Where The Hell Have I Been?
|The capsule is the womb. The womb is supposed to be safe. The capsule is not safe.|
First of all, I had this nostalgic exchange on our Alliance text-only channel with my previous crew, relayed by Signaleer Jen Outamon who was in the Ashmarir system at the time:
That was very cool, and is proof once again that your conduct as a capsuleer - your rep - both precedes you and is left behind. Some of the juniors could do with remembering that. Speaking of juniors, Empress Catiz' inaugural address included a reference to a 'new generation of capsuleers' for which the initial eligibility and training requirements will be lowered. This new regime, called 'Alpha Clones', will be introduced at the tail end of YC118, and it concerns me because the effect it will have on the Empyrean community could be similar to that of lowering the legal drinking age in a bar. Standards may drop. Decorum, for what it is, may be shattered. Signal Cartel top management has already clarified and tightened our recruitment policy in preparation for it.
While we're on the subject of decorum, around the same time that the above happened, I caught the conversation below in our public text-only channel between two capsuleers who were debating the merits of the 'pod express', neither of whom were themselves Signaleers and neither of whom would give way. I stitched the archive together in a popular editing program. It starts on the left and gets better:
|Calm down boys & girls!|
Meanwhile, Cali Estemaire was conducting operations in Guristas space last week, minding her own business and keeping a low profile, when she happened to disturb a fleet of Pandemic Legion supercarriers who obviously perceived her Astero to be such an existential threat to them that the entire fleet attacked her. All of them. The report is below just in case you didn't really believe such a thing was possible. I've heard about the phenomenon of 'killmail whoring' but this is totally ridiculous:
|Bunch of bullies, the lot of them.|
This is the Signal. Not even a fleet of supercarriers can stop the Signal.
ESOCI and the Molden Heath Question
A couple of months ago, Markus Vulpine's sister Eris announced she was creating a new corporation called 'The Evesploratory Society', otherwise known by the ticker [ESOCI]. The Evesploratory Society's principal objectives are to act as a focal point for New Eden's scientific community by deploying citadels around New Eden, where explorers and scientists can avail themselves of neutral ground for repairs, resupply, study, chillout, jump-cloning etc.
The first of those citadels, called 'The Explorers Club', was built in orbit shortly afterwards around the inner moon of Mista VI in the Domain region. Mynxee opened an office in the citadel and it was quickly pounced upon by several of us as a forward operating base for the nearby Providence region. A couple of industrialist corporations moved in too, and I occasionally sit in with them on mining ops if I'm in the area, because, you know, mining is chill.
It's clear that Eris put a lot of thought into the aesthetic qualities of The Explorers Club's location, for which she is to be commended, because you can't take your eyes off the scenery. Mista VI, or Big Orange as I've named it, is by far the strangest-looking gas giant I've ever seen. The literature always goes on about Kador Prime IX and its atmosphere of green clouds as a tourist attraction, but it's got nothing on Big Orange. The planet's entire southern hemisphere is various shades of orange cloud, most vivid at its equator. Planetologists would have a field day over why the planet's atmosphere is so stratified like this.
Not only that, but the quality of light given off by the Mista primary in conjunction with the all-surrounding ambient glow of the Domain Nebula (as filtered and enhanced through cam drones), gives a dreamy quality to the view outside. I could look at it all day and night to be honest.
* * *
- which is in stark contrast with the vicious-looking, active star-forming bipolar emission nebula in Ginnungagap that is visible from here. This nebula is scary because it looks like a cosmic disaster unfolding at the preferred pace of the universe. It's the first thing you see when you undock because all the citadel's hangarage faces it. It's ironic that something which looks like so much death is actually the source of creation.
It's darker out here.
For reasons I've elaborated on before, I haven't spent a lot of time in the Minmatar Republic because of the effect the region's blood red ambient stellar background has on my equilibrium. The whole sector is a giant culture shock to me, like the presence of Republic Fleet 'Trash Cans' as gate guardians instead of the Armageddons that I'm so used to. I'm an Amarrian in an Amarrian ship: they should open fire on sight, right? Yes, I know, standings etc., but we're still at war regardless of CONCORD's bureaucratic refereeing system.
Then there are the ice asteroids and cometary remnants, which are plentiful out here whereas during my time in Khanid I barely saw any.
You'll have noticed that the ship I used here was my Malediction interceptor. Incredible machine, and even more so after Khanid Innovations sent me a mail saying they were going to visit the location of my Mal and competely rebuild it from bow to stern in accordance with a 'mid-life upgrade' programme, all free-of-charge and without me asking for it. Must have been in the small print.
