Fiction Friday and you know what tomorrow is don't you....
Escape pod here!
Senator Sivanne took his seat at the conference table. To be called in at this time of the morning meant there was a serious military emergency. As head of the Senate Military Oversight Committee he assumed this was a big one. His suspicions were confirmed as both political and military heavy-weights entered. The Vice-President made him spring up from his chair to shake his hand. The final man entered, Admiral Adune of the Federal Navy and everyone sat down.
"Sorry to wake you all at this hour but this could not wait and neither could it be done over comms. At 0300 this morning Admiral Breau went rouge. He stole an experimental TCOW and fled in a shuttle."
"Sorry Admiral, a tea cow? Sounds something the Caldari would invent!" the Vice-President asked drawing a small laugh from the people around the table.
"Captain, please." the Admiral said to the uniformed man to his right indicating he should take over.
"A TCOW is a tactical covert-ops weapon. It is a pre-first strike weapon designed to hit the enemy hard before a formal declaration of war is given by either side."
"Sorry Captain, surely if its a weapon designed to be used first that IS the first strike?" Sivanne stated.
"No sir. The TCOW is designed to look like a natural disaster. We've looked at weapons that generate earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and even devastating hurricanes. The idea is to soften an enemy before we launch a first strike or to delay them if we believe they are about to launch a first strike to buy us time."
The Senator nodded and things fell into place. The committee had appointed Admiral Breau as chief overseer of their special weapons development as he was very against any weapon that could be used to target population centres. They had thought he would be the best choice, obviously they were wrong.
"Where is it now?" the Vice-President asked.
"The shuttle jumped into the Odotte system two hours ago. An interceptor followed him through before he used his command codes to turn the gate off."
"You can turn gates off?" Sivanne said in surprise.
"In case of invasion our stargates have failsafes and all at rank Admiral and above have the codes. Its a short-term solution designed to slow an advancing fleet. We hope to have the gate back online in four hours. The problem was the fluid-routers that handle FTL communications go down a few minutes later. The last communication we got was from our interceptor pilot that he had engaged and shot down the Admirals shuttle as it was entering the atmosphere of planet Odotte IV."
"What weapon was aboard?" the Vice-president asked.
"Captain." the Admiral said.
"Its an untested one. New tech. Given the Nation incursions over the last few years we have been working with captured nanite-tech. There are a range of people working for Sansha Kuvakei. Some have little or no mind-control and follow out of free choice, others are completely bereft of free-will, True Slaves. We have been looking at their nanites that affect certain areas of the brain and trying to change them, namely empathy and aggression to make the populace the weapon."
"Layman's terms Captain. What does it do?"
The Captain and Admiral looked sheepish as they started to explain.
The steel axe was raised high and brought down at lightening speed. The young man just stood there for a second before his body peeled in half. Loud slopping noises were made as his internal organs fell from his body cavity and hit the floor.
"Urrrghhhhh!" type noises could be heard around the seated viewers. Essinan struggled to see the screen as Menivare kissed her neck.
"Come on, you're making me miss the best bit!" she hissed quietly. Menivare slumped back into his seat and grabbed his oversized cup of Quafe.
The masked killer was on the move again, his bloody axe swinging in great detail in a high-definition hologram.
"Flayen and Nimestre don't seem to care." Menivare whispered petulantly.
Essinan looked down the almost empty row to their two friends. Menivare was right, Flayen was sat in Nimestre's lap with her back to the screen, Nimestre's hands vanishing up her tight black vest as they kissed passionately.
"Later!" Essinan whispered to Menivare as she turned her attention back to the big screen.
It was their last weeks at Choutchat High School. Most of their exams were finished and they were looking forward to starting colleges or universities in the autumn. Essinan had applied to the University of Poteque on Gallente Prime. An opportunity to escape this backwater planet and escape to civilization. Menivare had applied to the Federal Navy. His bio-screening had shown they may be a possibility his genetics were capsule-compliant. If he got the top grades then he might get a place as a Navy pilot and even turned into a Capsuleer. They had already had the talk. Their six-month romance had been fun, but they were both pragmatic. They knew being solar systems apart was too far. They would have a wild summer and then say their goodbyes.
Essinan watched as the killer stalked the last girl. He'd already cut her leg badly and she was dragging herself along the floor as he approached with his axe. Essinan felt a hand on her knee, slowly snaking up under her skirt. She placed her own hand on Menivare's and guided it back down to a respectable location. She shot him a "not now" look and he rolled his eyes.
