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Smuggled out - An "8000 Suns in New Eden" Contest Entry

Author
Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#1 - 2012-12-02 22:22:06 UTC
Smuggled out


Egghalende solar system, Security level 0.4
Region Sinq Laison, Gallente Federation

The Rusty Wreck bar was located in one of the lower levels of the station, just below the hangars. Living up to its name, the place was in a rough shape. Everything from the furniture to the glasses looked like it had been used for at least a couple of decades. The few bottles that were resting on the shelves behind the bar had no labels, leaving the customer to ponder over the origin of the drinks. The room lacked any decoration, but a couple of faded symbols on the wall indicated that at some point it was used as a waste storage.

This rugged interior didn’t seem to bother any of the patrons. A group of people wearing maintenance uniforms were playing cards. A couple of dock workers were arguing near the only station window in the bar. A man in a Thukker outfit had passed out on the table next to the entrance.

The two newcomers were obviously not used to such environment. They stood by the door for a few moments – the man had a frown on his face and his eyes were sweeping around the bar nervously, while the woman was just staring in disbelief at the miserable setting in front of her. She was tall and seemed to be quite slender, but most of her body was concealed by the long trench coat that she was wearing. Her hair was dark red, the fringe was cut long and fell over her green eyes. Her young face had the soft features of the Intaki.

“OK, now what?” The voice of the woman was steady, even though she was just as nervous as her male companion.

“Well, you didn’t think this would be a fine establishment full of upstanding citizens, did you?” The man wasn’t bursting with excitement, but his eyes turned towards the bar with determination. “The bartender can probably give us some directions. I’ll go check.”

The man walked up to the bar. He was taller than the woman and had a well built figure. His clean-shaven face looked even younger than hers. He had short, well-styled hair – the way many Gallente men preferred it. He was wearing what looked like a corporate uniform, the logo of Duvolle Labs could be seen on his right shoulder.

“Hey buddy, you got a minute?” He addressed the bartender.

The bartender, who was watching something on a plasma-nanite panel, turned around with a bored expression on his face. “You want a drink?”

“No, I need information. I am looking for the guys from the transportation business. I was told I can find some of them here.” The young man did his best to sound casual.

The bartender gave him a greedy smile. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Right.” The man pulled out a small chip from his pocket and placed it on the counter.

The bartender took the chip and inserted it into the plasma-nanite panel. After he pressed the screen a few times he looked satisfied and said in a low voice: “High-sec smugglers don’t come out that early. You’ll have to wait for a while.”

“I am just looking for a ride, actually. To a place that Interbus does not service.” The man didn’t think he could give the bartender a better hint than that one. The few places that Interbus shuttles didn’t go to, were heated warzones and systems with intense pirate activity.

“In that case you are in luck. See that guy sitting alone at the corner table over there? He can get you to any system in the cluster. But his services don’t come cheap.”

“No, of course not.” The young man frowned. “Does he have a name?”

“Don’t know if that’s his real name, but everybody calls him Flint.” replied the bartender.

“Alright, thanks.”

The man stepped away from the bar and headed back to the entrance, where the woman was waiting for him. He took another glance at the stranger who was sitting in the corner – not a reliable Interbus pilot, for sure.

“OK doc, here is the deal.” The man started talking after he reached the woman. “That guy in the far corner is exactly the person we are looking for. Allegedly, he can take us to any place in the cluster. He goes by the name Flint.”

“Let’s go talk to him then.” said the woman.

“I don’t know if that will do us any good, Sylvia. That slimy bartender just took my last ISK and if what he told me is true, hiring that Flint character can be expensive.”

“Let me worry about that.” The woman named Sylvia was looking at the place where the mysterious Flint was sitting. Her hand quickly checked something in the inner pocket of her coat.

A faint smile crossed the man’s face. “Have you been holding out on me, doc? You got a bag full of ISK chips hidden under that coat?” His smile quickly faded as he continued to speak. “That’s not our only problem though. I mean, look at that guy – he looks like a Frentix dealer. Even worse – a Caldari Frentix dealer! Even if he agrees to transport us, are we really going to trust him?”

