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.

29 Jul 2012

Blog Banter 38 - Witness to Change

Taking a cue from Ripard Teg, the most recent Blog Banter asks a really complex question:

"In his recent "That's just the way it is" post on Jester's Trek, blogger Ripard Teg posits that the established EVE player-base has come to accept many of EVE's design idiosyncrasies, rarely questioning their purpose or benefit. Conversely, he also suggests that new players might not be so forgiving of these "quirks". In an interview with Gamasutra, Senior Producer CCP Unifex describes EVE Online's developers as "relatively hands-off janitors of the virtual world", underlining that he has only four content developers but "a lot" of programmers and engineers.

Has a culture developed where CCP has started to take player effort for granted - expecting the "social engine" to fulfil tasks that might otherwise be CCP's responsibility? Or should this culture be embraced as part of "emergent gameplay" with these quirks accepted as the catalyst for interaction?"

There are actually three questions in this, and I will address them individually:

Q: Are long-time players really accepting the design idiosyncrasies?

From all I know, the answer is no. Issues like the ones Ripard Teg and others mentioned, turn up again and again as suggestions or complaints. I don't know if I ever read a devblog or a developer's forum post, accompanying the latest update, without finding at least a handful of posts in the vein of "why do they introduce feature X now when there is still Y and Z to fix?".

Things like the problematic POS mechanics, the horrible corp management interface, the sec status and GCC troubles, the fact that you can't change subsystems at an SMA, and so on and so forth, come up all the time.

I wouldn't say long-time players accept them, but they have come to live with them, and tolerate them, because they love the rest of the game enough to forget about it for the time being.

Q: Will new players be less tolerant of those problems? 

Very likely yes. Of course many of the problems tend to only manifest themselves after some time. Most people are not very likely to set up a POS or manage a corp within their first month or two. By the time such issues begin to become a regular annoyance, a player might have found their niche in the game already, and become one of those who are tolerating it's flaws for the sake of it's enjoyable aspects.

There are still enough things that will make a new player ask "what the hell is this all about?!" and that might end up with them deciding that they don't want to deal with it.

I remember very well how I very soon ran into the issue that I had to sell everything in my item hangar by individually clicking on each stack, instead of having a "sell all" function that just asks me for every stack whether I want to really sell it at that price or not. It still annoys the hell out of me, but there is enough in the game that I find so enjoyable, that I just swallow this bitter pill.

The tipping point might be different for every individual player, and there will certainly be the ones who are so enthralled with EVE that they switch to the acceptance camp very early. Those who are not, need to be caught as early as possible and given a perspective for the future of their gaming experience.

The big caveat with addressing things that may be annoying for new players, is to avoid 'dumbing down' the game. Many posts have been dedicated to this danger, and rightly so. There is a thin line to walk for CCP which lies between identifying genuinely stupid flaws and robbing their game of it's unique character.

I just want to pick one of the many examples: The autopilot.

Some people have suggested it should always jump to zero. I can't but disagree. There should be a reward for not flying AFK, and that reward is less danger and shorter travel times. I would actually propose, that if you make newer players sit at their desk when flying, it actually benefits immersion.

They get to look at the beautiful background, and see how it changes as they  travel. They can spend time in the new player chat while flying around and (hopefully) get useful information. They can look at ships around them and familiarize themselves with the interface without being under pressure.

As a matter of fact, that is what I did a lot in the beginning. 

Q: Should CCP do more about those idiosyncrasies?

That would be a definitive yes. The way I see it, they actually are doing just that. Presentations at fanfest were addressing security status and GCC mechanics at length. POSes will finally get a major overhaul in the foreseeable future, and the last two expansions did a lot to iron out glitches and fill the gaps in the game. The events of the last summer seem to have resulted in a new way how CCP views expansions, and that's good.

However, also here they are facing a possible pitfall: There are many very vocal older players, a lot of which stand behind CSM candidates who push their agenda with CCP. It would be a mistake to focus too much on changes that make life easier for players who have been around for years, rather than improving things that every player will encounter more-or-less from their first day onward.

Except if you directly come to Goonswarm from somethingawful, you are very unlikely to end up in nullsec sov-space within your first few months, and even if, you will not be dealing with sov mechanics or the shortcomings of capital ships. Just making improvements that work in this context would do nothing to retain new players. Most of the larger nullsec alliances also have strong communities behind them that do their own thing to retain new players. 

In Summary

I do think that CCP can rely on the "social engine" to some extent, especially when it comes to larger alliances and long-standing corporations with their own in-game and out-of-game communities. Where CCP really needs to put their focus is where players are not yet integrated into an in-game community.

The efforts of the more recent expansions have been great in this respect, and I hope CCP keeps going forward like this. Eventually their game will be polished enough for them to drop the next big feature that really expands the game instead of improving or fixing it.

However, for a player to keep on playing it is very important that they stay long enough to become a witness to positive change, and to be able to trust that it will come. That is the most critical "community management" task that CCP is facing.Things like promising all kinds of Walking in Station features for years, and then not delivering them, is something that should never happen again.

New players don't really read that many (dev)blogs or have experienced how the attitude of CCP has changed in a positive way. This message has to be brought to them both by the company and by us who are longstanding members of the community.

Finally, most gamers are not used to the amount of influence and participation CCP allows them in the development process. They view the games they are playing as a given, and take them or leave them. CCP, however, has mechanisms in place that allow players to have a voice in where the development efforts go. They would also do themselves a lot of good to carry that message to players as soon as possible.

It is a balancing act that CCP has to engage in, but at the moment I see the balance tipping into the right direction, and I just hope it stays that way.

28 Jul 2012

OOC Entry 36 - A Keram Story

So far I have featured all of my characters quite prominently. Alira is a central character in many scenes. Cedrien got his moments of deep distress and tactical genius. There was one short story told entirely from the viewpoint of Shisei. Sandrielle always appears as the schemer behind everything and of course Sylera had to go through a lot as the plot driver for quite a few stories.

In all of this I have only used Keram here and there as a sideline character. He had his moments every once in a while, but he never got his own story.

I decided to change that, and I even got excited feedback on the idea.

To not make it completey about him, I paired him with Alira. They appeared as a pair in one of the very first scenes I ever wrote, and I always liked the contrast between the uncouth but likable Amarr pirate and the strong-willed but socially inept Minmatar engineer.

It is very easy for me to write about Alira, because she is in many ways like myself. Keram is another story. He's a man of course, but not simply just a man. He is a guy with an attitude, a killer, a macho, a pirate of New Eden. In short, he is nothing like me, but in a way I like him and I enjoy imagining him. When I saw Game of Thrones and later read the books, I found that Bronn had a lot i common with the way I imagined Keram. (mind you I imagined him before I ever heard of R.R. Martin's works) Damn the two guys even look somewhat similar (Keram has nicer hair though)

So here it is, the first story with Amarr deviant extraordinaire Keram Themas as it's main character.

27 Jul 2012

A Pirate in Distress - Part 1

'There are only three types of women who come to a place like this alone.' Keram began to lecture, his voice slightly slurring under the influence of the smooth amber liquor he drank. The bottle on the small metal table was already half empty. Alira, who shared it with him, was still nursing her first glass.

'The stupid.' his drink swirled, dangerously close to spilling, as he waved in the general direction of a provocatively dressed blond Civire girl at the bar of this crowded establishment.

She pushed out her chest and presented her abundant cleavage to a square-jawed and broad-shouldered Deteis man with spiky platinum hair. His equally bulky Brutor friend ground his leather-clad pelvis into her backside unashamedly, moving to the rhythm of the thumping powerful beat that filled the taproom. The two hunks exchanged significant glances.

