Archive for March, 2009

Two Tales of Glory and Honor

Posted in EVE Blog Banter, Storyline on March 30, 2009 by Erbo

Welcome to the sixth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month’s topic comes to us from Quintrala of Speed Fairy . She suggests to “write a short fiction story about the dissolution of the BoB alliance. It could be from BoB’s point of view, the Goons’, by neutrals in 0.0, civilians in Empire, NPCs or even rats. Write about before, during or after the coup; give us stories of market, war, people or love. In-character or roleplay. We want to know what happened, from those fictional characters that, in your mind, were part of it.

. . .

Standing with his fellow Goons in the hangar at their staging area, Joey Acidinyershorts grinned.  Only a month ago, he’d been persuaded by some of his buddies to train as a capsuleer and join up with Goonfleet.  He’d been proud to take part in a couple of their legendary “Jihadswarm” operations, steamrollering a few stupid carebear miners and coming away with plenty of loot.  Now, though, he’d heard rumors of something bigger in the works, and the fleet commander was about to give them details.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on exactly,” began the fleet commander, “but there’s something big going on.  When it does, we’re going to be engaging in a massive push into BoB space, hitting those R-tards with everything we’ve got.  We’re going to just run ’em right over, storm through Querious and Delve.  Our Great Leader, Darius Johnson, has promised that he’s gonna have breakfast in NOL-M9, and you’re all invited!

A mighty cheer rose from the assembled throngs.

“You all know what to do,” continued the fleet commander.  “Tacklers, get in and point their capitals ASAP, so we can take out their top DPS.  Keep an eye out for ECM.  We’re gonna drill on this till you get it right.  Be strong, brosefs!”

. . .

“The news isn’t good,” said Dianabolic, CEO of Reikoku, to the assembled corp members.  “Yesterday, Haargoth Agamar, one of the directors of Black Nova, defected to the Goons, taking a lot of materiel and ISK with him.  What’s more, he completely disbanded the Band of Brothers alliance before he split.”

A gasp rose from the assembled corporation members, Kazume Nakatani among them.  He’d been flying for Reikoku for about a year and a half, training in various industrial disciplines in addition to Caldari war vessels.  They’d been reaping the benefits of Band of Brothers’ sovereignty in at least two areas of lawless space, to the tune of billions of ISK in profit.

“We’ve shifted to the KenZoku alliance, which was an allied industrial alliance we set up,” continued Dianabolic.  “For now, though, we’ve started seeing Goon encroachments on our space, to which we’re obviously going to lose sovereignty.  I want us out there camping the chokepoint gates, doing our best to keep them from moving in on us.  We’ve got to try and hold out.”

As they left the assembly hall, one of Kaz’s friends turned to him.  “I can’t believe we’ve been tricked like that,” she said. “Do you think we can hold out?”

“I don’t know,” responded Kaz.  “But we’re gonna do everything we can to stop them.”

. . .

Of course, the Goon attack had gone pretty much as planned, sending spearheads deep into Querious, attacking and destroying former BoB stations and mounting their own in a rush to claim sovereignty as quickly as they could.  The leaders of KenZoku were determined not to lose Delve as well, so they prepared to make a stand at UHKL-N, at the border of Delve space.

In his Drake Double Dragon, Kazume watched the gate to A-BO4V carefully, hovering 20 kilometers away, ready to turn his missiles on any ships that came though and were tackled by the smaller ships orbiting the gate.  Two other battleships, an Apocalypse and a Megathron, hovered nearby, ready to do the same thing,  Also near the gate, a heavy interdictor waited to drop warp interdiction spheres, keeping any ships coming through the gate from getting away.  And more ships waited in the background.

Suddenly the gate flashed, and ships began decloaking in front of the gate.  The interceptors stood out on the tactical overview in blood-red.  Instantly a warning was barked over the tactical channel: “Point the ‘ceptors, point the ‘ceptors.”

Kaz locked his weapons onto the nearest interceptor, a Taranis, as the tacklers near the gate engaged their stasis webs and warp scramblers.  Missiles streaked from his launchers, finding their mark and flaring against the smaller vessel’s shields.

Suddenly a new voice broke into the communications channels: “Warning, warning, cyno detected, cyno detected.”

Kaz craned his neck to look behind him.  He didn’t see the telltale light display of a cynosaural field, but his tactical overview told him it was somewhere in the system.  And that meant just one thing: Trouble.

