29 March YC 122
Having assembled a new Buzzard, I called it Nosuri II and continued my exploration trip. Ejahi, a hi-sec system next to Jarizza had a wormhole which took me back to Anoikis. I jumped through three systems, tended a couple of caches and finally arrived to Class 4 J123458 system. As usual, I ran the first scan with combat probes and found a lonely starbase. Warping to the location I inspected the structure; it belonged to Wormhole Surfers of Eve. Having noted it in the ship’s logbook, I was going to warp back to the safe spot when Aura stopped me.
“Vlad, wait a moment,” said she.
“What’s the matter?”
“The control tower,” explained Aura and pointed at the structure’s bracket on the HUD.
“So we can take it!”
“How do you take a starbase?” wondered I. “I thought they could only be blown up once they were assembled.”
“No, if it’s unanchored you can just scoop it from space.”
“Even if I am not the owner?”
Aura nodded enthusiastically, “Even if you are not the owner!”
“Hmm… I am not sure it is Credo-compliant.”
“Why not? Your Credo prohibits aggression against structures, but we aren’t aggressing it. We’ll just tuck this starbase nicely into our cargo hold. There won’t be a scratch on it,” said Aura the Space Lawyer.
“I dunno,” mumbled I. “It doesn’t sound right.”
“Hey, what’s wrong with it? If anything, you will prevent a catastrophe.”
Aura rolled her eyes, “Don’t you understand? If you don’t remove this unanchored structure from space, its orbit will decay and it will fall onto the planet, killing innocent kids and helpless old ladies. Remember what your corp Credo says – you are ‘the service corporation to all of New Eden’. So do New Eden a service and scoop this tower!”
I couldn’t possibly object to saving kids, and said, “Okay, fine, but how do we fit it in our hold? This thing is bigger than the Buzzard.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. When it’s pulled in, it folds into a kind of a flat pack.”
I was sceptical about that but what do I know about starbase logistics? So I gave my tractor beam a scoop command and curiously watched the loading procedure. The picture I had in mind was that of a python trying to swallow a hypnotised sheep.
To my amazement, the tower disassembled and folded into a rectangular object which was less in size than a packaged Buzzard. Yes, it did look like a flat pack but apparently it was not flat enough. When the tractor beam tried to pull it into the cargo hold I heard a horrible screech after which the HUD showed an error message: ‘The object is too big.’
I turned to Aura, “Not a scratch, you said?”
She waved her hand dismissively, “Doesn’t matter. As soon as you scoop it, the starbase will be yours and it won’t count as aggression.”
“But how do I scoop it? It’s too large!”
“Just get a bigger ship. An industrial.”
“I don’t fly industrials,” objected I.
“Surely you know at least one person who does. Ask him.”
“Yakub? I still feel indebted to him after he lost his Iteron. I am not going to ask him for another favour.”
“It’s not a favour,” insisted Aura, “its pure business. This tower is worth 140 million kredits in Jita. Just split the proceeds with him.”
That sounded fair. Yakub would know the risks and would be free to take them. I activated the commlink.
“Hey mate. How are you going? Recovered from the binge we had in Valhalla?”
Yakub laughed, “Ha-ha. That was a good one. It’s not often you get Jamyl I brandy on the house. And how are you? Still lurking in the wormholes?”
“Yes, I am. In fact, I wanted to ask you to visit me here.”
“No, thanks. Hi-sec is dangerous enough for me,” winked Yakub, evoking the memories of Niarja.
“Look, I am not asking you to poke your nose into J-space for nothing. You pay me a visit, I’ll pay you 70 million kredits.”
Yakub raised his brow, “Okay, I am listening.”
I explained the situation with the starbase to him. He looked hesitant.
“Hmm… You see, it’s not the way I conduct business normally. I build relationships and try to ensure each deal is win-win for all parties. If someone finds out that I pilfered a starbase…”
“But no one will know. It’s just between you and me. And surely it will be win-win for both of us.”
Aura, who was listening to the conversation, silently showed me thumbs up.
Yakub took a deep breath, “70 million, you said?”
I felt the scales tipping in my favour and quickly added, “I’ll make it 80 if you agree.”
“No, we’ll split it 50-50. Okay, tell me, where is the entrance to that fabled land of free starbases?’
“Erm… I haven’t found it yet. Wanted to get your consent first.”
“Then kick those probes out,” said Yakub sounding impatient, “I have to attend an important function this evening. If you don’t find the route to k-space in the next 3-4 hours, forget about the deal. And make sure the entrance is in hi-sec.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, mate. Will call you when I plot the route,” replied I and hung up.
That was easier said than done. The system had seven wormholes; some of them were end of life, some led to null-sec, and two were connections to other J-space systems. My hopes for a direct route to hi-sec did not materialise. I then started to scan wormholes in the connected Anoikis systems; same story there – only one k-space exit which led deep into the null-sec. At that stage I had scanned 18 wormholes and the deadline was approaching fast. I was about to jump into a third system in the chain when a new cosmic signature popped up on the Probe Scanner window. Won’t hurt to check it, thought I and launched the probes again.
The signature turned out to be another wormhole which led to low-sec Omam system in Kador region. It wasn’t exactly the hi-sec entrance that Yakub asked for but it was just three low-sec jumps away from the nearest high security system Neburab. I dialled Yakub’s number.
His face appeared on the HUD and said, “Well?”
“I couldn’t find a direct hi-sec connection but there is an entrance in a low-sec system.”
He shook his head, “No, too dangerous.”
“Look, it’s just three low-sec jumps. I won’t be able to find a safer route before your meeting.”
“Just three jumps,” grumbled Yakub. “That’s three gates where I can be ambushed. Did you check the killboard?”
I nodded, “Yep, nothing in the last hour.”
“Did you prepare all wormhole bookmarks?”
“I did and shared them with you.”
“Both entry and exit?”
I made an offended face.
Yakub scratched his chin, sighed and said, “We will all die… Okay, let’s do it.”
While Yakub was en route I jumped back to the original system to check that the starbase was not scooped by the owner or another enterprising capsuleer (you know, there are bastards out there who would grab anything not anchored to a point in empty space). The structure was still at the same spot, and I parked my cloaked Buzzard about a hundred klicks away from it.
Half an hour later I saw Yakub’s Nereus, first on D-Scan and then on the grid as he warped to the tower. Having scooped the structure, Yakub headed back through the same chain of two wormholes and three low-sec systems. After tense five minutes he called me and confirmed that he safely arrived to Neburab. I breathed out. The mission was accomplished. We stole a starbase!