Chateau Fusion

Hello and welcome to the show. This multi-cast is brought to you courtesy of Kaalakiota Corporation “Power through superior efficiency”. Today’s show departs from our usual matrix in that we have not invited our guest to the studio but rather we have traveled to our guest’s home for this conversation. His long history in New Eden and his resulting faction standings have made it difficult for him to travel through certain regions of space among which, sadly, Nonni solar system, where our corporate headquarter’s home station hails from.

With that out of the way, it is time to introduce our guest. Starting out from humble beginnings running missions for the Gallente Federation and the Sisters of EVE, he soon felt the urge, as so many capsuleers do, to go into business for himself. It took several tries before he caught on and the business started to take off. He succinctly describes this period as “Endless nagging in coms channels, regularly interrupted by loud noises”. Having proven his acumen as a shrewd businessman he went on to look for new challenges and found them in the murky depths of null security space where he meandered through several alliances and their ‘hands-on diplomacy’. While exploring the opportunities afforded in a large alliance setting our guest proved to be a consummate fleet commander, an accomplished industrialist with a remarkable aptitude for subterfuge and deceit. In recent years he has radically departed from the deep involvement in alliance politics and warfare to concentrate on a rather more pedestrian endeavour. Returning to Verge Vendor region, he has taken up residence in his ancestral home of Cistuvaert solar system to pursue a career as, are you ready for this, a master chef. Ladies and gentlemen, from Cistuvaert solar system, I am Darren Kohlmeer, this is A Pod Pilot’s Life. Please welcome Jean-Marie Bultinck!

D.K.: Jean-Marie Bultinck, welcome to the show and thank you for your hospitality.

J.M.B.: Great to have you.

D.K.: I ask this of all my guests, what was it like to undock for the first time and to fly solo?

J.M.B.: Wow, that’s one for the way-back machine.

D.K.: I understand. For many of you it’s been quite a wile since that first time, hasn’t it?

J.M.B.: I’ve stopped counting the decades, it’s going to be something between 600 and 650 years now. I remember being terrified.

D.K.: Most pilots find the experience fantastic. Do you remember why you were scared?

J.M.B.: I recognise that. It’s not the flying, the flying bit is fun, it still is. You… you’ve spent time in the simulator and it’s fairly accurate, you know what to expect when you undock for the first time. And it’s very much like what the real thing is. But the difference is that you know you’re in a simulator and nothing bad can happen. Once you’re through with basic manoeuvring and ship controls though, that’s it. You’re done. I don’t know what they teach the kids these days, but when we were through with the basic training, they took our class to the dock, they pointed at the Velator and they said “That one is yours. Get lost, important people need that spot.” The dock master kicks you out of the lock and that’s it as far as the hand-holding goes. There you are. All of space in front of you, a ship that flies like a bathtub, nobody to stop you from making stupid mistakes. The only thing you need now is a good plan and a fortune and you’re all set. I spent 15 minutes cruising, looking at the interface, wondering what the hell I was going to do next on the way to eternity which, when you think about it, is plenty intimidating.

D.K.: How do you, a new pod pilot, get out of that mode of thinking?

J.M.B.: The first order of business, I don’t know of any pilot who doesn’t think the same way, is to get a better ship. You look at the market, you gasp at the prices, you realise that’s the cost of the naked space frame. Your eyeballs start to sweat chuckles. After digesting the shock of being ‘immortal in space’ there’s the notion that what you’re really doing is flying a trash can with a warp drive and you don’t want to be flying a trash can with a warp drive.

D.K.: So, you start mining, like most pilots do.

J.M.B.: Absolutely not! We had discussed during training which career would offer the best returns. Mining isn’t it. No offence to miners, some of my best friends are miners, but it never was an option for me. On the instigation of some old hands I went to work for the Sisters of EVE. They were kind enough to offer me several jobs and their rewards were extremely valuable to a new pilot.

D.K.: Some of our audience have called in wanting to know about your first forays into corporation management since, by your own admission, those first steps were… hesitating and halting.

J.M.B.: They told me I would never live that down, but it’s been almost five centuries, come on already!

D.K.: Well, it was the start of a career that awes and inspires young capsuleers to this day. Isn’t that source of pride for you?

J.M.B.: You had to be there. It’s not so much pride, you can hope for some satisfaction. I remember lots of terse conversations in the coms channels, occasionally interrupted by loud noises. The thing with corporation management is, you have this idea that you want to be like the big guys, only you don’t know what the big guys did to get there. Not just the business stuff, the actual stuff, the nuts and bolts of how a corporation really works, the thing experience teaches. You took the course in business management so that you don’t look like a total idiot, but the hard part is not to balance the books. The hard part is to keep building the business without someone carting off all the inventory you’ve been hoarding.

D.K.: How do you translate that vision into reality?

J.M.B: Next to the minutiae of paying for stuff and making sure it gets to go where it needs to be, you have to have some people who want the same thing you do. The people, in everything you do, are the important factor. Ultimately, they will decide how successful you’re going to be. They may not always understand or care about the vision but they will understand the need for leadership. What that means is that people start coming to you with questions on how to do stuff and they expect answers. They want good answers. And you’re still trying to find out where the hell you are on the map, let alone knowing how to anchor your very first station, or dividing the loot after a successful roam, whereby dividing the loot is more hard work than getting it was. People will acknowledge the absurdity of that and they’ll do it anyway.

D.K.: So, you're not just trying to find your own way through New Eden, you're also expected to provide guidance to other inexperienced pilots who join your crew. And you have to deal with people who come at you with guns blazing.

J.M.B.: War is part and parcel of making a name for yourself in New Eden. When I was just starting out we found ourselves in quite a few brawls. It’s baptism by fire, you get your ass handed to you often but you end up learning a lot more than when you’re needling an asteroid with a mining laser. And again, that is not a slight to my fellow capsuleers in the mining community, their efforts power most of what we do.

D.K.: But you were good at it. You had a reputation for winning fights against impossible odds. It can’t have all been bad.

J.M.B.: I’ll tell you something, I don’t think anyone outside of the circle of people who were involved in that ever acknowledged it: we sucked at combat. Badly. We had no idea of what we were doing. When you see the shows they made about that you’d think we were this band of avenging angels who trounced pilots and fleets with much more experience and far better equipment than we had. The truth of that is that we lost many more fights than we ever won. We got clobbered by miners, that’s how bad it was at the start.

D.K.: And then came that famous time in the Drone Regions that established your reputation…

J.M.B.: chortles That part is actually funny. We don’t know what really happened there, we er… got drunk.

D.K.: Why would that be important, more pilots fly drunk, don’t they?

J.M.B.: That depends on how you define ‘drunk’. Before we went into the drone regions one of my junior staffers tells me he’s found a way to boost boosters. The idea was to use some alternatively legal drugs in combination with a change in the gas mix we breathe in the pod. He didn’t document how he got there, a matter of not wanting to leave a trace, and he’s never been able to reproduce it since. At least nobody of that team wants to try his attempts to recreate what he did that time, but the combination he used induced some kind of persistent hysteric euphoria. We went out there on a rampage and we engaged people we had no business engaging. When we woke up after the insanity subsided, we analysed the manoeuvres we made. We all agreed we had done things we would never had the stones for when sober. It just didn’t make sense.