Alira narrowed her eyes and smirked with disgust 'They will probably have their way with her tonight and then ransom her to her family.' The girl's clothes only superficially looked like those of a cheap tramp. They were too clean and too obviously expensive for the part she played. Bored and naive rich daughters often suffered from romantic delusions about rogue capsuleers like those two men. Alira wasn't sure whether she should pity the immature girl or concede that the young Caldari deserved the hard lesson she was about to learn.

'The professional.' Keram barely managed to not drop his glass as he pointed a finger with the same hand that was holding it.

The lush and exotic looking Intaki girl he indicated wore a clinging black nothing of a dress that consisted of more holes than fabric. She weaved sensually through the crowd of hungry men with a sexual confidence that almost scared Alira, even aroused her slightly in a strange and unfamiliar way. In this dank establishment with it's industrial, angular design the Intaki, by contrast, looked like a work of art from an upscale Gallente gallery. All curves and smooth beauty.

'… aaand, the dangerous.' Keram finally said, thrust his glass in the general direction of a booth at the back of the dimly lit place, and put it to his narrow lips, taking a big gulp.

There, alone and half in darkness, sat one who surveyed the scenery before her with gleaming eyes of pale ice. Her strong-boned face, blond hair and powerful frame marked her as Deteis. She looked like she would outweigh and easily overpower many a man. The mismatched suit of combat armor she had chosen as her evening-wear did not make her look any less intimidating.

'You,' Keram pointed at the Matari engineer who sat across from him in their small booth. '... are neither of those, so that's why I could not let you come here alone.'

Alira scoffed at him 'Don't be ridiculous, I can fight and use a gun.'

'Look. Out there...' Keram flung his free hand at a panorama window that just lit up with an explosion '… wired into your ship and with all your toys just a thought away from activation, you may be as hot as freshly mined technetium.' Cheers erupted from the gathered crowd as CONCORD response ships warped in and methodically annihilated the destroyer that had just blown apart a cargo ship.

'But in here …' Keram paused to grab the black labeled bottle and top up his drink '.. in here you are just an engineer girl.' He leaned forward to elaborate. 'I know most of these guys from reputation if not from actions I witnessed.' He jerked his chin at the Deteis woman with the cold stare 'The women too.' He displayed his signature wolfish grin 'Even had myself a few of the stupid ones.'

Alira looked at him with tired annoyance. 'Yeah sure. And because you are such a people person I had to smuggle you into this no-go area in a shielded cargo crate.' she quipped dryly.

Due to his past of crime and piracy Keram could actually not fly a ship into patrolled high-security space without immediate reprisal by navies and CONCORD alike. Alira had taken him along on her own ship and used her whole repertoire of technological trickery to get him through station customs unnoticed.

'Hypocrites!' Keram spat. 'The empires fight wars in which millions die, and a guy who follows a simple trade gets shot on sight for having killed a few score throughout his career.' He up-ended his glass and put it down. 'Most of the industry and mining types we just demanded ransom from. When we killed, it was usually someone who asked for it.'

Again he gestured at the wide floor-to-ceiling window. Outside salvagers had descended onto the wrecks and pulled them apart for valuables, like metallic carrion birds. 'At least we never suicided ships in high-security space just for fun, like those psychopaths out there.'

A small pot bellied Jin-Mei man with a gleaming bald head and garish clothes, waddled past the booths recessed into the grimy metallic walls of the dark cantina, and briskly took notes on a portable neocom after cryptic hand-signs from patrons. Keram just growled at him when he passed by theirs.

'Or bet on the outcomes.' The Amarr capsuleer added. 'Where's the money in that?' he asked rhetorically and shook his long auburn mane. He took another drink and put a finger to the tip of his long aquiline nose before waving it pretentiously at Alira.

'You know, if you want to make it as a pirate, a real pirate ...'

Alira zoned out and allowed Keram's words to be swallowed by the heavy riffs blasting from the sound system. She closed her eyes, leaned back, and slowly sighed while Keram lectured on.

Of all the people it had to be Keram she was required to share this assignment with. Of all the possible places it had to be here. One of the seediest capsuleer bars on one of the most dangerous levels of the worst station in all of Empire Space: Jita 4-4.

If one were to look at a map of New Eden, Jita would just be a high security system conveniently located in the industrial centre of The Forge – the Caldari State's most productive region.

A look at interstellar market data would soon show that the Cadari Navy Assembly Plant orbiting the fourth planet's fourth moon was a major trade hub. Each day, goods amounting to the value of whole planetary economies were exchanged on it's countless trading floors, produced in it's numerous robotic assembly yards, and moved through it's massive docking bays.

Where there was fortune to be made, there were capsuleers, and where there were capsuleers there was trouble. Especially with the types that frequented Empire Space. Thus Jita 4-4 had turned into a meeting-point for some of the pod pilot community's worst elements.

Alira hated the crowded space-lanes in the densely settled central regions of New Eden. Her heart longed for the untracked depths of space where she had roamed with the Thukker Tribe, or – more recently – the faraway mysteries of the Anoikis cluster.

The capsuleers of high-security space were different. Most were benign but dull. Trading, producing and moving goods. Alira had never quite understood why one needed to take the plugs for that, and risk becoming a catatonic vegetable if the procedure went wrong, or one was not fully suited for it.

Others flew in the service of corporations and governments, doing their dirty work like glorified errand runners. Finally there was the kind who did the suicide runs and killed just for the sheer reckless fun of it. They congregated at busy spaceports like this one, or at mining sites, and sought to kill as big a ship as they could, with as little effort as possible.

It was a mass-murdering sport for them. A competition where different pilots tried to outdo each other in recklessness and kill records. People even bet on their success or failure, and some even gained a certain celebrity status within particularly sociopathic circles.

With no crew, and their ships loaded with as many offensive systems as they were able to fit, they would only have a chance for a few salvos before CONCORD would destroy their ship and send them back to their clone, after which they came back for the next round. Eventually they would get so many negative hits on their security record that they had to leave patrolled space. Most flew out to the lawless border regions and fought against pirate fleets for bounties to replace their ships, and to cheat the security registry.

CONCORD commanders – despite the vast databases they had access to – would usually let capsuleers pass who could present a record of “making lawless space more safe”. The empire navies followed CONCORD's cue, and soon the homicidal maniacs were back to their old destructive hobby.

Alira had to agree with Keram. It was a staggeringly stupid activity, apart from being criminally insane. Capsuleers who engaged in it must have suffered brain damage when they got their plugs, she concluded.

The Sebiestor's eyes opened when yet another explosion bathed the metallic gray of the bar's interiour in harsh light. She noticed that Keram had interrupted his rambling about what it took to be a real pirate, and supported himself with one hand on the table of brushed steel while he clumsily maneuvered himself out of the booth.

'Keep an eye out for our contact while I take a piss.' he hollered over the din of the music before he left for the stairs to the restrooms.

A Pirate in Distress - Part 2

Despite being more than just mildly intoxicated from the Litiuran Brandy, Keram had managed to make his way through the bar, down the stairs, and through the maintenance corridor to the restrooms successfully.

While he relieved himself at a urinal, he chuckled slightly when he thought back at the kiss he blew Kassina in passing. The Deteis bountyhunter had made a face as if she had just swallowed a slug.

He remembered when she had tracked him through twelve constellations of low security systems and hunted him even further, to the fringes of the Outer Ring.
The captain of a survey craft he had waylaid there gave him the coordinates of a wormhole entrance in an effort to buy a new lease of life for his crew. Keram had destroyed the ship anyway. Not something he was proud of, but he couldn't afford to leave anyone behind who could tell where he had gone. Kassina Vikkonen was a very persistent woman. She and her pack of bloodhounds had him with his back to the wall then, but the ORE prospectors had provided him with a backdoor out of the dead-end system he had ended up in.

