Dark Matter

Aboard the Wraith, Bei, Metropolis

Rhavas floated in the pod fluid, eyes closed, sensing the ship around him. He felt it slide out of phase with the universe, then back. Then out, then back.

It felt natural. It felt like breathing. It was an amazing difference for the better in comparison with the cloak he had preciously cobbled aboard massive bulk of the Percheron.

This ship was made to be invisible.

Many capsuleers were not enamored with the looks of the Cheetah-class ships, and considered the frigates too fragile for their uses. But to Rhavas she was perfection. In his youth, he had watched holoreels of fictional, adventurous space pilots. In his days as a young man, before being selected for the capsuleer’s life, he had watched others of more current heroes from the Minmatar Rebellion and the return of the Thukkers.

Through them all, he had wished most to be the hidden scout ahead of the fleet, calling in the attack. The stealthy transporter, passing unseen through enemy lines. He wished for the ability to run hidden from all eyes, seeing all without ever being seen, a tiny blot of invisible dark matter lost in the vast emptiness of space. And now, at long last, he had his wish.

He had named her Wraith, for the ghost that she was.

Confident in the ease with which the ship could achieve its silent-running state, he nudged Wraith forward toward the Hagliur gate, and jumped alone into low-security space. The pirate gate camp waiting on the other side was oblivious to his presence, and he passed invisibly through to Anher, a high-security fortress on a lonely island under seige, awash in a sea of pirate systems. There he dropped his courier crates and returned through Hagliur unseen and unscathed. She had passed the first test.

He flew on, continuing to get the feel of the ship as he passed into and through Heimatar. The second test, he thought, would not be so simple. One of the FCs was leading a special-forces training operation tonight – all cloaked ships, learning to fly in formation through null security systems without triggering the ever-present threat of decloaking your wingmates. Most would be flying stealth bombers, so as a pure CovOps Rhavas would be scouting in front.

“OK, I think this is everyone we expected,” said the FC as he arrived at the rendezvous point deep in Derelik’s low-security space. “Rhavas, since you’ve got probes and no guns, you’re out front. Sending orders to your neocom now.”

As Rhavas examined the route data, what would normally have given him concern instead was cause for a grim smile. It would be a good route for a stealth test. He passed through the remaining low-security systems and jumped through the gate into null-security space. “All clear on the gate in Doril. Bring your fleet through.”

As he passed ahead of the fleet through Jorund and Hemin, there was little to cause concern, but that was the case often enough. Unfortunately, that also meant that his fleetmates in their bombers did not have much for targets.

Rhavas knew, however, that things would get more interesting the deeper they moved into Curse.

“25 ship signatures in RMOC-W,” he transmitted to the FC. “Moving and scanning now.” He passed from planet to planet, scanning, unseen behind the Wraith‘s cloak.

“Go get a look at the KQ gate,” came the order, referring to the jump gate into K-QWHE. Rhavas jumped to the 8th planet in the RMOC-W system, and scanned the gate.

“They’re almost all at the gate, along with a bubble generator. Based on the sensor rundown of pilot transponders in the system, it looks like two different alliances. I’m going in for a closer look.”

He warped, and found himself mere meters from the leading edge of the bubble. Two large fleets were in mid-battle. “Battle underway between two fleets here on the KQ gate. I’m safe outside the bubble, currently undetected.”

“We’ll come and watch the fireworks with you,” came the FC’s response. “Warp to me, I’m outside the bubble,” Rhavas sent, and the FC gave the order.

Too late they realized the likely consequences. Rhavas’ gang, all of them fairly new to covert operations, decloaked simultaneously as they came out of warp too close to one another, exposing the tiny gang of frigates before the battling fleets inside the bubble.

“My mistake,” said the FC. “Scatter and recloak.” The ships quickly disappeared from sight again, and the larger fleets were in the end too busy with each other to pay attention to the small gang.

As they watched, eventually the pods of the losing alliance fleet struggled vainly to exit the bubble. The fireworks over, the FC gave the order to warp for home.

Rhavas turned and accelerated back toward the gate to Hemin.

That night, Rhavas’ dreams were of his youth – watching a holoreel about a Cheetah pilot who looked strangely familiar.

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