Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Apex Predators Of New Eden: Update On The Initial Drifter Incursion in Nandeza

"May you live in interesting times."
 Unknown - Jovian Historical Codex

There are several new and distinct patterns of tactics emerging from all sides since the Incursion commenced.

- as well as the incursion sites themselves, the Drifters are maintaining their previous tactic of 'benign station camping' where they ignore 'independents' and wait for the Navy to arrive.

When the Navy shows up in an invariably larger fleet, they are summarily wiped out by the Drifters who experience minimal losses if any. Large clouds of wreckage are left behind, which become prime looting targets.

That loot seems to be comprised mostly of smartbombs, Navy-spec frequency crystals and energy turrets. Mostly 'Large' stuff. When looting and salvaging that wreckage, the Drifters will just sit there and let you do it, right under their noses.

[NB: I witnessed at least one example of anomalous behaviour where an engagement ended by seemingly being called off on both sides with combatants still on the field. So for a moment, we had 'dogs and cats living together' see below]

- the favoured capsuleer response to these skirmishes is to launch a Mobile Tractor Unit to hoover everything up. I assume that the key target among this wreckage is not necessarily the Navy stuff, but the exotic, mysterious and highly coveted Antikythera Element that is to be found in Drifter wreckage.

- this in turn is causing capsuleers to either engage looters on sight (caveat: this is still in deep lowsec so that may only be coincidence) or to attack the MTU itself, as I witnessed last night.

So it's potentially not about defeating an enemy that, let's face it, few of us have any real chance against, but it's about scavenging around in the mess left behind for personal profit.

Summary: the Navy may have overestimated the level of capsuleer interest in their war with the Drifter Faction. At least they have down here in the remote border regions of Khanid.

[UPDATE: 28/08/117 - according to the Crossing Zebras channel, intelligence reports indicate the strong likelihood that the Drifters' incursions - wherever they occur - will persist and spread until they are prevented from spreading no more by either us or the Navy. In other words, the semi-passive policy exhibited by capsuleers and described above will not work in the long term and could conceivably result in the Drifters spreading across the whole of New Eden with a degree of impunity. My guess is that the proliferation won't stop until it starts to affect the large 'null blocs', because at the moment, it doesn't]

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Eye-Witness Report Of The Amarr Navy Engaging The First Drifter Incursion in Nandeza

[note: this entry refers to what is an ongoing event at the time of publishing. The exact outcome of the Incursion is not yet known.]

I've been up in Southern Aridia doing some covert reconnaissance in the [classified. Regards, PHP1 Legal Dept.] system and the [classified. Regards, PHP1 Legal Dept.] system.

I'd finished the tasking and was about to return to our base in Nandeza when I caught sight of World News announcing the first confirmed evidence of the anticipated commencement of regular, organized, openly-hostile Incursions into Amarr space by the Drifter faction - in Nandeza!!!

Right on our front door!!!

Now it didn't take long to return to our place because the Anathema I was using on task - Shoot Them Later - has highly-modified engines which facilitate a Vmax(warp) of 12.78 AU/s, so I didn't have much time to think about how I was going to address this because this was technically the opportunity of a lifetime; to witness this event, to be here, in-situ, to record the beginning of what will inevitably become an extremely long, costly war of attrition that I fear will be won by the side that brings the least emotion into it - the cyber-hive-mind itself. Ask any lecturer on military strategy: the battle is won before it even starts etc.

According to the databases, the Incursion was in three systems in the Homroon constellation, that Nandeza was a 'staging system' so the presence would be relatively light, with the map revealing two Amarr Navy defensive positions and a 'Drifter Influx'.

I arrived in Nandeza and headed to one of the Navy defensive installations. This was not about engaging them in any ship, even my Prophecy, because at my levels of skill and experience, that would be an irresponsible waste of a ship and a pointless waste of time and ISK.

No, this was about observing. Watching them. Recording them.

I arrived in their vicinity, stood off at 60 km range and waited to see what would happen next.

They did their thing. Six of them: sitting there, waiting. Five of one and one of the other. The Outpost appeared intact. There was some wreckage in the vicinity. Capsuleers had been here. NEOCOM/Local and the Defense Of The Throne Worlds Incursion channels saw comments implying swift, belittling responses in the form of action without language.



Speak to me...

Why do you wish vengeance upon the Amarr Empire? Why do you ignore the other lot?

