While still in the ‘planning phase’, Lenny was capitalising on even more mistakes the Mittani and his Goons were making. When the Imperium invaded low-sec space (where NPCs own the space but players can ‘farm’ the moons) many pundits agreed they did so simply out of boredom. But the move infuriated and galvanized the usually splintered groups of pirates in that particular sector. Lenny took notice.
Then the Goons established a “Viceroy” system, demanding tithes and loyalty from their conquered regions, incensing the pirates even further. Lenny reached out to five of these brigand groups with the same bucket of cash he was using to conscript his mercenaries. The space bucaneers, who were already beginning a parley with one another, looked at his money and smiled. Yet more pieces of Lenny’s plan were in place. It was time to strike.
“I had smaller groups hit the null-sec regions that bordered Imperium space. I had TISHU and The Culture hit Fade and Cloud Ring – [which is] SMA [Space Monkeys Alliance] space. I had Chaos Theory and OOS hit Venal. So I had four fronts open…
“On top of that, the way that we were proceeding was that this wasn’t an invasion, this wasn’t a war, these were ‘isolated incidents’.”
Pandemic Legion even resurfaced. The group that had been wiped out two years ago in the Bloodbath of B-R5RB was back and itching to bruise their old enemy. And the 110 billion ISK a week Lenny was paying them to take bites out of their old foe was an excellent bonus. He also promised to refund any capital ships lost in their fights. When Lenny is asked how many other player groups he has on contract he starts counting out loud.
“I have one, two, three, four…”
He counts all the way to twenty-eight.
The war was now in full swing. The Space Monkeys were reeling. It would not be long before half of its members threw down their arms and deserted. The Monkeys have since left the Goonswarm coalition in disgrace, and a central figure of the feud with Eep’s casino – a character named ‘Winet’ – has biomassed his character, a process in which a person is irrevocably deleted, effectively committing suicide within the game. The Space Monkeys have also lost a large number of officers, according to Lenny, and all of their territory has been overrun, leaving the remaining members homeless and disoriented. Eep, the gambling kingpin, has fulfilled his threat. It turns out he wasn’t joking.
As for the Zombies – I have sent them several mails. I have received no response.
The man who commanded his own birth
“WHY THE FUCK WERE HALF OF YOU NOT ALIGNED?”
The fleet commander is angry. He keeps shouting.
“WE’VE BEEN ALIGNED FOR FIVE FUCKIN’ MINUTES.”
A pilot in the fleet speaks up, suggesting that he leave the stragglers behind.
“NO. I don’t want them to win because YOU’RE fucking lazy,” he shouts. “They don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve shit. They don’t deserve their space, they don’t deserve their fuckin’ ships, they don’t deserve to live in ‘0.0’, they don’t deserve to have a fuckin’ alliance.”
His name is progodlegend, and he is coming back from a fight. His attitude towards Goons is no secret.
“I don’t want them to have a fucking single thing.”
progodlegend is a veteran fleet commander, an ‘FC’, somebody who leads hundreds of pilots at once from warp gate to warp gate, looking for a brawl. His in-game bio includes a quote from a fellow player: “I hear PGL even FC’d his own birth.”
He is currently fighting for TEST, an alliance of Reddit users. Like Pandemic Legion, they too have a blemished history with the Goons, after being badly defeated during a conflict called the ‘Fountain War’. Finally, it looks like they may have their revenge.
“By the time TEST arrived… it only took us two weeks to put Goonswarm into full retreat. I don’t think anyone really expected that… Two weeks ago from today we weren’t even sure we were going to win. And now it just looks like it’s almost over.
“What we’ve noticed – as we’ve captured three or four regions in almost two weeks, we’ve been taking space so fast they don’t even have time to evacuate their stuff – a lot of their people who were there when times were easy are not sticking around now that times are hard… It’s unlike wars in the past. There hasn’t really been much resistance.”
The fleet commander talks about the war mostly in surprised tones. That the Goons would allow themselves to be pushed around so much has come as something of a shock to someone who lived through the bombardments of The Mittani’s previous campaigns.
“The Goonswarm and CFC [The Imperium] just let events get out of control… Especially because usually Goonswarm can see those things put in motion and they take steps to stop it coming together… This time I think they got so caught up in the backlash to the Kickstarter thing they didn’t realise what was being put together until it was way too late.”
The “Kickstarter thing” was another misstep by The Mittani. A project in which the Goon leader pitched a novelisation of the ‘Fountain War’ on Kickstarter, written by a military fiction author. Many players sneered at this. The way they saw it, Mittani was trying to make money off a story they all had a part in. And since he was the one organising it, the story would doubtless be historically biased towards the Goons. In the end, the Kickstarter didn’t reach its goal and the debacle became just one more thing that was slowly turning the galaxy against him.
