Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sotiyo


The entire economy of the State is predicated on three assumptions: that the State's resources are infinite; that as a result there is infinite capacity for population growth within the State; therefore there is infinite capacity for economic growth within the State. All three of those conditions are knowingly false, but you try telling them that.
Munorina Quevari - Business Series #24, Hedion University Guest Lecturer Series Holovid Archives


Our wormhole has spent the last few days in the Republic.

By the time you read this, it will have gone somewhere else. Anyone who lives in a wormhole will know this is entirely normal, as is the bizarre terminology itself - we don't live in a wormhole, we live in a planetary system in the Anoikis Cluster that is accessed through a pseudo-randomly occurring wormhole. I still believe these things are being controlled from somewhere, but there remains no evidence of of this beyond the statistical patterns of manifestation. I believe it, and I'm sticking to it, because belief is all I have in that place.

Belief is my greatest defence.

Against them.



Anyway, our wormhole manifested separately in Heimatar, Molden Heath and Metropolis. It's last few manifestations have been highly karmic, as the wormhole has appeared in incredibly convenient locations for resupplying our citadel.

When the wormhole was in Molden Heath, we were one stargate jump away from the minor, tertiary trade hub in the Teonusude system, so I jumped over to it to obtain some consumables: ammo, reconnaissance and scanning equipment, ship components (ships lead very hard lives in wormholes), cutting-edge holovids, decent coffee, and other catering supplies that are not illegal in space that has no security status.



In that system, there is also a Sotiyo Engineering Complex, which, as is common these days, is openly competing with the established trade hub, to the point where I actually ended up docking there instead of the hub. It's all about the tax breaks and the brokerage fees. This has become such a thing over the last year that both economic and actual warfare has broken out between capsuleers over it in the State, as well it might in that capitalist hell-hole - that monument to the myth of endless economic growth. I live in a wormhole now, so it all seems so juvenile and futile.


So anyway, the real point of this journal is that I've never seen a Sotiyo complex before in the flesh/metal, so I thought I'd document it. These are the biggest structures that the well shady Upwell Consortium produces and I wanted to find out how tall the letters are in the logo on its outer hull. What stood out about this one was that its owners must have had a developed sense of scenery when it came to selecting its location.


When I saw it, it was on the dark side of the moon it orbited. Since Molden Heath in general is as dark as the hearts of the tribal masses that administer it, the Sotiyo and its war machine seemed completely appropriate here, surrounded by all that blood-red nebulosity.


It's always difficult to get a sense of scale in space. With structures like this, your Overview and its distance readouts seem to play tricks on your mind. A Sotiyo is so damned big because it is designed to house capital ships inside it. It would take a week to walk from one side of it to the other. You could even fit President Jacus Roden's ego in it. There are so many docking bays that it's impossible to see the big picture when you're in one.


In any case, the wormhole's clock was ticking. Someone in our comms channel mentioned the term 'EOL' - End Of Life - imminent expiry within a couple of hours. I did the trading I needed to do from within my Prorator's capsule by staying jacked-in, got all the cargo loaded on board, and departed, back to the hole, back to the dreamworld. 


I doubt that 'Sotiyo', one half of the Caldari inventors of the Sotiyo-Urbaata Jump Drive that was the prototype of warp drives used throughout the whole of New Eden today, ever imagined that his name would be on the side of a giant space station, over half a millennium later.

Or maybe he did - Caldari corporate megalomania and all that.

And now, this last week, I heard about Upwell's development of a new type of 'refinery' installation that will be able to detach a piece of a moon's crust and tractor it bodily into orbit, where it can be fragmented into a temporary small-scale asteroid belt and set upon by squadrons of mining lasers. There is an inherent laziness to this technique that is tantamount to environmental terrorism. Speaking of terrorism, it wouldn't be too much of a leap for a capsuleer's imagination to think of using this scorched-earth mining technique as a weapon against an inhabited terrestrial - a grand extortionist's greatest achievement.

The universe is going mad.

Where will it end?

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Frontier Dreamstate of Anoikis


Prologue: The Limits of Knowledge

In my last entry, I described going to the edge of known space and learning what it felt like to be at the edge of the galactic abyss.

Thing is, it felt real enough, but I knew I'd been much further than that on a number of occasions beforehand.

I've felt increasingly done with known space, on the premise of 'been there, done that'. Cluster politics has heated up again of late with the plague outbreak and another possible Gallente/Caldari escalation and I just think yeah, whatever. Very little of it impinges on my bottom line now, which I find is a common progression among capsuleers who have a cosmic perspective. I periodically go planetside to refresh my palate, which always works very well, but it remains that after two years as a capsuleer, I've found out what I like to do and for the most part I stick to it. The ISK still flows, I could retire now and buy my own world if I wanted to, but there would still be those unanswered questions that ISK cannot buy the answers to.

Then, last month, Merkato Cesaille, boss of Signal Cartel's elite group of wormhole explorers and 'Ambassadors to the Sleepers' called the Anoikis Division, announced a new recruitment initiative as new facilities were coming online that would permit an expansion in the Division's limited numbers. I saw this as an opportunity not to be missed, because recruitment into the Anoikis Division doesn't happen very often and because I've become attuned to karmic synchronicity more than ever.

Anyway, I'd actually set the precedent for this new curiosity quite recently on one of those planetside excursions. Bear with me on this. A scene needs setting and it will all make sense eventually.




Desert Is A State Of Mind

The last time I visited my ancestral homeworld of Mishi IV, I went on a road trip with my friend Alisu in her husband's vintage, demilitarized Amarrian hovertank - a relic of when the Empire actually noticed Mishi IV instead of abandoning it as a passive fief of House Kador who are two regions away from here.



Alisu's husband, the noted Ni-Kunni sculptor, portraitist and surrealist Arshadru Serrasus-Abana-Cataalio, acquired the tank years ago and had the interior converted, optimising it for leisure rather than blowing things up, so it became a kind of camper van. You wouldn't know it from the outside though, because the tank retains its active camo. He'd taught Alisu to drive it, which was both generous and risky. Being a famous artist, he affected the attitude that every day of his life was a performance art installation. I don't know how he gets away with it.

