I reached Waypoint 5 in Boewnst KS-S c20-959 a few hours before the fleet was due to depart. I docked at Polo Harbour, another planetary outpost on the Colonia Connection Highway. After docking, I slowly walked around my ship to give it a visual inspection. I noticed the paint was now looking worse for wear, flaking off in patches, particularly on the front edge where you could see the raw silver colour of metal shining in the bays overhead lights. It occurred to me then, looking at the physical effects of fast than light travel and witchspace, just how many light years of travelling I have now completed, must be over 25,000 by now. It really did feel like we are a long way from home, even the galactic plane is getting bigger, brighter and closer.
I had a walk over to my first stop when in port, the local bar. It was packed, music blaring and everyone was clearly having a few drinks and letting their hair down. One group in particular in the corner caught my eye. Seven or so men and women were all cheering and dancing around another man who had an attractive woman on his shoulder. She was holding a large holo tablet above her head and had a huge smile on her face. I could just make out the shape on the projected image, it was the Elite Explorer badge. A very proud moment for her and her friends I am sure, I myself felt a sense of happiness for her even though I didnt know her. I believe most explorers do what they do due to an uncontrollable urge to step into the unknown and discover what is over that next hill, as I have said before, it is a calling from the void. As with all things though, it is always nice to have recognition for any accomplishments especially when it is your passion. Gaining the rank of Elite Explorer by the Pilots Federation is something we are all secretly aiming for and I am sure after the next Waypoint it will be something that I will proudly attain as well. The discounts you get for ships and parts at participating stations isn't a bad bonus either! She happened to look over in my direction and our eyes connected, I gave a sharp snappy exaggerated salute and she replied with the same as I sat down on a stool at the bar.
After shovelling down some food cartridges made "fresh" behind the bar on a Chef (aka a Food Printer) I ordered the largest pitcher of beer they did and walked over to the celebrating group of commanders who were all seated now. I put the drink down in the middle of the table they were crammed around, and a big cheer erupted, my back was patted heartily and one of them pulled up a chair behind me. I slumped into it, the women shook a used glass, so the dregs flicked out on the floor and she slid it over to me. They all pushed their glasses together and I poured them all a round. Loud clinks as glasses clattered together, beer sloshed onto the table, followed by a loud "Cheers", the ancient phase for celebrating or congratulating which I believe originated on Earth. We drank and told stories of our exploits thus far on the expedition, near misses, crashes, black holes and white dwarfs, amazing sights and surreal experiences. All the while I couldn't stop gazing at this woman, Caz. She was as intoxicating as the alcohol, her green eyes twinkling like the stars, her warm, inviting cheeky smile instantly causing me to smile back whilst she occasionally playfully ran her hands through her blond hair. I couldn’t help looking away as our eyes met once more, somewhat embarrassed like a school boy. All of a sudden, the music stopped and an announcement rang out over the PA system. "Waypoint 6 has been announced, please check Fleet Com for details", then the music continued. Everyone was now checking their tablets. Whilst I was reading the details, the group staggered to their feet, including Caz and they slurred out some goodbyes to me as they headed for the door. Caz put a slender hand on my shoulder as she passed, "Fly Safe", then that cheeky smile again. "You too" I managed awkwardly. Then she was gone in the crowd that was now leaving en masse for the docks to get ready for the launch at the meet ups held nearby to the port.
After leaving the system with 15 other commanders in a mass jump we were once again on our way to the next Waypoint, another 10,000 Lys away. The fleet organisers, as usual, picked some great points of interest for us along the way including Phiaanor, a vivid blue and purple nebula and The Pink Flame Nebula, a supernova remnant with a neutron star. I also got extremely excited and proud when I finally scanned down and mapped my first ever undiscovered “Earth Like World” in Eok Pruae MH-M c23-1442, a relatively small planet of 0.3324 earth masses orbiting an M Class Red Dwarf star. I dropped out of super cruise and flew as close as I could get to orbit and took photos of the surface, watching the clouds over the blue oceans and green land masses. Who knows one day it might be colonised.
Last on the route and the Waypoint 6 meet up was The Dryau Awesomes in Dryau Ausms KG-Y e3390. Another extraordinary system consisting of a Black Hole at the system’s entry point and a nearby White Dwarf, with an orbiting gas giant. The view here was awesome indeed and very dynamic as all the bodies' orbital periods were so short. I refrained from playing around with this Black Hole though due to the proximity of the intense White Dwarf which have far greater exclusion zones when compared to the neutron stars I have now got so accustomed with.
I have just received our next route itinerary for Waypoint 7 which I am delighted to say includes the hopeful completion of the Star Port at Stumea FG-Y D7561. The next stage is to be spread out, with the fleet not moving on for another 3 weeks. Stop off points are now in my nav computer, route is plotted, and I am about to jump towards the center of our galaxy. I do keep wondering if I will meet Caz again, I hope I do.