Sightseeing in the Cluster

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Massacres at M2-XFE Monument

The art team YET AGAIN knocks it out of the park.
The graceful curves of the monument in M2-XFE.

I think I’ve mentioned before that for as much as I love the politics—and political theater—surrounding the major empires and CONCORD, I often pay surprisingly little attention to empires of the capsuleer world. Those giants of null sec, with their ever-swirling array of alliances, coalitions, wars, and backstabs is often the source of much fascination across the cluster. Pilots may be allies one day but fighting savagely the next after some sudden but inevitable betrayal. The constant internecine warfare, needed as much to keep pilots engaged in their respective alliances as it is for more pragmatic astropolitical reasons, can be exhausting to keep track of.

I am pretty sure I'm going to have more pictures than I have text for, even with the GINORMOUS quoted text  block that starts in a sec.
A closer look at the monument.

And yet even I have become aware of the latest in a long-running series of wars that has engulfed null security space. This is partially due to the excellent reporting from a fellow capsuleer I have long followed, but also partially because whenever the null security alliances break some record for the largest battle in New Eden, they seem determined to break the new record again as soon as possible. And so it was with the current war, which, to cut a very long story short, involves the ever-embroiled Imperium (née Goonswarm Coalition) and a coalition of other alliances variously called PAPI or PandaFam. The war, now entering its second year, seems to have stalemated somewhat in the current climate. But when the war was a little more active, a number of high-stakes battles took place in M2-XFE. By the time of the final battle in the system early in YC123, more than 20,000 capsuleer-piloted vessels had been destroyed, including more than 450 titans.

The Powers That Be felt that the astrostrategic battles that took place in M2-XFE, including the largest battle in New Eden to date (a record I can’t imagine will last too long, if recent recordbreakers are any indiciation), warranted a memorial to the lives and ships lost in the system, and goodness did the sculptors hired by the PTB come through (as they usually do). But first, Aura’s analysis of the battle, which does a far better job of describing the battles themselves than I ever could:

I write for a living and I DESPERATELY want to take a red pen to this entire writeup, lol

This monument honors the thousands of capsuleers that participated in the series of cataclysmic battles over a Keepstar-class Citadel in late YC122 and early YC123. At the time these battles represented the largest and bloodiest clashes in the history of New Eden.

In YC122, the southern and western nullsec regions of New Eden were shaken by the massive conflict between the capsuleer coalitions popularly known as “The Imperium” and “PAPI”. By the end of YC122 the primary front of the war was the Delve region, with PAPI coalition forces invading the capital region of the Imperium. In October of that year clashes over an attempted PAPI beachhead in FWST-8 broke the record for the largest battle in New Eden history, a record that was destined to be broken again less than 3 months later.

So many missing commas smh

By the end of December the fighting in Delve was focused on the system of M2-XFE, where an Imperium Keepstar came under sustained attack from PAPI forces. The first massive clash occurred over the Keepstar’s armor timer on December 30th and 31st YC122 with a combined 5,158 pilots fighting in the system at its peak. Supercapital fleets from both sides traded blows relatively evenly as ships exploded all around the Citadel. When the dust settled from this first battle, 3,404 capsuleers ships including 257 titans and a combined value of over 29 trillion ISK had been destroyed.

On the other hand, I would not be in ANY position to give ANY kind of history like this so, hooray!

The second battle of M2-XFE a few days later saw even more capsuleers attempt to join the fray, leading to an infamous result. On January 3rd YC123 a record 6,739 pilots entered the system, and several thousand more attempted to join the fighting. This unprecedented number of warp-capable starships in close proximity led to unpredictable spacetime anomalies as the universe itself seemed to strain under the stress of the battle. The anomalies played havoc on all ship systems within M2[-XFE], but the defending forces of the Imperium coalition were in a better position to weather the storm as they had arrived on location earlier than the PAPI fleets and therefore they did not need to make use of jump drives and stargates during the period of greatest disruption. The result of this second battle was a significant victory for the defending forces, as the attackers faced significant disruption to the operation of their jump drives into the crowded system. Many attacking ships were destroyed as they entered the system, and many more were trapped in the system by the forces of the Imperium. The Keepstar had been saved for a time.

In case you forgot where you were, I guess.