. . .

In a nearby system, Joey waited in his Rifter, which (of course) he hadn’t bothered to name.  Large numbers of other ships were gathered nearby, all dwarfed by an Avatar, one of the prides of Goonfleet.  Cannily, the Goons had enlisted the assistance of another pilot, unknown to the members of BoB/KenZoku, who had managed to slip from Aridia into Delve, and was now positioned in UHKL-N, ready to provide the target for the titan to activate its jump bridge.  Those Kenny ‘tards will never know what hit ’em, he thought.

“Go, go, go!” came the signal over the communicator, as the Avatar engaged the jump bridge.  “When you get through, warp straight to the gate, we’ll get that camp.”

Joey engaged his ship’s engines, rushing through the jump bridge, then warping towards the gate.  His warp was stopped by the interdictor bubble around the gate, of course, but the gate wasn’t his target; the ships around the edge, presently hurling missiles, gunfire, and laser fire at the Goon ships coming through the gate, were.

He and three other Rifter pilots set course for one of the battleships, a Drake.  Each of them targeted it, activated their webs and scramblers, and set up to orbit it at close range, where its weapons couldn’t track them.  Behind them, battleships and battlecruisers would be blasting away at the enemy ships as soon as they warped in.

Kaz’s tactical systems screamed at him as the scramblers and webbers quickly pinned him, overwhelming his ship’s defenses.  He yelled for backup over the channel, but no one else was in a position to assist.  Snarling, he deactivated one of his missile launchers, targeted a Rifter, and began launching missiles at it, hoping against hope that they’d hit.

Joey’s ship rocked as the Caldari Navy missiles found their mark.  Gritting his teeth, he held on as the shield flickered and died, and his armor began to melt away under the onslaught.  He held the lock as long as he could, managing to get his pod clear of the battle as soon as his ship met a fiery demise.

Kaz, too, held out as long as he could, but the fire being poured onto his ship was too much for it.  As the Drake violently exploded, he tried to get away, but the Goon tacklers were too quick to lock his pod and bring it to a halt.  The last thing he heard was the hideous crack! as his pod’s hull failed…at least, until he woke up in a clone vat bay.

The KenZoku gate camp quickly fell to pieces under the onslaught  With nothing to stop them, the Goons poured through, aiming to meet up with another group that was pouring through at 1DH-SX.  Soon, both Joey and Kaz would be back in the fight…but on much different terms.

. . .

Three weeks later:

The influence map showed the results clearly; Querious and Delve, once blue with the influence of the Band of Brothers, had been entirely covered in GoonSwarm yellow.  Erbo looked up from the map and shook his head.

Damn, those Goons sure moved in fast, he thought, turning his attention to the ice asteroid in front of him.  He adjusted Tourmaline Queen‘s attitude as the blue beams of the ice harvesters began chewing into the surface of the massive chunk of ice.  Beside him, he could see Time Killer doing the same thing.  Nearby, he could see Valorna’s Iteron Mark III, turning to depart with a load of ice…and beyond, Selena keeping a watch in the massive Mystic Ballbreaker.

It’s all a long way from here, though, he thought, and 0.0 is definitely a “no go” for us right now.  Besides, there’s work to be done here.

He turned back, his eyes looking up at the distant sky.

. . .

Other articles published from around the EVE Blogosphere (links will be updated here as new posts are added):

You Load 16 Tons, What Do You Get

Posted in General on March 26, 2009 by Erbo
The Janne Wirman, in the foreground, supervises a Ralpha Dogs mining operation.

The Janne Wirman, in the foreground, supervises a Ralpha Dogs mining operation.

Over the last few days, we’ve been getting some relief from the grind of missions with some mining.  We have another large mineral order to fulfill, and it’s great to see so many of our newer members step up to the plate.  Of course, I handle the logistics from our Orca, the ΡΑΔ Janne Wirman, and give out the mining bonuses, while other people mine…in barges if they, like Selena, can swing it, in whatever they have if not.

