See, I Told You So

Posted in General on August 10, 2010 by Erbo

Seems that one “aystra,” of BOAE INC, was not reading the blog entry I posted on the changes to PLEX, which included some tips for moving them safely.

Look among the destroyed items.  Seventy-four PLEX.  Worth 22.4 giga-ISK, or about US$1,300 in real money.

And this guy was hauling them through Jita, in a Kestrel.  Unescorted.

What was he THINKING?!?!?  WAS he thinking?!?!?

Remember, kids, treat PLEX the same as any other small, valuable object you don’t want to lose.  Especially if you’re hauling them in quantity!

“Stupidity is the only universal capital crime…the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out swiftly and without pity.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Advertisements

Governance Thrash Redux?

Posted in EVE Blog Banter on July 20, 2010 by Erbo

Welcome to the nineteenth 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 to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This month’s topic comes to us from @evepress, and he asks: The CSM: CCP’s Meta Game? – The CSM, an eve players voice to CCP.Right? In the grand scheme of things yes, the players bring up issues and the CSM presents them to CCP. But in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets toprojects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has not come outthis was not the case. So fellow bloggers, is the CSM worth it, has the CSM improved the game in any way, or is it just a well thought out scamby CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What’s your take?

. . .

Erbo Evans, speaking for the Ralpha Dogs.

Many capsuleers have had high expectations for the Council of Stellar Management (CSM), a group of players elected by their peers to, essentially, represent the player base to CCP.  CCP’s own overview page refers to them as “A democratically elected representative council, manned by players elected by players. The implementation of social ideas in EVE and the strengthening of the social structure.” Unfortunately, sometimes, expectations clash with reality.

The fifth CSM, in particular, seems to have come up against the “wall” dividing expectations from reality in particularly short order.  Mynxee, chairperson of the Council, sums it up in a brutally honest graphic that is not to be missed, and in her words:

Players are a brute-force rock of expectations driving CSM face-first into the hard place that is CCP decision-makers who hold all the cards and decide which balls CCP devs will be juggling at any given time. There ain’t much wiggle room in that hardscrabble zone for CSM. It’s a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t job.

Her words are even more true than, perhaps, she herself recognizes…because this has happened before.

. . .

In what seems now like the “Elder Days” of the Internet, in 1996, Howard Rheingold, veteran of The WELL conferencing system and author of the influential book The Virtual Community, sought to put his ideas about online community into practice by creating Electric Minds, a new community focused on innovative content and discussions for the growing online population.  The following year, it began to run into financial trouble, and Rheingold sought potential buyers…but he pledged to the community that one of the conditions for the sale was that the community had to be “self-governing.”  The eventual buyer, Durand Communications of Santa Barbara, CA, agreed to this condition, and, in the main, stayed clear of the “governance” issue.  (In the interests of full disclosure: I was an employee of Durand Communications at the time of the Electric Minds acquisition, and afterward following Durand’s own acquisition by Online System Services, later Webb Interactive Services, of Denver, CO.)

So what happened?  I’ll let Nancy White, virtual community expert with Full Circle Associates and a participant in what was later termed “The Governance Thrash,” explain:

We thought we knew [what we were designing], but in hindsight, I’m not sure that we really did. We were essentially designing a process for a “roll-your-own, owned-by-the-members” governance modeled on the River and other communities. We were not designing for a community whose infrastructure was owned and controlled by a company. I believe this was one of our first missteps. When you roll your own, there are a host of administrative and financial issues which suggest specific governance structures related to financial accountability, and to assignment of tangible responsibilities. When infrastructure is not a priority, the driving set of needs is more related to the social structure — the operating norms, “rules of the road” and policies relating to membership. But before the sale to Durand, it seemed like fiscal responsibility was about to necessitate more formality, so we may have started with that assumption.

