December 30, 2013

Pod And Planet

Short post.  I am incredibly excited to find that my piece "Taking His Medicine" won Second Place in the Pod and Planet writing contest for 2013. Amazing.  The prize will be converted to ISK and shortly after that will be converted into destroyed ships.  Given my skill as demonstrated by my recent killboard, that might go pretty quickly really.

On an unrelated note, a shout out to Fintarue whose Twitch Stream I've enjoyed as well as his advice on the High Drag podcast.  I gave him a bounty to celebrate him getting plied with alcohol by Mrs. Fintarue on a recent 'cast and have been rewarded with notifications from 28 of his last explosions.  Last time I gave him a donation and a bounty.  To celebrate winning the Pod and Planet I think I'll have to do that again.  Go explode, Fintarue!

December 20, 2013

Poking my nose in - a quick trick for industry/traders

A short one on the industry/trading side.  There are all the little things that you discover on your own in New Eden.  This one is probably obvious for the vets.

So if you've done any industry/trading then you're probably already familiar with the trick of just jumping one system into a region so you can access the market to update your buy/sell orders.  As my T2 manufacturing has scaled up I've starting making runs to Jita rather than Dodixie for a mass buy that I then send back home using Push Industries.  Jita being what it is though you may prefer to not actually set foot in that particular den of villainy.   What I only realized for the first time last night is that I can fly my indy alt to the first system into The Forge, purchase everything I need, wait for the Assets window to update with the purchases, and then create a contract from the Assets window.   Several jumps and the Jita undock are thus avoided.

This also means that if/when I relocate my manufacturing base I'll definitely be looking at where I can touch the most number of regions with the fewest number of jumps.  Right now I technically have orders in three regions, but 90% of my revenue is from Sinq.

Oh and I can hear the voices saying "you buy mats from sell orders, you noob?"  Yes, I'm still capital constrained enough that I'm doing more of a JIT manufacturing process.  I will say that it is tempting for me to go to my main, sell that Vindi I won on SOMER, and ship 1B ISK over to the indy alt to make things go faster.  However, I do like the feeling that the icnreasing asset balance on the alt is an affirmation that I'm actually doing it right.  And besides, I'm not sure that I'm ready to acknowledge that I'm not going to want to fly that Vindi.

If you're starting up like me, do put some columns in your spreadsheet to compare your local market for materials to Jita.  For my situation I'm buying less than 20 different mats, and 4-5 of those will be cheaper locally than Jita.  Others will be as much as 20%+ cheaper in Jita.  A complete theoretical run I might make right now is 17% cheaper in Jita as a whole, which very quickly will cover the shipping charges.

Many vets or guides you may find will tell you to stick an alt in Jita to do this for you.  That's all fine if you have multiple accounts, but I have all three of my slots in my single account full and busy.  I'm starting to feel more confident that I can tell other newish people that they can make a go of T2 manufacturing with only one account and while keeping their main free for PVP.  I'm not down to the 30min a night or less yet with the profits of a Croda, but I'm getting there.

December 13, 2013

Killboards, Kiting, and umm... k-space industry.

Apparently this post is going to be about things that begin with K.  This may not be a surprise for some of my recent opponents who have reason to think my fitting and piloting skills are appropriate for Sesame Street (for non-US readers).


Some pilots and corps may have an unhealthy focus on keeping their killboard green.  I'd like to think I'm avoiding that, since my recent killboard is more all-red than all green.  This has been a combination of trying to learn new things and trying to do those things in FW space that seems to have become much rougher lately.  I can't say that I've psychologically gotten away from any impact of doing nothing but losing ships lately though.

I do feel like the lowsec I've been playing in has changed, about from when TEST piled in to Caldari Faction War.  The Caldari/Gallente FW area seems to have picked up in the number of small gangs running around, and even the Amarr/Minmatar seems to be busier - perhaps because some were displaced from Cal/Gal?  Or is it just me.

