Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chapter Ten Delta

The Derelicts of Derelik

ISK Balance: 11,424,895.93

This is a poor title for this chapter because - aside from the painfully obvious wordplay - there are no derelicts involved. That is, unless you count Derelik itself or its residents, which wouldn't be very nice.

The first thing I learned as I shuffled through the narrow band of those awkward "in-between" systems we call low security is that those that frequent it aren't very responsive to direct questions. Just throwing my standard opening question of "does anyone here consider themselves a permanent resident of low security?" into local gets maybe one reply out of every potential fifty, and even then it's often nothing more than "no."

As I tested out various procedures for my personal inquisition on those I en route to Derelik, I learned that most people in that particular strip of systems skirting the path from Caldari to Minmatar considered low security unprofitable and not suitable for permanent residence. The most talkative of those interviewed was JoeSomebody, whose amiability pleased me - as his negative security status suggested he would know what he was talking about. He claimed to live in Syndicate, and was in Molden Heath only to raise his security status. Despite his negative rating in this regard, he said he wouldn't live in low security, as it was to him just another battlefield in which to hunt his enemies.

Disappointed with this evaluation but appreciative for his forthrightness, I forged onwards to the less secure fringes of Derelik - taking a detour to stalk a Raven who happened to be headed in roughly the same direction.

As I traveled, I thought extensively on the subject of residence in low security. Surely, many of those that frequented low security were just border guards for the pipes into their choice bits of 0.0 - I had frequently pulled border guard duty myself in my alliance days. They were probably not a good source of opinion on what it was like to live in low security. Then there were the new characters who had just wandered in for a look - they might be good for a first impression but not much else. I figured then I was seeking either full-time pirates or anti-pirates. So it went, Icarus and I wandering and wondering down to Derelik.

As I proceeded through jumps and thought processes, I began to formulate a hypothesis. If low security really was that unprofitable, perhaps those that chose to live there were focused more on player interaction than high or no security players. A pirate needed other players to make money, while anti-pirates needed both pirates to fight and defenseless victims to protect. In high security a good enough player could hardly ask for more than a few peons to do his bidding, and in no security more people just means greater increments of security (and attention). Moreso than anywhere else, I began to think, low security needed people. And yet, there were so few people.

From this, I began to think about anti-pirates and pirates and all the dichotomies they give rise to. If they comprised the true residence of low security, what did conflict between them mean? Were pirates a chaotic power, and anti-pirates one of order? Was it that easy to separate, or were the two generalized factions closer than it initially appeared? Most of all, what was the theory behind both pirates and anti-pirates, and how did that translate into practice?

When I unwittingly stumbled upon an area of Derelik secured by anti-pirates, I found none of my questions answered. Nevertheless, I discovered basis for the beginnings of a coherent, driving opinion of low security.

The avatar who deigned to talk to me, Ral Khek of the Kingpins, was fascinating for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, he instantaneously became my link to the interior workings of this anti-pirate area. Secondly, he and his corporation were interested in joining my former alliance, the Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate. They mined me for information and opinions concerning IAC, and after a lengthy prelude of caveats and general "IMHO"ing, I attempted to leave them with the impression IAC was an alliance with a few large flaws and one thousand-seven-hundred-ninety-five small strengths. It made me question my own opinion of IAC despite my tendency not to think much at all about my time there; the greatest of these questions is how adamantly I believe IAC is truly greater - or even equal - to the sum of its parts, and to what extent other alliances are the same. After all, with all the faults with leadership and trust so many alliances seem to encounter, is it possible that the pod pilots are greater as individuals than when they attempt to cooperate "because they should?"

I'll step away from this quandary for the moment and get back to Derelik. Ral Khek educated me about the structure and operation of this low security nook, and his opinions concerning life in low security. He said felt safe with the likes of INTERDICTION watching his back, but he could never let himself forget he was in low security. Also, rather than finding pirate incursions a nuisance, he welcomed them as a fun diversion from everyday EVE-life. Ral was also quick to state he was making more in low security than he ever did in high security - a sharp counterpoint to JoeSomebody's earlier claim. Clearly, a cohesive anti-pirate force allowed those willing to accept their protection to turn a fair profit. Perhaps it could even be likened to a more profitable high security, with an approximate level of security, better mining and better missions. Of course, the intelligence and discipline of the individual pilots either makes or breaks that scenario.

This brought up an interesting question in my mind; is securing a portion of low security - even a single system - to a degree comparable to high security antithetical to the ideology of low security, or is a legitimate effort by simple virtue of player accomplishment?

Clearly, I'll need more travel to even begin to approach a foundation to base answers upon.

Chapter Ten Gamma

Prawns and Cigarettes

ISK Balance: 11,677,487.94

It's debatable whether or not this is even worth an entry, but let's see where it goes anyway.

Eight and a half months ago, a real life friend joined EVE-Online as a Gallente character. Shortly after his inception into this universe, he was ready to buy his first cruiser - a memorable step for any character. I still remember my first assault missile launcher-fitted Caracal, and the long minutes I spun my mysteriously freefloating camera about its unique Caldari symmetery.

I also remember how quickly it became wreckage when I had the newbie audacity to take it into low security the day after I got it. Ironic that I return there now, hardly any wiser.

So just shy of eight months ago, I bought my friend a Thorax. That Thorax died the next day in low security - fascinating how the cycle perpetuates itself so flawlessly.

In any case, Kallion made himself a note to pay me back for that cruiser. For eight months the pithy reminder "Give Cyberflayer 5mil for his birthday" sat in his EVE notepad. In the course of his experiences, that notepad became cluttered with funny quotes, Ventrilo passwords, and fleet operation times - but still that first note perpetuated. My friend has gone through numerous incarnations of the charming Thorax, just as I have gone through quite a few Caracals (and now, Stabbers). In a way, each new cruiser holds a shard of a memory of the first, and I like to think Kallion will never forget Elarel, just like I will never forget Apocrypha.

Or perhaps I'm just odd because I get overly attached to internet spaceships.

Today I logged into EVE, prepared to continue my strange stint as an investigative journalist, and found my wallet had swollen some. My journal shows that yesterday, that five million ISK was returned to me.

I think it will just barely buy a Stabber.

Chapter Ten Beta

The Catch-Up Game

ISK Balance: 6,680,437.94

As I looked about the space enveloping me, the vacuum rated "0.5" by CONCORD and thus enforced by their presence, I sighed. I imagine the capusleer nestled within Icarus' hull sighed in a similar way - difficult as this may be while surrounded by those famed ambiotic fluids. Neatly arranged on the left edge of my screen were a multitude of dots colored from a cool, inviting blue to an agressive red - this autopilot route would be hovering in my alter-ego's mind's eye, fed into his neural net by hardwired uplink. These precisely one-hundred-and-forty jumps would either lead to my education about the elusive greater motivation behind those that dwelt in low security, or it would lead me nowhere but in circles.

And as I stood atop my mental precipice - preparing for the next (barely) controlled decent into my next great journey, only thoughts of what lay behind me came to me. I thought not of what might be ahead of me - because I frankly have no idea, other than the expectation of getting shot up a lot more - but instead of experiences and encounters from my previous feats of pan-galactic navigation that stick out in my mind. Mostly, these particular experiences occur first and foremost to me because I neglected to fit them into my narratives, and thus they come to me because I want to give them their due attention - and because I do not want to forget them.

For example, I never spoke a word of the Hobgoblin II - a Billy II, if you will - I stumbled across somewhere near a pipe into the vast expanses of 0.0.

Or the fact that in FAT-6P, I spontaneously decided to reorganize my bookmarks from this into this.

Or the couple of times I had extraordinarily overt blessings of luck - or just plain old temptation, I suppose.

Or any of the dozens of people I talked to - traded ideas and dreams with - that I never mentioned or recorded.

Or how magnificently this at-a-whim storytelling has transformed from the trials of intentional poverty to a massive thoughtscape of lucid realizations, self-awareness, cosmic insignificance, introspection, and social commentary. At least, I like to think so.

Or how poorly and briefly I've communicated thoughts that ran around in my head for days before I placed them here, and how much more rambling, overthought detail I could go into concerning each piddling smidgin of an entry.

Or how little or much can be communicated in four thousand character, and how rarely I've had to use a second post to continue my thoughts - and if that is a good or a bad thing.

Or how utterly uncertain and nebulous the entire process is, and wondering if the journey will still occupy my interest the next day - and what will happen if it doesn't.

Or how hard I would be laughed at for entertaining the thought of ever reaching the same sort of recognition Innominate Nightmare did, and wondering the extent of that shadow cast over me. And what idiotic anathema it would be to suppose a kicks-and-giggles IPO in a similar vein to his would ever amount to more than a bundle of laughs.

Or how nobody ever offered to buy me a titan. Which I am thankful for.

And before I know it, I'm in Derelik; my first destination in my new hunt - that for the low security denizen who can tell me why he or she is there.

Chapter Ten

The Next Great Journey

ISK Balance: 6,680,437.94

Despite the trouble seeking I indulged in by plotting my escape path straight through the midsection of the Drone Regions, I nevertheless expected my journey to be mostly quiet with momentary interjections of anxiety, shock and surprise - as I have found 0.0 to be. And so it proved to be, but I did not anticipate having much to relate upon having successfully trailed rust flakes and plasma exhaust through Smashkill's domain. In fact, I figured I would be able to jump right into my grand scheme for a thorough galactic interrogation of low security's denizens.

