The ceremony was finally finished. Not that it had been bad, mind you, the speeches and the talk by the instructor, the old Admiral that probably saw more than one big battle in space, and probably was on his tenth clone or something and all that. And of course, the repeated mention of “the good of the Caldari State”, that nobody really knew what it meant. Mostly, the good of the state was “what is good for the corporation”. And that was… almost true… but not always.
Anyhow, now it was done. He was finally, and officially, a Capsuleer.
Dravik Zinmar, the youngest of the two brothers, slung his jacket on his shoulders and walked out of the temporary accommodation that had been assigned to him by the Academy, and started walking towards the docks.
Walking felt a bit odd, after so long in his capsule for the final tests.
The major problem wasn’t to get out of the capsule, it was to get back in. All the various probes and pipes that had to be put back into their… plugs.
“Why can’t we have implants in the stomach?” was the usual thought. The reason was: if you did, you couldn’t do social things like drinking or eating. And sure, there was that idiotic idea of just having one dedicated clone for flying the ship and nothing else but then, wouldn’t have been better to just have a “brain in a jar”?
The age-old philosophical discussion about “what makes a man human”.
— Yoh! Wake Up!
Zendo, his older brother, was right in front of him looking at him in bemusement.
— Woah! Almost didn’t see you…
— Yeah, I noticed when you just passed me without even slowing down!
Zendo tended his hand and they shake – if the usual attempt of his brother to break his hand was considered ‘shaking’.
After that, Zendo pulled out 2 bottle of Amarran beer from his coat.
— Where did you get that?
— Oh, one of my customers wanted an extra-discount on some stuff I built for him so… we had a deal. – He waved his hand in that manner that meant “do not ask too many questions, just drink”.
Zendo was the more “enterprisey” of the family, started early building and selling equipment, locating himself near a contested area was a receipt for having lots of returning customers and selling lots of ships, ammunition and equipment.
The two walked towards the observation deck, where Dravik’s Corvette was gently floating in the docking bay, sat down on one of the benches, and toasted. Looking across the bay, beyond the force barrier that enclosed the docks, you could see other ships towed in or out of the station. An humongous battleship was being towed towards the launch bay by a smaller, but powerful Mule drone.
— So, you’re a capsuleer now!
Zendo interrupted his meditation with an obvious remark.
— That’s what it says on the graduation chip.
— And now what? What’s your plan?
— Do I really need to have a plan?
— Well, it would be good!
Zendo, apparently, always had a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup for when the backup failed of course. And… Dravik relied a lot more on split-second decision and sheer luck. Mostly luck. So far, it had worked.
— Well, my plan is to fly!
— With that thing? (pointing towards the Corvette)
— Oh, come on! Ain’t that bad. You flew a Corvette too when you graduated right?
— Of course I did! Didn’t have the money to buy another one so I used what I had until I had enough.
— Well, I plan to do the same, for a while.
— Good. And where are you going to fly that thing to? If I may ask.
Dravik got up, turned around and looked outside the observation window that showed the curvature of the nearby planet and, beyond that, the faint glow of the distant nebula.
He pointed his finger.
Zendo was looking at him a bit confused, turned around and looked.
— Where? Can’t see anything…
— Right there!
— …and what’s “there” ?
Dravik spun around, sat on the bench and placed his arm over his brother’s shoulder with a unique, flowing movement.
–I don’t know. – he said raising his eyebrows – But I’m gonna find it.
Zendo raised the bottle towards his brother – Well, good luck to you then. Dravik touched the bottle with his own – Thanks.
Void Raven woke up with a start. She had gone to bed the night before, eagerly awaiting the arrival of today. Sunlight streamed in through the window as the station exited the shadow cast by the planet around which it was orbiting. She leapt out of bed and hurried over to the kitchenette to pour herself a cup of coffee which is what she always did first thing in the morning. In her haste, she almost tripped – for the umpteenth time – on the upturned corners of the old rug on the floor, stepping aside at the last second. ‘Wow! Smooth move.’, she thought proudly as she regained her balance. ‘I wish I was that quick and agile in a hostile gatecamp. But I really should replace that rug. I’m going to break my neck on that thing one day.’
