Beads of sweat ran down the side of Tarm’s face as the massive industrial ship shuddered out of warp. Never before had he encountered such a malevolent soul as the one he had just faced. He held up his shaking hand and tried to calm himself. Glancing at the status readout just above his head, he swore at what he saw. There were 12 breaches in the hull, of which 3 had damaged the main drive propulsion chambers. Four decks had completely depressurized, killing almost a third of his slave labor. Every section of armor plating had been stripped off by the vicious attack at the last stargate. He had his repairer module working, but it was slow work to repair the extensive damage.
“What would provoke someone to just attack us like that?” he wondered aloud.
“Pirates,” His father replied as he desperately tried to re-calibrate the shields, “Carrion that feed on the pain of the innocent.”
The readout showed 4 of the 6 shield emitters offline or completely destroyed. Projectile slugs had pummeled the shields into non-existence almost instantaneously. Luck was all that could account for the fact that the Rifter-class frigate had been unable to reach the industrial to stop it from warping. The frigate had been working together with a Tempest-class battleship, the pride and joy of the Republic’s Navy.
An alarm claxon awoke Tarm from his stupor as the Tempest and Rifter appeared behind them. Only four kilometers separated them from the gate that would take them into safe space under the protection of Concord. The viewscreen directly in front of him started blinking yellow as the battleship’s targeting computer locked on to the damaged Bestower-class industrial.
“I can’t make it go any faster son, and our shields are only at six percent.” Tarm’s father sat manipulating the shield readouts furiously. The viewscreen suddenly started blinking red.
The first impact slammed the two men against the bulkhead. “We have to leave, NOW!” Tarm shouted as he clutched for the emergency evacuation release. He glanced at his father as he pulled the lever, realizing too late that he had fallen out of his seat. Tarm screamed as the sides of the lifepod encased his chair, covering his body instantly with impact resistant gel. He barely felt the slam of the pod leaving the ship, nor did he feel the explosion that ripped apart the mighty vessel.
Tarm engaged warp to a nearby moon, safe from the attackers at the gate. His father’s pod was not on the scanner. He increased the range of the scanner and focused on the stargate he had just warped from. Both the battleship and the frigate were still at the gate, presumably searching the wreckage for something to salvage. His life’s work had been stored on that ship. Years of sweat, tears, and blood had bought the minerals that had been in the cargo hold. It was his family’s only chance at reaching Holder status, and now both it and his father were gone. His family’s savings had been spent to purchase the education required to mine and the mining equipment; which in turn had been sold to finance the industrial to ferry the wealth back into Amarrian space. All of it lost. A tear mingled with the gel inside the pod as a wave of grief and frustration overcame his emotions.
“Where are you, slaver? We already have one corpse, but we would like both to feed to our fedo as they are terribly hungry.”
Tarm’s back straightened suddenly as he sat up in his lifepod. My father was killed because of my slaves? The thought rebounded violently in his head as realization suddenly dawned. “Freedom fighters” had destroyed them. Slaves turned terrorists who normally preyed on religious zealots in the core systems. What were they doing hunting him way out here in the outer systems? Why us? Why now?
“You have been on our list for some time now, slaver.” The slave declared. “We watched as you purchased thousands of our brethren to run your mining operation for you as you sat and grew fat on their labor. We watched as you risked their lives needlessly to mine a hostile asteroid far beyond the protection of Concord and their laws. This day we watched as you burned under a Matari star; a fitting end for a slaver such as yourself.”
Do they not know the lengths he took to keep the slave’s families together? Do they not know the safety precautions he employed to keep them safe under harsh conditions? Do they not know that his slaves revered him as their mentor, enlightening them on the path of God? Do they not know that with the destruction of his ship they have just murdered the thousands they sought to save? God, why have you allowed such murderous heathens to run free?
The questions in his mind remained unanswered. Rage overwhelmed the sadness he felt. Anger filled the void that had been created. Hatred swallowed his soul.
He would remember this day forever.
