A Diver's Notes on the Abyss

1 - Back Into the Depths

Ah-- it’s been a while since I did this.

Ave, pilots! So, for those of you who don’t know me already I’m a slightly noisy Achur with a bit of a writing habit and enough of an ego to sometimes think I might have something fun or interesting to share with people, so usually that writing takes the form of a public journal. A lot of my work’s been the “Sojourn” writings on various topics, but, really, I’m pretty well settled now so that title doesn’t seem so appropriate anymore.

So. New project.

To be clear, pilots, comments are completely welcome. So are corrections and even a little argument; I’m hoping this’ll be a bit informative, but even the limited expertise I have is more what you might expect from, like, a naturalist than a really focused researcher. Mostly I write about this stuff because I like talking about and discussing it, but I don’t pretend to have the best info all the time. So, yeah, corrections welcome.

Anyway. . . .

It’s been a while-- like a year or so-- since I did a lot of Abyss diving. For a while, a couple years ago, it was a nearly daily activity. I dove mostly Tier 3 and 4 until I finally made it through my first 5 and … well. It was hard to look back after that.

Only, also, it also didn’t really allow for a lot of photography, you know? … Lots of excitement, and the profit margin spiked a lot, but … it wasn’t gentle. Not in the way that lets you divide your attention. Not at all.

Then, the invasions happened.

I’ll probably be doing Tier 5 again regularly sooner or later. For now, it’s nice to be able to do something that lets me play around, and experiment, and talk to people. And do a bit of photography.

Something I’d like to just get out of the way: I’m aware some people consider this kind of work morally questionable, or even outright horrid. It’s true that the filaments are a Triglavian creation and that a diver is necessarily accepting a challenge from the Collective by activating one. It’s a controlled environment; we are, while we’re there, rats in a maze, running a test in hopes of tasty cheese.

To that extent, volunteering to be an experimental subject for a society that’s done what the Triglavians have seems … well, bad. Foolish at best. At worst. . . .

To me, though-- I don’t see what the Triglavians gain from me by me running these that they haven’t already got. It’s not like I’ve changed my tactics a lot. I’m sure they’re watching, but by now I expect I’m mostly confirming what they already knew about me. In exchange I get to kill either the Triglavians or (mostly) people we probably don’t want looting the Abyss, and I get to take the Triglavians’ stuff.

Then also, I’m not sure we’ve found a single way to fight the Triglavians that the Collective doesn’t consider to fall within the framework of a proving. Even in the invasions, it seemed like the arenas just got bigger.

I do think reasonable people can differ on this, though. I just do what makes sense to me.

Anyway! The Abyss.

There’ve been some changes since I was last diving much: tachyon cloud navigational hazards (fun!), plus a bunch of new visitors: in addition to our old friends the Drifters/Sleepers, the Triglavians, and the rogue drones, we can now add Sansha’s Nation (who we kind of knew were around but never saw), the Angel Cartel (that’s new. Also, OW! Stop that!), and (sigh) CONCORD. Whoooo seem to be completely and violently on board with the whole nature of the contest, so I can’t feel too bad.

(Let me know if I left someone out? It’s late.)

More to follow, starting with those lovely cream-colored what-does-this-do-oh-gods-I’m-HOW-far-outside-the-stable-zone clouds.

6 Likes

2 - Title Hard to Pick but Kind of Want to Go With "SHAZING!"

This cream-white cloud (not to be confused with the blue or orange, the more familiar navigational hazards) is a tachyon cloud, and it’s an AMAZING problem to have. It basically I think triples your speed while also about doubling your maneuverability, so as navigational hazards go it’s actually pretty manageable … as long as you’re still inside it.

It’s a cloud, after all. It’s not always clear where the affected zone starts and where it stops, and more even than the others being surprised is the dangerous part here. When you enter the cloud, your ship will very promptly gather speed. When you leave the cloud, your ship will keep all its accumulated speed but its ability to do anything with or about that speed will be back at normal levels. This is fine as long as you’re heading someplace you’re happy to go, such as across an annoyingly large patch of nothing towards the exit gate or smack into the side of an asteroid next to the wreck of a resource node you just hit (three cheers for collision shielding!), but you might find yourself a little unhappy with your circumstances if it throws you far off course or the wall it sent you hurtling right at was the all-too-permeable stable zone boundary.

It seems like the key to managing these things is to try to stay away unless you’re entering on purpose and you’ve planned ahead of time what you’re going to do with all that bonus momentum. They can even be worth actively steering for if you’re aiming to get basically anywhere in the arena in a hurry; just make for the cloud and click approach on your actual destination as soon as you see the effect take. As long as you don’t wait too long to make your turn you should arrive where you wanted to be almost immediately.

A couple other things about this: it doesn’t seem like most things that aren’t eggers, including basically all conventional crews, are able to handle the tachyon clouds well. Drones especially are …

… you know, just don’t point light combat drones anywhere near one of these things? If they get caught in the effect and their target’s either in it or just outside, they’ll usually get tossed back and forth across the cloud like a ball on an elastic cord and often bang into the arena “walls” and so get torn into by the gravitational tidal forces. You can lose them pretty quick if you don’t notice it happening.

Most opponents handle it better, but I’m not sure I’d say well. For a long time I was holding my fire while waiting for any pursuers to follow me through the cloud, assuming that the sig-radius-friendly speed boost from the tachyon effect would make stuff like frigates nearly immune to my missile volleys. But, actually it seems like that’s not the case. What seems to happen (with HAMs, anyway) is that as I pull away they fire their microwarp drives to catch up. Then they get into the tachyon cloud and ZING they’re all of a sudden very close-- closer, maybe, than they meant to be, so they cut speed and start to reverse course, with the MWD still mid-cycle. And then my missile volley catches up-- likely even several at once.