“Listen Paul…” the woman looked at her companion and placed her hand on his shoulder, “… I know that trusting our lives to some random smuggler may not seem like a very sensible thing to do. But what other options do we have? They are probably looking for us already. We can’t stay in the Federation any longer.”

Sylvia knew that she was asking a lot. Paul had spent his entire life in the Federation. He was a young man, sometimes impulsive, but he had a promising future in the Duvolle corporate security. He had a curious mind and Sylvia had heard him talk about visiting the Minmatar Republic or maybe even the Amarr Empire. But he probably never imagined that he is going to leave his homeland as a fugitive.

Paul paused for a moment. His eyes were fixed on the floor. Then he sighed heavily and said: “Let’s go see if this guy is for real.”

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#2 - 2012-12-02 22:25:05 UTC
“Just one thing.” Sylvia stopped her companion. “When we start discussing the financial side, do you think you can let me do the talking?”

“Why? You don’t trust my bartering skills?”

“No, I don’t trust your diplomacy skills. Besides, I am the one with the hidden bag full of ISK chips, remember?” Sylvia gave Paul a wink.

“Fine, you negotiate the price.” replied the young man and grinned.

As the couple approached the corner table, they were able to get a better look at the man, whom they were probably going to trust their lives to. He was wearing plain, old clothes. The color of his “Starseeker” jacket had turned from black to dark grey. His cargo pants had gone out of style at years ago, but at least they still had their black color. His boots looked sturdy, but were just as old as the rest of his outfit. The jacket revealed only a small portion of his chest, which was covered with dark, glossy material – body armor. That was the only detail which suggested that the man was something more than a broke factory worker.

Sylvia noticed that Paul’s earlier comment was accurate – the man called Flint was definitely a Caldari. The strong, square jaw line and the narrow eyebrows were typical for the Civire. His brown hair had started turning grey, just like his jacket, but his eyes were full of vigor and were staring at them sharply as the two Gallenteans stopped in front of the table.

“We are looking for…” Paul addressed Flint, but the smuggler quickly interrupted him with a gesture. He pointed at the two empty chairs on the side of the table. While Paul and Sylvia were sitting down Flint placed a small, ring-shaped object on the table.

“A scrambler.” said Paul after looking briefly at the object. “Standard smuggler’s issue?”

Flint ignored the witty question. “What do you want?” he asked.

“We need to catch a ride to a place in null-security space.” replied Paul.

“You need to be more specific than that.”

“System OSY-UD, Curse region.” said Sylvia.

Flint’s gaze turned towards the woman who had joined the conversation. “Right in the midst, ah?” He paused. “That’s not a problem. I can get you there safely… for a price.”

“And what would be a fair price for a course like this one?” asked Sylvia.

“20 million ISK” Flint replied immediately, without hesitation.

Paul’s eyes widened and he gasped in surprise. Sylvia however, didn’t seem surprised at all. “15 million” she said. “Half now, half after you deliver us safely to our destination.”

“Wow, wow – hold on.” Paul had managed to compose himself, but he still didn’t think the offer was serious. “Are you crazy?! For that much we can hire a capsuleer.”

Syntia was about to give Paul a kick under the table, but before she could do that,Flint spoke:

“You are going to have a hard time finding a Capsuleer in a bar. You need certain connections to get in touch with their kind. But you already know that. If you could hire a capsuleer, you wouldn’t be here.”

Paul stared angrily at the other man, but the smuggler ignored him and turned his attention back to Sylvia. “15 million is acceptable.” he said. “But your chips better be clean.”

“We don’t have any ISK chips. But I think you will find this to be just as good.” Sylvia pulled out a small glass cylinder and placed it on the table.

Flint picked up the cylinder and examined it carefully. “An ocular filter.” he stated after a few moments. “Well I have to admit – nobody has ever offered me one of these as payment. But if you can get me one more similar implant, then you got yourself a deal.”

“You’ll get the second implant after you finish your job.How soon can we leave?” Sylvia asked.

“I have to make some preparations before we depart. We should be able to undock in an hour or so.”

“An hour? Come on, for the money we are paying you, we should be able to leave immediately!” Paul still wasn’t happy with the price that they had settled on.

