Monday, 24 February 2020

Imperial Shipment Is A Front For A High-Level Smuggling Operation


"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave..."
Unknown (possibly apochryphal)


I've spent most of the last two years running a skateboard shop in my home town on my home planet of Eclipticum. I stayed away from most of the day-to-day news from around New Eden because running a business tends to focus the mind. I even went full domestic: I acquired a house by a lake, some servants, two canines and several short-term lovers, and enjoyed stepping outside into the fresh, rejuvenated air of post-Aritcio-era Eclipticum, not thinking too much about spacecraft, orbital mechanics and complex trade negotiations that always end in firing solutions instead of diplomatic solutions.

In short, I took two years off, during which a degree of stability crept in. Trouble is, stability begets ennui. I'd got to a point with the skateboard shop where I could step back a bit and let someone else run it, and take some time to look up at the night sky more often, seeing the flashes of light from starships transiting the three stargates high above the planet; noticing how once again the planet is in that part of its ten-year orbit around the sun where the Cauldron Nebula becomes visible in the night sky, and reminding myself of what a sight that was when I'm jacked into a capsule, seeing it through wideband visual augmentation.





Then last month I took a shuttle up to the Family Bureau station orbiting the planet's inner moon where I had my Anathema docked in deep storage. I had some admin to do there (Dockmasters require paying, apparently) and some housekeeping to do on the ship, because ships in deep storage still need maintenance. In the ship's lounge there was a shelf with a box on it containing some small fragments of structure that I'd salvaged from the wreckage of a Sleeper drone somewhere in the Anoikis Cluster; these relics always scared me because they were constantly warm to the touch. Apparently polymorphic metal does this. It scares me because it could change shape at any moment.



Also on this shelf was a jar containing the embalmed head of a Covenant member that seemed to exhibit an expression of disappointment, another jar full of Rogue Drone capillary fluid (aka Drone Blood), a set of holovids of my favourite show UUA Is So Far Away, a piece of Antikythera Element which hums even though there is no power supply to it, and a bunch of hangar manifests telling me where all my other stuff was. I have 47 frozen capsuleer corpses on ice in Tash-Murkon Prime, four of which I have two of. I'd literally forgotten about that. How the hell did that happen? Fun times...

The ship had been powered-down and dormant for about 22 months, so it took a few rattling pipes and blown bulbs to get the chai machine working again off the ship's batteries. This ship could do 13.39 AU per second in warp, but not today. While I waited for the damned machine to warm up I switched on the view screens and flicked through a few channels. Then a chime sounded and it told me I had over a thousand 'notifications' and a bunch of unopened mails. One of them told me what I already assumed: that being 'inactive' for a long time meant I was no-longer part of [BREH] - no hard feelings chaps, it's normal procedure - and was now a member of the Imperial Shipment corporation. Me and sixty-odd-thousand other capsuleers. I doubt a single one of them is actually engaged in services for 'the shipping company that operates services throughout the Empire'. CONCORD and everybody else knows what's really going on here. What used to be Imperial Shipment is today probably just an office with a desk and an AI auto-responder that never needs feeding and so costs nothing to perform the whitewashing of capsuleer records.

The ship also needed a big firmware update and its cloaking device needed recalibrating, so I had a couple of hours to kill while the work got done. I spent the time flicking through some news articles, updates, holovids, recruitment adverts, just to see what was happening out there. I caught up on The Scope - I hadn't thought too much about the Drifters and this other new entity that they appear to be at war with: the Triglonometry or whatever. I'll wager nothing will come of it, because it never does. It's all the Jovians' fault. I mean those ships seem to have an artificial black hole hanging out the back of them like a hernia. Now that is scary.

I digress. The thing is, I was a free agent. I could wipe the slate clean and start again. That's the funny thing about New Eden: reputations mean everything and yet are meaningless. Nothing is what it seems. Assume everything. Assume nothing.

The Family Bureau station my ship was docked in is the same station that was left semi-derelict and barely functioning after being hammered during the Elder War over a decade earlier. It had been repaired recently and returned to full service. I took this as a sign.

It's time to plug in again...


Sunday, 11 February 2018

OOC: Intermission



Some EVE bloggers let their blogs fade away through lack of updates, where it slowly becomes apparent over months that they're not servicing them anymore. Some EVE bloggers call a definitive ending with a closing post.

This post is halfway between the two.

