My Little Eye/Dead End Intercept

As always, it seemed downtime was a luxury only civilians got to enjoy. We had barely started our RNR on Hek VII TLF Logicistic Support when Arsten commed me.

I hadn’t even had the time to enjoy a decent meal, and protein paste just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

My disgruntled crew quickly and professionally re-assembled, ready for their next mission. I couldn’t begrudge them their dissatisfaction; we were all in a position of subjugation. It was part and parcel of serving the Republic.

Heroes aren’t made 9 – 5. Sounded like a good rule.

We made haste back to Frarn, rendezvousing with Arsten Takalo’s Republic Fleet Tempest once more.

Excellent, you’re back. Firstly, I have an update on the documents you recovered. The Thukker and Krusual have flown in analysts to go over the copies. It may take some time to sift through the data and find the fresh leads, but I’m confident they’ll find something useful in there.

In the meantime I have something else for you to do. I’ve made a few arrangements with the RSS and convinced them to let you continue to work on this Wildfire Khumaak business. Officially you will be acting as the RSS liason for the Brutor tribe, but in reality you’ll be on the front line working for the both of us to figure out what’s going on. You’re our go-to guy for this one and you got that job based on my recommendation. Don’t make me look bad, alright?

I didn’t respond, having gotten to know Arsten well enough by this point to understand that most of his questions were rhetorical. He simply enjoyed the sound of his voice, and of making you feel like you had a choice.

I’ve been asked to point you towards Corporal Nif Abruskur, who you can find in the system of Aldrat, Metropolis. I don’t know the guy, but I do know the RSS, and my advice is not to trust them. In fact, part of the reason I recommended you for this job was because I know I can rely on your judgement. That, and you how to deliver results.

I want you to keep an eye on this RSS operation. My gut still tells me that they’re keeping something from us. I suppose we’ll see, right?

Again with the royal “we”. I would find out. My crew would find out, and hopefully we’d find out with enough time to react; otherwise there would be a time of reckoning for those whom didn’t equip me with all the necessary intel to succeed at my task.

“Understood, Arsten. We’ll meet again soon, I’m sure. Fly safe.” I said, already laying in the course for Aldrat.

The fifteen jump journey was uneventful, which was a welcome rarity. My crew was on standby, but not full combat ready alertness.

As I warped the Onslaught towards the RSS Liason Headquarters, I had time to reflect on what Aura’s records revealed about them.

For the most part, the Republic Security Services Corporation has not made a habit of hiring outsiders, preferring instead to stick to known, trustworthy people who have long proven their loyalty to the Minmatar cause. The one notable exception to this isolationist tendency has been the capsuleers, who are afforded much higher levels of access due to their unique capabilities. Unwilling to let such powerful individuals serve other agendas, the RSS long ago made sure that the proper in-space and in-station infrastructure would be there to act as a bridge, a connection between their own shadowy world and that of the powerful capsuleer class.

Good news for me, I guessed.

A Rapier class covert ops vessel decloaked off my starboard bow, and I was hailed by our RSS representative, Nilf Abruskur:

nilf

Nilf Abruskur

Greetings Colonel. I’m Corporal Nilf Abruskur. I’m glad to have you working with us. Now, we have much to discuss and little time in which to discuss it, so if you don’t mind, I’ll get straight to the point.

I broke my salute, allowing the Corporal to continue.

You conducted yourself with skill and cunning for Agent Takalo. Due to this, and due to the fact that you’re already involved in this delicate matter we have decided to enlist your services, if you will provide them.

As you’ve no doubt learned by now, it appears we have an intelligence asset in the Ammatar Consulate, and their handler – our agent – had disappeared under mysterious circumstances as well. It is a messy situation at the moment, but I have little doubt that we’ll clean it up one way or the other.

Our Ammatar asset is the priority for now; if we can find her, we will be able to make sense of the Wildfire Khumaak you have discovered. The tribes have their best people working on those documents you recovered as well, trying to glean her identity from something in there, but even though we don’t know her identity, they have shown us who one of her enemies is.

