The Ministry of Truth

This is a story wrapped around an assignment that was given to me by my alliance in Faction Warfare. I put it together for our alliance Discord and decided to have fun by posting it here.

This story started as a way to be tongue in cheek about making heads or tails out of the new Advantage mechanics in FW. It didn’t take long, though, for the story to grow into something more meaningful. I hope you find it fun.


What is Advantage Anyway?

They had done it again. The Amarr Navy – the regulars and not the Militia – had passed down some cryptic orders and information that made little sense to the members of TF641. Certain that he had missed something, Canaith Lydian read the messages again. They were disjointed, apparently due to the redaction of details that the Amarr Militia, of which Task Force 641 was a part, was not authorized to know.

Canaith opened his digital notebook and began making notes, hoping to put the pieces together.

  1. There were regular meetings – each coded as a Rendezvous – between high-ranking Officers in the Minmatar Navy and local resistance units in contested systems in the Amarr/Minmatar War Zone.
  2. The location of a Rendezvous was possible to find by scanning down an encoded warp beacon
  3. Information gained by intercepting the Republic Officer’s ship would provide the encoded coordinates of supply stations.
  4. Navy resources would hack the security of these depots, making them publicy visible
  5. These supply depots would need to be defended, and enemy depots would need to be destroyed
  6. There was special technology being used both by ships at each Rendezvous and Supply Depot that made them far more dangerous than other non-Capsuleer vessels
  7. Scientists produced a series of calculations to approximate the advantage gained by successfully intercepting a Rendezvous and destroying any enemy Supply Depots in a system.
  8. This metric, referred to as “Advantage,” would be affected by another undisclosed calculation against large scale skirmishes with local populations. For lack of a better term, these skirmishes were code-named “Battlefields.”
  9. According to these scientists and their secret calculations, a system’s “advantage” paid real dividends in terms of the efficiency of gaining control of a system in the warzone, so much so that the Militia was paying out substantial bounties of loyalty points to any Militia Pilot who contributed to the advantage war

That was it. No more details than that. Once again, the Militia Capsuleers were to follow instructions without knowing the reasons why.

Canaith wanted to discuss this with someone, but who? Nobody in the Militia knew more than he did, and anybody outside of the militia that knew anything would not speak to him even if he wanted them to.

There was only one thing anyone in the Militia knew for sure. According to the advantage metrics being broadcasted, the Amarr Militia was losing the advantage war. The Amarr had been running their own secret Rendezvous and planting their own supply caches using similar technology to the Minmatar, only they had not been as successful. If anyone had doubts about the reliability of the advantage metric, the rapid retaking of Roushzar by the Minmatar Militia had squashed them. The advantage metric was real, somehow, even if the Militia could not understand how or why.

Everyone was murmuring about this. Now that the metric was believed, the dismal warnings being broadcast about them in many systems were chipping away at the morale of every Amarr Militia pilot.


Purpose Revealed

Canaith could feel the corner of his mouth twitch as his Omen Navy, Helpful Spirit, warped away from a Minmatar Rendezvous. He had come close to losing his ship, as its crew had to realize as well as he. Volley after volley from the Helpful Spirit’s heavy pulse lasers had struck the Republic Fleet Officer’s ship to insignificant effect, but only two volleys from the enemy had ripped away the 'Spirit’s armor, forcing Canaith to order a retreat.

His was not the only report of an unsuccessful bid to thwart the Rendezvous of Republic Fleet Officers with local resistance cells. Pilots from TF641 were giving similar reports daily, some even having lost ships. The advantage numbers were continuing to tell a dismal story. The Militia was in trouble, and it increasingly knew it.

A few days later, Canaith sat back and felt the corner of his mouth twitch again. Cyrelle Aurilen, a high-ranking officer of the Empyrean Edit Alliance, had just given Canaith a charter:

“I would like you to study this advantage thing and figure out how we can stay on top of it,” she had said.

It had not been an order. The Alliance was too informal for that. Canaith could have said “no.” Yet, Canaith was always one to seek a purpose, and Cyrelle had just given him one. He knew he would agree to do it as soon as the suggestion had been sent.

Canaith sat down and made more notes. In the past few days, some facts had been determined.

First, the ships involved in these secret meetings were impossibly resistant to Amarr lasers. This had sent a shockwave throughout the Alliance. This would mean that most Amarr ships would be ineffectcive.

Second, the enemy ships at these sites were exceptionally fast – as fast as any frigate that the Amarr could field. That some of these ships were cruiser sized or greater made this even worse news.

And, finally, the assassination target of these missions was deadly, even at ranges of 100 kilometers or more.

It was as though the technology for these meetings had been designed to overcome every strength of the Amarr ship doctrine. That the Amarr Navy was not forthcoming in how this was possible was almost as frustrating as the missions themselves.

Canaith steeled his mind against the frustration. It was useless to allow his mind to dwell on something he had no power to change.

So, the short list of operational parameters was this:

  1. We needed a doctrine based on speed and long range without lasers, which to Canaith meant that it had to be drones or missiles.

  2. We need this doctrine to be inexpensive and flyable by unskilled pilots.

  3. We needed this yesterday…

Canaith reached out to his communications console and sent a message to the only person he knew who could help him.

“Pressure Line,” he said, “I’m in need of your help.”


we want more we want more we want more

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The Advantage Arbitrator

Meara Natinde walked leisurely around the large hanger of the 24th Imperial Crusade’s Logistical Support Station in Asghed. The last several days of fighting had been intense, and Meara was enjoying some time out of her pod. She ran her hand along the railing as she looked out at the docked ships, delighting in the sensation of touching the cool metal with dry fingers. Pod goo was valuable, she agreed, but soaking in it for hours at a time had downsides.

She looked over the rail and noticed three Arbitrator cruisers moored in a row in the distance. Each of the ships seemed large to her, nearly 350 meters from stem to stern, but Meara knew that was just because she piloted much smaller ships. She admired the sweeping lines of the Arbitrator. It was dignified and beautiful, traits that marked every Amarr vessel.

The Empyrean Edict alliance had been stocking specially fit versions of the cruisers recently to run what had become known as “Advantage Sites.” The cruiser had been deemed the most economical choice to counter the Republic Fleet officers and their escorts. Due to the research and a series of successful trial runs, the Arbitrators, code named ADV-25 by the alliance, were showing up everywhere.

Meara’s serenity was broken by a comm’s notification from her earpiece. Sad that the silence had been broken, she clicked an acknowledgement.

“Lieutenant Natinde,” came a shaky voice she did not recognize, “This is Mamecus Havamus, currently assigned to… um… an Advantage Arbitrator docked in Asghed.”

