Apr 24 2014

EVE veteran stories

I stumbled over a forum post in the official EVE forums, entitled “How did you veterans start?“.

It’s an interesting read, with a number of EVE pilots writing about their early days playing the game up to today, with different playstyles and backgrounds. Share your own story there, at the time of writing the thread still lacks a pure trader / industrialist point of view.


Feb 28 2014

Ill tidings

Author’s note: This is the continuation of the in character story I started a while back.

Here’s a short recap if you wish to dive right in:

After Loreena’s home planet was destroyed in a cataclysm, she struggled to keep the pieces of her life together. Aeon was ever present since he saved her from Aramea’s destruction, even if always from a distance. As a true lone wolf, he was always on the move – but their bond was stronger than even they realized. Loreena found a way to fill the emptyness she felt by creating the Aramean Excavations project: a non-profit organization dedicated to salvaging the remnants of her home planet from the debris field that had taken its place. It was on the day of its inauguration that both their feelings came to a head. During the ceremony, Loreena was on the verge of collapse when Aeon finally stepped in and revealed to them both with a kiss just how strongly they felt about each other. Since then both have gone back to their usual routine, but things were not quite the same anymore.


Aeon

Jarzalad System, Tash-Murkon region, somewhere in the vicinity of Jarzalad V.

His thoughts invariably wandered back to the kiss – How that simple touch revealed the extent of his feelings for her, locked away unbeknownst even to himself. He enjoyed every bit of it, but he had a lot of trouble focusing on anything else. The vibration from a kinetic cruise missile hitting the ships’ armour brought his attention back to the battle. He had to adapt his strategy somewhat, those heavy hitting drone ships had a lot of range, and Angus’ Fist, his Hyperion, had trouble keeping up with the damage even under full afterburner. He changed his trajectory to bring a cluster of debris between him and the heaviest hitters and concentrated his firepower on a lone battleship coasting close by.

The question of course, was whether this would change anything. Did it have to change anything? He sneered at this line of thought. People as experienced as him should be immune to such dilemmas. Nevertheless, here he was – wondering what he should do now, how that simple – yet very enjoyable – moment would affect his life. Did he fear change? Him of all people, the nomad, bathing in constant change? He had to admit that much: he was indeed afraid. He knew where this fear came from: while he was used to constantly changing sceneries, opponents and more, the constant had always been his solitude. Lone wolves do not have a mate. Would he stop being a lone wolf, then? He laughed aloud at all this silliness. He was putting way too much thought in this – he had to approach the subject the same way he did everything else. Bend to the change, embrace it and make it your own.

He focused back on the fight at hand. His opponents were crumbling, but the drone commander was at least a competent pilot. He had tractored in the wrecks of the ships in his fleet and was using them as a shield of sorts. Smart – Aeon’s guns had trouble tracking the commander’s ship in all that rubble, while in turn his guns had no trouble tracking Angus’ Fist. Aeon saluted an original move, and smiled as he launched the salvage drones. He knew that the done commander had no weaponry left that could shoot these small craft, and they would have that rubble cleared in a few minutes. The drone commander got the point almost immediately, and responded the same way that countless drone ships had done before it by blasting through the rubble on a collision course – stressing the thrusters as far as they would go. Aeon was ready and unleashed several salvos that crippled the ship. He smartly avoided the disabled ship, matched speed with it and launched the grapplers. His mission was to retrieve the drone commander’s AI core, so he gave his team of marines the go to board to retrieve it.

Two hours later, he was a few million ISK richer, and some obscure caldari scientist was the happy owner of the drone’s AI core. Sometimes he wondered what they used these things for, but if you wished to keep getting good missions it was best not to ask too many questions. He had considered asking his agent for a follow-up contract right away, but he knew that he was only stalling for time – keeping himself occupied to put off what he should have done days ago. He looked out intently into the station’s ship hangar, and without a second thought activated the slot holding Swoooooooosh, his Malediction-class interceptor. It was rigged specifically for fast travel, so that the 29 jumps to Gamis would go by in a flash. He had to stop in Lustrevik on the way, but that was not too big of a side trip.

As usual there were gate hugging hyenas loitering around select star gates on the main shipping lane to the Rens hub. They did not pose any threat however – he was way too fast for them, and he did not carry any cargo worth attacking for. He docked in Lustrevik after an uneventful trip, and spent almost an hour rummaging through his old Syrkos Technologies corporation hangar to find what he was looking for. He had only recently remembered that Loreena’s mother had given him a plain wooden box to give Loreena once they would be out surveying the belt. Through the cataclysm he had entirely forgotten about it, and it had ended up here with the rest of his useless objects collection. He had no idea what could be in it, and he was tempted to attempt to open the seal and have a look at the contents of the box. Knowing how easily she had always been able to read him, she would see through that little lie immediately, so he decided against it.

It always felt peculiar coming back to Lustrevik. His corporation hangars here were the oldest of all the Syrkos Technologies offices, and they even had a distinct smell to them; a smell that he had grown fond of. It was dusty of course, and through his hoarder like compulsions he had collected any number of memorabilia over the years that created a peculiar mix of smells not unlike an attic in an old house. This had to be as close to a home as it would ever get for him. Not one to linger on nostalgic thoughts for long, he went back to the hangar with the box to finish his trip to Gamis. As chance or fate would have it, the automatic docking bots had put his ship right next to Crimson Skies, his Hurricane-class battle cruiser that he and Loreena had escaped Aramea’s explosion with. It was a ship filled to the brim with memories, and not all of them good. Right before Loreena’s father had convinced him to take on the mission to escort his daughter, he had been having dark thoughts about his mortality. Even if he ship ultimately saved them both, he had not been able to fly it again since.

