Space was empty and there looked to be no way to accomplish Dokur Karl’s mission: kill his 2000th ship as a pirate capsuleer. For hours, Dokur trawled the series of systems bordering Caldari high security space in his Rupture class cruiser, one eye on the local communication channels and the other on his directional scanner, but there was nothing out in space to shoot aside from the persistent presence of Guristas soldiers in asteroid belts. The artifical sounds piped into his pod reflected his search: the sounds of warps, stargate activations, and cloaks breaking. Never once the siren song of target acquisition, not even a whisper of autocannons rumbling.
He could, of course, always take a dip into the asteroid belts and hear the sounds he wanted by going after the Guristas, but it wouldn’t be the same. Their crews were slow, inefficient, and, well, boring. In a universe of trillions, they were merely sand on a beach. Dokur wanted more. He wanted the pearls. In the two years since his departure from service in the Minmatar Navy, shortly after his selection to join the ranks of the capsuleers, there were few capsuleers he had not at least contemplated attacking. For capsuleers, life was no longer measured in time, but in wealth and achievement. Death was a speed bump, a temporary set back, and so their ships (and occasionally their pods) became the most direct reflection of their success.
Depriving fellow immortals of their most prized possessions was, in itself, a priceless feeling that Dokur lusted after with a fervent dedication matched by very few. There were others like him, or more accurately he was like many others who preceded him into the life of piracy. The ‘Wanted’ stamp on his official capsuleer identification, the -10 security status he carried, the list of crimes committed long enough to fill a hard drive – those were the things that Dokur prized above all else. His win/loss ratio was pretty close to the top of the list as well.
And so, on the brink of the 2000 kill mark, all of them either solo or in small groups of 3-5 like-minded interstellar demigods, Dokur did not rest. Instead, he scanned.
“Incoming Connection” flashed up on his overview, bringing Dokur back to reality. He realized he was sat on a jump gate, motionless and vulnerable, and had been for some time. Cursing to himself, he answered the call and activated the gate.
‘Dusty’ stood at the balcony outside his quarters, staring into the hangar at his Fenrir class freighter. In his mind, he calculated: space considerations, value per metric ton, returns on investment, opportunity costs. The terminal chirped once more, seemingly more insistent than before. The freighter was empty, bone dry, and Dusty needed a few contracts to fill out its hold before running back to Jita, the trade capital of the universe. *Chirp chirp*. With a sigh, Dusty answered.
“What is it you want, Tragger?” Dusty asked, annoyed and not afraid to show it. Tragger was a capsuleer pirate, -10, and one of Dusty’s oldest customers. On the screen, Tragger’s face was sadly generic, blue eyed and black haired and utterly boring in every facet. Tragger claimed his looks helped him hunt, as a terrifying visage would scare away potential victims. Dusty thought he just lacked imagination.
“What do you think I want, Dusty? I want my shit!” Great, Dusty thought, he’s been drinking as well. “I’ve been waiting in this shithole system for three hours because you said it would be here and – oh man, guess what, there ain’t shit here!” Dusty plastered a fake smile on his dark skinned face and shrugged, the action lifting the longest of his multicolored dreadlocks.
“Nothing I can do about it, Tragger. I’ve got a full load and more important clients than you,” Dusty lied. Tragger cursed on the other end of the line. Dusty regularly made trips into low security space, but each trip was frought with danger. Without a scout in system, and sometimes even then, there was no way Dusty was going to be delivering Tragger’s meager collection of goods to Aurohunen, the low security system next door to Korama. There was only one notable piece of hardware in the load – a Tempest Fleet Issue battleship – and chances were Tragger didn’t even intend on flying the thing. He was one of the more risk averse pirates in the region, regularly camping gates and doing not much else.
“I really need that shipment in, Dusty. It has a present for Dokar Karl in it, for his 2000th kill,” Tragger was complaining on the line. Dusty, momentarily caught up in his disgust for his customer, snapped back to it.
“Dokar Karl? That wouldn’t happen to be the Tempest Fleet in my cargo bay, would it?” Tragger cursed again, vociferously, as Dusty chuckled to himself. Tragger was a paranoid sort and didn’t like having the particulars of his shipments broadcast in any way over the communication networks. Dusty found that sort of paranoia to be idiotic. If someone wanted to know what Tragger was flying, all they had to do was check the nearest high security entrance to lowsec. “I wasn’t aware he was about to grab his 2000th kill. They grow up so fast.”
