Sightseeing in the Cluster

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Space Oddity

Space oddity 1

Tom’s Shuttle floats in the outer reaches of the system.

In an era where I can cross 100 lightyears in less than an hour, I sometimes need to remind myself that space travel used to be a much slower and deliberate event; one where astronauts subsisted on protein pills and put their helmet on whenever possible in case of sudden decompression. It was also an era of more stately space travel in some ways; the time it took to get some place didn’t matter as much as the destination itself. But the stars look very different today than they did back we first left the tenuous grip of our homeworlds. Now, space travel is helter-skelter, as we rush from station to station and on to pick up, unload, and, as necessary, blow up, only to start the process again and again. But perhaps I’m just looking back at the supposed golden years of space travel with more than a bit of rose-tinted glasses.

Space Oddity 2

Scientia swings around the shuttle

As I continued my surveillance for that other wormhole site I’d been searching for, I got word that I may only have one shot to track down a new appearance in the Cluster. Some kind of space oddity had appeared, and it looked to be very slowly on the move. Under pressure to find it before it moved on again, I probed down a wormhole to take me back to the familiar confines of New Eden, and quickly made my way out to Fountain, where sources had indicated it could currently be found. I quickly located the odd little site, but to my sorrow my exploration-fit tengu (along with implants, Sisters’ launcher and probe, and maximum scanning skills) were unable to initially probe down the site to sufficient precision to let me warp there. Indeed, it required some changes to Scientia (mainly the addition of a Scan Rangefinding Array II) before I could finally warp to the site. Aura, who has never let me down with this kind of thing, had a bit to say about Tom’s shuttle as I dropped out of warp:

Space oddity 3This mysterious shuttle is slowly passing through the system, following a predetermined course from some unknown origin. Although similarities between its design and some current starships can be discerned, this vessel appears to predate those ships by many centuries.

Scans indicate that the shuttle once had room for a single occupant but now lies empty, sailing onward in silent memory of the visionary pilot it once ferried.

Space oddity 4

The shuttle sits alone amongst the clouds

I had expected to find some sort of labyrinth around the oddity. Instead, I found a single shuttle, for all the world looking as if it only travelled when the solar winds blow, surrounded by a gently glowing gas cloud. The similarities to the Zephyr, of course, couldn’t be ignored, but according to Aura’s analysis this particular tin machine appeared to be much older than that design. The shuttle floats in a most peculiar way; its design seeming to convey both standing still and a stately glide amongst the stars. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that the spaceship knows which way it wants to go, with or without a pilot to guide it. Soon it would undoubtedly move along from the outskirts of D-Q04X, on to yet another of the prettiest stars in New Eden, though where it will go next is completely unknown to me. But I’ll take what I can get by keeping the sound and vision in front of me as long as I could.

Space oddity 5

Alone in the dark

Eventually, at the risk of being reduced to ashes, I had to move on and return to my broader search. It’s tempting to look back in anger at the time I’ve wasted in Anoikis searching for it, but maybe I should just learn to appreciate the time I have available to me to just sit and float amongst the stars. After all, there’s a certain graceful simplicity to probing down my corner of Anoikis day-in and day-out, and learning the quirks of my own personal corner of Anoikis. For here am I sitting in a tin can, far from the cluster, waiting to see what else is out there; not unlike, I suspect, Tom in his shuttle. Though I never met Tom, I can’t help but feel as if in some ways we’re kindred spirits, both roaming the darkness of space, both of us, in our own ways, starmen.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Space Oddity
  • System: Anywhere
  • Security Rating: Varies
  • Region: Varies
  • Potential Hazards: As far as I can tell, Space Oddity can be found anywhere in known space (though it was in null when I manage to track it down). There were no rats at the scene, but obviously the normal warnings about other players apply.
  • Additional information: Space Oddity appears on your probe screen as a combat site. Please note that it was VERY difficult to scan down, so if you run across it, a dedicated scanning ship is almost a necessity.

Astrahus Exemplar Site

Astrahus 1

The construction site found in Mara.

My legs are cramping. Given that I was in a pod, that was a feat in and of itself. The pod is a marvelous piece of engineering, designed as a complete life support system to protect that little kilogram and a half bundle of neural tissue that we call a brain. The pod feeds the body nutrients, exercises muscles, and provides alternative sensory input all to make the brain (and body) forget that its cooped up in a 2-3 meter capsule and not moving for long stretches of time in order to control a hulking interstellar spaceship. It’s designed to do this for weeks, months, maybe YEARS at a time. But here I am, only 6 weeks into my quest to find a fairly rare and specific site in Anoikis, and I can definitely tell through all of the neural input filters and thousand distractions that come with piloting a starship that my legs are cramping up.

I have no idea how Katia Sae does it.

