Below is the result of a collaboration between myself and Signal Cartel member A Dead Parrot, who took it upon himself to design and create a browser-based program called 'ALLISON', which runs in the background while you play EVE and essentially acts as your co-pilot, like Aura, but considerably more informative.
ALLISON is designed to be a part of (and only available to) Signal Cartel's EVE Scout Rescue Cache group (ESRC) who are the players who travel round wormhole space placing Rescue Caches - the containers that have a probes/launcher combo in them so that anyone who forgot to bookmark their access wormhole could find their way out again. Note: the scheme has, more than anything else that Signal Cartel has done, achieved more to give us a 'reputation tank' than anything else in the game.
ALLISON was designed to give ESRC members information on the system they are in at any time, and its status with respect to any Rescue Caches that may be present (expired, not expired yet, none present etc.), as well as gatecamp intel, wardec info, recent kills etc.. As Parrot developed the program further, he approached me with the idea of developing a backstory for ALLISON, which would be an RP-based, lore-compliant background that would explain how 'she' came into being. Parrot supplied me with a single acronym: 'Artificial Life Limited In Scope to Onboard Navigation'. Since Parrot is a Gallente, I thought AI > drones > some sort of research program involving drones > Operation Spectrum Breach. It took about the same time to formulate the rest of the plot in my head as it did to read that sentence. The rest of it you can read below. I also went with using graphic designs to explain stuff instead of walls of text because a) it was more enjoyable drip-feeding the story out episodically and cryptically on Signal Cartel's forum, and b) we live in a visual age, and c) because I just like doing this stuff.
The principal objective of doing this was to write something that could be considered equal to an EVE Chronicle, and I hope I/we achieved that. Note to readers: the first person voice in the story below is that of Parrot, not me.
The story starts 31 years ago. It starts with a letter, addressed to the heads of a number of secret programs that exist on CreoDron's black budget. One of those heads is Parrot, but that wasn't his name back then...
On The Origin of ALLISON
Chapter One: Beginnings [YC88]
Chapter Two: The Move To Syndicate [YC89-92]
I knew I had to move on and leave CreoDron behind. I had to assume they would come after me for corporate theft; and though this all happened 31 years ago, it still feels just so close...
This is what she was conceived to be.
This is how she began.
This is what those documents were referring to:
After a few years of active work on ALLISON in Syndicate, I had reached a developmental plateau. It was becoming clearer than ever that I needed to get her out in the open:
But in order to see what she could really do, I needed to get her fitted to a ship. And for that, I was going to have to get a job. A job on board a ship.
I pulled out my datapad and started looking for one on Crew Dock. Looking through the listings, I saw Weapons Officer. No. Executive Officer? No. Oh wait, Here's one...
I got the job on the Blockade Runner. Before I started, I decided to procure a new identity from one of the many hundreds of people in Syndicate that can do that sort of thing. I decided on A.D. Parrot as I'd been using it as a password all that time and it did have a certain ring to it. A continuity.
Anyway, my and ALLISON's new home was now a Viator. I never imagined I'd ever become a nomadic starship jockey, but there it was. A new job, another new life.
Chapter Three: The Faint Memory of Nouvelle Rouvenor II [YC92-108]
I spent the next several years, in fact well over a decade, as the AI specialist on the Rouvenor. What an adventure. Uncountable adventures. I should write a book. Even though I'm now a capsuleer and in command of my own ship (and in Signal Cartel I'm part of something far bigger than the crew of a single independent freighter), I look back on my time with the Rouvenor and wonder whether I'll ever be able to top it.
In fact having gone through the transformative process involved in becoming a capsuleer, it feels like a different life altogether. Describing this period of my life now, feels like I'm describing somebody else.
