Friday, 31 January 2014

Blood in New Eden: the Spread of Sani Sabik

As the Tech 4 Flashback archaeology dig continues, I find myself unable to provide attribution to this great article.

Like the author of last week's article on Gallente sherry production, the mystery Tech 4 contributor who wrote this piece on one of EVE's more sinister factions has no current EVE presence that I know of to which I can accredit this.

The baseliner character Harika Korr even exists in EVE, with a bio which reads, 'Freelance non-capsuleer journalist. Several articles recently published by Tech4 News.'

Who are you, Harika Korr?

Blood in New Eden: the Spread of Sani Sabik
by Harika Korr

Khanid Prime I, basking in the glow of The Cauldron nebula.
In late January, there was a scandal on Khanid Prime.

Silas Vitalia, an acknowledged Holder, patriot and commander of the (now closed) corporation Khanid Provincial Vanguard (KPV), held a celebration in recognition of the corporation’s five years of faithful service.  Many capsuleers from all walks of life and across New Eden attended, and were witness to a ceremony that officially declared her as a member of the Sani Sabik cult.  The news soon leaked to the authorities, but Ms Vitalia easily escaped before any action could be taken.

But what does that really mean?  To many of us, Sani Sabik is the name of the bogeyman, inextricably linked with the horror of the Blood Raiders and their empire in the depths of unregulated space - “nullsec” in capsuleer parlance.  To those in the Amarrian bloc, Sani Sabik are a creeping cancer, a heretical plague on the true faith, but even there few really know what it means.  Perhaps it is time to lift the lid on the cult.

New Eden Heresies

I spoke with Arminelle Binck, professor of Interstellar Law at the University of Caille. “Although it is rarely practiced openly due to all the negative connotations,” he explains, “Sani Sabik is only illegal in its own right in the Amarrian Empire and associated regions; the Ammatar Mandate and Khanid Kingdom.  Of course, there are plenty of other legal issues. While Sani Sabik cults cannot be arrested for their beliefs, I can name a dozen instances in the Federation alone of criminal cases of kidnapping, murder, torture and other such matters.  Even the accusation of being a Sani Sabik can result in social exclusion and mistrust; not least in the Republic, where it has numerous associations with the Amarrians.  Sani Sabik practioners face accusation of being Ammatar or worse, along with all the usual problems.”

“It’s a taboo, and thus engages a macabre fascination,” says Dr Patrice Asseya, of the University of Caille’s psychology department.  “Numerous sensationalist works in all formats have spread from sources across New Eden.  At least two highly popular holo-series, numerous novels and several musicians have all ridden on the forbidden allure of the blood cults.  On a more scientific note, it appeals on a primal level; human beings are, at heart, predators.  Studies of serial killers have often revealed an inner need to express hunting instincts; Sani Sabik cults provide a semi-acceptable venue to exorcise these unacceptable cravings.”

Bloody Rituals

A Sani Sabik priest conducting a ritual.
Midna Lyre, a musican, is an open Sani Sabik convert and the source of great controversy - including an attempt on her life during a concert.  Nevertheless, her widespread support has gone some way to bringing at least the concept of Sani Sabik into the mainstream.

In an interview four years ago, the young Gallente singer explained Sani Sabik in a seemingly harmless fashion, “The Sani Sabik faith is all about personal strength. It's about improving yourself, about being a strong individual.  It’s about seizing your destiny and making it what you want... yes, I use blood in rituals, but it is not stolen blood from unwilling people.  We willingly exchange blood.  It’s about strengthening the bonds between us... it’s very spiritual, like touching the hand of God.”

But to what extent is this take on the matter a common one among the faith?  Since the Amarrian rejection of Sani Sabik, forcing the cult into an underground status or expelling it entirely from the Empire, there has been no easy way to exchange information and beliefs between isolated cults; even with the comparative acceptance in society outside of the Empire, Sabik followers have little in the way of easy communication.

The primary exception to that, of course, is also the heart of most of the ill-feeling towards members of the cult; the Delve region, and its rulers, the Blood Raider Covenant.  Almost universally hated and distrusted, even among the other grand criminal empires operating beyond the reach of the law, the Covenant has been responsible for countless atrocities, slave raids and many other crimes.  Unlike the tame beliefs of Midna Lyre and her associates, attacks upon Covenant installations have revealed horrific machines designed specifically to drain unwilling victims of blood.

Delving into Darkness

“The Blood Raiders are a totalitarian, nightmare society that makes some of the darker periods of the Amarrian Empire look utopian,” explains Guddik Stierata, an intelligence analyst for the Directive Enforcement Department of CONCORD.  “Blood Raiders specifically value the blood of clones for their rituals, so they have been known to actively and specifically target capsuleers, whereas a comparable Guristas or Angel battlegroup will simply deal with any threat that approaches them.  

"But just because they value clone blood over all others does not mean they will ignore others; a ship captured by the Covenant will sometimes be modified on the spot into a processing plant to mechanically extract the blood of the crew.  Those that are taken alive will either be drained later at a more secure facility, or be made a slave.  Those who have been rescued from Covenant slave camps have usually been treated horrifically.”

Yet despite their reputation, reports of defections by ships, crews and even some capsuleers, individuals one would assume would steer clear of the Covenant, mount up every year. Why?

“Power fantasies,” Dr Asseya opines. “The Blood Raider Covenant represents the what happens if one takes the predator instincts and lust for power inherent in both the human psyche, and in the Sani Sabik tradition, to their logical conclusion.  Both the stories and many of the factual reports centred around the Raiders paint a very clear dividing line between the ruling class, the Raiders themselves; and the slaves, who exist only to serve in any way the Raiders desire.  Common sense would suggest that capsuleers would stay away from the Covenant due to the value of clone blood among the Raiders, but studies have shown that over ninety-seven percent of capsuleers suffer from what some refer to as the deity complex; they have absolute confidence in their effective immortality, distinct signs of narcissism and egocentricity to the exclusion of all else, and display an inability to empathise with normal human beings.  The fact that they even use an implicitly derogatory term for us - ‘baseliners’ - merely reinforces that diagnosis.  With this in mind, is it any great surprise that many are attracted to a society that reinforces and caters to their delusions of godhood?”

Angels and Demons?

It sounds a dangerously convincing argument.  To what extent are all Sani Sabik on a spiral towards that of the blood-stained demons of Delve, then?  Are moderates like Midna deceiving themselves, or is there really another way?

In the second half of this in-depth study, I will be seeking out real Sani Sabik; seeing how they live, what their beliefs mean to them, and concluding once and for all if there is a place for this ancient blood-cult in New Eden.

An isolated Blood Raider colony, somewhere in deadspace.

[If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more EVE fiction in the Tech 4 Flashback series, here's a good place to start: Tech 4 Flashback: The Stories of the Non-Capsuleer Residents of New Eden.]

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