There certainly have been times when it has been quiet.  I pulled in 120M or so of tags while looking about for fights, so that covers a couple fully-fit T1 cruiser losses.  Between that and some exploration in w-space that ended up with me trying to some nullsec ratting I have a positive security status again.  Maybe that will label me carebear enough that perhaps more people will engage so I can try more new things before they kill me.


Speaking of new things. I've certainly heard plenty of people say "kiting is hard."  It's also the key behind the great videos you often see where people manage to take on superior numbers.  As someone who has grown up in Eve as a brawler it is a big transition.  I'm becoming familiar with all of the mistakes on the kiting side that I had been glad to take advantage of as a brawler.  I've swung myself too far away from target and lost long point, allowing them to escape in low armor.  I've landed too near a target and thus been unable to get up sufficient speed to get transversal and range up before they grab and melt me.

So other than getting more time to play and getting out there with more ships, I'll be looking about for more kiting resources.  If you're wondering about this to I'll recommend the Kiting Guide at Accidentally the Whole Frigate.  If anyone has other recommendations for kiting I'd be very interested.
Edit: This Stabber kiting guide was recently posted to G+ too.

Of course I wasn't trying out kiting in the frigate as he suggests, but in a cruiser because that's kinda my default hull right now.  A cruiser is also big enough that I can tag-rat if I can't find people.  Maybe I need to focus.  After my last loss 

Small Eve Side Note: The fellow who killed my Omen was HippoWhisperer, who also gave me my very first RVB 1v1 when I was a brand new Eve player.  Just like back then he was a great guy about it and gave me some advice on the way out.  But I noticed that it certainly didn't stop him from trying to lock my pod. So a big shout out to HippoWhisperer.

Side Side Note: I'm hoping that old killmail is wrong.  I remember that I didn't put rigs on back then (expensive!) but I would have at least filled in the midslots, right?

K-space Industry 

On the industrial side I feel like I'm finally getting some momentum.  That said, given the excellent new industrial blog "Manufacturing Confusion" I don't think I'll try to give any more general advice on industry here in this blog for a while.   There has been a rough path to getting up to a reasonable amount of operating capital.  I still have EveMon warning me that my alt has insufficient balance to cover all outstanding buy orders.   To some degree I'd be thrilled if my wallet bottomed out because suddenly all my buy orders were fulfilled - it would mean I have a lot of raw materials at a bargain price waiting for me.  I probably won't try moving ISK from the alt to my main until I have a substantial buffer than I don't zero out each time I get a pile of raw mats to set up the next set of runs.

November 19, 2013

SOE ships - first kills, first losses now in the books

I find myself curious to see how long it will be until the first kills involving the new SOE ships.
As of this writing both ships have been involved as killers, but none have fallen yet.

Sadly the first Stratios related kill is a Interbus Customs Office bash.

The first Astero kill is of a Dreddit Venture in FW space, and a solo kill at that.  Congrats to Degnar Oskold for getting the first kill.  I'm glad to see you beat the next one by 19 minutes - since that next one was, yes, a Interbus Customs Office.

I'll update this when I see the first losses. :)

Update 1: That was fast - the first Stratios loss, valued at 546,990,000 as of this writing.  Ran afoul of quite a list of cruisers, HACs, and BCs.  I'd guess a gate camp?

Update 2: And the first Astero loss valued at 230,000,000 - also in Caldari/Gallente FW space, a solo kill by a Kestrel piloted by Clare Mittermeyer.  Congrats!  I'll point out that the Astero pilot, Poison Ivvy, did get in a kill in her Astero before being hunted down herself.

Note that prices for both are dropping fast.  Eve-Central has now been updated to have both in their database: Astero - Stratios.

November 17, 2013

Cap Boosters: What charges to load?

