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."