This is a collection of short in-character fiction pieces about Awakened Industries, a group of capsuleers and their crews living in the enigmatic and dangerous regions of Wormhole Space in EVE Online. None of the protagonists are actual characters or corporations in-game. All similarities with persons fictional or real are possibly coincidental and only sometimes intentional. - Emergent Patroller

For an introduction to this blog refer to this link. You may also want to check out the guide for new readers

Warning
: The stories on this blog contain mature themes involving sexuality and violence and are not suitable for minors or sensitive people.

13 Nov 2013

OOC Entry 102 - Processing Power













Edit: It was pointed out to me on reddit that there is actually proof that CCP is using Windows HPC. That made a few changes to this blogpost necessary.

Edit 2:  In the meantime I have been told by CCP Veritas that, despite what the video says, they have decided against Windows HPC. That means of course that my statements about that being a problem for performance do not apply. It's great to get new information and to learn from mistakes.
I recommend you to also read the exchange on reddit where CCP Veritas offers a few interesting insights.

In the last two weeks EVE Online saw the development of a major conflict which is now commonly called
the Halloween War. As usual with such events, there's lots of reporting, grandstanding and chestbeating so all involved parties can feel a bit better about losing close to a trillion ISK and staying up all night, playing a game in slow motion.

Most recently, this collective exercise in gaming masochism resulted in the inevitable node crash massive fleet fights tend to create whenever they do not happen on something that CCP calls a "Reinforced Node".

The consequence of the node crash is a lot of fingerpointing at CCP and all kinds of theories and myths arise about the Tranquility server's ability to cope with the growth of EVE.

On the first glance, the Tranquility server system looks pretty impressive. Both CCP and the gaming press also like to further bedazzle the audience with spectacular terms like "Military Grade Hardware" and staggering numbers like "2500GHz Processing Power".

Certainly, Tranquility is a high-performance system that can do a lot. So why does it not manage to sustain large fleet battles or Burn Jita scale events?

Personally I have some professional experience with High Performance Computing Systems, otherwise known under the more catchy term "Supercomputing Clusters". I have been a user and maintainer of such systems when I was with the military, and more recently I have actually built and installed systems like that as a job.

Under scrutiny, and when comparing it with other HPC systems, Tranquility becomes quite a bit less impressive, and therein lies a possible explanation why CCP is suffering from node crashes when there are massive conflicts.

Where to begin ...?


Processing Power

First of all, processing power is not measured in clock speed alone. The generally accepted baseline unit of measuring processing power is called FLOPS which is a combination of clock speed and processing cores available.




Not only is clock speed alone not a sufficient way of measuring processing power, it also doesn't quite add up in the way that you can say you have 2000 GHz of total speed just because you have 500 CPUs running at 4GHz each. For that to be remotely applicable as a statement, you would have to have all those CPUs doing exactly the same thing parallel in a multithreaded way, and here we hit another stumbling block in CCP's setup.


Bits and Threads

Multithreading - simply put - means that you can split the same operation among many processor cores at the same time so that they share their workload. CCP personnel rarely make statements about the specifics, but on the most recent Episode of "Shit on Kugu" (a fitting name for that terrible podcast) CCP Dolan re-iterated that "EVE can run on a single core" and that CCP are working on making EVE 64 bit so they can actually use multithreading. (It's at about 45min into the podcast)

There is a hidden piece of information there: There is one commonly used server system that is incapable of running 32 bit applications parallel multithreaded while making full use of a multicore architecture: Microsoft Windows. As a matter of fact, the Windows Server OS is limited by the codebase in the number of cores it can utilize.

There is something else that tells me that CCP is actually using Windows HPC to run their system, namely their own statement that their database server is running Microsoft SQL. It turns out that CCP is in fact using Windows HPC Their CPUs there are actually 64bit CPUs, but Windows can only make limited use of those as long as your Windows Server version is not new enough and your software isn't 64bit code as well.

I have once worked with a Windows Server HPC system (TBH "Windows HPC" sounds like an oxymoron to me to begin with) and I can tell you it was the worst performing HPC system I have ever seen. I wouldn't expect to run CFC vs. Everyone Else on such a system without lots of sleepless nights because of crashes.

Maybe my conclusions are all wrong, but I seriously suspect So CCP are using Windows as their cluster OS, which is very ill advised if you want to do anything serious ... like wars among several major coalitions with thousands of ships launching drones and fighters.


Nodes and Resources

In standard HPC terminology, a node is a single hardware platform with it's standard setup (CPU, Memory, coprocessors etc. all on one motherboard). Generally, you would have one or more so called master nodes which schedule processing tasks for all the compute nodes which do the actual number crunching. This is done by means of a so called job scheduler and the applications are built to support running in parallel. The job scheduler looks everywhere on the cluster - according to parameters which you can set - where it can find free resources to process the given workload.

So let's say you have 500 Ishtars all launch Sentry Drones and fire at a target. That is a set of mathematical operations which have to be done by the cluster. Now the scheduler gets this submitted as a job and then it would look for cores and memory and clock cycles which are sufficient and optimal to finish those calculations. That is if your system and your software support multithreaded parallel computation on multiple cores.

CCP uses a bit of a different terminology. They call an instance of the game a node, and that instance can run anything from a dozen to a single star system with everything in it. That sounds a bit awkward as a model for resource allocation.

CCP Dolan mentions how great it would be if they could dynamically allocate resources without having to shut down a node. As it is now, they actually have to manually assign a solar system to something which they call a "Reinforced Node". What CCP means by that is, that they assign the computation of all tasks that happen for one game instance in one solar system onto a very powerful machine. I'd guess they do that during downtime because it seems from Dolan's statements that they actually have to take down that game instance and restart it on different hardware.

All that would not be necessary if they had a more intelligent HPC system.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have great respect for game developers. If you look at the amazing graphics and concurrent operations they can squeeze out of a model like that, one can only be impressed. In most cases, a modern computer game has to be able to run on one PC or on one game console, and I can tell you, even your most pimped gaming rig will not outperform even a low-grade HPC compute node.

CCP are actually doing quite well considering what they have to make do with, but if I were one of the admins of that system, I'd wish for a special hell for the people who decided to build things that way in the first place.


So where does that leave us?

If I am right about my assumptions about what CCP is actually Considering that we know what CCP is running on their cluster, then I am afraid we will face an uphill battle (pun intended) when it comes to ever bigger conflicts. It is unlikely, that CCP will rebuild their cluster from the ground up. They can slowly rewrite their software to make better use of what they have, but to replace the whole system underneath it would be a massive task that can not be done easily.

Working from the assumption that they are actually Based on the fact that they are using Windows HPC - and everything I know indicates that they do - then even 64bit Windows will eventually run into limitations no matter how many processor cores you give it, and without an actual HPC system they will have to compensate for the shortcomings that the system has.

Maybe they do manage to make it happen that game instances can be transferred dynamically from one machine to another on the fly, but they would be much better off if all of EVE ran on all available machines as separate jobs that make efficient use of the resources.

So, until CCP actually builds another cluster and transfers all of EVE onto that new system, the big powers of New Eden will be stuck with TiDi and having to request a "Reinforced Node" if they know they want to have a massive fleet-fight in a particular system.

Or they could come up with a doctrine that doesn't require them to drop thousands of ships in one place to win, but for now that seems to be the path to victory, even if it is a slow grind of many hours.

28 Oct 2013

Blog Banter 50 - Countering Malcanis' Law

I'm a bit late for this month's Blog Banter, but well, the month is not over yet.

This time the net is cast pretty wide with a whole range of questions:
With the Rubicon expansion being announced and the SOMER Blink scandals (or non-scandals depending on your point of view) that have erupted on the community at the same time, it truly feels like an age of EVE has passed and a new one is dawning.

