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If Bullets were Kisses

The clone vat disgorged its occupant. The muscular form stepped out. It then fell to its knees and vomited. Clear golden fluid poured out of his mouth and nose. It dripped from the short, cropped hair and ran in pathways across the burnished, copper skin. The fine grating wicked away the splattered remains and sent it back to the recycler.

Javelin let the body adjust. Technology was great, but nothing ever prepared a new clone for living on its own. At least no one smacked him on the ass during these births. He coughed and spat a few times. Vat fluid splattered on the floor. It always tasted like spearmint and cherries to him. The new lungs protested and he sucked in air. It burned. He coughed again but forced the body to breath. The sensation of drowning would pass but he would be damned if he flopped like a fish during the adjustment. He'd done that the first few times. Then death became normal.

The new body wanted him to pay attention to everything. His skin was too sensitive. He had to shit. His stomach was empty. He had goo in his ears. He ignored it and instead focused on something productive. “Install new clone.” The words wet and garbled as he forced them out. Each breath was burned from one end to the other.

“Clone Installation Cost: forty-five million ISK. Approve?” Why did Aura always sound so calm? At times like this he wanted to punch the artificial intelligence. Maybe he would spring for a new voice chip. Something sexy and less clinical

“Approved.”

“Clone Installation Approved. Authorization: Capsuleer Javelin. Clone Grade Upsilon Installing.”

Forty-five million? He'd roll his eyes but they were not yet under his direction. Most people would never make a million isk in their lifetime and he was paying forty-five million for one body's life. Sure the clones were exact copies and filled with an intricate matrix that allowed him to access them at will. It didn't stop it from feeling like it was a ridiculous amount of ISK to pay.

Breathing was easier now. He pushed himself to his feet. One step. Two. A shower and some mouth wash were needed. The third step was not a charm. His leg locked and he stumbled. With a growl he continued his slow tread to the bathroom. He had better things to do then sulk because his new body hurt. Four. Then a ride home.

Later he grumbled in irritation. There was still goo in his left ear. Every time he moved his head he could feel the slime move.

Deep in his ship hanger Javelin opened the cabinet. Mist hissed out and his hands rapidly cooled. He flicked his gaze across the tubes and selected one. Five small bundles of wires floated inside its length. Down the length a single word was Inscribed: “HG Snake.”

“Is that a good idea?”

Javelin didn’t even look at his friend. Lu’ appeared and vanished with a ridiculous ease. One day he would revoke his access to his hanger. Then he would laugh. Today he just asked, “Snooping, Li’?

“I saw the ship loss.” Li' leaned against a spare afterburner. "And the pod loss."

“Then why are you asking stupid questions?”

“You have too much ISK.”

“Jealous? Poor?”

“Every day and yes.”

Javelin pressed the tube to the back of his neck. The slender end compressed against the silver socket located there. For a moment he froze. The silver ring snicked open. The contents of the tube slid into his body. Cold washed over him. He gasped as the implant set slid into the clones empty sockets. Electricity jolted him. The air tasted bitter. It smelt of blue. The whirr of the recycling unit burned his skin. His vision cleared. Everything accelerated. He shudder once and then stilled. Control. His flexed his fingers and then took a deep breath. That felt good.

Clone purchased. Implants inserted. Javelin rolled through his clone activation ‘to do’ list. One last thing. “Activate…” hmm that was a good question. A list scrolled past his vision. What had he been learning? “Jump Fuel Conservation V,” he said finally. It didn't really matter.

“You don’t even fly any capital ships.”

“I might get bored one day. Forever is a long time.”

“Not at the rate that you are going. What happened?”

Javelin chuckled long and low. “I got arrogant.”

“Got?" Li' raised an eyebrow. "You took on a ??? ship gang by the report.”

“Mmm. It was a damn good fight.”

***

It was a contract that took him into the area. It was boredom that made him accept the contract. Evil E's letter had been full of little platitudes and need. Some rambling swill about his standings and his need to deliver the order. But he was scared. Deep out in Blood Raider territory was too far away from safety net of High Empire.

Some people were so worried about dying that they forgot to live.

The contract was delivered. A few people had died in the process but Javelin rarely worried about such things. If they hadn't wanted to die they should have made better decisions. Decisions like not trying to shoot him. Now he was back in his old stomping grounds with a neglected ship in need of attention.

Hurricane's were all harsh planes with sharp angles and razor edges. The wedge shaped ship bobbed in the dock. He had not seen this ship in a long time. Deactivated and idle in its stasis field it had avoided the updates pushed out by the shipyard. The inevitable wave of updates and restructuring that he was informed fixed flaws and optimized systems. All it meant was that he had to relearn how to do the exact same thing over again.

He might as well enjoy it while he still could.

