Pollyanna

Void Raven

“Well, that was uneventful,” I say, relieved. “My kind of trip. We got your new Guardian safely back to Zoo, T’ali.”

T’ali and I have returned from Dodixie where she had bought a Guardian for her Signal Cartel fleet activities. She had initially planned to get an Augoror, but, as so often happens, she had upgraded her ride to something sweeter.

“That we did. Thanks for scouting ahead. You did well. Although, to be honest, that’s what I would have expected from someone focused on explo in Signal Cartel.” T’ali smiles and thumps me on the back as we walk out of the ship hanger. Caught off-guard by both her exuberant display of camaraderie and the vigor by which she delivers it, I stumble, and she grabs my arm to keep me from falling.

“Woah…careful there. Seems you are as fragile as a bird, Void Raven,” she says, emphasizing my last name and flapping her arms for added effect.

I glare at her. “What the…? Not funny T’ali, okay? And I’m not the one who needs to be careful.”

“Oh, have we become grumpy? Lighten up, will you? It’s all in good nature. Hey, want to go back to the bar for another drink before we call it a night?”

“I’ll skip. I think I’ll just go back to my apartment and get an early night.”

“So… sulking now, too? Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me for the next hour or so.” We only met a few hours ago, but already I’ve come to realize that she can be so damn annoying. We walk a little further together, before I turn to go my separate way. As I walk away from her, T’ali says, “You still got that angst about the future after our discussion at the bar earlier tonight, Void Raven?”

I look back at her, “Yes. Of course I do. Deep-seated concerns that have built up within one over a period of several months don’t simply evaporate after only a few minutes of conversation with a stranger.” T’ali motions towards a bench nearby, sits down and with a tilt of her head invites me to join her. “For the record, T’ali, I think you are underestimating the threat posed by the Triglavians and are overconfident in your – in our – capabilities. We downplay their arrival to our peril. Have you watched that message from the Triglavian Collective? It’s downright ominous. I have recurring nightmares in which they are speaking directly to me in that haunting asynchronous voicing of theirs and they brand me as a ‘Narodnya lacking in fitness’ and expel me from the Flow of Vyraj.” I look down at the ground and continue, “The red darkness is coming, and I fear it won’t be stopped.”

“Yes, I have listened to it. So what? Some ancient fools trying to sound spooky to frighten us? Sure, there’s lightning in the distance and thunder rumbling on the horizon and the winds have picked up. But I say, ‘Bring it on.’”

I shake my head, astonished by her unflappable manner. While I’m glad to have finally found someone in T’ali to talk to about my concerns, in truth, I’m not receiving much in the way of understanding or empathy from her. She is outwardly so carefree and projects confidence at a level that I can only dream about.

I lock the fingers of my hands together. “There’s also something else, but I hesitate to bring it up. You’ll laugh at me.”

She looks taken aback. “Hey, that’s not fair, Void Raven. I’m the first to admit that I joke around and make light of life. But I have never laughed at you for any of the concerns you shared with me.”

I nod my head. “Sorry,” I mumble.

“So…?” she presses.

“Never mind. It’s stupid.” I stand up from the bench.

“Hold on. You’re not getting out of this so easily,” she says, firmly pulling me back down. “Tell me what it is.”

Now she’s like a slaver hound with a bone. “The Society of Conscious Thought,” I reply.

“What of them?”

“There have been rumors in the past; allegations that they provided the Jove technology used in the development of the slave implants that enabled Sansha Kuvakei to establish his Sansha’s Nation. And over the past few years the SoCT has handed out Jove ships in large numbers for free. Why? From nowhere, a crazy thought comes to me. What if similar tech has been surreptitiously embedded in those ships that are now spread all over New Eden? And then one day, a switch is flipped somewhere by someone, and these ships suddenly take over mind control of the Capsuleers piloting them, and they become like rogue drones in service to a hidden agenda that SoCT have been patiently planning for years?” Taking a deep breath, I study T’ali, trying to gauge her reaction to my, admittedly, wild conjecture. But all I see and hear are her inscrutable face and a stunned silence. Now, though, it is my chance to press her. “Well…? Fedo got your tongue?”

