Drifter Complexes (Barbican, Conflux, Redoubt, Sentinel, Vidette)
Author’s Note: I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Makato Priano and Itsukame-Zainou Hyperspatial Inquiries Ltd. [IKAME] for allowing me to accompany them on two ops into the Conflux and Vidette sites, along with the other non-IKAME pilots that accompanied us. Their assistance was invaluable in allowing me to survey both the Conflux and Vidette complexes, and their companionship was instrumental in ensuring that despite long waits and tense situations, I managed to keep myself sane.
It’s been said that the waiting is the hardest part. I have learned this lesson all too well ever since Hilen Tukoss, or, at least, someone claiming to be Dr. Tukoss, appeared on the Intergalactic Summit back in October of last year. Since then, I have been waiting for more information to make its way to those of us in New Eden who are interested in our collective history and future. And come it has, although often the new information merely brings more questions than it does answers. Sometimes, though, that is the nature of the beast. Realistically, expecting to get all answers to mysteries that have lasted for perhaps thousands of years within the span of a few months is perhaps too much to hope for. But anything that helps us understand the fascinating story that is New Eden is something to be cherished, even if it just acts to show us how much we don’t know.
One prime example of something we only recently have started to know that we don’t know (which, I suppose, is better than not knowing something we don’t know) are the Drifters. An unexpected plot twist, if you’ll forgive me extending the story metaphor, the Drifters were completely unexpected even by those who study the history of New Eden. Indeed, while large gaps still remain in our understanding of the cluster, we at least thought we understood all the major players. That assumption appears to have been in error. While the Drifters are clearly related in some ways to the Jove, they are a distinct faction in their own right, aligning themselves with the Sleeper Circadian Seekers as they continue to salvage data from the Jove Observatories. And don’t even get me started on the obvious technological differences between the Drifters and what we’ve seen of Jove technology.
But the layers of mystery surrounding the Drifters are beginning to be peeled back. As I’ve discussed here before, the Drifters began probing New Eden at the same time that the unidentified wormholes started popping up in systems with Jove observatories. While Drifters were observed coming and going through these new wormholes, these holes were somehow locked out for use by non-Drifter ships (the fact that the only other wormholes to demonstrate this kind of selective passage were those generated by the Sansha during their initial invasion of New Eden has led to significant speculation, but that’s a bit beyond the purview of this entry), so we contented ourselves with what little we could observe of Drifter behavior and what could be seen through these wormholes.
That changed a few weeks ago. With no fanfare or explanation, these wormholes suddenly became traversable to the general spacefaring community. The reasons for this sudden access remain unclear. It may be deliberate on the part of the Drifters, although this seems unlikely given that they continue to fire on any vessels they see approaching the wormholes. It may also reflect an error on their part, or some sort of malfunction of the equipment. My personal opinion is that this reflects the continued degradation of Jovian and related technologies that began with the explosion that led to Caroline’s Star. Of course, I have nothing to with which to substantiate that theory, but it’s as good a reason as any. Regardless of the cause, however, it quickly became clear that capsuleers now had access to core staging areas for Drifter forces, including the system from where Dr. Tukoss both warned us of the coming invasion and came to his unfortunate demise.
These staging areas can be found in five new systems that, until now, capsuleers did not have access to, with each system containing its own unique complex. Aura was able to provide a rough translation for the complexes found in each system: the Barbican complex can be found in J110145, the Conflux complex can be found in J200727, the Redoubt complex can be found in J174618, the Sentinel complex can be found in J055520, and the Vidette complex can be found in J164710. Note that almost all of these names evoke the idea of guarded fortifications, while the last one, the Conflux, evokes the idea of a coming together of forces. Indeed, these names alone are the principle reason that I believe we have not yet discovered the true home systems and stations of the Drifters. Rather, we have gained access to the Drifters’ primary naval staging ground, where their forces can gather, resupply, and drop off whatever it is that they are searching for. Notably, despite the heavy Drifter presence, analyses indicate that the structures found at these sites are almost all Sleeper, and not Drifter, in origin, suggesting far closer collaboration between the two civilizations than even we had previously believed, as Drifters appear to use these facilities to, among other things, construct their ships. Despite their Sleeper origins, I’ll refer to them as Drifter complexes given how integral the Drifters are to these sites and to prevent confusion with other, more common Sleeper complexes found throughout Anoikis.
