This is the diary & short stories of Shalee Lianne, in the fictitious universe, New Eden, in the game of Eve Online. Come be a part of her world...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Entry 147: Meeting Lukka

"How did your meeting go?"

Shalee glanced sideways, unsurprised to see the Imperial Agent. He seemed to have a way of popping up out of the blue. He grinned at her as he settled against the railing that she'd been leaning on, watching the waves rolling across the shoreline.

"It was strange. Every interaction I've ever had with that man has ended poorly. Time after time he's acted as if he hated me...now all of a sudden he's actually nice to me? It makes no sense. And he wants me to actually trust him. I mean, there's trust then theres I'm-putting-my-life-in-your-hands trust. He says he can give me back most of my memories."

"He has a backup?"

"It's pretty current, I'd only be missing a couple of months of memories."

"So you'd remember everything but the most important thing you're after. You wouldn't know why you got involved with Tiger," he said thoughtfully.

She nodded.

"I wish I could help you. I honestly don't know what you were up to. I told you several times to stay away from him. He wasn't an official assignment, not from the Empire. However that doesn't mean anything really, you could have picked up the assignment from any number of people."

"Like Raphael Saint?"

Kathetel nodded. "You might have done some work for him. Or CVA even, Tiger was a huge thorn in their side at one time. There could have been any number of reasons you befriended him. You could have decided to do it on your own, for whatever reason. You have a habit of killing Sani Sabik, after all. Or...it could be what it seems. You could have actually fell in love with him...despite my warnings."

She shrugged, "Guess I'll never really know the whole truth."

He looked out at the sea, "Are you going to take Verone up on his offer?"

"I don't know. I have until the morning to decide. He seems genuine and everyone keeps telling me that I can trust him- well, Miko and his doctor, anyhow."

"You've trusted him in the past."

"That's what he said. But I don't remember that. I don't remember him, all I know is that he is a notorious crime lord, on the DED's most wanted, and that he has a strong hatred for Amarr. So yeah, not too eager to put my life in his hands."

Kathetel suggested, "You could always live as you are now."

Shalee made a face, "True. But then I'd always wonder. I'd always have this lingering doubt in the back of my mind about everyone. If I take him up on the offer, at least I'd know. Maybe not about Tiger but everyone else."

"True. So you've made up your mind?"

She sighed, "I guess I have. I have little choice otherwise, the only other current neural copy is in the hands of Jacobi...if that's even true. It could be a ruse. I wouldn't put it past him."

"He will be dealt with in time."

"Yeah. But until then..." She brushed a strand of hair from her face, "I'll trust the pirate. But...if I don't come back..."

"You will. One way or another, you will. And if this is a setup-which I highly doubt- then I'll have your jump clone activated. It's current, yeah?"

She nodded, "Yeah. And I'll have another scan before I leave. Apparently I'll be there for at least twenty four hours, the doctor says I'll have to stay put for a while."

"You're staying at the VETO headquarters? Does Tiger even know you're doing this?"

"No one does except you, Miko, Verone, and his doctor. No one from corp knows."

"How are they anyhow?"

"Busy. We've spent weeks moving out of Huola."

"How do you feel about that?" he asked.

"It's different. All I've ever known is the Bleaks and Devoid. Though it's only sixteen jumps away it feels as if it's on the far side of New Eden. But, orders are orders, and we have been tasked with heading a new front into Minmatar space. A part of me is excited about it, I guess," she admitted.

"About that..." he pulled small data chip and passed it to her. "The real reason you guys were assigned the Otosela front..."

"A new assignment?"

He nodded. "But don't activate it until you return from Veto. Just in case, don't want them knowing what's really going on."

"Alright," she said curiously as she slipped it into her pocket. "I'll wait."

"Good. See you in a couple of days."

***

The lights of the Huola space station dimmed along the corridor, simulating evening time. At the far end of the hall, a group of new Amarrian militia pilots rounded the corner, talking loudly and laughing, obviously in a good mood. Shalee assumed their patrol went well.

She nodded to them as they passed mid-corridor. One paused and lightly grabbed her by the arm, trying to get her attention, "Hey Commodore, be careful out there, I hear Lukka was seen warping in."

Another young pilot groaned as he heard the news, "Sansha balls, not him! He cost me half a bil in implants last time he was around."

