Heresiology

“You should know this isn’t how I deal with every Brutor I come across, not that there’s been many.” Hiva said melodiously as her fingers drew on my chest.

“Mmmhmmmm.” I grunted in return, only half awake. It had been a fantastic night with her, Brutor style. I would like to say it was elegant, refined, delicate, loving, but that just wasn’t the way of my people.

It was savage, fierce, sweaty, intense, aggressive, vocal, at times painful, draining, downright exhausting, swinging from vines jungle sex.

Her fingers glided over my chest hair, lightly touching the gouge marks she had left there; one of several places her nails had dug into me rewardingly.

“You’re the best I’ve ever had.” Hiva said dreamily, snuggling in closer to me. I wrapped my arm around her, wishing she would just shut up and let me sleep. I wasn’t in this for the emotional bonding or intimate sharing; I was in it because she was damn hot.

Breathtakingly gorgeous, from head to toe. Just thinking about her feminine muscularity, her body dripping with sweat as her back arched as she rode me hard, moaning and screaming my name, I found myself getting aroused anew, for the fifth time since last night.

I leaned my head over and kissed her beautiful bald head. Her hand ran down my stomach, ever lower, sending shivers up and down my body, until she stopped firmly on my good morning.

TWO HOURS LATER

When I awoke, Hiva was gone. There was a flashing datasheet on the bedside stand for me.

I’m still going to need some more time with the Blood Obsidian Orb, but I have managed to glean some information from it. My theory is that the orb acts as a protective case for something hidden inside of it. I’d hate to break open a priceless relic of the past, and I’m trying to avoid that situation as much as possible.

I rubbed my eyes, trying to focus before continuing. Even in her writing, I was already she’d just shut up.

Something was written on the orb as well, and I want you to go find what it is. There’s a tablet that goes along with the orb and supposedly tells more about its purpose. The Church of the Obsidian did not have this tablet, as far as I can tell, but I was able to decipher a code on the orb that told of the tablet’s location: the ruins of an old Ammatar church.

It was too early for this. I put down the note and headed for a quick steam shower. After a quick morning workout and some breakfast, I returned to the note, caf in hand.

The church is an ancient place, and a prime spot for archeology. Use that analyzer I gave you for the Church of the Obsidian. I expect there to be a lot of stuff to analyze in those ruins. Bring back whatever you can, but I’m especially looking for the Blood Obsidian Tablet. When you come back, I expect that I can crack this thing wide open… figuratively speaking, of course.

I genuinely smiled. “Crack this thing wide open” resonated within me. I had learned that was a skill Hiva definitely possessed in abundance. I was sure it was a double entendre.

My crew wasn’t entirely pleased to see me, as I had confined them to quarters for the night whilst I was out frolicking about. I didn’t know Tanoo very well, and didn’t want to take any chances. There would be time enough for rest when our task was done.

Once the Onslaught was prepped, we headed towards the coordinates Hiva had provided in the datasheet.

As expected, the Ammatar were waiting for me. I didn’t know if Hiva was working with them or not, and honestly it didn’t matter.

I was in the “post coital must kill something” frame of mind anyway.

Three Armageddons, an Apocalypse, and their support cruisers and frigates were quickly torn to bits by the Onslaught’s hunger for blood.

The single ship that stood out amongst the attacking fleet was the one still shooting at me, an Ammatar Navy Detective. I found it curious that their Navy would send a detective into this foray.

I left him alive for the time being, and began my analysis of the relics. Mark Yaqb had uploaded some training documentation to me after our last adventure together, and since then, I had done some studying and was now confident in my ability to use an analyzer.

The next few hours were one of wonderful, yet troubling, lessons in history, as I slowly found startling documentation about the Starkmanir, painting them in an entirely different light than what we had been taught.

bookTHE EDUCATION OF THE STARKMANIR

A tattered document, presumably of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 12 – The Education of the Starkmanir” read as follows:

“By the end of his tenth year as Holder on Starkman Prime, Arzad had finished the educational infrastructure for the Starkmanir with the establishment of the final slave college on his continent. The focus of these education centers, aimed at young members of the Starkmanir tribes, was in assimilating the slaves into the greater Amarr society. The focus was primarily in basic business matters, science and technology, and all aspects of the Amarr religion. Attendance at this school was not entirely elective, and slaves were given time to study, though they would often have to make up for lost time in the fields. Despite this, many Starkmanir entered into the slave colleges in order to better their station in life, especially with respect to the high, holy Amarr religion.

