Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Has It Really Come To This?


Amarr Prime, 5/8/124 


Another Foundation Day is upon us. It is once again time to praise God and all that is Holy Amarr - its people, its territories, its faith - and give our thanks to the Great Prophet himself for establishing his church on Athra - Amarr Prime - all those millennia ago.

Khimi Harar's Foundation Day Parade played its customary part:






Foundation Day is a time for the rest of New Eden to look to Amarr as the example to follow; and for us to look forward piously, righteously, to the time in the future when all of New Eden will be united as one Holy Amarr, for the time will come. Maybe next year, maybe centuries from now, or millennia.

It is God's will.




We will prevail.




We are in no rush...



Amarr Victor!

And yet...

Lately I've been having this recurring dream, where I take a Providence into the Halls of Liberation above Pator IV and detonate its engines, just to get things started, so that all the outstanding business can be settled once and for all. 

It's not personal, it's strictly faith...




The Societas is moderate. I am moderate, I believe in our mission of diplomacy above violence. I really do. The Pax Amarria of Heideran VII and his advocacy of peaceful relations is the way, the example. But these dark thoughts occasionally come to me when my subconscious mind is filtering the activities of the day. Like on this Foundation Day when the terrorists of Ushra'Khan attempted to disrupt our parade formation with a large fleet of Thrashers, right above Amarr Prime, above the Holy Sanctuary itself, right in front of the Empress Catiz Honor Guard (peace be upon her).

My God, the sheer audacity of this, an act that was nothing to do with causing material loss; instead an act designed only to cause a loss of face, of prestige, to Khimi Harar.

If this is what we're up against, there can be no peace until the surfaces of all the worlds of those who will not believe are melted by the Holy Light of one thousand Doomsdays.




We've done it before (up to a point), we may have to do it again.




You cannot reason with the unreasonable.




When nobody will listen, the Word is not enough. Diplomacy is not enough.




One must be persuasive.



The rational part of me knows that not all capsuleers are terrorists, scumbags, criminals. and abusers of their incredibly fortunate position as pseudo-ersatz-immortals of great wealth and power and capability. It's just a minority, in the grand scheme of things.

 



But every day I read the news and it gets more insane.

And what has the cluster come to, when I, a former member of the pacifist Signal Cartel, have become a fleet commander!

Where is my path taking me..?!



Sunday, 5 June 2022

Drugs, Guns, Booze


The Vicinity of the Fourth Moon of Jita IV, earlier this year


'This place is unbelievable. You know ever since they built the extension, that's no space station anymore, it's another moon. I don't know why they don't just call it that. Tow it into orbit around the planet and leave it there. But yeah then they built the elevator, so at least there's that.'




'You can get anything you want in this place. Anything. Think of anything you might want no matter how straight-up or deviant you are, and somebody else will be doing it here. Or selling it for that matter. Commerce is the only religion here. Vices, virtues; sins, morals;  redemption, ruin; it's got the lot. Fortunes are won and lost, sometimes all in the same day. To most Caldari this place is a cathedral. Where else can a dress cost more than a battleship? How messed up is that?'



'Nobody knows where this place is controlled from. How can you control anything so big from one place? Easier to think of it as a microcosm of New Eden itself. You know, different regions. But then it's also the purest expression of the free market that has ever existed, and ever will exist. Nothing but the market. No borders, no regions. Everything comes from the market and everything gives to the market. The market giveth and the market taketh away.' 




'You know there was the Amarrian who lived here and went mad and started rounding up Matari - he'd advertise some sort of tribal reunion or something and they'd show up - and then he'd lock them in a cargo container. The inside of the container would be full of lights and cameras and audio. He'd hack into a live broadcast feed, he'd take the container out in his ship and cast it into the atmosphere of the gas giant and recite Amarrian scripture to them as they got incinerated, and this is what he'd broadcast live. I mean what a sicko. He kept going on about "cleansing infidels with holy fire". He did this twice a day for about five days before he disappeared. I mean somebody must have got to him, right?'




'This place kinda polices itself. There's a security staff of some kind, and there are thousands of them, but they only investigate high level stuff that interests them. Think about it, the place is so big you can't police it. Keep a low profile here and you can get away with anything. Murder is rife. Rife I tell ya. Don't get me started on what goes on right outside the front door with all them eggers. They're out of control I tell ya. But then without them this place would still be a manufacturing plant for the Navy.'




