Immersed in the balmy liquid of his pod, Yevert drifted calmly with his eyes closed.
The mining lasers of his ship were coring through the material of the vast floating rock outside. Their immense heat liquefied the asteroid's material, broke molecular bonds and sent a stream of precious ore back into the hold of Yevert's ship through a magnetic field tunnel within the powerful beam.
He gave himself over to that sensation which he had always found difficult to describe. Being one with the angular bulk of his mining vessel, it felt like a combination of drinking sublime nectar while wriggling one's toes in warm sand.
The neural feedback of the capsule interface was something that fascinated him with it's complexity.
Still, after all this time, he could enjoy it. He found ever new aspects in the experience that tingled his nerve-endings. He even loved how it's intricacies confounded him whenever he wanted to write about them in his personal diary.
Yevert drifted off into a state of half-aware torpor, just feeling the hull, the workings of it's systems and the flow of material infusing what effectively was his ship sized body.
But then the sensations changed in a disturbing way.
There was a rush, an urgency and a focused aggression invading his consciousness. An image appeared before his mind's eye: A mining vessel, not unlike his own, with a targeting reticule superimposed. Yevert felt how his muscles spasmed in unaccustomed ways. Something rushed from him and he involuntarily felt a sickening pleasure at what could only be a weapon discharge. He wanted to turn away from the image of the defenseless ship being bombarded with blaster charges but his vision was riveted to the unfolding carnage. Yet, behind the murderous exhilaration that flooded his senses there was a cold wrenching feeling deep within his guts.
A communications window opened before his internal vision.
A ship's bridge appeared, full of screams and stumbling figures illuminated by plasma fire. A desperate scorched face begged for mercy before another explosion obliterated it in a storm of superheated gas.
Yevert jerked and thrashed while the sound of his helpless scream was swallowed by the fluid in his pod. His mining lasers rotated crazily through empty space as they reacted to the panicked movements of his body in the liquid cradle deep within the mining barge.
Eventually his heart-rate slowed down and he regained his bearings, only to see a squadron of Federation Navy warships appear from warp. Suddenly he felt as if a massive fist squeezed the air from his lungs. The sensation conveyed as clearly as the combat system's warning message that his warp drive had been disabled and that his ship was caught in a powerful stasis field.
'Yevert Geadroit.' A synthesized voice traveled through his aural nerves 'This is the Federation Navy speaking. Power down your ship's systems and prepare to be boarded. You are under arrest for crimes against Federation citizens.'
When the two armoured Federation Navy security officers brought the subject in, Ceila Laminasse immediately saw that there was something definitely wrong with the picture.
It was not only the shackles, gag and blindfold that made the prisoner seem meek and unassuming. He was thin and his muscles looked atrophied. Very likely he did not leave his capsule often. When he did, he rarely took care of himself physically. From his looks, the capsuleer was maybe in his late twenties. A timid, narrow faced, blond boy who winced with pain when they pushed him down in a chair facing her desk.
'Remove his restraints.' Ceila ordered the officers.
'But ma'am, he …' The bigger of them sounded off with a voice distorted by his helmet's built-in microphone.
'He's hardly going to be a threat, and if he turns out to be, you will be right outside my door. Correct?' She implied the order rather than directly issuing it.
The officer nodded reluctantly and removed the small-framed man's gag and blindfold. He left the handcuffs on though. 'He's all yours.' He announced with a salute and then the two officers left the spacious office overlooking Carirgnottin VII's main city.
The young man looked around the office with confusion bordering on panic. Ceila allowed him to get to grips with his situation while she took a seat. She decided to not sit behind her desk, but rather in a lounge chair not far from him and beside a cushioned sofa. It would make her seem less distant.
Eventually the view and surroundings had their desired effect on the disturbed capsuleer.
Outside, the the lush urbanized oasis characterized by the smooth lines and slender spires of Gallente architecture was set in a landscape of sweeping dunes. The scenery lay bathed in bright blue sunlight which was turned into a soothing violet by the polarized windows. The office itself was decorated with tasteful, abstract art pieces, that complemented the comfortable designer furniture well. Essential oils subtly scented the room with the aroma of wild cactus flowers.
Everything was arranged to have a calming influence, and it worked.
When her patient had settled down, Ceila got up from her chair and walked over to him. She pulled a codekey from a pocket of her leisurely cut off-white jacket. 'Let me get these off.' she offered and released the electronic lock on the capsuleer's handcuffs. He shook them off with a surprised look on his face.
When she returned to her chair, Ceila intentionally presented her back to the seated man. She wanted him to feel like he was in control of the situation as much as possible
'Do you know where you are?' She asked after she had sat down again.
'I guess I am at Duvolle headquarters.' He replied with a weak voice.
She smiled at him and nodded 'You have been here before I guess?'
'Once.' He confirmed 'I was working for Duvolle Laboratories as a freelance contractor for some time. You can look it up. My name is Yevert Geadroit.'
'Yes, your record says so.' Ceila picked up a neocom from the desk next to her 'You were a successful manufacturer and miner until your security status began to drop significantly in recent weeks.'
He wrought his hands and shook his head in distress 'I don't know how that happened. I never killed anyone.' He looked down at his nervously twisting fingers. 'Not even criminals.'
Yevert looked up at Ceila's benevolent mature face again. Pleadingly this time 'I am a miner, a trader and manufacturer. I am not even trained to fly combat ships or fire shipboard weapons.'
'I know.' Ceila smiled at him accommodatingly. 'You are officially not even certified to use them.' She put away her neocom after having another look at it and smoothed over her light-gray skirt. 'So how do you think it happened that your capsuleer registry shows you as a wanted criminal?'