He stood there for quite some time brooding about symbolism, cheesy romantic actions, the foolishness of love and the like. He loathed himself for even coming up with the silly idea of bringing her this old bauble in the ship that saved them – it went against all his usual instincts, but he did it anyway because it felt very appropriate somehow. Thanks to the station’s automated maintenance routines, the ship was in pristine shape, and all systems checked out perfectly. Part of him had wished that it would not be able to fly, but the roar of the powerful thrusters coming to life left no room for doubt as the ship soared out of the station. He had not undocked in a Hurricane in over six years, but he instantly remembered what he liked in the ship. It felt like an untamed feline, both fast and powerful. He enjoyed the tip to Gamis very much, and as he got closer he found he really looked forward to surprising her.

Loreena

Gamis, Aramean Excavation’s Field Research tower, Loreena Syrkos’ office.

She knew that she was drowning herself in work to keep herself from thinking. There was way too much to think about, and none of the questions had easy answers – when they had answers at all. No point in trying to unwrap the mystery that was Aeon if he did not involve her in his life more. The kiss had shown them both what had been there all along, but neither of them really knew what to do about it. In Aeon’s case she felt it was quite simple, since he was used to a solitary life – but then everything he had done for her over the years directly contradicted this. A knock on the door took her out of her reverie, and she let Anthea in.

“I thought you’d like to know right away that the survey teams we sent to planet ten moon two have found a number of promising debris orbiting it” she said, slumping into the couch in the corner.

“Have they found anything we can use?”

“No, they just started setting up there. They positively identified the debris as Aramean though, which is a good start.”

“Thanks, that’s good news indeed.”

Anthea looked at her critically. “You look like you could use some sleep.”

Loreena smiled. “That’s very mildly put coming from you.”

“Okay, you look like shit,” she answered with a perfectly straight face. Loreena laughed, Anthea was known to freely speak her mind, and Loreena had come to appreciate her blunt edges.

“I know, but I can’t seem to stop. There’s just so much to be done.”

Anthea ignored that. “You’re going to have to take the initiative here you know. If you wait for him to make the next move, you can wait forever.”

Well, that was blunt enough. “That would be much easier if I knew what I want myself, you know.”

“Bah, don’t give me that crap. You have wanted to be with him for years, and now you even have final confirmation that he likes you too. I don’t see how it could get simpler than that.”

“You’re taking all the wind out of my self-pity you know.”

Anthea giggled delightedly. “It’s time that wind blew in another direction anyway. Just get some rest, girl – and then go get him.”

“You always make it sound so trivial, so simple.”

“That’s because ultimately, it is. People just tend to complicate things by adding thought to the process.” She said it with such a perfectly straight face that Loreena had to laugh again.

She bowed, and replied, “I shall be guided by your wisdom.”

“I shall be guided by your wisdom?” Anthea repeated mockingly with a smirk. “Damn girl, you sound like you fell out of a cheap heroic fantasy book.”

Loreena was about to retort when the light in the office suddenly darkened. They both turned towards the wide glass pane that was pointed towards Gamis’ star, and saw that a ship was hovering right in front of the office. Not any ship, either – she recognized it instantly.

“Oh my,” she said. Anthea looked puzzled.

“You know this jerk?”

Loreena nodded. “That’s Aeon. And that ship is Crimson Skies, the one we escaped Aramea in together.”

“Oh my,” Anthea said in an awed voice.

Aeon

As he approached the tower for docking, the station’s services informed him that Loreena was in her office. He figured that having come this far in gooey romantic ideas, a finishing touch would not hurt that much. He cancelled the docking request and enabled manual flight controls. He plotted a course that would bring him directly in front of Loreena’s office. The tower was set to reposition itself automatically to always face Gamis’ star – something about the light as he recalled. Blocking the view should have the intended dramatic effect. He sent a camera drone ahead, and its video feed confirmed that she was indeed there, along with Anthea. He laughed. Some fierce warrior he was! If this were a cheesy romance movie, he would probably serenade her next. He shook himself to get rid of the imagery and concentrated on the manoeuvre. This required some finer piloting skills, and he definitely did not want to spoil the effect by ramming into something useful.

As the ship slowly drifted into position, he watched the video feed intently. They had seen him, and the effect of surprise seemed complete. He could not see enough details to judge their reactions accurately, but Loreena’s smile was confirmation enough. He burned away from the station again, and let the automatic docking bots haul him in. He frowned at his pulse, which seemed quite fast. How could this put him in such a state? He had fought battles in which he had barely gotten out with his skin intact, and those had made his pulse race less. He took a moment to calm himself and picked up the wooden box on his way to the airlock.

He expected Loreena to greet him, but instead Anthea was standing there with a mischievous grin.

“I expected a different kind of welcoming committee,” he said a little sullenly.

“You’re supposed to give a girl a fair warning in advance you know,” she countered.

“You never seemed to be hampered by the same affliction,” he added a little accusingly.

Anthea laughed. “I call it evolution. Come on; let’s not make her wait either. What’s in the box?” she said, pointing at the box and walking off towards the tower’s main course. Aeon followed.

“To be honest, I have no idea what’s in there.”

“You should have gift-wrapped it at least.”

“It’s not that kind of gift.”

She glanced back at him. “You’re not making much sense you know.”

“Not my fault if you don’t ask the right questions,” he said, hoping to irritate her out of being so jovial. Anthea, however, seemed to be unaffected and just laughed.

“I don’t think you would like to answer the questions I think are right,” she said and winked at him.

He laughed. “You’re a terrible person, you know.”

“Oh yes I know, everything I do is terrible,” she said and led him into Loreena’s office. As he went past her, she winked at him again and whispered: “Don’t think. Follow your instincts.” Then she closed the door behind her.

Aeon did not know whether that was supposed to be genuine advice or an elaborate kind of mockery. There was never a reliable way to tell with Anthea, but he liked her nonetheless. She had rough – really rough – edges sometimes, but she was nice and fun. Loreena, on the other hand, was looking very regal. She usually wore utilitarian clothes, even if always chosen with taste, but this was something else entirely.

