Saturday, 28 February 2015

Searching for buried treasure in the backyard

The combat has intensified since I was last here.

Two really very minor factions are having an argument about authoritarian or democratic influence as the way forward. Laser bolts and hot metal are exchanged where once it had been words. Still at least they're having a civil war. I'm fairly sure the words were harsher.

The neighbours are shouting at each other again and apparently the galaxy still isn't big enough.

Meanwhile I've been looking for some peace and quiet and some space to grow into.

Lambda Andromedae is home to the latest profitable venture from Sirius Corp. The plan is to place platforms further out into deep space so that explorers have a place of refuge and recovery. A staging post and watering hole with fresh supplies on the wild, wild frontier.

Nourse Orbital buys cartographic data and searches for those systems that stand a chance of being self sufficient, though in practice they really don't have to look very far. We know less about our own part of the galaxy than we like to think and explorers jump through and past systems on their way to... well... somewhere else. With just a quick scan and barely a how do you do, it's jump ever onward to the interesting bits.

The stepping stones in between the interesting bits can have an interest all their own, and are hardly slim pickings.

So I've explored systems less than 500 light years and found many that are previously undiscovered. This is a fairly innocuous volume of space to explore and barely at the end of the backyard. I've found treasure already and I'm still back in time for tea.

Well someone has to push back the frontiers that are closer to home. Might as well be me.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The grinding of teeth - part II

Trouble can still extract a price from those who claim innocence.

Building up a stockpile of rares near Witchhaul should probably carry a health warning; and I've given up on the Fesh as it clearly doesn't travel well. The cannisters were sealed tight but that didn't turn out to be the problem.

I've gotten lazy. Used to authority patrols chasing me I haven't given any where as much thought to pirates. Until one dropped me out of supercruise and demanded half my rares.

I ran. I think it surprised him. Almost as much as it did me.

Still, getting away from an ASP isn't easy. My second mistake was to get back on course to my destination. Pulled out of supercruise again, this time he was better prepared. And a mass inhibit is no fun thing to try and get away from.

I didn't escape.

Shields dropped, limpet attached, all very professional was what I noted in rather clinical detached observation. All seen and done before no doubt. Cargo started spilling out, then my engines were damaged beyond repair and I was drifting and spinning out of control.

Rather than waiting for the final shot I pulled on the escape capsule launch and triggered the self destruct.

The rescue crews were most understanding.

They've had a rush of these recently and have pulled a lot of pilots from their escape capsules. There's a local pirate who enjoys what he's doing and is good at it. I learned something and have also installed some upgrades that have been too long delayed.

I've re-awoken my instincts having clearly grown complacent. Assess the risk before going about my business, and if it doesn't look right then move along. There's always something else to do in a nearby system. Then keep an eye out for anyone who takes an unusual interest.

A shame I didn't think of it at the time: the Wolf Fesh would have been unprofitably fresh and local.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wolf 1301 and the grinding of teeth

It is possible to walk past trouble in all innocence and not have to deal with any of the consequences. Wolf Fesh is one of them as I learnt today.

The drug itself seems like a strange experience to want to seek out. A locking of teeth and sharp exhalation gives it the street name, and the best cut is sold at Wolf 1301. The original and best so the marketing goes. Underground marketing as I've since found out, but then who I am to say. I don't sample the goods I'm trading.

The thing is that it's openly on sale at Wolf 1301. I bought some. Without thinking or checking for legality elsewhere.

I mean, an open commodities market in an anarchy system is still going to play by the rules, right?

Silly me. Too much knowledge about slaves and too little about narcotics.

Actually I bought several tonnes. Pretty hard to justify it as "personal consumption, officer" if I were caught with it.

So when I've travelled through several lawful systems without so much as an interdiction or an inspection, I'm not exactly feeling troubled by having it in my cargo hold. Of course I couldn't sell it on the legitimate markets of the systems that I visited either, and so kind of forgot that I even had it.

Until I got back to Wolf 1301 and realised that I hadn't sold any. About 400Ly as a round trip, so there's definitely no market as a seller of rares to the original supplier.

There's a need to check my air purification filters are working fully and inspect those cannisters for containment. I've noticed I've been grinding my teeth and exhaling sharply far too much recently.

I'll be wearing an air tight suit, naturally.

Friday, 20 February 2015

On the ethics of a former slaver

I can't help myself.

There are too many who have, through circumstance or misfortune, ended up as the possessions of others. Cheap labour that only needs a place to sleep and enough food to do the job placed in front of them. The prettier ones are... well... ahem... lets just say that they carry out other... duties.

Too many have been sold into their new life, as merchandise, and while on my watch.

I turned a blind eye as to how they were found. What aspirations and hopes that they had before. What they have now and where their life will end. I could not listen to their stories because they were painful and without any hope for the future.

Too much like mine.

There's no doubt that I was good at what I did. I led many an Authority Vessel a merry chase among the stars when they hoped their trap would ensnare me. Always one step ahead and doing a fine job of delivering someone else's property. By my own ingenuity I was never caught and sentenced to walk in the vacuum of space. Such is the penalty metered out to my kind in the systems where I did business.