The Starkmanir also educated their beloved Holder in kind, as well as other members of the Hamri family. The tradeoff in education was often mutual between the tribal leaders and Arzad. When the slave colleges began teaching business matters, the Holder learned ancient Starkmanir woodworking; astronomy education led the to the Starkmanir martial arts; and the teaching of the Amarr religion initiated Arzad’s own edification of the Starkmanir’s tribal spiritualism.”

Hmmm, I wondered to myself. Nilf Abruskur had sent me to Arzad previously by mistake. I wonder if this was actually a slip up related to the mention of Arzad’s name here? Just how much did Nilf Abruskur know that he wasn’t telling?

The next document was more revealing:

bookST. ARZAD

A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 1 – St. Arzad” read as follows:

“And so it was that Arzad Hamri, son of Ezzara Hamri, grandson of Yuzier Hamri, ascended to the title of Holder of the most holy grounds on Starkman Prime. Though only a young man, Arzad held the wisdom of the ages, granted to him by the celestial Maker, and carried with him the burden of creation.

His first act as Holder was to grant a day of celebration to all his slaves, calling the day holy by the Amarr religion. The slaves, members of the Starkmanir tribe, referred to that day as the ‘Hand of Solace’ or ‘Khu-arzad.’ Unlike his father before him, Arzad was instantly loved by his slaves, and his benevolence sowed the seeds of righteous love between Holder and slave.”

My stomach churned with pain wrought memories of my own enslaved past. I remember how easy we were to manipulate; how much enjoyment our Amarrian “masters” would take from breaking us, no matter what the method. Khu-arzad my ass. He was no saint, regardless of what these pages said.

bookTHE BENEVOLENT

A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 6 – The Benevolent” read as follows:

“The fields and hills of Starkman Prime are harsh and demanding, especially for those working indentured servants tied directly to the land by the holy bonds of slavery. Arzad Hamri understood their plight and pitied them. As a boy, he would often work alongside the Starkmanir in the fields, immersing himself with the tribe to better understand their customs and traditions, much to the chagrin of his father and elders.

As a Holder, Arzad offered many forms of restitution and bereavement for the Starkmanir during their often long and difficult days. Regular rest periods were common during his rule, as well as days of parlay and rest, including high holy days and other Amarr religious festivals, deeming these occasions to be too holy. The Starkmanir loved him for these decisions, often working extra hours when necessary because they respected Arzad and wished for him to be pleased with their efforts.”

Just when a part of thought maybe this Arzad was understanding the outright wrongness of slavery, the document had to end with his slaves going “above and beyond”, just to please him.

I could feel my teeth grinding, but I continued reading the recovered documents.

bookHAND OF ARZAD

A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 20 – Hand of Arzad” read as follows:

“The Hand of Arzad grew to become the most popular festival on Starkman Prime, so beloved was this day of rest granted by Arzad Hamri. On this day, Hamri presided as pastor of religious services, in which most of the Starkmanir attended. His sermons from these festivals were collected and distributed among the tribe, often used by the elders to educate the young people of the importance of benevolence and good grace to people of all stations.

The theme of Arzad’s sermons was almost always of the inherent dignity of the Starkmanir, their precious qualities, and the hope of salvation through servitude. This message did not fall on deaf ears, and many ambitious, young Starkmanir took his words as inspiration for independence and rebellion against the greater Amarr Empire, though Arzad was always able to quell the burgeoning pride and self-esteem of the slaves. ‘Salvation comes through servitude, the grace of your masters, the dignity of your being’, was Arzad’s common response, his refrain found throughout his sermons.”

