They say space is beautiful. Not to me, it wasn’t. It was quite the opposite actually. Like some kind of a sinister force that surrounded me and was out there to get me. I felt trapped and suffocated in Loki, even though I was out there in the void. There was no safe heaven…no escape. The fact I was drifting through an uninhabited system with nothing but the ‘deep black’ was definitely not helping. However, it was essential for me to distance myself from the prying eyes of other ships passing by. I thought clearing the station area in Mafthrudii would do, but I was wrong. It’s odd when you think about it really. Such a vast galaxy, yet, when you come to the inhabited system it’s like you flown into a swarm of dragonflies.
I didn’t go very far. Trianguli Sector QI-T B3-6 was just next door, but it was empty, with nothing on the scanner except it’s star. I’ve setup the course into a random direction and let go of the controls. It was time to stop wondering and start asking questions.
Me: Astra, pull up the ship’s log please.
Astra: As requested.
Me: How many records?
Astra: One session containing two records.
Me: Let me guess. Undocking from the station in Mafthrudii and jumping to the Trianguli Sector QI-T B3-6?
‘Of course. What did you expect, it’s gonna be that easy’ I said to myself. ‘Ok, let’s try something else then.‘
Me: Pull up the GalNet database please.
Astra: On screen. Commander, have in mind that without being connected to the space station or the surface station, you’re only able to lookup global GalNet information. For more detailed information for a specific system, you are required to establish a comm link with the star port or surface outpost in that system.
Me: Got it. Run the following search please…Balcanis.
Astra: Searching. One record found. Commander Balcanis. Selected. Commander Balcanis, age 36 (born year 3266). Origin: unknown. Allegiance: Empire (senator and fleet admiral Denton Patreus).
‘Allegiance? Empire? And of course, unknown origin.’ There was no point in wondering at that time. I needed to find out more.
Me: Any other information? Previous assignments, history, biography, anything?
Astra: Negative. If I may suggest something commander?
Me: Yes, go ahead Astra.
Astra: There is a interstellar pilot federation communication system called Inara. It holds the information about the latest news, galaxy, market, as well as information on a number of other commanders, groups and factions. Please note that you are required to submit your identification information in order to gain access to the system.
I didn’t have much to go on, so it looked to me I was running out of options. I realized this is going to put me on radar, but it sounded better than just tramping in the dark without any real direction of where I may go to or who to look for.
Astra was right. Inara was really a source of an enormous amount of information. I was not interested in the market or anything else at that point so I started looking at groups and other commanders, hoping that one of the names will light up as familiar. There were literally thousands, but it’s not like I had anything else to do.
I woke up to the sound of an incoming message in Inara. It was couple of days since I gained access to the system. I went through thousands of personal records of other commanders, but with no success of finding out anything. The message was from Big Pappa of whom I didn’t hear before that. At first glance the message was just a standard recruiting mambo jambo that you would get from a recruiter. But there was something about the tone and the message itself as well that got my attention. I looked him up as well as the Paladin Consortium on Inara just to find out that he was actually the ‘man’ there. I found the fact that him as a leader was recruiting new people commendable which additionally fueled my interest in him. I replied with a neutral tone as I was still debating the whole invitation thing. Pretty soon after I replied there was a hail on the comms.
Astra: Commander, you have incoming voice comm request from commander Big Pappa
Me: Open channel. Hello there commander. That was fast. Not trying to hide my surprise
Big Pappa: Hey there Balcanis. Yeah, I don’t like postponing things, and I have many other obligations. I wanted to check if you’re close by so we can meet up?
I wasn’t sure if this meeting request on such a short notice would be a red flag or not in a ‘normal’ situation. However, there was nothing normal about the situation I was in, so I thought to myself ‘Sure, why not’.
Me: Hey man. I’m right next door to Meidjing. Let’s meet up at the bar on Hynek Station, if that’s ok with you?
Big Pappa: On my way, should be there soon.
Meidjing. Low population system controlled by Meidjing Freedom Party, a faction with the Empire in it’s core. With my allegiance pledged to Senator Patreus, it was a logical choice. Low number of populace meant less chance of being seen or bumping into ‘friends’. Shavyrin Station resembled the one in Mafthrudii system where my whole journey began. I presumed most of extraction and refinery stations look alike. I was deliberately running late for a meeting because I wanted to reduce the risk of any surprises. ‘Hey-Inn’ was just another bar with dark atmosphere and poor choice of music. The moment I stepped into it, I’ve set my eyes on the only guest in the joint. As I was approaching the table where he was sitting, he stood up and said ‘Balcanis, I presume?’ I replied ‘Yeah, nice to meet you BP’, then we shook hands.
We talked for half an hour or so about different subjects. I was trying to be as vague as I could in my statements, trying to hide the fact I still had no bloody idea what happened to me, what I was doing or where was I headed. He seemed acceptive to it. As far as could read him, I didn’t get the feeling that he was holding anything back. He then said ‘Listen, let me get to the point. I know you said you like to blaze your own trail…’ He then continued talking about the Paladin Consortium, what it’s all about, and how would I fit in. Throughout the entire conversation he gave up the impression of a proud and honest man, guided by the principles he strongly believed in. I was actually pretty impressed by what he told me about his group, and considering I had no real alternative I decided to accept his invitation to join. ‘Ok, so where do I sign up?’ I asked with a smile. I could see he was pleased. Pretty soon, he excused himself and said he has to go. ‘Come to Roe Hub in LFT 37 and meet the guys’.
We both stood up, shook hands again, then he left. As he was approaching the exit, he turned and said ‘Oh, and welcome to Paladins’.