Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On the Importance of Honor

All trade is based on contracts. In order to be able to predict outcomes and thus make wise decisions, a trader must be able to rely on contracts being honored. This holds true even when it's not goods that are being traded, but services. One of our acquaintances learned this lesson the hard way.

The transaction in question was a mercenary contract, where the service in question was military support. My associates had encountered these mercenaries already, and the monthly war declarations were late, so it was not hard to put two and two together and conclude that whoever that had been hiring the Privateers had switched to using Noir. With our current logistics arrangements, the client did not get their money's worth and switched to a more high-quality service provider. That is a very reasonable course of action, but higher-quality service also warrants a higher price tag. And one never, ever should agree to a contract that you cannot fulfill. Especially when your business partners not only wield financial and political power, but also considerable military power. An unfulfilled contract just might persuade them to to extract their fee using other means.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Choosing Which Bridge to Burn

My desk is a mess. Starmaps, sovereignty maps, NeoCom chat logs, intel reports, starbase loadouts, asset manifests, sales history charts and the recent draft of the new CONCORD directives. Risk mitigation is nonexistent, cost-benefit analysis is highly pessimistic and the political analysis is highly hostile. I hear a knock.

"Come in, Miss Ashley."
"Present as ordered, sir."
"Your new orders are to board the Value of Trust at the earliest opportunity and fly it to the staging area. Here is the flight plan. Upon arrival, you will scout the surrounding systems and prepare for the arrival of the Insatiable Ambition, which I will be piloting."
"How long do I have to wait?"
"The flight plan for the Ambition is still incomplete, so it'll probably take a day or two. After you've finished the preparations, you will clone jump back to the Forge region, and schedule a job interview."
"Job interview? For who?"

I hand her the intel report.

"An Amarrian? I thought you guys hate 'em."
"Prejudices are simply obstacles preventing otherwise viable business ventures. That's why I'm sending you. Our current political affiliations notwithstanding, you're still Caldari and the last time I checked, the Caldari State and the Amarr Empire were allies. You will represent me in all dealings with him, and you will not mention my name, ethnicity or any other information that could be useful in identifying me."
"So this is strictly business? No role-reversal fantasies involved?"
"I didn't say that. But yes, this is mostly business. Even if we don't factor in in this.. mess, I still need an unaffiliated third party to divest assets without attracting unwanted attention."
"Anything else?"
"Find mister Parker for me. He's probably in the entertainment district. If he seems unwilling, tell him that his.. supplies have already been relocated to the staging area."
"Will do, sir."
"Just.. don't smile like that when you tell him."

With the distractions out of the way, I can now focus on the real problem. I have a reasonable customer base here and a relatively large percentage of assets tied in the market operations. I'll need any and all assets in the new theatre of operations, but shutting down my ventures here will cause some political issues. And so would making a halfhearted attempt in the new venture. A complete divestment or hedging my bets would probably burn both bridges. I'm out of my comfort zone. This isn't just business, it's politics, and I'm no good in using smoke and mirrors in place of cold, objective numbers.

Still, this is a lesson that I need to learn.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Priority Delivery

"Yes? Calm down. Just repeat what the message said. To where? Now? How
much? Yes, I see how that could be a problem. Notify miss Ashley and
ask her to get the Cowardly Bee to the pickup point. Yes, this takes
priority over her current assignment. Yes, I'm aware of the standing
orders. No, I'll handle it. Yes. Notify the crew, I'll be there

I hurry towards the hangars at an undignified pace, my mind busy
evaluating half a dozen flight paths and scenarios. It's amazing how
far humanity has progressed, yet so few grasp the concept that items
do not magically appear where they are needed. Sizable infrastructures
are planned, created, operated, optimized and maintained to make it
happen. But this time there is no time to do it properly. The alliance
holdings are under attack, a cynosural jammer tower has been disabled
in a key system, and multiple enemy strongholds have been set up. And
now they realize that the replacement tower is sitting in a hangar in
an another region, in a system that attracts a lot of otherwise
welcome attention. But this time I'll have to use the the Invisible
Hand, so subterfuge is not an option.

I quickly greet the personnel and continue without breaking stride
into the locker room. Within a few moments I'm back in the darkness of
the pod. After a few clunks the camera drones activate, slowly
orbiting the freighter. I've never understood why the Thukkers decided
to use camouflage on a spaceship, but this is not a time to complain
about aesthetics. The traffic control gives the go-ahead and I set the
engines to full thrust.


