Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
– William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
The Amarrian glanced up, trying to not make eye contact (though the heavy hood made that unlikely) and stared at his office door. Through its glass, he could make out his name and title etched in frosted letters, and though from his seat the letters appeared reversed, he knew what they spelled out by heart: “Chakh Madafe, Military Adjunct-Advisor, Imperial Academy, Deepari II”. It was a position that, as a devout and loyal citizen of the Amarr Empire, Madafe was extremely proud to hold. But today had been especially trying—this morning had brought word that Savel Nabnela, an old friend, had been murdered by religious extremists, and now he was having to deal with this—and the only thought the military advisor could ruefully summon, was that a title’s length increased in an inverse relationship to its importance.
In front of him sat a street urchin. Or at the least, someone who should have been a street urchin, if there were any justice or order in the world. She was a Minmatar—probably a Vheroklor, by the looks of her. No Voluval tattoo, though—too young? Exiled? Madafe shook his head, realizing he was overthinking this; no member of the slave races deserved this much consideration.
Except that she was a capsuleer.
A capsuleer, Madafe inwardly groaned. Why’d it have to be…
Capsuleers were a rare breed—maybe several hundred thousand operating at any one time, in the entire galaxy. But for their numbers, capsuleers had an extremely disproportionate influence on the galactic stage. They were men and women wed to their machines, capable of controlling star ships with not words, but thoughts. Ships commanded by a capsuleer were more deadly, responded faster, and harder to kill than their conventionally-crewed counterparts. Give me a dozen capsuleers, Savel use to say, or barring that, a thousand other ships. Capsuleers possessed a hard edge in skill over lesser, un-capsuled pilots, because—and here was the real kicker—they were immortal, constantly reborn-from-death by the very capsule technology that made them unique. Madafe snorted to himself, realizing with bitter irony how such an insane concept—human immortality!—could so easily become common place. But when the gods walk amongst men…
The long and the short of it was, capsuleers were demigods. Unleashed from death, they strode through the heavens in glittering chariots, on a whim reigning awesome death upon lesser men. Needless to say, the arrival of ten thousand thousand of these immortal… things… had posed a problem for the Theological Council, not to mention the Imperial Navy.
And now one of them sat in his office, waiting for his response. And a Minmatar, no less! Good men like Savel die defending the Empire, the Amarrian thought, and we honor their memory by hiring Godless mercenaries!
It was only with a creeping awareness that Madafe realized he was massaging his temples through his heavy cloak, an extremely rude motion in polite company. Civilized company, he reminded himself. In all honesty, the Minmatar woman didn’t demand any more respect than a beast of burden, or a slave…
Except that she was a capsuleer.
“Why did…” The Amarrian caught himself before he said, “Why did anyone think it was a good idea to make you a capsuleer?”
He restarted. “Why did the Republic Fleet let you go?”
The Minmatar shrugged. “Why does it matter? Maybe I killed a man on Matar. Maybe I was raped by a tribal chieftain, maybe I raped a tribal chieftan. Maybe, even, God told me I should join up with the Amarr. Do you really care?” The Minmatar leaned out of her slouching position, narrowing her eyes as she did. “I’m a capsuleer, and I want to take a job from you. Take it, or I’ll be gone in the hour.”
The unspoken threat was clear enough—hire me, or I’ll be back later, hired on with an enemy of the Empire. Madafe swallowed his pride and smiled back. The Lord knew that, for the sake of the Empire, better men had done worse things, but for once, Madafe was glad that his damnably-inconvienent hood hid his eyes, filled as they were with anger and spite.
And then a thought occurred to him, and the smile became a little more genuine. Maybe he had a use for her, yet… didn’t the Scriptures say that everyone, even and especially the heathens, were tools in the hands of God?
Madafe rifled through the data-tablets on his desk, found the one he wanted, and looked back at the not-slave. “I just received word that a long time friend of mine, Savel Nabnela, was killed by a religious fanatic he had been investigating, some iconoclast known simply as ‘The Devout.’ The Imperial Navy is looking into it, but there are politics—religious politics—at play, and I want this dealt with swiftly, quietly and harshly. Do you think you could do that?”
The Minmatar woman grinned and leaned back into her chair. “I’m listening.”
In my mind, the winter season — more precisely, my winter break from school — is the the time for EVE Online.