Cass hasn't done any journals for a couple of months because since last summer, I've undergone a number of systemic changes in RL (new job etc.) which have curtailed my EVE time by about 95%, so I've gone from one extreme to the other: from no-lifing the game to becoming a casual. No time to play also means no time to generate ideas for fanfic either. Thing is, I see this as a very positive thing, and the kind of change which at my age could be considered overdue. I tried to fight it by attempting to maintain a presence as evidenced by the last few posts, but you can't resist change when it visits you.

So Cass's journal is on hiatus, for now.
 
If you're new to the game and you're finding this blog because it's on the Fansite list or because you're reading Signal Cartel's forum archive - and those sources of traffic are whom this post is actually aimed at - then go forth and dive into what is still one of the most immersive and engaging video game experiences you will ever get. EVE's community is a wonderful thing that you won't regret becoming a part of and I am certainly not here to put anybody off it (although I could get into the second reason why I'm going AFK, which is my objection to the lack of development in EVE lore over the last couple of years, but I know I'm in an extreme minority there...).

If and when the Drifters finally get their act together and invade New Eden properly, I'll rejoin the game.

Maybe.

Probably...


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

All Roads Lead to Khanid, Part II: Poacher Turned Gamekeeper


The Trailing L5 Point Behind Ibani V, in the Ibani System in 'Cabeki Pocket' aka The Budar Constellation, Khanid - 12/5/119, 1105 hrs

I left the wormhole, because my work there was done.

Shortly afterwards, I left Signal Cartel, because my work there was done too.


It was a sudden thing. In the wormhole, over the course of a single day, I came to a series of realisations about my own ethical stance towards exploring Sleeper and Talocan archaeological relics.

In the wormhole, I'd seen enough, done enough, to know that I could no longer tolerate those archaeological relics and paleo-technological artifacts that I saw there, being plundered, ransacked, stripped, and stolen by capsuleers, all looking to make a quick and dirty profit by taking this stuff to a trade hub and selling it to some collector or industrialist, in return for a bunch of non-existent digital fiat currency that has no intrinsic value in the real world. Plundering those sites, when they actually need to be studied and learned from.

Studied, not sold.



A new, overall awareness arrived in my conscience like a beam laser through my forehead: if I can stop just one of those looters, then one fewer looters out there could make all the difference to understanding what the Sleepers and Talocan were, and to understanding the Drifter threat. It could be me that finds that piece of data that explains where they went and what they were (and are), instead of that data being found by some 'explorer' who doesn't stop to understand the significance of it, and goes on to flog it to some collector who doesn't give a shit, puts it on a shelf and leaves it there, forever undiscovered; or some industrialist who recycles it and turns it into something else, something designed to limit human knowledge rather than expand it.


I have the means to stop looters in their tracks. It is time to use Empress of Amarr as it was designed to be used: not as a ship of peace, but as a protector of a technological faith. It is made of Sleeper tech. It is part of what they were.



So I made the move. I locked the doors to my quarters in the citadel, resigned from Signal Cartel and re-emerged from the wormhole, back into New Eden.

There was just one corporation I wanted to move to.

To return to.

Outdated Host Productions - [PHP1] - the corporation I first joined when I left Hedion University, dozens of lifetimes ago.

I opened [PHP1]'s public channel and reached out. I got a swift and welcoming response, as I knew I would. I'd left on excellent terms 500 days earlier, and it was like I'd never been away. I had missed the Big K and its mostly-uninhabited lowsec 'pipe' that I had re-visited precisely once during my time in Signal Cartel. I missed the calming presence of The Cauldron in my cam drones' synthetic imaging algorithms. I missed Borgin's one-liners and Crystalline's urbane wit and elocution and passion for post-op cuisine. I even missed Jzma and Mechoj's turbulent leadership style (although I found since I rejoined that both are no-longer prominent in the Darwinism alliance now).


I missed the dulcet tones of Sul Glass, Bishop of the Seevadin Constellation - his ongoing doctrinal schism with Amarrian Orthodoxy alive and well (Sec Status -7.6) - now leader of Darwinism, which means Darwinism itself is guided from above. It was all the same old crew: Garen, Gettosmurf, Madrocks and Endiir, all still there like a universal constant (Endiir, what happened to those dreads man??).

Some other names I remembered had moved on since I was last in [PHP1], but that core foundation was still present.

All was well with the universe.



I considered the sudden and radical nature of my personal course-change once again while lobbing massive destruction at somebody's industrial facility today in Ibani - somebody I've never met, never even heard of.

It's about interests and objectives and how they align organically with those of others.

It's how and why, in the cam drone stills you can see here, I'm jacked into a stealth bomber as part of a fleet asserting Darwinism's presence in Khanid.



It's part of my job now, and I like it.