Of course, my foolish assumptions just had to be proven wrong. While hustling through the systems immediately following a R0ADKILL station system to shake any potential tail, I nearly missed a pithy entry in local: "sucker."

I paused - probably idiotically - at the gate to the next system. Sucker? I was the only other person in the system - it had to be directed at me. Was it a ploy engineered to give me pause while a trap was sprung, or had I already stumbled headlong into it? Surely, as I stared stupidly at the blinking lights on the Caldari gate and the single malformed insult sitting beside it in local, a carrier fleet was being readied somewhere - preparing to pounce on one last victim before their impending rebalance.

Finally, a clarifier appeared "c'mon, 1v1?"

That could still be a trap - moreso, even - but I didn't particularly care for Icarus in the same way I did Apocrypha or Kabbalah, and I was headed back towards Empire space anyways. "What ship type?" I inquired, and was answered by my engager's Stabber appearing next to me at the gate. I grinned and warped to a planet, beckoning him to follow. "To the death," we agreed.

It turned out to be one of my favorite battles I have ever had, which is ironic because it wasn't really much more than two Stabbers wailing away at one another. Of course, you must understand I am a PvP-starved individual; the bulk of my PvP experience has been needlessly compacted into the fleet and space-trench warfare aspects of combat, leaving the skirmish and the 1v1 as a romanticized ideal in my mind - any small gang or solo combat I can get my hands on instantly reverberates in my memories as a favorite encounter.

I like to think the battle was delicately waged; I eschewed the use of my warp disruptor in the interest of a show of simple dominance. I honestly didn't expect to triumph, especially when I was at half shield and my opponent still had three-quarters of his. Somehow, with a series of strafing runs and missile saturation I was able to avoid the bulk of his fire while whittling down his shields, before teasing his Stabber into a zero-transversal environment where the Barrage from my autocannons tore his armor in half before he warped off. It was appropriately elegant as it plays again in my mind - of course, in the heat of the battle I neglected to take a single screenshot other than one from the outset - with no defense other than a scarce buffer, our speed, our skill, and our wits. Our characters were fairly similar in age, and our setups had only slight discrepancies. I'm tempted to say it was the most pure test of player skill I've seen in the game in a long time; perhaps forever.

From there, my opponent and I went our separate ways; I arrived at the fringes of Empire space as planned, and he disappeared back into the depths of 0.0 to continue his hunt. Best of luck to you, Keeper ofDungeonSquad.

Chapter Nine Delta

Without Goals, We Are All Truly Wanderers

ISK Balance: 6,683,387.94

Goals are an important commodity in EVE. Unlike datacores, Tritanium, or Caldari Navy Ravens, they cannot be sold or traded for anything of value, but they're just as essential to making ISK. So long as you want to turn a profit, a clear, driven state of mind is easily equivalent in value to the right friends, the right resources, and being in the right place at the right time. In fact, so many of the predominant goals in EVE have to do with making ISK. It's those heavenly goals - the ones that will remain beyond your grasp for years - that require the most commitment, and of course, the most ISK. That carrier, for instance. You want it? Well, you need ISK for the skillbooks, the fittings, the ship itself, and enough ISK to sustain yourself in that year-plus before those golden doors will open for you. Maybe you're more of the station loving type, and you want to wage market warfare from across the region or dominate an aspect of manufacturing. You'd best become acquainted with the magic of capital, and those capricious beings known as investors. So many of the average player's goals deal so heavily in the flow of ISK into and out of their wallets that money is even more of an omnipresent force in EVE than in the real world. It drives the entire game.

I mulled over all of this as I shared the view of the eastern edge of the galaxy with RT64-C VII, a lonely planet whose craggy, inhospitable surface certainly matches its outlook on life - an unfortunate side effect of such intense focus on the abyss beyond.

As I stared alongside the planet, I thought to myself; "I haven't talked an awful lot about being poor, about hoping the next marketplace I have to peruse for yet another Stabber won't overtax my wallet yet again and I'll have to call in 'just one more' favor from my magnanimous friends. I haven't talked a whole lot about ISK at all - mostly, it's been 'adventure here, journey there, wander everywhere.'" Then again, isn't it a way to get away from the constant thought of poverty? Isn't that what we do in the real world? We try not to think about the extent to which money determines our fate, especially if we haven't got much of it. It's an uncomfortable truth - what better place to confront and theorize about and struggle viscerally with than in a virtual environment?

And with my navigational journey finalized with the eastern frontier, I looked for another journey with which to occupy myself. I turned to Amarria Black, who after a few suggestions, struck goal; low security. It's commonly considered worthless, neglected, frequented by crazies with nothing to lose (and the occasional mothership, of course). That's the way the community seems to paint it, anyway. But what's low security really about? The only way to find out, I decided, would be to go there and ask around myself.

Most of all, I want to know what drives the inhabitants of low security. Is it something similar to my journey? After all, it could be considered the least profitable place in EVE. Are those that frequent - live in, even - low security more free from the grasp of ISK than the rest of us? Or are they simply the marginalized poor with nowhere else to go? Maybe low security is much more than meets the eye.

But first I've got to fight my way through the oncoming tide of Smashkill back into Empire.

Chapter Nine Gamma

The Aftermath of Armageddon, Plus Flying

ISK Balance: 10,683,387.94

The mercurial nature of the EVE community never fails to amaze me; the 228 pages of the sanctioned Armageddon Day thread are a testament to that; consumed first with giddy schoolgirl excitement at the prospect of capital megabattles in Jita, then by venomous disappointment and the vastly inappropriate comparisons to BoBgate and other scandals, and finally by contented praise for a job well done once Singularity finally stabilized.

While I'm severely disappointed in the fact the Jovian Intelligence Agency decided to hack into my computer and corrupt my screenshots of two GMs invoking Judgement upon the Jita 4-4 station - a vision that truly warmed my heart - and the ensuing capital blobl fest in an attempt to kill the two Avatars, the accounts of my other Armageddon Day escapades remained intact. Personally, my favorite moment was managing to tank a GM and a carrier's-worth of fighters after teasing said GM in local.

It occured to me at about four in the morning I should have done the true Vagabond in a Stabber thing and fitted up a Snaked, Tech Two, propulsion-rigged Stabber so as to remain true to my name instead of fiddling around with Command Ships. Alas, all the Snakes were long-gone and someone had bought up all the Stabbers and wasreselling them for marked up prices. This latter bit was of no concern since I had mysteriously accumulatedten billion ISK. Wow, yeah, don't really know what to say to that. I'll never see that number again, that's for sure. Or the maxed skillpoints.

Ecstaticism aside, in the greater interest of progress I decided to progress a few jumps through the east before this update. My route of least resistance led me into Insmother temporarily, where I happened upon what I assumed to be the Red Alliance home system, due to the presence of the RA Prime station. Or is a Clever Ruse to fool the enemies of those sneaky Russians. That issue could be cleared up with a moment's research, I'm sure, but that's far less interesting than indulging in my fair share of tinfoil hattery.

Nevertheless, I avoided loitering in the system and moved on, running into a trio of ISK farmers. I assumed all were associated by the same "aa" suffix to their names, and a few simple scans revealed one was in a Raven, the other in a Badger Mk II, and the last in his pod.

I would later run into both the Badger and the pod - on separate occasions, that is - after jumping through a gate. I was met with these two opportunities to destroy helpless opponents - though I was wary of the Badger, knowing that other Clever Ruse of the Battlebadger - and I was surprised to find myself in a minor moral quandary. Twice I could have dispatched my hypothetical victim, for whom help would almost certainly not come in time. And yet, I was absolutely uninterested in killing either the Badger or the pod. What would I get? Two killmails, two records of my exploits against helpless opponents - and ISK farmers at that.

No, I wanted real fights. I planned to dive into the muddled center of the Drone Regions after my navigational pilgrimage was complete to see what trouble I could cause.

A real fight will be mine. I will find it out here, buried in the rubble of a wartorn, desolate cluster of stars.

Also; thanks to Lance Fighter for the donation to the Doomed Stabber Fund, and all the rest of you are way overdue for a thanks for the more than 20,000 views!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chapter Nine Beta

The Cake Is A Lie

Nothing strums my heartstrings quite like a shamelessly memetic subtitle for a fresh new chapter. This Chapter Nine is going to demonstrate poor interdependence at best, mostly because I'm angling towards speculating and theorizing about topics that spawn from EVE, rather than the game itself. There are a few reasons for this, not least among them the release of - and my concurrent gorging myself on - the contents of Valve's Orange Box, along with the pressing need to write a few sizable papers. Another consideration is how quickly my tour of the cardinal ultimatums of EVE has gone by. Having already seen the west, north and south, I've decided to forestall my virtual pilgrimage for a short time while I think about what I'm going to do next. However, the foremost reason for this particular entry has to do with a conversation I had last night that continued into the morning.

This conversation involved superfluous references to the philosophers of old and the unwarranted tossing-about of phrases like "self-actualization" and "post-left anarcho-syndicalism." It had to do with personal politics and a limited amount of frustration over the need for information, which led to frustration with those who didn't care to root out all the information needed for the formation of their own ideas and opinions. In a nutshell.

