropping me into armour. I quickly gave the mental command, which was relayed to my engineering deck, and a size 800 capacitor battery was used to top up my ship. Seconds later I activated my shield booster, regaining about 30% of my shielding. I let the booster cycle again, and was close to 60% shield strength within six seconds.

I was trying to make it clear to Lomar that he would lose everything he valued most if he continued on this way. If he was so far gone that he would sacrifice them all, maybe I could push him further, to the point of breaking, to the realization of defeat, triggering his survival instinct to the foreground of his mind. It was never too late to change your mind; that’s what it was made for.

He simply continued firing at me, telling me his answer without uttering a single word.

With great regret, and a burden that still haunts me some nights to this day, I gave the command to the destroy his ship.

My eyes closed as it exploded brilliantly, a single tear escaping unseen within the liquid of my pod.

“Send a team to check for survivors.” I croaked, emotion slipping unwanted into my voice.

No life signs were showing via ship scan, but they weren’t 100% reliable in my experience.

Within fifteen minutes, my search and rescue team confirmed my ship sensor readings; there had been no survivors, but they had been able to recover a single singed datapad.

datapadThis barely functioning piece of personal electronics turned out to contain ledger upon ledger of financial statements, high-level meeting transcripts and company rosters from several public and private Minmatar organizations. A large portion of the data was encoded in some sort of advanced cipher, leaving it completely unintelligible to me.

I returned my findings to Nilf Abruskur, the pressing burden I felt only increasing in weight, crushing my spirit.

It’s good to know we’re on the same page, Colonel Wieler. Our asset in Ammatar sends their thanks. They’ve been gathering information for us; there will be something shortly. Get back to me in a minute or two.

I closed off the comm link, and squeezed my eyes shut, until the physical outweighed the emotional pain. I was angry at Nilf. I was furious with this entire situation. I was enraged at myself most of all.

Lomar hadn’t comprimised. He had stood by his beliefs until the very end, despite it costing him the lives of those he loved most. He had known the consequences of his choices, but for him, it had remained black and white until the very end.

I envied the man quietly.

If there was a god, I prayed that my superiors would be held accountable for my actions. After all, I was just a soldier following orders; that left my soul unblemished did it not?

I had hoped my own rationalization would cheer me slightly, allowing me to focus on the very real tasks before me. Instead, my inner voice could see through the self-deception, the lie, the attempt at justification for something I knew in my heart of hearts was clearly a wrong and despicable act.

What was I becoming?

My Little Eye/Dead End Intercept

As always, it seemed downtime was a luxury only civilians got to enjoy. We had barely started our RNR on Hek VII TLF Logicistic Support when Arsten commed me.

I hadn’t even had the time to enjoy a decent meal, and protein paste just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

My disgruntled crew quickly and professionally re-assembled, ready for their next mission. I couldn’t begrudge them their dissatisfaction; we were all in a position of subjugation. It was part and parcel of serving the Republic.

Heroes aren’t made 9 – 5. Sounded like a good rule.

We made haste back to Frarn, rendezvousing with Arsten Takalo’s Republic Fleet Tempest once more.

Excellent, you’re back. Firstly, I have an update on the documents you recovered. The Thukker and Krusual have flown in analysts to go over the copies. It may take some time to sift through the data and find the fresh leads, but I’m confident they’ll find something useful in there.

In the meantime I have something else for you to do. I’ve made a few arrangements with the RSS and convinced them to let you continue to work on this Wildfire Khumaak business. Officially you will be acting as the RSS liason for the Brutor tribe, but in reality you’ll be on the front line working for the both of us to figure out what’s going on. You’re our go-to guy for this one and you got that job based on my recommendation. Don’t make me look bad, alright?

I didn’t respond, having gotten to know Arsten well enough by this point to understand that most of his questions were rhetorical. He simply enjoyed the sound of his voice, and of making you feel like you had a choice.

