Gelfiven - Following their miraculous return from a disastrous expedition to find the Minmatar Elders, the surviving pilgrims have released the details of their harrowing experience.
Still appearing haggard from her ordeal, spokeswoman Captain Lars Juncliffe painted a picture of a group of people high on hopes of joining their Elders, but woefully unprepared for the realities of voyaging in the lawless regions of the cluster.
Following their departure from regulated space, the convoy slowly travelled deeper and deeper into the Great Wildlands - scanning each system thoroughly for signs of the Elders or their fleet. Despite the urgings of some of the convoy's captains, the leadership of the fleet concentrated only on their search for clues to the Elders' whereabouts and had established no defensive protocols or plans for action in the event of pirate ambush
As might have been expected, only a week's travel beyond the last Empire jumpgate the pilgrims were set upon by a large gang of unflagged pirates. Chaos reigned as every ship tried to fend for itself, warping off alone in every conceivable direction to escape the attackers. Juncliffe attributed her survival to the fact that a small group of ships stayed together, while the pirates chased down single ships to snap them up piecemeal.
Still, Juncliffe's initially small group grew smaller still as they were steadily whittled down over the course of several days of cat-and-mouse across a number of systems. All the while, the few remaining members of the pilgrimage were seen to wink out of their shared comm channel, falling victim one-by-one to the dangers of the Wildlands.
After a dogged pursuit, the pirates finally disengaged and the five ships that remained were able to assess their situation. Without a working long-range communications system between them, and with varying levels of serious damage across all vessels, the only choice for the survivors was an agonizingly slow progress back to civilized space - stopping frequently to rig repairs that allowed only the most basic of ship-board functions to continue.
Finally, though they were within reach of the edge of Republic space, a reactor crisis in one of the vessels again forced the group to hang motionless in space until repairs could be completed. Juncliffe describes the five ships hanging cold and dark for days in the emptiness of space, expending only the barest minimum of energy in order to prevent their detection. In addition to pure luck, Captain Juncliffe suspects that their survival while in such a vulnerable position is very possibly due in part to the long-standing efforts of the various anti-pirate capsuleer alliances that operate in the area.
With the reactor repaired by the crudest of methods, the battered group made their way through the final few jumpgates, greeting the welcome sight of CONCORD vessels with a weary cheer.
When asked what their future plans were, Juncliffe was non-committal. She would only say that the captains and crews of the surviving vessels planned to spend time with the family that they left behind, celebrate their good fortune, and mourn some of those that did not make it home.
Unsurprisingly, there are rumours that representatives from holo-reel powerhouse Impetus have been quietly courting the survivors for the rights to dramatise the story of their unlikely survival. Requests to Impetus seeking confirmation of these rumours were not immediately returned.