To compound our confusion, we were also dealing with emerging factions within the group, some aligned with individuals, and some aligned on certain principals. The words “democracy,” “free speech,” and “power” took on some loaded but little-examined connotations, setting up waves of argument and misunderstanding, rather than dialog and alignment. Compromise was not the theme of the day. There seemed to be the need for each of us, in our own way, to be “right.”

The result?

The Thrash did not kill Eminds, but it set the tone for it’s second phase, July 1997 – July 1998. Electric Minds was small and in some ways self-limiting by it’s recoil from the Thrash. There was some difficulty dealing with members who consistently crossed outside of the informal “norms” of the community. Eminders were hesitant to make changes for fear of being perceived as “power-mongers.” They wanted to tread lightly, not too deep into problems or innovation and play it safe.

And, ultimately, the user base of EMinds was unable to prevent Durand Communications from making changes to the underlying conferencing system that alienated the members.  Nor was it able to prevent Webb Interactive from discarding the community entirely in 2000, though some of its members kept it alive for some years thereafter, in a different form. (Full disclosure again: I was one of those people.)

Now see how what Ms. White says in that last quote resonates with this one, from Mynxee again:

If we have certain expectations about being able to influence EVE’s development, if we push too hard on CCP for not giving CSM issues priority, if we call CCP out on bigger-picture issues that seem to be involved in the problems related to EVE, then we’re just a bunch of egotistical, overzealous players on a power trip. If we don’t raise the “right” issues, don’t push CCP hard enough for results, don’t document every detail of every controversial event for public purview, refuse to share NDA-protected information, don’t conduct ourselves like paid professional advisors 100% of the time, and worst of all possible sins can’t actually MAKE CCP implement the changes we ask for, then we’re nothing but elitist pigs who are just in it for the free trips to Iceland. Or so some recent blog posts and forum flames would have you believe.

CCP’s intentions are good, just as Durand’s were.  But governance–even the sort of “limited” governance over game issues as the CSM is intended to have–is not easy.

. . .

In some ways, the CSM has it worse than the participants in the Governance Thrash.  EVE’s player base is many times what EMinds’ user base ever was, and even more fragmented by opinion.  Though the process by which the CSM was elected was “democratic,” and CCP did their best to help match candidates with the views of the “electorate,” ultimately these sort of online elections always come down to a popularity contest.  (No flame against the CSM, who have demonstrated exceptional competence thusfar! That’s just how it is.)  And popularity contests always involve a certain degree of resentment among those who weren’t chosen, or whose favorites weren’t chosen, so, yes, the CSM is already fighting with one foot in a bucket.

And then it comes up against CCP, whose intentions may be good (as evidenced by the fact that they created the CSM in the first place, as a feedback mechanism), but which is, ultimately, a business that is responsible to its investors and shareholders first and foremost.  Jamie Zawinski, formerly of Netscape Communications, has observed:

Some will tell you that an organization is the people who make it up, but that’s not the case at all. The whole is larger and completely different from the sum of its parts. The system that we as a society have invented to run our world is a simple one. It’s a game with a small number of rules. You put the pieces on the board, wind it up, and let it go. The thing is, the rules involved are all about money. The underlying theory is that you motivate people to provide value to society by making it be in their best interest to do so. But that’s the intent; the mechanism is much less vague. The mechanism is money.

Corporations are not evil. That kind of anthropomorphism is inappropriate. Corporations are too stupid to be evil, only people can be that. Corporations are mechanisms. People can influence them, but by and large, corporations just follow the rules.

Bear in mind that, for a publicly-traded company, if a CEO makes a decision because it’s the right thing rather than because it’s the most profitable thing for the shareholders, he will lose his job, and possibly be sued into oblivion. That’s the way the rules work.

And, more to the point, if CCP doesn’t make money, it goes bankrupt, and EVE Online goes down with it.

And that means that, if CCP feels that Incarna and DUST 514 are more critical to their future ability to make money than the “bugfixes” and “polish” demanded by the CSM, then they are duty bound to expend resources on those, and the CSM be damned.

Sorry.  I don’t make the rules.  I just report on them.

