Monday, December 31, 2012

Mail Call

From: Eta Monakh
To: Druur Monakh
Date: 20.12.114 YC
Subject: Sound Off!

Hey Sis,

I haven’t seen you around in a while, and you haven’t exactly been writing much either (courier contracts don’t count!). I know you haven’t been a complete sloth, so - what’s up?

On our end of things, it’s just the same-old industrial stuff. Though it seems that our WH expats have been doing some improvements to their PI colonies, so that they’re now reaching out to us for the final processing steps. Some extra work for us, but we get a cut of the profits, so it’s good.



PS. Like the tattoo!


From: Druur Monakh
To: Eta Monakh
Date: 30.12.114 YC
Subject: Re: Sound Off!

Sorry, sorry,

It hadn’t been a completely successful month, so I didn’t feel much like chatting. Plus, I had been distracted with ... other things, which I can’t talk about right. Ok, don’t want to. At least not until I know whether they’ll pan out or not.

Another downside was that though I did manage to go on two roams this month (and missed a third - bad me!), I wasn’t quite in the mood to write them up. Doesn’t mean that they weren’t fun: on the cruiser roam I pretty much broke even . We even had a newly minted alumnus on that roam, who had passed PvP Basic just the week before - she did really well!

And two weeks before: the PvP Basic class roam! Gods, it had been ages that I had been out with a frigate mob! It was great fun - of course we whelped at least once , but that is to be expected. The roam ended in a massive brawl with the RvB Ganked fleet, who happened to be out at the same time.

But probably the best thing which happened (sadly I don’t remember on which roam it was) was after one of the big fights, with us limping home in a fleet consisting mostly of rookie ships, when we came across a Naga. We still had some fast tackle with us, which nabbed the Naga, and we proceeded to shoot it, just because.

And the Naga pilot... ejected! He probably didn’t want to face the ridicule of having a loss against a bunch of rookie ships!

So, there you have it - my life this month in a nutshell. NY Eve I’ll try to spend in Umokka, for the fireworks show, and then, if I don’t oversleep, the Agony roam on the next day. After that ... we’ll see. Finally buying ship fittings, at least (I hates it).



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Colorful Reminder

Well, that had been embarrassing.

It had started out innocently enough: fly down to my former stomping grounds, borrow a short-range Apoc from my former corp to help my former alliance help their new friends to take down two POSes...

Yes, yes: there were a lot of ‘former’ in the before statement, but it never hurt to keep connections alive. Plus: Siege Rorquals!

And as bonus, I had discovered one more fully-fitted ship that I had left behind: My good old Thrasher, which supported me on my first (and unsuccessful) WH walkabout. Just the right thing to fly back after the op, into the nearest trade hub, to restock my supply in ship modules.

I was deep in Amarr space, and such expected no troubles on my way to Amarr Prime, but nonetheless, while the autopilot suggested the route, I did fly it by hand: warp to gate, jump, warp to next gate.

As expected, no problems. Until Sarum Prime. A gate like any other - I jumped.

And on the other side, a Factional War target on grid - or as it’s also known: “an orange flashy”.

I remembered the torrent of thoughts running through my mind at that moment.

“Wait? What? Why is is he flashy? Why not red?

“Oh, FW target. ... FW target?! I can shoot him!

“What’s he in? A Probe? That I can handle! Ok, accelerate, target... this is getting close... Dammit!“

I didn’t make it: he jumped the gate seconds before me, and he had left the grid by the time I got to jump the gate myself.

But all the while, a memory had started to haunt me. It had been taught to us in Academy, and other pilots had picked up on it as well. It was one of those kind of things which sounded obvious on paper, but were surprisingly hard to realize.

I hadn’t been in the right state of mind for this encounter - I had been in state ‘White’ even though I should have been in ‘Yellow’, given my current association.

Such a simple guideline to keep in mind - yet I hadn’t. Maybe because it was such a simple one.

At least not all hope was lost: I did manage to avoid mental state ‘Black’.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ennui and Agony

        “You can’t win! It is pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson, why? Why do you persist?”
        “Because I choose to.” -- Agent Smith, Neo (Matrix Revolutions)

There was no denying it: I had lost my conviction over the last weeks. While I had been active, it was mostly to assist my sister with her logistics, or on one occasion double-checking the numbers of the PI setup by a number of former Flyers. But combat? Why get good at it, if your opponent just up and reships; if a system taken is just lost again soon after? What good is a high combat record if it’s all in gang, and you’re helpless on your own?

And yet there I was, plugged into a Hydra Punisher, engines on idle power, crew reduced to the minimum battle size, for we were about to undock and roam the skies. Until a few days ago I hadn’t even known that I’d be here, until the confirmation had arrived in my mail; together with the comment “Go undock and shot something, stupid!” . No sender, of course, but I strongly suspected that my sister was behind it - that kind of thing was right up her alley.

Nevermind - it had been ages since I’d flown with Agony, and even though on this for-fun Alumni Militia roam nobody would care that much, I was painfully aware of my rustiness with fleet operations. And that I had had only time to stage two ships.

The command channel came alive, FC Greygal issued her commands, and we were off! And I didn’t even scratch any of the other ships on undock!

Our mighty fleet of 40 or so frigate hulls pulled away from Berta station and set course to Sendaya first, where we’d pick up another 20 less reputable fleet members, and then towards VOL-MI.

Of course we didn’t make it.

A HAC gang in the border system of Doril proved to be a too-tempting target, and our roam found its first glorious end after less than half an hour. As I steered my pod back towards Berta to reship, an unexpected smile crept onto my face - this was more like it!

My second, and last, ship was a Crusader - the Amarrian combat interceptor. It was essentially a can of tinfoil with an oversized engine, and four laser turrets taped on. While I had owned this ship for years, I had never had the chance to take it out into combat, unlike its Malediction sibling. Well, first time for everything, learning by doing, and so on.

Quickly I caught up with the rest of the fleet, and we headed back into 0.0 . At first, we found nothing but empty space, but then opportunities picked up. A Tempest and Fleet Typhoon here, a Maelstrom there, an Agony member getting inducted into Core... At some point, I even had hostile web drones frantically trying to catch up with my ship - eventually I relented and stopped so that they would experience at least a little cybernetic job satisfaction before I pulled away again.

All the while getting more comfortable with my Crusader, adding secondary points and bits of damage where useful. I quickly learned that I couldn’t always follow orders like ‘align to the sun while engaging’ as my speed would quickly carry me out of the weapons range. The best I could come up with was orbiting a target until I was noticed as a threat, and then take advantage of my superior MWD speed to race away into whatever direction was most convenient at that moment before warping off to the fleet’s safe spot.

Eventually we entered 4B-NQN, on our way to a brief rest in Assah, and encountered a lonely Onyx at the gate. He dutifully put its bubble up, we dutifully attacked.

Then a Hurricane jumped in. And a Drake. A Blackbird. And I stopped paying attention to newcomers because I figured I wouldn’t survive long enough to see the demise of even one of the first four anyway. The Onyx’ resists were making for slow work, so primaries were changed, but it was too much: we had to bail, making best speed to Assah for repair and regrouping.

And then went right back into the fray. It was a different gang this time, but the composition was about the same: HIC, Hurricanes, some EWar and Logistics. We ignored the Onyx and attacked the first Hurricane entering the fight. As before, I concentrated on the primaries and secondaries, letting my lasers dance over which hull was closest. As before, eventually I got noticed, and both the shield and armor breach klaxons sounded almost as one. I laid in a course for the sun, our escape point, punched the MWD, and then looked at what was shooting at me.

O-ho! Oh-ho-ho! Every combat drone on the field seemed to come after me!

Ok, maybe not all of them, but at least three or four flights. And by choosing to go towards the sun, my course led directly through the battlefield - I wouldn’t be able to warp off until I cleared the bubbles!

My increased speed messed up the drones’ tracking, but enough shots landed to start evaporating the structure of my ship. Mere seconds passed, but it seemed like an eternity before I could finally enter warp to safety, and at that point my ship consisted mostly of forcefields and desperate hope, and only a smidgen of metal alloys. And I was one of the lucky ones.

Back to Assah. The Space Traffic Controllers made a few jokes about our repeated coming and going, but quickly shut up when we threatened to test fire our repaired weapons inside the docking bays. Some people had to leave fleet at this point, but new ones joined. We weren’t done yet!