Needless to say, I was extremely interested in diving into these complexes as soon as it was evident that they were accessible to us, especially once I started seeing pictures of the structures that could be found in them. Thankfully, being well-known in the exploration community has its advantages: within 2 weeks of the discovery of these new systems, I was invited to join an expedition organized under the auspices of Itsukame-Zainou Hyperspatial Inquiries Ltd. [IKAME], and its CEO, Makoto Priano, to explore two of these Drifter staging areas, the Conflux and Vidette complexes. Normally, of course, I tend to operate as a solo explorer (as do most people in the profession). The freedom allowed by having to depend on no one but yourself, and explore as much (or as little) as you’d like is something that is hard to lose. However, within hours of the discovery of these complexes, it became evident that if pilots were to have any hope of penetrating the depths of these areas, they would have to do so with a group of fellow pilots. And so, with that in mind, I found myself in a fleet of 10-15 other capsuleers last weekend as I prepared to plumb the depths of these two complexes.
Before moving on, a few caveats for those who may be interested in following in my footsteps: First, these sites cannot be completed solo. As I’ll describe below, it is physically impossible for fewer than 2 people to get to the end of any of the complexes, as it often requires simultaneous or near-simultaneous hacks of multiple deadspace pockets at once. Furthermore, as might be expected, Sleepers can be found in significant, though not overwhelming, quantities in almost all of the deadspace pockets of a particular complex. And this says nothing of the Drifter battleships that roam the various deadspace pockets. These rotating sentries change rooms every half-hour or so, and unless you have substantial firepower (and a sacrificial ship or two), requires you to cloak to wait for them to move along. Indeed, moreso than most other sites, a cloak of some kind is almost essential to ensure that you can choose when (and where) engagement of defenses occurs. Definitely not a place for the weak of heart, but, in my opinion, well-worth the risks.
And, finally, a word (ok, multiple words) on the basic structure of these complexes. As I said, they cannot be completed solo. This is because in order to get to the final portion of the complex, universally called a Hive amongst all five sites, you generally need to be taking portions of your fleet up two parallel tracks. Various data centers need to be hacked on one track to allow further progress up the other track, meaning you’ll need both combat capability and hacking capabilities in each track. Maps of each complex (courtesy of pilot Xindi Kraid), including threat assessments and gate locations, can be found here. While I only had the chance to explore two of the complexes, comparing notes with others has made it clear that while substantial differences exist amongst the five complexes, their similarities in discoveries and basic composition are similar enough to not warrant separate entries (though seeing the length of today’s entry, perhaps it may have been more intelligent to break this into multiple parts).
With all of that in mind, I finally turned my attention to the complexes themselves. Both Conflux’s and Vidette’s opening deadspace pockets, known simply as the Beacon, look the same: a lone acceleration gate surrounded by a few simple Sleeper constructs. Even here, Drifters may be found upon dropping out of warp, and avoiding getting decloaked by the beacon as you enter the area may take some tricky piloting on your part. The lone acceleration gate will take you on to what is colloquially known as either the Lobby or the Split: the area where the two parallel paths diverge. Like all rooms past the entrance, the Split contains a spatial rift that will take pilots back to the start of the complex if necessary. The fleet from then on will not rejoin each other until the penultimate stage of the complex, but the two parts will still need to rely on each other in order to progress through the rest of the complex.
After the Split comes room after room filled with stunning examples of Sleeper architecture. Dazzling arrays of particle accelerators, enormous constructs of Sleeper enclaves, and mysterious structures whose function both Aura and I could only guess at can all be found throughout these complexes. There was even a room that had a spatial phenomenon that appeared very similar to how the Children of Light are supposed to appear. Almost every area was breathtaking in its own way. Clearly, the Sleepers care as much about form as they do about function. In one particularly fascinating room, the Sleepers have constructed a number of rings, stacked upon each other to make a giant cylinder, seemingly to contain a large monolith identical to the one that can be found in Dead End. This is not the first time that the Sleepers have been found associated with these mysterious structures, but rarely have I seen the structures so central to Sleeper architecture.
This was not the only room where the focus wasn’t on something clearly of Sleeper construction. A few rooms instead bring focus to apparently natural asteroids. Perhaps there was something about these asteroids that my sensors couldn’t detect, or perhaps they were just there as pieces of Sleeper art, I don’t really have any idea. Still, my eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to these towering hulks of rock surrounded by various pieces of Sleeper equipment. In one room, the asteroid itself seemed to be teeming with Sleeper structures, but my sensors could no more make heads or tails of those than they could of most other structures. That being said, I did have plenty of time to examine some rooms while waiting for the Drifters to move on to the next stop on their patrol.
