Every capsuleer has a line of fate. These lines entertwine with uncountable others, converging to create a complex skein. There are those rare times when lines of convergence can be foreseen, their threads unravelled and respun. For those who are skilled enough to spot these lines of convergence they can manipulate them, make the lines sing. Make them dance. For all his faults, his demons, his evil, Gallicia Tavrook was one such man. A master of music, and of men, a creator of music and of dance.
Gallicia sat behind a large wide steel table, strapped to the top his favorite victim the Gurista sebiestor, Carmilla D'Morenta. He rested his feet upon her bloodstained back and listened to a recording of his symphony. Two of his officers were relaying lists of ships and reinforcements.
“Never mind that, what of Victor? I need Victor.”
“Victor has not been seen since the sale at Sibot. He never left the station.”
“Why didn't someone tell me this? It's been over a week since Sibot!”
He slammed his heel into her back and she moaned in pain. With Victor gone he'd need a new pilot, one who knew the area.
“What forces can they array against us?”
“Not enough by far. From what our intelligence has told us only one group knows where we are, and we want him there anyway. The others.... he won't work with.”
“It's his weakness. And for that he will die and his woman will watch us. Give her three hours for the nanites to bed in and then bring her to the command deck.”
Gallicia got to his feet, grabbed Carmilla's hair and jerked her head back and laughed.
“What's up little snake?”
Sendaya. Gateway to Curse and the lawless emptyness of nullspace. In a prison cell Victor gave up the information that was required of him to the person who had captured him at Sibot. Hours later a force of warships set destination, travelling halfway across the known bounds of Empire. Hundreds of thousands of crew, hundreds of captain, dozens of capsuleers. Scouts blazed their way across space, checking the route for ambushes and known enemies, their presence causing allies to take notice and wonder where such a substantial force was going. At their head in her battleship Ithiria stood in her battle armour watching through the viewscreen as the fleet approached gate after gate and headed inexorably closer to her prize. She had dispatched her sister, Angelina to meet with an associate, and all contact with her had been lost several hours ago.
“I'm coming Carmilla, I'm coming to rescue you. Just hold on a few more hours....”
Sendaya. Gateway to Curse and the lawless emptyness of nullspace. In a safe spot hidden far beyond an asteroid belt a worm class frigate listened intently to the communications that were streaming from untold numbers of sources trying to pinpoint just one. The bridge was cramped, but William sat there unconcerned about comfort. Somewhere out there Carmilla was being held, his woman, and he wanted her back.
“We have the signal pinpointed, course plotted, 3au's and change.”
“On standby. They just await the word.”
“Did you get hold of Seraphim?”
“All signals bounce back, we can't establish contact.”
He nodded. It was to be expected, it was too short notice.
“We wait. He'll contact us.”
Several systems away Lord Esna stormed through the bridge of his carrier. Most of his fleet were still several regions away, he only had a few dozen ships of varying size on hand, an effective force, but not one of any real power. And power might be needed. He had heard unsettling reports of what the enemy had. He prayed he was wrong.
“Have you gotten through to the High Admiral yet?”
“Still trying to connect Lord. His assistant is proving difficult.”
Esna swore and pushed the communications officer away from his post and looked into the screen. An old functionary was looking back.
“Lord Esna the High Admiral cannot be disturbed for any reason at all.”
“This is a code black emergency, I need the High Admiral.”
“You do not have the....”
“I have this,” said Esna as he held up a datacrystal, ”Damaging information about the Admiral and his private life. And I don't mean with his concubines or wife... I mean with other Admirals concubines and wives.....”
“Is an ugly word though I will turn it over to him for assured backup because I have a renegade Serpentis fleet two jumps from position and there are unconfirmed report of a Titan.”
The functionary raised an eyebrow.
“You found the Sword of Karnak? This is different. If this ship is not there you will be held accountable. I will inform the High Admiral. Download all necessary data to my terminal. The Empress be with you.”
“The Empress be with us all!”
Esna returned and sat in his command chair and pressed the shipwide and fleetwide comms.
“This is Lord Esna to the Fleet. The destination is the Sendaya system, we are not waiting for backup. We are going in as we are, we are the Sword and the Mailed Fist of the Empire and a few pirates will not stop us. We go to glory, we go to destiny, and we go to strike at the dark heart of Tyranny. All subcaps proceed to destination at best speed, once on station light proceed to the rendevous point and wait for my signal. Lord Esna, out.”
Many would die today, but they would die for a cause, for the Empire. With luck Carmilla would be rescued, but Gallicia... he was the key... strike the head and the body withers. And he was definitely going to strike the head.
Gallicia looked out of the bridge window at the assembled fleet. He had changed ships and was now in a frigate. He wouldn't be there for long and would soon be back to his personal transport. Tapping on a datatablet he sent a quick message to the one person he wanted to be here.
