The Apprentice

Screaming out of warp Ta’jun’s small frigate shook and trembled as the vast energies of the warp bubble collapsed around the ship, the dying vortices of exotic forces washing over the small craft and its young occupant.

Before him, the sun rising from behind the local moon, lay a vast field of asteriods lazily tumbling end over end, sun glinting off veins of metalic ore. While he could not see his prey he could see the lancing orange beams of its mining lasers as the super heated beam of plasma bored into a veldspar asteriod, the resultant spew of mineral vapour following back to the ship via finely tuned, pulsing electromagetic fields.

Ta’jun’s camera drone’s mini-microwarpdrives powered up giving him a view some 50km above the arcing line of the asteriod field where he could see the small cruiser-class ship mining away at the asteriod 8km to its port side.

“I have one. All alone, not aligned. Easy kill!” Ta’jun excitedly chirped into his communicator.
“Copy that” came an efficient sounding voice of the mission controller, “I have 3 killers inbound on your location.”

His heart now racing, Ta’jun flicked his afterburners and missile system into standby, something he should have down while warping, but this was only his second raid. A row of green lights indicated all was well. The cockpit overview showed 3 rapdily approaching signals, each transmitting a identification code verified by the on-board computer.

“Well look what the new boy found! Two out of two so far. Not bad for a beginner. We might even make a pirate of you yet!” boomed the deep voice over the comms.
“Just luck, I guess.” replied Tajun, failing to keep his voice controlled and the excitement from showing.
“Ha! Well I guess you guys from mining stock are comfortable around these rocks and have a knack for knowing where to go. Suits me.”

Its was true, generations of his family had worked as miners or in related industries, usually out in deep space for one of the faceless Caldari Mineral Corporations. His own childhood had been hard but a mostly happy one. His father and mother had done their best to educate him, even saving up the fees for him to attend a school on a planet near the mining outpost they worked on. Of course it hadn’t worked out, a corporation war had seen to that. The outpost, his parents and his future had dissappered in a hail of torpedo fire, the stations defences unable to cope and the mercenaries paid to defend them out of system pursuing some action to allieviate the boredom of protecting a sleepy mining colony. Yes, he hated the mercs. They had all died at the hands of another mercenary group for their failure. Yes, he hated the corporation that had destroyed the outpost, not that they cared. He even hated the corporation that had employed his mother and father, even more so when the loss of the colony was written off and a smilling CEO pronouced operations would soon be up and running again as insurance had taken care of things. Actually, he especially hated that corporation. But, most of all, he hated mining for taking his father and mother away from him. The face of his mother pressed against the small window of the escape pod as it ejected into the path of an incoming cruise missile still haunted his dreams.

In the end it was the pirates that had found him, adopted him and became his family. It wasn’t easy, but then again nothing in his life ever had been.

“Ta’jun! Come on boy! Before you miss the fun!”
“Sorry Rush, I was at least an AU away.”
“She must be some girl my boy. Time for that later. Lets screw this ship first!”
“Aye sir!”, Ta’jun smiled. Rush always had a way of making things seem alright.

The flare of 4 afterburners lit up the asteriods, casting huge shadows across the sea of boulders and surely alerting the pilot of the mining vessel.

“He doesn’t know we are here! He must be asleep or something” came the incredulous voice of Rapi the lead pilot in their formation. “Are miners always this sleepy Ta’jun?”

Arcing up over the asteriod field and sweeping down to the miner’s ship the pirate frigates started to roll away from each other as each settled into an orbit that gave their weapons the best chance of hitting. Huge guns on Ta’jun’s ship recolied as they sent their projectiles towards the miner’s cruiser and the reassuring vibration of the missile launcher loosing its warhead made Ta’jun smile.

“Hostile is aware” Rush called. His voice now clipped and business like, “Ta’jun, EMP warheads on the sheilds. Rapi, primary any drones. Sol, point on the cruiser and I want that pod.”
“Drones! Drones! Two times Hobs”, reported Rapi, “Engaging.”

The two hobgoblin drones had dropped from the cruisers drone bay and quickly moved into orbit around the cruiser. Each was a mini-ship, equiped with guns, a microwarpdrive and thrusters. They were fragile but fast and could easily take down a frigate if ignored.

“Being targeted”, said the calm voice of Sol, seemingly oblivious to the drones racing towards his ship, barely audible over the noise of the guns and launchers transmitted through the ship structure. “I have point.”

Ta’jun’s EMP warheads quickly stripped the protective field of the cruiser’s shields and its weak Caldari armour soon gave up under the assualt of both missiles and guns, huge holes being punched through by round after round of explosive projectiles. As the ship started to loose its structure to the onslaught Ta’jun wondered at the pilot’s seeming inabilty to even turn off his mining lasers. They spluttered once more as the ship broke up into a fountain of twisted metal, ore and ship parts.

“I have point on the pod” said Sol.
“Excellent! I think we have earnt ourselves a release fee, have we not gentlemen?” replied Rush.

Ta’jun guided the targeting reticule over the pod as the targeting computer locked in the unique signature of the pod.

The missile made the journey from Ta’jun’s frigate to the pod in 2 seconds, exploding in a massive blast of EMP radiation that totally overpowered the pods systems, shorting out every circuit on board, triggering the simultanuous wiping and transmission of the pilot’s mind state and the dissintergration of the pod.

“Or not, as Ta’jun sees fit. Your find after all.” Said Rush, a hint of concern in his voice.
“She must be some girl if you are that desperate to get back and see her!” Rush’s chuckles were joined by those of the rest of the raiding party.

“She was”, Ta’jun said softly, knowing that he would only see her in his dreams, her faced pressed against the window of a pod, her crying silenced by the vacum and a cruise missile.


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