Though I was always owned by someone else, and in the end was no different to the cargo I carried.

So when a chance to escape came I took it. Friends helped, and some paid too high a price. I cannot repay that. Nor can can I address the wrongs against the slaves that I have carried in my cargo hold. But I can make a difference now, in some small way.

So I free slaves whenever I can. Give them a start into a new life.

I can't help myself.

Friday, 13 February 2015

That journey just down the road...

...made just over 2 million credits from visiting around 220 systems.

But it isn't about the money.

Quite a few systems now have my name on as discovered by me. Others will see now see that I was there first, and know that they follow in my footsteps.

But it isn't about the ego either.

No. Really!

I've started to explore my connection with this universe. A humbling experience when you realise it is larger than you might ever have thought. I have always sought to understand. To know. Frightening though it might be sometimes. To find the beauty and connection in understanding.

My own backyard is starting to feel quite provincial now.

But busy... oh so very busy. The last 250 light years have just seemed to fly by, and my feet have now touched ground at Gende. Strictly speaking they've docked, but the rush of seeing another ship and another Commander is... exhilarating.

I need to get out and find a cool beer to relax with. Perhaps Jaques is back.

We can reminisce about settling my old tab.

[footnote: V2066 Orionis is weird - there are at least three systems named for that. Mine is next to V1315 Orionis]

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

2MASS J05351589-0524175, I remember it well

I should read the manual more often.

One of the options tucked away near the bottom of a third level menu, and accessed through a rather wishy washy icon. Enable "First discovered by..." and flick it to true.

So I'm not the first out here. A well trodden path apparently. I'll try not to think about the glory of being a great explorer, at least not when its on a local transit route to a nearby nebula that everyone can see from populated space.

The advanced scanner active pulse picks up some sparkles reflected from a cloud of passive nano beacons.  The extraction of an encryption key takes only a moment, and a tiny part of my cartography database unlocks to confirm the identity of a fellow explorer.

Hello Axis Mundi, your presence here has been verified. You travelled here before me and yours were the first human eyes to see this star system this close. I'm more than a little envious. Though I won't say no to some credits for the verification on top of the additional data in my scan.

Mind you, I don't remember that third level menu being there before. I mean... hmm... it's not as if the universe was... umm... upgraded around me... now was it?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Redefining big - EZ Orionis

There are limits. To my simple mind the universe won't make sense otherwise. I'll just have to stop trying to guess what they are.

Each time I think I have a grasp of, you know... an understanding... then there is something that turns right side up into upside down. Small back into big. My simple human mind just can't take it all in and comprehend.

Perhaps the universe wasn't meant to live inside my head. Not enough space.

Jumping light years in seconds became routine a while back. It doesn't matter that the second quickest way takes years; I've successfully turned the big into small and my mind is in a comfortable place again. Stars pop up in front of you, all viewed from the same perspective and around a light second or two away.

And then I visited EZ Orionis.

I think my brain leapt 2 feet sideways when it realised and is cowering somewhere behind the aft plating. I'll go find it later.

Until then I'll drool quietly while the universe redefines big.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A birthplace of stars - Orion Nebulae

The birth of a star is a nebulous thing indeed.

The Orion Nebulae is a stellar nursery: giving birth to new stars in abundance. The condensation of matter to the point where the fusion ignition of hydrogen takes place.

Possibly the remnants of a former supernova: the death of a star brings renewal and continuity. Many of these stars are new to this galaxy, but are older still than the earliest recorded history of man.

From death is born new life. On a timescale beyond our humble human ability to comprehend.

Is that... algae?

I'm not quite sure I can believe what I'm seeing with this one. In fact this waterworld looks positively land locked.

HIP 59281 5 in case anyone would like to visit...

Friday, 6 February 2015

Inside the sack

There's something rather unsettling about the view. Almost 300 million stars shouldn't just disappear like that.

The navigation systems tell me I'm pointed in the right direction. But dammit they're all gone. As if they had never existed.

The Coalsack has well and truly been pulled over my head.

The blemish has engulfed my ship and if I tried to buff it off now I'd wear down my hull to the power distribution systems. I've I had lived here all my life then I wouldn't even begin to guess that a bright and populated galaxy was thriving just out of sight and grasp.

Or beyond my imagination.

Only a few bright local stars are sprinkled around the sky giving a semblance of company. I'm grateful at least for that.

Time to turn around and make the journey home.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Just off down the road to the Coalsack

That small black smudge.

It always seems to catch my eye: breaking up the bright galactic lens as it does. A blemish on my cockpit that needs buffing off.

I can't though. It just isn't within easy reach.

Curiosity takes hold and something primitive awakens in my soul. A wanderlust grows to fill my mind. Material goods are traded away to make space for that which fulfils a purpose.

That black smudge now fills the sky.

As the journey has brought me closer I've watched the galaxy being eaten from within by that dark space. A mote that has grown to dominate the sky.

Onward now, to enter and explore further. A glance back at the stars behind me, where I've come from, and where I call home. One more jump and they're gone, engulfed by that smudge.

I don't think I have ever felt so alone.