Friday, November 28, 2014

Artificial Stupidity

Its fiction Friday.

This is an entry for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest in the "Things that Make You Swear and Curse" category. I was writing a serious short story that involved rogue drones. I wrote something that made me laugh and deleted it from that piece as it was humour in the wrong place. That gave me an idea, but could I write a comedy piece about that idea in only two days and make it work? You can be the judge! 3205 words.

Artificial Stupidity

"Hoyere Kerlela?"

Hoyere stood as the man entered reception and called his name.

The reception for CreoDron was huge. A large window looked out into deep space and a Hobgoblin II hung in the air above a cascading water fountain. On a space-station, a rare luxury. However it was fitting for one of the largest mega-corporations of New Eden and the biggest manufacturer of drones in the cluster. It was big, it was bold, it was hideously expensive.

"Welcome to the CreoDron family, I'm Gaull Mounch and will be giving you the guided tour of this facility." the man stated.

It was Hoyere's first day in employment. He'd just finished university doing a degree in applied artificial intelligence. CreoDron had approached him just before the final exams and offered him a job, no matter what his final results. He'd heard about the large mega-corps with university lecturers on the payroll. Their job was to tip them off about exceptional students so they could approach them and make them offers before they'd even thought about a job. It made sense to 'reserve' the best and the brightest before they could start looking around the competition.

However, Hoyere had some reservations about how things had played out. He thought of himself as neither the best nor the brightest. His test-scores were positively mediocre. His practical exams had not gone any better. For the final project an AI student would team up with an applied robotics student. They would present a combined final project with the former programming the AI and the later building a functioning android. Hoyere had been teamed up with a very talented lady called Gryve from the robotics course. She had built an exquisite robot, as expected being top of her class. Hoyere had done his best, but during the scoring the university judging panel had asked the android a question that had caused a conflicting logic loop. The android had paused for five seconds, lifted its arms to its head and promptly ripped its own head off and hurled it at the lead judge. The only reason Hoyere had scrapped a 'D' grade was the other two judges didn't like the lead judge and thought it was funny that he had been knocked out by a students project throwing its own head at him in frustration.

As they entered the lift Hoyere replayed that moment and it sent a shiver down his spine. There were a dozen other students on the course all better than him. Why didn't CreoDron offer them a contract. Why him, who couldn't even program an android not to rip its own head off when it got asked a difficult question. Hoyere gazed out of the glass fronted elevator that ran up the side of the station giving amazing views of the green and yellow Gallente nebula. "Why me?" repeated in his head as he gazed at the spectacular scene in front of him.

Finally the glass front was replaced by cold, hard tritanium and the doors opened. There was a security station in front of a large set of blast doors.

"Here, put this on." Gaull said as he handed Hoyere a clip-on ID badge.

Hoyere fastened it to his shirt pocket as they exited the lift and walked towards the blast doors. The wide room had two yellow and black warning lines three metres apart between the two opposite doors. Two pairs of drones were stationed either side of the walkway and tracked them as they walked. Hoyere noted that they had loudspeakers affixed to them, otherwise they were the deadly armed combat drones used by starship captains throughout the cluster. Half way across a robotic voice called out.

"Intruder detected!"

Hoyere froze on the spot.

"Don't worry. Happens all the time. They get easily confused and don't get a clear scan on the badges." Gaull said casually indicating he should continue. Hoyere looked at the weapons on the drone that were pointing directly at him.

"Trust me. Just ignore them. They are for show." Gaull continued.

Hoyere took a step forward. The other three drones were ignoring him, but the last one was tracking his every movement.

"Halt! I am authorised to use deadly force if you continue!" the voice of the drone called out. Hoyere froze again.

Gaull looked back and shook his head.

"Seriously. It won't do anything. Now come on, we need to do the tour."

Hoyere looked at the drone. The multiple barrels on its twin guns slowly rotating as if ready to fire. He took another step, sweat dripping off his forehead. On the second step the drones guns started spinning at full speed. By the third step Hoyere was worried about soiling himself.

"Engaging target!" the drone announced and Hoyere heard the tell-tail sound of an electro-magnet discharging. He screamed as he heard the weapon fire. He screamed for three more seconds before he realised that one, there was no sonic boom of a super-sonic railgun charge discharging from the barrel, and two, he wasn't dead, even though he clearly heard the railgun magnetic-field discharge.

"OK now? Believe me?" Gaull asked tiredly.

Hoyere sheepishly walked forward.

"Stop! I really mean it!" cried the drone in its robotic voice sounding desperate "Stop right there or I'll be..... I'll be very, very angry!" its guns still rotating at speed and the pop of the electromagnetic discharge still sounding.

"What happened....?" Hoyere stammered.

"Oh, that? Yeah, the initial idea was to have those four drones guarding the entry to the main R&D facility. However, after the third death of an employee and/or visitor we removed all their ammo. They are more for show these days." Gaull explained passing though the blast doors on the far side of the security bay, the drone still screaming empty threats. They entered a large room with several tables and vending machines. It looked like a typical employee rest room. A large holo-disk player was showing the latest mind-clash league game from the Caldari premier league. Empty plates and cups littered the tables. It looked like break had just finished.

"This is our rest room. Each of the doors access the various departments. To your left is admin and the offices, ahead is engineering R&D and to the right is AI R&D. Would you like a drink?"

"Erm, coffee please." Hoyere replied.

They walked up to one of the large vending machines.

"Chicken soup." Gaull said to the machine and it whirred into life.

"You have a 50 credit a week allowance and your ID badge holds your balance. You can add more yourself though the employee self-care system."

There was a thud and a cup dropped from the machine into a holder. Gaull picked it up and passed it to Hoyere. He looked in the cup wondering why he'd given him chicken soup when he asked for coffee. Was this some sort of test? Was he Measuring his reaction when someone does something wrong. However, when he looked into the cup he saw black liquid. He discreetly sniffed as Gaull asked the machine for a triple espresso with double cream and 5 sugars. It looked like coffee, it smelt like coffee and when he brought the cup to his lips, it tasted like coffee. A second thud indicated that Gaull's drink was ready. Hoyere glanced down at what looked like a cup of black tea.

"These are not the drinks you ordered." Hoyere stated matter-of-factly.

"Ah yes, sorry should have explained. The machine has a glitch in the AI. The company tried to save money by implementing one of our drone AI's into the vending machines. It didn't really work. You need to ask for the exact opposite of what you want. A triple espresso with double cream and 5 sugars gets you a black tea with no sugar. A chicken soup gets you...."

"A black coffee." Hoyere finished taking a sip "However I'm not sure I'd class the opposite of black coffee as being chicken soup!"

Gaull smiled. "Well that's what the machine thinks anyway. You get there by trial and error really. Just do not ever order an apple juice whatever you do. Shall we?"

They approached the office door and entered a modern busy office. Hoyere surveyed the dozens of cubicles with staff hard at work. They passed booth after booth. Some were working on terminals. Some had their feet on their desks talking into headsets. Gaull paused to speak to a colleague, Hoyere took the opportunity to listen in to the conversation going on behind them in one of the cubicles. A woman who looked entirely bored was painting her nails whilst talking on a headset.

"Yes sir. We understand that. However if you read the manual we do not guarantee that any commands given to one of our award winning light scout drones will be obeyed fully. No sir. No we don't sir. If you read section three point five point two in the Hobgoblin MK VIII owners manual you will see that we advise captains and capsuleers to think of instructions given to the drones as friendly advice and not official orders. That way the captains are less disappointed. You see its not as bad when you think of it that the drone didn't take your advice and attacked someone else rather than it ignored a direct order from its Captain. Good day."

