I have decided to write a story about Eve Online, a fictional tale of a girl surviving in a mans universe. As a counterpoint to the usual heroes tales, I will write from the personal perspective, reflecting on how I imagine life as a capsuleer would feel.
I will post my story to this blog, as the corporate forums now seem inappropriate for such flights of fancy as a personal account.
The piercing light is the first thing to assault my senses. Overwhelmed by the intensity, I try to focus on uncertain shapes in a blue and green haze .
I close my eyes and reel as my consciousness shifts, the soft sounds of the medic facilities muffled, in stark contrast to the percussive blast which shocked my senses short moments ago.
Images of recent events flash through my minds eye, the glimpse of the gate, the sea of red targets flooding my overview, searing rays cutting through the dark, focussed on my battered ship, the face of the mercenary as he came up on my contacts ...
in a visceral reaction to this vivid recollection, a rush of blood and adrenalin jolt my body into a sitting position, my hand slamming on warp as I tilt my head, trying to get my interface to work...
Cool hands rest on my arm and I feel for the first time the warmth of the vat, despite the gel deadening my senses. A person is here, moving around me and the room is starting to come into focus. I force myself to accept what my eyes and ears are telling me. I am not in my ship, I am not alone, I am safe, alive...naked..
I touch the side of my head - there are no implants. I feel as if I am missing half of myself, my perceptions limited now to the five senses I was born with, organic and fragile.
The skin feels smooth, I will look like a recruit again. The guys in the corp will laugh it up I am sure...like they never lost a ship. Sheesh.
Come to think of it, I do wonder how some of them got to look so old. It is quite an achievement to age much as a capsuleer, getting podded comes with the territory. Still, at least I am alive, not like those poor bastards planet side.
I sit up, and catch sight of myself in the metal surface of the bay I am in. Even though the refection is distorted, I can see my clone is, once again a perfect replica of my original self. It reminds me of my family, most of them dead now for years I am sure. I wonder in fact if I have any living relatives at all.
When I was accepted into the capsuleer program they were all so proud, it was such an achievement given our circumstances, but for me it is a bittersweet memory. The training, the long periods in space, the implants, the knowledge... created such a gulf between us. The first time I was podded, they held a funeral for me, managed to trade what little they had to get hold of my original remains. Church, grave, the works. Can you imagine?
I went back to see them, made sure they were ok for money, but it was so painful for them, and for me. They just didn't understand how it is out here, and I can never go back and be the same...
It is such a long time since I have been anywhere near my home system.
What am I talking about...home is a capsule now. Better get a move on, perhaps I can still get my work done this week.
I hope they have a fresh pod ready for me, the gel is starting to dry out and my skin is itching. I dont like the smell in here, sterile and astringent. I struggle to get up, and am reminded of my nakedness as an aide turns to help me.
I feel awkward. I mean, its not like the first time I have been podded, but usually they have a girl in the vat room. A young guy, maybe 20, is trying not to look at me as he offers me a hand, concentrating on following the correct procedure, holding my elbow and guiding my steps as I feel the weight of my body in the heavy .6 gravity of the station. I glance around, I am the only one here, the other guys with a clone here must have got away. Good work...
Maybe thats why they are breaking this new guy in.He is checking the info on my clone bay again.
"Haven't you seen a girl capsuleer before" I joke to break the ice. Nothing...
"Its ok honey, I am old enough to be your mother" I smile, trying to look, well, motherly. He meets my eyes with an embarrassed smile, then his eyes snap back to the info on the chip board. I feel suddenly old as I realise i am more likely to be his great grandmother. Maybe I look like his sister. Poor kid, perhaps I am his first customer. I should be nice.
I shrug on a light paper robe to relieve his embarrassment, and give him the info he is waiting for. "OK order me a new clone, same as last time. Same station. Can you let my corps know where I am, tell them I will be late. Ask Scotty to buff up a pod for me. Send me a copy of the details ... thanks"
His confidence returns as he taps out the new order. I look over his shoulder to make sure he gets it right, and see the numbers mount up as they charge my account. Oh well, being immortal is pretty cheap when you consider the alternatives...
