YC120 Pod & Planet Fiction Contest - A wild year

-The stand-down

AJ Vartinque completed the checks on his industrial command ship for docking with a troubled mind. The asteroid mining operation his crew had just completed was successful but came with a twist. He made a call to corporate HQ. “Jon Davon here along with Chief Financial Officer Randi Short”’- the line answered. They were planet side in a land battle simulator. Such is the way of executives at play. “Hi Dav and Randi.” Vart answered. “I finished preparing Rokh Industrials corporate property for our seasonal stand-down from our third tour. Our fleets and profits are optimal. However, I found a most curious thing in Officer Iragrade’s quarters.” “What’s that?” Dav asked. “Our logs have her starting capsuleer training when the CONCORD policing force issued Standard Cerebral Accelerators and she had one. Since you pulled her from that training for fleet level work, she never installed the tech.”Vart added. “I did some research into this tech and it was groundbreaking. It works like battle stimulants but with a month long effect and no side effects. CONCORD themselves wouldn’t give me more info so I think they lost access to the manufacturing and the R&D.” Vart paused before the finish.” The danger is with the new Skill Injectors . Marketed to remove bad battle memories, they allow rich corporations to steal bad dreams as “training” to new pilots. These 2 techs together could be quite the edge in battles. A new pilot with a strong mentor and command could pilot like a veteran but boosted. I warned CONCORD of this risk and they stated that a recall would do more harm than good.” Randi thought for a brief moment. ” Well then why don’t we try profit it off this knowledge?” Vart agreed. ”Yeah, I was leaning toward that. There are around 40 of the units for sell in the cluster.” Dav concluded, “Buy’em all, Vart. Thanks for tending the fleet.”

-The Market Play

Putting the Corporate Orca into an overhaul berthing was bittersweet to Vart and his mind wandered to the many tasks he had to complete. The cluster was a powder keg. East of patrolled Empire space, Death Legionnaire pilots were on a retreat to the south from a new coalition. The newcomers were a threat to order and the old alliances were starting to draw lines in the sand. Through their tours of training and construction on the edge of Empire space, Rokh Industrials had survived as neutral marketers. There wouldn’t be much room in the middle this go around of war. Vart was tasked to find a new home for the pilots of Rokh Industrials or a home would find them.

As Rokh Industrials’ Chief Intelligence Officer, Vart did the recon and reading. His code name through training in the Caldari State was “WhiteFang.” He nearly completed a mission to smoke out enemy sympathizers for the Caldari State Navy, but the tooth implant he used to record his evidence failed before he got the case together. It cost him his reputation and got him washed out of duty. Jon Davon hired him running odd jobs just to keep his piloting skills sharp. His briefings had minimized the damages from a short corporate war with a local rival during the 1st training tour.

He did break into a smile as he got into view of his next ride. Equipment tests and prepping was being made the most advanced ship he could pilot, a Caldari Tengu class strategic cruiser. Its advanced shield and cloaking systems would allow him to run the gauntlet of bottleneck systems to the cluster’s marketplaces. Its systems were so advanced that pilots reported memory loss and a need for re-training after the links were dropped and the safety system ejected the pilot from a destroyed hull.

  • The New Agent

The trip through Empire space to the Hub of trade was handled skillfully. The usual pirating bands monitored the bottlenecks for easy prey. He witnessed a few random acts of space violence, but didn’t have a horse in the running in any of the battles. He had too many important tasks weighing on his mind to get distracted playing white knight for some random stranger.

He couldn’t help but awe in the shrine to capitalism that the Jita system, Caldari Navy Moon 4 Space Station had become. Thousands of ships in orbit, a traffic control system that tasked supercomputers to the limit and the constant hum of business and bartering. As he waited for ship berthing, he hoped that the traffic would mask some field craft and he dialed his old friend’s son. “Recruit Arkade Elerra” the line answered. “Hi Arkade, I hope that you are ready for you next mission.” Vart offered. “Yeah, my father said that you were sponsoring my training by the Brave Collective. Why?” Vart sighed but was resigned to tell the truth. “I need eyes on the ground to report to my superiors on the conditions of their space. You won’t disguise your motives and they will be yours. Before our corporate gear is put into the war grinder the corporate members will want to know the rules of the road. My training is too advanced in industry and perimeter security to start with a clean slate.” Arkade thought for a moment. “So I have to teach you old dogs some new tricks?” Vart grinned, ”Ha, have fun and fly safe recruit”

Vart got his ship docked and the usual maintenance scheduled. Now the real market “fun” would begin. Standard Cerebral Accelerators were such old news that only a few specialists were dealing in them. There were only a handful of sellers with varying prices. He needed to scope them up in a way to not spook them and show his hand. His sharp mind ran some numbers and it would be some weeks and many trips to secondary markets and return trips to corporate planetary trade stations to complete his market play.

