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????”