Why did you assassinate Jamyl? 

Do you not care to communicate except with weapons?

Are you capable of emotion or are you not burdened so?


Then the Navy showed up, and it started. I had a grandstand seat. Popcorn was not an option while jacked-in:

Answer me...

Why did you select the remote border regions of Khanid to start this?

Are you a hive mind?

Do you feel?

Do you love? 

 Do you fear?

"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared... 

"They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms...

"And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure...

"And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly...

"You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us."

Unknown - Jovian Historical Codex

Knowledgable capsuleers will read more into these cam drone images than I can. Tactical doctrine may even be modified as a result, and if so, this report has done its job.

Three Drifter battleships were destroyed, while at least 20 Navy vessels - all of them - were lost. This is a kill ratio of nearly 7:1 in favour of the Drifters. They started from a position of numerical inferiority and still won. This is a war of pure attrition, in which the strongest weapon is the will to wait it out - to just keep on going, relentlessly, until time has the final say.

The Drifter Faction appears capable of extraordinary patience..

Saturday, 22 August 2015

She Is Not Dead

I was there! I saw it!

If you've been in a cave, then I'm talking about the assassination of Empress Jamyl by a surprise attack from a Drifter fleet during the ceremonial launch of the Navy's new Abaddon in Safizon.

I was in the system to watch as the event was publicised in advance on World News. I arrived slightly late for the proceedings (fashionably late), but I stood off at 50 km range in my Magnate (Revolution) as the anticipated huge crowd of over 700 capsuleers jammed the Local channel solid. I wish I could say I got a good view of Jamyl's Titan - TES Seraph - but I didn't. There were some agitators, some grandstanders, but these idiots were dealt with:

Then this happened, but you'll know all about it by now (apologies for the crapness of my cam drone imagery, but I was 50 km away):

If you really didn't know, a large Drifter fleet warped in from one of their self-generated wormholes and one-shot Jamyl's Titan with a massive combined volley of their 'Lux Kontos' doomsday weapons.

It didn't stop with the Titan. Jamyl's pod was scrambled and destroyed:

It was very obviously a planned surgical strike on a single pre-selected target. An assassination, no less.

The response in the Local channel from the community was what you would expect: 60% concern, 20% shock, 20% arseholery:

The Navy, on the other hand, appeared unprepared and in a state of discombobulation (and why was some idiot persisting in flogging scam contracts in Local when all this was going on?):

The Navy went on to assume the Drifter fleet would make a move on Navy HQ in Amarr, but the Drifters' work was in fact done: they disappeared back from wherever they came from.

It was over as quickly as it had begun.

* * * * *

So Empress Jamyl is dead.

Or is she?

She is a capsuleer. It is simply inconceivable that she didn't have a cloning provision in place just like the last time.

Above is one of the cam drone stills I obtained when I revisited the Safizon system the day after the tragedy and observed the wreck of the TES Seraph up close. It is an awesome sight. A dead Imperial Titan, its back broken, symbolic of a power so great that it can destroy the divine manifestation of the unimpeachable Amarrian God. A power greater than God. Or, if you prefer, a demonstration of the principle of 'he who has the biggest guns always wins, even against a Titan'.

Now here's my own bit of political commentary:

- wasn't it a bit obvious that the Drifters would make an attempt on Jamyl's life during this event given their previous form? Since the event was so public, all the Drifters had to do was watch World News to find out when it was happening. That's a laughable breach of security right there, even if Jamyl was all insistent and Imperial about showing up, which I'm sure she was.

- as soon as they had performed the hit, the Drifter fleet did not hang around to engage the Navy. They vacated the scene immediately like any decent assassin. This new massed fleet 'hit and run' tactic combined with the ability to appear at will wherever they want to makes them basically invincible. This is all the more reason for us to get into UUA-F4 and find out what the hell happened to the Jovians as soon as possible, to bring them back into the fold and ask them nicely to give us some more of the tech that CONCORD uses. It's the only way.

- ultimately though, the power vacuum created by Jamyl's apparent death is far more dangerous to the Empire than any amount of Drifter fleets. The cliques, coteries and factions within the Amarrian theocracy that were seen to oppose Jamyl will have been manoeuvring long before this happened, and her 'death' is a gift to them; but need I say the words 'Chamberlain Karsoth'? The Karsoth Era was the worst period that the Empire ever endured and directly led to the Elder War. Karsoth was supposed to be a 'placeholder' while the interminable Succession Trials argument went on, and he used the interregnum to consolidate his position with the unseen backing of the Covenant until the return of Jamyl in YC110. Now after Jamyl's removal, a pretender must not be allowed to gain power again.