But which direction is it going? This blog banter can be about several different topics: 
- where do you think EVE is going? Is it a good or bad vision ahead?
- if you were EVE's new Executive Producer, where would you take the game?
- What comes (or should come) after Rubicon in terms of the mechanics and ship balancing we've seen? (CSM8 not allowed to answer this one!)
- Is there anything in EVE's ten year past that should be resurrected? Or buried and forgotten?
- What is the future of the community? What should or should not change?
In general, I have a good feeling about the future vision for EVE Online. In contrast to the last ten years, there seems to be a long-term plan on how to move ahead. CCP is becoming more mature in this way.

In other ways the company still retains it's adolescent behaviour as exemplified by the SOMERBlink PR disaster (links not necessary except if you lived under a rock), the latest episode of the ongoing Mintchip soap-opera or the messy handling of the TOS change, but in terms of game development things look promising as far as I am concerned.

Whichever way CCP wants to take the game, however, one of the most pressing issues that they will have to address in the future is how to expand their playerbase without changing the special nature of EVE Online lest they lose what makes their game unique in a world where ever more MMOs are appearing on the scene.

Others have written on the subject already, but I feel like it deserves to be mentioned again for emphasis: There is an inflation of accounts while the real growth of the playerbase appears to be a lot less significant.

Of course I do not have the numbers, but everything I hear and read indicates that this is the case. While on the bottom line, CCP keeps making more money, it also means that they make this money off of fewer people than they could and that this trend is ongoing. Most of those people exist at the high-end of the spectrum - long term players with lots of ISK and experience.

While player retention at this stage is generally good, those players are also the ones most likely to leave the game for longer periods of time due to burnout or real-life matters. An old bittervet who has seen it all will leave and take a lot more convincing to return than someone who tried the game a few months ago and might be reeled back in by some shiny new feature. In the case of an old player leaving, we are looking at anything up from two accounts that might be lost indefinitely.

New players will probably keep coming to the game in numbers for as long as the marketing department does it's work, but there is a lot of turnover there. I dare to speculate that not so many take the step from short-term interest to long term "brand loyalty".

I have the feeling that there might be a real danger that the departure of long-term multi-account players will eventually exceed the potential of new players to keep the game afloat with their coming and going.

To address this, I would propose an actual expansion of the possibilities in game.

EVE is already great in the way how it offers many ways to play the game. If one gets bored or burned out of one way, one can go down a different path. This is the aspect which should be expanded further.

As a central rule for this expansion drive I would propose a modified version of Malcanis Law which states:
"Whenever a mechanics change is proposed on behalf of 'new players', that change is always to the overwhelming advantage of richer, older players."
 My proposed counter to this would be:
 "Whatever measure that is introduced to keep the game fresh and exciting for the bittervets must also attract and retain new players"
There are lots of possibilities to fulfil that statement: Make PVE something else than a repetitive quasi-afk activity that needs actual attention and interaction (How about finally fixing/reworking those COSMOS mission arcs or introducing more Incursion-style PVE?). Change sovereignty mechanics to be less of a mass-fleet grind into something deserving more intelligent maneuvering. (Lots of bloggers have offered opinions and advice on that subject over time.) Redesign the crafting system to make it more attractive and less buggy. Finally redesign the corporation management to make it look less like the badly designed interface for an unnecessarily complex machine. Open up new possibilities for in-game "professions" (Bounty-hunting and mercenary marketplace are still dead in the water, for example)

What has to be central for any of this to work - and not become a fulfilment of Malcanis' Law instead - are possibilities for newer players and older ones alike to have fun and engage with eachother without introducing another mechanic that can be beaten by throwing excessive numbers at it whether that be ISK or amounts of players.

Right now, there are two aspects of EVE which more or less fulfil that criterion: Faction Warfare and Wormhole Space. In the former, there is clearly content which can be played by people in frigates and rather low skills. Numbers work to some extent, but by no means are they as effective or as necessary as in nullsec sovereignty. Wormhole Space has a bit of a higher entry threshold, but it also has a very effective built-in numbers cap through mass limits and the inability to use cynosural fields. Also in Wormhole Space there is a clear "level progression" that helps players to find the place that suits them best while taking away none of the sandbox aspect.

What EVE needs is more avenues to play the game in ways similar to that.

While I am not pleading for CCP to ignore and neglect the big players of nullsec, I would like to point out, that those player empires are pretty self-sufficient in creating content for themselves. They even have their own methods to attract and retain new players.

The assignment rather is, to engage and retain the ones who are not motivated in such a way. That applies whether they are new players without direction or old players who cringe at the thought of yet another operation to take down sov structures or run the same PVE site for the 1000th time.

I will not take the time here to write down every proposal I would be able to come up with for such mechanics, this post is long enough already. I have written down a few in the past, though. Whatever the measures or mechanics introduced, if they try their best to fulfil my rule above while not fulfilling Malcanis' Law, then the path into the future should be a promising one I would dare to say.

As a last thought, about what I would like to see revived from the past, I would say things like the Arek' Jalaan project. That was probably the most inspiring thing I have ever seen emerge from this game. The potential and it's realisation was just wonderful, and it was a sad thing when it was just left to die a quiet death. This mixture of in-game lore, metagame, player interaction and guiding influence from developers was a wonderful synergy that showcased how amazing the things are that can come out of this game.

7 Oct 2013

OOC Entry 101 - Fictional Expansion

I am only going to write a short post to give a shout-out to two fellow EVE Fiction enthusiasts.

The first is Zendane of the Eve Reader Podcast. He got some exposure through an EVE Community Spotlight  which I managed to miss completely. Seeing as it was in June, I am not surprised. Back then I was still more concerned with my physical and mental recovery than much else.

No, I encountered this man's work because of the High Drag Podcast and I was immediately star-struck with the man's voice and presentation of EVE Chronicles in audiobook form. Very beautiful. I recommend it.

The Second is Drackarn of Sand Cider and Spaceships. He has recently finished his undertaking of writing a longer EVE fiction story which you can download for free here. I have only noticed today that he published that story and downloaded it immediately.

Drackarn has a style that is not always my thing, but he captures the atmosphere of the classic pulp fiction style and moulds it against the background of New Eden very entertainingly. I have often laughed with enjoyment while reading his stories. Never more so than with his fabulous entry for an EVE fiction Contest.
  
I have not started reading his story yet, but I sure will do so soon. I am curious how he does his thing when having more words to develop a plot. If he is true to his style, then I expect sinister bad guys, film-noir antiheroes, unexpected twists, sultry maidens, sex and drugs and death (sometimes all at the same time) and all the other tropes that Drackarn likes to invoke in his delightfully unashamed way. 

Keep up the good work and all the best to both of you.

2 Oct 2013

OOC Entry 100 - Bloc Level Economic Warfare in Highsec


The story so far

Recently we saw a great analysis of the Caldari Ice Interdiction. Before that there had been a Gallente Ice Interdiction. Both had somewhat different goals but one common aspect: The goals of both operations were based on a doctrine of economic warfare that targets goods produced in highsec with the intention to gain an advantage over opposing forces. This is achieved by both market manipulation for financial gain and market manipulation for the purpose of creating scarcity in resources that are necessary for the logistics of warfare.

As stated, the Caldari Ice Interdiction leaned much more towards the side of financial gain. It did have the potential, though, to influence the price of T2 goods which in turn would make ship replacements more expensive. In the light of the Fountain War where the continued financial pressure on Test Alliance SRP was a major factor, this operation could have resulted in an even more accelerated depletion of the TEST SRP funds.