And yes, it’s entirely possible that CCP could be wrong.  Game companies have been wrong before.  Most of them ended up going under as a result, or provoked such a backlash that they were forced to back down and lose face.

But while the CSM may be “stakeholders,” they are not “shareholders.”

. . .

So what of the attempt at governance that is the CSM?  Nancy White has a few suggestions for emerging design patterns for online community governance (and make no mistake, EVE is as much an “online community” as EMinds ever was, it just has fancier toys to play with), which may be useful to look at:

  • Make it as simple as it can be. The CSM is certainly simple in concept, explainable in just one sentence on the EVE Online Web site.  As always, “the devil is in the details.”
  • Make sure the needs and purpose of the community (and community owners) are articulated.  This is where the struggle lies with the CSM and CCP.  The CSM must articulate its purpose with respect to the community (and by this I mean the whole community, not any subgroups of constituents), and CCP must do so as well, and things must not get bogged down at “cross purposes.”
  • Consider that structures may need to be fractal in nature giving the most control at the smallest group units.  I’m not sure what this would mean in terms of EVE.  Perhaps a system where the CSM could recommend people as outside game masters, or make recommendations concerning the existing ones?  But how much influence would this have on CCP as a whole?
  • Consider that sometimes benevolent dictatorships are good solutions.  CCP is a good example of a “benevolent dictatorship.” The CSM is their attempt to add feedback into this loop, and is noteworthy for that purpose alone.  (Could you see Blizzard doing something similar with World of Warcraft?  Me neither.)
  • Consider that listening is probably the most important skill for any player, site owner, staff or member.  I think Mynxee has been emphasizing this point to anyone and everyone, as much as possible.
  • Consider that it is easy to leave an online community so why make it easier? A word of warning, perhaps, for CCP as well as the CSM?
  • Avoid time-unlimited circular conversations (know when to fold-em!).  The fact that each CSM is inherently time-limited works against this tendency, but also means that each CSM may have to “fight the last war” over and over again unless and until CCP listens.
  • Define and use decision-making processes.  The difficulty here is that CCP’s own decision-making processes are largely opaque to outsiders, including the CSM.  The CSM will have to plan and react accordingly.
  • Put up or shut up. Cook or get out of the kitchen. Fish, no bait cutting here.  Something tells me Mynxee is heartily in agreement with this statement! 🙂
  • When a group process is used, consider the power of words and seek some alignment on definitions the minute people fall into advocacy modes as opposed dialog.  Especially difficult in EVE, where “advocacy modes as opposed dialog” is the order of the day on the forums.
  • Keep it in perspective. Life is short and precious.  Good advice at any time, no matter what the situation.
  • Eat more chocolate! Perhaps Mynxee would agree with this point as well? 🙂

For those of us that know Nancy, it’s not difficult to see why she included that last point.  (Her EMinds user name was “choconancy,” after all.)  Chocolate is kind of her catchphrase…just as mine, when writing in authorial voice as Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs, is:

Wrought in deepest Hell, our vengeance is freedom!

. . .

Other EVE Blog Banter posts:

  1. Growing Pains | CrazyKinux’s Musing
  2. CSM: Hoax or Serious Business? « Lost in New Eden
  3. CSM-Power to the people or puppets of CCP « A whole lot of Yarrrr!!!
  4. Gaming the CSM | A Mule in EvE
  5. A Taste Of Democracy | StarFleet Comms
  6. CSM: Player Power or Paper Tiger? | I Am Keith Neilson
  7. Governance Thrash Redux? « The Ralpha Dogs
  8. CCP Doesn’t Care: Blog Banter 19 « OMG! You’re a Chick?!
  9. The Cataclysmic Variable: It’s Crunch Time!
  10. The 19th EVE Blog Banter is upon us… and about the CSM and CCP | Victoria Aut Mors
  11. CSM: Lame Duck from the beginning?
  12. Blog Banter #19 << Dense Veldspar
  13. Be careful what you say, Roc « Roc’s Ramblings
  14. Exchange Fraking Phone Numbers « Scrap Metal & Faction Ammo
  15. Blog Banter #19: Assumptions
  16. EVE Blog Banter #19 | EVE on Real Life
  17. A Reality Check | A “CareBears” Journey
  18. Quit your bitching | Fly Reckless – EVE Online
  19. War has come to EVE | Scram Web
  20. CCP and the CSM | Morphisat’s Blog
  21. BB 19 Riding the elephant | mikeazariah
  22. The CSM: A well thought out scam by CCP | Nitpickin’s