For the next round, FC Greygal planned on being more tactical, splitting the hostile fleet around the gate - but the hostiles refused to play ball. After a good ten minutes of unpromising reports from the scouts, she called it.

        Greygal> I am getting bored. Let’s do this.

Inside my pod, I wholeheartedly agreed.

Our hostiles were prepared: having gotten tired of losing valuable ships to a random gaggle of frigates, they had brought more firepower. We jumped in, shots were fired, and the command to align to the sun while taking pot shots came. I did my best to follow it, but my unfamiliarity with the Crusader came back to bite me: once breaking target orbit, I never got into range of anything, while at the same time providing a nice target to be shot at. It was sheer inertia which carried the wreck of my once proud Interceptor clear of the bubbles, allowing me to warp off in my pod.

Our fleet had been thoroughly routed, but spirits were unfettered: comms were busy with planning how to get everyone back to reship. Myself however, I had to call it a day:

        Druur Monakh> I have to head out at this point. I’m outta ships.

Seeing that we had several other hostiles running around in the vicinity, I estimated my chances to come out unscathed to be rather low, but nothing lost by trying. I selected a possible route, and warped off. Just about when I was about to land, comms caught my attention again.

        Unknown> Druur, what gate did you warp to?

Damn. I haven’t given a proper report in months. Before I could answer, my pod dropped out of warp and activated the jump sequence. When my senses cleared, I could already notice the shimmer of a bubble going up.

        Druur Monakh> YW. It is bubbled from the other side.

And there were a lot of ships on grid. Some of which were targeting me. Did I bump something? Did I move by accident? Didn’t matter! I had only seconds left - screw proper recon reports.

        Druur Monakh> On grid: Hurricane, Hurricane, Blackbird, Onyx, ...

and I rattled off the list of hostiles while frantically trying to crash the gate.

Too late!

I fell out of my clone vat, blinded yet again by the neuro-scanner headache - but this time it was more bearable, more purposeful. “Cost of doing business”, as Eta would put it.

I more felt than found my way to the micro-galley, when my hands touched something unfamiliar. Opening my eyes carefully, I could make out a bottle of Arcturian Mega-Port, with a sign on it.

        “You earned it.”

I was still too thrown for a loop to question this unexpected appearance, but I did manage to grab a glass and fill it without spilling too much. And I held it up in a silent salute to the pilots which had let me tag along on their roam this day, as well as those which had given us exciting fights.

While I still wasn’t sure about my conviction, those pilots had allowed me to remember why I had chosen this career in the first place.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Punching Above My Weight Class

        “Little piece of advice. You see an Agent, you do what we do: Run. You run your ass off.”
         -- Cypher, The Matrix

In the academy they had told us that while it would hurt, it would only be for a moment. What they hadn't told us, though, was that for some pilots it would also be the first conscious moment when awaking in a new clone.

I stumbled out of the vat, dropping onto my knees for support until the searing pain diminished to a dull throbbing behind my temples, and my eyes were capable again of providing the visual clues necessary for standing and walking. On the plus side, it did distract me from the unpleasantness that was coughing up the vat fluid from my lungs.

No wonder that some people never left the safe embrace of high-security space, and sometimes I wasn't too sure about myself, either.

But as I eventually walked back into my main quarters which I had left scarcely three hours ago, dressed in a simple gown and nursing an Arcturian tea, the images on my terminal reminded me why I was out here. Setting the mug onto the console, I sat down and paged through the images my camera drones had managed to send home before succumbing to the energies swirling around them.

Nashh Kadavr had invited all pod pilots to a party, on account of his retirement from active flight duty - and fitting to his occupation, the highlight of the party was to explode him and his carrier one last time.

This would be the second time that I was involved in such an event, but last time it had been as part of a fleet, with something resembling a plan - but this time, it had been just me. And to make things more interesting, I still hadn't finished staging all my ships here, despite all best intentions to the contrary (and much grumbling from dear Eta).

So in the end, my ship of the day had been again a humble Purifier, hastily fitted, which carried me towards Goinard through systems I didn't yet had time to explore. Or put more charitably: I would be fashionably late.

Hopefully they’d leave me some of the drinks!

Jumping into Goinard (finally!) came as a physical shock: one moment my Purifier was elegantly flitting among the stars, the next it had all the responsiveness of a cat lying in a puddle of sunlight after a good meal.

It had been known for years the the presence of a large number of ships and their space-warping engines did bad things to the fabric of space and time; which in turn affected the delicate interface between the brains of pod pilots and their machines. Hardened circuits and careful programming of the nano-routers limited the effects to perceived slow down of time, where the ship reacted much more sluggish than the pod pilot could think. Of course the phenomenon had a scientific name, but every pilot just called it 'Time Dilation'.

But annoying as time dilation was, it was a giant step forward from the state of technology just a couple of years ago, when capsuleers usually lost all contact with their ships in such a space-time crumple.

With that in mind, I gritted my teeth, gave my Purifier an encouraging pat on its imaginary head, and warped to the POCO at planet III, the center stage of the party, to take measure of the situation.

Of course, Nashh's partners in literal crime couldn't bear the thought of one their own going down without a fight, and had brought a squadron of carriers of their own to keep Nashh's carrier in good health. No way my meager torpedoes would be able to make a dent there.

There were a number of frigates and cruisers chasing about, but I had learned the hard way that my Purifier was no match for them.

An Absolution briefly cought my eye, but it was on the other end of the battlefield.

There - a cluster of Guardians. Spider-repping, of course, but maybe I could distract them a bit. And one of them was close enough to be just at the edge of my torpedo range.

Yeah - a very long shot. But I hadn't come all the way here to just sit and watch. Plus, I had never shot at a Guardian; at minimum, it was going to be educational.

Cloak disengaged, I punched the MWD to full power, directed my ship into a wide orbit around my target Guardian, and activated the my launchers. Every dozen of seconds, a volley of might Mjolnir torpedoes would burst out of the launch tubes, and even through the multitude of layers of tritanium alloy and inertial compensators I could feel the report.

The Guardian’s shield strength dropped rapidly, and I managed to keep my orbit without straying too close to any of the other combatants, when suddenly, but not unexpectedly, my damage projection completely vanished: the Guardian had hit Armor, and the repairs from its buddies took effect. I had a load of Nova torpedoes in my hold, but I knew they would be wasted.

Spider-repair: 1 - Druur: 0.

Maybe it was time to lose some shots at at Nashh - if only to get registered on the official battle report. Usually I wasn't into that kind of thing, but after all this was a going-away party...

But the universe had other plans. A polite mental chime from my combat computer informed me that I had been warp-scrambled.

And a slightly less polite chime informed me that most of my shield had just been obliterated.

One quick command, and computer showed me my aggressor: one Ty Delany, fighting for the insurgents in this factional war, flying a Crow-class interceptor and lobbing light missiles at me. This was bad news - and I did the only thing sensible.

I ran.

I didn't remember a Crow's top speed, but it would be close to my own, and while my torpedo launchers belched their nominally deadly payload at the Caldari ship, I knew that my only chance of survival lay in outrunning his point while my Ancillary Shield Booster was gobbling up charges to keep the ship's components in somewhat resembling of a close formation.

If it would have helped, I would have gotten out and pushed.

But it worked! Suddenly I was free of the Warp Disruptor's influence, free to go.

Except that I had failed to align my course to a warpable destination.

Cursing at myself while I did so, I swung the ship around into the direction of a safe point I had created earlier, knowing full well that this could give the Crow enough time to re-establish contact again.

It did. The race was on again.

Intently I watched the heat meter on the MWD approach the red line, while the ASB chewed up its last charges, and dipped into the ship's capacitor, and still the Crow was coming. What little armor my Purifier had possessed was long gone, the hull breach alarm screeched into my brain, the structural damage overwhelming the damage control system, the ASB reaching once more into the ship's capacitor, robbing it of so much energy that I couldn't even have engaged the warp drive anymore...

... and the Crow vanished off sensors.

Grid Separation! The very same assembly of warp drives which played havoc with us Capsuleer's perceptions, could also throw up very real walls in real space. You could be just a few kilometers from your target, yet not see him nor get a sensor return, nor shoot at him.