After returning from an exploration outing, however, she enjoyed unwinding with a Quafe or two. Especially if the activities of said outing had included losing a ship. Void had not yet been in an encounter in which her pod had been breached, as she had only recently completed the long and arduous process of becoming a capsuleer, but she had already experienced the loss of a ship. She was fearful of the inevitable pod breaches and subsequent clone retransplantation events in her future, because her experience during the final step of becoming a capsuleer – when one had to voluntarily accept death to gain the form of immortality that was one of the hallmarks of being a capsuleer – had been so psychologically intense and daunting. It had taken all of her willpower to go through with it and, furthermore, successful retransplantations were not a guarantee as there was always the possibility for something catastrophic to occur in the complex process.
In nullsec she had rarely had a drink as she hadn’t had much success finding stations with public docking rights and, in any event, merely undocking from just any station in null brought with it, its own set of risks, more so with a drink under one’s belt. In lowsec, she strictly limited herself to one drink, because prices for neutrals were so much higher than for the local residents, a state of affairs which irritated her a little… well, more than a little really. Furthermore, the locals were frequently unsavory types, pirates mostly, and she didn’t really care that much for the way they scowled and glowered at her in the bars. ‘Probably scheming how best to gank or grief me and mine some salt’, she would think when noticing them, a slight shiver running down her spine at the thought. But of one thing she was certain…’I’m no salt mine.’ One drink; keep a low profile. That’s what she did in lowsec. In wormhole systems…well she couldn’t rightly say what the prospects were of finding a Quafe to drink, since she had only visited one wormhole system so far, and a sample size of one is no sample at all. In abyssal deadspace, she had even less of an idea about the possibilities of enjoying a drink. But, possibilities aside, she had heard that these areas were exceedingly dangerous and, once entered, you only had a short time to safely extricate yourself again, before all – all – was lost. Since she didn’t like rushing her drinks, she would likely never linger there to have one.
Coffee, of course, was an ancient beverage which arrived in New Eden thousands of years ago with the original ancestors when they came through the EVE Gate from Earth. Having survived the collapse of the EVE Gate and the subsequent turmoil that had arisen in the wake of that event, proved, beyond any doubt in her mind, that coffee held a certain allure for humankind. “Billions of people and thousands of years can’t all be wrong”, she mused. So, with coffee in hand she walked over to the couch, sat down and via her neural interface logged into her personal account simply by thinking.
‘Come on, come on…’, she thought with exasperation. “Hurry up. Computers! They can be so frustratingly slow at the most inopportune times. Sometimes I wonder if they do it on purpose just for their own enjoyment.”
“No, we don’t.” came the curt response. Void just smiled. Did she detect some mild annoyance in that reply?
Then, suddenly, her translucent grey-white eyes, contrasting starkly with her jet-black hair, lit up. She set her coffee down on the side table. Yes! There it was. The invitation to join Signal Cartel. Her application had been successful! She immediately accepted; you know… before they might change their minds. Ping! A new mail arrived… the Welcome email. She opened it and promptly set about following the unexpectedly detailed and informative instructions outlined for new recruits. The coffee on the table next to her slowly went cold. Today, coffee could wait. But she would definitely have a Quafe later to celebrate.
The apartment suddenly went dark. She looked out the window. The station had again passed into the planet’s shadow. “What? Where did the time go? Did I really spend all this time just reading in the Signal Cartel Forums?”.
She had. Without realizing it, she had been spinning in station, totally engrossed for hours, absorbing the writings by signaleers on the myriad interesting and thought-provoking topics on the forums. She was immensely impressed by the breadth and quality of content on offer. But… something had changed since this morning. She had become slightly downbeat and a light melancholy had settled over her. Not that she had any second thoughts about joining Signal Cartel, mind you. Not at all. It was because she was young and low-skilled, primarily in exploration – which was and always would be her first love and true calling – but she had learned that certain groups engaged in other appealing, but more skill intensive activities. ‘I had no idea that Signal Cartel even did these kinds of things.’, she thought vainly to herself.
