Sins of a Solar Spymaster #10: Bastard's Bluff
If you want to change the course of a galactic war overnight, what you
need is not pilots, ships, or isk, but a combination of sadistic
opportunism, luck, and outright bastardry.
Meet Intrepid Crossing (IRC) and their closest friends, Ethereal Dawn (ED). Basing in Etherium Reach (or 7-K to vets) this pair of US-timezone alliances have lived in a state of near-total peace since the opening of the drone regions to the playerbase. The combination of low risk and high profit resulted in accelerating membership statistics for IRC/ED as well as a bevy of shiny supercapitals. There was only one problem: the ever-increasing number of pilots was creating intense pressure on the leadership of both alliances to consider a war of territorial expansion, and the only nearby target was nominally friendly to them. That target was Red Alliance (RA), who live in Insmother just south of Etherium Reach.
Unfortunately for Red Alliance, once the IRC/ED attack got underway, the invasion didn't seem like such a bad idea on the face of it. RA had been severely weakened over the years as its primary leaders factionalized and splintered to form their own alliances. The first of these was Against All Authorities (-A-), years in the past, led by Evil Thug. Then, after the conclusion of the first Great War, came three fractures in rapid succession: MACTEP formed Solar Fleet, Nync formed Red.Overlord, and UAxDeath formed Legion of xXDeathXx (XIX). The heritage of almost all of the Galactic East can be traced back to Red Alliance, but that was of no use now. With each splinter the mother alliance had weakened, and RA was in trouble.
Unbeknownst to the leaders of IRC and ED, they had just driven their alliances at full speed into the midst of the most intense exchanges of the Great War. Red Alliance had been aiding Legion of xXDeathXx in Tenerifis against the combined forces of Atlas Alliance and Against All Authorities. This was the 'eastern front' of the Great War, with the 'western front' being in Querious where -A-, KenZoku and their pets fought Goonswarm, Morsus Mihi, RAZOR, KIA, ZAF, and Pandemic Legion. Without RA's continued help, Legion of xXDeathXx would be overwhelmed in Tenerifis by Against All Authorities, which would have disastrous implications for the Swarm and its allies in Querious. Like the butterfly of cliche flapping its wings and creating a hurricane on the other side of the world (and then flying headfirst into a bug zapper) IRC/ED had touched off a chain of events far beyond their control.
IRC/ED had to be stopped, not only to save Red Alliance, but to preserve the Swarm's victories in the Great War. How was I going to pull these guys off RA? There was no credible military threat I could make, as Etherium Reach is literally on the opposite side of the galaxy from our home region of Delve. If the Swarm tried to send ships against ED/IRC, we'd be hamstrung in Querious. Because there could be no military threat, diplomatic sabre-rattling was out of the question, as it's nearly impossible to influence an alliance if you have no hold over them. While Goonswarm once was a neighbor to ED/IRC before we seized Delve, since then there was nothing left we could use for influence. Espionage would have to come to the rescue.
First, steal everything not nailed down. A long-term GIA agent named Gobblock masterminded a theft of a tremendous amount of assets held by the executor corporation of IRC. A titan's worth of capital components, an entire capital fleet, scads of blueprints and multiple jump freighters were looted, totalling hundreds of billions of isk. Now we had some influence, a card I could play. I sent word through Gobblock, our now-burned spy, to ask the IRC leadership to contact me about working out a deal. If they pulled out of Insmother and withdrew in good faith, I'd arrange to give them their stolen assets back. If not, I'd have to get cranky. Almost immediately after Gobblock passed my message along, I was contacted via email by Dibrle, one of the two primary leaders of IRC.
Greetings from AWE & IRC.
I was advised by Gobbloc (see convo below) that you wished to speak with me.
I understand you have access to some items that were ours until yesterday and, perhaps, a proposal. We desire to hear your proposal.
