Joining Signal Cartel – Part II

May 4, YC121


Void Raven

Void awoke with a start, sunlight flooding the room. Waking up suddenly two days in a 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. She stood up from the couch to get her usual morning cup of coffee, narrowly avoiding yet another tripping incident on the old rug with the upturned corners, but only because her stride this time happened to fall in her favor. As her bare feet touched the rug, she thought again about how she really ought to replace it. In the kitchenette she hesitated on pouring herself some coffee… she wasn’t sure if she really felt like it given the peculiar feeling she was carrying around. What was she to make of this? While thus in thought, the doorbell to her apartment rang pulling Void away from her contemplations. “Who in Anoikis could that be?” she wondered as she was not expecting anyone.

She opened the door and saw a Minmatar woman older than herself, with dark skin, orange hair in braids and a tattoo comprised of three sweeping black lines on her forehead, looking back at her.

“Void Raven?” the stranger asked in a soft, soothing voice.

“I’m sorry. Do I know you?” Void asked in reply.

“No. No, you don’t. Nonetheless, we should talk. I have something to say that you should hear.” said the stranger. “Something that will change your future. Will you invite me in?”

“You can see the future?” asked Void dubiously.

“I do foresee us sitting on your couch and having an important discussion very shortly.” she replied with a warm smile, “And drinking coffee.”, she added quickly as the aroma of coffee wafted over from the kitchenette. “But no. I do not see the future. Now, are you going to invite me in? I’m a miner by profession and I cannot stay long as I have a fleet waiting impatiently for me to provide mining bursts. Besides, my irritability index increases exponentially the longer I’m away from mining barges and asteroid belts.”, she said with a wink. “Also, time is ISK and all that.”

Shortly thereafter, the two of them were sitting on the couch, drinking coffee and looking through the window at the planet below, an awkward silence between them. In the course of walking back from the door, getting coffee and moving to the couch, Void had, not surprisingly, managed to stumble on the rug again, but the stranger, possessing a more refined situational awareness than Void apparently did – gained from several years of mining in New Eden, which was often a hazardous endeavor, especially when CODE pilots were lurking around – deftly avoided a similar fate. When Void could no longer stand the lengthy silence, a silence the stranger seemed to have decided that Void should be the one to break, she finally asked, “So what is it that you wanted to tell me?”

The stranger briefly thought to say, “I think you should consider replacing that old rug.”, but didn’t. Still looking out the window, the stranger replied, “Several years ago, I was in your position as new capsuleer, facing a despondently lengthy period of skill training to progress in my profession, when a series of events conspired to place a benefit in my path.”

“A benefit? What kind of benefit? What for? Why? What has all of this to do with me?” Void rattled off several questions all at once, eager to arrive at some truth of what was transpiring.

The stranger continued, “The benefit was one of knowledge essence, of experience. Today, I am in need of repaying that benefit. I offer a portion of my knowledge and experience to you. It is my sincere hope that you will accept it.”

Void froze. The stranger was talking about skillpoint transfer…and…injectors. And for the first time Void noticed the bag on the couch next to the stranger. Ever since she had become aware that skillpoint transfer between capsuleers was possible, Void had always been deeply conflicted about it. On the one hand it felt morally suspect, if not unethical, like one was unfairly privileged, or “had jumped ahead in line” or had been given an undeserved advantage. On the other hand, there were capsuleers who had knowledge in areas they no longer required. In such cases, transferring what amounted to dormant knowledge in one person to another who would benefit from it, surely should also be of benefit to society as a whole, would it not? Furthermore, it was clear that knowledge had value; who could say that it should not be traded by willing participants on open, transparent markets or voluntarily donated by some to others?

Being Gallente, she had an affinity for, and often came down on the side of, individual liberty. However, she had also heard of skill farming, which to her sounded like it could be the dark side of knowledge transfer. How were people in skill farms treated, for one? If history were any guide, quite possibly not very well and it could even be that they barely survived in abject misery. What if the pirate factions were involved in skill farms? Void could only imagine the possible horrors. Could she trust and have confidence that governmental and private humanitarian organizations in New Eden would never permit that to happen? She had not heard any negative news stories about this topic on The Scope or elsewhere, so she presumed – hoped, really – that the state of affairs in this area should not be of undue concern to her, yet these doubts never truly went away. At her thought of pirates, some familiar inner demons suddenly became restless again, releasing deep and painful memories…and grief. But she had become accomplished at defending herself against these demons and expertly pushed them back down into the depths; however the grief always stayed a little longer…like an unwelcome guest.

“You’re awfully quiet, Void.” the stranger said, looking over in her direction and reaching out to gently touch her arm.

