Commander Ahlia ran her phantom fingers across the hull of her sentry drone, feeling its algorithms eagerly scan the asteroid belt for signs of pirate activity. She gave the mobile gun platform a virtual hug and encouraged it to stay vigilant. Most pilots were content to be asleep in their pods, jacked in to and seeing the world through their ship sensors, but not Ahlia.

She cared for her machines in ways other capsuleers found unnerving: babying them, fussing over them, and feeling more protective than a kestrel with its brood. Rather than trust the sensor feeds and diagnostic readouts from her small fleet of autonomous drones, she constantly brushed her digital consciousness over them, reading deep into their logs for signs of material stresses, service and maintenance reports on even the least critical optical relays, and plotting power cell performance over time.

Guard duty for mining convoys usually meant an easy day’s pay for elite pilots—particularly those specialized in the usage of combat drones—since it was only the rare pirate crew who would risk attacking a protected outfit, leaving them plenty of time to jaw and joke on subspace comms, check in on their favorite racing teams, or even mentally thumb through new training manuals to learn while they sat idle. For them, guard duty was hours of relaxed boredom with the potential for minutes of high adrenaline.

Ahlia took the opposite approach, where her time was spent ensuring her “chicks”—as she called them—were as prepared as possible for the moment they’d be called to action, and then trusting that they’d do what was necessary without her intervention. Her attention to detail and excessive fussing meant that, when hostiles did enter the system, she could focus all of her attention and energy on her own ship and its multiple racks of missiles, putting the threat down as quickly as possible, leaving the drones to provide ancillary support and to keep watch over the mining convoy in the event of a two-prong attack.

For many, life in space—constantly on the hunt for paying jobs, even among the elite capsuleers—was a lonely one, with allegiances and loyalties flipping as quickly as the ISK cleared the bank. Not so for Ahlia however, who enjoyed tending to her flock and—even if other pilots thought her ways unconventional or strange—always being surrounded by her small mechanical friends.

Header image from EVE Online, copyright CCP

Just a short little story about exploring the wild expanses of New Eden.