Holoreel Convention - Part 4

Many thanks to Bataav for his valuable input and written contributions to the Holoreel RP.
An ebook of all seven parts of this ficlet can be found here.

Dodixie IX – Moon 20 – Federation Navy Assembly Plant

Sakaane looked up to see a very tall, black-haired woman passing by in the line of people still filing into the room. She wore combat fatigues and a military vest, and paused directly in front of Bataav at the sound of her name, looking first at him and then to Sakaane standing immediately beside him.

After a moment of cool scrutiny which took in everything about ILF pilots including the convention IDs hanging around their necks, recognition flashed through her blue eyes. Sanya stepped out of the line and squeezed into a spot beside them, offering her hand in greeting.

The trio wasn’t afforded an opportunity to say more than their hellos, for just then the doors to the room were closed and the presenter approached the podium.

He was something of a roly-poly Gallente gentleman, short, with tousled black hair and beard. He coughed and cleared his throat a great deal while getting his papers in order. The crowd in the room settled down as he began to speak.

“Hello! Nice to see so many people here. There are seats there—” A few people left their spot by the wall to slide their way through the crowded rows. “—but it’s also good to be standing… It’s easier to leave the room if I disappoint…” He chuckled and glanced down at his notes. “I uh…don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to disappoint so many people at once!” While the audience laughed at this, the presenter added, “I was thinking beforehand that, in Gallente sitcoms, they always say, ‘Well, picture the people naked.’ Well,” he shook his head emphatically and looked pointedly at the crowd, “I’m not going to!” which made the audience laugh even more.

“So. The title of my presentation is ‘Nice People, Nasty Pilots’, which somehow became ‘Nice People, Bad Pilots’ in the program…which is”—he chuckled nervously, conscious of the fact several dozen capsuleers were staring him in the face—”which is kind of almost the point that nice people would make inferior pilots, which is not what I was saying!” He glanced several times at the holodisplay, seemingly to check and recheck that the title slide displayed there really did say “Nice People, Nasty Pilots” as intended.

“My name is Oli Gneisti Soleyjarson. Can you all please repeat that? Yeah. I’m a folklorist. And…uh…” He cleared this throat again. “The story behind why a folklorist is studying capsuleer morality… I was going to write my masters dissertation about Amarr oral tradition in the gospels of the Book of Reclaiming but…”

There was more laughter and someone in the audience said something which wasn’t audible to those standing at the back of the room. Oli laughed too, then shuffled his papers some more and glanced again at the holodisplay. Pressing a remote advanced it to the next slide.

“In New Eden, capsuleer population numbers are insignificant compared to those of the ordinary man. Yet, capsuleers themselves…uh…span a wide range of nationalities, backgrounds, you name it.” He glanced around at the audience, taking note of the variety present before him, opened his mouth as if to say something but hesitated and then changed his mind. Instead he said, “As evidenced by gatherings such as this holoreel convention which Impetus is so kind to put on for us…uh…well, it’s true that some people are just bad to the core. But many of you, outside your pods, are quite able to get along with each other. Right? You are nice people. You were…probably nice people before you became capsuleers. Yet if we believe the DED and CONCORD reports, so many capsuleers are thieves, pirates, mercenaries… They are the bad guys who blow up other capsuleers, and even non-capsuleers. They attack anybody for money, or power, or even just for fun, to get their kicks. I’m told the list of acts and things sometimes perpetrated by capsuleers is…quite despicable.

“So, the question becomes: if, generally, capsuleers are, or were, nice people, why do so many turn into nasty pilots?”

He shuffled his papers some more and glanced between the audience and the holodisplay again.

“So, I did some research, an ethnography…which we…which we sometimes call this sort of thing. I did interviews with many capsuleers and spent some time in space… I didn’t get heavily involved with spaceflight, not just because I’m not a capsuleer, but because…” Oli shrugged. “Maybe it works in other industries but if you fly into a fleet of capsuleers and say, ‘Hi! I’m a folklorist. I’m doing research’, the first thing they think is, ‘Who are you spying for?’”

This comment drew a hearty round of laughter from the audience while Oli grinned, pleased that his joke had made an impact.

“The paranoia thing was a part of it and also, if I wasn’t going to present myself that way I thought I was going into an ethical grey area, because I don’t want to…uh…don’t want to be doing research on people who don’t know that I’m researching them. But I did kind of participate in observation at past conventions by just going up to groups of capsuleers… At least there they didn’t seem to be overly paranoid… I said, ‘I’m a folklorist, can I hang around with you?’ Though one person that I had been hanging around with for a little while, when I came and sat with him and his girlfriend, said, ‘Well, I don’t want you hanging around anymore. I think you’re awfully suspicious.’

