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"Unintended Discoveries" EON Entry [8,000 Suns]

Arkea Jindoi
Vaermlandsmys Inc.
#1 - 2012-11-18 11:55:39 UTC
Lazaren had spent the last ten hours making his way from the safety of high-security Gallente space into Guristas territory in Venal. From either luck, skill or both -- though he knew it was skill -- he had managed to avoid the patrols within their space to such an extent that he wondered why only the best were sent out into this region. Since the route so far had been so easy to travel through and without major hazards anyone with a little skill and experience could have done it.

It might have been because of the significance of the mission. The importance placed upon him hung to his mind like a leech. Training had been hell compared to anything else he had ever put himself through, he had kissed more officer ass than he hoped he would ever have to do again and he still felt the strain in his eyes from reading hundreds upon hundreds of intel reports. All of it in an attempt, of even having the slightest chance, to be chosen as one of the many spies meant to infiltrate Guristas space and find out the current location of Rabbit. At the moment of his activation and briefing, still high on the fumes of victory and confidence, he had been a little surprised when they’d told him to ignore any intel about Fatal, despite being the Rabbit’s partner and, he assumed, just as wanted.

‘Other spies are taking care of him’ they'd said, avoiding his gaze. ‘Don’t worry about him.’

Of course, he would follow their orders regarding Fatal... But he would keep an eye out nonetheless. For reasons pertaining to his well-being, yes, sir.

He jumped through the gate just before his destination and aligned. As the few systems had been before it, space was empty and void of hostiles. The patrols he had encountered had certainly noticed him, but they couldn’t do much about it. They’d seem to have given up all together as he entered warp, too quick for them to even manage to lock him. He had, to some degree, resisted the temptation to give them a few words of encouragement. After all, he was on a mission that required his full attention and covert abilities. Once he arrived, it didn't matter if they had seen him or not. He would disappear at his destination, a ghost watching them from up close.

As he exited warp and jumped through the gate, his mind warped as it always did on each jump. His consciousness would drift for a split second before assembling itself again.

Once it did, the gate flashing to welcome his arrival, he found that he regretted his thoughts a few minutes before.

“Well,” he said, “a welcome committee. I didn't expect that.”

All around him, Guristas ships circled the gate in formation. Worm-class assault frigates were the mainstay of the fleet, their nimble size and triangular shapes littering space closest to the gate, but as he looked closer he could see Gila-class cruisers orbiting alongside them and two Rattlesnake-class battleships sitting far away from the stargate. Their menacing scorpion shape were hard to make out from such a distance, but he knew they were there, waiting to sting the first victim they came across.

All of which didn’t worry him that much, because he had his cloak.

The warp interdiction bubble encircling him in its blue shaded sparkling light, however, made him sweat.

He grumbled something about bad intel and considered his options, though there weren’t many to go with. Two sides of the same coin with similar results: Gatecrash, running the risk of being caught before jumping back, or try and navigate through the bubble while cloaked and praying to a God that didn’t exist that he wouldn't be caught before warping away. A nightmare for every pilot in lawless space; the one thing that often had a certain result of death and destruction.

He eyed the timer indicating that time was something he couldn’t really waste and choose the latter option. He moved, dropping the cloak, and told the ship to recloak as soon as it could, giving it frantic commands to do so in a state of momentary panic, hoping this would somehow alleviate the problem.

Lazaren sighed a breath of relief as his ship disappeared from view again and no one had managed to lock him.

On the other hand, they had spotted him and every single ship that had been stationed around the stargate now moved towards his last known position. Lazaren responded by shutting his mouth tight and clutched the console until his hands hurt. His breathing became quicker, his heart banging in his chest and sweat pushed through his clothing as the Guristas drew closer. He plotted a course that would bring him the quickest path to salvation and waited for the ship to respond.

Relative salvation, seeing how he was in hostile territory.
Arkea Jindoi
Vaermlandsmys Inc.
#2 - 2012-11-18 11:56:41 UTC
The edge of the bubble drew closer, slow as hell. Slow enough for the hostile ships to arrive at his former location and start to search in a wider area. Lazaren watched with held breath as a single Worm, who decided that he should do something else compared to his peers, peeled away from the main body of the fleet and aligned itself directly with Lazaren's ship.

“Move, you piece of ****,” he hissed through gritted teeth, tapping the console. The ship ignored his order and decided that, no, this was the speed most suited for the situation and there’s nothing you can do about it. That's what he imagined the ship would say if it could talk.

