It was only at the moment I collapsed into the expanding pool of my own blood that I knew–truly knew–that you would never hear me.
While I bled out and died on the floor of that Blameston warehouse, I finally understood that so long as I remained in your presence there was nothing, absolutely nothing that would convince you. No solemn promises would stay your hand. No logical reasonings would result in reconsideration. No plea would persuade you. Not Sarracenia, nor her earnest testimony of what it was to live under the yoke of Sang Do crimelords. Not the witness of eleven innocent baseliners we were working to save from those same criminals–huddled together, trembling in fearful anticipation of being returned to the life of forced sexual servitude–even the tears of the criminally abused could not, would not, divert you from your determined path.
And all of it, all of it, is my fault.
Never again will I stand in your presence, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams, because when I do, all rational thought in you seems to disappear into a manichean derangement impossible to overcome.
I am to blame. Actions beget consequences, and the actions I inflicted upon you to bring you to this state, I regret more than I can express. I will not ask forgiveness. I do not believe forgiveness is even possible. The best I can propose is détente.
And so, I write.
I write, in the hopes that the separation of my presence from my words is just enough to pass the palisade of your rage. I write, because when I do, you seem more able to consider the merits apart from the source. What I have to say to you now is too important to waste on a stone heart and a sealed mind. What I have to say to you is this: There must be détente, Commander Adams. Not merely for you and me, but for all of us.
Hear me, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams: There is a malevolence writhing beneath our feet. It watches, eager to consume every living being it touches regardless of race or faction.
I beg you to hear me before it is too late.
We speak past each other without truly listening. We misunderstand each other: you and me, your Empire and mine. You asked me once how I could stand to serve what you called a “cult of death.” And I, just as baffled, asked why you could be so obsessed over Vale, Archee, Angymonne, Ala, and Ignebaener when the ends so clearly justify the means. And for all our discussion, neither one of us truly listened to each other. We merely waited our next turn to speak.
Hear me, Commander. I do not serve a “cult of death.” The philosophy of Proving has nothing to do with wanton destruction. It is not ‘survival of the fittest’ on some all-encompassing scale. It is the process of recognizing opposing forces, setting them against each other to test every permutation, and then synthesizing something new that adapts the best qualities of both. It is the genesis of that which is greater than the sum of its parts: not destruction, but creation. Not obliteration, but adaptation.
Would that I could show you in person its application on Vale. Do you know what the most valuable resource truly is, Commander? It is not the mountains of minerals, nor the oceans of fresh water, nor the crops that await the harvest. The most valuable resource of a populated world is the population. The citizens of Vale are not dead, Edward Adams. The vast majority of those who were left behind when the gates closed are still there: living, breathing, working, carrying on their lives–different, but not diminished. Their world has undergone transformation, and so have they. Alteration of the star required alteration of the ecology. New challenges required construction of new facilities to overcome them. And what was required to preserve the lives of Vale’s people was done, with great effort and with deliberate care. In a system home to billions of human souls, more than a million new ones have been born over the past year.
This is not a cult of death, Commander. This is commitment to life.
Hear me Edward Adams of the Line of Adams: There is a hungering darkness blacker than the space between the stars. It waits, anticipating the day it may consume New Eden, Anoikis, and the Abyss one and all the same.
I am trying to hear you, Edward Adams. I am trying to see from your point of view. I admit that I gave little consideration to your complaint that the Collective took what was not theirs. But I consider it now and I understand. I understand the fury you felt when the Collective extracted systems that were already claimed by the Gallente Federation.
As I considered it, I recalled a story from my childhood on Mishi IV. In the time before the coming of the Amarr, a wellspring was discovered on land that belonged to the family Alayfir. The senior Alayfir built the well and maintained it, and before long a village grew around the well. Generations passed, and the village grew to a town, and the Alayfir family became prominent and wealthy, caretakers of the well that gave life to the town.