D.K.: Isn’t it just a matter of “whatever works” in combat?

J.M.B.: There’s something to be said for that, but you have to have the team willing to engage in the manoeuvre. Ships are moving, guns are shooting, there’s no time for a leisurely debate on the validity of certain tactics. Since we had never trained as a team on some of the things we turned out to have done during those fun-filled months, there was a great deal of reluctance to repeat the procedure while sober. Combat analysis did show that the tolerances for error were razor thin, we were basically lucky to have pulled it off at all. Some of the things we did only worked because the opposition rightly assumed nobody in their right mind would be stupid enough to try what we did.

D.K.: But you were not in your right mind…

J.M.B.: We most certainly were not.

D.K.: Wouldn’t it have been easier to just keep doing what you were doing, damn the consequences?

J.M.B.: I guess it might have but there were some practical considerations.

D.K.: Such as?

J.M.B.: The first hint there was a problem with the way we were flying was when we docked up after a very hard fight. All of us were in a bad mental space. As we undocked we saw that all our ships, the entire fleet, were burning. We were laughing like maniacs. We probably were maniacs. The dock master threw a conniption fit over all the toxic gasses accumulating in his air vents… that actually cost us a pretty penny to get out of.

D.K.: and the second hint?

J.M.B.: The second hint came when every ship we encountered in two regions was listed as hostile. One region was in high security space. Once we cared to look at our incoming notifications, we had 114 corporations filing declarations of war against us at the same time. Some of whom used to be good friends. In the end it came down to the fact that we had to keep scoring a bull’s eye every time we engaged. Sooner or later that has to backfire. Everybody’s luck runs out some time. We were fortunate enough to come to our senses before that moment caught up with us. It was hard enough as it was to have to confront all the conflicts we had created.

D.K.: How did you resolve those conflicts?

J.M.B.: We never did. I’m not sure we could have. Well, over time we have had conversations with the people involved and most of them take the experience as climbing their part of the learning curve. Still, it’s one of those experiences that lingers. One of our diplomats quit when I asked him whether he could start talking to people. It was too much hard work for questionable results. We just left the cluster entirely. Some members of the team, through this experience, discovered they had a penchant for space piracy and they went into business for themselves. We still use their services when there is a need for… third-party contract work.

D.K.: In the mean time you ditched all your belongings and went looking for new opportunities.

J.M.B.: Pretty much, yes.

D.K.: That must have cost a lot of ISK, abandoning your entire operation.

J.M.B.: Not really. We found out that the profit we made was directly proportional to the amount of grief we had caused. We had caused a very great deal of grief. We were able to abandon a lot of odds and ends that accumulate in the hangar. That resolves itself over time because we have covered most of New Eden in the mean time, amazingly I’ve still got some items in the hangar that go back to that time. On the whole we had made so much money that we could go half-way across the galaxy and settle in an entirely new fleet as soon as we made it out of hostile territory.

D.K.: Which by now was the entire region…

J.M.B.: Which by now was two entire regions..

D.K.: Two regions indeed. So, after having made many non-friends and outright hostiles, where do you take it from there?

J.M.B.: For starters we stopped changing the gas mix in the pod. We debated whether it would make sense to try and make amends and reach out to the people we had offended.

D.K.: Did you try and make amends?

J.M.B.: There has been a lot of debate about that in our group but the end result was that there was no point in trying. The problem with apologising was that in a lot of cases we didn’t know what we we’d be apologising for. When saying you’re sorry it’s rather essential to know what it is you’re sorry for. Otherwise the whole point of saying you’re sorry is moot. Since we’d been drunk it was very hard to establish a time line of what it was we did to whom, and there were no objective points of view to set us straight, so we decided against it. An insincere apology is worse than no apology.

D.K.: That leaves you “orphaned” in space, without friends, looking for a new life. How long did you have to wait before you were accepted into your first alliance?

J.M.B.: Wait? We didn’t have to wait. They came looking for us as soon as they found out we were in their region.

D.K.: Was your poor reputation not cause for concern?

J.M.B.: Reputation is a door that swings both ways. The guy whose boat you blew up has enemies who appreciate your efforts. Some corporations are going to hate seeing a team that attacked their friends, some corporations are going to be happy to see a team that destroyed their enemies’ fleets and the way they did it in. We were welcomed with open arms. We found a place to berth our ships and restock our consumables. Before we knew it we were part of an alliance.

D.K.: And with that chapter closed we’re going to leave you a while in the good hands of our kind sponsors, the Kaalakiota Corporation: Strength through superior engineering!

Commercial Break

D.K.: Welcome back to A pod pilot’s life. Tonight our guest, or rather: we are the guest of Jean-Mary Bultinck, swashbuckling space pirate extraordinary. After his initial steps in corporate management and learning how to make friends and influence people New Eden-style, he ventured out into deep space to test his mettle in alliance politics and warfare, a field in which he proved to be a past master. How did you discover you had the knack for alliance management?

J.M.B.: Apparently I can take a lot more nagging than most people.

D.K.: Alliance management is being able to stand people nagging?

J.M.B.: That and keeping track of the inventory.

D.K.: Surely there’s more to managing a fleet than withstanding the moods of people and maintaining a list of where the assets are?

J.M.B.: You have to understand something: managing a fleet is like herding cats. Pilots -always- find some rationale to do the exact polar opposite of what you need them to do when you need them to do it the most.

D.K.: Such as?

J.M.B.: Ask someone “Join the fleet in a Maelstrom with the doctrine fit.” As an example. Everybody understands what a doctrine fit is. People spend quality time figuring out how to best fit the ship for the role it’s going to be assigned to. There are no surprises there. Everybody’s made aware of what the expectation is well ahead of time. Some of the guys… it just doesn’t register. They come in a Dramiel because they just qualified for one and they’re drunk in love with how fast the thing is. Or they wander off to take care of some absolutely-must-do-first triviality and by the time they join the fleet, the fight is over. If you’re so inclined as the fleet commander, you can spend a lot of time in the soup nursing a quality depression.

D.K.: The soup…?

J.M.B.: The liquid in the pod. We call it the soup because you’re marinating in it.

D.K.: Gotcha. How do you handle that as a fleet commander?

J.M.B.: Strict enforcement and delegation.

D.K.: How does that work in practice?

J.M.B.: You make it clear that infractions come at a cost. The cost stems from the fact that non-compliance endangers not just the pilot but the fleet as a whole. When that loses a ship that’s a personal drama, when that loses the fleet and by proxy the region, that affects the balance of power all over New Eden. Depending on what the infraction is, you exercise judgment. There is very little tolerance for an overbearing attitude. But there always has to be a cost for making stupid mistakes. An infraction is never free. When people understand the reasons and rationale behind a decision they’ll buy into the decision and the system becomes self-regulating to the point where some heavy snark should already be enough to correct mistakes. But this has to be done up front. Do it soon and consequently and before long it doesn’t have to be done anymore or, if at all, a lot less often and then only to get the new guys in line.

