The Killings at Kurniainen

It was inevitable. I knew it was coming, some day. I just didn’t think some day would be today.

Signal Cartel Fleet School (SCFS) has been flying Sleeper Eradication fleets regularly for some time now, and all in all things have gone very smoothly. Our skills – and our confidence – have grown, which is exactly what SCFS is supposed to do. When we undocked from Zoo I don’t think any of us expected this op to end the way they did.

Things started off routinely enough. We had a C5 wolf rayet with heavy sleeper activity, ripe for eradication. Our j-space entrance was Haras, in The Bleak Lands, 18 jumps from Zoo. It was a long way to travel, but my intel indicated that the C5 was worth it. So we headed to Haras on the shortest route possible.

There was some traffic with us early on – a Stratios here, a Corvus there – but we pushed ahead. When we crossed the border into Metropolis at 20:30, things intensified. D-scan in Avenod showed combat probes, and Captain Davis from No Handlebars Alliance was spotted in a Vedmak. I jumped the fleet from Avenod to Aset and ahead into Isbrabata. This proved to be the beginning of the end.

We were chased through Isbrabata, and I made the decision to push forward into Kurniainen. I’m sure more than a handful of pilots will question whether that was the right decision, but it’s the decision I made. I jumped the fleet through the Isbrabata gate into Kurniainen.

We were met on the other side of the gate by a group of at least seventeen pirates: one Deimos, one Devoter, two Guardians, one Harpy, one Imperial Navy Slicer, one Ishkur, one Legion, one Malediction, one Pacifier, three Retributions, two Vedmaks, one Vengeance, and one Wolf. There were more in-system – I received a report of a smartbomb Proteus safed up near the sun – but I don’t know how many more, and honestly that’s probably for the better.

I don’t know which pirate fired the first shot, and I don’t remember who in the fleet suffered the first hit. I can only confirm that as soon as we jumped into Kurniainen at 20:32, we were engaged in what was for many of us, myself included, our first real PvP encounter.

You can spend days reading and studying, but it doesn’t prepare you for the real thing. I was grateful for the experience of Command0, and turned target calling over to him. Deimos was called as primary, and we started fighting back.

A few of us sustained some pretty heavy damage right away. The Logi cap chain went down, my Guardian pilots were locked, and there was nothing I could do. Quinn was the first casualty at 20:34, followed by Leda at 20:35. Command0 sustained heavy fire, and his Eos succumbed at 20:36.

I assumed the role of target calling. Drones were out, missiles were flying, and all weapons were being fired. My nosferatu and neuts were on, and Auds came on-grid in his scouting ship to try and assist with damps. None of it made a dent in the pirate gang. We continued to take heavy fire and I lost Chaim, Daniel and Sanctus – all in Harbingers – at 20:36, 20:37, and 20:38, respectively.

Two minutes later, my Damnation exploded around me and my pod was ejected. It was her second flight (she still had that ‘new ship smell’), but she Died with Glory™. I stayed on-grid in my pod and continued on.

Alerei’s 1.9bil experimental Proteus fit was the next to go down, followed by Snyypa’s Gnosis and Aleksander’s BNI. Ren-Song’s Guardian finally couldn’t take any more damage, and she exploded at 20:42, followed by Calder’s BNI.

While all this was happening, Fonsui had the wherewithal to scout some safes for the fleet. At 20:43 I gave the order to warp out and safe up. My pod was scrammed and I was down to about 25% hull, but somehow managed to get out and make it to the safe.

We re-grouped at the safe, did a quick damage assessment, and planned a route back to Zoo. I was still under a timer and my mapping was off, so Chaim stepped up as navigator. He found us a route through Sinq Laison, and I led what remained of the fleet home to Zoo.

This fleet ended in an (almost) TPK. But as I sit here in the pilot’s lounge on Level Sixteen, scratching notes on my datapad, you’d never know anything out of the ordinary had happened. The corridors are filled with friendly chatter, pilots are repairing or replacing their ships, and more than a few people are joking about how ‘shiny’ their new clones feel. It’s just a regular day in Signal Cartel.

As I sipped my Caf, I composed and sent the following message to my fleet:

Things did not go as planned today. We did not come home with Sleeper loot, many of us came home without our ships, and some of us woke up in a clone bay. Our zkillboard is bathed in blood, and we had some pretty significant losses. But it was a good day.

We can spend time second-guessing our actions, being salty or sad, or we can be proud that we fought back. This was my first real PvP experience, as it was for many of us. The fleet did not give up – we fought back for as long as we could. We did not roll over and give up, and I am proud of the fact that we engaged.