Last night, Valorna was using a Thorax she’d fitted for mining.  Of course, a Vexor gives better mining bonuses for Gallente cruisers, and has a bigger cargo hold besides.  So, when I had to duck back to empty my cargo hold, I tossed together a Vexor mining build from a hull and parts we had at HQ, insured it on the corporate account, and threw it in the Wirman‘s ship maintenance bay.  When I got back out, Val stashed her Thorax there and took out the newly-christened Indomitable.  At the same time, I fetched out some veldspar crystals for Selena, who was able to grab them from the corporate hangars.  Then, on my next run in, I repackaged Val’s old Thorax and dropped off the parts.  That Orca is the best thing for a mining operation since I developed Gold Brick.

Meanwhile, another person is exploring having us sell him POS fuel, which requires ice mining.  Only a couple of us can do it, so Lexx brought her Mackinaw, Time Killer, from Ogoten out to Assiad, and I put one together, the Tourmaline Queen, based on her fit.  Of course, someone else is gonna have to haul for us if I’m running the ice harvesters…Valorna is training up Gallente Industrial to help that effort.

Busy times ahead…especially for me; I’ve been as busy as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, trying to keep all the balls in the air.

Two Women, Two Decisions

Posted in Storyline on March 22, 2009 by Erbo

Sehmy system, Kor-Azor region:

Zephira Najam, candidate capsuleer, would soon be graduating from her classes at Hedion University, and she was eager to get her start in the world.  Soon, she’d be signing with a corporation, agreeing to work with them in exchange for her own advancement and enrichment.

She wasn’t anxious to fly for the Amarr Navy, or for pretty much any other Amarr corporation, for that matter.  Her parents were Liberal Holders, and they treated their slaves well, but she’d come to a far different conclusion:  Slavery was wrong, and the Amarr were wrong to profit by it.  She supposed her father would disown her if he ever found out, but that was the only conclusion she could come to.  The recent announcement by Empress Jamyl I (long may she reign!) freeing all ninth-generation and older slaves she took as a sign that the very Empire itself might have started to “see the light.”

Her eyes perused the list of corporations headquartered in Tash-Murkon, her family’s longtime home.  It would be nice to be close by; it would make it easier for her to visit.  Surely, her younger siblings would…

A name caught her eye: “Ralpha Dogs Inc.”  Curious, she examined the available information about this organization.  Headquartered in Amarr space, but founded in Minmatar space…and its CEO, founder, and top management were all Gallente.  A curious organization…and yet one not without a certain appeal.  She went on to examine the recent news of the company.  The way they worked together, the obvious respect and intelligence she saw…the more she read, the more she found to like.

Wouldn’t that just drive Daddy wild, she thought.  Not to mention my classmates, the conservative, amoral boors.  If I’m to be damned, then ’tis best I be damned for what I really am.

She resolved to make the journey to Assiad as soon as she was able.

. . .

Ammold system, Heimatar region:

Half a galaxy away, Cecielia Edgeworth also considered her options.  Like Zephira, though she knew nothing of her, she was about to graduate and become a capsuleer, one of the immortal elite of New Eden.  Unlike Zephira, she felt anxious about making the choice.  She’d nearly decided to join the Minmatar militia, fighting to bring down the Amarr and free her brethren from slavery.

She idly perused one of the galactic news feeds, looking for news of the factional conflict, when a recently-posted item caught her eye…especially the name on its byline.

Cecielia had grown up with her parents on the fringes of Minmatar space, close to the Great Wildlands of the Thukker tribe. She had believed herself to be an only child…but her family’s name was not common in New Eden; that someone else could bear that name was too much of a coincidence.

She needed answers–and the path to those answers was clear.  And that path would begin not far away, in Vilur system, where the Ralpha Dogs still maintained offices.

She opened a communication channel to the Ralpha Dogs, eager to learn more.  Perhaps one of their “Abbots” could tell her something.

. . .

Assiad system, Tash-Murkon region:

The applications came through the mail, as was usual.  After due consideration, Erbo, in his capacity as Abbot, was pleased to approve them both.  The Ralpha Dogs had been seeing an uptick of interest recently, and he hoped this could translate into better and farther-reaching operations.  Lexx would be pleased, he was sure.

There would be busy times ahead.

The Ties That Bind Part 1

Posted in Storyline on March 19, 2009 by Valorna Edgeworth

Valorna Edgeworth was anxiously pacing in her quarters back at Ralpha Dogs HQ as she struggled with the latest assault to her personal code of ethics. “What do I do? I hate all the killing this life has brought me to. I mean come on, they have me out there killing people who are freeing slaves…he was a slave once…did they recapture him?”

