EN24 discord
sov map

In the Shadow of Clouds: Drug Cartel Stories

March 25, 2020

By Seraph IX Basarab

Prologue

There’s a constant war in the shadows of Eve revolving around combat boosters. Multiple competing groups sometimes even within the same coalition or alliance vying for power and influence over the source. Drug trade and production while captivating to the imagination of most is rarely well understood outside of a small esoteric group. This is in large part due to how the drugs are produced and the limitations and complexities around even basic logistics. The key factor to note is that any drug you make requires you to have access to gas clouds that can be found only in specific constellation. One can build just about anything by mining in thousands of different systems. If you want to produce a batch of Standard Exile, you need to go specifically to the Pegasus Constellation in Fountain. If you want to produce higher quality improved and strong versions of the drug, you likewise need to go to different constellations, attain different gases, and mix them. The m3 side of gas itself requires a large logistical undertaking. Beyond that obviously you need the blue print copies and various other elements. Unlike ores/minerals, the gases are used only for drug production as thus are more difficult to get rid of. People are always going to buy spod…Viridian Cyto? Not so much.

Plenty of people huff a little cyto, put out a batch of standard or even pleb tier synth and then imagine themselves to be Heisenberg, Scarface and Escobar for a few months until they get tired of it, get bankrupt or get hit by a big fish. If you want to do higher tier production and have good margins you avoid buying materials off market and instead go to the source. High tier drug production requires connections and finding partnerships with likeminded individuals for your business to flourish. This in turn creates rather unique relationships built with individuals within conventionally hostile entities. The production and trade of combat boosters encourages a dynamic and varied play style to say the least.

Now that we have some of the basics out of the way, I’ll share my experience roughly from 2014 to 2018. Part of me is unsure whether I should share much of this. Although I have used my writing platform here since 2011 because I enjoy writing and this has provided readers glimpses of some of my involvements with the meta game, this will probably expose much more than anything previously written. As such I’ve changed some of the names of certain individuals while keeping others as they are. Much of this entwines with my other experiences in Eve but I will try to focus on the drug world aspect of it. Furthermore I don’t claim to have absolute and perfectly accurate knowledge of the events presented and fully welcome the possibility that I may be making my own assumptions as any person would. The reader should take this simply as my perspective on my experiences. I say this because I expect some individuals to take issue with some of what I write. To that I will simply say there’s no maliciousness intended and everyone is welcome to their own perspective. I hope that my story will inspire others to get involved in this aspect of the game and hopefully even draw CCPP’s attention to some of the issues present.

Humble Origins

My story starts off a little slow as a small fish in a big ocean but events accelerated in terms of complexity and consequence as things went on. Now to get on with it…

My story begins funnily enough reading an article on EN24 from 2014 about a group called Es and Whizz.

Bucefalus was not only a fellow national but presented a fascinating story. The potential possibilities unfolded in my mind and gave me a sort of Bladerunner/Deus Ex-esque feeling. I decided to get in contact with him and his partner, Zam Zumah. Buce was the main guy that handled the production while Zam seemed to handle the trade and leadership role. At the time I had come back from my Eve break and recently joined up with Surely You’re Joking. SYJ had been a big hitter in wormhole space under the leadership of Pell Helix. As I came back he asked me to join as sort of a guide/helper in helping them understand a bit more about K-space as most of them had been tucked away in W-space their entire existence. Transitioning from one play style to another can be an interesting experience. SYJ settled in Khanid lowsec space when they had an unfortunate encounter with the local warlord Musashibou Benkei. Throughout most of 2014 we killed his supercapitals, I negotiated his allies’ defection to our side, rented out lowsec and later SYJ ended up leaving Khanid.

