Fiction: Out of Anoikis, by Mynxee

In the low light of Enclave’s observation deck, I flexed my fingers and turned my hand over, marveling at how good it felt to be back in a body after over 300 years of being instantiated within the ship’s AI network. Digital had its charms but so did flesh, blood, and bone. I was examining the new internal diagnostics that ALLISON had implemented and was considering the possibility of food when I heard footsteps.

 I turned to see A Dead Parrot approaching in the flesh (more or less; he liked his cybernetics), wearing his trademark grin.

 “You don’t look a day over 900!” I declared with a smile.

 “Likewise, Mynx! I heard you were skinning up, thought you might like some company,” he said.

 “Thanks, I…”

 ALLISON’s voice abruptly filled the room. “Ahem, Captains, pardon me for interrupting…”

 I rolled my eyes at Parrot. He looked sheepish. ALLISON could be rather possessive of him and wasn’t keen on our long, close friendship.

 “…but my probes have detected a wormhole signature and sensors suggest it is stable for the moment. I strongly recommend we check it out. If you’re not too busy.”

 Same old ALLISON, I thought with a grin, still snarky after all these centuries despite how far she had evolved.

 But…a wormhole signature after all this time! I glanced at Parrot, one eyebrow raised. In a trice, we consulted the others, got consensus, and gave ALLISON the go-ahead. Even in corporeal form, our enhanced bodies were connected to the AI networks housing our digital comrades, allowing communication at almost the speed of thought.

 There was a lot of excited chatter on the AI network as we warped. It had been fourteen standard years since a wormhole signature had been detected and that one had winked out before we could even warp to it. Most of Jove space — discovered nearly 900 years earlier with the advent of new stargate technology — had fewer wormhole signatures than other regions and those sigs tended to be shorter lived. But the section of Jove space we were currently stuck in had even fewer sigs and those that did show up tended to be even more unstable.

 “Think this will be the lucky one that gets us home?” Parrot asked, putting a companionable arm around my shoulders. I leaned against him as we watched the warp tunnel effect and shook my head.

 “That’s a big fat NOPE,” I replied. But my fingers were crossed.

 In 894 years of exploring every bit of Jovian tech looking for clues or racing for those rare wormhole sigs before they collapsed, we hadn’t been able to find a way home (whatever “home” was now, after so much time had passed). Even ALLISON’s vast AI intelligence hadn’t solved the problem, much to her annoyance. So we simply kept looking and learning, leaving beacons filled with our research data in every system we found and jumping through holes when we could. It seemed we were utterly at the mercy of Bob. The only thing that kept us sane was spending most of our time digitized in the AI network either focused on complex research that might span decades or staying dark for a time, interspersed with occasional forays into physicality.

 “Here we are! Camera drones on-screen,” announced ALLISON chirpily. The observation deck viewscreen showed an odd wormhole anomaly. Ovoid instead of round, with multiple bands of pulsing color moving in different directions, narrow at the center, wider further out.

 The lively chatter went quiet.

 “Weird,” Parrot said, voicing everyone’s thoughts.

 “Captain Obvious,” Igaze observed in a musing tone.

 “Yeah,” I muttered.

 “Are we jumping through THAT?” Thrice Hapus sounded nervous. It was comforting somehow that our advanced AI tech allowed our subsumed personalities to express emotion. Maybe that’s what kept us human, I thought.

 There was half-second of intense discussion about the likelihood of being crushed, melted, disintegrated, or otherwise obliterated by this weird looking wormhole. Then Triffton Ambraelle spoke.

 “We just completed a close-range analysis. We believe it can accommodate the ship but this being the weirdest signature we’ve ever seen, we would be jumping into who knows what. ALLISON and I suggest a recon drone. It’s quick decision time, kids, before this one disappears.” His intellect had thrived in the digital substrate and he had evolved a remarkable talent for analytical collaboration with ALLISON.

 No sense pointing out the risks of that strategy. We all knew from experience that sending even a single drone through could destabilize the hole and that we might wait a very long time before another one appeared. Even taking precious seconds to discuss the matter risked the wormhole collapsing on its own.

 “Jump,” I said, voting to roll the dice. In that nanosecond while waiting for the others to vote, I wondered if New Eden had presumed us dead and whether my personality backup had been transferred to a clone. We’d been gone for centuries, after all. Two of me would be problematic indeed if this hole put us on the path back to New Eden.

 “Seconded,” Parrot said.

 The others voted seven for, three against. ALLISON didn’t vote; she was the tiebreaker when we needed one.

 “Beacon deployed; initiating jump,” ALLISON informed us. Beacon deployment was a standard procedure. Even if we didn’t survive, maybe someone would find our research and details of what happened to us.

