7 – The Journey Home

12th June 3301 – 20:22

A full canister of liquor have been sitting in the cargo hold since the very first day of this expedition. I suppose that it was loaded onto the ship along with the essential supplies to celebrate something like yesterday’s success. I honestly never gave it too much thought until now.
I opened one of the many bottles and took a sip but immediately threw the bottle across the galley. The bottle smashed against the inner hull and I screamed all my frustration out.

I felt lost and abandoned. There had been no new contact from Caplin and his team in the last 24 hours. It was me and my CobraMkIII and the unfathomable vastness of space between me and my kin, but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet. I picked up another bottle before dumping the rest of the canister into space.
This was strong stuff anyway so yes, I am getting drunk tonight… But I am getting home too.

16th June 3301 – 11:33

Sagittarius A* is now far behind and so is the nasty headache I left the galactic core with. I knew the Imperials famous for producing some of the finest brandies in some parts of the galaxy but I clearly wasn’t worth such delicacy. Also clear, my accomplishment was not worth a little pat on the back from Watson Port. And me who thought that my progress were being monitored…

On a positive note, I am now on the return leg and have a better understanding of the distance separating me from home. I quickly abandoned the idea of racing back to civilization as I know from recent experience how over enthusiasm can lead to dear consequences, especially in these parts of the galaxy.
I decided to cease exploring and focus on the trip, imposing on myself a reasonable distance to cover everyday in order to reach Bumbindal in the next six to seven weeks.
Settling for sensible daily stages, I was already ahead of schedule and decided to nose around some interesting systems for the day.
I discovered a couple of compelling sites such as this unwelcoming Amonia World…

Amonia World

Inhospitable, yet worth a great deal of money to the Universal Cartographic folks.

Better yet, an unexpected satellite showed up in the distance while I was orbiting a Metal Rich and terraformable planet…

ELW peaking

These familiar worlds never fail to lift the spirit.
I have all day to search for other inspiring sites before resuming course to Bumbindal.

24th June 3301 – 2:39

I woke up in the middle of the night from a very strange and unsettling dream. It was a bright day in one of the vast fields on Dalton’s ring and both my mother and father were there, as well as Taylor senior, enjoying what seemed to be either a federal holiday or a huge family gathering. Many familiar faces from the past six months of travels were present too, from Hugh Caplin to Hodkyns and Henck and his retired miners crew. I could even recall some of the men from the Frog Commodities security offices and the trading lot from Aldrin market being there. With the passing of the planet LHS-3447 A5, the field was suddenly shrouded in darkness and the cheerful crowd turned into lifeless beings, just standing there in absolute silence. Everything around me started to shrink with this distinctive swirl I had experienced before around black holes. In a matter of seconds, I was alone in the CobraMkIII’s cockpit but the shrinking swirl did not stop and soon, the Cobra’s cockpit felt even smaller than a Sidewinder’s…
I woke up suffocating. I was so distressed in fact that I even checked if the life support was functioning properly.
Just a bad dream. I’m exactly where I was yesterday night before going to sleep: in the middle of nowhere, only a little closer from home.

I am awake now and there is no chance for me to get anymore sleep for tonight so I got back in the cockpit and resumed course to Bumbindal.

Isolation has taken its toll on me, I am well aware of it. But I am now beginning to blame the complete lack of communication from Watson Port too.

29th June 3301 – 22:25

Nearly 10.000Ly separate me now from the galactic core. I am not rushing home, but I am not dragging either, and after almost a month traveling in the bright surroundings of Sagittarius A*, I’m beginning to experience a more familiar ground. The stars are now sensibly further apart and the night sky is finally getting dark.

darkening sky

This darkness used to frighten me as a boy, conveying the infinite nature of space. It is now surprisingly filling me with joy, reifying my progress. I am indeed getting home.
I will probably be sitting in this cockpit for another month until I can finally dock but I’m already longing for a hot bath and a real meal.

