Saturday, 27 December 2008

The God-Makers

Lu Tien Hannarad fastened his coverall securely at the shoulder and paused to check in the mirror. Pale blue and spotless, it gave the young man a distinguished look, or so he felt. He hoped. He rubbed his hands together in an attempt to stop their trembling.

This was a big day.

At the door, he paused, taking a deep breath and allowing it to rattle his narrow frame on its way out. 'Relax,' he whispered. 'You can do this. It's just like the exams.'

He was shaking.

In the next room, a man and a woman were waiting, seated at a table and looking over holograms projected into the air above its surface. The man, Alric Takiri, looked up.

'Ah, Lu Tien, we're just reviewing the procedures for today's subject. Take a seat.'

The woman, Vienne Miyental, keyed up another image. 'I realise this is your first procedure outside of the exam holos, Lu Tien, so you'll have both of us keeping an eye on your progress today. Alric will be assisting you, I'll be back at the control desk watching on camera while I keep an eye on her vitals.'

Lu Tien nodded, not trusting his voice. Vienne rested her hand on his. 'Relax. There isn't much that can go wrong here which can't be fixed quickly and easily with minimal impact. Our subject today is in good health. She's prepared herself for this day for the last five years, and now it's up to you to bring her dreams to life.' Her fingers squeezed his momentarily and released.

The young man gave his superiors a wobbly smile. 'So no pressure, huh?'

They reviewed the procedure step by step over the next hour, and Lu Tien began to relax. It was like in the exams, except this time he would have living flesh and blood under his hands. Vienne and Alric would be there the whole time, he wouldn't be alone, and despite the complexity of the procedure, it wouldn't be life-threatening.

She was waiting in a comfortably-furnished room just outside of the surgery, looking neat and official in her Academy undress uniform. They shook her hand and Alric introduced Lu Tien as Doctor Hannarad, the cybernetics technician in charge of the procedure; Lu Tien bowed and expressed his pleasure at meeting her and the honour he felt at being the one to work on her. She smiled and said the honour was hers. An assistant came and led her away to the prep room while the three technicians returned to the surgery to make certain all was in order and ready.

Lu Tien's shakes had returned. 'I don't know if I can do this...' He surveyed the array of equipment laid out on tables and trolleys and platters before him: the tools of the trade he had so long hoped to excel in. Alric's hand gripped Lu Tien's shoulder.

'You can. We'll catch you if you stumble, but we're not here to hold you up.'

Soon, too soon, the young woman was wheeled in on a surgical trolley, already sedated and laid facedown with her hands resting on shelves below the level of the table-top to prevent circulatory disfunction; she was naked but for the open-backed operatory gown and a paper-fabric sheet draped over her legs. Vienne plugged in and started the bank of computers monitoring the woman's heart rate, brain function and neural network. Assistants swarmed around Lu Tien and Alric, faceless in surgical masks and caps, ever-present, never intrusive, prepping the technicians to work their craft in turning an ordinary pilot into a capsuleer.

Alric took up a position on the opposite side of the patient from Lu Tien. 'While this procedure is not risky in the sense that it could potentially maim or kill the subject, there is a chance that minor damage may be done to the spinal structure. In that sense, we must be cautious. She already has the initial training jacks and wiring; what we're doing is merely upgrading the system. Lu Tien: begin.'

He'd feared the nervous trembling would cause him to falter, but as he prepared to work, the shakes eased. By the time the first incision was made, a sense of peace had stolen over him, his mind and body settling into the familiar rhythm of a procedure he had performed a hundred times before in simulated scenarios. As he worked, Alric kept a steady, low-voiced monologue, as if weaving a story into the movements of the young technician's hands.

'There was a time when the single contact point in the skull was not considered enough for a capsuleer to have contact with even the training setups. The jacks were crude, heavy, plainly visible to anyone and had to be located at multiple points throughout the body for total nervous systems interface.'

'First socket is in place and anchored,' Lu Tien murmured into his microphone to Vienne at the control desk. 'Connection is secured. Begin interface sequence.'

The third technician tapped a command into a terminal; signals pulsed through the wires slotted into the new and old jacks. Suddenly awakened nanofilaments stirred within the hardware and began travelling along preexisting neural pathways, interlinking and spreading throughout the pilot's systems.

'Eventually, advances in the technology were made,' Alric continued. 'The hardware became smaller, finer, more capable of managing the demands of capsule command. Corporate competition drove the design to further refinement until the standard became what is in use today.'

'Second socket in place and anchored. Connection secured.'

Each implant was carefully mounted on the vertebrae of the woman's spine, nanofilament connections binding them into her nervous system and to each other. The flesh was sealed around the implants with a protective, flexible medical foam which would deteriorate as the healing process progressed.

'It's the initial ordeal of receiving capsuleer implants that can make or break a pilot.' The implants ran the length of the woman's spine, now, and the final stages of the surgery were in process. It was mostly Vienne's scene as she monitored progress and status, making adjustments as necessary.

Lu Tien looked at Alric. 'How so?'

The older man gestured to the sleeping pilot. 'When a capsuleer's clone is grown, the implants are developed with it. There's no invasive surgical procedures, and everything is meshed perfectly. It's this first step, where the pilot becomes more than human, that's the biggest and hardest. Imagine being in her place, waking up after this. Even with all the testing, all the training, nothing quite prepares you for the feeling of something alien inside you.'

Vienne gave the thumbs-up as the final test completed. 'Green. Get her to the recovery ward. Good job, people.'

