Monday, December 19, 2011

In Memoriam

I was dreading opening today’s mail, as I had a good idea of what to expect.

The day before my a current Alliance boss, Tavi, had expressed specific discomfort with one of my corp members, who also happened to be my former Alliance boss. Of course, all I had to go on from Tavi’s side were paraphrases, not actual logs. Considering the nature of our communications, it could have been just a misunderstanding in tone. Nonetheless, I had to follow up with my corp member, just to be sure.

In hindsight, I may have been too blunt, too Khanid in my communication with him, instead of the usual flowery Amarrian standard of business comms.

Oh well, that’s what I don’t get paid for, right?

I punched the button.

The expected mail was there - and an unexpected one recalling the past glories - of course denying all allegations. As I feared, I was left with nothing but hear-say. And - oh look! -a reference to a plentitude of ISK and capitals defending our 0.0 sec POS.

Gods. When did I get that sarcastic?

‘When he abandoned you almost a year ago.’, answered my inner voice.

Shut up, inner voice! ... what do you mean?

‘He vanished, leaving you to hold the bag.’

I remembered too well. The alliance fell apart, people going off to new adventures, just me holding on to the hope that the alliance might return. I even called in favors with my aunt to keep the bills payed.

I remembered trying to break away - unsuccessfully, coming this close to losing myself in the serenity of wormhole space. If my corp members hadn’t made unofficial contacts, I might have never returned.

But I returned, eventually, swallowing my pride and hopes, and found a place for my corp in an alliance we fought just about a year ago.

My corpie may have had valid points, which I’d made sure to keep in mind, but at the same time... at the same time...

‘She makes prodigious mistakes, she has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: she is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still.’ supplied my inner voice. ‘e.e. cummings, I believe.’

I nodded. While I wasn’t willing to make a judgement without proper proof, my sympathies lay more with the people who actually went out and did something, than with those who celebrated the status quo of the past.

Khanid, remember?

I was just starting to write an answer, when a new mail came in.

Blah blah CONCORD blah blah Pedevil blah blah deeply sorry blah blah accident in in cloning process blah blah - wait? what?

I looked around this meagre room in the POS we had erected in 0.0.

This couldn’t be true. Not Ped!

I looked at the screen displaying the half-written reply to my corpie, and it suddenly seemed small. Irrelevant.

I walked over to the fridge, and pulled out a bottle of Kadeshi’s Finest - or as it was better known in Empire, Pulse Laser Coolant. Selecting the cleanest glass I could find - easy when there’s only one - I walked back to my desk and opened comms to HQ back in Empire.

To my surprise, it was Jaana who answered, not Eta as usual. Jaana must have gotten a day off from Imperial University.

“Hey folks,” I began unceremoniously, “I just got note that...”

[ We know. ], Jaana cut me short. [ We got a copy sent to corp. ]

“Oh...ok. Then I suggest that you get yourself something to drink...”

[ Way ahead of you. ] The camera view zoomed out and I could see the people gathered in the room - Jaana, Eta, Calcinus, Keilidh - heck, even Heloisa, and a few other people I didn’t even recognize! All with a drink in their hands, looking expectantly at me.

“Ok, well....”

I cleared my throat.

“I’m not good at this,”, I continued, “I _don’t_want_ to do this. And this may be the worst obituary ever.

”But if you’re here, it means you have known her, by reputation if not in person. And you know that if life were fair, she’d deserve more than an impromptu speech. Pedevil has been the bedrock... frack, without her Frequent Flyers wouldn’t even exist today! Yet she never aimed to be in the limelight, always putting the needs of the corp over her own.

“I wish we’d have the numbers to give her a proper farewell, like we did for Psi... But even so, I know that she would not want us to look back, but move forward without fear in our hearts.“

I lifted my glass.

”’Give me a star to navigate by...’“, I intoned Ped’s motto

[ ‘... and a cute girl to pass the time until I get there.’ ], answered the group.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Boxes, Boxes Everywhere

“That takes care of the cynos,” I murmured to myself while checking of  another item on the list. “Now as to the Purifier...”
I frowned looking the manifest: I knew I had written it myself the  night before, but why had I put an F85 Damage Control instead of its T2 variant on it? Well, not to worry, that was easily corrected: a  quick data entry, and the new and improved fitting order made its way  into the system.

