Tuesday, 25 August 2009
‘What do you think’s going to happen?’
‘Did a spy tell the bad guys Capt’n Starke was there?’
‘Why did Capt’n Starke make his guys go through the gate ‘steada fighting?’
‘What d’ya think’s gonna happen?’
For the rest of the week, the children could talk of nothing else, peppering the adults with unanswerable questions. ‘Space Captain Starke’ had never ended on a cliffhanger. It was the talk of the village.
The teachers could barely get the younger children to focus on their lessons until one of the older students suggest they relate the lessons to parts of the show (If Alistair warps from planet 14 to planet 2 at 6AU/second and Captain Starke warps from planet 2 to planet 14 at 8AU/second, where will they pass each other if the planets are 20AU apart?) It was frustrating to rework lessons, but it kept the kids on-task.
At the community meeting that week, several parents raised concerns that the obsession with the holo-serial might not be such a good thing.
‘I can barely get them to focus on their homework.’
‘I had to suggest that Space Captain Starke would go collect firewood because he would understand the importance of keeping the house heated. We shouldn’t have to do that!’
‘It’s a good thing we only have the one projector here in the hall. Imagine if there was one for every house, we’d never get them outside.’
‘Two of the kids came here asking to watch old recorded episodes. I had to remind them that the projector is used for other things.’
‘Speaking of which,’ Scall, the chief communications analyst, piped up, ‘The last week or so we’ve been picking up an increase in Amarrian comms traffic nearby.’
‘This system. It could just be militia fleets passing through…’
‘This is Thukker space. They would be mad to base here.’
‘Still, I think we ought to cut our broadcasts and recall all but the receiver satellite.’ Scall glanced around at the suddenly worried faces, knowing that what she was suggesting would reduce the colony’s contact with the Republic to nearly nothing. She hadn’t thought it possible to feel homesick for a place she’d never seen, but the thought of bringing the comms array in made her heart ache.
‘You think they’ll notice the array and find us?’
‘In a word, yes. It would be difficult to miss in a system this quiet.’
‘We’d be cutting ourselves off from the rest of the cluster, Scall.’
‘There’s still the focussed-band FTL transmitter on the ship here. It’s been refurbished, we can use it in an emergency.’
After debating options, the community council decided it was for the best. Scall and her team spent the rest of the night recalling the comms satellites. Aoli from the engineering crew started running through the numbers to reduce their electromagnetic signals to a minimum while still maintaining power to the water pumps. Once the satellites were stored, the ship’s refurbished generator was dropped to the barest trickle.
Space, the final battleground. The stargate floating above the small moon flares; once, twice, so many flashes they seem to occur simultaneously. As if on cue, the space around the stargate floods with ships.
Scouts, keep an eye on Local, tell me if it spikes. Everyone pick your targets and engage; this is a free-for-all. Warp out or jump if you need to.
STARKE’s Jaguar assault ship banks down and left, falling into a rough orbit around an Amarrian Omen-class cruiser, autocannons spitting fire as he kicks the afterburners in.
EDGRIET: (voice only)
Captain, we need to wipe these guys out fast.
STARKE: (voice only)
I hear you. Nobody pod these guys, it’ll take them longer to reship.
Bright explosions blossom as two enemy ships go down; the Amarrian forces, outnumbered, are dropping rapidly. The view shows for a moment STARKE’s piloting interface: shields fluctuating as boosters pulse, speed hovering at three-quarters as he turns for another pass, enemies bracketed yellow and red, the primary target highlighted by spinning arrows. Around him, ships sweep past; missiles, laser beams and blaster pulses flare. The stargate flashes as someone leaves the system, and the view switches to AVION’s Retribution. His control panel displays the list of pilots in their squad, STARKE highlighted at the top. Half of the Nova Elite’s names are flashing, damage display bars showing varying amounts of red. The alerts fade one by one as Amarrian ships die or flee under the onslaught. The Nova Elite and TLF forces move to a dead-space in between planets, where they are joined by those members of the fleet who had to leave the fighting.
STARKE takes stock as the fleet recuperates. Two frigates and a cruiser have been lost from EDGRIET’s squads, the pilots warping their pods to safety and returning to base. The Nova Elite have lost drones and an interceptor is smoking, its hull held together through the pilot’s sheer force of will until one of the other pilots can bring a remote hull-repair unit online.
STARKE: (voice only)
Commander, your boys ready for the assault?
EDGRIET: (voice only)
Are we ever. Vash, head on over to the control point near planet five, wait for the Captain’s signal to attack. Warping squad to control point near seven.
As one, the four squads enter warp, descending upon LORD GRIMLOK’s base like avenging demons, a coordinated attack upon the sentry posts first cutting off communications to the rest of the Amarrian Empire. Before the embers have even faded, SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE calls for the fleet to regroup, leading his Nova Elite and the TLF forces against LORD GRIMLOK’s base of operations
They are met with fierce resistance: LORD GRIMLOK himself, commanding his dreaded flagship, the Righteous Blade, brings his entire fleet to bear. It infamous Holder chooses to attack the invading force rather than make his escape; he is confident and assured, knowing that this time his nemesis is on Amarrian ground. The scene shows LORD GRIMLOK seated in a non-capsuleer captain’s chair on the bridge of his Armageddon battleship.
