I know even before I open my eyes: I’m home. I’m home in all senses of the word. Home where all my things are, in the apartment I’ve decorated to my taste, in the station where I’ve lived so much of my piloting life. But most of all I’m home where my heart lies because this warmth, this delicious weight on me, this soft breath tickling my neck, they all mean my love is back.
Lest I be dreaming, I open my eyes and there she is, in all her sleeping glory, half-draped over me. Her hand is on my breast, so warm, so soft, so close to my heart. Her leg thrown over my thighs keeps me deliciously pinned down. She keeps me warm. She makes me feel safe.
My heart fills with so much love that I simply must sigh, and I look at her face. She is angelic in her sleep, relaxed, vulnerable. I want to touch the curve of her cheek, kiss the tip of her nose, but she might wake up and I don’t want that just yet. I like to watch her sleep. So instead, being ever so careful, I run my fingers through her hair. I’ve always loved that it looked like spun silver.
Finally I can’t resist anymore and I softly press my lips to her forehead. I whisper so softly it’s hardly more than a breath, “I love you, Nakatre.”
Instead of closing doors to new members and licking their collective wounds, SPHERE had reacted to the entire corp theft episode by taking in new blood after a few days. It was perhaps risky and it certainly was a pain in the rear end security-wise with all the new measures in place around the tower, but they refused to let Moonora stunt the growth of the corporation.
In a strange way, the theft had brought the rest of the corp closer together. Blood still raced in some people’s veins, but Moonora had gone to ground, disappeared within the bowels of one of the stations in Adacyne. Those bereft of their possessions couldn’t vent their fury on their target. Morale was a little low.
Kayleigh was scratching her head – figuratively speaking, since she was in fact on board the Second Breath – staring at the security measures, trying to fathom why the corporate hangars weren’t letting the newer members access the public sections. She was peripherally aware that one of the XianKun sisters was busy with something or other because she’d disappeared outside the tower shields, and she knew Nethys was patrolling the system. So the jin-mei was startled out of poring over security measures by a bleep indicating an incoming message from her boss.
“Maintain radio silence, Kay. Warp to me.” Tor’s voice sounded mysterious. Anything but staring at this, she thought while she promptly aligned her Loki toward the coordinates.
When she came out of warp, she gasped. A new, bigger tower was already online, and the sisters were clearly busy assembling and onlining more modules around it. “It’s a surprise,” her CEO was explaining. As she listened, Kay couldn’t agree more: they needed more self-sufficiency out there, more labs, more industry.. and most of all it was wise to perhaps move from the location Moonora was aware of, random wormhole exits or no.
The jin-mei felt optimistic. It was a good plan, a good move. It would make the corporation end the year on a positive note. She warped back to the old tower, re-evaluating Tor XianKun in her mind and finding she grew fonder of her the more she got to know her CEO. Underneath the mischief Tor seemed to harbour a genuine affection for her pilots and an uncanny sense for doing just the right thing to boost morale.
For the first time in days Kayleigh found herself giggling when Nethys reported in corporate comms that she was getting a second control tower on her scans and Tor essentially talked her into thinking she was perhaps getting ghost images from the one known tower.
The investigation revealed the window of opportunity had been rather small. Three hours at the most between when Kayleigh had disembarked from her ship and the first shout of alarm from Moonora in corporate mail.
Kayleigh hadn’t needed a corporate mail to know something was wrong. One of the perks of being a director in the corp was that she had actual windows in her quarters with a view to the nearby moon and some of the tower structures. The first thing she’d done when she’d woken up in her rather cramped quarters had been to stretch in front of her window as usual.
The view which had greeted her had been unusual, however: several ships were undocked and just floating around. She had rubbed her slanted grey eyes and squinted sleepily at them. The adrenaline surge had come when she’d recognised the dull, rust-coloured Loki hull outside. No one else in SPHERE had a Loki, much less one that would look exactly like the Second Breath.
Her entire day was a rush: reading messages, alerting the leadership, getting ships back into hangars and securing them, trying to figure what was missing and who had taken it. Once she pooled information together with the XianKun sisters, it became clear who had done it
And it had been Moonora.
She didn’t think Moonora was particularly bright. Why else post that alarming mail to all the corporation? The only reason Kayleigh could think of was to perhaps shift suspicion away from Moonora herself, but all the mail had really managed had been to narrow down the window of opportunity to a mere two or three hours, during which the logs showed only two pilots would have been active: herself and Moonora. If not for that message, the list of suspects would have been much longer.
Once all ships were accounted for, Kayleigh could only consider herself lucky, despite everything. All she’d lost had been the Alenia, one of her old Retriever hulls equipped with tech 2 strip miners and a choice of mining crystals in the hold, and the Racing Team III, the Iteron III which still sported the faded-out colours of the old Dragonstar Racing Team from the days when she used to assemble replacement ships in strategic points of the circuits. They had sentimental value, for sure, but they weren’t a big dent in her wallet. Other pilots had lost battleships, battlecruisers even the odd stealth bomber, with expensive fittings more often than not. She didn’t even want to think how broke she would have been if she’d lost her second Loki so soon after the first.
Kayleigh officially hated her, now. And it wasn’t just for the betrayal in trust; it was because Kayleigh herself had been the one to post the day’s exit on the billboard for all of the corp to know and come or go as they pleased even when the current wormhole dwellers were docked and getting their night’s sleep. Kayleigh had only posted it at all because some corp mates – and Moonora most vocally among them – had complained it was sometimes hard to get an escort into the system. By taking advantage of Kayleigh’s willingness to help corp mates Moonora had made the jin-mei feel particularly stupid and gullible. Kayleigh didn’t appreciate the feeling.
Going after the thief now was not a good idea. She was officially with a State corp, already, and CONCORD would frown on swift retribution without a sanctioned war which they couldn’t declare on Deep Core Mining, anyway. But jin-mei were nothing if not patient. And they do say revenge is best served cold. At any rate, Kayleigh had always been good at holding a grudge.
Trepidation was the word for how she felt, as Kayleigh boarded her capsule and started to prepare for another day of life at the SPHERE tower in uncharted space. After the podding incident she had been unable to sleep in her capsule, something she hated doing anyway. But the clocks said a new day had dawned, and flying was what she did, so she swallowed her fears and connected to her navigation systems.
As it turned out, getting back onto a ship was the easy part. Once she undocked, she just hovered aimlessly in space, hugging the corporate ship hangars, feeling ridiculous and yet not quite getting up the courage all by herself to go perform her usual scans around the star system.
Her eyes alighted on the new structures. The XianKun sisters had brought over a polymer reactor array and some silos which were installed off to the side. Kayleigh bit her lip and wandered over to inspect them.
Within minutes she had forgotten about her fears, slanted grey eyes hardening with resolve as she pulled up all the info she could find on GalNet about running these reactors. There sure was no shortage of assorted fullerites that she herself had been harvesting every time she found ladar signatures. Half an hour later, she was following a guide step by careful step, supplying and then onlining the relevant structures.
Finally, once it was all online, she had to try twice to establish the links on the tower interface but then with a satisfying hum faked by her capsule interface, she saw the reactor go to work. Her lips curled into a smile. Ten hours to completion? Certainly. In the meantime…?
In the meantime there were signatures to check and probes to launch. With renewed resolve Kayleigh boarded her Cloak and Dagger and set off – properly cloaked – to check on the known sigs and probe for unknown ones, her troubles pushed somewhere far to the back of her mind. Thank you Tor. Or Yal. Whichever one of you installed all that machinery.
Kayleigh woke with a strangled yelp, soaked in sweat. As she gulped for air she took stock of her surroundings: dark room, small, a bed that was not her own, the covers tossed aside as if in a struggle. She was confused for a moment and then remembered. It wasn’t real, it had been a nightmare. At least this time, it had. Late night yesterday she had been podded for real.
She buried her head in her hands and tried to get her heart beat under control once more, but the horrible memories kept playing behind her closed eyelids, so she flicked a light on just to find something else to focus on.
It was still hard to believe how fast everything had happened.
She had been fleeted up with Yal, Loken and Morbick, the four of them working on dislodging Sleepers from a nest. Four SPHERE pilots, with four pairs of eyes on directional scan. It was supposed to have been reasonably safe. But the fight must have distracted them at the key moment. It all happened when the last Sleeper blew up and Kayleigh was still approaching the first wreck to scoop up some loot.
There were six of them.
The first alarms rang when the Phobos materialised so close to them. The jin-mei was the first to shout a warning and instantly aligned toward an escape route while the Second Breath resolved a lock on the heavy interdictor. Before that happened, a warp interdiction bubble had taken effect, imprisoning both Yal and Morbick. And that was when the other five revealed themselves. Yal shouted at them to warp out and return with stealth bombers.
Loken had been lucky enough to find himself outside the warp interdiction, so he had quickly warped to safety. Kayleigh for a moment thought she was going to lose another painfully expensive Loki, as she was within the bubble. But then she heard Aura’s beautiful voice: warp drive active. A glimmer of hope lit up in her heart. The Interdiction Nullifier subsystem on her ship had just saved her. She had still been lucky, however; among the attackers she had spotted an interceptor, no doubt on tackling duty. If he had targeted her specifically she would have been just as trapped.