The Rouvenor went everywhere, and we carried anything that would fit in the hold. You'll have guessed by now that the Rouvenor and its crew was an independent low-level smuggling operation. We flirted on the edges of the Gallente-Caldari conflict for a long time - arms, ammo, materials in and around the Border Zone. We helped perpetuate that constant hot-and-cold war, and it seemed fine at the time. It seemed right. Of course we did regular 'milk runs' as often as we did the quasi-legal stuff, just to keep on the right side of the DED. Every time they inspected us, we were clean. Our paperwork was always in order, sometimes that approval had to be bought in advance from third-parties-who-remain-nameless, mind, but it was always just part of normal business. The favour was always repaid somewhere else down the line, eventually. Human nature at its purest.
In this new shipboard environment, ALLISON became so good at providing efficiencies in routings, time and fuel that she made Captain en Issier more money than ever, which he always shared with his crew. I found out over time that a man like that was rare in this business. I banked it all - in the Intaki Bank, naturally - and I only looked at the numbers about once per year.
We got out of hostile situations that we had no business avoiding so many times that I lost count. I never became blasé about it, as I kept backing up ALLISON every night on a memory chip that I kept on a chain round my neck in case I ever had to resort to the escape pod. But it never came to that. We always ran back to Syndicate for a breather when the heat - the DED, the faction police, the customs agents, whoever - got too intense. What a time to be alive.
It wasn't all action though. There were often long periods of downtime in stations waiting for a contract or having ship maintenance carried out, but it never stopped being an adventure. It never got boring. The sights, the sounds, the smells (I remember the worst being a hold full of Fedo carcasses we shipped between Hek and Dodixie - the skins are a delicacy on some planet or other); being trapped with the ship in a station in Solitude lowsec for a month when the boss owed somebody something and went missing - he came back with a smile on his face and carrying a bag of cash; nullsec runs that were so dangerous I didn't sleep for a week and had to live on stims; going from carrying a hold chock-full of building materials and colonists in cryopods, to carrying nothing but a matchbox with a single chip in it that was worth more than the entire ship. I never got tired of the contrasts, even those contrasts between the bureaucracy and regulation in highsec trade hubs and the freedom of places like Syndicate and Molden Heath where everything was negotiable.
Even the arrival of the capsuleer technology - the Empyrean Age - didn't affect us as much as it should have done. The rise of the capsuleer meant the rise of the gatecamp and the rising odds against us getting through a run intact. But ALLISON gave us an advantage over every other baseline-crewed ship: our greatest achievement was being one of the very few ships to evade the Yulai Siege in YC106, all thanks to ALLISON. Long before that particular episode, Captain en Issier started calling me his lucky charm and he - jokingly - kept forbidding me from getting another job, and by this time, after all this time, only the Chief Engineer and I were left from that original crew manifest from the time I'd joined, as everybody else had moved on and been replaced by other crewmembers. You might wonder why I never moved on myself. Simple: I liked it here. I considered this ship my home even though it wasn't my ship. I had vague ideas of moving on of course, but I never acted on them, simply because I liked the itinerant tramp freighter lifestyle. Every day was different.
However I already knew from my time in CreoDron (a lifetime ago and under a different name) how lives can hinge on a single moment or a single event. I knew this to be a fundamental truth and I didn't need it confirmed again.
Then this happened:
Chapter Four: The Code Aria Inquiry [YC108-110]
The news of the stargates re-opening to the part of space that we now call the Drone Lands was earth-shattering. Even more so because the news reports explicitly named Operation Spectrum Breach. For all this time, a lid had been kept on the failure of the program that ALLISON was meant to have been a part of. It had been declared an 'accident'. Now it was all out in the open: how the Federation had tried to colonize and claim that part of space which would have given it an unassailable strategic advantage over the State, and how the Federation Navy was developing sentient drone technology to assert that strategic advantage, and how those prototype drones became the Rogue Drones. It's old news now, but at the time the media was all over it for weeks.
