The Interstellar Starbase Syndicate was an alliance that pursued a quite unique and in my opinion really cool goal in ’05 and ’06: to make nullsec accessible for anyone.
Nullsec space is an incredibly valuable commodity and always has been. Back then the most valuable moons, asteroids and hostile NPCs were exclusively found out there, so it’s no surprise that many corps and alliances tried to claim as much space for themselves as possible. I assume the term NBSI, “not blue, shoot it”, was penned around that time, because folks were fiercely protective of their territories (‘blue’ in EVE means flagged as a friend or ally).
The ISS wanted to tread a different path. They set out to create truly neutral areas of nullsec where anyone could come and go as they pleased to mine, rat, manufacture or just explore with impunity. To provide some infrastructure for players without the means to deploy their own POSes the ISS even strived to build public outposts. At the time building those was a pretty huge undertaking, hence there weren’t many of them around yet, and those that were usually didn’t allow anyone but their owners to dock.
An IPO was launched in September 2005 to acquire a cool 36 billion ISK for the construction of EVE’s first public player built outpost. It was the first IPO in an MMO ever. It succeeded, and one month later ISS Marginis opened its doors in KDF-GY in the Catch region.
To defend construction endeavours and uphold law and order in ISS space a military arm, the ISS Navy, was formed. I figured this would be a perfect fit for me since I’d already dreamed of being a protector of innocent and law-abiding citizens back in Ultima Online – only it never came to pass because the Felucca/Trammel split had already happened and there wasn’t anyone left on Felucca to protect.
So I packed my stuff again (this will be a recurring theme and is pretty much the only thing in EVE I could really do without), moved into Marginis and joined the Navy.
During the weeks and months that followed I learned how to move and fight in a PvP fleet, what all the commands and abbreviations fleet commanders use mean, how different ships fill different roles, how to setup my overview properly and so forth. I especially learned a lot from an FC named Butter Dog (the name still cracks me up), an outspoken and upfront, but mostly friendly Brit who already had quite a lot of experience.
I also learned how to make and use warp-to-zero bookmarks. Whenever you warped anywhere back then your ship came out of warp 15 km shy, so you had to ‘slowboat’ to the gate, station or wherever you were actually trying to go. This made travelling exponentially more dangerous than it is today, so what you wanted to have was a bookmark created 15 km behind your destination, exactly in line with your respective point of origin. Folders of those bookmarks – once created by some poor sod with too much time on their hands – were sorted by region, copied and handed around. Depending on the amount of systems and stargates we’re talking about somewhere between 500 and 1000 bookmarks for a single region. All that saving and copying of bookmarks put so much strain on the servers that CCP finally gave us warp-to-zero a while later.
Doing our daily duty mainly meant roaming the space around KDF, blowing up or at least scaring away any would-be pirates. While we didn’t call it that our directive was pretty much today’s NRDS: not red, don’t shoot.
It’s been a long time and I’m fuzzy on the details, but I must have performed fairly well because I got promoted to Captain quickly.
Being Captain made me eligible to lead my own fleets – which I didn’t aspire to do to be honest – and take the role of Co-FC on bigger ops.
One such series of ops revolved around the next public outpost’s construction. When the IPO for this came around I invested 200 mil since Marginis seemed to generate nice profits, and I deemed it a project worthy of support in any case. If I remember correctly the shares were all sold within 24 hours, so production was soon to begin.
Huge quantities of resources had to be hauled to the target system, ZXIC-7. Freighters were the tool for that job, by far the slowest and least agile ships in EVE. Today everybody in low- and nullsec uses their jump-capable counterparts, but those weren’t in the game yet. Convoys were formed to carry all resources and parts from wherever they were mined or built to ZX, with all available Navy pilots escorting them.
The riskiest part was the final construction. Even back then I didn’t know the exact mechanics, all I know is that the outpost could have been attacked and destroyed during its final assembly. Our job was to basically lock the whole system down and make sure that no stranger got in from about 8 AM to 1 PM my local time. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t worked the night shift and only gotten to bed around 6. No matter, I wanted to be there!
I was given command over one of the squads assigned to camp the system’s stargates. For that duty I boarded my Megathron class battleship, which I had acquired not too long beforehand, and took position at my guns’ optimal range from our assigned gate. During those hours only few ships came through. We tackled and politely asked them to leave the system the way they’d come, else we’d have no choice but to remove them by force. I remember that one pilot started a lenghty discussion about how we had no right to prevent them from passing through. Since they were surely aware that we actually were very forthcoming – anybody else would have blown them to pieces right away – my guess is they assumed we were roleplaying and decided to play along.
No one came to shoot the egg. When the server went down I finally got some much needed sleep, so I wasn’t there when it went up again, but later that day I logged back in and marveled at the work we’d done. Mission accomplished!
A couple weeks later I joined another construction defense fleet – we were churning them outposts out now – which was also successful. Shortly afterwards the ISS agreed to take over and manage an outpost someone else had built in EC-P8R, pretty much on the other side of the universe. It’s one of the relatively rare cases where nullsec and highsec are directly adjacent, and such systems are anything but safe to travel through. So most Navy pilots packed their stuff (sigh) and moved to Pure Blind for a while, where we unsurpsisingly had quite a bit more action compared to Catch.
Unfortunately some territorial alliances grew more and more wary of the ISS at that time, and before long reasons were looked for and found to attack us in force.
We had some allies and even hired the Mercenary Coalition to help us defend the outposts, but it ultimately was a fight we could not win, what with being attacked by numerous strong alliances both in the north and in the south at the same time.
All outposts were lost – they couldn’t be destroyed back then, but they were taken over and barred from public use like all the others – and while the ISS didn’t shut down immediately the dream of a public nullsec was effectively over.
It was then that I took my first break from EVE, but the story is far from over yet.