Eve is full of under-explained topics.  As a pilot who likes to fly Gallente ships for PVP with the heaviest blasters possible I often end up fitting cap boosters.  I also then get stymied by what cap charges to put into the booster.  There is rarely a integer number of charges that fit into a particular booster, so which to use. So lets look at that and the two goals of your cap booster: maximum sustained capacity and maximum instantaneous boost.

Medium Capacitor Boosters and their Charges
Here are the medium capacitor boosters you might consider and the standard (not Navy) charges you might consider.

Cap Charge100150200400
Cap BoosterCapacity
Medium Meta 432800 (8)
8.33/s for 96s
750 (5)
12.5/s for 60s
800 (4)
16.67/s for 48s
800 (2)
33.33/s for 24s
Medium Tech 2401000 (10)
8.33/s for 120s
900 (6)
12.5/s for 72s
1000 (5)
16.67/s for 60s
800 (2)
33.33/s for 24s

So if you fit the Meta 4 Electrochemical Capacitor Booster I you have a capacity of 32 m3 and the Cap 100s are 4 m3 each, neatly fitting 8 of them.  Which means you'll get 8.33 GJ/sec until you hit the reload.  Both of these have a 12 seconds cycle time, so that will happen after 96 seconds.

Lots of numbers, I know.  So what does all that mean.  Let's think back to why you fit these things anyway.  In general you have a tradeoff between consistent sustained capacity and maximizing the instantaneous boost you get.

Max Sustained Capacity
In this case you want to keep your capacitor running for those hungry modules like the Heavy Neutron Blaster IIs on a ganked-out Thorax.  You only need the capacitor running long enough for the either opponent to be melted or you've been gunned down.

EFT or Pyfa will give you how long you'll be able to run your ship and that's fine.  Depending on how much you've overloaded your ship you may need to run into the bigger sizes and will have a shorter run time or you can go for the smaller ones and even hit cap stable if you really want.

Max Instantaneous Boost
I didn't really think about this part as much until I was chatting with a friend after an encounter with a neuting opponent.  Maybe you've also watched some of the great Eve videos out there by the likes of kil2 (now CCP Rise).  Under neut/nos attack (or "cap pressure") the constant flow of smaller charges may be sucked away as soon as they land. Notice that the Medium Unstable Power Fluctuator I also has a cycle time of 12 seconds and will pull 180 GJ out of your ship.  If you're using Cap 100s or 150s you won't be able to make any headway.  A charge of a Cap 400, however, may give you enough to pulse that AB and your guns one more time.  Yes, you'll hit reload sooner, but at least you can do something.

So in the past I've only loaded one set of cap charges into my ships.  After going through all this I'm tempted to store up a few of the bigger ones to swap to if I'm getting into combat with a ship that is likely to have neut/nos capability.

Cost - and Navy Charges
More expensive, but what do you get for that?

Medium Meta 41000 (10)
8.33/s for 120s
1050 (7)
12.5/sec for 84s
1000 (5)
16.67/s for 60s
800 (2)
33.33/s for 24s
Medium Tech 21300 (13)
8.33/s for 156s
1200 (8)
12.5/sec for 96sec
1200 (6)
16.67/s for 72s
1200 (3)
33.33/s for 36s

Right now in Jita: Cap 400 - 3,300 ISK, Navy Cap 400 - 115,000 ISK

I used to shy away from the navy charges.  But considering that I'm about to risk a ship around 50M ISK, I figure the 1M I might spend on the navy cap charges are worth it for the substantial increase in the length of time I'll have before the booster goes into cycle.

I'm sure there are some advanced topics but they build off of this that I'm not familiar with - for instance I understand faction/pirate boosters handle heat better even if they have the Meta sized capacity, so you can run them harder.  If you have some other uses for boosters, please do post a comment and share.