As it was, fleet chatter was alive with orders and intel. Back at the tower, Loken was having trouble getting on board a heavier-hitting ship. Kayleigh swapped as fast as she could to the Ignebaener Wrath. Heart hammering at her chest, she followed Yal’s instructions and warped at range, fervently hoping the calculations would be correct and she would land outside that dreaded warp bubble.
But something went wrong.
Coming out of warp, Kayleigh found herself just a thousand metres or so from the Phobos, right in the middle of that bubble… and she with a microwarp drive on board. She tried to realign while locking the primary target, but in a matter of seconds the interceptor was on her. A Hound doesn’t have much in the way of a tank. They made short work of her, as she started to feel sick to her stomach. Not the capsule, please, for the love of everything you hold dear.
Her silent pleas were naturally ignored. Although she spammed the commands, struggled within the pod, physically tried to make it move, she was trapped. The attackers lost no time. First Morbick, then her, then Yal.
She awoke kicking and squirming for her life back in the Federation for the second time in her life, except now Nakatre wouldn’t be coming over to comfort or reassure her. She cried herself to sleep that night.
Contrary to Dauntless I, the second stage of their wormhole operations was seeing an increased presence of SPHERE pilots in this new home of theirs. A good thing, too, because in their very special brand of insanity, as Kayleigh saw it, the XianKun sisters had brought them to live in a Class 3 wormhole and not the previously planned Class 2 that would have made transitions a little smoother. In sharp contrast to the corp’s previous home, over here pilots were getting ripped to pieces by the local Sleeper population whenever they tried to face them solo.
The increased presence manifested itself in ways Kayleigh hadn’t expected. Some of the newer people were positively itching to catch the unwary traveller off-guard. Chief among these seemed to be Nethys. Only the previous night she had caught the capsule of some unfortunate pilot by the day’s exit. Lots of corporate chatter had ensued about aggression, podding, ransoms, war stories.
Kayleigh, who always felt that knot in her stomach at the idea of shooting anyone not actively shooting her first, couldn’t help feeling somewhat out of place. She was glad to be in her pod at the time, so her colleagues couldn’t see her blush, or feel her embarrassment. Yet if she really thought about it, this was a lawless place, and Dauntless I had taught her death would come swiftly and spectacularly to the unwary, from anyone at all who happened to get the drop on them, security standings notwithstanding.
So when her directional scanner caught a lonely frigate coming in, she decided to practice her scanning skills and try to chase him in her stealthbomber. It took her a while, being relatively new at this. While she was still working at it, the signature her scanner was reporting changed. A frigate wreck showed up, then a capsule. She winced. Someone had warped to a Sleeper nest on a frigate. That never went well.
She had fully expected to see the pilot go back home, so she warped to the exit, trying to catch a glimpse of him leaving. Nothing. Ten minutes passed and Kayleigh started to suspect this pilot had forgotten to bookmark the exit coordinates. Time for another sweep of the directional scan.
In the end, she found him at a planet. He was clearly going nowhere. She orbited him in a lazy arc, debating what to do. Nethys would probably have got the pod, but Kayleigh could still remember how it had felt when she had lost Kanunu in a wormhole and how gruelling it had been to get him back home safe. Being lost in a wormhole was scary enough without getting podded in the process. She took a deep breath and tried her best to act mean and hard, like she imagined might be expected of her in this place. She hailed the pilot on a private frequency.
Instead of podding him, she had decided to ransom him for a way out. She had heard reports of this working, it would make her look fierce (she hoped), and it certainly would help pad her wallet some more. After all, she still owed people some money for replacing the New Dawn.
Kayleigh Jamieson > Did you get stuck inside the wormhole? Allizard > yes =( Kayleigh Jamieson > Would you be willing to pay for a way out?
It didn’t hurt to be polite… Or maybe it did. She clearly hadn’t intimidated him enough. As conversations unfolded the other pilot claimed to have even less money than her – hard to believe, given his age – and the haggling was bringing the payment to a value so ridiculous that it wasn’t really worth her bother.
Failing to get a deal, Kayleigh ended up prompting him to speak more of what had happened to him. It was what she had thought: pilot new at exploration had warped to the first thing to come up on scan and had been taught a lesson by the locals.
The next thing she knew, Kayleigh had taken pity on the pilot and was explaining to him the very basics of wormhole must-know information. Once she realised he was thinking of self-destroying to get back home, she finally gave up on all pretence of being tough. She tried to help him.
First she jettisoned the exit coordinates at the star. Once safely cloaked again, she told him where to find those. Sure enough, seconds later he was there. Risky. It could have been a trap. Although she supposed that for someone contemplating a capsule self-destruct a trap was the least of his worries.
However, that plan failed. Without a cargo hold, the capsule was unable to translate those coordinates into the onboard computer. Kayleigh sighed deeply. Against all common sense and against everything she’d learned during her time as a capsuleer, she invited a complete stranger into her fleet.
Hoping he wouldn’t have time to spring a trap on her, she warped squadron to the exit coordinates, cancelled her warp, then disbanded fleet. Only then did she warp herself to the exit at range, just in time to see the capsule go through.
True to his word, and despite Kayleigh having given up on any ransom early in the conversation, the distressed pilot wired her the amount he had claimed was the entirety of his wallet. 5 million. He even sounded grateful for her assistance, which confused her, since she’d started the whole talk to try to extort money from someone.
In the end, she didn’t care what anyone else thought of her. She would have felt rotten to the core if she had podded that guy. She actually felt good with herself for having helped him out instead. In a way.
November is over and so is NaNoWriMo. And I did it! I wrote fifty-thousand words in the space of thirty days. \o/ I learned a lot more about my habits and failings than I had expected to, and about what works and what doesn't for me as a writer.
I did not, however, finish the whole story I was writing. I'll still be working on that, but I'll be taking a much more relaxed approach.
As for the in-character postings, I have had a few ideas and yesterday some things happened in game, so expect a flurry of posts in the near future. For those of you still reading, sorry for the hiatus and thanks for staying with me :)
One day before schedule, the XianKun sisters – most likely aided by Loken and Morbick – had surprised everyone by deploying the new tower and declaring a start to Operation Dauntless, stage two.
It meant the jin-mei – technically supposed to be overseeing logistics – had been no where near when things had needed moving. Not that she would have been able to aid spectacularly. Maybe with the probing, but certainly not with the moving. Big, clumsy ships were not really her specialty.
Truth be told, she was glad to be going back to living in a wormhole. The break back in empire had been good for her wallet, for getting reacquainted with Kalahari and spending some quality time with her friend, but Alenia felt incredibly lonely without Nakatre. Despite all the modern day technologies, it was hard to get a real-time link to her for a conversation.
So here she was, all packed and ready to go, looking forward to a season away from familiar sights. The XianKun sisters would have already carried over some of her ships. The rest she would gradually ferry back and forth. But the most important one, her little shield against the Sleepers she was going to take tonight. The Second Breath was fuelled, loaded to the brim with ammunition and sitting in her hangar in Hakeri, waiting for her capsule before it could come to life.
Thank you for the good times, Kalahari. And for the ammo. And for the chocolate cookies, she thought to herself, her lips unconsciously curling into a warm smile. Her capsule was in. It was time to go.
Wow... is it the 22nd of November already? Where has time gone? I've been so busy obsessing about my NaNoWriMo project that time has just flown by, and the rest of the world has been ticking on without me noticing any of it, basically.
The good news is that my project of a novel has already reached the 38k words mark, which puts me well on track to finish this thing successfully. It has been quite the journey of discovery about my writing habits and failings. Another perk of it is that I find I'm not agonising through each slow day in wait for a much-antecipated new expansion. By the time I finish my project, Dominion will be just about to launch.
The bad news is that I'm a little out of the loop. I've heard vague rumblings about Titans and Motherships and PR disasters on SiSi, as well as something or other about null-sec upkeep costs... it's all a bit of a jumble in my head. I'm sure it'll all pounce on me when I lift my gaze from my scribblings on virtual paper and realise I'm still docked at Alenia V, Moon 4, Roden Shipyards but the drab moon outside my window has changed to a dramatic view of absolutely mesmerising beauty.
I am broke like I haven’t been since I graduated from the academy, and I still owe people money. But Alenia is too empty without you and besides, the Roden agents here can’t pay me enough to get out of this little financial slump.
I am taking off on the Second Breath toward Hakeri, where I’ll meet up with my friend Kalahari. Hopefully if we share the workload neither of us will get discouraged by the tedious tasks agents seem to come up with all the time.
If you do get home in the meantime, just call me. Day or night, I don’t care. Kalahari says Hakeri is twenty-three jumps from everywhere, but I’ll race those twenty-three stargates just to get to you and I’d be there in no time.