Astrahus 2

One of the landing pads near the construction site

But the story of that particular is for another time, if only because I have yet to actually find it. Instead, while browsing galnet a week ago, a news item caught my eye that eventually prompted me to take a sojourn back to civilized space for a little bit. Those of you watching the news are probably aware of the waves being made currently by Upwell Consortium. The Consortium is an alliance of corporations from across New Eden looking to bring new technology to the public. Beyond giving the Serpentis a (rather deserved) public-relations black eye, the Consortium is perhaps most well-known for looking to release so-called citadel stations, which look to up-end the market for capsuleer-owned station services. In order to promote their upcoming line of citadels, Upwell has decided to build some demonstration citadels to show their advantages.

Astrahus 3

Mara I hangs in the background

Unfortunately, I decided to make a trip to see one such citadel, being built in Ourapheh, shortly after it was destroyed by a group of capsuleers who were apparently just looking for trouble. Sadly, I didn’t realize this until after I had left the confines of my temporary wormhole home and made the trip to Ourapheh. Upwell, however, seemed completely undeterred by the attacks on all 5 of their demonstration sites (found in Ourapheh, Anjedin, Asgeir, Mara, and PF-346), and quickly announced that the demonstration sites had been restarted with better security and the removal of a computer virus. That being said, the announcements were made by Upwell’s Department of Friendship and Mutual Assistance. If history is any guide, departments with name such as this tend to have precisely the opposite effect, but I guess I will have to see how these play out.

Astrahus 4

A close up of some of the manufacturing arrays

However, with the construction projects now restarted, I quickly made my way over to the new sites. Apparently, the second time is the charm, and I arrived at a not-blown-up construction site. Admittedly, there was not much to see at this point. The construction site was close to the Customs Office orbiting Mara I, although for now it consists of little more than multiple landing platforms to coordinate supply runs and a multitude of manufacturing sites. Although a bit of work could be seen occurring in the manufacturing yards, little could be seen by way of output, perhaps because Upwell is still waiting on research components to fuel construction. I look forward to seeing the finished sites, however, as all reports of the citadels thus far indicate that even the smallest versions will still be quite sizeable, while the largest version will be able to dock even the largest titans. Those will truly be sites to see, and hopefully someday I will be able to.

Astrahus 5

I look forward to seeing what eventually gets built

That being said, however, my ability to someday see the largest citadels seems contingent on me someday leaving Anoikis to come back to New Eden. After spending a few minutes at the site wondering what was to come, I reversed my course and headed back to my temporary wormhole home. Even though I was only in New Eden for a few short moments, it was nice to see the hustle and bustle of civilized space, not to mention actual ships instead of the feeling of dread that comes over me in Anoikis when probes show up on the d-scan that aren’t my own. Regardless, I was in it to the end. While the Children of Light may have defeated me, I am content to live in Anoikis as long as it takes to find what I’m looking for, even if it means dealing with leg cramps. With one last look around at New Eden, I went forth once more into the great unknown.

Basic Information:

  • Attractions: Astrahus Exemplar Site
  • System: Ourapheh, Anjedin, Asgeir, Mara, and PF-346
  • Security Rating: 0.9, 0.5, 0.7, 0.4, and 0.0, respectively.
  • Region: Genesis, Tash-Murkon, Metropolis, Lonetrek, and Syndicate, respectively
  • Potential Hazards: Varies, depending on the location. Three of the sites are in high security space, but the sites in Mara and PF-346 should be approached with caution as they are in low sec and null sec, respectively. Caution, as always, is advised.

Massive Debris Field

WELP HERE WE ARE AGAIN.

The Unidentified Sleeper Device has been drastically rearranged.

All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes. Nothing in life is permanent. Change is perhaps the universe’s only constant. Even us capsuleers and other infomorphs can’t last forever, regardless of how hard we may try. It’s to remember this when looking at small, ephemeral things. The newspaper changes every day, as we pick up the previous day’s to toss it out. For certain pilots, they can’t go a day without losing a ship (or five). It’s harder to remember that saying, though, with larger, more permanent objects. Indeed, it’s fairly natural for the mind to make the leap that “big” is fairly equivalent to “permanent”. Anthills are small and easy to destroy. Mountains are big and hard to destroy. Seems simple enough. That’s partially the reason that the Seyllin Incident shook us to our core. Even beyond the staggering loss of lives, many of us were aghast to see entire planets ripped apart like so much tissue paper, and we trembled when the stars themselves seemingly turned against us. For many of us, especially those born planetside, planets and stars are the eternal anchors of our lives, rarely changing, never going anywhere. To see this kind of destruction wrought can’t help but humble us to our very cores.

massive debris 2

My Scythe navigates the thickets of the debris.

With all of this in mind, I admittedly did not expect to have to cover happenings deep in the Drifter hives again so soon after my last entry. It had been a long day to get myself into the Hive in the first place, and I didn’t really relish having to repeat the experience so soon. But shortly after posting my entry on the odd, pointy unidentified Sleeper Device, I started to receive some odd intel on happenings within the Hives. First off, somewhat conveniently for me, an acceleration gate was added near the Drifter Hive itself that allowed easy access to the area. Secondly, and much more ominously, it looks like the Device, whatever it was, has been destroyed. Mere hours after I had posted my article.