 Enclave approached the hole, jumped, and then things got strange. Very, very strange. Reality went shaky and distorted…stretched and twisted…turned in on itself… dissolved… condensed… flashed … and went dark. It was nothing like any other wormhole jump any of us had experienced. In those scant few seconds that felt like forever, I expected the ship and all of us to be dispersed like so much space dust.

 But miraculously, reality righted itself and we were through…into a decidedly unusual place. Veils of colored light swathed space, swaying lazily like gigantic translucent sails beset with mesmerizing ripples and slow waves. Electrical discharges lit up the colorscape in irregular flashes. A small blue star glowed less than 1 AU away.

 The ship bounced. Alarms chimed. We bounced again…as both Parrot and I stumbled to chairs and held on to avoid being flung around like ping pong balls.

 “Shit!” I exclaimed.

 “No shit!” Parrot replied.

 “Mind the Credo or I’ll pull this ship over!” chided ALLISON. Did she sound…stressed?!

 The ship bounced yet again. The view out the observation deck window showed increasingly intense electrical discharges and lightning-like fingers that appeared to be reaching for the ship. Was something deliberately bumping us? And if so, what? Before we could say a word, ALLISON cut through the chatter.

 “Captains, we are warping to a signature approximately 189 AU distant and hopefully far from this mess.” ALLISON doesn’t bother to ask our permission when the shit hits the fan.

 The comforting sight of the warp tunnel appeared and we had a few seconds to analyze the data sensors had gathered before dropping out of warp at the destination signature.

 “What … is THAT?” I muttered quietly.

 An enormous wormhole-like anomaly was surrounded by an equally enormous mechanical structures that resembled other Jovian tech we had seen. Debris fields were visible at several points where there were obvious gaps in the structure. Enormous pincer-like outriggers aligned with the tips of an oddly cross-shaped wormhole, as if they were holding it in that shape. The pitch black wormhole center displayed no movement. We had no more than a few seconds of examining the visuals when Triffton spoke.

 “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m detecting something coming fast toward us…it almost looks like those light veils are heading our way!” he said.

 “Can we jump, ALLISON?” I asked. “We don’t want to be here when that shows up…unless we can warp to another celestial to buy some time?” The others concurred instantaneously and unanimously.

 “Now who’s Captain Obvious? Sorry, Captain, there are no other celestials in this system besides where we just came from…” replied ALLISON. “…which is odd in itself. Here we go…don’t blame me if this doesn’t work.”

 Enclave jumped. Everything went black. For what seemed a very long time. In which I had trouble remembering who I was, where I was, why I was. It struck me that perhaps this was to be my new existence…alone in a timeless blackness forever.

 But eventually, the sense of movement, light, and time returned and the ship materialized around me. I looked at Parrot, who looked back at me, those blue eyes full of questions. I shrugged, at a loss. I realized then that the network was alive with chatter and data. ALLISON was silent.

 “ALLISON, hon, what’s the story?” Parrot said. I looked over at him quizzically, mouthing “Hon?” He shrugged, a rueful grin on his face.

 “Captains,” said ALLISON, “we appear to be in a yellow star system with several planets and…well…this…”

 The viewscreen was filled with an image of the wormhole we presumably just came through. On this side, the shape as expected…round and gently shimmering…nothing strange at all there…until ALLISON zoomed the view out. Then we could see another structure like the one that had been on the other side. Only this one wasn’t damaged.

 And then ALLISON said, “Captains, I’ve conducted a cursory scan of this system’s celestials. Two gas giants, two ice giants, and a few terrestrial planets, including two temperate worlds third and fourth from the star. I read signs of civilization and industry throughout the system. And, umm…now might be a good time to share some data from a private research project of mine.”

 “What is she talking about, Parrot?” I asked.

 “I have no idea, Mynx.” he said. “ALLISON, we’re all ears, digital and otherwise.”

 ALLISON said, “Okay. Let me first connect a few dots for you. Back when we were still in New Eden, I became curious about human origins mainly due to the fact that a fossil record for humans has yet to be found. One explanation for that is that your ancestors arrived spontaneously from somewhere else – say, through a wormhole – and the facts of their arrival were lost in the chaos of civilization’s ups and downs over many millennia.

 “If that is indeed what happened, they would have brought a lot of manufactured items with them, many made from enduring materials. Some could have survived, even after many tens of thousands of years. Possibly some of it has been found but never carbon dated for age. Or reproductions of the originals exist that aren’t nearly as old. I began to search for and collect ancient relics and artifacts through agents, planetary explorers, researchers, historians, and others. I have quite a stash of both physical items and digital records of items that were subsequently lost or destroyed. One of those things…”

 The display changed to show a drawing of a collection of symbols within a larger circle.

 “…is this. This drawing is a reproduction of a page from an ancient book discovered on some planet or another. One of my agents sent me the image. This…”

 ALLISON circled an irregular starburst symbol.