“You have me at a disadvantage, your highness – I am not properly dressed for dining with an empress.”

“The feeling is mutual then, I haven’t got the foggiest idea how I am even supposed to move in this thing.”

He laughed. “You do look stunning, though.”

“Well, you made quite an impression back there. I had to respond in kind.”

“Oh, that. I was in the area, so I thought I’d drop by.”

“Your definition of area is rather large… weren’t you in Jarzalad this morning?”

“Aye, I was. But then I remembered something, and I thought you’d want to see it,” he said and gently put the wooden box on her desk. She looked at it a bit dubiously.

“It is a remnant of your past,” he offered in way of explanation.

“It is?” she answered in a hushed voice, looking down at the box.

“The day your father hired me to escort you into the asteroid belt for your surveys, your mother took me apart on my way to the ship and gave me this box. She told me to give it to you when you started your surveying. I completely forgot about it, but this morning the memory of it struck me.”

“What is it?” she asked, running her fingers over the wood.

“I don’t know.”

He watched her for a while as she stood there, staring at the box. Then he went over to her, and kneeled on the floor beside her chair. She slowly lowered herself into it.

“Shall we open it together?” he offered in a whisper. She looked him straight in the eyes, and nodded. He broke the paper seal with a nail, and they both lifted the lid. It was filled with paper scraps to protect the item within. They lifted handfuls of them out, and he let Loreena take the item itself out. Aeon was not familiar with it; all he could see was that it was an electronic device of some kind. Loreena however had tears in her eyes, but was smiling at the same time.

“What is it?” He asked.

She took a moment to answer. “It’s a spectrometer. I had pestered my father for months to buy me one. I had all but given up on it; somehow it’s comforting to know that he relented.”

“Can you still use it?”

“Let me see. It’s quite a bit smaller than those I am used to.” She studied the spectrometer from different angles and leafed through the small handbook that came with it. Aeon went through the box again, making sure they had not missed anything. He had expected there to be a note of some kind, but apparently her father had been a man of few words – verbal or written.

“It’s actually quite neat. It’s not as precise as my regular one, but its size makes it ideal for field work. I can definitely use this,” she said. In her expression he could see her picturing herself in the field with it. He smiled to himself and emptied the bits of paper in the bin.

“I’m glad that you found this,” she said, gently taking his face in her hands and kissing him longingly.

In between kisses he murmured, “I’m rather glad I did too.”

She laughed. “You would be, yes.”

“It’s strange… I find myself drawn here, to you. Your call is stronger than space, and she has been my mistress for as long as I can remember.”

“I think the attraction has always been there, we just didn’t know what it was.”

“I’m glad that we finally know, even if I have to admit that I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of changing your ways?” She asked softly.

“Yes.” He answered simply.

“We will have to make it up along the way, but I don’t think that we should change too much. We are both very independent; removing that would make us unhappy. I am perfectly content to follow my instincts and just chase you down whenever I have need of your company.”

He was speechless. His biggest fear, eradicated in such a short moment. Since he did not know what to say, he settled for kissing her again.

She smiled in between kisses. “I gather that arrangement suits you, then?”

“It does,” he said, and bowed low before her. “You shall be my prime mistress, before even the stars.”

“I swear, you guys deserve each other,” Anthea said through a crack in the door. “Have you considered joining one of those famous medieval plays? You’re naturals!” she went on, just as Aeon slammed it shut.

“Did you manage to pinch her nose at least?” Loreena asked.

“No such luck, she’s as slippery as a greased eel.”

“I heard that!” came the muffled reply half choked with laughter from beyond the door.

“She has a point though. You are my knight, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Despite himself he had to laugh. He opened the door, and beckoned to Loreena to join him. Expansively he said, “What say you, my lady, shall we go yonder debris field to apply this fortuitous apparatus to all manner of mystic rocks?”

They all laughed. Aeon and Loreena took the Hurricane out into the Aramean debris field, and tested her father’s spectrometer on some previously surveyed debris. They did not find anything worth keeping, but they enjoyed it very much. They did not have to say anything; simply being together filled the void. Aeon just let himself be caught in the flow, without thinking about it. He was treading entirely new ground, and he certainly was not going to spoil the experience – new grounds this good were hard to come by.

His instincts were as sharp as ever however, even preternaturally so now that his existence had found new focus. He warily observed two battleships approaching the tower in the distance, and moved the ship to hide it in the debris field. Coasting among the debris, the battleship’s sensors would have trouble detecting them. They did not have anything to hide, but there was no need to broadcast their position either. Prudence is the mother of all virtues, as the saying goes – In New Eden this was a good philosophy to live by. One of the battleships entered the shield and docked at the station, so he slightly let down his guard. If Anthea had let them in, they probably had good cause to be there.

“Something on your mind?” Loreena asked, eyeing him from behind a multi-coloured rock they had hauled into the cargo hold.

“Some visitors at the tower. Were you expecting anyone?”

“No, but it’s not uncommon – we have a fair share of visitors. What’s the name of the ships?”

Aeon checked the overview. “The docked ship is Tarmane III, the other Tigerfish. Very original.”

“Tarmane is Spencer’s ship, he’s weird but harmless. He’s one of our top contributors, but his reasons elude me. The other doesn’t ring a bell.”

Aeon ran an additional background check. “Tigerfish’s pilot seems to be a fabrication, and a sloppy one at that.”

“How so?”

“No one is good enough to fly a battleship within two weeks of his pilot’s license.”

Loreena frowned. They both had enough experience to recognize when a situation had potential for shenanigans. “Should we risk calling Anthea?”

“They haven’t noticed us yet, better not to gamble our advantage just yet – we might need it later on.”

“Most of our museum pieces only have sentimental value, if they planned something I don’t know what they could be after.”

“You said Spencer is weird – who knows what he fancies in your collection?”

“We really need to have eyes and ears in there.”