Surprised, Meara stopped walking. This communication was coming from one of the ships currently under her gaze. “Yes?” she spoke with just a touch of impatience. “What do you need?”

The man breathed, obviously trying to compose himself and put on his Imperial Face. “I was hoping that you would be so kind as to pass on a request to Commander Lydian for me. I was told that he listens to you.”

“You want me to what?” she responded, with just enough of a humorous edge to cover her indignation.

“Lieutenant,“ he said, struggling hard to maintain protocol, “you see, I serve as a supply liaison on one of Commander Lydian’s ships, and he is not responding to my comms requests, or the requests of my supervisor, or the request of, well, anybody. I find myself in a situation and could use his assistance.”

“I will try, Havamus, but he is usually resting at this hour.” Meara chose to keep to herself the fact that Canaith expected his crews to manage their own problems.

“Any help would be appreciated,” he answered, rather sheepishly. “My ship is called ‘Minister of Truth.’ Please excuse me, but sooner would be better.”

Meara closed the comm link with a click and dispatched a written message to Canaith Lydian, her corp-mate, former employer, and dearest friend.

“Canaith, you might want to talk to the crew of the Minister of Truth, one of your advantage Arbitrators. I am told that something needs your attention.”

She knew that he would read the message as soon as he saw it, because, well, it was from her. Whether he would decide to interact with his crew was, well, up to him.


Excerpt from the Personal Log of Mamecus Havemus, Supply Liason to Minister of Truth (ADV-25)

I had an exciting day today. While I was trying to process the receipt of our shipment of drones, I was once again confronted by Ghuden and Hotus. These two are such hardliners, and they are always creating a stir. They did not appreciate our ship’s configuration and were demanding an explanatio1n regarding the use of Minmatar drones.

It is difficult to deal with these two. They will do all they can to twist my words and question my orthodoxy. They have issue with our ship’s configuration, but were insisting that the use of Valkyrie drones was the last straw. Yes, we are shield tanked. No, we do not have any tracking disruptors. Yes, we are only carrying Minmatar drones. Unusual? Yes. Heretical? Seriously? I did not design our ship. I am just trying to fulfill my duty.

After talking to Lieutenant Natinde – I do think she rather liked me – Ghuden and Hotus were making such a stir that I was afraid they would make a report. Nothing I said would calm them. They were putting on such airs that nobody else on the deck would even challenge them. The problem with hardliners is that they just sound so certain of everything.

Then Commander Lydian himself showed up, for real and in person. I do not think that any of us had ever seen him face-to-face before, but when he lowered his hood we could all recognize his face.

Yes! He wore a hood. He did not wear a uniform, but what appeared to be a ceremonial robe. He looked menacing, as though any question he had about your orthodoxy would be impossible to refute. He immediately had our full attention.

Lydian was studying everything with his eyes, and his intense gaze found everything and everyone in the room. I found myself hoping that something had not been left out of place. There were maybe 15 of us, but none of us spoke a word, not even Ghuden or Hotus. There was no established protocol with this man, no expectations. We were not even sure how to address him. It became immediately awkward, to be sure, so nobody said a thing.

At some point he turned an inquisitive gaze to Ghuden, as if demanding an explanation of something, and though that gaze would have put some fear into me, it seemed to return to Ghuden some of his courage, because he started to give the same rant to our captain that he had given to me.

Our captain endured several seconds of Ghudan’s monologue about Amarr dignity and the superiority of our technology, and so on, but then there was a flash of anger on the commander’s face. It was such a surprising change that Ghuden closed his mouth mid-sentence.

Then, for the first time ever, we heard Lydian’s voice. The voice itself was hardly more than a whisper, though the speech that he used that voice to utter came with such intensity that I do not think a soul was going to question anything he said. None of us would have the strength of will to counter one word of it.

Commander Lydian said that he had no patience for those who pursued appearances and slogans instead of the execution of his purpose, or something like that. He told us that to question him and the capable officers of Empyrean Edict who had toiled to design the tools needed to gain advantage in the warzone was to be a “supporter of the Minmatar through ignorance” or something like that. By the time his lecture was completed – and the lecture lasted for several minutes – I believe that Ghudan and Hotus both were questioning their own orthodoxy.

“Fulfill your purpose here,” he said, “or fulfill a lessor one elsewhere. It makes little difference to me.”

I have not seen or heard from Ghudan or Hotus since, but the rumor is that they were re-assigned to a Bestower in Shuria.


please tell us what heppens you could make this into a book

Face to Face

Meara was almost running as she rounded a corner to make it into the lift just before the door closed. Gathering herself, she nodded formally to the other three people in the lift car who had looked up at her undignified entrance. Her gesture seemed to reestablish decorum and they all looked away. She had to focus to keep from bouncing. The car was moving so slowly! As soon as the car stopped moving and the doors slid open, she was off again – decorum be damned, moving just fast enough to gather a collection of stares as she darted down the long corridor.

“There!” she thought when she finally saw the double-doored entrance to her destination, the 24th Imperial Crusade’s Officer’s Club.

Forcing herself to calm down, she composed herself, opened the door, and walked into the club, forcing her breathing to slow down. Just to be sure, she checked her messages again. Had she been dreaming? No, there it was. Canaith was going to meet her here – in person.

It really was not a big deal. They worked together every day. Yet, this would be the first time she had seen him face-to-face in months. Canaith Lydian almost never left his Capsule. If she missed this opportunity, it might be months before she had the chance again. She looked around the large room that made a sweeping arc along a wall made entirely of thick windows. She grew concerned, not seeing Canaith anywhere. But then, after her third scan of the room, she noticed a reflection in a thick pane from a window that looked out at the vastness of the station’s many hangers. Yes, it was Canaith’s face reflected in the glass. But what was he wearing?

“Well, look at you,” she said, with words wrapped in smiles. “Have you joined a cult, Canaith? Is that what this meeting is about?”

Canaith looked up, startled at the sound, but chuckled when he realized it was her. Then, taking in what she had asked, his eyes crinkled into a confused look. “Cult? Me? What?”

Meara moved her eyes with great intention down to his attire. It was some kind of ceremonial robe.

“Oh!” he said, following her eyes and blushing. “No… um… when you messaged me, you made me curious, so I rushed through a shower and found this nearby. It was a gift from my family long ago. I am not sure what it is.”

Her eyebrows raised. “So, that is your bath robe, then?”
“I suppose it is. Yes.”
“And it is in this that you met your crew?”
“I supposed it is,” he answered, and they both chuckled.

Meara plopped down into a fancy chair at Canaith’s low, gold-emblazoned table. Glancing around, she noticed what was a very traditional theme throughout the room. Gold – or gold colored – trim was everywhere.

