With Great Power

It had been days since I had dropped off the Book of St. Arzad to Hiva Shesha. All she had said was:

After all of the trials and tribulations, we finally have the truth at our fingertips. Now it’s time to dig in and find out what the Wildfire Khumaak is all about.

I thought I was going to wear grooves into the floor I had been pacing my temporary quarters so much. I had opted to stay local, to be there when Hiva’s research was completed, but as I had learned, you couldn’t rush a historian; they all had the time in the world.

I was pulled from a sound sleep at 4AM on my NeoCom. Hiva was on the other end. She looked worn down, tired, but more than that, she looked older, deeply troubled. Without hesitation I asked her what was wrong:

I have devoted much of my life to history of all sorts, from its unflappable truths to its infallible lies to the nuanced information systems found throughout the chronicles, artifacts, disputed ruins, and subjective quagmires. Despite what people think, history is a shapeless void of nonsense, akin to space’s vacuum or the cold, thoughtless smattering of stars that we call home. There is no meaning besides what we make of it; we do not know truth outside of the lenses we place over this shapeless void, the teeming nothingness, the endless morass of information.

I was fully awake and sobered emotionally by her words. I could sense she was at a personal crossroads, and I would need to listen carefully if I was to be of any use as her chosen confidante.

This book troubles me. I do not know what to make of it, nor do I know how to proceed. If what this book says is true, and the chances are good that at least some of it is, then the Starkmanir did not begin their rebellion out of a thirst for independence, but rather out of loyalty to their Holder, a man known to them as St. Arzad. The Wildfire Khumaak, a symbol he stole from them, is not an enduring relic of independence, nor is it a glowing tribute to the spirit of the Matari people. Rather, it is an artifact devoted to the memory of the Starkmanir captivity, an heirloom of oppression, but also an endearing homage to a fallen captor.

Though a man of strong opinions, I held my tongue. Now was only the time to nod and continue listening.

In other words, the Wildfire Khumaak subverts the defiance of my people.

That is, of course, if this is true. All we have is the relic and this book. The story of St. Arzad is practically hidden or buried in the Amarr history: I can’t find a trace of it. For all we know, this is apocryphal heresy, a rash account of history, a fever dream of some demented Starkmanir, or an outright hoax.

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I’m torn on what to do, and thus I will put the choice in your hands. I don’t want the responsibility for what happens to this text. There are two places we can take it: Return it to the Defiants and reunite it with the Wildfire Khumaak, or donate it to a Gallente historian I know. The former option gives the book back its people, though I don’t know how they’ll approach the text (or even if they’ll release it to the general public, which to me seems a shame). The latter will keep the book safe and make it available for the greater good. Even though it’s a troubling account, it’s still history, and it stills needs to be known.

The choice is in your hands.

It was like she had parked a cruiser on my chest. I felt a tightness I had never experienced, and my hand instinctively grasped. Though physically fine, I felt as though I were having a heart attack, something unheard of for a capsuleer.

My posture broke, my shoulders sank, and my eyes worked furiously, looking this way and that as I analyzed the problem, trying to factor in the countless repercussions of either decision, and failing.

Hiva continued:

As I said, I leave the decision in your hands. This book is a remnant of the Minmatar people, and thus it probably belongs with my brethren. If you feel the same way, take the Book of St. Arzad back to Oggur Marendei, the Defiant member you spoke with earlier. They have the Wildfire Khumaak, and they should have this book as well.

Like I said, this book is unsettling for me, not as a historian, but as a proud member of the Minmatar Republic. The resistance our people endured for the past years is very important to me, and our ultimate defiance of the Amarr people is crucial to our cultural identity. This book does not show our defiance in a positive light, or at least muddies the motivations behind it.

This text belongs with our people. I cannot attest to how they will handle it, nor can I say for certain that they will bury it. But the right thing to do is to give it to them and not to let any outsiders take possession of it. This pains me as a historian, but it feels right as a Minmatar.

The truth is not easy, nor is it absolute. We base our understanding on our perspectives, the ideas we wish to accept, and the data we acknowledge as correct. Everything else is information clutter obscuring our understanding of the world around us.

My head swam, vertigo settling in. She made good points, and even though she believed it to be the right thing to do, did I? The decisions was mine alone to make.