 “…is a pulsar map, as you probably realize. I have had a monitor set to ping me should we enter any system that appears to match the information in that map. And well…it pinged within seconds of jumping into this system. While the pulsars I can detect from here are not quite in the same locations as the map indicates, stellar drift could account for that. I am convinced that this ancient map is showing the location of the very system we are now in.”

 No one spoke. What were the odds that getting lost–or more properly, stranded–in Jove space for centuries and then finding our way out through two weird wormholes would bring us to this? It was almost too much to process. Everyone began to chatter at once, questioning, speculating, wondering.

 In the next moment, ALLISON cut us off with sharp “CAPTAINS! A wormhole has appeared on grid, on screen now.”

 As I turned to look at the viewscreen, I was sure she had sounded rattled. That was rare enough to be concerning. The viewscreen showed the new wormhole now on grid with us and the wormhole we had entered through. As we looked at it, a large, sleek luminous ship suddenly materialized. Parrot and I gawked, then looked at each other. My own concerns and fears were reflected in his worried eyes. I took his arm and said “Let’s park these SKINs and subsume.” He nodded but didn’t move, too mesmerized by the unexplained ship to move.

 ALLISON interrupted our thoughts, “Captains, defenses are up but…what…” – I swear she squeaked – “…we are being hailed. And scanned as well.”

 “On screen, please.” I said.

 “Already done.” ALLISON said.

 The viewscreen flashed gray and then suddenly resolved to show a face that was at once human and yet utterly alien…androgynous; hairless; pale patterned skin; delicate features; large silvery-gray eyes, a fleshy fin-like ridge running from forehead to crown adorned with a mesh of fine silver wires, and sleek external cybernetics visible behind narrow elongated ears. The being stared at us appraisingly for a several tense moments, raised one nonexistent eyebrow, and then said,

 “Fascinating.”

 Spoken in our own language! After a few stunned seconds, ALLISON replied, since the rest of us were apparently too dumbstruck to do so.

 “Greetings. This is peaceful exploration vessel Enclave, hailing from the Thera system in New Eden. We seek friendship and knowledge.”

 The being…smirked.

 “Greetings from the Talocan Empire. We have analyzed your ship’s data. Prepare to be boarded.”

Fiction: Captain Joshua’s EVE Story, by Joshua Ballard

Editor’s Note: This story was written by Signal Cartel member Lucas Ballard’s young son (who is not a member of the corp, as he is not old enough to play EVE; however, he does often watch his father play and even talks to us on comms sometimes!). We hope you enjoy the story. Although its details fall somewhat outside the allowances of our Credo, young Joshua’s creative enthusiasm had us smiling.


The Gallente were getting ready for their battle against the Amarr, when an Amarr frigate came out of nowhere and started to target a Gallente ship. Luckily it was targeted and blown up before it fired its second shot. The Gallente were worried if it was a distraction or not.

The commander leading the fleet got a message from one of the scouts.

“WHAT?” yelled the commander.

“Yes sir, they do have seventeen titans,” the scout said.

“You say they are about to waaaaarp!”

Then 289 Amarr ships came out of who knew where. He ordered the fleet to open fire, and even though the Gallente fleet had 47 more ships than the Amarr, he was still worried he was going to lose. All of this, he said to himself. All because the Federation President just HAD to call Empress Catiz a ‘silly girl’ to her face.

“Lucas,” the captain said. “Get back here now! We need you to be a distraction with some of the enemy ships.”

“Yes sir,” Lucas said.

Lucas warped to the fleet in his Ares and turned on his microwarp drive. One of the enemy ships he orbited fired on him, but Lucas was flying so fast that the enemy ship accidentally shot the ship next to it instead.

One of the Gallente Titans shot a doomsday weapon at an Amarr frigate and the ship simply went pop, and thousands of drones and fighters flew around like ants in a washing machine.

Suddenly, 239 frigates, cruisers and battleships belonging to EvE-Scout appeared out of nowhere on the Gallente side, and the fleet’s size doubled instantly. They began shooting at the enemy fleet. (Author’s note: Sorry, Mynxee. I just wanted to add them into the fight!) Lucas was shocked to see the sudden appearance of his friends and flew over to greet them. Then after saying “hi” he went back to work.

Four hours later as the battle came close to the end, the Amarr Navy fleet had lost 123 ships, and all but one of their Titans. The Gallente had only lost 40 ships, including one EvE-Scout ship. De­spite the way the fight was clearly going, the Amarr just didn’t know when to quit, and they just kept fighting.

Within one hour the last Amarr ship exploded, and the battle was over. Everybody shot fireworks in celebration and went home.

The End.

Fiction: Rebirth, by Este DeStirr

Editor’s note: This submission was submitted to our writing contest for fun only as it was previously published and was therefore not eligible for prizes.