He had made an anonymous donation to the ORE corporation's Orphan Support Fund some time later. Several hundred million ISK. Something that was half a snort and half a laugh escaped him and he shook his head when he thought of that ridiculously sentimental gesture. 'It's all the fault of that damn Gallente and his stupid ethics.'

Keram had met Cedrien for the first time there in that wormhole system.

Of course he had gotten stuck inside with no probe launcher and forgotten to record the coordinates of the exit wormhole. In New Eden there were jump-gates. Even far out in the most remote fringe systems they existed, and they transmitted their position throughout the whole solar system. Keram had never been in a wormhole system before, and that lack of experience became his undoing.

In his haste born of the smug feeling of triumph that he had managed to shake his pursuers, he had forgotten about the main rule every pirate lived by: Always know the constellation around you like the back of your hand.

He had found something familiar, though: A group of mining vessels on his directional scanner. They were to offer him a way out as soon as he held them hostage. He had flown a fast and mean Zealot-class heavy assault cruiser back then. They would have no chance, or so he had thought.

He had made his second mistake then.

There were no CONCORD relay stations in wormhole space which transmitted capsuleer identities throughout the system. So he never knew that there was a cloaked Proteus cruiser watching over those miners. Keram, as a pirate, knew every dirty trick in the book, and he had won fights against ships as powerful as this strategic cruiser. Cedrien, however, was a military man. For more than a decade he had constantly trained every aspect of spaceship command. Even his baseline crew were well trained soldiers, not the motley crew of outcasts Keram had manning his ship.

It became a very uneven fight, which ended up with Keram being in the position he had forced scores of ships into: Pleading for his hull, and his crew, and possibly his clone.

He put some more pressure on his bladder to force out the last spurts when his attention was snatched from that reverie back into the here and now. Someone had just entered the restroom, and Keram's instincts told him that this was not just someone who came here to use the facilities. The footsteps indicated that the newcomer was not heading to one of the toilet stalls or even the urinal to Keram's right, he was coming right for him.

The Amarr outlaw did not bother to pack away his goods and zip up. When he could smell the other man's sour body odour he twisted at his waist and shot out his elbow. He struck his opponent squarely in his sternum which knocked the breath out of him for a moment.

Keram continued his turn and grabbed a handful of the brown hair his tall and lanky opponent wore at half shoulder length. Twisting back the other way and bringing his hand down he threw the assailant's hollow-cheeked face against the steel clamshell of the urinal. Keram could hear the grating crunch of teeth breaking, and a dull crack as the man's head snapped back with the impact.

The unknown attacker was gone before he even had a chance to scream in pain. He slumped to the floor, his neck twisted back at an unnatural angle and his face a smashed ruin. Blood dripped down from the urinal.

Two more men moved their muscular bulk through the toilet door. Keram recognized them. It was the Brutor and the Deteis who had played with the rich trader's daughter up at the bar. All the drowsiness of the alcohol had lifted from the Amarrian's senses as the adrenaline began to course through his body.

Keram slammed a fist against his forearm where two compound materials were embedded in a sheath concealed there in his armoured jacket. A place like this one had very strict weapon checks, but thanks to Alira he had an ace up his sleeve – literally. He felt the heat through his jacket's heavy fabric telling him that the seal had broken and the materials were bonding to form a small but effective composite blade.

He stood there with his black combat pants still undone, his penis hanging out, and put on his most feral grin. 'Ok, bring it guys.' he challenged them with open arms. They didn't need any more encouragement.

Sidestepping, Keram blocked the haymaker of the platinum blond Deteis. He felt that the heat from his sleeve had subsided, and flicked his arm down, making the blade slide from it's sheath. The broad-chested Caldari man saw that as an opening and turned to tackle Keram to the ground.

Stupid move . The Amarrian thought as he brought up his arm with a quick uppercut. A man like this Deteis, heavy and strong, would have soaked a mere punch, but not when there was a sharp blade involved. The compound knife thrust up through the soft flesh on the underside of the attacker's jaw, through the roof of his mouth and into his eye. Keram could see the man's eyeball swell with blood before it burst. Then the Deteis fell with a gurgling scream.

The seed of defeat lay in this victory, though. With the blade caught inside the Caldari's skull and sheathed securely in his jacket's sleeve, Keram was wrenched down when the heavy man fell, his arm pinned to the ground.

The powerfuly built Brutor stepped in and brought his whole weight to bear behind a downward punch. Kerman managed to block it, but the sheer force of the impact forced him to his knees.

There was nothing he could do to stop the heavy combat boot that smashed into his face a second later.


Keram woke to the taste of blood in his mouth and a feeling of dull, throbbing pain in his jaw. He groaned and the throb became a jolt which yanked him into full consciousness. His eyelids were caked with dried blood and his nose was swollen shut. When he tried to breathe in, he realized that the symphony of torment which played on his nerve endings had more diverse sources than just a broken jaw. Instinctively he tried to touch his face but found that he was restrained, his arms firmly bound to the sides of his body with strong straps. Feeling with his tongue, he realized that most of his front teeth were missing or sharp-edged ruins. His lips were split and swollen and his nose obviously broken too.

'He is awake.' The rumbling bass voice of the powerful Matari announced.

'I can see that you idiot.' That was a female voice. Arrogant and self assured, with the haughty twang of Caldari executive class.

Finally Keram managed to break the curdled seal on his eyelids. Light flooded his field of vision. He was lying on his back, the floor vibrated subtly. From the voices he could deduct that they were in a small room. It smelled of wet metal. 'An elevator cabin?' he wondered.

A head and torso blotted out the light above him. It was the woman. Despite his situation he couldn't help but notice her ample breasts almost spilling from a tight-fitting halter top. When his eyes adjusted he recognized the face. Soft round cheeks, pouting lips, blue eyes and strawberry blond curls. It was “stupid girl” from the bar.

'Hello there.' she greeted. Her voice carried an unmistakable note of smug triumph. 'How are we doing?' she asked with mock concern. Her upper-class Caldari corporate accent annoyed Keram more than the pain he felt.

'The two of us have some business we need to conduct.' She said after she dropped down on her haunches, squatting over him. 'An open bill that needs settling, you could say.'

Keram leered at her with his broken teeth. 'Damn.' he lisped, ignoring the suffering speech meant. 'Don't say you are one of the whores I fucked and never paid.'

Her girlish looking face twisted into a scowl as she rose and kicked him in his ribs. 'You took out two of my bodyguards.' She spat in his face. 'But those are the last two lives you will be taking from me, or anyone else for that matter.'

Keram tried to laugh but with his nose full of congealed blood, his jaw broken, and his missing teeth, it turned out more like a gurgling cough that made him almost lose sight because of the agony it caused. 'Really? More persuasive people than you have tried to turn me into a pacifist, sweetbuns.'

She kicked him again, this time in his crotch. He howled. Right then and there it didn't matter how much his jaw hurt, because there was a a much more powerful wave of pain that washed over him.

'No. You are going to die.' she promised. 'And I can tell you, the markets will cycle several times before your time is up.'

A Pirate in Distress - Part 3

Alira looked from the half-empty bottle of brandy on the table in front of her to the stairs leading down to the restrooms.

'What in the name of the tribes of Matar is taking him so long?' she thought with annoyance.

The contact of Deep Jump Cargo who they were supposed to meet here had not shown up either.

Alira swept her gaze across the assembled crowd. Some were dancing to the gritty riffs and heavy beats that reverberated from the brushed steel walls that were sweating condensed water. The small pot-bellied bookmaker waddled through the crowd again to collect new bets while the winners of the last ones called for rounds of drinks from the wide panorama window looking out over the docking bays.

When Alira saw the looks several assorted patrons gave her, she became uncomfortably conscious of her lone position in the booth she occupied. A look at the neocom on her wrist told her that Keram had been gone for almost ten minutes and that their contact was more than half an hour late.