'I took a job on a loading dock for a few days while I was on layover between assignments. I was bored, really, you know, 'cos even in a place like this you can still get bored. But I got scared to death so I quit. I saw a dude get chopped in half by falling armor plates and they just left his dead body lying there, I think they put cones round it. It was like an hour before some robot cleaned him up. I saw a dude get dissolved in front of me when some nuke shells he was handling leaked on him. It ate through the damned floor and landed on some other dude's head on the deck beneath and there was just his legs left. And then I saw some really shady stuff like containers full of active stasis pods where the manifest said biomass for clone regeneration, so that was literally like people who thought they were colonists or passengers or something but they were going to end up having their bodies used for parts or their minds replaced with something else. It was going to somewhere in Delve. I mean, Delve! You know who operates there don't you? And nobody said a damned thing!'



'The volume of trade in this station at any given time exceeds all the other trade hubs in New Eden combined by a hundredfold or more. The Grand Concourse is so big you can live your whole life there and never see all of it. It's so big it has weather. Actual clouds. It rains. I'm serious. Get me another drink will ya?'




'I heard somebody does actually live in a penthouse apartment right at the top of that tower. But nobody knows who. Maybe it's like some sort of God. But then I heard there's a room up there that has a portal to UUA-F4 in it. You never know. This is Jita, it could be anything. I mean a quarter of the whole station is given over to engineering and maintenance and manufacturing the equipment needed just to run it, just to keep it going. But even then the place is still massive. There are huge spaces that have a biosphere or terrarium or whatever the word is. There are communities that live in them that probably don't realise they're in a space station.' 




'I think it's a mining station down there. DCM runs the elevator. I think it could be a theme park. Not many people come back. One-way tickets are very popular I hear. Don't know why. It's an airless moon. Some people just love a hard time. Maybe it's full of monks. But this is not Domain. Maybe it's the Feds. There's a lake you can swim in. It's under a bubble. In low gravity. Imagine that!'




'You know how they say you can get away with anything? There was this mass-murderer. I never saw this place myself but there was an advert on holo that ran for a couple of weeks. "Experience life as a capsuleer" it said. Plug you into it somehow and you'd do some sort of video game capsuleer holo-immersion thing in your head but it was really a euthanasia machine. People would pay this woman a bunch of money and they'd die, you know, she'd kill them and they'd be excited about it. I mean a capsuleer simulator? Didn't the name tell them anything? That lot regenerate afterwards. Some people are just idiots. But then the worst of it is I heard she'd sell the meat to restaurants without them knowing what it really was and she made a ton of money and left for Molden Heath.'



'The holo billboards on the outside are bigger than battleships. You know in different radio frequencies they're brighter than the sun. The power generation for that, you could run a planet. This place couldn't exist without ISK. It is ISK. But ISK doesn't exist because it's not a physical currency. There's your paradox. This place is so big, if you blew it up you'd get a nebula. A nebula of money.'



'I'll tell you what it is. It's like a damned ant farm. With spaceships.'


Excerpts from 'Rough Guide to the Trade Hubs of New Eden, Vol 1: Caldari Navy Assembly Plant, Jita IV-4  - Chapter 10: Culture and Lifestyle - What to Expect When You Visit'





Monday, 18 April 2022

How Can It Be Murder When No-One Ever Dies?


Operation Remember Raravoss IV

It was only a capsule. 

Only a capsule.

It's not the first time I podded somebody either.

I've done ganks before and regretted it afterwards. Ganking novice capsuleers who haven't yet realised there is a big difference between initial training and actually doing it. Ganking unarmed Ventures in gas sites, or ganking novice explorers who hack sites with the mentality of a teenage shoplifter. I always regret it afterwards because I remember full well what it is like to be a novice on the receiving end of a gank attempt. There is a humiliation involved in it, once you've got over the 'jump cut' inherent to waking up in a new clone in your home station.

But this one was different.

This was during another LUMEN 'roam' into the abominable Pochven region as part of our follow-up to the original Operation Remember Raravoss and its successful series of campaigns, most notably against Stribog Clade. This time the philosophy was fast, heavily-armed frigates and interceptors engaged in a form of police action against basically anything we could find in there, on the premise that it was and is God's Word that the mere existence of that space is self-evidently a blasphemy and an abomination, and anybody operating in there out of self-interest is to be purged. Indeed if I was a hardliner I would say it was my greatest religious duty to fight them over their infidelity. 

