Leap of Faith - Chapter 3
EVE Online is a science-fiction massively-multiplayer game and the largest shared virtual world in existence. It's set far in the future, where mankind, long since cut off from Earth, has evolved into several galactic empires that maintain an increasingly fragile peace. It is a dark place full of opportunity and danger, where every day tens of thousands explore new territories, wage wars, manage businesses and corporations, and pirate their way through their fellow pilots. The following story, for the holiday season, was written with permission and the assistance of CCP (EVE’s developer). This is a four-part story that will run Fridays, concluding on December 21. For other stories from the EVE universe, visit Eve Chronicles.
Leap of Faith
Chapter Three – The Gallente Call
Gabriel shivered in his pod. The silky, bland warmth of the interface gel couldn’t overcome the cold he felt deep in his bones. He’d been a pilot for the last ten years of his life. If he’d known then about the side effects it was possible Gabriel would have chosen a different path. Ten years of working constantly with drones in the chaos of battle had given him an extreme ability to multitask. He could watch his drones, fly his ship, use its weapons and its defensive systems just as easily as he could walk and talk. When Gabriel left his ship and exited his pod the universe seemed to close in around him. Things were too small, too bright. The clarté he took when he was off-duty kept the vertigo to a minimum. Gabriel just wished he could do something about how cold the drug made him feel. The hangover doesn’t help, he thought to himself. Gabriel listened to the familiar whirl which announced the activation of the neural jacks in his pod. The routine pressure and a faint pinched feeling suddenly gave way to the tremendous surge of information flowing directly into his mind and body.
User Identified: Lieutenant Farceur appeared in his mind’s eye, a message sent from the ship’s powerful AI. Gabriel “Farceur” Lecoutier set himself to the task of clearing through the standard startup routines for his Thorax-class cruiser. As the system ran through the safety checks his mind wandered back to the bar he’d been at last night. Lieutenant Claire “Diamont” St. Cloud had mad a bet with him over a game of darts. I have got to remember not to play darts with her when I’ve been drinking, he sternly reminded himself. I keep ending up with these lame recon patrols. He shook his head. Well, with any luck she’ll “owe” me for taking so many of these tedious chores. The Lieutenant wasted another minute and a half blissfully imagining how he could take advantage of that to get St. Cloud to agree to a more private set of drinks. Something without the entire squadron around...
Systems check – all green. Thorax clear for launch.
Gabriel pushed power into the engines of his cruiser, propelling the ship out of its docking station with perhaps a bit more speed than was really necessary. He turned off the com signal from the control tower as soon as he exited the station. Listening to them whine always gives me a headache, he thought. Gabriel set the navigational computer to prepare for a warp jump and waited impatiently for it to finish the intense calculations. Four seconds later his ship spun lightly to face its destination. The autopilot confirmed proper alignment. Gabriel smiled as adrenaline sweetly danced through his bloodstream. This never gets old, he thought as the warp field around his ship launched it forward. The Thorax’s elegant hull trembled like a tuning fork struck against a pristine bell while the warp field stabilized. Once the field was stable the trembling stopped, leaving the ride smooth as silk, hung with the gossamer webs of hyperspace that swept past with majestic grace.
Over five minutes passed as Gabriel traveled to the edge of the system. Whoever got these sensor readings in the first place must really like his privacy, he thought to himelf. I hope this isn’t someone’s idea of a practical joke. On instinct Gabriel looked at his navigational sensors. Fifty kilometers ahead of his targeted destination he wrenched his Thorax out of warp. The engine sensors spiked into the red from the unexpected strain. Gabriel didn’t spare the time to worry about his hyperspace engines – the real-space engines were still functional. A single thought launched five scout drones from their bay along the underside of his cruiser. Already the medium-sized turrets were being run out from their secured positions along the upper and lower hull. Two Minmatar frigates hovered twenty kilometers away. No beacon, no recognition code, he thought quickly. I’m guessing pirates.
Attention, unknown ships, he called out. His cruiser’s radio systems acting as his voice would carry across the airless depths of space easily. This is the Galletean Cruiser Farceur. You are ordered to identify yourselves immediately!
