When I wrote in a comment that I will have my next chapter ready within the week, I should have written within a week. I wrote that comment exactly a week ago and so I would have just about kept my word.
You may not believe this, but I struggled most with the title of the story.
Everything I could come up with sounded like some EVE expansion or the name of some movie with Tom Cruise as the male lead, and I hate Tom Cruise. I have hated Tom Cruise since I saw Top Gun with my very first boyfriend and decided that Val Kilmer is definitely way sexier and should have been the guy who wins.
Well, at least I didn't have to endure seeing the female lead getting it on with Val Kilmer and was free to dream my young girl dreams about him. Sadly he turned rather fat later in life.
But I digress.
I have long wanted to write a story with Gallente antagonists, and now I finally saw the opening to do so. It will tie in with things that happened waaaay back in my stories. I find that rather suitable for a story set in New-Eden that things the protagonists did in the past catch up with them in a bad way.
For starters, this chapter will not feature any of my main protagonists, but I am bringing back my favourite obnoxious support character. I am not sure yet for how long I will stay on this track where I keep my main capsuleers out of the narrative, but I feel like it could go on like that for a bit.
I think it can create some extra tension when the story is about people who can actually die instead of being revived in a clone through some technological wizardry.
Not that I haven't brought a few of those poor capsuleers very close to true death.
Oh yes, and then there is the unsettling death of a bunch of scantily dressed girls in that interlude I wrote last.
Let's see what becomes of that particular thread.
But for now, the story begins with some nice food.
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
Warning: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.
16 Jul 2014
Adrain Sourail decided to finally break the awkward silence that hung over the table in the exclusive restaurant his superiour officer had invited him to for supper. He set down his wineglass and took a deep breath before speaking.
"Madame, I can't help to ask why you invited me here."
Dechenne en Chalune chewed and swallowed slowly. She half-closed her narrow eyes while she savoured the taste of her last bite and hummed softly in appreciation. Adrain wished the old intelligence director wouldn't draw it out so much. It was her signature thing to do. Always keep everyone guessing - and worrying - what her next move could be. She hadn't earned the nickname "Lady Anxiety" among the members of the department for nothing.
"Because you are my most valued operative of course, and I thought you would enjoy some good food and drink" The Intaki finally said and smiled.
Adrain looked at her cheerful expression with skepticism. Her matronly smile emphasized the wrinkles on her golden-skinned face. She managed to look like anybody's favourite grandmother if she smiled like that, but Adrain knew there must be something else to it. There always was with Dechenne en Chalune.
"Have you ever considered how much food tells us about a society or a culture?" The old woman continued after skewering a rubbery small cephalopod on her plate. "Minmatar cooking, for example, favours dishes which are intended for communal consumption. A lot of different small items of food which are arranged on big platters. Everyone at the table shares and exchanges."
Adrain wondered where this was going while the intelligence director put the marinated piece of seafood into her mouth and chewed languidly. She swallowed, sipped from her glass of wine and then carried on.
"They are also fond of strong natural tastes. Game, spicy vegetables, intense fruit flavours, bitter herbs, that kind of thing. The combination offers a lot of diversity and contrast."
She pointed at her own plate with the fork. "Quite different from our own style. In Gallente cuisine everything is about creating the most refined combination of tastes, subtly tailored to personal choice. There is diversity, but it is a diversity of choice for each individual." Dechenne en Chalune picked up some vegetables together with another piece of squid and ate it at length.
Adrain was wondering where this whole talk about food preparation was supposed to go, but he did listen intently. He knew his superiour. She hardly ever engaged in idle talk without meaning to get to a point. So far the Gallente agent failed to deduce what it might be though.
"I can see that you are becoming impatient, so let me come to the point." The elderly intelligence director retrieved a neocom from her handbag and slid it across the table.
Adrain skimmed through the Scope News item that was on display. Clearly Eifyr & Co unexpectedly announced a conference to present a revolutionary scientific breakthrough. The name of the main speaker caught Adrain's attention. "Hegomir Torstan? Wasn't he abducted by some capsuleers recently."