“Hey genius…” the slight frustration in Flint’s voice was the first emotion that he had shown, “going into 0.0 space is not like going in your living room to watch Holo-Vid reels. You need more than a can of Quafe and some crackers. I will try to speed things up, but the best I can do is 40 minutes.”

“40 minutes sounds good.” said Sylvia and gave Paul an angry look. “Where do we meet?”

“Hanger 17, one floor up. Access is through the cargo-distribution area, all hallways which lead to the hangers are clearly marked.” Flint placed the cylinder with the precious implant in the inner pocket of his jacket. “Hanger 17. 40 minutes.” With those words he got up and left the bar.

The two Gallenteans looked after him and then at each other. Paul was the first one to break the silence.

“So doc…” his eyes glared with curiosity, “if I didn’t know any better, I would say you have done this once or twice before.”

“Basic negotiation skills, Paul. You pick them up quickly if you have to look for a new job at today’s market. And most smugglers are businessmen, of sorts.”

“Sure. I wonder if the next business transaction that our friend Flint makes wouldn’t be to sell our asses to some Sansha slavers.” The frown had returned to Paul’s face.

Sylvia was getting used to his pessimism. “I think we should stay here until it’s time to leave. It wouldn’t be a good idea to walk around the station right now.”

------------------------------------------------

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#3 - 2012-12-02 22:27:17 UTC
Approximately 40 minutes later, the two fugitives were heading down a hallway which, according to the glowing signs, was going to take them to hanger 17. The hallway ended up in a T-junction, where Sylvia and Paul turned left, following the arrow mark on the wall.

Several meters after the turn, a couple of burly men were blocking the way. They were both wearing black military uniforms, but no rank insignias or chevrons were visible. The only identification mark they had was a small symbol of an eagle on the left side of their chests. One of the men spoke with a deep voice:

“Doctor Renn, would you please come with us?” He was addressing Sylvia, who had stopped dead in her tracks.

“No, I don’t think so.” said Paul. He stepped forward and positioned himself between Sylvia and the two soldiers. His hand reached behind his back and under the jacket.

The man with the deep voice made a calming gesture with his hand. “Relax kid. We have ships waiting at the undock point outside the station. There is nowhere for you to go. Now if the two of you would just…”

He was interrupted by the sound of metal hitting metal. Both soldiers looked down – a small metal cylinder had rolled on the floor between them. In the next moment the stun grenade went off and smashed the two men into the opposite walls of the hallway. The grenade didn’t produce a loud noise – there was just the sound of the bodies hitting the walls and then the floor. The two men lied unconscious.

It took a few seconds for Paul to realize what had happened. He was standing just a short distance away from the blast, yet the only thing he felt was a wave of air, which was sent towards him during the discharge. The grenade had been precisely calibrated. Paul turned around to check on Sylvia. She didn’t look hurt. Her eyes were staring at something behind him. Paul quickly turned around again, afraid that their pursuers had somehow gotten back on their feet, but the soldiers were still lying motionless on the floor. There was a man further down the hallway, he was leaning on the left wall – it was Flint.

“You two might want to hurry it up.” The smuggler sounded excited, almost happy. “If security finds the bodies before we undock, leaving this station can become a bit tricky.”

Paul and Sylvia did not need another reminder – they quickly proceeded down the corridor and followed Flint through a couple of sliding doors and into the hanger. The ship inside was frigate-sized. It was over 100 meters long, yet still considered small by most standards. The shape of the hull resembled that of a Caldari Kestrel frigate, but the configuration was different and the weapon silos looked very big, almost too big for a frigate. The ship was colored in black and red, the factory number was painted with white on the starboard side.

“Is that a Manticore?” asked Paul. “I thought only capsuleers can pilot these.”

“Only a capsuleer can take full advantage of the ship’s capabilities, yes.” replied Flint. “But we won’t have to utilize even half of the ship’s potential in order to complete the task that you have hired me for. And when it comes to discreet transportation, me and my crew are almost as good as a capsuleer.”

“And where exactly is your crew?” asked Sylvia. Other than the three of them, there were no other people in sight.

