– by Dys Novus
Nars groaned, his head in his arm, resting on the bar’s counter. Another long day in the factory for another meager paycheck, and yet trying to relax on the barren rock he was shipped off to was almost harder than being on the assembly lines themselves. He looked up, his vision blurry, the faint trails of light shining through the soot blackened skylight reflecting off the dust in the air. He eyed the dust woefully, and instinctively coughed, swearing under his breath. Glancing toward the bartender who was busying himself with another meager soul at the bar, Nars tapped the bar top. The bartender looked over at him, and lazily pulled a bottle from under the counter and slid it over to him.
A sudden flash of light illuminated the gloomy scene, as the door to the outside opened and abruptly shut again, trailing in a new cloud of dust. A storm was brewing outside. Nars took a swig of the bottle and ignored it. There was a brief pause, before the stool next to him was pulled out and a large man covered in a makeshift turban and goggles sat beside him, shedding his headgear. Nars glanced over at him, recognized him as one of the workers from his line, and nodded toward him in greeting. The man seemed a mix of excited and terrified, with an odd, forced smirk on his face, which was nearly all bright red from being in the sun too long. The sight made Nars want to laugh, but he didn’t have it in him.
The man waved to the bartender, and then immediately turned to Nars. “Hear what happened, mate?” he started, forgoing a greeting. Nars glanced at him again, and sighed, “Another round of layoffs?”. “Maybe,” the man grinned, “Maybe not… Word is that the State’s been selling planets to Capsuleers. Entire continents up for grabs. Somethin’ about streamlining production or whatever”. Nars looked at him for a long while before responding with a curt ‘So?’. The man blinked, then his excitement returned and he continued, “So, Sukuuvestaa sold rights to mine this planet to an egger. Which means an Immortal will be setting up mines all over the place!”
Nars thought about this for a moment, and took another drink. “I hope they are hiring. Working for a Capsuleer has to be better than working for these corporate fucks.”
* * *
The docking clamps held the behemoth Rokh battleship in place as it finally came to a rest inside the station’s enormous hangar. Creaking was the only thing heard as the craft nestled into its cradle of steel, the aging struts holding it in place groaning. A man in a suit waited impatiently at the hangar’s viewport, the loading gantry extending slowly. He turned to his assistant, who looked very excited at seeing the metal beast up close, then followed her gaze to the side of the massive ship in front of them. Seemingly ancient paint covered a small section of the hull, worn with time and countless battles. he stared at it for a long while before making out what appeared to have been a black and white flower, next to lettering that was too worn to read.
The gantry connecting with the Rokh with a thud broke his semi-trance, and he turned to inspect it. The extended bridge pressed against the airlock of the battleship tightly, and sealed itself to the hull. Glancing over to his protégé, he announced “Come, my dear… our capsuleer awaits”, and motioned to the gantry’s entrance at the opposite end of the viewing area.
Repair teams were busy rushing back and forth on the deck the gantry was connected to. The two corporate representatives stood still, alienated in a torrent of movement as gearheads of every caliber moved past them, hardly noticing them, chatting about what repairs needed to be done where, and how long it had been since they’d had a real hangar to work with. One of the mechanics stopped in front of them, a short girl whose face was smeared with grease, and looked them over. “Who you waiting for?” She took another look, eyeing the suits “You do know this is a warship, right? Not a country club?”
The executive glanced at her, then at his suit, then back at her, wanting to protest, but decided against it. “I’m here to see the commander of this vessel” he stated adamantly. The gearhead grinned, “Oh, the cap’n? He should be hopping out of his pod right now.” She turned to point down the hall, and the executive’s eyes followed ” ’bout a hundred meters down there should be a service elevator, take that up to deck 8, then find section C, head to the medical wing, then ask one of the meds where the cap’n is, they always know.” The exec blinked a few times, trying to remember what she had just said, and opened his mouth to ask her to clarify. Without letting him speak, she slapped him gently on the shoulder and started after her repair crew, yelling “You’ll find it” behind her. The man stood there for a moment before huffing in frustration.
* * *
“This is ridiculous!” Anton yelled at his subordinates, sitting in his estate’s office area planetside, a few kilometers from the rest of the settlement, “After fifteen years of running this colony, they just decide to kill my contract and hand my land over to some fucking egger… my land!”. His retinue shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to be in the room or hear the rest of the rant their boss was spouting. Anton picked up his datapad, harboring the message from the Sukuuvestaa board of directors, and hurled it against the wall. The group sitting before him flinched. Anton paced a few times around the room, before sinking into his plush chair, and massaged his temples.
Minutes ticked by in the room, as a dust storm raged outside. There were no traces of the harsh elements in the secure estate, no dust whatsoever. Anton fumed, then stopped short of starting another rant. He looked up at the group staring at him, then relaxed a bit, slouching in his chair. He pointed at one of the lackeys and announced “Return a message to corporate that we do not accept this new arrangement, and will make sure any immortal renters are dealt with, should they send them here. This is my land”. With a nod, the chosen employee stood up and hurried off to the comm station to relay the message.
Pondering the situation, Anton turned to another lackey, “Have the miner’s union head meet me here so we can discuss what is going to happen in the next few months.” The lackey looked confused, then replied “But sir, you executed the last union leader for asking for pay raises for the workers. There hasn’t been a union since”. Anton fumed even more, then yelled back, “Then fucking make one. I need the workers on my side! They need to be told about what an evil tyrant is moving here and why they need to fight against him!”. The group looked at each other, skeptical.
