Masks of Authority

Chronicles | YC110-07-28

Masks of Authority

Since the early days of the Caldari State, the eight corporate police forces of the Chief Executive Panel have played an important role in Caldari society. Figures of great public attention, reviled and worshiped in equal measure (often by the same person), these eight private militaries collectively match the official Caldari Army in numbers and far exceed it in training.

What are these forces, how do they operate, and how did they come to be?

Necessity and Invention

Some years after the dust of the Caldari-Gallente War had settled and the eight corporations of the Chief Executive Panel were getting acclimated to running an independent Caldari State, the issue of defense spending was raised at a national budget meeting. The Kaalakiota Corporation and the Sukuuvestaa Corporation were by this point well established as bitter competitors for the top of the revenue pile, and the subject spawned a heated debate between the two corporations’ CEOs.

The passage of time had done little to diminish the Kaalakiota leadership’s wartime alertness; they had long been advocates of increased military spending, particularly towards protection of assets in the homeland. The Sukuuvestaa, meanwhile, wanted the available funds diverted towards land partitioning on newly settled planets, reasoning that the creation of new assets was every bit as important as the protection of existing ones. That Kaalakiota dealt primarily in arms at the time, and Sukuuvestaa primarily in real estate, were topics not raised at the meeting.

Due to the rivalry between the two the discussion soon escalated far beyond its purview, and what began as a simple debate swiftly turned into a heated argument rife with overtones of power struggle. The remaining executives of the CEP, uncomfortable with this potential disruption in the works, voted to momentarily shelve the topic.

Kaalakiota was not happy. Shortly after the meeting, they announced that the corporation would be bringing its own financial resources to bear in forming an independent internal security force, "tasked with maintaining peace and order on all Kaalakiota holdings." This organization they called Home Guard, a name taken by the corporate-political community as a pointed reference to the dispute between the two leaders. Sukuuvestaa responded in kind by releasing a statement curtly announcing their intention to create their own military arm. In a direct jab at Kaalakiota, they named their force the "Peace and Order Unit." The other mega-corporations, not to be outdone, soon followed suit. Within the year, all eight members of the Chief Executive Panel had either announced or begun formation of their own internal security forces.

Smoke and Mirrors

From this bed of bluster sprouted the eight organizations known today as the Chief Executive Panel’s faces of power. Equal parts propaganda tool and police force, the corporate forces are in many ways the most direct outward representation of their parent corporations’ power, affluence, style and cultural significance. Seeking to capitalize on the relentless propaganda battle between the powers that be, Caldari entertainment interests have in recent years made very lucrative deals with these forces, hurling their desired images into the cultural zeitgeist in return for a slice of the profit pie.

Avoiding direct competition in favor of finding their own niche, each of the eight has diversified into their own particular area. Spacelane Patrol, CBD’s corporate force, is continually portrayed as a cadre of brash hotshots who travel from one corner of the universe to another on missions that usually involve much purposeful strutting around exotic locales. The Lai Dai Protection Service, meanwhile, are regularly shown to be a group of dashingly handsome tactical geniuses who devise complex original stratagems at the drop of a hat, usually under circumstances of extreme duress. Kaalakiota were the first to make this type of entertainment deal and have arguably been the most successful: Home Guard’s image is second to none, not just among the corporate corps establishment but also in the popular cultures of all four empires.

The glossy tropes of the public relations holoreels and the beige glamour of stylized war worship stand in stark contrast to the reality of these agencies, but most people have only a muddy awareness of the dichotomy. A man can be rudely treated by a brusque and superior Ishukone Watch officer and silently curse him for hours, but as soon as he gets home that evening he is just as likely to prop his feet up and enjoy a rousing serial where the Ishukone Watch’s superior technology and cunning allows it to root out Gurista spies and double-cross them into revealing their hideout. So pervasive is the propaganda that it is highly doubtful this man ever draws a parallel between the real thing and the image; the connection he draws, instead, is between the image and the mother corporation it represents.

Internal Security, the Nugoeihuvi Corporation’s force, poses a curious irony in this regard. Though the Nugoeihuvi conglomerate’s main preoccupation is the entertainment industry, they have consistently failed to change the prevalent cultural image of their troops as a pack of rough-and-tumble thugs culled from the Caldari underworld, given to the grossest abuses and atrocities. It’s very rare for elements of the Caldari State to find the rumor mill outgrinding them in their efforts at propaganda, but that’s what’s happening to Nugoeihuvi. (In reality, for the record, Nugoeihuvi’s soldiers are not any more or less savage than those of the other corporate forces, though broadly speaking they have been noted to harbor a slightly greater proclivity toward drink and drugs.)

Cloak and Dagger

Of course, the strong public relations utility of these forces does not mean that the good men and women that serve within them are mere puppets on a stage (though there exists, of course, a contingent of people willing to proclaim just that). It is an integral thing, for obvious practical reasons, that these militaries be proven without the shadow of a doubt to have aptitude in their profession. For this purpose a training summit is held each year at an undisclosed location, where the corporate forces lock horns in a series of combat- and survival-related challenges. This is the Haadoken Summit, and it is an event of great significance in Caldari culture.

