Tyrannis: The End

– by Ryo Mitsuki

Hello, my name is Tyrian and I live in New Eden. Much has changed since the Capsuleers arrived they have stopped at nothing to get what they want; the planets themselves. When we first found out about the Capsuleers coming to our planet, I remember my dad talking to my mom, asking her; “What will happen now when the Capsuleers take control of the planet?”

He paused briefly, “War! That’s all that will happen, more war and suffering.”
She replied quivering with fright, “When will it end?”
“It will never end. They’re immortal and are locked in an immortal war, a war over power and greed”, he replied.

He was right it will never end, the fighting will last forever. At first it was good and helped
the people on the planet out. We got an increase in trade and everyone was getting paid well, but then that’s when things took a turn for the worse. War came upon us and the entire planet became black with dust. Then there was a short time of peace during the war. We thought we could go and rebuild what was lost, but in the end, war descended back upon us and we fight for our right to live once more.

Tyrannis: The Harvest Swarm

– by T’esshe

The boys ran through the dewy grass, and as they passed through it the water splashed on their legs and onto the ground and the grass sprang up straighter, so that when they looked behind them they could see the path they’d come. “You’re soaking!” One laughed out. “Yeah, you too!”, and they ran on.

They dried out on the riverbank afterwards and chewed nuts and listened to the gurgle of the water passing by. It was sunny.

“Hey, you need to help your dad this afternoon, right?” The other plucked out bits of shell and threw them into the water. “Yeah,” he said, “The wind’s coming from the east so the bugs’ll be in – for sure.”

“Want some help?”

“Yeah!” The father’s boy turned his head. “You wanna catch bugs all afternoon?” He smiled, laughing that such a thing might be attractive to someone.

“Sure, what am I going to do? Sit here by myself?”

“Great. Dad will appreciate the help too.”

They sat for a while longer, laughing and throwing sticks at each other. When the nuts were gone they made their way back to the farms, their trail through the grass dried out by the sun. They parted for lunch and the helper’s friend said he’d meet them afterwards.

After lunch the helper and his father headed out to the gate in their long wagon, the one that got hitched to four beasts. They stopped to pick up the helper’s friend and he jumped into the back. The boy joined him and the two of them sat with their legs hanging over the edge as the father steered the beasts up the dirt path to where the wheat grew. The wind had come up. It would be very windy when they arrived, and the bugs would certainly come. It was going to be a busy afternoon.

When the father stopped the wagon, there was already a buzzing in the air. To the north-east the sky was dark. They were at the entrance to the large field and the father spoke to the friend, “you’ll be getting the older net. Handle’s still fine, weight too, but the net has holes in it.” He pulled out the sweep net and smiled at the boy. “You’re a first timer after all, and first timers always get the bad net. So when you think you’re in a thick spot, drop the weight, and run around it with the net. Catch as many as you can, but don’t hold the net too high, or too long, or you’ll just get tired. The trap –“ the father tapped the black cylinder at the end of the net, “- isn’t heavy, but it can crack if you drop it on the ground too hard. We’re going until supper time, so take breaks!”

A few other wagons pulled up and other men and boys got out. Soon the field of wheat was alive with nets and the good-natured yells of the harvest. The locusts, emerging from the dark cloud to the north east, had already started coming in. Loud flying insects, they followed the wind, half flying and half falling. The two boys stuck close together, the helper laughing as his friend swiped at the bugs that landed on him. “A lot different from picking carrots, huh?”

Soon the sky was thick with the bugs. The boys dropped their weights, which were attached to a pivot at the end of the handle, and ran around them, scooping up as many of the bugs as they could. Runners would come along on occasion and switch out their traps, leaving them with empty ones. Looking up, the father’s boy took in the strange dance of the silky strong nets as they moved up and down, fully inflated in the wind, with men running madly in circles beneath them.

Being boys they were tired long before the end of the day, and they slowed down. The friend was sore and had blisters, but threw a bug at the father’s boy and laughed when it landed in his face. The father’s boy feigned anger, “I’m gonna put you in this net!”, and chased his friend. “Hey, make for the hilltop, the grass is shorter – less bugs – we can take a break.”

They worked themselves away from the other harvesters until they were at the top of a small rise. The bugs were lighter here, having less reason to stay on the rocky ground. “Look east” The friend said. “Still dark. Dark way up high too.” The sky roiled with dark clouds. And then he said, “I wish I could see what was up there.”

The father’s boy responded, “What? There’s only more bugs up there.” After a pause, he asked his friend, “So, you wanna help tomorrow too?”

“The locusts are delicious, and good for you.” The next day the two boys were riding with the father out to the fields where the grain grew. The father was telling the boy’s friend about the bugs. “My grandfather used to harvest them when they came in. Just like him, we sell the bugs in town, and to the merchants. They’re a delicacy! I’ve had merchants tell me that our harvest goes all the way to the westlands. If the wind is good, like this year, we do well for the rest of the year.”

When they arrived to the fields, the boys followed their previous day’s path out towards the hill. Stopping on the hill for a break, the father’s boy picked a bug from the ground, and smiling at his friend, bit the top half of it off in his mouth. He crunched and his friend’s eyes widened. “My dad says they’re best when they’re fresh.”

“Yuck.”

The father’s boy continued chewing for awhile and then spit the masticated bug to the ground. “Yeah. It is. I don’t know how dad eats them.” They laughed.

They looked to the north and east, relaxing easily while the bugs crashed all around them. Towards the north the fields ended in bluffs, and the sea disappeared into the horizon. The cloud of bugs was dark and full. “How can such a dark cloud be made out of just bugs?” asked the friend. The buzzing was louder than yesterday.

“That’s darker then I’ve ever seen it.” The swarm was darker than it had ever been, and it was now thicker than it had been. “Maybe we should go back.”

They made their way back towards the rest of the harvesters and the front of the fields. The others had come in as well, unnerved by the thickness of the bugs and the darkness of the horizon. But the father was in good spirits.

“Come on lads, we’re going to have a bumper crop this year!” Empty your traps and get back into the fields! This will be a swarm to remember! Fill our wagons boys! The whole world will benefit from the taste and health of our crop!” The workers were bolstered by his talk and moved back into the fields. “Remember, every trap filled with bugs is another day spent cozy come this winter! The swarm will keep our bellies full come winter! The harvest has come in!” He slapped bugs from men’s shoulders and emptied traps into the wagons.

And so they worked. The two boys kept close to the rest of the group now, and the father’s boy looked anxiously at the cloud to the north. The bugs fell on the grain and the nets furled like living things through the air. Beneath them the men ran in erratic circles.

That night, with the wind down and the buzzing quieted, the father sat with his wife and the boy. He said that the crop was very big this year, and that tomorrow would be the most memorable harvest of his life. “The bugs will black out the sun and be thick in the air and at the end of the day we’ll have the peace that comes with knowing that the harvest is done, and we’ll have more than enough to last us comfortably through the winter.”

Just like the father had predicted, the next afternoon the wind was strong and the sky was black with bugs. The workers were unnerved, but the father laughed and clapped men on the back and sent them all out into the fields. He spoke to the boys: “You are very lucky today! You may live 200 years and not see another harvest like today. Work hard, and today you’ll have something to tell your own children about.” He sent them out to the fields.

The boys worked mostly in quiet until the boy’s friend broke the silence, saying, “You can barely see the sky!” But shortly afterwards he sucked air into his lungs and yelled. “Look up! There is something in the sky! Everywhere! Above the bugs!”

The father’s boy stopped dancing around his weight and brought his net down. He looked to the sky and his jaw opened. The net fell from his hands. “What is it?”

In the sky, high above the bugs, were many shapes. They moved slowly through the air above them. Large shapes, like behemoth birds. Impossibly large. “They’re not animals. They’re so big! What are they?” asked the father’s boy.

“We need to go back now!” the friend wailed, and the two boys dropped their nets and ran through the field, bugs crunching beneath their boots. The boy looked up as he ran and saw that they were metal, thick and heavy-looking. The sky was full with the foreign machines. As they ran the boy saw that one of them in particular was closer. It moved towards them at an angle. It was close enough to see that it was clearly a machine, a great steel machine, colored golden and reflecting the sun when it broke through the cloud of machines above.

“Do you see it?” “Yes!” The friend answered. They looked at it as they ran. It was shaped like a giant bird, with broad short wings jutting from either side and a large hooked nose at the front. It grew closer as the boys ran, and they boy thought that maybe it could see them. An overpowering roar found them, quickly overcoming the sound of the buzzing until it filled the entire world. The machine grew closer, and was now low enough to definitely be over the field, to be near to the boys.

“Run!” The father’s boy screamed. They fled through the field, stalks striking their faces and legs. Bugs hit them and stuck to their clothes, and the boys didn’t notice for their fear. The machine was now slowly moving over top of them and it blotted out the sky, its shadow swallowing the boys in a twilight. It descended lower. Looking back and to the side the boy could see that behind the machine the air was distorted, and in it the bugs were disappearing into thousands of orange sparks. The hooked nose of the great thing was pointed the same direction in which the boys were running.

Finally the boy saw his father near the wagons, with the other men. He didn’t slow down until he reached his father’s arms. The father embraced him and held him tight. When the boy’s friend reached them the father reached with one arm, bringing him into the embrace. The boy dried his tears on his father’s shoulder and looked around. The bugs had disappeared from the air.

“Dad?”

“Don’t move son, stay with your dad.”

The boys buried their heads into the father’s shoulders and they stayed there. The roar changed and, after some time, fell away. At first the boy thought his ears were ringing, but he realized there was a new sound. A humming sound. He raised his eyes. They were still in shadow. He could see no bugs. The humming was low pitched, and not at all unpleasant. He turned his head back and up.

The machine was above and to the side. It hung in the air, high up so that several houses on top of one another would not reach it. The humming continued and all the workers stood staring. The boy turned around, and tugged on his friend’s shoulder. “Look!” He said.

From near the front of the giant flying machine something emerged downwards from the underside of the machine. It protruded like a tumor, until it became separate – a giant, grey egg, the size of one of the wagons. It descended towards the ground, hanging from several black tendrils until it reached the ground. The giant metal pod settled there, and sat pointing up. It was not smooth up close, but rough, with plates of metal, and depressions, and ridges. The boy could hear the men around him quietly swearing and breathing quickly. The boy looked at his friend, who was staring at the thing. Aside from the low humming it was quiet, the most quiet it had been in days.

The thing moved. A wet crack, as if from an egg, came from the pod. A section in the lower two-thirds of the thing moved out and rotated upwards. Thick slime oozed to the ground from around the edge. There was movement, and someone amongst the men took a panicked breath.

A leg emerged. Then the whole thing. The boy was shocked, “It’s a man! There’s a man inside!”

He was a tall man, with grey skin and an oppressive brow. He wore foreign black clothes that clung to his body and he stood and looked at the workers, and then at the field around him. He walked towards the men, seemingly calm.

His boot crunched on something. The man stopped and looked down, moved his boot. It was a locust. The boy looked around and saw for the first time that the bugs were still there, clinging silently to the grass or lying on the ground. The foreign man reached down and picked up a bug and continued walking. The boy stared as the man surveyed them all and then took a bite from the bug. He chewed. He took another bite. He neared them and stood several feet away from the boys and the father. He looked at the trio and chewed. Then he brushed his hands clean and closed the distance to the father.

“Get behind me boys.” The father said, and the boys darted behind the father’s big frame. The foreigner stood in front of the father and looked at him. The workers stared, too afraid to breathe. The foreigner lifted a hand and placed it on the father’s shoulder. The father didn’t flinch, and looked up at the man. The foreigner smiled and, incredibly, gave the father’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. He gave a single word. “Amarr”. The hum in the air was the only sound. The workers held their breath. The father looked at the man, and nodded, slowly.

The foreigner clapped the father on his shoulder and stepped back and addressed all the workers: “Amarrian.” He was smiling. Then he looked directly at the boy, still hiding behind his father. The man stepped in close to the father and, reaching around, cupped the boy’s chin with his hand. The boy found he wasn’t frightened to have the man touch him, he was frightened at the thought of moving away from him. The man looked at him, and winked. The boy went cold, and chills ran through his body.

The foreigner released the boy’s head and turned, walking back towards where he’d come. He reached the pod and put a leg in, but then, thinking better, removed it and looked to the ground. He stooped and gathered several bugs in his hands and then straightened, stepping into the pod and disappearing. The displaced section swung down and back into place. There was a moment of silence and then the tendrils hanging from the machine above to the egg went tight, and the thing went up, up, and back inside the giant metal cradle that birthed it.

There was a moment of silence, and all the workers quietly stared at the colossal machine floating in the sky above them. It was nearing dusk and the sun, low on the horizon, was orange and beautiful as it scattered on the gold of the flying machine. Then the roar rose again and the machine moved, its giant hooked nose angling upward. The giant thing began to move up and over the heads of the workers, moving to join the sky that was dark with untold numbers of giant machines, all golden and terrible, filling the whole sky and moving from one end to another. The machine moved higher and higher until it became just another machine amongst the untold numbers, disappearing into the swarm.

Tyrannis: Aspek News

– by Tarartia

Charmerout IV – Trantalis. The Charmerout Heads of Government Annual Meeting (CHOGAM) is scheduled to commence tomorrow on Charmerout IV. The week-long event is being hosted in the diplomatic district of the system capital, Trantalis, and political leaders have been arriving from all over Charmerout System during the last few days.

Last year, the meeting was held on the Federal Administration station over Charmerout IX, and covered such issues as the growing number of economic migrants from both the Cladari State and Minmatar Republic fleeing the ongoing factional war, and the local increase in Serpentis activity within the system.

This year, the main topic of discussion will be the effects of Universalisation and the impending ratification of the Planetary Improvement (PI) clause under the wider Gallente Federation Free Trade Agreement (GAFFTA). The PI clause formalises into one agreement the numerous treaties between the Federation and individual star systems that hold that the rights to under-utilised natural resources are administered by Federal authority. This includes the multitude of the uninhabited planets in the Federation that have until this point languished for want of investment incentives, especially in the lower security regions.

