Thursday, 28 January 2010

First Solo

Within the confines of her pod Kayleigh stretched. She liked the quiet days, true, but this endless staring at asteroids bored her to tears. With a sigh, she ran another directional scan around her. Nothing and more nothing.

Over in corporate frequencies there was some idle chatter going on which she didn’t much feel like taking part in. She had been unable to contact Nakatre for a little distraction, either. Kayleigh Jamieson-Read was stuck staring at a Retriever chipping away at rocks through her camera drones. Her strip miners finished a cycle and she watched the indicator for her cargo hold confirm the intake. Almost idly she ran another scan.

It took her a moment to realise something had actually changed. Core probes and a Magnate somewhere out there. Adrenaline immediately kicked in. She aligned the Dantan Express toward the tower and while it accelerated she shut down the strip miners and scooped whatever she could from the jet can, while she warned her corp mates that there was an intruder in their space. Sadly, no one was close enough to help.

The slow barge entered warp without incident. Grey eyes trained on directional scan and refreshing it often, Kayleigh was surprised the Magnate remained uncloaked. What was this guy doing? She kept wondering as she went out of scan range and her home tower materialised ahead of her.

Whatever he was doing, he was unlikely to home in on precisely the asteroid belt where she had been parked, not with core probes, so on impulse she changed ships into a hauler and turned back. It would be just a quick run. She’d be damned if she was going to be bored all that time and then see all her hard work robbed from under her nose.

As quick as she could, she maneuvered to scoop up her can and then realigned back home. Much to her surprise her scanner was still showing the five probes and uncloaked Magnate. Either he was trying to mess with her or – the most likely prospect – he didn’t know what he was doing.

Within minutes, she was boarding the Stalker after securing her cargo of ore. Scowling at her directional scanner, she warped to a safe and cloaked. “Where are you?” she thought to herself in a sing-song voice. It didn’t take her long to pinpoint him around the star. It still puzzled that he would be uncloaked all this time. Biting her lip, she aimed the Hound at the star and warped at range.

The Stalker came out of warp a good 500km away from the Magnate. That was bad. Without breaking cloak she would take forever to catch up to him. She tried anyway, true to the racer in her, and chased after this Von Brimstoner person. When a spatial phenomenon occluded him from sight, she was dismayed. Had he cloaked? Had he warped out? No, her scanner still put him squarely ahead of her somewhere in space. So she kept going and sure enough a few minutes later he reappeared, closer but still impossibly far away.

When next he disappeared from visual, she tried something different. Hoping the glitch was working both ways, she uncloaked and gave her engine a burst. Her lips curled into a smile; much better, now. Once the cycle was almost done she cloaked again. And that’s when the Magnate disappeared from her scanner. She cursed herself for her impatience. She had no doubt spooked her prey.

She warped out, tried several scanning spots but he was gone, either cloaked in hiding or gone back to empire space. After a while, things seemed quiet so she went back to her Retriever and the rock she’d been working on. Assuming all would go back to normal, she lowered her guard and the usual boredom settled back into her.

Not ten minutes after getting settled, she was jarred awake by the arrival of a ship. Another spike of adrenaline coursed through her as she scrambled to align and warp out even before she took a good look at it. A Sigil?! In this place?! As the Dantan Express gained speed she confirmed it; it was Von Brimstoner again.

This time she went straight for the Hound when she reached the ship hangars. She warped at range, cloaked, expecting to find the ship gone… but no! There he was, still in his Sigil and mining with his tiny little mining lasers aimed at the biggest rocks of Spodumain around the place.

The jin-mei hesitated, torn between defending her territory and reluctance to attack a basically unarmed vessel. In the end, she reminded herself that this was their home, their territory, their livelihood. They had paid dearly for the right to it in ships, crew, manpower and hours of patrolling. This man was able to be there in his little ship because she herself had cleared out the local Sleepers before. She started approaching, wary of any rocks that might break her cloak.

“It’s not like he doesn’t know people live here,” she thought to herself. “He saw me. I was in a mining barge. The tower appears on directional scan from the exit mouth. What exactly does he think I warped out for? This is a dangerous place. Not the high-sec he seems to think he’s still flying in.”

