The Spider and the Archeologist

June 7 YC122 
Kalilia District
Skarkon II

Night fell and the Jovian city descended into darkness and chaos. Casmir’s lungs burned with the fading heat of the desert and a desperate need for more oxygen than he could get. His legs ached and every muscle in his body begged him to stop, while every fiber in his nervous system begged him to keep running. 

The creature towered over the Jovian ruins like a vengeful alien god, rising hundreds of meters towards a grotesque and shifting bulbous mass from which fractal limbs telescoped out and retracted. It pulsed like a heart pumping as it moved with what would be a ponderous slowness if its stride length didn’t carry it five blocks in one lunge. 

Casmir and Cosra had run off in different directions and the creature had gone after Cosra first. Despite that, Casmir refused to stop running, trying to put as much distance between himself and the thing as he could. It had awakened a deeply buried animalistic instinct in Casmir, the ancestral part that knew what it felt like to be prey, and that part took command of the archeologist and kept him on his feet as his body threatened to collapse under him. 

A hail of gunshots erupted from somewhere in the distance and the monster seemed to throb with increased activity, its limbs expanding and contracting as it sent hundreds of dark tendrils into the streets below. It seemed that Cosra had made it back to the campsite and hadn’t been able to keep his mouth shut. He felt a pang of sympathy for the RSS soldiers who he knew without a doubt were being slaughtered where they stood. An RPG spiraled upwards from between the buildings to strike the creature’s central mass but this seemed to have no effect on it at all; the round didn’t even explode it was just swallowed up anticlimactically. 

The Jovian city gave way to open desert as the sound of violence began to taper off into individual volleys, separated by greater and greater gaps as the creature methodically murdered each member of the expedition. Casmir kept running. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t really expect to escape, but the idea of standing his ground and letting the thing come for him was too terrifying to contemplate. Casmir wasn’t a young man, but he wasn’t yet ready to go to his death, certainly not a death that would leave him erased and forgotten like the city that was falling behind him into the gathering twilight. 

Under the bruised glow of the darkening sky, Casmir could see that the deadly monstrosities were scattered all across the desert like enormous alien monoliths. The one in the city was still busying itself with the slaughter of his expedition, but he didn’t want to run directly into another one and he tried to angle himself towards the emptiest place he could find using a stand of low hills in the near distance as a landmark and destination. If he found shelter would the things come and track him down? How did they hunt? What could they see? Could they communicate with each other? Were they intelligent? Would they try to circle around and head him off? He had no answers to any of these questions but every time he noticed another monster lurching along, tinged blue by the vast distances involved, he felt his odds of survival slip further and further. 

There were lights up ahead of him somewhere but he paid them no mind. Maybe it was some sort of village or outpost, he doubted they would be able to help him and adjusted his flight to steer clear of the lights, not wanting anyone else to be dragged down into death with him. His mind contracted down to the singular idea of escape, of continuing his flight. He thought maybe if he could just get off the planet he would be safe, but that seemed like an impossibly distant goal. Was the dropship still at the digsite? If the creature wandered off maybe he could sneak back in and use it to flee from the desert world. He had no idea how to fly a dropship but it was better than waiting to die. 

Because he was so focused on his escape and the creatures, Casmir could be forgiven for having missed the small figure darting among the increasingly rocky landscape he was scrabbling across until they slipped from the darkness beside him and sent him tumbling to the ground with a painful chop to the neck that left him gasping for breath on the regolith with a boot on his neck

“What’re you doing in my desert bonesniffer?” A girl’s voice asked him. 

Casmir gasped and wheezed as his body finally caught up with his terrified mind, “Monsters…” he managed to croak out desperately, “It’s not safe here, you have to run.”

“I was afraid you’d say that,” she said before clubbing him over the head and interrupting his consciousness in a starburst of pain and darkness.

Best Left Buried

  1. Mnemonia
  2. Old Bones
  3. Void Touched
  4. This is Not a Place of Honor
  5. Hope Starved
  6. The Spider and the Archeologist

Saede Riordan

Quod Subsisto Tractus

He shifted in his seat, getting used to a tight, armored flight suit he probably hadn’t worn in…easily 6 years.

“Docking Command, this is Firebrand, requesting undock and guidance to safe maneuvering distance.” A near-growl into the throat mic was all it took.
“Rodger, Firebrand, unclasp, forward at niner-zero M.S., heading one-three-one by zero-zero-zero, upper tier undock. Clear forcefields at twelve-twelve time, then accel to one-three-hundred M.S. for one k until clear.”
“Aye, command, unclasp, forward at niner-zero, one-three-one by zero-zero-zero, upper tier, clear at twelve-twelve, accel one-three hundred for one k ’till clear.”

“Quod subsisto tractus, Firebrand

A normal call between fighter pilots. And stay the course, how fitting. Command was a veteran.

“Quod subsisto tractus, Command. Firebrand Out.”

The figure in the co-pilot’s seat in front of Trensk turned their head, a shock of red hair flowing from under their helmet. “Firebrand?! Really, Trensk?”

Trensk laughed, hitting the button on the display above him to unclasp their Mantis from their moorings. “I didn’t choose the name, Lizza, you can blame Lit for selling me the thing. I suspect it’s her fault. She knew you’d fly it.”

There was a general grumbling of swear words in front of him as Trensk pulled the Mantis to the correct bearing and speed, as natural as if it was his own body. He checked thruster readings, electric generator amperage, voltage, and wattage, HVAC systems, and nervously, the weapons locks.

Exactly 12 minutes to their unclasping, they exited the force fields of the undock, their Mantis soaring into the cold depths of space outside Indigo City Station. Trensk double checked the weapons locks, then let his hands dance across his control console, transferring control to the co-pilot’s seat, while maintaining an emergency override on his station.

“Alright, Lizza, you heard him, accelerate to thirteen-hundred meters a second and hold for a kilometer, then you’re free to go.”

She nodded (which he explicitly told her not to do in the fibo), and gently pushed the throttle, pushing the mantis to 100 m/s under it’s max speed and holding, flying for exactly one kilometer at that speed.

“Alright, Lizza, remember, don’t go too crazy, you haven’t flown for long. Go at it, girl.”

And go at it she did.

Immediately, she pulled into a steep climb, going vertical to the solar plane as she pushed the Mantis right into it’s max speed, the acceleration and g’s pushing them back into their speeds. Trensk reacted naturally, his legs tensing and untensing to control blood flow while he settled into his seat, amused by the scene in front of him.

She seemed to shake in her seat, most likely from the sheer adrenaline and nervousness you felt at the helm of a fighter-bomber. Elizabeth dragged the fighter into tight maneuvers, tracing a looping, Immelmann-ing, barrel-rolling arc around Indigo City, the massive form of the planet dwarfing all.

She kept at this for a few hours, almost never seeming to tire of it. She was sure like her mother, never seemed to tire of things she found she loved. Soon enough, however, Elizabeth slowed the Fibo, gliding low over the glittering metal skin of the station.

“Had fun?” Trensk finally said, grinning under his helmet. She nodded, again.

“Well, pull five kilometers out, and aim the ship away from the sun.” Elizabeth paused, but ended up shrugging and pulling away from the station.

Five kilometers out, and aimed towards the inky blackness of the outer solar system, she slowed the Mantis to a halt, floating in the void. Trensk finally undid the locks, double-checking the craft’s payload and the programming of the weapons.

“Alright, Lizza, fire.”

Immediately the payload was released, bombs and missiles flying out into the void. One hundred, two hundred, five hundred meters, then they exploded, a colorful fire of blue and red arcing across their view port, bathing the interior of the cockpit in beautiful, shimmering light. Trensk could almost feel Elizabeth smiling as the girl in front of him settled back into her seat.

“Happy birthday, Lizza.”

Trensk Mikakka

Normal Life

She walks into the nursery to watch the twins sleep and a self-satisfied smile comes across her face, unable to sleep right now. Both of them almost 13 weeks old already, where has the time gone? Life has changed for them, she reaches out to caresses Violet’s head as she sleeps. She slips out of the nursery quietly without a sound, moving onto to Amitel’s room. Looking at the time she realizes that it is time for her to get up for school, knocking on the door. “Ami, it’s time to get up for school. What do you want for breakfast?” The muffled sound of a stirring child comes from the room, through her pillows; “Pancakes please…” Lit makes her way to the kitchen letting Amitel get ready and dressed, she starts to make breakfast.

She thinks back to the beginning of the year and so much has changed since then; even who she flies with now, her family dynamics have changed with the birth of the twins. Here she is on Indigo City with the kids, except for Duncan, he stayed behind for University though he may come here for an internship, but we will see about that. Absentmindedly she makes the pancakes that were asked for, flipping them on the griddle. Amitel comes out of her room to the kitchen wearing her jacket that has the sign for Alexylva’s scout wing on the back of it, it was a gift of unexpected magnitude for her. She puts the pancakes on the plate and through her implants the twins start stirring. She looks over to the 12 year old “Do you want us to walk you to school today?” Amitel thinks for a moment as she chews on her pancakes and responds.”Yes please.”

She walks back down to the nursery hearing the twins coo and squirm. She opens the door with a sing song voice “Babies….. babies….” and walks up to Violet’s crib, the baby’s name decorated onto the light purple wall behind the crib. Violet smiles up at her mom as she is “How is my princess?…ooof, you are squishy, time to change you and your brother.” She places Violet down on the change table and begins to change the diaper, before getting her dressed in a pale blue dress with a white ribbon and a flower head band to match and finally placing her down into the infant swing and buckling her in. Walking over to Vincent’s crib with his name scrawled across the rich blue in white lettering, she speaks softly to him as well. “Someone is squishy too.” She nuzzles him as he looks up with his bright eyes, bringing him over to the change table. “How is my favorite little man? Hmmm?” He looks up at her with a smile with eyes wide open. She dresses him in a blue jean overalls with a white diaper shirt underneath. She pulls over and opens the two seated stroller, putting Vincent in first, then getting Violet from the swing.