The gleam of the system’s star reflected on the side of the viewport as the tiny frigate came out of warp. Never before had Tarm seen such an awesome display of force than what was laid out in front of him. Amarrian battleships, cruisers, and frigates of every shape and size were arrayed in defensive formations around a single point in space. Golden platforms of incredible power, utilized for the good of the Empire. It was truly a magnificent sight to behold.
Ionstar Corporation was attempting to deliver the Imperial Apocalypse to the Emperor and was under attack by Matari terrorists. Dozens of ships swarmed the valiant defenders, prodding at the defensive exterior looking for weaknesses. Many terrorists had met their end in the fray, but where one was destroyed, three took up his place. Laser fire streaked from the mass of Amarrians, stabbing at the attackers as they sped past on strafing runs. Explosions from missile bombardment and destroyed ships lit up space before the gate. Onlookers hurriedly fled from the scene, trying desperately to avoid any possibility of getting caught in the cross-fire.
Tarm wanted to join the fray; wanted to annihilate the very terrorists that had taken so much from him. Hate festered in his very soul, consuming him. He found himself subconsciously ordering the punisher class frigate to target lock random terrorists and cancelled the locks. He had yet to master the pod technology he had recently acquired. He was used to the standard manual controls that required more than mere thought. Concord vessels had gathered at the stargate, swooping into the battle like vultures to pick off pilots that were not sanctioned to fight. He did not have the vessel to withstand attack from the asinine bureaucrats or he would’ve joined without hesitation. The fleet slowly fought off the attackers, gaining ground as fewer and fewer joined the battle.
The route back to Amarr Prime was uneventful after the initial attack, only skirmishes with splinter terrorist factions. A full hero’s welcome greeted the Amarrian fleet as they finally entered their home system. Hundreds of pod pilots and millions of citizens were gathered to witness the vessel fit for the Emperor finally reach its destination. Tarm was in awe at the honor and respect the members of the CVA and PIE received from their people. Bureaucracy had no place in PIE, only military force held sway. The might of the combined fleet was inspiring and a perfect vessel with which to exact his revenge.
Through various means and methods, Tarm found a contact within PIE willing to speak with him about joining the cause. A full military and commercial background check was administered, and a full interrogation made the Vice-Admiral certain he was not dealing with a Matari agent. Upon threats of death, dismemberment, and all other sorts of bodily harm if Tarm were to have malicious thoughts towards PIE, the Vice-Admiral admitted him into the corporation. Thoughts of vengeance swept through his mind as he made his way down the long corridor towards the PIE Headquarters in Amarr.
Vice-Admiral Ezar Vorbarra led him to a large unmarked door, keyed in a passcode, and held the door for the newly-appointed Ensign. The dark, boding interior marked the group as secretive indeed. Few occupants within the dimly lit barracks proved to Tarm that the work of the Emperor was being actively done. He mentioned as much to the Vice-Admiral and received a terse response alluding that the lazy do not stay alive long in PIE. He left the reason, either by internal execution or external un-coordination against the enemy, up to speculation. Tarm wondered if this was such a good idea after all. After a rather long walk down a particularly quiet corridor, Vice-Admiral Vorbarra stopped at a small door and opened it, holding it for the young pilot.
“These are your quarters. Training begins in one hour; make sure your vessel has an armor repairer equipped.”
And with that he was gone, leaving Tarm alone to contemplate the choices he had made.
The road ahead would be a difficult one, but revenge would be his.
The sounds of booted footsteps echoed down the vaulted hallway ahead of Tarm as he strode towards his personal docking bay. The call had gone out only seconds before for every available pilot to rendezvous in Amarr Prime for anti-terrorist operations. He had been enjoying a nice glass of spiced wine, listening to a famous Amarrian composer’s rendition of what the ancient humans used to call “Beethoven.” His slaver hound, Brutus, followed him as he neared his destination.