More importantly throughout this early period I developed a working relationship with Es and Whizz getting to know their business and became one of their dealers. Back in 2014 being a dealer was somewhat more difficult. Primarily this was due to the mechanics around drugs in Eve. They were illegal to have in highsec and could incur a number of penalties if caught. Moving drugs to the trade hubs wasn’t easy, nor was it particularly profitable for a small fish like me to even try and compete with market people. Thus I had to become creative. I reached out to people of consequence in various alliances negotiating trade deals. My big early break during this time was establishing a network in Providence through a connection there. Providence was densely populated and was open to numerous individuals. This way I could get the flow of product going without having to baby sit the market orders. I thought it much more my liking to building lucrative relationships like this which likewise flourished into other avenues. I’m not going to claim I was some huge dealer for Es and Whizz as I suggested regarding the Khanid events I was occupied with other things, but I did get some skin in the game. I tended to keep to myself but I did get a chance to talk with some of the other members from time to time and had some particularly good exchanges with Zam and Buce.

Dealer’s Deck

The first half of 2015 I spent trying out highsec wardeccing but soon joined up with Brave while they were in Fountain. They were getting hunted by Black Legion after having fled the south from Pandemic Legion. I had built some good rapport with Brave’s leader the previous year after my logs ended up exposing the scheming of one Nonnak Severin in conjunction with his friends, Anna and Draleth. The three resigned/were purged/ostracized etc and the rest is history. Within Brave, or rather “Friends of Brave” my goal was to train their pilots to fly bombers in much the same spirit as early 2012 Bombers Bar. I considered trying to traffic product in the alliance but it didn’t seem viable to sell drugs that cost 3 to 25 million to people who flew Tristans and Rifters. But it was not meant to be. A short while after being associated with Brave, the internal politicking and squabbling of rival factions within the alliance picked up. I wrote a much more detailed article on these events before so I won’t go into every detail.

Long story short some self-important director in Brave from some crab corp, with zero evidence, claimed I was “Crunching APIs for NCdot” and wouldn’t quit crying about it until I was removed. The guy had a nice scheme going building capitals for Brave, leading fleets to welp them against Black Legion and then selling them replacements at stupidly high prices. (There’s a military industrial complex allegory here somewhere but I digress). People actually listened to the guy despite sounding like the South Park version of Al Gore. Anyway, the article linked above provides all the fun details.

This ended up being a blessing in disguise as I proceeded to then join Black Legion and then reenact the infamous curb stomping scene from American History X on every cute little Brave noobie (uwu) I came across. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the Black Legion campaign in Fountain against Brave. Unlike Brave members, Black Legion was full of much older and much richer players and I was once again able to move product regularly. EN24 provided a media outlet for me to promote the sale and use of combat boosters. I made sure to not only promote the product but also direct people toward Es and Whizz. Despite wanting to keep my main in Black Legion, my interests were very much aligned with my drug partners.

The following few months were very fun but also lucrative but it couldn’t last. Black Legion was suffering from a crippling chronic disease called Elosgone that causes the remaining leadership to squabble, knit pick and eventually kill a perfectly good alliance. The EU corps generally stayed in Fountain and formed The-Culture, whereas the US TZ corps joined Psychotic Tendencies. My corp joining Psychotic Tendencies (TISHU) would have a major impact later on. During the course of World War Bee, TISHU would seize Cloud Ring, the place to find the materials needed to produce Drop. SpaceMonkey’s Alliance had been overhuffing and flooding the market lowering the price. TISHU essentially killing SMA and putting an end to that allowed price to normalize. I provided a friendly structure for Es and Whizz to use in order to get the materials and did what I could to discourage others from doing the same. Once in a while a small time producer would attempt to set up an operation but would meet an unfortunate end. Prices grew and we had secured a steady and safe source for the materials. This would have been possible without my help of course but having a structure where you have JF into and out of made things much easier.

