Monday, January 25, 2010

Unknown Space

One month ago, I thought I had reached the end of my travels in New Eden. My strip miners had cycled millions of m3 of ark-bist-crok through the cargo holds of hulks and into the holds of waiting haulers. I had made billions more isk as a T2 inventor and shipbuilder. I had thrashed backwater null-sec markets for billions more in trades. And I had fought and died with some of the best (and worst) corporations, militias, and alliances—everything from one-on-one frigate fights to massive battleship fleet fights.

There was only one problem with all this. I was bored out of my skull.

In response to such a confession, you'll often hear the capsuleer's refrain: "If you're bored, you're doing something wrong." Yet I truly believed I had seen all New Eden had to offer, and, though I hadn't been the best at any role (not by a long shot), the drawbacks of each and every profession had been turning pod-piloting into a chore. My litany of complaints will no doubt seem familiar to many:
  • Mining—In null-sec, you run and hide if anyone shows up in local. In high-sec, you pray you haven't been spotted by Jihadswarm or its imitators. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • Manufacturing—Buy, make, or mine products at low prices. Bake products in oven. Sell products in market at higher prices. Rinse and repeat. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • "Ratting", "Plexing", Agent Missions, etc.—Worse than mining, in that you look like you're a big tough fighter by shooting at things, yet the pirates are so dumb and predictable that they might as well be rocks. Result: ISK and boredom.
  • Gang PvP—Spin your ship in its hangar for hours upon endless hours while you wait for everyone else to get their shit together, then gang warp 20+ jumps while your fleet commander gets his shit together, and then, if you're lucky, a few minutes of "pew-pew gf gf" in local, and 20+ gang warps back home (unless you're podded, that is). Result: Overall, loss of isk, and hours of boredom, albeit punctuated by moments of sheer terror and fun.
  • Solo PvP—Fly 20+ jumps in null-sec hoping to find some ratter, miner, mission-runner too stupid to warp to a safespot when local goes +1. Result: same as Gang PvP.
  • Null-sec Alliance Politics—Don't even get me started. Just ask Hurley what he thinks about the Mayberry Machiavellis running most corps. Or consider what I call TheMittani's Law: The quality of his columns is indirectly proportional to the degree of self-regard he displays therein. Power attracts vainglorious nitwits.
TL;DR version: I was considering turning in my pod pilot's license and giving myself up to the biomass recycling tanks.

But then something sparked in me; call it the spirit of the frontier. Whatever it was, it was telling me to pull up stakes, gather up all my meager worldly goods, and strike out for the Unknown in search of fortune, glory, or bust. And these days, the "Unknown" means only one thing: W-space.

If I went, I wouldn't be bringing any road maps or guidebooks promising surefire ways to maximize isk profits for minimum risk. That would be missing the point, which was to make my own mistakes, learn my own lessons. So much of what had bored me to tears over the past couple of years was the fact that once you read up all of the FAQs and tip sheets there only seemed to be one way to do anything: The Right Way. To hell with that. To paraphrase another starship captain, I aimed to misbehave.

Frontier spirit thus awoken, I took stock of my tools:
  • two fellow pod pilots in the Applied Physics Institute (APHID), with mining, refining, and hauling capabilities shared between us
  • six Coveters with T1 strips, upgrades and scanners
  • some gas harvesters
  • one Anathema with scanning rigs
  • a couple of Iteron Mark V
  • one Apocalypse battleship, haphazardly fitted
  • one Zealot, combat ready
  • one Viator
  • one Orca with all the trimmings
  • lots of core scan probe launchers and probes of all kinds
  • one medium Gallente POS, with 8 small railguns, 2 medium railguns, 2 webs, 2 scrams, corp hangar, ship maintenance bay, medium intensive refining array, and a partridge in a pear tree
  • enough POS fuel to last about three months
It's not much, but it was all I had to hand. (Besides, I wasn't about to bring in any more gear with the Obelisk; the verifiably dullest thing in all of New Eden is watching the fat hindquarters of a freighter align for warp after warp.)

A wormhole was surprisingly easy to find. In the Maut solar system of the Placid region, one jump away from APHID's HQ in Osmeden, my Anathema's scan probes chirped to let me know that they had found a shimmering portal to "unknown space."

What would I find on the other side? I had no idea—and that's just what I was looking for.

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