"Miss Ashley?"
"In position as ordered, sir. Why am I here again? The fleet commander.."
"I'll deal with him. What's the status of the system"
"Small enemy fleet on the gate leading to State territory, no contacts
on the inbound gate. Intel reports a small fleet approaching, so it's
now or never."
"On my way."
"Standing by."

With a roar, the engines hurl the freighter towards the gate. During
the approach deceleration, the scanner reports first one, then two,
then six contacts. "Our guests are here. Be ready." With a flash, the
Invisible Hand goes through the gate.

As soon as the sensors recalibrate, I turn the ship towards the
station. On cue, the Cowardly Bee assumes a 10km orbit. Struggling
against the Bee's webification field, the engines roar and whisk the
freighter away.

"Gate activation.. two.. six.. eight hostiles. That was an
unacceptable risk, sir."
"But necessary, as you will find out after I retrieve the cargo. Do
you still have the sound profile I sent you?"
"Yes, but.. it's hardly dignifying to play that on open comms.."
"That's why it was made. It's alliance policy."
"I assume there's a humorous, yet ironic story behind it?"
"Naturally, but that was before my time, so I don't have the specifics."
"Playing it now."

I've heard this before, so I shut down the system communication
channel. While our guests try to triangulate which of my associates'
ships in the system is taunting them, I'm free to examine the cargo
manifest. One large tower, a dozen jammers and two dozens of guns,
fuel for a month.. and the all-important cynosural field jammer. After
the containers have been loaded, I open the comm channels again. Based
on the expletives, our guests are too busy to notice the Invisible
Hand obtaining undocking permissions and entering warp as soon as the
safety protocols allow it.

"That's enough, miss Ashley. Head to the first checkpoint, it's time
to enter the warzone."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Gouging

With the addition of several new associates, we now have a whole new region as our playground. Fortunately for me, some of the former owners of said region have started to gouge the market.

But the uncomfortable truth is that gouging is basically a one-entity cartel and thus can only work when all providers collude to keep the prices high. Any small, agile actor such as myself will be able to throw a spanner into the works by providing adequately-priced goods. In that situation, there are only three possible outcomes. First, the gouger could choose to ignore me and let me seize the market share while he gets stuck with unsold goods. Secondly, he could buy my goods and relist them at his price. This only gives me an additional incentive to bring in more goods, because his actions alone keep the demand up. I get my profit every time and can reinvest it into the market. And finally, he could abandon his price-gouging scheme and engage me in healthy competition. In any case, my associates get access to reasonably-priced goods.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Chicken and an Egg Problem

"There's more minerals here than I can keep track of!"
Mr. Parker's message was somewhat shorter than I expected. I did not know whether it's because he's been too busy or too stoned to count, so I made the trip myself.

Fortunately, it's the former. The total value of the minerals comfortably exceeds my planned expenditures.. assuming that I can get them sold. The corporation has put the production efforts on hold, because the majority of the alliance is busy up north assisting our associates. Thus there's no local demand. That leaves transporting them to Empire space to be sold. The problem is that delivering all those minerals would require a lot of trips with the Silent Whisper, presenting a too large window of opportunity for our adversaries. A Rorqual would be ideal for the trip.. but I can't buy one unless I get the minerals sold.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Among the Forgotten

The Fleeting Thought decelerates and stops next to the slowly drifting derelict. The spotlights sweep the hull and focus on the airlock.
"Time to earn your pay, gentlemen."
I stay inside while my crew makes their way towards the airlock.
"How does it look?"
"The door is offline. We'll get it open manually."
"Notify me when you're done."
"Will do."


"We're entering the bridge, there seems to be no obvious signs of damage. We'll know for sure when you get here, sir."
"How's the pod cradle?"
"Turning it on now.. seems to be working just fine."
"On my way."
My pod disentangles from the shuttle, leaving a dry husk of metal behind. I fly around the ship, towards the pod entry hatch. I've always found the Mammoth-class industrials to be unnecessarily ominous in low lighting conditions, and open cargo bay doors only amplify the effect. With all of the debris floating around, the ship looks like it was gutted, proverbially and literally. I circle around to the lit side. The pod locks into the guiding beacon and slides into position above the hatch.
The camera drones slide back into the pod, and I'm blind and deaf for a moment. As the pod makes contact with the ship, I hear the familiar series of clicks and rumblings as the series of hatches and armor plates close above me. The pod stops and gives the ship a proverbial breath of life.
"Running startup sequence.. self-diagnostics okay.. outer hull is sealed.. Firing up air recyclers.. it's safe to take off your suits now."
"Roger that."
As the sensor systems go online, I feel more and more like the ship. I can hear the crew walking inside me. The camera drones activate, and I can see again.
"Make your way to the engine room, I'm not getting any readings from there."
"Will do."

