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THE VENDETTA II (aka PAYING THE DUES) an EON Fiction Contest Submission

Natassia Krasnoo
#1 - 2012-11-02 02:30:43 UTC  |  Edited by: Natassia Krasnoo
AKA Paying the dues

“Get that damn Webber up now!” Commander Fujiyama shouted. The ship shook violently as the shields absorbed the shockwaves and repelled the shrapnel from the missiles fired at it. The Caracal class cruiser wasn’t faring well in this fight. Shields were down to forty five percent, and trying to use Heavy Missiles against a Crow class Interceptor was almost a futile waste of ammunition. She needed those engineers to get that Stasis Webifier back online. “What the hell is taking so long with that webber?” she shouted into the comm as the shields absorbed another volley of Light Missile fire. “We’re down to forty percent shields. Either you get it back up or we’re not going to make it!”

This was the last time she was going to trust intel on her prey received at some dive of a bar on a backwater station. She had to admit though, the intel was partially correct. Captain Higashi and his crew were right where she was told they would be within this system. Where the intel had failed her was the type of ship they were flying. At their last encounter Captain Higashi had commanded a heavily shielded cruiser. This time the source of her information had told her he was flying the same cruiser. So she had traded in her old Light Missile Launchers for Heavy Missile Launchers which in turn put her Caracal class Cruiser at high risk. Using Heavy Missile launchers took needed power from shields, defensive, and Electronic Warfare systems. Now she was paying the price for her lack of resourcefulness. The Crow was an Interceptor class frigate specially modified for speed. Her Heavy Missiles were damn near useless.

The Crow had been picking them apart for the better part of four minutes now. Their Heavy Missile fit Caracal could not do enough damage to the faster Crow to make much of a difference. The Interceptor could simply outrun the majority of the explosion radius created by the missiles. Therefore the Caracal was causing only minimal damage to the Crow. The Stasis Webifier was her ace in the hole. Designed to affect the output of engines and drive units it would slow down the Crow as if it were caught in a web. That would in turn cause the Caracals Heavy Missiles to do much more damage. The issue was that the first volley of fire from the Crow had somehow knocked the webifier off line. That’s what I get for trying to save a little ISK on installation fees. She thought.

Commander Fujiyama was not happy at all, she sat at the command console with her fists curled into balls and her jaw clenched. She looked to the weapons officer, “Launch the drones!” A small bay on the ship opened up and a pair of light scout class Hobgoblin drones took flight after the Crow adding their firepower to that of the Caracals missiles.

“Almost there Maam!” came a hurried reply from the Chief Engineer across the comm. “Just another minute!”

“You’ll be lucky if we’ve got another minute! Get it done now!” The interceptor was picking them apart slowly but surely. If it got through the shields the Caracal was pretty much finished. If they could get the stasis webifier online they could slow down the interceptor and do some serious damage with the Heavy Missiles. Another volley from the crow shook the ship and the Commander watched the shields dip to thirty percent. Her Chief Engineer had been with her for over three years and they worked well together, however it didn’t look like he was going to pull this one off. “Damn it!! CHENG what is taking so long? We are space debris in less than two minutes if you’re not….”

“Go Maam now!” The CHENG interrupted her on the comm announcing the webber was ready.

She manipulated the controls on the holo screen and set both the stasis webifier and the shield system to overload. “I’m heating it up CHENG and the shields too. You better get the nanites on them now, and say some prayers if you know any!”

The webifier system jumped to life and the Commander watched on the view screen as the Crow violently slowed its deadly orbit around them. “Hit them now! All batteries! Fire! Fire! Fire!” She almost kept shouting orders but realized too late they had been firing for quite some time now. She watched as a volley of missiles leapt from the Caracal and shortly smashed into the Crow. Yes! Take that you sons of bitches! She had almost shouted it out loud before catching herself. The readout showed the Crows shields drain almost ten percent from the assault, leaving it with little more than forty percent total. The launchers prepared for another cycle. The ship violently shook again as another volley from the Crow impacted the shields and a fire erupted at one of the unmanned monitoring stations to her right. “Get that out now.” She pointed at the fire. A damage control team rushed to the fire with an extinguisher and it went out shortly.

“Maam! Shields at twenty five percent!” A young Lieutenant Junior Grade announced from her monitoring station.

“I’m acutely aware of our shield status at the moment Lieutenant!” She snapped back. “Thank you!” She regretted it as soon as she said it. She knew she shouldn’t show her anger let alone direct it at a crew member. This bounty really had her blood boiling.