You might wonder how it is possible to live with what outwardly appears to be a complete 180-degree reversal of principle that comes with moving from a pacifism-oriented service corporation, to returning to a corporation that practices piracy and does crimes. The answer is in the principle itself and how it led to the realisation I arrived at that day in the wormhole: I never totally believed in the feasibility of Signal Cartel's pacifist policy in the first place; I just went along with it because it served my purpose to do so for as long as I wanted to stay there. My time in Signal Cartel was overwhelmingly positive, but now its core policy would become an impediment to the preservationist stance that I was about to take up, and as Signal Cartel itself states, if you can't abide by the credo, you can't stay.

I could no-longer abide...



I've left friends behind in Signal Cartel (on good terms, I hope), but progress and change and evolution are the dominant forces in the universe and resistance is futile (where have I heard that before..?).

There is nothing new about any of it. I'm just doing what humanity has always done: looked after number one. But I'm also looking to preserve knowledge.



Explorers: I'm coming for you now...



Monday, 27 November 2017

All Roads Lead to Khanid, Part I: Manifest


The Yulai System, Sanctum Constellation, Genesis. Directive Enforcement Department Logistic Support Station - Yulai VIII (Deck 4, Section 8 - Licensing Dept.)

Weary-looking middle-management-filing-clerk-type enters what back in the day might have been called a 'Records Room', where, back in the day, millions of hard copy files might have been kept in reverent seclusion in a warehouse-sized space, with an army of people tending them in silence like a form of clergy. These days, it's just like a bunch of terminals in a small, under-lit office where no more than five people sit, day after day, performing the never-ending task of updating the DED Starship Registry Database. It's nowhere near as visually impressive. There aren't even any windows in here.

Weary-looking middle-management-filing-clerk-type sits down at his assigned terminal for the day (for hot-desking is a thing at the DED), and logs-in. The second thing that happens during the login process is that The System asks the person logging-in a question. This time it's 'Does your work at the DED fill you with a sense of purpose?'

Middle-management-filing-clerk-type reads this and gets a gigantic flashback to the fork-in-the-road-of-life that was the time when he got chopped after Year One of capsuleer school; an event that caused the kernel of a lifetime of bitterness to form within his then-young soul, a soul too young to recognise that kernel for what it was: the poison of thwarted ambition.

His response to getting chopped was a few wasted years of oblivion spent in bars and pleasure hubs. When the hangover wore off, the opportunity to move sideways into being a regular starship meatbody had kind of passed him by or not even occurred to him (because the glamour of pseudo-immortality is everything!); so the only remaining choice was to return planetside from whence he came, or embark on an oxymoronic 'career in admin' with the DED.

Thus it was, or is, that middle-management-filing-clerk-type reads the question that The System is asking him, here in the present moment, and he sees the abyss of failure encoded within it. He clicks on 'Skip To Main Menu'...

Then the swoosh of the door opening behind him announces the arrival of a boss/leader type, whose name he doesn't even know, because it doesn't really matter. This boss person approaches his burning hot-desk and its expectant terminal and hands him a sheaf of printouts and says: 'Here's today's updates for The System. There's a new one for the Watch List.'

That last sentence generates a brief flicker of interest in the filing clerk. He says: 'Oh yeah?'

'Yeah,' the boss says. 'Legion-class, recently returned from a long deployment to the Anoikis Cluster. Spent the best part of a year there. '

'What's unusual about that? Happens all the time doesn't it?'

'Yes, but this one, its captain has changed employer at the same time. Left a research-focused pacifist group with no record of criminality and joined - or rejoined a group that's based in low-security space. Thing is, she's worked for them before. It's all there in her history. We've seen this pattern many times. It's a slippery slope, and who knows what the hell she's brought back with her from that place.'

Middle-management filing clerk takes the sheaf of papers and turns to his screen. The boss-type turns and swooshes out of the room.

Filing clerk starts typing...

>DED: A DIVISION OF CONCORD

>STARSHIP REGISTRY ENQUIRY: READY


>WATCH LIST: NEW ENTRY

>Legion-class Strategic Cruiser

>Ownership: Private
>Registration: ARX/O/12883745/III
>Name: Empress of Amarr
>
>Crew Manifest (see appendix for further crew details):
>
>Ship's Master: Cassandra Orizi-Habalu-Dannidaana.
>Security Status: 5.0 (provisional - subject to change - see below)
>Personal Details:


