Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EVE Online Origins: El Dorado

“What do you supposed will be behind this one?”

“Probably more of the same.”

I perused the black stargate, and the strange assortment of deployable structures surrounding it. It looked more like a construction zone now, than the site of a mysterious alien stargate.

“When will it be fixed?” Harken, my alliance mate asked. It was late, and we were the only pilots left online.

“That’s hard to tell. We’ve only fixed one other, and that took us a little over three weeks. But, that doesn’t mean that they all take the same amount of time.”

 “But if it takes the same amount of materials and time, it will be tomorrow.” It was more a statement then a question, and I could hear the excitement in her voice. She had not been here for the first gate we fixed, having arrived with a later group of colonists.

“Correct.” I smiled.

“Okay. Well, I’ll definitely be here. I want to be with the group that explores the new system. But, for now I’m going to bed.”



Coms went quiet, and I turned my covert ops ship around and headed back to base. I had work to do, now that everyone in the colony was tucked away in their beds for the night.

As my ship slowed, coming out of warp, no fewer than thirteen large POSes rose to greet me. It looked like a strange ghostly bubble town, scattered with an assortment of unpiloted ships, anchored cans and colonists’ personal mobile depots.

The POSes were full of laboratories, construction modules, and many other deployables—all hard at work processing blueprints and manufacturing the equipment that kept the colony running. Hard at work while the colonists slept.

A wormhole back to New Eden had been found a few days earlier, so no doubt the hangers were packed full of new supplies brought in--including more BPOs, and anything we couldn’t build—such as factional ammunitions and implants.

I gulped back a twinge of guilt.

We were the first—the first in EVE to establish some sort of major colony, bringing together many different kinds of corporations and pilots for mutual exploration—and mutual survival. The amount of discoveries we had made caused many of our colonists to become known as experts to some of the game mechanics—being the only ones who had studied certain anomalies, items, and new technologies. Some were even paid to consult with smaller groups who were trying to start their own small colonies, and the El Dorado directors were considering the possibility of establishing several satellite colonies.

The sheer amount of work, organization, and cooperation that went into the endeavor was staggering. And, the colony itself was extremely impressive.

It’s really too bad I was about to rob them blind.

It was inevitable, and if I didn’t do it, someone else would. I told myself over and over.

A month ago we had sat down and discussed potential threats and how to better defend ourselves. We looked at known NPC patterns, and came up with ideas on how to better protect our miners and other industrialists from the operations that were critical for our survival.

We had explored every option –from armed escorts, to excessive scouting and early warning intel channels.

But, we had one major chink in our armor. And that was the naivety of not considering the threat that could come from within.

I slow-boated to the nearest POS, trying to look inconspicuous, while typing some notes into a window I had opened. I would wait an hour –that would be a safe buffer zone of time, and all remaining night owls would have wrapped things up by then.

I had been planning for a week, and everything I needed was in position. The only thing I had been waiting for was the discovery of a new wormhole back to New Eden –an escape route. It’s discovery, and the fact that no one else yet knew about it was the primary reason that this was the time to execute my plan.

I would be taking home no less than 200 billion in assets tonight. And that was a low estimate. There were certain items we had discovered that were so rare, they might as well be priceless at the moment. Major null-sec alliances back home would pay a pretty penny to see how they could incorporate some of these items into their plans for null-sec dominance.

I looked down the checklist I had been writing up, and realized I had forgotten the gate under construction. There were billions of materials on-site going into the fixing of the gate.

I bit back another twinge of guilt.

The ability to fix the broken gates was probably one of our largest discoveries. While many of the gates we had found out here had been operational –our current open sector was around eight solar systems—we had found a few weird gates that seemed to not work at all.

Exploration, research, and a little trial and error had led to the discovery of tools and materials that were successful in repairing the stargates –and the first one we had repaired had added a small subregion of three solar systems to our sector. Much to the great excitement of our resident explorers, who couldn’t seem to get enough of weird sites, strange NPCs, and almost unlimited amounts of things to discover.

I turned my ship around, and headed back to the stargate.

The site of the large, black alien gate had once inspired awe in me. But today, I was focused on the task at hand. I drew up to the first construction module and started taking note of inventory and making bookmarks. I would need a ship with a much large cargo capacity for the actual haul.

People were going to be really disappointed tomorrow when they realized they would not be exploring more new systems.

Tomorrow, I'd be the most hated person in my alliance. My actions could possibly become renown, and I would be known as the guy who robbed the most successful colony in the game.