I snickered. It almost seemed that Arzad, self-proclaimed ‘saviour’ of the Starkmanir, was having trouble keeping his ‘people’ in check. I anxiously read the next document.

book

THE FIRE IN OUR HEARTS

A tattered document, presumably a part of a larger manuscript. The text was written neatly, though much of it was faded. An excerpt from this piece, titled “Chapter 37 – The Fire in Our Hearts” read as follows:

“Lord Arkon Ardishapur, though a longtime friend of Arzad, oversaw the popular Holder’s execution for treason and blasphemy. Arzad had requisitioned an Amarr symbol of authority, a scepter, as a symbol for lowly slaves. Arzad granted the scepter to his slaves as a symbol for enlightenment and salvation. Ardishapur ordered that all copies of this scepter – dubbed Wildfire scepters for its blood obsidian orb, a rock native to Starkman Prime – be destroyed. The Starkmanir were angry at his execution. Arzad’s book of sermons inspired the troubled tribe.

Three months after his death, Arzad appeared to Drupar Maak while the slave was alone in the fields. The Starkmanir youth was afraid at first, though once he saw the shimmering eyes of his former Holder, he was at peace. Arzad handed a Wildfire scepter to Maak, telling him, ‘The fire in our hearts burns for salvation, redemption, and grace. May the Word of God grant you the courage to save yourself and your people.’ With those words, Arzad disappeared, but the scepter was still with Maak. Years later, he would wield a similar item and avenge the death of his beloved Holder on the day of Khu-arzad. After that day, the scepter would be forever known as Khumaak.”

I didn’t believe in God. And yet my skin had goose flesh. There was something about this account that rang true, despite every protest my brain could muster.

If this story of Maak was true, then the rest would logically have to be true as well. I wasn’t ready to accept that.

We searched the final relic, finding the prize Hiva sought, the Engraved Blood Obsidian Tablet:

orb ENGRAVED BLOOD OBSIDIAN TABLET

A small tablet, made entirely of blood obsidian, engraved with writing. The words on the tablet are not entirely clear, and the dialect is familiar, though unreadable.

My heart was beating furiously for no good reason; completely unexplainable. I could feel myself sweating within my pod.

I decided to withhold the documents I had discovered from Hiva until I could employ some of my own resources to have their authenticity validated. It was just too much for my mind to handle right then.

I contacted Hiva about the orb. She was pleasantly shocked to hear from me so soon.

hivaI can’t believe what you found among those ruins. This is a historian’s dream come true. Now that we’ve got the Blood Obsidian Orb and the Blood Obsidian Tablet, I think we can finally solve this mystery. We’re very close to uncovering the secrets of the Wildfire Khumaak.

By the way: Did you notice anything strange there?  I could have sworn I saw an RSS ship flying about those ruins. Weird.

I had Aura go over the scan logs. I was very focused on the relics analysis, as well as what I had found in those documents. It was quite possible Hiva had been right.

Aura returned a negative result to the query, and I relayed that to Hiva.

She asked if I wanted to get together for dinner later, but I declined. My mind was focused far too much on other things.

Playing all Their Cards

I was still seething at my own failure by the time I arrived back in Aldrat. It appeared Nilf Abruskur wsa still reeling from my failure as well.

We dropped the ball on this one, Roc Wieler, and those putrescent, motherless Angel freaks made sure to capitalize on it. Our only consolation is that it cost them, too. We’ve managed to root the Angel spy within our ranks – the one who tipped the Cartel about your visit to the historians. They’re in a world of trouble right now; you can trust me on that.

I bit my tongue for the moment. My own hostility at this game Nilf had been playing, keeping me in the dark, sending me on missions with limited information, putting myself and my crews in unnecessary danger, was second only to my remorse at the historians whose lives were lost during the last engagement.

From our initial interrogation of this captured Angel agent, we have learned that just before the Cartel blew up the outpost, they managed to find and make away with the data we needed on the Wildfire Khumaak. The historian that was supposed to have a text for you relating to it was tortured into handing over his research and was then killed.

Nilf paused, letting his words sink in, letting the blame sink in. Even though he had used the royal ‘we’ in his speech, it was clear who was going to shoulder the blame for this failure. The only reason he hadn’t hung me out to dry already was that he still needed me; and better me than having to put trust in some other random capsuleer, though if push came to shove, I am sure there were hundreds whom could do the job.

They’re offering us a deal. We give them back their agent, and they give us the information we want. They tried to make a bid for the Wildfire, but there wasn’t a chance in hell we were going to entertain that idea, especially once we discovered who their agent was. We negotiated it down to the agent, but we have no intention of making a fair deal with them, simply because when it comes to the Angels, there is no such thing. They have no desire for the safe return of this traitorous scum; in fact if they could kill him right now to shut him up, they wouldn’t hesitate.