Even beyond these potential pieces of Sleeper art, I made some interesting observations. For example, despite these areas supposedly being Drifter and Sleeper strongholds, Drifter battleships and Circadian Seekers could be found roaming and, more notably, scanning any items they find in the areas. While such behavior might be reasonable in New Eden, where presumably they are gathering information, why they would feel the need to repeatedly scan their own structures is beyond me, unless the scanning also performs some sort of secondary, unknown function. Circadian Seekers can also be seen performing this puzzling behavior, which is even odder considering that the Seekers are Sleeper in origin themselves.
Even more surprising, though, was the discovery that signs of damage can be found throughout the complex. Most commonly, this damage manifested itself as partially destroyed Sleeper enclaves. Bright fires can be seen burning in and on the affected enclaves, even from a distance. There was no indication, however, of what caused the damage to these structures. As usual, capsuleer weaponry has no effect on any of the Sleeper structures, so it was highly unlikely that any groups of capsuleers who may have already surveyed the complex was the cause of the observed damage. Perhaps it was some sign of inner turmoil amongst the Drifters or the Sleepers, or some sort of retribution brought by the Jove, because the damage could be seen even in the innermost sanctums of these Sleeper complexes, with the drifting pieces of wreckage marring the beauty of even these sights.
Eventually, after clearing the gates and hacking what needs to be hacked, the fleets rejoin each other in the Antechamber. Here, two full Sleeper enclaves can be found towards the periphery of the area. In the middle, the Sleepers once again show a somewhat odd fascination with an apparently normal, if sizeable, asteroid. This time, the rock is probably about on par with the size of the Jove observatories that can be found throughout New Eden. More importantly, sheltered in the shadow of the large rock can be found the last, unlocked acceleration gate. The last gate is a good ways away from warp-in point, giving you plenty of time to reflect on the journey you took to get here (or, if your expedition goes anything like our journey into Vidette went, it will be a harrowing high-speed burn as you try to dodge incoming Drifter fire long enough to activate the acceleration gate, but that is neither here nor there).
Finally, then, you get to the heart of these complexes. And the moment my view stabilized after dropping out of warp, I had no doubt whatsoever that the journey was worth the effort. This central room, which Aura marks as the Hive, is dominated by a central Drifter station, for lack of a better word. But that gives these colossal structures far too little credit. Rough estimates make these structures over 200 kilometers across, dwarfing even our largest titans. The station appears comprised of multiple rotating rings, which can be seen slowly rotating when looking at the inner rim of the station. The exterior of the structure is generally a sheer grey wall with many features, multiple kilometers in height. Despite the structure’s size, it is far too easy to lose yourself examining the countless nooks, crannies, antennae, viewports, bays, and other details along the outer rim, not to mention the giant points coming off the outer rim, like spokes of a wheel pushed past the rim.
Aura’s analysis has this to say on the structure:
Dwarfing the majestic enclave in size, the scale of this Hive sends shivers of awe into all those who bear witness to its grandeur. Its walls stand defiant against the harsh black vacuum. Its structure, testament to the unfathomable technological prowess of the Sleeper race.
Cold, sharp edges seem to tear at the very fabric of space, distorting reality around it. One can only cower in fear at the thought of what a construction of this magnitudes purpose could be.
Poetic license of the ship’s resident AI aside, I couldn’t help but agree with what she had to say. Particularly noteworthy was the mention of space-warping technology. Indeed, some of the antennae poking out of the Hive seem to mimic the effects found when the Drifters are engaging their sublight, non-classically-propulsive engines. Which, of course, raises the rather disturbing possibility that not only are these structures truly titanic, but these structures are truly titanic as well as mobile. Indeed, some of my fellow fleet members speculated that we may be looking at a particularly large stargate, given that the Hives are oriented differently in each of the five complexes. Regardless, beyond the fact that these structures seem to be used as manufacturing facilities, little is known about the purpose of the Hive beyond the fact that the Drifters and Sleepers put substantial defenses in place to keep it safe.
While the Hive definitely dominates the final area, it is by no means the only thing to be found in this final area. After I finally tore my eyes off of the structure, I had a look around. It should be needless to say at this point that the area was littered with various Sleeper structures and constructs, but a few other notable things bear mentioning. First, even here in the very heart of the Sleeper and Drifter complexes, signs of non-capsuleer-caused damage can be seen. A Sleeper enclave near the Hive once again bore signs of significant damage to its outer hull, with pieces of the structure torn away. What caused this damage even in the heart of these complexes again brought the prospects of civil war or, perhaps even more ominously, an as-yet unknown party, to my mind once again.
