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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
A few strands of amino acids. That, surprisingly, is all it takes to bind 4 systems together across the light-years of interstellar space. You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but that short string of organic molecules has managed to entangle the systems of Efu, Muttokon, Oijanen, and Postouvin, tying their fates together across the harshness of interstellar space. But rather than uniting to tackle the threat posed by this tiny piece of matter, it seems destined to pull the four empires even further apart as they race to save millions, if not billions, of lives from a terrible fate. So far, only the Society of Conscious Thought, the newly-designated heir to the Jovian Directorate, has attempted to tackle the problem posed by the short string of carbon known as Kyonoke.
The story of Kyonoke starts, for our purposes, a few years before capsuleers arrived on the scene. The Caldari had found a particularly mineral-rich asteroid near the planet Kyonoke in Taisy, and had established a mining colony to plumb its depths nicknamed the Kyonoke Pit. Rather suddenly, Caldari authorities lost contact with the colony. The team sent to investigate the colony found a gruesome scene, with the entire mining colony dying rather agonizing deaths. Despite the full set of protective equipment, the investigation team succumbed to the disease within hours. The Caldari eventually managed to isolate the cause: a short and seemingly run-of-the-mill protein strand that managed to disrupt almost all biological systems within a few hours of exposure. Needless to say, since that discovery, Kyonoke Pit has been under round-the-clock Caldari surveillance to make sure that no one gained access to this potent pathological protein.
Even knowing about the heavy security cordon the Caldari used to keep Kyonoke secure, it was with a bit of trepidation that I recently began reading reports of a sudden quarantine appearing on an orbital platform in orbit of Muttokon II. Almost immediately thereafter, the city of Myrskaa in Oijanen experienced a rapidly spreading plague, which quickly led to the entire city being placed in quarantine. Three became a crowd after certain decks on a Society of Conscious Thought station in Efu were cut off after the appearance of another deadly plague. And any doubts that this was a coordinated effort were put to rest when the very next day, Federal authorities lost contact with a mining colony in Postouvin after sending out a distress call concerning a disease outbreak. Although rumors swirled, it took a full day for Caldari authorities to confirm that the disease at issue was in fact Kyonoke, albeit an apparently modified strain.
With Kyonoke identified, the cluster soon began to wonder how the pathogen escaped. Answers soon fell into place when an expedition into the now-abandoned Kyonoke Pit revealed the body of one Ohmon Kasaras, a former member of the Kaalakiota Home Guard, who had apparently ventured into Kyonoke just weeks before. Although reports identified him as a loyal Caldari, the fact that his family has gone missing suggests we do not know the entire story behind the Kasaras breach of Kyonoke, if that was not evident from the fact that it’s still unknown who Kasaras was supposed to deliver Kyonoke too. To say that fear has gripped the cluster is a bit of an understatement, with Caldari/Gallente tensions flaring to a height not seen since the days of Tibus Heth… which is all the more worrisome because there does indeed appear to be a Heth connection to all of this. Despite the hostility on both sides, the isolation protocols seem to have done their jobs, as no more outbreaks have since been reported, although that does little to help the millions already under quarantine.
Although the empires appear to be paralyzed either by infighting or paralysis, the Society of Conscious Thought has stepped to the forefront in researching ways to combat or eradicate Kyonoke. Recently, they announced the formation of the Kyonoke Inquest, a coordination center for research into the origins of the prion and ways to combat the disease. The Inquest is based out of the H4-RP4 Kyonoke Inquest Center, a massive Keepstar-class citadel built near the asteroid colony in Postouvin that suffered the outbreak. Given the sheer amount of news recently concerning the Kyonoke crisis, it should surprise few to learn that as soon as I heard that the Inquest would be based out of Postouvin, I made my way into Solitude to await its public opening.
The Keepstar itself is a massive station constructed near the sunward side of Postouvin IV. I have had few opportunities to really examine a Keepstar since their release, but everything about the station feels titanic. I’ve flown Professor Science near battleships and titans, and considering that Keepstars dwarf even the largest ships New Eden has to offer, it’s no wonder that I felt almost as small as the Kyonoke protein strand next to it. Despite only having gone public within the past few hours, the Inquest is clearly already in full swing, with hundreds, if not thousands of intra-station craft crawling their way along the edges of the giant citadel, hopefully working around the clock to solve the Kyonoke problem. And the Society has now called in capsuleers to join the research efforts, making Postouvin the center of the cluster for all intents and purposes. Aura performed a preliminary analysis of the station for me, although she didn’t have anything to say that I didn’t already know:
Widely considered by academics to be the single largest research installation in New Eden, its laboratories have hosted research projects from some of the most intelligent minds in human history.
The stricken RP4 hemorphite processing facility lays cradled in the arms of the Keepstar, with the citadel seemingly built around the mining colony. The colony, built into the crescent-shaped asteroid itself, pokes up from the surface of the colony, pieces of gray metal gleaming against the brown regolith of the asteroid’s surface. A lonely Obelisk-class freighter sits near the dock, apparently caught up in the station’s quarantine when the order came down. The entire colony is wrapped in a rather ominous cloud of debris, which is fitting because there appears to be few signs of life on the colony. Given the apparent speed with which Kyonoke acts, it seems unlikely that many are left alive at this point, and the colony acts as a somber reminder of the staggering human costs at play in this plague and the goal of their efforts for anyone who merely looks outside the Keepstar.
