XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Matthias “Vampire” von Bluth (Week 6/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Matthias “Vampire” von Bluth, from Germany:

 

Von Bluth can be found in his quiet corner, working on a woodcut with great craftsmanship.

“Of all the civilizations in Europe, the Germans were most fond of the art of woodcutting. Of course, that was in the good old days, when people were still impressed with nobility. They thought they got rid of that, but dynasties of power have never stopped existing, their names simply aren’t designated to be special. Look at me for example: I am of noble blood, but I am neither wealthy nor powerful.”

With a sardonic smile, he puts away his carving equipment and takes a sip from a metal cup of what one can only hope is hot tomato juice.

“I see my words are confusing, but these things define who I am. My nickname comes not from my skin and eyes alone. I have embraced it fully, some would say in ways that are even a little uncanny, but what few understand is that people call me Vampire because I am a remnant of age so far past, the very concept of aliens was entirely alien to it. I was born in a castle, I am quite astute at waltzing, and I like referring to myself as Prussian, though I’ll take German as much as any other one of my Landsmänner. I am a creature of a world so primal and pure to this high-tech one that it should drive fear into the bones of the invaders. I am a symbol of the past, and it’s greatness. Today’s humans do not stand alone when they stand with me. Napoleon, Alexander, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara, Cortez, Genghis Khan, they all unite against a common enemy, rising from the graves of history. That is what we are, no? The world’s best and brightest, reaching across status and ethnicity to defeat the ultimate evil. I am merely one animal among them, albeit a very deadly one. I fight for XCOM, because history deserves to have its own gun in this war.”

XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Mok-Seok “Geobukseon” Woo (& Mok-Jung Woo) (week 5/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Mok-Seok “Geobukseon” Woo, from Korea (name latinized):

 

 

Woo interrupts his unloading of a small freight truck to tell his story and plunks an enormous metal box down to sit on it.

“I remember the night the Skyranger landed on a frozen field outside of the small village we were meeting Officer Bradford in. It was overcast, and light snow was falling silently, blanketing the Hamgyong Mountains in white. The aliens knew there were rebels in this range, but they could never find us. People said they were not interested, because we chose to build our own society instead of attacking them, even though I can tell you, as a soldier: we did kill many of them. My sister and I had known for a long time that we would be sent somewhere we could make a difference, instead of living in a small, isolated colony, but I know they only ever truly wanted Jung, and I cannot blame them. People say I am the strongest man in Korea, but I have seen men stronger than me. I have never seen anyone smarter than my sister, and she is chosen to truly free my people, and all the others.”

He makes a tiny bow in no particular direction, right hand on his heart. A sort of prayer.

“We were inseparable since birth. Twins, but very different. Our father was Woo Yi-Jin, daejang under the Supreme Leader of North Korea. He sent us away when we were still toddlers, and died valiantly defending Pyongyang and Kim Jong-Un. Old people always say it was the day we found out the Supreme Leader was no god at all, but a man in god’s clothing. Many South Koreans also found refuge in the mountains, so we were only Koreans after a while. North and south were things of the past.”

Stopping for a moment, it seems as though he is contemplating some new insight he just found.

“While my sister learned things about science and the world, I learned how to protect her. People always said she would one day change the world, and I know changing the world can be dangerous. It was always clear we would be together when she found her fate and calling, and now she is here, working with other smart people, pooling their intellects, risking everything against the aliens. I fight for XCOM, because if I die, I know my sister will be protected.”

XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Gianluca “Mad Dog” Lombardi (week 4/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Gianluca “Mad Dog” Lombardi, from Italy:

 

 

Mad Dog can be found in the gymnasium, furiously beating and alien-shaped boxing bag with almost impossible speed.

“I’m in here most of the daytime. The new nutrition treatments and supplements allow me to put great workout strain on my body without breaking it, and I need it. I’ve been with XCOM almost since day one, and I intend to fight as long as possible.”

He takes off his gloves and sits down on a bench, squeezing a big gulp of bright blue muscle regeneration supplement into his mouth.

“I was requisitioned for XCOM from the Esercito Italiano as a young flag officer. It was only days after I actually started believing the aliens were real, even if the pezzi grossi told us that wasn’t the case. I remember thinking ‘if the world is ever going to unite, it has to be now’, and God heard my prayers. Less than a week later, I was on my first mission in central Africa. XCOM was a good place back then. We were the best of the best, had the best of the best, and fought the best of the best. We all knew we were doing something big, something important, and the Lord himself was watching us. I felt safe under his protection, and I extended that protection to the people under my charge when the Commander made me a field officer. Many a mission was lead by me, and many a rookie learned under my care. They called me Mad Dog, because, when I saw a kill, I went for it, often risking my own safety. And God always made sure I came out alive, until the day he abandoned me.”