Since nominally none of the corporations want the results to get out, the proceedings carry a veneer of secrecy. Betting on the event is strictly illegal, but it nonetheless creates underground gambling revenue far exceeding that of any official State sporting or entertainment event. Despite ledger upon ledger of regulations and reprimands, information about the results is invariably leaked by someone in the winner’s camp, and so it is in this crucible of competition that the holoreels, the slogans, the commercials and the claims are either gloriously validated or revealed as nothing but empty spectacle.

Though nobody is ever declared deceased during the proceedings, it is a matter of public record that at least a dozen die each year and many more are injured (the families of the fallen receive standardized letters of condolence claiming their loved one has died in a training accident). Being essentially a contest between corporate ideologies played out in a quasi-military arena, the event touches many nerves in the Caldari soul, and its various obstacles and scenarios have been immortalized in countless holoreels and serials. The winners of the last three Haadoken summits have been the Ishukone Watch, whose level of training and tactical skill appears to be currently unmatched within the corporate forces.

Bread and Butter

These agencies also perform the more mundane duties of a mega-corporation’s internal security force. They ceaselessly patrol the perimeters of their territories; they conduct counterstrikes against pirates and terrorists; and they are responsible for security on every ship, outpost, station, moon and planetside facility owned by their mother corporations. They are also granted legal authority to act as police proxies within corporate jurisdiction, though in all cases where regional police have a presence their authority supersedes that of the corporate police.

Corporate forces are often criticized for their policework. Some of the more common accusations are gruff and uncaring demeanor, propensity for unnecessary violence, and lack of response time (particularly to non-acute, non-violent crimes). There is a simple reason for this: among the corporate forces, policework – which invariably involves dealing with the great unwashed masses – is seen as a lower-rung duty, a job for those unfit to serve in more of a military capacity.

Worst of all is policework on space stations, which tend to be overcrowded with travellers from a staggering multitude of places, each possessing a different set of legal rights based on his nationality and organizational affiliation, and each of which is cranky and in a rush and probably sweating. Additionally, corporate interstellar law dictates that stations’ rental offices and other commercial zones be segmented into a patchwork of diplomatic units, each with its own rules and regulations. Policework on stations therefore tends to be an affair fraught with jurisdictional pratfalls and covered in a tangled underbrush of red tape.

To their credit, corporate forces do have a well-deserved reputation for responding swiftly and decisively when circumstances truly call for it. If things get very bad very fast – if there is a hostage situation, if there is a large brawl, if there is some sort of large-scale accident or disaster – the corps will be there, fast, and they’ll attack the problem with everything they’ve got. People may grumble about rudeness and laziness and bureaucracy, but regardless they rest content in the knowledge that if a true crisis presents itself, they’re in good hands.

Steel and Plasma

Altercations between the corporate forces exist on record, but in almost every case they have been small incidents based on misunderstanding, with warning shots the only ordnance released. A notable exception is an incident known as the Ingalles incident, where soldiers belonging to the Wiyrkomi Peace Corps opened fire on a Hyasyoda convoy being escorted by the Hyasyoda’s agency, the Corporate Police Force.

The Hyasyoda detail had received advance clearance for entry into the outpost, a high-tier classified Wiyrkomi research node buried in the shadow of a Citadel moon. They were to escort the CEO of a subsidiary of Hyasyoda’s, Santra Alloys, to a meeting with a high-ranking Wiyrkomi scientist. The arrangement was legitimate (if unusual), but the Wiyrkomi Peace Corps saw incongruity in the direct meeting of a CEO and a scientist.

They stopped the convoy and conducted a heavy-handed interrogation. Due to a fatal combination of bad intel and jittery nerves, they then ended up attacking it, killing four people and destroying the reputation of their police force for years to come. (To this day, the Wiyrkomi Peace Corps are something of a laughing stock among the corporate forces, and to compound things they consistently place near the bottom of the yearly summit’s scoreboards.)

Today and Tomorrow

It is unclear at this moment whether Tibus Heth, the Caldari State’s newly instated Executor, has any specific plans for the corporate forces. It is considered likely, however, that he will try to gain control of them and use them for his ends if hostilities with the Gallente Federation escalate any further. Doing so will be easier said than done, as these organizations retain a great deal of power in the name of their public appeal, to say nothing of their competent and well-equipped soldiery. The allegiances of the complex network of sponsors, affiliates and marketers they associate with, however, are wholly unknown.

During the invasion of Caldari Prime, all eight forces lent manpower to various aspects of the operation, from tactical strikes to civilian relocation, and the squadrons who participated have now mostly come back. Some scarred by atrocity, others whetted and ready for more, they are returning to their compatriots bearing tales of woe and grandeur on the blasted front. Where their loyalties will fall – and what sort of influence they’ll spread – is anybody’s guess.

If and when the time comes for Heth to begin making inroads, it remains to be seen what the CEOs of the Chief Executive Panel will do to hold on to these flagbearers of their outward image. One thing is certain, at any rate: whoever commands these forces controls a good deal more than just a group of men with guns.