- I'll say it again: Jamyl was a capsuleer. She was piloting her own Titan when it was attacked. Her capsule was warp-scrambled and destroyed by Drifters. Her body was reportedly observed. We all know what is supposed to happen next, don't we?


Jamyl will rise again.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Mishi IV - The Ni-Kunni Homeworld


During a particularly bleak period I died three times in five days.

I lost three ships and two sets of implants.

During one of these deaths, I even managed to 'arrive' in Conoban during a period of high demand, so my consciousness and core essence of being were held in a buffer for four hours. I was queued like a damned packet download. During this period I was a non-corporeal entity. I was a digital ghost. 

Losing the implants was worse than losing the ships. Among others I had the Limited Cybernetic Beta and the Eifyr & Co. WS-605 Warp Drive Speed enhancement. Nothing too sophisticated; it's not like I was holding Genolutions or Crystal Betas in my head, but that warp speed headmod was incredible as it allowed me to see the chaos of spacetime like I was reading music; to play my engines as if they were instruments of ultra-efficient performance. Intermix physics became exquisite symphonies to be played in the universe's infinite concert hall. I didn't need to be told where my engines' limitations were by instrumentation; I could hear them. Quarks became quantum harmonies; the boson was my bassline.

It was a beautiful thing.

The gunnery implant I'd dabbled with and quickly embraced (along with Surgical Strike and Sharpshooting skills), allowed me to look at a target from 40 km away and decide not what half of the ship to hit, but which of the capsuleer's eyeballs.

It was empowering and addictive.

Waking up with the intelligence and perception mods in my head was like being able to instantly speak another language. I laughed at my unaugmented childlike previous self and wondered how the hell I ever functioned. My skill-training regime was enhanced - quickened - by the 'ware in my head, along with sheer ability. I couldn't help but perceive the slowness of the physical world around me; that unaugmented meatheads were idiots. I understood why the Jovians pursued their cyborgising philosophy, while still considering them to have gone too far with it, to have stripped their humanity away in the pursuit of perfection, because to be human is to be imperfect.

There's no reason why we can't become more efficient and less stupid though. Cybernetic mods, headware, skullcircuits, neurocyborgising, whatever you want to call them, on the whole, are a good thing.

So when you wake up in a clone bay with them all missing, it's like forgetting how to speak or forgetting where you live. There's a hole in your head and in your persona - your essence - because you can't do those things anymore until you go and get the implants replaced. Waking up from that process, the re-implantation, is like recovering from a massive hangover. Being reduced to the meathead state again is intensely traumatic. Never again...

I was discussing all this with Taltha again in my quarters in Conoban, after she'd supervised my third regeneration in less than a week and made it crystal clear to me how disgusted she was with me.

"How can implants possibly be a good thing for you if this keeps happening and you have to go and buy them all again?" she said.

She had a point.

"It's a downswing. It happens. It's like that card game I've been learning. Poker. You have ups and downs," I said.

"Not in your case. I've seen the killmails. Each time you got killed because you can't follow your own advice." She said this with some sarcasm and not a small amount of contempt.

"That's not fair! Anyway some of that nullsec pirate lot get killed three times in an hour. I'm not that bloody bad!"

"You're supposed to be more noble than that. You're an explorer, not a killer. I'm disappointed Cassandra. Disappointed."

"So you're not going to do your thing on me tonight then? The 'physio' ?"

"No. If you think you're on a downswing - if that's what you want to believe - then break the cycle: take some time off. Do something else. Go and visit that ancestral homeworld of yours. Where was it?"

"Mishi IV. Aridia."

"That's it. OK, I'm off. I have to go and revive some more capsuleers. It's a never-ending conveyor belt and frankly sometimes you lot are a complete pain in the ass."

She got up from the couch and left. She walked out still carrying the beer I gave her. I'd never actually annoyed Taltha before like this.

That idea about visiting the homeworld though: she had a point there too...