November 15, 2013

Starting up Industry

I've made reference in recent posts to working on getting T2 industry running.  Let me pull back the curtain a bit on more details, in a way that perhaps can help any readers who are looking at the same.  I do so with the disclaimer that I am not rolling in the ISK at this point.  However, I notice that most blogs out there that talk about the Manufacturing side of industry are either at the top end already (talking about capitals and the like) or are very old postings making reference to market opportunities that in my experience no longer exist.

There is on exception to this, the brand new blog Manufacturing Confusion by Ragelle.  He is building up from first principles so there's a lot of detail there, enough so that if you're new to the whole industry thing you may need to do a good bit of reading before you can grok it.  On the other hand, this is Eve, so you should be expecting complexity.

I'm going to start with the basics and work my way up over the posts.  I expect this will help me understand things more as well, as explaining things generally does.  I'll try to include lots of links to tools and information pages that can help readers who are interested in exploring this portion of Eve's immense economic world.

The perspective I'm writing for is someone who doesn't intend for industry to be their primary play style.  My goal is to be able to spend a short time regularly to update things, then move on to other things such as PVP roaming.  For me, the ideal industry effort would be concluded in a 30 minute or so time slot while the kids are watching TV before starting the bedtime routine.

Production versus Competition (aka researching any entry to T1 Industry )
There are some (mostly old) forum posts out there about how you can get started with T1 manufacture.  After my own research earlier this year I'd suggest that opportunities here are pretty limited, so you have to pick your position with research.  Perfect T1 manufacturing skills are pretty easy to come by (Production Efficiency V being the real necessity at 15d or so) compared to other ISK-making activities (perfect PI taking 60+ days, for instance).  That means that a lot of people can pile in and the competition keeps the margin down.  The ways to get around that are to operate away from hubs (lower demand but lower competition) or less obvious products, so that you can avoid that competition and keep a margin.  How do you do that?

Start with IPH or a tool like it.  Once you know more you may want to write your own spreadsheets, but start with a tool so you don't spend all your time writing and debugging the sheets without actually manufacturing anything.  Load the prices for your home region and set it to run for all blueprints.  This will take a while.  Some things will come to the top - right now in my region there are some rigs at the top.  There are multiple ways to have IPH rank the results.  The "ISK per Hour" setting, however, will assume that you're there to flip your jobs the moment they finish.  On the T1 Industry side you can control this - if you run in batches that are sized to complete just before your next login.  The IPH Tool has a nice stat for each of these marked "SVR" - this is how much sales volume there is in that product compared to how much you can make in a day.  If it's less than 1.0, then even if you're the only manufacturer of the product then you'll outstrip demand.  Think of it as how many people can be competing and still sell their stuff.  If it's a high number then your stuff should sell fast.  The IPH tool has an option "IPH * SVR" to rank this - however, what it doesn't take into account is how many people are already fighting it out for that money.

Eve Central to the rescue.  Let's say I've spotted that Cynosural Field Generation I is a high margin item and moves with a high volume.  All those jump freighters out there keep getting their cyno alts popped after all.  Limit the search to your home region and take a look (this link won't have the region limit since that's in a cookie rather than the URL).  As of this writing there are two multi-thousand unit sell orders fighting it out and pushing down margins.  Yep, it was obvious money and bigger fish than you are already in that pond.  The margin might be decent now, but with that much weight queued up it will be a 0.01 ISK-fest.  Unless you're lucky, your order will soon be twelve down in the sales order even though you're only 0.25 ISK more expensive than the current low sale.

Lets say you find a good item.  Switch back to IPH and double-click on it and you'll jump to the details of that blueprint's production.  The trick here is that IPH has assumed you already have the BPO - and by default I believe it assumes you have a ME:25,PE:10 BPO or somesuch.  Look up the price for a brand new BPO from NPCs in the open market, then look up the price for a moderately researched BPO (like 25/10) on contracts.  In IPH on the Blueprint tab look up the "Additional Costs" field (it's in the middle top).  Put in the price of the blueprint as an additional cost and crank the number of runs up to 100 or so, then hit the "Refresh" button.  Now you can see how profitable it will be after you've forked out for the BPO.  By playing with the Number of Runs field you can see how long it will take for you to recoup the BPO price and start making money.  This may be a while.

