“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.”
-Mark Antony, Act 3, Scene 1 in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
I love to shower. The gushing sound, the warm water striking the top of my head and then cascading down over my body and the steam swirling in the enclosed space, softening sharp angles, all combine to transport me away, if only temporarily, to somewhere quiescent and removed from the concerns of daily life. Finally washed free of viscous pod goo, I turn off the water and reach for the towel on the heating rack through lingering steam. Warm, luxurious fluffiness envelopes me. The soothing sensation of toweling continues to distract me from the real world, repelling an unease that has been building insidiously within me over the past several months.
A short time later, I’m dressed again, and my anxieties slowly make their return. I need another distraction; something fun and entertaining.
“I wonder if there are any Signaleers hanging out at the bar tonight? I’ll head down there for a drink and some laughs”, I think as I look out the window at the giant nebula so prominent in my home system.
The station orbiting Zoohen III is owned and administered by the Amarr Theology Council Tribunal, the last great vestige of the religious sect that once ruled the Amarrian empire and they enforce strict moral policies. Unsurprisingly then, given the stultifying environment, there are only a handful of official bars and they adhere strictly to rules that serve solely to curtail enjoyment. Thus, I prefer the lively, unregistered underground bars that do their best to remain “under-the-radar”. But I am not completely naïve. Patronizing these establishments carries some risk – they are outside the capsuleer zones and in the baseliner districts, where capsuleers must tread more cautiously, and there is also the possibility that there are informants that provide information to the authorities that is useful in conducting raids of such places.
Arriving at the pub, I don’t immediately see anyone I recognize from Signal Cartel. It’s a great little place, with low lighting and strings of small colored lights hanging from the ceiling and walls and draped over an assortment of eclectic decorations and other accessories strewn about. A guitarist is playing in the corner. There are always some baseliners present here and even though the pod connection ports on my body are hidden by my clothing – so that I don’t stand out as a capsuleer – they can tell. I think it’s just the way I carry myself.
In this pub, capsuleers are usually tolerated, so long as we try to blend in and don’t flaunt our privileged position. Tonight, though is different. As I walk past one of the tables, an elderly man stands up in front of me, blocking my way with an outstretched arm to my chest.
“My son. My son…”, he begins. I know what is coming next. “He… he died on a ship piloted by one of your kind.” He narrows his eyes. “I hate you all”, he says venomously.
I look straight ahead, silent. His friends quickly pull him back down into his seat. One of them whispers something into his ear. No-one wants a confrontation here that will bring in the authorities. As I continue to walk past him, he spits onto my boots and makes a universally recognizable rude gesture with both his hands.
A little shaken, I sit down at the bar counter and, on the other side, Tharu walks over.
“Hey Void… sorry about that. How’s it going otherwise? What brings you in tonight?”
I like Tharu, he’s unpretentious and genuinely friendly to capsuleers; he doesn’t harbor the loathing for us that so many baseliners, like the man earlier, do. I can’t fault them really; we do leave the death of innocents in the wake of our vanity. But we also defend New Eden and all her inhabitants against deadly threats. A matter that has been welling inside me of late.
“Yeah…don’t worry about that guy. Doing okay thanks, Tharu. You? I lost a Helios today so I had to come back to re-ship. Where’s everyone tonight?”
“Out tending and sowing – it’s Crinklefest II”, he replies.
“Oh yeah, right. I should be doing that too. But I’m here now; I’ll just stay for a drink or two and then go out tomorrow.”
“Sorry about the ship, Void. I know it’s hard for you when that happens. So… whiskey then?” he asks.
“Yup”, I reply. I always have a whiskey after losing a ship. In remembrance of my crew – whom I have failed. It’s an insignificant, ultimately meaningless gesture, but it’s my tradition. My way of saying sorry and goodbye.
“You know, you don’t look like you’re doing okay. Sure everything’s fine?” Tharu is also perceptive.
“Well… honestly, I’m becoming more concerned about the future.”
“Oooooh… deep stuff there, Void. But if you capsuleers are beginning to feel uneasy about the future, well then…”, he trails off.
“So, what is it about the future that concerns you?”, a voice says to my left.
Startled, I turn to look at the stranger sitting next to me. She’s drinking a beer and staring straight ahead.
