Monday, 8 November 2010

Three years of nullsec movement

Yeah, I've been quiet on here. I have three separate blog posts I'm working on, so while you're waiting, here's a cool video. I recommend watching it fullscreen, as high-def as possible.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Refacing Eve

People have been playing around with the new character creation setup on Sisi. I was going to hold off for a few patches, but my curiosity got the better of me.

So let's see...

Shae got a little makeover, but not much of one. It took a bit, given the limited options, but I did succeed in eventually piecing together a face that looked right.

Aylara doesn't look a thing like my original character, which I found a bit disappointing. I've received compliments on her portrait before now, and I wanted to go for more of a half-caste look to emphasise her Thukker background.

I'm still hoping for a racial blending filter, since my two primary characters -- yes, I roleplay with them when I don't feel like doing anything else ingame -- are both of mixed race families. I'm also hoping we'll be able to change the relative height of our characters, since Shae, like me, is a total short-arse. Ability to customise characters ingame by purchasing self-designed tattoos would be lovely, as well.

I've heard a lot of people complaining that they don't want Incarna, they'll never use Incarna, and that it's a bad idea all around and it will change the way Eve works. I'll agree on that last part: while it supposedly will not have any impact on the part of Eve that exists right now, there will have to be Incarna content beyond the social interaction to draw people into it. Every single person who says they have no interest in Incarna will eventually venture guiltily into a station concourse, if only to see if it's worth it.

I've always had the suspicion that it could be used to bridge the gap between Eve and Dust: how cool would it be to have an in-person meeting in Eve with the Dust mercenaries you're hiring? How about missions where you have to meet someone in-person and bluff your way to acquiring something? Maybe exploring some ancient ruins? To be honest, the idea of physically leaving the pod to go exploring in a supposedly abandoned pirate base is about as realistic as Star Trek captains going down personally with the away teams. Any captain worth his rank pins will know that risking himself that way when the ship relies upon his control is a little silly. But what is sci-fi for but to suspend belief for a while and just have fun?

I'm looking forward to the possibilities.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Craft

I consider myself an artist. Not good enough to compete for a career, back before I was selected for capsuleer training in the Navy -- Mum tried to get me to go to an art school, and I loved the response my (reluctantly submitted) application received. "Needs traditional background training; too many liberties taken with classical subjects." I never liked art schools; too many people with a narrow-field view of what art is.

I'm much happier painting for myself and my friends, anyway. Little things here and there which make me feel real pride in my poor, self-taught abilities.

I was perusing the Intergalactic Summit maybe a week ago -- I don't frequent such channels very much, they're the sorts of places which on old-style maps would be designated with the legend, "Here Be Dragons", much the way null-sec space used to be. My wandering, half-attentive eye caught the wort "art" and I backtracked to see what it was. Sabbott, a member of the Sani Sabik capsuleer corporation Blood Inquisition, was seeking inspired work with which to decorate his home.

I'm not particularly a fan of the Sani Sabik practises; I consider myself to be a modern woman, and things like that strike me as being just a bit on the barbaric side. But I can understand the spirituality behind it. I do read about things; understanding foreign notions helps you relate better to others, after all.

So I was a bit saddened to see that some pilots had offered up little more than smears of red paint on canvas. I can only assume they thought, "Oh, Sani Sabik! They like blood! I'll paint a blood splatter, it'll look excellent hung above the altar!" It grated a bit.

I had little interest in the contest in which Sabbott framed his request. It was simply the challenge, to create a piece of art that would be tasteful to an Amarrian and a Sani Sabik adherent.

I called Ymnaru. A graceful Ni-Kunni woman a few years older than myself, I met Ymna meditating in the hydroponics garden in the station I based from in Arzi years ago. We've stayed in touch, despite our vast cultural differences and her distaste for my choice in career. I think she still hasn't given up on saving me.

After a few hours of discussion, Ymna helped me figure out an appropriately spiritual image. It took another hour for me to convince her to dress in her finer robes and pose in an attitude of prayer for a reference image; she consented only when I offered to change the features of her face in the final painting. Not that she would have worried over a Sani Sabik seeing her face; Ymna is a graciously humble lady and felt very conscious of having her features accented in such a way.

I hadn't realised how intricate Ni-Kunni formal veils could be. I'm rather glad I decided not to paint a full figure, in the end; her robes were incredibly ornate and my fingers still itch to recreate them on paper. Perhaps I'll ask her to pose again someday.

It took the entire week. As with all things, everyday concerns intruded more frequently than I would have liked, and in the end I missed the deadline for Sabbott's competition by but a handful of hours. It would have been the height of hubris to link to the uploaded final image once the contest was over, so I simply sent it along with a note expressing my regrets at being late.

However, since this is my personal journal, I can put the piece up openly without looking like a total boor. I'm quite proud of it. It was a learning experience, both in the preparation and execution.

I call it "Devotion".

Monday, 6 September 2010

Command and Control

I feel as if I've been here forever, down in the dirt with the rest of the dogs. That's what it feels like; day after day of the same damn shit, the same routine. Maybe it happens in the middle of the night, or maybe it's full daylight. Maybe it's raining, maybe it's been drought conditions for weeks. It doesn't matter. We defend our installation with our lives. That's what we're being paid for.

I've not been home in months. Maybe it's been a year, I don't know. The days blur together. I get shot, sometimes I think I've died, but the latest softscan gear installed in our helmets brings us right back in a new, whole body, the memory of our own blood still fresh on our lips. They spent a lot of money on us. I guess maybe it's because there's a shortage of people crazy enough to fight for a capsuleer.

Things started getting strange a couple months ago. I capture a guy trying to sneak into the radio room, the cheeky bugger probably thinks the stolen uniform would work, but he doesn't have the implant to let him through the door without fussing with the keypad. I strip his helmet off while he's recovering consiousness and stare.

"Didn't I kill you last week?"

The enemy soldier blinks at me groggily. "What?"

"I said--"

"Why are you talking to me?"

I fold my arms across my chest, his helmet dangling by its chinstrap from my hand. "Well, I dunno. Maybe because I recognise your face from what was left of it after that attack last week?"

"No, no, this isn't right."

And then he's gone. Not dead or run away, simply gone and I'm staring at an empty spot on the floor like a complete moron, my hands empty. I rub the back of my neck under the collar of my jacket, wondering what the hell has just happened. Then one of my squadmates yells at me and I'm pulled back to the front lines.

After that, I start looking -- really looking -- at the faces of the men and women we fight, seeking that flash of recognition, a hint of familiarity. Days go by where there aren't any. Then suddenly an entire week where I'm seeing nothing but people I know I've killed before. I know they probably have the same softscan hardware installed in their helmets, plugged into the jacks behind their ears underneath. But it's disturbing.

Any attempts to communicate with them are met with the same surprise and disbelief. It strikes me as odd. One time, I lie bleeding out, gutted and missing my right arm from the shoulder, while the enemy who's so easily sliced me up like a roast is sat nearby, reloading. Beneath his visor, I can swear it's the same guy; the one I'd caught sneaking. I try to read the name stitched to the front of his jacket, but my vision is blurring at the edges.

"Hey. You." I choke on the agony of talking, but it's important -- it feels important. He twitches and looks up at me with a sharp jerk of his head.

"I... I know you... don't I?"

The soldier jumps up and staggers backwards, fumbling for his communicator, and the next thing I know I'm sitting up in the medbay back on the base, feeling beyond weirded-out.

After that, I stop trying to talk to them.

That stomach-clenching sense of deja-vu returns maybe a week later. We're going over our battle-plan and looking at the enemy positions when a chill runs down my spine. It looks just like the time when.... "I want Gamma over here, covering that valley."

The guy standing opposite me scratches his head. "Sarge, why? There's no encampments back there, and they can't get in through the pass."

"You remember two weeks ago, they nearly took out the comms relay because they air-dropped a HALO team in the night before?"

He looks at me funny. "Nothing like that happened two weeks ago. Nothing like that's ever happened."

"I'm telling you, they're going to HALO a team in while we're facing front. Stick Gamma back there to cover our asses."

Our commander drums his fingers on the table. "That's quite a deviation from your original plan Sergeant, but let's do it."

My original...? I lean back from the table feeling feverish, somehow confused. The map had been subarctic tundra yesterday; why in blazes are we in the middle of a tropical cloud forest now? I could have sworn... Squinting, I eye up the guy standing opposite me. What was his name again?

For that matter, what was our commander's name? I peer at the stitching on their jackets, but the light is too low to make it out. Feeling dizzy, I take a step back, debating going outside for some air. A moment later, I feel a light touch on my shoulder; my commander standing there, gesturing for me to follow him out to the rampart. The sweltering jungle heat is like a slap in the face after the climate-controlled command centre.

"Son, there something you wanna tell me?"

I shake my head. "No, sir, I'm fine."

The commander removes his helmet and runs his fingers back through sweat-spiked gray hair as he leans back against the outer wall. "Off the record, I mean. You won't be penalised for anything."

A frown pinches my face in the middle, and I sigh. "I-- Sir, what if I told you I was getting recurring memories. Deja-vu? Or that... I could swear we were somewhere else yesterday. And I recognise some of the guys we're fighting."

"You try to communicate with them?" He's looking at me carefully; not like I'm a freak or anything, more like he understands. With some relief, I nod.