Birthdate: 10/28/90.
Ethnicity: Ni-Kunni.
Homeworld: Kor-Azor Prime IV.
Assessment:
Subject is heiress to the Proxima Direct Shipping Company fortune (status restored after recent Imperial decree clarifying capsuleer legitimacy within the Amarr Empire citizenry). Subject also known to possess interests in the Aridia region where she is a prominent political activist in her role as co-founder of the Ni-Kunni Capsuleer Development Foundation. Also known to possess interests in the Genesis, Tash-Murkon and Khanid regions. Operational track record demonstrates non-aggressive tendencies in general, except towards Covenant interests wherever found. However, recent activity involving a prolonged deployment to the Anoikis Cluster with her previous employer indicates the subject retains a strong interest in Jovian/Sleeper/Drifter culture, with a presumed interest in the acquisition of Sleeper-derived technology beyond that which is already developed as part of the baseline architecture of the Legion-class Strategic Cruiser she commands. 


Subject's addition to the Capsuleer Watch List is therefore based on the subject's recent change in employer within the context of the default operational strategy of her new employer, combined with the presence of a former Amarrian Templar in her bridge crew in the role of Chief Weapons Officer [see appendix for full crew manifest], a combination which requires the DED to assume that unverified Sleeper-derived technology will be used in flight operations in low-security space with her new employer outside the authority, control and jurisdiction of DED/CONCORD.
>
>Status: Expected to change. Watch-listed as of 10:49 NEST - 14/11/119.

>FILE Y/N?





Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A Ship Without A Crew Is Just An Empty Vessel



The Manarq System, Sanctum Constellation, Genesis - 2121hrs, 10/28/119

I've been here a number of times before. I've spoken to her. I've worked with her when I brought the renegade Dagan in a couple of years ago. I last saw her a few months back. She'll remember me, right?

I started to open a channel but they got there first...

'Ship approaching this battleship, state your registry and identify yourself.'

'Legion-class, registration ARX/O/12883745/III, Empress of Amarr. I was wondering if, er, Lear was around?'


There's a few seconds of static. The sound of military bureaucracy moving at the speed of geology.  We're not on a fluid router here. This is actual UHF ship-to-ship radio.

'I take it you mean Commander Evanus? She is not available. Please contact her through conventional channels. If you do not require any further assistance then please keep this channel clear. Goodbye -'

'No wait! Tell her it's Cassie. We go way back. I just wanted to say hello, that's all.'

'This is an Apocalypse-class battleship of Her Imperial Majesty's Navy, not a cruise liner, and nor is this channel a medium for light chit-chat. Goodbye -'


'No wait! Let me draw alongside. Just tell her I can see -'

'It's alright Captain, you can stand down. Cassie, it's Lear, switch over to this private channel I'm sending you.'

A window opens in my field of view. Lear!

'There, that's better. Now then Cassie, how have you been? How long has it been?'

'Ah, a few months, I know, I'm sorry, I've been busy.'

'You say you're going to call then you disappear for weeks at a time.'

'I know, but you know what I do, it comes with the territory.'



More static. The sound of me squirming with embarrassment even though I'm swimming in a pod and nobody can see me. Definitely nobody can see me, right?

'Hmmm, yes, yes it does,' Lear said. 'Anyway, that's a very expensive-looking ship you have there. Legion? Don't see much of those things round here, most ships that come through here are small-fry. Mostly destroyers. Boring. This is much more exciting. How many crew do you have?'




'None? Just me and a bunch of robots and a load of automation.'

'Are you telling me that ship runs itself? That you have it all to yourself? Does that even work?'

'Yeah?'

Another pause. The sound of disbelief.

'Don't you get bored?'


'Well, no, but, well, it works OK, but sometimes it gets a bit problematic.'

'Imagine if I had this thing all to myself. This huge ship. My God it would be torture. You have to have a crew to order around. That's the whole point. Who did your interior design?'

'I did. It's awesome. I have the most fabulous Captain's Lounge.'

'Who else gets to see it?'


'Nobody..?'

'I rest my case. What about the problematic thing? What's the problem?'

'The automation centre. Sometimes it lags, gives false responses. The helm doesn't always answer immediately. Target selection sometimes doesn't even work and I have to keep on selecting over and over. This ship is incredible really but if I could hit it with a hammer then I would...'

'And I bet they told you the automation would be flawless, like you wouldn't miss a crew, right?'




'Er, yeah.'

'That stuff never works properly. You need a crew, you need slaves, you need a functioning community aboard that ship. What I wouldn't give to get off this clapped-out old crate and get me some real technology. In fact I'll come over there and join you right now.'

'Captain Tight-Ass back there wouldn't like it.'

'I'm joking. Listen, I'd love to chat some more. We must have - what is it you call it - chai?'

'Chai.'

