The Great Scam
This is a story of deception, intrigue, and doublecrossing. It is a story of liars, bandits, and greed. It is a story of the worst of the human condition, and how the motive for profit will drive a normally nice guy to the deepest depths of evil and betrayal.
This is the story of my life in Eve Online.
Eve Online is a space-based MMORPG with a level of depth and breadth that blows games like Shadowbane and City of Heroes out of the water. It is also a beautiful game, with glaring suns, shining stars, and exorbitant ship detail. Beneath its gilded beauty, though, there lies a poorly designed game which rewards the greedy and violent, and punishes the hardworking and honest; and if you think about it, that's a good representation of capitalism. I first started playing Eve a few weeks before it came out, in April 2003, and quickly picked up the essentials of the game. This would prove invaluable later on, since Eve was released with a money-making loophole that gave me the opportunity to make the starting capital I would need to successfully pull off what was probably the biggest scam in the game.
Unfortunately, in order to reach the point where you can revel in a deep and absorbing level of gampelay, you need to have credits. Lots and lots of credits. And you couldn't easily get credits by killing NPC enemies, or "pirates" as the game designers labeled them, because these pirates would either spawn in huge overpowered groups capable of ganking even the best equipped mid-level ships in under a second, or they would spawn so far apart and drop such shitty loot that the idea of killing them for profit was ridiculous.
Since crafting was never really my style, building ships and then selling them was out of the question. This left me with two options: I could run trade routes, or I could mine asteroids.
The entire concept of mining in Eve consists of pressing Ctrl + F, finding an asteroid, then auto piloting your ship over to it and watching little pebbles of rock float into your ship from the asteroid; you would then wait 5-10 minutes for the asteroid to dissolve, and do the same thing, over and over, for hours on end, until your ship was full of space pebbles. You would then sell these pebbles for approximately the same price that an illiterate slave would have received for an ounce of cotton. In case you haven't deduced by now, mining in Eve Online is about as fun as fucking a fat chick's festering corpse.
Running trade routes, unlike mining, actually involved a degree of intelligence and acumen. The basic premise of a trade route was to bring low priced materials from one sector of the galaxy to another sector where they would sell for a high price. Buy low, sell high. With a big ship, the right kinds of goods, and the knowledge of which routes were profitable and which were dry, a person could make tens of millions of credits in a night's work. For a short while, I was one of those people.
My first few weeks after the release of Eve were boring ones. I would log on after school, mine pebbles for hours with my best friend Trazir, and then sell those pebbles to NPC vendors for scant amounts of money. My labors were not without a goal, however; after talking to some extremely successful people in the game, and doing research on the various ship types, Trazir and I set a goal for ourselves: To collectively possess two million credits by the end of our second week. We would use this money to buy an industrial ship, cargo expanders, and two of the ever-essential micro warp drives, or MWDs. The industrial ships in Eve, or "indies", were huge. They could carry a gargantuan amount of cargo, made even larger by cargo expanders, and were relatively inexpensive to buy. This big cargo space made it possible to transport ample quantities of goods and make a large profit.
There was just one problem: Indies were slower than fucking hell when they weren't in warp drive, and therefore they were prone to destruction at the hands of pricks who camped at warp gates and PKed innocent traders. This was where the MWDs came in; if you came upon some unsavory characters upon leaving warp drive near the warp gate, you would turn on the MWDs and blast away to safety. I cannot even begin to recall the number of times that my life was saved thanks to my trusty MWDs. By this point, I had a pimped out indy with cargo expanders and several MWDs. The only problem was that I was broke again; I sure as fuck wasn't gonna make much money as a trader if I didn't have any credits to buy trading goods in the first place. So, I did what any business major would do when looking to start an intergalactic enterprise:
I took out a loan.
Over the course of my short-lived mining career, I met a guy named "HardHead" who frequented the same asteroid field that I did each night. After a few hours of in-game chatting, I got his ICQ number and talked to him on a semi-regular basis. His real name was Vinnie, and he was one of those uber-nerds with 4 computers running the same game at once; he told me about how he set up mining macros on his other 3 computers and made about 250,000 credits of pure profit each night by simply leaving his computers running. This intrigued me, and he even sent me the program he used called "EZmacro", but alas, I was far too lazy to ever record a macro and make sure it ran perfectly. HardHead's masochism paid off in generous dividends though; while Trazir and I were dumpster-shit broke, HH had close to 6 million credits. I told him about my trade route ideas, about how if he invested in me I would make him into a virtual Donald Trump. I fed him the finest bullshit cuisine on this side of the Atlantic, spooning it down his throat one gentle swallow at a time. By the end of the night, my credit count read "3,000,017". I went to sleep contented, fully intending to pay back HardHead's money with a healthy spattering of interest.
"The Early Bird Gets The Worm"
I can't think of a better quote to describe Eve Online's trading system; the key to succeeding as a trader in Eve laid in being one of the first to login to the newly reset server, before all the trade routes became exhausted. With this in mind, I set my alarm clock to 6:30 AM and woke up with a new purpose in my day, to make as much virtual cash as possible. I had already planned out some routes during the previous weeks, so I hit the ground running. My first route involved bringing computer hardware from the Amarr region into the Gallente region; this would be about 16 jumps, or the real-time equivalent of 25 minutes. I bought the hardware for approximately 1100 credits per unit, and spent all 3 million credits on it. This amounted to 2700 units of computer hardware that I would need to sell. My heart pounded with excitement at the prospect of actually making a real profit in this God forsaken game.
Each space sector in Eve is assigned a security rating; this rating, ranging from 0.0 all the way to 1.0, determines the strength and speed with which the intergalactic police respond. In 0.0 regions, there are no police, and pirates, both PCs and NPCs, fly around freely, and in 1.0 regions, security is tighter than Jessica Simpson's snatch. During this first eventful trade flight of mine, I had to pass through a 0.3 region. At the time, I naively believed that anything above 0.0 would be safe, because nobody would be ballsy enough to dare provoke the wrath of the 5-0 in space. I turned out to be wrong; not dead wrong, but pretty fucking close.
I knew that something was wrong when my ship started to beep and a red target lock cursor appeared in the horizon with the name "Dethbringer". The beeping accelerated and a red square appeared around my ship. Since I hadn't even bothered trying to fight a training pirate yet, I had no idea what the hell was going on. He sent a message to me, "250k or die." I responded to him, "okay", the sweat dripping down my armpits, past my side, and accumulating in a little puddle at the edge of my shirt. Five or more seconds must have passed as I fumbled for the MWD hotkey, and just as they started to warm up, the first missile slammed into my ship. The warpgate was 15,000 meters away, I had to be within 800 meters to pass through it, and I was currently flying at about 300 meters per second. A second missile exploded against the hull, bringing down my shields and tearing apart my hull. I knew that if one more missile hit me, my ship would be nothing more than space debris, and this fucker who couldn't even spell "Death" correctly would have access to all I had worked for. "COME ON YOU FUCKING PIECES OF SHIT", I shouted at the monitor. My dog started to bark in the background, but I could barely hear it. The only thing that mattered was the gate, because I knew that if I had lost that cargo, all my weeks of hard work and all my finely tuned bullshit would be down the drain.
WHOOOOOOSH. I hadn't used the MWDs since the night before, and forgot about just how powerful they were. I was now shooting towards the warp gate at 3.5 kilometers/second, and all Dethbringer had to account for his two expensive missiles was a trail of dust. If you're reading this right now, Deth, I'd like to give out a hearty Fuck You.
I arrived at the specified starbase in the Gallente region, my ship battered and bruised, and my ego several sizes smaller. I sold the computer hardware for a total of 3.7 million credits. The hull repairs amounted to 100k. I felt my heart with my left hand; it was still pulsing rapidly, and the realization that I netted 600,000 credits in 25 minutes, along with a healthy dose of action, sent it shooting up even further. I did several more trade routes that morning, and by 9 AM, my credit count read "5,780,000 credits". I knew that both Trazir and HardHead were gonna cream their pants when they saw this, but for now, I had to go to class.
All I could think about during the day was returning to Eve. Calculus equations, physics problems, the musings of long-dead authors, all these things meant nothing to me now, for I was well on my way to becoming a virtual pimp. I drove home like a maniac that day, darting in and out of traffic and speeding through crowded city intersections. I sprinted to my computer and started Eve, my heart warming at the gentle glow of the galaxy sun. I netted about 1.5 million more credits by 7 PM, when HardHead logged on. He wasted no time in messaging me.
