This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

For an introduction to this blog refer to this link. You may also want to check out the guide for new readers

: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

30 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 8 - The Conclusion

Like I promised, here is the conclusion for the most recent story, before the year changes. Already the previous episode ended on a note that made it clear how everything is not all peachy in this story. I wont spoil the ending, let me just say, I had to take a break after finishing it before I could come back and do the proofreading after I had churned out the draft. I'd like to know whether you saw it coming.

So this finished story is the longest since the first, which is fitting, as it will be the last for the year 2011.

I hope you have a nice transition into 2012, and in case the world doesn't end next year despite all predictions, I hope I can bring you more stories over the course of the months. If I continue at this pace, I will have a whole novel's worth by 2013. Well, we'll see.

Happy new year!

P.S. the latest episode contains a Dr. Who reference (for those who know the series) Can you spot it?

27 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 7 - Chick Flick?

So, you may think. Finally she is outing herself. Writing three full episodes of romantic encounters on beautiful shores, lost love, heavy emotions, the rejected geek-girl who is losing out, and the guy just being a helpless but endearing fool in all of this. Of course you are those cool EVE-Online people. You don't want to read stories that remind you of the movies your wives and girlfriends force you to watch with them. Or at least you wont admit to it. (My theory is, that, secretly, guys love those movies but would never admit to it)

But stay tuned. Those first two parts with their character expose, they are there for a reason. They are like the warm weather that leads to vast thunderheads piling up ... read on, and if you can guess how this ends, I promise you some reward or other I have not yet decided upon. Make a wish.

I already know the end, it is written already.

I will reveal it before the year changes.

25 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 6 - An emotional story

Some time ago, one of my corp-mates and most avid readers said that he felt all my protagonists were really controlled people. I agreed to some extent, but also I think that I have de-constructed that impression a bit. Sandrielle, possibly the most composed of them, in her sinister way, is hinted to be a deeply conflicted individual in Angels and Demons. Keram is a reckless man of seemingly no values, but even that is put into question in Shattering Tranquility. Alira has her insecurities and that unspoken affection for Cedrien. Sylera is a lost soul who has lost what she trusted in, and who is thrust among people who are far from anything she ever knew. So far I left only Shisei and Cedrien unscathed. In my next story I was going to address a more emotional side of that last character. I wont spoil it for you, but I can tell you one thing: It's going to be tragically romantic.

The first part is there to read, and I have the second part almost finished. The way it looks now, it will become a three-part story. I already sort-of know how it will end, but I wont tell anything except that it will be ... no that would already reveal too much.

Happy winter holidays everyone.

17 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 5 - It is done

So finally I finished A Trader's Woes. I sort-of had a hard time with it. First of all, I bit off a bit more than I could swallow with this weird first-person account. Second, I began to really dislike the guy (which is part of why I had him suffer quite a bit in the second part), and last-but-not-least I didn't really know where I should go with the story. Well I hope you think it turned out OK.

In other news, a corp-mate of mine started to write some EVE fiction too. I am not sure whether I should link it, because he keeps saying it's not yet for public reading. It deviates a bit from the canonical EVE Universe, but I like the concept of his story a lot and it is an immersive read. Once he's OK with it I will certainly link it here.

Speaking of fiction. I can only recommend listening to this. In case you don't know it, it's an episode of Voices from the Void featuring two fiction pieces performed by their authors as one-person audio play. Both stories a great and the performances are too.

Until the next story

Slender, articulated obsidian shapes slide toward you ...

10 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 4 - Change of style

So, if you have read my stories thus far, you will have noticed that I employ a certain style, very close to the narrative concept of the omniscient observer. In fact, in most - if not all - of the stories, you as the reader are even privy to the thoughts of some characters. The focus switches from story to story and from one scene to the next. Sometimes a certain protagonist is the main person the story 'zooms in on' and then it is another. I have used this device of storytelling to bring all the different characters closer to you and give you a certain understanding of what drives them and who they are.

In my next story I have decided to go for an experiment and switch to uncompromising first-person storytelling. This piece will be written in the way of a person telling a friend about an experience. That person will not be one of my main protagonists, but some of them will appear in the story.

I actually find this pretty hard to do, because I like character exposes and description of scenery. It is a very different writing experience, and I hope the different reading experience will appeal to you too. As I write this, the story is at about a third of the length it will most probably grow to, and the first part is due to be on here in a few days.

Slender, articulated obsidian shapes slide toward you from the surrounding darkness of space.

P.S. The first part of the story is now up. There is quite some weird switching of tenses in it, also some weird expressions. That's all due to the protagonist talking in grammatically incorrect first-person Caldari-trader style. You know the Caldari don't care about eloquence, they only care about the bottom line ;)

2 Dec 2011

OOC Entry 3 - Further

Greetings dear reader.

So now the conclusion of the sixth story is up. With this one I deliberately challenged myself. I wanted to write a story which was mostly comprised of "action scenes", because I find it pretty difficult to put those into words. The balance between describing the events so they can be followed, and not using too much words to get the pacing all wrong is a delicate one. I hope I somehow got it about right.

I hope you enjoyed reading it. As always, I'd be happy to read what you are thinking.

My next story will be a shorter interlude piece again, and this time I decided to feature some of the crew rather than focus on the capsuleer protagonists.

Until then ...  These ruins doze away, oneiromantic.

28 Nov 2011

OOC Entry 2 - Progress

I am on a roll here. Already I added another short interlude story where Sylera gets her first ship and Sandrielle reveals her motives to Cedrien. The next, somewhat longer, story is already in development and will revolve around some strange inhabitants of wormhole space.

Also I found out that I had to number the stories because they appear alphabetically on the list. Another one of those strange shortcomings of the interface, that you can't order them the way you want. You can do that with page links. Well, I found a workaround anyway.

Furthermore, Pixxie Twilight has mentioned my stories on her podcast which I am very thankful for. Her shows are definitely worth listening to. She does a great job of telling how she works her way up from the tutorials to the Nullsec corp she is flying with now. Including all kinds of pitfalls for new players along the way. She is also very entertaining, I regularly have to laugh about her subtle jokes and amusing antics.

You are not alone. Perhaps you never were.

23 Nov 2011

OOC Entry 1 - Introduction

The seed to this blog was laid when I thought up a story while I idly scanned a neighbouring wormhole and did my best to occupy my mind during that rather less exciting task. Quite a few of my corpmates liked the story I published on our internal forum and asked for more. Eventually I decided to stop flooding our forum with new stories that kept pouring out of my imagination, so that's when I started this blog.

In the meantime I not only written stories here, but also all kinds of random thoughts on EVE that were running around in my mind like caged squirrels. Most recently I have convinced an old RL friend who also plays EVE to write for my blog. He is quite different from me. First of all he is a guy, but spart from that he has spent most of his EVE life in nullsec and is currently living in lowsec doing "|337 PVP" and Faction Warfare. Things I have never done except for my short time with Noir and Black Legion.

If you have taken a close look, you will notice that all the story posts are going backwards in time with their dates. The reason for this is, that the blogger interface otherwise displays them in reverse order (Part 3 before Part 2 etc)
Of course that makes it a bit confusing in case you follow the blog (all the dates are wrong) So I decided to add OOC (Out Of Character) entries which will be at their correct respective dates. This way you can see whether I am still active if you follow this blog.

Enfin, I would love to read comments from readers. Don't hold back with criticism either. (as long as it's constructive) I know I am not a professional writer, and English is actually a second language for me, so I am sure some things aren't quite right, but I sure would like to improve. Both for my own and your enjoyment.

The Sleepers have awakened!

19 Nov 2011

Equal Measure - Part 1


I tried to come up with names which I thought would fit the different races. Here's a short sort-of phonetic English pronounciation guide for the dramatis personae:

Alira Tjalgard: AwLEErah CHAllguard
Cedrien Roucellis : SAYdreeun RUEsaylees
Keram Themas: KAYruhm THEYmuss
Halis Ettin: HUHlees AYttin
Dirgren Briguduttin: DEARgrehn BreegYOUdotin
Sandrielle Jaunes: SAWndrEEel JAWnes
Sylera Aulithe: SYlAIra AWleeTHAY
Shisei Kanioota: SHEsay KAWneeAWtah

'Space is silent. Humans - however - did not evolve in an environment of silence.
For us, orientation depends on sound as much as it does on vision, and to orient oneself in space is essential for a capsuleer. This is the reason why the neural interface of the capsule translates specific energy-waves into sound. Uncannily the right emissions from the outer space environment are selected to be conveyed to the nervous system in such a way, that the brain hears something, even though the eardrums remain untouched, immersed in capsule fluid.'

Alira was idly reminiscing about this introduction by one of her instructors from capsuleer training, when the passage of mass excited the gravitons forming the wormhole tunnel before her. The effect sent impulses to her brain creating the illusion of a swelling sound washing over her. Her brain reflexively sent the signal to open her eyes, and - although her eyelids remained closed - the sensors of her ship activated and fed information back to her. Light flickered along the rim of the undulating wormhole, but no ship became visible. Whoever had just come through remained unmoving and maintained the jump cloak.

Her body moved subtly inside it's pod while Alira brought the ship's systems online.
She felt the familiar tingle in her gut as the vessel accelerated. Cloaked as it was, it would not go very fast, but it would be sufficient to get within range to whatever came through the wormhole and at the same time get out of any immediately obvious jump trajectories the other one might choose. Willing her mind to convey speech through the neural interface, she engaged the intel channel to signal the other pilots dispersed throughout the wormhole system.