The reason I bring any of this up is because this immensely satisfying conversation came about entirely because of EVE. More specifically, it came about as a result of my friend's comparison between his addiction to the hard facts of the great war and my relative innocence by virtue of "what I see is what is." That's less important than the intensely heartening affection I feel for the game that can inspire a lengthy poli-philosophical discussion. It's hard to put it in any less abstract notion without relating the entire transcript, complete with commentary. Mostly I want to relate the wonderous glee with which a game can bring about musings as complicated as those of the political theory essay I was supposed to be writing at the time. I imagine some EVE players may have experienced a similar realization, but for any who are doubtfully reading this I want them to know that this game really is that wonderfully, uncompromisingly elastic.

I'm not entirely sure CCP is to credit for this, just as they are not to blame for the tactics some find distasteful, or the lag voluntarily caused by thousands. It's all in the game. It is the game.

Anyway, I can't keep on this track of ceaseless hypothesises forever, so I should inform everyone that I'm twenty-two jumps from the easternmost point of EVE, RT64-C, after having encountered limited interference from Smashkill. I'm afraid if it goes too easily, I'm just going to have to go and find some trouble to get mired in. For now, I'm plotting how best to react to the Day of Armageddon before clenching my teeth as I dive again into the hopeless Drone Regions.

Here's to an endless journey and the infinite coils of postulation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chapter Nine

CAOD and Faith in Humanity, Among Other Things

For the first - though I don't know if it'll be the last - time, I'd like to extrapolate my way out of EVE, and into that mystical realm of the metagame.

In short, I just finished reading the progression of the War Analysis series, the three entries of which can be found here, here and here. They are authored by the anonymous "WhatIsItGoodFor," sole member of the entirely too suitable corporation Absolutely Nothin [HUNH]. Take a moment to read them now, and then come back, where - in true metagamer fashion - we'll make a nice cup of tea, settle back into the enveloping armature of a plush chair, and theorize profusely.

As I read through each part, I realized first this was one of my favorite essays I'd ever read. Despite the eccentric architecture - in my mostly uninformed opinion, it would need a bit more thetical exposition and substantial restructuring to constitute a full-body text - the striated parts and vaguely chronological progression serve it well. At first I thought perhaps it was simply because it dealt intellectually with the complexity of something near and dear to me, but then I realized I was not enjoying this writing because of its insights or theories; rather, it appealed to me because it made all the situations, theory, speculation, and supporting evidence seem so [i]real[/i]. I felt connected to the war that influences - perhaps to the point of domination - so many aspects of the game we all play, regardless of how directly involved we are with the war itself.

I was brought face to face with the game about the game I had so often turned a blind eye to. This was the metagame. This essay I was reading was the metagame. What I am writing now is metagaming. It is part of the game, with strategies and personalities all its own.

This brought me to a thought. What if, as the essay implies, the RSF and the GBC are the hardiest congolmerations to ever form? What if, in addition to this, both are content with their current tit-for-tat approach to territorial warfare? Moreover, what if both are content with waging less than total war - working instead through proxies.

What if this war perpetuates? What if it never ends?

Only in a virtual context could I say I would be happy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chapter Eight Theta

How Did I Make it This Far?

ISK Balance: 648,467.94

Sometimes it stuns me how thirty-five jumps can just melt away, given no interference and that ubiquitous dash of luck. I sailed through the remainder of Querious and the entirety of Period Basis to arrive at the southern edge of the galaxy in Esoteria with nary a close call beyond very nearly running headlong into an Absolution at a gate. I looked out on the endlessness beyond EVE's galaxy from the third of the four ultimate angles of the compass; I could now claim views from the north, west, and south as my own. A little bit of that infinity belonged to me now, just as it did to every curious pilot who came before me and just as it will to every ambitious capsuleer after. We all come from so many walks of EVE-life, for different reasons. New or old players, curious and fresh-faced or jaded from working their keyboards bare; they all come to see the same thing, but it means something different for each witness.

Perhaps it's not worth all the thought - but maybe it's the closest we can currently get to seeing off the edge of any galaxy. If not our own, why not a virtual one?

See, this is what thirty-five jumps of desolate star systems will do to an otherwise decent set of thought processes.

After basking in my third journeyman's triumph, I was contacted by a longtime friend who had just rejoined EVE and was looking for something to do. I decided to give him a break from looking for a new corporation, and Polysyncroncity and I planned a fearsome duo of Stabber and Arbitrator.

I couldn't spare the time to fly all the way back - even through the most suicidal route - so I left Niobe at the furthest planet for the next adventurer, drifting there, and podded myself.

Poly and I set out on a grand quest, recklessly throwing our cruisers into the maw of low security. We'll see what happens - even if we don't find a single fight, prowling is always better with a friend.

Of course, I checked out Theo Samaritan's mail, which pointed out a graphical bug that would interest a connoisseur of stars such as myself. It turns out stars of the K5 classification have a visible core. Hm.

Chapter Eight Eta

The Long Run

ISK Balance: 7,115,417.90

I have a love-hate relationship with chokepoints. Specifically, those singular systems that adjoin low security to no security regions. Even if the no security region itself - Querious, for example - is known for its relative lack of population, the entry systems are always glowing with Pilots in Space and Ships Destroyed. While most of 0.0 is characterized by vast emptiness interjected with the odd awe inspiring, thousand-ship fleet battle, these bottlenecks and their immediate neighbors have always struck me as the home of consistent skirmish warfare. Maybe a roving band of mercenaries or an elite anti-logistics strike team terrorizes enemy supply and transit lines before a hastily assembled response gang charges headlong into the system to break up their gatecamp. There's no time or real incentive to build up a hundred-strong fleet, and so the small gangs of low security are somewhat preserved at these chokepoints while still introducing all the novelties of no security combat. It's a bit of a hybrid with its own intricacies and rules of thumb - it's also likely my personal favorite flavor of combat.

But without dedication to either side of the great galactic conflict, it's hell breaking through into a region like Querious. For this reason, it took me three days of constant observation to build the courage for an attempt to run the blockade.

My style of observation strangely pleased me. I scanned from afar, watched gates from sniper spots, cloaked incessantly, and recorded who came into the system along with all the wheres and whens. Perhaps it's because in any game I've played, I've always taken an affinity towards the watcher - hoarding information, patterns, strategies, ideas - and the accumulation of an impossible volume of information before I take action.

And so it went for three days, the RZR and AXE and FIX and AAA and PURE alliance tickers coming and going; and me staying behind to see who came next and guess where they might go. I entered into sprees of wild speculation and storytelling for some of my subjects.

This person was carrying this, furtively hoping their intelligence channel was up to date. This person was their scout. That person was chasing them, having scanned them at the last gate. These four were going to set up a camp on the other side of the gate. This one was their Covert Ops pilot. This one was watching the gate. This one was watching the watcher. And so it went on, an increasingly compounded orchestra of this singularly ever-important system with its jump gate into no security.

For a while, the system - Efa - became my EVE. It was the entirety; the no security beyond it and the high security behind it were only fantasy lands.

Eventually, I tired of watching. I thought I could predict the ebb and flow of things well enough. Of course, with such boredom comes a strange kind of courage. So, when I felt it was right - at peak hours, no less - I made the jump of faith.

There was a RAZOR Alliance camp on the other side, and the interdictor bubble was staggered off the gate just perfectly so I coincidentally wound up far too close to the center.

Although the campers hadn't quite reacted yet, I could see I was a dead man. I thought I might have had a chance, until I saw the Claw.

I was just about to decloak and make a futile run for it when the gate activated - with a familiar blue flash, a FIX pilot appeared in system.

"I'm toast," the pilot typed in local as her ship decloaked. The RZR pilots swarmed her and I tried hard to keep myself under control - she was dead, but maybe I wasn't.

Now I had approximately two seconds to decide between using my microwarp drive or not. My memories hearkened back to the bubble I would have escaped from if it had not been for the added sluggishness of a MWD's acceleration.

But I was too deep in the bubble to simply fly out. I depressed the hotkey as I had done so many times before and hoped for the best.

The FIX pilot was dead. I was locked. Scrambled. Shot at. And then, somehow, I coasted out of range. My warp drive was activating. Those three magical words appeared at the bottom of my GUI - a ship's equivalent of "I love you." My accelerometer surged, and I was saved.

I still don't understand the ineffability of my luck and its insistence upon delivering me from the worst of fates. But really, it's not luck I should be thanking. I wouldn't be surprised if that FIX pilot - Anette Plathe - probably had a far more expensive ship than mine. What if I had jumped in after, or decloaked first? Would that be noble or foolish? Chivalrous? Would it be an odd thing for a neutral stranger to do for a former enemy, or has it happened before? I could deliberate for hours, but the truth is I'm fifteen jumps into my journey thanks to that pilot. So much can be summed up in one simple emoticon that has long been one of my favorites:


Chapter Eight Zeta

The True South - Nothing But Pwn

So I actually had to look up the entirety of the Greek alphabet to find out what came after Epsilon, as my immediate knowledge of such goes no further than the fifth letter. I'm just not that awesome, try as I may.

Since being podded, I haven't accomplished much other than acquire a new Stabber - Niobe - through the generosity of one Eriks Black. That's the second character with "Black" suffixing their name that I've accepted a Stabber from, and I didn't even notice it until now. Strange subconscious bias? I know not what it means.

I've also concocted a route to the southernmost point of EVE that is so long I couldn't fit it into one screenshot. This ultimate point of EVE's "down under" is named C-PEWN, leaving me wondering whether the similarity of the name to "pwn" is a coincidence or another cosmetic easter egg. Regardless, I am determined to get there in one piece, even if I don't make it out again. Although my previous, somewhat easterly-leaning route through Curse got me to FAT-6P alright, I'm not waiting around for a scout this time and so have chosen the long way through BoB space - a choice that will either bring easy travels or many chases.