The Gallente Ice Interdiction - on the other hand - leaned more toward the logistics disruption side of things. Apart from all financial gains, an increase in price for Gallente ice products would also drive up the cost of jump fuel for Gallente (super)capital ships. Since the Nyx, the Thanatos and the Moros are very commonly used in offensive capital-ship fleets, this had the potential to put the opponents of the CFC at a disadvantage when it came to capship supremacy.


The Future?

Rubicon will introduce Player Owned Customs Offices (POCOs) in high security space. This could present a new point of leverage for economic warfare strategies, market manipulation and a new stream of passive income.

Passive Income

Planetary Interaction (PI) has become a very widely used method for passive income generation. For those living in high security space, a high blanket tax rate has been a reality for some time now.  A POCO operator can easily go below that and still make a profit over time, and both parties will be better off.

Alliances who can place (and protect) POCOs in highsec at a large scale will have the possibility to open another passive income stream for themselves.

Of course, goods can still be freely exported from a planet while bypassing the POCO, but they can not be imported. Since especially the more lucrative PI products require materials from at least two different planets and then often yet another planet purely for manufacturing, there is still enough potential for tax revenue.

Market Manipulation and Economic Warfare

The possibility to tax "highsec carebears" and then build ships from that money which are used for ganking the same players will put a gleefully evil grin on many faces for sure. But that is nothing when compared with the possibilities for strategic market manipulation through POCOs.

The wide range of goods that are produced by means of PI is a useful tool in the hands those who want to reap speculation profit and create scarcity both.

PI materials are components for POS fuel, T2 production, starbase structures, sovereignty structures, nanite repair paste and station components. When you consider the uses for those end-products, it is obvious that a "PI Interdiction" can have severe wide ranging consequences when planned properly and executed at the right time.

Interbus NPC owned COs can be shot at freely. Under a declaration of war POCOs can be destroyed without CONCORD intervention. Even a medium-sized fleet can then destroy one quite quickly. A sufficiently large alliance can sweep through whole constellations in a matter of a few days and completely disrupt the flow of PI products from there.

Tying it all together

Even more powerful is the combination of both approaches.

If an Alliance manages to control a significant number of POCOs, they can directly affect the supply and price of goods through the POCO tax rate while at the same time destroying those of others.

Many producers will elect to halt their production or increase the price accordingly. The holders of a large number of POCOs will see both increased profit and create higher expenses for their opponents this way.

If one controls the POCOs in a system or even a constellation, it is an easy thing to place traders nearby who will stockpile materials one plans to make more expensive and/or scarce. Those traders can even make sure that they can buy at a lower price ahead of time by keeping taxes low.

There is certainly a lot of potential for market PVP there.

In conclusion

Many nullsec alliances have the numbers and the level of organisation to play this game against eachother on a battlefield which has been mostly neglected by them so far.

The Ice Interdictions by the CFC were special events in the past which were planned to have an indirect impact on nullsec conflicts. Now the possibilities of economic warfare created by highsec POCOs could make such operations a more common thing.

In fact, a nullsec alliance or powerbloc engaging in a large-scale conflict against another one over sovereignty would be well advised to make use of those possibilities, otherwise they will find that staging POSes, T2 modules and ammunition, nanite paste etc. become prohibitively expensive while their enemy has a logistical and financial advantage that will be hard to overcome.

Interesting times ahead.

OOC Entry 99 - A woman's touch?

Before some people reading what is to come in a way that results in defensive knee-jerk reactions, let me make a few things clear:
I am a woman and I am supporting women's emancipation and their right to be considered equal in any possible way. I am, however, not claiming that women are naturally better at anything. I do not count myself as a feminist because I feel that this ideology is often stereotyping men in a way that I consider unfair. I will use language in the following post that might sound like I am favouring a female perspective - whatever that may be - but that is all supposed to be understood within the context of gender identity how it is usually defined these days. None of it is intended to mean that women or men are better or worse at anything.

Ok, with that out of the way, I am going to look at Rubicon and what it tells us about CCPs new direction.



With CCP Seagull as senior producer, it looks like things have changed significantly from what we all know about the development history of EVE Online.

Here we have a person who is not intending to drop major "Jesus Features" with every expansion. Nor do we have someone who relegates herself to a program of just fixing things and polishing the game.

CCP Seagull is the first senior producer to ever present a long-term vision for where EVE-Online expansions should take the game eventually.

Rubicon is the first expansion that has been developed fully while she was at the helm. Odyssey came out when she already had the job, but much of the planning and conceptualization for it definitely happened before her term began. 

The name is very well chosen to reflect what is supposed to happen: The first step is taken on a journey that will fundamentally change the game world of New Eden. Other than all her predecessors, CCP Seagull plans to set a course for that change which will progress gradually but with a definitive end-goal in mind. At the end of this process - which could (and probably will) take years - you should find yourself in a very different New Eden.

Since this approach is so different from anything that came before, it makes me wonder whether that has anything to do with her gender.

Men - not because of their born-in qualities, but because of their upbringing - tend to favour short-term goals. They are very often encouraged to be "doers" and to compete for the fast achievement of easily quantifiable goals. Women often have a tendency to think more long-term.

That whole thing might have a basis in the way how procreation works.

On the most basic level, the goal of procreation for the man is getting the female pregnant. For the woman it means having the support and nourishment that is necessary to get through pregnancy and then to feed the child while it is still dependent on mother's milk. That requires a bit of a longer perspective.

Of course modern societies have made this very simplified relation much more complex, but in terms of development we are not so far away from a time when this was still how things worked. I would propose that we haven't quite overcome those behavioural patterns.

Even today, tasks like child-care and child-rearing are mostly seen as the responsibility of the woman. That is the case even in the most equal societies with the most blurred gender roles. Very often women themselves will voluntarily take that role. Sometimes they might even say men can't really do that properly, and that's why they have to do it.

I'm not saying men cannot be committed to their children, but it is not as deeply ingrained with them, or expected to the same degree, as it is with women.

Looking at things from that viewpoint, it almost seems like CCP Seagull is like the mother who has dedicated herself to raising her child over the coming years, and in the case at hand the child is EVE Online.

Working together with her, she has a number of men who are also committed to see this child flourish. As the Senior Producer she is in the best position to give those men clear short-term goals which they can achieve. Things like "Balance that Ship Class" or "Come up with Deployable Structures".

Following my proposed model of explanation here, this would play to the strengths of all those guys while freeing them from the burden of having to think of a overarching plan.



When I was with the military, my commanding officer had that theory: He said, that he thinks women are better strategic commanders and men are better tactical commanders. His basis for saying this was exactly the thing about perspectives I wrote about earlier in this post.

I disagreed with him because I rejected the gender stereotyping that came with it. However, the approach of CCP Seagull and her team seems to fit the theory when compared to previous years of CCP development.

Makes me wonder whether the man had a point.

It may of course be very far-fetched to see evidence for a general theory in something incidental like CCP changing their course of expansion development, but at least it does not contradict the premise.

In the end, whether this change in development philosophy is something that has anything to do with the fact that CCP Seagull is a woman is not necessarily that important. I am just sharing thoughts here, moonlighting as an armchair gender studies expert ;)

I do have to say that I like it very much, and it sounds exciting. As for now I am confident that if I ever join the ranks of active EVE players again, I will be playing a very different game.

For that I want to give CCP Seagull a hug from one geek-girl to another.

29 Sep 2013

OOC Entry 98 - Connecting the dots

Hello again dear readers.

I just woke up in the middle of the night.

Well, some would call it morning.

Anyway, I crawled out of my bed and proofread my latest story episode and published it. Since I am only half awake and didn't even have any coffee, it might be a bit flaky.

Nevertheless, the narrative stands. With great regret I have to inform one of my fans - Thf - that this episode will feature another flashback. But do not despair, the present day narrative also continues.

