23 years ago ...
Bhikkuni Kalsang steered the convent's old ground-effect vehicle around the forested outcropping which lay between her and the plume of smoke she and her sisters had spotted earlier this morning. The wizened Intaki woman had seen enough forest fires to know that this was not one. The smoke was too dark and too dense for burning wood. So she had gathered a group of four younger sisters – among them Ayang who had an aptitude with technology unsurpassed by any other – and went out to investigate.
Once the unstably floating old transport vehicle had completed it's detour around the natural obstacle, the five women encountered a scenery of singular devastation. Trees had been snapped like they were mere twigs, rocks had been shattered and small fires were smouldering everywhere. The swath of destruction formed a convenient path to follow to the source of the acrid clouds which darkened the sky ahead. Several hundred meters down the scar in the lush landscape of Intaki V they found it: A twisted and shattered mass of metal, solar panels and composite materials. It was a spaceship. Not a large one by any means, nothing larger than a frigate. With it's wings broken into translucent shards and the bent metal fuselage, it looked like a gigantic mangled insect.
Bhikkuni Kalsang was by no means knowledgeable about such things, but Ayang immediately called out when she saw it 'It is an interceptor! A Stiletto or Claw class frigate of Minmatar design!' Kalsang nodded, satisfied that she had brought the young disciple along. Although the order did not concern itself with worldly matters, it encouraged study among it's members, and Ayang had focused mostly on the technology of interstellar travel and the engineering of starships.
The Intaki nun veered the rickety floating vehicle around the wreckage and set it down at a suitable spot as close as possible to the burning remnants of the fighter craft. The younger women left the vehicle before she could heave herself from the driver's seat. Gentle Tenyu gave her a hand and Kalsang smiled thankfully at the girl.
Ayang was the first to approach the crashed spacecraft. Before she could even get close enough to need her breathing filter for protection against the smoke, she stopped in her tracks and pointed at the wreckage. 'Look sisters' the young woman shouted to her companions.
The other women respectfully kept pace with Bhikkuni Kalsang as she approached carefully. Once she had arrived at a point close enough to see, the old Intaki looked in the direction her young disciple pointed to.
Where the main hull had broken open, a rounded shape lay split among the remains of the fuselage. Inside the seed-like shell, a smaller kernel of transparent composite material was slowly leaking a viscous fluid from several cracks, and within that, a human body floated suspended in the same liquid.
A woman's body by the looks of it.
Bhikkuni Kalsang moved closer, helped along by one of her disciples, and pulled the respirator over her face to protect herself against the toxic smoke that rose from the burning wreckage.
As a nun of the Ida she lived in seclusion, but she knew enough of the world to recognise what she saw. 'It is a capsuleer.' she whispered with surprise in her voice.
'What is a capsuleer?' disciple Tenyu asked. Despite being very knowledgeable in medicine, that girl had come from a very sheltered home and knew little about the outside world.
'A human being who has sacrificed their spiritual rebirth to become one with a machine.' the old nun replied. 'They live inside their spaceships and have gained unnatural immortality through the use of technology.'
Ayang, followed by Keioki – the Achura convert – climbed carefully into the ship to inspect the capsule.
Ayang found an instrument panel that had miraculously survived the crash. It showed lifesigns on it's flickering display.'I think she is still alive!' she called out, her voice muffled by the respirator which she was now wearing.
“We must get her out of there.” Kalsang said and then addressed the disciples beside her. 'Tenyu, Lahoi bring the toolboxes from our transport.'
Apprehensively she looked over the red and green markings of the crashed ship. She noticed the spiny, multi-legged form of an ebailla insect, almost invisible under a layer or soot. It was an instrument of warfare, and the markings looked threatening. Bhikkuni Kalsang hoped they did the right thing by rescuing that crashed capsuleer 'May the ancestors be with us.' she muttered under her breath.
Bhikkuni Kalsang was still straining her mind to come up with an explanation for this whole situation while she looked at the girl moaning and writhing on her bed in the recovery room. Tenyu knelt beside the young capsuleer and dabbed sweat from her brow with a cloth.
'She has bad dreams.' the disciple said with a concerned look on her face.
'Not surprising.' Kalsang thought. 'She must have endured horrible things. Who would do such things to a young girl like that.'
When they had taken the capsuleer from her ship she was in a deep coma that she had not woken from in the five days since they had found her. When the nuns inspected her for injuries, they found scars and burn-marks all over the girl's body. Some of them looked so old that they must have been inflicted on her years ago. Someone had abused and tortured that poor girl for a long time.
Her features looked Gallente, and she would be pretty if it weren't for a hard cast to her features which spoke of hardships, both physical and emotional. She was not much older than the youngest initiates of the convent, but there was nothing girlish about her. Her lean body looked more like that of a stray animal than that of a girl.
'Who turns children into capsuleers like that?' Kalsang asked herself.
Suddently, with a scream, the capsuleer girl rose from the mattress and opened her eyes.
With the panicked expression of a caged beast she looked around herself quickly. Then, without a moment of hesitation, the girl grabbed a pair of scissors from the small, low table beside her bed and hurled herself at Tenyu with a feral growl.
The attack was savage but still dangerously well executed. This girl knew how to fight and kill. Tenyu would have ended up with the scissors lodged deep in her throat if it weren't for the nun's own martial training. Thanks to that, she reacted quickly. Tenyu sidestepped the attack, caught the girl's wrist and spun downward dragging the attacker with her while sweeping the legs from under the capsuleer while she turned.
With another scream the capsuleer girl crashed into the ground and ended up with her arm twisted onto her back and Tenyu pushing a knee into the small of her back to hold her down.
Kalsang stood up with a sigh and walked over to kneel down beside the girl who squirmed and screamed under Tenyu's hold. The younger nun looked pleadingly at her elder, clearly at loss how she should deal with this obviously disturbed young capsuleer.
'Please, calm down.' Kalsang begged the girl who hissed and spat at her. 'We mean you no harm.' the old Intaki continued. 'We rescued you from your wrecked ship.' she added.
The girl seemed to calm down a bit, or maybe she had just exhausted herself. 'My name is Kalsang, I am a Bhikkuni, a practitioner of the way of Ida.' the old woman said calmly. 'Would you like to tell me who you are?'
'There is no me.' the girl growled back at her. 'There is only the swarm of The Hive and it will come and kill all of you and burn your whole planet.' The last words were delivered with such a conviction that Kalsang felt a momentary chill crawl down her spine. With a sad expression she stood up and walked over to the medicine cabinet at the far wall of the small chamber. She retrieved a sedative injector and returned to place it against the girl's neck.
'It is better for you to sleep some more. Maybe we can talk once you wake up again.' Kalsang said and pressed the release.
Tenyu rose when the girl finally relaxed under her. 'What was she talking about? What is that Hive she mentioned?' the young Bhikkuni asked with a troubled expression.
Kalsang looked at her disciple earnestly. 'When I went to town last time to get supplies, there was an information bulletin about them. When I saw the symbol on her crashed ship I recognized it. The Hive is a group of capsuleer terrorists who have killed thousands of innocents recently.'
Tenyu looked at her elder aghast. 'Then she is very dangerous. We should bring her to the city and give her to the authorities.'
Kalsang shook her head. 'No, that would only make matters worse.' She looked down at the sedated capsuleer on the floor. 'This poor young girl has endured too much already. We have to heal her.'
Tenyu looked puzzled. 'But her injuries are healed and she has clearly recovered her strength.'
'Not her body my dear sister.' Kalsang said. 'We must heal her spirit.'