Apparently I need to filter my readership a bit more.

massive debris 3

Lightning frequently jumps between pieces of debris

Having not meant to dive back into the Drifter systems so soon, it took some time before I was able to dedicate myself fully to the task of another Drifter sightseeing tour. But this past weekend, I was finally able to meet up again with my fellow explorers in the Consortium and take another jaunt into the Drifter systems. Digging up some old and, admittedly, rusty skills, I soon found myself in a Scythe, helping to repair my fellow fleetmates while they fought against Sleeper drones and Drifters. Still, it was a pleasant change of pace from my usual solo sojourns, and even more of a change of pace to not be firing weapons for once, but rather remote repairers. And waiting for the return of the Hikanta Tyrannos drone allowed me to reflect once again both on the staggering size of the Hive construct, and how little we truly know about the Drifters.

massive debris 4

Starlight filters through the massive debris field.

Finally, however, it was time to move on to the big event, such as it were. By using the now-convenient acceleration gate, we were able to cut out the long slog that was the original trip to the unknown device. The near-instantaneous transportation to the area didn’t take away from the grandeur of seeing the majestic, spiraling whirlpools materializing above and below me as I drew close to the area. My eyes were immediately drawn to them, so much so that I nearly forgot what I had even come into area for. But the corner of my camera drones caught flashes of light that quickly drew my attention from the stately, if still completely mysterious, vortices.

massive debris 5

Debris and my ship are silhouetted against the massive whirlpool

The flashes of light, it turns out, belong to what remains of the unidentified sleeper device. As if a giant hand had hand-picked pins out of a pin cushion, the debris field stretched almost as far as the eye could see. The various sticks, originally arranged in circular fashion, now are laid out in a serpentine pattern, as if it were a winding path. Lightning crackles between the various posts: the flashes of light that originally caught my eye. As far as I could tell, the lightning was completely harmless to my Scythe. Even when flying amongst the various pieces of debris, I couldn’t detect any damage being taken by my ship. And debris is how Aura immediately identified the various objects: unlike before, where she identified the space pincushion as one large, over two hundred kilometer object, she now identified dozens, if not hundreds, of pieces of individual debris, and labeled them accordingly.

massive debris 6

Why the device was transformed is still unknown

The total length of the debris field, if stretched into a line, was many hundreds of kilometers in length, and why it was laid out in that particular shape is unclear. Indeed, if this were the result of a strict attack on the structure, I would have expected the various prongs of the device to be even more scattered than they had been before. Instead, the prongs have been mostly lined up in the same orientation, and there were few signs of damage on the prongs themselves other than the lightning that can be seen crackling amongst the forest of former arms of the device. Even odder, if there were an attack, it’s not clear who would have done such a thing. There were no signs of Drifters or Sleepers anywhere near the area, and it seems unlikely that they would leave the area unattended after. On the other hand, the acceleration gate may demonstrate that the Drifters and Sleepers are aware of, and have easy access to, the device. Why the Sleepers would attack their own device remains a mystery, but that leaves the unsettling possibility that there may be another, as of yet unknown faction at play here.

Massive debris 7

Whether we’ll see another rearrangement is unknown.

Regardless, it was unsettling to see such a complete restructuring of a device that seemed so stable mere weeks before. It was one thing to watch the gradual deterioration of the Jove observatories as they are slowly disassembled by the Drifters and Sleepers, but it’s another matter entirely to see the complete transformation that occurred here over such a short period of time. It goes against the core of the idea that “big things change slowly”, yet here was obvious evidence that this was not always the case. But perhaps this was just the exception that proves the rule. As I set a course for home, I hoped that I would never be on the receiving end of whatever calamity befell the unidentified Sleeper device.

Basic Information:

  • Attractions: Massive debris field in Barbican, Conflux, Redoubt, Sentinel, and Vidette complexes
  • System: Barbican can be found in J110145, Conflux can be found in J200727, Redoubt can be found in J174618, Sentinel can be found in J055520, and Vidette can be found in J164710. As of writing, the device has been confirmed in all five hives.
  • Security Rating: -1
  • Region: Anoikis
  • Potential Hazards: Beyond the normal dangers of wormhole space (including other pilots), Drifters and Sleepers can be found throughout the site. Drifters can doomsday almost all subcapital ships in one shot once their primary shields are brought down. Drifters will change the rooms they are stationed in throughout a complex approximately every half-hour. Data analyzers are required to hack the gates. Fast, cloak-equipped ships (to evade Drifters until they out of range) are strongly advised.
  • Additional Notes: An acceleration gate can be found in the Hive room of each of the Drifter complexes that leads to this area. Additionally, the old method of flying in a straight line from the ‘lobby’ or ‘split’ of the complexes towards the complex’s hive is still valid. The device will be found roughly halfway between the two rooms, about 10,000 kilometers from the ‘lobby’ and 10,000 kilometers away from the hive. The device appears to be in the same location relative to the rooms regardless of which Drifter complex is visited.

Unidentified Sleeper Device

Sleeper device 1

The mysterious Sleeper device.

[Editor’s note: This site appears to have already been replaced in all five hives with a large debris field.]

