Monday 31 July 2023

Keepstar on the Edge of Infinity


The desire to seek remoteness is not about adventure, it's about escape - from other people, from yourself. It's a calling. An obligation, to save your soul.

from Essays on New Eden's Sociological Evolution, 3rd Edition

I've been performing a series of experiments with Needlejack Filaments: those devices that came about as a by-product of the Triglavian Invasion.

I'm loath to get into this sort of thing, as it is experimental technology that is still not completely understood, which is why nobody has yet to get past the pseudo-random nature of the result of using one. Something this small, that doesn't need the power of a stargate, that burrows so deep into hyperspace that you end up 50 or more light-years away from where you activated it, but you won't know where, is to be handled very carefully. Yet these things are available on the open market, to be treated like an amusement. A laugh.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have an imagination. These things are dangerous. You could end up in another dimension. You might not ever come back. I mean, do you know of anyone that this has happened to? Of course not, because they don't come back to report on the experience. How many capsuleers do you know that have just disappeared..?

I ran this series of tests using a basic Probe-class frigate, rigged and fitted to a very basic exploration capability but with a couple of missile launchers for a token feeling of safety.

I bought ten of the 'Noise' filaments, had them set up to interface with the ship's systems and warp drive, and departed from my home system of Kor-Azor Prime. The first filament took me back to Syndicate. There was one other capsuleer in the system, ice-mining in an Endurance. I thought about hitting it for a few minutes but then thought better of it as it would be waste of ammo. No way am I going to catch an Endurance, not in a Probe.

The second 'Noise' took me to the Catch region. I'm not really familiar with it. I've never had much cause to go there. I wasn't interested.

The third one flung me way out to the extremely remote outer limits of the cluster - Cobalt Edge!

I've been here once before, six years ago. To this same system, HB-5L3. This is the end of the line - the last system on the network in the north-east. The one with the stargate that reaches out all the way through the centre of Jove space (or what's left of it) to the Tenal region in the even more remote, empty, godforsaken far north. 

But I understand why people want to go there...

The last time I passed through HB-5L3 six years ago there was nothing here, no human presence to speak of except the maintenance crews in the stargates. One of the system's four terrestrial worlds had a few automated weather stations broadcasting faint signals in the radio bands from its surface, but that was it.

But now, to my great surprise, and despite me going on about remoteness and emptiness, there's a damned Keepstar here:  

Pandemic Horde has two industrial facilities, a couple of Ansiblexes, a Pharolux Cyno Generator, and this thing, the whole complex probably housing a population equal to a small planetary colony, out here on the edge of the cluster. 

What in God's name are they doing out here?

It's possible that by advertising this facility's existence in the public domain like this has violated some sort of Horde opsec, but I doubt they'll care. The sheer remoteness of the system is its best defence. If they're building supercaps out here then there is no better location.

Of course the machinery of the faceless bureaucracy even reaches this far, which means the 'sov' out here is actually owned by the enigmatic Pan-Intergalactic Business Community, but these are Horde structures. Some kind of renter arrangement, presumably.

I couldn't hang around too much because a) this Probe is so cheaply-fitted it does not have a cloaking device, b) the ops crew of that Keepstar will have noted my presence here and told somebody, who would have undoubtedly been on their way here right now, and c) the Rogue Drones eventually showed up with those horrible mutations of ex-capsuleer ships with their probably-forcibly-cyborgised crew facing a deathlife worse than that of a Sansha zombie. 

See what I mean about having too much of an imagination..?

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Cosmic Rifts and Spacetime Distortions


'On a long enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero'

Overheard in a bar in Kandashi Station in M2-CF1

At some point in the deep past, the area of space that we now call the Syndicate was an unusually violent place - in a cosmic sense, not in terms of the behaviour of its inhabitants. Evidence of that past is demonstrated by three 'landmarks' located here, all of them within a few light-years of each other.

