Even though I was in a hurry to get to Tasha I took a few minutes to enjoy the feel of my new clone. I stood in the shower soaking in the hot water trying to feel each drop as it slid down my body. I was lucky to have survived the rocket blast in the hanger. It had been a long time since I was hurt that bad. Normally I do my fighting in a pod and I’m dead before I even know I’m hurt. As the water pounded my back, a wave of anxiety washed over me as I thought about dying on that station and leaving Tasha to Geklov.
After I was finished showering I wanted nothing more than to run straight to the hanger, grab a fast warping ship, and take the quickest route to Aikantoh. But there were a couple of things I needed to do first. Geklov wasn’t going to smile and say, “Thanks for saving my ass. You and Tasha can leave now. Oh and here are a few million ISK to help Tasha get back on her feet .” I went to my room and grabbed a few things I might need later then went to my office.
My office was in the same general disarray as it was when I left. There weren't many of us left now days, but we had a saying, “Once a Hellcat, always a Hellcat”. I had what I called an open door policy. Anyone that ever held the title of Hellcat could come and go as needed. I was always willing to use what resources I had left when one of the girls was in need. The only thing that had changed in my office since I left was a note stuck to my communications monitor. Written was a barely legible note from Vicky explaining she had used my secure communications system, but not to worry because the deal was pretty legal.
Vicky was one of many who had come through the corporation only to move on to grander schemes. I really liked her, which was a rare thing anymore. She was a sharp pilot and always seemed to be at the right place at the right time. That of course had nothing to do with skill. She was the luckiest person I ever met.
Some of my instructors in pilot training use to say it is always better to be lucky than good. I wasn't so sure about that. I figured my luck would run out right when I needed it the most, but I worry like that. Vicky was a more relaxed easy going person. Me, I work hard at what I do and Vicky makes a career of pushing her luck and winning every time.
The first order of business was to get some money together. I was a little low on cash as I invested most of my ISK in the alliance. What was left was invested in a little cooperation located in high security space. High Security space or High Sec is where a lot of large scale alliances make the lion’s share of their money. It’s safer there because it’s where the “universal police” known as CONCORD provide the most protection.
Each of the four races went together and created the CONCORD organization. It is surprising they cooperated on the massive scale required to establish such an extensive police organization, since they hate each other so much. In the interest in making money, and let’s face it all scum bag politicians want to make money, they agreed on a multiracial organization to police the large expanses of High Sec.
If you take the time to get to know the right people, such as those who are greedy and a little looser in their moral foundation then there is the potential to make a lot of money in High Sec. Usually that included screwing over any number of corporations in any number of ways. Unfortunately for Tasha, a good chunk of my money was tied up in one of these little black operations.
I needed leverage with Geklov. Like most shit bag business men, that leverage would probably come down to money. I didn't have time to call in my resources that were invested in High Sec, so I started calling everyone I knew that could potentially loan me some ISK.
I’m sure you’re thinking it's unlikely that a pirate would trust another pirate with their money. You would be wrong. In general we are lying, cheating, killing, bastards. But we do form pretty close relationships under the right circumstances. There are several of my pirate friends that I would be more than willing to lose a ship for, and even a couple I would die for.
Most of my contacts are not that close, but we all like to make money. If there is a chance for profit there are plenty of people that will loan you the ISK. I didn't have a good way to sell the idea that there was profit to be made by helping Tasha, but I could offer the money back with interest. For my closer associates that would be enough.
I contacted my closest friends first. Of the ones I could get a hold of, I managed to accumulate about five hundred million ISK. That with my own recourse left me slightly over one billion. After my previous meeting with Geklov I doubted it would be enough. I knew he was going to make this hurt no matter what I showed up with, but it would be enough to start. If needed, I can be pretty pushy when it comes to negotiations. By pushy I mean scary. All I had to do was make a deal to get Tasha free and I could make him suffer later.
The next problem I needed to deal with was figuring out how Omir managed to get two Titans on the field. Okay, I didn't need to deal with that problem, but it was driving me crazy. There was no way a Blood Raider, even one as famous as Omir could get his hands on a Titan. It’s not only a matter of the billions upon billions of ISK needed to build one, but also the facilities and resources that are needed to produce a super capital ship.