She looked around the bar again, careful not to meet anyone's eyes. 'Better not challenge any of the people around here.' She reminded herself. Spiky hair, his bald-shaven Brutor friend and the ditzy Civire blonde were gone, she noticed. 'Probably they dragged her off to do their thing with her.' Alira thought with a slight pang of guilt.

She disliked that passive waiting game, and she disliked being stuck in this booth alone with half a dozen predatory capsuleers sizing her up. The irritation she felt churned in her bowels. With a muttered curse she poured herself some brandy, upended the glass, and headed for the restroom stairs.

Before she was halfway through the jostling crowd, a strong gloved hand grabbed her shoulder. She turned with a snarl – a reflexive gesture of defensive aggression - and found herself looking at the worn gray chestplate of “dangerous woman's” combat armour.

“What do you want?” Alira hissed at the Deteis as soon as her eyes had found that frozen stare of the other woman.

Wordlessly the Caldari pointed at the stairs Alira had headed for and pushed her into that direction. The crowd parted for them as they progressed. Obviously nobody wanted to be in the way of that armoured female. Alira herself felt completely at loss about what she should do as she was shoved toward their destination and an uncertain fate. At least with that Deteis woman as company the rest would leave her alone.


Slowly Keram drifted back into consciousness. His face felt bloated and was a source of dull pain. His puffed-up lips, swollen gums and obstructed nose made breathing hard, but there was more to it. He could hardly expand his lungs. It took him a while to realize that he was hanging from his wrists. The sockets of his shoulders ached with the weight of his body pulling on them. Expanding his diaphragm for breathing took strenuous effort. The cool sensation on his skin told him he was stark naked.

'Finally.' There was that cursed upper-class twang again. 'I already thought I would have to call on a medic to inject you with stimulants.'

Keram heard the clanking of high heels on a metal floor before he opened his eyes. When the Civire appeared in the cone of light that illuminated him from above, he saw that she wore less revealing clothes now. A formal, gray Caldari-style woman's dress shirt matched with a pair of straight cut charcoal pinstripe pants. She looked more like the corporate executive she sounded like, apart from the fact that her young face with those pouting lips, soft features and strawberry blond curls still conveyed the impression of an immature rich-kid daughter.

'You looked sexier in that other get-up.' Keram mumbled through his broken teeth. His jaw didn't hurt that much anymore, but it was swollen to the point of being hardly articulate.

The girl didn't look amused. She flicked something like a riding crop at him and a gleaming blade at it's end drew a red gash across his face. Keram felt the warmth of his own blood flowing down his cheek. It was almost soothing. 'I wonder how much it takes until you finally realize that your downmarket jokes your are not suitable in your situation.' she bit at him.

'So you want to be all serious?' Keram asked and tried to laugh but his swollen face would not allow it. 'Girl let me tell you something.' he managed to reply. 'I have come to realize a long time ago that I will die a violent death.' he took a painful swallow that tasted of stale blood. 'Hell if I go without a joke on my last breath.'

'It may all be a joke for you.' she raged at him 'For me this is serious business.' she flicked that bladed crop again and this time it slashed across his belly. Keram's exposed sex was bathed in hot blood and it dripped down from his penis' tip to form a small puddle on the ground beneath him. He felt oddly stimulated.

'That doesn't even feel half bad.' he managed some swagger despite his dire situation. 'Why don't you come over here and lick that blood off.'

She laughed bitterly 'You are truly priceless. How about I cut your manhood off.' Keram felt the cold blade as she rested it against his testicles. 'Maybe I change my mind and just cut you like that. Keep you alive and as my neutered dog.' she offered musingly.

'Maybe you rich corporate types get a kick out of torturing people.' Keram replied faintly. 'But maybe not.' he winced as he tried to take a breath and pull himself up on the chain he was dangling from. 'Since we are getting to know each other on a personal level, why don't you tell me what this is all about?'

'Does the name Forge Princess ring a bell?' When Keram just looked at her blankly she offered more. 'Garuda Enterprises maybe?'

Keram would have shrugged if his position had allowed for it. 'Is this about some corporate fatcat's ship I gutted?' he wondered. 'Sorry but the loot was always more important than the names for me.' he managed a toothless grin.

Suddenly he could breathe through his nose again. Only a split second later, when the pain came, he realized that he didn't actually breathe through it anymore because it had just been sliced off.


Alira finally wrenched free of the grip the other woman had on her shoulder when they were down in the maintenance corridor which lead to the toilets. It stank of urine, vomit and rust here … and of blood.

'What do you want from me?!' Alira shouted at the tall blonde again.

The Caldari ignored her and walked past Alira to an aperture that looked like the vertical sliding doors of a small freight elevator. She squatted and lightly touched something wet on the ground. She looked at the dark liquid when it stuck to the fingers of her gloved hand.

'Can you actually speak?' Alira wondered angrily and put her hands on her hips.

'Yes' the Deteis woman curtly replied as she rose, headed for the men's toilet, and vanished from view after it's door slid open and closed behind her. For a moment Alira could see the ends of a pair of legs there. A body.

Despite herself she felt suddenly worried about Keram. She looked around as if someone could have spotted her and read her thoughts, but there was not even a surveillance camera here. 'Damn Amarrian.' Alira muttered and then she followed the other woman into the men's room.

The stench made her wonder whether the male human had retained some ancestral feature that was necessary to mark territory with the smell of urine. She wrinkled her nose and then curled her lips as she saw the two corpses. She felt relief, though, when she saw that none of them was Keram.

One was Amarrian. Tall and thin with a wiry frame and long, strong fingers. Hands made for strangling. He wore a tight fitting black Quafe shirt and shiny pants that looked like artificial leather. He lay beneath a bloodied urinal, face down, with an obviously broken neck. Alira could see bloody pebbles strewn about. His teeth, she realized.

The other was the spiky haired and strongly built Deteis she had seen before in the bar. He also lay face down, in a large pool of blood. The Caldari woman was going through the pockets of his baggy cargo pants and carelessly tossed away a handful of gambling tokens she found there.

Alira caught herself staring at the man's pert ass and shook her head quickly. 'What happened here?' she asked absently.

The Deteis woman looked at her with that frigid glare. 'Your friend Keram Themas got himself into trouble and killed those two suckers.' she explained in a tone as if she were talking to an imbecile.

Alira frowned and looked around. 'So what happened to him then?' She noticed the trail of blood leading outside.

'There must have been more.' The Caldari answered. 'The Brutor man, maybe another. They won eventually and took him.' she jerked her strong chin at the trail of droplets on the metal floor. “They must have taken him away with that freight elevator.'

Alira felt her sense of direction returning. 'Allright, so we follow them and get him back.' she said determined.

The other woman rose and looked down at her. 'We certainly will.' she pressed her thin lips together. 'If anyone is taking that guy in, it's going to be me.'

'Yeah?” Alira replied and crossed her arms in front of her chest. 'And who are you then?'

'Kassina Vikkonen.' the Caldari stated as if that name should be enough. 'And if you disagree you can try and stop me you Matari geek.' and with that she briskly walked out, shoving Alira aside.

A Pirate in Distress - Part 4

Tomoe's hands trembled while she scrubbed them frantically under her bathroom's running faucet. The blood she washed off gave the water a diluted, rusty colour. She took a deep breath and stared at her own reflection in the mirror. 'Control yourself!' the young corporate executive ordered herself.

She was the last citizen alive of Garuda Enterprises management and she had a score to settle, no matter how much it made her want to retch. All of the small Ishukone subsidiary had been lost when the Forge Princess and her convoy was destroyed by the Stormchasers all those years ago. What was left of the freight company's assets after liquidation, Tomoe had dedicated to rescue the last thing she had left: Her corporation's honour.