The stroller is wheeled into the kitchen just as Amitel finishes her pancakes. Hopping down from her stool, Amitel gives the twins each a kiss and then scurries off to the bathroom to get ready for school. The twins begin cooing, as well as babbling as Lit kneels down in front of them, making sure the diaper bag has everything she needs just in case the need arises. After a few moments Amitel comes out from the bathroom, “Mom can you fix my hair? Its not cooperating.” She nods her head “Of course, give me the brush.” The brush is handed over as she starts to comb through the red hair, then finally once all the knots are out, she decides to put a french braid in. She slides the brush on the counter, and looks at the three of them “Shall we?”. “Yup, let’s go!” Amitel exclaims. She gets behind the stroller and pushes it to the door, slipping on her shoes.

Through her implants she locks the door once they are all out in the corridor. They walk through one of the residential areas of Indigo City where there is ‘natural’ lighting so that when outside of their homes they still get the vitamins needed. They walk past a park with a playground structure on it; the giggles of a little boy playing there with his parents catch their notice. There is a bit of foot traffic out this morning as people are getting to work, getting children to school and people just starting their day. A Civre girl walks up to them as they progress, Amitel beams “Miranda, hey..wanna walk with us to school?”. The Civre girl looks at the family “Sure, are these your brother and sister that you talk about?” Amitel nods “Yah, this is Violet, and this is Vincent.” Miranda exclaims “Oh, they are soooo cute, but so tiny.” They begin to walk again towards the school, the two young girls chatting the entire way about school and all the juicy gossip for tweens, stopping at intersections as they see hover cars and other vehicles go through them. Finally about 20 minutes later, they arrive at the school, that is a buzz with children arriving for school, it seems to be a hub activity for this time of morning.

The two tweens skip onto the school property waving bye to her. She smiles while watching them as they approach a bunch of girl of all varieties. The group of tween girls start giggling and chatting up a storm. She smiles watching the girls and seeing Amitel with friends at her new school. It’s hard being the new kid to a school where kids have known each other for a while. But Amitel seems to fit in with this group, which is nice to see. The bell rings for them to enter the school and the girls go as a group. Once they are in the school she turns around and makes her way back to the apartment. Yes, life has certainly changed.



She blinked in the darkness. Her mental clock told her it was the deep of the night, the clock on the nightstand agreed. She blinked again, why was she awake? No alarm sounded. She could hear only the usual sounds of the resort: the faint humming of the systems. Everything seemed normal. Then what? A yawn escaped her lips as she rested on the side, trying to get back to sleep. Still, sleep kept evading her.

Slowly and silently, she got up. From the warm bed, the air feels cold, tickling her bare skin but she enjoy that feeling. Lightly, with little sounds, she reached for the window. She stood there, watching the mountains all around. She is a dark silhouette framed by the dimmed light from outside. Thoughts moved through her mind.

A pair of arms circled her waist, a chin came resting on her shoulder. Even with the soft t-shirt in the middle the touch feel warm and soft. She shivered lightly, enjoying it as her hands entwined the other pair. “You okay?” a soft whisper came to her ear, followed by a tiny kiss on the lobe. She nodded “I think… Just thoughts…” She whispered back. “Mmmm…” They both remained silent watching the sight outside for a moment before her lover spoke again “The sight is beautiful.” “Indeed.”

The scent of her partner slowly filled her nostrils and she couldn’t but smile at the lovely images popping up in her mind. She leaned slightly back, lightly pressing her body against her lover that in answer gave a squeeze to her waist. A kiss landed on her neck and she let out a delighted purr, she liked such thing so much… A smile appeared in the darkness answering that purr with a murr of its own.

They remained there for some time, just enjoying the night sight with the snow-capped mountains glowing lightly and the warm presence of the other. There wasn’t really need for words. She smiled, she felt lucky, excited, and more, for the one that was hugging her, that was letting her feel her warm presence. If someone had asked her before it happened, she would have probably laughed.

After she succeeded in making her dream come true, making this silvery spires rise from the for-est, she had to promote it all. One of her ideas was hosting a gravboard invitational. Gravboarders from all Origin would gather there and compete to win prizes and glory. It would bring people and light on her new resort.

She thought it was simple; she should have known better after all the paperwork and troubles she went through to get her creation come to life. Still, stubborn as usual, she pushed forward: time moved slowly forward as she started gathering people and resources and paperwork.

She couldn’t but smile at the thought of the opening ceremony. The grand hall of her resort was full of people, all waiting to see what this new Invitational was. Industry insiders, the same gravboarders that would compete in the following days, tourists, all with eyes on the podium. She was so tense that day. And so unused to that dress.

All the eyes on her as she stood on the podium to present her idea, her dream.

Her thoughts were distracted by a light squeeze on her belly and a soft nose rubbing against her neck. She giggled, glancing on her shoulder and finding a pair of sparkling, teasing violet eyes. “What were you thinking about?” her lover asked and she smiled, turning her eyes back on the outside view “On the Invitational opening ceremony.” “Mmmm…”

More thoughts came to her mind, thoughts from deeper that night. She was the host of it all and for a long part of the evening people kept coming speaking with her. A long stream of people of which many faded in a blur. Not many remained in her mind. But a violet gaze remained, yes, and it wouldn’t fade.

The Invitational become a success. The gravboarders did their best, amusing the audience with their skills and tricks. The organization she spent so much time with worked perfectly and smoothly. But everything moved into the background after the Athletes party on the second day.

The party’s idea was to gather all competing athletes in one place. In the same room; the best of Origin’s gravboard world. She was of course present, how she could not be?

“That night, right?” her lover whispered and she nodded “Yeah… I still think you were pretty daring to try your luck with me…” she giggled and behind her she could feel that grin she now knew pretty well “You know, if you don’t risk nothing, you gain nothing. I couldn’t resist the challenge. And admit it, you were, you are, beautiful.”

“You too are beautiful…” she whispered turning in that hug and bringing her lover in a kiss. One of the soft, long ones only lovers can share. They had met that night, under the shining lights. She was the one to be approached and she played along because at the start, it was all just a game. A game that turned intoxicatingly serious as the night progressed.

After the party ended, she wasn’t alone in her suite up in the spire. Nor could the silence fully fill the night. The morning came far too soon for her liking. People whispered but she didn’t care. It was her private life; she wasn’t one of the judges.

What she thought as a one night-only fun soon developed into more. Every night, after the parties, was spent with her new lover. More she spent time with her, more she felt connected. She was one of the riders, one of the gravboarders competing in the Invitational. A beauty of mixed Gallente/Caldari heritage, sparkling violet eyes, spiky blue green hair, fiery character.

At the end of the Invitational it was on a lot of mouths: the organizer of the Invitational, that capsuleer, had a lover. And she was one of the athletes! How was it possible? She didn’t care what the others thought. All she cared for was for Synani and their relationship. She brought a new light into her life, it made her feel better.

Miyoshi Akachi

Wounds Run Deep

“scars are areas of fibrous tissue (fibrosis) that replace normal skin after injury. A scar results from the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues of the body. Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process. With the exception of very minor ledions, every wound (e.g., after accident, disease, or surgery) results in some degree of scarring.

However, some scars run deeper.

Trensk, for probably the fifth time today, sighed. It was only lunchtime, for God’s sake. As he stood in the kitchen, laboring over the preparations for a chicken breast, rice, and pea combo for three (Trensk, being a big guy, needed the first and third portion). Putting the finishing seasonings on the chicken, his eyes flicked up over the counter-top and bar towards the living room, flitting over the redhead who would be stealing the second portion.
Elizabeth. She sat there on the couch, cross-legged, her small frame easily fitting on the seat as she cradled a book in her pale fingers. The Essential Physics Primer, by Doctor Vera Gengod. One of his books that she probably stole while he was out. She was definitely like her mother in that regard, a curious soul, inquisitive to a fault, at times.

Trensk carefully transferred the chicken breasts over to a large pan, already heated on the stove. A sizzling filled the air, and an aromatic scent of herbs and cooking meat wafted over his nose. Perfect. He tended to the meal for a few seconds, making sure everything was just right, before setting down his spatula. He sighed again, shifting over to the side and leaning on the counter, mulling over something in his head.

“It’s your birthday soon, isn’t it, Lizza?” He said, looking up at Elizabeth. She nodded, not even daring to quit reading her book. “11th. This month.” she replied, her voice barely heard over the sound of the cooking chicken. “Hm. Soon. Anything you want to do?” Trensk replied, adjusting his chicken. “No clue.” Elizabeth answered, still not looking at him.

Trensk shook his head, flipping over the chicken to cook the other side. “Rather’d do something for you, y’know? 17th birthday ain’t something to just ignore.”

She shrugged.

He sighed, adjusting his chicken a bit, before turning off the stove and carefully transferred over the chicken onto two separate plates. One for her, two for him. He dosed out some rice, string beans, and a dab of butter to the side, before picking them up and moving into the living room. His careful tread led to no losses of sustenance, and he set Elizabeth’s plate in front of her before moving to his own seat,(his super-comfy recliner), and sitting down, setting his own plate on the coffee table in front of him.

Reluctantly, Elizabeth dog-eared her place in the book and set it down, turning to face her meal. Trensk noticed, however, that she watched him out of the corner of her eye as he shrugged off his normal jacket, exposing his arms, a normal right arm, and a heavily scarred left, one that had probably seen better days, same with the disfigured fighter squadron tattoo that covered his left shoulder and bicep.

They ate in silence, as per normal. He didn’t know what to say, and she had nothing to say. So they ate, the only sounds the clinking of silverware on plates as they ate.

Trensk finished first, as was normal, him used to wolfing down meals from his days in the Navy and being a busy combat capsuleer. She ate more delicately, eating with almost a laser precision to subconsciously get everything off her plate. Trensk reclined back, yawning slightly, scratching his left should idly. Elizabeth finished a few minutes after him, silently setting down her plate and again going cross-legged on the couch.

There was a silence. One that was soon broken.


“Yeah, Lizza?”

“Your arm. What happened?”

Trensk visibly paused, unsure of how to answer. He didn’t really expect her to ask. Not now, at least. And he didn’t know how to appropriately say it.

“It was, uh…Combat. Before I became a capsuleer. It ain’t just my arm, either.”
“Didn’t answer my question.”

