Saturday, 31 October 2009

External Publishing v 2.6

His Zealot's shields were completely gone, and lasers were nibbling at the edges of his armour when Alistair's comms crackled to life.

'Hey, Al, would you do us a favour?'

'Good to hear you, Syl. You're not back in Dal, are you?'

'Our tower in Ebodold. We're going to step this up a bit. Open the door for us, would you? We're too chunky to squeeze through the gates.' Sylar sounded gleeful. Alistair started to grin.

'I did warn you about the food there, didn't I?' The Amarrian pilot reopened his fleet comms. 'Commander Hatthro, notify the fleet, I'm lighting a cynogen, could use a bit of defense.'

'You're what?!'

'Captain Starke, you are go in three, two, one...' Alistair activated the generator, the load of liquid ozone in his cargo hold burned up in an instant as the miniature wormhole appeared beside his ship.

'Avion! What the hell...?' Tiia demanded, just as the jump portal flared twice.

Two looming shapes the colour of dried blood appeared in the midst of the battle, massive hulls scattering smaller ships which hadn't got out of the way in time as they claimed the space. Cherry's blade-shaped, monolithic Naglfar, towering above the furious battle, turned with a terrible purpose, turrets rising and settling back as she acquired a target-lock on the Amarrian fleet's dreadnaught. This was going to be a slugfest.

'Let 'er rip, sister, I got your back.' Sylar felt the deadly hum of his new ship's systems building up around him, awakened by the adrenalin flooding his body. The shriek of Cherry's gleeful laughter was the sound of immense autocannons unleashing their full force upon the enemy.

Tiia's voice echoed in his ear, filled with an odd mix of relief, surprise, and anger. 'Why didn't you tell us what you had planned, you bastard?'

'It was a last-minute idea. We didn't know if we'd need these or not; I was only going to use this girl to lift the colonists out. ' With a thought, Sylar commanded fighters to launch into the fight, instructing them to focus on what remained of the Amarrian support as he brought heavy energy neutraliser batteries to bear on the closest ship: the Reclamation fleet's carrier. 'Why so surprised? Just because we specialise in wolfpack doesn't mean we can't field anything bigger.' His Hel-class mothership locked onto the Archon, and Sylar asked Hatthro, 'You got enough left to take out the carrier and dread, or are we gonna have to do it ourselves?'

The Ammatar fleet's commander swore at him. 'Next time, I trust you'll let us know before you pull a stunt like this. I've lost half my men; we could have used your caps a lot sooner.'

Instead of retreating, the Amarrian ships seemed to throw themselves at the mixed Minmatar fleet with a frenzy borne of desperation to remove the threat of the Matari capitals before all else. Draining the capacitor energy from the smaller carrier as fast as the Amarrian Guardians could replenish it, Sylar felt his shields begin to prickle from lasers and a peppering of missiles as the remaining Amarrian fleet focussed fire. Two of his fighter pilots went down, felled by Amarrian drones, and he recalled the rest, launching a fresh group as soon as the first had docked.

The Archon's armour passed its peak, and the enemy fleet had redoubled their efforts to defend it. Someone somewhere was probably cursing as the mistake was realised: the defense fleet was better-prepared than they had expected, and with their fleet already decimated, it was only a matter of time before their own capital ships fell.

A volley of torpedo-fire struck the Archon from the sky like the hand of an angry god; before the blue-white glare had faded, Sylar was already focussing his mothership's massive energy neutraliser batteries on the Revelation which was pounding down on Cherry's armour. 'Let's see you use those lasers without any cap, mate,' he muttered, unaware that his words went out over the open comms. The Archon's fighters, disoriented by the carrier's destruction, drifted about the field, and Starke ordered his own flight to focus fire at will amongst the remaining fleet.


In the caves on the planet below, Nareen huddled under her father's worn old jacket. It was cold in here, and damp seeped through the rough stone walls and floor, leaving a chilly slick on her skin. The girl glanced around at the gathered mass of her people, all crouching or sitting on blankets on the floor to avoid the low ceiling. The adults had said they couldn't make fires because the heat would be seen by the slavers, and Nareen was starting to wonder how her great-grandparents had lived this way.

A scuffle toward the entrance brought several people upright, ready to stand. Someone cracked the shield on a lantern, revealing Scall staggering in, the woman somewhat blinded from the change from light to darkness, her hand on the ceiling to prevent her banging her head.

