Sins of a Solar Spymaster #54 -The Madness of OWN
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.
The news that OWN had six technetium moons was a complete surprise to OWN's members, some of whom insisted that this was a lie; TEST proceeded to list the exact moon locations for people to check themselves. By the time the 'UN Aid Flotilla' had ended (explosively, with TEST destroying one of their own freighters on the undock of OWN's capital to 'better distribute aid supplies') a number of the more math-oriented nerds in TEST began to wonder about the deeper mysteries of their prank: what exactly was OWN doing with all their technetium income?
EVE is one of the only games where the activation of Microsoft Excel can sound the death knell of an alliance. TEST began an external audit of OWN's finances. One of the funny things about EVE is that both alliance income and expenses come from physical, traceable things on the macro-level, primarily mining towers and reaction chains. Every tower and system upgrade was scouted and accounted for, income projected and regressed based on Jita market data, and then TEST published their spreadsheet - a spreadsheet pointing to a 100 billion isk hole in OWN's finances, a hole big enough to drive eleven motherships through. This was not good for OWN, as a number of member corps began to realize that their leadership was telling them lies and left, quite a few joining TEST.
Teredrum dismissed TEST's audit for not including a number of basic items (stations, sov upgrades, etc) which actually were listed explicitly on their sheet. But by now things were problematic on the political level; the prank which TEST played on OWN was hilarious but not relevant to Goonswarm, yet the rampant financial malfeasance they had uncovered demanded action. Thankfully, there was a simple solution; all major financial data is available for a corp via the EVE api system, so all that was needed to clear OWN's name was an api-check which would determine what the 100 billion isk had been used on. Since Teredrum insisted that OWN had nothing to hide, I instructed my diplomats to ask OWN for a copy of their api key, which would resolve the matter swiftly.
OWN refused. In fact, not only did they refuse, but Teredrum announced that OWN would be boycotting all strategic operations against Ev0ke in Cloud Ring for at least a week, an act tantamount to rebellion. Meanwhile, he posted the following missive, titled ‘OWN AND GOON ISSUE”:
“in recent weeks own and goon for some unknown reaon have clashed due to own living in deklein. as expressed by mittani he wishes to see more own in fleets with goon, which i hav accomidated them with. they ask for better communication, which has occured. now goons are on a campaign to run own out of deklein.
this is goons latest demands, which i find to be offensive.
Tector > i know that you're busy, so i won't detain you long. in light of the recent OWN forum leaks, Mittani has lost quite a bit of confidence in you guys and is rather upset
Tector > thus i must formally demand that you provide a director API for OWN finances. Mittani wishes to conduct an audit
own has participated in all nc ops and our stats speak clearly ,we have flown with you guys for narly 2 years now incident free and wish to remain in good standings. i have met goon half way on all topics, butthey are not getting the api's of any of my directors.........”
Rather than force the issue, Goonswarm opted to give OWN a week and a half, then ask a second time for the api key; perhaps Teredrum would realize his situation and step away from the precipice. This was a mistake, as our willingness to accommodate and avoid conflict was taken as a sign of weakness, and Teredrum became even more intractable. Our second attempt was rebuffed, and so it was eviction time for OWN.
Yet Teredum wasn't done. Rather than simply take his alliance and move elsewhere, he announced on the main Northern Coalition forums that he had incontrovertible proof that I was kicking OWN out as part of a conspiracy to destroy the NC – a conspiracy which would, naturally, begin with taking out that pillar of Northern strength, OWN Alliance. And not only did this conspiracy exist, but Teredrum had chatlogs to prove it, implicating me by my own dark words.
Apparently, rather than having a diplomat announce that OWN had a week to pack their things and peacefully leave Deklein, I had personally contacted Teredrum and began revealing all my vile plans to him, gloating madly all the while. Such was my hubris that I had achieved the ability to blow right past the 263 character limit which lesser mortals must obey when using the EVE client; I was able to conspire in entire paragraphs, all the while typing at a speed in excess of 300 words per minute. Unfortunately, these superhuman powers also resulted in my writing style mysteriously coming to resemble Teredrum's tenuous grasp of the English language, but that's the price you pay.
What remains of OWN has been relocated to the eastern edge of Northern Coalition space, right in front of a very angry group of Russians – the Solar Legion of Red Noise. The vast majority of OWN's membership woke up and left for greener pastures before the eviction notice finally came. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't let Goonswarm shoot OWN like we did Black Core Alliance; in dealing with any other alliance, I would respond to accusations of treason and ineptly faked logs with extreme hostility, yet after a month of dealing with Teredum I have a feeling that we would get more entertainment from watching OWN's special brand of insanity. Besides, it's not nice to mistreat the mad.
For those of you who want the entire saga of this drama, there’s a 70+ page thread on Kugutsumen compiling the action from the moment the Aid Convoy sailed to the aftermath of OWN’s eviction.