“The thing that helped me out with the research is that, even though I’m not a capsuleer, I used to go on ship tours, freighters and such, and do odd jobs…so when I was, uh, talking to capsuleers the phrases were not overly alien to me and we at least had some common ground. That helped me along.”

He shifted around on his feet, coughed and cleared his throat, and generally continued to look nervous. “The thing is, my research was mostly done in YC109, so…so the world I…my ethnography’s about…doesn’t exist anymore. New Eden has come a long way since then. Do you agree, or disagree?”

The audience murmured but didn’t really respond.

“So there, I fell into the… Folklorists tend to talk to the oldest people before they die. That’s the kind of model, you have to get the knowledge from the old people before they die, but… Also, folklorists, historically, tend not to speak to those they were researching, except I have an example of a folklorist who, after first going around visiting agricultural colonies and collecting their tales, then publishing them… And when he went back, the farmers there would set their hounds on him because they didn’t like what he did with their tales. So hopefully you will be kinder.”

Oli flipped his papers over and shuffled around again. People in the audience began to shift in their seats.

“This brings me to the Guiding Hand Social Club. Those of you who have been capsuleers for a while have probably heard of Guiding Hand Social Club. What they did… It was probably not the biggest theft there has been, but it was the most famous in its time. I think it’s a kind of…marker in the history of New Eden because after this… I’m sure at least some of you may have become capsuleers solely because you heard of this theft, while others gave up the career. However, there was a lot of mixed reaction from other capsuleers… Uh, some said it was wrong, and others saw no problem with it. We’ve probably heard this again and again afterwards.” He advanced the holodisplay to a new slide. “And, the reaction from Guiding Hand Social Club? ‘If you want to debate our moral integrity you can go and have a long talk with a stone wall.’”

He advanced the slide again. “This, on the other hand, is from one of the interviews I did.” He proceeded to read from the slide:

An Ethical Killer?

An Ethical Killer?

“I think this sounds a lot more crazy if you don’t know New Eden and how things work. And…uh… The question mark after the title ‘An Ethical Killer’…I think this is more what they think of as customer service.” The audience laughed.

“Here’s another view…” He cleared this throat and quoted, “‘I myself have tried this pirate thing, shooting other pilots in lowsec, but… I killed this guy who was rather new and I ended up paying him for the ship because I got such a guilty conscience.’ So…anybody laughing because it happened to them? Or just…” Oli began to laugh and didn’t finish the sentence and suddenly moved on to another topic.

“This is the ethical dilemma of the pirates. They never scammed; it was all right to kill someone but to steal everything with trickery? That wasn’t allowed. This is another thing that anyone outside the capsuleer community in New Eden would think strange.

“Then there are the self-imposed rules. When there are none, like in zero-zero, and you can do whatever you want, you still have to do something… Like this:”

The Revenge.

The Revenge.

“You know people like this? It’s a kind of an…an incentive to be true to the corporation.” He advanced the slide. “Yet another point… Any Goons in the audience?” A few of the toy bees squeaked in response. “So…you won’t like what I’m saying.”

Something Awful.

Something Awful.

“The thing that I think annoyed people the most was just their blatant disregard for everything that capsuleers kind of stood for…that they…uh…regarded capsuleers as elitist. There was a story, actually, told at the convention four years ago… They elected a box of melting snowballs as leader, and then also sent somebody who had been annoying them a box of bee-themed toys…and then were rather upset that he didn’t thank them. The thing is that they annoyed people by not complying with the established capsuleer social norms.”

The holodisplay suddenly went black. “That was all I had,” Oli said, taking his papers and shuffling them again, “though I thought I would do a bit of ‘Q&A’…”

At first no one approached the mic with any questions, but rather, a few people started to head toward the door, so Oli filled the silence by talking about his background as folklorist. Then, a tall blond man with a shaved head and long beard, grasping a can of Quafe in his hand, got up.

“Yeah hi,” he said. “Did you check anything about capsuleers who have died—really died—because we have, like, stations named, ships and everything about the capsuleers who have died?”