Shalee quirked a tawny brow, "Lukka?"

"Yeah, don't you remember him? Terrorized the 24th for a couple of months, popping most anything that landed."

"Scum," muttered another.

"Oh yeah, I vaguely remember something about him. So he's back?"

"That's what intel says, anyhow. So be careful okay?

"Yeah, of course." She smiled to the bunch of them, "Actually I'm not on the roster tonight, got some things to take care of planet side, but I'll see you guys in a couple of days."

"Roger that. See you Commodore." He tossed her a lazy salute as he dashed up the hall to catch up with his friends.

Shalee neared the windows and crossed her arms, staring aimlessly out into space. Several more militia pilots were being pulled into docking range. She recognized a couple of ships and made her way to the station's public hangar's, hoping she'd run into First General, needing to pass on some information to him before she clone jumped into Veto's medical facilities.

Instead, she came face to face with the notorious Lukka, though she did not recognize him.

"Are you a new recruit?" she asked, eyeing him cautiously.

He laughed. "Nothing of the sort, Commodore Lianne." He said her name slowly, grinning. He propped up against the wall and folded his arms, eyeing her with a smirk.

"Well? What do you want?" she asked impatiently, almost unnerved by the way he was staring at her.

"I have something to tell you, however, I know you're not going to believe me." He continued to grin, as if it were all some big, amusing game to him.

She found him infuriating.

"I really don't have time for this. Say what you will, sir."

"Lukka," he said, correcting her.

"You're the man I just heard about? Great. Though I warn you, your little cowardly sniping tricks wont work inside the station."

He laughed, "Now now Seashell, is that any way to talk to the man who's come to save your life?"

"Don't call me Seashell," she said with the arrogance only a Holder's daughter could muster, her tone imperious and cold. 'You'll address me as befitting my station and rank, sir." She practically spit the word at him.

"You used to like it. In fact, you used to like a lot of things..." his tone insinuated much.

"Impossible."

"You really did have a penchant for the bad boys, you know. Too bad you've forgotten."

She rolled her eyes.

"There it is, that fiery little temper that everyone finds so irresistible." He pushed himself from the wall and cornered her, his massive arms coming up to trap her against the wall behind her. "That temper that gets you into oh-so-much trouble, young lady."

She twisted her face in anger as she jerked her knee up, aiming to shove it into his groin. He grabbed her thigh before it could make contact. "You know I like it when you're rough, sweetheart." He forced her leg down as he grabbed her wrists with one hand, capturing them above her head. "Are you prepared to listen now?"

She nodded, her blue eyes blazing with hot anger. "Yes."

"Good," he said as he released her hands.

"Get off of me!" she shoved at his chest.

He laughed, not budging, remaining mere inches from her. "Being a hero is quite exhausting, you know." He said as she shoved him again. "I thought you said you were going to listen."

"Go to hell." She balled her hand into a tight fist and slammed it against the side of his jaw.

"Goddammit." He scooped her up in a fluid move, tossing her lithe form across his shoulder. She screamed and wailed at his back. "We could have done this the easy way but would you listen? Noooo." He carried across the metallic walkway and through the door of his rented station's captain's quarters.

Once inside he threw her onto a sofa, "Don't you dare move," he said as he qued up the holographic screen in front of them.

Before her eyes, the Scope logo disappeared into black as a personal recording flashed into view.

Her eyes widened as she watched herself and Lukka roll across a black, satin covered bed. Naked.

His hand caressed her thigh, inching it's way up as he asked, "Ready for round two? She giggled in response and said, "And three, and four." Her mouth grazed his jawline. "And five," she whispered seductively.


She squeezed her eyes shut as she yelled, "Turn it off!"

He complied and the room faded into semi darkness.

"Fine. I get it, okay? We fucked."

"Such a crude little mouth you have on you, Seashell. Another thing I really loved."

She exhaled a frustrated breath. "What do you even want from me? Because you must know that I don't remember you, and I feel like if I ever meant anything at all to you, I would have seen you in these past few months...and since I don't even have a clue to who you are..."

The humor left his face and he simply stared at her for the longest of moments before saying, "I've seen you. You didn't know it but I've kept my eye on you from the distance, and I know that you went to see Ethan Verone last night and I know that your old self wouldn't do that. You two quit talking for a reason."