"Correct. Wormhole dwellers to be more precise. Specifically a corporation called Awakened Industries under the command of this man." Dechenne reached over to touch the necom display which emitted the holographic image of a bearded Gallente looking man.
Adrain nodded gravely. "I recognize him. He was last on record interacting with one of our agents before she vanished."
The white-haired Intaki emptied her glass and leaned back in her chair. "Right, Nevire Chatal. So, where does that leave us?"
Adrain finished the article and stroked his chin in thought. "It looks like a group of lawless capsuleers lead by a former navy officer have dropped a major scientific breakthrough in the lap of a Matari megacorporation. In addition to that, they might be involved in the loss of an agent." he frowned for a moment. "If I am not mistaken then the agent in question was on the trail of a wanted capsuleer spy. According to intelligence reports, the same woman agent Chatal was after, was also involved in the abduction of Savant Torstan. Sounds like we have a challenge on our hands." Adrain smirked slightly "And an opportunity to tie up a few loose ends."
Dechenne nodded and displayed her grandmotherly smile again. "Like I said in the beginning, you are one of my most valued operatives. You are good at connecting the dots" she took the provided cloth napkin from the table to dab her lips. "Now remember what I said about food and its reflection of a society's values."
Finally Adrain understood her meaning. "The difference in culture. The recent political moves by Empress Jamyl have defused the conflict between the Amarr Empire and the Republic. Since then the cultural differences between the Gallente and the Minmatar have become more of an issue. Now some Gallente ..."he searched for the appropriate word "... renegades have provided a Matari scientist with the means to get ahead in the game. This might develop into an issue of federal security."
The smile of the old Intaki widened to the same extent as her eyes narrowed. "Which is where we come in. Or you more specifically."
Adrain looked at his superiour quizzically.
Dechenne en Chalune responded to his unvoiced question "I am sending you to that conference with the fake identity of a Duvolle Laboratories acquisition specialist. We need to know everything we can get our hands on about that new breakthrough in Sleeper research Torstan will be presenting." she waved her hand nonchalantly "I expect that the public presentation will only scratch the surface. Your job is to get your hands on the whole story."
"How far can I go?" Adrain asked. His demeanor had turned from slightly confused to fully professional in an instant.
"Any means necessary." his superiour answered matter-of-factly. "Just make sure it remains deniable." she smirked "I would hate it if I had a senator pacing back and forth in my office shouting something about a diplomatic incident."
"Understood." Adrain replied curtly.
"Well" Dechenne en Chalune gestured at Adrain's almost untouched food. "Enjoy the meal. You are leaving tomorrow on the first liner to Eram."
"Seriously! Is all that excessive caution necessary?!" Agitated, Hegomir Torstan paced back and forth on the forward bridge of the Rapier class recon ship. "This is a nimble ship of Minmatar design. With my added modifications it should easily be able to evade every trap, and time is of essence here my Gallente friend."
Sitalaerd Baunee tried his best to concentrate on the tactical holograms displayed before his captain's chair. "You do want your research, and yourself, to reach Eram safely I would assume." he said dismissively and then issued the order to move closer to the wormhole in a spiral course.
The veteran Gallente captain did not want to take an unnecessary risk here. Most of Awakened Industries' crews were still not back home. Their stations were hardly defensible and none of the corporations capsuleers - including his commander - had returned to the Anoikis cluster either.
At least he had received word that the daring mission to rescue Sandrielle Jaunes was successful. Everyone would be due to return soon. The many Sleeper drones which kept circling their main control tower, still gorging their machine minds on all available information, created an effective deterrent against attack, but they were also an unknown factor. The former Gallente navy officer did not like unknown factors. If Cedrien Roucellis himself would not have agreed with the urgent demands of savant Torstan to be allowed a visit to the Arek'Jalaan facility in Eram, he would certainly not have risked one of their few remaining ships for something like that.
Particularly not at a time when they needed to rebuild their battered defenses. Even now, their station barely had the fuel to last through a full defensive reinforcement cycle despite the fact that the shield generators had been restored. Granted, Torstan's insights gained from communication with the Sleepers had helped a lot to make that happen, but that did not make this trip less risky in Sitalaerd's opinion.
