Header Art by Major Sniper
Hi everyone, I am SatedOne, the new guy at INN. I like talking to people about odd things, if you are an interesting person with a story to tell I am willing to have a without-prejudice conversation and write a bias-free interview. Reach out on INN if you have a story to tell!
Today I am talking to Suraka Toshiko, a director of the Imperium’s Black Hand.
S1 – Can I get some background about you and your history playing Eve?
Suraka – So I’ve been around for quite some time but only joined GSF back in 2017. I joined KarmaFleet and felt a deep sense of “coming home”, as much as that’s possible in this weird game. Because of this, I wanted to help and give back. I became a member of the KarmaFleet recruitment team for several years. Later a friend of mine told me that Corps Diplomatique was holding a recruitment drive and that I should apply, as it’s a truly great experience. I somehow made the cut and found myself talking and negotiating with autocrats, CEOs, and all sorts of people who wanted to work with the Imperium. It was a blast!
At some point, I was approached by the Black Hand and gave it a shot. This “secret spy stuff” was so tempting and exciting that I just couldn’t turn the offer down. It went well and I was made a handler and got to see a bit more behind the scenes. I spent my time as a handler helping out agents as best as I could. I kept them motivated and genuinely cared about them because I knew how tough the job could be. This all went on until after World War Bee II. I then had to take a break for a few months because my multiple space jobs and the war had taken their toll on me.
Shortly after my return, I was approached by Apple Pear, and at first, I thought “Oh, shit, he’s gonna boot me because I was inactive.” – instead I was offered the position of director of the Black Hand alongside Apple Pear. I was stunned! A director in Goonswarm? Me? I couldn’t believe it and was asking myself if I could live up to the expectations. Especially knowing all the amazing people that had preceded me. Would I be able to handle the workload? I accepted and was scared shitless.
Fast forward to today and I’m still here and enjoying the hell out of it. Helping agents and handlers while making sure the Imperium has access to hostile intel to achieve its goals is really an incredible privilege and honour.
S1 – The Imperium uses a director team with a delegated and compartmentalised system. What do you think are the real benefits and drawbacks to doing intelligence work in a team/group environment?
Suraka – Gathering intelligence for an alliance can only be a group effort. Everyone in the Black Hand is a part of it and brings their own set of skills and passion to the table. We are a team and as such we help each other, even out the load, discuss ideas, and shittalk, while always trying to improve and get our agents where they need to be.
S1 – So what do you think a successful mindset looks like in the eve intelligence space?
Suraka – If I had to boil it down to one thing it would be intrinsic motivation. Being an agent of an intelligence group is a lonely task and you do not get much public praise or fame. What you do get is a passive sense of accomplishment by being a force multiplier for your alliance. That is why it is so important for handlers to show their agents the appreciation that they deserve and work together with them towards a common goal.
S1 – How do you help a prospective agent become an agent and what support do you provide them along the way?
Suraka – Every agent is unique and we play the long game. We encourage our agents to find their own path and basically do the things they like. This means that they get to decide how they want to approach the idea of being an agent. Because they have agency, they are more likely to be happy and motivated and do their job for longer.
We teach our agents the art of spycraft, but – alas – I cannot go into much detail here, as I am sure you will understand. Our handlers also continuously stay in touch with the agents. They help them to set and reach their goals and also often simply talk with them. A big part of the job of a handler is genuinely caring for people.
S1 –Sometimes things go wrong out there in Eve, how do you support people when that does happen to an agent?
Suraka – From an agent’s view it sucks to get burned. Meaning they are kicked from their target entity for being a spy. It can be a heavy blow for an agent because all their work seems to be lost and can lead to them questioning their abilities. Our handlers work hard to be supportive and reassuring. Their role is to cheer up the agent and make sure they keep believing in themselves and can continue on their path if they so desire.
For a handler, the worst thing is to lose an agent they’ve been working for a long time, for whatever reason. While it’s all a “spacejob”, we are all people. Our handlers and their agents often get close, so the loss of an agent hurts. We try to help them through it by talking about all the good work that has been achieved and helping them to focus on the work that needs to be done. We want them to feel a sense of accomplishment from their space work and relationships.
More importantly, though, things go wrong in real life. We strongly believe that RL comes first and that we should be there for each other especially if one of us needs a break. We support everyone as best as we can. We grant them breaks whenever they need them and welcome our members back with arms wide open when they’re ready again.
S1 – What do you think would be a good reason for a newer player starting out to look at getting into spying and how might they do that in the imperium?
Suraka – We gladly accept new players into the Black Hand! Working in the Black Hand is exciting and the feeling of being a secret operative can be a real blast. New players can get a strong sense of making an impact through their actions which they would maybe not get in a T1 frigate flying together with 200 other guys in Battleships.
It can also broaden people’s horizons, through seeing both sides of the story. It is a different experience being there to see how a narrative can be changed or to see another entity’s inner workings. I think that it is a great learning experience.
S1 –What are your favourite memories that you can talk about, or in generality in your work?
Suraka – Most things relate to agents that are still active and I cannot provide details in order to not endanger them. I always get a great sense of “fuck yeah” from watching an agent develop and ultimately join enemy SIGs that are very secretive and well-secured against spies. Knowing about the secret plans of our enemies and being able to counter those plans is an elevating feeling. I also really enjoy the bread-and-butter work, like relaying the movements, composition, and objectives of enemy fleets to our FCs to help them make well-informed tactical decisions. Seeing them lead fleets to victory on the battlefield is really rewarding.
Everyone in the Black Hand, especially myself, ultimately is just a tiny cog in this huge machine and together we make it so much bigger than the sum of its parts.
S1 – Is there anyone that you want to shout out to while you have the platform to do so?
Suraka – I want to use this opportunity to thank our agents and handlers for the work they do. They are the unsung heroes of the Black Hand and don’t get the praise that they deserve. This is sadly by design. So if you read this as an agent of the Black Hand: thank you! You matter and your work does have an impact!
I would also like to thank my friend Shingly, who made me apply to Corps Diplomatique. The skills I acquired there helped me lots in real life – and in the Black Hand. My gratitude also goes out to Caitlyn Niminen, a former director of the Black Hand and great person overall. She was the person who reeled me in and always supported and challenged me. Zierk, yet another former director of the Black Hand was always there for me with an open ear and taught me well. Finally and ultimately Apple Pear, who gave me the opportunity to become a director of the Black Hand at his side. He is one of the most warm-hearted and hard-working people I ever got to know.
I humbly hope I do all those wonderful people and the Black Hand as a whole justice.
A big” thank you” to Suraka for putting a human perspective on this. I note that much like KarmaFleet, the Black Hand is always recruiting. If you would like to offer feedback please send a message via the INN discord.