Story formerly titled “Cracked Capsule”
Sinq Laison Region
Planet IX – Moon 9
Station: Nugoeihuvi Corporation Development Studio
“Routine and more routine,” Gennis said as he closed out another transaction shaking his head. “Pilots fly out, get the crap beat out of their ships, fly back in, and want repairs. Wake up. Eat breakfast. Provide a quote. Eat lunch. Deal made. Make sure the replacement parts are formed just so. Better get that paint right, Gennis, they say. Like it all shiny, they do! Go home. Eat dinner. Go to bed. No real challenge anymore.”
“Makes for a good living, plenty of ISK to pay for the honies and brews,” Eduard commented as he scrolled through a list of current repair requests. Glancing over at Gennis he winked and grinned.
“Wipe that shit eating grin off your face,” Gennis said with his grouchy look. “Easy for a young journeyman, such as yourself, to say. I got a business to run, mouths to feed, and a wife who likes to fucking shop. Not to mention the deadbeats I employ.”
Eduard chuckled and swiped the screen again. “Sure, boss. Whatever you say.” He fiddled with the zipper of his blue mechanical engineering coveralls, his quick eyes scanning over the lists in front of him.
The office was sizable and needed for the large repair operation Gennis owned. Most of the office staff was gone for the day as was the rest of the engineers who ran the projects. Eduard lingered with the boss because he liked to get in as much ass kissing as possible. Everyone knew it, but he did not care. If ingratiating himself to Gennis got him ahead, he would do what was needed. Minus any sexual favors of course. It did earned him a desk next to the boss after all.
As to favors of the indecent kind, some said Kaylee, one of the new star engineers on the team, did that, but Eduard doubted it. Gennis might bitch about his wife at times, but he was a loyal bitcher. One of the only husbands Eduard knew who may actually love his wife. Though Gennis did enjoy the view, and Miranda purposely provided it. Eduard heard her talking about it with the other inebriated, giggling girls at the office holiday party a few months back.
While part of his mind may have wandered as he scrolled through the repair projects, suddenly one popped out at him. “That is interesting,” he said out loud.
“What?” Gennis asked irritably, busy with another customer’s paperwork.
“A very unusual request. Work to be done on a capsule. In person too. Marked urgent. An emergency actually. Wow! Double the normal offer.”
“You fucking with me, twerp?” Gennis asked looking over the rim of his glasses.
Eduard shook his head. “Not at all, boss. It’s legit. Look at it.” He flicked the request over to the company queue and marked it to be viewed.
Gennis looked at his screen and read through the sparse details, rubbing his beard sparked with some white hair. “Wow, they want us in person. That is surprising. Fuck, yea. Saddle up, honcho. Grab the tools and let’s head over.”
Eduard looked at him unsure how to say it. Gennis ran a hand against his razored flat top and then over his thick stache looking excited as hell. “Um, boss. I sorta have plans.”
Gennis stopped, rotated in his seat, and stared at him with a flat, dead eyed stare. He slowly began cracking one knuckle at a time. “Say that again.”
“I sorta-” Eduard started looking reluctant to give the boss bad news.
“No, you don’t,” Gennis said with a deep frown forming on the entirety of his face.
Eduard grinned and laughed. “I don’t!” he said.
“Better not,” Gennis growled getting up. “Now get those tools!” He laughed heartily, looking more excited than Eduard had seen in a long time.
Eduard joined in the laugh, but it was forced. He quickly sent a message canceling his plans, smacked Mr. Muffin into the trash bin, and went to grab their tools as ordered. When out of sight and hearing, he grumbled under his breath.
* * * * *
Arriving on scene, they were escorted by heavy security. Baseliners never traveled alone in the capsuleer levels, two per man. Gennis hated the strip search and invasive body scan, but the damn money was too good to pass up. Plus, he enjoyed seeing the expression on Eduard’s face after his first time. He even snapped a pic as a memento. The laughter later would be whip cream on his brownie.
The hall and entrance to the private capsuleer quarters was heavily guarded. No one was getting inside without authorization. Access had to be granted by the capsuleer or someone authorized even before station security could enter. Special eggs, special rules was the term. The two engineers hustled inside with their quick footed detail stopping at the door.
The interior was no better. While very spacious, the amount of security inside was surprising. Gennis had never seen anything like it. Their name badges and credentials were checked three times before they got to the end of the long corridor leading to the capsule egress area. Station emergency personnel were present as was a well equipped medical team. Plus, the entire area near the capsule was filled with non standard equipment that the two visitors could not identify.
Gennis looked at all of it appearing astonished indeed. Eduard marveled at everything being a virgin to a capsuleer’s secret lair. A formally dressed fellow with a straight posture was alerted to their presence. He led a man and woman in thick, wrist restraints over to them. The two looked miserable and reluctant to say the least.
“Great timing, gentlemen. I just finished my initial interviews with these two. I am Inspector Perch, Federation security,” he said. His height, wide shoulders, long mustache, shaved chin, and thick mutton chops on either side of his face made Gennis feel a bit overwhelmed by his presence. In addition, his massive head of hair, bushy eyebrows, wide security badge, and piercing blue eyes made him want to confess his crimes all the way back to childhood. Not sure why! Maybe he had a streak of yellow in him… a yellow belly. Oh, nevermind.
Swallowing heavily, internally shaking himself out of his awe of the man, Gennis nodded his head. “A pleasure Inspector. Gennis Hanlil of Hanlil Engineering and Repair.” He shook the law man’s hand. “This is one of my top engineers, Eduard Rindo.”
Eduard nodded, straitening his posture and drew his shoulders back.