I walk to the end of the row, its an effort. Damn these planet-dwelling, gravity-lovin, short-lived shift workers..One last question for the new guy "...uh, where's the showers from here again"
Sleep eludes me as fingernails bite into palms and my feet press against the cool metal wall of the bunk. Drawing in steady lungs full of the stale station air, I deliberately relax my shoulders and legs. Eyes closed, think of nothing, dream of anything but the last few days.
What the hell makes me think I can help with the war? I can barely fit the ships I fly for routine missions, scouting and surveillance. What madness put a fire in my belly to fight the mercenaries...
Is it just the thrill to be part of a fleet, a cog in machine of war?
The mercenaries think we are easy pickings, light sport. The war is crippling our trade, making every little task a risk, every jump a danger. There is nowhere to hide.
I decide. Giving power to dark feelings of injustice and hatred, I convince myself further with corporation rhetoric. Every gun counts, even mine. I focus on why we are fighting and am unafraid.
I am one with a ship fitted for speed and war. Light and easy to fly compared to the barges, I find it hard to stay still. The unfamiliar smack talk of experienced pilots rings in my ears, and I am a part of a consciousness bigger than myself.
I listen intently to neocom, steady voices of command place the fleet in a field of stars. The mercenaries are close. We are pawns playing out the strategy of our fleet commander. The killing game begins to unfold.
I know that even I could make a difference. I prepare to lock targets, calm but aware of every nerve, eyes flicking between my overview and the gate where the enemy will be. The voices of the other pilots are tense, electric, and a quiet comes over the fleet. Breaking the silence is the orders to move in, short and concise.
Every gun counts! Yeah, well if you get to fire it perhaps. It certainly doesn't count when all you can offer is a cold statistic to add to the losses.
As if one ship wasn't bad enough...
I thought I would be fine in a shuttle - it doesn't take a lot to be an expert in shuttle runs. Anyway I had no choice really. I had to go out again, finish the courier work, pick up supplies and skill books.
Not sure what happened, maybe it was the new pod, the fresh implants, or a fault with the shuttle. The system was lagging as I jumped what should have been a safe gate. I woke up in the clone vats again.
The attendant was the SAME GUY. At least I remembered where the showers were.
It takes two days to catch up, hot waves of shame and anger fueling the work to completion, until there is nothing to do but rest. Avoiding the rest of the corp members is enough motivation to stay out in space. I get sympathy from some, indifference from others. The worst is just knowing that you don't cut it. Like a child that needs protection, a handmaiden to be saved from the nasty pirates. Gah!
I turn over to lay on my stomach, and curl against my pillow. The disposable covers are soaked even though the air is cool, they will need changing tomorrow. How wasteful to use so much energy fighting yourself.
Tomorrow I will mine. The comfort of flying the familiar barge, the knowledge that my efforts will be useful will make me feel better I am sure. The busy-ness of managing the harvesting, processing and working the numbers will give my head something to do besides think of the war.
Slightly cool and velvet to the touch, the seat is perfectly adjusted to my body. I feel as if I am already floating, even though the gravity of the station is still in play. I move quickly and smoothly, bringing systems online, hooking up my implant sockets. My awareness expands and I can see outside of the ship, hear the chatter of the station crew, and feel precisely where I am in space. I yearn to be weightless, to forget I am made of weak flesh stretched over nanofiber bones. In station still, my head is slightly off centre from fresh implants - almost disconnected from the rest of my body which seems to already be in space. The hatch seals.
Safely cocooned in my pod, I maneuver into position and lock myself into the biggest ship I can fly. Exhumers are simply the best mining tools you can get, and I am proud to be able to fly one.
My HUD now shows ore-stripping lasers and expanded cargo bays, a massive capacitor and a heavy shield fitting. The combat drones are back from the repair shop, and I check their stats as I load them into the bay. I am in border territory, skirmishes are common, and without drones I would be completely defenceless.
Undocking, I bring up the market on screen to check mineral prices. Even though I will be mining for corp it is good to know what the rates are doing. Nocxium is pretty high at the moment, but I doubt I will find any today. I set the co-ordinates to warp to a nearby asteroid belt, where I should find the more common rocks. We always need tritanium, and the quicker I get out there the more time there will be to mine.
I am weightless, perfectly comfortable, alert and enhanced. Less than a metre of pod and ship hull separate me from the freezing void, and all I feel is a slight chill.