CCP Takes the Hex off PLEX, Leaves Pilots Vexed (Of Either Sex)

Posted in General on July 10, 2010 by Erbo

So, after all this time, CCP has decided that PLEX should be treated as any other item…you will soon be able to transport them between stations, have them couriered, and so forth.  This has resulted in a veritable firestorm on the forums; some people are in favor of it (and think CCP should be encouraging more of it), while others are against it.

Chief among the objections is that, if a ship gets ganked while carrying PLEX, the PLEX may be destroyed or dropped as loot.  The concern is that, since PLEX represent “real money” and “real game time,” this is somehow a bad thing.  But let’s look at this objectively.  A PLEX can presently be acquired for somewhere on the close order of 300M ISK.  While this isn’t “chump change” by any means, neither is it the most valuable thing you can have (and potentially lose) in EVE, not by a long shot.  An Orca presently goes for just over that, and an Obelisk freighter goes for something on the close order of 700M ISK.  Or, if you want something about the same size as a PLEX (0.01 m3) to compare to, a blueprint for that selfsame Obelisk goes for right around 1.7 billion ISK, or the equivalent of roughly half a dozen PLEX.  Yet people haul blueprints around all the time, and even lose them when they get ganked, and no one seems to have a problem with that.  (And the ones that do, quite frankly, need to HTFU.)

For those of you who don’t like the idea of PLEXs getting ganked out from under you, I say, don’t move ’em.  Just deal in them the way you always have; that will still work just fine.  Fly out to Jita (or Amarr, or Rens, or Hek, or your favorite trade hub), redeem your GTC to PLEXs there, and sell ’em off there.  Or buy your PLEX at one of the trade hubs, and immediately redeem it for game time, which you can do from your Assets window from anywhere in the galaxy.  If you do want to move PLEXs, take the same care as you would moving any other small but valuable item.  (In small quantities, I’d recommend a Covert Ops frigate with a cloak, speed mods, and as good a tank as you can put on it.  You can also put ’em into small, password-protected secure containers, and load those aboard a similarly-fit Blockade Runner.)  This is not rocket science here.  (Well, maybe it is, but you get the point.)

CCP’s avowed motivation in doing this is to keep PLEXs from being treated “differently” from any other item.  Of course, they will still be “different,” in that (a) you can “buy” them with GTCs, ultimately “real money,” and (b) you can trade them in for game time.  But consider this: Does this not open the door for CCP to introduce other items, perhaps, that have the (a) or (b) natures?  What if, say, there were a Live Event, in which a powerful NPC ship were to drop as loot some special items that could be redeemed for 5-10 days game time?  The mind boggles.

TL;DR of the above: This change was long overdue, and gives players more options.  And isn’t that what we like?

We’re Puttin’ the Band Back Together

Posted in Storyline on July 6, 2010 by Erbo

“Val, Darien,” said Selenalore as the two of them walked into the Ralpha Dogs’ office.  “It’s good to see you again.”

“Same here,” said Valorna Edgeworth.  “We were enjoying our vacation in the Mesokel system when we got the alert message.  I arranged for us to get back right away.”

“She insisted,” said Darien Dresden, nodding.  “Plucked me right off the beach and told me to start packing.”