Oli nodded. “Yeah. I talked to guys from VETO about Dark Elf and there was the…of course, they did a lot of things to remember him by, and also all the other people. And…uh…thing is, there was this station that was renamed the ‘D.E. Memorial Station’ or something like this, and then an enemy captured it and…people were furious when they hacked the registry to change the name of the station. The thing is VETO pilots, at least the ones that I saw comments from said, ‘Well, okay, you don’t have to respect this, so we know if we want to change the name back, we’ll just capture it again.’ I did a whole thing about Dark Elf. I know, especially since then, people are trying…uh…the VETO pilots are very good at trying to keep his name alive, and one of the ways they did that was by talking to me and getting him into my book…which I’m selling afterward…” He flashed a hardcopy of the book. The audience applauded.

Another pilot approached the mic. She was tall like Sanya and similarly dressed, with her black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Bataav nudged Sakaane, quietly pointing out the I-RED emblem on her shoulder.

Creetalor smiled at Oli. “Hi. What do you think causes people who are lucky enough to become capsuleers who are nice in character to sometimes, while in pod, lose their moral values? What do you think causes it, is it the just that capsuleers are already so feared by the regular population? The fact we can so easily amass wealth and power? Or something else?”

“Well, it’s both. I think when people are doing it within the confines of what is acceptable within New Eden…uh…pilots know up to a point that spying and scamming is part of the society we live in. I think that is, you know, just kind of a release for people, a kind of cathartic effect. Capsuleers are governed only loosely by CONCORD and if they leave empire space they have no one but their peers to keep them in line. With so much freedom…the temptation to go all out…

“I remember now, I was…there was this one…one story I had from a group that had a pilot who went over the line…just with dirty talking, real nasty, perverted things, and they just shunned him. They just…nobody within the fleet talked to him anymore, so that was… People…you could get away with just chatting with one person but I think the morality of the pilots do form some kind of boundaries which you can’t…you can’t cross without being, you know, shunned or whatever.”

Cree returned to her seat and glanced back at Sanya. A knowing look passed between the two pilots.

Oli glanced around the room for a few long moments before finally saying, “I think that’s it. Okay. If there’s anything, I’m selling my book for $2,000 ISK. Thank you…”

The audience clapped politely and everyone began to filter out.

Sanya turned to Bataav and Sakaane. “Cree and I are off to another panel now,” she said. “How about you?”

“We’re actually staying here for the next one, about empire corps and agents.”

Sanya nodded. “Well, I’m sure we’ll run into each other again later.” Creetalor joined them, quietly nodding in greeting to ILF pilots before leaving with Sanya.

Bataav wound his arm around Sakaane’s waist. “Is it just me? Did he not actually answer the question of why certain capsuleers become ‘nasty pilots’, even after Cree asked him directly?”

She nodded and watched the people walking past. “This topic is obviously of interest, with such a crowd… He had some good examples…but it wasn’t very well organized, was it? Too bad.”

Once the room had emptied they decided to move forward to the front and gratefully took a seat. Sakaane stowed her shopping bags and stretched out the tension which had built up in her lower back from standing for the last forty minutes.

Shortly thereafter, empire representatives entered the room and began setting up for their panel.

Bataav and Sakaane watched with interest as the representatives were forced to take their places together in front of the crowd. Each was casually dressed, though none so much as the Minmatar rep who sported a t-shirt with his empire’s logo emblazoned across the front. Bataav noticed a CONCORD official slip in at the back of the room. Was he was there to protect the representatives from a potential threat from the audience, or from each other?

Leaning close to Sakaane, Bataav whispered, “I almost wondered whether the pirate factions would have people here too, although I doubt CONCORD would have allowed, say, a Gurista presentation to have gone ahead this deep into empire space.” Even without a pirate faction presence, he didn’t envy the diplomatic efforts that must have been taking place behind the scenes to ensure there were no factional incidents during the convention.

She nodded but didn’t answer; almost immediately after introducing themselves the reps had begun to bicker with one another, none of them agreeing who should speak first.

“It’s almost like we’re listening to local in Intaki,” Bataav said quietly and smiled as Sakaane poked his side.

After a few minutes of all four of them trying to speak over each other the CONCORD official cleared his throat sharply and stepped forward. “As our guests here are evidently keen to have their time with you capsuleers, perhaps we should simply open the session to questions and answers,” he suggested.

The representatives looked at each other and grudgingly accepted the compromise, each taking a seat along the stage: Amarr first, while the Federation and State reps tried to sit as far apart as possible. The Republic’s rep seemed rather indifferent to all of them, sipping from a fresh bottle of Quafe and accepting the mic the CONCORD official handed him.