Just letting everyone know that I am not dead in some ditch <.< I have been taking part in National Novel Writing Month, which means that I spend most of the day climbing the walls in frustration at how slowly my story is coming along and headdesking each time I realise that I am, in fact, a crap writer >.<
I'm mostly focusing on NaNo, so blog posts may be few and far between during November. Also I still have a couple of unfinished drafts for events that happened in October, so I may release those (and tamper with the release date on said posts *cough*) at some point in the next few weeks.
Now... 50k words in one month. I can do this! I can. I hope. I gotta! >.<
It didn’t last as long as they’d hoped. The plan had been to inhabit a Class 1 wormhole for three weeks, reaping all the benefits from it that they could, exploring and mapping as they went along.
Week 1 had been busy and exciting, rife with new sights and new experiences. They’d spent some time getting to know each other as pilots, finally working together instead of being spread over the four major empires.
But week 2 had been a dismal affair. It seemed J120256 had nothing else to offer them. The Sleepers had vanished almost without a trace, and they had mapped every single signature they could find. Day in, day out, there was nothing new to see or do. They had run out of excuses to keep fueling Dauntless control tower.
Most importantly, perhaps, Kayleigh was broke. She had had to take on a loan from friends to replace the New Dawn and she was in effect penniless. The money being made in this system was trickling to nothing and was being split in too many shares to help her much in that regard. It was time to go back to known space and knock on some agents’ doors once more.
It was going to be hard to go back to Alenia. That empty apartment made her miss Nakatre more and more each day that passed. She sighed and tore her eyes away from the tiny window overlooking J120256, the system they had never bothered to name. It was time to board the Second Breath and go. All her ships had already been ferried back home, except for the Starcutter, which the XianKun sisters would be hauling along with them tomorrow, when the tower would finally be taken down.
At least tonight she would finally sleep in a decent bed again.
((OOC note: Yes, post is late by a few months, but in the interest of chronological sense I’m tampering with the post dates and will do so until I’m caught up to the “present”))
Day 9 of operation Dauntless, and things have been quiet. A little too quiet. You know I usually like things quiet, but it’s got to the point where there’s nothing at all to do.
We raided all the Sleeper structures we could find, harvested all the gas, and now our probes haven’t been finding any more signals out there. We keep analysing, of course. This is a big system. We get the occasional hit on something new. Or Sleepers try to slip back in. But yesterday there was nothing to do all day long, except look at the sights.
Not that the sights are bad. I do like the way the sun shines off the moon where we anchored Dauntless tower. However, it always feels cold here. I know it must be the colours, because I spend more time in the capsule than anywhere else and it’s always warm when we fly, as you know. The light is all harsh and blue out here. It’s beautiful, in its own way, but a far cry from the warm colours of Aunia and Vylade, where I started my piloting career, or even the brighter and lighter shades in Alenia. Sometimes this place feels downright lonely.
It’s not so bad today, though. Our newest pilot, Taejin, has joined us out here and found me an exit into another uncharted system, a J135422. There was a tower out there somewhere as well as some ships on scanner. They looked like they might be parked in space, so I went in and harvested some gas from under their noses before the connection winked out.
I wonder… were they asleep? Were they off in their tower having a drink? Were they writing home to their loved ones? I miss you.
It doesn’t look like there will be much more to do around here. We will pack up and leave by the end of the week, one week earlier than we’d originally planned. I’ll make sure to take a day off planetside to spend with you, no matter what.
Lots of love: -- Kay
PS: I’m feeling much better, since the day I lost the New Dawn. The odd feeling has disappeared and I no longer get headaches which is a big relief. I hope that never happens again. It was quite scary. Don’t worry, though; I’m feeling well. I’ve enclosed a picture of the New Dawn parked by the hangars, taken on the same day I lost it.
She bit her lip, ignoring the faint taste of pod fluid that it brought. Her hands were still shaking, but she’d be hard pressed to say if the cause was shame, anger, guilt, or all three at once. She could only be grateful that no one could see her flaming cheeks inside the pod.
She was still floating in space, now protected by the Dauntless tower shields. Unsure what to do, she simply hovered in space, trying to keep her voice as calm as she could whenever she had to speak to any of her corp mates in channel. She should probably dock up, leave her pod for the night, have a cup of tea and a lie down. Yet she couldn’t make herself leave the pod, walk the cramped quarters in just her flesh and bones, weighed by shame as she was. She couldn’t make herself run the risk of having to look the remaining XianKun sister in the eye.
The night the two sisters had shown up along with Loken and all four of them had gone out to clear Sleepers out of space, Kayleigh Jamieson-Read had made a mistake so grave, so basic and so costly that she could only wonder at the fact she hadn’t been fired yet. How could she have been so incompetent precisely then?
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
In a moment of distraction, she had lost the New Dawn, the very Loki she’d been so proud of. And she could blame no one but herself for losing a ship she’d worked so hard for and had paid so much for. She’d lowered her guard in a dangerous system while out at a place called “The Line” and had been jumped by six hostile capsuleers. Tor and Loken had warped back to help her but she’d been too far gone, and instead they’d ended up losing their ships and also their pods. All because of her.
Kayleigh herself had somehow managed to save her capsule. The ejection had felt different, somehow. For a start, she had a massive headache. One of the sockets which connected her to her pod felt… tingly, and not in a good way. The jin-mei didn’t quite know what to make of it. She could only sit and worry, and hope there was nothing wrong with her because out here there were no real medical facilities she could visit right now.
Outside, Yal was orbiting in a lazy circle. Kayleigh shivered and suddenly felt the need to have more of a skin around her. She willed her capsule to approach the hangar and boarded the Starcutter.
The Myrmidon-class battlecruiser was an old ship, as such things were counted among capsuleers. She hadn’t been flown in a long time, before Kayleigh had brought it back out of the Alenia hangars for Dauntless, but she felt comfortable tonight. Like an old friend. She wouldn’t be much help right now, fitted as she was with all gas harvesters and no weapons, yet being surrounded by the elegant Gallentean design gradually made Kayleigh relax a little more.
Chewing at her lip, she started planning for the next day. There was no way she was going to be able to afford another Loki so soon, but she could certainly work hard, make money go into SPHERE so they could replace their losses. Tomorrow she would start by probing a new exit, bringing in something she could shoot with, and then finding a market for all the odds and ends they already had gathered. It would be a start.
All things considered, Kay would have to count that as a good thing. While true that she would have loved to be back in Nox flying with her friends, there was no doubt that it was good to not have to jeopardise her fleet. She’d never been known for her fighting prowess.
But it was definitely a good thing that the peace SPHERE still enjoyed had allowed them to go on with their original plans. Operation Dauntless had kicked off shortly after the announcement that they wouldn’t have to fight, after all.
Proud to be a part of a corp that would so selflessly help her own friends, Kayleigh had plunged happily into this operation. It helped that it would be about living in uncharted space, an experience she’d enjoyed well enough back in the days of EndLand, but mostly she wanted to bond more with these pilots and wanted to help this outfit grow.
It had taken them two nights of arduous probing to find a suitable system in which to live. Then five of them had hauled and assembled what would be their home in unknown space, brought ships, fittings, perishables… Then sadly, amid the pressure of setting up in a hurry so they wouldn’t be vulnerable for long, an argument had ensued between Yal and Slayer. In the end, before their new home was fully erected, Slayer had taken his ships back outside to Mora and resigned his roles in SPHERE. By the next day, his name wasn’t on the roster anymore.
Even that blow hadn’t quite brought down the morale entirely.
The four pilots remaining in Dauntless tower seemed to be in good spirits. Kayleigh certainly was looking forward to the three weeks they were planning to stay there. Yal and Tor seemed to be enjoying themselves, as far as she could tell, though she hadn’t yet had much opportunity to mingle with them. Loken… he remained a bit of a mystery. She wondered how he felt, being the one male pilot among all the women, now that Slayer had left them.
She smiled, surveying their new home from the camera drones on the New Dawn. This would be the perfect opportunity to get to know her corp mates a lot better.
The diminutive jin-mei pilot floated inside her pod while she waited. Constantly on the periphery of her vision a set of numbers counted down the minutes while she absentmindedly browsed GalNet and kept an eye on the progress report for the stealth bombers she’d ordered bought and fit the previous day.
SPHERE had surprised her in the most pleasant of ways. As soon as they’d learned about Nox Draconum’s predicament, there had been a lot of contacting pilots and voting on a course of action. They had decided to help out by joining up with Nox for the duration of the war.
Kayleigh couldn’t help but feel touched by the gesture. Here she was, less than four months into a corp, and they were standing by her to the point of going to war for people they didn’t really know, just because Nox were her friends and meant so much to her personally.
And that was why she was keeping an eye on that counter. If the Rough Necks didn’t update the status of the war with CONCORD everything would be over at 17h11m, and SPHERE would go on with their lives as usual, having come just a little too late to really help. But if the war was to keep going, Kay would find herself among the ranks of Nox once more, and much sooner than she could have expected.
Feu D’Astres had got his hands on some intel, and was reporting heavy losses for the Rough Necks in one of their other three wars going on at the same time. That, and the fact that RN seemed to have got what they’d come for – namely the tower in Ignebaener – made them both think the war declaration wouldn’t get renewed.