Erbo chuckled.  “Well, it seems someone’s anxious to get back to work.  Of course, we probably won’t mount full-scale mining operations for awhile, due to other events.”  He handed Val and Darien copies of a recent pilot information bulletin.  “So perhaps we–”

He was cut off by an insistent chiming from Mother’s main console.  “That’s odd,” he said.  “Hang on a minute.”  He stepped over and touched a control, silencing the chime.  “What’s the story, Mother?”

“Command priority channel establishment, Level Ultraviolet,” responded the tones of the computer.  “Please give musical authentication key for verification.”

Erbo grinned; the Abbots of the Ralpha Dogs had set up high-level authentication codes that were, not merely passphrases, but musical segments that required the correct tonality and voiceprint to authenticate.  Taking a deep breath, he sang out the ancient words:

Master! Apprentice!
Heartborne, seventh seeker!
Warrior! Disciple!
In me, the Wishmaster!

“Authentication code verified,” came Mother’s digital voice.  “Replaying authentication code of originator prior to establishing link.”

The next voice that came out of Mother’s console speaker was all too familiar, even if the language they sang was one that predated New Eden itself:

Zankoku na tenshi no you ni,
Shounen yo shinwa ni nare!

One word escaped Erbo’s lips, under his breath…”Lexxi.”

“Link established,” continued Mother.  This was followed quickly by another voice….the one that had sung those lines, the unmistakable voice of LexxEva, head of the Ralpha Dogs.

“Yo, Erbo! Sel! You still alive in there?”

“Lexxi!” responded Erbo, his words picked up by Mother and transmitted to Lexx’s ship.  “Good to have us all back here!”

“Yeah, I got your message and stopped off by the Khanid stations to install a couple jump clones,” said Lexx. “I’m heading in to the barn now.  Three jumps out, estimated arrival three-zero minutes.”

“I’ll have food ready by the time you get here,” said Selena, turning to head for the kitchen.

“I’ll help,” said Val, following Selena.

“I guarantee you a warm reception,” said Erbo.

“Thanks, bro,” said Lexx.  “See ya in a few.  Lexx out.”

“Channel closed,” reported Mother.

Erbo leaned against the console, expelling his breath in a happy sigh.  With the core leadership back in place, he was hopeful that activity would pick up shortly.

Awaken From Deep Slumber

Posted in Storyline on July 5, 2010 by selenalore

The men down below are still loading up the new capsules and loading up the old ones, when the lights in the control room above start to brighten at the same time as the ones in the ship bay do.

They all freeze in their work as they blink a few times to adjust them to the somewhat brighter lighting and stare in amazement at all the ships that are in the bay, since now they can see them all. Each man notes the Gallente ships since they are more prominent in the bay, but now they note not only Gallente, but also Minmatar, Amarr, Caldari, and an Angel Cartel ship. Apparently this corp is interracial, and they have all put aside their differences between all the races and have learned to work together as one unit.

The men stir from standing there and get back to work loading and unloading as they hear the soft descent of the hydraulic elevator making its way down to the bay area…

——————————————————————-

Selena wakes from her sleep and her wonderful dreams, as the warm air from the room gently brushes over her face. Soon enough, her beautiful, piercing blue eyes opened and she looks around the room, while her eyes adjust to the lighting, and then she stretches her long and lithe body to help the unused muscles and joints to move some and circulate the blood throughout her entire body.

She then climbs out of her tube and looks first at Erbo and then Fan and makes her shaky way to Erbo and smiles down at his handsome face, and leans down and places a gentle and loving kiss on his lips to help him wake up.

One of Erbo’s startling blue eyes opens and watches as Selena starts to move around, and mumbles something like, “Mom, it’s not time yet.”

Selena laughs softly and says, “Yes it is, and I think Mother wants to chat with you.” She gives him another kiss as she moves back to let him climb out.

Fan speaks up, saying “What’s all this noise going on?” and Selena moves over to help Fan climb out and moves back after Fan has a hold of the side of her tube and starts doing some stretches to help her blood circulate to unused muscles and joints.