'Yes, that's it. Chai. Later darling!'

[voice channel closed]

'...'



Was it wrong to just show up like this? I know it's been a few months, but, you know, we all have lives, right? And I don't mean multiple lives in the capsuleer sense either.


Lear Evanus was right though, and to be fair, I had been coming round to the idea myself anyway. Just because you can fly a ship this big through an automation centre, doesn't mean you should. Sometimes I just need someone to tell me out loud what I already know.

A week later...

I docked the ship in Amarr. If you're going to recruit a crew - an entire ship's crew - it's best to go to the place where you're most likely to find people wanting to join a crew. The busiest place in Domain; the second-busiest place in the entire cluster. The trade hub.

So I got hold of a datapad, found the InterBus home page, subscribed to Crew Dock, placed an ad, retired to a favourite cafe, and waited...


Saturday, 2 September 2017

Seyllin: A Decade On


'Shattered worlds were once terrestrial planets, torn asunder by some immense cataclysm. All such worlds in the New Eden cluster are products of the disastrous stellar events that occurred during the "Seyllin Incident". However, reports continue to circulate of similar planets discovered in the unmapped systems reached exclusively through unstable wormholes. How these met their fate, if indeed they exist at all, is unknown.'
CONCORD Aura Database
 
Prologue - Cause and Effect

I'm back in the Zoohen system for the first time in a month. I arrived here by way of three wormholes, emerging in the Kador region in a system only six jumps or so from our head office, so it seemed as good a time as any to dock here and find out a) if I still have a job, b) if I still have a quarters of my own because I could not remember whether I'd locked it when I last left, and c) what the hell happened to my pirated, subscription-free Impetus feed that had stopped working a fortnight ago.




I'd got it rigged up through several fluid routers so I could receive it from our citadel in Anoikis over a thousand light-years away. But a fortnight ago, while I was chilling in my quarters in the citadel and watching a new episode of UUA Is So Far Away, right at the point where the heroic exiled Jove is about to get cornered by a load of Society of Conscious Thought agents who want to silence him, the damn screen went black, then a load of noise and random symbols flashed up on the screen, then 'NO SIGNAL', which I thought was ironic.

It can't have been the fluid router(s), because that's quantum entanglement so it's not like you can switch it off. It wasn't the citadel's own comms systems because I had the citadel's engineers check them out, so I had to wait for wormhole geometry to arrange itself favourably enough for me to return to 'The Zoo' and get it fixed, so I could catch up on the show and also avoid finding out what happened until then.

But then I mentioned this the next day to Quinn Valerii while we were in the lounge in our office in this huge citadel, and she said that she had her own Impetus feed and, because she's a Jin-Mei it was totally legit and that she was also a big fan of UUA Is So Far Away and that actually all I had to do was ask.

So back in Zoohen, I got to my quarters and found that the only reason why my special pirated Impetus feed router had dropped was that the damned cleaners had been in my quarters and unplugged it. It blew my mind to think that something as trivial and insignificant as that would have consequences in another location over a thousand light-years away.

But why am I even telling you this?

Because just as a river always finds its course, humans always become accustomed to our surroundings and eventually take everything for granted. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with that; if we were constantly amazed by everything around us then we would go insane. Becoming familiar with something is a natural process. Then there's the one about filling our lives with trivial superficial inconsequential ephemera that only wastes our precious, short window of time (unless you're a capsuleer in which case there will always be a tomorrow, I mean I could have travelled to Zoohen just by running a TEBS cycle and self-destructing in the capsule outside the citadel, but I refuse to engage in behaviour like that as it is wasteful and vulgar in its self-indulgence).

Thing is, we frequently ignore the universe trying to tell us how insignificant we are, so we continue to go prodding around in places where we shouldn't, and things happen that remind us of who's in charge; that something happening here can have consequences elsewhere.

The Butterfly Effect.


The Original Shattered Planet

A few days earlier, before I returned to Zoohen, our 'highsec static' manifested one jump away from the Seyllin system. This coincided with me needing to travel to a trade hub to resupply. In this case the Dodixie system was closest and the Seyllin system was on my route, and since I'd never visited Seyllin before it seemed like a no-brainer.


Eight years ago, half a billion people were killed in a single day when Seyllin I was blow-torched by a focused coronal mass ejection from the Seyllin primary. That CME was so violent it destroyed the planet and permanently reduced the mass of the star that produced it, so the Seyllin primary of today is a kind of mutant dwarf blue star that should not exist; but it does exist, and today it sits there and kind of taunts us by making us wonder why it happened and whether it will happen again.