“Warp to the rendevous point. We'll wait for an hour.”
“Will be there?”
“He will eventually.”
The merlin class frigate powered into warp leaving behind the bulk of the Serpentis fleet.
In his ship William received the mail and opened it. Co-ordinates for a rendevous. He input them himself and checked the status of the weapon systems. Everything was green across the board.
“Engage warp drive... lets get this over with.”
The frigate aligned and leapt into warp.
“You know this is a trap, Will?”
“Yes. Just do what needs to be done when the time comes and we'll all be able to go home.”
In a flash the worm disengaged and coasted to a stop, proximity sensors sounding.
“Hostile frigate, 40 clicks away, dead stationary.”
William looked at the ship in the distance. Merlin class, like his but inferior.
“He's arrived Gallicia. Alone.”
“Open the comms. I want to talk to him.”
“Captain William, at last we meet on the field of battle.”
“Gallicia, you have something of mine. I want her back.”
“No. She's mine now. I'll get you a nice Amarri noble woman for you to screw sensless.”
“Lock him..... Gallicia... you have one chance and one chance only.... and to be brutally honest I hope you don't take it.”
“By the maker, Will he's lit a cyno!”
“Sorry Captain William. You'll have to excuse me if I'd rather see you dead than give up my prize slave. See you in the next like Captain.”
Three large shapes appeared above the frigate, Serpentis Carriers. William looked at them and sneared.... and lit up his own cyno.
“Two can play at that game! Bill to fleet! Cyno's up, Cap fleet engage at will, subcaps jump and warp to my position. I want Gallicia alive!”
The three serpentis carriers disgorged wings of fighters which headed towards the lone Worm. One carrier warped into position above the worm, then a second, then two dreadnoughts. The two carriers took up flanking positions over the Worm while the dreadnoughts switched down into siege mode. Gargantuan railguns swung into position and fired upon the carriers. As the lead fighters of both sides made contact the first of Bill's fleet decelerated out of warp. Heavy interdictors and battleships shot forwards engaging the carriers. From behind the Serpentis their own sub-capital fleet had arrived as well. Battle was joined.
“...Interceptors, take out the enemy dictors....”
“...Primaried... takign damage requesting.....”
“...Three coming in from point four seven, they are after the commandship....”
“...ECM coming online... target nullified... “
“...Incoming enemy forces flaking out HIC's.....”
“...Reactor core is damaged... ramming speed.....”
William docked his ship in the carriers bay and with his crew boarded his Gila while the battle raged outside.
Three jumps from Sendaya Ithiria listened in to reports going out over a secure navy frequency. A pitched battle was taking place in Sendaya, Concord was not getting involved due to the size of the forces involved.
“Lord Esna on direct comm Commander.”
Ithiria brought up the small screen on her battlethrone and nodded.
“Esna. I trust you are heading in the same direction I am?”
“Sendaya. I have forces arriving shortly, but not enough.”
“I have asked for some allies to come as well, but I have yet to hear from them I can only hope they get here in time.”
“I hear Bill is there.... he won't be happy.”
“He will be even less happy if he dies, but he is not my primary concern,and nor is it yours if I know you as I do.”
“We are three jumps out Esna, standby to engage.”
Gallicia had docked up his frigate and was watching from the bridge of his carrier. The battle was actually going badly for his forces. Those who were arrayed against him, while not numerically superior were certainly more skilled.
“Light the second cyno. Inform the primary reserve.”
From the bridge window he watched as one of his carriers exploded with a violent fury that decimated a cluster of smaller ships that were nearby. He thought for a moment then looked around.
“Shields are holding, hull repairs are proceeding. We are being targetted by several interdictors, we cannot leave until they are destroyed.”
“Then target the damn interdictors! And where is my slave?”
Two guard dragged the unconcious Carmilla with them towards the bridge when they were stopped by a woman wearing a stained flightsuit and a bandanna wrapped around her head.
“Change of plans, Gallicia wants her back in his stateroom.”
“We have no such orders. Stand aside...”
The woman pulled out a gun and fired it twice, hitting each one in the head. Angelina ran forward and picked up her sister, tucking a pistol back in her belt. She was mostly unresponsive and covered in blood and bruises. But she had to get her out of her. Throwing her over one shoulder she made her way to the maglift and started to call the lift when a voice rang out.
“When my slave doesn't arrive.. I wonder why.... now I find out why..... Drop her and stand back and maybe i'll let you live.”
Angelina dropped Carmilla and spun aroudn, weapon blazing, her other hand reaching for the second pistol. Shooting at Gallicia.... missing... who fired back hitting. Angelina was knocked back against the wall, her shoulder twisted and dislocated, a gaping wound bleeding heavily. Screaming she raised her pistol and he shot it out of her grip.