In the weeks following the second battle of M2-XFE, Imperium fleets anchored mobile warp disruptors and patrolled relentlessly to keep as many PAPI supercapitals as possible trapped in the system as fighting raged on across the Delve region, taking advantage of the strategic advantage provided by the trapping of so many hostile vessels. Several smaller clashes occurred over operations to rescue some of the trapped supercapital vessels, and the coalitions also continued to fight over other structures in the system. On January 27th YC123, PAPI were able to free a portion of their trapped pilots after a battle that saw nearly 450 Capitals and 6 Titans[sic]-class hulls destroyed. On February 1st YC123, PAPI forces were victorious in a battle that stretched across the NJU-QV constellation and involved thousands of capsuleers, giving them control of M2-XFE’s Infrastructure Hub. PAPI then began to slowly lay the groundwork to activate their own Tenebrex Cyno Jammer structure which would give them the ability to disrupt Imperium reinforcements to the system. On March 7th YC123 the PAPI Cyno Jammer structure came online and the Imperium retreated the bulk of their forces from the system, freeing the remaining trapped PAPI capital ships. Finally on March 12th YC123 the M2-XFE Keepstar that had been the original focal point of all this bloodshed was destroyed by PAPI forces.

This was another monument that I literally gasped at when I first dropped out of warp. The art team is FAR too good at doing that to me, lol

All in all, the fighting within M2-XFE in late YC122 and early YC123 led to the destruction of more than 20,000 capsuleer vessels including over 450 titan-class starships. The first battle of M2-XFE broke the New Eden record for the most value destroyed in a single battle, and the second battle broke FWST-8’s record for the battle with the most capsuleer ships within a system at one time. The Keepstar was eventually destroyed after over two months of brutal fighting, and the forces of the Imperium regrouped at their nearby capital system of 1DQ1-A. At the time that this monument was erected, the greater war between PAPI and the Imperium was raging on and only time would tell how the conflict would eventually be resolved.

Phew.

Is this even an Eve Travel post if I don't have the sun peeking through in 1 shot?
The local sun pokes through the towers.

The monument itself is absolutely stunning. The entire structure is built using an obsidian-esque shiny black stone. The central complex consists of a series of sweeping, interlocking towers that span from the central axis along a graceful curve. The center of the structure reminds me of an organ from some grand, obsidian cathedral. A blue glow pulses its way from the center of the structure out to its extremities. As those towers gradually grow shorter, new, flatter structures jut out from the extremities, eventually coming to sharp points at each end. If the center of the structure is some grand organ playing a baleful tune, then the outer edges of the structure is a majestic bird of prey, with powerful wings outstretched and ready to strike.

I'm speaking truths here. I'm terrible at artistic intent, lol
A close look at the churning orb of energy.

At the center of the entire complex sits what at first glance seems to be a crackling sphere of blue energy. It’s only when viewed from the sides that it becomes evident that the energy field is actually teardrop shaped, with the point connecting to the rest of the structure. Within the teardrop is a constantly churning globe of lights. I suspect this is meant to symbolize the spacetime-shattering energies unleashed during these battles, or perhaps the sphere contains just a sliver of the rifts that opened up in M2-XFE during the battle that caused the pilots so many problems. Or perhaps the artists just thought it looked cool. I’ve never been fantastic at figuring out the intent of an artist.

I *really* love this pic as an ending pic. (Also, this paragraph also tells true stories. Please do not ask me to summarize null sec history I will fail miserably)
The monument seems to stand as a sentinel against the local sun.

I spent quite some time admiring the monument from all angles. The graceful curves and the spectacular majesty of the site is truly breathtaking. Even if, like me, you didn’t know until fairly recently that there was a fairly significant difference between the abbreviations “NC” and “NCdot” (or, even worse, just “NC.”), I still recommend you come and check the site out for yourself. The capsuleer history of New Eden is worth taking in, even if only for the absolutely magnificent memorials that result from their never-ending feuds. Internecine warfare has rarely looked so good.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Massacres at M2-XFE Monument
  • System: M2-XFE
  • Security Rating: 0.0
  • Region: Delve
  • Potential Hazards: M2-XFE is deep in 0.0 space, involving jumps across a number of different alliance territories, many of which may be operating under “Not Blue, Shoot It” protocol.  Gate camps (including warp interdiction bubbles) can be found often in transitioning from 0.0 to empire space, as well as on other gates.  Caution is advised.

Intaki Syndicate Executive Retreat Center (Cord of the Elements)

Did you want hot, corporate regulation action? Never tell me I don't know what my audience craves.
The Executive Retreat Center and Cord of the Elements.