<Please be advised that I will be out of the office much of today and tomorrow so there might be a delay in responding. It will be no reflection on negotiations other than lack of time.>
Oh, great, he's calling me 'Honorable'. This should be easy enough. I dash off a reply, blunt but not too threatening.
If your alliance does not inform me of its compliance within a reasonable time, I'll have to make some sort of additional demonstration of my displeasure. Surely though, GS is on the other side of the galaxy and the GIA is a myth, so you'll be just fine.
We are willing to negotiate an end to the Insmother war, however, IRC (and ED) need more space and all of our stuff back. The return of our ships, ammo, mods, blueprints, etc. must come first. As for additional space, we need it to be near us, not 40 jumps away. Space in Insmother, Kalevala, Malpais, or any similar area would do.
IRC accorded GS due respect, and we expect the same. We paid GS 95B for Etherium Reach. We honored all our agreements. We await your response.
This is one of the biggest problems of open diplomacy in EVE - no one takes threats seriously, and with good reason. Much of the game is populated with chestbeating e-bushido types who vomit forth an endless supply of empty threats and smacktalk without any ability to follow through. I realized that almost anything I said to Dibrle was going to be treated as mere bloviating unless I turned the screws on him a little. That's fine, though; I had a big screwdriver handy.
Despite this, you state that I have not actually offered a proposal. I interpret this to mean that you and Oldma are not taking this situation seriously. Your counter-proposal - suggesting that we return your assets BEFORE you retreat from Insmother - is not sensible, because your assets are the best way to ensure compliance in the Insmother retreat. Plus, you make a demand for more space.
Very well. Internet spaceship games are full of people making idle threats. I understand that you think that we in the GIA can do nothing more to IRC besides seizing your assets. Once I make good on my threat, perhaps you'll reevaluate the situation and we can have a more realistic discussion. Until then, I remain a fuzzy, harmless mitten.
I begin to twist, calling in a few favors from some friends. Meanwhile, Dibrle dashes off a reply before he's aware of what I'm up to. I don't think he likes me anymore.
At this point, we have no proof that you were behind the theft or even that you know how the traitor accomplished it (we do). We also have no proof that you have access, much less the power to deliver, any of the stolen property.
As for trust, IRC has always acted honorably and lived up to its agreements. When GS sold 2 constellations to us for 30BH on time, we paid fully. When GS sold the rest of Etherium Reach to us for 60B, we paid fully. When GS asked if GS could maintain JB in Etherium Reach, we agreed and honored that agreement. There is no reason that GS would need to “ensure compliance in the Insmother retreat.”
Unfortunately, there have been numerous posts about GS scamming “buyers” out of Outposts and systems. Also, GS took credit for the BoB theft. Now, you are, apparently, claiming that you have something to do with the theft of AWE assets. Under these circumstances, it is not IRC’s credibility that is at issue.
However, IRC would be willing to make a simultaneous transfer. You deliver everything at the same time we post the withdrawal order.
Simply threatening us will not further these negotiations.
We await your reply.
I don't bother to reply. Half an hour later, he checks his email and finds that, while he was bashing out that last angry message, the entire Northern Coalition (NC), a grouping of 10+ alliances directly to IRC/ED's west, have reset IRC/ED's standings to neutral, meaning that hostilities were imminent. ED owned an outpost in the middle of NC territory, and that outpost was now at serious risk of invasion and capture by thousands of pilots who once were on IRC's side. Abruptly, I receive a new email:
Any of your allies who wish to be BLUE need merely ask for reciprocity. As long as we are Blue to them, we will set them Blue.
If we are to be able to assist at all in the Tenerifis area to help fight –A– (who has always been RED), we will need our stuff back. Can you assist in that?
