Friday, July 22, 2011

Fiction Friday - Series 4: part 3

Prologue Part 1 Part 2

* * * * *

After our shenanigans in Slays, our corporation was not as welcome as it was before in Gallente space. A lot of open doors and friendly faces became closed and hostile. Apparently there was a line for what pod pilots could and could not get away with and a double execution on a public concourse was past it.

I expected to take the heat for the fallout but Nhi'Khuna stood up for me and the resulting bitter recriminations between her and CEO Jakk Blakk revealed deeper and longer divisions than I expected and soon thereafter Nhi'Khuna announced she was leaving IPORC to form a new corporation based in Minmatar space called Strife Mercenaries. Since she was often fleet commander and had more day to day contact with the pilots, most of them left with her as well including myself.

I knew that the Republic was still catching up in terms of developed space compared to the other empires and I knew there would be a bit of a culture shock after the luxurious and opulent Gallente Stations and their numerous amenities, but I was expecting something more along the Caldari functionality and utility. I could not have been more wrong.

On a Gallente station you sometimes forget you are not on a planet; there are frequent solariums, arboretums, and wide open airy concourses and pavilions. Bulkheads, life support, hangers, support staff, etc are all carefully and quietly hidden out of view and the illusion is never broken unless it is unavoidable.

In contrast a typical environment on a Caldari State station is very utilitarian and nothing is hidden or decorated unless there is a specific need. This is not to say that life on such a station is uncomfortable, just that comfort is not everywhere you go.

But in either case it is obvious to see that everything has its place and everything is planned out. Not so on a Republic station.

The first thing I noticed when I approached the Krusual Tribe Bureau station in Hek in Metropolis region where the corp was setting up its headquarters was that the station looked unfinished: exposed reactor vents, damaged or missing plating, parts of the station seemed simply bolted or welded on, the list goes on. The culture shock continued after I disembarked and decanted. Not only was the bulkheads and systems exposed as on a Caldari station, it looked as if everything had been haphazardly planned if at all. Cables, vents, power conduits were visible and sometimes spliced into as engineers needed. I swear I saw five safety violations in the first two minutes while getting dressed.

My temporary quarters were slightly better than the hanger; at least I did not run the risk of electrocution on an exposed wire. But the normal comforts of a Gallente or Caldari station were mostly missing. No house AI, manual light switches (and lights that were constantly dim, flickering, and humming just below human hearing threshold), a fridge and stove instead of auto-food-prep units, a 2D vid screen... I was mortified and wondered what I did to deserve living in this internment camp.

The public spaces were not much better. I was shocked to see so many children running around and playing on edges of concourses with railing that were rusty and creaking in some parts. Escalators were absent and stairs and ladders were everywhere. If you didn't have something heavy to move from deck to deck you were expected to not use the limited number of elevators. The food concourse was filled with old men and women selling unrefrigerated meat and fruit and vegetables while haggling over prices everywhere. I was assaulted by the sights and sounds of unbridled humanity, clothing and tattoos and faces and hairstyles all beyond strange to me, they were alien. I was more overwhelmed than the first time I stepped onto a Gallente station as at least there everything and everyone had a place and a purpose. This was chaos.

That first day I went back to my room and locked the door. Fortunately for me, I was not alone and the next day I went out with Kla'strit who had spent some time in Hek before being recruited by Nhi'Khuna to venture out to Placid and through his eyes I began to appreciate the life and vitality of the tribal people. The chaotic station engineers got things done faster and with less bureaucratic red tape and paperwork and they were always eager to help with smiles on their faces and excitement in their work. The food market was filled with delicious fresh foods cooked in savoury spices and exotic flavours. And beyond the hard faces and strange styles and tribal tattoos were a beautiful people filled with passion and liberty far beyond what the shallow Gallente night clubbers could ever hope to attain.

People didn't just exist here, people lived here. And that's about when I started falling in love with the Republic.

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