The morale is good, and if I wasn’t constricted by such a small ship and my limited resources, I would probably turn around and delve into more unknown space. But as much as I felt like stepping into a flying house when I left my grandfather’s Sidewinder behind and boarded the CobraMkIII for the first time, I am now desperate for a bit of open space…

3rd July 3301 – 13:08

Another day, another step closer to home… yet I feel somewhat lost.
Oh, I am well aware of my current position:
30 : 284 : 13,690
In orbit around a terraformable metal rich planet, gathering data…

orbit and core

Some weeks ago, I would have been examining every piece of information, probably wondering how long it would take to make the 99,9% Nitrogen atmosphere of such a large planet breathable. But not today.
I just can’t help staring at the distant bright scratch I’m moving away from. Everyday I grow more preoccupied about the ever changing shape of those millions of stars forming the galactic bulge than the distance separating me from home.

I remember this one night, back in the Fincien System, two guys sitting next to me at the bar. One of them looked like a complete mess and was going on about the lack of purpose in his life and feeling generally out of place. He kept bringing up “the call from the void” which to me sounded like the words of a lunatic back then.
It’s a different story now I am reading of all these conflicts plaguing my home…

galnet conflict

The complete silence from Caplin’s team also doesn’t inspire confidence and I’m beginning to wonder what is actually going on in Bumbindal and how safe it is for me to get back.
It simply does not make sense to lose contact for so long with people who worked several decades on such a meaningful and expensive project.

Fact is, I have to get back… regardless…

7th July 3301 – 20:57

EIDAILLS BE-E D13-48

A little over 10.000Ly left to travel until I can finally reach civilization, and in respect of my self imposed “end of the month” ETA, I am actually a little ahead of schedule.
Very welcome news indeed as I believe I have been thinking too much lately and could definitely use a break. I have been drawn to inexplicable detours while being fully aware of my limited supplies… and paradoxically, I have also been far too impatient about getting back, which would probably explain my position at this time.

So I took my time today, setting short range jumps between systems, looking for nothing more than beauty…
And if no planet gave me the thrill I was looking for, it is while scanning a worthless belt cluster that I looked up and found what I was after…

solarflare

I sat there for quite a while, mesmerized by the star’s graceful plasma prominence, dancing above my ship, and I forgot for a few minutes what had poisoned my time lately; the idea that I had traveled tenth of thousands of light years for no reason and that I had been completely abandoned by my overseer…
… And just like that, I felt down again.
I think I just should go. No Nebula or Earth-Like World will do the trick anymore… No plasma eruption will give me the needed warmth… only flesh will.

8th July 3301 – 12:05

It was while investigating the curious looking crevasses of an Icy Planet that I stumbled upon this…

Screenshot_0001

I knew this Gas Giant would eventually appear in the horizon, but I had not picked up on the unusual placement of its ring system.
I would have normally ignored such an ordinary belt and probably would have just hopped to the next unexplored body in the system if it wasn’t for their curious horizontal distance and spacing. So I headed toward the edge of these rings and dropped out of supercruise…

Screenshot_0002

I think I might just have dropped into a dream.
If I was after beauty yesterday, and although I had been highly entertained by those dancing flares, this could probably be the most stunning phenomenon I ever got to witness in my entire life. What a wonderful accident!
I was just far enough from the core to see some of the darknesses of space and yet close enough to be still blinded by the stretched galactic bulge. The main star just peaked in the distance and refracted its light through the surrounding ice particles into a breathtaking painting.

I am still ahead of schedule and I think I have never been this pleased to stop, and delay the rest of the journey.

22nd July 3301 – 13:46

I have been zipping past nebulae for the last few weeks, barely paying attention to the galaxy map and being far too obsessed with my final destination. I believe I have reached worrying levels of mental fatigue as I noticed on several occasions that I was speaking to myself. I even suffered a couple of emergency drop out lately due to basic lack of focus.

