Monday, April 19, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Deep Space Scanner Probes

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contribution for the latest prompt: Deep Space Scanner Probes

“...your chances of finding a system that big are pretty small.  And even if you do, just pop out several combat probes or regular core probes.  There's no need for a deep space probe.”

The rookie wished he hadn't mentioned he was considering sinking twelve training days in Astrometrics V just to use deep space core probes.  Now the veteran pilot wouldn't stop talking.

“If you want to train Astrometrics to five, by all means go ahead, but it is a waste just to say you can use a deep space probe.  If you're going to train it, then go for being a real prober and train all the other probing skills to five.  Training only Astrometrics to five is stupid.”

The rookie couldn't argue with the veteran's logic, but he didn't want to vest that much time in training for probes.

“Deep space probes are for stupid people.  Its more probes to carry, more probes to load, more launching and recalling, all while you are being hunted.  Its no good.  But if you want to spend 12 days to find that out, go ahead.”

The rookie wanted to argue back, but he didn't dare.  What could he say?  That he just wanted to train for something new to break up the boredom of polishing other skills to five?  No way.  He knew he'd look like some sort of grade school kid wasting this veteran's time.

“It would be much better to get into a specialized probing ship.  Spend your time on that.  But not on a stupid deep space probe no one uses.  Got your tech 2 drones yet?  Got your gun skills maxed?  Those will save your ass more than some stupid deep space probe.”

The rookie sat there quietly staring at his NeoCom, pondering why he'd thought deep space probes would be a good idea.  He removed Astrometrics V from his queue and added Surgical Strike V.

The veteran, sensing he'd got his point across, finished the rest of steaming drink and tossed the cup in the trash.  “I got that 'Gedden build ready for you.  Let's go fit one up and see what you can do with it.”

The rookie shot up out of his, seat glad to be free of veteran's lecture, eager to get into a new ship, and happy he hadn't blown his chance of remaining under the watchful eye of the veteran.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: If Only

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contribution for the latest prompt: If Only

Jol waited patiently as his comm unit dialed the call.  After a a few long seconds, the connection was made and he could hear kids playing in the background and video of a ceiling.  The view panned down violently, then settled on Gel's face, wide with a smile.

“Hey there, bro.” Jol happily said.

“Hi!  I wasn't expecting a call from you today.  How is my twin brother doing?” Gel replied.

“I'm doing good.  Got some downtime out of the pod.  Seems the Caldari are behaving themselves and not harassing our borders.  FEDNAVY HQ decided to take advantage and lighten up on the rotations, get some maintenance done, that kind of stuff.”

“You still flying that Mega or did you get a new Navy Issue Domi yet?  I worked on that design team you know.”

“I attended the briefing and put in a request to fly one.  It's pending on my upgrade in all of my drone training.   Gotta have top training in all of them before they'll let me fly one.  It's going to be a good 60 days before I'm done but I'll get into one, bro.  Don't you worry.”

“Hey, I wanted to thank you again for picking up Thersa's hospital stay.  She's still talking about it.  All the polite staff.  The vid stars she got to meet.  The hospital grounds were sooo relaxing.”

“Ah, you don't have to thank me.  Thank CONCORD and those poor Serpentis bastards who die at the end of my guns.”

Thersa stepped into view and placed a wiggling baby into Gel's arms.  She placed her hands on her husband's shoulders, leaned down into the camera and smiled at Jol.

“Hi Jol.  How are you?”

Jol could barely say anything.  God damn it she's still gorgeous.  Every bit as Henie was.

Jol forced himself back to reality and smiled back.  “I'm doing good.  Got some down time and thought I'd call to say hi, see how the new kid is doing.”

“Oh, she's doing great.  And thank you for yet another wonderful hospital stay.  Gel and I may have a fourth just so I can go back to the hospital.  It was wonderful.”

All three of them laughed at the crazy idea of enduring labor just to hob knob with vid stars and stay at a hospital that was more like a five star hotel.

Before Jol could say anything, Thersa continued.