Another option is to look for the price of a BPC on contracts.  Put the price of the BPC in and put in the maximum number of runs from the BPC in as the number of runs for IPH.  The BPC may be a good way to get your feet wet, though at the end of the run the BPC will be worthless, so you need to make it count.

Be warned, other people are running the same kinds of tools.  They may be bringing their production to market even as you're out buying that BPO.  So don't commit all of your ISK to one venture.  You may have to decide to sell at a loss to recover ISK or sit on your stock until the price cycles up again - or find a new location.

November 9, 2013

Pod and Planet: Commentary on Immortality

Taking His Medicine is one of two stories that sprung to mind when brainstorming for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest.  The other one, tentatively titled Demonslayer is still just a bunch of notes that perhaps can be transformed into a story by the time the next contest comes around.

Both stories revolve around the meaning of capsuleer immortality when put into the context of a universe full of life rather than the narrow strictures of a videogame.  The immortality of a capsuleer has a big hole in it - it only applies when your death comes while plugged into your pod.  Once caught up in the idea of being immortal, always able to jump into a fresh clone body unscarred by whatever you did to the last one, the prospect of losing your life could turn your psychology into something decidedly inhuman.  Why in the name of all that is holy would you want to go about Walking In Stations when some fool baseliner could end your life out of jealous with the stroke of a knife or the twitch of a trigger?  Why would you dare eat food prepared out of your sight?

This isn't even getting into the hatred leveled against our average capsuleer.  Whether a mission-runner or a nullsec warrior, a capsuleer will have been responsible for the destruction of billions of ISK of ships and the termination of hundreds of thousands of lives.  The only capsuleers without this burden are the station-dwelling trading and industry types - perhaps they are the only sane ones.  After all, they grow rich out of the spotlight, with the benefit of being able to spend that ISK while jumping from one perfect clone body to the next.

Also consider that the capsuleer experience is a very recent thing in the broader picture of the society.  Ten years is nothing - not even a generation.  The first volunteers for the pods, probably primarily twenty-something year old military officers, are now thirty-something years old.  The long-term effects of being a capsuleer is only just being seen.

For a video game we want to ignore these things.  It's a good excuse for why we get to restart the game after losing a fight without having to roll up a new character.  As fiction writers there is a big choice here: to stick with the narrower video game vision and handwave these things, allowing our heroes and heroines to be glamorous movers and shakers.  There's a darker choice that I've made here, where the weight of the "reality" of immortality is felt crashing down.

The newer DUST-style Templar implants offer a better option.  With such implants the world does open up for capsuleers.  Our characters could dare to walk around in stations and partake of normal pleasures - though what pleasures are normal for the immortal?

The fantasy genre has long played with the immortal POV character, particularly since Anne Rice brought vampires to a newer and wider audience.  The Eve capsuleer may put a science-fiction wrapping on some of the same themes explorer by many writers of vampire tales and RPGs since then.  As readers and writers we may enjoy that our capsuleers are more able to enjoy their food, drink, and sex - and they are certainly no less blood stained.  The same things that made the vampire genre so rich certainly can make a capsuleer genre compelling.

Pod And Planet: Taking His Medicine

This is my entry for this year's Pod and Planet Fiction Contest in the Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden category.  To find the other entries for this year go to Contest Entries and Reading Bank, YC115.  I've made a separate blog entry for some author's thoughts about this story and the meaning of immortality in Eve.