“Umm…I think you’re stuck so deep in a conspiracy theory, that we’d need a Titan to pull you out.”

“See? You’re laughing on the inside. I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned this.”

“Oh, I’m not laughing. I’m not entirely sure what the correct response is to what you said. But I will give you credit for originality of thought.”

“And now you’re mocking me.”

“Okay, listen to me, Void Raven. You’re all doom and gloom. You’re filled with inner stress and turmoil and you see monsters lurking wherever you look. And I can see that my lighthearted attitude is adding frustration into the mix. Look, you need a distraction; something to take your mind off things. Now, there’s one thing that works like a charm to reduce pent up frustration and stress. One thing. Works every time. For everybody. What you need is a good f….”

“T’ali!” I exclaim, suddenly wrenched into a completely different frame of mind. “Language! By the Sisters, watch your tongue. Credo, remember?”

“fleet outing.” She creases her forehead. “What… what did you think I was going to say?” She holds out her cupped hands to me as if they are holding something valuable, a mischievous mien upon her face. “Here, I think this is your mind. I found it languishing in the gutter.” She pauses briefly, before continuing with that disarming smile of hers, “Although that would work too. And with fewer people and less travel involved, there’s not as much planning required. But seriously, a fleet outing would show you just how capable we are and would boost your confidence.”

Even though I’m chuckling inside, on the outside I’m squirming uncomfortably in the intensity of her gaze upon me.

“You definitely do blush in Triglavian Red, Void Raven. Quite the shrinking violet, aren’t you?”

“Can we just change the subject? Haven’t you embarrassed me enough yet? Well, anyway, now I won’t be able to go to sleep, so how about that drink you mentioned earlier?”

T’ali smiles and nods her head approvingly.

“You’re a real Pollyanna, you know,” I say.

She shrugs. “Well, I’ll be the Pollyanna to your Cassandra. Sound about right to you? Does to me,” she says with a wink.

That brings a spontaneous smile to my face. T’ali can be so direct and exasperating, but there’s also something about her that suggests friendship between us is not out of the question.

Cry ‘Havoc!’

“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.”
-Mark Antony, Act 3, Scene 1 in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Void Raven

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.”

Anoikis (a poem)

Void Raven

I pass through space,
I pass through time,
in this most wondrous place.
Mesmerizing, so sublime;
childlike awe upon my face.
Here I cannot ever reign.
I am lost; lost again.

Planets hang in velvet night.
Shattered, plasma, lava, storm;
one and all a stirring sight.
About a parent star they swarm;
children bathed in loving light.
Naught here is mundane.
I am lost; lost again.


All alone and solitary,
to the silence I resign.
Awash in beauty far from ordinary;
behind me vivid colors shine.
In this hallowed sanctuary,
ancient and arcane,
I am lost; lost again.

Is this real or a dream?
The question burns;
the truth unseen.
The soul, it yearns
for Anoikis; so supreme.
May it always thus remain,
so I can be forever lost again.

  • Void Raven

A Personal Pilgrimage To Saisio

May 01, YC121: A few days prior to joining Signal Cartel.

Void Raven

Void Raven glanced at the route navigation display in her Astero. She was in Naamo with only one jump remaining to her destination. Her heartbeat quickened with anticipation. She had finally found some time to make the trip to Saisio and visit the Katia Sae monument. When she had first learnt of Katia Sae’s remarkable achievement to visit every single system in known space and Anoikis and without losing a single ship, it had immediately and forever altered her world in a most fundamental and profound way. And shortly thereafter, when she had read about the monument newly anchored in Saisio by the Achura Stargazers Society in association with Signal Cartel, to commemorate this triumph of the human spirit, she instantly knew that she would have to visit it to pay her respects. Void had chosen to make the trip to Saisio in an Astero in homage to the same ship that Katia Sae had used in her endeavor. While enroute, she absently thought about how it might have been preferable to have not come across any photographs of the statue prior to her trip as she felt that it might lessen the impact of seeing it in person for the first time. But Void need not have been worried, as she was soon to discover.

