I’ve lost a day somewhere, I’m sure of it.
I’ve just checked my NEOCOM and it’s been over twenty-four hours since I accepted the mission I’ve undocked for, yet it feels like it was just minutes ago I finished my last account. Is “Scotty the Docking Manager” somehow putting capsuleers on ice for some sinister purpose? What the hell is going on?
And whilst I’m on the subject, what about that “Scotty” character? No one ever sees him, yet we get messages suggesting he’s in every station? Is it some kind of job title or more evidence of the cracks in reality that are leading me… somewhere.
Maybe I’m having a breakdown. I’ve heard of mental problems arising from one too many clone transfers. Maybe I should get on GALNET to see if there’s treatment. I’ll just get this job out of the way first. Onward to the Nahyeen system.
I give it a moment for my shuddering brain to accept the lie that my body is a torpedo-laden stealth bomber, then think my way toward the first indicated stargate. The Manticore responds instantly, banking toward the destination like the slow turning of a head, before spooling up the warp drive and blasting me past a nearby moon and almost into planet. I nearly crap myself. I’m pretty sure evolution never intended for the human mind to be doing this kind of thing.
Arriving at the first of many stargates, I take a moment to will my camera drones to take it all in. It’s a massive structure in space that belt-feeds temporary wormholes like a drinks dispenser, propelling vast masses light-years to distant stargates. It’s amazing that they never seem to need maintenance. My overview tells me it’s nearly five kilometres in size and as I glide closer, I can see there are what look like windows. Are there people in there? Do they live there or commute from home? The stargate structure can’t be self-sufficient, but where do supply ships dock and why do I never see them?
A hulking Amarr Imperial Navy battleship starts to take an interest in my loitering behaviour, so I press on. Bracing for the stomach-lurching sensation of jumping, I log my request to the gate and my universe turns momentarily black.
My journey becomes an entrancing yet somehow haunting experience as I muse at the passing planets I’ll never visit and eye the other traffic that drifts toward the gates. Aside from the working security forces, my route takes me through systems where I see an increasing number of vessels highlighted as fellow capsuleers. Undoubtedly each has their own agenda, but I wonder if they see the same cracks I’m starting to see.
Anyway, onward. I’ve got a one million ISK cheque to pick up from some idiot Amarrians who are giving money away.
As I drop out of warp in my destination system of Nahyeen, I note that the trademark golden nebulae of the Amarr core worlds have given way to other hues. Whilst the blue-green haze that fills much of my view tells me I’m close to the border of the Gallente Federation, a smudge of rust in the sky hints of an unwelcome home in the Minmatar Republic.
Hells, man up Stan! You’re whinging like a Jin-Mei ladyboy who’s just had his cover blown. Stop ruminating and get on with the job at hand.
Moments after having my request to dock granted, my reality twists gain. I’m nowhere for long seconds. I can’t focus, I can’t sense my ship. In my mind’s eye I can access the NEOCOM, but my vision is blurred and I’m disoriented.
Then the magic happens.
Inexplicably, I’m on the balcony outside my quarters, fully dressed, dry and thankfully excrement-free as I look up in bemusement at the ship I was piloting through space only seconds ago. I check the clock to confirm. Yep, definitely only seconds. Too weird.
Shrugging off yet another jarring reality fracture, I stroll down the gangway toward my accommodation, resisting the urge to deface the ridiculous statues outside the open doorway. I consider adorning them with ridiculous garments from the over-priced station clothes store for my own amusement, but put the idea aside until later.
Let’s give this Sandar character a call and let him know I’m ready to meet. I pull up the fella’s file and notice he looks like he got his face caught in a closing airlock. And I think he’s wearing make-up in his official mugshot! I start having doubts about dealing with him, but as I select the NEOCOM option to make contact, a pleasant sound emanates from somewhere, letting me know that the Amarrian witch back in Kor-Azor Prime has already sent payment. Job done.
Irritatingly, Airlock-Face chooses not to speak to me, instead he just sends me a faux-conversational wall of text;
Ah, a capsuleer, are you? Fortunate.
I am Kandus Sandar, the Ministry of Internal Order officer in charge of Pirate Affairs in this area. Under normal circumstances, I would send you to one of our many agents for proper work, but I have a special task for you.
I am waiting for one of my investigators. He is now several hours overdue in delivering his reports. Fly out to his last known location. Despite whatever you may find there, I need those reports.
Bloody cheek. Maybe his airlock accident has made him as simple as he looks, but if he thinks he can send me on some random jaunt instead of giving me “proper work” and not even bother to speak to me in person, he can kiss my Khumaak.
Irritated, I shut down the conversation with the Ni-Kunni half-wit and head over to my bunk. Despite the complete lack of time continuity in my life, for some reason it feels late. Now if I can just figure out how to lay down…