Home: A Place I’ve Never Been

“As we roll down this unfamiliar road… just know you’re not alone. ‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.” – “Home”, Phillip Phillips as performed by Peter Hollens

((OOC: It’s been a while since I’ve done some in character fiction and this event seemed to scream for it. So, here you go. The TLDR is I’ve begun Phase III: Wormhole Exploration by starting in Thera with an in corp welcome home and send-off. The famous Signal Cartel Hugs fleet was in full force and we all had a great time throwing snowballs and fireworks at each other touring a little bit of Threa, since it was my first time there. If you don’t enjoy IC Fiction, I’ll see you next time, if you do, read on, it’s longer than planned, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Please let me know! *The character of Mynxee used with permission.))

03.01.yc118 Saisio < Okomon Constellation < The Forge

Thera I, Epicenter

Thera Epicenter

“Well Chief,” I paused and forced a quick smile, “this is it.”

He smiled in return, but his eyes told the truth, “Listen kiddo, I understood when you were exploring known space it made sense you would station as needed where ya were. I even understood while you were out in Null Sec, ya had no choice but to shut down your systems in space, exit your pod, to get some down time, so you wouldn’t have to travel and station in Empire.” He paused long enough to sigh before continuing. “But for wormhole space, ya know right? That you can base out of here, Saisio, your home? Those holes wander. You know that, right?”

“I do.” I tried to force my smile again, goodbyes were always difficult, but I hoped he could see the spark in my eyes for the next phase of my journey. “But that’s the point. I am going home.”

“To Thera?” He scoffed, something he rarely did with me. “I don’t get how you can call a place home, if ya ain’t never been there.”

Thera III, Testing Facilities

Thera III, Testing Facilities

A genuine chuckle escaped me before I could contain it. “Now Chief, you know as well as I, joining Signal Cartel is the best thing I’ve done in a very long time. I’ve never been happier since before my Grandfather passed away. They’re my family now, besides you of course.” I winked. “And Thera is our, Signal Cartels, home. I know Grandfather would have no issue with me declaring it as such for myself.”

Chief knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on. “Naw, I reckon he wouldn’t and he’d be damn proud of ya too for what you just accomplished.” He offered his hand in resignation. “You fly clever now, Ma’am.”

I batted it aside and wrapped him up in a big hug. Well, as big as I could manage for my tiny frame and his broad shoulders. “Thanks for getting the ‘Wanderer’ ready. Be sure to dust off ‘Jester’s Trek’ from time to time, alright?”

He nodded and I could’ve sworn I saw a hint of a tear in his eyes. “Gesh Chief, I’ll be stopping by more often, those holes do wander, ya know?” I used his own words against him.

“Wha…? Riiiight, just somethin’ in my eye is all.” He winked.

Thera VIII, Planetary Colonization Office Wreck

Thera VIII, Planetary Colonization Office Wreck

I didn’t linger for long as time was running short and I had made arrangements with Mynxee, Signal Cartel’s CEO, for a sendoff get together with my new family in Thera. Having been in the corporation for almost a year now, I had yet to make an official, let alone a formal, event. Rather difficult for me as I had decided once I started my exploration of Null Sec, I wasn’t stopping until I had finished. Ironic, that I did break away from Null sec and returned to Empire once just long enough to join Signal Cartel to begin with.

With one last look at ‘Jester’s Trek’ sitting in the next bay, the ship that had faithfully served me well in Null, I turned and faced my new tengu, ‘Wanderer’. Nearly identical to my previous one, but with one special modification to the launchers. I was rather looking forward to seeing them in action soon. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought. I’ve heard some great stories about our signature fleet, but have yet to be a part of one, let alone be on the receiving end. So, I had no doubts about the good time that was ahead me.