* * *
“… as I was saying, I represent the Sukuuvestaa Corporation, and will handle-” the executive repeated, being cut off by the capsuleer, fresh out of the showers. “Yeah yeah, handle the planetary colonization contract, I heard you the first time”, the immortal ran his fingers through his wet hair, slicking it back, “What’s your name again?”. The executive glanced over his shoulder at his assistant, who was staring at the naked capsuleer. Rolling his eyes, the executive turned back to the egger and responded “Gordon Toth. Mr. Toth, if you will”. The capsuleer tied a towel around his waist, and walked over to Mr. Toth, adding “Well, Gordon, welcome aboard the Black Rose, finest battleship in Lonetrek” with an extended hand. Gordon scowled, and shook the immortal’s hand.
“Now, onto the contract”, the capsuleer announced happily, “Gimme the pad, I sign the pad, and you can go home”. Gordon’s scowl deepened at the generalization of his line of work. “It isn’t that simple”. The capsuleer smirked at the assistant, adding “Should be.”
* * *
Nars closed the hatch to the community center behind him, and ripped off his own turban and goggles. One of the only ‘clean’ places in the colony, the community center was a large modular building where all meetings of import were held. Currently, a large group were gathered around the podium used by company heads to announce policy changes, work shifts, pay cuts, and tax changes. One of the company managers was behind it, preaching to the group as if it were an Amarr congregation that needed saving by their god. Nars made his way closer to the group, and listened in on the rant.
“The capsuleer who has bribed Sukuuvestaa into letting him claim this land is nothing but a monster who enslaves those working for him! You will be expected to work his mines for no pay, with no benefits, with no choice or say in the matter! This can’t be allowed to happen! As caretakers of this fine settlement, we ask that you fight with us against this tyrant from the sky!”, the manager announced with religious fervor. The crowd was mixed in its reaction, some, particularly the younger employees, cheered him on, and yelled provocative things like “Down with oppression!” or “Death to eggers!”. The more seasoned workers, who had already grown to loath the current company management for being tyrants, simply stood silent. Some jeered at the manager, yelling for him to get off the podium unless he was announcing pay raises or vacation time.
Nars shook his head in disgust, nodding to the other older workers whom he recognized, and joined them in their silent protest of the preacher’s words.
* * *
“There is a little problem” Gordon added, after negotiating the terms of the colonization contract with the capsuleer, who was now fully clothed. They were sitting in the living space of the ‘captain’s quarters’, sipping coffee, or in the capsuleer’s case, hard liquor. Taking a drink, the immortal inquired, “And what’s that?”, almost glaring at Gordon, making sure it was known he did not want to hear bad news. Gordon hesitated, then continued, “The regional CEO for the Sukuuvestaa holding company that operates the mines planetside is… reluctant to accept a contract termination. We tried offering him a position in one of our other companies, but he is… very stubborn”. The capsuleer grinned, to Gordon’s surprise. “Name?” Was all he asked. Gordon glanced at his datapad, searching for the name of the irritant, then replied with “one Anton Varric”.
The capsuleer stood up, then extended his hand. “We have a deal.”
* * *
The Rokh’s docking clamps unlatched one by one, and the docking gantry retracted back into the station’s superstructure, allowing the giant warship to drift away from the birth and into the hangar proper. The set of heavy magpulse thrusters on the battleships roared to life, accelerating the behemoth toward the mouth of the hangar. The speed of the ship picked up as it glided out of the station, and slowly turned, meter by meter, toward the planet below.
With the ship aligned, the massive engines cut out for a second, before roaring back to life, slipping the ship into a warp bubble, and hurling it toward the planet, angling into a low orbit.
* * *
Inside the capsule of the Black Rose, the immortal floated in the life giving fluid within, cables lodged into his neck and upper back, connecting him with the ship. The egger monitored the warp bubble’s progress, before breaking it off and dropping out of warp, entering orbit over the largest settlement on the surface of the planet. Launching camera drones and sending them closer to the planet, he synced his vision to one of them, as it descended through the cloud cover, revealing the barren brown wasteland below.
The settlement was in plain view now, with every building illuminated by the camera drone’s vision enhancement. He glanced over the settlement, then consulted his Neocom, looking up the information of Anton Varric on this planet in Sukuuvestaa’s records, bringing up a layout of his estate. Finding a matching building on the surface, he grinned. “Target acquired”
* * *
A set of heavy dual railguns on the Rokh’s underside deviated from their standard forward-facing position, and instead moved to aim directly down. A large tungsten charge loaded in both barrels, the turret fired with a blaze of light and sound. The entire ship seemed to shift from the recoil of the enormous weapon, as two slugs screamed toward the surface, partially burning in the atmosphere.
* * *
Anton sat, biting his nails in frustration, as the manager returned from his heated surmon at the community center. He turned to the manager, and stood up in his chair, “Did they buy it?”
A streak of light shown through the clouds, racing toward the ground below, as the manager smiled and prepared to give Anton the good news. The charges impacted the estate’s roof dead on, and obliterated the entire complex in a glorious explosion. Anton, and his company lackeys were nothing but specs of dust in the crater left over from the blast.
* * *
3 weeks later.
There was no rebellion against oppression, or armed revolt against the capsuleer. He brought his own, state-of-the-art equipment from off world and set up the smoothest running factories and mines the planet’s population had seen since the original colonization by Sukuuvestaa so many years before. The capsuleer alone held the jobs of almost three quarters of the entire population. Nars was more than happy with this arrangement, seeing as his ex-employer was regrettably dead, and his new one was entirely happy letting the workers run the plants with minimal oversight. As long as they produced, it was probable that the Immortal wouldn’t even notice the goings on of his new mining and production company. That, and he probably would be too busy to cut wages, which suited Nars just fine.