A few hands raised throughout the audience. One by one, questions were asked and the four representatives answered as best they could.

Four representatives from the empires.

Four representatives from the empires.

The Republic’s man found little time to drink as he wound his way around the room to hand off the mic; his Quafe started to get warm.

Finally, Sakaane took a turn to speak. “Hello. My name is Sakaane Eionell.” Her demeanor became cool and she gazed steadily at the Federation spokesman. “Why is it agents are able to get away with—even seemingly permitted to have capsuleers to do their dirty work for them?”

He stared back at her but his face remained impassive, as if he had no idea what she meant. A long moment of silence passed.

“Perhaps you could elaborate on that,” prompted the CONCORD official.

Sakaane leaned back in her chair. “Some years ago I was tasked by a licensed agent of Federal Admin to…how shall I put it? Clean up a mess his brother made. Apparently this brother was a small arms enthusiast and had a collection of weapons at his residence. I say ‘had’ because supposedly his collection was stolen, and rather than report the theft, it was up to me to pick up a new set of weapons so the collection could be quietly replaced. The agent even admitted to me he would modify the ID codes on the guns so no one would suspect anything!” She shook her head with exasperation. “This, all so the brother wouldn’t get into trouble with his superiors. Or so I was told.”

The Federation representative started to look uncomfortable. Sakaane felt her lips twitch into the barest of smiles as she watched him carefully.

“I had orders, so I took the job. It wasn’t until I flew out to the pickup location that I discovered this so-called gun collection consisted of nine containers with a total capacity of well over five thousand meters cubed! Now, you tell me, what sort of private collection is that? Sounds more like enough guns to equip an army!”

The CONCORD official made his way up the length of the room, his gaze flicking between the Federation’s man and Sakaane. “Did you report this?”

“Of course I reported it. Went back to my superiors and showed them the ridiculous courier contract, and requested an inquiry. For my trouble I was told I could either deliver the weapons or be charged with insubordination and face a disciplinary hearing.” Other capsuleers murmured and shifted in disapproval.

She was silent a moment, reliving the memory. “I thought about it for a while, then went back and picked up the shipment, as I’d been ordered. But instead of delivering it and collecting my ‘reward’, I took a detour to the nearest asteroid belt, jettisoned the cargo, and destroyed it.

“I have no idea what happened to the agent’s brother, nor any proof to the contrary, but I suspect there never was one. You can’t honestly expect me to believe anyone—private citizen, army or navy brat, whoever—no one could possibly ever need that many guns for their own personal interest. The weapons had to have been meant for something else, and I was to be an accomplice. Maybe even a scapegoat later!

“The agent didn’t take it too well when I reported the shipment had been destroyed. He blacklisted me, intending to make it difficult for me to get work with other agents. I didn’t care about that so much; what bothered me more was not receiving that disciplinary hearing. Seemed everyone preferred to pretend the whole thing never happened.”

“You must be mistaken—” the Federation spokesman protested.

Someone coughed. “Cover up!”

“But it’s not just federal agents who do that,” added another capsuleer a few rows back.

Bataav nodded. “That’s true. I’d been contracted by a State agent on what first appeared to be a straight-forward diplomatic security mission but soon became something much darker, with the destruction of independent press installations and the silencing of reporters being demanded.”

A State agent?! Sakaane’s stomach seemed to fall. Her eyes flicked questioningly to Bataav’s, but in the end she stayed silent. Not here. It would wait.

Some of the other capsuleers nodded in agreement with the pair and voiced another concern: that appointed agents didn’t always show the capsuleers they hired the respect they deserved, almost treating them as little more than a deniable workforce to avoid consequence and accountability where possible.

Toward the rear of the room a man cleared his throat and spoke without waiting for the mic. His deep voice carried easily to the front as he addressed the representatives.

“I have something to say.”

Bataav raised an eyebrow as the capsuleer rose slowly to his feet and almost filled the room with his presence. Clearly of Brutor stock, the capsuleer looked to be almost pure muscle. As he ran his thick fingers through his dreadlocks he spoke again.

“I am a military man. A soldier. I have spent my life fighting for my people and continue to do so as a pod pilot.” He looked around the room slowly before continuing. “So why do these agents see fit to send soldiers like me on petty errands to collect dolls?”

Someone began to laugh but stopped when the Brutor shot a glance in that direction.

