Friday, May 17, 2013

A Friend of the Federation

Watch yourself

From: Avenging-Ace
Sent: 2013.05.18 00:41
To: Araziah,

You're a dishonorable criminal, and you're going to pay for it. You don't know what kind of an enemy you've made.

That I am. Funny thing, space honor is. In space, I can be whoever I want. Today I was a simply a friend of the Gallente Federation, meting out justice to those I deemed worthy of it.

Avenging-Ace was a bit upset over the loss of his Gnosis and Pod. Not even a month had passed since his graduation from the Center for Advanced Studies and induction as a capsuleer. He may have never experienced a loss before. It's better to learn earlier than later about the cold reality that is low security space. I feel no remorse about teaching this lesson. It took quite a bit of careful prodding and poking to lure him out of the safety of the station to engage me. And that's where the story is.

Initially, I was roaming aroud low-sec areas in the Sinq Laison region, looking for some good fights. The problem is the larger entities in the area are usually too big to engage. Eve University pilots are notorious for relying too much on numbers. It's not too difficult to peel off one or two of their smaller tacklers from the main fleet. But seeing as I only saw them crowded around the gate leading to high-sec, attmepting to destroy lone pilots who entered, I didn't have much of a chance to split them up. The united, part of the alliance, Negative Ten. live up to their name. Most of them have a perfect -10.0 security status. They'll attack anything that moves. And they're good at what they do. These two groups were either destroying or scaring off many of those who would make good targets for solo pilots like myself.

I was out in a Bellicose. It's quite fast for a cruiser, hits hard, has decent damage projection, and is often underrated. After hitting a gate camp in Rancer I couldn't get past, I turned around and headed through Miroitem and Thelan, toward a dead-end system, Rorsins. There's not much traffic through Rorsins, so I've often seen miners or other soft targets there. With two others in local with me, I initiated warp to the center of the system to see what was on scan. As I was entering warp, Avenger-Ace decloaked his Gnosis nearby and deployed his drones. I brought my ship to a stop and watched as he warped off to a station. I followed. He docked. I followed. He warped back to collect his combat drones. I followed. I issued a formal invitation to duel, which would exempt us from sentry gun interference. He decline, warped off, and docked back up in the same station. I followed.

Now the Gnosis is a free ship that every capsuleer received as a commemorative gift as part of the YC-115 festivities. It's unique in that it's quite a capable ship in the right hands, but has no prerequisite skills to pilot. Judging by the pilots extremely short employement history, he probably had neither the support skills to fly it effectively nor the sense to fit it properly. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult of a target to catch if only I could engage him out of the range of the sentry guns surrounding stations and stargates.

I waited for a while, then decided to take advantage of his naivete with a little role playing. I'll post a shortened version of the chat logs below for posterity.

Araziah > Avenging-Ace, whatcha doin out here?
Avenging-Ace > What business is it of yours?
Araziah > Well, considering you were cloaking, it's apparent you have something to hide.
Araziah > Especially when you warped off and docked.
Araziah > This is suspicious behaviour, as classified under the Federation Charter, section 12.
Avenging-Ace > I didn't know you were a cop.
Araziah > Such should be investigated by friends of the federation and reported to the appropriate authorities if misconduct is found.
Araziah > So again, I ask you, what is your business in this system?
Avenging-Ace > I don't know what authorities you're referring to, but if it's the ones that weren't present when my companion's ship was blown out of the sky about an hour ago, I don't think I have much to worry about.

It's apparent he was taken aback by my accusation, but he doesn't seem too worried.

Araziah > This does not concern your safety as much as the safety of the federation.
Araziah > You can prove your upright behaviour by engaging in an honorable duel with a friend of the Federation.
Araziah > Otherwise, a bounty will be placed on your head.
Avenging-Ace > Listen, "Araziah" - you don't exactly look like a law-abiding citizen so this whole pep-talk is pretty damn ironic.
Avenging-Ace > What you're doing seems pretty criminal to me.

I admit. I've had my run-ins with the law in the past. But who's to say I'm not clean now?

Araziah > Out here in low-sec, you are still within the Empire's borders, but justice is dispensed by those willing to support the Federation.
Avenging-Ace > I'm sorry, I didn't know cloaking devices were outlawed in Federation space.
Araziah > And if the ends justify the means, we're often given the blind eye.
Araziah > Cloaking devices are perfectly legal on blockade runners and covert ops ships.
Araziah > But when used on other vessels, a permit expidites the clearance process.
Araziah > Hence my initial claim of your suspicious behavior.

Now we're back to where we started.

Avenging-Ace > I already told you. My companion was destroyed. I came here to avoid notice from the thugs surrounding Thelan and Hagilur.
Araziah > And why was your companion destroyed? Was he carrying contraband or acting in a similar fashion to yourself?
Avenging-Ace > Two transport ships carrying vital building materials, shot down for no reason. If it wasn't for my cloaking device, I'd have also been shot down.
Avenging-Ace > We weren't scanned.
Avenging-Ace > Weren't hailed.
Avenging-Ace > Simply engaged, in cold, pirate fashion. Seems pretty common round these parts, wouldn't you say?

