It should also be noted that Sillanda Kachira will also receive a Cynabal Cruiser for her historical capsuleer centered story and for her contribution to the District. You will soon be able to read her story in this blog.
But now I present to you the winning story of the first Fourth District fiction competition.
Gods' Deliverance by Nidia Masters
Felix Renard liked to drive space ships. He did not much care for exactly what he was doing in regards to it. Whether it be a simple transport assignment, an escort, or, as he liked to call it, making someone hurt, he loved every aspect of starship operation. This was a good thing, as for the last day, he had immersed himself into some of the more loathsome areas of piloting.
Luckily for him, and his small crew, the life support and environmental systems were back online and they did not have to spend whatever remained of their short lives inside space suits waiting for the end. Instead, Felix now had lubricant covering his skin up to his elbow as he desperately tried to repair the critical systems of the ship.
Felix Renard captained a second, possibly third hand Griffin-class frigate, the Senshi. A fierce name for a small ship, it meant warrior in an old dialect of Caldari. Felix found the ship in a dilapidated state, previously owned by a capsuleer and inexpensive, by their reckoning. For Felix, it was a small fortune, but it meant something more: freedom
To Felix, freedom's price was well known to be more than purely monetary. For Senshi, the risks of nullsec were suddenly taught to her when what was planned to be a routine transport assignment turned into a rather unpleasant encounter with a hostile cruiser's lasers; Senshi herself barely escaping in mostly one piece.
Senshi's first mate, a heavily tattooed Nefantar with a dark complexion by the name of Fahim Najem opened the door to the small equipment room where his captain had been working for the better part of an hour. "Warp drive is restored, Captain," He spoke with a gravelled voice that comes from being a life long smoker. "How are the shields coming along?" Felix responded by waving his hand back and forth quickly, the universal symbol for not so good. Fahim started lighting a new cigarette before continuing. "Without the shields, taking us into warp will be rather painful."
"Yeah, I know how my frigate works, Fahim, thank you. How is everything else coming along?" The young captain spoke without taking his eyes off of the delicate, though dirty repairs he was continuing.
"It's just you left."
"Figures... Put someone on watch and get everyone to get some rest, this is a one man job anyway." Felix's commands were firm, though not disrespecting. This was his ship and he made sure his small crew knew it, but he did not treat them badly. He was not of any higher stature than any of them. Likely less so, in fact. As he continued to work, Felix's thoughts turned back to the earlier skirmish, and how he and Senshi came into the position they currently found themselves in.
Wear and tear on Senshi had been mounting in recent weeks, and so were the debts owed to an assortment of unsavoury individuals. The little Griffin frigate was already old and had clearly been through a few battles of its own before Felix spent more money than he had on her. Now, desperate for a quick infusion of money into his vacant accounts, Felix took a courier job for some capsuleer in nullsec. He scoffed at the memory, remembering how he thought of how these capsuleers were either so posh and refined that to move a few expensive modules some twenty or so jumps was beneath them, or that they were of a form of lethargy so extreme that language has yet to name it. Felix finally settled for a combination of the two, and accepted the job, aware of both the risk, and the payout; for what was to a capsuleer, equivalent to pennies, the reward for completion of task would pay all of Felix's bills and still have money left over for a very nice refit of the frigate.
The dangers and near lawlessness of nullsec were not unknown to the general populace, especially ship captains. Getting into nullsec was not a particularly difficult thing to accomplish; coming back from it was. This was where Felix, Senshi and the crew found themselves in their current predicament.
Senshi jumped into nullsec and travelled the first few jumps unmolested. Providence was a far more pleasant region than most others in explored space, but they would soon come to see that paradise, it was not. With just a few more systems to pass through, it seemed like they would make it to port just fine and ignored, a milk run essentially. This all changed when they jumped into an uncreatively named system: DP-JD4.
