Chapter 10 – 28 dead, 5 injured. 30 missing

This is chapter 10 of “Redemption” a fictional tale set in the EVE Universe.  Please see this page for more background on this story.  

28 dead, 5 injured, 30 missing

“It wasn’t your fault.  We all know the risk.  Don’t blame yourself”.  A heavy, calloused hand on his shoulder.

150 men and women under his command, 28 dead now, 5 injured, 30 missing.  Sure, some of them had been rejects, drifting among the stars like dust without home or loyalty.  Some had been dreamers like his father, standing by a porthole, never tired of the unblinking stars against the black velvet of space.  But most had been family men, normal guys who just wanted their share of happiness, bring up good children, send them to schools rather than factories and maybe even take a vacation once in a while.  They had trusted him with their lives, their hopes and their dreams.

And he had failed them.

28 dead, 5 injured, 30 missing

The rest did make it into the life boats and ejected in time before the ship disintegrated around Orv’s capsule – someone said number that was a record, normally nobody survives.  The “Retriever” class mining ships have virtually no tank or at least that’s how they are normally fit.   Capsuleers only value ISK/hour and fill the low modular slots of their mining barges with laser upgrades, not with structural reinforcements.  A mining ship – so the calculation – can’t survive a determined attack anyway, so why delay the inevitable by a few seconds with some tiny pieces of armor if the same module slot could be used to make more ISK?  Perversely, even non-capsuleers saw that logic and Orv had heard quite a few baffled comments why he insisted on 200mm steel plates.  “Brick retriever” some had mocked it, “Bait”, others.  Orv didn’t care.  The additional mass of the steel made the Retriever maneuver like a hog but when the terrorists came for them, these plates bought the crew time to enter their life rafts.  Well, most of the crew.

28 dead.  5 injured.  30 missing.

Some of the missing would eventually be picked up by the Sisters of Mercy rescue crafts.  All life boats had working beacons, something that Orv personally confirmed to the astonishment of his crew.  A capsuleer rarely mixes with mortals, let alone crawl into the ceiling panels of the life rafts.  But when he found that several had their oxygen supply stolen, he summoned the safety officer, confronted and dismissed him on the spot.  That could have gone horribly wrong, the bulky officer saw nothing but a meddling pencil-neck with a plug in his head and took a swing at Orv but missed; Orv may have been half his size but was faster and sober.  A second attempt never came, Orv’s crew got involved and marched the disgraced officer off the ship into the waiting arms of the law.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

Orv had deliberately selected a system with very high traffic, somewhere in Gallente high security space.  He parked his small ship near small rocks of Veldspar, competing with massive mining operations in their Covetors, Hulks and Mackinaws.  Those ships fired multiple deep-core lasers each and burned the valuable ore into their holds much faster than Orv’s small lasers could.  But Orv’s goal was to hide among this herd of expensive ships, even when it meant less profit for him and his crew.  He banked that the terrorists would select the juicier targets instead of him.  In addition, he had neither the skills nor the money to fly one of these barges but he often jealously stared at their powerful laser beams.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

He had fallen asleep after 15hours straight mining.  There is no denying it.  In his capsule, his body was monitored by the most advanced technology in the universe and crew knew precisely when their capsuleer was not paying attention.  The capsuleer’s state of mind and body was the primary water cooler topic on all ships.  Automated systems try to take over the watch but nothing can replace the computing power of a living brain.  If Orv had been awake, he would have spotted the two terrorists entering the star system – Concord let them in for whatever reason.  The other miners near him apparently were awake and initiated an emergency warp to the nearest station.  During this maneuver, one of the Hulks must have accidentally rammed Orv’s little ship, knocking it off alignment.  When the attack started, his Retriever pointed exactly into an asteroid, making it impossible to warp to safety.  The terrorists may have angled for a juicier target but the only boat left in this asteroid belt was Orv’s, helplessly entangled in a rock.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