Bounty hunters, agents and spies she had paid to track down the leaders of the Stormchasers. One by one they had been found and killed, by herself. Just as she would now finally kill Keram Themas, the last of the pirates who had taken away her corporate family, her livelihood, her very place in society.

Her neocom chimed and she answered quickly. There was business to be done and nothing shall distract her from her goals. That was the Civire way. 'Speak.' she commanded briskly when she recognized the commcode of her last remaining personal bodyguard.

'Executive.' the deep rumble of the powerful Brutor greeted her. 'The ship of an Amarrian representative has hailed us. He wishes to speak with you.' The Minmatar was too much of a mercenary to be concerned with the idealistic struggles of his people, but still the revulsion was audible in Tharessar's voice. 'He claims to be a Lictor of the Ministry of Internal Order.' the man added.

'Tell him that Keram Themas is mine and send him away!' Tomoe ordered her bodyguard and moved to disconnect.

The Matari caught her a second before she did. 'He does not want Themas. He is offering a substantial sum for information the pirate is supposed to have.'

'Always the mercenary.' Tomoe thought. She could need liquid assets though. It could not hurt to hear the Amarrian's offer. If he came from such a high position there might be an opportunity for further negotiation. Maybe even a trade commission in Amarr space. Enough to build Garuda Enterprises back up if she played it right.

'Allow them to dock with us. I will meet him in the boardroom at the top of the hour. Tell him he has five minutes to convince me.' She trusted that her Minmatar guard would take special pleasure in making the Amarr government official wait.

Then Tomoe disconnected and began to make herself presentable for what could be the most promising business meeting she had conducted in a long time.


'Uooti na'jakka!' Kassina cursed as she failed to bypass the interface of the docking computer database for the fourth time.

Alira reclined in the single chair of the small dockyard maintenance station they had commandeered, with her legs up on a dormant console, and sighed.

'What?!' the armour-clad Deteis woman growled over her shoulder after slamming her fist onto the operations desk she was working on. Optronic cables and elements glowed from the opening she had cut into the workstation's console.

Alira shrugged with her hands folded behind the back of her head. 'Well, seems you might not be so good with computers is all.' she smugly commented and looked up at the low ceiling of the small room. Then she dropped her legs to the ground and smiled sweetly at the Caldari woman with narrowed eyes. A smile flavoured with a strong dose of sarcasm. 'Maybe some Matari geek could help you?' she offered.

Kassina Vikkonen rose to her full height and looked down at the Sebiestor engineer coldly. 'I could force you to help.' she threatened.

Alira looked up at her unimpressed. 'What? How? By breaking my fingers so I can't work on those optronics anymore?' she wondered 'Or by beating me until I am half dead and certainly unable to operate a computer?' she leaned back again in her chair. 'Do your worst.' she waved the threat away with a casual gesture.

Inwardly Alira was afraid of that powerfully built Caldari warrior, but somehow the fear had made her feel all light headed. 'That is how Keram must be dealing with it' she thought and felt a strange pang inside of her when she thought of the uncouth auburn haired Amarr outlaw and his wolfish grin.

Kassina grimaced and put her fists against her hips. 'Alright, speak. What do you want?' she asked.

Alira leapt from her seat and grinned at the taller woman. 'Now we are talking business.' she inclined her head to one side and pointed at the Deteis woman's neck. 'I see you are a capsuleer.' she opened. 'What kind of ship do you fly?'

Quirking a brow Alira ventured a guess 'You're a fighter, so I guess a Drake.' the other woman looked unimpressed.

'A Ferox maybe?' Kassina fixed her with an annoyed pale-eyed stare.
'Maybe not quite your style.' Alira waved it away casually and looked the short haired blond directly into her icy eyes. 'I am offering you a Tengu strategic cruiser. According to your specifications. Right off the assembly line tomorrow.' she said, emphasizing her words for effect.

The Caldari woman's face remained an implacable facade, but she replied 'And in return you want what?'

Alira inclined her head again and smiled disarmingly. 'Nothing more than you want.' she answered and folded her arms in front of her chest. 'You said nobody is going to take in Keram Themas except you. And you will.' suddenly Alira's narrow features turned deadly earnest. 'Only I get to decide who you deliver him to.'

Kassina's face became overcast with an expression that was even more unyielding than her usual glacial mien. 'I want two fully approved Pilot License Extensions with it.' she declared rather than offer it for negotiation.

Alira smiled again but her green eyes remained hard as emeralds 'You shall have them.'

For a moment the two women were just looking at each other. One tall, armoured, broadly built, with short, almost-white hair and equally pale eyes. The other one a lithe, androgynous figure with fiery red locks and pale green irises, dressed in tight shirt, a heavy sleeveless utility jacket, boots and working trousers.

'Deal.' the Caldari finally announced and stretched out her hand.

'Deal!' Alira confirmed and joined hands with Kassina. The neocoms on their wrists exchanged coded signatures and sealed an agreement between the two capsuleers.

Kassina drew her hand back and pointed at the console 'Now get me every ship out of that database that belongs to an unaffiliated Caldari corporation and has left the station in the last two hours.'

Alira got to work.


Keram knew that clinically he was already dead. The wrenching spasm that had coursed through his flayed and ruined body had told him that his heart was at it's last beats. Unmistakably, despite the excruciation he had undergone, it announced the end of his life. For the short time his brain still clung to consciousness he marveled at the experience.

He had died so many times before, in his capsule aboard a ship, but in those moments you never really got to experience death up until the very end. The remapping happens before that, and you wake up to a new body. The cloning services advertised that no capsuleer will ever have to experience the sensation of dying, that they will switch seamlessly from one state of being to another. It never quite worked like that, but still, it was not like actual death. Not like he had felt it now.

But they had brought him back, connected a medical stabilizer unit to his body, and made him suffer through more. The machine kept his heart beating, fed him blood which he could lose again through his multiple wounds and kept his nervous system stimulated enough for him to feel pain. He could not even completely lose consciousness or sleep. but he hallucinated as his neurons fired randomly in drug induced frenzy.

He was back on Alira's ship laughing in his quarters. An old friend had found him on the fluid router networks and they were talking about dead people.

'... and then I found this guy in the CONCORD registry. You wont believe it Keram. He is a survivor of one of your earlier kills' said Arrio 'Airhead' Kasozu, one of the few from the old Stormchaser crowd who remained alive and well.

'He wrote this public piece on what it means to be a capsuleer.' the fine featured Achura pirate continued. 'All righteous and such. Here I'll send it, you have to read it. I laughed so hard I almost choked on the drink I was having.' the Caldari chuckled as he transferred the link.

'Damn, the poor boy might even want to seek me out for revenge.' Keram joked with his old mate as he read the piece by the young Gallente capsuleer full of misguided ideals and ridiculous overconfidence.

The memory took Keram's wandering mind further back in time, to the day he got expelled from the capsuleer program of the Imperial Academy.

'Again you have failed me.' his father had berated him out on the University Plaza of Dam-Torsad, the capital city of the Amarr Empire 'You, my only son. Our family could have been raised to Holder status, maybe we could have gotten a court commission for your sister, but your despicable behaviour has cost us that future.'

Keram shrugged. 'They want me to fly idiotic training missions in a simple frigate while the hangar is full of better ships I can already fly. So I took one to prove it.' He remembered the offended looks of the passers-by as he spat on the ground. 'I am a capsuleer now, not someone's slaver dog.'

He had always hated slaver dogs. Vile stinking beasts with no will of their own. Viciousness without reason. Mere instruments of their masters. For him they represented everything he hated about the hypocritical straightjacket of Amarr society.

