Post number 1801! Hurray for me!
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
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"Captain! Captain! Wake up! CAPTAIN!"
I startled awake. Its hard for a pod pilot to accidentally fall asleep when the pod is active since you can't really close your eyes or turn down the volume on all the input from the ship being transmitted directly to your brain. Usually in order to rest the pod pilot turns off all active input except a few sleeper programs to alert if something happens. But falling asleep unexpected can happen if you get so tired that your brain effectively shuts itself off.
I pulled back into consciousness to several proximity alarms going off and one of my crew members yelling frantically into a camera lens. The ship, a Cormorant Destroyer named Mission Impossible, had its thrusters all disabled and was drifting slowly towards an asteroid.
"That's it! I'm bailing!" the crew member said and I saw him begin to jog down the tight corridor.
"Relax," I broadcast on the ship's intercom, "Everything is under control." I activated the stabilizers with a thought and eased the ship away from the spinning rock. "I was just trying to lure some pirates in by acting like a derilict," I lied, "and you need to have more trust in your captain."
"Bullshit," he mumbled under his breath thinking I couldn't here him. But he turned back and stomped over to his station in engineering, passing another crew member and saying quietly, "I've had it. Next station we dock at I'm outta here."
I didn't care. My ship had a crew of 5 not including me and I couldn't tell you one of their names without looking it up on the registry. Crew were easy to hire at almost every port of call, scrambling over themselves like rats for the chance to be on a capsuleer vessel, the stories of the occasional windfalls from being on our vessels enough to attract the desperate hordes.
I brought the ship around and set course for another belt. I had landed at this one looking for some local pirates and decided to wait a bit to see if they would come to me while I checked some messages from my agent. Apparently I fell asleep. I had been working hard, almost non stop for days now. I hadn't docked in a week; I was kind of scared of what I would do.
I knew I was simply trading one self destructive behaviour for another yet I could not seem to stop myself. While on the ship either doing tasks for my latest agent (what was his name again?) or patrolling the asteroid belts, I was working myself to exhaustion. Sure, I made a lot of money, an obscene amount. I now had two Merlins and a second Cormorant back in my hanger and still had over 20 million ISK in my account. I was far richer than my father could ever be I was sure, yet still I strove for more.
But being out of the pod and back on station was worse. Out here, the constant bustle of the channels and traffic, the hunt for ships and fight for survival kept me busy, piped into my brain directly and it all allowed me to avoiding thinking about things. In station I was cut off from the flow of data and could not stop the words of Nhi'Khuna from rattling around in my skull like a set of dice. So at first I drank to quiet them, then moved on to Blue Pills and Crystal Eggs, losing myself in the pharmaceutical dreams.
So I tried to stay in space, afraid of myself, of what I might do. Filled with shame at my weakness.
We landed in the asteroid belt and again saw it was empty. The local pirates appeared to have moved on, perhaps warned of my presence and my relentless hunt for them over the past couple days. It made me irrationally angry.
On the internal comms I heard the same crew member complain to himself again, "See? Nothing, why doesn't he just give up? Shit." My anger turned to fury and I briefly considered opening the airlocks and flushing the crew out into space. Heck, I think one outside airlock door might have even opened in response to my thoughts. "No one would miss them, not really. No one important anyways," I thought to myself.
I came back to my senses and was horrified by what just happened. Now I was sure I was losing it and I knew I couldn't go on like this. I needed, craved purpose beyond just ISK. Something had to change.
"Alright crew, I know its been a long haul and its time to head in. We've had some good luck the past could days so you'll find a little extra in your accounts when we land. Say, 5000 ISK each?"
The crew cheered except the one guy who muttered "I'll believe it when I see it," but I could tell from his respiration and posture that he was much happier and relaxed. My guilty conscious about almost killing them all in cold blood was partly assuaged and I set course for the stargate.
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I sat on my couch my current apartment with a Blue Pill in my hand. I liked Crystal Eggs better as I found their effects more pleasant and I could still walk around with it in my system (well, for the most part), but Blues were easier to obtain and a lot cheaper.
"Contact Nhi'Khuna," I told the apartment AI. The wall screen lit up with the words "Attempting to Connect..." across them. After a few seconds she appeared, looking as imperial as she did in person.
"Well, I didn't expect to hear from you," she said coldly. "Not after how you stormed out on me."
I could feel myself flush. "I was... overwhelmed," I stammered. "I needed some time to think. And confirm what you said."
"I thought I could ignore it all, but I was wrong. I need to get out, I need something else. I thought you might be willing to continue our conversation," I added hopefully.
She said nothing for a few seconds and I could feel my flush deepen and I began to regret calling. I was just about to apologize and disconnect and pop the pill when she finally said, "OK. But no more rudeness, got it? This is a last chance."
"Of course, of course!" I agreed.
"Very well, You still in Pimebeka?"
"No, I'm in Saila now, but I can come to you if you want."
She smiled and chuckled. "I don't think you're ready for low sec, boy. I'll be there in 24 hours."
"Great, thanks, I really appreciate it," I started to say but she had already disconnected. Relieved I went into my bedroom and tossed the drug into the trash receptacle.
Well, OK, not really. I put the pill back in a little metal case with 7 other Blue Pills and closed it before placing it back in my drawer. I wanted to throw them away, I really did. But all I could think of was what if it didn't work out with Nhi'Khuna's and I didn't get an offer or I didn't like what I heard again? What then?