Drifters’ Blood-Drenched Shadow War Spills Into The Light

Sophia 'Alizabeth' S 2016-12-06

When the Drifters first appeared, they were something mysterious to investigate and discover. They were dangerous, of course, but so is uranium. The first groups to look into the Drifters were along this theme: investigation and exploration. That changed when the Drifters murdered Her Majesty, Empress Jamyl I—may she rest in the eternal peace and light of our Lord. The Drifters were no longer something to investigate and understand, but something for capsuleers to exterminate. They were something to be eradicated. Those groups that continued to investigate the Drifters focused further efforts to improve capsuleer combat performance against them.

The Servant Sisters of EVE are now the premier Drifter research organization. With a huge research budget and no ethics review board to speak of, the Sisters of EVE—specifically the Sanctuary corporation—have thrown themselves into the Drifter problem, but there may be a darker side to their efforts. Capsuleers first got a hint that something wasn’t kosher when Thera was announced and there was a huge Sanctuary presence already there.

It would be impossible to talk about the Sisters of EVE and Sanctuary without acknowledging the parallels between the Sisters of EVE and another, far less reputable organization. Santimona Sarpati, the Sisters’ leader, is the sister of Salvador Sarpati, founder and CEO of the Serpentis Corporation. Both organizations possess their own research divisions, Sanctuary and Serpentis Inquest, that operate far beyond the oversight of CONCORD or the empires, and both organizations are heavily involved in the drug trade: the Serpentis with the more normal variety, and the Sisters of EVE with the Drifter antipharmakon. Still, the Sisters undeniably know more about the Drifters than anyone else—and more than they are ready to tell. Their fleets keep watch in every Drifter Hive wormhole; they have a huge presence in Thera, and of course, they oversee Project Discovery.

Project Discovery is not just real world citizen science; in the EVE universe, it is the research into the Drifters’ particular physiology. It appears that the Sisters of EVE have been killing the Drifters—with amazing success, there are no Sisters of EVE shipwrecks in the Hives—obtaining genetic material from the dead Drifter wrecks and sending that data out to capsuleers to analyze. The analyzed data, in addition to the research into Drifter augments, seem to be the technology behind the new Alpha clones. However, all is not well in Sanctuary.

Rocks and Shoals

In the final days of October, the amazingly cute Taya Akira (Let’s not editorialize that, please. -Editor) told the Scope that the Alpha technology was the result of Project Discovery, among other things. Lorehounds will recognize her name as the one that revealed the existence of the Thera colony two years ago. For those that do not obsess over the lore like Alan Turing over Enigma, Taya Akira was the one the revealed the existence of Thera two years ago. Since then, she has left the Sister’s organization, but she has been keeping inside the loop. Ms. Akira now leads a splinter group known as the Pharos of Thera.

A pharo is a lighthouse; the legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria is sometimes known as the Pharos of Alexandria. The word is Greek, despite the location of Alexandria in Egypt. Blame Alexander the Great. The original, not Mittens. It is interesting to note that CCP has derived a lot of the Drifter and Jovian elements from Greek. Not all of them are, but a lot. Players can read into the Pharos of Thera’s name as they will.

The greatest warning here is that the new Alpha cloning technology is based upon the Sisters’ of EVE reseach on the Drifters’ physiology and implant technology. The Sisters of EVE have never liked capsuleers. Now though, they feel it necessary to fight fire with fire. The Drifter threat is something they must be deeply worried about if they are creating new capsuleers. In the same Scope article, the Sisters of EVE stated that they consider capsuleers to be vital in defending humanity from the Drifters. Yes, defending humanity. Given the way the Drifters have been tearing through fleets, even supercapital fleets, like my cat through a foil packet of tuna, the phrase defending humanity is not hyperbole.

Taya Akira also speaks of the incredible danger of Drifters and Anoikis—wormhole space. She agrees with the Sisters on the threat, just disagrees on the solution.