The Cloud Ring Nebula is unmissable of course; proven to be a supernova remnant by Intaki astronomer Alnadil Jouber many years ago, it has always been my favourite piece of cosmic architecture in all of New Eden. If you're in visual range of it, then more than any other nebula in the cluster, you can establish your position in the North-West Quadrant just by looking at it, and I've spent many hours during quiet duty periods in the Cathedral's tactical command centre doing just that.

Cloud Ring from Black Rise

Cloud Ring from Outer Ring

Cloud Ring from Placid

Cloud Ring from Syndicate

The odd thing is if you go to the region named after the Cloud Ring, you're in the centre of the nebula and completely surrounded by it so the effect is not so dramatic, but anyway this is about stuff going on in Syndicate.

There are two other 'things' going on here that are far more dangerous and far less visible, so you can only view them from the systems that are closest to them, but the presence of one of them is given away by the large void in the centre of the stargate map of Syndicate. The network appears to loop around something.

It's called Cord of the Elements.

This is a flaw in spacetime that stretches much further than we can see; the only part of it that is visible from a stargate-connected system - the D-B7YK system - is just a fraction of its total area. You can easily guess the extent of it just by looking at that void in the map, as it forms a natural barrier between the Fed and large parts of the Syndicate.

To travel to D-B7YK from my home system of XS-XAY means traversing the perimeter of that void, some 22 stargate jumps. In reality, XS-XAY is closer to D-B7YK than Poitot is. 

From browsing the scientific literature on the Cord of the Elements, it seems to be similar to the EVE Gate in that it is a massive rift in spacetime that emits extravagantly lethal levels of hard radiation and gravity waves, preventing any close analysis or any transit of it. Probes have gone in there and never come out. Like the EVE Gate, the portion of the Cord we can see is still several light-years away from the closest system; and like the EVE Gate, the sight of it activates a primal fear in the observer. It does in me, anyway.

The residents and guests of the Intaki Syndicate Executive Retreat probably beg to differ. 

Capsuleers are not permitted to dock in this station; it's built exclusively for the owners, directors, heads, CEOs, and ruling families of the various 'city state' stations that form the Intaki Syndicate in all its cosmopolitan diversity. Maybe Silphy herself has a permanent suite here. I would expect her to.

Whatever deals get done here - I tried to look for evidence of a recent Caldari presence re: DS-M4Q - and whatever after-parties take place in those Pleasure Hubs, it is before a stunning vista formed of an incredibly violent cosmic phenomenon that cannot be explained definitively or explored without great personal risk, kind of like a metaphor for the affairs of the Intaki Syndicate itself.

When I took a trip out here, after checking out the Intaki station and confirming that I was in fact not allowed to dock in it, I took up a position in a 'safe' and observed the Cord of the Elements for a while. My sensors were all over the place, it was obviously as deadly as a magnetar in Anoikis. The D-B7YK system is a 'dead-end', uninhabited and unremarkable except for its proximity to this thing, which is, if you consider its sheer size and extent, a far more violent and threatening phenomenon than even the EVE Gate; and yet hardly anybody outside the Syndicate knows about it. Even fewer have visited it, just because it is in deep nullsec. 


* * *

The other cosmic phenomenon in this part of space isn't actually in Syndicate, it's in Solitude, a few light-years to the 'south'. I took some licence there, I know, but since the regions of New Eden are entirely a political invention and are mostly determined by the stargate network, the distinction is redundant because the regions of Syndicate and Solitude actually vertically overlap each other with respect to True Galactic North.

So this thing, called Trace Cosmos, is not really in a 'different region' at all. It's just down the road, in a cosmic sense.

Trace Cosmos is a field of miniature black holes visible from the Gererique system. It moves, with pulses of visible light and gravitational shockwaves ripping through clouds of dust and hot plasma . The Fed has built an installation in the Gererique system to monitor it. The Duvolle Gravitational Wave Observatory is here to do serious science; it is not a holiday resort like the place in Syndicate. 

