Readings — From the February 2013 issue

Our Man in Jabberlon

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From a September 12, 2012, post by The Mittani, a member of the Goonswarm alliance in the role-playing game Eve Online, on a website that provides news about the fictional world of the game. Vile Rat was the alias used in the game by Sean Smith, a State Department official killed in the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

We knew that Vile Rat was in Benghazi; he told us. He was in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the Net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber and talking about Internet spaceship games. The last time he did something like this, he was in Baghdad in 2007 or 2008. He would be on Jabber, then say something like “incoming” and vanish for a while as the Katyushas came down from Sadr City (State had been in the former Saddam Hussein palace on the Tigris before they built that $2 billion fortress-embassy). He got out of Baghdad physically unscathed and had some more relaxing postings after that. Montreal, then The Hague.

If you play this stupid game, you may not realize it, but you play in a galaxy created in large part by Vile Rat’s talent as a diplomat. No one focused as relentlessly on using diplomacy as a strategic tool. Mercenary Coalition flipped sides in the Great War largely because of Vile Rat’s influence, and if that hadn’t happened, GSF probably would never have taken out BoB. Jabberlon5? VR made it. You may not even know what Jabberlon5 is, but it’s the smoke-filled Jabber room where every nullsec personage of note hangs out and makes deals. Goonswarm has succeeded over the years in large part because of VR’s emphasis on diplomacy. He created an entire section with a staff of 10+ called Corps Diplomatique, something no other alliance has. He had the vision and the understanding to see three steps ahead of everyone else — in the game and when giving real-world advice.

Vile Rat was a spy for the Goonfleet Intelligence Agency. He infiltrated Lotka Volterra; he and I cooked up a scheme where we faked VR blowing up one of Sorenson’s haulers full of zydrine in Syndicate — this was back in ’06 when zydrine mattered — and that proved to Lotka Volterra that he had gone “fuck goons.” BoB invaded Syndicate, and shortly thereafter, GSF went to Insmother, allied with Red Alliance, and plowed over Lotka Volterra’s territory, all with Vile Rat’s aid. He came back in from the cold and became one of the most key players in the GSF directorate. His influence over the grand game and the affairs of nullsec cannot be overstated. If you were an alliance leader of any consequence, you spoke to Vile Rat. You knew him.

He was on Jabber when it happened — that’s the most fucked-up thing. In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened — incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out, and he’d come back okay after a bit. This time he said “FUCK” and “GUNFIRE” and then disconnected and never returned.

Then the major media began reporting on the consulate and embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt and I freaked out, and then it turned out that it was my friend of six years who’d helped build this alliance into what it is today, starting out as one of my agents and growing to become the single most influential diplomat in the history of Eve.

I’m clearly in shock as I write this, as everything is buzzing around my head funnily and I feel kind of dead inside. I’m not sure if this is how I’m supposed to react to my friend being killed by a mob in postrevolutionary Libya, but it’s pretty awful and Sean was a great guy and he was a goddamned master at this game we all play. It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall badass for his skills in an Internet spaceship game, but that’s how most of us know him, so there you go.

R.I.P., my friend.

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  • Anderton Faln

    RIP Sean Smith

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