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часть 1 - могила Джовианца
Каюта крейсера "Okarioni" (флот Калдари)
Лейтенант Хиракий Пиркотан (ХП) смотрел в железное зеркало на своё свежевыбритое лицо.
"Безукоризнено" - заметил он.

Возбуждение, которое молодой лейтенант не чувствовал уже много недель, не покидало его.
Это ощущение появилось возможно из прошлого, когда он ещё будучи совсем юнцом, слушал рассказы своего отца, воевавшего против федерации Галленте. Гордость за своего отца и легенды сложенные о бравости сражавшихся солдат оставили неизгладимый отпечаток в памяти юноши.

Но всё это было более чем 15 лет назад и за все годы обучения ХП в военной академии с ним ничего эктраординарного так и не произошло.
Всё что осталось в памяти юноши за время обучения в академии - это рутинная строевая подготовка, наведение чистоты везде и всего чего можно и в перерывах, когда оставалось время - было только одно желание, которое забивало все остальные - это отоспаться.

Жизнь молодого лейтенанта изменилась примерно 2 месяца назад, когда неизвестная раса вошла в контакт с представителями Калдари.
ХП почти ничего не знал о них, за исключением того, что они имеют человеческие корни в своей истории.
Сразу-же за первым контактом, для крейсера "Okarioni", где служил ХП последовал приказ следовать в зону, где произошёл контакт.
И вот теперь, после длительных и утомительных дней полёта через бескрайние просторы контролируемые расой Калдари крейсер фактически прибыл на место встречи с кораблём неизвестной до сих пор расы.

Пиркотан в сотый раз рефлекторно за сегодняшний день поправил китель и покинул свою каюту.

Пока он шёл на капитанский мостик, он пытался упорно найти ответы на вопросы, связанные со столь странным назначением его крейсера на такую миссию.
Было слишком много запутанности и вопросов без ответов, которые нарушали его душевный комфорт.

Почему 2 недели назад его крейсер вдруг был послан на элитную, высоко-секретную, строго охраняемую космоверфь, принадлежащую корпорации "Ishukone"?
Что за странные устройства были смонтированы там и опечатаны в грузовом отсеке "В"?
Почему вся эта миссия покрыта такой завесой секретности, что он - второй человек в командовании крейсером, ничего не знает об этом?

Его беспокойство усиливалось ещё от того, что он знал, что вся команда находиться в таком-же неведении и поэтому принял решение не подавать виду. В таких раздумьях он достиг капитанского мостика.

Капитанский мостик крейсера "Okarioni" (флот Калдари)

Капитан Оурие уже сидел в командирском кресле на мостике и проверял последние изменения в курсе крейсера перед точкой встречи.
Пиркотан сел в своё кресло чуть-чуть позади и слева от капитана.

"Какова ситуация на данный момент, сэр?" - обратился с вопросом он к капитану.
"До точки встречи 20 минут," - ответил капитан.

Прошла долгая, томительная минута тишины.

Наконец капитан неожиданно произнёс то, что волновало всех нас в течении последних 2-х недель:
"Настал момент, когда я могу посвятить Вас в детали нашей миссии" - обратился он ко всем.

Пиркотан навострил уши.
Ему стало неожиданно легче от сознания того, что хоть кто-нибудь на крейсере знает что здесь происходит.

Но капитан не торопился и выдержал минутную паузу в полной тишине.
После чего он продожил:
"Раса с которой произошёл контакт называет себя Jove. Я не знаю больши ничего о них, за исключением того, о чём меня информировало командование - что возможно они очень высокоразвиты.
Причина, по которой мы находимся здесь - это обмен информацией.
Эти Джовианцы собирают информацию - и это является их высочайшей целью в жизни.
Насколько я понял они готовы заплатить приличные деньги за это,"
Оурие хихикнул и затем продолжил:
"Мы даём им всю информацию о устройстве нашего общества, нашей истории, карты наших систем и даже раскрываем наши военные сектреты"
- чувствовалось насколько тяжело дались капитану последние произнесйнные слова
"Но, наше командование заверило нас, что этот обмен и ценность предоставляемой взамен информации стоит того"
- подвёл черту капитан.