Thera XII, The Sanctuary Surveillance Observatory

Thera XII, The Sanctuary Surveillance Observatory

Eager to be about it and as quickly as I could, I boarded the ‘Wanderer’, prepped the pod which was already mounted and locked in with the ship, and disrobed before descending into the preheated podgoo. Having been out of the pod for over a month now, I had forgotten just how soothing and relaxing the goo could be. At least up until the point when you first get jacked into the ships systems which no matter how much you mentally prepared yourself for, it would always come as a shock to your senses. But as with most things with time and experience, the shock and nausea seemed to fade just a little bit faster than the last time. Such was the case this time around and I began my preflight system checks and departure request before the last imaginary ball of light faded into nothingness behind my eyelids.

Thera XIII, The Sanctuary Applied Gravitation Laboratory

Thera XIII, The Sanctuary Applied Gravitation Laboratory

As usual and as expected, the Chief had the ‘Wanderer’ in top notch condition, readied, and primed to go. Like ‘Jester’s Trek’, the ‘Wanderer’ was a specially modified Tengu. The Chief was a bit of an expert when it came to automated shipboard functions and he had a talent for making the impossible work. Before I even began my explorations, it was important to me that no one risk their life for mine. For the frigates I flew, that wasn’t a problem as their size didn’t often require crew members, but the strategic cruiser offered the challenge of figuring out how to operate it without a crew. Typically, a ship of its size required 30 to 50 crew members to operate effectively. I knew I just wouldn’t be able to fly it with any chance at all that someone could die on my behalf if I were caught exploring and yet I would survive because of the pod and the cloning technology. I honestly didn’t understand how others could do it with any sort of conscience or lack of survivor’s guilt.

From what the Chief told me, the solution was rather elegant, but not one that I could even explain, so I won’t try. Suffice it to say, since I didn’t demand ammo reloads for the launchers, I figured I’m cloned anyway if I’m caught, as well as giving up a lot of extra eyes to watch various sensors and no damage control, and … I could go on, he managed to get the ship operational with only myself on board. Not only that, he was also able to rig up a means for me to enter and exit the pod while on ship.

Thera XIV, The Sanctuary Fullerene Loom

Thera XIV, The Sanctuary Fullerene Loom

Now when I say rigged up, that’s exactly how it looked on ‘Jester’s Trek’, sort of a hastily throw together controls and robotic assist, pumping systems, goo refresh tanks, and so on. But on the ‘Wanderer’, he really took it up top notch. The pod area looked more like a first class suite on an interstellar passenger cruise ship. Gone were all the hanging wires, hoses, arms, and what nots. Now all that was tucked away, out of sight, comfortably part of the ship instead of looking all tossed in hap hazard. The Chief certainly out did himself this time around. Grandfather would be proud of his old friend.

It was time that I got a move on, I didn’t want to be late for my first corp fleet-up, especially since Mynxee was leading it and it would be my first time meeting her since I joined the corp. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous, but really not sure why as it seemed like I already knew her. Perhaps from another life or perhaps she simply had a way to make those around her comfortable. Whatever the reason, if my hands had been on controls, they would have been shaking. As it was, I only had to give it a thought and I departed the station with no issues.

Sendoff_Katia

Sendoff by Katia Sae

Thanks to the EVE-Scout services that are freely open to all capsuleers of New Eden, I was able to pin point an entry wormhole to Thera that was only 17 systems away. I had no trouble at all navigating through Empire space, finally finding myself in a low security system that contained the wormhole. Since Signal Cartel is part of the EVE-Scout Alliance and we’re home to many scouts and explorers from all over New Eden, there was already a bookmark in my navigational subsystem that contained the coordinates to the Thera entrance. In my excitement, I failed to use my directional scanner to check before I warped to the navpoint, but I at least had enough wits about me to land well short of the entrance to have a look before going in.

Thankfully I did as there was a svipul, a tactical destroyer, loitering around the wormhole entrance. ‘Whew’ I thought to myself, knowing that could’ve been really bad, but having been in this same scenario countless times and the fact there seemed to be only one ship, I knew patience would win the day. The wormhole ended up being a rather busy one with several ships exiting, but my patience paid off, the svipul left, and after I was given the all clear for the Thera side of the wormhole, I entered and found myself home for the first time.

