A dramatic increase in space travelers within regions traditionally associated with pirates lead the DED to instigate and enforce new directives in interstellar law enforcement. This marked the beginning of the DED's (and CONCORD's) controversial and secretive chain of operations through the first part of the year. The four empires ran into problems with independent "rogue miners," who were harvesting asteroid belts previously staked for the empires' use. These difficulties were addressed with increased cooperation between CONCORD and empire navies, but by the time this arrangement was established much of the rare ore had been harvested already. Sad times for the empires' coffers, but lucrative ones for the freelancers.
Early in June, the SCC briefly stepped into the interstellar media spotlight by mediating the long-standing disagreements between academics of all stripes and the manufacturers of the skill packs their work was put into. This dispute, dubbed by pundits "the Second Gallente-Caldari War" due to the nationalities of the corporations and schools most vocal in the dispute (the CBD Corporation and the University of Caille), had escalated into an all-out strike which cut off the availability of skill packs in most colonized regions of the universe. Twenty-four hours later, the SCC had agreed upon emergency legislation which re-established order in the marketplace, and were hailed as saviors by starving academics and starship pilots alike
June also saw the emergence of a new breed of terrorist, one without apparent political aims. Early in the month, CONCORD issued a travel warning to all those passing through the Obe system, stating that "unknown marauders" had been preying on innocent traders. This was only the first of many outbreaks of lawlessness within empire borders, and CONCORD found itself forced to deploy Special Ops units to keep the marauders at bay. Throughout the month, much speculation surrounded the methods CONCORD would utilize to stem this crime tide, most of which were neither disclosed to press nor public, but which would prove extremely effective. CONCORD's first step in this direction was the publishing of the first interstellar Most Wanted List, which was initially topped by the infamous marauder Lord Zap.
On the 26th of June citizens of the empires celebrated the First Contact Festival marking the 105th anniversary of the Yoiul Conference, that historic meeting of minds where the guidelines for Trans-Empire peace and cooperation were originally set. First Contact Festivals are a time of chaotic revelry and this year's was no exception, as whole systems shut down their commercial operations and gave themselves to the celebration.
At the beginning of July CONCORD pulled two aces out of its sleeve: we saw the arrival of the new superhighway system they had been touting for months previously, and we suddenly saw automated armaments at every empire jump gate we went to. The new spacelanes, combined with CONCORD's increased presence and subsequent quelling of the crime tide, ushered in an era of tremendous economic growth. The robotics industry alone reported an almost 200% increase in revenue over the course of the next months, as independent traders and corporations alike were able to take to their business without fear for their lives.
Around the middle of the month, news leaked from the Gallente Federation that negotiations for a major research pact between the Federation and the Caldari State were underway. Initially neither side could be reached for confirmation but as the days passed and the world watched, more rumors circulated and more details came to light. On the 27th of the month, the two governments released a joint statement announcing the existence of the Crielere Research Laboratories, a cooperative project involving some of the two empires' best scientific minds. The project was hailed by many as a triumph for Gallente-Caldari relations, and described by analysts as "a milestone to remember for these two former enemies."
This month also saw Amarr Emperor Heideran VII as the surprise recipient of the Aidonis Foundation's award for his contributions to inter-stellar peace and improved empire relations. The announcement came as a shock to many, even prompting violent attacks from Minmatar rebel factions, but most political analysts agreed that Heideran was well deserving of the award, citing his tireless efforts to thaw out the icy walls built between Amarr and the other empires over the last centuries and temper the aggressive tendencies of his massive nation.
In August the universe was held in rapt attention as news filtered out that a Jove admiral named Ouria had gone rogue after giving away a high-technology item to a non-Jove, thus violating the non-interference law imposed by the Jove directorate upon all its subjects. Ouria's defection was discovered when word spread of a secret meeting taking place somewhere in the Stain region of space between a group of Jove and an unknown party. During this meeting, an Amarr pilot who had been determined to investigate the proceedings was shot down by Jove ships, sparking a diplomatic incident between the two empires. Following this, the Jove released the information that Admiral Ouria had been stricken with the deadly psychological disorder known as the Jovian Disease and declared him an exile from the Jove Empire, disavowing responsibility and denouncing his actions. CONCORD went one step further, placing a 100 million ISK bounty on his head.