"Что мы получаем взамен?" - спросил Пиркотан.
"Я не знаю лейтенант, точнее не уверен что это - но похоже что это какое-то утройство управления или коммуникации для космическими кораблей.
Это всё что я знаю" - был ответ капитана.

Пиркотанс сидел задумчиво, почёсывая свой затылок. Возможно сказывались последствия операции, проведённой на станции Ishukone, на которую его подвигнул капитан. В его спинной мозг и мозжечок там были вставлены имплантанты - как объяснил капитан - "Это для твоей-же карьеры".

"То, что мы должны отдать им, находиться в грузовом отсеке "B"?" - задал вопрос Пиркотан.
"Нет, в грузовом отсеке находиться устройство, которое мы получили от Джовианцев" - прозвучал ответ Оурие.
"Что? Мы уже имеем на корабле, то что должны были получить от них? Я ничего не понимаю, Сэр."
Пиркотан выглядел окончательно смущённым от того, что он не понимал что происходит.
"Мы получили только часть этого устройства. Все основные, особо-важные части такие как - системные декодеры мы не имеем.
Джовианцы предложили нам встретиться, чтобы передать эти части и показать как это всё работает" - произнёс капитан.

Пиркотан задумался - "Я не понял Сэр, почему мы именно наш крейсер был послан для встречи с Джовианцами"
"Что Вы имеете в виду?" ответил Оурие.
"Хорошо, я попытаюсь сформулировать вопрос по другому: Почему на такоих ранних стадиях общения с неизвестными нам расами учавствуют военные крейсера, такие как наш. Я предполагал, что это дело дипломатов, а не солдат. Почему именно дипломаты не были выбраны на такого рода контакты?"
"Мы здесь не представляем официально расу Калдари. Приказы нам поступают напрямую от Рато Момориота, исполнительного директора корпорации "Ishukone". Эта миссия - это торговая миссия и это бизнес корпорации "Ishukone".
Наши заказчики доверяют нам и поручили завершить миссию нашими средствами и на наше усмотрение"
- последовало объяснение Оурие.

"Под словом заказчики, Вы имеете в виду главу корпорации "Ishukone", Сэр?"
"Да, Вы правильно поняли лейтенант" откликнулся Оурие.
"Но это не означает, что миссия, которую мы выполняем не имеет прежней важности или не столь значительна"

В этот момент на радарах появился корабль Джовианцев.

"Их корабль не такой уж и большой," заметил Пиртокан.
Действительно, корабль Джовианцев был примерно в два раза меньше крейсера "Okarioni", и слегка боьше чем средний фригат Калдари.
Корабль имель комбинацию трёх оттенков на тускло сияющем корпусе: зелёного, коричневого и серого.
Глядя на его корпус складывалось впечатление что он был вырезан из единого куска, а не построен.

Офицер-связист подал голос - "Мы принимаем сообщение от корабля Джовианцев" и продолжил - "Они предупредили что они выходят"

"Хорошо," сказал капитан и отдал приказ Пиртокану - "Лейтенант, Вы знаете что делать"
"Так точно, капитан," отчеканил Пиртокан и пулей вылетел с мостика. Он чувствовал, что начинается самое интересное.
Он моментально влетел на причал челноков, успев на пути прихватить с собой четырёх десантников.

"Парни, ведите себя достойно" успел предупредить он солдат, "Мы сейчас будем эскортировать очень важных гостей и помните, что вы
представляете сейчас не самих себя, а являетесь не больше и не меньше чем представителями расы Калдари".
"или Ishukone корпорации" - криво усмехнувшись подумал про себя Пиртокан.