'They're here! On the radio, I heard it. They've destroyed most of the Amarr ships, and the slave carrier. Come on!'

Stepping blinking into the sunlight filtering through the trees, Nareen felt someone take her hand; she turned to see Komar looking excited and terrified.

'It's Space Capt'n Starke, 'Ree. I tol' you he- he could do anythin'.' He tugged her forward and up the hill towards the treeline, following Scall into the open.

The middle-aged woman pointed up into the sky, away from the low morning sun, 'Look, you can just see them!' Against the sooty blue, flecks and glimmers of light could be seen. It was impossible to tell what was happening at this distance, but as they watched, a flash brighter than the others appeared, then again, then--

Everyone gasped as something lit up, a small second sun flaring in the sky. Scall began to yell with triumph. 'They did it! They did it! Do you see?!'

Nikitta appeared at Nareen's other elbow. 'What do you think's happening?'

Komar released the taller girl's hand and ran forward, waving his toy Rifter about in the air. 'Capt'n Starke blew 'em up! Boom! Like that!'

The colonists hung back cautiously among the trees, uncertain what would happen next as Scall returned to the wrecked Apocalypse. After a while, five dark shapes appeared in the air, descending carefully to the fields just beyond the limits of the houses. A few minutes later, Scall returned with a wiry Sebiestor man dressed like a soldier following closely.

'I'm Corporal Vahann, I'm in charge of the drop you see over there. Those ships will take you and your possessions up to our mothership for transport off-world.' He looked around the gathered crowd among the trees, taking in homespun clothing, rough animal leathers and hard-worn yet determined faces. 'This is a hazardous system for an undefended colony like this, but whether you choose to leave or remain is up to you.'


SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE strides through the halls of his mothership, running a hand over his new short-cropped hair. Guarded by the Ammatar and renegade TLF fleets, he feels safe enough to park the ship in empty space and leave his capsule.

There is business to discuss.

He is followed by TIIA EDGRIET and MIRITHAK HATTHRO, along with the Nefantar commander's small honour-guard. The trust between the Matari forces and the Ammatar is still thin and laced with suspicion, but HATTHRO has the authority of his tribe's leaders and EDGRIET has been contacted by THE GENERAL to endorse the opening of diplomatic relations in this backwater system.

The group enters the assembly bay, a cavernous room usually used for mustering ground-forces near the dropship hangar. Something buzzes through the air and strikes STARKE's leg before tumbling to the floor with a whirr; he stops with a puzzled frown to pick it up. A smile forms on his face as he turns the clockwork wooden Rifter over in his hands, recognising the hand-painted sunburst design. The captain looks up to see three terrified children staring up at him from behind a pile of bales and boxes, all the Ubtes colonists' worldly possessions.

STARKE: (still smiling)
Is this yours?

EDGRIET peers curiously at the toy, then grins and looks out across the room at the ten thousand worried people gathered there. HATTHRO looks calculating, then looks to EDGRIET and nods. The TLF commander, her rank restored and gleaming at her collar, returns the nod, then steps forward.

EDGRIET: (in a clear voice which carries well through the room)
My people... my family. (she smiles) It's been far too long, and I truly wish the circumstances were better. (she sobers) We have lost our home. The land we have worked all our lives, the houses we have built with our bare hands. We are orphans of the cluster, as our grandparents and great-grandparents once were.

As she speaks, the people begin to cluster around, hushing children so that the woman can be heard by all.

We cannot go back. I wish we could, but the Amarr know about the settlement now, and will return. This leaves you with a choice. The Republic will welcome each and every one of you: rehome you, offer you jobs, education, medical care. It's an easier life than what you're accustomed you. There are better opportunities.

She glances to the side, then waves her hand to indicate HATTHRO.

This man has a different offer for you; he represents the Nefantar tribe. The Ammatar have an interest in becoming a part of the Republic once again, and in good faith, they are willing to offer you places on another planet they are already colonising. What they offer is much like what we had on Ubtes VIII, working alongside Nefantar volunteers. You will be offered equal standing with their people, with respect given to our own customs; and the world is closer to the centre of their domain, and much better protected.

A ripple of voices runs through the room as the refugees look to one another, seeking guidance. HATTHRO steps forward.