In the interest of keeping up my newfound hobby of building up eclectic cargo holds for my Stabbers, I grabbed a Tracking Disruptor - which I don't remember being there before - from the Paye station, along with a leftover Overdrive from Eriks' gift. Both have been stuffed in with the never-ending belts of ammunition, though nothing gives a cargo hold flavor like assorted commodities do. Maybe I'll stumble upon some - or I'll just have to resort to preying on IAC pilots for their Spirits.

Also, I've gotten more than a few offers for free ships - should I need one - though it gets a little dull asking for the same setup over and over. This sparked a thought - one of accepting comedy setups. Maybe a Stabber with small beam lasers, or six cloaks instead of one. Or cargo expanders and hull repairers. It's up to you - it's really just the ship that matters for both mobility and style's sake - but I'll fly any Stabber anyone wants to give me, regardless of how ridiculous it may be. It could be fun.

Only barely congruent to the rest of this is the frightening quantities of peer pressure that have been lumped upon me by others in my college's residence hall upon learning I'm playing a game with ships as fearsome and awe-inspiring as Titans and Motherships. They keep telling me that I just have to get into a Titan before the end of the school year; a dubious goal indeed, especially considering I've taken no interest in - and therefore no training towards - capitals or supercapitals before. Plus, to do it by the end of the school year I'd need to max out my learning skills and get a full set of +5 implants. Ridiculous, right? And yet, the thought persists in my mind of how hilarious it would be if I could gather the resources to make it into a Ragnarok before approximately one hundred and eighty days expire. Hm, how easily such inspiration is sparked.

In any case, I'm currently sitting at the lip of the 0.0 pipe into Querious, looking downwards into the slippery, sheer drop to follow. It should be fun.

Chapter Eight Epsilon

Redder Pastures

ISK Balance: 8,401,545.90

After spending significant chunks of time flitting between the stellar objects of FAT-6P, hoping to spectate a siegebreaking expedition of apocalyptic proportions, I'd accumulated little more than screenshots and witnessed no more than ceaseless camps and the occasional gank. I had hoped - and even tried on a few occassions - to act the part of the vulture and snatch up some loot or salvage from one of the siegers' kills, but they guarded the carcasses of their prey too well.

Still, I was enjoying presenting myself as a freelance journalist, a no-holds-barred war correspondent who would stop at nothing to bring the EVE public the truth about the war that rages on the fringes of the galaxy.

In reality, it's nowhere near that noble. It's really just for all of our amusment, for a way to escape the more mind-numbing aspects of the game, for those who can't be there to get a taste of it, and of course for the selfish desire to see numerous expensive ships go down in flames.

Even though I was having fun being "that goddamned neutral cloaking Stabber" - to my knowledge, I have never been referred to in this manner, though I fancy I have in some private channel or another - there wasn't enough pod-juice being spilled. My map tempted me with the dying embers of a battle in OOYZ-G, and I plotted a route.

It wasn't long before I was deep in BoB-claimed space, and to my delight there was a roving gang of Knights of the Southerncross and Freelancer Alliance pilots terrorizing the space lanes. They seemed competent, and I figured they might get some kills despite how devoid of life BoB space often is - even near the frontlines.

I did get to see them get one kill; unfortunately, it was me. Understandably, they didn't take kindly to having a neutral tail them, and despite my best efforts at haphazard guesswork I jumped right into their formation just as they were aligning for their next jump. The bulk of the fleet seemed to waver with indecision; their sublight engines kept their ships aligned, but they did not jump. Then, with the mystical coherency of fleet communication, their smaller ships turned tail and began combing the fifteen kilometer radius around the stargate. It wasn't long before they found me.

Perhaps you remember those livestock I obtained along with the cloak that kept Lux Esto intact so long - the pilot that podded me, when contacted, told me the livestock had survived, and he would pass on the message that they were to be cared for and shuttled around the galaxy in whatever cargo hold they graced. I entertain the hope those livestock will never be destroyed, and each new looter will carry the cattle with him or her into the depths of the stars. It's a bit like Lord of the Rings. But with cows.

Time to obtain yet another Stabber, and head back south. I still haven't made it all the way to the southern edge, and the wartime diversions may have to be ignored if I'm ever to make it there.

Chapter Eight Delta

Fleet Battles - Where Nodes Go to Die

ISK Balance: 13,951,546.00

The four day delay between the last entry and now is the result of numerous things, but most pertinent to EVE's universe is the fact that a lone neutral must ford the waters of the pipe to a place like FAT-6P very careful, and hence, very slowly. I've crept my way through gate camps and roaming gangs of multiple allegiances, all entirely too willing to assume I'm in league with their nemesis of choice. I've abused my cloaking device to no end, using it to remain nigh undetectable in a safespot hastily created after my arrival in each new system, hiding in the impossible expanse of each system until - like an animal oft-preyed upon - I scuttle towards the next gate, jamming the "Jump" button while fervently hoping luck is on my side. I am reminded constantly of the Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate's early days in 0.0, where we often ridiculed the AFK cloakers who were so big and bad - invisible in their safespots - whom I am no better than now. But it is a matter of survival, just as it was for them, and so I feel justified.

During the course of my fearful scurrying, I came upon the chance to turn the tables and become the predator. After a particularly bulky Interdiction gang passed through my system and I - curious and foolish - followed them at length, I happened not upon the blob but rather a lone Caracal sitting on a gate. A target I had a chance at killing...he was sitting on the gate, offering a rapid method of escape, but...why the hell not attack?

I was struck by an even more ingenius idea - why not ask for a 1v1? The 1v1 is, of course, the mythical holy grail of EVE PvP; sought by all and attained by none. Except, as opposed to the true Holy Grail, those that seek it are not met with gruesome deaths; rather, once touched by the promise of the 1v1 its pursuers are cursed to whine for eternity at its inattainability.

Or so the legend goes.

This Caracal pilot was a 2007 creation, and therefore wary of accepting a 1v1 from a 2004 pilot. Nevertheless, he accepted. Despite expecting the Interdiction gang or any other manner of nasty instapoppage to come through the gate, I [url=""]engaged him[/url] directly on the gate with no heed for my own hide or Lux Esto's poor excuse for structural integrity.

My foe for the moment was most likely expecting to lose horribly, and so he asked that we not fight to the death. I obliged, my mind already racing with the surrealism of the situation. An honorable 1v1, on a gate, in 0.0, with gangs roving all about, and the crucible of the Alliance-Coalition cataclysm just two jumps away? Nonsense.

And yet, as our shields failed at exactly the same moment, we called it a tie, bid the other "good fight," and went on our seperate ways. How did this happen? Why did the galaxy hold still for our casual, just-for-fun cruiser on cruiser 1v1? The holy grail exists in the most stunning environments, and my armor now has the dings to prove it. Thank you, Aclcla of RISE.

A note on RISE: I've never had a strong opinion of RISE, by simple virtue they were the enemy for much of my 0.0 existence, and not the "true enemy" at that; proxies, rather. Never mind what I have or do think of them, now I know at least one RISE member is an admirable EVE player. It hardly qualifies as an epiphany, but it's certainly a strong observation.

I expected fully with all of my rationality and logic-ridden mind to be completely ganked when I attempted to enter FAT-6P. Of course, I jumped right in anyway.

And yet, of all 220 pilots in the system, there was but one - a Harpy - even near the gate. It was not that my overview hadn't loaded. It was not that I was already dead and in a station lightyears away and hadn't realized it just yet. There was just one ship watching the gate.

One day my luck will run out and I'll be podded everytime I undock. Just wait.

I made my safespot and cloaked, thoughts blurred by recent occurances. First my 1v1, and now this uncamped gate? What was 0.0 coming to? Where were the drone-spamming lag fests, the node crashes, the doomsdays, the dozens of dreadnought skeletons floating - perforated by fusilades of enemy fire - as a testament to the horror of war? I couldn't help but smile, though I couldn't tell why.

If not the gate, I knew the station was camped to kingdom come as my scanner told me so - along with a new personal record of three motherships - and thus I was sorely tempted.

While the camp at the station was slow to react to my prodding at their bulk, I was accosted by several interceptors and a full-fledged gate camp upon my return to the gate I entered through. I turned tail just in time and caught my breath back in my safespot.

Between the ceaseless local chatter, jokes about IAC drunkenness and generally being an annoying insect to the present superpowers, I was having a hell of a time being a neutral in a total warzone.

Other than these temporary excitements, it was standard one-sided 0.0 siege warfare, full of camping and that general feeling of "nothing to do." Siege warfare is a central, but not particularly favored, part of large scale alliance clashes, and any 0.0 citizen will experience it at some point. I felt radically different from the last time I was caught in this situation; I felt more like an observer than a participant, free to forumlate and express my own opinions without the smothering influence of an alliance on my shoulders. It was all infinitely more interesting, partially because everyone wanted to kill me. The reason I ramble about all of this is because it's a bit of a pasttime I don't think occurs to many people, and one with relatively few strings attached, at that. When you're bored, just get podded.