I sighed as I glared at the rest of the agenda for today’s meeting of shareholders of Project Compass Holdings. Secure Commerce Commission regulations require that each corporation hold a quarterly meeting of shareholders to make sure all owners of the corporation remain up-to-date on the goings on of the corporation. Never mind that: 1) I was the only shareholder and thus the only required participant and attendee of today’s meeting, 2) Project Compass Holdings main purpose these days is that of a legal shield, and the corporation itself held nothing other than the legally required minimal assets since CONCORD shut down my research projects back in YC114, 3) the corporation was not a moneymaking venture, 4) all of the information being presented was available to me at any time anyway through the magic of computers, and 5) did I mention that I was the only shareholder? But the forms must be obeyed, and obeyed they were as Aura obediently took the minutes of this very important shareholders meeting, serving as both the corporate Secretary and Treasurer.

YES, CONCORD, I'M STILL A LITTLE BITTER ABOUT THAT MOVE.
The biodomes and the Cord.

What I need, I thought ruefully to myself, is a corporate retreat. The meeting seemed to stretch interminably as required report after required report was dutifully read into the meeting minutes, and I allowed my mind to wander. My thought on corporate retreats brought to mind a newsblurb I had read recently that the Intaki Syndicate, a side of the Intaki race I was less than proud of if I was being honest, had recently opened an executive conference center deep in Syndicate space and in full view of another of the natural wonders of New Eden, the Cord of the Elements. As Aura explained, in surprising depth, that Project Compass Holdings took in no revenue nor had any notable expenses for the 37th quarter in a row, I dug up the story again on my console, and loaded the system of D-B7YK into Scientia’s computers for route plotting.

Although the meeting only lasted 12 minutes and 43 seconds (per Aura’s fastidious notetaking), I could not wait to get out of the conference room I had rented (using my own ISK, not the corporation’s) and get back into my ship. Within a few minutes, I was en route to Syndicate space to see what I could see. As I did so, I brought up what little Aura could find on the Cord of the Elements:

Scarred but still gorgeous tbh

Winding through the Syndicate region is a natural phenomenon that has baffled scientists for centuries. The phenomenon, a super-dense dark cloud, bends time in such a way that all space-travel in or close to the phenomenon is impossible, or at least extremely hazardous. Most scientists believe that the Cord is the remnant of collision between two black holes millions of years ago that permanently ‘scarred’ space. Others believe the Cord to be the result of a science experiment, possibly conducted by alien life forms, that went seriously awry eons ago.

Pleasure cruiser!
A visitor to the, ah, unique pleasures of the Center.

I soon arrived in D-B7YK and easily found the retreat center on my scanners. The center itself consists of a standard Gallente station design, with an organic-looking design with a gleaming sun-shield and some well-placed biodomes offering dramatic views. In classic Gallente fashion, area surrounding the station was littered with pleasure hubs and pleasure cruisers. I chuckled to myself as I thought of holding my bone-dry legally required shareholders meeting in such a location. It certainly may make it seem shorter, at least. The pleasure hubs, 8 in all, formed a line pointing towards nearby D-B7YK VII, an icy planet that hung in the near distance. Finally, I bothered to look up what Aura, continuing in her role as corporate Secretary, had to say on the center:

This luxurious retreat center has been constructed in one of the rare locations where a gap in the natural clouds of stellar dust allow a clear view of the gorgeous Cord of the Elements phenomena that separates the Syndicate region from the territory of the Gallente Federation.

Operated by the Intaki Syndicate, these facilities are exclusively made available to the Syndicate station governors, their executive leadership staff, and their guests.

I know the station graphics don't really hold up well with these kinds of shots (I'm far too close), but I still love these type of shots anyway??
A view from inside one of the biodomes.

Of course, the real star of the show, so to speak, was the Cord itself. From D-B7YK, the Cord stretched across a quarter of the sky, immediately drawing one’s eye even above the local star. The Cord presents itself as a vast, flattened spheroid cloud of dark gas and dust. As promised by Aura above, the cloud breaks apart slightly to allow a view towards the center of the Cord, from which a bright yellow glow emanates along with a streamer of material.

It’s hard to do justice to the Cord using just words. It’s a magnificent sight. Despite the distance, watching the Cord for just a few minutes is enough to show the fascinating interplay of light and shadow between the dark clouds surrounding the Cord and the glowing center itself. Crepuscular rays stretch across the sky, a thought that boggles the mind once you realize that these shadows stretch over light-years. It’s truly spectacular.