Only to be rejected with rather arrogant warning beep. I was just  about to check what the system was complaining about, when suddenly a  weight fell on my shoulders, and two arms embraced me from behind.

“What’cha doing?”, asked a curious voice right next to my ear.

I reached up and tussled Eta’s hair.

“Packing, Sis, that is...”, I glowered at the terminal, “...if the  system’d let me.”

“Well, it would help if you didn’t exceed the CPU on your ship.” She  pointed at the screen. “You know, there are only that many hamster wheels which can fit into a hull that small.”

My eyes followed where she pointed -- of course! The F85 was the only  DCU which still fit given the rest of the modules! I really should write that stuff down.

As I reversed my manifest change, Eta pushed away some of my notes and  made herself comfortable on the desk.

“So, you’re really moving down to Catch? I thought we lost Sov again.”

I flashed her a smile. “Yep, I'm moving. After all the work the alliance has put into the project, it'd be petty not to. Besides - I always wanted to cause more explosions!"

"That's what I have my reactors for - much simpler!"

I finished up my last entries, and turned to her. "And as for Sov - we have handed it over amicably to Dirt Nap Squad, and in return they let us stay as guests. It's perfect: we develop our 0-sec legs..."

"...while not having to worry about a sov bill.", she completed the thought. "Until they change their minds."

I nodded in agreement - but that was a risk we had to take one way or another. This way less was put on the line.

"When will you be leaving?"

"As soon as possible." I gestured towards the terminal. "I got my ships I want to take down, now I just need to stage them Next Door, so Calcinus can jump them down with his carrier the next days. He's itching to go as well."

A thought occurred to me. "Say, could you be available with a cyno ship? He may have to make two trips."

"Sure! Just give me an hour heads-up in case I'm hauling stuff. But... if you want to stage your ships, you may want to hurry: the CONCORD curfew begins in less than two hours."

"Oh crap! That is today? I completely forgot!" I jumped up and headed for the door. "I better get moving then - sorry."

"No problem. In fact," she hopped off the desk, "I'm going to spot for you." She smiled sweetly. "Because I'm nice like that."

A soft sound from the terminal made her turn back.

"You've got mail!" she pronounced. "From somebody named ... Grendel, or something. Ring a bell?"

I racked my brain. "Not a clue. Probably a faction agent - I have been working on some standings. Whoever it is, it can wait. Let's go!"

"Right!" She caught up to me. "Ships to move! Modules to box! Laundry to fold!"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Project Foothold

“Why so alone tonight?”

It was just another voice in the cacophony of the bar, so I ignored it.

What I couldn’t ignore was the man sitting down next to me, giving me his attention.

“Don’t talk to just anyone, hm?”, he continued. “Smart. But how about I buy you a drink?”

I turned to muster him. Male, Caldari, bald-shaven, a pair of Nightstalker goggles pushed up on his forehead. Not too shabby looking. Capsuleer.

“Arcturian Mega-Stout.”, I agreed.

He turned to give the order, and we sat in silence until the barkeep returned. I picked up the glass, and took a long swig, then flashed my benefactor a quick smile.

“See, that’s how you do it. Now, try again.”

“Very well.” He cleared his throat. “’Why so alone tonight?’”

“Well, have you tried sitting back there in the booths?”

“Good heavens, no! There’s only so much industrial talk I can stand before... I see your point.” He took a swallow from his own drink. “However, that’s not what I was referring to.”

“If you must know, it felt it was necessary to unwind for once. Which works best alone.” I cocked an eyebrow at him. “And you?”

“Also unwinding - but I prefer the kind where you have company. But of course, if you’re not done with your kind...”

“That fully depends on the options. What do you have in mind?”

He leaned back. “For starters, I’d suggest to retire to a bar less ... sterile. The kind where they also offer....”