'It's the reason we don't leave them alone from the moment they awaken. A small percentage can't handle it. They lose it entirely and all that can be done for them is care homes and lots of therapy; some kill themselves within the year.'

Lu Tien stared at his mentor, shocked at the notion, then at the pilot as she was carried away. 'I never... I never thought of that.'

The omnipresent assistants removed the technicians' masks and gloves; Alric rubbed the end of his nose with the back of one hand. 'Finally!

'Look at it this way. Nearly everyone has some minor cybernetics, these days. Optical repairs, audio implants, maybe a replaced or repaired internal organ or bone. Those are minimal things. Capsuleer implants hug the nerves so tightly, a pilot can feel it at first. Sort of a tightness, maybe a burning sensation, like a vague, sourceless pressure in every limb. That's how one described it for me, once. The feeling of it can be devastating if they're given time to think about it.' He glanced at Lu Tien. 'Becoming a god is neither easy nor painless. It's up to us to ease that transition as much as possible even as we initiate it. You did well today.'

Lu Tien looked around the operating theatre; assistants were bustling around cleaning up and shutting down various pieces of equipment. 'Becoming... a god?' he murmured. He thought about the pilot as she'd been when he'd met her. 'She's beautiful.'

Someone clapped him on the shoulder; he turned to see Vienne, looking tired but happy. 'Wait til you see what she becomes.'

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

On this day, my Hyperion battleship was destroyed in Evati in defense of an alliance-mate.

In itself, this event is nothing special: ships are destroyed every day, and indeed, as each of us will someday fade into the past, so too do our starships have a day where they come to return to their base elements.

But the Uninvited Ghost was more than just a ship, to me. When Kai Lomu was building her, I helped collect some of the rarer minerals through hunting and killing rogue drones in pockets of lowsec nearby, gathering and reprocessing the salvage. It was a labour of love, and in return, she paid me back by outliving two insurance cycles. Had I bothered with a third run, she'd have outlived that, as well.

For over nine months, the Uninvited Ghost served well, surviving a BoB primary attempt, a Moros in seige mode, and participating in multiple heavy-class actions in A-ZLHX, Arzi, Decon, Goudiyah, Hagilur, Irmalin, Katugumur, Mafra and Todifraun. I came to know her like an old friend, her quirks and foibles, her strengths and specifics. Commanding her was a joy and as instinctive as breathing. The men and women who served on her, those who live and those who did not survive her death throes, were her lifeblood, and worked together to make her better than the sum of her parts.

Despite hardships faced, the Uninvited Ghost remained a steadfast companion. Other of my ships have lived but fleetingly and died unmourned; yet she survived beyond expectation.

So it is with sorrow that I now commend the Uninvited Ghost to the stars. Perhaps after her death, she was looted and salvaged greedily by her killers. Her spirit, however, will not be so easily wiped from memory nor taken and kept to be sold or hoarded.

To the Uninvited Ghost: my friend, and my guardian.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Blog Banter #3

This month’s EVE Blog Banter idea comes to us by Roc Wieler of Roc’s Ramblings. Roc's asked us to “write a story about a fellow EVE Blogger, or an EVE player whom has inspired you or affected you in some tangible way. After your story, describe why you chose them, and any Holiday wish you have specifically for them“.

I slouched in front of the monitor, bored out of my skull, and checked my mail for the umpteenth time; nothing, as usual. I'd lost track of the number of days I'd been stuck in this hellhole of a system; and all because our CEO had decided that a move would revitalise the corp. She couldn't have been more wrong: every day, fewer people reported for duty or stayed online for very long. People were quietly moving out, without a word, to other systems; some people had left entirely. Of the twenty-odd members there'd been when I joined a couple months ago when we were based in Placid, less than half remained.

Part of the problem was the system itself. Not the features: the locals. They were vicious in a way that I had been only a few months before, and not for the first time I wondered what had happened to me. I lurked around the system, cloaked always, not giving them the chance to jump me and pound me gleefully into a cloud of dust.

Today, I just couldn't be bothered. I sat in the lounge near the hangars, keeping an eye on the Local comms and drinking tea. The downfall of a pirate; reality was a harsh mistress, and I could barely afford to support what ships and crew I had left. We were all feeling the pinch.

The doors opened, and I glanced up, half dreading it was another of the locals come to mock me for not being an easy target for them yet again.

It wasn't.

I didn't recognise her: a tall, athletic Brutor a bit older than myself, dressed in leather with a bearing only a capsuleer can claim. She ordered a bottle of wine from the lounge staff as she plugged in to the Local channels herself. Wine in hand, she raised a toast to the locals who had quite clearly chased her into the station, as they did so many others. Their response was typically playful-aggressive as they invited her to come out and demanded what her business was in the system.

Making my mind up, I rose, walked over to where she sat, and smiled when she glanced up.

'Mind a little company?'

The woman twitched a sceptical half-grin at me but waved to the seats nearby. 'Why not?'

I claimed a chair and squinted at her. There was no mistake. 'You're a pirate, huh?'

'That I am.' She studied me over the rim of her glass, then said, 'I think you are, too.'

'Lapsed,' I sighed. 'But a health to you. How'd you get stuck here?'

The rims of our glasses clinked and she settled back, crossing long legs in front of her. 'I'm based in Decon, but I got bored, figured I'd do a little exploring. Boy, was this place a mistake!' She laughed. 'This doesn't look like the best place to leave my jump-clone!'

I grinned back. 'There are better places.'

'Why are you lapsed?' When I hedged a second, she arched an eyebrow at me. I slumped back on the padded leather.

