The picture is obscured briefly by a dark shape which turns out to be Ethan's torso. As he sits back from adjusting the camera, it is quickly obvious that he is in a very different location. His black military issue jumpsuit contrasts harshly with the dulled, bronze walls and ornate detail of the furniture. There seems to be some sort of writing around the room at the top of the wall in a flowing script that is definitely not basic. In some place it has even been accompanied with illustrations of humanoid figures performing various activities. The cabin is not spacious, but it is larger than the previous one.
I don't have a whole lot of time, so this going to have to be quick.
Ethan stands up again, moving the chair so that his face isn't quite as obscured in shadow. He looks healthy, if slightly haggard and ill at ease in his new quarters.
I've been on more extended operations for the Caldari Navy since my last entry. My official affiliation is still neutral, so I guess that makes me pretty useful.
I'd been back in Korsiki for only a few days when I got the orders. I knew right away that it must have been urgent, because a sergeant pulled me out of the middle of a fusion reactor dynamics class. He explained the op for me on our way to the docking bay -- apparently the Sisters of Eve organization had found something that the corporate government wanted. When I asked him what exactly they'd found, he just smiled and told me not to worry about it. Because of my neutral status, I was the perfect capsuleer for the job -- the sisters would think they were hiring a freelancer when really I would provide a copy of everything I learned straight to fleet headquarters.
Personally, I don't think trying to fool the Sisters is ever really a good idea. If anyone knows anything about espionage, it's the Sisters of Eve, and I very rarely hear of people beating them at their own game. But I don't write the orders, do I?
The sergeant told me next that the Navy was providing a ship for my journey to help keep with the whole "neutral" image. Given my experiences with naval procurement, I immediately had a bad feeling about the op. When we got to the hangar, my worst fears were confirmed. The ship -- and when I say ship, I mean a ship in the loosest sense of the term -- was a heavily-used Minmatar shuttle . . . a floating scrap heap that was maybe one step above reprocessed salvage. At this point the sergeant told me that my Sisters of Eve contact was in the Rens system, deep in Minmatar space. Great.
To make a long story short, I made it to Rens without incident (excluding my almost continuous life or death struggle with the shuttle's subsystems). I was slightly behind schedule due to a blown-out drive coil when I arrived, so as soon as I popped the seal on my pod I hustled on down to the sister's office. Imagine my surprise when I discover I'm not the only capsuleer on the job -- three other guys turn and stare at me as soon as I open the door. It took me a minute to realize what's going on . . . one of the pod pilots had heavy Amarrian facial tatoos, one of them was a dark-skinned Minmatar tribesman, and when the third spoke up with a thick Gallentean accent I knew for sure that the Sisters had trumped our Intel department yet again. They WANTED our four governments to know about whatever we were about to investigate, and practically invited us in . . .
Gotta remember never to underestimate the Sisters.
Sure enough, our contact Sister Zaserkherah came in all smiles. She gave us some details -- something about a strange ship being sighted in deep space. I wasn't paying much attention, I was more worried about the Brutor tribesman that I was sitting a scant meter and a half from. I've been through basic combat training, and I'm not small, but this guy was easily half again my mass, and all of it muscle. I grabbed my data cards and left as soon as possible once Sister Zaserkherah was finished. Being in a room with two potentially deadly enemies and one reluctant ally is not a situation I want to prolong.
Later, back on that dammed shuttle, I started investigating the job I'd gotten from the sister. I quickly realized that the piece of junk I was flying was not going to cut it -- there was a lot of deep space exploration and potential hostiles involved. I was going to need a new ship, something with some staying power and weaponry. And typical Caldari Navy op -- I was gonna have to pay for it myself.
After checking the market listings the next day, I headed out to the hangar levels. A Caldari ship wouldn't do . . . I was still trying to keep a low profile, after all. Also, I didn't have a whole lot of money to spend. Unfortunately that meant that there weren't a whole lot of options for me. After spending all morning looking for a cheap ship that I could fly yet wouldn't brand me as a Caldari spy, I headed down to the crew cafeteria for some lunch. That's where I finally had some luck.