Suddenly his voice was replaced by static, and it even appeared as if his outlines broke up. Then everything was normal again.

I looked at my glass - I didn’t recall Mega-Stout having this kind of hallucinogenic effect. And it was my first alcoholic drink for tonight.

“...everything ok?” I realized that he was mustering me with a hint of concern.

“Yes - just had a weird moment here. Sorry.” I shook my head to clear my thoughts, then returned my attention to him. “You were saying?”

He opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, he himself, the bar, all the people flickered and derezzed - to be replaced by the virtual images of my Purifier’s command system. And shrilling in my ‘ear’ was the thing which had interrupted my dream: a priority message from our WH operation.

Instinctively I engaged my cloaking device while the ship performed its automatic warp, and accepted the communication.


[ Sorry, boss, for waking you up ], replied Lance, [ but we have just found a WH leading to Hi-Sec. Caldari Space. ]

“How stable is it?”

[ Hardly used, and probably has another 8 to 10 hours on it. ]

Of course this had to happen when I was down in 0.0 space. But we had waited for a chance like this for months now, so...

[ Hang on - let me patch Eta in. ]

I sent out the Comm’s request, and it was answered immediately - she hardly ever was asleep at this time of day. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell from her reaction.

[ What?!! ]

“Sorry, sis, but we are in need of your services.” I quickly explained the situation. “Can you take the Orca we prepped, and bring it into the WH?”

A moments silence, then she replied. [ Sure, it’s only seven jumps from here. But - we haven’t prepped the Blockade Runner to go with it. ]

“Hm. Could you donate yours?”

[ I kind of need it for my own hauling. ]

“Tell you what: once you deliver the Orca, buy a new transport on the way back. Corp pays.”

[ In that case... ] she sighed. [ Very well - again I melt at the sound of your velvety voice. Where is the exit? ]

[ Isaziwa ] answered Lance. [ We’ll fleet up and you can warp to me when you get there. In the meantime, we’ll collect our produce from the planets. ]

[ Copy that. It’ll be an hour or two. ]

“Excellent - and thanks! To both of you!”

As comms winked out, I considered my own next steps. Last night I had gone to sleep in this system just a few jumps from the border between Providence and Devoid - drumming up the courage just to make the first and second jump out of Empire had taken me hours.

While this wasn’t my first excursion into lawless space, it was the first time that I was doing it all by myself, with no backup. Using a stealth bomber gave me an advantage - but it didn’t make me invincible. As evidenced by the Hawk yesterday which did its best to uncloak me at a gate. Luckily the evasion drills from the Agony CovOps class came back to me in time to avoid an embarrassing accident.

For a moment I had even been tempted to blow the Hawk up for his insolence, but I restrained myself: the purpose of this trip was to scout and bookmark the long way to the system our Alliance had taken sovereignty in. There’d be plenty of fights waiting for me once I got there.

And considering the time it took to make the bookmarks I wanted, I better got going again.

Commands streamed out from my pod into the ship’ systems, as it elegantly swung around and accelerated towards the next gate, further away from Empire.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Interstellar Spreadsheet Overdrive!

The barkeep placed my order in front of me, and taking it, I stood to look for a decent place to sit.

There was no denying: I had been somewhat grumpy ever since our WH operation got crippled a few days ago, more than actually warranted by the loss. But I knew a recipe against this mood: find a place with other capsuleers, and just kick back with a drink for a while.

A soft drink, that is. History had shown that inebriation does nothing to ungrumpy a Druur, just to cause her to undock in too-shiny ships.

Finding a nice spot next with a good view over the room, I relaxed and let the sights and sounds wash over me.

Suddenly, the conversation at the table next over caught my ear.

“Wait, say that again: you think that POS refineries are useful?” A young’ish voice.

“That’s what I said.” Old, grizzled. “If you look carefully enough.”

“But why? Even the Intensive array only gives you 75% yield. Why waste 25% by refining at the POS?”

“In a word: Opportunity Cost. Imagine you’re in a wormhole with only sporadic safe connections. Now imagine you don’t get a good connection for a long while, the corp hangars fill up, and you have to go let Grav sites to waste. Depending on the circumstances, these sites you can’t mine can be worth more than the 25% the refinery loses.”

