Prologue Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
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He was big, even for a Caldari Civre, and had close cropped hair and expensive clothes. He looked mean until he smiled which came easily to his face and if there was any deception or malice behind the smile I could not detect it. He waved to a hostess for a drink and snack and looked back to me with his elbows on the table. "You're a long way from home, my friend," he said conversationally.
I grunted noncommittally and debated if I should just leave and go back to my quarters to mope there with a bottle of booze (and no food, easier to get stinking drunk that way).
"My name's Max, Maximus Decemus to be precise, and I'm a capsuleer looking for crew." He lifted his hand and started counting out benefits from a well practices spiel. "Empire space only, good benefits, decent crew quarters, reasonable shifts, I take care of my crew you know, no sweat ships..."
I held up my hand to stop him. "I've got my own ship, thanks."
"Oh! Sorry then, captain. Didn't mean to presume. You just looked like a man looking for work."
"Yeah," I snorted as a took a sip. "More like looking for a purpose."
He scratched his face while thinking. "Well, my corporation could use another contractor for shuttling staff and minor supplies... what kind of ship and work you looking for?"
I found myself not minding the company. Finally someone who didn't judge me on my baggage. "I fly a Ferox right now but I've been brought up to specs on battleships," I said with a bit of pride. I turned my head and pulled down my collar to show my main neural implant.
"A podder? Are you trying to recruit some new crew too?" he asked.
"Nah, I just like the ambiance more. Besides, if I was recruiting I would just use the Association, wouldn't I?"
The Association, more properly known as the United Ship Crewman Association, was the name of the Amarrian union that helped people find berths for there skills on capsuleer vessels. When the CONCORD accords came into effect and capsuleers began to ply the trade routes and amass power and riches, an unexpected side effect of that was that the new immortals started to use multiple ships in relatively short periods of time. One might dock at a station in a battleship and depart in a frigate, leaving hundreds if not more crew behind for days or even weeks. At first these crews simply waited but soon station managers all over New Eden found themselves with thousands of idle hands and the troubles that the devil found for them. Another problem was when a capsuleer purchased a ship and wanted it prepared and fully crewed within hours; finding enough crew for larger ships sometimes caused recruiters to headhunt the station staff with promises of better pay and a life of excitement. More than a few station managers found themselves suddenly short staffed.
In response to this growing crisis a station manager in Botane, Sinq Laison, came up with the idea of a flexible pool of crew that capsuleer ships would add to when docked for long periods of time, and draw from as needed. This solved the problem of idle crew members and recruitment shortages in one fell swoop as long as capsuleers could be convinced to agree to the program. As it turns out, 99% of the capsuleers found that they didn't give a rats ass if they left with the same crew they arrived with as long as they had crew.
Almost overnight the concept spread to other stations and soon entire constellations set up programs to shuttle required crew around to meet the growing demand. In Gallente space the unions were referred to as the Society of Engineers and Technologists, Caldari space had Station Capsuleer Professional Unions, the Matari called them Brotherhoods of Spacial Experts, and in Amarr empire space they were the United Ship Crewman Associations. You need a new crew anywhere in populated space and your local union will deliver.
"The Association is OK for filling up a roster," Max shrugged, "but you know the Amarr - everything is done by seniority. I ask for three shield techs and I get the first three bozos in the system who have been paying their dues the longest with the slightest bit of experience. One time I got a Gallentean tech whose experience was modulating shower pulse walls." We both laughed at that thought. "I like to come down to the promenades and as around, avoid the bureaucracy."
I nodded. It made sense to take a personal approach in picking a crew. Although a capsuleer controlled almost all aspects of a ship's performance the work done in maintenance and repairs could be the difference between life and death if it was a matter of millimeters.
"So what kind of work does your corporation do?" I asked.
Max smiled and leaned back. "Looks like my recruitment work at the table is not wasted after all..."