The Chronicles of Horatio Cain
All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
The Chronicles of Horatio Cain
Cain gazed from the observation deck of the hangar at the Kisogo State War Academy School to gaze at his new vessel, the Intrepid.
It wasn't much to look at, an Ibis class frigate, an old mult- role vessel. Many had been decommissioned, but the State War Academy had been granting them to promising graduates as their first training commands. Caine still smiled as he looked at it. It wasn't much but it was his. He had come a long way...
Horatio Cain had been a tube child. Cain had been grown, rather than born. His name was not originally Horatio Cain either, as he had no parents. He was, for much of his young life, known as orphan 34458. Raised in the cruel and rough State run orphanages, Cain learned to be self reliant and resourceful. He had committed murder before the age of 14 when he was forced to kill an older boy who had threatened to take advantage of him. From then on none of the older boys bothered Cain and he had earned their respect.
Like most orphans of The State he was expected to find employment at the age of eighteen or face life in a prison labor camp. He managed to find work as a cargo loader on a space station owned by the Kaalakiota Corporation. He was indoctrinated and initiated as a citizen of the corp and proved himself a tireless and efficient worker and took the name Horatio Cain from one of his favorite holo-vid characters. Cain found that the work was not much better than what he would have endured in the prison camps but at least he was getting paid and he was a citizen. As a Deteis he had to prove himself among the veteran dock workers who were mostly of Civire heritage.
As a young man the lessons Cain learned in the orphanages served him well and he proved to be resourceful and ruthless, and had maneuvered to a position as foreman in less than a year after carefully discrediting the former foreman and taking credit for several new innovations in the loading operations for his loading team.
He came to the attention of Tristan Oliver, who was the manager of the station and the two became friends. Tristan admired the young man's ambition and offered to give him the opportunity to enter the school of his choice. Cain jumped at it and was granted a commission in the State War academy. Cain had ever dreamed of being like his childhood hero, Horatio Cain, the brave and stalwart Caldari ship captain.
Cain promised Oliver that he would not let him down and driven by a promise and his ambition Cain set out to prove that even though he was a tube child he could be as formidable as any Caldari pure-born.
Horatio arrived at Kisogo via an Interbus Transport. The State War Academy Space Station orbited the seventh planet in the Kisogo system.
He was glad to finally debark the vessel and walk around hangar to stretch his legs. He noticed that the others who also got off the transport were young Caldari as well and seemed to be milling about haphazardly as they took in their surroundings. Just then the main entrance to the hangar opened and an imposing Civire male dressed in full battle fatigues entered.
"Get in ranks you worthless Fedos!" he bellowed. "You incompetent swine couldn't serve aboard a Gallente Yacht much less a State Garbage Scow!"
Cain along with his fellow recruits tried desperately to placate the immense drill instructor. The motley assortment made one long, haphazard line.
"Unbelievable, I truly fear for the future of The State if this is our best and brightest!" The instructor howled, "I will whip you into shape if it kils you, mark my words tube spawn!
"I am Gunnery Sergeant Clive Nickel and you shall address me as Sir at all times, you rotten maggots. I have served in the Caldari Navy as a Marine since before you were genetic mass in a test tube!
"While you attend courses here at The State War Academy that will train you to be competent officers in service to The State or a Corporation. I will train you how to behave like competent officers, or kill you in the process!"
Cain heard two of the recruits in the line snickering as the Sergeant came to the end of his speech and without warning the huge man sprang into motion. In seconds, one lay on the deck with Nickel's boot on his throat while the other receeved a hea butt that sent him sprawling unconscious to the ground with a ruined nose. Sergeant Nickel waited until the other recruit passed out under his boot heel, while the other recruits looked on in frightened astonishment.
"Let these two Gallente man-*****s be a lesson to you, if you think about ignoring me!" he said, staring coldly back at the gathered recruits.
Over the next few weeks, Cain, along with the rest of the recruits learned to respect and loathe the sergeant as he harshly indoctrinated them into the academy through harsh physical training and abuse meant to teach them discipline, while they studied their courses in starship command and tactics.
Cain did better than many of the recruits thanks to his upbringing. Cain had earned everything he had, including this chance to graduate the academy, so self-discipline was not new to him. Many of the recruits were the pure-born sons and daughters of corporate families who had used their influence to get them commissions in the academy.
Cain also had to quickly establish himself atop the pecking order with the males early on. Many of the young men, led by a Deteis named Tam Renfro who was the son of a Director to the Sukuuvestaa Corporation, had taken to making fun of Cain for his name. One evening while the recruits were cleaning their dormitories, Cain walked right up to Tam and hit him hard enough to break his jaw. From that moment on, Cain was no longer chided for his name and once again, had earned the respect he deserved. He would also gain an enemy in Tam Renfro for the rest of his days at the Academy....
In his third year Horatio had finally made it to full cadet status and was near the head of his class. Many of his fellow class mates had washed out or quit.
Gunnery Sergeant Nickel was still a fixture for morning physical training and dormitory inspections but had softened somewhat. The discipline he had taught them over the last two years had become second nature, though he did find cause to unleash his fury every now and again when a cadet forgot some small detail.
Renfro had made it as well and Cain could see the hate boil in the young man's eyes. He had never recovered from their confrontation in the first year. Cain supposed that blow to the corp brat's pride was too much to bear. Cain did not underestimate him though. With each passing day Tam Renfro grew more desperate to exact his revenge and Cain knew it would be nothing as petty as framing him for cheating on an exam or hiding unauthorized gear under his bunk during an inspection. He was sure Renfro had his murder on his mind. Cain admired Renfro's patience, as he had never been too terribly patient himself.
It was during a ship command exercise that Renfro would attempt to get his revenge. As third year cadets, Cain and Renfro were given command of a training frigate with a hand-picked crew made up of their classmates. They would then engage in mock battle at the training grounds in the Kisogo system just a short distance from the War Academy.
Renfro was resourceful and had made quite a few friends including several of the cadets attending gunnery and ballistic engineering courses, and with their help and a hand-picked crew of pure-born corporates that were loyal to him, he armed his ship with live weapons and live ammunition before the exercise.
Though there were rules for these exercises, the State encouraged initiative and ambition in all its citizens. As the son of corporate director, Renfro knew not only would he get away with his plan with no more than a slap on the wrist, he would also be looked upon favorably by many corporations that hired from graduates of the War Academy.
Cain had a feeling it would happen during the exercise but he didn't know how. Cain knew it would be vital to detect Renfro before his ship was detected. He knew that Renfro was determined and predictable and would most likely set a course full speed straight towards Cain's suspected start position banging away with his active sensors.
Horatio maneuvered his vessel on the Z plane that would give him a position above Renfro's suspected approach. He powered his vessel down and sent a neurological command to his Ops Officer to set the sensors to passive mode.
Just as Cain had anticipated Renfro's frigate passed within sensor range below traveling full speed and with active scanners searching madly for Cain's vessel.
Cain relayed a mental command to his ops officer to lock on knowing it would be seconds before Renfro's active sensors picked him up, and maneuvered his ship on an intercept course with Renfro.
Seconds later, Cain had a lock and he ordered the gunnery officer to calculate a firing solution. The gunnery officer neurologically uploaded the firing solution hundreths of a second later to Caine who fired both of his frigate's chain guns on his opponent. Simulated hits were scored on the engine and reactor causing critical damage. The exercise should have ended with Cain the clear victor, but Horatio's stomach sank as he realized that Renfro had no intention of bowing out.