Turbulence is Inevitable

Around this time I had heard Buce had parted with the group which really surprised me. He was the main, if not essentially, the only producer for the group. When I asked him why he left he told me that Zam had taken more of a back seat and another member named Tyee had taken more of a lead. Tyee’s approach was much more centralized and militaristic. Buce had a previous deal where he would be paid a month’s subscription for his work doing production which according to him Tyee withdrew. I can’t confirm what the truth was but I saw no reason for Buce to lie. And as I found out later, Tyee wanted to have the group graduate from just this small niche group to a more conventional corporation in the style of Pandemic Legion, or The-Culture. Drugs were no longer the goal but simply a means to another goal. I did not necessarily agree or disagree with this path and if Zam gave it his blessing, I would be happy to help and support it as I could. Es and Whizz’s alliance, Hedonistic Imperative, began to expand. They had put down structures in the Pegasus constellation of Fountain and developed an amicable relationship with The-Culture. Having access to drop and exile gas unobstructed was a pretty good place to be in for us.

With growth also came internal tensions. A dispute arose within the alliance between Tyee and Siigari Kitwa, the leader of Waking Dreams. Waking Dreams was kept out of the drug business aspect of the alliance and were instead used for ice mining and fuel production. Tyee accused Siigari of not being a “good cultural fit” for his alliance. We can only speculate what that meant. Siigari on his end said Tyee was not good at communicating with his corp and kept them in the dark. Siigari contacted me with the problem. During this time TISHU had already collapsed, my corp moved to Circle-of-Two in Tribute, made our way south with them until they established themselves and now rejoined our old Black Legion EU counterparts in The-Culture where they had remained in Fountain. Siigari wanted to secure the safety of his corp and wanted help from The-Culture. I told him I had no pull in alliance but I could talk to my corp leadership to see how we could help.

I wanted to see if Siigari would actually leave quietly or if he was inclined to hostile intentions toward Hedonistic Imperative. I proposed to Siigari that if he provided the funding, I would use my access to our internal drug market, buy everything out and flood the public markets hurting their margins. To my surprise, not only was he interested but he also provided for me their APIs, something he had access to as part of their leadership. My goal was to keep him talking to incriminate himself, get access to his funds, and leave him high and dry while dealing with a potential future threat to us. As the conversation went on I kept Tyee and other Es and Whizz leaders informed almost line by line. When I told them he gave me their APIs, I asked them not to react and wait for me to secure Siigari’s funds before switching the APIs out. Unfortunately Tyee quickly had everyone reset their APIs and Siigari got spooked. This frustrated my attempt in securing the funds. At the very least I had logs which Tyee presented to everyone in Hedonistic Imperative which then prompted many Waking Dreams members to leave the corp which soon thereafter ceased to be any concern.

Through my 3-4 years associated with Es and Whizz I had been a dealer, promoted their product, their business, established access where I could, eliminated competitive elements and finally dealt with a internal security concern that could have become much worse. The-Culture as an alliance was stagnant and while I didn’t want to leave my corp, I wanted to be more involved with my drug partners. I proposed that I would work diplomatically to establish “bridge heads” for all the constellations to make access much easier while also handling media promotion more head on as well as security. I had already done all of this on an informal level. With some token funding we could bring the group to new heights. With the high sec legalization of drugs, competitors were popping up in different places and competition was fiercer. I understood that the business was changing and we needed to update the way we did things in order to transform our group into a large empire.

Winds of Change

While Zam and Buce had been more open to hearing proposals, Tyee couldn’t be bothered. Essentially I was told thanks but no thanks, however I could help gas mine instead. I felt that based on my previous years of involvement I had more than that to offer. I suppose while I wanted to get deeper into the drug game, Tyee was trying to pull his group out of it. Some other long term members that were sympathetic told me he wanted to make the group super-cap capable and up to par with groups like The-Culture and Pandemic Legion. I told Tyee I would try to find a partnership elsewhere and best of luck to them. I didn’t think I brought the group the moon and stars but I think I had been helpful in a number of ways. Didn’t feel right to be cold shouldered like that but I certainly wasn’t going to cry and beg either. The old leadership had left or gone inactive and now the new guard wanted to take the group in another direction. As always I would make my own way.