Canaith motioned to a bottle and glass on the table, indicating that the glass was for her. His matching glass was in his hand. She poured until her glass was full, trusting that if Canaith had chosen it for her it would be worth drinking. As she took her first sip, she could tell by his eyes that he appreciated her confidence.

“Oh,” she said, enjoying the dark, spicy wine, taking note of its finish. “Thank you. This is nice.”

Canaith nodded and sipped from his own glass.

“So,” she said, tilting her head to the side a bit, “what is it that brought you back into the real world?”

“Why, you did, of course,” he said, looking her dead in the eyes.

“Wait,” she said as she held out her free hand and feigned alarm on her face. “You came out because of my message?”

“Oh, yes,” he answered. “It made me quite curious. As it turns out, it was just a couple of grumpy old men attempting to exchange tactics for politics. They were pushing back on Pressure Line’s design of the Advantage Arbitrators.”

“Well," Meara sighed. "In that case, I am sorry to have bothered you. I know how you hate politics.” Meara sat back, eyes cast down a bit, obviously worrying about the whimsical way in which she had interfered.

“Well, as it turns out, you may have helped me considerably.” He smiled warmly, saying with his eyes what he would have struggled to say with words. Meara received the message, understanding that she did not need to worry. She brought her focus back to the present.

“There will be more crews with traditionalists who tout sayings and slogans just to feel good about themselves,” he said with a frown. “Given time, their noise may attract some unwanted bureaucratic attention.”

“Do you honestly think it will be a problem?” she mused, sniffing the aroma of the wine as she awaited his answer.

“It could be, and if the steps we have taken so far are stirring things up, we will most certainly have bigger problems when we take the steps planned for the future. Shallow thinkers have ways of attracting shallow thinkers. They replace wisdom with foolishness designed to cast the illusion of worthiness.”

“I know that look,” she said, leaning forward to stare directly into Canaith’s eyes. “You intend to do something about it.”

“Oh, yes. I certainly do. The only counter to politics and shallow bureaucracy is, well, more politics and shallow bureaucracy.”

“Please,” she said. “Please tell me more.”


The Ministry of Truth

It was just a few minutes before 0800, and the crew of the Minister of Truth gathered around viewscreens in each of its 5 Recreation Rooms. Everyone was talking excitedly about the activities of the previous day. So many Rendezvous sites had been scanned down and intercepted. So many supply caches had been stolen and their locations transmitted. And, right on time, a special communication was received and displayed for everyone to see.

Announcement from the Ministry of Truth

Congratulations to every crew member of Empyrean Edict’s Advantage Fleet. Thanks to your valiant efforts, the glorious Amarr are stopping the corrupting influence of the Minmatar rebels across Lebapi, Roushzar, and Huola. Because of you, the Truth is being rescued from those who have, through their blasphemous lies, poisoned the souls of those who call the Bleak Lands their home. You are playing a crucial role in preserving the Emperor’s light to those who have been blinded by the Minmatar Republic’s schemes.

Do not give up. Do not fail in your glorious purpose. You are making a difference.

On every deck of the Minister of Truth, and across every Advantage Arbitrator in every 24th Imperial Crusade station in the Warzone, crews cheered.

Canaith was docked in the 24th Imperial Crusade station in the Huola system, a front-line system in what had become a hotly contested push by the Amarr Militia. He took a break to read a series of reports that had been sent to him from his assortment of personal agents and smiled. Though it had taken many bribes and the calling in of many favors, his bulletins from the Ministry of Truth were being posted on every possible media site and news outlet in the Bleak Lands.

Assignment requests to the 24th’s Advantage ships had been coming in among non-capsuleers in record numbers. It seemed that crewing Arbitrators had become a popular occupation.

It did not matter that, technically speaking, there was no Ministry of Truth. The consistent messaging and manipulation of the media made it sound real, and so it was real. Numerous Amarr factions, particularly among the so-called hardliners, were making public announcements in support of what they considered to be an important part of the cleansing of low security space.

A notification caught his eye from Meara’s personal communications channel.

“You rascal,” was all it said.


Unexpected Consequences

Ghuden and Hotus sat in a cramped cargo space of an Impairor corvette. They were waiting to be transported to Shuria following their reassignment from the Minister of Truth. Finally, after what seemed an unreasonably long wait, a tiny screen showed a video image of who they had to assume was their pilot.

“Hello, gentlemen,” said the digital avatar of a young-looking, rather attractive woman with reddish hair. “We will be departing in a moment. Destination is… let me see… Shuria.”

“Yes,” Hotus offered warily. “Thank you.”
“It’s about time,” barked Ghuden.

Hotus was a bit concerned. Everything seemed so irregular. The two of them expected to be travelling on a standard transport this morning, but a courier had met them on their way and informed them that private transport was to be used instead due to a scheduling problem. So, here they were.

The image of their pilot disappeared as the monitor flipped back to a display showing the ship’s location and status. The ship was docked at the 24th Imperial Crusade station in Huola, just where it had been for the last few hours.

Ghuden looked uncomfortably stuffed into a seat too narrow for him. Hotus noticed a small handful of crew stations, but also noticed that every one of them was empty, the consoles dark.

The display changed to indicate that they were undocking, but the notification was not necessary. There was an uncomfortable shifting of gravity, and a rolling of Hotus’ insides that indicated a serious lack of expense in compensators. That had been notice enough.

“Ugh…,” breathed Ghuden, suggesting that his insides were rolling a bit, too.

Not a minute later, the display on their tiny screen changed again and a computerize voice uttered “Warping…” At that point, Hotus’s insides stopped churning.

The craft was so quiet that it seemed improper to speak, so the two men, a logistician and a bureaucrat, sat in absolute silence.

The display changed back to the avatar of their rather attractive pilot, whose expression had taken on a different look. Her polite formality was nowhere to be seen.

“Gentlemen,” she said, “I have a question for you. What do you think of the progress being made by Empyrean’s Advantage fleet? What is your view regarding the use of the so-called Advantage Arbitrators?”

Hotus’ face crinkled a bit, revealing his surprise at such an out of context question. He could not comprehend a reason for the question.

Ghuden, however, did not miss a beat. “Hmph… those ships are nothing but Minmatar vessels with Amarrian trim.”

Ghuden drew a breath, preparing to start one of his many sermons regarding purity and Amarr technology, while Hotus noticed a subtle but important change in the expression of their pilot. The pilot had the look of one who had made up her mind about something.

“I have connections, and just as soon as I am able I will be contacting my family to start an investigation. The whole operation smells of compromise and heresy, and my family will see to it that it is purified.”

Ghuden drew another breath, but Hotus reached out to encourage him to stop. Something in his gut warned him that something bad was about to happen.

“Jumping…” said the computerized voice, just as the image of their pilot blinked off again. The display that replaced the video read “Jumping to Roushzar.”