* * *


My parents always made it abundantly clear where I had come from, ancestrally. Genetically. They also made it abundantly clear how Ni-Kunni had come to benefit long-term from accepting a short-term trauma in the form of being found by the Amarr and subjected to their Reclaiming, in order to enjoy a later freedom in the form of still being able to function as an ethnic enclave. It sounded to an outsider like collaboration, but it was actually cunning, guile, subterfuge and chameleonic properties that carried us through because Amarr dogma makes all Amarr a bit one-dimensional and, in a sense, slightly gullible. All you have to do is remind them how superior they are.

That process took several centuries and was emphatically not painless, but it was the example my parents set to me: that our lifestyle on Eclipticum as a respected family of traders was the result of playing a multi-generational game.

One thing they or any of my Elders never did was imply any kind of 'pilgrimage' to the homeworld was necessary; except to say that it was up to me, that Ni-Kunni look forward, not back; that the past doesn't exist anymore; at which point I would question the contradiction in that statement with the ancestry thing. My parents would say that "history is not the same as the past". At this point I would leave and go out drinking again, with all the insouciance of any self-obsessed teenager who only thinks as far as the next day.

Fast-forward a decade: now I'm a capsuleer, enjoying a form of conditional immortality and a kind of freedom of the cluster, not only because I can travel on my own terms, but because the capsuleer's political ambiguity allows me to easily travel to places that non-capsuleer 'meatheads' can't easily reach.

Now was the time to make the trip.

Mishi IV is on that list of 'not easy to reach' which is a list that is far longer than you think it should be. It is deep within the hardcore lowsec of Aridia (although according to strict galactic geography it is above most of it) and is not served by regular transports, not even InterBus, so it requires a covert ops mindset. Naturally, as Taltha observed, I ignored my own advice and took the Imperial Navy Slicer. Actually, Sid Vicious is now a competent ship as I've fitted the Tech II-class weapons I've now trained for which can attain 168.2 DPS with Gleam S crystals. In terms of firepower, it's as good as any frigate. But what about the meathead at the centre of it...?

I also had a political window of opportunity in the form of Aridia's dominant alliance Lowsechnaya Sholupen currently being an ally of our ally Darwinism. This meant I could pass by their wreckage-strewn gate camps in Sadama as if they weren't there. I was officially 'blue'.

Mishi IV itself is not on the capsuleer's network of ports-of-call either. It has no orbitals other than a standard automated POCO station. Mishi VI, VII and VIII on the other hand, have active orbitals. I berthed Sid in one of these and caught the next intra-system shuttle to IV, my ancestral homeworld.

* * *


It's an indicator of how much of a backwater Mishi IV has become, and an indicator of how history can become sidelined when it doesn't have a price tag attached to it, that the birthplace of an entire ethnic community can become unimportant, even to an extent to that community itself. But such an attitude has preserved the planet. Orthodox Amarr dogma: the databases, the encyclopediae, would all have you believe that Mishi IV was always and still is a troglodytic slum. The 'lack of resources', its failure to register on the Amarr bottom line and the consequent Amarr withdrawal, has actually saved and preserved the planet and large sections of its paleo-culture.

The largest city on IV has no more than half a million people in it. There are two continents that have no roads and less than a hundred souls living on them. The badlands, the deserts of every flavour - red, brown, gold, orange; the Grand Ergs, Great Ergs, the Four Expanses, the Lesser and Greater Western Dune Seas, the Great Interior Sea and its Shoreline: all as they were when humanity first settled here in preference to the nominally-temperate VI and VIII because it was the least worst option climatically.

What few records remain on the ancient aborted terraforming programme that generated IV's oceans are probably best expressed in the series of cometary impact remnants that are now large shallow lakes.

There are a few surviving religious temples from that earliest and most devout period too. The Dark Ages following the collapse of the EVE Gate caused the population to turn to whatever they could find to survive, effectively stranded on a desertified planet that had been arrested from developing into the lush utopia they had planned for by the cessation of logistical support from that same EVE Gate.

I think the prevailing belief among the religious, was something about desertification as a result of the 'wrath of God shutting down the portal from heaven as a punishment for attempting to change the face of that which is pure', or something along those lines. Nobody really knows for sure anymore after the Amarr came and purged virtually every belief system that preceded them.

The oldest of these temples is still used today as a retreat for those of us who remain Amarr-devout. It is 12,000 years old. As far as I know, nobody practices the old pre-Amarr ways anymore, but there is one wall in this temple that escaped the Amarr revisionist policy and is still decorated with the ancient tracts of the water barons. It is viewable 'by appointment only', meaning the right name, the right facial tattoos, the right relatives, and a mandatory antipathy towards certain more modern religions...