Nearly a decade later, we still don't know exactly, conclusively, why the Seyllin Incident happened. We know that an unstable isotope of Isogen was involved somehow; we know that the exact same stellar disruption event also happened on nine other stars in New Eden simultaneously - to the second - on that day with varying degrees of loss of life; we also now know that of those nine systems, two of them were uninhabited star systems that are not connected to the stargate network; we know that it also happened to at least two systems in Anoikis. The reason why Seyllin is the one everyone remembers is obvious: it had the biggest body count, it was the only event in regulated, populated space - 'empire' space - and it also nearly caused the State and the Fed to go to war again.



Anyone with a cosmic perspective also remembers what else happened in conjunction with this event: immediately afterwards, the traversible wormholes started appearing all over New Eden that allowed us to (re)discover the Anoikis Cluster, to find the remnants of the Sleeper and Talocan presence that somehow made its way there millennia ago, and to start using those wormholes for typically-human selfish desires, ignoring the bigger picture. Only a minority of us are interested in finding the answers, joining the dots, learning the truth about all of it. The rest just want to blow things up.


So for this trade hub run I was using my Astero frigate, a ship that I use as a high-speed, uncatchable frigate-class blockade runner, so I knew that transiting through the Seyllin system would be relatively safe even though it is still low-security space, which I find bizarre, because with the ongoing significance of this place and what happened here, you would think it would be upgraded to a 1.0, especially since Seyllin I is under permanent quarantine.


I arrived in the system and warped straight over to Seyllin I. It's not the first 'shattered planet' I've ever seen (for the record, that was the one in 3HQC-6 in Outer Ring a couple of years ago). I held station well clear of the extensive debris field that encircles this and all of these ex-planets: the remnants of crust, melted, displaced into orbit and resolidified into asteroids and other detritus.

Seyllin itself casts its calming blue light over this scene of overwhelming devastation with a kind of innocence, like it wasn't really anything to do with it. The star appears benign now, today, but since we don't know exactly why it happened, then we don't know if it could happen again tomorrow.



As I held station, I called up some documents from the extensive-but-inconclusive archives on the whole Shattered Planets thing and refreshed my memory of it.

Noteworthy:

- There was a system of stellar monitoring satellites in the Seyllin system operating under the designator 'Cassandra', which is a cool name if ever I've heard one. If it wasn't for this system detecting the exact trigger of the Seyllin event - a bizarre and still mostly-unexplained explosive event halfway between the primary and the planet - then to this day we'd all be under the impression that the star itself started it, which it didn't. This explosive event acted as a focus and as an amplifier of some kind, causing the star to erupt towards both it and Seyllin I.

- The exact same process happened on all the others.

- One of the most scariest things to come out of the Seyllin Incident was the Sisters of EVE issuing a now-legendary statement that predicted the commencement of cluster-wide spontaneous wormhole formation that has persisted to this day and that we now live with as if it's no big deal (see above about humanity taking things for granted). How the hell did they know? Of course we now know they were in Thera years before any of the rest of us found that peculiar subcluster that Thera sits in, a system with its own shattered worlds, and a subcluster that we believe contains a considerable number of  'shattered systems' that may have all been laid waste, not years earlier during the Seyllin Incident, but during the Caroline's Star event at the end of YC116.


- Today, eight years later, Seyllin I is still largely in a molten state. It also still emits huge amounts of off-the-scale radiation, so lingering here is not recommended. In the case of Seyllin I, it is like loitering over a mass grave; it's ghoulish and morbid to stay here and look at it for too long. Some of the radioactive half-lives involved here measure in the thousands of years. The heat from radioactivity that intense means Seyllin I is on slow-cook and won't be done until we're all long dead.


- Then there's the primary. Since myself and the ship are one and the same, I warped over to it. According to the (revised) catalogue, it's a small blue star. That can't happen, but here it is. It lost a load of mass during the Incident, but it still seems to have retained enough mass to remain hot enough to be blue. I still think this thing could go off again at any time; it represents a discontinuity in physics and this sort of thing has happened before: scientists have compared the event's violence to the collapse of the EVE Gate. The similarities cannot be ignored. Go and visit New Eden. Tell me how many planets you see.

- There was another possible precursor to the Seyllin Incident in the form of the bizarre event during YC109 when a nova occurred that was named the 'Bootini Star'. Just like Caroline's Star during YC116, it was visible all over New Eden for a short time before fading. At the time, speculators even declared that event as the visible manifestation of the collapse of the far side of the EVE Gate, its light finally reaching us 15,000 years later. That theory was eventually disproved. I mention the event here because nobody's ever definitively said it wasn't an event like Seyllin in some other distant part of the galaxy.