“Ma and Papa said you spent the day with them on Henie's anniversary.  That was very sweet of you.”

Jol steeled himself at the emotions which were about to crash over him.  It had been some 10 years since the accident that killed her and took away his bride to be, ruining a wedding that would have seen twin brothers marrying twin sisters.

Jol wanted to say his usual quip that it was just CONCORD and Serpentis fools paying for his way through life.  But that was brother talk, pilot talk, alpha dog talk.  Thersa deserved better than that.

“You're welcome.” was all he said, but he meant it and Thersa knew it.  The moment had grown somber with the three of them remembering Henie's death on a routine surface-to-orbit shuttle flight.

A little head popped up on Jol's screen, blond hair covering blue eyes.  A toy of some type briefly flashed as it was dropped from a hand reaching for the edge of the table.

“Hi uncle Jol.”  said a small girls' voice.  Off in the distance could be heard a young boy shouting out “Uncle Jol!  Uncle Jol!” as he ran into the room to join in the call.

The mood picked up as it usually does when happy, easy going kids enter the conversation.  Jol and Gel, Thersa and the kids.  They all talked for 30 minutes about everything.  Jol was presented with a continual display of new toys and drawings from the kids.  Thersa discussed vacation plans designed to include Jol.  Gel talked about their parents and how they were doing.  Jol told stories of boring patrols that turned into 60 seconds of sheer pandemonium on contact with the Caldari patrols.  Everyone listened intently to his stories even though they'd already heard about it on the news.  Getting it first hand from a pilot was always more exciting than some press release read on the news.

As the call started to wind down, Jol snapped a few screen shots of his brother and family all together on the screen.  After the final goodbyes were said and the call ended, Jol brought up one of the pictures.

He stared at it for a long time.  It was like looking at himself in the life he should have had, he and Henie, living planet side with kids and a regular job at an engineering company, spending the weekends with their twin siblings, and having the same in-laws.  His eyes moistened at the sight of this perfect life completely out of reach.

If only Henie hadn't been killed in that accident.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Should You Be Doing That?

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contribution for the latest prompt: Should You Be Doing That?

Fethe sat at her console in the docking manager's ring deck.  She'd been a docking manager for 6 months now and had only been hired on because she agreed to take a post at a low sec station.  6 more months and she'd be done with her probationary period and could put in for assignments to another station of her choosing.  “Half way there” she thought.

Next to her sat Klept, a new docking manager who'd just started working today.  He obviously wasn't new at this job – he took to the controls, procedures and lingo like a fish to water.  They were the only two on duty in addition to the docking ring supervisor who was elsewhere, dealing with other issues.

A chime announced a ship landing on grid.  The docking control system assigned the ship to Klept in case it requested docking permission.  A few seconds lapsed as the ship dropped out of warp a few hundred meters within in the docking approach path and the station's tractor beam.  Fethe looked over at Klept's display and saw it was a blockade runner.

Another quiet shift.

The capsuleer piloting the blockade runner requested docking permission and the docking control system brought this to Klept's attention with both visual and audio notices.  Fethe expected a quick response from Klept to the request, but instead he changed the communication frequency.

The capsuleer placed another docking request on the new comm frequency, and Klept responded by requesting a security standing check.

“Should you be doing that?” Fethe asked Klept.

“Uh?  What, this?  It's nothing.” he responded.

“Then why are you doing it?”

“I'm just playing around with him.  These capsuleers are so full of themselves.”  His voice took on a mocking tone.  “Thinking they are immortal and can fly ships no one else can.”

“Well, that's not how the docking ring supervisor wants it done.”

“Look, you're obviously new to being a docking manager.  I've been doing this for a long time.  It's standard practice to mess around with these capsuleers.”

Fethe, disgusted at being talked down to, returned to her console.  “Well, if anything happens, then it's your ass on the line.” she said with acid in her voice.

“Whatever.” Klept responded.  He continued to delay granting docking permission.