HomeComing_Katia

Home Coming by Katia Sae

I joined our waiting fleet, warped to Mynxee, and there are simply no words for what happened next. If you’ve never been a part of a Signal Cartel Hugs fleet either on the giving or the receiving end, there’s just no experience like it in all of New Eden. I’ve seen many sights, I’ve met a lot of capsuleers, but none of those experiences came close to the warm welcome and the camaraderie I experienced being among my corps mates as we launched snowballs and fireworks at each other. I know, I know, it sounds corny, like some game you’d play as a child, and perhaps there is some silliness to it, but it was absolutely a great time and we all really enjoyed it.

I wish I could remember all that attended, but I know if I tried to start and list them off, I’d miss some, so I won’t even try. Hopefully they’ll understand if I missed a wave or a signing off, a comment made, or a question asked. It was difficult to keep track of all the coms among the many, many fireworks and snowballs that were blasting around me.

Sendoff_MerkatoCesaille

Sendoff by Merkato Cesaille

We carried on as a fleet for much longer than I would have thought we could. Making our way to Thera’s sun at one point, then back out to a safer location again. We shared many laughs, stories, thoughts, questions, and simply enjoyed each other’s company. For the first time, in a long time, I felt very much a child surrounded by the comfort of my home with my family. I could feel my Grandfather’s arms hugging me tightly. Even though I could feel his presence, I wish he could have been there.

As the events of the evening began to fade and we all had other responsibilities we needed to attend to, Mynxee requested that we dock our ships together before departing. She said something about supplies she wanted to pass along before I began my exploration of wormhole space, the next phase of my personal journey. Interesting, because I had not requested any supplies, but ships docking in space was not an uncommon occurrence for crewed vessels. It was, however, rather odd for capsuleers because of the nature of the pods and leaving the ship completely dead in space while not actively piloting. Not to mention doing so in Thera could prove deadly. I was also a little nervous trying the maneuver without a crew. But the thought of telling my CEO no was the same as if I were telling the same to my Grandfather. First off, he wouldn’t accept it so why would Mynxee and second of all, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to say it – out loud that is.

Thera V

Thera V

After a few nerve racking moments of minutely controlling my ships thrusters without the aid of a crew, we managed to dock. Perhaps in record time, I disengaged from my pod, showered, and put on my new dress and shoes I had bought myself as a present for completing my Null Sec explorations. I would much rather wait for my CEO than have her waiting on me. Her time is valuable, I know, and there was no way I would keep her longer than necessary if I could help it. At least, I knew she had to go through the same process as I being a capsuleer herself and I hoped I was a little quicker.

Turns out I was ready first so I went over different greetings in my head while I waited at the airlock. ‘It’s a pleasure, Mynxee’ Hmm, too informal. ‘It’s nice to finally meet you face to face, Ms. President’. Is that what you call a CEO? Doesn’t sound right. ‘My Lady Mynxee, it’s an honor to meet you.’ Good grief, now I’m just sounding silly.

Then the hatch opened and there she was. I froze, eyes wide and jaw locked, and only after a few moments did I finally manage to extend my hand in greeting without saying a word.

She batted my hand aside and wrapped me up in a hug.

I was home.

“I got you a present, I hope you don’t mind,” Mynxee said releasing me from the hug, “Someone to help you endure those long stretches without company while exploring wormhole space.”

“Someone?” I replied with a bit of concern. “Mynxee, I ah… don’t really need a…”

“Here boy!” Mynxee yelled out, whistled sharply, then pointed at me.

From around the corner, in what seemed like slow motion to me, a rather large form appeared, bounding as it charged. So quick was it, my only reaction was a blink of my eyes before it was on me. HSlaverHounduge paws upon my shoulders, for the beast was nearly as big as I, it proceeded to open its maw full of teeth as long as my fingers, and just when I thought I was surely done for, it proceeded to lick the length of my face. I busted out laughing, most un-lady like, and threw my arms around the slaver hound, thinking that petting him would calm him down. It didn’t.

“You’ll have to name him, of course.“ Mynxee said. “Any thoughts?”

