Updated Tue, Nov 23, 2010 by The Mittani
It was destined to be an awkward situation. Tau Ceti Federation, the long-time owners of Deklein, were falling to an internal malaise, an ugly consequence of an overabundance of peace and security. A significant number of member corps had left the alliance for more war-torn pastures; its strength waning, TCF came to increasingly rely upon pets - subordinate 'serf' alliances, colloquially known as 'guests' in the North - to supplement its forces. By August 2010, TCF members were outnumbered 4-1 by 'guests' in their own region; the so-called Deklein Coalition (composed of Defi4ant, BCA, TNT and OWN Alliance) had become completely unmanageable.
When TCF announced that it would be pulling out of Deklein and handing stewardship of the region to Goonswarm, chaos erupted among the Deklein Coalition. Defi4nt, which had previously been able to ignore its massive financial debts to TCF, was evicted for failure to pay. The leader of TNT, who held a long-standing and curious grudge against a small corp within Goonswarm, left his alliance and began shooting Goons and their friends TEST. Yet amidst the ensuring cacophony, reprisals and purges, one alliance stood out as a beacon of gibbering, unpredictable madness. Under pressure, OWN Alliance had become something completely novel, a unique drama vector in an aging and jaded galaxy.
Even before Goonswarm arrived on the scene, OWN had a risky profile. The alliance had already been disbanded by TCF once before due to poor performance, yet had been allowed to reconstitute itself under the same leadership team. The culture which these leaders fostered was remarkably similar to an EVE version of a 'hermit kingdom'. Questioning the alliance direction or policy was forbidden, often resulting in expulsion for being a 'spy'. The use of forums was eschewed; not only did OWN membership not use their own forum to communicate with one another or bond, but reading news sites or commenting about events in the world of EVE was looked down upon. The message from the top was clear: OWN was a 'pvp only' alliance, and informing yourself about the wider world of nullsec or wondering where your alliance was going was a dangerous heresy.
I realized that things were going to go hellishly wrong when I first had a chat with OWN's leader, Teredrum, on teamspeak. I've had personal conversations with a whole spectrum of eve players over the years, and while some were obnoxious nerds, I had never encountered someone who left me feeling truly disturbed until I met Teredrum. Veering wildly between outright hostility and sneering obsequiousness (an emotional tone which I didn't even realize existed), Teredrum managed to use the phrase 'with all due respect' at least ten times in as many minutes, as if it were a verbal tic. Much like qualifiers such as 'frankly' or 'honestly', 'with all due respect' means the exact opposite of what it states. The content of the conversation wasn't much better: Teredrum looked down on the other Deklein Coalition members with absolute contempt for not being 'pvp focused' while seemingly asserting OWN's independence, despite their 'guest' status.
Of course, OWN was hardly a 'PvP Alliance', but this was the mythos Teredrum used to enforce order. Someone who questions authority isn't focusing enough on 'PvP'; someone asking where the alliance's tremendous moon income was going wasn't being a 'real PvPer', and someone interested in politics or how other alliances work should shut up and PvP. Perhaps the most disturbing habit of the leadership was a penchant for yanking players out of their ventrilo channels in the middle of an op to yell at them - actual yelling, not metaphorical or hyperbolic yelling, true raised-voice shouting, over a video game on the internet.
In the end, it was the moons that did it. In the midst of the conquest of Cloud Ring, TEST's leadership became annoyed by the fact that OWN had a massive cache of technetium moons, yet neither participated significantly on ops against Ev0ke, nor did they have even the most meager program of ship reimbursement for their pilots. Montolio, TEST's leader, posted a brief rant about this topic on his internal forums, and within hours TEST took matters into their own hands.
TEST had only two technetium moons compared to OWN's six, yet TEST was able to offer reimbursements for every commonly-used subcapital ship to all its pilots using that income, where OWN's pilots had to fend for themselves. To ram home their point, TEST began offering reimbursement to OWN's pilots for them, as part of an OWN Aid Program; soon a 'UN Aid Flotilla' was dispatched to OWN space to bring food and supplies to 'starving OWN pilots'.
TEST's fleet of Badgers began patrolling OWN's capital system, loudly announcing their intention to help the 'starving refugees'. The leaders of OWN reacted to this with ham-handed authoritarianism; they began insisting that their membership set every TEST pilot on ignore, such that their prank would fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Teredrum contacted me in a rage, in hopes of having me somehow restrain TEST from teasing him.