Getting to those skill levels seemed so far away in the future. This was the source of her despondency. She knew that there were activities of value to Signal Cartel and New Eden that she could do right way at her current skill level – she had after all already scanned down a wormhole signature, boldly entered it (some might say naively) only to lose her Imicus shortly thereafter in a most ignominious way. ‘No… I won’t think about it. Too embarrassing to recall.’, she thought again… although the faintest hint of a smile briefly flitted across her face. But then she also remembered that capsuleer losses were a matter of public record, causing her to blush profusely, even though she was alone. However, it had been on that occasion that she had started her tradition of having a Quafe upon losing ships, so something worthwhile had come of it, she supposed with a shrug of her shoulders.
By now it was late, and a wave of tiredness suddenly washed over her. She lay down on the couch and looked out of the window at the planet below, occasional streaks of light from sizable veldspar meteors betraying where they dove into its atmosphere. Her last thought before drifting off to sleep, was how grateful she was for the deployment of station guns which, in addition to meting out CONCORD sanctioned punishment in response to unlawful acts in the vicinity of the station, were also programmed to defend against any stray meteoroids that might pose a danger to it. Void’s eyes finally closed, the light from a glowing nebula off to one side of the planet casting a soft magenta hue over her serene face. Stars intermittently filled in the other black areas of the void… but they were no more than static pinpricks since they didn’t flicker when viewed from the orbiting station above the atmosphere. The cup with cold, and now stale, coffee was still on the table next to her. A half-empty bottle of Quafe was keeping it company.
Void awoke with a start, sunlight flooding the room. Waking up suddenly two days in row? That had never happened before. And she felt a strange, vexing premonition inside her. This day was not going to be normal… not by a long shot.
1.1 Birth. The fate that dwells in the sidereal paths
«Every man and every woman is a star»
The uncountable list of contracts was running in the local communication channel as fast as the stars and planets outside the warp tunnel: all of them cold and hungry as the light blue nebula all around the view. Scammers, billions of isk moving in seconds, danger behind every single smile. It was like… returning home. Maybe something more: a feeling she experienced only once in her lifetime, long ago, when the starred sky was something more from the one she is seeing today. Nevertheless: it was it. Home.
The cold comfort of the blue sky; the science behind the business; the veneration of the Highest Court for the contracts regulations. When business is done with the rituals of religion and the precision of science. Pure Caldari philosophy. Maybe this was the reason of her deja-vu, maybe not. Maybe the reason was just the academic background, mandatory for the members of some families: the huge amount of hours of study were paying their toll. Or better: they were paying HER toll. And her first ships, and life in general as well. A well elaborate business plan was incrementing her wallet quite fast actually. More fast than she would ever expected. Well, truth be told the studies were not the only reason: there was also that little secret. The secret that only she knew… All of a sudden: the space station appeared in the center of the warp tunnel and began to scream as the warp faded and reality took its place, ending the warp, stopping the warp drive. A cathedral of steel, huge and as big as the greed: Jita IV. She was arrived.
Less than a second, again: that little secret of her. Not a single academy teaches you the concept of safe-docking, you have to go somewhere else to learn that kind of stuff.
…in the silence of the personal room she turned off all the channels notification and she started the usual routine: checking prices, moving the cargo, reading contracts, managing buy/sell offers she was controlling in near markets and other solar systems. The idea of improve the business using a faster and little frigate for more travels instead of increasing the volume of the cargo – or the size of the ship – was the defining characteristic of her new job in the first days after the graduation and training program. To fit the needs of the small cargo she took as her core-business the implants trading: they were small but quite worthy. Damn, she was doing fine! Actually she was doing more than fine: of the few friends of the training days she was the one who was making isks. Much more than the people who were mining asteroid belts in some high-sec systems far from here. And even something more than her friend Alia who was risking her life in combat missions against pirates with her combat drones in low-sec.
Yet: something was bugging her. Something difficult to explain, even to understand maybe… She did not know the reason: maybe it was because she was thinking it was not her merit, but her secret’s merit. More likely it was just the realization of becoming lost in some empty rinses and repeats that were not the idea she had about her future (the “future”, when did it became a sentence in place of a promise?). Maybe this was the reason of the good feeling she had warping in the free-cold-caldari color systems: it was a reverie of the days when she still had choices to make and her talents and skills were the conditions of the contract she had with life, and with New-Eden in a larger scale of thought. A contract – a bargain – she was going to claim with the same passion she found tricks and unconventional way to use the lessons she received in the academy during those close-but-far days…
80% of implants sold
time to change the contract and offers to make more money.
