Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Corporate Dividend, Luminaire and the Aftermath of Operation Highlander

Outdated Host Productions [PHP1] is one of the minority of capsuleer corporations out there that pays a monthly dividend to its members. The flat tax we pay on those bounties and other transactions actually comes winging its way back to us at the end of the month, so we share the goods equally. This corporation is therefore the socialist workers' paradise that the Caldari State is supposed to be, but isn't, and never will be, despite Tibus Heth's tiresomely endless rhetoric.

My novice status also meant the dividend I received last week tripled my net worth overnight, so now I know how Heth felt when he assumed control of Caldari Constructions in a day.

I'm digressing...

This influx of cash-ola relieved me of the need to do any mining, or anything at all, for a few days. In fact I was no longer bothered about my Maller, and all those lost Ventures became mere footnotes. At the same time this was happening, the 500 IR freq crystals I had on sale in rookie land - Conoban - were selling out unexpectedly quickly with people buying batches of 50 at a time. Somebody on the alliance channel said something about 'Jita selling out of everything' at around the same time. Was that true? Was there a connection? No point in wasting time worrying about it: I did another run of crystals, then loaded up the Sigil with them and headed straight over to Conoban.

That evening in Conoban I met up with the Ni-Kunni lot again in Hedion U for a bar crawl, some substances, a bit of art & culture in the mosh pit; some fights with passing freighter crews etc. Late on, back in the quarters that I still keep in Conoban, I did that thing where you browse the markets under the influence of booze. I remembered how in an earlier time I had a thing for the Imperial Navy Slicer, resolving to get one when the Navy occasionally releases them into the private sector. According to the market interface, there was a single Slicer for sale over in the Imperial Shipment Storage place in Amdonen. It was relatively cheap, almost suspiciously so, because it was a one-off, not part of a batch as is usual with Slicers when they get retired from squadron use and come up for sale.

I hit 'Buy', then went to sleep. I dreamed of knives, of cleavers, of thin slices of meat on the butcher's slab. Slicer!

Next morning I hatched a plan. I would take the Sigil over to Imperial Shipment in Amdonen, load my new Slicer into the Sigil's hold (because as a ship-for-sale it would still be in its de-rigged and 'cold' state so it would fit easily), and take it to the trade hub in Amarr to fit it out, because whatever I wanted for the Slicer, Amarr is where I would find it.

The Imperial Family Bureau Station @ Amarr VIII/Oris - 18 hours later...

I rented a berth in the trade hub for four days and parked the Sigil. My plan: rig up and fit out the Slicer, call it Sid Vicious after a musical movement one of the Ni-Kunni lot had told me about and that I'd listened to on the way up here (Anarchy in Amarr...); then I'd leave the Sigil parked in the berth and head 'up north' for a couple of days in the Slicer, and explore some of the territory I'd glimpsed on the corporation's roam last week.

I had a good look round the Slicer when it was reassembled. The Slicer was the typical Navy-surplus ship: de-militarised by stripping certain insignia from the outside and removing classified parts from some of the internal equipment racks. I was expecting that - it's standard practice for ex-Navy stuff. Most of the ship's history and log details had either been deleted or redacted with the word classified all over it, which was annoying. I also found that the Slicer had been parked in a hangar for two years as a reserve ship before being sold off in Amdonen, and that its previous name was The Pious Wrath of Lord Falek Grange. Typical Amarr.

When I jacked into the Slicer for the first time though, I didn't expect this:

It took another hour to clear all that disclaimer crap - layers of it. Either I'd bought a hangar queen cobbled together with a load of time-expired parts on it and flogged-off to make room for something new, or I hadn't. Time to find out:

The Sinq Laison & Essence regions in the Gallente Federation, six hours later...

This ship is quality:

This ship is mint:

This ship kicks Guristas and Serpentis arse:

 This ship looks good even in proximity to the stunning snowball world of Chainelant IX:

In fact this ship looks good in any situation, even among the garbage-infested dump in the Deltole system:

I had no idea how colourful this part of space on the far side of Domain really was. The Verge Vendor nebula is a rival for the Cauldron in my home region.

Later on...

The Luminaire System in the Gallente Federation, 21:00hrs

Note to rookies: the easiest way to find landmarks for sightseeing is by selecting 'DED Agent Site Reports' on the Star Map. This is what drew me into Gallente space and towards the Luminaire system where I planned to dock for the night. If you listened in class, you'll know that Luminaire is the ancestral home of both Gallente and Caldari. The system as a whole is under Gallente administration, with Luminaire VII (aka Caldari Prime) currently administered by Mordu's Legion after the catastrophic events of YC110-115 that reshaped New Eden's politics forever along with reshaping Caldari Prime's surface.