Critics of the PI clause have dubbed it the ‘Tyranis’ treaty, due to provisions that give industrial barons amongst the capsuleer class privileged access to claim and develop planetary resources almost without any oversight by the Federation. This provision is highly controversial and many fear the growing power being granted to the newest emerging class in Gallente society. The welfare interests of billions of planetary inhabitants are literally being handed over to a few thousand elites, with little governmental regulation to enforce ethical standards of treatment.

The Planetary Improvement bill will also have immense ramifications for the individual system governments and the interstellar corporations, albeit with more regulatory restrictions than have been imposed upon the capsuleers. Ratification of the controversial bill is set to open up for exploitation many of the planetary resources that are held in public trust by the Federation. Individual systems effectively lose discretionary rights over the economic development approval process, and in return system governments will be granted an ongoing gratuity proportional to the estimated value of the under-utilised planetary resources contained within their systems. This gratuity will be supplemented by a tax levied against resource developers. Additionally, the Federal Treasury is underwriting taxation offsets aimed at improving cash-flow for systems governments compliant with the ratification deadline.

The deadline for Federation-wide ratification of the PI clause is set for mid-next week, although Charmerout is said to be compliant and ready for the transition now. System President, Claudius Farn-Roth, stated last month: “Charmerout is ready for PI. This agreement merely formalises the existing treaties with the Federation under the GAFFTA, and introduces additional controls. Actually, it plugs up some legislative loopholes that have allowed disreputable operators to evade responsibility in the past, and introduces incentives for the sustainable development of resources in Charmerout”.

Oitus Jamril, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, has called for a delay to the Charmerout ratification of PI to conduct a series of impact studies to determine social and economic effects of the changes, and to legislate regulatory controls for capsuleer industrialists operating within Charmerout space.

But resistance to the looming ratification of the ‘Tyranis’ treaty seems unlikely to gain political traction within Charmerout. The President has emphatically had the last word. “Ratification of PI will happen for Charmerout in accordance with the timeframe laid out by the Federation. Any talk of delay is nonsense!”

PI Debate Continues As Ratification Date Approaches

Wider afield, critics of the so-called Tyranis treaty claim that the Federal protection measures do not go far enough to ensure that development projects will not adversely affect indigenous populations and delicate natural environments. It is feared that by opening up planetary improvement rights in a single stroke Federation-wide, there will be a rush by large interstellar corporations and independent industrial barons to exploit these resources without regard to human rights or environmental impacts.

Others anticipate numerous unpredictable economic consequences arising from the resource rush, the burden of which will inevitably be borne by the least privileged in Gallente society. This concern is felt with extra-special anxiety in the Low-Sec regions, where the influence of Federation authority is less pronounced.

Charmerout’s-own delegate to the Federal Human Rights and Justice Commission, Gillian Hugoparez, said of the PI clause: “Big business has everything to gain and the little guy has everything to lose under this arrangement. PI has the potential to subjugate billions of people to corporate slavery in a tidal wave of greed. Forcing this down our throats is like something we would expect to occur in the Caldari State, not the Gallente Federation!”

Federation Treasurer, Waldron Swallsomne, has been critical of dissent, saying “PI will bring immeasurable prosperity to the Federation by blowing out the cobwebs of administrative red-tape, as represented by the total hodge-podge arrangement in place where the systems held the power of discretionary approval, while the Federation administered the rights to the resources”.

Stopping short of accusing the system governments of corruption, Swallsomne added “The old arrangement didn’t work, as there was no incentive for the systems to approve projects when there was nothing in it for them. What we had were numerous local approval processes that were impossible to regulate as a central authority. Put simply, the old way retarded economic growth, while the new system will bring about a well-deserved golden age for the Federation”.

Linking the PI clause to the ongoing conflict with the Caldari State, Swallsomne continued with a thinly veiled threat: “This is a vital economic measure that will enable our society to prosper in these times of conflict. Any system that fails to implement the clause by the ratification date endangers its claim to a share of the Treasury gratuity, and will be viewed in the harshest of possible terms”.

The GAFFTA reforms are being closely watched by the other Empires of New Eden. It has been reported in interstellar media that the other three powers are considering adopting similar measures in the face of depressing economic conditions due to the ongoing state of interstellar conflict. But with the ratification date for PI drawing close, Charmerout has seen a flurry of speculative survey activity take place, and clearly, as many people are looking forward to the new opportunities as there are those who look on with trepidation.

Tyrannis: The Landings

– by Calumbacha

The morning sky had been a beautiful sight, not a cloud to be seen. The walk to work was like any other day, the birds chirped in the distance as I drank my morning juice. I waved to the old man at the local general store as he was still opening his store, a friendly man who had been in the neighborhood for thirty years. I do not remember what came first, the darkness or the noise but the look on the old man’s face was something I will never forget, I sometimes wake in the middle of the night from the memory. He had been looking away from the beautiful sunrise, which I had been walking towards. Now that I think of it, I may not be waking in the middle of the night from the memory of the old man’s face but the memory of what he had was looking at. When I turned the clear blue sky had changed, and filled with clouds, the clouds began to spread out all across the sky from a single point covering most of our small city. The clouds began to turn red and I could soon make out a large object falling towards the outskirts of the city, the red clouds been caused by the red glow from the base of the object. I looked at the old man and he looked back at me, he motioned towards the centre of the city. I followed the old man down the road as we made our way to town hall.

City hall was the largest building in the city and when we arrived a minute later a crowd was already gathering, there was a buzz of nervousness around the crowd, which was soon wiped out by the noise of the falling object. The windows on city hall started to vibrate from the noise of the falling object, the crowd got louder. The City Mayor emerged from City Hall and from a small podium at the top of the steps started an announcement. I could only just make out his words, he was saying the object was some visitors from the stars, the visitors had originally contacted our mayor who agreed to let them come here in peace; we could mutually help each other out in a big way. The Mayor read out a statement from the visitors, as he began to read I somehow deep down did not believe any of it. The statement was saying that they were friends here to help our people advance in technologies and in exchange, they would setup some factories to help us use our planets natural resources, which would lead to more jobs and prosperity for all, they would teach us many new things on our way to the stars.

By the time the ground shuddered under my feet from the falling object landing in the distance the speech that changed the history of our city was finished. The Mayor began to repeat the speech again, this time we could easily hear what he was saying as the noise had dissipated; everybody listened once again to the speech. After the second time through, I understood more of what was going on; I made a quick exit from the crowd trying to decide what to do. I soon arrived at work and realized my legs had carried me there by themselves, but the office was almost empty, the couple of people that where there where looking into the distance towards where the object had landed. The clouds had only just started to clear and it was beginning to look like a beautiful day again. By Lunchtime the few of us that came to work had given up and decided that, our boss had not even come in so we all headed home. I walked past the store on the way home and the store was still closed.

The next morning I woke and the sky was clear not a cloud or falling object to be seen, I made my breakfast and whilst I waited headed for the front door, nothing in the sky today. I quickly ate breakfast and headed down the road to the store to see if the community notice board was updated. The store was still closed but people were standing around outside reading the community notice board. I made my way into the small crowd until I could read the notice attached to the board. The crowd muttered around me as I read, the notice was warning of more landings over the next few days starting with at least two today in the same vicinity of the first. The notice had some sketches of the landing site and a warning to stay clear as it was a secure area, it was only an hour outside of the city.

The notice continued on to explain what the landing objects were, they were ore extractors, which would get the resources out of the ground deep below the planet’s surface and prepare them for transport to the stars once they were refined. Interviews for jobs at the factory would start in the next few days, on the job training to be provided; it read more like a propaganda article. Before I finished reading the notice, the noise from the day before that signaled a landing object came again. The crowd stirred and I looked in the same direction as the noise the day before to see another object falling from the sky. Over the next few days, the notice warning had been an understatement nearly every hour another object fell from the sky and according to the newspaper reporters at the landing site, they were creating a small base with all different size and shape buildings. On the third day, the noticed at the store changed and was now calling for people to work in the alien base doing mining work, mostly hard labor.

That night someone caught sight of something strange; it appeared to be one of the aliens, as it did not look anything like one of our people. The community notice board the next day had a sketch and a description of the aliens. It had two legs and two arms like us, but stood about 2 meters tall, twice the height of any of us, the alien appeared to work with some tools, the notice was very vague as the person who wrote it could not see then the alien for long as it soon disappeared back inside one of the buildings. Over the next two days, more sightings occurred, more sketches appeared on the notice board, it was a great mystery and every morning people who stood around the notice board began to wonder what the aliens looked like and why they were hiding.

When the interviews for jobs started a day later, people began to queue for hours, most just wanting to see the Aliens. As it turned out the Mayor and his aide where doing the interviews, many people questioned the Mayor what his motives where and some even threw fruit and other objects at him. Once news got out there where no aliens to be seen the queue disappeared; no one wanted to work for the aliens, most said they feared for their lives even though lots of people needed the work but no one wanted to help the aliens. This lack of support for our new arrivals caused more speeches at city hall from the Mayor, he offered large bribes and tax breaks for anyone who went to work for the aliens, but still no one went to the job interviews. Whilst I watched the speech from the crowd, there was an explosion from the direction of the alien base. I ran through the crowd, which frantically ran in all directions, towards my house and closed the door behind me. As I hid in my lounge room peeking out the window I did not think that one explosion would start the chain of events to unravel down the path that has caused me to be where I currently am.

From what I have since heard three days after the first interviews failed, troops went to nearby mines, they soon shut down and the workers directed towards the new extraction facilities. Many workers did not want to go but rumor has it after the first few who refused were threatened and one man executed the rest went quietly. No one found out about it as the reporters were watching the aliens to make a move, but they didn’t leave their base, the workers been force marched to the alien base by our own troops never made community notice boards, threats to people to stay silent followed. Another notice, this time from the Mayor later that day claimed the workers were been guarded by our soldiers, as protection from violence by our people as unknown assailants caused the explosion at the alien base a few days before hand. Many including myself believed this at the time, why wouldn’t we?

As more objects fell from the sky, the notices stopped and changed to large ads calling for workers. I eventually stopped going to the closed store to read the community board as nothing new was coming from it. The first I found out what was really going on was when my front door was kicked in a few days later. A giant alien all covered in some type of black material barged in. He grabbed me with one of his large arms and picked me up as if I were a small child; the alien carried me out to the path. In the middle of the path stood everyone from my neighborhood, the alien dumped me rather hard on the ground, my neighbor came up to me and asked what was going on, as he helped me up, I shrugged; no one seemed to know what was happening. The Aliens surrounded us, and whenever we tried to leave the group, an alien pushed us back in to the group; more people were slowly added to the crowd from the neighborhood. A person from down the street, I still cannot remember his name, made a break for it slipping past two alien guards as they talked to each other. He only made it a short distance when they saw him, the two guards raised the large weapons, which they carried and fired at him one shot each. His body slumped to the ground, after that we all co-operated, I did not get a good look at his body until we were force-marched towards the aliens base. His left arm had been blown off and a large part of his head was missing. We had to walk through some of the blood covering the path; I still remember the look of the footprints people left made of his blood. As we made the rest of the march in silence, I could not bring myself to march quickly to my death and soon found myself at the rear of the group. The guard at the rear kept poking me in the back with a weapon if I started going to slow, that was all the motivation I needed to speed up.

We were out of the city and still a distance off from the alien base when I heard a cough from the guard behind me. Another cough came a moment later, and then another, when I looked around the alien guard was falling behind the group, so I slowed as well. When the guard fell to its knees its black face looked up at me as it was holding its throat, the large weapon rose towards me, it said something to me, which I could not make out. Before I could move towards the group, which was still walking away, the weapon fell to the ground and the alien slumped to the ground, still clutching its weapon, the alien just lay there coughing and wheezing, gasping for air. The Alien fell silent and stopped moving at three hours after sunrise on the eleventh day since their arrival. I tried to pick up the weapon; it was very heavy, too heavy to hold so I dropped it. I looked at the group as it marched on; they had not noticed what had happened, I took this as my opportunity, and ran towards the woods on the side of the road and hid in a large shrub. A moment later there was yelling and two guards from the group ran back to the slumped guard, I was so close I could easily make out what they were saying. Their friend was dead, one of the aliens picked up the weapon and the other picked up the body, then I heard something that made me almost throw up.

“Leave his body here, he is dead, send the medic’s back for him” they moved the body off the path and put it on the side of the path near the woods, they removed the armor and some other things from the body “he will need these when he is revived from the clone vats.” The men moved off towards the group and the forced march resumed. I did not know then what I do now; life means little to these aliens, as with their technology they are almost immortal so a body has no meaning as it does for us. We have strict rituals for dealing with our dead. The aliens get rid of their dead as quickly as they can, and take over a clone, which has been grown for them.

I hid in the shrub for a few minutes until the group was out of sight, I then walked over to the body; the alien had a face now that its black suit was removed. Short brown hair on the top of the head with pinkish white skin, two arms, and two legs covered in some type of goo. I stood for a while looking at the body and realized what ever killed it could help my people. With all my strength I began to move the body in to the woods, I dragged and pushed and dragged some more, then thankfully there was a slope and I rolled the alien body down it. I cleared away the drag marks behind me hiding the trail the alien corpse had left whilst I moved it. I then followed the body to the bottom of the valley where I soon found a hiding place for it in a small cave out cropping. I heard a commotion at road level and I assumed they were looking for the body. The commotion slowly died off in the late afternoon but I was still very careful and stayed hidden in the cave with the body for the rest of the day until nightfall.

Unsure what to do I left the body hidden and moved deeper into the hills, over the next three days I lived off berries and fruits in the woods thinking of what to do next. I eventually got the courage up to go spy on the alien base, to see if I could help any of my fellow people out of there. I slowly and quietly made my way through the woods towards the alien base; the sun had just gone to sleep when I saw it. It was lit up like daytime and guards stood in guard towers all around the perimeter fence, which was almost five meters high. I then saw what gave me hope, a short distance off at one point where guards were not looking; a small group of my people was approaching the fence. They threw some things through the fence and ran back into the woods, a moment later explosions erupted in the alien base. I smiled to myself and headed in the direction the attackers had gone, I wanted to join them, help them anyway I could.