…it was during one of those academy days that the Secret occured. She had just moved some important documents for the Academy to Jita – a little task the Academy gave to the older students to put them in touch with some “names and corps” – and after the undocking she had one of her glimpse. It was a little intuition about an unconventional use of the MicroWarpDrive: she started with some overheating experiments and she ended with her getting lost in the blackness of the space with the lovely sensation of calm and the light blue lights of the system star. She was enjoying the feeling of fast movement for so long that Jita’s Space Station was no more in the eye-sight. It’s unbelievable the amount of space that people lose to the warp. She was incredibly close to the space station for a warp-drive reality, but still: she was as far as a human could be in those days. No-one spend that amount of time just pursuing a direction in the void without warping. Obviously she could have align herself to the next jump and then warp for the next star system and so on, until the Academy. But for the first time she felt something new: she was in a place that was hers. Or better: a place that was holding something for her. Something that was hers to be. How long was this non-place waiting for her? What was waiting to her in the void of the disregarded space? Then the chills began. At the beginning they were just a tremble in her hands but in minutes it become a sort of electrical numbness under her very skin. Cold and frighteningly natural, as it was her body to call for the void and the oblivion. A call for oblivion that the poor mind could not fight. How long was this waiting for her? How long her body was attracting herself to what lurks in the familiar places we don’t want to look into?
Why she was losing all that time for nothing? It was non-sense! If only she could reach the directional scanner and prove to herself there was something physical in there – in the middle of uncountable AU – then this will become a proof of the destiny and the future she had felt since that day and not a death premonition… No, she was having difficulties to move the hands and the pin and needles of the tingling was getting deeper and deeper, and “darker”. It was not a death premonition! It was far worse than that! Now she knew: it was the feeling of finding yourself LIVING. But living a life that it’s not yours and realizing that too much years have passed by and the old you was no more…
scanning – Heart beats -scanning – silence all around – results.
At the distance of 2650m from the ship a little cube of debris was floating in its own fate. It was waiting for her. A black box, lost in time but not in the purpose. The little frigate she was on had a Data Analyzer module since she was learning in the academy the basics of hacking for unconventional information gathering so having access to the data and the information was pretty easy at that point. In that precise moment, Ancestral met her Secret.
Accessing files – downloading logs – reading file
That strange debris was floating in the space since long time: the security level was quite obsolete and the basic lessons of data analysis she did in the Academy were enough to hack the info inside the black box. Ancestral approached the strange debris while downloading the information hacked in the logs. Orbiting around she managed to look closely the remains: it was something new for her. A strange ivory light gleamed from the debris, pure as light and with some mystical blue shades given by the Jita starlight.
beeeeep – output logs on screen
Entries, tons of. Those were the logs of a merchant, she grew up in that kind of business since her family was obsessed with the status in the Caldari empire, even the Academy formation seemed to be planned for a more smart approach in the trade business. But there was something strange: the amount of items of each docking and undocking was really small, as the size of the cargo was just a small frigate ship but the amount of isk declared was huge.
Also: there was a lot of information and consideration in the log, as the previous owner was using it as a personal diary. Some of them were poetry. Literally poetry and prayers. Other were tons of personal location and consideration: safe docking location and how to use it, pieces of last messages – or believed so – recorded in dangerous moments, information about markets, systems without a name (referred as J-something) then a last one entry: docking permission requested to the Jita Space station, target alarm, Concord communications, blank…
«What kind of ship was this one?» Ancestral asked herself looking at the pure white glow in the space. She felt so attracted to this “relic” that she decide to open the cargo and took it inside her ship. Then she turned on the auto-pilot (time was indeed running short for the returning at the Academy: hours have been passed by, floating in the space) let the frigate warp to the stargate so she could focus her attention to the relic, now in her cargo.
The relic was pure white, even with the burned edges. It was quite small, yet its importance was stirring the air all around. In the middle of the surface, like a sacred eye, a little symbol: SoE. It seemed that it was looking at her, someone was looking at Ancestral through the black eye in the middle of that pure white, someone from a long distance, beyond the named systems in New Eden. And then she felt something like a hug, inside her, around her soul. It was something from the empty space all around, like a maternal embrace of the starred dome. Above her and in her, and she felt Ecstasy and Joy. A state that is only to be understood in experience, when the divine and the human ecstasy interact. In that precise moment she was not alone.