'Wormhole fire on alpha' she tersely reported.

'Copy that, it can't be one of ours' Alira would have identified the distinct Gallente accent of Cedrien, their chief officer, even if his name didn't flash before her mind's eye.

'I am on optimal, all systems standing by for decloak. As soon as he moves i'll have him pinned' Her awareness heightened, she was poised like a cat ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. She knew that she had to be fast and time her reactions well, or else the intruder would slip away.

'Don't worry tribal princess, we'll be there to support you' A slight hint of an annoyed sneer momentarily appeared on Alira's features. Keram kept throwing those jabs at her. Despite being an excommunicated renegade, the Amarrian still retained a certain attitude of chauvinist superiority. He enjoyed provoking her. As usual she did not indulge him.

'Their phase alignment threshold is going to be reached in a few seconds. I'll time my decloaking to sync with theirs'

It must be a single ship.
Alira thought. The wormhole lead to an isolated system in low-security space of the Arida region. The pirates haunting such sectors hardly ever cared about wormholes. Chances are it would be a lone explorer. Maybe a forward-scout for a bigger party? It was late at night according to standard time. Most of their fellow wormhole settlers were fast asleep in their bunks back at one of the small stations they had painstakingly built in this isolated system. Only Keram, Cedrien and herself were on active duty. Hardly an effective fighting force, but enough to deal with small groups of inexperienced intruders.

Her mind signaled the ship to decloak, and the outlines of her Loki appeared in space as if emerging from a mirage. The other ship appeared at the same time ... it was a Prowler Class Minmatar deep-space transport.

Alira's body stirred in her pod while the neural interface translated the action of reaching out and grabbing something into an activation of her stasis web and warp scrambler.
A second later she spread her fingers and the artillery cannons on her ship reacted by swiveling and pointing themselves at the target.

'Please don't shoot. Mayday! Mayday! Please don't fire!' A panicked voice intruded on an emergency frequency.

Alira hesitated, not yet releasing the massive projectiles chambered in her cannons.
The other ship was obviously damaged. She could see breaches venting burning gases.
Many of the viewport lights were off or flickering.

'Warp on my position, but hold cloak' she relayed to her companions. 'This might be a trap, but it seems like those people are in trouble ... and then I don't mean from us.'

Switching to the emergency channel she replied to the Minmatar ship. 'This is Alira Tjalgard of the Sebiestor Tribe' she chose to emphasize her Minmatar background to put the other party at ease. The ship showed markings and signatures of the Republic Fleet 'You have intruded into a settled wormhole system, state your business'

Relief was clearly audible in the voice of the man on the transport ship 'Greetings Daughter of Matar. I am Halis Ettin of Sebiestor. Technician first class, Republic Transport Liberty Sun'
He sounded young and determined despite signs of adrenaline-related strain in his voice
'We have been waylaid by pirates. Most of our crew are dead or injured. Our capsuleer pilot has been rendered comatose by an odd feedback malfunction. Me and some other technicians managed to mount and activate a probe launcher we had in cargo. The pirates had all exit gates and stations watched, we needed a way out.'

Smart and resourceful under pressure. Alira thought. She liked the way this boy was thinking.

'Alira, you keep them where they are. Keram stay cloaked and ready for trouble. I will jump through to the other side and check out that system over there.' Cedrien ordered via the intel-channel.

'Copy' Alira replied and switched back to the emergency frequency 'Halis Ettin. Hold your position and power down your engines. We will confirm your story'

'Odd feedback malfunction' Keram taunted 'Did you Minmatar people still not work that glitch out of the neurolink'

Alira again ignored his provocation. 'Let's maintain comm discipline Keram' was her only answer. Keram chuckled 'Yes Ma'm'

The wormhole flared when Cedrien jumped through. The smooth lines of his Proteus hull became visible only for a second before he vanished down the spatial funnel.
'Looks like their story is true. I have two stations and three gates on scan over here. All are crawling with pirate vessels. No probes, though. Space around the wormhole is clear.' He reported after some time. 'I'm jumping back. Let's escort those guys back to our station before the pirates out here figure out where they went.'

'Which pirates are that?' Keram inquired.

'The Empire's Rejects, that's what their ship-beacons say at least' came Cedrien's answer just before the wormhole sent another energy burst when he passed back through.

'Aah the Rejects. I flew with them for some time. Don't worry. Uriel will not send his guys into a wormhole. He is too scared of the Sleepers after they lost a whole contingent in an attempted raid.'

Alira was grudgingly reminded, how useful is is to have ex-pirates on their side, even if they are obnoxious Amarrians like Keram. She weighed his statement. She knew the Rejects were a band of Amarr outcasts and heretics, second only to the Blood Raiders in size and danger. More pragmatists than fanatics, though. Keram's assessment seemed plausible.

'I am taking no chances Keram' Cedrien replied. 'You park your bomber here at the wormhole, Alira and me will take our guests to the listening post'
'Liberty Sun, align your ship to the following coordinates. Warp there on the shortest trajectory. Any deviation and you will be fired upon without further warning' he instructed the transport.
'Alira, I'll jump ahead to open the station shield for them. You follow them in warp, if they do anything suspicious, blow them apart.' Cedrien added on intel comms.


In time, the damaged transport was docked in the angular shadow of their Caldari-manufactured listening post tower. Alira and Cedrien walked through the badly damaged interiour of the ship, lead by Halis and a whipcord-thin Sebiestor girl who looked young enough to be Alira's daughter.

"Sorry, we had to take the long way around. Decks three through five are irradiated. They breached one of our cargo holds full of enriched uranium." Halis excused himself to Alira.

Like most Sebiestor he was of light build, only slightly bigger than Alira herself. Lean hard muscles stood out beneath his grimy and torn utility clothing with almost every movement.
He was not unattractive with his boyish tussle of blue-dyed hair, alert grey eyes and ready wry smile.

'How many casualties?' Cedrien asked while he sidestepped a spontaneous shower of sparks. His tone had the usual all-business military dryness. He even wore his old Federal Navy uniform, even though out here he neither held rank nor office besides the role assigned to him by their corporation.

'We undocked with a crew of twentyfive plus our capsuleer pilot.' Halis began 'Three got sucked out a breach. Seven succumbed to radiation. One got fried by a power conduit explosion.' He paused while climbing over a girder in a half collapsed part of the corridor. 'Several burns of various degrees, cuts, bruises, fractures ... Dirgren' he indicated the girl with a gesture 'me and three others are the only ones who came out of it more or less unharmed'.

'I didn't know the Republic Fleet directly employed capsuleer pilots in their ranks' Alira interjected.

'It's ... part of a new program' Halis explained. They had arrived at the blast doors leading to the pod chamber.

Dirgren entered the access code and the double layer of movable bulkheads slid apart with a metallic rumble. Amid a circle of instruments, cables, pipes and conduits rested the pilot's pod. Her body frozen in a rigid position of cramped contortion. The fair skin tone, flowing whitish-blond hair, sharp features and slender feminine form looked out of place on this Republic ship.

'I am especially surprised to see they employ Amarr capsuleers' Cedrien stated with a look demanding explanation directed at the Sebiestor technician.

18 Nov 2011

Equal Measure - Part 2

'Aah, there we have our sleeping beauty' Keram said. A satisfied smile spread on his thin lips. He looked older than he was due to his expressive aquiline features, as Amarr men often do, but when he got that smile and sparkle in his eyes - the one he always got when he successfully did something illegal or amoral - the deviant spirit of reckless youth showed itself.

'One day you'll have to tell me how you got access to the CONCORD capsuleer registry' Cedrien commented with barely concealed surprise. He sat down beside Keram at the console and activated another holographic terminal, joining it to the same fluid-router link.

'Sylera Aulithe, reported missing in a contested border system between Amarr and Minmatar space, in Devoid region ... hmmm' Cedrien drew his eyebrows together. 'She has no ties to any Minmatar corporate or tribal authority'

'Quite the opposite' Keram threw a datasheet he had pulled up over to Cedrien's display with a quick gesture 'She has been a volunteer in the 24th Imperial Crusade.'

The elevator door of operations-control opened and Alira stepped in. She crossed over to the raised command platform in the centre of the octagonal hall. The cold efficiency of Caldari design had long turned into a drab greyness due to lack of maintenance and cleaning out here in this frontier environment. It's functional austerity was further degraded by a clutter of toolboxes, non-standard equipment and all kinds of personal touches added by the users of the station.

Alira bent over to lean her arms on the backrest of Cedrien's chair and looked over his shoulder. 'I have arranged bunks for them in one of our secured cargo hangars. They have enough medical supplies, and my crew are busy helping them with anything they need.'
Cedrien looked up at her over his shoulder, about to say something.
'There's no-way they are getting out of there ... effectively we have them imprisoned' Alira reassured him before he could voice his concerns.

Cedrien smiled and nodded at the display. 'Look what Keram found. The whole background on that comatose capsuleer' he pointed at the holographic layers of information.

Alira's eyes jumped from one piece to the other. She twisted her androgynous features into a worried expression and ran slender fingers through her short red hair. 'It gets stranger. I had two of my tech staff inspect the pod of that transport. They assure me that the specs on that system could not possibly have caused a disabling neural feedback'

Keram grinned wolfishly. 'You're saying this Minnie trash actually works according to safety specs?'