D.K.: Where does delegation come in?

J.M.B.: Decisions are a lot easier to enforce when they are seen as part of a fleet-wide philosophy. When pilots perceive the entire chain of command going in the same direction, they will be inspired to follow. The fleet commander assigns trusted people to squad and wing command positions. Squad commanders take care of their team, wing commanders instruct squad commanders and the fleet commander only has a few people he needs to yell at to make things happen. When the trust relationship establishes and people feel comfortable they have some leeway in getting to know how the whole thing works, the Fleet as a self-sustaining system emerges. It is a thing of beauty to behold and devastatingly effective. People will come and seek that experience because it is such a fulfilling part of being in a fleet. They will become the backbone of the alliance’s operations.

D.K.: How did these two qualities help you get selected for fleet command?

J.M.B.: Not at all.

D.K.: Okay… why did they pick you then?

J.M.B.: I was the only guy they had available who could run a full-size fleet. The actual FC had managed to get podded on the way over to the fleet by the gang the fleet was originally assembled to counter. There was some intense to-and-fro-ing, i.e.: nagging, the FC’s medical clone was 20 jumps away, the enemy was 3 jumps out. All of a sudden people who really should have known better became nervous at the prospect of losing a fleet because they acted like there was no responsible adult in the room.

D.K.: I.e., you.

J.M.B.: I.e., the alliance leader. I was on the way to something important. I just happened to have the right skill set for the task required. They would have picked anybody who fit the bill.

D.K.: But they picked you. And you pulled it off.

J.M.B.: I only pulled it off because the alliance leader had kept his cool as his ship was being charbroiled. He was able to pass on vital information about the composition of the enemy fleet. He kept looking for specifics, in some cases even including the type of weapons the enemy was using. It wasn’t a perfect picture but it was a darn sight better than “I think there’s over 100 ships in their fleet.” When the enemy arrived on the grid, I had an idea of who my primary target was and what type of damage my fleet could be expecting. It must have looked impressive but when the opposing command structure is destroyed, it creates a window of opportunity to strike a decisive blow. I was able to direct my fleet to achieve exactly that goal, but I can’t take credit for it. The designated fleet commander had performed his duty perfectly. By passing on the information he was privy to, he was able to equip his fleet with the knowledge it needed to defeat the enemy.

D.K.: That still leaves you in the hot seat. You still have to make those decisions and have your fleet execute on the plan.

J.M.B.: They were going to do that. They were all experienced hands. The only conflict was the chain of command. Once that got sorted out they were free to assume the role that best suit them. They were very effective.

D.K.: You have a hard time accepting praise, don’t you?

J.M.B.: Not at all. But that one was not mine. Accepting undue praise is the first step towards believing you actually do know it better than all the other people who’ve got a few centuries under their belt too. It leads to resentment. Resentment is a loan that carries a high interest when the bill comes due. I’ve taken pains not to fall into that trap. I haven’t managed to stay friends with everybody I worked with, but even those who drifted away have to be credited for their great work when they were flying with me.

D.K.: That must have been the most circumspect way I’ve ever heard anyone say they won a battle in space. What happened after that?

J.M.B.: That battle went really well, specifically because it didn’t take long to complete. The alliance was pleasantly surprised by my performance and after that I was regularly invited to fill the role of fleet commander.

D.K.: It helped to establish you as one of the leading fleet commanders in the Northern part of New Eden.

J.M.B.: I had my successes but I wasn’t particularly better than the other guys filling that role. Most of it was PR though. I had a good relationship with the people in my fleet. They were appreciative of my efforts.

D.K.: I can see where winning a lot of battles would go a long way to please the people you were flying with.

J.M.B.: The battles are nice for the chinks. If you want to boost morale, you hire exotic dancers. Lots of exotic dancers.

D.K.: That’s the secret of a successful fleet commander?

J.M.B.: I can’t speak for anyone else but it worked for me.

D.K.: It seems like, forgive me, I don’t want to be judgmental, a rather simplistic way to reward pilots. Surely there are more elegant ways to show appreciation?

J.M.B.: Not to a guy who’s been sitting in a tank filled with liquid for two months straight there isn’t.

D.K.: I thought a breath of fresh air would work miracles.

J.M.B.: chuckles If you ever decide to make that recommendation in a fleet, be sure you’re out of locking range.

D.K.: What happened to the important thing?

J.M.B.: Which important thing?

D.K.: The important thing you were on the way to when you were called upon to lead the fleet?

J.M.B.: Ah. Yes. Well, she decided she couldn’t wait for some space cowboy to come to his senses and be a responsible adult. Chuckle

D.K.: Did you ever meet up with her again?

J.M.B.: No. There were just too many distractions and too much space between us. I guess she was right about the not waiting for the space cowboy. Non-capsuleers are on a different time table. You tend to forget that, as a pilot. You spend a lot of time in warp and before you know it a century has gone by in Newtonian space.

D.K.: That sounds like a great opportunity to take a break before continuing this conversation. We’ll leave you in the capable hands of our sponsors, the Kaalakiota Corporation: Strength through superior engineering!

Commercial Break

D.K.: Welcome back to A Pod Pilot’s Life. If you just joined us, we’re being entertained by one of the most famous, some even say: notorious, pod pilots in New Eden, Jean-Marie Bultinck, for whom even the lure of love was not enough to keep him away from his ultimate destiny as one of the most feared and respected alliance leaders in the northern part of New Eden’s vast expanse of star systems. Jean-Marie, have the benefits of the pod pilot life not been outweighed by the sacrifices you had to make for them? You gave up on romance for the uncertain returns of a null security existence. Frankly, has it been worth it?

J.M.B.: You make it sound like one of those old romantic novels from ancient Earth chuckles. It was just a missed connection, one of those things you want out of life that never came to pass. It is true that we had our feelings and, for a time at least, I have longed for that special favour. And then something else came along and life goes on. Well, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. It has been a very long time ago and I don’t imagine she’s still alive, electrodynamics of moving bodies and all that. If it is the least bit interesting to your audience, which I cannot possibly imagine: it’s not because you’re in a remote outpost in New Eden that you can’t find… distractions. I’ll keep it at that. My team got swept up in the dynamics of the moment and I got very busy with my expanding role in the alliance. And to answer your question: yes it most definitely has been worth it. My team and I have had opportunities that many people, not even a lot of other capsuleers, never get or know how to take. It has had its trouble and challenges but, looking back at it, I would not have wanted to be anywhere else.

D.K.: How do you make the transition from being a successful fleet commander to a strategic alliance asset?

J.M.B.: First of all every pilot is a strategic alliance asset. If they aren’t you have to ask yourself why they are a part of the alliance in the first place. It is certainly true that there are ‘driving forces’, instigators if you will, who set the wheels in motion. Without the wheels though, you’re not going anywhere. The pilots in the fleet are an asset that is either going to work for you or against you. The right action at the right time will either make or break a fleet, which can turn the dynamic of an ongoing war. Never make the mistake of thinking only a fleet commander is a strategic alliance asset.