Now it is just as fast as before but with two fewer engines. Most importantly it looks much better.
Never sacrifice style for speed.
* * *
There is a collective within New Eden's scientific community which asserts that Molden Heath carries some special cosmic significance or resonance with Anoikis; something to do with Seyllin, the alleged pattern of wormhole distribution thereafter, and the simultaneous disappearance of the Lakat-Hro caravan in the Great Wildlands (a derelict part of which turned up later near one of the Sisters of EVE wrecks in Thera - if you haven't seen it yet, you need to check it out).
Molden Heath has not yet manifested anything suspect beyond those wormholes and yellow-flagged capsuleers. However Molden Heath's true position with respect to the wider cluster and the galactic plane is noteworthy. It sits above the huge void that stretches from Divinity's Edge to Ginnungagap, a void that nearly bisects the cluster and that no stargate has ever been able to penetrate.
There's something going on in there. Something very bad.
With the citadel in Horaka available, it is time for me to take more interest in this region of space and for my Republic No-Fly Zone policy to change. The Wanderers Den is close to nullsec. It is a gateway to null. Pay the admission fee, come on in and enjoy the ride.
I must be more prepared than ever before.
Empress of Amarr
Only one, possibly two of those outfits could be considered one level below CODE. The rest are hobbyist edgelords with 'born to lose' tattooed on their perma-immersed foreheads.
I didn't need this level of hassle, and I saw this as a sign: to use this period of partially-enforced downtime to go shopping. It was time to graduate to the apotheosis of Amarrian starship engineering: the Legion.
Behold the Empress of Amarr:
Tech-III-class strategic cruisers: constructed with technology and materials derived from the denizens of Anoikis themselves, so nobody seems to have a full and complete idea of how these ships do what they do. Look at the specs on the configurable subsystems and you see lots of references to 'reverse engineering'. That means the ship is more powerful than the people who designed it.
It has a mind of its own. Aura, evolved. Nanobots everywhere.
I spent a week in the trade hub in Amarr, buying the brand-new hull and specifying the five different subsystems I wanted the Legion fitted with during its construction; the most important for my requirements being the Emergent Locus Analyzer subsystem that requires the entire front half of the ship's fuselage and superstructure from the bow to station 228ex116 to be rebuilt, and fitted with a huge, segmented-dish wideband sensor array that makes it look like a junior Avatar, or one of those long-extinct animals called an 'elephant' that I used to read about.
A fuselage plug is also fitted at the engineering section which lengthens the ship, opening enough space to fit the Interdiction Nullifier and Covert Reconfiguration subsytems. Nanobots course through the ship's armour, giving up to 90% resistance to incoming rudeness. There is enough fusion reactor on board to power a battleship twice the size. The multi-role, reconfigurable modular design is the foundation of the 'T3' and it means no two Legion are alike. My own cybernetic implants even give my Legion a Vmax/warp that is 10% higher than standard so it will outrun other Legion.
The Legion was originally designed by Amarrian naval architects to make a public statement. My specification was based around it making no statement at all. Covert ops: unobserved, unseen, optimised for detecting and hacking sites, slipping in and out of hostile space without let or hindrance and being immune to the warp disruptor bubble, while retaining the credo-compliant option to take down the occasional scumbag. I also specced it up with a cross-capsule-variant modification** that will facilitate the long-duration missions that I want to use it for, negating the requirement to stay jacked-in the whole damned time.
It means I can get out of the pod and walk around my own ship. I can have furniture. I can decorate.
So while the trade hub's engineers were busy installing and configuring the ship's subsystems, I left Amarr and spent another week back at the family compound on Eclipticum because I had to do some serious studying for this ship. This meant I even missed the recurrence of the Covenant's 'Crimson Harvest' that happened the same week. I could have been at the forefront of it like I was a year ago, but this time I felt a higher imperative.
The Legion's fitting-out completed around the same time that PIRAT decided to look elsewhere, so I returned to the trade hub, spent two hours outside the Legion just looking at it, then I jacked-in from inside the ship, and went through that wonderful novelty of cycling-up a brand new starship for the first time.
[Good morning Cassandra]
I swear she sounds different.
"Hello Aura. Cold start initialisation protocols please. "
[Procedure already complete. I took the liberty when I saw you arrive in your Crow from Kor-Azor as I sensed you would wish to depart immediately. We are ready to undock at any time subject to clearance, all critical systems are nominal, although my almost complete lack of any other system modules are a concern to me]
"This is a positioning sector. Our destination is the Mista system. The Explorer's Club citadel. Your fitting-out and full commissioning will take place there, where it's safer."