Shots rang out making her jump. The heroine had got the dead policemans dropped gun and was pumping the killer with hybrid rounds. Menivare said to herself he wasn't dead and sure enough after the survivor was limping out of the house where most of the killings had happened a big hand came out of the darkness over her face and pulled her screaming back inside. The door slammed shut and the credits started to roll. As the cinema lights came on Flayen and Nimestre quickly adjusted their clothing.
"Come on tiger." Essinan said to Menivare "Buy me dinner and I'll make you get some of that!"
Across town Mrs Catelnau was just putting the fries on to cook as she prepared her dinner. She heard the front door open and glanced at the clock, that would be her husband home. Their son wouldn't be far behind. He entered the kitchen and looked at the table.
"Dinner not ready?" he asked emotionless.
"Not yet darling. I got hung up at the shops ten minutes and...." as she turned he rammed his fist into her stomach. The air was blasted out of her and she fell to the floor gasping like a fish. Her husband reached down and grabbed her by the hair lifting her up. She wanted to scream but there was no air in her lungs. He casually pulled her to the stove where the deep fat frier was bubbling hard. Her eyes went wide in horror as she realised too late what he was doing. Her face was pushed into the boiling oil and her whole body convulsed. After 20 seconds she went limp and he released her, letting her drop to the tiled floor. He picked up the prepared salad that was sitting on the side and sat down at the table. A minute later his teenage son entered with his hoverboard under his arm. He looked down where his mother lay, her face bright red, blistered and peeling.
"You killed mom?" he said with no emotion.
"Yeah. Dinner was late."
"You killed mom?" he repeated.
"Yeah. Dinner. Was. Late." his father said between mouthfuls of salad.
The son walked to the counter behind his father, slid the carving knife from the knife block and raised it high bringing it arcing over his father's shoulder. The steel plunged deep into the man's chest chest. His father slumped forward onto the dining table. A ping from the deep fat frier indicated the fries were ready.
"Timing!" the son said gleefully as he opened the fridge, tugging on the door to move his mother's dead corpse out of the way as he grabbed some sauce to go with the fries.
Senator Sivanne was stood with the rest on the bridge of the Lady of Caille, an Eos Command Ship waiting near the offline stargate.
"Admiral. What is our best-case scenario?" Sivanne asked.
"Well, that would be the interceptor hit the shuttle on one side and sent it into an uncontrolled spin into the atmosphere. The weapons shell is tough, but not indestructible. Hopefully the whole thing burnt up on re-entry."
The Senator nodded. "Lets hope so. However what is the likely scenario in your opinion?"
"The canister survived and broke open as it crashed. Anyone going near it within the first few hours would be infected."
"OK, one last one, what is the worst case you can imagine."
The Admiral paused.
"The ship survived re-entry, just. As it plummeted through the lower atmosphere the increased air pressure combined with speed caused the shuttle to break apart. As soon as the containment on the warp drive failed the ship would explode. A warp core going critical would crack open the case but the nanites may survive inside. If this all breaks apart over a populated area anyone outside would be infected. Hundreds or thousands of calm people who would kill rather than roll their eyes. Anyone going out after the nanites fell are likely to experiencing other effects. Namely rage and psychotic tendencies. Those who stay inside are likely to find themselves unaffected but surrounded by homicidal maniacs.
The Senator took it all in and then guessed at the probability of the worse-case scenario. Given the size of the planet it was highly unlikely.
Essinan chewed on her burger and looked at the screen above the bar. Most people were watching it. A meteor or small asteroid had burnt up directly above the town and someone with a camera had captured the light show. It was fairly spectacular. Pity they had been stuck inside the mall at the time. Menivare and Nimestre were discussing sport with Flayen listening intently. The news program moved on to some report about a malfunction of the stargate meaning not only travel being disrupted but access to the wider GalNet being down. It was a busy day for the news on a planet that was usually so boring Essinan thought.
As the group finished their meal Nimestre asked where they were heading to next. Flayen immediately answered with the park. It was no surprise to Essinan, she knew Flayen very well and after what she'd seen in the cinema she knew he would be keen to get Nimestre somewhere dark and secluded. It would also mean she'd be fighting off Menivare. However it was a warm night and there was always the chance of more meteors. They all agreed and paid the bill and left the mall via the underground carpark in Nimestre's old battered car.
"Whats with all cops?" Nimestre asked allowed as they reached the elevated road way. Essinan looked out of the window. From their higher position she could see a number of blue flashing lights.
"Probably A-holes all thinking every bang is a meteor impacting in their garden!" Menivare said dismissively.
Essinan continued to gaze out of the window at a distant flashing light wondering what was going on.
Over on Hueromont street Officer Roysen entered through the open front door. His gun drawn and held in both hands but lowered.
