Burning Bridges

Points of cold wet assailed my senses. It was a feeling not unlike the pod induced sensation of taking auto-cannon fire. I focused on that similarity. Bullets ricocheting off of the armored skin of a ship was familiar. The feeling of rain, however, was profoundly alien. As were funerals.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”

I bowed my head with the rest of the gathered, though I found it somewhat difficult to relate my father to ash or dust. His composition was of sterner things. Stone, metal, jagged obsidian.

“I hadn’t expected to see you again.” I recognized the voice. I put my hands into my cloak pockets.

“I hadn’t expected anyone to recognize me,” I replied turning to face my old theology teacher. “It’s good to see you Leto.”

He smiled. “Last I heard you were dead. Then there were rumors. Rumors that you were still alive. That you were flying for the Federation.” He spoke softly as we walked together out of the rain, into the shelter of the temple. “Your father insisted they were lies.”

“Better dead than a traitor,” I finished his thought. “I didn’t come here to be lectured on my choices.”

“Perhaps not,” he frowned. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small contingent of imperial marines begin to make their way toward us. “I am sorry child. We will all be judged for our transgressions.”

I slipped my right hand out of my cloak, drawing the worn golden knife. In my periphery the marines broke into a sprint. “I came to give this back,” I said calmly, dropping the weapon on the marble floor of the temple. “My conscience is clear, my friend. I have no fear of judgement.” My left thumb rubbed the raised button on my neocom. “Regardless, I have to die first.” I pressed the button.

Armored hands gripped my arms, threw me to the ground. My cheek impacted the smooth damp floor. A moment of pain, then the dampness intensified covering my body.

I sat up and rubbed my cheek instinctively but the pain was gone. I retrieved the wrist neocom from the nearby table and jacked in as I climbed out of the clone vat.

“Welcome back to Villore madame,” said the familiar voice. “I hope that your business planet side has gone well. Shall I have your hangar unsealed?”

“Yes Aura,” I replied. “It’s time to get back to work.”

Temporary Goodbyes

I docked the great hull of the bestower industrial at the Carthum factory in Pimebeka, for what would probably be the last time for a while. My hangar was unusually clear, all of my belongings either packaged up in containers for hauling or moved into holding as my brokers handled the job of disposing of them for isk. I exited my pod, gave the orders for the cargo bots to load the last few containers into the cargo hold, and exited the hangar via the freight elevator.

“Corporate level,” I said, and waited for several minutes as the elevator moved me through the massive metalworks of the station toward my destination. There was a slight jolt as the elevator shifted from vertical to horizontal. I peered out of the small round window as my conveyance sped a path over the main factory floor. An apocalypse was being assembled below me, the sheer size of the battleship giving the illusion that the elevator was moving much slower than it was. A half a minute later, the factory view was replaced by blackness as the elevator entered another shaft, and another jolt signaled it’s shift from horizontal to vertical.

Moment’s later the doors opened, and I stepped out into the central office of the Carthum Conglomerate.

“Welcome, how may I help?” The young amarr man smiled as I approached the lobby desk.

“I need to talk to someone about cashing in my corporate credits,” I replied as nicely as I could. He pressed a few buttons on the terminal in front of him and then looked up, “No problem Madame, room 35421,” he said as he handed me a datamemo with the number glowing on its surface. I thanked him and headed down the corridor to the office. Entering I was greeted by a portly man behind a desk.

“Well, Lady Ghenna. It’s great to see you,” he said standing up to shake my hand, “you’ve done a lot of work for us. What can I help you with?”

He offered me a seat, and I took it smiling. “I need some focus crystals, Amarr navy issue. Multi’s and Microwaves, and a few Standards and Gammas.”

“Not a problem,” he smiled, “what size?”

“Mostly smalls, a few mediums,” I pulled a datasheet out of my flight suit and handed it to him, “as soon as you can get them.”

He took the datasheet smiling, the smile fading slightly as he looked it over. “That’s a lot of ammo,” he finally replied, “how many loyalty credits are you planning on cashing in?”

“All of them,” I replied.

His smile returned, though a bit forced, “of course, we’ll get them ready for you today. It might take an hour or so.” He tapped his terminal screen for a few minutes, “hope you’re not leaving us. You’ve been a valuable asset.”

“Just for a while,” I replied. I still wasn’t sure how Carthum would take it if I told them I’d be using their crystals on the Caldari. I decided to say as little as possible.