The offer is genuine. Your skills and experiences will greatly benefit our own colonists, and the Nefantar will not reduce you to the slaves your ancestors once were. No ill will shall be held if you choose to return to the Republic.

A man steps forward from the crowd; it is RISGA, NAREEN's father, who was elected speaker for the refugees before they boarded the dropships. He stands tall, proud in his rough-woven clothing and hand-made leather boots before the Republic and Ammatar representatives.

I speak for all of us gathered here. We would prefer to remain on our world, if such a thing were possible, though we realise the extent of the danger. A life in the Republic would be comfortable, yes, but we do not want an easy life. Some may choose that for themselves, and the rest of us wish them well. But as a whole, we will accept the offer of the Nefantar, provided that we are permitted contact with the Republic at any time.

The Nefantar commander nods.

Of course. The planet we offer you is Abha VII, and not much different from Ubtes VIII. You will be given tools and equipment, as well as a modern communications system...

As he speaks, STARKE murmurs to EDGRIET.

Is this what you expected from your people?

EDGRIET: (nodding)
Charity is not something we accept easily, Captain. Better to be granted only the barest necessities so that we can make our own way.

The Brutor captain nods, then glances over to where the three children still watch him. Crouching, he holds the toy Rifter out towards them. NIKITTA, NAREEN and KOMAR approach shyly, and KOMAR accepts his toy back without removing his eyes from STARKE.

EDGRIET: (smiling)
Unless I'm very much mistaken, you're my nephew, Niki, yes? You were very small when I last saw you.

NIKITTA nods. Smiling, STARKE holds his hand out.

Nice to meet you. Who are your friends?

NIKITTA: (shaking STARKE's hand)
Nareen and Komar... sir.

STARKE reaches out to shake the other children's hands, too.

It's great to meet you guys. I guess you watch the show, huh?

The children nod. The captain smiles broadly.

Why don't you go ask your parents if you can meet the rest of the Nova Elite while you're here? Tell your friends, too.

NAREEN squeals and runs back towards her mother, SAPHA, who is standing to the side as her husband and HATTHRO negotiate. NIKITTA also hurries away, but KOMAR hangs back, staring at STARKE solemnly.

I told them you could do anything.

STARKE smiles proudly.

The Nova Elite always fly to defend our people.

This article was first published on – an independent EVE magazine ( Reprinted with permission.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

External Publishing v 2.5

The wrecked battleship, though wing-clipped, was anything but dead: over the years, the escaped slaves had worked to restore and adapt its systems to meet their needs, and the soft rumble of pumps and generators had for decades been a comfort.

Scall was particularly proud of her work on the sensor and communications arrays. After taking the Republic University’s distance-learning courses on starship electronics and mechanics, she’d dedicated her hours to bringing the systems back up to near-perfect functionality. It was her pet project, and her husband had long bemoaned that she spent more time in the ship than she did at home.

There were still a few bugs to work out, though, and Scall had decided to open up one of the consoles and find out why it wasn’t lighting properly.

Something pinged unpleasantly as she pulled a wire free of its contact.

‘Crap.’ She plugged it back in and the ping sounded again, then again. She started sorting through the mass of fibreoptic spaghetti, then realised the sound wasn’t related to her work. The noise was becoming repetitive, and urgent, and the stocky woman spun to see several sensors lit up at once, points of amethyst, amber and ruby flickering across the boards.

‘Oh no… no, no, no…’ Hurriedly, Scall woke up the display they’d jury-rigged into the capsule trunk-leads in order to see the command overview. Multiple pilot signatures filled the system channels; a bit of fiddling with the spliced-in controls revealed the fleet transponder codes.

Heart in her throat, the specialist sprinted for the comms chamber above, sandaled feet pounding the metal steps, and slapped her hand on the alarm.


Coiled in the guts of the metal beast, wires excised from other parts of the ship and grafted in to modify the functions of other parts stirred with current for the first time in generations. Even as the improvised alert system blared a warning across the rooftops of the colony, the focussed-band FTL transmitter fired off a pre-set message.

The Republic communications relays were not the only ones to receive it.


TIIA EDGRIET stalks through station halls filled with men and women in uniforms hurrying this way and that; the legend in the lower-right corner reads Dal I: Tribal Liberation Force Assembly Plant. The commander looks tense and anxious, a datapad gripped in one hand as her secretary struggles to keep up with her. Rounding a bend in the hall, she spies SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE and ALISTAIR AVION and changes direction to meet them.

