*Based very loosely on true Eve events.
I was standing at the bridge of a starbase from long ago. Even through the thick steel and vastness of the structure, you could hear the explosions outside--the screeching terror as metal clashed with metal.
“Commander, what are your orders?” a man with a boyish face and startling blue eyes stood a few feet away, looking at me expectantly.
I hated that he called me commander, and I hated how he looked at me—as though I could somehow reprieve the brutal slaughter that was currently taking place. I wasn’t even in first command. That job belonged to someone who was nowhere to be found--who had been nowhere to be found for quite a while. I was the only one left to command an alliance that was falling into shambles.
Our last defenses had been breached. We were nearly dead in the water, and we had nothing left to throw at them except rocks and scrap metal. Our allies and protectors had not responded to our pleas for help. They, too, were mysteriously missing from the battlefield.
I slowly turned to the officer, and looked him directly in the eyes. “We run.” I said succinctly.
He looked confused for a moment, and I watched as the truth slowly dawned across his face. “Help isn’t coming, is it.”
The answer was in my face.
The man suddenly stood up, stiffening his back and offering me a salute. “It will be done. I will arrange to get as many out as possible.”
He then turned on his heel and strode toward the door without needing to be dismissed. As he flung the door open, he was met with a blazing wall of fire, and I could barely make out a small squad of our enemies standing there, weapons poised, and ablaze. So we had already been boarded.
The officer fell back and the room filled with smoke and the sickening smell of burnt flesh. One burned claw of a hand reached toward something I could not see.
Two steps took me to the control console, and as the squad burst into the room, trampling over the charred remains in their way, I quickly inserted the key around my neck into a red lock and gave it a quick twist. Then, I spun to meet them.
As the self-destruct sirens blared above us, they looked at me, their eyes gleaming in hatred. In 30 seconds we would all be dead, and none of this would matter anymore. But they were not content. “Time’s up.” One of the growled. The other lifted his weapon and I could feel myself screaming in agony as everything slowly went black.
“Yo, Susan. You there?”
I grimaced and bit back the urge to puke as the flashback recoiled out of my mind. My hand was shaking a little.
“Yeah, I’m here. What’s up?”
“An Ice Fire Warrior Fleet was spotted not too far away.”
I slowly flipped a few controls to start the undocking procedures, and tried to push back the memories that tried to surface again. I had put all of that behind me long ago.
Or so I thought. Picking up the remnants of our fragmented alliance had been impossible after the complete annihilation at our starbase that night. Corporate and alliance members had respawned all over the universe, and many never bothered to make contact again. I flew solo for a while, dodging politics and recruiters. I died, and re-cloned frequently, not really caring anymore—pushing only to carve out an anonymous existence for myself.
One day, I had a run in with a rather unruly pirate. He obliterated my ship, and I had to pod it to a station not far away. I took a few days break, hanging out at some of the local hotspots. As I entered one of the seedier establishments to grab a quick drink before heading out again, a gravelly, heavily accented voice called out to me.
“Nice tank back there.” It was the pirate who had killed me a few days earlier. I recognized his voice from the taunting he had given me over public communications.
“Thanks.” I glared at him and flipped my ponytail over my shoulder.
Instead of leaving me alone, he stood up and walked over to me. “Buy you a drink?”
I shrugged, and he slapped some ISK down on the counter. The bartender eyed him, and I was surprised to see fear in his face.
“They know you here.” I commented.
He grinned. “Maybe a little.”
I grabbed the drink the bartender offered me and leaned against the counter. “So, you’re like a space bully or something.”
He just shrugged. “I do what I want. I stay alive.” He grinned again. “I kill.”
I just stared at him blankly. I had heard of these ‘pirates’ when I lived in the outer regions during the campaign. They were looked upon as nothing more than rogue barbarians with no home, no mission, no honor. They were the brunt of jokes. As a child, my father had threatened to send me to them if I didn’t behave.
“So, you want to come along?” he peered at me closely.
I was a little surprised for a moment, and stared at him incredulously. “Me, a pirate?” I toyed with the rim of my glass.
“You have some place better to be?”
His words rattled me. Worse than not having any place to be, I also didn’t really have anyone to be. Was I currently any different from a wandering pirate? Etching out my little place in the universe.
“Sure.” It was spontaneous, but what did I have to lose? I didn’t bother asking him why. It didn’t matter anymore.
He held out his hand and I tentatively shook it. “Susan Black.” I introduced myself.
