A brief story: A mirror to Life.
(Not sure where else to post this, but I felt a surge of creativity!)
Jerek looked down from the observation platform into the station hangar. Around him on the concourse the air was abuzz as commoners bustled about plying their wares, chattering to merchants and indulging in idle gossip. Every so often a hush would descend as a Holder passed through with their entourage, the commoners all bowing low and backing away. Slaves prostrated themselves on the floor until the grand processions had passed, at which point they stood, standing nervously behind their owners.
However, this was only of vague interest to Jerek as he gazed down at his newest vessel. A gift from the Chaplain of P.I.E, Ezar Vorbarra, for his "loyalty" to the cause. Down below in the hangar, held in place by gantries and power lines sat the sleek, hook-like form of an Omen Cruiser. He had brought it here with its skeleton crew from the Imperial Dreams foundries, testing its system, running basic diagnostics en route. The ship was magnificient.
But Jerek did not feel he deserved it. He had been on only a couple of operations, one of which had resulted in the loss of his Inquisitor at the hands of Hobbspawn and Hakera, the infamous Minmatar Freedom fighters. He had to hand it to them, they were very efficient. The fact that he had damaged Hakera softened the loss a little.
He had sworn to himself that he would repay the debt he owed Ezar for this show of generosity. His mind wanders as he remembers another oath he ahd sworn.. to his father, when the man had still been alive... to his now-dead sister: to return, to see them. His eyes narrow and his fists clench behind his back as his memories surface.
A growl rouses him from his reverie. His slaver hound, Excido, was standing, hackles tensed. Jerek turned to see what had gotten the animal so vexed. Before him stood a Holder; he recognised the robes and jewlery... but this one was a little less well-kept than others of his type. His robe looked care-worn and his expression was that of a man deprived of sleep for far too long.
'Mr...ah...um.. Laz? Inquisitor, um, Laz?'
Jerek nodded slowly, placing a hand on his hounds head. The beast immedietly calmed, sitting back down at its masters side.
'Ah, excellent. My name is Manag Uruthwey. You were, ahem, recommended to me by one Barbara Cassani..'
'AH, my favourite agent.' Jereks voice was tinged with irony. Recently Barb had taken to flirting with him... then dumping completely useless bits of merchandise on him as "rewards". Frankly, he was tempted at times to test his new weapon systems on her office... 'And what has she recommened me to you for eactly?'
'A.. um.. mission. A bit of a dangerous one, but one that, considering your history, she believes you can handle.'
Jerek raised an eyebrow. His agent had respectfully deferred any mention of the loss of his Inquisitor, the one sign that she HAD integrity. SO, he doubted the man was being sarcastic.
'It's.. my daughter. I am in the business of trading in human resources..'
'Ahem, yes... apologies. I've spent far too much time in Caldari space it seems: adopting their methods of referrals. Anyway, it appears I have gotten on the bad side of a couple of Minmatar thugs...'
'Which Amarran hasn't? Apologies, go on.'
'YEs,w ell, my daughter. While I was away on business, it seems that these thugs decided to, as they put it "teach me a lesson". So, they've kidnapped my daughter. And "enslaved her". I recieved this from them today, she's been missing for 12 hours now.'
Jerek took the proffered disk from the man, slotting it into a palm computer. A grainy image flared up of a Minmatar, grinning at the camera.
'So, you think you cant rade in the lives of my bretheren and get away, eh, scum-ball? Well, looks like we just evened the scores.'
He steps aside to show a young girl, probably twenty, strapped to a chair, gag in mouth. Three other Matari stand to the side, lounging agaisnt the walls. The look on her face was one of abject terror. The origional Matar steps back into focus.
'Since we're charitable folk, we'll probabyl not do too much to her... but refuse our demands and my rather frustrated crew will get to ease themselves in certain ways, understood? Then we'll give her a nice burial in a can somewhere in Curse Space.. how's that sound? Now, we want you to come to these co-ordinates, no escorts. Dock at the station... and submit yourself to us. Oh... and while your at it, bring as many slaves as you can fit into your damn hold. Failure to comply ain't advised, you Amarran fedo..'