“They are already on board the ship. You will have no contact with them for the sake of anonymity and protection – both yours and theirs. Come on, we have to get going.” Flint started walking up the boarding ramp and the two Gallenteans followed close behind him.

Once inside the ship, Flint led them through a number of narrow hallways and eventually stopped in what looked to be the pilot’s cockpit.

“This is where I will pilot the ship from.” Flint said. “You can stay here and observe.” He pointed at the two seats which were positioned behind the pilot’s chair and were obviously not part of the original design of the cockpit. “The interactive display next to each seat will give you access to some of the ship’s camera drones as well as the navigation chart. That way you can follow our movement in real time – make sure that we are going towards the desired destination and that I am not trying to trick you. However, if you begin to annoy me or distract me too much, you’re going to spend the trip in the cargo bay. The last door that we passed on our way here leads to a small cabin. You can rest there if you wish, although our journey probably won’t last long enough for you to get tired or bored…”

Flint’s speech was interrupted by a woman’s voice, coming somewhere from the pilot’s control panel: “Hey Captain, station control just gave us a green light – we are clear to undock.”

Flint quickly sat on the pilot’s chair and replied: “Alright Liz. Commence a full system check, I will get the undock sequence started.” He pressed a few buttons and the ship responded with a slight tremble. “You should sit down, we are moving.” said Flint over his shoulder.

Paul and Sylvia took their seats. The displays which Flint had mentioned were mounted on the walls and they were offering a view of the ship’s surroundings. Sylvia changed the viewing angle of the drone camera and saw how the boarding ramp below them was getting smaller as the Manticore rose up and entered the main undock channel.

“I don’t know if you heard that part…” Sylvia began “… but one of the men in the hallway said that they have ships waiting for us outside the station.” For the first time her voice sounded uncertain.

“Yeah, I heard that.” Flint activated the intercom. “Liz, how is that system check going?”

“We’re good, Captain, all systems are operational. Only one ship in front of us, an Iteron II industrial.”

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#4 - 2012-12-02 22:29:35 UTC
“I see him.” Three large screens were positioned above the pilot’s control panel and Flint’s look was jumping between them. Two of the screens were showing images from the camera drones while the third displayed a 3D map of the Egghalende system. “Come on, move your fat ass!” Flint rumbled out while watching how the Iteron started turning in the direction of Aurcel jumpgate.

The Manticore was getting close to the end of the undock channel, more and more stars were becoming visible through the opening. Paul wasn’t interested in the stars, but he saw something else which made his hair stand on end. “Those are Federation Navy Comets!” he pointed towards his screen. Several frigate vessels had taken positions around the undock lane, right outside the station. “What the hell are we going to do?”

“All YOU need to do, is keep your mouth shut.” replied Flint with a weary tone. His hands ran across the control panel. The result was an audio announcement from the ship’s computer:

“Undock sequence cancelled. Autopilot disengaged.”

Flint greeted the announcement with a short grunt. He touched a couple of sliders which controlled the ship’s speed and the Manticore rapidly flew out of the undock channel.

The woman’s voice came out of the intercom again: “Multiple ships are hailing us, Captain. One of them has a lock on us.”

Several things happened in the next 2 seconds: Sylvia looked nervously towards Flint, Paul lost his self-control and opened his mouth in order to shout, and the Iteron finally entered warp and cleared the undock lane.

“There we go!” said Flint with satisfaction and pressed another button in front of him.

The images from the camera drones flickered for a moment. Then the station and the federation navy ships disappeared from the screens and were replaced by stars.

Confused, Paul stared at the display and changed the viewing angle several times. “What… you can’t activate your warp drive so close to the station!” he turned and looked at the smuggler with disbelief.

Flint replied with a hearty laugh. “Yeah?! Says who?” He was already operating on the control panel again. Their first warp was a short one, and had taken their ship only 1 AU away from the station. The next one was going to be longer and the coordinates had to be precise. Flint turned the Manticore to a different direction and activated the warp drive again.

“Where are we going?” asked Sylvia. “The system map doesn’t show any celestials bodies along our present course.”