Starke, where the Hel have you been?

STARKE and AVION exchange a look.

The clone bay, updating.

The Brutor captain presses back against the wall to let a group of pilots hurry past.

What’ve we got?

EDGRIET tosses the datapad at him over her shoulder as she leads them toward the lift to the capsuleer hangars.

Emergency signal, not encoded or anything. Straight from Ubtes, contains a snapshot of what was on the scanner when they pushed the button.

The smaller woman halts and turns suddenly, nearly causing STARKE and AVION to pile into her. She stares up at STARKE with the intensity of a solar flare.

Your staged informant scenes aside, there’s no more time to waste. Are your pilots ready, Captain?

SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE studies her for a moment, then nods.

We’re at your command.

The Sebiestor commander studies him a moment longer, then nods sharply.

To your ships, then, gentlemen.

ALISTAIR AVION watches EDGRIET leave, then cranes his neck up and around to eye his commander.

Try not to do anything stupid in order to impress her, will you?

STARKE is frowning at the datapad.

STARKE: (muttering distractedly)
I can hold it together, don’t worry about me.

He hands the ‘pad over to his Amarrian second in command.

We’re not going to make it before their fleet’s in position.


Watching sunlight glimmer off the cloud structures far below, the Reclamation fleet's scout almost missed the appearance of a new signature on her local grid. She frowned as it winked out before identification could be made. Was that...? 'Command, scout. We may have company, What's your ETA? ...Five minutes, understood.'

Small points of gold began to appear at the edge of the atmosphere fifty kilometres away: support ships followed by a group of five battleships, gleaming in the refracted light. The signal was given, and the shimmering whirlpool of a cynosural field lit up, heralding the arrival of the fleet's primary component, an Archon-class carrier filled with dropships to collect the Matari settlers.

The beacon collapsed suddenly, and comms descended into a mass of confusion as the pilot of the generator frigate lost both his ship and his life in rapid succession. The Retribution-class assault frigate which had destroyed the generator under the nose of its own fleet was quickly torn apart as the Amarrian forces obtained targeting locks, but the space around them was beginning to flood with unaffiliated ships. Alarms blared as the Reclamation fleet struggled to restore order and reorient towards the unexpected threat. Lasers began to cross the sky, searing and crackling in the high-level atmosphere.

The Ammatar had arrived, and they were not happy.


'Everyone form up on the gate. Libbies, you with us?'

''Libbies'. Starke, you cheeky bastard...'

'With us or not, Tiia?' Sylar grinned to himself, feeling his assault frigate responding easily to his commands. Alistair has his recording equipment running at peak performance; this fight might easily be more desperate than any they'd ever been in before, but that was all the more reason to get every moment into the show. A Reclaiming fleet was not the sort of thing most Minmatar would ever see, let alone the rest of the cluster. People needed to know this was still happening.

'You know better than to ask that.' Tiia's Tempest and the rest of her squadrons formed the bulk of the fleet; the Novas in their smaller frigates and cruisers appeared fewer in comparison, though their numbers were about even.

Sylar chuckled. 'We all need to loosen up here. Riva, whatcha got in there?'

'Ubtes is hopping, sir. Looks like there's a fight going on.'

A fight? 'Who's involved?'

'Lemme actually get out of warp, huh? ...OHH! Cap', we're missing the fun. Looks like the local Ammatar have decided to let the Amarr fleet know they're no longer welcome out here.'

Tiia's voice cut through the comms. 'Nice to know they're serious about making their peace with the Republic.'

Mind racing, Sylar asked, 'Riv, what kind of opposition are we looking at?'

'There's wrecks all over the place. Looks like an Amarr carrier and standard support fleet versus a varied Ammatar fleet. No cynos up, looks like their generator frig got popped. Field looks balanced, the carrier is holding off drop pattern.'

'That's because it'll be vulnerable to attack with the drops down. Locate the Ammatar commander, I want a word with him before we get involved.'


'Scall, let's go! Everyone else is out, what are you still doing in here?' Aoli tugged at the communications specialist's shoulder. The older woman flapped her hand impatiently.

'You go. Someone needs to listen in. We need to know what's happening.'

'And if the slaver ships land?'