Somewhere beneath all the pain that filled his world, Keram still remembered the hard slap his father had given him at that moment. Somehow it had hurt more that everything he experienced during his recent ordeal. 'You stole Imperial property!' Keram's father had shouted at him. 'Have you got any idea how much it cost me in bribes to let you get away with a simple expulsion?'

Keram had stood there for a second as his cheek burned, helpless rage seething inside of him. When it sought it's release he had clenched his hand into a fist and struck his own father so hard that the old man was flung to the ground by the blow.

When the security guards had come to drag him off, Keram had screamed at his father. How he couldn't care less about the family's status, the court, his sister, the Empire even God. 'You all think you are so high and mighty, but you are just as imprisoned here as your slaves!' he had shouted and struggled before the guards finally incapacitated him with an electric stunner.

His father's bribes had not gotten him out of the re-education institute, but at least that experience had prepared him well for situations like the one he was in now.

26 Jul 2012

A Pirate in Distress - Part 5

Tomoe sat in the meeting room overlooking the outstretched neck leading to the bridge at the bow of her Crane class cargo ship. The panorama window behind her was slightly darkened to filter the cold glare of Kamio's white dwarf sun. Still, the light was enough to force the robed man, who faced her across the light blue transparent conference table, to squint his narrow eyes.

He had the angular copper-tinted features of a typical Ni-Kunni. His shining black hair flowed over his shoulders like a curtain of silk. The man's sweeping eyebrows were drawn together but his thin lipped mouth was quirked into a half-smile. He wore heavy black robes trimmed with shining gold. He wore the sigil of the Ministry of Internal Order – a golden disk held by two stylized pillars and enclosed by a broken circle. He looked young for an Imperial Lictor, but he carried himself with a quiet confidence that disturbed Tomoe.

She had progressed through the usual protocols of courtesy quickly and wanted to get to the point. She had never had the patience for Amarr formalities. He had not made her any offer so far, and the young Caldari woman had become apprehensive. She decided to bring this negotiation – if it could be called that – to an end as soon as possible. She had entertained high hopes, but now she felt perturbed and angry about the interference.

'All I request is an opportunity to question the criminal.' the Amarrian official repeated his wish softly. He spoke Caldari with hardly a trace of an accent. 'I am more than certain, that – judging from your story – your punishment for him will be as fitting as any we could devise.'

'I have captured him.' Tomoe declared resolutely 'He is now property of my corporation, and therefore protected by the regulations of the Caldari Business Tribunal.'

She looked into his half closed eyes. 'I have the right to negotiate a price for my property with any party regardless of affiliation or authority' She wanted to hear an offer. After all, he had been admitted to her ship because he promised to make one.

The Amarrian steepled his fingers and displayed a sad smile. 'Interesting that you mention it.' he purred unsettlingly. 'Because it seems your corporation has lost it's commission with Ishukone and therefore does not fall under the megacorp clause of the Business Tribunal anymore.'

His facial expression matched the smile in expressing how much he pitied her. 'I am afraid all that remains between us is the Yulai Convention, and that gives me the right to apprehend any criminal flagged by CONCORD, even in foreign territory.' he stated. 'I regret to inform you that I neither have to, nor will, offer anything in return for being allowed to question this individual.'

Tomoe felt a cold shiver rippling across her body. 'Your … information … is incorrect.' she stammered in surprise. 'How could he know so much' she inwardly fretted.

The intercom saved her from the awkwardness of the situation 'Executive.' Tharessar's rumbling voice began. 'A warship of the State Protectorate has hailed us and demands that we allow her to dock.'

Tomoe took a deep breath and pursed her lips. 'What is it now?' she thought and felt strangled by the compounding difficulties of the situation.

'Grant them permission. Tell the captain to meet me in my boardroom.' she ordered after regaining her composure.

The Ni-Kunni rose to leave, but Tomoe gestured for him to stay. 'Lictor, why don't you remain seated and assist me with your wisdom in this situation.' she offered humbly with a sweet voice.

'Maybe I can turn this around after all?' she dared to hope inwardly.

The Amarrian smiled, nodded and settled back into his seat.


'How did you get such a high State Protectorate rank?' Alira asked while she watched Kassina Vikkonen check her weapons and armour in the deployment room off the airlock. The platoon of troopers she was going to take with her to the other ship were busy with similar procedures.

'By killing Gallente.' the Caldari woman replied curtly without even looking at Alira.

'Is all that really necessary?' the Sebiestor engineer demanded to know, gesturing at the heavily armed troopers in mottled gray combat armour. Not as heavy as the servo-aided suits used in contemporary planetary warfare, but enough to protect against civilian weapons.

Kassina stopped for a moment from checking her ordnance pockets and looked at Alira with those colourless eyes. 'Hopefully not.' was all she said, and then resumed her routine.

Kassina herself had only taken a sidearm and a number of grenades with her. Her men had armed themselves with combat carbines. Alira was surprised by the hands-on attitude of the Caldari bounty-hunter. Generally a capsuleer would send a spokesperson to act on their behalf. Leaving the ship herself seemed an unnecessary risk, even here in a high security system.

Soon the docking operation was finished, and the Cerberus assault cruiser of Kassina Vikkonen was joined with the cargo ship, right next to an Amarrian Magnate class frigate which obviously had arrived before them. The Deteis woman nodded at her platoon and her sergeant saluted briskly, then they stepped through the airlock as it opened. Alira followed the troopers, uncertain about what they would face on the other side.

To her surprise, they were greeted by a heavily muscled and tall Brutor tribesman who introduced himself as Tharessar. The two men with him were Caldari though. They all wore light gray corporate uniforms set off with dark blue. None of them carried weapons, but the bulky Minmatar looked unimpressed, as if he could take on Kassina's whole platoon bare handed. After Kassina presented her official certification, she and her troopers were guided wordlessly through the interiour of the ship. Alira followed until they eventually arrived in the business quarters of the cargo vessel..

All Caldari craft that were not pure warships featured a deck which was intended for corporate purposes. There would be conference rooms, a trading floor connected via fluid router link to all regional markets, quarters for corporate envoys and their staff, sometimes even a lounge where judicious networking could be conducted after official meetings were concluded.

Kassina had four of her men wait outside the frosted glass sliding door to the main conference room. It bore a stylized winged humanoid etched into it's surface – the logo of Garuda Enterprises, an unaffiliated corporation bereft of it's former Ishukone commission, and the best candidate from all the ships Alira had found in the Jita 4-4 docking computer. It had taken them the better part of a day to track them down to Kamio system, but Kassina was obviously good at her profession.

Alira had expected to see Amarrians aboard the ship, but when they entered she was startled to see a man wearing the black and gold robes marking him as an Lictor from the Ministry of Internal Order. The slender figure with flowing black hair and comely features rose and bowed before them. The Caldari woman at the other side of the conference table remained seated.

Alira felt surprise a second time when she recognized her. She was dressed formally, and her makeup was more understated, but it was definitely the young girl she had seen in the capsuleer bar on Jita 4-4 station. Only then she realized, that the bald powerfully built Brutor who had escorted them was one of the two men who had been with her then.

It was clear that they had found the people who took Keram. Tensely Alira waited for a cue from Kassina Vikkonen.

She did not have to wait too long. The tall Deteis bounty-hunter looked around the room while her troopers fanned out behind her. When her eyes came to rest on the young executive behind the large table she spoke. 'Tomoe Sairinen of Garuda Enterprises.' the bounty-hunter addressed the other woman formally 'By the authority of Article twenty-three, subsection five of the State Protectorate charter, I hereby claim your ship, it's cargo and it's crew for fleet support duty.'

The eyes of the young Caldari businesswoman widened in shocked surprise while she jumped from her chair as if struck by lightning. 'What?!' she screamed. The Brutor who had called himself Tharessar tensed and Kassina's soldiers readied their assault carbines.

