Thursday, 30 April 2009

Blog Banter 7 - Roads Not Followed

I've decided to ninja onto this month's Blog Banter. The topic this time comes from CrazyKinux: "What 3 things haven’t you done in EVE and why? Would you be willing to try one day? Why so? Why not?"

What have I NOT done in Eve? Someone in the Bastards once asked me how long I'd been playing since I seemed to have so much experience; what I've not actually done myself, I've absorbed information about from people I know who have... or I've used an alt. So picking three things I've not done yet is actually quite difficult. Let's see....

1. Faction Warfare
My primary occupation as a pirate in Eve keeps me rather too busy to invest time into this. I did consider putting an alt into a FW NPC corp, very, very briefly. Long enough to remember what highsec mercenary work had been like, and to ponder what that would be like coupled with an inability to enter half of Eve's highsec systems without being shot at. Additionally, based on what I've heard from people who have engaged in FW and my own experience fighting FW pilots, what I know of the Faction Warfare style of gameplay simply does not appeal to me.

2. Joined an RP corp
I've done my share of RP, both on this blog where it really just adds depth to my own Eve experience, and in designated chat channels. Being part of a fully-RP corp would, I think, just overwhelm me -- it's stressful enough trying to stay In Character in a simple chat, actually playing in-character would drive me nuts.

3. Trained for a capital ship
The main reason behind this is that I simply haven't the kill for it. Matthias and Abbel were trying to talk me into it ages ago when I was still in Atrocitas, and I said NO! because losing small ships is bad enough, losing battleships hurts, and risking something as expensive as a carrier was not the sort of gamble I could ever feel comfortable with. Of the three things listed here, this is perhaps the only one I might change in the future, but I'd be more likely to use an alt for it to simplify the logistics of moving stuff around.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Little Missile Goes Ballistic

The great thing about free ships is you feel absolutely no compunction against making a kamikaze run.

I was about to take a break and get dinner last night when a bunch of guys from Raype, Inc. started discussing an op into Egmar to party a little with GiS/Com-Star. Egmar is their base system in Metro, so when the idea reached my ears, I knew if they went through with it, it would probably result in an arse-kicking to remember.

It also sounded like fun, and it was obvious a lot of the Bastards who were online felt the same way. Everyone joined comms to Make Plans. In the end, it was decided remote-repairing carriers with a tanked-up fleet would be the best in terms of survivability, but smaller ships were needed to bait and take out GiS's notoriously overused ecm ships.

Having at the time no tanked ships in Evati, I decided my freebie Taranis was the way to go. Suicide inty, after all, wouldn't leave me out of pocket, and I have a stock of spares.

The fleet chased war-target scouts through Arnher, the bait jumped into Egmar, and it was on. I was a minute behind the rest, so I missed the beginning of the fight; by the time I jumped in and my ship's systems caught up, the cyno had been dropped and the flurry around the gate was slowing our ship-systems' response times. Targets were called, and someone asked for fast-ship assist on a Crow which was kiting above the action. A few of us ran at the interceptor, who warped out before anyone achieved a scramble, and we turned back to the main fight.

It quickly became apparent that in the presence of triage-fitted capitals, GiS/Com-Star's tactic was to shoot down as many small, less-survivable targets as possible. The Bastards' fleet, consisting primarily of nothing larger than battlecruisers, was picked off one by one; a Rapier locked me early on, but didn't make any real effort to snare the Little Missile til halfway through the fight, and then it was all over. No sense even asking for repairs, since I'd be dead before the carriers could lock me. They took their time getting around to the Raype, Inc. pilots, who are not at war with them and thus were tanking sentry fire.

Meanwhile, many of the Egmar denizens who started taking more damage than they liked either warped away or deaggressed and jumped through; because of this, I actually ended up on no killmails from the entire fight. Depite that minor disappointment, I had fun. It was the first large-fleet op I've been on for... months. Nearly a year, actually. I'd almost forgot what a rush that could be.

Thanks to the guys from Raype, Inc. for the support, and props to GiS/Com-Star and FrEEdOOm Fighters for making the effort worth every second!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Road Trip

I caught a windfall the other day. I was passing some time chatting in a public channel for one of my former alliances and mentioned that I was having some more interceptors delivered. One of my old mates said, 'Oh! You fly those?' and the next thing I knew, I was receiving a contract for yet another Taranis. Redric couldn't be bothered to fly all the way out from the place he was based in to retrieve the ship, so he'd got it off his inventory list by giving it to someone else to deal with; namely, me.

There was a catch, though: the ship was still in our old hunting-grounds in Kor-Azor. Seventy-six jumps is a long way to go for one ship. I could easily pay a friend to travel the comparatively short run through highsec and bring it back, and I'd be out little more than a million in exchange for a t2 frigate.