Time has passed since that day. Ancestral never said anything about it to her friends of the Academy. The white relic nowadays is in her personal room in Jita. After the graduation she spent a lot of her time trying to figure out the meaning of it and that day. At a certain point in time she also had an intuition looking at it about the way to make some isk: real fast and little frigate, more trades per day with little and expansive objects. So long, she ended making enough isk trading implants and blueprints. Time passed, again, but the strange feel she was feeling in the space around her has never left. Moreover: the more the dust increased on the relic, the more the sensation grew around her. Until today at least: in the moment she jumped in Jita the feeling became – once again – the feeling she had on that strange day, a feeling of returning… to something she can not explain to anyone, nor to herself. Was she missing something?
With those questions in mind she end the contract routine of buying offers in Jita and started the undocking procedure.
The last thing she looked at in her room was that shiny pure white SoE relic, covered with dust.
The last thought she had looking at the relic was something about finding a missing puzzle piece.
The last feeling she felt was something about that black eye in the middle of the white, like the first time. As the universe itself was staring at her fate.
Just outside the station. Gently like rain, lights and ships were dancing with the scenography of the limitless and remote Elsewhere. No sound. Not a sound that someone can listen to, at least.
In the middle of the silent eternal night, ships were raining without a sound from the cathedral of steel. Touched by the blue light of the ancient star. Falling down, without a hungry ground down-there that called them, without a cloud to escape from.
And in the middle.
Falling upside down against the silent and peaceful storm.
The unveiling of the company of heaven.
Inside Ancestral, the Remote Elsewhere bloomed. And she understood, peacefully: not the data inside the debris, but the relic itself; not the trading strategy, but the getting lost towards something forgotten.
In that precise moment, on the com-screen, few lines appeared. They were from Alia and the other old friends: «Ancestral, how are you? Look, I know this might be a long shot but I guess I’m gonna try it. Me and some people of the old ground are trying something new. Something dangerous actually. Well… we decided to create a POS in a wormhole trying to build something ours outhere… There will be tons of things to do and discover… I don’t know, maybe you are interested… Worst case scenario we can talk to you for the reselling in Jita… Let me know…»
Ancestral was dancing with the Elsewhere. A silent yet beautiful dance. She did not knew the steps, but that wasn’t important, so she continued to dance with her fingers: «I know exactly what I can do for us overthere…»
On another monitor all the isks she had saved and earned to that day were spent, in favor of a big seller, under the name she just managed to obtain few seconds ago:
It was inevitable. I knew it was coming, some day. I just didn’t think some day would be today.
Signal Cartel Fleet School (SCFS) has been flying Sleeper Eradication fleets regularly for some time now, and all in all things have gone very smoothly. Our skills – and our confidence – have grown, which is exactly what SCFS is supposed to do. When we undocked from Zoo I don’t think any of us expected this op to end the way they did.
Things started off routinely enough. We had a C5 wolf rayet with heavy sleeper activity, ripe for eradication. Our j-space entrance was Haras, in The Bleak Lands, 18 jumps from Zoo. It was a long way to travel, but my intel indicated that the C5 was worth it. So we headed to Haras on the shortest route possible.
There was some traffic with us early on – a Stratios here, a Corvus there – but we pushed ahead. When we crossed the border into Metropolis at 20:30, things intensified. D-scan in Avenod showed combat probes, and Captain Davis from No Handlebars Alliance was spotted in a Vedmak. I jumped the fleet from Avenod to Aset and ahead into Isbrabata. This proved to be the beginning of the end.
We were chased through Isbrabata, and I made the decision to push forward into Kurniainen. I’m sure more than a handful of pilots will question whether that was the right decision, but it’s the decision I made. I jumped the fleet through the Isbrabata gate into Kurniainen.