After letting them know I would be leaving and finding a partnership elsewhere a lot of unexpected attention and questions came my way. “Where are you going to go? Who are you going to work with? Where are you going to sell?” I didn’t mind the questions. However when certain members began giving me intentionally bad advice I realized leaving was going to be a bit messier. By bad advice I mean a number of their members told me “Seraph you should totally focus on selling X…but don’t bother with Y and Z.” The problem is X has horrible profit margins while Y and Z is where the money is. As in many situations sometimes you disagree amicably and you part ways and that was my intent. Even if we were not going to work together, I expected at the very least we can stay on friendly terms. However after this occurred I realized I would have to look at my old partners as having hostile intentions. Intentions that were further confirmed by the few old school Zam/Buce era members who didn’t want to make their group “PL ready” but wanted to keep the old ways. The reaction to me leaving implied hostile intentions were present and conflict was inevitable. I’d be by myself in the combat booster business up against former comrades and easily the most capable group in the drug game. Fortunately being small also meant you were hard to hit. Following their business pattern of recruiting members into a corp would inevitably be compromised through infiltration and sabotage. I’d have to be much more fluid, shrewd, cunning and most of all discreet.

Retaliation Machination

During this period I had become involved with NCPL’s intel group known as Polaris, led by the now (supposedly) retired Lazuli Loto. Our initial discussions were actually on bad terms as we got to know each other when NCPL was fighting the Tribute War against Co2 where my corp had been before moving to Fountain as part of The-Culture. Once in TC, whether because he wanted to turn me into an asset or because of sincere amicability, our hostile tones turned friendlier and we found common ground. When my corp, Angry Dragons, left TISHU, we initially had applied for NCdot only to be turned down. Thus we went to Co2 before coming to TC. After some mediocre months in The-Culture I managed to get Angry Dragons invited to NCdot with Lazuli’s help. TC was already starting to decay, and despite my CEO being a little frustrated to be catapulted into NCdot out of the blue, it worked out for the corp. Even before we had joined NCdot, I had worked with Lazuli for Polaris recruiting assets that would provide pings, leaked chatlogs, and other information spies provide their handlers. Polaris did not just provide NCPL with intel, but acted as an independent group that provided intelligence to other alliances…so long as their goals did not conflict with those of NCdot of course. One such client was Shadow Cartel in lowsec, which for a number of years had been blue with Es and Whizz. Through this relationship the group was able to maintain the safety of its drug production network in the low sec system of Goinard, Sinq Laison. Nobody would touch them, and if they did, Shadow Cartel could act as security. Knowing all of this and leveraging my contacts through Polaris, Shadow Cartel reset Es and Whizz before demolishing the production network in Goinard.

After the confusion and surprise subsided, the leadership assured their members this was not a big deal and in typical Eve fashion, announced that they in fact “did not want it anyway” and “it had already been replaced.” I was suspected to be involved *somehow* but played coy even as a solo member had a contentious outburst via DM. Opinions and temperaments varied on the “unfortunate event.” More unfortunate events would befall the group as Polaris at the time also worked closely with the Drone Russians. Several minor staging structures they had put up were likewise put out of commission by our Drone friends maintaining the pressure. But it would not end there.

By this point Tyee had already began transferring pilots out of Es and Whizz corp and the Hedonistic Imperative alliance into his own corp, Lethal Injection Inc. About a week after my corp left, Lethal Injection would join TC. But when my corp left The-Culture, it was a sign of things that would follow. TC would not live to see 2018, and would leave those who stayed behind undefended. With the region left vulnerable, Initiative of the Imperium Coalition moved in. Although Init was a hostile entity toward NCPL and by extension Polaris, we had contacts within the alliance. Thus when Init took the region, they paid particular attention to the Pegasus constellation that Tyee’s group was using to harvest materials to produce Exile. With The-Culture collapsing, Shadow Cartel relations deteriorated, and lacking the attributes needed to join either NC or PL, Lethal had moved to Triumvirate.

