Balance of Power Plot Walkthrough
This walkthrough is mostly spoilered, so that if people get caught on the common sticking-points they can read it without spoiling the story for themselves.
However, it is not expected that the replies will be spoilered, so don't read beyond the first post if you are stuck but don't want to know the plot!
Several mods are known to cause some problems with this plotline. All mods not updated for 3.0 are suspect and even if they have there's still no guarantee that they're compatible. If you have a plotline problem with a modded game, you are requested to go to S&M and ask which mods might be the culprit, and then ask in that mod's forum thread for possible solutions.
On to the plot itself, I'll say this first; Having assets in Terran space is not a problem. Definitively. You can complete this plotline without a single iota of lost Terran rep. I actually did lose a bit due to being not completely careful with my weapons; but not enough to lose a rank.
The triggering condition for the beginning of the plot is completion of the Aldrin plot. That has many of its own prerequisites, making this one of the later plotlines to be completed. I will assume that you have generous resources available at your command.
When the trigger occurs, you get a message telling you to report to the Military Base in Argon Sector M148 for an Argon Secret Service assignment.
The rest is for the eyes of the prying only.
Chapter 1; Making Friends
Captain Matt Roberts wants to send you on a covert infiltration of Terran space to swipe their technology out from under their noses. I fell off my chair after reading this. "Don't get caught", they tell you. Don't get f*****g caught? Have you seen what a full broadside of PSP fire from an Osaka does to a Hyperion?
Now you understand why I told you that our Terran assets are going to be safe. If we get this covert operation wrong, they won't!
We are to rendezvous with a contact, Agent Alexander Evans, on the Orbital Patrol Base in Pluto sector. He'll tell us how we're going to pull a fast one with the Terrans.
Evans informs us that we need to talk to a fellow named Stephen Torres of a Terran faction named Dark Space. He's got himself involved with Pirates who have a base beyond the Oort Cloud. Worse news; we're not actually going after the Terrans; we're specifically going after the ATF. It's going to be a broadside from a Tyr that we're facing. I'm keeping my Boreas on standby, I have a feeling that we're going to need it. Along with the rest of the Argon fleet. And probably the Boron fleet as well. And any other fleets that we can beg or blackmail into what seems like an utter suicide mission. Why do I do this? Why???
Well, at least Torres doesn't ask for much. Except 500 Terran MREs. Either he's a fat pie, or he's feeding an army. This shouldn't be too hard to cobble together. But I've got visions of this turning into a new HUB plot... the nightmares will begin shortly. You just fly within a few km of his ship with the goods in your cargo hold in order to transfer them.
Fortunately the 500 MREs only take 1000 cargo units. To deliver them you just fly up to his ship with the goods in your hold. Problem is, he wants 1000 units of Water next. That's going to take a bit more. He's probably a fat pie but he's definitely feeding an army. Call in a freighter to do the rounds of the local Water Purification Plants and collect together what you need. After the Water comes 250 Hull Plating. That must be for the transport ships that'll transport the army to wherever it's going. I hope, because it means less fighting for me. On the other hand, it means fighting.
After the Hull Plating is delivered, that's it. You can pause for a break from the plot here because it won't continue until you return and ask Torres for the next mission. Be in a warship when you do.
Our next job is to help free some Dark Space operatives stuck in the bilge of a prison transport. Specifically; we've got to shadow it, and then on the signal we dive in and protect the transport from any attacking fighters. Be prepared.
The transport is in Oort Cloud and heading for the outer Solar System. When you fly into Oort Cloud it'll be coming straight at you. Dodge it as it passes and enters the gate and shadow it as you would a follow target mission. Remember the power of shift+F; the match velocity button. Useful. Try to stay about 12km behind.
I got the signal to say that the captives were staging their coup half-way across the first Unknown Sector. Going full throttle and diving in I found a Claymore and four Rapiers go red and start shooting the transport. Since it's mission-critical, it seems to be indestructible, so you've got time to blow its attackers to bits. Unfortunately, whilst a lowly Crusader like me just got five ships to deal with, the stength of the defending force is rank-dependent. Some people have come across capital ships defending the transport. It seems that how difficult many of these missions are depends on your fight rank.
Chapter 2; Collector's Items
Once the escorts are destroyed, the transport will make its way over to a Dark Space installation off the beaten path. When docked safe and well, Torres thanks you for your help; it's time to pitch your alliance proposal to him.