Taking His Medicine
Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden

* * *

Acting relaxed when other people are tense is part of my job.  Just the travel to the tiny independent station in lowsec was enough to make friends question my sanity.  They see the holovid operas where every every gate is camped and even a civilian personnel transport is a target for a booster-crazed ganker.  Not just the baseline pirates who usually would rather get protection money, but a nigh-immortal capsuleer who will risk their own ship and crew “for the lols.”  Some of my friends and associates haven’t left highsec for the last ten years - since the growing availability of pods created the capsuleer menace of late night drama.  Many are young enough that they barely remember when there weren’t capsuleers.  But then my profession does tend to largely employ the young, or those who can pass as still being young.  As I slip into that second category, contracts like this are what I need.  The young might lose their composure in such situations, while those of us who have seen it before can keep our professional demeanor.

So when the station boss, Harold, kept pacing back and forth across the false wood flooring of his private quarters I just eased back into one of the leather oversized chairs.  I hiked one leg up on the arm of the chair, but only drew the eyes of the other person in the room: Harold’s chef Anki.  If it ever comes around that I can’t distract a young man with a stretch of my legs then it’s time to retire.  The fact that he had the look of someone raised in strict Amarrian culture was to my advantage.  I don’t turn down advantages any more.

"Boss, he's docking up now." The tower operator’s disembodied voice came over the intercom.  Anki gave me a shy, nervous smile but turned back to his boss.  Harold had stopped pacing finally.

"Thanks, Roger.  I want to know if anything warps within 250 klicks for the next few hours.  If anyone asks, we're closed for some repairs and expect to be open for business again tomorrow.  Field up and nobody else docks without my say."

Harold swiped at his battered wrist-comm then tapped a rhythm on its surface.  "Jared, we're clear.  Your scanners should confirm four on station: Roger in the tower and the three of us in my quarters.  Welcome and come on in."

I straightened and stood up as Harold turned back towards me.  Time for me to earn the exorbitant sum in the contract.

* * *

Jared looked rough, rougher even than I expected.  The pod doesn't give you any room for niceties, what with the body plugged up in pretty much every orifice.  Or so I’ve heard from other capsuleer clients.  He’d pulled on clothes at least, even if nobody had worn those old style cuts for years.  The patches had been ripped off, but I recognized the Federation trim and colors.

"Amanda, huh?" His cold eyes looked me over as if he was valuing loot from a gank wreck. "You don't look like an Amanda.  Deteis?"

"Mostly.  Little bit of lots of things."  I kept my eyes on his, forcing myself to keep my face relaxed and pleasant.

"I've killed lots of Caldari.  Maybe a hundred thousand." He took a step closer, staring down into my eyes.  The stale smell of pod grew in my nostrils.  Harold had warned me, but even without that I could see the pain that echoed behind the glare.

"Just don't make it a hundred thousand and one tonight, okay?" Smiling at the right time was part of the job too.  I shifted my weight, subtly curving towards him.  That his eyes drifted to my chest and then to the curve of my hip was a reassuring sign.  Somewhere inside of there was a man, trapped behind the killer.

His eyes closed, his body seeming to draw inward. He turned away.  "Damn you Harold, all you could find me was a squid?"

"She's out here in the middle just like us."  I had never heard Harold's voice so soft.


“Body scan plus all her things.  She’s clean.  Her bag’s in the bedroom if you want a personal check.”  Harold nodded towards the door.

The capsuleer nodded once.  "Fifteen minutes, then send her in."  I could see the tension through his back as he stalked into the bedroom.  He looked like a man who was always expecting someone to try to stab him in the back.

Harold looked at me as the door closed behind Jared.  "You sure you're still okay with this?"  It was honestly more than I expected of him.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure."  I gave him a wink.  “I’m a professional.”

* * *

He took me roughly, which I was prepared for.

Some capsuleers do that because they’ve lost some vital human element and now only seem to get off on pain and tears.  They’re dangerous and I try to avoid contracting with them.

Some capsuleers do that because, for all of the tales of their freedom and power, they are dominated by other capsuleers every moment they are in their pod and they feel a need to lash out and dominate someone else.  These I’ve learned to tolerate and manipulate - they generally pay well too.

