Essence

Thoughts race through my mind as the capsule begins to fold around me. Utter darkness, a cold grey lack of sensation, a mindless, black, emptiness – I am enveloped. My capsule is raised up and lowered into the control centre of my Wolf. My ship is thrust into space in a single, fluid motion. The vastness surrounds me and my mind clears as neurons and synapses automatically begin piloting the vessel.

I banish all thought and begin my search. Hadozeko is empty – nothing but planets, dry asteroid belts and empty space. A list of potential systems flashes behind my closed eyes. I set course for Eifer. My ship aligns and accelerates and time and space blur as I burn towards the next gate, and the next, and the next. Planets slip by unnoticed, filled with the mortal lives and souls of persons unknown.  I spread my fingers and begin my mantra. I do not breathe. I bear no scars. I feel no sorrow. I hold no love. I am not human. I am nothing.

A blip on my scanner and instinct takes over: IX Cluster. My ship aligns. jaguar@30degrees. Scan narrows. Ammunition loading. I short warp to gain perspective. 5degrees@belt IX – I. The hunt is over. My mind tenses for the sudden assault…

But I do not always kiss and tell. Not here. Not now. Not to you…

I move on. System after system flashes by.

This is low security space – these empty, silent systems set against a hollow, blackened sky. This is home…

My old friend Volstruis meets me in Gusandall in a Daredevil. His voice, haggard, lined and laced with cheap booze, crackles over the cheap communications channel which we have set up. We come to a quick decision and start out journey down the pipe towards Wiskeber.

My attention crystallises as we jump into Bogelek. Vol reports a Rifter on scan towards a Concord sanctioned DED beacon. I do a wide scan, warping to the star to partially cover the system – a Dramiel is out there. I quickly run the local inhabitants against my intel systems against and notice a number of Gallactic Collision pilots in system: 5 in all. There is no way of knowing how many of them are active.

I swing my ship around towards the beacon and warp us towards the acceleration gate, dropping short by 100km. The Rifter pilot, is sitting about 50km from us. He immediately tries to close and we let him, burning slowly towards the sun as three Dramiels and a Hookbill land. All Gallactic Collision pilots. One of the Dramiels turns towards us and races forward – we let him inch closer and closer, pulling him further from the remainder of his gang. As he hits point range, the other Dramiel not far behind, I warp us to a short safe, targeting systems and warp scramblers ringing behind us.

We immediately double back and warp directly to the DED gate, activating it as soon as we land. The Rifter, Dramiels and Hookbill are already approaching… Our ships burst out of sight, pulling out of warp amongst a small army of Angel fighter pilots. They choose, wisely, not to interfere.

I quickly lower my scan range and wait… a Wolf in its cave… And then there it is – a Dramiel, closing in behind us. The warp bubble bursts around us. He lands right on top of us and the Daredevil’s webifier and warp scrambler immediately strike home. I let loose my autocannons, fire and plasma bursting forth into space. As I approach the Dramiel pieces of its hull splinter off across the void and into the solar winds. As it explodes I am reminded of tearing the legs off of a spider.

This is lowsec, this place of beauty and brutality. This place of poetic justice.

Too late to save his friend, the Rifter lands and my pre-heated autocannons rip through its shields in a single shot. The two remaining Dramiels and the Hookbill land. My Wolf’s warning systems flash wildly and scream as I am locked in place.

Vol is gone. Perhaps he was never there. It doesn’t matter now.

This is lowsec, this place of vengeance. This slough of muddy water and blood.

I feel the tug on my soul as the Hookbill webs me. It is close now. The Rifter explodes and I turn to the Hookbill, cycling my guns…

All I see is white light. I lose my thoughts within themselves, forgetting what it is that I cannot remember – that feeling of vast, sudden expansion tearing through me, burning and screaming as it seeks “more“. All I feel is nothing. And then it comes – the explosive burst of atoms, ripping through evermore, this nothingness, this everything. It is simplicity, thoughtless, random, mindless. It is all and nothing. It is the collective. It is the essence.

I wake up vomiting in Hadozeko, covered in slime, tearing at the artificial life supports.

This is lowsec – a blood stained, forgotten battleground. Rainbow-oil-slicked and filled with broken glass and shards of broken teeth. This void, this abyss, is New Eden’s dirty back alley.

This where I leave the shards of my shattered soul.

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