Then an old contact from CreoDron got hold of the report from CONCORD's Code Aria Inquiry into Operation Spectrum Breach itself and the subsequent gate re-opening in YC108, and he sent it to me. I was amazed to see how CreoDron's involvement in Breach was obscured and redacted from the report (although rumors persist publicly to this day - perhaps their clean-up operation after I left was too efficient, which is why ALLISON is not listed in Annex E and F...).
It would be wrong to suggest that I was still hung up on what had happened with CreoDron and ALLISON twenty years earlier, because up until the re-opening of the Drone Lands and the uncovering of Breach, I was content that I'd successfully got ALLISON away from CreoDron's grip and developed her myself into exactly what I'd intended her to be.
But the full exposure about Breach, the big reveal, had effectively wiped the slate clean with me and CreoDron, because there was no way they would come after me ever again without risking their own exposure. The whole incident reminded me of something I heard a long time ago and was something I'd come to live by:
"No need for revenge. Just sit back and wait. Those who hurt you will eventually screw up themselves and if you're lucky, God will let you watch."
In YC109, a year after the Drone Lands opened up, Captain en Issier dropped a bombshell on us all by announcing he'd decided to retire. He said the increasing risk from capsuleers was the reason why he felt the law of averages was catching up with him. I understood, as low-security space in particular was getting too dangerous and even ALLISON was starting to lose her advantage. A ticking time-bomb culture was growing on board the Rouvenor. I think we were all living day-to-day by then.
We docked in Syndicate one last time, threw a massive party, then we disbanded. The Captain said he was going to sell the ship and go and live in a pleasure hub somewhere in Placid. He might still be there. I should look him up. I doubt he ever sold the Rouvenor though. Sentimentality etc..
I could have retired myself, there and then. After all this time I was one of the Intaki Bank's best customers. I was loaded. But space is a siren that you can't ignore. I spent a few months living a life of leisure (with ALLISON uninstalled from the Rouvenor and back in the vault - in a dormant state this time and not causing any hassle), whereupon long-suppressed ideas of owning my own ship were reawakened. The ultimate goals: go anywhere I decided to go, see all of New Eden and beyond, be totally responsible for my own destiny. I could have bought my own ship immediately, but I would not have been able to compete with the capsuleers that were becoming totally dominant in the process of writing their own version of the history of New Eden.
I needed to become a capsuleer myself.
I feared my age would be an issue at first (as it turned out, the next-oldest student in my class was a decade younger than me), but I passed the aptitude tests, I had far more previous experience than most of my class peers would have, and in the end the 'mandatory euthanasia' part of the training would reset the clock on me, and on all of us. Age would no longer make any difference at all, and neither would the past.
Chapter Five: The End of the Beginning [YC110 - The Present Day]
I should have mentioned back there that even though I entered the UoC in YC110, I didn't start actual capsuleer training until YC114 because I temporarily sidelined myself by taking on a teaching and advisory role. All that time and experience I accumulated on the Rouvenor actually meant something, so giving something back seemed the logical and ethical thing to do. Also, I had all the resources of the largest educational establishment in the Federation available to me if I wanted to do some more development work on ALLISON.
In YC114, I finally began the process. I relinquished my original body - the body I was born in - for a new, implanted, socketed, cyborgised device: no-longer a body at all, but one part of a system.
I graduated in YC118. I treaded water for a few months, flying around in a Corvette, getting used to the idea of becoming the ship rather than merely operating it (I could write another book just on that), but joining a capsuleer corporation was the necessary next step. For any number of reasons there was only one corporation I wanted to join. A new era and a new chapter was about to begin. For me, and for ALLISON.
Afterword: in merging the story with established lore & canon, I wanted to create something that would establish a clear link between EVE lore and in-game characters and events, which doesn't happen as often as I believe it could (because sometimes it seems like EVE lore exists behind a glass wall. We can see it, but we can't touch it and in turn it has no effect on us, whereas the goal of the above was to merge the two worlds together). In creating this story I also used some material that already exists and was written by CCP. It will be obvious which material that is. Fair use terms are asserted and the copyright over there on the left-hand column applies.