“Now I have two slaves to play with. How fun that will be. Guards... take them to the bridge. I want them to watch as I destroy their friends.”
Lord Esna's and Ithiria's forward fleets landed at the same time on different gates and were met by a surprising sight. A force of Serpentis ships were camping the gate, attempting to destroy every ship that was nearby. Already the customs and local navy forces were twisted burning wrecks. Both fleets engaged.
Bill, flying in formation with three moa's tore a hole through the left flank of the battleline and their remaining frigate forces followed. None of the crew had ever seen him so animated, ship after ship falling to his attacks. Above the surviving serpentis carrier the space shimmered and the bulk of a ship appeared. A very large ship.... a mothership.
“This is Baal Prime to Baal Leader. We do not have the firepower to combat that mothership. We must withdraw.”
“No! Not til we get what we are after!”
“Are we to all die to get what you want?”
“If you die, you die! Death is easy, living is more difficult! Now concentrate all firepower on that mothership!”
“Sub-cap fleet warping in... hostiles!”
“Damn.. more Serpentis!”
“No... worse... it's the Amarr!”
“Cyno is up!”
“It's about time. Jump to those co-ordinates! Launch fighters as soon as we arrive.”
The two amarr capital ships shimmered out and appeared a moment later in the Sendaya system to a pitched battle. Requested flooded in and the bridge crew targetted friendly ships and began repairing while fighters were launched. Young flight controllers directed the fighters and the carrier started scanning.
“Pinpointed the main battle my Lord.”
“Entire fleet break off and follow us to warp. Engage the Serpentis, we are only here for them.”
Ithiria's battleship exitted the stargate and was targetted almost immediately.
“We're scrammed and webbed. We're not going anywhere in a hurry!”
“Destroy them. We are in a hurry! Sensors, can you locate the main battle?”
“We have their location. As soon as we can jump we can....”
“Ithiria... I have two homing implants... faint but present.”
“Belonging to whom?”
“According to this.... Carmilla D'Morenta and Angelina Ballentyne....”
Victor walked onto the bridge and looked at the tac-screen.
“Ithirira, destroy this ship. It's the command for this fleet. They will be disorientated, should be enough for us to jump.”
She looked at the board, it looked just like any other battlecruiser. There were no distinguishing marks.
“How do you know?”
“Trust me... I know.”
Gallicia threw the two women on the floor before him, both were now chained, and he was laughing.
“Those fools, they have no chance of destroying us.”
“Gallicia, our gate fleets are reporting two large fleets have engaged them and are....”
In the distance several flashes indicated the arrival of a fleet, Carrier and battleships.
“They are no mind, are the interdictors destroyed?”
“Yes, we just have..... that's strange......”
Gallicia turned around in his chair.
“We have incoming ships... from behind us....”
William looked at the display with growing fury. He recognised the markings on the ships. Lord Esna and Ithiria were here now. Both of them after Carmilla, both wanting to enslave her. Over his dead body!”
“This is Bill to approaching fleets. Back off! This is not your fight!”
“God damn it Bill, this is Esna. We're here to help you!”
“Why, so you can buy her after? Convince her being a slave's not so bad? I don't need the help of stinking slaver scum like you! If you get to close don't be surprised if my ships attack you too! We don't want your help!”
“But,” Ithiria said over her channel,”We are here, and we will help wether you like it or not! I will nto leave Carmilla in this twisted freaks hands and nothing will stop me from getting my slave back!”
“She is not your slave!”
Bill cut the comms and pulled the pilot out and slipped into his place.
“Take the weapons. Wing, we're going in and we're going in hot. I need a diversion while I dock and board that ship!”
“That's suicide... you'll never make it!”
“It's better to stand and fight than to live on your knees...and I intend to fight!”
The Gila and it's moa escort shot towards the carrier, coming under sustained fire. Heavy concentrations of laser fire splashed across the shields of the Carrier which was now vectoring to enter warp.
“We're loosing her..... If she goes into warp we'll never catch her!”
“Incoming hostiles, pirates off the port quarter!”
A new voice broke over the channels, a high pitched hollering cheer.
“Yeeeehawww!! Lets go get us some kills.”
“Cut the chatter, Black leader to all wings, break and attack! Viva Guristas!”
From behind the Serpentis what could literally be called a swarm of frigates and interdictors appeared. Dozens of rifters, all bearing the colours of the Guristas Academy flew into the enemy formations at point black range. Interdiction bubbles sprang up all around, pinning the carrier and mother ship. A cyno field was lit and a carrier and a mothership warped in, but bearing the colours of the Ushra'Khan.
Onboard her battleship Ithiria watched as the fight unfolded infront of her. Williams forces were severely damaged, but the carriers were triaged and prolonging the fight, however two dreadnoughts were burning hulks. Ships of all shapes and sizes fought valiantly, artillery shells, laser bolts, missiles and hybrid charges seared across the depths of space, impacting ships, fighters, capitals.