I sometimes wish we were allowed to dock at these things tbh.
Scientia was refused docking clearance.

I will admit that I hailed the station about the prospect of holding my next shareholders meeting at the center. Even ignoring the pleasure hubs, the thought of holding the same boring meeting in one of the biodomes in full sight of the Cord was an image I found hard to resist. But, alas, even appealing to my Intaki ancestry was insufficient to get me access to the corporate retreat center without some direct relationship to the Syndicate or an invitation from one of the Syndicate’s executives. Still, I captured enough imagery of the Cord that perhaps I could spruce up future shareholder meetings with some holograms. At least then I’d have something to look at other than yet another report of a quarter with no earnings whatsoever.

Long live SCC regulations, I suppose, but more importantly: long live the Cord of the Elements.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Intaki Syndicate Executive Retreat Center (and Cord of the Elements)
  • System: D-B7YK
  • Security Rating: 0.0
  • Region: Syndicate
  • Potential Hazards: D-B7YK is deep in 0.0 space, involving jumps across a number of different alliance territories, many of which may be operating under “Not Blue, Shoot It” protocol.  Gate camps (including warp interdiction bubbles) can be found often in transitioning from 0.0 to empire space, as well as on other gates.  Caution is advised.

True Creations Pool of Radiance Research Lab

HAS IT REALLY BEEN A DECADE SINCE INCURSIONS. HAS IT SOMEHOW BEEN THAT LONG.
The research lab facilities in the foreground, with the Pool of Radiance shining beyond.

Remember the Sansha? Creepy group of mind-controlled cyborg zombies led by a deluded cult leader who has the distinction of being the only person that the 4 empires have ever unified around destroying? Caused a lot of problems a decade or so ago by figuring out how to invade into the heart of high security space and make off with millions of people who were later forcibly converted into the aforementioned cyborg zombies?

Despite the high-profile nature of their attacks over a decade ago, the Sansha have mostly fallen out of the public conscience. Not that I can blame the public for that, of course. Between the Sleepers, the Drifters, the Triglavians, and the recent resurgence of the Equilibrium of Mankind back onto the galactic scene, the denizens of New Eden could be excused for feeling like they need a spreadsheet to keep track of everyone and everything they’re supposed to be afraid of these days, particularly those that have not really made a peep in more recent years.

Because what we really need more of in eve is spreadsheets
A view of the research lab looking towards the 13th moon of the fourth planet of 6QBH-S.

To be quite clear, that is not to mean that the Sansha have not been keeping themselves busy. Indeed, their assaults on New Eden continue to this day, even if I am caught by a sense “oh yeah, those guys are still around” every time I jump into a system to find that now-familiar warning from CONCORD about yet another constellation currently undergoing a Sansha incursion, along with the creepy green hue that Aura has seen fit to add to systems under threat. But I was surprised to learn recently that Sansha have interests that go beyond converting the citizens of New Eden into zombies to bring their dream of a cyborg utopia, or whatever dream it was that Sansha Kuvakei professed (or at least that their interests extend to things that may only tangentially lead to such an outcome).

So... pointy.
A closer view of the research lab.

For you see, if you have ever needed proof that the universe is deeply unfair, you only need look to the fact that one of the natural wonders of New Eden is located smack dab in the middle of Sansha-controlled space. Although Stain is best well known for the Vapor Sea nebula (and the fact that it’s the home of Sansha’s Nation… a true stain on any map of New Eden), it’s also home to the Pool of Radiance. Stain curls around the Pool, with only the very northern part of it encompassed by a handful of systems in Catch. But, of course, the best views come from deep within Stain itself, the heart of Sansha territory, specifically the system 6QBH-S. If you ask me, the risk is worth it. Of the Pools of Radiance, Aura has this to say:

Space holds many spectacular sights and few are as spectacular as the crystal-clouds in the Pool of Radiance. The Pool is illuminated by surrounding stars, which makes it shimmer and shine in every color imaginable, radiating an almost hypnotic glow that delights anyone that sees it. The only problem is that the Pool is located in space controlled by Sansha’s Nation, so any prospective visitors are advised to carry an armed escort.

SHINING, SHIMMERING, SPLENDID.
One of the outer satellite stations.

