SYNDICATE REGION – YFN-UN CONSTELLATION 5-FGQI SYSTEM – PLANET V – MOON 13 INTAKI SYNDICATE ACADEMY
One month ago
It had been more than a decade since Namastrahavaas seen his little sister.
In that time, the two had maintained little contact and even less so with their younger brother. The three had a parting of ways since a divergence in philosophy. Nomi, as many referred to him, had become an egger and that estranged him from the rest of his still living family, few as they may be.
Try as he might, he still found himself occasionally looking up her profile, nostalgic of better times, but at some point, he lost track of her entirely. It occurred around the same time that he learned of her pursuits to become a capsuleer. She coined the name ‘Aurora’ in tribute of her success and then disappeared into the informational void afforded by her newly found independence. Her affiliations with the Syndicate lent even more to her elusive and wary nature. In fact, it was not until she messaged him that he even knew she was still out there.
Even after all these years she maintained a sense of personal aesthetic. Her fashion choices had not changed since she was young. She still wore the jacket he gave her when she had come of adulthood and despite several tears in the fabric it held up well. She had taken care of it. Nomi lifted to a stand when he saw her and refused to reciprocate the smile she offered when they closed the distance.
“Long time no see, ‘Nomi’,” she stated with a hint of condescension.
“Years,” he replied with equal disdain.
There was an awkward silence made even more difficult by her perpetual grin. He hated it. It dismissed the tension and made her look as though she found enjoyment in it all. Nomi, on the other hand, was more aggressive by nature.
“What the hell are we doing here, Arodaav?” He asked with fire in his words. She slapped him. The responding blow came from the same side as his blind eye and he had not seen it coming. It stung and left a red outline of where it had landed.
“Do not call me that,” she said, fiercely.
“Your name? Even if it was cruel it’s still your given name, ‘Aurora’.”
“You have no right. Especially after you abandoned the family name.”
Arodaav was a cruel name indeed. ‘Curse’, in their tongue. Their mother had given her the name in spite. She was illegitimate. A purebred Intaki contrasting Namastrahavaas’s mixed-blood. Whereas his father was a Mannar Hawk in the Federation; hers was an Intaki artist. That fact weighed on them even in their early years. As soon as she was old enough to learn the vocabulary, Arodaav questioned her name and instilled a sense of anger in their parents. It always fell to Nomi to comfort her in the ensuing fallout. They remembered as much about the same time. The air filled with a mutual sadness, and though they sensed it in one another – a talent given to them after years of growing up in the same household – they dared not show it in their faces.
“We’re here because of the situation on the homeworld,” she re-focused.
“I heard about it on the way here, but why is that of any concern to you?”
“It’s my home too. I may not have the same predilections toward it you may have, but our feelings are mutual regarding our birthplace.”
“Why does that concern me, then?” He rephrased.
Aurora offered him a datapad that was filled with fine print. His eyes, both blind and ice-blue, nearly crossed at the volume of text. He took it from her and began to read over the details. It summarized a situation in which a private military corporation by the name of ‘Onikanabo Brigade’ had launched an assault directly on the Ida monasteries on Intaki Prime. However, the text read much more akin to a juxtaposed briefing and contract rather than an article. The following text outlined logistical routes: movement of troops, armaments, and assets. War was in order.
He continued to scroll through the datapad and saw red. Financial offsets. The movement from the Syndicate region had generated debt from the establishment of military bases on the Intaki planet’s surface in addition to the payroll of hundreds of mercenaries. Hundreds of millions of ISK had not been paid out, but instead paid as credit by the Intaki Bank. The Syndicate Bank, he clarified in his head. His eyes widened when he saw who the debt was made to: Him. She had even used his birth name, complete with the family surname he had abandoned long since prior to distancing himself from them.