* * *

Alisu and I headed out in the tank from her residence in the capital, along some highways through Mishi IV's more verdant and populated regions, then headed north across the southern continent's tundra, then through a minor mountain range and eventually to an ancient trade route across the Greater Western Dune Sea, which led to a small, incredibly remote settlement in the deep desert called Al-Dadashiri, a full 2,900 kms from the capital. The town was on the junction of several of the old trade routes that the caravans of pre-Amarrian occupation would use, so the town became established long ago as a place of trade in whatever goods it took to stay alive out there.

Today, in the modern era of high technology when almost everybody travelled long distances by aircraft and skimmer, the town of Al-Dadashiri survived as a kind of symbolic focal point for all manner of sages, seers, ecstatics, shamans, artists, depressives and paranoiacs who all saw the desert as a place of escape; the unremitting harshness of the environment turning this indigenous population towards a different kind of mysticism from the prevailing Amarrian orthodoxy. Our reason for coming all the way out here was somewhat more grounded in reality: according to Alisu, there was a cafe in Al-Dadashiri which produced the best chai on the entire planet (and by extension the entire cluster). The problem, she said, was the owner only brewed it on one night every year, and attendance at this brewing session was by invitation only. Alisu assured me the invitation was taken care of. We just had to get there. Travelling overland in the hovertank instead of flying there, she said, would delay gratification and only enhance the pleasure of the end result.

I saw the logic in that, and it gave me an opportunity to explore more of my ancestral homeworld anyway, so I went along with it. I felt her other unspoken reasoning was to give us more time together. I wasn't going to object to that either.

* * *

It took Alisu and I six days to get to Al-Dadashiri in the tank, four of them while crossing the desert, which was a huge contrast to my normal working day where I speed round the galaxy at multiples of c. There is a lot to be said for slowing down and taking in what's going on around you.



By day, we would make a steady traverse across mostly-unmarked piste, with the music and the air-con on maximum and grateful for the tank's retrofitted precision navigation kit, which eliminated the uncertainty of where the hell we were. We didn't see a single other person during the traverse except for one time when we caught sight of a long caravan about 15 kms away. As a precaution, Alisu energized the tank's active camo, which was a form of crude cloaking device, rendering us invisible to anyone that far away.

Some people have long memories, and this tank is a symbol of something they spend their entire lives out here trying to forget, she'd said.

We'd park the tank in the lee of sand dunes at night, grounding it on short, stubby struts that would extend out of its base when the repulsorlift engine was inactive. We'd then cook sizzling steaks on the hot metal exhaust of the tank's fusion reactor's heat exchanger, which was something I doubt the tank's designers ever envisioned it being used for.



We never worried about the time as we embraced the methods of the ancients by using the sky as our clock and our calendar. It was such a novelty to view the stars without the luminosity-enhancing algorithms of cam drones. You can't beat the unaugmented reality of it: the density of the cluster, the pulsing EVE Gate, faint at this distance but still unmistakable; the Cauldron Nebula, dim and diffuse as nebulae really are, but covering a quarter of the sky and visible for half the night until the planet rotated away from it - not the tranquil blue pool that you see from Kor-Azor: from the Aridia side it looks angry like a kind of hairy tumour.

Occasional bolides would leave their silent marks on the sky; then maybe once or twice per night we'd see the same apparition but slower, sort-of in reverse: a ship decelerating out of warp and into orbit. There are few satellites orbiting Mishi IV, the brightest and most obvious being the automated Customs Office warehouse (I destroyed one of those in Khanid once - a lifetime ago) that we would observe each night either side of sunset and sunrise. The planet's tiny moon would appear a few hours before dawn, a static point of light, bright, but easy to miss among the myriad constellations of the cluster.

When the desert night got too cold we'd retire to the tank. Alisu would energize the active camo (just in case), so if there actually was anybody in the vicinity, they'd hear us but not see us, which was weird...

Then on the morning of the fifth day I got temporarily scared out of my wits when I was awakened by the inbound weekly InterBus trans-atmospheric shuttle, laying down double sonic booms across the desert as it effected a re-entry high above us on its way to the capital. I'd ridden that same shuttle the previous week. Now it just seemed alien, intrusive and in fact incredibly rude. I mean how dare it interrupt the sanctity of this pristine environment?

* * *

Our reverie, our dreamstate, ended when the settlement of Al-Dadashiri emerged from the shimmering desert heat near the end of the sixth day, by which time I'd become fully immersed and had largely forgotten about what was going on in the rest of the cluster. Actually, not so much forgotten, but no longer cared.



We parked the tank on a small, unmanned airstrip just outside the town, alongside two other vehicles: one land-based, the other a skimmer which carried a registration mark indicating it had also come from the capital, like us. I suspected both vehicles belonged to people I would meet later tonight in this mythical cafe. I wondered who had had the better deal: the skimmer driver who would have got here in just a few hours, or us, who had taken our time and immersed ourselves in the journey.

Alisu and I put on our hooded robes for the two kilometre walk into town. The sun was setting quickly as it does this close to Mishi IV's equator, so the desert air would rapidly chill again.

From a distance, the town looked like it did not want to be found, with no building being more than two storeys high. For the most part, the town's appearance was as if we'd regressed in time a thousand years as we'd crossed the desert, but a couple of the buildings - simple blocks with no pandering to style - had some concessions to technology stuck to their flat roofs in the form of 10-metre parabolic antennae, all pointing in the same direction, up, towards what I already knew to be the CONCORD station orbiting Mishi VII, which will have risen from the eastern horizon a couple of hours previously. They would be receiving either entertainment broadcasts or standardized footage of government hearings. Quite likely the former. This place was not so hardcore and devout after all.


As we got closer to the town, I broke the comfortable silence we were maintaining as we walked.

'Is this place safe after dark?' I said.

