My nephew disappeared in the Pencil Sector a little over a year ago. A garbled comms transmission shortly before launch was the last we heard of him. Local authorities have been supportive and helpful, but it’s still unclear what happened.

When the official investigation was concluded and it was clear nothing more could be done, everyone returned to their usual business. In an isolated, cooperatively run frontier outpost like New Growth, populated almost entirely by hardy terraforming technicians and grim-faced miners, it’s understandable that their limited resources needed to stay focused on the maintenance of their partially constructed asteroid home.

I too returned home, to the unremarkable Amber system near the heart of the Alliance, some 480 light-years away. Until today.

I have returned to the EL-Y D5 system, one of the most far flung human settled systems, mainly as a pilgrimage to remember my nephew, but also to find some of the spirit of adventure that caused him to lead me here in the first place.

He’d made grand plans for us – now unfulfilled promises drifting like space debris – but one tangible memento was the Asp Explorer he designed for me. It’s so stripped down, it’s little more than a frame shift drive with a fuel scoop and a seat. The lack of shields and weapons is unnerving, and the inability automate anything or even to boost makes flying it a chore.

But it seemed a fitting vehicle for the journey.

The Holyland Express certainly made short work of the ~500 light year trip – skipping across the core systems and beyond in 21 jumps.

On arrival, I took time to reflect and remember. It was comforting to know that somewhere in the fabric of this place was my nephew’s last known contact point.

Settling in New Growth

Then, I considered my options. There was little reason to fly back to the Core. Perhaps I could nurture the seed of adventure that my nephew planted out here in the Pencil Sector. But other than being a base camp for exploration further into uncharted galaxy, what DID New Growth have to offer?

The pickings were slim. Two local factions: both independent and therefore unaligned to any of the superpowers. The controlling organisation is the Seven Stages Movement, a benign cooperative who seemed to be largely doing their job of keeping everything in order, and the ominous sounding The Shunned who, apart from being documented as a group of anarchists, seem perfectly happy and neutral despite having almost no influence.

Only the Seven Stages Movement were offering any real mission work. The Shunned’s representative only mumbling something about reducing their rival’s influence by bounty hunting. Both factions seemed to run a thriving travel business.

I set my initial goal to do work for the Seven Stages Movement to raise my standing with them and perhaps positively influence the local system in some small way.

Debt and Recovery

I used my modest funds to purchase some cheap alternative vessels to the Holyland Express, attempting to outfit a nimble Eagle for bounty hunting. Sadly, the available equipment options this far from any military supply chains was evidently sparse. A few test flights soon proved that, without support from local enforcement, I’d be in trouble. Perhaps the bigger, more versatile Cobra mk. III might prove to be a better platform for the substandard kit available. I filed that thought for another day.

I did notice a few distress signals as a explored the system and, on investigation, twice encountered ships stranded without fuel. The perfect role for my Eagle became apparent. My nephew’s fondness for the Eagle was matched by his eagerness to try search and rescue, so I refitted my failed combat Eagle with a fuel limpet controller and it became a rapid response recovery ship. My nephew would have approved.

Thus far, none of my attempted pursuits had been particularly lucrative or successful. I considered mining, assuming that the available equipment would be more plentiful. Then I realised I knew very little about mining, and setting up the complex arrangement of tools seemed impenetrable. After reading an assortment of guides, it was apparent that the best locally available ship for the job that was the Krait mk. II.

Shortcut to Nowhere

Then I remembered I had one of those back in Amber. I quickly checked in the Shipyard interface and was relieved to see that it was already outfitted and optimised for mining. I could get it shipped over to save the expense and labour of buying and outfitting from scratch.

6,912,073 CREDITS!

That was how much it was going to cost for the ~3 hour delivery of my Krait. But it would be good to go out of the box.

I begrudgingly took the financial hit, imagining my nephew’s disapproval at my laziness and waiting for the delivery.

Now I’m a frontier miner, ekeing out an existence of the outskirts of human existence, it’s going to take a while just to break even.

But it’s peaceful out here. Plenty of time to reflect on the indifferent majesty of the universe.

Fly safe. Fly forever.

This blogpost was written very much with Michael’s Story by Drew Wagar in mind.