Scall held up the small laser pistol she'd liberated from the Apocalypse's armoury; it was an antique, but it worked still. 'They won't take me alive.'

Aoli slapped the back of Scall's head. 'You be careful, dammit.' Scall was right, but the younger woman still worried as she hurried from the battleship wreck towards the treeline and the hills to the south. When the ship had first landed, the escaped slaves had hidden among the woods, fearing the ship would be found by rescue parties. None had come, however, and the hidden caves had lain abandoned until now. Again, they would shelter the colonists... hopefully.

She paused at the edge of the village, glancing up at the sky above. Bright flashes had been seen; they could only hope it was Captain Starke holding the Amarrian fleet off.


Realspace coalesced around the Matari fleet as they dropped out of warp, vivid bursts of missile impacts and laser-fire filling their overviews.

'Good timing, Captain,' the Ammatar commander, Mirithak Hatthro, said. The Nefantar tribesman's deep voice threatened to overwhelm the communications link, resonating with a richness better-suited to a holo-performer than a thirty-year career officer. The incoming fleet had disbanded and re-formed as squads under Hatthro's command, putting them into the same comms frequency. Tiia and Imkara had been less than fond of the idea of joining the Ammatar fleet, but it was the only way to coordinate. 'We've got the carrier pinned down, but there's a lot of logistics being used, Starke. We've been picking off the little ones, but it's slow going.'

'You focus on the battleships, we'll take care of the support,' Sylar responded. The Matari ships surged forward into the mess, squads peeling off in different directions as leaders called primaries.

Amarrian pilots' signatures began to wink out one after another as the balance shifted. As he came around for another pass on an enemy Guardian-class cruiser, Sylar spotted a lone Amarrian frigate moving toward the Ammatar fleet, guarded by destroyers. 'Riva, get me a scan of that Punisher, fast! I don't like it.'

'I'm too far off... oh, just brilliant.' The Vherokior pilot cursed as the Punisher activated another cyno beacon. 'Now what?'

A blinding flash announced the arrival of another Amarrian capital ship; as the glare faded, the menacing, pointed prow of a Revelation-class dreadnaught turned with terrible purpose toward the Ammatar ships, turrets larger than a cruiser rotating smoothly around to focus on the enemy fleet.

'All battleships, evasive manoeuvers! Don't make an easy target of yourselves!' Hatthro ordered hoarsely. It was the worst possible situation the battle-scarred veteran could imagine, and he gripped the arms of his command chair tightly. Only the presence of the capsuleers in his fleet stopped him from calling a retreat. 'Someone take out that cyno frigate before anything else comes through.'

'On it. Cherry, cover me,' Sylar responded tightly, his assault frigate banking gracefully towards the stationary target.

'Syl, you back the fuck off, those are destroyers--'

'Al, trust me.' Sylar settled into a tight orbit alongside Cherry's Hound, autocannons and missiles tearing the Amarrian frigate apart, their own shields beginning to buckle as the trio of Coercers turned their guns on them.

'I'm webbed! Gonna try--' Cherry's transmission cut off as the destroyers' small lasers broke through her shields, melting quickly through armour and hull; one of the ships got a lucky lock on the outlaw's capsule, and the egg-shaped craft imploded under a fat volley of laserfire. Sylar Starke's Jaguar and capsule quickly followed.

'No!' Tiia cried, seeing Sylar's overview icon redline and vanish. 'Shit! Shit! Al, you're in charge there, keep the fires burning. Swap targets!'


'Ugh!' Sylar surged upright, shaking cloning-vat fluid from his head, instantly missing the feel of his dreadlocks; those were gone, now, part of a body he would never wear again. In the next vat over, he could see Cherry struggling to unhook herself from the input wires, looking strange without her tattoos. The Caldari cloning bay attendants looked alarmed.

One of them stepped forward, regaining most of his composure. 'Welcome to Ebodold Kaalakiota station. I'm Doctor Mi--'

'Spare us the speech, we need to be flight-ready ten minutes ago,' the captain grunted shortly. 'And set us up for fresh clones, we may be seeing you again today.' The attendants hurried forward to remove the wires the pilots couldn't reach, handing them towels as they emerged, dripping translucent blue fluid on the cloning-bay floor.

The captain reached over and slapped the younger woman's shoulder. 'Let's saddle 'em up. You ready?'