The fleets of progodlegend have stomped through the “North” of space, capturing systems and doing their part for the Moneybadger Coalition. But, like he says, its various members have had their own disagreements. The pirates of low-sec, the mercenaries – huge forces like this have always erupted in infighting in the past. Isn’t he afraid of that?
“Normally we would be. And that’s usually been the problem… I mean, The Mittani’s right when he says that they can expect their enemies to fall apart. The problem [for him] this time around is that we have literally not taken a single major loss. Literally, we haven’t lost a single major fight, not even one, in months…
“It’s really hard for there to be drama when all you do is win.”
But a war without drama is not an Eve war. This time the drama was all on the Imperium side, as cracks started to appear between the players. And one of the superpower’s biggest tribes was about to crack in the most destructive way possible.
Traitors for traitors
“People don’t know a lot about Circle of Two because we usually choose to keep a low profile.”
This is the voice of someone within ‘Co2’ – a higher-up who wishes to remain anonymous. He tells me that one of the group’s slogans is: ‘We do our propaganda on-grid.’ Meaning they spread word of their power on the battlefield, not on forums. For this reason, they usually try to stay out of the media. Today, they are making an exception.
The Circle have been around since 2006, a flock of Serbian players who wandered space together until they woke up one morning and found themselves in bed with the Goons. They have been together ever since, growing stronger and earning respect, even from those outside of the Imperium.
“Within the Imperium we’ve always been one of the military powerhouses,” says the representative. “You can see who’s bringing the numbers into battles. We’ve always been one of the most active military alliances within the coalition. And recently with the anti-goon war we occupy a pivotal region in the North.”
When I spoke to Lenny, the banker, about this group he agreed that, militarily, they were the strongest within the Imperium. Politically, however, they were the weakest link. They have always been the angsty son of the Imperium. They had much more loyalty to their brothers and sisters in Bastion and LAWN – two other Imperium groups – than to Mittani himself.
“Contrary to the other alliances in the coalition,” says the representative, “we have proved that we could stand on our own two feet.”
In the early fires of the war, Moneybadger mercenaries got into a major brawl with one of the Circle’s giant capital fleets. But the Circle’s Goon reinforcements ‘abandoned’ them in the middle of the fight, leaving them vulnerable. Three of their Titans – the most fearsome ship in the game – were destroyed. Two weeks later, the same thing happened again – the Goons fled the field during a major battle, leaving the Circle’s 300 ships to face 1000 Moneybadger ships. Rather than continue the fight and act as a “meatshield” for their masters, the Co2 commanders ordered everyone to self-destruct. They scuttled their entire fleet.
With this bitter taste left in their mouth, the Circle fought on, only to receive a message from their feudal overlords. The Goons were withdrawing from the Circle’s home region altogether, it said, and they were taking Bastion and LAWN with them. The brother and sister the Circle had been protecting, it turned out, were abandoning them too. They had been left exposed on three fronts to all the encroaching armies of the bankers. They were alone. They were furious.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Gateway to the North
The abandonment of Circle of Two left the group “strategically, absolutely fucked” according to Lenny, the banker. He also says it is the worst move the Mittani could have possibly made.
The Circle have their home in a narrow region of space, essentially a buffer zone. Anybody wanting to get to the Goons from the South has to go through the Circle’s turf. As Moneybadger ships amassed on the borders of their territory, the Circle’s leadership opened communications with their foes. The mercenaries steamrolled into the capital – the system of M-OEE8, colloquially known as the ‘Gateway to the North’ – and even as the battle began, the leaders talked. Even as frigates popped and lasers burned across the void, they haggled, until an agreement was finally reached: whether the Circle won or lost, they would ‘flip’. After this “last hooray”, they would abandon the Imperium – the same way they felt they had been abandoned on the front line.
As expected, the Circle were defeated. The Mittani claimed a partial victory because he did not field his supercapital fleet – those expensive Titans – in what he said was obviously a trap for them. That the Goons got so much out of the region before the Moneybadgers arrived was a strategic victory he likened to the “miracle of Dunkirk” – a retreat, yes, but a heroic one.
But when The Mittani found out that one of the strongest factions in his Empire had flipped on him – posting a list of complaints on Reddit in the process – he branded them traitors immediately and cursed them with an eternal shame during one of his ‘State of the Gooniun’ speeches. They had betrayed the Goons in their darkest hour and for that, there could be no forgiveness. Leaked chatlogs also revealed that the Circle had been planning this betrayal for a long time, even before the war, and they had been trying to bring their brothers and sisters with them. The seeds of a long hatred between the groups had been sowed. The Mittani has since instructed his Goons to take particular pleasure in hunting and killing their old bedmates.
“We are happy to take the fight,” says the man from Circle of Two, laughing. “We are not retarded. We knew that that was coming and we knew that was a golden opportunity for him to spin it in that way.
“You can spin and use words as much as you want… but battles are fought on-grid, in a system. Words will not win you that war. Words will not scare us. That was never the case with Mittens, and it’s still not the case.”
On the final page, the bankers come under attack