"Yes, sir. There's something strange going on. At first I thought maybe it was glitches from repeated recloning, but now I'm not so sure. Would... they wouldn't dump us in coldsleep and truck us off to another planet without telling us, would they?"

The commander rests his helmet under his arm against his hip, looking out into the trees beyond the wall. "No, Sergeant, they wouldn't. Not normally. But this is a different situation."

"Sir?" There it is again, that feverish dizziness, like memories clawing toward the surface before they can drown.

The commander smiles tiredly, the expression creasing lines in his face. "Do you know the name of the world we're on?"

"Well, yes, sir. It's... oh." I rub my forehead. "I don't know sir."

He nods. "She doesn't have a name. Technically she doesn't exist."

I stare at him. "I-- Sir, I don't understand."

"Soldier, do you remember who I am?"

There's an intensity in the look he gives me, something that sparks in me a desperate need to understand. "I can't... no. Wait." Something finally surfaces; the bubble pops with an audible snap and I reel back against the wall. "I.. no. I know you! You were that doctor, at that hospital. The one that..." Falteringly, I press my hands to my head. "I was captured. Wounded, I think I was dying. You were there, you talked to me, but I can't remember--"

"That's right, Allin." He sighs again. "You were dying. You were the one who cost us billions in assets to deal with that little group of Legion footsoldiers you were commanding. Do you remember?"

I slump back against the wall, then let myself slide down to the rooftop, my fingers raking back through my short-cropped hair. "I... yes. What have you done to me, why am I fighting for you?'

"You're not. Not really. This is a training simulation for our soldiers. You're, uh," he smiles again, apologetically. "You're not really you. Just a memory, a cerebral imprint we built a semi-AI strategic designer around."

My eyes close tightly as I find my hands gripping my head. "Are you shitting me? But... I'm here! I remember things!"

When I look up again, he's nodding his head emphatically. "Yes... it seems we took too thorough a scan, but we wanted the system to be as humanlike as possible. Computers lack originality and intuition. They can't adapt and improvise the way a human does, for all the advances we've made. You were so troublesome an opponent, when your fading body ended up in our possession we realised you'd make a better training strategist than the existing system."

I snort with disgust. "So I'm just a semi-intelligent computer programme, then. One that's edged a little too far out of bounds. The glitches from earlier make sense, now. But if that's the case, why are you bothering talking to me? Now that you know what's wrong, you could just, I dunno, re- reprogram... me." My voice fails as a I realise the extent of everything. Allin Emarchanne, Mordu's Legion ground-control operations commander, is now little more than a string of data in a VR simulation. What's the point of it all?

A shadow falls over me, and I glance up from under my brows to see him standing over me with his hand held out invitingly. "The boys started reporting errors, but because it's you, I thought to handle this differently. Your expertise makes our boys and girls better fighters, you challenge them and as a result they work better once we deploy them. It'd be a crying shame if we had to infect you with forced amnesia after every run. I want to know if you'd continue working like this, despite knowing what you know. I want you to do your damnedest to kill every single one of them every time."

I raise my head and rub the back of my neck, glaring up at the doctor, or whatever he is. "You're shitting me. You want me to continue like this? Making your kids better so they're better at killing my boys?"

His hand still extended to me, he shakes his head. "It's more than just the Legion we're fighting, these days. And we ran tests on copies of your scan; injecting programming only reduced your resiliency."

"Fuck you," I spit. "You might as well fucking erase me, you son of a bitch. I'm not going to be your goddamn puppet--"

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Three years

Where does the time go?

20th August 2007, I sat down and created a character named Shae Tiann. It took two tries, because it timed out if you took longer than ten minutes fiddling with your options, and it was a hell of a lot more involved. You chose your race, bloodline and background, and THEN you got to choose a school and a branch. Your choices affected your starting stats and skills, and gave you nearly 900,000 SP. It was a good time to be a noob.

I think I'll celebrate by dropping my sec status a little >=3

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

[OOC] A Summary of Impressions Regarding Recent Events

Due to excessive travel, I've not been able to properly play Eve for nearly a month. This does not mean that I'm not paying attention or uninvolved (keep an eye out for a new story in a couple weeks, yes I have been working!).

Let's see:

Eva-Gate
I've never been a fan of hers -- honestly, would any self-respecting internet spaceships pirate? -- but I'll support her right to hold utterly batshit notions regarding pvpers. If she got elected and passed initial muster with CCP, more power to her. I will say, for the record, that I feel there are far better carbear/highseccer advocates than Ankhesentapemkah, in particular those candidates/delegates who have tried a little bit of everything Eve has to offer, because they have a beeter idea of how the gears mesh.

Right! On to the juicy bits: I'm loving the conspiracy theories. You all have such beautiful tinfoil hats, and you've clearly worked hard on them. Knowledge of how the game industry and various relevant legal issues work tell me that A) yes, she really did do something wrong and it had fuck all to do with her blog, and B)CCP doesn't HAVE to tell us ANYTHING (that they've stated it as a breach of NDA is more than they needed to say). In fact, we may never BE told anything more about it, unless something explodes (metaphorically).

Hulkageddon III
Not my style of gameplay at all, but I will staunchly defend everyone else's rights to suicide haulers in highsec. Do you wail and call your opponent a psychopathic bully who needs to get out of his mum's basement and get laid when your opponent builds hotels all over Boardwalk? It's a game and you've been given fair warning that HG3 is happening. Either join in the fun or station-spin your Orca til it's over.

CSM notes (I'll condense this down to the issue that was highest on the priority list across the board)
CCP seems to have a little ADHD when it comes to focussing on work. Trust me, I'm exactly the same: I get a new idea, and it supercedes all the other ideas in development until another brainwave occurs. Speaking from experience, this is NOT the way to progress on ANY ONE of the cool things; the only way to make real progress is to sacrifice a little effort on other stuff and focus on only one thing at a time til it's done. Obviously, being a large company which has made very public commitments on several different projects, CCP does not have the ability to sacrifice development time; they're stretching themselves a little thin. Obvious solution: HIRE MORE PEOPLE *waves CV suggestively*

[Rumour] Wormholes closing
Highly unlikely. Have you taken a look at the subscription data around the time Apocrypha was released? It was one of their most successful expansions, if not THE most successful expansion. Why would they shoot themselves in the foot?

[Rumour] CSM is being disbanded
Also highly unlikely. The CSM is one of CCP's biggest publicity draws: no other MMO has anything like it, it's a BIG DEAL both among the gaming community and the business community. It would be PR suicide to disband it after only a couple years. I've seen comments in verioius places about CCP not liking the CSM being stakeholders or something. GUESS WHAT, GUYS! Stakeholder does not equal shareholder. The definition of a stakeholder (in corporate terms) is someone who is affected by and can affect the actions of a business. We, as players, are all stakeholders. The CSM is simply a more direct and condensed route towards having an affect on CCP's actions regarding Eve than posting petitions on the Suggestions forums or babbling on CAOD that they need to fix lag. They do pay attention to those things, you know....

As it is, the CSM exists solely by the grace of CCP. If they want to disband it, they have but to say the word. Sneaking around undermining members one at a time to build an excuse of "it don't work, guv" is not only a costly effort, it could leave them open to severe (and also costly) legal consequences. Corporate suicide can be committed far more neatly than that.

---
Right, I think that about covers it. Comment trolling will see your comment(s) removed because we are not at home to Mr Arsehole; discussion is encouraged, and if you have a solid, well-considered and non-batshit argument to change my feelings on something here, please do share it!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Post-EveMeet

I've returned from a truly epic weekend in Denmark. The 5th BoB BBQ was a total success in that there was meat, booze, lulz, fire, and meat.

I kept forgetting to bring my camera out with me, and just as well, since I don't have a strap for it; I'd likely have left it someplace. There are, however, tons of incriminating photos taken by several members of IT Alliance on Facebook and various other places. Fellow Veto member StrangeR's pics are here.

Cheers to everyone who made the weekend awesome ^_^ Here's looking forward to the next!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sansha: The Space Toaster Invasion

I did try to keep up with it. Who wouldn't? You get Sansha battleships pouring out of wormholes and abducting millions of people from the planets; who is not going to be chewing their nails wondering if their family is safe?

My family is safe, for now at least. Honestly, I figure that if the Sansha ever attack Luminaire and take my mother, they'll be volunteering for their own destruction. Either that, or the Sansha would be the best-dressed, most up-to-date on gossip toasters to ever invade a civilised world.

Verone sat us all down and told us how it was going to be. As Veto is aligned with the Guristas, we could not be seen to be acting against their interests. The Guristas have a business relationship with the Sansha. Until we received word from Venal, one way or the other, we would have to remain neutral in this fight unless it became an issue of self-defense.

If we wanted to fight, we'd have to leave. If members wanted to actively support the Sansha, they'd have to leave, too. Ethan has as little love for the Sansha as he does for any other form of slavery.

I was content to stay. I could feed information around in the channels while others focussed on organising things. I could help out without compromising our position. Most of the fights were in highsec, anyway.

But after the first week or so, it started becoming difficult to parse truth from lie. Too many pilots whom, in their twisted little minds, thought the whole thing was funny. Funny! Too many pilots ready to go haring off after bait laid by Sansha supporters without weighing reality, getting themselves and those who eagerly followed slaughtered needlessly. It went from desperate defense to a popularity contest, everyone trying their hardest to get attention and perhaps their name in the news.