He stripped off his jumpsuit and shoved it into the recycler before he stepped into the pod. The small enclosed environment was more familiar then his own reflection. The sides hissed closed around him as he settled back into the command seat. The socket connection was always a shock. The cybernetic pathways that mirrored his own neural network connected. The moment of disconnect was just long enough for him to miss the drowning sensation as the ectoplasmic liquid filled his mouth and nose with goo.

The pod was lifted and nestled into the hurricane's heart. It linked and the ships systems onlined. His heartbeat became the steady pump of energy through the ships systems. His breathing moved the ventilation systems. His legs were powerful engines and his arms the guidance systems. His eyes the power of the sensors. At least, that is how it felt to him when he slid into a ship. It was different for others maybe. For him the ship was his body more himself then the flesh suit that he occupied.

The ship drifted out of its dock. The lean wedge shape cut a sharp shadow across the hanger floor. It did not glitter or gleam under the light. The rusted surfaced, pockmarked by debris and an interesting life was too dull and uneven to be called reflective.

Was it happy that it was in space? Or was that just him projecting? Memories of his time with this hull flooded back to him. It had been a simpler time then. He had killed a lot of people. Good memories that. He set his course on a loose route towards home. The Hurricane leapt into warp as if eager. He activated the gate and allowed its technology to dissemble him and fling him into the next solar system.

"Ships detected." The ping of his sensors listed a long list of ship names. One system moved and he had landed on an Onyx Pavilion gatecamp. He did not even know that they were still a thing. A swarm of frigates buzzed around the gate. They knew he was here. He knew they were there. Maybe his trip home would not be as dull as expected.

"Drugs, drugs, drugs," he hummed to himself. The ships dispensary was embarrassingly bare. He must have stripped the ship bare when he last docked it. The list scrolled by and a single item highlighted in green. A singular can of Quafe Zero. "That'll do. I doubt its gone bad." There were too many chemicals in it for it to go bad. He selected it for consumption. Tiny valves opened up long his connection ports as filters began to thin and slip the chemical slurry into his system.

His mouth tasted like blueberries. He loved Quafe Zero. Even as the gatecloak faded the drugs had soaked into his system. Everything had a vibrant diamond sharp edge. He was here in the now. His ship was his hands. The fight was his to take.

He liked taking things.

It started with a Rifter. The duel barrels of the tiny frigate were adorable as it landed on top of his Hurricane and tackled him. A moment later it was a cloud of particles in his wake as his hurricane accelerated towards deep space away from the gate and the fleet that sat on it.

A Daredevil followed. It looked like the group wanted to play. The early stage of a cat and mouse game was often filled with too much adrenaline and not enough thought, Javelin had noticed over the years. The Hurricane accelerated even as it began to twist. The arc of the Dramiel's approach flattened. The forward camera zeroed in between the curved horns. They were like a goal post that received a full barrage of fusion ammunition, stolen from the Republic Fleet's own bunkers, right into the ships center as the startled frigate found itself in an arrow straight trajectory to the Hurricane.

A Stilitto and an Atron scattered the expanding particle cloud that had been the Dramiel. The Atron curved in close. He unfettered his microwarp drive as it landed a stasis webifier. The Stiletto he ignored for the moment. It looked as if a warp disruptor would halt plans to escape. If escape had been his goal. Instead he unleashed a flight of Warrior II drones on the Stiletto and locked the Atron. The little ship buzzed in tight. It stayed tight against his hull, his slowed speed easy to match. The rest of the ships started drawing closer. Small things were irritating. His ship finally resolved the Atron's signature well enough for his systems to aim. Javelin activated his duel neutralizers and watched the Atron drop from his side like a bloated tick all of its systems shut down. Gallente. So predictable.

Then he crushed it. A round split the tiny ship in two. The disintegrating carcass faded behind him as he slammed on the speed. His implants manipulated his ship. They whispered to the processors faster than he could think. They demanded more speed and agility and the Hurricane responded. The harried Stiletto pilot paid too much attention to the drones that ripped away at its shields. It spun around to counter one and its pilot missed the barrage of solid matter ammunition that shredded its delicate dragonfly wings and shattered the supports of its body.

A pair of Wolves harried his flanks. The Hurricanes and Harbinger's had started lobbing ammunition at him. His shields flickered as a lucky hit was shrugged off. The edges of his engine housings glowed a dull red as he burned away from them.

They liked their frigates. The wolves fell behind but a daredevil came up between them and passed. The daredevil danced at a distance. It was a bit of a concern. Javelin let his engines cool. The nanite paste, formed of billions of tiny repair machines, frantically worked to reinforce the overheated struts. Cruising on its own momentum the wolves fell further behind leaving him with the daredevil who seemed a bit more careful then his foes.

"And caution kills us as often as carelessness." Twenty kilometers was a bad distance for a frigate to be from the Hurricane. The daredevil pilot realized this as Javelin skipped ahead. His drones swpet in behind the Daredevil. Hybrid plasma flared in the darkness and his drone board lost two icons. He poured more power into the engines and unleashed fusion onto the frigate. The daredevil bucked and shrugged off the damage. It poured on speed and his cannons coughed death into empty space.

