2001: A Space Odyssey

23rd September 2014 – 5.00 pm

So many new signatures. I fear we have been hit by Hyperion. Yep, examining our bookmark collection shows that my glorious leader has been scanning and already found four wormholes in our home system, including a second that will now persist. It's to class 4 w-space, which is what I had suspected and hoped, nothing too much for us, nothing too different. I see we also have a second wormhole to class 4 w-space, a low-mass variant of limited use, and a K162 from class 1 w-space. Is that a low-mass variant too?

Being able to jump to C1a indicates that this is merely a random connection to our system, apparently there will be more of these too. Just what I wanted, more scanning. But if it brings me more ships, more targets, maybe it will be a good change, and my directional scanner is showing me ships. Lots of ships. A tower too, but the Retriever mining barges, Coveter exhumers, Iteron V haulers, and various battlecruisers all look good. At least, from a distance they do.

Appearing over eight kilometres from the wormhole has never been a positive sign, but it's not always been negative, and so I look for the ships. Specifically, the mining ships, particularly after yesterday's good luck. I sweep d-scan across the ore sites. Nothing. Pointing d-scan at planets sees the ships coincident with the tower, and locating the tower finds them all unpiloted inside its force field. Oh well.

I warp away from the tower, launch probes, and scan the twenty-four anomalies and four signatures, not giving me much to find. There's one more wormhole, plus a gas and data site, the static exit to the system leading out to null-sec. Deklein, not interesting, still not Period Basis. Again, I'm over eight kilometres from the wormhole, and now I remember that this is a feature. It already seems like it will do more harm than good, giving scouts a free pass in to every system. Whatever, let's head back and choose a new fork.

I check the low-mass C4 wormhole, just because I want to, and my Proteus strategic cruiser bounces off the wormhole. I hope we learn to identify these easily, or it could get annoying to decloak for nothing. Although it looks like the double-0 identifiers are common between the low-mass wormholes, I have to wonder what's on the other side. I won't find out from this wormhole, not without changing ships, and what harm am I going to do in a Buzzard covert operations boat, and what good will a frigate without probes do me in a class 4 w-space system? I'll go through our new second static wormhole instead.

Vast class 4 w-space system

Updating d-scan from the K162 in C4b shows me nothing. Opening the system map sees why, with 64 AU of space in one direction, 135 of space in the other. I perform a flannel scan of the system, covering barely half of it, and repeat for the other half. There be ships out there. I warp across the equivalent of half of New Eden to see three towers, a Probe frigate, Mammoth and Epithal haulers, and a Drake battlecruiser, all from the relative discomfort of a rather good bubble trap outside the tower.

Caught but not revealed by a good bubble trap

Thankfully, the bubble trap isn't quite good enough to decloak my Proteus, although I take care when reversing. No pilots would have witnessed my ship getting slowly ripped apart by the tower, though, at least not here. A fifth ship is somewhere, and once disentangled from the bubble and canisters I warp further across the system to find an empty Venture. I don't think coming here was worth the warp fuel. Poking the signatures resolves the two static wormholes, which I'll have to get used to: one to class 5 w-space, the other to class 2 w-space. I'll hit the C2 system for kicks.

On approach, the wormhole to C2a crackles with activity. Well, maybe with activity. The pilot holds the session change cloak until it naturally drops, revealing his Astero frigate, at which point it cloaks again. I punch d-scan, out of habit, and see a pod. That's interesting. It's more interesting to see the pod drop on to this wormhole, but not on top of it. I sense an opportunity, particularly as the pod can't move quickly and my blasters can rip it apart in one shot.

Slowly locking a pod as it slowly approaches a wormhole

I decloak, impatiently wait for the sensor recalibration delay to end, and aim for the pod. The pod crawls to the wormhole as fast as it can, as my lock completes on the tiny vessel as fast as it can. The pod is faster, sadly, reaching the wormhole and jumping through before my blasters have a locked target to shoot. I think it's best to avoid this system now, and the connected C5 system. The pod came from the direction of the other static wormhole, making that way relatively safe—i.e. boring—and now the pilots in C2a are aware of me. I have no idea why they are orange, though.

I take myself home and, with another option remaining, in to C3a. D-scan shows me a tower, Iteron V hauler, and Gila cruiser. There aren't any wrecks, but as there are also no anomalies I shouldn't be surprised. The silly discovery scanner is only showing me three signatures in total, and I can see that Fin has scanned them all already. Our K162, the static exit to high-sec, and a K162 from more class 4 w-space. Well, I'll locate the tower, then move on to the C4 system, as I doubt anything will happen here.

Curiously, both ships in C3a's tower are piloted. The Gila is definitely idle, the Iteron perhaps not as much. The hauler's vector looks like it may have come back from the high-sec wormhole, which whilst mildly interesting doesn't leave me much scope for entertainment, not unless he's planning to go out again and conveniently come back with a polarised hull. Yeah, as I suspected, the Iteron spins on its axis, in to the idle alignment.

Not in to the idle alignment, in fact. The Iteron is accelerating. I was caught off-guard by the ship not aligning towards the high-sec wormhole, but now I see that it is accelerating in to warp towards a planet. To a customs office? In an Iteron? With my reputation? There isn't a second tower out there, so as the Iteron accelerates so do I in my Proteus, not quite believing what I'm seeing. But there goes the Iteron, and here I follow it.