Aeon thought for a while, and seeing the multi-coloured rock suddenly knew just what they needed. “I know how. It’s an old trick, it’s far from obsolete.” He went through the cargo bay, and fetched one of the ship’s camera drones. “These guys have a range of two hundred kilometres.”

“Won’t its transmissions be detected?”

“No, they use tight-beamed transmissions to avoid interference with other equipment. Their thruster heat signature or energy emission can be tracked though, that’s what we need the rock for,” he said and pointed to the multi-coloured rock.

Loreena looked puzzled.

“I’ll weld the drone to the rock make to make it look like a piece of debris. I will just have to make sure that it keeps the rock facing to them.”

“That’s a neat trick. Still, won’t it be a bit obvious if it flies straight through the shield of the tower?”

“I’m hoping they won’t bother watching it for that long.”

“They’re just sitting there. They don’t have much else to do, and if they are indeed planning something they are going to be very alert.”

“That’s true. Then we will have to give them something else to watch.”

She laughed. “You have that look in your eyes. What are you thinking?”

“We have all these free debris floating around, why don’t we send a few their way? A few bigger ones.”

“That would definitely get their attention.”

“I would think so. We can send one of the bigger rocks on a collision course, and a few others around it. They will be forced to do something about it, which will also give Anthea a clear message that we’re watching.”

“I like it. I’ll take care of putting the rocks in motion,” she said enthusiastically and started running towards the bridge. They had not discussed exactly how they would do it, but he trusted her to come up with a good solution.

“Aye, and I’ll send the spy drone on its way,” he shouted after her.

About twenty minutes later, the cluster of debris and the spy camera drone were on their way. Loreena had used a number of camera drones to put the debris in motion according to her calculations, making sure they stayed on the dark side of the battleship’s scanners. A number of smaller fragments had been sent on ahead to mask the bigger rock behind them, which would undoubtedly cause some commotion on Tigerfish once their sensors picked up the real threat. It would not be enough to endanger them, but enough to keep them occupied while the spy drone would go through the shield of the tower.

Loreena was looking at her handiwork. “You know, hauling rocks at people is really bad manners if they have an honest reason to be here.”

Aeon grinned. “We won’t tell them.”

Exactly thirteen minutes later, Tigerfish’s thrusters suddenly came alive and the ship awkwardly tried to get out of the trajectory of the debris. One of the smaller chunks sent sparks flying as it hit the ship’s shield.

Aeon frowned. “Talk about evading a turtle… I’m starting to believe he did in fact get his pilot’s license two weeks ago.”

“At least we can be pretty sure the drone went through unnoticed.”

They both laughed. “And we’re connected to the tower now. I’ll let you work,” Aeon said.

Loreena logged into the tower’s systems, and went through the feeds to find their guests. “Found them,” she said and put the feed up on one of the bigger screens. There were four people in the room, shown from a ceiling camera. One was Anthea, the three others Aeon had never seen before.

Loreena pointed at the man standing right beside Anthea. “That’s Spencer.”

Aeon heard a female voice speaking. It was Anthea.

“…it will most likely take several more years to finish the survey of the debris in this system,” she said in a voice that seemed almost on autopilot. This was a rehearsed talk no doubt.

“Yes, yes. I appreciate the tour, Miss Syrkos. A lot of work no doubt,” Spencer said and Aeon disliked him right away. He had the tone of someone used to having his own way, a man full of petty whims and an over-exalted opinion of himself.

One of the men behind Spencer motioned to him and told him something.

“Ah, it seems the area is not without danger. The pilot of my escort just evaded some rather large debris coming from the debris field,” Spender said a bit accusingly.

Anthea nodded and pointed toward the big window in the room. “While the debris field has mostly stabilized, occasional stay debris are not uncommon. Thank you for telling me, I will make sure to tell our visitors about the danger in the future,” Anthea said smoothly.

Spencer beamed. “Do that, yes,” he added and then they all stood there for a while in an uncomfortable silence.

“Nothing suspicious so far,” Loreena said.

“No, but let’s wait a while longer. I get the feeling Spencer is not done yet.”

As it were, Spencer broke the silence. “I was hoping to meet with Miss Loreena. She is your sister, yes?” he asked.

“Yes, she is. She will be gone at least until tomorrow, I’m afraid,” Anthea answered carefully.

“Good girl,” Aeon murmured. Anthea was apparently just as suspicious as he was.

“That is most unfortunate,” Spencer said sullenly.

“Do you perhaps wish to make an appointment? My sister is seldom here in her office,” she offered.

Spencer seemed to consider it, and looked at one of the men behind him, as if to get confirmation. If the man replied in any way, it was not visible in the feed.

“No, we will have to do this without her,” Spencer said with a new, resolute tone of voice. Aeon did not like the change at all, and beside him he felt Loreena tense up as well.

“What…” Anthea started to say, but one of Spencer’s men moved quickly and knocked her out. Aeon gritted his teeth. That man had just forfeited his clone, if he had any. Loreena’s sharp intake of breath signalled that her line of thought was quite similar.

“Get her on board the ship, she can still be useful. Search the tower and get rid of anyone else,” Spencer commanded. His two goons ran out the room, dragging Anthea’s limp body between them, Spencer sat down at her office and began using the computer.

“We should have thrown a bigger rock,” Aeon said between clenched teeth.

“Luckily no one else is in the tower today, it was just Anthea and me,” Loreena added.

“Can you find out what he’s looking for?” Aeon asked, pointing at Spencer still typing avidly on the office’s desk console.

“No, I can’t see what he’s doing right now. I can try to figure it out from the console’s history logs once he’s done.”

“That’s better than nothing. Right now we need to keep them from taking Anthea though. If they get her on their ship, she’s lost.”

Loreena started calling up and dismissing one screen after another on her console, and Aeon let her work. He went through all the possibilities that came to mind, including ramming Spencer’s ship to keep them from boarding the ship, but that was only a last resort. Besides, they would probably not reach the ship in time even if they started burning at full thrust right then.