"Captain. I just registered a Buzzard class frigate on long range scan for a moment." the crewman at the sensor station reported.
"Any new entry signatures?" Sitalaerd asked.
The young Matari nodded affirmative. "Yes sir. One new wormhole is being picked up by our probes." the crewman paused and turned around to face the captain. "Sir, its graviton emission profile indicates a class six phenomenon on the Criele scale."
Sitalaerd frowned. "That could mean a scout for a major force." He considered the situation and finally shook his head. "We are in no shape to defend against anyone who would want to confront us now."
He turned to the communications officer. "Lieutenant Maillot. Notify the station crew. Tell them to go on full defence and prepare for evacuation. Inform commander Roucellis on fluid router about the situation too."
If this small exploration ship was the harbinger of an attack, him and his crew would not make any difference either. He pressed his lips together and looked at the wavering vortex before them. "Helmsman. Take us through. We will continue our mission."
"Finally" Hegomir Torstan threw his arms up with a sigh or relief.
15 Jul 2014
Despite the fact that Arek'Jalaan officially hosted the “groundbreaking” presentation of Hegomir Torstan, Eifyr & Co corporate security had provided the venue and they kept a tight ship. Everyone who was not a member of the corporation was required to wear an implant blocker to prevent recordings. Even neocoms and similar devices were taken away from non-affiliated visitors. Adrain even suspected that several of the people dressed in security uniforms were actually Republic Intelligence.
His instincts, developed throughout years in the service, enabled him to notice the telling signs. The forced casual behaviour. The furtive glances and subtle signals exchanged between agents working as a team. That effort to inconspicuously follow and watch their chosen targets, himself clearly one of them.
The small number of attendants who were not Minmatar each had one of those intelligence operatives shadow them throughout the conference. Adrain pondered the merit of such surveillance. He was not formally trained as a scientist or engineer, but even with his limited knowledge about the presented material, it seemed remarkably thin to him. Despite the subject of possible advances of Sleeper reverse-engineering, Torstan's presentation came across as more of a sales pitch than an actual scientific lecture.
When Torstan concluded, followed by applause that seemed way to enthusiastic, Adrain re-evaluated his options for losing his tail. He acted his best to look like he was hanging on Torstan's every word during the Q&A session, but in the meantime he expanded his senses to gauge the reactions of people he suspected to be agents.
The net was tight.
Grudgingly Adrain had to settle for the fact that he would not be able to make his move just yet. He made an effort to not let his annoyance show when he left the auditorium and stepped out into the red light of Eram's sun and the crowd of reporters who descended on the scientific and corporate representatives who walked out of the Eifyr&Co building.
'This is Aishe Guldar for Eram System News.' a stunning young Krusual woman blocked his path. She wore a recording visor and her black hair was braided along the crown of her skull.
'Girome de Roue of Duvolle Laboratories has just emerged from the building and is willing to answer a few questions on Gallente interests.' she opened and beamed a disarming smile at Adrain when she confronted him with his cover identity in a way that was clearly meant for him to be caught off-guard.
Had he truly been a Duvolle corporate official who wanted to keep a low profile, he would indeed be uncomfortable with being recorded on a live newscast. The Gallente agent acted as if that were the case while sizing up the young reporter.
Adrain inhaled through his nose. 'Tailored pheromones, how cute.' he noticed. Either the local news-channel spent a lot on biomodifications for their reporters or this was a honeytrap. If it was, they obviously had not figured him out completely or they would know his preferences. He smiled back at the admittedly well chosen female and for a moment he was honestly endeared with her for trying hard to appear desirable. He used that feeling to make his smile appear genuine.
Adrain knew most Republic Intelligence operatives from the records of his own agency. He had taken the effort to thoroughly familiarize himself with each and every one of them before departure. If that girl was not who she pretended to be, then she would most likely be a junior corporate counter-intelligence agent who had gotten a chance to score a big one with this assignment. Adrain decided to take the bait. If his hunch were to be correct, this could be a way to get closer to Torstan and the actual knowledge the Sebiestor engineer possessed.