It was my life saver.

I disengaged the ASB, so that it could reload the spare set of charges in the cargo hold, and coaxed the capacitor energy management systems to spare enough energy to warp to my safe spot. A short reprise to let the engines cool down a bit, and onwards I headed towards the next stargate, to find a station for repairs in a neighboring system.

Leaning back from the terminal, I emerged from my reverie. Of course I had returned to the battle field after finishing repairs, only to be shot up by a bored S0TF gunner, returned yet again in a rookie ship, to etch my mark on Nashh's carrier, and returned one last time in my pod to catch a glimpse of Pandemic Legion's slowcats, which resulted in me getting podded. But all that already began to pale in comparison to the memory of the two, three minutes of me running away.

Running away - and, against all odds, making it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Brief Glimpse of a Silver Lining

        "Did he just run away from us? Are we sure something scarier than us didn’t just undock as well?"
        "Well I thought of that, but there are no shuttles on scan." 

            -- Fodder, Burke - Clear Skies 2

[ You lost another Purifier?! ] Even over the comm link Eta's exasperation was palpable. [ This is now your third... ]

"Fifth!", I corrected.

[ ... fifth, whatever. Do you get them for free with your morning coffee or something? ] She took a breath. [ And since you're going to tell me anyway: How did it happen this time? ]

"Glad that you ask!" I replied happily, ignoring her little barb.

"You know that I hadn't had time for flying since the Tannakan conquest last week, so when I undocked yesterday after rearming my ship, I again went for some defensive plexing."

[ Still uncomfortable fleeting up with random others, and heading to the frontlines, eh? ]

"Yes." I admitted, with only a hint of embarrassment. "But seeing that, defensive plexing is perfect: I do something for the war effort, and it's an open invitation for hostiles to come and shoot me. And it worked out as planned: I was in my second plex, when Rakkas Kanenald in his Wolf assault ship dropped by for an exchange of pleasantries, counsel, and highly explosive ammunition."

[ Let me guess: you foolishly decided to engage with your mismatched weapons, he kicked your butt, 'good fights' were exchanged, drinks for everyone. Can I go now? ], she ended sarcastically.

"Not quite..."

[ Drat! ]

"'re right, though, in that I did engage, and started launching my ordnance as soon as I was in range. I briefly considered also putting a point on him, but piloting manually I just couldn't keep consistent range, so I didn't bother. He did land a couple of hits on me, which were easily handled by pulsing my shield booster, aaannnd ... suddenly he was in low armor and high-tailed out of the plex!

  Rakkas Kanenald> unexpected :)

were his exact words."

[ That's a first! ]

"Yup." I grinned at the memory.

[ But how... oh, he came back, right? ]

"That he did. And I knew for sure that he wouldn't have come back if he hadn't thought of a way to counter me. Plus, I saw a Myrmidon and a Falcon skulking around on scan, though in the end they didn't interfere with the fight.

"Obviously, the chances weren't very good, but I didn't want to just bail and run, so I decided to change my tactics: instead of aggressively orbiting him, I decided to try and kite him, let him come to me. Unfortunately, he had refitted from Autocannons to Artillery, and my low transversal was just what he needed.

"Plus, for some reason I had switched from my Navy Mjolnir missiles to Nova Furies - so my damage projection was far insufficient. The shield booster bought me some time, but inevitably the bleed-through from his artillery strikes tore my ship apart.

"So ... *poof*. And then in the excitement I forgot to warp my pod out. ... I could have accepted the pod ransom, but I think I was too embarrassed at that moment."

[ At least you were cheap. ]  Eta sighed. [ I hope you learned your lesson of flying this paper bag-excuse for a ship. ]

"Are you kidding? This was fun!"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad Judgement Nights

Night and day no longer had any larger meaning for us capsuleers, what with coming from different planets in the first place, and having our schedule dictated by the vagaries of our missions. We ate when we were hungry, we slept when we were exhausted, and we flew whenever. And doing so, we easily forgot that there were still other, less fortunate people.

I got reminded of this fact when I left my quarters to board a station-transport glider. The atmosphere in the station was quieter than usual, even for late night like that - quite an achievement for construct housing hundreds of thousands of people. Punsters were loss boisterous, nobility of the night less forthcoming. Having the system sieged by enemies did that to a normal mortal population.

At least I got the whole cabin of the glider all to myself.

And the late hour was fine by me. All my late night decisions recently had let to interesting outcomes. Not necessarily good outcomes, as two lost ships and a fierce hangover after a night of discussing abilities and loyalties with random strangers could attest, but certainly memorable ones.

Tomorrow I’d probably rue tonight’s snap decision, turning my ship around in the middle of the act of creating a safe spot in a Molden Heath system to seek out this nearest suitable station. At minimum, I’d be in the wrong kind of ship in the wrong place, with no supplies staged, no backup, no idea what was actually going on, and that would be before even talking to anyone.

The glider slowed down, automated systems guiding it into its berthing spot. With a soft *ding* reverbing from the PA, the exit hatch slid open and I exited, only a few steps away from the office entrance.

I had been here before; different station, but same corporation. There had been a crowd back then, wearied 0-sec veterans as well as fiery-eyed rookies, and I very much had felt out of place, industrialist that I was at the core. This time, it was empty.

I still felt out of place. I still could turn back.

I squared my shoulders. “No.”

Inside, a young non-com was sitting at a reception desk, behind him on the wall the imperial banner, and a placard: “Strength through Purity - Purity through Faith”.

Another thing I’d had to get used to again.

Stepping towards the desk, I gave the non-com my best smile, with a bit more bravado than I actually felt.

“Sign me up, son.”

Thursday, September 27, 2012



The cabin was quiet, except for the sounds of slightly accelerated breathing.


Muted lights cast only dim shadows, making the cabin seem larger than it actually was.


A console was blinking, notifying the arrival of a new message, but went ignored.

“Thirt.... Ah Frack!”

I held the position for another dozen of seconds, unable to finish the last push-up, until the last of my muscles resigned in protest.

And the really humiliating part of it was this: the rest of me wasn’t even slightly tired.

“Bra-Vo!”, exclaimed a voice from the entrance, accompanied by what was still called a golf-clap - whatever “golf” was. “Your enemies must be terrified!”

I rolled onto my side, willfully ignoring my undignified position, and squinted my eyes to pierce the gloom. The voice - familiar. Could it be....?


“The one and only!”

The slender Khanid woman fully entered the cabin and made herself comfortable on the sofa.

“You know that you can instruct the techs to give your clones more muscle?”, she continued as if our last meeting had been just yesterday, and not years ago.

“It’s not the same!”, I exclaimed, finally having been able to get up. “Actually, the muscle is just a nice benefit - the real payback is in the exercise itself. Takes my mind off things.”

“Like your recent losses?”

“Ehrm.” I walked to my bunk to grab the regular clothing I had dropped there - now that I was done with my exercise, I was feeling chilly. “How’s it going for you? I haven’t seen you in a while!”

“Well, the usual.” She started counting off her fingers. “Fly for an industrial 0.0 corporation. Get tapped as test pilot for a new ship type. New ship blows up a few times too often. Corp decides to go back to the drawing board. Test pilots are made redundant.”

“New ship?“

”New ship. Definitely not ready for the market yet. And if I told you more, I would have to kill you.“

Hmm - she was wearing her sidearm, locked and loaded, so better stick to prudence.

”And then?“

”Well, since I suddenly I had a lot of free time on my hands, I thought that it might be fun to check up on old acquaintances.“ She smiled sweetly, opening her arms. ”And here I am - corpie!“

”Welcome! ... I guess“

It didn’t need the brief flash of rebuttal crossing her face for me to realize that the last part hadn’t come out right. Chiding myself inwardly, I dropped my jacket and quickly took the few steps over to her.

”Sorry - I am out of practice in having people around.“ I gave her a hug. ”I am glad to have you back, and even more so as one of us - I’ve been missing you.“

”Thanks.“ She hadn’t forgiven me quite yet, but I did sense relief in her voice.