“You see? You see the effect this has?” He held his hands before him, each easily the size of a dinner plate, and flexed. Sinew rippled beneath his scarred and tattooed flesh. “Pod pilots are rare. It takes great skill, and a great deal of money, to train us to be what we are. Agents should hold us in the highest regard, lest we decide to remind them of our power, which they so often waste.”

He sat down. After urgent glances at one another, the four representatives clamored to assure the audience that these concerns were not unknown to them and changes were currently being discussed throughout New Eden regarding allowing capsuleers greater ease in speaking with agents in addition to a full review of the program.

“In actual fact,” the Amarr representative said, “the four of us have been authorized to announce a complete restructuring of guidelines governing licensing of agents.”

“That’s right,” the State rep chimed in. “Everything is still being finalized, but in the very near future, agents will all be resorted into one of four licensing categories, rather than the extensive number which exist currently. Guidelines are being drawn up restricting agents to only offer work according to the category they fall under, so”—he nodded to the Brutor—”we should hear fewer complaints like yours. The new categories will assist capsuleers with identifying which agents they should like to work for, and will ensure all corporations are able to better audit the type of contracts handed out. This change applies cluster-wide.”

The Minmatar rep spoke up. “In addition, the current agent grading system, which as you all know places restrictions on the amount and types of reward agents can offer depending on their personal grade, will be discontinued. Agents who in the past have had trouble, for whatever reason, attracting capsuleers should now be better able to compete with agents positioned in more favorable locations.”

The audience voiced its agreement, many heads nodding with satisfaction.

Several rows back, a middle-aged Civire man gestured for the mic with a jerk of his shaved head. The sneer on his face was made worse thanks to mottled cratering from a harsh burn covering more than half of the right side of his face. His right eye was also white from blindness; a thick scar slashed its way across it.

The middle-aged Civire man.

The middle-aged Civire man.

“Oy!” The Minmatar rep frowned as the mic was snatched away from him. “Easy now.”

Everyone in the room turned to look as the Caldari stood up. Bare arms bulged out of a vest, while his equally well-muscled legs nearly filled padded pants tucked into heavy, buckled boots. He stared haughtily around the room as if daring everyone present to pick a fight.

“Why are there only empire representatives here?” he asked. “Where are representatives from the Sisters of Eve, ORE, and the Syndicate? Why isn’t the Cartel or the Guristas talking to us?”

“Seems you weren’t the only one thinking along those lines,” Sakaane whispered to Bataav.

The CONCORD official took a step forward, making notes on his datapad as the capsuleer spoke, but the pilot turned his head and remarked snidely, “Take my name for all I care. Every capsuleer in the cluster has the free right to be at this convention. Many of us are mercenaries and pirates. Some of us work for groups like the Serpentis. Where is our representation?”

Sakaane’s face crumpled up with distaste at the mention of the Serpentis. “Filthy criminals,” she muttered.

“Every capsuleer may attend the convention,” the official responded stiffly, “if they have the appropriate security clearances to enter this region of space and behave themselves while they are here.” He glanced at the group of capsuleers as a whole. “Be assured CONCORD closely monitors the activities of all known criminals.”

The Civire snorted derisively. “Listen to you! ‘All known criminals’. Who’s to say what capsuleers who live in nullsec get up to? CONCORD has no idea what happens out there. You dumbasses can barely keep track of what goes on in the low security regions.” His scarred face twisted grotesquely as he laughed. “Fools. No wonder the Serps, the Cartel, all of us—CONCORD can’t do a thing to get rid of us.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Fine, whatever. Seems to me this party is just for empire brown-nosers anyway.”

The CONCORD official bristled but kept his cool. “Are you admitting you’re a felon? In front of all of these witnesses?”

The Civire tossed the mic back at the Minmatar rep. “Go ahead and arrest me then if you think so. I’d like to see you try to prove anything. Like you said, all capsuleers are free to be here if they have the right sec, and all I did was ask a question.”

The CONCORD official frowned and tapped some more on his pad. An uncomfortable silence followed, but in the end, the Civire sat down, arms crossed, and the official resumed his station at the back of the room.

Bataav chose then to raise his hand and waited for the mic to be passed to him. Soon the Minmatar spokesman gestured for him to speak.