The Neocom flashes as incoming text from Parr plays on my HUD "o7 M, want to fleet up?" . I check local scan and for the first time in days I smile. I was really hoping that Parr would be out today, and it looks like Derty and Rhumer are here too. That's 2 more Exhumers and an Orca, we will rip up the 'roids pretty quickly now... "o7 " I salute back as I accept the signal to join.
I see the contacts in my overview blink from corp green to fleet purple. I am now once again part of something bigger, my coms linked and navigation systems hooked up ready to move as a unit. The fleet voice channel opens and I can faintly hear the others breathing, comforting signs of life. I wait more than a minute, but I am the first to speak "hey good to see you guys! so where are we goin'?"
The channel erupts into a babble of greetings and small talk. Ice broken and normality resumed, the fleet get ready to move out. They pick up where they were before I joined, talking refining, and discussing the previous days mining. I wish I had been with them over the past few days, it would have been so much simpler... dammit stop thinking about it!
Looking back at the market numbers I half listen as Derty starts to discuss the plan for the day. He knows this region well, and as mining director his leadership will give our team a real boost and better yields. I listen long enough to ascertain we are not leaving the system. I am happy staying in a high sec system after the past few days adventures, and it is unlikely we will see any war action here, or any action at all for that matter.
Ignoring the almost deserted station I reflect on our small band, alive in the vast lifeless void that is space. We are fairly alone in the system for the moment, with no other Corps around, no other points of life in space for many light years. The planets in this system are uninhabitable, and if there was anyone else here, we would see them. All capsuleer pilots show up automatically on your local channel in Empire space, their presence linked and logged. So, apart from the station crew and ever-present Concord Security forces, we have the system to ourselves.
I can see my corpmates on my overview, and visuals show the four of us in our long, flat-sided hulks, the sun flashing off the dome shaped turrets. The station, a mining outpost, looms above and falls away far below us, dwarfing even the Orca. Our ships cast precise box shaped shadows on its surface, a tritanium patchwork of docks, bays, refineries and quarters. It is amazing that it holds air. My focus shifts to the nearby moon, its chalky surface pocked with craters forming crazy patterns on its surface. I know it is barren, but surely there must be some useful minerals there...
Unexpectedly, my ship jolts into warp. I hadn't noticed the speed pick up, and I wasn't listening to where we were going. No matter. I could check the co-ords the fleet is being warped to but can easily figure out where I am when I get there. I really don't care where we are as long as it is high sec.
"What are we after today?" I ask, knowing they will want to mine different minerals so we can work together without overlapping. Dertyn defers to the group "what did you want to go for - I am easy" He will fit in with everyone as usual. Parr is organised and purposeful; "I am after plag - already have the crystals fitted".
Arriving at the belt, I decide to hit up the omber. I don't have crystals fitted anyway and I know the corp needs all the isogen we can produce. The fleet settle into a formation near a concentration of larger rocks that Dertyn has warped us in to. I target and fire up the lasers before I have positioned, even before I scan. Precious moments waiting for the device to render densities are better spent collecting ore from the closest asteroid, and I am keen to collect as much as I can.
The omber is spinning on a near horizontal axis, as well as in a slow orbital rotation with the rest of the belt, anticlockwise and irregular. The numbers and trajectories reflexively spring to mind as I help the ships systems target. Massive beams crack into life, searing into the Omber and transporting the raw materials back to my hold. Strip miners make no sound in space, but here in the ship the vibrations and noise from the energy released resonate through the structure, creating a grating buzz in my capsule that I never quite get used to. With new ears from a fresh clone I find the sound quite annoying, despite noise cancelling earpieces. Aligning my ship to the station, I pull to a stop and target the next rocks based on my scan results. Scan overview, D-scan all clear. Done.
I consider putting my mining drones out, but decide to wait and see if any patrols come by first. I hate getting them damaged, and the spot we are mining in often has enemy scouts drop in.
