The Cost of Preservation

The docking tube retracted from Takalo’s Fleet Issue Tempest. I had returned to my ship and nestled myself back into the familiar warmth of my pod after having delivered the Olfei Medallion.

I mentally reviewed the conversation Arsten Takalo and I had just finished, and prepared myself for the new mission I had accepted on his behalf.

“Very good, Colonel.” Arsten Takalo said, eager anticipation in his eyes as I handed him the Olfei Medallion. He inserted the medallion into a sizable machine, enclosing the medallion in a plexi chamber, then quickly ran some diagnostics against it; my guess to verify its integrity.

I mentally thought of the punishment I would inflict on that double crossing merchant should this prove to be another fake after all.

A few minutes of silence passed, but I was a patient man.

Finally, Takalo turned to me, unable to hide the happiness in his eyes.

“Concord contacted me not too long ago about the actions of a certain Matar Colonel threatening a civilian insystem. The entire incident was recorded via dronecam. I told them you were tasked directly by Republic Security, and that subsequent to the Concord Treatise section 2010.514, were within regulations to use necessary force.

Had this turned out to be a fake, I would have seen it necessary to recant on that of course.”

So it was the real medallion. Good.

I let the man’s veiled threat slide easily off of my shoulders. I had been threatened by worse than he, endured more at the hands of more powerful men (and women), and was no longer as subject to my emotions as I had been in the past.

Isolated incarceration can change a man at his core.

Takalo continued.

Now that we’re past the small talk, perhaps you’re ready for some proper work. I guess we’ll see.

There’s this Gallentean guy, a historian named Aillon Boufin… yeah, I know. The story is that he’s been studying Minmatar history for years now, and as you’d expect, he’s come across a whole shipload of information and documents in that time. Apparently he has one of the largest unofficial collections of documents and artifacts from our earlier days. We’re talking real old here, Roc, some it going back to when it was just us, alone against the Amarr.

Now, I’m told that normally whenever we want to look at something of his, there aren’t too many problems. Recently however, when some of our academics from the Republic University asked to see a particular document known as the Hauteker Memoirs, they were denied. Since that time, they have bent over backwards for this guy. They have even tried to buy it back – this document that Matari people wrote, this document that belongs to us. They have tried that repeatedly, raising and raising the price and yet each of these times more refusals.

This is when things got ugly. Boufin recently made a statement to the University, saying he is only trying to “preserve Minmatar heritage”. After that insult, they called us in. The implication that RU staff would somehow endanger our own history by simply studying a document… it’s almost like he was trying to piss us all off.

Well, the insults stop here. The Brutor Tribe has arrived, and with a capsuleer to back their word on the matter no less. It has been decided by the tribe that the return of this document to Matari hands represents a higher priority than staying on good terms with some overprotective historian, Gallente or not. You will see to this. And before you go jumping in there, there is a five million ISK collateral to cover associated risks. The tribe is not willing to risk our own property falling into foreign hands again. Perhaps you can see why we’re looking to hire an egger? With that kind of money it’s not really an option.

I smiled inwardly. Apparently my own tribe, the Brutor Tribe, was out of touch with the cashflow of capsuleers. Five million ISK was nothing. If this document turned out to be as valuable as Takalo stated, it could easily fetch hundreds of millions on the black market. What was five million when compared with that profit?

That is what a lesser man would do. I was not that man.

As a Matar Colonel of the Tribal Liberation Force, as a child of the Brutor Tribe, as a proud citizen of the Minmatar Republic, it was my sworn duty to do what was right for our people. I would retrieve and return the document.

I had Aura retrieve the details of the last registered ship to this historian, Aillon Boufin. I then had her scan for the appropriate warp signature trail insystem, on the chance he hadn’t strayed too far yet. My stereotypical opinion of historians was they would be skittish and hide as quickly as they could. Public stations wouldn’t be a good option for them; too easy to track. No, this guy would be hiding in a safespot somewhere if he was still in system.

