Some called the Mehatoor to Mili run a fools gambit. Low security, pirate gangs, outlaws, organized crime, and systems torn asunder by state sworn capsuleer militias burning space with their continuous conflagration. All together, it melted the journey into a dangerous and high risk corridor.
Numerous colonized worlds hewed out an existence in the midst of the turmoil. Out in the Enka constellation, the Amarrian Holders stubbornly clung to power for the glory of the Amarrian god and empire. The Va’nel family was old lineage and traced their ancestors to the home world. Strong, regal, and cunning they held their small holding together despite the adversity and chaos.
Rebellion or war, they would endure in deep faith, by the powerful weapons of the Amarr war machine, the strength of the Amarrian population, and upon the laboring backs of their slaves. Even if their neighboring Holders fell to lack of faith and personal failure, plunging their own territories into regression, weakness, and lawlessness, the Va’nels would stand firm.
Bright, red light from the system’s star flooded into the chamber of the oldest child of the Va’nel family on board her flagship. The heavily armored Abaddon was equipped and ready to cross the lawless space corridor without fear. The strength of their leader’s faith bolstered the morale of the crew. They crossed the depths of space between Mehatoor and Mili countless times. Laying down burning vengeance upon anyone who dared challenge their divine right to pass.
The battleship was one of a fleet of Amarrian ships that Seltaria Va’nel commanded. They traveled as a powerful force, escorting Holder transports that brought in critical supplies to the Enka constellation. While mostly self sufficient, the flow of trade goods, rare supplies, equipment, and exports would always continue to flow. The Holder families and constellation would prosper by strength of will.
In addition to Seltaria’s fleet duties, she also worked as one of her father’s appointed judges in civil court. Issuing just decisions, righteous decrees, scriptural wisdom, and necessary penalties to even the most minor secular cases, filled her with a sense of divine destiny. She followed the enlightened path of the chosen with diligence.
Kneeling and praying in her private chambers, Seltaria lifted her voice in religious fervor. Crying out to her god with passion and enthusiasm. Hoping to be heard, determined to bring her petitions to divine attention. Her golden hair was pulled back into a long braid, and she wore detailed, exquisite Amarr colored robes of gold and black befitting her station. A large pillow with gold fabric supported her knees as she bent at the waist, nearly touching her forehead to the floor.
“Hear me,” Seltaria said loudly, concluding her afternoon capitulation. The sweet aroma of burning incense drifted in the air around her personal altar. Sitting back on her heels she closed her eyes and rested her hands on her hips as she breathed deeply, focusing her mind to quiet all outside distractions. “Strengthen me to do what must be done,” she petitioned.
The Amarrian woman managed to enter into a deep meditation, drifting on the currents of her own breath. At first, the sound of power flowing into the battleship’s weapon systems did not disturb her. The massive guns slowly swiveled toward a locked target preparing to strike. On their first discharge, glowing energy lanced out across space, Seltaria’s eyes snapped open.
She was on her feet running toward the bridge of the ship when the first impact of the enemy’s weapons slammed into the Abaddon’s shields. While not the strongest, the shield system would provide more time to retaliate, which was the most important part of a battle. The double doors to the bridge split and withdrew as she approached. The minimal crew required for a pod controlled ship were already at battle stations.
Finding her golden, central command chair, she began scanning the vast amount of information being fed to multiple screens on the forward wall displays. “Give me an update,” she demanded.
“We came out of warp on our updated waypoint to vector down to the next gate. We’ve landed right in the middle of an ambush. We’re outnumbered,” the strong voice of her pilot sounded detached, feeding her just enough information. He returned to commanding the fleet, calling primary and secondary for the battleship group. Other tier commanders could be heard on other comm channels.
Taking in the view, her eight battleships hooked away from the bulk of the main enemy fleet, their weapons igniting in the blood colored light from the star. Streaks of death stabbed without mercy into one of the big Minmatar ships, puncturing their way into its armor. Fire and small explosions erupted from the vessel as the Amarr repeatedly struck.