He waved patronisingly at the camera, before the image flickered off. Jerek blinked, then frowned. A memory of another girl, another time flashed to the forefront of his brain, but he supressed it. Anger in its own time and place...
'On..on the disk.. what do you think I should do?'
'Go home, fix yourself a glass of wine, clean yourself up. You look worse than half the slaves on this station, Lord Holder. Retain some dignity... I shall deal with this little incident. Rest assured, if they have double-crossed you, then they will pay... inf act, they will pay anyway.'
With that, he placed the computer into his robe, nodding smartly to the Holder, bowing slightly, before turning and striding towards the elevators. The hound sniffs the holder again, before turning and padding after its master, slaves and commoners alike quickly moving out of the Inquisitor, and his pets, way.
Behind him, the holder swallows, but a flicker of a smile crosses his face briefly. Not a nice smile. Within moments, he has vanished into the crowd...
(Part two coming after I've done some more logic revision.)
Good stuff Jerek - Looking forward to part two - worthy of Intergalactic i'd say
Jerek sat in his cabin aboard ship, going through the manifests. It had been barely half an hour since he'd seen the strange Holder and already preperations were being completed. A tentative knock sounded at the door and his slaver hound pricked its ears up.
Jereks second, Zacharia Marduk entered the cabin, standing to attention, the Symbol of PIE gleaming upon his right breast, just under the coiled wyvern symbol of Laz's own Holding.
'Sir, um... just a brief question.'
'Well, it seems we're taking our new Cruiser on a rescue mission...'
'Lightning operations, quick in and out...'
'..whilst carrying an entire platoon of Caldari mercenary Marines.'
His second falters, then clears his throat.
'Well, sir... Cruisers aren't really known for their abilities as insertion vessels, nor are an entire platoon of Caldari consider the BEST silent-operatives. I'm just a tad confused as to your reasoning, since we are supposed to be working on behalf of a Holder...'
'Who doesn't exist.'
Zachari stops mid-flow: '...Sir?'
'I am always one to trust instincts... either my own or those of my allies. Excido here didn't like the smell of the chap. So, I ran his dna through a check... skin cells on the disk he handed me. Search turns up nothing on the Holder data-base. Nor does it on the Criminal, nor commoner records. But HERE's the clincher: he DID turn up on the Minmatar refugee roster.'
'He... he was Minmatar?'
'Simple procedure: bodily-restructuring, to resemble an Amarr... except his surface layer of epidermis was shedding too quickly, which revealed the true Minmatar cells beneath the constructed "Amarr" layer. Other things alerted me to the ruse; Hodlers are a notoriously proud lot, even my father was. Even inc ases regarding personal issues, they would NEVER go in public looking that tatty. Nor would they put themselves at a disadvantage to another: his speech was nervous, stuttery: Amarr holders HAVE to keep their nerve at all times, to do otherwise is to be seen as weak and therefore... dead.'
'So, this is a trap then?'
'WHY are we still going ahead with it?'
'Because I'm bored, Commander Marduk, and because I want to see how effective this ship is... and because I want to know if that girl is either in on this or really IS in trouble. I owe my own conscience that much.'
'And.. the Marines? You know PIE won't like us using non-Amarran methods.'
'A neccessary evil for plausible deniability. We turn up in Minmatar space with a contingent of Zealous Amarran soldiers, we could start a war... as we know what Amarran soldiers like to do on leave, do we not? And we are heading for a Minmatar space station... However, Caldari mercenaries equals plausible deniability, as that means ANY independant person with an axe to grind could have hired mercs and bought an Amarran starship. And they are disciplined, if expensive. Our own troops on board should be enough for SHIP security though... these gentlemen are for my little operation.'
'As ever sir, I apologise for questioning your judgement...'
'No need: it is always good to listen to criticism, for if one becomes complacent and over-confident, one becomes a victim of ones own arrogance. I have informed station security about this individual, and he should be being held, so he is not a factor. I think... it is time...'