Aura’s search yieled four results. One of these went to the only station in Frarn. Two of these went to the Rens jumpgate. The final one trailed off somewhere insystem.

I took a gamble and decided to stay insystem, launching probes to scan down my potential target. It didn’t take long to isolate a location, and I warped quickly.

As soon as the Onslaught reverted to real space, I was hailed on open comm. I accepted.

Leave now, egger. I know why you’ve come and I know who has sent you. If you think you can just march in here and take things that took me years to find, you’re sorely mistaken. I won’t give you the courtesy of another warning.

The comm went silent.

Seemed this historian had more balls than brains; never a good thing.

I quickly targetted his Gallente cruiser and closed the distance between us. His ship was armed with civilian grade weaponry. It wouldn’t even scratch the Onslaught. I could simply latch a warp scrambler onto him, then have my marines board his ship and forcibly extract what I had come for; easy as taking candy from a baby.

I should’ve known better.

At fifty kilometers, Aura warned me of multiple incoming warp signatures. I cycled up the artillery cannons, optimized capacitor flow, and readied myself.

Seventeen mercenary vessels dropped in nearly on top of me, ranging from frigates to battleships.

Apparently this document was more important to the historian than Takalo had decided to tell me.

I slowly aligned the Onslaught towards the enemy fleet.

The next several minutes was a symphony of artillery, railguns, explosions and chaos. A lesser ship may have succumbed to the sheer number and strength of enemy, but the Onslaught was equipped with a Pith-X Type X-Large Shield Booster, which was effortlessly regenerating shields under this hailfire.

Slowly but surely, I prevailed, never losing my warp scramble lock on the ship of Aillon Boufin. I had more than enough experience to know that often the cowards would warp away while the main force served as a distraction.

After the battle had finished, my marines had no problems retrieving the Hauteker Memoirs, my new Sergeant handing them to me personally.

They looked painstakingly written by hand in an antiquated Nefantar script. These memoirs outlined the short-lived fortunes of an Ammatar clan known as the Hauteker – long since lost to time. The memoir’s focus seemed to be on the preservation of family tradition; the highly detailed passages documenting everything from the way the Hauteker family dressed to where they were all buried.

I could see why it would be of interest historically, and it did spark my interest to know there had been some lost tribe of the Minmatar, but I didn’t understand why anyone would go to such lengths to hide this fact, or monopolize this document.

I left a small salvage crew behind to loot the wrecks and strip them for raw materials, and to deliver everything to my hangar in Rens, taking their cut of the sales profit.

I returned to Arsten Takalo.

He wasn’t comfortable with a face to face, so while I had a drone deliver the memoirs to his ship, we debriefed the mission via vidscreen.

So things spiralled out of control in there. Don’t stress it, Roc. It was to be expected, and if it wasn’t you out there, it’d be Republic Fleet vessels with clone-less crews. You did a good thing; don’t doubt it for a second.

His ignorance continued to astound me. Capsuleers had clones; my crews tragically did not. I had made far too many calls to next of kin in my career to think otherwise.

Hopefully the foreign press will let this one slide, they’ve got enough of us in their own borders to sit on it, but there’s always a few. So long as the big outlets hold their tongues I’m happy.

I sincerely hoped he was right. The last thing I needed was more bad press.

Here’s your ISK back, plus some extra as thanks. Don’t blow it all away though, you’ll be doing other work that requires collateral.I may be starting to respect you, but trust is a damn long way off. We’ll need a moment to pass this on to our friends from the University, but they’ve asked us to hang around, and by us they mean you.

I could barely hold back my mirth at his continued foolishness, yet how he presented himself as so “in the know”. Still, I was intrigued by everyone’s interest in these memoirs, so decided to stick around and see how things would play out.

A Demonstration

The Onslaught exited warp at the coordinates provided by Arsten Takalo.

Aura informed me the location was a Brutor Tribe Community Area. I had never heard of such a settlement, and wanted to know more.

