Saturday, 8 August 2009
Shrieks and fearsome shouts rang across the quad, slapping off the sides of the low mud-brick buildings. The sun shone hot through the noon haze as a desperate swashbuckling battle raged across the rough, cracked paving stones, bare feet splashing through the tepid puddles left over from the morning's rain.
'Avast, Capt'n Starke! You'll join my slave crew or- or it's out the airlock! For I am Lord Grimlok, king of the stars!' Komar yelled fiercely, pelting Nikitta with clots of damp soil. All around the two boys, their 'crews' fought, earth and small twigs flying as the children chased one another in an emulation of a pitched space-battle, outstretched arms mimicking frigate stabiliser fins.
Nikitta threw his own clump of dirt, hitting Komar glancingly on the ear and streaking the other boy's tanned face with mud. 'That's not right! Lord Grimlok says he's master of the stars! And we were playing Capt'n Starke 'gainst Capt'n Calus, a'member?'
'I- I don't wanna play Capt'n Calus! She's a girl!'
It was the wrong thing to say; Nareen stopped pursuit of one of the younger children and rounded on Komar, her long plaited hair flying, and demanded, 'What's wrong with bein' a girl?!'
The mock-battle rapidly degenerated into a shouting match as only seven-year-olds can produce, until their teachers came out to break up the fight with firm words, leading the children back inside to finish their daily lessons.
In the small refugee community on Ubtes VIII, adults simply smiled and shook their heads at the children's youthful obsession with the adventures of Space Captain Starke. The small colony had been established by happenstance and desperation by a crew of slaves who had defeated their capsuleer overlord and commandeered her ship. Now, decades later, the third generation were growing up free and the colony had only marginal contact with the rest of the cluster via the refurbished communications gear ripped from the heart of the long-dead Apocalypse battleship which had brought them here.
Unsanctioned radio operators frequently pirated unused channels to broadcast news, music and holos, some of it very much independently produced by amateurs. “Space Captain Starke and the Nova Elite” was one such independent production, following the adventures of a renegade capsuleer and his corporation as they fought the Amarr in the hinterlands to release captive crews. And if the acting seemed a bit over-done and the script contrived, the thin plotline was compensated for by the quality of the filming, and the special effects were top-notch.
The scene opens on a station-side bar; it is small and dimly lit, the furnishings worn through use but clean. Wide windows offer tantalizing views of distant stars in the murky crimson nebula of space. SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE sits at a table beside one of the windows, staring broodingly out over the curve of the station below, drinking a glass of juice with a slice of fruit impaled on the rim. A handsome Brutor still in his prime, the powerfully built captain looks weary, the dark tattoos on his face dulled. There is clearly something on his mind.
A wiry Amarrian man approaches and sits down across from STARKE without waiting to be invited. ALISTAIR AVION represents the epitome of all the NOVA ELITE fought for: the eldest son of a Holder who saw the error of his ways early in the series and rose quickly through the ranks to take the place of STARKE’s former second-in-command, the glamourous Gallente LIANE FORSYTH. LIANE was cruelly murdered, gunned down by LORD GRIMLOK at the end of the last season, and STARKE’s grief over her loss still colours his decisions. The CEO of the NOVA ELITE has become almost suicidally reckless in the last few episodes, and the effort is beginning to take its toll.
AVION leans forward with his elbows on the table, forcing a smile through his concerned frown.
‘We did it again, sir, why the long face? More slaves freed and it’ll take Grimlok weeks to recover from today’s strike action.’
STARKE shakes his head.
‘That’s just it, Al. Weeks. He just captures more of our valiant people or buys them from the slavers’ markets. Give him a fortnight and he’ll be back at our throats. I want to shut that fiend down for good!’
‘You’re talking about a massive action deep into Amarrian space, sir. We can’t hope to survive something like that.’
STARKE looks up at AVION, the hue of his tribal markings deepening with renewed vigor.
‘There’s always hope, Al. If we can bring Lord Grimlok to his knees, we’ll be one step closer to destroying the Empire and their slaving ways!’
‘D’you think Space Capt’n Starke can beat Lord Grimlok and bring down the Empire an’ stuff?’
They sat on the steps in front of their house. It was small, but it was theirs, and that made all the difference. Nikitta’s mother was scraping the tough hides from root vegetables into a bucket to be taken to the communal compost, while the vegetables went into a pot for dinner. She smiled. ‘I think Space Captain Starke can do anything.’
Nikitta bounced his heels against the rough bricks of the stoop. ‘Can I be like Space Capt’n Starke when I grow up?’
Setting aside her knife, Havah put her arm around her son, hugging him against her side. ‘When you’re old enough, we can contact the Republic like we did for your Auntie Tiia and they’ll test you to see if you’ll be a good pilot.’