“Signals are coming from the Carrier.”
“Then get us over there! All hands this is the captain, we are getting in harms way. I mean to board the Carrier.”
Esna watched from his carrier and saw Ithiria's battleship closing on the lone serpentis carrier. One of his crew had already dispatched their remaining fighters to cover her and their forces were converging.
“Lord, we are being targetted by friendly units. Some of them are opening fire.”
“Do not return fire. Go around them, dont' give them any reason to attack us.”
The ship shuddered violently as a squadron of fighter bombers vectored back in for another attack.
“Ithiria, this is Lord Esna, what the hell are you doing?”
“Carmilla's on the carrier.. so is Angelina.”
"I'll do what I can to cover you. This is going to be really damn costly, so hurry the hell up. I can't hold forever!"
Under the cover of the Gurista's attack Bill had managed to land in the main hangerbay. He left a hand picked crew to watch over the ship and grabbed the rest to come with him. From his belt he pulled two weapons, his usual pistol and the dagger Carmilla had made for him, a steel blade, curved like a talon and razor sharp. As soon as they lowered the boarding ramps they came underfire. Cooly and with precision he picked off the guards and stormed across the hangerbay. The layout was familiar, and he knew where they would be. Gallicia would be on the bridge directing the battle.
On the far side of the carrier Ithiria's battleship, though badly damaged rammed into the side of it and began cutting holes. Boarding parties went aboard, giving no quarter to anyone who resisted, all had seen friends die this day, and the chance to get some payback was too good to miss. Ithiria herself joined the party that was heading for the bridge.
Gallicia steadied himself as he looked out. Most of his forces were being destroyed, bit by bit. However he still had the ace up his sleeve.
“We've been boarded, we have reports of firefights on corridors leading to the bridge.”
“Send the guards to take care of them. Comms, inform the Sword of Karnak we need her.”
The comms officer tried and tried again.
“Not getting through.... they are not replying.”
“Try again, change frequencies.”
“Still nothing. And I'm not getting anything from our last reserves.....
An explosion tore the door off the bridge and a hail of gunfire filled the room. Gallicia rolled over and pulled Carmilla towards him as a shield as he fired off towards the doorway, killing the two people who came through first. Bill looked through, sighted and fired all in one quick action. Gallicia was knocked back. He ran over to Carmilla and picked her up.
“Carmilla... can you hear me my love?”
He kissed her and looked in her face, seeing only pain and suffering. He handed her over to his second.
“Take her back to the ship. I have someone to deal with.”
Taking the dagger from his pocket he advanced on Gallicia when he noticed Angelina. He was about to say something when the entire ship seemed to tilt, throwing everyone to the knees. Anglina rolled across the deck and slammed into the wall on the far side. Bill grabbed Gallicia and held the blade at his neck while he activated his comm.
“What the hell is going on out there?”
“It's the matari, they are attacking the carrier, it's damaged and listing from what we can see. You must evacuate...”
“Matari? When the hell...”
“It's Eliza and Sienna....”
That explained that. Slowly however the auto-systems brought the list under control As he pulled gallica towards the door he came in he noticed the far door open and Ithiria surrounded by her black guards strolled in.
“Where is she Bill?”
“Safe from you. Take Angelina and rescue her. I'm taking Gallicia. I'm not letting you take Carmilla. She is mine!”
“William.... I want...”
“Don't make me shoot you, Ithiria... I'll do it! I'll not let you take Carmilla.”
Ithiria looked at the rage in his eyes. Rage like that she had seen before. And no good would come of it. She picked up Angelina and looked at Bill, who was already on the way out.
“All parties back to the ship.. we're leaving!”
It took a while but eventually the Gila and Moa's of Williams force undocked and fought their way back to the carriers and the battered battleship of Ithirias headed towards the safety of her own carrier. As she looked back the last serpentis carrier exploded... and the mother ship simply warped out. The remaining serpentis ships that could made their escape, those that could.
Back onboard Bills Gila he carried her into his cabin and laid her down. He smiled when her eyes flickered open and looked at him.
“Bill,”she croaked through swollen lips.
“Yes my dear?”
“God I love you....”
William looked at her for a few minutes then allowed the medic to push him aside and start treating her.
“Sir, please, I'll call you once I have a preliminary report.”
He looked down. He had rescued her. He had captured Gallicia.... but he was still not happy.
Onboard the battleship Ithiria had taken Angelina to her quarters and was tending to her.
“How do you feel?”
“Lousy Ma'am. Did you rescue Carmilla?”
“No. Bill beat me to it. He also has Gallicia.”
“So it's over?”
“Yes.... for now.. it's over.”
But as they exchanged looks they both knew that it was far from over. The rescue had been performed, a lot of people had died. But now there would be the aftermath.