Selena watches as Erbo heads over to chat with Mother, and then she makes sure all things are fine and then heads to the living quarters of the Ralpha Dogs and takes a shower and steps into a fresh uniform before heading to the kitchen and preparing a large meal and placing it in the oven to cook, and the other fixings to chill in the fridge and such.

Selena then heads back into the area, after making sure fresh uniforms are laid out in each living quarters for the others to take a shower and such after their sleep.

Selena steps back into the control room fresh and alert and heads over to her designated area and checks on security and notes the delivery of their new capsules and heads towards the elevator. She passes a kiss to Erbo’s cheek in passing and gives him a smile and then slips into the elevator and heads down to the ship bay area.

The men look up as the elevator comes to a stop and opens. They stare for a moment at the striking Gallente woman as she heads towards them with a smile as she reaches out and grabs a clipboard from the side of the elevator next to a well lit console, and as she walks towards them she touches some things on the portable console and bots start to come awake and make their way towards all the ships and start cleaning them and doing maintenance on the ships to make sure all is in working order.

Selena comes to a stop in front of the man and introduces herself, and says, “Welcome to the Ralpha Dogs’ ship bay. I’m Selenalore Evans, one of the Abbots of the Ralpha Dogs and head of security.” She gives a smile and shakes each man’s hand and then takes the offered sales slip and shipping form of the new capsules and looks over each one and gives a nod and says, “Excellent work, and well done.” She smiles and finishes helping the men and then signs, pays, and gives tips to the men for the hard work and with a nod and handshake to the men she watches as they leave.

Selena smiles as they take their time as they continue to look in awe at all the ships, until they can’t see them anymore. She laughs softly and heads back towards the control room above and files the forms in the appropriate places and checks to make sure all is go and sends out signals to other Ralpha Dogs out there if they are still with them to let all know that the Ralpha Dogs are back up and running.

Selena looks around one last time and heads towards the kitchen to serve dinner and all to those here…

A Tale of Two Upgrades

Posted in Downtime, General on June 25, 2010 by Erbo

Okay, you all know about the big move and upgrade that CCP had planned for the Tranquility cluster, and how it all turned to worms on them, resulting in them giving us a slug of skillpoints each to make up for it.  (They mentioned that the CSM signed off on this particular mode of compensation.  So, thanks, Mynxee! 🙂 ) I’m sympathetic; just tonight, the development team I work for just managed to properly deploy an important piece of software for the first time in about a month.  As with everything else, it’s always the details that come back to bite you in the ass.

But, on the not-so-negative side, I’m fascinated by the description of the technologies involved.  In my previous job, I worked for a company that sold high-performance cluster computing systems; Tranquility is just one of those clusters writ large, and the way the EVE server system is structured is one of the more interesting applications of distributed computing I’ve seen.  The only thing I can compare it to is Second Life, and EVE’s cluster is just a bit more advanced.  SL basically requires that each region, or “sim,” comprising 64K square meters of virtual territory, have its own dedicated CPU core (with some exceptions), while EVE can load multiple lightly-trafficked star systems on a single CPU core, while able to assign heavier-loaded systems to dedicated CPUs, either statically (in the case of Jita et al.) or dynamically (in the case of fleet fight reservations).  This allows EVE to run a larger “world” on a smaller cluster.  (Admittedly, SL has to cope with high degrees of user-generated content, while EVE does not.)  And, looking at that picture, it looks like CCP is putting its equipment in APC racks, just like the ones the company I used to work for assembled and shipped our clusters in!

. . .