His cloak, adorned with the insignia of PIE and the CVA, whipped behind him as he entered his hanger’s control room. Surrounded by view-ports into his docking bay, Tarm could view each of his ships and control their combat fittings from the station. Battleships stretched for hundreds of meters in front of him, Amarrian ships of every shape and size were arrayed within site, amidst the bustle of drones, shuttles, and maintenance platforms. Each ship was manned by members of The Enlightened that he had gathered himself. Every crew member was instructed on the ways of the Empire, the Emperor, and of God; each wholly devoted to the cause.
He touched the control interface, bringing up a summary of each vessel in his armada. All ships had pod-pilot control added; allowing instantaneous actions in flight. He had modified the interior of the bridge to accommodate getting into the pod mid-flight if he chose. Several attendants of The Enlightened had been instructed on the procedures of pod preparation. In times of battle he often controlled the ships via the pod due to increased combat performance, but preferred to command the ship on the bridge. His Apocalypse, TES Lorica, was fit for duty, recently overhauled with new weapons, but Tarm glanced at his mainstay and chose it instead. His newest addition to the fleet, his Sacrilege-class heavy assault cruiser TES Aranea, was the latest in Khanid technology. He found the Khanids misguided, but was not one to turn down such a fine vessel.
With the combat modules Tarm wanted to use firmly in place, he made is way out of the room onto the egress walkway. As he approached the lift that would take him down to the pitch-black Sacrilege, security checkpoints inconspicuously scanned for the control chip nestled within his skull that allowed access to the vessel. His attendants had wisely stopped several meters behind, not wishing to be cut to ribbons by the laser cannons mounted near the lift. His hound, implanted with the crew-servant chip that also allowed limited access, sat by his feet as he was taken swiftly down to the bridge of the ship. The bridge was alive with activity, more so now that the Master was onboard. Enlightened hurried to each station, hurriedly preparing for departure. Tarm made his way to the communications console, stopping to instruct a newer crew member on the correct procedure of reloading the heavy missile ordinance. He called up the CVA channel, inputting the correct pass-codes and security clearance measures. A holographic representation of the fleet displayed to his left, a list of pilots and their real-time avatars to his right. Most were encased in their pods, with the newer pilots going over last minutes checks of their ships. Vice-Admiral Light Kominski hailed his entry into the channel, sending a fleet uplink that allowed for efficient fleet operation. Upon acceptance Tarm issued the command to undock from his docking bay. He casually touched a button to his lower right and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony began playing on the bridge as the heavy cruiser slid into the darkness of space.
Tarm activated the ship’s comm system and began to recite, “Today shall see the destruction of heathens, and perchance, the restoration of their souls. Each of you are fighting for your Masters and the Emperor, may God bless you.”
It had not always been so grand. Much of his career within PIE had been wrought with destruction and hatred for anything Minmatar. Thousands died at his whim, suffering before death as his father most surely had. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Slaves was unaware, as was most of the CVA, of his actions. He had been to dozens of Matari worlds, gathering the beasts, leading them to slaughter. He kept some for menial tasks, kept in line by fear or Vitoc, but most were destroyed. Whole generations disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Those days were over now, but they haunted him still. The rage inside was gone, replaced by the incredible guilt caused by his sin. The Matari were not swine in need of slaughter, they were lambs in need of a shepherd. They know nothing of what they do because they are in need of direction, of a purpose; Amarrian purpose. He would never be able to atone for what he had done, but perhaps he could make a small difference in reclaiming The Enlightened.
Tarm shifted as he watched stars blur past the viewport. Sometimes he felt as though the burden of his sin would be his undoing. He turned and walked to the pod interface and unhitched his cloak. Perhaps the Emperor and God would forgive him if he defended the Empire until his dying breath. Perhaps.
Oooh, nice one, remember to put it in pilot stories too
3rd story added. I'm bored at work so I might do a fourth today sometime.
Dude. great story.
The stench of unwashed bodies permeated the air in the cargo hold of the Mammoth-class industrial. Thousands of slaves were strewn about randomly, as if dropped from a great distance to land wherever they would. Children of all ages darted between the groups, playing some asinine game with a ball and stick of some kind. The adults sat around talking and laughing, completely oblivious to their previous Master standing less than 50 meters above them.