True Slaves, zombified soldiers of Sansha's Nation surrounded the stargate as Senshi jumped into the system. A pair of cruisers flanked by a pair of escorting frigates, Sansha Kuvakei's minions were ready for targets of opportunity jumping through the gate, and Senshi was a soft one at that. Felix ordered his navigator to immediately align to warp and escape the Phantasms and Succubi, but the Nation seemed to have other plans for them.
Warp disruptors were the bane of most ships across New Eden, and Senshi was no exception. Her small size, weak weapons and pathetic shield generators meant that her best defense was escape. Now with one of the frigates warp disrupting Senshi, this was no longer an option. Felix called for evasive maneuvers and brought up commands for the lone ECM module on his little ship. The one ace in the hole that remained, though Felix knew at best it would buy him a few seconds unless something else was done.
That is when Senshi's missile turrets turned to face the first Succubus. Certainly not enough to harm the cruisers, the light missile launchers were enough to pose a serious threat to the frigates. The first scourge missiles heaved from their launchers with a frenzied sprint towards their marks as fiery beams of light crossed from the opposite direction, striking and nearly obliterating Senshi's shields in a single impact. What little speed Felix's frigate could muster kept them from taking the full brunt of the Sanshas' assault, for the moment he had only the frigates to worry about, though the cruisers fired their microwarpdrives to close the distance; a module Senshi did not have.
Luckily for Felix, the one piece of equipment that did work properly on the first try, was the ECM module, which immediately scrambled one of the cruiser's targeting systems before she could fire on the frigate. This bought enough time for Senshi the one frigate that was disrupting her warp drive, but not before the unjammed cruiser and second frigate fired their lasers again with hate, melting and burning away nearly all of Senshi's starboard armour, exposing much of the underlying superstructure and overloading numerous systems.
Senshi made the warp during the brief moment before the True Slaves could recognize their error, and she only stopped when she entered high orbit of a desolate, uninhabited world. So began their long day of desperate field repairs.
Felix smirked. He was not entirely sure whether the True Slave zombies had any emotions to speak of, but he knew if they had, they would be furious at losing such a simple prey. That day, fortune was on their side. He did not know if it would be the next.
The captain closed up the panel he previously had his grease-covered arms elbow deep into, as the circuits and power came back online, and he heard the tell-tale sound of the re-powering of the shield generator. He took his tool box and marched down the short length of the ship, stopping in the lavatory for only a few moments to wash the worst of the grease off his arms before heading down to the flight deck. Felix found his navigator standing watch in the cramped space, in one of the few seats available.
Irina Saika excelled at mathematics. Along with quick reflexes, a calm demeanour and numerous other talents, it made her a very good navigator. She was also Felix's oldest and possibly only close friend. She sat at the console, watching the scanner carefully as she sipped her tea, a red blend from Iyen-Oursta, one of the few luxuries on board the tiny frigate. Felix looked at the scanner as he spoke to her, answering his own question. "How are things looking out there?"
She offered a small scowl, it annoyed her when he checked her work. He trusted her, but it was still a terrible habit of his. "Some movement around, but nothing seems to be interested in us. Or is particularly close by."
"Good." He paused for a moment as he set his tool box back to its nook, under the console. "Are you coming to bed?"
"In about an hour," She sipped at her warm tea, coddled between her hands. "I'll wait for the next watch. When are we getting out of this shit hole?"
"0600, I hope it will be at an hour when there isn't a lot of traffic around, so lets hope whatever asshole deity watches over us is in a good mood in the morning. Tell the crew.” He turned and headed through the door as she returned an understanding nod, worried more about the condition of the ship, rather than the crew.
The sun does not rise in space. Not like anyone standing on the soil would be used to. Morning came to Felix, his crew and Senshi regardless. The prospect of a new day offered opportunities to Senshi and her desires. Felix and his crew rose early and manned their stations, weary from a lack of sleep and an abundance of maintenance that Senshi so desperately thirsted for.
The little frigate's engines rumbled unhappily to full power as she aligned to resume her previous day's course. “Bring the warp drive online, let's make for the next stargate, and hope against anymore surprises.” Her ordered, as he manned his own station in the small flight deck.