'I don't... I dunno. My first corp started to get quiet, people started leaving, some people made rotten decisions... I wasn't having fun anymore, so I thought to bring my sec status back up in a nullsec corp. You can probably guess how well that went.'

'Mmhmm.' She eyed me carefully. 'And now you're here.'

Nodding, I said, 'Now I'm back in lowsec because I don't know anything else, but this corp is dying and, well, you've seen how hospitable the system is. They're no friends of mine.'

The other pilot polished off her glass and refilled it from the bottle on the low table next to her. 'Sounds like you need a fresh start.'

'Fuck, yes,' I snorted. 'I tell you, if I don't get one soon, I may actually give up piloting. This is getting ridiculous.'

'Hmmm.' She savoured a sip of her wine, staring through the glazed outer wall at the distant stars, the curve of the planet the station orbited just visible to the lower right. 'Sometimes you just end up in bad places. Question is, are you gonna do something about it? Or are you gonna let it defeat you?' She finished her second glass of wine and stood.

'Time for me to make a run for the gate.' She handed the wine bottle to me. 'Finish it off and give me a call sometime. I've got a plan in the works you might like.'

I looked at the bottle, feeling bemused; red wasn't my preference, but I could probably mull it to drinkability. 'I'll do that, I think. What's your name, mate?'

She was already at the door; pausing, she glanced over her shoulder. 'Mynxee,' she said, and then she was gone.


When I first met Mynxee, I was in a very bad state, indeed, and things were only getting worse. It wasn't actually until I discovered that her CEO was a guy I had known only a short while but still respected and admired, that I got back in touch, first through him dragging her into our convo.

You know the rest.

I wouldn't change this. I don't know if I would be so happy anywhere else in Eve, with such awesome and amazing people to fly and hang out with, if Mynxee hadn't come through Antem that day. I certainly would never have started blogging; I can't say for certain, but I may well have quit playing altogether, things were so bad.

So thank you, Mynx. I owe you a lot, and if there's one wish I could have for you, it's that you always remain tops on the killboard, because you are the most formidable and admirable person I've ever known ^_^

Friday, 19 December 2008

God, I love my work...

You know you're in the right line of business when you walk into the alliance lounge in time to hear someone asking:
'Hey, you want to pay me for that hulk we stole over a month ago?'
...and it gives you the warm fuzzies.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

To IC or to OOC...

I find I have a dilemma when it comes to role-playing.

No, not that kind of role-playing. Jesu.

I don't often RP with Shae; I do more with my second main, and then I'm really only RPing by pretending to be a different sort of Eve-player. The last time I brought Shae into an interactive RP situation was when I was in Atrocitas and we were at war with Stimulus; I ended up in one of their less-private RP 'pub' channels after spending the hours preceeding the war chatting with them in Local. Being a newbie RPer (and a newbie in Eve, as well) facing the experienced who are -- for lack of a better description -- your enemies, and having to set yourself up so that you don't offend them in-character, is NOT an easy experience. That being said, the guys I met from that corp were fantasic people and went easy on poor li'l me.

Over the year since then, I've come to know Shae Tiann much better as an ingame character, which has made writing blog posts from her perspective increasingly easy. Hence the dilemma: when someone posts an in-character blog post, I feel any response I might make really ought to be in-character as well. I feel kind of bad about spoiling the atmosphere, even if the writer has indicated they don't mind. However, I'm aware this could cause confusion among the non-RP community.

What to do?!

Well, with the number of in-character posts I've written, I've decided, what the hell, why not? If someone writes an IC post I feel compelled to respond to, I'll write it IC, too. And you can probably expect more IC posts appearing here in the future.

A Warm Welcome

I'd like to introduce former alliance-mates (and current Bastards applicants) Kalazar and Azadeh Lawliet to the blogging community.

Update: Havok Pierce has also joined the fun!

:*'."\o/;"*.; *throws confetti*

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

That Meme Thing

I've been multi-tagged for this by Mynxee and Sarah Conna.

And I'm kinda screwed on the tagging part since everyone else I know has been tagged already, so just no going to bother (this is why doing something like that in a small community is silly).

The Rules:
  • Link to the original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
  • Share 7 facts about myself in the post - some random, some weird.
  • Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

:Seven Facts About Shae:
  1. I'm the oldest of three kids in my immediate family, the third-oldest of 16 grandchildren, and the oldest unmarried child in my extended family; cue all my rellies expecting me to settle down and sprog sometime soon :p (but not my parents! \o/)

  2. I was trained to be a racing swimmer by the time I was 12, but I wasn't competitive enough to want to join the team. I just loved swimming, and I miss it now.

  3. My family are relatively conservative northern Baptists. Because I had nothing else to rebel against when I was a teenager, I went hardline pagan. These days, I consider myself areligious and borderline spiritual: I research about other religions to understand them, I accept that some people need their religion, and let the issue stop there.

  4. If you really -- really -- want to put me in a bad mood, leave me in a room with the television on. Most shows annoy me because they seem lame and contrived, and the commercials turn me into a raging anti-society maniac.

  5. I've been using Photoshop7 since I first got a ripped copy from a friend in 2001. My current copy is legal (yes! I bought the whole thing, box, manuals, disc and all... for £25 off eBay...)

  6. I'm largely a self-taught artist, with only a few techniques learned from Saturday-morning art classes when I was in high school to supplement. I tried to attend a fine-arts academy after I finished high school in 2000, and after six weeks of being told I was drawing a box (The. Same. Goddamn. Box. Six. Bloody. Weeks.) 'wrong' and being sneered at for suggesting that Photoshop is as valid and effective an artistic tool as a paintbrush, I walked out in the middle of a class and never went back.