But it was early in the day, there was nothing else happening, and I'd not been out there in nearly a year. So I packed a full inty fitting into the hold of an Incursus, plotted my route to Schmaeel, and plugged some good tunes into my personal audio player. A brief map check showed there'd been some heavy casualties in the past hour in Sakht, but I figured any fighting was more likely to be either on the 1-SMEB gate or over the dysprosium moon in there, and would probably have petered out by the time I would be passing through. I let Mynxee know where I'd be disappearing to for the next three hours, and set out.

Travelling around New Eden, despite what many people think, does not actually take that long. I suspect a great deal of the impression of long distances and time-consuming travel comes from people flying on autopilot and/or in slow haulers. In my Incursus frigate, I'd calculated a minute's travel between gates. Unless I went through an exceptionally large system, the trip out and back would take two and a half hours, and I was planning on a cup of coffee in the bar in Schmaeel and a little hunting in the inty on my way home.

The riskiest part of my trip would be at the start, which took me through Egmar, where our neighbours GiS and Com-Star tend to base from. Our pilots had frequently reported gatecamps there, along the route towards Amamake, so I trod cautiously. There was a GiS Phobos on one gate, and another pilot pursued me for a few jumps beyond, but by the time I reached Frerstorn, I was on my own again.

Because I'd arranged my course to keep me as much in low-sec as possible, my route bounced back and forth between Metropolis and Heimatar, with a quick skip through Devoid and the Bleak Lands and another bounce between Sinq to Everyshore and back, until I reached Amarr space. It was a straight route through Domain to Kador, Genesis and then Aridia. Aridia was my biggest problem now, I figured, since there was a nice little highsec pocket in the middle of nowhere which extends clear across the route. The last time I'd tried to avoid that, I'd ended up on a massive detour through 0.0 which had left that particular clone with more than a couple premature silver hairs.

But that clone was long dead somewhere deep in Syndicate, and when I hit the next gate in Van I flew straight through a fight in progress involving several pirates and a hauler of some description. It was tempting to ninja in on the kill, but I had sentry guns and the high-end interceptor fitting in my cargo to think about; I jumped without pause, briefly wondering if that kill would be worth the attackers' efforts.

Aridia, so far from highsec proper and riddled with pockets in which outlaws dare not linger, is a desolate place. You may go several systems before seeing another pilot or tower on scan. So it was to my surprise that I jumped into Yehaba only to notice a pilot who looked vaguely familiar. An instant later, he invited me into a private comms channel.
Shae Tiann > can I help you?
Izo Azlion > Hey there
Izo Azlion > Random question!
Shae Tiann > go for it
Izo Azlion > Did I see you in metro?
Shae Tiann > um, probably
It was about then that I recognised him as the outlaw Arazu pilot who'd given me a start on the Evati gate in Arnher at the very beginning of this trip.
Izo Azlion > I've just popped through a wormhole from there in the last 20 minutes
* Izo Azlion grins
Izo Azlion > Figured I'd seen you there and down here, thought I'd say hey seeing as I had a bit of a deja vu!
* Shae Tiann laughs
We chatted for a bit, mostly about wormholes and the difficulties involved in finding them before signing off to go about our individual business.

In the midst of my chat with Izo, I'd passed through my one highsec jump in Sazilid; the police threat had blared across my comms, momentarily drowning out the other pilot, but it was little more than an automated alarm system and the few police cruisers who appeared were too slow to catch my ship. I've often wondered if they're always deliberately slow to lock the outlaw who chances into highsec and if the MO isn't simply to speed the evildoer from the system before he gets too comfortable. Only in CONCORD-sovereignty systems have the police ever pounced with extreme prejudice.

I'd been right about Sakht having calmed down; there was still an unusually high number of people in the system, and the sheer numbers of wrecks on my scanner gave me a headache. The scavenger in me cringed at the thought of so much tech-2 salvage going to waste.

If Izo had thought he'd had deja vu seeing me twice in an hour, it was nothing compared to how I felt upon entering the kingdom of Khanid. Chitiamem, Nandeza, the idiotic fight in Goudiyah which cost us a fleet of battleships. Arzieh, where I'd spent so much down-time running missions and being called a coward by some null-sec dweller who'd undocked his carrier on us. Vezila, Ashmarir and the Querious gateway in A2-V27 Icefox and I had used on our trip to see the ruins of the first titan. I knew these places so well, it was a wonder I hadn't been through in nearly a year.

I docked in Schmaeel, remembering when we'd first moved to Kor-Azor and I'd opened my first cyno field to bring our gear in, not realising at the time that the system had been taken over by the BeachBoys in the time since Atrocitas had last moved out. Oh, the nights spent sneaking around the towers watching dozens of capital ships returning from fights in nullsec; sitting cloaked a hundred kilometres off the Oguser gate counting fighters from Omega Alliance and Nex Eternus as they came looking for easy targets. I have so many bookmarks around that little cluster of lowsec systems, they don't all fit on one page in my NeoComm.

