Friday, 30 October 2015

Cobalt Edge and The Infinite

 I found a way back to Thera.

I hung around for a while and contemplated the significance of this place that is so big that light takes more than two days to cross it; where if it wasn't for the fluid router it would take nearly a week to get a response from the other Sanctuary station on the far side of it.

This place, where lost human histories converge and coexist, but shouldn't. 

Then I found a new way out:

I emerged in SBEN-Q in Cobalt Edge: closer to the edge of New Eden than I've ever been, 80 light years from the other side of the cluster in Fountain and 73 light years from my base in Danera.

The far side of the Drone Lands.

Cobalt Edge:
"Many strange tales have been brought back from the Edge to the stopping points and waystations of the growing colonies in the neighboring regions: tales of rare solitary drones, specialized beyond normal experience, wandering the systems; stories of these lone wanderers being hunted by packs of 'normal' rogue drones; weird rumors of the 'lonesome ones' actually helping capsuleers in dire circumstances. Most of these tales, not least those claiming aid from rogues, are dismissed out of hand. Yet they persist and are joined by more every time an explorer from the Cobalt Edge sets down in a bar to drink and talk."

I saw a permanent drone hive in here, with drones that had designators I've never seen before and that were as big as a battleship. Then I found this extraordinary nest of disruptor bubbles, out here, around the single stargate in this dead-end system with no other access except the transient wormhole I used. There can be no passing trade here. Evidence of previous action or an excess of expectation?

The Wormhole Distance Perception Paradox: the 2,600 light-year round trip I took through Thera in order to get to Cobalt Edge from Khanid felt like nothing, because it was two jumps. The 73 light-years to Danera from SBEN-Q - via the 'normal' route - is a small fraction of that distance yet felt insurmountably greater. To look the other way, outwards, towards the visible galactic plane and the infinite, was humbling, as if I'd reached the shoreline of a landmass and that the galaxy is an ocean with an unreachable horizon.

Distance and time are inextricably linked unless divorced from each other by the wormhole and its contempt for spacetime.

But what would it be like for us if there were no stargate-wormholes and no warp drive? Without that capability, it would take two hundred centuries to cross the cluster in generation ships.

We would all still be island-dwellers.

Perhaps we always will be.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Update on J164710 - Vidette and the Magnetar

The Drifter faction hasn't been seen in New Eden since the Nandeza Incursion several weeks ago. The incursion followed soon after the brazen assassination of Jamyl. Then - nothing.

No proliferation, no mass assimilations, no futility in the face of deadly superweapons and no more 7:1 kill ratio.

Starting it in the remote, underpopulated parts of Khanid made no sense either.

Where did they go?

Since then, occasional sightings and loggings of the 'Unidentified Wormholes' that led to the four Drifter complexes known as Barbican, Conflux, Redoubt and Vidette, have continued, so one way to find out what happened to them would be to go and ask them.

I've wanted to dive in and explore one of the complexes again (I did the Barbican a while ago) but whenever I saw them on Overview, I was either in the wrong ship for the task or committed to some other job for the corporation.

The situational geometry wasn't working for me.

Then I saw one while passing through Ashmarir two days ago - an Unidentified Wormhole with the attendant massive Sleeper constructs that appear to be an essential piece of the puzzle.

I was in my Anathema - perfect. I dived straight in.

I found the Vidette complex.


No Drifters.

Just the massive structures as previously reported by others; still active yet attended only by a token Sleeper drone presence.

Shattered planets, with the same type of Turbulent Blue Subgiant star as in all the other shattered systems - Seyllin, T-IPZB, Thera etc. - except here, they're all shattered.

As is always the case with all these places in Anoikis, wherever you are, there is always something sinister nearby (in astronomical terms) which generates that constant feeling of helplessness because, unlike a Drifter battleship, it threatens death on you in ways you can't see and can't do anything about.

J164710 is a 'magnetar system'. A magnetar: a deadly neutron star - a supernova remnant - only 20 kilometres across but more dense than a K3 yellow dwarf like Mishi; saturating the vicinity with X-rays and gamma rays, and generating a magnetic field so strong that it would be lethal within 1,000 kilometres of it, because it takes the atomic nuclei that make up your ship and your body and your brain, and distorts their shape from spheres into cylindrical rods. Can you imagine what that would be like..?