Triumvirate provided the first real taste for the group in experiencing a more conventional alliance. Too far from threats like Shadow Cartel and Initiative, and at the time on friendly terms with the Drone Russians, Triumvirate was a good place to take start anew and take breather. With the logistics of moving gas around being difficult, the mid-east portion of nullsec was not optimal but would nonetheless suffice. Sadly for the group, Polaris would get its hands on a number of logs which, when leaked, set Triumvirate and their former allies against each other. What followed was a series of conflicts which would ultimately see Triumvirate ejected from their space and nearly die.

Narcotics Paradise

While this was going on my corp had joined NCdot giving me unchallenged access to Blue Pill gas in Vale. I partnered with an up and coming industrialists we will call Tanner. My deal with him was that he would focus more on the industrial aspect of the business while I managed the negotiations, dealings, security concerns and general soft power meta matters that may arise. There was no way the two of us could gain access to all 8 drug constellations directly, but it wasn’t optimal to rely on the whims of Jita prices either. Instead we developed relationships with people already in place. Federation Uprising had taken over Cloud Ring and after negotiating a trade agreement that secured our source for Viridian gas. Golden cytoserocin in the far north was not in high demand but was valuable nonetheless and by contacting a handful of individual miners, our source was secure there as well.

The Imperium firmly controlled Fountain and Delve, home to valuable materials needed for Exile and Mindflood. Despite being our main opponents on the battlefield, our Imperium contacts proved to be lucrative business partners. The coalitions fought each other while our partnership ensured a steady stream of drugs going both ways. One of the most contentious and hostile rivalries in Eve had an amiable undercurrent of narcotic trade. Lastly in the south we found a contact for the X-Instinct and Sooth drugs which although usually considered less desirable, allowed us to ensure we had all the materials needed for the higher end strong quality combat boosters. Tanner needed to enlist the logistical help of our common NCdot friend, Morgan, just to keep up with everything. The business model that had been turned down by my former partners was functioning at a higher level than I even imagined. Our structures were secure under one of the most powerful coalitions and materials were coming to us. Our cartel was not limited to alliance loyalties or impacted by coalition politics. It simply transcended all these concerns. Everything seemed perfect.

Serpent in the Garden

Around this time events in real life transpired which would have in game impact. Without getting into too many specifics, a family member had become ill and I spent several months helping to take care of them until they passed. During this period I noticed that my share of the profits was extremely reduced. Our agreement was that after costs we would split everything down the middle. While he was boasting about making billions a month, my wallet was only ticking with a beggar’s pittance amount. Real life was keeping me from addressing the issue. I’d never been scammed before or fallen victim to any such plots, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to allow it to happen now. I invested my own money in Tanner, provided the design of the business, and our operations had become efficient and simplified. I had placed a lot of trust in Tanner, certainly more than one should in Eve and I couldn’t do much then so I bided my time. Tanner liked to party and on several occasions he would say more than he should have in order to hide his theft. In these moments I would save the logs of him bragging about his wealth from the business. I kept on like this for a good month or two.

Finally I spoke with Morgan and explained the situation. If there are “good guys” in Eve, Morgan is certainly one of them. After seeing the evidence I had compiled, Morgan agreed to help me. Tanner was extremely reliant on Morgan for logistics and providing most of the actual base production for the drugs. First I told Tanner that I had found a large buyer for a lot of product. I had often found use bulk buyers so this would not raise any alarms. This pushed Tanner to buy up materials from our partners which once in our production facilities would be difficult to move. More importantly they would be given to Morgan. The finished product would be given to me to make the non-existent deal. Lastly I asked Tanner for a sizeable amount of ISK for a loan. He griped a little bit but I reminded him that I too had trusted him with a loan when we first started out that had allowed us to begin our business venture. All of this was done over the course of about a week and when I had everything in my hand I sent him my terms:

“I really hate to do this in such a way but I have no other option. I have the combat boosters and blueprints from Morgan. I have your “loan” and the rest of your drug production assets are held by Morgan or are in citadels you have no access to. What I don’t have and would really like is an explanation from you that will make me reverse all of these things and make me apologize to you. When we first started working together I said that we would split profits 50/50. You have confirmed multiple times to me what your average monthly income is from our business…and yet I have received barely a fraction of that…and mostly from when I arrange the deals myself. So right now there’s 3 possibilities:

1. You’re flat out cheating me. You haven’t given me my half all this time and you’ve just given me scraps here and there because you must think I’m an idiot.