I checked that the Taranis was in the hangar, ordered her prepped and fitted with what I'd brought, and went in search of a cup of coffee and something to eat. It was a typically Amarrian station, all towering arches and gold accents and people in robes eyeing me suspiciously without once dropping their kindly smiles. I was raised to be polite, and despite having no religious belief to speak of, when an Amarrian bids 'God be with you', I return the favour. As long as they don't try to evangelise, it's all good.

The little verses printed on the take-away coffee-cups are kinda patronising, though.

Most of the pilots in this system were nothing but haulers, I realised. The sort who never seem to take a break, continuously back and forth for some agent or other hauling rubbish and support staff; but then, why would you need a break when you're only flying from point A to point B on autopilot? Might as well get a 'bot to do it all for you, in the end. On my way back to the hangar, I spotted a couple faces whose uniforms sported the BeachBoys insignia; I guess they didn't all move out, after all. They left me alone, and I ignored them.

These systems used to be fucking hazardous. What's happened to this area?

My Taranis was ready by the time I returned, and I wibbled a little over a name for her -- I dislike flying a ship without a proper name. It's like denying each unnamed hull its soul, and without a good, fitting name, you can't trust it to return your love and respect. Eventually, I called her Little Missile, despite lacking launchers of any description; the Taranis' DPS output is high enough that I felt the name was justified.

I'd intended to go hunting on my way back, but every system was either depressingly empty, every pilot was docked, or any likely targets were on gates. The one cruiser I attempted to tackle in a belt was already aligned and was hitting warp as I landed; he had too much experience, and I mused on how frustrated enemies must have been trying to nail down my anti-Serpentis Myrmidon in Syndicate.

Egmar, when I went through, was hosting what appeared to be a mining operation, but I'd had enough by then and merely wanted to get the Taranis back to my hangar in Evati. Nobody seemed to have even noticed I'd been gone; quiet day all around, but it had been a good morning for a road-trip.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Leaf on the Wind

We had all seen the broadcast. I knew what it meant. I'd wondered why he'd felt the need to come all the way out to Evati the night before, and if his suggestion that he 'take me out' had had more than one meaning, or merely been one last attempt to 'save' me from the brewing storm. He'd wanted me to go pop Amarrians with him. Sorry, Roc; that's not the way I dance, and I don't need saving.

Mynxee has been mostly absent the last couple days since. I hope she's alright.

They'd made a try for Hallan first. That really struck a nerve; I like the boy and feel a certain sisterly protectiveness towards him. He'd been one of our first gang-mates when the corp was just starting up, and it was always reassuring to know he had my back. Like the rest of us, Hallan is a survivor, and it had been a relief when my girls and I finally located him. He'd been a mess, and unconscious, but we'd dumped him into his pod, hooked him up, and towed him into space in order to save his life by killing him.

The irony; it burns.

It wasn't directly Roc's fault. He couldn't have known the effect his words would have on others... could he? He couldn't be blamed, but it was hard to not want to point a finger to the bloodstains on the floor and ask, 'Is this what you wanted? Do you see what you've done?' Did he even know? Would he care?

It feels like the world's pulled an about-face while I was off visiting my brother.

The Bastards and the Hellcats were going strong. Our recent recruitment drives had brought some impressive new talents into our extended 'family', including Tavon Wulfe -- one of my old mates from my early days pirating with UWoF and Atrocitas -- and Jmarr. I had little fear for our future in Evati and Minmatar space at large: adaptation comes naturally to us, a survival trait carefully cultivated by those who choose to operate free of the rules and restrictions imposed by the social hierarchies of Empire space.

Wraithlike, silent, I flit through system after system, my own private roam. Now here, now gone. No targets tonight which I can take on easily in my interceptor, but the time will come.

More and more, I was feeling my wings stretch, the swirling tattooed pattern long-healed on my back still making its presence felt. It was my own design, and somewhere in the back of my head the inked lines felt like they meant something... represented something.

I'm not a very spiritual person, but our most primitive instincts recognise the power of symbols.

Whether he liked it or not, Roc had become a symbol. But freedom is a scary thing; sometimes it's more comfortable to just let the tides pick you up and carry you, rather than fighting through them for the open water beyond. It's easier, it avoids conflict, it makes difficult decisions simple by allowing you to relinquish the responsibility to others.

It also gets you nowhere.

Becoming a symbol would be a lot for a simple soldier like Roc -- not that I think of him as simple, but a soldier was all he really wanted to be -- to deal with. I could see why he might succumb to the demands of others rather than telling them to go fuck themselves. Which is what I'd have done, but I've always felt society needed to take more responsibility for itself rather than foisting it onto the shoulders of the unwilling.

