It had been a busy day and Bob provided me with the just the right distraction to take my mind off it. I was relaxing and reading a few things when at 0024:
Chaim Achasse and I were both available although I was conveniently placed in Zoohen, two jumps from Heorah, the beginning of the chain in. I headed out and seven minutes after Aldar Roanaok located the system I was there with Chaim hot on my heels. With three of us in we started checking routes. Chaim and Aldar both had some things to look after so I contacted the pilot and started scanning.
I opened a channel to the pilot and I confirmed they were in a dreadnought so we needed Very Large holes all the way out. C5 rescues rarely give a known space exit without having to work for it and that doubles when it’s a capital ship. While I scanned I chatted with the pilot and he asked if we could bring some supplies in since he had a mobile depot. I contacted Angel Lafisques and they went to work figuring out how to get 1000m3+ of gear through a frigate hole as we needed a capital sized MicroWarpdrive. That would give us the option to roll holes if we couldn’t find a reasonable route easily.
While Angel worked his way out of the wormhole he was in and headed for Jita I continued to scan. By 0249 I decided Bob was messing with us. I had scanned down a large tree of connections and the only exits we had for a capital were five jumps out, eol, AND mass critical. On top of that they both apparently had Goons on the other side. They likely had moved a fleet through or were moving supplies for their war.
In the meantime Angel had bought the supplies in a Sunesis that she fitted for cargo. While she was on the way to our high sec entrance it collapsed so I had to find another entrance for her. Fortunately got another high sec and by 0342 or so Angel was transferring an MWD, cloak, probes, probe launcher, and fireworks to our pilot. She then headed out again to swap the Sunesis for a Pacifier. It as getting late at this point and we had no routes so decided to call it until the next day.
The next day our pilot wasn’t available however we kept scanning and maintaining known space routes for our pilots. Aldar had been rolled out the night before so I went about finding a route for him. Diving down a long chain I reached known space, and headed back. I immediately noted the route had been destabilized and started moving fast. One system away I miss-clicked and ended up going back one system. Waiting for the polarization timer to expire I watched two luxury yachts collapse the hole. Now I was rolled out.
That night Angel got to work and found us another route in. I brought both my main and my friend, Thera Gaze, back just to be sure. It’s very nerve wracking on a big SAR to be down to two pilots in system. As Angel also brought a friend we were up to five, plus we left a note for Aldar about the current route. Our pilot was not available so we called it a night.
Friday dawned and Chaim had time to dive into scanning and at 1639 EVE he found a VL route of three jumps and out to null sec. Our pilot wanted to bring a cyno friend to the target system so we provided the info and waited for the friend to make it over. That worked out well as it meant everything came together right when I had time.
We formed a fleet and Chaim headed for the first system in the route to make sure it was clear. Things were clear in the start system so our pilot logged in and warped to me. A few minutes later he was on the hole, Naglfar’s are sloooooow. We splashed through and I warped on to the next wormhole while Chaim checked the next system.
Some long warps and we had him into null sec. As he had found he didn’t have any fuel to jump I quickly made an unaligned safe for him and he warped to me and parked. I wished him well and headed back for the safety of Anoikis.
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.
The ceremony was finally finished. Not that it had been bad, mind you, the speeches and the talk by the instructor, the old Admiral that probably saw more than one big battle in space, and probably was on his tenth clone or something and all that. And of course, the repeated mention of “the good of the Caldari State”, that nobody really knew what it meant. Mostly, the good of the state was “what is good for the corporation”. And that was… almost true… but not always.
Anyhow, now it was done. He was finally, and officially, a Capsuleer.
Dravik Zinmar, the youngest of the two brothers, slung his jacket on his shoulders and walked out of the temporary accommodation that had been assigned to him by the Academy, and started walking towards the docks.
Walking felt a bit odd, after so long in his capsule for the final tests.
The major problem wasn’t to get out of the capsule, it was to get back in. All the various probes and pipes that had to be put back into their… plugs.
“Why can’t we have implants in the stomach?” was the usual thought. The reason was: if you did, you couldn’t do social things like drinking or eating. And sure, there was that idiotic idea of just having one dedicated clone for flying the ship and nothing else but then, wouldn’t have been better to just have a “brain in a jar”?
The age-old philosophical discussion about “what makes a man human”.
— Yoh! Wake Up!
Zendo, his older brother, was right in front of him looking at him in bemusement.
— Woah! Almost didn’t see you…
— Yeah, I noticed when you just passed me without even slowing down!
Zendo tended his hand and they shake – if the usual attempt of his brother to break his hand was considered ‘shaking’.
After that, Zendo pulled out 2 bottle of Amarran beer from his coat.
— Where did you get that?
— Oh, one of my customers wanted an extra-discount on some stuff I built for him so… we had a deal. – He waved his hand in that manner that meant “do not ask too many questions, just drink”.
Zendo was the more “enterprisey” of the family, started early building and selling equipment, locating himself near a contested area was a receipt for having lots of returning customers and selling lots of ships, ammunition and equipment.
The two walked towards the observation deck, where Dravik’s Corvette was gently floating in the docking bay, sat down on one of the benches, and toasted. Looking across the bay, beyond the force barrier that enclosed the docks, you could see other ships towed in or out of the station. An humongous battleship was being towed towards the launch bay by a smaller, but powerful Mule drone.
— So, you’re a capsuleer now!
Zendo interrupted his meditation with an obvious remark.
— That’s what it says on the graduation chip.
— And now what? What’s your plan?
— Do I really need to have a plan?
— Well, it would be good!
Zendo, apparently, always had a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup for when the backup failed of course. And… Dravik relied a lot more on split-second decision and sheer luck. Mostly luck. So far, it had worked.
— Well, my plan is to fly!
— With that thing? (pointing towards the Corvette)
— Oh, come on! Ain’t that bad. You flew a Corvette too when you graduated right?
— Of course I did! Didn’t have the money to buy another one so I used what I had until I had enough.
— Well, I plan to do the same, for a while.
— Good. And where are you going to fly that thing to? If I may ask.
Dravik got up, turned around and looked outside the observation window that showed the curvature of the nearby planet and, beyond that, the faint glow of the distant nebula.
He pointed his finger.
Zendo was looking at him a bit confused, turned around and looked.
— Where? Can’t see anything…
— Right there!
— …and what’s “there” ?
Dravik spun around, sat on the bench and placed his arm over his brother’s shoulder with a unique, flowing movement.
–I don’t know. – he said raising his eyebrows – But I’m gonna find it.
Zendo raised the bottle towards his brother – Well, good luck to you then. Dravik touched the bottle with his own – Thanks.
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.