by Urizenus Sklar on 09/04/07 at 11:35 pm
I was going about some routine editorial work in the Herald bunker in Jessie when an urgent communiqué from a Herald informant splashed onto my screen. According to the informant, the two great armies of Second Life – the Aliance Navy and the Merczateers were engaged in skirmishes again. It had been months since they had a full-on war, but an uneasy low grade conflict had been going on ever since. I decided to investigate and teleported to the Merzcateer base in order to seek out my old acquaintance Proteus Hand.
I materialized on a dock outside the Merzcateer headquarters, and it appeared that a conflict was already in full swing. Sniper fire rang out and from time to time I could hear he burst of automatic weapons and the concussion of heavy explosives.
I was immediately challenged by a Merzcateer in a small pod-like flying vessel.
“State your business here,”
His shipboard guns were ominously trained on bald, elegantly shaped head.
“I’m looking for Proteus Hand.”
“He’s right behind you.”
I turned and saw no one, but moments later Proteus materialized. A cloaking device? Server lag? In Second Life one never knows.
Proteus: “It’s hairy out here, follow me.”
I followed Proteus into the doorway of what I took to be a concrete bunker. Later I was informed that the bunker was actually much deeper below us and these were merely tunnels to the command offices. As I followed Proteus though the maze of tunnels I could still hear the gunfire and percussion of explosives outside. Now and then I could hear orders being barked, as Merczateers of various rank ran past us in the tunnels.
Even in the company of Proteus – an infantry commander — I was challenged on many occasions. Then, suddenly, Proteus crashed out leaving me alone in the tunnel to explain myself to security officers and soldiers that came running through on what seemed to be important martial business of some form or other. Clearly I was not blending in with my steampunk clothing and double bridged mirrorshades.
Finally Proteus returned and asked me to state my business, which was, of course, to get the story. What was the conflict about? How did it start? How did he think it would end?
Proteus nodded …“Ah good good, wait a second.” Proteus then showed me something of his outside-the-box thinking skills.
“I think it would be good if you got both sides, I’ll see if Harlequin can join us.”
Harlequin, as in Harlequin Salome, is a high ranking officer of the Alliance Navy. A few minutes worth of IM’s and a meeting was arranged.
It was soon clear to me that my role in this drama was going to be much larger than being a mere reporter. This is a phenomenon that Herald staffers have observed since the early days of Alphaville and it was aptly chronicled by Walker Spaight in his piece on the Showdown in Street City. Reporting for the Herald carries with it the much larger responsibility than just getting the story, it carries the added burden of civic duty, and, when times call for it, being a peacemaker. The story would have to wait. My job now was to try and stave off war.
It was established that I would be moderating a sit-down meeting between the leaders of the Alliance Navy and the Merczateers. Perhaps a peace treaty could be negotiated, or so I hoped. Perhaps a great deadly conflict and the ensuing collateral damage could be avoided. At a minimum perhaps the groups could come to understand each other better and lay the foundations for future settlements.
I arranged for the meeting to take place in Shivar, in the shadow of the great citadel built by Yadni Monde. Both leaders arrived with fellow officers and security forces in tow. Proteus came with General Melly Deemster, General Mean Emoto, Marshal Lurdan Huszar, General fat Pow and General Anthony Lehane. Harlequin came with Marine Commander Mikael Khalomov, AD Wing Commander Judge Hocho, and Admiral Nanao Mahfouz. (At points in the discussion below I indicate the group affiliation of these officers, using ‘AN’ and ‘M’.)
The two groups were a study in contrast. The Merczateers came in the ratty black uniforms of band of anarchists that had been quickly yet efficiently organized for battle and damn the pomp and circumstance. Proteus wore a long dark soviet-style military coat, sat in his chair hunched forward as though the responsibility for the welfare of an entire army rested on his shoulders. His white prim hair hung in front of his face and I wondered if perhaps he was becoming ground down by the years of virtual warfare.
But now and then his eyes flashed out from behind the locks of white hair and one could see the focus and intensity of an agile and vibrant leader. When he spoke, he was no less agile, and the illusion of a tired old soldier melted away. He suddenly looked not so much tired as coiled and ready to strike.