Either way, Kayleigh had something to look forward to. If SPHERE were to go on the warpath, she would get to once more be a part of Nox, fly with her old friends, help defend the alliance she’d dreamed of and helped make reality. If the war ended, SPHERE wouldn’t join Nox but had operation Dauntless to look forward to and exploration of uncharted systems, a subject which fascinated her.
Coming back from a planetside conference, Kayleigh had returned to her office to find a message from Gareth. Nox Draconum was at war and the jin-mei was missed among the ranks of pilots in the alliance she’d helped bring to life.
On the one hand, the message had made her smile. Gareth had always had a way of making her feel welcome and wanted in Nox. On the other hand it had made her feel guilty. Nox needed her and she couldn’t help; not without risking CONCORD intervention, at any rate, which was something she didn’t exactly cherish.
And what was more, by getting involved she might attract attention to her own small corp and could risk getting a war declared on them. As she had given it more thought, she had realised her association with current Nox Draconum pilots was far too evident and easy to discover. It really would be best if she let her CEO know about this situation.
It was while she’d been writing to her CEO that she had found out about Tatsu no Tsurugi’s tower in Ignebaener being in reinforced status. The call had come up for pilots to help repair structures as soon as the tower would come out of reinforced. Torn in her loyalties Kayleigh had finally opted not to show. She had responsibilities in SPHERE and she couldn’t just jeopardise those who had taken her in after the whole mess at Dragonstar.
And so it was that she now found herself cloaked at a distance from the tower. A gang of Rough Necks pilots in battleships were pounding away at the helpless tower and some scavengers were laughing away in local chatter, getting ready to pounce for the scraps.
Nox pilots didn’t dare jump in there, outnumbered and outgunned as they were, but a neutral pilot like, say, one Kayleigh Jamieson-Read, could perhaps salvage something before the vultures got to it. After all, this was Nox property.
Not half an hour later, she had an Iteron Mk4 and was slow-boating it toward structures already unanchored. Heart pounding in her chest, unsure of how the Rough Necks or CONCORD would react, she approached a gun. Despite being bumped by a hostile, she managed to pull it in. No aggression, no police. She smiled, grey eyes hard as steel, and turned her sluggish ship toward the next structure.
More ships came and bumped her. At least three of the hostiles had her locked in their sights, perhaps trying to scare her into aggressing first so they could retaliate, or laugh whenever the local police blew her to pieces, but she knew better than that. Even if she wanted, she couldn’t do anything. She’d been in such a hurry that all she had had time to get fitted were some cargo hold expanders.
The going was slow and rough, being bumped constantly by the lighter hostiles. She filled her cargo with unanchored guns and warped off to the station. As fast as she could, she unloaded and warped back, this time directly to coordinates for laboratories.
She wasn’t so lucky, this time. The Rough Necks haulers were on the job and whenever she could get close to a structure after the bumpy ride, some hauler would already be pulling it into its hold. Much to her frustration, she was unable to save anything of real value. But she went back to the guns and got a few more, racing some neutral opportunists to them. Who’d have thought: the vice-champion of the ISRC league racing for leftovers in her hauler?
In the end, two and a half cargo holds worth of tower weaponry was all she could save. A poor showing, but better than a complete loss. As she met up with Critters in station to hand over Tatsu’s guns, she wondered if her little stunt would have annoyed the Rough Necks enough to retaliate in some way on SPHERE. She hoped not. Not for a few guns, at any rate.
First of all, my apologies for the delay. I'm used to sitting in front of a computer all day and doing little else, so the whole Fanfest experience drained me of energy toward the end, making me skip on my writing. I'll pick up where I left off, which I believe was me bitching about the weather.
After the miserable time I'd had on Friday with the weather, Saturday dawned such a gorgeous sunny day that it actually made me forget about going to the morning presentations and instead I took off for a walk by the seaside. No gloves, no scarf, and I even had to open my jacket some \o/ The bay was looking beautiful, with the mountains in the distance having been coloured a bit whiter the previous day.
So the first session I did find my way to was about Storyline Processes. Mostly Q&A, while I was hoping they'd actually talk more in detail about storylines and story-making within the game. It was still interesting, but most of it a repetition of what I'd already heard previously.
After that I hooked up with Adrielle and Mori again (my trusted companions in this year's foray into Iceland) and we settled down for a few hours in tranquility for the final presentations. Hilarious, as usual. Oveur's beer ship has been branded into my mind :D
I have to say I was a bit disappointed that we got no earth-shattering announcements as has been the hallmark for Fanfests in the past. Nevertheless, the glimpse into Dust 514 only reinforced the temptation to go buy a console, which is something I've never owned in my entire life, and play a FPS which is something I'm generally really bad at.
Of all the things I heard and saw at Fanfest I have to say the news about the new mail system and the upcoming T3 frigates are the two that really have me jumping for joy. The new sovereignty system being brought to us in Dominion, while very interesting in and of itself, isn't really something that affects me at this point in time. As for planets? I couldn't get in the room for that presentation on Friday :( By the time I got there the room was so full that people were spilling onto the lobby and craning their necks to peek inside. I'm not exactly tall so I went to lounge on one of the bean bags nearby and sulked on the interwebs ;)
I have to say by the time the party started I was already very tired. Also I hadn't dropped by the hotel to drop off my stuff, so I was going around with my satchel on my shoulder. Not very comfy.
Röxör were amazing, of course. I still remember how sceptical I'd been about this dev band back in '07, having played in a band myself and having seen many terrible bands in my time. They surprised me then, and I have to say they were even better this time around. Hell, they almost had me dropping my bag somewhere and going off to jump by the stage, despite this being extremely unlike me. Almost. But not quite. By then I was so tired I could do little more than nod to the music and yell some lyrics.
After Röxör I hugged Adri and Mori one last time and took off for my hotel, exhausted, a bit deaf, but happy. And definitely wishing I could afford going to Fanfest every year, which I can't. So maybe in two years I'll make it back once more.
PS: Shyness is truly a curse. Despite seeing around a few names I recognised and who might even recognise my name back (depending on how good they are with names, I guess, since I'm not exactly an Eve celebrity) I confess I didn't have the courage to go up to them and say hi. I saw Verone, whose corp I seem to remember sponsored one of the past racing seasons, usually surrounded by a Veto posse ;) Roc Wieler, whose writings I read on and off, was seated not far from me at some of the storyline presentations. Lacrimae, who I met at a roundtable in '07, was going around posting stuff on twitter as it happened.
But I did end up making a new acquaintance. I'm shy, but I'm not rude ;) The guy sitting next to me on the plane from Heathrow to Keflavík turned out to be an Eve player - I think 90% of the passengers on that flight were, to be honest. He struck a conversation and it turns out his corp is more or less neighbours with some Nox Draconum people, even if they're *ahem* on different sides of the law. So a shout out to Darius Falc, who I really enjoyed meeting in real life, and who I hope to meet and not get shot at by ingame :)
And of course, last but not least, I really loved having someone to hang out with this year. My fun would have been greatly hampered without the company of my travel buddies Adrielle Firewalker and Mori Felding. I loved meeting you for real, guys. Maybe next time we can hook up at Heathrow again ;) And now we do know where to find cheap, warm food near the venue after hours *grins*
Now that I do have shower gel and shampoo in my room, the hotel doesn't feel so crappy. The wonders a nice, hot shower will do.
There should really be an official designation for the current weather over here. I propose the term "miserable fucking weather" should as of now designate what I had to go through to get to the Fanfest venue this morning. It's cold (which is in and of itself enough for me to dislike it) and then there's a sort of rain. How to describe it? It's like the rain hasn't really decided what it wants to be when it grows up, and is trying to make up its mind between hail and snow, but is failing to be either. It stings when it hits my face :P
Not very pleasant when you've just climbed out of bed. Ah, the things we do for internet spaceships ;)
I realise this post could do with some actual news, but I can't really come up with anything remarkably coherent, since I had no breakfast and am just now at lunch time finally getting a bite to eat after listening in to the morning lecture/welcome stuff. Maybe later I'll have any actual content beyond weather whinage <.<
It was freezing when I hopped off the plane, my hotel is a bit crap (not that I plan on spending much time there, come to think of it), but Fanfest venue looks awesome,
And I don't use the word "awesome" very often.
I've been too shy to sign up for something with the tempting title of "Battle of the Bands"... Hmmm....
Anyway, despite the freezing cold (seriously, I wasn't made for this weather!) I'm having tons of fun and finding it easier even than last time around to just talk to complete strangers about the game, Iceland and traveling :D
She couldn't help asking herself why exactly she hadn't come to Metropolis sooner. There had been some reason or other - distance, work, something - but as she hovered by the mouth of a freshly-probed wormhole she couldn't remember what had been important enough to keep her from this: flying with Kalahari.
The invitation had come weeks ago, and she'd delayed the actual travel plans - a fact she now regretted, looking over to the other Loki who'd just come out of warp. Kalahari's ship was almost like her own, but slightly different, much like sisters.