Visibly still traumatized by the memories he is conjuring up, Lombardi takes a small golden crucifix on a chain out of his sporting bag.

“It was in Seattle. Shen told us they had some kind of transponder beacon on top of a skyscraper. The National Guard had the building surrounded, and we went in with the Skyranger for some killing. Didn’t take long until the entire upper levels were on fire, but we walked through it. Then, I see this big, red berserker, and it’s just below me. It hasn’t seen me yet, so I jump down on it, ramming my knife directly into its brain. Died instantly. But something else also happened: without warning, the ceiling over my entire team collapsed. Everyone died, and I was severely injured. Broken leg, burns, the whole package, but I managed to break the beacon’s power supply. Commander told me to get out of there, and when I came back, alone, the doctors said that they barely managed to save my life. Only days later, HQ was raided by the aliens. And yes, I don’t say attacked, because that would suggest we ever stood a chance. Even though I was in medical, the rookies came to me for leadership. They brought me a shotgun and asked my what to do. It was a bloodbath, a massacre. We had to drag Bradford out of Mission Control, and I think he still hates me for it. With Shen, Vahlen and the Commander all dead, HQ taken over by aliens and everybody losing the war, we knew it was over. We split ways soon, and I was flying solo for years, working with small guerilla groups sometimes. I never stopped being the Mad Dog, but now it feels as though God has blessed me and then forgotten. Nothing can kill me. I fight for XCOM, because I will not die an old man in my bed while my brothers and sisters in arms perished on the battlefield.”

XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Maarten “Geus” Fortuyn (week 3/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Maarten “Geus” Fortuyn, from the Netherlands:

His legs propped up on a table, Fortuyn is slouching in front of a computer display, seemingly at ease, playing Battleship.

“People always come to me for the story of how I lost the Zeemonster, and I’m more happy to tell it than I care to admit.”

He interrupts his game and sits upright in order to properly accompany his tale with flamboyant gestures.

“When the aliens made their intentions of world domination clear, I became captain of a nuclear submarine. It was state-of-the-art, cream of the crop, and our then-captain wanted to just go back home and give it to our new alien overlords. So I had myself a little mutiny, and I soon became the unseen dread of Indian Ocean. Yeah, sure, the ADVENT likes its flying saucers, but it also loves its but cargo boats, and those we hit like crazy. Guess I’ve always been resistance, it’s the only people I dealt with. When I had loot, I sold it to resistance groups, when I was short on crew, they enlisted from resistance groups, and when I needed a place to hide, resistance groups could always muster some hidden island in Indonesia or a frozen cove in Antarctica. I remember one time they were looking for us off the coast of Madagascar, and we were hidden in a huge underwater cave. One move out and we would have been sectoid food, and this went on for almost half a year. We were running low on supplies, and so the resistance regularly had fishing boats drop sealed boxes of food when no one was looking, and we could send divers to recover them.”

Shaking his head, he waves off the story.

“I’m digressing. The day I lost the Zeemonster, my that was scary. We had just hit another big ADVENT freighter, badly defended as far as those go, and that should have been reason enough to avoid it like the plague. We got weapons, clothes, spare parts and whatnot, too much to catalogue everything, even some vehicles were in there! So we stashed most of it in the seabed, but there were some sealed boxes I wanted to have an expert or two take a look over. Turns out they were full of chryssallids. Yep, real life, horrible crawler chryssalids of doom. Try fighting those in narrow corridors, kilometres underwater. The clamouring of their feet reverberated through the entire submarine. You could never know when they would pop around the corner, and later you could never know if the guy coming at you from down the corridor was injured or a zombie. Of course, I had Willem at my side to protect me, but that’s not all that saved me.”

He pats his bright orange shotgun on the back like it’s a pet.

“I don’t know exactly how I survived, but I do remember there was an explosion, and I believe I was the one who ordered it. No idea how, and it might seem impossible, but the next thing I remember is being adrift on an air mattress, lying there for days, my skin burning, my broken bones hurting. Finally, a whaler of all things found me a took me in. They were convinced the aliens would introduce huge sea creatures into the oceans, and wanted to be prepared. They brought me to a small guerilla group on Sri Lanka, and that’s how I ended up here. I fight for XCOM, because I owe it to the men and women who died aboard my pirate submarine.”

XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Esmeralda “Bloodbag” Cortez (week 2/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Esmeralda “Bloodbag” Cortez, from the United States of America:

 

 

Late in the evening, Cortez is the only person in the mess hall, having just come back from the medical bay. She is eating mashed potatoes and peas.
“My mum used to scrub toilets for a living, and my dad mowed lawns. Now I’m suddenly supposed to be a goddamn hero. They used to say we were Puertorican, but I’ve never even been to Puerto Rico, I was born in Louisiana, and I grew up in Florida. For what it’s worth: I’m American, that’s what I’ve always been.”

She takes a small sip of water.

“When I went to college, subversion and defiance of authority were coming back into fashion. Guess when we finally got all the protection of someone who tells us what to do, we didn’t want it after all, and the ADVENT was not happy with that. The only reason I was relatively safe is because Doctor Shelley needed me to study my mutations.”

Her eyes seem to faze out a little when she touches the crook of her arm, which is riddled with puncture scars.

“I’s a combination of factors, so to give you the short version, I produce more blood faster than other people. Like, a lot faster. My being O negative is just an added bonus, as is the fact that I have a natural talent for shooting things. And I found out about that when Doctor Shelley hid me with her resistance friends to protect me from ADVENT. She was the first person who died for me, which is ironic, because the Warriors of Saint Theodore called me ‘Lifegiver’. The second was my mum, who was taken in for ‘questioning’ and was essentially tortured to death to find out my whereabouts. When I wanted to turn myself in. because maybe she wasn’t dead after all and they would release her, it was my dad of all people who found me and told me to go back into hiding, to fight the good fight.”

As she is staring into nothingness, silence fills the room for a moment.

“I guess that’s why still go through the motions. It’s why I pull the trigger and help the medics save soldier lives. I fight for XCOM, because my dad told me to.”

XCOM 2 Countdown Calendar: Zenzele “Shaka” Viviers (week 1/19)

Since nobody can be expected to just sit and wait for XCOM 2 to come out, we’ll be having ourselves a little countdown for the 19 sundays left between us and salvation. Each week I’ll be showcasing another soldier living aboard the Avenger, who they are, and why exactly it is they fight for XCOM. When the game comes out, I’ll be creating all of these and release them as a content mod for your character pool. But for now, this’ll have to do.

Keep in my that this is all completely fanfiction-based and I am in no way affiliated with Firaxis. I just do this as a fun writing exercise, because I can.

An encounter with:

Zenzele “Shaka” Viviers, from South Africa:

Viviers is sitting on a chest-high metal box, cleaning his fingernails with the tip of a knife with a golden hilt. He smiles, and interrupts his cleaning business to tell his story.

“I never experienced man-made apartheid, so, as far as I’m concerned, it never happened. Sure, it’s in the history books, and old people talk about it a lot, even my own parents always told me how, without Nelson Mandela, they could never have been together. But, personally, I doubt anything existed before I was born at all.”

He begins playing around with the knife quickly and with extreme sleight of hand. It spins, stops, turns around, spins faster and stops again.

“This is not narcissistic solipsism, this is just plain scepticism, a thing of which one can never have enough. Don’t believe me? When my mother died, I gathered my generals at her funeral to see if they were truly sad about her death. I didn’t believe five of them, but I am not unreasonable. I did not kill them, but I offered them their lives if they proved their worth in what they themselves described as a suicide mission: an attack on a landed UFO, a small one, in a nearby village.”

With a maniacal grin, he throws the knife in the air and catches it at the hilt without even looking.

“I gave them the best equipment I could muster, and the result was the first time anyone who wasn’t part of a military cleared an entire ship of aliens. Only two of my men returned, but I had statues raised for all of them. This showed the people that the invaders could be defeated, and so it began, what the world now calls the Impi Uprising. They called me Shaka, the young warlord, but in a good way, not like before. We had regular guns and regular bullets, and we fought against plasma and lasers, but we prevailed for longer than any other open resistance against the aliens, because we were always sceptical of ourselves, sceptical about knowing everything there is to know about the enemy. And this swept over the world like a howling wind, resistances cropped up everywhere.”

He stops all spinning and twirling and points the knife at his own chest.