Trensk sighed, rubbing the left side of his torso subconsciously. “Back when I was your age, I lied. I joined the military, way too young. Being the son of a Colonel, they let me into officer training without a problem. I became a fighter pilot. Flew fighter-bombers sometimes…but I was mainly a fighter pilot.”
Elizabeth immediately perked up, turning to face him, her face showing that singular, intense concentration normally reserved for books.

“I flew a lot. I was good. Probably too good. Too cocky, too. Heck, I was probably no older than 18 when it happened. I had connections. My uncle, my mother, my deceased father, all allowed me to get fast-tracked through a lot of sh-…stuff in the military. We were out in Innia at the time, I was assigned to a supercarrier, one of our finest. I enjoyed it there. Everyone did. We were annihilating every raid that came our way.”

Lizza nodded, her fists clenching a bit, her eyes darting, trying to memorize every word, every expression, every movement.

“The Gallente must’ve gotten tired of us. They sent 3 carriers and a horde of cruisers at us. At the time, it felt like the world was being torn apart around us. Me and my wingman deployed. We shot. We killed. We killed and killed and killed until I didn’t even have a single missile left, a single rail gun cartridge around. We needed to go back to the super, so that’s what we did. Then she called out those words…”Goddamn it, he’s on my six.”

He sighed, rubbing his face, his wide chest rising and falling, slowly, once, before he continued.

“To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking. I just reacted. I knew where that bastard was. I immediately hit my reverse thrusters, and banked right. I slammed right into a Firblog. My dragonfly’s wing pierced the engines, and my cockpit slammed into the center of his fighter, my other wing shearing off due to g-forces and crushing the enemy’s cockpit. I didn’t know this until after the fact, of course. I was just in pain. So much pain. It was cold, too, unbearably cold, which was strange for the first few seconds, when everything was on fire. But I knew it wouldn’t matter soon. I was pierced through the left side of my torso, and my left leg, oblique, arm, all of it was burned and shredded like Sebiestor Cheese. Full of holes, lacerations. To this day, I can still feel nothing on the entire left side of my body, excluding the left side of my face. Extensive nerve damage.”

Trensk let out a shaky breath, leaning forward in his recliner, resting his arms on his knees. Elizabeth reached out, a tiny hand resting on his. Comfort, albeit how little of an effort was put into it, was enough. So he continued.

“I sat there for 6 hours, until the battle was over. I didn’t know it, of course, I wasn’t even conscious. They found me, though, barely alive. I spent months in a hospital. Then they figured out I could become a capsuleer. Then here I am, years later.” He finished, leaning back in his chair, just staring off at the far wall.
Elizabeth leaned back herself, engrossed in the story, and her own thoughts.

“Yeah, Lizza?”

“Does it hurt?”

“I can’t feel anything.”

“No, not there. In like…your heart?”

“…Yeah. It does.”

“Is it supposed to?”

“Well…Yeah. Painful events cause scars. On your body, and your mind.”

“…Do you think I have them?”

“Personally? Yeah. You probably do. I can tell it hurts that they’re gone. But, the thing about it is, you can’t let it beat you. I still enjoy flying, even though it almost killed me.”

“…Take me flying, Trensk. For my birthday.”

“…Well, roger that, I guess.”

“You better teach me everything you know.”

“You bet.”

Trensk Mikakka

Clicking in the Dark

The superheated metal squealed and clicked as it cooled. The red that had suffused the entire sheet of metal began fading to a silver-gray as the pieces were separated by computer operated hands. Hundreds of different components cut from the steel all sorted into four separate conveyor belts. Where the pieces would be inspected and packaged for shipments.
A strip of plasma superheated the sheets of metal as they rolled out onto the factory floor, turning the entire room into effectively a furnace for humans. Luckily, the entire factory was automated. Drones moved the materials where conveyor belts could not. The only people responsible for the smooth progress of production were the techs who carefully monitored every piece of equipment.
The Techs were especially diligent today as their patron was busily inspecting the facility from head to toe. Cold blue eyes and a shaven pate caused the man to stand out in the crowd of managers who flocked around him. Each trying to explain a portion of the factories production and what they individually believed would help increase production.
Icy blue eyes regarded the factory through the inch thick reinforced glass that separated them from the inferno beyond. The man wasn’t even listening to the managers, and as he scratched absently at the C2 Neural socket at the base of his head, he wondered just how stupid these men really thought he was. Each and every single one of them were only proposing things that would make their jobs even easier, but would as a whole decrease the efficiency in the case of an emergency.
Rogan was not having it, so he just allowed the little gnats to buzz and buzz and bug him. He would take their concerns under “advisement”.
Slowly Rogan followed one of the sheets of metal to the cutting board through the long observation hallway that ran along the heights of the factory. His own little gaggle following him like the geese they appeared to be. Right in his shadow as he watched the components be made and pushed off onto their own conveyors.
His eyes locked on a small ring of metal as it was pushed down the conveyor to be inspected. He lifted his hand and eyed the little ring that was there was well. The circle of high-tensile steel that acted as a securing cap for his prosthetic right arm. Looking at the arm brought back a wash of memories to Rogan. Memories from before he became an Empyrean. Before he had become a Capsuleer.
Rogan waded through dark images of fire and desperation in his mind and came out the other side unbothered. The arm wasn’t really necessary. He had lost the arm before he was a capsuleer, and as a Capsuleer he could have a new one any time he changed clones. Hell, he could have a new arm any color he wanted. That was however why he chose something sturdier than flesh and blood.
He chose steel and wire.
The augments were not by any means necessary, and by no stretch of the imagination could a capsuleer ever require such. Yet it granted him a sense of accomplishment in truth. He had passed through the dark waters and come out on the other stronger and better than before.
Rogan had spent much of his adult life working in a facility much like this one. As a tech like those around him. Once he had probably even gathered around the head of the company that ran the factory with the same level of fevered interest just to get some sort of approval for his forward thinking.
That had been ages ago, that had been before a sponsor had taken notice of him. His life had entirely been work, study, sleep. With no breaks in between for nearly eight years. Pushing to reach that fruit that hung so high on the tree, he hadn’t truly ever imagined he could reach it.
With a sigh Rogan turned towards his managers and spoke.
“The facility looks in good working order. I will take your opinions and suggestions under advisement. My inspection of this facility is over, thank you for your time.” He announced, and he couldn’t quite hide the boredom in his own tone, even from himself. Not that he really cared to. Maybe if the managers realized just how little he cared about their opinions they would stop having so many of them.
Rogan stepped through the parting crowd of managers and towards the lifts at the far end of the hall. Ignoring the attempts to get his attention for one last minute boredom session. Once he reached the lift he closed the doors, leaving the managers to wait for the next ride up as he settled into the back of the cab and felt the Gs as the lift accelerated him rapidly towards the planet’s surface.
The factory was deep beneath the crust on a planet so close to the star that if it had an atmosphere on the surface, one’s skin would have burned away in the blink of an eye. This planet orbited a big red star in a system so far from anything that mattered, that if the star were to explode and rip the crust away he doubted even the Scope would take note of it.
The minutes ticked by as the lift made the long journey up, and briefly Rogan wondered just how much work it had taken to get this far. To not just have your own factory out in zero security space, but to have dozens of them. Hundreds of them if you counted the factories owned by other fellows in your corporation. All using resources that were also being mined by your own strip mining facilities either on planet or elsewhere in the same system, or constellation at the very greatest.
A well oiled machine that had taken less than a year to construct and was always a delight to see on the quarterly earning reports. Mostly because it took little and less effort.

Mining required someone to get into a pod, put that pod into some form of mining barge, and go stare at rocks through a cam drone for hours on end. And he had never even considered trying to be a combat pilot. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the stomach for combat, it was simply there was so much risk involved.He had always taken measures to use the least risky endeavor, and this was it.
All Rogan had to do was set up these little factories all over, and watch his account grow fatter with each sale of the final product. A billion ISK industry that took no effort to manager or maintain. Their nullsec pocket was even close enough to empire space to allow product to be moved relatively safely. Not that it always could make it safely.
Some shipments were, unfortunately, lost. One in a hundred or so but that was an acceptable loss. Often just pirates waiting on the gates in High Security waiting to attack and loot what remained.
Only a few times in recent memory Rogan had ever noted intruders into their little corner of Null Security. Neither particularly interesting. The first had been a mining gang looking for fresh rocks. They had been scared off by a pirate group Rogan and his friends had contracted to deal with them. They didn’t need trash stealing what rightly belonged to them. After all, what else would they get those wide eyed eager to please rookie capsuleers to do while everyone else enjoyed their wealth.
That second incursion had been rather funny. A covert ops cruiser, one of those fancy new ships that could fly and warp while cloaked, had come into the system. They had asked a few times what he was up to over the local comms, but never had gotten a response.
Finally though, one of the ships in the combat wing had discovered the specialized cruiser had been hacking serpentis sites in their system. Places where the pirate cartel routed some of their vast arrays of data to make it harder to detect by the empires. They had decided to stage a trap for the capsuleer.
Calling on their pirate friends, Rogan had been provided with a Heavy Interdictor Cruiser. The combat wing had instructed him to wait by the systems gate and put it up, they would flush the capsuleer to him.
Rogan had waited for nearly an hour when he had heard the frantic voices over comms telling him to put up the field, and he had done so. It had not looked like anyone had arrived when the rest of the wing arrived, but the moment they deployed drones suddenly there the ship was. Decloaked by the little devils.
As the ship was being ripped apart the pilot had been positively livid. Threatening them and shouting them and cursing their names seven ways to sunday. Finally when they had destroyed the ship, it had taken nearly a full minute, then the pod the pilot had contacted Rogan via Neocom for a more personal threat.
Normally he would have long forgotten such a pointless threat, but for some reason this one stuck. All the other ranting the capsuleer had done didn’t matter but those last words before he had closed the channel.
“I know who you are now. You can’t hide from me you little fedo stain. I’ll find you, and i’ll tear those implants out of that little bald head.”
It was the way that he had delivered the threat that had somehow stuck with Rogan. A cold rage instead of a frothing fury. It had bothered him in the weeks and months since then just how sincerely he had seemed to mean it. Just the rantings of some butthurt moron, right?
Rogan shook the drifting thoughts from his head and checked the time, 16:47. Shouldn’t he have already made it to the top by now? Curious Rogan slapped the lift button and he heard the soft ding as if the elevator had already reached the top. In fact the floor indicator was telling him as much. Top floor, shuttle bays. Why wouldn’t the damn thing open?
There was the sound of squealing metal and Rogan’s eyes went wide as he clutched at the lift’s handrails. Squeezing tight as momentary terror took hold, was it possible the lift could plummet? How long would it take for the metal cage to hit the ground kilometers below? Could he even possibly survive that? The lift shuddered again, but nothing happened. No sudden gut wrenching descent, and the seconds ticked by.
Rogan listened for any slight shift. Already connecting to members of his corporation through his Neocomm. Sending frantic distress signals to anyone who was currently active, but no responses came.
Suddenly a new channel invitation appeared in the corner of Rogan’s vision. He recognized the name of the Capsuleer they had blown to smithereens months ago.
Hesitantly, Rogan opened the channel. For a moment it stayed blank. Than after what felt like an eternity a single message came over the Neocomm.
“Found you.”
Rogan stared dumbly at the message box only he could see, too dumbstruck by the revelation. There was no way the bastard could have gotten here. This was the heart of their territory, on the sun blasted planet nearest the sun. How could he have even gotten here without someone finding him… the covert ops.
The only reason they had even known he had entered the system the first time was someone had seen him warp away from the stargate on their way through. Otherwise the only evidence of the man’s presence would have been in the local channel.
Still the moments dragged on however, and the lift did not just drop. What was he waiting for? The right moment?
There was the soft skittering of metal on metal. A clinking as if someone were tapping a pen point on a metal desk. Rogan glanced about the elevator, wondering what that could be. He found out when he felt something tugging at the pant leg of his suit. Several dozen somethings.
Little metal… things with eight articulated metal legs were clustered around his legs. Rogan wasn’t even sure what he was looking at until the thing tugged at him again and a turned a single red photoreceptor up to peer at him.