“Why are you doing this? Why me?” asked Void softly, her voice starting to quiver a little and tears forming in her eyes as she fought against the grief, trying to hold it all together in the presence of the stranger.

“I cannot offer an explanation that will entirely satisfy. We share a deeper connection and I’m strongly guided by that connection to do this.” The stranger stood up suddenly. “It is time for me to leave. I wasn’t really joking about my irritability index earlier. I’m most at ease when I hear the music that is the humming of mining lasers.” She walked to the door, leaving the bag behind on the couch.

Void stood up too. “What is this connection between us? What are you saying?” Void asked, exasperation in her voice. The stranger ignored her questions and just shook her head, continuing towards the door.

“You haven’t asked me to what end I might use your gift. Whether for good or ill.” Void called out to the stranger.

The stranger turned around, “It is not for me to ask. And neither for me to know, if you do not wish to tell me.” and then turned back toward the door.

“I will use it to the benefit of all in New Eden, without fear or favor, in the service of Signal Cartel.” said Void, even though she wasn’t yet at all sure that she would actually use it.

The stranger turned her head once more and studied Void intently for a minute, all the while avoiding direct eye contact, and nodded. “A worthy cause.” With that she left the apartment, as abruptly as she had arrived.

Void stared after her. “She could not look me in the eyes.” she noted to herself.

On the other side of the door, the stranger leaned with her back against the wall in the corridor looked upwards and breathed out deeply. “I’m so sorry, Black. I hope I have made amends.” she whispered ever so softly.

Back in the apartment and filled with a mixture of gratitude for the gift, albeit tempered by her conflicting principles regarding skill transfer, a resurgence of her earlier grief – that today seemed more resilient against her efforts to banish it – and the distressing unanswered questions swirling around in her head, Void sunk to the floor, floundering in a deep, murky pool of mixed emotions. Who was this stranger? What was their connection? Was she really considering injecting knowledge essence from an utter stranger into herself? Did doing so show her to be no more than some base vampiric monster? On this last point, she felt queasy, shameful, appalled. But then something came to her mind. A beacon of sorts. The Credo. Among other ideals, it spoke of personal sacrifice in service to New Eden – something that she wanted to aspire to. The Credo offered her purpose and guidelines by which she could forge herself a good life in an otherwise grim and harsh universe. Within these thoughts, a calmness and tranquility descended on Void that allowed her to claw her way out of the pit she was in. She saw the gift in a more positive light. The stranger had sacrificed of herself for Void in providing her with this gift…was she going to let that be in vain?

Later that day as darkness was approaching and Void had finally resolved to proceed after much inner turmoil, soul searching and acquiescence to her Gallentean heritage of individual liberty, she picked up the bag from the couch, walked into the dimly lit bathroom and faced the mirror. How naïve she still was despite what she had already experienced in life…life was hard in New Eden and there were few easy decisions one could make. Inside the bag were a few injectors. She picked one up. It was large. The fluid inside was translucent cyan and seemed to glow softly. She imagined she could see ethereal swirls and eddies constantly moving within it giving the impression that it was…somehow alive? Running along one side of the main tube and attached to it, was a small pressurized tube that, when activated, expelled the fluid from the injector.

The fingers of her right hand curled around it. The injector protruded from either side of her fist. The end that attached to the injection port at the base of the skull had six angry looking claw-like protrusions whose purpose was to ensure an airtight seal between device and human. The delivery needle was long and menacing. She shivered. In the mirror, she looked at herself in the face. Someone she didn’t recognize, a face that was drawn, solemn, resolute, stared back at her. With her left hand she found the injection port and guided the needle in while the right hand clipped and twisted the injector firmly into place, a prominent “click” indicating success. There was no pain as the needle slid in, just a peculiar tingling sensation that propagated to all her extremities. She took a deep breath and activated the injector.

Some time later, Void was sitting on the bathroom floor, her back to the wall, knees pulled up against her chest. The empty injectors lay around her, some with broken cylinders, glass shards scattered everywhere, as she had simply let the devices slip from her grasp and fall to the floor when they were spent. Void was emotionally drained, some lingering doubts about what she had done still putting up a dying fight against leaving her mind. Yet, she also felt excited and more optimistic for the future, feelings that were slowly growing stronger and would hopefully continue to do so. But she had a sadness too, for she realized that she had not even bothered to ask the stranger her name. Ashamed, she lowered her head onto her knees and willingly surrendered to sleep. Void knew that she had lost yet another part of her innocence today, but why did it have to be so soon in her life? All the while, inside her brain, neurons had already feverishly begun the complex dance to reconfigure and rewire themselves to expand her mental capacity, eagerly reaching out to one another to make synaptic connections that hadn’t existed before.

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