Once in Zeeqo's corp, Scott and his crew began the slow task of setting their target up for a colossal fall. Simply destroying Zeeqo's mining barge could be a swift and fitting retribution, but Scott had a much harsher punishment in mind. Zeeqo would be made to pay for his mistake several times over. The plan for retribution hinged on Zeeqo's weekend freighter runs to Jita, a time at which he flew his most expensive and indefensible ship. This gave the three infiltrators only five days to befriend their target and work out how best to capitalise on his weekly haul.
Scott played the role of Richard the helpless newbie flawlessly. His accomplices, playing the roles of John and Steve, were equally adept at appearing clueless. Drawing from weeks of preparation, they took turns asking questions from their pre-made list of things new players have trouble with. Zeeqo, to his credit, answered every dumb question and mistaken inquiry with a helpful attitude. John and Steve in particular seemed to enjoy their daily acting sessions. They would answer each other's questions incorrectly, talk about their fake skill plans and discuss fictitious local events in the corporation chat channel. Over those five days, Scott and his crew befriended Zeeqo and worked their way into his daily mining fleets.
A mote of doubt
With Saturday rapidly approaching, Scott put the finishing touches to his plans for revenge. "Here's the plan," he blurted out in the group's private voice chat channel. "The target's weekly freighter run begins tomorrow at 17:30 hours. We're going to make sure that freighter doesn't make it home alive." This was the first time Scott had shared specific details of the attack, and his accomplices weren't sure what to make of it. "Isn't that worth a lot more than 300 million?" John asked hesitantly. "I thought this was meant to be an eye for an eye."
Steve piped up, adding his thoughts to the dialogue. "Also, this Zeeqo chap doesn't seem as bad as you let on, Scott. He's been really friendly and helpful to us." An element of doubt crept into both pilot's minds, and Scott was quick to suppress it. "Guys," Scott began exasperatedly, "That prat stole most of our war fund, and we're bloody well going to tear it right out of his ship!" "I'm just saying," John splurted out, "that maybe we're taking this too far. I mean it was your market mistake."
Scott ploughed ahead with describing his master plan, not giving either of his accomplices another pause in which to interject with further reservations. "Each of us takes one empty freight container," he explained forcefully, "and we pretend like it's got loads of ships and minerals and stuff in it." "We convince Zeeqo to accept a courier contract to carry them from Jita to our home base," Scott continued. "When we gank that arrogant thief, we can destroy the packages and collect over 300 million ISK in collateral." It was a daunting plan, but one that could work to reclaim their lost war fund.
Closing the net
As Friday night's mining session drew to a close, the infiltrators began preparations to intercept Zeeqo's freighter and reclaim their lost funds. Steve and John seamlessly slipped their inquiry into a casual corporate chat. "It's hard living down here when all my ships are up in Perimeter," hinted John. Steve played off his partner's remark, adding, "Mine are up there too, they're too big to haul." As the two pilots discussed courier contracts and the difficulty in finding a hauler with a freighter, Zeeqo helpfully piped up. "I have a freighter, and Perimeter's on my way back from Jita. I'll grab them tomorrow if you like."
The trap closed, and the finality of it all finally sunk in for the three pilots. It was much too late to back out now; Zeeqo would be hauling their empty containers the very next day. If they missed this opportunity to destroy the containers and collect the haul collateral, they wouldn't get another. Scott closed the deal in a private conversation with Zeeqo, insisting that courier contracts with heavy collateral be used in case of theft. The irony of that condition was not lost on Scott.
When the time came to do the deed, Scott and his crew sat in Urlen with blasters ready and hearts pounding. At any moment, Zeeqo's freighter would emerge from the Perimeter stargate and find itself right in the middle of an ambush. To allay suspicions, the group waited at a safe spot 3000km from the stargate, ready to pounce once the target appeared on the directional scanner. The tense silence on voice chat suddenly broke as Zeeqo entered Urlen carrying three empty courier containers with a 420 million ISK total collateral. The call went out to warp to the freighter and within seconds the squad's three Thorax class cruisers were in range of the industrial behemoth.
Scott could feel his heart blaring in his chest as he locked the freighter and activated his warp scrambler. This was it, the revenge he'd been dreaming of. As he watched the freighter's shields and armour rapidly dissolve, Scott was overcome by a flash of greed. "Transfer 400 million ISK or your freighter dies," he blurted out in local. "Why are we ransoming?" asked John in voice chat. "That wasn't part of the plan!" Zeeqo failed to respond, as if stunned or fumbling with his keyboard. The shocked industrialist eventually broke his silence to beg Scott's team to cease fire. "I don't have it!" he cried in the local chat channel. "Please stop! I'm not insured!"
A turning point
With the freighter just a few volleys away from death, the three attackers ceased fire to await payment. A composed Scott continued with his unreasonable demands. "Contract us assets worth at least 400 million. You have exactly three minutes before we resume fire. Help will not arrive in time." The frantic industrialist began contracting assets to members of Scott's gank squad. He hurriedly transferred stockpiles of ore, minerals and starbase fuel in an effort to save the precious freighter. "Not enough," typed Scott, his body surging with adrenaline. "More."
John's voice echoed excitedly over the group's voice chat channel. "He's contracted me our control tower! Scott, that's it, let's get out of here! We've got our war fund back, it's over." But it wasn't over. As Steve and John left the field of battle, a cold thought reached from the darkest part of Scott's mind to direct his actions. He reactivated his guns and watched as Zeeqo begged for his ship's safe release. The ship erupted and a shell-shocked Zeeqo warped out in his escape pod a total of 1.6 billion ISK poorer.
For every action in EVE's colossal sandbox, there must exist a motive -- a reason to invest effort. I've always thought my motives righteous and my efforts justified, but in seeking retribution I've been made a thief. I think they were right, those two. This was more than just revenge, more than an eye for an eye. I made an honest market mistake and went on a crusade to make up for my carelessness. We never did go back to the war in Black Rise. In every new player who enlisted in our corp, all I could see was the next Richard or Steve from Milton Keynes. This crusade has ruined me, irrevocably changing my way of thinking.
I'm a solo act now. The other two didn't have the heart to repeat our theft but it's all I can think about. Now when I pass the freighter convoys heading to Jita on a Sunday afternoon or encounter a mission-runner in a faction ship, I see them in a different light. They're targets, every one of them. As I watch them go about their business, I find myself scrutinising them for opportunity -- for signs of weakness. I see a freighter belonging to a small industrial corp with an active recruitment programme and my eyes glaze over. The moment of weakness is shown, and I make my decision. You. You're next.
Thanks once again to "Scott" the anonymous thief for letting me tell his story and dramatise his actions. This story barely scratches the surface of Scott's adventures in EVE's criminal underworld. When he's ready to tell another story, we may hear more of Scott and his adventures in the dark world of New Eden.
Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.