Nomistrav scowled, turning his head to the side. The nerve. He opened his mouth to speak but she lifted her hand in protest. He couldn’t stand that smile. Yet, he knew she had him played. She had outlined the contract with his name because she knew that he would pay it. Whether or not it was because of some distant familial sympathy, or because his nationalistic tendencies forced him to put Intaki Prime above all else, the debt was his to pay. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that she had the funding to pay it herself. It made him hate her even more.
He jammed his thumb on the datapad with a soft ‘THAP’ from the impact. The red numbers rapidly began to change until they read only as: 0.00 ISK in bright green. The debt was settled. His digital wallet was emptied. She had broken him. He shoved the datapad back to her with such force that she could not catch it in time. It fell to the floor and the plasticrystalline surface fractured. She laughed.
The Intaki hybrid stepped away with force driving his boots into the station’s floor tiles. He gripped his hands into fists and raised them to either side of his head in frustration. He wanted to hit her. He wanted to kill her and leave her cloned body somewhere in the station’s disposal bins. The man whipped around and look at her with rage, but she was unmoved. That same smile staring at him with half-closed eyes. It was almost compassionate. It cut through his anger.
“You need to focus on yourself, Nomi,” she said quietly, softly. The words were sincere. “Let me worry about this one.”
Nomistrav swallowed a hard lump in his throat. His one working eye turned down to the floor in defeat. She had taken advantage of his loyalties. Yet even when she did, he could not help but to find some semblance of comfort in that forgiving tone, paying back the debt she owed for him lending similar comfort decades prior. It defused his anger and put him on a spiraling, pitiful path of self-reflection.
He was a wreck of neuroticism these past few years. A pendulum of aggression and pain that swung at opposite ends of a damaged brain incapable of holding him together, made worse by the fact that he did not even know why. His mindset was ravaged by years of drug abuse and experimentation, but to what end he could not remember. How she knew was even more of a mystery.
When he next looked up to confront her, she was gone.
“Any day now,” Azazel Drakonis stated in that other-wordly voice in the back of Nomistrav’s head.
“I’m almost there.”
Nomistrav’s Ishkur fell out of warp just in time to see Azazel’s Vengeance turn to flame. Reassured by the Gallente’s capsule warping away, the Intaki was quick to apply electronic warfare modules against the hostile destroyer. Dragoon, Nomi thought, didn’t think that could kill a Vengeance. A small swarm of Hobgoblins emptied out of the Ishkur’s drone bay and began to dance around the Amarr destroyer. As its structure was already burning and crew ejecting escape pods, it did not take much for the ship to reach a critical state and explode. The pilot’s capsule escaped soon after, fleeing into the dark of space.
At least the crew got out.
“Little late on the draw there, grasshopper,” Azazel stated.
“I thought a Vengeance could handle a Dragoon,” Nomi replied, sincerely.
“Not the point of this exercise.”
Nomistrav was a bit flustered. It had been more than a year since he had actively pursued engagement with other capsuleers. The disparity in their power compared to the typical pirates one came across in all avenues of space was stark. The Intaki had the basics down from years of piloting, but lacked the nuanced knowledge of both experience and application. He collected the remaining drones and scrap-modules left over from the victory. Then he meandered over to the wreck of Azazel’s assault frigate to collect whatever was left.
“Eh, at least you don’t panic,” Azazel said.
“I’ve no reason to.”
“As out of practice as you are, that’s a bit surprising. Concerning, even.”
“Hard to be afraid when I know I’ll win.”
“Oh? Well, the next one is on you then. Let’s see if that confidence holds when I don’t give you such a whopping head start,” the Gallente chuckled.
While Drakonis docked with a nearby Tribal Liberation Force station to reship, Nomistrav began to scan the local area. It was almost immediately after he had started that he saw a Thrasher come up on the list of results. Confident in his ability, and eager to prove the man wrong, he warped to the closest location he thought the pilot could have been at.
“Cease fire on that target,” Azazel commanded.
“Why? They fired first.” Nomistrav replied.