Only the smooth-haired Amarrian smiled softly and bowed again.

'If I may.' he began calmly and smiled at Kassina Vikkonen who just reciprocated with a stony expression. 'I have just concluded a negotiation with this executive concerning.' he paused as if looking for words '… parts of her cargo.' His narrow eyes focused on Alira who felt uncomfortably reminded that Awakened Industries had been in direct confrontation with forces belonging to the Ministry of Internal Order.

The Deteis bounty-hunter did not show the slightest change of expression on her squarish face. 'I am sure if that's the case, then this agreement is on record.' she replied.

The Amarrian official pursed his lips but then his servile smile returned. 'We were just about to ..'

Kassina interrupted him with a sharp gesture. 'Enough! I am not here for trade negotiations. If you have no contract then you have no rights.' Across the table the other Caldari woman slumped back into her large executive chair with a confused expression.

'Now remove yourself from this ship.' Kassina ordered the Amarrian.

'You must be aware that this can have diplomatic …' the Amarrian began anew.

Again the Deteis woman interrupted him brusquely. 'You can file your complaints with the State Protectorate legal department.' she leveled her gaze at the dark-skinned man. 'Now get out of here before I have to make you.' Two of her soldiers moved to flanking positions at both sides of the robed Lictor.

The Amarrian bowed one last time, and then he left, casting a menacing look at Alira as he passed.

The big Brutor warrior nodded at his two aides with a barely hidden smile 'Make sure they find the exit.' he ordered his men, and they accompanied Kassina's soldiers, leaving the room.

'Now.' The Deteis bounty-hunter turned to the bewildered businesswoman. 'We shall have a word about your cargo.'


Alira thought that she had seen the worst in the abattoir that Sylera had made of the secret research facility back in Syndicate space. The memories of that slaughter had haunted her dreams for weeks.

Nothing there could have prepared her for the sight of Keram, though.

Large parts of his skin were flayed from his body, and the exposed flesh already began to turn necrotic here and there in sickly greenish-black patches. His lips had been cut off his face, exposing a ruined rictus grin of broken teeth. His nose and one of his eyes were missing too. His crotch was nothing but a bloody mess of lacerated tissue.

The sight alone was driving acidic bile up from Alira's stomach, but the smell of the sparsely lit torture chamber was what finally made her keel over and retch. The cloying, sweet aroma of blood mixed with the stench of urine and feces was too much to bear together with the tortured body of her fellow pilot.

Kassina Vikkonen seemed unaffected, but the two troopers she had taken along also looked as if only a supreme effort of will kept them upright and ready to receive orders.

When Alira had found a semblance of composure again she wiped her mouth and looked over the horrific scenery, avoiding the sight of the dangling man as well as she could. Medical apparatuses had been set up and connected to Keram's circulatory system. Electrodes had been connected to his spinal plugs and drilled into his skull.

'He is still alive.' Kassina announced dryly after sweeping her multi-purpose wrist-neocom over the mutilated body. 'But he will die if we disconnect him from this machinery that stabilizes him.'

Alira shook her head. 'We must make sure he can transfer into a clone, or it will be the end of him.' her stomach heaved again 'How could she have done this to him?' she wondered with shock.

The Deteis bounty-hunter shrugged. 'Some people can be very sore about things.' she reflected 'Been in the business long enough to see all kinds of things.' She turned to Alira' and for the first time ever the slightest hint of a smile appeared on her face 'But you're the first to pay me for keeping someone alive, and I intend to get that Tengu.'

'Get the medics and have them bring a mobile neural transfer unit.' Kassina Vikkonen ordered her two soldiers. Both were visibly relieved to be able to leave this grisly scene.

'What do you want to do with that executive girl?' she then asked Alira.

The Sebiestor engineer shook her head in disbelief again when considering the gruesome actions of that young woman who had just seemed a naïve corporate rich kid when she first saw her. 'I think I just never want to see her again.' Alira said quietly. 'I need to get out of here.' she added when another convulsion went through her peristaltic system.


From the panorama window of the conference room, Tomoe watched the Cerberus class assault cruiser turn away and shoot off into the star-spangled background at warp speed. The commandeering of her ship had just been a bluff to get rid of the Lictor, she realized. That State Protectorate capsuleer and the red-haired Minmatar had just wanted to take her prize away from her.

Inwardly she felt strangely relieved. She had done horrible things to this pirate. Worse than to any of the others. It made her feel dirty, but he had been the one who lead the attack at the Forge Princess' convoy back then. He had to pay dearest.

She was not sure what they did with him, but he was a capsuleer. If they had managed to connect him to a neural remap installation before his death, he would be reincarnated somewhere out there.

'Will he come back to destroy the rest of what I have left? Will he torture me like I tortured him?' she wondered. A shudder went through her and she wrapped her arms around herself.

She could hear the door open behind her and straightened before she turned. It was Tharessar. Faithful, strong Tharessar. Her last bodyguard. Would he leave her when her funds finally ran out and she could not pay him anymore?

'Executive. We are free to leave. What are your orders?'

She remembered the look from the Lictor when he saw the Matari woman. There was more in it than just Amarrian disdain for the other race. She had seen that woman together with Keram Themas at the bar. Her instincts told her that she was missing something.

'Maybe there is something in this after all that can make me some money.' she thought.

'Dig up everything you can about that Deteis capsuleer.' she told Tharessar. The Brutor man nodded his bald head and turned to leave. 'And Tharessar …' she stopped him and he turned back to look at her again. 'Tell the captain to set course for the Amarr Throne Worlds.'

25 Jul 2012

OOC Entry 35 - We Naw Mix Nah Mingle

We naw mix nah mingle
Before dat me otta rather stay single
- Lady Saw

I stay away from computers and EVE for only a few days, an extended weekend, and when I come back I am greeted by a mailbox that reminds me of the scene in the old Star Trek series with the cargohold full of Tribbles.

It turns out that alliance leadership has decided to take a certain step into nullsec life that the wormhole corporations could not, and would not, support. So from an alliance meeting on one day things went on to a CEO meeting the following day and all WH-space dwellers finding themselves without an alliance on the day after.

A rather bizarre situation when considering that this alliance was actually born in wormhole space.

Of course it would not be EVE Online if the whole thing didn't happen without a good dose of drama. People's personal feelings were hurt. Former in-game friends look at eachother with feelings ranging from confusion to anger, and many people wonder how something that is supposed to be fun suddenly turned into something resembling a bad relationship breakup - smashed kitchenware included.

A few things became clear for me in all of this.

I never really cared much for sov-nullsec lifestyle as it looks these days, with it's power blocks, blob warfare and Technetium cartels. Now I actively despise it.

What good is something that makes people decide to cut off their roots, throw out many players who have personally supported them over months and even years, and cut the membership of their alliance in half with one stroke, just for the prospect of getting some sov-space of their own?

That was a question which kept running around in my head like a trapped rat trying to find a way out.

What I think it comes down to, is a case of very different perception of in-game reality. 

To me this whole nullsec thing looks like a combination of Scientology and Soviet Union mixed with Eternal September. When I talk to the people who have moved on to this playstyle, I don't even understand what they are on about half of the time. Things they say don't make sense to me anymore. I can only guess what really motivates them, but for them all of this seems to be very important and meaningful. So much so, that they are willing to sacrifice much of what they already had

In the beginning there was a dream, a vision even, to create an alliance that can span the whole spectrum of playstyles from wormhole space to lowsec pirating, highsec industry and trading, up to nullsec sovereignty claims.

Now this idea lies broken and in (at least two) pieces.

If I look at those pieces, then it seems like those playstyles don't really work out together. At least not when it comes to sov-space nullsec life.  Maybe it's just us and others have done it. I kept hearing, though, that there was no other alliance who really managed to do this before.