As if they had been waiting for that exact moment, which they likely had by Rogan’s guess, the creatures began crawling all over him. Scampering up his pant leg and jabbing him with their little needle-like legs. Silent but for the click of metal against metal, and his own screams as they tore at the skin beneath.

Physically clawing their way up his clothes.
Rogan slapped at the things, trying to knock them free. Some of the times it worked, other times the things only pierced latched on to his synthetic hand. Stabbing their needle-like appendages into the seams in the metal and chittering their way up the metal.
He felt to the ground in panic as a sudden pain shot through his knee. As he fell he saw one of the spiders stabbing at the joint savagely. The needles coming away slick with blood. He struck the floor with a crash amongst the creatures, and they swarmed over him.
He was screaming, Rogan found. Screaming and flailing as the things crawled all over him. He felt pricks of pain and agony riding up his neck and across his face. He couldn’t see anymore, and one was going into his mouth.
What hurt worst out of all of it, however, was Rogan could feel them digging. Into his back, just around the C2 and lower vertebrae. He could feel them scratching at the implants. The needles digging deep into the flesh and he screamed.
Suddenly he felt as much as heard a loud pop, and he couldn’t feel the pain anymore. Well he could, especially around his face, but it was almost as if it were far away. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t even struggle.
As he stared at the doors of the elevator, he watched one of the multi-legged things crawl out in front of them. It was carrying something… circular and metallic with a long pointed connection. And then another, and another. It took him a long time to realize, those were the neural jacks to his pod.
The elevator doors opened, and as Rogan slipped into the darkness that was beginning to swallow up his vision, he thought he heard laughter. Distant, and hysterical.

Ninavask Revan

Emissions and Omission

Ché placed his attention on the area around the wormhole near his ship and checked the scanners.

All clear.

He looked through the wormhole at the black beyond the horizon and listened to the emissions being picked up by the sensors.
I am pathetic.

I am not my thoughts.

“Good evening.” Jennifer greeted those connected to The Good Word. Ché considered his response. He thought he might have angered her during a conversation last night, on the same channel. He was not certain if she still considered him a friend, or if she ever did. Also, he had recently observed that even friends did not refer to eachother by their first names in channels such as this one. It had confused him when people stopped calling him Ché. He thought this changed because the relationship between them had changed, but he had now come to realize that it was more likely caused by a change of the environment. So, he would not use her first name.

Che Biko > Hello Ms. Starfall.

“Ah, Mr. Biko, exactly the person I wanted to speak with.”

Oh dear…is she still angry with me?

Ché waited for a bit to see if she would mention what it was that she wanted to speak about, but she did not. He wondered if she expected a response from him, then decided not to give one, hoping to delay or even avoid what could be an unpleasant conversation, and started looking at the black beyond the horizon again.

She should be.

Does she know?
She could. She knows the Black.
She should.

I better see what this is about.

Che Biko > Well, I am available.

Jennifer opened a private channel, and when she greeted with “Hello, Che.” after this change of environment, he felt a bit of relief and responded with confidence in his response.

Che Biko > Hey Jennifer.

“You mentioned last night that you had the urge to kill someone earlier that day.”

She does know.

Che Biko > Hmm, not an urge, just a thought.

I am not my thoughts.

“I’d like to ask who that was.”

Please don’t. I can’t tell you that. I…don’t dare to.
And you call yourself a friend? At least ask her why.

Che Biko > Why?
“I have a suspicion as to who it was, and if I’m correct, I feel obliged to say a few things to you. Nothing in anger or threatening. Just a matter of doing my job.”

She knows.
But I don’t have to confirm that. She can say those things without me doing that.
She knows the Black. Maybe she has advice, maybe she can help me.

Che Biko > Well, you’ll have to say those things without me confirming nor denying your suspicions.
“If that’s the case, I’d have to go with my conclusions and consider you to be uncooperative in the matter.”

Uncooperative. She’ll call you Mr. Biko when this conversation ends, you’ll see. You deserve worse.

“If your concern is that I would feel that I have a need to warn the person, I don’t. If it is who I think, they are quite capable of defending themselves.”

They? Hmm, I never thought about killing him as well.

“Were you in The Elysion when you had this thought?”

She knows. Gods, she knows.

Che Biko > Why?
“I know about the conversation that you had with Aurora in the Guest Quarters.”

She thinks it’s Vince?

“And no, I do not think that you had the thought about Aurora.”

Why would I think that she would think that?

Che Biko > It’s not Vince.
“Was it Anyanka?” she said, looking concerned.

She’s playing with you. Good thing she can’t see you.
…Maybe she really does not know. Maybe she underestimates how disturbing a thought it was.

Find out what she does know, misdirect.

Che Biko > What makes you think it was someone you know?
“Human nature. When left to our own devices, we think the universe turns about ourselves.”

You would not be entirely wrong in this case.

“I thought you had maybe thought about killing Vince. And I was going to ask you to keep any kind of notion to act on such a thought outside of The Elysion.”

She thinks I’m that stupid?
Is that all she cares about? She does not care if I become a murderer again? She does not care if I’m taken by the black? She just wants to keep her own place clean?
She does not know. She would care if she knew. Misdirect.

Che Biko > Well, I would not have done it myself, but I’ll do my best to keep The Elysion out of such matters, if they occur.

I would not have killed Vince myself. That’s not a lie.

“Thank you.” she nodded. “That’s all I wanted.”

See? She does not care.

Ché looked at the black again.

Why should she?

“Oh, one more thing. My apologies for my… strident tone last night. The subject matter was striking fairly close to some personal issues.”
Che Biko > I understand.
“Thank you for your time, Che. Fair skies.”
Che Biko > Same to you, Jennifer.

Jennifer disconnected from the channel, and Ché replayed the conversation, much like he had done with the conversation with Vincent earlier that night, in order to determine if Vince was hiding the truth in plain sight, playing with him. He examined his own words to Jennifer, he did not lie. He also did not hide the truth in plain sight. Not the truth that mattered, anyway. He would not risk doing that, not intentionally. He felt reasonably confident that he had misdirected her. If she would have been able to see him, if he had spoken the words, she eventually might have gathered enough pieces of the puzzel to find the truth. It’s the reason why he wants to have his talk with Vince in person, and why he was relieved that his conversation with Jennifer was not. Ché focused on the black again.

All clear?

Che Biko

Phantom Pains

d to be the ugliest lopsided insect-like ships she’d ever seen too. Within second they’d reached out to each other to create an ominous web of light as they began to swirl about one-another. Rather than swirl, the larger scorpion ships, clad in a distinct mottled tan, black, and green held their position as if to declare their incredible danger. She remembered the urges of her nanny-drone now. It had tried to lock her into a strange room with several other children before zipping off to somewhere else. It had said she’d be safe there but how could she be safe without mommy? Were these the ships she was supposed to be safe from? Mommy was her angel, she’d be back to save her from the bad-guys and she’d be the first to see her come home too. Ellie took a deep breath and perched onto a bench to wait. Mommy was coming. She gasped and came to her feet as all of space around her shattered. Her entire vision was filled with a sort of yellow sparking of eerily silent concussions as the point-defense systems of the city sprayed defiantly forth. Mommy was coming soon.


The final reports from Skyreach Tower trickled in via the neural communications network; it was a total loss. Thank gods everyone had been evacuated during the early hours of the morning. All those weeks of work lost. It was going to take them a long time to recoup some of those losses too, especially all of the materials that were too far along to be quickly retrieved. She thought of the half-constructed hulls that had just been torn into like abandoned spacetrash.

She sat several thousand kilometers off the northern hemisphere of the Indigo City foritizar-class station and tried to focus on how her inaction might actually save so many lives… including her daughter’s. Her eyes swiveled to the brilliant blue and green eden which lay below the entrenched station. How many escape pods could make it planetside if they failed? Please let Ellie’s be one, please. It was going to be a long night. Over 300 cruise missiles spit forth like a storm of teeth spat from so many beasts, vicious creatures who’d tasted blood and were now high on their presumed victory. She could almost feel their hunger directed not at her, but at all that she held dear. They had to hold the night.


Warning sirens sounded loudly all around Ellie but she could only stand transfixed and staring out into space. Engineers ran by out in the corridor oblivious to the lonely child. All about the station, space lanes normally filled with local traffic altered to the frantic movements of technician crews risking everything to reinforce exterior shield emitters, if only to squeeze a mere few more seconds out of them.

