Day 1244: Aramean Excavations

Before I jump to the heart of the matter, a little history: Loreena has not always been at Aeon’s side. Before the advent of wormholes popping up throughout new eden, a very rare wormhole event lead to a planet’s destruction – and to Loreena being one of its very few survivors. The planet was Loreena’s homeworld, Aramea. You can read more about this turn of events in their Biographies.

Aramea's Glory Days

Aramea, Loreena's homeworld before the cataclysm

Since that day, and thanks to Aeon, she has been able to get past the initial shock and to build a life for herself. About a year ago however, Ammatar scientists discovered that a large debris field near Gamis in the Derelik region was none other than the remains of Aramea, catapulted there by the wormhole from the vicinity of Oshaima and Hysera in Caldari space. Loreena went to explore the debris lately, and came back changed.

This is a transcript of what happened, as viewed by the people involved.

Note: non-roleplaying captain’s log continued below.

Aeon

The changes that the visit operated in Loreena were not immediately clear to Aeon, until a rather peculiar request reached him from a group of officials from the Ammatar Consulate Bureau in Tanoo. They wanted him to attend a reception in Loreena’s honor.

His interest was piqued. Apparently she was to be awarded a decoration, and he had no idea what she could be decorated for. But then they had never really talked much, they kept in touch but both lead their own lives. Still, this was different… he wondered why she had not mentioned it before. People do not drop a decoration on you without first telling you how lucky you are. Puzzled, he did what he always did: stop brooding and hunt for more information.

Information turned out to be surprisingly hard to hunt, and that always made him wary. Something was about to happen, and it would be big.

Loreena

She watched a piece of Aramea’s crust idly float by, its rotation catching the light of Gamis’ white dwarf star. She still did not know how to handle Aeon. She felt bad about dropping everything on him like this, but she knew otherwise he would try to stop her – and packed with feelings as she was, she was scared of losing it right there. She knew she was not being entirely sane, so she clung to her only hope of personal redemption.

The Ammatar consulate had sent her the final details of the reception that morning, so everything was ready. Hopefully the information filters she had put in place in Aeon’s infogrid would have kept him from finding out ahead of schedule. Her logs showed some activity, that was to be expected. To say she had not been her usual self was a gross understatement, so he was bound to notice. Glumly she aligned the ship and warped out. You do not treat family like this, she thought. Especially since there was not much family left. The debris field receded quickly behind her as warp engaged.

She shut off her emotions, she had to act now before she went to pieces.

Aeon

Sytek’s information board chimed. His worried frown turned into genuine concern when he read that Loreena had stepped down as acting CEO and designated him as new CEO. The concern quickly changed into anger – he did not like surprises, and especially not people going behind his back like this. What the blazes was she up to? This was not like her at all. He let the anger infuse him for a while, but quickly put it aside again. Being mad could be enjoyable, but it was never particularly productive.

He wiped his systems clean to get rid of the filters he was now sure she had put in place, otherwise he would have seen her drop all corp roles. Apparently him being the new CEO was an information she deemed him fit to receive, so whatever she was planning was coming to a head. He took a moment to suppress his anger again, she would never do this willingly. Either she was in real trouble, or she was going mad.

Whatever it was, he waited patiently for the decoration ceremony on Tanoo. His locator agent showed she was on her way there, so he made ready for the reception himself. He would have time to act after she put her cards on the table.

Loreena

By now he knew she had resigned as CEO, and she was afraid he might call her directly. The comms system stayed silent, though. She was on her way to Tanoo, and her locator agent showed he was on his way as well. It reassured her somewhat, it meant he still had his wits. He had always liked seeing the full picture before he made a final decision, and she was counting on that to bring this through.

The award was unexpected, but it had given her the perfect opportunity to show Aeon what this was all about, and hopefully he would understand her motives and not try to talk her out of it. Please. It took all her strength now to keep the pieces of her tattered soul together. She was not even sure this venture would help her mend herself, but there was nothing else the universe could give her that would. When she had first laid eyes on Aramea’s debris field, she had realized she had never healed one bit.

What a stupid thing to do! She may not have been whole before, but seeing the pieces of her former life drifting through space had shattered her even more fiercely than the initial event. She had pictured the souls of billions of lost souls clinging to what was left of their home and collapsed right there on the spot. Now all that held her together were the fine strands of purpose this project had given her.

She needed this to work. It meant survival and redemption. As her ship was towed into station, she saw that Aeon was two jumps out. Forgive me, she thought as her pod began the flush sequence.

