Well, it’s war again. In theory, at least.

I suppose, before getting into details, it’s time to lay out the Ironfleet war philosophy. Y’see, we’re not combat pilots. Sure, we keep a heavy rocket wrench behind the pilot seat for when things get out of hand, but we’re not out there every day drooling for the big kaboomski.

War is expensive. War is (mildly) stressful. War is bad for business. War is (as compared to scooping up goodies) unprofitable.

It follows from this that the best way to win a war is to be boring and wait for it to go away. Park the most expensive ships, jump into the cheap-implants clone, pull out the disposable salvage frigates, move around a lot (we do this anyway), and above all, don’t provide any sport or excitement for the folks who declared war. This is a game, and it takes two to tango. Unless they have an astoundingly deep grudge or are astonishingly well paid, they’ll eventually stop paying a war bill that’s neither hurting us nor giving them any fun.

The surest way to keep a war going is to give the enemy serious combat. Either he wins, and is encouraged to continue; or he loses, and develops a grudge. There is room for harassing raids — just enough missiles from extreme range to keep him on his toes, that sort of thing — but giving serious fight tends to extend the war unless you’ve got the resources to achieve consistent crushing victories.

My EVE experience has so far been very consistent. Every now and then somebody will take offense at our salvage behavior. Sometimes, even often, they will threaten war. Most of these threats are hollow. A few are real, but there’s no way to tell which is which. So, as a matter of corporate policy, we ignore war threats and send polite refusals to “Pay us $XXX or we’ll declare war.” If Ironfleet had a battleship and a pilot for every empty war threat we’ve gotten, we could take out the entire BOB alliance in a single zergling rush.

Real war declarations tend to be unannounced. And usually come from a corporation only loosely associated, if at all, with the industrial corporation (fat with miners and haulers and mission runners) who were aggrieved by the Ironfleet Way.

Which brings us to the current war declaration:

2007.04.08 20:35
I.T.G. has declared war on Ironfleet Towing And Salvage.
After 24 hours fighting can legally occur between those involved.

No preliminary bluster, this might be serious.

And who the heck is I.T.G.? Time for an intelligence push.

Cryptic corp name, ticker is [MK1]. Nope, don’t remember blowing up any retrievers lately flying that ticker. Corp description? Hmm, possibly ominous:

Family business. Small contracts undertaken.

Mercenaries, perhaps; it even seems likely. Email inquiring about war aims is not answered; that’s not surprising, but sometimes you get lucky.

Let’s see, five members in the corporation, so it’s “A Boy And His Alts” in all likelihood, possibly with a spouse or a child thrown in (“family business”) or a real life friend or two. CEO and Founder is one Eidelon, what’s his history?

Uh, oh, this could get ugly. June 21st, 2003? Two thousand and three? How many skill points can you get in four years? He’ll have expensive ships and the skills to fit them for devastating effect, and he’s not going to fall for any of the usual sucker traps. Plus, he can be expected to have a wealth of alts, contacts, friends, bookmarks, safe spots, and exotic personal weapons stowed in uniquely intimate places.

Eidelon, Eidelon, why does that name ring a bell? Names have power, when you know a man’s self-chosen name you know who he thinks he is. Google, oh my fair Google, do your stuff!

Eidelon, Eidelon, ah, here it is:

Eidelons are a fictional humanoid species from the Farscape universe.

The Eidelons were a pacifist race who inhabited the planet Arnessk 12,000 cycles before the Farscape storyline takes place. They possess a unique ability tied to their physiology. They have a very special gland that vibrates to create an energy field that “has a calming effect on individuals, allowing them to see reason”. Using this empathic ability, the ancient Eidelons could convince a foe to follow a peaceful path to their objectives.

Pacifist? That doesn’t sound too frightening. And there are hints of carebearism to be found, too, if you look. The bio says only “Too much charisma…”, a problem I have myself and one which makes training ship skills a bit of an ordeal. But four years is time enough, regardless. Some of the employment history hints at an industrial and trade past, too: Corporate names like “Blueprint Haus”, “Carbide Industries”, and “Commodity Analytics, Ltd.”