“Do you always listen in on the conversations of others?” I ask.
She turns to look at me. As jet-black as my hair is, hers shimmers in juxtaposition, like we are opposing pieces on a chessboard. Her hair frames a face of ochre clay with bangs falling over her eyebrows. Absurdly luminous eyes study me intently. A ‘Y’ shaped scar runs from her top lip to the base of her nose and a single, dark tattooed stripe runs from her forehead over her right eye, curving off over her cheekbone towards her ear. A small sparkle emanates from her left earlobe. She takes a sip of her beer. An inscription is tattooed on her forearm, but I can’t make it out in the light.
“T’alisque Agittain ”, she says. “Fellow Signaleer. Just joined Signal Cartel and still finding my way around. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Void Raven.”
“Wha… What?” I stammer. “How do you… how do you know my name and that I’m in Signal Cartel?”
She shrugs her shoulders, “Read your recent interview with Katia Sae and saw your picture. And heard you talking to Tharu about Crinklefest II.”
I nod my head sheepishly as I feel the heat flush across my face.
T’alisque smiles and says, “Has anyone ever told you that you blush in Triglavian Red, Void Raven?”
“No. And you can just call me Void.”
“Hmm… not sure I will. Thing is, I like your full name. Got a shadowy ring to it. But my name, on the other hand, is a mouthful – so I just go by T’ali. What do you do here?”
“SAR stuff; exploration – and a little research on wormholes, Drifters and Trigs on the side.”
“Okay, that’s great. Me, I like fleets. Taking the fight to the sleepers. Logi or DPS. So now, with introductions out of the way, I’m still curious – what about the future concerns you?”
“Well… where to start? Things have become way more unsettled in New Eden over the past year. You know, first it was the discovery of abyssal space, then came the Triglavian Invasions in – of all places – high sec, followed by the Drifter Invasions in null, which then experiences a black out, because the Secure Commerce Commission can’t keep their damn fluid router network up. And now we have emerging conduits and Trig patrols springing up everywhere. Oh, and don’t forget that the Trigs are fond of the word ‘extirpation’. What I’m saying is things are more freaking chaotic. And it concerns me… a lot. Frightens me, even.”
I stop to catch my breath. T’ali is just looking at me, beer in hand. Her tattoo is more visible now and I notice it is written in a language unfamiliar to me.
“Huh. Well, aren’t you just a regular little ray of starlight, Void Raven? Tell me, are you always like this? Because if you are, I’ll have to do my drinking with other Signaleers, okay? You do know the Drifters have gone back to their filthy, stinking Hives and the null blackout is over, right? Shouldn’t that count as good news?”
“How can we be sure the Drifters won’t come back, in even greater numbers and with more force? And they say null could blackout again without notice”, I grumble.
T’ali nods her head, “Hmmm… fair point”, and then continues, “Listen – first, don’t panic okay? We’ve got this covered – us capsuleers, including you. We may not have all the answers yet, but we’ve always come through before when faced with threats and we’ll do so again. Sure, the threats today may seem more acute, but we’ll just up our game to match theirs. We will need to fight though… I think there’s no getting around that. It does seem like there’s a storm brewing on the horizon. Everyone will have to do their bit – the industrial class will build the machines of war and the warrior class will rain havoc upon the enemy. And so on, you know.”
T’ali checks the time. “Oh… shoot… I’ve got to run. Say, I just had an idea. I need to buy an Augeror in Dodixie for a sleeper fleet tomorrow. With the current wardec, I could use someone to scout ahead for me on the way back. You interested, Void Raven?”
“I just showered a little over an hour ago to clean off pod goo”, I say. T’ali raises her eyebrows.
“Okay, sure, I’ll scout for you, T’ali. And it’s Void”, I say – again.
“Great! Let’s go. I’ll meet you outside Zoo and we can fleet up.”
We get up to leave, and T’ali suddenly grabs my arm.
“Oh, by the way, I saw you glance a few times at the tattoo on my arm. Want to know what it says? Here, take a look.” She steps closer, holding out her forearm for me to read the tattoo.
“’Si vis pacem, para bellum.’ Well, it sounds good I guess, but I have no idea what it means”, I say.
T’ali looks me directly in the eyes, and replies, “It’s a very ancient language and it means ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’, Void Raven.”