Blanco James hovered over his control panel. He sat in a void. Around him others floated in the blackness, their faces illuminated by similar screens. They looked like ghosts come back to haunt him. The screens mostly provided information like objects in space, distances, velocities. But also a thousand other things. Temperatures, internal power levels, pressures and the melange of background signals and radiation waves that made up the universe’s song. These things are sent to him and his fellow ghosts. They sort them, cypher their meanings and condense them down into a single presentation that’s then sent to It. They have other jobs, him and his men. They collate information from engineering teams and relay orders from sub department leads. They chitter to one another, like birds.
A star ship is a marvel of a thing. It is both a womb and a body by which humanity is held and extended throughout space. It breaks time and renders unto those that would master it as gods. It doesn’t do it for free though. Most vessels have always required crew. Those to command and those to row. Sure the ore and drum have been replaced with switch and button but the task is the same. Eyes, in the dark, their lives resting on the command of another.
Some of the ships nowadays had almost replaced all of those men with buttons and switches. Or turned the men into buttons and switches themselves, if some of the stories Blanco had heard were true. Many in the breadth of humanity had found this march of technology to be a problem. For them, ships sailed away from ports and stations with men and those men could be a dissenter or prisoner as easily as anyone else. These planet and system governors used crewing ships as an effective, and profitable, way to deal with civil management.
Their ships were crewed with individuals found to have useful technical skills or had been susceptible to psycho conditioning which imprinted skill sets into minds it did not melt. They were then offered sentences in mission counts and level of danger. These ships and their crews would be left on standby for sale to any Capsuleer that needed them. The planetary leaders would often have inspiring names for the programs Stellar Rehabilitation, Astro Technical Training, Imperial Service. The crews called it being “offered to the gods”. They would take their sentences as titles and introduce themselves by them. A thief may become Tribian Atlan 87 high. A murderer Scotch Cambryn 15 null. Their crews would bestow similar titles upon themselves. “Blakes all day Holers” for example, a street gang turned operations unit for gas extraction vessels sentenced to 8 Anoikis jumps. As the story goes, the day Blake and his crew were released from their sentence they stole a Prospect and jumped to Thera never to be seen again. These were the myths that would pass between ship crews when locked in station security cells.
Blanco James 18 Null, was the worst kind of criminal, for he was a criminal by morality. He had been found guilty of transporting commercial goods to a blockaded planet. Blockading planets is a preferred method of control for the Gallente Federation. As a people Blanco had always found them to be the most vial. Peace was always offered with the only threat made the withdrawal of their presence. But soon after strife, small planets would find that they were descended upon by crushing embargoes and litigation’s. As their populations became strangled from the rest of the stars Federation implants and propagandists would point to the starvation in the streets and blame the planetary leadership for the populations woes. Violent civil uprisings that wiped away centuries of history and thousands of lives would bloom like wild flowers.
This was something Blanco James 18 Null couldn’t sleep with. He had organized 18 in system jumps using a Viator blockade runner. He can only claim to have organized it because he had been arrested, along with two of his accomplices, in the hangar waiting to take command of the ship.
“For the crime of attempting to profit from the misery brought down upon these poor people by their tyrant of a governor I sentence you to complete the same amount of journeys for the good of the Gallente Federation as you had planned for your own iniquity.” Nothing worse than a dramatic Judge.
“Same fleet makeup as before on the scan. He’s calling for them faster than I can adjust for solar flare.” Tybus Ander 6 Null’s main job was to disseminate sensory data to navigation and engineering crews at the same time. The vastness of space meant that even in the heart of action one always had a few seconds to pass on information but during fleet operations like they were engaged now seconds were not enough.
“We’re fine, he’s just wanting information. Clavix be ready to move us 15k or so off the main combatants when They pick us a spot to fight.” Blanco says to the engineered relay assistant hovering over a screen to his left.