Then, as is often the case in a heavily sieged system, a cynosural field opened, but no carrier or dreadnought appeared on scanner. Rather, a Wyvern - I beamed at my scanner and instantly started working out how I was going to approach it. After working out an approach and some fast reflexes, I had the perfect vantage point from which to oogle Count TaSennine's Wyvern. I had never seen a mothership in person before, and looking over the powerful angles of its architecture reminded me of the surge of awe that filled me when I first encountered a carrier. But a mothership: all the influences that coalesced to form that ultimate flagship mirror the same influences that have created the legends of the real world. When I see a mothership or titan, I think not just of the pilot, but the miners, manufacturers, escorts, POS tenders and defenders, and everyone else who put a bit of their time into the majestic icon of a mothership.

Also, it helps that the Wyvern isn't ugly as sin.

Of course, an addendum: thanks to malet for the 10 million ISK - it will be funding a new Stabber in the future, I'm sure.

Chapter Eight Gamma

Et Cetera, Among Other Things

Being the finicky type I am, something about my last post irks me. It was lengthy and had solidity, yes, but it was all about me. I flew here, I flew there, I turned invisible, I got caught, I got out, I I I. This blog-forum post hybrid thing is about my wanderings - and even then it's more about the people I meet and the sticky situations that come with solo 0.0 travel than about me as a pilot and a player - but moreso than jabbering on about the concrete details of my travels I like to write about the thoughts that strike me from some unexpected direction. I like to talk about the history and the future of things, what skewed memories I can recall and how my biases affect my speculations about EVE's progress.

For the record, EVE has always been in a state of progress. Despite the cries of the displeased, EVE has never taken a step backwards - mostly because of player ingenuity that prevents the game from becoming stagnant no matter what changes the developers affect. To the fleet blobbers and the fleet commanders that struggle to refine them into a military machine, I say good job. To the neverending stream of IPOs and the stock brokers and those who trust both of them, I say good job. To the twenty three hour-a-day no-security pipe campers, I say good job. To the low-security smartbombing mothership pilots, to the AFK cloakers, to the alliance infilitrating alt spies, to the scammers, to the node crashers and lag bombers, to the market monopolizers, to the forum warriors and propaganda artists, I say good job.

And to all of those who put up with and adapt to and work around them, and to those who fight them steadfastly in the game to change their ways, you've done the best job of all. For even though I favor a brutal EVE just as any other player - regardless of profession - might favor a softer EVE, whatever incarnation of the game we all currently log into is EVE - there is no other version for those who disagree with this or that intricacy or even the entire nature of the game. Since there is only one EVE, those who make that choice to play it - as devotees or casual gamers - are the ones that make the game what it is, an idea applicable to any multiplayer game but most visible and most admirable in this game here that we all play.

This all is one of Those Things that I've been thinking about while I travel. The other thing is far less weighty and far less overarching - in fact, it does not arch at all. It is those negligible, mildly amusing ideosyncracies that each ship has. Often, it's something like the Stabber's 5m^3 drone bay: enough for a single light drone, and nothing more. It's a detail that becomes increasingly wonderous as the weariness of a long journey and intimacy with the quirks of your ship combine - who decided that this ship gets a single light drone? Did they look at the ship plans and think "Hm, you know what this ship could really use? A light drone!" Did they believe it would give the ship that extra edge, that it would turn the tables once out of every thousand skirmishes? Were they afraid there would be long-winded forum posts sagging under the weight of mathematics showing why this ship needed a single light drone? Or did they have a sense of humor, hoping to inspire this very process of amused speculation?

Either way, I always put a Hobgoblin I in that cozy little drone bay. I've never used "Billy," as I call him - based on the hypothesis that all drones are in fact named Billy - but maybe, just maybe, some day I will.

Maybe that light drone will tip a battle in my favor one day. Maybe Billy will kill a titan.

We can only hope.

Chapter Eight Beta

Spirits - The Most Valuable Currency of All

ISK Balance: 3,951,546.00

My good friend Kallion - who is of the IAC persuasion - and I finally found time to begin the trip towards FAT. The Doril pipe is not the kind of chokepoint a capsuleer should ever tackle alone unless they're looking for a horribly stacked fight, for seedy gatecamping folk and steadfast defenders of the pipe alike regularly set up shop along the narrow highway through the northwestern edge of Curse and kick back for a comfortable night of popping ships and pulling aggravating Ventrilo pranks.

Using the lure of payment in Spirits and Spiced Wine, I managed to get Kallion to fly to Sendaya from his alliance's stronghold in the JZV-06 constellation. From Sendaya, we set out on a journey both of us have undertaken countless times before and knew the perils of all too well - Kallion scouting ahead in his Incursus and I following in my Stabber. Kallion had lost a Dominix class battleship and his implants in Doril just a week or so prior, and I recalled similar losses of my own as my scout called each gate as clear.

Relaxing in the towering jade-edged monolith of the F4 station, I transferred the alcohol I promised my accomplice; he readily accepted it, as a true IAC pilot would. He didn't have enough time to accompany me all the way to FAT-6P, he told me, and we bid each other goodbye until our next opportunity.

In the meantime, I acquired a Prototype Cloaking Device from Boris A, another longtime friend in game and in real life. Being separated from all of them by the geographical and social pull of college, it was good to have both of them in a conversation together and just talk about nothing all too serious.

I had a hell of a time getting the prototype cloak to cooperate with the Stabber's electronic capabilities, but my hotwiring eventually worked.

This cloak would save my tail and Lux Esto's engine nappelles, for after a day of downtime I decided to head of towards FAT without Kallion. After a short practice session with my new cloak, a module I admittedly had never used before, I started on the dozen hazard-laden jumps that would lead me to FAT.

Before I made my way out of one of the IAC home systems, I was contacted by way of trade window by one TalonXI. He offered me a unit of Quafe Ultra for free, saying it would keep me awake through those long 0.0 journeys. Trusting his wisdom, I took the Quafe – one of the most consistently amusing objects in the game – and stuffed it in my cargo hold after giving him thanks.

In addition to the Quafe Ultra, I also came away with some livestock and dairy products. The livestock had been surreptitiously shuttled between the members of Mercurialis Inc. and now fell into my hands. I pledge to carry the inside joke into the depths of space.

After several entirely abandoned systems, my heart jumped when I unexpectedly found two others in local with me. My mind stopped racing quite so quickly when I saw they were IAC. While IAC is NBSI in and around FAT, it still put me at some ease. The traffic began to flow, and I watched from my own personal Wonderplane as AAA and IAC pilots came and went.

Growing bored with the system as it slowed down, I wheeled Lux Esto towards the next gate. As my frictionless warp bubble whipped me through space, two AXE pilots entered system. My Stabber shuddered as it fell out of warp, and sitting there on the gate was one of those pilots. He was in a Claw, and would be able to lock me before I could about face and make it into warp again. I took my only option, and jumped through the gate. Of course, the hostile pilot followed.

On the other side was a Sabre and the expected interdictor bubble. Soon the Claw joined us. As I have practiced so many times, I remained still, using time bought by my post-jump invisibility to think my way out. I blinked into visibility for a sparse second before engaging my own cloak and aligning towards a random stellar object, hanging there, tempting me with a modicum of safety if I could just make it out of the bubble.

Following a cursory search of the bubble, the Sabre and Claw pilots assumed I had made it to the next gate and warped off to "catch" me. While I grinned at my luck, Lux Esto traced a long semicircle and inched towards the gate to the previous system. After a brief visit from an AXE Crow, I was left alone in the bubble. I deactivated my cloak - my blessed, blessed cloak - and microwarped to the gate.

Safe in my invisibility in the next system, I logged, content with the best escape I'd engineered yet.

Chapter Eight

Southern Beauty

ISK Balance: 4,016,546.00

Though my pod persevered, Yggdrasil was claimed by the Fallen Souls on the journey to bring me back to the safety of the four Empires. That particular Stabber had served me extraordinarily well, and I will always remember her for the rapidity with which she ferried me up to the north. Fallen Souls deserves the kill, considering it was the second time I was passing through their space, too brazen to deviate my course for the return trip. Nevertheless, the slight twinge of regret and disappointment that nips at me with each Stabber that is transformed into the familiar blue ball of plasma leaks and ammo cookoffs has not become dulled since the first loss.

I believe I'm getting better at not dying, though. Maybe. That's one of my few real goals after all - as opposed to some aspiration to become a terror of the space lanes - and even that is not terribly close to my heart. I apologize for the dreaminess, but I really do like what I do, and what I do lends itself to such spirals of thought.

With the monetary measure of Tassadar Beta's foresight, I purchased myself a new Stabber. Failing to summon a name that satisfied me and my arbitrary naming convention of archaic religious references - especially after the inspiration for Yggdrasil's christening came so late after her acquisition - I settled on Lux Esto, or "be light." Interestingly - or not really, because I chose the name for this reason - it is my college's motto. My creative skills must really be taking a dive.

There was little excitement to be had as I travelled through Amarr space to arrive at the system of Sendaya, the heavily trafficked portal into Curse; or, known more affectionately to me as the beginning of the Doril pipe. With all of the major Empire hubs I have passed through as of late, I had been hoping to happen upon an Empire gank or two for my own entertainment. Unfortunately, I had to make my own by destroying a few convoys when things were slow and adding their cargos to the increasingly eclectic contents of my cargo hold.

Since the journey was uneventful and I had time to bide, I turned to taking a number of beauty shots, several of them including the suns - one of my favorite parts of EVE's graphics - which have been reintroduced after a brief disappearance. The blinding brilliance and the roiling stellar surfaces and solar flares have always struck me as a unique and underappreciated portion of the systems we frequent.