The data you have recovered has strongly supported existing evidence that we have an Ammatar counteragent in our midst, and now we have their name. We believe this person has gathered information that may compromise our own source in the Ammatar government. This traitor is currently residing at one of our residential quarters with his family, completely unaware that the world is about to come crashing down on him.

We’ve dissolved his ship’s FTL link without his knowledge, and for the past twelve hours we’ve run a dead-end intercept on every transmission he’s tried to make out of the area. We know he’s about to make an escape with his family sometime soon.

Your task is to ensure that ship does not escape the area intact. Local agents will stand down, they know the score.

I felt sick to my stomach.

I had seen war. I knew the consequences every kill brought. I’m not talking theologically here; eternal damnation, reaping what I sow, blah, blah. I’m talking straight out facts: I kill a pilot; their family suffers the loss.

You de-sensitized yourself to it; you had to or you would drive yourself insane with the guilt of it all. You accepted that you were choosing the lesser of two evils, and shouldered the burden; that was your job.

But this man, traitor or not, would have his family on board his vessel. There was no way I would open fire on innocents. It simply would never, EVER, happen.

But if I said no, they would simply find someone else who would comply. If I said no, I would be potentially removing the Brutor tribe from even having a part in this discovery.

I accepted the mission.

I would find a way to accomplish my objective and spare the family.

Friends in High Places

I knew it was the right course of action. They needed me for this. I had past relationships with the Republic Security Service, and was in good standing with them; it should’ve been a no-brainer.

Why Arsten was still in debates with them as to whether I was an acceptable candidate or not was beyond me. I stressed about it more than necessary, blaming my recent public misfortunes once again.

I wasn’t self-pitying; I was self-loathing. There is a difference.

Alright, we’ve talked it out and I was right. You’re going in there. The RSS almost threatened to have you killed for attempting it, but with the accusations being leveled at them right now they’re just gonna have to get over it. We needed someone independent, not tied to any one faction, and who we knew we could trust. You were the obvious answer; I didn’t even have to suggest it.

That gave me a small sense of satisfaction. The previous few years of my life at that time had been tirelessly dedicated to the cause of the Minmatar; my blood bled daily for our freedom.

The RSS has given us the location of the compound where this agent was doing his work. Your task will be to fly to Alakgur and investigate it. We’re looking for anything that would give us further insight into why he was visiting the Defiants. All they could tell us was that he expressed an interest in examining the Khumaak and then suddenly showed up. The Angels followed shortly after.

Hmmm, it seemed the “official” story they were going with was different than what had actually occured. I supposed it wasn’t the first, nor the last time, a cover-up would occur surrounding potentially volatile situations.

It’s a politically delicate assignment, Roc, but a pretty easy one from your end. Just fly in there, have a poke around, and bring back anything you think may be relevant to our investigations. I’ll be plugged into your camera drones for this one, along with the rest of the RSS, heh. We’ll tell you what to look for too, if we see anything in there. Sorry about the invasive measures, but it was either that or a 500 million isk collateral to the RSS.

You down for this?

I grumbled to myself at their extreme measures. It wasn’t like I was some random cadet, still green around the ears. I knew how things worked. They didn’t have to threaten; they simply needed to show some courtesy was all. Then again, it was the RSS, and I had never known any of those security types to be charming or personable.

“Yeah, let’s do it.” I told Arsten, ignoring the look on his face at my obvious lack of enthusiasm.

“Thanks Roc. I owe you one.” He said, disconnecting the comm.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to solve this mystery as much as anyone else involved, or that I wasn’t excited to be a part of it.

I was just tired of taking orders from just about anyone I spoke with at that point in my life. When would I get to be in control of my own destiny? When would I get to make the decisions?

The Onslaught made good time to Alakgur, warping insystem to the coordinates provided by the RSS.

I was unceremoniously reminded of my audience.

You’re in warp to the RSS compound foyer, from here you have to use the acceleration gate marked RRD-XX3. It should be the only one you have access to.