The former pirate grinned broadly up at him as she wiped vat-fluid from her generous curves. 'I been waiting for this since the day I bought her. Those suckers won't know what hit 'em.'

To Be Concluded Next Week!
Same EVE Time, Same EVE Channel!

This article was first published on – an independent EVE magazine ( Reprinted with permission.

Monday, 19 October 2009

An Aside

IntenseDebate is eating my comments again. I'd love to respond to comments; I've been trying, but the system is b0rked >_<

Friday, 16 October 2009

External Publishing v 2.4

The quad was quiet, a steady rain pattering down to flatten the straggly grass and form tepid puddles in the hollows. From the surrounding buildings, the chatter of conversation could be heard, muffled by the thick transparent panels which had been cannibalised for use as windows from the wrecked Apocalypse. Its golden bulk, rain-slicked and still shining despite generations of exposure to planetside elements, loomed in the centre of the village like a massive beached whale, half-submerged in the soft earth that had been ploughed up when it landed. Over time, the tailing furrow had filled with water, forming a long lake which was sustained by groundwater pumped up by the refurbished ship’s generators to irrigate the community’s agricultural works.

A Rifter bearing the sunburst logo of the Nova Elite arced through the sooty sky, rain streaming from its rust-coloured hull. An explosion of silt and mud rose as the ship crashed down into the damp soil, its engines spluttering as the craft settled into the muck. Splashing across the field, Komar hurried over and retrieved the painted wooden toy, peering into its clockwork mechanism and blowing the water out.

Wading back through the mud, the short, skinny boy returned to where Nikitta and Nareen sat under the portico outside the school building. Most of the other children had opted to remain indoors out of the damp weather during the midday break, but Niki had been troubled by the sudden appearance of his mother’s sister in the children’s favourite holo-serial. He’d spent most of the last week worrying over it, and his sudden pensiveness concerned his friends.

Nareen hunkered on the swept flagstones with her chin on her knees, absently chewing the end of one of her long dark braids. ‘I wonder what she wants Capt’n Starke to--hey!’ She and Nikitta both yelped as Komar landed feet-first in a large puddle at the edge of the overhang, splashing them.

‘’S easy! She’s gonna ask him to- to help blow up th’ Empress!’ he babbled excitedly. He pulled a key from his shirt pocket and began to wind the toy Rifter’s engine again.

‘Don’t be dumb,’ Nareen retorted, wiping murky water from her shins. ‘You remember how many guys she has?’ Footage from Jamyl Sarum’s coronation had been used in one of the last year’s episodes. The amassed ships of the Imperial Navy had made a grim impression on the children; some had since had occasional nightmares wherein that sea of deadly gold had arrived to reclaim their families.

‘I bet Capt’n Starke could do it—‘

Nikitta glanced up from the patternless whorls he’d been scratching on the flagstones with a twig he’d found. ‘He can’t. The entire R’public can’t kill all the bad guys. If that was really Aunt Tiia… Ma says it was. She must be planning something else.’

A mechanical judder caused the puddles to ripple and brought the children to their feet with alarm. The high-to-low sliding moan of something spinning down, followed by raised voices, drew them around the corner of the school-buildings to where they could see the workers scrambling over the pump-housing rigged up to the wrecked battleship. The constant low hum of the mechanisms and generators had ceased, and the specialists at work seemed calm. The children stood watching a moment, then Komar tugged Nareen’s elbow.

‘They shut the water off?’

The tall girl nodded. ‘I think so.’

‘But we… we need the water…’

Nikitta wrapped his arms around himself, feeling cold from something other than the raindrops trickling down the back of his neck. ‘Something’s going on.’


The scene opens on the office of THE GENERAL, unchanged from STARKE and AVION’s meeting. A holo-projector is flashing a loop of tactical information into the air above the desk; it is largely ignored by the two women standing on either side of the desk. THE GENERAL and TIIA EDGRIET are arguing fiercely, and from time to time their vehement gestures indicate one item or another in the projection.

There is no direct audio, and all the colours in the scene have been washed nearly to greys, indicating it is a flashback to an earlier event.

EDGRIET: (voice-over)
The day you arrived, Captain, I had a… disagreement with the General. Some intel arrived which… well, it’s kind of important to me. There’s a colony of sorts, just outside Republic space. It was started by a group of escaped slaves whose ship couldn’t go any further. The Amarr have finally noticed this colony and intend to reclaim the inhabitants.