As the crew advances, I activate and unseal the sections to carve them a path through the ship. It feels like having blood course through a numb limb.

"It looks like whatever crew that was here left in a hurry. The powergrid cables were left hanging, and the afterburner is not secured properly."
"Get on it, then. The sooner we have working engines, the sooner we can get back to friendly space."
"Way ahead of you, sir."

While the crew works, I keep reactivating sections of the ship and explore my latest acquisition. Most of the ship is in a decent shape, but I make a mental note to get some drones and fedos to sanitize the crew quarters and get rid of the scratch marks before I let anyone in there. 

"We're done here, sir."
"Onlining the engines in 5.. 4.. 3.. "

With a rumble, I can feel the ship stabilize.

"Good work. Now, off to our real objective.."

I set an approach course to the crates floating nearby and begin transporting the ore into the cargo bay. Bistot, Crokite, Arkonor.. even Mercoxit. The ship alone is worth millions, but this cargo is a whole different matter altogether. There's quite a bit of veldspar and scordite as well, but those aren't worth hauling back. I align towards the gate and leave the rest behind.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On the Precipe of Commitment

Three hundred and sixty million ISK. I've had used lump sums larger than that many times before, but this time I'm investing on a very unreliable enterprise: myself.

I have no idea when and how I'll recoup that investment, but I do know that it needs to be made. In a matter of a few days, Mr. Parker has mined a considerable amount of ore in one of the remote regions of the galaxy. I've been providing him logistics support so far, but it's clear that the Silent Whisper is not the right tool to move several hundreds of cubic kilometers of ore. With the Invisible Hand, I had a clear plan of recouping my investment, and the gargantuan freighter did it's job admirably. But that was in the safety of Republic space, where there was little chance of losing said investment. In here, unexpected consequences can arise quickly and not let go. Even worse, this investment is useless unless I invest about one-and-a-half billion more for the Capital Industrial skill and the Rorqual itself. I feel like I'm looking down on a cliff, getting ready to fly. I can feel both the thrill of freedom and the terror of plummeting already.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Price of Loyalty

I slowly glide my shuttle into the final approach. It feels odd to be piloting something manually for a change. There was an old Amarrian man on the platform, waiting for me.


As he gave me the tour of the facilities, I saw that this place was ideal for my purposes. Many of the residents looked quite anemic and thus were appropriately passive. Nobody would have the strength to interfere. The rest of the evening was uneventful. We dined and there was some entertainment. I politely declined to participate and eventually retired into my room for the rest of the evening. After breakfast, I made my proposition.

"It seems that some of your residents have some health problems."
"As much as it pains me to say so, nobody lasts forever. We do perform purgings when we must."
"What do you mean by.. purgings?"
"Ah. Such a waste."
"Excuse me?"
"Just because the blood is tainted it doesn't diminish the value of the rest."
"I'm listening."
"If you would give the unsuitables to me and provide me with a room where my privacy is ensured, I would make sure that you are appropriately compensated for your kindness."
"We are not supposed to.."
"Think of it as a means to an end. You get some much-needed funding to support whatever goals you may have."
"And what about you?"
"I get to do whatever I want inside that room."
"I think we can reach an agreement."


At first, Desmond didn't know what he had been drafted to do. All he knew that people who were in above-average shape were ordered to report to the shuttle platform. Aside from the two guards, there was nothing there.
"Sir? Work group reporting as ordered."
"Stand by. Our client will arrive soon."
Eventually, a golden shuttle descended from the clouds and landed on the platform. Out came a figure dressed in a simple, white robe. He motioned them forward and they carried several large crates from the shuttle into one of the unused rooms.
"Thank you. That will be all."
There was a distinct accent in his voice.

Throughout the next night, they heard screams echo across the facility. In the morning, they carried a crate back into the shuttle. Next week, the visitor would come back with an empty crate, and depart with a full one. Old "patients" were gradually replaced with new ones. Rumors spread. Eventually, it was Desmond's turn. The guards dragged him up from his bed and restained him into a gurney. The room was grimy, and dirty surgical implements were strewn across the makeshift tables. And in the center of the room stood the visitor.

"Welcome. This is the room where you will be reborn. Close the door, please."
The guards left the room hastily.

