Friday, March 14, 2014

A Change of Plans

        “Life is a hotel and you ain't about to check out yet
         Call for back up, it’s time to regroup and reload”
         -- Chaundon & Curtiss King - Be All You Can’t Be

The chatter and background music of the bar was flowing over me like a warm blanket, but I paid it no heed. Occasionally taking a sip from my drink - a very nice red from the wine yards of Jufvitte - I focused on the book in front of me. In an age of neural links and instant information updates, reading an actual physical book gave me a very tactile enjoyment.

Or at least, in general it did. That night however I had long lost track of the book’s plot. I was reading the words, turning the pages, but I wasn’t really paying attention to them. Instead, my mind replayed the conversation I had with my former corp mates just before.

My plan had been to follow my former corpies into their null-sec corporation and alliance, to dip my toes into waters unfamiliar to me. But my just flourished spark of enthusiasm had received a significant damper upon learning that my former corpies were already planning their withdrawal and move into a new corporation. Which not just meant that I had lost a reference to sweeten my application, but the reasons for their withdrawal were significant enough to cast serious doubts over the probability of me lasting more than a week in that environment.

I suppressed a sigh, and turned another page. Finding a new place to call home was turning out to be more difficult than expected.

So self-absorbed I was, that it took a discrete cough to alert me to the presence of two women standing at my table, mustering me with intent. One I had met before - Miss Phage, who had hired me the previous year for some shock and fear; the other one so far I had had only had comms contact with - Greygal, captain of the NEO-II team I had lent my feeble skills to.

Closing my book, I gestured both of them to sit, and we exchanged the usual pleasantries while a waiter brought them their drinks.

“So - how can I help you ladies?” I asked finally. Not the smoothest change of topics in the recorded history of conversations, but I wasn’t really in the mood for smooth anyway.

“Actually, we have a proposal for you.” replied Miss Phage. “A chance to chip in for a greater cause - without all the null-sec nonsense.”

“I liked what you did for our NEO team”, continued Greygal, “even if in the end you didn’t get to fly. I’d like to have to you on our Alliance Tournament team.”

“But…”, I rubbed my eyes, “to be in the AT, you need to be in an alliance, and I am not.”

Both women smiled enigmatically, and then realization dawned upon me.


Greygal leaned forward. “One question though: You’re in deep null-sec, of your original fleet only a couple of frigates have survived, but you have a clear run back to hi-sec, when suddenly one of your pilots announces that he could get point on a lone battleship. When he asks if he should, what is your reply?”

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Six Fights and an Undead Rose

        "Glad I was my own boss, even if my boss was an idiot sometimes." -- Rachel Morgan

I waited until the heavy door to my quarters fell shut behind me, then I boxed the wall right next to me.


One of the wall panels seemed to mock me, so I did a half-turn and gave it a side way kick, for good measure.

“My my, somebody’s in a good mood tonight!”, came a half-mocking greeting from the main room.

I froze momentarily, then I recognized Eta’s voice. This woman always showed up in the most surprising moments!

Entering my main living room, I headed straight to my bar and poured myself an Arcturian Mega-Vodka, to chase away the taste of pod goo and disappointment. The strong liquid settled in my stomach and warm tendrils started to spread throughout my body, so I poured myself a second one and turned towards Eta.

“Sorry, Sis, but it had been that kind of week.” Managing a smile, I continued, “It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you too.”, she replied, having made herself comfortable on my couch, a soft drink on the floor next to her. “Care to tell me what spiked your anger this time?”

I took a sip, and sighed. “Might as well.” I paused, collecting my thoughts. “It seems that I simply am unable to properly fit a ship; much less fly it properly.” I subvocalized a few commands, and the view screen behind started replaying my latest gun camera footage. “Behold, Exhibit A, and Exhibit B.”

She studied the footage for a while before speaking up. “I’m not quite sure what I’m looking at - except the Cap Recharger?”

I rubbed my eyes wearily. “That was a genuine mistake. But don’t you see?” I held up a finger. “One, the Incursus is bonused for armor repair, but I haven’t taken full advantage of it. And second,” I held up two fingers, “I fought the same guy twice in a row with virtually the same fit. Of course I lost.” I took another sip, savoring the flavor before swallowing. “I lost badly enough that Jamie sent me his fit for educational purposes.”

“And, did you use it?”

“Not yet - was out of Incursus hulls at that point. So I thought: might take a page from the play book of my previous opponents and head out in a kiting drone Tristan.” The picture on the view screen changed once more. “Exhibit C. I got trounced by a brawling Comet, who happily informed me that once more I had been doing everything wrong.”

With a last subvocalized command, the view screen clicked off, and I slumped onto the couch next to Eta. “I don’t know Sis - I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to fitting and flying ships. Which is quite embarrassing seeing that I’ve been flying for over six years.” I took a deep breath. “That, or I no longer care enough anymore.”

“Uhm…”. Eta was clearly uncomfortable - she knew that I wouldn’t respond to platitudes, yet she needed to say something. “Have I told you what I’ve been up to recently?”

I took a sip, the sharp flavor cutting through my funk. “No, you haven’t.” I looked at her. “What have you been doing?”

“Remember the Hauler Challenge I did some weeks ago?” She waited for me to nod, then continued. “Well, the organizers have extended the deadline, apparently because not enough pilots were manly enough to take it - their words, not mine.” She giggled. “So I thought, what the heck, and fitted up a Battle Badger.”

She took a swallow from her soft drink. “It is amazing how long you can fly around low-sec in a hauler unchallenged if you look suspicious enough! It took over an hour, but finally at one gate, a Tornado engaged me.” She grinned. “He found my shield boosters an unwelcome surprise, and when the gate guns started laying into him, he beat a hasty retreat.”

I chuckled. “I’d love to have seen that - a Tornado running from an Industrial!”

“You bet! And a few minutes later, a Vengeance engaged me, again at a gate. He didn’t run.” Eta’s smile reminded me of a cat who had just eaten her owner’s favorite canary. “He was damaged from a previous fight, but probably figured that he could off me before the gate guns got him. He didn’t expect me to not just have shield boosters, but also a point and a rapid light missile launcher.” I held up my glass in a toast, and she reciprocated with hers. “I don’t know if this would count as solo-kill, because of gate guns, but - yeah.”

“And, did you complete the Hauler Challenge itself?”, I asked, carried along by her good mood.

“Yup. I was scooping drones left over from a gate fight, when suddenly a Legion and Typhoon took an unhealthy interest into me. Op Success!” Her eyes narrowed. “Though I’m afraid it still doesn’t count as particularly manly piloting.

”Which reminds me…“ she gestured towards the table in front of us. ”What’s with that flower?“

My eyes fell on the rose, now shriveled and dried, a broken-off leaf lying before the decorative bottle I had put the flower into, and my mood dampened.

”Nothing.“ I replied quietly. ”It didn’t work out.“