We did not win this fight, but the fleet can hold its head high, knowing that we did the best we could. There will surely be more fights, and surely more losses. But I know that we will all continue to do the best we can do, supporting each other along the way, because that is who we are. We are Signaleers.

o7

Anatomy of a Rescue

It was a quiet night at ESR Central Command. And before you get any false ideas in your mind about what that is, it’s basically a few small desks in a tiny, cluttered office buried deep somewhere within Paleo station. Even though the space has been mine for close to a year now, I still get turned around sometimes when trying to find it. “Labyrinthine” is a pretty word that comes to mind.

At any rate, it was quiet. A Dead Parrot and I were just sitting around chatting. While not an “official” member of the SAR crew, Parrot’s work with Allison has made him an integral part of what we do, and he’ll often be found in the SAR office, working on one thing or another. It was getting late on this evening, and we were done working and had turned to discussing how to encourage our rescue pilots to keep at it, brainstorming ways to keep the heart fires lit and to help keep enthusiasm high. Parrot was right in the middle of saying something about Allison’s role in all of this, when the stillness of the office was disturbed.

It was the chime that we both love (a chance to help!) and dread (what if we can’t?), the alert we get from Allison any time a rescue pilot enters a system with an active SAR request: “ESR Team, I just flew into J111629 (An active SAR system) with Holphi Kord.”

Parrot was startled out of his reverie. “Holee cow poop! Now I have to stay awake.”

“Wow,” I replied. “How’s that for timing?”

“Amazing.” Parrot was already springing into action to check on Allison’s logs.

Allison’s alert had gone out over the network to all of our Coordinators. We got a reply right away from Triff: “One of you two got this? I’m out and didn’t want to have to remote in.”

From some remote corner of Anoikis, Igaze chimed in: “I can get in and message Holphi. There’s not a Tripwire chain, though.” Igaze was out sowing and tending rescue caches.

Parrot was already on it, spooling back up the main systems that we had just put to sleep for the night. “Iggy, are you in touch? I can check Allison’s logs if you need me to. Maybe find the kspace connection.”

“That would be great. He’s not sure the exact route he took in. Looks like he came from null. He’s scouting connections now.”

With Igaze in touch with the rescue pilot, Triffton was off the hook, so he rang off. (We do like to give our Coordinators a break ever now and then!) Parrot realized pretty quickly that we did not have any recent intel on the system Holphi had discovered, and we communicated all of this through Igaze so everyone was on the same page.

After a few minutes of discussion, Igaze got back to us: “I’m letting Holphi map. I’ll be off for 30 minutes or so.” And than about 15 minutes later we received an update: “He found a null exit. I’ll be available again in an hour.”

After another 30 minutes, Allison notified us that Angel Lafisques had flown into the same system with Holphi. The two of them did their thing, and got every connection to this system scanned down and noted in Tripwire.

Igaze came back on: “I’m going to try and get back to Thera and then see if I can get there. The null connection is 38 jumps out though. I, of course, am buried as far from k-space as I can get, I think.”

“Don’t kill yourself to get there,” I told him. “Especially since we have other pilots in system. Have we heard from the stranded pilot yet?”

“No. Been mailed, though.”

About 30 minutes later, we heard from Igaze again: “Ran out of time. Sitting in a C1 with low static. Angel is scanning routes but won’t be on until again until 20+ hours from now. I’ll be back in 8 or 9 hours to see what’s been scanned down.”

So that was the end of it for the night. Until the stranded pilot replied, there was little more we could do but wait.

Then, early the next morning, Igaze provided a status update: “Angel has things mapped out. Pilot just responded and will be available in several hours. I can’t be on then, but I think Angel has it in hand.”

So we each went about our business, always mindful of this stranded fellow capsuleer, anxious for the next update, eyes unconsciously darting to the clock every few minutes. Several hours later, we received a notice from Allison that Holphi was remapping the system, updating it with the most recent connections.

Igaze had been in touch with the stranded pilot and was hopeful. “We might get this guy tonight. He’s online now and Holphi is talking to him. We’ll see what they figure out.” We all sent our best wishes to him, Holphi, and Angel.

About five hours later we received final confirmation: “Looks like the rescue was completed!” There was much rejoicing, a little bit of paperwork got filled out, and we all went back into waiting mode — ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice when our services were once again required by some poor, lost soul.

This is not an atypical rescue. They are each different. Each comes with its own unique challenges and each requires a team of dedicated pilots and office personnel. If what you just read sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, consider joining Signal Cartel, and get ready for the first time our copilot AI, Allison, tells you: “Captain, this system has an active Search & Rescue request.” It’s a completely new way to get your heart pumping and your adrenaline surging, as you become a vital part of the EvE-Scout Rescue team.

It’s Changed

Editor’s Note: This post is cross-posted from the EvE-Scout Enclave forums and was originally published in June 2017.

I left [classified] and headed to HQ to get a new shirt to wear for non-capsule downtime.