In they went, into a class 2 system which her instruments were naming J133417. As always she got that slight flutter in her belly, the thrill of being in an uncharted place, pristine. A dangerous place, too. Perhaps not so much from the mysterious residents (not on a class 2, anyway) but because a distraction, failing to catch a capsuleer threat on the onboard scanner soon enough might spell disaster for any expedition.
As it was, the place looked deserted. Kalahari and Kayleigh scanned down some signatures and warped into some sleepers. Side by side the Lokis made short work of them. The jin-mei was happy with the way the New Dawn was behaving, despite the speed at which it went through ammo. She was, indeed, having a really good time which was something she hadn't been having often lately. As they quickly salvaged the wrecks, Kayleigh gave it some thought.
Kalahari and her went way back, of course, to the very first few months after Kayleigh had graduated. Back then the racing league (still on its very first season) was a project of the Glamour Syndicate so Kayleigh had braved her innate shyness and had in time become a regular denizen of the GLS lounge. She'd forged a friendship with a core of Glamour Bunnies pilots, but with none quite so much as with Kalahari Wayrest. It was she who'd most taken an interest in her racing exploits, she who'd become her #1 fan and later even her #1 sponsor. All that while being a colourful, sweet, unwavering friend.
As the instruments warned her there was nothing else to salvage from that wreck, Kayleigh realised she wasn't just smiling fondly, she was also blushing at some of the old memories. She could almost hear the girls, "What happens in GLS stays in GLS." Her smile widened.
But Kalahari was saying something on comms so she turned her attention back to the present. "Yes, I'm done. All ready to go back home." The two sister Lokis warped out in tandem, leaving just an abandoned structure behind.
Whoever had worked on the reverse engineering of Sleeper technology for this ship had been Minmatar. For all the work that had been done on it, it looked at once alien and sturdy-rusty Matari-style.
"It's not exactly very elegant, is it?" The jin-mei frowned slightly at it through the glass separating her from the hangar where mechanics were still working on the finishing touches.
"That she ain't, cap'n."
The capsuleer crossed her arms and leaned a shoulder against the glass, slanted grey eyes narrowing a fraction as she peered at her newest acquisition.
The ship itself, a Loki-class strategic cruiser, was little more than a rod with one or two bits hanging off of it. And it was brownish, as if the rust had already started settling in despite the fact that the hull was brand new and freshly assembled together in that very hangar. It reminded her of a huge log she had once seen float downriver near her home, when she was a youngster still living dirtside. It certainly didn't look impressive enough for the amount she'd paid for it. For close to 600 million ISK she would have expected a far more stunning sight.
The stats on that thing were impressive in theory, however, and despite the somewhat ugly exterior she found herself itching to connect her pod to it and take it for a spin. At the same time, she felt uneasy with the idea. Except for the Rising Star, she'd never undocked in a ship so expensive. The Rising Star had had crazy speeds to her credit which had made her feel relatively safe - and even so the Ares had blown up into tiny little pieces at the hands of team Dirtside back in Season 5. This new one, while fast for a cruiser, wouldn't feel nearly as nimble.
Also... she hadn't yet acquired the guns which she wanted to mount on it.
"When will she be spaceworthy?"
"Technically, she already is, cap'n. The hull is sound; the crew you hired is already making itself familiar with the insides. It's just that some of the shield systems aren't online yet and the turrets haven't arrived."
"I see." The jin-mei pinched her lower lip gently between thumb and index finger, deep in thought. "Call a break for the workers. I want to take her out for a short test-drive."
When she finally spun on her heels to make her way to the hangars, Kayleigh Jamieson-Read was smiling like a child with a new toy in hand. The money be damned. With a spark in her eye she wondered how fast she could make that cruiser go...
We made history tonight. Possibly even twice. First of all, it's now official that Quin is the first ever pilot to earn a title in each of the three possible classes. Not only that, but with her insane clone-jumping technique she docked before Takashi - before anyone, really - in an assault frigate. That's not a sight we see often at all in the League.
I don't care that critics might say 'oh but Takashi wasn't racing as usual; he was anchoring the Venture assault frigate challenger'. I know for a fact he tried to catch her toward the end; he burned past me in the space of three jumps as if I wasn't there at all. Yes, my ego suffers each time he does that. It drives me crazy.
Nevertheless, he tried to catch up to her AF in the later stages and couldn't. All the records will say is that Quin's assault frigate beat him and everyone else to the finish line.
I should be happy, jumping for joy, throwing a party. I'm not. I mean, I was at the time. I giggled and cheered and whooped as much as any of them on our team comms. But now the blood has cooled, the adrenaline has worn off and I can only feel a heavy heart. That's because I know this will be the last race where I'll have Quin alongside me on the track. My good friend Quin is quitting the piloting side of the races.
Sure, she'll be involved in the organisation side of things - and I swear I fear the tricks her brilliant mind will come up with - but she'll no longer be suffering and cheering and stumbling right along with us on the track. It's-- I can't quite explain just how much of a loss this is to me personally and to the team as a whole. I can't find the words. There's just this heavy, heavy feeling in my heart, and it has cast a bit of a shadow over the celebrations I should be doing.
Alenia V - Moon 4 - Roden Shipyards Factory station 20.08.111
I hope everything is going well planetside for you. You missed our appointed time for a chat, so I thought I'd leave a message anyway. Maybe you're caught in traffic? Is it raining? Are you snowed in? Is there no coverage where you are? I remember how things seemed so less reliable when I was living in Lirsautton.
Anyway life has been going on as normal as can be. I've gone back to some exploration which felt, frankly, liberating after so long. And this week I've been busy alongside Quin, planning strategies for the Scuderia on the last race of Season VII which is coming up this Sunday.
One curious thing happened earlier when I undocked in Alenia: there was a new beacon in system. I'm sure news of the whole mess between Roden and the government reached you even down there. Well now there's a Roden Shipyards Logistic Center out here in Alenia. I've enclosed a picture I took when I flew by.
I wonder what Roden are up to. It can't be a coincidence that this has popped up so shortly after the troubles in the news. As if it weren't enough that Verge Vendor low-sec were under the watchful eye of the Caldari militia, now high-sec is seeing its share of tension too with all this mess. You know I worked a very long time with Roden. I'm still tied to them through R&D and racing sponsorships. I'd be hard pressed to know where my loyalties lay if something were to happen around here. For now I'm going to wait and see.
I hope to talk to you tomorrow, same time as usual. I miss you!
It was Saturday night, a time when she would typically be busy with preparations for a race the next day, such as the horrible clone-jump she always had to make. But not this time. Tomorrow she would be missing the second race in a row on unavoidable planetside business. The fact had her edgy and restless.
Which was perhaps why when she was about to retire for the evening and her eyes fell on the Melted she hesitated and instead decided to go back out once more. It was about time she stopped moping around and went back to doing anything productive. Exploring was as good as anything else. This mindless sorting through assets she'd spent her day doing was what was driving her insane, surely.
An hour later, she felt much better. Alenia had held no results, but next-door Vaere had. So here she was now, on the Eternal Flame II which she hadn't flown since bringing it back from EndLand.
It was not like she herself was being vastly productive - sitting there watching as Laureline mined away at some arkonor in a system her instruments were calling J161138 - but she somehow felt better about herself. Never mind that the pesky Sleepers had decimated all but three of her drones nor that she was now basically just hanging still in space on a ship that maneuvered like a whale. And yet the thrill of discovery, of sitting guard in a dangerous place.. it was making her feel awake and alive once more.
Try as she might, she couldn't quite remember why she'd stopped going out there in her Helios to find hidden treasures.
She even smiled at the sight of that Nox Retriever gobbling up ore. It had been a while since she'd flown with anyone from her former alliance. She'd have to admit she missed many of them terribly, although Laureline herself was actually someone she barely knew. She'd arrived on the scene shortly before Kay's troubles with Dragonstar and had kept mostly to herself, perhaps because Dirtside figured on her employment history. The same Dirtside which had once fielded a racing team who'd shot down Kay in that fateful Race 10, Season 5. She wondered briefly if Laureline thought Kay would hold that against her, or if she thought Kay might try to do some espionage.
It didn't really matter to the jin-mei. She didn't mix racing with her regular job piloting in space if she could help it, and Dirtside didn't have a racing team anymore. As she helped the Nox pilot clean up and haul, she wondered if she would be up for a night cap before they went their separate ways again, maybe catch up on the latest in Nox Draconum.
Kayleigh's sense of pride and joy disappeared almost as quickly as it had burst to the fore while she was poring over the results for the latest race. The feeling which replaced it was apprehension, self-doubt.
45 seconds only had separated Takashi's arrival at the finish line from the first Scuderia Dragonstar pilot. It had been a long time since she'd seen such a small difference in times between her team and their biggest rivals on the track - Takashi Kurosawa and Venture Racing Team - and this incredible breakthrough had happened precisely on the one single official race she had failed to start in.
She pinched the bridge of her nose and released a tired sigh. Could it be that all this time she herself had somehow been dragging her team down? Was it possible that she was somehow distracting, interfering, getting in the way? Or maybe she'd simply lost the spark. She felt so tired all the time, these days. Nothing quite seemed to go right.