'Looks like' Alira replied coldly and straightened. She looked down at Keram through narrowed eyelids. 'Apparently an Amarr capsuleer entrusted herself to it.'

'Ha! I doubt it was voluntary' Keram scoffed and shook his mane of wavy auburn hair in disbelief.

Cedrien slighly cocked his head and quirked an eyebrow. Alira liked when he did that. Not only was it usually an indication that he got one of his uncanny moments of insight, but it also made him look cute in that particular Gallente way. She suppressed a smile and the familiar pang she often got when she found herself feeling attracted to Cedrien. One day she would just have to come out to him. 'If only I had the attitude of a Brutor woman.' She was about to sigh when Cedrien interrupted her musing.

'What if you are right, and she didn't volunteer?' he ventured

Keram suddenly made a serious face. An expression that seemed to age him by ten years. 'Fedocrap!' he exclaimed 'That was a joke! No way you could make a capsuleer pilot a ship against her will!'

'Well ...' Cedrien continued with a concentrated frown. 'The Sansha managed to turn capsuleers, right?' He got up from his chair and turned to Alira. 'Instruct your technicians to look for anything that might be Sansha technology' he straightened his Gallente uniform jacket and smoothed his almost black hair back with his hand. Yet another one of those mannerisms Alira liked to watch. It gave him a certain air of authority. She could actually imagine him on the bridge of a Federation Navy ship, issuing commands as he used to before his political views made him lose favour in the ranks and he was forced to leave.

'I'll oversee the search personally, Cedrien' Alira announced and turned to leave.

Keram reclined in his chair and drowsily looked at the holographic display, running his eyes over the information again. 'You can't seriously expect her to find anything like that, right? I mean Sansha equipment on a Republic Fleet transport?! You're stretching it a bit there Cedrien.'

Cedrien took a few steps and looked out the slightly grimy viewport of the command center.
The cold light of the white dwarf star outside cast harsh shadows on his thoughtful face.
'Am I Keram? You were a capsuleer pirate, you should know that people will try anything to achieve a goal.'

Keram yawned and reclined even deeper. 'I just think you are wasting your time with this. But well, you're actually wasting Alira's time, so I don't really care. I am also officially off duty in ten minutes'

Cedrien smirked with annoyance. Keram was a good fighter, and he was loyal to the corp, but the Amarrian's attitude disturbed him sometimes. It did not fit with his military mindset deeply ingrained by two decades of service. Also he resented Keram's constant remarks against Alira. He shook his head slightly 'Who ever thought of having an Amarr renegade and a Minmatar vagabond in the same team?'


The crew assigned to shelter the wounded and survivors of the Liberty Sun had left them to their own devices. Halis knew that they felt safe. The fact was not lost on him that their hosts had chosen a cargo hangar with only one exit, nothing really useful or valuable in it, and no way for them to leave. He slipped from his bunk and signaled to Dirgren who nodded and followed him behind a stack of freight containers. Halis pulled out a remote control console from his satchel and sank down on his haunches, resting the device on his thighs.

'Are you sure everything is disabled' he asked the young technician while he started up his controller.

The immature looking woman nodded and made a few hand-signals of non-verbal Minmatar battle language. Halis smiled inwardly. Dirgren Brigiduttin had been specifically selected for her inability to speak and the genetic nervous-system aberration which rendered her immune to any attempts at neural mapping. That, and her absolute loyalty, made her the perfect person for a classified assignment like this. As it turned out, she was right. Halis looked at the simple non-holographic readout. The nanites they had injected earlier into the pod's command-and-control system were doing their destructive work. Only a few minutes, and there would not be a molecule of evidence left.

'Make sure you store our results safely, once they have no reference it will just be inconclusive flight recorder data' he added. Dirgren nodded again. Halis shut down his controller device and got up, flashing a quirky smile. 'Ok let's be poor marooned transport ship crew and go to sleep'

17 Nov 2011

Equal Measure - Part 3

Frustrated Alira kicked an empty can of Quafe across the Liberty Sun's pod chamber and spat a string of curses to follow it in it's path. The instruments controlling the pod's functions had shown signs of deterioration, but now they were completely dysfunctional. She was locked out of the system.

It was late, or rather, it was early on the next day. Rows of Quafe cans all around were a silent testimony to feverishly worked hours, and the body of Sylera Aulithe, floating in her pod like a bizarre sculpture, was a reminder of failure despite all the effort.
Alira had kept working long after she had sent her crew to sleep, and now the realization sunk in that she had promised too much. She sat down on an equipment crate and rested her face in her palms. 'How am I supposed to find Sansha technology anyway? I don't even know how that differs from any other commonly used standard.' She sighed deeply and inwardly cursed herself for getting in over her head in an attempt to look good for Cedrien. Now she would look even worse.

'I hope you are not crying over an Amarr capsuleer' a smooth voice with a clear ironic inflection halted Alira's threatening descent into self-loathing.

She started and looked up. Sandrielle Jaunes. She would even have preferred the company of Keram at this moment.

Alira was plagued by severe jealousy when it came to Sandrielle. That Gallente woman was everything she wasn't: Feminine, mysteriously beautiful, professionally detached and always in perfect control of herself. She had the looks and aura of a holoreel heroine in a Gallente spy thriller. Worst of all she, was one of the few people in this odd band of wormhole settlers that Cedrien looked up to. Sometimes the way he would look at her bordered on admiration.

Alira straightened herself and stood up. 'No ... I was ... just thinking'
Sandrielle looked at her with those dark almond-shaped eyes as if she could read her mind.
It made Alira nervous and she turned away to point at the diverse instrument-consoles surrounding the pod. 'The command-and-control system has completely collapsed, all we have now is rudimentary life support readouts and emergency systems'

Sandrielle walked over to the disassembled instrument-consoles with casual grace and ran her gaze over the assortment of diagnostic units, backup controllers and secondary devices which had been connected to the array in an attempt to salvage it. 'It looks like you and your team did the best you could.' She rested two fingers against her cheek and pursed her lips. 'It surprises me that you didn't succeed'

'Was that a compliment or a veiled insult?' Alira never knew with this woman. She cast a droopy look at the jumble of cables, connectors and devices, resting her chin on her hands, her elbows on her knees. 'I don't know what it was ... we were getting somewhere but the whole system broke down for no reason'

'Oh ... ' Sandrielle breathed and turned around with a sphinx-smile. Alira almost rolled her eyes. She knew that expression. The next thing would be some cryptic statement. 'There is always a reason for every thing that happens' Sandrielle pointed out. Quite unnecessarily in Alira's opinion.

Alira got up and stretched her slim body. 'How long since you slept?' Sandrielle asked with more of a professional interest than personal concern.

'No idea ... too long' Alira replied

'Why don't you take some rest. Cedrien filled me in on the whole background. I will take over from here.' Sandrielle suggested 'You are not the only one with a good tech crew' she added.

'Why did she have to mention him?' Alira stopped herself from retorting with a defensive challenge. Did she just hear a certain element of personal concern behind the other woman's aloofness?

Sandrielle looked at Alira with the warmest smile the tired Sebiestor woman had ever seen on her. 'Alira, I mean it. You did your best. Find some sleep. Come back to it with a rested mind. We'll keep up the good work.'

Her exhaustion tugged successfully at Alira's resolve to defy that woman she could never really bring herself to trust. Sandrielle had appeared at their doorstep one day after a career as 'Diplomat' for an Alliance of dangerously sociopathic capsuleers living in the deepest recesses of the lawless Tenerifis region, on the fringes of the galaxy. Many of the settlers had accepted her for her skill and smarts. Keram, who usually managed to find out a lot of dirty secrets about anyone he takes the time to investigate, hardly found a shred of information about her at all. Alira remembered what he said back then 'Her record is way too clean for someone who lived in Nullsec space. Something's not right about her' It was one of the few times Alira agreed with the Amarrian.

'I guess you are right' Alira eventually replied. Dissatisfied she left the pod chamber that looked like the site of a lost battle fought with technology, sweat, smarts and semi-legal stimulants.


Alira walked down the corridor of gunmetal-gray industrial construction modules which lead to the docking ring. She had never liked the feel of the Caldari tower. Others might sleep in the station, but she preferred her ship. 'There are just too many questions' She thought as she slammed the airlock release with the last remnant of tired frustration. '... and one person who could provide answers' she realized.

Shortly after, her ship engaged with the docking system of the cargo-hangar floating a short distance off the main control tower.


Alira passed the rows of bunks in the emergency quarters they had set up for the crew of the Liberty Sun. Most of them were asleep. She saw mainly Sebiestor, a Brutor or two.
'A crew more fitted for a science vessel than for a deep-space transport' it crossed her mind.
She approached a small group of battered crewmen sitting around a small heat emitter drinking caffeinated breakfast stew from cups. 'Where can I find Halis Ettin?' she asked once she arrived at the small circle. 'Right over there, third bunk on the left' A swarthy Brutor boy told her 'The crew on this flight are generally quite young' she mentally registered. For a moment she fancied she was thinking like Cedrien, analyzing the situation, or even like Sandrielle, paying attention to every little detail. '

'Halis?' she whispered when she found him lying in a fold-up bunk bed. The blue-haired Sebiestor opened his eyes momentarily and looked at her, following with a tired smile. 'Alira Tjalgard ... you've come to wake me up?' he asked in an almost flirtatious tone.