Meanwhile, one of the things I was up to in the gap between when we suspended operations in EVE and when we reactivated things, once I had secured gainful employment, was a much-needed program of system upgrades here at the Ralpha Dogs Orderhall.  Both my and Selena’s workstations got an almost total overhaul; each of us is now running quad-core, where we were single-core before.  Selena is now running an Athlon II X4 630 on a Gigabyte motherboard, while I have the Phenom II X4 955 Black, on an Asus board that turned out to be one of the better motherboards you can get for the money.  We went with 4 Gb of RAM each, which is usable by Windows 7 64-bit edition, which replaced Windows XP on our systems.  (Mine dual-boots to Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 64-bit as well, which I use for work and for serious hacking.)  With the OS upgrades also came drive upgrades; we now each have over a terabyte of disk space at our disposal, divided across three spindles in my case, two in Selena’s.  My old 21″ CRT monitor has been replaced by a pair of 21.5″ widescreen LCD displays, HD-quality, driven by a new nVidia GeForce GTS 250 card.  The resulting system runs EVE buttery-smooth, with little or no display lag and gorgeous quality.  (I’m not done yet; I want to replace the keyboard with a Logitech G19 and the mouse with a Razer Naga.  Basically, I want to intimidate the hell out of anyone else that tries to sit down at my desk…)

With well-balanced systems like these, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.  Unless it’s another bout of extended downtime… 🙂

Arise!

Posted in Storyline on June 20, 2010 by Erbo

June 20, YC 112

In a dusty, now all-but-forgotten corporate office, inside three cryonic suspension tubes, three sleepers lay dreaming the deep, slow dreams of suspended animation. One man, two women; one woman with the hard features of the Minmatar, the other two fair-haired Gallente. Only their clothing gave clue to their identities, or even the fact that they all served a common cause…the characteristic black hooded jackets and Greek letter pins on their lapels.

The three dreamers each dreamed their own dreams, sealed away inside the plastic-and-metal cocoons that preserved their lives. The Minmatar woman dreamed of great struggles, of hot desert planets and the flash of bright blades in combat, of crushing defeat for the enemy and the triumph of her tribe. For the Gallente woman, dreams were more a means of escape; she dreamed of other lives in other places, noble indigenous natives, ethereal elves, worlds beyond imagination. The subject of many of her dreams was the third sleeper, the Gallente male; his own dreams were more shadowy, bordering on nightmares, tending towards the idiosyncratic. He might not remember these dreams when he woke…or he might choose not to remember them.

But one entity survived to watch over them. The Ralpha Dogs’ main command core, the Multi-Operational Team Hub and Event Recorder (M.O.T.H.E.R.), kept close watch on the frozen sleepers, lest their long sleep inadvertently turn into the Last Sleep, and also monitored external events, to know when it was time for them to wake. For months, it had fulfilled this capacity in silence, while events swirled on outside this office, outside the station, outside the star system, beyond constellation and region, beyond the borders of space controlled by the four great empires, and even beyond all human ken in a dimension that defied understanding…and the realm of an entirely different, and more dangerous, class of Sleepers.

One screen on Mother’s console lit, in response to a recognition signal received from a far-off source. The computer considered the signal for long moments, verifying the authentication codes, pattern-matching it against known transmission characteristics. The machine made a decision. Long-dead circuits came to life, additional readouts flickered on, the room echoed with the loud clicks of power relays snapping over.

The room lights, long darkened, gently faded up to a soft glow, and the chill air in the room began warming to a temperature more hospitable to organic life, as the patterns of lights on the sides of the cryonic suspension tubes changed. More words flashed across Mother’s displays:

...SUBJECTS...ERBO EVANS...SELENALORE EVANS...FANCHON SIHU...
...REVIVAL SEQUENCE...INITIATED...

For long minutes, nothing changed.

Then, the hiss of hydraulic mechanisms began as the cryonic tubes swung slowly open.

. . .

Selena was the first to awake. For long moments, her dreams blurred into the awareness of reality, of the fresh air of the room impinging on her face, removing the chill from her bones. Her eyelids fluttered, then popped open, the piercing blue eyes behind them focusing on the consoles at the other side of the room. The light, slightly painful at first, became bearable as her eyes adapted.

She craned her neck from one side to the other, peeking over the edges of the tube around her, checking first Erbo’s tube, then Fanchon’s. Neither one seemed to have stirred from their own slumber as yet. A momentary flash of panic came to her, but she quickly cooled it with the discipline of an Abbot of the Ralpha Dogs.