The bridge had been almost silent for several minutes now. Those inside breathed adrenaline and fear as the ship moved from point to point. Blanco knew that they had been following a route up from PC9-AY. That they were part of a small gang of vessels and were charged with providing shield repair services. He knew that they were not being called by a response fleet or coordinating with any local contacts or organizations which meant they were roaming and wouldn’t stop until they had found a fight. Blanco knew these things because in the great tree of data that kept the ship moving, he was closest to the root. He did not share any of this information with the rest of his ghostly companions. Fear wouldn’t keep them alive.
As he pondered this more destination request indicators came across his command screen. “Command” he thought, all of their controls were secondary commands. Things they were allowed to do. They controlled nothing, they just relayed.
‘Command: Initiate jump on contact to X-BV98 from Poitot.’
‘Command: Align and warp tack Poitot N 300’
‘Command: Prepare Shield Boosters END’
“Here it is then,” he thought to himself “time to earn trip 6”
He had no real reason to tell anyone on the ship what to do. The ships crew had been given the same orders he had. Their job was to translate those macro orders to the micro actions that made them happen. His job was to make sure they didn’t screw it up, and fill a crew slot on a billing sheet.
The Exequror smoothly entered and exited the Poitot gate into X-BV98. It remained invisible as strange energies left on its hull from the warp translation hung about it confusing real space. It did not remain this way but instead immediately started to align, sluffing the confused matter from its hull as it arched towards a blank point in space. The fleet following them was still some unknowable distance away either entering the gate they had just exited or racing towards them. He saw the other vessels that made up their comrades moving off to orbital distances from the gate proper.
“Alright boys,” he stated over the ship’s intercom “ it’s time. We are gonna find a perch off this gate and then come in for repairs when called for. No guns, no heroics. I’m gonna get you lot back to the pins tonight.” As he said this he saw the great arch of the system gate gleaming through what passed for the bridge’s port view.
“We’re not parallel.” He thought to himself. He checked the command screen ‘Poitot N 300’
“Where in the shitting hell are we aligning too? North is UP you idiots!” He snapped at Donnar Palmain 4 Null who manned navigation.
“It’s Capsule commands ordered location Captain. I checked it twice.” Said the man, sweating and staring from Blanco to his console.
Blanco double checked the command routed to navigation. The ship was aligning towards a coordinate located some 8 AU from the gate instead of 300 km, its speed gaining.
“He’s locked the wrong location!” Blanco proclaimed before impulsing direct communication to Him.
He screamed at the crew “All stop! Shut down the warp drive!”
Blanco saw the enemy fleet both break free of their fading jump cloaks and engage all at once. Warp Nullification bubbles bloomed as the Exequror made its jump. As the bridge regained their senses from the initiation of warp panic erupted.
“We are receiving calls for assistance!” Tybus exclaimed, routing those orders to shield booster control teams that could do nothing with it.
“We are not helping anyone boy. By the time we got turned around from this they will have won or died without us.” Blanco fumed. His guts turned as he thought of both his fortune and forced cowardice. People were dying out there. Screaming for his help and it wouldn’t come.
The calls for assistance kept coming as the Exequror continued in warp. Blanco saw several warnings flash as Capsule command overrides tried to make the ship do things physics wouldn’t allow. Blanco sat at his station, surrounded by uselessness and waited to come out of warp. He sighed in relief even though he hated himself for it.
“12 to go.” He thought.
‘Command: Align Poitot
‘Command: Warp Poitot at 0 km
‘Command: Prepare Acolyte II x 5
Blanco stared at the command line as it flashed on his screen.
“No.” he heard someone that sounded like him whisper.
He glanced at the warp destination reading as the number got increasingly smaller.
“We are about to drop warp. Capsule has already plotted course change. Maybe we can help someone.” Donnar stated
“No, for all the gods no!” Blanco yelled. He was up hitting every stop command he could find along the several consoles strung throughout the bridge. They would blink consent for a few seconds before turning back on. Capsule command overrides enacted throughout the bridge.
“Bloody hell Blanco you want another 18?” yelled Donnar as he was pushed away from his console by the man.