The dance of death laid out before her was mesmerizing. She had seen death before… her father had died before her eyes when she was only two. Unclear memories of a single blaster shot and the mountain of a man standing between her and monsters threatening to take her… she pushed it out. Her mother had come to save her then too. This death was different, the silence in the observation deck made it worse than her father’s sacrifice somehow. She knew that the monsters out there were here to kill her and her mommy and that scared her a lot. She imagined the spirit of her father enveloping the station like the shields and asked him to hold strong for her and mommy again. Cessy had said The Spirits were real and she would know; her mommy was a Mystic.

Ellie’s hands pressed on the forcefield and she tried to make sense of what she knew to be the battle for their survival. Were any of those ships out there friendly? No ships had launched from the station but she spent enough time with her mother watching in this compartment to know that sometimes ‘blues’ came from space too. She’d have to ask mommy why friends were called ‘blues’ again, her favorite color was red and that must mean that ‘reds’ couldn’t always be bad-guys. There were no reds or blues or even greens, oranges, or purples to be seen from the tiny little abandoned and forcefield enclosed observation deck. Only the occasional flare of an explosion gave indication of the battle within that dance of lights. Those bursts of light were short and quickly silenced by greedy space and the shields about her beleaguered home continued to pulse and ripple. They should have colors, so she could know who her friends were out there. How was she to know that every last ship in space around them was decidedly unfriendly and every ally was tucked safely in their docks waiting out the storm right along with her?
The entire section shook as a shield emitter not more than a kilometer away erupted into a shower of sparks and shrapnel that consumed the small cadre of techs desperately trying to reinforce it. In confusion, Ellie watched the delicate shield pulse and thin just long enough for two more deadly sleek green and silver tubes to pierce the power clusters just aft of the mangled emitter-turned-shrapnel. Ellie was momentarily thrown back and landed heavily against a viewing bench. She opened her eyes again quickly. All she could see was a blurred image of the commemorative plaque set in silver upon the contoured metal bench which had just bruised more than her senses. She couldn’t make out the letters of the inscription and turned to see if perhaps she could still see the battle outside. The lights flickered and for just a moment she imagined that she saw a small halo of light somewhere high and to the left of the fleet. Her mind couldn’t process the damage her head had taken or the existence of a solar lensing effect as the forcefield rippled, but she saw the halo. “I win Mommy!”

The lights and the forcefield failed.


As the last hold-outs of the shield gave way she watched as her horror turned real. There were blooms of escaping debris and explosive gas just before the emergency armor hardeners kicked in. It was a glancing blow but one that was all too close for her racing heart. They’d made it through only the first act of this morose theater and once more the game turned to one of resupply, reinforcement, and waiting. The amassed enemy fleet reformed, dropped their transfers, and as one slipped quietly back into the shadows of space on a return trajectory for their beachhead towers further inside the system. They had little need to batter at the now reinforced armor of the station when that emergency power would simply exhaust itself in a matter of hours. They’d be back to engage the diminished citadel soon enough.

She yearned to dock, to go to her Ellie who, even now, was surly huddled scared against the cold nanny-drone deep in the city. How could she be here, trapped within a Buzzard and oh so helpless? Where was the next scout to reprieve her? Lost… killed by friendly fire during the desperate fight. They had held, and she couldn’t ask for more from the fates. This calm before the next storm would be so horribly short; only about 24 hours to prepare for the last stand, their last breath. So few allies lost; it was one too many blessings and her cynical nature screamed at her that the balance of the cosmos left little luck for tomorrow.

The communications network opened in her mind; “Lt. Lethrov, please see to the disposition of our exit.” Her heart dropped… she’d have no reprieve tonight. As she slipped silently into warp she took one last look back at the tired station and froze it in her mind. If they were sending her to the high-sec exit it meant one of two things: Either the enemy had released their hold over the vital wormhole; granting Indigo City a fleeting chance to bring in more allies and supplies, and granting her a chance to return home; or it meant that she was replacing a scout who was now lost to the fight and she would be stationed there until it was all over, win or lose. She came out of warp just in time to see the Onyx, bubble up, contemptuously end an allied scout’s wreck in a pitiful puff of small missile-fire. A cold hell settled on her and threatened to consumer her. She might never see Ellie again. She widened her orbit of the already heavily used wormhole. It growled at her as if mocking her fate but she had no intention of becoming ensnared within its de-cloaking rage or the entrapping warp disruption bubble that still spilled forth from the prowling cruiser. Her only ray of hope lay in diligently tracking the enemy supply lines. Their allies may just barely hold an advantage when the next day broke over Indigo and only she could inform command if they did. That deathly cold of doom snapped at her still small element of hope. She called up an image of her daughter via her ocular implant and used it as a shield against the darkness as another Rattlesnake class battleship emerged from the wormhole. She prayed; to Bob, to the gods of her childhood, to any being that would listen. Let. Them. Hold.

Xepharious Wryn

Stories of Love

She awoke to a gentle but incessant ping. The same troubled dreams that she’d been having for weeks drifted away as she propped herself up and looked around. It took a few moments for Caera to orient herself but as the grogginess faded and the sleeper cabin of the transport ship came into view her awareness returned as well. Others around her were also rousing from their sleep while some looked up from their reading pads or started waking young ones. An air of quiet activity quickly filled the room as the pinging faded and the lights moved from the lowest setting to something blessedly middling. Young voices joined the commotion with choruses of ‘We there?’, ‘I wanna’ sleep’, and whispered ‘I have ta’ go potty’. Caera chuckled and remembered the same voices making claims that they were too excited and couldn’t sleep so many hours ago when the ship had launched from Dodixie.

Most of her traveling companions were colonists; families emigrating to find a new life. There was wonder and fear on the faces and in the eyes of those around her, and she’d been the focus of many questions at the onset; once others had discovered that, unlike them, she was going back home to Origin. The journalism convention that had brought her out of the ‘wormhole’ system she called home had been very exciting. There was an energy just being around others who shared her passion and one or two of the symposiums, especially those given by some of The Scope’s top field investigators, were nothing short of mind altering. Caera firmly rubbed her right palm and recalled, if somewhat distantly and in awe, the accolades one of those journalists had given her. Even now her cheeks colored at how she must have looked. She’d gone up to get an autograph, only to be congratulated for receiving an award she’d not known she had won.

As she finished gathering her few possessions, and feeling a little self-conscious at the larger loads taken up by others around her, Caera thought back to just a few days before she’d left Indigo to attend the conference and the communication she’d received. ‘Dear Ms. Clarke’ it read,

‘We were so excited to receive your contest submission, submitted on your behalf by Xepharious Wryn, for the New Eden Capsuleers Writing Contest. We would be honored to invite you to attend the Prize Gala, held at The Golden Masque in Yulai where on 26 November we plan to announce the winners of the contest. Formal attire is requested and transport may be arranged at the expense of the contest committee for all entrants.

No RSVP is needed, however there will be refreshments and other treats for guests. As one of our potential finalists we would encourage you to attend.

Lunarisse Aspenstar

The last line had caused her heart to skip a beat; until she figured that they must have added that to all of the missives that they sent to the writers. It was a Capsuleer’s contest anyway, who was she to compete among gods? No; she’d quickly dispersed any notion of winning but instead turned her mind to solving the new problem. It would have been rude not to attend but the Gala was being held on the same weekend as the convention and many, many systems away. Given that it had been Xeph who had gotten her into this mess, she had first asked him to attend in her stead. He’d been the first to sponsor her migration into Origin as well as recommending her to her current employer; Transhumanity Today so she felt it only fitting that he get the honor. Alas he was busy that weekend, but recommended his girlfriend who was attending in his absence as well. Caere had known very little of Ms. Khammael when he offered her as a stand in, but as she had no hope of winning anything, Caera figured that she wouldn’t be imposing much on the veteran capsuleer who had only just immigrated to Origin herself. She’d been wrong.

Being informed that you had won second prize in an interstellar writing contest, and by one of your childhood idols no less, turned out to be the most sobering moment of Caera’s entire career. And now she had to go visit the girlfriend of her sponsor, a capsuleer that she barely knew, thank her profusely, retrieve the award, and retreat to her own apartment with dignity intact. Bah! She’d gone toe-to-toe with Origin’s Elite. Suck it up Caera. Time to ‘girl up’ and get it done.

The transport finished its docking procedure with Indigo City Station and everyone inside began to shuffle towards the embarkation gates. A few more minutes and the hatches opened to a sudden rush of smells, sights, and sounds. She caught the scent of some roasting peppers and felt just a bit more at home knowing she’d soon have a bite from her favorite stand in the entire station. The others around her were a mix of haste and trepidation however and she was forced to wait while entire families carrying just about everything they owned slowly made their way into the station and then off to the right towards Colonial Immigration. As they moved on only a few remained to move, more quickly now,towards the standard customs gate. By the look of them most were returning home from business but some looked to be returning visitors.

The process through customs and arrival checks was relatively quick and as she made a straight march for her favorite VeggieReggie stand she tried to think about exactly what to do next. Of course she’d head to Literia’s quarters in Indigo before catching a shuttle planetside, but after that… well, she just wasn’t sure. Her award had included a disgustingly large sum of Interstellar Kredits, or ‘isk’; a small fortune by capsuleer standards, but dauntingly outrageous for anyone else outside of the corporate elite. She could retire, buy, no build a home anywhere she wanted, and still not know what to do with the other 99% of the reward. But she didn’t want to retire. She had come to find that she truly did enjoy what she did and who she worked for. She certainly didn’t want to stop. The only trouble was, she kept wondering if there was something more she could be doing.

Memories of the dream she had awoken from returned to her. Images from it were all the more real as they played off of memories of a chance encounter she’d once had with a young boy. He’d been one of the kids she’d tried to interview back during the piece she’d done on Children’s homes and the Araai Foundation. Unlike his peers he flat refused to say anything on camera and only after she’d promised to deactivate any recording device would he even speak more than a word to her. It had been his eyes though; something about them seemed to speak novels as though he’d seen so much in his short life. They’d penetrated her as if to ask what she had ever done in her life? It was those eyes that she saw in her more troubled dreams of late.