Another chime sounded announcing another ship landing on grid.  The docking control system assigned this ship to Fethe in case it requested docking permission.  She waited, ready to grant access since none of the automated systems gave any reason this ship could not dock.  Data on her screen showed it was an interceptor.

Klept's console lit up with several rapid fire requests to dock by the blockade runner.

Fethe never received a docking request.  She nearly jumped out of her seat when the ship-grid chime started ringing non-stop.  Klept's console started pounding away with visual and audio markers as the capsuleer in the blockade runner demanded over and over again docking permission.

Two dozen ships  landed outside the station and the docking control system faithfully split them up between their consoles.  Fethe's console sat quiet, Klept's console was a buzzing crescendo of docking requests from the blockade runner.

Bright flashes filled the docking manager ring deck and the windows showing a panoramic view of the docking approach path dimming automatically to compensate.  The only sound was of Klept's console ringing with constant docking requests from the blockade runner.

After a few seconds the requests stopped coming.  The windows readjusted and let in the light from the system's star.  No more bright flashed poured in.  The docking manager deck returned to silence and the two docking manager consoles emptied of data as the ships returned to where they had come from and left the station's grid.

Two minutes passed without a word being said.  Klept's screens winked out and the docking supervisor's voice exploded over the deck's speakers.

“What the fuck, holy shit, Klept!  How the hell did you fuck up a docking request from a transport ship?  A transport ship assigned to a corporation with their HQ offices in this station?  A corporation INVOLVED in a WAR?  They're demanding you be detained for questioning and security has already granted permission.  Don't even think of moving out of that chair!”

Fethe sat in silence and noticed Klept was as white as a sheet.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Polycarbon Engine Housing

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contribution for the latest prompt: Polycarbon Engine Housing

I am floating in space, nestled between asteroids in a belt.  My side facing the system's sun is boiling hot and my other other side is freezing cold.  I see omber and scordite asteroids floating around me, but where are the veldspar asteroids?  Oh, there they are.  Next to me, behind me, in front of me.  We are so many.

A ship warps into the belt; a Hulk.  Mining lasers flash and fire, harvesting the asteroids around me. I wait for my turn.  Who is going first?  Not the omber.  Not the scordite.  We veldspar are chosen this time.

The mining laser makes its way to me.  I feel it pulling on me, breaking me up and lifting my pieces away.  I am traveling down the beam now, leaving my rocky home.  I no longer feel whole.  I look at the sun one last time, feel its scorching heat, and turn away to feel the freezing cold of deep space before the collector scoops me from the beam.  I end up on a conveyor belt, whisked through the inside of this Hulk.  I no longer feel cold or hot, safely inside this Hulk's hold.  I am no longer in the belt with my brethren, but I am still with my brethren here in the Hulk.

There are too many of us to fit in the Hulk together, so the pilot returns to his station to unload us.  Vacuums lift me up from the hold, conveyor belts carry me around.  I find myself spread across many holds in the station.  I find myself amongst scordite and omber and others I have never met before.  We tell stories of our belts, and make manly jokes of who had the biggest rocky home in space.  It does not bother me to be deep inside this station for I am just veldspar.

Conveyor trains travel by us and the jokes stop.  Clear tanks full of whispy gas pass by.  We all stare in wonder.  We hear them laugh at us.  They see us stare at them.  We are mesmerized by their figures, shifting curves and voluptuous shapes.  We no longer want to be in our holds.  We want to break free and mingle with these ladies of deep space.  But the conveyor trains do not stop and those ladies are carried away from us, giggling as they go.  We do not tell jokes.  We do not mention our old belts.  We are silent.

More vacuums and conveyor belts return and I am broken up and carried away to processing lines.  I am pounded and ground and pulverized.  I am washed in foul chemicals and blinded with light and rinsed clean.  I feel new and bright.  I am tritanium.

Set free of my dirty existence as veldspar locked in a hot and cold rocky rubble, I see more now.  Some of me is sent to the market, some of me goes back to the holds, and some of me goes to manufacturing lines.