Ha! Likely story... Who knows but that he was aiding the local Serpentis scum build out their illegal labratory operations and drug manufacturing process. Even so, we'll give him the benefit of doubt.

Araziah > The resources of the Federation only stretch so far. This area of space is labelled low-security to warn travelers such as yourself.
Avenging-Ace > Understandable.
Avenging-Ace > But one can't avoid crossing certain gates.
Araziah > Highway bandits are a part of life out here, and they will be dealt with accordingly.
Araziah > Kill: MOOXE (Caracal)
Avenging-Ace > Oh they will.
Araziah > One such example.
Araziah > He was harrasing a lone procurer mining ice.
Araziah > I intervened and stopped him in his tracks.
Avenging-Ace > Commendable.
Avenging-Ace > If only you'd have been at the Thelan gate, I may have been spared several million ISK.

See, I am a good citizen! (Although the order of the facts may be a bit mixed up, they all happened in relatively close succession.) Time to deliver the ultimatum.

Araziah > Though seeing as you have not supplied me with sufficient details to clear your name, I must place a bounty on your head.

At this point, I placed a 15 million isk bounty on him. For some reason, people generally go crazy when you've plastered a wanted sign on their portrait for everyone to see. I was counting on that reaction from him.

Araziah > There are 2 ways to clear that bounty: engage in honorable combat
Araziah > ....or wait until you are engaged when you least expect it.
Avenging-Ace > You really just wanna blow holes in my ship?
Avenging-Ace > Is that what this is all about?
Araziah > If you prove yourself worthy, as befits a chivalrous pilot, I will retract the 15 mil bounty.

Oh no! All this work, and he's seen through my thin veneer as a friend of the Federation into the depths of my black pirate heart. One last attempt.

Araziah > As I have told you, as an upholder of the law, Section 12 of the Federation Code leaves me no choice but to act in this manner.
Araziah > The choice is yours, however.
Avenging-Ace > Fine.
Avenging-Ace > My inability to fund my ship's repair will be on your conscience.

At this point, I was floating in space outside the undock area of the station he has been holed up in. He undocks, targets me, and starts closing the distance. He's going for it! Since he doesn't attack at first, I open another duel invitation, which he accepts. I already had his ship locked. I applied my stasis webifier to slow him down and warp scrambler to prevent him from fleeing. He opened fire with his short-ranged blasters and deployed three light tech 1 combat drones. I directed my ship to keep range at a few kilometers from his to avoid taking damage as I returned fire with salvo after salvo of navy heavy assault missiles and a mix of light and medium tech 2 drones. He might have been able to dock, but the station safeties only allow pilots to dock who have cleared 60 seconds without offensive combat actions. By engaging his weapons, he had given me at least 60 seconds to destroy his ship. More than enough.

His shields get ripped to shreds, followed by his armor. And as his hull slowly starts to tear apart under constant pounding from missiles and drones, I cease fire. Seeing as the Gnosis is a limited-edition ship, it's quite valuable, and I thought about attempting to persuade the pilot to leave the ship instead of going down with it, allowing me to board and tuck it away safely in the nearby station. Unfortunately, at the same time, he ceased fire and withdrew his drones as well, leaving me only 60 seconds to set up a ransom. Not enough to do properly. So I resumed fire.

His escape pod appeared on my overview, which my targeting systems took 6 seconds to lock on to. Apparently shocked at his ship exploding, his slow reaction time allowed me to resolve a lock and crack open his pod, ejecting his corpse into the vacuum of space. As is the blessing (or curse) of capsuleers, he awoke in a new clone in a station somewhere across the galaxy.

I attempted to contract his corpse back to him for 15 mil ('so you can reclaim your implants'). He rejected the contract and sent me the mail that started this post. It's most likely just an empty threat. But I'll keep a bit of hope up that somewhere out there is a pilot who will live up to his name and attempt to avenge his loss at the hands of a friend of the Federation.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Drama, Wormhole Warfare, and the Stealth Attack

I hate drama. My corp just left Nulli Secunda. Most of the Europeans (who make up a majority of the corp) felt like there wasn't enough going on in their time zone. More importantly though, we weren't even in Nulli Secunda proper. We were in Nulli Tertius, S2N's entry alliance. There had been a few instances where our corp members weren't given proper respect (as allies, even) by S2N members and leadership. Drama ensued. And many of the people who had wanted to move in to a larger alliance for the sov space had left for various reasons. So it was the right decision. I just wish I didn't have to listen to people complain on corp comms for hours before coming to a solution. I'm more of a forgive and move on kind of guy.

Our fearless leader, Princess Kamala, decided to join us up with Hades alliance. I don't know much about them yet except that they're allied with Raiden and thus kill Goons. For the next few days we'll have people moving ships up to Vale of the Silent and getting settled in. Since I'm a light packer, I'll just be my normal nomadic self for a bit.

I moved most of my stuff out of S2N's sov space in Period Basis over a month ago. So I didn't have much to worry about this time around. I still have 3 battlecruisers out there in stations I can't access (any more). It was too much of a bother to head out there and get everything ready for contract, so I didn't. That was probably a good thing though. One of our main carrier pilots in corp who had been doing a lot of our logistics work decided that he was going to keep his last load of our stuff. From what we've been able to find out, it wasn't that much that he took. But I guess when you're disgruntled and planning on leaving anyway, you take what you can get. Just more drama, is all.