HH: "Hey dood, how's it going? How's the financial situation?"
Me: "Pretty fucking awesome, I've made 5 million credits so far."
HH: "Are you kidding me? Jesus Christ that's a lot, can I have my money
Me: "Sure. I'll give you a million extra too, just as promised."
HardHead logged in, and I wired him 4 million credits. His trust in me was now firmly established, and I got back to work, doing what I did best, running trade routes. During this time, Trazir bitched and moaned, asking me to wire him money so that he too could start doing trade routes. He even called me up a few times, asking for virtual money. I eventually gave in and sent him a million just to shut him up. By the time I went to sleep that night, having made an additional 500k by whoring large amounts of cheap items through safe areas, I knew that my virtual life had changed forever.
Over the next two weeks, I traded harder than a Chinaman in a flea market. Trazir even joined in, but since he was too lazy to wake up early in the morning, he would be lucky on his best days to make half what I made on my worst days. During this time, HardHead told me about how he had moved on to actually writing scripts for the game so that he could find and mine the very rarest of asteroids with ease. I also became a master of blasting off with my MWDs the second any hostiles showed up near a warp gate, and while there were a few close calls, nothing ever rivalled my experience with Dethbringer. By the end of this period, I was worth close to 85 million credits, and Trazir was near 30 million. I felt like a fucking space tycoon, a financial juggernaut, ready to expand my realm of influence from the monetary to the military. I was going to buy a cruiser, the next step up from the frigate you are given when you first enter the world of Eve.
I did my research, and decided that the best ship for combat would be the Caldari Moa; it was fast, deadly, and had an armament approximately equal to the United States’ missile arsenal during the Cold War. Nuclear winter, here I come. I was going to pick it up from a guy named “OneEye Willie”, a hard boiled manufacturing magnate I met one day in IRC. Willie sold the ship equivalent of an Alienware computer; terribly overpriced, but outfitted with all the best decals, all the best hardware, and most importantly, the best weaponry that money could buy. When you bought from Willie, you weren’t just buying a combat ship; you were buying death incarnate, a million credits at a time.
After an intense bout of haggling, some shouting on my part, and some screaming back on his, I worked him down to 35 million credits. Willie, in addition to being just a little eccentric, manufactured his ships far away from civilization where costs were lower and competition was nil. I suspected that he supplied pirates with their combat ships, but I never could confirm it, because Willie never, ever talked about himself or his other clients. I would pick up the Moa in some near-abandoned outpost in a 0.0 sector in the Caldari region. It would take me 2 hours to fly out there, but I wanted that fucking ship, so it was worth it. Since it would be 0.0 space, and since I didn’t want to have to leave my indie out in the middle of the space equivalent of Bumfuck, Alaska, I would be flying out in my lifepod.
In Eve Online, your lifepod is the final string in the cold vacuum of space which keeps you in the world of the living. Unfortunately, it’s about as strong as an anorexic midget in a world of steroid-laced giants. NPC enemies ignore lifepods completely, but the NPCs were easy to get away from anyway. It was the other humans you had to watch out for, the asshole player killers who destroyed lifepods and set you back hours, not for profit, not for personal gain, just for the sake of ruining somebody’s day.
I had been gliding through space for about 90 minutes when I saw the red targeting cursor. My pod beeped, and I shouted at the monitor, “FUCKING DAMN IT!” Seconds passed, and I was perplexed; no missiles had hit my pod, and no lasers blasts were ripping through my hull. My speed bar was decreasing. 400 m/s. 300 m/s. 200 m/s. I slowly grinded to a halt. “Your engines have been disabled,” the notification read. His name was DanielSan, and he had me immobilized in space. My life was in the hands of the fucking karate kid.
His message arrived shortly after, “give me 500k or I’m gonna blow you to shit.”
“All right, calm down, I’ll wire the money right now.” I groped for the send button, nervously trying to type in 500,000 in the wire transfer box. The way I figured it, giving up the profits from a single 30 minute trade run more than justified the loss of skills and time I would have incurred if I was blown away.
A second before the wire went through, I received another message: “send it NOW you bitch. Heres a little present.” A single laser blast tore through the mass of my ship, bringing my hull integrity down to 15%. “Ok, you can leave now bitch, and dont come back.” Thirty seconds later, my engines let out a low whine as they came back to life. Once again, I had narrowly evaded death at the hands of a malevolent prick with a dumb name. My engines were damaged and on fire, only operating at 1/3 capacity. My ship hobbled through space towards the jump gate, beads of sweat broke out on my forehead with each additional meter; I feared that the karate kid would pull the equivalent of a Mr. Miyagi finishing move by blowing me the fuck up. As I passed through the warp gate, I vowed my revenge, and 60 minutes later, I arrived at Willie’s, a broken, burning shell of a man.
“Bout time you got here. Man, what the hell were you doing anyways? You said it would be 2 hours.”
“I got into a little accident. Can I see the ship?”
He placed the Moa in a trading window, and it was just as beautiful as I envisioned it. It had 3 long-distance laser racks, 2 high density missile bays, and an ECM ray to drain enemies of their ships’ energy. I gave Willie the money, and within minutes, I was flying away from Willie’s base in a shiny new Moa. I had a good idea of who my first target would be, and I was shooting through space with a rage I hadn’t felt in weeks. The familiar explosion of the MWDs sent me roaring, closer and closer, towards each warp gate. He was minutes away, I could feel it in my bones, and I burned with a rage equal to that of the galactic sun.
And finally, I knew it. He was one jump away, and I was only a kilometer from the warp gate. He would be on the other side, camping, bullying, killing, waiting for another innocent soul to pass through his dark grasp. I loaded up my missile bays, readied my left hand over my weaponry hotkeys, my right hand over my targeting hotkey; this was gonna be one hell of a fight, and it didn’t help much that it was going to be the first time I ever fired a weapon in Eve. I nervously gulped and passed through.
The heat was on. My targeting system had Danielsan acquired, and I activated my MWDs; I would unload on that motherfucker with the wrath of the Cobra Kai after the halloween party. I quickly reached firing range, and let loose with both missiles. They glided through the air gracefully, passing through each others white trails like two avian lovers mating in flight. The ensuing explosions annihilated his shields and did significant damage to his hull. Oh yes, he would be mine. He fired back pitifully, his laser volley barely denting me thanks to my shield booster. I let out a cackle of delight as I pressed the "fire laser" hotkey, and watched his ship disappear in an inferno. Payback wasn't mine yet, though. I fired my ECM ray on his pod, draining it of all its energy and effectively keeping him from engaging his hyperdrive. I knew it would take about 20 seconds for his pods' capacitor level to reach the point again where he could enter hyperspace, so I wasted no time in messaging.
"Give me 750k or I will pod you, bitch."
Seconds later, the money appeared in my credit box. I was contented now, but not quite happy. For a moment, my left index finger wavered over the fire missile hotkey as my conscience actually questioned whether or not I should blow this fucker up. The two burning hot streaks ejected themselves from my ship, furiously shooting towards their target, and 5 seconds later, Danielsan was no more. He didn't bother messaging me after that; he knew that he had done wrong, and that the Great Magnet had effected its will upon him. I flew back towards civilized space, happy and gleeful and free.
I regaled Trazir with my story that night, saying that he needed to get a cruiser as fast as fucking possible, for the thrill of a fight and the joyous feeling of seeing your enemies slain before you was rivalled by nothing in this God forsaken game. He agreed, but bitched about fiscal problems; apparently he'd done a few bad trade routes where he actually ended up selling his acquired goods for less than he bought them. How this happened, I do not know. Out of the goodness of my heart, I wired him 2 million. Classes had ended for both of us by this point, and Trazir overcame his natural laziness, not by waking up extremely early like me, but by going to bed extremely late. He would sleep during the day, jerk off during the night, and wait until the servers came up at 7 AM to start doing his trade routes. Within a week, he was worth 60 million credits, and I was nearing the same. But then, one morning after I logged in, it happened.
I was running my trade routes as usual, when I came upon a pirate named Lando Griffin. No big deal, I thought to myself, just hit the MWD key and blast off towards the gate.
"Your ship does not have a sufficient amount of energy to use that."
"WHAT THE FUCK?" I slammed my finger into the MWD hotkey again; this must be some sort of joke, some temporary bug in the game.
"Your ship does not have a sufficient amount of energy to use that."