"What do you even know about him?"

"I know what you've told me in the past. I know he is someone that meant you harm once, and I know that you need to stay away from him."

She considered his words. "But he wants to help me now. He wants to give me my memories back."

"Yeah, but at what price? He threatened to kill you before, Shalee. So you have to ask yourself now, what's in it for him?"

Friday, December 30, 2011

Entry 146: The Offer

Ethan Verone sat behind his desk, his long legs kicked up on the corner of the glass surface as he watched the holo-display in front of himself. He smiled at the images displayed and tilted his head as the door opened.
Miko Hareka led Shalee inside.

Verone gestured to the seats opposite himself, his voice, quiet and deep, his huge frame just a silouhette against the backdrop of the rattlesnakes in the dark office. "Have a seat."

Shalee slid into the offered seat and crossed one tanned leg over the other. She folded her arms across her chest, her blue gaze locked on the pirate. "Thank you."

"How've you been?" Verone asked her as Miko sealed the door behind him and leaned against it.

Her brow quirked. "Since we've last spoke? Fine, I guess." She hesitated for a second then asked, "And yourself?"

"I'm always well, life is just like that for me."

"Of course."

"How's your memory coming along?"

"I've had a recent memory."

"Oh?"

"I think perhaps because I clone jumped, I'm not sure. Just a small memory, about Raphael Saint."

"Well, this is good news. I understand if it's something you can't share."

"It's nothing major really, I remembered that I started eating meat because he introduced me to it," she said.

"That's a good thing." He smiled. "I have an idea."

She relaxed as he smiled. "Hmm?"

"I've talked it over with the best cloning physician I know, my own personal medical consultant."

"And?"

He rested his feet down and leaned forward from out of the shadow, the light from the holo projector bathing his tanned face as piercing blue eyes looked across the desk to her. "He can fix you, if you want him to."

"Fix me how precisely?"

"Well, it's possible to give you your memory back,"  Verone said.  "The specifics are beyond my simple, meatheaded brain. Would you like to talk to the doc?"

She hesitated, "But to gain it I would lose my new life, correct?"

Verone shook his head, smiling. "No, you could retain what you've learned since. Its' actually beneficial for me if you do retain what you've learned since, actually. So, it helps us both."

"Beneficial how?"

"It'd give me peace of mind."

"Explain."

"Knowing that I helped you, and knowing you know, that I helped you."

"You said I wouldn't like what I found out,"  Shalee said.

"You wouldn't now. But, with restoration, you'd deal with it, and still have he knowlege that you have now. What you've learned since the accident. Maybe the doctor can explain it better?" He glanced down to her and smiled, noting the tanned thighs. "Your dress sense has changed, I approve, and it looks like you're getting a lot of sun. That'll be on the terrace?"

"I'm just not sure why I should trust you," she admitted, then glanced down at her bare legs, "Well it's not cold there. No snow to dress for."

Verone smiled warmly, "You trusted me with your life, before. And I trusted you with mine. You trusted me with your reputation too, and I did the same." He nodded over to Miko, "Miko, be a darling and call Toma for me?"

Miko Hareka laughed slightly and nodded, before heading out, "Sure thing, Eth."

"Toma?"

Miko sealed the door behind himself as he left.

"Yeah, my Doctor," Verone said. "He was the one who treated you here, when you had your accident. He took the scans, and the gentic backup."

Shalee glanced over her shoulder as Miko left, frowning as the door closed. She returned her gaze to Verone, "I don't understand why I was here."

"You don't have to be scared of being alone with me. If I wanted to hurt you, I'd have had ample opportunity to do it before now. I don't want to hurt you Shalee."

"I'm not afraid."

"As for your question, You were here because we were... good friends, before your accident. Although we'd become a bit estranged. The friendship became very rocky. Something I regret every day."

"You haven't even tried to be friends with me that I can remember," she said.

"I alienated you for your own protection. I didn't want a fresh mind to have my influence."

"Then how are you protecting me now, by offering a chance to remember?"

"Because you're not a fresh mind any more. You have experience, you've taken a perspective on the world, and you have the knowledge to choose."

"How do you mean? Because I remembered one thing? About Raphael?"