It's a common theme in the cosmos: the deadliest stuff often shines the brightest. Drawing you in, seducing you.

Sidebar: Magnetars give off gamma ray bursts that should be detectable from the New Eden cluster, which would allow more accurate determination of where Anoikis actually is. If Anoikis is 1,300 light-years away, it can't be possible that this magnetar and the others within Anoikis all formed within the last 1,300 years it would take for detectable gamma ray bursts to reach us, because we would have seen and recorded the supernovae that generated them. Also, a powerful gamma ray burst from that distance has the ability to make a planet's own magnetic field ring like a bell. We wouldn't miss it...
The Sleeper structures in the Vidette complex are still there: one damaged yet still powered. Whatever dreams the Sleepers were having; whatever world they were inhabiting, would this corrupted shape be a part of it? Would they be living in a virtual hell?

Eventually, one Drifter battleship showed up. I dared not decloak. Would it have ignored me, or one-shot me? A 50/50 chance. One that I'm not wasting a ship on.

I couldn't progress any further into the Vidette complex because it is still necessary to be part of a fleet in order to achieve the simultaneous hacking of the complex's data cores, so I saw no more reason to stick around.

I tracked down a few exit wormholes and dived into one of them, emerging in MOCW-2 in Insmother, 49 light-years from home base in Danera. A single-gate dead-end system that serves no purpose except to cultivate sov-fodder.

Another sidebar: the Ginnungagap Nebula near the Kalevala Expanse is prominent and easily visible from MOCW-2. More than any other nebula I've seen so far in New Eden, this one looks terrifying, because whatever is in there that is causing those directional jets of incandescent gas, nothing good can come of it. Unlike the other nebulae in New Eden, this one is active.

I tried docking at the resident Outpost in this system in Insmother just for the hell of it, but I got a big fat lockout signal that was very rude. I'm not having that...

So nobody followed me out of the Vidette complex with its angry magnetar. No Drifter battleships were hovering around on the 'normal' side of the wormhole either.

I had no more answers than I did when I went in there. I only had more questions.

What the hell are the Drifters doing in there?  

What are they waiting for..?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Anatomy of a Failed Suicide Gank

The Set-Up

I built a Retriever mining barge by using a blueprint copy I had lying around my hangar from a long-past moment of impulse-buying. I mined about half of the minerals required for it using my Venture, but I bought the more exotic and esoteric requirement straight off the market in Amarr, because it seemed the logical thing to do on the premise of nil-wasted-effort.

In pure forensic accounting terms then, the exercise was barely worth it. It would have been more convenient and cost-effective to just buy a Retriever off the shelf.

I decided to build a Retriever just because I could. I have no particular fetish for industry either because I am market-dyslexic: using spreadsheets to calculate margins is something I have no interest in at all. None. It’s like an allergy. I am an artist, not an accountant.

So after some hardcore wrist-slashing-boredom-risking mining, I had the minerals and the blueprint ready, and I handed it all over (plus a large amount of ISK) to the Royal Khanid Navy and booked a slot on their production line in the Assembly Plant I’m based in at Danera IV.

Less than two hours later (!), I had a brand-new Retriever delivered to my hangar with a spotless and unmarked hull, unblemished by grains of asteroid dust and unsullied by the incessant sleet of stellar radiation. 

The interior is all steel grilles, even the deck plates, where you can see down four decks before it becomes too dark to see anything. The ore hold is a vast void that is so big it is not uniformly lit, so it appears as several competing spaces, with the mechanisms for securing the ore appearing like a spider’s web of steel and titanium.

There is a crew lounge that has no carpets and fittings, just the bare minimum required to keep the meathead agency mining crew fed and watered. When I’m jacked-in, I don’t get to see any of it or mix with the meathead crew, but in this business it is better to not know anyone who you’re crewing with as it is only a matter of time and diminishing odds before that crew has to resort to the escape pods or make an appointment with oblivion.