Today’s first jump got me in the Lagoon Sector and I can’t express how relieved I felt to see the Navigation System finally spewing out something other than random numbers and letters. I am still in virgin and unexplored territory according to my computer but probably not for long. This region is understandably already known to man, given its proximity from civilized space and the presence of the nearby Lagoon Nebula.

Herschel 36

It is too close for me to ignore.
Until now, I had been refraining myself from rushing back home with incredible difficulty and I think this touristic pit stop is just what I need to gather the remaining forces I will need to make it home safely.
A closer look at the galaxy map brought back some memories…

Map closeup

Map wide

I’m on the edge of the Carina-Sagittarius galactic arm and just about to travel back to the more familiar Orion-Cygnus arm… and home.
This is exactly where, if I recall correctly, I experienced my first cabin fever and cheated death for the first time during this journey. This is also where I understood the importance of sticking with a sensible ETA.

I know I could make it back in a just two or three days, and god knows how much I need to feel the ground right now.
But I will stick to the plan… I have to stick to the plan.
ETA: 11 days.

23rd July 3301 – 10:09

Herschel 36 A and B in the Lagoon Nebula… been there, got the tee-shirt.

leaving lagoon

Herschel’s type O stars where so bright that even a thousand light seconds from jump point, I could barely enjoy being in the mist of this nebula. It did indeed look a lot more dramatic and colorful from afar.
To rub salt into the wound, the area had already been mopped up by numerous previous explorers but I was kind of expecting that to be the case. At least I know I’m not too far from home now.
I must have spent no more than five minutes in the region before heading off.

24th July 3301 – 17:03

You know you’ve left a touristic attraction when in only a few jumps, everything is unexplored territory again.
I am so close. However, there is so much more to discover, so many planets and stars to map.

It was again during a long supercruise to yet another unknown binary system that I found myself staring at the Milky Way’s bulge for the hundredth time.

milkyway001

This is looking more and more like what I was facing three months ago while on Watson Port’s docking bay, just before the final lift off that would send me on my journey to Sagittarius A*, but for some strange reason, I cannot be sure… I don’t know what the Milky Way is “meant” to look like anymore.

A few minutes later, I finally reached the distant star and was thrilled to realize that what I had initially mistaken for another Water World on my map was in fact an Earth Like Planet…

earth from moon

It was very similar in size to LHS 3447 A5 which I was so familiar with, but the sight of this blue planet brought back a much fainter memory…
While orbiting the blue planet’s rocky satellite, an old image struck me. An image I saw for the first time when I was only a boy – an image of an old history class and that of the old Earth, cradle of mankind.

I think I should go back to LHS 3447 after my return and visit my family. It might only have been six months but it sure feels like a lot more. I wonder if they miss me like I miss them.

***

Cmdr Matzov looked up from his piles of contracts as the video connect flickered into life.
On screen came a young, but stern looking man, “Greetings from HQ Colonel“. “Good evening” replied Matzov.
“It is time” said the stern young man, perfunctorily.
“So soon? I had thought another week or more.” 
“It is time” he repeated.
“No other details?”
“Somewhere in the Swoilz region”
Before Matzov could reply, the screen snapped dead.
Pushing aside those contracts, Matzov reflected a moment. Contract review was a boring, but necessary, cog in the bureaucracy of business, and business was booming. Yet here was an opportune, if slightly daunting, break from all that paperwork. He’d get Klab or one of the others to take on the contract review whilst he carried out this errand for HQ.
He whispered to himself, “It is time”.

***

Cmdr Nosscar was sitting in the Captains quarters of his majestic Anaconda, looking out on the busy shipping lanes of Jameson memorial in the Shinrarta dezhra system, the home of the pilots federation.
He was relaxing after a hectic few days chasing down a particularly troublesome group of pirates in some local systems just a few hops away, but as always, it was nice to be home again.