Proteus was flanked by General Deemster, General Emoto, and Marshal Huszar. Fat Pow was position slightly behind Harlequin – clearly a security measure. General Lehane positioned himself behind me – was I a security risk too? General Deemster appeared to be some sort of nekko, but I couldn’t be sure – tails are no longer a reliable indicator. All wore black battle gear that showed the scuffs and wear of numerous urban warfare campaigns and all seemed to be coated with the fine white dust that concrete bunkers yield to the constant drum of heavy bombardment.
Harlequin and his men were anything but scuffed and dusty. Their uniforms were bright and polished and all stood at attention, fingers always resting on the triggers of their guns. Harlequin himself sat upright in a Gorean chair, never raising the mirrored visor of his helmet. One was left to guess about the soldier inside.
As I was to learn, their respective attire said a lot about the history of these two organizations. The Alliance Navy had been skimming the cream of the crop of recruits for years now. They accepted no slackers. Only the most skilled scripters and disciplined soldiers were brought into the fold. Those that did not live up to expectations were expunged. On the other hand, the Merzcateers seemed to have been cobbled together from the fragments of dismantled armies (like the Novo Ordo Imperialis), vigilantes and paramilitary death squads (like the Republic of Germany Army), loners and even griefers. And as it turned out, this was one of the points of contention – the safe harbor that the Merczateers provided to the castoffs and pariahs of the metaverse.
Following is the edited and annotated transcript of this meeting. I have kept the elisions to a minimum; given the epic historic significance of the meeting, it is important for future historians to have as much information at their disposal as possible.
The Alliance Navy’s Charges against the Merzcateers:
1) theft of AN property
2) admitting griefers
3) a property dispute
4) a prim copying incident
Urizenus Sklar: well where should we begin… Harlequin can you give me some background on this conflict?
Harlequin Salome: Just this current flare-up, I assume. I’ll leave out the past histories, to keep from rambling. Since the group known as the Ordo [Novo Ordo Imperialis] fell apart, the Mercz and the AN have been at odds… in fact, somewhat before then. The Ordo’s general membership tended to be made up of folks that had proven to have stolen our gear, given things out, and such. Therefore, we took offense when [Ordo] members joined the Merczateers in great numbers.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): [They were] welcoming griefers to the fold, simply enough.
Harlequin Salome: We lodged official protest with the Merczateers High Command, and we were brushed off. We let the matter lie for awhile, and were in fact given assurances that said people would be removed. They finally were [removed] when we threatened war.
Shortly thereafter, the Merczateers gained a sim as a gift from someone. They lost said sim after a few days. Since the AN was in the sim at the time, they blamed us. What happened after that is murky, but it was at least clear that the Mercz were making deals with a great number of groups. They welcomed in other known griefers, and as an anti-griefer group, we decided to cut all ties.
The final straw came with an accusation of prim-copying by one of Mercz High Command. So we used force as an extension of diplomacy, as it were. The Mercz’s response was to fight back and, to quote Lurdan (M). “Know all those people you wanted us to kick? We’re letting them back in.”
Urizenus Sklar: What griefers have joined with the Merzcateers?
Harlequin Salome: I’ll not list names, then it seems like I am pursuing a personal vendetta. But there is Timmahy Widget, a rather well known thief that was quite welcome there. In addition, the Republic of Germany are now their allies. The ROG of course being openly racist. Telling me and Jim, both Jews, that we should die in ovens.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): More than allies; they’ve joined the Mercz.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Timmahy never joined us.
Melly Deemster (M): Indeed.
Harlequin Salome: And the Federation, who have members that IM some of our folks and threaten them, via alt, with rape and worse. I could go on, but again, I’d hate to ramble.
The Merzcanteers respond to the charges: “we are a reformation camp”
Urizenus Sklar: These are strong accusations. Proteus, you may wish to respond
Proteus Hand: alright. Well… personally, I do not know if any of this is true concerning the Federation or the ROG, but I’ve caught them in their down time, and it fits the bill. However…
Urizenus Sklar: are the Merzcateers welcoming known griefers?
Proteus Hand: No.
fat Pow (M): No.
Lurdan Huszar (M): No.
Proteus Hand: In fact, we act more like a reformation camp, and I believe that Harlequin’s theories are slightly misplaced, however intelligent they may be.
Urizenus Sklar: Harlequin, do you have evidence for your charges?