Like the Cord, and like the EVE Gate, you can't get anywhere near the Trace Cosmos for the same reasons: deadly radiation and gravity fluctuations. There are about nine or ten black hole accretion discs visible from Gererique, bright enough in visible wavelengths, but by far the brightest things in the sky in x-rays and gamma rays; but God knows how many of those things there are in there in total, because the Trace Cosmos is like the Cord in that it covers a sufficiently large area of space that the layout of the stargate network has to take it into account. It is the reason why access to Solitude in general is so difficult and why there is another large void in the map between Solitude, Genesis and Aridia.

It's a remarkable coincidence that four violent unstable gravitational phenomena - the Cloud Ring supernova remnant, the Cord of the Elements, the Trace Cosmos and the EVE Gate are all located within about 17 light-years of each other, here in this sector of New Eden.

As to their creation, the Nebula is entirely natural; the Trace probably is too; the EVE Gate almost certainly is not; and as for the Cord, some outlandish fringe theorists have even postulated an artificial, alien origin, like an industrial or scientific accident that occurred aeons ago. That would actually place it on a par with the EVE Gate, if that's what the collapsed EVE Gate was. If aliens caused the Cord of the Elements, we'd see other evidence of their existence somewhere else in New Eden. We have more obvious evidence of our human ancestors in the form of relics from the epochs of the Talocan, Yan Jung etc. Nobody, nothing intelligent appears to have pre-dated human presence in New Eden.

If that wild theory about the Cord is even remotely true then history, from the universe's perspective, keeps on repeating itself, because just a few years ago the W477-P system in Jove space was the location of a catastrophic event that might one day produce something similar to these phenomena, millennia from now.

Then just last year my own Amarrian 'superiors' nearly caused the collapse of a star and the destruction of the Turnur system while attempting to replicate Triglavian technology. And then of course that lot are the only ones seemingly capable of mastering that much power, but to what end?

History does indeed repeat itself all the time, and it is only a matter of time before something happens, or more accurately we cause something to happen, that will, aeons from now, make our descendants build monuments and stations to its aftermath, and they will marvel at its stark cosmic beauty.

That is if we don't wipe ourselves out in the process.

Monday 13 February 2023

Brief Notes on the Blackglass/Zeugma Combo


I upgraded my head recently. I installed a Neural Lace 'Blackglass' Net Intrusion 920-40 implant into what I've come to regard as my Explorer Clone: the version of me that has a whole bunch of very expensive implants installed in it, all to make me uncatchable, undetectable and as slippery as a Gallente politician.

The Blackglass implant is remarkable, incredible in its enhancement of my ship's hacking power. It is so powerful that the total combination of ship, modules and implants means it is now virtually impossible to fail even the most difficult of hacks.

Even when this happens:

And even then I still succeeded in hacking the Serpentis data node. But I'm not proud of this. There was no elegance, no style, no precision to this hack.

Sometimes God sends these things to test us.

Don't get complacent out there. You will die. It might even be me that kills you if you happen to be in Syndicate.

Friday 9 December 2022

Grand Theft Supercarrier


The A-3ES3 System, Syndicate

Our allies in the Intaki Business Logistics Union had an interesting time earlier this year when the two constellations of 'Synco Pocket' were invaded by a capsuleer group of gangsters led by somebody called 'Tinkerhell', who, in apparent reprisal for some perceived smacktalk/insult that took place in Placid, attempted to take the Pocket's space for themselves. No agreements, no discussions, no treaties, no cooperation, just pure belligerence. Not even the kind of honour-code criminality that the various factions in the Syndicate are all about. Just pure bullying capsuleers again.

The attack took the form of trying to hijack the highly mineral-rich moons that proliferate throughout the area and which the Intaki Syndicate permits Synco to administer. Not just the moons, but the mining stations that orbit them too.

In other words, the kind of resource war that happens all the time. Everywhere.

Synco successfully repelled the invasion and eventually a form of ceasefire was reached when the aggressors were pushed back to the 'dead-end' system of A-3ES3, where they were left to it.