Renfro turned his ship on a course straight for Cain's vessel. The instructor's cruiser was too far away to interfere, as Renfro had planned. He quickly acquired Cain and fired both of his chain guns. The weapons thundered to life throwing a live salvo at the small training vessel of Cain.
Cain's intuition allowed him to move his ship evasively at the last second and turn away his critical systems. The shells from Renfro's weapons still penetrated the engineering compartments, killing several crew and opening them to the cold of space but he failed to damage any critical systems.
Cain steered back on a course directly for Renfro. Without weapons, the only way Cain could stop him was to ram him, but he had to be quick and careful to not allow a second salvo or destroy his own ship in the process. The two ships closed at a frightening pace and Renfro's vessel struggled to turn the guns once again on his foe, growing larger in Caine's threat indicator by the millisecond.
At the last possible moment, Cain turned his vessel again, bringing the starboard wing across Renfro's bridge, separating it from the rest of the vessel. Cain's ship shuddered terribly and began to spin out of control, violently throwing his crew about the ship. Then an explosion from Renfro's vessel sent another shockwave that shook Cain's vessel nearly to the breaking point and knocked him unconscious....
Horatio awoke in the infirmary. He was surprised to see, of all people, Gunnery Sergeant Clive Nickel sitting in chair next to his bed.
"Ah, finally the great Captain awakens," he said gruffly. "I wanted to be the first to congratulate you."
Cain was puzzled. "You are quite the bright pupil, with that maneuver you pulled on that ignorant cuss, Renfro," the Sergeant explained.
"You managed to save most of your crew though Renfro was killed along with his company, you took some plasma burns to the face, but other than a couple of scars to remind you of the incident, you're none the worse for wear."
Cain felt two scars that ran along the left side of his face.
"Well I'll let you rest, you'll need it when you return, for I will not give you any breaks, despite what happened," Sergeant Nickel said, smiling.
"Tube spawn like us must always keep our wits about us, for nothing is handed to us in this life," He smiled again and left the room.
Cain smiled as well and was pleased that the Gunnery Sergeant had shown him such respect as to confide in him that he too was a tube child.
Cain looked on the table next to his bed and noticed a letter addressed to him from Renfro's father, Damien. It was a formal offer to join The Sukuuvestaa corporation. In Caldari society a son often follows his father's footsteps and joins the same corporation. If he should fail in a vendetta against someone else, then it is customary to offer the position to his rival. Cain sighed with relief as this also meant that Renfro's father would not pursue any overt reprisals. A vendetta is a very personal thing in Caldari society and reprisals by family or friends for the fallen is the height of bad taste, and considered very dishonorable. Reprisals do occur, but like all things in The State, the worst crime is getting caught.
Cain graduated at the top of his class, and true to his word, Clive Nickel had made Cain earn it. He was granted his own Ibis frigate for being among the top 10% of the graduating class, but he would have to stay on with the War Academy and perform several services before being released as a fully licensed starship captain with an honorary commission as a Lieutenant in the Caldari Navy.
At the ceremony, Tristan Oliver was there and congratulated his protege on his success. Cain swore he would repay the opportunity that Oliver had given him and he accepted the pledge, as was the Caldari custom.
Cain's thoughts returned to the present as he again gazed in admiration at his new vessel. He smiled and turned to greet the agent from the Administration branch of the War Academy who would give him his first mission as the Captain of the Intrepid.
Horatio entered the conference room on deck 52B of the Caldari Navy Assembly Plant soace station in the Perimeter system. Caldari Navy Headquarters. He sat down at the large conference table and waited for the agent from Caldari Navy Surveillence to meet him.
Several minutes later the agent came into the room. She was a rather plain looking woman of Civire origin. She carried herself very professionally and she appeared to be a Lieutenant Commander. She carried a data pad under her arm which she set on the table as she sat down across from Cain, failing to aknowledge him at all.
She then looked down at the data pad and began to read, "Cain, Horatio, graduated State War Academy with full honors, received commendation for successfully defeating the traitor Tam Renfro when he attempted to destroy State property and murder Academy students during a training exercise."
"Impressive," she said after a brief pause and then turned her gaze to meet Horatio's.
"You fit the mission profile Lieutenant Caine."
"Thank you... What is the mission?" Cain asked apprehensively.
"We need you to fly into Gallente space and intercept a Serpentis vessel we have been tracking for the past several hours since it slipped past State Security. The Serpentis smuggler has stolen some sensitive data and we believe that he is going to attempt to sell it to our counterparts in the Federation. We can't allow this.
"We have downloaded the navigation information into your vessel's CPU, so that you can continue to track and intercept this criminal. It is also of the utmost importance that you avoid attracting the attention of the Federation fleet.
"Cain, we suggest that you leave with all possible speed, and I must also say that success in this mission will greatly enhance your standing with the Navy."
"I will leave immediately, Ma'am," Cain said, standing and walking out of the conference room.
The Lieutenant Commander smiled as the young captain left the conference room. He was ambitious and enthusiastic, she would give him that. She would have to keep her eye on this Horatio Cain.
Cain stared into the vastness of space as the Intrepid left the hangar of the space station. He engaged the auto pilot which had already been programmed with course that would take him to the Causara system on the Caldari-Federation border.
Cain was exhilarated to receive his first real combat mission. He was somewhat apprehensive about his vessel's capabilities, but he felt assured his superior training would see him through.
Cain's thoughts drifted back to his first encounter as Captain of the Intrepid. A drone had been detected heading for the War Academy station in Kisogo. The drone was launched by a terrorist group and contained a deadly bio agent and was programmed to release this into the station's atmospheric generators.
Cain's ship was the only capable of responding to the threat at the time.
He engaged the drone no more than 400km away from the station. It was a quick confrontation as the drone was armed with only the short range point defense weapons. The Intrepid's gauss rail guns made short work of the fragile drone and the crisis was averted, and once again Cain was the hero of the day. Cain was dismayed to learn that the terrorist group that launched the weapon was Caldari in origin and launched the weapon in a effort to make The State authorities think it was a Federation plot.
Cain's thoughts returned once again as the computer informed him that the auto pilot had disengaged as they reached their destination. Cain checked his scanner and quickly picked up the tracking beacon from the Serpentis vessel. He set an intercept course. He was alerted to the fact that there were several Federation warships patrolling the gate, when his sensors indicated that they were scanning his vessel.
Cain realized now what the Lieutenant Commander had meant when she said he met the mission profile. She did not attribute her selection based on his abilities but rather on his expendability. Cain realized once again that he was the small fish in a large pond, and once again he would have to pay his dues to earn respect. He nervously transmitted his security rating code to the ships and they quietly turned course to continue their patrol around the jump gate. Cain sighed and engaged his warp drive to intercept his prey.
As the ship sped on its intercept course, Cain realized that for the first time he would be confronting a real opponent. Not a training drone, or a fellow class mate bent on revenge. He would be entering into lethal armed conflict with another human. He felt a strange sinking feeling in his stomach. Was it fear? He pushed it back in his mind and remembered the focus and relaxation exercises.
The Intrepid shuddered as it dropped out of warp drive and the stars and surrounding space returned to focus. Almost immediately he picked up contact. He quickly locked and maneuvered the ship to close to optimal attack range for his rail guns. The ship registered as hostile on his combat computer and the visual confirmed as he saw the Serpentis insignia emblazoned on the hull. The vessel was a Velator-class frigate, a Gallante design. Cain smiled, he would enjoy proving the superiority of Caldari engineering and piloting.