The gate fires, dropping me into the next system not seven kilometres from an Electus Matari HAC. Vagabond vs Taranis, that would be interesting. But she jumps out without waiting to see what's come through, leaving me free to resume my wander.

Triple Digits

Hot damn.

I've been trying to think up what to do for my hundredth blog post here. It's not the first time I've hit a big number; I still have a LiveJournal I keep for RL stuff which is edging on the 2000 mark. As far as I can recall, I didn't even notice number 1000 going by, there.

If that says one thing about me, it's that I write a lot. A lot of those LJ posts are the usual angst and babble, but amongst those, there are stories of varying lengths, even transcripts of dreams which inspired story concepts, and a lot of old artwork. It's both fun and cringe-worthy to look back at all that old stuff.

One of the biggest problems any writer -- or artist, for that matter -- faces is the simple situation of being too close to their own work. By this, I mean that while we know what's going on and how it should be interpreted, our readers(/viewers) might not; unfortunately, without telling at least one outsider all the secrets, the creator won't know this. This is why professional copyeditors exist, and I'm lucky to know a few personally, but at the end of the day I'm more likely to email my mum asking, 'Does this make sense?'

Blogging is a unique way of writing, in that most bloggers don't send their work to editors before publishing. Blogs are personal, potentially inflammatory, and largely seem to work best when given thought, written in a stream-of-consciousness rush, and only run through a spell-checker before the Publish button gets pushed. When bloggers get messages enthusing about our work, the standard reactions are a combination of pride, surprised pleasure and bemusement, because while we enjoy what we do, we don't necessarily expect people to read it or enjoy it.

If there is one question every writer wants to ask their audience in hopes of recieving a wholly truthful and thought-out answer, it is: 'What did you think of it?' What struck the reader as being good and bad about the work? What did they like; what was confusing; what didn't seem to work? And most importantly: why? The writer can't answer these questions; not unless they are prepared to let a piece sit wholly untouched for months until the memory of writing dims enough to let them create afresh. I have done this a few times, out of necessity, and it's not the most productive way to work. But it's often difficult to obtain honest and concise answers; too many people are afraid to criticise someone else's work, even constructively.

This is my hundredth post on this blog, and as the creator I would like to know what you think. Which posts were your favourites? Which did you like the least? Why? Moreover, why do you read this stuff, this random Eve-fangirl chatter of mine? How did you stumble across it? (I do tend to forget I'm on the Eve Blog Pack, now, but some people got here from other places.) Are there any questions or requests you have for me?

I'm not expecting an essay, mind; just a few thoughts that might help me make my work even a little bit better. Blogs rarely live long without an audience, after all, and while the content is entirely the writer's choice, the audience has the right to respond.

Thank you all for reading; here's a funny cat ^_^

Friday, 17 April 2009


The system resolves around me and I let out a crude and wholly involuntary curse. Gatecamp city: forty-six people in the Local channel, twelve of them sitting on the gate I've just jumped in through. There's a Phobos by the gate with the shimmering globe of a null-warp field making moiré patterns of the stars around us, an array of ships between cruiser and battleship class, and -- what worries me most -- two interceptors orbiting the gate at top speeds.

I'm out in the middle of nowhere, alone, in an Arazu, and I've just stumbled through somebody's back door.


In the past, my Helios has never been caught jumping into a gatecamp, but the recon is larger and slower, and a Taranis scores a lucky bump off my engines as I angle to fly down in relation to the gate. Swearing as my cloak drops and lock-tones make my ears ring, wondering if I can bribe my way out of this one -- I doubt it: being flashy in nullsec is an unconditional ticket for the Clone-Vat Express, but most of these guys are blinky, too -- I'm picking my targets based on threat level and prepping for a mad dash back to the gate when the Local comms flare to life.


It's the Taranis pilot, and after a moment I realise why he sounds familiar. 'Jack, you nut! What the hell?'

He laughs. 'Stand down, we'll set you temp-blue so you can dock.'

It's been a while since I've last seen Jack. He's hard to keep track of, and has changed his name yet again; the man's learned a lot about staying under the radar in the last year. His outlaw status surprises me, and I have no doubts there's quite a story behind it, and that I'll get to hear the whole thing in detail.

Towers don't have much docking space, so I leave my pod and clean up in my ship, then let them shuttle me over. Jack meets me at the hangar, all foxy features, fashionable clothes and boyish good looks; his coppery hair flops rakishly to one side, nearly hiding the tattoo running over his cheekbone.

He grins broadly and I throw my arms around him. 'Dammit, Valar, don't fucking scare me like that again,' I whisper in his ear. My little brother gives me a bone-crushing squeeze around the ribs and kisses my cheeks.

