Stealing the Stolen

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Jita System – Planet IV, Moon 4
Caldari Navy Assembly Plant

20 June YC 121

“Why don’t we simply undock and explore Jita?” suggested Aura.

“No, with this kind of traffic there is nothing left to explore. Bare skies,” objected I.

“Then let’s go back to Uitra.”

“Nah, Uitra is no good either. All those eager Academy students keep scouring the space 24 by 7.”

Aura knitted her brow and then said, “Maybe not Uitra itself but Anttanen Constellation. Remember, when we were hunting asteroids, Uitra was swept clean but the belts in the neighbouring Unpas were barely touched. What if the same is true about cosmic signatures?”

“That may work,” agreed I. “Let’s go.”

The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation

The closest Anttanen system to Jita was actually Unpas, so we immediately put Aura’s theory to test. The result was disappointing – there was not a single signature on the radar, not even a wormhole.

Aura scowled and grumbled, “I can imagine that those students explored every data and relic site, and cleaned out every Guristas base. But I can’t believe they also collapsed every wormhole in the system. Not in the frigates.”

“Don’t fret,” said I soothingly. “This is the nature and the beauty of exploration – you never know what awaits around the corner.”

“There are no corners in space,” muttered Aura gloomily.

“I beg to disagree. Look at this map – the path from Urlen to Shihuken through Unpas is not straight. It forms a corner that we are now going to turn, hopefully, in more senses than one.”

The radar reading in Shihuken looked more promising – there were 3 cosmic signatures. A broad scan quickly revealed that two of them were a Guristas base and a wormhole, while the third one, QXO-110, remained unidentified. Since I was not ready for combat and Anoikis, I focused my scanning efforts on the last signature. It proved to be particularly elusive; when I thought I pinned the location, it suddenly split into two markers. I sent all probes to one marker and found nothing – it was a kind of a moon dog. Then I concentrated the scan on the second marker and then it split into two again!

While I was chasing ghosts in the sky, Aura kept saying things like “With those RSS probes you would pin it down in no time” and “If only we had that Sisters Probe Launcher with its 10% scan strength bonus…” I told her to shut up but she kept muttering something under her breath; words “tight-arsed” and “cheapskate” were mentioned.

At last, the Sisters probes zeroed in on the signature and revealed its classification.

When I saw what I scanned down I gasped, “Aura, look at this. It’s a ghost site! I was really chasing ghosts!”

“Is it the one that Rulie mentioned?” asked Aura.

“Yes, Lesser Guristas Covert Research Facility! Now I understand why it was so hard to locate it – those sites have notoriously weak signatures.”

“Let’s go and loot it then, before the students find it.”

I hesitated, “Not sure I am ready for that. Remember I told you that no one in hi-sec was going to assault an explorer? Well, this is the exception – Guristas guards will arrive within a minute after I start hacking and they don’t give a shit about CONCORD.”

“But one minute will be quite enough to hack at least one container and warp out, won’t it?”

“Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. That’s why I told you that I needed to practice my hacking skills in hi-sec before heading to more dangerous places – I need to ensure I do it as quickly as possible. And the irony of this is that my very first hi-sec data site is completely unsuitable for training.”

Aura scowled, “But it’s a treasure trove. You aren’t going to leave it unexplored.”

“I am afraid I am. At least, for now. Let’s find an abandoned site where I can practice first. Hopefully, given the facility’s weak signature, the students won’t find it before we return.”

Our next destination was Senda. On the map it was a dead-end system, but not for a person with a core probe launcher. There we discovered two cosmic signatures both of which turned out to be wormholes. I decided against visiting Anoikis and returned to Shihuken from which I jumped to Tuuriainas. To my delight, one of two signatures in that system was classified as a data site which was further identified by Neocom as Local Guristas Backup Server.

“A backup server?” said Aura incredulously. “What valuables can one possibly get from a backup server? A magnetic tape?”

“I don’t know,” I answered cheerfully. “It’s exploration, remember? Let’s go and see.”

Hi-Sec Data Site - Local Guristas Backup Server
Hi-Sec Data Site – Local Guristas Backup Server

The place looked very similar to the model data site that I saw in the Academy museum – half-broken remnants of technology drifting aimlessly through the void. It was clearly dysfunctional and abandoned. Despite the overall dilapidation, Neocom picked four objects which were worth investigating – two communication towers and two storage shards. As I was approaching the protected containers, my heartbeat quickened and my mid-slot synapses tingled – I was about to hack my first real data site.

Even with Tech I frigate and rigs, the fitting was an overkill for that site – my virus had no trouble whatsoever penetrating the system defences which consisted of firewalls and anti-viruses. The core coherence was also pretty low: 50 points in the shards and 70 points in the comm towers. After successfully hacking and looting all four cans my cargo hold was filled with various datacores and decryptors whose total value was almost 4 million ISK.

I grinned, “Not so bad for a ten-minute job.”

“Don’t forget how much time you spent searching and scanning this site,” said Aura sceptically and then added, “Do you think it is legal?”

My jaw dropped, “What do you mean – ‘legal’?”

“For all I know, it’s someone’s property and you came and stole it. May be classified as a break-in too.”

“But it’s not someone’s, it’s abandoned!” cried I.

“How do you know?”

“Well, just like with ships. If no one’s there – it’s abandoned and is up for grabs.”

Aura shook her head, “Ships are supposed to be piloted so it’s easy to tell if they have been abandoned. This, however, is, or was, an automated system. The fact that it fell into the state of disrepair does not make it abandoned.”

“And so what? Even if it was fully functional, it belongs to the pirates!”

“And how does that make your actions legal? Are you saying that pirates do not have property rights?”

I was getting frustrated, “All their property is ill-gotten. They don’t have any right to possess it.”

Aura smirked, “And who has those rights? You? Just because you managed to hack the cans and get away with it, it makes you the rightful owner of their contents? In such case, how are you better than the pirates?”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Aura! What do you propose to do with all this stuff? Return to the cans? Donate to Caldari State?”

“Nothing. I think you should keep it.”

I opened my mouth; I shut my mouth. After a significant pause I said, “So why did you ask me all those stupid questions?”

Aura made an innocent face, “Simply wanted to check your moral compass.”

“And how do you find it?”

She giggled, “Just like mine – totally confused.”

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