It will open a possibility on how to get Sandrielle out of The Hive and brings our wormhole capsuleers in contact with more of those crazy nullsec people.

I have to admit, I like portraying nullsec capsuleers as members of some obsessed and at least borderline sociopathic social group in my story. That's just because - if you look at the way nullsec alliances behave in the game - they would be totally sick dictatorships or fanatic sects if you actually thought it through.

Since there is some more flashback history stuff, you are going to learn more about the development of Sandrielle into who she was before she joined up with Awakened Industries.

I reckon there will be one more episode which describes that process, and after that the circle will be closed. This story is not called Metamorphosis for nothing. It is the story of the child which is abducted by The Hive, turned into one of them, and then changed into the woman you have come to know in the previous stories.

In the next episode, those two narratives will connect with each-other again and I will continue the present-day thread.

For now, I hope you enjoy this chapter.

22 Sep 2013

OOC Entry 97 - Character History

I have somewhat painted myself into a corner with my last story.

Sure, everyone is back. Keram is racing to return to Anoikis to see whether Alira is ok, Cedrien is doing his political games with Arclight alliance, Alira and Sylera have recovered from their coma and found that they are bonded by the experience, Shisei is catching up with his old friends in Caldari State.

The problem is, I had Sandrielle be returned to her old home: The Hive.

Nobody ever escapes from The Hive. They can not be bargained or reasoned with. They are the ultimately dedicated fanatics. Hell, Sansha Kuvakei looks nice in comparison to those guys.

So, apart from writing a character off or coming up with some extremely unrealistic deus ex machina, I have no idea how I could get Sandrielle out of that clinch.

So while I make up my mind and find some way for this situation to resolve itself, I am taking a break from the current narrative to deal a bit with the past.

Since we are on the subject, it's going to be Sandrielle's past.

The one that had always been shrouded in mystery.

Where does she come from. What happened between her and The Hive? How did she escape? Where did she get all that sophisticated martial arts training and her abilities to manipulate people?

Those are questions which never got answered so far, and I thought it would be fun to go down that road for a while.

So, there I go, shedding some light on to that character's history.

I hope you enjoy it.

Credit for the artwork goes to Lisa Liang

22 - Metamorphosis - Part 1


23 years ago ...

Bhikkuni Kalsang steered the convent's old ground-effect vehicle around the forested outcropping which lay between her and the plume of smoke she and her sisters had spotted earlier this morning. The wizened Intaki woman had seen enough forest fires to know that this was not one. The smoke was too dark and too dense for burning wood. So she had gathered a group of four younger sisters – among them Ayang who had an aptitude with technology unsurpassed by any other – and went out to investigate.

Once the unstably floating old transport vehicle had completed it's detour around the natural obstacle, the five women encountered a scenery of singular devastation. Trees had been snapped like they were mere twigs, rocks had been shattered and small fires were smouldering everywhere. The swath of destruction formed a convenient path to follow to the source of the acrid clouds which darkened the sky ahead. Several hundred meters down the scar in the lush landscape of Intaki V they found it: A twisted and shattered mass of metal, solar panels and composite materials. It was a spaceship. Not a large one by any means, nothing larger than a frigate. With it's wings broken into translucent shards and the bent metal fuselage, it looked like a gigantic mangled insect.

Bhikkuni Kalsang was by no means knowledgeable about such things, but Ayang immediately called out when she saw it 'It is an interceptor! A Stiletto or Claw class frigate of Minmatar design!' Kalsang nodded, satisfied that she had brought the young disciple along. Although the order did not concern itself with worldly matters, it encouraged study among it's members, and Ayang had focused mostly on the technology of interstellar travel and the engineering of starships.

The Intaki nun veered the rickety floating vehicle around the wreckage and set it down at a suitable spot as close as possible to the burning remnants of the fighter craft. The younger women left the vehicle before she could heave herself from the driver's seat. Gentle Tenyu gave her a hand and Kalsang smiled thankfully at the girl.

Ayang was the first to approach the crashed spacecraft. Before she could even get close enough to need her breathing filter for protection against the smoke, she stopped in her tracks and pointed at the wreckage. 'Look sisters' the young woman shouted to her companions.

The other women respectfully kept pace with Bhikkuni Kalsang as she approached carefully. Once she had arrived at a point close enough to see, the old Intaki looked in the direction her young disciple pointed to.

Where the main hull had broken open, a rounded shape lay split among the remains of the fuselage. Inside the seed-like shell, a smaller kernel of transparent composite material was slowly leaking a viscous fluid from several cracks, and within that, a human body floated suspended in the same liquid.

A woman's body by the looks of it.

Bhikkuni Kalsang moved closer, helped along by one of her disciples, and pulled the respirator over her face to protect herself against the toxic smoke that rose from the burning wreckage.

As a nun of the Ida she lived in seclusion, but she knew enough of the world to recognise what she saw. 'It is a capsuleer.' she whispered with surprise in her voice.

'What is a capsuleer?' disciple Tenyu asked. Despite being very knowledgeable in medicine, that girl had come from a very sheltered home and knew little about the outside world.

'A human being who has sacrificed their spiritual rebirth to become one with a machine.' the old nun replied. 'They live inside their spaceships and have gained unnatural immortality through the use of technology.'

Ayang, followed by Keioki – the Achura convert – climbed carefully into the ship to inspect the capsule.

Ayang found an instrument panel that had miraculously survived the crash. It showed lifesigns on it's flickering display.'I think she is still alive!' she called out, her voice muffled by the respirator which she was now wearing.

“We must get her out of there.” Kalsang said and then addressed the disciples beside her. 'Tenyu, Lahoi bring the toolboxes from our transport.'

Apprehensively she looked over the red and green markings of the crashed ship. She noticed the spiny, multi-legged form of an ebailla insect, almost invisible under a layer or soot. It was an instrument of warfare, and the markings looked threatening. Bhikkuni Kalsang hoped they did the right thing by rescuing that crashed capsuleer 'May the ancestors be with us.' she muttered under her breath.

***

Bhikkuni Kalsang was still straining her mind to come up with an explanation for this whole situation while she looked at the girl moaning and writhing on her bed in the recovery room. Tenyu knelt beside the young capsuleer and dabbed sweat from her brow with a cloth.

'She has bad dreams.' the disciple said with a concerned look on her face.

'Not surprising.' Kalsang thought. 'She must have endured horrible things. Who would do such things to a young girl like that.'

When they had taken the capsuleer from her ship she was in a deep coma that she had not woken from in the five days since they had found her. When the nuns inspected her for injuries, they found scars and burn-marks all over the girl's body. Some of them looked so old that they must have been inflicted on her years ago. Someone had abused and tortured that poor girl for a long time.

Her features looked Gallente, and she would be pretty if it weren't for a hard cast to her features which spoke of hardships, both physical and emotional. She was not much older than the youngest initiates of the convent, but there was nothing girlish about her. Her lean body looked more like that of a stray animal than that of a girl.

'Who turns children into capsuleers like that?' Kalsang asked herself.

Suddently, with a scream, the capsuleer girl rose from the mattress and opened her eyes.

With the panicked expression of a caged beast she looked around herself quickly. Then, without a moment of hesitation, the girl grabbed a pair of scissors from the small, low table beside her bed and hurled herself at Tenyu with a feral growl.

The attack was savage but still dangerously well executed. This girl knew how to fight and kill. Tenyu would have ended up with the scissors lodged deep in her throat if it weren't for the nun's own martial training. Thanks to that, she reacted quickly. Tenyu sidestepped the attack, caught the girl's wrist and spun downward dragging the attacker with her while sweeping the legs from under the capsuleer while she turned.

With another scream the capsuleer girl crashed into the ground and ended up with her arm twisted onto her back and Tenyu pushing a knee into the small of her back to hold her down.