'I am sorry' she knelt beside the bunk, feeling slightly embarrassed. 'I ... I just had a few questions that crossed my mind'

'I see' Halis replied. He swung his legs out of the bunk and stretched. Alira could not help but notice the play of taut muscles in his legs and arms. 'How long since I saw someone from my tribe' she inwardly wondered.

'Of course you have analyzed our vessel, and of course your Gallente captain has come to some conclusions by now.' Halis stated with an encouraging tone.

Alira unconsciously latched on to his direct opening 'Yes, we can't figure out how that Amarr loyalist capsuleer would voluntarily work on your ship, and why the pod's control systems have fallen to pieces like they did'

Only a second later her tired mind registered that she probably should not have said this.
The realization came too late.

Halis' hand shot out to her throat and cut off the inevitable scream at her larynx. The trauma to her windpipe deprived her brain of oxygen within moments as she choked for air. A blow that she did not even see coming in her stunned state sent her off into the void of unconsciousness.

16 Nov 2011

Equal Measure - Part 4

Alira woke up to a feeling of panic. Her body reflexively wanted to get up from it's prone position but her forehead slammed into something hard and metallic sending her barely regained consciousness reeling again. Dazed she tried to determine where she was. Utter darkness surrounded her. She explored it with her hands and felt them brush against cool metal surfaces all around. Her fingers traced the objects chafing her back. 'Water containers. At least I wont die from thirst' She almost chuckled but her throat was still sore and swollen. Her jaw felt like something had hit her there too. 'How long have I been lying here' She examined her various pockets and found that they had all been emptied. She felt along along the lining of her utility jacket. Satisfied she noticed a slight resilience as she kneaded a seam. 'They haven't found the emergency comm circuit braided into my jacket. They must have been in a hurry' She pressed the button on her collar 'Operations control, do you copy?'

'This is OC ... is that you Alira?' Despite the low quality of the receiver she recognized the voice of Shisei Kanioota, the Achura scientist who ran most of the complex research and development projects they were conducting in the wormhole system. 'If Shisei is in ops then only a few hours could have passed, at most ' Alira concluded. 'I am stuck in a crate here. Most likely hangar two, bay seven, that was my last known location' she responded.

'Most surprising' Shisei answered with a calmness contradicting the stated sentiment. 'Your ship was registered as leaving the station shield'

A sensation like burning heat and freezing cold blended into one washed over her, followed by intense anger. 'Those sons of mangy slaver dogs stole my ship!' she slammed her fist into the side of the cargo crate confining her. 'I'm telling you, home in on my signal and get me out of this box!' she snarled.


'They could not have gotten very far' Alira rasped, her voice still not quite recovered 'To make all the subsystems of the Loki work together, you need a capsuleer pilot and a crew trained to use that kind of technology' She paced briskly around the command platform in the operations centre. 'I also made so many custom modifications to the ship that you'd need yet another technical manual to understand those'

'Would you please sit down Alira. We need to focus, and your agitation is not conducive to the process.' Shisei requested with his usual composure. Alira stopped herself but the habitual stoicism of the middle-aged Achura man annoyed her even more right now. 'It's not your half billion ISK flying around out there in the hands of ship thieves.' She stabbed a finger at the wide viewport and spat the last words with such a hateful emphasis as if she was talking about rape.

'Get a grip on yourself Alira!' Cedrien snapped with a commanding voice. 'As you said yourself, they could not have gotten far.' he continued with a more lenient tone while he stepped away from a holographic readout. He put his hands comfortingly on Alira's shoulders and bent slightly at the knees to level his gaze with hers. 'I need you here, allright'

Alira's inner turmoil dissolved in the deep pools of those almost indigo eyes. She nodded slowly 'I'm here, I'm allright'

Cedrien straightened and nodded. 'Good' he returned to the command console, all-business again 'Keram is already out there probing the system for them. They are moving, but he has a signal. It wont be long until he has pinpointed them'

'Leave it to a predator to track the prey' Shisei added with an inscrutable smile.

'Shisei, I want you to mobilize your crew and prepare your Falcon. Go for a full Ladar jammer configuration.' Cedrien ordered 'I will take my Proteus, and you ...' he turned to Alira with an almost boyish smile '... you will have the privilege of catching your own ship'


Alira had always loved the exhilaration of flying the Stiletto. No other ship she was proficient in responded in such an immediate way. Without any crew necessary, the small, fragile hull was like an extension of her body. The way it reacted to the impulses of her nervous system made it perform like a skilled acrobat under the guidance of her quick mind, now also spurred on by the determination of catching those who stole her most valuable vessel.

'I have visual' Keram announced via commlink. 'I am practically sitting on top of them' predatory amusement was apparent in his tone. 'Seems they haven't figured out how to make the cloak work on your ship'

'I am in warp to your position' Alira announced.

'I pray that your flimsy toy doesn't fall apart before you land' Keram quipped.

'Oh, go to whatever hell you Amarr believe in' Alira was in no mood to ignore him this time, as space washed out around her and she felt the sensation of taking a deep plunge twisting at her innards.

'Comms discipline people' Cedrien's voice demanded 'This is not a pleasure cruise. And remember, we want to board them, not destroy them. Be prepared to take fire though'

'Unlikely' Shisei stated matter-of-factly 'I am in position, ready to decloak and jam them. They won't be able to achieve target lock before long'

The small team of pilots had quickly fallen back on their extensive experience at flying together. Raiding ancient structures protected by the enigmatic and dangerous Sleeper Drones, as well as engaging capsuleer intruders, had forged them them all into a well coordinated fighting group in a way that superseded all personal differences.

The visual representation of surrounding space, created by the capsule-system's translation of sensor input, came into focus again as Alira decelerated out of warp. The hijackers had chosen the edge of the accretion disk as their temporary hiding place, probably hoping for the intensely radiating matter to foil attempts at finding them with scanner probes. A storm of superheated particles from the outer shell of the bloated red giant main star raged past them on it's spiral path into the deep gravity well of the nearby white dwarf.

Immediately she willed her ship into a tight orbit around the elongated form of the Loki's hull. What would otherwise have been an intense stare sent signals from her visual cortex to the targeting systems. She had the vessel locked in a mere second or two. An attempt of her opponents to achieve target lock themselves became a chirping sound in her mind. However, at the edge of her simulated field of vision Alira could see the angular shape of Shisei's Falcon emerge from obscurity and begin it's onslaught against the advanced sensor systems of the Loki.

Her hands twitched only slightly in her pod as a residual reaction to her mental grasping action while she disrupted the coalescing modulation of a warp field around the target. The glistening hull of Keram's Anathema now also decloaked at close range and added it's own warp-disruption effect for good measure. Finally Cedrien's Proteus shot out of warp. The organic looking Gallente ship cast the strongly amplified energy strands of a stasis web around the Loki, Alira followed with her own.

Their execution was flawlessly effective. Their quarry was virtually immobilized, unable to escape into warp, and sat there with overloaded targeting sensors, unable to attack.

'To the crew commandeering the Sei'R. Power down your shields and prepare to be boarded' Cedrien called out on an open frequency.

Halis Ettin replied with a mocking voice 'Or else? I doubt you will shoot at one of your own ships. I guess we are at a stalemate here and should start nego ...' he was cut off by agitated shouts in the background.

'Guess again' Alira interrupted grimly. 'I just powered down the shields by remote command.'
She willed another sequence of encrypted commands to transmit to her stolen ship 'Also you will find that all doors and airlocks have been overridden and locked. You are confined wherever you are on my ship!' Unimpaired by her physical condition, the electronic representation of her voice tore through the bridge of the Sei'R with unrestrained rage as she shouted the last words.

'You should know, Matari boy.' Keram added smugly 'You lay hands on a Minmatar woman's ship at your own peril'


Sandrielle looked down at the bound and broken remnant of what once was the defiant Sebiestor agent Halis Ettin working on one of the most innovative and sinister projects the Minmatar Republic had ever sanctioned. There were no obvious wounds or signs of abuse. She was above such crude methods to break a subject, but she always got her results. Interestingly enough, Alira wanted to be present at the interrogation. Sandrielle had made a mental note to not underestimate the capacity for vengeful callousness in the other woman ever again. 'Isn't it ironic' she mused at her - by now barely responsive - subject. 'You almost had us confounded. Only a bit longer and your nanites would have destroyed the brain of your captive capsuleer. We actually got lucky that we triggered the dysfunctional emergency-eject of the pod through an accident, and retained her alive.' she looked coldly amused by the memory.
'What do you suggest we do with our captives Alira?'

'Tug their ship to the exit and let the pirates sort them out' Alira responded dispassionately. 'That wormhole should collapse soon after and they wont be able to bother us again'

'You pass harsh sentence on one of your own, Alira' Sandrielle observed.

Alira spat 'He is not one of my own. Using Sansha Kuvakei's abominations to turn captive capsuleers into mindless beings forced to run ships? Forcefully drafting young technicians into unethical projects that will haunt them for the rest of their lives? The Amarr might have enslaved us and abused us, but that does not give us the right to do this to one of them.' She turned to leave 'He called it repayment in equal measure' She stopped on her way out and looked over her shoulder with a stony face. 'At least we will give them a chance they never gave that Amarr woman ... they will be able to meet the pirates out there with an intact mind and the freedom to choose their actions.'