“Hah! Got you, you bastard,” Loreena shouted triumphantly.

“What did you do?”

“I put the tower in reinforced mode and triggered a full lockdown. Unless I lift it again, none of the docking bays will be functional.”

“So they are stuck in there, but we are stuck out here as well.”

She nodded. “It gives us time to come up with a better idea.”

“We will have to think fast, because now they know we’re here,” he said pointing to the overview. Tigerfish was moving towards the debris field, towards Crimson Skies. “Smart – they’re following the trajectory of that debris we sent at them.”

“How fast can they find us?”

“If we stay cold, those sensors of theirs will need to get within twenty kilometres of our position or thereabouts to find us, give or take a few kilometres. But by then, we will have exhausted most of our options to surprise them.”

Loreena nodded glumly. “What do you propose?”

“Am I right in assuming that Tarmane III cannot undock because of the lockdown?”

“Yes, the docking clamps are blocked as well.”

“So we only have Tigerfish to worry about, and we have the advantage of speed – as luck would have it, we are even fitted for heavy combat so I say we chance it.”

Loreena looked apprehensive. “You mean just take that ship head on? It’s a battleship!”

“We will have to take it head on eventually, Crimson Skies is a brawler. I am thinking of adding a bit of deception into the mix though.”

Loreena nodded quickly, and let Aeon get to work. The bunch of camera drones Loreena had used to propel the debris was still hovering beside the ship, and although their energy reserves were almost depleted they were going to put that to good use. He fished out a combat program he had written a while ago, and assigned all the camera drones to it, plotted a course and let them fly. At the same time, he started the main thrusters and initiated a course to take them slowly out of the debris field while staying hidden as long as possible.

Loreena watched the proceedings intently. A few minutes later as they were going to clear the debris field, the camera drones all coalesced into a peculiar shape as dictated by the combat program, and began to burn at full thrust on a vector that would take them into the path of the approaching battleship. Tigerfish took the bait and started burning towards what looked like an unidentified ship on the overview. At the same time, Aeon went full thrust and engaged the afterburner. Committed to its current course, the ungainly battleship chose to tackle its current target first. A target that proved to be quite volatile as the camera drones suddenly broke formation and scattered in all directions, making the false ship signature disappear.

Almost at that exact moment Crimson Skies had Tigerfish webbed and warp scrambled, and was starting to pound the battleship’s shields. Their ploy had worked, because their opponent lost precious seconds to start to fight back, and when they did Aeon had to laugh.

“They are using beam lasers. At the speed we’re orbiting them, they won’t be able to hit us. They might get a lucky shot or two in, but that’s it.”

“They must know this too.”

“They most surely do. That ship is armour tanked though, I don’t know if we have the firepower to break those defences. We’ll know soon,” Aeon added as they started to break through the remaining shield. After several more seconds that seemed like an eternity, it became clear that Tigerfish’s defences were no match for Crimson Skies’ damage output. Aeon started to rejoice, but he curbed his joy knowing that desperate enemies do desperate things. He kept his guard up, and tried to think like his victim.

His thoughts were interrupted as a massive blast hit Crimson Skies’ shield. Somehow Tarmane III had managed to override the security checks on their cruise missile launchers, because they were shooting at them right out of their docked position at the tower.

Aeon cursed. “This changes things.”

“Can we take that kind of damage?” Loreena asked apprehensively, not having much experience in combat.

“We are already avoiding much of the damage with speed, but they can still slowly grind us to dust. We have to finish Tigerfish and come back in a ship better suited to the task.”

“We can’t leave Anthea!”

As if that was a cue, they were suddenly hailed by the tower. Tigerfish was already crippled and not even bothering to shoot back anymore, but Aeon kept shooting while he answered the call. He noted happily that Spencer looked very much annoyed.

“Stop shooting right now or she dies,” he threatened, moving out of view to show one of his goons holding a gun to Anthea’s head.

“Only if you stop shooting at us as well,” Aeon countered as he tracked the seconds to the next volley of missiles. As he had expected, Spencer gave the order but a new volley was launched anyway – they did not have enough time to stop the cycle of the launchers. He let his guns fire one more volley as well, critically aimed at Tigerfish’s thrusters to immobilize it entirely.

“Are we standing down, or are we not?” Aeon asked pointedly.

“Stand down! Stand down I said!” Spencer shouted hysterically.

“Watch your trigger happy people on Tarmane III then, I’ve stopped shooting,” Aeon answered calmly. He did not, however, stop orbiting the carcass of Tigerfish in case more missile volleys were coming. Every second they gained now helped replenish the buffer of defences on Crimson Skies as the armour was being repaired and the shield regenerated.

On the comms feed, Spencer was putting a rebel strand of hair back in place that had hopped out of place during his outburst.

“You will release the lockdown immediately,” Spencer said irritably once he was satisfied with his hair.

“We will do no such thing,” Aeon answered calmly.

What??

“If we do that, we lose our only bargaining chip. Hostage situation 1o1 – not an option.”

“You might as well pull the trigger yourself then,” Spencer spat back.

“You will probably do that anyway,” Aeon countered. “This is all very dramatic and all, but before we finish killing each other, could you at least tell us what you bloody want?”

“Oh.” Spencer replied a bit sheepishly. “We skipped that part, didn’t we? Very well – I want nothing more than Miss Syrkos herself,” he added.

Aeon was about to make a very offensive reply when Loreena put her hand on his arm. She motioned to the screen, silently asking to reply herself. He shook his head slowly, not wanting to let them know she was there – but she simply shoved him out of the way.

“This is unlike you, Spencer. What the hell do you want from me?” she asked in a tightly controlled voice.

“Oh, marvellous, you’re here!” he replied, giggling to himself.

“He’s bonkers,” Aeon murmured in Loreena’s ear. She shook him off irritably.

