“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
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Huge 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.”