He gulped down the rest of his drink. “Lukka.” He responded.
How I ended up in another war, I’ll never know. My trek with the pirate Lukka only lasted a few months, but somewhere along the line I was introduced to a small band of unlikely militia, and slowly became involved in the local politics. Perhaps it was the idea of fighting for a cause again that drew me in. Or, maybe it was just destiny.
The undocking procedures kicked on and I snapped back to reality again as I suddenly drifted away from the starbase.
“Send me the coordinates and I’ll head out.” I said over coms. My console blinked with the information almost instantly.
“What do they have?” Dake asked. He was the closest thing we had to a commander. He was shrewd and brutal, but also had a kind side. I’m pretty sure many of the guys would have blindly followed him into a collapsing Class-6 wormhole without a second thought.
“Uh…six or seven.”Gald responded. “They look like they’re spoiling for a fight.”
“Well, let’s give them one. Everyone head that direction. We’ll meet on the gate out there.”
It wasn’t the first time we had rattled guns with the Ice Fire Warriors. Hardened Minmatar, they had taken notice of the small band of Amarrian warriors who chose to fly mostly apart from the main militia. We wore the light tan colors of the Amarr militia loosely.
Our casual behavior and tendency to shy away from main military fleets caused a lot of distrust for us among other Amarr. Many of our guys questioned their tactics, and openly rebuked the main militia fleets for poorly fit ships.
Sometimes, things broke out into an all-out inter-militia scuffle, which was usually soon disposed of by money changing hands in one form or another. Needless to say, we had to watch out for hostile ‘allies’ nearly as much as we needed to watch out for actual hostile militia.
“The way has been pretty empty so far. Doesn’t look like they have much back-up.” The Ice Fire Warriors, or IFW as we called them, were notorious for having a surprise up their sleeve.
“They’re just hanging out here. You guys close? If so, I’ll go ahead and get them interested.” Gald piped up.
I continued to burn toward the engagement as I listened to fleet member after fleet member landing and engaging.
“Primary is Bahamut.” He was their leader, and it was a good move to get him off the field.
I landed into a mess of drones and flying debris and quickly started to lock nearby targets and listen for additional primaries. It was pretty obvious already that we would hold the field. Already we had killed two of them.
I looked at my controls as a serious of expletives burst over the coms. Local chatter was spiking as IFW’s ‘surprise’ landed on us in the form of several ominous battleships and some logistics.
“Well, this isn’t going to go well.” Grim commented. You could hear the frustration—and the grim amusement in his voice.
“They gonna kill me, I gonna take some down with me.” Dake’s voice sounded annoyed.
It wasn’t long before we were floating in our pods, scattering for the nearby gates.
“I’m sick of their ‘surprises.’” Dake hissed over the coms. “Let’s give them one of our own, shall we?”
I cringed. This could get ugly, really fast. We could lose another gang of ships, and even our pods.
I thought I misheard him. “What are we going to do?”
“They want a fight, we’re going to give them a fight. Be quick about it. I’m sending you all the coordinates. This is where it’s going to happen.”
“What sort of stuff you want us in?” Gald asked. He sounded surprised as well. This was not going to be a usual night. In fact, judging from Dake’s tone it would probably result in all of us suiciding in his wake.
“Battleships. We’ll need to disrupt their energy systems, and we’ll need plenty of DPS. I’m jumping into the Archon.”
“Woah, what? We’re bringing out the archon?” Grim said incredulously.
I was pretty sure that something wasn’t quite right with this plan, but I docked and jumped into my battleship anyway. “I’ll bring some dps.”
After a short silence, everyone began to ship up, gearing up for what we knew would surely be death. Gald started organizing a few from the group to bring energy neutralizers. It would reduce our DPS, but it would be necessary.
It didn’t take long to make the arrangements. This part of flying with these guys I loved. If they made up their minds to do something, they jumped in and got a move on it. None of this dallying around for an hour that had been seen in campaign fleets—everyone taking their time getting ready.
“I’m set.” I said quietly.
“Yep, we’re ready here with the neutralizers.”
The one star in the solar system blinked at us wickedly as our bedraggled fleet headed out. It was a short distance to the coordinates, and we had an IFW scout on our tail. They were definitely watching us, and I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
We warped to an abandoned structure deep in the system. There would be no jumping, docking, or easy reshipping. We were far from our out gates, and safe stations were a long warp away. It was all or nothing time.