The bullets from his machinegun pinged off my shields, doing considerably damage, and I knew it was only a matter of time. I watched in terror and heartache as my ship slowly cruised towards the warp gate; each bullet into its side was like a cut into my heart. I was carrying 30 million credits worth of goods, and I was NOT going to let those goods be destroyed. My only hope was to try and enter hyperspace, try and get away, try ANYTHING to recover my money. But alas, a moment before my finger stroked the hyper-drive hotkey, his ECM ray drained my ship of its energy. I messaged Lando, desperate for survival.
"I'll give you 5 million credits if you let me go. PLEASE MAN."
He responded with a dual-volley of Phalanx Rockets. My formidably armored industrial ship was now on fire, each lick graphical lick of flame consuming the last vestiges of my morning optimism. I was dead now, and I knew it. I force-ejected from my ship, hoping that he wouldn't destroy it if it was unoccupied. My pod hovered in space, like a small child seperated from its parent. I jammed my finger into the hyperspace key, and moments later, I blasted off into the stars. By the time I was tens of kilometers away, I saw a small speck of light in the galactic horizon. The fucker had destroyed my ship.
I wasted no time in calling Trazir on the phone. A few days earlier, he had purchased a cruiser of his own, one that I knew was just as powerful or even more powerful than my own. It was an Amarr Maller, a ship with more combat slots on it than a fucking space station. He told me that the purchasing price was 40 million, so I knew that unless he got ripped the fuck off, which was quite possible for him, each of those slots possessed a piece of ordnance capable of ending a star system. I flew back to my Moa, which was about 15 jumps away in Caldari space, and had him meet me there. We were going to exact revenge, and unless Lando had Han Solo and the entire rebel armada with him, he was going to have the space equivalent of dry, painful prison rape.
About an hour later, we arrived at the space sector where I had been attacked. We were on the phone with each other, which made instant communication possible, and I hoped that this would tilt the advantage in our favor if Lando had any other pirates with him.
"Listen," I said, "If there's more than one, I'll call out a target, and we both unload on him. Focus fire. Open up with missiles, keep the pressure on with lasers, and once you think his hull is at about 50%, fire your ECM."
"Okay, but what if one of us gets badly damaged?"
"Fight to the death. We need to rid the game of these kinds of scum."
We engaged our hyperdrives and darted towards the jump gate where I had been destroyed. Vengeance would be mine, and my foes would rue the day that they crossed me. Or so I thought.
I watched the stars dash past my Moa with a new perspective. This could be the last time I'll ever see this Moa, I thought. I knew that Lando probably had friends with him, since pirates very rarely operate alone for long in 0.2 space. I also knew that Trazir's combat prowess was meager at best. The Great Magnet would have to be on our side if we were gonna win this one, and so far, I hadn't been feeling much pull today.
My engines let out their dull, familiar whimper as they disengaged from hyperdrive mode. Four red crosses appeared about 20 km away, and my ship started beeping like a NORAD siren on Defcon 1. And there among them was Lando, cowering in the middle of their formation like a soldier hiding behind a field of mines.
"Ok man, cycle your target to Lando, fire your missiles, and MWD to 15 kilos." As I said this, my own jet-powered implements of destruction set off from my ship and whisked through the vacuum of space, gyrating to their dance of death as they made their way towards Lando. I moved the camera to Trazir's ship, and aside from his pitifully slow forward movement, nothing seemed to be happening.
"What the fuck? FIRE YOUR MISSILES."
"FIRE YOUR MISSILES MAN, WHY AREN'T YOU FIRING YOUR MISSILES?"
"I uh... I forgot to load the ammo into the missile bays. It's loading now."
By now, all four pirates had noticed our presence and my presents to Lando had detonated on his hull and ripped apart his shields. I pressed the MWD hotkey, but once again, I received the hellish message.
"Your ship does not have a sufficient amount of energy to use that."
"GOD DAMN IT." I slammed the phone receiver against the wall; in order for my lasers to work at their optimum damage level, I would have to fire them from a precise range of 15 kilometers. Since I was 20 kilos away, they would be doing about 75% of their maximum potential damage. Since this was a 2v4, since Trazir was out of action until his fucking missiles were loaded, and since I saw the white streaks of enemy rockets racing towards my hull, I did what any man in a cornered position would do.
I went berserk.
I worked my keyboard like a Japanese chef on crack. After several laser volleys, I could see Lando's engines turn red; they were on fire, and in a few moments, he would be as well. My missiles let off a thundrous wave as they paraded and jigged, rolling towards Lando's cheaply built ship. And then, they hit. My shields went down almost immediately in a brilliant glare as 4 enemy rockets erupted against my precious Moa.
"FUCK," I shouted into Trazir's ear. "DO SOMETHING DAMN IT." I could almost feel his anxiety emanating through the phone cord, and an instant later I breathed a sigh of relief as his ECM ray sucked the energy out of Lando's capacitors. And then, there was a brief flare as my missile discharged and the body of his ship broke apart in a million different directions. A second later, my other missile ignited in the then-empty space that once contained Lando's ship. However, his pod was only meters away, and this explosion was sufficient to blow it to smithereens. I snickered ecstatically, for revenge had been mine, and I could now die with honor. The lasers burned into my hull, damaging my engines and slowing my ship down to a crawl. I cycled through the remaining pirates like a game show contestant spinning a wheel of chance. The spinner landed on some prick named Johanesan.
"Okay, focus fire on Johanesan"
I could almost hear war drums in the background as I targeted him and fired my laser volley. They had been moving towards us as we moved towards them, and the engagement range was now close to 17000 meters; my lasers would now do substantially more damage to the enemy shields. To my delight, Trazir had actually figured out how to use his armaments, and I watched in elation as his missiles streamed through the void, going straight for Johanesan's armor. Another laser volley splashed against my aegis, and my ship caught fire. I shot off one last barrage of missiles at Johanesan before I force ejected and began to take off with my pod.
But I was too late.
The rockets blasted my 35 million credit toy into nothing, and the resulting conflagration decimated my pod. In my naivety, I had neglected to purchase good insurance, which set my skill gains back by about 3 weeks, and I had also neglected to change the spawn point of my clone if I ever died. As a result, I reappeared back in the newbie sector of Caldari space, a place I hadn't seen in months.
"Finish off Johan and get the hell out of there, dude."
"It's already done, those last missiles of yours took him down. I'm hyperspacing away as we speak."
I made some excuse about having to go eat dinner, and hung up the phone.
And then, it hit me. My 35 million credit ship was gone forever. OneEye Willie would build me a new one, I knew this, but his base was 5 hours away from where I was stationed, and I sure as hell didn't feel like watching a shitty newbie ship fly for that long. I logged off Eve in disgust, and read through the lengthy list of patch notes that morning, looking for some explanation of why my MWDs didn't work.
"The capacitor requirements for Microwarp Drives have been substantially increased."
I logged onto the Eve forums, and learned that pirates and player killers, who comprise a substantial portion of Eve's population, had been bitching to the game developers that MWDs allowed industrial ships to get away too easily, and that they should be nerfed so the pirates could gank an honest trader trying to make a profit. In response, the genius developers of Eve put insane energy requirements on MWDs; in order to use them, you would need to be running a barebones gimp ship, which meant that if you were flying an industrial ship, you couldn't have any cargo expanders.
Using an indie without cargo expanders is like running a high powered train with only one boxcar. Not only is it stupid, and not only does it look ridiculous, but it is also highly unprofitable. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. I had grown tired of trading and mindless profiteering. Not only was I bored, I was pissed. Pissed at every idiot who played Eve and thought it was fun to watch pebbles float into their ships for hours on end. Pissed at the developers for taking away my MWDs. Pissed at the world.
As I browsed through the various forums, I noticed a fair number of investment threads; various corporations and individuals who offered to pool people's money in order to buy a ship blueprint, which could be copied and passed out to each investor, so if somebody put money in the pool, he would receive his own copy of the blueprint. This intrigued me. I decided to log back in to scroll through the help menus and see how blueprints worked, but on my way in, I noticed a patch message.
"We would like to remind the players of Eve Online that game masters are unable to assist players who have been involved in any sort of scam. We have taken measures to prevent scamming by making it easier for corporations to see exactly who has access to the shipyards and equipment pools, but it is up to the officers of the corporation themselves to ensure that they fully trust the individuals they recruit."
I called Trazir again and told him about the things I had just read. We had a nice long talk, and our planning commenced.
The possibilities were tremendous. I could think of so many potential ways to make an unethical profit that it made my head hurt, and for once, I welcomed the pulsing pain. Horatio Alger’s spirit was alive that day, and I reveled in it. Since trading, our only source of income, was now so dangerous that it would be fruitless over a long term period of time, neither Trazir nor I had any moral qualms about screwing somebody else out of their money. After all, it was a dog eat dog universe, and the only ones who made it to the top were the ones who did so by any means possible.