Aeon

As he made his way to the reception hall, he wondered if his attire was at all appropriate for the event. He had chosen this flowing dark ochre capsuleer cloak because it scared most people into not trying to engage in idle conversation with him. Of course his scowl largely contributed to that as well, but the people who knew the origins of the cloak would give him a wide berth. He did not want too much distraction while Loreena unfolded her plans, so it suited him just fine. He was not here to make friends.

The reception hall was not as joyous as he expected. There was an underlying solemnity and serious expressions on everyone’s faces except maybe the young fools attending their first ever reception. Loreena was nowhere to be seen, so he took his scowl to the other side of the hall. There were some curious and frightened glances, but no one made a move to talk to him. The master of ceremony who had sent him the invitation briefly nodded to him, and he returned her nod politely. He climbed up the stairwell in the back of the hall and took a seat in the deserted upper lodge.

His cheek was beginning to ache, so he relaxed his scowl. It had served him well, and the attention of the room was fixed the other way to the dais now anyway; the master of ceremony had started introducing the members present. His initial sweep of the room confirmed his assessment: the majority of the attendees were caldari. Loreena was caldari after all, but who were these people? They did not look like officials of any kind, and there was even a whole bunch of common folk to one side, easily recognizable by their garments.

One thing was certain though: Whatever this was about, it was not about joy.

Loreena

Her biggest fear was that someone would say something that would make her lose her composure. These were people who had suffered the same losses, so they had a deeper understanding of what this represented than outsiders. They were bound to see how pathetic she was, trying to put a puzzle the size of a planet back together. But then, everyone had his own way to cope. If this could be her way, her wretched existence might mean something again, regardless of what the universe thought of her.

She unruffled a few folds in her dress, and waited for the signal. She could hear the master of ceremony, Imulia Aeduin, giving her speech around the corner. She had given Loreena the opportunity to review it before she gave it, and Loreena had been touched by the woman’s insights into Areamea’s survivors’ plight. She did not have any amends to the script, it was more than adequate. On a level of consciousness she was awed by the fact that her project had hit such a response, but it did not feel right because she was not doing it out of kindness of heart. Or was she? She was beyond knowing what she really felt.

A light came on above her lodge’s doorframe, and she made her way out onto the dais next to Imulia Aeduin.

Aeon

As he had half expected, the dress she had chosen for the ceremony was entirely unceremonious. He did not linger on her attire though, as her haunted look pierced him through and through. The screen next to him had a close-up camera view of her, and the woman he saw there was an empty husk compared to the one he knew. He half rose in shock, looking over to the dais in disbelief. He resisted a sudden impulse to jump down the three meters to the floor and run over there. Of course, that would accomplish nothing. He slowly let himself sink back into the cushioned couch, his mind racing.

The speaker next to her he had recognized as being the Ammatar Consulate’s CFO, Imulia Aeduin. She had given a pretty good speech about the survivors of Aramea, which helped him place the context of the ceremony as well as give him the reason for the bleak mood. Ever since he had taken Loreena with him into Minmatar space he had been concerned with how she would cope with her loss, and although he had been with her a lot in the first years, their lives had led them to see each other less often. As far as he knew, she did not have any friends, but he had not worried about it too much anymore.

She was unrecognizable, even worse than after the blast that had robbed her of her family and her home in mere seconds. He watched her on the screen, oblivious to what Imulia was saying. Something must have triggered this breakdown… she looked like she was on the verge of collapse, but still strong enough to see through whatever she had planned. She gave a stealthy glance around the room and spotted him, then quickly averted her eyes again. He was sure no one else had seen the movement, she must have wanted to make sure he was there.

Then, finally, her plan was revealed.

Imulia Aeduin

She had always had a gift to sense emotions. Her parents had even sent her to a clinic specializing in psychic abilities when she was young, to make sure she was not psychic. Apparently she was not, otherwise she would most likely be in a Minmatar training facility today. Nevertheless, her so-called ability was a very useful tool to have. She had sensed the crowd’s feelings, and modulated the flow of her speech to their emotional response. It had worked very well, she had been able to touch them without bringing too many painful memories to the surface. Something unruffled her slightly however.

There was tension in the hall, very intense – and from only a few people. Her gift did not enable her to pinpoint individual sources, but she was sure that part of the tension came of that AeonOfTime character in the back of the hall. He was far enough from the rest of the crowd to allow her to sense it. She did not know enough about him to determine if he could be a problem, but she did not think so. Then there was the matter of Loreena Syrkos. As far as she could determine, she was a nervous wreck. It would not show that much to bystanders like the people in this crowd as she had herself under tight, even desperate control – but Imulia could feel it.