  7. I'm FAR too polite and have a hard time getting out of conversations where the other person won't shut up, even if I'm bored and running late. This includes drunken corpmates on comms at stupid o'clock in the a.m, total strangers who are deliberately trying to offend me, and my relatives when they're being ignorant and closed-minded.

  8. Extra! Because I was tagged twice :p
  9. I have an incredibly vivid and active imagination. It's why I write so damn much, why I draw so damn much... and why I don't touch drugs harder than alcohol and caffeine, because I'm deathly afraid of what the contents of my head might do to me.


No tags! Jump on the bandwagon if you want to!

Monday, 15 December 2008

On Balance

The trouble with doing art and Eve: I can't do both at the same time.

Unlike my stories and many of my blog posts, which are written during particular classes I have where I can get away with splitting my attention between writing and listening, art consumes a hell of a lot of my biological RAM. While I may have Eve running on the PC and Photoshop open on the Mac beside it (or be sketching manually, for that matter) I can spare little more attention than what is required to keep up with light chatting.

Which is why I got pissed off because an alliance-mate got pissed off at me for not being around to save his ship from destruction on a gate last night. I wasn't even on comms at the time because it was late: I was working afk and had no intention of getting dragged out into runs which could take longer than I can afford (I'm late enough to class because the bloody bus schedules are still iffy due to construction on the route, never mind the all too frequent days I happen to sleep clear through my alarms. Like today).

I really have no defense: if I was serious about my work, I'd have Eve off and be wholly focussed with something I can sing along to running on the sound-system. But I like being able to chat with people; the friends I've made through Eve are as real as the people I hang out with in the pub.

Lesson 1: if you're going to be logged in to idly chat on Eve, use an alt you don't mind people knowing about

Lesson 2: if there's someone logged in who isn't in the fleet or on comms, do not assume they will be there immediately to pull your arse out of the fire

I've been reworking my website in prep for using it as an online portfolio in my search for a job. Alas, this means other non-degree work has to take a passenger seat for a bit: attempting to get a job after I finally finish college is kind of an important priority, even if most of my apps will be going to games-design companies. With a long holiday off from classes coming up at the end of this week, I should hopefully be able to get everything done which needs to be done. And my laptop and tablet will be coming with me on the train down to London for the Bastards meetup this weekend; hopefully I can find a place to plug into the wall so I can get a little more work done on the Hellcats pin-up calendar (the pencil-works are looking fantastic, by the way, and if you want to see a scanned-quality low-res untouched prelim, I could be persuaded to drop you a link for, say, a million ISK...)

I can't tell if I'm joking there. I suppose if Mynxee threatens GBH upon me for that, it's a joke; if not, then the offer stands ;)

In addition to that, my writing style has come around to bite me: rarely do I plot stories out in advance, and Thicker Than Blood is far from being an exception. It's reached the point where I'd damn well better know what's going on, which means I have to sit down, take what I've written so far, the bits of plot I do have already in place and the ending I have planned, and find the clearest possible route using all that as a sort of orienteering map. Hopefully, what already exists won't need to be altered any; but my writing philosophy stands: If it's too good to be changed to better the whole, it wasn't worth writing in the first place. I have the same approach to art. And hopefully, you won't all be disappointed with the results ^_^

In related news: the Hellcats has a corp logo, now. It will be appearing on merch in the Hellcats store (maybe in The Bastards store, too, but that's being discussed still) once I get the high-res version done. It's already appearing on our corp-standardised forum sigs.
Update: now in high-res!

I know I'll be claiming a t-shirt for myself ;D

Sunday, 14 December 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties

Laser light, red, blue and violet, stabbed and sliced through the darkness towards me, tracing arcane patterns through the nebulous haze. A deep, rhythmic pulse thrummed in counterpoint below the shriek, settling into my bones and pushing me faster, barely a heartbeat ahead of the lasers.

It was Saturday night in Evati, and I'd found a club to chill out in.

It wasn't too crowded, but there were enough people to let me know the place wasn't considered a dive, either. The beats were heavy and pounding, the melodies grating square-waves, the vocals by turns sensitive and anarchic. Long-haired men in heavy boots and leather trousers stomped in time while women in tight dresses swayed on platform heels strapped up to the knees. Thin ribbons of incence-laden smoke trailed from burners suspended from the high, arched ceiling.
You don't have to change your mind
'Cause you're beautiful
No matter what you say and what you do
Created for a plastic world
I spent half the time dancing to anything that sounded good, whether I could identify it or not, and the other half people-watching, sipping vodka mixers and resting my feet -- it had been a couple months since I'd last worn these boots, and the height of the heels put a lot of pressure under my toes. In order to conceal the line of capsuleer tech running up my back, I'd opted for a short, high-collared purple dress with gold tracery stitched into the gauzy outer sheath; it covered the tattoos I'd had done on my back, which I was a bit disappointed about, but it was a small price to pay for anonymity. It may have looked strange in a room where most people wore black, but I'd been attending clubs like this since I was old enough to get in the door; there's a level of self-confidence you attain through acclimation which allows you to get away with the most outrageous breaks in custom, and as long as you're having fun, nobody else cares.
One thousand milligrams searching for you
Day turns to night
The dawn meets the sun at the sky
I need you to try
While people would dance with me, nobody made any propsitions -- just as well, since I'd have turned them down. A club like this was the sort of place where people went to see and be seen, to enjoy the music, drink and socialise; walking home with a one-night partner was at the bottom of the priority list. At one point I spotted an old friend of mine, Mebrithiel Ju'wien, among the crowd; we caught up a little and danced to a song before she decided that she preferred the harder music being played in the room downstairs and left with a promise to drop me a convo later.
The rain that falls for weeks
Painting pictures on the streets
Twisted stars beneath my feet
I cruise the crowd
It was a good night, four hours of solid music, the deejays swapping off sets behind the control panels like mad scientists over a fiendish creation. By the time the lights came up, I ached from head to toe, had made a few new acquaintances, and caught up on news with Meico and Metus, neither of whom I'd seen for a while. I staggered back to my quarters feeling happily mellow and plugged into alliance comms while I settled down with a cup of hot chocolate and checked messages. That may have been a mistake, since by the time I actually got to bed the daytime lights were coming on in the station, but hey... it's the weekend, right?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