Some capsuleers put all their fears into that desperate moment of release.

* * *

"Look, I'm sorry about calling you a squid."  He couldn't meet my eyes to say it.

"I've been called a lot worse before."  I settled in beside him, a short arm's reach away.  For some clients the only time they let themselves be vulnerable is in those naked moments after their lust is spent.  Part of the job is knowing when to just listen.

"That bit about killing Caldari - the worst thing is that I could have said that about any faction.  I could have said that about any pirate nation.  About any kind of people in all of New Eden.  You name them, I've killed them."

"So what keeps you from stopping?"

He laughed, a dark bitter thing.  "I don't even know how many bounties are on my head anymore, but there's got to be at least a half-dozen that only pay out on my permadeath.  People who are just waiting for me to be out of my pod in one place long enough."

"Isn't there any place out away?  Off in Null somewhere?"

“Ha” his laugh barked out.  “Null?  You must not know anything about Null.  I can’t trust anyone in Null.”  He pushed himself up on the bed and swung his legs as if to leave, a bitterness in his eyes.  That look softened a little as his eyes ran over my body.  “Damn.”

He was gentler the second time, softly kissing the bruises he had raised before.

* * *

Afterwards he was ready for other appetites. He opened the door and smell of cooked meat wafted into the room. Jared only bothered to pull on shorts; I've found that many capsuleers have lost cultural feel for body modesty. I grabbed a simple gown from the pile where Jared had searched through my bag.

Anki stood by a simple table set for two, draped with a white table cloth. I could almost imagine it was the exclusive setting of some of the more wealthy clients of my past, if I overlooked the raw metallic backdrop of the utilitarian quarters.

Jared stared a long moment at Anki, until the smaller man turned his head down in submission.

He turned to Harold. "How long has he worked for you?"

"About eight months. You know what the turnover is like out here. Keileigh took off for some line job at Bourynes after last time."

Jared eyed the food as Harold continued.  “All the ingredients came through sources I trust.  I watched Anki make all this while you…“ his eyes flicked to me, “.. while you two were busy.  I put samples of everything in the bioscanner you sent.  Damn it man, it’s not like this is the first time.”

There was a long pause as the brothers stared at each other, history weighing on them.

"Well, I'm hungry enough, come on Jared." someone had to break the tension so I headed for a seat. Anki jumped to get my chair for me, his eyes clearly torn between the discretion of his Amarrian training and the viewing opportunities offered by the thin cloth wrapped about me.  The eyes I wanted to distract right now were the capsuleer’s, but their cold hardness had returned, focused down hard on his brother.

“Jared we do this every year, but it’s not enough.  You can’t stay in that machine.”  Harold was almost pleading.

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Jared stalked forward until he was in his brother’s face.  “No idea what it is like.”

“You’re slipping away.  This isn’t enough to remind you what it is to be human anymore.  All this we do to remind you …”

"Come on Harold, you know I need it."  Jared's hands surged forward and Harold stumbled back.  "Come and give me my medicine."  His eyes had the wild look from when he first stepped in from his pod.  "Do I need to remind you again?  Remind you why you're stuck in some backwater lowsec dive while I've piled up the ISK?"

"Yeah, cause you look like a trillion ISK right now."  Harold gave a long tired exhalation, his eyes not looking up to meet Jared's, his body half turned away.

Jared leaned forward, eyes wide. "Come on, you want me to remind you why we’re really here… about the Center... about her?"

Harold turned towards him, fist rising from his hip in a quick arc, lifting Jared off his feet with the impact.  Harold had warned me his would happen, but it didn't keep me from sliding away from the table and putting my back to the wall near the door to the kitchen just in case I needed a quick way into cover.  Anki nearly dove into the kitchen to escape.