“Their armor is almost gone,” the pilot reported.
“Burn them to their knees!” Seltaria yelled in righteous indignation.
Her fleet’s battle cruisers engaged their enemy counterparts, her cruisers adding a second layer to their attack. The Amarr destroyers, a group of Coercers, went after the enemy frigates, a huge advantage as the enemy fleet was lacking. Agile frigates engaged one another as drones added to the turmoil.
“They’re going after our logistics,” the pilot said. The incoming destruction was overwhelming their ability to repair and one of three Guardians ignited in the black fabric of space. The expanding light and explosive shock wave tore and churned, rocking the nearby ships.
“More incoming!” one of the officers reported, tension building in his words.
Another fleet’s warp entries flashed in the darkness, bringing Seltaria’s attention to her left screen trying to gain a quick tactical understanding of the situation. There was so much going on, she struggled. “Prepare for withdrawal!” she ordered. “Have the fleet align to waypoint thirty-four. We’ve got to get out of here and regroup.”
The enemy ships entering the fray landed nearly on top of her core battleship group. A mass of hurricanes unleashed, their cannons spinning up, bringing a heavy rain of fire. A cloud of destroyers and frigates spread out adding to the attack, emitting warp disruption energy.
“Shields gone!” the tactical officer reported.
The sounds of thousands of small impacts and missile explosions against the Abaddon’s massive armor was nothing new to the ears of the chosen, but the sheer amount made Seltaria’s gut clench. The chaos of the battle lit up with exploding ships and many voices over the communication channels. Losses on both sides began to mount. The commander held on to her chair as the great battleship dealt devastating strike upon strike, fighting those at optimal range.
Seltaria’s order to withdraw became obsolete with the onset of the second enemy fleet. They could not escape the trap, but she trusted in her pilot and his combat team. Valiant strategy and maneuvers smashed the ranks of the enemies, but even more opposing vessels appeared out of warp blocking their way. Her forces dwindled before her eyes. Burning hulls drifted across her displays.
The onslaught was so sudden and unexpected, the speed and course of the battle a blur. The enhanced capsuleer pilots may have been able to keep up with it, but the pure human awareness was taxed beyond capability. In all her many battles, the coordination and size of this enemy fleet had no rival. In the back of her mind, the fact they waited at one of her secret waypoints in the system scratched at her with the claws of betrayal.
“I recommend evacuation,” the pilot said. “Logistics are gone. Our armor is compromised.”
“Signal the evacuation order,” Seltaria told him. She said the words calmly, but inside her, anger toward the faithless enemy boiled and frothed. The bitter taste of defeat reached down into her core. She called out in her spirit to the deity she trusted. “Help us,” she whispered.
Bridge officers ran for the exits as the evacuation alarms wailed. Seltaria could see fiery atmosphere and smoke billowing from different parts of the battleship through the drone cameras circling the craft on the pilot’s feed. Small escape pods began to launch. A console on the right side of the bridge exploded, showering sparks and burning vapor into the air.
Power to the other consoles began to fail as the structure of the Abaddon was ripped and shredded. She could see the structural integrity of the ship dropping quickly on one flickering display, even while the Abaddon’s guns continued to fire. Even in defeat, she would take as much from them as possible.
“Structure critical,” the pilot reported. “Preparing manual ejection sequence.”
“Why manual?” Seltaria demanded from her command chair.
“A greater chance to escape this battle,” he told her. “Remember, with the automated system there is a brief time of disorientation. The enemy uses it to kill pods.”
“Go,” she ordered.
The pilot immediately ejected from the burning Abaddon, and suddenly the entire ship went quiet. All control returned to the bridge, partial functionality to the consoles that still barely worked. The exterior camera drones returned to their default positions, and worst of all, the guns went silent. Seltaria sat in her command chair, completely alone, watching the sensor data on the battle. The enemy turned their attention and weapons on other ships still active in the fight.
