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.

The Keg

Inherently, people were stupid. I had learned that time and again, and yet I still let this simple fact get under my skin far too easily.

It wasn’t that I was an impatient man, prone to explosions of anger, though my present company might disagree; it was more that I just had no tolerance for stupid people. Needless to say, that made me impatient often.

“It’s fine, Roc. We’ll get there on time.” PyjamaSam said as we walked down the busy boulevard.

There were three separate concerts going on in the city that evening, plus some film festival, and of all the nights to choose, this was the night we had decided to meet in the city. It was a sardine can of a million people, and I didn’t like fish.

“For the love of …” I began, not finishing my sentence, unchecked anger surfacing far too quickly. There was a two-door entryway in front of us, but instead of making use of both doors, the idiot crowd was filing in through one already open door. How lazy did you have to be?

As we drew closer, I saw a more rotund gentleman approach the second door, and almost felt the anxiety fall off of me; he was going to open the second door, relieving this self-inflicted congestion of pedestrian traffic.

My eye twitched.

Instead of simply reaching out with one fat hand and laying his chubby digits around the handle, opening the door like any person with an iota of intelligence would do, he turned, and waited until someone let him in the lineup for the already open door.

“Unfrickinbelievable.” I uttered to myself, approaching the second door to open it myself. We were already late. I hated being late.

Sam, in his geeky might, had decided prior to exiting the shuttle, to input the location of the restaurant we were going to into his NeoCom. He had the latest GS model of the NeoCom, far superior to my base model; at least that’s what he always reminded me of. Mine did the job; that’s all that mattered to me.

We had nearly arrived at The Keg, a fine steakhouse I had been told, when he double checked his NeoCom one final time.

He stopped in his tracks.

“What?” I asked with more hostility in my voice than intended.

“We’re, um, at the wrong location. He meant the other one.” With that, Sam turned around back the way we had come, and was off at a brisk pace, leaving me no time to even scathe him with harsh words.

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at our new destination.

From the outside, I had to admit, the place looked far classier than I was accustomed to. A quick glance at my flight pants, leather jacket, and drink stained muscle shirt confirmed it. Yeah, I was definitely going to fit in here.

We entered the restaurant and were assaulted with chaos; the place was packed to capacity. I could barely hear the hostess asking if she could help me, but managed to utter the word “Canux” to her.

She smiled pleasantly, and muttered something, then walked away. We followed, and in short order were seated in a nice booth with comfortable leather benches.

The noise of the crowd was so distracting, I barely had time to appreciate the waitress’ assets.

I looked at Sam and uttered, “As long as he’s later than us, I’m good.”

It was just then that the thinnest, tallest Caldari I had ever seen smiled at us, and extended his hand.

“Roc Wieler, I assume.” he said, his voice nearly as low as mine. I returned his firm handshake, making a mental note of his grip; he was obviously strong despite his appearance.

“And PyjamaSam of course.” the Caldari continued his introduction, shaking hands with Sam.

“Namkha, good to meet you.” I said, taking my seat and discarding my jacket.

Namkha turned out to be many things, an astute and successful businessman only one of the many hats he wore; at least that was my impression of him by the end of this meeting.

Sam and I had received a comm from him several weeks earlier to meet with him for the chance to discuss “a business opportunity of great potential interest to us.”

I was skeptical of all business people since my last horrible lapse in judgement that I was still paying for with my very career, not to mention the fact that he was Caldari.

Don’t get me wrong; I had many Caldari friends and associates despite them being allied with the Amarr. I knew the Caldari people were a good people overall. My belief was that their interim leader, Tibus Heth, was an easy to manipulate jackass and a despot whom would soon reap the crop of what he had sown within the State, or fall under the charm of the Amarr Empress whom had been courting him of late.

Of course, given that the Caldari State had crushed the Gallente Federation didn’t really reinforce my ability to perceive things accurately. But then again, I still believed  Jamyl Sarum  had a hand in that; you couldn’t trust any Amarr after all.

In the end, Sam and I had discussed the invitation at length, and accepted. We had even joked about his intentions.

“What if he tries to kill us?” I had said humourously to Sam.

“That’s why I brought you.” he replied, not missing a beat.

“Why? Because I run slower?”

We both laughed.

Within the span of the next fifteen minutes, I felt more at ease. Namkha turned out to be one of the most enjoyable Caldari I had ever met; he was intelligent, his words were well thought out before spoken, and he had a quiet confidence about him that demanded respect and held your attention.

Sam, of course, blathered on incessantly when given the chance. That was one of the few things about Sam that really irritated me in our friendship.

90% of the time you couldn’t coax a peep out of him; he was just simply anti-social. But get him talking about something he held a passion for, and even a Titan class Ragnarok warping into your frigate couldn’t shut him up.

We ordered steaks for dinner, Namkha having his with wine, Sam having his with a glass of water.

I had beer. Lots of beer.

The conversation over dinner continued to be enjoyable, and the meal itself was delicious.

As we sank into our seats after dinner, declining a look at the dessert menu, Namkha hit us with the business opportunity.

I’m not going to go into the details of that in this journal entry at this time, but sufficient to say, Sam and I were both floored.

It was an incredible opportunity for us to consider.

After composing ourselves, we generously thanked Namkha, and let him know about a few other avenues we were currently pursuing, but should those fall through, we would definitely give weight to his considerable offer.

He footed the bill for the evening, which further demonstrated the class of the man. As I said, one of the most enjoyable Caldari I had ever met, and someone I would definitely be staying in touch with.

We said our goodbyes, and Sam and I made our way back towards the shuttleport, which took exactly… four minutes.

I punched Sam in the shoulder. “You’re an ass.” I said, commenting on how close we ended up being to where we had started. He had taken us half an hour in the wrong direction towards the wrong location, when the damned restaurant had been right beside us upon our arrival. Grrr.

Once we had shuttled back to the orbiting station, we said our goodbyes, and I made my way back to my private hangar bay.

An enjoyable evening, but there was still a war going on around us, and war was what I was good at.

[OOC] Give NAMKHA’S BLOG a read; hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

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