The defense of New Eden, sabotaged by our own sociopathic egos. I found it sickening, and so I left them to it.

And then Kuvakei made Verone an offer.

I don't know if it really is Sansha Kuvakei or simply a puppet. It goes by the title 'Master Kuvakei' and speaks with enough authority to be a recognisable threat.

We, the members of Veto, stand behind Verone's decision to make this revelation public. And should Kuvakei bring his forces to bear upon us in retribution, we will stand at Verone's side in defense of what we believe to be right.

The conspiracy-mongers have their say, and their points are valid. But is it better to jump at shadow trying to find the truth as the world falls apart around you, or to know that, even if you died in vain, you were true to yourself to the bitter end?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Just a Quick Little Note...

My arm's been twisted enough to convince me to hit up the Eve Barbecue in Copenhagen for at least the weekend (I have other stuff to deal with in the UK, or I'd try for the full week).

The weekend after that, I'll be in Reykjavik for a couple days' layover.

Really looking forward to this summer, should be awesome fun ^_^

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Gurista

It took me a while to come to this decision. Stars know I didn't make it lightly.

I ran my fingers over the new patch which I'd just finished attaching to the sleeve of my battered old leather jacket, the one with the Hellcats' feline skull and crossed, flaming swords logo stitched to the back. A grinning skull with rabbit ears, comical and sinister, now rested below the faded Federal shield on the left sleeve; the black and red triple-scythe of my first corporation, Under the Wings of Fury, had taken the space on the right sleeve nearly three years earlier, back when I was young and stupid and thought I was rebelling.

What was I rebelling against, anyway?

Creaky old ideals and stubbern warhorses too long out to pasture to see that the problem was no longer external. The Federation was crumbling apart, hedonistically eating itself alive. Not that the other Empires were any better; I simply saw no reson to fly in defense and support of people who didn't give a shit about your work for their benefit.

Perhaps I was being harsh. I could have joined the FDU when the shit really hit the fan, when people were begging for help. But they only seem to appreciate you when they see the need. My brother, who'd graduated six months after I had, said he'd felt more like part of a pretty display on a pedestal for politicians to roll out of storage when they wanted to look impressive.

One entire wall, running the length of my new apartment, was solid glass overlooking my personal hangar; a small lift in the corner allowed me private access to the ships on display. Veto had money, and the corporation had used it to house their members in style. The process of applying, joining and settling in had been far more personable and rapid than with any other corporation I'd joined in the past -- and this time my cold-storage can full of combat trophies hadn't been disposed of as unnecessary.

I still bore a grudge against the long-dead Tygris Alliance for that particular insult.

The difference between pirates and the larger alliances is that pirates have to trust one another. They need to trust one another; if you treat your flight buddies as simply numbers on a tally-board, eventually you'll 'accidentally' end up on the opposite side of that equation.

What the hell took me so long?

Part of it was a willful denial of the obvious choice. It would be far too predictable of me to join a corporation I'd already worked with and begun to associate with on a regular basis.

'Ha!' Sitting there at the table, I doubled over, cracking up laughing at myself. Yeah, that was so fucking stupid of me, wasn't it?

It wasn't til I'd returned that it was made clear to me what I ought to have been doing all along. When both your partner and one of your closest friends say almost the exact same thing, six hours apart from each other, you might as well get the Clue-Bat out and start waving it around threateningly.

I owe Caellach and Raxip for that.

Cael, I know, was rather hoping I'd follow him into Electus Matari. Reawakened Technologies certainly did their best to get my attention. They liked that I would of course know pirates' MOs and how they operate; I can hardly begrudge them wanting that little edge. But it's that whole trust issue, again. I've worked in Molden Heath. I know pirates who still operate out there, and working against them would have simply felt wrong. It's not loyalty so much as it is respect.

Plus, I'd have had to bring my security status up. Aligning with Empire factions... no. Not really going to happen, is it. A pirate's life for me.

Which was why, when the subject of joining Veto was finally levered over my head like a cartoon safe on a fraying rope, I gave it some serious thought.

Pirates? Check.

Political affiliation neutral? Check.

People I respected? Apart from shooting one of them a year earlier near Evati, I had no bad impressions of them. The reputation for blobbing that most people attributed to the corp seemed entirely unfounded; and in the current combat climate of lowsec, outgunning one's opponents was the only way anyone dared to fight. From the time I'd spent socialising with them, they were a solid unit of men and women who supported each other and cared for their own.

Sounded good to me.

It was difficult to believe it had already been over a month. I shrugged the jacket on, settling the heavy, worn leather on my shoulders, and headed out into the hall toward the meeting-room. It was time to make my place here.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

They're Back!

I don't often comment on the dev blogs -- maybe I ought to do, really -- but today's is significant for me.

All These Worlds: The Return of Live Events

I always felt I'd missed out on the best years of Eve, not only because of the early actions of m0o precipitating nerfs, the insanity of cavalry Ravens and fun times bouncing macro-miners out of belts -- I would love to have been in on all that action -- but because the AURORA events were phased out not long before I started playing.

When my then-flatmate Suze'Rain was putting the hard sell on me to give Eve a try, the AURORA events were one of the things that really got my attention. They represented a chance for the players to get involved in the game-world in a tangible way, and they showed that the developers were willing -- even happy -- to get their hands dirty and play the game they'd helped to create. I found that impressive, and evidence of a game the developers were really passionate about.

I can understand why they stopped -- player population growing, outcries of favouritism, disappointment from people who were never in the right places -- so the fact that they're starting again makes me both hopeful and wary.

We'll be able to see things ingame unfolding around us in realtime, rather than being told about it after the fact -- that's awesome! And it'll be scattered events across the map with no advance warning given, which should cut down on the accusations of favouritism. They have a picture of a wormhole above a planet, which is making me wonder if they did, after all, have some plan to expand the Sleepers background. Another NPC to kill is all fine, but to see them with an ingame purpose? About time!

Hopefully, the forums won't flood with whining from people who simply have bad timing and miss the events -- if drama gets sparked from this, they may decide to not bother again in the future. Remember, kids: play nice and you get more sweeties in the future.

Cue the Jaws theme!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Lucky Seven

What's the average lifespan of an MMO? If you look it up online, there are lots of blogs about individual games and a few rants about how developers should pay more attention to the players in order to extend a game's lifespan. Nobody's published a comparative of all the MMOs, their running time, and their player-count during that time; I wish there WAS one so I could pull a Kirith and put up a shiny graph.

I remember seeing the first ads for Eve back in 2002/2003 and going, 'Ooooooh!'. Then the 'online' part hit me and I didn't look further into it, because I wasn't keen on online gaming at the time: I was a tabletop player, a LAN-party CounterStrike camping bitch. Watching friends disintegrate in front of EverCrack made a bad impression, I guess. In August, I'll be celebrating my third Eve-birthday, and that... makes me feel like I've been playing for a long time. Three out of seven years. Good lord. And sometimes it feels like I missed the best part of those seven years, too.

Seven years for an MMO... that seems like a long time. Longer than many MMOs that were widely anticipated and fell flat against all expectations. And if there ever will be an endgame, it's not yet started to lurk in the corners like one last closet-monster waiting to frighten you on your way for a mid-night glass of water.

Here's to seven years, and here's to seven more, if we're lucky.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tackboard

I have quite a backlog of screenshots I've snapped when I remember how to turn off the overview display. Eve keeps getting prettier with every graphics update, though I do bemoan the loss of things like the old cloaking effects, the old cyno fields and engine trails -- stuff that maybe didn't make sense, but did a lot to give the game that feeling of Epic. I can't wait to see how it'll look once the ship models and station models are upgraded!

...You, uh, ARE planning to upgrade the stations, right guys? Because having a battleship emerging from an undock ramp a frigate will barely fit down is just a tad silly...

Left-click the images for the full-size screenie.

Size comparison: Ishkur vs Hyperion

A Nightmare in warp:

Thanatos in Vitrauze:

Freighter traffic around the Perimeter gate in Jita:

A newly-built Legion on her maiden launch:

A Veto Logistics/BC fleet, tanking on a gate...And aligned for warp

A planetary station with a trail of undocking ships:

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Eve vs Women


I'm going to start by saying that this isn't part of CK's blog banter, and it's not intended to be. It's a response to all the responses in general, rather than spamming up your comments.

Let me tell you what question women gamers get asked the most by their male associates. No, it isn't 'Are you really a girl?' or even 'Send boobie pictures?' (I will say, when people ask that, I generally give a link to this picture, but I'm perverse like that).

No, the question we get asked the most is, 'How do I get my girlfriend to play Eve?'

Guys are making, lessee, one, two... three major errors right there with that one question.

Firstly, they assume that one woman gamer can relate to any other random woman in the world. I'll tell you right now, beyond having a common gender and the issues it brings with it, and perhaps sharing a cultural background, most women have utterly nothing in common. In truth: I don't understand women. In general. I just do not get them, and a lot of the typical behaviours make me shake my head and wonder if most women simply choose to let their brains atrophy, or if we have popular culture to blame for making them act that way.

Secondly, they're approaching a woman who is, for all intents and purposes, a total stranger to their girlfriend. I know nothing about your girl, save what you tell me, and so my impression of her will be tinted by what you say. I have no idea what would make the most convincing argument for your girlfriend to try playing the game. I don't know her. All I can do is point out your third -- and biggest -- error.