“Listen,” I said, “I think the best way for us to make money is to do one of these blueprint schemes. For battleships, the blueprints cost hundreds of millions of credits man. Hundreds of millions! With a couple hundred million each, we could live like kings.”
“Well, maybe,” Trazir responded, “but come on. Do you think people are gonna just give us their money? I mean, just like that, with nothing more than a promise in return?”
“That’s exactly what I think. I did it once already, remember? In this case, we’ll just be doing it with more than one person. And in my opinion, the key to pulling this off will be to build credibility.”
“I dunno man, but if you’re right, then I think we’d better start a corporation. Nobody’s gonna give their credits to a couple of space bums.”
“Okay,” I said, “I’m going to go learn more about how these blueprints work. I’ll call you back some time tonight.”
The premise of blueprint investing was to be able to buy what would normally be a super-expensive blueprint for a much cheaper price. A group of people would give their money to one trustworthy person, and that person would then purchase the blueprint and make copies of it. These copies would be given out to each of the investors, who could then build a ship using their newly acquired blueprint.
I delved into help menus, game tutorials, and informational websites, learning as much as I possibly could about blueprints and the related skills I would need in order to persuade people to invest in me. I finally decided that our blueprint would be the Apocalypse battleship. I had seen it in combat once before, and it lived up to its namesake, blasting away 4 heavily armed cruisers in less than 30 seconds. However, it was also the most expensive blueprint of all, with an original copy weighing in at 1.125 billion credits to purchase off the market.
It would be an unrealistic stretch to tell potential investors that I had the maximum amount of skill level in each of the skills needed to upgrade a blueprint and copy that blueprint. So I figured that I would lie, and tell them that some of these skills were fully trained by my associates, and the rest of them were fully trained on my other account (which didn’t exist).
Trazir was right, though. The only way to successfully persuade somebody to invest in us was to make ourselves look as legitimate as humanly possible. To this end, we started our corporation, and I took an unnecessary risk by naming it “ZZZZ Best” (google the name). He didn’t catch the joke, and luckily, neither did any of the future investors. There was just one problem: the corporation only had two members. If a prospective investor looked us up, a corporation with two members would appear to be highly suspicious. With this in mind, we did what any company with dreams of wealth and splendor would do.
We went on a recruiting drive.
Trazir would fly around the Minmatar newbie sectors, offering 10,000 credits to anybody who would join our corporation. All they had to do was click on “accept” when Trazir made the offer, and they became a part of our corporate family. Since many of the people he encountered were only days, hours, or even minutes new to Eve, a great deal clicked “accept” and were subsequently given 10,000 credits. I did the same in the Caldari newbie regions, and within a couple days, ZZZZ Best was burgeoning at the seams with 18 clueless members. We had to act quickly and peddle our deal, as well as maintain member numbers, because there would no doubt be a good deal of turnover as people realized that they belonged to a corporation which did nothing for them and which they did nothing for.
We wrote up posts on virtually every Eve forum imaginable, presenting ourselves as a professional trading organization which wanted to broker a battleship deal for the good of the galaxy. We were tired of being pushed around by space pirates, losing unimaginable amounts of credits for no reason at all other than greed and misanthropy. To the greater community, we appeared to be the most benevolent, respectable capitalists around, and I was fully confident that investment offers would pile up within days.
I messaged HardHead that night about what we were doing; I had kept in sporadic contact with him, and I felt that he had a good deal of admiration for me.
Me: Hey man, here’s the deal. Trazir and I have made a shitload of money from trading; hell, we even started our own trading corporation, and we’re tired of making money. We want some fucking action. We’re both gonna put up 250 million for an Apocalypse battleship blueprint. Are you interested?
HardHead: I already have a Maller. Why would I want a battleship?
Me: Heh. Here’s a screenshot series in case you’ve never seen one in action.
I sent him a zip file of 10 jpegs that some pirate posted on the eve-i.com forums. It showcased his Scorpion going up against 3 cruisers. By the end of the series, his shields are only at 40%, and all the enemy cruisers have been destroyed.
Me: Listen bro, I’m telling you about this and giving you first dibs because I consider you a friend, and because you loaned me money when I was starting out. If you don’t wanna invest, I would understand completely. Why don’t you think about it? Anyways, I’m gonna go catch some sleep, talk to you tomorrow.
I logged off and walked over to my bed. The groundwork had been laid, and stage one was complete.
The sun was dazzling through my window when I woke up some time in the afternoon. I opened my window and inhaled the fresh air, glad that it was such a beautiful day outside. I gazed for a moment more outside my apartment at the luminous lake, taking in the view for one final instant. I then closed the window and pulled down the shades, insulating the room in a dark cloak. Virtual profit has no time for things like nature and sunshine. I opened up Trillian and Outlook Express; I knew that I would have to be as accommodating as possible with my chat programs, leaving them on at all hours in case any prospective investors tried to contact me. I scoured my inbox for emails related to ZZZZ Best, but alas, all I received was the usual "DO YOU WANT A BIGGER PEN IS 1jASDJXJ@!#FD" crap. For a few seconds, I pouted malcontentedly, then perked up as I remembered my conversation with HardHead. Surely, he would have an answer to my generous offer!
I rummaged through my ICQ contact list, scrolling through the hundreds of useless people in search of the one who could make me richer than Bill Gates. Unfortunately, his name was in red, which meant he was logged off. Perhaps I can discuss business with Trazir then, I thought. I scrolled down through the names to T.
I was quickly becoming annoyed at the inactivity which was occurring beyond my control. The fishing net had been cast far and wide, I knew this, but the hardest part was waiting for the fish to entangle themselves. For the first time in weeks, I got up from my computer, walked out of my house, and socialized with people I hadn't seen outside of class in months.
I returned some time late that night, my vision blurry, my head spinning, and my bowels blaring. My once heroic alcohol tolerance had been reduced to that of a 6 year old child's over the course of playing Eve for months on end. I moved towards my computer, but quickly realized that the bathroom would be a more appropriate place for me at that moment. After discharging the contents of my stomach, I was strangely invigorated. My moment of elation quickly dissipated, though, as I checked my inbox for messages about ZZZZ Best and found naught but more Viagra ads. I collapsed on my couch and sulked myself to sleep.
This process repeated itself for the next several days, minus the alcohol. No emails, no instant messages, no HardHead, no Trazir. My world had been travelling at hyperspace speed, a billion miles per hour, and for some inexplicable reason it all stopped. Maybe the Great Magnet was exerting its pull on me, using this respite as a warning to keep me from continuing on, to keep me from disrupting and quite possibly destroying the fragile equilibrium of Eve's economy.
Or maybe I had just been drinking too much coffee.
I decided to give Trazir a call and see just what the hell he was up to. He sounded pretty bad.
"Hel.." *COUGH* "Hello?" He moaned.
"What the hell man? Are you sick?"
"Yeah dude, I've been feeling kind of bad. That's why I haven't been on lately if you're wondering."
"Have you gotten any responses yet for our little deal?"
"Uh... Lemme check." An eternity passed as I waited for him to ferret through his inbox, which doubtlessly had more junk in it than a typical Brooklyn Street. "Sorry man, I don't see anything."
"God damn it, do you know how long it's been dude? Those message board threads we posted are probably at the bottom of the heap by now, and the other guy I was telling you about went AWOL. I think we need to step it up, BIG TIME."
"Well, I agree. What do you think we should do?"
I pondered this query for more than a few seconds. It was the $64000 question, and the wrong answer would lead to heartache and waste. Finally, I responded.
"I remember reading a story once about this guy who worked as an attorney during the summer, right after he graduated from law school. He was working in the California area, and all the law firms there had reached an agreement to pay the law students $500 less per week than they normally would have. This guy somehow found out about the dastardly pay he would be receiving, and created a bunch of accounts on AOL. He posted in the California lawyer forums and started a huge flame war with himself; he used the various accounts to argue both sides of the issue, and changed up his writing style for each account name. He dragged other, real people into this flame war, and the controversy became so great that the law firms eventually gave in and raised the pay back to its normal level."
"Interesting... Very interesting. So what do you think we should do?"
