January opened with rising tension between the Minmatar Republic and the Amarr Empire due to a series of attacks in the Empire's Bleak Lands region over the preceding months. Put down to the activities of the Minmatar splinter group know as 'The Defiants,' one attack in particular had successfully destroyed an Amarr battlestation, the first such to be destroyed since the Great Rebellion. The surprise attack by the Defiants, assisted by rebel capsuleers from the Ushra'Khan and Fimbulwinter, led Amarr strategists to question the effectiveness of their security arrangements in the region.
While some chose to put the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Court Chamberlain Dochuta Karsoth, interim ruler of the Amarr Empire, others noted that discipline and the chain of command was in danger of breaking down after so long without an Emperor. For his part, Chamberlain Karsoth preferred to concentrate on the role the Minmatar Republic may have played in the events, with sources from his office letting it be known that Amarr believed the Republic Fleet was supporting the rebels in the Bleak Lands in contravention of the peace between the two empires. The Republic Fleet dismissed all such talk as 'ludicrous' and disavowed the Defiants once more.
As the Bleak Lands became more unstable, the situation in the key Kor-Azor region of the Amarr Empire seemed as if it might calm down, as the minor houses of Darabi and Miyan held a peace summit in Kor-Azor Prime. The warfare between these minor houses, who had been fighting over a point of honor concerning the daughter of Holder Iraj Darabi (as well as a territorial dispute), had been of such concern that Amarr capsuleers had involved themselves in the diplomacy. Unfortunately, whatever hopes the summit may have promised were dashed as the meeting went on. With the territorial claims over the Nebian system causing uproar among both sides, Mina Darabi was confronted by House Miyan's Commander Harkan and fainted. The summit soon broke up, deadlocked. Hostilities were resumed only two days later when a Darabi transporter was fired on by Miyan forces, breaking the ceasefire.
Maleatu Shakor, Speaker of the Republic Parliament, responded to continuing complaints from the Amarr Empire over the Defiants and the Bleak Lands situation with his customary disdain for his old foes. Dismissing the complaints as an 'over-reaction,' the Brutor parliamentarian also considered them to be unsurprising given his view of Chamberlain Karsoth's need to salvage the situation for domestic political purposes. Indeed, the continual accusations of Republic involvement were accompanied by substantially increased Imperial Navy deployments in the Bleak Lands. Shakor was clear enough in his denials of Republic help for the Defiants, however, even if he expressed personal sympathy for his old friend Karishal Muritor, the group's leader.
February saw a surprising development in the story of the Defiants, as the Republic Fleet moved to once and for all quash the accusations of its assisting the rebel splinter group. Drawn to the Auga system for a meeting under flag of truce with Republic Fleet Admiral Kanth Filmir, Karishal Muritor, leader of the Defiants and former Captain in the Republic Fleet, was killed after refusing to cease his terrorist activities and trying to leave the meeting place. Witnessess said the Minmatar capsuleers accompanying Muritor opened fire on the Republic Fleet but stood down at the express order of Muritor himself, who refused to open fire on his old comrades. Muritor's last words are believed to have been: "Do not forget what we achieved with so few. Do not forget."
Soon after, the Minmatar Republic acknowledged responsibility for the death of Karishal Muritor, confirming that the order to bring the rebel captain in alive or dead came from the highest level. The shocking news that the Republic government, and Prime Minister Karin Midular herself, had authorized the death of a decorated officer and freedom fighter provoked rallies against the Midular administration across the Republic. On Gelfiven V, one such rally descended into violence in the city of Dober Harn. Nine were killed and dozens arrested, as rioters traded firebombs with police using anti-riot weaponry. The responsibility for the firebombings was soon claimed by an organization styling itself "The Bloody Hands of Matar," apparently inspired by the Ushra'Khan, who had called for the resignation of Midular and placed a 1 ISK bounty on her head.
In the Amarr Empire, while not commenting publicly, the Chamberlain's office let it be known that Dochuta Karsoth was 'eminently satisfied' with the outcome. Meanwhile, as the Muritor affair played out, the warfare between Houses Darabi and Miyan came to an end, with the Miyan fleet decisively defeated by Darabi forces in the Fensi system. The surrender of House Miyan resulted in the loss of its control of Nebian and Fensi, ceded to the Darabi with the consent of the Royal House Kor-Azor.
On the first day of March, the Theology Council issued an unusual statement confirming attacks on its assets but claiming to have made progress on the matter, particularly in the capture of two attackers with help from loyalist capsuleers. For some reason, the Kor-Azor Family saw fit to comment on the affair and pledge its support. Commentators wondered if this was linked to increasing criticism of the methods of the Kor-Azor security forces, widely regarded as extremely brutal even by Amarr standards, and concerns as to recent proclamations by Royal Heir Aritcio Kor-Azor. A decree that had aroused much comment declared that if any slaver hound was found outside at the same time as the Heir's own favorite slaver, Gaius, the owner would be tortured to death and fed to the offending animal.