(Part three... after the break.)
The Omen cruiser slid throug the inky blackness of the Teonusade system. Before the vessel hung the ricketty mesh of a Minmatar station, all industrial girders and bolted on armour. Slowly, the imposing golden vessel moved closer.
On board the station, the duty watch-commander sat up straight as his radar officer issued a stat-report:
'Sir, we have an Amarran ship in bound... they've transmitted a request to dock.'
The commander stroked his chin for a second, fingers playing across the Khumaak that was propped against his chair.
'Tow them in and lock them down. It could be traders, slavers... or the "visitor" our Honoured Guests are expecting. I want a security detail down in the hangar ready. Hopefully this goes to plan and the fool has turned up. Inform our Guests that he has arrived...'
The commander frowned. Why a Cruiser? Perhaps the fool thought to intimidate the Matari "terrorists"? Pah... He hoped they made the slaver bleed.
Down in the hangar, the Omen slid neatly into the docking clamps. The gantry ramp extended just as a small contingent of Minmatar security took up position on the gantry-way. They held small-arms weapons, not expecting a mere space captain to be much of a threat. This was how the Amarrans usually were: they came on board, or just operated from the ship... but this one had to come out.
The air-lock on the massive cruiser slid open... but nothing emerged. The security paused... confused, glancing at each other. One took a step forwards, and all hell broke loose.
The massive turrets on the vessel came to life. One swivelled, aiming at the security, who barely had time to yell in shock as the gun blasted forth its redeeming light. The security became mere heat shadows one the slowly melting wall.
'SIR! Systems are being overriden! They've broken weapon lock-down!'
'How the hell...'
'They're aiming... at US!'
A split second later, the cannon made short work of the control room overlooking the hangar. The flame billowed out, like some obscene, yet beautiful flower before dying in a grey haze of smoke.
Alarms blared all over the station, as security scrambled. Meanwhile, in the hangar, those security thatw ere elft standing came face to face with another horror.
From the airlock emerged nine ravenous looking slaver hounds, led by Jereks own Excido. Following them came group after group of masked Caldari troopers, rifles readied. The Matar barely had time to blink before controleld rounds went off, the disciplined firing killiing them instantly. The slavers bounded along, using wall hops to gain height to descend on their prey from above. As soon as a Minmatar entered the hangar, he was either polaxed by a pouncing slaver hound and dragged along the bay-floor, or shredded by the burst fire from the Caldari.
Three of the merc groups split from the main bod, heading along the hangar to each docked ship, placing charges or dragging the crew from the insides. Within a few short moments, the hangar was secure.
_'Alpha team, this is bravo, ships secure.'
'Alpha, this is charlie team, entry-way secure. Policing bodies.'
'Alpha, delta reporting, prisoners secure.'_
The mercenary commander stood from his kneeling position, turning tof ace the figure that emerged from the airlock. Jerek surveyed the scene before him, allowing a small smile to cross his lips.
'Well done, Commander. You are worth every penny.'
'Sir, area secure. Your orders?'
'Well, commander, we have a little game of cat and mouse to play now. Lets see how fast we can catch the rodents. Seperate any Matar prisoners from the crews of these ships... I want them watched. As for the Gallente and any Caldari traders, standard procedure, no killing. They are temporary captives...'
The merc commadner nodded, before making hand signals to his men across the hangar. A quick curt nod from them and the Minmatar are quickly split from the groups.
Jerek nodded in satisfaction, before advancing down the gantry and onto the bay-ledge. His loyal hound approached, growling with satisfaction. The Amarran patted its blood soaked jowls before clicking his fingers. All the slavers turn their attention to him, padding over.
'We have someone to find, my dears. Lets get to work.'
He advanced towards the hangar exit, two merc groups in tow...
'What the hell are we gonna do?'
The large matar paces from one end of the small room to the other.
'That damn Amarran has us pinned, he comes in, wipes out HALF the security detatchement, and siezes the damn dock... and OUR DAMN SHIPS!'
He slams his fists onto the desk, glaring at the Amarran girl before him.