He opened fire as the pirate attempted to evade. The two ships circled in a dance of death. The Intrepid was deftly maneuvered by Cain with smooth precision as he dodged a shot from the Velator's guns. Horatio responded bringing his weapons to bear. His railgun thundered as it unleashed a salvo that shorted out his enemies shields in a dazzling display of harsh blue light. Cain desperately turned to get off another shot and take advantage of his opponents weakened shields. The Serpentis smuggler made a fatal error and turned directly into Cain's firing arc. Horatio hammered mercilessly upon his enemy. Super accelerated particles laced the ship's superstructure and Cain witnessed as vapor spilled from the myriad ruptures in the ship's hull as gases were vented into space. The ship began to burn and its engines failed. Horatio lined up the killing shot and with an explosion the Velator broke apart.
A single cargo cannister floated in the void tumbling away from the remnants of the pirates vessel. Cain scanned it and found...junk. Old electrical parts, some worthless data, and outdated CPU components. He loaded it into his cargo anyway and set a course for Perimeter. He was a bit confused, and wondered why he would be sent to chase a vessel carrying nothing but useless electrical equipment.
He arrived at Navy Headquarters shortly after the encounter and reported to the conference room for debriefing. The Lieutenant Commander entered the room.
"Excellent work, Cain. You fulfilled your end of the deal. Hopefully we can work together again in the future," she said, extending her hand in congratulations.
Cain took it, and she shook his hand briefly then turned to leave the room, "Wait!" Cain said and the officer turned with a questioning look on her face. "What the hell was that about, I chase that pirate into Federation space, risk blowing my sec rating, and all for some old junk, and you say thanks, see you later?"
The agents eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Cain I don't have to explain anything to you, but because you show promise, and you have done the Navy a service, I will."
"We allowed two Serpentis vessels to enter Caldari space, and 'steal' State Secrets, or at least they thought they were State secrets."
"Serpentis Smugglers operate in pairs. One carries the real goods while another acts as a decoy. We sent you after the decoy on purpose."
"The Serpentis pilot who carried the misinformation will sell it to the Gallente Federation, and they will believe that it is legitimate, because you gave chase and destroyed his partner."
Cain began to understand. He had been used as a pawn in a larger game. Who was he to question the strategy of The State? He had to admit that it made sense, and with that he nodded to the Lieutenant Commander and returned to his quarters. One day, however, he thought as he drifted to sleep, he would be moving the pieces.
Cain awoke to the feeling of cold steel against his cheek. He groggily pushed himself off the metal floor beneath him and opened his eyes attempting to adjust to the bright lighting on the ceiling above. It was a large space and he could hear the clanging and echoing as automated industrial robots sifted through what smelled like raw ore. Cain realised he was in the old of an idustrial vessel.
The light was blotted out as a figure appared and stood before him. The man knelt and Cains eyes now adjusting to the light could make out his thin gaunt face. He was tall and lanky and Cain believed him to be a Minmatar of the Seibestor tribe.
"Well I guess I've seen just about everything," the figure said in calm voice,"Lucky I found you, I don't think your capsule would have lasted that much longer in an asteroid field, and trust me an occupied capsule floating through space is the last thing I expected to find."
He grabbed Cain under the arm and helped him to his feet. He felt weak but was able to stand, though his legs felt as if they were made of rubber. He felt his face and noticed that he had grown a wild and gangly beard on his face and his hair had grown long as well. How long had it been since his Merlin class Frigate, Revenge had been destroyed from under him? The warp capicators in his capsule had been destroyed in the explosion and he had believed that it was a miracle he had survived or perhaps a curse as he found himself soon after floating through empty space, hundres of AU's away from any space station, or planet. The real miracle would be if someone found him.
As he floated through space, he couldn't help but grow angry. Why had this happened to him? He was meant for bigger and better things. This was not the fate meant for someone who had come so far and worked so hard for everything he had gained. The life support functions of the capsule would soon put him in suspended animation, which would last for one standard year. As he replayed his failure in his head he began to look forward to the blissful oblivion that suspended animation would bring.
"The name's Stahmul," The ship captain said,"Like I said, you are luckiest man I have ever met, if those 'roids hadn't finished you, you would have died soon enough, you had only three more months of life support left in that capsule."
Cain just silently nodded as Stahmul helped him along down one of the passageways of the industrial vessel.
"You can stay in here until we reach port," he said as he opened the door to a small stateroom. I will bring down some food and water, you could probably use it, your pretty dehydrated. When you have some strength back theres a shower down the passageway and I will bring you some clippers and a razor."
Cain ate and slept as the Captain returned to his capsule to pilot the Mammoth back into the spaceport. Cain had gotten his hair cut by a grooming 'bot and managed to shave the unsightly beard he had grown.
They finally arrived in the station and Stahmul offered to buy Cain a drink. Listlessly the Caldari captain agreed and they headed to the pilots lounge. Stahmul watched as the dour Cain stared into his drink nursing it as he wallowed in self pity.
"Look, Cain, you can either pine away about what was or you can make an effort to carve out a new beginning. You got beat so what, it happens to all of us. You think this is the original me? Heck I lost track of my clones!"
Cain began to think about his clone. His policy called for his clone to be activated after four months if he should be lost in space. He chuckled as he thought about what his Clone might be up to. Was he fullfilling his ambitions?
"Thats the spirit," Stahmul smiled as he noticed the Caldari chuckle, "If you don't have a sense of humor about the universe what do you have?"
Cain shook his head,"I realised that my clone was activated, and must be continuing on oblivious to my existence."
"Uh, I don't think so, I checked up on you when I brought you on board, all records indicated you had ceased your clone coverage seven months ago, which is fishy because you were in that capsule for nine months so unless you got a hold of your Insurance company from that pod, that would be impossible."
"My guess is someone had it in for you my friend, but the good new is they didn't get you," Stah continued.
Cain's mind began to reel with this revelation. Who had managed to give his authorization to cancel his clone coverage? He again began to replay his final battle with the Guristas in his head.
The pirates had jumped him near a gate, which was not unusual as the Guristas commonly attempted to assault vessels traveling to and from the warp gates. Cain realized, though, that they were stolen and modified Herons' but were still no match for his Merlin. The truth began to sink in and Cain felt anger replacing his malaise. Someone had set him up. The question was who. He had no ship, was without a corporation and believed dead by the State and the universe at large. He had a long way to go.
"I have no ship," Cain muttered angrily and pounded his drink back.
"Ah don't worry, I have a Merlin for you, but, you'll have to work for it." Stahmul replied indifferently.
"Of course, I can run security for mining operations," Cain replied.
Stahmul laughed and slapped the Caldari Captain on his shoulder. "I don't think so, no Frigates going to protect us where we mine."
"The only turrets you will be mounting on your new ship will be mining lasers my friend!" he finished.
Shocked Cain responded, "Who is us? Mining?"
"Yeah, I will get you a job with Convergent. It's a good corp and if you play your cards right, you will make enough money to kit that Merlin however you want, even for combat, of course you might also want to stay on longer and get yourself a cruiser perhaps.'
Cain nodded, and had to admit to himself that the long road to finding out who had plotted his death would take patience and most likely a larger and deadlier ship.
