Since I started playing Elite: Dangerous – roughly around Beta 2.0 – one of my early to-dos has been to get to the Sol system. [Note: that’s here, where Earth is. ‘Sol’ is the Roman name for the Sun and one commonly used in sci-fi; the reasoning being that if you’re in spaceships flying around among the stars, there are lots of different ‘the Suns’.]
Earlier on today, I (finally) clicked on to a way of extending the range of my ship’s frameshift drive (its hyperdrive, in more familiar terms), and I also found a website that lets you calculate jump routes through a number of the more established systems in the game.
And, finally, I pointed my ship towards Sol, and hit ‘jump’.
And then a weird thing happened. I arrived in the system (as a beta backer one of the little pressies the developer gave me is a permit to enter the otherwise-restricted Sol system), lined myself up with Earth, and went to have a look… and then didn’t.
In E:D, like the two Frontier games before it, Earth is the centre of the Federation, one of two-maybe-three-possibly-four major political factions in the game. Earth is orbited by the Moon, of course, and three space stations – Abraham Lincoln, Li Qing Jao and M. Gorbachev – all of which I could’ve picked as my destination.
But as I approached Earth, I found myself veering off. I headed for the moons of Saturn instead, and remained floating around there until a few minutes later when I switched the game off.
When I log back in, I’m leaving Sol. I won’t look back. I’m heading for Achenar, the seat of the Empire – or as close as I can get to Achenar without a permit.
The truth is that I don’t want to look at Earth. I know from other people’s screenshots that the developers have created a future Earth with a far higher sea level – not unreasonably. But it is at least there, it’s inhabited, and it’s the cradle of a vast spacefaring civilisation. And I’m terrified – terrified – that ours won’t ever be that latter, and may one day (or more specifically, very soon) not be the former two either. And I’m equally terrified – via some frakked-up combination of magical thinking, apocalyptic catastrophising and Generalised Anxiety Disorder, plus (I’ll freely admit it) some seriously bizarre hormonal activity just now – that even talking about the object of my fear will cause it to happen.
And, just in case you thought that was all the crazy, it isn’t. Having touched on the irrationality of a fear that admitting a fear of something will cause the thing to happen, I should also tell you that I’m also afraid that that admission wouldn’t have caused the thing to happen if I hadn’t then admitted my awareness of the irrationality of it all.
What I should do is fly over to Earth and take a good long look at it, just to say, “I beat the fear”. But I can’t. I can’t bear it. I can’t do it.
I’m going to Achenar.