“They’re here!” I gasped as the enemy fleet quickly pounced on us. My controls were going crazy with beeping and notifications and my view outside turned into a fireball of instant weapons fire. “That was fast!”
“Yeah, didn’t take them long.” Dake said, amused.
“Cyno, up.” And it began. Oh hell, we were going to lose the archon. An expensive ship we usually only brought out in emergencies.
A brilliant flare of red and blue light surrounded us as Dake arrived. The energy surrounding the ship fairly crackled the surrounding space. It was deafening, terrifying, and beautiful.
“Broadcast if you need repair.”
Gald was furiously ship scanning and calling targets to target with our energy neutralizers. Dake called primary DPS targets and I quickly pounded everything he announced over the coms.
And then, the space surrounding us turned to black and red flames. The reflections rippled across my hull, and the glare nearly blinded me. We had missed the second cyno that had been launched and we all watched incredulously as a hostile carrier landed on the field. And then another. One by one, four Moros’s landed, their gleaming enormous hulls glistening in the cold light of a nearby anomaly.
“Oh my God.” I don’t know who it was that said it over coms, and couldn’t tell if it was just an exclamation or an actual prayer for mercy.
Suddenly, Gald jumped into full swing. “All neuts on that closest Moros. GO GO GO. “ He called a secondary and tertiary neutralizing target, while Dake started calling more primary DPS targets, and I got busy.
“First moros is dead in the water.” Gald exclaimed. “He’s dry!”
“Primary that moros!” Dake’s voice was deadly calm, but you could hear an undercurrent of grim concentration.
I unleashed everything I had on the dreadnaught, including a full complement of heavy hitting drones. The other dps ships in the fleet did the same, as the neuting ships switched to their next victim, leaving partial neuts on the dry ship to keep its energy systems dry.
“I’m triaging a second cycle. Keep DPS on that moros! Keep up the broadcasts. Keep in range. I’ve got you.”
We watched in fascination as we broke through the dreadnaught’s defenses. First her shields, then her armor succumbed. Her hull twisted grotesquely in the dim light, with pieces breaking off in every direction until she was just a mass of burning scraps.
“All DPS on that second moros!”
“All moroses are dry.” Gald announced. “ Keep it up!”
“They’re primarying me.” They had finally found out where the bulk of our DPS was coming from and had turned their attention to my Megathron. She was useless in many situations, but for this—for this her short ranged, brutal DPS was a thing of beauty.
“I’ve gotcha Susan.”
I signed in relief as my low-armor picked back up, quickly grew, and then held steady under their guns.
One of our trigger happy gang members giggled in glee over coms, unable to contain his mirth any longer.
We unleashed against one of their Thanatos carriers, too busy concentrating on the kill to notice that others were fleeing. Their second carrier fled, along with several battleships.
“Grab points, grab points. They’re bailing!”
We cut through the Thanatos’s hull, and killed what was remaining on the field.
Silence reigned as the field cleared of hostiles. Twisted metal, and eerily burning light surrounded us, and several militia we didn’t know were already poking around the debris in salvaging vessels, drawn to the fight like a bee to a flower. We all breathed for a moment as the heat of battle cleared from our minds.
“I’m seeing friendly wrecks. Who died?”
“Just me.” Grim replied. “I think I got a little outside of your reps. I only lost a battleship though.”
There were several other friendly wrecks on field –friendly militia who had gotten a little to curious and strayed a little to close to the engagement.
“We killed them all.” Someone commented over coms.
“We killed four moroses.”
“Are you still alive Dake?”
“The archon is still alive. A little banged up but alive. Let’s clear out. Grab loot, grab what you need. Let’s go. Let’s go!”
We all jumped back into action, snatching and salvaging any nearby wrecks. Gald got a friendly hauler up on the com, and plans were made on how to salvage items from the larger wrecks.
“Archon is jumping out.”
We all paused for a second as the carrier that had kept nearly all of us alive under extreme odds jumped out in a blaze of color. Several small wrecks nearby were vaporized in its wake, and we cheered.
Three months later, the same archon died to ‘friendly’ fire. Dake disappeared, and our closely knit band slowly started to split apart. First one, then another left. Some left to wear the colors of a null-sec alliance. Some simply turned off the com, and stopped answering when someone called.
My flashbacks began to return regularly, so I sought out new faces and new scenery in the hopes I could continue some sort of distraction. Finally, I flipped the switch on my own connections with the pirates and began a trek back to my old stomping grounds to find some sort of peace.