We Did Warn You...

We may have paid ME4N a visit with intent to play a little off the station.

They may have decided to return to their base system to roll out the big guns.

We may have laid a little smackdown.

Yarr >=3

And BOOYAH! for my Ninjaperion kicking Annapolis off the station on the second run. Tha's fer jamming me t'other night! Get in!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Unholy Union

Carebears, beware! Tremble in terror, for your worst nightmares have been made flesh and set to stalk among the lawful, consuming ship and pod alike in its march of destruction.

Forged in the abyss of Decon and tempered in the fires of Vitrauze, the Hellcats have come at last to join in a fearsome alliance with The Bastards, that unstoppable force shaped in the crucible of Evati and honed to deadly precision throughout the depths of outlaw space.

May our union be as the burning annihilation of the final apocalypse, and may we leave nought but a wake of destruction in our shadow.

A Summons

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon in my favourite station cafe working on pinup calendar designs, pleased with the results I was getting. Art is such a temperamental hobby: sometimes it's there, sometimes it isn't. Today was proving to be a good day for the Muse, and the flow was pure poetry.

At last the urge to drop into space won out over the draw of painted lines. I finally wandered into the corp office about half-two to find it still dark and the door locked. Mynxee keeps slightly different hours than I do, but she'd obviously not been in since last night. As I keyed up the lights, a blinking icon on the computer caught my attention. A message?

It was encoded for directors only, but Mynxee'd given me access ages ago. I read it twice, frowned thoughtfully, then dropped a message to my CEO.
[Roc Weiler called. See Fwd. Think something suitable can be arranged. Call him back ;)]

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Morning Messages

After a late night of tangling with a Southern Cross Alliance gang in nullsec (and what, my dears, were you doing in Warp To Desktop space, hmmm?), I allowed myself a luxurious lie-in this morning, enjoying the warmth and knowing there was nothing I had to do today. I rather missed Chu, but he'd finally been pressured into visiting his family for a week and it was doubtful I'd escape notice from the highsec planetary police for that long.

So I lay there a while, curled up and happy and lulled into a doze from the hum of the station around me. It was much better than yesterday, where a nightmare about being trapped in Yulai in my Taranis with CONCORD on my heels, the gates closed and the stations denying me docking rights, left me hauling myself groggily out of bed at insane o'clock and just going right to work because there was no way I could sleep after that. At last, the quiet grumblings of my caffeine addiction lured me out from under the duvet and into the kitchenette to make my morning coffee. As I waited for the Blessed Liquid to percolate, I fired up the computer and checked my messages.

My old alliance, Atrocitas, had gone to our industrialist mate's defense in wardeccing both the corporations -- hulks r us and Virtual Eclipse Industrial Technology -- who had laid claim to the system they'd been harassing him in. By their own admission, these miners have a reputation for griefing outsiders until they no longer want to stay in Kakki, and Atrox doesn't stand for that sort of highsec wanker nonsense. It warmed my heart to see my old mates, their sec cleaned up and highsec-capable once more, going right back into the habit of griefing the griefers. It's a small-time, unpaid sort of fresh start for them, but it'll be something fun to do while they get back into the swing of mercenary work after nearly a year outside of Empire space.

Normally, I don't bother with the news unless something catches my eye. Today's headline did. 'Mistake Costs Pilot Billions'. These are worth reading, sometimes, if only because you learn not to do what the other guy did. Oh, alright, you also get to laugh about the other guy's stupidity. A quote towards the end snagged in the back of my head, and I found myself saying, 'Wrong!' out loud.

The quote? 'Had the Obelisk been piloted by a BoB pilot, I would have helped him out and given all the items back without blinking ... you pick a side, even if you are not in the Big War.'

Maybe it's just me and the company I associate with, but had it been me nicking the loot, I'd not have given it back no matter which side they were on. Who says you have to pick a side? If I went into their space and they would shoot me without a second thought, then why should I support any of them? I've been shot at by PL, by Goons, by Snigg, BoB, Razor and RA; I've had friendly chats with people from all of them, too. As the saying goes, I'm not prejudiced: I'll shoot anyone, and save a few rare exceptions, it's never personal.

Why is it people feel they have to choose a side? I grumbled. Nobody is wholly in the right or the wrong, ever; what I understand of the conflict is that it's just a massive contest to see who can piss on the other's cake the most while still leaving an edible slice they can swipe afterward. Let them beat each other up until there's nobody left, while we play in their back gardens and steal their pies. It's all good.

Though that could just be because I'd not yet had my morning coffee.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Thicker Than Blood: Chapter Four

Six weeks ago...