We were met on the other side of the gate by a group of at least seventeen pirates: one Deimos, one Devoter, two Guardians, one Harpy, one Imperial Navy Slicer, one Ishkur, one Legion, one Malediction, one Pacifier, three Retributions, two Vedmaks, one Vengeance, and one Wolf. There were more in-system – I received a report of a smartbomb Proteus safed up near the sun – but I don’t know how many more, and honestly that’s probably for the better.
I don’t know which pirate fired the first shot, and I don’t remember who in the fleet suffered the first hit. I can only confirm that as soon as we jumped into Kurniainen at 20:32, we were engaged in what was for many of us, myself included, our first real PvP encounter.
You can spend days reading and studying, but it doesn’t prepare you for the real thing. I was grateful for the experience of Command0, and turned target calling over to him. Deimos was called as primary, and we started fighting back.
A few of us sustained some pretty heavy damage right away. The Logi cap chain went down, my Guardian pilots were locked, and there was nothing I could do. Quinn was the first casualty at 20:34, followed by Leda at 20:35. Command0 sustained heavy fire, and his Eos succumbed at 20:36.
I assumed the role of target calling. Drones were out, missiles were flying, and all weapons were being fired. My nosferatu and neuts were on, and Auds came on-grid in his scouting ship to try and assist with damps. None of it made a dent in the pirate gang. We continued to take heavy fire and I lost Chaim, Daniel and Sanctus – all in Harbingers – at 20:36, 20:37, and 20:38, respectively.
Two minutes later, my Damnation exploded around me and my pod was ejected. It was her second flight (she still had that ‘new ship smell’), but she Died with Glory™. I stayed on-grid in my pod and continued on.
Alerei’s 1.9bil experimental Proteus fit was the next to go down, followed by Snyypa’s Gnosis and Aleksander’s BNI. Ren-Song’s Guardian finally couldn’t take any more damage, and she exploded at 20:42, followed by Calder’s BNI.
While all this was happening, Fonsui had the wherewithal to scout some safes for the fleet. At 20:43 I gave the order to warp out and safe up. My pod was scrammed and I was down to about 25% hull, but somehow managed to get out and make it to the safe.
We re-grouped at the safe, did a quick damage assessment, and planned a route back to Zoo. I was still under a timer and my mapping was off, so Chaim stepped up as navigator. He found us a route through Sinq Laison, and I led what remained of the fleet home to Zoo.
This fleet ended in an (almost) TPK. But as I sit here in the pilot’s lounge on Level Sixteen, scratching notes on my datapad, you’d never know anything out of the ordinary had happened. The corridors are filled with friendly chatter, pilots are repairing or replacing their ships, and more than a few people are joking about how ‘shiny’ their new clones feel. It’s just a regular day in Signal Cartel.
As I sipped my Caf, I composed and sent the following message to my fleet:
Things did not go as planned today. We did not come home with Sleeper loot, many of us came home without our ships, and some of us woke up in a clone bay. Our zkillboard is bathed in blood, and we had some pretty significant losses. But it was a good day.
We can spend time second-guessing our actions, being salty or sad, or we can be proud that we fought back. This was my first real PvP experience, as it was for many of us. The fleet did not give up – we fought back for as long as we could. We did not roll over and give up, and I am proud of the fact that we engaged.
We did not win this fight, but the fleet can hold its head high, knowing that we did the best we could. There will surely be more fights, and surely more losses. But I know that we will all continue to do the best we can do, supporting each other along the way, because that is who we are. We are Signaleers.
Editor’s Note: This post is cross-posted from the EvE-Scout Enclave forums and was originally published in June 2017.
I left [classified] and headed to HQ to get a new shirt to wear for non-capsule downtime.
Literally, I flew the 1,300 LY from [classified] by emerging from the hole in Hilaban, then another 14 LY to my hangar in Zoohen, just to get a new shirt. Is that indulgent and in fact evidence of Anoikis-dwellers’ skewed priorities? Have I spent too long in the dreamworld?
Zoohen regulars will know that New Eden – the New Eden – is only a few jumps away from Zoohen. I realised I haven’t been there this year (I try to go there at least once a year as a ritual) and I wanted to test something.
Since it was the middle of the day in NEST terms, and since I know most capsuleers don’t rise before noon, I expected, and got, a seamless and effortless transit up the long-abandoned and infrastructure-free lowsec pipe to the New Eden system. I even got a traffic control advisory at the Promised Land > New Eden stargate, as if I’d caught the gate crew napping at their posts, because, y’know, what the hell would anybody come here for at this hour?
