Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Pot And Kettle: A Sectarian Skirmish

My quest for the great white battleship (aka the Nestor) leads me back to a familiar place: the Ani constellation. The home of the Minmatar high sec COSMOS sites, I spent a lot of time running around the constellation on my way up to 9.9 standings with the Republic. So what brought the Sisters to Ani?

Officially, the Sisters conduct humanitarian operations. Not only do they maintain medical facilities in 3 of the stations in the constellation, but they also maintain a relief camp in Traun.
"The Sisters of EVE, always ready to aid those in need, have set up a relief camp here. The constant skirmishes around the system leave many wounded and hurt. Many more have also lost all their assets after accidentally getting in the cross-fire or being beset by on of the many warring factions. Here, the Sisters are giving first aid to those that need it. They are also monitoring the conflict, checking for any signs of inhuman treatment or war crimes taking place. But as everywhere else, they strive to maintain their neutrality."
As I quickly discovered, that neutrality doesn't quite extend to the Amarr Empire. The EVE Gate, the wormhole that brought humanity to New Eden, holds religious significance to both the Amarr and the Servant Sisters of EVE. Indeed, the EVE Gate is of utmost importance to the Sisters, and the Amarr control it.
"The Sisters of EVE center their faith on the Eve Gate. They believe that the gate is a divine gift, given to them for the purpose of unlocking the secrets of the universe and obtaining an eternal peace. They believe that God resides on the other side of the gate, guiding those of faith to him. Harna Durado, along with the Sanctuary corporation currently in charge of the sisters efforts at the gate."
If I wasn't on a personal mission, I likely would refrain from involving myself in a sectarian war occurring next door to one of the Minmatar Republic's major trade hubs. But the Sisters have something I want, so I decided to choose sides.

Kiljavas Yaskasen of the Sisters of EVE security division contacted me in Lanngisi.
"It looks as if the Amarr are getting a little too ballsy. We encountered a small Amarrian skirmish fleet a couple of jumps away and chewed 'em up pretty bad. Their leader was in a Prophecy, which was damaged in the fight, but he managed to warp her away when we demolished his squad. She was nearly hulled, and we want someone to make sure she doesn't make it back to Amarr territory.

"One of our covert ops pilots managed to scan the ship down in the Uriok system, but of course he couldn't take her on, even if she was badly damaged; he figured her captain was hiding out until we eased off on stargate security so he could sneak through and get back to Amarr space. I want you to get out there and take out that damaged battlecruiser, blow her to hell.

"Now, I know you'd be willing to do this just to take down some of those arrogant Amarr bastards, but I've arranged for a decent reward anyway. You in?"
Apparently the Sisters keep an up-to-date dossier on me. Apart from killing the Angel Cartel, one of my favorite pastimes is blowing up Amarr shipping. Oh, and the promise of nearly 2 million ISK and 5,184 loyalty points didn't hurt. So off to Uriok I went.

Facing a Maelstrom and a Claymore, the Prophecy and her escorts were totally outclassed. The Amarr commander was so rattled, he ordered his fleet's tracking disruptors trained on the missile-firing command ship instead of the artillery-fit battleship. I didn't have the heart to wipe out the fleet, so I just picked off the Amarr battlecruiser and warped off.

Returning to the station in Lanngisi, Yaskasen gave me another task.
"The Amarrians were busy out here, I guess — they were up to a lot more than just scouting, it seems. One of their missions was apparently to place mines along some of our major shipping routes. Barkrik, in particular, is full of the blasted things, and we've got a convoy coming through within four standard hours. We need to get someone to both systems and clear out those mines!

"These 'mines' are quite something, though. They are highly explosive proximity charges built into structures, but when they blow, they also launch a bunch of drones into space to finish off anything not torn entirely apart by the explosion. It's a tough job, but if they're not cleared by the time the convoy gets there, our people are in serious trouble.

"You up for it?"
I had just the cure for mines: 1400mm howitzers. All I had to do is warp in at range and start blasting away from a comfortable distance. I even cleaned up after myself and killed the drones too. And Yaskasen gave me 1.5 million ISK and 4,051 loyalty points for my "troubles".