Челнок, абсолютно такого-же цвета, как и корабль Джовианцев уже парковался в доке.
Три небольших ростом фигуры вышли из челнока.
Все они оказались одеты в туники/униформу светло-коричнево/серого цвета.

A shuttle, in the same colors as the Jovian ship, was docking in the bay. Three small men exited the shuttle. Each of them wore a tunic-like uniform of fine materials, light-brown and gray in color. Although they were definitely human, they looked very strange: their skin was pale grayish yellow, almost transparent, with veins clearly discernible. The heads seemed abnormally big, but otherwise their bodies were thin and feeble-looking. Pirkotan couldn't help the uneasiness he felt by looking at them. The three men walked towards Pirkotan and one of them, walking in front of the others addressed Pirkotan. "Greetings, Caldari officer. I'm Anu of Jove and these are my aides Yed and Elas," the Jovian spoke in perfect Caldanese, with almost no detectible accent, his movements and gestures were lithe and graceful. Pirkotan wondered where the Jovian had learned such good Caldanese.
Pirkotan caught himself staring into the pale yellow eyes of the Jovian and stuttered his answer. "Yes, uh... welcome aboard the Okarioni, sir. Um... I'm lieutenant Hirakii Pirkotan. Please follow me." Pirkotan tore his eyes away from the probing gaze of the Jovian, turned on his heels and started walking towards the main deck. The Jovians followed and Pirkotan heard them chattering among themselves in a strange language that seemed to consist entirely of vowels.