Kalsang stood up with a sigh and walked over to kneel down beside the girl who squirmed and screamed under Tenyu's hold. The younger nun looked pleadingly at her elder, clearly at loss how she should deal with this obviously disturbed young capsuleer.

'Please, calm down.' Kalsang begged the girl who hissed and spat at her. 'We mean you no harm.' the old Intaki continued. 'We rescued you from your wrecked ship.' she added.

The girl seemed to calm down a bit, or maybe she had just exhausted herself. 'My name is Kalsang, I am a Bhikkuni, a practitioner of the way of Ida.' the old woman said calmly. 'Would you like to tell me who you are?'

'There is no me.' the girl growled back at her. 'There is only the swarm of The Hive and it will come and kill all of you and burn your whole planet.' The last words were delivered with such a conviction that Kalsang felt a momentary chill crawl down her spine. With a sad expression she stood up and walked over to the medicine cabinet at the far wall of the small chamber. She retrieved a sedative injector and returned to place it against the girl's neck.

'It is better for you to sleep some more. Maybe we can talk once you wake up again.' Kalsang said and pressed the release.

Tenyu rose when the girl finally relaxed under her. 'What was she talking about? What is that Hive she mentioned?' the young Bhikkuni asked with a troubled expression.

Kalsang looked at her disciple earnestly. 'When I went to town last time to get supplies, there was an information bulletin about them. When I saw the symbol on her crashed ship I recognized it. The Hive is a group of capsuleer terrorists who have killed thousands of innocents recently.'

Tenyu looked at her elder aghast. 'Then she is very dangerous. We should bring her to the city and give her to the authorities.'

Kalsang shook her head. 'No, that would only make matters worse.' She looked down at the sedated capsuleer on the floor. 'This poor young girl has endured too much already. We have to heal her.'

Tenyu looked puzzled. 'But her injuries are healed and she has clearly recovered her strength.'

'Not her body my dear sister.' Kalsang said. 'We must heal her spirit.'

22 - Metamorphosis - Part 2



15 years ago ...

Bhikkuni Kalsang watched her young trainee while she was perched cross-legged on a rock. At moments like these she had to think back to the early days after they had found the girl. She had been strong even back then. Marked by abuse and neglect, but hardened by a life that few children ever had to endure, and fewer still would survive. The feral strength of her then lean teenage body had been cultivated over the years into the lethal grace of the young woman who now performed her training sequence under Kalsang's scrutinizing gaze.

Just like her body had matured and redeveloped, so had her mind. Back when they found the girl she was a savage creature. Very much like the insect which The Hive - her abductors - used as it's symbol she had no sense of self and a boundless aggression against everything that did not belong to her “swarm”. The weeks and months which followed her recovery from the crashed ship had been difficult, both for the girl and the sisters. More than one sister got injured because of the girl's ceaseless attempts to break free or at least hurt her caretakers. So much work had gone into healing the ravaged spirit of that stranded young capsuleer, but eventually they had managed to soothe her pain and free her mind from the harsh lessons imprinted on it by The Hive.

They had named her Keitu - the Intaki word for comet - because she did not remember any name of her own. The Hive had taken that from her too. The sisters taught her how to be a person again, and when she finally became an individual in her own right, she turned out to be a quick learner.

One good thing had come from the things which The Hive had done to Keitu at a young age: They had erased everything that she was before, emptied her completely and created within her a single-minded determination to dedicate herself fully to any task at hand. Once the sisterhood had broken the chains which The Hive had forged to bind this girl, she became an eager and quick learner due to this conditioning. Philosophy, martial arts, medicine, the art of psycho linguistics; whatever Keitu was taught, she picked it up at a speed that was almost prodigious. 

Right now, however, the young woman's actions interrupted Kalsang's reverie. The old Intaki spiritualist tapped her cane three times against the rock she was perched on. Keitu stopped in the middle of her sequence of movements. The evening breeze picked up and made the long grass of the forest clearing move like the surf of the sea. The trees all around rustled and groaned as they were moved by the sudden gust of wind, and Keitu's black hair swirled about her head as she turned to face her teacher.

'Stop!' Bhikkuni Kalsang commanded. 'What did I tell you about the form of the moon emerging from behind the parting clouds?'

Keitu relaxed her stance. 'That it should be executed in one fluid movement without any pause.' the young Gallente woman replied.

'Right. And what did you do right there?' Kalsang asked.

'I paused, my sister.' Keitu said humbly.

Slowly Kalsang slid off the rock. The years had taken their toll on the old Bhikkuni, but what the years had taken, experience and long training had done their best to compensate. With an agility well beyond what one would expect from a woman her age, Kalsang began the sequence and executed it slowly but faultlessly. 'The movement of the arms should be like swimming through the air, while your body moves forward. The power of the movement comes from the legs, and when your arms move backwards you settle your weight. Like this.' Kalsang stopped and touched her disciple to guide her through the movement. 'Do not use the strength of your arms to pull back, have them follow your weight as it settles into your root.' The old woman frowned momentarily. 'You are so tense Keitu. What is on your mind that distracts you so much?'

The dark haired Gallente stepped away from her teacher and bowed her head. 'Sister.' she said 'My mind is occupied with an announcement I saw in town.' 

Kalsang raised a thin white eyebrow and a map of wrinkles appeared on her forehead. 'Tell me about it girl.'

The olive-skinned Gallente closed her eyes and lapsed into a recall trance. Even her voice was modulated to almost sound like the recorded announcement she had seen on a holoprojector downtown.

'Intaki people. The savage and inhumane capsuleers of The Hive have invaded your homeland, the Intaki Syndicate. Those mindless killers have slaughtered hundreds and thousands of your kin. The Serpentis enforcers you tolerate, the Mordu's Legion mercenaries you hire, your own defense force. All of them are powerless against this threat. We are the capsuleers of the Rasen Zoku. We are your only hope against The Hive. Join our crews! Man our ships, and we shall liberate you from the terror of The Hive.'

Keitu stopped the recital, opened her eyes again and looked at her old instructor.

Kalsang exhaled slowly and shook her head. 'You think that by joining with those capsuleers you will set things right?' she asked. 'Have you learned nothing during the years with us?'

'No sister.' Keitu answered. 'It is not for my own peace that I want to do this.' She knelt before the old Intaki and grasped her wrinkled hands. 'You already gave me that peace. You have made me a person. You gave me a name. You taught me many things. But now I feel the need to repay my debt.' she looked down and tears rolled over her smooth dusky face. 'I feel like I owe so much to the Intaki way of life. I can not stand by to let the Intaki people be ravaged by the ones who took everything from me.' Pleadingly she looked up into the face of the venerable Bhikkuni. 'Who will be there to save the likes of me if The Hive wins?' Desperately she shook her head. 'I must do this.'

Bhikkuni Kalsang looked deep into the black eyes of that young Gallente woman she had poured so much of her knowledge and her wisdom into over all those years. She remembered the day that the teenage girl she once was had first embraced her, wracked by deep sobs. Kalsang remembered the laughter she enjoyed when Keitu had first managed to even sway her own mind with the perfectly chosen words and appropriate modulation of her voice, proving that she had mastered the art of psycho-linguistics. She remembered how impressed she felt when she had seen what Keitu could do in spaceship fighting simulations, and the incredible progress the Gallente girl had made in martial arts training.

Finally Bhikkuni Kalsang nodded. 'If this is what you must do, then it shall be.' she helped the young woman up. 'Walk with me back to the convent. You should spend one last supper with your sisters to say goodbye.'


The present day

'You must be kidding Cedrien.' Keram transmitted across the communications link. 'That wormhole entrance will maybe last another hour at most.' Nervously the Amarrian looked at the timer displayed before his mind's eye. 'If we get cut off we will be stranded out here in the ass end of nowhere. Do you have any idea how far away from everything Omist region is?'