Desmond's patience had paid off. The guards had not noticed that he had been whittling his restraints into a breaking point with a makeshift knife. He lunged at me and my head hit the floor with a telltale clank. His hand squeezed around my throat, with his other arm ready to strike with the knife..

"You have the divine implants, but you're a Vherokior. Blasphemy. And you work for the Sani Sabik. Heresy."
I can hear the guards pounding on the door.
"They won't get here in time."
Fortunately, I do not need my vocal cords to speak. My voice blares out from the hidden speakers.
I crossfade my exclamation into the pre-recorded track. Screams and sounds of violence fill the air. The pounding on the door stops.
"What the.. What trickery is this?!""
Desmond eases his grip, but only a little.
"I apologize for the theatrics. It was necessary for your safety as well as mine. My blood is quite valuable to them."
"What is a capsuleer doing here?"
"Saving as many as I can."
"Lies, we're like insects to you."
"I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart, no. But I'm the only chance you have. Nobody's going to look for you. You don't exist anymore."
"You've all been dead for a month. Ever since the emancipation."
"What emancipation?"
"They didn't tell you? Ah, of course. No need for you to know."
He tightens his grip.
"I do need to know."
"Empress Sarum has set you free. Employees require more upkeep than slaves, so your holder sold you and claimed that you all had died."
I can feel him easing his grip.
"And what does all this have to you with you?"
"I'm always on the lookout for workers, and the emancipation flooded the black market with viable candidates, so to speak. It turns out that not only loyalty can be bought, it's also rather cheap. That shuttle and my arrangement here with the Sani Sabik are a small price to pay for a factory that runs like clockwork."
"Of course, I couldn't participate in the auctions myself, that would have attracted undue attention. But few people dare to ask too many questions about the Sani Sabik. And those that do, tend to bomb from orbit and ask questions later."


"So.. what now?"
"You can stay here, or you could let me smuggle you out in that crate."
"What kind of choice is that?"
"An easy one. Nobody has refused yet."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Like Children to a Fly

They're nervous, but I don't blame them. They're in a thinly-shielded transport. They have attracted the attention by one of the more notorious mercenary corporations in the galaxy, and they are hunted by omniscient, immortal sociopaths to whom this ship is like a fly to be poked and dismembered, and the crew just.. blood to be spilled for momentary amusement. I know this because I'm one of those omniscient, immortal sociopaths. My sensors pick up every offhand comment, every mumbled curse and every whispered prayer. They're stuck playing an elaborate cat-and-mouse game, with stakes worth more than the organs and combined incomes of everyone they know.

The sound of directional thrusters reverb through the Silent Whisper as the ship turns towards it's destination. I hear a collective sigh of relief when AURA utters the words: "Warp Drive Active". The Whisper is whisked away from the Caldari stargate and towards the station. The ship is as silent as my pod for a moment, and then the pod becomes the proverbial eye of the storm as the voices of terror fill the ship.

"Enemy Astarte straight ahead! Brace for impact!"
Evasive maneuvers. Activate hardeners and boosters.
"It's deploying drones.. locking us.. firing."
A full volley of blaster bolts strikes the side of the Whisper. Start the microwarpdrive.
"Shields at 50%, 13%"
Realign towards the station. Contact the station and ask for docking clearance.
"Shields gone. Armor at 77%, 33%, 11%.."
"Clearance granted. Welcome to Umokka."
"Attention: Minmatar Prowler-class transport Silent Whisper is now under the protection of the Caldari Navy. Cease your attack or we will take appropriate measures in accordance of the Yulai Convention."

This time, my theatrical exit from the pod is met with a more polarized response than usual. Some are cheering, but I can feel the simmering hate in the air. I can almost hear them ask: "What right do they have to toy with our lives?"

I start walking towards the exit, and address the few crewmembers around me, talking to nobody in particular. I try to keep my voice calm and emotionless.
"I won't be departing today. Replace any and all parts not in perfect working condition. Load the cargo from the hangar and notify me when everything is ready."
"What about the crew?"
I stop, and the simple gesture gets the point across.
"Understood, sir. The Silent Whisper will be ready."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The cruise missile market has been interesting in the last few days. Aside from myself, there are half a dozen manufacturers, all locked in a price war. While I did manage to sell the initial batches at 40% profit, one of my competitors has grown impatient and lowered his prices by 20%, putting them below my production costs. However, the difference isn't large enough to warrant buying his stockpile and either reselling it at a higher price or reprocessing it back into minerals. In any case, there are signs of the market overheating, so I have reassigned my factories to produce other goods for now. It's important to spot the trend early and not be dragged down by the vicious circle of undercutting.