The relative slowness of the non-warp-capable intra-system shuttle meant the advance notice of my arrival generated by the shuttle's passenger manifest generated a certain amount of status on my behalf. I became a 'Returner' in the eyes of some minor local media who wanted to interview me as a cultural curiosity - the requests came in before I'd even landed. Meanwhile, in the shuttle's passenger lounge, my visible cyberware spoke for me and triggered conversations with other Ni-Kunni.
"So many of you never come back", they would say.
"I thought it was the Ni-Kunni way?" I would reply.
"It is," they would respond, typically ambiguously.

On the ground, on IV itself, people even referred to me by my full name without me even telling them what it was: Cassandra Serena Orizi-Habalu-Dannidaana. I should explain: all Ni-Kunni that have triple-barrelled family names like me are directly descended from IV's ancient water barons who all practiced polygamy in their mobile fiefdoms as an insurance against the harsh, nomadic desert lifestyle all the ancients had to adopt. Those 'aristocracy' became Holders after the Amarr arrival, then most of them emigrated off-world, with my own ancestors ending up on Eclipticum and eventually renouncing their Holder status in favour of becoming the family of wealthy traders that was eventually able to send me to Hedion University. That's how far we've come. That's why I've got three names.

As a result of my name, the very few remaining Holders on IV got wind of my presence and requested my attendance at a couple of receptions they threw in their respective townships. Apparently, and probably as a result of some degree of boredom, among this class it's 'any excuse for a party', but this thing about me being a 'returned noblewoman' was so far removed from everything to do with my upbringing and being a capsuleer that I considered turning them down, but my curiosity wouldn't rest.

Besides, it would give me an excuse to see more of the planet.

These parties seemed to have a dress code, although nobody told me. Ni-Kunni women still wore veils as part of a vibrantly colourful formal dress. The men stuck to standard Amarr, but with the common theme of that horrible dark purple colour that Amarr have decreed should be 'Ni-Kunni' like a bloody ID card (just like how Khanids are supposed to wear black all the time). At least the women's veil thing had an indigenous historical reference at its core in the form of the veil being an ancient and essential protection against the planet's harsh sandstorms; now it's merely a fashion statement traditionally only removed after nightfall.

Decorations inside the Holders' villas always contained strong references to our nomadic past: carpeting, rugs hanging on walls, exotic carvings, simulacra of cave paintings either painted on a wall or projected as a holo; books, parchments, Amarr Scriptures; banks of modern holovid screens embedded in walls made of 5,000-year-old brick sourced only from one place on the planet. As a fusion of ancient and modern, it was actually all incredibly well-executed and very tasteful, and I couldn't complain. There was none of the crassness and obvious materialism that you might find in the home of a Gallente.

At these parties, my sockets and augmentations were once again a source of great interest, as well as my ship, the corporation, and capsuleer life in general. I held a kind of court:
"Are you really a clone?"
"I'm the same person in a different body," I'd reply.
"What ship have you come here in?"
"It's actually an ex-Navy ship. It's called an Imperial Navy Slicer."
"Is it really dangerous in Aridia?"
"More than most regions, yes."
"Why is it so dangerous when there's nothing here?"
"That's why it's so dangerous. There are conflicts going on right now, out there, above your heads, that you won't necessarily get to hear about."
As a form of theatre I borrowed someone's datapad, networked into Sid docked around VIII and pulled up the star charts for Aridia with the 'Ships Destroyed In The Last Hour' function:

"See that? Look at those yellow blobs," I said. "All these yellow blobs are capsuleers killing each other right now. Some of it's right next-door."
"Right next-door? That big one there - Jasson - is three light years away."
I hesitated: "Well... three light years... in stargate terms it's right next door. I mean I can be there in less than five minutes from the undock..." I was determined not to force a cosmic perspective on them, but I'd done it anyway. I wasn't going to convince them though. It's not as if the population were in any real danger, even though there were a couple of extant minor Covenant enclaves in this system. It's not even as if the night sky is full of the lights of spacecraft like on Oris. The citizens of Mishi IV are totally disconnected from cluster politics. In a sense the best thing the Amarr did was withdraw and leave them to it, and given the way things are in the cluster now, it's easy to envy their innocence; although whether the prevailing economic stagnation on IV means that 'innocence' also equals contentment for its wider population is a matter for serious debate.