In the same article that introduces capsuleers to the Pharos of Thera, CONCORD highlighted the importance of capsuleer efforts to fight the Drifters. Since the appearance of the Drifters, the baseliner empire navies have been getting their asses kicked. Capsuleers fought off the first attacks in Sarum Prime and Safizon; capsuleers were the defining factor in defeating the Drifter invasion of the Throne Worlds. Even the vaunted Imperial Navy was more or less helpless against the Drifter onslaught. For a long while, capsuleers were the only ones taking it to the Drifters in their Hive systems, at least until the Sisters of EVE showed up.

The article highlighted two groups. The first is the Arataka Research Consortium (ARC). They are the oldest group when it comes to gameplay surrounding the Drifters. Their schtick is that they’re a research group (surprise) dedicated to understanding and defending New Eden against the Drifter threat. A fleet formed of the group of pilots and organizations that would later form the Arataka Research Consortium was first into the Drifter Hives and found the body of Hilen Tukoss. Their focus is not exclusively on the Drifters; the Arataka Research Consortium was also first place in the Upwell resource drive, for example. Their operations against the Drifters are open to the public and are ongoing. The ‘Consortium Operations’ channel will get pilots started.

The second group highlighted was the Special Empire Response for the Assault and Penetration of Hives (a backronym for SERAPH, as in TES Seraph). Seeing how the commander of the group is one Alizabeth Vea, who happens to be played by the woman writing this article, readers can probably figure out what SERAPH is all about. Genocide. Extermination. All the best parts of Daleks. SERAPH was recognized for an engagement in the Sazre system that engaged a combined Circadian Seeker and Drifter tactical group that resulted in over 50 Drifter battleships killed in the course of a few hours. This was the largest Drifter force engaged since they withdrew from the Throne Worlds campaign. Despite Alizabeth Vea’s dire warnings that the Drifters remained a high threat to the security of the cluster, no one listened and the empires went and lost supercapital battle groups. Recruitment into SERAPH is closed; don’t bother.

I warned you. But did you listen to me?

The Scope published a second article featuring our favorite lighthouse girls on November 10. In it was a pretty blatant warning: the Drifters are up to something. Taya Akira told the Scope that her sources told her that the Drifters were preparing for offensive operations in k-space. On the face of it, this makes sense; the Drifters have always been possessive of their stuff. Wandering around with an entosis link was a good way to get shot at by the Drifters. The Drifters also attacked a CONCORD station where capsuleers were performing an autopsy of a Drifter body. The Sisters of EVE research facilities, which were still secret, but in k-space, were an obvious target for a Drifter attack. The Thukker Tribe—because the Great Wildlands is not far enough running away—reported that their Anoikis groups had also seen the uptick in Drifter activity.

However, capsuleers can all sleep soundly in their beds, because CONCORD was keeping an eye on everything, and nothing would ever go sideways while they were keeping watch.

Are you looking for someplace safe?

On November 15, two weeks after Alizabeth Vea warned the empires that complacency kills and five days after Taya Akira warned the empires that the Drifters were up to something, Vigilant Tyrannos forces staged a massive attack in New Eden k-space. The Drifters savaged each of the four empires in this well synchronized strike. Supercapital battle groups, one from each empire, were completely destroyed, except for a training corvette. The corvette’s captain managed to rescue a Sisters of EVE scientist from the wreckage and get out of Dodge before the Drifters came back to loot.

The Sisters of EVE had been giving their new Alpha cloning technology to the empires, but also setting up secret research facilities within the empires’ space as a kind of quid pro quo. One can almost see the Machiavellian machinations. The Sisters of EVE are not stupid, far from it. They knew that sooner or later the Drifters were going to come for their stuff the Sisters of EVE stole. What better way to protect it than behind the shield of the empires’ navies? In exchange, the Sisters of EVE would give the empires a new way, a cheaper, more efficient way, to make capsuleers. The Alpha technology is probably not even close to the full extent of the fruits of the Sisters of EVE ‘no ethics review board’ research efforts, just a small piece to arrange protection while they kept pursuing other paths of inquiry. Unit 731, eat your heart out.