Placing her hands on either side of the tube, she pulled herself upright, cautiously stepping forward and out, her steps wobbly at first but gradually gaining surety. She turned to her right, facing the leftmost of the three cryostasis tubes, and gazed upon the still-sleeping face of the man she loved, watching his chest gently rise and fall as the enforced sleep of cryostasis gave way to more natural sleep.

So handsome, she thought to herself. He always has been, really.

She stepped carefully over to Erbo’s tube, leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. His eyes remained shut, but his breathing deepened slightly, and he emitted a small rumble of contentment that reminded Selena of a cat purring.

“Dear,” she said, gently, “it’s time to wake up.”

One of Erbo’s eyes fluttered open, tracking on Selena. He muttered something that she thought sounded like “Mommmm…not time yet…”

“Yes, it is,” she repeated, gently shaking his left shoulder. “Come on, dear. We’ve got work to do. And I think Mother wants to talk to you.”

Erbo’s eyes opened, and he reached above his head, stretching long-disused muscle groups. “Okay, okay…gimme a sec.”

From the third tube came another voice, feminine with a pronounced Minmatar accent. “What’s all this noise?”

“And good morning to you, too, Fan,” said Selena, stepping over to her tube as Erbo disengaged from his own, bringing himself to his feet, scratching the back of his neck near the carved-ebony dust cap protecting one of his neural jacks as he tentatively stepped over to Mother’s console.

He touched his NeoCom, syncing it with Mother’s information feed. The master status showed green; no hostile activity, no internal trouble, no urgent pending issues other than one person asking for a corporate invitation and a few bills that had been automatically paid. Touching the keys on the console, he began giving orders as Selena left the room to see about getting their quarters habitable again.

He had taken possession of the Ralpha Dogs’ funds and matériel while they had been in stasis, to prevent it from being stolen. Now, money flowed back into the corporate accounts as massive warehouse containers were opened and their contents restored to their rightful location. Ship hulls and fitting components, ammunition, drones, ores and minerals, and containers of blueprints all made their way to the correct locations. Communication channels long-closed came to life and membership applications were once again enabled.

He came upon the “Suspension of Operations” bulletin posted in the corporate communications system. With a rueful grin, he erased that bulletin and quickly wrote another:

Now Online

We have resumed EVE operations here and we are once again open for business. We’re still shaking down, so it may take us a bit to establish a routine. But tell your friends…the Dogs are back in town!

Wrought in deepest Hell…our vengeance is freedom!

Clear skies,

– Erbo Evans, Abbot, ΡΑΔ

He quickly followed this up with a message to the entire corporation, requesting status information. None of them had been around for awhile, according to the corporate member listing, but it was worth a shot.

Finally, he keyed up a view of his own hangar. The screen lit to reveal his hangar space, now brightly lit again. Scores of workmen were checking over the ships ranked therein, verifying their systems. Occasionally, via the audio feed, he could hear the whine of ion and plasma thrusters as engines were lit and revved in tests. He glanced over the neatly ranked battlecruisers and cruisers, the lean, powerful shapes of Minmatar Rifters (which he privately thought of as “the official ship of gettin’ yo’ ass in trouble”), the long, slender shapes of Iteron Mark V haulers next to the compact, flat bulks of ORE mining barges, and, looming over all, the Orca Janne Wirman and the Obelisk freighter Tuomas Holopainen. All bore the Rho Alpha Delta corporate monogram; soon, they would be ready to fly once more.

“Sweetheart?” came a familiar voice from his left, a voice he’d not heard for months prior to this day. He turned to face Selenalore.

“Yes?”

“We’ll have food on the table shortly. Anything from Mother?”

Erbo looked thoughtful. “No, all quiet here. Things are getting back up to speed now. Hopefully, we’ll know where we stand soon.”

The two of them left for the crew quarters, leaving Mother to her own inscrutable thoughts.