'Of course not', Alisu said.

'So why did we park the tank back there?' I said.

'It's no use bringing it into the town. We'd block half the street. Besides, if you're worried about danger, then don't. You're not in space anymore.'

'Er, I'm in the middle of the goddamn desert, out of contact with, like, everyone. The only difference is I can breath the air?'

Alisu took my hand as we walked and said 'Listen, I've kicked more ass than you've sat on. Chill out. You know for a death-dealing immortal you're quite the over-thinking neurotic aren't you?'

'Don't tease me,' I said.

After about twenty minutes, as it was getting dark, a few dim yellow lights passing as street illumination flicked on as we walked down one of the town's wider streets. There was only a small number of other people outside as nightfall appeared to have driven the population indoors.

We turned off the main drag into a narrow street, then turned again into a series of alleys that progressively narrowed until we could no longer walk side-by-side. I could smell exotic spices, chai, dung, fusion waste disposal, oils, all kinds of scents I couldn't even name. It was so evocative.



By now it was almost dark. I caught glimpses through open windows: a gambling den with five different languages in play; every other house seeming to be either a bar or a cafe; the noise of a too-loud holovid; dogs barking; domestic arguments; the sound of a discharging sidearm that was probably on the holovid but I couldn't be sure.

The maze of side-streets made the town seem bigger than it was. None of the buildings had numbers or ID or anything. You either knew where you were going or you didn't. Alisu clearly did as she stopped abruptly at an open doorway. The muffled sounds of voices came from inside and above us somewhere.

'This is it,' she said. Then she turned and grabbed my arms excitedly and repeated 'this is it Cassie, this is it! The chai!' I couldn't see her eyes for the huge hood over her head, but I could tell she meant it.

We walked in through the narrow doorway and up a badly lit stone staircase, our heels loudly betraying our presence so there would be no element of surprise even though I could hear those voices now from the room at the top of the steps.

At the top, Alisu turned right, and I followed her through a heavy curtain covering the doorway, into a room that was much warmer than outside and misty with exhaled hash pipe. The smell was unbelievable.

This did not look like a cafe full of chai connoisseurs. My Ocular Filter implant told me in less than a second that there were twelve other people in here, all of them swarthy desertified men, which annoyed me. I don't think any of them knew what a razor was. They were mostly all sat at several tables of varying sizes, which all had a number of one-hitters on them. Two of the customers had cybernetic arms (one may have had a cybernetic head); at least three were open-carrying, and everyone spoke strong Ni-Kunni dialect except one who looked like an Achuran, who spoke hushed Caldanese to someone in front of him whose back was turned to me, and who must have also been Achuran otherwise how could one understand the other? A low-ranking Amarrian priest sat in one corner on his own, his unblinking gaze fixated on a portrait of Empress Jamyl on the opposite wall, his lips moving but making no sound. There was a radio on somewhere broadcasting a sermon from the Ministry of Internal Order, which was just background noise in here and mostly drowned out by conversation. The walls were a faded orange, kind of like the desert outside, and had probably not been repainted since the occupation, and there was a hissing, smoking, bubbling machine on the counter at the far wall which I took to be the mythical brewing device.

Five seconds after we entered the room, and in timeless stereotypical fashion, they all stopped what they were doing and turned to look at us. The radio clicked off.

Alisu theatrically removed the hood from her head, so I did the same, like we were a double act. A few more seconds passed, then one of the randoms got up and walked over to us.

'Ladies, can we help you with anything?' he said. He spoke with excessive politeness for the situation, so he was obviously hiding something. His breath smelled of hash pipe and vehicle exhaust. His glazed eyes suggested he was off his gourd already even though the night was young. This was going to be fun.

An invisible mist-shrouded voice from the back of the room shouted 'Hey, the strippers are here!' followed immediately by the sound of someone's nose breaking and a kind of yelp like a dog, followed by 'what the hell was that for?'

Hash Pipe did not break his stare at us two. He bowed slightly and said 'I apologise, ladies.'

Alisu surveyed the room again, then looked this guy in the eye. With the funereal seriousness of a mistress of ceremonies, she said: 'We're here for the Sacred Nectar of the Sand Crab.'

Hash Pipe said: 'Who sent you?'

Alisu was not yet done with the performance. She raised her arms like an evangelist and announced to the entire room in a loud voice: 'The Mother of the Desert herself!'

Hash Pipe looked over at me, then turned to the rest of the room, where my Filter detected a virtually imperceptible nod from some red-headed weirdo at the back of the room who was obviously Mr Chai Man, Mr Big, Mr Kingpin. Then the room relaxed all at once as Hash Pipe outstretched his arms and said: 'Welcome ladies, please take a seat'.

Somebody turned the radio back up, then changed the channel to something with a tune. I noticed a brief, half-smile of acknowledgement and a nod between Alisu and Red-Headed Weirdo, so he knew exactly who she was and knew her style - that the desert evangelist schtick was not to be taken seriously.

The rest of what became a colossal all-night bender passed in twenty-eight courses of the spiciest chai I'd ever known, accompanied by serial one-hitters, all handed out ceremonially by Minmatar slaves who would appear on cue from a side-room. In-between, it was about noisy card games, some live musical breaks from the Achurans every hour on the hour - it turned out there were four of them - and being hit on a few times ('I've kicked more ass than you've sat on' was the perfect rebuttal). The whole gig ended abruptly when the first rays of dawn broke through the window. That would be it for another year. Some of the clientele were in tears when we left.

It was an epic session. You couldn't buy experiences like it. This clone I was in had no tolerance for booze and hash, but I didn't care.

* * *

When Alisu and I returned to the capital in the tank, she let the tank's AI take us autonomously back to the capital in half the time, as it could drive itself through the desert night while we slept our hangovers off. As the fog in my head cleared, I did some thought-experimenting about turning some of my ISK into hard currency, buying out Red-Headed Weirdo and turning his place into the definitive epicentre of Ni-Kunni cafe culture. People would travel to it from all over New Eden just to experience my chai. But then would keeping it secret, like he does, be more authentic?