15 Nov 2011


This story is dedicated to my fellow corp-mates who took hundreds of jumps for logistic operations, and to all haulers out there who do the same for their corporations Thank you for your efforts.

The wrenching, tugging feeling deep within her gut had kept her awake despite the sedative she took. She curled up in her bunk and groaned under the yoke of this agony. Cold sweat glistened on her brow and her crimson curls were plastered to her face by it. She felt cramps in her calves and her hands were shaking. Gritting her teeth and knotting her brow into a strained expression she finally yielded and got out of the bunk, walked across her quarters, and accessed the holo-control to ready her ship.


Oppold on the far edge of Metropolis region. She would have to take thirty-four jumps to her destination – the Amarr Throne Worlds – and then back again. Any other pilot would have felt disheartened by the prospect, but not her, not under these conditions. The leaden feeling of sleep deprivation was gone, and her body shivered with anticipation while her ship aligned with a slowness that only increased her elation about what was to come.

'Warpdrive active' came the expected announcement from the ship's systems. The simple message was a promise of ecstasy for her.

Two hundred and fifty million metric tons of ship mass. A cargo hold crammed full of products up to the last cubic meter. She felt all of it until deep within the core of her being. The sensation filled the hole she had felt inside of her with a delightful tingle. A blissful smile appeared on her face as she floated in the liquid cradle of her capsule while the warp field started to form into a wave that would catapult her ship through space within seconds now. When the release came she felt like screaming with joy. Nothing around her mattered anymore, she was the massive bulk of her ship moved by forces of stellar proportions. She gave herself over to the flooding of her senses.

When the ship slowed down at the first gate her body relaxed in preparation for the next sensation.
She barely registered the massive expanse of the stargate structure, so lost was she in the afterglow of the warp and the expectation of what was to come. The brainwave monitors outside her capsule flared in the second before her ship dematerialized and shot lightyears across space. Her mind screamed in rapture and her body shook uncontrollably when she landed in the next system on her route. She would have laughed ecstatically if she weren't in her capsule. The mental impulses of the reaction coursed through the ship's systems and made lights and control consoles pulse with energy throughout the vessel.

Evettullur … Hjortur … Illuin … thirty more after that. It was like a promise of ravishing excitement for hours to come. Enough to make her bear the deprivation that would await at her destination, when her cargo would be unloaded and her holds filled with new materials to bring back into the wormhole. After that she would have the pleasure of jumping all the way back again. Even now the prospect drew a smile on her face while the Orca aligned again.

'Warpdrive active' She prepared herself for the next plunge.


'She looks awful' Cedrien said with concern as he looked at the sleeping pale woman in the sickbay bed.

'I've seen it before with capsuleers.' the medic said 'She's jump-hooked. Often happens if you take too many long trips with heavy-mass ships. The sensory overload produces endorphins.' He checked a readout. 'It's like an addiction.'

'So what can you do about it?' Cedrien asked

The medic shrugged 'Keep her heavily sedated and on intravenous sustenance for a week. I'd recommend having her fly only light ships for a month or so after. That should ween her off'

Cedrien nodded and sighed. 'Well, at least we now have all the materials to start building that carrier we had planned on for months'

14 Nov 2011

The Affairs of Insects - Part 1

'It is still unknown where they come from. Their structures appear on deep-space scans without warning. Nobody ever saw a base of the enigmatic Sleepers materialize in space, and nothing is known of the methods they use to move those constructs, which rival small space stations in size, from one wormhole system to the other. Neither does anyone have an explanation why they only emerge in Wormhole-Space and never travel to the known systems of New Eden. There are - of course - many theories, but little to support them, because there is another problem with the Sleepers: They are violently defensive and unresponsive to any attempt at communication. They make no attempts to foray into space, but once they are approached they seem to know only one purpose: To destroy any intruders without hesitation or mercy. They never attack escape pods and capsules, though. It is as if living beings do not register for them. Any ship – however – they will annihilate with the determination of an immune system tackling an infection.'

Such or similar were the observations everyone who ever came across those artificial creations would eventually make. Shisei Kanioota had spent enough time inside wormhole systems to have considered all of the possible theories about Sleepers many times over.

'Maybe they are some sort of immune system?' Shisei idly thought as he monitored the complex reverse engineering processes which broke apart the alien technology of gathered Sleeper wrecks to reassemble it into useful components 'Obviously they are machines built for the single purpose of defense. Possibly they, and the structures they spawn from, are part of something larger? A complex and vast machine collective with a higher awareness that we can not understand. To such a form of non-organic life our ships would only be an irritating infection'

The overlapping panels of the entrance door to the control-centre of the science station smoothly slid apart with a subdued hiss, and Sandrielle entered. She walked past workstations manned by engineers, technical assistants and science specialists who were too occupied with their work to pay much attention to her passage. To Shisei's Caldari-educated mind, the aesthetic indulgence of this Gallente-designed facility seemed frivolous and unnecessary. Sandrielle, however, fit right in with the smooth lines and rounded corners. The embroidered gray and black of her casual clothes and the soft cascade of her long, dark hair complimented the light ambiance of the surroundings.

'The Gallente spend too much time to make themselves and everything they do look good.' Shisei observed inwardly and slightly shook his head at that waste of effort.

'A pleasing workplace will motivate the worker and therefore increase output.' Sandrielle stated as she arrived at Shisei's side. 'A Caldari should understand about increased productivity' she added with a soft smile that underscored her patronizing sarcasm.

Shisei found her apparent ability to read what people thought in their expressions and body-language highly unnerving. He very much valued the privacy of his own mind. 'So do clear lines and lack of diversion' he retorted with forced calm and intently set his sharp features into a blank expression. 'But I assume you have not come to discuss the merits of industrial design with me?' he added.

Sandrielle nodded concededly and waved a hand at the viewport to the to the advanced manufacturing facility outside. 'I came to check on the progress of the engineering efforts' she specified.

Shisei activated a number of holographic readouts on the arching console they were standing at. They showed various complicated components of typically angular Caldari design under construction. An array of robotic arms moved here and there with brisk efficiency. Countless construction nanites, represented as multicoloured flowing strings, were visualized as weaving around and through the objects they were working on. 'Thanks to the extra materials we have collected from Sleeper sites recently, our work is ahead of schedule as you can see.' Sandrielle looked at the glowing holograms with satisfaction. 'We will have enough subsystems to assemble twenty Tengu-class strategic cruisers within this week' Shisei added.

'Fascinating, isn't it?' Sandrielle said musingly 'We hardly understand how those Sleeper drones work, what drives them, or even where they come from, and yet we have found ways to transform certain parts of them into technology of our own.' an unreadable smile appeared on her full lips 'What does that tell us about ourselves?' she asked rhetorically 'We are like the organisms which break down dead bodies into sustenance for themselves. Such insects and bacteria have no understanding of the corpses they decompose, just as we have no understanding of the Sleepers we salvage to build our most advanced instruments of warfare'

'It has crossed my mind' Shisei said dryly.

'Neither do they seem to care about us. They travel with their bases by means we cannot fathom, from one wormhole system to the next, for reasons only they know, and only seek to annihilate us when we interfere with their unknown affairs' Sandrielle continued her musing.

'Sometimes I wonder whether they know what their reasons are.' Shisei joined in with her 'They seem to have no mind of their own. Just the necessary intelligence to act as a defense-mechanism for the structures that spawn them. Some have speculated that the Sleepers are leftovers from a lost civilization. I keep doubting that. Maybe there never was a civilization. Maybe it is like you say, and the Sleepers are just a small part of something much bigger that we can not see or encompass with our mind. A form of machine-life spread across regions of space we can not access, map or travel.'

Sandrielle marked how verbose the usually laconic Achura scientist suddenly was. 'That is a subject he has much interest in and little opportunity to share' she made a mental note for later reference.
'Well, so far nobody managed to find out' Sandrielle shrugged '… and the Sleepers themselves are not telling either.' she added with an amused smile. 'One thing we do know: Those Tengu cruisers will get us the one thing we can not find in here, the isotopes refined from ice belts outside of Wormhole-Space.'

'I honestly hope that your choice of a business partner for this venture is not one we will regret' Shisei said with a look of concern in his narrow, slanted eyes.

Sandrielle nodded reassuringly 'The capsuleer Alliances of the outer regions are preparing for war. Each one of them will look for any edge they can gain above others, and they have collected such riches that money is not an issue for them.' She gestured at the holographic displays. 'That is where we come in. Nobody except wormhole explorers has access to the materials and technology for Strategic Cruiser construction.' again she smiled 'Of course we could sell them on the markets of Empire-Space, but this way we cut out the middle men and trade directly with the end-users'

Shisei grimaced slightly. Like many Gallente, Sandrielle had a tendency to state obvious facts as if everyone else was too stupid to grasp them. 'I am aware of the economic benefits' Shisei said and did not attempt to mask his annoyance at her condescending lecture. 'I am questioning whether it is a good idea to trade with those lawless warlords. They know no honour, ethics or moral code.'

'Now you are the one who assumes to tell me something as if I didn't know' Sandrielle replied. She waved his concerns away 'I know how to deal with those people, don't forget that I used to be one of them' she said as she turned to leave.