D.K.: That covers the average, if you can use that word in this context, pod pilot. It does not quite cover your experience. How did you go from being an ‘alliance asset’ to an ‘instigator’?

J.M.B.: I think a lot of that is natural progression. What made it connect for me are my business interests which I have maintained and cultivated all throughout my various roles in the entities I was involved in.

D.K.: How do you keep up with business interests when you’re working to sort out all the details of leading an alliance?

J.M.B.: The business ventures are nothing but one aspect of running the alliance. My setup handles all the steps from resource collection over transportation and manufacturing to assembling fleet components according to what doctrine happens to be at that point in time. I don’t have to make any changes to that organisation, it runs as part of that effort. The only thing that differs is the length of the supply line depending on where in space the main thrust of the alliance’s efforts are directed. The secret is to build a setup that runs along with one’s life as a capsuleer. It has to last through the centuries.

D.K.: And through getting drunk in fleet brawls.

J.M.B.: chuckles There is that. Even though we occasionally put our foot in our mouths with our allies, we have made it a point to always honour our contracts. It can be awkward to blow up someone’s battleship in the morning and in the afternoon make good on the contract delivering his assets as ordered. That’s not always a comfortable conversation but generally those are the kind of wrinkles you can smooth out with an officer module here, a Snake set there. It’s all part of the great canvas. You have to live a little. Some people even welcomed having their poorly-fitted frigate fleets folded so they had an excuse to be offended and fish for some shiny new toys when the space truck came along.

D.K.: Is a Snake set not a teensy bit too rich to compensate for a handful of poorly-fitted frigates?

J.M.B.: Totally. We have a standing policy that rewards those kind of shenanigans with whatever we have in the hold that is taking up too much space: frigates, destroyers, cruisers. Surplus ships. Never more than 90% of what the other guys lost.

D.K.: Why 90%?

J.M.B.: So they will be annoyed that it hadn’t really been worth it, but not so annoyed that they get on the bat phone to call in some favours. It has to sting, but only a little bit. Just enough to make them understand not to do that again.

D.K.: Some would call that callous.

J.M.B.: I call it risk management.

D.K.: That accusation doesn’t bother you?

J.M.B.: New Eden is, first and foremost, a place where practicality applies. A good rule of thumb is: don’t inspire your opponents. Here this means: don’t give them a reason or an appetite to seek redress for petty offences. Small causes can have big consequences. If you deal with the small causes up front you’re less likely to have to face the big consequences later on, when you’re likely not prepared to address them.

D.K.: And throughout this whole process you managed to accumulate a fabulous amount of wealth.

J.M.B.: Wealth is a tool that, when used in the right way, allows greater discretion in what you want to do but more importantly it allows freedom from that which you do not want to do. And of course, over time, wealth will just accumulate.

D.K.: When we return from our commercial break we will further investigate what fabulous wealth affords the owner, as we cover the latest phase in his long career in New Eden in our last leg of “Jean-Marie Bultinck: A Pod Pilot’s Life.” Don’t go anywhere.

Commercial break.

D.K.: Welcome back to “Jean-Marie Bultinck’s: A Pod Pilot’s Life”. We are about to discuss a rather dramatic turn in the career of a man whom quite a number of people in the Gallente Federation consider a living legend. Jean-Marie, after all your career’s successes and the near universal, if sometimes grudging, admiration of your peers, the fabulous wealth accrued over a very long and distinguished capsuleer career in New Eden, your current choice of employment seems rather odd. What inspired you to venture into the world of haute cuisine, an endeavour that is not typically associated with the successful pod pilot’s life since there is notoriously little flying in space associated with being a chef.

J.M.B.: I ate something bad.

D.K.: Excuse me?

J.M.B.: I ate something. It did not agree with me.

D.K.: There’s a story there, no doubt. Please elaborate smiles

J.M.B.: Before I went on my last long mission I was contacted by a corporation that wanted to sell consumables to my alliance. Specifically they wanted to sell us a range of foods designed, so they claimed, to improve the comfort of pilots who were expecting to spend extended stays in wormhole space. I have... some interests there, it seemed like a good idea to be able to offer extra options to the quarter master.

D.K.: This is going to sound silly but did you not sample it first before you used it in your ship?

J.M.B.: Obviously we used the same process we do for all our purchases, to ensure consistency, quality and security.

D.K.: What would be the standard process you use for quality control?

J.M.B.: We don’t comment on those systems. That kind of question typically ends up as an insurance claim.

D.K.: Quite. I do apologise I did not mean to ask a question that compromises your alliance’s operational security.

J.M.B.: That’s fine. It’s not because I’m not in space that I can forget the needs of my team that is still out there.

D.K.: You are quite right of course. Still, there has to be much more to this story that is not of a sensitive nature.

J.M.B.: That there is. As it happened I could not wait for the evaluation process to complete. Some operational necessities required me to join the fleet earlier than expected. In my enduring wisdom I decided to take the test batch provided by the vendor and use that to tie me over until I could connect to the quartermaster’s supply train. It allowed me to sample the wares and not have to wait to undock.

D.K.: And that is where it went wrong…

J.M.B.: You could say that. The capsule contains very sophisticated systems with regards to the warp drive system and the clone transfer system. As you know that’s its main function: keep the pilot alive, get the hell out from wherever it is you need to get the hell out from or, if that is not possible, to make a clean transfer to the medical clone.

D.K.: By killing the pilot. squirms

J.M.B.: By killing the pilot, yes. Don’t make a face like that, it’s all very quick, painless and, to the pilot’s mind, it’s instantaneous. You can get disoriented after the transfer is complete though. When you consider the alternative, it’s a mild inconvenience.

D.K.: I bet you have to be a capsuleer to look at it like that.

J.M.B.: We call it an occupational hazard or, on occasion “Dammit, that head metal cost me 2 billion ISK.” That’s certainly a factor.

D.K.: The life support system is not just air supply and waste removal, right?

J.M.B.: Quite. The life support system is one of those constant reminders that we are humans with the needs of humans. You need air, you need food, you need waste removal, you need medical. The data bundle that connects the pilot’s consciousness to the wider ship’s systems is almost an afterthought. All those physical connections have to interact with the pilot’s body. The details involve all kinds of intrusions on ones personal integrity. Some people can handle that , some have a big problem with that. The evaluation procedure is there to make sure you don’t lock someone into a capsule who really doesn’t want to be there.

D.K.: Clearly not typically a problem for a man of your experience.

J.M.B.: I had taken to that environment rather well. The systems on board are really good. And they have to be. The pilot is permanently connected to them. When my time for first connection came I requested the solar system’s visuals together with the D-scan data and the map overlay be projected onto my cortex. It felt like I was the centre of the universe, coincidentally one of the reasons some of our number develop a god complex, another occupational hazard. I was aware of the most important things going on in the immediate environment of the system’s primary. I found it an extremely soothing and uplifting experience. After that the capsule became my home. Throughout my entire career there has never been an environment where I felt more at ease.