“Roushzar?” questioned Ghuden. “Pilot!” he yelled, as if anyone but Hotus was listening. “You are going the wrong way! We should have jumped to Otelen.”

But there was silence from their pilot.

After only a few seconds, the computerized voice said “Warping…”, and the display showed that their destination was, well, nowhere in particular. They were jumping to a private bookmark named “far safe”.

After what seemed a long time, but was only two minutes, the ship came out of warp. There was a sound like pressurized air being released and an insides-rolling jolt. The lights in the ship went dark except for their tiny video display, which showed only a flashing notification that read “Ejecting…”

It was then that Hotus realized how small the universe seemed when your ship had a warp drive. You could travel light years in only a handful of seconds. But in this tiny ship without a crew or power, well, suddenly the universe could be seen for what it was: vast, endless, and mostly empty.

Ghudan panicked and tried to access the local channel from his communications device, but Hotus already knew was Ghuden would find: jammed communications and no access to any network hubs. By the whimpering he heard from his friend, Hotus knew he had been right.

Then their tiny display changed one final time, and a computer animated voice said “Self-Destruct Sequence Initiated.”

For the next few seconds, Ghuden simply stared at Hotus, and it was the first time Hotus could remember Ghuden having nothing to say. Then their ship exploded, leaving nothing but a civilian mining laser.


Mission Successful

Meara’s Anathema, a covert ops ship named From the Mist, completed the last jump on its trip from Asghed to Huola. Meara’s virtual display indicated that Empyrean Edict’s largest operation, called the Siege of Huola, was nearing completion. It had been quite a fight, but there was every indication that Houla’s governance would change hands within twenty-four hours.

“I cannot believe it…” she thought as she directed her ship to dock at the 24th Imperial Crusade’s Station. The Minmatar had held Huola, the system connecting the War Zone to Amarr high-security space, for years. Only Seraghis, the Executor of her alliance, had believed it possible to wrest it from their hands.

Meara allowed herself a moment of pride. For the last several days, she had been supporting Canaith’s many interceptions of Minmatar Officer Rendezvous in Roushzar and Huola. Her job had been to scan the sites down. Canaith’s was to travel to those locations and intercept the Rendezvous. This had become such a steady routine that both Meara and Canaith had worked the process into a series of specifically executed steps. She had lost count of how many interceptions they had run. The accumulated actions of Canaith and other Capsuleers who had operated Empyrean’s Advantage Fleet had helped to turn the tide in the Siege of Huola, a fact that had been reflected daily in the pronounced advantage metrics in the system.

Canaith still had no idea why his interceptions made such a difference to the Amarr advantage in these systems. The marines and supporting elements that executed their covert missions during these interceptions were not explaining anything, and both Canaith and Meara had been sent official warnings from both the Amarr Navy and the Amarr Militia to stop asking questions. “You do not have a need to know,” the messages had said. “Let it go.”

Meara waded through a few announcements from Canaith’s Ministry of Truth, and despite her fatigue it made her mood lighten. Canaith had used these announcements to provide an Imperial Face to the crews of many Advantage Arbitrators. It did not matter that many other Capsuleers had adopted non-Ammar ships to run their own interceptions. The Arbitrator had become the public symbol of the Ministry of Truth. Canaith himself often ran the sites in a Caldari Jackdaw. “It cannot get caught on the gates like the Arbitrator,” had been his justification. His mission reports and public pronouncements, however, did not mention that. Canaith’s Imperial Face had remained in place.

As From the Mist gracefully nestled itself into its berth, Meara started shutting things down. She was looking forward to a little down-time. “The next time I undock from this station,” she thought, “it will be into Amarr-controlled space…”


A Brief Respite

It had happened. Huola was rightfully restored to Amarr rule. It would be hard to count the cost, but anything that had happened was already done, so what would the counting gain? Canaith would let the living worry about yesterday. He would focus on today.

But as he powered up his systems, he realized that for the first time in weeks he did not know what to do. Seraghis had announced that the Alliance’s objectives were to help stabilize the back lines and to rest, but his drive needed an outlet. He needed a purpose. He was not tired.

He interacted with his display to send his Capsule into a Slicer frigate from his personal hanger, but what he saw when the ship undocked was the strangest thing. Huola was quiet. The system was nearly empty, devoid of gate camps, and without Minmatar attempting to hold the line. Local governments had changed hands and stations who had sworn loyalty to the Minmatar Militia yesterday were denying them access today. From the vantage point of his Capsule, the change of loyalties was a silly abstraction. It looked like someone had just flipped a switch and all the banners had changed.

There were reports of celebrations across the system. Canaith did not trust the reports, though, and would be suspicious of the celebrations even if the reports were true. The various ministries would have undoubtedly begun their campaigns to undo the damage that had been done by years of Minmatar lies. Some of the conversions would be shallow. Canaith hoped that some, however, would come to see the deeper truth, at least before the government of Huola changed hands again someday.

He docked his ship, the Lonely Spirit, minutes after undocking it. Huola had no need of him today. Then he remembered that he had been paid a great deal of Militia currency, called Loyalty Points, for his actions in the Siege. Today’s mission, then, would be working out ways to convert that currency into money and ships. He notified Meara of the plan, and they both went to work

Medley Moonbeam, called Moonbeam by her friends, was in transit via a shuttle pod to a Victorieux Luxury Yacht named Eternal Wind. Several months ago, Moonbeam had managed the ship’s construction at the request of Canaith Lydian as a gift for Meara Natinde. Moonbeam had been surprised at the request because this was no small gift. The Victoriex’s were usually pricey toys for the rich and famous, but what Moonbeam had heard was that Canaith had given it to Meara to ferry blueprints from the trade hub in Amarr to the more prosperous hub in the Jita star system. On Meara’s last visit, Moonbeam had inquired to find out if this was true. To the question, Meara had simply said “He wants me to safely ferry the blueprints to Jita the fast way.”

By “the fast way,” Meara had meant the 11-jump route that dipped into a low security system named Ahbazon, the gates of which were frequently camped by Capsuleer pirates. The “slow way” was a safer, 45-jump route. Meara had confirmed that the gates in Ahbazon had been camped on all but one of her several trips. Just hearing Meara talk about it had made Moonbeam dizzy.

Moonbeam was an oddity among Capsuleers because she almost never travelled in space. When Canaith and her first met, he had asked her why. Her answer was simply “I died once and did not like it. I do not want to do it again.” Something in that answer had struck a chord with Canaith, and he had used her as his Jita Financial Agent ever since.