"As a blank canvas, so to speak, you didn't have that."

"Oh."

"You understand now?"

"Experience as a capsuleer, sure." she said.

"That accounts for a lot."

"I know."

"Good, then you've learned well."

A few minutes passed by in silence.  "I'm thinking."

"About what?" he asked.

"About what to do."

Dr Einmoch tapped on the door before heading inside. He made his way over to Ethan, nodding.

Verone smiled at Toma, before looking to Shalee, "This is Toma Einmoch. The man I trust with my life every second, of every day."

She glanced up to the doctor, "Hello."

Einmoch offered a perfectly manicured hand to her, smiling, "We've met many times before, however, you won't remember. It's a pleasure to see you again, Shalee."

She shook his hand, "Oh. I see."

"Good to see you again, I guess."

The doctor chuckled.

Verone nodded then turned his attention back to her, "You always were a stubborn one, Shalee. You always had that fire about you, some of our talks have been harsh, and for that I'm sorry."

"All of our talks have been harsh except this one," she countered. "So you can see why I'm reluctant to take you at your word?"

"Then, don't take my word. Take Toma's. Unlike me, he's not in the business of taking life, he tries to save and preserve it."

"He works for you."

Verone nodded, "That he does."

"We can help you Shalee, should you allow us," Einmoch said.

"How does it work? How do you combine both sets of memories?"

Dr Einmoch took a seat in the spare beside her, and opened his palm. A soft light expanded from the centre of it, producing a holo that hovered above his smooth hand. He smiled as the image took the form of a human brain, a timeline above it. It then shrank and turned into two brains, one red, one blue. "We currently have two sets of memories, yes? We use red and blue, to denote them. seen here."

She nodded, "Alright."

"Firstly, we take you, in your present form, and run a soft scan, neural backup of you. This will preserve your current memories. From the time you awoken after the accident, until now." The blue holo of the brain turned white with the blue turning into a pulsing waveform above it. "The second set of memories are in storage, that we have."

Einmoch gestured to the flashing red holo, "We will create a clone for you here. Complete with your original memories, okay? As seen here..." A red bar appeared above it, a pulsing waveform that took the form of a timeline, "This you will use as a jumpclone... okay?"

She nodded.

"Your current memories, that you hold in your head right now, when you jump, will be parsed over, through the jumpcloning process, like so." He flicked his index finger, the two holos merged together, the brains overlapped each other, the timelines doing the same.

"You make it sound so simple."

Einmoch nodded as the brain image turned purple with the timelines doing the same, a slight grey gap between the two bands of memories. "What will happen, when we prepare the clone correctly is this. Your original memories will be retained, since there is no data to overwrite them, in long term memory."

"We ensure this by scripting the cloning sequence and the hardware not to overwrite the current state of any active neurons in the entorhinal cortex, and allow only the new data to be processed by the hippocampus. What will happen, is you will awaken with both sets of memories, you will be your old self, but you will have all the knowledge and experience you have absorbed since, even the memory of this conversation, right up until the point you jump clone. There will be a gap, between the neural scan at our facilities, and your cloning accident. That, we have no data for. To you, it will just seem like an area of memory you can't recall. A coma, effectively, like a long sleep."
"How much time is there in between do you think?"

"When was your accident?"

"Months ago. I don't recall the exact day."

"Our scan runs up until June 11th, 113. You'll have every memory up until then, then a gap, and every memory since the accident. You will know who you were, and who you are now."

"So when can we do this? How long will it take? Are there any dangers?"

"It's low risk. We could finalise a clone from a blank within twenty-four hours, then all you would have to do, is jump. I've uh, tested it. On Ethan's request."

"What do you mean by that?"

Verone glanced at the rattlesnakes out through the windows, disconnecting himself from the conversation.

Dr Einmoch said, "We ran trials, to see if the process would work. The first was a failure. We ran a further fifty seven, all were sucessful, after a minor tweak."

Shalee hesitated for a moment, then took a long breath and exhaled before saying, "Very well then. Twenty-four hours it is. Do I have to do anything to prepare?"

Einmoch shook his head, and smiled warmly, "No, just have faith. And if you'd like to see proof of the process, just look at Mr Hareka."

"Mr Hareka has lost his memories at some point too?" she asked.