”And as official corp member,“ she continued, ” I am now dispensing with an official corp duty.“ It was amazing how she could switch from being jovial to being all business in a split second. ”The boss asks if you remember the op?“

”The op...“ - tired braincells woke up from their slumber and provided a memory - ”...crap, that is now, isn’t it?“

”Strictly speaking, five minutes ago. But I think the others aren’t quite ready yet either. “ She smirked. ”You might be able to go unnoticed if you hurry.“

She didn’t have to tell me twice.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Not Good Enough

“Frack it!”

At least that’s what I meant to shout, but seeing that I was still in my clone pod, it only came out as an undifferentiated gurgling.

Pumps hummed, draining the pod of its amniotic fluid, the pod latch opened, and I found myself prostrate on the floor, coughing my lungs out.

But not for long. As soon my vision half-way cleared, I pulled myself up and stumbled over to my quarter’s terminal, leaving a trail of pod goo drops as I went.

What the hell had happened? I had known that tussling with this Sabre had been a dangerous idea, seeing the way he had reacted when I entered the system. But I had figured that I could make some headway - open up with a bomb, settle into an orbit outside web range, pound him with torpedoes...

It didn’t work out that way.

I already knew that I had severely underestimated the Sabre’s speed, as well as the ferociousness of its auto cannons, but that probably hadn’t been my only mistake.

The terminal beeped and served up the telemetry recording take during the brief fight. Hopefully I would find answers in there.

And then - I briefly glanced towards the hangar - I would have to figure out how to get new ships down here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Question Of Location

The crowd on the neighbouring table turned a bit rowdy, and I found it harder to concentrate on my data pad. Because, even though I decided to give the combat pilot’s life an honest try (after all it’s been only four years), the ISK has to come from somewhere. In my case, that meant overseeing a small gaggle of PI colonies. And even though those colonies could run themselves for quite a while, once in a week I did have to look after them.

“No, no - I tell you: Home is where I kick off my shoes after a long walk!”

“You don’t walk - you fly. In your pod!”

“I know - I was, whatsit, figuratively speaking.”

I grimaced, and gestured to a waiter to refill my glass. I don’t know what got the table next to me to discuss the question of ‘Home’ in the context of capsuleers, but they were going at it with gusto.

Just now, one was declaring that he had no real home, that instead he was just like a Gypsy, flitting from here to there.

I snorted - that guy was obviously kidding himself: he just hadn’t yet found the right place to call ‘home’. Yet, at the same time... no, hold that thought.

I looked again at my data pad: overall the colonies were running fine, if at a somewhat unexpectedly low level of revenue. Maybe it was that I was used to the high levels of income back in the old days, but still: I would have to adjust my expectations.

And add an advanced factory here... and there. It wasn’t much, but seeing that I hard time finding people willing to blow me up over the recent days, it probably would suffice.

Heck, even my sec status had increased by 0.2 points over the last days, because I had found nothing but Blood Raiders to shoot!

An instruction here, another instruction there, and my colonies were it tip-top shape again. Now, what else?

Just a mail from my sis, informing me that the next batch of her reactions would be finishing in a couple of days, so that I could expect my share of the profits to be transferred soon after. And that of course she’d no longer keep our associate on retainer.

I grimaced, and took a draught my glass. I knew that Eta wasn’t the type for hidden meanings, but nonetheless I was reminded of what a mistake it had been to mix business with pleasure. Not for the first time I vowed to never let that happen again.

What, why is the glass empty already? Waiter!

“You’re all wrong! The question is not what is your home, rather it is what you make your home!”

I glanced at the table next to me: while I didn’t recognize the speaker right away, he did sound familiar. Plus, not many pilots did wear hats inside establishments. And he was right.

Yet, he knew only half of it. You don’t know what your real home is until you lose it.

Just look at the Flyers which I had headed for the good part of three years (rather unsuccessfully, I was ready to admit). While we had had our HQ, it didn’t really matter where it was: what mattered was where the bulk of our people were: 0-sec, wormholes, our little hi-sec area next to lo-sec - you name it.

I took a drought in remembrance - it had been good times.

But... it was the loss which hurt. Ever since the majority of driving people of the Flyers either went dirtside, or left to pursue their own interests, the corporation had withered on the vine.

Not that I blamed them - it had been a step long overdue. But at the same time it was telling that the majority of my ship hulls were back in our former stomping grounds, unfitted. Though Petidu was supposedly my new home, all I had stored here was some loot, and a Harbinger. Otherwise I lived in my Purifier, flitting from system to system, ever searching for the elusive prey, and I could count on one hand the number of nights I had spent in Petidu.

I had even dropped all corp roles some weeks ago. If it hadn’t been for our shared history...

Morosely I looked at the glass on my table, and then emptied it in one long draught, dropping it back on the table upside down; then clapped my hands together, and stood up, not even glancing at all the strangers around me.

“Time to get back to work!”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back To Work


As the elevator counted down the numbers, I flexed my hands again, watching my slender fingers move. The meds at the clinic had done good work, healing out the scrapes and blisters they had received over the last days.

...5 .

Unceremoniously the elevator doors slid apart, and I exited onto the capsuleer’s quarters level of the Freedom Extension Storage’s station in Petidu. As it befitted a Minmatar station, even the capsuleer levels extruded the charm of a steel building in an advanced state of decay. The only difference to the common levels was that the capsuleer levels were sporting a carefully monitored layer of actual rust, whereas the rest of the station had to make due with sprayed-on rust imitate.

Minmatar are weird.

But they put on interesting sporting events, like the Petidu Peak Melee, into which I had been roped in to help with operations. I couldn’t quite remember the how and why - in fact, the whole last week was a blur.

I did remember walking much, usually with heavy loads, and when I walked into the clinic this morning, I had acquired quite a collection of scabs. And as the meds informed me, at some point I must have stumbled into a poisonous plant as well. Repeatedly.

But was most present in my recollection was the fact how trusting the baseliners were with each other, despite the competitive nature of the event. So unlike us pod pilots, who would check each other for hidden weaponry even if we were stark naked.

It had been refreshing.

But as the bulkheads to my quarters ground open and I caught sight of my Purifier on the holo display, I fell in love with space all over again.

Two worlds, forever in collision.

Dropping my pack on the floor, I made myself comfortable on the couch and grabbed the controls for the viewscreen.

“Let’s see how many kills I now have to catch up to...”, I murmured to myself while pulling up the alliance’s killboard.

Hmm.. ok, two kills for the alliance at large, in our old home area. As for losses... about the same.

Oh, look, Mildly Intoxicated blew up an alliance tower in E-Y a week ago. Guess our blue standings no longer applied.

But nothing for the corp itself. Nor were there mails.


Shutting off the viewscreen, I rose and headed to the food terminal, and ordered myself a half-measure of an ale I had been introduced to over the last week. While the system was working on my order, I undressed, throwing my clothes onto the sad excuse this Minmatar station had to offer for a bed.

When my drink arrived, I downed it in one draw, and clapped my hands together.

“Back to work!”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Almost, But Not Quite, Like The Old Me

[ That’d be 68,848 ISK.]

Good - this was actually less than I feared the repairs to my armor could have cost. While a Purifier is fast and nimble enough to easily evade a Sansha Lord’s lasers, the same can not be said for same Sansha Lord’s cruise missiles. Add in a couple of asteroids to kill your transversal, and you could end up quickly in a dead Purifier. If it hadn’t been for my Ancillary Shield Booster - an on-the-spot decision, which required gimping my tackle abilities - that specific fate would have visited me as well.

Speaking of which.... no. The closest station to sell more cap charges was seven jumps away, and I was in no mood for the round trip. The remaining full load would have to suffice. With my lack of skills, I’d be going to die with that load untouched anyway.

I transmitted the payment, and undocked as soon as the payment cleared.Traffic outside the station was virtually non-existant, and ordered my Purifier to head to the gate leading back into low security space.

The last couple of weeks were still a kind of a blur. I did remember sitting in a bar, waiting to meet a militia recruiter - only the next day to awake to be in a newly-founded combat corp, but still in the same alliance. Granted, this corp was run by a former corp member of mine, which may have swayed my assessment, but the choice had been somewhat surprising nonetheless.

Oh, Hi! Don’t mind me, you two Bestowers - I had learned the hard way that a frigate hull can’t withstand gate guns. Not even when the only objective is to get the target into aggressing, so that a gang member could take him out (which didn’t happen either).

Jump! Warp!