Another volley of missiles flew from the Caracal smashing into the Crows shields and bringing them down to less than thirty percent. Between the Drones and the damage they were now able to inflict on the Crow the tide of the battle was turning. “I’ve got you now you little bastards!” she spat at the Crow. Still defiant, the Crows missile batteries launched another salvo that rocked the Caracal violently.
Natassia Krasnoo
#2 - 2012-11-02 02:33:22 UTC  |  Edited by: Natassia Krasnoo
It’d been six long months playing cat and mouse with this one. Her crew was tired; the ship repairs had been both extensive and expensive. It had also cost them more than just monetary value. She had been forced to get rid of a few crew members in order to make ends meet at the last station. If she could only land this bounty it would pay off big time, three hundred million ISK to be exact. Her largest bounty offering since she started hunting. Dead or alive, it didn’t matter to the individual who had levied the bounty. As far as Commander Aiko Fujiyama was concerned it was going to be dead not alive. “As dead as I can make those slippery little sons of bitches.” She had told her CHENG after losing her first ship. She had chased them and fought them across two empires and countless systems, following their trail of destruction and murder. Each time she had caught up to them, and each time they had escaped. So far they had cost her millions in repairs, a ship, and crew replacements for those that didn’t make it to the escape pods when her first ships core had breached. This time they weren’t getting away. This time would be their last slippery escape, their last attack on the unsuspecting, their last murderous rampage on a defenseless colony. This would be their last anything. This time she intended to end them, or die trying.

She wanted confirmation the warp drive scrambler she had installed at the last station was online and ready. It cost her quite a bit of potential shield to have it installed and it had better pay off. “CHENG? Status on the scrambler?”

His voice crackled over the comms. “Ready when you are Maam.”

Another volley from the Crow shook the ship violently and the shields on the Caracal dipped to fifteen percent. She made a quick check of the ships remaining self charging capacitor power then smiled as the calculation in her head came out in the green. It wouldn’t last long, but it might last just long enough.

She brought the warp scrambler online and let it loose on her most hated prey to date. The Crow was beginning to align for a jump away from the battle. She knew the other Captains moves. “Not this time you fool. Not this time. I’ve got you now. You won’t be getting out of this one.” Her eyes were fixed on the display screen glaring with determination and a deep seated hatred. She waited, seconds ticked by as the bridge crew seemed to hold its breath in anticipation; the crow was slowly finishing its alignment. Then as the seconds ticked by it hit her. The Crow would have normally entered warp by now. Instead it simply hung in space trying desperately to leave the battle. Her planning and tenacity were vindicated.

“We got them!” The Commander shouted loudly to no one in particular, “We’ve got them now!” She slammed her fists on the arms of her Captain chair in triumph and jumped to her feet leaning over the command console. The Commander had lost all composure and she couldn’t have cared less. Her normally calm and cool demeanor had been shot since the webber went down anyway. Another volley of missiles sailed from the Caracal and impacted the Crow. As if in answer the Crow let loose another volley of its own. The commander braced for the impact. The volley from the Crow smashed the Caracal shaking the ship violently, and dropping the shields to ten percent.

“Maam! Shields are at ten percent maam!” The panic in the lieutenants’ voice was palpable.

“Don’t worry Lieutenant; this next volley should end it.” She was smiling disturbingly at the view screen.

The lieutenant was unsure if the Commander meant the next volley would end them or end the Crow. So she adjusted the straps on her seat and closed her eyes, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

The Caracal sent the Commanders deadly message once again as missiles streamed towards the Crow and exploded with a satisfying show of light and violence. The Crows weapons systems seemed to go offline. The missile batteries were no longer tracking the Caracal and they were returning to their forward facing rest position. The Drones from the Caracal continued their assault on the Crow finishing off its shields.

The commander stared hard at the screen a look of anticipation and satisfaction on her face. She had waited for this moment for so long it almost seemed surreal. This was it, she would finally exact revenge for all those who were unable to do it themselves. She and her crew would be the deliverers of the justice that so many deserved.

The Caracal let loose another volley of missiles. The Crows shields were depleted and the heavy hit from the missiles blasted the majority of the ships armor plating into shrapnel and molten slag with one hit. The Drones continuing their deadly dance around the Crow were finishing off what was left of its armor plating as the Caracal missile bays reloaded. The tactical display showed the Crows armor was almost gone and bleeding into structural damage as the Caracal missile batteries launched a fresh assault. Pulverized, superheated armor and hull plating spewed into space around them. What was left of the Caracals shields reacted like water when a stone breaks its surface, sending out ripples from the pieces of the Crow as they made their impacts and bounced off.
Natassia Krasnoo
#3 - 2012-11-02 02:35:26 UTC  |  Edited by: Natassia Krasnoo
The hull of the Crow had been ripped open. Internal ships compartments suddenly exposed to the vacuum of space, spewed debris, cargo, and what looked like a couple of bodies, like a mini volcano. The Commander could just make out the short lived fires that erupted near the engine bays then quickly extinguished as they were robbed of all oxygen by the hungry vacuum outside.