Valorna stops in the middle of her room, lost in memories of her childhood, recalling her father, still missing after all these years, oh how she missed his easy smile and the way he was always ready with a hug when she was hurt. “Where are you daddy?” she whispered as a sob caught her throat.

“Val honey? Are you ok?” It was Selena, one of her best friends here at the Ralpha Dogs, and she looked worried. “Oh, Selene, I can’t stand it, I have to try to find him!” Valorna whispered brokenly.

“It’s the mission from today, isn’t it? It’s got you missing your daddy again? Girl, you gotta know that by now he’s either dead, or good as…I know it’s hard, but sometimes you just gotta let go.” she said reasonably. “Look, you stay here and think about it, and let me know what you want to do, you know Erbo and I are here for you, no matter what.” she said as she headed for the door.

As I sat down on the bed I took out an old vid mama shot of daddy swinging me up in the air like I was a bird and I realized then, I had to go, Selena didn’t know it but I had heard news, news that daddy was still alive, but he was FAR away, all the way over in lowsec.

“I can’t ask them to go with me, I can’t ask them to take the risk, I’ll just go tonight, after they’ve fallen asleep. God, please help them understand” I laid down on my bunk then, for what would possibly be the last time, with tears streaming silently down my face…”Forgive me Selena, forgive me Erbo, but I have to try…”

The next morning, Selena and Erbo spoke of Valorna’s issue over breakfast…

“I know you’re worried Selena, but she would tell us if she’d heard anything new, I’ll tell you what, why don’t I go over to her quarters and talk to her? It’s her day off so she should still be here.” Erbo said reassuringly. Selena touching Erbo on the arm looks at him carefully, “I hope your right my love, but I have a bad feeling about this one, why don’t I go with you? Between the two of us she’s sure to open up.”

And so they make their way over to Valorna’s quarters, unaware that she’d left hours ago in her new Thorax.

As they made their way out of the transport, Erbo knew immediately that something was wrong. Val ALWAYS listened to her music full blast in the morning while she worked out, it was part of her routine, and she NEVER missed it! Erbo and Selene looked at each other, faces full of worry and they both ran as fast as they could that last 200 feet from the transport doors, Selena pushed the switch to open Vals door and what they saw made them freeze, it was empty, except for an old vid, and a note. Selena picked up the note and read:

Dear Selena and Erbo,

I hope you can find it in you to forgive me, but I can’t let you risk yourselves for my family. I just have to do this, I recieved word that my father may still be alive, so I’ve gone to his last known location, deep in lowsec. I’m so sorry, I love you both, and pray that you can forgive me.

Love always, Valorna Edgeworth

To be continued….

My God, It’s Full of Stars!

Posted in General on March 18, 2009 by Erbo

This evening, I became the first of the Ralpha Dogs to discover an unstable wormhole…and in our very home system of Assiad, yet:

Discovery of Wormhole K162

Using one of my scout Tristan frigates, Longs Peak, equipped with a Core Probe Launcher,  I managed to run down Wormhole K162 in about 25 minutes.

At the end of its lifetime?  Scary!

At the end of its lifetime? Scary!

Did I go in?  Aw, hell no! I may be daring but I ain’t crazy! 🙂

The objective here, anyhow, was to see if I could understand how to use the new scan probe system.  I think I got it figured out.

Better Smeg Than Dead

Posted in Storyline on March 18, 2009 by Erbo

“Wonderful, sweetie,” murmured Erbo to Selena, as they left, arm in arm, from the dance competition that had been held at the Amarr Navy station in Bhizheba system. “There were some good competitors tonight.”

“Yeah,” said Selena. “What say we get on back to our quarters and snuggle awhile?”

“I’m all for that,” said Erbo enthusiastically.

They were just passing the Ralpha Dogs’ office on the station promenade when they heard the communications receiver crackle. “…Mayday! Mayday! Is anyone there? HELP HELP HELP HELP!”

“That sounded like Valorna!” said Selena.

“Yeah,” said Erbo.  The two sprinted for the console, grabbing headsets. “Valorna? Is that your Mayday?” he asked.

“I’m in trouble!” came the response. “I’ve got twenty or so bandits on me, and I’ve lost cap twice! Smegging hell! HELP!”

“We’re on our way,” said Erbo, tearing off the communications set. “Selena! Get to your ship, double pronto! Be ready to fleet up and get out there after her once you’re onboard!”

