We are at the stake
And bayed about with many enemies;
And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,
Millions of mischiefs.
William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar
Recent developments in nullsec do not bode well for the future of Honey Badger Coalition (HBC).
Pandemic Legion (PL) exited the the coalition a few weeks back. This was ostensibly due to a little diplomatic hiccup involving PL ships shooting up HBC ships which fanned the flames of mistrust some HBC alliances felt for Legio Pandemica owing to the latter's take-over of coalition leadership following the undermining and subsequent ouster of Test's Montolio. PL took the opportunity to formally separate themselves from HBC. In so doing, however, they maintained proxy control over the HBC by leading behind Pandemic veteran, Sort Dragon, as leader of the HBC.
Recall that in Farms and Fields: Metagame and Breakfast of Champions, I'd pointed out that Clusterfuck Coalition (CFC) would not tolerate HBC as a potential threat to CFC's hegemony over nullsec. I've no doubt that the CFC/Pandemic Legion engineered take-down of Montolio engendered a lot of crocodile smiles and high-fives in the smoke-filled rooms of nullsec. However, the smiles on the CFC side of the table would have faded somewhat at the prospect of PL controlling nullsec's largest coalition.
PL by itself could cause the CFC a great deal of trouble. PL leading nullsec's largest coalition is an 'extinction-level' threat from the CFC's point of view, and can not be tolerated. Montolio, while openly hostile to the CFC, would have been in many ways easier to counter than the subtle knife play Pandemic Legion has shown itself capable of. On the Pandemic Legion side of the fence, control of the HBC afforded PL options and a certain leverage in dealings with the CFC that they were reluctant to throw away. It will not have been lost upon the Pandemic leadership that, without the HBC as a counterbalance, CFC's 'recommendations' to PL will quickly become outright demands and directives.
Thus PL and CFC metagamers circled the ring, fists raised, while declaring mutual respect and permanent affection for one other; the CFC demanding dismemberment (or at least emasculation) of the Honey Badger Coalition, and PL attempting to retain a playable hand against the time when CFC decides that PL's naughty scalawags and pride parades have no place in nullsec's new order.
Then, during fan fest, Sort Dragon announced that HBC would go to war against both Nulli Secunda and Pandemic Legion. Which meant that Sort Dragon was leading the HBC into a war against the Alliance he had recently been part of and plans to return to at some point in the future.
Now, with the non-invasion pact (NIP) between PL and HBC in place, some Honey Badgers assured themselves, this will be a 'fun' war, some of the 'controlled PvP' Pandemic has been promoting. However, it should be noted that, in this situation, the NIP agreement benefits PL far more than it does HBC. While HBC cannot attack PL sovereignty infrastructure there is no prohibition against Nulli attacking HBC sovereignty infrastructure. Which means that PL's sov is safe during the war, while HBC's is a risk. And, depending on the terms of the NIP, PL may be free to drive off HBC supercapitals prior to a Nulli Sov attack or otherwise screening Nulli's sov attack as long as PL doesn't directly attack the structures themselves. After all, grinding structures is not PLs thing. But if Nulli wants to grind stuctures, it's not PL's lookout, nor is it PL's responsibility to preserve HBC systems.
In this way, the war with Nulli could be used to prune back HBC, satisfying the CFC's wants for the moment. At the same time, it would leave Pandemic Legion positioned to control the amount of damage done and emerge with a diminished, but viable ally.
Of course 'dogpiling' is par for the course in nullsec. HBC has created a long list of enemies in its march to power. Many exiles from sovereign nullsec, particularly in the South, will be preparing to savage HBCs flanks if it's attention turns to a Northern war with Nulli and PL. Thus the situation for HBC could spin out of control and deteriorate very quickly. In that case, PL would likely decide to cut it's losses and cherry pick corporations and alliances from the HBC wreckage. Likewise, expect CFC to offer tea, sympathy and refuge under the CFC banner to selected HBC corporations and alliances should HBC begin to crumble.
So, you see, HBC is rather caught in the middle. Without independent leadership, they are well and truly chained to the bear-baiting stake, and bayed about by enemies. Their friends, meanwhile, smile at them; offering assurances of friendship, but no concrete offers of support, and all the while sharpen the knives that will slice and dice HBC's fate. Options for the HBC member alliances are few, and all of them are fraught with risk. If they maintain their present course, the HBC is likely to be slowly torn apart by enemies and friends alike. If a coup displaces Sort Dragon, it will doubtless cause a schism in HBC's ranks, ending the NIP with Pandemic Legion and causing HBC to be quickly torn apart by enemies and friends alike.
There is, however, a third option; one that Test Alliance Please Ignore availed itself of yesterday. Hit the eject button and leave HBC.
In an announcement to Test Alliance Sunday morning, Test's executor BoodaBooda stated that he had been directed by HBC coalition leadership after Fan Fest to assume the roles and duties HBC leadership deemed appropriate to an HBC middle manager. The details are sketchy, but it seems to have amounted to "stable your horse, hand in your pistols and sabre, and take a desk in the coalition cubicle farm". One assumes there was an 'or else', either explicit or implied, attached to the directive. Before Sort's post Fan Festcall with HBC CEOs was complete, BoodaBoodat had negotiated blue standing with Raiden, Tribal Band, Kill it With Fire and The Initiative and initiated plans to leave the HBC and pull Test back into a more defensible space. During the announcement call, a Test officer was in the process of resetting most of the rest of HBC.
It's a risky strategy, to be sure. As nominal leader of the HBC during its rise, Test made a lot of enemies. If Sort Dragon decides that dealing with Test in order to prevent more defections from HBC is a more pressing business than the war with Nulli, Test may find itself dogpiled in short order. In that case Raiden and The Initiative may have difficulty maintaining blue status with Test, what with current HBC management being a stickler for everybody rowing the boat in the same direction. On the other hand, there have been a lot of discontented warriors in HBC this last while. If Sort tries to twist their tails and force them to go after Test Alliance Please Ignore, he may find HBC disintegrating under his feet.
It's interesting to note that Shadoo was on Booda's SOTA call. Asked where Pandemic Legion stood in the matter he replied that their position was unchanged, that PL, while kindly disposed toward Test, would continue to maintain their distance. Asked about whether Goonswarm would support Test in its bid for independence, Eddicted replied that he's spoken to them, but that they were "metagaming" and non-committal. With that, both Pandemic Legion and CFC have chosen to exercise the luxury of sitting back to watch which way the winds blow and then acting accordingly.
Thus do the lords of nullsec smile; and make millions of mischiefs all the while.