Caera had once read that you dream about things you’d seen or thought of during the day, that it was the unconscious mind’s way of sorting and preparing concepts and ideas for long term storage. But had she really been thinking about this kid so much, or was it, instead, that he represented something else that her unconscious mind had been grappling with? Her thoughts took her through one tram ride and the next until she suddenly realized that she’d finished her roasted pepper and disposed of the stick several stops back. She couldn’t even recall what sort of nut and umami sauce she’d gotten with it. She shook her head and also realized just how incredibly upscale the commons she was traveling through were.

The tram took her vertical before coming to rest at a bustling concourse some fifteen stories above the commons atrium below. Caera stepped out and to the left. Looking out over the gardens below she enjoyed one of the most spectacular views she’d seen in a long time. The convention center she’d just come from, or even some of the more affluent sectors of Foundation City paled next to the serene beauty of Indigo City’s most affluent Pleasure District. It wasn’t that they hadn’t been as well designed or executed, but rather that Indigo City was just so new and as such had been afforded all of the lessons learned in Icarus’s construction. And those lessons had been put to use too. Azure blue streams of crystal clear water gently meandered through some of the lushest and sturdiest grasses she’d ever seen. The vibrant greens, pinks, and purples of the short lawn accented the bioluminescent flora which sprouted and floated within the stream itself. Caera tried to imagine just how many other luminous species had been imported and decided that she might just have to plan a trip to return during the evening someday. In one small portion of the gardens, a statuary shop had lent it’s masterpieces to the landscape in creative and complementary ways. Little statues, both moving and static, poked their heads or tails out from amongst the flower beds as children played games to be the first to spot them. Boutique shops lined the edges of the park where small peninsulas of textured rock or visually interactive decking drifted out to give an area for dining tables or benches. Her gaze drifted upward to see even more vegetation cascading down from terrace after terrace all around the atrium. One terrace, about halfway up the other side, even had what looked to be a waterfall that poured out into the open air only to dissipate into nothing more than mist before it ever hit the shoppers strolling below it.

It took some time for her to take it all in but eventually she remembered herself and resumed her search along the terrace for Ms. Khammael’s home. She found it a few moments later, palmed the chime, and waited. The young pre-teen who answered the door was certainly not who she was expecting.

“Hello, Mom was busy with the twins, Caera right?” Her voice was cheerful if a little unsure but the girl gestured for her to come in and towards a nice sitting area to the right.

“Yeah, thank you.” Caera followed the offer but didn’t immediately take the seat, not wishing to be rude. It wasn’t that uncommon for capsuleers to have children, but somehow talking with one of them seemed so at odds with the omnipotent caricature in which Caera had a tendency to hold their parents. “What’s your name?”

The girl didn’t immediately answer, as though accustomed to withholding personal information. She seemed about to say something but instead turned to look over at her mother who glided into the room with such a mix of grace and presence that belied her simple maternal appearance. She held an infant over one shoulder and patted him gently with the other hand all while smiling disarmingly to Caera. “Ms. Clarke, I’m so glad you could make it over on your way home. I’m sorry that I couldn’t come to meet you at the docks and save you the trip into the station.”

Caera started to refute the apology but in a very odd turn of character took an extra moment to find the words. “No; thank you! For going up in my stead, for even going in the first place.”

“Oh not at all, I was going anyway. It really was a wonderful event, I’m sorry that you couldn’t make it yourself. This is Amitel and Vincent by the way.” Her eyes indicated first the girl and then the infant on her shoulder. “Violet is still sleeping so I don’t think you’ll have a chance to meet her.”

“Oh, Hi Amitel” She turned to greet the pre-teen who was now smiling back.

“Are you really Caera, the THT reporter from the Network?” There seemed a small bit of wonder in her question.

Literia chuckled, “The award is just over on the counter, I’ll go grab it.” She moved off towards what looked to be a counter leading into a galley and dining area leaving Vincent to stare back at Caera in that wide-eyed way that every infant throughout eternity seemed to have.

Caera turned to answer Amitel. “Yeah, I guess I am. I didn’t think many young ladies your age listened to my reports.”

“Oh, I don’t but Mom lets me stay in the room while she does. The one about those kids from Terminus seemed to make her really sad though and she wouldn’t tell me why.”

The reference to one of toughest assignments she’d ever done caught her off guard and she was suddenly glancing over for Literia for help. Luckily the capsuleer had already fetched a parcel wrapped in shiny red cloth and had heard her daughter’s precocious remarks. “Ami, let’s not discuss that particular story please.”

“Ok” Amitel’s face was a mix of humility with a spark of willpower that told Caera that the question would indeed come up again, if not in her presence. The kid’s expression quickly turned to curiosity though as she saw the item that her mother was unwrapping.

The crystal statuette which emerged wasn’t large by any means but it represented the additional isk award that had come with it, an award which was already in her accounts. She tried not to think more about that and reached out to accept the statuette and its protective wrapper. “Thank you, I do hope that accepting it on my behalf wasn’t too embarrassing.”

“Oh, no, not at all. I think that was well within the norms.”

Caera raised an eyebrow in question. “Others couldn’t make it as well then?”

Lit smiled again. “Sadly very few of the writers actually could. Though, a few weren’t able to send someone instead as you did.”

The additional comment had clearly been meant as a salve and Caera accepted it as offered. “Ma’am?” She looked down at the statuette in her hands.


“What do I do with it? I mean, I certainly don’t need it…” It felt strange to ask but if anyone would know how to handle such massive funds, it would be a capsuleer.

Lit smiled warmly having caught that Caera meant the money and not the symbolic trophy. “What is it that you love, what gets you up every morning…” She let is sink in for a moment then added, “Invest in that. Invest in what you love.”

“Right…. Thank you.”

The rest of the visit was a bit of a haze as Caera said goodbye and even signed an autograph for Amitel but soon she was once more making her way back to the docking sector by tram. The shuttle down to Foundation City was also quite uneventful and as an endless stream of partial ideas and half thoughts kept her from sleeping during the trip she finally arrived home several hours later thinking that perhaps she should just give Jaysin a call. They weren’t really serious, her and Jaysin, but he was generally always up for a night out on the town. As she walked across her very empty apartment and reached for her mobile communications terminal, somehow it wasn’t Jaysin that she contacted.

“Hello? CeeCee?” The voice on the other end had that pleasant sort of slight flamboyance to it, a style that resonated well with a voice she’d heard since her childhood. The face to match soon joined it. “Girl, you look tired, had that dream again?”

“No, well yeah, but I also just got home.”

“Oh! You’re back already? How’d the trip go!? No wait; didn’t I hear something about some sexy award?” His smile was infectious and his tone was nothing short of seductive. They’d tried the couple thing, back when they were 13 and 12, but it didn’t stick and besides, afterward he’d found himself a nice boy to settle down with and firmly earned his place as her primary confidant and closest friend. He still liked to tease her though. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Wont Tim be jealous?”

“He can come too…”

“I’m not really his type.” She shot him an amused grin.

“Oh all right, kill all my fun.”



She smiled again, enjoying their usual banter but her smile faded a little. “Yeah, I did win.” She held up the statuette for him to see.

He whistled low. “Pretty, but there was some money with it too right, something like 300 million credits?”

“300 million Interstellar Kredits.”


“Yeah…” There was a downturn to her voice and he picked up on it right away.

“What’s wrong…” His voice was both knowing and already accepting in that leading way specifically used to draw her out. And it worked every flippin’ time.

“I don’t know what to do with it all.” She sighed “I mean, I guess I could invest it in something that I love, but I’m just not sure that there is anything that I love that much.”

He chuckled affectionately, “Do you remember Ms. Coothards class?”

“We were what, about nine, ten? Gods, I hated Ms. Coothard…”

“How could you hate her?! All she did was take attendance and intro us through a screen to our lessons. She didn’t even teach.” He was only mockingly incredulously; it was an old argument of theirs.

“And try to discipline us too? You forget that part often.”

“Well maybe some of us were better behaved than others.”

“Hah! Or you mean teacher’s pet.”

His face made a mock of being offended. “Again, not a teacher…”

Coordinators Pet, I’m sorry.”

“Should be!” She rolled her eyes at the smugness that accompanied his remark. “Anyway, clearly you remember, so do you also remember that report you gave as well?”

She had to think for a moment but it did come back to her. “You mean my Eyewitness Account of the Egg Laying of Ms. Coothard’s Class Ka’Coopa Bird?” She again rolled her eyes as she remembered her own childhood tendencies toward the precocious. A stray thought recalled that she hadn’t been any older than the orphan kid. “The ‘egg laying’ that everyone else in the class saw first-hand as well?”

“The very one hun.” He beamed, also remembering his best friend’s youth. “But can you also remember that feeling when you ‘published’ that silly report? There it was, for all of the other classes to read.”

“You mean to ignore… but yeah…” Her retort was sarcastic but with no actual weight behind it.

“That is what you love hun, not the awards, not the fame… not even the money for nights out” He chuckled. “You love a good story.”

‘Invest in what you love’, the words tumbled through her head again. After a while she simply said; “A publishing company”

His smile broadened but it took him a moment or two to respond as he considered it. “That could work, but you should find someone to run it for you dear… cause we both know you are absolute shit at that sort of thing.”

“Gee thanks!”

“Hey, it’s my job to keep you humble hun”

“Yeah yeah… but I think I might have an idea… gotta go.”

“Go get em kid!”

She ended the call and immediately selected another friend in her contact list. Reggie wouldn’t mind the abrupt end to their chat. Oh, he’d likely pretend to when next they met but a soft smile played on her lips as she relished in the thought of more of their banter because of it. The communicator at the other end activated.

“Caera… it’s what, 03am?”

“Oh, sorry Aika.. I just… I… you still working for that warehousing firm?”

“No, that ended a few weeks ago, you calling just to get an update on my contracts?” Caera could almost see her friend wiping the sleep from her eyes.

“You got any clients now?”

“One, but it’s not full time… what’s got you on the relay with me so damn early… hey wait, didn’t you just get back from-“

“Yeah, but never mind that. Would you be interested in taking on a new client… kinda a big one.”

“Oh? How?”