“All of it happened because I was sceptical, because I doubted my generals. Without it, there would have been no Impi Uprising, and likely no resistance anywhere. But you know what I don’t doubt? Alien-made apartheid. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I don’t like it. They say they want our best, but you can see in their eyes that they believe themselves to be better than us. I saw it up close once, looking in the eyes of a muton while I destroyed its brain with this very pistol.”

Drawing his sidearm, which is covered in a pattern of cattle brown and white beige similar to that found on the shields of historical Zulu warriors, he drives his thumb over a small gold engraving near the barrel.

“I call it Iklwa, and it is the only thing that is left of the Impi Uprising. It, and my fight. I fight for XCOM, because I want to end Apartheid.”

Do It For Your People

So, standing in the shower 15 mins ago I noticed that I’m about to miss the deadline for getting my story into the Pod and Planet EVE Fiction Contest, which I am once again participating in this year. Seeing as my horrendous and really quite cringeworthy entry or last year is only two posts away from this one really makes me think that I should maybe work on this blog some more…

In any event: Here is a link to a PDF that contains the story and stuff.

Maybe more fancy stuff tomorrow, maybe not.

Orion Spur: Molten Mercury

Hello, hello, hello, I have returned. After a very long period of inactivity, I have once again decided to take the reins of this blog and announce to my nonexistent reader base that I have, in fact, finished a novellette. Yes! It’s true! You can thank Reddit for that one…

The Novelette was written in a month for the 50,000+ Subscriber Contest held by /r/writingprompts and let me tell you that it was wuite a bit of work, but I’m really bloody proud of it. Instead of uploading the full thing here, I’ll give you a dropbox-link to the .pdf that you can read on your computer or E-Book reader (if those things can read .pdfs). I tried converting it into an EPUB, but it somehow managed to fuck up my entire formatting, so I stopped. If anyone wants ti help me with that, I wont say no 😀

Anyway, here’s the link.

Please do read. Thanks very much for pretending to care!

Peace is the Reward

This one is for Telegram Sam’s Pod and Planet Fiction contest, which takes place in the EVE universe. Being very new to EVE, I find it’s lore and background incredibly rich, deep and fascinating. I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to wrap my head around it’s mechanics, too. If you’re coming right to this blog post from his site, I hope you’ll be taking a look at my other stuff, too. I realize it’s not much, I just started writing in English very recently.

Music of the Moment:  CCP Games – Theme from Jita

The dark, round room was illuminated only by the four screens in front of him, every one of them bearing a gigantic face displaying some negative emotion. He was standing in the middle of it, like a culprit who was trying to take his sentence with a rest of dignity, while the tribunal grimaced in disgust.

Ghanoz Ruttil was very well aware that this environment was designed to make him feel small and insignificant before the power of the CONCORD Regional Administration Board, which might even have worked for junior captains. But he was a Senior Admiral and very much past the anxiety of these weekly video meetings. The faces ceased to be something untouchable long ago. Ruttil knew every one of them, and he knew them well.

“We are not very pleased with your work, Admiral. In a position such as yours, security needs to be handled tightly and efficiently.” Falsih Kador scolded. intimidating yet hollow words by an intimidating yet hollow man. A True Amarr, third degree cousin to one of the Holders, more interested in pursuing imperial interests than interspecies stability and even more arrogant than his face could make him seem, especially toward Minmatar. It bothered him that an orphaned Thukker boy had managed to become the ranking CONCORD officer in Jita.

“As much as it troubles me to do so, I must agree with mister Sarum on this.” Vaencant Vellivère, a fat Gallente with Jin-Mei ancestry, seldom agreed with the Amarr. “These illegal booster sales must be stopped. We cannot afford for them to corrupt a system so relevant to the clusters economy.” Of all the board members, he was the most likeable. His flamboyant mannerisms worthy of any courtier in the Empire and his mostly smiling face had that effect on people.

“With all due respect, CONCORD does not have the authority to prosecute offenders operating in Jita’s black market. That falls under the jurisdiction of the Corporate Police Force.” He said. The Caldari had made that clear on several of his requests.

“We have our own police force, Admiral. Besides, most of these offences are committed by capsuleers, making them a CONCORD matter.” Senaora Mayamati, the Achura scientist fascinated by and scared of capsuleers in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it was her being the youngest member of the Administration Board that prevented her from seeing CONCORD’s numerous duties outside of overseeing capsuleer activity. “If you make this clear, they should give you all the rights needed.” She was a bit detached from reality, that one.

