Friedrich was undecided on whether or not he hated the soft beep of the alert the computer’s systems had set up to help ease him back into the world of the living. It felt like the old clocks he was forced to obey as a child, ripping him from sleep to send him off to school. However, it was no longer a crime to wake him. Not when he’d been ‘sleeping’ this long. How long was it this time, anyway? A screen flashed up with the answer, an almost instant response to the question in his head. One of the nice things about being the capsuleer stuck in the pod.
February 9th, YC 123.
Only three weeks this time. That was the shortest stasis he had been in in a long, long time. When the war had been seen on the horizon he’d hoped that there would finally be enough calls to justify actually keeping himself, you know, awake. But that wasn’t the way a supercarrier got to operate when it was associated with an alliance that didn’t own a chain of keepstars, where he could leave the Hel and give his legs a stretch every now and again. Hell, maybe he could fly something else for once. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d commanded a ship that wasn’t this massive.
There wasn’t time for this now.
The video channels popped open, and the chief officers flicked onto screen on one side, while audio and fleet coordination channel invites blinked on the other. Friedrich multitasked, receiving status reports from Jennirah in engineering and Kilneer’s fighter squadrons while lending an ear to the intel being passed on by Frederico and Murray through their audio link. A capsuleer running a Thanatos-class carrier was trying to move, unsupported, through the regional stargate that would save him days of travel… if his ship came out the other side. Unfortunately for him, Frederico was already waiting on the other side, and interdiction bubbles were being prepared that the Thanatos would be ill-equipped to deal with.
His focus shifted back to the status reports. More capacitor boosters were being shifted to the main hangar at his direction, and heavy fighters with anti-capital torpedo’s slung underneath the wings were being shifted into the main fighter bays. When did Kilneer look so… old? There were new lines around his eyes, and there were more grey hairs than he remembered. Kilneer had been with the crew since he had acquired the ship.
STOP. For a brief moment Friedrich felt the capsule gel as he gave himself a little shake. Focus.
Intel crackled in, much more excited this time. The Thanatos had warped. The cynosural field ship was in position. The bubbles were going up.
He could feel the hum of the ship as he deactivated the cloaking module that had kept them safe in their deep space location. It was a hulking behemoth sometimes, but it was his hulking behemoth, and for once in his godforsaken life it was going do what he had damn well gotten into it for.
“Cyno up under Murray, go!”
Everything came alive. All the usual instruments blared their notes regarding the jump drive’s operation, the amount of capacitor it had consumed, the change of location. But Friedrich was only concerned with what came next, because deep in enemy territory every move had to be executed swiftly, precisely, and at just the right time. The capacitor booster began firing almost before they had hit the other side, ripples of energy racing through the ship. Barely two seconds after the shudder of the jump tunnel stopped, the fighters ripped out of their tubes, barreling their orbits as directed towards the bubbled carrier desperately attempting to clear the Sabre interdictor away with fighters of it’s own. The ship realigned itself, guided by the subcapital propulsion modules that gave the move precision over raw power. Friedrich pulled up the interfaces for both warping and the powerful sensor arrays at his disposal, scanning the local space over and over for any sign of a prepared response. Getting tackled here meant death, with friendly support thrice as far away as the enemy capital hammer that would be raining down upon him.
One volley was all it took.
The enemy carrier must have been set up for quickly dealing with low level pirate incursions, as it exploded so quickly that the fighters were able to return most of the way with their microwarpdrive cycles still active. Friedrich lurched the supercarrier into warp, blistering along at a speed most cruisers would be envious of towards a deep space location in system. Cheers erupted on the in-ship communications channels as he relayed the information passed to him about the target destroyed, as well as the cargo inside. As hoped, the target had been moving quite the collection of supplies, ships, and other things towards it’s new home, and the almost two billion ISK that was salvageable in the cargo would mean decent bonuses for even the lowest crew members aboard.
With the cloaking module reactivated and no threat of enemy scanning vessels scouted, Friedrich calmed himself down and settled into the post-kill routine. Capacitor ticked up and the jump drive recalibration timer ticked down, as per usual. He kept one ear on the local scanner, listening in on some mild chatter picked up from the system’s residents about the rather notable wreckage next to the stargate. A handful of enemy scouts flitted through the system, but without even a base starting location, any efforts to find him were hopelessly doomed. A quick confirmation check that a cynosural field was being prepared for the extraction, and all there was to do was wait.
Finding himself with spare time to finally think, Friedrich quickly returned to his previous concerns. There had been maybe seven, or eight days in the past six months where anyone had even bothered to get him out of stasis. It was unnerving, quite frankly, to hear news one month of a few Triglavian ships poking around some low security backwater, and a few months later have someone inform him that the system next door to where he had purchased this very Hel had been ripped from known space entirely. That had been an awkward conversation.
Maybe he would stay awake this time. Of course, he said that every time, but when your body is trapped in a capsule passively maintaining many of the core systems that keep a ship that measures in the millions of kilograms operating and not being torn to shreds by titan doomsdays…well. Let’s just say the drug-augmented nothingness of stasis allowing the weeks flow like water down a stream starts to sound mighty good. He had lasted two days the last time, before he had flicked the switch.
The only hope was that there were more targets to come. When Frederico was in a good mood, he could be quite the dedicated little hunter. More targets, less waiting, less stasis. Who knows, maybe he could even get back to remembering what day of the week it is. Or what year.
Sometimes he wished he was like the crew members. Sure the risk of death was there- unpleasant. But they got to stay awake, and life on a supercarrier was generally much safer and more desirable than flying with some nutbag on a perpetual suicide mission like Frederico. But alas, there was no glory in that. Friedrich would not get his name written in the stars piloting a Cyclops or operating the cargo elevator. The killmark went on the side of the supercarrier, not on a little handout button to the janitor.
The call for the exfiltration cynosural field went out, and he jumped them to safety. The standard procedures were followed, the call that the supercarrier was safe went out.
Friedrich paused for a moment, but selected the necessary options for stasis. If he didn’t do it now, he was just going to do it in a day or two anyway, so why waste the effort?
As he felt his conscious thoughts slowly fade, his last feeling was that of uncertainty. Where was he in this galaxy? Where was he, between the fleeting glory and the endless fading to black?
Somewhere, perhaps, between Heaven and Hel.