June 20, YC 112
In a dusty, now all-but-forgotten corporate office, inside three cryonic suspension tubes, three sleepers lay dreaming the deep, slow dreams of suspended animation. One man, two women; one woman with the hard features of the Minmatar, the other two fair-haired Gallente. Only their clothing gave clue to their identities, or even the fact that they all served a common cause…the characteristic black hooded jackets and Greek letter pins on their lapels.
The three dreamers each dreamed their own dreams, sealed away inside the plastic-and-metal cocoons that preserved their lives. The Minmatar woman dreamed of great struggles, of hot desert planets and the flash of bright blades in combat, of crushing defeat for the enemy and the triumph of her tribe. For the Gallente woman, dreams were more a means of escape; she dreamed of other lives in other places, noble indigenous natives, ethereal elves, worlds beyond imagination. The subject of many of her dreams was the third sleeper, the Gallente male; his own dreams were more shadowy, bordering on nightmares, tending towards the idiosyncratic. He might not remember these dreams when he woke…or he might choose not to remember them.
But one entity survived to watch over them. The Ralpha Dogs’ main command core, the Multi-Operational Team Hub and Event Recorder (M.O.T.H.E.R.), kept close watch on the frozen sleepers, lest their long sleep inadvertently turn into the Last Sleep, and also monitored external events, to know when it was time for them to wake. For months, it had fulfilled this capacity in silence, while events swirled on outside this office, outside the station, outside the star system, beyond constellation and region, beyond the borders of space controlled by the four great empires, and even beyond all human ken in a dimension that defied understanding…and the realm of an entirely different, and more dangerous, class of Sleepers.
One screen on Mother’s console lit, in response to a recognition signal received from a far-off source. The computer considered the signal for long moments, verifying the authentication codes, pattern-matching it against known transmission characteristics. The machine made a decision. Long-dead circuits came to life, additional readouts flickered on, the room echoed with the loud clicks of power relays snapping over.
The room lights, long darkened, gently faded up to a soft glow, and the chill air in the room began warming to a temperature more hospitable to organic life, as the patterns of lights on the sides of the cryonic suspension tubes changed. More words flashed across Mother’s displays:
...SUBJECTS...ERBO EVANS...SELENALORE EVANS...FANCHON SIHU...
For long minutes, nothing changed.
Then, the hiss of hydraulic mechanisms began as the cryonic tubes swung slowly open.
. . .
Selena was the first to awake. For long moments, her dreams blurred into the awareness of reality, of the fresh air of the room impinging on her face, removing the chill from her bones. Her eyelids fluttered, then popped open, the piercing blue eyes behind them focusing on the consoles at the other side of the room. The light, slightly painful at first, became bearable as her eyes adapted.
She craned her neck from one side to the other, peeking over the edges of the tube around her, checking first Erbo’s tube, then Fanchon’s. Neither one seemed to have stirred from their own slumber as yet. A momentary flash of panic came to her, but she quickly cooled it with the discipline of an Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs.
Placing her hands on either side of the tube, she pulled herself upright, cautiously stepping forward and out, her steps wobbly at first but gradually gaining surety. She turned to her right, facing the leftmost of the three cryostasis tubes, and gazed upon the still-sleeping face of the man she loved, watching his chest gently rise and fall as the enforced sleep of cryostasis gave way to more natural sleep.
So handsome, she thought to herself. He always has been, really.
She stepped carefully over to Erbo’s tube, leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. His eyes remained shut, but his breathing deepened slightly, and he emitted a small rumble of contentment that reminded Selena of a cat purring.
“Dear,” she said, gently, “it’s time to wake up.”
One of Erbo’s eyes fluttered open, tracking on Selena. He muttered something that she thought sounded like “Mommmm…not time yet…”
“Yes, it is,” she repeated, gently shaking his left shoulder. “Come on, dear. We’ve got work to do. And I think Mother wants to talk to you.”
Erbo’s eyes opened, and he reached above his head, stretching long-disused muscle groups. “Okay, okay…gimme a sec.”
From the third tube came another voice, feminine with a pronounced Minmatar accent. “What’s all this noise?”
“And good morning to you, too, Fan,” said Selena, stepping over to her tube as Erbo disengaged from his own, bringing himself to his feet, scratching the back of his neck near the carved-ebony dust cap protecting one of his neural jacks as he tentatively stepped over to Mother’s console.
He touched his NeoCom, syncing it with Mother’s information feed. The master status showed green; no hostile activity, no internal trouble, no urgent pending issues other than one person asking for a corporate invitation and a few bills that had been automatically paid. Touching the keys on the console, he began giving orders as Selena left the room to see about getting their quarters habitable again.
He had taken possession of the Ralpha Dogs’ funds and matériel while they had been in stasis, to prevent it from being stolen. Now, money flowed back into the corporate accounts as massive warehouse containers were opened and their contents restored to their rightful location. Ship hulls and fitting components, ammunition, drones, ores and minerals, and containers of blueprints all made their way to the correct locations. Communication channels long-closed came to life and membership applications were once again enabled.
He came upon the “Suspension of Operations” bulletin posted in the corporate communications system. With a rueful grin, he erased that bulletin and quickly wrote another:
We have resumed EVE operations here and we are once again open for business. We’re still shaking down, so it may take us a bit to establish a routine. But tell your friends…the Dogs are back in town!
Wrought in deepest Hell…our vengeance is freedom!
– Erbo Evans, Abbot, ΡΑΔ
He quickly followed this up with a message to the entire corporation, requesting status information. None of them had been around for awhile, according to the corporate member listing, but it was worth a shot.
Finally, he keyed up a view of his own hangar. The screen lit to reveal his hangar space, now brightly lit again. Scores of workmen were checking over the ships ranked therein, verifying their systems. Occasionally, via the audio feed, he could hear the whine of ion and plasma thrusters as engines were lit and revved in tests. He glanced over the neatly ranked battlecruisers and cruisers, the lean, powerful shapes of Minmatar Rifters (which he privately thought of as “the official ship of gettin’ yo’ ass in trouble”), the long, slender shapes of Iteron Mark V haulers next to the compact, flat bulks of ORE mining barges, and, looming over all, the Orca Janne Wirman and the Obelisk freighter Tuomas Holopainen. All bore the Rho Alpha Delta corporate monogram; soon, they would be ready to fly once more.
“Sweetheart?” came a familiar voice from his left, a voice he’d not heard for months prior to this day. He turned to face Selenalore.
“We’ll have food on the table shortly. Anything from Mother?”
Erbo looked thoughtful. “No, all quiet here. Things are getting back up to speed now. Hopefully, we’ll know where we stand soon.”
The two of them left for the crew quarters, leaving Mother to her own inscrutable thoughts.