The Worm moved at twice his speed, but the edge of the bubble was in his face. He started to spam commands in an attempt to initiate warp, the blue edge wobbling back and forth, undecided if it should let him go or not. The sheer visual illusion caused him to mumble various obscenities as the Worm grew closer.

His prayers heard, though by who he didn’t want to speculate, the bubble released him from its grasp at the same moment as the Worm nearly collided with him, swooping past him less than a hundred meters. For one panic-stricken moment he realized his cloak was gone.

His ship floated in space visible for every single hostile ship in the vicinity.

“Warp, you ******* thing, warp!” He hunched down at his console, having no idea why, and stared at his speed. With no means of cloaking since the Worm was too close, his entire mission rested on his ship's speed and the hostiles' ability to lock him faster than he could warp. Seconds felt as if they became minutes, crawling by as the numbers increased, narrowing the mark where the warp engine would activate. A pitiful noise, that of a sad puppy, emerged from his throat, dry and hurting, while the Worm seemed to stare him down with its triangular face. He imagined the locking reticule closing in, the doom that would make him fail after all this time--

Lazaren felt a sudden tug and the Worm became a dot. The streaks signifying that he had entered warp appeared on his screens, but he remained seated, still staring at the console in disbelief.

“I ******* warped,” he mumbled, his thoughts sluggish and catching up to the present. “I warped! Yes!”

Triumphant, he slammed a fist on the console and let the adrenaline in his vein abate for a moment before returning to surveying his surroundings. The signature he had chosen to warp to was an asteroid belt, but one that lay somewhat off the usual grid. It would be hard for the Guristas to follow him unless they had seen where he went.

He took the moment of peace as he landed for what it was and started to focus on his mission again. His arrival in the destination system meant he could move on to the next stage of the plan his superiors had laid out before him; infiltrate and locate the Rabbit. After that it was matter of reporting back to headquarters and coordinate with the rest of the spies for the next course of action.

With his new alignment point set, the ship turned and aligned when a single signature in space stopped his thoughts in an instant. An old signature, one he recognized.

The Worm that had uncloaked him.

Before he could attempt to dodge, the frigate came in from warp and landed right on him. Both of their ships's safety thrusters activated, but the Worm’s sheer speed as it arrived ignored it, colliding right into Lazaren. Parts of his shield absorbed the impact, but from the red light and groaning structure, he threw away any hopes of getting out alive. This was it, his whole mission a failure.

Despite the restraints holding him secured the force threw him around, scrambling his brain inside his skull. He tried to focus, watching the Worm on the screen, with smoke bulging from its thrusters and parts of its angled wings missing, careen out of control away from him. He did the same, with one difference; the Worm didn’t have an obstacle in its path.

An asteroid welcomed him.

Any attempts he made to gain control of the craft sent it into an uncontrollable spin, throwing him around even more. Somehow, he managed to unbuckle himself and prepared for an emergency bailout as the asteroid drew closer. With his suit on and sealed with his helmet, he grit his teeth and braced for impact.

When the ship hit the rough surface of the asteroid, his thoughts were interrupted and he succumbed to darkness surrounded by a roar of fire and crushed metal.

Arkea Jindoi
Vaermlandsmys Inc.
#3 - 2012-11-18 11:57:29 UTC
In a way he hadn’t thought possible, he regained consciousness inside a facility. His brain scrambled and his body protesting, he stood up and took in his surroundings, though there weren't much to look at. His first impression was that of darkness. Even when he turned on the flashlight on his helmet, he couldn't see far ahead, the light playing on the walls. Gravity held him to the floor, but he could float for a few seconds if he wanted to. When he looked up he could see a glaring hole in the roof. Stars blinked in the distance, taunting him.

"I survived,” he said in a murmur, shaking his head. “How in... This is bad.”

The mission was shot, but he refused to acknowledge it. In some part of his mind, the part where his imagination and insane ideas had free reign , he saw himself stealing a ship and continuing the mission. Despite himself, he chuckled at the dumb and insane thought, not to mention the facility seemed abandoned.

Nevertheless, with no other choice, he started to explore. He passed by room after room in utter silence, his own breath his only companion. From the layout of the facility he theorized it had been some sort of laboratory and not a recent one either. Judging from its state, the Guristas probably didn't know about it. The walls were filled with cracks and equipment had been stashed in the corners. None of them looked as if they would work.

With the knowledge that he'd be safe for the moment, unless they found his crashed ship, put him at ease. Though, it probably didn't matter because he had no idea where the ship had gone. There was no sign of it.