I had nothing to do with the defence of the area at the time as I was engaged back in Devoid. More recently, when I based myself in our Cathedral in XS-XAY, I went for an initial reconnaissance of the local systems and found a Hel-class supercarrier parked in a fully-shielded and heavily-defended starbase facility in A-3ES3.

It was one of theirs, just sat there. I reported the sighting in our intel channel and somebody suggested stealing it. I did think about it for a few seconds. I mean, it's been done before.

This happened like three months ago. The starbase was a staging post for the failed invasion and nothing else has happened there since. The Hel hasn't moved, and the attention span of most capsuleers dictates that probably nothing will happen, because even a week is a long time in New Eden.

The last time I looked it was still there though. I mean you don't just park one of these things and leave it there and forget about it.

Or do you..?

Sunday 6 November 2022

Funeral in Palas

'They don't make 'em like this anymore'

Overheard at the Novae Prismaticae, the Girani-Fa system, Genesis, during 03-YC124

The Armageddon battleship is actually a bit dreck when viewed dispassionately by military analysts, because its age and general obsolescence mean that it is outclassed in its category by virtually everything else in the cluster.

But I own one, and I have a soft spot for it. 

I got this one at the beginning of YC124. It was for sale on contract in the Villore system, which is deep within the Fed. What was an Amarrian battleship doing there? I felt a completely irrational desire to rescue it. According to the contract, this one was stripped of all modules and equipment.

It was ancient. It had been used by the Navy for a long time, most notably during the Drifter invasion, then struck-off charge shortly after and sold to the private sector, where it passed through a few different owners before ending up in Villore being sold to me. 

It was worn out when I got it. Bringing it back to Empire space was an experience. I contracted a temporary skeleton crew to make sure it did not fall apart in transit to the Novae Prismaticae, our administrative HQ and Astrahus in Girani-Fa, where I based it at first. On the way there it made bizarre and unsettling noises that manifested through my auditory nerve inputs as rattling and twanging noises when it used its warp drive, and I feared it would not decelerate from hyperspace on more than one occasion as it did not always answer the helm - the 'helm' being in my head of course - which led me to suspect an extremely cheap and dodgy capsuleer conversion by engineers not familiar with the type, probably the work of the Fed, who let's face it are preoccupied with self-indulgence most of the time.

Those engineers hadn't even done a bridge conversion on it. As a capsuleer you don't need a bridge because you don't use it and you don't need the crew, so normally all the panels and terminals and chairs in there get removed and blanked off and you just end up with a big room with a scenic view. Not this one. Neglect was obvious all over the ship. Whoever had stripped it of equipment under its last ownership had been quick and wilfully careless: wiring looms hanging like vines, missing sections of hull armor, exposed pipes and ducting, unshielded compartments, life-expired components, desecrated altars, leaking cryogenic tanks, strange blood stains on the ceilings of the crew messes, inconsistent artificial gravity, human remains (!). I could go on...

I consulted its extensive maintenance history - extensive - and according to the Navy's registries its former name when it was commissioned was TES Lux Sidra, so I decided to use that name again, to resurrect it. We're given special dispensation in LUMEN to use the prefix so it seemed appropriate.

So I based the ship in Girani-Fa for a couple of months while our engineers went to work on it. I already had a bunch of Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings for it stored in my hangar so I bought some more, and spent some time shaking it down doing some missions for the local authorities in Genesis, because I was working up to something...

* * *

The Kor-Azor region, three months later 

In the Societas we are mostly free to do our own thing when there are no major alliance strategic operations going on, so I subcontracted myself to the Ministry of Internal Order, where I found myself involved in a security/policing action in the Kor-Azor region involving yet another dispute between a couple of the Houses Minor. This is what they do all the time. All that political manoeuvring for favour at Court. But this one was serious as there were allegations of treason and collaborations with Sansha's Nation. It had to be serious for the Ministry to get involved. It had to be even more serious for the secretive Ministry to recruit an outside contractor. 