Hmm, neat! One Bestower must have jumped shortly before me, because we managed to enter warp together, and he actually kept pace for a few seconds before falling back.

But if I were honest to myself, just being in a mostly-combat corp wasn’t doing it after all. While I liked the people, it was again me by myself in my waking cycle. And while I was being honest to myself, let’s put the finger on it: I was tired of being just a gang member. All my so-called combat prowess had been in gangs, with other folks doing the heavy lifting.

Welcome again, Bestower. I knew you’d be travelling through this gate. Shall we race again to the next one? Yes? Yes.

But maybe I was hobbling myself - not even hanging out in the main operation area of our corp. Just look at it: the whole of my contributions to our corporation’s honor record was a loss against a mere vexor.

Of course it didn’t help that I was on a crusade to learn the ins and outs of the Purifier. Even if so far it had been the outs. And lots of empty systems with no targets.

And thus, while I appreciated the gesture, I really didn’t see me flying a Phantasm anytime soon. Even if the BPC had been provided as courtesy.

Beat you again, Bestower! Another rematch, so that you can tell your folks in the VCRUZ alliance how a Purifier shadowed you?

And that’s why I was currently staging out of a wormhole, where ... wait a second. I saw you before, today, VCRUZ alliance. In that very wormhole I was currently squatting in. You had a Helios probing, which I failed to get because I warped to the wrong bookmark.

Were you maybe scouting out a resupply route?

Screw the race gate to gate: if I were right, I had only small window to get to the wormhole entrance without you seeing me.

Gate! Jump!

Initiate warp to the WH entrance! Cloak!

As I sped away, the sensors reported the gate firing.

Dropping out of warp right on top of the WH. A quick interdimensional travel later, I took up station just a few klicks away from the connection. And waited.

And waited some more.

Had I been wrong? Or did they maybe see me and waited for me to lose patience? Would this be another day without even a single targeting attempt?

A signal flashed on my sensors - the WH just wobbled, indicating the passage of a ship.

Oh ho! Oh ho ho! There you are, Bestower! Just a few klicks from me!

You’re mine!

The mental instructions flowed quickly: a command to the auto-piloting system to enter a tight orbit around the target, to keep within point range for now. Cloak disengaged, damage control unit erecting force fields inside my ship’s structure, target lock resolved, the warp disruptor oh-so-rudely emitting its unique brand of subspace noise.

The ship shaking from the launch of the torpedoes.

Full hit!

But the Bestower was still alive. My mental eyes were glued on the data readouts while the batteries pulled the next batch of torpedoes out of their magazines.


...and the torpedoes had covered just about half the distance when the Bestower entered warp.

A quick check of the weapons logs confirmed that I had had a point on the Bestower for at least 8 seconds. Which could mean only one thing: Stabs!


Still, I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fragments Of A Dream

...a Drake, floating in w-space, keeping a sleeper busy while a nearby Tengu salvages. Local inhabitants no help, the final engagement turning into a flight from the sleeper...

...a mining Vexor, guarding its mining destroyer companions with mismatched drones. Alas, greed led to downfall...

...another Drake, and doing a heavy-tackle’s job in a tin-foil ship. Alignment and speed didn’t help, the gate guns were faster...

...a bar, its entrance adorned with the torn and blackened remnants of a starship’s armament...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tactical Downsizing

        “War is much more fun if you are winning!” - General Martok

My comm pad beeped discreetly, and I glanced quickly at it, before slipping it back into my pocket. As expected, it was the notification from CONCORD that our last remaining war had been declared invalid, and fighting would have to stop within 24 hours.

One would think that this message would have cheered me up - in just a day, I could make a round trip to all our hi-sec POSes, turning them off while replenishing their fuel bays, and then resume business as usual.

Except that there weren’t any hi-sec POSes left. None. Nada. Zilch. One the of three war decs we had going on at once the last weeks turned out to be more than we could have handled. All weakly-defended hi-sec POSes in our Alliance had died. And there had been no coordinated response.

And it hadn’t had helped that I had been stuck for over a week in a backwater station who had all its traffic suspended for a measly fire in their docking ring. Not that I was in any way deluding myself that I could have made a difference - but it would at least have felt better!

I waved into the general direction of a waiter, to refill my glass for the 3rd? 4th?... seems I had lost track of the count.

But even that wasn’t really it. We had rebuild before - gained standings, and all that. But this time... I couldn’t stomach even the mere thought. As did one of my corpies, who went and founded his own PvP corp. To his credit, he did apply back into our Alliance, and for sure would be accepted, but that didn’t change the fact that we had lost another veteran member.

There is a time in the downhill slide when the pebbles’ opinion ceases to count.

I admit, I had started to look at alternatives myself. Going mercenary. Freelance. ... Pirate even.

Then the newly inflamed factional war had caught my eye - not that I had much love for the Amarr as such, but if Amarr fell, so would the Khanid Kingdom. And Khanid was my heritage, as much as I usually preferred to ignore it.

So I went and looked up sources. Talked to people. And then made the mistake to slip the word to somebody I thought I could trust.

The mere memory of that evening was enough to have me drain my glass in one gulp, and refill it from the bottle the waiter had graciously left at my table.

And yet here I was sitting in the very same bar, looking through the same panoramic window into space, where it all had started less than half a year ago. Maybe I did have a masochistic streak.

But this was also the place where I had to agreed to meet my FW contact, arranged before .. that evening... happened. And how would it look if I backed down from something simple like that?

Outside the panorama window, ships of all classes performed the eternal silent dance.

“Ah, there you are. Sorry that I was delayed.”

I gestured the arrival to sit down, a waiter discreetly materializing another glass on the table.

Time to turn a page.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No Honor

The solo kill - holy grail of the combat pilot.

Not the honor duel, the tournament, or the cleaning up of leftover ships during an evacuation - the real deal.

Ever elusive, pilots of all levels seek for it, if they admit it or not. Some more successfully than others, but when it happens, it is one more story to tell when meeting up for drinks.

And of course the queen of it all - the very first one. The hunt. The decision to engage, despite all the previous losses. And then, unexpectedly, finally, the kill.

The story you’d always remember.

There was no such story for me. The ‘Solo Kill’ label emblazoned on my CONCORD record? Just mockery.

There had been no hunt. No clash of matched arms. No risk.

There had been just a shuttle, sitting idle at the gate, jump cloak long dropped. And me, moving a Harbinger after repairs. Still wound up from confronting Eta.

And I had lashed out.

No glory. No honor. No skill. Just pointless destruction.

My story was still out there, waiting to be discovered.

But yet... in that split second at the gate, when I could have just warped off, I had not just crossed, but outright barreled over the line I had drawn myself so many years ago.

And I had enjoyed it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Chains of Command

*There. This should do it.*

I was usually not one for editing my own journal entries - as long as they triggered the right memories, they were good enough. But this one ... just didn’t live up to my own standards, plus in its original didn’t quite evoke all of the important memories from that day. The revision ... was much better.

Plus it helped me take my mind of the embarrassment which had been the honor duel just a few hours ago, which I had lost badly.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Eta entering our common lounge, heading straight for the coffee maker - she was still working on her mineral pickups. Poor thing.

I was about done with a final proofread, when suddenly a padd skittered over the desk, coming to a violent halt when it impacted my own mug. Looking up, Eta was standing right over me, murder in her eyes.

“Would. You. Kindly. Tell. Me. What. This. Is. About.”

Her voice could have cut energized rolled tungsten.

I made a show of looking at the padd, but I already knew what it would display, and what unpleasantness was about to happen.

"I'm not sure what you’re getting at - that’s our corp info. Home system, alliance affiliation, CEO, tax rate...”

“CEO!”, she interrupted me with a hiss. “Namely, me! But last I checked, your name was there; and I definitely don’t remember ever running for the job!”

“But yet you’ve been doing pretty much all of work anyway - why should I take all the credit?”

“You never did!”. She paused for a moment. “ least not by intention! And without you holding the fort, we may not even lasted that long!”

“A) I doubt that, I’m not that good!” I snarled. “And B)...” - I gestured at our empty lounge - “Fat a lot of good that has done for us.”

“We’re in a good alliance! And we have good people still!”