They knew each other so well; after that first hit it seemed that each of the next blows were anticipated.  They circled and traded jabs without committing.  I had to wonder if all capsuleers had some rituals to avoid mindlock - a way to remind them of their flesh.  “Meat needs” I had heard a capsuleer once call them.  Was this something else he needed - to feel his body battered in some way other than feeling the signals of missile hits on his hull?

Once they might have been evenly matched, but Harold had aged honestly while Jared's clone body reflected what he was like when he had first been strapped in a pod a decade ago.  That showed soon enough when a heavy hook drove Harold sinking down to his knees.  Jared stood over him, great labored breaths racking his chest.  I couldn't take my eyes off of them.  Somehow it felt like this was the most meaningful way they stayed connected.  How many times had they done this?

I heard the door to the kitchen slide open very slowly.  It was that careful motion which caught my attention; it felt wrong.  When the snub nosed gun came into sight I felt myself freeze.

"The Nation sends its regards."  Anki's voice seemed colder, calmer than the shrinking menial I had taken him for.  The gun went off with a loud explosive sound and Jared spun away as blood spattered the back wall of the room.  At that moment it seemed all I could see was that gun as it shifted slightly and fired again.

I'd like to say that I was some holovid heroine, but what I realized at that moment was that he probably didn't mean to leave any witnesses and he didn't yet know I was right there.  I did the only thing I could think of, which was to grab Anki’s gun hand at the wrist and him as hard as I could in the balls.  The gun fired again right as I felt my toes smash into him.  Anki folded over as the pain exploded across my foot.  It didn't hurt so much that it kept me from kicking him in the face and again in the side of the head as he went down.  After that he didn't move, but I just kept kicking him until the gun fell out of his limp hand.

"Amanda."  Harold's voice did not sound good.  "You've gotta help me."  Harold was clutching his left arm, blood soaking through his sleeve, but he was staring at Jared.  I felt bile rising in my throat.  Jared’s side was torn open, blood pooling on the floor.

“You have a doctor somewhere nearby?”  I rushed over him, stripping off my gown and trying to figure out how to wrap it around him.

Harold shook his head.  "Not near enough. We've got to get him into his pod."

Jared’s head rolled towards me, but his eyes were unfocused.  He tried to speak, but it was barely a whisper.  I leaned in close.  “It’s okay Jared, we’ll take care of you.”  I felt like I was babbling.

His eyes focused briefly on mine and he whispered weakly, “They told us we’d be Gods.”


We struggled to get him to the pod door, but once we laid his body out inside it seemed the machine knew what to do.  I could see his chest just barely rising and falling as the pod sealed itself around him.

"Roger, come in Roger."  Harold barked into his comm.  "Fire up the defense grid.  Jared's pod is coming out.  Lock it and pop it, fast as you can."

"What!?" Rogers confused voice was loud even through the commlink.

"Don't argue with me.  I'm force-undocking him now.  Lock and Fire.  I repeat, lock and fire."

I staggered over to the nearest port window, my right foot a ball of pain anytime I tried to put weight on it.  There was a thump as the docking ring let go of the pod and it was shot away from the station.

"Come on Roger, don't let me down here."  Harold begged as he slumped to the floor.

I've seen ships destroyed before.  Crazy capsuleers dueling outside of busy stations and hapless freighters caught by a suicide ganker.  It has always been a moment of fear and apprehension for me, something that makes my breath catch.  I've never held my breath hoping to see that explosion, never been so glad to hear the chatter of autocannons.  At least, I hoped it was the tower that killed him.

I never found out.  Harold got patched up.  I got my pay plus a substantial bonus and got on the first ship out of there.  I haven’t heard from either of them since.  Sometimes I’m tempted to look up public records for Jared, assuming that was his real name, to see if he’s gotten a new CONCORD bounty since that day.  But if he hasn’t, does that mean he died before the pod could transfer him to another clone, or that he somehow got out of the capsuleer rat race.  I honestly don’t know which one I’d wish for him.