I am sold on the market.  Some of me travels far away until I can no longer feel that part of me.  Some of me travels two dozen jumps and I am put on the market again.  Sometimes all of me is sold at once, sometimes just a portion of me.  Eventually my pieces are so small I can no longer feel them.  Some of me returns to space when the transport ship I am on is destroyed.

I am also sent to a manufacturing line.  I feel pieces of me turned into auto cannon ammunition and I travel deep into low sec.  My life is short but fierce as I tear into armor and die in a brilliant flash.  I also find myself in cruise missiles, enjoying the long flight to my target, exploding and shattering the poor sod who feels my wrath.  I become hybrid charges and feel the excitement of being energized before I am splurted out of a blaster cannon.

I also end up in a mighty battleship, heavy and solid and able to take anything thrown at me.  I laugh at the small ships that try to tear me apart.  I groan under the weight of the punishing firepower from a dreadnaught.  I watch my battleship death from the safety an interceptor, zipping around the battlefield.  But that too ends.  I experience taking parting in killing myself as I, a web stasisfier, am commanded to catch myself, an interceptor.

My vast existence across the universe reaches a peak and starts to declines.  I am forgotten in cargo holds of docked ships, lost in warehouses in far away places, destroyed in combat, scattered in space by pirates, spent as ammunition.  A thousand existences wink out, a thousand stories to explain each one.

My awareness shrinks down to a single item.  I am on a hanger floor.  A salesman's voice is talking to passing merchants.  I am new and improved.  I am cheaper.  I don't know I've ended up here.  I was in a ship of some type, destroyed in space.  Salvage was collected.  I must have been a tritanium bar.  I am now a polycarbon engine housing.  But not just any polycarbon engine housing.  I am an improved tech 2 variant.

I shut the salesman's voice out as I notice the two gorgeous Caldari models standing by me.  Their clothing is cold and gray and very much military in style.   They seem wrapped up tight in those uniforms, prisoners in their clothing, begging to have someone set them free, release their bodies.  I notice their skirts have revealing slits, showing smooth skin.  Their neck lines are lower, hinting at soft bosoms underneath.  Their sleeves are shorter, showing jeweled wrists and .  These models are wearing the perfect dresses.  Revealing nothing, hinting at everything, showing off their figures, yet demanding release to be fully enjoyed.  They catch the attention of every man in the crowd.  I am reminded of those whispy ladies of deep space from so long ago.  

One of the models turns and looks at me, then morphs into a lamp.  I stare in puzzlement.  I see the lamp is sitting on an end table.  The crowd of merchants fade out and I see the faces of people I know.  I turn to look at the other model, hoping to catch one more glimpse and see my girlfriend instead.  The hanger disappears.  I see the ceiling of a house, and a carpet on a floor.  I feel the softness of a couch under me.  I feel a hand on my chest.  I am lying on the couch, with my head on my girlfriend's lap.

“Welcome back spaceman.”  she tells me.  I smile at her.

Two of my friends begin to argue.  One thinks he should go next because he's never done BlueSky before.  The other says he should go next because he bought the BlueSky.  But I don't care.  I am back.  I shut out their voices and turn my head to the side to push my face against my girlfriend's  belly.  I feel the rhythm of her breathing and listen to her voice as she tells me how I danced around the room and mumbled about ships and battles and life and death while I was tripping on BlueSky.

I fall asleep and dream of her and I, floating in space, lazily dancing around a sun, her whispy currents enveloping my rocky body, without a single miner to bother us.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Etherium Reach

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contributuion for the latest prompt: Etherium Reach

Peht ran down the corridor as fast as he could.  His father had called to tell him there were not one, not two, but three offers for employment following his graduation next week.  It was his mother who called second to tell him she'd placed the letters on the kitchen table.  As most mothers, she was proud of her son's achievements, so simply telling him the letters had arrived wasn't enough.  She had to place them out for him.

He reached the door to his parent's quarters on the University of Caille station orbiting Bourynes VII.  He swiped his data pad on the door's reader panel and impatiently waited to be granted entrance.  Within in a few seconds he shot though the opening as the door slid open.  There on the table were the three letters his parents had mentioned.