Harlequin Salome: Allow me to look for the access list for Badnarik, when it was being built.
Proteus Hand: Timmahy widget was on that list. This is because members of Titan industries and ex-NOI [Novo Ordo Imperialis] happen to be very close friends with the Merczateers.
Harlequin Salome: There were others as well, but Widget was the only one in the shot I have. Shall I display it or just show you, Uri?
Harlequin Salome: And is KCGANGSTA not a Grunt, Proteus?
Proteus Hand: No. He is a recruit.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Just joined.
Judge Hocho (AN): As is Tristan Mineff.
Proteus Hand: Just recently, the ROG collapsed, however, they have shown no griefing under our command.
Harlequin condemns the Merzcanteers for admitting ROG member Tristan Mineff.
Harlequin Salome: Aye, Tristan. Who when learning someone is gay or bi, will scream “Faggot” using shout. This as of 2 days ago.
Proteus Hand: This is against SLSALT? I don’t think so, Harlequin.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Yes, he may be a bit immature, but he hasn’t broken any of our established rules, and therefore is welcomed..
Proteus Hand: In fact, it is freedom of speech.
Harlequin Salome: SLSALT is not a way to decide when war is just. As you would know. Had you read it.
Judge Hocho (AN): It is against TOS, Proteus. Harassment.
Proteus Hand: Only if someone considers being called a “faggot” harassment.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): From Tristan’s profile picks, “i can see nanao running from german troops, on the back of his pajamas is “I <3 Fags" as we mow him down. What plesure it brings." If my understanding of the TOS is correct, such remarks are defamatory.
Urizenus Sklar: The question on the table is the charge that the Mercz are welcoming griefers into their group
Harlequin Salome: I believe they’ve already admitted such. The claim to “rehabilitate” them was the counter to such. Given that Lehane and Tristan showed up the other day, and Tristan screamed “Faggot” at me at the time, after Lehane had died, shows the contrary.
Proteus explains why he in morally compelled to give griefers a second chance and admit them into the Merzcateers.
Proteus Hand: Do you know why I do this, Harlequin? Because, it would be wrong for me to deny such to any other griefer.
Harlequin Salome: That is your choice.
Proteus Hand: Before I joined the Merczateers, you and Nanao both know what I was. Sky Raiders. Scum, that’s what we were, now that I look back upon it. I’ve recently reached the rank of Infantry Commander, without a griefer offense under my belt since. I think it is wrong to deny such right to our Mladshiy’s whatever their status may be. Under such an arbitrary scale you have constructed.
Uri turns to the topic of alleged (prim copying) theft.
Urizenus Sklar: But what of these charges of theft?
Proteus Hand: Debunked. The original “thief” was Jonathan Arna.
Harlequin Salome: Actually, no.
Proteus Hand: Well.. Christoph, in Adscita. But we’d rather not mention him.
Harlequin Salome: There was more, Proteus. Since the AN are the ones who were offended against, please do me a favor and let me and mine respond.
Proteus Hand: Gladly.
Lurdan Huszar (M): I could break out both knives right now and show you all, they are not exact copies, not even close, I even watched Commander Arna build the knife grip without any aid. But, I cannot ignore the fact that he did look at Luca’s blade for reference, but did not “prim-copy” it.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): You watch him build the C4 he copied off Eata Kitty, Lurdan?
Lurdan Huszar (M): No, I haven’t even seen that C4 yet, nor heard much about it. Only a rumour to me.
Proteus Hand: I saw him attempt it….
Lurdan Huszar (M): How?
Proteus Hand: Hole & Rappel. I was a lower rank at the time, and was ordered to leave the room, however, so I cannot confirm the details.
Lurdan Huszar (M) Well I haven’t seen anything solid.
A digression on a sex scandal involving Luca, when he was a Merczateer.
Proteus Hand: Luca, being a former Merczateer Elite until he went AWOL and admittedly had sex with a recruit on Marshal Huszar’s desk.
Melly Deemster (M): I heard a rumor about that, what’s that about? I heard something about it being on a skybox, from someone. like a few months ago.