It was at that point that Nomi’s camera drone swiveled toward the ship he was still attacking. The Thrasher’s armor was depleted, and several fires had erupted on its hull as another volley of plasma charges caked its frame. He was winning. The Intaki pulled the pilot’s file and was shocked when he realized it was a pilot loyal to the Tribal Liberation Force. He spooled his blasters down as a cold chill ran through the spine of his ship.
“I’m sorry,” the Intaki said.
He did not readily know if he was more ashamed that, for the first time in years, he questioned a fleet commander’s orders, or if he was ashamed because he jeopardized Azazel’s operation. His overview hadn’t been calibrated to filter out Matari pilots. His licensing branded the pilot as neutral at best, pirate at worst. Nomi was still registered with the Arataka Research Consortium and as such had no stake in the fight in the militia warzone, but Azazel did and that was all that mattered in the end.
“Yeah,” Azazel acknowledged coldly.
The two continued to fly between systems, though the remainder of their hunt was quiet. It gave them plenty of opportunity to speak.
“Why do you want to join Cretus Incendium?” the Gallente asked.
The ethereal chuckle of the Gallente rang in Nomi’s head. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, Nomi thought.
His Ishkur gleamed in the light of Lulm’s yellow star. The light graced the matte colors of the Intaki Syndicate that outlined his hull. For a moment, the Intaki wondered why he chose that nano-coating. It felt instinctual, almost. Somewhere in his clouded memories he knew that there was a reason; he knew there was some hidden loyalty to the cryptic world out there in the shadow of the Cloud Ring nebula, however small.
“Jump,” Azazel said, jarring the Intaki out of his thoughts. “I’m curious: Who you wanting revenge against? What’d they do to you?”
“I don’t know. More avenging than revenge, I think. I guess I just have a hatred for the pilots of the Societas and the Praetoria.”
“Strange way to choose a hill to die on. Still, as long as you’re shooting the right ships, I can’t complain. Warp to the Amamake gate and hold.”
Nomi knew why. Somewhere in the back of his mind he held the two groups responsible for the rending of his entire life - one more than the other. Some distant memory he could not recollect. He dwelled on it. In his mind’s eye he saw images of frightened people dying. He saw the familiar face of a Khanid woman telling a lie to her superiors; his lie, to be precise. Then it all became a blur, and the vapid memories turned to a gap. The rest was lost to time and history. He didn’t even remember how he’d even met the man issuing his orders today.
The warp tunnel collapsed and the Intaki’s Assault Frigate slowed to a stop, bathed in the glow of the Amamake stargate.
“So what does Cretus have to do with that? You can’t go after them without waving our little banner around?” Azazel asked.
“I don’t want to go after them. I want to talk to them.”
“That isn’t helping your case much.”
“They won’t listen unless I force them to and I might have a chance at that with others.”
“I can sympathize with that much. You have a Kikimora jumping through.”
“Yeah, you’re not going to win that fight.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Nomi glared inside his pod. As the light drones deployed, the Kikimora decloaked and trained its triple disintegrators on his Ishkur. In an instant, he turned his ship about face to pursue the destroyer. It was too far away for his warp scrambler to affect. His ship was weighed down with modified armor plating and couldn’t keep up. The fight was decided before it ever started. The Triglavian vessel could dictate range and therefore dictate the fight. The Intaki was in his capsule before he could figure out how to respond. He warped away to safety, afforded by the pod’s low profile.
“What did we learn?” Azazel said in sing-song fashion. Nomi could sense him grinning ear to ear.
I hate you sometimes, Nomistrav thought, reflecting on his father. Though he was not sure which was worse: Hating his father, or hating himself for hating his father.
It was his father’s unwavering patriotism toward the Federation that gave way to Nomi’s occasional temper and quick judgement of others – at least, that’s who he blamed for the flaw. He shook his head and looked down at the console in front of him.