It took me all night but in the end I gave up, I did not know where they had gone so I stopped at a water hole for a drink. I had to find them and tell them about the body I had hidden away. As it turned out they found me, when I came up from my drink there were five of my people standing behind me all of them were armed with spears, one even had an alien weapon of some type. Their leader stepped forward,

“Why are you following us?” I finished swallowing the water in my mouth and stood up.

“I want to join you, I saw you attack the alien base.” The leader smiled.

“We could always use more help, all my men are great fighters, and do you have any fighting skills?” I realized I did not know how to fight; I had never been in a fight my entire life, not even as a child.

“I cannot fight very well,” I answered then it dawned on me “but I have something that can help us all.” The small group was suddenly more interested, “I watched one of the aliens die, and I have its body hidden away.” I spent the next few minutes telling of the forced march and the alien how it coughed, wheezed, and died. Once I had finished with my story, I lead them to the alien body I had hidden. As a group, we carried it through the woods to their hide out, which were some caves high in the hills. When we got to their hide out, we left the alien body with a doctor to examine the cause of death and I was taken to a large meeting where the leader told us of the latest successful attack on the alien base. There were so many of my people hiding in the caves at the meeting I even saw the old man from the store. I told him of the neighborhood and that his store was still safe, he died a while back; he was out gathering food for us cave dwellers and was killed by an alien patrol. A few days later we watched as objects were launched towards the sky. The objects were a lot smaller than the ones that had landed, since the first launch, more launches followed at regular intervals, every hour, and when the first scouts from the alien base returned later that same day, they reported that the launches were the extracted minerals, being sent into the sky.

Over the next few months, more people arrived at the caves, and more of my people died attacking the aliens in attacks launched by our new leader. Word of more aliens dying by the same coughing and wheezing came from the new arrivals. The Doctor examining the alien body eventually found out that the alien died of a common virus, which our people were immune. Our Leader told of a great plan he and the Doctor came up with to poison the food and water supplies of the aliens with as many viruses as he could make in his small cave surgery. I still remember shooting him down at that meeting, I should not of been so brash. I told them all of the conversation I over heard about the clone vats and how when they die they come back to life. No one believed me for days, the doctor worked on his viruses growing cultures in little trays and our leader worked on a plan of attack. It would take many weeks of planning and preparing but our leader knew we could be victorious.

Two weeks into planning another arrival at the caves, who had escaped the alien base told a story of aliens been grown in vats, he told of aliens he had watched cough and wheeze and die, be reborn in the vats. They would then walk out to their dead body and collect the weapons and armor; the bodies were just thrown away into disposals. They all believed me at that point, we had to attack the clone vats as well as poison the food and water supplies. The plan never really changed, our leader just expanded it with another team leaving an explosive surprise that would destroy the clone vats. It meant more preparation time, and getting our hands on large amounts of explosives, but we were very patient.

As we prepared for the big attack, we started with smaller attacks all over the city to draw their forces away from the alien base; we blew up many things and attacked alien groups as they tried to round up our people. From what I remember, they never seemed to do much damage, just annoy the aliens. More of our people died in each attack as not all went well, I remember one time the explosives went off early and I watched as a man blew up next to me I will never forget some of things I saw. One of the final outings before our large attack, we were heading back to our hide out in the hills; we passed through my old neighborhood and where I use to work, they were deserted except for the dead bodies on the paths. It made me weep when I went to sleep each night that we had to leave the bodies lying where they had died.

What seemed to be months and many attacks later, our leader announced that we were ready and our attack would take place that night. I still remember being so nervous, I could not sharpen my spear properly and I broke it. My orders were to guard the men with the explosives, with the clone vats destroyed by them, the aliens would not come back to life once either we had killed them or the viruses in their supplies had killed them. The attack was going to be massive; nearly everyone of our group in the caves was involved. After night fell we all marched out of the caves towards the alien base, we watched another object launched from the base towards the sky. One more object was launched by the time we neared the base but it seemed to have fallen quiet when we neared.

I stood with my team hidden just inside the woods, so close to the alien base I could almost touch the fence. My heart pounded in my ears and when the team leader signaled forwards we moved, I do not even remember telling my legs to move, my body just followed the team. We got quickly through the fence line and made haste for the building that we knew to be the clone vats. We started planting explosives all around the building, we than moved inside through the large door. No aliens were around except for the bodies been grown in the vats the place was very creepy. I watched the door as my team moved around placing more explosives. I could see across the other side of the alien base one of the other teams was getting into the storage supplies. No alarms or aliens had been alerted, I remember feeling relieved that it was working. For the first time in a long time, I could feel we had a chance.

We moved out and headed back to the fence line, we just made it though when the alarm sounded, bright lights pointed towards the storage supplies building. We watched as our people moved out of the building, they tried to run for the fence line but were all shot by one of the tower guards. One of the men in my team grabbed the detonator and pushed the plunger down. The explosives all detonated at once obliterating the clone vat building. The bright lights in the guard towers swung towards our direction and one of them found us almost straight away. I remember the man next to me screaming and when I looked at him there was a hole through his torso with blood all over him, he dropped to the ground dead. The rest of us ran I could hear more shots ring out and felt a shot whiz past my ear. I did not want to die so I hid behind a large rock; I realized as my breathing slowed and I calmed down a bit, that I had dropped my spear in all the commotion.

I heard more shots in the distance and could hear approaching heavy footsteps; they had to be aliens looking for my team. They got closer and closer and I realized I had to run or they would find me, I gathered all my strength, slowly stood and started to run. I probably did not get more than ten meters when I felt a large hand grab me by the neck and pick me up. I was held up as if I was a prize by the alien guard as he yelled out he had caught one of the little terrorists. I struggled for a bit until the alien that was holding me held me up to its face. The voice that said stop it was like the sound of death, I froze stiff and did not move any more, I was carried back to the alien base and thrown into a cell with one window. As the night turned into day, I watched as more objects were launched into orbit. An alien came by my cell and gave me some food for breakfast; the alien also delivered another of my team from the attack to my cell. He was battered and bruised; he tried to smile at me but winced in pain as he did. We sat in silence for hours until he spoke, as it turned out neither of us knew what had happened after the explosion, and if we had been successful.

A day later, the cell door opened and an alien stepped inside flanked by two alien guards, he looked us over and removed his helmet. He smiled at the two of us.

“I am the base commander” he said introducing himself, “I can make your life very comfortable here, if you tell me where your little base is in the hills.” my cellmate and I did not answer we both looked at the ground in silence. “Your attack yesterday accomplished nothing.” my cellmate spoke up with a passion.

“You will all die now, with no clone vats you are no longer immortals.” The guards behind their commander started to laugh. The commander held his hand up and the two guards went silent.

“My dear little prisoners your little attack succeeded in destroying our clone vats and poisoning our supplies, but we have a cure for the viruses on the planet and new clone vats will arrive from orbit tomorrow. You have failed.” At this point, I did not know what to say. “You perceive the world as your small city and not much else; do you realize how large this planet is? We have a fleet in orbit setting up mining all over the planet; your people could have been our friends. So tell me where your hide out is?” We both sat in silence and eventually the base commander knelt down next to us and continued.

“I have been a capsuleer all my life and now my Alliance has given me this chance to prove myself. When Concord lifted the planetary prohibition, it meant that your little planet was now worth more than you could possibly imagine. My Alliance needs this planet it is strategically important, a war is headed this way and we need the resources here to defeat our real enemies. You are not my enemies, so tell me where your base is so we can end this once and for all.” We stayed silent again.

“If your people had been as welcoming as your Government said they would be none of this would have happened, if you had not attacked us we would not have been forced to defend ourselves.” The base commander paused again.

“Come on men I do not have time for these little creatures.” The base commander stood and started to leave the room. “You either work with us or you will die. I will be back in a few days so think about it.” The cell door closed and my cellmate and I sat in silence ‘You have failed.’ The base commanders words echo in my head even until this day, how were we to know how big this was? How were we to know how much of a waste this all was?

The guards are now coming down the hall to my cell; the leader of the aliens told my cellmate and I that we were either work with them or die. My cellmate and I said we would rather die than become slaves for the murders of our race and our planet. My cellmate for the last few months died yesterday. I write my story on the back of this report I stole from a guard last night as I hope someone finds it someday. The guards are now at our door and it is now time for my life to end, I do not have a clone to come back as, but maybe someone will find my story and realize what horrors have happened here. I hope someone fights for my planet, I hope who ever these aliens are fighting win so these aliens die with no clone to come back in; I hope my race survives to see that day. It has now been a year since the dust settled from the first alien landing and with our executions; I hope the fight will not continue much longer.

Tyrannis: A New Beginning

– by Oche Firestar

D DAY –8 10:05 Local Time New Caldari

The low murmuring of people talking died off slowly as the branch director headed to the podium at the front of the auditorium. Looking out at the crowd of employees he waited a few moments for the last of the noise to die down.

“As you all know by now CONCORD has brokered an agreement whereby capsuleers now have access to planet side resources,” he said pausing for a moment as murmuring broke out again which quickly died away. “While the specifics of the agreement have not yet been obtained by Head Office its clear that this is going to affect a lot of business,” he continued. “The stock markets are already reacting to this news and resource company stocks are all over the place. Even the stock of our company, which offers geological and planetological services, has seen more changes in the last couple of hours compared to the previous 6 months. We just do not know what the future will hold for us. So effective immediately all work on our contracts is suspended except for fieldwork, government work or any work that is due within the next forty-eight hours. Head Office has promised us as update within that time. If you have no work because its been suspended see your project manager to discuss with them what you can do. If you want a day off now might be the time to ask for it.”

The director looked up and out at his audience. He could see that many of them were in the same boat as he was. They were suddenly uncertain of what the future would mean for them and their families and friends and perhaps more specifically would they still have a job tomorrow or the next day or even next week?

“I’ll be candid with you. This caught everyone off guard. At best we can hope to keep doing what we do but for new bosses. At worst we have to find something new to earn our living. For sure there are going to be tremendous changes and upheaval as we all learn what this new agreement will do to us. If any of you have stock in resource companies or even our own company I’d advise you to sell them as soon as you can because I don’t think they’ll be worth that much for the foreseeable future.”

There were a few scattered nervous laughs from the audience at that and the director could see one person glance down and punch something into their personal com-unit.

“Well I won’t keep you any longer. While I know you have questions I don’t have answers. Perhaps in a couple of days we’ll all have them so that’s it for now.”

The director stepped away from the podium and made his way out of the auditorium. Some of the crowd of employees started talking to their neighbours while others got up and began to leave as well. Helen stayed in her seat until the rush had died down and then she slowly got up and left for her cubicle. She was working on a long-term contract so that meant she did not have any work. Sitting down at her desk she felt at a bit of a loss as to what to do. It was still mid-morning and she decided that perhaps she could answer some of the mail she had. That might occupy her for an hour or two by which time she could go to lunch and then check in with her project manager. By that time perhaps there would be more information.

As Helen worked on her backlog of mail she had a thought about an old classmate of hers from University. ‘Hadn’t he become a capsuleer?’ she thought. ‘Yes he had and pretty much at the start of the whole program,’ she recalled. Finishing the mail she had open she went back into her contact list and looked for an address. It was an old one and not in service. A few seconds of thought and she accessed the public database and started a search for him. Within moments she found the information she needed. ‘Oh that’s out of the system,’ she thought with dismay, ‘but at least I can contact him. Perhaps he’ll remember an old classmate.’ It took about five minutes to work up a letter that she was happy with. She sent it off and leaned back for a moment and then went back to her mail.

12:05 Local Time New Caldari

“We’re going to lunch. You want to join us?”

Helen looked up with surprise at one of her co-workers who had poked his head around the partition to her cubicle. She glanced at her watch and saw with some surprise it was now just after noon.

“Sure,” she said, “where we going?”

“Pop’s Place. There’s going to be about a dozen of us and Griogi is just calling them now to reserve a table for us.”

“Great. Though with only an hour it’s going to be tight to get back here on time.”

“No worries the boss is coming with us. Says it doesn’t really matter if we have an extended lunch today. Kind of a possible last good time together if the worst should happen.”

“Always rely on the boss to look on the bright side.”

Helen shut down her computer, grabbed her purse and stood up. Since the way to Pop’s Place was indoors all the way she did not pick up her coat.

“Lead on,” she said.

13:13 Local Time New Caldari

The meal was delicious as always and Helen sat in her chair savouring the gourmet coffee she had ordered to round it off. The conversations around the table had been numerous and had a touch of nostalgia about them as people recalled their time at work. There had been fun times and sad times. There had been many successes and a very few failures. Today seemed that it would be one of those days that they would recall with sadness as friendships and shared success gradually faded away as they moved on to other things for it seemed that life would never be the same again for any of them. It was hard to believe that nearly two hours had passed but it had. She looked over at her boss who had, it appeared, finished their tea and was asking for the bill. Her com-unit beeped. Glancing at it she saw that there was a reply to her mail to her old friend. She toggled the read button.

“Audio-visual display message received. Playback?” her com-unit asked.

‘That’s a surprise,’ Helen thought, ‘most people just text because its cheaper. Wonder what’s so important that he’d use visual?’

Knowing that it would be a few minutes before the bill arrived and believing that the message had to be important Helen touched the “Yes” button. All heads at the table turned towards her when a full sized holographic image materialised in front of her. There was the usual slight shimmer normal to all such images that her com-unit projected but otherwise it was as if the person being recorded was there in the room with them.

“Playback begins,” her com-unit stated.

“Helen. Nice to hear from you after all this time. I do recall you from class and what you ask is not a bother at all. I’ve been following the news on the planet resource treaty. Even had a chance to muck around with some simulations we’ve got access to concerning planet installations. Its not all good news I’m afraid. Well good news for us capsuleers I mean though it might be good news for some planetary corporations in the short term. The economics don’t justify the amount of time needed to even begin to break even on running planet stuff. Of course things keep changing as more data comes out. I doubt many capsuleers will bother with it right now as it stands. There needs to be a jump of about a magnitude in efficiency for it to become something many capsuleers will get into. Right now looks too much an ISK sink. People will just lose too much.”