Literally, I flew the 1,300 LY from [classified] by emerging from the hole in Hilaban, then another 14 LY to my hangar in Zoohen, just to get a new shirt. Is that indulgent and in fact evidence of Anoikis-dwellers’ skewed priorities? Have I spent too long in the dreamworld?

Zoohen regulars will know that New Eden – the New Eden – is only a few jumps away from Zoohen. I realised I haven’t been there this year (I try to go there at least once a year as a ritual) and I wanted to test something.

Since it was the middle of the day in NEST terms, and since I know most capsuleers don’t rise before noon, I expected, and got, a seamless and effortless transit up the long-abandoned and infrastructure-free lowsec pipe to the New Eden system. I even got a traffic control advisory at the Promised Land > New Eden stargate, as if I’d caught the gate crew napping at their posts, because, y’know, what the hell would anybody come here for at this hour?

There’s only one reason to come to this system  in this day and age:

The new cluster-wide, universal cam-drone upgrade we all got last month has changed the appearance of the EVE Gate anomaly. It hasn’t really changed at all, and an unaugmented baseline meathead viewing it through a window would only ever see a blinding white mass of heavenly light. To us, the resolution and fidelity and dynamic range at which we capsuleers are allowed to perceive it, means it appears more alive and more deadly than ever. It looked relatively static under the old system, but now we see field lines and what look like hot gas shock fronts, and its apparent magnitude changes every few minutes like a variable star:

The EVE Gate is 3.3 LY beyond the New Eden system, so those pulses in brightness all happened 3.3 years ago. If this huge flaw in spacetime changed tonight somehow, if it evaporated or fixed itself or whatever, then we wouldn’t know about it until the year YC122.

That is, unless the Sisters of EVE deigned to inform us first. I mean, does the SoE tell us nothing about what they’ve found out about that thing because they haven’t found anything out? Or are they as schtum about it as they are about those flotillas in Anoikis?

The trouble with coming here, to New Eden, is you always leave it with more questions than you arrived with, as well as a headache after contemplating how the EVE Gate relates to human existence.

For the record I haven’t left the New Eden system yet, as I’m ‘typing’ this through the neural interface with my ship that’s docked in SFRIM’s citadel. I might stay jacked-in and program a sleep cycle as I’ve been here before: this lot based here are devout and seem to cross the line between science and religion and back again depending on what mood they’re in. They worship that thing out there like a god even though they know exactly what it is. This citadel is their church. It scares me a bit.

Besides, you can’t get decent coffee this far from highsec.

[ENDS]

 

© Cassandra Habalu – check out more from Cass at her blog: It’s Not Personal, It’s Strictly Business

Flying Into an Ambush (xpost)

Editor’s Note: Cross-posted from the author’s blog, Cloaked in a Hole. Original publication date: September 30, 2016.

“There’s that Cheetah on d-scan again” I said as I adjusted my probes to scan the next cosmic signature in the system.

“Perhaps it’s just scouting the chain?” suggested Trevier, the crew chief of my Stratios cruiser who I’d been working with for a number of months now.

“Perhaps. Though I’m suspicious that it’s just appeared after our probes have been out near that citadel.”

“What do you propose? We’ve only found the one relic site in this system. We could leave it and jump to the next wormhole?”

“Let’s warp to 100km from the site and see if there’s any activity. If the Cheetah is sniffing around we’ll leave it.”

Staying cloaked, I land the Stratios 100km from the relic site, a Guristas monument site which I hope will break my run of bad luck and net me a nice pay day. Forty million ISK would be good, maybe more depending on the loot in the cans.

D-scan is empty, no sign of the covert ops frigate which was causing us so much concern. I warp us back to a safe spot in an empty part of space.

“Looks like it’s gone” says the chief

“I don’t like it. Why hasn’t it run any of the sites?”

“We could just do the relic site and get out, keep our eyes peeled and be gone in 15 minutes?”

“Alright. I’m going to warp to 30km and move slowly to the first can. I want to hear the minute something appears on grid.”

Again I warped to the site. I selected the nearest can and approached it slowly. The Stratios cruiser can be a formidable ship in a fight but I’d made the decision to remove guns from it, choosing to avoid conflicts altogether instead of standing my ground. The covert ops cloak fitted to the ship is now my best defence, but that means we are at our most vulnerable when we de-cloak to hack sites.

Trevier’s voice came through my pod “That’s the can within targeting range.”

I checked d-scan one final time, seeing nothing of note on the scanner and turned off the cloaking module. Nothing happened.

“OK. Looks clear let’s crack the can and get out of here” I announce to the chief.

Orbiting the can at 2500 metres I prepare the Relic Analyser module for the process of hacking the can so we can access the loot inside. All of a sudden I see a flash of grey on my grid overview.