The situation in the Kor-Azor territories became more serious when the Holders of the planet Liparer II refused to obey a decree insisting they wear the soiled and blood-spattered clothes of slaves - a punishment for some slight that had reached the ears of the unstable Royal Heir. Aritcio dispatched a fleet to Liparer, declaring the whole planet treasonous and ordering the heads of the recalcitrant Holders to be brought before him. With the Holders resisting, and heavy fighting taking place, the Kor-Azor fleet had made up its mind to bombard the planet into submission. They were halted only by the surprise intervention of Brother Joshua of the Order of the Speakers of Truth - an order with some judicial authority in the Amarr Empire under certain circumstances.
As the month came to a close, Amarr Royal Heir Uriam Kador spoke out on the matter of the Imperial Succession, advocating that the Royal Heirs move the process forward if Court Chamberlain Dochuta Karsoth was unable or unwilling to do so.
The Imperial Succession debate widened in April, with House Sarum Steward Pomik Haromi and Royal Heir Aritcio Kor-Azor taking the opportunity to express their views at a meeting of the Amarr Privy Council. While Pomik Haromi insisted on purity of race in any trial champions, he nevertheless refrained from indicating whether House Sarum would finally confirm a new Heir to replace Jamyl Sarum. Aritcio Kor-Azor's position amounted to insisting that there was only one logical candidate for the Imperial Throne: himself. Aritcio soon found himself brought low, however, when Speaker of Truth Brother Joshua found the Kor-Azor Heir guilty of mass transgressions against the people of his domain. The Heir was sentenced to a punishment of physical restitution according to ancient religious law, with him paying the price for his excesses just short of death itself.
Beyond the Amarr Empire April brought mixed fortunes, with the Caldari State experiencing a child creche scandal and allegations of secret dealings delaying the sale of technology corporation Innovaatio Varustukset, while the Gallente Federation's latest budget report showed a burgeoning economic upswing. The Minmatar Republic's Karin Midular admitted that secret talks with the Ammatar Consulate had been ongoing, to the outrage of many who saw this as yet more confirmation of the Prime Minister's 'appeasement' of the Amarr.
As the month ended, the Imperial Succession debate was further fueled by the interventions of Houses Ardishapur and Tash-Murkon. The latter took the view that any restriction of champions to True Amarr heritage would be undesirable, an unsurprising position for the Udorian bloodline house to take. Yonis Ardishapur, after a conference with Court Chamberlain Karsoth, took the view that the entire process should be reformed but definitely controlled by those of True Amarr blood. With little sign of agreement between the Heirs, and Aritcio Kor-Azor indisposed for some time to come, progress on the Succession seemed as far away as ever.
The Ammatar Governor's confirmation that the Ammatar Consulate had been in talks with the Minmatar Republic, and that the Amarr Empire had been informed in advance, did nothing to ease Minmatar anti-government feeling in May. A minor crisis was precipitated toward the end of the month when the Ammatar representative to the Republic was killed in a station-bombing in the Egbonbet system. The Bloody Hands of Matar claimed responsibility for this, demonstrating a new level of sophistication and greater reach than had been expected of them.
The Caldari State had to deal with its own troubling popular movement as the Brothers of Freedom organized protests against corporate excesses. A freighter carrying members and supporters of the movement to the Chief Executive Panel station in New Caldari was attacked by the paramilitary capsuleers of the Caldari Independent Navy Reserve, alongside members of the Guardian Shadows organization, resulting in over 65,000 deaths. In addition to this, the troubled Caldari technology corporation Innovaatio Varustukset suffered first a robbery of its main laboratory and then the kidnapping of a scientist by the Guristas crime organization. Fortunately, Nugoeihuvi's Internal Security division were later able to recover the abducted scientist.
June brought ruin for Innovaatio Varustukset when the corporation's primary research station was destroyed by capsuleers acting at the behest of a renegade Nugoeihuvi employee. More news of capsuleer misdeeds came with the confirmation by the Caldari Navy that the main responsibility for the New Caldari freighter massacre rested with the mysterious Guardian Shadows organization and the capsuleers that had assisted them. The Caldari State was forced to deal with riots breaking out across its territories, orchestrated by the Brothers of Freedom movement and suppressed by the Navy and megacorporations security forces at the cost of thousands of casualties.
Having been found guilty of tax fraud earlier in the year, in July the Caldari Gaming Commission pulled out of hosting the capsuleer Alliance Tournaments. The popular event was saved when the newly-formed Independent Gaming Commission stepped into the breach, promising a bigger and better tournament than ever before.
