Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Season of Love and Happiness

The station was quiet at this early time of day, so nobody was around to notice the unsteadiness in my steps as I returned to my own quarters, the memory of last night slowly fading. This Gallentean had been quite a good kisser, and knew how to use his hands, so it had been an enjoyable evening. Well, up to the point where his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind. The following minutes of yelling and bulkhead-slamming had been less pleasant, but it did save me from having to break it to them that making out had been all that I had been interested in anyway. That way, while their yelling turned into something less adversarial, I got to plunder their beverage stash and catch a few hours of sleep on their couch.

Holidays, huzzah!

Admittedly, I was still confused about the details of the various holidays people were celebrating at this time of year - at some point I think I saw two people shouting at each other while holding a metal pole - but it was fun to just go with the flow and enjoy myself.

Ah, my quarters! Finally! My access code was accepted, I stepped through the doorway, and the hatch fell shut behind me. Immediately, dim light coming from my main room told me that I wasn’t alone. Carefully, quietly, but not overly concerned I approached the room’s entrance and peeked inside. Yep - it was only Kitten, having fallen asleep in one of my more comfortable chairs.

Usually, she was off in her own circles, but we had an understanding that she was always welcome should she need a place to crash. I wondered what brought her here this time, but given the time of day and my state of mind, that was a question which could wait. I stopped briefly by her side, to gently stroke her cheek, then found the way to my own bedroom.

------------------

The smell of coffee finally woke me up. And not that weak excuse for coffee served with your average breakfast - this was hand-brewed strong coffee, Minmatar style. But as much my taste buds protested, I headed for a shower first - the hot water doing wonders for my well-feeling. Small wonders. Emphasis on ‘small’. When I finally entered my main room, I was greeted with the coffee I had smelled before, pastries, and a way too smug Minmatar punk.

“Look who’s back in the land of the Undead!”, greeted me Kitten.

I ignored her demonstratively, poured myself a cup and grabbed a pastry. It wasn’t until I was halfway into my second cup that I graced her with an answer.

“Ha!”

She giggled. “C’mon, don’t be coy. Given how late you came home last night, he must have been cute!”

“He was ok.”, I allowed. “But not that cute. And even if - there were complications.”

“Mhmhm,”, she nodded, “I should have guessed - after all, you did come home at all. So he won’t make your guest list for your ‘Festival of Burning’, or whatever it’s called? Which I think is still coming up?”

“’The Kindling of the Light’”, I corrected her, “and no, he won’t. But what about you - who is on your guest list for your New Year’s shindig?”

“You tell me.” Her demeanor faltered, and suddenly she appeared vulnerable. “Did you deliver the gift?”

“Yes, I did.”, I nodded carefully. “Though in hindsight I must say…”

“…I know, I know, it was a stupid idea.” She sighed, and slumped into her seat.

“Especially coming from you.” I pressed on. “I thought we were over this kind of stuff since ‘Princess’.”

She shot me a look as if she was going to say something, but then reconsidered. Instead, she replied “I thought so, too. But… One night of double entendres, months of nothing - but then suddenly Bam! I can’t get her out of my thoughts.” She shook her head. “Maybe it’s just my mostly-male Lance getting to me, because for all I know, she probably doesn’t even remember me - but what if it’s more?”

I emptied my cup. “Well, you cast your dice, and now you have to wait. Either she’ll figure it out, and you will have a whole new set of questions to answer for yourself, or somebody else is going to get lucky, in which case you won’t lose much.” I looked at her askance. “Though I suggest you find something to occupy yourself with in the meantime.”

“Way ahead of you.”, she managed a smile. “One of your Alliance mates has a problem with miners encroaching on his territory. But since it’s hi-sec, his hands are tied - so I thought I fly down there and buzz those miners. Which is why I’m here - to pick up my old Cheetah.”

I laughed. “Buzzing miners” was what we had called sitting in a belt and shamelessly cargo- and ship-scanning miners, hoping that the mere act would scare them away. It rarely worked, but when it did, it absolved you from the messy business of actually attacking said miners. Plus, if you negotiated smartly beforehand, you got to keep the ammunition expense budget.

“Speaking of which - I need to be going.”, she added. “But that also reminds me, my Cheetah has a bunch of heat-damaged blasters in its hold - are those yours?”

“If they also have dust worth almost two years on them,” I replied, “maybe?”

She chuckled and stood up, grabbing a pastry while doing so. “I’ll have them transferred to your hangars.” She gestured. “Thanks for letting me stay here tonight.”

“Anytime!”

At the door, she stopped and turned her head back to me.

“Listen… before I leave… when you mentioned ‘Princess’…”

“Yes?”

She hesitated, then convinced herself to speak freely. “You were right - but at the same time… you’re one to talk.”

“What do you mean?”, I asked, perplexed.

“Remember what you did before that Op?”

I nodded, slowly.

A pained expression flitted over her face.

“You’re doing it again.”

Monday, December 22, 2014

Last POS Standing

        “You think the way you live is okay
         You think posing will save your day”
         -- N.E.R.D., Rock Star

The carpet muffled my steps, as I strode towards the main office of my sister’s corporation. Sadly so, as the metal plates I had had fitted to the heels of my boots made for an impressive entrance in Minmatar stations, with their metal decks. But then again, there was no point in trying to impress Eta, even if I hadn’t been related - it took other things to do that.