“Hmm, I can see that.” Young voice wasn’t quite convinced yet, though. “But if you have a good connection, or enough hangars, then this wouldn’t be an issue.”

“Well..., now you also have look at the time you spend. Let’s say you have enough raw ore that it takes you 8-12 hours to move out of the WH - refined down to minerals, it would take you only an hour. That’s 7 to 11 hours you could have used for mining more, shooting some sleepers - or cuddling with your sweetie.”

“Hey, leave me out of this!” New voice, young, amused.

“But then tell me this: if refining arrays are so good, why isn’t everyone using them?”

“Because of fuel cost.” I could almost see Old Voice smiling. “Running an Intensive refinery costs you 0.2 ISK/m3 of ore, a Medium refinery 0.4 ISK/m3 of ore. That is if you have a suitable tower running anyway. If you set up a tower just for the refinery, the costs would be...” I heard tapping on a padd “... 12.8 ISK/m3 for the Intensive, and 28.1 ISK/m3 for the Medium. And that is before defenses.”

“Riiight...” You could hear the Young Voice’s gears turning. “So depending on the setup I’d have to make sure that my ore is worth more than the fuel. On average, and taking yield into account.”


“Ok, I’ll bite.” This was Sweetheart. “How about using a Rorqual to compress the ore?”

Old Voice was unperturbed. “Good question. But keep in mind that a Rorq is a 1 Billion investment: you will have to mine a lot just to pay off that investment. Especially if you’re in a lower-class WH which the Rorq can’t leave. But true - if you know you have the time and/or people, a Rorq could be the better choice. Don’t ask me for numbers on that one, though!”

“You’re no fun!” mocked Sweetheart. “But what then about normal refining arrays - those with 35% yield. Those you will agree are useless.”

“Trying to make my evening difficult, eh?”


“I should have known.... Right, then. One primary application: Ninja mining. You only need a small tower to run a normal refinery. Actually, you can put two on them, but let’s keep it simple. Just a couple of transports, or an Orca, can transport the tower, refinery, and fuel. Run it of for a few hours or a day, then take it down again. And if it gets popped - heck, it’s cheap.”

“You said ‘in theory’...” Sweetheart. “Let me guess - fuel cost vs. ore price?”

“Right. At the moment...”, more tapping, “... a Ninja refinery would cost 5.2 ISK/m3, so your ore better be worth 16 ISK/m3 or more. Which at the moment applies to all of them - but that changes with the fuel prices, and with how many Ninja POSes you lose. And with how correctly I typed in those numbers. But you get the idea.”

“Fun!” Young Voice, sarcastically. “How do you know when to use which setup, if at all?, wait, I’m going to regret asking this, am I?”

“Spreadsheets, son!” Old Voice was chuckling. “Lots and lots of spreadsheets!”

“God, I hate those. Takes all the fun out of things. - Death To Spreadsheets!”

And I started quietly laughing into my drink.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

16 Months

“no no No No No NO NO!”

A calculator flew threw the air in our common room, impacting the wall right next to the door I just entered through, shattering into dozens of pieces.

I sighed - only one person could get angry enough to violence a harmless piece of corporate machinery...

“Ok, Sis - spit it out.”

“The Oxy-Tope market!”, she bellowed, waving a bundle of spreadsheets at me. I couldn’t read any of the writing from this distance, but the diagrams were visible enough: colorful curves of averages and channels, and all pointing upwards. “Might as well not bother reacting anything,” continued Eta, “by the time it’s done, I can be lucky to just break even. Damn Goons!”

Suddenly I had a strong feeling of deja-vu.

“One sec, before you go any further.” I walked over to her, pulled up a chair and sat down next to her. “You are not, by any chance, considering joining Hellfleet again?”

She looked puzzled. “No, why would I? Why do you ask?”

“Nothing,” I waved dismissively, “just checking. Besides I think they closed doors. Anyway, talk to me.”