“What of it, what do you need me for exactly?”

“You will be the crowning of my collection!” he said excitedly.

“You’re not making any sense.”

“It will be glorious; your joining the rest of your people in a monument to Aramea’s glory will make history! You will be remembered for all eternity,” he raved on, almost drooling onto the screen.

“He is quite mad,” Loreena murmured back. “Thoughts?”

“There’s more here than meets the eye. He’s mad, that’s quite clear. But earlier, he asked for confirmation from one of his goons to go ahead with whatever they were planning – you weren’t there at the time, so it might not have to do with you at all.”

Loreena smiled and nodded admiringly at Spencer as he went on raving, now explaining how they were going to encase her in a diamond case which would preserve her body for millennia.

“We won’t find out what the real motive was from here. We will have to go in,” Aeon whispered.

“To this madman?” she whispered back in a hiss.

“He seems to be a good mood right now, let’s not enrage him again and play into his hand for now.”

“It’s crazy,” she said between clenched teeth as she continued to smile at Spencer.

“Yes, but at least we know we’re walking into a trap.”

“Wonderful,” she said expansively for both Spencer and Aeon’s benefit.


To be continued…


Jan 3 2012

Bio: Sayathea Zoya

Sayathea learned very early that good looks are both a blessing and a curse. Being born into a wealthy family of the Jin-Mei caste was similar: she got almost everything she wished for as a child, but as soon as she was of age to marry she learned that she was not free to make her own choices. To escape forced marriage and a number of other potential abuses, she fled. She knew exactly that she would never be able to go back, so she stole whatever ISK and valuables she could put her hands on and paid an amarrian merchant to take her into Amarr space. She knew her family had many enemies there, so pursuit was less likely – even if she was certain they would try to get to her anyway.

She quickly realized that she was not quite ready to be on her own in this harsh universe, especially not as a young gallentean woman in Amarr space. Nevertheless, she managed to survive long enough to pay for a pod pilot’s license – though along with her ship it cost her everything she had left from her heist. She was now as independent as she had dreamed of countless nights, but she would have to earn her keep from now on. It was the beginning of a long trek that took her to the edges of secure space, always mindful to keep a low profile. She evaded a few attempts from her family to either kill her outright or bring her back into federation space, until they seemed to finally give up a few years later. She had tried to keep in contact with her older sister and one of her cousins, but as their destinies grew more distant from each other so did their friendships.

It was on a station in Derelik that the last few years finally caught up with her. Stranded until her ship was serviced, she suddenly had time to reflect on her life, and she realized that she had no such thing. While she had been able to safeguard her body and freedom, there was nothing else to her. Now that the reason for her flight and years of traveling around the universe was gone, the prospect of beginning a life truly of her own was daunting. She was an empty shell without a purpose, lacking even the knowledge on how to find a purpose. It was in this state of mind that she met Loreena Syrkos for the first time. She instantly recognized her as a lone wolf like herself, with very little interest in the thriving social games pilots like to indulge in. She watched as she navigated through the crowd, expertly avoiding to initiate contact with anyone. She followed her from a distance, not exactly sure why she had this effect on her. A few corridors later, she disappeared into her hangar booth and later undocked in a Prowler – a fitting choice of ship in Sayathea’s book.

The ship’s name allowed her to find out that it belonged to a Loreena Syrkos, CEO of the corporation Aramean Excavations. Reading about the ARMEX project proved to be a revelation. Picking up the pieces of a civilization from among the debris of its home planet destroyed by a cataclysmic event sounded like what she was trying to do with her own life. The next few days while waiting for her ship to be ready, she read up on the project and Loreena herself. When she was finally back in space, she contacted Loreena and managed to convince her to meet. Instead of the eccentric personage she had expected her to be, she quickly found a true friend in Loreena, one who shared her broken soul. It turned out she was not the only one trying to piece herself back together through the project.

Her position as lead archivist was exactly what she needed. Cataloging all the artifacts and managing the dedicated museum’s expositions kept her on a tight schedule and filled her mind. Every little piece she added to their ever growing collection made her feel a little more at home here. Maybe her life could be mended after all?


Apr 12 2010

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.


Jun 21 2009

Crystalline Trouble Revisited finished with grand finale

Almost a year in the making (on and off), and finally completed: a short story freely set in New Eden.

24 chapters with a grand finale, which are available to read right here:

http://eve.aeonoftime.com/stories/

Synopsis: “Meet Tarellek Malear, engineer on Alea Zatar’s Abaddon class battleship “Anthea” and his peculiar relationship to the ship’s pilot. Discover more about the intrepid crews manning these massive ships and see how the people behind the scenes help making a difference in a fight. Follow the ship and its crew as they rush head-on into a suicide mission and strive to survive against insurmountable odds.

Pitted against the ruthless Angel Cartel commander Agdelger Ruflaner, Alea escapes into an uncharted rock field prone to EM storms and an even more dangerous secret at its core.”


Apr 23 2009

Day 922: Back to the roots voice off style

Aeon realized lately that he had not been faithful to his bloodline, the Vherokior tribe. After all these years, his highest standing is with the Brutor tribe, and even Caldari Navy has better standing than his own family. I do not exactly know why it suddenly became an issue, but I knew he had to do something about it. Of course the Minmatar faction standing was sufficient to access virtually any Vherokior agent including level 4 ones, but Aeon eventually settled for a couple of good quality level 3 agents in Teonusude.

The logistics of running level 4 missions were just too much of a hassle then, so these missions were a welcome worry-free change. Loreena even left her manufacturing ventures and moved out there with him, providing support with Tatonka (Orca). Having mobile corporate hangars and a ship maintenance bay makes a lot of things much easier. Aeon just brought Skullplitter (Absolution) along, as I have really grown fond of this missioning powerhouse. It shrugs everything off that these level 3 missions can throw at it – with the right amount of caution that is. Triggering all waves in The Blockade at once for example stretches its tanking capabilities pretty thin.