'Indeed, how may I be of service?' he asked and very obviously let his eyes travel along the girl's curves for effect. She had dressed in a form-fitting ensemble that would work wonders on someone who actually cared about breasts and hips like hers.
Adrain made sure that he appeared to care.
'A Duvolle representative coming all this way to listen to a presentation by an Eifyr&Co scientist? What is the story behind that?' The young woman asked aggressively.
'Well …' Adrain replied. 'You are the reporter so I leave the storytelling up to you.' he intentionally looked at her cleavage more than her face. It would help to make her think she had the intended effect.
'Come on now.' she kept pushing. 'Someone working for a shrewd woman like Jinneth Duvolle must have an agenda.'
Adrain had to admit that she got the part about working for a shrewd woman right. Only in his case it wasn't Jinneth Duvolle.
'Guilty as charged.' he replied and played the role of the boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Looking around and then back at her décolleté before he met her eyes again he cocked his head slightly and softened his voice. 'My corporation has not authorized me to make public statements, but …' he paused for effect and smiled suggestively. 'I would agree with continuing this conversation in a more ... private place.'
Adrain checked his wrist-neocom. He had enough time to do what he needed to and get away before the girl would wake up. The sedative he produced from his sweat-glands would easily keep her under for another hour or two. He had initially been skeptical of the biomods provided by Poteque, but he had to admit they were effective and had the additional advantage of not registering on the usual augmentation scanners.
Strategically he had ordered a bottle of “Sun Blood” a very potent local drink known for its aphrodisiac properties as well as its devastating hangovers. Of course they never drank all of it and he had poured half of the strong liquor down the toilet drain, but when the girl did wake up and find the empty bottle she would chalk up her groggy state and fuzzy memory to the beverage's aftereffects.
It was as Adrain had suspected. After going through her purse he linked up the girl's necom to his own portable device. He was soon able to break the encryption on her system and identify her as a member of Eifyr&Co corporate intelligence. Her clearance was low but enough to serve his purposes. Using his own neocom's data pattern extractor he transferred her security key onto his own identity profile and modify it accordingly to fit him.
Adrain did not want for her to return empty handed, that would be too suspicious and attract further attention, so he fed some data into her storage to make it appear as she had lifted interesting information from him. It was all fake material about his assumed identity and largely inconsequential internal information about Duvolle Laboratories which he retrieved from Federal Intelligence databanks. That should be enough for her to report a success to her superiors, maybe get a small pat on the back for a job well done. Case closed, no reason to pursue any further.
Adrain liked tying up loose ends.
Before this was over there would be many more for him to take care of.
Miranjee suppressed the urge to yawn. She was tired but her sense of duty prevented her from showing it. Despite her drowsiness she was dedicated to her task keeping watch at the sensor station during the late shift. The capsuleers of Awakened Industries had provided for them better than most pod-pilot commanders would. Never since she left her tribal homeland had she experienced such true dedication to a community. Now it came down to her and all the remaining personnel to rebuild as much as they can until the capsuleer contingent would return home from their dangerous mission. Reports indicated that it had been successful, but many ships had been lost together with their crews. Regrouping and finding a way back to Anoikis would take time.
When the directional scanner readout flared and the proximity alarm sounded, Miranjee came to full attention in an instant. She called up the scan analytics and her eyes widened. What appeared on the display was a full fleet of combat ships, and their transmission beacons marked them as …
Miranjee uttered a string of Matari curses just before the communications console lit up with a hailing signal. She got up from her chair at the surveillance station and looked out of the window into space. Ship after ship appeared out of warp beyond the starbase shield. Miranjee hit the receiver almost absent-mindedly as she looked at the red-splattered Amarr vessels which assembled into formation out there.
With the hailing frequency open, the communication system came to life and transmitted a cold voice accustomed to command. 'Members of Awakened Industries. This is Deacon Commander Dam-Tharel of the Blood Raider Covenant. We are here to make you an offer.'
Miranjee activated the station's battle alarm.