"We're gonna go undercover, man, like the fucking CIA. And we're gonna hype the hell out of this investment deal on every Eve forum that was ever made. And we're gonna do it using hotmail accounts for our registration email addresses, so I suggest that you get out a legal pad and start coming up with hotmail account names and passwords. I'm personally gonna register 25 hotmail accounts tonight, and I hope you do the same. I'll call you back tomorrow, and we'll start posting like a couple crack whores on crack."
"Crack whores on crack? What the fuck does that mean?"
"Never mind. Go and start registering dude," I responded. I hung up the phone and got to work.
And so we worked, like a couple of crack whores on crack. We hit just about every message board related to Eve, and we hit them hard, using the newly created accounts to question our main accounts about just why somebody should invest in our little scam. Our two main accounts would then give beautifully crafted answers to the deceptively easy questions asked by the new accounts. A common reply-answer-reply scenario consisted of something like the following:
New Account: This deal sounds very interesting, but I'd like to know, how do you expect people with a low amount of isk to invest in a battleship? And why should I put my hard earned money in this deal? How can I trust you?
Me: New Account, I appreciate your interest and I will address each of your excellent questions point by point. Firstly, this investment pool isn't meant for people who just started playing Eve a couple weeks ago; this is meant for hardened players with a significant amount of cash who want to bring their game one step further with the best battleship in the entire Eve universe. However, don't start thinking that this necessarily excludes new or credit-strapped players. If you are new or low on money, and you are also a part of a corporation, tell your CEO to check out this thread or contact me at [Contact info]. I have personally witnessed the awesome power of a battleship in combat; hell, that was the reason why I started this investment deal . If you ask any veteran fighter pilot or pirate, they will tell you that a single Apocalypse is capable of taking down 4 heavily armed cruisers with ease.
Me (cont): And as for why you should put your hard earned money into this pool, well, just think about the deal before you right now. You can have a blueprint copy of the BEST ship in the game for as low as 60 million credits. A normal copy of the blueprint costs 1.125 BILLION isk on the market. To my knowledge, there has not yet been a well-organized battleship blueprint deal of this magnitude, and I highly doubt that there will be another deal like this for a while. Furthermore, and I'm sorry to say this, but we are unable to accept investment contributions below the 60 million minimum, because the lengthy copy time of the blueprint (6 days with maximum skill in Science), would mean that the investors on the low end would have to wait an inordinate amount of time to receive their blueprints. However, as an incentive to invest more, any entity (person or corporation) that contributes more than 120 million isk will receive a SECOND copy of the blueprint after all the investors have received their first; this second copy will be fully upgraded with a maximum level of production efficiency. This means that your battleships will not only be cheaper to build off the blueprint, but they will also build more quickly as well!
Me(cont): To your last question, well, you can ask any of the 17 active and profitable traders in my corporation, ZZZZ Best, to vouch for my trust. Or you can ask one of the ops in #eve-online on irc.afraidyet.net; I'm friends with most of them, and any of them will tell you that I am an honest and reputable trader with an intense dislike for pirates .
New Account: Hey, this sounds great. Here's my contact info, maybe we can discuss this further. [Fake contact info].
By the end of the first day, we had about 20 distinct threads averaging 15 replies long which, for many eve forums, was the equivalent length of a strand of DNA unfurled to the sun and back 1000 times. A pair of lesser men would have stopped there and sat back on their laurels. But Trazir and I talked about it, and in order to further add legitimacy to our blueprint scam, we decided that in addition to our (promised) 150 million credit contributions, we would create a number of fake investors with the new accounts, and have those new accounts publicly announce their investor status. Although this would siphon off a good deal of our potential profit, it would be crucial social proof that we were the real deal. At that point, we needed social proof more than OJ ever needed his attorneys.
After hours upon hours of posting, spamming, and flat-out bullshitting, I felt about ready to collapse on the floor in a dishevelled heap. But the Great Magnet saw my efforts, and I suddenly felt its pull. There, in my ICQ contacts list, was HardHead, back from whatever unfathomable depth he had journeyed to. I wasted no time.
Me: Hey man, it's good to see you back. Where the hell did you go all that time?
HH: I had to cram my final computer science project in 3 days, so for the past week, all I've been doing basically is working. I'm glad that I can finally return to Eve.
Me: So am I. Hey, I don't really wanna press this issue again, I know you're thinking about it, but the battleship deal.. there's been a pretty big response for it dude. I know you're into manufacturing and all that, and I want to keep this deal open for you for as long as possible, but I can honestly say that I doubt there will be any available investment slots by this time next week.
HH: Damn.. has the response really been that big? Do you think I could meet some of the other investors?
Fuck. I hadn't planned on that one. The sweat began to drip down my armpits past my side, and the room temperature became extremely hot. I'd have to wing it.
Me: Yeah bro, definitely. This is a large amount of money we're talking about.. a minimum contribution of 60 million, so I can understand your wanting to meet the other people who would be involved. As a matter of fact, tomorrow night at 8 PM est we're gonna have an investor meeting in IRC to further discuss the deal and answer any additional questions.
HH: All right, that sounds good.
Me: Okay man, I've been up for way too long, I think I'm gonna go pass out now. Peace.
HH: See ya.
I left ICQ and raised my phone receiver with the speed of a man on the chase. I pounded each key with the same sort of desperate enthusiasm I recalled feeling during my short-lived combat career.
Me: "Tomorrow night at eight we're gonna have an investor meeting on IRC."
Trazir: "Uh... an investor meeting? I didn't think we had any investors."
Me: "Well, we've got one now. A potential one. And if he's gonna join up, he's gonna need to see other investors. You know which investors I mean by 'others'. THE FAKE ONES."
Trazir: "Fuck. Okay, what should I do?"
Me: "Go post the time and location of our meeting in each of our investment threads. We had what, 20 threads all together?"
Trazir: "Yeah, around 20. Okay, this will also give me the chance to bump them."
Me: "I'm gonna go register the channel we'll need to use, call it #apocinvest, and write up an outline for what will be said during the meeting. Both us and the fakes will be opped, and any others who drop by will be voiced. This will allow us to at least differentiate between each other somewhat during the confusion. I'll figure out the rest tomorrow, so go update those threads and get a good night of sleep. Later."
As I placed the receiver down, a grin slowly creeped onto my face. I opened up Outlook in the vain hope that somebody had sent me an email expressing interest in ZZZZ Best. The creep on my face turned into a sprint of joy as I read the message requesting more information about the blueprint deal. His name was Magnulus, and he was the CEO of a mining corporation named Alltech. My hard work had finally paid off! With all those fake posts, this douche bag probably thought he was one amongst a hundred others asking for a chance to be a part of this great and wondrous business arrangement. I replied with the IRC information and thanked him for his interest.
Tomorrow would be a long day.
I spent the next day preparing a syllabus, writing out which questions would be asked by the fake investors during our IRC meeting. While I did this, Trazir hyped the fuck out of the get-together which would be occurring later that night. This would be a true test of our skills as scammers, an intellectual battle to the death, winner takes all, and I would have to be ready. I then logged into Eve for the first time in a week and spent the afternoon recruiting newbies into ZZZZ Best, since half of the originals had already left, and a 9 member corporation doesn’t look too secure if you’re considering a multi-million credit investment.
By the time 7:30 rolled around, ZZZZ Best was back up to 15 members. Not as high as I would have liked it, but for the time, it would have to suffice. I logged out of Eve, glad to be away from the abysmally ugly starter ship, and dialed Trazir.
Me: “The meeting starts in 25 minutes. You ready?”
Trazir: “Yeah. You should start logging your clients into the IRC. Get it? CLIENTS?”
Me: “Man, that’s terrible. Go on AIM, I’ll send you the text file for what the fake accounts will say and what our responses will be. You can give the opening statement which is all written out, and then we’ll start fielding questions.”
Trazir: “Okay, but let’s not talk on the phone during the meeting. I can’t type and speak at the same time, and my ear is already starting to hurt.”
Me: “All right. Go into IRC, I’ll see you there.”
I hung up the phone and messaged HardHead, telling him that the meeting would start soon. He assured me that he would be there.
Aside from me, Trazir, and the fake investors, the IRC channel felt more abandoned than a ghost town, and it was just 5 minutes until the meeting began.
<Trazir> What the hell? Didn’t you say there would be like 10 prospects in here?
<Me> Give them time, it still isn’t 8 yet.
I entered into all the major Eve Online channels in the server and respectably spammed the location of our meeting. I was banned from #Eve-Pirates, but I never liked those fuckers anyway.
And all of a sudden, just like the Persians at Thermopylae, they came. They came harder than Peter North on a stacked blonde. We built it, my friends, and they came.
