Peace is the Reward

This one is for Telegram Sam’s Pod and Planet Fiction contest, which takes place in the EVE universe. Being very new to EVE, I find it’s lore and background incredibly rich, deep and fascinating. I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to wrap my head around it’s mechanics, too. If you’re coming right to this blog post from his site, I hope you’ll be taking a look at my other stuff, too. I realize it’s not much, I just started writing in English very recently.

Music of the Moment:  CCP Games – Theme from Jita

The dark, round room was illuminated only by the four screens in front of him, every one of them bearing a gigantic face displaying some negative emotion. He was standing in the middle of it, like a culprit who was trying to take his sentence with a rest of dignity, while the tribunal grimaced in disgust.

Ghanoz Ruttil was very well aware that this environment was designed to make him feel small and insignificant before the power of the CONCORD Regional Administration Board, which might even have worked for junior captains. But he was a Senior Admiral and very much past the anxiety of these weekly video meetings. The faces ceased to be something untouchable long ago. Ruttil knew every one of them, and he knew them well.

“We are not very pleased with your work, Admiral. In a position such as yours, security needs to be handled tightly and efficiently.” Falsih Kador scolded. intimidating yet hollow words by an intimidating yet hollow man. A True Amarr, third degree cousin to one of the Holders, more interested in pursuing imperial interests than interspecies stability and even more arrogant than his face could make him seem, especially toward Minmatar. It bothered him that an orphaned Thukker boy had managed to become the ranking CONCORD officer in Jita.

“As much as it troubles me to do so, I must agree with mister Sarum on this.” Vaencant Vellivère, a fat Gallente with Jin-Mei ancestry, seldom agreed with the Amarr. “These illegal booster sales must be stopped. We cannot afford for them to corrupt a system so relevant to the clusters economy.” Of all the board members, he was the most likeable. His flamboyant mannerisms worthy of any courtier in the Empire and his mostly smiling face had that effect on people.

“With all due respect, CONCORD does not have the authority to prosecute offenders operating in Jita’s black market. That falls under the jurisdiction of the Corporate Police Force.” He said. The Caldari had made that clear on several of his requests.

“We have our own police force, Admiral. Besides, most of these offences are committed by capsuleers, making them a CONCORD matter.” Senaora Mayamati, the Achura scientist fascinated by and scared of capsuleers in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it was her being the youngest member of the Administration Board that prevented her from seeing CONCORD’s numerous duties outside of overseeing capsuleer activity. “If you make this clear, they should give you all the rights needed.” She was a bit detached from reality, that one.

“We will inform the Chief Executive Panel about this issue, so that they may grant you said special rights.” Finally, the voice of reason. Iarrhos Wernakken, a Deteis with accurately combed over blond hair and an emotionless voice was the head of the Administration Board. “That’ll be all, Admiral. We will be expecting your latest report next week.” With that, the four faces vanished and Ruttil stepped outside.

Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit!” Marhaok was trying to get their Rifter into warp, punching harder and harder on the buttons that normally would have sent them off without a complaint.

We’re fucking bubbled! We can’t warp!” Ghanoz shouted, but Marhaok wouldn’t listen. He kept punching and punching, so hard that his knuckles began to bleed. Another tremor went through the ship, sending Ghanoz tumbling to the floor. He got up, grabbed Marhaok by the shoulder and shouted right into his face.

Mar, our drives are scrambled, we can’t warp. So come the fuck with me of you want to live.” It was as if he’d shaken him out of a trance. Marhaok suddenly looked scared, more scared than he’d ever seen the daredevil pilot before. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his sweaty face.

We need to get there, Ghanoz, we need to…” he drifted off into a state of manic babbling, simply shutting out the world around him.

You boys gonna come or do I have to pod out alone?” Ozos Vars, the sturdy old commander, was standing by the open escape pod. Dragging Marhaok with him, Ghanoz crawled towards it, barely holding himself up when another volley of missiles hit their hull.

It was only a few seconds, but it seemed like hours to him. Vars grabbed the pilot, threw him into the escape pod and pushed Ghanoz in.

You boys go live a meaningful life. I still have to die a hero.” with that, he sealed the hatch and the pod was ejected. It took Ghanoz few seconds to realize what just happened, but even after he did he lacked the power to shout out in anger and pain.

When he stepped out of the meeting room, Shaloh Fasisi was already waiting for him. He was a pious Khanid with slouching shoulders, a highly respectful attitude, and Ruttil’s personal secretary.

“What else is on my list today?” he asked while walking toward his office aboard the Protector III, his very own CONCORD Battleship and command centre for all their operations in the system.

“There is another meeting scheduled with delegates from the Sukuuvestaa, Hyasyoda and Lai Dai corporations as well as the regular tactical conference with Police Overcommander Lolys and Commodore Barnier, Sir. Colonel Sekurovah wishes for your attendance at the welcoming ceremony for the new cadets, but says that he understands you are a very busy man.”

“Tell him I’ll come, no matter how much he wants me not to.” Sekurovah was his XO and one of the few friends he had in his indeed very busy life. “Anything else?”

“Yes. The Head of the SCC would, like a word with you in private, she will be on his way as soon as you agree, and Captain Palaselling reports a minor incident involving a capsuleer attacking another capsuleer near the Perimeter gate.”

“Have the report ready for me later. Timetable?”

“Next up would be the welcoming ceremony, Sir.”

“Then let’s go there.”

Three down, five more to go. Good job, Lieutenant Ruttil.” Said Captain Horovag. Ghanoz adjusted the Stabber’s turrets to focus on the nearest Crucifier-frigate and used the launchers to keep the others at bay.

Marhaok hooted in his piloting seat as he evaded incoming fire from the Amarr with utmost grace and precision. He was one of the greatest pilots in the Republic Fleet, and he knew it.