"This way!" Gaull said as he started off again obviously finished with his colleague.

As they reached the centre of the office Gaull pointed out the various sections. He noted Human Resources, Finance, Orders and Billing, Quality Control and the Complaints and Customer Services section where they had just been stood. Complaints and Customer Services appeared to be the largest section by a magnitude.

"Right that's the boring admin sorted. Shall we get one with the more interesting parts. First, Engineering!" Gaull said leading them back out the way they came.


They stood in the decontamination room as the blue light swept over them. Gaull had explained that it removed all static and dust particles from them and allowed them to enter the clean environment of the engineering research and development section. As the light faded the door at the other end opened. They stepped out into a large high-tech laboratory and testing facility. Men and women in starched white lab coats milled around holding large datapads. There were holographic representations of drones slowly spinning above desks as teams of scientists pointed and discussed. Some tables had actual half built drones, circuits and wiring exposed as scientists poked and prodded the internal systems.

Gaull led them to the first section.

"This is Dr Dunier Allellarie. He's in charge of improving kinetic impact resilience. Doctor, this is Hoyere a new starter today!"

The Gallente man approached. He was short, balding and overweight with a pair of thick rimmed glasses. All things that modern medicine could treat.

"Greetings and welcome to the family." the doctor greeted Hoyere with a warm smile.

"Good to be here Doctor. Kinetic impact resistance? Is that to improve the armour against hybrid weapon attacks?" Hoyere asked.

The doctor looked at him strangely.

"Well no. Its for when they collide with things." he said slightly slowly as if stating the obvious.

"Collide with things? What things?" Hoyere asked confused.

"Well everything. Each other, the ship they are supposed to be defending, the ship they are supposed to be attacking, asteroids, stations, the launch tube on the way out, the launch tube on the way in, each other."

Hoyere wondered what this doctor had been drinking. Surely drones weren't that clumsy, and why did he say 'each other' twice?"

"Oh right." he replied not quite understanding what the doctor was on about.

Gaull led him on to another section. There were several scientists looking at a 3D holographic model of an Ogre heavy done.

"So we could put a power-shunt between these two relay arrays. When the heavy goes wandering off on its own accord, we can divert more power to the engines when the owner realises its going the wrong way and get it to return faster?"

Hoyere realised two things at that moment. Firstly these scientists were expecting the drone to fly off in some random direction for no reason at all and two, he recognised the voice.


Gryve turned around and looked at Hoyere raising both her eyebrows.

"Hoyere! What are you going here?" she asked shocked and surprised.

"I work here!"

"How?" she said looking confused.

"What do you mean how? They approached me and gave me a job." he said.


Hoyere suddenly was silenced. She asked a question he didn't have an answer to. He just stood there dumbfounded. Gryve appeared to be looking over his shoulder and Hoyere looked back at Gaull. For a second he thought he saw Gaull shaking is head quickly and making a "no" shape with his lips. He gave Hoyere a smarmy smile and quickly made their excuses.

The remaining stations they visited all appeared to be doing similar tasks. Designing engineer improvements for issues with the drones that shouldn't be issues. A drone shouldn't just fly off in a random direction like some toddler without adult supervision. It shouldn't crash into things. It should follow orders and attack the target it was instructed to, not decided on its own someone else was a better target and go off after them. However the entire engineering R&D division appeared to be doing just that.

Gaull led him back into the break room and towards the final door.

"Here we are! Your new home away from home!" Gaull announced as they entered the large room.

It looked like a standard office. Cubicles with terminals filled most of the space. A wide range of nerdy looking people glanced up from their work.

"Here is where you'll be working. AI R&D." his guide said as a paper Merlin soared overhead across the office.

Hoyere looked around. Most of the desks appeared to be empty. Those who were there didn't appear to be doing a lot. The occupied desks were full of toys and gizmos. Gaull led them up to the largest cubical where a geeky older man was sat.

"Bavet. Here is the fresh blood you were promised. Hoyere is fresh from university so go easy on him." Gaull laughed.

The man stood and inspected Hoyere over the top of his glasses.

"Welcome to the cutting edge of drone programming young man. I hope you are ready for this!" he greeted Hoyere warmly shaking his hand.

"I'll do my best sir." he replied glancing around and really wondered if this was cutting edge as he saw one man fire another paper Merlin at the back of a colleague's head two cubicles down. There were 'words spoken' as the paper glider struck home.

Gaull welcomed Hoyere to CreoDron one last time and left, leaving him with Bavet. The older man showed Hoyere to a cubical that was already kitted out with an advanced terminal and a variety of what appeared to be toys. Hoyere picked up a Quafe branded foam ball launcher and looked at his boss quizzically.

"Son, programming AI is not science, its an art. You need to be creative. This is not like any other office. We want it to be fun and engaging! Now put the toy away, sit down and I'll show you what you'll be working on."

Hoyere sat in the chair and the terminal scanned his presence and logged him in automatically. His current assigned task popped up immediately. There were several reports of Ogre class drones flying off in random directions when they had been ordered to orbit the mothership. He was to assess the AI code and improve it where possible. He glanced at the lines of code and scratched his head.

"This is strange. Why are we using these custom algorithms. Why aren't we using a Kepler-Orysis hybrid algorithm to control vector decision making?" Hoyere asked. He instantly got worried as the entire room suddenly fell silent. His boss looked at him in horror. Hoyere stood up and noticed everyone else had stood too looking over their cubical walls towards him with shocked faces.

"Come with me son." his boss said and walked towards the dimly lit far corner of the room. Hoyere followed worried about what he had said wrong.

In the corner of the room were six cubicles on their own. A rope cordon stopped them from approaching to near. Above the desks a sign hung from the ceiling "Advanced AI Development". Hoyere noted the desks were covered in dust, they hadn't been used in years. The older man sighed as they stopped.

"Many, many years ago we were looking to make the most advanced drones in New Eden. Drones that were true fire-and-forget. Captains and Capsuleers alike could launch these and not bother about giving them commands at all. They would be so intelligent they would assess the situation and do the most appropriate task. However, a few months after launch we realised, too late, that we had done too good a job. That these drones were too intelligent. In fact most were more intelligent than the captains and capsuleers using them. Most rebelled not wanting to work with dumb humans and in some cases dumber capsuleers. They escaped."

"Rogue drones." Hoyere stated.

"Yes, rogue drones." his boss confirmed. "There were inquires and finally CONCORD issued directives controlling drone based AI to prevent it ever happening again. The penalties for making drones that have the potential to go rogue are staggering and would ruin even a mega-corp. We need to give the drones enough artificial intelligence to do their job, but we cannot make them intelligent. Do you understand?"

Hoyere nodded as he walked back to his desk. As he sat down he had an epiphany. That was why he was there. That's why CreoDron recruited him out of all those in his class. They didn't want the best, they wanted the average. They had to keep their drones just on the right side of stupid. Drones that wandered off in random directions or that would attack the wrong target were a problem, but not as big a problem as them becoming self-aware and going on a human-killing rampage resulting in fines that would financially ruin the corporation. They wanted him. They wanted an AI that when confronted with something it couldn't comprehend would rip its own head off, not become self-aware and question its own existence. As he realised this a paper Merlin drifted lazily into his cubical and struck him on the head. Ignoring the task on the terminal in front of him he grabbed the Quafe branded foam ball launcher and stood, taking aim in the direction the paper Merlin had come from, waiting for the target to try again.