I immediately hit the cloak and shout to the rest of the ship “We have company!”

Mentally, I cross my fingers as the camera drones show my ship disappearing from space just as another Stratios lands right on top of me.

Trevier’s voice tells me what I already know “Shit! They’re going to decloak us that close”

The cruiser shudders as I launch a flight of ECM drones and target the newly arrived ship as the first alarms sound around me informing us we’ve been targeted ourselves. I fire an ECM burst and instruct the drones to follow up with their own jamming capabilities, desperately hoping to break the lock so I can cloak again and escape. I try in vain to warp out but the ship has us pointed, so instead I align to a safe spot and wait to see if the countermeasures can get us free.

I fire off a neutraliser module to try and drain my opponent’s capacitor to minimise any damage they can deal to us. At that moment I’m alerted to a second ship appearing on grid, a Broadsword, and suddenly we’re engulfed by a warp disruption bubble.

“Watch the capacitor!” the chief says over comms “We’re dead!”

Another alarm sounds telling me I’ve burned through my own capacitor reserve trying to save the ship. There’s nothing left to stop the attack as I watch our shields and then our armour disappear with every shot from the ambush.

“Sorry chief. It’s been a pleasure having your crew fly with me”

“Just make sure the crew are looked after Gaston” comes the reply.

I send the instruction to my broker to distribute the coming insurance payout to the families of the crew. It’s not enough but it’s something. As the alarms continue to sound louder in my pod I decide if I’m to lose this ship I’m going to do it in style. I swing towards the enemy Stratios and activate the last module I have left, my Signal Cartel issue festival launcher.

Fireworks shatter the space around us in a defiant celebration of my loyal crew, as the last of my armour is destroyed and the hull begins to break apart. My capsuleer’s pod blasts free from the disintegrating wreck of my once beautiful ship and I have a few moments to sit quietly in space, contemplating the folly of going into the relic site against all my better judgements just because I wanted to do right for my crew, who are now lost with the ship.

“Farewell chief” I say quietly as the Broadsword fires on my pod and I feel my consciousness fire across the ether towards my awaking clone back in Thera.

Learning to Love a Meddlesome AI (xpost)

This is a cross-post from Mynxee’s blog, Cloaky Wanderer, written in character.

After a long sojourn in Anoikis, I had returned to Zoohen for some R&R. I was enjoying dinner alone at Armateur, my favorite upscale restaurant in Zoohen Theology Council station, when Allison piped up. Hearing our Signal Cartel AI co-pilot’s voice startled me–I’d forgotten I had enabled her on my wrist terminal.

“Captain!” she said in her usual pert tone,”I’ve detected a +10 pilot from your personal contacts list in this establishment. Consult my screen for the pilot’s name. I’ve taken the liberty of sending him a message of greeting from you.”

I tapped the terminal and a small holo-screen appeared above it.

“Fuuuuuuuu…..”, I began to mutter, seeing the name and wondering what he was doing here of all places.

“CAPTAIN, the Credo!” Allison cut in, all mock outrage.

I rolled my eyes and asked the cheeky AI, “How would you know who’s in this restaurant, Allison?”

After a few seconds of silence, she replied “Even AIs have friends.” Was it may imagination or did she sound defensive?

“Just don’t do anything illegal, and stop taking liberties if you don’t mind.” I said grumpily, scanning the crowd for that familiar face from so long ago. Oh. There he was. Sitting in the far corner, looking as beautiful as ever. He examined his datapad, glanced briefly around the room, then touched the screen lightly with one elegant finger, his hands just as slim and perfectly manicured as I remembered them. Piano player hands. Artist hands. Extremely talented hands.

I sighed and continued eating, resigned to the fact that there would surely be an uncomfortable encounter any minute now. I really need to review and prune that Contacts list, I thought.

“WELL, I NEVER!” Allison suddenly spluttered in a shocked tone. “He has rejected my– I mean your — well, OUR — message! REJECTED it. How rude!”

I burst out laughing. “That’s his second best skill,” I told her. “Please, let it drop.”

Silence ensued for some minutes, thank Bob. However, when I had nearly finished my very fine meal, Allison spoke again, quietly.

“Captain, I apologize if I was presumptuous. But if I may say, while my searches of public records don’t reveal much, he does appear to be a good match for you. Perhaps you should bookmark his spot and warp to it.”

What the hell!

I shut Allison down, then pulled up the holo-screen again. “Message,” I said and began typing.

…Transmit…

To: A Dead Parrot
From: Mynxee
Date: YC119.06.21

Message Body:

We have to talk. You won’t believe what she said to me just now!

End Message

…Transmission completed…

Then without being seen, I slipped out of the restaurant and headed for the solitude of my quarters, wondering the whole way what exactly A Dead Parrot’s creation was evolving into.