The Pool is indeed hypnotic, a shimmering whirlpool far grander than any you could see elsewhere in the Cluster. The heart of the whirlpool shines a bright purple-pink much of the time, but the Pool swirls around so much that the center is frequently obscured by one of the many-hued gas clouds that surround it, letting some of the other colors of the Pool dominate a bit better, for a time. The view is indeed hypnotic, as the ever-shifting clouds of the Pool seem to always reveal some new hidden feature.

Perhaps it’s that hypnotic ability of the Pool that the Sansha seek to study with the establishment of the True Creations Pool of Radiance Research Lab. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Aura doesn’t have many details to share:

What are crystal-clouds tho

This Sansha’s Nation facility appears to have been constructed within the 6QBH-S system in order to study the spectacular crystal-clouds of the nearby Pool of Radiance phenomena.

The Nation jealously guards its secrets, and intruders to this location have been known to come under fire from True Creations forces immediately.

OK a lot of these photos ended up looking very similar, so shoot me
Note how the Pool’s appearance varies in every shot.

Not wanting to risk that fire, I visited 6QBH-S in my cloakable Tengu-class cruiser, Scientia. Hidden under my cloaking device, I was able to get a good look at both the Pool itself and the research lab studying it. True to Sansha form, the most that can really be said about the Lab is that it is… pointy. A standard Sansha station, the lab appears to present a shield to the Pool (a shield that, in actuality, I imagine is chock full of scientific instruments and, of course, many cyborg zombies) and is topped with what almost appears to be a crown. The central lab is surrounded by 4 smaller stations, presumably there either for defense or full of additional instrumentation. I didn’t decloak to find out.

(no please don't shoot me)
The barely visible outline of my cloaked ship

All told, it was fitting to once again see Sansha’s Nation overshadowed by the Exciting New Thing. If not for the fact that they were capturing and enslaving millions through cybernetic-induced bondage, one might be willing to compliment them for not letting the loss of the spotlight get in the way of their mission. That kind of plodding reliability, like a shuttle that is not the fastest one out there but never seems to need a stop at the mechanic, has a certain admiration to it. I have no doubt that, someday, there will be a resurgence for the Sansha too. And I hope that when the Cluster’s attention is once again drawn down to Sansha’s Nation in Stain, we wipe them out, if only so more people can get to safely enjoy the Pool of Radiance.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: True Creations Pool of Radiance Reseach Lab
  • System: 6QBH-S
  • Security Rating: 0.0
  • Region: Stain
  • Potential Hazards: 6QBH-Sis deep in 0.0 space, involving jumps across a number of different alliance territories, many of which may be operating under “Not Blue, Shoot It” protocol.  Gate camps (including warp interdiction bubbles) can be found often in transitioning from 0.0 to empire space, as well as on other gates.  Caution is advised. Additionally, the site’s description ingame warns of near-immediate fire if you come to investigate, but I will admit that I did not test that personally.

Duvolle Gravitational Wave Observatory (Trace Cosmos)

Seriously, look at that gorgeous skybox!
The Gravitational Wave Observatory, with the stunning Trace Cosmos in the background.

Solitude is solitary no more. Solitude had always lived up to its name by being an exclave of the Federation. Rather than connecting directly to the rest of Gallente space, the region was only accessible through the low security Amarr regions of Aridia and Genesis or through a trek through Intake Syndicate-controlled null security space (unless, of course, you were lucky enough to find a wormhole connection, though that raises its own host of problems). It was an odd situation for a sizeable chunk of Gallente citizens, and one that newly-elected President Celes Aguard had promised to rectify during her successful election campaign. She followed through with that campaign promise with this week’s opening of a stargate between Solitude’s Eggheron and the system of Kenninck in Placid. Although the region is still only accessible by traveling through low security space, it no longer stands completely isolated from the rest of the Federation.

Blast from the past with that Postouvin shoutout tbh
A better look at the research complex.

And that means it’s easier than ever to go take a look at one of the lesser-known wonders of New Eden, the Trace Cosmos. The Trace Cosmos is a vast interstellar wasteland that fills the gap between Solitude’s settled stars, Aridia, and the capsuleer-controlled region of Fountain. Despite its location between 3 well-travelled regions of space, there’s only one system close enough to the wastelands to allow visual observation of the field without specialized equipment: the Solitude system of Gererique. At the tail end of a short pipeline from the bulk of the high security systems in Solitude (which includes the system of Postouvin, which readers may recall as the site of the Kyonoke Outbreak in YC 119), Gererique sits on the very edge of the Trace Cosmos. And it’s just as well that it’s not any closer to the Trace Cosmos, as Aura explains:

So puuuuuuurdy

The fields of Trace Cosmos hold miniscule black holes and weird spatial rifts, making it much too dangerous to traverse. It is widely believed that the fields are the remnants of a massive collision between two galaxies millions of years ago. The colossal occurrence permanently altered the areas most affected, turning them into barren death traps.