13 Nov 2011

The Affairs of Insects - Part 2

Their small fleet was assembled at an exit Alira had found after long and tedious scanning efforts throughout a number of wormhole systems. As often, luck had played as much a role as skill. The lucky part was, that the isolated pockets of space connected by a chain of wormholes were largely unoccupied. In one of the wormholes they had encountered a small mining outpost, but the occupants were quickly 'convinced' that their best option would be to let them pass: Keram had gleefully disabled one of their mining vessels and Cedrien took the conciliatory role, offering them a truce. They had arranged for a meeting with the other party of their deal, and eventually their convoy, consisting of five capsuleer-piloted combat ships and two transport vessels with standard crew, had arrived at this portal to a nameless system in Paragon Soul, one of the fringe regions settled by capsuleer alliances.

'Alira, Keram, you take point and cloak immediately.' Cedrien ordered 'Sandrielle and me will take the transports out. Shisei, you'll be rear-guard. Position yourself behind the wormhole and also stay cloaked until told otherwise.

The other pilots confirmed, and soon after they had taken their assigned positions in the void outside the pulsating wormhole 'Transports, hold at the jump perimeter. If things go wrong, I want you to head back inside immediately. You understand?' Cedrien commanded.

'Affirmative commander' came the reply from the transport wing.

Of the fighting ships, only Cedrien and Sandrielle with their Proteus-class strategic cruisers were actually visible, flanking the two bulky Caldari transports. The light of the system's blue giant bathed them in cold radiance.

'Immediate scan is clear' Alira announced from her forward position. 'Where are they?' she wondered impatiently.

As if on cue, a small frigate appeared on scan and emerged from warp several scores of kilometers off Alira's bow moments later. An energy vortex like an open wound appeared in space, bleeding strands of luminous blue from a centre of angry red and ardent yellow.

'A cyno field!' Keram exclaimed.

A ripple went through the fluctuating locus of space-bending forces and a group of six large Amarr battleships stabbed into the emptiness around them, each at one corner of a rapidly expanding hexagon. The Amarrian hulls were not of the usual Imperial gold, but coloured metallic-green like the chitinous shells of beetles, streaked with the sharp-edged slices of crimson curves. Another, stronger, burst of energy sent blue lightning from the cynosural field and the vast, tapered discus-shapes of two Gallente-designed motherships were expelled into positions at the top and bottom of the hexagonal formation, dwarfing the now stationary Amarr vessels. The crackling opening in the stellar tapestry before them heaved one last time before it dissipated. Then, the light of the sun was blotted out by a massive dome-shape fringed with spikes the size of towers. It's ventral surface was structured like an immense ritual mask, frozen in a soundless scream, trailing a floating city-state behind it. The hovering giant now occupied a position behind the centre of the other ships' positions. It shared the same green-and-red colour-scheme with it's companions. The sheer mass of the assembled fleet lit up their sensory feeds as if they had just warped too close to a small moon.

'I'll be damned … yet again.' Keram commented breathlessly 'An Avatar Titan! I have not seen one of those since Empress Jamyl's coronation ceremony'

'Those guys sure know how to make an entrance' Cedrien observed with barely contained awe in his voice. 'It takes the resources of a small nation to assemble a fleet like this.'

'The Crimson Covenant is a small nation' Sandrielle informed them dryly.

Alira's voice reflected disbelief as she chimed in 'What do those guys need Tengu cruisers for when they have ships with such firepower?'

'Not all engagements out here are fought with massive supercapital ships and battleships like these' Sandrielle explained 'There are infiltrations, commando raids, and of course all kinds of support roles for smaller ships in fleet battles' she added while fighter craft were released from the two Gallente supercarriers, swirling around them like a host of angry mechanoid bees.

'I hope you really know what you have gotten us into here, Sandrielle' Shisei said with concern apparent from the tone of his voice 'There is no way I can jam that many targets if they decide to turn on us. Not to mention that the gravitational distortion from the supercapital's mass renders my ECM completely useless against those ships'

'Gaiden Manufacturing Corporation, who speaks for you?' a deep, rasping male voice demanded to know on the previously agreed communications frequency.

'This is Tifainne Musellindis of Gaiden Manufacturing' Sandrielle responded with her false identity. Keram had previously lifted a number of discontinued capsuleer records fitting their profile from a backup cache of the CONCORD registry, and Alira had hacked their nav-beacons so their ships would transmit the appropriate codes. If the other party didn't undertake an in-depth background check the ruse would work. 'Am I speaking to Shadowhunter of the Crimson Covenant?'

Keram scoffed on their encrypted internal channel. 'And I thought we had pretentious names back in the pirate fleets' despite his attempt at sarcasm, Keram's voice had the brittle quality of fear in it while their small fleet sat there in the shadow of what they were facing.

'The same' answered the commander of the Covenant fleet. 'We are registering the IDs of three more of your pilots on our scanners. Where are they?' The tone of Shadowhunter's voice made it clear that he would not accept any evasive answers.

'We deployed them throughout the system to watch out for any surprises.' Sandrielle lied. She carefully inflected her voice to engender immediate trust and convey credibility. The overconfident arrogance of the powerful Crimson Covenant commander would make him prone to underestimate a small band of industrialists.

At least that was what Sandrielle hoped to achieve.

12 Nov 2011

The Affairs of Insects - Part 3

Alira willed her body to stay perfectly still inside her pod. Only a slight deviation from her current position would bring her ship dangerously close to the orbits of the fighter craft circling their transports. The proximity of another mass would cause her ship to decloak, and if she were exposed at this moment, their deception would likely provoke attack.

'Allright, here is how we are going to do this' Sandrielle transmitted to the Crimson Covenant fleet. She seemed unaffected by the staggering display of force arrayed before them, nor did she appear to be nervous about the precarious gambit they were attempting here. Her voice remained calm and composed. 'Our transports are going to release the cargo we have agreed upon. They will hold the containers with tractor beams and you can scan them to confirm the contents. Once you are satisfied you will transfer the agreed amount of ISK to the Garoun Investment Bank account we have provided.' she paused to await any reaction, but none came 'You can then reel in the containers with your own tractor beams. We will release them once we have confirmed the transfer of funds.'

A period of tense silence followed. If they disagreed now, the whole plan could possibly be foiled. Then: ' We agree to those terms' came the reply after a time all of them had spent nervously reviewing their ships' systems and the possible options for the worst case.

'Transport wing, release the cargo' Cedrien ordered on their fleet frequency.

Moments later, the cargo containers were floating in space, held by mass-displacing force beams emitting from both of their transport ships. Two battleships of the Covenant fleet slowly crept closer and stopped at the range of their own tractor beams. The small fighter craft launched by the two motherships were speeding around the position vigilantly. Alira mentally went through the steps she had to take on the pre-arranged signal. She prepared both her ship and her crew.

'We have transfered the ISK, release the cargo' The Covenant commander demanded.

'Affirmative' Sandrielle replied 'That concludes our deal'

A mere second after her words were transmitted, two lumpy covert-ops frigates decloaked left and right of the Covenant fleet and tore open new rents in the space-time fabric.

'Transport wing, jump back now! Shisei, jam the closest two battleships. Keram launch bombs at them. Alira I want webs on all fighter craft you can target. Everyone fall back! Go go go!' Cedrien sent a burst of orders via their fleet channel.

Everything happened really fast from that moment on. Small destroyer-class vessels screamed out of the cynosural fields on both sides and launched warp disruption charges. On detonation they expanded into wobbling spheres of disruptive energy, designed to capture the massive Covenant ships and hold them in place.
Alira urged her ship to shed it's cloak and reached out to ensnare the closest fighters scrambling to engage the newly-appeared interdictor crafts which were clearly from another faction. Their hulls were gleaming in dark blue under the light of the local star, stylized gray spiral patterns stood out in the icy glow.
She saw Keram sending his devastating bombs at the closest battleship which was unable to respond due to the sensor overload emitted by Shisei's Falcon. Alira turned her ship toward the wormhole. Keram's brittle-looking Manticore bomber was then already well ahead of her on it's way back. An opponent had cast a stasis web to hold him, but he had engaged his microwarpdrive to overcome the forces slowing down his ship.

Alira felt slight pricks of pain from light close-range fire – the fighers were engaging her. A subtle tug at the edge of her senses told her that her warpdrive was incapacitated, not that it mattered with the escape through the wormhole being that close. Coils of immobilizing tension wrapped themselves around her ship too now. A quick mental command later, she felt her speed surge again as she activated her own microwarpdrive. She pushed the engines beyond their limits by psychic exertion.
Then Alira registered the blinding, burning sensation of heavy pulse lasers tearing at her shields. Subtly twisting her hands at the wrists, she swiveled her artillery cannons around. She put all her mental strength behind the barrage against the closest battleship, which had already sustained heavy damage from Keram's hit. The heat monitors of her guns screamed alarm at her senses, but she ignored that for now. She was exceeding the capacity of the weapons as she continued firing on her way to the wormhole. Finally that ship came apart in a burst of vented gases and the explosion of it's breached reactors.
Alira then saw the two newly-opened cynosural fields blossom and disgorge more ships onto the scene amid a storm of incandescent laserbeams, explosions and streaks of energized charges. An Archon-class Amarr carrier, the rounded hulks of Gallente dreadnaughts which brought their heavy guns to bear and, finally, something obscured what remained of the star-spangled backdrop to this devastation: Two emerald masses of sanity-defying immensity. The last thing she saw were beams of crackling darkness which seemed to devour space itself as they lanced toward the Avatar Titan. Then the wormhole embraced her and she landed in a world of sudden serenity.