I started to question what others might do in my position, friends and enemies alike, grasping for someone else to make this decision.

To make things even more of a dilemma, Hiva offered me a cargo of ten experimental RSS Enhance Probes, with 4x the flight time of the Sisters probes I often employed.

I needed more information.I asked Hiva about the Gallente historian.

Posmon Aubenard is a friend of mine, a Gallente historian working with the University of Caille. He’s a trusted academic, an astute scholar, and a respected member of the university’s staff. If you take this book to him, I know that he will preserve it and keep it safe, possibly even put the book in the proper historical light with a best-selling book of his own in a few years. That might not sit well with our Minmatar brethern, but at least we won’t lose the truth, or whatever part of the truth this book represents. The Defiants can keep the Wildfire Khumaak – although I’m sure Posmon would love to get his hands on it – but it’s just an empty symbol without the book.

Time stretched endlessly, though only a few seconds passed. I was silent, biting my lip, not sure which way to decide. I completely understood why Hiva passed this off onto me. It was a huge responsibility to bear. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be the one to make the decision, yet I was the one who had to make it, in retrospect.

When we are quiet, when we stop thinking, when we are completely raw and truthful with ourselves, I believed that we can hear a gentle voice of inner truth. Each of us possesses it. Each of us can choose right or wrong.

It’s our own life experiences that have tainted this voice, that have driven down in silence to the point where we can’t even recognize its sound anymore. It’s our own baggage that damages us. We are the only ones that can control how we react to things, how long we let things affect us. We control our tomorrows.

I made my choice.

I won’t forget this.

That was all Hiva said as I headed for the Onslaught.

AVESBAR VI – MOON 18

I had showered off since docking, and now was walking down the main access ramp to my ship. I held a satisfied smile on my face, knowing I made the right decisions. Under my warm, wrapped in leather, was the Book of St. Arzad.

I extended my right arm, warmly shaking hands with Dr. Posmon Aubenard of Caille University.

Thank you for giving me this book. I will sure it comes to no harm. This is not an easy history to swallow, and I’m not sure how factual its statements are. But it is better to tackle the truth than to bury it. Many Matari will be upset when this book is revealed to the public. I don’t know how or when that revelation will come about; all I know is that it must. Thank you for your help. Good luck.

I was shuffled off to an aide, and enjoyed a fine feast that evening at the University. As the night hours wound down, I was quartered in generous accommodations, and sent a comm to Hiva, wondering how she was holding up.

I think we did the right thing. Though I’m deeply troubled by this situation, as a historian, I must confront it. Thank you for all your efforts in this investigation, Roc. Though some of our people may be upset with you, the Matari people as a whole owe you their gratitude. Good luck in the future, my brave pilot.

She had said all that had needed saying I supposed, and again, I was content with that. It was the last time I would ever see Hiva Shesha, but I would not soon forget the time we had spent together, nor the way my path was altered from our shared experiences in this adventure.

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.

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”.

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.

200th Post Extravaganza!!!

Wow, hard to believe it’s been 200 posts already. Thank you for making this possible and joining me in this 200th post extravaganza! <audience applause>

It’s been an interesting journey thus far, and these last few weeks have been particularly tumultuous. Where will things go from here? I’m as interested as anyone else to find out! <audience applause>

But before we venture into the future, let’s take a look at the past, and see where we’ve been, and what we’ve learned. <audience applause>

Current Stats

  • Roc’s Ramblings currently receives over 15,000 views per month
  • The 1,000 view in a single day benchmark was broken on April 16th, 2009
  • The single most viewed post is Capsuleer iPhone Release Candidate – 1,716 views
  • The single most non Capsuleer related post is A Beacon Beckons – 1,347 views
  • The least viewed post is Roc’s Rule #176 – Breasts are insanely complicated – 3 views
  • My top (and only) heckler is Sard Caid – Congratulations Sard!
  • My top referrer is Life in Low Sec – 1,903 referrals! That’s what happens when I ride on the coattails of the greatness that is Mynxee

Blog Lessons

At the end of the day, I write this blog for me, and me alone. However, I must admit it’s been nice having an audience that has appreciated my efforts.