The scene changes to show EDGRIET seated on a munitions crate in a hangar; from the paint-work on the Jaguar in the background, it’s clear the hangar has been allotted to SPACE CAPTAIN STARKE, who along with ALISTAIR AVION is seated on another long metal box labelled ‘Warrior II’. The Sebiestor woman is scowling fiercely.

The General has… made it clear… that she will not permit me to take a task force in to rescue the colonists. The planet lies in Ammatar territory, if you could call it that. You can imagine the fuss they’d kick up with the Republic if we dropped carriers into their space.

STARKE frowns thoughtfully and glances at AVION; the Amarrian looks back before closing his eyes under raised brows, lips pursed. The Brutor nods and turns back to EDGRIET.

We can understand why you would want to rescue these people, but why is it so important that you be the one to do it?

The woman looks down at her hands.

Because that colony is where I grew up, Captain. They aren’t just our people, they’re my family.

AVION leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped as he looks up at EDGRIET.

AVION: (appearing to already know the answer)
So… why not hire mercenaries to rescue your people, if the General won’t allow you to do it personally?

EDGRIET: (nodding)
This is exactly why I’ve come to you. Your Elite are only marginally associated with the Republic. I want you to help me.

STARKE: (looking thoughtful)
Won’t the General be angry? Or the Thukkers, for that matter?

EDGRIET: (glaring)
Do you think that matters, Captain? My people are in danger. What would you do?

She reaches up and removes the rank pins from the collar of her jacket, smiling at the stunned expressions on the men’s faces.

I’m resigning my commission in the militia. I’ve talked things over with my squadron, and they’re all with me, one-hundred percent. So what do you say, Captain? Will you help me out? Or do I have to hold you at gunpoint first?

STARKE and AVION look at each other, then share a slow grin.


The room was silent for a long, heavily-pregnant moment. Then, like an ocean tide, a roar of voices rose as people turned to one another, confused, worried, frightened.

Leaning back against the wall, Scall’s mind raced, torn between glee that her assessment had been right and numbing terror that it was too little and too late. This is Ammatar space? Why all the Thukker signals, then? The signs of moving caravans had been noticeable for as long as she’d been in charge of the communications setup. That they'd been living so close to a potential enemy without discovery was a miracle in itself; she was grateful that they'd been spared for so long.

Havah sat still, her eyes fixed on her sister’s face in the projection. Perhaps to viewers elsewhere, this was simply an exciting build-up to the end of the season, but to the refugees living on Ubtes VIII, the new development was a hidden message.

Prepare to run. We’re coming for you.

Up at the front of the room, Komar, Nareen and Nikitta knelt in silence, heedless of the commotion around them. They watched transfixed as Tiia presented her rank pins and all those of her pilots to the General with an impassioned resignation speech; as the Nova Elite and former TLF forces prepared for what might possibly be the fight of their lives. The usual drama happened: a hangar tech was caught sending a message to the Amarr warning them of the fleet’s preparations; he was imprisoned but managed to escape, leaving three security officers and a shuttle pilot badly injured.

Not until the final closing scene – where Starke, Avion, Tiia and her second, Imkara Vash, seated around a desk covered with tactical readouts, came to the realisation that they would need to move faster – did any of the three children say anything.

‘The slavers are coming,’ Komar said quietly. Nikitta nodded. The worst nightmare of any Matari child was coming to life.

Would Space Captain Starke arrive in time to save them all?


Tiia Edgriet was overseeing the refitting of her Tempest-class battleship when one of her hangar security officers approached and murmured something in her ear.

‘What? Of course. Let him in.’

The petite Sebiestor turned a minute later to see Alistair Avion crossing the open hangar floor, deftly sidestepping the techs and maintenance drones that scurried this way and that. The Amarrian was dressed, as he did for the show he helped produce, in traditional Brutor captain’s garb. Somehow, the Matari uniform failed to look awkward or out of place on its wearer; perhaps it was the way he carried himself.


‘Mister Avion. What can I do for you?’

He smiled warmly. ‘I was hoping I could ask you a bit about this colony. About how many people are we talking about?’

Tiia frowned and folded her arms, considering. ‘Could be as many as ten thousand by now. There are elderly and babies; they’re not starving down there, and the medical facilities have been maintained well.’

