Scope Feature Article: Interview with Hilen Tukoss | EVE Online

Scope Feature Article: Interview with Hilen Tukoss

ERAM - As reported in an earlier article, the Caldari scientist Hilen Tukoss appeared to have defected to the Minmatar Republic along with hundreds of his research staff. Speculation about his intentions was put to an end a short while ago, when Tukoss formally joined with Eifyr & Co. He spoke with The Scope only a few hours before joining Eifyr to explain why he had left the Caldari State.

Feature article by Juralen Kaala

It's after 9pm when I arrive at my destination in Metropolis. I'm surprised to have found a direct shuttle out to Eram so late, but the captain tells me all of the crews with Eifyr & Co. docking licenses are pulling extra hours. Business has picked up, he says.

This would be because only a short while ago, one of Zainou's scientists, a man by the name of Hilen Tukoss, decided to load up a Charon freighter with a lifetime's worth of research and disappear to the other side of the State-Republic border with it. Tukoss' freighter (he calls it the Arek'jaalan) had more than just scientific documents and materials, however. Also aboard was his entire research team.

This much The Scope has learned from other reports, and although they remain unconfirmed, I quickly learn that the rumors are true when I arrive at his personal quarters.

Inside I am met by Tukoss and at least ten other people; a Deteis, some Civire and Achura. They smile as I enter, but then quickly return to the work laid out before them on dozens of monitors that fill the room. Each screen shows the view of a Charon from a different angle.

Without a word, Tukoss walks me past the monitors to the hangar balcony. Staring out I can start to see the whole picture. A Charon is being slowly and carefully gutted, and then rebuilt from the inside out. Hundreds of people are crawling over the hull like insects as they weave in and out of view. Working calmly and yet with a great sense of purpose, I can see them directing teams of M-TACs, and overseeing countless nanoassembly arrays as they tear something down, or build something new.

One might expect to see a Zainou scientist installing research facilities and reconfiguring the majestic grey expanse before me into some kind of scientific forward operating base. I certainly expect to see as much.

Instead, however, I see a lake being slowly filled with water. Soil and plants being laid. Homes, distinctly Caldari, slowly taking form in a ring around the water. It all looks like a small Caldari suburb, except it's inside a Charon.

Not a word has been said, but Tukoss seems to have already answered a few of the lingering questions. He's come here with others, clearly, and from the way they are building homes as if they have been planning it all their lives, they intend to stay.

Walking back into the quarters, we take a seat to begin the interview. Tukoss speaks freely the whole time, despite any number of individuals coming and going through the area. It seems anything Tukoss has to say to me, he is comfortable sharing with whoever else has chosen to follow him. Perhaps it is an intentional divorce from the management style he left behind, but then, there are more important questions to ask. I begin with the obvious.

Why did he leave?

"I came here due to a disagreement," Tukoss begins to explain. "Zainou's research efforts in certain areas have become exclusively focused on applied science."

I ask Tukoss why he has such a disregard for applied science. I can tell from the way everyone present in the room turns to watch for his answer that it's one of those questions you never ask the boss, if Tukoss can even be called that.

"Because it's a meaningless term. To understand why, you have to take a wider perspective. Applied science? All science can be applied, eventually."

More important, he adds, is that the increasing focus on "commodification and weaponization" constitutes a threat to "the sense of discovery that lies at the core of science."

Reluctant to focus on anything specific in his railings against a vaguely-defined "scientific community," Tukoss almost seems unsure himself why he came here, or at least unwilling to revisit the issue. Perhaps he is just waiting for the right tactical moment to spill the sordid details, but from the way the subject strains the atmosphere, it feels closer to a victim's reluctance to revisit the trauma.

It is hard to tell exactly where the Deteis scientist is going. Perhaps he is even playing it all as it comes, but then his next steps seem as carefully organized as the procession of scientists behind us.

"First, we have to lay foundations," he says, gesturing back over to the Charon. "Then we have to reach out to the capsuleer community.

"What I see, in my research, is a conspiracy of apathy towards true investigative science. When it comes to the study of wormhole space, the capsuleers are the only ones really achieving anything."

So this is about wormhole space and the Sleepers? The Deteis just nods this time. I leave him plenty of room to add to the answer, but he won't be drawn.

We move on to Eifyr & Co. - the Krusual-backed biotech company that invites just as much speculation and rumor as its Caldari counterpart. Tukoss' choice to leave one infamous workplace for another suggests that he still intends to continue research at the cutting edge.

"Eifyr has long held my respect," Tukoss admits. "Their approach to research is very different to ours. The best way I've heard it put to me is that they'll find answers first, and then start looking - very broadly - for problems they can fix with them. So they might say, for example: We think this material has many valuable properties, so we intend to research it. When they discover something new about it, they will then start thinking about what applications it could have, if any, and then return to discover anything else they can. It's a wholly different approach.

"It's kind of like that old stereotype about Minmatar ships being held together by duct tape. There's a kernel of truth to every stereotype, and here it would be that Minmatar scientists and engineers are very good at finding a hundred uses for the same thing. So for them, applied science is less important. They can often get more out of one discovery than we can get out of a dozen."

Effusive in his praise for his new hosts, it's hard not to notice the similarities between Tukoss' enthusiasm and that of Minmatar refugees beginning their new life in the Federation and Republic. He gives the impression of someone who has come home, a scientist who has been set free. When he talks about the past, it's mostly in the context of how much better he thinks the future can be.

Our time is running low, so before things end I decide to let him know what's coming with that capsuleer outreach idea of his. They are going to want to know more, I explain; about his research, about his old life in the State, and about the Sleepers. Is he ready to open those floodgates?

"I doubt anyone could be," he says. "I suspect though, that I will lean more on them than the other way around. As for the questions they'll ask, it's a difficult situation at times, yes. What do you say when a known Sansha loyalist asks about your research? If you turn him away, how do you know he won't just send someone less obvious to get the information? Trust in the capsuleer world is a dangerous thing, but also essential."

With that, Tukoss rises, extending his hand. "More work remains," he offers apologetically. On our way out, he stops me at the door, and takes his turn to ask a question, but this one is obviously rhetorical.

"Do you know what our problem is? We can measure success and failure, but we can never measure lost opportunity."

Tukoss offers a genuine smile as the door closes between us. I make my way back into the station lobby, past the throng of reporters, hecklers and well-wishers, and back on to one of the many shuttles that brought them here.