I also had a series of insights into how this semi-forgotten desert settlement perfectly embodied the frontier wilderness philosophy - and the desire to escape - that is one of humanity's default states. I could find a version of Al-Dadashiri on every inhabited planet in the cluster.

In places like this, the minutiae of cluster politics seems a thousand light years away.

Just like it does in Anoikis.





Cosmic Wilderness

So last month I joined Signal Cartel's Anoikis Division on a bit of a spur-of-the-moment thing, but with the higher purpose of addressing an imbalance in my experience. It shouldn't be the case that we have newly-qualified rookie capsuleers that have more knowledge of operations in the Anoikis Cluster than I do.

The Anoikis Division has three citadels in three systems in Anoikis: one in [classified], one in [classified] and another in [classified]. Not only are they [classified], but they are [classified]. If they were [classified], then they would be [classified].



This means operational secrecy is at the heart of everything we do there. Membership of the Division is limited to a handful of personnel, and operational comms are restricted. There is none of the exuberant curiosity of our Alliance channel. Codewords and cloaking devices rule. The pseudo-random nature of the entrances to the systems our citadels are located in, means access can't be controlled (actually it can up to a point, but that's a technicality), so we're at constant risk of rapacious scumbags coming in here at any time and 'evicting' us - as if the local indigenous population wasn't dangerous enough.

The system I selected as my operational base: I don't know exactly where it is. Nobody does. Nobody knows where any of them are. Attempts to map Anoikis have only resulted in vague dissatisfactory approximations. Only the Caldari scientist-capsuleer Mark726's Project Compass has identified the Anoikis Cluster at 1,300 (+/-100) light-years to the galactic south-east of New Eden. There is no way to confirm this observation visually. The thick gaseous nebulosities that dominate Anoikis render visual confirmation of its location in the galaxy impossible. There is a dim view of the galactic plane available in one direction, but that's away from the direction New Eden is believed to be located in, so it proves nothing.

The system I'm residing in has a relatively benign yellow dwarf primary. This is probably as safe as Anoikis gets as the cluster as a whole bathes in the complete catalogue of death-dealing hard radiation served up by pulsars, magnetars, black holes etc. etc.



The wormholes that facilitate travel to and from and within this cluster are the only way in or out of here. I've read many scientific papers on the analysis of these things. They've manifested between here and New Eden ever since the Seyllin Incident, so it's accepted as fact that the two events were related. The wormholes come and go, always within the same 36-hour (give-or-take) time-frame. The crucial fact is that they tend to lead to the same limited set of destinations and never anywhere else in the galaxy.

When you're aware of this fact, as everybody is by now, the question naturally arises:

What if they're not naturally occurring phenomena?

Who built the generating mechanism?

Who is controlling them now?

If the wormholes were to stop manifesting one day, then we would be trapped here, 1,300 LY from home.

On somebody else's territory.



It is well-known now that humans in the present epoch were not the first to get to Anoikis. Those circular black refrigerators are all over the place, along with their drone guards that shoot on sight. I wish they didn't. Some of us just want to talk.



The presence of Talocan relics here - weird structures, dead ships - is obvious evidence of humanity's knowledge of Anoikis in the ancient past. Why did we lose that knowledge? Is that knowledge still residing in a database that lies undiscovered on a planet somewhere in New Eden, waiting to be discovered by a data archaeologist?



That's why this place is so scary: there is a power at work here that doesn't exist in New Eden and we can barely comprehend it. It's ancient, but still far ahead of us in its power and capability. And yet some capsuleers treat this place with an unbelievably casual squatter's disregard for somebody else's house.

Not us, though.

I've only been here a couple of weeks, so I'm just scratching the surface. New doctrines are being worked up that require a heightened and sharpened Sense Of Paranoia ( Level V) and a Complete Divesting of Trust (Level V).

None of this is anything new to anyone, but this is what I've discovered:

You can learn to use those wormholes and their non-specific destination criteria in a particular way. The entrance to the system from known space moves around, so I find it easy to adopt the mindset that the entire system moves around with it. It's a compelling vibe and I prefer to live with it as it feels more exciting and adventurous.

If I'm back in known space on business and decide to linger, the system's wormhole will expire. It will then manifest in another known space system somewhere else, but the stress inherent to finding it is eliminated because our intel channel will always report exactly where it is, so I can look up the system's new 'location', and if it's nearby, I can head over there. If it isn't, if I can't be bothered to fly that far, I can just wait it out - live with the normals again, do some deals, build some stuff, go back to working on eliminating Covenant scum. When the system passes close enough I can head to the entrance, which will be in a known space system whose capsuleer occupants will be mostly oblivious to the entrance's presence, so I can slip out the back door of spacetime, right under their noses, and back to the dreamstate.

Back to our own ultra-high-tech version of Al-Dadashiri. A citadel in the wilderness.


Conversely, if I remain in Anoikis, every 36 hours or so the system will have 'moved' and I can leave it and go and visit somewhere new in known space, totally exempted from the limitations of the stargate network and its dangers of camps, gangs, 'deccers etc.

This method of conducting flight operations is actually incredibly liberating, and makes me feel as if I'm part of a secret society of capsuleers who have invented our own way of doing things and are beholden to nobody. Since the act of transiting a wormhole is instantaneous, the concept of distance travelled between Anoikis and New Eden becomes meaningless and irrelevant. It really can engender the belief that Anoikis is not really anywhere at all.

That Anoikis is a state of mind.




I can ride an elevator to the top of each of the twin spires in our Astrahus citadel in [classified]. In one of those spires is an observation loft where I can look out upon the cosmos. I've quickly adopted this as a regular routine. I can linger on the planet that the citadel orbits: an oceanic, with shallow seas barely covering huge impact craters probably formed by the ice comets that brought those seas with them.