It was when I reached the fifth construction module that I realized something wasn’t quite right.

The gate was glowing. Wasn’t it only supposed to do that once it was operational?

I stared at it a moment, considering if this was going to hamper my plans. I wasn’t quite as curious as my other alliance mates, and the thought of activating the gate and checking out yet another system that was sure to be chalk full of yet more asteroids and anomalies didn’t really appeal to me particularly. Though, I suppose if I waited there might be more discoveries to make my haul even bigger…

A couple hundred billion in-hand is better than a few more billions in the bush, I thought to myself tersely. Let’s not get greedy.

The gate exploded with light. Two large beams burst forth from either end of the alien construction, and I flinched at a sound unlike any I had ever heard before. Like the machine was screaming, in a strange mechanical voice.

Someone was apparently activating the gate. Only, I was the only one here.

I quickly burned slightly away from the module I had been inspecting, and cloaked my covert ops. But it was probably too late.

A covert ops briefly appeared on my overview, before also cloaking. I did not recognize his name.

Who…? How….? Where did he come from?

A few of those brief moments passed—the ones that feel much longer then they are. And the hair rose on the back of my neck, knowing that there was an unknown pilot on grid with me, watching. Not only could I feel his cloaked presence, I knew that he knew I was here also. Watching for him.

I did not have long to wait. Apparently I was not deemed a threat.

The gate exploded with more light.

My overview exploded as dozens –possibly even a hundred or more pilots decloaked. I gaped at the list of ships, while struggling to pull my ship at a safer distance so that I was not accidentally decloaked.

These were not your average peaceful explorers. They were armed to the nine—dozens of some of the most expensive pirate battleships in the game. Along with ships I had never heard of before, and…capitals.

We had always thought these gates might have other ‘special’ qualities, but attempting to take capitals through them had not occurred to me until now –as my overview scrolled with Moroses, Archons, and other carriers and dreadnaughts.

They had freighters, transports ships. Heavy Interdictors. An assortment of command ships and tech three cruisers.

This was an armada. A deadly, purposeful force that could only have one intent.

The other covert ops decloaked nearby, and my heart sank into the floor as he dropped combat probes.

There was nothing I could do. There was no local channel on which to plead with them, or even ask them who they were. I had no friends online.

I could only watch.

Several of the transport ships started ransacking the nearby construction modules, stealing the valuable gate materials we had spent weeks collecting and preparing.

My hands started shaking as a large portion of their fleet began to align away. I warped ahead of them, knowing exactly where they were headed.

Thirteen Large….vulnerable..…POSes rose to greet me.

The hostile armada arrived moments later, taking tactical positions around the sleeping colony. And I gaped in horror as they opened fire.

The POSes broke like twigs under the collective fire of the dreadnaughts and battleships.

This was not New Eden, and none of the usual rules applied. There were no timers. No reinforcement. No time period for us to plan a different defense.

No warning.

No mercy.

Their freighters and transports were arriving, scooping everything that dropped. Valuable ships—supplies, weapons, blueprints.

And sitting there in my covert ops, I felt inexplicably small, and useless.

How naïve we had been. How stupid. We really thought we were safe? That we were the first, largest colony in this new place? We had touted our knowledge and experiences and discoveries around everywhere, giving anyone and everyone every piece of intelligence they ever needed on us.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

It took less than an hour for them to destroy the colony’s main base. They left little –even salvaging much of the wreckage they caused. Out here every material—every supply was important to keep and turn into needed inventory.

Portions of their fleet broke off from time to time, no doubt to kill other bases and outposts we had in-system. By now they had probably already probed down the other gates, and were preparing to probe down our other assets in the remaining systems.

Finally, the last contingent left the site, and I was left alone to look at the devastation.

El Dorado was gone. Obliterated.

My overview blipped, as the hostile covert ops pilots decloaked where the colony once stood. He jettisoned, and appeared to be anchoring some sort of strange device –a beacon of some sort.

I looked at it more closely, and understood.

There was no ‘sovereignty’ out here. At least, not in the traditional sense. As far I've been aware.

There is only survival of the fittest.

They were planting a flag. As if to say, “We claim this.”

“We conquer you.”

I turned my covert ops around and warped away. Upon landing at the stargate leading to one of our other systems, I slipped through unnoticed, and initiated warp to the bookmark that had been made for a far different purpose.

I took one last glance around before activating the weakly blinking wormhole.

And went home.

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