The image glanced down at something in front of it, which was invisible to anyone there in the restaurant. By now it had the attention not only of Helen’s table but that of many seated nearby as the distortion less voice carried on.

“Hmmmm. Just had an update come through. There might be one or two things that will show enough profit.”

The image looked back up and seemingly divining the thought that many at the table were asking themselves.

“I know you aren’t really familiar with how quick tech changes up here. Even though its still weeks away its still possible that we’ll get something much more workable. Already see some economic studies from other pilots on it as well as suggested changes to structures to be installed. Hell in just the last twenty-four hours there are some two hundred comments on the whole thing. But then again CONCORD can be real stubborn at times and plump for the worst possible implementation for everyone involved. Takes years to get them straightened around when they do that and this may be one of those things. Look I can’t really show things to you over the link so why don’t you come up here for a couple of days. That way you can go over things and see for yourself what might be coming down the road. Oh! And don’t worry about the cost of the trip. I’ve had everything arranged so just use my name and this code and I’ll pick up the tab. Not that it be that much anyways. Just means a few ISK less profit on my next mission. Just let me know when you can get here. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.”

The image faded away into nothingness at that last word. For several seconds the other patrons in the restaurant were quiet then, as if embarrassed at themselves for shamelessly eavesdropping even though there was no way not to have heard, they turned back to what they had been doing before the message played.

“Playback ends. Additional data received. Stored in secure memory.” Helen’s com-unit said.

Helen looked up reddening as she saw that her message had been the focus of everyone’s attention.

“I didn’t expect full sized vid,” she explained, “I mean who uses that when it costs so much?”

“Well apparently someone doesn’t think it costs an arm and a leg,” her boss said. “I think you might consider taking that trip. In just that short message we’ve had more information about this than we’ve seen publicly so far. We can discuss this further back in the office.”

13:47 Local Time New Caldari

“The company can’t order you to do this since it’s a personal trip though the company business is what seems to have sparked your message,” her boss said. “However we’d all be grateful if you did go and could supply us with information. At the very least you’d helping your friends know what the future is likely to be like and they could plan ahead for it.”

The blatant ploy about her friends did not go unnoticed by Helen. On the way back to the office she’d overheard her co-workers talking about the message and what this or that bit meant. She had also noticed an undercurrent of tension as people thinking over things began to realise that capsuleers appeared to have access to information that they were having trouble getting hold of. There had even been a murmur of how that seemed typical of the government fawning over capsuleers and ignoring the rest of the people. She had decided that she had to go just to see for herself what was going on.

“Considering the impact potential it could have I don’t think I’ve much choice,” said Helen. “I’ve my own future to look out for as well. It’s just very convenient that at the same time I can help my friends and co-workers and the company all at the same time.”

“Thanks. I haven’t cleared this with the director yet but you can consider yourself on company time while on the trip. Even if he doesn’t clear it I’ll make sure you get paid for the time.”

“In that case I’d better go and set-up the time I’m going to make the trip.”

“Sure. While you are doing that I’m going to go to see the director and tell him what happened. You know this doesn’t seem quite fair. I mean through a bit of luck we might be able to get through the coming change in better shape than others. I know that the capsuleers have changed things in the past but that all seemed remote. Now it’s become personal. I’m affected and because someone I know knows a capsuleer my life might be better off because of it.”

“That does seem ironic. I’ve heard that the capsuleers have made everyone’s life worse. I suppose it’s just human nature to blame someone else for something that they can’t change.”

“You are right there. I won’t keep you any longer. Got to get to the director.”

Helen got up and left the office. A few moments later she was back at her desk and keying in a reply to her capsuleer friend. She could not go this week as she had a commitment she could not back out of on the weekend. However her calendar was free for the following week. Looking ahead she realised with some shock that the very next week after that was when the treaty went into effect. With that she put into her message that she would be starting her trip in four days time.

D-DAY –4 08:00 Local Time New Caldari

The vid news services seemed to carry nothing but news about the treaty over the next four days. If they were not talking to economists they were trying to talk to government officials. If they were not talking to officials then they were interviewing people on the street. Everyone had an opinion and it seemed that that opinion was not a good one. More details had become publicly available and it seemed that resource extraction companies were going to be hit hard by the competition from capsuleers. Since much of those resources would go off planet there would be potential shortages locally and that would drive prices on most goods up. It rather looked like there could be rationing of goods that even during the fighting going on had not even been mentioned by any of the interstellar governments. Now because of this new treaty there could be.

Not all news seemed bad. Those companies that made extraction equipment looked in good shape but Helen had noted something disturbing even there. The equipment being shown off was pollution free but that came with a cost. She had looked over the treaty and nowhere in it did there seem to be anything that said that capsuleers had to abide by local pollution laws. In fact the extraterritoriality that capsuleers had which exempted them from most local, planetary and interstellar laws applied to virtually everything they would be able to do on planets. Yet no one seemed to have caught onto that fact. When she considered that her friend Oche had mentioned costs she had no doubts that if the capsuleers bought extraction equipment it would be the cheapest they could get and to hell with consequences to the environment. After all they did not live on the planets. It was not their problem. By the time her shuttle was to leave she was sick and tired of the whole thing. At least, for a few days, she could get away from it.

The flight would only take about eighty minutes to go the five jumps from new Caldari to Osmon where Oche, her capsuleer friend, was currently based. As she had a seat next to one of the windows she spent most of the time looking out at the vista of space. While she had visited the sights on one of the local moons Helen had never truly traveled any distance in space. Indeed this would be only her second time out of New Caldari. Her first trip had been to University on Jita. She caught glimpses of various ships as they approached or departed from stargates but she could never get a real good look at them. For some reason she felt disappointed. It was as the shuttle approached the Sisters of Eve station in Osmon that she got her first look at a ship. It was a Charon, a Caldari freighter that undocked as the shuttle made its approach run. As they drew nearer it took up more and more of the sky. The size of it came home when what appeared to be another ship that had undocked raced past the lumbering Charon. It was a Raven, a familiar sight on newsvids these last few years. She knew how big that was yet it seemed a pygmy in comparison to the freighter it ran beside. The Raven ran up to warp speed and disappeared off into the far reaches and as it did she now began to understand what power the capsuleers had. The freighter could move mountains while the battleships could provide force to ensure that no one tried to stop those mountains being moved. The Caldari was proud of its Navy but as she looked out while they approached the station she saw several freighters moving about and over a dozen non-naval marked warships. And as she knew this was not exactly a bustling station in terms of such traffic. As they had come up from New Caldari she had seen a much larger gathering of ships at the local space station and even that was nothing compared to what happened in Jita.

09:20 Local Time Osmon

She claimed her luggage little though it was and then waited in the custom’s line up. The line moved quickly and she soon reached the bored custom’s agent. He held out his hand for her identity card which she handed over. He inserted it into the card slot at his desk console. His bored look dissolved when it beeped at him. He looked at the display in front of him and then looked up at Helen.

“Welcome to Sisters of Eve in Osmon Miss Zimmand,” he said smiling. “If you will just wait a moment there will be someone here to take you to Mr. Firestar’s hangar.”

The agent pulled out the ID card and handed it back to Helen. She stepped to one side and started to look around and spotted a uniformed woman making her way towards the spot she was at. As the woman came closer Helen started making out details on the uniform and noted with some surprise that it appeared to be some sort of military uniform. She was even armed with a holstered weapon yet no one seemed to be paying her any attention especially the armed station security personnel she saw scattered around the area. Helen moved forward to make herself more visible and the uniformed woman, spotting the movement, angled over towards her.

“Miss Zimmand, I am Corporal Marchand. I am your escort and charged with ensuring your safe arrival at Mr. Firestar’s hangar,” she said as she stopped in front of Helen. “If you will follow me please I have a vehicle waiting for us just outside the terminal.”

Helen picked up her luggage and followed Corporal Marchand as she turned and starting making her way out of the terminal.

“Do you mind if I ask a few questions?” said Helen.

“No I don’t mind.”

“Armed guard?”

“Oh nothing special really. Not sure what other capsuleers may do when they have guests but since Mr. Firestar is a collector he has armed personnel to make sure no one steals anything,” Marchand shrugged.

“Isn’t station security good enough?”

“Its not that it’s the fact that station security can’t go into a capsuleer’s hangar. It has the equivalence of a foreign nation.”

“I hadn’t thought that the protection capsuleers had extended that far.”

“Yes it does though once they undock they are subject to local laws their hangars are not.”

By this time they had reached the exterior of the terminal and the corporal turned to the right towards a grav vehicle that had a uniformed man standing by it. Seeing the two of them the man opened the boot and then the 2 doors on the right side. Then he moved around to the other side and took the driver seat. Helen put her luggage into the boot and Corporal Marchand closed it. They both got into the vehicle which then pulled smoothly away from the terminal.

“We’ll be at the hangar in about five minutes,” explained Corporal Marchand.

“I could get used to this kind of service,” Helen jokingly said.

“We don’t do this often. Actually I think this is the first time that Mr. Firestar has done this so far this year,” replied Marchand. “Most people come on business rather than as an invited guest.”

The vehicle swiftly made its way through the traffic and then peeled off towards a drop shaft. It descended a few hundred meters and then entered a short tunnel. This opened up and it quickly became apparent that the area was clearly dedicated to storing large quantities of goods. There were many transport vehicles moving around their identity clear from the containers they carried though the contents were hidden. After about a minute the vehicle they were riding in pulled off to one side and slowed to a stop in front of what looked like a large office building. The driver popped the boot open and Marchand exited. Helen realising that this was their destination waited to make sure Marchand was clear before opening her door and then got out herself. She went around to the boot and pulled out her one piece of luggage. Marchand closed the boot and then led the way into the building.

Helen looked around the large lobby area as they moved towards a reception desk manned by several people some of whom were uniformed. She noted two guard stations each manned by several heavily armed personnel. Around the lobby were a few groups of casually attired people some of whom were seated at some of the couches talking to each other. She also noted the prominent sign which pointed towards “THE HANGAR” and had a stylised glass with a small umbrella in it. It seemed to indicate a bar was that way. She looked at Corporal Marchand and pointed at the sign.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“That’s our nightclub. Open to the public though it will be several hours before it opens,” replied Marchand. “Mr. Firestar is not just a collector. He is, after all, a businessman. That is just one more of the businesses he runs or owns.”

By now they had reached the reception desk and the person they stood in front of looked up at them.

“How can I be of service Corporal?” he said.

“Miss Zimmand. To see Mr. Firestar,” replied Marchand indicating with a nod of her head Helen to her side.

“Miss Zimmand. It is a pleasure to meet you. We’ve assigned you suite 5021.” He took from a pile a small card which he inserted into the console, entered a few keystrokes and then pulled it back out. “This is your key,” he said handing over the card to Helen. “When you leave please turn it in back here.”

As he spoke there came a beep from another console at which a uniformed guard sat. That guard pulled out a card and handed it over to the first man who had turned towards the beeping console.

“And this is your security pass,” he added passing that over. “Please keep this on you at all times while in this area.” He glanced down at the console. “Mr. Firestar will be available in an hour. Just take the lift to floor 150. They’ll look after there.”

Helen look at the security pass and not seeing any means to attach it to her jacket slipped it into a pocket. “Thank you,” she said.

Corporal Marchand then led the way to the large bank of lift shafts. “Suite 5021 is on the 50th floor and to the right when you get there. I hope you enjoy your stay with us.”

At that she turned and went back to the lobby area. Helen entered the lift shaft and pushed the button marked 50. The doors closed and she was whisked swiftly upwards. A small chime sounded as the lift came to a stop and the doors opened. Helen stepped out and turned to the right. She walked down the corridor looking at the numbers on each door as she went. Finding the one marked 5021 she slipped the card through the reader and the door swooshed open. She stepped through into the suite and stopped in astonishment. Having stayed in hotels on some of the projects she had been on she was expecting the usual style and size of room they provided. This, however, was something altogether different. Beside the door was a closet for guests’ jackets and a few steps further brought one into a large room. In this room were several couches around a large coffee table. Separate from them were another two couches placed so that a large vidscreen could be easily viewed from them. Beyond those was a balcony area on which was a table and several chairs that looked out into space through a large window.

Helen took several more steps into the room and could see off to the left a large kitchen area with a breakfast nook. She could see a fridge and a number of cupboards with a large working surface. Looking to the right she could see a bar area which was stocked and with its own bar fridge. She began to wonder where the bedroom was and then she saw the stairs that led up. She looked up and saw an open loft area where she surmised the bedroom was. Since she had an hour she decided that she could unpack and perhaps freshen up a little and ascended the stairs. Upon reaching the top she was again shocked at what she found. There was a large king sized bed and off to one side was the bathroom. She put her luggage onto the bed and opened the door to the bathroom. Not only was there the usual toilet facilities there was a large sunken tub in which several people could easily fit without crowding each other. She closed the door and quickly unpacked the things she had brought with her. Deciding that she could change for her meeting she did so and then went back downstairs. She explored the area more fully and found another powder room, a library area with a late model computer console, and beside the bar a full entertainment system. She also discovered the vidscreen not only could access all local channels but seemed to be connected to many interstellar channels as well many of which she knew were pay-to-view. By now an hour had almost passed so she gave up on her exploring and made her way back to the lift shaft.

10:30 Local Time Osmon

Upon reaching the 150th floor she got out noting that if she had it calculated right she was higher than her initial entry into the station. She mentally shook her head not being able to fully comprehend how one person could command so much space even if they were a capsuleer. A few meters in front of her was another reception desk. She walked up to it noting once again the mix of casually attired people mixed with uniformed armed guards. The receptionist looked up as she approached and smiled.

“Welcome Miss Zimmand. Mr. Firestar will see you right away. Lieutenant Dearnst will show you the way.”