And that is: 'You cannot make a gamer of someone who has neither the interest nor the inclination.'

Shae, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Exactly what it says. In order for a person to enjoy playing games, they have to WANT to play them in the first place. Maybe Eve-players' girlfriends are simply being stubborn, maybe they're refusing to 'get' the game out of some perverse need to make the guy jump through hoops. But I'm willing to bet the vast majority of these Eve Widows are simply not interested.

I'm a huge sci-fi nerd: I always wanted my own X-wing fighter, I grew up watching Star Trek and more crappy B-movies than I can count, and getting into Eve was a very easy and natural step for me. I find WoW wholly uninteresting for its cartoony nature, reputation for internet greebos with no social skills, and lack of cutomer-provider relations. Eve is a world for people who want to have a role in an interactive sci-fi universe -- people like me, and I suspect the majority of you -- and CCP does deliver to the best of their ability.

You only get to that stage of nerdiness if that's where you always wanted to be. If your girlfriend or wife would rather sit down to watch The English Patient when the only other option is Serenity, then making her watch Serenity isn't going to endear the genre to her any more than cajoling her -- as an uninterested non-geek -- to try to enjoy flying virtual ships in a competitive game where human interaction is relatively minimal.

I do know your pain. The guy I was dating when I started playing Eve began to suggest that I should grow up and stop playing games. I never thought he had much of an argument, because all he did was come home from work and get drunk and stoned out his gourd in front of crappy tv serials.

It's all about priorities.

Most people don't think playing computer games is socially rewarding -- that it's the venue of the dreaded Cheetos-munching, 'Dew-swilling Basement Troll -- and that may be the biggest obstacle a guy has to surmount when introducing his girl to the other half of his life. It's a terrible stigma to have to refute when you don't see yourself in it; non-gamers in general will instantly make the connection even if you don't fit the stereotype.

People automatically assume everyone else has a similar set of priorities in their lives. It's incredibly difficult to bend one's brain around another person's way of thinking when it differs radically. Most people see social interaction -- in a bar, a club, at work -- as being high-priority. Gaming, in general, is viewed as something for the socially inept, a place for the freaks and geeks to conceal their shortcomings behind a scantily-clad digital Barbie-doll named Chesty McTitties.

If a guy wants his girl to at least understand the game -- if not give a shot at playing it -- he has to try to compare it with the things that are important to her. Like... soap operas = Eve forums drama. Sports = Eve pvp. Board- and card-games = Eve pve and 0.0 territory battles.

If enough effort is put forward, it's possible to at least get a non-gamer to understand your fascination with games and Eve in particular. But if you want to turn a non-gaming girl into an active Eve-player, you're going to have to be prepared to tear holes in the walls of social structures the girl has built up over the course of her lifetime. Some people don't like their comfort zone being wrecked like that; some people will be alright with it, if all they have to do is add a little to their understanding. One person in a thousand might rub their eyes, stare around and exclaim, 'My god, I never KNEW!' and plunge happily forth into the unknown.

At the end of the day, all you can do is explain things, and if that fails, compromise, and ask if she'll sit with you through Serenity after The English Patient is over.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bar Counsel

The bar was quiet, only a few scattered die-hards enjoying their hair of the dog or a morning hangover remedy. I marvelled a bit at this -- I'd never been in here at this hour before, and the difference from the businesslike hum of daytime and the pounding rush of the nightlife was striking. Covering a yawn, I picked my way around staff wiping down tables and mopping spilt alcohol from the floor, heading for a seat at the bar.

The big Civire bartender cracked a grin. 'Didn't I just see you in here, Shae?'

I shook my head. 'Aah, couldn't sleep. Can I have a cup of spiced tea, please, Karlos?'

'No coffee?' He tsked and disappeared into the back, emerging a minute later with a full tea service on a tray. I laughed and accused him of overkill; he shook his head. 'You drink this stuff like water.'

The bastard leaned on the bar and waited til I'd prepared a cup of sweetened tea and was taking the first sip before asking, 'So what's keeping the Gallente Outlaw Supervixen awake?'

Scowling, I wiped a drop of tea from the tip of my nose. 'Not you, too. I'mma kill Cael for that one.'

'The reported nosebleeds did skyrocket after your application went up on the Veto forums. How're you settling in?' He cupped his chin in one hand as his green eyes examined me from beneath lowered lids. I smiled.

'Good, actually. Much better than I thought, given recent experiences.'

'Uh huh? So what's keeping you up when you have a boyfriend to go curl up with?'

I arched an eyebrow at him teasingly. 'Not jealous are you?' He gave a mysterious smile in response and I shook my head. 'A lot of things on my mind, I guess.'

'Like?'

He wasn't going to let it lie. Bartenders.... I shot him a narrow look, then sighed and cupped my tea between my hands. 'I guess maybe I just doubt myself too much, these days. Been in a bad place mentally, and I've rarely got out. Now I guess I'm worried I'll have forgot how to do it.'

The massive Caldari snorted, like a volcano giving a warning rumble. Pulling a face I grumbled, 'You keep your dirty thoughts to yourself. I look at the ships I have in my hangar and I wonder if I'll be able to use them as well as I did before, or if it'll be academy days and massive losses all over again. I'm wary of flying anything more expensive than a cruiser because I just KNOW it won't be returning at the end of the night.'

'If you don't undock expecting to lose those hulls, girl, you're doing it wrong.'

I nodded reluctantly. 'I know, I know. If it's not on fire, I'm not flying it right.'

He reached over and tapped my forehead lightly with the tip of one finger. 'You know how to use them. Just go do it. The scariest thing you have to fear out there is yourself... not the other guy. The other guy's a pussy little thing in comparison.'

Blinking, I stared up at him. He frowned a little. 'What?'

I shook my head. 'You know... I knew that. But thanks for reminding me. Did Sonja manage to get your shirt off last night?'

Karlos laughed heartily. 'No, but they got Ethan topless. I'm surprised you missed that part.'

Giggling, I sipped my tea. 'Cael and I were talking over at the table,' I explained, jerking my head towards the massive host's table. 'I hope someone got a video. That's more than enough hot Gallente to go around.'

He shrugged and reached behind the bar to obtain a drink for a bedraggled-looking patron who appeared a couple seats down from me. 'Topless Verone is a common sight, I'm surprised you've not seen him pull that more often.'

'But Topless Karlos is an endangered species, huh?'

He smirked at me. 'so are you going to go back to bed once you're done with that?'

'Hm?' I blinked at him over the rim of the glass teacup. 'Nah, still too much on my mind. Gonna hit up the simulator and see about finishing the refit on my Lachesis.'

The bartender shook his head at me. 'Suit yourself, honey. Just don't start making mistakes because you're too tired to focus.'

I waved him off to take care of the other guests. It was nice to know others cared, and he'd given me some more to think about.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Intel Over Info



When Syrna kicked her boyfriend out, it was literal -- a muddy running-shoe to the backside as Aren made a panicked exit.

'Next time you're gonna cheat, don't do it with your woman's dorm-mate!'

'Syrna, sweetie, I'm Gallente.... we're just like that.'

She scowled at the lame excuse. 'Well, I'm Minmatar, and the next time I see your skanky balls around here, they're going in a jar.'

'Wait! Can I, um... can I have my pants back?' The pretty blond fidgeted with the shirt clutched over his pubes.

'No.' The door slammed, locking him out in the rain.

Syrna turned to her dorm-mate, who was standing in the doorway to her own room, slightly more decent for having pulled a dressing-gown on. 'Syr, I swear, he said you'd broke up. I'd never have touched him if I knew he was lying.'

The taller woman shrugged, putting the issue to rest. 'He's single now, if you want him.'

'Nah. Who knows what else he could be lying about? I need a shower.' Rika retreated to their small shared bathroom, leaving Syrna alone in the living-room with her ex's discarded clothing.

A wiry young woman with features too strong to be called pretty, Syrna had spent the last ten years rebuilding from the shards of a shattered life. On a trip to visit her brother at the military school in Ammold, the ship she and her parents were travelling on had been waylaid by an Amarrian slaver gang, and only the arrival of a Domination fleet which had been pursuing the slaver ships saved the ones who'd survived the brutal attack.

Both her parents had died when the main part of the ship depressurised, and twelve-year-old Syrna herself, trapped in their room when the decompression seals engaged, suffered multiple fractures from a fallen bulkhead. The Angel Cartel had taken the orphan in, patched her up, treated her well and given her a new home. Domination Pelnon Reivel, seeing something stronger in her, became a sort of surrogate father.

Life in the Cartel had taught Syrna a lot of things, the first being that it took all types to make the system work, and the second being that it was more satisfying to get back at people by slowly tearing them down than by making a bloody example of them. Of course, that didn't stop some people from pulling blades, but her mentors had been far more frightening.

Her personal comm twittered and she accepted the connection.

'Hello, my dear,' Pel's whisky-burned voice purred. 'I have a friend here to visit, and I thought it might be good for you to meet them. How about dinner at Valkey's, 1900? Wear something nice.'

'Nice, huh? Okay.'

Closing comms, she checked the time: 1748, barely enough time to clean away the sweat from her workout, dress and get a taxi to the restaurant on the other side of the city. Syrna got up and knocked on the door to the bathroom. 'Hey Rika, you almost done scrubbing off the Gallente cooties?'