Tragger shared a rare smile with Dusty. Dokar was not as seasoned as Tragger and Dusty was plying the lanes from Jita to points galactic south for about five years before Dokar showed up on the scene, but he was a name to be reckoned with all the same. A present for Dokar… Dusty’s mind kicked into high gear as Tragger began drunkenly bragging about how he had taught the young Minmatar capsuleer everything he knew about pirating. It was all a load of crap anyways.
“I’ll bring your shipment in tomorrow,” Dusty said suddenly, a plan of action developed. “Not an hour earlier. I’ve got something else to do.” Before Tragger could begin unloading the most dangerous ammunition in his repertoire – drunken slurs about Dusty’s dreadlocks and questionable parentage – the trader cut the connection.
There were no stations in Mara and rarely any starbases deployed in the system. A decade previously, Mara reigned as Queen of Low Security Space, the name that every trader dreaded, as it served as an important bottleneck in trade towards Caldari space. It was in Mara that capsuleers first turned to piracy, and where Dokar Karl first attacked another capsuleer in cold blood. No ransom on that day, just the rapid ventilation of atmosphere from an unsuspecting destroyer. Now, though, Mara was a barren collection of unimportant rocks, its days as a bottleneck long gone.
“It would have a certain poeticism to it if I got my 2000th kill where I got my first, you know?” Dokar was idling his Rupture class cruiser 300 kilometers from the asteroid belt at Planet 2 in Mara. The planet probably had a name, but Dokar wasn’t much bothered with names of little things like planets. On his display, the camera drones showed his cruiser, shaped vaguely like an ancient sea going vessel, seeming to bob as attitude jets compensated for the myriad small imbalances inside the ship.
“I dunno about poeta, poetis, poeticisums, whatever the hell that word is you just used,” Tragger replied. Dokar frowned as it became apparent that Tragger was far more drunk than he had been just ten minutes ago. He was hitting the drink a bit hard tonight. “But it would be fuckin’ cool, man.”
“Yeah, that’s what I meant,” Dokar said, forcing a smile into his voice. He scanned the system again. Nothing. Dokar was tiring fast, though sleep wasn’t necessarily what he needed. He just needed a break, to come down out of the super alert state he maintained whenever undocked. Five hours gone that night and not a single kill to show for it.
Dokar sighed and began to align his ship towards the Dantumi jump gate. It wasn’t as if he were on some deadline – in fact, to his knowledge, he could take a month to achieve his next kill and still be one of the fastest pirates to 2000 kills still active. He wondered where all the pirate capsuleers that preceded him were now. Probably living like gods on island kingdoms, or drinking themselves to death from remorse in seedy bars in the far reaches of space.
“Connection Incoming.” His display flashed as his main supplier of goods, the trader known only as ‘Dusty’ to the pirate community, requested a voice connection. Tragger was drunkenly rambling about a chick that was supposedly waiting for him back in station – one of a thousand such women, if Tragger was to be believed – so Dokar didn’t bother making his excuses to his fellow pirate. Instead, he clicked over to the conversation with Dusty.
“I hear congratulations are soon to be in order, Dokar,” the trader said without preamble. His skin was the leading theory among the pirate community as to how Dusty came by his name – it was dark, with a dusky, ashy hue to it that looked exactly as a miner might, down on the surface of a mineral rich planet. Dokar shrugged noncommittally to the inquiry. He didn’t like to share too much of his details with others. Betrayal was a constant in New Eden.
“Soon, but not yet,” Dokar replied. He thought about putting the Rupture into warp and slinking home, but something about Dusty made him hesitate. Dokar did not have any outstanding contracts to the trader, so there wasn’t much cause for Dusty to contact him.
“Sooner than you think, perhaps. Where are you now? Dantumi?” Without the aid of a locater search, Dusty would have no way of knowing where Dokar was. Dokar, naturally, nodded. Let the trader think he was in Dantumi, if he wanted. “Well, if you’d like your 2000th kill, you’d better get over to Mara as soon as you can. Be at the coordinates I’m sending over to you now in the next five minutes.” With that, the connection dropped.
Dokar reviewed the coordinates – it was a safe spot he once used with Dusty to take on some emergency supplies after a particularly close encounter with the local vigilante capsuleers. Dokar clicked back over to Tragger’s conversation, where Tragger was loudly calling for him.
“Hey, just got a hot tip. Wanted me to come to a place, figured I could use the backup in case it is a trap,” Dokar said. Tragger asked for details, but didn’t say no.