As his name was mentioned a tall, muscular man stood up and came around the reception desk. He smiled at Helen and extended his hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said shaking Helen’s hand. “If you will come this way.”

He turned once Helen started walking in the direction he had indicated. They walked a few meters and then turned to enter an area hidden by the reception area back wall. It appeared to be another lobby area though this one was packed with a lot of people. Some were seated by themselves, others were in groups and even more were walking to or from office areas, which lined either side of lobby. She glanced at the Lieutenant and raised an eyebrow questioningly.

“On the left with the Amarrian Light Marine guard in front of it is where our Amarrian Diplomat has his office. On the right side opposite with the Temko Marine guard is the Minmatar Emissary’s office.” The Lieutenant pointed to the offices as he spoke. “Over there is where our Colonel and his aides have their offices. And over there is Administration.”

“This building is one hundred and fifty floors high. What do all those floors have on them?” Helen asked.

“Most of them are residences for the people who work for Mr. Firestar,” the Lieutenant replied. “That includes the security forces, the nightclub staff, research staff and the general workforce personnel. I believe the current figure is around twenty five thousand people altogether.”

“And Oche…I mean Mr. Firestar employs them all?”

“Yes. And the thirty floors below us are the work offices or research labs where most of the people work except, of course, the nightclub, which is on the first 3 floors of this building.”

“It must cost a fortune to run this place.”

“Well as far as I know it’s all rent free. Part of the capsuleer agreement by CONCORD I believe. Of course the capsuleers pay taxes on a number of things they do and that pays for it but I am not totally sure on the specifics.”

By now they had walked through the lobby area and had approached another desk. The Lieutenant walked up to the desk.

“This is Miss Zimmand who is here to see Mr. Firestar,” he stated to the seated secretary behind the desk.

“Miss Zimmand can go right in Lieutenant.”

Lieutenant Dearnst ushered Helen over to the door that had opened up off to one side of the desk. Helen walked in. While she had thought she could not be surprised further she turned out to be wrong. The office she entered was huge. Off to the right was a lounge area with a number of couches and chairs and a bar area. There was also a dining table and chairs. Off to the left there was an even larger area that contained many display cases and stands She could not see what was in most of them but the nearer ones seemed to contain minerals with the nearest looking like a typical piece of spodumain. Further back she could make out what appeared to be an open book and in another a statue of some sort. While taking this all in she slowly moved forward to the desk that sat in front of a large picture window. From behind the desk Oche Firestar stood up and moved around in front of it waiting for Helen to reach him. He extended his hand as she finally reached the desk and they shook hands.

“It looks like you have an impressive collection of minerals in your display area,” she said, “though I didn’t see them all.”

“Yes well I collect a lot of things and you’ll find a number of the smaller items over there,” Oche replied. “The bigger stuff is in my hangar though. You can see some of them through the window.”

He indicated the window behind him with a nod of his head. Helen looked at him enquiringly and seeing him smile stepped over to look out the window. From her viewpoint she could see several spaceships though it was only after looking for a few moments that she saw the other ships that were dwarfed by the Charon freighter that filled a lot of the space she was looking into. As she looked out Oche stepped up beside her.

“What you are looking at are my ready ships. That is, the ones I use a lot but weren’t the last one I took out,” he explained. “Most of them are cargo carriers of various sizes but you can make out a Crow interceptor down there. My CNR is out in the main docking ring since that was what I flew last. A mission to take out some Guristas saboteurs.”

“You haul a lot of cargo then?’ asked Helen.

“Actually no. Most of the time I fly combat missions. I use the cargo ships for collecting salvage or for moving it to other facilities for sale or for manufacturing purposes. Since a number of them are rigged it would cost to repackage them so I don’t bother.”

“Repackage?”

“I have over seventy different types of ships. Most are not assembled. Sometimes I get called on to use something unique so I get one of those assembled. When I am done because of the modular nature of their construction they can be disassembled or repackaged so they take up less space. Those are kept in an ship assembly area which you can’t see from here.”

“I see a lot of ships but surely that’s not all you keep.”

“No but to see more of that you’ll have to move over to the window behind my display area.”

As he talked he pointed to another large window area a distance from where they were standing and moved off in that direction. Helen followed though she took time to look at the display cases and stands revealed as she walked. Reaching the new window she looked out on a large open expanse of flooring a few levels below the one she was at. Looking in the direction of the ships she had seen she could see that it ended abruptly at the beginning of that huge space. She surmised from the array of loading equipment that from here those ships could be loaded. Even as she looked she could see containers being moved around.

“That’s just the cargo preparation area. The warehousing is in the areas just behind that. There are weapon systems, engines, sensors, and scanners…. well pretty much anything you care to name down there somewhere. Well almost…minerals and ores and most of the ready to use salvage is on another station in another system.”

“It must take up a lot of space.”

“I really haven’t figured out how much space we do take up,” Oche shrugged.

“And all this is yours?”

“There isn’t much in this hangar that I don’t own. I don’t own the people for example.”

“Sorry?”

“I don’t own the people. I don’t have any slaves here working for me.”

Helen looked puzzled at the change in topic and turned to look at Oche.

“I don’t quite see how that came up.”

“Excuse me but normally when people say do you own it all they think that the people here are owned by me as well. Most of them somehow think of us pod pilots as slave owners.”

“I never thought that.”

“I can see that now but while many pilots do own slaves I don’t. Well technically I own 19 but they are injured and currently in our medical facility. Their emancipation paperwork is going through so by the time they are well they’ll be free. I did buy them but only so I could get them treatment.”

Helen looked at Oche as he said this and saw that this was a touchy subject.

“I take it you buy a lot of slaves and free them then?” she enquired.

“Yes. Can’t abide slavery. If it were in my power to destroy the institution I would. As it is I do what I can to get some their freedom.”

“You have an Amarrian diplomat out there. Isn’t that strange for someone who doesn’t like slavery?”

“I try to keep on friendly terms with the Empire. After all I do occasionally have to do business out that way but he is here mainly to smooth over anything that those within the Empire might do that could cause trouble. It’s pretty much the same with the Minmatar emissary. Just looking after their interests.”

“I see.”

Helen turned once more to the window and stood there looking at the activity going on. After a few moments she turned back to Oche.

“While this is interesting this is not why I came out here,” she said.

“Yes. You had questions about the new resource treaty,” Oche replied. “Come on over to my desk I can call up the simulations I got to give you an idea of what’s involved.”

They walked back to his desk where Oche entered a few commands into his computer console. A holographic display came up showing in miniature a ship in a docking bay.

“Its an Iteron V,” Oche commented. “The size of the command centers are such that my other cargo carriers don’t have enough space and an Orca or freighter are much too big and valuable to just hang in space while mucking around with the getting things setup.

“Of course once it is set up you don’t have to leave the station to get things moving. Just go out and move the products around to where they need to go is all.”

As he spoke Oche manipulated controls and a number of items were put into the cargo hold of the Iteron. A small indicator showed how much space was used. An error message popped up stating that the vessel could not carry everything that was being put into it. Another command and this was solved.

“Ok now I’ve just loaded up with a number of Elite Command Centers. The best you can buy. Don’t know what they’ll cost yet but we figure millions of ISK at least,” said Oche. “Now lets undock and get them set up!”

For the next few hours they kept busy working on the various aspects of planetary interaction. While it was simple to begin with the complexities increased as they tried to maximise output while balancing input to the various processors. It soon became clear that this was perhaps going to be a full time job and not something that could be set up and checked once in awhile. Helen became aware that she was out of a job unless some worlds were somehow exempted from the treaty. New Caldari was perhaps one of the very few that might be exempt because of its importance to the Caldari as its capitol. It was almost certain that Jita being such a trade hub would have a blanket exemption. Too many ships moving around for it to be safe to do much else though if trading moved elsewhere that could change. It struck Helen that she would need to find something else to do now that it was almost certain that here company would be going out of business. While thinking on that she almost missed the chime that sounded somewhere on Oche’s desk. Bringing her attention back to what was in front of her she could see Oche glance over to the side at a console display. He made a face and then stood back from the controls he had been working for the simulation.

“Well looks like there is a glitch with the whole thing,” he said. “Obviously they found some sort of fault with the command centers and so they’ve pushed back the date of activation of the treaty.”

“Does this happen often?” Helen asked.

“Not for some time. Always thought that they were rushing this a somewhat and so I’m not surprised they found bugs.”

“How long is the delay?”

“Just a couple of weeks from what they are saying right now unless they find some more problems.”

“So what happens now?”
“They’ll keep the simulations updated with new information and so on but the urgency has dropped a bit. By the way its lunchtime. You hungry?”

“Yes.”

“Well lets head on over to the cafeteria and grab something to eat. We can talk more about this afterward.”

13:35 Local Time Osmon

After lunch they had returned to Oche’s office and sat down on the couches. Almost immediately Oche had bounced back up and started for the bar.

“Did you want something to drink?” he enquired.

“Anything without alcohol in it?” replied Helen.

“There’s Quafe if you want that. Or a number of different fruit juices.”

“If you have lotus blossom I’ll have one of those please.”

“Coming right up.”

Within moments Oche was back and passed the cool glass to Helen. She took a sip while organising her thoughts.

“You’ve been looking at the planetary interaction material for some time now. What do you think it will mean for us on planets?” Helen asked.

“I think the biggest problem is that for it to show any sort of decent profit the person doing it needs to be well organized,” mused Oche. “They’ll also not want any problems with staff on the planet. I suppose that will mean they’ll look to pay as low a wage as possible and if they need to move stuff will give no thought to the people they fire. They’ll just do it.”

“I can see that will cause issues down the road. Unions won’t like the mass hiring and firing going on and will agitate against that kind of thing.”

“Exactly. The thing is that since most pilots don’t really care about what happens down on the ground so unless someone down there can lob missiles at a ship in orbit it won’t mean anything.”

“And then there is dislocation caused by many companies going out of business. That isn’t going to win you any friends either. Hell even I am most probably going to be out of a job because of this. You don’t need geologists to survey for you you got those damned scanners that can do it from orbit!”

“Yeah it will most probably get ugly. Up until now any impact was positive for the people on the ground. So much got moved around cheaply that prices were kept low. Now suddenly a lot of people are going to be out of work. A lot of people. And then there will be shortages of resources locally. That will raise prices for everything.”

“It’s going to be a nightmare.”

“I think it will lead to war. Or at the very least a lot of people sabotaging what ever they can if it has anything to do with planetary interaction. That’s not something I look forward to but the thing that makes it so aggravating is that so much is now being tied into those resources. Even if we didn’t want anything to do with it it would cut back so much else we can do. So someone will do it and to hell with the consequences.”

They both sat in silence for a few minutes as they contemplated what the future might hold. Helen reached a decision.

“I need to talk to my boss. Is there a terminal I can use?” asked Helen.

“Use the one at my desk,” replied Oche.

Helen went over to the terminal and keyed in the address. She spent about ten minutes typing bringing her boss up to date on what she had seen. She did not try to hide the truth as she saw it and told him that effectively the company was dead in the water. There could be some hope if some planets were exempted from the resource treaty but so far nothing had been released officially on that. She also added in that there was a good chance that a lot of unrest could be generated perhaps enough to lead for calls for war against the capsuleers. She then added in a last thought.

‘…I don’t know if there is much that can be done under the present government setup. It does seem that maybe it is time for the current political landscape to be changed. Perhaps some of the leading members of the company should try their hand at that and work from inside to get political change. While it may not avoid the problems in the short term perhaps the long-term prospect of bloody war might be avoided. For if that occurred there would be many lives lost and they would not necessarily be those who picked up the weapons in the first place. At the very least the Caldari State cannot ever be the same as it was as it surrended more of its sovereign power to the capsuleers.’

Helen closed the message with her resignation from the company effectively immediately. When she had sent it off she did a search on another topic. Finding what she needed she opened up the new page, filled in the required information and then sent that off. Sitting back for a moment she felt much more satisfied than she had been for the past several days. She stood up and went back to the couch where she had left her glass. She sat and took another sip of her drink.

“How long does it take to qualify as a capsuleer?” she asked Oche.

Oche, who had been busy with a small reader built into the coffee table, leant back and started laughing.

Tyrannis: The True Death

– by Vellekla

I used to think about it all the time when I was young.

What was out really out there, beyond the impossible tapestry of stars suspended in the night sky. I thought would never know, forever on the inside looking out. The knowledge pained and comforted me.

Distilling the needed chemicals was a complicated and dangerous process. It took time and patience. I had ample amounts of both.

One day, impossibly, I found out. We all did. The gods had found us, or so we thought. Gods encased in silver and black metal, descending from the heavens to see and to speak to us! We quickly found that they were not gods, but demons barely held at bay.

These capsuleers, as they were called, were gods in a box. Controlling the galaxy in their terrifying constructs, their bodies atrophied and suspended within. They were entombed and unbridled all at once. Free to move in ways undreamed of, but not moving at all.

The crystals were beautiful. I was reminded of how the stones shown in my mothers necklace. Like so many others, she was dead now. I had not thought of the necklace in what felt like lifetimes. I wanted to close my eyes and cry, but my work would not permit it. I slowly ground the crystals into the consistency of sand.

While they roamed the galaxy inflicting suffering on each other, we found that we would be safe. CONCORD, the eternal enforcers of order, kept us safe. Keeping our way of life and our world intact. Or so we thought.

I would be searched, but it would be cursory. The second part of the reagent was easy enough to smuggle under a fingernail, just a trace amount would do it.

Then these celestial guardians left as swiftly as they came, CONCORD abandoning us to out fate. The capsuleers came swiftly, employing their minions and using their might to threaten and cow us. Without mercy, they began sucking the marrow from our world.

I mixed the sandy substance I had created with a silicone gel I had managed to procure, mixed with an anesthetic. Even so, the pain would be excruciating. I didn’t care.

Still, out world suffered less than most. The capsuleers would not come themselves to oversee the rape our planet. There was something about the atmosphere I heard. Some combination of ions and magnetic fields that scared them – scared the gods. I was told that if one of them died here it would be the true death. Death without resurrection.