So far, it was only Arsten talking, which I didn’t mind. We were Brutor, and he was a pretty straightforward guy thus far.

I maneuvered my Sleipnir to the designated gate, and activated it, hurtling myself and my crew through subspace, the gate controlling our destination remotely.

Okay, we’re in. Good.

Arsten was anxious. I could hear it in his voice. I pulled up my overview as soon as reverting to realspace.

Now, see those three storage warehouses to your left, up the back? Start there. The RSS says any documents archived there would have more than enough information. Let’s see about that.

It seemed Arsten was the designated mouthpiece for this mission. He was as much a puppet right now to the RSS as I was.

I moved to within scanning range of the warehouses as directed.

warehouses

Nothing was showing up on my scans throughout any of the warehouses. I was starting to doubt the RSS had any clue whatsoever. Arsten apparently agreed with that sentiment.

Still nothing? What the hell?

Okay… one last thing to try. That giant radio telescope over there? I’m guessing it cached all outgoing transmissions. Everything else might be empty but I’ll bet there’s still some data in that thing. Head over and check it out. We’re going to kindly ask the RSS for the decryption passwords right now…

Good thinking on his part, and he quietly covered my ass in the process. I knew little to nothing of hacking and decrypting, leaning closer to the nothing side.

I moved towards the telescope.

telescope

Using the codes provided by the RSS, I accessed the logs of the telescope… and found what we had been looking for.

Finally, something. This is looking good. We’re picking up all sorts of data on your sensors.

We just uploaded the interface protocols and security clearance to your electronics subsystems; you should be able to freely access the telescope’s storage compartment. That will have hard copies of all communications logs. Bring everything you find there back to me. Good work.

I sent out a drone to retrieve the now available records from the base of the radio tower. I looked over the reports myself.

reportOperation Stillwater: Synopsis

This small data storage unit contained a swathe of operational information, offering insights into an ongoing RSS investigation known as “Stillwater”.

Although the report logs number in the hundreds of pages, a few key details became immediately apparent. The name of a highly-ranked Ammatar Consulate official recurs frequently, and references to her as “sister” reveal a secret loyalty to the Republic. Despite the prominence of this Ammatar defector in the reports, her name and any other identifying details were omitted.

Page after page of synopsis were filled with meticulous documentation of the agent’s daily life; every meeting they had, every stakeout they sat through, and every other lead they chased up – it was all there. The problem wasn’t the lack of detail, more the overwhelming amount of it. It would take some time to make sense of it all.

I moved onto the next report.

reportReport R:081-9560

This fragment appeared to be just one part of a larger intelligence dossier.

“The Consulate is able to, of course, but I’m confident that the current situation won’t escalate. Even still, we need to keep pushing for the location of the [unidentified encryption – string undecipherable]… the Angels have smelled Jovian involvement and are now throwing all kinds of ISK around to catch up to us. They will, eventually. Don’t doubt it. I almost wish Boufin sold us out to them in the end, they’d realize there is nothing of value to them there and screw off. But then I guess anything we value, they’ll want to lord over us too. I’ve noticed a few people of theirs are assigned to me too. I’ll be taking slightly longer to get to our meetings as a result; I don’t want to be leading them anywhere we don’t want.

She asked to meet Boufin again today by the way, and again I had to explain the risks and make her promise to lie low. I’m not completely trusting that she will let me handle things. She needs to keep up her public appearances in court, not go off meeting Gallentean historians in secret. Her career would be over in a second if we got made, and I’d have serious problems of my own.

She’s growing increasingly frustrated though, so we may have to look into some kind of arrangement. Surely we can set up a secure FTL line for them both? I know how to do it myself; I just need your clearance to proceed.”

Things were getting personal; and I had learned quite painfully that mixing business with pleasure is poison. If ever a man wanted to end his professional life, he simply had to mingle with the wrong type of woman. Trust me on that one.

I read the final report.

reportThis fragment appeared to be just one part of a larger communication. The intended recipient was unknown, but was presumably someone within the upper echelons of the Republic Security Services.

