The engines of “the Light Bucket” roared to life as it prepeared to depart from the Royal Khanid Defense Astrahus orbiting Kaha III. Gradually, it guided itself out, and Isha’s heart began to pound within her capsule as the vessel did so.
She had run her Wreathe class ship through the heart of the Amarr core worlds with no incident, something that gave the Minmatar pride. Properly specced, few naval forces could catch the vessel in time. It’s cargo was equally precious: Two Rifter class vessels, and over six hundred marines stood ready. Each had been willing to lay down their lives to offer some relief to the victims of Khanid’s bloody purge.
Even if they abandoned all the marines, they would not be able to evacuate even a fraction of the victims, but something was always better then nothing.
Unfortunately, the truly difficult part of the journey was about to begin, and the Brutor cursed silently at the sight that awaited.
The Armageddon was piloted by a Khanid loyalist capsuleer, and Isha’s heart sank. Even with warp tricks, evading an Armageddon in a Wreathe would be madness.
Strangely, a Minmatar Mammoth was also in orbit of the planet. Soon it became clear how.
Just then, an unexpected transmission came through.
Though she had renounced God a long time ago, for a brief moment, she believed again. Of all the pilots to be on duty that hour…
Wasting no time, the Wreathe executed a series of warp jumps. Time consuming, indeed, but not half as much as flying manually would be, and through the “malfunction” on board the orbiting vessel, it was enough time for the vessel to make it to it’s final destination.
Upon arrival, the vessel immediately disgorged its cargo: Two Rifter class frigates dropped from the main cargo bay, firing their engines and roaring for the surface packed with marines! They would fly down, rescue as many as they could, load them on to the frigates, and leave the planet. The Marines, unfortunately, would have to stay behind. There was no space left for them.
That was the original plan, anyway.
He was clearing the industrial for landing?!?! The Brutor could scarcely believe the words coming over the comms, yet the opportunity was far too good to pass up. Obediently, the entire mass of the vessel lurched towards the planet’s orbit, driving into the atmosphere, and finally touching down in a landing.
The next few hours where spent in agonizing wait, as Isha could do little more then pray the marines would do their job. For once, being a capsuleer felt very powerless indeed.
The two rifters eventually left the planet’s orbit, and about three hundred marines made their way back at the head of a convoy of over three thousand liberated slaves!
Vastly more then expected. Yet the marines themselves where only half their number.
Mourning silently, Isha loaded the people on board her ship, and left orbit. The unusual occurrences concerning their Khanid benefactor did not end, however, and before she could warp to the nearest stargate, she was requested to dock at the nearest Astrahus. Though foolish, perhaps, she did owe him, and heeded the request to submit to inspection, hastily equipping the civilians in stowed away marine gear. The other vessel, it seems, had also docked, and would join them inside.
Lord Crases, in all his regal attire, moved to meet her at the loading ramp, flanked by his dreaded cyberknights. Somehow, meeting this man face to face felt very different from staring at his feed on the IGS. Her anger and hatred gradually ebbed away…For before her stood a man. Just a man, one whose bravery granted him a magnetism that was undeniable. All of the words she had spewed against the Amarr, all of the defiance on the IGS…None of that really mattered now.
This. This mattered. Foe turning friend for the sake of humanity, and for the first time since her liberation, a Khanid Holder was addressed with respect.
As the three boarded the Bucket, the extent of the Lord’s irritation became painfully clear, smashing his mechanical arm into a bulkhead with such force as to cause the Brutor to gasp in concern! And soon she knew why.
He and his people, including PIE, had been in that system all day. But more then that: They had orders to fire upon any civilian or slave ship that tried to escape while the planet was being purged.
Five million. Isha’s heart sank. Five million victims…Somehow, it’s always a shock to learn of the true numbers of planetary butchery, and even this once-loyal Khanid was feeling the strain. Her heart swelled with pity. Pity for the victims, but also pity for this once-loyal Lord forced to break his very humanity for his cause.
Only a tiny fraction had been saved. And yet, a tiny fraction, was still a fraction, and so they had to comfort themselves with that. A plan was forged: Isha’s marines would remain planet-side, and continue to hide away whatever slaves they still could. As it became clear that the Khanid where also killing their own civilians, orders where adjusted so that civilians would also be rescued. They would be kept in the hills, Minmatar style, evading security until a friendly ship could pick them up.
Those that where no longer welcome in Khanid space would be given new homes in Rens, along with the liberated slaves. As the Imperial Rite Mission Rens was now a reality, that option was there.
Everything was coming together cleanly. Perhaps there is a God after all?
“Isha, I need you on the saber to alert your men.”
“Yes, my Lord~”
She had playfully replied before even understanding his request.
“You want me to board that Armageddon of yours?!”
Indeed, he did. This Lord, it seems, was skilled enough to cover his tracks and make it so that there was no record of this Wreathe ever being in the Astrahus. As far as the rest of the galaxy would know, it was shot down while trying to leave orbit, and the remaining marines and Isha would be ferried safely back to Rens.
Aboard the Sabre.
A ludicrous idea! For a Minmatar to willingly step on board a Khanid warship, one mayaswell put a gun to one’s own head!
But then was that not what she had effectively asked her Marines to do just earlier? While she could probably outrun the Armageddon by now, both docked in station, and return to Rens on her own terms…That would doom this man, who it seems had finally seen a glimmer of light.
Reluctantly, she agreed, and the hours that followed where more terrifying then all of the time spent fighting in lowsec. Boarding the Armageddon felt like stepping into the devil’s jaws, and she felt certain she would not be leaving it again.
The hours passed slowly, then. Sitting besides the capsule of the man called Kithrus, ignorant of the condition of her men deeper in the ship, or the people they rescued. Ignorant of the fate of brave Bjorn who agreed to ferry the liberated slaves home in her stead, not being part of the militia.
And ignorant of her own fate. And yet, the Khanid would prove to be as good as his word, and the next day she would awaken aboard the treasured Brutor Tribe Treasury station. Naturally, she bade him stay the night at her apartment. It was only fair.
It would be a story to tell her grandchildren indeed. A tale of great heroism, breaking through enemy blockades. A tale of the heroism of valiant marines who fought for the freedom of people they hardly knew. A tale of the strength of the slaves, weak and pumped full of hallucinogenics so strong they required immediate medical attention to pacify.
And a tale of the heroism of a single Khanid holder, whom it seems, was far more Human then she could have ever expected.