A Keres-class electronic warfare frigate showed on the display. He specifically designed it to counter that Kikimora with which he had lost his Ishkur. There were three remote sensor dampening dishes attached to the sides of the ship with which to render the precursor vessel’s ability to dictate range moot. This brought him no joy. All he could feel was a growing fire inside knowing that, at least this time, the pilot had gotten away with it.
We cannot blame people who live without compunction.
His mother’s words echoed in his head. An intense feeling of guilt washed over him. The woman was compassionate and empathetic to everyone around her. Harshly contrasting her husband’s angry ways, she instead saw the good in even the worst of people. Nomi aspired to more like her. He missed her greatly.
“That seems a bit excessive,” said a voice that came from behind him.
The Intaki jumped as Azazel threw an arm around his shoulders. The Gallente pointed at the Keres being welded together by flying drones in the distance of the structure. Nomi threw his shoulder forward to force the man’s arm off him, prompting a chuckle in response.
“It’ll work. It always does,” Nomistrav said, irritably.
Azazel leaned against the railing of the catwalk, cutting open a pomegranate with a menacing looking blade. He slid the severed piece into his mouth and let the crimson liquid gush between his teeth as he smiled. The Intaki looked him over with that single blue eye, perplexed. For a moment they stared at one another – the Gallente much livelier than his paler compatriot.
“What?” Nomi asked, finally.
“You got some baggage to you, you know that?” Azazel said, pointing at him with the outstretched index finger of his augmented arm. The two shared a silence for what felt like an eternity. Finally, the Gallente broke it, asking, “So why do you want to kill Amarr so bad?”
“I told yo-“
“No, you said you didn’t know, and I know that’s ■■■■■■■■. So, why do you want to kill Amarr so bad?”
Nomistrav sighed. “They put loyalty above human lives.”
“We all have our orders, Nomi,” Azazel said, pointedly.
The Intaki let out another heavy sigh, turning away from the fitting console to look over the man. He paused, his mouth ajar as though he wanted to speak. Maybe he’s too cynical to understand, Nomi thought. He rolled a shoulder, deciding to try for it anyway, but revealing only half of his reasons.
“You don’t listen to orders that involve people dying – especially deaths you can prevent and more so deaths of non-combatants. Just because we’re capsuleers and we kill people every ■■■■■■■ day doesn’t mean that we’re not human.” He paused, turning to look away in frustration before looking back, saying, “I realize that there’s this apathy that capsuleers get into after they’ve killed a few thousand people in their day-to-day, but we have an obligation to use this power to do good, and every ■■■■■■■ time we ‘have our orders’, we stray further from that purpose.”
The Intaki turned, infuriated with his own words. His orange-tipped fingers beat about the console as he made some finishing touches to the Keres fit. Turning his head downward, he relented to the inevitable.
“At least… That’s what I think for now…”
“For now?” Azazel asked, chewing on another piece of the fruit in his hand.
The Intaki turned toward him with a hopeless look, tapping the side of his head. It was an illustration in futility. Tomorrow he’d forget all of it. He’d re-read the news article he left open on his datapad. Again. He’d re-learn all the horrors described. Again. He’d become enraged. Again. Then he’d forget.
The Gallente nodded slowly. Azazel was at least aware that the man was living his entire life on repeat, trying to scrape together enough facts to make it through the day. He’d leave himself memos to remember why he was still fighting the same old battles over and over. Yet the longer time went on, more of the context was lost, and he was not certain the accuracy of his own convictions anymore. Still, it was something to latch onto.
“I just wish people would do better by each other,” the Intaki said, solemnly.
“Nomi, people are always going to disappoint you if you expect them to do the right thing.”
“We’ve still got to try.”
Azazel laughed. “How are you so perfect?” Azazel asked with a smirk.
“What?” Nomi replied, turning to face him with a puzzled look.
The Gallente shook his head as his smirk formed a grin. He pushed off the railing and started to walk away.
“Congratulations, Auxiliari, you’re now an Amarr war target,” Azazel remarked.