“We will inform the Chief Executive Panel about this issue, so that they may grant you said special rights.” Finally, the voice of reason. Iarrhos Wernakken, a Deteis with accurately combed over blond hair and an emotionless voice was the head of the Administration Board. “That’ll be all, Admiral. We will be expecting your latest report next week.” With that, the four faces vanished and Ruttil stepped outside.

Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit!” Marhaok was trying to get their Rifter into warp, punching harder and harder on the buttons that normally would have sent them off without a complaint.

We’re fucking bubbled! We can’t warp!” Ghanoz shouted, but Marhaok wouldn’t listen. He kept punching and punching, so hard that his knuckles began to bleed. Another tremor went through the ship, sending Ghanoz tumbling to the floor. He got up, grabbed Marhaok by the shoulder and shouted right into his face.

Mar, our drives are scrambled, we can’t warp. So come the fuck with me of you want to live.” It was as if he’d shaken him out of a trance. Marhaok suddenly looked scared, more scared than he’d ever seen the daredevil pilot before. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his sweaty face.

We need to get there, Ghanoz, we need to…” he drifted off into a state of manic babbling, simply shutting out the world around him.

You boys gonna come or do I have to pod out alone?” Ozos Vars, the sturdy old commander, was standing by the open escape pod. Dragging Marhaok with him, Ghanoz crawled towards it, barely holding himself up when another volley of missiles hit their hull.

It was only a few seconds, but it seemed like hours to him. Vars grabbed the pilot, threw him into the escape pod and pushed Ghanoz in.

You boys go live a meaningful life. I still have to die a hero.” with that, he sealed the hatch and the pod was ejected. It took Ghanoz few seconds to realize what just happened, but even after he did he lacked the power to shout out in anger and pain.

When he stepped out of the meeting room, Shaloh Fasisi was already waiting for him. He was a pious Khanid with slouching shoulders, a highly respectful attitude, and Ruttil’s personal secretary.

“What else is on my list today?” he asked while walking toward his office aboard the Protector III, his very own CONCORD Battleship and command centre for all their operations in the system.

“There is another meeting scheduled with delegates from the Sukuuvestaa, Hyasyoda and Lai Dai corporations as well as the regular tactical conference with Police Overcommander Lolys and Commodore Barnier, Sir. Colonel Sekurovah wishes for your attendance at the welcoming ceremony for the new cadets, but says that he understands you are a very busy man.”

“Tell him I’ll come, no matter how much he wants me not to.” Sekurovah was his XO and one of the few friends he had in his indeed very busy life. “Anything else?”

“Yes. The Head of the SCC would, like a word with you in private, she will be on his way as soon as you agree, and Captain Palaselling reports a minor incident involving a capsuleer attacking another capsuleer near the Perimeter gate.”

“Have the report ready for me later. Timetable?”

“Next up would be the welcoming ceremony, Sir.”

“Then let’s go there.”

Three down, five more to go. Good job, Lieutenant Ruttil.” Said Captain Horovag. Ghanoz adjusted the Stabber’s turrets to focus on the nearest Crucifier-frigate and used the launchers to keep the others at bay.

Marhaok hooted in his piloting seat as he evaded incoming fire from the Amarr with utmost grace and precision. He was one of the greatest pilots in the Republic Fleet, and he knew it.

Captain, we have three Paladin marauders warping in.”

How long ’til reinforcements arrive?” the Captain asked.

Thirty minutes, Sir.”

Flight Commander, warp us out of here.”

We’ve been bubbled, Sir.”

Ghanoz looked over to Marhaok. He saw fear written all over his face, old memories flushing back into his head, memories he never talked about to anyone.

Then evade as long as possible. Ruttil, focus fire on the frigates, do not engage the Paladins.” Captain Horovag ordered.

Ghanoz did as he was asked, but it became harder and harder by the minute.

Dammit Mar, keep her steady.” He yelled.

I, I ca-, I can’t. I need to, to, evade.” No more than pathetic stammering came out of Marhaoks mouth. Ghanoz could see that his friend was trying to keep it together the best he could, but it simply wasn’t enough.

A tremor went through the ship, just like all those years back.

Shields down.”

Marhaok was breathing heavily, his fingers trembling like leaves in the wind.

Keep it together, Flight Commander!” The Captain said in his most commanding voice. The next tremor, which was more like a giant earthquake, lifted him out of his chair and flung him across the room, breaking his neck as he hit the floor.

We’re all gonna die…” Ghanoz heard someone mutter. He was inclined to agree.