Every few years, just about at Christmas time, I begin to get an itch to play EVE. It must be something about the clouds, or the the time off from school, or the fact that free trials in EVE are two weeks long, almost enough time to get me through my holiday. Usually, this revitalization in my interest has something to do with a new addition in the game. This time, interestingly enough, my interest was piqued by a subtraction — learning skills are being removed from the game.
For the uninformed, EVE doesn’t have conventional classes or leveling. Rather, players learn skills in real time, even when they’re not logged in. Each skill is associated with two of five attributes a player possesses–intelligence, memory, etc., etc.
One set of skills, the ‘Learning’ branch, increases a player’s attributes. Put another way, learning Learning skills allows you to learn other skills faster. The difference in skill learning speed with and without the Learning skills is so profound that its usually recommend that players start off with them, and learn as many as they can afford to purchase, before moving on to other, more exciting skills (“Sharpshooter!” “Salvaging!”).
Apparently, the all-importance of this branch of skills had raised some hackles, and in hindsight, I can see why. Like the above linked website states, “the current learning skills system is, on balance, a detriment to EVE because it forces new players to delay gratification at a critical point in their introduction to the game. We believe this to be something that reduces player retention, and thus hinders the growth of EVE.” I must admit, watching the learning time for other skills drop as I learned me some more Learning skills (OH GOD MAKE THIS POST STOP) was pretty gratifying, but I know that I was just a little put out that I wasn’t getting to the good stuff right off the bat.
So, I went out and bought the new Commissioned Officer edition, and I decided that, for once, I was going to play a different type of character. I’ve usually gone Caldari State–>Achura bloodline, because, well, the Caldari are cool, and the Achura, though they no longer possess the really awesome racial attribute bonuses they once did, are doubly cool. But that means I’ve also always used the favorite weapons of the Caldari (missiles FTW), and I’m a little bored by that, too.
So, I make a cute Minmattar (Atek Drex, for the interested), then plotted a 27 system jump to the Amarr core worlds. I’m going Golden Fleet and LAZARS all the way, baby. Amarr victor! Deus vult! Now I just need to drop in on HZ and have a really fun time!
Two weeks later, the Minmatar was back. She had a name, Madafe assumed, but he had never deigned learn it. Under one arm, she carried a sealed freezer box.
“It’s done,” she unceremoniously said.
“The Devout is dead?” Madafe had had doubts about hiring her, but it looked like his gamble had paid off. He would have to pay her handsomely from his personal funds, but if it meant that Savel was avenged, it was worth it.
“Well, something like that.” The woman opened the box and pulled out a head, still frozen from contact with hard vacuum. “This Devout is dead, but there are probably more.”
Madafe blinked, not understanding. “But… but this is…” he sputtered. The frozen head was scorched and pitmarked, and the eyes were gone, but Madafe would have recognized that face anywhere. It was Savel Nabnela.
“Your friend? Yeah, I figured that out right before I popped his escape pod. He tried to give me this long spiel about how he had confronted the real Devout, but had been convinced by the heretic to switch sides and join the Blood Raiders.” The Minmatar shrugged. “He even tried to recruit me… but it’s like they say: ‘But those who turn away from His light, and reject His true word, shall be struck down by His wraith.’” She sat the head down of the Madafe’s desk, tactlessly pointing it toward him.
“The Book of Reclaiming, Chapter 4, Verse 45,” Madafe mumbled back, purely on instinct. And then, slowly realizing what had occurred, he hollowly continued, “You know the Scriptures?”
The Minmatar had moved to the door, but she paused for a moment, half turning around. “You asked why I wanted a mission. Honestly? I like how Amarrian ships look. They’re beautiful, with their golden hulls and their gleaming lasers. I wanted to fight alongside something so beautiful and so regal.” She half-heartedly chuckled. “As a capsuleer, that’s my prerogative. But…” and here she gave a thin smile, “it’s more than that. God told me I should join up with the Amarr.”
Without another word, she walked out the door.
Madafe watched as she left, the door and its backward-looking letters eventually swinging back into his view. Then, for a long time he sat, staring into the hollow eye cavities of Savel’s head. Loyal Amarrians turning traitor, slave ilk quoting verses and claiming communion with God. That the Lord would chose one as her to mete our his justice… Chakh Madafe, Military Adjunct-Advisor, Imperial Academy, Deepari II, shook his head, trying to keep the tears from of his eyes.
Madafe wanted to call the Minmatar back, find out her name. Find out if she really meant what she said, made her sit and talk a while. If it were anyone else on the space station, he could have done just that.
Except that she was a capsuleer. And that made all the difference.