Sorry to get my Science on, I guess?
The Observatory orbits Gererique I.

Barren and full of death they may be, the Trace Cosmos are also absolutely gorgeous. From the safety of Gererique, the fields dominate the sky, glowing a vibrant purple hue. Along with the countless smaller black holes that make up the field, there are perhaps a dozen or so that are large enough or close enough to have an accretion disk and relativistic jets visible from the system. At first glance, it may seem paradoxical that something that is most well known for having so much gravity that even light can’t escape could be so bright against the blackness of space. But having that much mass in such a small area has the effect of drawing in the interstellar gas and other matter near the black hole and, in doing so, accelerating them to incredible speeds. Before the matter is swallowed up by the black hole, the gas begins to collide with other matter being pulled into the maw of the black hole, and because everything is travelling at such high speeds, the friction alone is enough to make the accretion disk shine like a sun, glowing not just in visible light but ultraviolet and even x-ray, and because the disk is beyond the event horizon (the so-called point of no return), the energy can escape the black hole’s clutches to ionize the more distant gas in the field, giving the Trace Cosmos its iconic violet glow.

I'm trying not to make all of my shots center around the Trace Cosmos I PROMISE.
Part of the research complex.

With so many black holes in such a compact area of space, it’s unsurprising that the Trace Cosmos is an area ripe for scientific research. The research giant Duvolle Laboratories has taken advantage of Gererique’s unique location to construct the Duvolle Gravitational Wave Observatory near the first planet in the system. Gravitational waves, ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself, are most easily detected when bodies with incredibly high gravities interact with each other, so it’s unsurprising that the Trace Cosmos, with its multitude of black holes, is a fertile hunting ground for the elusive waves. Although the Labs are best known for their biotech and propulsion systems, they have a sprawling research portfolio, and its clear that they have invested significant funds into developing the Observatory here. Aura has this to say when asked about the Observatory:

Would really love to know what these rings are tbh

This Duvolle Laboratories corporate research facility was established in the Gererique system to take advantage of close proximity to the field of miniscule black holes and weird spatial rifts known as “Trace Cosmos”. Gererique has the notable distinction of being the only inhabited system that comes close enough to sections of Trace Cosmos to make the phenomena visible to the naked eye.

The results of research conducted at this observatory are considered closely guarded trade secrets of Duvolle Laboratories.

I think this was the last flight of Scientia before the nullifier changes. Still pretty bitter about those changes tbh, but at least it nudged me to take these shots before they kicked in.
Scientia navigates one of the station’s exit lanes.

Closely guarded as the results of the research may be, Duvolle does not appear to mind you coming to take a look at the equipment used. The main research center is a station of Gallente design, with a distinctive sun-shield on one side and various jutting arms that I presume are filled with all manner of scientific equipment. But the observatory itself, I presume, is found a few kilometers from the station. There, surrounded by constantly moving antennae pointing every which way, sits a large stack of rings that are strongly reminiscent of some other research facilities that I once studied in Drifter Hive systems. A soft blue glow emanates from within the rings that stands out all the more because of the vibrant violet hues of the Trace Cosmos. I could not possibly begin to describe the functions of the rings, but they certainly look impressive enough from my layperson’s perspective.

I like the purple reflection you can see here.
Looking onto the stars of the Federation to which Solitude now connect.

As much as I tried to pay attention to the Observatory itself, however, I found my eyes drawn repeatedly back to the stunning views of the Trace Cosmos. The ever-shifting dance of black holes is easily apparent even from this distance, and the streaking jets and swirling accretion disks were almost hypnotic to watch. I found myself glad that Gererique is now at least somewhat easier to access from the rest of the Federation. More citizens deserved to behold this breathtaking view and to watch the hypnotic remains of a titanic collision that occurred before humans had even evolved. Solitude is indeed solitary no more and, though the introverts among us may disagree, at least in terms of having access to the views of the Trace Cosmos, that is very much a good thing.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Duvolle Gravitational Wave Observatory and Trace Cosmos
  • System: Gererique
  • Security Rating: 0.7
  • Region: Solitude
  • Potential Hazards: If you’re below a -3.5 in security status, or -5 standing with the Gallente you’ll have to deal with some rather unpleasant policemen. Additionally, although the system is high security space, please note that this is a high sec pocket and is ONLY accessible through either null security space, a few low security routes, or a fortuitous wormhole connection.