But the the thing to remember about carebears (which, by the dominant Eve view, I am one of) is that they are still bears. And bears have teeth.

What else can we find out? Not so many forum posts has this Eidelon, but they are personally somewhat revealing. He has, like many of us, sometimes been frustrated by the game’s technical issues and the way they are handled by CCP. He has ranted insultingly, he has tried the old “let’s put pressure on these people by emailing their bosses” routine, which is a pretty serious asshole maneuver as you’ll know if anybody’s ever done it to you in your office; but he has also posted reasonably respectful (and not IMO entirely unmerited) criticism of CCP’s technical processes, while (now we are getting somewhere!) identifying himself as “In RL [Real Life], an I.T. Manager.”

OK, so he’s employed, a manager, a tech guy, a relatively mature fellow. Excellent, if there’s smacktalk it will be at least be the coldly civil variety, with multiple clauses and commas and everything, more “A cheerful and chaotic approach to configuration management may make for a relaxed working environment in Iceland, but when it results in the regular re-publishing of old bugs, then it is time to get a grip” than “U Lamerz cant writ codez you stoopid nubbz.” I can live with that.

But those are all ancient posts, what’s going on with Eidelon lately? Finally, a nugget of information from the recruitment channel, about a year ago. The bear’s teeth were starting to itch:

Tired of being good. Would be interested in a merc outfit with older players operating mostly in Empire. 30m sp and some PvP experience and happy to learn more. Huge RL commitments, so preferably a UK-based corp that’s geared for middle-aged on/off players like me!

Hmm, tends to confirm my mercenary suspicion. 30 million skill points, a year ago? I’ve accumulated half that total, in about exactly a year, but he started out with too much charisma in an era of lesser implants and fewer learning skills. By now, he’s presumably got more of both than I do, so we should expect at least 45 million skill points currently. Thrice mine, a nice round number, and a man I don’t want to dogfight with unless the tonnage is heavily stacked in my favor.

OK, he’s in the UK with “Huge RL commitments”, so I can’t expect him to be on a great deal, and (if he’s still employed as an I.T. manager on a normal day shift) his hours will be somewhat predictable, and not likely to coincide with at least my evening playtime.

Well, now we know a lot more than we knew before, don’t we kiddies? I do so love the internet.

Brass tacks time. Enough talk and research, what’s happened so far?

Before the war ever started, Eidelon prepositioned himself in a system I frequent. When the war went live yesterday, he logged in for awhile, and was visible in local. However, I never saw him near my undisclosed location, and he had nothing to say in local. All in all, it was the most peaceful “first day of war” I’ve ever enjoyed.

Today, the routine repeated itself. He logged in quietly and left me undisturbed, to carry on my Ironfleet business in my undisclosed location. But, after some while, I decided to see if he was a literary man. Do British people, I wondered, read American poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

Whether they do or not, every American schoolboy must, at least to the extent of Paul Revere’s Ride. Which seemed oddly appropriate to me, being oh-so-gently dogged by a Redcoat and all, so I misquoted into local a poor-remembered attempt at a quote:

Marlenus > “One if by land, and two if by sea. And I, on the opposite shore, will see, and send the word, to spread the alarm…”

Imagine my gratification to hear in return:

Eidelon > “A cry of defiance and not of fear…” :-)

Proving not only that Brits do study their Longfellow, but study it better than I do, because I had to Google the poem to confirm that well-chosen reply is, as I thought I remembered, from the last verse of the poem.

(Oh, aye, perhaps he Googled it as well, but if he did in the time he had, he grasped it quickly and thoroughly, understood why I chose it, read it through to the end, and chose an apt verse to quote back at me. That’s literary reparte in the 21st Century, folks, and it’s every bit as much fun as the steam-era version that relied solely on human memory and wit.)

I confess, somewhat against my better judgment, to being impressed.

And so the battle is begun, with an exchange of apt quotation demonstrating that we know who we are and what we are doing. I must say, this has been as auspicious a beginning of a war as Ironfleet has seen. Where will it end? Original sonnets at knifefight ranges? Who can say?

Shortly thereafter, Eidelon left the system and logged off. I sent him an Evemail, an entire verse:

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

May it be prophetic.

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