Sure enough, the Iteron has warped to a customs office in w-space. I'm right behind it, just within warp scrambler range immediately out of warp. I waste no time in decloaking, shrugging the recalibration delay off, and targeting the rather vulnerable ship. This one doesn't have extra warp core strength built-in to the hull, and probably has expanded its cargohold rather than fit more warp core strength. Once I get close enough for my myopic blasters to see what I'm aiming at I'll find out.

Ambushing an Iteron outside a w-space customs office

I edge closer to the Iteron and start doing damage. Chunks of damage. The pilot knows he's caught and ejects as I evaporate the hauler's shields and rake deep in to its armour. One more blast rips the Iteron apart, and although I try to stop the pod from leaving he gets away cleanly. Enjoying memories of a simpler time, I move to the Iteron, loot some expanded cargoholds, and destroy the wreck and surviving planet goo.

Iteron exploding next to a w-space customs office

That was a weird incident, not that I'm complaining. I almost perk up about the prospect of four times as much daily scanning if it means pilots will be collecting planet goo in Iterons again, until a colleague points out that he was probably just being lazy, scooping the goo before taking it directly to high-sec. That makes sense, particularly as I already mentioned the Iteron looked like it had just come back from a high-sec wormhole. Still, it's a good catch, and a nice way to call and end the evening. I think I can ignore that other wormhole and go home happy.

I spy a new signature in the home system. Of course there is, I'm ready to hit the sack, get some rest. I can't ignore it, though, I never can in the home system. I launch probes, check no one's around—no one is—and scan the new signature. Or try to, at least. This signature is a devil to get my probes to converge on. The initial scan gets me a point, a second attempt splits the signature—no big deal, it happens. Missing the signature on a third scan happens too, when you don't care about potentially wasting a scan cycle and just pick one of the two red dots arbitrarily. Not picking up a clear result on the adjusted attempt doesn't happen, though, not in my experience.

I try again, repositioning my probes and getting a worse result, a ring instead of two dots. Maybe I'm just tired, and I've certainly made a hash of scanning before, normally by dropping two range increments on my probes without noticing. Drop the range increment, reposition the probes, forget I've dropped the range and do it again before scanning. I don't think I did that this time, but it's often worth taking a step back occasionally. I pull back on the range and scan again, this time getting back to the single red dot of a signature I can resolve. This had better be worth the time.

Another scan and the result turns from red to yellow. It's a, uh, an 'unknown' type. I've not seen that result for a long time, and certainly haven't had the other fields remain blank. Well, it's clearly not a site, so the signature is worth resolving, and if my interface is a bit buggy maybe a session change will fix that. I drill down to resolve the signature, still getting weird results, hitting 98% strength on 1 AU radius combat probes, and no stronger when dropped to the minimum range. I don't know what's wrong with the scanning interface, but a bit of wiggling often resolves the issue. This time is no different.

I still don't know what I've found, almost certainly a wormhole but still not identified directly by my probes. At least I can warp to this signature of unknown type, a remnant of earlier days and probably some glitch in the electronics somewhere, which will let me get eyes on the wormhole. I throw my ship in to warp and recall my probes, at which point the signature drops to 23% strength. I'm pretty sure the results normally persist, but whatever, I'm in warp.

I'm out of warp. I think I'm out of warp, anyway. My engines have cut out, my speed is showing as decelerating to nothing, but I'm getting a weird sensation of... of falling. How do you fall in space? This is probably a lesson in why exploring w-space with red wine flowing is a bad idea. I reorientate myself, and myself with my ship, to see what it's pointing it. Well, it's a wormhole. At least, it looks like a wormhole.

There's no locus to the wormhole, nothing bearing the identifier of its type. It's just a distortion of space. Maybe space-time, I dunno how it works. But who does, really? I hit the button combination to recall my visual interface, but that just causes my overview, directional scanner, bookmark window, and everything else to blink off. It was on, dummy. All the windows should have given it away. I hit the combination again to call it all back. Still the wormhole has no locus. That's curious.

Locus or not, I should be able to get a good idea of where the wormhole comes from by its colours. Null-sec, probably, by the lack of colours more than by their presence. Branch, or Fade, or one of the others with no impressive nebula in the background. But if that's the case, where is the background radiation? That normally gives a tell-tale streak to the wormhole. And is that actually black on the other side? It's almost like looking at an oil spill, and I have to convince myself what I'm seeing are a reflections from our pulsar, or interference patterns from my own displays.

Maybe the wormhole doesn't come from somewhere. Maybe it leads to somewhere. I can't tell where, feeding in to a sense of the unknown I've not felt for a long time. An unknown wormhole leading to unknown space. Is this not what I've been asking for? How can I turn away, however tired I feel, however unsure I can be of my return? I recall my sense of trepidation when first entering w-space, the vulnerability experienced by knowing nothing, surrounded by nothing, supported by nothing. This is it. No longer aware of where I am, commands are made separate to my senses, staring unseeing in to the void blotting out more and more space, until it fully engulfs me. I make the jump.

  1. 2 Responses to “2001: A Space Odyssey”

  2. Yay, I won!


    Thanks for keeping us entertained, Pen.

    By Mortlake on Sep 24, 2014

  3. My God...it's full of stars...

    By Gwydion Voleur on Sep 28, 2014

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