Region: The Citadel
Location: Ikao VII – Moon 8 – Spacelane Patrol Logistic Support
Sahriah stepped off the docking ramp, dressed in a red and black uniform and that been freshly embroidered with the Forsaken Asylum alliance logo. The concourse was teeming with other Capsuleers and their crews, unloading a myriad of cargo containers, weapons and civilians onto the decks of the docking bay. She paused, momentarily admiring the vastness of the hanger deck and her new Barghest-class battleship which floated silently behind her. Held in place by the powerful graviton emitters of the station, its hull shimmered majestically, mirroring the gun-blue metal of the Caldari architecture surrounding it. Right at home she mused.
Pushing her way through the overcrowded hanger, Sahriah crossed the security threshold that separated the quieter Capsuleer amenities from the general baseliner population. On a normal day, she would have preferred to unwind in one of the many luxury lounges the station afforded her kind, but today she had another form of relaxation in mind.
As with many stations, the entertainment sector of this one was, unfortunately, mixed. Despite the high concentration of Capsuleers that lived here and the fact that most of the station populace had grown accustomed to this, there were still many that were complacent enough in the presence of station security, to throw a menacing glare in their direction, should they notice an implant socket or the baby-smooth skin of a fresh clone. Ignoring the offshoot glances from a gang of Minmatar teens, Sahriah passed by the many boutiques, shops and adult ‘establishments’ until she reached her destination in the heart of the district.
Strobe lights flashed in a prismatic array of colours, greeting her as she entered. Aurora was one of the stations most popular nightclubs and attracted a large array of customers from most of the ethnicities in New Eden. Named for the dazzling holographic lightshow that graced its walls every evening at midnight, Aurora featured a number of facilities in addition to its dance floor including the traditional Caldari gambling services and game rooms. Watched over by four large Civire bouncers, it was a place that rarely experienced trouble-makers.
Dodging elbows and a few stray hands, Sahriah moved towards a large room situated in the back of the venue. The room sported several large displays positioned in a ring around a center console, which in turn, was flanked by two glass booths, both containing an array of monitoring equipment and a single chair.
The rhythmic beat vibrated through her body as she stepped up to the console and placed her hand on the recognition pad. The screen flashed green, displaying her information and accepting her entry.
// Mind Clash Competitor//
//Competitor: Sahriah bloodstone
//Rank: Amateur – Class 3
An assistant appeared, ushering her into the empty booth and starting a pre-game scan of her vitals before securing restraints over her arms and legs as she waited for a competitor. These precautions were mandatory, especially for amateur players. Although purely a psychological game, Mind Clash was considered a dangerous sport, a trait that had pushed it from Caldari bars, into the international spotlight.
Evolving from the computer game ‘Clash of Wits’, Mind Clash allowed two players, connected via a neural link, to project a variety of mental attacks against each other, which could range anywhere from projecting unsettling imagery, to causing nausea and stimulating pain receptors in an effort to force the opponent into submission. Due to this, the game had the potential to cause both physical and psychological damage and was heavily regulated to minimize accidental injury or death. Professional Mind Clash players were restricted from battling amateurs and were required to go through extensive screening, often amassing large psychiatric bills to help cope with the stress the game induced. Even these facts however, were not enough to stop the incalculable number of illegal Clash games held outside the borders of empire space.
A shiver ran down her spine as a thin cable was inserted into the implant socket at the back of her neck. A myriad of sensory information flowed over her like a warm wave and she closed her eyes, allowing it to engulf her body as the noise of the nightclub was drowned out, overridden by pulses of data and light. It had been far too long since she had allowed herself to be distracted with recreational activities, but after the events of the past few months, it was no longer a temptation she could resist.
The viewers flickered as the virtual representation of the battleground manifested on the screens above, showing an arena of dirt extending into an expanse of black nothingness, and indicating that a challenger had been found.
A familiar rush of adrenaline coursed into her system and she smiled, allowing herself to become fully immersed in the experience. It felt good, an intense and irreplaceable high that could only come from having a million neural receptors stimulated at once. While it was an experience reminiscent of the connection she felt with her ship, it was drastically enhanced by the presence of another mind. She could feel him there, flittering at the edge of reality while they waited for the game to begin. Her opponent was another Caldari and another Capsuleer.
A piercing metallic hiss resonated through the room as a figure materialized on the screen, slinking out of the mist forward onto the battlefield. While the technological advances of the Empires allowed for the interpretation and projection of the battle from the sensory input of the players, it was not clear how exactly it derived the avatars that appeared on-screen. What was clear however was that it did an exceptional job of keeping audiences entertained with an array of visual effects befitting of the latest holo-reels straight out of the Federation.
