Reginald quietly sipped tea on the bridge of his new Armageddon-class battleship. It was his first battleship, and he was eager to use it. It was outfitted with a full rack of heavy neutralizer batteries, supported by electronic counter countermeasures and two heavy capacitor injectors. Although its compliment of drones resulted in lackluster damage output for a battleship, it boasted an impressive tank made up of dual 1600mm plates, triple battleship-class armor rigs, and a modern damage control module. Most of the crew required to pilot the thing were fresh out of academy, eager to make their fortune aboard a capsuleer battleship.
“My lord, preparations are complete,” a smartly-dressed lieutenant saluted.
Her name was–Reginald wracked his memory for the name of the officer standing in front of him. He was surprised he had already forgotten, despite handling her papers just hours before. Non-capsuleer crew tended to blur together like watercolors against thin paper. They were important as part of the whole, maintaining the shape and structure of the image, but as an individual, their contribution was as limited as a drop of azure in the depiction of the sky.
“Yes, quite, thank you lieutenant.” He nodded, “Commence undocking procedures. Once we’ve exited, please summon all senior officers to the briefing room.”
As the lieutenant saluted and started shouting orders to the pilots, communications officers, and other personnel on the battleship’s bridge, Reginald meandered through the trenches of control panels, seated officers, and personnel traveling between consoles. There was a rather large golden throne-like seat at the center of the bridge that he assumed was where the captain would traditionally sit, but it looked terribly gaudy and uncomfortable–more like a reminder of who owned the ship rather than who commanded it. All the same, the battleship was far more spacious than the majority of ships he owned, a quality that not even the TSS Discovery–his preferred vessel–came close to approaching. Each console came with a plate above it, inscribed with a line from Amarrian Scriptures. Finding an empty seat, he peered down at its accompanying axiom:
“To know the true path, but yet, to never follow it. That is possibly the gravest sin.” – The Scriptures, Book of Missions, 13:21
Reginald shot his head from side to side to see if anyone had been following him. If their eyes had wandered towards him during his casual inspection, they were very good at hiding it. Why this line?
“My lord?” The lieutenant broke into his thoughts.
Turning around sharply, he nearly spilled his cup of tea over her crisp uniform. Catching himself before then, he made a face, righted himself, then responded, “Yes, lieutenant?”
Unshaken, she continued, “The Emperor Family Academy Port Authority has cleared our request. At your word, my lord.”
“Very well.” Reginald nodded, “And the senior officers?”
The lieutenant nodded to one of the pilots on the bridge, who started mumbling a series of commands–disengaging such and such, releasing this, activating that. Returning to Reginald, “The summons have been distributed, my lord.”
“Excellent,” Reginald nodded as the personnel on the bridge, through their sorcery and coaxing, urged the behemoth to life. He motioned to the men and women engrossed in their consoles, “They’re capable, correct?”
“Good. Accompany me to the briefing, then. You there,” he pointed to one of the officers standing with his hands behind his back, “The bridge is yours, set destination to Sharhelund.”
Reginald almost immediately regretted the decision as the officer saluted, then started barking orders needlessly to the hapless crew. Shrugging and hoping that the ship wouldn’t collide into one of the gates along the way, he walked through the gold-plated doorways that led into the ship’s myriad corridors–more like caverns–and followed a series of the lieutenant’s directions to the briefing chambers.
Upon his arrival, the senior staff of the battleship rose from their seats around a large table that projected a map of the Domain region into a holograph. Giving his empty cup of tea to an orderly, he walked to his position at the center of the table. Perhaps to the lieutenant’s surprise, Reginald took a seat and looked at her as if he was waiting for something. The rest of the room soon turned their attention to her, leading to an awkward silence broken by a few wayward coughs.
Finally, offering her an olive branch, Reginald asked, “Were you able to review the materials that I had transmitted here from Saikamon?”
As if a switch had been flipped, the lieutenant cleared her throat, picked up one of the laser pointers on the table and impressively began the briefing.
“For the past several weeks, a Project DENT asset has been monitoring activity of industrial corporations in the system of Sharhelund. His exact location within a particular corporation remains,” She glanced towards Reginald, “Classified.”
“Regardless, we have received intelligence that a major industrial coalition has been formed. According to reports from the asset, it’s likely that part of this coalition’s output is falling into the hands of the Minmatar Republic. As the industrialists take no responsibility for their actions once their wares enter the open market, it is clear that they are aiding and abetting the rebellion,” She finished, looking towards Reginald for approval.
“Thank you, lieutenant,” Reginald smiled, picking up another laser pointer, “The situation demands a response. And our response will speak volumes to the industrialists and their kind.”
Reginald typed a code into a panel on the table, then accepted another cup of tea from an orderly. The hologram above the table morphed from a three-dimensional map of the Domain region to a series of microscoping effects, each one indicating a smaller geographical location. From the region with the system outlined, it became the system’s constellation, then the system itself revealing asteroid belts and other celestial bodies, and then finally a particular asteroid belt dotted with an Orca industrial capital ship, a smattering of Covetor and Hulk-class mining vessels, a Mobile Tractor Unit, and a Gnosis and Stratios flying in a haphazard combat air patrol formation.
“This,” Reginald indicated, “Is real-time footage of a mining operation being conducted by the industrial coalition in question. Our mission will be to engage their Mobile Tractor Unit to disrupt their operation. If they provoke us into combat, we shall not back down. Questions?”