- The ex-planet Seyllin I is quarantined, but the rest of the system isn't. You can travel here freely. People still live here. Seyllin III is temperate and inhabited. There is a Roden Centre in the system with a load of those obnoxious holo-billboards surrounding it. There is another Roden Shipyards station and a CreoDron station. I don't know whether it's like a kind of denial or something.



After an hour or so I'd seen enough. More than enough. I left the Seyllin system to head to the trade hub, humbled. 

Half a billion people in one day... 




Ignorance is Bliss

I've seen other shattered worlds both here in New Eden and in Anoikis. If you live in Anoikis, like I do now, you're constantly surrounded by the implications of the shattered worlds and the events that caused them.

We now know there are over a hundred shattered systems, the vast majority of them in Anoikis. The five Drifter Hives and Thera are also classed as shattered systems. It is not possible to determine if the hundred of them in Anoikis were all destroyed at the same time, although we know that two definitely were.

Here in Signal Cartel, we've been running a mass test for a few months now of an AI construct called ALLISON, designed in-house by our own quantum programming genius A.D. Parrot (who calls himself 'A Dead Parrot' in informal circles...). ALLISON is a navigational aid, developed from a project that Parrot was involved in when he worked for CreoDron years ago. It is designed to operate in conjunction with the Aura program, to act as a data and intel-gathering aggregator which enhances the capsuleer's knowledge of what's going on in the space around them, improving the ability to navigate safely and accurately and greatly increasing survivability, particularly in openly hostile space like the Anoikis Cluster. 

In the process of testing the ALLISON construct in the field with many of us carrying iterations of 'her' on our ships, Parrot has assembled navigational data that implies that Thera, the five Hives and the 100-or-so shattered systems in Anoikis are not actually in Anoikis at all; they're in a separate 'sub-cluster of sub-clusters' that is situated as much as a hundred light-years away from Anoikis. I know all this because Parrot asked me to co-author a document about it so I had privileged access to the data:

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With this information, if it is accurate and verifiable, it seems logical to assume that the Drifters are the New Sleepers, who migrated from Anoikis to this other, new sector of space at some point in the deep past when we were still emerging from the Dark Ages. Perhaps the Talocan went with them. Perhaps there was a deal done where they all lived there together in ultra-high-tech utopian harmony, merging virtual and real worlds in an enhanced cybernetic hyper-euclidian paradise. Then something disrupted them - us, Caroline's Star, Seyllin, all of those things, whatever - and laid waste to most, if not all of the systems in this subcluster, and now they want to kill us all in response.

Here's what else I think. Here's what else I know: those wormholes are a system. That system got reactivated during the Seyllin Incident. Something is running it, but not correctly, because there is a limited amount of randomness to their manifestations. Conversely, they're not random enough to be occurring naturally. I have no proof of this theory whatsoever. But then nobody else does either.

This is the torture of knowing something about impending doom, but not knowing exactly what it is, and knowing nobody will believe you because you're up against the wilful ignorance of vested interests - politicians, corporations, power-crazed immortals.

It's times like this that I don't want to know too much. I want to reach for my brain-numbing media feeds and immerse myself in the trivial again, like a baseliner who lives on a planet and has a job. Maybe I should return to Kor-Azor Prime and open a skateboard shop and be a nobody.

It's times like this that I don't want to know anything at all... 


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Deus Ex Starship


'Only through many hardships, is a man stripped to his very foundations. And in such a state devoid of distractions is his soul free to soar. And in this he is closest to God'
 
GALNET: Devoid Region (excerpt from Amarrian Scriptures)


Emperor Zaragram Ardishapur II is not a name you will be familiar with unless you are an Amarrian theological scholar.

Or a capsuleer.

The historical legacy of Zaragram has been suppressed over the two millennia since his reign as Emperor, to the extent that there are no references to him by name in anything considered public record from that long ago. Instead you get non-specific references to the ‘head of state’ or ‘the Emperor’.

The reasons for this airbrushing from history are hard to piece together from what little is common knowledge, but it involves the usual corruptions: obsession with power and greed and megalomania, culminating with Zaragram declaring himself a God instead of being content with merely being God‘s choice of Emperor.

In short, he went completely mad. Totally off his gourd. A crazed dictator with a personality cult.

Examples throughout New Eden history indicate that this level of madness invariably reaches its zenith in a serious edifice complex. Thus it was that at some point during his reign, Zaragram ordered the construction of a series of large space stations in the Shastal system in the Devoid region. This collective was named The City of God, naturally after the God Emperor Zaragram himself, but it is not clear why it was built here in Shastal, 9.8 light-years from Amarr, on the edge of the Empire.