It was lunchtime and the caf was crowded, so I couldn't get a table to myself. Most places were packed Minmatar crew members, but I found one table in a corner about halfway full with a scruffy looking Caldari bunch. I grabbed a seat on the far end of the bench -- they didn't pay me any heed, mostly due to an energetic argument that was taking place between two of them. As the volume increased, I couldn't help but to overhear the details. They were both bridge officers on a ship that had lost it's pod pilot rather suddenly -- a faulty clone or something. One of them wanted to set out to find their pod pilot's new clone, while the second, shorter man wanted to see if they could make a go of it from where they were now. Apparently the second person had the rest of the crew's support, because they joined in the argument on his side. The shouting continued until the lone crew member loyal to the old pilot left in a huff, shouting some very rude words that I won't repeat here.
Ethan chuckles softly before getting back to the story.
At this point I realized my opportunity. I introduced myself and mentioned that I was a pod pilot looking for a ship. At first they seemed slightly taken aback that a capsuleer was eating lunch in the crew cafeteria, but when I mentioned that I already had a contract with the Sisters they loosened up. The man who had been arguing for leaving the old pod pilot seemed to be their leader -- he introduced himself as Emmanuel Romero, First Mate of the Gambit, and graciously offered to show me to their ship to formalize a contract. I followed the disorderly group back to the docking bay, realizing exactly how rowdy they were and wondering if I'd made a good decision or not.
The Gambit turned out to be a Punisher-class Amarrian frigate. After a brief inspection she seemed to be in good enough physical condition. The paint job was the most interesting part -- it appeared as if fierce eyes and teeth had been painted on the forward hull at some point, but had been dulled by weapons fire and repeated cyclings of a hull repairer. When I asked them who their previous employer had been, Emmanuel just broke out laughing . . . I'm still not sure what that means, or how a bunch of Caldari ended up in Minmatar space with an Amarrian ship.
To make a long story short, we signed a contract, headed out into space, and started doing a bunch of sensor sweeps at the locations that Sister Zaserkherah had given us. The only hitch came when we were arming the Gambit. Amarrian ships are laser boats, and when I mentioned to Emmanuel that I'm not certified in laser weapons he said something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like a Minmatar curse. After some brief inspection, we determined that the weapon hardpoints on the Gambit could be rigged to run hybrid railgun turrets. The ship doesn't have an ammunition belt system, but we ran some portable conveyors up through a couple maintenance passages and it works well enough.
At one point during our scans we got a distress call from a stranded freighter in Rens that was being attacked by pirates. This isn't really much of an oddity in the Rens system, but the message we got thirty seconds later from Sister Zaserkherah offering a fifty percent bonus on the day's scanning contract if we could protect the freighter was pretty odd. We aligned and warped pretty quickly to it's location. I wasn't expecting so many pirates to be there, and neither was the crew of the Gambit. Observing from my bridge cameras, I saw them exchange some apprehensive looks -- and who could blame them, in a ship with jury-rigged weapons and an unknown pod pilot? I tried to quiet my own doubts as I jacked the ship up into a spiral at full afterburner.
It quickly became apparent, though, that our worries were unfounded. I'm pretty good with a small railgun turret, and the Gambit handles well. It felt strange to be flying a ship with so little shields and so much armor, but with the removal of the lasers the Gambit has so much extra capacitor power that I probably could have run the armor repair system the whole time. Emmanuel said later that it's a weird configuration, but one that works surprisingly well.
All that, however, has come to a stop with the most recent message I recieved from the university. They're calling all pod-capable students back for some sort of operation. We've been suffering from numerous mercenary corpations attacking our operations, and apparently they aren't unrelated incidents. Operating out of Rens, I haven't seen much of it, but it's been pretty bad in Korsiki. The university-owned research station has been threatened, something I didn't think feasible in high security space -- but if these mercenaries are as organized as I've heard, perhaps it is in danger. I've been cleared by Cladari Naval command to go back; with so many Caldari students, they've got a vested interest in keeping the University in business. They even arranged a jump clone for me in Korsiki, and I'll have a Caracal-class destroyer waiting for me when I jump. The jump's in an hour, so I need to wrap this up.
Ethan starts to rise, but stops.
We did find something, by the way. Some sort of strange drone with life signs. It warped before we could get close to it. Not really my problem, I'm leaving that one to the scientists.
Anyway. Gotta go get ready to switch bodies.
Ethan reaches behind the camera.
*End of Entry*