“I still don’t get it.” His words echoed into the metal crevasse which normally hosted one of the seven turret hardpoints. “It just seems like a bunch of asshole shit to me. No offence.”
“None taken, but you’re only partially right, Nef.” Her response was casual, but it was nothing new. Most who lived as immortals among men maintained a constant air of disinterest. Ary had been on the cusp of such a mentality since she became a capsuleer, but it seemed her time in The Swarm exacerbated that particular personality trait.
Nef was Ary’s nephew and gunnery man. He also boasted the honor of being the only person Ary trusted with her ships and equipment. The moniker was not his birth name, but a familial nickname she gave him when they were children. She was the only one who ever called him Nef. If anyone else did, usually found themselves on the receiving end of a black eye.
“They cried for blood. We are simply answering the call.” The indifference in her tone bothered him slightly, but she didn’t seem to care. “It’s a basic tenant of survival if you think about it. I’ll give you an example. You find yourself in a thick jungle, unfamiliar territory. You see one of the people in your travel party go down. Is screaming out into the darkness, into the dense thick unknown for help, your best option for survival?”
He knew instantly it was a metaphor for what transpired a month ago. The Chairman, leader of The Swarm, has been sentenced to a Concord sanctioned cloning freeze. During a public festival; the leader of the large alliance and (at the time) Council of Stellar Management went into a crass tirade singling out a specific pilot and encouraging some pretty heinous behavior in a rather grotesque display. The alcohol fueled display was disgusting, but most didn’t bat an eye... until the result of this year’s polls came in.
The announcement of his re-appointment caused backlash almost as volatile as The Jita Riots. Pilots from all regions were howling for blood. Some simply wanted The Chairman removed from office and others screamed for his final death. The pressure for Concord sanctioned action was so strong they had no choice but to give in. The Chairman was given a 30 day freeze and through a technicality he was removed from office. The sentence was taken with grace, but the ordeal roused new bloodlust throughout the coalition. To mark his release The Swarm and their allies intended to celebrate the best way they knew how; utter destruction and annihilation.
Nef watched Ary as he considered her question, but she didn’t seem to notice. The majority of her focus was trained on the holo-tablet in her hands. Even though she seemed distracted, he knew she was studying and testing him. What did she want him to see? Nef sat up from his reclined position, his large form slightly hunched. Full lips pursed as his mind milled over her question. Dirty, grease stained fingernails scratched at the scruff of his beard. Then, suddenly, it struck him.
“No. That’s the worst thing you could do.” Nef startled himself as the words left from his mouth.
“Why?” The answer from him in low, cool tone.
“Because when you scream out anyone can hear you. Friend or foe.”
“And we have heard them.” He watched as a dark smile curled at the edges of her mouth. He watched her approach him with the same grace a dangerous animal uses to stalk their prey. Her fingers danced deftly over the holo-tablet in her hand. The image projected changed from a Thrasher to a Hulk. “However, it goes deeper. What do you see?”
“A Hulk.” Nef responded numbly.
“And now?” Her fingers swiped over the screen and the image flickered shifting into a jump freighter.”
“An Anshar.” Nef’s response came a little slowly this time, but it wasn’t due to lack of ship knowledge. She knew he studied at Pator Tech School, so what was she trying to prove?
“And now?” The holo-image flicked a final time.
“Now, why would it benefit The Swarm to destroy these ships?” She gently laid the tablet down on the large fitting console positioned near the edge of the ship hanger. “What little side project would...”
“OTEC.” He was breathless as the word left his lips. Nef was so wrapped up in his own thoughts he didn’t realize her cut off nor did he realize he was holding his breath. His response did seem to please her.
“And what better way to show them the error of their ways then to have them pay us to destroy them.” The sweetness of her voice frightened him more than the darkness that laced her tone, but her smile. Her smile terrified him. “Like I said, you were partially right. It’s part business and part... re-education. Being an asshole is simply a perk.”