I wandered for months. Seeking old friends and old enemies—anyone that could dispel the nightmares from my past that threatened to surface and overcome me once more.
I wandered until I had nothing left. I sat slumped at the counter of a familiar bar, twirling my drink around and around with my finger. I ignored the looks of fear the other customers gave me. I ignored the bartender’s worried glance. It didn’t matter.
“You look terrible.”
I looked up wearily at the cheerful voice. It was Gald, and I didn’t want to see him.
“Go away.” I slurred.
I ignored him and continued to concentrate on my drink.
He pulled it away from me and I growled at him. That was when I noticed the colors he was wearing. They were red.
“Traitor!” I spat, my long spent ideas of loyalty thrumming in the back of my mind. He wore the colors of the militia we once fought against. The colors of those four mororses and that one thanatos we turned into scrap metal.
He snorted. “You know we never really cared about the colors we wore. It was just the thing of the moment.”
“So, this is a new thing of the moment?”
He shrugged. “I’ve met up with some old acquaintances. We’re going pretty strong right now. It’s a good start.”
“Haven’t seen hide nor tail of him since the Amarr militia destroyed his carrier.”
As he spoke, I noticed another red uniformed man across the room, leaning against the wall and watching us.
“Who is that.”
“A friend. Anyway Susan, you need to snap out of this.”
I laughed bitterly. “I always thought it was ironic.”
“What was ironic?”
“We were invincible. They feared us, avoided us.”
“We had it all.”
“Kings of the world.” He laughed quietly.
“And then it was all destroyed by our ‘allies.’” I spat.
“We can get revenge. You could join us. Join the Minmatar.”
I went back to my drink. “I don’t care about your little war anymore.”
I saw the hope leave Gald’s face. As though he suddenly realized how far gone I was and knew it was pointless to get through. He got up from his seat at the counter and stood before me for a minute, a tired look in his eyes.
“Bye, Susan.” He then turned around and walked back to the other uniformed man who had been watching us. I could see him talking with him quietly. He then slipped out, leaving the other man standing there watching me.
I didn’t look up when the strange man sat down next to me, but I jumped when he touched my arm. He slowly pulled the sleeve back on my worn tunic revealing several old tattoos of a bygone day. He stared at them a moment, then lightly traced one.
“Don’t touch me.” I said irritably, pulling my arm back. I made the mistake of looking up, and was met with brilliant blue eyes. I knew those blue eyes. I stared transfixed.
“You fought in the Old Campaign.” He said. It wasn’t a question.
“Yes.” I whispered.
He nodded thoughtfully. I looked at his face—looking for anything to jog my memory of why I knew him. His beard was closely trimmed, and grey. Unusual laugh lines fanned around eyes that contained a depthless sadness. And those blue eyes.
“My son fought at the StarBase at G5.”
I started to cry. It was the first time I had cried since I was a child, but I was powerless to stop it. I tried to block the flashbacks that started to crop up again. Not even the drink that muted the edges of my mind could quell them—the smell of burning flesh and the evil, brooding look of the assassins.
“Leave me alone.” I whispered, looking away.
“They say he fought side by side with the Second Commander until the fall of the region. They say..” he paused, his voice cracking a bit, “ that he died in agony by her side.”
He stood up. I kept my head down, my tears washing over my hands. I could feel his piercing blue eyes burning into my downturned head.
“They say she was cruel, and hard…” He paused, “and well loved.” He paused, and then started to walk away.
“Did he tell you all that?” I stopped him with the question.
“Who?” his face looked puzzled.
I tilted my chin up and looked him in the eye for the second time. “Your son. Did your son tell you that when he was reborn.”
He slowly shook his head. “I never saw him again.”
I nodded. Sometimes, during an especially brutal death, something went wrong in the rebirth process. You awoke with no memories of your past. You awoke as someone else entirely. I wished then that I had been in his place.
I watched the man walk away.
That night and the next morning, my mind relived all the old battles. The death. The slaughter that we both experienced and inflicted on others.
And then they were gone. I never had another flashback of my old campaign days. My sleep was dreamless.
I found them later at a small hub a short distance from the militia front lines. Gald was arguing with a woman behind a counter about some cargo that had been misplaced. He grinned when he saw me.
I walked up to the man that stood waiting for him nearby. The one with the blue eyes.
“I will join you.”
He nodded and glanced at Gald who was still grinning.
“You are welcome to come with us.” He held out his hand and I forced myself not to flinch at the firmness of his handshake.