While my space-based life is a fairly solitary one, when I’m planetside I tend to be a bit of a social butterfly. I’ve talked to capsuleers from all walks of life, from fellow solitary explorers to those who are at the heart of the nullsec battles that the interstellar media love to cover. I’m often struck at just how regimented a null sec pilot’s life can be when in one of the larger capsuleer alliances. Regardless of any planetside concerns, you’re supposed to available and on-call as often as possible for potential flare-ups with other alliances and other operations. Some alliances can require certain minimum participation requirements and those who are particularly poor at flying can even be booted from their corporations or alliances. All of these requirements and schedules seem like a bunch of pressure to me, and I’m often quite happy that I have to deal little with that regimented life.

sleeper device 2

The Sleeper device is dwarfed by not one, but two large maelstroms.

So it struck me by surprise a few days ago when I was contacted by a fellow explorer that it would be well worth my while to join a fleet with the simply-named Consortium to dive into the Drifter hives yet again. The time was generally a few hours before I undocked after returning from planetside activities, but after raising my eyebrow at the closest thing I’ve received to an order since becoming a capsuleer, I agreed to show up at the appointed time. Before I even had time to eat after returning from the nearest planet, I found myself undocking and racing to meet the rest of the fleet, in a standardized fit Caracal, no less. But with little info to go on other than a promise that I would be well-served to attend this fleet, I joined up with my fellow pilots, a collection of friends and other explorers that I have grown to know quite well. I chuckled as I was initially slotted in as a squadron commander, as putting me in any kind of leadership capacity tended to not end very well.

sleeper device 3

The small dot near the center is a Buzzard-class ship for scale.

The initial dive into the Barbican complex was remarkably similar to what I recall during my initial foray into the Hives. Indeed, nothing seemed out of place as we progressed farther through the Hive, and I began to wonder what, exactly, I was supposed to be looking for. That is not to say that there was nothing to see, of course. The Drifter and Sleeper structures sprinkled throughout the Complex continued to dazzle me, and I was told at least once to stop taking pictures and keep my eyes on the various Sleeper and Drifter drones before they blew me up. After reminding them exactly who they had recruited into their fleet, I did refocus my attention on the various Sleeper and Drifter vessels, though I still managed to sneak a few more pictures along the way.

Sleeper device 4

Many of the arms appear to have snapped over the aeons.

Finally, after a fairly smooth operation, we made it to the Barbican hive. Telling me to pay attention to the site and not the views ended up being fairly prescient when I ended up losing my Caracal after a few broadsides from Hikanta Tyrannos, and my feeble instincts of not remembering to broadcast for reps until it was much too late. I looked on in dismay as my pod was summarily expelled from my disintegrating ship, but thankfully Hikanta chose to ignore me afterwards as I looked around the rest of the Hive. The only noticeable change that I was able to see was that the Hive had taken on rather more of a greenish hue than I had previously remembered. Certainly there was nothing here that really attracted my attention as particularly noteworthy, even if the company and sights were still enjoyable.

sleeper device 5

Flying through the structure was often an eerie experience.

At this point, seeing that there was no other way to view the alleged Noteworthy Site, we were told to reship into the fastest vessel available, as we had a bit of a slog ahead of us. Thankfully, I had brought Professor Science with me to the fleet rendezvous, and after flying back in my pod to pick it up, I returned to the Barbican system. I had never fit the good Professor for speed in particular, but I felt that it’s 2.5 kilometers per second (with microwarpdrive active, of course) would at least be respectable. We arrived back at the site, and headed in the indicated direction (from the second room, we were told to head directly towards the now-bookmarked Hive). After finally getting out of range of the local Drifter forces (which took ages at sub-MWD speeds whilst cloaked), I was able to finally push the Professor to full speed… just to watch everyone else in fleet zoom past me, clipping along at 7-10 kilometers per second.

sleeper device 6

Some of the arms showed signs of age or damage.

Left in the metaphorical space dust, I was left to my own devices for the next 45 minutes or so as we trudged over 10,000 kilometers to the site. Being smackdab in the middle of a deadspace pocket, it wasn’t even possible for the faster fleet members to arrive at the site, bookmark it, and warp out to the rest to drop off the bookmarks; anyone wishing to see this site has to take it the long way. Perhaps the one silver lining to be in such a relatively sluggish vessel was being able to listen in as other pilots raced ahead and first came into view of the new site. Whatever it was, it was apparently impressive, as reactions ranged from startled gasps to yells of disbelief, with quite a few expletives thrown in for good measure. As I picked up the tail end of the fleet, merrily going along, I couldn’t quite help but wonder if this thing wasn’t just getting hyped all out of proportion.