Unfortunately for the Sisters of EVE, the Drifters are not easily turned aside. After the near total destruction of the supercapital battle group, the Drifters attacked the black site research facility. In the aftermath, ships from every empire were found at the black site, all dead. The black site was compromised, and the Drifters had made off with at least some of the Sisters’ of EVE tech. This also included some prototype communication technology.

New Eden communication technology is actually pretty good. There exists faster than light transmission across all distances through the fluid router system, thanks to quantum entangled particles. There’s even enough bandwidth to send a burst transmission with all the information stored in a capsuleer’s brain. So, the question becomes: just what was this communication technology?

While we’re not postive, the answer seems to be a remote ship control. A force auxiliary ship was fitted with this new technology, and the Drifters had the technical specs let them hijack the ship. The future of capsuleering might be never leaving the station, just getting into the pod and projecting control across the light years. However, given the ease with which the Drifters hacked the system and took control of the force auxilary, this idea might never come to fruition.

All was not lost. The plucky corvette captain was able to obtain the codes for a gate that would allow access to the deadspace pocket the Drifters’ k-space Hive was in. The empires counterattacked and destroyed the Hive. This is pretty much the first time that an empire navy didn’t get the tar kicked out of them when fighting the Drifters. However, it seems that all the friendly ships on that operation were capsuleers, just not independent ones. That might explain some of it.

The Hive itself was confirmed to be a factory. Bodies go in; Circadian Seekers come out. Despite this, capsuleers that operate in the Hive wormholes have never seen evidence of this manufacturing in any of their operations. It is possible, maybe even likely that the Drifters use their wormhole based Hives for manufacturing, but no capsuleer has actually seen ships come out of them. I certainly have not, and the number of people that have spent more time in the Hive room than me can actually be counted on one hand.

Additionally, the k-space Hive had half of what Drifter hunters call the Nexus effect. There was a giant hemisphere swirl ‘under’ the Hive in the dead space pocket. In Hive wormholes, the Nexus room has this effect both ‘above’ and ‘under’ the structure formation known as ‘Pick-up Sticks.’ The prevailing theory is that the Hive Nexus is some sort of transportation way point, and that the k-space Hives were transported from the Drifters’ industrial base—which is not their Hive wormholes—to k-space by way of the Nexus. Given that the Drifters can manufacture wormholes at will, and did so in their invasion of Holy Amarr, it seems they can make a sort of ‘gigawormhole’ capable of transporting even the Hive structure, which is something on the size of a quarter of Iceland. Those things are stupendous.

The Drifters can not only attack anywhere and anytime, they can also set up massive forward operating bases. The danger to New Eden has never been greater.

Well, buddy, just get your ship into formation. I’m SERAPH and this is as far as the bastards are going.

With the empires narrowly pulling out a win—in the Holy Amarr Empire that corvette captain was hailed as a clear beneficiary of divine intervention—the battle is over, but the war rages on. Each of the four empires lost tens of thousands of men and billions of ISK worth of hardware to the Drifters. Though the events of November 15 can never compare to the horrific events of August 21, YC117—the day Empress Jamyl was murdered—the loss of so many ships is something that the empires cannot just shrug off. There will be blood in the future. Even if the other three empires do not declare war outright, there are police actions and extraterritorial contingency operations that will take place. Welcome to the suck, my democracy loving Gallente friends; the Amarr have been here for over a year.

Two things hamper the empires’ ability to make war on the Drifters. The first is that the baseliner navies—by far the largest portion of the empires’ fleets—cannot stand up to the Drifters. The Amarr tried it; the Amarr died by the millions. It is going to take capsuleer ships to have a chance of victory, and there will be losses even then. Drifter battleships are hard to kill.