Further, or perhaps in answer to my question regarding the cause of the damage, the Hive is also littered with Jovian corpses. This is interesting for two reasons. First, of course, is that there is no particular reason why the corpses should be here in the first place, as there have been no other signs of Jovian encroachment on these sites. The second reason that the presence of these corpses is notable is that the Drifters have shown a particular affinity for space-flight-adapted bodies after death, with the evidence heavily suggesting that the Drifters re-purpose and augment the corpses in order to create new copies of Apollo and Artemis, our dear Drifter friends who pilot most of the Drifter battleships. Why would the Drifters simply leave these presumably perfectly-good corpses in the heart of their space, rather than re-purpose them as they have capsuleer corpses? Is there something incompatible, given the Jove proclivity for genetic engineering?
In the center of the Hive, surrounded by literally dozens of Sleeper structures and protected by one of the largest security systems ever implemented (when measured in terms of sheer distance traveled, at the very least), sits the goal of most expeditions into the complexes. A small beacon is protected by a third, until-now unmet Drifter: Hikanta Tyrannos. Like Apollo and Artemis before him, he flies a standard Drifter battleship, one that must be taken down if you hope to gain the fruits of the expedition. Unfortunately, given his powerful doomsday weapon, this means that at least one of your ships must be sacrificed, as he will invariably fire his doomsday weapon after his primary shield matrix is brought down, and it is highly unlikely a ship could survive a direct hit from that.
Once Hikanta and the remaining Sleeper drones are cleared out, however, a ship can approach the central vault of that complex. When near, the pilot will need to deposit into the vault an Index specific to that complex (i.e. inputting a Conflux Index into the Conflux Vault). Unfortunately, these Indices can only be gained from the Hikanta Tyrannos wreck of a different complex (the Hikanta in the Barbican complex will drop a Conflux index, for example). Once the appropriate index is inserted, however, the Vault will unlock ten Elements. The Element you receive will differ depending on where the Element originated (similar to the above, a Conflux complex will yield a Conflux Element), but all five Elements seem generally similar.
That’s not to say that Aura isn’t completely baffled by them, however. Her analysis is confusing:
The strange, unreal aspect of this object plays havoc with your mind. The distortion is interfering with signal reception and hindering decryption. Despite this, one strong, repetitive motif is breaking through the chaos. A single repeating concept.
While the Antikythera elements discovered in the Jove observatories eventually yielded the now ubiquitous entosis links, it is not yet clear what these new elements do or what they can be used for. Indeed, it was hoped that some revelation would come simply by collecting all five types of Elements in one place, but thus far, despite [IKAME]’s possession of all five Element types, no initial breakthroughs have yet been forthcoming. Still, plenty of experiments remain to figure out just what these elements are to be used for. Theories are rampant, of course, but my personal theory is that all five elements are to be combined into a key of some kind to unlock a final, sixth Drifter/Sleeper system which may very well be their home system. But that’s just me.
After an exhausting twelve hour day, I finally found myself on my way home from Drifter space. While the Conflux complex was completed with little incident, the Vidette complex proved more challenging, with almost all ships in the fleet (including my beloved Scientia) being destroyed by Drifter fire. Indeed, the fact that we easily survived one complex while getting utterly destroyed by the second demonstrates both the survivability and the risk of completing these sites. That being said, I was delighted that I had tagged along. Not only were the views themselves gorgeous (and if nothing else, the views alone were well worth the travels in my opinion), as demonstrated throughout this entry, but the complexes give important clues to the relationship between the Drifters and the Sleepers, while of course, raising even more questions (questions I got to ponder while waiting to travel during my long, long, long trip home, I might add).
Waiting, as they say, is the hardest part, and heavens know I’ve done my fair share of waiting. Waiting until my schedule allowed me to participate in one of these operations. Waiting to find an entrance to the appropriate complex. Waiting for the Drifters to move through the particular area of the complex we got stuck in. Waiting even now for the answers that I have to trust are coming someday. Waiting may be the hardest part, but patience is a virtue. Instant gratification in all respects would soon get boring without the anticipation of life and things to come. The Sleepers and the Drifters have also waited a long time, perhaps thousands of years if some theories are to be believed, and they finally seem to be acting on whatever it is they’ve been waiting for. Like the rest of New Eden, for now I can only watch to see what these civilizations, capability of building such marvelous things, have in store for us. Watch… and wait.
- Attractions: Drifter complexes Barbican, Conflux, Redoubt, Sentinel, and Vidette
- 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
- Security Rating: -1
- Region: Anoikis
- Potential Hazards: As stressed throughout this entry, dangers are significant. 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. You will need at least one other person to accompany (preferably a small fleet), and that fleet will have to split up in order to successfully reach the hive. Drifters will change the rooms they are stationed in throughout a complex approximately every half-hour. Data analyzers are required to hack the gates. Strong, cloak-equipped ships are strongly advised.