D.K.: Until you decide to change the menu.

J.M.B.: Yes. The problem did not manifest itself immediately. As far as I could tell the nutrients performed as expected. The problem was with the way the vendor implemented their disinfectant procedure. It caused a contamination in the food that built up in the storage tanks. Around day 4 I got a massive case of food poisoning.

D.K.: I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time when that is convenient in 0.0 space.

J.M.B.: Especially not when you’re in the middle of a fire fight at the time, no.

D.K.: You were actually in a fight at the time!? This was an individual battle or a fleet engagement?

J.M.B.: This was an impromptu engagement on the way to a bigger fleet operation.

D.K.: Do I hear the distinct flapping of butterfly wings?

J.M.B.: You could say that. The only victim in that engagement was myself. Well, and the other guys who ended up losing it. On our side, my ship was the only one that was lost though. Inasmuch as I was taken out of the fight for the foreseeable future you could say the butterflies were flapping their wings indeed.

D.K.: That leaves you minus one valuable piece of equipment, your ship, that doesn’t really explain how a simple case of food poisoning leads to a change of careers.

J.M.B.: You have to understand something about how a pod pilot consumes nutrients while sitting in the soup: your focus is on the environment around you and the ship. Food is important but you don’t want to notice it. Food is like fuel or ammunition. You use what is essential, you’re not using it because eating in a pod is enjoyable.

D.K.: Why is that?

J.M.B.: Because a pod is not the place to enjoy sumptuous cuisine in.

D.K.: I don’t see why not. As a capsuleer you must be used to enjoying the finest foods in whatever cluster of space you find yourself in. Why would that be different because you’re traveling in a pod?

J.M.B.: Because your food comes through a tube. Believe me when I say there’s just about nothing worse than ‘tasty food’ when you’re sitting in a pod. The most you want is maybe a vague hint of mint. Anything more quickly feels tacky and typically you’re not in a position to quickly leave the pod to do something about it. Try selling the gourmet experience to wormhole dwellers who are constantly keeping an eye out for any approaching Sleepers and sundry profit-seekers.

D.K.: You could not simply take some time to shake off the experience?

J.M.B.: chuckles Being an alliance leader is not a desk job. For whatever reason the food poisoning episode became a real impediment to my operational readiness. I found I could no longer work on the level required to run an alliance properly. The team understands you have an issue and they will be supportive, up to a point. They have a very low tolerance threshold to suffer along with the alliance leader and it would be extremely unwise to try and find what that boundary is. Alliances have folded for far more trivial reasons. When you understand there is a problem and you’re serious about your project and the interests of the people you’re leading, as an alliance leader you have to serve them by making room for someone who can do the job.

D.K.: And the logical step after that is to become a cook?

J.M.B.: I promised myself I would never eat a bad thing ever again. Becoming a chef seemed like a good place to start.

D.K.: And yet gesturing at the scenery I can’t help but notice there’s an aura of nostalgia for days gone by about the room. It seems oddly familiar.

J.M.B.: It won’t come as a surprise that I would have a preference, a longing if you will, for familiar surroundings, that’s why the interior reminds the diner of the fighter hangar of a Nyx super capital ship. Our ancient Earth ancestors already knew: there’s no place like home. What I wanted to do with this project is to offer the capsuleer a great dining experience in an intimately comforting and comfortable environment.

D.K.: So, take our viewers on a tour of the establishment. Why did you decide to purchase the station’s entire botanical garden and recreational area?

J.M.B.: But of course. The basic concept was to offer the average capsuleer a view they don’t get to appreciate all that often: an unrestricted panorama of space. Everywhere you sit in the restaurant offers an open view of the solar system. I had the station’s traffic lights reconfigured, something they really were not keen on. The end result however is that there is no glare taking away from the stunning vista as I’m sure you’ll agree. The seats can be reconfigured so that you can recline at ease to take in this breath-taking view while enjoying dessert.

D.K.: That’s odd, isn’t it? The pod pilot lives in space, it is their natural habitat. How could they not be familiar with what space looks like?

J.M.B.: We live in space, we do not necessarily see space. We are aware of space and our surroundings on an intimate level you cannot adequately explain to anyone who has not experienced the immersion. We know where things are, we can see representations of objects and entities and there’s a host of numbers marching past, but we do not actually see space. We get camera feeds, we can see close ups of very distant and faint objects, but that is not the experience of seeing it as you do here, in its full and unobstructed glory. This place was intended to restore some of the shocking display of the splendour of nature that we never get to appreciate anymore.

D.K.: How difficult was it to get permission to convert the station’s hydroponic farm for personal use? Aren’t you potentially compromising the station’s vital air supply and the recreational use of the garden for the station’s inhabitants?

J.M.B.: Well, most objections tend to evaporate after the first 100 billion ISK. The station dwellers themselves don’t seem to mind they no longer have to pay the oxygen tax. This station has a secondary garden. I also bought that one. It’s much smaller than this unit but access is free and it turns out some people actually like tending to a garden to pass the time. If people are complaining I haven’t heard about it.

D.K.: A very generous gesture! From a purely business perspective isn’t that a wasted opportunity, aren’t you missing out on a lot of revenue?

J.M.B.: The amount of money in tax is trivial for the hassle of collecting it. And what do I do with the poor slob who doesn’t have the money to pay for air? Do I choke them? Do I kick them out of the airlock? That is not the kind of place I wanted to run. Next to endless policy battles and bad publicity it would be an excellent way for someone to foster resentment, I already said that’s a dangerous debt to service. I ran the numbers for the consumables, it turns out to be a trivial amount of money. Not for the non-capsuleer, I don’t gather, for us… we live in a different universe.

My goal was never to become a land lord. Our lives as capsuleers are privileged enough as they are. This is a pass time for me, I invite people from all over New Eden, some of them used to shoot at me. We have dinner and some drinks. We tell stories and have some laughs, we bid each other farewell, we’ll meet again. Collecting rent on the locals? I really can’t be bothered.

D.K.: Your establishment does not appear to cater to a non-capsuleer public.

J.M.B.: That is not by design. Everybody is welcome to book a table, enjoy the view and the great food we serve.

D.K.: You say you are open to all comers but there is literally nothing that costs less than a million ISK.

J.M.B.: I have never had a customer complain about the bill. They come here for a taste of home. Some of them have spent considerable amounts of time in a pod and they jump at the occasion of trying real food for a change. Also, not too put too fine a point on it: most capsuleers are not great cooks. They have the proper perspective. They understand that there is a certain cost associated with bringing them the tastes of home. Home, to many of my guests is everything between 10 and 70 jumps away. Some of them haven’t been home in generations. Acquiring those products can be a hazardous enterprise and there is a price tag associated with that. I have had a customer complain about the cost of a particular item when it was his corporation that destroyed the freighter that was transporting a previous shipment of the product.