When Loreena came onto the dais, she saw AeonOfTime half rise to his feet, and a wave of concern hit her with all its might from his direction. There was obviously a strong connection between them, which made the whole situation even more mysterious. It was none of her business, but she felt curious nonetheless. She lived in a giant melting pot of emotions, and she felt drawn to strong emotions that rose out of the general mess. Emotions like these. She introduced Loreena to the crowd, even if it was not necessary – all the people present knew who she was.

It was a crazy idea, one that only a capsuleer could come up with – but Imulia thought it was a good one. Loreena had created a unique industrial process whose purpose was to salvage Aramea’s debris field for any information and items pertaining to the Aramean way of life and culture. The Ammatar Consulate had sponsored a dedicated office space transformed into a museum here on station, and already a few choice items were on display. The elder Aramean survivors had called her Aramea’s “Keeper of Knowledge”, and that was the decoration she was being awarded now. Her new corporation, Aramean Excavations, was there to fund the project and ensure the survival of the items even after the last Arameans were no more.

She wondered whether Loreena would find peace in her venture.

Aeon

So that’s what she had found to seek healing. To cling to the remnants of her shattered home, to get entangled in a web spun by memories and artefacts of a lost world. Aramean Keeper of Knowledge? Indeed! What good could this kind of archaeology possibly do? Trying to find clues of long lost empires was one thing, trying to revive an empire gone in a mere human lifetime sounded dreadful. He was torn between shaking her out of this folly and trying to understand what it was that she really sought.

For an instant, when Imulia put the decoration on her dress she had seemed genuinely happy, but it had only lasted a couple of seconds before it was replaced by the same haunted look. The ceremony over, people flocked around her, sharing thoughts and ideas, offering support. Of course the dead could not come back, but he could clearly see that these people were grateful that someone was safeguarding at least a token of their past. He saw relief on some faces, plain gratefulness on others. He decided to use the occasion to take his leave silently. He was convinced Loreena would not want to confront him now – besides, he was not entirely sure he wanted to either.

He went back to the hangar the station had assigned him. Standing before the hull of Skullsplitter Junior, he watched the ballet of cleaning drones polishing the hell out of his thruster tubes. He had a hunch he would not be boarding his ship now, somehow it did not feel right. He had a nagging sensation of having forgotten something, and he knew it would nag at him until he did something about it.

Until he finally decided to go back and save her.

Imulia

He was gone. She could feel it now, the absence of his peculiar flow of emotions had dissipated. She checked the back lodge, his seat was empty. He must have used the general commotion after the decoration to slip out unseen, what a peculiar personage. Her curiosity got the better of her, so after saying her goodbyes to everyone she went back to her quarters. She accessed the infogrid to find out who he was, and a few seconds later she was already back on her feet, running like a cheetah with a hellhound on its heels to the ship hangars.

How could everyone have been so blind? He was the savior of Aramea of course, the pilot who had managed to get his ship out and warn enough ships in-system to save thousands of civilians. He was the one who took Loreena under his wing, who had saved her from destruction. Everything was falling into place now in her mind… all their feelings, the whole operation were all designed for one hidden purpose. Only someone with her abilities could see this, and now she had to convince him to come back.

He had to save her. Again.

Loreena

The attention felt good. These people were actually proud of her, grateful for what she did for the memory of Aramea. She saw the light that shone in their eyes when they spoke of their own memories, of what they could do to help. She let it all wash over her, and for a few precious moments she felt alight with the purpose that infused her, a bridge over the unsoundable, dark depths below. When the feeling slowly subsided, she mustered her strength again because she knew she had to see Aeon now. She knew that his reaction would eventually decide her fate, even if he did not realize it. She did not know why his reaction was that important herself, it was difficult to stay sane with so many shrieking souls trailing behind her wherever she went. Pleading her to release them.

Aeon was gone however, as a quick glance to the back lodge and around the hall quickly confirmed. Her control wavered for a while, and she had to fight with renewed vigor to keep her sanity in check. She had no idea how long she could keep this up, she desperately needed his approval. Everything hinged on that now, pathetic as it may be. She was still lucid enough to know that she was too far down the road to madness to try and lift herself out of the pit now. All she could do was to try and ignore the fact that she may never recover from this. She clung to the faint hope that Aeon would understand her, but he had left. Soon there would be nothing left to cling to.

She was talking with one of the elder Arameans to distract her mind when Imulia came back into the hall, with Aeon by her side. Her heart leaped. She did not know what the significance of them appearing together was. In any other situation she would have been curious, but now she could not have cared less. The time had come.

This was when her fate would be sealed.