The sound of klaxons still triggered raw panic in Orv – even after all these years.  It sure woke him up.  His body told him that they were being targeted by 2 Catalyst destroyers at very close range and that they had no chance of escaping.  Almost unconsciously, he issued the “abandon ship” alert that reverberated across the entire boat, the crew quarters, the engine rooms and even drowning out the heavy machinery compressing the harvested ore for storage in the cavernous hold of the ship.  Orv had made the crew go through far more evacuation drills than normally required on a vessel of this class but Retrievers are still large industrial ships and full of narrow gangways, sharp corners, accidentally locked bulkheads and so on.  When the first volleys landed, both electric and hydraulic systems failed at once.  Unlike war ships, there are no redundancy systems installed.  Bulkheads that normally opened with hydraulic power now needed to be winched open – not easy to do in darkness, with air escaping and the cries of the injured and dying around.  When the second volley hit, the armor was already breached and structural integrity failed in the forward compartment.  Orv tried to maneuver but the ship’s warp drive was scrammed and normal propulsion was useless.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

Where was Concord?  What was the point of having the police ships circling the gates all day?  What were they waiting for?  Why didn’t they put patrols out into the asteroid belts?  Unlike the real Navy, these clowns were just a traffic hazard to autopiloting ships.  Everyone knew that they would never come in time to save the ship, their mission was to punish, not deter.  Punish.  What a joke.  These terrorist capsuleers could afford hundreds, thousands of Destroyers.  Their crews had even less scruple than their capsuleers – if that was possible.  For the very few jobs they actually needed a human, they had rigged ejection pods so secure that Concord had no means to hurt them.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

Orv cried.  He cried silently, he cried for the men and women that he could not save.  He cried for his father, who he imagined to be among them.  He cried for his mother who had lived for nearly two decades in the fear of receiving The Letter.  He cried for his sister who slipped further out of his reach the more ISK he lost.  He cried for himself, for hating himself to be weak, to care, to feel, to be human.

28 dead, 5 injured.  30 missing

“It wasn’t your fault.  We all know the risk.  Don’t blame yourself”.  A heavy, calloused hand on his shoulder.   “Many more would have died.  The steel plate bought time.  The safety drills worked, evacuation was the fastest I have ever seen, and the life boats did their job.  And, if I may say so, Sir, stop being a victim”.

Orv looked up, his wet eyes slowly focusing on his first engineer.  The drab coverall reeked of smoke, sweat, burned plastic and stardust.  Orv knew the smell, his dad had sometimes come home unannounced and his bag smelled like that.  He would be unusually quiet for a day or so, just watch his children play and avoid the confrontation with mum who pressured him to take a safe job on a construction platform somewhere.  Then he would go back out to his stars.  Mr Lavoisier had been a crewman on his Velator and against all regulation and common sense stayed with Orv as he matured through the Frigate class.  Like Orv, he had no home, he had no family and the dry personnel record told a tale of personal disaster and bad luck straight out of a Minmatar holoreel.  They never talked about their past but they just stuck to each other.

Orv’s tears dried up.  “Would you fly with me again, Mr Lavoisier”.

“Yes, Captain, I will fly with you again and so will your crew.”

Orv stood, his head suddenly clear.   “Mr Lavoisier, get the crew ready.  We are going out again”.  Orv turned and walked.  He felt Mr Lavoisier waiting for something and faced him again.

“Cruiser class.   We are done with mining, let’s go hunting”

A big grin flashed across the old engineer’s face.

“Yes Sir”.

2 responses to “Chapter 10 – 28 dead, 5 injured. 30 missing

  1. Miner tears 🙂

    Nice to see you back at story writing. An interesting take on things too. Personally I always reckoned that capsuleers can not sleep while plugged in. That the neural interface would basically deactivate their circadian rhythm and the mix of chemicals in the capsule fluid kept them supplied with drugs to stay awake.

    Then again, there’s nothing that says they can’t, so why not.

    The theft of the oxygen supply from the escape pods was a nice touch. Probably sold as POS fuel component on the market 🙂

    • Ha, thanks for your feedback. Yes, I wrote that one while standing on the tarmac in Oklahoma waiting for some thunderstorm to pass.

      Capsuleers don’t sleep eh? Maybe so. But I try keep them closer to normal mortals than maybe the canon allows. I want Orv to stay human (hence the fist fight with the safety officer). Weakness, failure, empathy are as essential as wrath, anger, focus and strength.

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