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Lesson Learned - Pod and Planet Contest Entry

Author
#1 - 2013-11-10 15:33:28 UTC
Submission to the Pod and Planet EVE Fiction Contest YC115, Other Things category.
Word Count: 1207
First Publication

Lesson Learned


Varo waited until the waves of nausea subsided. Then, gingerly, he made his way down the steps leading into the tavern. He weaved his way across the hardwood floor, winced when he bumped into a table, and after what seemed like an aeon, clambered up onto a tall stool at the bar and breathed a sigh of relief.

It was still early in the evening, so there were few people in the tavern. And yet every sound reverberated in his pounding head. He would have preferred to collapse in his quarters, but he'd promised other rookie pilots he'd meet them here.

“What'll it be?” Varo looked up in surprise to see the bartender standing behind the counter with a wry smile on his face. He was old, grizzled, but his grey eyes were sharp, piercing even. Tats showed that he'd been in the Minmatar Navy, but that must have been some time ago.

“I... just give me a moment to think.”

The bartender chuckled. “Must've been a rough day.” He wiped the already sparkling wooden counter with a cloth.

The circular movements made Varo's eyes roll, and he clenched his stomach as waves of nausea threatened. “Indeed. Strange day. Rough, yes.”

“Perhaps a delicate Gallente rosé wine to start?”

Varo shuddered. “I think not. I need something with body. A dark Vherokior ale, if you please. Nomad Porter if you have it on tap.”

The bartender soon returned, and set the pint glass down in front of Varo. The porter was nut-brown with a full, creamy head. A shot glass containing a thick amber liquid sat next to it. “Sister's Ruin, they call that little darling. It's a Thukker liqueur. It'll settle your stomach and clear the sinuses you didn't know you had. Trust me.” The bartender smiled.

Varo sniffed the short dubiously. It smelt of honey, and was so thick it looked as if it could crawl up the glass. Never one to refuse a challenge, he knocked it back in one, savoured the soothing taste of rosemary honey on his palate, then gasped when the spirit invaded his sinuses and laid siege to his stomach. “Sweet Sisters of Mercy! I know the Thukkers are mad bastards, but rocket fuel in a short? That's a bit much.”

The bartender laughed. “Nomads in space have a lot of time on their hands. But I guarantee it's not adulterated, unlike the Caldari swill sold in some dives.”

Varo grunted, reached for his pint, and relaxed when the thick brew covered the lingering taste of high octane honey.

“So what made you decide to become a capsuleer? By the way, my name's Raveneye. It's always a pleasure to meet another Vherokior.”

“Varo is my given name, good sir. And the pleasure is mine.” He shrugged. “I'm a Drifter, so you could say this life had natural appeal. But in truth I joined to escape an avaricious wife. You know the type – Three B's.”

Raveneye frowned, shook his head. “Three B's? Not heard that one.”

“Beautiful, blonde and a b... not a very nice person. I never had a moment's peace with her. Always on comms asking when I'd be home from a trading trip, constantly threatening my credit limits, never satisfied with what we had.” Varo grinned. “It was an easy decision, and my best trade to-date.”

Raveneye laughed. “I see. So you intend to carry on trading? Which kind, station or regional?”

“Not much point being a capsuleer if all you do is park your arse in Rens. Besides, I enjoy travelling, and now I have all the time in the universe to do just that. Still, I have to admit that all this ship and module stuff is really confusing. Why'd they have to make it so complicated for rookies?”

“Weeds out the ones with no staying power. No pain, no gain. Ought to be your lot's motto, that.” Raveneye snapped his fingers. “I saw you last night! You were here with the new batch of recruits, weren't you? So this really is your first day at Embod.”
#2 - 2013-11-10 15:35:48 UTC
Varo nodded. “Yes, you saw me last night. Well... actually, you saw the original me. What you see now is not me. I mean, it is me, but it's not the real me. It's kind of hard to explain. My brain's still having trouble with the concept. Although it's not really my brain either.”

“Ah. Podded on day one, eh? What happened? These career missions are as safe as safe can be in this universe. Did some griefer fool you into attacking him? Should be a law against griefers picking on newbies.”

Varo finished his pint and asked for another – and a Sister's Ruin. He was definitely feeling a bit more like his old self. “I'm really not sure exactly what happened, or why. Memories in this new brain are still a tad hazy. I do know I accepted a courier mission. Then this Aura woman pops up and suggests I auto-pilot, so I did.”

“That should've been safe enough.”

“If you say so.” Varo shuddered. Sister's Ruin wasn't any better second time around. “Then she suggested I use the star map, which I did. I think that's when things started to go wrong. I can remember clicking on it, and suddenly my destination is a gazillion jumps away. I didn't think much of it, just wondered if they were testing my patience. So I settled down, and I must have fallen asleep. Next thing I know I'm being wakened in a medical clone bay in Ryddinjorn, and I've got a message from me congratulating me on dying. Or maybe I dreamt that.”

Raveneye tried not to smirk, and failed. “You're not the first, and you won't be the last. Though if you're of a superstitious bent they say strange things do happen at the winter solstice. So where were you podded?”

“I don't recall exactly. I think the kill mail said something about the system. Rancid, maybe. Rancour?”

This time Raveneye didn't try to hide the smirk. “That'd be Rancer – well-known haunt of failed pilots and mummy's boys. Too thick to run missions, and too scared to live in null-space.”

“Well, I won't be visiting that hole again, that's for sure. Lesson learned. No more auto-pilot for me.”

“Good lad,” said Raveneye, raising his glass. “The first lesson is always the hardest, but it'll teach you to be careful. So, what do you plan to do tomorrow? More career missions?”

Varo shook his head. “No. I think I'll do some easy trading. My wallet's a bit low right now. A vet told me about this really great source of market intel. It shows where you can buy stuff cheap and resell at another station. I checked it out and there's a really sweet opportunity where I can make enough to cover my ship loss and have millions spare. And it's only five or so jumps from the system to Hek!”

“Excellent! And what's the name of this system?”

“Bosena.”
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