“… you dare try and cut me out of the loop again. If you wanted to run operations without me knowing or caring then you should’ve brought in someone with half my skill.

I’ve given six years of my life to this. Try that shit again and I’ll be out of here. The last thing you’ll see before the sip of Pator Whiskey you keep in the 2nd drawer kills you will be me waving a Wildfire Khumaak on The Scope news.”

Ah women, can’t live with them, can’t kill them.

My heart ached even at the thought of another man’s romantic mishaps. I was getting soft. It was time to go home.

home

Once I had dropped off the reports and had my audience removed from my ship’s systems, I debriefed with Arsten.

Excellent work out there, Roc. We’re making copies of the data you recovered now. It looks like we’ll have more than enough here to work from.

You’re telling me, I thought to myself.

From first impressions, it looks like this RSS agent was working almost entirely alone on some operation involving a highly-placed Ammatar defector and the Wildfire Khumaak. The RSS people here with me are claiming they’ve never heard of this matter before.

Yeah right.

I’m seeing reports here to suggest that this Ammatar “sister” was a source for historical information on the Wildfire.

I don’t like the name of that RSS operation though, Roc. Stillwater? That’s basically the opposite of “Wildfire”. We should be careful not to trust the RSS too much on this one, I think.

I was about to communicate my wholehearted agreement with Arsten’s assessment, but he kept on going.

In fact, I have an idea. I’ll speak with you again after I’ve made a few arrangements with the RSS.

Interesting. What was he up to now?

I was sure I would find out soon enough. But right then, it was time for some rest and relaxation for my crew and myself.

I laid in the course for Hek.

From Way Above

Roc Wieler, you’re not gonna like this. Only moments ago the Angel Cartel launched an attack on the Defiant base to recover what was taken from them. Seems they only realized now that they were sitting on something of value. Hell, we barely even know what we’re sitting on now.

The Defiants have fled the camp, which has now been converted into a base of operations for the Angel’s invasion fleet. The Defiants can easily evade a bunch of Angel thugs, but they have asked that we put this chase to an end quickly and violently. Your task will be to smash the Angel’s operational base. That will sever the attacking forces still chasing our brothers from their reinforcements. As soon as that happens, the Defiants can stop running and turn to meet their attackers in a fair fight. They’ve never lost one, Roc Wieler. Those Angels will drop like sacks of fedo crap once they have their support pulled out from under them.

You have your orders, Colonel, will you accept them?

It always fell to the capsuleers to clean up the mess of mortals. I was already engaged in a bloody war with the Amarr and their Caldari allies; did I really want to launch a one man mission against the Angel Cartel as well?

The answer was obvious: hell yes!

My anti-pirate campaign had been gaining steam over the last few months, with more and more capsuleers joining in the battle to rid the Republic of their filth. My denouncement had caused momentum to falter; a victory like this, one man against a fleet of Angels, would surely bolster morale anew. Besides, it’s not like there was any love loss between the Republic and the Cartel.

The Minmatar Republic and the Angel Cartel have a long and checkered history of locked horns and uneasy handshakes. A century back, when the Angel Cartel was building its reputation as a ruthless mercenary organization but had not yet crossed over into out-and-out pircay, the Republic was rumoured to frequently contract the Cartel for operations deemed too politically sensitive for the Republic’s armed forces. While these rumours have never been confirmed by either side, certain other occurences — such as the Cartel’s immediate and unexplained withdrawal from their Skarkon sovereignty bid in YC110 — seem to corroborate the idea of a nebulous connection between the two giant entities’ top levels.

3:30 AM. Even my most rowdy crewmembers would be sleeping it off by now. I sounded the emergency alarm throughout the barracks, and sent down a quick mission briefing.

Within 30 minutes the Onslaught was fueled, armed with Republic Fleet Fusion ammunition, and manned by a full and alert crew.

We made our way back to Todeko, towards the very temporary Angel Cartel camp.

I had to admit upon arrival how impressed I was with the number of ships the Cartel had deployed to secure the Khumaak. It reinforced all our beliefs as to how valuable this item was, and how far behind in the game we truly were.

