5 – Meet the Empire

3rd April 3301 – 23:30

Maine Hub…

maine hub WEB

I have just docked at this scientific outpost out of guilt. I owe it to Hodkyns to not just steal the Hauler and go find comfort near my family back at LHS 3447, and also owe it to my former passenger who I’m trying to convince myself is still alive.
I will spend a few days here to regroup but won’t actively go and look for this Hugh Caplin. I will not carry anymore errand or operation out without understanding every bit of detail first, no matter the payout or how indebted I feel. But if Caplin comes to me, I can’t see how I could hold an information intended to him.

6th April 3301 – 23:01

Hugh Caplin,
I couldn’t have avoided him if I had wanted to. Everybody knows him as the mad scientist rambling about the end of the world or at least, this was the impression I had after only a few hours at Maine Hub. Another day spent at the outpost, talking to the locals, and facts got the better of the gossip.
It turns out that Caplin was more of a recluse, who has been buried in his laboratory for an undetermined time and who recently was seen extremely drunk and yes… rambling about war and the end of humanity as we know it.
The laboratory location is no secret and while everyone is still enjoying debating the madman incident, I think I should go and pay him a visit.

7th April 3301 – 13:55

“The system you are looking for is Bumbindal”

Hugh Caplin fell on his knees, he looked exhausted and genuinely unwell but didn’t bother asking me who I was or how I got to come with such information before thanking me.
He explained to me he had been waiting months for me to come and that after hearing the constant reports of exploration vessels being arrested or shot down in the LHS 3564 System, he had come to accept that the mission was a failure as his messenger was never going to come. In fact, and just before I turned up, Caplin was getting ready to destroy his life long work and make sure it was not to fall into the wrong hands.

We then got to talk about his work. He had developed a revolutionary probe, capable of emitting through great distances and designed to travel through extremely unstable environments. The probe was to launch through a worm hole and travel intergalactic space, but Caplin wasn’t ready to say where or why, arguing he simply didn’t know and was kept in the dark for the integrity of the mission.
Although his pride was in this cutting-edge technology, the real danger around the mission was not a potential interest in the probe itself by malicious organizations, but rather the protective shell it had been imbedded in. In order for the probe to resist the harshest of environment, Caplin also came up with a virtually indestructible alloy. It didn’t take to be a genius to understand what other application some might make of such alloy.
Caplin was now expecting me to carry this probe to the newly known location of Bumbindal, in Imperial space…

Bumbindal Fringe WEB

Bumbindal Faraway WEB

I first declined the offer as I didn’t feel like explaining what really happened to the “messenger” Caplin seemed to confuse me for and put my refusal down to the Cobra MkIII’s grounding order. But when he told me his credentials would help pulling some strings in order to get the ship back, I finally saw a ticket out of LHS 3564 and accepted the mission.
The only condition was to take him with me as we would most likely both end up with a bounty on our head as soon as we’d make it out of the system.

9th April 3301 – 11:06

I didn’t honestly think Caplin was ever going to pull such a stunt. After numerous transmission to Froude’s shipyard, he managed to pretext an inspection of the ship, for scientific purposes. He showed me all the forged paper work he came up with, not that any of it made any sense, but the LHS 3564 Systems Scientific Department stamp surely made it look genuine.
We took off from Maine Hub first thing in the morning and Caplin left me on Froude Enterprise’s platform. The long wait had me thinking for a moment that Caplin had probably been arrested and that I was only sitting here to be picked up by the authorities when suddenly, the floor began to rumble and the platform went down…

For months now I had been traveling from systems to systems and I knew this rattling only too well… A ship was coming my way…

cobramkIII 1 WEB

I had given up on ever seeing my ship again, let alone hearing its distinctive power plant’s hum. The Cobra MkIII was right in front of me, begging to be board. But Caplin tore me away from my contemplative joy, rushing towards me and shouting: “RUN”

9th April 3301 – 15:01

It was at full throttle that I managed to force the ship’s release and eventually lift off. Even though boosting out of the station, the Froude’s defense system melted through the shields in a matter of seconds and were eating through the hull when I could finally enter supercruise.

We docked at Maine Hub, knowing full well we would only have a few minutes to drag the encased probe onboard…

CMkIII Maine Hub dock WEB

We obviously did not waste any time and a little while later, were granted take off permission…

CMkIII Maine Hub depart WEB

I was still under unbearable pressure while getting away from Maine Hub and waiting for the “Mass Lock” indicator to go off. I then selected the first empty system to line up the ship with and engaged Hyperjump. The dreaded “wanted” warning lit up as the computer was counting down…

Wanted&Leaving WEB

I was now fair game to Bounty Hunters, and added LHS 3564 to my “never to come back” list.

