[Editors's note: before you rightfully go all WTF? about this following on Exegesis Introduction, there's a half-decent explanation for it (and today's filler being late), right there.]
***05:48 — Somewhere in lowsec Matari space.
Marz El Duchamp, The Poutine Pie Clan CEO and newly-founded DoubleOreganoLimeToast [DOLT] alliance's grand poo-bah took another long look at the tactical map of the CL4M-1T system in SH-3LF constellation, for what seemed like the thousandth time of the night. His best scout was over there by his lone self, reporting in real-time from this deep-red, out of the way system.
CL4M-1T lay fallow and free from any formal sovereignty claim, along with most of its constellation, by mutual agreement of the two neighborhood alliances, the Elder Sons of Piko [ESPIK] and Tromatile Endeavours [TRENDS], and it was for Marz's fleet to take advantage of this wild lands intel fogginess.
For their first full-scale operation as a true nullsec alliance, DOLT's objective was to insert a seeding party near planet 6 without anyone noticing, and to lay claim on the planet before the night was through. Marz knew full well his alliance plan was daring, maybe overly so, but DOLT had nothing to offer to endear itself to ESPIK or TRENDS unless they first moved into the area, and moving time was due for the Poutine Clan and their alliance partner, the Purple Matarixes. The alliance war chest had been grown to slightly over fifty billions ISK in the last few months to provide for their first colonization foray in nullsec, twenty of which had already been converted into hardware, now waiting to be deployed at his command.
On the tacmap, set to reflect his scouts' situational reports about the SH-3LF constellation, LU-5T1, CL4M-1T and H1-1P0 where still glowing green, meaning no sign of intruders in either system had been detected at this point. Only spotty intel was available about RFC-748, the next system after LU-5T1, as it had been deemed too risky to keep a permanent presence in a sovereign system that could more easily be monitored by ESPIK, whose first sovereign constellation started right after RFC-748 and extended westward. A single Phobos-class heavy interdictor cruiser, flying under civilian colors, was playing the relog dance on request to check for any activity near the LU-5T1 gate. HK-477, the last system in constellation was a dead-end connected solely to LU-5T1, with an average of 6 jumps a day for the past week, and the mostly Euro-timezoned ESPIK were unlikely to raid it at what was nearing 7AM for them, on a Tuesday.
"It's always a Tuesday…" Marz thought with a nervous smile, as his Nidhoggur-class carrier, The Squeamishly Reckless sled out of the Krusual Tribe station into the reddish dawn of a nearly-asleep lowsec system.
05:50 — CL4M-1T
DOLT colonization fleet most advanced scout, the Rapier-class recon cruiser Designated Driver III, idled under cloak about 200 klicks from the LU-5T1 gate in CL4M-1T while her captain, Beliot Montcourdi monitored the second and last gate in system (to H1-1P0) on his directional scanner.
Beliot didn't bother with localspotting, which he knew to be largely pointless in a wild lands system. Without the proper scanning equipment on a lunar POS nor the ability to listen in on nearby stargates traffic reports, foreign pilots wouldn't show up in one's local list until they first got in visual range of one of his fleet members, and he was the only DOLT pilot in CL4M-1T, at least for the next couple minutes.
Belio flipped the display of his tacmap to check on the rest of his squad: The Striking Lemurs, which were holding on the other side of this gate, just a few seconds and a jump away. He could now see the six stealth bombers in LU-5T1, maybe half an AU off the CL4M-1T gate, presumably aligned and at speed, invisible and 'deadly to all, and first ourselves' as they liked to say.
He couldn't spot the two Broadswords heavy interdictors at first, but after a few seconds they blinked on his screen, as they dropped to STL speed for a few instants, in the constant warp routine that kept them reasonably safe despite their lack of cloak. The other Lemur scout, a Rapier-class cruiser like Belio's was currently hawking the gate to RFC-477, but he would soon have to break cloak and put his clone on the line for the greater good of DOLTs everywhere…
Voicecomms abruptly broke the silence, Erik's unmistakable Bawlmorese accent sparing him the trouble to identify himself — not that he would ever care to stick to protocol, anyway.
— Hey fat ma-ma, sweady yet ?
— Kinda yeah, I've been looking everywhere, but I can't seem to find any high-slots on this thing… you're sure this is the right boat you gave me ?
— I feel you, bab'boy… ain'a thang I can do, tha…
— …please clear comms, we're up in five, guys ! — there was no confusing this last voice, either: despite her mastery of internet anglospeak, Claudia was leading her Wing from downtown Turin, and she was no foreign student.
05:53 — On the edge of highsec Metropolis.
Duke of Tankard, today's freighter pilot, felt he had every reason to be nervous: the Charon freighter — which having the proper skills to fly earned Duke much heckling, despite his claim about this specific proficiency being accidental and none of his fault — had been acquired on alliance funds just a few days earlier, just in time to pick up and convoy to this last highsec stop the three pieces of architecture that now filled almost entirely the monstrous cargo ship.
Despite his being presently stuck in a humongous Caldari boat shaped like a poorly finished paving slab, he was as true a Matari pilot as any DOLT, and one of the few among them with any actual experience of nullsec wars. Most of his escort group, except for Claudia and a couple others, had never seen zero-zero closer than as tourists on a hunting trip, and their practical skills in fleet combat were limited to Empire Factional Warfare.