This citadel, by the way: the clone bay doesn't work properly (at least it didn't when I tried to use it), and somebody didn't pay for the entertainment package upgrade in the holovid suite so if I want my favourite Impetus Studio feeds and FedMart shopping channel, I have to rig up a wireless feed to my datapad through the fluid router on Empress of Amarr, which is linked to my pirated setup in the Theology Council station in Zoohen, a mind-boggling distance away.



Also, the coffee machines all serve up standard Upwell freeze-dried dreck that must originate from the Caldari State where they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. I was forced to redress this totally unacceptable situation by bringing my own supplies:

Deep Space Transport 'Quantum Mechanic': cargo manifest: 2/27/119: routing: Tash-Murkon Prime - Jxxxxxx


From the observation loft up here, I can watch my trashy holo dramas while getting wasted on quality Al-Dadashiri hash (because I kept some and brought it here), after which Anoikis seems benign. Or I can watch news reports and recognise how far away their origin is. What a contrast it is between that smoke-filled cafe and the observation loft here in Anoikis, but it's exactly the same frontier, wilderness mindset that humanity takes everywhere it goes when it seeks the limits of knowledge and the edge of awareness; where the only laws are those we take with us.

The difference here is the quality of the neighbours, who in Anoikis are trans-humanized, quasi-extraterrestrials who I suspect just want to be left alone to do their sleeping.



But when the hash really takes hold, I start riffing on the most mind-boggling and crackpot theory of all: that the Anoikis Cluster is actually New Eden several billion years in our New Eden's future. Apparently some of the mappers have declared similarities in the arrangement of star systems here. It seems so, therefore it must be so.

It is of course the highest of all dreck. If Anoikis is New Eden in the future, then New Eden is Anoikis in the past. However it is a fundamental tenet of physics that you cannot travel backwards in time and you cannot communicate with the past. The fact that our fluid routers still work in Anoikis and we can communicate with New Eden in real time, proves that they are separate locations in the same epoch.

There is another reason why it's dreck: if Anoikis was the future - if we were time-travelling during transit - then how come nobody who lives here knows the lottery numbers..?




 [This journal has been cleared for dissemination after appropriate redactions in accordance with current operational guidelines. AD Policy document ref:0024788/4651/4170098]

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Postcards From The Edge Of The Known World



I've spoken before about the 'awesome visual wealth of New Eden' and how accidents of cosmic geometry produce 'transient moments of hypnotic beauty'.

It's truer than ever.

I was in the low security space in and around the Kador region. I stumbled upon another naturally-occuring wormhole in the Mod system. I sent the cam drones over to look through its bubble horizon and I saw evidence that suggested the Drone Lands. I dived in on impulse.

1-EVAX - Malpais

I arrived here at something like 01:50 NEST (don't ask me why I was up and active at this hour) and was met by this captivating vista which detained me for ages, so I had to document it.



Sometimes cam drones can produce an image more like a painting than a pixel-fest.

That cloudy white/quicksilver nebulosity that dominates the Drone Regions is not visible from anywhere in high security space, or for that matter any of the space belonging to the four major powers, so anybody who spends their operational lifetime in that part of space is missing this.




I brought one of my interceptors fitted out as a 'scannerceptor'. I should really be in Empress of Amarr, however for a reconnaissance in this part of space, I need agility, speed and immunity, and I must also look good doing it. Empress of Amarr only has immunity, and is neither fast nor agile. It is of course heavily-armed and armoured, but that isn't really enough out here.

I need the odds stacked further in my favour here. The Crow gives me that, because with interceptors, the engine is mightier than the sword.




HB-5L3 - Cobalt Edge

So then on further impulse I decided to explore deeper in the expectation of unearthing a few Drone data caches.

I worked my way up through Perrigen Falls...



...then Oasa...




...then into Cobalt Edge and the end of the stargate road: the edge of the known world. The last time I came out here was a well over a year ago.




The white nebulosity that defines this region is now far behind and vastly reduced in apparent size and significance, like the rest of the cluster. No more highsec chatter. No more queueing at gates. The emptiness and nothingness out here is terrifying and it messes with your head. 

Obviously you get the clearest view you'll ever get of the galactic plane beyond this outer rim of the cluster. I left a not-entirely-serious post on our corporation channel about 'finding the edge of the known world as the path to self-awareness'. I found it alright. The comfortable familiarity of Zoohen is 59 light-years from here.




On the other hand, in the thirty-odd systems I passed through on the way, I found not one single Rogue Drone data cache. That is bogus. As I progressed, I had the rolling 24-hour news feeds on in the background which headlined the disease outbreaks that have occurred in several locations in highsec during this last week. It served as a distraction from all the emptiness for a while, but then sometimes you have to switch all that noise off and embrace the silence (although if that really is Kyonoke Plague, then I might have to find a reason to stay out here).

I saw a handful of other capsuleers transiting through. A couple of them hailed me. One of them even told me I'd been 'pinged on intel', but then they wouldn't have been able to catch me anyway. I saw some Rogue Drones that my Overview designated as the equivalent of the 'officers' you see in some of the deeper parts of pirate faction space . If I was in Empress of Amarr I might have taken them on.



I eventually arrived in the border system that possesses one of the most powerful stargates in the entire cluster: one of the so-called 'Smuggler Route' gates that can send a ship a full 35.9 light-years in a single jump, all the way to the Tenal region. The attraction to the scientist-explorer of this gate is that it transits right through Jove space en-route to Tenal.

Jove space...




But then I balked at the prospect. The Caroline's Star Remnant is at its most prominent here in Cobalt Edge. When that thing blew up two years ago it was visible from every point in the cluster simultaneously, which is a clear violation of the natural laws of the universe, so God knows what sprites and demons and gargoyles are lurking in the contaminated space that this super-powerful gate can push a ship through.

After my last journal, you'd think I was looking to retire and never fly through a stargate again. I gave it some thought. I still do. But then that sense of unfinished business takes over.

I went for it.





SF-XJS - Tenal

I arrived, intact.

Thank God.

The first thing you see - the only thing you see - out here in Tenal is the Jovian Nebula. Tenal is every bit as remote as Cobalt Edge, so the vibe is the same but the universe torments you by changing the scenery.