“Yes, and yes - and they deserve better!” I was now shouting as well. “And at the same time, I’m effing tired! Tired of always having the worry about the corp’s future in the back of my mind! Tired of trying to be the voice of reason when I’d rather not to! Tired of balancing the effing books!”

Eta mustered me coldly.

“So, that’s the real reason then - you want to be able to skip out into the sunset whenever you feel like, probably to become the next hero combat pilot, or something equally stupid!” Her voice dripped with contempt. “Because we all know how well that worked out the previous times you tried to that.”

I took a breath, trying to calm myself. “Maybe it won’t work out. Heck, make that ‘most likely’.” - She snorted. - “But still - at least I would have nothing to blame but myself!” I changed my tack, and tried to let my voice sound reasonable. “Think of it - what would you have said if I had just asked you to take the job?”

“’NO!’”, she replied forcefully, and added: “Duh!”

“And why not?”

“Because it would mean that I ...”

She stopped mid-sentence, and I could see some of the fire leave her eyes.

“...I see.”, she concluded. “But don’t think that I’ll let you get off that easy!” She pointed her finger at me. “You could have given me at least a heads up!”

“I could have,” I admitted, “but that would have given you a chance to talk me out of it.”

“Fait accomplis, eh? Still, don’t expect a free ride!”

She snatched her padd back from the desk, stuffed it into one of her pockets after entering a few angry commands, and stomped towards the exit. At the door, she turned her head just far enough to throw me one last bitter remark.

“Congratulations to your promotion, Director Druur. Fail in your assignments at your own peril.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rocky Roads around Home (revised)

I had to give it to the Gallente - even if the tensions between the Empire factions threatened to flare up again, they knew how to treat their paying guests. The beverage dispenser in my quarters made it quite hard for me to chose something healthy: the teas, pops and juices were vastly outnumbered by the more spirited beverages from around New Eden.
Frack it. This day deserved something hearty! An Arcturian Mega-Strawberry liqueur!
...don’t laugh unless you have tried one...
I poured out two glasses, kicked up some nasty beats on the sound system, hopped onto my bed and handed over one of the glasses to my guest.
“Thanks! - You look happy tonight!”
“And should I not be?”, I replied. I took the first sip from the liqueur, savoring the flavor which started as fruity sweetness on the palate and finished as a pleasant burn in the throat. I was just about to take second sip, when a quick punch landed on my short ribs.
“Your fault - you were stalling! Now tell!”
“Ok, ok.” I cuddled into the pillows. “In a way it began a couple of weeks ago, when I jumped-cloned back from Catch to join our cruiser roam into lo-sec. Originally I planned to return to Catch afterwards, but then the comforts and amenities of civilization conspired to make me stay longer.”
“Just like this morning - I was lounging in Corp HQ, chatting away on comms with Eta. She had finally decided to collect all the minerals she had bought the last weeks (while still staunchly refusing to look at the current market prices), and was welcoming any kind of entertainment during the endeavour.
“So life was good, when suddenly Calcinus sent a priority message on corp comms.”
I cleared my throat and tried to imitate Cal’s voice:

[ Help, please. ]

“That’s it?”

I nodded.

“A man of few words. What happened?”

“He had been hunting Sansha rats in the system next door with his Oracle like usual - but this time he didn’t warp off in time and was now shot up by two scram frigates and two cruisers. And of course by the time he told me that piece of information, I had already undocked in my Purifier - luckily I had a standby Harbinger out at our POS.”

“Still - that takes time. Did you make it?”

“I did - once I got there, the Sansha had no chance. But getting there - you should have heard him counting down... [ 60% Armor ] ... [ 35% Armor ] ... [ 10% Armor ]... I am not sure I could have stayed that cool.”

“...says the Queen of Structural Damage...”

“I have no idea what you are talking about!”

I took another sip from my liqueur, and continued: “But that little event only set the mood for the day. Just a few hours later, Cal had another priority message for us...

[ I’m tracking Jonah823 next door, trying to scan him down - he has engaged a neutral with his Myrmidon and is now at a safe. I might need backup - and I don’t mean your stealth bomber! ]

He knew me too well! But I did also have a personal Harbinger in my hangar which would do nicely. One gate-jump later, I took station at our POS.

[ Damn, his GCC ran out. ]

“Doesn’t matter, he’s flashy - kill on sight.”

I kept an eye on d-scan, while Cal continued probing.

[ I have his safe spot. Changing ships... and I am engaging. Warp to me! ]

He didn’t need to ask twice: my warp drive sprang to life and propelled my ship onto the field where Calcinus’ Armageddon was engaging the Myrmidon. I added my point for good measure, and unleashed the multi-frequency fire from my lasers onto the hapless Gallente battlecruiser. The Myrmidon exploded, and without a second thought we both pounced Jonah’s pod as well.

“That was surprisingly easy.”

[ Yeah, as if he was taking a nap - though I can’t imagine why anybody in his right mind would do that with a GCC running. Either way, serves him right! ]

"And then?"
"Well, we still were wound up, so we downshipped and went hunting for signatures - me in my Purifier, he in his Anathema. And very quickly we found a grav site, and two wormholes. Each of us chose one, and in we went!"

[ Nothing in here, only a crapload of CAs. ]

“Nothing in mine either so far, but I can’t see the outermost planet from here. Stand by.

“There’s a POS and an Orca here, but no other ships on scan.

“Wait - another Orca just showed up on d-scan. ... It’s gone again.”

[ I think I’ll get my Oracle and wait at the exit. ]

The occupants of this w-system seemed to be asleep - and had a very effective bubble shield around their POS - but apparently somebody else was using this w-system as through-fare. Time to make a safespot and put out my core scanner probes.

After a few minutes of probe herding, and habitually checking d-scan, I had confirmed a Grav site and a wormhole exit near the POS, a handful of weak signature returns from the center of the system, and five more scanner probes and an Anathema on d-scan.

Wait, what? Surely he’d cloak again...

...nope, he’s still there.

“I have an Anathema an d-scan, and his probes. For some reason he’s not cloaking.”

[ Maybe, if you have his probes on scan, he’ll check out our exit next. ]

“Possible. It’s a long shot, but I’ll take up position there.”

I instructed my ship to return to out exit at distance, while still continuing to work my probes. Fat chance that the Anathema would actually...

...I’ll be damned - there he is. And stayed. Uncloaked.

“The Anathema arrived on grid, 15km off the exit.”

[ Hm. The wh is end-of-life, be careful. ]

Ergh. While I was almost sure that the wh hadn’t been EOL when I entered, but I didn’t really check either. Meaning that it would be somewhat unwise for Cal to risk his Oracle.

[ Maybe you can engage him and force him to jump? ]


I thought furiously. I was 60 klicks off him - too far to make a stealthy approach within a reasonable amount of time. But if I did simply uncloak, he’d notice and take off as well. 

In a situation like this, what would Penny do?“

”Who is Penny?“

Another sip smoothed my throat which had gotten a bit dry from narrating.

A quite profilic w-space solo pilot. You’d like her.

”But anyway,“ I continued my story, ”seeing that I am not Penny, I had to improvise as well as I could.

A plan half-formed in my brain, and I started implementing it right away, fearing that I wouldn’t if I thought it through.

“I’m going to engage - I’ll to have bounce off a celestial though.”

I warped to the sun, recalling my probes on the way, and upon arriving, I immediately turned around and warped to the our exit at 10km, dropping cloak in the process.

Landing on grid - good, the Anathema was still there - I began triggering the targeting computer.

“Lock it already, dammit!”

Finally the electronics were able to break through the warp interference, the lock resolved, and I fired off my next instructions to the systems.

Point - orbit at 1km until I worry about it again - target painter - torpedoes.

The rocket engines of my torpedoes lit up the darkness around my ship, shrouding it in their exhaust, as they sped away at the Covert Ops.

Hit - 20% Shield! Another hit - 50% Armor! Hit again - 5% Armor!

An indicator caught my mental eye - he was pulling distance. I quickly changed the orbit command to a plain approach, but too late: he broke my point range and warped away, leaving my last torpedo volley perish uselessly in the void of space.

Embarrassed, I spoke up on comms again.

“He got away - I forgot to control range with my micro warp drive. ”

[ Aw, that sucks. ]

“I’m coming back.” There were still some signatures in this system, but it didn’t matter - our gig was up.