Then it came into view and I immediately understood what everyone else was saying.

sleeper device 7

The local star pokes through the central mass of the device

It’s almost impossible to describe the truly awe-inspiring scene that rather abruptly resolved on the Professor’s sensors (I wonder if rather than me, the fleet should have included a poet). Infront of me stood a large… pointy thing. Well, large is an understatement. Final measurements appear to put the structure at over 200 kilometers across on its largest axis, meaning that it has bigger dimensions than even the Jovian observatories. Needless to say, it put my tiny Professor Science to shame. The structure appeared to have two rough halves, with spindly arms extending straight out from a top or bottom ring. The arms themselves, despite being dozens of kilometers in length, were relatively skinny. Though a standard Sleeper gray, portions (I hesitate to say “windows” or “portals”) of these arms also had a greenish glow to them. Aura was of no help identifying the device, noting that it was only an Unidentified Sleeper Device. Somewhat oddly, despite only recently appearing (to our knowledge, at least), portions of the arms also appeared pockmarked, while other arms seem to have snapped liked twigs on the proverbial tree. Unlike the damaged Sleeper enclaves that could be found near the Hives, these only appear to have been damaged by age and exposure to the elements, but they do give the structures a more aged appearance than we’ve really seen so far from the other Drifter or Sleeper constructs.

sleeper device 8

The structure is over 200 kilometers across.

I was so entranced by it that it took me a few minutes to notice that the spindly structure was not all that there was to see. Both directly above and below the structure (relative to the system’s ecliptic, of course) were two large, swirling maelstroms of energy. Glowing with a mysterious blue energy that reminded me strongly of the spatial rifts we can see in the Sleeper epicenters, the energy present spiraled slowly inwards towards a central point in each maelstrom. If these truly were large whirlpools, what the energy was being sucked in to was not at all clear, other than some large, white, glowing mass in the center of each. Towards the fringe, each vortex took on an almost cloud-like appearance. Exactly what caused them were completely unknown, but considering that it lined up with the axis of the center rings of the spindly structure, the whirlpools were undoubtedly related to the mysterious structure. Whatever the Sleepers were doing here, it was having quite an effect.

sleeper device 9

Despite certain arms appearing bent or snap, there were no signs of damage at the ends.

I spent more than an hour spellbound by the mysterious Sleeper device and its environs, and spent much of it running up and down the various arms, just to see if I could find any further clues. Unfortunately, there is little that can be divined from a purely visual inspection, and instruments are of little to no help right now. But a dearth of evidence has never stopped speculation from running rampant, with some even suggesting that it was a map of some kind. But I remain unconvinced of most of the theories we’ve seen so far, since we need to first know exactly what the energy vortices are for first. Figuring those out may well be key, even though attempts to approach them have, as of yet, proven fruitless. That being said, investigations will undoubtedly be ongoing, and I have no doubt that any changes in these structures will be reported widely.

sleeper device 10

The structure has many mysteries yet to reveal.

Finally, however, the long day began catching up to me, and I regretfully turned my ship towards home. I was even more reluctant to leave, given that once I warped back, even with a bookmark, I would be stuck making the 10,000 kilometer trek back to see the structure again should I ever want to visit (unless the Sleepers are kind enough to install an acceleration gate of some kind to the area, of course). The joys of deadspace physics, if you want to call it that. But as the structure shrank to a pinpoint and disappeared behind me, the spindly arms seemingly collapsing into the rear of my warp tunnel, I got the distinct feeling that even though the mysteries surrounding these structures seemed almost impenetrable now, we would be learning details of them much sooner than we might think.

Basic Information:

  • Attractions: Unidentified Sleeper devices in Barbican, Conflux, Redoubt, Sentinel, and Vidette complexes
  • System: Barbican can be found in J110145, Conflux can be found in J200727, Redoubt can be found in J174618, Sentinel can be found in J055520, and Vidette can be found in J164710. As of writing, the device has been confirmed in all five hives.
  • Security Rating: -1
  • Region: Anoikis
  • Potential Hazards: Beyond the normal dangers of wormhole space (including other pilots), Drifters and Sleepers can be found throughout the site. Drifters can doomsday almost all subcapital ships in one shot once their primary shields are brought down. Drifters will change the rooms they are stationed in throughout a complex approximately every half-hour. Data analyzers are required to hack the gates. Fast, cloak-equipped ships (to evade Drifters until they out of range) are strongly advised.
  • Additional Notes: As of now, the only way to discover these devices is to fly in a straight line from the ‘lobby’ or ‘split’ of the complexes towards the complex’s hive. The device will be found roughly halfway between the two rooms, about 10,000 kilometers from the ‘lobby’ and 10,000 kilometers away from the hive. The device appears to be in the same location relative to the rooms regardless of which Drifter complex is visited.

Planetary Colonization Office Wreck

PCO 1

The wreck of the Planetary Colonization Office.

To say that there have been a lot of happenings in the past year is probably a bit of an understatement. Since the arrival of Caroline’s Star almost a year ago, I feel like I have gotten whiplash just from trying to keep up with all of the news both in and out of the Cluster in recent months. Caroline’s Star only heralded the beginning of an upheaval in the normal order that we are still trying to comprehend. But what I fear has been forgotten in all of the hub bub, especially since the arrival of the Drifters (whom have understandably taken the bulk of researchers’ attention since their arrival in New Eden), is where this all started. Thera was one of the first of the new Anoikis systems to get introduced to the wormhole… network, for lack of a better term. And after the shock of the discovery of the Sisters of Eve’s colonization of the system has worn off, it seems to have mostly faded off the radar for many of us interested in the mysteries of the Cluster, especially as the Drifters and various Hives have taken center stage.