"Hello? Police!" he shouted. Silence.
"Shit." he whispered to himself. The town had gone nuts and emergency calls were so high they'd split partners up sending them out on their own. A call had been made that screams had been heard from this address. He continued into the house.
"Police! Identify yourselves!"
Still silence. He didn't even have a drone to back him up. At least he could have sent it in to see what was inside. They had already all been checked out by the time he got on duty. He edged to the doorway in front of him and heard a humming. A tune. He poked his head around the door. A woman was at a large wooden table taking flowers from a wicker basket and arranging them in a vase whilst humming to herself. A man lay on the floor near by. Training the gun on the woman he entered.
"Don't move! Police!"
She just continued to arrange the flowers. Officer Roysen saw the small gardening fork embedded in the man's neck. He was very dead. On the sofa was a young boy, probably eight or nine. A large pair of scissors jutted from his right eye socket.
"What happened here?" he shouted.
"Oh this?" the woman said as if she wasn't particularly bothered. "He had the Mindclash on. I hate that Caldari nonsense. So I killed him."
Officer Roysen stared open mouthed.
"What about the kid?" he hissed.
"Oh little Bique? Yeah he wouldn't stop screaming so I had to end him too."
Finally the woman turned. Early 40's and wearing a summer dress splattered with blood.
"I had only been gardening outside to pick some flowers." she said advancing. Roysen eyed the large knife she held at her side that she had been using to trim the flower stems.
"Stop right there or I'll shoot!" he said sternly. She advanced.
Suddenly she broke into a sprint raising the knife.
Five shots rang out.
"A bomb? You want the Federal Navy to drop a bomb on a Federation town?" the Senator asked in disbelief.
"An EMP device. Casualties would be minimal. Those with cybernetic implants sustaining them, anyone in surgery at the time, some traffic collisions. However it would fry the nanites." the Admiral replied looking over the holographic representation of the town. The fluid routers in the gates had come back online and FTL communications were back. The gates were now generating the wormhole connection and in a matter of minutes they would be able to jump in. A simple glance at the news coming through the gate had confirmed the worst fears had been realised. A small town in the northern hemisphere of planet two had been infected with the modified Sansha nanites.
"And how do we explain that? A Hound Class stealth bomber was lost and thought it was New Caldari!" the Senator bellowed.
The Admiral remain quiet looking at the damage projects on the hologram.
"Solar flare." he finally answered.
"Really? Thats the best we can come up with. A solar flare. People aren't stupid!" Sivanne cried.
"Yes they are." the Admiral flashed him a look which indicated the discussion was over. He picked up his datapad and spoke into it. "Bridge, as soon as we're in system order the carrier to launch the bomber and get them to warp immediately to the co-ordinates and await orders. Also I want our 'other' frigate on remote and in space and ready."
The Admiral put the datapad down and turned to the Senator.
"So who is calling President Roden for the Executive Order?" he asked.
Essinan pulled Menivare's roaming hands out from under her skirt. He gave her the puppy dog eyes. She rolled her own.
"After Prom, I promise." she said.
Menivare looked over his shoulder at the bush that separated the two couples. The noises from the other side left them in no doubt that Flayen and Nimestre were getting it on. Sighs and moans of passion drifted in the still evening night. Menivare looked back to her with pleading eyes. She pulled him in close for a deep kiss guiding his hands up her t-shirt hoping that would satisfy him for now.
The scream was earsplitting. A duet of agony and terror. Menivare and Essinan jumped to their feet and ran around the hedge. Essinan slammed into the back of Menivare who had stopped dead. She looked around him and cried out. There was Nimestre semi naked on top of Flayen . A strange man had plunged a long metal spike into Nimestre's back and clearly it had penetrated them both. The man twisted the rod mercilessly as the two teenagers screamed. Blood spraying from both their mouths.
"Nearly there and we'll have peace and quiet!" the man said cheerfully. "Wait... you two! Were you about to make noise? You were weren't you!"
Menivare took a step back. The man heaved the metal pole out of the now still bodies of Nimestre and Flayen. The teenagers turned and ran.
They had entered the vast park through a side gate to a secluded and quiet area. They were now sprinting to the well lit commercial side. They knew there would still be people there at this time. Late night dog walkers, lovers having a stroll after a romantic meal. Turning a corner in the path they skidding to a halt. A young woman was sat on a prone mad. She held a large rock in both hands and was lifting it high above her head and slamming it back down. His head was gone. A flat mess of crushed skull and brains. However she didn't stop. Menivare grabbed Essinan's hand and pulled her along. They rounded a wall into the plaza. Everywhere people were either fighting or laying still.