Disappointed, I approached the WH and returned to known space. Mostly, I was angry with myself - had I only remembered to use my engines properly, I could have kept him in point range and won the fight.“

”I know,“ I waved defensively, ”for a seasoned combat pilot, all this would probably not amount to much more than a warmup exercise, before undocking. But for industrialist me, it was quite something. Especially at the end of the day, when Keilidh had joined us as well, and we were watching a pirate corp attempting a POS takedown with stealth bombers.“

”You’re kidding?!“

”Nope.“ The memory made me chuckle - I think the liqueur started to get to my head. ”Well, they did bring in heavier ships after some time, but until then it was quite the show. Cal even tried to sell the POS owners some guns, as the POS itself didn’t have any.“

Another chuckle. ”They should have accepted the deal.“

”All in all,“ I concluded, relaxing back into my pillows, ”it was a good day. Especially because this had been the first opportunity since our ill-fated cruiser roam to fly with some of my folks again - I could think of worse ways to spend a day.“

”Agreed - everything is more fun if you have company...“

A firm, yet gentle, hand removed my glass from my grasp, and as I turned my head, I found my gaze locked by a pair of brown eyes only inches away from my own.

”...n’est-ce pas?“

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pillow Talk

When I looked up again from my data pad, it had turned night, meaning that the automatic lighting system of the station had dimmed all auxiliary lights. My data pad was a candle in the darkness of my private quarters, barely illuminating the cup of (now cold) tea standing within arm's reach on my desk. I got up and stretched, limbs somewhat stiff from sitting at this desk for the last couple of hours, ergonomics or not.

There were a few more things I needed to go over, but I could do that as easily from my bed, in much more comfort. It was rare that I got to spend significant time ‘home’, and I aimed to enjoy it.

Gathering both the pad and the cup from the desk, I briefly considered making some fresh tea - but decided against it. Cool and spicy was just right that moment.

Unceremoniously I discarded my clothing where I stood, hopped into the bed - a Real Bed! - and boxed the pillows and blanket into the perfect shape - only to be interrupted by a furtive knock from the door.

Strange - usually people would either knock strongly, or just page me on intercom. But, as I couldn’t hear weapons fire, it was probably safe.

“Come in!”

Triggered by my voice, the door lock disengaged, the door opened partially, and a black-haired woman peered inside.

“May I come in?”

I relaxed. “Sure!”

“Thanks!” The door opened fully to allow Eta entrance. She made her way through to dark room, door automatically locking again, and sat down on the foot end of my bed.

“I couldn’t sleep, and needed somebody to talk,” she said almost apologetically, “but I didn’t know if you were ... well, busy... being back home for once, and all that.”

I chuckled. “Busy is right, but sadly the other kind.” I waved my pad. “Roster cleanup.”

“Oh, ...who did we lose?”

I leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “Brad and Liza - they’re planetside for the near future. And Unholy vaped, again. And we’re going to lose our WH crew to the Bunnies - but that was my idea. Can you believe that: they actually miss WH life; something we can’t support at the moment. But...” I winked at Eta. “...they are only on loan.”

I sat up again. “But that’s not what you wanted to talk about. What’s bugging you?”

“Well,” she shifted uncomfortably, “you remember that I thought of doing some market speculation?” I nodded, and she continued. “It sounded so easy in my head: ride the mineral wave in the market, use my reaction fund to buy them low and then hold on to them until the new DED regulations kick in next month. So I did that - to the tune of 2B.”

I whistled through my teeth - that was most of her liquid capital.

“Exactly my thought when I ran the tally.” She looked at me. “And frankly, I’m scared. Scared that I bit off more that I can chew.”

I must have looked surprised, because she added: “No, really!”

“But...”, I tried to put my thoughts into words, “when you ran your reactions you routinely moved billions worth of stuff around - through lo-sec and in tin-cans no less. And you also had the market exposure!”

“Yes, but this - is different.” I recognized the tone - it didn’t happen often, but every once in a while even my independent sister needed somebody to lean against, but didn’t know how to express it.

I held out my arms. “Come here.”

She moved up into my embrace, and rested her head on my shoulder.

“When I ran my reactions, I could control most variables: Covert transports. Scouts. Backup reactions to cover a market slump. The market for the materials was sorta predictable. And I knew what I was doing. But this - ”, she gestured into the air, “is mostly out of my hands. And the market mavens are probably laughing at my rookie attempts.”

“What did you do?”

“Going in, I knew that have neither the patience nor the experience to play the Buy order-shuffle, so I figured I get the minerals on the cheap by buying up all those Sell orders which happen to be below the main hub’s Buy orders.”

“The ones where people don’t want to or can’t move the goods themselves?”

“Precisely. But what I underestimated was how much of the minerals are offered that way - I reached my financial pain threshold in just two days. ...aaand at the same time the prices started to flatten out, some even dropping.”

She sighed. “I knew up front that this would be a long term deal, that I would have to ride out a few intermediate drops - but it doesn’t make it any less scary. And I can only watch!”

“Shhh”, I gently caressed her hair. “It’s scary because it’s new and you’re pushing out of your comfort zone - something I have a hard time doing. I admire that. And if this fails - well, you bootstrapped yourself once.”

“You helped, with a generous loan!”

“Which you paid back in full, so shush!”

“You’re probably right.” Her voice still betrayed doubt, but I could feel her relax. “Still, until I get used to this, I have to make sure I don’t make mistakes through pre-occupation. Like the two last night.”

“Whatever they were, they can’t have been that bad.” I tried to keep my voice playful. “We haven’t been war-decced, yet.”

“One was really stupid: I needed to buy 10k units of Sulfuric Acid for our corp reaction, but accidentally bought 100k. Classic rookie mistake - the only saving grace is that the projected revenue should cover the extra expense, so we can take the profit hit right away, and the corp gets 90k units Acid for free.”

She fell silent, and after a short moment I felt it prudent to nudge. “You mentioned two mistakes?”

“The other one...”, she squirmed uncomfortably, “I figured, since I’m gambling anyway, on the market, I could use some of my funds and play SOMER.blink. At first it was just to participate in their anniversary promotion, but I think I got carried away a bit.”

SOMER.blink - that name sounded familiar. I used my free hand to look them up on my data pad.

“Ah, the lottery operation.”

She nodded into my chest. “And a pretty slick one. If you’re easily excitable, they make it really easy to lose your ISK. Couple hundred million - poof!”

“You won a Thanatos.”

It took a few seconds for my words to register, then Eta sat up in shock.

“You’re fracking shitting me!”

As answer, I held out the pad towards her. She snatched it from my hand, and double- and triple-checked it.

“I’ll be damned ... Awesome!”

I gently rescued my pad from her hands before she could get any strange ideas, like framing it. “See, beginner’s luck does still exist. Just be sure to quit while you’re ahead!”

“Damn skippy!” I almost smiled - the rapidity of her bouncing back to her normal self was always astounding. “Let’s see - they offer to pay out the value of the price in cash, but considering that capitals will only get more expensive, I’d be stupid not to take the ship. Except...”

“You can’t fly it?”

“Nope. Can you?”


“Then this might be iffy.”

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Art of Delegation

[ So, there you have it - my plan, in all of its details. ]

If I hadn’t know better, I’d have submitted my sister for lock-up, on account of acute madness. She had a good thing going with her reactions, only now to pour most of her savings into a market speculation scheme?!

But nonetheless, she had the better market acumen between the two of us, and in the end, it might just work!

...long shot, ok, but also it was her funds, so who was I to argue?

“Very well. Tell you what: let me get over to Khanid Kingdom, check out the prices. ... after all, there’s not much else to do right now.”

[ I’d say “Thanks!”, but... did you pay attention to alliance comms? ]

“Somewhat, why do you ask?”

[ Just take a look at the last five minutes...]

While the gesture was futile as such, I did raise an eyebrow inside of my pod. And called up comms history.

[[ I have the two Hurricanes and the Blackbird on scan. ]] That was Calcinus.

[[ What are you in? ]] Holden.

[[ Oracle. ]] Calcinus again.

[[ Hey, hey, what’s going on? ]] Orin, who probably just joined comms.

I switched back to comms with Eta.

“Thanks! I just have to put my share of laser fire in there.”