"No, he volunteered to be mentally split, and re-assembled." The doctor said. "Ethan pays... extremely well."

Verone smiled.

Shalee relaxed into her chair. "I see." She looked to Ethan as he smiled. "I hope this isn't some sort of trickery but I have little choice but to trust you. I don't have any other options that I would even consider."

"I'll prepare for tomorrow, and leave you to talk." Einmoch stood and flicked his hand a little to make the holo vanish, before heading for the door. "There is one more thing, Shalee."

"Yes?"

"Make provisions not to pilot, for twenty-four hours after the clone jump. It's imperative that you stay rested and out of harm's way. Do you understand? In fact, I may insist on you staying with us for twenty-four hours after the transfer, depending on how it goes."

She nodded. "I guess they can spare me for twenty four hours."

"Excellent. Then I will see you tomorrow, when you awaken here." He smiled as he left, closing the door behind himself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blog Banter 31: Why EvE Wins


Blog Banter 31: EVE Online Community Review
Welcome to the thirty-first EVE Blog Banter, a community conversation between anyone and everyone with an interest in discussing EVE Online. For more information on how this works, check out this link or for details of this edition's topic, read on.

As any games journalist would probably tell you, a true and complete review of a Massively Multiplayer Online game is impossible. MMOs are vast, forever evolving entities with too much content for a single reviewer to produce a fair and accurate review. However, a collection of dedicated bloggers and EVE players (past and present) with a wide range of experience in various aspects of the game might be able to pull it off.

This special 'End of Year' Blog Banter edition aims to be a crowd-sourced game review. Using your gaming knowledge and experience, join the community in writing a fair and qualified review of EVE Online: Crucible. This can be presented in any manner of your choosing, but will ideally include some kind of scoring system. 

With each Blog Banter participant reviewing the areas of EVE Online in which they specialise, the result should be a Metacritic-esque and accurate review by the people who know best. 

******

There are many reasons why EvE Online is simply the best MMO there is, and I'm sure there will be a lot of responses to this blog banter describing the most obvious things: one server, learning skills via time instead of grind, and well, it's spaceships.

But the thing that keeps me most interested is the roleplay.  

I have little experience with other games, having only really played World of Warcraft before my EvE addiction, so I'll compare the two in regards to RP.  


Who RPs?

Anyone who plays EvE is essentially an rper, whether they realize it or not.  If you log into the game, you're pretending to be a space pilot.  You choose the 'story' of your character- a pirate, scammer, industrial, etc.  That is roleplay.  

So everyone who plays an MMO is an RPer to a degree.

But, some are better than others.  It takes two things to be an online rper: 1. something to write about and 2. someone to write it.

On EvE you have more unique experiences to write about because it's a sandbox instead of game-of-grind.  What's a more interesting read?  A story about yet another elf dancing on a mailbox after a long day of picking flowers, or the one guy who spent nearly a year infiltrating a corp to steal loot worth thousands of real life dollars?

So just for that reason alone, EvE is superior to WoW.

World of War Craft: 0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

What do you RP?

What happens in RP?  Everything that happens on EVE is rp essentially.  EvE Online is one massive, interactive story.  Every pilot I come across can affect my character's story.  That is the best part about EvE, is that one single person can change the entire game.

With WoW, your character starts off on a series of quest, and you grind and grind til you get to the top level, then grind some more for the top gear.  It's the same boring story for everyone.  "Oh he wants you to go kill ten kobolds and bring back some candles?  Hey wait...he told me to do the same thing!"  Your character isn't unique and you have no real choices for how the overall story goes.

But in EvE, the players are the story.

World of War Craft: 0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

Where do you RP?

Roleplay on World of Warcraft was difficult to find.  They had several realms that claimed to be rp but usually those servers were just a bunch of kids who had no idea what rp even was.

On EvE, it's relatively easy to find even if you know nothing about the game.  A new player can check the EvE Online forums and find a whole section dedicated to in-character.  (The Intergalatic Summit, aka IGS and EVE Fiction)  In game, there are many channels dedicated solely to rp.

It doesn't stop there.  There are many blogs, websites, and podcasts that are dedicated to RP.

World of War Craft:0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

When do you RP?