11th April 3301 – 18:15

We did not spend too much time in Juma, the first inhabited System we ended up in after the first few jumps running away from LHS 3564. I was only beginning to refuel at the main star when we were pulled out of supercruise.
First refueling stop, first inhabited System, and first hunter pilot to try and claim the bounty.
The Cobra MkIII superior speed made it easy to lose our tail and we were back on our way within seconds. Caplin, sitting in the seat next to me, pointed out the Hesatsu System, assuring me it would be our best bet to safely dock and get some basic supplies for the journey to Bumbindal.

Juma to Hesatsu WEB

Although it was located in an Independent System and mainly surrounded by Federal factions, Hesatsu’s farthest outpost, Morris Prospect, was run by an Imperial organization. Why Caplin seemed convinced we would be safe amongst these people was a mystery but I trusted him for some reason and thus asked for docking permission…

Morris Prospect WEB

It became apparent why Caplin was eager to be on Imperial ground when we first got to talk with the people there. His tone of voice slightly changed and although it wasn’t obvious, his stance was more one of a proud man than ever before… He was an Imperial himself.
This was all new to me. I grew up thinking of the Empire as a bunch of arrogant slavers and yet to this day, had never set foot on their territory, let alone talked to any of them. In fact and as far as I can remember, the only Imperials I remember clearly identifying were a very loud nobleman and his entourage, visiting the factory back at Dalton’s Gateway.

They peacefully warned us that both our names and the ship’s registration number were circulating in Hesatsu already, and directed us to another System and a place called Wallis Mine.

Hesatsu to Noonitokomu WEB

Noonitokomu was relatively close from here, and on the dividing line between the Empire and the Federation. Not that we would be safe from bounty hunters there, but Wallis Mine was remote enough for us to find refuge, resupply and rest for a short while.
Without any delay, we were back onboard the Cobra MkIII and back on the run…

14th April 3301 – 23:15

Wallis Mine was indeed very remote…

Noonitokomu Map WEB

Wallis Mine Scorched Planet WEB

Nothing but a scorched planet and a lonesome outpost in this System, at least nothing else that my scanners could pick up. There was something eerie about Wallis Mine, almost no traffic, yet our docking permission took quite a while to come.

Wallis Mine Dock WEB

We did find what we were looking for… a little peace and quite, and for the first time in five days, I finally got to catch up on some decent sleep. I have to say, although I was expecting a lot more trouble than we had encountered so far since the LHS 3564 bounty, and although I firmly believe that pirates have it far too easy, there is nothing pleasant about constantly having to worry about every single contact on the radar.

After some needed rest, we agreed with Caplin to try our luck in the Tabaldak System, one step closer to Bumbindal, and left Noonitokomu today…

to Tabaldak Map WEB

to Tabaldak WEB

15th April 3301 – 19:34

It seems that someone heard me ranting about those who chose the life of pirating having a far too easy time, free of reckoning in the vastness of space. Our Tabaldak System welcome committee got us to run away again from bounty hunters and push a little further. Being so close to our destination, it felt just right to push all the way, and before we knew it, the final jump got us in the Bumbindal System. Caplin told me to head to Watson Port as this would be the end of the journey.

Watson Port WEB

It was an enormous relief to not only make it to destination in one piece but to actually find a friendly port once there. Another set of scientists was waiting for us and them too had been working on an experimental technology for quite a few years. It was a much bigger piece of kit, a prototype relay unit design to pick up Caplin’s probe signal via the wormhole and beam it back to Bumbindal. The tech team loaded the prototype unit into the Cobra’s cargo bay along with some supplies implying that a very long journey was to follow and fitted the probe into a torpedo launcher…

Cargo WEB

Torpedo WEB

They then all turned toward me in order to brief me with the rest of the mission. The first surprise was to hear that everyone knew I wasn’t who I posed to be, yet they were confident enough to grant me the responsibility of carrying the mission out, given how far I had gotten to get here in the first place.
The second surprise was that the wormhole I would have to send Caplin’s probe into was over 25.000Ly away, believed to be located inside the supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. The prototype relay station was to be jettison and left orbiting the nearest body I would find once reaching Sagittarius A*.

SagA WEB

This was the early stage of a grand expedition. Not my grand expedition, but a hope to find peace and a new home for mankind, very much like Marlin Duval’s Imperials already did many years ago when departing for Achenar. Only this time, intergalactic travel would need to be mastered to succeed.
As for the reward, although they guaranteed me money wouldn’t be an issue if really this was the only thing I was after, and putting aside the obvious “doing it for the greater good”, I was promised a lifelong place within the Empire.
Not that I was very exited about being accepted amongst people I had no idea about, I always had the urge for a meaningful expedition and this just felt like fate.

I will take off first thing in the morning.

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