“At this point I’m hoping for just one more.” Blanco stated, fiddling with the commands.
The Exequror came out of warp in open system space. It began powering its way around to face the way it came.
“We’ve got to override Capsule command and shut this vessel down!” He exclaimed to the room.
“He’s gone space mad!” Yelled Clavix
“Are you insane!” yelled another ghost
“Listen to me. This ship is heading into a death trap. There is no one to save and no way for us to live. We have got to shut it down now!” He said this while pulling a handrail from the side of the dilapidated wall of the bridge.
“We are on Capsule override. There is no way to stop this ship. Our best bet is to break the forward command units that are slaved to the capsule and fly the ship ourselves.” He used the bar to pry the grating from the floor and opened a line relay box. These sorts of things would have been much better sealed in a better ship but this was a barge of the dead and enough would do for what it was made for. The ship was finishing its turn and would accelerate back to warp speed.
“Tybus lad, you’re here for mucking about with mobile currency transfer units, yeah?” Blanco looked over his shoulder at the boy sitting at the sensor station. Leaning on the rod with the pulsing blue lights glowing from the cable pit he looked like a witch.
The boy nodded. Standing up and rubbing his hands on his thighs he walked over to the pit and looked down into the maze of wires and cables beneath them. The ship lurched as it prepared for warp. Hands shaking but moving frantically the boy began to pull command cables from their router sockets.
“Start trying commands from anywhere!” He called over his shoulder as he frantically pulled more of the command shunting cables out of the framework, being sure to leave their bridge control lines intact.
“Come on lads shut it all…” The crew at their stations were all trying to stop the ship when reality lurched. Blanco was back at his chair. Hand resting on the backrest and leaning on the bar now like it was a rod of office. They saw space blur out of the windows of the bridge.
“I’m sorry sir.” The boy looked up at him from the pit of wires he was sitting in.
“It’s okay kid,” Blanco said, licking his lips “pull the rest of the controls and we will run when we land.”
Blanco looked around at the men on the bridge. “We are going to get out of this.”
“Captain, I think something is happening with the capsule. I think It’s doing something.” Tybus said from behind Blanco.
“It doesn’t have control. It can flail about in It’s little egg all it damn well likes!” Blanco spit as he watched real space resolve around him.
The ship had landed at the edge of an interdiction sphere. Enemy ship and combat sensor warnings filled the blackness of the bridge. Target lock warnings glowed yellow across terrified faces.
“Alright,” Blanco sounded direct, “hit the microwarpdrive and burn for the gate. Do not take any action against anyone and if there is a friendly alive they won’t be for long. Do not begin any repair or rescue operations.”
Clavix had initiated his commands, seeming to find a liberation from fear in the burden of a task at hand. The ship was already taking fire. Caracals didn’t need to be close to kill and the damage their missile barrages wrought came over the ship in waves. But the range meant that they could not slow the ship’s momentum from carrying it forward. They were getting closer to the gate now 6 km away as the ship convulsed under the incoming damage.
“When we hit 3 k start jump procedures and don’t stop till we are the hell out of here!” Blanco said. Then he died.
Tybus saw It enter. The rest of the crew were busy following Blanco’s orders and trying to live but Tybus was still in the floor’s cable control. He had been facing away from the bridge towards the entryway. He had seen the door open. He had seen It come in.
It was male and It dripped in fluid. Cables snaked out behind It. In one hand It held a control transmitter unit that ran cables into Its head. Tybus could see huge wounds in It where lines and cables had been ripped out. He thought he could see Its organs through one of the holes in Its chest. One of Its eyes was filled with blood and Its mouth was wrapped around a large ribbed pipe that looked as though it had once been a guide by which other pipes and cables had been ran down into It.
Its other hand held the pistol that had ended Blancos life. It brought it to Its mouth and with thumb and forefinger pulled the pipe from Its throat. Blood poured over Its chin and drooled down Its chest. It was dying in front of them but pointed the gun directly at Donnar.
“Bring the drones online.” It grinned as It gave the command.