Kihtaled 0.9 < Nohshayess < Khanid
Kihtaled VIII - Royal Khanid Navy Assembly Plant
"Ever been off-station, kid?"
"Yes sir. When I was--" Ariun began, nervously.
"Did you warp?" The speaker said, his disdain evident despite the distorted link.
"Have you been through a warp jump?"
"Eh, you'll acclimate before you get to Kuomi. Have you prepared a will?"
"See you aboard the Kaiju, kid." The encrypted holofeed cut out before Ariun could reply, leaving his bare quarters darkened and silent but for the ever-present hum of the station.
He sat at his desk for a moment, quietly wrapping his mind around it, letting it really sink in. Three days ago, he had graduated from the Royal Naval Academy's Cryptography & Electronic Warfare Program, and now he was the Comms officer onboard a capsuleer-piloted Strategic Cruiser. He had already done some research before applying; Pyre Falcon Defense and Security had recently expanded its operations into the Bleak Lands in coordination with the Amarrian militias, having absorbed a portion of the abandoned Imperial Outlaws alliance, becoming one of the more ISK-efficient and notorious militias in the war. There was little info available on the capsuleer, Akai Kvaesir, and what he could find was so heavily redacted he couldn't discern more than that the pilot was Khanid, and had about a dozen kills to his name.
It didn't matter, this was his first posting, and would be his first real experience on a ship bigger than a shuttle. So Ariun decided to do what every other newly commissioned officer did; he would get exceedingly drunk and have the time of his life. Spooks like him didn't have friends as a professional requirement; he'd just spent the better part of a decade learning the finer points of crypto and hacking, which hadn't left much room for relationships in any case. Opening up the desk's lone drawer, he pulled out a bottle of kvash an Uncle of his had given him years ago, popped off the waxed cork, and took a long draught as he hacked into the Academy's database.
Pyre wasn't his first choice, but the private militia offered him twice the pay that the Navy had offered, plus hazard compensation; it was too much to turn down, even if it meant flying combat patrols against the immortal, sometimes immoral and usually psychopathic Empyreans in losec. As the cost-benefit analysis Empyreans use to determine the outcomes of their battles never factors in the literally uncounted lives lost, casualty lists aren't even included in CONCORD's own kill-mails. Really, the only way to tell a band of psychotic immortals apart from a disciplined and professional militia was to dig into those kill-mails, to watch grainy security feeds of capsuleers fighting as thousands died at their whim, or error. In a way, it was comforting to see these gods among men err and falter, even if the fires of their failure claimed hundreds or thousands of lives; it was too easy to see Empyreans as infallible, to see them as true gods of war, and ignore the humanity they ascended from. Ariun, however, still wasn't sure how he felt about capsuleers, yet here he was about to start a three year commission for one.
Before he knew it, the bottle was empty, his body felt warm, and he had enough energy to run a lap across the station. Ariun sat there, torn between his drunken urge to socialize and his reclusive introverted nature. His body decided for him, lunging itself up from his spartan bed and pointing itself towards the door, as the room spun about him. Cold blue lights and gunmetal steel, all hard edges and sharp angles, awaited him outside in the wide, empty hallway. This deep within the station, there was little traffic even when classes were in session; tonight, not a soul could be seen or heard. He preferred it that way, and had always envied the silence of monasticism, but the stars called to him in a voice more poignant than God's own Word. As he walked down the silent halls, Ariun tried to imagine his future amongst the cosmos; but try as he might, the pathways of his fate always seemed to lead down into darkness. Voices drew him out of his grim ruminations and down toward the docks, voices and the hypnotic rhythms of a Khanid throatsong resonating across the barren passageway.