LORD GRIMLOK: (shaking his clenched fist at his adversary)
You won’t escape this time, Starke. This is the last time your Matari filth will taint my stars! Amarr Victor!
The battle is joined, furious and dizzying; where the earlier fight was a deadly dance, this one is a slugfest. Primaried frigates on both sides vanish in bursts of superheated gas as the gap between the fleets narrows, and then the Nova Elite and TLF are among the Amarrian fleet, the heavier ships unable to track the lighter wolfpack at close range.
All ships, focus fire on Grimlok’s ‘Geddon! Take that sonuvabitch down, then worry about his support.
Under the combined firepower of over thirty ships, the golden battleship melts quickly, its captain unable to reach his escape-pod in time. The support put up a token resistance, but most flee the system while STARKE’s forces take out their next set of targets. Voice-comms protocol has already collapsed; the pilots are cheering, laughing and chattering amongst themselves, and it’s all STARKE can do to get their attention and remind the pilots that they’re a long way from home in hostile space.
STARKE steps off the gangway from his Jaguar, hair still damp from a post-pod shower. He turns to run loving eyes over the battle-scarred hull before slipping a pair of shades on and turning to leave. His way is blocked by COMMANDER EDGRIET, who has appeared as if from nowhere.
That was some good work today, Captain.
She eyes him appraisingly as he reacts with surprise.
I’m certain it’s no more than you would expect of your own men, Commander. We owe you for your help today.
The Commander smiles at him.
It was a pleasure, Captain. I’m wondering if I could call on that favour now, rather than later?
The community hall erupted with a wave of cheering. The final shot of Lord Grimlok’s flagship exploding filled the room with a nova-bright flare before fading to dark red and then nothing. Among the children, Nikitta and Nareen were hugging while Komar did a wiggly victory-dance on his seating cushion.
Behind the rows of youngsters, the adults watched. Many were grinning at the children’s excitement, but a few looked puzzled or concerned. In the close-knit community, most had known Tiia Edgriet before she’d left for the Republic, and even five years on she was still recognisable.
Havah looked up at her husband. ‘If that’s really my sister… how real is this?’
Elaqh shook his head. He’d been wondering the same thing.
Sylar Starke sat with his feet up in yet another station-side bar. Alistair had joined him, and they sat talking quetly, sharing stories of their early days as pilots. Al noticed her first; Sylar turned to look.
‘Commander Edgriet. Have a seat.’
The tiny Sebiestor woman smiled and brushed her hair back over her shoulder. ‘Thanks. That was bloody clever, staging the final fight like that. Where’d you get the Amarrian ships from?’
Shrugging, Sylar took a sip of his beer. ‘Stole most of them. The pilots are ours, we’ve staged setpiece combat before. The ones I called primary after the ‘Geddon blew up were all empty of crew members, only a pilot in the pod.’
‘Very clever.’ Edgriet looked impressed, then thoughtful. ‘I’m glad you let me add the favour request into the script. I need your help, Captain.’
The two men sat up straight, looked at each other across the table, then at the Commander. ‘We were wondering about that,’ Alistair said.
‘You’ve still got some of that makeup on, you know.’
‘Yeah, I’ve not properly washed it off, yet.’
Tiia Edgriet leaned forward on her elbows on the table, long, delicate fingers interlaced before her. ‘You may recall that I have a bit of an ongoing disagreement with the General.’
At their nods, she continued, ‘This is because our intelligence has discovered that the village I grew up in has drawn Amarrian attention. Slaver attention. And the General – much less the Rebublic itself – can do nothing.’
‘Why’s that?’ Alistair looked keen; his expression had sharpened, his eyes taking on that look Sylar recognised all too well.
‘It’s in Ubtes. Thukker territory. We have no jurisdiction to go in and bring my people out, and while the Amarr don’t have any more right to operate there than we do, they have fewer scruples about it.’ Tiia looked severe. ‘I need to get my people to the Republic, or they’ll end up with the same fate our ancestors so narrowly escaped, and the slaver raid is planned for sometime next week.’
The CEO and the XO of the Nova Elite looked at each other; they could read each other well enough that speaking was unnecessary. Sylar turned back to Tiia. ‘What is it that you need us for, exactly?’
She smiled a little. ‘Leave the TLF. I’ve talked this over with my own men, and they’ve all agreed to this couse of action. We’ll leave with you, form our own operating corporation. We’ll be operating as independents, and because even the Thukkers can pick up your broadcasts, we’ll have evidence that the Republic isn’t involved. …Just tell ‘em I bullied you. What do you say?’
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.
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