[ That’s why I mentioned it - I know your secret desires! ]

I couldn’t help but to grin - she knew me right to the bone. At the same time, I switched comms back again to the alliance channel.

[ Druur here. I’m coming in with a CovOps to help, just in case. ]

And just when I said that, I realized that for some reason I didn’t have Combat Probes in my hold. Oh well, nothing like a quick purchase could rectify?

... well, only if I’d actually remember to pick up the probes I purchased.

While I would make it to the target system in time, without probes my contribution would be limited to: “The targets are more than 10Bm away from the gate. I’ll have to head back to get my Combat Probes.” This obviously wouldn’t do.

Wait, wasn’t there a corporation I was supposedly in charge off? Cal was already engaged, but there were more, right? Like, Keilidh,who had jacked in just a few minutes ago.

“K, do you have a combat scanning ship available?”

[ Oh, uh. Yea, I have a ‘Thema - You understand that I’m BAD at this, right? ]

“Bad is better than nothing! We need combat scanning Next Door - you’re looking for two Hurricane’s and a Blackbird. Orin’s FC.”

[ Ok. ]

And with that, it was out of my hands. While I was still making best speed to bring my own combat probes to bear, I was under no illusion that I would have any influence of the outcome of the engagement. All I could do was listening to comms.

[[ They’re jumping belts. Everybody, align planet VI. ]]

[[ I have a near-hit near planet VI, stand by. ]]

[[ CovOps - Keilidh, right? - let us know when you have a hit. ]]

[[ Hit - warping to it. ]]

[[ Everybody, hold on - when you land, point the ‘Canes, but shoot the Blackbird. ]]

[[ On grid with targets. ]]

[[ Warp to CovOps - Now Now Now! Point on Canes, shoot the Blackbird. ]]


[[ Blackbird is in structure. ]]

[[ Blackbird dead - Hurricane in structure. ]]

[[ Hurricane dead - second Hurricane warped off. ]]

[[ Good job - everybody get to a safe. Thanks for the scouting! ]]

Inside my pod, and still a number of jumps away from home, I couldn’t help but smile.

“Well done!”, I sent out over corp comms.

[ Yes. ] Calcinus, never one to waste words.

[ Yay! ] , responded Keilidh, [ Having a good idea where they were helps a lot, though. ]

“Still, as far as I’m concerned, combat-scanning/scouting is harder than doing damage. Getting the warp-in was essential.”

[ Yeah. ] Calcinus again.

Fear the industrialists with teeth!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Things ISK can't buy


This evening had definitely not gone as planned.

All I had wanted to do was staging a few ships Next Door, when on the last trip I noticed a neutral Hurricane on d-scan. And having nothing else to do, I’d thought I hop into my trusty Purifier and see how close I’d get to the Hurricane’s location before he’d smarten up to me.

Feeling unusually social, I chatted away on Alliance comms while diddling away with d-scan angles and distances, when suddenly I found myself in a fleet with three Alliance members lusting for pod juice, and asking if I could given them a warp-in.

Dudes, I had just narrowed down his likely location to a Cosmic Anomaly, let me warp there first to take a look!

The Hurricane indeed had been in that anomaly, blissfully unaware of the storm clouds on the other side of the system gate. As I had warped in at distance, I bid my fellow Allies members for patience: let him trigger the next wave first.

Once the next rat wave arrived, I bookmarked one of the wrecks near the Hurricane and bounced off a safe spot to get close to him. It was a gamble, as there were a decent number of wrecks, dust clouds and asteroids just salivating to uncloak me.

The fleet boss had asked to give notice once I got to within 10 klicks of the target - I thought of doing better by putting the target between me and the gate, but in the hurry of the moment failed to do so. Plan B then had been to sneak up on to the Hurricane to give my fleet a warp-in at their optimals, but the playing out its superior speed, the Hurricane actually pulled away from me.

Not that it mattered: having heard my 10km announcement, the fleet had entered a system. First on the grid was the Oracle, throwing out point and laser fire at the hapless Hurricane. The others followed soon after, and I dropped my cloak and settled into a tight orbit to lob a few torpedoes of my own - our diplomats liked to show off a positive kill statistic. ... or at least two kills in a year.

The execution - it could hardly be called a fight - was not much to brag about, as the Hurricane didn’t stand a chance. However, the happy feeling I took away from knowing that I didn’t fully mess up the scouting...

...that was priceless.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Ending

“This is the last of it?”

Watching from Eta’s hangar balcony, I had a good view of the loading operations for her freighter. There still was a sizeable stack of containers of various sizes, but the dock crew was making swift work of loading them, and more importantly, the stack was no longer being replenished with new containers from our corporate hangars.

Standing next to me, she just nodded confirmation, checking off items on her data pad. Unperturbed, I continued.

“I am not sure I fully understand - I thought you loved playing with your reactors? Why this sudden change of heart?”

She tapped a few more times on her padd, then put it down onto the balcony railing.

“Well, it wasn’t exactly sudden,” she answered after a few moments of watching the dance of crew, waldos and containers. “It has been getting stale for a while now - not the reactions as such, but the endless travels to and from Jita.” She sighed. “I wish I enjoyed trading as much as producing.”

She gave me a sideways glance. “Add to that the commute to our home system, to take care of our Corp reaction POS, and suddenly I spent most of my time moving haulers around.

”So, I thought, time to take a break. Do something else for a while.“

I could empathize with her, having been in that situation more than once myself.

”Any concrete ideas yet?“

”Sleep for a week once this stuff is moved?“ She grinned. ”Actually, I don’t know yet. Maybe I go mining for a while - I still want to build this Moros, just because - or just exploring. Maybe hook up with Heloisa for a while. As long as it’s in general closer to home, to you guys.“

A mischievous wink.

”Of course, I get might get really bored, and simply put up my towers again in our home system - war-dec risk be damned.“

”Can’t live without your daily dose of radiation, eh?“


Down in the hangar, the stack of containers had magically vanished, and the crew was closing the loading hatches on the gigantic hull of the Obelisk.

”Looks like your ride is ready.“

”Mhm, hm - I better get podded up.“ She straightened up, then hesitated. ”I admit, it feels weird leaving this place after almost two years.“

”I know.“

As she still didn’t move, I waved her on. ”Go on, I’ll follow once I took care of the paperwork for terminating the office lease.

“CEO being the last woman off the station, and all that.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Career Advice



Boring boring boring boring.

Yet necessary.

The large remote hull repairers cycled, adding another sliver of structure to our WH POS, and the real-time link with Lance confirmed that no new signatures - wormholes or ships - had shown up. Not that this gave us perfect safety, as a good scout could enter the system and cloak up before we’d notice, but at least we’d be safe from wannabes. Plus, the active combat probe did deter random gawkers.

Of course, it would have been nicer if I had had support from the Alliance as planned, but with our latest war-dec the POS repair had dropped in priority. On a logical level I agreed with Alliance leadership, but that didn’t help making the hours repairing go any faster.

A small point of light started blinking in my simulated field of vision - somebody sent me a mail! Yay!! Eagerly I opened it.

Hey D!

I came across this new DED information service - thanks to Shalee Lianne (don’t ask) - and while it seems to be targeted at new capsuleers, I thought that maybe it could provide you with some amusement.

When will you be back?

-- M

When indeed?

I pushed that question firmly to the back of my mind, and opened a link to the DED information service. The connection was slow, but given my current location, any connection was a win.

Hmm... an aptitude test, presumably to help new pilots find their line of career. Let’s see...

‘What interests you most?’ The clash of arms and ideology, obviously - wealth and knowledge are just tools.

I grinned: Eta would vehemently disagree.

‘What is most important in battle?’ Pilot skill and initiative. No plan survives the contact with the enemy, so when (not if!) the chain of command gets taken out, the individual pilot’s skills will make or break the day.

‘What do you fight for?’ Wealth and power; if only for the lack for just cause.

‘Do you respect the laws of space?’ Heck, yeah! Where’d we be if pirates could go rampant?

The DED site churned a millisecond over my answers, and presented me with their suggestions.

Bounty Hunter. Alternatively, Pirate, or Freedom Fighter.

I looked at the POS floating in space ahead of me, its structure now hovering at 87%, and for the second time this year all I could think of was

“What The Frack?”