'God' worked in mysterious ways.


What happened next is again not clear because it was two thousand years ago, but Zaragram died not long after the completion of the City of God, and his death coincided with the inception of the renegade, underground Order of St. Tetrimon as well as inciting a whole raft of purges and doctrinal schisms within the theocracy that went on to last several centuries.

So nothing’s changed there, then. As an agnostic Ni-Kunni in charge of a starship, I can say things like that, even in public.

The City of God was abandoned and left to decay after the demise of Zaragram and his power structure all those centuries ago. It may have been mostly forgotten about by Amarrian rank-and-file since then, but to those of us who have a cosmic perspective it is impossible to ignore, because it still exists today and is a marked and beaconed navigational hazard which appears on our star charts.


Last week I did the wormhole shuffle from Anoikis and emerged into the Hakshma system in Empress of Amarr. I did a standard operational procedure sitrep to see where the hell I was, and I saw that the Shastal system was just one jump away. The City of God was right there on the map, so I headed straight over there to check out another example of Amarrian architectural abandonware (because I already did the Traumark Installation last year).

Sidebar: Empress of Amarr now looks substantially different from the last time I featured it in this journal. The ship's designers mandated a systemwide upgrade requiring the entire aft half of the ship to be rebuilt in order to accommodate a totally new subsystem architecture, resulting in a massive performance improvement across its entire operational envelope. I never said this before, but I was never totally happy with the ship’s capabilities in its previous iteration, because I came to realise it was never quite as good as it could be for what I wanted it to do; but now, after this upgrade, it’s transformed. It’s a new ship. It’s the ship it could be and now is.



So I arrived in Shastal, saw the City of God on the Overview and warped straight over to it. I expected it to be camped out by Sansha’s Nation pirates as they usually hang out at derelict space stations in this part of space, but no, I had this place to myself.


As well as the sole remaining station hulk, there were also a couple of those jury-rigged, ad-hoc asteroid complex things floating nearby: the ones where they hollow out a bunch of rocks and network them together with access tubes to form industrial facilities in arrangements that have no symmetry and must therefore be dynamically unstable ['cos you know how important that is, right? Mass/balance etc.?]. I got the impression the complexes were relatively recent additions to this site as they appear to be active, but you can never tell for sure whether there are people in these things as they can be run on automatic by robots, or occupied by slaves jacked up on Vitoc and living the eternal deathlife of the trans-cranial microcontroller. Or even miners. All those possibilities probably amount to the same thing to be honest.




There is a hemispherical dome monument here with a statue on it, presumably of Zaragram. I assume this even though I couldn’t find a single image of him to confirm it, because it makes sense that he would do a statue of himself here. The rest of the complex has that familiar vibe that we’ve all seen in derelicts throughout New Eden: failure, hubris and nemesis. The site has been here for two thousand years. If it’s lasted this long, it will be here for all eternity.



And yet if this structure is such an abomination, such an offence to Amarrian orthodoxy, then why doesn't somebody come down here and blow it up, destroy it, dismantle it, scrap it, remove it from the face of the cosmos? Why leave it here where it can be found? It's another core Amarrian trait: tell everybody that something is wrong and to forget it, then leave evidence of it so everyone can remember what to forget.



I drifted across the top of the giant station, the design of which is still in use in the Empire today. I had no idea they were this ancient. In the modern equivalent of these stations, the central core dome usually contains its docking bay. Under normal operations, a ship will emerge from that docking bay through the large opening in the top of the dome, so it represents a means of seeing inside it; but all I saw when I coasted over the dome was an impenetrable dark void, which is something that activates my inner Amarrian and causes me to blur the division between science and religion. Some parts of that station will still be pressurised. There will be corpses in there. Frozen meat popsicles. Ancient Amarr on ice. Perhaps Zaragram himself is in there, at one with his greatest achievement. Nothing I read about him suggests he died elsewhere.



I became aware of a certain kind of historical contrast going on that I had caused by showing up here. Empress of Amarr is the cutting-edge of Amarrian starship technology and embodies the perfect merger of human and machine like nothing else in New Eden. Zaragram declared himself a God in order to become closer to God, but all he had to disguise his mortality was his word. Today, two thousand years after Zaragram and his God complex, I jack into this ship and I become that ship. I get it to do things just by thinking about it, committing actions by thought. I can harness the power of a sun, break the universe's speed limit and traverse a thousand light years in a single breath.

I can also live forever.

To some societies, that kind of power would make me the God.