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