Old Man Darieux’s Stargate

For the record, Professor Science's 3992c top speed equals warp 9.969 on the Star Trek TNG warp scale, making it faster than the Enterprise-D (warp 9.6) but slightly slower than Voyager (warp 9.975)
The haphazard assemblage of the gate between Old Man Star and Villore.

As the cliché goes, space is vast. Frankly, its easy to forget that these days. It takes light more than a century to cross the expanse of New Eden, something that I can do in a little over an hour with Professor Science, assuming no gate camps or other ne’er-do-wells. What makes this possible, of course, isn’t our Sotiyo-Urbaata drives (more colloquially known as the warp drive). Professor Science’s warp drive tops out at a hair under 4,000 times the speed of light. Even at that jaw-dropping speed, it would take me more than 9 days to travel the roughly 100 light-year diameter of New Eden, and that’s before we even begin to take into account needing to drop out of warp every few hundred AU’s to recharge the capacitor. That kind of travel time across the Cluster would give a very different feel to the geopolitics of New Eden.

Bless you Wolfram Alpha for knowing exactly what inane FTL speed translations I was looking for lol
A closer look at the cables holding the gate in alignment.

No, what makes New Eden’s 100 light-years feel so small is the presence of stargates, a revolutionary device that can fling you a dozen light-years in the span of a few seconds using a stabilized wormhole. Even having to travel “slowly” (I say, flying my spaceship capable of flying thousands of times the speed of light) between gates, the ability of the gates to bring travel time between systems down to mere seconds is what makes New Eden feel, at times, so claustrophobic. Throw in jumpdrives and you get ability for force projection almost anywhere in the cluster at almost any scale within only a few minutes of getting the ships launched. And thus we have the posturing frequently seen between both null sec alliances and the modern empires.

After the battle of Vak'Atioth, this was the site I was most excited for when I heard the announcement of the sites being dropped.
A view of the gate-builder ship partially cannibalized to complete construction of the gate.

What’s key to remember about stargates, however, is that, aside for a few ancient stargates that allowed the modern empires of New Eden to reverse engineer the technology, the gates had to come from somewhere. If an empire is looking to expand to a system not already connected to the gate network, a construction ship needs to get to that new system in order to build the companion stargate. Because of quirks of how the warp drive navigates at FTL speeds, using the warp drive between systems generally isn’t (to my continual surprise) as reliable as some may assume, sometimes leaving as the only real option something that almost any capsuleer dreads to hear: slowboating, or traveling at sublight speeds to get to a destination. If reduced to that, it can sometimes take years to get a construction ship to the new system and then to get the gate built.

Also wordpress is being real weird today and not letting me see the captions, so if I have typo there, sorry (but also: I know I have typos everywhere so I guess also... not sorry?)
A closer view of the gate and the surrounding infrastructure.

If space travel has taught us anything, if something can go wrong, it eventually will, regardless of the precautions you take. And so it was with the ill-fated expedition to build a stargate from the Gallente capital system of Villore to the system of Ouperia, leading to an event now indelibly linked to the gestalt of New Eden. But if space travel has taught us, say, two things, it’s that even in the midst of disaster, humanity has a weird way of… persevering. Because rather than let disaster stand in his way, the sole survivor of a massive disaster not only survived, but completed his mission, if only a few decades too late. And it’s his perseverance that today allows nearly instantaneous travel between Villore and the system known today as Old Man Star. But let’s let Aura tell the tale:

I really love how desolate this shot seems.

Old Man Star to Villore

A unique stargate constructed by Ceul ‘Old Man’ Darieux using a fleet of drones of his own design, following a disastrous navigation accident that left him as the sole survivor of a Federation gate-building expedition.

In YC11, a Gallente gate-builder vessel was sent to construct a link between the then Ouperia system and Villore. A critical error in the gate-builder ship’s jump drive navigation systems placed the ship several light years off course, in the middle of an asteroid cluster. In the confused aftermath, an asteroid struck the vessel and killed four of the five crew. Ceul Darieux was left with the daunting task of regaining control of the ship and somehow completing his mission or returning home.

