I got called back to Arnon to investigate the drone swarm theory, and sure enough it seems there is a human antagonist behind them after all. Not only that, but it's Dagan, the same person that was the pilot of the Damsel, so there, I was right, it wasn’t just drones that took down those Dreadnoughts at all and in fact it looks like an inside job of some kind.
Back at Arnon I even got to face off against Mordu’s Legion, which was a bit of a shock to the system - a well-drilled force of capsuleers instead of pirates or drones. You can see the damage I took:
The suspect escaped and was last seen heading towards Minmatar space, so Alitura sent me over to Hek in the Metropolis region to meet Keita Eslin, who is a Vherokior and, on the scale of Minmatar hatred of Amarr, probably on the low end. Imagine it - if being an Amarrian in a Gallente ship in Caldari space was bad enough, now I was going to Minmatar space as a deadly enemy of the Minmatar in a Gallente ship.
I’ve been to Metropolis before of course, back when I got the Slicer and came up here just for a look around, and by coincidence it was by the same route. I could never get used to the overall red tint to everything you look at up here. I docked for the night in Hek and thought about doctrine, tactics, missiles. Minmatar ships.
The next day I met Eslin, but this time, instead of getting the info I needed on the rogue capsuleer Dagan, Eslin got me involved in suppressing a smuggling ring, which was interesting enough - loads of loot and salvage. I experimented with particle blaster cannons on these missions, but their extreme short range meant that by the time I closed down a target to a sub-2 km optimum range, my drone swarm had already destroyed the target, so that was a non-starter.
The endgame with the smugglers involved hitting their HQ and taking down their power plant, which exploded with a ferocity that temporarily overloaded my cam drones and gave me a visual whiteout, which was not good. They’re not supposed to do that…
Another highlight on this series was facing off against Guristas, Serpentis and Sansha’s ships sometimes all in the same place. Tactics!
At the end of this series I realised I’d at least partially been involved in some kind of revenge trip, because Eslin asked me to personally deliver a message to the Ammatar/Derelik region. Now this was new. Every part of this arc so far had involved travel to regions that I’ve previously been to, but not Derelik.
The run down through Metropolis and Heimatar involved passing through the Minmatars’ home system of Pator. The red nebulosity of Metropolis is a constant backdrop in this area of the cluster and the manner in which the nebula arches ‘overhead’ is both oppressive and magnificent - a real sense of scale is evident.
Something else: stargate design is not standardised in Minmatar space. You get all kinds of iterations, which in itself is an indicator of the seven tribes’ default state of disagreement. I was actually glad to see the curvy elegance of an Amarrian stargate when I got to Derelik, which of course is still nominally Minmatar in origin but is in fact part of the Ammatar Mandate. On the way down I managed to salvage a couple of abandoned Sleeper wrecks, expecting some exotic materials; but it was just scrap like everything else...
Derelik is on the galactic-south-eastern edge of the central cluster of named systems, and there is a void beyond it before you get to the Great Wildlands. How this translates into scenery is a spectacularly clear and unobstructed view of the galactic plane.
By the time I got to my destination in the Tanoo system it was late again, so I berthed the Tristan and went straight to my quarters, where I got into browsing the contracts database, you know, just for the hell of it, as you do etc..
I had an idea. Maybe I should base a ship here so I’ll have an excuse to come back. I dropped a few hundred grand on a used Minmatar Probe frigate that had some warp drive mods and that in theory might make a fast courier ship. It was based in the Sasta system next door to Tanoo. Even though it was late I got back into the Tristan and went over to take a look at it. That’s an actual Minmatar ship, when I always said I‘d stay loyal to Amarr designs. Diversification is one thing, but we‘re getting into maintenance and logistics requirements here. We’ll see how it works out. One thing is certain: I’m not getting a Caldari ship. Ever.