HardHead was the first to enter. Following him was a guy named Thoggins who had the attitude of a perpetually pissed-off pitbull and the bank account of a Fortune 500 CEO. Several inconsequential people arrived after him, and then came my new friend Magnulus, along with several officers of his corporation. I snickered at the fact that a big corporate man actually took this deal seriously. The last important person to enter was a guy called Jorpho, a big-time ship manufacturer who was notorious for his hatred of pirates. I had a feeling we would get along.
The meeting proceeded wonderfully. Trazir read my introduction word for word, and we fielded the pre-written investor questions. By the 15 minute mark, I was fairly certain that every prospective investor in the room was unequivocally dazzled.
Suddenly, something strange happened. Thoggins decided that it would be a good idea to message one of the fake investors with questions of his own; questions for which I had little appreciation.
<Thoggins> Hey, what’s the deal with this Nightfreeze guy anyway? I’ve never heard of him before, and all of a sudden he’s fronting 1.125 billion isk. It seems sorta fishy to me.
<Fake Investor> Yeah, I know what you mean. I felt that way too when I first got into this deal, but I’ve had many conversations with him and run several trade routes with him. Hell, I’ve even talked to him on the phone. He’s a trustworthy guy.
<Thoggins> Hmm… okay. That doesn’t change the fact though that his name is gayer than Christopher Lowell, lol.
I gritted my teeth as I felt my blood pressure starting to rise.
<Fake Investor> Hehe, yeah.
<Thoggins> Tell me more about your phone conversation, I might be interested in that. If this guy fucks me over, I can just spam his number repeatedly.
<Fake Investor> Well, we were talking one night on AIM, and I told him that, while I trusted him and all, I wasn’t sure if I could go through with the payment. He asked me for my phone number and called me up, and we had a nice long conversation about it. Then he gave me his number and told me I could call him any time I wanted to. That was when I knew it, Nightfreeze, despite having a dumb name, is one of the most honest people I’ve ever met.
<Thoggins> Okay, but what’s his number?
<Fake Investor> I’d like to give it to you, but I’m not sure if he would want me to. I’m sure that if you asked him, he would give it. Sorry ;p.
After about 35 minutes, the fake investors’ questions had run dry. Now it was the prospective investors’ turn to speak. To my delight, none of them had any questions; all their concerns and fears had been answered, and my closing statement drove the stake in all the way.
<Nightfreeze> As you esteemed investors may know, the total amount of capital placed in this blueprint pool is now at a total of 625 million isk. We are more than halfway to our goal of the best damn ship in the game, and it is because of all of you. I will be sending out my nightly email to each of you saying where your standing is in the investment pool, and by what day you will receive your blueprint copy. As for you prospective investors, I would implore you to act quickly and invest before somebody else does; this pool has only been in existence for a week, and it is already more than halfway towards its lofty goal. Since none of you appear to have any further questions, I will stay on for 15 more minutes in case you have any private concerns you would like to message me with. I can’t stay on for any longer though, because I need to put my daughter to sleep ;p. You can also contact me any time at [Contact Info].
Note: I do not have a daughter. (That I know of)
My family man image had been placed, and something told me that each and every one of those prospective investors was ensnared. Moments later, I received a message from Thoggins.
<Thoggins> Nice meeting, but I’d like to talk to you in person before I invest my money. Can I call you sometime?
<Me> Sure you can. My wife is on the phone with the bank right now, she’s been on for 45 minutes already and I don’t think she’ll be off any time soon. I’ll be on AIM tomorrow around noon, why don’t you contact me then and we’ll talk further.
Note: I do not have a wife. (That I know of)
<Thoggins> You’d better be on, or I’m not investing a dime. Understood?
If Thoggins were an ant colony, I would kick him over, flood him, burn him, then crucify his eggs right after they hatched.
At the same time Thoggins messaged me, I also received a message from HardHead.
<HardHead> I’ve been thinking about it, and… I’m gonna go ahead and do it. I’ll invest. I’m tired of mining, you know? It seems like this deal is the only way for me to get a blueprint I’d need to build battleships. And that would be a very profitable venture too.
<Me> That’s great to hear man. I can honestly say that of all the people who are investing in this, you and Trazir are my best friends. I’ve known you for months now in Eve, and without you loaning me that starting money, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Because of that, I’ll give you a discount; you probably know that anybody who invests 120 million or over gets a fully upgraded blueprint copy after all the investors have received their first copies. Well, I’ll bring that level down. For you, 80 million.
<HardHead> Hmm…. That sounds good to me. Can I wire the money now?
<Me> Let’s do it tomorrow. I’m about to go tuck my daughter into bed. Have a good night.
<HardHead> You too.
I logged off. My conscience didn’t bother me a bit.
The beeping slowly grew, first starting as a mildly pleasurable melody, but rapidly escalating into a sonorous screech. The time was 6:31 AM, and if I didn't fuck up too badly today, hundreds of millions of credits awaited me. I would live as a king, a veritable ruler over the Eve universe. But first I would need to deal with Thoggins & Co. I slammed my palm onto the off button and walked over to my computer, marvelling at the never-old process of billions of bits of data being shuffled, transmuted, and forced ahead in some kind of digital death march. I opened up Outlook, hoping, nay, expecting to see multiple emails from prospective investors. I was not disappointed.
The first was from Thoggins:
DONT FORGET. Be on AIM at 12 PM, or you won't see a DIME.
It took every ounce of willpower to hold myself back from clicking the "Reply" button and ripping him a new asshole.
The second was from Magnulus; it was a fairly long email explaining how impressed he was with my presentation, but was unable to commit to any financial obligation at the present time because his corporation had not yet voted on the measure. I felt like telling him to grow a pair and just fucking do it. The third was from Jorpho. He wrote that normally, he would never do something like this, but that he found me to be a man of exceptional character and integrity, and felt safe with his trust in me . More importantly, he wanted an Apocalypse blueprint really badly, and was willing to invest 120 million for a second, upgraded one.
A smile spontaneously broke out on my face. Despite its palling darkness, the room grew lighter, the air tasted fresher, and my heart glided like an eagle, majestic and rich and free.
Heavenly God! cried my soul, in an outburst of profane joy.
For a few minutes, I actually pranced around the room. I returned to my chair and felt compelled to go outside and bask in the sun, but the inbox brought me down from my wonderful high. Alltech's vote was beyond my control, I knew that much, which left one loose string for me to tie. I pondered over whether I should actually give the little prick my phone number, and the possibility entered my mind that after I punk'd him of his money, he would follow through on his promise and cause me an endless amount of phone grief. Then, it happened.
There was a library near my house with a red receptionist's telephone at the very back. Normally, this wouldn't be anything to brag about; however, this particular telephone never, ever had a receptionist stationed near it. The librarians tended to avoid it as well, due to the fact that it was right next to the erotica section, (yay for public funding) and all but one of the librarians were conservative women who found the idea of pre-marital sex in any position but missionary to be appalling. I memorized the number as a child, before the days of star 69 and caller ID, and I would crank call it to find out who was browsing for erotica. If somebody was ballsy enough to pick up, I would direct them towards the S&M book. The one where the first page describes, in detail, a man having his penis torn off. That book was later removed or stolen, I shall never know which, but I never thought back then that my childhood antics would serve me in the future. I knew exactly what I was going to do.
11:45 AM rolled around, and I put on my running shoes and shorts. I stretched my feeble joints for 10 minutes, hoping that my limbs would remember their glory days of running cross country and revitalize themselves. It was time.
I logged onto AIM, and Thoggins messaged me immediately.
Thoggins: You're a minute late. Now, what's your phone number? I need to have it before I go through with this.
Nightfreeze: I can totally understand that . Can you wait 5 minutes before calling though? The only phone in our house is in the kitchen, and I figure that as long as I'm in the ol' Food Kingdom, I would fix myself up a snack.
Thoggins: Uh... Okay, whatever, I'll call in 5 minutes. What's the number?
Nightfreeze: [Library Number]. Remember, 5 minutes, I might not pick up if you call before then because I'll be too busy making my food. Talk to ya then
I logged off AIM and ran like a starving coyote chasing down his dinner. I ran like Steve Prefontaine if he had had a second chance with the grim reaper to run home drunk instead of drive, the only condition being that he would have to make it back before the car did. I ran like a brotha running from the police.
I arrived in front of the building with 3 minutes to spare, vigorously gasping for air. But I wasn't done yet. I would have to make my way through the complex armed only with my wits and my deadly kung-fu grip, avoiding librarians through deception and misdirection, lest they foil the scheme I had worked on for so many hours. I walked through the double doors, with 1 minute and 57 seconds on the clock.