One more volley would surely rupture the core and create a magnificent light show as it scattered wreckage out on forcefully wild trajectories. The Crow was dead in space. No longer firing at the Caracal and no longer moving. Most of its external and internal lights were off. Most likely they are on emergency power. She thought to herself. Oddly there were no escape pods jettisoning from the shattered Crow. She had heard of this phenomenon before. Some pirate captains refit their ships with extra cargo space in place of the escape pods, maximizing the amount of loot and illicit goods they could carry. This fit Captain Higashi’s profile perfectly, now his greed would be his undoing.

“Hold fire!” She commanded. “Recall the drones to orbit.”

“But Maam...” One crewmember began to object and then thought better of it as the Commander snapped her head around to give him a withering glare.

She turned to the comm. Officer, “I want to talk to the Captain of that Interceptor.” She wanted to hear the panic and defeat in his voice instead of the smug composed taunting he had given her and her crew on more than one occasion as he had made his escapes. ”Put it on the rest of the ships intercom. I want everyone to hear this.”

“Comms established Maam.” The comm. Officer reported a moment later.

“This is Commander Fujiyama and the crew of the Caracal class Cruiser, Vendetta II.” She fondly recalled the original Vendetta. Captain Higashi and most of his crew currently on that Crow had left it a wrecked hull in Umokka over three months ago, even going so far as to shoot some of the escape pods as they had jettisoned. She had lost her best weapons officer and closest friend Lieutenant Mardisk on that ship. He had carried her unconscious from the bridge and stuffed her into an escape pod. There were others that needed help, so he stayed getting others to their escape pods, and went up with the ship when the core breached. “You have made your last escape Captain Higashi. You have raided your last colony and you have murdered your last innocent bystander. You will not be targeting any more defenseless industrial ships and last but certainly not least the bounty on your head will not be paid for your live capture, but for your frozen corpse instead.” She paused to see if he would respond.

“At last Commander…”his hard voice came across the comms.” I have to admit, I was surprised to learn you made it out of Umokka alive. It’s a shame the same could not be said of your good friend Lieutenant Mardisk.” He paused to see if she would respond and when there was nothing he continued. “ last it would seem you have finally managed to capture me and my crew. Tell me will you kill them all, along with me?” His voice was defiant and mocking.

“They knew what they signed on for. They are no more innocent than you are. Goodbye Captain. I just wanted you to know that it was me and my crew that finally ended your rampages.” She turned to her weapons officer. “You may fire all batteries when ready Lieutenant.”

“Wait!!” The Captains tone had changed to panic as it cut across the comms. She held up a hand to motion for the weapon officer to hold fire.

“Yes…Captain?” Her tone was calm, matter of fact, and laden with disdain.

“I’ll cut a deal with you. I can pay you twice what the bounty is worth. Six hundred million ISK or even more if you want it.” A couple of low whistles emanated from the Vendettas’ bridge. “I’m carrying something in my cargo hold worth more than you can imagine. The Mega Corps and Empires will pay Hundreds of Billions for it.” His tone was pleading and panicked.

It was exactly what she had wanted to hear. Exactly what she imagined the victims that he had brutally murdered in person had sounded like as they pleaded for their lives. While the promise of twice the bounty payment would certainly put her finances well into the green again and set her crew up nicely for a long time to come, there was no way in hell she was going to make a deal with a sick, twisted, psychotic , scum bag like Captain Higashi. Besides he was most likely lying or stalling for time.

“There is no deal to be made Captain. Perhaps whatever it is that’s in your hold will survive the core breach and I’ll pick it from the wreckage of your ship along with your frozen corpse. Farewell.” She slid her hand across her throat indicating to the Comm Officer to cut the link. “Broadcast the forward view screen image to the rest of the ship.” She turned to the weapons officer with a smile that told him she had just had an epiphany. “Lieutenant set one drone on the Crow, recall and reset it as often as you like. I want them to consider their fates for a little longer before the end.”