  • The Cluster-Wide War

Arkade’s timing of his recruitment to the Brave Collective came just the powers in unpatrolled space were making calls to arms. Just a few weeks prior, the Legion of Death had retreated towards their allies in Legacy space with massive losses. Old war dogs from the North of the Cluster had a bone to pick with Legacy and threw their hat in with the new Eastern allies in a play to overtake all of Legacy space. Brave had its work cut out for it.

He quickly learned how to fly well even with his limited skills. Almost all combat ships will be abandoned in a burst of flames and/or a quick ejection. Repair and Electronic warfare ships are quick to learn and rarely in large supply. Fast frigate class ships are cheap and required to cripple an enemies warp engines on field –preventing a tactical retreat. These “tackle” ships might have short histories but they save the expensive heavy lifters on the damage side of the equation.

Instructions from his Uncle Vart got him quick cash in exploring abandoned space facilities and he was a contributing line member quickly. Before the sector exploded into large fleet fights, he managed to steal a training battleship from under the seat of a fleeing local that got caught by a patrol. The other pilot wisely chose to save his pod and its expensive battle implants. Arkade grabbed the ship as ordered. Gaining Interstellar Kredits (ISK) was just a short task afterwards to replace his ship losses with a good hangar set up.

The battle pieces were soon set. The massive movement of the cluster’s north and east had stirred up a hornets nest in the 2 southern powers. Legacy and Imperium coalitions would stand together rather than give quarter to old enemies. The North and East’s first moves were met with disorganized resistance as lines were drawn and staging areas were overrun. Legacy command decided to start the construction of a massive Keepstar class space station in the system of UALX to stem the tide.

The call to arms rang to all corners of the cluster. Men, ships, supplies and ISK weren’t spared. Arkade powered up his e-war range jammer and joined the fleet. The first round of battle was a probe for weaknesses. Thousands of tiny ships dueled in countless battles over ranges to the construction ships and massive station. He scored a few victories over some enemy repair ships trying to keep their line members in the fight. After many long minutes, the capital ship cyno beacons began to light up. His fleet was told to close range to the damaged station and soak what incoming enemy fire they could. His jaw dropped as he saw the enemy fleet complete their warp. Hundreds of Titan class ships had landed at range from the station and were putting weapon systems online. Legacy coalition answered this by deploying their super-capital fleet in response. They were outnumbered but would deal as much damage as possible so construction teams could escape the now doomed project.

The flow of reinforcements never halted and the Imperium’s super-capital fleet finally got to the scene quicker than some of their ancient enemies from the North. A twist would soon be thrown to the fleet commanders. Ship Insurance estimates of the battle could bankrupt some firms. In a rare agreement between the 4 Spacing empires, they intervened. CONCORD space policing agents deployed some hidden technology to push all ships to stasis in random points in Unknown space. Pilots had communications and coordinates back to the field but would have to reorganize and regroup for Round Three at the site of the wreckage.

Imperial Legacy commanders smelled blood in the water and ordered a return to action for their fleets. North and East commanders had completed their strategic objective and decide to stand down for the moment. Construction crews were ordered back immediately to get a staging station on site for sub-capital ships. It completed its deployment in record time. The attackers were now on defense. Their entry points would be patrolled by hundreds of pilots looking to pick off stragglers. Even worse, the pause in the battle gave Legacy a window to safely deploy a new Keepstar nearly in the debris of the lost one. The North and East commanders would eventually extract their fleets after a week of preparation and blockade fatigue by Imperial Legacy.

Once rolling, the war machine soon got up to full steam. Hundreds of outposts were lost by the North and East as Imperial Legacy gained more and more proficiency in battle and numbers. Staging Keepstars were getting picked off weekly until a battle brewed in the North’s staging system of X47. If it fell, a general retreat would have to be sounded. Both sides again spared no expenses on the field at first. Once the numbers started to roll in, the beast that Imperial Legacy had fielded would not be stopped. There wouldn’t be an intervention this time either. Dozens of Titans were melted down, hundreds of smaller ships lost and the battle won. Mop up duty would be conducted over the next few weeks.

Vart finished up his basic ideas for the use of the Standard Cerebral Accelerators and the added Skill Injectors. An organization could pair veteran pilots with rookies and mate the gear to form a Black Ops Stealth Ship doctrine he dubbed the “Melt Squadron”. Stealth bombers and Tech 3 Cruisers for support would be the focus for fast action to melt down targets and then melt their sensor signatures back into the shadows. It would be pricey but would be an edge that could help in a tight battle.

  • The Rokh rolls

Vart had completed his shopping and read the reports from Arkade. Dav and Randi wanted to just keep Rokh Industrials as a holding company and join up with the Brave Collective during the winter months of duty. He sold off surplus equipment and made the journey to the South in his Tengu. His second in command for Intelligence, Reginald Wildheart, was left in command. Little did Vart know that Reginald had been harboring some doubts of the move and had his some of his own ideas. He loaded the valuable Standard Cerebral Accelerators into his battlecruiser and flew towards a regional market. He would have to decide to enrich himself or stay loyal to his friends during the flight. This is Eve.

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