I stifled a scream as the needle plunged into my abdomen. I could see my muscles begin to smooth out, and then fatten as the coarse and viscous substance flowed into me. I could not attract any attention, so I had to move the needle around to keep the topography around my stomach and waist consistent. I used a dermal regenerator to seal the wounds as I went along.

I didn’t know what do to when it all began. I wanted to fight, but who could fight against such might? Those that did so fell quickly, including all of my family saving only me. I had to do something. I decided that I was going to turn in on myself, and create a vile chimera of the man I once was. I would assist them in the slow destruction of our world, to the best of my ability.

The chemicals I had injected into my body would spread out and kill me in a matter of hours. It would be enough time.

At first, I was viewed suspiciously. They needed help badly, but were slow to trust. I proved my loyalty and worked my way up. I told them I wanted to help them do this to other worlds, and that I worshiped them as gods. This pleased them greatly. I inflicted great pains on my own people to squeeze more and more from the land and the sea. I was rewarded for my cruelty and for my devotion. I instituted a compulsory religion heralding them as deities. In a few years, I became one of the most trusted and powerful people on the planet.

I stood in the shower, warm water mixing with my tears. I looked back into my memories. I could still see my brothers and my parents. I thought about how I had worked so hard and so very long. I did it for them, for all that they stood for. For my planet. For my people. The price had been my soul, a price I had willingly paid. I stepped out and dressed in my finest uniform, with its flowing ribbons and medals and assorted false pageantry. I slicked my hair back and hardened my expression. This would be the last time I would have to wear the mask.

Over time, the populace because subdued. The planet was producing, but not nearly enough. Greed overcoming caution, the capsuleers were coming down to visit personally. We had a metal they needed for their war effort, and they needed more of it. Not one, but three of the gods were coming, each representing a member of an alliance they had formed. They would be meeting the small group of people that ran the planet to discuss how we could increase production. It was an important matter.

I took the nail file and cleaned my nails. One was filed especially sharp, with a small jagged point. A small amount of a special chemical was smeared underneath it. As my eyes swept the room for the last time, and I opened the door and walked out to see my security detail. As one of the most reviled beings on the planet, I needed their protection, and they needed to keep their families alive.

We would be meeting them at night. Far from pomp and circumstance, they wanted to keep the meeting quiet. They still feared the true death. I arrived, and was patted down. The sergeant withdrew the body scanner from his belt, and I gave him a withering stare. He waved me through. The others had arrived, and I could not be kept waiting.

The room was large. Three small pods stood at the top of the altar that had been hastily constructed, the meeting spot kept a secret until the end. As we sat down, a small light came out of the pods, and we saw projections of what could have been our own kind before us. They looked on quietly.

Before anyone spoke, I knelt down before them.

“O true gods. O gods of gods, grant me a boon. Let me gaze upon your wonder. Let me see you as you truly are. I beseech thee.”

The room was quiet. I felt numb with purpose. I felt outside myself, watching what was happening.

I had to know.

A hollow metallic sound reverberated of the wall. “You have pleased us greater than any other. We grant your request. Come forward.”

As I walked up the steps, a small window opened and green light flooded out. I looked in. As my eyes adjusted, I saw what looked like a fetus, except larger in size. Wires protruded from the form, and soft lidless eyes stayed blankly out. I was looking at a perversion, a devolution of nature. These beings had surrendered themselves to technology. They has becomes its slave, as they had made us slaves. They could not taste foods, have sex, or ever feel the grass under their feet. They were a grotesque mockery of life.

I stood up, and turned around. Their holograms slowly turned toward me.

“You are not gods,” I said calmly. “You are nothing. You will take and destroy until there is nothing left. In the end, you will turn inward and find nothing there.”

“You are fortunate though. You will not be there.” The holograms wavered and a noise rose behind me. I raised my hand, forming a claw. I gritted my teeth and tore at my stomach. As it bit true, I looked up and saw the face of my mother smiling at me.

Somewhere above out plant, if anyone was looking down, they would have seen a small while light appear.

Just like the stars I used to think about all the time when I was young.

Tyrannis: Exemplary Safety Record

– by Stockeater

My name is Dave.

I grew up on a small farm on Caldari prime, where my family grew crops in large greenhouses to protect them from the almost perpetual rain. When I was eighteen I attended university on a nearby space station. A normal enough life shared by billions of New Eden’s inhabitants.

After I’d received my engineering degree, I was looking through the job advertisements for something I could do to earn a decent wage. I normally just glossed over the capsuleer staff recruitment; we’d all heard the horror stories from those lucky enough to survive on one of their vessels.

However, I’d heard from a few friends that capsuleers were now running operations planetside. They said the pay was very good and the commitment wasn’t as heavy as the navy or one of the mega corporations would demand.

One of these advertisements caught my eye. A small capsuleer corporation needed technicians to work on a gas giant harvesting platform. The advert said that the living conditions were great and that their corporation has an ‘exemplary safety record’. To be honest I didn’t really believe it, but the pay was great, probably due to having to live in one small facility for months on end.

So I applied for the job.

I have to admit my training was very thorough. I was assigned to be part of a team for a harvesting node they were putting up in Umokka. We had three weeks of training in our respective roles that we’d have to perform before meeting the rest of the crew, probably thirty all in, and they actually put us in a full sized mock up to work in for a whole month, so we could learn how to do our jobs almost second nature before we were put in at the deep end, so to speak.

We went through every kind of drill imaginable, so if anything and everything went wrong, we’d all live to tell the tale.

No one was particularly fond of the notion of ending up mangled in a crushed piece of metal falling into the heart of a giant planet, so we all paid close attention to this vital piece of training.

It was also an excellent ice breaker so we could get to know our colleagues in the friendlier environment of an orbital station so we could live more happily together once we were on the rig.

This is also where I met Sandra and Alan- two other young people who were fresh out of university and were in a similar boat to mine, and we became good friends throughout our training.

There was one odd point though. A few days before we were due to be shipped down to the new harvesting rig, everyone had to go into a med scanner and had to sit there for an uncomfortable ten minutes while they took their scans.

The official reason; they claimed they were looking for any underlying health problems before we went planetside. Although there would be a fully equipped infirmary, specialist help would be a couple of hours away at best, and they didn’t want anyone having anything drastic like an aneurism under such conditions.

I thought they were probably just selling the results to various research groups for a bit of extra money on the side. It’s fairly common practice nowadays. To be honest I really didn’t take any notice, or care.

It seemed like hardly any time at all had passed between signing up and we found ourselves in the passenger lounge of the cargo ship in orbit around the gas giant. I couldn’t help but stare at what would soon be my new home.

Umokka IX lay beneath us like a misty green jewel, far from the orange light of the sun. Interspersed bands of green and brown encompassed the planet, with eddies and whirls hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometres across forming where two winds meet.

As the ship descended I could see the sun’s rays filtering through the edges of the planet’s vast atmosphere, turning a murky green. I couldn’t help but feel like I was being consumed by a primordial monster as I plunged into the abyss.

I spent most of the voyage playing cards with Alan, Sandra and a few others. The pilot had explained over the address system that we couldn’t go into the atmosphere very fast or the cargo vessel we were on wouldn’t survive. The light through the windows got progressively more tinted, which set up a fairly foreboding atmosphere for myself and the other assorted workers who would soon be living here.

‘Hey look!’ An excited shout went up ‘There it is!’

Everyone stopped what they were doing and rushed to the observation window. A shadow was forming in the gloom, with red warning lights winking all over it. As we got closer, the harvesting station gradually revealed itself.

It was fairly typical Caldari design, with a series of bulbous repulsor pods holding a platform aloft, upon which was built a structure that looked a lot like a Christmas pudding with the top removed. Between the repulsor pods, a long cable snaked down and disappeared in the clouds below, and a large pipeline stretched away, slowly fading from view as it moved further away from the harvesting rig.

On the opposite side to the pipeline, large tritanium girders jutted out over the roiling clouds, and it was these the transport ship came to rest on. A short airlock bridge extended and connected to the hull with a clang.

My first impressions were of how bright and clean the inside was compared to the perpetual twilight outside. Everyone had their own cabins and although not incredibly large, were big enough to live in. I was also surprised to find that indeed all the modern amenities were provided, such as personal computer terminals with a good access to galnet and a few general relaxation areas joined on to the mess hall.

Basically, it felt like the brand new extraction rig that it was supposed to be.

Everyone settled in fairly quickly, the month’s training on the dummy proving worth its while. Within six hours we had already located a dense layer of argon and were pumping it into the pipeline back to the command and storage centre a few hundred kilometres away.

On this rig I had two jobs, to calibrate the analytical equipment used to locate the gasses that we would be extracting, and to make sure that the main pipeline feed was clear. Dust particles would build up on the line’s filters and so they would have to be replaced and cleaned off every so often.

For the next few months, life was good. Everyone got to more or less know each other like a large extended family, and we got the work we needed to done, piping vast amounts of noble gasses to be launched into orbit. Every week or so a small cargo ship would dock and drop off supplies to keep the crew’s needs satiated.

The only exception was the security team, who always seemed aloof. Because we were located in high security space with CONCORD watching over us it was highly unlikely that pirates would try to interfere with the harvesting operations.

We all assumed that they remained distant from the rest of the crew so they could better look for signs that a particular crewman might try to sabotage the equipment or steal company secrets, both of which are serious concerns, especially on a rig where people are cooped up for months on end.

It was a fairly normal day; I’d started work and was monitoring the flow of liquefied gas through the pipeline when I felt a slight change in the vibration of the deck plate.

I was in the main control room at the time and an alarm sounded.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked.

One of the technicians was peering at a control panel on the wall while he responded.

‘Looks like one of the repulsors just went offline. It’s probably just a loose cable that’s been blown loose by the wind.’ He said.

Our overseer agreed.

‘OK, stop the pumps and disconnect the pipeline as per normal procedure. Brian, get outside and see if you can fix it.’ He ordered.

Brian nodded and left the room. I turned the pumps off and watched the lines clear, before sealing them shut and giving the all clear for another worker across the room to disconnect.

The floor shuddered again as the pipeline came free of the rig. We were now adrift.

At that moment Alan came into the control room.

‘What’s going on? I was just working on the pumps and they shut down on me.’ He asked.

‘One of the repulsors is malfunctioning. We had to disconnect from the pipeline as per standard safety procedure.’ Our overseer put bluntly.

We knew that if we sank too far the pipeline could tear away, compromising the entire structure.

Alan looked a little worried, he knew that those repulsors were the only things holding us up and was always a little pessimistic. I could imagine what was going through his mind.

We watched on the monitors as the hulking mass of Brian in his protective exo suit left the airlock, and slowly made his way around the platform.

The speakers crackled into life as Brian called in.

‘Uh, I found the problem. It looks like we had a lot of dust get blown past here. The whole casing on a couple of the units has come off… I don’t know how we didn’t notice this before. I’m coming back up. We’re going to need a repair barge down here.’

‘Copy that.’ The overseer said ‘I’ll call planetary control and see how quickly they can get a ship down here.’

I knew then I started worrying too. There was a real danger that if-

My train of thought was interrupted by yet another tremor and feeling as if I was in an elevator planetside again.

An ominous siren started wailing now.

‘The other repulsors have gone offline!’ A technician cried. ‘We’re falling!’

The overseer swore. ‘Brian, get back inside as fast as you can- you won’t last long out there!’

‘I’m trying!’ Brian replied. We could see him on a video feed. It looked like he was walking through water. ‘The air’s thick, it’s like wading through treacle.’

Over the radio his laboured breathing was all we could hear. We saw him stop a few metres from the airlock.

‘Keep going!’ I cried, trying to get him to move. ’You’re almost there!’

‘Just… Catching… My… Breath.’ He replied.

Suddenly we heard a bang over the communications system and Brian started screaming. The left arm of his pressure suit had just imploded. He stood flailing for a few agonising seconds before the rest of his suit was crushed and the line went dead.

We all stood there in shock, staring even as the camera died.

That bought it all home. If we didn’t take drastic action now we’d all die. It took watching one of our colleagues dying before our eyes to make us break from procedure. We should have got out when we first saw something was wrong.

‘This is a general address.’ The overseer calmly said into the speaker system. ‘All personnel are to evacuate immediately. This is not a drill.’

With that everyone filed out of the command centre, climbed down the stairs two decks and made our way to the row of escape pods studded in the outer hull.

When we got there a small crowd had already gathered around the emergency seals. I knew something was wrong when I saw green through the armoured glass where the escape pods should be.

‘They’ve been crushed!’ Someone wailed in despair. Then I realised it was me.

We didn’t know what to do anymore and just couldn’t believe what was going on. Only the security team seemed nonchalant about it all, and I began to wonder if they were ever completely sane.

With a crash, the porthole on one of the escape pod hatches blew in. The pressurised gas shredded people near it into crimson rain. Everyone started running away. I was furthest ahead and ducked under the emergency bulkheads as they came down. I found myself in the mess hall and realised I was alone.

I felt sick looking at the screen next to the door, watching people bang on the bulkheads with despair. Then the feed cut and I knew they were dead.

I sat down at a table and wept, I don’t know how long for. All I could hear was the groaning of the superstructure as it was crushed around me.

Looking up through my haze of tears I saw the ceiling bulging in under the pressure.

Not long now, I thought.

When it gave way, the mess hall imploded almost instantly. I felt agonising pain for a moment, there was a bright flash and everything was gone.

***

I woke up suddenly, sitting upright in my bed. The bedside clock was going off telling me to get up. I was in familiar surroundings, my cabin on the rig. Sure enough the green half light was filtering in through the porthole.

I got up shakily and went over to my wash basin, splashing my face with water. What was going on? I thought I was supposed to be dead?

I made my way to the mess, and it was as if nothing had happened. I got my breakfast on a tray at the serving hatch and went to find a table.

Sandra was sitting alone at one, and waved me over. I sat down opposite her, glad for the company.

‘What’s up?’ she asked ‘you look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

Indeed I had. I had seen her in the escape pod bay yesterday with all the others.