I silently agreed with the Angels’ sentiment. This traitor, whomever he might be, had traded lives for money, put profit over morality, and it sickened me.

In addition to providing us intel that the historical texts on the Khumaak have been taken, our captured agent has also revealed something else; its location. His testimony and a good deal of other intelligence we’re receiving is pointing to one of the Angels’ main staging outposts in Metropolis.

Finally, something tangible. I felt we were close.

The defense forces posted at this place are impressive, Colonel, beyond even your capabilities. We’ve come up with a plan to lure some out and reduce their numbers to something you’ll be more easily able to manage. We forced subversion on our Angel prisoner, made him tell his superiors that we’re sending a huge ambush fleet to the meeting point. This should goad them into bringing along a bigger reserve of manpower, most of which will be drawn from that base.

While we’re having the meet, you sneak in, bypass the remaining resistance, and grab the texts that were taken. Underneath the central command center, we’re told there will be several data banks. The documents we’re looking for will be in one of these. You’ll need to deactivate the security firewalls, which means some hacking. You’re looking for a drive cluster called “EDF-285”. Grab it and get the hell out of there before the Angels figure out the game.

Lovely. This time Arsten Takalo wasn’t around to divert attention from this flaw I possessed; I had no hacking skills.

“When’s the meet? I’ll need time to prepare.” I asked.

“You have four days, Roc Wieler.” Nilf replied.

Four days was a long time for a capsuleer to engage in accelerated neural learning. In four days I could easily inject the skills I needed directly into my brain, and probably even get in some hands-on practice time.

I’d also been meaning to pick up a Loki T3 cruiser for quite some time now, so figured now was as good a time as any to kill two birds with one stone; I could pickup the required skillbooks I would need to learn Hacking, and do up a couple of fits for a Loki while I was at it.

Only problem was, I would have to go to Jita, the market hub of the New Eden, right in the heart of Caldari high sec.

Well, I’d been through worse.

Surfacing

NILF ABRUSKUR’S RAPIER IN ALDRAT

We’ve had analysts from the Krusual and Thukker tribes going over the doucments you recovered from our agent’s private compound. They’ve made one more promising discovery so far which we want you to follow up.

Something I had learned in my experience was that the more people were involved in keeping a secret, the less likely that secret would remain such.

Too many hands were getting involved in this mix, and it made me much more cautious than I typically would’ve been. It was almost borderline paranoia and conspiracy theory; I was expecting the unexpected at every turn. It wasn’t the way I preferred to live.

As a military pilot, I was very straightforward. If you were my enemy, I’d shoot you in the face. If you weren’t, I’d fly your wing with pride.

Intelligence operatives were masters of making things overly complicated and convoluted for no other purpose than to maintain their mystifying stereotype to outsiders; and in this case anyone not part of the Intelligence Division was considered an outsider, myself included.

There was no trust, no straightforwardness. I needed to know that the person I was talking to, the person assigning me to life and death situations was trustworthy. If not, it was a fool’s errand each and every time. I would be more likely to cheat death by putting a pistol to my head and hoping for an empty round than by continually working for Republic Fleet Intelligence, at least in this “need to know” capacity.

Just the same, I would do my sworn duty. That is who I was. And that was the main differentiation between me and Nilf. If I said it, I’d do it. There was no reason to doubt.

They found a communication from our source inside the Ammatar Consultate. It seems she sent a package of information on the Wildfire Khumaak to the system of Jark for pickup not long ago. Our guess is that due to the sensitivity of the information and the amount of attention it’s attracting, our asset in the Consulate could only get it to the border, not across. This could play in our favour though. Due to its location in the San Matar constellation – the heartlands of Ammatar space – there’s a good chance our agent didn’t make it out there yet. We have to be careful where our operatives are seen sometimes.

I continued to listen to Nilf’s briefing, but at the same time I casually brought up military intelligence on the San Matar constellation. Average security status was 0.8, and it wasn’t deemed Amarr sovereignty, so I would have no outright issues with their military forces. So far, things seemed straightforward, for a change.

The drop-off location inside Jark is a complex known as Tili’s Red Light Palace.

My eyebrow shot up of its own accord. He had my full attention.