Verge Vendor, the region she'd called her home for so long, was overrun by Caldari militia. The Federation government seemed to be about to stumble and fall. Nakatre was off planetside conducting business and for the most part out of reach. SPHERE hadn't taken off for great flights yet, as she'd hoped after leaving Dragonstar. And now her own racing team seemed to do better than it had in the entire season when she wasn't around.
She sighed again.
As she stood, her doubts assailed her once more. Was she really becoming a has-been in the world of capsuleer racing? Should she quit while she still had some dignity? Should she go on but step back into less of a leading role and more of a support one?
She made her way toward the bedroom and let herself fall on the bed, curling up into a tight ball, eyes closed. She felt like crying but the tears wouldn't come. "I miss you Nakatre," she whispered tiredly into the velvety darkness.
But what a frustrating race. There were so many long dashes between waypoints! It was clearly a track made to Takashi's dreams. It would have to happen sooner or later, of course. Nothing we have been able to do so far even comes close to his gating times, although I shall have a staff meeting with my team of mechanics and engineers once more and I'll be damned if they won't find a place to shave off a few more seconds.
Maybe my mistake all along has been having a Minmatar leading the entire team which deals with my very Gallentean interceptors. I need to find a good Gallentean mechanical genius. Or maybe I need someone insane after all.
Speaking of which... I have yet to decide whether Quintrala is genius or insane. Out in Lonetrek she finally had a chance to use a trick for which she's been planning and preparing for on every single race for months. A mid-race clone-jump.
I positively hate clone-jumps. I do them out of necessity if and when I must. I'm always afraid I might be someone different when I wake up. I mean, imagine if the transfer is flawed and you forget something as essential as who your loved ones are, or how to undock in Dodixie traffic? Obviously Quintrala also doesn't go through the nauseating half-hour or so of disorientation after a clone-jump.
"I'm going to do it!" was what she said over team comms. We were facing a very long dash of about 12 jumps to one of the waypoints and her clone was really close to the destination. I said it to her face: "You're insane!" but I think the fact I couldn't stop giggling only made her want to do it even more.
Some reporter later asked me why I let her do it, why we risked a gamble which could have earned her a disqualification. There was absolutely nothing in the rules against such a tactic, that's the first reason. Secondly, what Caille brought to Dragonstar when we merged was precisely that: out-of-the-box thinking. I'm not going to stifle Quin's creativity. I'm going to laugh right along with her as we find new things to try.
And it would have worked in any other circuit in the season. After her clone-jump, Quintrala had a 2-minute advantage over Takashi at the next waypoint. But Takashi is a robot who gains 5 seconds on us at each stargate, and the track had many, many jumps. He gobbled up all that gap, overtook Quin, and got enough distance to not have to constantly look over his shoulder before he docked at the finish line.
As for me, I am so set in my ways of racing that I raced stupidly from then on. I mean, we had Quin feeding us the several waypoints over comms, so why didn't I think quick and do them out of the regular order as I came into the appropriate systems? I could have shaved quite a few seconds off my final time. Stupid.
Ayre and Demon flew more intelligently, at least - I was glad to see that. I will also cherish the holo of them docking exactly at the same time, side by side, two beautiful Firetails. I should display that somewhere...
3 years, 3 months, 3 days. That's how long her record sheet said she'd worked for Dragonstar. A funny date, a coincidence.
Kayleigh stared at the datapad, dotted line flashing at the bottom waiting for her to press her thumb there, and she hesitated. She lifted her grey eyes to sweep the room.
Her office was already empty, naked of everything but the very last personal touch: the old Dragonstar Racing Team poster from Season I. She smiled faintly as her gaze lingered there, on the image of herself, Iconath, Loras and Scavanger. It seemed like a lifetime ago. It made her sigh as her smile faded.
In the fast-paced world of capsuleer pilots, three years was a long time. It was depressing to see it all come to an end, when three months back everything had been going so well on the way to a healthy and thriving corp. Now, Dragonstar was a ghost of itself. Most pilots had left to other corporations within Nox Draconum. They were down to Druif, Quintrala, herself and Kiarra, basically. Kayleigh simply didn't have the strength anymore, not after the rug had been pulled from under her in that way. It was time to let go, start anew, change scenery.
And yet she couldn't help feeling she'd somehow let the corporation down, that she should be doing something, anything. With another miserable sigh, she turned her gaze again toward the datapad. That dotted line still there, blink, blink, blink... Grey eyes hard as steel, Kayleigh finally thumbed it. With a quiet bleep her life with Dragonstar came to an end.
She felt that she ought to be crying, but she couldn't shed a tear. She was too tired, too defeated. She simply got up, strode to the poster and retrieved it. At the door she cast one final glance at what had been the Director's office, her home away from home for so long. She lowered her gaze, shook her head and walked out.
In the empty office, the automatic door slowly closed itself.
I lost my fight with Timsinsal. It was a close one, Punisher vs Rifter, both really hugging each other's hulls. He was dealing more damage, but I was sucking his cap to feed my armour repairer and this was causing him trouble.
Eventually, though, he did break through my tank and that was that. A very good fight, but I finish my PvP stint in fourth place in our little tournament.
In other games, RedKiwi defeated General Ization and is now officially the winner. The General and Timsinsal now go on to play a match for 2nd and 3rd places. I'm curious to see who gets it.
When the camera drones came online she could see the other competitors warp out. She tried to keep sharp but she was sluggish, her reactions dulled. Jump after jump, she was falling behind, losing touch with Takashi and even her own team.
She felt tired, weary. No matter how much she tried to focus on the race, the rush, the excitement, all she could do was fumble and make mistakes. Overshooting cans, slow selection of gates, bouncing off asteroids at waypoints...
It was doubly embarrassing because the League was testing new technology which kept track of each pilot's location and sent back telemetry to the viewers. Why did she have to perform badly precisely when all eyes got to see more?
Because she was tired. Because she'd lost her spark when the rug had been pulled from under her feet and Dragonstar corp had all but died out. Because she had been spending sleepless nights planning a move, trying to let go, and yet she still felt stuck. And it was getting in the way of her racing.
She struggled to push it all behind her back, to somehow recapture the thrill of the race. But it was a long struggle and by the time she managed to find her rhythm it was too late to catch the lead.
Or was it?
She caught a lucky break at a multiple-can waypoint: Demon and she tagged a can which might have been a fake, losing a little time to Takashi and Quin. But in a lucky break, it turned out to be real, so while the leaders had to go back, she kept on racing, fighting Demon for position.
They couldn't catch Takashi, even though this bit of luck had reinvigorated her. She found herself fighting for second place overall, almost like the old days, finally feeling the old thrill returning on the final dash to the finish line.
Then she got stuck at a gate. Demon went past. A delayed Quin went past and there she was, still stuck, error messages popping up. There was some problem with her authentication, apparently.
Her heart fell all the way to her feet, and the thrill was lost once more. She just felt so tired. She ended up docking in 4th place, third in her class. It felt hollow.
Natalie raised her head from her book and swept the busy hangar with her eyes. Organised chaos, as it was every Sunday night. And in the center, literally under the spotlight sat the Distortion, with its pretty green and gold design which looked like dragon scales, being tended by a team of mechanics busy with last-minute tweaking. Daniel was busy polishing the number 2 on the Ares' wing, now.
What she couldn't see was any sign of the pilot, Mrs Kayleigh Jamieson-Read - better known among the fans simply as KayJay.
"She's late," came the low voice at her elbow.
She set the book down on her lap and turned her eyes to the chief mechanic, Steele, a big Brutor and the only man in that hangar to manage making the Scuderia jumpsuit look uncomfortable. "Yeah, she is," she agreed, swinging her feet now. Perched as she was on a stack of crates, Natalie was still only just taller than him. "Tell your guys to watch out. I don't imagine she'll be in much of a good mood. It's not like her to be late for this."
Ten minutes later, she arrived. Natalie noticed, even with her nose in her book, because it was as if the spotlight had suddenly shifted from the interceptor to the petite jin-mei striding quickly straight toward Steele. She wondered if all capsuleers did that trick of getting all attention focused on them in a room full of mere humans. For a moment, Natalie watched the scene.
The mechanics themselves, usually a loud and lively crew, suddenly were keping their exchanges strictly to the business at hand. Natalie smiled wryly. No one wanted to get noticed by the capsuleer. She didn't mingle with the grunts, as a rule, and it was taken as fact among the team that when she did deign to speak to you, you were about to get fired.
When she saw the conversation was nearly over, Natalie put her book away and hopped off the crates. Sure enough, just a moment later Jamieson-Read started making her way toward the pod dock, greeting Natalie with just a little nod. Natalie followed.
At the smaller, more secluded dock, Natalie assisted the pilot out of her regular clothes and into the Scuderia flight suit. She noticed the pilot was pale, and had long dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn't slept in days, but the distant, hard gaze invited no questions. Despite the quick change, Natalie had time to wonder, glancing at the jin-mei's naked back, if it had hurt to get all the sockets, or how it felt having them on day after day, or even what it was like to have a ship plugged in there.