I’ve “died” 117 times.

The hull breach warning is attacking my senses, and the panic that is typically associated –by genetics–with the prospect of death is creeping around the edges of my awareness.

GhostSight’s shields were gone almost instantly after the first barrages started. Her armor,bolstered by my own extensive training in repair and reinforcement techniques, lasted a bit longer but she was never going to tank this damage. She was a powerful ghost, an invisible spectre only manifesting for short periods, but anchor her to reality and she was a clumsy thing, unprepared for violence. My connection to the ship via the pod controls and implants is complete, and a part of me feels the powerful tackle technology as a sluggishness and weight dragging me down.

My informorph–what my parents would have called aadaman, or soul–will survive to live again in a new clone. However, my adrenal glands don’t know that and are still pumping fight-or-flight compounds into my bloodstream in an effort to motivate me to action, action made impossible by the stasis webs and scram currently entangling the ungainly Covert Ops frigate.

I’m watching the cycle finish on my burst jammer. The first burst didn’t break the target lock. I’d had to go with a faction multispectral since you never know what racial sensors you’re going to be up against in Anoikis, but that also means that you’ve got even less of a chance of the jam hitting; sucks to be me today I guess. While I’m hoping to get one more jam attempt off, I’m also searching for a warp out, hoping to save my pod if (when) GhostSight loses her final battle.

Finally, someplace deeper, I’ve started focusing inward, preparing for the technology- facilitated “rebirth” that will find me back in Zoohen. It’s nothing like the spiritual journey of an Idama, no matter how many lives I live, but it’s what I have.

Fiction: Untitled, by Charles Aucie

He waited in line to collect what little the insurance agency would offer for the wreckage of his ship. Wincing, he massaged the back of his neck, which just hours ago was severed by titanium cladding from his destroyed capsule. “Phantom pain”, they call it. The brain never evolved to handle the stresses that a capsuleer forces it to endure daily. There’s nothing natural about beaming your consciousness across uncountable light years.

His new body was perfect, the fourth commissioned clone. Identical in every way. Despite every nerve and every cell matching the original, there was still an alien feel about it. He shuddered as these thoughts ran through his mind. He continued to massage the back of his neck, the pain creeping upwards towards the base of his skull.

Flashes of his final moments, his ship breaking apart, the ore spilling from the holds, lingered in his mind. New Eden–a galaxy where anything was possible. You could be anyone. Here he stood, a miner by trade. Destined to orbit countless rocks, to endure pirates and malevolent capsuleers, to make just enough to scrape together another rusty mining barge. Barely making ends meet. Where was the hope that New Eden promised? He wasn’t sure anymore if the pain in his neck was from the titanium cladding, or whether it was his continued realization that something wasn’t quite right.

He looked around at the other people in line. The pilots, the fighters, the tradesmen, the families, the business people. Bustling about the station by the millions. Their faces seemed to indicate that he wasn’t alone in his thoughts. Huge metal structures, bright sterile lights, enormous holo-displays and tacky neon all combined to create a dystopian atmosphere. As the insurance clerk handed over a paltry fraction of his losses, the pain in his neck migrated and settled firmly into his pounding head.

He walked to the space port, mentally preparing himself for the necessary bartering to acquire any sort of useable mining rig. Mining lasers would be the order du jour, strip mining would have to wait for a future pay day. His thoughts fell back to his disappointment with his career. It seemed like there was no escape from the tedium and doldrum. Taking a break, his mind foggy, he leaned against a gantry and stared out across the cavernous space above the hangar. Ships landed, took off, and spun about in a chaotic and silent ballet. He watched as the holo-display above him faded to black. His hands fell, his headache and neck pain forgotten, as bright white words appeared against a stark black background.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

The words resonated within him as panoramas and vistas of beautiful starscapes filled his vision. Exquisite ships he had never laid eyes upon breezed across the display. Words of adventure, wanderlust, fortune and exploration scrolled by, accompanied by groups of explorers working together towards common goals. The presentation ended with “Signal Cartel” emblazoned in bold, blue letters on the display. He noticed he had been holding his breath for the entire advertisement, his headache gone.

The memories of this man seem like they come from another life. That man, Charles Aucie, no longer idles in belts and scurries away from pirates. Charles smiles, deftly undocking his Astero from station. ALLISON, the ship AI, greets him: “Let’s go exploring!”. His mind is clear, the aches and pains of his previous life are gone. What are the furthest reaches of space? Where will the next worm hole lead? What discoveries await? Why is Quafe so delicious? Charles doesn’t know the answers to these questions, but he can’t wait to find out … as a Signaleer!

Fiction: Almost Lost, by A Dead Parrot

Smartbomb noun /ˈsmɑːrt ˌbɑːm/ a point-blank explosive weapon designed to deliver the widest possible area of devastation, effecting crippling, if not fatal, damage to everything within range, friend or foe.

