Chapter 1 Chapter 2
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"What the hell is this?"
The hanger technician looked up from his datapad to peer with squinting eyes at the 3D hologram of the ship in front of me. I pointed accusingly at a rough patch on the lower port hull plating.
"Its standard nanopaste repairs," he replied nonchalantly.
"Standard? It looks like you threw it on there with a spray gun!"
He shrugged and went back to work. I wasn't paying him so we both knew I could complain but he didn't have to listen. I swore under my breath just loud enough for him to hear but quiet enough to let him know I was done for now. I had already done the interior tour and spent an hour going over diagnostics of the major systems and everything checked out within acceptable parameters. Not Navy standards mind you, but civilian. I had tried to convince the lead mechanic to look at getting my power output and shield harmonics to navy standards at least and she simply raised an eyebrow before walking away.
It was an IBIS 3300 All Purpose Space Vehicle. The Ibis line was started in YC105 in a State sponsored effort to get people into space and developing its resources. They were designed to be mass produced by the tens of thousands and the State helped fund it with corporations donating as tax shelters and research projects for new technologies. The ship design had evolved slowly over time but was still as dependable and easy to manufacture and repair as ever.
All the major empires had their own versions of the state-sponsored space craft; the Amarr Impairor, the Gallente Velator, and the Minmatar Reaper. They were all designed to interface with a variety of offensive and defensive modules that were designed at the same time, collectively referred to as 'civilian' equipment. This particular Ibis was only last year's model but had seen a lot of action judging by its numerous hull repairs and the ad hoc wiring and power couplings in the ship's corridors. It had been named 'Last Chance' by its previous owner and I thought it was kind of prophetic.
It was well armed for an Ibis though, with four gatling railguns twined into pairs for two 360 degree firing arcs. For defense it boasted an original Kaalakiota shield booster which looked a little shaky at first glance but which came up green on all diagnostics. I told a technician if I wasn't a podder I wouldn't trust that thing and he just rolled his eyes and continued with his work. I was getting the feeling they didn't like me.
I decided to take it out for a test run (sacrificing the 10K bonus but I figured better safe than sorry) and went to the Capsule-Pilot Integration Facility, aka the "henhouse" (because that is where eggs are made... hey, its not my joke). The facility was on private decks that required several id checks and verifications before I could access, but the paperwork from the agent's associate was good and I was passed through.
For the first time I felt I started to feel special again; unique. The technicians there didn't know I was flat broke and about to fly in a ship with less firepower and defenses than most industrials. All they knew was I was a capsuleer, one of the immortal class, the untouchables. The pod I was assigned was the complete opposite of the Ibis it was destined to reside in. It was pristine, the fluids inside crystal clear and its exterior unmarked. As I plugged in and settled into the darkness inside, I felt whole again even though the seal had not been made and systems activated.
I sat in the dark for only a few seconds before the blinding flash of integration as my nervous system traded protocols with the pod's central computer. My brain flickered, for lack of a better word, as a quantum connection was to the medical facility where a new me was nearing completion of being speed grown in a embryonic decanter. It felt good.
As the pod was transferred from the capsuleer medical deck to the hangers I ran all the standard diagnostic checks and connected to appropriate local comm channels and news feeds. I really felt good; I didn't realize how much I missed it.
Finally my pod with me inside arrived at the hanger and was passed down a connection tube to the innards of the Last Chance. The hand off was smooth and the pod's interface expanded as the Ibis systems reported to me and I took control of the ship. I signaled a request to station control for undocking and ran through the preflight checklist, my pulse picking up.
I was going back into space again.