The cab Rita rode in was a rusted brown skidding tube that belonged to the Interbus authority of a Brutor Tribe Bureau above Frarn VI. There was an overhaul completed in YC113 that resulted in the 20 million ISK upgrade that mopped up all the piss, replaced all the torn cushions, and repaired all the malfunctioning holoprojectors, but somehow Rita was trapped in this shitstain zipping 100 m/h in a firefight for her life.
A ragged strike force of mercenaries was giving her the rundown on what it meant to face the fury of Petok Salvadoré. He was a tall glass of water with a sparkling personality to match. His lackeys had been hounding her residential block to pay him weekly protection fees. It was the type of extortion racket that after a month would go under, accompanied by the death of the illustrious heads of criminal activity. For Rita though, Petok had kept up with his terrorizing for an uninterrupted three months. This was because, of no disappointment to Petok, Rita’s eldest brother, Armand, died in a botched assassination attempt upon the crimelord Salvadoré. It was people like Armand that warded off the greedy bastards, and with him having struck out, Rita needed to step up. She did so not out of a vengeful spirit, but the realization that her residential block was no damned Gullinbursti monotreme, and stole back the wealth.
The firefight was in full swing, and Rita suspected the security dispatch would just then be receiving word of the commotion taking place aboard the cab flying through the RedLine. They were tracing the cab en route to an automatic stop between Surrey’s Oddities an Fulrahm’s Frozen Catch—a piss-poor fish market Rita used to frequent with Armand before he died. It was to be her safe haven, where she would hide an invaluable holopad that she took from one of Petok’s warehouses, however a bit of overzealous expenditure from her rifle risked a clean getaway, placing her into her daring scuffle.
One civilian with a history of aggravated shouting matches raised his head to let the mercenaries have a piece of his mind, and he lost it when it sprayed 4 meters behind him. The militant clown that shot him, with vibrant colors of red and yellow painted patches on his body armor, shot eight more times, punching a wide hole clear through two rows of seats.
Rita needed to think fast. She suspected that at arriving at her stop, the cab would be recklessly destroyed when the posturing of an ornery stand-off between the security force and the mercenaries would reach its peak. Rita had good sense for the incompetence that defended the station and the ruthlessness of the men who ruled it. Her trigger finger urged for a fair fight, and shot a hole through the roof of the vehicle. Another shot split the track which the cab had hung to, as the lot of them came around a corner.
Deceleration was rapid with transport screaming to a crash.
It was the briefest however longest moment of Rita’s life. She had secured herself in traditional Minmatar fashion by ingeniously hooking the back of her bodyplate to an exposed metal rod of the lavatory module, spilling at the head of the transport. Immediately as the magnetic bond at the rear was lost, the craft slammed into the side of the small shaft they traveled, peeling its structure away in great chunks. The cabin walls gone, there was not time at all before half the mercenaries and a pair of passengers were launched through the hole. Shots from Rita’s rifle blasted at another mercenary, and the remaining three hung tightly to the torn cushioned seats. Their red and yellow leader reached into a hole in the fabric, and his grip served best at splitting the seam,where the mesh interior tore freely, and the man himself was freed from chasing Rita. Her gross negligence of safety left the cab coasting to a tolerable drift in the tunnel. She shot the remaining two armed mercenaries and unhooked herself to slide, where she fell roughly out the hanging coffin and onto the tunnel floor.
A day, or so it felt, passed and Rita was in mauled condition, though resolved as ever to cripple Petok Salvadoré, unknowing of how to end his influence by simply killing him. She had arranged contact with a visiting agent to the station, one who Armand used to negotiate with for firearms during his vigilante life.
“You’re kidding me.” She growled. “After all I went through, you’re going to tell me this item is too hot?”
“Damn it Rita, it’s not me, it’s not!” he squealed. “You’ve madly orchestrated an hour long detour for anyone who used to use the RedLine, for God’s sake.” He did not have a hint of Amarr orthodoxy in his past—he just enjoyed the expression, and like most Gallente, borrowed at will from a thousand cultures.
“I did the station a favor, Hugh.”
“There were eleven fatalities Rita!” He yelled in a whisper. “I’m telling you, it’s too hot, I’m not going to take the holopad, I'm not!”
Fierce tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. “You don’t understand how bad we have it here, you can’t even begin to fathom.” She choked. “You can’t.”