The coffee sitting in the mug at his elbow had gone stone cold; Valar hadn't touched it in over an hour. He was absorbed in compiling the data he'd collected over the past month and a half. Many people had recalled his sister, some fondly, some with a touch of annoyance or disgust. Only one, a scary-looking Sebiestor with a sepulchral complexion under his black facial markings, had any clue where she might have disappeared to with her corp.

'You should maybe try Amarr space? She said something about a move to Genesis, I think.'

'Genesis...' he muttered. Val pulled up the map, his previously-used settings for system populations casting a golden glow on his face. Life away from the strict military regimen had thinned him a bit, and he'd experimented by growing a short goatee. Val had allowed his hair to grow in order to present a less military appearance; the total effect was one of a rogueish charm that women seemed to find appealing, a realisation which bemused him. Changing the map settings to system security, he focussed the hologram on the Genesis region.

'You're still up?'

Sati's voice, unexpected, caused Val to start. He turned his chair on its pivot to face her and stretched, hearing his shoulders and spine flex with a series of pops. 'Yeah.'

She stood silhouetted against the dim light from the sitting-room, leaning against the doorjamb. Her dressing-gown was secured loosely and revealed a delectable flash of skin from throat to waist. The Caldari woman had surprised him by staying after that first night, and the words Your place or mine were often the first he heard after leaving his pod for the evening. Val had long since lost his wartime wariness of her background: she was just another person, albeit one who was sexy as hell and could drive him crazy.

'You're a machine, Jack. This obsession can't be good for you.'

He shook his head. 'It's not an obsession. I need to find her.'

'Well, why don't you just bloody call her, then? I've been trying to figure you out from the start, Jack, and that's one thing that makes no sense. If your cousin or whatever is as nice as everyone says, there's no reason she'd refuse to talk to you.' Sati crossed the small room, picked up his coffee-cup and sniffed experimentally, wrinkling her nose.

'It's not that easy, she's killed everyone else who went looking for her and disappeared right afterwards. I don't want to spook her.'

'It is that easy, Jack.' Sati put the mug down hard in exasperation, sloshing a little tepid liquid over the edge onto the desktop. 'Who gave you the idea this is the only way to go about this? Someone's put you up to it, and you're just heading further down a road that leads nowhere. Who's made you do this?'

'I-' Looking up, Val saw her lips pressed into a thin, angry line; her eyes met his with all the warmth of a glacier, and just as immovable. He sagged. 'The Navy. They want her brought in.'

'The Navy.' Her tone was frosty. 'What the fuck are they holding over you?'

He looked away, staring through the holographic star-map. 'They don't trust me enough to offer a better command while my sister is running around playing pirate.'

Sati slapped him.

'I don't believe you. I thought you were better than this.'

His face stung, but he resisted rubbing the place where she'd struck him.

'Look at you! A better command? You're going to trade your sister's life for a better command from the people who will destroy her? They'll torture her for information, then publicly execute her as a warning to other pirates; if you believed the soft lies they fed you about mercy, you're a bigger fool than you look right now.

'And as for a better command? How much better can you get than what you have here? You can afford to buy a battlecruiser of your own! No waiting for somebody to tell you you're worthy of it. Personally, I'd say you aren't, but that couldn't stop you if you wanted it.'

There was little Valar could do but bear the brunt of her ire: she was right.

'The only thing holding you back right now is yourself, and I hope that's because somewhere in the back of that pretty, empty head, you recognise that you're being an idiot. I can't believe you're such a tool,' she sighed, suddenly sounding tired and sad. Val glanced up again, the mark of her hand still hot on his face. She looked close to tears.


'Somebody's using you, Valar. That is your name, yes? I looked Shae's background up, but... the face in your profile isn't yours.'

'Yeah,' he muttered, 'they changed it.'

Sati sighed, then sat on the edge of the desk, pulling her robe around herself. 'So somebody's got to a lot of trouble to send you out here... why? Who's pulling your strings, my dear puppet?'

He shook his head. 'How do you figure that?'

'The Navy never takes pilots back once they've left, Valar. No official military does; the closest you could get is joining one of the militias. Anyway, do you really want to go back, after all you've known out here?'

Val looked thoughtful. 'I don't... I haven't really thought that far ahead. I don't know, anymore.'

She reached over and stroked his hair. 'I thought as much. They didn't expressly say they'd take you back, did they?'

Frowning, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. 'No... I asked and they said if I failed, it would be because-' Val stopped, a horrible realisation dawning.

'You'd be dead?' Sati finished. 'Strong choice of words there, don't you think? No specific rewards for handing your sister in for a jumper trial, and termination if you don't. Why do they want your sister so badly? They never actively stir themselves to discipline outlaws unless one is sitting right in front of them with his pants down.'

Valar rubbed the back of his neck. 'Our father's involved... they said it was part his request that Shae be found.'

Sati snapped her fingers. 'Your father, what's he up to?'

Gerard Tiann was a minor functionary who'd risen from blue-collar worker to government official through determination and the sacrifice of his family life. The prestige of having both children become capsuleers in the Navy had given him a recent boost to the position of...

'He's on the Security Council.'

A grim smile spread across the Caldari woman's face. 'Sounds to me that someone doesn't like him there. This isn't about you or Shae. Imagine what it would do to him if his daughter was revealed in a public trial to be an outlaw? Even if you managed to salvage some honour from it, your father's credibility would be lost. Quite a dirty family secret, your Shae.'