But there was no more time for wondering; Kayleigh had stepped onto the lower half of the pod. Natalie got the first cable, smiled faintly and asked "Are you ready, captain?" All she got was a nod in reply.
One by one, the assistant connected each cable to the appropriate socket. Then she stepped back. "All done, captain. Fly safe," she said, punching the button which would trap the pilot inside the egg and start up systems.
I don't know how he does it. None of us can figure it out. Quin had the initial lead for a couple jumps off the start line and then Takashi overtook her and that was that; he never again lost the lead all through the race.
At least this time, despite all our little mistakes and mishaps, we didn't lose as much time as in previous races. When he docked at the finish line after fifteen waypoints I was four jumps from him. That's four to five minutes, roughly. There have been much worse gaps. And if Quin hadn't had the misfortune of a capsule systems reboot early in the race maybe the gap might have been shorter.
Of course we could get our act straight and stop miswarping, for one. And I personally could certainly use an intensive training session on how to handle multiple-can waypoints. It's unacceptable to keep losing so much time there.
On the other hand I'm really happy with the way Quin, Demon and I work together. It's such a seamless teamwork! It's really anyone's guess at the start line which one of us will arrive first at the finish line. Last night it was me, no doubt thanks to Quin's capsule glitch. A shame the rest of the team seems to have lost interest in the competition.
We may have got a new pilot coming in. It seems Demon convinced rookie Ayre Rowan to join our ranks. She was worried about team orders or that we would require her to change corporations, which surprised me. The thought had never crossed my mind. No one should quit their day job in order to race. That's certainly not what the Scuderia is all about.
Although in her case I doubt the term "day job" applies. Seems she's employed with the Hellcats, and therefor possibly makes her living as a pirate, for all I know. That's fine. It's always nice to have pilots on board the team who might know what they're doing if ever things get ugly on the track again sometime. But for now, I just hope she settles in well with the rest of us and finds fun racing out there.
The brackets for the second round are as follows (being updated as and when fights get played out):
General Ization (1-0) [Rifter] vs. Jadark (1-0) [speed/missile Condor] (Fight was tied when Jadark couldn't break GI's tank; later Jadark withdrew from the tournament after a disagreement about the rules.)
RedKiwi (2-0) vs Timsinsal (1-1)
Breddy vs. Gareth (Match forfeit as Breddy was a no-show.)
Kayleigh (1-1) [speedy Rifter] vs. Werewolf (0-2) [missile Inquisitor]
Round two of the Nox Draconum tournament. I figure if the unexpected didn't work in round one, I have nothing to lose in my elimination match in trying my strongest point: speed.
I knew which ship I wanted all along. I'd raced in the T1 days often enough with the Rifter - a ship which I always thought was a good balance between speed and sturdiness. And of course I've heard many wonderful things about how the Rifter performs in combat. I called up some friends, looked up several fittings and picked one which came highly recommended.
I won't deny I got really nervous before the fight. I'd spent all day trying to visualise how the fight might go, what I'd need to do. I practiced in my head, but that's always such a fickle simulator, isn't it? Nothing to do but to go out there and do it for real. So that's how it was when I warped to the designated spot in Leremblompes to fight Werewolf.
I found he'd brought an Inquisitor to the fight. I didn't like that. Don't those have a lot of missile hardpoints? My Amarr frigate expertise is rather lacking. I do know I absolutely hate missiles and rockets with a passion. Damned things always seem to make the most damage on me, and I was in such a little frigate.
Butterflies in my tummy, Gareth gives the sign and off I go, screaming at the top of my MicroWarp Drive engine toward Werewolf. I want to hug his hull, not let him get away from me, suck his energy for my repairer because I'll need it.
But his missiles hit hard, making me cringe, my heart dropping all the way to my feet as I see I'm not doing as much damage. But I'm maybe doing mine more often. And he's not going anywhere, he's not denying my speed.
Out of shields -- almost time to turn on repairer -- distance is good -- his shields still about one quarter? Not good -- shoot, little Rifter, orbit fast! -- half armour? kick in repper -- goodness me, that sucks cap -- pulse it, just like the MWD...
And then the fight turned. My armour held, his started melting. Could it be..?
Yes it could. My Rifter performed beautifully. His Inquisitor is no more. I think I owe a certain friend some exotic spiced wine.
I'm still in the tournament, and I have no idea what to fly next.
I finally found my way out of EndLand today - a civilised way out, that is - and managed to get in contact with RedKiwi so we could have our match in the Nox Tournament.
I hadn't expected to find myself in a capsuleer tournament, but once in there, I felt compelled to give it my best. And in this case it involved trying not to be too predictable. Everyone in Nox Draconum knows I'm fast; everyone knows my strong point is in drones, when it comes to damage. They'd be expecting it. So what could I do to catch them off-guard?
I'd never done it. So much so, that I had to forego any normal pilot activities and just sit down the whole day trying to learn how to use it. I put orders out for fitting a Maulus, possibly the one Gallentean frigate I'd never flown.
And when the time arrived, there I was with butterflies in my stomach and a shiny new ship wearing modules I'd never before used or tested. Nobody expects the E-war Kayleigh.
However, I ended up having to face a rocket-Kestrel. I'm told that's pretty much the worst case scenario for me. I wouldn't have known, initiated as I am into such arts. I still gave it a go, with all I had, of course.
My two drones did bite Red hard, but I couldn't break his lock on me and it went downhill from there. I didn't have the speed to catch up to him to suck much-needed cap or even to manage to hit him with my blasters. I had to micro-manage drones while also trying to manage unfamiliar e-war equipment... I lost.
When the ship disintegrated around me I believe he was down to 25% shields, give or take a bit. Small consolation that my alliance mates tell me this was probably one of the longest matches - I still lost and don't even feel it was very close a match. I'll file it away as a learning experience.
Next round I face elimination if I lose to Werewolf. We shall see...
I'd very much like to know who was the smart ass who signed me up for the little tournament we're having within the alliance. Maybe someone thought I needed to let some steam off in a shooting match? I don't know.
What I do know is that when I turned on Alliance comms today I was greeted with news that I was supposed to be setting up a sparring match with RedKiwi no later than tonight. I checked and there was my name in the brackets, along with seven other pilots. And I'm the only one who's still in Dragonstar, too. I suppose I can't bail out; the brackets would go all wonky and there would be no one defending Dragonstar colours.
Ha. Me, of all people, holding up the DS colours. Right...
So... I need to set up a tech one frigate on tech one specs and fight RedKiwi. Goodness, that's going to make for a very short and very painful match, I'm sure.
I think I'm slowly losing it. Lately I've had so much paperwork to do, so many people to talk to, so many things to take care of that I found I actually almost missed a real season race.
I checked the calendar on Friday night to make sure and I misread it. I thought Sunday, May 10th was to be the Cruiser Exhibition. So imagine my surprise when comms managed to filter through to Endland and I realised I was going to miss a race.
Except I didn't, because it ended up canceled. And somehow, even though that saves me the embarrassment of losing 25 points in a single race to Takashi, somehow that didn't make me glad at all. This season is limping, I believe. We have to stop canceling and postponing races. The viewership is going down, racers are showing less and less at the start line... *sigh* For crying out loud, even I got the calendar wrong, what with all the changes.
3 years, 1 month, 13 days. That's how long her records indicated she'd been a Dragonstar employee.
Three years since she'd graduated (seemed like a lifetime ago.) Three years since she'd joined a private corporation (seemed only yesterday.) Three years of racing under Dragonstar banner. Three years of camaraderie, joy, hardships endured together with amazing people she'd come to love and cherish. In one single night it was all now falling apart.
She'd come back from a stint in uncharted space to find that Kiarra, Dragonstar's founder and original CEO from those same three years back, had seized the leadership of the corporation. Now, Kayleigh was under no illusion that she was a good CEO; she'd only taken the job in a desperate attempt to keep the corporation from dying just the past winter.
And actually she'd have been more than glad to hand over the reins, especially now that so many questions had risen among the corp which she was struggling to keep up with and answer to everyone's satisfaction. She would have loved to hand it over to someone more experienced.
But to come home and find it done in her absence, after three years of unwavering loyalty and hard work? That hurt. Deeply. And it had also outraged not only the majority of Dragonstar pilots, but also their sister-corp, Endless Night.
Her director, Kanunu, had panicked and raged, she'd been told. He'd locked down everything and secured every cent and every asset somewhere. She was going to have to go over everything with him, give back what belonged to Dragonstar, split EndLand proceedings among people who worked there, return donations to rightful angry owners. It was a dirty and painstaking job. She was going to be at it for days.
Then of course she'd have to go around talking personally to all the active pilots. She already knew it was not going to be easy. There were many hurt feelings beside her own, and much outrage at what had been done. She could tell Dragonstar was fragmenting. Some people were even already gone.
The outspoken Jikomanzoku, who lately had been demanding so many answers, had been the first to go. Which was ironic because from what she could gather of the whole incident, Kiarra's sudden move might have been done in such a hurry precisely in an attempt to keep him on board. Sadly, if such was the reason, it hadn't just not worked: it had backfired spectacularly. The personnel records Kayleigh was poring through right now showed Jiko had already registered his own corporation. She sighed.
