Engines of the Viator-class transport were humming quietly. You could still hear them, even inside the capsule. Lukas Rox was just passing Deltole system in Algintal constellation. Enterprising capsuleers could find some lucrative deals here in Algintal, because it’s one of those places in New Eden where several different factions vie for control. One could also find some Yan-Jung relics in the constellation, provided that the ship was equipped for archeological survey. But Lukas was one of the pilots who always have something else to do, so he was simply passing through.
Being a capsuleer for a long time can eventually become tedious and boring. After a while, all contracts seem to be the same: invent this amount of that module, kill this pirate, rescue that damsel, and bring her somewhere where she can breathe. One could however never tell if this was the reason which made Lukas decide to take a detour to Nickel & Dime Store in Augnais system.
To an outsider all Minmatars look similar, most is wearing weird hair and have multitude of tattoos and piercings. Lukas wouldn’t be able to recognize these people as members of the Thukker tribe, even though he used to work with other tribes in the past, namely Krusual and Brutor. “Welcome to the Nickel & Dime Store” said a skinny minmatar with a welcoming gesture, “I’m Pattok Nortul, with whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?” he asked when . “My name is Lukas Rox and I’m looking for work.” said the capsuleer, looking around the shop. The enterprise was run in a hangar array, where piles of salvaged materials have been arranged in rows: drone components, shield components and so on. “It’s a pleasure mister Rox. We run a humble little shop owned and operated by the Thukker tribe, catering to the needy souls in this beautiful constellation.” said the skinny agent.
He judged the pilot with his gaze and added “Hm, something tells me you can be of some assistance to us ― perhaps you’ve worked for the Thukkers in the past?”
“I did work with the other tribes, but I haven’t had the pleasure with Thukkers yet.” – replied Lukas. “So you said you could find some use for an experienced capsuleer?” asked Rox.
“Yes, we could.” said the agent, “But you must know we are unlike the other tribes. Your standing record with Krusual might be impressive for the Republic, but we are not part of it.” explained Pattok.
“I hope you understand why the first task will be nothing complicated or risky? It should let me gauge your talents. Deliver a few crates of goods to a nearby station for me. The rewards are modest, since this is such an easy task, but it’s only a start.”
“Sure, I’ll do that. But it better be worth it.” said Lukas. “I am sure you will find our other deals worth your time.” replied the agent.
The job was a really easy one. It reminded Rox how he’d run courier missions for Sisters of EVE just after becoming capsule pilot. In half an hour Lukas was back at the Nickel & Dime Shop.
“Not bad, not bad at all. Good work on your first assignment. Despite it being a tedious one, you pulled it off without any qualms. As promised, I’m offering you something a little more interesting.” said the Thukker agent.
“You see, things have not been easy around here lately. The Caldari mega-corp Wiyrkomi is intent on tapping into the vast natural resources found in the constellation, much to the dismay of the many environmentalists here in the Federation.” explained Pattok.
“Yeah, I’ve noticed that.” replied Rox.
“The struggle between the two sides draws unwanted attention to our little enterprise here and is making our operation difficult. Down the road, I might be tempted to have you help us with this unpleasant situation. But not just yet. First, we have to take care of another small problem that just came up.” said the Thukker.
“I’ve had a look at your dossier, and you seem to be a perfect person for the job. The Serpentis drug lords are out in force here in Algintal, overseeing traffic between Federation and Republic space. We Thukkers are not into the drug scene, so we generally leave them alone.” said the agent with a little smile. “The same applies for them, for the most part. Live and let live, huh?” his smile widened. Lukas could swear the agent winked at him as well.
“Thing is, many of the Serpentis have grown too fond of their own goods and can get a little wild at times. One such incident occurred the other night when a gang of renegade Serpentis junkies stole some goods we were receiving from our associates in the Republic. The goods aren’t all that valuable, but we must send a clear sign to the Serpentis that our goods are to be left alone.” explained Pattok.
“Here is where I come in, right?” asked Rox.
“Exactly. I know that the fools who stole our goods are relaxing at the Skeleton Comet complex over in Deltole. If you’re willing to go over there and teach them a lesson, a hard lesson ― a permanent lesson, get me?” – Rox was certain now, because the agent did wink ― “Then I would be much obliged. And if you could return with some of the goods they stole, I’d be even happier.” said the Thukker.
“How about a little motivation this time?” said the capsuleer.
“I am quite sure you will find some use for this little print.” said the Thukker, and gave Rox a rusty datapad with some schematics displayed on it.
“Yup, it looks like a nice module. We’ve got a deal then.” said Rox and after a brief handshake turned around to his ship.
The Skeleton Comet complex was a well known place, so it even had a beacon in the Neocom. After Rox ordered the warp destination, Aura immediately offered a brief history of the site. Rox didn’t mind and allowed the AI to continue her monologue.