You've got another break before starting this mission. If you want to make use of it, do so. When you're ready to continue, return to the Installation and call up your friendly operative.
We need to do some scans of Terran ships to obtain their blueprints, but Dark Space has been unable to ship the requisite special sensor system out from wherever they've currently got it so you'll have to bring them enough resources to construct a replacement at the Installation.
We are assured that transponder acrobatics will ensure that we do not lose Terran rep and end up with our business empires being chased down by angry Terran warships.
To begin, we need 75 Quantum Tubes, 50 Microchips and 100 Computer Components. Time to break out your freighter again. Send it doing the rounds in Commonwealth space to pick up the resources and deliver to the Installation. You need to be flying the ship that carries the components. That's it on the delivery boy mission; there's now a wait until Evans completes the device during which you can take another break. You can use this time to go do your own thing, it'll be a few minutes until Evans calls you to return to the station for the next mission. You'll need to be flying a fast ship, ideally an M5, as you'll be chasing a fast ship.
With the scanner fitted, we are to proceed to Oort Cloud and scan an ATF Valkyrie. This Valkyrie is heading for the outer Solar System so you can be at the North gate of the sector you are in to cut it off and scan it. I hope that you're a good pilot, because what happens next will need l33t piloting skillz. The scan initiates automatically when you are within about 120m of the target. That's close. You need to stay there whilst the scan completes. I told you you needed an M5!
Don't try to cap this Valkyrie. Just don't.
After this fancy feat of flying is completed, you talk to Evans, who sets you up with the next target; a Mjollnir M4. Problem is, this one will need some support. You need to talk to Torres to find it; you can do this right away or take a break first.
Torres suggests you talk to a group of miscreants known as the Bloodhounds. Their leader, Sheela, is on the Orbital Patrol Base in Oort Cloud. Go there and chat to her; at 1.5 million Credits her support isn't too expensive given how late in the game you are.
The next bit isn't so much difficult as annoying. You're going to need to fly to Kuiper Belt and when you approach the target Mjollnir it'll turn red and the Bloodhounds will start scrapping with the ATF escorts. Save now. You need to cap the fighter; those of you who have capped fighters before know what you're up against; those of you who havn't, I'll give a brief guide to capping here. It is said that slowly whittling away the hull with a light weapon like an IRE or PBE is a good strategy; I find that at lower fight ranks it doesn't work so well, and a better strategy is to dive in, guns blazing and cease fire at the point where you've stripped away the shields. Then give a few more periodic short - SHORT - bursts every couple of seconds to deal further damage. Seems to work a lot more often for me. If you destroy the Mjollnir before it bails, then reload your save and try again; keep trying until you get it. The ATF escorts will remain neutral to you and won't attack you even when you're capping their charge. I believe thet the correct term for this behaviour is 'Idiocy' but I'm not going to complain if you won't!
With the Mjollnir capped, you need to return it to the base. When it docks, you're given the option of turning it over.
The next mission takes some preparation. You will need a Scabbard filled with Marines; they don't need to be enormously high level but you'll have less fighting to do if they are. You're going to storm an ATF research facility and nick some blueprints directly out of the computer system. Ouch. Get your Scabbard to dock with the Installation. Then the mission will begin in earnest.
The research facility is also in the outer Solar System, for me it was two sectors beyond the current one (i.e. third Unknown Sector) but this might change from game to game. Simply dock your Scabbard at it. I As soon as it docks, the operation begins and the station turns red. Ships start flooding out of a gate aiming for you. I got a temporary reprieve when the first Rapier smeared himself over an asteroid, which was amusing to watch, but you've quickly got a full-blown fight on your hands as the boarding operation takes a very long time. Even on my relatively mild fight rank, I had a serious fleet to deal with that was too much for my Hyperion. I had to call in a Colossus full of Nova Raiders to help me. On higher fight ranks, this is almost certainly going to be a very colourful fight.
When the facility is captured, the Scabbard will automatically fly back to the Installation to deliver the data. All your Marines should be intact and on board; you won't lose them. I found that it simply flew right through the middle of the warzone without incident. Once it gets to the next Sector, it's essentially safe, though you have to finish off the Terran forces that are attacking you.
Once the Scabbard is docked, you get the mission complete message, and it turns out that the Thor blueprints are amongst the data. Just the Fenrir to go now.