“… to serve, protect and honour the stability in New Eden, regardless of where you are from. All of you are now CONCORD, and all of you now serve a higher cause.” Ruttil finished. The Hangar bay was so silent you could hear a needle fall. Down there, five hundred new cadets stood in rank and file, proudly presenting their freshly gained CONCORD uniforms. They would serve on all fronts the organization had to offer. A considerable portion would die, others would fall victim to the bureaucratic apparatus that was CONCORD politics, which he sometimes considered to be even more dangerous than actual combat. Only very few of them would rise as high as he and the others on the balcony did.

“Nice speech, Admiral. You should to this professionally.” Colonel Okho Sekurovah was a broad-shouldered man with a sense of humour few of his fellow Civire shared.

“I do do this professionally.” Ruttil responded.

“Really? I never see you in the CIC. Looks like it’s my job to do your job.”

“That’s what you get paid for.”

“True enough.” Sekurovah answered. “I hear the Head of Jita SCC wants to see you?”

“Yes, actually.” He said, surprised. “How do you know these things?”

“Because it’s my job to do your job, Admiral. So, she try getting in your pants yet?”

“Excuse me?”Ghanoz was confused.

“Well, as far as I know, she’s kind of a cougar, only she prefers old, stalwart men, especially those in uniform.” He winked.

“One day, Colonel, one day you’ll encounter someone who doesn’t get your humour.”

“Oh, you mean like, the Board? I hear Vellivère is actually quite fond of me.”

“Vellivère is fond of everyone.”

We have confirmation. Bureau Headquarters in Yulai have been destroyed, Minmatar forces are swarming imperial space.” Lieutenant Hog said with an undertone of concern. “We have suffered heavy losses. All ships in the system have orders to regroup at Ashokon XII, Moon 2. Admiral Haelms is waiting for us.”

Then warp us there.” Marhaok said without hesitation. “We’ll make a stand and take as many if these offenders down as we can.”

Aye, Captain.”

And get me Colonel Ruttil in here!” He yelled.

I’m right behind you, Captain.” Ghanoz said in a quiet, calm voice.

Good.” He turned around, sweat rolling down his pork-like cheeks. “Get everyone ready and on their battle stations. I don’t want the Board on my ass for not having my crew under control.”

Do you really want to fight your own people, Mar?”

Don’t call me that in here!” he exploded, flinging saliva from his mouth and into Ghanoz’ face. His breath smelled of alcohol. “I’m not a Minmatar any more, and neither are you! They threw us out, turned their backs on us, and now we can repay them by spilling their blood.”

A dome of dead silence encompassed the CIC. Nobody dared to speak or move. All eyes where on Ghanoz and Marhaok.

They only threw you out, Mar. I merely followed you because you are my brother, and I love you, but this is too much. We have one thousand civilians on board.”

It was your call to bring them here, so it’s your fucking fault if they die.” His face was red with anger. “They’re Amarr! They can burn!” he turned back to the CIC “Everybody move, we don’t have much time!”

I don’t think so.” Ghanoz said. “With the authority given to me by Internal Directive 176/16F I am hereby removing you from command of this vessel and taking you into custody. Commander Sekurovah, remove this man from the CIC.”

Yes, Colonel.”

Marhaok seemed incapable of understanding what was happening. His jaw dropped and stayed like that until Sekurovah and two marines had escorted him out of the CIC. Whatever he might have yelled and shouted afterwards never got past the titanium doors.

Send a message to Admiral Haelms. Tell him We’re not coming to the rendezvous point on my authority, and tell him we’re getting one thousand men, women and children out of here.”

Aye, Sir.”

As he was sitting there, Police Overcommander Thanatea Lolys to his left and Commodore Jaetán Barnier to his right, a thought entered his mind.

Was it really worth it?

“All in all, it is left to say that the number of capsuleer pod kills has gone down by twenty-three percent in the last month. An astonishing number, if you ask me.” Lolys had just finished her report on capsuleer activity. No word about the booster trafficking. When Barnier asked her about it, she defensively said:

“We simply lack the capacity of searching every single vessel entering the system for illegal goods. Every day we have thousands of capsuleers coming and leaving, not to mention corporate freighters and InterBus ships.”

When he became an Admiral in High Security Space, they promised him to stay away from war as much as possible. Only he never understood that the absence of war did not necessarily mean peace. He was under more stress than in any battle he’d ever seen, not because death was lurking behind every corner, but because it never stopped. Working Jita was like and infinite battle against an enemy that wasn’t quite there.

