The window in her quarters were framed with Gallentean faux bois, an organic shape pleasing to the eye and yet utterly inhuman. Real wood would have never been able to bend and twist as it did and even if it could no human hands would have been able to make such delicate carvings. It was in every way an artificial creation. An imitation of a craft long since obsolete and mimicry of a material that had no place in deep space.
The screen set inside this abomination was currently displaying space as seen from the surface of the asteroid. There was just one camera publicly available and as such she was only able to see the battered spacecraft for about nine percent of it’s elliptic orbit. Soon it would appear in the counterfeit casement again marking the completion of it’s thirty-fourth orbit. Having long since run out of notes to review, inventories to double check and processes to monitor remotely, Kinachi was beginning to feel impatient.
Faded markings identified the spacecraft’s name as “Maris” and once again it had reached the apogee of its orbit around the barren asteroid. The thrusters kicked in to compensate for a slight movement of the fix point and another cycle began. In twenty-three minutes the sun would set over the rim of the tiny asteroid and the shields would power up to protect the scarred hull. This time exposure would be minimal since the systems lone planet, a gargantuan sphere of black rock, would eclipse the ailing star soon after. The shields would power down yet again and there would be silence until the computer would state that the frigates position relative to the tiny installation on the asteroids surface was optimal for docking. Jaan tried to reassure himself that this time he would initiate the procedure.
Roughly half of the little lights indicating the fastest route to an evacuation centre were working. Their luminescence barely enough to let someone walk through the hallway without stumbling over piles of scrap leaning haphazardly against the walls.
The complex clinging to the barren asteroid had been built a long time ago as a storage facility for the felsic magma tapped from the once volcanically active planet drifting through this system in a lazy orbit. As the sun cooled so had the planet and the silicon rich substance had ceased to flow. Now the structure was manned by a crew fit for an installation one tenth of its size and most of the gigantic storage complexes dug into the rock beneath were sealed off. The dimly lit derelict hallway led to one such storage facility only this one was not as abandoned as the station reports would have you believe.
Thanks to her ocular filter the darkness was less than an inconvenience to Sophia. Her hiding place was quite another story though and while it allowed her to monitor both the elevator door and the entrance at the other end of the hallway it required her to maintain her vigil awkwardly pressed against the dusty floor.
While the main generator was shut down to avoid long range detection the ship was far from dormant. Even the mirage effect extended by the cloak generator could not completely obscure the multitude of impacts against the ships outer plating. A swarm of repair robots scurried across the hull tearing tiny chunks of rock from the armor and sealing off every dent.
Maintaining a position so close to the planet was hazardous at best since the dead world was breaking apart. The irony of describing a process that hurled splinters of black rock into space at sickening velocities as “slow” was not lost on the men and women crewing the obfuscated vessel. However perilous the position it was true that the sheer mass of the crumbling giant made their stealth complete. Checking again that his orbit placed the sad remnants of the volcanic globe directly between himself and the asteroid mounted station, Murash breathed a prayer of gratitude. He was completely certain that no one was aware of his presence and soon his patience would pay off. He would eliminate a pilot who had slaughtered faithful warriors by the numbers and given rise to a region wide legend.
Sophia twitched slightly in her cramped hideaway as the mechanism operating the lift broke the hour long silence. At the same time the door to her right opened and for a second she was staring at a reflection of herself in the surface of a highly polished knee-high boot before her quarry proceeded down the corridor. She forced herself to breathe slowly, ignoring the urge to seize the woman here and now. She needed photo evidence as well as solid data of an actual transaction before she could act.
She had spent years collecting material on the former Caldari Navy pilot who had made a career of building advanced ship for anyone who would pay. Pirates and megacorporations, capsuleers and empires. While it didn’t seem to matter to the reclusive mechanic, the amount of advanced weaponry making it’s way into dangerous hands did matter to Sophie’s superiors. She had been given the seemingly impossible task of detaining a capsuleer with an otherwise flawless security standing, connections with both the Caldari Navy, Ishukone and possibly several dangerous nullsec residents. Sophie had welcomed the challenge. She had never failed to bring a mark in.
Just when she had been contemplating welding a tractor beam onto her shuttle a raspy voice on the intercom informed her that her client had finally initiated docking procedures. She had worn the jade green finish covering the fingernail on her left thumb completely off but otherwise her appearance was up to standards. She adjusted the clip holding her hair in place and set off down the corridor to meet the man whose ship was her next project.
Multiple nuclear reactor units were being brought online in the workshop below. The fernite carbide composite armor plate, a cluster of plasma thrusters and a multitude of advanced electronic components was waiting in their containers.
During her long wait there had been plenty of opportunity to examine the ship that was pulling into the docking perimeter. It was a mess. It was junk. But she would fix that. She felt a rush of excitement at the thought. It would not be her first work on a Minmatar ship but it didn’t matter to her. This kind of task never became routine. Once the transaction was completed she would pull the old Rifter apart and the pilot would leave this station in an impressive Wolf class frigate.
The docking procedure was initiated and Murash was slowly beginning to run projections of how to best cut off his prey when it was to leave the station. A warp scrambler and several advanced drones capable of all but halting a ship in space was standing by. His acolytes were waiting at every gate out of the system. He was going to let the Minmatar scum perform the planned upgrade of his precious ship. It did not matter. Murash would tear open his adversary’s pod and use the sophisticated sensors on his ship to trace the signal back to Jaan’s clone bank. No matter who was providing shelter for this criminal, they would pay the price. Just as the female had when she had intervened in Jaan and Murash’s first clash many years ago. There were scores to settle here and Murash was going to make sure he collected every due. Deep inside his pod the Paladin smiled as he urged his Redeemer class ship into action.
Letting the station computer guide his ship towards the designated hangar Jaan accessed the internal cameras. Even though the life support system was running around the clock, even when he wasn’t piloting the ship, it had been years since anyone had been in the passenger section. He took the view of the different rooms in and for once allowed his memories to take hold of him. The chamber and the uncomfortable cot they had shared. The bench she had preferred over it’s four identical siblings. He hesitated for a second before calling up an image of the main cargo hold. There, behind the shuttle pad, their initials carved into a part of the exposed exoskeleton. He knew he was going to ask if it was possible to leave just that part of the hull intact.
The station and the asteroid continued to grow in size as the Rifter made it’s approach. The last flight of the Maris. On autopilot.