Much better. Still, rather than feeling giddy, I thought that this whole conversation was vulgar. I don't enjoy behaving like a stereotypical 'Space Tyrant'. That kind of [censored]-waving, self-aggrandizing back-and-forth is exactly the sort of exchange that e-honor types relish. All the same, it got results: IRC conceded and announced an immediate withdrawal from Insmother and retreated from RA space. This caused tremendous disarray among the membership of IRC and ED due to the sheer public humiliation and the shattered faith of the pilots in their leadership. The following ham-handed 'official statement' by IRC/ED's directorate only fanned the flames of member-level rage:
the decision to withdraw from the war was done by IRC AND ED. Would we have continued the fight,
then IRC would do so as well.
With that said lets start...
We have been buttf[censored]ed, [censored]raped, slapped silly, pushed over,
steamrolled, pushed down,
humiliated and for [censored]sake every other synonym someone can create for
(feel free to reply with new ones, the most original reply gets 5M from me)
Is there a single pilot in this alliance not pissed off?
Probably only the spies who now giggle silently.
I can assure you that we are very much pissed off!
The big question is: Why dont we continue to fight and show them all the
It's because we like to live... as simple as that.
Even tho every cell in our bodies tells us to continue, we would loose and
loose everything we worked for.
It was either that, or drop this war and live on.
HC honoustly believes its in the best interest for the alliance to live on.
So, what the [censored] happened...?
As you all know IRC got robbed by an ex-HC member and Goons used this to
put pressure on them to stop them and us fighting RA.
When the fights continued, Goons arranged for all entities to set us neutral.
With this they threatened to have all these entities
(incl. Xdeath and solar who confirmed the arrangement) attack us this
The only way to prevent this from happening was by withdrawing from
Hence we have.
last night we had a 5 hour meeting where we first adressed everyone,
then had a boardmeeting followed by an HC meeting.
During these meetings we reviewed the situation and discussed our options.
What we expect is the following and i am going to be straight forward here.
The attack may happen even tho we complied to Goons demands.
If so, we will defend our homes untill we have nothing left to fight with.
No, this does not mean we will suicide everything, but we will do whatever
we can to live!
Thats a promise!
The attack will not happen and all of EVE will be neutral except perhaps
I would expect some entities to attack us anyway.
Not with the numbers threatened with, but some may see us as a wounded
animal and will try to take advantage.
If this happens, then we do the same, FIGHT!
We are not hurt in strenght, we will just walk funny for a few days.
The attack will not happen and we are asked upon to fight alongside Goons
again and we get blue standings with everyone again..
Yeah... right... dont like to think about this one.
So, here we are. Hurt in the [censored] and in our pride, but still well
alive and strong.
We will continue to become stronger as we have the past year.
We will continue to invest in our space and if someone thinks they can
take space from us,
then i wouldnt want to be in their shoes when you have the angry mob
waiting to blow some steam.
In the near future, HC will continue to review our options to grow and
As soon as we have information available, this will be shared with you all.
This war has showed us where we need to improve and it has certainly
showed EVE that we ARE indeed a force to be recognized!
For now, we ask everyone to rebuild their losses and strenghten defenses.
Prepare for the worst.
In the end, all of my fancy diplomatic maneuvering and bare-knuckled theft was for naught. While IRC/ED did publicly surrender and withdraw from Insmother, their invasion catalyzed a resurgence within the moribund Red Alliance. RA waited a mere two days after the IRC/ED announcement before counter-invading Etherium Reach. My hard-won peace hadn't amounted to much, though now it was IRC/ED losing space instead of Red Alliance.
But I couldn't complain. After all, Gobblock wasn't actually one of my agents - he was just one of 6000 goons - and he hadn't stolen a red cent from IRC, much less a titan, capital fleet and a pile of jump freighters. Against IRC, I hadn't had a card in my hand, because the real thieves had used Gobblock as a cover to shield their identities. In return for financial compensation, the culprits had given Gob doctored screenshots to help him pose as the guilty party, and after I spoke with him, he agreed to play himself off as a 'GIA Agent', acting as if 'his' heist was part of an alliance-level reprisal for the Insmother invasion. To my delight, IRC had fallen for a bastard's bluff.