Their frigates quickly made their way towards me, cruisers, battlecruisers and battleships aligning in the rear. Aura tracked them all on the overview, and I’m sure knew every detail about them, including how many there were, but my vision had already focused onto the incoming frigates. If they were fit properly, they could become a real hindrance to my command ship.

Four Minmatar Valkyrie II drones rocketed from their bays, their high velocity carrying them to the first frigate before its captain and crew could even respond. A thunderous boom sounded from the synchronous volley of my seven 650mm artillery cannons. The frigate popped from my overview quickly, a brilliant explosion in its wake.

My message to the Cartel had been clearly made. I was serious about retrieving this Khumaak for the good of the Republic, and no force they could unleash would hinder me.

Two hours later, only I remained.

The last Angel Captain to die had begged for his life, and the lives of his crew, offering up intelligence about the RSS Agent that had fed them the location information for the Defiants base.

I traded him the lives of his crew, and his swift death for the name of the RSS agent, and he complied.

The battle had been a vicious one, but the Onslaught had proven triumphant.

I retrieved the Wildfire Khumaak and made my way back to Frarn, feeling very good about being a Brutor, about being a capsuleer, about being alive.

Nice flying out there, Roc. The Defiants dealt with the remains of the attacking fleet easily once you took out their support.

As for the situation with the RSS Agent, we’re still discussing our options amongst the tribal leadership, but chances are that this guy was operating on his own. That means basically nobody knew what he was doing or why the Wildfire Khumaak grabbed his attention. You’re probably going to have to take that guy’s passkey and go in there yourself, if the RSS lets us. We’re still talking with them about the situation. Some people are looking at his disappearance in an entirely different light, if you get me. RSS operative shows up and not much later so do a bunch of Angels. Yeah… still a few discussions yet to be had, I reckon.

Anyway, get back to me again soon and we’ll have a plan ready for you. You’ve more than proven yourself now, so I’d be more than happy to trust you with whatever comes next.

Yep, it felt good to be alive.

Glowing Embers

Wait, you found a Khumaak out there? What the hell is a Wildfire Khumaak? I’m dying to look at it, I admit, but we can’t screw around here. We need to get this somewhere safe before we start trying to figure anything out. I have a bad feeling about all of this, Roc. Boufin was strangely protective, Angels were all over the burial site, and the Amarr were plenty aware of its location too. With that many people involved, I doubt nobody noticed us lifting that thing out of the tombs.

I have an idea about where to take, but I need to make a quick holovid call first. Talk to me again in a few moments, ok?

I switched off the comm, finding it funny how Arsten Takalo kept using the royal “we” to describe the dangers “I” had faced.

The Onslaught continued to travel through warp towards Rens, one of my operational bases, anxious to receive much needed repairs before continuing on with this adventure.

My comm buzzed as I reverted to real-space, slowing to approach the jump gate to Rens.

Ever heard of the Defiants, Roc? Well, either way, you’re about to meet them — if you think you’re ready for it. They’re one of the few groups the Brutor Tribe can trust these days. I once had the honour of meeting their leader, Karishal Muritor, before our own Fleet had him put down like a dog for daring to fight the Amarr. A shameful day for us all, it was.

Still, it showed us who will fight, and who can be trusted. There is no group of people I personally would want more than them to handle this. We don’t know how significant this Khumaak is, but let me tell you friend, some of our people are very excited about its discovery. They think it may shed new light on our past. Me, I’m excited too I guess, but more concerned than anything. I’ll relax once this is in the Defiants’ hands, not any earlier.

So, can we count on you to make the delivery? I think you and I are past collateral now, Roc. I’m happy to trust you with the current location of their camp, if only because you have no chance of finding them after this meeting. The Defiants are only discovered when they want to be.

Once again, Arsten had underestimated my knowledge of the universe. I was familiar with the story of the Defiants; most senior ranking military officers were.