While I avoid and ignore drama wherever I can, action is another story all together. I scanned down a entrances to both a class 2 and a class 3 wormhole in Amarr. The class 3 appeared empty with little of interest inside with the only other exit being to low-sec. The class 2, on the other hand, was abuzz. Immediately after scanning down the wormhole and warping to it while resolving other signatures in the system, a raven warped in behind me. I contemplated jumping through and attacking him...until a second raven joined the first. My first thought was that they were local residents. But after doing a bit of killboard research, that didn't appear to be the case.

I fit up a bomber to head in to do some reconnaissance and possibly cause some mischief. The initial results from my directional scanner showed a large faction tower surrounded by about a dozen battleships and a few logistic support cruisers. A territorial claim unit conveniently marked the location of the tower, and once cloaked up on grid, I realized I was witnessing a fairly epic attack on this tower. Two defending pilots floated in frigates inside the force field. But their real strength was their control of the tower's defenses. They were doing a decent job too, judging by the pair of attacking battleship wrecks and lone basilisk wreck on the field.

I stayed still for a few minutes, just observing and waiting for a target of opportunity. A single bomb from my hound deals about 7500 raw explosive damage. That's not enough alpha to take down a battleship or any of the logistics cruisers on the field. But if I hit the ship that was already taking pressure from sentry guns, it might be enough to push it over the edge. I pulled into position, decloaked, launched my bomb, and warped off to the nearby planet. It's a good thing I didn't stick around, too. Bombs normally fly at 3km/s for 10 seconds. Mine was bugged and just sat in place. That's happened to me once before. I wonder if it's a common problem or something I'm doing wrong.

I immediately cloaked up and warped back and didn't expect what I saw: nothing. The attacking fleet had vanished. I continued to scan down the system with probes I had launched earlier, revealing a connections to a low-sec and a C3 system. (It's better to lose a torp launcher for a probe launcher than to lose your ship and pod because your only known exit collapses behind you.) All three wormholes were in scan range from where I was, so it would be easy to monitor for the fleet's return.

I opened up a conversation with one of the pilots still inside the force field to see if I could better understand what was going on. He didn't give much in the way of details, but his attitude showed that he wasn't too worried that they'd lose the pos. I watched as a helios pushed its way out of the protective bubble to make its way to a few spare sentry guns to online them. Due to the low sig radius of a helios, if he had a medium shield extender, he'd be able to survive through a bomb. I thought I might be able to nab him if I was able to put a point on him and get a few torp volleys off in addition to the bomb. But he never ventured far enough out off the protective retreat of the bubble to make that tactic possible. A coercer headed out to salvage and loot the wrecks left on field. But by the time I actually decided to go after it (not a very juicy kill, after all) and got in range, he had finished his job and started to head back to safety.

After waiting patiently for about an hour, checking scan (and reading reddit), the coercer pilot had reshipped to an anathema covert ops frigate. A couple more locals had warped to the pos in a proteus and dominix. I decided I'd take my chances with the anathema. I slowboated around toward the opposite side of he pos, cloaked, toward the anathema. Just as I was about positioned, he takes off to the next group of guns. I chase him down, coming withing a couple km of decloaking myself in the hurry to catch up. Judging by his speed, he's fit with a microwarpdrive. If it's on when the bomb hits, he'll take about 6x as much damage, easily enough to kill him, due to his ballooning sig radius. I'm not letting him get away this time! Without bothering to get set up perfectly, I decloak, fire a bomb, activate my sensor booster, initiate targeting, precycle my point and torps, and align out. The anathema pilot is alert and notices the incoming bomb (or at least my bright, yellow entry on the overview) and scrambles back to safety. But too slowly. Pop goes his ship.

There's something extremely satisfying about blowing up a pilot's ship in the heart of his home system, while his friends look on, helpless. With my cover blown, they're unlikely to venture out of the pos bubble in fragile frigates any time soon. I head back to the high-sec wormhole to see if I can catch anything coming in. I watched a cloaky prorator come in through high-sec, warp off, then return a few minutes later and jump back to high-sec. I pulled some distance off of the wormhole and turned to face it in prime bombing range.

The plan was to fire a bomb the instant I saw the wormhole flare. When the incoming pilot finished loading grid and before he could assess the situation, the bomb would be mere seconds away from detonation. Even if he cloaked, the damage would decloak him, giving me time to target and point him. So if the bomb didn't blow him up, a few volleys of torpedoes would.

That was the plan, anyway. The reality was much different. I didn't react quick enough to the wormhole flare, saw the prorator blip on and off my overview while my bomb was mid-flight. And when the bomb went off, it didn't hit anything but the wormhole and empty space. Too bad. But I had another plan. Since the prorator had warped to and from the direction of the C3 wormhole both times, it was only a matter of putting a bubble or two up and catching him when he warped back. The market in Amarr, conveniently just a wormhole jump away, supplied me with a few cargo expanders and 6 small mobile warp disruptors. But when I returned, a dominix and scimitar sat on the high-sec side of the wormhole. I wouldn't be able to anchor any bubbles inside or catch anything while they were watching and scouting. The dominix jumped back into the wormhole, which visibly decreased in size. They were trying to collapse it. To further dissuade me from bothering them, the prorator jumped back to high-sec, and this time returned in his pod. I didn't want to get stuck scanning my way out of a wormhole system with no k-space static, so I decided to give it up for the night.