General Mahfouz (AN) returns the discussion to prim copying.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): Let’s not cherry-pick here, gentlemen. Luca’s knife is not the only thing I’ve seen Jonathan Arna try to steal, nor the only thing the General admitted to. The fact is there were many incidents which led up to this conflict, which we have routinely shrugged aside and turned the other cheek to, and when our personnel were fired upon and banned from your facility upon attempts to question what Arna was up to, I felt it was time to let the gloves come off.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): Callous disrespect and disregard can only be ignored and suffered for so long.
Proteus Hand: True, which is probably why he fired on you. heh. I could bring out logs as proof. or is it not necessary. anyone? It was a rather important event in Merczateers history.
Urizenus Sklar: where are we then
Proteus Hand: Where should I begin?
Proteus Hand: We have… The Woofer, incident. which was what originally stirred our ranks. despite the Alliance Navy denies that they took the sim, which was claimed by the Merczateers at the time. now the Alliance Navy’s largest Headquarters.
Proteus Hand: But I’ll let that slide.
Harlequin Salome: Because after the sim was taken back by the landowner, he approached us.
Proteus Hand: I can understand that you bought it.
Harlequin Salome: Since he knew we were willing to purchase a sim, and had the cash.
Lurdan Huszar (M): The sim was named “Alliance Navy – Pending” a mockery of the name I gave it, just after all of my work on the sim had been returned.
Lurdan Huszar (M): But I believe that was the landowner.. who did that. He seemed a bit enthusiastic.
Harlequin Salome: We had nothing to do with that, Lurdan (M).
Lurdan Huszar (M): Yes, I know.
Judge Hocho (AN): Our presence there does not mean that we stole the sim from you. Rodgers removed you, of his own accord, and offered to sell it to us, again with no persuasion on our part. This matter was cleared up in the past.
Proteus Hand: still seemed to be an underhanded maneuver, being that we were allies at the time.
Judge Hocho (AN): He did not sell it to us for over a month after he removed you.
Proteus Hand: Does it matter?
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): That was the landowner who did that; we had, at the time, decided against the offer due to moral qualms and the fact that it would not have been under our control to begin with under the terms with which the sim was offered. If we accepted, we would have been open to the same risk of being pushed out at a whim, just as the Mercz had been.
Harlequin Salome: What should we have done? Spent over a grand on purchasing a sim to honor an alliance that you never honored unless under duress?
Proteus Hand: I, personally, honored it. And, I will admit, the Alliance Navy helped us quite a bit, during Hjalmer.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Yes, I was there just before he decided to turn it in, Harlequin could have easily assured him that we could have handled the sim, but instead continued to tell him how much of an awful pack of people we are. I didn’t like this obviously, Harlequin often tells me he’s looking out for me.
Harlequin Salome: Lurdan, he was feeling personally insulted by your people. I am honored that you think I have so much power with my words.
Judge Hocho (AN):: As commanders, there is no ‘personally’; there is only the reflection of what the people under your command and associated with your organization do that you are judged by.
Urizenus Sklar: Well gentlemen…I see there is a long and difficult history here, but perhaps we can focus on the present. Is there no hope of a negotiated settlement or is it beyond that?
Proteus Hand: It could be arranged… but the consequences of a compromise are undesirable… for both sides, I believe.
Urizenus Sklar: What would a compromise look like?
Proteus Hand: It would more than likely result in something happening to General Arna, possibly the most honest, and hard worker in our group — albeit bad tempered.
Harlequin Salome: That is part of the long history. We’ve made more deals with the Merczateers than I can count. None have been honored. As far back as when Christoph Naumova was in their group, griefing and primcopying. We went to the Mercz, and over a month of ‘we’ll remove him, honest” went by before he staged a sneak attack on us. When we finished the battle, we had more assurances. Nothing occured. I feel the Merczateers have proved that “settlements” mean nothing. I personally feel that they have no capital, so to speak. No credibility.
Proteus Hand: We feel the same towards the Alliance Navy.
Harlequin Salome: If I may. Proteus, what agreements have we violated? I will admit that Christoph was… despicable, and he was the worst decision we ever made.
Proteus Hand: Oh, I wasn’t talking about agreements I was talking about lack of credibility.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Heheh, you said you’d let us make the first move, remember Harlequin?
Proteus Hand: They considered Arna the first move. I think…
Harlequin Salome: No, we considered Nanao being shot and thrown out the first move.
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): Myself, and two of my Marines, and a noncombatant mediator.
