What is a mercenary in EVE?
The mercenary is another of those professions in EVE that just plain wouldn't work in other MMOs. In a society where everything has a price, you can always pay someone else to do your dirty work and execute your evil plans. Good mercenaries are more than just guns for hire, they're a tight-knit unit of professionals with the skills and experience required to achieve literally any objective.
Types of contract: Harassment
This is perhaps the most common type of contract. A good mercenary corp can be paid upward of several hundred million ISK per week to harass an enemy corp. The mercenaries will typically file a war declaration against the target corp, allowing them to engage the targets in high security space without CONCORD intervention. Since NPC corps are immune to war declarations, this type of contract usually requires that the target be a player-run corp. The exception would be contracts to harass pilots in low security space or 0.0 but these contracts are much rarer than wars based in high security space.
Types of contract: Assassination
If the popularity of assassination contracts convinces you of only one thing, it's that you should be careful who you make enemies of in EVE. That snide comment on the forum or rude remark in the local channel may earn you a one way ticket to the clone vat. A properly executed assassination is one of the most personal forms of revenge in EVE and pilots that aren't in player corps aren't immune. If the pay is good enough, most mercenaries will be happy to suicide kill the target in high security space. Most assassination contracts are completed on production of the target's frozen corpse, a killmail showing how he was killed and a video recording of the engagement.
Types of contract: Dismantling
Believe it or not, there's a whole list of worse things to do to an enemy than having him killed and mounting his frozen corpse on your hanger wall. Dismantling the target's entire corporation or alliance ranks pretty high in that list. Very few mercenary outfits are capable of dismantling an organisation but those that are capable of it are highly sought after. The two main ways of completing this contract would be through silent infiltration or killing the target corp's morale to cause members to leave the corp. Infiltration is a tricky job that isn't always possible and it can take months or years to get into a position of power in the target corp. But once there, you may be able to steal everything they own as an added bonus and perhaps forcibly shut the organisation down from the inside.
Types of contract: Reinforcement
Of course not all mercenary contracts are about revenge. The larger mercenary outfits are routinely paid to aid in current ongoing wars and territorial conflicts. To be considered for these duties, a corp will need to have a strong PvP background and enough members to make a difference.
Read on to part 2, where I take a look at two of the most famous mercenary outfits EVE has seen over the years and what they've achieved.