Once everything was set up and a number of missions later, the Vherokior tribe standings were already climbing noticeably. For some reason that felt very right, and I think Aeon wants to make them even better than his Brutor tribe standings. One should not let his family down like that to begin with, but then Aeon did not exactly lead a simple life. Since he rescued Loreena from the wormhole collapse in the now defunct Aramea system, he has wandered around pretty much aimlessly. It is time to go back to the roots now, however. With all the recent events in New Eden, I think he just needed some stability. He just cannot fully grasp how Loreena fits into the whole picture yet, even 922 days after he brought her back to Ammold and she eventually joined his operations.

Strange how in this world, any place you stay for a while starts to feel like home – the crowded Lustrevik already seems pretty far away. Teonusude is a nice enough spot, even if the luxurious Vherokior Tribe Treasury station does not really fit Aeon’s idea of a permanent home. Ammold will always stay Aeon’s spiritual home however, the one where it all started. It is even doubly significant, as it is also where it all started anew after his trip to Aramea. He had gone there with death on his mind, but out of the billions that died that day, he rose to live a new life. Loreena made that possible, and in a very real sense, she is all that keeps him alive. Of course he is not directly conscious of the strength of the link between them. Aeon has never bothered with feelings, he usually just shrugs them all off, concentrating on the tasks at hand. Incidentally, that accounts for his occasional puzzlement when he tries to understand how she fits into his life.

I think he is still quite a tortured soul, trying to believe without much success in some kind of divine intervention that made him and Loreena be the only survivors of the cataclysm – but all the while fiercely refusing to accept he could be worth the trouble. His instincts had saved him, but why? All he had wanted back then was to get a sweet kiss from death, yet his very own instincs had betrayed him. Thus is the nature of man, questioning himself and everything, even established certitudes. A rock solid atheist like Aeon suddenly contemplates the existence of “divine intervention”. Mind you, all this confusion is relegated to mere footnotes in his life when he has a task to fulfill. Then his mind becomes a beautiful display of the finer arts a human brain can bring forth. All the training and experience he has gathered so far have made him fearfully efficient in everything he touches.

One could argue that his choices have not always been inspired, and I would tend to agree. However, who can say for himself never to have blundered? The people of New Eden live in a wretched world, eons from the once innocent life on their lost homeworld. What have they all become, and where are they going? It is a question that Aeon contemplates occasionally when he is in a melancholy mood. Is it a pointless question? What can a single pilot achieve to change things? There are those that command millions in battles of interests, harbingers of death for the conquest of one or more pieces of space here and there, bound to be lost and retaken again endlessly. All races confounded, their achievements are great. The universe itself sometimes seems to tremble in their wake. But from a distance, it all sounds hollow and soulless. In Aeon’s eyes, they all lacked a goal – a vision. In the end, no matter how much destruction you sow, something will rise from the ashes and bite you back. So why bother? For money? Fame? Personal gratification? Those are the modern career choices.

Aeon sometimes likes feeling sorry for himself. In those moments, he sometimes gets the impression that his goal in life must be hiding somewhere around the next corner. It would be something beautiful in its simplicity, something that everyone could strive to reach. He had felt that way when he had entered his first wormhole. That proved to be a vain hope however, wormholes now being the same cesspools than so-called civilized space in his eyes. I think Aeon knows he is growing bitter constantly brooding on these matters, so he keeps his mind occupied with other things. Loreena will always be his biggest occupation of course, in part because she can erase all his fears with a single smile.

And there we have the heart of the matter. Aeon is a consummate judge of character, but Loreena remains a mystery to him. From the death of her homeworld and family to all the lows they have lived through together since then, she has taken it all in stride. She picked herself up every time as if she could see something in her future he could not see in his. She seemed to have what he lacked – a goal. Of course they talk a lot with each other, but even though they both seem curious about the other’s deeper thoughts, neither dares break the chemistry. He also often wonders why she stays with him and follows him in all his ventures without ever questioning him about it. He knows it is not merely because she feels she owes him that much for saving her, that is a feeling that usually does not stay for so long. No, there must be something else. With her skills and experience, she could easily reach for the stars. She loved him of course, just as he loved her – but that was not the reason either, he could sense that. Their relationship could be described as unconventional to say the least, hovering between platonic love and carnal passion, but all within the confines of their own minds. There is a mutual unspoken agreement that simply living out their passion would break everything apart – so they were both effectively doomed to live partnerless lives. One might sneer at a setup like that or even laugh at them, but I can guarantee that a look into their eyes and history would make you drop to your knees in sudden understanding and grief.

I like to think nothing is ever set in stone, and things may still take a turn for the better. In the meantime, Aeon and Loreena continue to make their way in New Eden, surviving against all odds – better than many, worse than none other.

Author’s voice-off: “I fear this may sound terribly cliché and cheesy, but it is nice to see these two characters evolve in their own world. Granted, they are merely pawns in a game I play – they cannot exist without me. I hate puppet analogies so I will not go that way, but somehow they are extensions of myself and they live the life I would have liked to live if New Eden was a reality. Even if you do not roleplay as such (or even hate it), as soon as you build a character you start roleplaying simply through the projection you make of yourself in the game. Imagining yourself in your ship, flying through space and even picturing your opponents are all aspects of roleplay. Even though I do not really roleplay in the game, I like to immerse myself in it and give my characters a semblance of life. In a very real sense, that binds my virtual life’s ethics to my real life ones, and sometimes I miss out on some of the shadier aspects of the game. I do not mind though, I have always been true to myself and enjoy the experience a lot more that if I had to jump into a custom built role everytime.

Somehow the term chivalry comes to mind if I had to characterize my way of handling ingame relations. I think this comes from the fact that I love fantasy just as much as science fiction and can relate to chivalry-like ethics pretty naturally. Everything is possible in EVE anyway, so it is good to be able to live this out without any real drawbacks. A healthy dose of paranoia is essential of course however, this is the Internet after all 🙂

I would love to hear about how you see the game!