Nikitta squirmed. ‘I don’t wanna pilot for the R’public. I wanna actually do something!’
His mother suppressed a sigh; Captain Starke’s scorn for the Republic and his opinion that they did nothing to improve things were legendary. ‘But in order to be a capsuleer like Captain Starke, sweetie, you need to train with the Republic first. Just like he did, right?’
The boy sulked for a moment, then said, ‘Can I get tattoos like Space Capt’n Starke?’
The Nova Elite presented the appearance of being untraceable nomads, moving from system to system and frequently living for days on end in their capsules. In reality, the pilots preferred to dock up at the end of each day, and the corporation maintained a tower on a largely worthless moon in Minmatar high-security space, which they used as their production studio.
Sylar Starke looked over the footage one last time and sighed, then shut the computer down. It looked good, but he wondered if it was the right way to end the series. It was a tough decision, after all the time and energy they’d put into it, but he was starting to feel the fiction taking over his life, becoming reality.
Or I’m just getting too wrapped up in my own legend. He rubbed tiredly at his eyes, resisting the urge to check the time, knowing he would regret it if he did.
‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’
Sylar turned to see Alistair propped against the wall, still heavily made up for the Lord Grimlok role, lighting a cigarette. ‘You already made Liane into a martyr. Do you really want to do the same thing to yourself?’
‘Three years, Al. We’ve been doing this three years.’ He waved his arm, the gesture encompassing the banks of audio- and video-processing equipment which wrapped around two sides of the room. ‘Liane wanted a change and she had that offer from her friend’s corp. I wasn’t going to stop her.’
Alistair removed his wig and leaned forward, resting his arms on the back of the other chair, studying his friend. When he’d told the Navy and the Empire where they could stuff their heavy-handed self-righteousness, he’d never imagined he might find his place making propaganda holo-serials. Meeting Sylar had been an eye-opening experience, and the things Alistair had seen since then had only reinforced his conviction that it had been the right decision. If the other pilot was having doubts, after so long… ‘And you want out now, too?’
The younger man sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, hearing the back-support squeak in protest. ‘I need a change of pace. What we’re doing? It gives the kids watching some hope, but what about us? We roll the cameras, pop a few Amarrian ships, stage some angry Holder footage, and then what? Most of the people slaving on those ships die, Al.’
‘I know that too well, Syl—‘
‘And the ones we do rescue… it’s heartbreaking, how difficult it is to rehabilitate them. And we’re not doing anything, in the end.’
Alistair gripped Sylar’s shoulder. ‘Stop that. Like you said, we’re giving people hope. But don’t you think there might be a better way to do it than showing you dying taking “Lord Grimlok” out once and for all?’
Sylar breathed deeply, then blew it out quickly. ‘Do you have something in mind?’
Alistair looked thoughtful, then smiled.
‘An’ Capt’n— an’ Capt’n Starke, he, he’ll go neeeeeeeroww! an’ pew-pew-pew! an’ Grimlok, he’ll be raaaaaargh! An’ then Capt’n Starke, he’ll blow him up! Boom! Like that!’
‘But Alistair, he said they have to way into Amarr. The Emp’ress made them outlaws for defeating Capt’n Calus, so th’ police will be on Grimlok’s side.’
Komar shook his head fiercely. ‘They can’t stop Capt’n Starke! I bet he tricks ‘em like that time he sneaked into the Raiders station to rescue Liane.’
Nareen crossed her arms stubbornly. ‘He’d hafta steal Amarr ships to fly, then. Capt’n Starke would never fly Amarr ships! They use slave crews!’
‘But what if – what if he frees ‘em and says, “If you fly us to Amarr, you get to help us beat the bad guys”!’
Nikitta was shaking his head. ‘My ma said slaves don’t know any better. She said it took Gramma years before she liked nobody telling her what to do allatime.’
‘An’ there’s Vitoc, ‘member?’ Nareen chimed in. ‘Teacher Drilas was telling us ‘bout how the slaves are addi’tted to it and Amarrians use it to make ‘em stay.’
‘Well – well, if you’re so smart, how d’you think Capt’n Starke’ll kill the bad guys?’
Nareen and Nikitta looked at each other and shrugged.
‘I dunno,’ Nikitta said, ‘but I bet the Amarr won’t know what hit ‘em!’
To Be Continued Next Week!
Same EVE Time, Same EVE Channel!
This article was first published on EVE-Mag.com – an independent EVE magazine (www.EVE-Mag.com). Reprinted with permission.
External Publishing v 2.1
eve fiction|eve online|out of character|starke|