I missed out on a couple of kill opportunities, but I did get one at least. I was also able to witness a pretty epic pos bash attempt in w-space. It's very different in nature from it's null-sec equivalent. And I'd like to think I chased away a 15-man fleet with a single bomb...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hek to Low Sec

I'm an easily contented guy. I figured with well over a billion isk in my wallet again, I wouldn't have to worry about making isk for a while. It's so deceptive really. A billion isk can disappear in a flash if you're not careful, much quicker than you'd expect. But for now, I'm good.

This led me to stop chasing blindly after rarely-found faction loot in low-sec plexes or the much more reliable income from wormhole sites. I turned my attention toward low-sec PvP for a while. There is a very vocal group of people who complain that low-sec is dead, broken, or just too quiet. While that statement is true for vast areas of low-sec, it's also true for any other system type as well. Furthermore, I find roaming low-sec to be the easiest way to find something to shoot at. It's a hassle dealing with gate guns, GCC, and sec status loss for sure, but I rarely seem to come up completely empty handed.

My latest jaunt through w-space had let me out a few jumps from Hek, where I parked last night. The more time I spend in Hek, the more I grow to like it there. If I were to list the main market hubs in New Eden, I'd put Hek's Brutor Tribe Factory somewhere around 10th. Decent enough prices where you can find almost everything you'll need. But what really makes Hek shine is it's proximity to low-sec: right next door in Otou. Plenty of belt ratters trickle over, quite a few industrial ships move through there, and you get the occasional plex runner to hunt down as well as a number of low-sec corps who live in the surrounding area. Minmatar low-sec seems to be the most vibrant in that regard.

Hek's low-sec proximity also serves to make roams into Rancer, Hagilur, and the bordering constellations quite simple. Did you lose your ship? There's a new one with fittings on the market in Hek. Even going -10 isn't too bad considering Hek's .5 sec status. The faction police aren't extremely agressive. It's not all that uncommon to see some red pilots darting around system, occasionally getting blown up by their law-abiding counterparts.

Traveling 30+ jumps one way through null-sec to get out to our corp's home (which we're not likely to be settling back into any time soon) didn't seem all that appealing. So the alternative - wander around Hek for a while - seemed all the more enticing. Looking over my collection of ships in the hangar, only one was fit for PvP. A lone thrasher fit with 200mm autocannons, a pair of gyrostabilizers, and a medium shield extender. A microwarpdrive, energy neutralizer, and warp scrambler rounded out the fit. This seemed like a fun fit. A few hours earlier I had finally finished training on Destroyer V. Loading my autocannons with Hail S and overheating, my ship reported being able to deal 433.5 DPS. Not bad for a lowly destroyer. The larger 200mm autocannon's lower tracking speed along with hail's tracking penalty is offset by the thrasher's 50% bonus to tracking speed, so I wasn't too worried about that. With some EMP charges, nanite repair paste, and a janitor in my cargo for luck (and cleanliness), I took off into the great unknown.

I passed on the cynabal, vagabond, or drake signatures I saw on scan. I could probably avoid them easily enough, but I certainly didn't want to be forced to engage. Any hauler foolish enough to be caught off a gate, station, or pos would be my prey. Also, any class of frigate or a selection of cruisers would make tasty morsels. After watching a wolf escape my grasp due to an obnoxious asteroid sitting in my approach vector waiting to bump me, I circled around a few systems and eventually found myself back in Otou with an incursus on scan. Not as worthy of a target as the wolf, but it'd have to do. I narrowed his general location down with dscan, then quickly picked out which belt he was at and warped on top of him. Four volleys later, and his pod was liberated from it's confining enclosure. T2 fit! Slightly luckier than I was expecting. I finish off the battleship rat he was working on to partially atone for my crime and wonder what to do while my GCC timer counts down.

12 minutes later, a simple solution appears as Evereal jumps back in system...with another incursus. But this time, he's got a plan. I warp to his belt at 0 to find him 70km off, engaging the rats. I overheat my mwd to close the gap as quickly as possible. At about 30km away, the distance between us starts to remain constant, and I realize he's equipped a mwd and plans to use it this time. I realize too late that my mwd had been accumulating quite a bit of heat and had just offlined itself. Pity too, as I could have outlasted his capacitor and possibly caught up, if he wanted to play that game. As it is though, I'm forced to return to Hek to repair my damaged modules. It's a good thing I was on my way too, because just as I enter warp, a pilgrim decloaks only a few kilometers from me. Evading certain death has a kind of deep satisfaction to it.

Upon returning once again, I find the incursus pilot overconfident in his ability to taunt and outrun me. He's taunting me in local. But apart from repairing my microwarpdrive, I had also swapped in a pair of nanofiber internal structures, giving me more than enough speed to catch him. Which I did. Some people are just too stupid to escape while they still have the chance.