It was good to spend a few weeks back in my own home region and operate in the vicinity of my homeworld of Eclipticum. My own loyalty is to the Empress - peace be upon her - and to House Kor-Azor, but as a capsuleer and a Ni-Kunni from a wealthy family background I am unofficially exempt from many of the requirements of such fealty; it means I can move more easily between the strata of Amarrian society, and my family's position as owners of the Proxima Direct Spacelines shipping company going back several generations meant we escaped the worst of Aritcio's 'excesses' back in the day. As a capsuleer, today, I enjoy a certain level of respect from the hierarchy that as a Ni-Kunni I might not normally be entitled to. All of this means I can be as observant as I wish, and objective when I wish to be, and can get away with it.

This position, or status, was useful during a series of missions in which I was required to use the Armageddon against my own people. These were rank-and-file Amarrian ship crews that were caught up in something they had no control over: their master's personal treacherous power play and ego trip. 

I was initially based in the Nishah system, but as this thing became bigger than I imagined, I ended up ranging all over Kor-Azor, working-for but never actually meeting face-to-face with the agent Riff Hebian, who worked from his own Armageddon in the Palas system.

While this series of missions developed I spent millions of ISK - millions and millions - on different weapons specifications to try to get the Armageddon to work properly against the traitors and the Sansha infiltrators I kept running into. I tried beam lasers, pulse lasers, torpedoes and cruise missiles, with various armor configurations, eventually settling on a 'Snipergeddon' setup, but not for the reasons you might think. 

While skirmishing with these fleets I was often up against fifteen or twenty ships at a time. The 'Armageddon' took so much punishment from these fleets, such a hammering for hours at a time, and dealt with so much armor ablation and hull damage, that I started to have a problem with members of my contract slavecrew freaking out and committing suicide by airlocking themselves or finding sidearms or knives from somewhere and using them on themselves and each other. Every time I'd dock there would be a report from the slavemasters carrying a double-digit number of 'missing persons'. This and the blood stains and the remains I found in it when I first got the ship made me wonder whether it was cursed, and whether I'd have to get Brother Theodosius Savnar to perform an exorcism on it.

As if that wasn't ridiculous enough, the other thing was going through so much Nanite Repair Paste and breaking-off skirmishes to use a friendly nano-repair tether so frequently, that I started to wonder whether all the constant hull and armor regeneration meant that it was no-longer the same ship that it was when it was built.

So the 'Snipergeddon' strategy was in part to offset all of this by warping into the location of a fleet of variously Sansha, Amarrian heretics, 'Independents' and Mercenaries and immediately Micro Jump Driving over a hundred kilometers away and picking them off slowly, gradually, not letting them get anywhere near me, with cruise missiles. Thousands of missiles. It worked. No crew suicides anymore. No more armor regeneration. But my God it took a lifetime...

But the ship soaked it all up - even while taking down a Sansha Battlestation:

And even while taking down massive comms arrays pointed straight towards the Stain region - the origin of Sansha's Nation:

And then the Snipergeddon even had to get into hacking a station's mainframe with a jury-rigged and hotwired Data Analyzer installation ('Hackergeddon'?), and later getting into extracting an undercover agent from a complex of chapels.

But in contrast, the final face-off in the Choga system with the renegade Terrus Harkan - the renegade at the centre of this affair and the heretic I had helped the agents Riff Hebian and Aralin Jick uncover - was an anticlimax, a formality. The Snipergeddon found purpose and resolve when it was called upon, even against the fleet of Nightmares that Harkan was being protected by. Harkan was a blasphemous heretic and a traitor. Like all those who follow this path he became convinced of his own religious purity and destiny and hubris and had to be purged. I drew little satisfaction from that. But it had to be done.

Purged, along with his unholy, abominable Nightmares with their undead crew, all sent to His judgement.

For God and for Holy Amarr.