Evaya Starflight had been the second to bolt. It wasn't really surprising. She'd had her share of minor clashes with Kiarra in the past. The records showed she was already with Endless Night.
Kanunu, Feu, Maeliki... they would be gone as well, she just knew it even before talking to them. The same with Taco and Kakko; those two would undoubtedly join Jiko sooner or later. She wondered what Batuka, Tim, Gerrard, Qua would do.
And then there were the newer people. Nosfer and Faith, who must be so confused about all which was going on around them. And Quintrala. Her good friend Quin, who had been accepted into the corp just before taking a celebratory vacation for graduating from Uni Caille.. she'd come back to a crumbling Dragonstar. Kayleigh couldn't help but feel horribly guilty about that.
And yet how could she have guessed?
She sighed, checked to see if Kiarra was reachable yet for a private conversation, and saw that she was not. She rubbed her tired eyes, sighed again and went back to poring over records.
Dinner had come and gone. Ayane had left rather early, so Kayleigh and Nakatre had settled on the sofa watching the holo. The jin-mei wasn't listening anymore, however, her fingers idly caressing silvery hair at her lap.
What a strange family she'd landed in.
The meal itself had gone well.. or as well as could be expected. The shocking revelation that Nakatre actually had a restraining order on Ayane was.. well, disturbing, to say the least, considering the reasons.
She'd tried so very hard to be the charming guest, to forgive her sister-in-law for the whole incident with the gun at her head, to make her welcome in this little capsuleer family. Yet now that they had settled down and she could mull over the entire evening, she found herself feeling angry that Ayane would have assaulted her sister in such fashion.
Apparently she was seeking treatment, which was a good sign. But still Kayleigh wondered if she really could deal with all this with a welcoming smile on her lips. She hoped so, for Nakatre's sake.
A lock alarm bleeped, bringing Kayleigh out of her reverie. Serpentis reenforcements had arrived. With barely a second thought she sent her drones after the faster frigates, glanced at the displays to check on Nakatre and make sure she was doing alright, then went back to her thoughts.
She had a family dinner to plan.
Well, maybe that was a little too fancy a name for it, but the fact remained that they would be having Nakatre's sister for dinner. And that, of course, was the unusual and in fact unexpected development.
She had had nightmares for months after the first time they'd actually met face to face. You don't forget easily the sight of a gun pointed to your head, and Ayane had looked like she really might press the trigger. But she hadn't, and time had passed without further encounters.
Now Ayane was working for Nakatre in Stillwater and in a stunning turn of events had called up Kayleigh, arranged to meet (somewhere public, thank goodness) and... she'd apologised. She'd looked like she meant it, too.
So here was Kayleigh, trying to give the woman - her sister-in-law, really - a second chance. Hence a little family dinner. She'd be cooking herself, instead of ordering out, and it would be fun to drag Nakatre along into the kitchen to help out. She found herself smiling. Maybe the evening wouldn't be so bad.
Took me 45 [CENSORED] minutes to get as far as waypoint 3/10, after much pulling of hair and puzzling at the [CENSORED] directional scanner to find cans. And then what happens? Yeah, KillJoy, that was a [CENSORED] genius idea putting that waypoint there.
Sometimes you just have to take a break from the daily grind and go off on something different. After days of toiling first in EndLand for Nox and then in Ney for Ms. Estisen I was in quite a dire need for a break.
Opportunity presented itself one day when my good friend Quintrala was feeling a little low. "We should do something together," I said. The 'something' turned into a little expedition into wormhole space, since Quin had seen little (if any) of it, to date. Last night we took off, she in a Helios doing the probing and me in my best-tanking ship, which just so happens to currently be an Ishtar.
And yes, I know the Sleepers come after drones something awful. I made sure I carried in my hold quite a number of replacements, and I definitely planned on doing a lot of micro-management on them. It's not like I am much good with my guns, anyway. But I'm quite fed up of only seeing the gas clouds out there. I wanted to see something else.
So we took off on a little roam throughout Amarrian space, Quin probing and me either just chatting (girl talk!) or dispatching some pesky Sansha while she kept looking for an unstable wormhole.
We ended up finding one out of Sizamod. We took the proverbial deep breath and jumped in.
I always find the lack of comms unsettling out there, I have to confess. I'm suddenly straining to peer farther, or to make sense of the sounds my sensors are translating from radiation floating around. It all sounds so... eerie.
The place might have been empty of people, according to our sensors, but it certainly wasn't uninhabited. We picked up a Gallente control tower somewhere out there which we didn't dare investigate, of course. And Quin, brilliant in her probing, found us some Sleepers.
And this is where I cursed myself for being all sorts of foolish coming out and trying to take them on all by myself. What if they warp-jammed me from insane distances? What if my tank failed? But this was our little adventure together, and I was determined to learn some bravery from Quin!
After some initial scouting that Quin did, I crossed my fingers and warped into what the sensors were calling a Perimeter Ambush Point. Two Sirius cannons stripped me of shields pretty much with just one volley, which didn't do much for my self-confidence. Still... I turned on the armour rep before their next volley hit, just in case.
Good thing I did, because they kept hitting hard from far away. The frigates, however, were very much ignoring me, so I had to maneuver much closer. When they finally locked they were fast in getting close. I launched my drones and... well what I remember most about the rest of the combat is keeping an eagle's eye on the damage indicators on my drones and on my armour while Quin lay nearby, cloaked, making sure I had a warp-in point in case things got ugly and I needed to break lock.
Despite my best efforts I lost count of how many Warrior and Valkyries II I lost. Fast as they are, they often wouldn't return to the drone bay quickly enough and poof! We got three waves of Sleepers and then nothing. Just the damnable Sirius cannons still taking big chunks off my armour and me fresh out of cap boosters to turn on the second repairer when the hits were better aimed.
I warped out, to let my cap and shields recover... and in all honesty to recharge my courage a little bit. Quin kept an eye on things but in the absence of more Sleepers and seeing my cap and shields all green, I warped in at close range, convinced that within seconds my Ash Green would be just another wreck in w-space.
Was I glad to be proved wrong! Those bloody cannons had an awful time hitting me at such close range. Despite my fears, my surviving Valkyries made short work of them without my even needing to turn on the first repairer.
I'm so slow that by then it was quite late in the night. Quin uncloaked, did most of the looting and then we got nosy around the ruins for a little, taking pictures, after which we went back home, feeling great about overcoming our first little challenge in uncharted space.
All in all, we had a great time. Can't wait to go out there again with her.
Hurried footsteps trotting along a corridor; three sets of footsteps, in fact. A thump. "Watch it, punk!" Huffed breath. "Sorry, mister!"
Running, running, turning a corner. "There!" A girl's voice, this time.
Three sets of running feet draw to a messy halt, punctuated by gasps for breath. "Here, guys," again the girl, still somewhat out of breath. "DS 20. It's this boarding gate."
"Bordel, where's my ticket?" A boy, this time, and the sound of hands patting pockets. The girl, next: "For God's sake, we're late already!"
"Now boarding shuttle DS 20." The soft, efficient but bored tones of a flight attendant.
Three sets of tickets validated and three students let through the gate. "You're lucky to still catch the shuttle, young gents and lady. Your pilot got delayed and is only now getting connected to the shuttle. Enjoy your flight!"
"Connected?" The quiet boy, now, in a soft but low tone.
"Putain! We're going in a capsuleer shuttle? D'you think it's her flying us there?"
"Don't be silly," the girl again, in a practical tone. "I'm sure Ms Jamieson-Read has better things to do than ferry around you lot."
Kayleigh found herself thinking about the past week as she sat docked at the Caille station in Ney, waiting for her cargo to board.
Evaya Starflight, the first person who had taught her anything about flying interceptors, was back in space flying for Dragonstar after an absence of about two years. She hadn't changed a bit, either. According to comms she was right now busy at the wormhole trying to get RedKiwi dizzy by orbiting him fast, in the absence of anything juicy to shoot at.
Druif, too, had made a brief appearance just the previous night. Krak'a Tau and Kessica had also been spotted moving assets around, after being off the spacelanes for well over a year. Last but not least, Dragonstar founder and Kayleigh's old CEO - Kiarra - was back.
Funny how many people had approached the jin-mei in private with a worried look asking how she felt about that. It had surprised her mostly because she felt great! She felt happy to get her old boss back; they'd always got along well. Not to mention Kiarra had always seemed to know what she was doing, whereas Kay herself always felt out of her depth as a CEO. For now Kiarra seemed happy just getting back into the swing of things, but what would happen if in time she wanted the CEO office back? Kay smiled in her pod. She knew exactly what she would do, no regrets.
Blog posts are labelled according to a certain logic, most of it self-explanatory. Note, however:
In-Character: events that would one way or another become common knowledge out there. Fiction: most likely events that are not common knowledge. Do not assume you know this about my character unless you have good reason to. Out-of-Character: mostly ramblings from the player, not to be associated with the character herself.