Val finally allowed himself to massage his burning cheek. 'What a fucking mess. And I walked right into it.'

'You're too naieve, sweetie.' Her voice was gentle, and her smile had softened; she leaned over and kissed his forehead. 'So what now, Valar Tiann?'

The young man's eyes narrowed as he looked at the three-dimensional projection of Genesis slowly turning in the air above the desk.

'My name's Jack. And I'm tired of being played. Let's find out what's really going on.'

Next Chapter

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Dreaded Pirate

The showers in the station were acting up again, giving five minutes of hot water followed by a minute's worth of icy blast. Some sort of pressure issue, they said. Ordinarily, this wouldn't bother me, but this is the one day of the week that I actually spend more than five minutes under the water.

It was dreadlocks-washing day.

I had my hair put in dreads out of sheer rebelliousness after I left the academy and joined the mercs. The picture that shows on my file is old, taken upon graduation, shiny as a new-minted penny, ready to fly in the Federation's honour. That didn't last long, did it?

It's weird, the reactions I get. People see a Minmatar with dreadlocks and they say,'Awesome hair!' But with anyone else -- Gallente, Caldari, I've even met an Amarrian with dreads -- people seem to think they'll smell, or be greasy and unwashed, or... you know, that's just stupid. It's the same damn process, it's the same damn care cycle, that everyone uses to make and maintain their dreadlocks. If someone with dreadlocks smells, it's because that person smells, not their hair. We're all human, it's not like one person has special 'dreadlocks genes' and another doesn't.

I bet nobody asks a Brutor how he gets pod goo out of his dreadlocks. I get that question all the bloody time. Pod goo dissolves when mixed with water; it's why nobody else ends up with their nice, shiny, normal hair matted with dehydrated nutrient muck after a long day.

And then of course people ask to touch your dreads and are amazed that they're in good condition. Biologically speaking, washing your hair every day isn't that great for your hair or your scalp; it's why you have to go buy that fancy conditioner to put all the nutrients back in after you've gone and scrubbed them out. Synthesised chemicals do a nasty job on your biochemistry. My dreadlocks do feel like ropes -- it'd be hard for them not to -- but they're soft, and the ends remind me of my paintbrushes (yes, shock-horror, a pirate who paints. Deal with it).

You make dreadlocks by sectioning hair at the scalp, teasing and backcombing each section together, and rubbing in a mixture of beeswax and vitamins to hold the strands together until the roots begin to grow out and lock. There's no using glue, cow-shit or other questionable materials -- those are vile myths. You can swim with them in, dye or bleach them, trim them short, and no if you no longer want them you don't have to shave your head. They react best if washed once or twice a week, and you just leave them alone the rest of the time. Spend a little time every few months making sure the roots are growing together properly, and they're happy.

Of course, the worst time is the first month of having them, when your scalp wails, 'Heeeeyyyy! You're not taking care of meeeeee! I want a maaassaaage! Where's my soooaap!' It takes time to adjust, after a lifetime of being pampered, and for the first couple weeks it does smell and it does itch and it does look horrible because your hair is full of beeswax and you can't wash it because the water runs off and you wake up with it stuck to your face in the morning and leave residue from it on your clothes. It gets better afterwards, but you have to get accustomed to not smelling like a florists' shop every day.

In the end, despite the cold outbursts, I did get my hair washed. The other women in the locker room gave me the oddest looks when I stepped out squeezing water from my dreads with a towel, and somebody muttered, 'I didn't think you could wash those...'


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Miners, '49-ers

I have a friend who's an industrialist. He's a fantastic guy, was in Atrocitas with me for a bit, and was kind enough to build my second Hyperion for me.

Today, while he was mining in his Hulk in a 0.8 system, a bunch of noobs decided to try to strongarm him.
[13:35:32] Kai Lomu > telling me i have to seek 'mining rights'
Beg pardon?

As far as I can see, it's practically impossible to stake exclusive mining rights to a system in highsec. Unless the corp is prepared to wardec or hire someone to wardec anyone who challenges them, there's really not much they can do about it.

Virtual Eclipse Industrial Technology, from what I can tell, is a corp of half-year-old nubbins getting too big for their britches. They've target-locked Kai using a Mega, a Brutix, a Wreathe and, most recently, a guy from Mercenary Raiders has joined in the fun in a Drake.

I'm actually quite protective of my Kai. So far, VEIT's antics haven't crossed any lines, but they're getting close, if the DEF3 Drake is a part of it. It's tempting to move one of my alts into his corp in order to back him up if need be ^_^

Friday, 5 December 2008

Eve Has Sound?

When I'm not on comms for deadly important reasons (see: combat, purposes for hearing the FC) I usually have some music playing. I live for music: I'm a professionally trained mezzo-soprano, perfect pitch, etc, etc. I get depressed if I've got nothing playing during the quiet times, and what I listen to can affect my mood. On my iTunes, I've set up different playlists with mood themes and specific ones for each story I'm working on.

Eve has its own soundtracks: one for travelling, one for combat. I mostly only use these when I'm on my alts, since they give me the freedom to roleplay a little, to view Eve as if I were an actor in a sci-fi drama.

Well, that is essentially what each of us is ^_^

Eve, for me, has a tribal feel: lots of djembes and doumbeks, irregular rhythms and complex patterns, overlaid with grungy guitars, airy synthesizers and introspective or rebellious vocals as appropriate. Sometimes it goes drum'n'bass or even jungle, sometimes it's more ambient with a bit of a sad touch.