'Next time, call ahead.'

Jack takes me to the bar his corpmates have installed in the upper levels of the tower. 'So what are you doing out here, anyway? You really are the last person I'd'a expected. You're out in Minmatar space now, aren't you?'

'The lowsec route is stupidly quiet, especially since all those wormholes opened up. And how'd you know I was out there, anyway?' I thank him as he passes my drink over.

'Your whadd'yacallit, blog... journal-thing.'

'You read that?!' I cover my face with one hand as Jack laughs. 'Well, I had some free time, figured I'd come out and see if you were still based out here.'

Nodding cheerfully, he wraps his arm around my shoulders. 'We are, we are. And doing well, too. Nobody cares about this end of New Eden, but we do well enough to maintain ourselves.'

We find a table near the back and Jack lights a cigarette off the candle in the centre. I wrinkle my nose at him. 'You did not pick up that guy's disgusting smoking habit.'

'It's herbal, sis. A lot of people use them here because the scrubbers need replacing.'

'So you fill the air with smoke, speeding the rate of filter clogging. Ingenious.'

He pulls a face at me and sips his drink. 'I see you're still flashy.'

'I see you've tasted blood, too. I thought you were supposed to be the well-behaved one.'

Rolling his eyes, Jack said, 'We're none of us perfect citizens. Even Dad rebels in his own way. Have you seen the latest?'

'He's going to need to smuggle himself out of the Federation, one of these days.'

Laughing, we tap the rims of our glasses together. Dad's political antics are well-known, and Mum's side of the family has never approved.

'Actually...' Jack hedges a moment, and I eye him carefully. He's afraid I won't approve of what he's about to tell me, so I tap his leg under the table with the toe of my boot.

'Out with it.'

He sighs a plume of incense-laden smoke. 'We've made a deal with the local Serpentis. Been working with them for a while, that's why we're all starting to go outlaw.'

'Serpentis.' I offer my opinion in the form of a snort and take a swallow of whatever it is Jack had bought me; it's pleasantly sweet-sour, reddish-orange and tingles with alcohol. 'They treating you well?'

'Better than the Federation was.'

'Define 'better'.'

He falls silent for a bit, drawing thoughtfully on his cigarette. I can't help being a cynic about factions and larger organisations; what's good for them is rarely good for their independent supporters in the long run.

'Well, a percentage of our profits go to the organisation... we run patrols for them, sometimes with them. It's weird, though, if you're reported working with them enough, you get your standings dropped despite being out here.' Jack taps ash from the end of his smoke, then rubs the side of his jaw where a new scar has creased the skin. 'It's not always fun, the last one got a bit... uh, rough.'

'My baby brother, doing naughty, unsociable things? Scandalous. Have you consulted Auntie Gita yet? She always knows just what you should be doing.'

He shudders. 'And how to do it. Our cousins haven't killed her yet?'

'I heard from Arris last month, he's told her he's taking his doctorate from CAS and will be out of reach for a couple years.'

'What's he really doing?'

'Run off to Palas with a pretty young thing whom Auntie disapproves of strongly and thinks she's forbidden him to see.'

Jack folds, stifling his laughter with difficulty. 'I love our family, we're so fucked-up.' He grinds the stub of the cigarette out on the chemical layer of the ashtray, leaving just the lightest hint of cloves and sandalwood on the air.

I sip my drink again and grin cheekily at him. 'Speaking of pretty young things, how's it going with that Caldari girl?'

'Um.' Jack looks a little embarrassed. 'It's, uh... it's a guy, actually. Hidoro's, uh... yeah.'

After a moment spent waiting, I prompt, 'Well, is he treating you alright?'

Spluttering a little on his drink, Jack laughs and puts his glass down, cupping his hands around its bowl and looking down shyly. 'Voids, I thought you might... It-it's good, things are good. We've been together a few months, it's looking like it might last a while.'

It makes me smile to see him looking happy again; last time I saw Jack things had hit the fan pretty hard and he'd barely avoided being dragged down with so many others. 'Well, he'd better take good care of you. He'll regret it if he doesn't.'

Jack gives me a look of mock-terror which becomes a devilish once-over glance. 'What about you and that Sansha boy, huh?' he asks slyly. 'You two are hardly being quiet about things but you both seem to be totally in denial anyway. When are you going to actually do anything?'

I tilt my glass towards him and counter primly, 'What we do in our private time is none of your business.'

'You make it everyone's business when you start blogging about it, Shae.'

'And you wonder why neither Jorge nor I say anything about it.' I grin at Jack as he pouts in disappointment.

'So how long will you be around for? It'd be good to actually spend some time with you, you were gone so fast last time.'

I shrug. 'I told Mynx I'd be gone for a week, so a few days, at least.'