Comment your thoughts here directly, or give me a link to your blog posts / websites and I will read them and link them here.”

Update 11/05: Added screenshot and Wikipedia links.


Aug 3 2007

Crystalline trouble

Have you ever wanted to know what the life of the crew of a ship in EVE looks like? Maybe the story of Tarellek Maleal, chief engineer on the battleship Anthea will give you an insight. I thought about this for a while until I decided to write a story. I do not really roleplay in the game, but the part of piloting giant ships without any relation to what goes on on them always intrigued me.

Read the story »


May 22 2007

Bio: AeonOfTime

He was getting tired of living in this wretched universe. He had seen too much, done too much that could never be forgotten. When he landed on Aramea, he was looking for a job to pay for servicing Crimson Skies, his hurricane. Then he was going to venture out into the lawless outer reaches of this constellation and hopefully be destroyed taking as many of those bastard pirates with him as he could.

But life has its twists and turns that can change futures in only a few seconds. Such was his encounter with Saeroth Syrkos, a local nobleman who was looking for a guarded escort for his daughter, Loreena Syrkos. Her studies required her to survey the asteroid belt around Aramea, and her dear father would not let her go there unguarded.

Aeon really was the best man for the job, having not only the fighting experience to keep her safe, but also the astrosurveying equipment required for the job – his real passion being deep core mining. It was to be a nice mission for once – dangerless, good pay, no jumping and with a rather beautiful young lady. It all went completely wrong, of course.

The survey was going along just fine, and Aeon rather enjoyed Loreena’s company. She was smart, and passionate about everything she did. It was a strange reading from the gravitational sensor banks that told him that something was amiss: Aramea’s gravitational pull suddenly spiked, enough to crush anyone living there to pulp right where they stood. Aeon is not the kind of man to just stand idly by and wait what happens – he immediately activated his emergency warp routine that safely warped them out to a pre-selected stargate.

From there, they were able to witness one of the most improbable events in the known universe: a wormhole appearing at the core of a planet, ripping it apart and projecting the remaining pieces into the unknown. Such a cataclysm it was that they had to jump out of system before the aftermath of that encounter destroyed everything else in-system. The ensuing collapse of the wormhole, overloaded by the mass of the planet, was visible even from their location two systems out.

His instincts had saved him, unwillingly robbing him of this golden opportunity to rid himself of this life in a classier way than going down all guns blazing against a bunch of pirate thugs. He knew why however – his passenger did have a say in this, even though she might have wished she died along with all the others. At least she looked like it when he explained the situation. Then the strangest of things happened, he realized this could give him a new purpose, to take care of this lost child – or at least, make sure he kept his promise to her dead father,

He thought about it for a while, and offered to take her to Ammold with him, and help her in any way he could. To his surprise, she agreed without any discussion and he turned back to Ammold, with the faintest of smiles on his lips for what seemed like the first time in a very long time.

In the next few years, Loreena grew very fast and learned even faster. She amazed him every day, and she had filled his life with such new hope that he was transformed. She even became a pod pilot and now works together with him for their joint venture, the Syrkos Technologies corporation. His demons were still there, but they did not scare him anymore. He was at peace.

What the future holds, is yet to be written.


May 21 2007

Bio: Loreena Syrkos

Loreena Syrkos’ life was good in the protection of her family, her studies were progressing well and she showed a lot of promise to enter the ranks of the renowned Caldari scientists conglomerate. She had friends she cared for, and she knew what she wanted her life to look like. Life in our troubled universe being as unpredictable as it is, this was not to happen.

A massive wormhole appeared directly within her home planet’s core, which was obliterated in less than a heartbeat, rendered to pieces and sucked in by the wormhole to an unreachable destination. She escaped the blast by pure luck and the cool mind of the eccentric AeonOfTime. She was conducting surveys of the asteroid belt surrounding Aramea, her home planet and birthplace – as life would have it, only the reckless Aeon agreed to venture out there, and when the wormhole appeared he somehow managed to warp out before the attraction of the wormhole got its whole grip on them.

Everything was gone in mere seconds – there was no one and nothing left that had mattered to her. The aftermath of the encounter between Aramea and the wormhole forced Aeon to jump out of system before even the outer star gates would be destroyed by the blast. He seemed to understand her loss in a peculiar way, and offered to take her with him to Ammold V. Minmatar space? She was in no condition to decide whether that was a good idea, but there was no point in staying either. Nothing was left that she could go back to, so she silently mourned her family and friends while a new, unknown future waited for her on Ammold.

In the years that followed, Aeon became like a new father for her, in his own weird way. He took good care of her, even helping her financially to finish her studies. She still could not fathom him, his obsession with mining and pastime mission contracting, allied with a keen interest in all things scientific. She would spend hours explaining her science projects to him even though he probably understood only a third of what she told him. They both enjoyed it, though.

The time on Ammold was both haunted by memories that grew ever more distant and yet more frightening, but also enjoyable because she was fulfilled in her work – and in her training lessons with Aeon which made her a full-blown pod pilot as she reached 23. Her first launch with Thalea, her hoarder, would be for ever engraved in her memory. It was an old tub salvaged by Aeon on one of his mission runs, but to her it was perfect. From then on, she never stopped studying to perfect herself in scientific research, funding her projects by helping out Aeon on his mining runs, finally creating the Syrkos Technologies corporation and becoming CEO.

More recently, the discovery of the Aramean debris field in Ammatar space led her to bring a new project to life, the Aramean Excavations corporation. Dedicated to salvaging the remnants of her home from among the debris, she was able to enlist the help of her long-lost sister, Anthea Syrkos as well as Sayathea Zoya, their lead archivist. Together they run a permanent exposition of the salvaged Aramean artifacts in their office in the Gamis solar system.

Where she goes from here is yet to be written.