Initial Intelligence is that it’s just another merc RR dive, nothing special. Once you have arrived to the area we’ll forward the exact location of the cargo.

I had to re-read the real time transcript on a side monitor to catch up on what Nilf said. My mind was still back at Tili’s Red Light Palace.

Speaking of which, I trust I needn’t remind you how important those documents could be, or indeed, how sensitive. Proceed with caution, do not take any risks.

Sensitive. Caution. No risks. Condoms. Got it.

JARK SYSTEM

The Onslaught was at full crew capacity. I had never seen so many volunteers for a mission. You could smell the testosterone hanging in the air, the pheromones seeping through the air ducts.

I was thankful to be isolated in my pod; I’d wager the body odour levels were high out there as well.

Nilf commed me:

Okay, here we are. Head for the brothel complex on your right. It’s the one in the middle where you’ll find the package.

It’s an odd sensation sometimes, being a Capsuleer. With experience, you learn how to control your thoughts, how to allow Aura to differentiate between commands and random stirrings. Some pilots verbalized these commands, but that was more for their own benefit and focus than for Aura.

Unfortunately, she often read your strongest thought impulses, responding to those core instincts in each of us, ignoring surface thoughts altogether.

In this instance, even before Nilf commed me, my ship was heading towards the brothel, as soon as I saw what it was on my overview.

If my men (and women) aboard were as excited as I was, this would be a fantastic mission. I had already told them that should all go well, we might just dock up here for a day or two, taking some leave time. They deserved it. Hell, I deserved every orgasmic moment of it, though even thinking about sex was a little premature.

We were just out of range to initiate docking procedures when an unexpected comm came my way.

Well boys, looks like we got ourselves another poddie trespassin’ our domain here. Why don’t we show him what happens to uppity eggers who think they can hang with the big boys?

I could never catch a break. Did these yokels really think they could stand against a Command ship of the Tribal Liberation Force with one of the most well decorated and well respected Matar Colonels at the helm?

You would think I would’ve learned that the amount of eating your words done was inversely proportional to the amount of boasting you did ahead of time.

These guys were serious business.

Multiple Battlecruisers, several frigates, they warped in and pounded me with their initial volleys. I had to align my ship away, giving the Onslaught some distance from the Brothel; the last thing I wanted was civilian casualties and being tied publicly to this place.

A second wing warped in with triple the ships of the first. I launched my valkyrie drones, my artillery cannons straining with the exertion of overheating. I hadn’t seen this large a mercenary force in a long while.

They launched spider drones, which quickly snagged me, but I was smart and had a plan. I would micro jump back to the brothel, engaging the bigger ships that had fallen behind in distance, and at the same time putting distance between my ship and those spider drones.

Are you freaking kidding me? I thought to myself as my drones didn’t micro-jump the 300 km with me. They simply sat motionless, watching as the spider drones quickly made their way back to me and webbed me, allowing the numerous battleships I had engaged to pommel me without any drone support on my side.

I spent the next two hours barely surviving what should’ve been a routine encounter, all due to one foolish noob mistake. Let that be a lesson to all of us.

Finally, I had junked all the ships, and was trying to make my way back to my Valkyrie drones. I couldn’t target the fast-moving, hostile spider drones with my artillery, but at a current velocity of 34 m/s, there was no way I would ever get back to my drones.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones.

I warped away, then warped back in at 100km range.

I made it about 100m before the spider drones had closed the distance and webbed me again.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones on the second try.

I warped away, then warped back in at 0 km range, and hit my afterburner, pushing in the opposite direction away from my drones.

I made it about 100m before the spider drones had closed the distance and webbed me again.

Thankfully, I was smarter than drones on the seventh try.

I warped away, then warped back in at 100 km range, near my drones, the enemy spider drones finally out of their aggression range on the far side of the brothel.

Take that stupid drones! I mocked myself.

I scooped up my valkyries, and approached the brothel.

Using an RSS specialist that had been assigned to this mission, we managed to retrieve an encrypted transmission the RSS Ammatar spy had hidden on the brothel broadband. Even with the specialist, it was still a wholly incomprehensible string of 1s and 0s.

I bought the specialist a shuttle, and sent him on his way.

After the day we had endured, my crew and I weren’t leaving just yet.