Cain entered the Captain’s Lounge. A smoky fog hung over the room. The dim yellow ceiling lamps cast swirling motes of light through the haze silhouetting shadowy figures as they sat at their small tables and the bar drowning the days labors away over their various libations. Cain wiped his brow with the back of his arm. The station was owned by the Quafe Corporation, which had a sizeable presence in the Uterfer constellation including the Trer system. Though Cain had changed many of his opinions, he still despised the Gallente beverage. They served plenty of alternatives in the lounge and Cain found that he frequented the place more often these days as he thought on his purpose and the road he traveled to get where he was now.
Cain sat at the bar and ordered a glass of fine Caldari whiskey with filtered water and some ice. He had a good month in the belts at Trer. He had just docked his Osprey, Autumn Wind after a mining op. He would have a couple drinks get some shut eye then check the market to find out where he could sell the refined minerals he had collected for the best price. It was a far cry from where he had started so many years ago, but he had learned patience, and it had served him well. Cain had stockpiled a sizeable bankroll, which had allowed him to buy an old Caracal. He had also continued his studies and was becoming quite adept at operating some of the new and more advanced weapons systems and modules that had become more popular on board the latest fighting vessels. He would normally take out his modified Merlin, the Revenge to clear the Angel Pirates that hid among the most profitable belts in an effort to clear them for his mining operation. They had learned to fear the site of the lone Frigate and Cain had managed to keep his skills sharp.
Horatio was now a respected and regular member of Convergent, and he was impressed by the work ethic and honorable conduct of the small corporation that had hired him. He had been surprised to meet and befriend so many of different backgrounds and racial origins. He now counted among his friends Minmatar of the Seibestor and Brutor tribes, he also had come to respect and befriend several Gallente captains. He had been raised by The State to be distrustful of the Gallente, but he was finding out that it was usually wiser to judge a man by his actions. It had been hard for him to surmount his original prejudices but he knew he had to overcome such narrow thinking to find strong allies. Hadn’t the person who had tried to kill him been Caldari? He was still out there and Cain knew that with the help of his corporation he would exact his revenge.
As he sipped his drink and reflected he noticed an Amarrian Captain entered the Lounge with an entourage of four men that looked to be of mixed origin. The Amarrian pulled down his hood and looked with disdain at the small crowd already gathered in the Lounge. He looked over at Cain and gave a small smile and walked over to sit next to him followed by his goons. Cain recognized them as goons because it was clear that they were no more than hired thugs, lacking the sharp eyes or fluid agility that was common among most Ship Captains. Cain frowned as it became clear that the Amarrian wanted to strike up a conversation.
“Hail Captain, my name is Thallus Andronicus, it is good to see a man of clearly more sophisticated origin in such a backwater as Trer.” The Amarrian said scowling as he surveyed the gathered patrons.
“Cain, Horatio Cain,” He replied curtly and offered his hand more out of courtesy than genuine affability.
“Well Captain Cain, what brings you to such a place as this, passing through no doubt?” he said with his condescending smile.
“ Actually I have a hangar here.” Cain replied. The Amarrian raised one eyebrow at this statement and turned to the bartender, a Brutor woman named Juriana. Cain had struck up several conversations with the young woman since had began frequenting the establishment. She was friendly and warm, but as the Amarrian addressed her he could see something cold in her eyes.
“Get me a bottle of wine servant, I am sure you don’t have any of the finer Amarrian wines so your best house brand will do,” he said curtly and waved his hand at her as if he was commanding one of his servants, perhaps back on his home world. He turned to Cain once again and smiled with that condescending smile once again.
“Well I assure you it is only business that brings me to this forsaken part of space,” as he said this he lightly rubbed his hands together as if he had gotten something unpleasant on them and was trying to wipe it off.
Cain looked over and saw that Juriana was still staring coldly at the man for a moment longer before she turned to get the obnoxious Amarrian his drink.
“I’m looking for a man, a Caldari man, with dark hair and dark eyes,” The Amarrian continued, but something had changed in his tone. Alarm klaxons went of in his head, and he realized that two of the mans entourage had circled behind him while the other two stood on either side of Thallus.
“You see a business associate of mine has a great deal of interest in him. He had feared him dead almost nine months ago in a terrible accident involving a conflict with those dreadful Guristas.”
Cain looked around and saw that many of the customers had left except for the die-hard drunks. Juriana placed a glass of wine in front of Thallus, but realizing what was happening she shot a worried look back towards Cain. Cain acknowledged the look and gave a barely perceptible nod. Juriana quietly backed away and slipped into the stockroom behind the bar.
“This man has a scar on his left cheek just under his eye,” The Amarrian gestured with his hand across his cheek, “wait a minute, you have such a scar! This is far more than coincidence!”
“Cain, you should have known better, and stayed dead. When you opened another clone contract my employer was aware that he hadn’t succeeded in finishing you off.” The humor had totally left the man’s voice and he nodded to the goons behind Cain. Horatio felt a cold metal object poke into his ribs. It felt like the barrel of a gauss pistol.
“You were smart to open it out here in Minmatar space, as my employer has little pull in this region of space,” Thallus said coolly.
“Well then, its useless to kill me, so why don’t you guys get lost?”
”Sorry Cain, that’s why I am to take you to my employer so that he can speak with you in person.”
”He feels that he can, with my help of course, convince you to give us your policy number, so that we can dispose of you and your clones properly this time.”
“You can torture me all you want, I know your going to kill me so there is no reason I would give you that policy number.” Cain said as he calmly took another drink of his whisky.
“Captain Cain, I assure you that in addition to being a talented Captain I pride myself on the ability to extract information. I was wildly successful at this when I served the Amarrian military tracking down and interrogating many Minmatar Rebels who had rebelled against their rightful rulers.”
“Cain, you can trust me, before I am finished you will be more than happy for us to finish both you and your clone.”
It was then that Cain heard the click, then the voice,” Drop it, or your fedo food!” Cain felt the man remove the gun from his ribs and heard as it dropped to the floor. A look of angered surprised crossed the face of the Amarrian bounty hunter. Cain looked over his shoulder and smiled.
“Thanks Wanoah, I sure am glad to see you!” Cain said as he bent over and picked up the gauss pistol that was on the ground, and trained it on his would be captor. The rest of the customers bolted from the establishment. Wanoah was a large Brutor man. Cain had befriended him over the last month and found him to be as honorable, diligent and hard working as any Caldari. He held a two-barreled scatter slug thrower to the base of the thug’s head. The weapon was archaic but quite effective.
“Okay, you two, drop your weapons…slowly” Cain ordered the two thugs that stood on either side Thallus. Cain frowned as he saw them flinch and knew that they were going to draw down on him. The next few seconds seemed to stretch out into minutes. One of the mercs behind Cain tried to restrain him while the other attempted to surprise Wanoah and seize his weapon. Two large blasts thundered in the small room as the Brutor easily dispatched them. Cain quickly shot one then the other with a hypervelocity projectile hurled from the handheld gauss weapon. The charge traveling at hyper velocity ripped through one assailant killing him instantly as it punctured his throat and exited the other side sending a great swath of arterial red across the opposite wall. The other had just managed to get his weapon free but would never shoot it as Cain quickly switched targets and fired again this time hitting his would be assassin in the chest. The incredible force of the shot spun the man around before he dropped to the floor in a lifeless heap. The Amarrian stood there scowling, unphased by the carnage that erupted around him. When time returned to normal, with only the dull ringing in their ears to remind them of the sudden violence that had transpired Cain watched as Thallus calmly grabbed a napkin from the bar and calmly wiped some of the blood that had sprayed across his face.