So, to be sure, at the point of purchase the product is typically not as expensive. Between that point and this house there are a lot of people with bad intentions, and gnarly freighter pilots who get really short-tempered when someone starts haggling about the price-per-jump. So, a million ISK for some crackers may seem pricey, but these happen to be delicacies in one of my customers’ home system and they had to somehow make it through a war zone. I appreciate that people living on the lower levels of the station might not have the coin to pay for that, but it is not because I begrudge them the experience.

D.K.: Wouldn’t your capsuleer customers mind mingling with the ‘one-timers’?

J.M.B.: There’s really no need to be rude about it. It would not be an issue at all and the place is not intended for guests to mingle. The restaurant is laid-out with the specific purpose that customers seated at different tables never meet.

D.K.: How is that even possible? And why would you want to prevent fortuitous encounters? Who knows what might happen when two people meet.

J.M.B.: However much we want to believe in ideals, in this context, in the here and now, I have to have a realistic view on the political scene in New Eden. It can and does affect how people interact and I can’t expose my other customers to bad feelings between two parties they might never have been aware of before. It happens more often than not that members of corporations at war are in the establishment at the same time.

Sometimes they sit at tables right next to each other. They can never know. That is why there is a rigorously enforced reservation system. You were ushered into the room through one of many entrances, designed so that you would not encounter other guests.

D.K.: It’s true, I have not seen anyone else when I was ushered to my table. What if an encounter would lead to an amicable outcome and peace ensued?

J.M.B.: What if their encounter turned sour, or one of their spies accurately placed my customer in the restaurant when they were eating and a squadron of Tornados sent a volley of 1400MM artillery through the canopy?

D.K.: Isn’t that a little far-fetched?

J.M.B.: Not at all. If I could catch a war target off-guard like that, I’d do it in a heartbeat. These are professionals, Mr. Kohlmeer, these people play to win.

D.K.: I’m clearly not used to thinking like a capsuleer.

J.M.B.: Clearly.

D.K.: I can imagine that some customers who used to be adversaries, or even current adversaries of your alliance, would have reservations about being a guest at your establishment. Who’s to say you would not implement your own out-of-pod type of warfare by waging ‘culinary hostilities’ as it were?

J.M.B.: That is out of the question.

D.K.: Is all of New Eden warfare not an exercise in asymmetric engagement? Why not use an opportunity if the opportunity fortuitously presented itself?

J.M.B.: There are three reasons: 1. Killing a fellow capsuleer is a pointless exercise even if the effort would be trivial; 2. Ruining their experience, either by killing them or interfering with their food will at the same time completely destroy any kind of trust relationship as well as being a prime motivator for retaliation, and not just by the party targeted but by everyone else who are now going to think about when it will be their turn. I can lose the trust of my clientele one time only but I can deal with the fall-out of that essentially forever. I’ll take a pass. 3. I do not wage war on my customers, that is not what this place is for. It is, if you will, a sanctuary where they can come and enjoy themselves.

Even if they are war targets, in this place they are safe. We never engage customers leaving the station and although some of them have a hard time grasping basic courtesy rules it has come to be understood that this station, as it pertains to my establishment, is a neutral zone. There is no shortage of space to settle differences, even if they warp to the moon the station orbits, or any other location within this system, in this place for the price of a meal they are free from harassment.

D.K.: Have you worked out a deal with Concord to step in to help you enforce those unwritten rules?

J.M.B.: I do not comment on my relationship with Concord.

D.K.: That covers the restaurant as a safe haven and a meeting place. Why did you call it “Chateau Fusion”?

J.M.B.: It goes back to our ancestral planet Earth. My family’s bloodline goes all the way back to a country on planet Earth called “France”.

D.K.: Forgive me, I do not mean to be rude, but how can you be sure? It has been many millennia since the EVE wormhole collapsed and the intervening dark age, so our history tells us, has not been kind on people trying to survive the collapse of civilisations.

J.M.B.: My family has meticulously recorded its journey through time. When they came through the wormhole, they wanted to preserve that record and they made copies of those originals. The originals, the branch of it that we are a subset of, are thought to still be in the hands of the bloodline that stayed behind on Earth. We often wonder what has become of that part of our family and whether they managed to preserve their ancestral knowledge given the vast tracts of time that have gone by. There is of course no way to know for sure.

The family at this end of the wormhole has made great efforts, sometimes even heroically so, to keep that record intact. It has become a point of personal pride, and a treasure of the Gallente Federation, to be the custodian of that record. From that preserved record, there is no shadow of a doubt about our bloodline. To come back to your question: our ancestors owned a prominent structure, a castle, or ‘chateau’ as it was called in ancient French. So here we are: in our very own castle in space.

D.K.: A fascinating piece of history. That only covers one part of the name though. The “fusion” part seems easier to understand, but it doesn’t appear to fit the atmosphere of a place of fine dining. How do you want your public to understand the “fusion” part in the name of the establishment?

J.M.B.: The name is a reference to the early fusion era of humanity. Very specifically it refers to the furnace we use for cooking the food we serve our customers.

D.K.: Why would you cook food in some ancient way when you can have it reconstituted in seconds with technology everyone else is using?

J.M.B.: We don’t cook in the classical way despite there being newer technologies for doing that, but because of it. Our ancestors did not use a fusion reactor to cook food obviously. I saw an opportunity to incorporate the device into the concept for the restaurant and decided the name of the place should reflect that idea.

D.K.: Just so we’re clear: you are saying this restaurant uses an actual fusion reactor as the stove on which it cooks the meals for its customers?

J.M.B.: That is exactly right.

D.K.: How does that work?

J.M.B.: I don’t know how much your viewers want to know about how to use a fusion reactor to cook food.

D.K.: Our viewers, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn, are in fact greatly interested in the kitchen secrets of one of the most notorious capsuleers in New Eden. But first, tell us where you got the device to begin with.

J.M.B.: This goes back to my family’s history. The tokamak is an actual family heirloom. The device was acquired by my family as an antique around the time humanity found the original wormhole.

D.K.: Why would your ancestors think to buy a piece of obsolete hardware and go through the horrific expense of transporting it through the wormhole?

J.M.B.: My family had the idea that wherever we ended up at behind the wormhole there would always be a demand for an abundant source of energy. They proved eerily prescient when society collapsed shortly after the wormhole did. Because we had that unit available, which could be serviced relatively easily compared to what was the state of the art of energy producing systems, we were able to avoid having to resort to some of the desperate measures other people had to take. As a consequence we were able to at least maintain a pocket of civilisation amidst the chaos that followed the downfall.

D.K.: That makes the device easily thousands of years old. How did it keep working all that time?

J.M.B.: It didn’t, of course. The unit was decommissioned centuries ago, when we were back to a level of technology where it was no longer necessary to keep it operational to provide for our energy needs. We had it completely revised and fitted for the role it was going to play in the next stage of its useful life.

D.K.: So tell us, without going into too much technical details, how your ‘oven’ works.

