Tuesday, April 30, 2013


        "On the left side, we have moss, and rocks.
         On the right side, we have more rocks, and moss. And a power line."
          -- CCP Guard

"Well, how was it?", asked Eta.

'It' was the yearly Impetus Holoreel Convention, an event which in recent years had found interest by both capsuleers and baseliners. For baseliners, it was great entertainment. For capsuleers, and owing to a massive contingent of security forces, it was the closest they had for neutral grounds; a place to both discuss and socialize across allegiances and sec-status. For me, it had been a first in more ways than one. Of course Eta was curious.

Never mind that I had only just returned, and frankly still hadn't fully recovered yet.

"Well?" she repeated.

Despite my tiredness, or maybe because of it, images and emotions of the last week flashed through mind.

... slight anxiety beforehand that I wouldn't fit in, independent FW rookie I was.
... somewhat lonely first two days.
... a workout session, organized by a Brutor, and fittingly named "Warrior Fitness", which had my arms and shoulders still hurting.
... suddenly finding myself in bars and cafes with pilots both known and unknown, sharing stories.
... discussions about all aspects of a pilot's life.
... a late night in a bar, the music of a local band blasting through my ears and stomach.
... impromptu dinners with pilots who otherwise would have served me only shells out of the business ends of their cannons.
... talks on equal level with high-ranking DED officials.
... posing for a picture with a cute bar tend, stage blood on my face, and getting the next drink free.
... almost embarrassingly long chats with aforementioned Brutor and his three lady friends.
... drifting through the final party and recognizing people who before were just anonymous faces.
... and renewed enthusiasm to undock and fly the dark skies.

How to reasonably summarize all this and more?

I shrugged my shoulders lightly, and gave Eta what I hoped was a teasingly nonchalant smile.

"It was good."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Late Night Sillyness

What could be a better end of a long day: a good read, a tasty beverage, and comfy pillows to snuggle into. There was a reason that I had been procrastinating my return to the Bleak Lands - the comforts of this my old place were seductive.

But I was also running out of things to do around here. There was only so much belt-skipping and Sansha-chasing I could stomach before I was getting antsy, and it was time that I headed out again. Except… just one more night in comfort, immersed into the adventures of the heroine, yes?

Of course it was not to be: I had just gotten back into the flow of the story, when a polite chime from my comm unit announced an incoming call. Only one person would dare to interrupt me at this time… with a sigh, I switched my pad into comm mode and took the call.

        “Hey, Eta, what’s up?”

        [ Hey Sis. Sorry to disturb you, but the General has brought out his dreads again, and we could use
        some more sub-caps on the field. ]

I was tempted to decline, as I was rather tired, but it was Eta asking... I could always call it a night later on.

        “I’ll be right there.”

Throwing the covers aside, I got up and grabbed some clothes for the short trip to the hangar, all the while wondering if I even had a ship left here capable for the job. Well, if not, I’d borrow one from the Flyers.

At the exit, I briefly looked back at my bed, the pad on it glowing temptingly.

Soon… soon.


A few hours later my Apocalypse was welcomed back into the warm embraces of the station, settling into its customary spot in the hangar. As for myself, however, tiredness had given way to giddiness.

Part of it was caused by my disappointment with my Apoc’s performance. While I hadn’t expected miracles from this old Sleeper-oriented fit, which put survivability above everything else, I had expected better.

I hadn’t even tried shooting the two POSes themselves, seeing my abysmal damage projection; instead I had helped cleaning out the incapacitated Energy Neutralizing batteries left over from when the first POS fell. But even there my ponderous battleship was out-damaged three-to-one by a mere Brutix. Granted, with no opposition in the system, the Brutix didn’t have to worry about surviving and could bring the full might of its tech-2 blasters to bear, but still…

I initiated the pod disembarkment protocol, but I wasn’t quite ready to call it a night - I needed to do something uplifting first!

Hmm… I still had a suspect timer, how about …

Minutes later I powered up my Executioner and undocked from the station. Let’s see if we can maybe scare some hapless miners. Not that I could do anything to them, this being hi-sec, but I figured, I could get a chuckle out of it.