“Your admirers from the Gallente Navy were kind enough to wait for you outside the station. You don’t think they will be guarding the stargates too?” Flint snickered. Something about the Gallente Navy obviously seemed funny to him.

“If we are not using the stargates, how are we going to leave the damned system? We…” The ship came out of warp and the view from the camera drones caused Paul to cut his sentence short. “What is that?” he asked.

Flint replied with a single word: “Shortcut.”

Syntia’s answer was more detailed. “It’s a wormhole! It is… beautiful!”

The object on their screen looked like a round pool of swirling water. The light was bending through it in a rather spectacular fashion. The wormhole seemed to be expanding and shrinking periodically, as if it was breathing.

Under different circumstances, Paul would have been excited to see a wormhole up close. But the fact that he had no control over the situation was making him increasingly nervous. “Oh that’s just great!” he said sarcastically. “As if your stunt at the station wasn’t enough. We can’t go through that thing, we have no idea where it leads! It can collapse at any minute!”

Flint ignored Paul yet again and activated the intercom. “Talk to me, Liz.”

“Looks like a fresh one, Captain. Nice and stable.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Paul wasn’t buying it. “The scientists refer to those things as Unstable Wormholes! How stable can it possibly be?!”

“Paul, could you please stay quiet for a while?” This time the request came from Sylvia. Paul turned around and looked at her for a moment. Then he shook his head and focused his gloomy stare on the screen in front of him.

The Manticore was already getting close to the wormhole and the swirling surface was filling up the images provided by the drone cameras. Flint made several corrections on the control panel, then the images on the screens flickered again.

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#5 - 2012-12-02 22:33:05 UTC
----------------------------------------------------



Sendaya solar system, Security level 0.3
Region Derelik, Ammatar Mandate

Sylvia knew that she had to be silent. Paul had already rumbled out enough nonsense, which Flint had heroically ignored. But curiosity kept tormenting her.

The wormhole had taken them to the Sendaya system, which was 16 jumps away via regular stargates. Just a few hours ago the Curse region had seemed unreachable and now it was practically next door.

Sylvia gave in to the temptation and spoke: “How did you know where to find the wormhole? How did you know it was going to take us closer to our destination?”

Flint was studying another navigation chart and replied absently: “I got the info on the wormhole the same way I get everything else – I bought it.”

The voice of Elisabeth, the ship’s communications officer and electronics expert, came over the intercom: “All systems are operational, Captain. We are good to go.”

The jump through the wormhole didn’t appear to have any adverse effects to the ship, but Flint had ordered a complete system check, just to be safe. “Good.” he said. “Get ready with the scanners. And check the cloaking system again, will you?”

30 seconds later Elisabeth reported: “The cloaking system is fully functional.”

“Splendid. Let’s go see what Curse is like today.” Flint activated the warp drive and the Manticore disappeared in the direction of the Doril stargate.


----------------------------------------------------



Doril solar system, Security level 0.0
Region Curse, Angel Cartel territory

Paul and Sylvia had heard many stories about null-security space – some of them were romantic and full of adventure, others were horrifying, but they were all exciting stories. The emptiness, that greeted them on the other side of the gate, surprised them. Their ship was the only one in the vicinity of the gate.

“How does it look, Liz?” asked Flint via the intercom.

“Initial scan is clear, Captain.”

“Just the way I like it. Cloak us up.” Flint fired up the impulse engines and steered the ship away from the gate. The cloaking system was activated – the outlines of the Manticore’s hull began to fade, the ship became transparent and soon disappeared completely.

“Well that wasn’t too bad.” Paul shared his relief. He had imagined dozens of pirate ships waiting for them around the gate, ready to blast them into oblivion.

“Hold that thought.” said Flint as he aligned the ship towards the Utopia stargate and activated the warp drive.

30 seconds later the Manticore, still cloaked, dropped out of warp approximately 300 kilometers away from the Utopia stargate. The intercom crackled almost immediately:

“Directional scan shows numerous ships in close proximity to the gate.” said Elisabeth. “Looks like a camp.”

Paul was toying with the camera drones – even at maximum zoom he couldn’t make out any vessels near the gate. However, the gate itself and the area around it appeared to be engulfed in some kind of energy field. It looked like a force shield barrier, only less sturdy. “What is that?” Paul pointed at his screen.