“Well done, Cain. You’re lucky your Matari dog arrived to save you a painful fate. You may as well kill me, because if you let me live I swear I shall make it my life’s mission to see you on my interrogation table, and I shall make your death my most agonizing masterpiece!” he spat.
Cain shook his head, “No, I’ll just hand you over to the Minmatar authorities, I’m sure if what you say is true, they will no doubt be more than happy to have you, however, before that happens, I would have you tell me the name of your employer.”
Suddenly another blast rang out and the Amarrian dropped to the floor missing most of his face. Cain startled by the sudden burst turned quickly to see the young bartender Juriana standing with a large slug-throwing revolver. Her hand trembled and he could see tears welling up in her eyes.
“Cain, Wan, you two should go. I will take care of this mess. That bastard killed my father, when he said his name, I couldn’t help but think of the day my Mother found out. He had been publicized a hero by the Amarrians for what he did to my father.”
Wan nodded thoughtfully at Juriana and Cain could tell that something only a Matari could understand had passed between them. Cain was frustrated, but knew it would not serve anyone to state his displeasure. He still didn’t know who it was that had tried to murder him. He knew that more like Andronicus would be coming for him. He began to think carrying a side arm might be wise.
Cain rubbed his chin and felt the stubble that had grown. How long had he been here in Pator, two weeks? Two months? He tilted the cheap bottle of Sebiestor whisky and took the last gulp of the fiery liquid, and then looked at the empty bottle as if in disbelief that he had already finished it and threw it aside into a pile of other bottles with a clash.
Since the bounty hunter and pirate Rafterman had jumped Cain in his Caracal at Katumagur he had been shaken. He very nearly had to access his clone contract that night. Thanks to his corpmates, Cain had survived and Rafterman had been sent packing back to low sec space, but it still didn't change the fact that he had gotten the drop on Cain and may very well had finished him had he failed to engage his pods warp drive when he did. How would he ever be able to find out who had it in for him if he couldn't even see his enemies coming? He got up groggily and stumbled drunkenly out of the small hab and wandered into the bazaar of the market complex. It wasn't very crowded this time of night, despite the fact that the artificial light inside the Trust Partners Warehouse station gave the illusion of mid afternoon. The shops for the most part stayed open all night as travelers still wandered into the station at all times, especially at a trading hub like Pator.
Cain had fled here after the attack so as to lay low and hopefully find any clue he could to the identity of his enemies. Instead he only found more enemies. Two Sebiestors had tried to jump Cain shortly after he arrived at the station. They followed him from the port authority where he had docked his shuttle. They waited till he had found a hab to stay at in the station and headed to the commercial district to begin poking around for info. It was here as Cain attempted to take a shortcut through an alley that his would be assassins made their move. It was at the last moment that Cain realized he was being followed and noticed as the two split up in an effort to bottle him up in the alley. When he had reached the midway point he quickly spun around and drew the carefully concealed gauss pistol he had made sure to bring with him. He fired twice both high velocity round puncturing the chest of one of the thugs and emptying most of the contents of his chest cavity behind him. He then turned to face the other that had just turned the corner to enter the alleyway in front of him. Cain stood with his gun pointed at him. His face went pale as the site of his companion dead in the alley greeted him. Cain questioned the man about his identity and whether or not he would tell him the name of the man who hired him but he was meant with a grave stare. Cain then knew that whoever had hired them, was truly dangerous because his would be assassin feared his employer more than death, as the Seibestor gave a yell and charged Cain. He too ended up dead like his companion and Cain still had no clue who was after him.
For the next several weeks Cain asked the people in the station both those who based out of Pator and those moving through if they had any idea who his assailants were or who might have hired Rafterman to kill him. Dead ends. Cain grew hopeless and began to despair, it would only be a matter of time before more would come for him especially know since his Inquiries no doubt would attract attention. Cain took to drinking heavily and tried to mask his appearance by growing his hair out. He felt bad about going under, but he occasionally sent word to Convergent to let them know he was still alive. He couldn't risk his problems involving the corporation.
"That’s Bull****," Kitten Hearder said reading the last message from Cain,” He’s worried about getting us involved in his problems?"
"Doesn't that jackass know that if someone comes messing with him, he's gonna have to deal with me and the rest of Convergent!" the spunky pilot said to no one in particular.
"Hey Kitten, let it be, Cain needs to figure it out for himself," Hal said to the, "You should know better than anyone sometimes we have our own pasts to deal with."
Kitten nodded thoughtfully. She didn't like the fact that one of the most promising members of the corp and someone she had come to see as a good friend and ally had found himself hunted by powerful forces in the galaxy. It wasn't fair and despite what Hal said she felt like she had to do something about it. Maybe, she could help Cain find out who was behind the recent attempts on his life.
"Your right Hal, but he still needs our help, I think maybe Gamma might be able to put out some feelers and find out just who would have it out for Cain, he gets around and has a lot of contacts."
"I suppose it couldn't hurt Kitten, but don't get yourself caught up in a fight that isn't yours. I know you mean well but neither Convergent, nor Cain would want to see you or Gamma dragged into it."
Cain walked along the main thoroughfare through the bazaar, his head pounded as he began to sober up after his latest binge. He was at least very aware and scanned the surroundings constantly. He had grown quite paranoid as of late. He made eye contact with a young dreadlocked Brutor who was pushing his way towards him through the hustle and bustle of the market. Cain quickly glanced behind him to make sure he wasn’t being approached from behind as was glad to see that no one followed.
The young tough was inexperienced. He thumbed the concealed gauss pistol in his coat, but knew that he dare not draw in such a public place. The Minmatar authorities were not known for their thoroughness and were often quick to turn a blind eye towards the odd dead body of a merc or pirate, for a small fee but they couldn’t ignore a shootout in the middle of the stations mercantile zone. He would have to lure this ruffian somewhere where he could deal with him out of sight.
Cain made his way for a dark alley that cut between a pawnshop and small café and sure enough he caught a glimpse of the young Brutor following him. Cain pretended to stumble drunkenly and propped himself up against one of the walls as if stopping to relieve himself as he saw the figure silhouetted in the opening of the alley. As the young man approached him Cain wheeled and brought his gauss gun up. Cain hesitated just long enough to see the boy’s face turn pale and his body sag in fear, before he relaxed his finger and took it off the pistol’s trigger.
”What are you looking for punk?” Cain questioned coolly.
“Sorry, sorry, please don’t shoot, are you Cain?” The young man stammered with a heavy Matari accent.
“ I was told to give you this!” The boy offered up a small data sheet without looking up at Cain trying to avoid eye contact. Cain used his free hand to grab the data sheet and looked it over being careful to keep his gun trained. It had a short message on it: Meet me at the Rifter Hangar at 1500; G2. Cain nodded and let the Matari go. The messenger wasted no time in evacuating the alleyway.
The Rifter Hangar was popular bar and meeting spot for many of the captains that frequented the station. Gamma Garone was here, and wanted to meet with him. Cain waited till the aforementioned time and made his way to the ‘Hangar. He entered the saloon and which was dimly lit as seemed to be the usual practice for such locations where people could meet to forget their troubles over a drink or discuss business that was most often not of the most legitimate nature. Sitting in booth Cain spied the Intaki sitting alone, frowning no doubt not particularly pleased with his surroundings and sipping a martini that was nowhere close to his standards. Cain slid across from the man and looked up at the wizened trader.