The female receptionist spotted me the moment I walked in. Maybe it was my suave demeanor, maybe it was my dashing good looks, or maybe it was the fact that I was wearing a pair of running shorts that extended halfway down to my thighs in an air-conditioned library. Maybe it was some twisted combination of the three.
"Hello, sir." She smiled uneasily and looked back down, pretending to return to whatever activity she had been pursuing before I entered her life. I made the decision that if she came within 10 feet of me, I would have to kill her and hide the body in the shadows, where no patrolling librarians would ever dare looking.
I strolled over to the red phone without incident or bother, and noticed that there was no chair to accomodate anybody who might want to place an urgent telephone call regarding erotica. I glanced back to the center of the library, with its abundant tables and plush chairs. I pondered for a second whether or not it was worth the risk, but my stream of thought was broken instantly by a loud ringing sound. I looked down at my watch.
He was 24 seconds early.
I let the phone ring two times before picking up the receiver.
I could feel a wicked pulse beginning to radiate through the cord, rapidly working its way toward my inner ear canal. I held the phone a good 6 inches away, afraid that his voice might infect my very soul. What I next heard confirmed my gravest fears; the raspy noise emitted from this banana shaped object sunk to the depths of my heart, and would haunt my dreams for months afterward. If Beelzebub himself was an angry 600 pound man with a lisp, he would be Thoggins.
"I count on the element of surprise. Now let's get one thing straight: we aren't friends, we aren't buddies, we aren't even acquaintances, so don't run any of your bullshit on me. We're two strangers in a business deal, and that's it. I think you're a two-faced son of a bitch with an agenda, but that doesn't change the fact that your deal APPEARS to be legitimate and is the only thing going on the player market." He was breathing heavily, his lungs desperately grabbing for the heroic air molecules that would be pumped through his evil, bloated arteries.
I reciprocated his action by breathing heavily as well, but for an entirely different reason. My fists tightened, my teeth slowly grinded against each other, and my eyes burned. I wouldn't allow myself to sabotage hundreds of millions of credits for a small amount of ego gratification. I just wouldn't.
"I'm sorry if I said anything that would lead you to think that. I'm just trying to arrange a mutually beneficial deal here, ya know?"
"No, I don't. But I called to talk business, so let's talk business. I want to be the first in line to get that battleship, and I know that according to the contract you set up, the biggest investor not only gets the first copy, but he also gets the original blueprint. So tell me, who's the biggest investor, and how much has he invested? And you had BETTER not lie to me, because I have my ways of checking up on people. If I find out that you have been lying, the first thing I'll do is persuade the other investors to withdraw, sending your little blueship pool crashing down. The second thing I'll do is put you and your entire newbie corporation on my kill list, and believe me, you do NOT want to be on my kill list."
I was about to scream back at him, call him a fat fuck, tell him he was a worthless piece of shit, anything to express my intense anger and dislike. But the Great Magnet was looking down upon me, and the familiar pull dragged me above my rage. I glimpsed over my shoulder, and saw a girl looking squarely at me. I was perplexed for a moment, but then I realized, so was she: here was this guy standing near the erotica section in short running shorts, talking on a red phone that looks like it might be used to inform NORAD of an impending nuclear attack. I did what I could to not laugh, and responded to Sata, er, Thoggins' question.
"The biggest investor would be me. I've put 180 million isk, nearly all of my savings, into this deal."
"Oh. So if I were to put more than that in, I would not only get the first copy, but I would get the original blueprint as well?"
His deception was thinner than Calista Flockhart's wrists. His intent was to put in the 200 million, then demand the original blueprint, possibly obtain it, and make for the hills without producing so much as a single copy. If he did produce any copies, I was absolutely certain that they would only be sold for an exorbitant price.
"I'll put 181 million isk in then."
"I'm sorry, but there is a required interval of 20 million credits for any marginal investment increase above 60 million. If you look, it's in the contract. So if you want to be the highest investor, you'd have to put in 200 million."
"200 million? You want 200 million you greedy bastard? FINE!" The recognizable sound of a phone being flung in rapid motion through the air broadcasted itself into my ear, followed by an even more recognizable click. My heart raced, my spirit soared, and a sudden sensation of green enthusiasm overtook me. I was rich, RICH, RICH BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS !
I slammed the phone down and turned away, dashing out of the library into the open day. My cheeks were aflame; my body was aglow; my limbs were trembling. On and on I strode, far out over the roads, singing wildly to the sky, crying to greet the advent of wealth that had cried to me. On and on and on and on! The possibilities for my newly acquired wealth were endless! I continued on, walking nowhere, for I had no destination other than the boundless gates of the infinite.
I halted suddenly and heard my heart in the silence. How far had I walked? What time was it? My stomach churned, and the whiff of fries hung heavy in the air. A pair of golden arches loomed in the horizon, their breastlike curves beckoning me on. My appetite was aroused, and it was time to eat.
After my banquet, it would be time to collect.
My stomach burned with the heat of a thousand infernos. The Big Mac I had eaten in celebration of my victory was now tearing its way through my intestinal lining, one membrane at a time. The freedom fries supplemented its attack on my stomach walls, like fighter ships from an enemy carrier. My digestive system would be triumphant, but not without a fight. The weight in my stomach grew heavier with each step, but I pressed on. It was getting dark out, and I had to make it home soon, I had to get those credits, and I had to make off like a in the night. After a painful march, I arrived. I sat down, logged onto AIM, and was barraged with a flurry of messages.
HardHead: Hey, can I wire those credits now? I wanna secure my spot in the pool. I’ve been waiting for you all day, it’s about time you got home.
Me: Okay, go ahead and do it. I’ll be on Eve in a bit to verify that the credits were sent.
Jorpho: Hello. The other investors and I have been waiting for you; we want to send the isk quickly so you can buy the blueprint and get to work. If I understand correctly, do you now have all the isk you need?
Me: No; we’re still 100 million isk short of our goal since Alltech hasn’t come through yet. I’ve invested everything I have into this deal, but I can still borrow up to 40 million from the members of my corporation. It all depends, I suppose, on how Alltech votes.
Jorpho: Oh, I talked to Magnulus. They were in the process of voting a few hours ago, I haven’t heard from him since.
Me: Hmm.. Okay, I’ll check my email. You can go ahead and wire the money, I’ll be on Eve in a bit.
Thoggins: Go into Eve, and I’ll send you the isk. Don’t do anything stupid with it, or I’ll have to act on my threats. You have no idea how serious I am about this.
A euphoric daze passed over me briefly as reality dawned anew. I would be scamming this prick out of his money, out of 200 million of his preciously farmed credits, and he wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. I could envision his parents’ house being surrounded by SWAT teams. The county police chief would be holding a megaphone, shouting into it.
“Thoggins! COME OUT OF THE BASEMENT NOW WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. DO NOT MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVEMENTS.”
He would emerge, a short fat man wearing a flowing black trench coat and dark Oakley sunglasses. His hands would be in his pockets, and he would loudly proclaim,
“The library workers are all dead! Dead! They stole my money, so I killed them with my bare hands, and I will kill all of you too!”
He would then start to pull something out of his pocket, and the entire LAPD SWAT team would open fire on him. The 9 millimeter hollow-point bullets would penetrate his soft flesh and expand, creating large breaches in each of his vital organs. They would continue to shoot through his body and exit out his back, leaving a gaping hole that would spurt out blood and various torn off chunks of cartilage. They would keep pumping round after round into his fallen, disfigured mass, making sure that he was good and dead. And when they finally got around to investigating the body, they would find out that he was reaching for a pumped super soaker pistol filled with laundry detergent.
The police chief would then say, “Well boys, ain’t that an ace in the hole!” They would collectively chuckle, raid his house for small bills, and finish off the day at Scarlet’s strip club.
I opened up Outlook, eagerly checking for a new email from Magnulus. Finally, I found it.
After much debate and reflection, and a narrow vote, my corporation has decided that it would be in our best interest to invest in your Apocalypse blueprint pool. Since, as you repeatedly noted, it will take well over a month for a 60 million credit investor to receive their BP, we have made the decision to invest 80 million. I have taken the liberty of wiring this money to you, and I pray that the pool will reach its goal soon.