This time Flint had to actually turn around in order to see what the other man was referring to. “Interdiction sphere. If we had warped directly to the gate we would have been caught in it. Not a pleasant experience, I assure you.” The smuggler activated the impulse engines again and directed the ship towards the gate. The Manticore headed towards the dreaded interdiction sphere.

In 10 minutes they were less than a hundred kilometers from the gate. Advanced cloaking technology allowed the Manticore to move at full impulse speed while remaining invisible. Soon they were close enough to get a better look at the pirate ships guarding the gate. Paul was zooming in on the different vessels with the camera drones: “Look at all those autocannons!” he sounded impressed.

Sylvia was more interested in the way the pirates were moving. Most of their frigates were flying fast in a close orbit around the gate. The larger vessels, including a giant battleship of a strange design, were holding positions at the edge of the interdiction sphere. “Do you think you will be able to sneak past them?” she asked Flint.

“I won’t have to. We just need to wait for a little bit.” Flint stopped the ship about 50 kilometers from the gate.

“Wait for what, exactly?” asked Paul.

“The driving force of the universe… Capsuleers.” Flint spat out the last word as if he didn’t like the taste.

Sylvia and Paul looked at each other with confusion. Before they could ask for an explanation, a sudden, intense activity around the stargate captured their attention. Out of nowhere, a few small ships appeared right outside the interdiction sphere. Several of the pirate frigates quickly changed course to intercept, but the newcomers warped off quickly.

“Well that was quick.” said Flint with a lively tone. “First the wormhole, now this – you two have amazing luck, I swear it.” He activated the intercom. “Hey Johner, get that microwarpdrive ready. We are going to need a boost soon.”

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#6 - 2012-12-02 22:34:29 UTC
“What is…” Sylvia was interrupted by a bright flash coming from her screen, followed by two more. She had not seen the small objects that the mysterious ships had launched after de-cloaking, but she clearly saw the explosions. The bomb waves turned several of the pirate frigates into dust. A couple of cruisers also got hit and there was visible damage on their hulls.

“Capsuleer outlaws clash with the Angels for control of this system on daily basis.” Flint spoke casually while his hands were moving across the control panel. “The Angels have more resources and superior numbers, but the eggers are lethal in space combat.”

Another group of capsuleer stealth bombers emerged. They launched their bombs and warped off – all in a few seconds. The devastating blasts destroyed multiple pirate frigates and cruisers. The Angel Cartel pilots were no longer trying to catch their attackers. All of the pirate ships were trying to get out of the interdiction sphere. Some of the vessels had already warped off and more were following.

Paul, who was watching in awe this scene of chaos and destruction, noticed that the image on his screen was closing. “Hey, why are we moving?! You are going to drive us inside the blast radius!” he shouted.

“Our window of opportunity is a short one.” said Flint calmly. “We have to reach the gate after the bombing runs, but before the capsuleer interceptors get here.” As he was saying that, a third wave of bombers unleashed their payload on the few remaining Angel ships and reduced them to scrap metal. The blast wave passed just a few kilometers away from the Manticore, sending a wave of debris towards the cloaked ship. Flint barked into the intercom: “Disengage cloak!”

The frigate became visible again and gained speed rapidly as the pilot activated the microwarpdrive. Flint was focused on the screens in front of him, steering the ship into one direction or another in order to dodge the wrecks which were left from the once fearsome Angel vessels.

The Manticore was closing in on the gate and got within activation range just as the first capsuleer interceptors showed up on the screens. Flint paid no attention to them and turned back to face his two passengers. “Welcome to Curse!” he said with a grin and activated the stargate.

Let the gun do the talking!

Kyle Frost
Solar Vista.
The Anubis Accord
#7 - 2012-12-02 22:34:52 UTC  |  Edited by: Kyle Frost
Well this is it - my first complete work of fiction. I actually had to cut it short and change the ending, as the original one was probably going to end up close to 6000 words. Pirate

I hope you enjoy reading it. Comments and recommendations are welcome.

Let the gun do the talking!