The ancient, disused Amarr jumpgate creaked and groaned as it received the linking impulse from the Promised Land system. From it, a pair of Caldari-designed shuttlecraft emerged into the star system of New Eden, once the womb of life in this galaxy, now an empty, all-but-deserted backwater.
Aboard Sacajawea, Erbo checked the local communications bands; no ship signatures other than theirs were present. He breathed a sigh of relief. The journey here from the Ralpha Dogs’ Genesis regional offices in Gergish had been fraught with danger, including a pair of Blood Bishops hovering a mite too close to the jumpgate out of Gateway system. He heard a surprised gasp over the comm system as Selena beheld the sight, and fought an impulse to gasp himself; he, too, was seeing this for the first time.
There before them lay the remnants of the Eve Gate itself, its seething, rainbow-hued glow a testament to the energies still present there, centuries after the titanic explosion that had laid waste to this system and most of then-populated space. The galactic atlas carried a warning that to get too close to the Gate would be to risk having one’s ship torn apart under severe gravimetric stress, and Erbo didn’t try.
“Wow!” came Selena’s voice over the private band. “That is so cool!”
“There it is,” said Erbo. “The Eve Gate. That’s all that’s left of our only link with Earth-that-was.”
“Can we get any closer?” asked Selena.
“Can’t get a navigational fix on anything,” replied Erbo. “There’s only one planet left in this system.”
He engaged the “fleet warp” command, and felt Sacajawea turn, lining up to warp to New Eden I. Alongside, he could see Mystic Caldari do the same thing. These shuttles were cheap Caldari junk, true, but they were the only ones he’d been able to find for sale in Diaderi system, where they’d stopped to pick up some Amarr cruiser blueprints. He hadn’t been willing to risk Tantive IV on the journey through so many low-security systems, and he’d figured, correctly, that Selena would just as soon keep Mystic Executioner safe as well.
Over the ringed planet, the two shuttles dropped out of warp. The Eve Gate looked no closer from here, yet no farther, either. It just sat there, enigmatic in its beauty. From his history lessons, Erbo recalled how his ancestors, and Selena’s, and everyone else’s had come through the Gate, which had once been a great wormhole leading back to the Old Galaxy of Earth-that-was–and how it had suddenly closed, burning worlds in the fury of its explosion. It had taken the races of Man centuries to achieve their former glory after that event, long centuries of pain and starvation; still, by now, they had managed to surpass what they were at the height of the Eve Gate’s power.
Idly, Erbo’s thoughts drifted back to his own past…his childhood on one of the Synchelle worlds as the son of a city administrator, the visits he and his family had made to Gallente Prime and the government offices there, and then his long years at the Center for Advanced Studies in Cistuvaert that had qualified him as one of the galaxy’s elite, a capsule pilot. Since then, “home” had been an amorphous concept; it was well and truly said that a capsuleer’s real home was the inside of his pod, though there were pilots’ quarters in Vilur, Tollus, and Ogoten that made decent enough, if spare, temporary homes.
“Not much else to see here,” he said. “Time to turn back.”
“Remember,” came the voice of Selena, “you promised that we could stop and do some surveying of the local asteroid belts on the way back.”
“Copy that,” said Erbo, triggering the command to warp the two shuttles back to the jumpgate leading out of New Eden. They had a long way to go to get back home…first the slog out of low-sec and back to the Gergish offices, then a course traversing several regions to bring them back to Vilur. And, of course, he had to stop in Hek to pick up some more damage-control units that were waiting.
The last thing he saw in New Eden system, as the battered old jumpgate engaged to transport him through to Promised Land, was the huge, unblinking eye of the Eve Gate. He had no idea how much longer it would stand there…as a reminder of times long past, or perhaps as another unknowable mystery of the galaxy.