“On it!” said Selena, as the two raced to the prep room.  There, they shucked out of their clothes quickly, jumping inside the waiting capsules.  Erbo fretted as the umbilicals were hooked up and the capsule closed and pressurized.  As his enhanced senses came alive, the capsule slid along the deployment track, ready to drop into the waiting Syria Planum.

“Comm check, Selena,” he spoke.

“This is Selena,” came the response. Mystic Sting ready to fly.”

Syria Planum, ready to fly,” said Erbo, quickly setting up fleet communications between them and their hapless corpmate. “Sit tight, Val, we’re on our way. Selena, undock, and warp to Val the second you’re out.”  He triggered the command to undock.

Selena was slightly delayed in emerging from the Amarr Navy station, so Erbo was the first to engage warp drive.  As he streaked in, he assessed the situation quickly…a lone hidden jumpgate, with about twenty Sansha vessels bearing down on it, and Valorna’s cruiser Goodship Lollypop the only thing to stop them.

“I’m on them!” he said.  Quickly, he targeted the five enemy vessels nearest Val’s position, and started guns working on them as soon as they were targeted.  He released his drones as well, and five Hammerhead drones sped to the attack.  Indications off to one side showed that Selena had arrived, and was doing her best to fight them off as well.

“Four more coming in from the side,” he reported.  “I’m engaging them.”  He brought the drones back into orbit around his wheeling Myrmidon and kicked in afterburners.  The four approaching ships quickly fell to a series of iridium slugs.”

“Got five disrupting me!” reported Selena.  “This whole group!” The navigation system displayed highlights by a group of five ships, almost directly astern of Erbo’s position and 75 klicks out.

“On it!” said Erbo, swinging around and firing afterburners again to close the gap.  Valorna had recovered some composure by this point, and contributed her own firepower, making short work of the group.

Finally, there were no more red blips on the display. Erbo sounded the all-clear, and a palpable sigh came over the comm circuits.

“Thank God, you guys, I had no idea what I was going to do,” said Valorna. “If you hadn’t shown up, I’d have been in deep smeg for sure.”

“You’re lucky you caught us when you did,” said Erbo, maneuvering into position for helping salvage the various wrecks.  “This scenario can be a tricky one.”

They worked for some time, tractoring and salvaging the wrecks as Erbo adjusted the fleet assignments.  He had the last four wrecks, off at a distance from the main body, and his salvager made short work of them.

“Okay, Valorna, Fleet Commander,” he said, “get us back to the station.”

“Gladly,” she responded, as the three ships wheeled about and began to warp. “I don’t get paid enough for this shit.”

The three ships warped away from the hidden gate, happy to leave it behind.

Origin Stories

Posted in Storyline on March 17, 2009 by Erbo
Joop’s mouth fell open. “Those are impossible!”

The man on the ground chuckled. “No, boy.  Those are the Ralpha Dogs.  An’ if you believe in God you better pray you never meet ’em in the flesh!”

The Cunning Blood, Jeff Duntemann

First there was a bright flash of light, and a horrible crack! noise.  Then darkness.

Then a reddish gloom, as she awoke inside the glass tube.  Her thoughts were confused, seeming strangely sluggish all of a sudden.

The fluid drained from around her body as the top half of the tube swung upward, the brilliant light of the room outside the tube making her squint.  An attendant came by, offering a hand to help her sit up.

“LexxEva?” she said.  “Can you understand me?”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Lexx, swinging her legs over the side of the tube and accepting the warm terrycloth robe handed her by another attendant. “What the–”

“Your capsule was destroyed in Vilur system,” said the first attendant.  “You’re back in Ogoten, where we activated your clone.”

Lexx said nothing, but just put her head in her hands.  The last thing she remembered, her new Brutix-class battlecruiser had been destroyed by a pair of ships piloted by people she didn’t even know, and she’d been frantically trying to maneuver her pod away, stopped by the warp disruptors on one of the ships.  She’d called for help over Chilled Solutions’ corporate channel, but there was no response.

One thought raced through her mind: I’m mad as hell. And I’m not gonna take it anymore.

. . .

“Read this,” said Lexx, passing her datapad over to Erbo, fellow pilot for Chilled Solutions.  “The person who’s behind this stupid war declaration mailed this to me.”