At the end of it all I am relieved even if I am sad.

Now we don't have to deal with all those politics, exorbitant alliance fees, ratting restrictions, CTAs, trolling, thought control etc. anymore. We can live our free life where things depend on the cooperation and dedication of individuals rather than who can build the bigger mass-movement; where there is no sovereignty other than what you can defend with your POS guns and your ships and where we can raid whichever site we can find before someone else does.

So now we forge a new future for ourselves and all other alliance mates who were in wormhole space and want to stay with us.

I wonder how the nullsec guys feel about all this?

Whether they will be able to look back on this and feel that it was worth breaking up over?

16 Jul 2012

OOC Entry 34 - An Epilogue

So when the last story ended there were a few loose ends to tie up. What happened to Sylera after she remained trapped on the other side of the wormhole? How did the encounter on the other side of the collapsed passage resolve? What was the Arclight alliance's fleet doing there in the first place?

Well, it would be too bland if I'd answer all those questions by a straight-up exposition, so I made it more of a gradually lifting Fog of War. The confusion is slowly passing and the implications begin to sink in.

It's not like I am all cryptic either. It should be pretty clear what happened and how when this short epilogue is read.

I hope you are not too disappointed because there wasn't a massive space battle with vivid descriptions of exploding ships.

So after I have now wrapped up another record-length story (this one is a bit longer than Turning the Tide if the Epilogue is included) the question is: What next?

One thing I decided is, that I let poor Sylera get some rest from her plot-driving duties. I feel like I should write a story with Keram as it's main focus character. I like the thought of writing from the perspective of an uncouth, macho, predatory and cynical pirate guy.

It can't be harder than writing from the perspective of a vain, greedy, cowardly and amoral Caldari trader.

Lifting the Fogs of War

Cedrien was confused. He had been prepared for an unequal engagement, that would most likely result in the destruction of his fleet by the swarm of ships the Scions of Tranquility fielded against him and his own. But not only did a small but powerful attack force of Arclight ships jump in and cut off the main body of the enemy fleet, what happened shortly after the battle was joined surprised him even more.

Instead of engaging with the reckless fanaticism the Scions of Tranquility were known for, their ships had begun to drift aimlessly. What Cedrien had feared to turn out as a dreadful massacre had instead become a farce. After the first few enemy ships were turned into smouldering wrecks, venting sickeningly beautiful plumes of plasma, without even firing a shot in return, or maneuvering to evade, he recalled his fighter wings, and ordered his fleet to stand down.

The Arclight squadron kept firing a bit longer, but once a dozen more of the Scion's modified strategic cruisers had been smashed into floating debris, they also ceased their attack.

A hailing signal pricked at his peripheral awareness as Cedrien concentrated on a full sensor sweep of the seemingly disabled enemy craft. He opened the channel and the capsule interface filled his mind with a simulation of Arrakh's booming voice. “So what trick did you come up with this time you Gallente fox?” the Matari fleet commander taunted. “Or was it that black haired snake you keep?” he added.

“The black haired snake is just as surprised as everyone else” Sandrielle responded on the open frequency and the neural interface inflected her voice as if she were smirking.

Cedrien diverted part of his attention back to the intensive scan the powerful sensor systems of his carrier conducted. 'Their ships look fully operational and the crews seem to be all alive.' he transmitted, still looking for an explanation in the data his ship fed him.

'It was Sylera.' The voice-simulation of Alira came across as if she had just recovered from a spell of speechlessness and could barely form the words in her mind.

Inside his capsule, Cedrien's face sightly jerked with the echo of a scowl, and he switched over to an internal channel. 'Alira, explain that?' he sounded annoyed. 'Don't tell me that Amarrian did something against my explicit orders again!'

'I don't think she broke any orders, she did what she was supposed to do.' Alira paused 'But somehow it was her who shut down the Scions.' Across the link, Alira transmitted a sequence of technical specifications flickering before the mind's eyes of her fellow capsuleers.

'She shut down a whole fleet with modified tracking disruptors?' Keram chimed in with disbelief.

'I don't know what exactly she did, but she wanted me to write an instruction set and make modifications so she could override the mindlink of the Scions.' Alira tried to explain.

The mental reflex Cedrien sent through his link with the ship's systems translated as a short grunt before he spoke again. 'Contact her.' He ordered 'I will deal with Arrakh and find out how he managed to show up so conveniently with his ships.'


Inside the womb of her capsule Sylera floated in a state of meditative relaxation. Drawing on everything she had learned of the ancient Intaki techniques Sandrielle had passed on to her, the fair skinned Amarrian breathed the cramps out of her slender body and emptied her mind of the agony she had forced herself to re-experience. So deep was her trance, that she did not even register the communication signal that tingled her nervous system ever more insistently. Eventually it got through to her and she willed the channel to open.

'What have you done Sylera?' wistful inquisitiveness modulated Sandrielle's contralto.

'I shared my pain.' the young Amarr woman replied softly, as if she had just woken from a deep sleep.

'You transmitted your memories of suffering across the fluid router link of the Scion hivemind?' Sandrielle asked rhetorically as she pieced together what Alira had told her with that which Sylera implied. 'A creative, if painful, solution.' she admitted.

'Less painful than all the death that would otherwise have resulted from this invasion.' Sylera answered and added: 'At least there was no more surprise in it for me.'

'The Scions of Tranquility are another story though. We are boarding their ships now and they are all in various states of shock.' Sandrielle told her. 'Where are you now?' she asked after a short pause. 'Still on the site of that collapsed wormhole?'

'Yes.' Sylera confirmed. 'A group of Arclight alliance's scout ships are here with me, and the main body of the Scion fleet.' she quickly assessed her surroundings. 'They have brought in two Orca class vessels and are boarding the Scion ships too, it seems.'

'Have they threatened you?' Sandrielle sounded wary.

'No, they hailed me and offered to help me return to you once they are done here.' the Amarrian responded.

'That sounds good.' Sandrielle concluded but did not seem completely relieved yet. 'Stay sharp though, we still do not know what their role in all this was.'


Arrakh muttered a string of Matari curses as he strode through the corridors of his command carrier. His two female warrior guards did their best to keep up with the tall, strong man. 'Cedrien you sly little fox.' he inwardly swore. 'You and your slippery snake saw through my little setup didn't you?'

They had received him like a welcome guest at their station, even allowed him all the Scion ships he wanted to take as spoils of war. They warned him not to keep any of the cultists prisoner, though, so he had them all set adrift in escape pods.

Still, with his tongue loosened by spiced wine, and by the manipulative words of that damn Gallente woman, he was made to reveal a bit too much.

Arrakh was not sure where exactly he slipped up, but he knew they figured out that he had made sure the Scions found the right route, and that he could be there just in time to come to the rescue. He had seen it in the smug gleam of the snake's half-closed eyes, and the slightly disappointed look on Cedrien's face. They were just too much Gallente, so full of that false courtesy, to say it right to his face.

One of his bodyguards helped Arrakh out of his heavy armoured jacket when they arrived in the ship's pod chamber. He stripped out of his boots, trousers, shirt and briefs himself, before handing them to the second woman, who folded the clothes over her arm after slinging her heavy rifle.

He scowled when he stood naked in front of the opened shell of his capsule, but suddenly he threw back his heavy black mane and bellowed with laughter. 'One day Cedrien.' he declared loudly to himself. 'One day I will find you with your pants down, and then you will have no choice but to join Arclight.' Then he stepped into his pod and the tendrils of the neural interface snaked from their recesses to seek out his spinal plugs.

After the capsule had closed, only the two dark skinned amazon guards remained. They looked at each-other with expressions that wordlessly conveyed how they were used to the capricious outbursts of their commander. Then they left as the deck began to vibrate softly with the resonance of the massive engines powering up.