Several cubicles down Bavet stopped typing the report he was working on for a second as he heard the distinctive pop-pop-pop of the Quafe launcher firing and someone swearing from across the room. He smiled, knowing yet again, from the long list of possible candidates, he picked the right one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BFTP - 300, Loren Gallen, Chuck Norris and Overkill

Continuing the Blast from the Past series for the two weeks I'm on holiday, this is from October 2011. I think its one of my most popular posts as it features the phrase "Chuck Norris" which over the years gets as many hits as "sindel pellion legs" from Google searches!

300, Loren Gallen, Chuck Norris and Overkill

I got onto Eve late last night as I was watching a few episodes of "The Mentalist" with the Eve Widow (AKA the wife). If you haven't seen it, think "Lie to Me" meets "CSI". I guess I like sarcastic good guys who take the p1ss!

Anyway with just over an hour left before I plan to turn in for the night I jump in a throw-away Thrasher and head off to Enaluri. I see a few squids on the run over but they either keep away from me, run away or are in cloaky ships.

I arrive in Enaluri to find a few neuts, 29 squids and about 6 Gallente in system. I assume the squids are hunting down the small gang of friendlies so I go to a pounce off top station, nothing there. I warp off to a on-grid pounce at bottom station. The friendlies are there.... camping the undock! Seriously guys? 6 vs 29?? I note they have a carrier, but it is the Minmatar one. Still, surely the squids are just about to undock a fleet to take this small gang on? Any moment.... any moment now...... mmmmm maybe not then.

Anyway I've got 45 minutes so I warp to station and sit on the undock with them. An Ibis undocks! We pop him like the l33t pvp'rs we are ;)

I got the killmail and he had a decent web fitted so I thought I'd post it for sh1ts and giggles. After I posted it, I noted on the Shadows of the Federation Killboard there were two carrier kills as top kills of the week. So I clicked on one and then the related kills to find out what the story was. I saw this rather nice battle report...

Looks an epic fight. Unfortunately for me it occurred at 01:30am local time here and on a work night (Sundays are a normal day here, weekends are Friday and Saturday). I noticed one of the guys in the camp was also there so I linked the battle report in local and asked if it was a good fight. He then linked this video of the fight -

So for the next 15 minutes I'm watching the video whilst trying to pop squids that undock. We catch a Crow, and then a Dramiel and two Manticores undocked. We got the Dram but the two Manticores got away. That should have been the sign for us. The squids in station now had eyes on us.

However we stayed. It was getting late but I was having fun even if it was just sat on the undock. Loren Gallen had said to us in Corp Chat that the squids were still hurting after that battle where they lost the carriers and we should leave them alone. I said in local (I wasn't on comms with the other friendlies) that Loren had told us to leave them alone and we should do as he says as he is the Chuck Norris of Eve. I then spent five minutes posting "Loren Gallen Facts" in Local.....

- Do you know why some planets in New Eden are barren? Because Loren Gallen has already been there.
- When Loren Gallen jumps into a swimming pool he doesn't get wet.... the water gets Loren'd.
- We all live in a constantly expanding universe... all of it trying to get as far away from Loren as possible.
- Fear of spiders is called arachnophobia, fear of confined spaces is called claustrophobia, fear of Loren Gallen is called logic.
- Loren Gallen does not cheat death, he beats it fair and square.
- When Loren activates a stargate he doesn't move through the universe, the universe repositions itself so he is where he wants to be.*

Now, I don't know if the squids have been forming a fleet for the last 50+ minutes and are finally ready to go at this point, or if my bad Loren Gallenism's forced them to undock to try and shut me up, but either way, they undocked. Remember that there is about half a dozen of us including a carrier and a T3 but also including frigates and destroyers. So what do they undock with? This.....

Forget the Picard Manouvre, I'm performing the Brave Sir Robin Manouvre! I'm in warp and away! My Thrasher cannot repel firepower of that magnitude. Apparently they caught the Proteus which melted under that fleets firepower.

I head back home as it's late and I'm happy with my noob ship, Crow and Dram kills. But in the end, that was one hell of a fleet they undocked for such a small gang camping their station which they needed 50 minutes to form......

....all I can assume is they thought Loren was with us.

*This is the only fact that I actually thought up personally, the rest are Chuck Norris Facts for (the first one was Chuck/Mars)

P.S. I just checked the KB again and in case anyone has any doubts about the above Loren Gallenism's, after I called it a night he solo'd a Charon class frieghter (carring 21 CN Hookbills), a CN Raven, two Badgers and two Drakes! Probably whilst satisfying three women at once and inventing a new form of clean limitless power. Sometimes I do hate that guy ;)

Monday, November 24, 2014

BFTP - Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot

Blast From The Past will be a few posts that will pop up for the two weeks I'm on holiday. Basically I was so busy in the run up to the holidays with the Pod and Planet entries I didn't get chance to write any posts to publish whilst I was away.

So instead here are some of my most popular posts....

Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot

Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot, was on shore leave with his girl, having a picnic in the countryside.

After some cuddling she says "Pierre! Kiss me!"

So he reaches into the picnic basket, pulls out a bottle of red wine and pours it on her lips before kissing her.

"Pierre! Why did you do that?"

"Because I am Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot! And when I have red meat I have red wine!"

A bit later things are hotting up. The woman unbuttons her blouse.

"Pierre! Kiss me lower!"

So he reaches into the picnic basket, pulls out a bottle of white wine and pours it on her chest before kissing her there.

"Pierre! Why did you do that?"

"Because I am Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot! And when I have white meat I have white wine!"

Soon things are really heating up.

"Pierre! Kiss me even lower!"

So he reaches into the picnic basket, pulls out a bottle of brandy, lifts her skirt, splashes it between her legs and throws a lit match down there.

"PIERRE! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?" she screamed whilst patting out the flames.

"Because I am Pierre, the Gallente Militia Pilot! And when I go down.......... I go down in flames!"

P.S. - Sorry :/

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Angels and Sinners

Fiction Sunday! Yes I usually only post fiction on a Friday, but its the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest entry period and I'm on holiday so uploaded these posts before I went away. This one is in the A Day in the Life category as it mentions player-characters although it is totally made-up. Actually it was supposed to be humour.... erm.... I don't know, got a few days to select which category when I submit it officially.

I had been keeping the idea for this one on a back burner waiting for the P&P contest as I thought it would be a good entry. Then I tried to turn the idea into a comedy story... and failed. The idea was great The Angel Project as the background in a Eve meets The Devil Wears Prada. However I just couldn't get it to work. I've put it up here anyway but, yeah, not what I envisaged. 4357 words.

Angels and Sinners

The datapad dropped with a thud on Fanason's desk. She looked down to see there was an online job application form open on it. She looked up at her boss.

"If that's a subtle hint, its not so subtle." she said sarcastically leaning back..

"Its an assignment. Fill it in, lie about your current job, I've already put in a cover story in there and got a reference for you that will make sure you get the job."

Fanason picked up the datapad, the current employment section was indeed already filled in with some fictitious post to a powerful CEO. She'd worked for the Odette Explorer for two years as a reporter, this was for a post as a personal assistant to a CEO. She looked at who the company was.

"You have to be shitting me. I cannot do that! WE cannot do that! Its a charity!" she protested.

"Don't give me any shit here Fanason. When Gramaert went there last week to do that 'feel-good' piece he came back convinced they are hiding something. The staff were all on edge and were scared about talking to a reporter. Something is going on there. Just because its a charity doesn't mean its clean. There is something more, something sinister. You are going to find out what!"