"The towns gone mad!" Menivare gasped. A small group of boys were busy kicking an old lady on the ground. One snapped his head around and looked directly at them. The others then turned their own heads.
"We cannot out run them all." Menivare said out of breath as they turned and slowly started to walk towards them. Essinan was about to say something when Menivare punched her swiftly in the stomach. She fell to the floor gasping.
"Sorry! Pretty sure they'll take a probe piece of ass over a sprinting jock!" he sneered and took off.
Essinan lay on the cold ground gasping as the boys approached, ignoring the fleeing Menivare. His rapid footfalls crunching on the gravel as he escaped.
"Back of boys, I'm first!" the bigger boy said producing a flick-knife. The blade sprang open with a snap.
Menivare leaned against a tree in the darkness. The green of the Gallente nebular gave some light to see the park by. He was sure he was alone. Yeah, he had to sacrifice his girlfriend but he could get another one. In fact he could get one now. The woman who was bashing that man's brains in, she was alone. He briskly walked around the edge of the park and back to where they had passed her. He crept close and peered over the bush. The body was there but the girl was gone. Pity, he thought taking her by force would have been fun. Anyway there may be more about. The blow to the back of the head knocked him to the ground. For a split second the small number of modified nanites that had gotten into his brain released their control. He was confused as he opened his eyes. Essinan! What had he done! Before he could answer that that grinning girl landed on top of him smiling wildly holding her rock high.
He screamed as it crashed into his head.
Back at the plaza Essinan struggled as the group held her down. Most of her clothing had been cut away. Several times they had cut her as she struggled and blood ran down her arms and legs. The bigger boy grabbed the material of her bra strap and flashed the knife in front of her face.
"Unless you want me to cut a tit off you better keep still for this next bit or...."
The bang made him stop dead. The boys parted as the police officer approached. His gun still pointing in the air.
"What do we have here?" he said with a grin. The boys looked scared.
"Oh don't stop on my account boys. Get the bitch naked, but I go first!" he said with a snarl.
The boys fearful expression gave way to wide grins. They turned back to Essinan.
The light was blinding. It illuminated the entire sky. People cried out in pain, dropping to their knees and holding their heads. Dozens of screams echoing from every direction. Then it was dark. Pitch dark. The pale green of the nebula and the faint moon providing the only illumination. No lights, no vehicles, nothing. The boys looked at each other confused.
"Freeze!" the cop shouted pointing his gun at the older boy with the knife. The boy dropped the weapon as his friends darted in all directions. He too turned tail and ran hoping that the policeman would not shoot a fleeing suspect. The officer knelt down by Essinan.
"Are you OK miss?" he asked concerned.
She rubbed her head wondering why of all the injuries she had the headache that appeared with the massive flash would be the worse.
"I'm OK... but you were...." he voice trailed off.
"Look I don't know what just happened there. All I know we need to get to a hospital. You need attention and I want a brain scan and some answers.
The Senator and the Admiral watched the large dot of light on the planet flare up and die.
"So it's over?" the Senator said.
"Almost. The solar flare can be explained. The hundreds of murders cannot. Anyone who was outside this night there will have been affected at some level. All depends on their exposure and their brain chemistry. Some will have murdered, some will have done other things nearly as bad. Some will have just have been in a bad mood. People will want answers."
"How in Divinity's Edge can we do that."
"We blame Sansha's Nation!" he replied.
The Senator looked at him.
"Wait a minute. You said ready the two frigates. We only needed one. That second one was a Nation ship wasn't it?"
The Admiral smiled.
"It was a captured frigate from an incursion a few months ago. We put it in a low orbit near the city when the EMP went off. It crashed during the lightshow. Local law enforcement will find it in the morning I'm sure. With nobody on board they will assume it went down earlier that night and the meteor wasn't what they thought. The Sansha will be blamed for what happened and everyone will thank the stars that a freak solar flare saved them all."
The Senator shook his head at how easy the lies would be. They had gotten away with it.
On the outskirts of the city the Succubus lay in a field in two halves, smoking. Partly from the crash and partly from the explosives planted to vapourise the Federation tech that was remote controlling it. Any investigation would conclude that it was a standard Sansha frigate and the crew had taken the ejection pod shortly before the crash. The Navy had thought of everything, other than running a bio-scanner over the frigate when they salvaged it from the engagement. It had been depressurised so they had not seen the point. None of the crew had survived.
In the silence there was a scraping sound. A sheet of charred metal wobbled and fell. A pale grey hand reaching from a dark hidden compartment. True Slave 749003 was free at last. He had work to do.