'Aw, stay the week.' Jack gives me the big puppydawg-eyes look that always made Mum cave in. 'I've missed hanging out with you.'

I glance around the bar, giving a cursory nod to a couple of Jack's corp-mates who wave as they recognise me. 'Alright, then. Know any good clubs?'


OOC: I thought it would be fun to come up with an IC reason for Shae to be away for a week. I've been online in the evenings from my laptop, but it doesn't run well enough for me to consider pvp, or even anything more strenuous than flying around. Plotting a killing spree for when I get home tomorrow evening, I have lost time to make up for!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Thicker Than Blood: Chapter Seven

Three weeks ago...

Reflected sunlight dazzled from the clouds blanketing the planet below and bounced playfully from the metal skin and green-glazed domes of the Gallente station parked above one of the small moons. A corona of ships and maintainence drones flitted about the vast structure, nurturing and sustaining it.

As if on cue, a number of ships jetted forth from the station exit, a fleet of all sizes and types from gnatlike frigates to lumbering battleships, slow-moving industrial haulers and their faster blockade-runner counterparts. More and more emerged, forming up in a cloud in front of the station.

Plugged in at the helm of his Ishkur, Valar checked the load of liquid ozone in his cargo for the fifth time. The Blackball Rocketeers had recently negotiated a Non-Aggression Pact with a larger alliance which held territory in a quiet corner of null-security space, in exchange for two systems the corporation could use for construction and mining bases. At the meeting the week before, they had set in motion preparations for moving in, and Val hadn't slept well at all knowing that today he would be providing the cynosural field the corp's only jump-freighter would use to bring in the fuel for the six towers contained within their phalanx of transports and haulers.

It was a tense operation: the haulers were particularly vulnerable, and their contents would be a fantastic prize for an opportunistic pirate. The Rocketeeers' entire complement of combat pilots had turned out to provide security.

Flaschmann's voice cut through the murmur of pilots' voices. 'Everyone clear comms, align to planet three. Embryn, Jackal, go on ahead and check out Covryn; Emmy, continue into Cumemare.'

The two forward scouts vanished under covert-ops cloaks as they cleared the crush of traffic and warped off. The rest of the fleet surged as Flasch's warp caught them, driving the convoy towards a safe-spot bookmark between planets.

'Fleet align to Covryn. Scouts, report.'

'Covryn is clear.'

'Cume gate, Cov is clear. Jumping.'

It was the largest non-military operation Val had ever been part of, and the level of discipline surprised him. Everyone seemed to understand their roles; there was little in the way of confirmational chatter. If the convoy came under attack, the smaller ships would webify the haulers, reducing their warp times to safespots which had already been made in the week beforehand in each system along the route; each industrial ship was equipped with a cloaking device to keep the convoy safe from probing eyes should the combat fleet be forced to fall back.

As the primary cyno pilot, Val was expected to avoid combat if at all possible and to warp to a secondary safespot which had been made for ships without cloaks. One of the haulers carried enough liquid ozone and a cyno-gen for another ship to fill his role if necessary, but that would rely upon having a place to dock -- either a ship maintainance array should one of the towers be erected successfully, or at the nearest station.

The few jumps through lowsec were uneventful; the Rocketeers' scouts had checked the area out and identified a day and time during which that part of space was quiet. It was the long run deep into nullsec which had everyone on-edge. Once the convoy reached the NAP territory, they would be guarded by the guns of their new allies, but the twenty or so jumps between were wholly unprotected and potentially hostile. Secondary and even tertiary routes had been painstakingly plotted in the eventuality of the convoy being compromised.

'TXW is clear and empty. Continuing to 5-F.'

Nervously Val ran a system-prep, then paused. Opening comms to his assault frigate's small support crew, he subvocalised, 'Mims, run a manual turret check for me, would you? I'm getting some dodgy readings, I think they may not be connected properly.'

'That's not possible...' Miriam paused. 'Sir, the fittings haven't been touched since the Firestorm was fitted.'

'I know. Can you check it please?'

His commander sighed. 'Voids forbid you make us work, here.'

Val chuckled. 'It's what I pay you for.'

The fleet materialised on the far side of the gate; haulers aligned ponderously and warped, the combat ships trailing momentarily before their greater warp-speeds flung them ahead of their charges.

'Captain Rackham... sir, you were right.' Mims looked worried in the small video-feed projected onto Val's retinas. 'The connections to the turrets have been tampered with sometime since the last systems check two days ago. It's.... it looks deliberate, so that cursory checks would show them functioning perfectly.'

Feeling a chill steal through him, Valar asked, 'Have you checked the cyno-gen?'

'Yeah, it's fine. We added it this morning, there was no chance for someone to...' She stared into the feed, eyes unfocussed and momentarily lost in thought. 'Is someone trying to get you killed, sir?'