'Well, we all got back in one piece … extensive repairs notwithstanding' Sandrielle told the holographic representation of a scarred Intaki visage. 'How did you fare?'

The man talking via fluid-router link jerked his head dismissively. 'We hardly had any losses. Sure they took our interdictors and the cyno-frigs, but that was to be expected. We downed their Avatar and the two Nyxes, not to mention the support ships. Got the subsystems for the twenty Tengus you promised too.' He shrugged and smiled lightly 'They did a bit of damage to one of our dreadnaughts, and we had to do some repairs on the armour of one Erebus Titan, but all in all it was a good day for Rasenzoku. We are of course very thankful for your contribution. Apart from a small token of our appreciation, we will arrange for a rendezvous with our freighter full of Ice Isotopes as soon as you can make it out again.

Keram looked at the rapidly trebling balance of their corporate account 'Looks like it has been a good day for Awakened Industries too' he pointed out with a greedy sparkle in his eyes.

'You always had the best ideas for traps Sandrielle' The Intaki said and nodded approvingly 'Are you sure you want to stay with those wormhole lightweights?'

Sandrielle breathed in and sighed languidly 'I very much think so Koi-Tang. I sort-of like to deal with the affairs of insects decomposing corpses' she replied and shot a conspiratorial glance at Shisei.

11 Nov 2011

The Wrong Crowd - Part 1

Alira was leaning backwards in a recliner chair, her legs stretched out and her unlaced boots resting on the handrail at the lower end of the sickbay bed. She absentmindedly cleaned her fingernails with a utility knife while she watched the sleeping figure stretched out there through lowered eyelids. Slowly she considered the finely shaped elfin features of the other woman. Her long ivory hair lay fanned out around her almost like a halo. A quick glance at the medical data readout told her that the slender girl was likely to wake up any time now. The Sebiestor woman had sat there for at least an hour, brooding over the things she would say to this Amarrian once that moment came.

She still didn't really know.
The medical staff were still off duty at this early hour, she was alone with the young capsuleer 'An Amarr loyalist capsuleer' she reminded herself 'How many of my kin might she have killed? How many desperate slaves who might have commandeered a ship to flee from their bondage did she catch and return them to face punishment at the hands of their masters?'

Presently the eyelids of the pale-faced girl fluttered and opened slowly. At first she only registered the room around her. The clean and austere interiour of the Caldari-constructed recovery ward caused a reaction more like confusion than uneasiness to express itself on her features. When her traveling gaze finally landed on Alira's functionally clad form, she jarred slightly and raised herself up on her elbows.

'Where have you brought me?' she asked apprehensively with a brittle voice.

Alira swung her legs off the bed's edge and heavily dropped her booted feet to the ground. She pivoted the chair into it's upright position, snapped her knife shut, and ironically sneered at the girl. 'Back to freedom' she replied.

The young Amarr woman drew herself up to sit straight and opened her small mouth in an expression of disbelief and surprise. She swallowed once. 'You are not one of the people who caught me?'
Sylera shuddered at the memory. The forced modification of her spinal plugs. The feeling of helplessness as the Minmatar scientists connected her to the invasive neural interface which made her an instrument without free will. She could not remember anything coherent from the moment on that her mind was overpowered.

'I am – as a matter of fact – one of the people who saved your life.' Alira answered sardonically and tucked away the knife in a breast pocket of her heavy utility jacket.

The brows of the young Amarrian drew together in a bewildered look. 'But you are …'

'Yes, Minmatar.' Alira interrupted 'Seems your treatment at least left you with a grasp of the obvious.' she leaned forward in her chair 'But I am not with the people who used you for their experiments. You are in an isolated sector of Wormhole-Space, and this' she made a short sweeping gesture into the room 'is the sickbay inside a control tower of the independent capsuleer corporation I am with'

The expression of confusion on the other woman's face changed into one of anxiety again 'So you are pirates.' She concluded hastily 'If you want money, my family will surely pay any ransom, even the Empire itself … I am …'

'Sylera Aulithe, volunteer for the 24th Imperial Crusade. We know' Alira interrupted her again. 'And we don't quite work like that. Although … ' she reconsidered for effect '… more ISK sounds much better to me than another Amarrian to deal with'

'Well, I am also certain that you will get a reward if you return me to my people. I am – after all – in the service of a legitimate Imperial …'

'Don't you dare speak of legitimacy to me in reference to your murderous Crusade' Alira launched at her with a suddenly intense glare in her angrily narrowed eyes. She stood up and was about to continue with a tirade when a swish of the sliding ward-door announced the arrival of a third person.

'Alira, they told me you were down here.' sounded Keram's voice from behind 'Come on we need to … Oh look what we have here! My favorite canbait has woken from her slumber.' Keram laughingly exclaimed after he became aware of the scenery before him.

Sylera relaxed momentarily at the appearance of another Amarrian, at least she was not completely at the mercy of hateful Minmatar. The menacing amusement on the aquiline features of the man, however, immediately dampened her relief again.
Even though she had only ever heard of Wormhole-Space incidentally, she was all too familiar with corporations of unaffiliated capsuleers. The majority of them were amoral, crafty and highly dangerous. Their only loyalty was to their own corporation, and even then many betrayed their partners regularly for ISK, or just because of sheer reckless abandon.
The young man now entering seemed vaguely familiar to her. She studied his unshaven face, the unkempt mane of dark reddish-brown, the sharp eyes like splinters of shiny carbon-compound. 'You are the outlaw Keram Themas!' she burst out as she finally recognized him from the criminal register she had always memorized. 'Excommunicated and declared Enemy of the Empire'

'You've come to collect the bounty?' Keram asked mockingly.

'Sounds like you are popular back-home' Alira wisecracked.

'Ahh well' Keram replied with a gesture of feigned humility 'She's Crusade. They get constant updates about types like me and are supposed to shoot us on sight. He bent over Alira. 'I don't remember this one, but back with the pirates we had us a nice collection of clone corpses. Quite a few of them were loyalist capsuleers.' he leered 'Their ships also make for great salvage and loot. They get the best Imperial Navy equipment on discount prices for their services.'

'You had a collection of corpses?!' Alira sounded disgusted.

Sylera glared at the man speaking so disrespectfully of her brothers and sisters dedicated to service in the name of the Empress. 'Even the Minmatar woman despises a vile traitor like that one' she observed inwardly.

Keram shrugged 'Sure, they are worth ISK.' he stated nonchalantly 'Biomass reclamation for cloning, you know. And then there are always the people with 'special' hobbies.' he grinned insinuatingly.

Alira shook her head in revulsion but Keram jostled her out of it. 'Anyway, let's stop gloating over this do-gooder here and get to work. The beta exit is about to end it's cycle and the two of us are on the scout roster.

Alira nodded affirmatively, laced her boots, and then they left Sylera to contemplate the disconcerting situation she was in.

10 Nov 2011

The Wrong Crowd - Part 2

The man sitting across from Sylera seemed like the first normal human being she had encountered here so far. Despite being Gallente he had a distinct air of conviction and honour about him. His lightly bearded face and the dark blue eyes instilled an impression of honesty during the time he had spent explaining how she came to be in the current situation. 'So it is true, a despicable criminal and a worthless Minmatar nomad were among those I owe my life to.' Sylera despaired at the thought.

'For now, you can stay in these quarters. You are free to move about as much as security permits' the Gallente man, who had introduced himself as Cedrien Roucellis, told her.

The quarters in question were anything but appealing. A small cube dominated by a viewport into space on one side. Light from a white-dwarf star outside made the run-down spartan lodging seem even more plain and bereft of atmosphere. A sleeping bunk on one side, accompanied by some sparse metal furnishings. A small shower and restroom recessed into the opposite wall. The food dispenser and simple table they were sitting at, rounded the arrangement off. A typical example of dispassionate Caldari mass-production. The nondescript coverall Sylera had been given to replace the disposable sickbay tunic, even made her look like an integral part of this impersonal space.

'Once we chance on an exit that leads to Amarr space, we will escort you there and you can return to your former life.' Cedrien said with a tone that expressed how glad he would be to have this unwelcome chore behind him.

Sylera felt a small surge of anger well up inside her. 'How typical of a Gallente to see everyone else just as a burden' she thought while she contained her feelings. 'I still owe those people respect for the decisions they made on my behalf' she reminded herself inwardly. ' I thank you for your help, Captain Roucellis. I will see to it personally that you are rewarded for it.'

'Well, we can always need more ISK.' he stated simply, as he got up and straightened his old Federal Navy uniform jacket, which bore no insignia. The title captain was clearly an indication of function rather than rank here. 'Make yourself at home, it could take a few days time until we find a suitable route.' Cedrien added before he left.

'So he's a mercenary after all.' Sylera noted with disappointment 'Material reward is but a symbol for the worthiness of a task. The righteous will forgo it for the glory of achieving virtuous ends' she remembered a passage from the scripture.


Sylera had spent the last two days exploring the dreary repetitiveness of this Caldari station, as far as the security protocols would allow her to. 'In all efforts thou shalt reflect the grace of god's creation' was a quote that had come to her mind. To the Caldari, beauty meant nothing. All they aspired to was efficiency and functionality. The Gallente at least understood about beauty and aesthetics, but they wasted it on their frivolous hedonistic lifestyle. And the Minmatar … the Minmatar were just scroungers.
With reflections like these, interrupted by times of prayer, as well as physical and mental exercise to aid her re-convalescence, Sylera had spent her time.