By His Light and His Will.



I was in a Crusader. We ran into another roaming gang in the former Konola system. There was an Exequeror and a Stabber and a Slasher. We brought down God's Wrath upon them all. I personally dispatched the Exequeror. Its capsule appeared from within the wreckage.

It just sat there. 

There was no attempt to warp away. 

Because where the hell would he go..?

You will of course know that this behaviour is always an invitation to deliver the capsuleer to their home station by the Pod Express.

I delivered.

But this time it felt like an achievement, in accordance with God's Will.



But again, the sensation didn't last, because I didn't really kill him at all, did I? I just inconvenienced him. He'll be back here in another ship, probably within hours, and the cycle will repeat. Did the balance of power in here actually change? Not this time. It certainly did during our action against Stribog, but not this time.

To be clear, the Societas is about bringing peace to Greater Amarr and to the wider cluster by words and deeds and diplomacy wherever possible in preference to using violence and force. We are moderate and we are reformist (but not abolitionist). We are not hardliners - we go beyond the policies of many Amarrian capsuleer organisations and accept those non-Amarr who wish to defect from their godless states of origin and be welcomed into the fold as believers. 

But we are not pacifists. Sometimes you have to make an example, and my God, the hubris and arrogance of some capsuleers, going on about being immortal and superior and invincible on all the media channels they inhabit like so much waste gas in a room. They never see the flaw in their argument. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we are not immortal; our consciousness endures subject to contract and our bodies are replaceable only when connected to external apparatus. I could visit any one of you in your quarters at any time, softly whisper Scripture into your ear, then put a blaster charge in the side of your head, and you would be as dead as any baseliner. The last thing you would hear would be the Word. Everyone and everything you ever knew or said or did would be on the wall, instead of passing through a TEBS cycle into a new head.

But that, I fear, would be murder... 

I believe in our mission and I am loyal to it, but perhaps the option above is the one we reserve as a last resort, for the irredeemable, for the truly godless; and I must pray for my soul, for I fear I would enjoy it...

There is no humility in the godless, and you will all be judged when your time comes. Because it will. As a capsuleer you're only deferring it for now. We all are.

Only God is eternal.

 



Monday, 14 March 2022

The Ethical Issues Concerning The Athanor Mining Laser Firing Sequence

 

'What if this thing were used where life already exists..?'

Question asked by the media during the Upwell Consortium press conference announcing the Athanor-class refinery station during YC119


A while ago I docked in one of our Athanors in the Gamis system to prepare for a mining operation the following morning, so for the first time ever I would be present when an Athanor fired its mining laser in order to perform the controlled break-up of the 'moon chunk' that it had spent several days tractoring off the surface.

This is a novelty to me as I am a casual miner, almost a hobbyist. I don't even really do anything with the ore that I mine - I sell it to the alliance through their buyback scheme or dump it on the open market. Sometimes I might even build something with it out of curiosity.



I've never checked the specs for the Athanor laser and determined just how powerful it actually is, but one must assume at least equivalency with the Doomsday weapons in a Titan, because we're talking about the ability to almost-instantly shatter a chunk of moon crust that will mass several million tons. It would take a fleet of Ventures months to do what the laser does in a few seconds.


I was in the control room for the operation. The mining boss simply pushes a button and then the station does everything else automatically, which is probably safer than allowing humans, especially capsuleers, any interference in the 'signal path'.

The laser takes a few seconds to charge up, which, if you're a capsuleer with implants that enhance your perception of the world around you, means you can detect the various vibrations and noises that the station starts producing during the charging process that are infrasonic and ultrasonic and just beyond a baseliner's awareness. It can be unnerving if you're not expecting it. Then the lights dim slightly as all the station's power is diverted to the laser that would be called a weapon if it was used against something other than inert rock.


Then there is a blinding flash from the laser and all that energy hits the rock and turns it into a ball of fire. It's visceral, all that power, the power of a sun generated right here in the station.


The rock shatters into thousands of pieces, the smallest pieces vaporised, the bigger chunks rapidly cool in the hard vac and become ISK symbols.


But then it's not over! The laser shifts modes and fires pulses at the moon, cannon shots no less, causing a new moon chunk to become available to be tractored off the surface.   


The cycle repeats. 

The ISK must flow... 