“Warp drive active.” Irina the navigator returned the call to her captain.
The frigate did not particularly enjoy the transition as she entered warp, screaming towards the stargate at superluminal velocities. Senshi shuttered and rumbled in annoyance as her already damaged systems and hull plating took the forces of the transition past light speed.
There was a collective cessation of breathing on the frigate as she made the jump to the next system... and nothing happened. Sighs of relief filled the ship as their sensors reconfigured post-jump and discovered they were alone. There was no blockade at the stargate waiting to assault them again.
“One more jump to go.” Felix explained, as he gestured to make the next transition to warp, and the final stargate.
Senshi again lurched in annoyance as she made the final to her destination. A backwater system in a dead-end constellation in a region beyond the control of the empires: Providence. The system they jumped to was another unceremoniously named system 3KB-J0.
The crew's earlier sighs returned to still breath due to the scene before them. Giants fought in the space before them. Capsuleers, this generation's current deities warred between each other. Two dozen battlecruisers and their escorts traded shells, beams of light and missile back and forth as drones of all sizes followed along, moving from target to target leaving an exploding ball of light in their wake.
Any one of those battlecruisers could obliterate Senshi in the briefest of moments, especially if they were piloted by capsuleers, and Felix recognized the danger. “Get us out of here, now!”
Irina went to make course corrections as the engines fired to move them out of danger. Fahim manned the weapons console should their escape prove unhelpful as Senshi's engineer called from the lower decks, frustrated and flustered that the engines were being pushed too hard, for the second time in as many days. Senshi bounced and weaved between the blows the capsuleers threw between themselves in whatever manner of argument that caused their belligerence to one another. It did not matter to any of them on board the little frigate, for the moment their only concern was survival.
Senshi's luck would run out as she aligned for a final warp. The frigate's shields cracked suddenly as did her hull as she took the full brunt of a stray slug from one of the capsuleer's blasters. Senshi entered warp, although her rumble turned to a much more violent shudder as her hull had micro-breaches, and her shields crippled. The frigate came out of warp close to the outpost in the system, adrift, damaged to a point where she would probably be considered an economic loss, and perhaps trapped in less than the friendliest space.
"That's it. We're dead in the water." Felix said with a melancholic voice.
Irina frowned as she looked down at her sensor console. "It gets worse, a dozen battlecruisers are showing up on scan, probably heading this way."
"Wonderful, any way we can get any power to the engines? What about the missiles?"
The raspy Minmatar broke his silence. "The launchers are fried, not that they would help at all." Irina just shook her head, and Felix returned the frown in understanding.
The battlecruisers dropped from warp, one by one in quick succession. Most were in good shape, others were burning, venting their atmosphere from holes torn into their sides from the battle. Those were the first to enter a docking pattern to the outpost before them. It took Felix a moment to realize that instead of removing him and his crew from existence, they were heading home. All but one of the battlecruisers, who moved to approach them. The Naga-class battlecruiser dwarfed the frigate, but her guns did not point towards them. Instead the communications array came to life, one of the few systems remaining in operation, with a hail from a young woman's voice.
"You're a long way from home, aren't you little one? Seems like you got here right at the wrong time, and in the way of us and a few pirates." The capsuleer spoke with an air of arrogant superiority as she circled around them.
Felix picked up the microphone and returned the greeting. "Yes ma’am, Captain Renard of the Senshi here to deliver a courier... and regretfully... requesting a tow." The last words came out only with some persuasion from Felix, he was sure that the cost of repairs would greatly exceed their bounty.
The woman capsuleer's voice returned to the comm. "I believe that is actually my courier, thank you, I've been without decent tea for days now. Station control has been advised of your situation and is deploying a tug now for you."
Tea, thought Felix, all this because some asshole capsuleer was too posh to get her own god damned-
"Still," The capsuleer woman went on. "You managed to get here all on your own. Well done I'm impressed, even I was never able to do that in a little Ibis the first time. Tell me... do you boys need a job?"
Felix smirked, maybe not a complete asshole.