Ensign Jarret, the communications officer had just minutes ago delivered a rather concerning message, it was playing heavily on his mind.
His suspicions had been confirmed from a trusted source within the Sirius Corporation, the planned interception had been verified.

Harold Duval had broken his self inflicted silence and decided to take lethal action, he knew the details of the mission, and is planning to intercept the lone explorer returning from delivering the probe.
“Well i can not allow that to happen” Cmdr Nosscar muttered under his breath. “No, not at all”.

Flicking the comms switch he spoke clearly to his 1st Officer. “Mr Chenko, plot a course to these co-ordinates, best speed, we have a V.I.P. to protect”

***

30th July 3301 – 11:59

SWOILZ Region, this exhausting journey is coming to an end. One last thousand light years until Bumbindal and Watson Port.

Map to bumbindal

In about four or five days, I should finally be docking and find out why Hugh Caplin and the rest of the team have proven to be so unsupportive.
In the meantime, I have decided to power back shields and weaponry in anticipation of the first hostile contacts…

Shields charging

Guns out

I have no intention to get into a fight given the condition of my hull at this point, and I’m hoping for those beams to act more as a deterrent than anything else.
I don’t believe any pirate would even think of blowing me up for the few food cartridges and water purifiers left in my hold, but you just never know…

1st August 3301 – 9:43

First contact…

reck

… and the first reminder of what to expect in these parts.
Pressure is kicking in. I’ve been alone and relatively safe for so long I almost forgot what an interdiction feels like. I’m now rehearsing evasive protocols in my head, over and over, hoping to make it to Watson Port as quickly as possible.

I’m not too far now, and should hopefully be docking tonight.

1st August 3301 – 20:01

Almost forgot what an interdiction felt like… Right! So much so that it only took five seconds to the first contact from my radar to drop me out of supercruise.
I was still trying to figure out how to deploy my weapons when the voice comms activated…

Matzov txt01

—Voice Comms Transcript—
“Greeting Cmdr. My name is Matzov, I have been looking for you. We have a mutual acquaintance – Hugh Caplin. He may have mentioned me, although by another name. I’m sorry to have to tell you, Caplin is missing, and you are in grave danger. I know you will have questions, but I can’t say much here. There’s a quiet system not far from here. We can go there and talk, if you wish to know more.”

Matzov txt02

—Voice Comms Transcript—
“Your ship has a tracker beacon and has done since the start. It is not pinpoint correct at such huge distances, but allows those who are following the mission to know where you are. It becomes more accurate the closer you are to home. It has allowed me to track you down to the Swoilz system, after which I had to jump around to discover your exact location.”

This was unexpected. I knew the ship was being tracked, but if this man was telling the truth and Caplin had indeed gone missing… tracked by whom?
That would explain why Hugh Caplin had gone quiet for so long, and let’s face it… If this commander Matzov had come to me with killing intentions, he would have fried my beat up Cobra already, most likely during my clumsy attempt to retract my discovery scanner.

I decided to follow him, even though I couldn’t recall Caplin making any mention of his name.

Matzov lets sail

Matzov lets sail2

I locked onto his drive and followed his course to the Ngulungbara System.
First sign of a trap and I’m out of here…

1st August 3301 – 21:20

entering imperial space

We entered Imperial space about an hour later. Commander Matzov seemed uneasy in these parts and would still not go into much detail, convinced that my communication systems were being monitored too.

A few jumps later, we finally reached Ngulungbara and Filippenko Dock where we were to meet one of his contact who would provide with a runaway ship and escort us to a safer location.

Filippenko dock

I had been away from civilization for so long, I lost all composure when asking for docking permission…

Filippenko letterbox

Filippenko docking

Thankfully, Ivan Matzov was on hand to walk me through the entire docking procedure and saw me safely to my docking pad.

Finally Docked

Safe and sound… and sweating like a pig.

Home – Part One index – Previous chapter – Part Two

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s