The weapons officer grinned widely relishing the thought of toying with the pieces of trash that had murdered his family six months ago. “It would be my absolute pleasure maam.”
Natassia Krasnoo
#4 - 2012-11-02 02:37:49 UTC  |  Edited by: Natassia Krasnoo
A single drone would take about one minute to breach the core of a Crow as badly damaged as Captain Higashis’. With the Weapons officer at the controls of the Drone the Vendetta II’s crew had time to place bets and then place more bets as to when it would breach. After a prolonged five minutes of Drone attention, as it painstakingly picked apart the small interceptor piece by piece, a blinding bluish flash of light signaled the end of Captain Higashi and his crew. The shockwave buffeted the shields of the Vendetta II and dropped them another five percent. Pieces of wreckage and shrapnel followed soon after.

Then as suddenly as it had started the light and flame subsided. The wreckage of the Crow smoldered and glowed, a twisted wreck of hull and superheated framework hanging in space amongst a small debris field. Onboard the Caracal the crew of the Vendetta II let out a cheer that would rival any political party rally in Caldari space.

A red warning light flashed on her control panel indicating a major system malfunction. The comm buzzed a second later. It was the CHENG. “Maam, we’ve lost the Webber and the Warp Scrambler! I’m sorry! The systems just couldn’t handle the strain when I had to patch the power relays together to get the webber working. They’re gone maam.”

Commander Fujiyama laughed despite the system loss. “Don’t worry about it CHENG. You did great! Thank you!” She ended the comm transmission from the bridge. He obviously hadn’t been watching the feed from the forward view screen and probably thought they were still in the fight. She made a mental note to add a bit extra to his share.

She listened and watched as her crew celebrated their hard earned victory shouting their excitement and relief. There would be more celebrating when they returned to a station. She snuck off the bridge to her ready room. Once in the small room she slumped into the chair behind the desk and pulled out a bottle of old spirits. She grabbed a glass from the desk drawer and poured a healthy dose. Pushing a couple of buttons on the holo console she brought up the holos of the crew members she had lost in pursuit of Captain Higashi. As the holo viewer cycled through their faces one by one, she raised a glass to those who had sacrificed it all in the name of justice, “To old friends and colleagues. To shipmates and good friends.” She tossed the drink back, and drank it all down in a couple of swallows then grimaced as the warmth from the liquid spread through her chest and throat. She picked up the bottle and refilled her glass. When the holos reached the end of their parade across the viewer, one face remained suspended above the desk, the face of her good friend, and the man who had saved her life, Lieutenant Mardisk. She held her drink up once more in salute, pausing longer and looking at his face. “At last my friend. To vengeance.” She tossed the drink back again letting the warmth spread through her abdomen as she choked back the lump forming in her throat and fought the tears threatening to well up in her eyes. She placed the glass on the desk and left the holo of Lieutenant Mardisk hanging above her desk.

She could still hear the crew celebrating outside. It had taken her three months to track down some of the best ship systems operators and maintainers in the cluster, but she had convinced them her cause was worthy and the pay would be as well. More than a few of the crew had searched her out as her reputation spread. Most of them had heard she was hunting Captain Higashi, and signed up for no other reason than revenge. She was happy to have such a crew with her on this one. They had made all the difference in the world. She hoped she could convince the majority of them to stay on after this. She was sure the payouts would go a long way towards convincing most of them. She held hope that those she had to let go at the last station would still be willing to be hired on by her again. Most had indicated they would wait for her to return. She intended to do just that.

She leaned back in her chair and let out a long sigh, feeling the tension and anxiety of the last six months beginning to drain away. It was finally over. No other bounty had been so difficult to track and kill. Most times it was a straight forward ordeal. Gather the intelligence on the prey, then track them down and capture or kill them. Some fought hard, others were easier to take, and some simply gave up. Never had she gone after one as slippery, hard to catch, or as costly as Captain Higashi. A large portion of the reward was going to go to her debts. She had accrued quite a bit on this one, including half the payment for this ship and the modifications done to it. The rest would go to her crew and repairs.

She stood and straightened her jacket as she walked to her ready room door. It was time to salvage what they could from the remains of the Crow and gather the corpses of Captain Higashi and any others that would bring a bounty. As the door slid open the noise from the celebrations outside came rushing into the room. She turned to look at the face suspended above her desk and smiled. Sometimes New Eden was a cold, heartless, and cruel place that could rip your soul in two, but not today. Today was a good day. She thought as she turned and left the ready room letting the door close behind her. She put on her best smile for the crew and began walking to join them. She knew the truth even if they didn’t yet. It’s a shame it won’t last. She smiled as she patted a crew member on the back and reached to shake the hand of another, joining in on their revelry. Only a few of them realize the price we paid for this victory. She told herself. Only a few know that to get what you want from New Eden you will always have to pay its due.

An excerpt from a work of EVE fan fiction…still in the works

©John B. Stewart II