The two frigates broke away from one another. The closer one spun lightly to face Gabriel and began accelerating towards him on an attack vector. The further one was already fleeing, warp engines glistening with the tightly controlled power they harnessed. Gabriel’s drones converged on the single frigate attempting to close with him. If it could get close enough his medium guns would barely be able to hit the smaller, faster ship. It was doubtful the frigate would be able to do much damage to him, but at the very least it would keep him occupied and distracted while its partner summoned help.
Good plan, Gabriel thought. Too bad I’ve got better. He held his fire and waited. The pirate struggled to reach him, afterburners lighting up his trail with brilliant contrasts. The scout drones Gabriel had launched wove a rough net of light and fire around the Matari vessel. Its smaller projectile weapons were seriously damaging his drones one by one. Gabriel worried for a moment. Then his enemy got within range of Gabriel’s little surprise. A stasis webifiers locked onto the smaller ship and unleashed waves of energy that would tangle the ship up, making it slower to move and slower to turn.
It also made the smaller ship a much better target for Gabriel’s guns. A pair of medium blasters opened fire at a single command from the Lieutenant. Both initial shots connected squarely with the smaller vessel. Its shields failed with a flicker. One of the next two shots missed, but the other slammed into the pirate’s ship like a wrecking ball. The drones swarming over the crippled ship finished their fiery work seconds later. The exquisitely fast frigate ripped itself apart in a searing flash of heat and light as it’s fusion reactor was breached. In the blinding aftermath Gabriel noted the second pirate ship making its escape into warp.
Gabriel took a moment to scan the area around his ship. The pirate’s ship had completely disintegrated into scrap and debris. There was a very old, scarred jump gate several kilometers out. Closer to the gate were other wrecks. A thermal scan of the drifting fragments showed they were still warm. Whatever happened here, it must have been recent, Gabriel thought to himself. He pulled up the transmission logs from his radio systems and studied them intently. There was background static, just like he’d expect, and two bursts of electromagnetic interference. Okay, that burst was when that pirate made the jump to warp, he thought to himself. What’s this burst from? Gabriel shook his head and dumped the relevant section of the scanner’s records into his main computer. It wasn’t long before the computer kicked out a single phrase.
God bless us, every one! a tiny child’s high pitched voice rang through Gabriel’s pod. He frowned in confusion. I haven’t heard an accent like that since I was at the academy. That sounds like the accent from those ancient “video” clips the history professor was always inflicting on us. Where did that come from? Gabriel stared at the decrepit jump gate. If the signal was pulled in by the spacial warping..
A simple thought was enough to propel one of his waiting drones into the jump queue of the waiting gate. As soon as the drone got close enough, the relic began powering up its systems. Wow, this thing is so old it doesn’t recognize the difference between a drone and a- Sonuva! The feedback through his drone control software was a sharp blade of static, noise driven home right between his ears. Gabriel had already shut down the suddenly vacant communications channel between his cruiser and the remote weapon. His head shook side to side as a grimace marred his face. The warm liquid in his pod absorbed the tears of pain from his eyes before he could blink them away. Gabriel looked at his sensor readings. Alright, the gate is stable. The drone didn’t explode when the jump field expanded around it.
The Gallentean pilot prodded his main computer into analyzing the static burst released from the massive gate as his drone was pulled into it’s faster-than-light transit. Several seconds went by as he stared at the gate, the camera drones orbiring his Thorax’s hull acting as his eyes. Song suddenly filled his pod. It lasted only for a moment, a single woman’s voice ringing through space. No music accompanied it to mar the simple perfection of her song. Sleep in heavenly peace. If he could have rubbed his chin thoughtfully he would have. Gabriel settled for recalling his remaining drones into their bay.
That definitely doesn’t sound like any Amarr hymn I’ve ever heard, he thought. Gabriel looked at the old gate silently for several minutes. Oh, hell with it, he thought with a grin. I’ve still got another clone back at the base. A minute later he was gone, following the distant path the ancient gate provided.