Back on the bridge, Pirkotan introduced the captain and the Jovians. Ouriye seemed perfectly at ease conversing with the Jovians, unlike Pirkotan, who was nervous and uncomfortable. But while the Jovians were making small talk with the captain, Pirkotan for the first time managed to see them as humans and not some outer space aliens. They even laughed dutifully at the captain's jokes, showing their full understanding of the social etiquette found everywhere among humans. Soon, the conversation turned to the matters at hand and the Jovians asked to see the items they were to receive.
"Lieutenant Pirkotan, bring the crate in my personal quarters." Ouriye ordered Pirkotan, handing him a security key. "Bring it here to the bridge."
"Yes, sir." Pirkotan answered, motioning the four marines to follow him. As he was leaving the bridge he heard one of the Jovians ask: "Has he been prepared, captain?" and Ouriye replied: "As much as he needs to be." Pirkotan hesitated for a moment, but then continued, contemplating what he'd overheard. 'Were they talking about me?' he thought.
The crater was not all that big, maybe one meter in length and half a meter in height and breadth, but it was surprisingly heavy. Pirkotan unlocked the security bindings and the four marines struggled with it to the bridge. Pirkotan handed Ouriye back the security key and the captain used his personal code on the crater. The lock snapped open with a loud hiss and Ouriye stepped back, allowing the Jovians access to the crater.
Anu opened the crater and started pulling items out of it and handing them to his assistants, who compared them to a list they had, marking things off. Once the Jovians were satisfied that everything was as it should be they began studying the items carefully. They worked incredibly fast, inserting data disks and info clips into their palm computers, scanning the contents for a few seconds, then throwing it away for another. They fired up hologram reels and fast forwarded through them, casting flickering lights around the bridge and made the heads of the Caldari spin in confusion. After a few minutes the Jovians suddenly stopped all at once and began chattering excitedly to each other. It was obvious that they were satisfied with what they had seen.
"This crater contains what we bargained for. Please take it to our shuttle." Anu said to Ouriye.
"First, let's make sure everything we bargained for is in order." Ouriye replied wryly, emphasizing 'we'.
Pirkotan noticed a momentary hesitation in Anu before he answered: "Of course, captain. A deal is a deal. Everything according to the plan, eh?"
"Yes," Ouriye answered, glancing at Pirkotan, "according to the plan."
The doors to Cargo Hold B had been welded shut and it took few minutes to cut them open. Pirkotan felt his gut tighten in excitement, but also dread. He'd always prided himself in having full knowledge of every situation, full control. Now that he was left more or less in the dark, he feared the unknown. Pirkotan remembered a saying of one of his teachers in officer training: 'Always expect the unexpected. Then all surprises will be pleasant ones.' Somehow, this did not comfort him all that much at the moment.
The inside of Cargo Hold B was cold and darkly lit. In the middle of the floor was a black metal object, about four or five meters tall. Numerous pipes and wires linked it with the walls of the cargo hold. The object was obviously of Jovian design; it had the same oddly carved shape as the Jovian ship and shuttle. The Jovians walked up to the object and made a quick inspection of it.
"This is a capsule," Anu said to the Caldari. "It is used to control a ship. With it a ship a big as this one can be controlled with only a handful of crew and smaller ships, like your frigates, can even be controlled by a single person."
"How is this possible?" Ouriye asked. He was obviously skeptical, even if he didn't seem as surprised by what Anu said as the other Caldari.
"The controller, captain if you like, of the ship is stationed inside the capsule. Through it, he's neural rigged to all parts of the ship. The capsule is like one gigantic computer, with the captain at the core, controlling everything." Any answered.
"But how can a single man control a whole ship?" Ouriye pressed.
"Thank you, captain, I was coming to that. As I said, the captain acts as the central unit in a highly advanced computer. This role allows him to access and evaluate data at extreme pace. He can easily handle the jobs it takes 5 or 10 people to do normally. It also makes him a better commander, he has better understanding and awareness of his environment and he's not boggled down by tedious crew management issues and frequent communication breakdowns are now history." Anu finished, looking over the faces of the thoughtful Caldari standing before him.
"So what is the downside?" Pirkotan asked. "There is always a downside."
"Not in this case, lieutenant," Anu replied. "The capsule offers greater control to ships, yet fewer crew members. As you know one of the biggest costs in maintaining a ship is training the crew, this cost is now much reduced. We Jovians are not numerous, yet we can field a very formidable fleet because of capsules."
"So what about this capsule controller? Can anybody control this thing?" Ouriye probed, obviously eager to garner as much knowledge as he could about these capsules.
