Aboard the Bone Gnawer, Pator, Heimatar
Annularity – The maximum phase of an annular solar eclipse during which the moon’s shadow doesn’t block the light completely. Instead, the edge of the sun’s disk remains visible as a “ring of fire” surrounding the moon during the height of the eclipse.
The Vigil-class frigate came out of warp abruptly, nearly 100 Km from the larger ships that were in process of crushing a larger but less well-equipped pirate rabble. Rhavas could almost “feel” their pilots’ awareness of him as he sped to the first wreck.
Bone Gnawer certainly performed as promised. The cold-gas afterburner propelled him rapidly from wreck to wreck. The focused capability of multiple salvage turrets on each – sometimes multiple wrecks at a time – quickly combed through the tangle of debris and extracted only the worthwhile pieces, transporting them into the cargo hold.
Rhavas was preternaturally aware of his target warning systems – he was an unarmed ship in an offending role. Nothing. Not a chirp, not a blink. Nothing on comm channels. He sped to the last wreck, picked it clean, aligned and warped out. In all, a significant haul in mere minutes.
Part of him wanted to laugh triumphantly as the adrenaline washed over and through him. The other part, however, felt the brush with a criminal element that was unfamiliar to his mind. While not truly repellent, it felt somehow … dissonant. And even more strangely, it bothered him that the pilots of the larger ships had in effect ignored him – an insect, as it were, of little consequence and unworthy of notice.
The mixed feeling wasn’t what he had expected. Nothing for it, he thought, but to try again.
He emptied his hold, and brought the Wraith back out to scan again. Surprisingly, it was another easy discovery – this time, a Maelstrom-class battleship and an Abaddon-class battleship. When he warped to their location under cloak, he was struck by just how few ships had been at the previous battle. Here, there were two deadspace acceleration gates each guarded by an entire squadron – one of Angels, one of Serpentis – in what appeared to be a disturbingly cooperative venture.
A venture that would leave him a lot to work with.
As he watched, the battleships began to tear into the Angel force. It gave him a chance to understand who he was dealing with. He took note of the gunnery and the lethal force they deployed on the attack. He also took note of the emblem painted on both hulls – a vertical orange bar behind a silver circle.
After a short while, the destruction of the Angel force was complete. Another ship warped in, a Stabber-class cruiser with the same markings as the battleships. One thing Rhavas was sure of – if they decided to come for him, he wouldn’t last long.
The battleships launched through the now-defenseless deadspace acceleration gate and were gone. The Stabber wasn’t far behind. Rhavas returned to station for the Bone Gnawer, and soon was back in the quiet pocket.
The Serpentis ships were too far away and too disciplined to chase a lone unarmed ship. Again, the Vigil proved the ship for the job, and soon he had cleared through half the wrecks. The threat monitor caught his attention briefly – the Stabber had returned.
The other pilot quickly caught on to Rhavas’ doings, and the threat monitor changed to a more urgent signal – the Stabber had locked targeting systems on him.
Even within the pod fluid, Rhavas swore he could feel sweat break out on his skin. Bone Gnawer charged to another wreck. Another. Another. But the shots never came, and the comm channels remained silent. He cleared the last wreck and warped out.
This time, when he emptied the cargo hold, he did laugh aloud, relieved, in the musty air of his hangar. He would have to remember to write CONCORD a note of gratitude. In the end, only the threat that they posed kept this clone from being merely another piece of carbonized spaceborne wreckage.
Expecting that he would be able to go and clear the next area beyond the acceleration gate as well, he warped back into the fray.
It was lucky, he thought, that Bone Gnawer was so maneuverable. The Vigil came out of warp within mere meters of a wolf – the Abaddon battleship – returning to find its kill picked over by a jackal and the jackal still present. Rhavas threw Bone Gnawer into an arc away from the Abaddon and toward the acceleration gate, pushing the afterburner to full power.
This time, the comm channel did open. “Attention Lupus Vires Vigil-class frigate. This is Commodore and Director Viktoria Dawn of Dark Fusion Industries. You are in violation of our contractual rights to the enemy materials of this battle. Leave now or we’re going to have problems.”
Rhavas didn’t answer, but he throttled back the afterburners as he feverishly reviewed the data he could access about Dark Fusion. While a part of their focus appeared to be on assistance to the Minmatar Republic against raids like this, most of their known work was more in industrial and scientific pursuits. Still, they were quite large, and while Rhavas didn’t much care whether they destroyed Bone Gnawer (after all, he had three just like her back at Hek and she had already outlived his expectations), it was clear that Dawn had already tracked his corporation, and he was not at liberty to put them at risk of war with a large and established corporation for his own experimental purposes..
He did not give an answer on comms, but warped off the battlefield. Dawn’s voice marked a sardonic “Thank you” in his brain’s aural centers as he jumped out of the system, headed home with a new understanding and appreciation for some of the other possibilities a capsuleer’s life could offer.
Faculty Offices, Republic Military School, Hadaugago II, Heimatar
There was a knock at the office door.
Gonakis Eraettafrin looked up. “It’s open.”
A courier in a brown uniform walked in, handed Gonakis a datapad. “Need your retinal scan, sir. Delivery waiting for you in hangar 14621B.”
“What, couldn’t bring it up?” the Brutor asked as he looked into the eyepiece. A pair of red laser lights danced across his face, and a soft feminine voice from the datapad confirmed: Eraettafrin, Gonakis. Instructor, Advanced Combat, Republic Military School.
The courier cracked a half-smile. “No sir. Too big.” He took back the datapad, tapped a couple of times, and nodded. “Have a good day, sir. And enjoy.”
Gonakis walked down the hall and took the lift to the hangar deck. As he walked through into the public hangar, another man met him at the entrance – one of his students on night watch duty, as it turned out. “Hi Professor. Here’s the note that came with it.” The young cadet waved behind him, to where a lone Vigil-class frigate sat, suspended in a gravity harness.
Gonakis read the brief note. Thanks for the inspiration. Here’s one of my spares – all yours. Wouldn’t want you to get too rusty. For now, I’ll stick with my honest living. But maybe someday. Oh – and I’ve left another gift in your bank account. The “race” was well worth my time. Best of luck. -A
Gonakis laughed, and turned back to the cadet at the door. “Have the crew get her ready. I’m going for a ride.”
OOC: Annularity is the third and last of a three-part story about Rhavas’ first foray into questionable activities.