Which is next. There's one guarding one of the facilities in the outer Solar System, but Evans wants to capture it with some style. He wants you to go to Neptune and chat to a station hacker named Sebastien Claussen in Neptune. When you get there, you find that he has a penchant for alcoholic beverages.
Claussen wants paying in booze, not bucks. Specifically, a brand of Argon Whiskey that is only available in Herron's Nebula. Wonderful, that's about as physically far away from you as it is possible to get; unless you can expend a few Energy Cells to get there, in which case given it's actually on the jumpgate network, it is actually the shortest trip of the plotline. We've got to talk to the Teladi wholesaler who has the whiskey we need. She'll give us what we want for a modest fee of 25,000Cr and returning it to Neptune is a simple matter.
It is now time to dock at the ATF installation we're targeting. It's in the second Unknown Sector; in my game its registration is EDOOM-08; I hope that this is not an omen. Suggest that you leave a satellite near the gate of the preceding Unknown Sector to the one that the target ATF Installation is in.
Turns out, DOOM doesn't seem to be an omen. After a short time spent docked the Fenrir gets hacked, undocks and starts making its way back to the Dark Space installation. You make a break for it with your latest acquisition in tow and there's not a red blip to be seen. It's quiet. In an X3-Reunion sort of way, it turns out. Check that satellite.
Chapter 3; The Endgame
Unfortunately for this latest Terran battlefleet, I got wise last time round and brought both my Carriers and my own Boreas for good measure. Let'em rip, tiger!
Once the Fenrir is docked safe and sound at the Dark Space Installation, the mission is complete. You can take a break again.
You know where to go and who to pester on the comms by now.
We're getting ambitious. Next they want a Vali. We've got to talk to a fellow about it but no sooner do we get going, Terran forces start pouring through the gate. If you have any ships docked to the Dark Space Installation, now is the time to get them out of there. I mean, NOW. RIGHT NOW. Don't worry about the attacking Terran ships; what happens next happens fast, so watch it.
All that hard work, gone! Betcha didn't see Dark Space double crossing you coming, did you? Well, Evans certainly didn't. Last mistake he's going to make, unfortunately. Now that you've got no base in the Outer Solar System, you've got to find Captain Matt Roberts again. He's in Nathan's Voyage on a do-fancy space station.
The Argon Secret Service might be really bad at picking names with decent acronyms, but they certainly do know the business of enough shady characters. Darren We is a black-market arms dealer who has some Terran equipment that we'll find useful; he's in Heretic's End. Dock, chat, pick up the goods, and it's time to get moving again. Deliver the goods back to the Secret Service outpost in Nathan's Voyage and call up Roberts when you dock. He wants something else.
More hull plating; 200 to be exact. At least it won't be too tricky to get hold of. Send a freighter on the rounds and get it back to the Outpost. You need 150 Teladianium and 100 Computer Components as well. When that's done talk to Roberts on the station.
Dark Space have relocated to Maelstrom. Damnit, we've been there before. When you jump in, you'll find an Argon Colossus waiting for you with Admiral Jarren Hayla on board. They can't find the Pirate Base using normal scanners, so they've rigged a special sensor that beeps with a frequency dependent on how close you are to the base. Fun game. You'd have thought that they could manage to triangulate a position on their own, really, but apparently not. My suggestion for solving this puzzle follows.
Get in a Kestrel equipped with the Map Sector commands (Navigation I IIRC). The simplest way of finding the base is to tell your ship computer to execute a sector mapping run for 200km with the point of origin being the PBG forge at the centre of the sector (if this has been destroyed, simply use the centre of the sector itself) and listen to the beeps; as you spiral outwards using triangulation it'll quickly become apparent roughly where the base is. Only you can find the Pirate Base; you can't simply scan the whole sector with five scout ships. There's a HOWTO for triangulation in the second post (link)
. Of course, if you don't want to use triangulation and just want to unintelligently map the sector and go to sleep with the sound off whilst it finds the pirate base for you you'll be struggling; you have to be within 10km of the base and there's a high probability that the Map Sector command won't take you quite close enough.
It just so happens that the base is visible in the HUD whenever you're within scanner range. It appears as an Unknown Object with the dot symbol of a civilian ship. Flying in close reveals it to be what it really is.
When you find the base, the Colossus will start to move in and Pirate ships will start chasing you down. An advantage to being in the Kestrel is that you can outrun them and hide behind the Colossus, which will do a pretty good job of wiping out the Pirate forces all on its own.
