"How does he do it?" wondered Jenkins, shaking his head as he pulled his gaze away from the viewing port. He directed the question to his colleague working next to him with the lower half of his body sunk into a ground access panel.
"He isn't human; that's the reason Jenk. He's a capsuleer, not human," replied the shorter man. Fiddling with something he looked back at Jenk. "Hey, pass me a size five spanner will ya?"
Both Jenk and his friend were dressed as station maintenance crew, like tens of thousands of fellow workers all around New Eden. Keeping the stations and ships and everything in between in running order. Always around but invisible to many. Jenkins, or 'Jenk' to his friends, was a middle aged Caldari. Perkins was taller, younger and Gallente. Jenk fiddled with a blown circuit board in his hand and then stopped and looked back up again.
"He's going through the loot isn't he? All that booty he and the Bastards have collected over the last month. He hasn't left that hangar now for, what, five days?" Jenk smacked his lips at the thought of the monetary value of all the collected ship modules. "What do you think Perks? How much this time round?"
Perks, wiped some sweat off his forehead and hauled himself out of the access tube he was in. He worked his jaw and cocked his head sideways; as he always did when he had something new to say.
"I heard that this time round it could be over five billion isk. Came from the man himself, I overheard him at the bar."
"Five billion isk? Wow. I could buy my own station after that."
"Yeah, five big ones. A new record I heard."
"I can't even count that much!"
"You know what's better? We're due a bonus too, after hitting our targets."
Jenks shook his head and imagined what it would be like to be that rich. He returned to the viewing port and put his face to it. Through it he could see into a restricted hangar, the light dim and a Brutor of medium height and strong build moving between a field of large containers.
It was Flashfresh, the current CEO of The Bastards and at the moment, he was preparing the massive amounts of loot for shipment and then eventual profit sharing for all involved parties.
"Perks, can you remind me how this loot split works again?"
"Again? Man, your memory is more leaky than a Minmatar cruiser."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just humour me will ya?"
"OK, Flash opens each of the containers and personally checks the modules inside. Each container has a unique number, each number corresponds to the unique kill mail id that tracks each ship kill." Perks flipped open his data pad and presented the scrolling screen to Jenkins. "See? However, I think he removes anything with a retail value less than 100K isk, plus- or minus 5% Jita prices."
"He does it for every container right? Man, that hangar is packed." Jenkins' fingers tapped on the plasteel port.
"Well for all those containers, the boss takes out each module, no matter how small and repairs and repackages them. Every one. Flash then checks every container with our killboard to ensure that there are no errors. Sometimes, the containers get the wrong identifiers. So he needs to be sure. Nothing worse than a pirate who has his loot 'misappropriated' eh?"
Jenks and Perkins chuckled; while they were not pilots or even ship crew of The Bastards, they were part of the organisation. The discreet winged skull with crossed swords collar studs gave them access to certain parts of the station and employment opportunities, not available to others. It also meant that they too would get a cut from loot sales, albeit a small one. Seeing Flashfresh moving around the cans, shouting at two humanoid-looking helper drones and the thousand or so other containers, Jenkins and Perkins moved away from the viewing port.
"I think the boss is going to be in the hangar for a while longer."
Perks nodded and checked his data pad. "OK, we're almost done here; we just need to re-route a faulty power line and then next job is down at the Independence bar, some backed up coolant."
"At least it isn't the soil pipe, like last time."
Perks chuckled. "I think you and Brigadier HappySan and General z0de got caught in the back draft, didn't you Jenks?" Jenkins shuddered at the memory as he proceeded to open up a side access panel. As they both rushed to complete the last bit of work, the thought of all the isk next door got them talking again.
"What are you going to do with you share this time Perks?"
Perkins paused as he considered his answer. "Going to send some of it back to my folks. Medicine is getting more expensive out there in the sticks. Ma isn't as healthy as she was and my corporation medical insurance doesn't cover her treatment. Then the rest, putting it aside for me and Maria. Marriage is also expensive. You?"
"Going to drop most of it on the Mutai this month, Walker Smith looks hot with ten knock-outs to his name. The rest I am going to use to impress that sexy red-headed waitress at the bar."
"Shouldn't that be the other way round? The money first on the woman then the betting competition?"
Chuckling, Jenkins agreed and started to gather his tools together, the job done.
"You won't get anything if you don't turn the lights back on in the hangar, my dear fellow." The sudden presence of this individual alongside Perks and Jenkins made them both jump back, their tools clattering around them. When Jenks and Perkins took in the bald head of a Brutor, solid mass of his form and the jet black jump suit of the current active director of The Bastards pirate organisation, they both nearly fell over.