Boom.

(If it’s a frigate or destroyer. Bigger stuff it doesn’t tend to make much difference.)

Convenient.

Basically, these things are hugely and even delightfully useful if you plan out how you’re going to use them and then execute that plan. If not, just … gods and spirits, be nice to your crew and just stay away. I haven’t had anything spectacularly bad happen but sometimes the burn back into the safe perimeter can seem just way too long, and I can’t imagine what it’d be like if you were under heavy neut pressure or something at the time.

As a general rule I usually stay away from them as long as the space around my ship looks like this:

Once things clear up, it’s fine. More than fine. Fun, even.

4 Likes

3 - The Abyss

Can we talk about the Abyss for a moment?

From the start, the Abyss seemed like the sort of place that wanted to be described by literature more than science. Like, “A spacetime labyrinth of particle storms and shattered spindles,” “The place you go if you fall off the universe,” “The deadest space,” or maybe, “Literally the netherworld.” How else do you describe a place that seems to exist as a sort of encysted bubble of spacetime, or series of same, cut off from normal space?

I was looking back over some of my older writings on the subject, wondering and speculating about the where and the how of it all, and I realized: after all this time, we still don’t have any kind of satisfactory answer.

“Abyssal deadspace.” What even really is deadspace aside from a patch of space where warp drives stop functioning right? More energy? Less energy? Dark matter vein? Generalized spacetime weirdness?

It’s clear that deadspace can get deader. (More dead?) We’ve seen places-- patches, in normal space-- that seemed to be sort of verging on going abyssal, places with odd asteroids, apparently common enough for some Blood Raider-associated gang to make a serious practice of finding them and making hallucinogens out of them: “deathglow.” Not that we’ve been able to find them much ourselves without CONCORD helping us seek them out. Still, it can happen, and also it seems like Pochven is maybe, kind of … on its way there?

Like, all of it? Together? … It’s still at least kind-of with us, though. Eventually, I wonder if that’ll still be true.

Without using a filament (and dealing with the 20-minute time limit), can we find a way into the Abyss? … It seems like some people did, and it’s not just the Drifters, Nation, and Rogue Drones that are getting in anymore. Whatever the method is, they’re not sharing, though.

And it seems like the Triglavians themselves lost track of the way back out. So maybe there really is no way into it from normal space, without some kind of tunneling. That would make it … basically a series of bubbles. Maybe even a sort of spacetime … froth? Underlying (?) normal spacetime. Pockets of normal-ish reality existing in a “direction” human brains might not be very equipped to think about. That … it seems like that would have them literally existing in another dimension, but flowing along with us in terms of probably both time and general relation to our own geography.

If I’m even thinking about this vaguely right at all. Augh.

One thing I’m increasingly sure of: there’s probably no big Triglavian home star cluster beyond it all. I think the Abyss is it, and here’s the reason why: it seems like maybe the Triglavians treat our star systems almost exactly the way they treat their own pocket-arenas as they struggle amongst themselves. Victory in a given place means you’re entitled to take what’s in it: everything, everyone-- you take what you can, and either go your way or move in and make yourself at home.

It’s a viable way to approach a long-term conflict you have no expectation of just plain winning as long as you’re living in a very compartmentalized society, since even total war is pretty limited and you never stand to lose too much at a time. They’ve even adjusted their language to allow for a society living at multiple different speeds all at once.

(I wonder if they put their research divisions in super-fast-speed pockets or something-- squeeze in seventy years of research while the slow-timers are getting their suits on in the morning.)

It’d be way easier to say any of that with any certainty if we could explore without filaments, though, the way the Nation, Cartel, and CONCORD expeditionary forces are doing. I’m sure they have good reasons for not sharing (like keeping us from flooding it with citadels faster than you can say “new frontier lol”), but still …

… I feel like some critical pieces are being hidden. Much like the Triglavians themselves, who we definitely should have good biological data on by now, the Abyss greets us masked.

Even in victory, we never see the true face of our opponent.

4 Likes

I think this is one of the most frightening things I’ve ever read. Have you seen the equivalent of Azbels or other structures for research in your dives yet?

1 Like

No, ma’am. We’ve found construction sites for their capital and supercapital ships, but other than that it’s been all gates, pylons, and resource extractors.

The pylons are interesting; they’re fortified towers that project certain effects (improved turret performance or damage to drones and other small remotes, such as missiles), but they apply evenly to all comers regardless of allegiance, which makes them more a resource/hazard than a weapon. And, they have docking ports.

I’m not sure of this, but I think Veles might use the tracking pylons as launch platforms to reinforce their drone swarms. Svarog seems to be responsible for the drone-suppression units, kind of like setting out roach traps I guess. The two sometimes work directly at cross-purposes.

The pylons might be manned; I’m not sure. They’re big enough for sure, and while they’re not impervious to attack they’re sturdy enough to discourage it. Outside the construction sites they’re the closest thing to habitats we’ve seen.

Pochven does demonstrate that the Collective’s perfectly happy to build a proper station here and there. I’d guess that we’ve never seen them elsewhere because they’re scrupulous about not including them in their labyrinths. Even the construction sites we’ve found have had clear elements (lootable caches and a safe return route) that showed they were part of the proving, but there’s no reason the Collective couldn’t just construct proving courses to keep us away from the really important stuff.

Our time is limited, and our arrival seems expected. What does a pocket look like before we enter, or after we leave?

I’d guess the elite baseline units getting in by whatever means they’ve found might have some idea. It’s a pity they’re not talking and we can’t follow, although getting in that way seems to mean the Triglavians are okay with making a proving challenge out of you for an incoming egger.

3 Likes