Aeon

He was on his way back to the reception hall when the CFO of the Ammatar Consulate came running to meet him. When she caught up with him, she was panting like she had just sprinted accross half of the station. It later turned out she actually did, but for the moment he watched her amusedly, waiting politely for her to catch her breath. There did not seem to be any particular urgency on her face besides her mad sprint, so he did not want to press her about the reasons of this odd interception.

As it were, she was here to change his mind about leaving without talking to Loreena, which confirmed his hunch that it would have been a bad idea. Imulia had a peculiar way to see through people, and even if the reception had given him the final piece of the puzzle with Loreena visiting the debris of her home, she was able to give him some additional valuable insights. His final assessment had been that she needed more help that he could give himself, but he saw now that he himself was the key to her salvation – as uncomfortable as that may make him.

This was unfamiliar territory… as a hardcore lone wolf, he rarely socialized with anyone. Syrkos Technologies was an exception, he valued the insights and contacts with pod pilots like himself. Loreena was a lone wolf herself, but it had been forced on her. She had never learned to cope with the loneliness – no wonder, considering the burden she had to live with all by herself. Visiting the debris field must have reawakened powerful old daemons, and the only person she knew and that she trusted was him.

He was not one to dwell on the past. Letting them drift apart had been a mistake, he had not taken the time to pay closer attention to her. He was so used to minimizing duties and dependencies that he had mistakenly included her in them. The harm was done though, so he concentrated on how he could salvage what was left of her.

It seemed their paths were destined to run along each other.

Imulia

AeonOfTime was more receptive to what she had to say than she had expected. She often underestimated people, it was one of her failings. He had obviously come to the same conclusions, albeit not for the same reasons. His history with Loreena was a long one, but he had not seen exactly how much she needed him to be present. Loreena’s burden was a heavy one to bear, she could feel it seeping out of her like an ever open wound. When she had stood next to her on the dais, there had been a moment when she had thought that dying in the blast on Aramea would have been merciful.

When she entered the hall with Aeon at her side, only Loreena paid any heed. No one but herself had apparently made the connection between Aeon and the so-called Hero of Aramea, which was not a bad thing in this situation. Loreena emanated joy and despair at the same time, a very unlikely combination. She accompanied Aeon up to the Dais, but stayed a few metres behind to give them a semblance of privacy.

She felt like a leech. The part of her that craved strong emotions was ecstatic – she had never enountered people before whose feelings radiated so intensely and in so many layers of complexity. The reasoning part in her felt ashamed for prying on them like a voyeur, even if it was not exactly comparable. She even found a small part of her wishing Loreena would come undone here and now, to see what kind of emotions that would trigger.

Sometimes she disgusted herself.

Aeon

It was surreal. No one here even noticed the struggle that was going on, the urgency and critical nature of their exchange. Bystanders were enaging in idle conversation, small talk, even discussing cooking recipes. While they were deciding their respective fates. It seemed appropriate for lone wolves to keep their inner battles hidden, but for once he wished it would come out into the open, that it would make a big scene instead of some undercover-style communication based on looks and cryptic words. He felt Imulia’s gaze on them, she was a weird one. But she was at least one bystander that knew at least part of what was being played here.

Loreena looked strangely happy and afraid at the same time, but he did not have the leisure to wonder how one could mix the two. His instincts were on edge as if he had a whole angel fleet chasing him, and everything he knew about her was being retrieved, analyzed and reprocessed in his mind. As he approached her, he read her expression, saw the subtle tightening of her cheekbones and arms as he came nearer, and he realized that whatever he was going to say had the potential force of killing her.

He instantly dismissed congratulating her on the decoration – the heart of the matter lay somewhere else. No, the fact that she had sprung the new corporation and the whole venture on him like this meant that was the key. But what could she need from him other than his support and approval? But surely she knew she did not need plots like this to have those?
Then it came to him in a sudden insight. Of course, it was so subtle yet painfully obvious…

He knew exactly what he needed to do.

Loreena

Time had stopped. Everything was a blur except for Aeon slowly approaching. She saw his face, coolly examining her, trying to see through her. He did not seem mad at all she asserted, the tension of the wrinkles on his face only betrayed concern. A flicker of hope ran through her, momentarily silencing the abyss behind her from which Aramea’s souls were shrieking up to her. She could not believe how far she had let herself sink, but once she had realized what was happening it had already been too late.

Foolishly she had believed that she would be able to tackle the daemons inside on her own, but they had all the patience the universe itself could bring to the table. They slowly gnawed away her defenses until they were rotted from within, ready to crumble at the smallest pressure. That was the kind of damage that a person cannot heal on his/her own. Aeon had been so close… but still she had kept going on her own, ever widening the trap beneath her feet. Poor Aeon, so much hinged on him now. She did not dare to speak lest her voice fail her now. It had to come from him. Yet again her life lay in his hands.