During the fight I managed to get a good scan of the two Titans transponder readings. Each ship has a unique code that identifies the owner and ship type. It’s continually broadcast throughout the system you are in, and picked up by receivers on the warp gates. It’s a way for CONCORD to keep an eye on all of the pilots out there. They collect the data for various reasons including commerce, statistics, and to be a general pain in the ass. The two massive ships transponder readings had been scrambled, of course.
Scrambling a transponder code is not as easy as you think. Sure you can do it, but it’s a waste of money to pay a hacker to hide your transponder readings. Even pirates don't really do it much. The data that CONCORD gets is usually delayed by hours. Also, CONCORD doesn't give a shit about what we are doing anyway. They long since quit caring about law enforcement preferring to concentrate on their goal of becoming the wealthiest and most powerful organization in the universe. They probably already are.
It was likely that whoever paid to have those transponders scrambled was pretty important somewhere. It was probably someone who did not want anyone making the connection between them and the Blood Raiders. Maybe someone who was in the middle of some great political or corporate takeover plan and wasn’t ready to show their hand.
The more important question is why do I care? I guess there is something about a fleet of people trying to kill me and my friends that pisses me off. You could say that I am a bit vindictive. Whatever the reason, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. So I punched one last number into the communication system and waited for a response.
After about five minutes Karver's fat face appeared on the video screen. He looked more pissed than the last time I talked to him. The last time was after one of my corp mates had blown up his very expensive hauling ship. Then for fun, she popped his pod too without giving him a chance to pay a ransom. The clone she killed had several billion ISK worth of implants in its fat little skull.
At the time Karver was under the impression that he was safe in our system. He had paid us for protection in the areas under our control. He should’ve kept track of the agreement better because his protection ran out two days prior. As soon as his pass expired I changed his status back to neutral making him fair game for anyone in the alliance. It’s not my fault that he doesn't keep track of his books as well as I keep track of mine. I mean, piracy is a business just like any other.
He stared at me and I stared back. Sweat poured down his face but I doubted it was an indication of any emotional response. Fat just likes to sweat, and he was huge. I’m positive someone had to stuff him into his pod and ram the canopy down around his flabby ass.
His size really wasn't much of an issue though. Karver rarely left his pod. He spent most of his time in space, as he suffered from a phobia that revolved around the fear of being killed. Pod pilots have clones that are waiting for them on stations when their pods get destroyed. Quite a few scientists have worked on ways to make clones viable outside of a pod, but so far none have been successful. The need for an immediate brain scan at the exact time of death makes it an almost impossible dream. It’s easy to do with a pod because all of the equipment is right next to your skull and the computers know the instant the hull is breached to start the scan.
Since I was the one needing a favor I put on my biggest smile and started the conversation.
“Hey Karver, how are things?”
“I thought I told you to fuck off,” his pleased smile made me want to go find him and give him another loss. I could take care of that later though and it wouldn’t hurt me to be nice for now.
“Well, that is one of the things you told me.” I kept smiling and waited for him to calm down. I guess some people don't forget a fifteen billion ISK loss.
“I need a favor and you are one of the few people I know that might have the contacts that can help.” I threw it out there to see if he would take the bait.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Why would I do shit for you?”
“I have two transponder signals that I need unscrambled. I want to know who the ships really belong to.”
He pursed his lips as he thought about it for a second.
“What kind of ships?”
He started laughing and it was the highest pitched girly laugh I have ever heard come out of a man. I jumped a little in surprise, but he didn't notice.
“Oh my God, that is funny. Tell you what, just because I am pretty sure that anyone who would feel the need to scramble the transponder signal on two leviathans will find you and cut your head off I will do it for free.”
He leaned back and grinned ear to ear. I knew he was right. Anyone who had the resources to field two titans and went to the trouble to hide who they were was not going to be happy that I knew. But there was a part of me that needed to know. There was a chance that knowledge like that could come in handy. Of course, that was assuming that Karver didn't stab me in the back. Yeah, right.
Karver assured me he would let me know as soon as he figured out who the owner of the ships was. I ended the convo and grabbed a few data drives with documentation of my current available assets. I also threw a couple of extra knives in my flight suit and two extra blaster charges for my gun. I wanted to be ready because there was a good chance I would end up fighting my way out of the Biohazard Containment Facility in Aikantoh.