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Fiction: 2013 Pod and Planet Entry - Blood Money

Written for the YC115 Pod and Planet Fiction Contest
Category: Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden
Blood Money

It was dusty. Cadwin coughed as the door slid open and a swirl of dust washed out of the room. He sneezed and blinked through the dust cloud. The hallway vents activated with a grinding wheeze. Lights activated inside of the room and washed over an empty lobby. A dust shadowed glass wall might be an office. His office.

Cadwin craned his neck to look at the sign above the door. Freshly installed it still said, “Security Office,” in neat, regimented block letters. It was not what he had expected to find. However, he was not in the heart of empire anymore. Cardwin brushed the dust from his cuff and stepped into the room. His step wafted dust from the dark, gray floor.

The former occupants of the office had left it clean. Situated directly off of the main docking port, all traffic that came into the station would funnel past the door. The lights struggled to full intensity and he could see the room behind the glass wall was indeed an office. The other two rooms proved to be a storage closet and a fresher unit. Cadwin spun around his small domain and smiled. Dust was nothing. This was all his.

He was now a security officer.

The newest division of CONCORD was a joint venture of both the DED and the Joint Commerce Commission. It left Cadwin with two immediate supervisors and four times the paperwork. Yet, as he looked around the office it was all worth it. Leaving the tightly patrolled spaces of high security empire for the seediness of low sec had seemed insane. Even as he wrote his memo of intent to apply for one of the thirty-five positions for Security Officer he had wondered about his choice. It went against everything he had been trained for, didn’t it?

The head office did not think so. They wanted to address their capsuleer pirate problem in a new light. The decision had been made that redemption's price was too high. While the Amarr delegate had argued that the price of redemption was too low for the beasts that preyed upon the innocent. Cadwin was neutral. He was Caldari and a businessman down to his genetic code and understood that loyalty, as with anything, had a cost.

“If we make the path of redemption too steep those that seek it will only slide back into the merciless pit,” had been the words printed at the end of his assignment. Monetary redemption was as strong as metaphysical. If low security space was to be used productively and not the intrepid warzone that it currently was, a new approach would have to be made.

This station was a prime assignment. There was solid traffic due to distribution goals fronted by CONCORD. The medical facilities were top notch. Cadwin was taking over the old, no longer used Bounty Office and turning it into one of the new Security Offices as part of CONCORDs newest initiative.

Covered in dust the office may be, but it was a start.

***

Personal Log: Security Officer Cadwin, Emaratie La’roqual
Location: Istodard IX - Moon 5 - CONCORD bureau
Assignment: Security Officer

The proliferation of pirate aligned, clone mercenaries is greater than expected. The capsuleers clear the belts daily, hunting down meetups and raiding spaceships. Still, it is as if there is no dent to this endless wave. Some days are quiet but others bring piles of dog tags to my desk, some still drenched in blood.

I have had to institute protocols. No tag may still have biological material on it when it arrives. That has decreased the office’s overall biochemical cleaning bill. Also, only certain dog tags will be accepted before others. This keeps them out looking instead of casually coming in.

I am surprised by the enthusiasm. I expected hostility towards a lawful presence in this sector.  Instead, I can only say that the locals have all been polite and courteous. They call me by my title and wait patiently in line. I do find that I am seeing the same faces over and over again. The security statuses appear to be updating properly when they leave. All shipments of dog tags and the ISK transactions are documented. They appear time and time again with their security status at the same place and a new pile of dog tags and ISK. Yet, they never complain. 

***

“Pilot Johabs. This is the third time I have seen you in my office this week.” Cadwin let the hard edge of his irritation come through.

“Seems to be.” Johabs dropped a handful of dog tags onto the table. “That should do it.”

Cadwin eyed the mixed pile. It was the correct amount of pirate clone soldier dog tags. That was not why he was irritated. He had not thought that Johabs would try to short him on the tags. He was irritated for an entirely different, but related, reason. “This is the third time you have been in my office this week.”

“Yessir.”

“With dog tags.”

“I need them to redeem my security status.”

“I know that.”

“I checked the rules. The numbers haven’t changed.”

“I am aware of this as well. Pilot Johabs, this is the third time this week you have needed your security status cleansed and the record expunged by this office.”

“I can do it another way?”

“No!”

“Okay. So we’re good?”

No. He wanted to say no. “Yes.” He lifted the handful of tags and dropped them into the bucket behind his desk. They were symbolic. One last step to dragging the pilot into the station for the standings reset. Johabs watched as Cadwin entered the clearance codes. “Done.”

“Thanks.” He was on his feet and out of the door before Cadwin could say, “You’re welcome.”

***

Personal Log: Security Officer Cadwin, Emaratie La’roqual
Location: Istodard IX - Moon 5 - CONCORD bureau
Assignment: Security Officer

I sent a formal report to headquarters about my suspicions. They sent me a full team to assist with the collection of dog tags. I also received a letter of notice from the Secure Commerce Commission reference my excellent, loyal work in this position.

I contacted some of the surrounding offices. They all face the same situation. Capsuleers appear time and time again in various offices. I can name the few I have only seen once. It should not be astonishing to only see a person one time but it is so rare that I cannot help but notice it. I created a list and I am sad to say that it is outpaced, daily, by the people I see over and over again.

I’ve even gone to dinner with a few. I know that I should not associate with them but I felt that I needed to get to know these capsuleers better. They have always been friendly and polite. I’ve even gone out to the belts to see the infestation of mercenary pirate ships. 

Recently, I began to read the planetary conquest reports. The fighting appears to be intense on the planets. The capsuleers are keeping the pirate factions from joining in through their efforts. We have effectively hired a police force of criminals. I don’t think it is a bad thing. They are reasonable people and appear to love the space that they live in.

But their crimes. They are endless.

***

“How do you handle it, Dov?” Cadwin swirled his cream water around.  The thick, grey liquired looked like slime in the transparent green glass it had arrived in. Cadwin could feel the rythmic thump of the music against his fingertips through the glass. The sound dampeners allowed for conversation but they were low grade and created an incomplete sphere of soundshield.

“Handle what?” Dov was leaned back against the bar eyeing a dark eyed woman with skin the color of hot chocolate. “I’d handle her just fine I think. Pure Matar that one. Look at those hips.”

“The pirates, Dov.”

“Oh.” Dov’s gaze did not deviate from the woman who had returned his smile with a velvety one of her own . “I just take their money and they head out happy. Running an office out here isn’t a big deal. Except for the occasional lost soul most of them are tough as nails. They know what they want and they are willing to pay for it.”

“It is about money?”

“Of course it is. Money motivates them. Don’t take it to heart, Cad. I’m sure you’re changing someones future.”

***

Personal Log: Security Officer Cadwin, Emaratie La’roqual
Location: Istodard IX - Moon 5 - CONCORD bureau
Assignment: Security Officer

I’ve opened a consignment business. I take in spare tags and sell them to others who want to raise their security status. Some of the capsuleers just bring in bags of tags and drop them off and walk out. They have no interest in the standings for themselves.

Redemption for ISK seems to work. My list of names I’ve never seen again has started to increase since the consignment. The targets are still being destroyed. My goals as an office are achieved. 

I received another merit award and a note in my file. I was also promoted. I now run the bounty office and the distribution center. They say that my work is inspired. Dov’s a bit mad. I just shipped him out to Half.

Wars are raging on the planets below. It’s none of my business. These belts are swept clear, daily, of the mercenaries who decided to align with the pirate factions. 

Blood and redemption. They are the signatures of this objective. Through them is the path to salvation for some of these immortals.

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