She leaned back. “You remember the Goon’s new campaign - Goonswarm Shrugged - targetting the Gallente ice miners?”

“Yep. I noticed the Oxy-Tope price wobble somewhat precariously...” - something clicked in my mind - “...oh, that’s the stuff you use.”

“Right. My fuel cost almost doubled - and if the Goons continue their campaign, it may climb even further. Right now there are a few things I can react for profit - but who knows what happens in two months?”

I rubbed my face tiredly. I had just finished a hauling trip to our local market hub, and was actually longing for a shower and my bed. But this took priority.

“Well, how about you switch to a tower using different isotopes?”

“I thought of that.” She tapped onto her console, and a number of tower configurations started flickering over the screen.

“For my purposes, pretty much only the Caldari are suitable - the others don’t have enough CPU.”

I nodded - our corp tower Next Door had the same limitation.

“However,” she continued, “if I go with a plain Caldari, the fuel cost is about the same as my current one. Plus I wouldn’t have the powergrid to anchor proper guns - I’d have to make it a Dick Star and hope for the best.”

She interrupted herself. “Actually, that might not be a bad idea in general.” She made a note to herself, then continued her thought.

“A faction Caldari would reduce the cost, but I’m not sure it would pay itself off in time.”

“I see - so what are you going to do?”

She sighed. “I’ll keep my current towers, maybe try the Dick Star configuration - and wait what happens in two, three months. Besides - did you read this?”

I took the printout she held out, and glanced over it. Then I read it again, and whistled through my teeth.

“Nasty. Capsuleer-Owned Custom Offices - that’ll throw the fuel market into a frenzy.” Possibilities ran through my mind. “We’ll have to reconsider our research POS. Try to pre-produce the gantry materials, and hope that the BPCs get onto the market quickly. And I don’t even want to think about our WH operation...”

“Precisely.” Eta snagged the printout back, crunched it up into a ball and threw it violently into a corner of the room. “We might make some money playing the market at first - but long term?”

“Great.” I slumped into my chair. “Anything else?”

“Well, since you ask...”

I tried to stop her, but she had already entered more commands into her console. The display flickered briefly, and the system started playing a recorded message. According to the time stamp displayed, it had been received just five hours ago, originating from our WH operation. No visual, so it had been sent directly from a ship.

A bad feeling came over me.

A hiss of static, then Lance’ voice became recognizable.

“Hello folks. Unfortunately I have some bad news.
About three hours ago the POS ran out of fuel - right in the middle of our rest period. The reason why we didn’t refuel it in time is because the indicators malfunctioned: we didn’t see anything amiss when we called it a night. But that is only half of it.
One hour ago, a Stealth Bomber and a Battlecruiser attacked the then-offline POS. While they couldn’t break the tower itself, they destroyed both hangars. Our ships are lost, but worse: so are all materials we collected in the last months. Luckily we had made it a habit of sleeping in our ships, otherwise we would have taken the pod express home.
Anyway. We have enough fuel left to power the tower for an hour or two - but I don’t think that’s very useful at this point. So for now we’re just going to hold station, until we hear from you.
Lance out.”

I leaned back, let my head flop over the back of the chair, and closed my eyes. While we had pondered closing down our WH operation before, the loss of the goods had not been part of the plan.

And we had just managed to make back the ISK we lost in the two wars this year!

Eventually Eta softly cleared her throat. “I hear the Tuskers are recruiting?”

I straightened up and looked at her sternly. “Don’t toy with me, Sis! Besides, we both know that I don’t have the right stuff for that!”

“Well, in that case...”, she handed me a calculator, “I suggest that you throw this. It relieves immensely.”

And she was right.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

30 Minutes, 5 Lessons

I awoke with a start, opening my eyes to the dim light of my lodgings. Shaking my head, I tried to remember what had woken me ... some kind of noise ...

Damn Minmatar quarters - always something creaking or hissing in them!

I rolled over, intent to return into Morpheus’ embrace, when the shrill sound again rang through the room.

What the... Comm System!

Stretching out my arm, I activated the comm panel - no outgoing visual though. The holo display shimmered and resolved into the face of Eta.