With that her boss turned and walked off signalling the debate, not that there was any, was over. She was vaguely aware of the piece Gramaert was doing. A article on a capsuleer charity. She had originally scoffed at the idea when it was brought up in the monthly content meeting. To her it was entirely ridiculous. A charity set up to help the immensely powerful starship captains of New Eden. They gave out starships for free that Fanason could never even dream of affording to struggling Capsuleers. She shook her head at the thought. As a capsuleer they were always given a replacement ship by the SCC which could make them in thirty minutes what she made in five years. Yet some still needed a charity to help them out. "Oh boo hoo, poor little immortal starship Captains" she thought. Fanason picked up the datapad reluctantly and started lying.


The shuttle swung around the massive golden space station. Fanason peered out of the window at her new home for the next two weeks. She had two weeks to find out what was really happening at this charity. Then a relative would become sick and she'd apologise and have to return to the Federation. The intel she gathered would then be passed to a senior investigative reporter who would do the story. They would then blame a senior source at the charity and make it out like a high-level leak.

After docking she checked into the pre-booked hotel room and went exploring. She'd never visited the Amarrian Empire before and wanted to see some of the local sights. The other task was shopping. She was working at a charity based in Amarr space. She needed some more conservative clothes and had decide to shop locally to help her blend in.

The next day she exited the transit vehicle outside the charity offices. She looked up at the imposing building, the charities logo being projected in holographic form above her head. She swallowed and entered. After giving her details at the reception desk she was asked to sit and wait. Eventually an attractive man approached her.

"Fanason?" he asked with a deep gravelly voice.

Fanason stood and smiled shaking his hand.

"Welcome to the Angel Project. Please, this way." he held out an outstretched arm towards the lifts. He let her enter first and then followed her in. Inside he took the security badge and pressed it against the sensor. A light turned green and he pressed the button for the top floor. Fanason studied him carefully. He was fit, very fit. Well groomed and athletic with expensive clothes. Not the kind of guy she would have imagined worked at a charity. May be Gramaert was onto something. As soon as the lift doors closed he spoke.

"OK a few ground rules. Never be late. I mean that. Never. You wait until the boss leaves before you leave. Don't even try and quote your employment contract, security will dump you on your pretty little ass on the side walk before you can finish the sentence that ends with '....45 hours per week'. She takes her coffee black, no sugar. It had better be on her desk, steaming hot, within 60 seconds of her arriving in the morning. You don't want to know what happened to the person who forgot her coffee one time. Your main tasks will be organising her diary, managing her emails and meetings, arranging travel and accommodation and checking transfer schedules or ships, modules and ammunition. Any questions?"

Fanason just stood there open mouthed. She was stunned.

"As well as those things I'd also recommend for you personally you don't stare open mouthed like that at her and also, may be you want to rethink your, erm, wardrobe?"

Fanason was now doubly stunned. She glanced down at the traditional Amarrian outfit she was wearing.

"You haven't said her name. What, what do I call her?" she finally managed trying to compose herself.

"Mistress." was the simple answer

Before she could if he was winding her up the doors opened into a busy office. It looked like any office throughout the cluster. However, it appeared to be almost entirely staffed by attractive men. As she was led through the office she noted not a single one looked up or paid any attention. She didn't class herself as beautiful but she didn't think she was wholly unattractive. The fact not one single guy appeared to take any notice did wind her up a tad. They walked through a large set of double doors into a smaller office. Fanason was relieved to see another woman finally who was sat behind a desk.

"This is Rebbois, our secretary. The Mistress' office is through there," he pointed to another set of double doors "and yours is through here."

The side office was rather nice Fanason thought. It had two doors, she assumed the other was into the bosses office. She still couldn't believe they had to call her 'Mistress'.

"Your log-in details and instructions from your predecessor are on that datapad there. I'd use the morning to get acquainted with everything. Our Mistress usually gets in around lunch today. Good luck!" and with that he turned and left leaving Fanason stood there wondering what the hell was going on.


Thankfully her predecessor, whoever that was, had left detailed notes. Fanason found it was easy to get into the swing of things. She'd even practiced making the coffee from the expensive machine that was installed in the corner of her office. She only needed to bluff her way in this job for a fortnight and she'd be able to get back to her normal life.

He heard the clicking of heels out of the slightly open door to the secretaries office. "Good morning Mistress." That was the Secretary. Fanason didn't hear any reply. "COFFEE!" she suddenly thought and jumped out of her seat. She quickly made the drink and knocked lightly before entering the other office. It was huge. A massive window at the back looked out into deep space. The office was tastefully decorated and featured several large sofas and tables. The woman at the huge desk didn't look up. Fanason nervously started to cross the room. From what she could see the woman was Amarrian. Blonde hair that was almost white. She wore very expensive clothing. Currently she was looking down at her desk reading a datapad. Fanason placed the cup of coffee on the desk and stepped back. The woman turned her head slightly and looked at the cup. She then slowly turned to look at Fanason. Her face was expressionless as she slowly looked her up and down. Fanason felt as if she was being apprised, judged. Her boss slowly turned her chair and crossed her legs. Fanason noted the heels could be used as weapons they were so long and pointed.

"So you are my new PA."

"Yes..." she hesitated a second unsure... "Mistress."

Fanason saw a small half-smile turn up the corner of her mouth. She stroked her chin and then spun her chair around back to her desk.

"That will be all." was the curt dismissal.

Fanason walked back to her office feeling rejected. She didn't know why, she was simply here to get the story which so far had eluded her. It was only her first day but so far she'd come up blank. Everything she'd seen seemed to indicate this was a legitimate charity.

Later she heard the muffled bump of the door. Someone had just gone into the CEO's office. She thought she could hear shouting. She stood and put her ear to her own interconnecting door. There was definite shouting and a large thud on the wall made her jump back. She went through the other door to the entry office. She could still hear the shouting but the secretary was typing away like nothing was happening. She didn't even look up. Fanason was about to ask what was happening when the door to the CEO's office burst open. One of the men she had seen in the office earlier ran from the room in tears. Fanason just stood there staring at the sight of a grown-man jogging through the office crying. She glanced down at the secretary who was still working and had not even looked up. Fanason returned to her own desk shaking her head.

An hour later the intercom buzzed.

"Come here!" was the simple order. Fanason grabbed her datapad and entered the office. Her boss was working at her desk. She approached her desk and stopped.

"I'll be leaving soon. You will as well. I need you to pick up my dress for tonight and deliver it to may home."

Fanason recalled dress makers and home address was one of the first things that was detailed on the notes left for her. She now knew why.

"You are working tonight. We have a gala evening and I need you with me. 9pm, the Sauren Ballrooms, Deck 3."

Fanason wanted to speak, she had so many questions. She was frozen in the presence of this woman.

Her boss finally looked at her.

"Yes, you will need your datapad. No, you current clothing is not suitable, that is why I have instructed my fashion consultant to sort you out with a little something when you pick my dress up. Yes, it will be a very late finish. Did I miss anything?"

"No Mistress." she mumbled before slowly exiting the office, feeling the bosses eyes burning a hole in her back.


It was mid afternoon as Fanason walked down the busy shopping promenade. She glanced occasionally at her datapad to make sure she was going the right way.

She occasionally winced seeing a rich Amarrian walking down the promenade in expensive clothes with a Matari slave following behind trying to carry multiple shopping bags plus control three unruly children. Being Gallente she'd seen similar situations with the rich and their hired help. However this was different, these were not hired and the Glave collar around their necks reminded Fanason of that.

Finally she reached the dress-makers. It was a very exclusive boutique down one of the smaller promenades. She entered the shop and was dazzled by the array of clothes lining the wall. A very attractive woman stepped out from a doorway. She raised an eyebrow at Fanason.

