It’s been a long time since my clone was last activated. A long time since my synapses fired and images stirred in front of my eyes. A long time since my mind melded with machine and I felt the cold thrill of the void against my hull. A long time without dreams.
I wandered into Syndicate, old haunts, old visions.
As I passed the RF Gate in 31-MLU I heard Jack Soul on comms demanding we get points on the Claymore, Neo Fusion answering that he was going down.
In OLT-Q I hear Heikki laughing as his gigantic Moros undocked, its huge blasters tracking unwary frigates with uncanny accuracy.
There are other whispers, Namamai, telling me to switch point and overheat my rack, I hadn’t yet learned how to overheat my weapons, and we both died, two vagabonds escaped deep in structure. Daddyhotep Khanin, his love of the hound and bubbles. Pogoria and his inability to fit a ship in a way that wouldn’t result in abject failure.
Local still empty I allowed myself to jump into LSC, memories of old safe spots, fights, deaths and victories rush into my mind.
As I arrived by that ancient gate, from the edge of my vision I saw Genepool Chlorinator’s Vagabond hitting obscene speeds, and I thought I heard his laugh once more as in my minds eye I recalled us splitting an Ev0ke fleet and picking off the interceptors who tried to tackle us. They paid us back in kind.
I linger on his memory for a while, wormholes, deep 0.0, our fighting always outnumbered, us training newly minted capsuleers.
Surveying the system, I heard echoes from my past, my first death, under the hot fury of Genepool’s autocannons oddly enough. My Enyo rendered nothing more than atoms.
I saw Jade Constantine’s Cerberus, and felt the impact of her missiles as she annihilated my Crow, yet only hours before we had arranged Blue standings, I had persuaded the Alliance that we needed to make friends, but some of our older friends were not willing to compromise and attacked on sight. I reshipped three times that day.
I visited the Asteroid belts, and moons that had hosted starbases that churned out the materials that would be embedded in the industrial sinews of war and peace. I survived a Doomsday Blast from an Avatar Titan around one of these moons, my Typhoon shattered and structure failing but I managed to extract, though I’ve long forgotten which moon, and Jack won’t whisper the answer to me, it’s lost from even my ghost’s memory.
I checked the market, once glittering with every kind of item, a microcosmic Jita, now silent. To buy the old mainstays would see me travel 15 systems or more. As I docked in the station I thought I heard Buck Starchaser, ‘Blaster Cormorants at the ready.’ How many fell beneath those neutron blasters only the solar winds can say.
I left the station, and headed on. 10-UZ and the ‘back systems’ awaited. at the gate more memories forced their way unbidden, Dominixes in a matrix chain fending off a gang twice their number, sentry drones picking off the lighter fast tackle. Murmurs on comms, points, ecm, get nos on the Abaddon. Then it faded, the gate had activated and another system, filled with memories of the chase. Intruders who had killed our ratters and trapped themselves in a cul-des-sac. 9U and En-Vod are empty, but they always are. I hear a whisper, Pembo, talking about strange anomalies he’s detected in the depths, and Noam laughing maniacally having spent hours destroying the guns on some starbase or other.
I pressed on. Where was the life that was here? Am I alone now, only ghosts for company?
Jack answered me as made the jump to 9G, ‘Get points on the carrier, damps on the Vaga and Pilgrim, light the Cyno.’
Yes, there was a huge battle here, carriers, fighters, dreadnoughts, battleships and all manner of support. I was a Celestis pilot that day, I reached out and stopped their snipers from killing the tackle. Carriers died, an alliance fractured. The Ghosts were broken, and the Moros Dreadnought Ghostbuster held the field surrounded by our fleet, its hull bearing the scars of the violence wrought that day as little more than mere decoration, one more scar amongst the rest.
Yes 9G holds many ghosts, many tarnished fragments of shattered dreams. I must press on though, the discordant echoes assail me, I cant stay here now, but I don’t want to go to VLGD yet. So I head to SG, the ghosts seem to hold back for now, no words or whispers, just an oppressive silence. I cannot stay here forever. I must go on.
And here I am, VLGD, poison to me. Our Alliance once reached for control of the stars, to hold and call our own, Cloud ring. We fought for months to keep it, and a sister corporation filled with grandiose dreams came with us. Then we fell. And when we returned to LSC we had become changed.
Our friends came back too, determined to rebuild and reach out again, but their words were a discordant noise to us. Tension built day after day, and then I was asked to have a simple conversation, to talk with a friend I had made, to arrange help. I did it, but it felt like the kiss of Judas then and still tastes like it now.
Jack told our old friends to leave, that their plans were unacceptable, and when they did not, they were smashed, their carriers burned. Our new friends delivered massive firepower, what might have been a fair fight turned into a one sided slaughter. Their system emptied. ‘We don’t need blues’. And silence followed, as it follows me mockingly now. Are you pleased Dani? Do you feel proud Dani?
The ghosts gloatingly lurk in the edges of my thoughts. Habigor the big mouth, Sovarin who lost his Thanatos in a brief violent minute, and silence, emptyness, the hive that had been VLGD becoming mere void.
The once thriving community that lived in the back systems began to shrivel, the smaller corporations and their pilots who had enjoyed life under our Aegis, nothing asked to protect them only friendship vanished one by one as demands and conditions were made. I feel the bile in my throat that I felt then. Evictions, replaced with renters.
It was the first time that I told my cloning contract holders not to reawaken me, to let me sleep without dreams. not the last though, they seem to enjoy forcing me into the conscious world from time to time telling me I have a debt to repay, but leaving me time lagged and out of time, so much change and my old instincts no longer true.
So again I’m awake, surrounded only by mocking Ghosts, whose sweet whispers and silk like touch lurk at the edges of my consciousness. I connect and expand into my own Vagabond, L’Emmerdeur, feeling its mechanical pulse as it stirs, its desire to be unleashed, I undock, there is nothing more to say.