Erbo accepted the datapad, and read, his eyes widening with each line:

You may ask yourself, why you had to die?

I’m sending this mail to all the people my mercenaries have killed in the second wave, to explain why you’re left to die while your leaders seem to do nothing.

During the last war the original problem was resolved, however several CEO’s of your alliance created a new problem by hurling threats at me, too profane to be repeated here, I spoke to your diplomat and gave them a way to solve the issue, a simple apology and a cruiser as a token of good will, they have rudely ignored my proposition and as such the war continues, and you die.

How can you solve this? there are a few ways to fix this.

1. Your alliances agrees to the terms I put forth earlier
2. You leave the alliance
3. You spy for me and my mercenaries won’t harm you for the duration of the war
4. You keep dying while your leaders do -nothing-

“And this whole thing started because some idiot, not even in Chilled but in one of the other corps in Cryogenesis, smacktalked this bitch!” continued Lexx.  “And because of that, I get podded, lose my ship, lose my implants, have to buy a new clone…and what do they do about it? Nothing! They’re all busy off in lowsec.  I ain’t goin’ to lowsec!”

“I don’t blame you,” said Erbo. “I wouldn’t want to set foot out there myself.  We simply don’t know enough yet to survive out there without getting ganked by every pirate and lowlife in the constellation.”

“You know what?” continued Lexx. “I’d almost be better off on my own, in some corp that’s not part of the alliance.  That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with this shit!”

“You know I’ll support you in whatever you decide to do,” said Erbo.  Lexx nodded; the two of them had gone through the capsuleers’ academy at the Center for Advanced Studies in Cistuvaert together, and had done their best to keep each other sane through the grueling training that earned them the right to step into their pods and take their place among New Eden’s immortal elite.  Occasionally, Lexx referred to Erbo as “the right hand of God.”

“I’ve got all the skills to set up a corp of our own,” said Lexx, “but I’d have to resign my roles here at Chilled to do it, and then wait 24 hours.  That sucks.”

“I could do it,” said Erbo.  “I don’t think anyone ever gave me any roles, so I could do it right now.  I just need time to train up basic corporation management skills.  Then I can set it up, and turn over the CEO position to you once you can leave Chilled.  ”Twere best done quickly.'”

“We can get some other people to come with us,” said Lexx.  “Maybe Ballana, maybe Val, we’ll see.” Her eyes gleamed as a wide grin split her face for the first time that day. “So what shall we call it?”

“I have just the thing,” said Erbo.  He passed his own datapad over to Lexx, who looked at it and nodded approvingly.  The text was that of an ancient novel from Earth-that-was, which had been preserved across the centuries and through the Times of Darkness after the EVE Gate collapsed.  It was one of Erbo’s favorites, and he’d introduced it to Lexx at the academy, where she’d come to enjoy it as well.

The title on the screen read, THE CUNNING BLOOD by JEFF DUNTEMANN. Below that was the title of Chapter Six:  THE RALPHA DOGS.

. . .

Erbo stood in his quarters, the fresh CONCORD charter for Ralpha Dogs Inc. lying on his desk.  No doubt the news of his departure from Chilled Solutions had already been transmitted to the officers of the corporation.  He hoped Slif, Lenny, Jalloram, and the others wouldn’t take what he and Lexx were doing amiss.

In front of him, on the bed, was a plain box.  The box looked plain, but inside, he knew, lay the symbols of his new life.

He removed his old uniform, the bomber jacket with the stylized snowflake of Chilled Solutions the first item to drop to the floor.  Finally, stripped to his underwear, he opened the box.

First came the black shirt, and black trousers of fine Gallente twill fabric.  The black boots went on next, carefully tucked in at the calves.  Finally, he donned the black jacket, long and with a hood worked in as part of the design.  One sleeve was done in gold, from elbow to shoulder, and on one lapel were pinned three gold letters of the Greek alphabet, Rho, Alpha, Delta.  He secured it with the wide black leather belt around his waist, centering the buckle over the jacket…just as, in another universe a long time ago, Peter Novilio had been told to do.

He looked in the mirror, his new self reflected before him.  Even as he admired how the new clothing looked, he felt powerful emotions stirring within him.  His lips moved, almost in a whisper.