A few minutes later, he came across a large dome. The roof stretched high above him -- he guessed several hundred meters -- and he pondered about its purpose. The thought that the facility had been a laboratory became a shaky theory at best because this room didn't seem to have any purpose for research-related stuff. Not as far as he knew, anyway--

Movement in the shadows. Somewhere to his right.

He stopped in the middle of the room and waited. He wished he could hear outside his suit, because relying on his vision alone made him feel vulnerable, scared even. He had never been one to walk in space, despite having trained in it. No, he felt much more at home within a ship, not out walking where man wasn't supposed to be without a suit.

He stood there for a few minutes and stared into the darkness, waiting for something to show itself. When it didn't, he moved on with the knowledge that he was being watched. He wished he hadn't seen the movement because of it; now he had to worry about being killed by some space monster or equally silly while finding a way to escape. It was absurd, but he didn't want to spend any more time in there.

However, before he left the big dome behind him, he stopped right at the exit. A husk, or a suit, lay on the ground to his left. He approached, somewhat wary and on guard, and investigated.

"This doesn't make any sense."

A damaged MTAC, bipedal exosuits often used for various purposes, lay there abandoned. This particular one seemed to had been outfitted with mining gear, but some parts of it were missing. Lazaren knew the Caldari had ties, albeit criminal ones, to the Guristas so the fact that they possessed MTAC's weren't that strange. What worried him more was why it had been abandoned in the first place. There were no signs of struggle, no visible scars of bloodshed in in the dome or the corridors before it. The damage could have been from a mining accident or similar.

Maybe it had been left in a hurry or simply forgotten.

He left the suit behind him and entered a long corridor. The facility seemed to go on forever and the light on his helmet wasn't enough to lit up the infinite darkness. Almost as if traversing a cave, he held one hand to the wall to orient himself and focused on the single circle of light in front of him.

The farther he walked, the denser everything around him became. He had noticed it before but hadn't paid attention, but now the particles, or whatever they were, almost clogged his vision. Debris and dust, untouched by outside forces and frozen in time moved when he walked past, creating small swirls of glinting particles in the beam of light.

At the end of the corridor, after what he felt had been an hour, he reached a metallic gate. Having never seen anything like it, he started to search for the opening mechanism. It looked ancient, far before his time, but even so there had to be something that could open it. A gate was a gate, no matter how you looked at it. The problem would be if had to be opened from one side. If that was the case, he was done for.
Arkea Jindoi
Vaermlandsmys Inc.
#4 - 2012-11-18 11:58:10 UTC
As to why he wanted to open it, he was unsure of. He could have turned back and went in another direction, because inside there probably wouldn't be any means for him to escape this damn rock. The idea of finding a ship became more absurd by the minute.

Curiosity, as would have it with an agent, a spy used for intel, took the better of him.

Eventually he found a small panel a little bit away from the door. He had walked past it, his light missing it, and he sighed in relief when it still worked. The small screen lit up with a red glare, reflecting into his visor and blinded him for a second. He blinked, then stared at the symbols.

"And now what?" he said, pressing the buttons at random. He couldn't read the symbols on it; it was in a language he had never encountered before. He would need a translator or a decipher device to make sense of it--

Whatever he did, it worked. He flinched as the gate flung open as it caused the hallway to shudder. Nothing appeared from the other side, however. And what had he expected? Slavers in space suits?

He chuckled, the situation starting to run out of his mental grasp, and entered.

He came to stare at a new dome, only this one went downward. It carved a massive hole within the asteroid, so large it could fit a battlecrusier within it. An excavation of an absurd scale, unlike anything he had ever seen. The MTAC from before made more sense now, but even an army of them wouldn't have been able to carve out something this massive. It had to be the work of something else.

That something caught his attention and nailed him to the ledge he stood on as shiver ran up his spine. Hundreds of drones zipped around beneath him, above him, all around him. A swarm of flies. They paid no attention to him for the moment, going about their business, carrying material for whatever they were building at the bottom of the dome.

Rogue Drones. He knew about them, of course, but he hadn't expected them this deep into Guristas space. They must have arrived before the Guristas, or they had been brought here by them. There was no way they would let rogue drones occupy their own space unless it was for a very good reason. They could run out of control very fast, multiplying in a few weeks and drive them out.

His mind froze, and so did several of the smaller drones. They turned as one to stare at him, their little claws clenching in anticipation. A very good reason, he repeated in his head. If they've found a way to control these particular drones, then...