~*~


The establishment was a fine one, though if he was being pressed, Imral would have suggested that the right words to the maitre d' would have seen him through the kitchens to illegal gambling halls in the rear, or the basement, or upstairs. Or all three. This close to Empire space, the Angels put up a good face on the places they owned, but it was still only a front.

'Don't say anything, kid. You're supposed to be my bodyguard. Offering opinions on their legality isn't your job. Keep a poker face, and keep the system recording.'

'Yes, ma'am.' The lean Brutor adjusted his shades, checking the readouts and telemetry the glasses' fine electronics picked up. Everything seemed on order, though the guy who'd just stepped from the liquor store on the corner and stopped to light up was being highlighted a dim orange; illegal implants, possibly an agent.

Everyone here could be an agent. He shrugged his shoulders, feeling the fine material of his jacket tug taut for a moment. He'd been trained well for this, but until now he'd been little more than an analyst; this was his first field action. After years of exemplary service in the Republic Fleet, he'd been recommended to a special forces branch, and the 27-year old had never been more proud.

As the car glided up underneath the extended awning in front of the restaurant, his superior asked, 'Everything in order?' A quick diagnostic showed everything green, and he nodded.

'Then, after you, Mr Emvirren.'

Stepping out first, then holding the door, he watched his CO transform from a hunched and somewhat bookish-looking motherly sort to a straight-backed and imposing Vherokior tribeswoman in an elegant sari and a small fortune in gems. Hanna Ravishak had been retired from field-work years earlier to work as a trainer, but she had lost none of her skill.

When dealing with the upper echelons of criminal society, where the majority of Republic Intelligence's field agents had been identified, sending Ravishak and Emvirren to deal straight -- or as straight as an under-the-table exchange could be -- had been ideal. They needed the information the Cartel had, but the Cartel wouldn't give it to just anyone who asked. Setting up this meeting had taken over a year's worth of work retconning records and creating false resumes, building Ravishak up as a highly desirable prospective business associate. He was determined not to screw this up.

He fell into step behind and to her right as Ravishak strode up to the doors; they swished open as the pair reached to top step, and a young woman in a hostess' uniform stepped forward to take Ravishak's wrap. The older woman passed it instead to her 'bodyguard' without acknowledging the girl, then turned directly to the maitre d'. 'Jionnatira,' she said, eyelids drooped in an expression of superior boredom. Expressionless behind his shades, Imral admired the act and hoped his own part would do it justice. He followed silently in his CO's wake, taking cues from her subtle hand-signals.

The private dining-room they were led to was, if anything, more opulent than the rest of the place, but with a subtler tone: hand-carved wood panels inlaid with iridescent shell and fossil-bone patterns rather than the blindingly-polished gold of the main room. Imral's shades picked up the cameras his eyes wouldn't have located, little flickers of orange in his peripheral vision. As they entered, the room's occupants remained seated, but the fox-featured Deteis at the head of the table raised his crystal wineglass, rings glinting on his fingers in the dim light.

'Madame Jionnatira, an honour to finally meet you. You have quite the reputation for privacy; I'm surprised I could convince you to join me this evening.'

An almost careless flick of Ravishak's bejeweled hand cued Imral to take a position behind her with his back against the wall, her silky wrap draped over his arm, as a server stepped forward to draw the chair for her. His job now was to become an attentive statue.

'It is necessary to socialise on occasion. And I wished to meet you, after you have been so generous in your assistance, Mister Reivel.'

He sipped from his glass, barely enough to moisten his lips. 'Please, call me Pel. And you're very right about socialising. May I present my daughter, Syrna?'

Imral felt his breath catch in his throat: the woman seated to Reivel's left was a striking Brutor a few years younger than himself, her athletic figure draped in a slinky black gown that shimmered distractingly over her curves. 'Daughter', indeed; it was quite obvious she was the man's bodyguard. And what a body...

A flare from one of his glasses' readouts caught his eye and reminded him of why he was there; he was suddenly grateful for the opaque lenses. A glance at the condensed report showed a positive identification had been made on the man, the girl and two of the four people serving them. He sent the data off to storage with a blink, keeping half an ear the the guardedly idle chatter.


~*~


At Pel's invitation, Syrna retired with him to his office after the guest had departed, a packet of valuable business data in her bodyguard's pocket.

The Caldari poured mineral water into champagne flutes and held one out to her. 'What did you think of her, my dear?'

Syrna accepted the glass and sipped slowly as her mind worked. 'She seems to know exactly what she's doing and how we could use her services.' She took a seat in one of the comfortable padded chairs, draping the long train of her dress over her knee. 'Maybe a little too well.'

Pelnon had taken his usual position on the edge of his desk. 'How so?'

She knew he was testing her. 'Her pitch was too practiced. She knew just what to say to tick all the boxes.'

'In fact,' her adoptive father husked, 'Her pitch was nearly word-for-word what her earlier messages have said. She could simply be unimaginative, and that's hardly a crime. But I don't like it when people fit the bill too precisely.' He reached over and lightly touched an indent in the surface of the desk. 'Ndira, has the data been analysed?'

'Coming through now, sir.'

A holo report appeared above the desk, and Pel flicked his fingers at it to turn it the right direction. From her vantage, Syrna recognised dossiers of both the woman and her young bodyguard. The Domination chuckled grimly.

'Republic intelligence tried to pull a fast one, I see.' He shrugged. 'Ah, well, they got what they wanted, and once that datachip goes into their system, so will we.'

'They won't pick up on the dataworm?' Syrna rose and crossed the room, her curiosity piqued by something in the bodyguard's bio.

Pel knocked back the last of his water. 'They never do, my dear. ...Is something wrong? You look as if you'd seen a ghost.' He pouted handsomely at her in concern, and the young woman shook her head.

'Nothing, Pel. It's a shame we can't recruit the bodyguard, he's got a good record.'

'Too good.' The man sighed contentedly and set his glass down on the desk. 'All in all, a most productive evening, and I had the pleasure of treating you to a fine dinner as well. Thank you my dear.'

Smiling, Syrna leaned over and kissed her foster-father's cheek. 'Thank you, Pel. I had a lovely evening.' She collected her coat from where she'd dropped it over a chair on her way out, wrapping the luxurious garment around herself as she mused, What are the odds?


~*~


Imral ran a hand over his clean-shaven head. 'I can't believe--'

'Pull it together Mr Emvirren, or your first field stint will be very short, indeed.' Hanna used a special cleanser to wipe the elabourate false tattoo from beneath the dark stubble on her skull, eyeing the young man sternly in the mirror. 'It's fortunate you didn't read the reports while we were there, or you might have jeopardised the whole thing.'

'But she's my sister!' he repeated himself as if unwilling to believe Ravishak hadn't understood the first time, leaning forward over the hotel-room desk that separated them, the damning reports fractured by one of his fingers resting over the embedded projector. 'I've thought she was dead for ten years--'

'And as far as the rest of us are concerned, she ceased to be your sister when she accepted her place in the Cartel.'

The angry young man slapped the surface of the desk, juddering Ravishak's cup of tea; she rescued the drink with a warning glare he ignored. 'That smiling bastard's been lying to her if she thinks he "rescued" her from slavers, the attack evidence clearly shows--'

'Mister Emvirren.'

He stopped short at the ice in his CO's dangerously soft voice. She gazed at him unblinkingly, one eye still coloured an unsettling grey from her cover.

'If you wish to remain in service, you will listen to me very carefully. You will forget that that woman used to be your sister. Whomever she was to you, that little girl is gone, now. She is a bare step below an officer in the Angel Cartel, and if you do not know what that means, I wonder how you ever made it to this point in your career.'

Imral swallowed dryly as Hanna concluded, 'This entire discussion is off the record, and if you wish it to remain so, you will do nothing foolish. Now, sir, do you understand me?'

He bit his lip, then looked down and nodded.

'I didn't hear that, Mr Emvirren.'

'Yes, sir. I understand.'

The older woman sighed, then relaxed, her expression sympathetic. 'You're not the first intelligence officer to rediscover a lost loved one. You can take some solace in the fact that they've clearly treated her well. Get some sleep, we're leaving very early tomorrow.'

An hour after her assistant returned to his room, Hanna received a call from one of the oversight team.

'I'm not surprised. Keep an eye on him, but only interfere if you think it'll jeapordise the mission.'


~*~


The knock at her door wasn't wholly unexpected. Syrna padded over to the door, barefoot in loose trousers and a sleeveless top, a small pistol tucked down at her side in her right hand. A peek at the security camera told her all she needed to know, and she rolled her eyes in disgust.

Opening the door a crack, she stuck the barrel of the gun through and growled, 'Give me one good reason not to blow your balls off, Aren.'

It was clear the blond Gallentean hadn't been expecting an armed reception. 'I-I-I was just out for a walk--'

'You live halfway across the city, dipshit.' She started to close the door, but he stuck his foot in the way.

'This big guy came to my apartment, okay! He said he knew I knew you and to give you this!' He thrust his hand out, nearly whacking his knuckles on the doorframe in his rush.

The object Aren dropped into her hand was a datachip. As she eyed it suspiciously, her ex stuttered, 'He said that it contains answers and that you can do what you want with them. And that he was happy to see you.'