The fleet is quiet while we set up, but soon the small talk resumes. Dertyn has been stocking the corp hangars at the station, we now don't have to worry about ammo for a while, and Rhumor has now been able to get the parts to build more exhumers out here. The corp has been trying to attract new members, having ships and parts where we need them is a big part of making that work. We are growing, and need people to help with the capital ship building program, not to mention the war. I offer to chip in some warp stabilisers and drones. I recently got the blue prints to make them and am keen to contribute to the team. I expand my fleet chat window so that I can see Dertyns face and judge whether my contributions will be useful or not. He grins as he notices me looking "well that would be mighty handy" he drawls. The faces of Parr and Rhumor are smiling too, as much at Dertyn's encouragement as at my eagerness to be useful.
It feels good to belong to the Liberty Prime group, and to be able to make my own choices and contributions within the corp. After so many years of courier work as part of my indenture as a capsuleer, I find this new freedom both exhilerating and daunting.
The cargo bay on my hulk is huge - over 10,000 cubic metres, but it doesn't take long for the lasers to fill the hold with ore. 14 minutes to be precise. Checking the fleet are still alone, I deploy a cargo container to transfer ore into so I can continue to mine. The container expands as it is released, providing enough temporary space for two and a half holds of ore, but it's flimsy exterior wont last long in the belt with all this space dust. I identify the can on my com as M1 and put the time on it.
In the fleet window I see Rhumor checking his com as well. "Let me know when you are full Mar, I will pick it up". Parr and Dertyn have also started jet cans, and the shiny sides of the cans spin around like baubles flashing in the sun as well as catching the light reflected by the nearby moon. The lasers pop one of the asteroids, a brief flare as the safety cuts in, and I move on to the next rock in the queue.
Feeling restless, I tune in the jukebox to the local station and listen to a sliding synth track that seems to match perfectly with my mood. Playing with the music in the digititally optimised part of my brain I synesthetically overlay colour and form on my ocular filter to entertain myself as I tune out of the lasers and into the zone. I tell myself the practice is good for my underused connections in this part of my brain, it will come in handy if I am in a more demanding visual situation, but really I just enjoy it.
Bloody rats. The minute you take your eyes off the screen they come. I swear somehow they know what you are up to. Launching combat drones I quickly fix a target on the closest of them, a Serpentis scout. Directing the drones to engage, I lazily regret that I have to unlock my target on one of the asteroids I have not yet mined in order to target the second. I notice that the boys have also popped out their light scouts, and more than a dozen drones are now angrily buzzing around the intruders in an amusing metal swarm of laser stabbing activity.
The space nearby briefly erupts in light as the frigates explode almost simultaneously, leaving small and untidy wrecks behind. By tomorrow they will have disappeared, the abrasive space dust of the belt will have made them part of the cloud. Rhumor will clean them up, he hates working in a mess. Looking at the fleet window I can already see him concentrating, the tractor beams are working and the salvagers ready. I rename my jetcan "M1 FULL" and watch as he tractor beams that away as well. Parr looks like he is asleep, though I am sure he isn't. Maybe he is listening to the music as well. Dertyn seems to be in conversation with corps, talking about fittings on the ships we are sending to war.
Close the chat. Don't even think about it. I refix my target on the omber I had selected before, and slide back into my music.
Kralls crusty old face creases up as we dock with the last lot of ore. WIth the group mining we have managed to fill the massive Orca's hold 5 times today, and in anyones language thats a lot of rock. The neocom in front of him plays soft colourful lights onto his face as the calculations and transactions slide over the screen, and I find myself wondering if he has a family anywhere. He always seemed to me as if he could be someone's Opa, I should ask him one of these days. Not today. The smile is still in his eyes as he leans across to check on manufacturing availability in the station. Our day may be over but his is about to start.
The corp rate on minerals is good, and I wonder idly what my share will be. Krall will take all we can mine at the moment, he has a huge order of ships and munitions to fill for the corp. Once they are built he will haul them out to the staging area, replenishing the ships lost in combat, stocking up the armory. War is good business for some.
The rest of the team blink off from my neocom as they leave their ships, and not for the first time I am the last one still on screen. I fuss with my inventory and wait for the music to finish before I disconnect from the ship and ease out of my capsule. I quell the slight nausea that accompanies withdrawing my senses into the small human form. My awareness ebbs, then expands reflexively -only to feel there is nothing but the station around me and .. air. I breathe. It's good to have new air in my lungs and I feel alive again.