“Hey Gamma, what brings you out so far from the comfortable confines of your Indy?” Cain asked with a smile. He Admired and respected the head of the CDD and always enjoyed talking to him.
“Yes, young master Cain, it seems that you have gotten yourself into quite a mess, and have many of us at Convergent worrying about your future.”
“Well I really appreciate that Gamma, but like I said I didn’t want you guys getting involved,” Horatio replied frowning.
“Stop being such a martyr, besides, I have managed to dig up some information that is quite disturbing,” Gamma said pulling out a portable data pad, “and it would appear that you would be quite out of your depth to take on those who have it in for you anyway,” he finished handing the data pad to the Caldari captain.
Cain looked over the screens on the data pad. It included his entire record in the Caldari Navy but it listed him as dead with the date indicating the same day he was ambushed by Guristas and they left his pod floating in space. The next page displayed a photo of him that had been taken at Trer, with a bulletin that identified him as an illegal clone! He was an enemy of The State, and to his horror there was a bounty on his head placed there by the Sukuuvestaa Corporation.
“What! The Navy and Sukuuvestaa sent those hitmen and paid Rafterman to clip me?” Cain exclaimed puzzled.
“I don’t think the Navy is behind it but they were needed to make your wanted status official within The Caldari State Horatio, and the good news is your not wanted by Concord.”
“No doubt the bounty will attract a lot of gun slinging miscreants but I think the Amarrian you and Wan had a run in with and Rafterman were hired on contract, and I have reason to believe it may be someone with power within Sukuuvestaa.”
“I was unable to find out exactly who it is but no doubt your enemy was disappointed by failure of the professionals he hired and so decided to up the ante on your hide.”
“What the hell did you do to Sukuuvestaa, Cain?”
Cain shrugged still shocked by this revelation. His brow furrowed as he thought about who could possibly have it out for him. Then it hit him. The color drained out of his face. The face of an old nemesis grinned arrogantly in his minds eye.
“Tam Renfro,” Cain muttered.
“Who?” Gamma questioned.
Gamma Garone, sipped from his martini as he reviewed the latest market information on current Mexallon prices in the Heimatar region when the incoming transmission light began to flicker on his holo vid display. The trader switched over and was greeted by the attractive features of Kitten Hearder. He smiled crookedly and attempted to fake annoyance at the appearance of the Caldari female.
"What do you want, Kitten?" He said also trying to sound appropriately annoyed,” I was in the middle of doing some market research!"
"Sure you were, Gamma, looks to me like I was interrupting ****tail hour!"
"Well you have my attention now, get on with it!" He said and finally his feature relaxed as he smiled.
"You heard the latest from Cain right?" She asked, her tone more serious.
"Yes, not good news I’m afraid," Gamma said his tone also becoming more somber.
"I was talking to Hal, and well...I was thinking...do you think you could find out who might be looking for him?"
Gamma thought for a moment. The request was something he could do, but it could also be risky. One thing was clear, the people looking for Cain were indeed a dangerous sort, and were Gamma to start probing, he might inadvertantly draw their ire, and this was something that could potentially impact the Convergent Commerce & Distribution Division , his baby. Gamma also thought of the young and ambitious Captain as a friend. Though he sometimes was hot headed and would rather fight with little regard for the impact it would have on business, he had to admit he sometimes admired the Caldari and often got caught up by his headstrong attitude, it reminded him of the way he used to be as a young captain. He decided that he would do what he could.
"I will see what I can do Kitten."
"Yay! You're the best Gamma!" Kitten replied her face lighting up, "See I knew you weren't such a stuffed suit, no matter what the others say!" She winked with this last remark, and Gamma gave a chuckle at the friendly jab. She then disconnected and Gamma was returned to his Marketing page.
Renfro paced nervously in his office. He had just received word that once again Cain had escaped. He knew that it would only be a matter of time before Cain found the trail that led back to him. He cursed the ineptitude of the bounty hunters, pirates and assassins that had failed to carry out his simple contract. Renfro had already spent a small fortune, most of it Suukevestaa funds to complete his plot for revenge against his old nemesis. Tam thought back to how they had arranged to have Cain die at the hands of Guristas by disabling his Merlin’s shields and the warp drive on his capsule. Somehow, nine months later he had shown back up. How much easier it would have been if Cain had simply died floating through space in the disabled pod.
Renfro knew time was running out. His funds were nearly dry and were he to dare skimming any more of his corporate budget as Director of a major Suukevestaa shipping hub, he would no doubt begin to come under suspicion. The holovid phone chimed from his desk. Renfro was a little reluctant to answer; as he had a sinking feeling he knew who would be on the other end. He decided it was best to answer it and his heart sank, as his suspicions were true, it was his father, Damien.
“Tam, what the hell happened, I just heard, your thugs failed to kill him again!” the senior Renfro bellowed.
“Yes, father, I know, I promise, I will resolve this problem,” he said, as he felt his face flush with shame and could feel the film of sweat begin to form on his palms.
“Why am I not convinced?” He continued to scold, “every moment that tube born draws breath, the chances increase that he will trace the attempts on his life back to you and ultimately to me! I can little afford to have Cain reveal my complicity in the conspiracy to have him murdered, I made it publicly clear that when he killed you at the academy I would make no reprisals, and I had to call in many favors to justify reactivating your clone in the face of tradition!
“If he comes back here he will no doubt have found proof that I was false in this promise, and though you don’t care my ungrateful son, it will make me look rather dubious in the eyes of our employers! Must I remind you again how hard the Renfro’s have worked to secure their status in the Suukevestaa Corporation?”
“No father, I understand,” Renfro averted his eyes from those of the holographic image of his father.
“Sometimes I doubt this Tam, sometimes I doubt I should have activated your clone those years ago and perhaps gone along with the tradition and done away with you entirely!” Silence dominated the room.
“However, you are my only son and we both know that I could not allow that. The survival of the Renfro’s is more important than any childish Vendetta. The die has been cast though and now you and I must see this through to the end my son.”
Wanoah, Stah and Cain sat solemnly around a metal workbench inside the hold of Stahumul’s Mammoth Goliath loading and cleaning various small arms. Cain and his friends were preparing to finally settle an old score. Gamma Garone entered the ships hold through a secure blast door. None of the men looked up from their work as the Intaki trader made his way with a holovid machine tucked under one arm. He frowned as he set the device on the table with a thud in an obvious attempt to get their attention.
“I will have you know Mr. Cain that outside of this small piece of intel I have…acquired, I refuse to have any more involvement in this matter, as it is tantamount to piracy!” Gamma declared.
“Just play the holovid Gamma!” Cain said looking up and giving the wily trader a sideways smirk. Cain knew that the Garone loved every minute of this.
Gamma raised an eyebrow and gave an annoyed little smirk in return as he hit the play button. All of them gave their full attention to what was displayed. A holographic video displayed the Suukevestaa distribution hub with the Forge Region where Tam Renfro made his headquarters. The men observed as it displayed footage of the Suukevestaa executive going about his rounds within the station and then flashed to a three dimensional schematic of the offices on the upper decks where Renfro had his offices.
“As you can see gentleman, there is only the most minimal surveillance. It’s obvious that Mr. Renfro feels most secure within his fortress, however he doesn’t underestimate your resourcefulness Mr. Cain as the following will show.”
Another image flashed displaying a bodyguard accompanying Renfro to his Suite. Wan and Cain looked at each other frowning, “That’s right boys, Thallus Andronicus obviously had a clone contract as well and has continued his service with Renfro as his top Security Consultant, those rather large Amarrians with him are former Amarr Imperial Marines, very nasty fellows.”