Only moments before the vessel had been two stargate jumps from Republic space, piloted by the terrorist who had stolen the lot of them. They had been poorly guarded by only a few marines and were stolen easily. The slaves were a fresh batch newly gathered from an outer system deep in one of the old Amarrian provinces and as such, had not yet reached the Enlightenment centers in Amarr. They were filled with false hope, a hope for a life free from “oppression.” Little did they know that without the guiding hand of God and Amarr, they would only starve to death, searching for a life they could never hope to achieve. They wanted “freedom” but did not even understand the truth.
Freedom. Such a useless word, as everyone served something. The Caldari served ISK; the Gallente served the pursuit of pleasure and debauchery. The Amarrians served God and the Minmatar served the Amarrians. It was the way it was supposed to be, until this idea of “freedom” was placed in their minds. Hundreds of generations, thousands of years of tradition, destroyed because of one meaningless ideal. Their “freedom fighters” brought nothing but death and destruction where peace and prosperity should reign supreme.
Tarm lifted his right index finger slightly and hundreds of Kamieras swept into the cargo bay. Screams and yells pierced the dull roar of hurried footsteps. Children ran to their families, women clutched at their men, wide eyes frantically watching the soldiers amongst them. The hold became deathly quiet when the Kamieras reached their positions with laser rifles held at attention. Tarm straightened his insignia.
“Slaves.” He said in a low voice. Thousands of dirty faces whipped around towards the sound of the voice. Gasps and muffled whimpers reached Tarm’s ears as they saw the face of their Master.
“You have disappointed me. I offered you a life free from pain and suffering; free from the worry of finding food or shelter for your family. I offered you a place of honor under my wing and you denied me. You instead chose to follow the terrorists’ view of Matari “freedom,” a false pretense under which a great majority of you would not have survived. Most of you would’ve lost your loved ones, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands; dead because of your own disobedience. I have taken pity on you and have come to gather you once more back into the fold. You will be cared for and taught the teachings of the Empire. Do not try and leave my service again, or you will be executed just as your terrorist friend was.”
One of the exterior hatches in the cargo hold opened, revealing a connected passageway to one of Tarm’s many Bestower-class vessels. “Before you go, I regret to announce that this incident will not go unpunished. It seems as though your numbers have bolstered your disobedience. You will be split; the men will remain on this ship which will be heading to my outer-rim mining operation, while the women and children fewer than fifteen Oris-season years old will be placed under the care of our Enlightenment centers in Amarr.”
Bellows of rage were accompanied by seething movement as pockets of Matari started struggling with the Kamieras. Tarm calmly raised his hand and clenched his fist as if crushing an insect.
Laser fire lit up the interior of the cargo hold, burning holes the size of a human fist into resisters. Chaos erupted as men, women, and children scrambled to avoid being caught by a blast. Many fell clutching their wounds, writhing in pain until they died on the deck.
“SILENCE,” Tarm bellowed, lowering his fist. “You will comply or you will die right here, right now.” The slaves quickly responded by remaining still. Two of the Kamieras were down, surrounded by several dozen dead Matari. “Women and children will now move in groups of six into the Bestower. Resistance will be met with maximum force.”
Tarm watched as the cargo hold was slowly drained of occupants. The men remained in groups, eyeing him and the Kamieras with equal ferocity. With a quick gesture he walked off of the balcony back into the corridors of the industrial. His elite warriors evacuated the hold, retrieving their fallen comrades on the way out. Walking back towards the airlock that connected to his shuttle, he ordered his soldiers to seal the Matari in the hold and then to leave the Mammoth. He watched the Bestower go into warp from the viewport of his shuttle. More future Enlightened for the flock, he thought; too bad there had to be disobedience. He had not owned a mining operation in years.
Tarm barely noticed the explosion as the Apocalypse slowly reached warp velocity.