I'm jacked-in, so I'm not really speaking to Aura, more like thinking to her.
[I see. Systems and capsule integration complete and optimal. Final subsystem tolerances yet to be achieved but if, as you say, this is a positioning sector, then we are within limitations for getting under way]
"Yes I do say. Why would I lie to you when I've invested half a billion ISK in your creation? Ask dock control for final route clearance. Undock us as soon as we have it. When we get outside, get us clear of the station as fast as possible and engage the cloaking device."
Metaphorically speaking, I don't have to lift a finger. I let Aura do her thing.
[Intel indicates there are no asshat 'deccers between here and Mista. No other threats observed. No CODE, nothing. Just freighter jocks, shuttles and mercantilists in T1s]
"Makes a change. Initiate warp."
[Warp drive active]
Smooth and effortless, slipping through the boundaries of spacetime like a knife through butter.
[You're not flying one of those crappy frigates anymore]
"Are you reading my mind?"
[In the capsule it's all the same]
Mista is only five from Amarr, just under nine light years away. A short sector in a busy shipping lane. Once out of the Throne Worlds constellation I left the cloaking device off and let the ship bathe in the stellar wind for a while. Out in its native habitat at last.
The psychologist in me likes to riff on why we consider a distance of nine light years to be 'not far'. Speed diminishes our concept of distance. Our ancestors would take hundreds of years to make the same crossing. It's why the Sleepers first started sleeping.
The citadel in Mista came up on time. The vast sweeping arcs of Big Orange's ring system led me in like a runway. I brought the Legion from warp speed to zero delta-vee within 10 metres of my desired position relative to the citadel.
[Docking request accepted. Dock control says they've never seen a Legion here before]
"I'll do this manually."
I took us in and berthed the ship as smoothly as if I'd parked a Legion a thousand times. The magnetic clamps were barely necessary. I could balance this thing on the head of a pin. It's that accurate.
[Berthing protocols completed. Systems to idle status]
|Hmm.. Incredible machine. Turn up the lights Eris! I want to look at it!|
"Power down and initiate capsule disembarkation procedure."
[You can just say you want to get out]
Aura has an edge now. I like this.
This time there was no drawn-out capsule removal procedure, but there was still the horrible sensation of unjacking (imagine having your hair pulled out by the roots while momentarily drowning). When the capsule's clamshells opened, I waited the usual ten seconds or so with my eyes closed to let the headrush subside, then I stepped out to an empty compartment with no pod techs stood there perving at me. Neuroembryonic fluid drained away through the grating in the floor, to be recycled in a giant tank and reloaded when I get back in again.
No more indignity of the pod gantry.
I even left my own ship by walking through an airlock while actually wearing clothes.
* * *
Now I had the Legion safely docked in The Explorer's Club, it was time to get serious about fitting mission-specific modules to it. Basing it here in Mista meant I could take as long as necessary to run shakedown trials and learn to fly it; and learn to fly it I will.
Empress is so powerful, it can do the work of ten other ship classes a hundred times better. It also has a sumptuous quarters and other facilities that I have all to myself because I can jack-in-and-out while remaining on-board - the only limiting factors are the food supply and six months'-worth of neuroembryonic fluid. It is fully-automated, with a small complement of multi-purpose servitor bots instead of a crew. I have a galley. I can sit in a system for a week, cloaked-up, making other capsuleers think I'm up to something, when all I'm doing is sitting in my lounge and watching a box set on the wall-sized cinematic holovid while sipping a fine chai. The huge sensor array on the bow means I might even be able to watch Impetus feeds from anywhere in the cluster.
Here's a message for all you gangstas who might read this and think it would be lulz to hunt me down and kill me in my big new expensive ship:
You won't ever find me.
I'll be an unformed suggestion in your head. I'll haunt your dreams. I'll sit perma-cloaked 10k off your ship's beam and watch you ragestroke in your own fluids while you try to probe me down, and I'll laugh.
And laugh. Hard.
I am Legion.
[So am I]
**OOC bit: the term 'cross-capsule-variant starship' was invented (as far as I know) by Tony Gonzales in the novel EVE: The Empyrean Age. I therefore consider the concept to be canon. As a capsuleer, you're not supposed to be able to leave the capsule while in space, but plot-wise that is seriously limiting and basically sucks. I've gone along with it until now, but it's time for a new direction in the narrative.