“Tofir Snitzius…I salute you and your achievements as Abbot before me.  I pledge to carry on your legacy, in a new world far from that which you knew.  The best of what we have, we got from you.  The Ralpha Dogs shall live in us once more…the Blood and Mind, united in effort.”  His voice quavered a little as he spoke the words that had been set down long ago. “Wrought in deepest Hell…our vengeance is freedom.

. . .

One month later:

“You know, we’ve left Cryo ourselves,” said Shuckstar, as he made his way from the catering unit to the seating area, Lexx and Erbo trailing in his wake.

“Really?” said Erbo.

“That’s right,” said Shuckstar.  “The Hauling Hogs are now independent.  Much like the Ralpha Dogs.”

“Well, you’ve been around longer than we have,” said Erbo, “and you’ve got a larger group with you.”  In truth, the Ralpha Dogs were still a fledgling corporation at that time; Lexx, now CEO, had been choosy about who she let join, and Erbo agreed with her judgment, having seen first hand what the wrong people can do to an organization.

“And you guys are about the most decent of the bunch,” added Lexx.  “You’ve done so much to help us out already.”

Shuckstar smiled wryly.  “You know I always liked you, mate.”

“We don’t have nearly the resources we’d need to set up a formal alliance,” said Lexx, “but I can tell you right now, if we did, the Hogs would be the group we’d most want to have in it.”

“Indeed,” nodded Erbo sagely. “But of course, we can still work together as necessary.  You don’t need a formal alliance to do that.”

“True, true,” said Shuckstar.  “You know how to reach me if you need anything.”

“Likewise,” said Lexx.

The three joined their right hands in a gesture of friendship.

. . .

Some months later:

The Center hadn’t changed much since he’d graduated.  Erbo had made the long jump from Vilur back to Cistuvaert to deal with some minor administrative issues.  He strolled the old, familiar corridors, humming to himself along with the earclip of classic Gallente music he’d brought along.  As he did, he failed to notice that he was on a collision course with destiny…literally.

He felt a bump, and then he was tumbling to the floor, along with a student who hadn’t seen him, engrossed in her own earclip of music.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said, jumping up quickly and reaching for his hand to help him up.  Erbo accepted the hand, letting her help pull him up.  “I didn’t see you.  I was too wrapped up in Tar Peletier for a minute.”

Something about what she’d just said startled Erbo.  “You like Tar Peletier?”

“He’s one of my favorite artists from back then,” responded the young lady. “But I like a lot of stuff from that time period.”

“So do I,” observed Erbo.  “Kind of a rare thing to find someone else into that.”

“Well, now you have,” she said. “I’m Selenalore.  I’m about to graduate and become a capsuleer.  You look like you already are one.”

“Indeed,” said Erbo. “Erbo Evans, Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs, based out of Vilur in Metropolis region.  You planning on signing with a corporation when you graduate?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” said Selenalore.

“Got time to talk about it?” asked Erbo.  “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

“Sure,” said Selenalore.  In a very old-fashioned gesture, she slipped her arm into his as they headed for the catering area.

Their conversation started as typical recruitment talk…but didn’t stay that way, as the two of them discovered innumerable common interests.  Their lunch turned into a dinner, which carried on long past dessert.  Neither of them got much sleep that night.

Needless to say, after that night, it wasn’t a question of if Selenalore would join the Ralpha Dogs…but when.

. . .

Present day, Assiad III:

“You get that Hyperion fitted out yet?” asked Erbo, entering the Ralpha Dogs’ office.

“Almost,” said Selena, raising her eyes from the terminal screen.  “Thanks for getting me that Megathron hull, too.  I think I’ll get that fitted out for mission-running, and use the Hyperion for security duty during mining operations.”

“Fair enough,” said Erbo.  “Oh, I’ve received a dispatch from Lexx.  She says she should be back soon.  That’ll be good; we’ll need all the support we can get for getting our mining ops up to speed again.”

“Then we’ve got to worry about the production lines,” said Selena.  “I know El Tigrgra is asking for more Cormorant hulls, and we need to improve the ammo stockpiles.”

“I know, sweetie,” responded Erbo, coming up behind Selena and kissing her cheek.  “Things are definitely looking up, though.  Soon we might even be able to start operating out of lowsec somewhere.  But we’ve got to get ourselves squared away first.  And that means you need rest.”  He took her hand, helping her up from her chair.  “Come on.  Let’s go home.”

Selena smiled sweetly at Erbo, as, together, they strolled off.