One more that I couldn't fit into the narrative.

At the CONCORD outpost in Sendaya, I spotted an old friend of mine in a familiar situation; an Ibis sitting abandoned in the exit port of the station. Of course, I gathered up the lonely rookie ship and took it to the sun, where I gave it a proper funeral by flying it towards the sun and activating the self-destruct.

In short, I have been enjoying myself with a rest of a day or so while I wait for an old comrade or two to show up for long enough to take a trip with me through Interstellar Alcohol Conglomerate space and jump straight from the frying pan into the fire of FAT-6P.

Chapter Seven Beta

Milliway's and the Frigid North

ISK Balance: 12,010,000.00

After waking up at eight yesterday morning, I was overjoyed to find that downtime was to end in just thirty seconds. Leaping at this unexpected opportunity, I plotted the a westward-wheeling route I felt struck a nice balance between safety and speed. I rocketed through Empire space, and had broken through into the lawlessness of of no-security space - and into space claimed by the Fallen Souls alliance.

I checked the active pilots filter of my map obsessively, watching with concern as the one station system I had to brave began to glow a brighter yellow with each refreshing. I also surprised myself some by having the foresight to check the surrounding sovereignty, and was pleased to see that Fallen Souls was arranged in a narrow east-to-west strip, meaning I might be able to lose any pursuers by passing into a neighbor's territory where the predators might tread more warily.

I threw caution to the wind in favor of speed and warped straight through the station system, passing clean through Fallen Souls' space a few sparse minutes after triggering their perimeter alarms. Pleased with myself, I laid back to enjoy the dead silence of the rest of the trip. System after abandoned system flashed by, and a 50+ jump journey that had taken hours the first time through had taken but one hour. Yggdrasil and I idled at yet another edge of the galaxy with the aptly-named Milliway's to our back, and chatted with the locals.

This northermost system, interestingly enough, is owned by Mercenary Coalition. It shouldn't be a surprise they claim it as a Province, but it is to me since I'm so used to seeing them in action against strongholds in the south. It amuses me in the same way a tropical bird stranded in the Arctic amuses me. Unfortunately, this particular tropical bird is heavily armed and frequently displeased.

It's fitting, as I plan to head south next. After exploring the heavily fractured political nature of the north where the region flails wildly without the solidity Dusk and Dawn provided, I'm ready for the battlefield of the south where I hope to see some of the military giants that define EVE ramming into each other like rhinoceroses. One of my favorite systems, FAT-6P, has been heavily besieged - seems as good a place to start as any.

Best be getting underway now, shouldn't we?

Also, I'd like to thank Tassadar Beta for the advance payment on the next Stabber I'm going to need after I inevitably lose Yggdrasil. A small spark of an idea occured to me as I rolled the eleven million ISK around in my head, though. These ships that I take to the corners of the galaxy gather history and experiences as I fly them, just like any other pilot's ship, but then I feel as through I've lost that history with each ship's destruction. In the interest of preserving a bit of that lineage, perhaps someone who's interested might buy one of these ships and the smidgin of legend they've accumulated, and further my own journey by way of their patronage.

Just a thought, not one important enough to preclude the lure of the south.

Chapter Seven

Don't Afford What You Can't Lose To Flies

ISK Balance: 998,000.00

After obtaining a new Stabber and haphazardly bolting on some rudimentary Tech One gear, I was enjoying the relative calm of the Amarrian core systems when I noticed one of those convoys of NPC industrial ships lingering far from some station or another. Like the pests of the outside world, all players notice this common flavor of white overview cross, but discard the registery of their presence to the peripherial. They're just another thing to remove from the overview filters, like sentry guns or customs officials. Ever present, they're just another overlooked facet of a high security existence.

All of this made me want to shoot them very badly.

I've always had the sense convoys are one of those things that people accept as part of EVE without really realizing what they are or what they do. But I do know that they're one of those things that have special circumstances under which you can perforate their hulls with high-caliber projectiles.

So, with my brand new Stabber, I locked the hauler that was the most distant from the sentry guns, and activated my four standard issue 220mm Vulcans. I activated my warp distruptor as well, just for the hell of it.

Shortly after this decision, a blue flash lit up the surrounding space. It was not the blue flash from the hauler. Rather, I was in my pod, bobbing gently next to the twisted hulk of metal that looked nothing like the intact Stabber it was a moment ago.

The damned thing hadn't even earned a name yet, and it wasn't insured either.

Distraught and infuriated, I rushed past the sentry guns into the station, and undocked a moment later in an Ibis decked out for revenge.

Predictably, this ship was also turned into scrap by the same, much closer, sentry guns.

Fifteen minutes of impatience later, I undocked in a new Ibis and began hammering away at the hauler with my space-particle sucking civilian railgun. I grinned devilishly as my foe's shields began to dissolve and his blaster shots glanced off my own.

Despite the slow-going whittling of the hauler's defenses, I had not been shot to pieces yet, and I studied the ranges and angles of my attack for later use.

About an hour later, my Ibis picked over the largely disappointing remains, but I was content for I had discovered the magic of this particular set of game mechanics.

I contacted Amarria Black, who mentioned earlier in this thread getting me a new Stabber - something I decided I needed very badly at the moment. We struck up a conversation, and after a day-long bout of a strange take on in-game phone tag, I had bought myself a new Stabber and returned all 91,677.27 ISKs that remained of his prior generosity.

This particular Stabber, named Yggdrasil, even had some named modules nestled in next to those of the Tech One flavor, and it reminded me of the earlier days, when I was genuinely happy to have enough ISK to throw in such a minute luxury here or there, spending half a million instead of twenty thousand. I was glad to recapture a little bit of that simple joy.

After continued convoy bashing, one of which yielded me 220 units of Spirits - joy abounds - I angled northward again, for another go at that northernmost point. Determination filled me as I gritted my teeth for the second try through that chaotic region in which I had no friends. But the heartless nature of 0.0 beckons me.

Then, southward, to frolick like an annoying schoolchild in the midst of the massive fleets that dominate the southern front of the great war.

Chapter Six

Final Days

ISK Balance: 0.01

This chapter is impossible to write. There are myriad reflections I can only leave to the reader to make. Also, Ibises

After idling in Empire space, lacking the time to prepare another venture northward to complete my goal of standing on that particular edge of the galaxy, the time of my inexorable hiatus is upon me. I futzed around with a 1 out of 10 deadspace complex for purposes of amusement, and took my unnamed Rifter into the low security surrounding The Traumark Installation, still failing to find a suitable target.

This morning, I logged on and headed into Emrayur, where an Amarr starter school is located. I found a six-day old Coercer pilot and struck up a minimalistic conversation. After leaving him or her with the last of my ISK, I logged.

Precisely twenty days from now, I return.

EVE is beautiful brutality balancing a brusque ballet. That is, to say, it is ineffable.

Chapter Five Gamma

The Joys of Dying

ISK Balance: 9,571,086.28

Now, as we all know, in EVE there's dying, and then there's dying, the latter usually involving a pod. Pod-death is interesting because it means different things for different people, and among those people there are specific conditions under which being podded has different consequences. Take implants for example - nobody wants to die with those plugged in. I know a few capsuleers who have never been podded, and so keeping their corpse out of the galactic supply of frozen flesh is a matter of pride for them.

Then, there's being podded while you're trying to get somewhere. Having your ship disintegrate into so much salvagable debris while you're in transit - without any real urge to fight - is inconveniencing, but being podded is a real setback. It usually sends you all the way back to square one. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars.

This happened to me. Thinking I was outrunning the Curse on my tail, I ran smack dab into the interdictor-assisted gate camp that had been specially prepared for my arrival. What happened next is - forgive the graphic analogy - comparable to a prostitute realizing she's been hired to "attend" an Aztec blood ritual when she initially thought she would be walking into a room full of Japanese businessmen and easy cash.

I had made numerous mistakes that had resulted in me sitting inside of yet another interdictor bubble - pondering intensely in the direction of my computer screen - but as the burgeoning diciple of camp-dodging that I have become, I saw a way out. I was near the edge of the bubble, and there was - thankfully - a single object I could warp to without passing through the bubble. It was a moon, but I would have to take my chances. I slammed my engines into overdrive and with practiced timing engaged my microwarp drive. My maneuver sent me wheeling out of the bubble, pulling a tight turn to bring me into line with the moon. I hit warp.

I did not warp. I glanced down and noticed my microwarp drive just beginning to engage, ruining my carefully executed aligning. I suspected I had desync'd, but I didn't have time to fuel such suspicions as the Flycatcher and Curse caught up with me. I was double webbed, double scrammed, nossed, droned and rocketed to pieces. My assailants stopped halfway through my structure, and I thought perhaps they were responding to my offer of ten million ISK in exchange for my sorry hide, but instead they were keeping me chained and flaming in position so another half dozen ships could warp in and get their share of the killmail. A Rapier finally put me out of my misery with a salvo of artillery shells.

As with all post-gank stress syndrome sufferers, I have regrets after I die. I should have done this. I should have done that. In this particular case, I should have shredded that Flycatcher. It's doubtful that would have saved me, but it sure would have made me feel better to see that thing die.

After having a bubble dropped on my pod and being summarily executed, I found myself back in Paye, staring at the Rifter I'd abandoned. I sighed and saddled up.

In the words of their gang leader, "Venal is rough."