So the interior of a mining barge is sparse, efficient, unpleasant; but then so is mining in general, yet without it we wouldn’t have shiny spacecraft to fly around in.

But that massive ore hold: it is the reason why the received wisdom on Retrievers among the community is that they are the #1 prime targets for suicide gankers, and that an operator needs to fit out the barge in a way that allows it to survive an attack for just long enough for the police to show up and dispose of the ganker.

I read this stuff and took it very seriously; I fitted my barge out with some leftover equipment I had in the hangar which did the job on paper, up to a point.

First trip out in my new Retriever: a hop over to the nearest asteroid belt in Dan IV. A test run, if you will. The strip miner beams make short work of any rock. With five drones on idle out there, any Covenant aggressors are a non-event that I barely notice. Such a waste.

I can go properly ‘afk’ and read holotexts that appear in my visual cortex like an actual book, but are nothing more than coded nerve stimulation with no physical form whatsoever. I can catch up on those box sets that again, are nothing more than a feed. I can watch the news and listen to the latest chapter in the endless cycle of cluster politics. All while the ship semi-autonomously burrows holes in rocks as old as the universe and hoards the granulated by-product in its vast hold.

Nobody made a move on me; no gankers, no aggressors other than Covenant (which don’t count). Danera is a very safe system these days. I believe that a consortium of industrialists and miners have recently moved here as I keep seeing the same names in the Local channel, but in every other respect Danera is a safe harbour as it is not on a ‘pipe’ and doesn’t attract passing trade.

Everyone minds their own business in Danera. That’s how I like it. 

The Gank

On the other hand, excessive safety is conducive to boredom. I had 25,000 m3 of ore and the best price for it was a few jumps away in Soumi in the far western tip of Kor-Azor.

I set off.

It took a while. The Retriever is incredibly slow. It is underpowered because all its power actually goes into those strip miner beams. If the targeting systems did not discriminate and allowed you to use one on another ship, it would burrow a clean sharp-edged hole right through the centre of that ship and turn it into a doughnut (we’re doing a special offer on them at our place in Nandeza right now - stop by and check them out).

I got to Soumi, sold the ore for a large amount of ISK, then decided to stick around and do some mining, just to see what would happen given that the Soumi system had a load of ‘reds’ in it from Another Really Stupid Enterprise who apparently have bad standing with us and vice-versa.

What was the worst thing that could happen..?

I was about twenty minutes into my second-ever session of mining in this ship when I heard the ‘thump’ of another ship arriving in the vicinity (again, reproduced by artificial capsule auditory stimulation, because in space no-one can hear you gank).

It was a Catalyst. A ‘Gankalyst’. I already had my Damage Control II cycling at idle so I thought bring it.

My ganker had done his homework. He was hitting me with around 700 hp of damage each time. My Retriever took damage of course; I had ‘pain’ turned off in my capsule because I’m not interested in that masochistic crap, otherwise I’d have took damage too.

In fact my barge took a lot of damage. The meathead agency crew didn’t like it. But I just sat there and waited the requisite twenty seconds or-so that it takes for the police to arrive in a 0.6 system. The police - CONCORD - with their exotic and highly-secretive Jove-derived ships that can warp in from anywhere and one-shot anything.

My ganker never stood a chance.

I wonder how long it took, and what the expression on his face was like, when the realisation dawned that he wasn’t going to get away with it?

The police did their job, I got 3 mil in loot (top-notch Tech II-class hybrid turrets + ammo), a kill right, and a core sense of righteous satisfaction. I didn’t hang around for a re-match either.

Here’s the kill right. I’ve made it available to all. Help yourself.

After some consultation with the corporation, my Retriever is even more gank-resistant with the addition of an Adaptive Invulnerability Field upgrade. I think I may start going to highsec systems of a questionable nature, and just sit there as bait, then laugh when the inevitable happens. Here’s what I’m using on my barge right now. I haven’t even fitted shield rigs to it yet so there‘s more to come.