A quick warp, and the warp bubble expelled me at the top belt in the system. Nobody there but a few Sansha frigates. I turned my ship and headed to the next belt down.

Well, lookee there - a Retriever, with a handful of Hobgoblins out, surrounded by Sansha wrecks. Zooming in with the camera drones I saw the shimmer of a shield hardener - but the strip miners were silent. And no reaction to my rapid approach either. This pilot was either a very cool-headed customer, or asleep.

Well, if you ignore me, I’m going to bump you! Not that my Executioner had enough mass to make much of an impact, but it was the thought that counted.

A few commands, and seconds later a stress warning registered in my systems, as the shield generator strained to compensate for the impact. I didn’t even check back on the Retriever - I just threw my ship back into warp to the next belt, giggling like a little kid.

The warp bubble collapsed, and I found my self a little over 20 klicks off a Venture, its lasers and mining drones making short work of a Kernite asteroid. And suddenly I was tempted. While my Executioner was not much more than tinfoil, so was the Venture, and this was only a 0.5-sec system… hmm… he did have a shield hardener, though.

I fired up my engines and pulled up the info record for the pilot. Licensed about five months ago, so not exactly a rookie - but still using a Venture. And no combat recognition.

When I focused back onto the mining frigate, the decision was made for me: the mining drones returned into their bay, the mining lasers fell silent, and a sudden bright glow from the Venture’s engines heralded its departure.

        Korvan Shadie > I’m not risking it.
        Druur Monakh > :D

Mission accomplished!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Other First

        “Take this line, know where it ends
        No return, no make amends
        Is this the future or this is how it will end?“
         -- Pop Will Eat Itself ”Everything’s Cool”

As I stepped out of the entrance into the bar, I was greeted by the combined sounds and sights of a large group of people in various stages of excitement. Dim diffuse lighting and a low ceiling gave the room an almost intimate atmosphere, peppy music playing at just the right volume. Entering here had been an impulse choice, one last stop to finish out this evening, and as luck had it, the clientele was primarily pod pilots. Baseliners were in attendance, but appeared to be mostly companions of the night, or groupies.

It wasn't too crowded so I didn't have to push too much to get to the bar, a brightly lit island in the middle of the room, voices washing over me. A bar tender rose to attendance, and after I had him scan my credit chip, I ordered a water, as I had reached my limit some time ago.

With a dash of tremor juice, which mollified the bar tend's attitude somewhat - that juice was not cheap.

Letting the sharp tang of the tremor juice run over my tongue, I turned around, leaned against the bar, and listened to the conversations going on nearby. Capsuleers being human (if only barely), a lot of them covered rather mundane things - proud descriptions of the latest hookups, attempts-in-progress at said hookups, discussions of the fantasy SCL results, quarter decoration tips - you name it. And of course the usual capsuleer topics - the latest fights, lucrative "insider" market tips, enthusiastic exchanges about the state of the security zones, and I think I even heard 'Yo Ship' jokes.

I was about to relegate all that back into the acoustic background, when a fragment of a conversation caught my attention.

"Well, my first loss was..."

I didn't want to overtly intrude, so I just positioned myself into a position more suited for following the conversation, without directly looking at the pilots. From the tone it quickly became clear that I had caught only the tail end of a longer exchange of stories, but still, I got to hear about a pilot’s first loss as part of a 0.0 frigate fleet, contrasted nicely with another pilot’s experience of being at the receiving end of a hi-sec mining awox. As no further stories were forthcoming, my mind started to wander, back to my days as rookie. Thus distracted, it took me a few seconds to realize that the group had fallen silent and was looking at me expectantly.

“Well, Miss, are you going to share your story?”, asked a tall Detei, then added: “After all, you heard ours.”

“Some of yours,” I replied, studying the speaker. Tall, muscular build, hair and beard so grey that they were almost white. A scar not so much disfiguring, but ornamenting the left side of his face, running across a milky-white left eye. Whatever had given him the injury, it must have been important enough that he elected to not have it repaired via the cloning process. A faint smile was playing on his lips. This guy probably was bad news should I ever meet him out in space, but he appeared amicable enough in a social situation.