'All I know is, that it's pretty close to Tenerifis, and that's where Rasenzoku make their home these days.' Cedrien replied across the communications link.

'Yeah great.' Keram growled back. 'So if we actually find them before being shot to pieces by a bunch of local capsuleers, they might actually hear us out before podding us. Is that your plan?'

'Since when are you the one to be so risk averse?' Cedrien taunted.

'Since we are sitting in the middle of a warp disruption bubble with nothing but two frigates, in the name of the empress' tits.' Keram shot back.

Space around them seemed empty. The ancient gate that had been built centuries ago as part of a long line of connections back to settled space, floated in space more than a hundred kilometers away.

Some local capsuleer pilots had anchored a warp disruption field generator right at a point where it would drag passing ships into it's artificial gravity well. A standard trap in the outer regions of New Eden where the Yulai Convention served only one purpose: To register the official claim of capsuleers to dominion over an unsettled system. This particular one was claimed by a group calling themselves The Southern Cross, and it was the choke point between their claimed space and the handful of systems Rasenzoku called their home these days.

Systems like this one were highly contested. Capsuleer alliances kept fighting over such strategic points on the map of New Eden. Wars on a massive scale would start in such places.

Aware of the danger, the two wormhole capsuleers had taken small frigates out to this remote region through a convenient portal into New Eden. With the recent losses Awakened Industries had endured, it would be reckless to risk a full crew compliment in something that might possibly be a suicide mission.

When more than a dozen combat ships suddenly appeared on their sensor scan after hours of waiting, it seemed like that was exactly what this was going to turn out to be.

Only seconds later the combat squad appeared within fighting distance and began to establish sensor locks on the two frigates they found inside the warp-disruption field.

Unsurprisingly the incoming ships carried the sun-and crucifix markings of Southern Cross.

Keram resigned to a quick death and inwardly cursed his commander, but then a new ship appeared on his tactical scan and ripped open a tunnel through the space-time continuum. A new force seemingly appeared out of nowhere shortly after.

The squadron of advanced black ops ships which emerged bore other markings. Their hulls were coloured metallic blue with stylized white spirals. As Keram and Cedrien maneuvered to avoid incoming fire, a storm of destruction broke loose that blotted out the light of the local sun. The carnage was over in minutes with the spiral-marked ships being the only ones left on the field.

Again the two wormhole capsuleers became the targets. Gallente designed recon ships rendered their warpdrives inert and flooded their sensor systems. Minmatar vessels enveloped them with powerful strands of electromagnetic energy to slow their ships down.

Keram was expecting the wrenching sensation of clone transfer, but it never came.

'Who are you? What are you doing here, and why are you marked as allies on my targeting overview in the first place?' a harsh voice with an Intaki accent demanded.

'We are friends of Sandrielle Jaunes'. Cedrien replied on the hailing frequency. 'We hoped to meet you.'

'What do you want of the Rasen Zoku?' the disembodied voice asked.

'We are looking for help.' Cedrien answered. 'We need help to rescue Sandrielle from The Hive.'


22 - Metamorphosis - Part 3



15 years ago ...

'Hello, my name is Tenshin. You don't look Intaki. Are you from here?' The young man strapped into the seat next to Keitu smiled with his thin but smoothly curved lips and his narrow eyes reflected the smile with a dark glint.

This look in his eyes made something stir inside of Keitu. Something she had never felt before in exactly that way. It tingled most pleasantly. Almost enough to make her forget that she was not Keitu anymore.

She made herself remember that she now was a Gallente woman called Sandrielle Jaunes. That woman was a capsuleer too. Unlike herself, that woman had not survived being shot down in her craft. It had been long ago, in a time when more errors happened with capsule technology than today. The transfer system of that unfortunate capsuleer had malfunctioned when her ship had crashed on the planet below. Her body remained dead and but her mind was caught in a timed-out transfer buffer. A forgotten casualty of an insignificant border skirmish with the Caldari State which was swept under the rug by political interests at the time. Back then, the two interstellar nations were formally at an uneasy peace, and the Gallente government had – as of yet – no interest in letting the conflict flare up.

Thus politics had made a missing person out of Sandrielle Jaunes.

Since all official records had been buried, it had fallen to the Ida nuns to preserve the capsuleer infomorph of the Gallente woman for many years, since it was part of their belief system that a spirit should not be allowed to die, even if the physical body had. It did not matter to the nuns' faith whether the spirit in question was something abstract or something that could be stored on a wetware mainframe.

So, when the time of Keitu's departure came, they made it a gift to her, and thereby gave that spirit a new lease of life.

The whole night before Keitu said her last goodbyes and took the road into town one last time, she had been linked to the datastore which held the capsuleer's mind. Through her own neural interface, she absorbed all of what had been Sandrielle Jaunes: Her youth as ambitious girl in a strongly patriotic family. Her enlistment with the Federation Navy, motivated by a profound conviction and idealism, and of course the prelude to her death when she confronted Caldari Militia capsuleers in the then increasingly secessionist Intaki Syndicate.

'My name is Sandrielle.' she replied with a truthfulness that had been ingrained to the point where it became reflexive. 'You are right. I am Gallente. But I want to support the cause of the Intaki.'

The young Intaki man – if at all, then not much older than Sandrielle herself – seemed to dwell on the smooth lines of her neck to a degree that made her feel uncomfortable and excited at the same time. The tingling sensation increased and filled her with a strange warmth that welled up from below.

'What is it?' she asked. Uncertain what else she could – or should – say when Tenshin's gaze met her eyes.

'It's just …' the bronze skinned young man now looked over her face in a slightly impressed way, and Sandrielle felt like blushing.

She decided it must be because they had broken atmosphere and were now floating in open space aboard this personnel transport she shared with a hundred other volunteers who had come from the small town close to the convent to sign up with the Rasenzoku capsuleers, to defend their home.

'You have those implants. You are a capsuleer!' Tenshin said.

Sandrielle could see how he tried to regain composure. The awareness training of the Ida order had taught her to read the most subtle hints of body language and minutiae of change in facial expressions or voice. She noticed his increased depth and decreased frequency of breath. A sign of someone trying to compensate for excitement. There were signs of a conscious effort to relax the eyelids, so as to not make an appearance of fear or astonishment. Finally there was that clearly forced but yet deliberately casual smile.

'And you are beautiful.' the Intaki added.

Sandrielle sighed inwardly. Really? Had he taken all that effort to seem in control just to deliver that line?! She had to smile nevertheless and found it endearing in an amusingly clumsy way.

'Thank you.' she said and now allowed herself to blush. She had been taught how to react strategically to play off of the expectations of another person, but this was not quite what she did here. It made her feel strangely exhilarated to see the boy's smile beam when she responded to his flattery in this way.
'It must be the feeling of being back in open space again after so long.' she thought.

'I have always been dedicated to the Federation's cause, and for me the Intaki deserve the same support as all of us.' Sandrielle sidetracked the conversation and composed herself with a subtle breathing exercise. 'Unfortunately the Gallente Federation does not want to get officially involved in a conflict with capsuleers, so I decided to volunteer to join the Rasenzoku.'

Tenshin nodded. 'I am sure they can use a capsuleer like you.'

He frowned slightly and looked down. 'I am just a crewman with experience in navigating long-range hauling ships.'

He faced Sandrielle again and smiled at her in a way that she found very fetching. 'Maybe I could become a crewman on your ship.' enthusiastically he grabbed her hand. 'I am sure they will give you your own ship.'

Sandrielle was suddenly forced to remember the nameless girl she had been before the nuns rescued her, and the destroyed girl she had been before that. Back when the Hive took her.