13 Jul 2014
Ffeifra was surprised how exhilarated she felt about the return of Hegomir Torstan to active duty.
A light bounce was in her step as she walked down the flight of stairs and the corridor which lead to the Savant's personal laboratory on the Eram University campus and she felt butterflies in her stomach. It wasn't any form of physical attraction she felt for the man. Having worked for Torstan as personal assistant over the course of six years, she was quite certain that she didn't have any feelings for him in that way. Neither had the exceptional engineer himself made any advances towards her, quite unlike the Eifyr&Co executive she had served before. A terrible, lecherous old man who would leer at her suggestively whenever he had her make arrangements for pleasure girls to visit him and other corporate dignitaries in their private quarters.
Hegomir Torstan could be arrogant, unsympathetic and rude, but he never touched her or even as much as looked at her ambiguously. He always behaved strictly professional and in his own special way he treated Ffeifra with respect. Still a bachelor, despite his age and fame, he had of course attracted rumours that his tastes lay elsewhere, but Ffeifra knew him better than to assume such things. She was quite sure that Torstan was largely incapable of intimacy and would rather spend his time with complex field equations or the design of a propulsion system than indulging in romantic pursuits. He would probably consider that a waste of his capacities, Ffeifra mused, and she had to smile as she reached the door to Savant Torstan's laboratory.
The Krusual woman was so preoccupied with how unexpectedly happy she was to have Torstan back and the opportunity to resume her work for him that she didn't even notice the missing security guard who should have been posted outside the lab. When the heavy blast door slid open she settled into the realization that, in a really subtle way which she could not even fully understand herself, she loved that ingenious but socially inept old man.
Then, as she took her first step into the laboratory, her internal reflections were shattered when she saw the security guard. He lay on the ground and the angle at which his neck was bent looked disturbingly unnatural. She wanted to put her satchel with the neocom and other equipment on the ground and check on the man, but before she could do so, something hit her just above the sacrum and a jolt went through her body. It did not hurt. In fact, her mind reeled at the sudden realisation that she did not feel a thing at all from her waist down and within moments her legs collapsed beneath her uselessly. While the door slid shut behind her, a quick sequence of further blows uncannily paralysed her upper body as well and she fell against the heavy barrier that shut the room from the outside.
At that moment Ffeifra cursed Hegomir Torstan for insisting that no surveillance should be installed in his private laboratory because he wanted to conduct his work without prying eyes.
'Say that again?!' Cedrien's voice sounded just as surprised as the expression on his face looked.
'You heard it right commander' the holographic projection of Sitalaerd confirmed. 'It's Blood Raiders, a whole fleet of them. They are floating in space outside our shields.'
'Are the Sleeper Drones still there?' Sitting across the table from Cedrien in the rented office they all occupied, Shisei looked on with a furrowed brow
'Yes, some of them.' Sitalaerd nodded 'The majority have dispersed but a few are circling around the Blood Raider ships doing nothing.' The projected image of the aged Gallente man flickered momentarily and his voice distorted. Clearly the Intaki Syndicate did not reserve the best fluid-routers for people just passing through to use anonymous short-stay uplinks.
Sylera stared blankly into the starscape of Poitot that was visible through the wall-size window. 'They will not attack unless fired upon.' Alira, who sat next to her, confirmed that with a nod. The bond both women had shared with the collective consciousness of those enigmatic machines was enough for Cedrien to trust their appraisal of the situation.
'Imud Sefrim' Keram cursed in Amarrian. 'Sani Sabik, the only people with a more fucked up religion than the Empire itself.'
'What is it that attracts all those religious fanatics to us?' Cedrien wondered with a sigh.
Whether it was intended as a rhetorical question or not, Sitalaerd answered. 'Commander, they want to negotiate with us about a material called Isogen-5. I have never heard of it sir.'
'I have.' Shisei said slowly. 'The scientists of Arek'Jalaan were very interested in it and are convinced that it had a central role in the Seyllin Incident.'