Some subjects are of interest to my readers, others are not. Short stories, novellas, artwork, these tend to be the things my readers enjoy. Recipes don’t seem to be a favourite, and yet they will continue! <audience applause>

So what I have learned from being a first time blog author? A great deal indeed. Let’s take a look. <audience applause>

  • People don’t like polls
  • People do like guides
  • Using tags is good
  • Promoting post titles for the blogrolls instead of Roc’s Rule #xxx is a much better idea(thanks again Mynxee)
  • People like artwork
  • People like artwork involving breasts even more
  • People demand more action figures
  • People demand Mynxee and Roc get it on!<audience applause>

The Future

So what comes next? Well, let’s take a look at the things I have on the go; I’m sure there will be something of interest! <audience applause>

  • Path to Freedom, EVE Online Novel
  • One Night of Roc, music CD available in August 2009
  • The Colonel and the Pirate, collaborative novella with Mynxee
  • Capsuleer 2.x, the definitive iPhone tool for EVE Online
  • Personalized 3D action figures of YOUR character in exchange for ISK <audience applause>
  • More short stories
  • More recipes
  • MOAR ROC! <audience applause>

Final Thoughts

Yes, it’s been a good ride thus far, and looks to be really only beginning. I invite you to continue to experience this adventure with me in this universe we call New Eden. There is always so much to do, so much to learn, new friends to make and kill, and of course, self introspection. <audience applause>

“I can’t believe I overslept!” I said, scrambling out of bed. I looked for my shirt on my dresser, sleep dazed for a moment until I realized I wasn’t in my quarters. I heard Kainda stretching behind me, small purrs escaping her mouth as I had inadvertently woken her.

I found my shirt on the floor in a far corner of the room, and began dressing quickly, trying to get one foot into a boot while pulling my shirt on. It didn’t work out exactly as I had envisioned in my head.

“Need a hand there, tiger?” Kainda said, reclining on the bed, the thin sheet barely covering her silky skin. I took her in fully, once my shirt was on, feeling her sultry smile and come hither stare penetrate me, stirring my loins. She leaned over onto her back, the swell of her full breasts reaching skyward, enticing me further to come and partake.

“I would,” I began, tying my one boot, “But I can’t late. Duty is duty.” I had used that line a thousand times before, to impress whatever woman I had happened to bed the previous night, and also as an excuse to make my exit, but this time it was true. I had been summoned by the Sanmatar, the request to my NeoCom requiring the highest level of clearance to view.

The message itself had been short:

<START>

Colonel Roc Wieler. Your presence is required at the office of the Sanmatar at 0500 hours. This is not an optional request. Failure to comply will result in military contempt and imprisonment.

<END>

It had obviously not been written by the Sanmatar himself, and seemed a tad threatening, but not everyone was good with their communication skills. Still, it did seem odd, and I tried to imagine what was going on that would require such strong wording and a meeting at such an ungodly hour.

“Will I see you again?” Kainda asked, a small cuteness in her voice.

“Universe is a small place.” I replied. I wasn’t one for relationships, never had been. Mynxee was the exception of course. There was obviously something between us, more than just physical, but it was unsure, uncertain, and definitely didn’t warrant any commitment.

I gave Kainda a quick kiss on the lips, which turned into several minutes of intense petting and making out, finally extricating myself from her grasp and running out the door. Hot women were going to be the death of me.

Arriving at the Sanmatar’s office slightly out of breath, and covered in old lipstick, I pulled a wipe from my jacket pocket and freshened up as best I could.

The two guards standing on either side of the Sanmatar’s door was an ominous beginning to this meeting. Usually, I would just knock on the door, and Maleatu would invite me in; clearly that day would be different.

I informed one of the two guards of my identity, which was verified, and after briefly speaking into his aural implant, the door was opened for me to enter the room.

As I walked in, I could feel the heaviness in the air, and knew in my gut something bad had happened. Maleatu wasn’t his usual smiling self, and was in the middle of conversation with two council members I didn’t know personally, as well my top ranking escort squad leaders. Daul Halwick looked my way, uncertainty on his eyes, and I nodded to him in reassurance, trying to play things as casual and “normal” as possible.