'Hell if I know. Run a full system diagnostic. I'm changing the maintainence queue effective immediately, I want connection checks twice daily, when you first come on-duty and before you log for the night. Any discrepancies you find, leave them untouched until I can get a look at them.' Unnoticed within the enclosed capsule, his perceptions expanded to those of the ship he commanded, Val's brow furrowed. 'Something's not right here.'


Putting ship comms on hold, Val sent a request for a private word with Flasch off-comms. A text-box popped up in his HUD.
[Sup, Jack?]

[My turrets have been tampered with. We're running checks right now, but I'm out of any fights.]
There was a long pause as Flasch coordinated with the scouts and sent the fleet toward the next gate.
[Sry, duty calls. Hope all goes well, stick with the convoy if we get into trouble. Once we get a tower set up, dock and we'll check things out. Don't let your crew fix anything.]

[We can't, anyway, don't have the equipment for it.]
Val skimmed the report Mims had just logged from the diagnostic.
[Looks like it's turrets and MWD out, everything else is sound.]

[All you need for now. We'll check it out.]

They closed convo and Val concentrated on staying with the fleet, tucking his worries away for later, his father's warning that he'd made himself a target cycling through his head.


When Sati answered comms, she was scowling fiercely, traces of frustrated tears smeared acoss her face. Her expression lightened when she saw who it was on the other end. 'Hey sweetheart.'

'Hey you. What's got you upset?' Val curled up in his desk chair, clasping his arms around his knees and focussing on his lover's image in the video feed. Sati rarely cried, or even showed distress; ordinarily she took the good and the bad in stride.

'Oh.' She wiped at her cheek with the heel of her hand. 'That bastard agent... I turned down the last mission he offered me, and when I went in today he acted like we've not been working together for the last year. That--' she used a Caldari word Val didn't know, but he was certain it was offensive '--he was smirking as he suggested I didn't have the standings to work for him. He wiped my records! And he sat there and he smiled at me because he knows I can't do anything about it!'

She raged for a little longer, while Val made sympathetic noises and wished he was back in Stacmon to hold her. After a bit, Sati slumped back in her chair with a sigh.

'I'm sorry... you called, and here I am venting...'

'Hey, are you kidding? I'd rather you tell me about stuff instead of pretending everything's perfect, you know.'

The smile that crossed her face made his heart melt. 'You're sweet, Jack. How'd the move go?'

'Oh, the move was great.' Val shifted position in his seat; neither he nor his sister had ever been comfortable in standard chairs. 'We got the towers in and up safely. Cyno nearly worked the first time but somebody spotted the freighter at the station and it had to dock. A gang camped it for a couple hours before they got bored and left. At least we had more than enough liquid ozone for a second cyno field.'

Sati cheered up at that. 'That's great! How's the area look?'

'Quiet. There's an ice belt in the other system out here, it's.... wow. Just amazing. You should see it! The miners are really happy.'

The Caldari woman chuckled. 'I bet.' She looked at Val a moment, then said, 'What's up, Jack?'

'I can't hide anything from you, can I?' Valar shook his head. 'Somebody messed with my ship, probably last night after I turned in.'

'What?!' Sati looked alarmed.

'Nothing serious, but we're checking on it. The connections to my blasters and emm-dubbleyu-dee were snipped rather precisely. We've checked it and it's being fixed.'

He could practically see the thoughts processing behind Sati's eyes as she stared into the distance. 'Really... That would have to be deliberate, if the startup check didn't see it immediately. Have you checked with your hangar crew?'

'I will do once I get home. We'll be out here a few more days getting settled in, probably a week.'

Sati pouted a little. 'I miss you already. Don't be too long...'

'I promise.' Vai smiled softly. 'I'll be back before you know it.'

'Alright, Jack, I should let you go, huh? I love you.' She kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed them to the screen at her end of the feed; Val responded in kind.

'I love you, too.'

Next Chapter

Saturday, 4 April 2009

(Soon to be) AFK for a week

My boyfriend and I will be off in the Netherlands from the 11th to the 18th this month. It's essentially a 'Meet the Family' visit (Chu is Dutch), but we will undoubtably have some free time, so if anyone wants to meet for drinks in Amsterdam, give me a shout ingame ^_^

Friday, 3 April 2009

What Would Martha Stewart Say?

My friends, I am distraught!

It is, of course, of the utmost importance when expecting company that the host/hostess should have the parlour cleaned to sparkling, with carafes of tea and coffee already prepared for when the guests arrive so that they will not be kept waiting in expectation of refreshment. One hopes that the host/hostess shall as well have prepared an assortment of cakes or biscuits to offer, should the guest be hungry as well.