The Astero exited its intra-system warp in Naamo and began slowing down as it approached the Saisio gate for the final jump. Void braced for the jump. Even though she was in her protective capsule filled with hydrostatic fluid – also known as “pod goo” – that served to significantly reduce, but not eliminate, the physical impact and stresses of space travel on the human body and she had made many gate jumps in the past, she still felt oppressively claustrophobic and anxious in the warp tunnel. Void was always queasy and disoriented with labored breathing for several seconds after completing inter-system jumps, which made the automatic gate cloak on the exit side of a jump all the more valuable to her. At last she was in Saisio. The monument was off the Abagawa gate and so she aligned to it and set warp to 50km.

Upon landing at the gate, she quickly and excitedly looked around to see where the statue was, somehow missing it the first time. But then she saw it. Her heart skipped a beat and were she not in a pod filled with “goo”, the sight would have taken her breath away and she would have instinctively raised a hand to cover a mouth open in awe. Burnished bronze in color, clearly huge in scale even from this distance and glowing with reflected light from the M0 Orange Radiant sun in Saisio, it was…in a word…resplendent. The translucent plinth on which it was raised incorporated banks of powerful spotlights around the outside perimeter that shone both upwards to illuminate the statue and downward to give the appearance that it was being supported on a beam of light from the depths. Void felt that the statue perfectly captured the vast scope of Katia Sae’s achievement and the dedication and perseverance that she and her fellow signaleers exhibited to see it through to successful conclusion. She now approached the statue very slowly, gingerly guiding her Astero closer to inspect the details.

“Careful now, Void.”, she thought, “The last thing you want to do is crash into the monument and leave a mark, or worse, break off an arm…that would be nothing short of devastating. You know how careless you are at times and how clumsy you can be at others.”, she cautioned herself as thoughts of her numerous tripping incidents on the old rug back in her apartment came to mind. Yes…she should get around to replacing that rug.

The pose and attire of Katia Sae were both elegant and sophisticated. One foot was placed at an angle in front of the other, the right arm hung loosely down the side of the body while the left was upraised and slightly bent at both elbow and wrist in a shape, from Void’s viewpoint, somewhat reminiscent of a sweeping ‘S’ with a long tail. The left hand, with upturned palm, was higher in elevation than the head. Floating above the palm was a beautiful blue-white star. As she cautiously maneuvered around the statue, between it and the sun, her Astero cast a shadow on it and as she kept moving, the shadow distorted and rippled in keeping with the curves of the statue and folds in the clothing. It was all rather surreal.

Void guided her Astero toward the head and palm to take a closer look. The star had three planets and a ghostly, ethereal apparition of Katia Sae’s Astero in orbit around it. While the planets were fixed in location, the Astero was not, and it ever so slowly moved purposefully in its orbit, solitary and forever. She considered the star. Although it was but a single star, it represented so much more in that it embodied all the suns in each of the 7,805 individual systems that Katia Sae had visited over a nine-year span.

“That’s a lot of significance for one small star to carry.”, Void thought in admiration. “And is the reason it shines so brightly.”

Photo credit Tamayo

She turned her Astero around to look at the face and brought it to a stop. Katia’s face, which seemed vaguely enigmatic to Void, was looking up at the star in the palm of her hand and also perhaps beyond it as if to convey that she might be thinking of what was to come next. But what could that be? What does someone do after they have been everywhere and seen everything? How does one resolve the tension that must exist when the lust to wander is still there, but the space in which to do so, is not? Nonetheless, there was a silent, unassuming confidence in that gaze toward the future, thought Void. She looked deep into the eyes and in her mind, Void stood to attention, saluted and thought “Katia, you justifiably stand tall among the giants in the history of New Eden.”

She remained there for a little while longer quietly absorbing the setting. It was moments like these that imparted much-needed, cathartic balance to an otherwise harsh, grim and dangerous New Eden.