The process is amazing to watch; it's fascinating and even enjoyable.

But it's also pure environmental terrorism. I mean, what's stopping some rogue capsuleer group from putting one of these above a terrestrial and ransoming the entire planet? OK, I know, there has to be a Moon Mining Beacon and you have to be above a barren moon to establish one of those beacons. But those are bureaucratic regulations.

In this age of 'Emergent Threats', of Drifters, Triglavians, Trig-sympathiser groups (for whom God will reserve special judgement), Matari and Fed and State militant groups, Amarrian heretics, isn't it only a matter of time before somebody tries this? If I've thought of it...

If you think I'm talking dreck, may I remind you of what happened last year with the Kahah III Atrocity? A Titan in highsec using an illegal cyno..?

Need I say more..?

OK enough of the apocalyptic doom-mongering. Here are some more Athanor Mining Laser Shot shots from our Athanor in Syndicate. The fireworks!






That is a terrible weapon right there...








Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Eight Years On - Titanomachy Revisited


'Most wars start for fairly prosaic reasons.'

New Eden's History of Violence Vol III - Hedion University Archives


It is eight years since one of the biggest, most notorious, most destructive capital ship battles in New Eden history took place.

The Battle of B-R5RB.

A week ago I visited the site for the first time. This is my account.


* * *


Prologue - Tanoo II



When I made the decision to go to B-R5RB I was spending a few days in the Tebu Amkhiman, our Fortizar that symbolically orbits Tanoo II. To be specific, when I made the actual decision I was sat a table smoking a shisha on the terrace of a cafe that is on the main street of an exact replica of a Mishian souk that Directrix Lunarisse has installed here. 

The accuracy of the place is remarkable. Some of it should be impossible because we're inside a space station: sand and dust on the deck; the not-quite-uncomfortably-hot temperature; a light breeze wafting down the street carrying the scents of food and drink and tobacco and other stuff that you might not want to smell; the sounds of people and commerce - a background noise of chatter and barter and debate and argument; and enough overhang in the buildings' facades that you can't quite see that there is no sky if you happen to look up.

There was a holovid on the wall of the cafe playing a music channel. It was my soundtrack as I was randomly paging through my datapad at news articles and I found one that listed the largest space battles in New Eden history in terms of total cost in ISK, and I saw a reference to B-R5RB - the one everyone remembers, the original biggest-ever, the one that made headlines all over the cluster.

I drew a big inhale on the shisha and cast my mind back to when it happened in YC116. I was in my final year at Hedion University and still in the original baseline body my mother gave birth to. My class devoured the holovids and telemetry feeds and cam drone footage from the battle, and we took classes on the tactics involved, and had it drummed into our heads about the importance of paying your bills on time... 

In my time as a capsuleer I'd never got round to visiting the site that memorialises the battle, known as 'Titanomachy'. For some reason I'd forgotten where it was and always believed that B-R5RB was 'up north' and basically inaccessible as it was too deep and too risky to get to.

Then I looked it up on the stargate map on my datapad and realised I'd been an idiot all this time as it was in Immensea, just a few light years away from Tanoo, and that I had every reason to go there now as I owned one of the most powerful covert ops ships in existence - my Pacifier, TES Divinity's Edge.

God willed it.

I literally dropped everything and ran to the Edge's docking bay (I paid my bill at the cafe first. If you don't understand that reference, you will...).



Tanoo is in Derelik. To get to Immensea from Derelik, I needed to pass through the Curse region, so I got to the big Derelik/Curse border gate in the Sendaya system and held station for a while and went through some systems diagnostics, then went through them again, then a third time, just to be sure...


But then again, a ship that may or may not have classified Jove tech in it should feel at home in the ex-Jove space that's named after the disease that made them all leave there, so I dived in.


But nobody was going to catch me today, not at 13.2 AU/s and enough acceleration to achieve that speed in the blink of an eye. With full cloaking/EMCON protocols and nullifiers and these engines and all the other secret CONCORD Aerospace stuff, I was invisible.


This much power can make you complacent, even out here. 


But then I hardly had time to worry about it as soon enough I arrived at the border gate to Immensea and I could see its distinctive blue/white emission nebula in the distance.





 The B-R5RB System in Immensea - 01/16/YC124 - 21:09 hrs

I will refer you to the usual media outlets and search algorithms for more detail on exactly what went down during the twelve-hour battle that happened here (you could start with this one).