‘Don’t you remember yesterday?’ I asked.

‘Well it was another day. Can’t say anything unusual happened.’ She replied. ‘Why, what happened to you?’

‘Well, I remember the repulsors cutting out and the rig got crushed. Then I woke up.’

Sandra laughed. ‘Sounds like someone’s been having nightmares. You should lay off the cheese before sleep!’

I laughed as well at that, although I couldn’t help but be unsettled. It had seemed so, real. I couldn’t imagine myself dreaming like that. Still, I tried to shake the thought out of my mind.

I went to the control centre like every morning, and as usual there was Brian sitting at his chair looking bored like nothing interesting had happened in the months on board.

I shuddered momentarily at the memory of the crushed exo-suit on the platform outside, before I remembered that it couldn’t possibly have been real.

This morning I had a surprise when calibrating the scanners. They picked up a fairly large metallic deposit sinking into the atmosphere several hundred kilometres beneath us. I thought its probably just a meteorite or an old starship wreck carried up by some freak winds.

I registered the results with the main computer back at the planetary command centre because it was an anomaly after all, and it came back saying there had been a fault with the scanners.

When I re-ran the sweep there was no metal returned on the display, so I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t made at least a minor discovery.

That day I was scheduled to go and check the filters on the pipeline. I made my way out cautiously, having to hook a safety line to a bar every few metres. I knew although the wind was already ferocious for most terrestrial planets, it was but a breeze for this giant. If a sudden gust sprang up I could be tossed over the side of the platform like a doll and lost forever in the inky depths.

The exo-suit was bulky and it made the going slow anyway without all the fumbling around for the safety lines. Still I was grateful for the protection from the elements. Without the layers of titanium plating and reinforced joints I’d be almost instantly killed at these pressures. Inside one is slightly claustrophobic. There is only a pair of very small eyepieces for you to look out of if you don’t want to rely on the HUD in the visor showing a camera’s view from the side of the helmet.

I finally got to the pipeline and started my inspection. The filters were spotless, which wasn’t surprising since I had replaced them a few days previously. However, something did catch my eye.

The bolts connecting the rig to the pipeline were shiny as if they were new. However the slightly corrosive elements of Umokka IX should have put a little layer of dull corroded metal over the top during the months it had been exposed. I definitely hadn’t seen them that shiny when I last replaced the filters.

When I got back, I asked the maintenance and requisitions officer if the bolts had been replaced.

‘No.’ He said ‘Although they are due to be replaced in a few weeks- I hear this atmosphere isn’t too forgiving to exposed aluminium.’

‘Well I was thinking that myself.’ I replied. ‘But they seemed good as new to me when I went out there earlier.’

‘Probably just someone’s rubbed the grime off is all.’ The officer said.

And that was that. Life went on as normal. Word somehow spread that I had bad nightmares and it came up more often than I’d have liked, although thankfully no one meant it in a particularly nasty way.

A couple of weeks later, they installed a small landing pad near the pipeline, and put a shuttlecraft on it.

The corporation said that they’d had problems on other sites where the lines carrying the liquid gas had fatigued and failed, so now we had this shuttle to inspect the pipeline running towards the planetary command centre.

Honestly the little craft wasn’t a lot to look at. Basically a reinforced armour-glass cockpit and four directional engines to propel it through the gas giant’s turbulent atmosphere.

Sandra, the only one of our crew qualified to fly, got the lucky task of having to fly the shuttle up and down the pipeline.

Between one of my shifts I was lucky enough to get invited to go along on one of the routine inspections. It was cramped in the tiny cockpit, but I thought the way the nimble little craft handled in the winds was fantastic.

We followed the line for a few hundred miles, only clearly seeing the few metres that were illuminated by the shuttle’s searchlight. The rest of the construction disappeared into the gloom, even the bright navigational lights along it winking out in the distance.

After what seemed like an age, another shape emerged. This was the storage tank for all of the liquefied gasses we were pumping out. The structure was immense, just basically a massive cylinder storing millions upon millions of tonnes of gasses.

Huge cables and pipes snaked from the silo to a large landing pad tacked on to the side. From the sheer size of it and the attached control tower, I assumed the ships that would dock here would be at least a mile long.

All too soon, we were back on our way to the little rig and back to my job.

One day we got a call from the planetary control centre telling us to change the types of gas we were harvesting. Of course this got grumbles from the staff, me included.

We had been extracting noble gasses for as long as the platform had been here, and adjusting the extractor inlets was a pain. I had to retune the sensors to pick out Hydrogen now, while the crews on the extractor itself had to play out more line to drop the inlet another hundred kilometres down.

Hydrogen harvesting was a lot more risky than the noble gasses. For example, if there was a leak of argon or similar, we’d only have to shut down the area like a hull breach and send people in exo-suits to fix it. With hydrogen, such a leak could cause an explosion.

Even so, I was surprised at how quickly we converted the rig, and within nine hours of getting the call we were pumping liquid hydrogen to the silo.

Soon after, we got told that we could have more leave. It was a welcome change, since we’d all been on the rig for the last few months. This move was probably made to relieve stress of the crew.

These breaks were only a couple of days long apiece, but it gave everyone a chance to catch up with things that they’d missed on the extractor.

I remember the first trip up to one of the system’s stations. Everything seemed so huge! I guess I’d gotten used to the relatively cramped conditions at work.

My personal favourite destination for these breaks was the corporate police force assembly plant. Visiting the civilian decks you wouldn’t believe you were on a megacorporate security station.

I had one of these breaks coming up when I was replacing the filters a couple of weeks later. I’d just finished placing the clean units in and started the system back up when I saw a familiar searchlight sweep across me. Looking up I saw the shuttle circle overhead, back from its inspection run.

‘Hey there Dave.’ Sandra said over the radio. ‘I guess it has to be you since no-one else likes those things as much as you do!’

I chuckled

‘Yeah you’re right there, but I seriously doubt anyone would want to haul these wretched things around.’

I lifted one of the old filters that was caked in dust and grime. They were about two and a half feet across and you couldn’t fold them away like the clean ones. In my humble opinion, they’re not the most pleasant of things to lug around.

A little warning flashed up on my HUD- the wind speed had started to pick up. I called out a warning.

‘Hey you might want to set that bird down- I think it’s going to start gusting soon.’

‘Relax, I’ve got it covered.’ She replied. ‘Besides, who has the pilot’s licence?’

‘Yeah well just be careful.’ I said. ‘Haven’t you got a couple days’ shore leave too?’

‘Yeah I do actually, thinking of going somewhere?’ she asked.

I thought about it for a moment, while picking up my tools and starting to gingerly make my way back.

‘Yeah, we could go see that new Clear Skies holo that’s in the cinemas. Heard it’s pretty amazing on the big screens.’

‘That does sound pretty good.’ She replied. ‘I guess it’s a date then.’

I watched the shuttle come in on its final approach to the landing pad, when a sudden gust hit. I grabbed a railing to hang on as I felt myself being buffeted sideways. The shuttle jerked in the air, caught unawares by the wind.

‘Oh crap’ I heard Sandra sigh.

The shuttle smashed into the unyielding hull of the rig, its momentum carrying it along the hull before coming to a halt on the shuttle pad above me. Pieces of debris were raining down in the trail the ship had left.

‘Sandra?’ I said, trying to get something, anything to indicate she was ok. All there was in reply was static.

I started to panic. I dropped my tools and started moving towards the stairs to the pad. The going was painfully slow. I had to re fasten my clip to a new rail every couple of metres and hang on tightly if I didn’t want to be blown away.

The heavy exo suit didn’t help, making all of my movements clumsy and slow.

I stopped in horror as I climbed high enough to see over the rim of the pad.

The shuttle was wrecked. It looked as if a giant fist had smashed the front and side of the craft, tearing it apart.

I couldn’t even recognise where the pilot was supposed to sit. I used the optical zoom on my suit’s camera to get a closer look.

I wish I hadn’t.

The cockpit was totally destroyed, and amongst the wreckage I could see pieces of flesh where the intense pressures and forces of the atmosphere had torn them apart. There was nothing left of Sandra but little pieces and streaks of gore.

I felt a massive hand descend on my shoulder and was turned around. It was one of the security team who had come out, having watched the accident on a monitor.

‘Sir, you’ve got to get back inside.’ He said, pointing to the airlock just past the bottom of the steps. Even as he spoke more security personnel in heavily armoured suits were leaving it.

I nodded weakly, and made my way slowly back inside.

I spent the next few hours in my cabin, trying to absorb myself in my paperwork, trying to forget what I’d just seen. I just felt completely empty inside.

I barely noticed the repair barge docking. No doubt it was carrying crews to take away the wrecked shuttle and fix up any damage it had caused.

Eventually, a knock on the cabin door broke me from my reverie. I got up from my desk and went over to see who it was.

Alan was standing there.

‘Hi. Um, Sandra’s in the infirmary, she wants to see you.’ He said.

My mind reeled. How could that be possible? There’s nothing in the cluster that could heal damage like that.

Even so, I went there, opening the door with some trepidation, expecting some kind of sick joke.

However, there was Sandra sitting in one of the beds, with bandages and a small medical device on her head.

‘Sorry if I worried you.’ She said to me as she saw me. ‘Had a bit of a rough landing there.’

All my powers of speech monetarily left me.

‘H-how are you still here? I saw the crash… you were dead…’ I said.

‘What?’ she replied, sounding almost as surprised as I was. ‘It just came down hard and I got a concussion. The shuttle was broken but all I did was hit my head. That’s all I remember.’

She then looked serious, remembering the last time something like this happened.

‘Are you ok?’ she asked. ‘I think you were hallucinating. Like that time a couple months back when you had that nightmare. Maybe on your next leave you should go and see a doctor.’

I didn’t know what to believe. I know I’d been wrong before, but I didn’t just wake up from this event. I thought it had actually happened.

That evening I reviewed the camera recordings from the exo suit I’d been wearing. To my dismay the moment before the shuttle crashed the image became corrupted, so I couldn’t prove I’d seen what I had. The repair crews had taken the old shuttle away for reprocessing so there was no trace of the accident at all except a few security and incident reports which confirmed what Sandra had been saying.

Something was now very wrong. I couldn’t separate fact from fiction, truth from fantasy. I feared that the rig had somehow driven me mad with its same routine over the long months.

Word had got around now that I had been seeing things. This time however, everyone grew more distant from me, stopping talking whenever I drew near and treating me like some kind of disease, even Sandra had stopped talking to me.

After a week of this, I’d had enough. I had to end it all. I’d probably never find out what was happening to me and I was beyond the point of caring.

As soon as my shift ended I went to the emergency weapons locker and took out a pistol.

I went back to my cabin and locked the door. If everyone out there thought I was crazy I could at least show them what they expected.

I put the gun to my head, and after a moment of reflection about whether I really was being stupid at this point, I pulled the trigger.

There was a flash of light right before my brains splattered all over the wall.

****

Darkness enveloped me. Was this it, the afterlife? I moved my arm and it hit a rubbery wall.

Where am I?

I realised I was inside some kind of small container, trapped. There was a tube in my mouth running into me, and I couldn’t breathe! The tube retracted and electrodes popped off of my scalp. I took a deep breath, only to choke as fluid rushed into my lungs. Lights turned on in front of me, and I realised I was looking out of a glass window. The fluid around me drained away and the window opened. I fell out of the vat, vomiting and coughing the goo out of my system.

I looked back at the cloning bay and saw my name and the facility I worked at on a panel next to it. On either wall of this corridor that I found myself in are identical bays, but with different names and facility numbers. I peer into one of the occupied bays and I was shaken by what I saw.

It was me. In every bay there was another clone, identical to myself, but with a different name and facility number. Before I had time to work out what was happening here a door at the end of the corridor opened and a pair of medical staff came in followed by an armed guard.

The guard told me to do exactly as the medics asked. I wasn’t going to argue.

The signs all over the facility indicated that I was in a cloning bay owned by the corporation I worked for, and so all of the clones were employees. It dawned on me that perhaps there could be other versions of me working on other gas harvesters, completely oblivious to each other. That thought chilled me to the core.

I went through the procedure that all capsuleers must go through innumerable times, having the cloning goo washed off and having a series of tests done to make sure that you are indeed alive. Although I doubt that most capsule pilots were treated as roughly or had an automatic rifle aimed at them at all times.

Within a short period of time I found myself wearing a medical gown and handcuffed to a chair in an interrogation room. I had no idea why I’d just been reanimated as a clone, although I wasn’t as surprised as I thought I’d be.

I wasn’t left to dwell on things for long, because the only door to the room opened and a guard entered, followed by a man in a business suit. He radiated power and confidence. He turned his back on me to close the door, allowing me to see the neural socket on the back of his neck.

My breath froze.

This man must be the capsuleer in charge of the whole operation!

He turned back to face me, the expression on my face betraying that I knew who he was.

Sitting down opposite me, he smiled coldly.

‘So then… David? Yes it is David. I see you’ve stumbled across our little secret here.’ The capsuleer spoke as if he were talking to a child. ‘And, according to my security team on your rig, you decided to redecorate your quarters with your head. Now that wasn’t very nice, was it?’

‘What are you doing here?’ I cried. ‘What are all those clones doing back there?’

The capsuleer’s face grew serious at my outburst.

‘I run a business, and it is my business to make profit. Gas harvesting makes me a lot of ISK, but it is also incredibly hazardous and requires some of the best technicians in the cluster to make it work. Now, to get around the first problem is simple enough, fit cloning devices to personnel so when they invariably die they can get back to work with minimal fuss. After such an accident occurs the handful of people ‘in the know’, so to speak, cover up the accident and the clone’s memories of its previous demise are wiped. This stops any pesky state or concord safety investigations.’

‘But what about all the other clones, with the different names?’ I asked. I’d pretty much worked out his first answer, but this is what I really wanted to know, and dreaded at the same time.

The capsuleer smiled.