The next request got a little strange. Sometimes I think the cloak and dagger types get a little too clever for their own good. The next communication from Yaskasen directed me to play delivery boy.
"That convoy you helped get through was more important than you know. In addition to their normal cargo, they were transporting a sealed diplomatic container containing research blueprints for a new EMP Smartbomb II. The next time those Amarr decide to swing through this sector and leave drones for us to find, our boys'll be waiting for them with a few racks of these babies. Those fanatical SOBs won't know what hit 'em.

"Anyway, we need a fast, competent courier to get these documents for a modified EMP Smart Bomb over to the research wing at Hjoramold XII - Moon 1 - Joint Harvesting Plantation; they need them as a model for the new prototype. I imagine I'll have more work for you as soon as you get back, since they're going to want to start producing these right away. You up for the job?" 
The Sisters of EVE have a research group housed in a station run by an Amarrian corporation? Hey, Yaskasen was turning into a valuable contact, so I went ahead and followed instructions. Besides, not getting shot at for a bit was a nice break.

Apparently, building a top secret weapon in an enemy-controlled station is not an optimal operational security practice. I wasn't too surprised by my next message from Yaskasen.
"Yes, of course. We waste your talents in such banalities, I realize. Still, thanks to your help, we've managed to build a number of the advanced EMP smart bombs. We've scheduled a live test in Barkrik, but it looks as if Amarrian intel has realized that something is up: Our spies tell us Amarr is dispatching recon ships to all our surrounding systems.

"We can't let them observe this weapons test! We need someone to keep the gate closed. We need to hit any Amarrian recon ships in the system and destroy them before they can get word back to the enemy. And I have a plan.

"We've tracked down a small gang of Amarrian ships nearby. If you were to go in there and attack them, they would call for backup, luring their recon ships in to assist; then you can pick them off once they arrive.

"What do you say? This a little more up your alley? If not, well, I might have something else you can do to help."
The small gang in Barkrik consisted of a battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 frigates, and some fixed defenses. The Amarrian response to the attack came in piecemeal. First I faced fighters, but only one at a time. By the time I finished off the fighters, recon gangs of 1 cruiser and 2 frigates appeared. Normally I am weary of scrams, but in this case, I clearly had the Amarrians out-classed. Once I finished off the recon ships, I returned to base to collect 2.1 million ISK and another 5,278 loyalty points.

By this time I think I gained the trust of Yaskasen. She also let something slip in her last communication of this tale.
"You've been with this assignment since the beginning, so it's only fitting that you be the one to take the fight to Uriok, where our scouts have detected part of an Amarrian fleet. The Navy will engage the main Amarrian force elsewhere, but we are confident that a capsuleer such as yourself, having proven your skills time and time again, can be trusted to deal with this smaller force. 

"Be careful out there, Wandering Rose. I mean it: This one is not going to be easy." 

The Navy and not the Republic Fleet? The situation got curiouser and curiouser, but I didn't stop and ponder the slip at the time. I had some Amarrians who needed killing.

The Amarrian forces were split between two deadspace pockets. The first pocket held 12 battleships with 15 supporting ships. Once again, the Amarrian commander divided his ships up into 3 groups which I was able to defeat in detail. Once again, the Amarrian commander decided to tracking disrupt the Claymore instead of the Maelstrom. The Amarr make some fine ships, but their leadership, at least outside the Empire, leaves something to be desired.

The second pocket, holding a force of 10 battleships, 5 cruisers, and 9 frigates, felt like a letdown as I hunted down the last remnants of the force. But the pay, at 4.1 million ISK and 9,467 loyalty points, was nothing to sneeze at. After receiving my payment from Yaskasen, I went back to the site of the battle and did a little cleaning up after myself to the tune of 64 million ISK worth of tags, modules, and salvage. Mostly tags.

I have a lot more work ahead of me if I want to get the white battleship. But I now have a reliable contact to work with who's shown an ability to get me good paying missions. Now I just have to start working.

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