Yevert sunk deeper into the gel-cushion chair he sat in. Deep insecurity overcast his features. 'You will …' He began haltingly 'You will think I am crazy.'
Ceila shook her head and leaned forward, resting her chin in her slender hands. With an earnest but soft voice she said 'I am a capsuleer psychologist. I have heard many things that may sound crazy to other people.' She looked deep into the young man's eyes to create a rapport. 'Whatever you tell me will not leave this room.' She leaned back again but held his gaze. 'It is my job to help you'
Fretfully the capsuleer ran a thin hand through his spiky blond hair. 'I've been …' he swallowed, gathering courage. 'I've had these dreams.'
'Tell me about them?' Ceila encouraged him.
'In those dreams I am a pirate.' Again he swallowed. 'I kill people. I am a mass murderer.' He wiped sweat off his brow.
'Do you wish to be that person?' Ceila wondered with her head inclined slightly.
'Damn no!' He almost screamed. 'It makes me sick even thinking of it.'
'What kind of people do you kill?' She wondered with genuine interest.
'It's mining ships most of the time. Sometimes cargo transports.' The memory definitely seemed to distress him. 'They are all defenseless and I …' He paused, shaking his head in disbelief. 'I just kill them. All of them.'
Ceila stood up and poured a glass of fresh spring water from a carafe on her desk. She handed him the filled glass. He drank quickly and thanked her with a curt nod.
'Maybe it is your own fear of becoming a victim that makes you have those dreams?' Ceila suggested while leaning against the edge of her desk.
He chuckled dryly. 'You must be kidding.' He said cynically. 'Do you know what it is like out there? I get shot at and podded all the time by those bastards. I'm way too used to it to still be afraid of it.'
Then his expression hardened momentarily and he looked at Ceila with an intense glare. 'No, I tell you, they are not just dreams!' He raised his voice again desperately. 'I mean, damn, look at my security status.' He rested his face in his palms and uttered a sobbing whine. 'The navy arrested me for killing them. I really did it.' He confessed against all sanity.
Ceila shook her head slowly. 'I do not believe that you are a murderer Yevert.' She comforted him and walked around the desk. She opened a drawer and took out a device that looked like a visor with cup-shaped ear-protectors attached.
Yevert raised his face from his palms and looked at the apparatus.'What is that?' He asked, his voice brittle with fear.
'Nothing to be afraid of.' The psychologist replied with a soft smile. 'Just a device that will make you sleep and record your brainwave patterns.' She walked over to the cringing young man and offered her hand to him. 'It will tell us where your dreams come from.' She inclined her head slightly, still smiling 'Wouldn't you like to know where those dreams come from?'
Yevert nodded, took her hand and rose.
'Come.' She offered and walked him to the inviting couch next to her lounge chair. 'Lie down and relax.'
Jinneth Duvolle closed the report on her desk with a quick gesture of her wrinkled hand and looked across the large table at her Psy-Ops director Ceila Laminasse. She had always liked that woman. Diligent, thorough and good at what she did. She was still a good two decades younger than herself. Attractive and intelligent. Someone with a promising future.
Inwardly the old Gallente executive already regretted what she knew would have to be done.
'So how is that possible?' She asked the other woman.
'Neurotech division tells me that there is a slight chance of something like that happening if two capsuleer profiles are retrieved by the system within the same second.' Ceila explained. 'They call it neural state entanglement. In a way the minds of two capsuleers can become subconsciously linked through the neural mapping systems that constantly update their profiles in our quantum data stores.'
'I understand.' The matronly tycoon replied. 'But how does that reflect on that miner's security record?'
'A pilot's registry with CONCORD is directly linked with his or her neural imprint.' Ceila elaborated. 'In the case of such an entanglement the security record becomes …' she groped for words. 'Well, entangled is the only way to put it I guess.' Ceila shrugged defensively. 'It appears that Yevert Geadroit got killed in his pod and retrieved the very same moment as another one of our customers met the same fate. Needless to say the other one is a marauding killer.'
Jinneth Duvolle pressed her thin lips together and looked at the psychologist imploringly. 'Tell me that there is a way to fix it.'
Ceila took a deep breath. 'Well, in a way.' She hesitated. 'It would be possible to reset their clone images to a backup state.' She looked at the company's director earnestly. 'The next time either one is killed in his pod, he would lose all of the memories acquired since the incident.'
'Do any of the Neurotech staff know what you have found there?' Jinneth Duvolle wondered with a furrowed brow.
'Of course not Madame Duvolle. I inquired on a purely hypothetical level.' Ceila replied immediately.
'Very good.' The old woman nodded and relaxed noticeably. 'Tell them to proceed with that reset.'
Ceila nodded dutifully 'Immediately Madame Duvolle.' She began to rise from her chair.
'Ceila.' Jinneth Duvolle looked at the other woman with an intense expression on her wrinkled face. 'I hope that you understand how sensitive that matter is.' She paused and Ceila nodded slowly. 'If that comes out we would lose a lot of customers, not to mention what that would do to the reputation of our company.'
'Certainly Madame Duvolle.' The Psy-Ops director answered with a short nod.
'Good.' Jinneth Duvolle said. 'Make sure to keep a tight lid on it.'
The old tycoon sat in her chair for several minutes after Ceila Laminasse had left, eyes closed in contemplation. Finally she took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and touched the interactive surface of her desk to open a communications channel to her least favorite department in the vast business empire she commanded.
'Damage Control.' She sighed 'I need you to take care of something for me.'
She hated losing good employees. Especially the ones she liked personally.