If Nilf had issue with that, well, then it was just that much sweeter now wasn’t it.

Dead End Intercept

I accepted Nilf’s mission to kill the RSS traitor.

Good. His name is Lomar Vujik. As soon as he emerges, terminate with extreme prejudice. Recover any data that wasn’t destroyed and then report immediately back to me.

I had sworn to myself that I would not kill his family, which he had taken onboard his escaping vessel with him.

What did that kind of action say about a man?

Lomar obviously loved his family; that was respectable. He was obviously in a blind panic; no husband nor father would rationally put his family in harm’s way unless he was completely desperate and without hope.

If Lomar had become that irrational, he would be prone to reckless mistakes, clouded judgements resulting in possible catastrophe for those he sought most to protect.

The very ones he cherished most might suffer if this wasn’t handled delicately.

The soldier’s voice in my head reminded me that he should’ve thought of that before betraying the Republic; and that orders were orders. But things were never that simple. There was always a reason behind action. I was sure the truth would surface before this was finished, one way or the other.

I made good time to Fredagod, warping the Onslaught to the RSS Residential Suites. My crew was made well aware that if they did not respond to my commands within nanoseconds, there would be severe disciplinary action, and past toothbrush bathroom cleaning sessions had instilled a healthy fear in them.

While in warp, I took a moment to review the data Nilf had transferred to me regarding the RSS Residential Suites.

This reconfigured station houses thousands of RSS agents along with their families, and serves as just one of many secure locations for employees to settle down. Often the line of work RSS agents undertake brings with it a risk for recriminations. In order to minimize the threat to their families and keep agent’s minds on the job, the RSS often heavily subsidizes the accommodation at these residential suites. For the RSS it is just another way to approach internal security; the cost of these subsidies pales in comparison to the amounts the Amarr would pay for just one good defector, and the damage done from a high-level leak would be significant for an entity that built itself on the security of information.

I felt uneasy. At first I thought it was because of the nature of the assignment I had been tasked with, but further introspection revealed a more alarming truth; my world view was being challenged.

Thus far in my life, decisions had been very black and white, very clear. There was a line. There were consequences for crossing that line. I had always been able to discern what was right and what was wrong.

I was starting to see just how many shades of grey there were in this universe, and it left me unsettled at how easily the vast majority of the population lived within them. I didn’t like when things became unnecessarily complex, but the longer I lived, the more complex my life became.

I missed clarity from simplicity.

I exited warp 100km from the residential station, my overview quickly filling with RSS ships. Frigates, cruisers, and a single Fenrir freighter. I flagged them all as friendlies to avoid any confusion should things turns sour.

I began moving towards the station when I received an open transmission from the docking authority. At first I thought they were requesting credentials, assuming I was moving to docking proximity, but there was no talking. I was privy to overhear an unauthorized debarkation of a Republic Fleet Tempest battleship, and the ensuing firefight as the ship broke free of the station.

This had all been planned for the benefit of Lomar Vujik, but it gave me all the information I needed. I cycled up weapons, set the crew to red alert, and moved in, locking the battleship and launching my Valkyrie II drones.

This wasn’t going to be an easy fight.

This variant of the frontline battleship of the Minmatar Republic had been heavily modified with only one purpose in mind: destruction. It had been supplemented with decks of top-of-the-line fire control systems, and its entire power distribution structure had been redesigned to provide as much power as possible to its weapons, resulting in a truly fearsome battleship.

Thankfully, the Onslaught wasn’t a stock Sleipnir; I had some surprises of my own for any enemy I faced.

The battleship hammered my shields hard, and I returned fire in kind. Very slowly, I peeled away his shielding and his armour, not letting up as his hull began to flame.

By now Lomar must’ve known he had reached the end, and that his family was going to suffer his fate if he didn’t act quickly. But what was he to do? I had him locked down tight, at my mercy, but had it been me in his situation, I would be of the mind that it was better for my family to die with me than to suffer torture at the hands of the RSS to reveal what they did or did not know. I would take them with me, selfishly, not thinking it through in the heat of the moment.

“Stand down.” I broadcast with authority to every ship within 250km, not knowing the exact frequency he would be using. His ship continued its barrage against me.

“Lomar, stand down. It doesn’t have to end this way.” I said with as much compassion as I could muster. I used his name to try to establish familiarity, relationship; it was a device often employed in negotiations.

