Recently, in the course of an interview by Tusker Romeo Blakstorm, I was asked, "What is the most lucrative piece of loot that has come into your possession?" Not having had any remarkable pieces of loot drop into my lap, I declined to answer. I likewise ignored the question, "What is your most lucrative ransom payment received?"
Well, gentle reader, I'd have a good answer for him now...
A few of us Tuskers were out hunting our way towards Placid. We ended up converging in the Ouelletta system in Verge Vendor; there were a number of possible targets teasing us there. A Catalyst would appear at a safe spot; a Harpy was flitting quickly between celestials; and a Tengu was doing a Faction Warfare complex. Most of us took a stab or two at the Tengu, but it was usually 60km away from the warp-in after we activated the acceleration gate, and would simply zip off the moment one of our ships showed up on its overview. In the end, three of us in battlecruisers were sitting at a safe spot deep in space, outside of directional scanner range, while Man Barthelme in a Stabber chased targets.
A covert ops scout in Intaki was reporting cruisers, battlecruisers, and the occasional battleship target at belts, outside stations, or passing through. I was all for keeping the gang moving, not entirely happy that we'd been messing around for over half an hour around Ouelletta. But it seemed every time the gang would be preparing to move on toward Placid, some new target would briefly expose itself to Bart's directional scanner, and we'd all wait for just a few more moments, hoping for success.
And then it began.
"Point on the Tengu. Everybody warp to Bart." Noting the Tengu pilot kept returning to his complex each time we scared him off, Man Barthelme had placed his Stabber in a tight orbit around the acceleration gate leading to the complex; and to our great fortune the Tengu pilot did indeed end up warping to the gate--and Bart tackled him before he could activate the gate!
"In warp to Man Barthelme." "Warping to you." "In warp." The battlecruiser complement of our gang provided status reports as we aligned toward Bart and entered warp.
Bart wasn't overly optimistic at this point--"Make it fast! I'm taking heavy damage!" he reported. As our ships began dropping out of warp, he pleaded, "Does anybody else have point? I'm getting hurt pretty badly."
"Point!" "Point on the Tengu." "Get out if you need to, Bart, we have him tackled." As it turned out, Bart didn't need to warp out: for one thing, the Tengu switched his fire to one of our battlecruisers; but even before that, Bart had reached a tactically advantageous orbit and ceased taking much damage from the ultra-high-tech cruiser's missiles.
The Tengu's tank looked very tough at first. With all four of our ships pouring on everything we had, his shields were holding at about 95%. Fortunately, one of our gang had an energy neutralizer, and after a short time it apparently began to affect our target's ability to keep his shields up. "Overheat! Let's break his tank!" I urged.
Status reports filtered in and it looked like we were all comfortably established in effective orbits, and we were coping well with the Tengu's offensive efforts. I opened a ransom channel with the Pilot. Naive in the ways of ultra-high-tech cruisers, I asked for 200M ISK. The pilot immediately assented, and asked to whom he should transfer the ISK.
Just then I saw the Tengu's shields evaporate. "Cease fire! He's going to pay!" I shouted into battle comms--but to no avail. Literally within seconds, the Tengu icon on my console display went from low shields to low armor--then blinked out. I felt a sense of profound disappointment; that 200M ISK would have been one of the highest ransoms I'd ever commanded. Feeling guilty that we had destroyed a ship when the pilot had accepted our ransom offer, I checked to see if he had actually paid the ransom; Tusker protocol requires that if he had, we would have had to return the ransom. The pilot hadn't actually paid, so we weren't guilty of dishonoring a ransom; good enough, as far as it went. Still, I felt compelled to remind the pilot that we had provided only 30 seconds for him to pay the ransom, and urged him to pay more quickly next time.
By this point we had managed to tackle the Tengu pilot's escape capsule. Reasoning that someone who could afford such a valuable ship would probably be wearing valuable implants, I then demanded 100M ISK in exchange for releasing his pod. Only then did I note that the transponder signal indicating the presence of the pilot himself in the system was absent; one way or another, the consciousness of our target was gone. "Pop the pod. He's gone." Seconds later, we scooped a frozen corpse from space, but we knew the pilot was probably warming up to a nice cup of hot chocolate outside a clone vat somewhere far away.
Keeping on the alert for interlopers, our attention turned next to recovering what systems were still functional from the wreckage of the Tengu. With our usual avarice, as my Tusker mates grabbed modules, they began assessing roughly what we'd won.
I won't repeat here the language I heard; suffice it to say that one of the modules we recovered was judged to be worth over a billion ISK all by itself--and our pilots were, well, impressed and expressive. Soon an official killmail was broadcast, and I imagine on the bridges of four Tusker ships in Ouelletta four pirate captains scanned the Total Module Drop list again and again for several minutes. Near as we could figure, we'd found ourselves in possession of over 1.7B ISK in intact modules--a prize of over 400M ISK each!
Giddy, we hurried to finish looting and salvaging the wreck, then darted back to our safe spot. You may think our lot hardened battle veterans and calloused criminals, but a casual observer just then might be forgiven for thinking of us more a gaggle of excited schoolgirls. We began dreaming of what fabulous things we might spend our bounty on, each Tusker more extravagant than the last: Some new battlecruisers! New heavy assault cruisers! New recon ships! A full set of Snakes!
(I'm embarrassed to write it up like this here, because I know many of you readers keep 400M ISK in your change pocket, but there you have it. Tuskers often get as good as they give, and our combat efficiency is on the wrong side of 75%; the truth is it was Christmas in April for we four.)
Although we were just four jumps out from our base in Hevrice, there were no complaints when I ordered us to chart a course for home. Never was a fleet scouted so carefully; I practically held my breath the whole way home. Docking at the Hevrice V station was cause for another round of self-congratulations; Bart said, "Now I can get excited--the loot's safe!"
In that interview with Romeo Blakstorm, I was asked, "Either/or: Strategic Cruiser/150 tech II fitted Rifters?"
I answered, "I have a personal bias against T3 and faction ships. Even most T2 ships are hard to break even with. I’d probably think differently if I had more ISK of my own." It's true. With more ISK of my own, I'm out to buy an Arazu and maybe an Ishtar...
And that's my story. All that was left was for my mates to heap scorn upon me for being ready to settle for a 200M ISK ransom. No worries--I took it just fine. But heaven help you if you're the next T3 cruiser we get a point on!