Nobody has heard anything significant from the Jovian Directorate for years. The Society of Conscious Thought has assumed the role of the Jovian Directorate in CONCORD. All published evidence suggests the likelihood that the Caroline's Star event caused the Jove race to cease to exist in a functional capacity.


What few of them must be left are totally isolated from us and each other because there are believed to be no active stargates in Jove space, although the map indicates a few in the far north, close to the track that the Smuggler Route gate takes (not that you'd be able to pull over and take a look because it's through hyperspace, which is everywhere and nowhere, where distance has no meaning - so whether you pass through anything at all is the unanswered question that I discussed last time).




Lingering here in Tenal wasn't on my agenda. If I stay out here too long with nothing to do, it starts to scare me and I want my FedMart shopping channel. I certainly had no intention whatsoever of trying to return to base by heading south from here, because that would take me through several regions of actively-contested nullsec, which would be suicidal.



I had an escape route. I'd seen it in Cobalt Edge.

I went back through the big gate (crossing my fingers and screwing my eyes tight shut even though I was in a capsule, so the intent was there even if it didn't actually happen).



Back in the border system in Cobalt Edge that I'd just left, I'd seen a marked and designated Drifter Hive entrance, so I dived into it.



In the act of doing this, I invalidated the concept of remoteness I just riffed on by travelling the 1,300 light-years to Anoikis, to the 'Sentinel' system. I can't get my head around that inconsistency: that Cobalt Edge feels more remote from home than this place does. I've said it before, I know, but I'll keep saying it because it keeps blowing my mind.




When I eventually regained Known Space, I was only a handful of jumps from Signal Cartel's other office in the Gelhan system in Derelik.

I headed over there. While Zoohen is our main administrative and operational base and Thera is more of a symbolic HQ ('cos, y'know, weird), Gelhan is the substitute/standby. At least that's what it feels like. I assume management chose this system as a base because of its proximity to the Providence region, but only a few nonconformists live here. To my shame, I even had to look up which of the three stations in this system was ours.



I docked. There was nobody else home. There is no FedMart shopping channel available here because this is the Ammatar Mandate, and this Amarr-template station belongs to the Directive Enforcement Department. It is a police station. I think this must be why so few of us operate here.



This is what I know: every time I go out there to the outer rim, I remember that humanity suppresses its knowledge of its own insignificance in the face of an indifferent universe by embracing banal, trivial short-term ephemeral self-gratification as a means of manufacturing a sense of self-importance.

As soon as I get back to highsec, I forget about it again.

The cycle repeats.


Friday, 10 February 2017

The Qualities of Hyperspace: The Peralles Incident Revisited


"One could say that the recent history of New Eden would be completely different if, say, Tibus Heth had been born female; or if, say, Empress Jamyl had a big wart on her nose. Since both those possibilities involve the element of chance, then it could be said there are many universes where one, or both of those things happened."

Lucile Nagahan - Higher Quantum Theory #21, Hedion University Guest Lecture Series Holovid Archives






Signal Cartel HQ: Theology Council Station orbiting Zoohen III, 1822hrs, 2/4/YC119 (aka now)

In my last entry I mentioned I was in the Syndicate. I ended up spending almost three weeks there, and I think a lot of it rubbed off on me to the extent that I'm still processing it all. I returned from Syndicate with several hundred million ISK more in the virtual bank thanks to some trading in archaeological relics and the proceeds of salvage (null security space means no Receiver of Wrecks, and liberal - non-existent - Laws of Salvage, but then you already knew that).




When I returned to Zoohen, I felt as if spending three weeks in Syndicate had benignly corrupted me and turned me into something resembling a Gallente, which is totally unacceptable. I knew this because I felt the warmth of Amarrian conformity upon my return. As an ethnic Ni-Kunni with a strong agnostic streak, I've previously railed against that sort of thing. However, the Empire is my home. I know what to expect there. Syndicate isn't like that. My dress sense even changed there in an attempt to hide in plain sight. Syndicate was energizing in its unpredictability for a while, even seductive; but ultimately, living on my wits is not my thing: I had to get out of there in order to slow down and recharge.

It's that deserts-of-Mishi-IV thing again.

Anyway I'm not here to talk about Syndicate as something more important cropped up since I came back.


Upon returning to my own internalised interpretation of 'known space', I embarked upon a cleansing ritual - a cleansing of too much accumulated garbage and capsuleer-dioxide: excessive amounts of ships, weapons, modules, parts, junk; especially ships parked in hangars all over the place and not getting used. Did I ever tell you I had an Armageddon-class battleship? It was docked in Zoohen. I hated it and seriously regretted buying it. I took it to the trade hub in the Dodixie system, stripped it of all its parts and sold it, and made another 200 mil right there. I did the same with over half of my roster of ships that I had scattered throughout Zoohen, Tash-Murkon Prime and Mista. Three of them went up on Signal Cartel's own in-house contracts list. They all sold.

Ships are to be used, not stored. It is a crime to leave them gathering dust in hangars.



During the numerous errands I had to run in order to transport everything to the various trade hubs and set up all the sell orders therein, I had cause to pass through the Dom-Aphis and Iderion systems that are right on the border between Genesis and Kador. Both systems are on one of the 'country routes' back to Zoohen from the centre of the Empire - a route that avoids the most commonly-trafficked systems where unimaginitive wardeccers and gankers lay traps for us.

In fact this part of space is actually just at the other end of the Mih Constellation and only five jumps from our HQ in Zoohen, so it is not remote. Barren and underpopulated, certainly, but not remote.



I had a bit of a memory gate moment as I passed through these systems en-route to Zoohen. The names 'Dom-Aphis' and 'Iderion' struck chords, like I'd heard of them before for some reason, long before I ever started operating around here. I mean I already knew of them in a more recent everyday operational sense of course, because they're in the same constellation as Zoohen and are just a handful of light-years away, but something deeper in my lizard-brain rang a bell of familiarity.