Javelin stopped. The Daredevil did not. The frigate swept by his Hurricane and then past it. Autocannons spun up and shredded the small ship. It twisted and dodged but escape did not, in truth, exist.

Behind him, the two Wolves shredded the remaining three of his drones. Like pigs in a barrel or something. From a distance he burned down the Wolves even as they struggled to react. Behind them, a string of Hurricane's and Harbringer's churned their way towards him. Armor ships. Nice and sturdy but not their best idea.

His Hurricane, light and agile, its systems supplemented by the high grade Snake pirate implant set intertwined in his neural network easily kept ahead of the pack. He would have done more damage closer but the distance amused him. He slowed and sped up and they followed. The leader of the pack had begun to pull away from the others. Javelin pulled up the pilot identifier and chuckled to himself.

"Tylas. Tylas," Javelin murmured to himself. "All grown up and still chasing anything that moves." They where the dogs and he was the ball. Everyone always assumed that the dogs had all the fun. No one thought about how much fun the ball had being chased. His engines had cooled the nanites reinforcing the heat weakened structures.

He focused fire on Tylas. Tylas had always hated to lose. Always. His rage upon ship loss was always an amazing thing to see. Javelin still had recordings from when he had first met the capsuleer. Now, years later some things never changed. He led them on a dance, his ship outside of range of their warp disruptors. He wore away at Tylas. Tylas who was to aggressive to drop back and let another member of his fleet absorb Javelin's beating. Tylas who Javelin was very sure was going to die without realizing he was being stupid.

Or would, until the Rapier decloaked. "I shoulda bailed earlier, perhaps." This was not going to go as well as he had planned. Well shit or get off the pot. It looked like it was his time to shit. Whining wasn't going to help a thing.

The Rapier was forty kilometers off. reluctantly, he pulled his fire away from Tylas and focused on the Rapier. Stasis fields smothered his ship as space twisted. Javelin responded by reopening his engines. The brilliant orange flare brightened to an eye searing intensity as he unleashed the full force of contained energies to battle the Rapier's hold. Damage started to pour in as the Hurricane's and Harbringer's behind him started to close the gap. His attention was focused. The Rapier pilot attempted to evade him but him but true evasion would mean releasing Javelin to escape.

The Rapier pilot committed. So did Javelin.

Neutralizer range was reached. The two medium sized neutralizers tucked under his nose drained the Rapier's capacitor. The first web turned off and Javelin's overloaded engines tossed him forward. His Hurricane rammed the Rapier. The neutralizers drank the Rapier's capacitor. The last stasis field shuddered and flicked off. The smaller ship spun away. Its spin accelerated by the hail of ammunition that vomited from his auto cannons. Chunks of ship shattered and spun away until the core imploded and blue brilliance washed over him. The other Hurricane followed him, momentum gaining. Javelin turned again as his autocannons again reloaded. Racks of fusion ammunition slid into the magazines to be feed into the cannons.

A blue flicker surrounded the ships. Javelin asked the ship to give him one last burst of speed towards the edge. The stressed engines complied. Then they failed. Struts shattered as the fuel housings melted. Impulse engines took over as he was notified that his warp engines were disabled.

The Onyx or the Hurricane. Simple choices. Many choices. He might as well finished off Tylas. It had been a while since they spoke. Lame but not broken, the Hurricane was still graceful as it swung around. All or nothing. Javelin flipped off his ships safeties.

Ammunition shot across space. The other hurricane, its trajectory arrow straight received round after round down its nose. Javelin pushed his ship closer. The impulse engines struggled as they fought to obey the pilot. The noses of his cannons began to flare bright red as they spun round after round, heated to the point that the cold of the void could not cool them fast enough. The racks on two of his guns jammed. A round was met by another that did not expect its presence. The autocannon exploded upon itself, leaving the burnt stalk of its frame behind it.

The other ships had caught up. His hurricane twisted as his shields gave. The armor shredded like silk under the firepower the Harbingers and Hurricanes brought with them. None of it mattered. Ammunition had ignited inside of his own ship, overheated by the racks they were overloaded on. A fourth gun gave out and a fifth jammed. Tylas's Hurricane was a shattered vision as Javelin's structural plates were compromised.

"Damn." He felt calm as his pod was ejected out. The Onyx targeted him and a single missile erupted from it and snuffed out his existence.

***

The lead hurricane, already compromised from the battle exploded as a final projectile round, now homeless but still deadly, pieced its engine core. Tylas cursed from inside his pod, trapped in the interdiction bubble they had used to pin down Javelin.

"I hate that guy. I hate him. How the fuck does he kill people when he's dead?" The camp was ruined. The frigates were no more than vapor and metal dust in space. The expanding cloud of vapor that had been his best Hurricane pilot mocked him.

"Maybe he'll stay over in Stain."

"I fucking hope to god. Someone salvage this mess."

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