She cast her eyes down. 'Maybe.' she said somberly.

Poisonous memories now quenched the warmth and the tingling inside of her, but when she looked up again and saw the light in the handsome boy's dark eyes, she still smiled, and the warmth inside of her slowly rekindled.


The present day ...

'Any friend of Sandrielle will always be welcome on my ship.' the Intaki commander said as he shook hands with Cedrien and Keram. 'Please have a seat.'

The commander's quarters were small and cramped. Nothing like the spacious suites Cedrien knew from similar ships that were in service with the Gallente Navy. Of course, judging from the implants that were visible at the base of the dark haired man's skull, the commander was a capsuleer and therefore not in need of much in terms of personal shipboard comforts. Still, most capsuleer pilots were self-indulgent enough to set aside the best quarters on any ship they flew, just in case they wanted to meet someone in person or just unwind while there was nothing better to do.

It was very obvious, though, that this recon cruiser was first and foremost a warship.

Even inside, it bore the scars of battles.

They had passed through corridors where some of the lighting didn't work. Much of the ship's interiour structure looked like it had been subjected to recent and very haphazard repairs. Every available space they had seen while on board had been crammed full of ammunition, backup systems and unassembled combat drones. If not that, surplus space had been rededicated to fit heavy armour and bulkhead reinforcements. Damage control systems were distributed throughout every section of the ship and the crew had been reduced to a bare minimum as usual on a capsuleer controlled vessel.

The Intaki commander looked like a reflection of his own ship in human form. Once he must have been a handsome young man, but the memories of many hard fights had drawn deep lines into his features. Long deployments in space had made him look thin, almost haggard, in appearance.

'My name is Tenshin Noy, Recon Commander Second Class of the Rasen Zoku and I am an old friend of Sandrielle myself.' the Intaki said after seating himself behind the small desk of the ready-room. 'Probably even more than a friend, if anyone could claim to have come that close to that woman.' he added with a wistful smile.

Cedrien stroked his beard and raised a brow. 'I have been aware that Sandrielle had friends within Rasenzoku. I never knew it was that personal.'

'So you been shagging her when she was younger and even hotter?' Keram asked rhetorically. 'Lucky bastard.' the Amarrian added with envious emphasis.

'Lucky in more ways than one.' Commander Noy replied with a smirk. 'Sandrielle provided the Rasen Zoku with inside knowledge about the Hive. Knowledge that helped us drive them out of the Intaki Syndicate space back then.' he explained. 'She also made it look in a way that much of the credit went to me. Thanks to her the Rasen Zoku made me a capsuleer and Recon Commander.'

He sighed then. 'Unfortunately luck left us not long after she did.' Tenshin Noy paused there as if he was considering to elaborate on the reasons why Sandrielle left the capsuleer alliance.

He decided against it and continued. 'We drove the offensive onward against the Hive. We thought we had already beaten them.' The Intaki frowned and the lines on his face seemed to deepen. 'In our arrogance we declared ourselves the victors of that war, and indeed, we had liberated the Intaki people from the threat of the Hive. Like many other Intaki who had joined, I considered that a genuine success.'

Tenshin Noy pressed his lips together to a thin line. 'But as we pressed further into the depths of Cloud Ring we got surrounded by their numbers without even realizing it.'

Tenshin Noy paused as if reliving those painful memories. 'Only a few of us got out of there. The Hive did not just destroy our ships. They boarded them and took both crews and capsuleers. Those they could not turn were executed. Now all that remains is a nomadic fleet of scavengers with no space to call their home.'

'Still...' he drew himself up and opened his arms. 'I owe much, if not all, of what I have achieved to Sandrielle Jaunes.' Commander Noy leaned forward on his desk and looked at the two Awakened Industries capsuleers intensely. 'Now, you say she has been captured again by the Hive.' his jaw clenched. 'You do know that it is highly likely that she is already dead?'

Cedrien nodded. 'Yes, we are aware.' he gestured sharply when Keram opened his mouth to interject. 'We also owe a lot to Sandrielle. I don't expect you to know what life beyond New Eden is like, but trust me when I tell you that for us out there, every single person counts, and while we see a possibility to help them, we will not abandon them.'

Recon Commander Noy smiled sadly. 'I can understand the way you feel about this Captain Roucellis, and I would be prepared to lay down my life if I knew it would save Sandrielle.' he shook his head then. 'But what can I, what can all of the Rasen Zoku even, do against the power of the Hive?'

'Oh don't worry.' Keram said with a broad grin. 'We've got a plan. It's crazy …' he shrugged, but then narrowed his eyes mischievously. '… but believe me, they wont see that one coming.'

15 Sep 2013

OOC Entry 96 - The Gallente as Bad Guys



What comes to mind first when you hear Gallente? Democracy? Multiculturalism? Hedonistic lifestyle? Organic-looking green spaceships? Exotic dancers?

Probably a few of those things and then some.

There wont be many people who will think of the Gallente as sinister, duplicitous and self-righteous to a level where they become relentless killers. However, since New Eden is a setting of Grey and Gray Morality there is of course a dark side to this mixture of US-American parliamentary democracy and French culture - in space.

The example that stands out most is the Gallente - Caldari war.

Not only would the Gallente not allow the Caldari to go their own way, they even initiated a massive bombing campaign of Caldari Prime. The reason, and justification, for this indiscriminate bombardment of a planet which the Caldari were trying to evacuate and leave anyway was a terrorist attack on the underwater city Nouvelle Rouvenor which was attributed to Caldari separatists. The whole operation served no actual military purpose. It was pure ideologically motivated retribution.



I am sure New Eden had (and has) it's own brand of "911Truth" conspiracy theorists who would suggest that the Nouvelle Rouvenor attack was a false flag operation to get popular support for the war. After all, the Gallente are not above duplicitous operations where they will even hire capsuleers to kill Federation Navy ships to get rid of a war monument where Caldari come to commemorate.

One of my own favourite examples of just how ruthlessly calculating the Gallente can be when it comes to violence is the Methods of Torture chronicle. Apart from the pretty nasty torture in the story, the implications of what they are doing it for are particularly chilling.


The anatomy of Gallente evil

Apart from providing a basis for enjoyably sinister plots and characters, one might wonder why the Gallente are particularly devious and covert about the bad things they do. I would propose it is exactly because of their otherwise very positive culture and image. A regime like the Amarr Empire would not have a reason to hide it's cruelty. Much of it would be conducted quite publicly as a deterrent against deviation and because the Amarr at least partially base their society on a divine mandate. There would be little reason for a faithful Amarrian to question harsh practices to punish deviants or enemies. Another example, the Caldari, are both highly militaristic and also very darwinistic in their outlook. While they would probably not stand for violent action that hurts the bottom line, they would generally be way too pragmatic to have ethics enter into the equation.

The Gallente, on the other hand, have a reason to uphold their positive image. The citizens of the Federation need to believe that their government - and by extension they themselves - are doing the right thing. Otherwise there would be no coordinated resistance against possible external threats. Also, the government, and the whole powerstructure that exists around it, would find itself without popular support if it were to deviate from it's role too much.

During the first Gallente-Caldari war, there was an extreme-right-wing government in power, but that only existed by the grace of the half-million dead of Nouvelle Rouvenor. Without that cause which supported the righteousness of action against the Caldari, most Gallente would very likely have returned to hanging out in fancy caf├ęs and watching holoreels rather than going to war against their former brothers and sisters. That does show, however, that the Gallente are well prepared to set their high ideals aside for the sake of what they view as a way of defending them.

The carefully maintained positive self-image of the Gallente is exactly what enables them to commit extreme acts of violence against others. They feel justified by the "knowledge" that they are doing it for the "right reasons". They manage to rationalize and externalize any atrocities committed in the name of freedom. In the minds of the citizenship such extreme measures are only a temporary and necessary evil to overcome adversity, not a general state of affairs or part of their identity.