I’ve been asked to point you towards Corporal Nif Abruskur, who you can find in the system of Aldrat, Metropolis. I don’t know the guy, but I do know the RSS, and my advice is not to trust them. In fact, part of the reason I recommended you for this job was because I know I can rely on your judgement. That, and you how to deliver results.

I want you to keep an eye on this RSS operation. My gut still tells me that they’re keeping something from us. I suppose we’ll see, right?

Again with the royal “we”. I would find out. My crew would find out, and hopefully we’d find out with enough time to react; otherwise there would be a time of reckoning for those whom didn’t equip me with all the necessary intel to succeed at my task.

“Understood, Arsten. We’ll meet again soon, I’m sure. Fly safe.” I said, already laying in the course for Aldrat.

The fifteen jump journey was uneventful, which was a welcome rarity. My crew was on standby, but not full combat ready alertness.

As I warped the Onslaught towards the RSS Liason Headquarters, I had time to reflect on what Aura’s records revealed about them.

For the most part, the Republic Security Services Corporation has not made a habit of hiring outsiders, preferring instead to stick to known, trustworthy people who have long proven their loyalty to the Minmatar cause. The one notable exception to this isolationist tendency has been the capsuleers, who are afforded much higher levels of access due to their unique capabilities. Unwilling to let such powerful individuals serve other agendas, the RSS long ago made sure that the proper in-space and in-station infrastructure would be there to act as a bridge, a connection between their own shadowy world and that of the powerful capsuleer class.

Good news for me, I guessed.

A Rapier class covert ops vessel decloaked off my starboard bow, and I was hailed by our RSS representative, Nilf Abruskur:


Nilf Abruskur

Greetings Colonel. I’m Corporal Nilf Abruskur. I’m glad to have you working with us. Now, we have much to discuss and little time in which to discuss it, so if you don’t mind, I’ll get straight to the point.

I broke my salute, allowing the Corporal to continue.

You conducted yourself with skill and cunning for Agent Takalo. Due to this, and due to the fact that you’re already involved in this delicate matter we have decided to enlist your services, if you will provide them.

As you’ve no doubt learned by now, it appears we have an intelligence asset in the Ammatar Consulate, and their handler – our agent – had disappeared under mysterious circumstances as well. It is a messy situation at the moment, but I have little doubt that we’ll clean it up one way or the other.

Our Ammatar asset is the priority for now; if we can find her, we will be able to make sense of the Wildfire Khumaak you have discovered. The tribes have their best people working on those documents you recovered as well, trying to glean her identity from something in there, but even though we don’t know her identity, they have shown us who one of her enemies is.

The data you have recovered has strongly supported existing evidence that we have an Ammatar counteragent in our midst, and now we have their name. We believe this person has gathered information that may compromise our own source in the Ammatar government. This traitor is currently residing at one of our residential quarters with his family, completely unaware that the world is about to come crashing down on him.

We’ve dissolved his ship’s FTL link without his knowledge, and for the past twelve hours we’ve run a dead-end intercept on every transmission he’s tried to make out of the area. We know he’s about to make an escape with his family sometime soon.

Your task is to ensure that ship does not escape the area intact. Local agents will stand down, they know the score.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I had seen war. I knew the consequences every kill brought. I’m not talking theologically here; eternal damnation, reaping what I sow, blah, blah. I’m talking straight out facts: I kill a pilot; their family suffers the loss.

You de-sensitized yourself to it; you had to or you would drive yourself insane with the guilt of it all. You accepted that you were choosing the lesser of two evils, and shouldered the burden; that was your job.

But this man, traitor or not, would have his family on board his vessel. There was no way I would open fire on innocents. It simply would never, EVER, happen.

But if I said no, they would simply find someone else who would comply. If I said no, I would be potentially removing the Brutor tribe from even having a part in this discovery.

I accepted the mission.

I would find a way to accomplish my objective and spare the family.