October 18th 2022
Hey all, Old Jegger here with another Far From Home and let me tell you, I am feeling that Old part right now. Haven’t been sleeping well the last couple days and I’m paying the price for it. Got that bone-deep weariness that makes everything ache. Unfortunately, I’m still too wired to sleep just yet. Tried and it wouldn’t stick. Figured I’d settle down sipping on this cup of tea and telling you all about my recent… well, I was going to say adventure, but I don’t know if I’d even call it that.
Dang… this tea is real good. Like a hug in a mug. My friend, Niko, makes the blend themselves from plants that grow on their mountain out on Cascom in Castra. It’s this cabin perched right below the snowline with some of the prettiest sunsets you’ve ever seen. Might be time to go visit them soon since my tin’s almost empty. Maybe after I finish this run.
Right now, I’m piloting Shana through Banshee, which is a system I don’t exactly feel comfortable in. Probably being here’s what started me spinning out in the first place. Could also be the fact that Vara is just around the corner and it’s hard not to have ghosts on the mind to begin with. Geez, that’s right. I didn’t even say that this was a ghost story yet. If you can’t already tell, my thoughts tend to wander a bit when I’m this tired.
Actually, I remember this one time when I was first starting out, the promise of a massive bonus had me burning 56 hours straight trying to get a haul delivered before the deadline. Talk about tired. Tried all the usual tricks of stims and chewing on sujin root. Even tried wearing these electric pants that were supposed to give me a little shock every time I started to drift but I had to take them off when my leg hair caught fire. You should have seen the state I was in by the time I arrived. The absolute exhaustion of the trip was sitting on me so heavy that I wound up scraping the hangar doors on my way in. Instead of crossing the finish line, I crashed into it. Between the repairs to my hull and the station, plus my citation for flying impaired, I wound up owing more credits than the bonus paid. Wish I could say I learned my lesson on that one, but it took a few more years before I finally understood that sacrificing sleep just ain’t worth it, no matter how big the payout.
Speaking of being slow to learn, here I am rambling again. Halfway through my tea and I haven’t even gotten to the story I wanted to share. Like I said, this is one of those space spookers. The type that folks like to share around a campfire. I’m sure any of you that’ve been on the drift for long enough have your own stories like this one. Where something unexplained happens and you start to unravel. When the hull that normally feels like home begins to feel like a cage you’re trapped in. And those hums and clanks that normally serenade you to sleep all seem to portend certain doom. Think it’s just one of those things that comes from spending a lot of time on your lonesome. Stay in the black too long and things go weird.
See, it all started a few days ago right after I picked up a quantum-sensitive shipment from a station not too far from Lorona. It was going to be a slow burn, but I was all right with it. Been keeping up with practicing my music, just started reading a new book on the history of terraforming, and I had a whole bunch of questions and messages from you all to sort through. Basically, not only was I all set to keep myself busy for the week it was going to take to cart this stuff to where it was going, I was actually looking forward to the peace and quiet. I had been on that station for longer than I liked while I hunted down an electrical problem. Let’s just say that I had my fill and then some of being around strangers.
First two days on the drift were pure bliss, but then on the third day, right after I had finished eating a big bowl of rancher’s stew, I heard it for the first time. A voice. I froze where I was, sure I was imagining things. A moment passed. And then another. When I didn’t hear anything, I put it out of my mind confident it was just a compressor settling in or the like. But then, a few hours later, as I was nestled in my bunk picking out a song I’d been learning on my guitar, I heard the voice again. It sounded far away and small, but I was able to pick out one word clear as glass – “Die.”
I shot up like a dart and turned all the lights back on. My heart was racing and you could sand the paint off a hull with how sharp the prickles were standing up along my arms. I’m not normally one to spook so easy, but… well, I ain’t talked about this yet, but I had someone die aboard Shana not too long ago.
It was about five years past and I was here in Banshee. Met a wayward soul trying to head out of system and it just so happened that I was going to Fora after my next stop. As you might guess, it’s pretty rare for me to want company on board, but something about them told me I should say yes when they asked for the ride. Once we were flying, I learned that they were a bit of a musician. Wasn’t long before they busted out a slackbox and started toying away at it. Not sure if all of you’ve ever heard one before since they’re not the most popular instrument, but if you haven’t they pretty much sound like a fiddle that’s been through tough times. Anyway, they started playing, I started singing, and it wound up being a very nice way to pass the time. That was until they started into “From the Fire.” Only made it to the first verse when the tears started rolling.
Didn’t really think too much about it. It’s a sad song to begin with and music has a special way of moving people, you know? After the song finished, they went to use the head to freshen up and well… I’ll spare you all the details, but some of you may remember that I stopped broadcasting for a bit that year. Now you know why. Almost even considered giving up Shana because I wasn’t comfortable being on board her for a while. Luckily, the long break combined with some much-needed therapy got me back in the skies.
So, when I started hearing this strange voice not too far from the very coordinates where they passed, you can bet your last credit that I thought it might be their spirit come back. Especially since the song I had been practicing? You guessed it, “From the Fire.” I always say that the universe is too big of a place not to be filled with coincidence, but that’s hardly a comfort when a ghost is haunting you. I waited about two more hours, holding my breath almost the whole time, waiting to hear the voice again. Nothing. Decided to try to go to sleep. Not a minute had passed after laying down when I hear it, the voice in barely a whisper saying, “… About to die.”
It continued on like this. Every few hours a whisper telling me that my death was drawing ever closer. I was seriously thinking about dumping the cargo and burning straight the hell out of the system, but decided to take my own advice about what to do when things get screwy and I comm’d the closest doc I could find for a remote consult. After hearing my tale, they said that it looked like I might be experiencing early-onset dementia, which only got me more scared than I already was. They recommended that I come in for a full scan as soon as possible. Dumping my full hold and QTing to the closest medcenter was looking more and more like the best course of action. If the doc was right, I could be a serious danger to myself. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t some trick my mind was playing on me. Everything in my being was telling me that the voice was real.
I tried to make a decision about what to do but found myself spiraling. I was too tired and too scared to think straight. But you know what old haulers say to do when you can’t decide? Take a shower. Don’t know if it’s the water, the sound, or being naked, but something about taking a quick rinse just helps you think better. Next time you’re stuck, give it a try. Sure as hell helped out this time. As I was lathering up my hair, I hear the voice again, but this time I noticed something. It was louder. Why the hell would it be louder in the shower? Thinking it through, my only answer was the vent. So I rinse off as quick as can be, put my clothes back on, and wait with my ear as close to that little hatch as possible. When the voice finally came again, this time I could make out it saying “Warning, batteries are about to die. Please charge unit.”
Two seconds later I was tearing away the panel with my multitool, and after a bit of digging around, I found my ghost – a T98 handheld diagnostic unit. Seems that I had left the damn thing in the wall back at the station while I was doing my repairs. Didn’t know it had a voice warning for low batteries. Not sure who the hell decided that was a good feature to include, but the thing had very nearly driven me to the brink of madness. Almost smashed it with a hammer just out of spite. But instead of doing that, I tucked it back into its charging bay and brought out my guitar. Sang “From the Fire” loud and clear, and felt a lot better when it was done.
It wasn’t too long after that I started brewing my tea and here we are now. Feel a lot better getting to share all that. Even the hard parts. And even the parts where I come out looking like a fool. Think I might even be able to sleep now. Wish me luck. Until next time, sweet dreams. This is Old Jegger signing off.