A few hours later, I head back out for another run. I'm not officially a pirate again, emblazoned with a yellow skull, making it harder to sneak up on oblivious pilots unnoticed. Thus is the price we pay for some action in low-sec. But I do end up chasing down a tornado that's jumping between belts in order, it seems. If it's artillery fit, I have a pretty good chance of getting under its guns and taking it out. When the tornado warped in at 70km, locked me up, and volleyed my ship before I could react, I realized how stupid I had been to not warp to at least 50km out.

Returning back in a fresh ship to continue my roam, I find the tornado pilot has left syste. But a lone wolf appears on dscan I picked a belt to sit at and waited a couple minutes for him to warp on top of me. My lower tracking speed proved to be a slight issue here, causing me to miss a few volleys. But in the end, the wolf made a satisfying pop sound.

If you've got some time to kill, why not give low-sec some love? I may even bump into you one of these days.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Social Engineering

A quick login today found me in Amarr with about an hour to spare and nothing planned. I thought about grabbing my muninn again for some more exploration, but then remembered the depressing results of yesterday. Wormholes had been good though. I checked out some of the C2 wormholes I had scanned down some 12-14 hours earlier in the surrounding systems. There were both fairly empty and devoid of signs of life, either sleeper or human.

I proceeded on to the C3s. I wouldn't be able to run sleeper sites in these very easily or quickly by myself, but there's always the opportunity to disrupt someone else who's doing them. The first C3 wormhole in Amarr had collapsed. But as I landed on the other, a 6-month-old player in a probe warped off grid. He opened a conversation with me as I jumped through. I assumed he was a scout for a fleet inside, letting them know what was jumping through. But that misconception was quickly laid to rest.

He asked me to tell him about wormholes and what kind of ship were needed to clear the sites. I told him a couple well-fit battlecruisers was sort of the minimum for a class 3 wormhole. He asked if his maelstrom battleship would work. At this, I began to sense an opportunity. I asked if he wanted to 'come shoot sleepers' with me.

An interesting psychological phenomenon I've noticed among most high-sec dwellers is that they won't venture into low-sec or null-sec because it's dangerous. But at the same time, they have no qualms about entering wormhole space. Why they don't take the bright red -1.0 at the top corner of their screen as a warning is beyond me. But my goal is to teach people to take system security ratings seriously, one carebear at a time.

Triggerbot had unknowingly enrolled in my experimental course on wormhole safety by agreeing to come along. I put a fleet up and warped us both from station to the wormhole, while asking about his fit. Artillery - perfect. I had to get us away from the end-of-life wormhole, or I risked him jumping back to safety. With about 10 other ships on scan, including a trio of tengus that I didn't want to tangle with, I squad warped us to the far side of the system, out of scan range. My more nimble command ship landed before his battleship. As soon as he dropped out of warp, I locked him up, pulled in a close orbit under his guns, shut down his warp engines, and proceeded to whittle down his shields. I recalled the cataclysmic variable system effects that would reduce his local shield boosting ability, making my job easier. His shields slowly wore down at an interminable pace, while his booster nearly kept up with my damage. But wear down they did. And more importantly, his capacitor drained. He made a couple fuitle attempts at attacking back. His artillery cannons missed completely, and his flight of mixed heavy and medium T1 drones were swatted back by my hobgoblin IIs.

Once he entered structure and his fate was certain, I offered a ransom. 120 million for his maelstom to go free. I was wary of a counter-attack or a third party intervening, so I gave him 60 seconds to comply. He told me he would pay, but with 20 seconds left, he began a self-destruct sequence. His remaining structure evaporated under pressure from my EMP rounds. I scrambled to catch his pod, but he got it out in time (I really need a sebo on this thing). Looting what I could from the wreck, I quickly warped back to high-sec, mindful that the wormhole would be collapsing soon.

After depositing my loot in station and restocking ammunition, Triggerbot notified me he was lost. In my quick squad warp to get us off the wormhole, he hadn't bookmarked the exit. We were still in fleet, so I told him I would come back so he could warp to the exit. What I didn't tell him was that I was coming in a triple-sebo stabber with a small anchorable bubble. I flew 10km off of the wormhole and dropped the bubble, anchoring it. While waiting the 120 seconds for the bubble to anchor, his pod warped on top of me. I was still off of the wormhole, so I quickly locked him up, popped the pod, and scooped the corpse, reminding him in fleet to upgrade his clone.

Triggerbot wasn't happy. With good reason. He was 200 mil poorer than he was expecting he would be an hour earlier. He asked me how I could betray his trust like that and why I would shoot a fleet member. When straightforward maneuvering doesn't get the results you like, sometimes social engineering works. I'm not in it for the tears. I pointed him in the direction of some resources (that wouldn't shoot at him) that would help guide him in future wormhole activites.

I believe that people are generally good and trustworthy. But if I were completely friendly toward and implicitly trusting of everyone I talked to in Eve, who would be left to shoot?

TiDi, Exploration, and Wormhole Mischief

TiDi is amazing. I've only recently become involved in large null-sec battles, so I've never experienced the pre-TiDi days of 5 minute module lag or getting blown up while you're still waiting to load grid. I had my first experience in a large fleet just the other day in C-J6MT. I don't have much to say about it other than apart from the extreme bullet time, everything was as responsive as normal. CCP's really nailed this one. 2000+ people in system at peak. You can read more at Eve News 24 or elsewhere.