“I want to create a publishing company… you know, for up and coming writers.”

There was a long pause before the image feed clicked in and Caera could see her friend, hair straightened but still in her pjs, beaming back at her. “Ya got a name yet?” Aika was already wearing a grin as well.

Caera frowned. “I’m crap at naming things… you know that. What do you think?”

“Valentina Publishers; ‘The Stories of Your Heart'”

“And this is why I call you, Aika” Caera cast a tender smile out across the interstellar channels.

“Actually, if you can give me until tomorrow night, I think I’ve got just the thing for our new little venture.”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“A surprise” Aika’s face was positively mischievous.

“Oh fine, be that way, but I think you are pure evil… just so you know.”

“That’s harsh! Fine, it might have something to do with the event I am working on for my other client; but that’s all you get.”

“Have your secrets then… I know everything’s in good hands.” Caera let loose her own massive yawn and suddenly remembered that the time was getting quite late for her as well. “Guess I better let you get your beauty sleep as well.”

“Hah! Good night you.”

“Night you!”

Caera ended the conference and looked longingly over at the bedroom. Perhaps tonight she’d dream of happier children.

Xepharious Wryn


Her jacket lay tossed upon the couch across from us. I remember it clearly, perhaps because of how the sleeve of her jacket had fallen just so to partially cover some of the holo-transmitters from mine. The result of this was that the normal projection of the emblem that had come to represent the Alexylva Paradox Logistics wing, my favorite setting of late, showed only partially. This effectively of cutt the normally hope and reverence inspiring graphic off just as it would have otherwise started floating over top of her less holo-dynamic version of the ALXVP Corp Jacket. It was a rather sobering image really, one that invoked portents and thoughts of just how helpless I felt in that moment. 

I let my hand come to rest gently on her sobbing shoulder, hesitant at first given my complete and utter inexperience in such a role as I now found myself. I had meant the gesture to be consolatory but the sudden jump of her entire body at my touch was all together terrifying. She didn’t look up and nor did the sudden reaction bring any change to her sobs. Usually a being of many, many, words, I was totally at a loss for what to say; so I said nothing for a while. I’d always imagined I might be in this position, though, maybe not specifically so and certainly not so soon in my life. My thoughts turned to her mother and for a fleeting moment, just a small one, I wished that she wasn’t five or six jumps down-chain dutifully resolving yet another Anoikis system but instead here; with her heartbroken daughter instead of me. Death was nothing next to the sudden paralyzation that I had absolutely no idea how to help the child I’d come to love, maybe even as my own. What could I even say?

Try as I might, no words came, but then she seemed not to ask for any either. So there we sat for what seemed like the entire turning of the system; her with her sobs buried firmly into my chest and me with not a word on my lips. My eyes returned to the jackets as I tried to piece together what little I could of the events that had led to the catastrophic social falling out. I had no hope of understanding the emotional chain reaction, so maybe putting my overly-analytical mind to work on the events I could comprehend might help.

A few months ago Ami had smartly modified the fabricators to extrapolate a life-sized pattern for the Corp Jacket from the schematics I’d made for one of her collectable dolls. The ingenuity, and frankly lack of foresight on my part, had caused no small amount of social commotion throughout Indigo City Station. Few of Alexylva’s pilots actually had kids, and none of them had ever really thought to gift or reproduce the jacket, even in a non-holographic form, for their children. The Corp Jacket was something earned, not simply given. And so, being no more than a few weeks new to the system and only a few days new to the classroom, Ami was an instant sensation. For a kid who’d lived a life of hiding from all manner of unwanted attention and horrors, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the sudden popularity must have felt like. Frightening? Amazing? Intoxicating? Confusing? Maybe it was all of that and more.

At first, as she settled into her studies, managed through the initial process of assessment and then the adaptation of curriculum specifically to her level, having such attention must have been comforting. I say this not because I had any way of reading her emotionally, but because for almost two standard weeks I never saw her take the jacket off beyond the walls of her family apartment. I’ll admit that I felt a bit odd keeping such covert surveillance on her during that time. To anyone else it would have likely been quite an awkward conversation having to explain why I was so closely watching my girlfriend’s pre-teen daughter, but to those few who know of my recent past, there can be little surprise. And to those who aren’t privy to such sensitive materials, I’ll simply comment that one should never, ever, take for granted the safety of those they love, and when such love is in child form… maybe it is after loss that we truly understand how precious something was to us. That thought will come up later in my story, but for now I’ll continue with the events.

Ackland had never struck me as any particular danger when, on about the third day after Ami started wearing the jacket, he offered to help her with any schoolwork she might be struggling with. He was otherwise a rather quiet boy, the child of a Stationmaster’s Aid, Ackland’s naturally scientific mind and minimal social skills had settled him into the role of tutor for many of his classmates. ‘Brainy’ personalities abound in Origin and more often than not such youths are appreciated by their peers but often left socially solitary on the assumption that they liked it that way or they’d have asked to be included. Maybe it was Ami’s incredibly high emotional IQ or perhaps the result of so many years of ‘people watching’ but where Ackland offered only academic help, she saw a request for connection and friendship.

That friendship grew and while it did so also the dynamic of Origin grew. We were experiencing, and still are, quite a massive boom in our immigration rates. With only a few hundred such integrated classrooms available on Indigo City Station, it was inevitable that other children of capsuleers or their fleets would join the class. And even if they hadn’t, most ALXVP families lived rather centralized to the docking sections of the station and their children would inherently frequent the same social venues and pleasure districts. In less than a month, Ami’s jacket caught on in a big way. It was a status symbol by virtue of an unspoken rule that only children of families directly involved in ALXVP as capsuleers, crew, or technicians had ‘earned’ the right to wear it. The inevitable fights broke out here or there, of which each one was not so covertly cc’d to me by our oh-so-kind public safety branch. They weren’t about to come out and blame me, a Sub-Coordinator, for causing the fights. But their unspoken assumption that school ground squabbles should, for some reason, concern a high ranking intelligence contact held very little air. Besides, I never saw Naraish’s name on a damn one of those ‘helpful FYI’s and he practically is Origin’s Intel network.

I mention the jackets again not because I feel some need to dwell on them, despite their excellent style and creativity; whoever designed them must have been having a really good day I think. No, I mention them because I think this might have been the first wedge in the ultimate split to an otherwise strong relationship. Ackland’s father, being an employee not of Alexylva Paradox, but rather reporting through his superiors to the Board of Coordinators as part of the Origin Colonial Authority government, didn’t fall into one of those select groups which could wear the coveted jacket without fear of ridicule or reprisal. I have no doubts that Ami, as humble and consolatory as she naturally is, must have encouraged him to obtain and wear one anyway and damn the status quo; an attitude she clearly inherited from her mother by the way.  But he never did take to wearing one. Maybe it was also Ami’s nature which led her to avoid gravitating towards the inevitable social cliques which formed among the ‘have’s and ‘have-not’s. Instead, she preferred to keep to her smaller circles, one of which still unconditionally included Ackland. Ami’s particular ability to rise above the less meritorious social effects, it turns out, would have a down side; I don’t think she ever saw what was coming.

Origin has always been hesitant to draw alliances or even strong relationships with entities within known-space. For most corporations throughout the greater New Eden, it can be hard to understand the unique constraints one must face within Anoikis. Certain tenants of life which exists equally throughout High-sec, low-sec, and even null-sec simply don’t apply in the cruel realities of a system accessible only by wormholes.  This can lead some contracts between a ‘wormhole corporation’ and any other to be inherently constraining or even flawed. I won’t innumerate the many examples of this but suffice to say that those inconsistencies in contractual effects often lead us to keep our distance from organizations who simply play by different rules than we must.  Of late, we’ve found ourselves more and more involved in diplomacy with such known-space groups, despite our history of avoidance. The change in policy was not one taken lightly and it has caused no small amount of trepidation among our people, many of whom came to Origin in order to distance themselves from the relentless realities that govern life in known-space. These people would very much prefer not to see the ghosts of their past brought to haunt them once again.

However, as much as we would like to think ourselves immune from the greater politick of New Eden, we simply aren’t. No better example of this is evident than the painful events that took place in Origin only eight standard months ago. Though the reasons which precipitated the most recent siege of Origin are still unknown to us, I have no doubt that were we better in tune with the forces at work beyond our wormholes, we may have been better prepared when during the waning hours of our primary watch a contingent of the S.T.I.L. Alliance parked almost a hundred Battleships just off Indigo City Station and demanded the unconditional surrender of our assets and fleet. It was through the incredible guile and determination of what allies we did have and through their willingness to stand by us that we survived those horrific three days.  Many things were made clear to me in those days; not the least of which was just how fragile everything we hold dear really can be. Much of our policy changed on the day we negotiated the final removal of what remained of the aggressing fleet. It was but one moment in many lifetimes of moments, but those decisions set in motion a new willingness to find and make friends even beyond the divergent realities of our system to so many others.

One such willingness that grew out of that moment was the hope for renewed relations with the Societas Imperialis Sceptri Coronaeque, or in short, SFRIM. Our history with SFRIM is not one from which many could derive a sense of pride, but the fundamental differences in ideology between Origin and SFRIM’s adherence to the tenants of their Empire never made for happy or simple conversation. I will admit that in consenting to proceed with such talks I thought of many, many different potential consequence to the millions of souls who I had sworn to protect. The particular consequence which had brought my not-quite-adoptive daughter in tears to my chest was not one of them.

A sharp pain shot through my biological arm as it sat too long unmoved across her shoulder. The sensation brought me back out of my memories and all-too-comfortably analytical headspace. Her sobs had slowed to the point where perhaps words might be possible. I still had no gassing clue what to say, but it was also clear that I’d have to say something.

“Do… would you like to talk about it?”

Her breathing changed but she didn’t move other than a brief and barely felt nod which didn’t come until several moments after the question. I knew she’d much rather have gone to her mom with this sort of thing anyway, but her mom wasn’t available right now and this had clearly been important enough that it couldn’t wait. Maybe I should have been flattered that she actually felt comfortable enough with me to let me be that substitute; and later, after I’d come to better understand the whole thing I was flattered. But in that moment, all I can remember feeling was a need to actually do something.