“This is an extension of what’s just been said. Like Sakaane here I’m also a member of the Intaki Liberation Front and so operate primarily in the Viriette constellation and obviously Intaki itself. Can the Federation spokesman tell us if there is a reason why we capsuleers are denied access to members of the Intaki Assembly as the local authority, whereas we can work for the Senate or the Court Chamberlain or the Republic Parliament or… Well, you get the idea.”

The Federation spokesman glanced up at the mention of ILF and the very briefest moment of eye contact between them told Bataav the corporation’s reputation preceded it. Bataav suppressed the urge to smile at the thought.

“The Assembly doesn’t maintain any stations in the system,” replied the representative flatly.

“Is this another example of Federation interference then? I can’t imagine the Assembly, known for its independent tendencies, would willingly deny itself stations within its own system. Has the Senate refused the Intaki their own station development rights?”

He glanced to his side and saw one or two other capsuleers had sat forward in their seats with interest.

“After all, if the Federation can deny the Syndicate exiles planetary development rights in an area of space that doesn’t even fall within Gallente territory, take away our right to vote, and so on, it doesn’t strike me as beyond them to restrict station development too where they see fit.”

“Even Ishukone and Mordu’s Leigon are forced to use Federation stations in Intaki,” someone said. “Or maybe they’ve set up their own structures in deadspace.”

“As you all know, nothing prevents the Intaki Assembly, or any other organization, from setting up their own structures in empire territory,” the Federation rep replied. “Provided they are awarded the necessary approvals first, of course.”

“But such structures are not sanctioned for use by agents,” Bataav countered. “Or will that be part of the changes you mentioned earlier?”

The representatives exchanged looks. “As far as we’re aware, no.”

“There, you see? The Federation is holding a monopoly in Intaki, and, I’d wager, elsewhere too. Without the ability to obtain their own stations, assemblies like Intaki’s have little hope of establishing themselves in space and creating local competition for federal agents.”

“And they wonder why we want to secede,” Sakaane teased, enjoying the sudden choked expression on the spokesman’s face.

He was about to retort when the CONCORD official cleared his throat to attract attention. “I’m afraid we’ve run out of time. Thank you all for coming. Today’s discussions have been very…enlightening. If there are any remaining questions, please feel free to forward them to your local empire embassy.”

Being seated at the front of the room while the door was at the rear, Sakaane and Bataav had to wait while everyone filed out first. She gathered up her bags and scanned the people ahead. Some were looking back at her and Bataav, including the scarred Caldari who had asked about pirate factions. She dropped her gaze, unimpressed by his intense scrutiny.

“That was all right,” she said instead. “You raised some great points.” She swallowed the urge to ask about his work for State agents.

“Hopefully they won’t fall on deaf ears.” Bataav checked his watch. “Time to head back I suppose. Shall we walk the promenade before dinner? Perhaps some of the matches are still taking place outside the station.”

She agreed and eventually they were on their way, winding through a throng made suddenly more thick by all the people emptying from the last panels of the day. There were still more events to take place that evening, but for now the mass of attendees all seemed intent on taking some time to socialize and stretch their legs.

The promenade was a long, wide corridor several storeys high and spanned completely on one side from floor to ceiling by sheerite. This gave the sometimes unsettling impression of being able to step directly from the interior of the station into the void outside. The view was spectacular, with the station sweeping away to the left, the undock with its steady stream of traffic below, and the expanse of contrasting blue-green and dark burnt sienna clouds within the nebula beyond.

The din of conversations layered over conversations was loud; peals of laughter and good-natured shouting echoed off the walls. Capsuleers were everywhere, most standing in groups watching the activity around them. Bataav threaded his way through with Sakaane following along behind, the tips of her fingers intertwined with his so they wouldn’t become separated.

Finally they came upon a relatively open area and paused to stand together against a pillar, watching the ships outside.

“Hello again!” Sanya and Creetalor appeared out of the crowd.

“Namas,” Bataav replied. “How was the panel you attended?”

“We enjoyed it,” Cree said.

Outside, a mixed group of frigates formed up around a cargo container hanging in space; a moment later the first shots were fired. While they watched the skirmish, the four pilots chatted about the various topics presented at each panel they’d attended and otherwise got to know each other better.

Eventually the group split up: Sanya and Cree headed off together to attend one of the evening events, while Bataav and Sakaane swung by her quarters to drop off her bags before they went in search of dinner.

Sitting together later, Sakaane held up her fork, offering a mouthful of her meal to Bataav. “My place tonight?”

He grinned and leaned forward to accept the food. “Of course.”

Next in this series: Holoreel Convention – Part 5