Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Than a Rock

Greetings capsuler,

The following story and proposal concern planetary control on a macro level – that is to say how planetary control could affect Eve’s sovereignty game.

A little over a month ago I posted a draft of this proposal, which I called Colonies and Capitals, in the Features and Ideas section of the Eve forums. What I am presenting here is the second draft refined with the help of fellow players who posted comments in that thread.

The short story provides a brief chronicle of the rise of a planetary colony as it might occur under this mechanic. Though told from the point of view of one character, the story still turned out twice as long as I had intended. I hope you find it entertaining enough to see the end.


More Than a Rock

Noel Endgren floated some hundred thousand kilometers above her home, measuring each breath in an attempt to calm her racing heart. For the moment all was serene and beautiful. It was day on the planet below her with the star at just the right angle to illuminate the orbital elevator linking the command outpost to the surface. All around the outpost, capital ships sparkled like glitter in the light.

The planet Suner, known on the universal map as XG-95S 5-9, had belonged to the Forge alliance not ten legacy years ago. At the time Suner languished on the edge of Forge territory, kept under occupation as a staging point for nearby moon mining operations. Little effort had been put into developing the planeside colony. Forge was deep in a conflict on the opposite side of its space and rarely visited the systems around Suner in number. Pirates were aware of this and made even the most routine of excursions off planet a deadly risk for citizens.

A governing alliance that cannot protect its people is no better than no government at all. When Noel first visited the Suner system it was already on the verge of revolt.

Noel was a part of a successful mercenary alliance named Haze; a name rumored to have more to do with the founder’s smoking habits than any alliance creed. She and a few others had taken a contract to escort colonists evacuating the planet back to empire.

Reports of the planet’s condition and the state of its defenses caught the attention of Haze leadership, which had been looking to turn the alliance into something more than someone else’s soldiers. Soon after they completed the escort, they returned, intent on staying this time.

The Haze capital fleet, then 20 strong, was nothing special for a capsuler, alliance - yet the command outpost fell with disappointing ease. On top of that, Forge decided against diverting ships from their existing conflict to deal with the loss of a planet that was of little use to them in the first place. Suddenly Noel was no longer a mercenary but one of the governing class of a nation.

At first the colony was just a means to an end, the colonists just resources to fuel their new industrial machine.

As resources, it only made sense to protect them from pirates so they could maintain the nation’s off planet infrastructure. As resources it only made sense to improve planet side education to increase the number of skilled laborers available to them. Every improvement to the colony was an investment in the nation of Haze, nothing more - or so Noel thought at the time.

In the silence Noel puzzled over how the rock below her had become more than a statistic. Was it the seemingly endless thanks from the crews of civilian ships she had rescued from pirates or perhaps it was the parades and celebrations held by citizens grateful for a higher standard of living. Maybe it was the children, yes, the ones in the common area of the outpost, looking up at her in the upper deck, cheering and waving. At some point Suner had become home and something worth defending.

Years later, carefully cultivated by Haze, Suner had grown exponentially, with thousands of refugees from crowded empire planets arriving every day. So quickly and greatly had its influence grown that other, nearby, colonies had begun to feel pressure from the resource hungry Suner. Some of these colonies belonged to Forge.

It was well known that one day an end would come to Forge’s faraway conflict and with Suner impacting their space, they would likely attempt to reclaim their lost colony. That day was one month prior and Forge was indeed coming.

Now they waited. Sixty Forge capitals were reported within jump range of Suner and Haze had deployed to meet them. Their own force of forty capitals would not last in open space but the outpost guns could make the difference.

The suspense ended with “Forge support fleet en-route!” blaring over coms. “60 Battleship class! Numerous support frigates!”

It began in what seemed like an instant. The forge fleet neatly dropped out of warp 150km away from the command outpost and opened fire. Haze happily returned the favor and soon streaks of fire could be seen even in the light of the star.

A short distance away, Noel marveled at the show. Facing the firepower of the outpost as well as the Haze capital and support fleets, Forge was faring poorly. Haze downed two battleships with as many volleys but the real battle as well as Noel’s time to act was about to come.

The Forge cynosural field was activated by a broadsword and immediately the battlefield flashed with the light of dozens of capitals tearing through space.


With a thought, Noel dropped the cloak on her Eris. She moved her legs and the interdictor shot toward the cyno and the enemy capital fleet around it. Within range before she could be targeted, she steadied her arm and threw an interdiction sphere into a nice large clump of Forge capitals.

Like a dancer, she spun gracefully around, dipped under a Chimera and streaked toward another group foolishly close to one another. She bubbled those in time to hear the sound of enemy ships acquiring locks. Caught in her own trap, she hastily made for the bubble’s edge. Her teeth clenched as she felt the first round of charges glance of her shield, and then she was free – a quick burst from her warp engines and she was out of range but not out of sight.

Cloak reactivated, she looked over the battlefield and gasped. Her eyes reported a hostile force of sixty dreadnaughts and forty carriers. Already a Haze Moros breached and burst into a ball of light that for a second dwarfed the star

We were never a match… She thought, only for a second then aligned to warp back into the fray.

“Capitals close at full speed, support match speed.” The Haze admiral showed no interest in backing down. He began directing fire without the slightest stutter in his speech. Noel knew the man to be brave but not suicidal.

He knows something I don’t?

Launchers reloaded she dropped her cloak again and leapt back to the enemy fleet. The target locks came right away this time but ,no matter, it was one thing for the enemy support fleet to target her, another thing entirely to hit her while she weaved close between their own capitals. Her first bubble, hopefully, sealed the fate of five dreads.