He looked terrified. Syrna squinted at him. 'Did he threaten you?'

'N-no! Just said that if it wasn't in your hand in thirty minutes it'd explode!'

The woman laughed. 'You idiot, it doesn't work that way,' she chuckled at his consternation, and closed the door in his face.

-------------------------------
This is my submission to Silver Night's fiction contest. I wasn't going to join in, but the teptation to exercise my keyboard was too much :)

Monday, 15 March 2010

On The Edge

It was a long way down. A very long way down.

The small Gallente leans forward, elbows propped on her knees, the yawning gulf open beneath her boots not phasing her in the slightest as she looks up instead at the frigate drifting in dock above her.

'One wrong twitch and you're gonna be needing a parachute, girl.'

The redhead chuckles without looking up. 'Good thing I'm not twitchy.'

'You were when you got back up here. Even two weeks in nullsec really fucked you up.' The willowy Thukker woman leans forward on the railing, gazing up at the ship. 'She's looking good.'

'Yeah...' The smaller woman leans back on her elbows on the deck, swinging her feet carelessly over empty space. 'First time in ages I've fit up a Rifter. Hot little thing.'

'Hot like a bounty-huntress tricking you into an alley. Lemme see her fit.'

The Gallente tugs a datapad from one of the myriad pockets of her grease-streaked black combats and passes it up, then lays back on the deck and tucks her hands under her head. 'Bear in mind, it's all bits I had lying around. There's a couple things I need to buy.'

'Not too bad, though. You gonna rig her?'

'I was thinking I could ask you to retrieve a few things from highsec for me so I can do that.'

The Thukker hands the datapad back and lights the cigarette dangling from her generous lips. 'For a price, as usual.' She drops down gracefully into a meditation pose, her back braced against one of the railing's upright. 'Shae, you know you're welcome to stick around in H4VN' --she pronounces it 'Haven'-- 'as long as you need to, but I gotta say, we worry about you. A lot of people are worried, actually. You've not been yourself for months.'

The Gallente languidly extends a tattooed arm, plucking the cigarette from her friend's lips and drawing just enough to blow a perfect smoke-ring before handing it back. 'I need time to think. And space.'

'You wanna tell me what's been bothering you? It's not the pirating, I know you too well to think that.'

Blue eyes meet green before the green turn away to stare into the haze shrouding the hangar ceiling far above. 'I don't... I've been trying to figure things out. I feel badly for leaving after only two weeks... they deserved better of me than that.'

'You were going very quietly insane down there, and the only one who didn't see it was you.'

'I... yeah. Okay. They're good guys, they have a good cause. I'm just not accustomed to having to trust people I don't know.'

The Thukker shrugs. 'Pacts are forged for different reasons down there than they are up here.'

'And the last time I joined a nullsec alliance, the leadership flipped standings without warning the soon-to-be-red blues. That was fun.'

'That was Syndicate. It's different.'

'Doesn't mean I trust pacts like that to last.' She sighs and tugs one leg up, hooking her heel on the platform's edge. 'I like things simple. I like reds and neutrals: you don't have to keep one eye awake at night worrying about being stabbed in the back.'

Sighing, the taller woman flips the stub of her cigarette into the void. 'Face it, girl, nullsec is too complicated for you.'

'Fuck yeah, it is. I don't see why anyone would want to deal with stuff like that. Gimme a gun and a sea of neutrals and I'm happy.'

'Simple Shae,' the Minmatar chuckles. 'What do you want to do?'

'Dunno. Could do with a drink, though, sit and mull things over.'

The Matari woman flows to her feet, then reaches down to help the Gallente up. 'I've gotta bounce off Goinard, if you want a lift to the Last Gate.' When the smaller woman looks down at her grime-streaked combats and sleeveless red shirt, blazoned proudly with the Hellcats' crossed flaming swords and cat-skull logo, she laughs. 'Who gives a fuck what you're wearing? I hear grease-monkey girls are the hot thing this year.'

'You been bootlegging porn again?'

'Of course I have. C'mon, I'll drop you off at 4-5. You just have yourself a think about things, sugar.' The two turn their backs on the Rifter, bantering amiably as they exit the Vitrauze hangars.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Not So Easy

'Shae, honey, I know it's a new lifestyle, but... you'e gotta be kidding me.'

'Hang on a sec...' I flipped 'Lara's comm over to room audio. 'Okay, go ahead, what's the problem?'

'I'm looking at this shopping list you sent me. It's ridiculous! Who the hell uses railguns in combat?' Her voice followed me around the tiny apartment as I got dressed. With so many people based here, space was at a premium.

Crowded systems make me paranoid. Even when they're all blues.

'Yeah, it's weird, I know. It's what they use.'

'I dunno girl, I think you're gonna go fucking insane down there.'

I ran my hand over my face and sighed. 'I'm starting to think you're right about that. I said I'd give it two months.'

She tsked. 'You'll be back in one, Shae. I know you too well, you'll have a hard time adapting to that ranged combat bollocks.'

'Just... get the gear, Lara. And no placing bets, 'kay?'

'Awwww....'

Friday, 26 February 2010

Send-Off

The place... echoed.

I passed through empty warehouses and hangars doing one last check for anything that might have been forgotten. For once, the job had been done thoroughly. Rather than being shipped -- and causing the contracted haulers to be lazy about things -- it was all being sold, with the exception of a few of the more expensive pieces and hulls. Those were in capable hands and on their way to a staging area on the other side of the cluster.

My fingers, trailing idly across a wall, tripped over the spot where we'd accidentally splashed paint one night when we'd got the idea that putting corp logo on our ships would be an awesome idea. We kind of forgot that hull paint is specially designed to withstand combat conditions, and had uttery ruined the coveralls we'd borrowed. The lumpy splatter on the wall would never come off.

'You're sure we can't have your stuff?'

I laughed and turned. Mynxee, Venom, Lakasha... all the Hellcats, and several members from the rest of the alliance, stood in the entrance. Heading over, I made certain I gave everyone a hug. 'I'm gonna fucking miss you guys.'

Eviwyn pouted. 'We'll miss you, too. I never even had the chance to fly with you.'

Fort ruffled my dreadlocks playfully. 'I'll keep your seat in the hot tub warm for you.' His craggy Amarrian features creased in a devious grin, and I giggled and kissed his cheek.

The gathering turned into a small party as we headed for one of the station's bars for drinks. Memories were shared of the last year and a half, three-fifths of my piloting career since I left the academy, summarised over beer and whisky and several hilarious games of pool. Towards the end of the night, Mynx wrapped her arm around my shoulders and took me aside.

'Look, I want you to know that you've got our support in this, and you'll be welcome back anytime.' She grinned. 'I've sometimes considered going on to other things, myself, but I kinda made my bed here, ya know?'

I smiled and hugged her. 'That means a lot, you know. And yeah... I kind of feel bad for leaving you guys like this... timing and everything.'

She shook her head. 'You've been such a big part of Hellcats for so long, and corp chat won't be the same without you, but I think this will be good for you. You've been down, lately.'

'Yeah. I have a good feeling abut this. And I will be back, eventually.'

'Ha! You can't leave this behind forever.'

Mynx laughed, her braids flying as she tossed her head back. I laughed with her, happy that this period of my life was closing on a good note. The last seventeen months had brought me some of the closest friends I'd ever had, and some of the best memories.

It had also given me the best relationship I'd had yet. Determined not to let it slide, I was leaving a jump-clone behind in order to visit Caellach whenever I had the chance. We'd managed a visit to his parents a couple weekends earlier, and it had been a surprisingly pleasant introduction to the Marellus clan. His mother had insisted on making up for the shortcomings of my own, despite my insisting that she didn't have to.

Someone smacked me on the arse and I looked over my shoulder to see Fort holding out a cue stick. 'Your turn, short-stuff.'

Chuckling, I took the stick and went back over to the table, determined to beat Val this time.

I'd be leaving for Ushra'Khan in the morning.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Eve gets more shiny

A lot of people are drooling over the images of the soon-to-be revamped Scorpion as revealed in the latest dev-blog.

And man, is it about time the ships got some love to update them with the newer graphics. I'm impressed with the hull redesign, too... suddenly, the poor Scorpion is a ship I'd actually want to fly.

...Yes, I'm vain about my ships: if I'm going to be seen in it, it's gotta be sexy. Or make up for its visual shortfalls by pwning hard :p

What interests me more in the dev-blog, though, are the details about how they're changing the file system to make the graphics update possible. I'm an art geek and taking classes in that sort of thing right now. The potential that system change opens up is immense. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the art team does with it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Evespaces

Meme time! Why not?


...The camera wasn't actually tilted. The desk is tucked into a small angled window niche. It's... cramped. If I need the extra room, I put the laptop and tablet down on the bed. And yes, that's a figurine of Guan Yin on top of the tower. The tower itself won't fit in the floorspace. My setup in my old place in Scotland was much more spacious and comfortable -- and I didn't need massive curtains to keep the cold out. The sound system was better too, but that's in storage. I have to make do with what I can get, these days.

Aspirant

The heavy features of the Civire on the other end of the connection frown a little in puzzlement at the sight of the auburn-haired woman.

'I've seen your introductory message, and the recording of your first interview. Consider this your second interview.

Can you tell me why you wish to leave your current corporation?'