After a few moments, I finally managed to ease him down off my shoulders, but he insisted I continued to pet and rub his back with the threat that if I didn’t he’d jump up again. So I did as he wished with a huge smile on my face. The last time I had a pet I was a child and the thought never crossed my mind to have one on board ship. Since I would be able to enter and exit the pod freely, I could take care of him. We would be able to keep each other company while wandering the stars. I’ll have to see if the Chief can come up with a pod-like kennel that could possibly survive and be retrieved in the event my ship was caught and destroyed. Sounds like some more rigging in the Chief’s future. The more I thought about it the more I realized it was possible to have a pet.

“A name…” there was only one name that came to mind. The only name that made sense. A name that to me meant comfort, love, and that special feeling of home. “I’ll name him after my Grandfather.”

The slaver hound cocked its head slightly sideways, then looked from me to Mynxee and back again.

I smiled and replied, “Chester.”

Sendoff_Mynxee

Sendoff by Mynxee

Shake that Cosmic Thing

“Everywhere I went up there, they were shakin’ their cosmic things” – “Cosmic Thing”, B-52’s

04.07.yc116 Saisio < Okomon Constellation < The Forge

Futzchag II, Thukker Mix Factory

Futzchag II, Thukker Mix Factory

The pod goo swirled down the drain as I twirled in the shower in tune to the rhythm that beat in my head. My feet were light as I danced and my heart was thrilled as I shook my cosmic thing. I just couldn’t keep from smiling having finished my exploration of Empire space. One-thousand, nine-hundred, and seven systems across twenty-three regions. Unbelievable! Of course, if someone were to observe what I called dancing, I’m sure they would beg to differ. When talents were handed out, I seemed to have missed that one.

After finishing my exploration of the Hahyil system in the Derelik region, I had returned to my home station in Saisio. It was time to take ‘Jester’s Trek’ out, my Tengu, that the Chief had fitted out for me. I was excited, thrilled, and nervous at the same time. Maybe even a hint of fear, but that made it all the more exciting. Still shaking my hind side and humming the tune that was stuck in my head, I had a difficult time getting my workout shorts and top on. I had made it a habit, after long periods of pod time, to exercise and keep physically fit.

I guess I should have kept my eyes open when I exited my quarters, but I was too lost in the music, just taking in the moment for all it was worth, because I slammed into the Chief as he was getting ready to ring the chime. The smile on his face matched my own then we both burst out laughing.

“I’ve missed that smile, kiddo.” He managed to get out after a moment.

Ibaria III, Thukker Mix Warehouse

Ibaria III, Thukker Mix Warehouse

“What can I say?” I replied, “It feels good to finish a major milestone.”

“Enjoy the moment, it’s well deserve.” He nodded at me thoughtfully. “Your Grandfather would be proud and I certainly am.”

I wrapped him up in a huge hug, at least as big as my tiny frame would allow, and squeezed as hard as I could. That once bright eyed, full of wonder kid had finally returned to my spirit. I had truly moved on and had let go of the past. Now I could honor my father and grandfather by continuing with the next phase of my exploration.

One last squeeze, then I patted the Chief’s back and stepped away. “He’s ready?”

“Who?” The Chief started, then chuckled. “Oh that’s right, ‘Jester’s Trek’ you mean? You know kiddo, that just ain’t right calling a ship a he instead of a she.”

I shrugged my shoulders as there was no amount of ribbing he could incur that would deter my festive attitude. “Eh… to each his own I guess.”

He rolled his eyes, but continued to smile. “Yeah, he’s ready.”

“Awesome!” I started to move my arms in a locomotion gesture and bounced on my heels in succession to that beat that was once again in my head.

Ejahi I

Ejahi I

“Don’t do that.” His face turning slightly red. “Causes me impure thoughts.”

I stopped, dropped my jaw, and then smacked his chest with the flat of my palm, “Dirty old man.”

“Damn straight.” He replied, but I could see in his eyes the care instead of a leer.

“Besides, what would Grandfather think of you?” I smarted off.

“He wouldn’t, he’d just kill me.” The Chief grinned.

“Damn straight!” I mimicked his tone. “Thanks Chief, for everything. I plan on taking a few days off, but only after I’ve worked out and taken the Tengu out for a spin. Then I’ll be scanning down a wormhole entrance to Nullsec.”