Then the Amarr came, and all the Ni-Kunni were enslaved. Even the patriarch of the Alayfir family was taken and enslaved. And the Amarr placed one Holder in charge of the town, and another Holder in charge of the land surrounding it. But both depended on Alayfir’s well.
Years passed again, and the patriarch of the Alayfir family died and was replaced by his son. The son was a pious man who found much favor with his Holder, and by his service and piety received manumission for himself and his family. He returned to Mishi and to his ancestral lands, and by his further good works was made Holder over the lands that neighbored the ancient town. When he surveyed his land, he found that the True Amarrian Holder of the town let the well fall into disrepair. Both the land and the town suffered much from the neglect. He rebuilt the well and restored its life-giving water. Then, as his ancestors had done before him, he laid claim to the well and taxed its use.
When the True Amarrian Holder learned that Holder Alayfir had laid claim to the well and the revenue it generated, his heart filled with wrath. He petitioned the Overseer to punish Holder Alayfir and force him to give back ownership of that which was his by law.
Tell me, Commander: who owns the well?
Generations before the Amarr came to be, the family Alayfir lived there, built the well, and prospered. But then they were carried away by the Amarr and a True Amarrian Holder, a stranger, was given the town and the well together. We could say that Holder Alayfir valued it more, could we not? After all, it was Holder Alayfir who repaired the well when it fell into disrepair. And yet, the law is the law; if Holder Alayfir is deemed the true owner, then the True Amarrian Holder has been diminished, and the law broken.
Before I was stricken with the Empyrean curse, I was a student–and later expert master–in the study of languages both ancient and modern. When the Triglavian Collective speaks of our familiar stars, they refer to them as the Ancient Domains. Do you see what I see in these carefully chosen words? In the most universal sense, the phrase “Ancient Domains” means “old places.” But like so many translated concepts, simple words hide complex shades of meaning. A domain is not merely geography, but also where one exercises dominion. Sovereignty. Suppose these stars the Empires know and named and claimed and conquered belonged at first to the Collective? Could it be that all of Essence was long ago the sovereign possession of an ancient civilization whose best-known descendant is Zorya Triglav? Could it be that Vale, that sparkling Gallente jewel, was once a triangular jewel by another name? Could it be, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams, that citizens of an ancient Triglavian empire flitted between Vale and a thousand other worlds while your ancestors chopped firewood with stone axes on Caldari Prime?
Who owns the well, Commander?
. . . Who owns Vale?
Hear me, Edward Adams: There is an existential threat yet underestimated by the Empires. It gathers strength while kings and councilors pursue petty grievances and favored, familiar refrains.
I hear you now, Commander. I ask that you hear me.
When I became a capsuleer, I thought I would spend eternity in service of the Amarr; and so I joined its capsuleer militia. But after a short time, I discovered the legacy of Seyllin appearing all over Amarr space. Pools of bent light and warped gravity that could not, should not, be able to exist. Tears in the fabric of reality. Gaping open wounds in space that make strange portals to a strange realm.
Anoikis. Have you spent much time there, Commander? I spent almost a year with a privateering corporation learning to navigate the space. I consumed every bit of information I could gather, day in and day out. I took freelancer jobs with the Sisters of Eve, made contacts, elicited as much as I could from those who would share knowledge with me.
One day, I stumbled upon a Drifter hive. The experience was harrowing. . . but fueled a hunger for knowledge that has yet to be sated. When the Drifters invaded New Eden and wreaked havoc on humanity, it was clear to me that we are summarily unprepared as a species to combat the threat they pose. I cannot say with certainty what it was that prompted their miraculous withdrawal after bringing the great capsuleer alliances of the outer regions to their knees. . . but I have a strong suspicion, Commander.
When the Triglavians appeared and portals to the Abyss opened for the first time, a strange sensation of familiarity came over me. Ancient civilizations wielding the power to traverse space at will, through portals defying natural law. Technology that bends and breaks space, ship designs so unusual and yet somehow so. . . familiar. Human, and yet so far removed as to be alien.