A steward assisting on Eternal Wind’s shuttle pod pressed a button and politely suggested that Meara look out the Port-side windows that sliding panels revealed. She was impressed to see real windows instead of digital displays, and then gazed through them in the direction the steward had indicated. What she saw was an oddly beautiful cruiser a bit over 500 meters long. Compared to the monstrous freighters that frequented the station, the Eternal Wind was quite small, but everything about it was sleek and beautiful. Every inch of it gleamed and said, “I’m expensive.”

The shuttle pod glided along a gentle slope, attaching itself to an airlock just in front of a clear dome that revealed an oval Prominade beneath it. There was no jolt or discomfort. Everything glided gracefully and softly clicked, then a door opened immediately thereafter. A pair of stewards led Moonbeam into the Prominade where Meara and several crew members awaited her.

"Dear Friend,” Meara said, bowing slightly, “I am so glad you finally get to see this wonderful ship you made for me. Please let me show you around.”

Moonbeam’s jaw dropped as her eyes took in the Prominade. This was like no ship she had ever seen. This ship was obviously made for expensive recreation, and to Moonbeam’s surprise, it was full of people.

“Who are all these, um…?” Moonbeam managed to stutter, motioning the crowd with her arms.

Meara smiled. “These are some of the crew members and their families from our ships stationed in Domain.”

“Ours?” Moonbeam’s face showed curiosity. “You mean…”

“…Canaith’s and mine.” Meara interrupted. “We keep several vessels in Amarr, Ziona, and Shuria. Whenever I am making a Jita run, I send invitations to our operation managers. They reward some of the crew with what I guess you could call an all-expense paid luxury daytrip to Jita.” Meara chucked.

As they walked about the ship, Meara pointed, laughed, introduced, and entertained Moonbeam for the next hour or so, taking her to each new feature of the Eternal Wind and showing it off like a proud parent. They finally made it to Meara’s personal suite, which was adjacent to a smart-looking entry point to her Capsule. A large bath with real running water waited by the Capsule’s entrance port.

When Moonbeam gaped, Meara giggled. “It is my fancy pod goo removal system. I confess that I soaked there for much of the trip from Amarr.”

“Wait,” Moonbeam said, taking it all in, “You do not fly the ship from your pod?”

“No reason,” Meara answered with a broad smile. “The crew responds to my orders from here or from the bridge. Any interfacing I need does not require the pod. I mean, this is not a combat ship. It just flies.”

“But the gate camps…”

“I coordinate the engagement of the cloaking device and warp drive. Other than that, the crew is fine on their own. Escaping the pirates is the most popular event of the entire trip for our guests, or so I am told, though Canaith says I may just be hearing what people want me to hear. He may be right, though there seems no shortage of people who want to come along.”

Moonbeam considered what she knew about Canaith. Everything she had seen and heard today was not what she’d expected.

“That look,” Meara mused. “What are you thinking?”
“This is not what I expected from the reclusive Canaith Lydian, Meara.”

Meara bit her lower lip and looked at the ground. The pose almost made Moonbeam laugh out loud, but she controlled herself.

“Well,” came almost a child-like stammer from Meara, “Truthfully, I run most of the details of the business side of things. Holidays for our crews are my idea.”

“And this ship, does he ever fly it?”

“Oh, no… never!” Meara burst out, laughing. “Aboard this ship, our dear Canaith would vibrate out of his chair. It’s too…”

“Too fun?” offered Moonbeam.

“We will just say that it is not his style.”


Phase 2

Canaith’s daily rest period ended, triggering a series of signals to be sent through the many interfaces connecting him to his Capsule. Within a few seconds, his mind was alert and focused. A series of scripts executed a routine of startup commands resulting in several virtual displays. As Canaith reviewed the daily reports to see what had changed during his rest, a private communications request was sent to him from Cyrelle Aurilen.

Most of the communications between Canaith and Cyrelle happened in fleet actions. Cyrelle would dart around a system hunting targets and a squadron of frigates would go where she told them to go and do what she told them to do. Cyrelle’s authority was unquestioned, but it came from her kill record and not her official position. Pilots followed her because they respected her.

When Canaith first met Cyrelle, he had been concerned that she was consumed by the same empty drive for the fight that had stolen the minds of too many Capsuleers. He had been relieved to find she was not consumed by a pursuit of all violence, but of a pursuit of rebel Minmatar kills. Unlike the mindlessly violent Capsuleers that Canaith called Malevolent Spirits, Cyrelle had not lost respect for pilots who stayed true to their Cause. Canaith drew his mind to the present and established his Imperial Face, then answered the hail.

As the comms channel display flickered into view, Cyrelle’s actual image could be seen turning in her chair to cast her attention to the monitor. Her appearance and expression were as intense as one might expect for one as dedicated to battle as Cyrelle.

“Knight Lydian” she began with formality, using his rank within Edict Alliance rather than his rank within the 24th Imperial Crusade, “I have orders coming down from Command requesting we get this advantage situation in Kourmonen in hand. You have continued to prove your worth in combat, and I need to put those skills to the test even more now. I would like you and your crew to focus on pushing our advantage in Kourmonen and surrounding systems. As the main bulk of our forces in the Militia continue to push Auga and Vard, Republic forces are applying pressure to Kourmonen. It is imperative that we do not let these systems get out of control. Can I trust you will take care of leading this effort, Canaith?”

Canaith’s expression subtely changed as he focused his mind to match Cyrelle’s formality. Though Cyrelle and he communicated quite casually in fleet actions, the formality here suggested that he needed to ensure that his answer would pass any test for orthodoxy. A cue he picked up was that the orders had come down from Command. Canaith’s reply needed to enable Cyrelle to report to this command chain in a politically correct manner. They were not alone.

“I accept this charter, Cyrelle, and will continue to wage the advantage war as you have requested. We will bring the full attention of our Advantage fleet to Kourmonen, Auga, and beyond, demonstrating to the War Zone the superiority of Holy Amarr. Amarr Victor, Cyrelle Aurilen!”

“Amarr Victor!” she answered.

The connection closed.


Analysing Strategy

Canaith read the reports regarding the advantage metrics that were continually posted about every system in the War Zone. The Minmatar had a close edge in advantage in every system that was categorized as “front line.” In Kourmonen, the reported advantage metric was at ten percent. This was why Command had become concerned.

Canaith sent out a request to the unofficial counsel of his unofficial Ministry of Truth. He indicated that he wanted to discuss strategies for handling the advantage deficit in Kourmonen and Auga. The conversation did not happen in real time, since every pilot in the War Zone was flying sorties in a variety of schedules.

Subject: Strategies for Increasing Advantage in Koumonen

Partial Transcript:

Redrolfe: There simply is no more advantage to be gained. The advantage we have must be maintained, but the numbers indicate that we can no longer increase it. We are essentially ‘maxed out’.

