After having got a good night's sleep, the first outside Jita for many years, I set out on the next leg of my journey. I was off to see Bruce.
I had set a destination for PNQY-Y, as I knew there was a station there where I could install my clone, should I manage to gain permission from Bruce. This route would take me back through Empire space, relative safety, where I could relax and enjoy the journey while dreaming of the wonders which awaited me in Bruce's home region of Fountain. It was such a beautiful name, and it conjured images of a region flowing with wealth and great adventure. I hoped this Fountain would flow with adventure for me, if nothing else.
As I entered New Caldari, I felt strangely nostalgic. Although I could not bear to return to my old life of trading, I could not help but realise that I would be unable to settle anywhere for a long time. My quest would keep me on the move constantly for many months, maybe even years. Would I ever return home again? I shook the feeling off, though, and was soon on my way again, stopping briefly in Korama to pick up some Quafe Ultra and Long Limbed Roes. A girl's gotta eat, after all.
Many uneventful jumps later, I finally arrived in F7C-HO, the first time I had set foot in Bruce's territory. I was sad to see that I was all alone in the system, it seemed I would not be able to meet the famous Bruce just yet. I travelled onwards, and a few jumps later, I entered the system of JJA-IX, and I was finally in Fountain. However, again, this was an empty system. I realised though, Bruce could not be everywhere, and I was sure he had important things to attend to.
I continued onward resolutely, determined to find the great man. I was nearing my destination on PNQY-Y, and began to get worried about what would happen if I arrived there unannounced. After all, the members of Ethereal Dawn had not taken too kindly to my sudden arrival at one of their stations, and I was sure Bruce would not either. I needed to gain his blessing before I could venture near the place, I was sure. Happily though, upon entering 4-EP12, I discovered someone who was obviously a friend of Bruce's, for he proudly displayed Bruce's name alongside his own. This man was named Ivasha, and he was kind enough to put me in contact with one of Bruce's inner circle, 120z Jesus. This lightweight Messiah was a Diplomat, and he would make political decisions on Bruce's behalf. He was surely the correct person to talk to about becoming friends with Bruce. I sent a message to him, and sat in space in 4-EP12 for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for a response.
Eventually one came, but sadly it was not what I had been hoping for. My advances had been spurned. It seemed Bruce did not trust me enough to become my friend, though he would not be my enemy either. 12oz Jesus wished me well for my journey, but informed me that I would be unable to dock at the station in PNQY-Y. This was a massive setback. I had come a long way, and if I was podded again, all my travelling would have been for nothing. I needed to keep moving my clone, or my journey would be very difficult indeed.
A delightful twist then occurred. A pilot named RikkiTikki Tavi, another friend of Bruce's, contacted me to check on my progress, and I told him of my recent setback. He was able to tell me that there were stations in the region of Serpentis Prime where I would be able to dock. These stations were open to anyone who wished to dock, and even better, they had cloning bays!
Armed with this knowledge, I immediately set one of these stations as my destination, but I decided I would call via PNQY-Y on my way. I did not want to have come all this way for nothing, and besides, Bruce himself might be there. Before I went there, however, I was contacted by a pilot named Saber X. He informed me of the current fighting going on between Bruce and Bob. I could not understand why these two men, with such closely related names, could possibly hate each other so much, and Saber was able to give me a history lesson about the Great Northern War. It seems there was a time when Bob tried to go on a quest of Universal Domination, attempting to takeover the very space I was trying to visit the farthest reeaches of. Obviously, the current inhabitants of this space were unhappy about that, and they formed two great Coalitions, one in the North and one in the South, to halt Bob's plans. A great war ensued, and more than one mighty Alliance was torn asunder in the vicious fighting that took place, although Bob survived. Many of the refugees from these alliances were given shelter by Bruce, whotook it upon himself to lead them in a quest of vengeance against the man who had caused their suffering. His partners in this endeavour included Goonswarm, a vast collective of mad frigate pilots, the largest alliance known to exist anywhere.
I was slightly in awe of all the parties involved. Both sides must be very powerful to affect so many thousands of people. It seemed to me that although Bob seemed to be the aggressor, he must be a mighty warrior indeed to withstand such a furious assault from so many determined attackers. I learned that the current fighting was taking place mostly in the region of Delve, and I made a mental not to be careful when I decided to visit there. My little shuttle may be able to slip under the radar amongst all the distraction, but I would surely be easy meat should I stray too close to the firing line. It would certainly be helpful if I could make some friends to help me get through. But that was all in the future.
Saber also informed me of the greatest casualty of the previous great war. Steve, the very first Titan, belonged to ASCN, one of the alliances killed by Bob. His grave still existed as a memorial in the system of C9N-CC. I knew that my inspiration, Innominate Nightmare, had been present for the birth of this great spacefaring beast, and indeed was one of the first to feel the cleansing fury of its wrath. I felt it was only fitting that I should visit the final resting place of this once mighty Behemoth. I longed to see a live Titan, but I could not afford not to see this little piece of history. I reset my navigation computer to terminate the current route at C9N-CC, calling via PNQY-Y and the open station at YZ-LQL on the way.