Reports continued to resurface sporadically from the Stain region, where Ouria's renegade band was rumored to be scouting around for territories to set up operations in. Their attempts were met with sustained resistance from the corporations of the Stain Alliance and after one particularly bloody and decisive battle, Ouria managed to escape into hiding. A few days later, information came to light that Ouria had developed ties with the infamous Minmatar rebel faction Oracle and rumors circled that he was in talks with them about an alliance. After managing to intercept communications between Ouria and one of his brothers, CONCORD was able to issue a general warning for the sectors of Stain space where the Admiral was believed to be located. Following this narrowing of the field, a massive fleet of Stain Alliance ships tracked down and engaged Ouria and his contingent of Oracle soldiers, defeating the Jovian and his Minmatar cohorts after a long and bloody struggle.
Also in August, Amarr-Minmatar relations took a drastic turn for the worse when an Amarr ambassador was shot down by a squadron of Minmatar rebels on his way into Ammatar space. The motives for the attack became clear when it was revealed that the ambassador had been carrying top-secret intelligence documents intended for the Ammatar Consulate, detailing the names and locations of known Minmatar rebel leaders, their bases and defenses. It was believed this was to have been the first step by the Amarr towards quelling the rising tide of Minmatar incursions into Ammatar space by applying tactical strikes to key rebel targets. Following the incident a familiar dance played itself out between the two nations: the Minmatar Republic deplored the raid whilst denying any knowledge of it, and the Amarr Empire countered that the Republic's inability to control their own people was inexcusable, clearly placing the responsibility in the Republic's hands.
Aran'gar of the Bleak Cabal, one of the raiders involved in the attack, when interviewed from an undisclosed location somewhere inside Minmatar space, released a statement characteristic to the climate of increasing hostility the next months would bring: "My duty is to save those who are enslaved. I do not expect the Amarr to understand this, but as long as they keep innocent people as slaves their citizens will suffer my wrath."
September saw what was perhaps the year's greatest single shift in the interstellar political climate: the passing of Amarr Emperor Heideran VII. Following announcements earlier in the month that the Emperor had fallen ill, and subsequent expressions of concern from world leaders and massive vigils held by the Emperor's loyal subjects, on the 17th it was declared that Heideran VII had departed this mortal coil. The news sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the four empires, resulting in record instability of markets and universal uncertainty over what the future would hold. In response the Amarr Imperial Succession Committee went to work right away, setting in motion plans for the Amarr Imperial Championship, an event that would decide which of the five ruling houses' heirs would succeed Heideran to the throne. Details of this Championship were leaked from the committee late in the month, revealing that the Champions - combat pilots who would get the chance to compete, one for each house, alongside three wingmen in closed frigate battles -- were to be selected via a popular vote, as a gesture of commitment to the departed emperor's legacy of honoring the traditions of other nations. This enraged various fundamentalist factions within Amarr, most notably Jamyl Sarum, who released a scathing public statement denouncing the decision as "heretical."
More fighting took place between Amarr and Minmatar pilots after a ship carrying several hundred freed slave children was attacked and destroyed en route to Minmatar space, where they were to have started new lives among relatives in the Republic. Investigations into the atrocity revealed that a small fanatical Amarr religious cult named Tetrimon ("Divine Devotion") had been responsible. Amid cries for blood from outraged Minmatar everywhere, a squad of fierce Minmatar warriors tracked down and killed two of the cult's high priestesses. The cult has not been heard from since, though a number of its members are believed to be still at large.
October was the month of the Amarr Championships. Throughout the month, cunning commanders and their fearless wingmen swooped through the Amarr skies, each championing their cause in the most literal way imaginable. The Empire watched raptly as the Champions, through their actions, determined the course of their collective future. After a series of thrilling matches which spanned the course of two weeks and featured some of the finest tactics ever seen on a battlefield, only one Champion stood left: Ecliptical, Champion of the House of Kor-Azor.
In October we also saw the first seedlings of the Protein Delicacies fiasco take root. Late in the month, the Sukuuvestaa Corporation released the by-now infamous line of food products, hailed as revolutionary at the time due to their low price, great flavor and incredible production efficiency. The Gallente Federation's Department of Education didn't take long to see the economic benefits, and within days had signed a deal with the Sukuuvestaa Corporation to supply all Gallente schools with the new wonder food, which would save the Department billions of ISK that could be used for reforms elsewhere in the education system.
