Blackout

Editor’s Note: In true Signaleer fashion of being the content you wish to see, Quinn Valerii hosted an Eve Fiction Writing contest for the corp and I was honored to be asked to be one of the judges for it which also included Thrice Hapus and of course Quinn as well. This week and next week I’ll be posting up our top five winners. Personally I really enjoyed the contest, we’ve certainly got some talent in the corp and hope to see more in the future. Please enjoy our first installment.

Blackout

A short story by Signaleer Shiro Karagi

The following is based on a true story.

Shiro Karagi

The frigate Persimmon had seen better days. Its hull pockmarked with shrapnel and covered in scorch marks from countless glancing laser shots, the Imicus-class craft slowly banked around the asteroid, the Pilot keenly aware that his pursuer was still out there. Trying to fight his way out of the system was a fool’s errand – the reavers who hunted him were patient and cunning, harrying him through the cluster for the better part of a week before cornering him in a dead-end system. With no other way out, he could be certain they’d be waiting for him at the system’s sole warp gate while the rest of their gang carried out a methodical search of the various asteroid belts and derelict military staging posts he’d flown through in a desperate attempt to lose them.

Persimmon drifted between the rocks in silence, the light from the nearby star glinting slightly off her dull green paint. The Pilot drew his ship to an abrupt halt – from the other end of the asteroid belt, his pursuer emerged. The Sabre-class destroyer lurched into view, unfettered by a need to hide from it’s prey. Scarring from Persimmon’s few lucky reciprocal shots was evident along the pirate vessel’s left flank, with smoke billowing from one of the more serious injuries towards the rear of the craft. The destroyer bore the callsign Barbarous Bitch – it had been painted with stripes of metallic gold and the darkest black, and was festooned with imagery depicting every manner of gruesome atrocity known to man. The Bitch moved apace between the asteroids like an Amarrian slaver hound honing in on the scent of some poor, helpless wretch.

The Pilot’s saving grace was the electromagnetic anomaly both he and his pursuers had warped through to get here. With their onboard directional scanners disrupted by the sudden surge of power, and CONCORD’s failure to maintain local communication networks in the region, both predator and prey were forced to rely on their sight alone to locate each other. With great care, the Pilot guided Persimmon around the rear of a large asteroid mere moments before the Bitch came into view. The reaver suddenly opened fire on a nearby asteroid, obliterating it in an instant.

Shards of debris bounced off Persimmon’s hull, yet she remained still. The Pilot knew he couldn’t fight his way out of this one, and the only chance he had was to remain invisible and hope his pursuers grew tired of the chase. The Bitch stalked menacingly past the Pilot’s shelter, occasionally unloading its gatling cannons on any asteroid large enough to potentially shelter its target. The Pilot breathed a sigh of relief as the smoke billowing from the reaver ship faded into the distant recesses of the asteroid belt. Suddenly, the Pilot’s directional scan flickered. He glanced at it apprehensively – it was only a matter of time before the Persimmon’s systems recovered from the electromagnetic disruption, and the reavers’ ships’ systems wouldn’t be far behind. Staying put had kept him alive this long, but it wouldn’t last. He had to find a way out. The Pilot cautiously guided Persimmon out from behind their shelter at a glacial pace. His pursuers were experienced cutthroats, accustomed to operating in all manner of conditions. A temporary loss of directional scanning equipment wouldn’t deter them, nor would it render him invisible from keen eyes.

The scanner suddenly flickered to life, and the Pilot’s stomach sank as he glanced at it. Almost two score hostile craft had spread throughout the system, twice as many as had chased him in, with a small band blockading the warp gate and preventing any escape. The Pilot had to think quickly. Launching scanner probes was risky, but he had no other option. He activated the launcher, dispatching his remaining eight probes. Working quickly, the Pilot maneuvered the probes’ scan across the system, desperately trying to find a wormhole, while behind him a thick pillar of black smoke crested the asteroid belt and began moving towards the Persimmon. The Pilot pored over the scan data. If he could find a wormhole – and if his pursuers hadn’t found it already – he’d have a slim chance of escaping with his life. After a few stressful minutes, the Pilot grinned wearily as his probes finally honed in on one, located at the farthest edge of the system. If he weren’t encased in a capsule filled with goo, he might’ve jumped for joy.

It took 8.34 standard seconds for the Persimmon to align to the wormhole in preparation to warp, but it only took 7.69 standard seconds for the Barbarous Bitch’s autocannons to roar to life, ripping a hole in the side of the frail craft. Slammed hard against the side of his capsule by the force of the impact, the Pilot frantically attempted to return fire, but to no avail. The Bitch was too far out, and a futile salvo from the Persimmon’s aft railguns sailed listlessly over the reaver’s ship. The Pilot panicked as the Bitch’s cannons tore into his ship again like a ravenous beast. As the Persimmon entered its final moments, he hastily executed the emergency protocol programmed into the ship’s communications, and the information his pursuers sought was erased from existence.

His capsule bursting forth from the wreckage, the Pilot quickly aligned with the wormhole’s location and engaged the warp drive. The Bitch locked onto him in seconds, but to no avail – he was already gone.

The Pilot cursed himself as he hurtled through space towards his only chance of survival. The encrypted communications data he erased were worth billions to the right people, a fact the reavers chasing him knew all too well. His capsule slowed as it neared the wormhole, before leaving warp drive and slowing to a halt. He was mercifully alone here, with only the cold expanse of space to keep him company, his pursuers nowhere in sight. Before him lay the wormhole – a horrific, gaping maw into the unknown, an uncharted, unexplored anomaly that scoffed at the laws of time and space. The Pilot took a deep breath as he moved towards it. It was now or never, a slim chance of escape or certain death in the cold reaches of a forgotten, dead-end system. This wormhole was uncharted, and he had no idea where it led, but it surely couldn’t be any worse than here.

Surely.

The Pilot entered the wormhole from which he would never return.

In the backwater system, the Barbarous Bitch warped into range of the wormhole, her bearings creaking and shuddering as she left the warp. In her wake flew a fleet of two dozen fellow miscreants, outcasts and other assorted vermin. Her pilot stared unblinking at the yawning maw in front of her viewscreen. A few seconds passed in silence as the reprobate armada waited eagerly on their leader to make the call.

“Go.”

The Bitch and her hangers-on fired up their afterburners and marched onwards through the gaping tear in space that lay in front of them. They’d lost their prize, but they’d have the Pilot. They’d make sure of that, even if it cost them everything.

They too, entered the wormhole, oblivious to what they’d find there. They too, would never return.

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