One last note: I may be wrong about this, but I suspect that superficially-lucrative market buy orders for ore are a form of bait, to attract barges like mine to systems where pro gankers operate. If it is a tactic, it worked on me. But then I won.


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Astero at the EVE Gate

"It is rumored that the wrecks of many ships destroyed during the gate's final days still float in the void around the EVE Gate. The lack of wreckage detected by scanners has not culled the speculation; some say that the ancient vessels have been cloaked by the Jove to prevent advanced technology from falling into the wrong hands."
Evelopedia: EVE Gate

"The fact that there is a Jove Observatory in there with it, tells you everything you need to know about that thing in principle."
Maryla Hilett - Border Regions Correspondent, The Scope ('Genesis - Origins', 06/07/117)

"I'm telling you, I know how to make one of those Sanctuary ships talk. All of them - they're exactly like the Zephyr. They monitor you, and every time you go there in one, they communicate with it. Anyway I reckon the answer is not in the floating junk around it that no-one can get to anyway. It's on that damned radiation-blasted planet. New Eden I. Something down there saw it all and recorded it in detail. I'm telling you..."
Unknown - overheard in a bar last week when I was in the SoE place around Octanneve V in Solitude

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A2-V27 Part II: Frozen Meat Delivery Service

I got notification that we were hitting The Methodical Alliance again in A2-V27 on the border of Querious.

Recon time!

This time the doctrine would again feature the use of the Entosis Device in disrupting TMA's orbital, but at a long range with a fleet of Caracals providing stand-off missile capability.

I did my thing and went in there a couple of hours before the fleet arrived, to do some scouting. TMA were typically unadventurous. Occasionally, a Harbinger or a Typhoon or an Ares would emerge from their station, sit there for five minutes, then dock again. Occasionally one of them might shuttle off to their POS then return, but that was it. I even had the time to fit in a bit of exploring as a wormhole manifested itself which, unlike virtually every one of the damn things I've found recently, did not lead to Anoikis. This one led to the Pertnineere system in Solitude, a part of New Eden I have yet to visit. I resolved to use this wormhole when this operation concluded.

When the fleet showed up in A2-V27, it seemed as if this session of Entosising would be as uneventful as the last one I wrote about [see the previous entry].

It wasn't.

It appeared to start smoothly, and as usual TMA appeared resigned to passivity, to the extent that a Typhoon emerged from the station in the full view of our fleet and again just sat there.

But then someone else showed up and took exception to the event with intent to disrupt it.


The 'fog of war' means I still don't know who the hell they were, but then DARKNESS showed up with a fleet of Cynabals and it kicked off. Our Caracal fleet was quickly immobilized and cut down like wheat before the scythe.

All that was left was an Overview full of the pathos of orphaned drones and identifiable frozen bodies.

I got out of there, not by the gate to Kaira and back to Khanid, but via my wormhole to Solitude Lowsec. I scuttled out of there unseen like a rat down a spacetime sewer...

I instantaneously arrived in Pertnineere. There was a Jove Observatory in here. I checked it out. If the damage that the Drifters have been inflicting on this one is typical of the rest then they are all in danger of falling apart; yet the Drifters haven't been seen since the Nandeza Incursion last month. In fact this is Gallente territory here, so the Drifters and their apparent doctrinal concentration on the territory of the Amarr Empire means that visiting this system at all is uncharacteristic of them.

This visual perspective - of the Verge Vendor, Cauldron and Cloud Ring nebulae as visible from Solitude - is something new. Something else that's new is the evidence that we need much bigger and more powerful vessels if we're to do anything serious in A2-V27 and eventually hold on to it.

Postscript: the curious factoid about this operation is that my wormhole escape route led directly to a region which hosts a significant Ni-Kunni enclave that immigrated here from Aridia and that evidently flourished, as by the standards of Aridia at least, the Solitude region is prosperous.

I could have ended up anywhere, yet I got transported here. I take that as a sign that I should stick around for a while, because having contacts and a 'safe harbour' within the Fed and into which I could disappear for a few years, could be useful for that point in the future when Khanid becomes a no-go area for some reason yet to be determined, like, say, the breaking down of a certain Coalition...