It happens around the clock.  With players form all over the world, there is always someone around to roleplay with usually.

On WoW, servers are sorted by countries or something, so that means there are a lot of slow times on WoW, when everyone is asleep, or off at work, yada yada.

World of War Craft: 0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

Why do you RP?

Why should you immerse yourself into the story of your toon?  Well why not?  It adds another level to the game.  RP can give you motivation and direction.  It makes what you do that much more meaningful.  As an Amarr Militia pilot, plexing can be rather dull but I do it, not because I have nothing better to do, but because it would matter to my character to defend Amarrian territority (and hey I'm hoping to get a little pvp out of it too).

RP can open up doors.  I have met so many interesting people in the game because I am a roleplayer.

Still not convinced?  I got a free year of EvE for my RP blog and won half a billion in an EvE writing contest.

There are no benefits to rping on WoW that I know of.

World of War Craft: 0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

How do you RP?

Just play the game.  If you're in the sandbox, you're roleplaying.

But if you want to take it deeper, if you want to explore your character's motivations and emotions, then you can always join one of the RP channels and interact with other people.  If you don't know what channels to join, check here for a full list.  Also, join the BackStage forums, because they are awesome too.

Or, you can write a story and blog it.  There are massive amounts of rp blogs out there all telling the story of New Eden.

When I was on WoW it was difficult to get started in it because there were no guilds and websites there to help you out.  (that I knew of anyhow)

World of War Craft: 0
EvE Online: 10 (EvE wins!)

So there you have it folks.  RP on EvE is far superior, so if you're playing WoW, quit and rp on EvE... (I might be a little bit biased :))

***


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Entry 145: The Pleasure Hub

"You look like a poster child for the 24th Imperial Crusade." He shook his head with a slight roll of his eyes. "You're in the Federation, you can't go prancing around in your militia uniform."

"You didn't say what to wear, and anyhow it's all I keep in my shuttles." She looked down at her pristine uniform, "It's not that obvious is it, not like I have on any medals."

"You're about as subtle as a Nyx in high sec." He took her by the arm, "C'mon, we need to get you changed." He led her into a nearby clothing store and took her straight into the dressing room. "Wait here."

Moments later a neon blue-haired sales girl passed her an outfit over the half-door, "He says he wants you to put this on."

"...uh, where is the rest of it?"

"Oh, right." She handed over a pair of strappy heels.

"I meant, wheres the rest of the clothes?" Shalee said as she checked her reflection in the dressing room mirror, frowning. The flimsy material barely covered her torso, "Are there pants? A skirt?"

The sales girl laughed, "Oh, you Amarrians. So precious!" She opened up the door and cast a critical eye over Shalee, "It's a dress." She moved behind her and wrapped a necklace around her throat. "There, perfect mademoiselle. Perfect! Your gentleman will adore it."

"He's not my 'gentleman'." Shalee wrinkled her nose.

"Mmm." the girl said with a knowing smile, as if she didn't believe her. "He says to meet him outside. I will have these clothes delivered to your shuttle." She said as she folded up the militia uniform. "Have fun!"

Apprehensively Shalee met up with Kathetel, "Okay what's going on? Why am I wearing this? Where are we going? And what in Jove's space are you wearing?" She drug her gaze down the length of him, giggling at the skin tight translucent shirt and tight-fitted pants. "They shine! Your pants glitter...."

He sighed, "You used to be so professional."

"Mmm. Sorry. Okay." She bit down on her lips to keep from laughing, her expression morphing into something serious.

"You wanted to know, remember?" He took her hand and pressed a metal device against her palm, injecting a nanochip. "Your new identity, for tonight anyhow. Lolita Arceli."

"Ah, undercover work. Sounds exciting."

"We'll see if you think so after it's over." He unclipped her hair and ran his fingers through it, mussing it up a bit. "Open your mouth."

"What?"

"Just do it."

Skeptically she parted her lips and winced as he poured a vial of sweet liquid across her tongue. "You're drugging me...?"

"Mildly. Don't worry, it will only last a couple of hours. It's necessary."

"Why?"

"Because they'd never buy it otherwise. You're too uptight. You spent a couple of months working on this assignment, gaining their trust. And now it's paid off, you just got clearance to the Red Room and you can bring along a guest."

"What's the Red Room?"