"Sir! I er, the lights?" Gulped Jenks. Perkins threw a solid salute and stood ram-rod straight. Up close, Flashfresh, like most capsuleers, was a lot bigger, taller and hard-looking to the two terrified crewmen. His characteristic dark sunglasses didn't hide the fact that his eyes were now boring into each of the maintenance chaps. There was an amused smirk playing over his face however.
"Yes the lights." Replied Flashfresh quietly with a smile. Jenks went pale as he realised that he must have had pulled out the wrong breaker that then cut off the power to the lights in the Flash's loot hangar. Perkins also realised at the same time and shot Jenks a murderous glance.
"Shouldn't have been yacking so much!"
"Sir, yes sir! I will fix it now." Jenks swiftly got back down on his knees and opened up the access panel. Perkins next to him with the tools necessary. Flashfresh stood behind them, observing and, to the two maintenance crew, brooding like a mountain with a gathering thunder cloud. With nervous fingers, Jenks switched the correct breaker and the lights, in the secured hangar, snapped on. Perkins breathed out with relief.
"Sir, the lights are back on." Replied Perkins, a sheen of sweat on his face.
"I am sorry sir, so sorry -" started Jenks, but was cut off mid-sentence by a a swift gesture from Flashfresh.
"Thank you very much, crewman. I can now continue with my work." Flashfresh spun on his heels and strode back towards the hangar. He stopped and turned around and looked back at first Jenks then settled on Perkins.
"Bradley isn't it?" Asked Flashfresh, addressing Perkins by his little-known first name.
"Do you chaps want to help me sort some of this loot out?"
"The loot sir?" Only the most trusted members of the corporation hierarchy had access to this hangar.
"Yes, the two helper drones are anything but helpful. Could do with some human interaction. Shouldn't take too long." A request from Flashfresh was essentially an order. They couldn't really refuse.
"Yes sir!" Chorused the crewmen.
For the next two hours, Jenks and Perkins worked through a couple hundred containers of items. Many modules were foreign to their eyes and even being experienced, they couldn't recognise them. Other modules were clearly bits from ships but one or two items were too baffling and no doubt came from some deep null-sec space complex. They took out each item, checked their details, sent it off for repair and repackaging and made sure each item was returned to their correct container. All was done with as much manual labour as possible - Flashfresh stated that the selling and tracking was done automatically but this stage, the first stage, was too important to leave to a programme.
Exhausted, the two men slowed down but they daren't say anything as Flashfresh, a capsuleer continued to work relentlessly. However, mercifully, Flashfresh called for a halt and pulled a crate up. Gesturing to the two sweaty crewmen to sit themselves down, Flashfresh presented a small box and popped out three ice-cold, quafe ultra drinks. The two men, gratefully received the drinks and gulped down the contents. Flashfresh joined them and everyone finished their drinks with gusto.
"Perkins, you said your mother is poorly. What is her illness?"
"Pelau syndrone sir. It's environmental, we think - chronic but not fatal, sir."
Flashfresh pursed his lips and appeared to be lost in thought.
"Yes, poor radiation shielding is one cause isn't it?"
"I think so sir. No one knows." Perkins shrugged helplessly. "I'm just a small fish in a very large pond. So I do what I can."
"That's a very commendable attitude Perkins, " said Flashfresh approvingly. "Gentleman, I thank you for your time. I know you are busy men and I am sorry for taking up so much of your time. Please consider my request fulfilled. It was a pleasure working alongside the both of you. You are now free to go. I believe you have some plumbing work to do?"
Gently reminded, both crewmen groaned, grabbed their tools and proceeded to the their. Flashfresh slid off the crate and started to work again. As the door hissed open, Jenk turned around.
"Thank you sir. Thank you for your time."
Perkins nodded in agreement. "It was an honour, sir." As the hangar door hissed closed, Flashfresh called out.
"Jenkins - put your money on T'Lar instead. Walker Smith is carrying an injury to his left arm."
The hangar door hissed then snapped shut.
For a good minute both men stood outside the closed hangar door. It was Jenks who spoke up first, his face lighting up with excitement.
"Wait until we tell the fellas."
"Jenks, no-one will believe us, buddy."
"Whatcha saying Perks?"
"I mean, c'mon. You and me and Flashfresh? Working together and then sitting around and jawing like a trio of greasemonkeys? Nah."
"Yeah, but it's a hell of a story."
Perks, clapped his friend on the shoulder. "C'mon man, we have an appointment with a blocked soil pipe."
"Yeah, great." As the two men shouldered their packs, Jenks frowned. "Flashfresh said T'Lar right?"
"Yes he did, Jenks. Yes he did."
The duo started towards a nearby maintenance lift.
"Hey Perks, how does the loot programme work again?"
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