The first was from CONCORD.  He quickly opened it and read through the offer.  A position on an advanced combat AI research team, all expenses paid for 2 years with an option to be granted an officership.  Peht's face grew a wide grin.  He'd received the highest offer CONCORD gives out.

The second was from his professor.  No, not his professor.  His favorite professor.  He was being offered a 4 year post graduate position on the professor's research team here at the station to continue his work on autonomous AI not requiring regular human supervision – automated mining ships, automated scouting vessels, and self maintaining stations.  Only two student were given such an offer each year, and the second was a runner up offer in case the first declined.  Peht noticed his offer was the first one.  His smile grew wider.

The third letter was, oddly, from the Minmatar Republic.  His face took on a quizzical frown as he opened the letter and read through the offer.  By the time he was done, neither the CONCORD offer nor the offer from his professor interested him any more.  He picked up his data pad and quickly entered a message to his parents:

“Taking offer from Minmatar.  Going to Etherium Reach.  Will assist in Republic's colonization efforts.  Will be on research team to develop autonomous AI assault programs to corrupt and destroy rouge drone hives and fleets.  Republic said to name my price.  ----What should I ask for????”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Nebulae

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contributuion for the latest prompt: Nebulae

Graveyard Nebula

Sister Gehlt stepped onto the observation deck of the Megathron Navy Issue Seeker.  The deck was empty except for her and Admiral Mearthenal, as he had promised.

“Thank you, Sister Gehlt, for joining me.  I wanted to share with you our current status, as we are here in support of your mission.”

“Thank you, Admiral Mearthenal, for inviting me.  It is comforting, having your fleet as an escort here in Amarrian space.”

Admiral Mearthenal nodded in agreement and continued, “As you can see, we've arrived at Nebula YRT-890 and have deployed thee of our four scanning detatchments..  They have been busy getting into position around the nebula and planning their probe deployment.”

Sister Gehlt nodded in understanding.  The graphics disply the admiral had on one of the observation windows clearly showed the nubelua at 107 AU wide by 63 AU deep and 14 AU high.  Yellow dots massed at the edge of the nebula marked the position of his 240 ship fleet.  Blue dots showed the positions of the scanning ships spread about the edges of the nebula.  Around each blue dot was a cluster of white dots, obviously representing support and defense ships assisting each scanner ship.

The admiral continued, “My communcations officer tells me we are ready to deploy probes and begin scanning the nebula.  We'll receive real-time updates here.”

Sister Gehlt stood quietly as a series of green dots emerged and scattered across the nebule.  Nearly clear blue globes around each green dot showed scanning ranges.  Within a few seconds the green dots had arrived at their destinations and started scanning.  Results of finding began to trickle in.

32 returns...
67 returns...
183 returns...
1,749 returns...
6,561 returns...
9,462 returns...

Sister Ghelt sighed a heavy sigh.  “Are you sure they are all general freight containers, Admiral?”

“Yes, they are.  Our scanners are set to filter out everything else.”

“Then it would seem the reports were true.  Holders have been dumping slaves that have tried to claim their freedom.  Dumping them here to die.  Dumping them because if they can't keep them, they'd rather kill them.”

“It is fortunate then that Empress Jamyl was serious about her decree of freedom and allowed the Sisters of Eve to investigate.  I suspect this will result in a.....Sister, I'm receiving reports of container time codes from 9 months to just a few hours old.  We may have survivors to rescue.”

“Admiral, please do all you can do to rescue them.  Hopefully the Graveyard Nebule won't be the final chapter for everyone brought here.  And hopefully Empress Jamyl will write the final chapter of the Holders responsible for this genocidal act.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: Sensor Boosters

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contributuion for the latest prompt: Sensor Boosters

It's tougher than I thought to keep these short so thanks for hanging in there with me as I work on shortening up my writing.