The Caldari State finally restored a semblance of order, suppressing the Brothers of Freedom protests and riots. By August they even claimed to have killed the only two capsuleers to profess membership in the outlawed movement. Simultaneous strikes against the ships and cloning bays of the two capsuleers ensured they would not be returning from the dead.
August was also notable for the capture by Gallente Federation Customs of a Serpentis Corporation carrier laden with the designer drug Rise. Several members of the Intaki Illoren movement were later arrested by Federation authorities when they protested the handling of the carrier capture, among them Vorada Kuvakei, former Mordu's Legion officer and leader of the Illoren.
Vorada Kuvakei and his associates were not long in gaining their freedom, for in September a plea bargain saw them released by the Federation, to much comment and speculation. Overshadowing all news this month, however, was the 4th Alliance Tournament, an event most spectators agreed was the most thrilling of the series yet. Highlights included the then-unprecedented defeat of the Band of Brothers alliance by the Star Fraction's ten-man Thorax charge and, of course, the final itself, where the championship was taken by worthy winners HUN Reloaded after a hard-fought battle against runners-up Pandemic Legion.
CONCORD may have considered its business in YC109 to be routine so far, and it was able to announce a naming committee for the so-called "Drone Regions" before October began. Unfortunately for the peace-keeping organization, it was to be the subject of rumor and outrage before the month was over. The resignation of CONCORD Commander Gispali Rhatal started whispers when his service record was discovered to contain numerous inconsistencies. This was followed by the hijacking of a CONCORD prison transport in the Eurgrana system by unknown but undoubtedly daring terrorists. CONCORD authorities ensured the destruction of the transport and its hijackers by placing an emergency bounty on the ship, which capsuleers rushed to collect when the ship undocked.
November started with the discovery by Poteque Pharmaceuticals scientists of potentially harvestable gas clouds in low-security Gallente space. The gas clouds were to be a theme of the month, with scientists and corporations in other empires discovering similar cloud formations using Poteque's techniques. Associated with booster production, gas clouds harvestable for complex chemicals were always a controversial issue. However, the nascent furor over the discoveries was damped down by analyses showing that little or no high-value resources could be derived from them.
CONCORD tried to take the heat out of conspiracy theories about former Commander Gispali Rhatal by classifying inconsistencies as filing errors and showing that the CONCORD officer had been a logistics coordinator during the period missing from his record. The affair retained a life of its own through the month, however, with the Gallente Federation involving itself in the case of missing CONCORD Captain Bethol Kozer, whose partner Mera Vahlsina believed Rhatal had relevant information. Eventually, CONCORD's Inner Circle responded to the Federation, indicating they would look into the matter.
In the meantime, the Amarr Empire's Ministry of Assessment took the step of declaring the Bleak Lands region to be the most dangerous sector of settled space within the Empire. The Ministry attributed the Bleaks' falling below Aridia in safety terms to a significant rise in pirateattacks and the activities of remaining pockets of Blood Raider loyalists. With local Holders expressing their own concerns, Court Chamberlain Dochuta Karsoth declined to comment on the matter. Even when an entire colony of Minmatar slaves vanished after an attack by an unidentified force, the Amarr Empire's administration remained silent, despite pressure from the Holders.
December saw the arrival in the troubled Bleak Lands of the Amarr 7th Fleet under the command of Admiral Vanazir Saracen. Losing no time in trying to establish order in the region, the 7th Fleet began a program of fortifications and initiated regular patrols. Local Holders were broadly welcoming of this development, though some complained about the Imperial tithe instituted by Admiral Saracen.
A variety of new technologies emerged in the last few weeks of the year, with new possibilities bestowed upon the independent pilot through developments in advanced weapons points, drone control systems and a remarkable new technique for generating a warp disruption field around ships' hulls. Even the low-security gas clouds that had been dismissed as worthless were found to hold potential for a new form of "synthetic booster" production. CONCORD was happy to license the new technologies on its usual basis of sharing across all empires and also announced its official nomenclature for the "Drone Regions," the eight regions exchanging their previous alpha-numeric designations for proper names.
Despite the arrival of the 7th Fleet in the Bleak Lands, the year YC109 was to end with conflict in the region flaring up anew. As the Amarr forces pressed ahead with their fortification program, they confidently took their communications relays offline in order to upgrade them. Within minutes the Minmatar Defiants launched multiple surprise attacks on the 7th Fleet. Independent media networks broadcast a chilling message: "You thought we were gone. You were wrong."
It seemed that despite the death of their leader, Karishal Muritor, the rebel group was still a force to be reckoned with. They showed this throughout the remainder of the year as strike after strike was launched on the 7th Fleet and other Amarr facilities. The culmination of this campaign was the destruction of the Imperial Navy's central defense cortex in the Bleak Lands, leaving the 7th Fleet struggling without command and control. As the year drew to a close it seemed in no doubt that the estimations of Defiant capabilities by Amarr commanders had been woefully inadequate.