There are millions of lives at stake out there, and billions more hang in the balance if any of the containment protocols breach or whoever first released the plague decides that it is necessary to strike again. Right now, we can only that the answer to this crisis lies somewhere in the colossal depths of the H4-RP4 Kyonoke Inquest Center. And while not quite as important as solving the Kyonoke plague, I’ll sleep a lot easier at night if we can find out who released the disease and why. I may only be but one man, but I am ready to help out the effort however I can, for if this ordeal has taught us anything, it’s that the smallest changes can stretch across the galaxy.
- Attraction: Kyonoke Outbreak Containment Site
- System: Postouvin
- 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 or a rather long low security route.
- Additional Notes: You cannot dock at the Keepstar, nor will it tether you.
Out with the old and in with the new, as they always say. With an economy as complex as New Eden’s, you need a continuing source of matériel in order to remain even somewhat viable. This fundamental requirement is universal, regardless of the career you pursue: manufacturers always need new supplies to create their wares; traders need things to, well, trade; and combat pilots, of course, need a continuous supply of ammo and, despite how much you may try to avoid it, new ships. Of course, those whose job it is to protect the rest of the Cluster from us rabblerousing capsuleers have an even greater need for ships. I never really envied the various national navies for having to interpose themselves between capsuleers and the rest of society, but I always appreciated the job they did (and tried to interfere as little as possible). Of course, I’ve always wondered just where their seemingly endless supply of ships came from to begin with. Given the site I saw from Professor Science as I came out of warp, I had a small idea of the answer. As I came out of warp near the center, I received a standard message:
You are entering a fully licensed Roden Shipyards manufacturing area. All unauthorized non-capsuleers found trespassing will be persecuted to fullest extent of Federal Law.
The message once again reminded me how essentially unchecked capsuleers were by any traditional political forces. Whoever managed to negotiate the kinds of freedoms that capsuleers enjoy was either a genius or a monster. Almost completely unaccountable to anyone but CONCORD and the occasional taxes from the various empires (and you can even avoid most of those if you go to null sec). But I digress…
The shipyards themselves were bustling with activity. A variety of transport ships could be seen near the main storage silo, offloading the materials needed to continue producing the Megathron-class vessels needed to keep the Gallente Federation safe. At the time, an Obelisk and Occator could be seen docked at the silo, as well as a Thorax, acting as guard for the yards. Admittedly, it seemed a small guard force for something located in low-security space. Then again, Roden had never seemed all that wary of placing important manufacturing facilities away from the guards of CONCORD and the naval fleets. Maybe it was just fear of retribution that kept the pirates away, and more focused on us capsuleers.
Then, of course, there were the rows of drydocks themselves. Each drydock seemed active, with Megathrons at a variety of stages of construction. Some were only mere superstructures, with barely more than the hull beams laid. Some had their hulls completed, but the majority of their armaments and other hardware sat nearby in a cloud, waiting to be installed. Others still were clearly near finished, and I’m pretty sure I saw one or two that were actually in the stages of being painted before being sent off on their assignments. All in all, it was precisely what I’d expect to see in a bustling shipyard for one of the largest naval forces in the Cluster. All in all, twenty-four vessels sat in various states of readiness. The one thing I wish I could know was exactly how long it took for the shipyard to go from laying the keel to sending the vessel on its way. I know capsuleer manufacturing centers could turn ships like the Megathron around in a day or so, but I suspected it was a bit longer for naval ships to ensure that the various high tech equipment still worked.
I had no doubt that this was only one of many shipyards throughout high sec and low sec, continuously pumping out the ships needed to maintain order throughout the Federation. And I had no doubt, in unfortunately classic Gallente fashion, that Roden Shipyards (and thus the namesake of the company and President of the Federation) was making a good amount of isk off of the construction contracts for these ships. Still, it was a small price to pay for ensuring the safety of the Federation. They could be helping out a little more with some other enemies out there, but I realized the importance of maintaining the all-important status quo, and a multilateral effort to eradicate the Cluster of this evil (as much as it would make me feel good) would probably be disastrous at this time of, shall we say, interstellar disharmony.
And so, the shipyards continue to produce the ever-needed vessels of war. To replace the ones that have come before it, just as these ones will, probably all too soon, need to be replaced themselves. Around the Federation, these beautiful, massive vessels are converted to scrap metal and plasma every minute of the day. It certainly puts a new perspective on that phrase, “out with the old, in with the new.” Sometimes, you don’t get the chance to decide when the old exactly need to be put out.
- Attraction: Roden Shipyard
- System: Heluene
- Security Rating: 0.2
- Region: Solitude
- Potential Hazards: Low sec travel is needed to get to the landmark. Caution is advised.