Found and Lost

Kiak Jeckta's Marauder class battleship, Toughnut, slipped out of the short warp jump from the acceleration gate.  Data from the ships sensors trickled in showing just two Drone frigates patrolling the area, one small, oddly shaped drone structure and no more acceleration gates.  It seemed very anticlimatic, having been through six deadspace pockets, half his combat drones lost, the structure damage Toughnut had taken.  Most of the attenna arrays were melted, leaving him cut off from civilization.  Well, he thought to himself, time to see what this seventh pocket holds and get out of here.

The two Drone frigates acquired locks on Toughnut and started to orbit, their ineffective turrets doing damage that felt like grains of sand bouncing off his skin.  They hadn't set out distress calls yet, so he let them be and started moving towards the lone drone structure.  Camera drones zoomed in to give a closer look.

The structure turned out to be a regular Drone construction.  What had made it look odd was the wreckage of a ship pulled in close to the structure.  He could just barely make out the power and data cables crisscrossing the few meters between the wreckage and the structure.

A few quick changes to his sensor filters told him what the wreckage was: a Shadow Serpentis battleship.  Now how the heck did that get out here?  And what are these Drones doing with it? Kiak thought to himself.

Toughnut's targeting system quickly obeyed Kiak's commands and acquired a lock on the wreck.  Aura reported the salvager wasn't able to scan the wreck due to some sort of electromagnetic and gravitic interference from the Drone structure.  Anoyed, Kiak swung a beam laser around, targeted the Drone structure, and severed the power and data cables, letting the battleship wreck float free.

Kiak reactivated the salvager and waited the ten long seconds for it to do its thing.  The first scan resulted in nothing.  The salvager auto-started a second scan.  The salvager had found something.  The two Drone frigates started screaming distress calls.  Kiak launched his remaining Warrior IIs and set them upon the Drone frigates to silence their annoying screeches.

With a comm link set up with his salvage team, Kiak watched Ioya, his salvage team lead, fasten the silver gray five square meter box to a scanning table.  The scanner completed its level one probe on the box in two seconds, reporting that it was a sensor booster, and started a level two probe.

Kiak felt one of the Drone frigates shudder and explode.

Ioya moved around to the other side of the box and examined the sensor's data cable.  She reported it had six extra optodata pins; a Shadow Serpentis Sensor Booster.  Kiak grumbled to himself.  Not much of a find for all the trouble I've gone through.

The second Drone frigate exploded and the Warrior IIs lazily returned to orbit Toughnut.

Ioya's face frowned as she pulled up a second cable.  Kiak thought it funny she would frown at a power cable until she mentioned it had twelve optodata pins but no power connectors.  Two data cables?  The scanner beeped as it finished its level two probe.  Ioya looked at the display and her eyes lit up.  "Look at this, Kiak.  The numbers are off the charts."

Kiak pulled up the scanner results in an info window.  He could see why Ioya was impressed.  400% boost to range and strenght.  Self powered.  1 terraflop needed due to a heavily miniaturized slave CPU integral to the unit.  Wow.  The Drones are moving on to modifying their own equipment now, he thought.  This is the best discovery I've ever made.  I can't wait to get this on the market.  I'll be set forever!  This is the best day of my life!

Ioya pipped up. "Several research companies are going to pay a mint to have this.  CONCORD will reward you very well for these coordinates.  We're gonna have to---"

Kiak's sensors screamed at him, drowning out Ioya's words.  120 Drone ships slipped out of warp from every direction possible.  The pathways between Toughnut's CPU and the external sensors saturated in a split second with all the data streaming in.  50 more Drone ships slipped out of warp.  His overview shuffled and reshuffled, trying to sort the ships by distance.  More Drone ships dropped out of warp.  He could feel hundreds of target locks crawling along Toughnut's hull like a thousand spiders.

Kiak sent a command to his armor repair systems to start cycling immediately while simultanesouly commanding his navigation systems to warp to anything directly in front of him.

Neither command made it to their intended systems.  The Drone fleet alpha stike obliterated Toughnut and all on board in a flash.