Instead, I looked him straight in the eye. “I am Susan Black. I was second commander of the starbase at G5."
He nodded. “I know.”
“I killed your son.”
He disagreed. “Fate took my son. It was his time.”
Gald walked over and gave me a quick lookover. “I don’t know what the heck G5 is, but I’m glad you came to your senses. “ Seeing I was sober and quite intact he glanced at his friend, then said to me, “I see you’ve met Bahamut.”
The next few months flew by. Some weeks were slow. Some were full of frenzied battles and adrenaline pumping blockade runs. The Minmatar militia, once our enemies, welcomed me with open arms, strangely. I didn’t even buy new uniforms, but dyed the old ones red. It was all the same to them.
We never spoke of G5 again, but we did have some interesting conversations.
“It must have been hard going from the structure of the campaigns to the riffraff of piracy.” Someone once commented.
Gald snorted. “Good riddance to that Campaign nonsense. All those pilots out in the outer regions think they are so good, when really they don’t even know how to tie their own shoes.”
Another Minmatar spoke up. “I’d prefer our ways to theirs, any day. They can stay out in their space with their big ships and politics.”
Several others pitched in similar sentiments.
I laughed. It sounded a bit rusty, even to myself. “It’s not about us or them.”
They were quiet, and I continued. “It’s not about where they live, or where we live. It’s not about our ways or their ways---our philosophies or their philosophies. In the end, it’s all the same.”
One of the younger recruits snickered in the back of the room until someone glared at him. He was quiet.
“Then, what is it about?”
I glanced around the room, at the people that sat around, enjoying a quick break before heading out again, and answered simply, “this.”
Four weeks later we found Dake. I saw him first, across the room of a bar frequented by pirates, militia, and all sorts of disreputable characters. We had docked briefly to resupply and Gald was just getting things in order to move our small fleet back to the front lines. I was grabbing a bite to eat, and heard the bar was the best.
Dake's tunic was worn, but he still wore the tannish colors of the Amarr. Several other Amarr were sitting with him, laughing at some unheard joke. Starbases on the fringed of the war allowed anyone from the war to dock and resupply. It was good for business and more then paid for the mercenaries the milled about, keeping the peace on base.
I wondered if the owners of the starbase realized they were fueling, and supplying a war –selling ships and weapons of mass destruction to pilots who would use them on each other in short order.
Of course they knew. That’s how they made so much ISK.
Gald saw our old commander just as Dake looked up at us.
“I see him.”
I don’t know why I felt anger. Perhaps it was the idea of one more thing left undone. After living with a nightmare for so long, I didn’t like loose ends any more. They complicated things.
Dake looked at as briefly. We could see the recognition in his eyes. And then he turned and made another comment to his comrades. They laughed again, and I wondered if he was joking about us. That wasn’t the Dake I remembered.
I could read the same conflict in Gald’s eyes that I felt in myself. Do we run to embrace him? Do we ignore him? Do we scoff at his comrades which are now our enemies? I felt the heat growing in my face, and my hand clenched beside me.
I looked up, and read fear in his face. Fear that this little corner of peace we had created would be destroyed. Fear that once again, our lives would be turned upside down and that the entire cycle would start again. Fear that he would lose his friend again, to a place only I knew I could go.
“You made a choice Susan. We made a choice. These people are our family now.” His voice was calm, contradicting the almost wild look in his eyes.
I pushed back the plate of food I had been munching on and stood up.
“Susan...what are you going to do.”
I started walking across the room.
“Susan, come back!” Gald hissed.
The room had gone quiet at this little drama and all eyes were on me as I stood in front of Dake, and the group of Amarr behind him.
“Hey, Susan.” Dake said quietly.
I just stared at him.
“You look well…” he continued.
I released the metal that I had been concealing in my tunic and thrust it upwards. I felt it crush through his abdomen and pierce across his ribs.
I twisted the blade, and held on tight as the room erupted in chaos. In my peripheral vision I could see several Minmatar warding back the Amarrians who tried to interfere, and the mercenaries in the room ran to break them up—to break us up. The noise of their outrage faded from my mind, as I focused on Dake.
His eyes flashed with surprise, and then resignation. This was just the beginning. He would be reborn, and I would have some sort of closure. But, he would be back. Perhaps, as enemies. Perhaps, as friends.
I held him as he slumped forward, his blood staining my robes a darker shade of red. In death, he clutched at me, and I held him.
“Time’s up.” I whispered grimly.