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It’s only business.

It has become apparent that my frequent habit is to instruct the crew, if any, on each ship that I find myself on to depart the bridge until further notice. Alone, I dim the lights and sit looking out at the deep. While the crew busy themselves with whatever little busyness and pleasures that occupy their limited lives, I watch the glacially slow parallax changes of past days.

There are structures out there too vast to comprehend, to be comprehensible, by any ape brain or slightly enhanced ape brain, or even mine. Towering gas and dust clouds; random aggregates of star systems that we impose half sensed order upon; gulfs between where as yet no sun has called to others. Even at the great speeds with which I can move within systems, no change can be seen in these, and so they flatten themselves to be painted on the interior of the sphere of heavens centred upon myself, the renaissance world view come full, ah-ha, circle.

The raging chaos of nuclear storms made utterly still by distance and magnitude sums to a bleakness that cannot be denied. I may be godlike in the eyes of apes, of earth-bound mortals banging rocks together hoping for a spark, but in truth even such as I account for nothing. Aggregated across time and space, all our striving asymptotically approaches zero.

It could be this perspective that separates me from the crew. I can brood like Ahab on the bridge while the continue to live with hopes and animal comforts merely because they choose to shut out the cold. Or they have learned a skill that I have not, some mode of thought that keeps the night at bay.

Certainly the various crews have seemed content enough in their lots. I embarked some weeks ago on a lengthy set of errands on behalf of the Sisters Of Eve, aiding them in pursuit of some agenda they presented to me as an investigation into odd outbreaks of rogue AI drones. They were lying, of course, or at best presenting only partial truths. I knew this, and they knew that I knew, but still it pleased them to pay and reward me. And it pleased me to take their money while I laid my own plans.

Over the course of those days I acquired several ships that were subsequently shot out from under me. Mostly the crews survived in part, with perhaps one or two out of five lost to the night. While they do not speak of this to me, something in my treatment of them must be pleasing or at least not unpleasant, as the survivors continue to accept contracts for whichever craft I take out of the dock.

I remain surprised – why I do not know, as I have no recollected basis for comparison – that these craft require so few crew. A handful for the frigates, a double or triple handful for the destroyers. I am told that this is in part an artefact of Gallente ship design, and that other race’s craft require somewhat more. Certainly a startling level of automation is interposed between human hand and effective action. Still the need for a crew remains. The automated repair mechanisms themselves need maintenance, the artificial intelligences need the counselling of native intelligence, and the hand of man appears necessary to turn eggs into palatable omelettes and roasted beans into coffee.

For all I know the crew keep returning because they dimly apprehend the opportunity for wealth with no more than the usual risks, and less ill treatment than they may receive from another captain. In passing I hear other captains boasting of their harshness or rigorous discipline, an effort that bemuses me. The crew have functions and my contract with them is the same as the contract with any other mechanism: I will not expend effort on any component of my ship that functions as expected and has no deleterious impact, and malfunctioning systems will be ejected and replaced.

I have spent the past few weeks wandering with little plan, merely trying to learn something of this universe I find myself in. Picking up odd errands here and there has covered costs, and recompensed the loss of ships, and given me some time to consider where to begin to make my mark. It turns out that salvaging materials from the craft I was commissioned to destroy can be moderately lucrative. To the same extent I am led to believe that exploring the less well travelled reaches in search of obscured resources and bases can pay well, if the resources can be exploited.

So there, the basis of the start of a plan: outfit a craft and acquire the skills to scan systems and exploit what is found, and outfit other craft to salvage the detritus left over from the robust execution of business. Maybe that can be my mission statement, my credo, my motto. Nothing Personal.

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