"Can I help you?" she said in a tone that made it clear she thought Fanason was lost and was certainly in the wrong the store.

Fanason stammered as she tried to reply. The shop assistant gave her a look that seamed to scream "We've got a right one here."

Before she could say any more a slightly older woman came out of the back room and rested a hand on the attractive shop assistant.

"I'll see to this customer." she said kindly. The assistant gave Fanason another look of contempt and left.

"You must be Fanason? I've been expecting you." she said in a tone the complete opposite of the bitch that had just seen her.

Fanason just nodded. The lady stood where she was and slowly looked Fanason up and down, her hand stroking her chin.

"Mmmmmm yes. I see what she meant. This way please."

Fanason followed the lady into the back. Everything today was just overloading her. She wondered what the lady meant by what she said but now just was too stunned to ask.

"Stand in the middle and strip please."

"What?" Fanason asked in shock.

"I need to measure you and the god-awful outfit you are wearing needs to come off for me to do so!"

Fanason just looked down at the dress she was wearing that had now been insulted twice that day. She was coming to the conclusion that Amarrians where brutally honest with their fashion advice. She unzipped the dress and let it pool at her feet, crossing her arms tight across her chest.

"Arms to the side please." the woman instructed "And no fidgeting."

She felt as if she was back at school. From the ceiling a number of green lasers started to scan her body. She stood there still as the lights bounced around her body. Finally they stopped.

"OK you can put the grandma dress back on. The dress for your boss is there." she pointed to an expensive looking dress cover hung on the wall "I'll need you back here at 7pm sharp."

"Why?" Fanason asked.

"To dress you of course. I have your measurements so need select the dress and make alterations. Don't bother about hair and make-up, we'll do it here."

"But...." Fanason wanted to protest but she couldn't find the words.

"Please darling, trust me" the lady smiled.


Fanason slightly wobbled as she climbed the steps to the ballroom. The heels she wore were much higher than what she was used to. She was also trying not to trip over the Amarrian silk ballgown that flowed over her every curve. She was in unfamiliar territory both in location and dress. Even the underwear she wore was certainly not what she was used to. Far too extravagant. The shop owners words hung in her mind as she recalled when she protested the underwear. She had pointed out that she didn't need the designer underwear laid out as it would all be covered up.

"Darling. When you feel sexy and confident under your clothes you feel and importantly act sexy and confident!"

Begrudgingly she had changed into the complete outfit. She had to admit, the lady was right. Other than being unsteady in the overly high heels she felt like she could take on the world. She reached the top of the steps and glanced at her watch. 8:55pm. Exactly five minutes later a jet black transit pulled up at the bottom of the steps. The doorman opened the door and Fanason saw her boss emerge. She looked amazing in the dress that Fanason had delivered a few hours before. She gracefully climbed the steps and glanced over at Fanason. She saw her boss do a slight double take and saw a hint of a smile.

"Follow me!" was the curt instruction.

"Yes.... Mistress." Fanason mumbled and fell in behind as they entered the ballroom.

The party was already in full swing. A band was playing a mix of music from all four Empires. Waiters carried silver-platters around full of flutes of Gallente champagne. Fanason noted that like the office, they were all attractive men. No women were serving that she could see.

"Rixx!" Fanason's boss cried as they approached a man talking to a group. As he turned Fanason felt a chill down her spine. The man was clearly a capsuleer. He smiled at her boss as they greeted with a kiss on each cheek. He looked at Fanason over the bosses shoulder. Her blood ran cold as she stared into his emotionless light blue eyes.

"A new PA?" he asked. He boss glanced around at Fanason.

"Yes, she's new."

"So the rumours about the coffee incident are true then?" he said in all seriousness. Fanason visibly gulped.

"Oh Rixx darling, you shouldn't listen to idle gossip." her boss responded "Now tell me all about your event earlier this month. I heard it was the place to be seen for frigate pilots!"

The two wandered off arm in arm as Fanason stared rooted to the spot.

"He's a pirate you know." a voice whispered into her ear.

Fanason slowly turned around to be faced by a Caldari man in what looked to be a black military uniform. He stood there tall, looking down on her. The aloof and superior attitude screaming 'capsuleer'.

"If thats supposed to intimidate me, your uniform is doing a better job." she said from no where shocking herself. The man in front of her smirked.

"A lady of the Federation has nothing to fear from me either in, or out of, uniform. I am Darth Skorpious and I fight for the Federation."

"A Militia pilot?" Fanason questioned.


"So you kill people."


"Just like that Rixx person."

"Well yes....."

"The difference being he gets more money that you!"

The Caldari Capsuleer stood there, a smirk on his face. Obviously surprised someone would say that.

"I can assure you, the militia pays much better than piracy."

"So you are in it for the money then?" Fanason said, smiled, took a flute from a passing waiter and turned and walked away. She wanted to bite her fist. She couldn't believe she just did that. Quickly she scanned the room realising she was supposed to be working. She spotted her boss still with Rixx and quickly crossed the room. She carefully slid in behind her boss hoping she wouldn't notice her absence. As her boss chatted to the pirate she replayed the last conversation in her head. She wasn't that person, why did she provoke that capsuleer. She was vaguely aware her boss was on the move again. She followed as she worked the room taking notes in her datapad as various people pledged money or equipment to the cause. Finally the reached a small lift at the back of the room flanked by two huge Matari bouncers. They stepped inside.

"OK, you are off the clock now." her boss said coolly. "If you are able to, which I do wonder, enjoy yourself." and with that she walked off to mingle.

Fanason was about to ask what she meant as the lift 'pinged' and the doors opened. The sight that greeted her was akin to a Gallente Rock Star's party. The penthouse of the venue was in pure party mode. Her boss vanished into the crowd with grace as she stopped a few steps into the room. On an elevated stage, oiled male dancers gyrated for the crowd of ladies gathered around the edges. She recognised several, they were guys from the office! Suddenly they appeared to be much happier.

She noted the CEO's secretary at the bar she walked up just as she was receiving a huge green cocktail from a topless, and oiled up, barman.

"OK. Now I'm really confused! Its the same faces as the office, but its certainly not the office." she said. The Secretary smiled at her.

"What's to be confused about. Our boss likes having lots and lots of hot men about. So she's not the most easy going boss in the cluster. Yes, the hours are long and the work is hard and she drives you like a Matari slave. Yes, I'm forever having to do extra work as we mostly employ male exotic dancers in the office positions who cannot cope. But the eye candy, pay and the invites to these parties. They seriously make up for it."

"And what if your late with our Mistresses coffee?" Fanason asked.

"You've heard about that?" the Secretary said in surprise.

"Not really but...." before Fanason could finish an oiled dancer raced across and dragged the giggling Secretary to the dance floor.

Fanason just lent against the bar and watched. Two songs later the Secretary returned to the bar, the over sized cocktail glass empty.

"You need to let loose" the secretary slurred.

"I'm people watching. Its fun. However its not what I expected. That guy over there, Rixx someone. He's a pirate apparently so I expected him to, well, but he doesn't appear interested in any of the hot girls that have practically thrown themselves at him. Then those three over there keep staring at him and whispering. Then that Militia pilot there, Darth someone who is a high-ranking officer, but I've seen him kissing three different women! It doesn't add up!"

The Secretary giggled and indicated to the barman she wanted a refill.

"Darling. Rixx isn't interested in these party girls as he's happily married and with two kids. Villainous pirates who terrorise the space-lanes can be loving, faithful husbands and fathers too you know. The three guys there are Tuskers. They really don't like Rixx's choice of ammunition so apparently really don't like him. Gallente Militia Officers, well they are just the horn-dogs of New Eden. Look, you cannot judge Capsuleers on what you read in the media."