My Eve playlists include tracks like Arianrhod and Sredni Vashtar by Faith and the Muse, Papua New Guinea by Future Sound of London, Above&Beyond's Indonesia, multiple songs from Loreena McKennitt, Hybrid, Fields of the Nephilim, Opeth and The Prodigy, Junkie XL and Dead Can Dance. I use other soundtracks to add an orchestral touch, mostly The Crow, The Fifth Element, Firefly (betcha didn't see that one coming ~_^) and most recently, Iron Man.

What's your Eve Soundtrack?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

An Intrepid Crossing For Mr Frog

I spent this evening out in the cold taking pictures of the city with my bf, so when I finally logged in on Eve, I discovered I was nearly late to a party.

It was to be a nullsec roam... anyone who knows me will know I despise nullsec, and generally tend to take small, cheap ships since I know I'll get caught in a bubble and popped (it doesn't matter if my last few times there haven't ended that way; it's just resignation to the worst-case scenario). However, when I asked in gang what sort of party dress I should wear, the response was, 'Tank'.

Tank? In nullsec? Hokayyy...

I dusted off my sexy Myrmidon. She's not seen much action since the last patch, but if it was tanks we needed, my Volcano Girl was the logical choice -- she can shrug off sentry-fire for up to ten minutes, solo. A quick check of her drone-bay contents reminded me that I'd borrowed the Warriors for my Ishkur, so I restocked and went out to join the others on the undock point aligned for the first gate... then realised the ship wasn't insured. Yes, I insure my ships, if they're worth insuring. Docked, sorted that issue out, and emerged just as the gang was starting off.

Shortly after we were underway, we got a call for help. The Bastards' own Mr Frog, it seems, had decided to go ratting in nullsec and was being stalked by a handful of locals.

Away we went, tacking against solar winds for Mr Frog's ratting system, popping a hapless Raven pilot on the way -- he had the cheek to suggest we 'hang' there on the gate 'for a while', about a nanosecond before his pod suffered the wrath of pirate munitions.

Who says you can't pirate in nullsec, anyway? Ransom is as ransom does...

Our objective to scare off Mr Frog's stalkers was successful -- they ran as our arrival in the system spiked Local by nine, and we pursued for a bit, mostly just for lolz. Then, as Mynxee and Jorge sat on one side of a gate, with the rest of the gang on the other, their Local started to spike.

It was The Blob, stirring itself from its long slumber, congealing slowly from various nearby systems; some of them had even been ratting, to judge from their ship fittings.

But I'll get to that in a minute.

They started reporting the ships coming in on their scanners: Onyx, Ishtar, Ishtar, Malediction, Domi... Their Local spiked at an additional eleven pilots, an Astarte on the gate started locking them, and FC Kulmid ordered everyone back into the system as the rest of the pursuing fleet hit the gate. We ran before them for a couple of systems before deciding to make a stand on the gate in 1W-0KS.

The Onyx and Malediction followed us in. The HIC the first to decloak, dropping a shiny blue bubble of warp-scrambleyness +10 and getting itself called primary in the process. That melted, while the Malediction decloaked, then ran (it returned later after we were all engaged -- probably the smartest pilot of the lot). The rest of the gang from Intrepid Crossing were appearing around us, like in one of those nightmares where evey time you kill a zombie, two more take its place and there seems to be no end to them. Kulmid called the next primary.

I'm not going to go blow-for-blow through the fight, since to be honest I can't really remember. By the time the Zealot was down, I was being locked up by first the Astarte, then one of the Domis. Four IRC losses later, they finally took me down -- it wasn't until the Raven joined in that my tank couldn't carry through. Keep an eye on that fitting; I have two more in my hangars just like her >:)

According to the Bastards killboard (which doesn't show Mynxee's and my losses) the fight looked something like this.

ISK for ISK, number for number, a gang of nine pirates kicked eleven nullsec warriors' arses, and as soon as we realised what the total outcome had been, there was cheering on Vent, followed by laughter as we pored over the setups on the hulls IRC had lost.

And while our remaining ships collected the spoils from the field, IRC came back... with two Thanatos and an Archon.

By that time I was calling it a night, so I missed the Boss Fight and have no idea how it turned out, but since there are no additional losses on the Bastards' boards, I'll assume the carriers were ineffectual and everyone got out safely.

That run was so totally worth logging in for :D

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Eve Life Meets Real Life, Round Two

One of the guys my boyfriend and I run around City of Villains with added us as friends on Facebook earlier this evening. When I went to confirm, somebody else had added me, some total stranger.

He'd left a message, saying he was an Eve player, himself, living in Scotland as well, and that I could drop him a message if I ever felt like flying together.

My first reaction was a fiendish hurrhurrhurr laugh... but since there's nothing I've left visible to strangers on Facebook that indicates I'm an unrepentant rogue (apart from a little comment of 'Flyin' Hellcat, rawr!'), I added him back and responded that if he didn't mind losing sec, he'd be more than welcome to join us in lowsec....

To be continued, eh? ^_^


I'm still working on the Hellcats Pinup Calendar; due to UK Borders shit hitting the Student Visa fan, and a load of coursework which takes priority, it's taking longer than I'd like. Real Life does that. On the other hand, the quality will be so much better for the work not being rushed ^__^

The next chapter of Thicker Than Blood is the one I'm really excited to share. You'll just have to wait to find out why ;)

I changed the banner for my blog. Let me know what you think! I think it's much more 'me', now; I'm quite chuffed with it.

As a side note, I noticed the other day that they've finally fixed the CONCORD billboards. It only took them a sodding year to get around to it :p