"Not anybody, no," Any answered. "The controller must have the required neural implants." Pirkotan fingered the newly planted implants at the back of his neck; a grim realization dawning in his mind.
"But why this huge structure? Couldn't the controller simply be strapped into a neural chair?" Ouriye inquired.
"The neural riggings for the capsule are much more elaborate and advanced than those you know, captain; they require the user to be in complete stasis for efficient usage. The capsule is filled with a fluid, in which the captain floats. This fluid filters out all external interferences, as well as protecting and nourishing the captain." One of the Jovian aides had now opened a hologram blueprint of the capsule and Anu used it while explaining how it was built. "Also, the capsule has extremely strong armor, giving even more protection to the captain. We Jovians do not like unnecessary squandering of lives." Pirkotan thought Anu said this last sentence with an unusual fervor.
"So, can you make it work?" Ouriye asked, he had obviously satisfied his curiosity about this thing and now wanted to see it in action.
"Yes, as long as your engineers followed our instructions correctly when building the capsule and connecting it to the ship."
"You mean, this capsule will take control of the ship?" Ouriye asked anxiously.
"Yes, but we can override it easily. This is only for demonstration purposes." Anu answered.
The Jovians started fiddling with various control panels on the capsule. One by one, the systems in the capsule came to life, lights started blinking and a low humming noise emanated from it. Finally, Anu turned to the Caldari: "The capsule is now operational. It is ready for testing."
The eyes of the Jovians and captain Ouriye turned to Pirkotan. He felt like a mouse trapped in a cage. He knew now that Ouriye's suggestion about the neural implants hadn't been based on friendship; he'd been cunningly manipulated into this position and he knew it was impossible to refuse now. But why this duplicity? Why hadn't they simply ordered him to take the implants?
"I, uh... you want me to go into that thing, sir?" Pirkotan stammered, hoping against hope that his suspicions were false.
"Yes, lieutenant Pirkotan. You have the honor of being the first Caldari to test a capsule." Ouriye answered. "Don't you feel honored?"
"Ah, yes. Yes, sir. I'm deeply honored," Pirkotan whispered. The two Jovian aides were now standing beside him. Pirkotan started walking forward, as if his body was moving of its own accord. He was now standing before Anu, who placed his hands on the back of his neck. Anu explored the neural implants with his fingers and stared intently into Pirkotan's face. Pirkotan couldn't make himself meet the gaze.
"Please stand absolutely still," Anu said to him. "We need to hook you up." Pirkotan was too numb to answer, let alone move. One of the Jovians placed a tight rubber cap with lots of tube sockets over his head, covering his eyes and ears. Another Jovian inserted tubes into his nostrils. Finally, he felt his neural jacks being plugged. "He is ready," a voice said. Pirkotan felt hands lead him, he was lifted and he felt liquid engulf him. He was sinking!
But he could still breath through his nose. He couldn't see and he couldn't hear. All he felt was this cold, sticky fluid all around him. He was inside the capsule! Pirkotan slowly ran his hands over the inner surface of the capsule. It was very smooth and Pirkotan found no seams or cracks, or any controls or buttons for that matter. The capsule was tightly closed and no discernible way to open it from the inside. Pirkotan was not normally claustrophobic, but now he felt panic rise within him and he wanted to scream and run. But he could do neither; the thick fluid hindered all fast movements and when Pirkotan opened his mouth it was instantly filled with the strange-tasting bluish liquid. Pirkotan was forced to swallow it so he could breath again. Pirkotan tried to calm himself down, but when nothing happened for what seemed like eternity he once again despaired. He had read about people being accidentally buried alive in olden times and now he felt like they must have; this capsule, this thing, felt like a wet grave, burying him. 'Is this the end?' Pirkotan thought. 'Maybe the machine has malfunctioned, maybe they can't get me out!'
Then, all of a sudden, a bright light filled his eyes and a sound like rushing wind filled his ears. After few seconds the light dimmed down and Pirkotan was able to see, but everything became deadly quiet. And what he saw made his stomach somersault. He was looking at the Okarioni from the outside! It was as if he was floating in space maybe 100 meters from the ship.
"Can you hear me?" a voice said. It was Anu. Pirkotan tried instinctively to speak, but his mouth was again filled with the fluid and only a strangled croak emerged. 'Hello?' he thought.
"Hello, lieutenant Pirkotan," Anu said. "We can hear you. The communication link in this demonstration capsule is automatically open, normally you control whether it's open or closed. We are monitoring your progress. Can you see the ship?"
"Yes," Pirkotan replied, simply by thinking about it. "Yes, I can see the ship. But whose eyes am I seeing through?"
"You're viewing the ship through a camera drone. Think about moving. Try to move to the right. See what happens."