“Very well,” I continued, turning my attention to the whole group. “But don’t expect anything exciting - it is rather embarrassing. And quite short.” I briefly paused, gathering my memories. “I was a still a bloody rookie: not even a month old, and less than two weeks in this corporation.” I chuckled. “What they saw in me, I never quite figured out - but I was glad that they had taken me in. Slightly overwhelmed by the reality of space, scrambling for ISK, it was good to have a home.”

I noticed one or two heads nodding - it wasn’t an uncommon situation for rookies.

“I was in fact so short on ISK, that I had taken to buying ammunition all over the region, including even the lo-sec areas. The first time I entered lo-sec, I admit I was quite frightened - expecting to die any second. But it all went well, so I grew bolder.”

I looked past the people, the past running through my mind.

“Then one day, I undocked my shuttle for another pick-up run - and did all the things wrong a rookie could do: disabled my safeties, set my ship to autopilot … and let myself get distracted. Next thing I know, the hull breach alarm went off, and my shuttle got vaporized.” I rubbed my chin. “I don’t remember if I got podded as well - there is no official record - but I think I was.”

“And, what did you do next?”

“Whatever every average rookie would do: I raged.” I gestured for effect. “I ranted against the universe, against the unfairness of veterans not giving a break, that I wasn’t even carrying anything, etc etc.” I took a drink from my glass, then smiled at my audience. “And then I took a rookie ship back to the Kourmonen gate, to see my attackers into their faces. Of course they weren’t there anymore.”

I shrugged. “And that was it. As I said - it wasn’t very exciting.”

”That’s ok - it takes all kinds.“, replied the Detei. ”But the important thing, in my opinion, is that you did go back, instead of hiding in station.“

Yeah, about that… I looked into my glass. I had gone back, as I had gone back to missioning. I even tussled once with a stealth bomber in lo-sec, in my ”battle“ Omen. And when missions became too boring, I went into the courier contract business, picking up contracts in deep lo-sec nobody else touched. Until one day, when there had been one risk too many taken, one ship too many lost…

”Right, I went back.“, I agreed simply, looking up again.

We chit-chatted for a little while longer, but quickly the group broke up. I was debating whether to stay longer or call it a night, when the bar tend discreetly cleared his throat behind me.

”Miss - this gentleman would like to buy you a drink.“ He glanced down the bar. ”Would that be another Virgin Tremor?“

I followed his glance. Hmm… Ni-Kunni, in his prime, lush black hair, friendly enough face. The beard I wasn’t a fan of, on principle, but he obviously did work out… I made up my mind.

”Make it a slutty one.“

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Home away from Home

        “And that fast, my life shifted again.
        I didn’t change, but suddenly I was different.”
         -- Rachel Morgan

The elevator moved with a smoothness that belied its speed - if it weren't for numbers on the level display counting down rapidly, you could have thought you weren't moving at all. Even the deceleration as the elevator approached its destination was announced with only the barest of the faintest shudders. You didn't arrive in these elevators, instead you were simply suddenly there.

With a melodious *ding* the elevator door opened, and I stepped out onto the permanent quarters level of this Creodron station. Tastefully designed, subdued decor, plush carpet, an open bar, and again this was just the hallway!

A short walk brought me to the entrance to my actual quarters, the electronic lock glowing a reassuring red. A swipe of my keycard, the color changed to green, and latches disengaging internally. The door recessed a few centimeters, and then slid sideways out of the way with a grace and speed belying its actual weight.

I stepped inside, and the door slid close behind me, moving almost inaudibly on its gears. Triggered by my entrance, the room lighting came on, starting with the fixtures nearest to me, the others following one by one, as if I was standing in an expanding bubble of light.

Technically this staggered activation wasn't necessary, but I had found the effect so cool that I had even added to it the sound of circuit breakers engaging.