“Colonel, please have a seat.” Sanmatar Shakor gestured to a nearby chair as he finished his conversation with the council members. I assumed they would’ve left, but they didn’t, seating themselves in adjacent chairs to me. Daul took a standing position behind me and to the right, the other escort behind me and to the left.

I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, and my knuckles turning white, the blood starting to rush through my veins a little faster in anticipation of something dreadful about to occur. I quickly went over my activities of the last few weeks in my mind, trying to see where someone could’ve interjected speculation into my accounting of things, some aspect I had overlooked that could now be used against me.

I wasn’t a pessimist. I was simply pragmatic. Hope for the best, expect the worst. If I didn’t think of the absolute worse scenarios, I wouldn’t be able to react quickly and efficiently when even worse things occured.

“Colonel,” Maleatu began, his voice sounding uncomfortably formal. “I requested the presence of Councilman Traithe and Councilman Arbor this morning as witnesses to this meeting, and I apologize for the early hour; it was the only opening in my schedule today I’m afraid.”

There was no smile on my friend’s face. I could feel myself growing more tense. I nodded to the Sanmatar, acknowledging his words, but not offering up any of my own. There were times it was better to sit quietly and observe than to speak foolishly. This was one of those times.

The Sanmatar turned his back on me, gathering some documents on his desk, all the while talking. “Your anti-pirate initiative has encountered tremendous success. You are to be commended for that.” Maleatu said, turning his attention back to me once again, a small hint of a smile on his lips. “”Our squads have captured or killed many of the region’s outlaws, and morale amongst the general militia troops has drastically improved. Well done, Colonel.”

The two councilmen plastered fake smiles across their lips, clapping in unison for the exact same duration, then stopping, the smiles falling from their faces as quickly as they had appeared. It looked perfectly rehearsed a thousand times over.

“The council has been concerned by the additional expenditures during a time of war, and I’ve had to rationalize it to them on your behalf.” Maleatu continued, the unspoken words not being missed. He knew I had no experience with accounting or asset management, and I was thankful for his intercession.

“They have finally come to agree with my assessment as to the necessity of continuing this intiative, and given our most recent victory, have happily signed off on continuing the exercise.” Maleatu said.

Recent victory? As head of this operation I micro-managed just about every aspect of it. I didn’t necessarily have to be involved in every detail, I just liked to know everything that was going on at all times, who was doing their job, who was doing just enough to get by without being discharged from the op, even who was profiting a little on the side, though they weren’t aware yet that I knew.

What was he referring to?

The Sanmatar threw a docket onto my lap, but my gaze never left his. “One of our fleets has been very active in Evati system lately, the results of these pushes into pirate infested territory being that one of the local bandit groups has opted to relocate to Kourmonen.”

I only knew of two pirate groups operating out of Evati: The Bastards and the Hellcats, Mynxee’s corporation. My heart began pushing against my ribcage. I quickly glanced down at the closed docket, hesitant to open it.

The Sanmatar continued, “While enroute to their new ‘home’, we managed to coordinate with the militia and intercept some of their pilots, cutting them off from their main force. While there were casulties on both sides, this could now be considered a turning point in our war against terrorism. That’s what we were discussing when you arrived.”

I could sense Daul tensing slightly, his heavysuit making his movements easier to hear. I could feel a lump forming in my throat, and my heart continued to race, threatening to burst free. Casulties? Who had died? Had I known them? I found myself more concerned for my friends, even though they were pirates, than for the brave men and women of the militia that had also perished. I felt great shame at that.

“Please, Colonel. We need your input on this one. While you are strictly denied any access to this prisoner, your past experiences with her will prove invaluable to us. She’s proven quite resistant to interrogation thus far, but we know you will provide the answer.” Maleatu gestured towards the docket once again.

I couldn’t breathe. My hands wouldn’t respond to the commands of my brain, shaking and moving slowly towards the docket on my lap. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me. I could feel the fear and outrage rising within me. I was terrified of whom it would be, yet also hopeful it was her; at least then I knew she was alive. I could feel my anger in the vein on my forehead; if she was alive and being ‘interrogated’ behind my back, I wasn’t sure what I would be capable of.

Finally, I opened the docket cover, and saw Mynxee’s face looking back at me.