While flying logistics for a 70-man naga fleet in part of a much larger engagement is engaging and awesome, in my opinion, it doesn't compare the heart-pounding encounters that can sometimes be had in wormhole space.

I've been spending some time on the Eve subreddit recently. There have been quite a bit of discussion about high-sec exploration and some encouraging results. I figured I'd spend some time trying it out again and see what I could come up with.

I clone-jumped out of null-sec and headed to Amarr to fit out a Muninn heavy assault ship. I find the muninn pretty self-sufficient for exploration as it's got two utility high slots which can be used for a probe launcher and salvager as well as a couple of mid slots that can be interchanged between codebreaker/analyzer/scram/web/cap recharger/tracking computer/sebo, depending on what's needed. Plotting a route around the Throne Worlds constellation, I set off probing. I was looking mostly for some quick radar, magnetometric, or combat sites that could possibly escalate into an expedition. After scanning the whole constellation and finding a lone combat site which netted a lone true sansha radio crystal, I began to be a bit discouraged.

A couple systems over in Penirgman, I decided to jump belts while probing, and maybe I'd get lucky and find a faction spawn in the belt. I found no rats, but I did stumble upon something I'd never seen before. (It wasn't until later that I realized I was in a .9 system, and there are no rats. d'oh.) In one of the belts was a 26-day-old character mining in a retriever with two harvester drones deployed. I did a quick market check. Those drones are selling for 110 mil each with buy orders at 60 mil!

I quickly began to scour my brain for ways that I could claim those drones for myself. As I sat next to the retriever, the pilot popped a jet can full of ore, which I quickly flipped into a can of my own. Perhaps he'd see the red ship next to him, get scared, and warp off, leaving his drones. But clearly that's too much to hope for. I started to bump the retriever away from the asteroid, hoping to push him out of strip miner range, goading him into some sort of rash action that I could hopefully take advantage of. Then it came to me: the ever-present suicide gank!

It's not really my style, but if I could pull it off, it'd be worth it. A retriever shouldn't be that hard to kill, right? Wrong. I crunched my numbers, looked it all up on pyfa, and figured with a thrasher, I should be able to explode a measly retriever in one volley. I even took a passive targeter and ship scanner to make sure he didn't have any tank fit on it before I shot. Ship stopped, guns overheated, one volley off, and he started bleeding structure. One more volley. Come on! But a split second before my guns cycled, Concord intervened. The retriever pilot started moving, pulled his drones, then stopped and started mining again. Not quite sure what had gone on, I suppose. With only a small sec hit and a wound to my pride, I decided to leave rather than to pursue the endeavor further.

I had ignored 7 wormholes while scanning earlier, including a class 1 and two class 3 wormholes connected to Amarr. I decided to go back in a slightly more powerful ship, a sleipnir, and visit them, starting with the C1. The eve-kill board for J130322 listed a covetor and two drakes killed a few hours earlier. So I was a bit wary. But the attackers seemed like a ragtag group not from any particular corporation or alliance. So they were most likely not the residents here. Wormhole space is always dangerous, and it's hard to be too careful.

Only one drake appeared on scan at a pos, probably offline. I dropped probes as I sat on the entrance from high-sec and started scanning. I resolved a cluster of anomolies as well as some radar sites and a couple grav sites and a non-static C2 connection. Seeing as things were quiet, I decided to shoot up some sleepers. When I first ran C1 wormhole sites in a T1-fit myrmidon, it would take me nearly 20 minutes to finish an anomoly. Over a year later, in a much more well-fit and well-skilled sleipnir, I was burning through sites in 5-6 minutes.

I had finished 4 anomolies and one of three radar sites when I noticed activity pick up on scan. A bunch of haulers moving about, mostly. I could have chased them down, but I wasn't sure they even noticed me, and I didn't want to risk not being able to return and salvage in relative peace. I warped back to the exit and landed on top of a purifier class stealth bomber sitting directly on top of the wormhole to high-sec, unable to cloak. In the 9 or 10 seconds it took me to target him, he could have easily warped off or jumped to safety. But not paying attention or freezing for even a few seconds can get you killed.

When I returned in a catalyst to salvage (a noctis is too expensive and clumsy to salvage under hostiles), I noticed someone had reshipped to a legion at the pos. But no combat probes appeared, and no movement happened on scan. 10 minutes later and 73 mil richer back in high-sec, I decided to return and milk the system's resources a bit more. I noticed a drake pilot sitting at the pos and opened a convo with him. He was from the same corp as the bomber pilot I had killed, but from his friendly tone, he seemed completely ignorant of what I had just been doing for the last hour or so.

I faked not knowing my way out of the system in an attempt to bait his drake out to kill it. He was wise and came in a shuttle instead. Unable to lure him out of the safety of his pos bubble to 'come run some sites with me' in the C2 system next door, I saw his shuttle a bit later and popped it, blowing my cover. It was time to call it a night anyway.