“Okay, all done. Had to call in the lines from a few neigboring stations to get it filled quickly, but you’re a priortiy customer,” he winked at me lowering his tone of voice, “and the resell value of these things is very good, I’m sure you’ll do well.”

I stood up and bowed, “thank you, I’ll keep that in mind if there are any left over.”

He grimaced as I exited the office. I made my way back to the hangar and made small talk with a group of marines that seemed to have taken up residence in my nearly empty hangar.

A few hours later I bid my farwells to Amarr space for the time being. My corporate duties still required my presence for another week or so, but I no longer had business in the Empire.

One day, I thought to myself as I jumped my industrial across the Gallente border, I’d return.

Time to Completion

My executioner slipped out of cloak at 3000 meters per second. The skies of Pimebeka were comforting. I was home.

Entering the Tash-Murkon region, seeing the sky change suddenly from the cool green of essence to the deep peach of the Amarr empire sent a shockwave of memory and fear through my brain. My ship shuddered for a brief moment, and I was back in control. The focus training had helped.

I docked at the Carthum factory and once out of my pod took the mag elevator to the R&D level. The freight elevator shuddered as the inertial dampers powered up. Shoddy Carthum factories, I thought as I checked the biometrics monitor on my portable neocom, guess that’s how they keep prices down. The elevator itself was little more than a metal box contained within an open lattice of girders and magnets. It was essentially a rail-gun, with the elevator as the bullet and I was inside. At the speed we were traveling one trajectory deviation would mean a quick ride back to Charmerout, assuming my neocom caught the breach. I checked my neocom again, just to be sure.

The lift came to an abrupt stop, the dampers lessening the jolt significantly but not completely, and the doors slid open with a metalic squeal. It had been a long time since I set foot on a factory floor. It was always breathtaking.

Before me was the skeleton hull of an Apocalypse, enormous like God’s hammer. A thousand drones swarmed about the hull like flies around the caracas of some great beast. In this case, of course, instead of decaying the carcas was being assembled, reborn. Tritanium dust rained from the hull as the drone swarm cut, bent and welded the components into place.

“A person is just a constellation of dust from the stars,” the old childhood poem rolled off of my lips unexpectedly as I walked past the great hull toward the managment offices, “blown by the winds of creation…”

“But Amarr are made from dust chosen by God, and his breath alone is what guides them,” continued a voice from behind me. I turned to see a young Khanid woman, beautiful in the way Khanid often are. She approached me, and tucking a handfull of datasheets beneath her left arm extended her right to shake my hand. “I assume you’re Ghenna, I’ve been expecting you.”

I started to salute, and then stopped myself and shook her hand. Old habits die hard. “Yes, I’ve been sent by corporate to deliver some blueprints and datacores, they are being offloaded now. I’ll stay to see that everything is in order.”

“I’m sure that isn’t necessary,” she replied, shuffling through her datasheets. “Though we do appreciate your dedication to security.” She found whatever she was looking for and offered the datasheet to me, “please, have a look.”

It was a real-time construction status on an Abaddon. It was at 45% completion.

“That is a very nice ship,” I said, handing her the datasheet.

“That’s your ship,” she replied, shuffling the Abaddon datasheet back into it’s proper place in her bundle. Corp is setting up a branch office in Amarr space, and with the Gallente office doing well, it seems most appropriate for you to oversee defense out here, at least until we get on our feet.

I didn’t know what to say, it was a very nice ship, easily the biggest I’d ever piloted. Even in my navy days I’d never flown anything larger than a cruiser. An Abaddon as well, the ship had been a rumor whispered about in dark corners in those days.

“Thank you madame,” I stammered, “I’ll make good use of it.” I saluted instinctively. She giggled.

“You’re not in the navy soldier, no need for all that. We have some tachyons we rolled off the assembly line this morning, they should be in your hangar within the hour. A bit different from what you’re used to I imagine, but with your expertise in gunnery I suspect you’ll get up to speed in short order.”

“Yes madame,” I fought the urge to salute, “I should head back to Charm then, and get my effects in order.”

“Very good, we have everything under control here,” she said tapping on one of her datasheets, “And call me Afwal.”

“Yes mad- Afwal. And thank you.” She nodded, and I turned to head back to my ship.

“And Ghenna,” I turned to look at her, the small Khanid woman standing calmly while a thousand drones swarmed behind her sending sparks and dust raining from the massive Apocalypse hull, now noticeably more complete than it had been only minutes ago.

“Welcome home.”