Lydian: There must be a way

Redrolfe: The only way to improve our net advantage in Kourmonen is to reduce the Minmatar advantage. We can install a series of Listening Posts to intercept and interfere with Minmatar Propoganda broadcasts. This has proven to be mildly affective. I already have the technology waiting.

Lydian: No. These systems are hotly contested. We need to reduce the Minmatar advantage without creating an invitation to combat in open space. We need to avoid becoming a drain to the forces that are already working hard to contest operations in dead space complexes.

Redrolfe: Do you have any ideas, then?

Lydian: In my view, we need a covert means to destroy Minmatar Supply caches as soon as they appear. If we can do this faster and more consistently than the Minmatar, they will lose the benefit of their Rendezvous interceptions.

Redrolfe: And turn the tide in the advantage war.

Lydian: I was thinking that this would be a good role for a Purifier.

Aurilen: I was thinking the same thing and have run my own trial. It takes far more torpedoes to kill the depots than I had hoped.

Pressure Line: The supply depots and the ships guarding them are of similar design to those we find in the Rendezvous sites. They are highly resistant to EM damage, so the Purifier’s torpedoes will be ineffective.

Lydian: The Purifier can do the job, but it will take a long time.

Pressure Line: Kinetic damage would be highly effective, but the Purifier’s EM damage is the weakest choice.

Aurilen: We could Polarize the Purifier’s torpedoes.

Lydian: You may verify that path, Cyrelle. As for me, I will pursue the use of the Caldari Manticore. The skills for polarized torpedoes have never been a priority for me, and training for them would take too much time.


Back Aboard the Eternal Wind

After a few hours of talking in Meara’s quarters, stewards had come to escort Moonbeam to quarters of her own where she was presented with several options of formal attire “For tonight’s banquet,” a steward had said. Four female assistants had arrived to help Moonbeam to get ready, including her own soak in a real liquid bath. The staff treated her like nobility.

By the time Moonbeam arrived, dressed in a lavishly expensive but properly conservative evening gown, the Banquet Hall was already buzzing with conversations from a dozen ornate tables. Most of the guests were dressed in full-dress uniforms, but the rest were arrayed in a fashion comparable to hers.

As soon as Moonbeam walked through the doors and descended a walkway towards the tables, a handsomely dressed man approached and offered her his arm. “If it pleases you, our captain has asked me to accompany you tonight. My name is Daltu Catuntius, and I am at your service.”

“You work for the ship?” Moonbeam asked, curiously tilting her head to the side.

“Of course,” he replied, again offering his arm. “Will you walk with me?”

Moonbeam accepted Daltu’s arm, grateful to not have to face so formal an event without company. In Amarr society, appearances were everything, particularly among a company of strangers. “Thank you, Daltu,” she said with a polite smile. As they were formally seated, Daltu ensured that proper introductions were made. In everything he said about her he was accurate, polite, and formal. Moonbeam adjusted her etiquette to match what she saw around her. Formality and pleasantness were dialed into her countenance.

Her reputation and all social niceties handled, Moonbeam accepted the pouring of a glass of something – she did not care what it was – and started scanning the room for signs of her host. It did not take long to find her, because Meara Natinde owned the room. In the Amarr Militia, Meara was a junior officer, but tonight, she was the Gracious Captain. Beautifully dressed in a cleverly feminine twist on an officer’s uniform, she moved from table to table with extraordinary poise, her skirts swishing adoringly, emanating kindness and gratitude to every person she encountered. She practically glowed as her smile spread to the faces of those to which she poured her hospitality. Moonbeam decided that this was more than Meara’s Imperial Face. Meara’s care for these people was genuine.

For the next several minutes, food was served, people ate and smiled, and Meara wound herself through the crowded tables to exchange greetings and congratulations. By the look of things, Meara had endeared herself to everyone on board except the occasional spouse who was concerned about her husband’s eyes. Every table she left was left pleased, and every table she had yet to visit seemed eager to encounter her.

After all the tables had been visited, Meara made her way to a smaller table where she was seated with whom Moonbeam guessed were people important to the running of the Eternal Wind. She was the last to be served.

The meal was extraordinary, and something in the food or drink put everyone in an equally extraordinary mood. Before the hour was up, Moonbeam felt she had made close friends of an Engineer and his wife, the Operations Manager of several ships standing ready in Shuria, and a high-ranking officer from Amarr Radiance, a gigantic Maurader-class ship that Canaith piloted when serving agents of the Ministry of Internal Order or the Imperial Arms corporation. There were stories shared and smiles all around.

As the dessert dishes were being collected and more beverages were being served, Meara went to a raised dais where she praised every attendee by name, expressing how grateful “we” were and how proud “we” were and how honored “we” were by the dedicated service of those serving “our” fleet.

It was then that Moonbeam finally understood Meara’s role here – one Meara had crafted for herself. Meara was here to represent Canaith Lydian to these people. Her speech, while focused on the commendations of those present here, was laced with the common message that their service was to something greater: Canaith and Meara’s dedication to their Divine Purpose. Canaith was dedicated to Amarr, Meara was dedicated to Canaith, and these people were to be dedicated to her. By the time Meara was through with her speech, and with the help of whatever it was they had been drinking, everyone including Moonbeam was welling up at the opportunity to be a part of something so grand.

“I know that very few of those present tonight have seen Canaith Lydian face-to-face,” Meara said, garnering kind laughter throughout the room. “I know that his method of operating ships does not resemble that of other Capsuleers. But as a person who works with Commander Lydian every day, I can assure you that he is aware that your dedication to your purpose is what enables him to remain dedicated to his.” Meara’s eyes were rimmed with tears now, and it was electric. “Even if you never hear it from him,” she managed to say through a welling up of strong emotions, “please hear this from me: your love for Amarr, for your ships, and for each other is what holds him together, and I adore you for it.”

When she finished, a tear rolled down her cheek and the room exploded in applause. Moonbeam took it in and realized that the affection that everyone in this room had for Meara was more than protocol and courtesy. They simply adored her, and because she adored Canaith Lydian, they all adored him, too.

As Meara walked down from the dais, she touched her earpiece indicating she was receiving a communication. She spoke to a gentleman next to her who responded by sending his own messages. Moments later, Moonbeam’s escort, Daltu, gently touched her arm.

“Dear Moonbeam,” he said kindly, “I have been informed that the ship will be leaving the station within the hour. We have attendants who can help you with anything you require.”

Moonbeam looked down at her clothes and ran a hand to the borrowed jewelry running from her ears across her face.

“If you like, you may keep all of it,” he said with a smile.

“Oh, no…” she blushed, “I would like to change back into my own clothes, if there is time.”

“As you wish.” he said, offering his arm again.

In a few short minutes, she was back in her guestroom and changing with the help of four attendants.