The story of OMS is probably one of the most well-known chronicles, even to non-lore nerds

Given the relative distances, Darieux decided to press on to Ouperia, though without the benefit of a functional jump drive the journey would take decades. In YC55, the gate-builder ship arrived in system and the work of building a new gate back to Villore could begin. The effort to correct the ship’s flight path had been difficult but hardly took four decades. With the time on his hands, Darieux, knowing he would need help, had worked to design tools and drones to replace the materiel and crew lost in the accident.

I also appreciate that the ship is very clearly of gallente design lol

Setting up a drone assembly station on a conveniently located asteroid in Ourperia, Ceul Darieux managed to use a combination of intact gate components, drone-built replacements and cannibalized elements of the ship’s systems to construct a functional stargate back to Villore. The labor he and his drones carried out took five years but was a remarkable success given the disaster and long decades of Darieux’s solitude.

In YC60, the Federation was astounded when the dormant Villore-Ouperia gate activated and established a stabilized gate wormhole to the abandoned Ouperia system. The stripped-down and patched-up core of the gate-builder ship carried the now elderly Darieux and some of his drone crew back to Villore to a hero’s welcome. Old Man Darieux went on to found the CreoDron corporation on the strength of his designs and fame, while the Ouperia system was renamed “Old Man Star” in his honor.

Although much upgraded, the original Old Man Star to Villore gate is still located within the cleared and stabilized cluster of asteroids Darieux used to as a base and source of materials. CreoDron drones continue to watch over the stargate, maintaining its systems and ensuring the stability of the link to Villore.

Oh, also, CSM voting starts Tuesday. If you're reading this, you should go vote!
The bridge of the old gate-builder ship, with computer panels still active.

For a split second after coming out of warp in Old Man Star, you might be forgiven for thinking this is a normal Gallente gate as the soothing Gallente-green glow of the gate is the first thing that becomes apparent. But any level of examination after that initial reaction will show that this is a very different gate indeed. Instead of the graceful, almost organic lines traditionally associated with Gallente architecture, the gate looks much more akin to something of Minmatar make. In lieu of the long and elegant traditional design of a Gallente intraconstellation gate, the gate aperture is instead anchored to one large asteroid and a half dozen smaller ones, all kept in alignment with a series of heavy-duty cables strung across the gate complex. Other small asteroids sit nearby, their positions long-ago stabilized within the gravitational resonance point associated with the gate.

It feels a bit weird writing like this has always been this way when it's a brand new gate model but WHATEVER.
Although upgraded heavily since, the gate’s appearance remains the same as when it was first activated.

In addition to the gate itself, the remains of Darieux’s gate-builder ship remains quite obvious. Although the ship was heavily cannibalized to construct the hodgepodge stargate, the ship is quite recognizable, permanently set down on the largest of the asteroids used to stabilize the gate. Although many of the essential parts of the ship were used to construct the gate, it’s obvious that power still runs throughout the ship, with glowing control panels and sparking wires still quite evident even 60 years later. On close inspection of the ship, you can even find the remains of the bridge from which Darieux supervised his drones in the construction of the gate. It’s also said that you can see the fleets of modern drones that still maintain the gate, although I wasn’t able to observe them myself when I visited.

An Ashimmu tried kinda hard to decloak me while taking pics and I was basically just like NOT TODAY SIR.
A traveler through the gate arrives from Villore.

I think it’s important to have gates like the one in Old Man Star, and stories like Darieux’s. They serve as an important reminder that we should never take the dangers of space travel for granted. The deep dark is always out there, sitting only a few meters away from you at almost any given time, and all that keeps you safe are the alloys and plastics between you and the vacuum. But the gate also serves as a source of inspiration, a true success story in the face of utter catastrophe. Even when things are at their most grim and a person is stranded light-years away from anything they’ve ever known, as long as they’re alive, there’s a chance to succeed. Space may indeed be vast, but not nearly as vast as the source of human perseverance.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Old Man Darieux’s Stargate
  • System: Old Man Star (née Ouperia)
  • Security Rating: 0.3
  • Region: Essence
  • Potential Hazards: Old Man Star is only one jump from high sec space (from Villore, of course), but the low security system itself has long been a popular system for player pirates who will often hang out on or near the gate. If you’re looking to take a close or extended look at the gate, I strongly recommend a cloaked ship, and caution is advised.