Such crazy odds, but they won’t escape unscathed.

An alarm went off in her mind.


A Crow was 40km and closing. One bubble would have to do for now. She pulled tight around a Pheonix to find her exit but instead of space she saw a wall of scrap metal. She had misjudged the position of a Naglafar. She kicked hard away from the behemoth but it was late. Metal never touched but she experienced the impact of shield on shield as a moment of white nothing that faded as she ricocheted – back toward the interceptor.

Only one way out now.

She ignored the warp disruption alarm; she knew before she heard it. At once, acquiring a lock, broadcasting for aid and warming her blasters, she sped toward the interceptor. For an interdictor to charge head on… If nothing else, she had surprise on her side. The smaller ship ate her first volley, its shields cracking under the force, but a second would not find its mark so easily. The enemy pilot took his ship into a close but erratic orbit around her ship. The crow didn’t fire. It didn’t have to.
All too soon, Noel was herself desperately weaving to avoid fire from larger craft. She shook as 425mm charges raked across her back and lasers scalded her skin. Flying as she was, her fists could not find her small target. A chill pierced her though and a bitter taste crept into her mouth.

Adrenalin is better than any synthetic booster.

Her choices were dodging or attacking but only one had a certain outcome, Even if she worked to evade enemy fire, enough volleys would find their mark in time. She moved for best tracking on the Crow.

She slid beside her foe in an instant unleashing her best swing. To her dismay the blasters hit only space as the Crow corrected its orbit around her. In retrospect, her choice was right but even best efforts don’t always succeed. Another volley of lasers pierced her shields and melted her armor. Solid charges penetrated to hull. Diagnostic alarms blared in her head.

Finally a flash as the Crow became a brilliant vapor. Noel’s distress broadcast had been answered with missiles. Missiles that could not catch the crow until it turned directly into them while evading her. Now her warp drive would work - if she still had one. Seconds later another round of lasers and hybrid fire cut through the space where she had been.

Noel caught her breath shortly after exiting warp off of a nearby moon. In her mind, spots of red and yellow colored parts of her eris body. She had lost some capacitor cells but nothing else without a backup.

Only a flesh wound. An unexpected chuckle escaped her.

Even in such a situation, death was hard to take seriously. None of her fear was for her own sake after all. After her first clone sync, dying was only seconds of pain, then a sensation like waking up after a long sleep. For the people on the planet below the experience was something more final.

A defeat for Haze meant only a setback in wealth and status. The years they controlled Suner and the systems around it had made them stronger. For their citizens, the stakes were higher. After only a few years of freedom, they would be back under Forge’s oppressive rule, if not annihilated entirely.

Diagnostic checks and pessimistic musing out of the way, Noel returned her attention to the fight. For the last minute or so she had been too focused on her own peril to keep track of the fight as a whole. Her ears tuned in first.

The admiral was speaking excitedly, directing fire on one Forge capital then another. She had expected reports of allied, not enemy, capitals going down. Then she heard:

“Interdictors on them! All remaining interdictors on the field now!”

So be it. The station her clone rested in had good food and entertainment and she absolutely had to see what was going on first hand.

Two hundred kilometers off of the battlefield, Noel came out of warp in time to see a Forge Revelation become a blinding flash and then a shower of debris. Seconds later a Moros took a barrage of missiles and made a flash of its own.

Missiles? From where?

As if in answer, multiple launch signatures were detected - from the surface of Aeris. Like angry glowing bees of doom, great swarms of citadel torpedoes streaked from the planet's surface and toward the Forge capital fleet.

Since when were there missile batteries on the surface? Since the beginning of course; It was a trap.

It was well known that one day an end would come to Forge’s faraway conflict. Still, with the peace on that side of their territory so young, Forge would want to be done with the mess in Suner as quickly as possible. Why couldn’t they be? A planet easily taken by a roaming band of mercenaries: How difficult could it be for an empire of ten planets to retake it?

Suner was, however, not the neglected rock it was at the end of Forge’s rule. Haze had nurtured the planet, keeping it safe and making improvements. Suner now had the resources to put up a fight. On top of that, if you build a thousand buildings, who is going to know if some of them house missiles instead of classrooms or offices?

In its hubris, Forge had jumped in waist deep and now it was stuck. Another second and they would be stuck even deeper. Noel dropped on top of a group of dreads aligning to get distance from the planet and deployed a sphere. Detecting no interceptors on the field, She found a second group and casually sealed their fate as well.

She made her exit without incident and prepared for another run. Her battered shell would repeat the process twice more before the end. As she prepared for her fifth run of the battle, it was over – all but the mopping up at least.

What support and capitals could flee, fled while they could. A fraction of the jump signatures that marked the entrance of the Forge capital fleet marked their exit. Those unfortunate enough to be stuck in one of the many bubbles on the field could only wait for the torpedo swarm to come for them.

Hours later as the last industrial docked, full of salvage, the outpost roared with the sound of the battle being told from a hundred different angles. Noel was no stranger to post victory jubilation but had never experienced something that felt so… substantial.

Fireworks, some visible from space, served as a reminder that for some people the grand games played by the likes of Forge and Haze were about more than just property and posterity.

Noel downed one more Quafe too many, waved to some comrades and shuffled off to find a tram to the orbital elevator. It was not likely that Haze’s conflict with Forge was finished but such ideas could wait.

Time to go home.

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