New Orders

"Meara,” Canaith said on a private communication, “we have new objectives. I am sending you a ship specification and a training plan. I would like you to adjust your training to prioritize this plan. Let me know how long it will take for you to be able to fly the ship I have sent you.”

After a pause, Meara answered “Of course, Canaith. I will get on it at once.”

There was some background noise in the transmission that sounded like music and a crowd. Canaith smiled, realizing that Meara was still aboard the Eternal Wind.

“Thank you,” he said. “Please bring one of those ships to me as soon as you can, and bring as much extra ammo as you can.”

“Of course.”

Then, lightheartedly, Canaith said, “We are going to annoy the Minmatar Militia.”

“Now that does sound fun,“ Meara said, matching Canaith’s mood. “I am on it.”

Canaith spent the next several minutes organizing his newly stocked fleet of Slicers and Coercers. Just as he was about to choose a ship for a combat run to Kourmonen, a text notification from Meara caught his attention.

“Seven days on the training plan.” it said. “Your ship will be in Huola in two or three hours.”


Where Meara’s Loyalties Lie

Having been transformed to her normal attire and appearance in minutes by the Eternal Wind’s small swarm of attendants, Moonbeam followed a pair of stewards who escorted her to a launch point for a shuttle pod. When they arrived, Meara was there waiting, having made a transformation of her own. Once again, Meara looked like an Amarr Militia pilot. She gave those accompanying Moonbeam a polite thank-you and dismissed them, leaving Meara and Moonbeam alone.

They gave each other a polite bow, and Meara interacted with her earpiece. A trade request notification came into Moonbeam’s virtual display, and she looked it over.

“My goodness,” she said. “It appears that war is lucrative.”

“Isn’t it always?” Meara answered.

“I suppose it is. I will get working on this and send the profits to Canaith, as usual.”

“Thank you. He will certainly appreciate it.”

“Today was more than wonderful, Meara,” Moonbeam said, bowing. “Thank you so much for the invitation.”

Meara bowed back, though her eyes had a distracted look. Assuming this meant that Meara had work to do, Moonbeam turned to enter the airlock.

“He has his reasons…” Meara said softly.

Moonbeam slowy turned back towards Meara and gave her an inquisitive look. “Pardon?”

“Canaith,” Meara answered with a pensive look in her eyes. “He is a recluse, certainly. You are not wrong about that. He does not interact with them,” she said, “but he has his reasons.”

“Interact with who, Meara? What are you talking about?”

“Them…” Meara waved her arms as if trying to indicate who she meant. Then, not finding a way to communicate with her hands, she lowered them as she lowered her eyes. “With those who have not yet died,” she finally said. “His crew, his family, anyone who is not a Capsuleer. They make him miss it, and sometimes it is too much.”

“Miss what?” Moonbeam asked, surprised that someone who had been so skillful at communicating to the crowd just an hour before was struggling so much now.

“Living… fearing death… wondering what you can accomplish in a lifetime. The living world reminds him of what our death has taken from us, and the sense of loss distracts him from his purpose.”

Moonbeam considered Meara’s words and decided that there was too much here to understand all at once. She was aware of Canaith’s philosophy, and though she agreed with what she understood of it there was still much of it that she did not comprehend. She simply said, “And that is why he needs you?”

For a moment, Meara’s eyes flashed in anger, and in that moment, Moonbeam felt a sense of regret. She did not want Meara Natinde to be angry with her. But then Meara’s eyes softened, and she looked at Moonbeam with the look of someone who wanted to be understood.

“I assure you that I need him more than he needs me,” she said softly, with an emotion blossoming that resembled the one that had caught her up during her banquet speech.

“For what, Meara? Why do you need him?”

“Purpose,” she said, the emotion in it revealing that tears were closing in. “He gives me such a noble purpose.”

Meara bowed again, turned, and walked away. Moonbeam saw that Meara’s hands were wiping tears from her eyes as she left.

“Remarkable…” she whispered to herself.

When Meara was out of earshot, Moonbeam interacted with her virtual comms and used a shortcut to hail her CEO. “You can give her an excellent standing,” she said, then “You may set Meara Natinde to blue… yes Ma’am… I am certain.”

And with that, Moonbeam boarded the shuttle pod for a quick trip back to the station.


Silent Running

Kourmonen had been conquered by the Amarr Militia just before the conquest of Huola, and its defense had become a vital part of the strategy of the EDICT and RSM Alliances in the Amarr Militia. Both alliances had their eyes on the Auga system, because Auga was gateway to several systems in the heart of Minmatar-controlled space. But the Minmatar Militia was as hungry to retake their lost system of Kourmonen as the Amarr were to take Auga, and the fighting there had become fierce.

The two systems were locked in a stalemate that had halted the Amarr advance, and Canaith knew that a lot of it was due to the effectiveness of both the Amarr and Minmatar Militias in what he called the “Advantage War.” Neither side had been able to gain an advantage in either system because both sides had learned how to run interceptions of Navy Rendezvous.

This is why Canaith’s next steps in the advantage war could make a difference. If he could destroy the depots the Minmatar gained access to by completing interceptions, he would counter their effectiveness, helping the Militia to gain a foothold, not only in Kourmonen and Auga, but throughout the War Zone.

As the Spirit of Denial ran its sorties, Canaith developed tactics to improve the efficiency of the runs. He knew how many torpedoes it took to destroy a depot. He knew exactly what his ship’s range was and how long it took to destroy a depot. He developed strategies for avoiding other Capsuleer Pilots who tried to hunt him down. He tried to consider everything.

Once the tactics had verified that the stealth bomber was effective at this mission, Canaith had put the word out using limited communications channels to a small community of Capsuleers. Canaith did not intend to make public pronouncements. The Imperial Face of the advantage war was the Ministry of Truth and the Advantage Arbitrator. So long as pilots in the Militia were handling interceptions, Canaith and a small number of pilots could handle the supply depots.

The plan was for Meara to complete the training necessary to fly her own Manticore and for the two of them to fly depot sorties together. Even while Canaith waited for Meara’s training to complete, he would go over every strategy and tactic with her, sometimes more than once. He would ask for her advice about multi-ship covert operations, establishing warp-in points, and scouting tactics, and would listen intently to any feedback that she offered. Finally, after days of this, she started a conversation with him using a private channel.

"Why do you need my opinion on these tactics, Canaith?” she asked, wrapping the message in an emotional wrapper of curiosity. “You are the one who taught these things to me.”

“Dear One,” he replied with gentleness, “pilots can run a mission more effectively when they have bought into its tactics, and a pilot buys into its tactics when she has contributed to them.”

“Oh, but Canaith, I would obey every single order you give me without question!”

