Courage

I had spent the day of celebration at the Katia Sae Museum in Saisio where my journey was memorialized. I found the layout of the museum pleasing. A patron would enter the globe shaped museum from the bottom and walk up a spiral ramp where they could view my log entries and pictures in chronological sequence. Projected onto the inside of the globe were the New Eden stars and an animated holographic ship that would start at Saisio and progress through all the systems I had visited in order changing ships as needed along the way. In the center of the globe was a scaled down replica of the Journey of Katia Sae Memorial statue and the Abagawa gate. Suspended within the museum along the spiral ramp in the order in which I flew them, were the actual ships displayed for all to see.

The Achura Stargazers Society held the celebration on my one year anniversary of completing my journey as the final stop on my New Eden cluster tour. The past year had flown by with the shaking of a great many hands, speaking at various engagements, and answering questions from interview to interview. For the most part, I enjoyed each and every engagement, but I was exhausted. Being an introvert and having been alone for the most part with little interaction with others for nearly ten years, to all of a sudden be thrust in front of large crowds of folks that I didn’t know, seemed to take far more energy, courage, and determination than my actual journey had. Not that I had any regrets doing the tour, I’ve always found that no matter how difficult it was initially to find the courage and engage in social activities, I was thankful that I had afterwards.

Todays celebration was different however and it was a wonderful end cap to the tour as the event was limited to my family, friends, corpmates, and my fellow Achurian’s. I may not have known each and every one that attended, but the Achurian culture is one that’s all about family. Still exhausting, but it was a good kind of exhaustion. The day had been long and had ended with a fireworks display around the statue that could be seen through the now see through globe of the museum. There was no bad view to be had from anywhere within as the famous Signal Cartel hugs fleet demonstrated their expertise with fireworks as they often have done before.

With the fireworks exhausted and the end of the evening coming to a close, visitors had started to make their way to the docking bays for departure. Many had stopped by for one final hand shake, pat on the back, or saying congratulations and farewell. I kept the smile on as long as I could, before slowly disappearing deeper into the museum to find a quiet place to wind down and reflect. Absentmindedly wandering, I found myself before Voyager, my Astero class frigate I flew for a time in Empire space before starting around Null Sec. This particular ship held a special place in my heart being my favorite, but I also had a surreal event that to this day, I’m still not sure if it was real or a dream.

Faint footfalls approached from behind me which brought my thoughts back to the present. They stopped so I didn’t turn around, but waited instead as I could hear them whispering. Closing my eyes, I tried to focus on what they were saying. It was young girl, perhaps ten, twelve, and an older gentleman, presumably her father.

“Go ahead.” The father said.

“But, but, she doesn’t know me,” She replied. “and… I’m scared.”

Normally I would turn around to make things easier for the child, but I felt it was important for her to find her courage, so I waited, acting as if I didn’t know they were there. The father was a good man, reassuring his daughter, and offering encouragement as needed until she found her inner strength. After a few moments, I felt a hand touch my arm.

“Ah, Ms. Sae?” She asked.

I turned to face her and offered a smile to ease her fears, “We’re family here, call me Katia.”

Her brow furrowed and she frowned ever so slightly, “You look so tired.” She said, I guess she could see the weariness in my eyes after all, but then her face lit up with a thought and a smile, “Could you use a hug?”

I must confess, I did, and I found it hard to keep the tears from welling in my eyes. The end of the journey then the tour had finally caught up with me and here was a child, someone I didn’t know, seeing my weariness and offering comfort. Before the drops could pool and fall, I quickly knelt, opened my arms, and received the best hug I think I’ve ever had. In the end, I was glad and thankful that I too, had found the courage to engage in these social events. After all, I would never have received such a wonderful hug if I had not.

OOC:
I was fortunate to be able to attend a couple of the stops on the EvE World Tour last year at Toronto and Las Vegas. I have a love/hate relationship with large gatherings of people that I don’t know. I knew in particular these events would add another level of complexity in that there would be people who would know me or know of me because of EvE Online and my achievement. There’ll be others who understand this, but it takes a great deal of energy and ultimately courage to put myself out there. But usually, when all is said and done and even though by the end of the event I’m exhausted, I’m glad that I did find the courage to go.

So, I would encourage you to find a local EvE meetup or if you’re able, attend one of the bigger Fanfest. Trust me, you’re among friends and family and others who feel just as you do, you won’t regret it. And, should we find ourselves together at an event in the future and you want to say hello, please find the courage to do so. I’ll be just as nervous as you, but believe me, we’ll both be glad that you did.

The Spider

Editor’s Note: Featuring Ray Cosmic again this week not only with another work of art, but a short story to go with it. Special thanks to Scort for editing this week!