Captain, we have three Paladin marauders warping in.”

How long ’til reinforcements arrive?” the Captain asked.

Thirty minutes, Sir.”

Flight Commander, warp us out of here.”

We’ve been bubbled, Sir.”

Ghanoz looked over to Marhaok. He saw fear written all over his face, old memories flushing back into his head, memories he never talked about to anyone.

Then evade as long as possible. Ruttil, focus fire on the frigates, do not engage the Paladins.” Captain Horovag ordered.

Ghanoz did as he was asked, but it became harder and harder by the minute.

Dammit Mar, keep her steady.” He yelled.

I, I ca-, I can’t. I need to, to, evade.” No more than pathetic stammering came out of Marhaoks mouth. Ghanoz could see that his friend was trying to keep it together the best he could, but it simply wasn’t enough.

A tremor went through the ship, just like all those years back.

Shields down.”

Marhaok was breathing heavily, his fingers trembling like leaves in the wind.

Keep it together, Flight Commander!” The Captain said in his most commanding voice. The next tremor, which was more like a giant earthquake, lifted him out of his chair and flung him across the room, breaking his neck as he hit the floor.

We’re all gonna die…” Ghanoz heard someone mutter. He was inclined to agree.

“… to serve, protect and honour the stability in New Eden, regardless of where you are from. All of you are now CONCORD, and all of you now serve a higher cause.” Ruttil finished. The Hangar bay was so silent you could hear a needle fall. Down there, five hundred new cadets stood in rank and file, proudly presenting their freshly gained CONCORD uniforms. They would serve on all fronts the organization had to offer. A considerable portion would die, others would fall victim to the bureaucratic apparatus that was CONCORD politics, which he sometimes considered to be even more dangerous than actual combat. Only very few of them would rise as high as he and the others on the balcony did.

“Nice speech, Admiral. You should to this professionally.” Colonel Okho Sekurovah was a broad-shouldered man with a sense of humour few of his fellow Civire shared.

“I do do this professionally.” Ruttil responded.

“Really? I never see you in the CIC. Looks like it’s my job to do your job.”

“That’s what you get paid for.”

“True enough.” Sekurovah answered. “I hear the Head of Jita SCC wants to see you?”

“Yes, actually.” He said, surprised. “How do you know these things?”

“Because it’s my job to do your job, Admiral. So, she try getting in your pants yet?”

“Excuse me?”Ghanoz was confused.

“Well, as far as I know, she’s kind of a cougar, only she prefers old, stalwart men, especially those in uniform.” He winked.

“One day, Colonel, one day you’ll encounter someone who doesn’t get your humour.”

“Oh, you mean like, the Board? I hear Vellivère is actually quite fond of me.”

“Vellivère is fond of everyone.”

We have confirmation. Bureau Headquarters in Yulai have been destroyed, Minmatar forces are swarming imperial space.” Lieutenant Hog said with an undertone of concern. “We have suffered heavy losses. All ships in the system have orders to regroup at Ashokon XII, Moon 2. Admiral Haelms is waiting for us.”

Then warp us there.” Marhaok said without hesitation. “We’ll make a stand and take as many if these offenders down as we can.”

Aye, Captain.”

And get me Colonel Ruttil in here!” He yelled.

I’m right behind you, Captain.” Ghanoz said in a quiet, calm voice.

Good.” He turned around, sweat rolling down his pork-like cheeks. “Get everyone ready and on their battle stations. I don’t want the Board on my ass for not having my crew under control.”

Do you really want to fight your own people, Mar?”

Don’t call me that in here!” he exploded, flinging saliva from his mouth and into Ghanoz’ face. His breath smelled of alcohol. “I’m not a Minmatar any more, and neither are you! They threw us out, turned their backs on us, and now we can repay them by spilling their blood.”

A dome of dead silence encompassed the CIC. Nobody dared to speak or move. All eyes where on Ghanoz and Marhaok.

They only threw you out, Mar. I merely followed you because you are my brother, and I love you, but this is too much. We have one thousand civilians on board.”

It was your call to bring them here, so it’s your fucking fault if they die.” His face was red with anger. “They’re Amarr! They can burn!” he turned back to the CIC “Everybody move, we don’t have much time!”

I don’t think so.” Ghanoz said. “With the authority given to me by Internal Directive 176/16F I am hereby removing you from command of this vessel and taking you into custody. Commander Sekurovah, remove this man from the CIC.”

Yes, Colonel.”

Marhaok seemed incapable of understanding what was happening. His jaw dropped and stayed like that until Sekurovah and two marines had escorted him out of the CIC. Whatever he might have yelled and shouted afterwards never got past the titanium doors.

Send a message to Admiral Haelms. Tell him We’re not coming to the rendezvous point on my authority, and tell him we’re getting one thousand men, women and children out of here.”

Aye, Sir.”

As he was sitting there, Police Overcommander Thanatea Lolys to his left and Commodore Jaetán Barnier to his right, a thought entered his mind.

Was it really worth it?

“All in all, it is left to say that the number of capsuleer pod kills has gone down by twenty-three percent in the last month. An astonishing number, if you ask me.” Lolys had just finished her report on capsuleer activity. No word about the booster trafficking. When Barnier asked her about it, she defensively said:

“We simply lack the capacity of searching every single vessel entering the system for illegal goods. Every day we have thousands of capsuleers coming and leaving, not to mention corporate freighters and InterBus ships.”

When he became an Admiral in High Security Space, they promised him to stay away from war as much as possible. Only he never understood that the absence of war did not necessarily mean peace. He was under more stress than in any battle he’d ever seen, not because death was lurking behind every corner, but because it never stopped. Working Jita was like and infinite battle against an enemy that wasn’t quite there.