The second problem, and the biggest one, is that no one can get past the hives into the creamy industrial centre that Drifter hunters postulate to exist. Right now, the prevailing theory is that the Hives in the wormholes are outer defenses. This is evident in their names: Redoubt, Barbican, Sentinel, and Vidette. While capsuleers can, and do, enter the Hive complexes and kill everything there; that’s all they can do right now. Someone should go check with General von Falkenhayn about what happens when a force continually attacks a well defended fortress. Until capsuleers can break past the defenses and start to wage actual war, the status quo will remain.

As of now, independant capsuleers are not even sure exactly how the Drifters managed to get a Hive—four Hives—into k-space. There is the Nexus theory, but that is all. It is certainly not proven, and no one has any idea how to prevent it from happening again. As of now, the Drifters maintain the initiative. They can choose when and where to attack. All that capsuleers can do is respond. The only good news is that all this material has to be costly to produce, if not in ISK, but resources. The Drifters lost thousands of battleships in their Throne Worlds invasion. They have now lost four Hives. Even the most wealthy null sec alliance would blanch at losing a couple of thousand Tech II battleships and four Keepstar-class citadels. The Drifters might take time to recover, but as long as their industrial center remains intact and undisrupted, they can and will.

The Drifters will strike in k-space again. As long as the Sisters of EVE keep up their research efforts, the Drifters will keep them high up on the target list. Furthermore, if one wishes to ascribe a darker Machiavellian motivation to the Sisters of EVE, this was their goal from the start, at least one of their goals. The Sisters of EVE had to know the Drifters were going to come after them, and by putting their research facilities in empire space, they knew that each of the big four would be attacked. Once they empires sustained such heavy losses, they would all be drawn into the war. The Sisters of EVE know that the Drifters are a threat to humanity; the rest of the cluster needed to be shown. After these attacks, no one in the Gallente Senate is going to be bringing up talking points that the Drifters are an Amarrian problem, so let them deal with it. Now everyone recognizes that the Drifters are a threat to them specifically. Until the day comes when the Drifters attack again, all capsuleers can do is be vigilant, watchful, and ready to respond. Strategically, the Drifters are inside the empires’ and capsuleers’ OODA loop.

So, fit a ship and have it ready. When the Drifters come back, we’ll give ‘em a what for.

The Danger of a Toothless Villain

For the foreseeable future the Drifters are likely to be the big bad of EVE Online. Of all the evil factions, the Drifters—like the Sleepers—have no real way for capsuleers to assist them. Sansha’s Nation has agents and capsuleer supporters. The Blood Raider Covenant has agents and capsuleer supporters. So do the Serpentis, Angel Cartel, and Guristas. Even the Equilibrium of Mankind has roleplay death cultist supporters, but there is no real way for capsuleers to assist or join the Drifters. They are too alien to us. There might be some sympathisers, but no one sane really wants to help the Drifters.

The addition of the Drifters into the Inception New Player Experience is a secondary and strong, indicator they are not going away. The new player experience is a way to hook the players into the larger fabric of the game. If a new player completes the NPE and then finds out after that the Drifters have been completely defeated, or have disappeared, and are no longer part of the story, they’re not going to be hooked. Capsuleers will be fighting Drifters for a long time.

Therein lies the biggest problem. The Drifters cannot start losing. In some ways the Drifters are similar to the Borg from Star Trek. In “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the Borg were the iconic enemy for Captain Picard and his crew. Despite that, the Borg were only featured in six episodes, two of which were two-part episodes. The reason for this is that they were just so powerful that it was difficult for the writers to come up with ways for the Enterprise crew to defeat the Borg without neutering them. In fact, when the Borg started to be a regular antagonist for the Voyager crew in “Star Trek: Voyager,” fans complained that the Borg had lost their teeth.