I logged into Eve, and saw that I had several messages in my in-game inbox. I clicked through each of them, and suddenly, my credit balance jumped from 6 figures to 9. 480 million credits. It was done! I had joined the greats, and became one of the illustrious and famed men who would forever live in Eve’s history. I was going to live another life, a life devoid of mining and trading! A life of grace and wealth and happiness! It was true. It was not a dream from which I would wake. The past was past. My muddied room now seemed gay, and in spite of all, I had done it.
I transferred the credits to my alternate character, Tachz, and logged off. Staring at Nightfreeze’s face in the character selection screen, I wiped a single tear off my cheek as I clicked the “delete” button.
I picked up the phone and called Trazir.
“Hey man, I’ve got some bad news. Are you sitting down?”
“Uh, no, hold on.”
Seconds passed, and an even greater smile broke out across my face.
“Okay, what is it?”
“One of the investors figured out this was a scam. They all pulled out their money; we’re basically at ground zero again, dude.”
“GOD DAMN IT! DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG I WORKED ON THOSE FORUM POSTS? DO YOU? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TIME I WASTED ON THIS SHIT?”
“Hey man, I’m just fucking with you. They all invested their money, I deleted Nightfreeze, and my Tachz is now the proud owner of 480 million credits.”
A powerful silence passed over the phone. I hoped he wasn’t having an asthma attack.
“You might want to delete your character too man; once they find out we scammed them, they’re gonna be pissed. Very, very pissed.”
“Yeah. YEAH. FUCK YEAH. WE DID IT MAN, WE DID IT.”
“I know we did. I know.”
Now we just had to figure out how to spend it.
"Okay," Trazir said, "send the money over to my new character, bro."
I stared at the balance long and hard. 480,000,000. I was lost in thought, imagining all the possibilities that half a billion credits would bring me. Images of splendor and prosperity flashed in my head, rapid fire. I would be the commander of a fleet of battleships, and a harem of beautiful women would fawn over me every second of the day. And even if I were to die, they would resort to having lesbian sex with each other in front of my 40 foot shrine, forever worshipping my wealth in this life and beyond. The CEOs of the largest corporations and the GMs of the biggest servers would heel before my command, and I would have absolute dominion over every last atom in the universe.
I would be God.
"Dude? Come on, send it over."
I couldn't hear him. I didn't WANT to hear him. The money was mine, wasn't it? It was my idea, wasn't it? What the hell had Trazir done this entire time, other than write a few message board posts? Why should he be deserving of my hard earned profits?
"Um.... Hello? Are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here."
I wanted to tear out his vocal chords and throw them out the window. I wanted to hear him scream for mercy, and say that I could have all the credits for myself. I wanted a lot of things.
"So, you gonna wire those credits any time soon, or am I just going to have to come over there and make you send them? I really want that money man, come on, tell me you're gonna send it."
"FINE!" I put 1 isk in the wire transfer box, and hit send.
"Very funny. MAN, COME ON, SEND THE FUCKING MONEY."
He was being roused from his normally copacetic state. Trazir was a big guy, and I had seen him before many a time under alcohol-induced rages. There was nothing scarier to me at that moment than a six and a half foot heavy-set man whose temper had been left at home. I placed 179,999,999 of my hard-earned isk of my in the wire transfer box and sent it. My heart sunk.
"Awesome! Now that's what I'm talkin' about man. Thanks!"
I had just been extorted to the tune of about $1000. No matter; I would doubtlessly make it back and more with the 300 million isk I currently possessed. I slipped back into fantasy mode, only this time, something wasn't quite right. I had my own battleship, only this time, there was no fleet. There was no harem of beautiful women wanting to jump my bones at any given moment of the day; instead, there was only one moderately attractive girl who seemed kind of interested in me. CEOs viewed me with respect and a touch of admiration, but the Gamemasters looked down upon all of us contemptuously.
"Hey, can you send that money back for a second? I need to see it again, for, uh, corporate.... purposes. Come on, just let me see it, one last time."
"FUCK NO! Do you think I'm stupid or something?" He laughed, and continued on. "Listen man, you have no idea how happy this makes me. But I've gotta go eat dinner now. We can talk later." Click.
I stared, empty, into the far reaches of space. The newbie NPC trainer was repeatedly messaging my new character with instructions about how to play the game, filling my inbox to the brink with annoying, pointless messages. I readied my starter laser and fired a pitiful shot at the trainer; his shield integrity was down to 99%.
The police wasted no time. Three cruisers were on me within seconds, and the very sight of them must have caused my newbie ship to quiver in fear and spontaneously combust, because nary a shot was fired before I respawned at the closest base, pod-death and all. Although I had the money, there was nothing fun I could do with it. My character had minimal skills and therefore could only pilot the shittiest of ships. It would be months before he would be sufficiently trained to pilot a battleship. In RPG weapon terms, my current ship was a rusty dagger, and the best ship I would be able to fly was an aging kitchen knife. I logged off Eve, and watched my desktop; my eyes wavered to the Trillian shortcut, but quickly averted themselves. I knew that if I entered any messaging programs, I would be quickly and brutally raped. My fragile emotional state was at stake.
I opened it anyway.
Ackbar's 3 holy words resonated through my brain as each program opened up. Thoggins was the first.
Thoggins: Tell me something, Nightfreeze, WHY haven't you picked up the phone yet? AFRAID? I knew you would do something like this, you fucking scumbag. FUCK YOU!
Nightfreeze: Thoggins! My dear old friend, how are you doing this eve? How's the girlfriend? Oh wait, you don't have a girlfriend. You don't even have any money, because your ass just got scammed. Doesn't it taste good? Bitch.
Thoggins: I swear to god, if I ever find you in real life, I will beat the everliving piss out of you, YOU LITTLE SHIT.
Nightfreeze: Thoggins, my good man, why do continue to accost me? You gave me your money, fair and square, remember? Hahahahaahahahahahahahhahahah.
Thoggins: Guess what, asshole? I was one of the earliest hackers in the 1980s. I KNEW Kevin Mitnick. Phone Phreaking is as secondary to me as skullfucking your daughter. I'm going to keep calling your house, OVER AND OVER, and the phone company will NEVER be able to trace the call. You're going down.
I had had quite enough of Thoggins. I promptly clicked on the "block" button and prayed for the innocent voyeurs browsing the erotica section who would pick up the phone and be confronted by a screaming man threatening to kill for stealing his money. Oh well, shit happens.
Neither Magnulus nor Jorpho had queried me yet, so I took the intiative by sending them both the same note and blocking them.
Me: Hi there, buddy! I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for investing in the official ZZZZ Best Apocalypse Blueprint Pool. Unfortunately, a group of pirating ruffians ran off with the credits you so faithfully endowed to my organization. Since there was no insurance clause in the contract, I'm afraid that your investment is now gone forever. If you would like more information about my company, and a possible chance for reimbursement, go to google and do a search for ZZZZ Best. Cheers!
Suddenly, he messaged me. The useless one.
HardHead: Hey man, Thoggins has been telling all of us that you took the money and ran. He's wrong, isn't he? I've known you for months now man, I mean, hell, you have a family and everything, I know you wouldn't do something like that. So what's up? Why does it say "Character Doesn't Exist" when I try to send you messages in Eve?
Nightfreeze: Hello friend! I'm gonna write something, so tell me, are you reading closely?
HardHead: Yeah. What is it?
Nightfreeze: I just scammed the fuck out of you.
HardHead: But why? Why would you do something like this? I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS.
HardHead: Hell man, I LOANED YOU MONEY. I just don't understand, how could you DO THIS TO ME?
HardHead: Jesus Christ... I don't even know how to respond... I hate to say it, but man, I'm almost crying right now.
HardHead: I don't think I'll ever be able to trust another person again. Thanks man. Thanks.
*HardHead Logs Off*
There was nothing left for me in the barren wasteland of online chatting. I followed HardHead's example, and dismissed myself for the night.
My eyelids trembled as if they felt the vast cyclic movement of the earth and her watchers, trembled as if they felt the strange light of some new world. Sunshine streamed through the window, and the shackles of duty slowly began to fall with each gradual upward movement of my torso. I leapt out of bed and stood straight, high, free! Eve was nothing more than a faded memory to me now; the world was calling me, and my soul was leaping at the call, to live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!
"ENOUGH OF THIS DAMNED GAME!!" I shouted, my booming voice causing a freshly awoken dog to begin howling at the day. I jogged to my computer and started Eve Online. I flew my starter ship out to the closest asteroid field and struck up a conversation with a player named Frosttt.
Me: Hi. What would you say if I were to offer you 300 million isk?
Frosttt: id say it was pretty kool lol
I wired the credits to him and logged off.
I never logged back in again.