"One of your damned dirty fan-monkeys is clogging up our application inbox." Em's voice is loud and accusatory -- probably joking, but sometimes it's hard to tell. She gets a little confrontational when she's processing stuff in the Rorqual; I think the escaping ore compression gasses get to her.
Or maybe she gets to them. Or maybe she can't get to them. Did she pick the wrong day to quite sniffing Bistot? What if --
"Jesus! What?" I blink, replaying the last few seconds of the 'conversation'. "Oh, right: damned dirty fan-ape, clogging up the... whatever."
"Fan-monkey," she replies. "And application inbox."
I rub at my face, still trying to wake up. "I dunno what that is."
"You would if you accepted new pilots into your corp," Em grumbles. "Ever."
"Yes, I should do that." I flip a few switches and deploy probes for a system scan. "Except I can already get all the same benefits via casual, semi-consensual, unprotected sex with suspected felons... and there isn't any paperwork."
"Slacker," she replies almost automatically. "Also I hope you're joking."
"Don't worry," I busy myself with scanning, trying to keep my voice even. "I don't bring anything back into the wormhole with me."
"I don't want to know."
"I mean, I don't use all the different bodies out in known space just for dangerous combat..."
"Don't want to know."
"I call that particular one my 'jump clo --'"
"I DON'T --" Em cuts in as I start laughing -- "want..." I hear her sigh over the comms. "Can we talk about this fan-monkey applicant? I'm sending you the file."
"I don't have fans," I reply. "Or, sadly, monkeys." I tap the blinking message indicator and scan the attachment. Technically, Em and I are in different organizations, but we're part of the same alliance and live in the same wormhole, our people counting on each other for damned near everything, so in general practice we're pretty open about our corporations' day to day business. Em's gotten more than a few applicants -- even new members -- that she's never bothered talking to me about, and I trust her judgement in hiring them, but I can see why she sent this one over. "Oh. Tweed."
"Yes," says Em, speaking slowly. "A fan."
"Pfff." I am nothing if not eloquent. "He's asked me a couple questions. Pretty good ones, actually, if I remember right." My probably-bad habit of chronicling our exploits in Anoikis and posting the results to public capsuleer sites had attracted some attention from time to time -- usually good stuff like the messages from this Tweed -- but I get tense when it comes this close to home. I obfuscate the information in my posts almost entirely to protect the pilots I fly with, rather than myself, and I don't like it when that posting habit and our day-to-day operations intersect, even when it looks like a coincidence. "Did he apply to you guys directly? Cuz that would be bad."
"Nope," Em pops the end of the word. "Just the general alliance, after background checks, though it does look like he figured out it's the one you talk about."
"Yeah. That's happened before." I call up a few more screens, one to the alliance site and one to my personal journal, checking the backbone databases. "He's sending the messages to you, the alliance, and to my site from the same locations, and we don't have any enemies from around there. You talk to him?"
"A couple messages back and forth, no voice comms yet," Em replies.
"What do you think?"
"What do you think?" Em counters. "You're the word guy."
I frown, knowing she'd say that, and scour all the different messages I can find, comparing word choices both for what they said and what they didn't say. I can recall the time-lapsed 'chats' we'd had on my public comment boards, now that I'd had enough time to wake up, and digging through a Alliance comm log or two reminds me of something else.
"He's been waiting out this application since..." I try some basic math, but give it up. "Months. Many months, actually. Been on tenterhooks a long time."
Em makes an sound of agreement, but doesn't say anything else. I stare out at the distant star -- our star -- and wonder what it would feel like to lose it. It's a hard thing to imagine, but not impossible. Still...
"I like it," I say, nodding to myself. "As much as I can like it, anyway. Feels legit."
"I do too." Em's response is almost immediate. "Wanted to get your take, though. Anyone we bring in is going to affect everyone."
"True," I say. "And, thanks."
"No problem. Also?"
"I'm totally blaming you if he turns out to be a spy."
Corporate security is a pretty serious thing in EvE. Everything you have in the game came to you though time and effort (like most any MMO), and (unlike other MMOs) you can lose it -- all of it -- when your ship gets blown up or some other catastrophe strikes. Imagine LotRO if being defeated by a swarm of orcs meant you had to replace all your gear.
Then picture losing not just that gear, but all your backup gear, and the stuff that belongs to everyone else in your corp or alliance, because it was taken from you by another player whom you decided to trust more than they could be trusted.
And of course you never know how much trust is too much until after it's been given.
Yet people still play, and they still invite virtual strangers into their groups. You do what you can to protect yourself, of course, but ultimately, you make a decision and you give a stranger some of your trust; you make another connection.
It's an MMO -- that's the point.
Welcome to the family, Tweed.