The Armageddon class battleship was a fearsome presence on any battlefield, though it had fallen out of favor among many due to advancements in shield-based protective capabilities. The Armageddon was an armor tanker, often equipped with multiple 1600mm thick armor plates in addition to its natural bulk. It was a slow thing, but deadly in the right circumstances. The Armageddon that Dusty was looking at certainly looked the part. Its pilot, though, was something else altogether.
Jakari Nuntara was a young capsuleer, just two months into life as an immortal space faring being. Under normal circumstances, there was little chance that such a young capsuleer would have the skills to fly an appropriately outfitted Armageddon, but Dusty took no chances. The passive scanners attached to his Rifter class frigate were busily acquiring details about the Armageddon as Dusty continued to maintain a communication channel with Jakari.
“Thanks so much again for doing this,” Dusty said, his voice slathered in a disgusting amount of gratefulness. The charm game was not one he had to use very often these days, but he was happy to find himself still capable of getting agreements from anyone he came across.
“Not a problem, my new friend. Only happy to help rid the world of some more Guristas.” Jakari was an idiot, and generous, two things that didn’t bode well for him in New Eden. His handsome jawline and swept back blond hair did nothing to help Dusty’s image of the man as nothing worth holding on to.
“Great! If you could, just accept my fleet invite and I’ll show you where the nest is. I’ve managed to get through many of the smaller ships, but there is a cruiser on the field that is a tough little nugget,” Dusty said. Jakari chuckled, a bombastic, arrogant sound. In a corner of Dusty’s display, the man’s eyes sparkled. Definitely not worth holding on to, Dusty thought.
“A cruiser will stand no chance against my ship, Mr. Brown. I assure you.” The reports came back from Dusty’s passive scanners, revealing that the Armageddon carried several non-complimentary shield arrays, and a mixed bag of offensive armament: pulse lasers, beams, and even a handful of autocannons. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
“Most excellent, Captain Jakari! Let’s jump through the gate, then, and I’ll take us to the Guristas,” Dusty said. He made sure to sound not so much in command as in dire need of help. Jakari nodded with the haughtiness of a benevolent king and together, they jumped.
“Plus two in local,” Tragger slurred. One of the more remarkable aspects of Tragger as a pirate was his ability to maintain situational awareness no matter how intoxicated he became. He insisted it was a gift, though a gift from whom he never specified. Dokar acknowledged the report and maintained a constant vigil on his directional scanner. The local communication channels showed the newcomers – one of them was Dusty. Either Dusty was working for the vigilantes, which would be bad news but exciting, or the jumps had been coincidental.
“Holy shit, Armageddon on scan,” Dokar said to Tragger. He instantly began aligning his ship towards the Dantumi gate once more, Tragger following not far behind. If it was a trap, an Armageddon would be bad news indeed. Dokar shortened the scan range of his directional array, eliminating any noise from its readings. The Armageddon disappeared from the report for a moment, but then swiftly reappeared. There were no planets or gates near enough to show up on Dokar’s directional scanner – the Armageddon was coming straight for him.
“New Message Received.” Dokar acknowledged the message and saw that the sender was none other than Dusty. Dokar opened it, fearing the worse.
Happy 2000th Kill. It’s on the house, as is your next shipment. Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Karl.
Dokar’s eyes opened wide as he understood the meaning of the message and the Armageddon landed just five kilometers away from his Rupture. With a laugh, he turned the Rupture away from the Dantumi alignment and towards the Armageddon.
“Get under its guns and fire away, Tragger. Dusty gave me a present.”
Dusty’s Rifter slowly reapproached the Piekura gate in Mara. Still on the communication channel with Jakari, he smiled as the Armageddon pilot landed at the end of a very long warp.
“Where did you go? Hold on a moment – there are no Guristas here!” Jakari’s voice was climbing in octaves as Dokar Karl disabled the Armageddon’s warp drive and set to work. “You bastard! Brown, I’ll have your head for this! You have betrayed me! I will see you dead forever, you pirate scum!”
“Not likely, Jakari. Enjoy the experience, and if you ever think about retribution, just remember I have friends with guns and the desire to use them. Good day.” Dusty activated the Piekura jump gate and cut the communication feed. He had no desire to see the grisly end of Jakari’s terribly outfitted Armageddon, and on the off chance that Jakari survived – or more likely, called for help – Dusty didn’t want to be anywhere near the scene of the crime. Within minutes he was back in his Fenrir class freighter, a full cargohold’s worth of goods being loaded for Jita and the loyalty of at least one notorious pilot earned forever.
This post is an entry in 2015’s Pod and Planet fiction contest. To find out more, check out the official Pod and Planet page.