More images flashed of the internal security patrols made up of uniformed Suukevestaa security gaurds. “These guards are only lightly armed, and there aren’t many of them stationed locally, as Mr. Renfro has no reason to suspect that you are on to him yet, however, it would be safe to assume that they do have a description of you and will no doubt detain you on site Cain, so perhaps discretion would be the better part of valor.”
“Don’t worry about me Gamma, I have it covered,” Cain said exchanging a confident smile and a nod with Stahmul.
”Of course, Horatio, what was I thinking,” Garone said sarcastically.
With that the holovid finished, “ I have already briefed the other two teams regarding their part. The last thing I will do in regards to this matter is send the communiqué to Suukevestaa’s executive office when I have heard of your success.”
“Very, well.” Cain nodded, “and Gamma?”
“Yes Mr., Cain?”
“Thanks again…you sure you don’t have a bit of the pirate in you?” Cain said again with a playful smirk.
“CAIN!” the Intaki had turned red and was about to give the younger Captain a good chewing when the other two burst out in laughter. The Intaki composed himself and smiled and gave Cain a sideward dirty glance nodded at Wan and Stahmul and left the Goliath.
Once the men were done with their weapons Stah took Cain aside and had him sit in a worn chair. He pulled out an electric hair shaver. Stah smiled wickedly as he looked at Wan who began to chuckle. Cain looked up nervously.
“This won’t hurt a bit my friend, but if were going to make you look Minmatar, you’d do better without so much hair!” Wan broke down laughing at this comment.
Cain ran his hand through his already closely cut hair and gulped. Stahmul went to work and Cain closed his eyes and felt chunks of hair topple from his scalp. Several minutes later Stah was brushing him off while Cain heard Wan now guffawing in uncontrollable laughter. Cain opened his eyes and shot the Brutor a dirty look.
“Welcome to the struggle my brother!” Wan managed to get out in between fits of laughter. Stah had also joined in. Cain stood up and felt only the barest traces of stubble on his head. Stah handed Cain a mirror and he looked at himself in the mirror and could only shake his head.
“Okay, well now I have the hairdo, but I look like a scrawny Civire, not a Sebiestor!” He said still glowering at himself in the mirror.
“Well were not done yet, sit back down, and I will give you some proper tribal tattoos!” Stah said smiling with mischief once again.
Cain looked up suddenly nervous, “Don’t worry they won’t be permanent, but they will look real,” Stah said as he grabbed a thin pen like device and leaned over Cain's head. The device emitted a thin laser like beam and he slowly moved the thing less than an inch from Cain's face slowly. Horatio could feel nothing and Stah used his hand to hold the Caldari's head still while he worked. Within a short time he was finished.
“There, you could pass for Sebiestor in a pinch, but I would avoid letting any of the security guys getting a good look at you.” Wan was bent over comically examining Stah’s handiwork and nodded.
Cain peered again at the mirror and turned to examine the markings. Swaths of red color under his eyes, that gave him a rather savage appearance. He nodded then shrugged and leapt to his feet. It was time to put the plan into motion.
Kitten Hearder sighed as she continued to monitor her Kestrels on board scanner. Currently the only contact was a lone Rifter belonging to Hal.
“Why did I get stuck with this boring gig!” she exclaimed, exasperated.
“C’mon Kitten, it ain’t that bad. The convoy will be arriving soon,” Hal said trying to assuage his friend’s frustration.
“Cain gets to go sneakin’ through a space station and Adlain and InDope get to play demolition ninjas, while me and you get stuck whacking a couple of freighters.”
”If I knew we were ganking freighters I could have come by myself in my Raven.”
“This is true, but this Convoy is on the lookout for trouble and they would see your Raven before they came out of warp. You heard, Gamma, Kitty, we gotta get these guys by surprise and take them all out, and then, we gotta get away. Even if you did get the them all with your Raven, it would attract so much attention Concord would be all over you faster than you could say Quafe.”
“Your right I suppose…I hate that,” she said pouting.
Hal laughed at the remark, but then his mood grew more serious as he detected several vessels dropping out of warp. The convoy had arrived. Hal engaged the passive targeters and used his ship scanner to determine that these were indeed the Suukevestaa freighters they had been waiting for. According to Gammas briefing they were carrying expensive Tech 2 weapon components bound for the Suukevestaa Distribution Center administrated by one Tam Renfro. Renfro had made a deal with some rather unsavory contacts from the former Curse Alliance to purchase them for premium prices and would allow the underhanded Caldari to cover up the large sums of money he had been embezzling to fund his private manhunt for Cain. Cain’s plan called for these ships to be relieved of their cargos, which would in turn bring Renfro’s malfeasance to light and thereby put his father Damien in the hot seat with the Suukevestaa Board of Directors. Simple enough Hal thought.
“Rawrrr!” Kitten growled playfully over the comms channel as she gunned her Kestrel and started approaching the incoming convoy.
Alert Klaxons went off from Hal’s sensors, “Kitten wait! They have an escort!” Hal shouted as he saw four Crow Interceptors begin to materialize on his scanner readout.
The two men walked briskly down the main concourse through the Zainou cloning facility located on a station within Caldari space. A Deteis man wearing a white lab coat with the bright green logo of the Zainou Corporation met them.
“Gentlemen, I am glad you have decided to visit in person, I am sure that after the tour of our cutting edge clone growth and storage facilities you will agree that a Corporate contract with Zainou will be a smart move for both your business and your employees!” he said, with a seamless enthusiasm that indicated he had said this same sales pitch to legions of visitors who had come before.
“Please come with me, my name is Houser Kalin and feel free to ask questions!” he continued to chirp cheerfully and began to lead the two gentlemen through a automated door and into a brightly lit laboratory. The air smelled sterile like that of a biomedical facility. Men and women wearing the same white lab coats with the Zainou logo passed back and forth through the hallways. As they went down a long hallway the walls were lined with doors, each with an elongated glass window through which they could glimpse lab like rooms, no doubt where the scientists spent their hours researching the many pharmaceuticals and biotech products Zainou was renown for.
“As you can see gentlemen, we provide clean and comfortable working conditions for our employees, we here at Zainou believe that in order to serve our customers best, we must provide the best possible environment for our employees”
The two men nodded and continued to follow their guide’s brisk pace. One of the men was tall, of Intaki heritage. He wore his hair long, but still cut a distinguished figure. He always wore a crooked smile, which sometimes made observers fail to notice his sharp and alert eyes. The other man, only slightly shorter was a Brutor. He had shaved his hair and wore a stylish neoplast face shield. He had a rather sheepish look about him but this often led his enemies to underestimate him, a mistake they usually made, only once.
The tour guide led them into a large room with large long tables arrayed neatly in rows for many people to sit. It was clearly the cafeteria. He led the two gentlemen further over to a Quafe machine, “Gentlemen, please help yourself to some refreshments I will be right back as soon as I find Dr. Nikos, who will accompany us into the clone vaults!”
The two men nodded as Kalin trotted out of the room and went to find the Doctor. The tall Intaki turned to the Brutor his smile widening, “Gamma was right InDope, this is too easy!”
“I know Adlain, that’s why I got a bad feeling!” The Brutor, called InDope responded to his friend and corp mate.
“Ah, c’mon, every now and then we deserve to have a break.”
“Okay lets not even worry about placing the charges in the vault, we still have to go through a security checkpoint, like at most clone vaults, before they let us in!”