Ah, wormholes, how I have missed thee.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

And then there was a Third

When there's nobody else online in your corp and nothing's go on in the alliance, sitting the middle of hostile space can become boring quickly. Hooray for jump clones!

I jumped down to Dodixie. I figured I'd go do some scanning in the surrounding systems. Maybe get lucky and find a 4/10 plex or a quiet wormhole to explore. Starting in Dodixie and resolving both signatures in the system showed me two wormholes. One led to a quiet-looking class 2 system with static C1 and high-sec exits. That could be promising. But I decided to investigate the other wormhole first. It turned out to be a C1 system with a static null-sec exit.

In all my travels, I believe that's only the second wormhole of it's type that I've come across. I toyed around with the idea of moving into the first one I found, considering it was empty. It would have provided great roaming opportunities, possibly deep into carebear ratting territory. Maybe if I had had some way to roll statics easily, or a slightly larger group, it would have been feasible. But one thing was nearly certain, whoever lived in this wormhole probably did it for the fights more than anything else.

Anyway, poking my helios around the rather large C1 system, I found two towers, with one being online, and the other consisting of just an offline tower and a few guns. A hurricane sat unpiloted inside the forcefield of the online tower. But apart from that, the system was quiet...except for the drake that had just appeared. Modifying the filter on my directional scan, I noticed a number of sleeper wrecks cluttering space. If I was looking for someone to shoot, a lone drake in wormhole space made a ripe target. I took a couple more minutes to scan down the other signatures in system, looking specifically for the null-sec exit. He may have entered through that system, and if he tried to get away, I wanted to be able to chase.

As I was scanning, I noticed the drake disappear to be replaced by a noctis, which then later disappeared from scan itself. After checking the various sites I had bookmarked in the system, I found only one wreck field, but still no noctis. As I jumped back to high-sec, I noticed that the wormhole was low-mass. Consulting DaOpa's wormhole guide, I figured I had maybe 2-3 battlecruiser-sized jumps I could make before collapsing the wormhole. I quickly reshipped to a triple-rep myrm with a few salvagers in the highs to scoop in the wreck field, but tackle, energy neutralizers, and drone complement in case I found a target or had to fend off an attacker.

Jumping back through the wormhole, I was relived to see it still stable on the other side. In warp to the site, I had my dscan active, like any wormhole denizen should. I saw the noctis on scan, Ensign X. Sure enough, he was 6km from me when I landed, at a dead stop. I cycled my web, scram, and mwd to stay in range and tackle the noctis as well as bump him in case he had warp core stabilizers. As my hammerhead IIs chewed through my target at what seemed an interminably slow pace, the pilot, sensing imminent destruction, ejected from his ship. He was slow warping off, but even still, without a sensor booster (that I had taken off in favor of a second cap booster), I missed the pod by a full second. Recalling drones, I boarded the noctis to eject its cargo before exploding it. Since I was the last pilot of the ship, no killmail was issued, but I did get a 17 mil insurance payout plus a full cargo of sleeper salvage and loot that I quickly estimated was worth 30-50 mil.

But my adventures were not destined to be over. My victim had warped off in the direction of the high-sec entrance and opened a convo with me. He congratulated me on the execution and cursed himself for not being aligned to warp out - a mistake he wouldn't make in the future. I took a moment to salvage and loot the wrecks the noctis had tractor beamed in but not yet salvaged - a moment that would make all the difference. Because right as I landed on the high-sec exit, the wormhole collapsed right before my eyes. Nooooo!

A thousand questions raced through my head. What had happened? Had the noctis' pod collapsed the wormhole? It's such a small thing, and it wasn't at critical mass levels when I had entered a few minutes earlier. Had some unknown visitor from null-sec exited right before me? Was I just the hapless victim of a bug? Then the answer decloaked in front of me. The noctis pilot had returned in his drake for revenge, collapsing the wormhole behind him. Had I been a few seconds quicker, I would have been the one to make it through, with concord to prevent a conflict on the other side. As it was, we were in lawless space, at the mercy of our wits.

My initial assessment of the situation is that with a measly 200 DPS from my hammerhead IIs, I wasn't going to take down what was probably a passive shield drake even if I had all day. I aligned toward a celestial and started burning away. I quickly locked up the drake, webbed and pointed him, and dispatched his flight of light drones with my own while pulling range. Once his drones were down, I found myself about 25km away, able to warp off. I recalled my drones, but then realized that with the pathetic damage he was doing, I was easily able to keep up with my reps. I figured with my two medium energy neutralizers and a cargo full of cap boosters that I might be able to turn off any hardeners he had and slowly work through his shields. And if things went south, I could always pull range again easily because he didn't have a propulsion mod of any kind.

I overheated my point for a cycle so I wouldn't lose him as I closed the gap I had opened between us. I settled into a comfortable orbit close enough to drain his capacitor, but far enough out that I could keep up full speed to mitigate incoming missile damage. But my plan was foiled by a third party. Blorgg, a resident of the wormhole, owing to his membership in Southern Cross Incorporated, the same corp that owned the tower here, warped in on us with his hurricane.

I pride myself on being fairly competent at PvP in Eve. The one thing that differentiates a seasoned combat pilot from an inexperienced one more than anything else is his ability to be aware of everything that's going on at the same time without missing little details, like the tracking disruptor being used against you, the heat damage on different modules, or changes in local while engaged in a fight. Or in my case, checking dscan for any other ships that might be landing on you soon. I felt like a noob all over again. But never fear!