'YOU said this would work, you said one of the damn PIE, or Dark Seraph or Black-sheep Patriots would damn well take the bait.'
The girl huffsindignantly.
'I thought it WOULD... they're pompous enough to think they're serving the common good and actually capable of doing so...'
'Seems damn capable to me, girlie.'
'Hey, you wanted a plan, I gave you one... we've been trying to work at the for months: Oracle only managed to make a major "step" recently! And still the CVA harrass us... I tried and it didn't work!'
'Yeha, great... and we all DIE in the process!'
'Well, instead of moaning, how about we think of a way outta here.'
The matar fumes for a moment, then sighs, planting himself down onto a chair. The other five matari relax considerably. For some reason, she could face up to him, and sometimes face him down. She took the lead.
'Right, well he may have taken the hangar, but that's not the only place they have ships... lok here: the maufacturing bays, and here, the market storage areas. Both connect to the hangars... getting out means flying PAST the Cruiser, but we'd have the advantage of speed. And surprise.'
The large minmatar nods slowly.
'I see... well, I can't think up anything better... save trying the station escape pods, but I reckon we'd be sitting ducks before the useless system security turned up.'
The girl nods again, smiling wryly.
'The republic navy...reliable lot.'
A faint laugh echoes through the room as the men try to raise their spirits.
'Right, grab your guns and lets move like we have a purpose... we need to get to the elevator on this concourse...'
With that, the small aprty collects their kit and exits, heading at a jog down the corridor. As they approach the lift, the doors slide open... and a trooper wearing IR goggles, gas-mask and combat gear emerges. He spots them, rolling into a side corridor, letting off a burst from his rifle. The Minmatar take cover behind bulk-heads, rounds pingign from the floor and walls. Taking advantage of the lack of returning fire, two more troopers emerge, joinging their comrade. Another two exit and begin advancing.
One Minmatar, sweat trickling down his forehead, suddenly leaps from cover yelling. He promptly empties his rifle down the corridor, polaxeing the two advancing Caldari. However, the short stattacco bursts fro the remaining troopers shreads his torso with ease.
The rest of the group sprint away, firing randomly behind them.
_'Alpha team, this is charlie. Targets sighted, deck 26, heading towards lift A3. Destination unknown... One hostile down, two friendlies hurt.'
'Copy that Charlie... maintain position, med-evac if poss.'
'Affirmative... Charlie out.'_
The Minmatar spy the lift before them, and slow. There is no sound of pursuit. Slowly, the doors slide open... the lift is empty.
'Thank matar, let's go guys...'
Two of the Minmatar step inside... and gunfire errupts as the Mercs on TOP of the lift fire down inside. The doors slide shut as the two Minmatar collapse, blood pooling on the floor.
The girl stares in horror, slowly looking at her ashen faced allies.
'They damn well hunting us...'
AS if on cue, an ominous growl reaches their ears. Shadows flicker along the walls, as the amber emergency lighting flashes, painting the corridor in a lurid colour. From both directions four slaver hounds come into view.
'Lets get you outta here at least...'
'What?' The girl looks at her friend in puzzlement and fear. The large matari lunges at the lift doors, hooking his fingers into the small gab between, prizing them open. He whips up his rifle, peering down. Two floor below sits the elevator... with the group of mercs still on top. He growlys, emptying his clip at them, causing the darkened shaft to become a marcarbe lightshow of sparks and falling bodies.
Without letting her protest he grabs the girl and lowers her into the shaft, allowing her to climb down. As he turns, he sees a slaver pounce. His fellows open fire, but their aim is off and the beasts tear into the two Minmatar, leaving the large Brutor alone. One hound bounds towards him and the Brutor dives away instinctively... into the shaft. He falls, slamming into the weakened roof of the elevator, crashing into the main compartment. The girls shrieks and scrambles down to her fallen friend.
As she kneels beside him, testing for a pulse, the doors slide open, the third time... and a shadow falls accross the girls face.
'Hello, young one...'
'Y...you? Who ARE you?'
'Jerek Laz, Inquisitor Soldier of PIE.'