"You'll see."

By the time they arrived at their destination she felt as if she were floating in a sea of colors. "I feel funny."

"That's the point. You're high. They will think you're just high instead of...different."

"Oh." She laughed, "Getting high for the Empire!"

He tightened his grasp on her arm, "You must say very little from here on out, got it?"

"Got it."

The entrance to the pleasure hub was surprisingly ordinary. They were met by a professional looking Intaki who smiled and scanned their palms. After clearing them through security, they were lead into a long, dimly lit room. The walls were filled with monitors showing a variety of sexuals pleasures to be bought. Some screens showed scantily dressed girls posed provactively, others had young men. A stream of text scrolled beneath in neon red with prices for each encounter, both for neural and physical.

A bar stretched the length of the room with several patrons lounging around it, laughing and talking. A few holographic screens floated above the bar playing real time sessions with those who liked to be watched in the act.

Music played softly, mingling with the sounds of sex.

Shalee sideglanced, looking to Kathetel as the Intaki asked, "Do you need a moment to decide your pleasure?"

Kathetel shook his head, "Actually, you can take us to the Red Room. We should be on the list."

Her grin widened as she checked her datapad, "Ah, yes, of course. Do follow me." She lead them to the far end of the room and through another, well guarded door. Again they were processed through a security checkpoint. They walked down a long hallway, the artifical lights blurred as she glanced up and stumbled.

The Intaki pretended not to notice as Kathetel slid his arm around her back, steadying her, "Easy love."

They were shown into private room. As the door sealed behind them, Kathetel lead her to a sofa. In front of them a holographic display shimmered into view, the portal icon a half nude girl with her panties stretched across her thighs.

"Capsuleers," Kathetel said, queing up the menu.

Shalee squinted as she rubbed her face. "So this is it? This is the 'Red Room'?" she made air quotes with her fingers. "It's not even red!"

He laughed. "Look," he motioned to the holo. "That is the Red Room." A list of names scrolled through the air in red letters. Faces flashed behind the names.

"What the fuck," she muttered as she recognized a few names. "This is like outside? A menu? Like...no way. These people can't work here, they are capsuleers!"

"Bingo. They are capsuleers. Were, anyhow."

"What?"

He selected a name then answered her. "We're not paying for the actual person, it's their corpse."

"Get the fuck out. What? People pay for...to do...things..."

"There's an underground market for it, yeah, but only the very rich can afford it. To sex a capsuleer corpse is the ultimate dream for some."

She made a wretching sound. "That is so gross...wait. What are we doing here?!"

"Ordering." He chose an unfamiliar name. The wall behind them chimed several times as a side panel opened. A fabric covered slab with the corpse of a man slid into the room.

Shalee gasped, "What are you doing! You ordered us a corpse! I'm going to be sick."

He chuckled, "He was an agent; he was carrying something very valuable when he was podded." Kathetel unclasped Shalee's necklace and took it over to the body, using the end of the jagged jewel to slice into the dead flesh. He dug around until he found what he was looking for, a small chip.

Shalee followed him over to watch, her nose wrinkled. "I can't believe people actually do this." She cast a hesitant glance down the length of the nude body. "He doesn't even look like a corpse, he looks like he's alive."

"That's part of the procedure. They 'reanimate' the body, filling in anything that might be missing. The rest is parlor tricks. Nano animation that will respond to human contact."

"So you brought me all the way out here just so you could retrieve that?"

He nodded, "Pretty much. And to show you what you've forgotten. To show you what really goes on within the Federation. It's a hive of sin and desecration."

She winced. "I understand."

"Do you really? Do you understand that this is the sort of thing we fight against. To keep the Empire pure of this kind of blasphemy." He nodded his head toward the corpse. "This would never happen in Empire."

She nodded.

"As long as you continue with your duty, as long as you follow orders, we turn a blind eye to your other activities."

She quirked a brow, "Oh...I think I get it. So I wasn't really didn't betray either agency... I just did both."

"Precisely. Now..." he said as pushed he grabbed her chin and tilted her head to kiss her mouth before she could even react. She pulled away and slapped his face.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!" she demanded.

"We are in a pleasure hub, you need to walk out of here looking...pleased." He smirked as he rubbed his jaw. "Just part of the cover."