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:

///enlargement available///

///enlargement available///


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.



Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Cosmos Is All That Is Or Ever Was Or Ever Will Be



The Wanderer's Den, Horaka, Molden Heath: 1455 hrs

Another spectacular alignment of cosmic karma led to an opportunity, finally, to retrieve my Crow that I'd docked in ESOCI's citadel in the Horaka system some four months ago. The wormhole had manifested nearby a few times before but I was always out of position or there was something more pressing I needed to do.

I'd left the Crow there because it seemed a good idea at the time - to use it on expeditions into Drone space, which is close to Molden Heath. Then plans got changed, I got into wormholes, then I changed the plans again, because I have a short attention span or a low boredom threshold or whatever it is, so the Crow ended up idle in Horaka for nearly half a year. I did try selling it on a free contract to Signal Cartel at one point. In the contract description I put 'Free Crow in an inconvenient location'. There were no takers. Does Molden Heath really not register at all on Signaleers' consciousness? A free interceptor!

Anyway, I've got it back.


I ran some systems checks: months of idleness had caused a few leaks, brittle seals, blocked injectors. Flat batteries. Kaalakiota are usually better than this at shipbuilding. The engineers had stuffed the ship in a corner of the docking bay and let the tokamak run cold. I can't blame them for that as they hadn't heard from me in four months. I told them there was a case of Starsi in it for them if they fixed it all in an hour. Oldest form of persuasion going. Or perhaps the second oldest...

Cold starts take ages. I jacked in. I kicked the tyres, I lit the fires. I undocked.


Space.

A creaking hull. The sounds of flushing plumbing. Was the Crow complaining or was it waking again and rejoicing in the warm embrace of the cold void? At least I was the only biological in here. No crew to think about. I dislike crew.

I ran a few systems checks. MWD: fine, eventually. If I could have kicked it, I would have.

Improved Cloak II: slipped out of this universe into shallow hyperspace, then back out again. It worked, but it still seems wrong to do that sort of thing.

The all-important Scan Probes: I still get that weird, spurious error message that says something about there being 'not enough probes to fill the launcher' when I'm only carrying the one set so the auto-reload can't work. I mean is two sets a mandatory requirement or something? At least the set I had worked fine.


Satisfied, I set course for the wormhole that was seven jumps away. At 10.56 AU/s, I would be there in minutes.

Warp!





Arek'Jaalan Site One

My route back to the 'hole took me through the Eram system in Metropolis. When I jumped into Eram, the Overview loaded and I saw a very interesting Beacon appear in the list, because the Eram system is the location of the Arek'Jaalan Site One facility. This is the scientific research laboratory that was founded by the late Hilen Tukoss. You'll remember him. Anyone who has an interest in exploration should have heard of him. It was Tukoss' dead body that was found floating, lifeless and shipless, in the vicinity of the first Drifter Hive to be reached by capsuleers a couple of years ago after Tukoss got there first. Remember the Scope vid featuring Tukoss' garbled warning 'Live from the Hive' before Drifters blew up his ship? Remember CONCORD's demands for the return of his frozen corpse under various threats of death to those capsuleers that were hiding it?



Backstory: in YC113, ex-Zainou employee Hilen Tukoss defected to the Republic from the State and set up shop in the Eram system, bankrolled by very large donations of ISK and infrastructure from Eifyr & Co., allies in the Fed, and by a number of capsuleers who were of a like mind. Site One was the result. Its name means something to do with either 'dissidence' or 'revenge' in the original Caldanese. Tukoss sounded like one of those types of scientist that are dangerous: driven as much by the need to get one over on those who have wronged him as by scientific curiosity.

Tukoss was still a wanted man in the State when he disappeared shortly after the site's completion. Two years ago he theatrically resurfaced somewhere in Anoikis, near what we now know to be a Drifter Hive, which sparked off the first series of capsuleer expeditions into Drifter space (through the 'Unidentified Wormholes'), which may or may not have incited the Drifters to do their thing, which, oddly enough, seems to have stalled lately, as if they're either bored with us, or worse, they're biding their time. Waiting us out.

Since that incident two years ago (and since the loss of its founder), the Arek'Jaalan project appears to have faded from visibility and hasn't published anything new in ages. You have to assume that Tukoss' disappearance is most of the cause of it. The facility has not shut down, as is obvious from the signs of activity present today; but all the literature and documents that can be accessed at the site pertain to projects that are several years old by now.



The site is just nine million km from the Eram primary, which is nothing. At a certain distance from the large Fed-template outpost structure, an automatic signal gives a short, pro-forma message about what this place is. That initial 'welcome message' is accompanied by a couple of documents that are automatically downloaded into your ship's databanks: explanatory texts on what Arek'Jaalan was and who contributed to its construction.



The site is still active, as evidenced by the few ships that can be seen shuttling around it - shuttles and industrials, mostly.