As much as he personally wished he was flying a combat-ready ship, he hoped they wouldn't get to find out today how different 'true' territorial warfare could be from the Empire paintball games they'd trained in.
He checked his mission brief for the umpteenth time, knowing to be one of the very few pilots in this entire fleet with a nearly complete picture of the plan. …So many things could go wrong that he could see in there, but there was no way around it, and he had to admit Marz and the rest of the DOLT brass had been thorough in prepping this run, about as practical as you'd expect from a bunch of carebears with veneer fangs, but they certainly did their homework.
The titan part, especially, made him feel queasy: the spy paranoia he learned from his former life as a big-alliance FC had become second nature, and the idea that the security of the entire plan depended on a for-hire titan pilot, even a Ragnarok one, was heresy to him.
Live with it, he told himself. There was a good reason he was flying with the Matarixes now, and he did know what he was getting into when he signed up. With a sigh, Duke reached for the push-to-talk key to report his status on the Command channel.
— Duke for Command: all set. Over.
— Copy that, Duke, stand by for go.
— Copy Command, Duke out.
05:57 — Somewhere in lowsec Matari space.
Marz scrolled down the fleet list once more, looking for any major gaps or missing names, and it was hard for him to believe how few he could find. That 3/4 of the DOLT had turned out on a monday night was more than comforting: it was energizing to the point he suddenly started feeling confident about their chances of success, maybe for he first time since they started working on the colony project. You spend so much time looking for what can go pear-shaped, you end up forgetting it could actually work out alright, he thought. At this point, he spotted a green dot next to Almar's name in local, and that was all he needed for a wire to go loose in in brain.
Marz opened comms and only realized he had started speaking when the sound of his own voice reached his ears.
DOLTs, this is Marz… If you're not asleep at your keyboard by now, or otherwise afk, I count 164 people in Fleet at the moment. Check it out, this is not a joke… assuming we don't have too many alts on, and even if we do, that's about eighty percent of us accounted for on this op', and I feel for those who're about to miss this party, because today is the first day of our life on the frontier.A few seconds' pause to catch his breath. Here we go. Marz flicked his mike back on:
For the next couple weeks, we will live in huts, eating rodents and probably fighting off the local warlords for our right to live out in 0.0, and it will hurt, a lot… I'm sure you're ecstatic now that you fully grasp what it is you've voted for three months ago…
Seriously though, this is a big step we're taking today, and within a month or two at most, I'm sure we'll be a very different bunch of people, all of us. We're headed where there are no cozy NPC stations, no market to shop, no agents to hand you your oregano toasts, but you'll find that living day in an out in the same few systems, all together, makes it feel home in no time, like never before.…We will grow trimmer, stronger, maybe not meaner because we're fluffy that way, but hopefully we'll lose some lard, at least in game…
Before we know it, we'll be building our very first outpost and get ourselves our very own constellation. That's the program, and how good we do, starting tonight, will decide how many weeks before we get there…
…In right about now, the main fleet will start moving, you're just a few jumps from some serious eyecandy, and Erik will lead you there.Not wanting to stay around to hear which it was of either cheering or stunned silence, Marz switched comms to command-channel-only as he typed out a quick line to Almar. His voicecomms were already crackling back to life on the command channel.
After that, there's no turning back except by getting podded to empire — make sure your clones are up-to-date, and then assemble with your squad, you have about… well, three minutes before this train leaves the station, and I want it to be a one-way ticket for all of us.
For great justice and toasty glory, let's get busy people ! Marz out.
— For command, Marz, that was corny.On the private text chat, Almar was getting back to him:
— Thank you Claudia, I was shooting for unprepared, corny is good by me. Erik, how's your fleet ?
— Hoe dawn… coul'be beddar, m'shure. We'll be good, tha.
— OK, you know where to go… get going, and hold for stragglers at the sun one jump out. First one ready pokes the other.
— Claudia for command, are we go ?
— Yup, unleash the frigate fury, dottoressa. I'm bringing the gate in a minute. Duke ?
— Get that sweet Caldari trailer of yours underway, please ?
— Roger. Moving now to align safe, Duke out.
— Lemurs ?
— Belio for command, all clear. Waiting for go on cyno.
— I'll let you know… All get to positions and report. Marz out.
Almar > I'm ready, did you check your POS settings ?
Marz El Duchamp > Double checking… yes.
Almar > See the scout ? <- Fixeret Doze.
Marz El Duchamp > yup. Should I invite him ?
Almar > Her. Just invite me in a separate squad, we're ganged already.
Marz El Duchamp > Coming up.
Seconds later, a new squad appeared in Marz's Wing: Drilling-Zone, with only Almar and Fixeret Doze in it. This part seemed to work as planned… unless that guy was about to catapult the entire DOLT fleet into a logon trap, that is, but Almar's agent had a solid name going for him, which he should be eager to maintain, and unless the highly-rated escrow company that secured the deal was in on it too, Marz reassured himself in the thought there was no profit for anyone in screwing DOLT over. Besides, those people were big leagues players with reputations worth much more than the measly thirty billions ISK Marz had managed to negotiate as collateral…
He sure hoped he wasn't about to lose his alliance's entire cash reserve on a scam.
[To be continued]