The Second-Hand Salesman

This piece is the prologue to a little project I’m working on, a book of adventures set in my Orion Spur universe, of which you never heard anything because it’s only in my head (at least that’s what the doctor always tells me). It’s called Catharsis and it is about a young fighter pilot from a remote space station called Liam Mari who joins a freelance crew run by Larsius Hawking. This prologue is set about ten years before the actual storyline, so everything you just learned is absolutely irrelevant. You’re welcome. As always, feedback is much appreciated.

 

Music of the Moment: Jesper Kyd – Interlude Ambient

 

Thallis III, Thallis System, French Southern Border Sector

 

It was an awkward ride. As they glided over Theirn MacKays Second-Hand Shipyard aboard the handrailed antigrav platform, neither of his two customers said a word to him. They were twins, Larsius and Venerius Hawking, and looked nearly exactly alike. Both were tall and muscular, with an athletic wiryness to them. Their faces were triangular, with pointy chins and prominent jawlines, long, thin noses and high cheekbones. Both wore their pitch-black hair short, both were clean shaven and both were clad in the same olive-grey military casual apparel. The only thing setting them apart were their eyes: Venerius were acorn brown while Larsius were the colour of sapphires.

Compared to these sporty youths he looked almost like an old man, with his balding hazel hair, the hinted wrinkles and big nose. He was overweight, slow and had to dab the sweat of his forehead constantly so it wouldn’t run into his leaf green eyes.

But did it matter? In the end, he was the one wearing the banana coloured suit about to sell them some old spaceship he could afford to give away, while to them it would be the most valuable of possessions. He didn’t need to be fit, he only needed to be charismatic, and that’s what he considered himself to be.

The shipyard was extensive. Fifteen square kilometres, with some ships towering high into the pastel-yellow sky of Thallis. Nearly five thousand vessels lay around here, some as long as the business was old, and some he would never sell. Nevertheless he had them all catalogued and mapped out by his five employees, who worked long but well paid shifts to keep things up and running.

That is, if you only count the official employees. At the heart of the shipyard there was a large Dandelion-class freighter, which harboured the secret of Theirn MacKays success: a hidden workshop. In there you could get almost any modification for your fighter, shuttle or even corvette. Now, this happened at every street corner, but there you could only install a small, or let’s say boring spectrum of parts. The French Sector was known for both rigid banning of spacecraft-tech and illegal space racing. His workshop offered anything a racer could possibly desire, even pieces of technology that were illegal everywhere in the Orion Spur.

But his regular customers didn’t need to know that. To them he was just Theirn MacKay, the nice and likeable spaceship salesman.

They had just passed over a rack of decomissioned Heracles-fighters he’d bought from the French Navy a few years back when he spotted her. The Titanium Bucket, a ship most likely named by someone who was either mentally handicapped or incredibly funny. It was an armed freighter that used to roll off Makarov Aerospace assembly lines back in the day, but that was even before Theirn was born. A good ship for start-up entrepreneurs and, for a spacecraft it’s age, in very good shape. He wanted to give them a good offer, so they might even have a few extra credits left for a new paint job.

As they landed, the twins looked less and less enthusiastic. A few old shuttles were standing around them and, as the platform hit the ground, grey dust swirled up from the rocky floor. Down here, on the plains, there seldom was much wind during the summer. But the volcanic mountain chain was just a hundred kilometres away and regularly spit out ash clouds that settled around these regions.

He dabbed off the sweat on his forehead with a handkerchief.

“This?” Said Venerius.

“Well, I admit, the colour is flaking off a bit, but all systems go like clockwork.” he assured them.

“’Clockwork’” Larsius asked. It was true, it ways a very old-fashioned proverb, but those had always been his favourites.

“Shall we go inside? You’ll see, it’s really a great ship.”

“No. I don’t think I want to fly this rusty piece of space debris.” Venerius was not impressed. It seemed to him that, of the twins, he was the less grounded one.

“I’m sorry, but it’s the best thing in your price range. After a few jobs you will be able to upgrade it to suit your needs.”

“What about that one?” His brother asked.

He pointed at a frigate about a kilometre away. It was a short, broad ship with white varnish and a layer of ash laying on top like grey icing on a cream cake. It was the Catharsis, a Salamander-class spacecraft. The origin of the name was not entirely clear to him. Yes, the organic-streamlined design might somewhat resemble a salamanders head, but Theirn could think of a hundred things it resembled more than that. Besides, salamanders didn’t have eyes at the front of their heads nor did they have a little finn-like knoll on the top of their heads.