In other news, my associates have reported that their re-alignment in the New Eden political landscape has been completed, and that the new production centers are ready. They did make some new enemies in the process, but the war declarations are of little consequence to me. I can continue to run my business, no matter whether I do it from a station or a blockade runner cloaked in a remote part of an uninhabited solar system. I'm sending mr. Parker to help my associates soon. While he cannot match the quantity of minerals that I require, maybe he can help my associates with the quality of minerals. He is a certified refiner, has been training on mastering ORE's top-of-the-line exhumers, and can handle most mining crystals. Of course, I'd have to persuade ms. Ashley to scout the route beforehand, a task that I dread in advance. I'd hate to resort to one of the more stronger clauses in our agreement.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Life of Tribulation

Desmond Fehr is a patient man. He was never the first to bow, but always the last to raise his eyes. He endured one master after another, never to complain. This perserverance and adherence to the doctrines allowed him to taste some measure of success in the countryside. He had a house and a family. Life was good.

But then the Valklear came. Like demons, they descended upon the village. The funerals lasted for days, and the next master made sure that nobody would even think of helping the Valklears the next time. For a moment, Desmond regretted not accepting their offer. He chose to stay behind.

Days turned into weeks, and months turned into years. The Valklears never returned. Desmond became the proverbial rock among the community. Distant wars started and ended, and even the Elders came and went. Their impact was only felt later. Taxes grew larger and larger, and the taskmasters grew more and more demanding.

Eventually, the master had no choice but to sell his servants. The golden ships descended from the heavens. Eventually, Desmond and the others were brought into a market. The buyers were a suspicious lot, and everyone was carefully inspected, and Desmond could see the uneasiness on the broker's face. Desmond's turn came and went. After the auction, they were loaded into a shipping container. The doors closed and they were engulfed in darkness. There was a rumble, and the container started to move. People started talking to pass the time. Most of it was meaningless, but one particular conversation sparked Desmond's interest.

"The holding pattern was a mess, so the Master sent us on the outer hull to replace some of the armor plates. He said that we would be cheaper than having the station crews have a look at the ship. So there I was, working on the outer hull, finishing the engravings on one of the new armor plates that we replaced. Then I saw it. It was an Armageddon-class battleship in an atrocious condition. Some of the outer plating was missing, and there was rust all over. I mean, keeping a divine ship in such a condition is a discrace!"
He was interrupted by one of the other Brutors.
"It wasn't rust."
"It wasn't rust, and it wasn't a divine ship."
"You mean.."
"It was blood. That was a Bhaalgorn."
"We were bought in bulk. Just think for a moment. I'm too old for honest work, and I was certainly not bought for my rugged looks."
"No.. no no no.."
"Yes. We're going to a blood farm."
"Keep your voice down! We don't want a panic!"
"Does it really matter? Maybe i'm lucky and get trampled to death."
"Shut up.. Shut up. Shut up!"

The old man got his wish. The blows echoed in the suddenly-silent container. After a few minutes, the doors opened. The guards dragged them both away, cleaned the stains and left the rest in darkness.

Desmond prayed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Subcontractors, Liquidity and Missed Opportunities

Despite measureable improvements in mr. Parker's performance, the yields are still below what I need for sustained production. The first batch of my new products sold almost instantly and provided a hefty return on investment, but I'd need at least four or five more subcontractors to achieve the optimal production rate. I don't have the capital to maintain buy orders for a batch of materials while one batch is being sold and an another in production., so I have to waste my time with the Silent Whisper, hunting for bargains in the less reputable portions of space. It isn't particularly dangerous, though, just time-consuming. Furthermore, the lack of liquidity forbids me from taking advantage of other business opportunities. I did manage to snatch a shipment of underpriced missiles to be reprocessed back to minerals, but that's just a drop in the ocean.
There's also the products that I managed to get to safety before the Wicked Creek debacle. Those assets were worth billions, but that market is inaccessible now. My associates have been doing well in the north, but distractions here have kept me too busy to pay anything but superficial attention. Someday I'll have to take the Silent Whisper for a spin and get acquainted with the new neighbors. Surely there must be someone out there who values discreet and timely deliveries..
Miss Ashley's also been complaining that the frequent pirate intrusions into the core systems are becoming more and more serious. Sometimes it's even been necessary to call for backup. The Victim's Guilt is a sturdy vessel, built like a brick, but she has a point, though. A Raven-class battleship would be ideal, but the increased destructive power would also require me to upgrade to a Hurricane-class battlecruiser to keep the space lanes clear of valuable wreckages.
So much potential, and so few opportunities..