Building up her resolve, she did her approach. A simple act of aggression for most people, but something she’d hardly ever done before, much less all on her own. And this guy had no idea what was about to hit him.

At 30km she uncloaked and immediately launched a bomb. Grey eyes glued to the bomb’s trajectory, she maneuvered at the same time to place herself at a favourable orbit. She needn’t have troubled. Her single bomb instantly turned the Sigil into so much twisted metal. She cloaked herself again, eyes on the pod. “Go on, get away from here,” she spoke within her mind, as if he could hear her. And then when he did warp out, she realised he should count himself lucky. If any other of her corp mates had been doing the hunting Von Brimstoner would likely have found his trip home an instantaneous one.

She watched the capsule signature disappear from her directional scanner. “Be smart. Don’t come back.”

Sunday, 24 January 2010

War Ends

Looking back at the past week, Kayleigh had to smile. She had never been in a position where a war had been so profitable for the defending corporation.

No one had even quite figured out why this corporation, Schindler’s Ignore List, had declared a war on SPHERE. The best they had been able to guess was that they might have been spotted at the ice field in Vaurent, all on barges, mindlessly mining ice, and someone might have wanted to have some fun at the expense of clueless miners.

What had happened instead was that all SPHERE pilots had moved over to the facilities on J170132 and throughout the entire week had proceeded to mine, harvest and fight like a well-practiced team, and the corporation would be making a very nice amount of money once she could get all this stuff on the market.

There had been a few exciting moments when, in a bout of cosmic humour, the exit wormhole had connected J170132 first to the very home system of their war targets, then two days later to a system just next-door to them, but even then no action had happened. Even their friends in empire would barely get glimpses of their aggressors in local channels.

Well now the war was drawing to a close, Kayleigh found herself secretly sorry for that, as a number of her corp mates prepared to go back to their usual lives and occupations in empire star systems. She was sure it was about to get a little lonely out here.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

War on Ice?

Kayleigh sighed for what might well have been the hundredth time. Bored, bored bored. Corporate banter could only go so far, after all. Sittting still, staring at the very same huge chunk of ice tended to make people go quiet, most likely out of the same utter boredom she was feeling right now.

She couldn’t for the life of her fathom what made people harvest this for a living. Desperation, likely. She glanced at her own assistant, Laureline, sitting nearby in the Masalle, a Retriever which had started its career belonging to Kay. She as working hard to get a Mackinaw and mine even more ice. Kayleigh might not understand the appeal, but she was sure willing to buy her ice for Sphere’s wormhole control tower.

Another sigh. And then suddenly she noticed the blinking icon informing her a new message had arrived. The jin-mei took her eyes off the static scene outside and opened it. CONCORD? A war dec? She arched her eyebrows, incredulous as she read again to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

A moment later, she broke silence on corporate comms. “Has anyone else noticed someone declared war on us? Does anyone even know who they are?”

Sunday, 3 January 2010

First Batch

Quintrala often said boosters weren’t really drugs, more like energy drinks. Unfortunately Kayleigh didn’t agree, which was why she was now looking on in dismay while Tor XianKun busied herself onlining and feeding their newest toy. SPHERE was about to make its very first batch of combat boosters.

When the XianKun sisters had seen her look of horror at the new structures – she hadn’t been able to help herself, really – they had patiently explained to her that such boosters were important for pilots in combat. They could mean the difference between life and death. And still Kayleigh swore to herself she’d stay well away from those. She knew they had side effects. She knew they caused addiction. These were not some simple energy drinks.

In the end, she kept her mouth shut and just shrugged. The gesture made plain the words she would not speak to her employer: Do what you will, it’s your corporation, your life.

So she floated in her pod, watching through her camera drone eyes, jaw set in a stubborn face which fortunately no one else could see. Head of logistics or not, I refuse to touch that. I didn’t lecture Nakatre about illegal activities to then turn around the next minute and do it myself. You make it, you sell it, you ruin pilots’ lives if you want. I wash my hands of this whole affair, she thought to herself as the array finally came online and started working.