The air had the sterile cleanliness of a quarter long unused, modern day air scrubbing having become so effective that unused station quarters were signified by a total absence of dust, not an excess.

I let my gaze wander across the room, taking in its familiar features which I hadn't seen for quite some time. The couch, with the side tables, just in the right position across the viewing screen. My little workplace, terminal dark and quiet, an overturned picture frame next to it. Shelves, now mostly empty, except for a few mementos. A bar unit, currently retracted safely into the wall. Off in a side room, the kitchen, although primarily used to make coffee or tea, or breakfast. A doorway leading to the bedroom. And somewhere one or two other rooms, which I hadn't used much. It's these front rooms where my life had taken place.

Back when I was still with the Flyers. Now I was using these quarters just for my infrequent visits here. I could have given them up when I moved to Sasiekko and crashed at Eta's place whenever I was here, just like in the very old days, but it hadn't felt right.

Come to think of it, I was not completely sure what had brought me here tonight - my help wasn't needed here at the moment, and I really should head back into the war zone. But yet, the vague feeling of guilt which had befallen me whenever I stayed out of the war zone for too long - it was no longer there.

I think I yelped when suddenly I got hug-tackled from behind, and I got drawn into a warm embrace.

"You're back!", exclaimed Eta excitedly. "And not paying attention as usual!"

I squirmed around in her arms, and returned the hug, glad that she had broken my pensive mood.

"Yes, for a short bit - but I felt like coming by." I gently extracted myself from her embrace, and studied her at arm's length. "You're looking good! And apparently you still haven't misplaced that keycard for my door."

"Nope! Somebody has to feed the goldfish, y'know?"

I chuckled. Stepping fully into the room, I waved Eta towards the couch, while I walked over to the bar unit and activated it.

"What would you like?"

"Surprise me."

A few selections, and the bar obliged with two glasses of something tall, fruity and and spirited. Add the all-important umbrellas, and the drinks were perfect. I carried them back to the couch where Eta had made herself comfortable, resembling a lanky cat, and handed her one of the glasses. Sitting down next to her, we clinked the glasses together and took a draft from them.

To her credit, she coughed only once after swallowing.

"Boy, I have to be more careful what I wish for." she admitted, with twinkle in her eyes. She took a second sip. "But not bad, once you know what to expect."

"You did better than I did on my first one."

"Of course I did! I run reactors, not just puny spaceships!" She shifted around into a more comfortable position. "So, tell me, what brings you here? Aren't you supposed to be out there, fighting the enemies of the Republic?"

"Empire", I corrected.


"You know, I have been asking that myself, just when you came in." I snuggled into a better seating position myself, balancing my glass on my knee. "And I think I figured it out.

"You remember why I joined Factional Warfare?"

"Of course - ’to prove to yourself that you could hack it as a solo combat pilot’”, she mimicked my voice. "And took you long enough to convince yourself to take that step."

I blushed briefly. "Well, yes - anyway, in the beginning I had this urge to undock ship after ship, so as to not lose my moxy before I could get one solo kill. Then, finally, I fought this Thrasher and won - but it wasn't the relief I thought it'd be. I was still driven."

"Let me guess: you were secretly afraid that it had been just a fluke, that you wouldn't be able to do again."

I took a sip from my glass, and nodded. "Exactly. But then last week, the Slasher happened, and the 3-on-1 versus the Merlins, and suddenly I'm no longer wound up, relaxed even." I gestured with my free hand. "Even though I know full well just how much luck there had been involved, I can now believe that it wasn't /just/ luck."

"'Being lucky is part of an Officer's job description'", Eta recited, probably from some action yarn she had watched. "But I take it you're not coming back to us yet?"

"No," I shook my head. "I still have lots to learn, have hardly scratched the surface, and it's a good place to do so. But I think I no longer have to worry about proving myself to me - only about improving."

She nodded, sipping in silence.

"But!", I exclaimed after a few seconds, "Enough of my babbling. How are things over here? How did the POS shoot go?"