J.M.B.: The basic shape of the device is a toroid. Our Earth ancestors had, quite ironically, a culinary reference to the shape of the device by calling it a ‘donut’, a sweet ring-shaped pastry. Inside the ‘donut’ a magnetic field is established which suspends plasma that generates the energy. The idea is to create a self-sustaining reaction so that fusion can be achieved as it is in stars. This now works rather well to supply the station with energy. The trick is when you have to insert material in the donut say, when you wanted to cook some food.

D.K.: I wouldn’t think that was part of the original design.

J.M.B.: It definitely wasn’t. Without taking any other precautions, opening the wall of the fusion chamber is not a good idea. Not only would it collapse the field, which causes all kinds of problems for the people who have to maintain it, and there is a distinct risk of the device exceeding the design parameters.

D.K.: Meaning…?

J.M.B.: Meaning the reaction becomes unstable, plasma touches the wall of the toroid chamber, the metal super heats in fractions of a second and after that we need a new station.

D.K.: Do you think it’s a good idea to run the risk of a meltdown just to be able to cook some food?

J.M.B.: I do not think it’s a good idea at all. Which is why the device was redesigned, with safety foremost on our minds, to serve the additional purpose of being a stove. There is now no risk of a meltdown and we have been using the device for a long time now. Station management voiced the same concerns and we were able to thoroughly satisfy their safety requirements.

D.K.: If station management is at ease with your refurbished stove maybe I can be too. How does it work then? How do you prevent your food from turning into charcoal instantly upon introducing the food into the oven?

J.M.B.: I thought I’d never get around to explaining that. We had to make sure that the food leaves the stove intact. What we did was to create a matrix around the type of food we need to cook. We can place several matrices into the oven at once. The food is cooked inside the matrix, which is purpose-built for each type of food, the oven only supplies the heat. The matrix absorbs the heat and transfers it to the food such that it is perfectly cooked, to the customer’s requirement, when it leaves the oven.

D.K.: Describe the process.

J.M.B.: When the customer places the order, the food required is taken from storage, we keep it in stasis so that there are never any questions about the freshness of the food. We will apply our recipe to the raw ingredients, much like cooks on Earth used to do, and place it into the proper matrix after which a conveyor takes it to the oven.

D.K.: How long does that take?

J.M.B.: chuckles It actually takes longer than it needs to because my guys were really nervous about working so close to a heat source of that magnitude. So, the conveyor process is fully automated and takes the food to the oven interface where the matrix will be exposed to the heat of the furnace. Because we are a few floors above that, shielded by converted battleship armour, a gift from a good friend, the roundtrip takes about 20 seconds.

The matrix is exposed to the heat of the stove for a fraction of one second and, on the way back cooks the food to specification and is shed prior to us opening the container. As the dish requires we add some extra elements to it and the plate is then served. Our customer’s waiting time should not exceed 60 seconds. We apply some behavioural psychology by keeping them occupied for a little while making some choices for the rest of their dining experience and when they are done with that, the food is immediately served which gives them the idea there was no waiting time at all. Our customer satisfaction record is solid.

D.K.: We did check your customer satisfaction reviews and they are uniformly splendid. I find myself impressed. You make it sound really easy.

J.M.B.: As with everything worthwhile and difficult you see the end result of years of experimentation and working very hard to get to the finished product. We spent at least a year configuring the matrix process so that the food did not leave the oven as a clump of coagulated goop which, at the start of the learning curve, it most certainly did. Then it took us years well, it took me years to create the dishes and sourcing the raw ingredients. It is also not important how long the maturing process was. The only thing that matters is that my customer enjoys the food we serve them.

D.K.: You were so kind as to invite our team and myself to a meal in your establishment (full disclosure: Prawns in garlic sauce for starters. For a main dish I had a simply divine steak with mushrooms and mashed potatoes on a bed of spinach, as I understand one of Ancient Earth’s rather common dishes. The red wine was a sublime companion to the food, thank you for suggesting that. For dessert I had something called ‘creme brûlée’, which was about the most astonishingly great-tasting food I have ever experienced).

I won’t embarrass my host by disclosing the retail value of the meal, I don’t believe I’m stepping out of line by saying that non-capsuleers will never have the privilege unless and when invited by the patron of the house. Our team reported the same satisfaction with their choice of food and one of them has confided in me that he will be looking into becoming a capsuleer himself so that he will be able to afford food of this quality all the time. For the benefit of our viewers: how do you go about reconstituting something like beef, the raw product for the steak, if you are not using the pedestrian HomeChef most of us use at home?####

J.M.B.: We don’t reconstitute the beef.

D.K.: Well, how else, other than slaughtering an animal would you get hold of it?

J.M.B.: We raise our own cattle for slaughter, in the way it has been done for ages.

D.K.: Are you telling me I ate part of an actual animal, a living being?

J.M.B.: You did indeed.

D.K.: I have to say I am both shocked and amazed. Shocked that I ate a living thing. It feels like a violation. I thought we were done with killing animals for food. On the other hand this turns out to be just about the single-most exquisite thing I have ever eaten. I got something from it that no mere reconstituted food can deliver. I don’t know whether it speaks to a deeper feeling within us, the primordial man, that you are one of the best chefs in New Eden or a combination of both. Tell us more about why you wanted to go back to the very basics of cooking instead of doing what every restaurant, even the very high end of restaurants all around high security space, are doing.

J.M.B.: I looked at what the options are and how people think about food. I think I probably had food in every place in 4-4. Not just the main concourse, I mean at every level. For anyone who might be inspired to try it: you really don’t want to go below a certain level. Some people… don’t eat well.

D.K.: Did you not set out to offer food to cater to all tastes?

J.M.B.: That was the original plan. However, my establishment won’t serve Bloodraider dishes with the notable exception of a dessert that does not contain blood. It’s pretty bland fare and actually only offered as a gesture of goodwill. I have tried to find people who would be willing to prepare Bloodraider cuisine, from a business management perspective I can’t recommend it. If you’re thinking about it I can tell you right now that you’re going to have to accept all the histrionics that comes along with that and for which I apparently have an exceedingly low threshold.

D.K.: Is there any other food that you decided against serving, giving your experiences with all the foods you’ve sampled?

J.M.B.: Yes. Although we wanted to serve ‘everything eaten under the suns’, it turns out that some people eat things that we could not honestly qualify as actual food. Specifically ‘food’ made from waste products, something that is only used by people who don’t have the means to buy actual food. The team agreed that we could not defend submitting our customers to that kind of experience.

D.K.: So, that concluded the exploration phase of your culinary experiment.

J.M.B.: Not quite. I have since started an organisation that focuses on offering decent food to people who can’t afford to feed themselves. Even eternal life is too short to eat garbage.

D.K.: A charity. Isn’t that a bit at odds with the pod pilot ethos?

J.M.B.: I could tell you things about the pod pilot ethos that would make you frown but I promised someone I would not embarrass them so we’ll not mention that. I run it as a subsidiary to this enterprise. We source food from all over the universe. A lot of what comes in is not suitable to be used in my kitchen. Quality issues mostly. That’s not to say it’s bad food, it’s perfectly serviceable, but then in a ‘home cooking’ context. I can’t serve uneven cheese sticks to a customer who’s travelled 20 jumps to watch the final game with his friends, but it’s perfectly fine to put on the table in a pantry or feed a hungry family.