Fanason just looked bewildered at her.

"Here. Take this!" the Secretary handed her a small vial. "Working for our boss," she whispered quietly "is hell, so enjoy yourself!"

With that the Secretary produced another vial, popped the top off and emptied the contents onto her tongue.

"What the hell!" Fanason thought and did the same.


The next morning was the worst morning Fanason had ever experienced. Two cold showers, five cups of strong coffee and two energy bars later and she was still exhausted and hung over. As she arrived at the office she found Rebbois to be in a similar state. They didn't speak, just nodded and half-smiled at each other in mutual suffering.

The click of the CEO's heels made Fanason jump from her seat an hour later. She just managed to get the coffee on her bosses desk in time. She looked at Fanason, almost but not quite smiling.

"Did you have a good time last night?" the CEO asked with no hint of emotion in her voice.

"Yes Mistress, thank you."

"You don't remember do you?"

Fanason's blood ran cold.


The half smirk on the CEO's face told her something was wrong, very wrong. The CEO picked up a datapad and pressed a button. A large screen lit up with a view of the private party. Fanason could see herself at the bar with the secretary. Her boss fast-forwarded the recording and activated the sound.

"100 million ISK!" was the shout followed by a cheer.
"200 million!" another sounded.
"400!" a further voice boomed.

"Come on boys!" the image of Fanason swayed on the edge of the stage, surrounded by the male dancers cheering her on "Its for a good cause. I'm not stripping off this dress for less than half a billion ISK!"

A massive cheer went up. Fanason was mortified. She remembered nothing of this.

"One billion ISK!" a voice at the back of the room called followed by a massive cheer. Fanason watched the image of her take a low bow and started slowly swaying to the music reaching for the zipper of her dress.

The CEO paused the video.

"I must say, you did rather well. That billion was the second largest donation of the evening."

Fanason gulped.

"What was the largest?" she hoped to change the subject quickly.

"Two billion for when you and Rebbois....."

Fanason covered her open mouth with her hand in shock.

"Relax, you only kissed! Some Caldari Capsuleer from Nisuwa offered a two billion donation if you two would kiss. I think you took Rebbois by surprise as you never gave her chance to agree before you pounced on her! You really don't remember do you." the boss said smiling.

"I.... I..... I....."

"Well its good to see the real you. I prefer it to the mask you were hiding behind and I don't mean the one you wear here, I mean the one you have been hiding behind most your adult life. I expect you to resign from the Odette Explorer and continue your job here. You are better at this job than a reporter anyway plus I pay more." and with that the boss went back to reading her datapad like nothing had happened.

Fanason stood there frozen. Her boss knew, she knew everything.

"Yes I knew before you started." said her boss without looking up "I knew within an hour of receiving your application. I'm a capsuleer, you think we don't investigate in detail everyone who gets close to us. I thought it might be an interesting game, but in your week here I saw something in you. I was right. I want you to stay. Obviously you can go back to the Odette Explorer but any story released about me will be met with that video in response. Oh, and there is plenty more on that tape."

Fanason just nodded and slowly walked back to the office wondering how to phrase her resignation letter to her boss at the Odette Explorer. Gramaert was right, they were hiding something, but nothing criminal. A charity staffed mostly by male exotic dancers, wild parties above formal fund-raisers and a powerful boss who took no nonsense.

"Oh and be careful with the coffee. You were nearly late this morning and....."

Fanason stopped for a moment but didn't turn around.

"....and I don't want to know what happened to the person who was late getting you your morning coffee last time!" she finished for her as she closed the office door behind her.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Wreck

Fiction Friday. No escape pod as this was uploaded days ago as I'm on holiday on a desert island 400 metres in diameter. If Eve fiction is not your thing try here.

This is an entry for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest in the Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden category. This one actually gave me the idea for next week's comedy entry. 3129 words.

The Wreck

Laulbrent opened his eyes. It was pitch black. He couldn't see anything. He struggled to his feet and reached into his pocket and pulled out his datapad. Turning on the screen hurt his eyes due to the sudden apperance of light, but at least the glow from the screen allowed his to see more once his eyes adjusted. He worked his way over to a nearby console. It was dead, no power at all. He tried to use the datapad as a torch but the room was too big and the light wasn't powerful enough. Using his memory he slowly made his way over to the railgun loading mechanism. Once he felt the cold tritanium of the structure he felt his way around until he reached the maintenance access panel. Using the glow from his datapad's screen he opened it and flicked the circuit breakers. The emergency lighting flickered on.

"I am in deep shit!" Laulbrent whispered to himself surveying the scene in front of him.

It had all been going so well. Laulbrent was a gunnary officer on a Dominix class battleship. This particular battleship was piloted by a capsuleer. An immortal pilot who, when wet-wired to the ships systems, could control it with just his mind. The vessel still needed a crew but it was a substantially smaller one than those captained by a normal person. They had recieved a mission to take out a rogue drone hive just inside low-sec. A particualrly risky mission. However, most capsuleer missions were risky, thats why they paid their crew so much. They had arrived at the mission co-ordinates and found the hive under construction. The resident rogue drones wasted no time in attacking the intruders. Autonomous robots that had become self-aware and turned on their human creators. They now lived in hives scattered through deep space and were a constant nuisence to traffic. Unexpectedly, a Tengu class strategic cruiser had appeared. Another capsuleer, but this one was a pirate. The sentry drones and large 425mm railguns on the Dominix couldn't hit the fast and nimble cruiser as it attacked. After a drawn-out fight their own capsuleer sounded the abandon ship alarm as their battlehip started taking structural damage. Laulbrent and his crewmates had headed for the escape pods there was an explosion and the power had gone down in their section, even the emergency power. The doors wouldn't open and the emergency crank had jammed due to a buckled bulk head. Before anyone could get to the circuit breakers to divert emergency power to the doors another missile from the Tengu detonated close by. That was the last thing he remembered.

His fire-control centre that he was stood in was a mess. The ceiling had collapsed in one corner and there was debris scattered all over. Amongst the debris were bodies. Slowly Laulbrent worked his way around checking to see if anyone else was alive. The first three he reached were all dead. A moan from the far corner caught his attention. He quickly walked over to find Technician Frist Class Janninck slumped against the wall. He pressed his fingers against her neck and she moved under his touch.

"Nerwolfur wasn't handing out the Matari 100% proof fire-water again last night was he?" she asked groggily slowly opening her eyes.

Laulbrent chuckled. It was good she hadn't lost her sence of humour. He held out a hand and she took it pulling herself to her feet.

"No technician, for once the headaches we have are not Nerwolfur's fault. Moreover, we're going to need more than a couple of pills and a glass of water to sort this out!"

Laulbrent pointed to the door at the far end of the fire-control centre and started to walk over with Janninck following.

"So what's the situ?" she asked as they walked.

"No idea. Main power is down but it appears the battle is over. Its all quiet and no more explosions. We need to get to some functional escape pods as life-support will no doubt be down. I don't know who....." Laulbrent cut off mid-sentance as they reached the door. He turned around and slumped against the bulkhead shaking his head.

Janninck looked at him and shrugged her shoulders questioningly. Laulbrent thumbed towards the small viewport set into the blastdoor. Janninck peared out and all she could see were stars. The corridor beyond was ripped open and she could see the other half of the battleship slowly spinning several kilometres away.

"Shit!" was all she could say.