When the others around the table looked at him expectantly, he elaborated. 'A disaster which occurred before the first wormholes to Anoikis were discovered. The researchers of Arek'Jalaan are convinced that Isogen-5 was the source of a powerful shockwave which caused those tunnels in the space-time fabric. Furthermore ...'
Cedrien's raised hand interrupted him.
'You just mentioned Arek'Jalaan.' The Gallente capsuleer tilted his head. 'Sandrielle is on her way back to us from Eram where she dropped off Torstan.' he pressed his lips together. 'She's got to turn around and ask Torstan to get us in contact with those Arek'Jalaan people.'
Cedrien returned his attention to the projection of his trusted lieutenant. 'Sitaelaerd. Do what you can to stall them. Tell them we are bringing an expert on the subject to negotiate for mutual benefit.'
The old Gallente nodded in response.
'In the meantime all of us need to get to work and find ourselves a route in.' Cedrien addressed his assembled capsuleers. 'Vacation is over.'
The man who pulled up a chair and sat down across from Ffeifra wore the uniform of technical maintenance staff, but he clearly wasn't Matari. He looked more like a Gallente to her with his soft comely features and dark eyes. The expression on his face was strangely sad as he leaned forward and sighed before speaking.
'You will die here today' he stated with a voice that sounded surprisingly emphatic despite that ultimate declaration. 'You will, however, have a choice to save many lives, innocent lives, if you help me.'
Ffeifra, still unable to feel or move anything but her hands that he had bound behind her back, stared at him defiantly and said nothing. Still, his words shook her to the core with the quiet inevitability he conveyed.
'There is a reactor powering this laboratory as you probably know.' the man continued with his soft voice. Ffeifra wondered why his face looked vaguely familiar.
'Currently this reactor is approaching a critical condition which will cause a massive explosion.' he took something from a pocket of his utility jacket. 'Nobody can stop this from happening.' he continued. '… but you, you can influence when it happens.'
He held up the object from his pocket. It looked like a short tube with a single button on top . 'This trigger will cause an acceleration of the reaction which will result in the explosion happening within thirty seconds after you press the button.'
Ffeifra's eyes widened and her breathing accelerated. Quickly she tried to get a hold of herself. She did not want him to notice the fear that took hold of her.
'It is still very early and there are few people in this building, but soon a large group of schoolchildren will arrive to visit the university where the famous Hegomir Torstan works. If not triggered earlier, the explosion will occur when they are well inside the building.'
The man shook his head. 'But I don't want those children to die and I am sure you don't want that either. So if you help me I will give you this' He held up the device. '… and you can sacrifice yourself and a few others to save dozens of young people who have their whole lives ahead of them.' he into Ffeifra's eyes directly, imploringly even. 'Will you help me?'
'What do you want?' Ffeifra hissed at him through clenched teeth and strained to get some sort of control over her body to no avail.
'Hegomir Torstan's private residence is a well kept secret. I want you to tell me where it is … and the access codes to the place.' The man demanded.
Ffeifra felt the chill caused by the thought of her impending death creeping up her spine but it was soon followed by a wave of intense heat caused by intense hate against that Gallente with his false empathy and the cynical choice he offered her. If she was to die here today, maybe she could take that man with her. In the end she nodded. 'I will help you.' she said with grim determination.
He got up slowly, walked around Ffeifra and closed her fingers around the small tube, then he returned to his seat and looked at her again expectantly.
'Get fucked by a slaver dog' Ffeifra spat at him and pushed the button.
The man shook his head. 'It is not armed yet, of course. The location and the access code.' he paused and locked gaze again with Ffeifra. 'Please.' he added softly.
Adrain walked across the central plaza of Eram University campus. A group of anti-gravity passenger vehicles touched down at the far end of the large open expanse. Children poured out, attended by their teachers. The adults did their best to contain the overly enthusiastic gaggle of minors when the explosion occurred.
Adrain was thrown to the ground by the shockwave just as everyone else in the vicinity of the blast that tore up the lab complex. He got up and walked away calmly without looking back while the campus behind him erupted in a cacophony of alarms and panicked screaming.
He knew his destination and nodded to himself introspectively. 'Minmatar. They will always make a sacrifice for their people.'