“I know that you would, Meara, but I do not want obedience. I want collaboration. I want your help with our tactics so that in the end you will believe in them.”

“But I believe in you,” she said, wrapping her message with conviction and a touch of insecurity.

“And I thank you for that, my friend, but please listen to me.” Canaith sent confidence with the message. “For the first time in our long friendship, you and I will be flying combat missions together. You will not be my scout, or my salvager, or my hauler. You will be my wingman.”

He paused a bit to give time for the message to sink in.

“Should my ship go down, the mission will continue with you alone. For that to happen, Meara, you will have to believe in yourself.”

There was a pause, and Canaith knew that he had walked Meara into her greatest inner struggle.

“You may be my second, Meara Natinde, but you are still my equal. Or have you not yet realized how much of our success is because of you? If you have not realized that yet, then you are the last person among all those who know us both who has not done so.”

There was another pause, and then a message came through wrapped in gratitude. “If you wish a partner in devising covert tactics, you may count on me, Canaith Lydian.”

“I have been counting on you from our beginning, Meara Natinde.”

After that, Meara took a more active role in figuring out how a 2-ship sortie could improve the efficiency of what one ship had been doing alone. She documented an approach to flying with a covert ops fleet, a method for scouting for supply depots, devised a depot tracking system, and created a log for mission records and tagging enemy hunters that might try to stop their missions.

While awaiting her training, Canaith piloted more sorties while Meara took advantage of the new safety in Huola by making trade and supply runs to Amarr. One of her trips was to purchase and transport an unassembled Manticore that she would be using in a few days’ time. Canaith could tell that Meara was excited about the upcoming change of her role. He had to admit that he was, too.

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Eyes are Everywhere

A slender man known only as Sir sat in his favorite restaurant, nibbling on a bit of cheese to prepare his palette for a sip of an expensive Merlot. He swished a bit of the wine between his teeth and experienced a small explosion of spice in his mouth.

“That’s good,” he said to himself.

Sir looked to be in somewhere between middle-aged and retirement-age, but he also looked like a man of means, so there was no way to accurately guess his age. There was no telling how much cyber-tech was at play, keeping him a little less of this or a little more of that.

A waiter approached the table to ask if the wine was to Sir’s liking, but an impatient glare reminded the waiter that he knew this customer. The waiter quickly reversed direction. Sir did not like interruptions.

While he waited for his meal, Sir scanned some intelligence reports along with some potential lines of interest to someone of Sir’s occupation. While doing so, he received a notification on a very rarely used communications channel. He sent an acknowledgement and instinctively looked around to ensure his privacy.

“I am forwarding you something you may find interesting,” a voice Sir recognized said.

Without responding, Sir looked at a virtual display. He had been sent the transcript of a conversation.

Qoringgi Nicevius: Yes, I am trying to contact my brother, Ghuden. We expected him to contact us for our family celebration a few days ago but we have heard nothing.

Customer Relations Center: Do you know the ship to which he has been assigned?

Qoringgi Nicevius: No, sadly. In our last conversation, he said that he was headed to Shuria on a new assignment. He is quite important. He served on an Arbitrator in support of the Amarr Militia. Are you sure you have not heard of him? Ghuden Nicevius.

Customer Relations Center: Am I sorry, but I have not. Have you tried to contact our Operations Center in Shuria?

Qoringgi Nicevius: Of course. They sent me to you.

There was more, but Sir closed the message before finishing it.

“So, there was family,” Sir said. “That was sloppy.”

“Yes, Sir,” the Voice replied, stating so as a fact and not an apology.

“Set up a trace and monitor communications. Let me know if it becomes worthy of attention.”

“Yes, Sir.”


Two Really is Better Than One

Meara walked to the station’s viewport and set her gaze towards her personal hanger. There was her elegant Anathema, a Covert Ops frigate called From the Mists. Meara really liked the look of it. Then, finally, she forced herself to look a few berths over and there it was. She was going to captain that ship? Really? As if on cue, she received a message notification from Canaith.

“Well, what do you think?” he said, obviously amused.

“It is… so ugly!” she answered.

The Caldari Stealth Bomber obviously favored function over aesthetics. They called it a Manticore. Meara called it a giant mud pie with arms. The Amarr Purifier, the Amarr equivalent of the Manticore, was a set of graceful curves. It had dignity. This? She did not have words.

“Are you certain the Purifier would not work? Even if we polarized it?” she tried, half joking.

“Give that ship a name and prep for launch,” Canaith said with his down to business voice. “We have a sortie to run.”

Meara punched some keys on a virtual display that only she could see, then entered the new name for the ship.

“Welcome to the war, Memory Erased.”

As she walked to her hanger, she sent a quick message that would be routed to the ship’s crew to let them know she was coming. By the time she had boarded her Capsule and had it inserted into the Manticore, the crew was ready to go.

Meara quickly checked a report of the ship’s crew, noticing that there was only a handful on board. Most of the crew were torpedo launcher specialists. Half of them were Caldari. Like Canaith, she would direct the ship via her own interface instead of relaying vocal commands to the crew. Unlike Canaith, she did at least give the crew a message just before launch.

“This is Cardinal Lieutenant Meara Natinde, your pilot and captain. From this day forward, you share an important purpose with me, and we are going to help change some things, Gentlemen. I intend to fulfill my purpose, so please remain devoted to yours.”

Meara felt amused at her words. “That sounds like something Canaith would say.”

Without any additional fanfare, Meara initiated the undocking procedure. Memory Erased and Spirit of Denial exited the 24th Imperial Station in Huola in perfect formation. Meara launched an external camera and peeked when she could see both ships at the same time. “No,” she said as she shook her head. “Two are no better looking than one.”

Once in Kourmonen, the two bombers began to execute a plan that Canaith and Meara had been working on for days. They destroyed a depot in Kourmonen and travelled together to Auga, where they found no target. From Auga, the two of them never travelled to the same gate at the same time. They split up and scouted the entire cluster of systems comprising Dal, Siseide, Amamake, Lantorn, Vard, and Ezzara. Then they converged on the targets they had found, always coming to a system from different gates, and always converging on a target from different directions. Canaith would orbit the depots at a different distance than Meara, first because his range was a bit longer than hers, but also to prevent the ships from accidentally getting close enough to each other to break their cloaks.

Once they started engaging the Supply Depots, Meara forgot all about how ugly the ships were. Working together, the two bombers turned a depot into a beautiful plume of light in ninety to one hundred seconds.

Canaith and Meara ran these sorties repeatedly every day for four days, improving their approach with every run. They started calling their activity Depot Farming and were destroying between 15 and 25 depots a day. The result of their work, combined with the interceptions still being run by Amarr pilots, was an increase in the Amarr advantage across the war zone.

Oh, and the pay was not bad, either.