Thanks to Devan Corvel for participating.

Everyshore Region – Osnins Constellation – Halle System
Deadspace

The last of the Serpentis ships exploded. Sakaane smiled a smile of satisfaction and set Ebony Cascade to intercept the nearest wreck while simultaneously alerting her crew to prepare to loot any viable cargo, including an item her agent wanted. She would return later in her Catalyst, Quicker Picker Upper, to retrieve the rest of the loot and salvage the wrecks for anything else of worth.

The wreck grew in her view as the Myrmidon approached and her camera drones drew near. She focused on it, sending the drones to circle around so she could see the sparking, twisted metal from all sides. How many pirate vessels had she reduced to this slag? She’d lost count. It felt great.

Her ship came in range and coasted to a stop. While waiting idly for the cargo to be transferred aboard and for lack of anything else to do, Sakaane brought up her ship’s directional scanner and fiddled with the settings. She didn’t really expect to find anything else but junk and debris out here in the middle of nowhere—after all, that was why pirate factions like the Serpentis chose to live in these dead areas—but sometimes the scanner would pick up an occasional amusing tidbit of something, and it was better than passing the time simply floating in her capsule doing nothing.

An intermittent blip appeared on the scanner.

Her crew signaled up. “It’s not in this one.”

“Hm?” Sakaane was distracted now, trying to lock down the signal. It was somewhere nearby. “Right. Moving on.” She set Ebony Cascade to approach the next nearest wreck and turned back to the scanner. The reading remained scrambled, but it looked like a ship. Maybe. She let go of the previous wreck and panned her camera drones around local space, looking for anything that might hint as to the source of the reading.

Wait, what’s that? She swung the drones back around.

Off in the distance, just barely discernible against the black of space, a smattering of asteroids blotted out the stars. She zoomed in, wondering what it was about them that had caught her attention, but they just seemed to be asteroids like any other. Disappointed, she returned to fiddling with the scanner.

“—successfully retrieved,” someone was saying.

Just then, with her drones still zoomed on the distant asteroids, Sakaane caught a small flash of light. It was only noticeable for how it briefly illuminated the protruding edge of one of the slowly spinning rocks.

Aha.

The blip on the directional scanner refused to be pinned down, but near as she could tell, the signal was coming from that same direction.

“Crew, to your stations,” she commanded, changing course and engaging the ship’s afterburner. “Be on alert. We’re taking a little side trip.”

Bereye III – Moon 1 – Roden Shipyards Factory
Golden Phoenix Inc. Office

Devan sat at his desk and rifled through reports. The office was quiet today; everyone was either out on assignment or taking care of tasks away from the station. Perfect opportunity to get things done.

He’d just filed away one set and was starting in on a new group when his wetware alerted him to an incoming comms request from Sakaane.

“How are things going out there?” he asked while reading through the next report. “The Serps giving you any trouble?”

“Easy pickings,” Sakaane replied. “But that’s not why I called. Can you come meet me out here? In your pod?”

He set the report aside and looked up, staring into middle distance even though he couldn’t actually see her. “My pod? What for?”

Her excitement was tangible even over the link. “I found something out here. You’ll never guess. But you’ll have to help me get it home. Please?” There was a pause. “Devan, it’s beautiful. Terrible, but beautiful.”

“O…kay. You aren’t going to tell me what it is, are you?” Without waiting for her to answer, he added, “Give me a few minutes to round up Eric. I’m not flying into deadspace alone in just my capsule.”

“Roger that. Thanks.”

Devan flipped channels and tried to message Eric but the call went unanswered. After another unsuccessful attempt, he shut off the console and locked down the office, then made his way to Eric’s quarters.

There was no immediate answer at the door, so he rang again while checking the station roster to verify Eric was still logged as docked. He was, and there was nowhere else Eric was likely to be.

Finally, Devan heard movement from inside the quarters and, gradually, Eric’s voice grew louder.

“—work hard around here, can’t a man get any sleep? You’d think the place would go to hell without me.” The door slid open to reveal Eric’s scowling face. “What. Oh. Devan.”

Devan’s eyebrows had shot up. His dark-haired acquaintance was disheveled and unshaven. “Sorry to bother you. Were you in bed? You know it’s two in the afternoon, right? Are you feeling all right?”

Eric scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m fine. What do you need?”

“Armed escort out to Sak’s location in Halle. I’ll be going in my capsule.”

Eric harrumphed. “What’s that woman gotten herself into now?” Then, seeing Devan’s expression, he raised his hands in surrender. “All right, all right. Give me ten.” He shut the door.

