Ethan is sitting at a small table. Behind him a huge plaza stretches out for several hundred yards -- a mix of green foliage and stone walkways. There's a small footbridge nearby that crosses over a gently flowing stream. At first he appears to be planetside, but high above stretches a matrix of steel girders and reinforced glass, a huge canopy that provides the viewer with an unparalleled look at the vacuum of space. The system's sun shines brightly into the plaza, the steel canopy beams casting stark shadows that move slowly as the station rotates. A planet looms close by, the only other object visible against the darkness of space. Frigates and transport ships occasionally shoot past the viewports, casting everything into shadow for the briefest of instants as they block the sun. People are scattered about the plaza, singly and in groups, some of them passing through quickly while others meander through the green space, gazing upwards at the stars.
Time for another update.
I'm back in the Rens system after my little excursion to Korsiki. The rest of the war was fast, intense, and draining, with many losses on both sides. As it ended, University leadership suggested that everyone take a break and suspended our normal classroom activities. After completing my last contract for the Sisters of Eve, they had offered me more work, so I decided to take them up on the offer. I already had a ship and crew in system (the Gambit), and the money was good. And I sort of wanted to get back into my old body . . . call it a foolish emotional attachment if you will.
The crew of the Gambit was happy to see me. Flying a ship manually is a lot of work, and even the most competently crewed ship just can't match the response times of pod pilot literally plugged into his vessel. Of course, they may have just been happy because I was bringing a new contract. Emmanuel . . . er, Mr. Romero now? . . . is calling himself "Captain of the Gambit"; apparently the crew member that they ran off had actually been the old captain. I'm beginning to realize just how informal the crew's organization really is -- it's less a chain of command and more a mob. Coming from a naval standpoint I don't understand how such an organization can even survive, much less function at a resonably competent level. Even the Gallentean navy isn't this rough around the edges.
Ethan laughs before continuing.
They do function, however, and pretty damn well. I hadn't noticed before, but beneath the Gambit's worn exterior is a ship in prime fighting condition. It's not apparent at first glance -- there are some rust spots on the hull, a few maintenance panels that are missing covers, and an accumulated grime in the machine spaces that defies comprehension. What this all hides, however, is that everything on the ship works (and at spec or above). Sure, the port dorsal turret mount's acutator sheath is missing, but that's because the turret was blown clean off the ship a month ago and rebuilt by hand in the machine shop (the sheath was lost in the vaccum of space). Sure, the reactor shielding has serial numbers from three different frigates, but that's because they burned through the orignal set running the reactor at 110 percent while running a gatecamp in Amarrian space. The ship has been worked hard, but it's also been well cared for.
Working for the sisters has been good for the Gambit and her crew as well. I found out that a few weeks ago one of the fusion thrust turbines had sheared a blade deep inside the engine, and it had gotten sucked immediately through the compression vanes, the throttling mechanism, and the heat exchanger before totally wrecking the nozzle gimbals on it's way out into space. In the Caldari Navy we would've called it a lost cause, pulled the engine and put in a replacement, but the crew of the Gambit couldn't afford a new one. They spent three days in drydock pulling the engine, stripping it down, grafting a new blade onto the turbine, truing the turbine and the rotor, and then reassembling, testing, and reinstalling the old engine. I was shocked by this, but apparently it's typical -- several vital components have been painstakingly rebuilt piece by piece not once, not twice, but three times! So far the record is held by the starboard wing thruster -- perhaps the only original component of the ship, it's been totally broken down and reassembled over six times!
With our new source of income from the Sisters of Eve, they've been able to start finally replacing some of the more failure-prone pieces of ship equipment. That's actually why I'm out here making this log entry -- they're flushing the new O2 circulation system with some sort of corrosive gas.
Anyways, I've only been learning about the Gambit because the crew seems to be opening up to me. At first I think they were caught off guard by a pod pilot who wants in on their nightly game of stakes (a card game popular here in Minmatar space). I was bored, I was around the ship, and I happened to hear one of the mechanics talking about it so I asked if I could join in later. His eyes went wide and he stuttered for a second, but quickly said yes before making some excuse about an adjustment he had to make and scampering off. It took me a bit that night to find the game at a shady pub four levels down named "The Dark Phoenix." When I walked in, I was greeted by abrupt silence . . . I found the crew, sat down, and put my credits on the table. Gradually things started to liven up again (the booze helped), and before the end of the night we were all laughing together at Emmanuel's story about a very surprised, fierce terrestrial animal that had gone to sleep in a cargo container on planet only to wake up adrift in deep space (the funny part was when the pirate opened the container). I still catch them looking at the metallic plug-in ports embedded in my skull sometimes, but less often now than before. I still don't know their history, but at least they know mine.