‘On the ship that brought your predecessors there?’

She nodded. ‘Our grandparents kept the ship functioning smoothly, so a lot of their technical skills have been passed down.’

Alistair smiled grimly, knowing all too well the uses of slave aboard Amarrian ships. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. ‘If you don’t mind my asking…’

‘Go on, then.’

He pursed his lips momentarily. ‘If you and a few others left for the Republic—‘

‘They came and picked us up when we applied to the various universities. The Republic knows the colony is there.’

‘Right, right. But if you could leave, why is the rest of the colony still there? Why not request a full-on transport back to civilisation?’

Running her hands over her head to adjust the clips holding her hair back, Tiia frowned. ‘Good question. I think simply because it’s ours, you know? We were stuck there, but within the first two years they had a functioning agriculture setup and had adapted the ship’s working systems to their needs. It’s very backwards… you might call it primitive. But it’s ours, we worked hard for it. It’s something to be proud of.’ She shrugged. ‘We’re a hard, tenacious lot, Mister Avion.’

He chuckled. ‘You certainly are that. Will they know they’re in danger?’

The tiny woman nodded. ‘The kids watch your show, if the sensor array we put in stationary orbit hasn’t already picked up the recon operations. They’ll know.’


On the outskirts of the Ubtes star system, Nimambal gate flashed. The scout-ship decloaked, its bulky form vanishing almost immediately under a covert-ops cloak as it angled towards the eighth planet. Slipping her craft into orbit between the atmosphere layer and the closer of the two moons, the pilot frowned; the signals she’d been told to pinpoint weren’t there anymore.

It took her a solid half-hour’s work running multispectral scans to locate the faint electromagnetic signs of the wrecked Apocalypse’s generators.

‘Command, scout here. Location pinpointed, awaiting further instructions. …Acknowledged.’

The scout moved into a stationary orbit, aligning to provide the fleet with a good warp-in position, and settled in to wait. The Reclamation fleet would arrive soon, to fulfill their holy duty and return the Matari colonists to the Lord’s flock.

To Be Continued Next Week!
Same EVE Time, Same EVE Channel!

This article was first published on – an independent EVE magazine ( Reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


What sort of person do you have to be, to turn your back on everything you ever knew?

The tip of her knife drags through the thin layer of dirt, blade grating harshly against the stone beneath.

When your life is ruled by the almighty ISK, what do you cling to?

The lines she draws form a map. She doesn't notice; the map is etched more permanently in her mind than it is in the dust: we are here, they are there, and soon, we shall be there, too. And they won't be.

She could be Intaki, Civire, Ni-Kunni, Sebiestor... with her hair shaved back to stubble, dressed in a sleeveless shirt and fatigues, distinguishing marks erased when she gave up her name for a number, it no longer matters.

The toe of her boot, scuffed and weathered, broken straps replaced slapdash with a strip of elastic splint wrapped around her ankle, rubs the map from the ground.

Her detail only arrived here this morning, but already she's been here forever.

When she first started, every place was new to her; she had never before left her homeworld.

Staring too much lost her an arm. But that was alright, because she died later that day, victim of an enemy groundsweeper run.

After too many iterations, the field shrinks. It becomes little more than a game on paper: your location, your target, your obstacles, your support. Circles and crosses; everything else becomes circumstantial.

She stares with grey eyes across a field littered with the detritus of human civilisation, canyon walls of chrome and crystal rising away to form a deadly labyrinth, mined and riddled with traps. She sees through these, only focussed on the target three miles away.

It will be gone tomorrow, or she will be.

The pay is good; it would have to be, for all the risk they take. She used to save it, hoarding against the day when she could buy that little apartment in the city; now, she spends it on better armour, better weapons. New iterative clones of herself, her memories preserved and injected into each new body as the old one is killed.

She remembers every death.

It no longer traumatises her as it did in the beginning. Too many iterations have inured her to that flash of light, that moment of red agony as parts of herself move in directions they were never meant to, mingling on the ground with parts of her comrades before her last memory ends.

Her comrades used to be people, once. And still there are nights when she and another will take comfort in each other, reassuring themselves that they still live. But like thousands of others, she and they have become faceless ghosts, pieces of meat directed to live and die by iron-clad gods who stride the night skies, whose only concerns are their personal loss and gain, heedless of the souls who scrabble for their will in the dust.