It is not a freeport so you can't dock in the Fed place or the Republic-built station nearby. There is a 'capsuleers quarters' section, which is a series of those standardised prefab units you see all over the cluster. You can't dock in any of that either. Permissions must be sought. From whom, I have no idea. I doubt that permission would be given lightly.






I programmed the Crow to make a slow tour of the facility at 185 m/s. The view is hypnotic. Eram's disc is vivid like an angry blister, and it should blow out everything around it in blinding red giant light, but the new cam drones we've been using since last month serve to confound your expectations by presenting you with a view an unaugmented eye cannot see.



While touring the site, I browsed some of the other published literature on this place: news reports from the years after it was built, the accounts from some of the capsuleers involved in its construction, and more recently the Scope vids on the Drifter/Tukoss thing. I realised from this information that all the Archive structures were interactive, and that if I made slow, close passes abeam them all, the Crow would interface with each one and download documentation that would detail whatever exotic research had gone on inside it (note the past tense there. I'll get on to that in a minute).


So that was what I did. As I passed each structure at what felt like a walking pace, some sort of automatic polling took place between the Crow and the archive structures. Documents started appearing in the Crow's memory.

Very interesting documents.



* * *


The Deepest Answers to the Simplest Questions

Anything that focused on the Sleepers and Anoikis was right down my flightpath. What stood out though, about all of it, was that it was all years old. Below is less than half of what's available.

Project Blueprint: investigating Sleeper constructs in Anoikis. I've done enough of this myself recently, as have the hundreds of capsuleers who live and work in Anoikis today. I could contribute loads of info to this myself, right now. I have tons of cam drone stills. I would like to know why those structures exhibit an iridescent quality when you get near them.


Project Common Ground: what's interesting about this one is how several years of capsuleer presence in Anoikis and the accumulated knowledge therein has proved how wrong its hypothesis is. Rogue Drones? Our designer of Signal Cartel's ALLISON AI construct would have a lot to say about that.


Project Compass: the one that found where Anoikis actually is. I met its lead researcher Mark726 once last year in the Jakanerva system. I wanted to ask him whether his name is actually his real name, or one of those oddball pseudonyms that some capsuleers give themselves. If it's his real name, then does the State really do that? Do the 'paternalistic mega corporations' give their newborn children employee numbers and put them on their birth certificates? I wanted to ask him that, but I didn't because he seemed like a nice guy and it seemed rude. In case you need reminding, Compass is the one that determined the distance to Anoikis as 1,300 light-years, which is ten-times the distance between the extreme points of the New Eden Cluster.


Project Enigma: interesting only because since this project was concluded, the Caroline's Star event took place in UUA-F4 and resulted in what we now believe to be the extinction of the Jovian Directorate, so its hypothesis about 'decline' was totally correct but for different reasons.


Project Huntress Green: this was the juice. Indisputable proof that some form of humanity existed in Anoikis before we got there in the present epoch. Thousands of years before we got there, during what we've always described as the Dark Ages. 



Some of our ancestors were way ahead - if the Dark Ages ever affected them. We already knew this. None of it is a surprise to any capsuleer who operates in Anoikis, or any capsuleer at all. However after reading about Huntress Green and its research into bio on terrestrials in Anoikis, I thought about those robot mines I set up on two planets in [classified]. I really ought to get back there and get down to the surfaces of those planets and have a good look around.

You never know what might be down there.

A lost Talocan colony..?



The reference to the past tense up there: it's because all the research abstracts that can be downloaded at Site One relate to activities that took place not less than six years ago.

So what have they been doing here since?

The Arek'Jaalan collective's current status is not clear. Cursory research indicates the collective most recently did something called 'Project Heliograph', aimed at trying to communicate with a Drifter Hive. That was two years ago. You can read about it here. That document gives you the impression that Arek'Jaalan is discredited these days. Then I read another report on it that suggested at least half of the projects listed at the site itself have yet to be completed; likewise a defunct mailing list with a header entitled 'Emergency Summit - Abandonment of Arek'Jaalan'. Perhaps the disappearance and death of its fugitive founder robbed it of its direction; perhaps Tukoss was dictatorial and without him it is a rudderless ship. Other noted capsuleers publicly associated with Arek'Jaalan in the beginning have since left it, like Rhavas, attributed in some of the documents I've reproduced above, but who is now believed to have retired from the pod altogether and become a meathead again. Perhaps the collective is spread too thin now, and IKAME has picked up where it left off.

So is it done or not? If it is done, why is Site One still active?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it again. Living in Anoikis does that to you. It's all that D-scanning.

All things end. Arek'Jaalan was six years ago. A lot has happened since. To capsuleers, that length of time could encompass a thousand lifespans.

To the cosmos, it doesn't mean a damn thing.