This was written as a submission to Godlesswanderer's contest. Enjoy!
"Incoming transmission..." the ship's AI purred in Derranna's brain through the pod's neural uplink.
She shifted her attention from the controls of the massive frieghter as it glided into the warp tunnel and mentally acknowledged the new message. In her mind's ear a voice started without preamble: "We've got a problem."
"What is it now?"
"This system is full of capsuleers of ... questionable background," the voice of Kirith said.
In her pod fluids Derranna's face scowled to reflect her annoyance. "Its your job to find the right spot to do this, so get to it. Remember, its your cargo but its MY ship. I lose this one and we'll have issues."
Kirith gave a short laugh and disconnected. She turned her attention back to the massive ship, checking hull integrity, warp core stability, system information networks, and a hundred other things that the pod's connections fed directly to her cortex. She could see the warp tunnel with her eyes, smell the interstellar dust with her nose, feel the radiation of the star on her skin yet still physically ensconced in her silent world of the pod. Such was the wonders of the technology.
As the Nomad Jump Freighter tumbled out of the warp tunnel and back into realspace, Derranna checked the sensor for any other ships that could be a threat to her unarmed vessel. Despite its massive size and solid defenses, it lacked any capability to fight back or escape so even in the space protected by CONCORD she was always vigilant for possible trouble.
This time she was alone, only her ship and the planet below that she pushed the Nomad into orbit above. She sent warmed up the capacitors of the jump drive (which felt like flexing her legs thanks to the neural mapping) and activated automated messages to the crew to prepare for the transistion.
"Ok, D, I'm in position. You ready?"
"Give the word."
"Cyno up. Jump now."
She flicked channels and gave the goahead to AI which began the count down for the crew. "Jumping in 3.... 2..... 1..... JUMP!"
Derranna hated jumping without stargates. She (her ship) became swathed in a bright white light and a thunderous shwooshing noice and it felt like her insides were turned inside out. After the jump was completed her ship was forced to sit there blind and deaf while she blinked her eyelids (recalibrated sensors) and shook herself (restarted real space engines).
As her vision cleared she saw the station loom above her, the cynosaural beacon being generated by Kirith's small Caldari frigate off her starboard bow... and warp trails wisping off a Dominix battleship ten kilometers away.
Her head still woozy from the jump, she punched up the thrusters and started to nudge the slow-turning Nomad towards the station's structure while simultaneously contacting the Docking Manager and activiating the red alert for her crew. The shields were powered up to maximum and internal bulkheads to nonvital areas slammed into position in case of decompression.
"Unidentified frieghter, this is VSIG-K Intaki Syndicate Bureau control tower. Please transmit your identification codes and docking access authorization."
"Control, this is the freighter Behemoth out of Pelille. We are transmitting now and there is a big tip in it for you if we can dock sooner rather than later!"
The Dominix had closed to 8 kilometers and was accelerating, indicators flashing as its targeting arrays quickly zeroed in on the Nomad's vulnerable propulsion systems and sensors.
"Come on, come on," Derranna pleaded with the unseen men or women in the station's docking control room.
"LOCKED" flashed before her eyes as the readoout listed the Dominix at just 5 kilometers, its weapons warming up and five Ogre heavy combat drones erupting from it bay.
"Behemoth, your authorization has been accepted. Please disengage your engines and sit back and enjoy the ride in to your berth. And welcome to VSIG-K!"
If Derranna had not been immersed in the pod fluids, she would have given a deep sigh. She felt the powerful shields of the station grow to encompass her and the massive tractor beams reach out to guide her into the gaping maw. She looked back at the beligeriant battleship only 1.5 kilometers away, wondering if it would try to shoot her anyways and feeling a shiver despite the station's powerful defenses.
But the Dominix pilot realized his quarry was out of reach and turned his wrath on the tiny and helpless Condor. Heavy blasters licked out and tore the ship in two with one volley. She wondered if Kirith died in the blast before seeing his pod accelerate out of the flaming wreckage and warp off.
A new message arrived in her inbox. She opened it and it read "Meet you inside later. K."
* * * * *
Derranna watched her crew unloading the crates of heavy ammunition and giving them to station personelle from a lounge overlooking the hanger deck. She had a warm drink of Gallentean spiced wine in her hand to sooth her frayed nerves. Losing any ship was bad enough, but the small fortune she invested into the jump freighter meant its loss would be almost unrecoverable. "We," she corrected herself with some bitterness, "we invested."
The door to the corridor opened in Kirith strode nonchalantly in with a datapad in his hand. Her fury rose and she turned on him, putting her glass on the table so she would have two hands free to poke or punch him as she deemed necessary.
"So much for a 'quick jump into Syndicate'!" she snarled. "'Perfectly safe,' you said. 'Quietest part of null sec,' you said! HA! I just about lost MY SHIP out there! What the hell were you thinking lighting a cyno with unknowns in the system? If you think you can just take chances with my ship and crew YOU GOT ANOTHER THING COMING!"
He said nothing. He merely smirked and handed the datapad to her. She snatched it from his outstretched hand. "What's this?" she asked tightly. She quickly read it and saw it was a transfer to her account for twice what was originally agreed.
"This doesn't make everything better."
"But I'm sure it doesn't hurt," he replied. He turned to leave. "Have our ship and crew ready to jump back to Pelille in 48 hours."
She considered throwing the datapad at his retreating back (or more accurately the back of his head) but before she could make up her mind the door was closed and she was alone with her wine again.