“What is that?” she said, thinking out loud watching the camera feed. Half a dozen, tiny pods came into view as they approached the Abaddon. They moved at incredible speed upon white trails of blue tinged flame, maneuvering with precision around debris.
Seltaria jumped to her feet and ran to the operations console. Keying in her access codes, she began the process to activate the self destruct sequence. Whoever was approaching might board her ship, but they would not take control. She would not allow what was left of her beloved flagship to become a threat to her own people. Completing the process with extended time, she sprinted for the exit from the bridge.
“Which test reveals more of the soul, the test that a man will take to prove his faith, or the test that finds the man who believed his faith already proven? Five fourteen,” Seltaria quoted the scripture to herself. Speaking words from the Book of Missions gave her some comfort in her failure.
Time was against her as she ran for her quarters to gather the few belongings she did not want to leave behind. Her personal shuttle was waiting for her as well. Not expecting defeat, then preparing herself to die during the battle, then a chance to live fueled her flight. The audible warnings and emergency lights flashed along the corridors. She gave thanks for some illumination in the darkness.
In the midst of the computer ordering all personnel to the emergency escape pods, another message was relayed by the computer. “Unauthorized access. Danger. Intruders detected. Danger. Security teams proceed to–” The message cut off mid sentence, leaving a tense silence behind. A chill rolled up Seltaria’s spine. Whoever came on board already gained computer access.
Turning down one corridor she came to a closed emergency door. The control panel showed the way sealed due to loss of atmosphere on the other side. The hull was barely holding together, so Seltaria gave thanks once again for the emergency systems keeping her alive. Running back she continued to another possible route, only to find it obstructed too. Frustration bubbled within her, but she tried to suppress it by invoking hope.
“Where you going?” a female voice whispered behind her. There was an electronic quality in the tone.
Pulling her side arm, the energy weapon quickly cycled to full power. An unmistakable sound with the ship’s audible warnings deactivated. She spun looking for a target, gun ready. Emptiness and shadows met her, the way before her clear. Taking several steps, she did not see any movement, but she failed to notice the difference in the veiling darkness above.
Something heavy landed softly behind Seltaria. She did not miss the sound nor the movement of the air behind her. Diving forward, she rolled and attempted to turn at the same time, but she was only able to gain her footing and attempt to get her gun positioned for a shot when her arm slammed into something hard.
The dark, armored forearm of her assailant blocked her movements, but she already pulled the trigger of her weapon sending a bolt of bright energy into the wall next to them. In that second, her arm felt stunned and lost feeling as it brushed up against some kind of energy shielding. Her gun slipped away as her forearm and hand went completely numb.
While distinctly female, Seltaria’s opponent was much larger than her, and a lightning fast back hand into her abdomen drove the air from her lungs, her diaphram spasmed. Grabbing her clothing, the attacker tossed her into the wall, and the Amarrian slumped down onto the floor struggling for breath. Somewhere in her stunned awareness, Seltaria saw the full suited, armored woman kick her weapon down the corridor, far out of reach. The full face helmet revealed no details about the woman’s face.
“Wolf two to Alpha, I have the target,” the attacker said. She reached down and secured Seltaria with wide, alloy wrist restraints, then dragged her up. “Package on the move, enroute to extraction point.”
Seltaria tried to get her feet under her, but she felt more dragged along than anything as her assailant moved fast. “Who are you?” she mumbled as her awareness slowly returned.
“Your questions are irrelevant. Thanks to your encryption codes, we don’t have much time to get off this dying wreck.”
“What?” Seltaria asked not understanding through the fog clinging around her thoughts. The blow to her head, slamming into the wall, was severe. Blood dripped heavily from the side of her head. “What? Who are you?”
The woman forcing her down the corridor, half dragged, did not slow or falter in their progress. She appeared to glance down at her prey for a moment, perhaps considering the question. No answer was given.