During the last days of October and throughout the beginning of November reports began to come in of decreasing test scores within the Gallente school system, as well as an increase in student truancy and disciplinary problems. An investigative committee was assembled to search for the reasons behind this sudden drop, but made little headway initially. A few days later, the Quafe Company suddenly released information that proved beyond doubt that the main ingredients in the Protein Delicacies were in fact organic waste, processed station sewage and second grade biomass. The Caldari State's Chief Executive Panel was quick to respond, promising that an investigation would be undertaken to determine whether there was cause for further action in the matter.
Some days later, the Gallente Federal Senate lodged a formal inquiry as to how the Sukuuvestaa Corporation had managed to conceal the dubious origin of their food product from health boards and other agencies. At about the same time, the Suukuvestaa Corporation suddenly released a statement on the issue, denouncing the Quafe Company's "deplorable" industrial espionage and accusing the popular soft-drink manufacturer of having intended to steal the manufacturing process for the Protein Delicacies. Interestingly, the Suukuvestaa statement made no mention whatsoever of the delicacies' unsavory contents, a clear indicator to some that they were apathetic to the situation.
It was about this time that the Gallente investigative committee delivered their findings: apparently, studies indicated a clear link between consumption of Protein Delicacies and decreasing cognitive ability. This prompted a moral outcry from the Federation's citizens, as well as a formal request from the Federation to the Caldari State demanding indemnities for the selling of the contaminated products. The Chief Executive Panel convened for the decision, and two days later released a statement saying that "The business practices employed in the manufacturing and marketing of the Protein Delicacies were not significantly different from what normally takes place in a capitalistic economy, and there is unsatisfactory evidence to suggest any deliberate foul play at work."
This prompted an uproar within the Federation Senate, many senators taking extreme stances and some even going as far as to suggest a renewal of the war. The President and the Federal Cabinet were less outspoken on the matter, but persistent rumors circulated that President Foiritan was deliberating on some ways to "get back" at the Caldari. Whether or not this is true has not become clear yet, but one thing remains certain: Gallente-Caldari relations, which had been steadily improving over the past years, have with this incident taken their biggest single downturn since the war between the two nations still raged.
November also saw the award ceremony for the Championships, and later the historic inauguration of the new Amarr Emperor, Doriam Kor-Azor. The ceremony was held at the end of the month at an undisclosed location, and was described by some as the most tense moment in modern Amarr history. It began, as all Amarr inauguration ceremonies have begun throughout the ages, with the ritual suicide -- or Shathol'Syn -- of the contending houses' heirs. Just as it was Jamyl Sarum's turn to end her life, however, warships from the Sarum fleet interrupted the ceremony, launching missiles at Kor-Azor's ship. Sarum ordered them off, and immediately thereafter prematurely performed the Shathol'Syn without naming an heir to her dynasty, thus leaving her estate essentially headless. Despite this jarring event the ceremony continued as planned, with Kor-Azor delivering a rousing speech where he stated his intentions to bring peace and prosperity through negotiations and goodwill. The ceremony was concluded without incident.
The first half of December saw life returning to normal for most of the world's inhabitants. With a new emperor on the throne of the largest nation in the universe, the uncertainty that had plagued many people's lives over the last few months had abated and the economy had re-stabilized itself. Doriam Kor-Azor had begun his rule, and was already making waves in the interstellar political arena with moves that analysts touted as "just good politics, plain and simple." One notable incident concerned the fleet of now-headless superpower House Sarum; on the 11th of the month several squadrons massed at Sarum Prime, prompting CONCORD to increase their own presence in the system, bumping it up to a new level of security. At first speculations ran rampant regarding what the Sarum fleet was up to with this massive consolidation of forces, but no indication has been given of any movement from Sarum Prime as of yet.
In the latter half of December, we experienced the beginning of what may be the greatest technological leap of the decade when the Crielere project's technological advances were unveiled and made freely available to the public. The announcement came from Otro Gariushi, the CEO of Ishukone Corporation, amidst much public doubt and speculation - why were the Gallente and the Caldari sharing the results of their research so freely? Whatever the answer, the world's nations haven't been resting on their laurels; a great deal of Minmatar Brutor have been overtly clamoring for a war effort against the Amarr, reportedly confident that the new technology gives them just the edge they needed to strike at the heart of the giant. The Sebiestor Tribe, however, haven't been quite so quick on the trigger and have tried their best to tone down their brothers' rough-hewn rhetoric. Nevertheless, the rumor mill churns away merrily with all sorts of tales of underground war efforts being supported by high-ranking government agencies within the Minmatar Republic.