Chapter Five Beta

A Brief Guide on How to Run Away, and Other Things to Do In 0.0

Systems with stations in them are obviously the most congregated-upon systems in 0.0. The comfort of having one of those empty white squares on your overview and prealigned to is unsurpassed by most other offers of safety in the otherwise unforgiving expanse of no security space. A large defense gang brings lag, a safespot is cozy - until it's probed out - and a POS is safe - until it's sieged. But a station in your system is just a warp away - eagerly welcoming your ship so that you might cower from the hostile fleet outside or log off without worries after a hard day of grinding ISK out of the callouses and blisters of your hands and the bones of your enemies.

My travels have taught me that 0.0 stations are not the wanderer's friend. What I once assumed to be a boon for all no security inhabitants turns the glowing alliance population centers of my map from a series of hospitable retreats into a fortress line of well-defended obstacles.

No-security station-systems pose a problem for the vagabond because in EVE, if you're not with them you're against them. Since I serve myself and no other, the overwhelming majority of alliance space automatically has a vested interest in seeing me explode.

This has become a major hurdle in my journey into the northern maelstrom of what is going on? and other assorted clusterfscks, because the borders are so muddled I'm tromping through a new alliance's territory every several jumps - meaning a whole new set of defensive patterns to acclimate myself to and learn to circumvent. Luckily, the ever changing alliance tickers are of little consequence to me beyond this, since they all appear to want to kill me.

I bring this up mostly because I found myself unexpectedly caught in a high traffic pipe shortly after entering Morsus Mihi space. While I was somewhat surprised by the number of industrial ships flying about unescorted, I knew every pair of eyes in the constellation was on me - the lone neutral Stabber flitting about their space, aggravatingly ignorant of borders and "proper diplomatic channels." I was a mosquito to them, and they had the flyswatter hidden behind their backs.

As I sat in a safespot, prealigned to the gate that was to whisk Kabbalah and me through intricate and elegant mathematical improbabilties and deliver us to the first station-system on our route, I had a thought. Perhaps I did not need to go this way. Linavin had mentioned earlier that day that my route - while avoiding the worst path north - did not angle west enough to ensure smooth sailing. Given the difficulty this first populated system had given me, I was not looking forward to penetrating the perimeter of the several other such fortified systems on my route.

Keeping a careful eye on local, my ever-running scanner, and my overview, I input new headings and plotted a new course. As Kabbalah performed an admirable hairpin turn at full velocity and launched out of the safespot towards the yellow icon of my new destination gate, local lurched by four or five.

As I arrived at the empty gate and jumped through, I was glad I had the foresight to alter my course. My expected arrival at the other gate had been prepared for, and had I tried to make a run for it I would have most likely been splattered like the mosquito I was, running smack dab into the heavy hitting ships they had jumped through from their station-system. I suppose the annoying insect bumbled off just in time.

The next several systems were dead quiet, until I approached the gate that would angle me northward again and take me to one of the most suspicious systems on my route - a system with several ships, but no station.

Chapter Five

Not Quite the North

Sixty-one jumps. I know others have trekked further, but this is my personal best - or worst, depending on how you look at it - for trip length. I could have darted straight upwards, but crosschecking the map filters for pain, death and misery showed me that a detour through Venal would significantly increase my chances of reaching EVE's northernmost point - QYZM-W - with Kabbalah intact.

I cast a critical eye towards the Stabber's three lowslots, and deemed them unfit for this bone-wearying journey. Their current configuration gave a significant extra kick to my engines and guns, but that edge would only come into play if I were caught by a gate camp. Hoping to avoid that scenario, I opted for three named Inertial Stabilizers, figuring that cutting down on aligning would give me a greater overall edge. That decision will either be the life or death of me - I just need to figure out which.

A player named Tuea sent me an EVE-mail saying he wanted into my corporation - something I'm more than happy to oblige - but that he was denied because of his Gallente blood. Never one to stand for discrimination, I set about purging the racism from my corporation's bureaucracy by training up Ethnic Relations.

After some general fooling around with bumping people off of stations and warping about to test my new low slot configuration, I decided to spend some time cutting off the high security fat from my hearty helping of jumps, and made my way to the gate that would lead me once again into low security, and then the treacherous no security space beyond. After hanging out at the gate with an Eos and admiring the organic curvature of his ship, I logged, planning to return once peak time had passed.

Another Interlude

The Real Life Vagabond, Among Other Things

The timing of the modest popularity my journey has gained is a double-edge sword, and I am flailing it about haphazardly. You just know someone is going to lose a limb.

For you see, my this time next week I'll be adrift in the Canadian wilderness for a fortnight, and just a few sparse days of recuperation afterwards I begin college. So this escapade reflects the real life journey I am about to undertake, an accidental bit of symbolism I rather enjoy, but in matters of priority such real treks trump virtual ones, no matter how relatively idyllic the latter might be.

While there is no internet access out in the wilderness - I think - there will be at college, and while that significant departure from the normal and comfortable hopefully won't prevent me from carrying on this particular set of wanderings, I fail utterly in the clairvoyancy department.

So, the reason for why I am telling all of you this is not only out of politeness and not wanting to simply disappear on anyone who's formulated a habit of reading these adventures, but also in case anyone wants to take up the mantle of wanderer extraordinarie. It's really not hard to break free of the patterns we force ourselves into each time we log on to Tranquility and adopt our avatar as the symbol of our impact on a virtual world; and to make it even easier, if anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, you can use this thread and my lonely one man corporation if you wish. I promise you don't have to use a Stabber. And don't worry about whether your writing is better or worse than mine - the important part is that you're making the journey.

So, perhaps there are a few things to think about nestled in there.

Chapter Four Delta

Dreams of Scams and the Reality of Poverty

ISK Balance: 12,699,014.28

I remember making my first million ISK, setting that first milestone that every EVE player remembers - be it fondly or otherwise. My first million meant nothing to me - I knew it was pocket change - it was my first ten million that excited me. I was already bored with mission running then, but it was the most profitable use of my time to date and I promised myself I would leave my shifty, poor quality Level Two agent behind once I had made ten million ISK; to me, it was just enough to fill a bathtub to swim in, you see. As soon as my wallet flashed and racked up to seven digits like a slot machine that had just hit the jackpot, I turned tail from Empire space and never looked back.

It's odd for me to have spent so much time almost continuously in high security, after scorning its clutches for so long. Already I feel the need to send Kabbalah screaming northward - a comet of rust and duct tape - but I had to finish what I'd started here in the Federation.

I had my drugs, ready to pose as boosters for just long enough to pass a cursory inspection in the trade screen. I felt like the madame of a Bangkok brothel. It took a few more anxious, stress-laden jumps with my cargo hold crammed with Crash and Frentix before I found a population center bustling enough with enough activity to afford me a chance to try out my embryonic scam.

Almost immediately after I began hawking my goods, I had a convo request. I accepted, but checked my potential target's age. While the speed with which they convo'd me bespoke of an experienced player's confidence, their young age made me hope they were simply eager to get their hands on a fabled and powerful booster.

However, as my conversation with the buyer progressed, it became readily apparent he was the alt of a seasoned veteran, in town solely to snatch up a good deal like mine. I knew as soon as he saw my drugs in the trade window instead of the booster he was paying for, my plan would be foiled. I acted the businessman nonetheless, allowing him to pick the item he wanted and the quantity. I politely offered a modest five million as the price for five Frentix boosters, utilizing superfluous amounts of smiley faces and exclamation points to mark my exuberance for the sale.

Then the awkward pause came as soon as I dragged the Frentix into my half of the the trade window. "These aren't boosters."

I feigned ignorance, concocting a less-than-plausible story about how I'd been had by a scammer who sold me the drugs for 500,000 ISK each, saying I could resell them for twice that. "I've been had," I sighed into the conversation window, filled with embarassment at my failure to con my quarry.

Sick of drugs, I ditched Marathon and the drugs in my current station and made the few jumps to my beloved Kabbalah. There, I looked over the hundred-strong populace of the system while my Stabber rocked gently in midair. Surely, there was someone out there wobbling precarious and ignorant over the abyss of a well laid ruse, and all I needed to do was give them a push.

I strongly considered giving the ordeal up for lost and heading north.

I made a terse, calm statement. "1 mil to whoever puts an x in local."

There was a pause. And then, one hopeful "x" trembled in local. I sent the million ISK.

There were a few more - each received their award for their bravery. And then, not in a torrent, but rather akin to rogue droplets from a leaky faucet, more "x"es trickled in. I paid out six million ISK in total.

And then we talked. And talked and talked and talked. I instantly began to like the natives of Dodixie that had been attentive enough to wrangle a million ISK from me. I promised ten million to the most creative use of the multipurpose "x," and when an X-Files joke won me over, I sent that payout too. I was stunned by how open and friendly formerly aloof strangers became with me as soon as I set their wallets a-blinking. A thought occured to me - I was not persuasive, cunning, or ingenious in the least when it came to the scams I had read so much about and occasionally idolized - but what if I used the trust I had acquired through the simplicity of free ISK to fuel a scam?

I could not perpetrate such an atrocity upon the six Dodixians that had been so hospitable, so I set my autopilot for Ourslaert, the Gallente Federation's own miniature Jita.

Once settled into an Ourslaert station, I put the same offer into local - albeit only 250k for an "x" to prevent myself from breaking the bank too early. I gave out maybe 1.5 million or so - the nearly 150 others were either dead asleep at the keyboard or simply too jaded to take a token of free isk.

