Duripant VII – Moon 6 – Federal Navy Academy School

Sakaane sat on her favorite barstool in Deck 17 and scrolled through the Scope newsfeed in her datapad. A story caught her eye:

Recovering from the shock of defeat in Luminaire, sizeable sections of the Gallente populace have begun to call for integrity and accountability amongst Federation Navy leadership, a group they hold chiefly responsible for the disastrous military blunders of June 10.

Just one of many recent events representing a growing crisis of faith in their own security forces, yesterday’s “Citizen’s Emergency Summit” held in Villore saw more than a hundred prominent Federation luminaries unite in agreement about who was to be held ultimately accountable. Jointly hosted by some of the larger subsidiaries to the major Gallente corporations, the Summit was attended by various political officials, lobbyists and even cultural icons.

She chewed her dinner slowly and kept reading. A quote stood out:

“…We are undoubtedly dealing with entrenched, institutional corruption and incompetence, all of which has occurred under his watch. Our military leaders and their Chief of Command have failed us. We need to be sure now more than ever that this cannot happen again.”

“Entrenched, institutional corruption and incompetence,” Sakaane muttered, reading the article over again. “Sounds about right to me.”

Njal emerged from the kitchen. “Not hungry tonight?”

“Hmm? Oh.” She looked down at her barely-touched meal. “It isn’t that. Just…distracted.”

He gazed intently at her, nodding. “You have been quiet your last few visits. May I ask…?”

She turned the datapad to him. “This, to start with. There have been other things. I can’t talk about most of it.”

Njal glanced at the article. “I read this earlier. What are your thoughts, then?”

She picked up a fork and stabbed halfheartedly at her food. “I may have made a mistake signing up with the navy. Everything just seems a mess, and nothing is working out quite the way I’d planned.”

“Oh? And what does your young man think?”

Sakaane smirked and stabbed her food again. “He’s no fan of the navy.”

Njal leaned on the bar and gently tugged her plate away. “Let me warm this up.”

“Thanks.”

The datapad’s display glowed faintly in the bar’s subdued lighting. She stared at it, turning things over in her mind, until Njal returned with her meal.

“If you aren’t happy, kainta, choose another path. Don’t let it choose you.”

She smiled a bit. “You remind me of my father.”

“I’m sure he would have wanted you to pursue whatever it is that fulfills you.” Njal’s brow furrowed slightly. “I remember why you became a capsuleer. You had a specific goal in mind back then. How much closer are you now to achieving it?”

Sakaane dropped her gaze. “Not very. You never approved of the reason I chose this.”

“That’s true. But I understood it, and in any case it isn’t for me to approve or disapprove.” He wiped the bar. “Besides, if you hadn’t made that choice then we wouldn’t have had so many wonderful dinners together.”

She grinned and held her glass up to him. “I wouldn’t trade those for anything. You’ve been a great friend to me, Njal.”

He reached across the bar and cupped her cheek in his weathered palm. “And you. You remind me of home, way out here in the dark.” He patted her cheek gently before withdrawing his hand. “Don’t be afraid of change. If your heart wants it, take a turn onto a new path, and pursue your goals.” He glanced to the door of Deck 17 where a group of pilots had just entered. “You’ll have to excuse me now though. Duty calls. Eat your supper.”

Later, after hours of tossing restlessly in her bunk, Sakaane shoved the blankets aside and got up, fumbling in the dark for her pod suit.

“Whrr ya goin?” someone mumbled. “Serg’ll…mad…”

“Sshh,” Sakaane soothed, turning to rest a gentle hand on her squadmate’s shoulder. “Go back to sleep.”

The deck was cold on her bare feet. She carefully made her way out of the dark room to the dimly-lit catwalk leading to the hangar where her capsule was berthed. A moment later she’d undocked, set her course, and initiated warp.

Essence Region – Crux Constellation – Luminaire System

The seventh planet, Caldari Prime, grew from a small blue-grey marble to a vast curving horizon. Sakaane panned her camera drones around, taking her time. The planet appeared quiet and peaceful but she shivered, causing her capsule to shimmy in place. Ages ago, Luminaire VII had not been properly terraformed: it remained a frigid, inhospitable place with fragile ecosystems and little natural beauty, nothing at all like her home of Intaki Prime. How many of her people were trapped on the surface below? Rumors said conditions down there were poor: martial law, infrastructure ruined, hostilities running rampant.

This is where the war started. The Caldari were forced to leave their homeworld behind. But that was a long time ago.

In the distance she could just make out the dark smudge that was the Leviathan-class titan parked near the new Caldari outpost. How is this any different? she wondered. War again. Tibus Heth, now the ultimate symbol of Caldari patriotism, invaded Federation space to reclaim this rock for his people. How many on both sides died this time? All of Luminaire has been a battlefield; ship graveyards abound…

She considered. Maybe turnabout was fair play. After all, the Federation Navy had bombed Caldari Prime from orbit after the Templis Dragonaurs destroyed Nouvelle Rouvenor in the first Gallente-Caldari war. Even though Admiral Tovil-Toba’s Kairiola had inflicted severe damage when it slammed into the surface of Gallente Prime back then, the Caldari obviously felt they hadn’t had their due. The titan now in orbit had standing orders to bombard the segregated Gallente districts on Caldari Prime, as well as all of Gallente Prime itself, if the Gallente tried to retaliate.

Gallente Prime is their cultural capital, their most revered planet. The Gallente are faced with the possibility of losing their world. Do they feel now how the Caldari felt then?

The Caldari would surely say there were too many troublemakers on Caldari Prime right now and would make the troublemakers disappear. Abductions, torture, death in the streets late at night, while she imagined children’s innocent eyes looking on.

Disastrous military blunders. Entrenched, institutional corruption and incompetence. And all the while, this goes on.

I am not Gallente. I am Intaki. I didn’t choose this path to win this fight for them. It is theirs to resolve, if ever they can.

A comm channel opened at her will. A moment later she heard a warm voice in her head.

“Hey, Sak. You’re up late.”

“Devan…”

“What’s up?”

“I’m in Luminaire, in orbit of Caldari Prime in my capsule.”

“In your pod? Isn’t that a bit… Wait, why are you there?”

She was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “You told me you left the navy. You didn’t desert, did you. They just…let you leave?”

“Yeah. Some CONCORD thing that allows capsuleers to resign without penalty.” When the silence stretched again, he prompted, “Hon? Why do you ask?”

She sighed, as much as she was able to from inside the pod. “I can’t do this anymore. This path isn’t right for me.”

His tone was quiet. “I spoke to Nailo a long time ago. There’s a place for you here, if you want it.”