The Defiants were a splinter group of the Republic Fleet commanded by Admiral Karishal Muritor, a Brutor warrior and figure of great renown within military circles. Skirting the edge of all-out conflict with the Amarr Empire, the Defiants waged constant guerilla warfare with Amarr forces in the years leading up to the Elder Fleeet Invasion of YC110, despite insistent urgings from the Republic to back down. Though the good Admiral is now fallen and most of his force gone — lost while covering the retreat of the Elder Fleet — a small contingent lives on, scheming to stamp themselves once again into the hearts and minds of freedom-loving Minmatar.

“Yeah Arsten,” I replied. “I’ll do it. I just need to patch up my ship first, then will be on my way. Don’t worry,” I said pre-emptively, “I’ve got a military-grade secured hangar in Rens; nothing’s going to happen to your precious Khumaak.”

Ten minutes later, repairs were under way, a full platoon of marines standing guard within the hangar bay. Nobody and nothing were getting in or out without my say so.

Within three hours, the ship was fully repaired. She didn’t look pristine, but I actually preferred the patchwork look of a ship that had seen action. Every plate bolted on was a badge of honour and respect.

I dismissed the platoon, keeping my regular complement of six marines onboard, got clearance to undock, and headed towards Todeko, to meet the Defiants.

Upon arriving in Todeko, I quickly warped to the coordinates Arsten had provided.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and held mixed emotions about the Defiants. On the one hand, I had nothing but respect for those willing to stand up and fight, and yet there had to be a respect for structure and authority; often times there was a greater plan, a grander scheme in place which was invariably ruined by lone guns.

I didn’t want to make any ill-conceived notions, however. I wanted to base my opinion of the man on his own interactions with me, not heresay. There were always two sides to a story, while the truth lay somewhere inbetween.

The Onslaught slowed, and I had Aura bring up the viewscreen.

This camp was reminiscient of the Thukker caravans that plied the spacelanes of the Great Wildlands – their home and sanctuary. After their defeat at the hands of a vicious Amarrian counter-attack, the Defiants were thought to have been completely destroyer. Rumours always persisted however, that a few survivors had fled with the Thukker to the safe havens of the south, outside Republic borders. Evidently, there was a kernel of truth to such tales, but the fleet there now was but a shadow of its former self.

Oggur Marendei

Oggur Marendei

Welcome, pilot. I understand you’re the one who found the Wildfire Khumaak. The Matari people are indebted to you, I amongst them. All the same, by duty I am obliged to ask that you remember where you are. These are hallowed grounds; where our finest warriors take time to rest and reflect. I trust that you will act accordingly and maintain the peace.

Arsten has informed me of the situation, and as one of the camp’s senior administrators, he has asked that I offer you some directions. You will need to take the Wildfire Khumaak over to our storage facility. Simple as that. We can handle the rest.

I was satisfied to do as requested, and slowly listed to the left towards the specified storehouse. Still, this mission had started out as a simple document grab from a historian, and was quickly spiralling into something potentially monumental. My increasing curiousity threatened to be my undoing; I didn’t want to just let it go and get paid. I wasn’t prepared to simply be done with it. I wanted to be a part of this historical moment.

camp

After covering several hundred kilometres to the storehouse, I hesitantly sent the Wildfire Khumaak out in a drone, clenching my teeth and holding breath every second it was exposed in space, only relaxing upon its safe and uneventful arrival.

Oggur Marendei was pleased.

Good work. We’ll be bringing in some historians to make sense of it as soon as we can, but you’re done here, pilot. On behalf of my brothers and sisters, thank you for all you’ve done.

And with that, I headed back to Frarn, feeling genuinely good about myself all the while. It might seem like such a small thing, but simple acknowledgement could go such a long way; to simply be thanked for something you would’ve done anyway. It was just …. nice.

I commed Arsten enroute, to give him a status report on my mission.

Good work, Roc. I’m relieved to hear the Khumaak made it safely to the Defiants. I’m going to make a few arrangements to have some of the Republic’s most trusted historians pay a visit to their caravan.