In summary, in what you might consider a typical capsuleer mistake, the whole thing started because of a bureaucratic omission. Not an argument, or a loss-of-face, not even a grudge. It happened because of an unpaid sov bill! 

That fact kept replaying in my head - the sheer unbelievability of it - as I got closer to my destination. I jumped into the dead-end, single-gate system and was pleased to see I was the only ship there. I warped to the battle site's marker beacon and just held station for a while, taking it all in through the cam drones.



I've seen Titan wrecks before. I saw 'Steve' once. Most Amarrians have seen the wreck of St. Jamyl's ship in Safizon (peace be upon her) as the wreck is a holy site and indeed a pilgrimage. I haven't seen this many Titan wrecks in the same place.



It's incredible.


Spellbinding.

The sight of any Titan at any time is intimidating, which is the point of them. But even a dead one has the same effect. More than ten of them in the same place is another thing entirely.


These massive ships all shattered, snapped in two, pulled apart.


The wrecks are so big that I speculated that there would still be pressurised compartments in there, holding irradiated corpses with frozen memories of eight years ago. I refrained from finding out because to scan them and establish for sure would be to desecrate the wrecks. In another time or place they might have been classed as war graves and just being here would be illegal, but this is nullsec. 


After the battle, the authorities and the capsuleer community of the time moved quickly to declare the site a monument, as its significance as the largest battle in New Eden's history up to that point - by far - was immediately obvious.


A token boilerplate dome was installed here which has the whiff of ersatz Amarr about it. Kind of kitschy, not really appropriate - because the wrecks themselves are the monument here.



It's not just Titans. There are Dreads, carriers, diminished in scale to bit-part players - afterthoughts.




This battle stands apart from those that eventually surpassed it years later - those other two during the Delve thing - because this one had an element of spontaneity about it. It's always seemed to me like FWS-whatever and the other one had a degree of competition about them, like an intent to set a record for destruction. 

The vulgarity of that.

This one in B-R5RB just happened organically, if you will, and the wrecks are a more morbidly authentic memorial because of it.

But that doesn't mean I admire it. This place inspires awe, sadness and contempt all at the same time; and there are other memorials to it, like the historical record of the price of Tritanium.




I'd like to say this battle is more readily remembered, but then eight years is a long time and I wonder how many new, optimistic, and, let's face it, naive young capsuleers coming out of the AIR cookie-cutter basic training thing today are aware of the existence of this place. What happens in the media feeds on the actual anniversary of this battle will tell you everything you need to know.

With these thoughts riffing through my neuro-linked and enhanced mind, I found I was becoming angry. I shook myself out of it - as much as is possible when your body is jacked into a capsule - and I concentrated on moving Edge around the site, carefully, as small chunks of wreckage occasionally pinged off my shields, and I stopped near one of the big Avatars. Some of their cores still burn. In other wavelengths of light they shine brighter than the system's red giant primary.




I discovered it's actually possible to establish a datalink with the dome. It has a brief explanation of what this place is, and it lists the names of the major participants:


With something like this I always wonder how many of them are still capsuleers or whether any of them have retired or even submitted to permadeath. And I always note how this sort of thing never bothers to list the names of the tens-of-thousands of baseline crew members that will have died in those ships. I said a prayer for them.

I was getting angry again. The thought that all of this was the end result of somebody missing a payment deadline. 

Madness...



I was done here. There was nothing more to say or see or do, which is how it should be. This is not a tourist attraction.



I turned away from the site and prepared to warp out of the system. I left the wrecks to deep time. I'll probably never come this way again as nothing will change within my lifetimes as long as the bureaucrats and nullsec dwellers leave it alone, which the latter certainly will, because of the highly specific code of honour that exists in this part of space. 


From around 10,000 kilometres away, a flourescence of what appears like charged particles is visible surrounding the site. I did not take the time to analyse this phenomenon using my sensor suite, but I speculate it is either fine dust particles from the wreckage interacting with the gas giant's magnetic field, or metal and alloy fragments simply reflecting the red giant's light in the manner of a high altitude cloud. The effect is stunning - almost like a warning.



There is nothing here now but coldness, emptiness, and intense radioactivity with unfathomable half-lives. Nothing will change here for millions of years. The wrecks are massive enough that they will outlast the red giant itself and its inevitable supernova. 

One day, they will be alone with God.