Still, his ship continued to assault me, my shield dropping dangerously low.

“You have my word that your family will not be harmed. Simply stand down and…”

“Your word?” Lomar replied on an open channel for all to hear.

“What good is your word, Colonel, when you act as the uncaged bear of the RSS? Your word means nothing to me and my family. You will die, or we will die fighting you.”

Did he not see the dozen frigates and cruisers surrounding him? Did he not realize I was giving him an out? Impressive as his ship was, it would not stand against this fleet.

“You don’t have to do this, Lomar.” I said, genuine sincerity pouring from my voice, the use of his name pleading to his subconscious mind to hear me as a long-time friend.

“Yes Colonel,” Lomar paused. “I do.” The regret was clear in his voice.

He was not irrational at all. I had been mistaken. He had weighed all his options, and this was the choice that he had made for his family. There would be no swaying him; this I could tell from the grave finality of his tone.

He opened up with a new volley against my ship, dropping me into armour. I quickly gave the mental command, which was relayed to my engineering deck, and a size 800 capacitor battery was used to top up my ship. Seconds later I activated my shield booster, regaining about 30% of my shielding. I let the booster cycle again, and was close to 60% shield strength within six seconds.

I was trying to make it clear to Lomar that he would lose everything he valued most if he continued on this way. If he was so far gone that he would sacrifice them all, maybe I could push him further, to the point of breaking, to the realization of defeat, triggering his survival instinct to the foreground of his mind. It was never too late to change your mind; that’s what it was made for.

He simply continued firing at me, telling me his answer without uttering a single word.

With great regret, and a burden that still haunts me some nights to this day, I gave the command to the destroy his ship.

My eyes closed as it exploded brilliantly, a single tear escaping unseen within the liquid of my pod.

“Send a team to check for survivors.” I croaked, emotion slipping unwanted into my voice.

No life signs were showing via ship scan, but they weren’t 100% reliable in my experience.

Within fifteen minutes, my search and rescue team confirmed my ship sensor readings; there had been no survivors, but they had been able to recover a single singed datapad.

datapadThis barely functioning piece of personal electronics turned out to contain ledger upon ledger of financial statements, high-level meeting transcripts and company rosters from several public and private Minmatar organizations. A large portion of the data was encoded in some sort of advanced cipher, leaving it completely unintelligible to me.

I returned my findings to Nilf Abruskur, the pressing burden I felt only increasing in weight, crushing my spirit.

It’s good to know we’re on the same page, Colonel Wieler. Our asset in Ammatar sends their thanks. They’ve been gathering information for us; there will be something shortly. Get back to me in a minute or two.

I closed off the comm link, and squeezed my eyes shut, until the physical outweighed the emotional pain. I was angry at Nilf. I was furious with this entire situation. I was enraged at myself most of all.

Lomar hadn’t comprimised. He had stood by his beliefs until the very end, despite it costing him the lives of those he loved most. He had known the consequences of his choices, but for him, it had remained black and white until the very end.

I envied the man quietly.

If there was a god, I prayed that my superiors would be held accountable for my actions. After all, I was just a soldier following orders; that left my soul unblemished did it not?

I had hoped my own rationalization would cheer me slightly, allowing me to focus on the very real tasks before me. Instead, my inner voice could see through the self-deception, the lie, the attempt at justification for something I knew in my heart of hearts was clearly a wrong and despicable act.

What was I becoming?

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.

Written by the Victors

onslaught

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

burial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hated pirates.

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

Angel scum! You will not desecrate our holy grounds!

What the hell?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just a Myrm. Inbound now.”

Seemed our allies were proving useful… finally.

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

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

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

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

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

“Fly safe, Colonel.”

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

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

I asked the archeologist for his report:

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

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

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

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

wildfireKhuumak

The Cost of Preservation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it was the real medallion. Good.

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

Isolated incarceration can change a man at his core.

Takalo continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The comm went silent.

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

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

I should’ve known better.

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

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

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

I slowly aligned the Onslaught towards the enemy fleet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I returned to Arsten Takalo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Demonstration

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

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

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

Interesting.

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

Arsten Takalo

Arsten Takalo

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

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

Let me get to the point.

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, I was punishing myself still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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