The Bombs

The captain issued the order to arm the weapons and load the turrets. The massive ship was still travelling at warp speed and red alert sirens were reverberating throughout the vessel.

Until now, no one in the gun crew had expected to see any fighting on this mission. None of them had ever seen so many smartbombs loaded into the hold for any combat mission. The consensus was they were delivering them somewhere. They must be, they had thought. Somewhere that only a well-armed battleship could deliver them.

The crew scrambled to their posts, jogging through long narrow passageways as they donned their ear protection. In space, explosions make no sound. But smartbombs detonate at close range. Fragments from a victim ship’s hull concuss against a battleship like a drum. So loud in the lower decks, you’d think the whole ship was coming apart at the bulkheads.

Three decks above, no jokes were being told in the targeting room. Even those serving their third tour onboard this ship had never seen more than one or two of its weapon turrets fitted to deliver smartbombs. But on this mission, six of the available eight turrets were equipped to deliver the terrifying devices.

The sirens are silenced, but the ship still stands at red alert. Every operational compartment is bathed in deep crimson. The captain orders the ship to drop out of warp.

The targeting crew had little work to do at their stations. Smartbombs are “target-less,” brute-force weapons. They checked their math. Six turrets, 15 second reload times. They could deliver one of these bombs once every 2.5 seconds until their target succumbed, was vaporized, or they ran out of ammunition.

Down below, the gun crew was sensitive to the familiar shudder that Apocalypse class ships make when they decelerate out of warp. They knew that once out of warp, it could get very loud, very fast.

As the massive hulk of the battleship shuddered below light speed, a few of the targeting displays blinked off then on. The crew wondered to themselves, what could we be targeting with this much juice?

The Engineer

Unlike battleships, a typical privately-owned blockade runner, had a crew that was very small, close-knit, and rarely privy to the contents of its cargo hold. But on this particular blockade runner, Marilene Pardoux, now 37, has been the ship’s engineer for well over 15 years and does know everything that happens onboard. Pardoux and the captain were close. So it seemed very mysterious indeed to Pardoux that the captain was so secretive about their cargo on this particular mission. When Pardoux pried a bit, the captain replied in his best big-brother tone, “It’s all on the cargo manifest, Marilene.”

Pardoux didn’t like that tone.

Pardoux had already examined the cargo manifest. The hold should contain, among other typical station supplies, 60 cubic meters of frozen Gallentean skirt fish. But that was not the only concerning detail about this mission.

Pardoux’s eyes scanned the deep black outside the cockpit window. The ship lay almost still, its scanners running full tilt, using every available moment to assess their environment before they lost the temporary protection of their gate cloak. Satisfied, the captain ordered engines up. Pardoux pressed the controls aligning the ship toward their last system of the Genesis region.

Once out of Genesis, they had just one more region to traverse, then two jumps inside the next before reaching their final destination.

For Pardoux, this trip was what he and the captain referred to as a “working mission” where most of the ship’s maneuvers were performed manually. On normal trips, the ship is on autopilot and Pardoux’s feet are planted on his console, something his added weight suggested he might be doing a little too often.

As busy as they were piloting the blockade runner, Pardoux could not keep pondering the mystery of the skirt fish. The logo on their secure containers was familiar. Pardoux was sure it was the golden symbol of the Ishukone Corporation. Though the logo does resemble an angel fish,

Pardoux was certain the Ishukone Corporation did not have a fishing subsidiary.

But what was most troubling, about those skirt fish, was that on every prior hauling mission involving perishable cargo, the captain asked, at least once a day, “Have you checked the hold temperature Marilene? Are you keeping an eye on it?” They picked up this cargo at the end of January, a little more than a month ago, and the captain hadn’t asked that question even once. That manifest was a lie.

The Lieutenant

The brand new Concord police cruiser was cleared for undock. Seated at his console, Lesit Dane pressed his hand into his knee to prevent it from skipping up and down in the darkness below the status screens. This is his first command assignment. The young Dane had spent the past 22 weeks training into this class of ship and now he was commanding one. His was one in a squad of three undocking from the largest police command center in the cluster.

He felt the brief change in gravity, like the slowing of an elevator, as the station released its docking hold on the ship.

It was this station where the Directive Enforcement Department (DED) trained most of its plebe officers on new equipment. It’s an area of space unchallenged by criminals and rogue capsuleers due to its dense police presence. A perfect constellation for newly minted officers to get their space legs.

Dane hoped his nerves would calm once they cleared the space dock, beyond the direct gaze of his superiors. He knew they would be watching the trio undock. And from the station’s observation deck high above the maintenance gantry, Dane was right.