I smiled as I watched the transfer go into my account, and thanked Arsten for his prompt payment. It was always pleasant doing business with those that paid on time and in full.

It had been an eventful few days, and I decided my crew needed some downtime; I certainly knew I did. I adjusted my course to Rens; it was time to go back “home”.

Written by the Victors

onslaught

Good thing you’re still about, we’ll need you again for this one.

The Republic University guys had a look over the document and it has what they’re after: directions. There’s a mention in one of the sections of an old Nefantar bloodline, and where they buried their dead. I’m told they’re important because of some old folktale about how they buried a special type of Khumaak with one of their leaders. Pretty odd stuff, but also kinda interesting.

They’re on a myth-busting mission, though, that’s the thing. There is no actual Khumaak, just a bunch of old Ammatar bones, probably. Still, you go there, check it out, and then they can say in their report that the area was inspected by a capsuleer and turned up nothing. They put that together with the proof in this old book that you inspected the right area and, I dunno, write an essay about how clever they are. The important thing for me was just getting our own history back, and that’s what you should remember too.

So anyway, you feel like digging up some graves? The coordinates will be 2.5 million ISK in collateral, to cover associated risks yet again. If for some crazy reason there is actually a unique Khumaak out there, it belongs in a museum, not your cargo bay. 2.5m ISK would buy a lot of museums, you see. Whatever way it goes, our history won’t lose out again.

Hmmm, I thought to myself; the Ammatar. Aura responded to my partial mental query and displayed some information on a HUD in my pod.

The Ammatars are descendants of Minmatar that collaborated with the Amarrians during the latter occupation of the Minmatar worlds. When the Amarrians were thrown out during the Minmatar Rebellion their collaborators fled with them. The Amarrians helped their Minmatar allies to settle in a few systems not far from the newly formed Minmatar Republic. The Ammatars regard themselves as the true rules of the Minmatars, mainly based around the fact that a fair proportion of the old Minmatar aristocracy, or tribal leaders, were among them. In this vein they named their doman San Matar, meaning ‘true home’.

The term Ammatar was first used by the Gallenteans to distinguish between the two groups. Out of convenience even the Ammatars themselves started using it, stating that, with the help of the Amarrians, they had progressed beyond the old social structure of the Minmatar tribes. Indeed, the Ammatars have very deliberately abolished many age-old traditions of the Minmatar tribal society and embraced some Amarrian ones instead.

In the months following the Elder War of YC110, the Ammatar Mandate was beset with turmoil and uncertainty. During the war, its lucrative tsula plantations — the Mandate’s largest export crop and arguably the backbone of its economy — were systematically destroyed by Chamberlain Karsoth’s forces in retaliation for the Mandate government’s harbouring of Starkmanir Minmatar tribesmen, a clan lineage long-since thought extinct. After Empress Jamyl I rose to power in the Amarr Empire, however, appointing Royal Heir Yonis Ardishapur as Ammatar’s saviour and protector, the nation has entered into something of a renaissance. Aid now flows in a steady stream from the Empire’s coffers, command heirarchies are being reinforced and morale is on the rise. It appears the star of Ammatar will soon shine bright once again.

Reluctantly, I had to agree with Arsten; this was interesting. My own vested interest in the past of the Minmatar people continued to grow; based on words Sanmatar Shakor had once said to me, “To know our future, we must first understand our past.”

I transferred 2.5 million ISK to Arsten Takalo, received the coordinates, and headed out to investigate the Hauteker Burial Site, remembering a key phrase from the Memoirs I had read:

The next morning she was borne up to the stars, to be closer to him. He had her enclosed inside a giant holy dome, a place so magnificent that we wept to see it. In the warmth of the Zaid sun she would remain, forever embracing the shared secret that had brought them together.

Sounded like a good place to hide a Khuumak to me.

burial

Artillery cannons overheated, spewing projectiles as fast as they could. My damage control system strained to minimize the damage being dealt to my ship. One of my invulnerability fields flickered as my capacitor drained. I quickly relayed the command to my engineering team to load up our last capacitor booster, an 800 model.