PCO 2

Thera peeks through some of the still-remaining solar shielding.

But that’s not to say that we should forget about Thera. As I have said recently on the subject at a side presentation of the 95th Interstellar Mindclash Championship at the Grand Tiegjon Resort and Casino, I don’t think we’ve discovered even half of what makes Thera special. The Sisters of Eve were intrigued enough to dedicate significant resources to the system, building eight stations in the system dedicated to various research and logistical purposes. They wouldn’t have dedicated so many resources to the system if they hadn’t found something of particular interest. And frankly, whatever the Sisters’ find that is of interest to them is probably bad news for us capsuleers, given their natural antipathy towards us.

PCO 3

A greenish debris cloud surrounds the wreck.

Of particular interest to me these days is the focus of the research labs that the Sisters have established in Thera. Although some stations got destroyed when Thera suffered a… main sequence event, the stations on the fringes of the system all survived, and their primary research purposes are telling. The surviving Sisters stations include the Institute of Paleocybernetics, the Surveillance Observatory, the Fullerene Loom, and the Applied Gravitation Laboratory. Of particular interest to me was the Institute on Paleocybernetics, which to me implies that they found something of interest in one of the planets of the system, before being pulverized by the blast that caused the inner planets to shatter. This is further backed by the fact that one of the now-wrecked stations in Thera is the Planetary Colonization Office.

PCO 4

Sleeper drones can often be found near the wreck.

Unlike the other station wrecks found in Thera, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the former office. Indeed, if it weren’t for the rather alien background of unknown stars seen from Thera and its odd nebula, it could pass for any of countless Gallente stations that have been constructed and subsequently abandoned over the years. Debris from the shockwave that doomed the nearby planet floated in a small cloud around the station, undoubtedly bits of detritus from both the station and the planet. I tried my best not to imagine precisely how much of this detritus was biological in nature, though at least the station itself seemed to survive fairly intact, which is more than could be said of some of the other stations. And Aura adds this particular point:

PCO 6Perhaps the saddest testament to the shattered dreams of the expedition to Thera, this wrecked station seems to have been established as a coordinating center for the colonization of the planet it orbits. As Thera VIII is shattered and wracked by titanic quakes, such an effort would seem improbable unless the shattering happened relatively recently.

While the damage to this station is extensive and very little survives, there are large storage areas containing bins of rock samples that apparently originated from a geologically stable barren or temperate planet.

PCO 5

A Theran silhouette.

Still, the fact that the station existed at all suggests that the Sisters were focused on establishing planetary colonies in Thera, an unusual step for the primarily space-based Sisters. This unusual focus on the planets in the system, along with the Institute of Paleocybernetics, set my mind racing as to what the Sisters could have uncovered in the years since they first discovered Thera. Clearly something Sleeper related, given what we’ve seen of the system and the Sleeper’s expertise in virtual reality and neural interfacing, but what if they knew something about the Drifters before the rest of the cluster and refused to warn us? How many lives could have been saved? How much chaos could have been avoided if not for their urge to keep all of their findings secret? If we ever do find out what they discovered here, I suspect us capsuleers will be learning the hard way just what they found. Either way, though things seem quiet now in Thera, keep your eye on that system. I don’t think we’ve discovered even half of the secrets it holds.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Planetary Colonization Office Wreck
  • System: Thera
  • Security Rating: -1
  • Region: Anoikis
  • Potential Hazards: Thera is well-known for being a hotbed of player activity. Despite the system size, fights break out often, and the working stations in system are often gate camped, as can the wormholes into and out of the system. Caution (and cloakable ships) are strongly advised.

Wreck of the EF Seraph

Seraph 1

Approaching the wreck.

As a travel writer, I tend to see my job as almost quasi-journalist, but with a twist. Rather than merely reporting the events of the day using words, I try to capture both the spirit and the beauty of the areas that can be found throughout New Eden. For many sites of natural beauty or gorgeous manmade structures, I have no qualms, moral or otherwise, in my attempts to capture the essence of a site. Sometimes, however, I have to admit that a site, while gorgeous and important, was formed in the midst of much death and destruction. In those cases in particular, I try to not just become another heartless paparazzi photographer, going for the ultimate scoop no matter the moral cost, but I try to capture the event’s dark splendor, showing both its beauty and the cost in human lives. I will not claim to always be successful in such endeavors, but I can at least claim to have tried to show the darker sides of space.

Seraph 2

The ship was destroyed mere kilometers from the station.

I find myself feeling much more uncomfortable with today’s entry, though I suspect my discomfort stems primarily from just how recently the events in question have occurred. This weekend was supposed to be Empress Jamyl’s victory lap. After an extended absence from the public eye, the Empress had returned with a vengeance (though perhaps less vengeance than she had when she first arrived at Sarum Prime those many years ago). In numerous public appearances, Jamyl had taken to not only making token public appearances, but showering praise on supporters of the Empire, and even opening herself up to questions from the local press (myself included). Her ostensible reason for returning to the public eye was to champion the construction of the new Amarr flagship, the Imperial Issue Abaddon-class battleship Auctoritas, which was to set a new technological standard for ships of the Golden Fleet. After weeks of work and testing, the Auctoritas was due to be commissioned this past Friday. The Empress herself showed up for this commission, piloting the Avatar-class titan EF Seraph, in which she had made all of her recent public appearances.