The signal was given to begin and Sahriah reached out with her mind, probing for her opponent, the creature being willed forward in unison with her thoughts. Now fully illuminated on the battleground, it resembled a large black feline, but with a slightly more serpentine appearance. Its melanistic leathery skin contrasted against cinder eyes and a long distensible jaw snapped forward viciously in provocation, mimicking her eagerness. She could feel him through the connection like an electric current, a spark she intended to snuff out, and her hands curled around the ends of the chair’s armrests as their minds connected.
The panther’s eyes locked onto its opponent, a large white cobra, coiled defensively near the middle of the battleground, head reared but still, in intense concentration.
He’s waiting for me…. Preemptive aggression had proven to be her downfall more than once. She took a deep breath, relaxing her muscles and opening her mind, enticing him to make the first move, a novice baiting attempt to see how skilled her opponent was.
The cobra darted forward and circled her looking for an opportunity to strike. He was fast and she had trouble tracking him, the illusions dancing as she followed his presence, preparing to block whichever attack he chose to use. Instead she felt a fading sensation as his avatar disappeared into the black mist that encircled the arena.
So your one of those. Sahriah gritted her teeth in frustration. The intense concentration the game demanded was able to quickly burn out competitors in a matter of minutes and there were some that liked to use this burn out to overwhelm their opponents. Mind-kiting was a tactic she despised.
“Get out here and fight me” she internalized bitterly.
“As you wish.”
In a blinding flash, the snake reappeared, lunging forward out of the darkness with horrifying grace and striking her illusion in the side, burying two long fangs into the panther’s belly. She reeled, doubling over, momentarily disoriented as a spike of pain surged through her head and down through her stomach. She could feel his smug smile through the link, as he attempted to expend her focus. It wasn’t often that a first attack was so aggressive.
A sadistic smile appeared on her lips. “Better.”
The panther let out another hiss as its image melted into a thousand grains of black sand that were thrust upward by an imaginary wind and then down again with staggering force. The mist enclosed on the serpent, forcing its way into its throat, blocking the airways and inducing a feeling of suffocation. Euphoria flooded her mind as she felt him falter as he endured the horrible sensation. It was a momentary joy that dissipated quickly when she missed the signs of his counter.
Her vision blurred and senses became muffled as his avatar lashed out, shattering the mist of sand. The arena evaporated into a vacuum of space, suddenly replacing exhilaration with an intense feeling of dread. She shrunk back into her seat as glints of metal swarmed at the edge of her vision, fading in and out as she tried to turn her head towards them. It took several precious seconds to beat him back, forcing down the feeling of lifelessness that threatened to encompass her thoughts.
In a sudden clarity of purpose, her base instincts took over. The panther’s eyes locked on to the snake as it retreated into a defensive position. It was a gaze of murderous intent, calculating not how it might attack unharmed, but on what blow might cause the most suffering.
Her illusion leapt forward, opening itself to a counter attack, but she didn’t care, she wanted him close and he was happy to oblige. A gash of pain flashed down her left arm like lightning as the Serpent stuck out, at the same panthers jaws clamped down on its fragile neck. Both held their grip, abandoning all defense and trying to force the other to submit. Tense seconds passed before she felt herself give way to the intense pain, her vision fading into a white blur.
Indiscernible patterns and shapes lit the edges of her vision and unintelligible voices whispered at the edge of oblivion. Panicking, she involuntarily attempted to rip the neural connection from her neck, her hands only grasping air as she sat up straight and then collapsed again, another wave of dizziness overcoming her.
“What the fuck.” Confusion quickly turned to rage as she recognized the pristine white walls surrounding her meant that she was no longer in Aurora.
“Well good morning.” She noticed the man standing two feet to her right. “Have a good nap?”
“Why the hell am I here?” she demanded, managing to sit up slowly this time.
“Big Caldari guy brought you in; apparently you had a little too much fun playing computer games.” He walked over to her and shone a light into each of her eyes “How are you feeling?”
She swung her legs over the side of the bed she brushed his attempts to examine her aside “I’m fine. What did he look like?”
“The Caldari, what did he look like?”
“I don’t know. Tall, dark hair, your average Deteis I suppose.” He sighed. “You look fine, but I’d suggest not engaging in that wreckless activity, it doesn’t do you any good.”
His recommendation seemed half-hearted, a likely result of it being frequently disregarded. She stuck to the stubborn Capsuleer stereotype and ignored it, sitting in silence for a few moments before standing and heading towards the door. “Thanks.”
“Oh one last thing.” The doctor pulled out a small card from his shirt pocket and offered it to her. “He left you this.”
Taking the card, she looked down, hoping to find the name of her mysterious opponent, but all it contained was one letter… and a score, hand printed in a beautiful cursive front.