Admittedly, his squad was given a milk toast assignment for his first day in command. They will be stationing themselves just outside the Ourapheh gate to set up a check point for random cargo and ship inspections. In low security regions of space this kind of assignment can get pretty exciting. But in Ourapheh, one jump from the DED station itself, they will be lucky to find anything worse than an unlicensed slaver hound.

As the three cruisers cleared the confines of the station, Dane’s leg muscles relaxed at once and he imagined that his few gunners, one deck below, were probably already asleep.

The Fish

Skirt fish are common. It’s the main ingredient in a very sweet, popular dish named after an old royal nicknamed the Blue Prince. According to the story, that name followed the blue prince through childhood after he was born with a rare oxygen deficiency that quite literally gave his skin a bluish tint.

Not only is the meat of skirt fish very sweet, it is also higher in iron than most foods, making it a perfect dietary supplement for a king and queen to order for their young anemic child with high expectations but low hemoglobin levels.

Other than the fact that this fish wasn’t a cargo that the Faint Memory of the Nouvelle Rouvenor II has ever hauled before, Pardoux could think of nothing else special about it.

The Boredom

Long distance hauling missions like this one consist mainly of extended, almost boring, periods of time spent warping between stargates. Those periods though, are bookended by brief, intense periods of work while approaching and leaving the stargates. Those moments can be exciting, but it’s the boredom in between that kills you.

Pardoux piped up in the dead quiet of the flight deck, “I’m getting kind of hungry. Are you, Shabaud?” The captain did not look up from his reading.

“You know what I could go for right now? Some old fashioned cooking, maybe something with fish.”

Captain en Issier put his data pad down in his lap and rested his gaze outside the cockpit window. “Really Marilene?” he said, without moving his eyes from the glass. “And I’ll bet what you’d really like right now is something made with skirt fish, right?”

“No, I was actually thinking salmon. But now that you’ve brought up the subject of skirt fish…”

“Captain,” interrupted the ship’s onboard navigation system, “we are coming out of warp soon. There is absolutely zero indication of any ships destroyed at the next gate. This is however, a larger than normal police presence assembled there. Just thought you might like a head’s up.” “Thank you, ALLISON,” the captain replied.

“Why does ALLISON have the impression that you’d care about a police presence at the next gate?”

“Marilene, just get the scanners ready. We should start to prepare for the next jump.”

The blockade runner’s warp engines began to spool down.

The Checkpoint

“Lieutenant, a blockade runner just dropping out of warp,” Dane’s logistics officer blurted. “Thank you Forsan, start the ship and cargo scans on him while I check on the others,” Dane replied, turning to the radio.

“Flight two, are you almost done onboard that Badger yet?” Dane asked into his microphone.

The response came back, “Almost Dane. I mean, Flight Leader, sir. We did not observe anything out of specification in their hold, but I’m afraid we may have a situation brewing over here. We’ve discovered a half empty case of expired milk in the chill locker. You uh, want us to haul ’em down to the station, or you think we could just let him off with a warning. Your call, Flight Leader.”

Those guys are too funny, Dane thought. “Marc, we have a blockade runner just warped on-grid, I’m going to hail its captain. We’re scanning him now. Just bring your boarding crew back, OK?”

“Roger, Flight Leader. Will do. But give me an extra minute. I’m gonna have my guys gear up first, in case we have to board him. You can’t be too careful with blockade runners. They might be smuggling chests of Amarrian spitballs from null-sec.”

The Stop

Captain en Issier ended his radio call with the police lieutenant and removed his headset. “Bring the engines offline Marilene, they said they may be boarding us.”

“Boarding us? For what? I thought they needed just cause for boarding. Are you going to tell me what’s in those Ishukone Corporation crates now?”

“It isn’t the crates, Marilene. Those crates are double wrapped. Unscannable,” the captain said. “They said their scanners detected illegal drone equipment onboard.”

“What drone equipment? We don’t have any…”

“Where’s Parrot,” the captain interrupted. “Get him on the flight deck. I need to talk to him.”

“He’s in his quarters, I’ll call him now.”

“Marilene, before he gets up here, I need to tell you, there aren’t skirt fish in those Ishukone crates.”

“Really? What is it then? Should I be concerned?”

“Maybe. If the DED finds anything. But if they do, their first action will be to bring me aboard their ship for arrest, and tractor the Rouvenor in for impound. If they do that, I will understand if you want to run. When they take me over to their cruiser, before the tractor beam is up, you have my blessing to take the Rouvenor and try to escape. You may only have a few seconds.”

“What might they find? What kind of prison time are we talking about?”

“Blueprints. Stolen blueprints, I think. They did not give me all the details. But Ishukone paid me extremely well to make them disappear for a few weeks, and move them. From what I gather, the corporation may have smuggled them from some Caldari-Gallente research effort called the Crallire Project, or the Crielere Project, or something, I am not sure,” the captain explained. “But if we are intercepted before we can deliver them, CONCORD will certainly turn the blueprints back over to the Gallente, and Ishukone have already implied that they will deny any involvement and press charges against me for the theft.”