Hugh tried to empathize and searched within himself for a memory of being at the bottom. He thought of the capsuleers whom he often hired out to serve his employers. He pictured himself as being smashed between two great thumbs, though became forced above both, standing with a boot on each of them. “Why don’t you just leave?” He pushed. “Leave the station. You don’t have to be here, Rita. I mean there are a million stations to choose from. Why this one?” He continued to plead. “You’re only going to find trouble if you stay. Don’t dig a deeper grave.”
The statement resonated with Rita as she looked out Hugh’s apartment window. Armand had died two months ago, and was ejected off of a Pyre Fleet Services shuttle, into the deepness of space, where when she looked, it became a gash that left a sore spot on her heart.
“I can’t just leave, Hugh. None of us can just leave. Getting a buyer for this holopad is the only way we can have a life here, or anywhere!” An impassioned stream swept over her face and she covered it thinking how stupid she must look.
Hugh imagined one of the thumbs toppling over, and that he lost his balance. “Look, maybe,” he worked to part the young warrior’s arms, and to her, surrendered, “I might be able to work something out. But don’t hold me to it.” He reached into his vest, then passed her a thin plastic slip that had a thick card at the end, which Rita construed to be the base of the object. “If I find someone, I’ll send you the info on how to find them, on that.” He gestured to the object, “Just stay safe.”
Several hours passed and Rita sat curled and hunched over the holopad and the agent’s contact device. She tapped the hard end against the deadly spoils of her firefight, and imagined what information could be in her hands. She saw the ghost of her brother fall back, dead as a stiff plank. From the death, two identical images of Armand rose, and the copies fell back, and from them, more stood to fall again. Rita became enraged with what she saw, dropping the items. She labored to mask her eyes, though madly shivered to witness the thousand somber faces of Armand, lean into a pile of bodies that revived from a hateful cycle.
The card beeped sharply, alerting Rita to hold it up. The thin plastic gave information, in black bold letters that would guide her to a hangar, somewhere she was familiar. “I DID MY BEST” was signed at the bottom of the slip. Squeezing the holopad, she made her way, out of a tucked back service room, to the rendezvous.
The hangar ahead was filled with a low resurging hum that came from a docked Wreathe, and flanking were a pair of armed men with their weapons holstered. She approached them tentatively with her delivery in a belt container. She had nerves, though mustered the courage to tell them, she was there to make the trade. One guard had called to see the holopad and Rita showed it. A shot was fired from the dark of the Wreathe’s loading bay, and Rita was grounded from the wound. The pair of men moved to restrain her, but the two were killed by the warrior’s swift retaliation. She cursed Hugh in her pitched roll to cover that brought her behind a squat stack of storage containers, and she readied her handgun at the ship’s exit. From the hole, a flurry of shots rang out and toppled the stack of containers atop her, and Rita worried and struggled to free herself, at the steps that she heard follow.
She squirmed and wriggled—she panicked at the steady reverberating approach of steps that grew loudest between the surges of the ship’s humming. Rita flopped, stopped, and then readied her handgun that began to trace the invisible movement. Her face was contorted into a grieved snarl, and she shot the walking figure as soon as it rounded into sight. She resumed to freeing herself, and she felt a new and warm pool of blood soak into her clothing.
She came to a hunched stand and moved to where she could see whom she shot, and Rita cursed Hugh once more.
Sprawled, Petok Salvadoré laid as a burgeoning reservoir of blood, ever broadening. The spreading red washed over Rita in a dizzying wave of relief, and the ghosts of Armand piled in her head. A shot rang out from the black of the Wreathe interior that cleaved Rita to the ground. A second shot fired, and the warrior was disarmed of any hope to retaliate.
Flayed on the hangar floor, all was silent for her, and dimming eyes wandered the expanse of the space above. She imagined ahead her was the firmament filled with the twinkling bodies of heroes. The distant and busy lights made the constellations, Derelik and Devoid, as she could faintly remember viewing them—during a time when she looked out windows with Armand. Malignant echoes batted about her head, and sure enough, as he was living, the pristine and unclothed body of Petok Salvadoré came above her.
There was ripping silence and Petok left from the scene, a pair of corpses.
There was ripping silence and Petok left from the scene, a pair of corpses.