Dom-Aphis. Iderion. Who was it..? Something about a missing ship..?

This remnant of ghost-knowledge gnawed away at me until I docked in the Zoo (just a few minutes later...). I called up the big holovid on the wall as soon as I got to my quarters.

"Document search".

The holovid replied:

[request parameters?]

"Search global. Keywords: Dom-Aphis system, Iderion system, statistics on both. Supplement: unusual phenomena, newsworthy events, current affairs."

[specify time interval]

"No time interval. Prioritise."
  
[visual or spoken presentation of results?]

"Visual."

[processing]

The big whirling symbol started up on the screen. After just a few seconds the results arrived. Before sitting down and reading it all, I used the interval to brew some chai and change my outfit. I went for my traditional tunic. The purple one. I find that it grounds me and resets my ethnic baseline, which is something I need to do from time-to-time.



Only after that did I sit down and scan through the results. Page one was everything a capsuleer would expect it to be: navigational information, station specs, solar system data, planetary statistics, political situations, ship losses, colonies, settlements etc. because 'results are based on previous search history'.

"Filter: news reports only."

[processing]

The big holovid theatrically rearranged itself in that way that betrays a flashy, self-indulgent programmer. I'm all for artistic expression but just give me the damn results.

This time it was mundanities, like press releases on things like the recent appointment of a new VP of Procurement of some-corporation-or-other.

Halfway down the new page I saw the result I was looking for: Caissor.

The Peralles Incident.

That's it!

I retrieved the report. It was an official CONCORD thing. I read it, considered it, and digested it. My chai was cold by the time I was done.


 

[Excerpt from the declassified public summary of the report into the disappearance of the starship Peralles, declared missing and presumed lost in the vicinity of the Dom-Aphis system in Southern Genesis, near the Araz/Kador border]

The theory and technology behind jump gates opened up a whole new era in the history of mankind and is readily accepted as being one of the most important discoveries of all time. Jump gates have now been in usage for centuries and new versions appear regularly that make them more sophisticated and safe. Even if the functions of jump gates are well known from a theoretical point of view, there still remain a lot of unanswered questions about the fundamentals of dimensional inter-connections. 

Naturally, many theories exist on the subject, but none are comprehensive enough to fully explain how the universe is divided into many dimensions and the connections between them. Some also touch upon the subject of hyperspace, an alternative plane in another dimension. About the only statement these theories agree upon is that these issues are definitely not as simple as they seem on the surface.

[caption redacted]

Every now and then some unexplained events have occurred when a ship jumps through a jump gate, but these have been so few and far between that they’ve always been put down to accidents or faulty data. In recent months strange incidents in the barren and unpopulated systems near the hub of the known world have had people starting to question the reliability of jump gates and wonder whether humans opened Pandora’s box when they started using them.

What finally caught the attention of the media and, hence, the public, was the disappearance of the Gallentean Senator Hubert Caissor along with his family and his fortune in the ship Peralles en-route to a new post as ambassador to the Amarrians. The Peralles entered a jump gate in the Dom-Aphis system between Amarr and Gallente space. Its destination was the jump gate in the Iderion system close by, but it never re-appeared there. 


What makes this even more of a puzzle is that the control station at the Iderion jump gate received notification that a ship was incoming, showing all the right signs, yet no ship exited the jump gate. What is more, this notification is received at the exact same time every day, with the same result: no ship appearing even if all the signs indicate that a ship is about to come through the jump gate."

Since the Peralles incident, stories of other similar incidents have surfaced, all within the same region. These stories, some no more than unsubstantiated rumors, all tell tales of disappearing ships, strange disturbances while jumping, ghostly echoes and images and unsettling time shifts in the vicinity of jump gates.

[archive:1228/536/334/X65 - dissemination: this excerpt approved for public release. For further details contact your local CONCORD representative. Have a nice day]






 The Dom-Aphis - Iderion Stargate, Mih Constellation, Genesis, 2353hrs, 2/6/YC119

I'll wager that most of the space-based denizens of New Eden take the use of stargates completely for granted. I know I did.

My scientific curiosity got the better of me: after reading the report and refreshing my memory of the Peralles (and being a bit stunned by the fact that its disappearance was right on our cosmic doorstep and that hardly anybody around here knows about it), I headed over to Dom-Aphis in my Crow interceptor at the next available opportunity. I felt like running a few field tests. I loitered near the gate to the Iderion system - the gate that the Peralles disappeared into, and the gate I'd passed through in a state of obliviousness two days previously.



I watched a few ships pass through it. I know that nothing will have changed; that the risk of passing through here is no different than at any other time, but I felt like testing it out anyway.

Science and detective work: what a combination.

I called up the text of Professor Alain Topher's classic primer on stargate development that's become a set text in the academies, and scanned a couple of paragraphs, in my head, through my implants:

"Jump gates are built around artificial wormholes created by exploiting gravitational resonances found in star systems. This resonance is a friction between the gravitational waves of stellar objects. The more massive the objects, the stronger the resonance between them. The positions of planets in a solar system, as well as the complex structure of dust rings around heavy planets illustrate this resonance.



"At the node points, the rapid oscillation of the gravitational field in opposite directions creates strong shear in the contravariant energy-momentum tensor. Under normal circumstances this stress is dissipated by high frequency graviton radiation, so it does not create any noticeable macroscopic phenomena. But if this stress is confined and forced to build up in a limited region of space, then the tensor-field will eventually develop a steadily growing high-curvature tentacle-like structure in the space-time continuum. 

"More specifically, the tentacle constitutes a self-avoiding 4-manifold that attempts to grow farther and farther from itself. The tip of the tentacle, where the curvature is highest, effectively acts like a magnet on space-time, and for high enough curvature it can eventually induce the creation of a small tentacle in remote high-density regions that can reach to the tip and spontaneously combine. An analogy of this phenomenon is when lightning strikes ground, where the tip of the downward lightning actually creates a small upward lightning emanating from the ground and the two combine somewhere above the ground, thus closing the electrical circuit."