D.K.: Do I sense a bit of class inequality here?

J.M.B.: Taps a few keys, a tray of food appears. "Here, taste this."

D.K.: takes a bite. These taste amazing. Wait, there’s a second… Bob have mercy, there’s an aftertaste that enhances the flavours even more. This is wonderful!

J.M.B.: How does it look to you?

D.K.: I can’t see any flaws?

J.M.B.: It looks completely wrong from what the end product is supposed to be. It’s supposed to have a distinct geometry and right before it’s served it’s scanned so that the heat signature is precisely right. It adds yet another layer of flavour to the dish. That’s what the customer wants. That’s why they pay the price of a Scorpion battleship for the plate. I can’t serve them what you just had when I charge that kind of money.

At the same time you’ve tried it and it tasted great, right? That’s quality food that I can’t sell. It’s also way too good to throw away. Why would I begrudge someone a good meal when I’ve no other use for it myself? Hence: the charity.

D.K.: So, a relentless drive for quality and diversity, a sensible and charitable approach to deal with excess food and a background in alliance management. It looks like a perfect recipe for success. How have your customers responded to your initiates and the experiences you create for them?

J.M.B.: That has been the single-most gratifying experience for myself. My team has worked incredibly hard to establish this venue as the go-to experience for fine dining in all of New Eden and that, I’m very proud to say, includes the top tier of 4-4 dining. Some food critics have put that in rather crass words that I absolutely don’t agree with.

D.K.: Is that a reference to Diebold’s “scraping the crud from the bottom of the garbage can with a spoon” comment in The New Eden Gourmand?

J.M.B.: I was not going to use that quote, but yes.

D.K.: Some people would be proud to be compared so favorably.

J.M.B.: Some people might. Most people don’t understand the challenges involved in cooking the volume of food to the exacting standards Chef Crombez uses. We have philosophical differences in our approach and I know for a fact that he frowns at some of the things I do to offer my customer the level of service they require, but I have nothing but the highest regards for his achievements, both culinary and operationally.

D.K.: But you would not have him work for you?

J.M.B.: smiles There are reasons for our differences of opinion.

D.K.: That sounds as if we’re not going to get any wiser with regards to the difference of opinion.

J.M.B.: Quite. If you peruse the professional publications and other reports of our encounters over the years I’m sure the astute reader can piece something together.

D.K.: We’ll leave it at a difference of opinion. This leaves me with the last question I ask of all my guests: where does it go from here? Typically other capsuleers voice their ambitions to join a corporation, an alliance, simply winning the present war or their grand vision for politics and the future of New Eden.

In your case I expect the answer to be more subtle seeing as you have veered so far off the beaten track as far as the capsuleer life goes. So tell us, Jean-Marie Bultinck, will it be a culinary conquest of New Eden or a return to the depths of space to spread your influence through the tried and tested pod pilot life?####

J.M.B.: I’ve always said I’d rather prefer going back to space. There really is nothing like experiencing the universe through the augmented senses of a space ship. Nobody who has experienced that and flown a ship can ever truly be whole again outside of a pod. Having said that I have found in this experiment a new satisfaction that is just about the only thing a pod can’t give a pilot.

I am enjoying food that is, quite literally, out of this world good. Next to that there is the social aspect of sharing a meal with good friends. There is a satisfaction in that experience that is not easily matched by any other experience save, very likely, flying a space ship. At some point I hope I will be able to return to space. For the time being then I’m going to keep running a kitchen.

D.K.: And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Jean-Marie Bultinck, swashbuckling space privateer extraordinary will, for the time being anyway, moor his ship in the dock of a space station as he explores the universe of superior cuisine with great tastes and fine dining from all over New Eden. Thank you for tuning in, don’t forget to subscribe to my voice cast. Jean-Marie Bultinck, thank you for your fabulous hospitality. To any of you capsuleers who have not had an opportunity to visit: Chateau Fusion in Cistuvaert solar system, it’s an experience that’s worth every jump you have to make. I am Darren Kohlmeer, this has been A Pod Pilot’s Life, fly safe!

EPILOGUE

After the interview Jean-Marie Bultinck took a stroll through his establishment to see whether everything was up to specifications. He knew it would be, there were numerous redundant processes in place to make sure the whole operation ran smoothly. You don’t need to have lead a space alliance to run a restaurant, for some of the logistics work involved it helps to have experience moving large volumes of goods over long tracts of space. It’s not just the details, it is very much in the timing of the thing. Customers never saw the moving walls that guided them on their trek through the dining room, or the maintenance droids keeping the house tidy, that’s not what they were there for. They were dazzled by the displays of life in space, some of them familiar, many of them not, and the various odds and sods that makes up a capsuleer’s life.

Theirs was the joy of looking through the canopy into the depths of space and marvel at the sights. They did not have to be aware of his arrangement with Concord to deal with any aspiring capsuleer who fancied locking on to the station to use ‘large-bore diplomacy’ in their disputes with one of his customers. They did not have to worry about all the security measures built into the various statues depicting the more, or less, successful capsuleer career spread throughout the restaurant. They were meant to gawk at the huge statue of an exploded starship suspended in space, the contents of its interior dispersed as twisted metal and the paraphernalia of the space-faring New Eden resident. It was a conversation starter for the parties being lead across the front or the back, discussing the cruel scene of destruction and the fate of the man ‘suspended amid the wreckage of the dying ship’. He had named the statue ‘Trade Dispute’.

They did not need to know how much it had cost to have the body and the wreckage scooped from space and meticulously treated to give it a ‘sculpted’ look. Some of them, who were in that line of work themselves, would have an idea what the contract costs to have a dedicated crew suffer a significant standing loss with the InterBus corporation to destroy one specific ship, carrying one specific passenger. It was useless for them to know that at the same time as the corporate executive was terminated, the main office of his corporation in a nondescript pocket of deadspace had been completely destroyed by a fleet of super capital ships, an immense amount of overkill assuring even the debris got obliterated. They needn’t care about the message that particular action sent to certain customers of that corporation, the people whom it was intended for understood the grievance.

There was another message conveyed by the huge volume of the statue, one that was lost to anyone who saw it but himself. It was the weight of the burden of being stuck in a station and losing the exhilarating freedom of being a capsuleer in the depths of space. It had made sense at the time to start a restaurant. Lately he had been caught up in the irony of the fact that he was always only one meal away from the freedom to go back home. Home being one of the stars shining through the canopy covering the immense dining hall. He felt the longing tugging at his soul and resented his body for not being able to overcome the panic of being connected to the food tube. “I should have shot you myself!” he screamed at the figure in the statue while throwing his glass at it.

A set of maintenance droids came out of their lairs where they had been waiting for just such a disruption to occur. They scurried over the statue and the floor below it. In a matter of seconds they had cleared away the evidence of the disturbance and the restaurant was again in pristine condition, ready to receive new guests.

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Abulurd Boniface

Abulurd Boniface

I fly around in space ships.