When the Collective reached out and spoke to us. . . I knew that New Eden had just changed, irrevocably; a new era had begun. The only question was whether we would survive long enough to witness the next one.
I told you once before, Commander: no species survives that which evolves to replace it.
The only question was whether the Triglavians were that evolution, or not. I think they are. You think they are not. I told you many things that were doubtlessly hard to hear. The hollowness of the Empyrean existence compared to the fulfilling purpose of a troika. My prediction for the end of the Empires and the supremacy of the Triglavian Collective over all. Predictions you rejected–and please, Edward Adams, hear me: I do not begrudge the rejection. Time will prove one of us right.
But that time need not be now.
Almost a year has passed since the Weaving of Pochven began, and every day I see more and more that concerns me. Exhortations from the Collective for her loyal Kybernauts to seek out and destroy the Ancient Enemy Azdaja keep growing in frequency and urgency. There are worrying signs. Over the past thirteen months, capsuleer alliances in the Dronelands that otherwise would have kept the Rogue Drones in check let hubris and vanity distract them into a protracted war with rivals in the South. Fewer and fewer capsuleers find their way into Anoikis to set up forward operating bases. The streams of data that the Sisters of Eve might have relied upon to track these threats in hard-to-reach places have become more difficult to obtain. The picture is getting foggier, not clearer–and at a time when we need clarity more than ever.
The Drifters are our existential enemy, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams. If we continue to fight each other, they will destroy us at their leisure.
I do not propose to you that you abandon your loyalties. Only that you open your eyes to see that the sovereignty status of 27 stars pales in importance to the fate of 7,773 more. The effect on the lives of tens of billion baseliner lives pales in importance to the fate of tens of trillions elsewhere.
Let us find a way, Commander.
Before I bled out and died, I asked you what it would take for you to let eleven frightened Jin-Mei baseliners board the ship Sarracenia and I prepared to take them to sanctuary in Wirashoda. The price you asked, I could not give. The voice of the Convocation, Seriatim Foucault, expressly forbade it. Attempts to seize Aspirant Narodnya and remove them from the Proving will not be tolerated by the Clades. What I sought, you could not allow. What you sought, I could not give.
We are but independent instruments in the hands of greater powers, you and I. We cannot dictate to our masters. But we need not stand by and do nothing.
We might lead by example.
Let us hear and be heard, Commander. It is more than the narodnya–the citizens–of Vale have. They have been cut off from all communication. Can you imagine what it would be like, not to be able to see your family or friends for an entire year? To be trapped and isolated on your homeworld?
I do not have the power to remove the citizens from Vale. But together we might help them nonetheless. Before it was destroyed, the Stribog Clade astrahus in Vale served as an important relay point for communications between Vale and the rest of New Eden. Its loss two months ago further isolated the baseliner population and has yet to be replaced.
Let us lead by example. Suppose that Nadire Security Consultants and Stribog Clade work together to establish a permanent communications network to allow citizens of Vale to communicate with their friends and family outside Pochven? Suppose we gather together to learn as much as we can about the best techniques needed to combat Drifter battleships and Rogue Drone entities in Pochven, New Eden, and Anoikis?
The time will come when all capsuleers and navies will need to know what we may learn by our efforts. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of all sapient life in the cluster–human, Empyrean, and Triglavian. We must stand together, or we will fall separately.
Hear me, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams: There is a malevolence writhing beneath our feet. It watches, eager to consume every living being it touches regardless of race or faction. There is a hungering darkness blacker than the space between the stars. It waits, anticipating the day it may consume New Eden, Anoikis, and the Abyss one and all the same. There is an existential threat yet underestimated by the Empires. It gathers strength while kings and councilors pursue petty grievances and favored, familiar refrains.
Hear me, Edward Adams of the Line of Adams. For nothing more than the hope of hurting me, my kybernauts, and my Clade, you willingly came to Pochven, flew side-by-side with CALSF, and shared purpose even with Diana Kim.
For the sake of your Federation, your beloved’s Republic, and all human life in New Eden, can you not set aside the enmity you have for me?