He had gotten that ship from a man called Warwick Coiro, or rather from his lifeless corpse. Coiro had been a freelance pilot with his own crew, just like the Hawking Twins were aspiring to become, only he was a lot older and lacked the necessary skill set for the job. What he was, was someone who quit his well paid desk job in the Core Systems after having saved enough for a brand new (and arguably very good) ship. But his dreams of adventure died in the cold hard hands of reality. He always needed money to pay for food, fuel and crew, so he borrowed it from Theirn. The latter may have been his wisest decision, as MacKay was not the type of guy who just turned on the people who owed him money and increased their debts under the threat of violence. “Make a deal, keep it.” had always been his motto.

Over the course of the five years that Coiro was in business, his crew deserted him one after the other, until, eventually, he was alone on the ship, flying badly paid supply runs to insignificant stations in outer space. He killed himself with a shotgun to the head while conveniently jumping into the Thallis System, making Theirn retrieve his ship and keep it as compensation for the debts he never paid back.

Again, he pulled out the handkerchief and dabbed the sweat of his forehead.

Nevertheless, the Catharsis was not affordable for the twins.

“I’m sorry, but you wont be able to pay for that one.” He felt sorry for them, but not in the same way he’d felt sorry for Coiro. They lacked the funds, but seemed very capable.

“How much is it?”

“At least twenty million credits, and that’s only because I’m so generous. You have twelve million, so do the Math yourselves.”

“No problem, mate. I have money.” The voice came from behind a tall Restoration-shuttle. Around the corner turned a man around the same age as the twins, if not a bit younger. He had a flat, triangular face, big icy eyes with a hint of green and a sheepish smile on his thin lips. His barely tamed dark blond hair was combed over to the left, covering half of the defiant frown on his forehead and his finely trimmed yet somehow wild-looking goatee was a few shades of blond lighter than the hair on his head.

He wore a navy-blue shirt with a coal vest over it and matching cargo pants. Both the vest and the pants had lots of pockets, all of them filled to the edge. But the intruders most remarkable accessories were the three gun holsters he wore. One around his waist, one over his shoulder and one at his ankle, all of them carrying guns.

“How did you get in here?” They were in the middle of the shipyard and he didn’t let anyone roam free without an escort, for obvious reasons.

“No fence is high enough for Bobby van Asch.” he boasted.

“But I have an energy fence!” Theirn complained.

“When I say no fence, I mean no fence, mate.” He spoke with a thick Australian accent, making him seem all the more bizarre.

“Well, uh…” he was speechless. How could this nutjob just jump his six-hundred million energy fence without anyone noticing? “Why are you here?”

“Oh, yeah, I’ve been here for about three days now, looking for a proper spaceship to buy.” He looked over to the twins. Larsius grinned in amusement, while Venerius chuckled lightly. Did they know him?

“You could have just come through the front door and I would have shown you a ship!”

“Meh, didn’t feel like it. So, cobbers,” he was turned to the twins “I got six million credits in my pocket, let’s go and buy this lady.”

Larsius seemed sceptical at first, but Venerius said something to him that made him change his mind. Just like that. What the hell was wrong with young people today?

“Wait, even with your share it’s not enough. I said twenty million, and this is not subject to debate.”

“Aaah, common, mate!” said Bobby, smiling broadly. “There’s gotta be some deal we can work out here. I mean, we’re freelancers, you own an illegal workshop, surely we can help each other.”

How the hell did he find out about the workshop? Was someone pulling a prank on him?

The twins seemed genuinely surprised. Apparently they’d fallen for the whole ‘clean slate businessman’ ploy. Before he could panic, Theirn calmed himself down by dabbing the sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief.

He was right, wasn’t he? It wasn’t a bad deal, considering he essentially got the ship for free. Coiros debts had amounted to a total of five million credits, which was still five times the yearly wage of an average employee, but still not nearly as much as the Catharsis was actually worth. Then again, there was the golden rule of selling ships to freelancers: always get the full money up front. It simply wasn’t a profession that went well with financing plans. But two million? He thought about the Archon wreckage in the nebula. That was worth more than two million, wasn’t it? Could he trust these people? They had no reputation, but which start-up freelancer had a reputation?

“Well, there is actually a little job you could do for me…”