“Someone ought to write a poem about this.”, she reflected.

With that, the solemn, respectful part of her visit came to an end and it was now time for the fun part. She was going to celebrate with, what else, but fireworks. After all, that’s how they did it in Signal Cartel so she should do the same, she reasoned. She was excited and eager to see the spectacle she was about to unleash. The festival launcher was loaded and ready and she gave the command to launch. Nothing. “What? Launch fireworks.” she gave the order again. Again nothing. “Are they duds, perhaps?” she wondered. And then a realization; “Oh…I see. Even though they are fireworks I still need to lock a target to be able to launch them. They are not like regular fireworks.” How in Anoikis had she missed that little nuance during capsuleer school? Likely it had been discussed at one of the several early morning classes at which she had arrived late as a consequence of partying a little bit too long the night before – she was Gallente after all, and Gallenteans were known for their partying, among other hedonistic interests. Looking around for objects to target she didn’t see that many – there was the statue, the stargate and the CONCORD ships patrolling in its vicinity. Even though she was only launching fireworks, the latter two, as targets, seemed to her no better than tempting fate. So that of course left the statue.

“I don’t know how appropriate it is to shoot fireworks at the statue as opposed to around it.” she pondered. But it was the only target available and she did want to launch some fireworks, so…”Be bold, Void.”, she thought.

Photo credit Erinn Ituin

Void locked the statue and launched her fireworks. The result was beautiful and wondrous; the fireworks were sweeping and flying through space all around her. A big smile came to her face. And then disappeared as quickly as it had arrived; her reverie ending as suddenly as it had begun. A sinking feeling crept through her body and settled in the pit of her stomach. She looked with dismay at the statue. There was a large, obvious black blemish where the fireworks had struck it. “No, no, no, no, no! What have I done?” she thought mortified. Now, Void had no problem with the color black. She liked black – it was her favorite color; technically it was an absence of light and color she knew, but nonetheless she thought of it as a color. Fashion-wise black went pretty much with anything, which made dressing in the morning easier. Her hair was jet-black. Her name, Void Raven, had connotations to black. Her mother’s name – Black Raven – even more so. That last thought though, about her mother, caused some inner demons to start roiling but she expertly shut them down. She didn’t have time for that right now. So, it wasn’t the color that caused her consternation, it was the fact that despite her best intentions she had still managed to vandalize the monument.

“Brilliant. Just brilliant.”, she reprimanded herself.

She looked away; she couldn’t look at the statue that she had just defaced. She had visions of having to contact Katia Sae, the Achura Stargazers Society, Signal Cartel and perhaps even CONCORD and explain what she had done, convey her sincere apologies and offer to pay restitution for the restoration of the statue. Would she even be able to afford that? This was analogous to that other time, when, in trying to dock her Imicus, she hadn’t been paying attention and had accidentally bumped into and scratched the new, shiny Proteus moving alongside her. She had immediately contacted the owner and offered to pay for repairs, but fortunately he had been very nice about the whole incident and had said not to worry.

“These new scratches – they look just like extra killmarks so I think I might leave them as is.”, he said with a wink and a smile. The current situation was of course much larger in scope and distress.

“What am I going to do? How am I going to recover from this one?”, she asked herself, a sense of helplessness pervading her mind.

As these thoughts were swirling around, Void found the fortitude to look at the statue again. She stared at it and then blinked a few times; her face painted with confusion…the black blemish was shrinking of its own accord! Somehow, the residue from the fireworks was dissipating off the surface of the statue. Deep feelings of relief and joy swept over her. She waited until the blemish had entirely disappeared, to satisfy herself that there was no lingering damage to the monument. Thus satisfied, she gleefully expended her entire remaining inventory of fireworks with the uninhibited, joyous abandon of a young child and it was a sight to behold. From somewhere, a thought that perhaps she should apply to join Signal Cartel found its way into Void’s mind.

Editor’s Note: Photo credits Void Raven unless otherwise noted.

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.