Ray Cosmic

I had played EVE online before, but this time around, I wanted to focus on exploration. To do this, I sought to learn from the best people practising it today, so I joined Signal Cartel. Then, having recently acquired a new Heron from my exploration career agent, I took to the skies.

After running a few high sec sites to get back into the swing of things, I jumped into the first wormhole I managed to scan down. Luckily, the lower class wormhole was quiet, and held two data sites. Allison, the AI co-pilot, kept reminding me to check my directional scanner. Thanks to her, I got into the habit of alternating between clicking on a node and mashing the dscan shortcut. It was exciting to be so vulnerable in the unknown. The tension made me fail the hacking minigame several times. Even though I detonated more than one can, I managed to get roughly twenty four million ISK worth of loot from the two sites. Feeling rich in accomplishment, as much as in wealth, I flew back through the wormhole from which I came. Once in the relative safety of high security space, I stored my treasure in the closest station.

The next day, I undocked again in my trusty Heron, confident in my ability to gain riches from the depths of wormhole space. I set off through high security space looking for connections to the distant Anoikis galaxy. The first few systems found were empty of exploration sites I could easily run. Either my beginner’s luck had already run out, or I was playing at a busier time. Hoping the afternoon would be more fruitful, I docked and went about my day.

After the next downtime, I undocked from the station and sent my probes out. The first signature scanned down revealed a wormhole leading to unknown space. Upon jumping through, there it was. Jxxxxxx. A shattered system. Class 2, said Allison. There were almost twenty signatures showing up on my probe scanner. I first set up several safespots, triangulating between the remnants of shattered planets. I then safely logged off to do a little reading on shattered wormholes before calling it a day.

Due to the impossibility of setting up structures in such a place, I felt I would be safe. There would be no locals to disturb me, and the large number of cosmic signatures would surely amount to billions of ISK from the data and relic sites. It felt like I had stumbled upon some deep space Eldorado.

The next evening, I set off to scan down every single signature in Jxxxxxx. The plan was to live in this wormhole for as long as there would be sites to run. I also bookmarked all the sites so I could observe any daily changes in the system.

I didn’t yet fully appreciate how poor my scanning skills were. It took over an hour to identify every single mysterious signal, although I did find myself in an enjoyable, meditative state during this work.

Once the scan list was all green, I noticed that there was only one good site to explore amongst a multitude of gas reservoirs. Though I had expected more of them, I was overjoyed to finally find a relic site. I had read that they could yield the most valuable loot.

This time I concentrated on the hacking. I carefully plotted my advance on the network of nodes. My poor skills and tech one modules left only a thin margin for error. My focus was paying off. I managed to open cans on the first or second try. On the sage advice of my co-pilot, Allison, I did not stop checking my directional scanner. It had been clear the entire time apart from my own probes. As I opened the last container, an astero suddenly showed up on the overview. It had been invisible right up until the opportune moment, and was now only a few thousand meters from me. Panicked, I tried to warp to one of my safespots. My onboard computer informed me that my ship was prevented from entering warp by external factors. I then tried to move away as fast as possible to get out of the range of those external factors. What stopped me from entering warp also prevented my microwarpdrive functioning. I was now a sitting duck, and a very slow one, at that.

The damage alarms of my ship started ringing. A flight of drones was tearing my shields and armor to shreds. This all happened quite fast. Before I knew it, I was in my pod, the remnants of my first Heron floating in space next to me. The destruction of my ship meant that my escape pod was free to warp away. I did so, aiming for one of the recently bookmarked wormholes. I warped back and forth between them until I found one that led to high sec. Once out of there, I caught my breath at the nearest station.

I started to rethink the modules I had fitted on my exploration ship. Would warp core stabilizers have helped me escape the Astero’s tackle? My logs only showed that I had been scrambled.

I went to look for my killmail on zKill. From there, I went to see if I could find a ship loss from the pilot that downed me. Maybe looking at one of their wrecks would teach me how to escape next time. Indeed, their only two losses were of Asteros with similar fits. Both times, fitted with dual warp scramblers. So, even with a higher warp core strength, I would not have escaped. I also discovered something else while looking at the kill reports of my foe. This Astero pilot was indeed hunting explorers. With over seven hundred confirmed kills, the vast majority had taken place in Jxxxxxx. My ship logs also revealed that during the combat, I had been energy neutralised. On an Astero, it would mean that no probe launcher was fitted. It was made only to kill, waiting patiently cloaked in the shadows. My theory is that his alt probably scans the wormhole down and runs all the sites, leaving only one as a perfect trap for an unsuspecting explorer.

I went from being a little frustrated by the loss, to be completely fascinated by this capsuleer. They had found their niche, and lived in wormhole space like a spider.

I love EVE Online !

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.”

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.