Seraph 3

The titan wreck dwarfs even battleships.

Although the commissioning started well, it ended in tragedy. Within minutes of the start of the ceremony, the Empress was interrupted mid-sentence with the arrival of a fleet of over 150 Drifter battleships. Without warning or ultimatum, they opened fire on the Seraph with their destructive doomsday-type weapon. Before anyone could react, both the Seraph and, in quick succession, Jamyl’s pod were destroyed. Without a word, the Drifter fleet then warped off again, leaving a stunned audience. One of the strongest ships in the known universe brought down in a single volley, followed by the quick assassination of the leader of the largest empire in New Eden. Although chaos initially reigned at the proceedings, within hours the Court Chamberlain announced the initiation of new Succession Trials as powers from across the cluster reacted to the news. It is worth noting that the Jamyl’s body was not found in the wreckage, and that some parties (myself included) are very interested in seeing examining the body before allowing it to be laid to rest.

Seraph 4

I pay my respects.

I had been unable to attend the ceremonies because of business planetside, but I had been eager to see exactly what technological advances the Auctoritas was to herald. Instead, I found myself watching my newsfeeds in horror as the situation unfolded. And it was with some trepidation that I found myself heading to Safizon only a few hours after her death, somewhat unsure of what I would find but trusting the instincts I have honed over the years. I had no desire to make a spectacle of the area or of Jamyl’s death, but I felt a need to see it with my own eyes. The wreck of the Seraph sits where it fell, only a few kilometers off the Amarr Navy Assembly Plant, the tomb of countless thousands beyond the Empress. Given the site’s importance, I suspect the ruins will remain well-tended for the foreseeable future.

Seraph 5

The midsection of the hull was the most badly damaged section.

Although the ship itself cracked in two, the hull is still very recognizable even after being hit by so many simultaneous weapons blasts. Unsurprisingly, energy still crackles through the superstructure as emergency backup generators struggled to kick in and restore power. Lights still flickered, as if someone were just fiddling with a light switch across most of the ship. A lie I was almost able to believe, if only I could ignore the massive hull breaches and floating debris surrounding the area. I was once again struck by the, if you’ll excuse the choice of adjectives here, titanic nature of the ship’s proportions. As a pilot who primarily focuses on frigates and cruisers, I was once again reminded that my ships are often nothing next to the gargantuan vessels that other pilots fly.

Seraph 6

The Empress falls.

I was by no means the only one to visit the area. Some visitors seemed to be pilots with similar intentions as myself: there to see the fall of an Empress and pay their respects. Others, the more faithful among us, held vigil, just a few of the countless memorial services to be held in the coming weeks as a nation mourned not only their leader, but also their voice of God. Others seemed to be on guard, either from fear of looters or another Drifter attack. I can’t blame those who are worried of another attack: the Drifters have shown substantial interest in the Empire, moreso than the other three nations of New Eden. But the Drifter attack also shows that no one is safe when the Drifters decide to take out a target. Let’s just hope that, come what may, we learn to stand together against whatever it is the Drifters may have in store for us. That may be our only hope in withstanding the coming months.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Wreck of the EF Seraph
  • System: Safizon
  • Security Rating: 0.8
  • Region: Domain
  • Potential Hazards: If you’re below a -3 in security status, or -5 standing with the Amarr you’ll have to deal with some rather unpleasant policemen.
  • Additional notes: The wreck (as of time of publishing) does not have a beacon associated with it. Instead, it can be found just a few kilometers off the station at the only station in-system at Saifzon 2-1.

Rogue Drone Sites

rogue drones 1

The largest of the observed drone constructs.

I’m not entirely sure if its restlessness or merely writers block, but obviously I have not been writing much recently. Or perhaps it’s me getting tired of finding new ways to write “the Drifters and Seekers are weird and I have no idea what’s going on but here are some fun things to look at instead.” In any case, I was looking for a bit of a change of pace when searching for things to discuss. Such moods usually involve me browsing through the map of New Eden, aimlessly clicking to see if there is something, anything, that I was previously unaware of. After all, in a cluster of 5,000 star systems, there are bound to be things that I haven’t heard of even after nearly 6 years of writing Eve Travel. At first, nothing really caught my eye. When I got near the eastern end of the map, however, I noticed one site kept popping up: the rogue drone site.

rogue drones 2

A flatter drone construct.