The 250k ISK had hardly softened up my new friends as much as a million would have, but I began building my trap nonetheless. "Now, I'll double whatever you send me." Utterly transparent to their jaded eyes, the Ourlaertians saturated local with many a "lol," and even a "rofl." Run along, scammer, they said. One sent me 100k ISK as a joke.

When I sent him back 200k as promised, he made a big mistake for him and his friends - he stated in local I'd been honorable.

They sent me a million. Five million. Ten million. They got back two million, ten million, twenty million.

Then my wallet flashed and lept by fifty million. If I were going to take their ISK, now was the time. At such little cost to myself in ISK and time, I'd gotten a complete stranger to send me fifty million ISK simply out of faith in my word that I would double it for him.

I told the man, Porthos Cudlar, he'd made a big gamble. He said he had. He said he figured this was the part where I took his money.

I right clicked his name and sent him his 100 million.

It didn't matter to me whether I wound up richer or poorer - this whole story, after all, is about surviving regardless of the ISK in my wallet - but I had pulled off a scam. There was a happiness-blurred minute where I had taken someone else's hard earned ISK. Stolen it. Made off with it. It was mine and I had done nothing to relieve him of it but ask politely. I had pickpocketed another EVE player for 50 million ISK, in broad daylight with 150 witnesses. And for those of you who think it's effortless, try it sometime - it just may have been the hardest 50 million ISK I've ever earned.

Hah. Got your nose.

I'm going north.

Chapter Four Gamma


ISK Balance: 88,161,514.28

I was met with a bittersweet surprise upon logging in - a zerg rush of killmails. At first I thought it was a mail bug that had unread my many (many, many) deaths, but as I began clicking through them, I realized they all seemed identical. In an instant, it occured to me why - my Ibises had been smartbombed. They had been smartbombed by a Vagabond, ironically, their wet-cardboard hulls torn asunder by successive waves of gravitonic resonance. I contacted Durar - the perpetrator - not so much because I was upset but more out of hope he'd taken pictures or video of the occasion. Unfortunately, he or she was not the most fluent in English and responded to my conversational attempts sporadically, so I probably won't be able to get pictures if they exist.

This was not a setback at all, though, for I was trillions of AUs away in both geographical location and in mindset - I had a new project.

I have never had the persuasive skill or the motivation to be a scammer - also I always run into the cynical, unwilling smart ones instead of - for lack of a better word - the suckers. I positioned myself a couple jumps off of Jita, and began expounding in local how I had spent my savings on a POS and needed help to fuel its operations - both in actual fuel and in minerals with which to manufacture product to sell on the market. I left the link to these tales in my bio, both out of lethargy and to reward those smart enough to check my background before investing in me. Surely, I thought, anyone who read just the first entry or two would realize in all probability I was not the proud father of a bouncing baby POS.

There are a lot of impulsive spenders in EVE. There are a lot of cautious, frugal ones, too. My machinations were met with extensive eye-rolling and sarcastic comments. Dark Omen, a Privateer, chatted with me some, led me on, read my tales, and then eventually paid me ten million ISK to go away. Figuring this was all I was going to get with the investment fraud, I was headed back towards the Gallente Federation when another former corpmate - Boris A - a crafty and enwizened player gave me an idea; people were wary about promises of returns on investment - something not well covered by game mechanics - but were often less cautious about tangible things they could take for granted. Blueprint copies, for instance, could be passed off as far more valuable originals mostly due to a moment of thoughtlessness on the target's part.

Get some drugs, the Russian said. Sell them as boosters. People are totally ignorant as to the differences between boosters and drugs. Most drugs even say "booster" in the description! It seemed so easy.

Before I ran off to acquire the materials for a scam that was looking more promising by the minute, Boris had a question. "By the way," he said, "are you going to be writing about this while you try to scam?"

Of course I am. We smiled devilishly and turned back to our respective computers.

While the Sisters of EVE buy orders for Vitoc amused me, I didn't want to use the common, widely legalized drug as my so-called "booster," for it was too well known. Unfortunately, Vitoc was the only narcotic for sale in almost the entirety of Empire space, as one might expect. This meant I was headed back to The Intaki Syndicate for my needs.

Not wanting to lead Kabbalah into that dangerous mash of systems, I instead rigged up Marathon, an unarmed, triple inertially-stabilized drug runner, and plotted a course to the closest source of the suspiciously coke-esque Crash.

Once nearly through Placid, I was stalled by a trio of pirates. After escaping their minimalistic gate camp, I holed up in a station and struck up a conversation.  I reminiced with one about the comically inept alliance that was UNL after learning she was a former Immensea resident, and once one of the others logged for the night I decided to follow suit.

Upon waking up the next morning I logged on, eager to enter Syndicate and smuggle my drugs back into Gallente space. I ignored the NBSI warnings on the secure containers outside of gates as I forged my way through space owned by the Brutally Clever Empire, and smiled greedily as I docked with the station.

As I oversaw the dock workers loading the crates of Crash - and some Frentix, too - the BRUCE locals began to notice me. I soon realized that the alliance was extraordinarily polite, a virtue apparently lost on the population of Fountain and most other 0.0 regions. The populace of this particular system was comprised of friendly miners and manufacturers who were a pleasure to talk with, but they warned me they had a few PvPers about who were bloodthirsty after the numerous capital ships they struck down yesterday.

I talked with Zaphod Bee, apparently a personality with some influence over the fellows now sitting on the gate that would lead me out of Syndicate. I had split the present alliance members into two camps simply by arriving; those that wanted to pop the unarmed Rifter and send me back to my clone, and those that didn't. Queen Elissim, one of the latter, opened a conversation with me just as I clicked the jump button, trying to warn me about the interdictor and accompanying camp on the other side, but it was too late. My jump landed me within the bubble, near its southern pole, and I took my minute of free invisbility to calculate if I would be locked before I could escape the bubble. No interceptors. I jammed my microwarp drive into full throttle and the semicircle speedometer swelled with blue as I launched free of the bubble. I engaged warp to the planet I had handily prealigned to, just barely remembering through the fog of sudden liberation to make a safespot midwarp.

I sat at my safespot for a good long while trading stories and information with my captors, getting Zaphod and a few others interested enough in my wanderings to take a look at this thread (hi there, if you're reading). I was probed down, but not fired upon. Just too nice of a guy - or simply not threatening enough - to be blown out of space. Eventually I decided I had best be getting back to my original intent, and once I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be executed I made my way out of BRUCE space as fast as my thrusters would allow.

I had acquired my drugs, now I had to smuggle them into the Federation. I brashly ignored the warnings that came along with my illegal cargo and headed straight for Cistuvaert, miraculously encountering not a single customs officer suspicious enough to scan me. I siddled my Rifter into the station, and beamed as I unloaded the drugs into my hangar before contemplating how I would best go about making a fortune off of them.

Chapter Four Beta

Empire of Lag

ISK Balance: 82,805,197.44

In the Federation, I christened my new Stabber Kabbalah, somewhat accidentally keeping with the theme of archaic religious texts - seems like a better naming convention for Amarr ships, to be honest. Oh well. As I had promised myself, Kabbalah was promptly kitted out in full Tech 2 gear. No slot was left untouched by those little orange corners that make me giddy for the fiery testing grounds of a dogfight. Kabbalah outdoes Apocrypha in the speed department by almost 250m/s - perhaps that edge will save it from the same fate as its predecessor.

While in the Federation, my spending spree on Kabbalah was matched - if not exceeded - by the number of skills I picked up, including Medium Autocannon Specialization and Recon Ships, two skills I had fervently awaited the acquisition of and wished desperately to put to use.

However, Kabbalah was for the moment unarmed and - deigning there were more adventures to be had in Empire than had first occured to me - I headed for that terrifying graveyard for latency and packets, Jita.

Jita is populated by two kinds of player: the hypercompetitive undercutting billionare manufacturing moguls, and the soulless automatons that buy things from them. I was about to become one of the latter, and I steeled myself for the transformation by slimming down my Graphical User Interface as much as possible. The waves of lag had been crashing against the hardy hull of my wireless connection for five jumps now, and as Kabbalah dropped out of warp atop the final gate in the aptly-named Perimeter, I checked my frames per second so I could make a comparison once I was within the monster's gullet.

The map had lied to me some, overestimating the population of Jita by some 400 pilots, but that was probably from the masses coming and going in their ceaseless tides of dip and swell. I black screened for only five minutes or so, and my frames per second remained at a steady sixty as Kabbalah and I were regurgitated one the other side of the gate. I checked the market, scoffing some at the ridiculous cycle of 1 ISK undercutting. While normally when faced with this demented form of undercutting, I'll buy the third or fourth cheapest item, but this time I went for maximum savings and bought four of the cheapest Tech 2 220mm Vulcan Autocannons. The 4-4 Jita station loomed before me, and I shuddered under its slow, cool gaze. Once fitted, they looked positively menacing, but only made amusing clicking sounds when I tried to fire them. Once I'd spent 150% my ship's cost on ammunition, my guns were dangerously warm and ready to be spun up on some poor sap.

A sidenote: one of my guns was obviously worth much more than I paid for, as it was so advanced it didn't show up on my fitting screen once bolted on. Unfortunately, the cloaking device shorted out after I undocked.

I fled Jita, leaving with the sense there was much more to Empire than cheap supplies and Veldspar. I'm going to stick around The Forge a bit longer, and see what kind of trouble I can get into before setting sail for the northern tip of EVE.