“Is there anything you need me to do before we are boarded then?”

“Don’t panic yet, the DED doesn’t know anything about the Ishukone crates, they are interested in something else… “

Before he could continue, A.D. Parrot, the ship’s analyst of 13 and a half years, arrived on the flight deck.

The captain acknowledged Parrot with a glance, and then looked at Pardoux. “Marilene, could you excuse us for a few minutes? Have you checked the hold temperature lately? Why don’t you go check on it, and be sure everything is stowed properly before the DED gets here.”

“You got it, Shabaud.” Marilene stood and headed off the flight deck, greeting Parrot in passing. “How’s it goin’, Parrot?”

“A.D.,” the captain began. “I think the gentle police lieutenant parked just off our bow may be interested in making a souvenir of ALLISON. They are about to board us.”

The Parrot

A.D. Parrot, as he is now known, was hired on to the crew of the Faint Memory of the Nouvelle Rouvenor II back in YC92. What he brought with him was no less than astonishing to Captain Shabaud en Issier at the time. Within days of coming aboard, A.D. Parrot had installed and brought to life an honest to goodness, working artificial lifeform that he created, and called ALLISON.

“The ALLISON” as en Issier referred to her in the beginning, was capable of obtaining information not yet in range of ships scanners. It was capable of determining the best course of action in situations that, without it, would have had career-ending consequences. In short, as time passed, “she” eventually made the Faint Memory of the Nouvelle Rouvenor II and her captain legendary in certain circles.

The captain had known the two most important things he had to know about Parrot before he brought him on. First, Parrot was not his real name. He was a man running from something, or from someone, which was okay with him. Captain Shabaud en Issier himself did not have the cleanest history with the law, and bringing someone on board that had something to hide made perfect sense when you run a ship that, more often than not, also has something to hide in its cargo bay. There is a sort of mutual protection there that en Issier appreciated.

The second thing he knew was that the ALLISON was based on some sort of stolen technology. Though Parrot never offered any details about where the technology came from, en Issier had seen and heard enough over the past 13 years that he was now pretty certain it came from Gallente research.

The Excitement

“We may get some excitement on my first day after all, Marc,” Dane said, back on the radio again. “I just got off with the blockade runner. They have been notified that we intend to board. Forsan believes there could possibly be some kind of illegal artificial intelligence development work onboard. He says the scanner shows the signature of some drone components that have been flagged by CONCORD.

“Are you sure your data pad isn’t upside down?” Marc replied.

“It could be that, or it could be something else. We won’t know until we see it. Please get your crew ready to check it out.”

“Acknowledged. We’ll be ready in under four minutes.”

Wow, thought Dane, that’s some progress. No wisecrack, no joke. He could get used to this.

At that moment, Forsan chirped up. “We may have a little more excitement today. We have just been notified by DED that we have been designated as response team four, one system over, at the Tourier gate. There is chatter on the radio about criminal capsuleer activity there. We could be called into action at any moment!”

“Forsan, when was the last time you heard of them actually activating the fourth response team? You do understand that for them to call on us, the fourth group, they would have already dispatched six other cruisers and two battleships to the scene? And then those eight ships would then need to call for additional backup.”

“It is just my duty to inform you sir,” Forsan said.

“Acknowledged. Just don’t get too excited about it. Let’s deal with reality and see what’s on that blockade runner!”

The Only Copy

“A.D., we are being held by the DED at this gate because their scanners picked up what they called ‘flagged drone components’ suggesting, they tell me, possible violations of artificial intelligence research, and that, so they say, gives them just cause to search the ship.”

“I see,” Parrot replied.

“We both know that the flagged components they are talking about are ALLISON, right? You stole some of those components from CreoDron, didn’t you?”

“I am sure that’s the case,” confirmed Parrot. “So are we going to run?”

“Run? I don’t think so. I don’t plan on letting them search this ship either. Just stay calm. We have a few minutes before any police are onboard.”

The captain reached over to the navigation system control panel and snapped ALLISON’s power switch off. “I want you to get ALLISON shut down and backed up. I plan on turning the components over to…”

“Backed up? What do you mean backed up? I can shut her down, but I can’t back her up. I can’t copy her! I have tried. All I get is code that talks, but no personality, no life, no ALLISON!”

“You mean she, I mean that, is the only copy? On those components?”

“I’m working on it! I just haven’t figured it out yet. I will,” Parrot replied.

“Well unless you figure it out in the next several minutes, you may lose her, A.D., I do not want to spend my retirement years in prison.”

Parrot reached for the nav panel and turned ALLISON back on. “She may as well be here for it, Shabaud, whatever happens.”