Their exchange lasted a good minute, but no words were spoken. Of all she had come to expect, this was not even on her list. It was so unlike him, but it transcended all her hopes. Even the billion aramean souls were awed into silence, her daemons in shock. All these years spent slowly eating her alive from within, gone in a single act.

A kiss.

Imulia

She knew she would never feel anything like that again in her lifetime. She had been literally blown away by the conflagration of the pent-up bundle of emotions the two of them had released with that embrace. As she came back to her senses, she realized everyone was looking at the odd couple. Some showed that they recognized Aeon now for who he was, others were just mesmerized by what had just happened. All of them knew they had witnessed something momentous however, even if they had none of the details.

She had always sneered at fairy tales with their true love kisses junk, but if anything could come close this was it. Somehow, knowing that in their technological age emotions as strong as these were still possible reassured her enormously. Of all the things Aeon could have done to heal her, this had definitely succeeded.

The hero of Aramea had just become a hero all over again.

Author’s notes

Yes, it is kind of a fairy tale. But who in truth does not want a fairy tale for himself? I like a good story, and the setting from Aeon and Loreena’s biographies begged for a sequel, or at least another chapter. Like everything in EVE, both are a bit broken by the harsh world they live in, but all hope is not lost. Yes, it is cheesy and a bit overdone, but we are living in a society where everything is slightly overdone so I am thinking it should not show too much 🙂

Anyway, if you are looking for references, I was inspired by the Gap Series by Stephen Donaldson, The Elenium by David Eddings and the movie The Princess Bride as well as EVE Online of course. All characters and places exist in the game, except for the fabled Aramea.

Captain’s log, supplemental

Loreena has gone rogue and created her own corporation, Aramean Excavations. The backstory above builds the foundation of a new venture, namely a small POS that I have been planning to set up for quite a while now. Because of Sytek’s rather unflattering standings accross the board, Loreena created Aramean Excavations so that her Ammatar standings would be good enough to set it up in high security space.

My initial plans have not changed much: it will be a small tower with just one or two labs to start with. As I do not know yet where this will take me, I prefer not to invest too much. With a setup like this, the running costs are very reasonable with approximately 45 million ISK per month for a regular small tower. Of course a faction tower would decrease the running costs a bit, but not enough to warrant investing in a faction tower. A Dread Guristas small tower will make you about 600 million ISK poorer (vs 150 for a regular one), for approximately 6 million ISK less fuel usage per month. That is definitely not an investment I will do right away 🙂

I testdrove a POS on SiSi pior to starting on this path, and while it all seemed quite convoluted I decided to do it on tranquility anyway. At the very least I will finally be able to finish off the ME and PE research on my BPOs without having to entrust them to a third party. Besides, I look forward to seeing how a POS can be useful for a lone wolf like myself in practice. Besides, it will be nice for any JVC alliance members that want to use it as well. Alliance usage is limited to PE (Production Efficiency) and ME (Material Efficiency) jobs, but if the POS should prove to be more than just a toy Sytek may just get its own POS as well.

For the time being, I am collecting all the POS components Loreena needs and deciding in which system I will eventually anchor it. Anchoring V and the Starbase Defense IV skills are trained, so she can both set it up and defend it if need be, although I am hoping it will not come to that anytime soon. Besides, in case of war I may just ninja unanchor the whole thing in the 24 hours before the war starts. That’s one of the perks of using a small tower with few installations attached. Unless CCP has some obscure laws in effect that do not allow unanchoring of POS structures in that timeframe… it would not in the least surprise me.

On a sidenote, Loreena is growing teeth in more ways than one… along with the new corporation she now flies a Dominix, a perfect addition to her extensive drone skills. Her battleship support skills are not that good yet, so no level 4 mission running solo but along with Aeon as a tanker, it is a beast of a drone carrier. And she has a lot in store for the future… she is on a skillplan that will take her all the way to a Kronos, which will be the final step in making her stand on her own two feet.

Then she will be able to save Aeon for a change.

Aeon's Status:
Skillpoints: 56.400.000
Level V skills: 72
Level IV skills: 67
Known skills: 184
ISK Balance: 90.000.000
Training: Exhumers V
Loreena's Status:
Skillpoints: 58.300.000
Level V skills: 82
Level IV skills: 30
Known skills: 163
ISK Balance: 45.000.000
Training: Gallente Battleship V

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