‘Do you know how difficult it is to recruit and train dozens of crews for this kind of work? Why not clone the same team, alter some of their memories so there aren’t any unpleasant issues if they meet each other, and change their names so CONCORD doesn’t get suspicious about having the same name in the payroll a dozen times? It’s so much cheaper!’ He exclaimed.

I knew then that this man was not a demigod, as I had once believed his kind to be, but a monster, treating humans like laboratory animals. I was sick at the thought of MY crew scattered throughout space, over and over again.

‘You can’t do this!’ I yelled, trying to struggle against my bonds. ‘It’s wrong! I’ll expose you!’

The monster sitting opposite me laughed, and laughed until tears ran from his eyes.

‘But how can you do that, if you don’t remember a thing?’ He nodded to the guard.

I felt a hypodermic needle plunge into my neck. My vision started to fade and I felt weak. All I did was kept telling myself to remember, remember, remember…

Everything went dark.

****

The gentle shudder of a barge undocking woke me from my slumber.

I was trying to sleep in my quarters before my next shift. I had a headache and my vision swam. I must be coming down with the flu or something.

There was something nagging me in the back of my mind. Like I needed to remind someone about something, although I didn’t have a clue what it was or who to remind.

‘It doesn’t matter.’ I mumbled, as I rolled over and drifted off back to sleep.

Tyrannis: Rainbow

-by Blicero Weissmann

The lights in the sky were back, and seemingly brighter than ever before. In recent years there had been more and more, sometimes individual ships sailing through the night, sometimes whole constellations winking and burning in the night sky. Sometimes they brought luck, occasionally even “starmetal”, alloys raining from the sky over the horizon, to be harvested and used for tools and structures.

Umas Mackleby watched them in the night sky from the balcony of the Main Council Building, and hoped that the lights were a good portent for the Founding Day Festival tomorrow. None of them ever seemed to bother the colony on Rocorra at least, and surely these would soon flit away into the darkness as well. Since the ships had first reappeared centuries ago, only the occasional com messages were exchanged with the colony; space was rich and vast, and the burgeoning interstellar civilizations above seemed to have no interest in a rough desert world.

Rocorra had always been a harsh word, mostly jagged rock outcroppings and vast oceans of sand. Umas’ ancestors had come here from the stars centuries ago, limping across space in a converted cargo ship. Their once-prosperous homeworld, a bounty of lush forests and rich oceans, had turned poisonous and deadly, beginning to falter soon after the collapse of the Eve Gate. The mighty terraforming machines had stopped and lay still, and the cities choked while the fields around them turned to mud in the driven acidic rain. Millions had died; a few thousand refugees had packed the holds of an ore-hauler with the last of their provisions and set out for the nearest star, hoping to find a habitable world. They found Rocorra; barely in the habitable range, covered in desert, and lit with the faint reddish-glow of a dying star.

They had died by the hundreds in the first years and decades, struggling to plant crop in the salty red soil. There had been many who believed this world would defeat them, and rows of grave markers cast long shadows on the other side of the stark iron ridge. But their ancestors had survived, crafting rough greenhouses and shelters from the remains of their crippled ship at first, then slowly crawling out to conquer the surrounding valley. From where Umas stood now, he could see the towers of the large moisture condensers spreading out from the settlement, feeding the greenhouse complexes and the network of irrigation tunnels that now laced the valley. Centuries of hard labor had built all of this, and now Rocorra was a home, not just a refuge.

Umas glanced once more at the dancing lights overhead, then retreated inside. He had to finish writing his speech honoring their ancestors’ sacrifice. He would also announce the colony’s planned expansion into the neighboring valley; work teams had already begun clearing sites for the first condensers. Rocorra was still a rough world, Umas pondered, but it had a brilliant future. Below in the near-deserted town square, workers strung streamers and garlands in preparation.

The next morning, Umas Mackleby again stepped onto his balcony. The scene had changed from the night before; the square was filled with colonists, most with bright decorative sashes covering their grey and brown work clothes. Around them the colony sprawled; lush green plantings everywhere and sparkling greenhouse windows stretching to the valley walls, a fertile contrast to the sharp black ridges on the horizon and to the pale red sky above. A haze of clouds hung high in the atmosphere; maybe there would even be rain today, a rare occurrence and a true blessing on this dry world. Good luck indeed. Umas smiled at the crowd while he called up his Founding Day speech on his datapad. He opened his mouth to speak, but his first words were cut short.

A series of dull thuds shook the valley, a sound that had not occurred here for over a thousand years. Stark white contrails slowly tracked high overhead as the sonic booms reverberated against the iron rocks on the far side of the valley. Rocorra had visitors, the first since founding. While the crowd stared at the sky, Umas felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Councilman, I think you need to hear this.” It was Nelby Groton, the colony’s chief technician. Umas followed him back through the Main Council Building and across a narrow street to the Coms Building. A low lying structure, it had been constructed from hull plating, and the old ore-hauler’s main antenna array jutted from the roof. Barely used, ancient communication consoles filled the structure, and cables snaked their way through the roof to the makeshift spire above. Coming through the speakers was a harsh voice.

“…. claimed by the Unified Industrial Combine Corporation in accordance with CONCORD sovereignty regulations. All capsuleers are advised to maintain 1 AU distance. All transgressions will be met with deadly force.”

“Attention. Attention. This world, designated as 1X3P-3 V, has been claimed by the Unified Industrial Combine Corporation in accordance with CONCORD sovereignty regulations. All capsuleers are advised to maintain 1 AU distance. All transgressions will be met with deadly force.”

“Attention. Attention. This world, designated as 1X3P-3 V, has been claimed by the Unified Industrial Combine Corporation in accordance with CONCORD sovereignty regulations. All capsuleers are advised to maintain 1 AU distance. All transgressions….”

“It’s on every channel, every frequency.” Nelby looked grim. “We’ve tried sending a response, but we’re not getting anything at all back. We’re not even sure the antenna is still able to send. We’ve got a team looking at it now.”

“Is it even aimed at us?” Umas asked. “1X3p-3 V? Do they mean Rocorra?”

“Attention. Attention. This world, designated as 1X3P-3 V, has been claimed by the Unified Industrial Combine Corporation….”

“I’m not sure. What should we do about this? Who is Unified Combine Corporation?”

“Attention. Attention. This world, designated as 1X3P-3 V, has been claimed by…”

“Keep trying to contact them. Rocorra is ours, and we need to let them know that they’re in for a fight if they want it, or at least find out who we’re dealing with here.” Umas stood straight. “I’ll go back out there and alert the people, then talk to the rest of the Council. Let me know if there is any change here. We’ll start raising a defense force too; there are some old laser rifles in storage, and we know the land here better than anyone. Hopefully they just won’t notice us, or care”

Umas turned and strode purposefully out back towards the Main Council Building. This was a new challenge, but one he was sure the colony could face.

“Attention. Attention. This world, designated as 1X3P-3 V, has been claimed by…”

Far overhead, the captain of the Unified Industrial Combine Apocalypse Resolute Vengeance hailed the captain of a nearby Chimera carrier.

“FC, we’ve completed landing of our command center and have begun on-lining operations. We’ve also begun landing our extractors, but there is a problem: one of the largest deposits of aqueous liquids appears to be covered by a collection of structures; scans just come back with “Miscellaneous Civilian Structures. No known type. We hadn’t expected to find anyone here.”

“Anything particularly hard to remove?”

“No sir. Nothing military-grade; I don’t even think it’s capsuleer.”

“Then take it out, and continue with your landing. Don’t bother me with everything that comes up on your overview. NBSI”.

The captain adjusted his overview, adjusted his targeting for planetary bombardment, and toggled his “fire” key. There was a slight hum from beyond the capsule wall as the massive turrets tracked into position. He watched as beams of pure light streaked through space and into the atmosphere below, burning away their target. He always had thought laser-light was beautiful. This time, he noted a particularly interesting effect, one he had never seen before; a multicolored arc of refracted laser sprang from where the beams met the high cloud-cover.

A large bright rainbow lit the sky of Rocorra.

Tyrannis: 3 AM

– by Simvastatin Montelukast

3 a.m. LST (local standard time) in some God-forsaken part of the universe. Stuck on watch during yet another painfully long, 23 hour mining op. As I look out the port viewing glass, I see the fleets Orca and three other Hulks. Every few minutes, I hit a couple of buttons and transfer the minerals from our hold to the Orca’s hangar. Man I wasn’t made out for this.

Three months ago, I graduated from the Republic Fleet University second in my class. I felt sure that I was going to be accepted into the Concorde Protectorate Officers Program. The interview went fantastic, or so I thought, and soon I was telling everyone that I was getting into CPOP. One night out celebrating with friends, and a drunk podding charge later, here I am. Stuck in parts of space that no one wants to be in, doing a mining op that no one wants to be a part of. Hell, I don’t even get to be part of the protection group. At least those guys get the chance of seeing some action. Running around, looking for pirates and other dangerous groups roaming through the system.

Then it happened. So fast it’s almost a blur now. Alarms started going off, and the comms channels were filled with warnings. “Warp to station”. Yells and screams. My arms raced quickly across the console as I started to align the Hulk. As the beast of a ship finally hit align, I started to punch in the warp command, my biggest fear was realized. Uncloaking 25km from me was a Taranis class Interceptor. I hit warp seconds before he was in range to scramble me. My mate Schrempf wasn’t as lucky. His hulk was the last to try to jump, but the Taranis caught him.

Over the comms channel, I kept hearing shouts and targets being called. Every couple of minutes, I would hear one of our pilots call out his loss. Our 20 man security force was down to 10 and getting overwhelmed quickly. Though the enemy had only jumped in with a 15 man recon force, you could see that they knew what they were doing.

After being swept away by the furious speed of the voices running through my headsets, I remembered Schrempf. “Sim, get your ass back here and get this guy off of me”. He yelled.

“Dude, give me 20 seconds to switch ships and I will be right there. You gonna be able to wait that long”?

Schrempf answered “Yeah, as long as this guys friends stay busy on the gate. But as soon as they warp to me, I would be better off flying a can of quafe than this target”

As we pulled up to station, I quickly spoke with Scotty about jumping into my Wolf. My personal pride and joy, it had been given to me as a graduation present from my father (one of the few things he had ever done right). Finally cleared to head out, I called out to my mate

“Man hang on a bit longer, I am running that way. How far away from you is he?”

“Dude, he is so close to my ship if he was any closer, we would have to be married for my mother to approve” he said with a snicker.

“Alright, don’t go making wedding plans just yet. Warping to you. I am going see if we can’t change that ole boys plans. Make sure you are aligned, we will need to get you warped before those gate crashers can get here”.

I jumped on scene 5 km from Schrempf and 2 km from his dance partner. He was spinning around him like a top, but I could tell that his orbit was way to close. I locked him up quick. Hitting my web and rep fleet warp scram at the same time, he slowed so fast it looked like the ‘Ranis hit a brick wall.

Clicking on my 220mm autocannons, the inty went down faster than a drunk girl on prom night.

“Alright Schrempf, get out of here quick, I am going to head to the gate and see if I can help out”

“Fly safe out there man, I will dock up this beast and pick up something more usefull. Don’t kill them all before I get there” he said.

Switching freqs to the war maneuvers channel proved to be a test of my ear drums. As I first switched over, all I could hear was Admiral McGee shouting out orders and leading the troops. Since I had last heard, the odds hadn’t gotten any worse, but several pilots were on their second and third reship. Currently the enemy was trying to take out Kryss, who also happened to be our best pilot.

McGee was directing reps from some of the ships, and pointing firepower at our opposition’s weakness. That was the hard part. These guys were skilled and well organized.

They did make one fatal flaw though. They started aggression on a gate with guns. This allowed us to make a push through their skill and organization. One by one, we were able to bring down their ships. Eventually they warped off, leaving us to lick our wounds.

Admiral McGee came over comms “Well boys, it wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a complete loss either”.

“McGee, can I chase em down and try to get a couple of kills”? I asked.

“Sim, I have seen your stats, you’d be better off docking with the rest of us”.

And so my life continues….

Tyrannis: Return Home

– by Xercodo


Many years ago, Farnek vowed to make his mark on the universe, to make a name for himself, to be respected, and to earn it rightfully. Those years ago, he became a capsuleer, forever leaving his friends and family behind to the cities of Amarr Prime. He made promises to come and visit but he quickly became overtaken by the joys of being a capsuleer and his escapades migrated him further and further from the system of Amarr. He was finally living life and enjoying every moment of it.

But one faithful day, the corp he had joined started falling apart. His infamy was nothing. He was just another pilot. The respect he had garnered as one of the heads of the corporation evaporated. The members went their separate ways and with no corp initiative to drive him he was wholly alone and without purpose.

He depressingly wandered around and soon came across a band of pirates. He had nothing left to live for so drove full force into the gang. The gang pinned him down and was attempting to ransom him but with every tiny bit of cap his ship could muster he continued to fire, determined to kill them with his pent up anger for him self and his loneliness, or die trying.

The pirates respected this and surprised him by instead inviting him to join them. Just as with the corp before, he grew quickly and became one of their better warriors. He was again respected but was left bitter by the old corp. He never really made any good relationships with any of the gang to avoid the sorrow of what he saw as an inevitable break up like the last group. But this lack of relationships ate at him and made him cold and secluded.

One day while cleaning through his quarters he came across and old photo of his family. To his horror he came to the realization that for all these years he hadn’t once gone back to visit. He had to get back some how…but the pirate gang was dead set on winning the current war and didn’t want anyone straying off, they needed all the fire power they could. For Farnek to go and take the vacation to see the family would be considered disloyal and might even make him an enemy.

But a light revealed itself to him. He caught wind of CONCORD waving the laws disallowing capsuleers from controlling planets. The pirate gang he was with was running low on funds. They needed a passive income and this was just the thing for them. He told the leader how he had contacts with some people on Amarr Prime that could make the money making even better and that if they moved the war to Amarr they could sustain it much easier.

The leader agreed and started moving out. The gang started preparations to move the products around safely from the war and so the building of the planet side infrastructure began. In the midst of this construction Farnek sneaked his ship passed and headed planet side.

He was finally returning home.