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On Ransom

During my travels, I have encountered several individuals and groups who take more active measures in acquiring wealth. Sometimes these people engage in what it's commonly known as ransoming: Capturing something valuable and demanding compensation for returning it. The valuable can be an item, an individual, a group of people or even a ship. Still, the decision-making process for all of these cases is the same.
So how would a reasonable businessman approach such a situation?
The first step is to identify all possible outcomes and the losses and gains associated with them.
  1. The valuables are retrieved without paying the ransom. The victim loses nothing, and the ransomer gains nothing.
  2. Ransom is paid, and the valuables are returned. The victim loses the ransom amount, and the ransomer gains it.
  3. The ransom is not paid, and the valuables are not returned. The victim loses the valuables, and the ransomer gains them.
  4. The ransom is paid, but the valuables are not returned. The victim loses everything, and the ransomer gains everything.
#1 is naturally the best option, but usually requires some form of leverage, like overwhelming force or credible promises of future revenue for the ransomer. But in contemporary Empire markets where profit margins are already slim, spreading the wealth around is not always an option. So in most cases, we will be dealing with #2, #3 and #4. It's noteworthy to realize that the decision-making process is two-tiered: The victim either chooses #3 or lets the ransomer choose between #2 and #4. This limited form of choice sometimes affects the victim psychologically and provides a powerful incentive to choose #3, if only to spite the ransomer. In many cases, this is counterproductive and such decision can carry a hefty cost.

A smarter businessman will take the time between capture and the deadline to perform research on his adversary, because understanding your opponent's motivations will provide clues on whether the opponent is more likely to choose #2 or #4. Many ransomers are independent. Such entities' primary forms of income are ransoming, non-aggression pacts and sometimes protection agreements. When it comes to ransoming ships, they will most likely have scouts in space and have researched you to evaluate your willingness and means to pay a ransom. If you are dealing with such individuals or groups, they are likely to choose #2. Their intention is not to stop a revenue stream, only to divert it to their own accounts. Their ultimate goal would be the non-aggression pact, where they are paid for not engaging certain targets, providing a steady stream of revenue for minimal operating costs. As such, any measures that provide a strong incentive for targets to refrain from risky behavior is counterproductive at best. Choosing #4 would make their next target more likely to choose #3 as their reputation spreads, cutting off their source of income altogether. 

However, there are also entities who engage in ransoming to drive their victims out of business. The more damage caused to the target, the better. A mercenary corporation hired by a competitor is a good example. Their contract probably has a one-time payment for a certain time period of activity, and any and all gains from such activity can be kept by the mercenary corporation. Thus they have a strong incentive to choose #4 as often as possible. A smart businessman should always choose #3 if dealing with said entities to minimize losses. Mercenary contracts are not cheap, and minimizing your losses is an important part of an overall strategy if a war of attrition is unavoidable.

To recap: Choose #3 when dealing with competitors or their subcontractors. Let independents choose #2.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

"Docking request accepted. Please stand by for remote control."
As the tractor beams pull the Overseer through the entry corridor, I recall the camera drones and begin shutting down the primary systems. After a few minutes, I feel the ship come to a halt and shut down the final sensors. For a moment, I am blessed by absolute silence as the pod re-initializes my senses. First I feel the pod fluids around me, then I hear my own heartbeat. I can see the pod's inner lights activate through my eyelids. I hear a series of rumbles as the armor plates protecting the pod cradle move aside. While the pod is being lifted to the dock, the plugs detach themselves and float away from my head and spine. A slight thud signals that the pod has reached it's destination, and I hit the switch.

I fall to the cold metal floor, and the docking crew sprays me clean of the pod fluids. To some of my crew, this is the first time they've seen me. Up until now, I've been an omniscient, disembodied voice of god and before that, a name in the recruitment ad. Many other capsuleers prefer to keep it that way. I slowly open my eyes and let them adjust to the light. I try to stand up, the floor still slippery from the fluids. I try again. A towel is handed to me. I dry myself and start putting on my clothes. I spot a few crew members whispering something to each other. I can't hear them through the rumble of machines, but I don't have to. This little bit of theatrics has served it's purpose. I put on my vest and start walking towards the door.