The implications were awful, but it didn't make any sense. Maybe he was wrong. It was all just a coincidence, and the only miracle within this system was that he had crashlanded upon this particular asteroid.

The tiny drones didn't care what he thought. Three of them zoomed at him, growing in size as they drew closer, vultures locked on their prey.

Lazaren's body returned and he spun on his heel, somehow pushing back his momentary shock, and ran back the way he had come. He didn't bother to look back. The hallway was too small for the drones to make their way through, but they had to have alternate routes. The entire asteroid had to be customized for them, which meant he was trapped if they got to the previous dome-like room before him. He had to get their first or he would die.

He pushed his legs to their limit, his heart threatening to burst. He didn't want to die, he was certain of that fact, and forced his body to increase his speed. The walls flew by in shadows, his helmet's flashlight bouncing back and forth without ever settling. His breathing was deafening, clogging up his visor. He imagined that if he could hear the noise outside his suit he would hear the distant work of the drones and a low roar of those hunting him.

He emerged in the dome from before and froze again, eyes wide. The drones were waiting for him, facing their claws in his direction. Now the dome didn't look so big as the drones themselves dwarfed him, despite being so small compared to the larger ones. It was now, too, that he could see the movements he'd noticed before more clearly; drones were stuck to the walls, smaller ones, with tiny arms flailing around. As he got a better look at it, he realized the entire dome were built upon the scrapheap of rogue drones. Or parts of them.

The drones seeing him as prey regarded him with an intent to kill. He was an intruder that had to be removed. They hung in the air, waiting. They were more than twice his size, giants of metal and salvage. He couldn't describe their shape even if he wanted to. They were malformed creatures of artificial intelligence, a cursed existence.

"****," he whispered as the closest drone lunged at him.

He dodged, narrowly avoiding a claw going for his head, and rolled along the floor. The sparse gravity helped to propel him farther than planned. Sparing no time he got to his feet and started to run again, making no attempt to go on the offensive. He couldn't do anything against these monsters of steel apart from running.

Another drone came in from his right and he spun, using one of its claws as support and slung himself under it, coming up on the other side. Being so big, they were more than a little clumsy, but it served to bring back hope. The exit was getting closer. If he could keep it up for a few more seconds he would reach it. With the gravity has his service, he wagered and jumped forward, gaining a little distance.
Arkea Jindoi
Vaermlandsmys Inc.
#5 - 2012-11-18 11:58:40 UTC
When he landed a few meters ahead, the third drone, one he had expected, dropped in from above and crashed into the floor. The impact, though the drone itself had missed him, shook the foundation and threw him off-balance. He staggered, struggling to regain it, made harder by the lack of gravity, when the first drone made another pass.

He couldn't tell if it was accidental or if the drone had acted with intelligence. Its claws missed his flesh, instead opting for his suit. It ripped a tear across his side and the effect was immediate; the air he breathed became thinner in an instant, warning lights pulsing in front of his eyes.

The drones looked at him as he straightened up from the blow, ready to dive to the side if they decided to launch at him. Instead they taunted him with their bizarre forms, staring at him. Their claws stopped moving and they floated upwards, returning the way they had come, and left him alone.

The dome became empty apart from himself, the arms in the walls flailing about.

"You ******* smart... bastards."

They weren't needed anymore to assure his fate. He slumped against the wall, a hand covering the tear in the suit, but it didn't do anything. The air slipped out no matter what. The oxygen level on his visor decreased by the second. He looked up and stared into the hole in the roof where the stars lay beyond it. Salvation. Close and far away at the same time.

He was surprised how fast his brain became delirious from the lack of oxygen. He barely noticed the rogue drone arms in the wall reaching out for him, hungering for more material to build with. Even when he noticed, he found he didn't really care. He was too angry, full of hate for... who? The Federation, Rabbit or the drones themselves? He had made the choice to embark on this mission. He had made the choice to come to this system.

The blame lay upon him and no one else.

He sighed and let the arms take him. He didn't have the energy to resists anymore. Though he didn't welcome death the same way as capsuleers did, he found himself at peace despite the tears glinting in his eyes. There wasn't much point in lamenting or praying for his life. He would go in silence like the soldier he was.

Nevertheless, Lazaren made a final wish not to be taken by them; to let him live and be given a second chance where he wouldn't make the same choices he once had. One last, useless, helpless, wish from the bottom of a man's mind that had lost all hope.

His wish was ignored by the drones.