This is chapter 4 of “Redemption” a fictional tale set in the EVE Universe. Please see this page for more background on this story.
Orv woke up when the Iteron made contact with the docking braces at The Center for Advanced Studies in Cestuvaert. Disoriented, he looked out his porthole and found himself mesmerized by the view: a cratered moon casting the Gallente station into pale light. The station may have been dirty, scratched by countless micrometeorites and scorched by the occasional solar flare but its rounded features and elegant curves told him that he finally had arrived. He felt relieved, at ease and cheered by the bustling in the cargo hauler’s passenger aisle. A few Gallente Incaris were getting up, stretched their legs and grinned broadly. They had returned home. “Home” was not a word Orv had used in a long time but their happiness infected him too and he found himself smiling for the first time in years. He got up, loosened his survival suit and shouldered his tiny bag.
He smiled until he met the Hazmat team that had been sent to escort him to the medical station. Yes, he had undergone massive surgery and nannite injections in the station of a sworn enemy. Yes, there are known nanites that could be “infectious” but this show of containment had come a little late. After all, he spent several days in a tin can with 200 other passengers and crew breathing recycled air, docking several times each day to let passengers off the ship. What nefarious things the Amarr may have infected him with would now be spread over half the galaxy. A little late for containment maybe? But of course, there was no arguing with military orders – there never was.
Orv sighed and let them connect his survival suit with their rolling air supply and closed his hood. They led the way, filled with importance of their duty, pride of protect their home from imaginary threats and hope that their superiors and relatives would watch them in awe on the station news feed. They led Orv to the medical station where he would likely spent the next few days being prodded by wide-eyed interns.
They didn’t find anything. Of course. They tested his body for tracking or exploding devices, exposed him to every imaging technology possible until Orv put a stop to it. The radiation would eventually harm the neural nanites that cost 1 bn ISK and his sister’s freedom, so he could not have some nurse accidentally nuke them whilst she was painting her nails. He called for the chief of the medical station who looked at his chart and ranted that Orv was the sloppiest capsuleer job he had ever seen and that he would likely burn his brain to a crisp if he had the temerity to jack himself into a shuttle. He rambled on about Amarr doctors in general, comparing them to creatures so low on the evolutionary ladder that Orv imagined them with gills and pseudopods sticking out of their lab coats. Orv had to laugh out at that image but the doctor found nothing amusing about it and discharged him on the spot. Dressed still in his hospital gown, Orv stood in the main artery corridor of the bustling station. A tame slaver hound wearing a pink bow-tie playing with a fluffy baby bunny would have attracted less attention.
Indignities aside, Orv found his quarters in the capsuleer training wing of the station, was given a bunk and an introduction to the training course. Non-capsuleers always assumed that training involved nothing but buying a skill book and uploading it into your head. Voila, you could fly a carrier and swat away millions of people. Not quite. Training consisted of countless hours inside a stationary pod trying to control the myriad of ship subsystems with his own nervous system. Sure, the hardware for that was injected with the skill book but learning how to operate it was a completely different manner. And the skills build on top of each other, so he had to start with the lowliest of all frigates, armed with a civilian gun (spitball, they called it) and a mining laser that had less power output than a modern electric toothbrush. His ship would be crewed by a group of “seasoned (i.e., nearly retired) engineers who had been serving this ship class for so long that they knew all the possible ways a capsuleer could screw up. They had rigged all ship controls into their own home-built survival pods and would eject at the first sight of danger. Basically, save of a Doomsday Device, nothing could harm them there and they expected nothing from Orv other than that he would not fly them into the sun. A scenario for which they had a well-practiced escape plan.
But training first. Orv reported to the the bridge of the training wing and was issued his brand new immersion suit. It was the best money could buy and while he was not quite sure where it came from, he slipped into it without asking questions. The suit sensed his body’s contours and sucked itself so close to the skin that it almost became one with it. It glistened black and looked wet like an oil slick but was dry to touch no matter how much he would perspire. The suit would jack itself into his neuronal network and translate his body’s motion into commands and feed back electronic input to his skin and nerves.
A young technician guided him to the training capsule and Orv could spot a large number of operators and trainers behind the thick glass watching him intently. Presumably drowning yourself for the first time makes for a good spectacle. Or they wanted to know if the Amarrian nanites worked with the Gallente electronics system. If they didn’t they would have to dispose of a body and fill out reports, nothing they looked forward to.
The hatch of the capsule was open and Orv climbed into the cavern. The technician suppressed a smirk and closed the hatch after pointing out that this one did not have the escape handle that real capsules had, presumably every new recruit would pull it in panic and flood the room with expensive pod goo – easier to just let them thrash in terror for a bit than to mop the liquid up.
When the hatch closed, literally all noise from the outside vanished. Orv was by himself – until he plugged the pod’s umbilical cable into the jack at the base of his brain. Then he would be in direct communication with the operators behind the glass who would put him into a simulated spaceship and monitor his vital signs.
The sensation of sticking a cable into his brain stem turned out to be not exciting at all. After all, it was designed to be seamless but now could hear the operators as if they stood next to him. He could see what they wanted him to see by projecting it from the computer interface into his optic nerve. They could sense his vital signs, spot the smallest of his motions and have the suit counteract it. This way, Orv could – in theory – haptically manipulate simulated switches and such but that of course was no way to drive a multi-billion spaceship. Eventually, he would “feel” and control the spaceship as if it was an extension of his body. But for now, it was just a training operator telling him that they would flood the capsule with podgoo and if he panicked, too bad. There was a slight disappointment in the operator’s voice as if he really had hoped for a major malfunction of the Amarr-Gallente interface with spectacular results, short wiring, seizures and exploding eyeballs that he could tell his children about over dinner. But none of that sort. It just worked. How boring.
A mechanical clunk reverberated through the capsule, a valve opened and Orv felt the fluid enter the pod near his feet. Air escaped through tight slits above his face and he tried to steady his breath. He had anticipated this moment for years, had known about it, heard stories about it and of course had been exposed to it before during his surgery – but then he had been anesthetized. He knew his body would take it – they had tested his larygnospasm which would prevent him from inhale the liquid. But he lacked that spasm – they were happy to tell him – allowing him to drown properly and not just black out. It was important that the entire lung filled with liquid or he could get embolisms when pulling high G’s. The liquid also had a much higher capacity to carry oxygen than air and through convection he would not even have to breathe. But he would have to learn to flood his lungs with this stuff first.
The liquid crept up on his sides and between his legs. He assumed that the operators ran it as slowly as possible to prolong the panic but he had no evidence for that. Finally, it reached the sides of his face, rolled over his mouth, eyes and nose and entered his nostrils. He had to fight the urge to lift his head above the surface where there still was air. Orv was determined to deal with it right here, opened his mouth and inhaled sharply. He was rewarded with a massive coughing fit that spasmed his body and he violently jerked his head into the ceiling of the pod. But there was no pain, a cushion had been installed there for that purpose – blood contaminates the expensive podgoo. Orv was shaken with involuntary retching and coughing fits while the capsule filled at constant rate. He panicked. He needed to get out. His vision shrank to a tunnel and he screamed for help to the entertainment of the assembled operators outside. The podgoo rose to his shoulders now, his ears and he pressed his mouth against the vents, wishing for a stream of air. It didn’t come. The liquid rose past his eyes through the vents and he held his breath while sinking back down to the base of the pod. Immersed in liquid, cut off from the outside world, he realized that this would be how he would die some day. Alone, in sheer terror and without hope.
Orv thought of his sister and inhaled deeply.