"The POS shoot?" She surreptitiously glanced towards my workstation, then smiled. "It went very well! With the third dread, and a number of alliance peeps in sub caps piling on as well, we made short work of it."

"And how did Calcinus take it once he got the battle report?"

"He said, and I quote: ‘and I'm not sure if I want to applaud or rage'." She chuckled at the memory. "But he had a faint smile going on, so I think he is leaning towards applause."

"I think," she continued, "that he is now realizing that he needs to decide just how much freedom he wants to give his corp members. Find the fine line between keeping the last word in important matters, while at the same not weighing his people down with rules and regulations." She looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. "I'm not envying him."

"Neither do I." I agreed, having been in that position myself (and not very successfully so).

"Which reminds me," said Eta, her eyes refocusing, "there might be more POS shoots... if you don't mind..."

I waved dismissively. "No, no, not a problem. I can be professional when I want to be. Plus," - I gave her a meaningful look - "I'll be over in the Bleak Lands anyway."

"Good - thanks!" She upended her glass to collect the last drops, and handed it to me. "Make me another one, and I'll tell you something about the boy I'm dating."

"I am intrigued!" I accepted the glass from her, and went to refill. This was one aspect of her life which Eta hardly ever talked about, even if otherwise she shared pretty much everything, so getting a glimpse was an opportunity not to be wasted. Not that I blamed her - I wasn't that much different.

I returned to her, handed her one of the glasses, and settled into one of the cushions.

"So tell me, is he cute? Can he cook? Do I know him?"

"Of course he's cute - he's Gallente! ... don't roll your eyes, you know it's true! And yes, he can cook. But I don't think you know him - he certainly hasn't mentioned you."

I moved to ask the obvious question, but she was quicker and laid a finger over my lips. "Tut-tut - don't ask. Not yet."

She looked down at the glass in her hand, mind wandering. "I mean - I'm not really sure if we're dating-dating... He's on deep-space duty, I'm mostly running around haulers, so we don't meet very often. We mostly comm. But when we meet…”

I quietly took a sip from my glass.

"Well,", Eta's brow furrowed briefly, then smoothed out again. "We did once go to visit his family - and it was the funniest thing."

Absentmindedly she took a drink, lost in the memory.

"His parents are nice people, actually. The live on a station - she's a performing synesthesis artist, he's a retired veteran of the Republic Forces, now running a security service." She looked at me questioningly: "Is that some kind of stipulation in the forces, that as veteran you have to do security stuff?"

I shrugged. "I don't know - I'd have to check my contract to find out."

"Anyway, not important." she continued. "So we get there, Mom expects us at the door, introductions are made, we get into their main room, and there sits his Dad, casually yet pointedly cleaning his service plasma rifle."

Eta had timed her sentence perfectly to end when I was taking another sip - caught between the urge to laugh, and the wish to not spray liquid all over the place, I half swallowed, half inhaled my drink, and ended coughing and laughing at the same time. Eta was just grinning at my discomfort.

"You're kidding!", I finally managed to croak. "Is he afraid that the evil Ni-Kunni girl is going to spoil the precious apple of his eye with her wicked ways?"

"Something like that.", she giggled. "My poor boy didn't know if he should laugh, or die from embarrassment on the spot. But it all smoothed out quickly, and we spent a nice afternoon with pastries, coffee, swapping stories, and stints on their shooting range. Overall, it was a really good day."

"And you met his parents...", I let my voice trail off.

"Yes," for a second she looked uncomfortable, "We'll see, we'll see." She looked around the room, then back at me.

"But for that reason I have to be a bad sister now and leave you all alone." She winked at me. "Boy's in station, but only for tonight."

A thought occurred to her: "You should go out as well."

I minutely shook my head. "Well..."

"Aw, c'mon, it'd be good for you - we both know what a hermit you can be. You start over-thinking things, and next we have to bribe officials again.

"Promise me that you do something outside these quarters before you storm back to your holy war!"

"Maybe..." I began, but Eta glared at me murderously.

I gave in: "Ok, ok, I promise."