The woman sighs and looks down for a moment as she collects her thoughts. 'It's not... because of any in-corp problems. Or even any inter-alliance problems, for that matter. Yes, there are things I see as being issues, but they have nothing to do with my decision. To put it simply: I'm not feeling the yarr anymore; I'm not feeling the urge to go out and ransom people and blow their stuff up.'

The Caldari man smiles a little at that, and she chuckles. 'I know, it sounds absurd. But I've just felt I had little reason to fight anymore. When I left the academy, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be as good as the guys who allowed me into their corp as a raw rookie. Then I felt I had to prove I could prosper as a pirate with honour. I've done both of those, and now I feel I have nothing left to prove to myself.'

She shrugs and settles back in her chair, looking vaguely uneasy. 'Recently, all the demands that I prove myself for whatever reason have come from outside, from other people. I don't give a shit what people think of me; I don't care about what others think I should do. The pestering and badgering has been growing annoying, and I realised a month or so ago that I was wondering why I didn't just retire as a pilot to get away from all of it.'

The recruiter's eyebrows shoot upwards at that admission. The Gallente woman nods. 'Exactly.

'I love flying, void forbid I give it up just because people keep asking me to meet their own expectations. So... you know why I want to join you. The reason I'm willing to leave my corp is simply that... I need to prove to myself that I can do something else, that I'm not just a washed-up pirate.'

She offers a wry, twisted smile. 'It know, it's kind of selfish, expecting anyone to take me on with that kind of attitude. I'm not known for altruism, but I know that I fly best when I have only my own expectations to meet.'

The man on the other end nods. 'No, that seems reasonable enough. What do you think you can offer us?'

The pirate laughs. 'In all honesty, no more than anyone else could. I'm experienced, I have a code of honour I live by which includes loyalty to my corporation, and I'm willing to follow even the strangest of orders in fleet. Is there anything more that a corp would ask of their pilots?'

Nodding, the recruiter makes a note out of range of the camera. 'Well, I assume you read our ROE, I was told the list had been sent to you. Do you have any questions or problems with it?'

'Let me see...' She calls the information up on a different screen and skims the glowing green words briefly. 'No, it all seems very reasonable to me.'

'Alright, then. Thanks for your time, and if you'll hang about in the public channel again, we'll get back to you with our decision within the week.' He smiles, and she returns the grin, running long fingers back through her dreadlocks.

'Thank you, for taking the time to consider me.'

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Thicker Than Blood: Chapter Ten

Just now...

The blond Caldari woman glared at the semi-holo. 'I know it was your people, you swine. We checked the wreckage of his pod; the neural scan transmitter had been tampered with, preventing his clone from being revived. The backup scan he had done that morning is mysteriously missing, and everyone who could possibly know anything has apparently developed selective amnesia. Was that really necessary?'

'Mlle Mbaari, I do not have to explain anything to you. If anything, it is you who needs to explain your deviation from the duties you were hired to perform.'

'I--'

Isaar's heavy features settled into a piercing scowl. 'Your errors have been compensated for, and you have been paid precisely the amount that was agreed upon. I hereby expect no further contact from you until such time as you might be requested to do so.' The transmission cut abruptly, and Sati leaned forward, resting her elbows on the desktop and massaging her temples wearily.

After a minute, she tapped in a command. When the request was granted, she sighed and said, 'It's done. Wake him up anytime.'

Miska T'onik smiled broadly through the hologram. 'Thank you very much, Ms Mbaari. Your service to the Rocketeers has been commendable. Your use of the mercenaries your opposite number attempted to hire was an excellent touch, though it might have been better had you told us what to expect. Jackal's record has been cleared.'

'Comms records needed to reflect a surprise attack. I have nothing to apologise for.' She did feel a twinge of guilt for her manipulation of the Rocketeers, though the scout had been a willing participant once she explained the plan. 'Well, if you'll let me get my things, I can be on my way--'

'What we now need from you, my dear,' the Khanid interrupted, 'is to forget about your young man. Unless you want me to be informing him of whom you were really working for? The Gallentean Admiralty is only the tip of your very dark, political iceberg, young lady, and just think how hurt he would be to learn you were playing him against three sides.'

'You paid me to keep him safe! His family paid me to keep him safe! What more do you want?'

The scar-twisted smile widened. 'I think fifty million should be sufficient to buy my silence. Your obvious affection for him is the only reason I do not ask more.'

Sati's clenched fist slammed on the desktop; if it hurt, she was too incensed to react. 'You scum-sucking bottom-feeder! I ought to have known...'

'Fifty. Million. Yes? And we shall pass the message on that, for his safety, you must keep your distance. Because that is the way of it, is it not? Do not think we would allow you so close to the corporation, knowing who else pays you.'

Her teeth gritted loudly as she entered the transfer request. The older man was right. She had hoped it wouldn't come to this... it had been too much to hope for with the Rocketeer director's weird information network so close. 'You will regret this, T'onik.'

'Oh, I am certain. But as long as you do not threaten what the Rocketeers have going... as we all are too aware, the autonomy of capsuleers is under constant threat from the larger governments who would dearly love to own us, yes? That would be as much ill to yourself as to the rest of us. Blood may be thicker than water, but in our world, ISK is thicker than blood.'

'Save your preaching, fedo-breath.' Sati slapped her hand on the end button, and the Kahnid's smug grin faded from sight.

Breathing deeply, Sati got up and crossed to the small kitchenette to prepare a cup of tea, willing the red rage to cool so that she could think clearly. It was, she had to admit, partially her fault: she had mixed work and emotional needs.

The process of preparing her tea helped the flames of her ire to simmer down to an icy calmness. That the Amarrian had found out her own web of connections was frustrating, but two could play the I Know What You Did game. She called up the dossier she'd kept in a hidden, encrypted file. Miska T'onik, formerly Admiral Etrian Lyritha, might harbour few regrets about his nature, but there were sure to be those who would find a use for his whereabouts, and his Sani Sabik background.

-------------------------------------

Cold darkness surrounded me, and it took a moment, or maybe an eternity, to realise it wasn't actually cold or dark. It was a total absence of everything. The realisation frightened me, and I jerked in panic. Something -- was it my hand? my foot? -- struck an unyielding surface that resonated around me with a hollow thud. Light blinded me, and I thrashed through the heavy air...

Not air. Fluid. I was sunk in a bath of viscous turquoise liquid... Vat fluid?

Fumbling with limbs that felt weak and unused, I reached forward and touched the smooth surface in front of me, a slick featureless wall curved 260 degrees around me. The back of the tube was a wall of machinery and tubes connected to the various sockets in my spine. An upright vat... I remembered the tour Miska had given me of the carrier he'd just purchased, the corporate cloning bay designed specially to fit within the confines of a capital ship.

Something suddenly pressed against the outside of the tube, a dark shape taht resolved itself into someone's open palm. My eyes were having trouble focussing, or maybe it was the effect of the fluid and the curve of the glass. Following the hand and the arm attached to it, I finally made out the face of someone familiar... Flaschmann, his dark features creased in a grin.

Seeing my eyes focus on him, my CEO tilted his head to his right. I squinted, forced my body to work for me. There was someone standing beside him, small and red-haired, and as lovely as I remembered. I reached out and pressed my hand to the glass, and she touched the surface on her side, a smile spreading across her face. My sister nodded to me, then jerked her head towards a rectangle of dim amber light behind her -- a door? -- and said something that made Flasch nod. She blew me a kiss and headed out as someone in a medical uniform appeared and tapped the glass to get my attention.

The clone-bay tech pointed downwards, indicating the bars that had extruded from the perforated surface below me. I reached down, gripped the handles and tried to force my legs to extend as the fluid began to drain out. One final breath and then I was choking and hacking fluid from my lungs as air filled the space around me, hanging limply from the grip-bars as my body discovered that it was meant to breathe oxygen. Hands on my shoulders, under my arms, something warm and soft wrapped around me as people helped me to stand up. I raised one shaking hand to wipe the goo from my eyes, still coughing amniotic fluid.

'Easy, mate, we got you.' Flasch was the one with his arm around my shoulders, guiding me towards a bench beside the wall.

'How--' My question was interrupted by a horrid coughing fit that doubled me over. Flasch's large hand thumped heavily between my shoulder-blades.

'It's been a week. We got confirmation an hour ago that the people who wanted you removed believe the job's been done. Your lady-friend was behind the mercenaries that attacked us, and she paid Jackal to mislead us. He went back after the attack and picked up your neural scan block. Brave boy.'

I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees, letting my head hang as a wave of dizziness hit me. Sati had...

He rubbed my back through the towel, helping the blood flow. 'You're lucky to have a girl like that, Jack... Val... what do we call you now, anyway?'

Another cough wracked me, but it seemed the last of the amniotic fluid was out of my lungs. 'Tor,' I choked, randomly picking one of the false IDs we'd built earlier. 'Is she...?'

Flasch sighed heavily and mimicked my pose, his expression unhappy. 'She's not here. She told Miska she's being watched, and that it would be best for you if she not be seen around the Rocketeers at all til the incident has been swept under the rug entirely.'

My eyes closed tightly. Not at all what I wanted to hear, but it made a regrettable amount of sense. I breathed deeply, feeling the bite of clone-bay chemicals in my nose, and raised my head. 'When did Shae get here?'

'Yesterday morning, and she's already got half the boys falling over their own feet to impress her.'

