I've spoken before about the 'awesome visual wealth of New Eden' and how accidents of cosmic geometry produce 'transient moments of hypnotic beauty'.
It's truer than ever.
I was in the low security space in and around the Kador region. I stumbled upon another naturally-occuring wormhole in the Mod system. I sent the cam drones over to look through its bubble horizon and I saw evidence that suggested the Drone Lands. I dived in on impulse.
1-EVAX - Malpais
I arrived here at something like 01:50 NEST (don't ask me why I was up and active at this hour) and was met by this captivating vista which detained me for ages, so I had to document it.
Sometimes cam drones can produce an image more like a painting than a pixel-fest.
That cloudy white/quicksilver nebulosity that dominates the Drone Regions is not visible from anywhere in high security space, or for that matter any of the space belonging to the four major powers, so anybody who spends their operational lifetime in that part of space is missing this.
I brought one of my interceptors fitted out as a 'scannerceptor'. I should really be in Empress of Amarr, however for a reconnaissance in this part of space, I need agility, speed and immunity, and I must also look good doing it. Empress of Amarr only has immunity, and is neither fast nor agile. It is of course heavily-armed and armoured, but that isn't really enough out here.
I need the odds stacked further in my favour here. The Crow gives me that, because with interceptors, the engine is mightier than the sword.
HB-5L3 - Cobalt Edge
So then on further impulse I decided to explore deeper in the expectation of unearthing a few Drone data caches.
I worked my way up through Perrigen Falls...
...then into Cobalt Edge and the end of the stargate road: the edge of the known world. The last time I came out here was a well over a year ago.
The white nebulosity that defines this region is now far behind and vastly reduced in apparent size and significance, like the rest of the cluster. No more highsec chatter. No more queueing at gates. The emptiness and nothingness out here is terrifying and it messes with your head.
On the other hand, in the thirty-odd systems I passed through on the way, I found not one single Rogue Drone data cache. That is bogus. As I progressed, I had the rolling 24-hour news feeds on in the background which headlined the disease outbreaks that have occurred in several locations in highsec during this last week. It served as a distraction from all the emptiness for a while, but then sometimes you have to switch all that noise off and embrace the silence (although if that really is Kyonoke Plague, then I might have to find a reason to stay out here).
I saw a handful of other capsuleers transiting through. A couple of them hailed me. One of them even told me I'd been 'pinged on intel', but then they wouldn't have been able to catch me anyway. I saw some Rogue Drones that my Overview designated as the equivalent of the 'officers' you see in some of the deeper parts of pirate faction space . If I was in Empress of Amarr I might have taken them on.
I eventually arrived in the border system that possesses one of the most powerful stargates in the entire cluster: one of the so-called 'Smuggler Route' gates that can send a ship a full 35.9 light-years in a single jump, all the way to the Tenal region. The attraction to the scientist-explorer of this gate is that it transits right through Jove space en-route to Tenal.
But then I balked at the prospect. The Caroline's Star Remnant is at its most prominent here in Cobalt Edge. When that thing blew up two years ago it was visible from every point in the cluster simultaneously, which is a clear violation of the natural laws of the universe, so God knows what sprites and demons and gargoyles are lurking in the contaminated space that this super-powerful gate can push a ship through.
After my last journal, you'd think I was looking to retire and never fly through a stargate again. I gave it some thought. I still do. But then that sense of unfinished business takes over.
I went for it.
SF-XJS - Tenal
I arrived, intact.
The first thing you see - the only thing you see - out here in Tenal is the Jovian Nebula. Tenal is every bit as remote as Cobalt Edge, so the vibe is the same but the universe torments you by changing the scenery.
What few of them must be left are totally isolated from us and each other because there are believed to be no active stargates in Jove space, although the map indicates a few in the far north, close to the track that the Smuggler Route gate takes (not that you'd be able to pull over and take a look because it's through hyperspace, which is everywhere and nowhere, where distance has no meaning - so whether you pass through anything at all is the unanswered question that I discussed last time).
Lingering here in Tenal wasn't on my agenda. If I stay out here too long with nothing to do, it starts to scare me and I want my FedMart shopping channel. I certainly had no intention whatsoever of trying to return to base by heading south from here, because that would take me through several regions of actively-contested nullsec, which would be suicidal.
I had an escape route. I'd seen it in Cobalt Edge.
I went back through the big gate (crossing my fingers and screwing my eyes tight shut even though I was in a capsule, so the intent was there even if it didn't actually happen).
Back in the border system in Cobalt Edge that I'd just left, I'd seen a marked and designated Drifter Hive entrance, so I dived into it.
In the act of doing this, I invalidated the concept of remoteness I just riffed on by travelling the 1,300 light-years to Anoikis, to the 'Sentinel' system. I can't get my head around that inconsistency: that Cobalt Edge feels more remote from home than this place does. I've said it before, I know, but I'll keep saying it because it keeps blowing my mind.
When I eventually regained Known Space, I was only a handful of jumps from Signal Cartel's other office in the Gelhan system in Derelik.
I headed over there. While Zoohen is our main administrative and operational base and Thera is more of a symbolic HQ ('cos, y'know, weird), Gelhan is the substitute/standby. At least that's what it feels like. I assume management chose this system as a base because of its proximity to the Providence region, but only a few nonconformists live here. To my shame, I even had to look up which of the three stations in this system was ours.
I docked. There was nobody else home. There is no FedMart shopping channel available here because this is the Ammatar Mandate, and this Amarr-template station belongs to the Directive Enforcement Department. It is a police station. I think this must be why so few of us operate here.
This is what I know: every time I go out there to the outer rim, I remember that humanity suppresses its knowledge of its own insignificance in the face of an indifferent universe by embracing banal, trivial short-term ephemeral self-gratification as a means of manufacturing a sense of self-importance.
As soon as I get back to highsec, I forget about it again.
The cycle repeats.