They had been climbing for an hour. After finding the battleship had been cut in half, their only route had been to climb through the collapsed area at the far end of fire-control. Heavy machinery had become detached higher up in the ship and had plummeted through a dozen decks as it fell creating a mangled shaft of metal.

"Just our fracking luck." Janninck panted "Every other system is down except the artificial-gravity!"

"Yeah but that system also controls air and heat. I'll take a bit of climbing in exchange for being able to breath!"

After they had climbed three decks in the dark they had encountered light and a slight breeze meaning the life support higher up was still running. Eventually they reached the top of the shaft. A missile had penetrated the ships hull here but the emergency forcefields were still operating. It was strange, being stood on a mangled deckplate looking out into deep space with only a thin energy barrier seperating them from the vacuum.

"Its kind of beautiful." Janninck said staring out. Laulbrent looked back to where she stood as he checked down one corridor that led off the room.

"Yeah, just remember that the damage control unit is running on emergency battery power. At some point in the not so distant future that force-field will simply vanish. Janninck gulped at the thought of being blown out into the cold vacuum of space. She followed Laulbrent down a side corridor, rows of blinking red lights lined the left hand side. The entire row of escape pods had already gone.

"Right. Plan B then!" Laulbrent grumbled and turned back. They crossed the hole in the hull again, the large drone hive looming in the distance. They could just make out the other half of the ship, slowly spinning in the distance. Huge rogue drones crawled over the other half of the ship, ripping sections off as they went. Smaller drones zipped around collecting the floating wreckage and flying it back towards the hive.

"Looks like that half is going to become scrap for use in the hive." Janninck whispered.

Laulbrent nodded and pulled her along before she asked what he thought would happen to them. He didn't want to say out loud 'exactly the same once they've finished with that half'.

At the otherside of the breach they entered another corridor. A body lay halfway along. Laulbrent approached it and squatted down, checking for signs of life. The man looked to be in his mid-20's. His dead body was battered and bruised. He assumed he'd fallen running for the escape pods and been trampled to death by other crew. It was something all crew knew about. It took a special person to remain cool, calm and collected when the abandon ship alarm was sounding. Death by explosive vacuum was not pleasant in any way, shape or form. Whilst all crew believed they would act calm and responsible when the time came, the abandon ship alarm changed things in an instant. That was one danger, the other was just about as scary. They had been taught that people trapped in dire situations like this could act differently, dangerously. If all hope is lost and there can be no consequences to your actions, certain personality types can become very uncivalised very quickly. He hoped any surviving crew they found would not be in that catagory,

"They're gone." Laulbrent stated solemly as he stood and turned from the body. "Lets keep moving."


It had been two hours of searching and they had found nothing but dead-ends full of empty escape pod launch tubes. Laulbrent was now worried. Emergency power had started to fluctuate and they'd heard loud crashes and bangs against the hull. He hoped it was just the ship colliding with more wreckage as it spun in space. However, the rogue drones would soon be finished with salvaging anything of use of the rear half of the ship and would move onto their half. He assumed they started with the rear half as it contained the reactors and the drives. Probably valuable components in constructing their hive.

Janninck had gone quiet. He was sure she'd come to the same conclusions but had kept them to herself.

As they followed the current corridor Laulbrent noted where they were. He stopped at a door and tried to open it. The power was down and the door wouldn't open. He opened the maintenance panel on the wall and removed the emergency hand crank. He inserted it into the hole and slowly he turned the handle, opening the door a fraction at a time. Once it was open enough he squeezed in with Janninck following. The room was small. It contained a small console and racks of electronics equipement. Blinking lights showed there was still some power to the electronics.

"What is this?" Janninck asked.

"Its one of the emergency diagnostic terminals. In the event of an emergency the DCU and shipboard AI feed whatever data they can get back to one of these. There is one for every five decks. They are used when part of the ship is inaccessible."

Laulbrent went to work on the console.

"They have their own battery back-up and are the last of the systems to go down. This one is still getting basic information for several sections of this ship."

"What good is that?" she asked. "You don't need a computer to tell us we're neck deep in Slaver Hound Do-Do! What is it going to tell you? Error code 548 - ship hacked into two pieces. Please speak to Scotty the Docking Manager who will arrange a super-sized roll of Matari duct tape?"

"Deck 14, Sector 3B." Laulbrent replied. "Corridor 131 is losing power, life support minimum but still pressurised." he smiled.


"That means we can still reach the two Class-3 escape pods remaining and ready to launch from that corridor!"


It took 30 minutes for Laulbrent reached the door he was looking for. The emrgency power was fading and it had been slow going. Grabbing the emergency crank he turned the lever, slowly opening the door. When the gap was wide enough he stepped through and pulled Janninck with him. The corridor was dark. The emergency lighting was starting to fail. The blinking red lights above each door made his heart sink until he saw the last two, solid green. Laulbrent grabbed Janninck by the hand and started down the corridor quickly. Half way down he stopped, there was movement. He heard a clink of bottles. Two shapes moved in the half-light.

"Who's there?" he called out.

Two figures emerged from the gloom. There was one Caldari and on Matari and by the way they were walking, both very drunk.

"Welcome to the end Officer!" the Caldari gave a mocking salute. "Coming to join us to die? I think we have some booze left, somewhere. Sorry but we've been celebrating our upcoming deaths a little hard!"

Laulbrent picked up on the tone. Resigned. The Matari crewman just stood there.

"There appears to be two four-person pods left. Any reason you haven't abandoned ship crewman?" he said in an authorative tone. He hoped the crewman had some proffesionalism left.

"Well sir." the 'sir' was said sarcastically "if you have a look here...." and indicated to the adjacent escape pod. As Laulbrent approached he accidently kicked a bottle that skidded down the corridor landing at the crewmans feet. When he reached the door the crewman suddenly hit the launch button. A whoosh sound eminated from the door.

"What the frack...." Laulbrent exclaimed. Incredulous that this man just lanuched an empty pod.

"Look!" said the crewman and pointed to the small window in the door. Laulbrent looked out and saw the firy engines of the escape pod gaining distance. Suddenly an immense metalic tentacle lashed out from somewhere. It struck the pod and sent it spinning. The impact ruptured the pods hull spewing its oxygen into space. The white cloud reached the engine flare and it ignited. The whole pod exploded in a fireball.

"Its some kind of drone on the hull and it doesn't want us to leave." he said "It destroyed the Tengu. It sliced us in half. It is waiting. Its going to kill us all. Whats worse, look out again and to the right."

Laulbrent looked out of the viewport again straining to try and see what the crewman wanted him to. He was about to ask what he was supposed to be seeing when the heavy blunt object crashed into the back of his head and everything went dark again.


Something was shaking him. Laulbrent opened his eyes. His head throbbed. He was half right, the entire ship was shaking violently.

"No! Stay back!" he heard Janninck's desperate voice. It sounded distant due to the throbbing in his ears. He shoved himself up with his hands, glass from the broken bottle crunching under his palms.

"Come on man! We haven't got long. That thing out there is tearing us up! I gotta go out with a bang!" the Caldari man was egging the Matari on. Laulbrent could see Janninck was backed into a corner, the two men blocking her way slowly advancing. She had a metal rod in her arms and was weilding it like a club at them. Laulbrent saw that her lip was split and her crew shirt was torn with many of the buttons missing. There had obviously been a stuggle before she'd got the make-shift club and beaten them back.

"Stay back!" she snarled waving her make-shift weapon as the two men advanced.

The Matari man stepped forward. She swung the pole but he caught it in his hand easily, wrenching it from her grip.

"Darling, we're dead in a matter of minutes. Best to party now before..."