“Captain, what is going on?” ALLISON asked.

“Nothing, ALLISON,” Parrot replied before the captain had a chance to speak, “everything’s fine.”

“Should I be worried?”

The Call

“Now we’re talking!” Forsan exclaimed as he ripped off his headphones. “Lieutenant! We’ve been called, they want us to return to Yulai, at the Tourier gate asap!”

“What?” asked Dane. It was all he could say. The shock of the moment, and his simple response to it, made him lose his concentration. He made a mental note that he’d better start working on a better response in moments like these. Something more captain-ly sounding.

“It’s a criminal capsuleer, they’ve got a real live one putting up a fight! We’re in!” Forsan said, now standing in front of his console. “Let’s cut this blockade runner loose!”

“No way, Forsan. He’s coming with us! This is going to best the best first day any DED cruiser pilot has ever seen. We will both have promotions when this is over!”

“Orders, sir?” Forsan asked coming to attention. Dane could definitely get used to this.

“Get on the radio with that blockade runner, tell him to fleet up with us immediately, or we open fire, and sound like you mean it. I’ll radio Marc and have him ready his ship for warp. Oh, and tell Dannai to wake the gunners up.”

No sooner was Forsan off the radio with the blockade runner, his radio lit up again. “Sir, that was dispatch, they are ordering us to push off immediately. There are officers down in Yulai, at the Tourier gate, two DED cruisers are destroyed and a one of our battleships is taking heavy damage!”

“What?” Dane said again.

ALLISON

The trio of police cruisers landed in Yulai at the Ourapheh gate. They were followed, seconds later, by the Faint Memory of the Nouvelle Rouvenor II.

“Where are we going, Shabaud?” asked Pardoux taking a seat next to the captain.

“I don’t know, but when three DED cruisers invite you to fleet up, it isn’t good for your long term health to say no.”

“At least we are headed in the right direction,” quipped Shabaud. “But I have to say, being in Yulai, under forced police escort, doesn’t really have the kind of vibe I usually look for.”

ALLISON interrupted, “Captain, there have been nearly two dozen kills in as many minutes at the Tourier gate inside this system. Over half a dozen of the casualties include DED police cruisers, and one DED battleship. Please check my monitor for details.”

The four ships aligned in unison, and without so much as a glance at their local scanners, the DED cruisers warped off in the direction of the Tourier gate, with the Rouvenor in tow.

“What is she talking about A.D.?” the captain asked, swinging around in his chair to face the back of the flight deck. “I think ALLISON is going haywire. It’s impossible to destroy a DED battleship in this day and age. It’s YC106 for Bob’s sake!”

“Captain, I recommend immediate disengagement and a course correction,” ALLISON now warned louder. “A second DED battleship has just been destroyed at our destination.”

“Parrot!”

“What, Captain? What do you want me to say? I think we should do what she says,” Parrot suggested.

“You think if we break fleet with the DED, they will just say, ‘Ok fellas, fly safe! We’ll see you later!'”

“Well I don’t know what they will do,” Pardoux broke in, “but if DED battleships cannot stand up against whatever lies at the other side of this warp, then we certainly can’t.”

“Captain, a third DED battleship has just been destroyed at our destination,” ALLISON said. “I strenuously suggest that you come up with a plan. We will be arriving at our destination in approximately 15 seconds.”

“Ideas?” the captain asked.

The small Rouvenor crew sat in silence for a moment. No one spoke.

“We will be arriving at our destination in approximately 5 seconds,” ALLISON reported, in a voice that, for the first time Parrot could recall, sounded a bit nervous. “Captain, please.”

“All right ALLISON! Enough. I am dropping fleet now. Marilene, pick a celestial and get us ready for warp as soon as we land. A.D., say a prayer to Bob. But make it a short one.”

The DED trio landed approximately 6,000 meters from the Tourier gate, the blockade runner landed just 1,000 meters behind that. They could see on grid with them were two other DED cruisers, a DED battleship, and three Apocalypse class Amarrian battleships.

The Amarrian ship closest to the gate was taking fire from all three DED ships. The other two Amarrian ships appeared to be reinforcing the first with remote repair modules.

“Warp Marilene, now!” the captain commanded.

But just as the blockade runner turned to align, a bright light emanated in all directions from the Amarrian Apocalypse followed by an enormous explosion.

A large fragment of Dane’s hull came straight toward the Rouvenor, bumping it hard out of alignment, and driving it another 600 meters further from the gate.

Dane and his squad were returning fire.

“Realign! realign!” Captain en Issier yelled.

Pardoux was already on it. The Rouvenor was already responding. The ship’s warp drives were spooling up.

Just as the light before the Rouvenor began to stretch out into the distance beyond, her crew saw Lesit Dane’s cruiser disappear from their overview.