Harlequin Salome: We tend to consider shooting our people to be acts of war. We’re funny like that.
Urizenus Sklar: So war is the only solution now?
Nanao Mahfouz (AN): Unfortunately for any peaceful resolution, war is the only possible outcome to deal with a group which has demonstrated a callous lack of regard and control over the rank and file, so to speak. One cannot back up their credibility as a leader when they cannot assure that their orders or regulations can be respected.
Urizenus Sklar: Gentlemen, back to the present. What will you gain from warfare here? What will count as a victory?
Lurdan Huszar (M): That’s tough to define in my eyes..
Melly Deemster (M): Victory to them, was when the ordo disbanned was it not?
Urizenus Sklar: Proteus, do you really think you could destroy the AN?
Proteus Hand: No, It is impossible to destroy anything. in SL military, everything is given up willingly.
Urizenus Sklar: Well Ordo was destroyed
Lurdan Huszar (M): Not by physical harm..
Melly Deemster (M): Cause Aryte disbanded it cause he got fed up with AN.
Proteus Hand: They never disbanded. Aryte left, but they never disbanded, in his memory.
Melly Deemster (M): True.
Harlequin Salome: May I counter, Mr Sklar?
Urizenus Sklar: yes Harlequin
Harlequin Salome: War in SL is more than just killing. You’re looking at it like you would a real fight, and it isn’t. Real fights are about killing the foe, and taking territory, and those are meaningless here.
Proteus Hand: very true.
Urizenus Sklar: then what is the goal? how do we measure victory?
Melly Deemster (M): Being the most well organized Military?
Harlequin Salome: Breaking the foe’s will to resist. Clauswitzian Total War.
Proteus Hand: Harlequin is exactly right.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Destroying them psychologically, breaking their will..
Harlequin Salome: When the Mercz first sneak attacked us, we struck and struck hard, about a year ago or so. We attacked for over 5 hours of hell. In fact, I personally saw Mercz surrendering.
Proteus Hand: Back in the Adscita days. And before that.
Melly Deemster (M): I wasn’t around for that.
Proteus Hand: Same, I wasn’t there.
Anthony Lehane (M): I really think at this point it’s nearly impossible to do that to eachother, AN to Mercz or Mercz to AN. It’s usually a tactic that works against a smaller group from a more larger experienced, one.
Proteus Hand: Like what we did to say….
Harlequin Salome: It worked with you before, Anthony.
Proteus Hand: Dynastic Navy? This was the Second Life Marine Corps. Officially, it wasn’t even the same group.
Lurdan Huszar (M): Right now, I really think we’re just as powerful as each other, maybe with a few holes here and there, but yeah. Breaking one of us seems impossible at this point.
Harlequin Salome: I would see victory come in the form of the Mercz admitting fault, and removing griefers rather than harbor them. *shrugs quietly* I’d prefer that not come as a result of violence.
Proteus Hand: However, the first one to suggest a compromise would, in my eyes, seem to show a surrender. Which I do not tolerate.
Urizenus Sklar: Harlequin, do you believe you can break the will of Proteus and the Merzcateers?
Harlequin Salome nods slowly. I think so. I’ve seen our fights, and generally they are lopsided until people resort to using sittargets, spawncamping, and the like. I don’t thin the AN is anything but the Immovable Object. We also are the Irresistable Force. I honestly feel that even if I could not make, say, Mr Hand admit we’re better, I could make it so he never raised a hand against the AN again. Its not about winning, its about making the foe realize not fighting is better than the alternative
Urizenus Sklar: Proteus, do you really think you can break the will of the AN?
although, I have had several strategies, but they were rather distasteful, not illegal, just against my personal method of doing things. I could not break Harlequin or Nanao. Or any member of the AN high command. I think they could say the same about us. the eight of us, are possibly the most stubborn people in second life.
Harlequin Salome: Honestly, I’ve never considered any options that were not on the level and fair. I’m rather surprised you have.
Proteus Hand: I consider everything. It’s what I do that makes the difference. But, at least I will admit it.
Harlequin Salome: Proteus, I’m getting a little annoyed at the veiled insults. We’re treating you with respect. Do the same.
Proteus Hand: My insults are slightly less veiled than yours are, oh worthy adversary.
Urizenus Sklar: Gentlemen …