“Gamma said he got these charges from one of his most trusted contacts operating out of the Stain region, they are immune to conventional detection equipment.”
“I always get worried when any capsule pilot uses the term ‘trusted’!”
“Uh-oh, he’s coming back, get back in character!” Adlain warned as he looked behind himself and caught a glimpse of the approaching Houser accompanied by an attractive and short Deteis woman, who had to be Dr. Nikos.
“Right this way Doctor, please meet Calvin Tate,” Houser said indicating Adlain, “and Russel Cooper,” he said indicating InDope.
“You can call me Russ!” InDope said smiling. Adlain shot him an annoyed look at InDope for hamming it up, to which InDope returned a ****y smirk.
“These two gentlemen are here on behalf of Lustrevik Mining and Manufacturing, they are interested in opening a long term clone contract for all of their pod captains and a medical insurance program for their employees.”
“Gentlemen,” the attractive Dr. Nikos regarded them, “you have made a wise choice, please follow me and Mr. Kalin to our cloning vaults. I believe you will find them most impressive.”
Kitten looked on her display and quickly realized that it had been a trap. Her heart raced with fear for a split second before her training took over and she calmed herself and prepared to somehow get herself out of this mess.
She ignored the freighters for the moment and locked on to the nearest Crow. She engaged her vessels afterburners and made a hard turn in the Kestrel to bring her launchers to bear on the interceptor. They were fast, damn fast.
Hal was doing his part. They hadn't seen his Rifter and so he knew he would have only moments before his advantage would be gone. He descended upon one of the Crows that had turned to engage Kitten, and he used his passive targetter as to avoid alarming the escorts too early. He engaged the quad projectile guns on his vessel and watched with satisfaction as the first hyper accelerated rounds hurtled toward his target. The Crow was completely unprepared for the rear assault by Hal's Rifter and the projectiles ripped through the hull. The pilot hadn't engaged his shield rechargers. The hits proved to be critical, and Hal observed with satisfaction as a glow proceeded the complete destruction of the craft. One down three to go.
Kitten smiled as she saw one of her assailants disappear in an orange glow thanks to Hal. She attempted to lock on again to the nearest Crow but it was jamming her even as it closed. She detetced that the remaing three had activated their shield rechargers, and two of the Crows peeled off to engage the new threat presented by Hal's Rifter. Kitty, liked it better one on one anyway, at least in ship to ship combat. The Crow grew larger on her display and it opened fire, having locked the nimble Kestrel and its 125mm Carbides registered hits. Kitten felt her vessel shudder with the impact, but her shields were holding, the question was, for how long? She finally got tone as her sensors locked as the range was now ludicrously close. She let fly with a salvo of Bloodclaw Kinetic Missiles. The interceptors shields appeared to absorb the brunt of impact, as it flew past her. Kitten quickly tried to circle around and maintain her optimal range, while the Crow pilot attempted to open the distance and resume jamming. The two combatants circled lazily as they attempted to get the advantage. Kitty grimaced as she saw that her targets advantage in speed, was going to give him the edge.
Hal had problems of his own, the element of surprise had vanished, and now instead of one unprepared and impetuous pilot he was faced with two aware and angry Crows. They attempted to close on him from opposite directions. They were fast, but Hal knew that his kitted out Rifter was faster. He gunned the engines and kicked in the afterburners as he tried to open the range to give his long guns the advantage. He would have paid good isk to see the look on their faces when his Rifter began to pull away from the quick interceptors. They attmpted some shots, but they were unable to hit the small and fast moving target as the range increased. With the range at optimal for his projectile he turned to engage the Interceptors. Jammed! Hal couldn't get a lock, he knew he would have to close if he wanted to get a shot. Normally he would disengage, and live to fight another day, but Kitten was in trouble and the entire group was depending on him and Kitten to take out these frieghters. They hadn't taken into consideration that this convoy could be heavily gaurded. Live and learn, Hal thought smiling to himself as he gunned his vessel to make an attack run on the incoming interceptors.
Kitten began to tense up as she realised the Crow was beginning to get around on her and then suddenly the warning klaxon indicated that he was again locked on to her. He was close enough now and he began firing. She watched hopelessly as her shields melted away.
The Goliath slowly pulled into the dock of the Suukevestaa starbase. The three men met below and prepared to enter the base from the docking collar.
As they proceeded in, they passed through security scanners. Wan was sweating as they passed through and made an audible sigh when no alarms sounded. Cain, disguised as a Seibestor nodded to the other two and they headed towards the central hub of the facility where they could find the offices of Tam Renfro, Cain's old advesary.
Wan wore a black longcoat with a pair of sunglasses that gave him an intimidating appearance as did Stah, Cain wore a poncho-like cloak under which he gripped the handle of the auto slug thrower Stah had given him. The other two were armed similarly. The weapons were manufactured in the Curse region out of complex synthetic hybrid metals, and could escape most security scanners.
As they approached the hub they observed the lift that took guests to the Suukevestaa offices on the higher levels of the station. It wasn't secured, but they knew, thanks to the intelligence provided by Gamma, that the upper levels would be a different story.
They got on the next elevator that took them to the upper levels of the station. There were several people on the lift with them, ordinary Caldari, freight pilots, and station staff. They shot the three intimidating figures nervous glances as the elevator hummed upwards. Stahmul winked at one of the occupants and gave him a snarl and chuckled softly when he nearly jumped. Cain elbowed him and shot Stah an angered look. Wan stifled a laugh.
Finally the doors opened on the main corporate level. The floor opened out before them. Employees of the Sukevestaa corporation milled about attending to their daily responsibilities. In front of them was a large desk with Suukevestaa security officer. Standing on either side of the large desk were two other heavily armed security guards. The occupants of the lift immediately fell into a line behind a string of others who were already waiting.
Each person signed a log book and explained their business briefly to the officer before being handed a badge and permitted to pass onto the floor. The three companions looked at each other grimly as they waited in line and the rest of the people who were in front of them. Eventually Wan stepped up in line. The security gaurd was clearly alarmed by the appearence of the three Matari. Wan put on his best smile and nodded to the gaurd.
"Hey, how are you today. Me and my associates here would like to see Mr. Renfro," Wan said with his most polite tone.
The Security Officer looked at Wanoah incredulously. "Do you have an appointment?"
Wan looked back at Stah and Cain as if searching for an answer, shrugged, smiled and replied, "no?"
"Are you kidding?" was the guards annoyed reply.
"Oh well, this was getting boring anywho!" Stah shouted and reached in his coat to pull out the auto slug thrower and quickly sprayed the gaurd standing to the left of the desk. He died in a burst of red as he attempted to draw his weapon too late. Cain threw his poncho back kneeled and fired at the other gaurd. who died messily seconds later. Wan pulled out his weapon and pointed at the desk officer and fired just after he had pushed the alarm.
There were screams in the aftermath and employees ducked for cover and lay flat on the ground crying softly. The trio made its way onto the floor and headed for the central lift that would lead to the executive offices and Tam Renfro.
No one else attempted to slow them down as they moved across the floor. They saw the lift and began to approach at a quicker pace, just then they heard a ding as the elevator arrived and the doors slid open. A familiar figure accompanied by two large and imposing Amarrians stepped out with man portable lasers at the ready.
"Mr. Cain, we meet again," said the familar figure of Thallus Andronicus.
The story finishes in The Chronicles of Horatio Cain (Conclusion)