I chuckled, smiling despite myself. 'She's good at that, mostly because she doesn't realise she's doing it.'

Flasch patted my shoulder again. 'She's waiting until you're showered and dressed.' He pointed to a door off to one side. 'In there.'

Rising and pulling the towel around myself along with what dignity I could salvage, I managed to make it to the dressing-room without staggering. It was good to be back.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thicker Than Blood: Chapter Nine

One week ago...

The station was pleasant at this time of the evening, he thought, though it gave him fewer faces to get lost among. The dimmed lights gave the interior a dreamlike quality, and the smaller numbers of people allowed the soft hums of the machinery that formed the heartbeat of the structure to come through.

He strolled casually through the station, a common maintenance manager on his late-night rounds, confident and unassuming. The security officer he was paying off had signalled five minutes ago, and Neron had an hour to do his work undisturbed.

This appeared to be the final window he would have to fulfill his contract; the mark's corporation was giving every sign of making ready to pull out of the area any day now, and they'd been cagey about the location of their new base. Thankfully, the tech who'd been working unexpectedly late the last time seemed to have forgotten about the incident.

He'd been annoyed when the first attempt had failed. The mercenaries who'd been hired to ambush the convoy two weeks earlier had mysteriously vanished, and attempts to contact them had turned up empty offices and abandoned dead-drops. It was as if they'd been consumed by the Void. If the target had noticed the tampering that would have left him vulnerable, there'd been no sign of it.

The service techs might have simply written it off as faulty equipment and repaired the damage.

He had no idea what the target had done to warrant his removal -- permanent removal, no easy task when a target could be revived minutes later using neural backup copies. Neron didn't care; he wasn't being paid so well to ask questions, particularly since knowing the answers might get him in unnecessary trouble. That was the nature of the beast: knowing too much could be as dangerous as knowing too little, a complex game of poker where even the dealer was unknown.

He let himself into the hangar, made a show of checking offices and gathering forgotten refuse to tip down the disposal unit in case anyone had lingered late. When he was certain the place was deserted, he retrieved a datapad from his pocket and issued a command. A few minutes later, a response came back, and he unlocked the door for his assistant. The man knew starship systems nearly as well as Neron understood the system they served, and they set to work on the Taranis left on the main pad. It was the sole hull remaining in the hangar; everything else had been moved out by the target's corporation.

'Third time and all that, eh?'

Neron nodded, carefully picking his way through the computer system, erasing all signs of their access.

'Your credits are good enough, mate. Pleasure doing business with you.'

Neron took a few minutes longer to finish wiping the records before following the tech out, stopping short at the sight of the security detail waiting for him, stun-sticks at the ready. With a resigned sigh, he showed his hands empty and raised them to shoulder height as two men moved forward to give him a pat-down and secure his hands behind him.

The tech lay unconscious in the back of the waiting transport hover, a bruise slowly colouring on the side of his jaw evidence that he'd resisted more than was wise.

--------------------------------

I had wanted to be there when they caught the guys who'd been messing with my hulls. Security Chief Parulis would hear none of it: I was untrained, and stars forbid a capsuleer be injured on her watch. Sati had taken an almost perverse pleasure in exposing Neron Euvidar and his connections, and the dirty security officer had been identified and taken in an hour before he'd been meant to loop the security systems. A long list of people were being located and brought in for questioning; Parulis had suggested that only a handful would know anything of any worth.

I was permitted to watch from the monitor room while the operation went on. It almost seemed too easy; why would an agent be anywhere near where they were meant to break in?

'Because the best plans are the simplest ones. Fewer loose ends to slip out of your control.' Sati put her arm around my waist. 'Speaking of simple plans, time to make you disappear, sweetie.'

We'd spent the last week building a handful of imaginary Rocketeers pilots, any one of whom could have been mistaken for me. All that was left was for me to slip behind one of the masks, rejoin the Blackball Rocketeers in Cloud Ring, and slowly fade 'Madjack Rackham' into digitised ether. Valar Tiann remained a semi-artificial construct under the Navy's care, and might eventually be reported lost in the line of fire, which was fine as far as I was concerned. The people who mattered knew the truth and that was enough.

-------------------------------------------------------------

'So what do we call you now, man?' Flasch asked as we completed our final undock procedures from Stacmon V-M9 station.

'Dunno, I've not decided yet. I'll figure it out once we get there, I suppose. Which route are we taking?'

'Same as the first time. Skies ought to be clear, we won't need scouts til we hit nullsec, anyway.'

I rolled the Taranis a couple times, enjoying how light she felt, like a feather drifting on the ions. Miska was so right about inties. Flasch laughed at my antics.

'Feels good to leave that crap behind ya, huh?'

'You have no idea.'

'Right, we got everyone? Drop an X in fleet channel when you're all out.'

I entered my confirmation along with the twenty or so others who were all that remained of the Rocketeers in Stacmon. Everything else had been moved out via blockade runner or jump-freighter. Offices closed this morning, with a last poke around the corp hangars for any bits of gear that might have been overlooked. Each ship was hauling some communal goods, mostly ammunition, alongside our standard spare rounds. I had two foundling Hammerhead drones and a handful of missiles in cargo, Flasch's Ruppy was playing hauler for a load of battleship-sized hybrid antimatter rounds. Sati was remaining behind to sweep my trail clear, and then...

Well, I didn't know. It was scary and exciting at the same time.

'Alright boys and girls, align to Covryn, prepare for fleet-warp.'

The scattering of mismatched vessels surged forward, hitched, then shot towards our exit gate at six AU per second, flashing past the sun in instants. I wondered if I'd ever get tired of that feeling, and hoped I never would.

'Covryn is clear, heading for ex'.'

'Everyone jump, align to the out gate.'

We were almost there -- only a few jumps from home -- when it happened. Jackal called the next system clear, but when space reappeared around us, we were in the middle of a massive bubbled camp.

Flasch cursed. 'Jackal, what the fuck?!' But the scout had disappeared from the fleet, and we huddled in the temporary security of our post-jump cloaks while Flasch thought fast. My mind whirled with a moment of panic.

'Shit. Shit. Right. That's a lot of bubbles. We're not fighting this, there are too many people here, who the fuck are these guys? When I say “go”, burn hard for the nearest edge and warp to the rendezvous as soon as you're clear. Just scatter, give them too many targets to focus on. Right, go, go now!'

I angled my ship down, aiming for the lower edge of the warp disruption field, and kicked in the microwarp drive. The incerceptor punched through the edge of the sphere just as another appeared around me. 'Fuck! What...?' A Sabre-class interdictor had been orbiting the bubble, and I found my ship slowed to a crawl by a half-dozen stasis webs.

'Flasch, this is Jack, I don't think I'm gonna make this one. You guys go on ahead, I'll see you at the far end.'

I gritted my teeth as I watched my shields and armour melt away. This wasn't exactly how I'd imagined things going. Flasch's voice cut through the cacophony of cannon-fire. 'There's something funny going on here, Jack. Nobody else was targeted. I'm sending word to Miska to impound Jackal's gear til we figure out what the fuck he's playing at.'

At my command, the alarm to evacuate the ship blared through the interceptor's cramped confines. I had only a minimal three-man crew on this run, but that would be three too many to lose. The gate rescue crews would scoop them and take care of them til corporate recovery could make a pickup.

The hull disintegrated, and they started nibbling on my pod. An alarm went off in my head and I winced in pain. A diagnostic query confirmed the worst: we'd missed the tampering on the capsule's transmitter.

It seemed I wasn't getting out of it, after all.

The capsule's minimal defences redlined, and the shriek of pod fluid venting into space was the last thing I heard.

Final Chapter

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Grind, part 3

Ambry walked into the hangar early that morning, finishing the process of tying her shoulder-length dark hair out of the way. She didn't expect the captain to be there at this time of the day -- the captain, in fact, hadn't gone near the ship in four days. Four? She counted; yes, four days. But that didn't mean Ambry, or the rest of the crew, should relax in their work. There was always something to be done, and should the captain suddenly require the vessel, they would all need to be ready.

The crew chief worried, quietly, about their captain. A reasonable and bright young thing, and remarkably personable for a podder. But she didn't seem to be dealing well with things. She'd spent more time staring moodily at the Vexor or jumping clones to lowsec than she had in space. The crew didn't care -- they got paid no matter the situation -- but Ambry worried.

And clone-jumping... She shuddered. Why anyone would put their body into cold-storage and then entrust the very core of who they were to FTL transmission relays, waking up in a new body elsewhere.... What if the packet was corrupted along the way? Would they forget things? Gain or lose bits of their personality? It was all too unpredictable for her; but then, she supposed that was why it took just a bit of insanity aongside the long years of intensive training to become a capsule pilot.

There was a message waiting for her when she reached her office near the heart of the ship, the blue alert light blinking cheerfully as the room lights came up. She settled into her chair before reading, then sat back with a thoughtful frown. This wasn't entirely unexpected.

Tapping a command into the console, she brought up the audio system and leaned forward to speak into the receiver.

'Attention all personnel, this is Crew Chief Koll. Prepare the ship for long storage and report to InterBus port 113 by 2200 for transit back to Empire space.'

********************************

'Hello, Captain Tiann. Back again, are we? Vat A-32 is available. Which link shall I establish today, Barleguet or Vitrauze?'

'Vitrauze, Mr Nirraen. Send me home.'