“Why did you have to send out the Tearnix too?” Her question was a bit hoarse at first but the disconnected nature of its content was the part that left me unable to answer for almost a minute. At length she finally pulled back and looked up at me. There was a lot of hurt in her eyes and I realized that some of it was even aimed at me.

I had no clue as to how to answer but I had to. “Send the Tearnix… in the escort?”

She nodded slowly, her eyes still holding that hint of accusation.

“I’m… We…” Speechless was not a condition to which I was accustomed. There were many, many reasons for which to send Shar’s controversial behemoth on that escort mission but most of them were very classified. As I tried to find some explanation I could tell her it occurred to me that she actually didn’t even care about the Phoenix. “What happened?”

It took her many more moments to answer. “His mother was killed in battle.” She shook her head. “He wouldn’t tell me before, only that she was dead. How was I supposed to know?”

Her narrative wasn’t exactly helpful. I knew that as part of the on-going talks we’d agreed to allow Templar Vadam, an emissary for SFRIM, passage into Origin in the hopes that his physical presence in our daily realities might in some way help bridge the understanding between our worlds. It was a move which I’d been decidedly against given the insane strategic vulnerability of having an agent so openly sworn to defend the Empire with direct access to our system. Were he to have snuck in even one set of scanning equipment it could have precipitated an Amarrian invasion the likes of which we could never hope to repel, even with every friend we had. I must also admit that my own history with the Amarr Empire did not resonate well with the idea either. For reasons of security as well as a myriad of political statements, we sent a fleet which included the Tearnix to greet the Templar before summarily closing the wormhole behind him. It was a move designed in no small part to minimize any fear that he or a disaffected member of his staff might transmit the location of the entrance to our home as well as to make it very clear that we took his visit very, very seriously. It wasn’t exactly privileged knowledge that the Tearnix had been deployed in such a way, in fact I’d pretty much ensured that just about anyone and everyone with a care to know in Origin was aware. The Tearnix had a reputation for its ruthless origins and I was more than happy to trade on that reputation in order to silence those who might question whether we were being too friendly with our erstwhile enemies. Apparently my intended message hadn’t been received as I’d meant it to be by everyone. But even that hadn’t explained the connection between Ackland’s mother and the Tearnix.

Lost again to my thoughts, I hadn’t responded and so she continued. “He screamed at me Xeph…” She looked into my eyes again. I could see her clawing for some fraction of understanding in those deep wells.

“Because of the Templar’s visit or because the Tearnix was sent to meet him?” I was hoping for at least some clarity, for her and for me.

She shook her head again gently and shifted in her seat as she pulled away from me just a little more. She was regaining herself but a part of me was almost sad for it. I realized later that it was the first time I’d ever in my life felt so entirely needed and so unconditionally trusted and as ridiculous as I want to see it a part of me felt loss in that moment when she pulled away; loss that the moment was over and she didn’t need me as much anymore. I realized just how much I didn’t… couldn’t even begin to deserve her faith in me and for a split second it seemed to me that maybe she’d realized exactly that too. But her eyes still looked to me for support and my fears quickly cleared as she answered.

“Both… I guess. She was killed by a Templar.”

That hit me in the gut. “But that’s part of why I… we sent the Tearnix.”

She looked at me in confusion for a moment. “But, you sent that ship, one of our largest and most powerful, in honor of his visit.”

Clearly I had never anticipated how my very covert message might be taken but those less advanced in years. Well fedoshit. “Yes… that is what we put on the news feeds isn’t it.”

She looked at me as though I hadn’t actually answered her question or the accusation in her eyes at all.

“And our honoring of a direct representative of what stole his mother from him must have hurt him deeply. Why did he yell at you though?”

She didn’t say anything but after a moment she too glanced over to the jackets which still lay in a pile together on the other couch. By the time she looked back to me I was only starting to put it all together.

“Your mother’s friendship with the Praefecta runs deep doesn’t it.” It wasn’t an answer really, but I saw acknowledgement of my new understanding played back in her eyes just then.

She looked down at her own hands for a moment before she spoke. “He didn’t tell me about his mother until after, while he was shouting it.”

Without really even knowing I was doing it my hand, now thoroughly tingling from lack of moment, began gently rubbing her shoulder. “He accused you because of the Jacket and your connection to ALXVP… to me.” She nodded, still looking down. “And then you defended Templar Vadam because of his connection to Praefecta Aspenstar Daphiti.” There was nothing even remotely funny about the moment but I was eminently happy that she never looked up to see the smirk that was crossing my face unbidden. Here she was standing up for what and who she believed in despite what, to her at least, must seem like planet-ending consequences and I had suddenly found myself to be incredibly proud of her. But I was proud of her for something that I had so far as yet been unable to do. I too had a relatively good relationship as well as positive past interactions with the woman who ran SFRIM and yet each time I tried to extend that inkling of trust through to apply to all of her corporation I found myself mired in the ghosts of my past. I recall taking a rather large breath as I looked down at Ami and realized just how petty my actions must have seemed to some, actions that despite their roots in actual cause for concern, were put in even greater relief by the loyalty of a girl just barely old enough to consider the many lives she may have yet to live. I can’t help but smile ironically at the image even now.

“He won’t even answer my messages…” I could see the flash of her external communicator holo as it displayed for an instant across her forearm. The format of the display was quite foreign to me having only ever used an implanted communications model and never an external one but even I could make out which icon must have signaled no incoming messages. In that moment it occurred to me that perhaps Ackland had been the only person with whom she’d regularly communicated the past few months. If that was true, his rejection carried all the more sting.

“Maybe he’ll come around… with time.” That was apparently not the correct answer. Her eyes lifted to skewer me with an incredulous stare and her shoulder instinctively shrugged off my hand, the last bit of me which had still been in direct contact with her. Yeah, the moment was very much over.

Her stare didn’t last long and soon her eyes returned to her hands. “He canceled our next study session too… I guess I’ll have to find someone else to work through the physics assignment with.”

I was starting to realize that the loss of this friendship went deeper than my previous comment had implied. This had been perhaps one of the first relationships for her in which the end couldn’t be explained by the fates of the world around her, but by something she’d done. I had the awareness to know that there would be chances and hope in the future, but this girl had known only isolation and cruelty from many of those beyond her family throughout her youth and as she glanced back at the friendships of her past, those had always ended with such intransient finality. Finally she’d had a chance to hope for a relationship with someone who might not be suddenly taken from her by war or slavery; and to her, she’d fucked it up.

I decided to take a different vector. “Got anyone else in mind?”

The question had caught her a bit off guard and this time when she looked up at me it was with a slight hint of curiosity. “No?” Then just a bit of the Ami I knew started to creep back in and she made half and attempt at a smirk. “Do you?”

Well, I certainly had no damn clue but I’d kind of already stepped in it so I might as well try right? “Off the top of my head? Not really.” Actually, I was starting to have a few thoughts but given that they were all kids of my fellow Corpmates and this whole thing had started because of Ami’s relation to the Corp I wasn’t about to even think their names.

“That’s what I thought.” That was said in jest. She really did have no idea of how to be unkind and even the attempt as poking fun at me was so dripping in playful humor that it made her smile too.

“Well, I know I’m not really the same, but at least this once, maybe you could try to teach me some Physics.”

Well that got a look of incredulity. “You think you, a mere capsuleer can learn this stuff!?” She was really trying quite hard to hold the face. “They said you had an ego but yikes.”

“Oh, is that what they’re saying about me these days? You shouldn’t believe a word of it; all lies.”

Ok, she was getting way to good at those incredulous looks of hers.

“Tell ya what, why don’t you invite me to that next physics session of yours while I go check on your brother and sister.”

“What if you have to pod up?” She was the daughter of a capsuleer too, why shouldn’t she expect for me to have to drop the study session due to system protection?

“If I have to pod up?” Personally, I fully expected Ackland to be taking my spot well before the session anyway but I couldn’t exactly tell her that. “Well, unless a capital pops into Origin, ain’t nothin’ going to get me in my pod from that study session, promise.”

I think her face was stuck on ‘incredulous’ now. “Even I know a capital can fit through… You’re messing with me, that’s what this is. Gee, thanks!”

“Yeah, but you’re smiling again, aren’t ya?”

The smile instantly disappeared only to slowly creep back despite the effort. “Fine, but I’m going to find the extra-hard problems for you, just because you’re being mean.” With that she finally shifted off of the couch and over to the satchel she’d left beside the pair of jackets. I rose, discreetly stretching my arm as much as possible, and turned to make my way down the hall to where the twins were sleeping. As I glanced back over at Ami I noticed that in opening her satchel she’d moved her jacket ever-so-slightly off of mine. I could have easily deactivated the hologram remotely as I typically did when not wearing the coat. The only reason I hadn’t in the first place had been that I’d entirely forgotten to with the look on Ami’s face when I arrived. But the shift in her sleeve had uncovered the other holo-emiter allowing the full Logistics emblem to dance about protectively over her repositioned coat. As I watched one of the stars in the dynamic emblem flare brilliantly into existence only to be suddenly linked up into the pattern of other stars I thought again on the concept of friends. Maybe it was time for me to grow a little as well. Maybe the moment had finally come for me to overcome some of my fears in the name of friendship.

As I walked down the short hallway I activated my own schedule via implant just in time to see Ami’s invite appear two days out. I accepted Ami’s invite but then cross-referenced the Amarr directory and found the name which I sought. She was still living close to the medical facilities following the birth, which was good. I willed multi-day event into existence on my schedule about two weeks out and it was quickly confirmed as my schedule back-checked to that of the other coordinators. It was time to visit an old friend that I’d once walked out on.

As I sit now in preparation for my trip, I think back to what those moments with Ami had really taught me. Through it all, you can only ever really count on your friends and on your family. I was learning again how to trust enough to make new friends but as I think back those feelings of complete and unadulterated trust that an upset girl showed me, I realize now that it takes a whole different level of trust to gain a family. I didn’t have much of that in my life; family. Oh, I’d always convinced myself that my crews were my family, and I guess they still kinda are, but with just how little chance I had at having true family in this whole Bob-forsaken star soup, I was running out of moments to hold onto that.

I’d better get started fixing that.

Xepharious Wryn