Contempt
By pod pilot standards, he was concerned about the welfare of his crew, and solicitious to them. And he lost ships rarely, so a tour of duty aboard one of his ships could likely be completed. For many pilots with a background like that it was a statistical certainity that a crewmember could not complete a tour of duty. Before going into serious combat he even insisted on offloading most of them. Much of the hows and whys of a ship docked or undocked, flew to a destination or did not, and generally did anything were often mysteries to basic crew. It wasn't their concern in the eyes of the capsuleers who drove and fought the craft. This was not the case here, but only because this particular capsuleer believed that only a fool would commit himself to a situation he had neither knowledge of nor control over, and had no desire for fools on his ships.

A spacecraft is far too complex a mechanism to allow an idiot anywhere near it, after all.

It had been a slow night; the ship kept an idiosycrantic time like most capsuleer vessels did. Minor engagements, the crew said. When the capsuleer returned with a scowl, the crew nearing the end of their tours recognized it; the blasted agent was offering cargo running missions to a combat pilot again. Nobody aboard could understand why they kept doing such a thing when he always refused. Shortly thereafter some ship components were loaded into the hold and the Dominix launched. A temporary move to another system and agent, the capsuleer said. No combat, not yet.

Another minor engagement, this one marked by a reluctance to engage in their opponents at first. Then, finally, a Main Event. Big things, big bounties, big bonuses for the crew, real action. They swapped out a few components and all decided to stay on. The older ones, near completing a tour or having served aboard one of his ships before, stayed because they had faith it would turn out well by now. The younger ones stayed because they wanted the money.

"Angels, mainly heavies." The younger crew worried about their armor. The older ones had noted the type of hardeners that had been mounted and did not bother with worries about the armor.

There was a clanking as the railguns loaded their first set of ready rounds. Their firing was silent, the slight rattle and capacitor whine too faint to transmit through heavy armor. The crew knew battle had been joined when the dull thuds of drone bay doors opening signalled drone deployment, sentries. Other than that, the first three minutes were silent, interrupted only by the capsuleer's comments over the main announcers, ticking off ships from his list of targets and the dull thuds of drone bay doors as the sentries were recovered and other drones launched to clean up. The ship was undergoing serious bombardment, but there was no inward sign. The idea that energy shields could transmit kinetic energy to the armor and hull was laughable by itself, an invention of bad fiction against all laws of physics, but it would have also meant they weren't doing their job of protecting the ship.

The first cannon impacts against the armor were unmistakable, thunder and a quaking. Now the battle was serious, the Dominix's shields gone. None of the crew had expected them to hold, of course, the ship was not set up to fight that way, but sometimes it did happen. The crew on their second or third tour recognized the sound of solid projectiles striking their armor, and also knew they weren't very big ones. Not battleship-calibur weaponry.

The fire died down. Nobody thought it was over. The ship hadn't moved yet; it never moved in combat. When they heard the engines start to run up and the pilot didn't say anything, that meant it was over. An announcement of "Engaging second group" and the clanks of railguns loading new ready rounds and dull thuds of drone bay doors opening again told them to be ready for more.

Slams and quakes, those who had thought they were frightened before now knew to be frightened for real. The noise of battleship rounds slamming into the armor was almost a weapon unto itself, pounding the crew's senses and keeping them from hearing, from thinking. But the capsuleer heard nothing, felt nothing, insulated in his pod. He deployed and recalled drones, tasked them and his guns to new targets. The second group fell, the third group too, then the last, leaving only a couple of cruisers who hadn't yet engaged.

With a chuckle the whole crew heard, he targeted them and they charged when he fired at them. It was stupid, but if they weren't stupid, none of them would have fought in the first place. People compared him and his ilk to gods for a reason.

The engines grumbled to life, the low, reassuring thrum of battleship thrusters. The Dominix slid through a sea of wrecked starships. Seventeen of them were various grades of Machariel, the favored battleship of the Angels. The remaining thirteen were mostly battlecruisers with a few destroyers and and frigates for variety. Amongst the wrecks floated the bodies, two hundred thousand Angel crewers and officers. The capsuleer knew these facts but did not much care. It had taken him approximately twenty minutes of time and a little under one hundred and sixty rounds of heavy antimatter ammunition. Bounties and mission payout had been a little over ten million. Not much compared to what he had, but worth the time.

We do not bring salvation, glory, or joy. We bring death and destruction. We destroy starships the way others would kill ants, devastate armadas of conventional ships and find it relaxing. This is why they call us gods. They fear us.

They should.