I don't know why the Gambit's crew was so surprised that I wanted to get to know them. Well, scratch that, I do know why. Pod pilots ARE effectively immortal . . . and it goes to our heads. We tend to consider ourselves above our fellow humans. I was reviewing some old recordings from the Gambit's bridge when my predecessor was in charge (what recordings I could find -- most of them are locked. I don't know why, I need to remember to ask Emmanuel). He was one of the worst . . . I won't go into it, but suffice it to say he had a bit of a god complex. I think he even wrote himself in to some of the hieroglyphics on the bulkheads in his cabin. Ugh.
Anyway, enough about me and the crew. We've been working for the Sisters of Eve again, mainly fighting pirates. It's been uneventful, usually they run as soon as we warp in but sometimes they're stupid enough to fight. It was after one of these brief fights that Emmanuel motioned for me on the bridge cam. Surrounded by wreckage, I brought the ship to a halt and turn up my audio feed. "Someone is following us," he said. The bridge crew had pushed the directional scanner's range out just past the edge of the grid and had found a contact. Moreover, the same thing had happened on our last three jumps. Whoever they were, they were tailing us.
I aligned the ship for the Sisters of Eve station and got ready to jump. However, instead of pushing us all the way there, I just pulsed the drive to push us out of this guy's scanner range. As soon as the warp field cleared I flipped the ship one hundered and eighty degrees and dialed up the scanner. Sure enough, the contact appeared at our last location almost immediately. I pulsed the drive again with guns hot, sending us right back to him. Whoever he was, he was about to be real surprised, heh. If he was smaller than us we'd have a little chat, and if he was bigger we'd run like hell.
We landed on a Gallente destroyer. I got ready to get the heck out of there as soon as I saw it -- destroyers are fearsome frigate killers, and the sight of a Gallente ship automatically makes me think hostile. Almost immediately, though, we got a plaintive hail from the ship, and so I looped back around (still on afterburner) to get a closer look.
Quickly I realized that this ship posed little to no threat. Normally a Catalyst-class destroyer can mount up to eight small turrets (more than twice the firepower than we can carry), but this particular ship had none. Four of the mounts had been rigged to carry tractor beam emitters, while the other four had a hodgepodge set of robotic arms installed, able to wield a myriad of strange tools. I could see places where armor plates had been cut or even removed to make room for several large, exterior cargo pods. The hull itself was generally rusty and pitted, even covered in graffiti. Most of it was illegible, but scrawled across the nost of the ship was the moniker "Morty's Revenge" and what looked like a crude picture of a pudgy man wielding an arc welder in a rather fearsome manner.
We were hailed again, and this time I answered it. The image of a grimy, greasy, overweight man with a rough beard and a pair of welding goggles perched on his head appeared in my overview. His name was Mortimer Scrude and he promptly surrendered to us. I "invited" him over to the Gambit to have the aforementioned "chat." The crew was surprisingly prompt and well organized when it came to escorting him to our ship's miniscule conference room . . . I didn't even know they had rifles. After I quick conversation between myself, Emmanuel, and Mr. Scrude we'd figured out most of the story.
"Morty's Revenge" was a salvage vessel. Mr. Scrude . . . er, Morty, explained how he'd been following us around, breaking up the wrecks of pirate vessels we'd destroyed and selling the material on the market. He had planted a tiny pulse beacon on our ship a week ago that emitted a tracking signal whenever we jumped (Emmanuel was not happy that this had escaped his notice) and Morty's Revenge had been doing pretty well. How well? Let me just say that it was more than we were making from the sisters. Yeah, that well.
Emmanuel was about ready to put the fat man out the airlock and be done with it, but I saw another opportunity and pulled him outside to explain. We would keep doing what we were doing, except we would openly broadcast our location to Mr. Scrude's strange vessel. Then, he would salvage and sell the material, except that now we would get a cut of the profits. It was the ISK that turned his anger in the end . . . when I told him how much 50% of Mr. Scrude's profit would likely be, he quieted right down. Coming back into the room, we made our offer and he promptly accepted, with the caveat that we protect his ship as he hauled in the loot. We signed the contract then and there.
So that's about the most interesting thing to happen lately. We've been down a couple days puting the new equipment in, but once we're back in space I'm excited to see what sort of money we can earn from cooperating with this Morty character. He's a strange guy . . . almost cheerful about surrendering to us, it was pretty odd. I also want to get a look at his ship, see what it could do if I was able to hook it up to my implants . . . he's running it mostly by himself right now, and Mr. Scrude is no capsuleer. I'll have to ask him about it.
Ethan pauses, looking up at space.
For now, though, I'm just going to kick back and relax a bit. The sisters sure know how to build a pretty station. Makes me miss home.
*End of Entry*