That's how the artificial wormhole between two stargates is generated. The power of a star brought to bear on a single point. What if that 'tentacle' it produces, that lightning bolt, that whip, breaks while I'm passing through it? What would happen? Is that what happened to the Peralles? In his text, Topher doesn't elaborate on dimensional theory and the nature of hyperspace. Anyone who studied quantum theory and all its forms knows that to do so is to invite madness. Advanced theoreticists speculate on a minimum of ten dimensions because the equations all make sense when you assume that many.

Madness.

If I jumped through this gate and never came back out again, would I become a resident of hyperspace or be injected into another universe altogether in accordance with the 'brane theory' of multiple universes? Would that other universe be an alternate timeline, where there's another version of me that never became a capsuleer?



Gate-activation protocol is based on proximity. The sequence is automatic. There is no need to communicate with the crews that man those gates, because it's all polling between ship AI and gate AI, the operation synchronised down to the femtosecond. You have a small window of time in which to cancel the transit, but after that you're going through whether you like it or not.

The hyperspace whip cracked.

I dived in...


 Into - somewhere...


...and back out the other side, still intact.


I certainly did not see the Peralles in there. I didn't expect to. I assume I emerged in the same universe, just like I assume I do every other time. How would I know for sure? Maybe everytime we use a stargate, we end up in a different universe only slightly, imperceptibly different from the one we left...

In any case, the visual 'tunnel' effect is an artifact - a pod-created simulation designed to distract you and make you feel better about where you just passed through order to get to where you are, now.  

To make it feel more normal. 

Cam drones are drawn in towards your ship and deactivated as part of the transit procedure. In that temporary reality, you see nothing, because there is nothing to see.



Or is there?

Is God in hyperspace?


Far from being elegant miracles of ultra high technology, stargates are a crude, brute-force method of tunnelling through the quantum foam that's filled with nameless sprites that sever the link between time and distance. Wormholes to Anoikis go further and faster. As far as we know, they are natural phenomena. To do the same, we need the equivalent of a hammer smashing a window.

In the case of jump drives on supercapital ships, we carry our own hammer around with us like opportunist burglars.

Normal meathead baseliner ship crews get plagued by cynosis during repeated stargate transit and the use of warp drive. We capsuleers are immunized from it by the pod, our implants and our training. It makes us take stargates for granted.

I did.

Not anymore.


As long as a stargate connection exists between these two systems, there always exists the possibility that the Peralles might one day re-emerge from whatever constitutes the limbo that it may or may not be stuck in. If it is anywhere at all. If it was destroyed, then how come an arrival signal carrying the ship's ID occurs at the Iderion gate every single day? 

Is hyperspace everywhere or nowhere? If distance has no meaning there, then how can anywhere be anywhere at all?

I called up the text of the report on the Peralles again and reviewed its most disturbing last paragraph:

"Since the Peralles incident, stories of other similar incidents have surfaced, all within the same region. These stories, some no more than unsubstantiated rumors, all tell tales of disappearing ships, strange disturbances while jumping, ghostly echoes and images and unsettling time shifts in the vicinity of jump gates."

So it's happened many times, right here in Genesis. Funny how we never get to hear about it. Has nobody considered that among the causes might be accidents of timing involving the proximity of the EVE Gate, right here in Genesis, with its God-like, respiratory pulses of electromagnetism and gravity? Topher speaks of gravitational nodes in his stargate primer; perhaps the EVE Gate produces some form of travelling rogue node that intersects - interferes - with the operation of a stargate. It only has to happen to you once.

What if the EVE Gate itself is the ultimate grand portal to some other dimension?


I'd ruminated enough; and proved nothing. I left the gate and headed over to the Civil Service station in Iderion, because there was no way I was passing through that gate twice in one night.


At this hour the station was quiet (because Civil Service bureaucrats derive their fun from rigidity - imagine an entire station full of them). In this massive station, the largest in the Amarrian station architect's repertoire, my Crow was the only ship in the docking bay. It was too damn quiet. At times like these I want noise.


Every time I come up against the boundaries of human knowledge, my lizard-brain reaches for its religious comfort blanket, which always surprises me because I'm supposed to be - I am - a scientist. And an artist. I'm supposed to be an agnostic too. Science and religion are clearly not that different.

I initiated the disembarkation procedure even before the docking clamps secured the Crow ('cannot comply, cannot comply'). I unjacked from the pod and headed straight for the standard quarters where I ordered lots of beer from the concierge service, and sought the banality of the local media as a distraction from thinking too much about quarks, and foam, and the other six dimensions we can't see. The dimensions that are all around us, but which we need a crude spacetime hammer to pass through.

How those higher entities must laugh.

Who do we think we are? What are we doing here?


I've said before how Signal Cartel is 'on the cutting edge of weird'. I've also theorised on how Genesis has more than its fair share of strangeness. Placing Signal Cartel's HQ in Genesis may have been more apposite than management may have ever anticipated.

To take a rational perspective, none of the above is ever going to stop me doing my job, but from now on I might momentarily invoke some ancestral superstition before sending that command at a stargate.

Especially in Genesis.

Science vs religion...

Before I unjacked from the pod in Iderion, I saw the optimistic chatter on our Alliance comms channel from other Signaleers embarking on their own personal missions all over the cluster and beyond.

I wondered:

Do any of you really know for sure where you'll end up tonight..?




[OOC Footnote: the above quotes two of the official EVE Chronicles - one of which I've embellished with graphics - as found on the EVE Online website and in the Book of EVE. Fair use terms are asserted, and any additions I've made are from a respectful standpoint. The EVE Chronicles are a rich seam of sci-fi lore & backstory and are the sole reason I got into playing EVE, and I feel that in the modern era they are somewhat neglected, especially since the EVElopedia died a death. For the record, I think EVE does itself a disservice by relieving the player of the requirement to engage with the lore in order to play the game. Therefore, if this blog entry motivates anybody to revisit the Chronicles, I will be pleased.]