This hurt far more than I expected. If I kept my systems overheated much longer, they were going to blow causing unpredictable collatoral damage.

I could see my enemy’s shields fail; hopefully his battlecruiser wasn’t armour tanked.

My artillery cannons tore large chunks of rolled tungsten plating from his hull, and I smiled, returning my systems to normal operations, initiating cooling protocols immediately.

The Gistalis Legatus battlecruiser exploded shortly thereafter. It was the last of the Angel pirate gang that had ambushed me upon arriving at the coordinates Arsten had provided.

Under normal circumstances, I would suspect a double-cross, but my gut told me otherwise. Just seemed to me that too many people had an interest in this place.

I surveyed the battlefield, feeling satisfied with the carnage littering nearby space.

I hated pirates.

I zoomed in on a domed structure in the distance, with a serene statue mounting it. It was amazing how obvious things were when you had all the pieces. I tagged it on my overview and pushed forward.

Angel scum! You will not desecrate our holy grounds!

What the hell?

Aura identified multiple hostiles inbound. Imperial Templars! What were the Amarr doing here? Ah, this was an Ammatar Burial Site; they were defending what they believed to be theirs.

The only thing I hated more than pirates was Amarrians, but the pirates had done a very good job of weakening my ship and depleting my ammunition reserves.

Still, if I knew my ship and my crew, they wouldn’t hesitate at the opportunity to kill some Amarr.

I aligned the Onslaught towards the Templars, kicking in my afterburner, extending the side vents of my front panels for maximum effect on the enemy.

The Sleipnir was an intimidating ship to behold. Narrow like a snake, but with the head of a dragon. I would breathe fire on them and consume their ashes.

Two minutes later I was desperately comming for backup from the Tribal Liberation Force.

” I repeat, this is Colonel Roc Wieler in need of immediate assistance in Frarn. Warp to my coordinates broadcast on secure channel Alpha-Echo-Niner.”

My ship rocked again, a plate of armour flying off into the inky blackness of space. My shields were depleted, my capacitor spent, and I was doing my best to hobble away but was taking serious damage. I wouldn’t last another two minutes by my estimate.

Shame, I thought to myself. She was a good ship.

My comm came alive. “Aegis Commander Thraxite, responding to distress call on allied Minmatar channel. You still alive Colonel Wieler?”

“Yes pilot, but not for long if you don’t get here. What are you flying?”

“Just a Myrm. Inbound now.”

Seemed our allies were proving useful… finally.

With the help of the Gallente pilot, the tide of the battle turned. A few of the Templars managed to escape, but both of our ships had remained intact, which was more important.

I relayed the events to Arsten Takalo via comm, sharing in his surprise that the Amarrians had mistaken me for a pirate.

Huh, guess we aren’t the only ones with an interest in this place eh? What the hell are Angels and Amarr doing here?

Well, let’s not hang around and find out. Do a quick inspection of the central burial tomb and then you’re done — if there’s nothing in there, it won’t be anywhere else. Report back to me afterwards, I need to go assemble the Republic Uni guys before you return. Takalo out.

“Thank you for the assist, Aegis Commander. You certainly know your ship.”

“Fly safe, Colonel.”

Moments later, my battered and beaten ship was approaching the tomb. I did a quick scan, and was surprised when something showed up.

I quickly sent down an archeology specialist I had hired in case of such an event, and a few hours later was rewarded  with the fragile weight of a Khumaak in my hand.

I asked the archeologist for his report:

This fragile Khumaak appears to be over a century old, and could perhaps date back to the Starkmanir rebellion itself.

There are unique markings along the side, tiny holes that appear to have fastened the sceptre to a wall at one point. In the centre of the flared orb there is another unique distinguishing mark, the visage of an Amarrian man draped in the robes of a Saint. His name, Torus Arzad, is not mentioned in any contemporary history, Amarrian or otherwise. Below his face a single line of text reads:

“Understand his mercy, and you will know enough.”

I couldn’t believe it. Arsten would be floored.

wildfireKhuumak

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.