More drinks (heavily spiced chai), more voices: "Is your corporation really badass" [I was shocked at the use of the word badass]
"Yes, yes it is."
"Where is it based?"
"I'm sorry, I can't say."
"How many people have you killed?"...and there we go.
"None," I would lie: the eternal hypocrisy of the capsuleer's policy of only counting the temporarily inconvenient serial 'deaths' of immortal capsuleers as 'kills'; discounting the hundreds (thousands?) of Sani-Sabik lives I had ended in the process of Covenant takedowns; and Serpentis; and Guristas. Sansha's Nation I would prefer to regard as liberations from a form of deathlife.

It was at one of these parties where I met Alisu Serrasus-Aabaanaa-Cataalio. She stood out a kilometre because she renounced the veil before sunset. Not a cultural faux-pas at all, but the sign of a rebellious nature nonetheless. Her husband Arshadru was a famous painter on IV and was every bit as liberal as you would expect an artist to be, and evidently as liberal as Alisu was.

"One of my brothers became a capsuleer like you," she told me. "I haven't spoken to him for two years, but the last I heard he was working for the Goonswarm Federation."
"It happens. The lack of contact," I said. "We become divorced from the normal conduct of human society. It's the immortality - the cloning."
When I said this, she furrowed her brow slightly as if the idea of her brother enjoying unlimited bio-reboots hadn't occurred to her - that her brother was technically not the same person he was the last time she saw him.
"You know Goonswarm?" I asked her, immediately regretting it.
"Of course," she replied, sharply. "People can read in Aridia you know. We get the holofeeds."
"Sorry, that was unnecessary"
"Yes", she smirked, enjoying my embarrassment.
After some more spiced chai, small talk and a bit of background musical accompaniment, later on Alisu asked me: "Where are you going next?"
From somewhere deep in my race memory I invoked a traditional Ni-Kunni idiom that I'd never even said before: "I think I'll just follow the sand."
"Let me be your tour guide then," she said. "I have nothing to do for a few days and he won't mind..."

* * *


In the end I stayed on IV for two weeks. I tried not to be such a tourist, but with Alisu as my highly selective and discerning guide I toured the ancient sites that I'd only seen in holovids. The Monument To The Founders; the Amarrian First Landing Monument which is now semi-derelict and ignored. Alisu's insider knowledge took me to all the best bars, cafes, galleries, restaurants, private drinking clubs, places that don't appear on any tour guide and that I would never have known about or even found by accident. She even showed me that you don't need an armed guard to walk round the markets after dark, once again contrary to Amarr dogma.

With Alisu's advice, I bought an apartment on the top floor of a low-rise block in the fashionable, artisan part of Grava-Kunstler, one of the oasis cities in the equatorial Lesser Western Dune Sea. Grava-Kunstler has no spaceport. It has no airport either. It is accessible only by three monorails from the capital, which means my ship in the orbital at Mishi VIII is a minimum of two days' travel away.

Alisu was a typically Ni-Kunni woman with guile, a permanent aura of mischief and wonderfully sensual (like me, let's face it), and for the remainder of my time on IV we duly became lovers with the full sanction of her artist husband, who I'm sure would have liked to paint us in the act were he not at a conference on the other side of the planet and practising his own form of ambiguity. The affair seemed perfectly natural and made sense, because sometimes that's just how it is. It was the ideal way to end the journey, which wasn't really at an end at all.

I have enough ISK in the bank already that I could retire here and go native right now, today; but I have unfinished business out there. For now though, being among my people is grounding: a form of rejuvenation better than any cloning. I am living among my history. And, I now have at least two reasons to return here on a regular basis: the apartment, and Alisu.

* * *

I prepared Sid Vicious back at the station around VIII for a departure, back to the day job, back to the cosmos and the timeless infinite.

Before I left, I messaged Alisu and told her to go outside her villa at a certain hour of the night and look up into the night sky roughly in the direction of the EVE Gate, as I would be putting on a lightshow. The energy weapon/exploding-fusion-reactor-generated 'lightshow', easily visible just a couple of AU distant from IV, was a weapons work-up in the form of removing the Covenant presence in the Mishi system in its entirety. My people would be safer for at least a few days.

She messaged a reply straightaway: May the sand dunes point the way.

As I left the system headed for Southern Aridia I realised my parents were right: history is in the present and alive in all of us.

The past no-longer exists.