Due to the pilot's -5 security status, his entrance on the field was announced with a big red bar on my overview. I kept my calm and determined what to do next. I knew the hurricane pilot wasn't with me, but I wasn't sure he was with the drake either. He pointed me, but put ECM drones on the drake, confirming that he wasn't picking sides, but going for what he deemed to be the easier target first. Boy was he wrong. I switched my tackle over to the hurricane, overheating just about everything to try and get away. A hurricane is quite a lot faster than a myrmidon, particularly a myrmidon with three armor rigs. But I hoped that with my combined neuts, web, spare flight of ECM drones, and overheating of just about everything, that I'd be able to get away. I quickly aligned out, speeding as fast as I could, chewing on cap boosters like they were candy to keep my reps going. I was quickly pulled out of point range of the drake, as predicted, but shaking the hurricane was going to be a bit more difficult.

As I was struggling to coordinate all of my ship's systems and keep them functioning at optimal levels, I noticed the hurricane lag behind me a bit. The only explanation was that I was able to suck his capacitor dry enough that he couldn't cycle his mwd. With my escape approaching 15...16...17 km away from the hurricane, I was down to my last two cap booster charges. In they went. I had burned two earlier to make space for the loot from the noctis, and I was regretting it now. My reps and mwd were overheated, getting close to burning out. My armor levels had been constantly fluctuating, but overall holding decently against the combined fire of two ships. As my last cap booster charges disappeared, the hurricane was able to cycle his mwd once again and get a quick burst of speed. Seeing that I wasn't going to be able to pull range now, I hoped that my ECM drones would finally get a jam off. They didn't.

Good fights were had in local. I haven't had the much action in w-space for quite a long time. It was quite exciting, even though I lost my ship. But if ships aren't good for getting blown up, then what are they good for? I got my pod out quickly and warped to a random celestial. Blorgg offered to give me a warp-in on the NS wormhole, but I declined his offer, having already scanned down the exit. I wasn't looking forward to the 30 jumps that lay ahead to get back to empire.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Loot Gods Have Spoken

This is certanily the best kill I've had so far while playing Eve. I'll start out with the killmail.

At the time of writing, that dramiel fitting is listed on eve-kill at 722 mil.

I've never flown an enyo before. With the combination of the hybrid gun boost, assault frig boost, and my own training to focus a bit more on hybrid gunnery skills, I thought I'd give the enyo a try.

Decent speed with a mwd, 4 blasters for nearly 400 DPS when overheated, and enough tackle to keep my target in blaster range made it a promising proposition. (I lost the enyo a while later in the same belt where it got this kill.)

Fitted out in Dodixie, I planned to take it through the low-sec pipe leading to Amarr. Egghelende was clear. Odd. Siseide was clear as well. Even more odd. The next 12 or so side systems I visted were all empty except for the occasional rookie ship or shuttle hopping gates or the haulers parked at a pos cluttering up dscan.

I would have got discouraged at that point, but I've had enough experience hunting to know that patience pays off. As I neared Amamake, I thought of its reputation. If Sivala is freighter gank central and Rancer is the home of the smartbombing battleship, Amamake is the mystical homeland of frigate combat. (I may do some killboard datamining for a future article to get some hard evidence on trends in different low-sec systems.)

Sure enough, as I warp to the top belt at 0 (stupid, I know, but being dangerous can be fun!), there's a dramiel sitting ~75km off with a couple player wrecks littering the field between us. Undaunted by the scene of carnage, I charged toward the dramiel at top speed. At 40km out, the dramiel starts to move. I lock up my target, overheat everything, deploy my drone, and engage. Intertia carried me past him quite a bit, but thanks to the extra range on my overheated tackle, I was able to hold on. The dram pops three warrior IIs and starts engaging. With two volleys, my shields are down, but my void charges are chewing through his own shields at quite a clip.

Even webbed and scrammed, my prey was still orbiting me closely over 500 m/s. I struggled to keep within optimal range and tracking, noticing some of my volleys were merely glancing blows. I let my guns continue to cycle, and as I concentrated on flying, his shields buckled. I still had a small chunk of armor left as well as the structure tank that gallente ships are notorious for. The dram realized that he wasn't going to win this fight and started to try and pull range. But it was too late, and by fleeing, he gave me the few clear shots I needed to finish him off.

I could have popped his pod, as it took him a few seconds to warp off. Shocked, probably. And looking at the killmail later, it probably would have been a juicy podmail as well. A crystal set, possibly, to go along with the deadspace shield booster and blue pill booster? I scooped the wreck and docked up to repair my armor, review the kill, and wait out the GCC. I was pretty happy with the republic fleet shield extender I spied in my cargo. But when I looked at the killmail and saw. what. didn't. drop, I almost cried.

I felt like I won, and I also felt like I lost at the same time. But looking back at some of my first experiences in low-sec, losing myrmidons and dominixes all over the place, I've definitely come quite a way since then.

Killing someone in a fair fight who's ranked #172 on battleclinic can be pretty validating.