When the Colossus arrives at the Pirate Base, having wiped out all the defending Pirate forces bar the Laser Towers, the Pirates will try to flee with their Fenrir and Mjollnir prizes. They will head for the West gate at quite a slow pace, their ultimate destination being Gaian Star; if you fail to catch them in Maelstrom for whatever reason then look for them there. With most ships you should be able to catch them, despatch the Pirate ships escorting the ATF fighters (in my case, two Elites) and then you save the game and have a go at forcing both pilots to bail. The Argon Naval fleet will deal with the Pirate Base and any Pirates that make for the North gate. You may get a couple more Pirate ships coming after you once you engage the convoy heading for the West gate but they should arrive after you've wiped out and capped what you need to.
As soon as you have both ships under your control and the Pirate ships destroyed, you get a message telling you that the Terrans are attacking the Argon Secret Service outpost. You are to get back there and defend it. Don't bother about it yet though, your first priority is to get your prize ATF fighters to safety. Do not send them for RE-ing. I repeat, DO NOT send them for RE-ing at the PHQ; just park them somewhere. If you do not own both at the time that you complete the plotline then you won't get the two additional prizes at the end.
Also, get your most powerful M2 sat by the North gate of Nathan's Voyage. You'll need it.
When you are ready and your fighters are safe, jump to Nathan's Voyage North gate. You'll arrive just in time to see the Argon Secret Service installation get blown to bits by no less than four ATF Tyrs. Your new objective is best summed up with 'RSLG'; for those of you unfamilliar with DiDs that means Run Screaming Like a Girl. You could engage the four Tyrs; and with a Boreas it wouldn't even be too hard to destroy all four of them in a straight fight. Problem is, these are the first ships in the plotline that are actually associated with the Terrans, and destroying even one of them will demolish your Terran rep. This is difficult; these Tyrs will persue you wherever you go until you, or they, are dead. Whenever you jump into a new Sector, these Tyrs will jump in around you, so you really don't have an obvious escape.
That means that you've got to deal with them somehow. There's five options.
The first option is to jump to Kha'ak space and hope that the locals pick on the Tyrs and not you. Relatively unlikely, and the Tyr is a powerful ship that will brush off almost all AI attacks against it; the AI is too dumb to attack a Tyr successfully.
The second option is to cap the ships, which incurrs no rep loss. You ever tried capping one Tyr? You have any idea how difficult four will be?
The third option is the no-rep-loss-missile-trick, where you bring in an M7M, launch a volley of torpedoes at the target, switch ships and make the M7M jump out before the torpedoes hot the target. It counts as an NPC kill; no rep loss. Relatively straightforward but still a little tricky to accomplish. However, you could eliminate three Tyrs and cap the fourth once it's on its own. Be warned however that Egosoft have not yet fixed the bug that capped ships will continue to follow AI scripts that were running prior to the cap. If you cap the Tyrs they'll continue to follow you everywhere forever.
The fourth way, discovered by foszae, is to double jump. You may have noticed, when flying through a Gate, that if you hit the turbo button as you arrive in the destination Sector you hit the jump field and end up being thrown back through the gate. It just so happens that this double-jump breaks the Tyrs' follow command. So, jump through the North gate and keep your finger on the Turbo button. When you arrive in Black Hole Sun you'll immediately be thrown back through the gate to Nathan's Voyage. Let go of the turbo button; you'll watch the Tyrs jump to Black Hole Sun and stay there. You're free, though you'll have to deal with those Tyrs somehow.
Credit to Ognjen85 however, for finding the easy fifth way of getting rid of these Tyrs. Activate your UFJD. You'll appear in a random Sector and the Tyrs will appear around you after a few seconds. Activate your UFJD again. If you can succesfully evade the Tyrs for ten seconds, you'll jump out and the Sector along with the Tyrs will be erased from the game's active memory. Death by cache memory termination; Ognjen85; I salute you, sir!
That's your plot reward; and that, ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls, is the Balance of Power plotline.
That is the end of the plot, and before you start mourning the loss of Evans, Roberts, and if you feel so inclined, Torres, who would have been killed in the penultimate battle against the ANF, you get a message from an unknown agent who's been watching you all along. He points out that there's no-one left alive who knows that you've swiped two ATF ships, and as of this moment, managed to pick up both the Thor (comes with the Mjollnir) and Valkyrie (comes with the Fenrir) blueprints. They're yours. Forever.