He floated in the warm fluid of the pod with all the externals not working. Silent, dark, almost hoping someone would shoot and send him off to a clone somewhere. Time loses meaning without referents but he had his old mental exercises to fall back on. Capsuleer school covered the possibility of sensory loss and had trained its pilots to be able to handle it.
Training only covers so much.
Flashes of false light lit his vision and he kept imagining that he could hear distant battle though he knew this to be an impossibility. Silence and darkness, his mind unwilling to accept them added its own ‘extras’.
an hour? five minutes? a day?
Time, without referents, losing meaning.
Was that a click . . . a heavy pulse of a tractor beam? was he moving or was this another sensory deprivation artifact?
The pod cracked open with the familiar whoosh/gurgle and he spilled out onto the floor. “Bwa haaaa?” he asked, mouth feeling strangely numb from the time of isolation.
“Easy, sir. You’re fine.”
“ha wa ben gun?” Mike rubbed his jaw, frowned, absently taking a proffered towel and standing on shaking legs. One knee gave out suddenly and he fell back against the pod that listed to one side. It was not in the docking slot of a ship but on the shop floor of a loading bay.
“How long?” He tried to slowly enunciate the most important question.
“How should we know? We found your ship out there floating dead and brought you out of it and aboard. There was an incursion here a few weeks back but there is now way that you could have been out there that long, is there?”
“What do you mean, dead?” He worked his jaw back and forth and rubbed his scalp.
“No power in any of the main systems. Our guy couldn’t see anything wrong except it don’t work. Damnedest thing I ever did see.” The rescuer handed across some general use coveralls and watched as the podder dressed.
“Got a tractor on the ship?” Mike slowly zipped up and rolled his neck, trying to regain some flexibility.
“Not yet, since you was in it and still alive it ain’t salvage.” The man sighed. “Woulda been nice, mind you.”
“Tell you what. You tow the ship back to the station and I pay the salvage fee you would have gotten and then some. I NEED to know what the hells went wrong out there.” Mike looked off into the distance trying think of any reports he had heard of a ship losing all functions.
“You was one of the ones fighting the Sansha?”
“Fleet commander.” Mike replied absently. “But just a vanguard team, nothing big. But if this was the effect of a Sansha trick . . . no, others would have been reported missing.”
“People and ships go missing all the time. Maybe it has happened and everybody put it down to natural causes.” The man shrugged. “I’ll make up a towing contract.”
Mike nodded and reached back into his pod, almost falling in as his balance was still out. He pulled out a small case and rubbed it down before opening it up. “Can your comm tech clear me a channel? I think a few folks might be curious where I went.”
“This ain’t no Pod boat. You can patch on the common like the rest of us.” The man passed across a comm with a standard contract set on it.
Mike read it carefully, doubled checking zeros before thumbing acknowledgement. “Done.” He was shown to a small cramped room he could call his own while the salvager slowly set course for a its home system. He opened up a comm, trying to decide who to call first but in the end, a thoughtful look on his face, he closed the comm channel without making a single contact. He felt . . . naked in a ship that he did not have direct and instant control of.
The big old ship, name not even recognized by capsuleers lumbered across the space and brought the lost little pilot home.
I really think that the idea of Free to play Eve the Stan had is fantastic. I imagine the ships would be old artifacts of pervious eras or converted hulls from capsuleer discards
So much to talk about . . . upcoming. Crucible and Mikes return to space under his own terms