“I am glad you came so quickly,” the inspector said. “As you can tell we have quite a situation on our hands. The capsule there is occupied by a man named Bunlondis Zeek. A well known capsuleer with quite the colorful career. A polite way to say it among law enforcement. He is unresponsive and we are unable to extract him. There is something wrong with the ejection system that our engineers can’t find.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Gennis said. “I am a master level capsule engineer. I have yet to run into a capsule system I couldn’t fix.”
“I hope so,” Perch commented. “There is a bit of a turn about in this case. The pod you see was retrieved from deep space. The capsuleer is inside, alive, but there is no response to any communication. We gather he has been like that for at least five days. The last time he was here was six days ago, and he left to retrieve some food items according to his assistant here, Ms Tumac. Something called Weesno’s Double Choco Creme Pies.” Perch nodded to the woman.
“Why are these two restrained?” Eduard asked suddenly.
“A precaution. They are not cooperating in my investigation, and at this point my suspicions have been aroused that Ms Tumac and Professor Quince may have played a role in Mr Zeek’s current situation. Or they may each be a catalyst to this mystery.”
“I am Bun’s personal assistant!” Ms Tumac said angrily. “All I do is what he asks of me.” Her thin frame, tight shirt, and bouncy brown hair distracted Gennis for a moment.
“Then tell me what all these machines are for?” Perch demanded. Ms Tumac glanced at Professor Quince and refused to answer.
The man was a little taller than her, wore a blue lab coat, rumpled clothes beneath, white socks, no shoes, and wide framed, square glasses. He appeared obstinate. “I have nothing more to say, Inspector. Bun and I are business partners, that is all. I have nothing to do with his current predicament.”
Gennis’ eyes widened. “Professor Cireno Quince? The experimental physicist and mechanics Quince?”
The professor’s demeanor changed. He seemed quite pleased by the recognition. “Well, yes. That is me.”
Gennis rubbed his jaw, his face excited. “Wow, professor. I followed your work for a long while some time back. I would love to shake your hand.”
If the professor could preen, that would have been the moment. Gennis stepped forward to do so, but Perch put up his hand. “This isn’t the time, Mr Hanlil. I need you to divert your attention to the capsule problem. Without further distraction.” The inspector led them to the pod with the professor and Ms Tumac.
One look at the capsule and Gennis balked. “What the hell?” he nearly shouted. The pod was not ordinary at all, it was heavily modified. “What have y’all done to it?” he asked looking at the professor.
When he shrugged, refusing to answer, Gennis went to work with Eduard’s assistance. The two scanned, poked, prodded, inspected, and hooked up their diagnostic equipment. Inspector Perch kept a close eye on them, looking over their shoulders with keen observation skills mixed with curiosity.
“All systems are online and operational,” Gennis reported. Bun is inside and there is no reason he can’t respond if he wants too. The capsule is far heavier than I have ever seen by hundreds of kilos. Plus these access ports are very unusual.” He pointed to several at different locations for Perch to see.
“Can you activate the ejection sequence?” the inspector asked.
Gennis rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and nodded his head. “I can try.”
“Do it.” Perch directed.
Gennis inputted a command into his controller. The system began the process, but then it stopped. A red flashing diagram appeared. “Ah. There is a problem,” Gennis said pointing so Perch could see. There is a failure in the internal mechanics. See here and here. Looks like the joints are unable to expand.” He looked over at the professor who quickly looked away sighing heavily.
Perch gazed at Ms Tumac and the professor. “If you are unwilling to assist, then I am going to declare this a medical emergency.” Neither one seemed to have changed their mind. “In that case, Mr Hanlil, breach the pod.”
Gennis nodded with enthusiasm. “I have always wanted to do that.” He immediately got to work with Eduard.
“At this point, I am taking responsibility for Mr Zeek’s cloning transfer,” Perch said to one of the medical professionals who typed furiously on a tablet device. “As we have no other choice, we must activate the clone fail safe system to ensure the well being and vitality of the capsuleer Bunlondis Zeek. Affectionately referred to as Bun by his personal assistant. Please record the date and time at the moment of breach.”
Gennis prepped the system and stepped back with Eduard. “Clear the area, behind the safety lines.” The entire group of those gathered shifted as they got out of the way. Once in position, Gennis gave Eduard the honor of… he changed his mind. Gennis launched the breach sequence and clone transfer.
There was a number of mechanical actions as the front and back of the pod instantly disconnected. The front fell forward and clanged heavily on the metal floor sliding a number of feet and smashing into one wall. The onlookers were surprised to see a big, blob of pitch black goo (abnormal for the ectoplasmic liquid). It weebled and wobbled, jiggled and joggled until it collapsed, gushing outward.
“Good Amarrian god!!” Inspector Perch cried. “For the love of all that is good!!”
The audible gasps and flabbergasted words erupted from the crowd, rising up into a great wave of noise and hysteria. Then the stench flooded over them and much of the sound turned to gags and wretches. Eduard ran to the railing next to him and vomited. Perch’s face was frozen in absolute disgust. The professor looked on in mystified wonder. Ms Tumac’s guilt was evident as was her enabling ways.
Gennis gazed in complete disbelief. “Well that answers the failed mechanics question.”
As the capsule drained, every inch of the remaining interior was crammed full of the massive, fleshy obesity of its pilot. Bun, in all his naked, capsule shaped, mesmerizing glory was suspended before them all. When the socket and other lines failed, he shifted forward. The modified helmet and mask ripped free as his husk slammed into the pool of draining black goo.
“I will have a complete explanation!” Inspector Perch said loudly, pointedly at Ms Tumac and the professor. He looked over to the medical team. “Clone transfer successful?”
The woman he addressed slowly nodded. “Confirmed.”
Gennis smiled awkwardly and shrugged at Eduard when he finally glanced at him. “Not routine. Not at all.”