His gaze turned to one of admiration, but with a hint of concern, “You be careful out there Katia, alright? Let me know of anything, anything at all I can do and you’d better see me before you go. Copy?”

My nerves tinged again, but I smiled despite them. The time for joking had passed as he only used my given name when he was serious and deeply cared for my wellbeing. I swallowed hard, fought the tears back that wanted to fall, and hugged him once more.

“Copy that.” I sounded as official as I could. “I will, I promise.”

Jaymass IV

Jaymass IV

Jester’s Trek

“Goodbye, stranger, it’s been nice. Hope you find your paradise. Tried to see your point of view. Hope your dreams will all come true.” – “Goodbye Stranger”, Supertramp as performed by Goldey

08.06.yc116 Saisio < Okomon Constellation < The Forge

Systems 20140608“Not bad for a god.” I heard the voice below and behind me say. I smiled without looking to see who it was. No need, I knew the voice to be that of my home station maintenance chief. He continued, “Wasn’t expecting you back so soon, Ma’am.”

“Wasn’t expecting to be back, Chief.” I replied.

“Are you… are you actually doing what I think you’re doing?” He asked.

I stopped for a moment, leaned back and took in my handy work. “I am.”

He chuckled, “You know we have drones for that, right?”

“I do.” Dipping my brush in the can of paint next to me, I carefully wiped off the excess on the inside of the opening. The work was tedious, but relaxing. If it wasn’t for the lack of adequate ventilation and air conditioning in the open hanger, it would have been enjoyable.

Nalu VII, Moon 4, Imperial Shipment Storage

Nalu VII, Moon 4, Imperial Shipment Storage

“Not much for words today are ya.” He stated without questioning. I could sense his desire to jab at me some more, but could tell he realized this wasn’t a good time. The chief and I go way back. He watched me grow-up, having served with my Grandfather in the Caldari Navy. They had been best of friends and when my Grandfather passed away, the chief had taken over that role. That was long before I had become – a god – as he puts it. “Well… sorry kiddo, I’ll leave ya be.”

He started to turn away before I stopped him, “No – it’s alright Chief.” Laying down the brush along the top of the can, I wiped the sweat off my brow then half turned around so I could see him fully. I tried to smile to reassure him I was fine. “It’s just I had read about him retiring and I was… well… just sad to hear about it, really.”

“Ripard Teg, you mean.” Again it wasn’t a question as any capsuleer or space crew knew of him. “Yeah, damn shame really, but most good things never last.”

Luromooh V, Moon 1, Imperial Shipment Storage

Luromooh V, Moon 1, Imperial Shipment Storage

A sudden familiar sense of loss sunk in the pit of my stomach as I thought of my Grandfather and the recent loss of my father. I swallowed hard then tightened my jaw before finally relaxing then quietly replied. “Yeah…”

“Well except maybe for you.” He added quickly, trying to lighten the mood, but seeing it hadn’t worked so well. “Hey, I’m sorry kiddo, it’s just…”

“I know.” I raised my hand to stop him and smiled warmly for his concern, “Listen, Chief, I’m about a month away from finishing up my exploration of Empire space so you know what that means?”

He nodded, frowned slightly, and even with the distance between us, I could see the concern in his eyes. “You’ll be heading into Nullsec. Yeah, I know. What do you need from me?”

“Diplomatic contacts.” I stated flatly.

Skills_20140608“You’re gonna need a lot more than that.” He placed his hands on his hips as if he were about to lecture me.

Holding up both hands in surrender, I chuckled, “I’m joking Chief. I just need you to have the Tengu ready to go.”

“She’s ready.” He crossed his arms, taking a stance of denial. “You sure about this?”

“I’m sure and it’s a him.” I turned back to my handy work painted on the side of the Tengu hull and smiled. “Jester’s Trek.”

04 Vale IVJester’s Trek Exploration Tengu Fit of the Week

Statistics
1,624 systems explored making that 29.9% of New Eden with no ship losses so far.

Madirmilire VIII, Niarja Gate