From Engineering, “This ship, my lord, is not outfitted with a propulsion module. Is this a suicide mission?”
Reginald raised an eyebrow, “We should all be prepared to die for the cause, but no, I am not expecting to lose this ship. I have taken the necessary precautions. Should our armor be damaged past a certain threshold, we will deploy a Mobile Depot and outfit Warp Core Stabilizers to negate hostile warp disruption capabilities and extract.”
From Gunnery and Flight Deck, “Is there a primary target?”
Reginald looked thoughtful, then replied, “There were reports of a Hyperion Aliastra Edition so we should be prepared for a battleship escalation. However, we will make the Stratios the primary target should it engage us.”
From Communications, “Will we be in contact with the asset?”
Reginald shook his head, “No. We will not risk compromising the agent.”
With no further questions from the senior staff, Reginald brought the meeting to a close and called for action stations.
The Armageddon lumbered into Sharhelund without incident, the crew already on alert. Reginald had returned to a position on the bridge, unwilling to be associated with that ridiculous chair and instead stood closer to one of the cathedral-sized windows that offered a vantage of the space before him. He was confident. Very confident. Indeed, he was so confident in the information provided to him by the Project DENT operative that he was choosing to command the ship traditionally rather than through his capsule.
The Armageddon entered warp in the direction of the asteroid belt. There, just as the Project DENT agent had indicated, was the mining operation.
Reginald looked to the lieutenant, raised the cup of tea to his lips and whispered just barely enough for her to hear, “You have the bridge, lieutenant.”
She returned an expression of surprise, but straightened her jacket as well as her resolve, declaring from the command rail: “Target the Mobile Depot, deploy Hobgoblins, engage.”
The Mobile Depot came under attack, though its shield capacity was of such a massive quantity that it could take nearly half an hour for the light drones to punch through. But the coalition’s security forces were already responding. Almost instantaneously, the Stratios and Gnosis had counter-engaged the Armageddon, setting their own drones upon the battleship as a swarm of retribution.
“Damage minimal, lieutenant.”
“Excellent, all neutralizers on the Stratios, recall Hobgoblins, activate the Warp Disruptor, and deploy Sentry Drones.”
The orders may have needed to be repeated through a chain, rather than just being interfaced directly into the ship itself, but Reginald could only see a discernible lag of a few seconds before the orders were confirmed and carried out.
“The Stratios is turning away, lieutenant.”
“Alert engineering, overheating is authorized on the Warp Disruptor.” She responded impressively quickly.
“The Stratios is in structure. The Stratios is down!” One of the crewmembers from targeting exclaimed, resulting in a cheer throughout the bridge.
“Calm down!” The lieutenant commanded, reestablishing order, “Stick to your secondary, bring down that Gnosis!”
Unexpectedly, one of the mining barges, a Covetor, attempted to ram the Armageddon, sending its drones ahead. The damage was negligible, hardly scratching at the Armageddon’s energized, dual-plated exterior.
“A mining barge is engaging us. Lieutenant, orders?”
Reginald shot his eyes over to the lieutenant, who was visibly flustered. She was biting her lip almost to the point of drawing blood, her knuckles white as she gripped the railing. She was staring down, her face contorted with confusion and puzzlement.
“Why would they–?” She started, before being interrupted by a cry for orders.
“Ignore the Covetor,” she threw out an arm as a show of authority, “Focus on the Gnosis.”
Reginald took a sip of tea, “Belay that last,” he said quietly.
“My lord?” She turned to him, a lock of hair out of place across her forehead, “They’re civilians. Those drones are meant to protect against pirates!”
Ignoring her protests, Reginald ordered calmly but firmly, “Turn the Sentry Drones on the Covetor. If the miners want to play, let them taste imperial might.”
In only a few seconds, the Covetor was a blaze of wreckage. There was no cheer this time, only silence as the Sentry Drones reacquired the Gnosis. Despite a Falcon appearing at the belt and landing Electronic Countermeasures on the Armageddon, the Gnosis too, was ultimately destroyed.
Following the destruction of the Gnosis and securing the spoils of victory from the wreck of the Stratios, Reginald ordered the Armageddon to disengage. As the coalition’s battleships and logistics support appeared at the belt, the Armageddon disappeared into warp, ultimately docking at the Sharhelund Imperial Navy Assembly Plant station.
It was several hours later when Reginald heard a rapping on the door to his quarters.
“Enter,” he said as he reviewed the communication logs of the mining fleet provided by the Project DENT agent.
“My lord?” It was the lieutenant. Her uniform was immaculate, her hair likewise, but her expression was one of stoic apprehension.
“Ah, lieutenant.” Reginald smiled, “I thought that for your first time in a combat situation, your performance was exemp–.”
Reginald stopped mid-sentence. He noticed she was carrying a single sheet of paper with her. She held it with trepidation, rather than the professional deftness she had exhibited while handling sensitive materials prior.
“How can I help you?” Reginald asked, resetting the conversation.
She swallowed, “My resignation, sir.”
He looked at her sternly, then relented. Taking the sheet of paper with one hand, he unceremoniously scribbled his signature on the release form and handed it back to her. He said nothing as she left. All he could do was think.
“To know the true path, but yet, to never follow it. That is possibly the gravest sin.”