Hundreds of these small community areas have been erected in recent years to accommodate those returning from travels abroad and seeking temporary accommodation. Ironically, they were originally designed to facilitate a great exodus to Federation space, but with the rise of fresh new ideas inside Minmatar borders causing many to return to their homelands, these spacebound communities have come to play an entirely different role. Typically, a single community will be dedicated to one tribe or another, but it is not unheard of for two or more tribes to share one area.

Interesting.

Takalo’s Fleet Issue Tempest came up on scan and I opened a hailing channel.

Arsten Takalo

Arsten Takalo

“A Sleipnir? I can tell my day is about to get more interesting.

Hello Roc Wieler. Thank you for responding to my call. Please forgive me in advance for my distrust, but the events of the last few days have been very taxing on my patience.

Let me get to the point.

We Matari are known for our ingenuity. Civilization owes us a great debt, and the Amarr owe it twice over. Before they came, we were by far the most advanced nation, our technological achievements were regarded with envy by the rest of the cluster. You eggers know a lot, but did you know that?

I’m sorry to say this, Colonel, but I need you to prove your understanding of this. I need to know that you are the one who can fulfill my task successfully.

Bring me an Olfei Medallion. You will have to explore as only a capsuleer can and find one somewhere in the Sveipar constellation, near our homeworld Pator. Of course, some other egger can milk your wallet in exchange for doing the thinking and grunt work for you; that works too. Whether you scan it down inside an Angel Cartel fortress, or buy it for 2 ISK on the market – I really don’t care. Results are what matter most.

You’ll go far with me if you keep that in mind.”

And with that, Arsten Takalo broke the comm link. I sighed, resigned to my fate, getting used to being on the receiving end of orders anew. Living with disgrace, even though I was exonerated of any crimes, still weighed against my own personal sense of honour and justice.

In other words, I was punishing myself still.

I had Aura bring up my list of black market contacts, to see if any of them had ever heard of an Olfei Medallion. After half an hour of failed inquiries, one of my seedier contacts confessed to having recently witnessed an outraged pod pilot threatening a local vendor for overcharging him for such a medallion, as it turned out to be a fake, and apparently not a very good one.

I made haste to the station specified, and quickly located the merchant. He cringed at the sight of me barreling towards him; obviously his fakes were selling well.

I pulled my pistol from its holster, the whine of the power cell increasing in pitch as I kept it steadied at the merchant. The small crowd in the market dispersed quickly, wanting to avoid the potential violence.

Before he could reach beneath his counter for a concealed weapon or alert button, I stretched my other arm across the counter, grabbing the merchant by his thin throat.

“I will say this once. The Olfei Medallion. I want the original. Now.” I put as much menace into my voice as possible, with satisfying results.

The terrified merchant croaked through strained breaths. “I only have copies. To have the original would be illegal. I would be happy to …”

I squeezed harder, furrowing my brow, pushing my shoulders towards him for more physical intimidation.

“Oh, OH! The original. Yes, yes. I do happen to have that.”

I released my grip on him. He rubbed his neck, looking up at me plaintively.

“It’s a very rare and precious commodity; a family heirloom! I can part with it for, let’s say, 10,000,000 ISK”

I raised my pistol to his face. “Five” I said.

“7,500,000!” he haggled. I hated haggling.

“Five.” I repeated, and squeezed the trigger slightly, allowing the energy cell to build up and whine.

“5 million ISK! My final offer!” the man squeaked.

I lowered my pistol and smirked. “Sold.” I said smugly.

He quickly located the medallion and wrapped it in cloth for me. I placed it inside my jacket, then turned to walk away.

“If I find out this is a fake like the others, I’ll be back for my 20 million isk.” I said casually.

“But you only paid…” the merchant stopped himself mid-sentence as I threw a dirty look over my shoulder towards him.

“No worries. It’s the real deal.” He was all smiles.

I headed back towards my ship, and back towards Arsten Takalo.