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.


Matt Eberle

penned Chapter Three of this four-part tale. For the first and second chapters,
please see


The Minmatar Encounter
 and
The
Caldari Quest
.

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.


EVE Online: Trinity PC screenshots

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 himself.
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.


EVE Online: Trinity PC screenshots

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.

 

Previous
chapters in this tale:


Chapter One – The Minmatar Encounter



Chapter Two – The Caldari Quest