"Good!" She drained her glass and set it besides her. "And now I really have to run, I'm sorry."

"No problem at all. Go! Shoo!"

Eta moved to get up, then had a quick change of mind and leaned forward to give me quick peck on the cheek.

"It's good to see you again.", she murmured, and then got up for real. "I'll see myself out. You" - she directed a commanding finger at me - "you put on something casual, and go have fun! That's an order, Crusader!"

"Yes, M'am!", I replied with a mock salute. "Late breakfast tomorrow, before I head back?"

"Sounds good to me."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

About That POS...

        “Captain Niobe of the Logos will answer the Councellor’s call.”
         -- The Matrix Reloaded

I had returned to the Bleak Lands, chafing a little from the loss of two good battleships. Not that I regretted my actions, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled either.

So I had thrown myself back into the daily mayhem known as factional warfare, specifically into small ship fights in the plexes. I had a couple of ideas of how to change my Executioner fittings, and was eager to battle-test them. Surprisinglingly, some even worked out, even if most often them didn’t .

And then there was the fight against the Merlins. Ho-boy!

I still didn’t remember what had compelled me to stay on the field when I saw the two Merlins on d-scan, especially considering that I was already at 60% armor from a previous fight, and even more so when a third Merlin joined the fight. By that time I was already committed, and had already lost all of my shields and most of what little armor I had remaining.

I ducked and weaved and spun, keeping my lasers on my target while trying to outrun the blaster fire from the Merlins. My armor long gone, hull ripped open, a trail of flames and smoke behind me - and I had only made a tiny scratch into my target’s armor.

And then suddenly it went very quickly: stripped off its shield, the Merlin had no other defenses left, and my next couple of volleys tore through the ship’s metal and converted it into a rapidly expanding cloud of shrapnel. Frackin’ shield tanker!

But no time to celebrate - there were two more Merlins left, and I had less than half a ship left. Mindful to not rip my weapons out of their weakened mounts by excessive g-forces, I turned and engaged one of the remaining Merlins - with the expected result.

But if Fate smiled upon me that day, it wasn’t without an agenda of her own.

A few days later I was out on a little spur-of-the-moment trip in Metropolis, when Eta contacted me.

        [ Hey, Sis, got a second? ]

        “Sure! .. no, wait - this Drake here is taking an interest in me, and it would be impolite to just ignore him.”

Indeed - the Drake was coming at me, closing the 30-something km distance with remarkable speed. Oversized afterburner? Microwarpdrive? No matter - with my small signature radius I should be able to duck under his missiles long enough to…

…ehm, nope. I smartly warped my pod out, gave my opponent the ‘gf’ in local, and set course back home.

        [ Well? ]

        “It went as expected: I went boom. But check this: I think he neuted me!”

        [ He… who puts a neut on a Drake?! ]

        “Well, apparently this guy - it’s the only explanation I have for capping out that quickly. Or I lost track of something I did. Anyway… what’s up?”

        [ Remember the POS we shot a few weeks ago? The General has made it his personal project , so he’s out there with LC, both in their dreads, shooting the tower right now.

        [ And I was wondering… maybe, the former, eh, associate of yours … ? ]

I smiled briefly at Eta’s habit of talking around what she considered a touchy subject; but I could also see the logic behind her thinking: another dread would greatly speed up the process and reduce the exposure for the capitals.

        “I’ll make a call - I can’t promise anything though. Anything important I should add?”

        [ Most likely there is going to be only minimal sub-cap support. ]

        “All or nothing, eh? That does indeed sound like the General! It might be a deal breaker, though.”

        [ Can’t hurt asking, right? ]

        “Easy for you to say!”

        [ That it is! ] She paused briefly. [ Either way, thanks! ]

        “No problem. I’ll let you know what the response is.”

        [ Ok. Eta out. ]

The comm link went silent, and I briefly concentrated on the task of traversing Amamake without losing my pod, pondering how I should open the conversation. It had been a while.

The gate fired, and with Amamake behind me, I relegated the act of navigation to my mental muscle memory.

I had a call to make.