The five-year siege of Caldari Prime by the Heth regime's Titan Shiigeru is well documented, as is what happened to it during what the Gallente called 'Operation Highlander' in YC115. I was in my second year at Hedion U in Sehmy when it happened and I remember us all fearing a return to the - albeit brief - horrors of YC110.

Just a few short years later, the sense of precarious stalemate is expressed in Caldari Prime's status as a 'demilitarised zone', along with the typically-human tendency towards memorialising disaster, which of course is what drew me here in the first place.

There are three major sites. The 'Luminaire Graveyard' is a collection of the floating wreckage of Megathrons in a semi-synchronous orbit that produces its own eclipses.

The Caldari Monument, self-explanatory, and tolerated by the Federation presumably only because of the presence of CONCORD, is a deserted standard Caldari station accompanied by what is very obviously an Amarrian dome icon, which is an extremely bizarre diplomatic statement - openly flaunting Amarrian backing of Caldari, right here, in the spiritual capital of the Federation and over one of the most controversial planets in the entire cluster. It makes zero sense to me.

But the most disturbing 'monument' of all is the visible aftermath of Operation Highlander and the downing of the Titan Shiigeru:

I saw the vidfeeds in Sehmy; I saw it happen live just like everyone else; we all discussed in class what the physics involved in a Titan hitting a planet at orbital velocity would be - that it would be equal to an asteroid strike and an extinction-level event. When all comms on Caldari Prime went down for the hours immediately afterwards, my class were all sick with regret and shame.

We now know that the Titan split into several pieces before it hit, each still with sufficient mass to penetrate the planet's thin crust and cause massive lava pools to form that are visible from orbit to this day, along with scarring that will no doubt persist longer than any human occupation of this world.

Today, a population still attempts to forge an existence on this permanently-changed world; its only reason for staying there being ultimately about power and diplomacy. The Ni-Kunni in me, whose ancestors learned to respect the land and to live with the sparse resources of Mishi IV otherwise they'd have starved, is disgusted by what happened to Caldari Prime.

* * *

After seeing this, I needed a beer. I elected to dock for the night. This is where I realised how very real those political implications of being Amarrian in a Gallente system actually are.

Caldari Prime has several stations in orbit around it and its moons. Some of them are overtly Federation military, so they were out, because I was in a ship that could not be more Amarrian if it tried, and no Fed pod gantry jock would be able to tell the difference between Sid Vicious and a fully-commissioned Slicer, because all the differences are on the inside.

I headed for the Fed Bureau facility - harmless soft-shelled apparatchiks, accountants etc. - and docked without any problems except I swear it took a bit longer than normal to get the clearance...

I got through the indignity of unjacking from the capsule in the prep bay; I showered and dressed OK, but when I went to leave the facility the pod techs were giving me filthy looks. I was in an Imperial Navy ship and wearing a tunic with decorative Amarrian script on it. In their eyes I might as well have worn a crown.

"Aren't you a long way from home? What's one of you doing here?" one said. The pod tech moved to block my exit from the facility.

I thought there are two ways to play this. Either I explain the diplomatic process to him by smashing his face in now, or I lie my way out of this.
"Did you really fly that?" he said.  

Condescending bastard.

I walked right up to him and stood an inch from his nose:
"Get out of the way!" I shouted. "I am an emissary from Her Majesty's Trade Delegation to Luminaire and I am here on a fact-finding mission. Yes, I did fly that ship, and if any of you grunts touch it while I'm gone I'll have your balls for earrings!!"

I stared him out for five seconds, then he glanced at the other techs, moved aside and said: "Yes ma'am...".

The prep bay's door swished open, and I strode off down the corridor towards my temp quarters and started breathing again. I don't like confrontation...

Suite #262 Observation Balcony, Caldari Prime Fed Admin Info Center, 00:25hrs

I sipped a beer while checking out Sid Vicious docked in its berth nearby. The ship looks great. You can't tell from a distance that it isn't a commissioned ship anymore. Back in the lounge I was met by a giant Guristas head on the holovid. Enough to give someone nightmares, that is.

I sat down and watched the news with more beer. It had been a day of days. I've only owned the Slicer for a day and I've already had an adventure in it, and I had another three days to go before I had to get back to the Sigil in Amarr. This was like being on holiday. But seeing the Luminaire system and what it represents brought a sobering end to the day.

The damage to Caldari Prime brought to mind the second reason I became a capsuleer: I remember what it was like during that brief period in -110 when the Elder War came to Eclipticum. I remember the dropships and the bombardment by the Elder fleet that appeared in orbit over my own world. Even though, luckily, my family and I were on a part of the planet that the brief invasion didn't get to, therefore missing the worst of it, I remember the feelings of helplessness and dread that we all still felt. I swore then I would never again be stuck on a planet without the means to get off it when one of these Titans shows up and places an existential threat over the population's heads, because I know exactly what that's like.

I retired for the night and decided that Sid and I are going to get on just fine... 

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