This has already happened in EVE Online. Six years ago, Sansha’s Nation was the focus of a long story arc that featured the return of ‘Papa’ Sansha Kuvakei. Sansha’s Nation had discovered a wormhole technology—sound familiar?—that let them stage assaults on high security space. Sansha fleets would appear and stage mass abductions of entire planetary populations. This wasn’t just taking place in news articles, but a whole arc of live events. Players formed groups and an entire infrastructure to determine where the next attack would be. The Sansha’s Nation loyalist roleplaying alliance Shaktipat Revelators would arrive to support the Sansha fleet. Many in the lore and roleplay community still regard this live event arc as the best CCP has ever done.

It appeared that Sansha’s Nation was unstoppable. They managed to kidnap millions of people off planets. Their attacks could not be stopped. With their wormholes, Sansha’s Nation was even able to stage an attack on CONCORD’s capital system of Yulai with four Revenant-class supercarriers. This aura of invincibility would continue until CCP made a well-intentioned, but deeply flawed change.

That change came with the Incursion expansion. By introducing static behavior on the limited NPC AI of the time, CCP made Sansha’s Nation predictable. Predictable behavior in an enemy is safe. Predictable behavior is farmable. Sansha’s Nation used to be the most feared faction in New Eden. Now, they are the second most feared faction in the Stain region. Capsuleers farm Sansha Incursions. Incursions are not seen as dangerous, but a wealth making opportunity. Despite ‘Papa’ Sansha Kuvakei promising to commute our flesh to dust, nothing of the sort has happened, and ‘Papa’ Sansha is relegated to the dustbin of ideas that didn’t quite work out. CCP cannot even take incursions out of the game, despite the excellent lore reasons to do so, because of the importance of incursions to the economy. Luckily, CCP created the Drifter incursions with a planned removal.

In the future, CCP should continue to use the Drifters only sparingly on major storylines. Not only that, every victory over the Drifters needs to be a pyrrhic one. Sometimes the Drifters need to win. Whatever CCP does, they cannot turn the Drifters into a toothless bad guy. As it stands right now, even the highly skilled groups that engage Drifters, ARC and SERAPH, sometimes take losses. The Drifters ruthlessly punish any mistake made. Sometimes, even without making a mistake, ships still die. For any other PVE activity, the idea that ships might die over the course of an operation is anathema. For those of us that fight Drifters, it’s the price of doing business.

This is a good thing. The great evil of the cluster should be something that cannot be defeated without cost, without wergeld. Whatever the cost though, the Drifters must be defeated. In Her name.

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Comments

  • DireNecessity

    Though I’ve said this before, it’s worth repeating. You weave in and out of role play effortlessly Sophia ‘Alizabeth’ S and it’s a joy to see.

    December 6, 2016 at 1:21 PM
    • Bill McDonough DireNecessity

      It really is—and she doesn’t write too badly, neither!

      December 6, 2016 at 1:25 PM
    • Sophia 'Alizabeth' S DireNecessity

      Thank you!

      December 6, 2016 at 4:28 PM
  • amarshall9000

    I really wanted to read all of it but it is reallllyy lonngggg. Realllllyyy loonnggg. Is this what Sophia is known for. I remember her name from before. The writing is good, but it his hard to compartmentalize all the parts.

    December 7, 2016 at 1:16 AM
    • Sophia 'Alizabeth' S amarshall9000

      This is one of my shorter articles!

      December 7, 2016 at 3:48 AM
    • Bill McDonough amarshall9000

      Sophia does tend to write some of our meatier pieces, yes. She usually tackles subjects that are fairly comprehensive, or large in scope. She also produces some very good fiction (the Outside the Wire series, for example). All in all, I consider her willingness to take on bigger stories to be a strength.

      December 7, 2016 at 5:02 AM
  • Lekly

    “Lorehounds will recognize her name as the one that revealed the existence of the Thera colony two years ago. For those that do not obsess over the lore like Alan Turing over Enigma, Taya Akira was the one the revealed the existence of Thera two years ago.”

    I think one of these sentences were supposed to be edited out…

    December 10, 2016 at 3:29 PM
  • Tony Wright

    Now you have the Triglavians!A greater threat than the Drifters?

    June 9, 2019 at 7:45 PM