Caldari Navy Assembly Plant Station, Jita IV, The Forge
Kerak Nielas sat in a chair by the entry to the hangar, eyes closed, rubbing his temples in an attempt to ease his headache.
Even for veteran crew, a 20-jump trip was no picnic, and the capsuleer had flogged the huge industrial ship like she was a crewless interceptor. Shock after shock of align, warp, decelerate, jump, repeat had made many ill even with the compensation medications.
As the most senior Security officer aboard the Percheron, he had had his hands full the whole way. Warp sickness manifested differently in different people – the worst were the ones who developed warp psychosis. Occaisonally it was harmless, leaving its victim merely listless and incoherent; more often they developed odd habits or had impaired functions, and sometimes they turned violent.
As the ship pounded its way through Citadel, the weak links had started to show. One of the junior security officers had simply sat in her room and cried, endless wracking sobs. A maintenance man had run naked through the mess hall, asking if anyone had seen his baby dolly. A third had spoken in hushed whispers to everyone near him about the bugs he thought were crawling on his skin.
But the worst had been the burly deckhand who went into an insane rage as they jumped into Tennen. Before Nielas and his fellow officers could get there, the man had snapped the neck of a doctor, mashed an engineer’s head to a bloody pulp against a bulkhead wall, and then grabbed two other crew and held them hostage in what in his derangement he believed was a well-protected armored room. It had ended with the capsuleer opening the outer door to their “room” – which was in fact an airlock – and ejecting all three into space. The cap’ was known to be much more crew-friendly than most, but in any case of danger to ship and broader crew, he too seemed to have no concept of caring about “collateral damage”.
The capsuleer had slowed as they finally reached the Forge region, and as they neared the Jita gate in Perimiter had activated a hologam of himself on the observation bridge, as he sometimes did. Together with the other senior ship’s officers, they watched the Caldari Navy Station emerge from the haze as they dropped out of warp.
The sheer volume of traffic had been staggering. The whole sky between them and the massive station had seemed packed with ships. Normally, flying on the Percheron, an unarmed ship, made Nielas nervous. But as they came in, he had just been glad to be in something large. The capsuleer had guided them in cleanly and safely.
And now, warp sickness behind him and replacements hired for the trip home, he was just wrapping his turn on sentry duty while the cargo was loaded.
A junior officer came to the hangar entry. “Reporting for duty, sir.” Nielas stood, allowing the younger man to sit. “Don’t slack off, son. This is the Percheron‘s first time here, and there are a lot of people here who like to set up gank pirate attacks against new industrial ships in Jita, or steal cargo from the holds.”
Nielas walked up the cargo bay ramp, and took an impromptu inspection tour through the spaces between the cargo being loaded. One large crate looked somewhat out of place. He waved down the Cargo Foreman. “What’s this?” he asked, pointing at the strange crate.
The Cargo Foreman pointed at the logo on the crate. “Sisters of EVE-issue scan probes. Expensive stuff. One of the cap’s corporation buddies ordered ’em.”
As he examined the crate, something didn’t feel right. Nielas had learned long ago to trust his gut when dealing with this kind of thing. After five minutes of fruitless visual examination, he stopped, stood, and closed his eyes. It was impossible to hear anything over the noise of the machines lifting, shifting and stacking cargo – so he quickly decided that it wasn’t a sound that was bothering him. He put a hand flat against the smooth side of the metal crate, feeling its warmth… and that’s when it hit him. The crate should have been quite cool to the touch. He must have subliminally sensed the heat coming off the metal.
He opened his eyes again and looked more closely at the seams of the crate, and found what he was looking for – tiny impact marks where someone had inserted a tool to pry open what should have been a pre-sealed contract container. Nielas filed that information away – in all likelihood whatever was going on here was not the fault of the seller of the probes, but rather a third party.
“Open it,” he instructed the Foreman.
Inside, the intent was clear as day, and Nielas felt a rush of adrenaline wash through him. The crate did indeed contain Sisters probes. But there was more. Two small resin globes, each filled with a different liquid, sat nestled in the gap between the four larger spheres. A tiny antenna sat at the junction of a tube connecting the two. Attached lightly to one of the probes was another small electronic device. It was pretty ingenious, really. The electronic device would look like part of the probe to a standard scan, and the liquids and resin would not register at all. Only the fact that one of those liquids naturally gave off heat had given away the sabotage attempt. Nielas pressed a small red button on his communicator.
The capsuleer’s ghostly holographic image appeared next to him suddenly, then solidifed as more power was applied. “What have you found?” the capsuleer asked.
“Tracker, sir,” Nielas tapped the electronic device, “and a chemical bomb. I think you would have had some not so friendly stalkers who would have waited for a nice opportunity to blow a hole in the ship and loot it while you were crippled.”
The capsuleer gave a thin smile. “Well done,” he said. “Get what you can from it to find out where it came from, and then go make a scene with the hangar office about their lax security and potential involvement in sabotage – maybe we can get the docking fee back. Report when you know who we can return this little toy to.”
“Already know, sir,” Nielas said. “The Angel Cartel are the only ones who use this particular design.” The capsuleer nodded, “They must not be so happy with how many of their number we’ve taken out with the destroyers. Dispose of it. Again, well done.” The hologram disappeared abruptly.
The Cargo Foreman shuddered. “Never know what to make of that guy,” he said. “On one hand it’s nice he actually talks to us – my former boss never did, treated us like gears in a machine. On the other, it’s like dealing with a ghost who’s watching you all the time. Creepy.” Nielas didn’t respond, appearing to focus intently on the contents of the crate. As the lead for onboard security, he knew all too well what the capsuleer could see – and knew he was likely still watching and listening, “present” or not.
“I’ll have a team come by to disable this. Don’t let anyone else near it.” The foreman nodded.
Nielas collected some pictures of the bomb, waved a group of security personnel to the crate, and headed out toward the docking control office.
OOC: Transit is the second in a three-part story about Rhavas’ first trip to Jita. Next: Return.