“Sak,” Devan said, reactivating the channel she was waiting in. “Can you hang tight for a bit without us? It’ll just be a few minutes before we can leave…”

“Why? What’s Eric gotten himself into now?”

Everyshore Region – Osnins Constellation – Halle System
Deadspace

It didn’t really matter; she wasn’t going anywhere. Sakaane set the channel on standby and returned her attention to the view outside her ship. Her overview was clear; it would be some time before any Serpentis entered the area again.

The asteroids had turned out to be clustered together in a ragged spherical formation that didn’t look altogether natural. During the long approach, the light from within the cluster had grown more distinctive until she could discern the flickering shadows it cast on the surface of the slowly spinning rocks, although its source remained hidden. Wherever it came from was at the center of the group.

Finally, the Myrm had entered the field, its tall, slim hull slipping easily through the gaps between the asteroids. It was then she’d discovered the cause of the blip on her scanner and the source of the light.

The hull before her was burning, ravaged from nearly end to end with flames and the occasional brilliant white of an energy discharge. The ship was sleek like an arrow and had once been shades of gold, though now its finish was tarnished by black carbon scoring and hull breaches. Interior lights were out on all decks save a few where they flickered with less than half-hearted effort. The ship had listed to one side and continued to roll over while she watched.

Studying it while waiting for Devan and Eric, Sakaane decided the captain of the vessel must have originally hidden inside the cluster of asteroids, possibly hoping to go undetected while observing the Serpentis outpost she had just so eagerly destroyed. But the hiding place had become a trap: at some point prior to her arrival, the pirates had discovered the warship. Unable to quickly maneuver out of the asteroids, this ship had fallen victim to smaller, more agile craft and then been left to burn in its current state.

The ship’s pod bay was empty; the pilot had apparently abandoned it to make a run for his or her life.

“We’re in system,” came Devan’s voice. “Where are you?”

She linked the coordinates of the acceleration gate provided to her by the agent after the trio had ganged up. “About three hundred clicks from the warp-in point.”

“Roger. We’ll be there momentarily. All clear?”

“All clear.”

A short while later two purple signatures appeared on her overview: Devan in his capsule and Eric in a Drake. Together they aligned to her position; Devan’s pod zipped quickly ahead while Eric crawled slowly along behind. Not long after, the capsule entered the asteroid field.

“Won’t you join us, Eric?” Sakaane teased, watching his distant ship through a gap in the asteroids. It finally grew from a grey smudge to a slightly more distinguishable grey blob. After a moment’s pause she added, “I can hear you frowning.”

She heard a muttered reply that sounded like, “I can still shoot you from here.”

“All right,” Devan interjected. “What did you find?” His pod maneuvered easily between the asteroids. Then he saw it. “Oh! And it’s intact? Nice find!”

“Yes. Well, mostly. You can fly it though, yes?”

“Yes. It’s in pretty rough shape though. Suppose it blows up on the way with me in it?”

“I don’t think it will. Structural integrity is still about fifteen percent.” She heard Devan’s strangled sound of disapproval, and laughed lightly. “I’ve flown worse. The frigate I purchased years ago from that scrap yard in Agoze, the Griffin? I think it had only about half that.”

Eric was smug. “A testament to Caldari workmanship.”

Sakaane snorted. “I guess. It did spontaneously burst into flames while I was still flying it.”

Meanwhile, Devan had set his pod to rendezvous with the wrecked hull. Sakaane watched as the roll slowly ended and the ship eventually righted itself once Devan took control.

“Ugh. It’s a mess in here, Sak. Most of the systems are trashed. It’ll be slow going but I think there’s enough juice left to get to the local Federal Intel station.” He was silent for a long time. “The crew is dead. What the hell happened in here? They…don’t all look like they were killed as a result of the battle. Are you sure you want this ship? Wouldn’t you prefer a new one that isn’t soaked with blood on the inside?”

“Slaves, right?” Sakaane asked grimly. “Survivors probably executed to ensure no chance of freedom before the pilot abandoned ship. Sickening. But those poor people deserve better than to be entombed forever in the void.”

“All right. I think I can squeeze out through the gap ahead. I’ll need a good long run to get up to warp speed though.”

The Armageddon lurched forward, the engine stream from the back belching smoke and debris. Another energy discharge lit up the area so brightly it made Sakaane squint reflexively even though the camera drones fed the visual directly to her brain. These bursts of light radiated out and lit the surrounding space more brightly than Halle’s distant sun.

Mourning Star, she thought to herself as she watched the battleship limp along, and set her Myrmidon to follow behind.