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:
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.