Thus it was with some distress I discovered us to be utterly unprepared for when representatives of GiS arrived at our station earlier this morning. Not only was the parlour still an utter shambles from the party last night ('what party' you ask? why, the party we have every night!), but we were out of coffee, the tea-tin had been used to prop up one leg of the coffee-table after it had been broken, someone had swapped the salt for the sugar as a belated April Fool's prank, and the milk carton had been drunk from. Not only that, but the revellers had consumed the last of the biscuits we usually save for company!

This will not do! I tell you, we shall be the gossip of the cluster if this continues! Already people say in Bei that the Bastards could not even step forward to greet GiS, so ashamed we were at the state of our parlour, and heaven forbid we should have consumed our own cake in an uncharacteristic act of gluttony!

...I still think 'cookies' should be made an ingame item. YOU try luring the little boys with sweeties which don't exist and see how far you get!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Visitor

I'd been back in Evati for a day or so, having been coerced into jump-cloning back by both Hallan and Mynxee for a small-ships roam which, while being rather uneventful, had led to the bizarre opportunity of shooting at someone else's tower at the invitation of the attackers and -- I think -- victims alike. It was rather hard to tell, everyone in that system had been marked red.

Flopped out on the couch in my apartment, which had been practically stripped bare in my sudden move to Molden Heath, only the basic necessities left, I found myself missing Asa's purring warmth which usually nestled behind my knees when I curled up with a book as I was just then. I used to read more when I was younger. I also used to have no perception of the relative quality of my reading material; age and experience have thankfully remedied THAT.

Someone knocked at the door, and I turned the music down as I rose and crossed the room; not everyone appreciates the rhythmic basslines I like to put on when I'm just looking to relax. Mixed in with the professional tracks were a few pieces I had created myself when I was younger and had time to play around with synthesisers; while I could listen to them, it was a little embarrassing for me to know other people could be listening to the stuff I'd been idly playing with ten years before.

When I saw who was at the door, I couldn't conceal my surprise. 'I thought you'd moved out, too.'

Looking shy, Jorge shrugged. 'I was just passing through.'

'Oh were you.' I gave him a teasing grin, knowing the system he'd moved to was well removed from this part of Metropolis. 'Sure you're not just following me around New Eden?'

He made a valiant attempt to appear nonchalant, but the light flush in his cheeks was giving the game away. 'Why would I do that, Shae?'

It was the way he said my name that made me look at him closer. Jorge hadn't been wearing his cowl regularly for a while and seemed to have become accustomed to people actually being able to see his face; while still hesitant to show his feelings openly, he had an innate talent for subtle expression which made him fascinating to watch.

'You want to come in?'

He looked up quickly, giving a tiny, hopeful smile. 'If I'm not interrupting anything...'

'Of course not, hon.' I let the door close quietly behind him, and he paused just inside the room, glancing around.

'Where's Asa?'

'Back in Eg. She's going to have to go on a diet when I get back; my girls spoil her utterly rotten. You want some tea?'

'Well, actually...' Jorge caught my right hand as I started to walk past him. 'I was hoping... we could talk?'

Strikingly pale blue eyes looked into mine; his grip on my hand was warm and gentle. I turned to face him, secretly glad I didn't have to crane my neck so much to look up at him as I normally did with most men. 'What's up, Jorge?'

He took a deep breath and glanced down at our entwined fingers. 'I... when I, um, broke down. You helped me a lot... more than I thought you would. If it wasn't for you, I think... I might have gone back. To the Nation, I mean.' Jorge looked up again, something earnest in his face that made me feel dizzy for a moment. 'Please, tell me if I'm wrong, but... you wouldn't have done so much if you... didn't...' He finished in an embarrassed mumble, looking away, 'If you didn't... feel something... for me.'

I blinked at him, feeling like I was really seeing this young man for the first time. Of course I cared for Jorge; I care for most people, unless somebody's done something to make me feel they're not worth my time. He was sweet, and watching him begin to really experience life after the trauma he'd been through had made me feel more protective than normal towards him. That he'd followed me back and forth between Metropolis and Molden Heath meant that we'd had a lot of time just during travelling to talk and get to know one another better.

But did I feel more? Reaching up with my free hand, I touched his face gently, drawing his eyes up to meet mine again. The soul I found behind the blue was young, despite everything, and so willing to risk so much to approach me. Jorge hadn't changed since he'd first opened himself to me: he'd just grown more comfortable with who he was.

His shoulder-length dark hair felt silky as I tucked my fingers through it, pulled his head down to mine, and kissed him gently on the lips. Distantly, I felt his arms wrap around me and pull me close, and for a timeless space we were lost in one another.

At last, Jorge pulled back, his breath shaky as he looked into my eyes. A hesitant smile played about his lips as he murmured, 'It's too bad this is just an April Fool's joke we're playing on everyone reading this.'