I had cataloged the rogue drone sites intending to do an article on them almost two years ago, it turns out, but intervening events meant that I never actually wrote anything on the topic. Still, with a bit of a lull in discovering yet another Drifter or Sleeper colonized system that we knew nothing about (though CONCORD, Sansha’s Nation, and the Sisters all did), I took this opportunity to update my image albums, and set a course for the Drone Regions for a tour. The Rogue Drone sites can be found sprinkled across these eight regions, with almost no development by the other empires either now or in the past. Such is to be expected, however, given the unique way in which the Drone Regions were unlocked to capsuleers and the general public.

rogue drones 3

The last of the three observed types of rogue drone sites

It is rather ironic that the Gallente were the ones to begin colonization of the Drone Regions in the manner they did. One of the oft-cited triggers of the original Caldari-Gallente war was the fact that the Caldari megacorporations had colonized areas of space without informing the federal Senate, as required by law. Once these hidden colonies came to light, the Caldari refused to submit them to federal authority, and it was the demand to do so that finally broke the back of Caldari citizens, prompting their withdrawal from the Federation. Two hundred years later, the Gallente attempted to do the exact same thing, and began quietly preparing for the colonization of what are now known as the Drone Regions in YC 88 without informing anyone, as was required by interstellar law. In order to do so, the Federation utilized their massive armadas of drones to do much of the grunt work. Four months in, however, the drones went berserk with little warning, prompting a full evacuation of the regions. The Federation swept everything under the rug, and that, as they say, was that.

At least, until the gates all opened unexpected 20 years later.

rogue drones 4

A distant sun shines past a rogue drone construct

The backlash against the Federation was severe, but perhaps more important was the fact that, while the gates were fully operational, the drones, now considered fully rogue drones, had colonized the region. The area is replete with their structures, and they used the reactivation of the gates into the Drone Regions to spread beyond, and they now have a presence in almost every area of space. Today, however, I turned my attention to the drones’ homelands, such as they were, intent on investigating a random sampling of the rogue drone sites that can be found throughout their space. They answered few questions, but were fascinating nonetheless. Upon warping to one, Aura offers up this succinct analysis:

rogue drones 5Although the rogue drone threat has never been fully understood, perhaps the most well-known characteristic of this enigmatic scourge is its capacity to replicate and expand. Within only a few short years of their discovery, rogue drones have been reported in every sector of the cluster, from deep-space research facilities to densely populated market hubs. The consequent discovery of the “drone regions” has only served as a further demonstration and revealed a more centralized structure behind the rogue drones’ aggressive expansionism.

rogue drones 6

A pair of drones guard one of the constructs.

Although there appear to be three different types of sites, they all remain similar in appearance. Each site is anchored by a massive drone construct, consisting either of a disk or a semi-completed sphere. These constructs are massive (though perhaps not as massive as various Drifter structures that have since come to light), and dwarf both my own ship and the ships of the independent drones that can be found buzzing about it. Although the purpose of these structures can’t be known until we establish more solid communications with the drones, they undoubtedly act at least in part as a station or staging area for drone fleets. That they were able to construct so many of these in just the thirty years since they’ve claimed their independence goes to show their true potential.

rogue drones 7

The surface of one of the constructs.

Beyond these massive central structures, there appears little of note nearby. One class of station seems to always be found the destroyed superstructure of another station; presumably the cannibalized ruins of partially-completed Gallente stations. Others have multiple drone bunkers nearby, arranged in odd toroidal shape, but the purpose of the structure, especially so close to the larger drone construct, remain unknown. Beyond that, there were some scraps of construction debris and other wreckage nearby: I guess even rogue drones are not always the neatest of neighbors.

rogue drones 8

Another view

Of course, there were also the drones themselves. Most of them are fairly alien in appearance, with their spindly appendages and odd attachments, but by far the most disturbing drones are the ones that act as their standardbearers. The drones that are converted Dominix-class hulls are probably the most well-known, and the most disturbing, members of the drone fleets. Undoubtedly originally leftover from the original Gallente attempt at colonization, the Dominix hulls have since been converted to serve as drone vessels, with frail-looking collection arms and other additions to the hull, giving it a distinctively creepy appearance.

rogue drones 9

Even nearby asteroids have a drone presence

My full tour of the Drone Regions was extensive, but I never saw a site that varied from the three baseline sites I saw. That is not to say that there are not others out there, but with eight full regions under the command, I did not have the time or resources to visit every one of them. After all, I’m not Katia Sae. Still, it was a nice change of pace, and my tour of the area also served to have me do a full lap around Jove space (not that I was able to visit Jove space itself, of course; the area is as locked down as ever). I am convinced that the drones are connected to all of the recent happenings in a way we aren’t entirely familiar with yet. Their machine intelligences would, at least on paper, seem to mesh quite nicely with what we know of the Drifters, but that remains my suspicions only. For now, I’ll have to be content with having yet another mysterious race flying around New Eden that we know little about.

But hey, at least saying “rogue drones are weird and we know little about them” is at least a bit of a change of pace.

Basic Information:

  • Attraction: Rogue Drone Sites
  • System: Across the drone regions
  • Security Rating: 0.0
  • Region: Cobalt Edge, Etherium Reach, Kalevala Expanse, Malpais, Oasa, Outer Passage, Perrigen Falls, the Spire
  • Potential Hazards: These systems are often deep into null security 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 high security space, as well as on other gates. Caution is advised.
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