Pirkotan thought about this and was delighted to find the camera move according to his wishes. He swooped alongside the ship, spinning the camera in circles and zooming it out, all with a mere thought. Pirkotan noticed that no matter how he turned the camera, the ship always stayed in the middle of his vision. As he got more accustomed to this new sensation he could feel his surroundings much better. In fact, if he concentrated he could feel Okarioni, like he and the ship were one; he felt the engines purr in his belly, he felt the electrodes bounce on his skin, he felt the crew crawl around inside him. The feeling was exhilarating.
After a while Anu's voice came back: "You're doing very well. Now we are going to activate the audio synthesizers."
"Audio synthesizers? What do you mean?" Pirkotan thought.
"As you know there is no sound in space, but when we were developing the capsules we found that people wanted to use as many of their senses as possible, thus we added the sound. By letting a computer create three dimensional sound we also add to the awareness you have while in battles, for instance."
Several seconds later Pirkotan could hear the audio synthesizers kick in; he could hear the low humming noise of the propulsion system and the sudden hissing sound of course-correctional thrusters. Anu came back on: "Now we'll test the audio system."
Suddenly a missile was launched from one of the missile bays. It flew majestically out from the ship and disappeared to the right of Pirkotan's vision. Pirkotan turned the camera and watched it fly away from the ship. Then a stab of green and yellow light came from the Jovian vessel, accompanied by a loud crackling noise. The weapon burst hit the missile and it exploded. Pirkotan heard the explosion clearly and when he turned the camera to the Jovian vessel he could still hear the explosion's residue in the background. Once again, Anu spoke: "That went very well. Now for the final test. I want you to shut down the propulsion system, and then turn it back on. You must open the ship control menu and use that.
Pirkotan thought about the propulsion system. Nothing happened. Then he thought about controlling the ship. And then, before him and overlaying the ship, a menu appeared. Pirkotan navigated himself through the menu with his mind and found the shut down action for the propulsion system. He activated the action and the menu disappeared. Pirkotan now saw the propulsion glow fade out and the constant humming slowly died out. Pirkotan now repeated the process, turning the propulsion system back on.
"Well done, lieutenant Pirkotan," came Anu's voice. "You have concluded the testing. Your performance was faultless."
As suddenly as it had appeared the vision before Pirkotan's eyes disappeared and darkness engulfed him. He blinked his eyes several times, the vision of Okarioni still embedded in his nerves, but slowly fading away. Pirkotan then felt as if he was falling at a great speed, but before he could react he passed out.
Pirkotan awoke slowly like from a deep sleep. His eyes were open and he was staring at a dull gray wall. He tried to look around, but found that he couldn't. He felt strangely disoriented. From somewhere behind him he heard low voices speaking. He recognized the voice of his captain and that of Anu of Jove. He tried to speak, to let them know he was awake, but nothing happened. Suddenly the chatter in the background registered in his mind:
"I have examined him, I'm afraid the symptoms all point towards it." Anu was saying.
"This mind-lock as you call it, is it permanent?" captain Ouriye asked.
"I'm afraid so. We have studied it thoroughly and found no cure. It's a shame, if I may say so."
"But how do you prevent it in the first place? I mean, was this bound to happen?" the captain enquired.
"Under the circumstances, yes. The only way to prevent this is with intense training for many years. That timeframe was unacceptable to your superiors. Besides, you knew what was going to happen all along. You have no grounds for complaints now."
"I know, I know," Ouriye sighed. "I had my reservations, but what could I do? I was under strict orders."
"I understand," Anu replied. "The lieutenant performed admirably. You can be proud of him."
"I am," Ouriye answered.
Silence. 'What is going on?' Pirkotan thought. 'They must be talking about me. What mind-lock?' Then the captain and two of the Jovians appeared before him. They looked at his face, into his open eyes. 'Hey!' Pirkotan screamed in his mind. 'Help me!'
"He looks so peaceful, lying there. Is he conscious?' asked the captain.
"Who knows? Maybe, maybe not," came Anu's reply.
"It's sad to loose him, he was an efficient officer. And a valued friend," Ouriye said. "He will receive the Medal of Valor for this, it will be sent to his parents. His father will be so proud."
"And rightly so," Anu said. "Anyway, we have certain... treatments that can be beneficial to him, if you're interested...?"
"I thank you for your offer, but it is unnecessary," Ouriye replied. "We have very good institutions that can take care of him. He will be well provided for."
Pirkotan screamed a silent curse. His fate was sealed. He had been sacrificed for the greater good of the Caldari State, like a clog in a great big machine. Just before he passed into a murky slumber, Pirkotan read the motto of the Caldari Navy embedded on the captain's sleeve: 'All For the Good of Many.' Much good it would do him, stuck in his own mind for the rest of his life.

Источник: http://www.eve-online.com

Категория: История EVE | Добавил: svok (2006-07-07) | Автор: Sergey Molotkov E W
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