Now she had an idle period ahead of her, and so she returned to the one spot which offered some inspiration. That place was the main hall of the habitation deck. It had a wall-sized viewport to the isolated region of space outside. Wide enough to show the full spectacle of cataclysmic interplay between the two stars outside. Sitting on an unavoidably simple bench, Sylera looked out at the hazy mass of the giant red star and allowed her eyes to drift along the veil of glowing matter that was spun from it's outer shell by the pull of the white dwarf. Eventually this cloud of solar vapour braided into strands which finally spiraled into an accretion disk around the cold ember of the small supermassive sun.

'It is possible that eventually this system will start a runaway fusion, shedding so much matter from the red star that it's impact on the white dwarf could cause a nova explosion' a silken voice said from behind her. It carried a hint of weird amusement in the statement, despite it's catastrophic implications.

Sylera started and looked up over her shoulder at a soft-featured face that carried both detached amusement and dark intensity in it's large almond eyes. She had never seen this woman before, and something about her immediately disturbed Sylera.

'Yes we have not met.' the other woman said, her obvious Gallente accent gave the words a smooth inflection. It made her voice even more uncannily compelling 'My name is Sandrielle' the woman added, as she walked around Sylera like a sleek predator sizing up potential prey, and finally took a seat next to her. 'What do you see out there disciple?' she asked wistfully, using the title given to students in Imperial capsuleer training.

'I assume you already know who I am?' Sylera ignored the question and tried to hide the nervousness she felt because of the acute statements and deep gaze of the Gallente woman. It was as if her very personality was peeled away in layers under the scrutiny of those dark eyes.

Sandrielle nodded and displayed a cryptic half-smile on her face.'I rather wonder whether you still know who you are.'

'What in the name of the Lord's hosts is she talking about?' Sylera wondered at the strangely perplexing statement 'What do you mean?' she asked with more annoyance than puzzlement forced into her voice, but inwardly she also now felt a sense of inexplicable dread at those words.

'Well, we shall all find that out soon.' Sandrielle got up and tilted her head at the elevator bay
'Come' she offered a hand to help Sylera get up, as if she were a good friend or sibling 'We have found a suitable exit that leads to a border system of the Amarr Empire. It turns out that forces of the 24th Crusade are stationed there at the moment.'

Without even knowing why she did it, Sylera took the outstretched hand and watched the slender but strong fingers of the Gallente woman close around hers. Some vague intuition inside of her gave rise to a feeling of being caught in a grasp that she would never again be able to slip from.

9 Nov 2011

The Wrong Crowd - Part 3

Considering that their known-space destination lay on the Amarr side of the border between the low-security regions of Solitude and Aridia, it was unwise to appear there with either a Gallente or Minmatar ship for a peaceful rendezvous. Keram, as the wanted man that he was, would also not be a good choice. So the lot fell on Shisei to fly out a small Caldari shuttle and meet with the locally deployed detachment of the Crusader fleet. It appeared that a contingent of the Imperial Paladin Order had been taken off it's usual duties at the border with Minmatar space, to fight the increasing smuggler-trade moving across this barely controlled frontier region between Gallente Federation and Amarr Empire.

The small bird-like craft emerged from the wormhole into the Shirshocin system. Sylera regarded the unmoving face of the Achura man at the helm beside her in the dusky glow of the small yellow sun. He had not said a word or quirked a facial muscle since they undocked. Even when he was told by Cedrien what his task would be, he had only uttered a small grunt of approval and nodded. 'The restraint and discipline of the Achura is well known, but I did not expect such stoicism.' she reflected. 'What a strange and diverse group those wormhole capsuleers are'

Presently Shisei engaged the communication systems. 'This is Shisei Kanioota of the Caldari shuttle designation A-IND-2 calling the Crusader fleet' he transmitted via holographic link on a frequency Sylera had provided.

The holo-projector on the control board of the small bridge activated and showed the bald and stern-faced head of an Amarr Templar wearing a segmented metal skullcap. 'This is Tribunus Colonel Temerel Nash-Kelar of the Imperial Paladin Order – commander of the Crusader battleship Deliverance. How do you know this frequency?'

'It was entered by my passenger' Shisei answered truthfully 'One Sylera Aulithe, a member of your forces.' he specified.

Wary surprise knotted the wrinkled brow of the veteran Amarr commander. 'How is it she became your passenger?' he inquired with suspicion.

'She was found captive aboard a Minmatar ship.' Shisei replied impassively. 'She wished to rejoin the cadres of the Crusade'

The Templar nodded. 'Very well. We will transmit the coordinates for a rendezvous. We expect you to come unarmed and alone' he emphasized.

Shisei simply nodded wordlessly and aligned the small craft to warp as soon as he received the coordinates.


'The reward was quite substantial for such a young capsuleer' Shisei said thoughtfully after he had finished his report to Cedrien several hours later.

'Maybe she comes from an important noble family' Cedrien shrugged dismissively. 'I am not complaining about them paying us more than we expected.' he added. 'In any case, she's back where she belongs now.'

'Captain Roucellis, we have an incoming fluid-router transmission for you' sounded a crewman's voice over the intercom. 'Allright, pass it on through' Cedrien replied.

The holographic projector on Cedrien's smoothly rounded office table came to life and presented the rendering of a mature and hardened Jin-Mei man, wearing the uniform of an Aegis Commander serving in the Federal Defense Union. 'Greetings Cedrien' he said with a slow nod of respect 'It is good to see you after all this time' he added.

'Yun Wei-Chian' Cedrien exclaimed joyfully, then caught himself 'Sorry, Aegis Commander Yun' Cedrien amended with a salute.

Wei-Chian waved away Cedrien's military formality with a small chuckle. 'Forget about that, we both know that you are no longer under my command.' he sighed nostalgically 'A regretful circumstance that nevertheless came to pass for all the right reasons'

Shisei quirked a brow at the ambivalent statement, but Cedrien knew which meaning it carried and bowed his head thankfully at the elder officer. 'So, how come you contact me at this particular time … Wei-Chian?' he obviously felt awkward using the man's given name.

'Well, it so happens that my Defense Union fleet got an anonymous tip about an unregistered secret Amarr convoy that would move across Solitude to reach the Intaki Syndicate. We intercepted them in the Faurulle system.' he paused and operated some control off the display. A familiar young elfin face appeared as a portrait next to Commander Yun's holographic representation. 'This is one of the survivors. She was held captive on a Crusader ship, and she mentioned your name. Is she one of yours?'

Cedrien knotted his brow and stroked his close-cropped beard 'Held captive?' he pondered 'Well, we ended up rescuing her some time ago. Eventually we returned her back to the Crusader fleet for a reward, because that is where she wanted to go.' he explained, still confused.

'As it looks, she was subjected to some harsh interrogation. We found mind-controlling chemicals as well as pain-amplification substances in her bloodstream. She is barely recovered at this time.' the Jin-Mei officer elaborated. 'In her stupor she repeated your name several times, so this is why I sought to get in contact with you.'

Shisei looked at Cedrien across the table with an unspoken question on his calm face. Cedrien sighed. 'Well. We still have that exit to Shirshocin. I guess we can send out a covert-ops craft to meet with you.' Cedrien paused 'Actually, I will come myself. If an offender like me is welcome on your ship, that is' he added with a smile.

Commander Yun laughed 'Don't be ridiculous. You are more welcome on my ship than several superior officers I could think of. I will have my best tea ready for you. I am looking forward to seeing you in person again my young friend'


Again Alira sat in the sickbay, looking into the gray eyes of that fine-featured Amarr visage. 'So I guess it was not the welcome you expected' she jabbed at Sylera

The young woman's face was overcast with desperate anger. 'They drugged me and interrogated me. They planned to bring me to a secret facility hidden in Intaki Syndicate space to conduct experiments with me.' she squinted her eyelids together, squeezing out tears of rage 'They treated me no better than the Min … the people who had originally captured me.'

Alira had to smile involuntarily at how Sylera had stopped herself from saying 'Minmatar' Despite herself she began to feel a bit of sympathy for the girl. 'I know many who have experienced worse at the hands of the Amarr Empire.' she said emphatically.

Sylera wiped away the tears with the sleeve of her tunic. 'How could my own people, my own brothers in the Crusade, do this to me? At the same time, a group of … renegades like you show more compassion than they do?' her breast heaved with a shuddering sigh 'I don't know where I belong anymore' she said and suddenly came to a stop 'I rather wonder whether you still know who you are' Sandrielle's words echoed through her mind. 'Did she know that this would happen, and if so, how?' cold shivers coursed over her body at the unsettling thought.

'Looks like you fell in with the wrong crowd, young lady' Alira said as she stood up to stretch her lithe body languidly. 'Well, seems you're stuck with us now. Guess we have to get you a ship to fly.' she turned to leave. 'Report to Cedrien about that when you are ready' Alira added on her way out.


Elsewhere on the station, Sandrielle finished a final check to make sure all traces of her anonymous messages to Tribunus Colonel Nash-Kelar and Aegis Commander Yun had been erased. Satisfied with the results she disconnected from the fluid-router terminal. 'That one will make a good student' she thought to herself and returned to her duties.