There’s only one reason to come to this system in this day and age:
The new cluster-wide, universal cam-drone upgrade we all got last month has changed the appearance of the EVE Gate anomaly. It hasn’t really changed at all, and an unaugmented baseline meathead viewing it through a window would only ever see a blinding white mass of heavenly light. To us, the resolution and fidelity and dynamic range at which we capsuleers are allowed to perceive it, means it appears more alive and more deadly than ever. It looked relatively static under the old system, but now we see field lines and what look like hot gas shock fronts, and its apparent magnitude changes every few minutes like a variable star:
The EVE Gate is 3.3 LY beyond the New Eden system, so those pulses in brightness all happened 3.3 years ago. If this huge flaw in spacetime changed tonight somehow, if it evaporated or fixed itself or whatever, then we wouldn’t know about it until the year YC122.
That is, unless the Sisters of EVE deigned to inform us first. I mean, does the SoE tell us nothing about what they’ve found out about that thing because they haven’t found anything out? Or are they as schtum about it as they are about those flotillas in Anoikis?
The trouble with coming here, to New Eden, is you always leave it with more questions than you arrived with, as well as a headache after contemplating how the EVE Gate relates to human existence.
For the record I haven’t left the New Eden system yet, as I’m ‘typing’ this through the neural interface with my ship that’s docked in SFRIM’s citadel. I might stay jacked-in and program a sleep cycle as I’ve been here before: this lot based here are devout and seem to cross the line between science and religion and back again depending on what mood they’re in. They worship that thing out there like a god even though they know exactly what it is. This citadel is their church. It scares me a bit.
Besides, you can’t get decent coffee this far from highsec.
“There’s that Cheetah on d-scan again” I said as I adjusted my probes to scan the next cosmic signature in the system.
“Perhaps it’s just scouting the chain?” suggested Trevier, the crew chief of my Stratios cruiser who I’d been working with for a number of months now.
“Perhaps. Though I’m suspicious that it’s just appeared after our probes have been out near that citadel.”
“What do you propose? We’ve only found the one relic site in this system. We could leave it and jump to the next wormhole?”
“Let’s warp to 100km from the site and see if there’s any activity. If the Cheetah is sniffing around we’ll leave it.”
Staying cloaked, I land the Stratios 100km from the relic site, a Guristas monument site which I hope will break my run of bad luck and net me a nice pay day. Forty million ISK would be good, maybe more depending on the loot in the cans.
D-scan is empty, no sign of the covert ops frigate which was causing us so much concern. I warp us back to a safe spot in an empty part of space.
“Looks like it’s gone” says the chief
“I don’t like it. Why hasn’t it run any of the sites?”
“We could just do the relic site and get out, keep our eyes peeled and be gone in 15 minutes?”
“Alright. I’m going to warp to 30km and move slowly to the first can. I want to hear the minute something appears on grid.”
Again I warped to the site. I selected the nearest can and approached it slowly. The Stratios cruiser can be a formidable ship in a fight but I’d made the decision to remove guns from it, choosing to avoid conflicts altogether instead of standing my ground. The covert ops cloak fitted to the ship is now my best defence, but that means we are at our most vulnerable when we de-cloak to hack sites.
Trevier’s voice came through my pod “That’s the can within targeting range.”
I checked d-scan one final time, seeing nothing of note on the scanner and turned off the cloaking module. Nothing happened.
“OK. Looks clear let’s crack the can and get out of here” I announce to the chief.
Orbiting the can at 2500 metres I prepare the Relic Analyser module for the process of hacking the can so we can access the loot inside. All of a sudden I see a flash of grey on my grid overview.
I immediately hit the cloak and shout to the rest of the ship “We have company!”
Mentally, I cross my fingers as the camera drones show my ship disappearing from space just as another Stratios lands right on top of me.
Trevier’s voice tells me what I already know “Shit! They’re going to decloak us that close”
The cruiser shudders as I launch a flight of ECM drones and target the newly arrived ship as the first alarms sound around me informing us we’ve been targeted ourselves. I fire an ECM burst and instruct the drones to follow up with their own jamming capabilities, desperately hoping to break the lock so I can cloak again and escape. I try in vain to warp out but the ship has us pointed, so instead I align to a safe spot and wait to see if the countermeasures can get us free.