With a discreet beep, my access code was accepted, and I entered the corp complex. Knowing my way from days old, I headed straight for my sister’s private room. At her door, I hesitated for a moment - hurtled calculators being a probable risk - but then pushed inside. For once, I was able to enter unassaulted - Eta was sitting at her desk, leaned back, and staring holes into the ceiling.

Oh dear - something was already beyond merely ‘wrong’.

She started when I kissed her on her forehead, but recovered quickly while I was making myself comfortable on her desk.

“You came.”

“For you, always.” I smiled. “Now tell me what’s going on - your message sounded urgent.”

She looked at the ceiling again, while taking in a deep breath.

“About 20 hours ago, our POS in Reyi was attacked and put into RI. It’ll come out in 16 hours.”

“So, no problem. Send word to your alliance, I’ll break out either my Talos or my Scimitar, depending on the opposition, and we’ll have it licked in no time.”

“That’s the problem right there.” She emptied her glass, then refilled it. “It’s not like the old times - there is no alliance. Redrum is for all intents and purposes dead.”

“Wait - what?” I grabbed a glass from a shelf, and poured myself a drink as well. “I thought Pan and Katsumi had taken control back of the alliance, ousted Vicious Idiots, or whatever they were called, and were turning the ship around?!”

She smiled ruefully. “That had been the plan, yes. But about a week or two later, there was the announcement about a change of plans: the alliance would be mothballed, the renters let go, the POCOs sold, and all corps dropped by the end of the week.”

“Too much damage done already to recover from?”, I guessed.

“Exactly. Except - all of the above happened, except of the dropping of corps.” She took a sip. “Meanwhile, the corp who bought the majority of POCOs in Reyi, got impatient and sent a mail to all former blues - including Redrum - to discuss standings. But since our exalted alliance leaders have taken time off for some holiday or other, we in the Flyers never got the message. So…” she smacked her right fist into her open left hand. “Boom!”

I took a sip - and coughed. Gods know that Eta was not big into spirits - something about the dangers of working in proximity of highly unstable reactors with no neuro-scanner nearby - but when she had a drink, she went all out.

“Ok, different plan then.” I said once I had my voice again. “I put a call out to Affirmative, we get some shooters down here, and…”

“…and then what?”, she asked coldly. “You stay here, and defend the POS from all the follow-on attacks? No. These guys intend to make Reyi their little kingdom, and you guys aren’t.”

I was at a loss for words - she was right. I emptied my glass, and refilled it. “So what now?”

“After protracted negotiations, we arranged a compromise: we take down the POS unharmed, they take the moon, and in return we get blue standings.” She chuckled into her glass. “You can imagine, the boss was not happy.”

“I was just about to ask…”

“You know how stubborn she is - and being pushed out of our home of eight years did not sit well with her.” She smirked. “She left the final ‘capitulation’ up to me. But you know what?”

“Uhm, no?”

She gestured with her glass. “I can't help but think that these folks deserve the moon. They are decent combat pilots, have a plan, and put in the space-time to achieve their goals. We on the other hand? We just fueled the POS, extracted the moon goo to pay for our offices, and that was the extent of our ‘activities’ here.” She took a sip. “In a way I am glad the POS is going to be gone - one pointless liability less.”

I hesitated, wondering if I read her tone right. “You know, you could join us.”

She looked at me earnestly. “Truth to be told - sometimes I am tempted.” She slumped back into her chair. “But I couldn’t do that to the boss - it would break her heart. She has to realize the truth herself first.”

Seconds stretched to minutes, in which we just silently enjoyed our drinks. “So, what’s the plan?” I finally broke the silence. “Repair the POS up to 50% shield, and then take it down? If there’s only the Flyers on deck, even with my Scimitar it will take hours.”

“It won’t be that bad.” She winked at me. “Remember our dinner last year, when you first met my boy? And the skill plan we laid out for me later on?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’ve been following it like the good girl I am, and now - ” she made a flourishing gesture, “ - I can fly a Triage Thanatos.”

“Nice!” I saluted her with my glass. “But - isn’t your carrier several jumps from here?”

“Yes, but your … friend of old had contracted me hers - ‘on loan, so don’t break it’, as she put it. It’s not the best fit for my skills, but it’ll do.”

I nodded again, briefly wondering how Mica was doing, but then I banished the thought.

“Anything we can do until then?“

”Well, if you’re feeling up to it, two of the large laser batteries are incapped. Calcinus said that he'd help, but the more, the merrier. If we could repair them now, it would save us time later. And if they decide to backstab us…“

She left the sentence unfinished, and I smiled at the inside. We were both trained POS gunners, and with the large batteries repaired, we could spread some pain around.

I emptied my glass, and dropped it upside-down on the desk. ”Well, let’s get to it then.“ A thought occurred to me. ”Are there any other Redrum POSes in the system which have been hit?“

She gave me a look. ”I was wondering the same thing, so I did a quick recon of the system - mostly to find their POS, just in case. And the result is: our POS is the last Redrum one - everybody else has folded and left some time ago.“ She raised her glass.

”To the POS that could!“