I bade farewell to Saber and continued into PNQY-Y. There were 70 pilots in this system, the most I had seen outside Empire. I suddenly felt more at home, even though I knew I was not welcome at the station. I warped to an empty piece of space, where I knew I would be relatively safe, and began to speak to the locals. 12oz Jesus was there, and I thanked him for at least considering my request for Bruce's friendship, and for his good wishes for my journey. I also noticed a pilot called An Anachyyt was present. He was a member of Goonswarm, this was my first encounter with a Goon, and he was an amusing, if slightly eccentric, fellow. He seemed to think that my quest was an enormous waste of time, although he conceded that it was better than a life of trading in Jita. He also claimed that male sterilisation was preferable to trading in Jita, though, so I'm not sure if he was really conceding anything.
I stayed in PNQY-Y for some time, thoroughly enjoying the conversation from the locals. Most of my discourse was with a pilot called Illuminatis, who filled me in some more on the ambitions driving Bruce's progress. It seems Bruce longs for a plcae to live, some space to call his own, where his friends can also live in peace. He would fight to protect his home, but did not desire to destroy anybody else, unlike some of the other powers in the universe. Illuminatis was also able to inform me of exactly why there were Goons in PNQY-Y. It seems Goonswarm are a restless bunch, and when ob is not around for them to fight, they will fight whoever is around. In this case Bruce. Goonswarm seemed somewhat Schizophrenic to me, at one moment fighting alongside Bruce, and at another invading his home. Illuminatis phrased it well, Goonswarm have been a generally good neighbour, but sometimes their dog tears up Bruce's flowerbed. It seemed as if it was a reasonably good natured battle, with no hard feelings between the sides. I could respect anybody who could remain sporting and respectful, even in the face of defeat and hardship, and these two parties, uneasy though their alliance seems to be, had my respect.
I left PNQY-Y and headed towards the open clone bay to the south. Along the way, I noticed a pilot elonging to the Thorn Alliance, and piloting a Taranis interceptor was going through every system I was. I grew uneasy. Was I being hunted? I was so close to the clone bay, would I be viciously cut down when I was so near? Nevertheless, I continued towards my target, and eventually I either lost him, or my own paranoia was proven to be unfounded. It is strage the tricks this place plays on your mind. I sometimes grew frustrated by the paranoia displayed by those who hold the power in this unpoliced expanse. It saddens me that the universe has sunk to depths where a simple traveller cannot be taken at her word, because nefarious spies abound so readily, but yet I have been victim to the very same paranoia. I cannot bring myself to trust a single person out here whom I have not already grown acquainted to, adn it disturbs me that I have come to embody the very same trait that is the main obstacle in my own progress. It is my duty to overcome this obstacle, this insidious paranoia that infests 0.0. I must not let it claim me, and I must not be dissuaded from my goal by the alliances' excessive caution. I will continue unperturbed.
I arrived in YZ-LQL, and made my way to the station. I would be the guest of the Guardian Angels. Surely this faction could have no more apt name? They were truly watching over me, keeping me safe for now. I was once more enshrouded in the inpenetrable protection of a station, after what seemed like an age. I moved my clone, and I knew that this was the ideal place to call my home for a while.
Before calling it a night, I spoke with some more of Bruce's friends, named Leonard Dukes, and Queen Toodlums. They were most supportive of my journey, and I learned from them that news of my quest had spread throughout the followers of Bruce. I was glad that my voyage was bringing some light entertainment into the lives of those that lived out in this sometimes dark wasteland. Perhaps as knowledge of my exploits spreads, the inhabitants of 0.0 will spread, and perhaps my reputation will be such that will earn me the trust of some of the mighty station owners. One day, perhaps I will be given the coveted "blue" badge of honour that is worn by the friends of an alliance. Perhaps one day an alliance will deign me worthy of their trust, and I will be able to call their home my home, if only for a time before I pass through to continue my journey. That day will be a happy one indeed.
Leonard had one last surprise for me. He told me that he had seen none other than my inspiration, Innominate Nightmare, only a month ago! I was not aware that Innominate was even still alive. For all I knew he had been killed by the ruthless Bob, but now I was receiving news that he lived on, and was still roaming 0.0! I asked Leonard to pass on a message to him to get in touch with me if he saw him again, which Leonard happily agreed to do. It would truly make one of my dreams come true if I was to meet the man who inspired me to embark on this intrepid voyage.
As I lay in my, slightly damp, bunk in the Guardian Angels station, I had time to reflect on what had happened over the course of the day. I had visited 47 systems, and had extensive dealings with the followers of Bruce, though I had not managed to meet the great man himself, nor gain his friendship. His followers, though, had been a true delight. They truly are a shining light in the darkness of 0.0. Not a single one of them even attempted to shoot me, and many of them wished me well for my journey. They helped me get in touch with Bruce's inner circle, taught me about the history of 0.0, and guided me to a safe haven, even if they could not share their own with me. One of them, Honest Nonlabor, even gave me a gift of 10 million ISK to pay for clones. The generosity, and general good wishes of the populace of Fountain have restored my faith in humanity that was slightly tarnished by the widespread paranoia I had encountered since my arrival in 0.0, and for that, above all, I thank them.
I resolved to make my way to the final resting place of Steve the Titan when I woke the next morning. I was sure I would encounter many more people on the way, and I hoped they would be as unpstanding as ruce's friends were, though I doubted that would be the case. Regardless, I would soon find out...