In the meantime the Gallente have been engaged in a second war with the Caldari (this time the Caldari actually shot first), have conducted operations of extreme prejudice against the Amarr, created a secret state agency specialized on black ops and are not even above retributive action against their Minmatar allies when they act with a typical lack of diplomatic finesse.

So things are far from love, peace and holoreels in the Gallente Federation.


Using the material

In my writings I like to play with stereotypes in many ways. Quite obviously Cedrien is the archetypical Good Guy Gallente who would choose exile rather than following orders and go against his ideals (which are after all the ones that the Federation is supposed to be founded on). Sandrielle represents the dark side of the Gallente although she has been shaped by a life among the capsuleers of null-security space which is arguably much harsher than life in the Gallente Federation would be. The way she conducts her dirty business, though, is still very Gallente. She is aware of the evil that she does and therefore tries to hide it as much as possible. In that way she is comparable to The Operative in Serenity (The Alliance in the Firefly world as a whole could actually be compared with the Gallente Federation).

In other works of fan-fiction, writers have used the theme of the dark side of the Gallente, so writers are definitely aware of it and like to play with it. This often makes for particularly interesting stories because it subverts the stereotype and shows an aspect of the world that is not commonplace.

It also serves to create a pleasurably chilling reading experience. After all, what good is there left in the world if even the Gallente who make the most popular softdrink, entertainment and food of New Eden are also evil bastards.

I was long planning to write a story in which the Gallente Federation are the main antagonist. So far the Amarr and the Minmatar were featured [*] Apart from the mercenary leader Commodore Sivaata and the conniving trader Mikkai Aluvetti I left the Caldari out so far, but they make great individual antagonists which - I feel - serves them well because they are a very single-minded lot in general.

One thing I know for sure: A story with Gallente antagonists will have to be sinister and unsettling to work properly. Nothing of the likes of the uncompromisingly self-righteous actions of the Amarr or the desperate measures of Republic Intelligence.

I will have to work hard to come up with a good one for that to make it a story which does the dark side of the Gallente justice.

***

[*]  I really liked deconstructing the stereotype of the Minmatar as straightforward "warrior race" guys by having them use covert assets.

10 Sep 2013

OOC Entry 95 - All similarities are possibly coincidental

Hello readers.

When I stopped playing EVE, I decided I want to go and see something of the world. So, now that I am sufficiently physically recovered for a hiking trip, I spent some time on the picturesque island of Corsica.

That meant that any blogging activity went right out the window because I didn't have any computer with me - a situation that is unfamiliar for me when I look back at the last two decades or so and also weirdly liberating .

On the other hand, I did have enough time to think about where my story should go, and when I arrived back home this morning I didn't even unpack but sat down and wrote a whole new chapter in one go.

Since I didn't take as much time developing the writing, I hope I haven't put too many grammatical mistakes into it. Usually I end up finding quite a few of those even after proofreading the piece three times and then re-reading it after it's published.

I hope you can forgive me for sometimes doing terrible things to the English language.

With this chapter, all the main protagonists have come back on stage, and both Sandrielle's fate and the nature of The Hive are further developed.

Of course, since you are familiar with the big players in EVE, you probably wont miss some similarities between this fictional organisation and two major in-game alliances.

One of the two alliances I used as a reference is particularly interesting because it presented me with the challenge to come up with an in-universe analogy of recruiting players from outside of the in-game community.

Avid readers with knowledge of the French language will maybe also notice the thing I did there with the alliance logo of The Hive ;)

Also, there is a reference to an in-joke I used to have with (some of) my corpmates in the scene with Sandrielle. If any of them reads this they'll probably get it, but it's not a problem if you don't, it doesn't make the scene any less meaningful.

As for the story development, I thought I will close "Re-Awakening" with this chapter and continue the narrative in a second story. That's mostly because my way of reverse-dating the chapters to get them into the right order ends up concentrating a lot of posts in the past, and I want to come to a fresh start in the present rather than having a count of 20 posts in June.

Other than that, the title of the story  would not fit the continuation of the story. Now everyone is re-awakened and other things will happen which will follow a very different theme.

So, I hope I can keep you engaged in the story, and as always, any comments are welcome.

P.S. My thanks go out to all the people who were so kind as to contribute to getting me my present. Those books have been a source of enjoyment and inspiration on my travels and on evenings at home.

13 Aug 2013

OOC Entry 94 - GoonNews.com doesn't like me

I was never a "forum warrior". I think my total comments on EVE-O in the three years I have played the game can be counted on one hand. I hardly ever engaged in commenting on EN24 or TheMittani either. I think I might have written a handful of comments here or there.

Today I read a rather interesting article on TheMittani, and I wanted to ask there how the author got their nice maps together. To my surprise I got the message "You are not allowed to post in this thread."

Now, it is no secret that I am not a friend of the GSF, although I do have a certain grudging respect for them. Still, there are other people out there who have been much more offensive in their blogging and posting against the Goons. Are they all banned too?

I am operating a web-proxy through my IP, and I know of one person who plays EVE who makes use of it, but he actually likes the Goons and he's generally a rather nice guy who doesn't post very aggressively, so I doubt he would have posted anything on TheMittani which they could find offensive enough to ban this IP.

I know there are people out there who have all kinds of conspiracy theories about Goons and how they have a "secret police" and all that. While I am of the opinion that they are engaged in systematic internal brainwashing of eachother, I really doubt that they actually trace IP adresses of posters and bloggers who are agitating against them and then ban them from posting on TheMittani.

So, the whole thing is a great mystery to me.

I was considering to write an email to TheMittani staff to ask how that ban came to be, but some sort of (probably false) sense of dignity prevents me from doing that. The last thing I want to come across as is some person begging at TheMittani to be allowed to post at their site.

Maybe curiosity will win out eventually. Or maybe I just will stop caring (I did find out that everything works fine if I use my neighbour's open WiFi).

What I mostly would like to know is what it all means, and I don't know if anybody who reads the emails sent to TheMittani would even know, and if they do, maybe the reason really does have  something to do with an actual worldwide Goon conspiracy.

If that were the case, I doubt they would tell me the truth :)

Then again, maybe someone has managed to go through my proxy and leave no traces while offending the moderators of TheMittani (actually the scariest thought of them all).

In any case, it's a conundrum, and I like those.

It also provided me with a reason for a rather random blog post.

Things could be worse :)

9 Aug 2013

OOC Entry 93 - Past Nightmares

I just published the next chapter of my newest story and the plot thickens.

I have deliberated quite a bit here. How extreme I should get with this episode which features part of Sandrielle's nightmarish past? I already had ideas of cannibalism and quite horrible sexual torture involving minors.

I must have been channelling Hiroaki Samura's Bradherley's Coach

In the end I decided to make it significantly less gruesome. After all, I don't want my blog to get banned!

It did occur to me, that I should probably put some sort of age warning on the whole thing. Not that I expect anyone who doesn't play EVE to find it, but you never know, Google indexes everything.

I guess it would not really serve the purpose of keeping minors away - after all, which 13 year old will be deterred by a warning that basically says "attention really gross and scary stuff inside?"

I reckon the whole thing is just for the purpose of protection against anyone who would find this blog and have some issue with it. Then I could point at the warning and say "But look, it says that it's not suitable for minors. It's not my fault that your child is now a nervous wreck after reading that."

I'll put that age warning there now, just in case.

For those of you who are mature enough to deal with scary stories, and who don't mind having your imagination taken to dark places. I hope you enjoy how the story goes on.

The episode ends with a really beautiful and emotional scene BTW, so it's not all dark and horrible.