The Skeleton Comet, a comet that was picked clean during the early stages of Federation space exploration, is one of the many landmarks in Algintal that makes the constellation known as one of the most beautiful places in the whole Federation. While not as spectacular as its more renown cousin the Canyon of Rust the Skeleton Comet still attracted tourists from all over. But in recent years the smuggling cartels operating in the constellation have made the place their own. Driven from their other pirate havens by activists or, more recently, foreign corporations, they have convened here to make the Skeleton Comet their last great bastion of smuggling activity in the constellation. Needless to say, the only tourists now visiting the place are those in search of smuggled goods or illicit affairs.
Yet the Skeleton Comet holds one little-known secret unlocked by those early miners. While drilling in a remote corner of the complex they found ancient relics and definite signs that humans had tread here before, thousands of years earlier. Only recently this startling evidence was analyzed further to corroborate what had until then only existed as rumors whispered in shady mining bars around the Federation. A fascinating story of early settlers in the world of EVE was uncovered, a nation calling itself Yan Jung.
But the intrusion of the smuggling cartels halted further arcaeological diggings, though it is said that the smugglers themselves have been poking around in the old ruins. Some say fabulous discoveries have been made, but the smugglers keep silent on the subject.
The remains of the mining equipment are long since gone, used as material in the construction of the safety guardrails running through the comet to make navigation of tourist yachts easier. But the tourist activity has dwindled to almost nothing in recent years, due to the local smugglers using it as their main pirate haven in the constellation.
“A very nice place indeed.” thought Lukas, and ordered his Myrmidon battlecruiser to approach the acceleration gate. In deadspace pockets like this one, the amount of insterstellar dust and asteroids makes warp travel extremely risky. Instead, acceleration gates are used to propel the ships deeper into the pocket.
Upon arrival, Rox has quickly surveyed the pocket. Serpentis had several ships here, mainly frigates and cruisers. Nothing a Myrmidon couldn’t handle. Lukas didn’t bother to ask the Serpentis to return the stolen goods. They were rather unlikely to comply, and all of them were tagged as kill-on-sight and with a CONCORD bounty. Five Hammerhead II drones have cleared the Myrmidon’s drone bay and immediately aligned toward their frigate prey. The ship engines lit with bright blue arcs, and the ship began moving forward, slowly following the drones.
Serpentis pilots must have been busy with something else, because it took them a good while to notice the incoming threat. Before the frigates started their engines, one of them was already destroyed. Four others quickly followed, leaving a small field of wreckage. The other Serpentis ships didn’t seem interested in joining the fight. Rox ordered his drones back to the drone bay, while his ship slowly approached frigate remains. With a little luck there was a chance that some of the stolen goods have survived the explosion.
Just an hour later Rox was back in the Thukker shop. Pattok was almost running towards him. He looked nervous, but also relieved a little “Oh, Lukas Rox, you’ve come at an opportune moment.” he said. “And thank you for dealing with the Serpentis. Unfortunately things are progressing as I feared they would. The continuous struggle between Wiyrkomi and the activists have cast a spotlight on the constellation. While we here are the Nickel & Dime Store are running a perfectly legal business, our associates and clients like to operate in the dark. Already, I’ve lost several important clients, and some employees are getting restless. So much so that I’m having difficulties making my more demanding deliveries.” – said the Thukker agent.
“Unfortunately, I do not have the means or the knowledge to do much about the situation, but my business associate Iliere Angetyn is a most resourceful Gallentean, and I’m sure he’s already contemplating how to put things right. But Angetyn doesn’t deal with just anyone. Only those clearly in favor with the Trust Partners company get his attention.” explained Pattok. “So I have a proposal for you. Run an errand for me that one of my just-departed couriers was supposed to, and I’ll give you a Trust Partners Business Card. Show this to Angetyn and he’s certain to offer you something lucrative.” – proposed the agent with a grin.
“You say it will be worth my time, eh?” – Rox asked.
“You can count on it” replied Pattok. “Now back to the errand in question, it is a simple delivery over the border into the Republic. It has a very small chance of getting you in trouble with the customs, but I’m sure a resourceful pilot such as yourself can pick the right route to avoid any unwanted attention.”
“I have never smuggled anything, but that thing over there” – Lukas gestured towards his docked Viator – “should have no problem with being unseen.” Empires have recently retrofitted Blockade Runner class with a sensor scrambler, which makes it impossible to scan the cargohold of the ship. This and the ability to fit a Covert Ops Cloaking Device made the ship ideal tool for moving valuable cargo.
“Does that mean you are in?” – asked the agent.
“Tell your people to move the containers aboard, and I’ll see that it goes where it belongs” – replied capsuleer.
Becoming friendly with the Thukker tribe has opened a lot of business opportunities. Rox was quite sure that he will exploit this new chance to the fullest. Who knows, maybe Great Wildlands is not so far after all.