'You're the one...'
'Correct. I would ask as to why I've had to trek all the way into Minni space to rescue someone who obviously doesn't need rescuing: a heretic. I would ask WHY, but I have a feeling the answer is something along the lines of "Libertae, equalitea, egalitae" as the Gallente say it.'
He regards her with a modicum of disinterest.
'You certainly aren't a fool, though. Pity...'
'You PIG, slaver scum... you look at these humans as if they were mere trinkets, toys ANIMALs to toy with...'
'On the contrary... animals are not there to toy with. I regard animals with the utmost respect. I see humans as nothing more than vessels, means to ends. Things that can be improved upon. In this day and age of cloning a human life is no longer really sacrosanct. To claim so is complete tosh, arrogant and frankly, investing far too much importance in the individual over the good of the many. Slaves are a neccessity, the Empire views things in the long term. You should udnerstand that democracy is a reactionary thing, and freedom an illusion, for one is ALWAYS constrained by something. Freedom, craved by those who lack it, wasted by those who have it.'
He reaches down, hoisting her to her feet. Behind him, two Caldari mercenaries emerge from the shadows, hoisting up the barely-cognitive Brutor.
'However, I don't expect you to understand... you are young, full of fire and passion. Why sacrifice one life in exchange for another? On a moral scale it solves absolutely nothing, and these freedom fighters" do just that: kill to save... allowing hatred to sow its seeds. I'm sure your family will be delighted to know of your safe return...'
Her face turns grey and shallow. Her voice is a whisper.
'Please... no, don't tell them.. my father he'd... he'd.'
'Yes... indeed. Young, fiery, passionate... and naive and selfish.'
jerek sighs, as the small troupe enters the hangar. He passes the girl to two Amarran soldiers.
'See she is put in a good cabin, but keep her inside. And keep an eye on her.. i don't want a suicide on this vessel.'
The soldiers salute and escort the girl away. Jerek turns his attention to the Mercenary commander.
'Excellent job... recall your men back to the Hangar... release ALL the captives... the Minmatar are merely a gesture to show that we COULD have taken slaves if we wanted. Fine work today, Commander, fine work.'
'Thank you, sir... all a good days business. Not too much in the way of loss of revenue, save on potential doctors bills and one memorial service... good days business.'
Jerek smiles thinly, before entering the vessel, heading for the lift. He acknowledges a salute from Zacharia, before heading back to his Pod. Behind him he hears a scrabbling, and turns to see his Slaver brood returning. Nodding with satisfaction, the Inquisitor heads to his Pod....
A mere 10 minutes later and the Cruiser slides from the station. Some of the fires were visible even from the outside. No ships remained to challenge the Omen cruiser as it alligned with th gate. Within moments, it had left the system, justa s the first emergency support vessels arrived on scene. ...
Jerek Laz leaned back in his chair, sipping a glass of Amarran spiced wine. He savoured the taste for a moment, enjoying the heat from the slowly-burning fire. He'd been here in his comfortable residence on Amarr for a few days, enjoying the small time he had to himself. Around him, his slaver pack snored quietly, enjoying the heat.
He reflected for a moment on the events of recent days. That brutor had been handed to Gaius for... "debriefing". The Grand Inquisitor of PIE was a master of "discussion". Currently he was being held on Syrikos V, working the plantations, after a brief medical "leave". The fake Holder had been apprehend and was currently being held at an undisclosed location somewhere in Amarr space. The tribunals didn't like it when people impersonated others of not onyl a different social rank but also of a different race.
As for the girl, she had agreed to complete co-operation, so long as her real family weren't informed actual events. Considering the position of the family, it was understandable... Wealthy holders by anyones standards. Loyalty always has a price. One thing the Caldari knew at any rate. And also, what was the point in sacrificing her life for no life in return?
Jerek chuckles. An entire operation that may have cost many lives... for what?
'What is one life in an ocean of lives? A mere flicker in the flames of inspiration and destruction... or a means by which one pays the bills?'
He chuckles to himself.
'I'll drink to that...'