I fire off a neutraliser module to try and drain my opponent’s capacitor to minimise any damage they can deal to us. At that moment I’m alerted to a second ship appearing on grid, a Broadsword, and suddenly we’re engulfed by a warp disruption bubble.
“Watch the capacitor!” the chief says over comms “We’re dead!”
Another alarm sounds telling me I’ve burned through my own capacitor reserve trying to save the ship. There’s nothing left to stop the attack as I watch our shields and then our armour disappear with every shot from the ambush.
“Sorry chief. It’s been a pleasure having your crew fly with me”
“Just make sure the crew are looked after Gaston” comes the reply.
I send the instruction to my broker to distribute the coming insurance payout to the families of the crew. It’s not enough but it’s something. As the alarms continue to sound louder in my pod I decide if I’m to lose this ship I’m going to do it in style. I swing towards the enemy Stratios and activate the last module I have left, my Signal Cartel issue festival launcher.
Fireworks shatter the space around us in a defiant celebration of my loyal crew, as the last of my armour is destroyed and the hull begins to break apart. My capsuleer’s pod blasts free from the disintegrating wreck of my once beautiful ship and I have a few moments to sit quietly in space, contemplating the folly of going into the relic site against all my better judgements just because I wanted to do right for my crew, who are now lost with the ship.
“Farewell chief” I say quietly as the Broadsword fires on my pod and I feel my consciousness fire across the ether towards my awaking clone back in Thera.
This is a cross-post from Mynxee’s blog, Cloaky Wanderer, written in character.
After a long sojourn in Anoikis, I had returned to Zoohen for some R&R. I was enjoying dinner alone at Armateur, my favorite upscale restaurant in Zoohen Theology Council station, when Allison piped up. Hearing our Signal Cartel AI co-pilot’s voice startled me–I’d forgotten I had enabled her on my wrist terminal.
“Captain!” she said in her usual pert tone,”I’ve detected a +10 pilot from your personal contacts list in this establishment. Consult my screen for the pilot’s name. I’ve taken the liberty of sending him a message of greeting from you.”
I tapped the terminal and a small holo-screen appeared above it.
“Fuuuuuuuu…..”, I began to mutter, seeing the name and wondering what he was doing here of all places.
“CAPTAIN, the Credo!” Allison cut in, all mock outrage.
I rolled my eyes and asked the cheeky AI, “How would you know who’s in this restaurant, Allison?”
After a few seconds of silence, she replied “Even AIs have friends.” Was it may imagination or did she sound defensive?
“Just don’t do anything illegal, and stop taking liberties if you don’t mind.” I said grumpily, scanning the crowd for that familiar face from so long ago. Oh. There he was. Sitting in the far corner, looking as beautiful as ever. He examined his datapad, glanced briefly around the room, then touched the screen lightly with one elegant finger, his hands just as slim and perfectly manicured as I remembered them. Piano player hands. Artist hands. Extremely talented hands.
I sighed and continued eating, resigned to the fact that there would surely be an uncomfortable encounter any minute now. I really need to review and prune that Contacts list, I thought.
“WELL, I NEVER!” Allison suddenly spluttered in a shocked tone. “He has rejected my– I mean your — well, OUR — message! REJECTED it. How rude!”
I burst out laughing. “That’s his second best skill,” I told her. “Please, let it drop.”
Silence ensued for some minutes, thank Bob. However, when I had nearly finished my very fine meal, Allison spoke again, quietly.
“Captain, I apologize if I was presumptuous. But if I may say, while my searches of public records don’t reveal much, he does appear to be a good match for you. Perhaps you should bookmark his spot and warp to it.”
What the hell!
I shut Allison down, then pulled up the holo-screen again. “Message,” I said and began typing.
To: A Dead Parrot From: Mynxee Date: YC119.06.21
We have to talk. You won’t believe what she said to me just now!
Then without being seen, I slipped out of the restaurant and headed for the solitude of my quarters, wondering the whole way what exactly A Dead Parrot’s creation was evolving into.