I returned to Hebian's Armageddon in Palas after it was over and received the usual thanks and blessings, and I was honoured to be of service. I really was. But we are all ultimately in the service of God. The only reason I had got into this mess was because somebody - Harkan - thought they were an exception. And this will happen again, you can guarantee it. It's why the Ministry of Internal Order exists - to deal with the excesses of human nature.

A contract fulfilled then, and through God's will, a ship that performed its duty when it mattered. The Armageddon may be old and obsolete, but because it doesn't specialise in anything it is extremely versatile, as I proved by using four different weapons systems on it. 

Probably the only reason it survived all this punishment was the amount of modification and improvement that comes with a capsuleer conversion, which leads to the argument again that this is not the same ship it was, not a standard Armageddon.

But the fact remains that it is built like an asteroid and will last forever. Mine will probably outlive the heat death of the universe. 

So when that happens and I am that 'last capsuleer alone with God', it will be in this ship.

[OOC: this was the Amarr Epic Arc. You need +5 with the Ministry of Internal Order to do it and Eve University has an excellent walkthrough of both permutations of the storyline. You may wish to use a T3C for speed and efficiency, or if you want to take your time and look at the scenery then a T1 BS will serve you well, despite the received wisdom on r/eve... ]

Monday 24 October 2022

Covenant Network Disruption


Syndicate, 10/124

It seems the Sani Sabik abominations have started their annual 'Crimson Harvest' again. These vile heresies are like insects. I must have killed literally millions of them in their spacecraft but they keep on coming. It is among the highest of religious duties to purge them.

And yet they persist.

This time the Order of St.Tetrimon has stepped up and declared its intention to fight the Covenant during this 'event'. All of us in Khimi Harar are committed to assisting the Order wherever we can.

For me this takes the form of locating the Covenant's comms and data network nodes here in Syndicate and hacking into them and shutting them down. The fact that these installations exist out here in Syndicate at all is remarkable enough, but they are here so they must be eliminated.

These Covenant nodes are well disguised, hidden deep within fields of rubble surrounding fractured planetesimals, and it takes considerable scanning power to pinpoint their location.

It's a primordial setting, dangerous enough with drifting rocks bouncing off my shields and the possibility of the node blowing up in my face if I mess up the hack, but then with the added risk of opportunistic capsuleers trying to stop me from doing this important work and 'ganking' me and looting my ship, which would be a magnet for them since they would see 'Pacifier' on their directional scanners and know it's worth three-quarters of a billion ISK.

Of course, the flip side of this is the other work I'm doing to defend the Order's own network nodes from those same opportunists who would disrupt the Order's work for personal profit, and from the absolute scumbags who are actually siding with the Covenant. This of course means me ganking them.

One of the scumbags I caught attempting to hack a Tetrimon node didn't take it very well when I destroyed their ship -

- because this happened:

This capsuleer I killed (the other name is some random who was passing through the system), turned out to be one of that group who insists on communicating in a non-Standard language, so I had to use translation algorithms on her rage:

She called me a bitch. I mean, how rude!

But the translation algorithms are a bit off as it otherwise doesn't make a lot of sense, except that it's obviously insulting. Salty, even. I don't think I ever got salt before. The thing is, I've always found it funny how so many capsuleers can dish it out but can't take it. If the tables were turned, this capsuleer would not have hesitated to take down my Pacifier, and would unquestionably have gloated about it because, as I said above, my Pacifier is worth three-quarters of a billion ISK. Her Probe was worth a tenner, tops. She had a few choice modules and loot that survived the destruction, which was useful, but the real imperative here was the prevention of the interruption of the Order of St. Tetrimon's work against the Covenant. This is God's work.

Anyway, I didn't actually kill this capsuleer at all, just her ship. She warped away in her capsule and delivered the polemic I've just described. You could even argue there's no point in killing them, because a TEBS cycle and a new ship and they'll be back. That 'cycle' will repeat, forever.

As long as capsuleers exist, the names may change, but the game will always stay the same.

That is a terrifying concept...