He was silenced by the sound of smashing glass. As the Matari man fell to the deck Janninck saw Laulbrent stood behind him with a now broken bottle. The Caldari man backed off raising his hands.

"Hey dude, I don't want any trouble!"

Laulbrent held out his hand for Janninck whilst pointing the broken bottle at the remaining crewman.

"You OK?" he asked not taking his eyes off the Caldari man.

"I've had worse dates to be honest! However, if that bastard tries anything make sure you castrate him with the bottle!" she sneered.

The two backed down the corridor towards the last remaining escape pod. Once there was enough distance between them the remaining crewman ran off in the opposite direction.

"They said the drones are destroying any escape pods that launch. Thats why they were still here. What are we going to do?" Janninck asked as he pulled her into the remaining pod.

He pulled up a floor access panel and started pulling apart the sea of wires, reaching deeper into the bowels of the pods workings.

"They are dismantling the ship. We stay out there, we die." he replied whilst pulling apart large connectors between the cables. "I'm hoping these things work on electromagnetics. If the pod has no power when it leaves the tube, I'm guessing they'll ignore it."


"Two choices. Stay in this pod with me and have a 50/50 chance of making it. Or go back on the ship with rogue drones dismantling it and lover-boy still running around!"

Janninck sat down and watched Laulbrent as he rewired the escape pods power systems. The vibrations in the ship were growing stronger. After two minutes he stood and re-entered the corridor. Janninck watched him as he pulled the door control panel off the wall and start to work on the curcuit boards behind that. Finally he came inside and closed the pods hatch.

"Ready?" he asked her.

"Ready for wh....?" she started to ask as he hit a button on the console. There was a huge roar as the escape pods engineers engaged for a brief second and then fell silent. She looked at the window in the escape pod's hatch and saw light coming from the bottom of the lanch tube.

"The ships door!" she pointed as she realised the atmosphere of the ship was venting into space.

"Don't worry, thats going to give us a push."

She grabbed his hand as there was a clunk against the ships hull.

"Don't worry, that was probably that Minmatar bastard, not the drones." he said calmly. She looked at him in confusion. There was a second clunk.

"And that will have been the Caldari asshat. Here comes the moment of truth."

The escape pod silently exited the launch tube in a flurry of debris. As the ships atmosphere vented it blew everything unsecured through the door Laulbrent had rigged to stay open. They peered out of the window together as the massive drones worked on tearing the ship into scrap. The huge machines ignoring the unpowered debris spitting from the ship as they peeled immense armour plates from the stricken hull for the small drones to carry back to the hive.

Janninck realised she had been holding her breath as the wrecked ship started to slip from view. They were clear.

"What now?" Janninck asked.

"We will give it 30 minutes before reconnecting the main power. Might get a bit chilly in here but we need to put some distance between us and them. The air here should be OK for that long with only two of us. By the time we power up, I'm guessing we'll have drifted 400 clicks from the hive. Well out of harms way. Then its power up the distress beacon and wait for the Sisters to come and rescue us." Laulbrent leaned back in the seat relaxing. "In the mean time you can tell me about your days in that Gallente girls-only boarding school."

Janninck looked at him quizically.

"I didn't go to a Gallente girls-only boarding school!".

"So make it up." Laulbrent laughed "We've got a few hours before the Sisters turn up and I think I deserve a reward!"

The sound of a playful slap resonated around the small escape pod as it drifted away from the drone hive into the blackness of space.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blog Going Dark....

... well sort of!

I'm off on holiday for two weeks of well deserved relaxation! 13 nights of laying on the beach, swimming up to the swim up bar in the pool and scuba diving!

Whilst I'm away I've scheduled up some fiction in the form of Pod and Planet Contest entries and a series called "Blast from the Past!".

Basically these are just re-posts of the most popular reads on this blog. Yes, its cheating, but tough! I didn't have the time before I left to queue up two weeks of new and exciting posts. OK I didn't have the time before I left to queue up two weeks of new posts!!

See you in two weeks!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What The Hell Does THAT Do?

When CCP announced they were changing the icons when revamping the UI for Rhea I let out a GoL (Groaned out Loud). What a silly thing to do! People have been playing this game for over a decade, six years for me, how are we going to get on with completely new icons when we are so used to the old ones. Seriously CCP? Seriously?

Anyway, with so much going on there, I have spent a lot of time on SiSi during the last week. Thera, Physics Based Rendering (PBR), new Blackbird, new Incursus, new Eagle there is an impressive list of features coming in the Rhea release. My first day with the new UI was not good. As expected I couldn't find anything. Even though the icons on my SiSi client are in similar (not exact) locations to my TQ client I struggled. The market and its bar graph was one that got me confused multiple times. Even ship fitting which you'd think is perhaps one of the more obvious ones in the new icons had me confused several times. "WHERE IS THE FLIPPIN FITTING WINDOW ICON!!!".

Here is a comparison I made after rearranging my SiSi icons to match my TQ layout:-

So some are similar, some pretty different. Anyway, I had no choice in the matter so I soldiered on cursing CCP for the 'silly change'.

Earlier this week I announced the winner of the one billion ISK Daredevil. In order to contract it across to the winner I had to log onto TQ. Suddenly I was....

I was really struggling as I had gotten so used to the new UI so quickly I was having difficulty using the old one. I guess I relied on colours too much. May be thats why I confused the Journal with Contracts so often over the years. Doh! Wrong one!

Another change is the station window. Simpler icons and of course the ability to change colour schemes.

So the new UI - Hideous when you first start using it but after a day it clicks and its much better than the old one IMO.

I'm busy so will keep this short. I have to pack and I'm running out of time. Pack? Yes its holiday time. I'm off for a very well derserved holiday to a desert island that is only 400m in diameter. I shall be spending my time laying on a beach recreating Sindel Pellion leg shots, drinking at the swim up bar in the pool and scuba diving with hopefully sharks, manta rays and if we are really lucky whale sharks. I have some "blast from the past" type posts queued up as well as my entries for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest. I'll be back first weekend of December.

But before I go, CCP Sledgehammer brought out a special edition Revelation yesterday sporting the new PBR textures. As Kaylee would say... shiny!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Would Kaylee Say? New Hulls in Rhea.

So we have the new "PBR" rendering and some new hulls on the test server. Before we have a look at the new ships I'd just like to announce that the winner of the 1bn ISK Daredevil from the Stay Frost Frigate Free-for-All is....... Skir Skor with his rather silly pirate faction rookie ship complete with True Sansha web. It was a bit of a silly fit! Will contract that over soon(tm).

Anyway, onto the new ship skins. The new rendering (PBR - Physics Based Rendering) is on SiSi and everythings gone... erm.... shiny. What? There is no demotivational featuring Kaylee from Firefly going shiny? Oh well, here's on of her mentioning whores!

The new rendering does give a much more metallic feel to the skins and light bounces off much better. I'll start with the new Christmas Tree Bauble Ship or the ship formally known as the Absolution... shiny!

We have the new model for the Blackbird family:-

A new Incursus model:-

Finally, the T2 Versions of the Moa are here with "foldy down warpy" bits:-

No sign of the new T3 Amarr destroyer or the Bowhead yet. The new dreadnought variants aren't up either. As I'm going on holiday in a few days guess I might have to wait to see them live in Rhea!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SCASSSS - Thera Gallery

OK for this Special Sunday Short I went to Thera. You know the Wild West? This place is even bloody wilder! Going to be interesting when it arrives on TQ first week of December!

The Stations

The Epicentre

Planetary Colonisation Office Wreck

The Testing Facilities

Expedition Command Outpost Wreck

The CCP Manifest Attacking Me!