2. You’re trying to impress me by saying you are making more than you actually are. In some way this is worse because it’s not a theft of money which I can make whenever, but a theft of my time which is finite.

3. You’re incompetent and you’re lying about the profits. I’ve provided for you loans and contacts and a place to produce better than anything Es and Whizz ever had and in 8 months I am getting scraps?

I would really like an explanation to all of this. In the unfortunate event that you cannot give me an explanation, you will give to me everything you may still own related to combat booster production. Everything in Empire on market or anywhere else. All of the gas and pures and everything else sitting around. Otherwise I’m going to find your wormhole and I will wipe everything out.”

I hoped I was wrong, but Tanner confirmed everything. He apologized and gave his reasons, none of which diminished my indignation. Feeling that I had taken more than my share, he did not agree to give in to my demands. It wouldn’t have mattered either way as at this point I had more than enough wealth to continue hunting him down and breaking everything he owned. Soon thereafter we located his wormhole and were planning to take it down…except that a few days before we were to begin another group rolled in and did just that. Tanner spent the next few months blowing a lot of money on expensive fits that littered the killboard and attempting to get back into the drug business again. As far as vengeance goes there wasn’t much left for me to do that fate wasn’t already. Aside from some healthy skepticism, we’ve reconciled. I don’t think he was a bad guy, he just got greedy.

Acknowledgement

Everyone in Eve has heard a number of maxims to live by in this game. You consent to PvP when you undock. Ignore Jita local. Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose. I had my own. Take care of your friends and take care of your enemies. I believe I did just that. Ultimately the game is about enjoying it. I don’t get too hung up on actual personal animosity although I’m sure I’ve invited quite a bit throughout my time in Eve. I’m sure a few Lethal Injection Inc people will probably scoff, downplay or react with hostility. But I actually admire them. They managed to deal with a lot of difficulties but eventually found the place where they wanted to be. This is true for much of Eve, you find that you have more in common than not. You’re just on different sides. This is amplified within the drug trade community as it creates complex and unique interactions in an already complicated game.

An Invitation

If my story does anything, I want it to inspire other players to write their own chapter in this endeavor. As such I will be hosting a discord channel specifically designated for all things combat booster related. If you’re looking to learn how to produce, establish connections, or simply observe I welcome everyone to join the ONI (Organization of Narcotics Interests) server: https://discord.gg/vmFCxpc

Lastly, and this is more to CCP if they happen to be reading this, I’d like to point out some suggestions regarding drugs in the game. The thing that works really well is the scarcity. The fact that you are limited by geography really makes everything dynamic. I believe this should be used with other resources in nullsec as well to encourage interactions both in terms of conflict and trade. The selling of drugs in highsec should be completely banned. Possession should be allowed, but market trading in highsec has in many ways killed the “dealer” playstyle that was so unique and rendered combat boosters to be just like any other item on market. Instead of reaching out and finding contacts to establish deals, you just update market orders just like any other item. You would still have some of this if high sec market trade is banned, but it would be much more varied throughout lowsec and null giving it that “illicit seedy” aspect combat boosters used to have. Furthermore the side effects need to be changed or updated. Agency boosters while not as effective, compete directly with manufactured drugs. Rather than having the side effects pop up based on a “dice roll” it should instead be consistent. Perhaps it should pause your training for a set amount of time if you “die while under the influence.” Something about chemical neurological interaction during consciousness transfer. Combat boosters should be buffed to increase demand while market access on highsec removed instead funneling people to interact more in lowsec and with dealers. These minor changes can be done relatively quickly but would have a massive positive impact on the game in our little corner of Eve. The cyto must flow.

tweetfleet