[ Finally you’re awake! Get your ass on alliance comms, and then into a ship. They need a combat scanner Next Door; like, 10 minutes ago! ]

‘Next Door’ - our nickname for the neighbouring lo-sec system; home to the towers of a number of alliances, some of them much larger than us, and also always seeing traffic from random missioners and ratters.

Hmm, combat scanning - I don’t think I ever had to do that outside of my solo WH expeditions... ah, what the heck - she who dares, and so on.

I jumped off my bunk.

“Copy that, I’m on my way.”

Discarding my clothing as I went, I ran towards my pod at the hangar balcony, preferring speed over decorum. As soon as the pod had closed around me and the neural links were hooked up, I instructed it to dock with my Covert Ops, and opened Alliance comms.

“Druur here. Do you still need a combat scanner?”

[ Hell yeah! ], came the immediate response from Tavi, our alliance leader.

The pod entered my Anathema, and the virtual consoles sprang alive before my mental eye. A quick command to the hangar systems, the probe launcher was loaded with combat probes, then I initated the undock procedure.

“I’m on my way. What am I looking for?”

[ A Kronos and a Noctis. We’re holding on this side of the gate, so as not to spook them. ]

I entered space, and with a swift command my engines went to full power, propelling me towards the star gate.

“Any particular reason why we want them?”

[ They’re neutral, and on our turf. ] Amusement tinged Tavi’s voice. [ Plus, they are flying shinies. ]

Heh, there’s a lesson: Our boss really didn’t pussyfoot around our NBSI policy, unlike our previous alliance. I approved, but had to admit that there were still some old NRDS habits I needed to get rid of.

“Fair enough.” I dropped out of warp. “Jumping into system.”

The gate fired, and spit me out in lo-sec space. A quick scan..

“Gate is clear, two in local, no targets on d-scan. Warping to safe spot.”

As I warped, I realized for the first time how big the system actually was - I would have to bounce around a bit to find our targets.

Another lesson: Make scan spots for the next time.

“This may take a while ... ”, I reported, knowing that few things were worse than waiting for Intel. “...hang on, I have the Noctis on d-scan, probably in a safe-spot. No sign of the Kronos yet.”

I was at planet VII, and some quick d-scans revealed that the Noctis was less than 20M km off the planet. Just to be sure, I repeated the scan - yep, it was still there.

Could he really be so dumb?

Back to my own safe spot, combat probes set for 0.5 AU scan radius, sent in formation towards planet VII - and I got a perfect hit on the first scan. Bookmarked, the probes sent far off the ecliptic plane, and my warp engines roared back to life.

“Got a hit on the Noctis, warping to 100.”

[ Just the Noctis? ]

I waited a moment with my reply until I had arrived at my destination.

“Yep, just the Noctis, no sign of the Kronos. Nor do I see any wrecks on d-scan.”

A moment’s silence, then: [ Ok, we take the Noctis at least. Can you get closer to give us a warp in? ]

“Sure - stand by.”

I powered up my engines and started approaching the Noctis, which just sat there, oblivious. Inwardly, I was chiding myself for not warping in closer - old WH habit, which now came back to bite me.

No, this wouldn’t do - it would take ages to close the distance. I selected a nearby celestial, and initiated warp for a quick bounce-off. Too late I noticed that the incoming gate was almost perfectly in line with the Noctis - my gang could have just warped to me at 100.


Arriving at the celestial, I swung my ship around and warped back to the Noctis un-safe spot.

Please be there please be there please be there.... aahhh, Good Noctis!

“I am 20 klicks off the Noctis, you can warp to me... belay that, it just warped away. Damn!”

[ Did you see where to? ]

“Outer system - I will have to search again.”

My d-scan at this spot covered all but the outermost planet, so that’s where I headed next. One d-scan later a smile played on my face - there they were! Obediently my probes came down, and quickly gave me a 40% hit on the Noctis, and a 100% hit on the Kronos.

“Gotcha! I have a hit on the Kronos, warping to it now, and I also see wrecks on scan - they’re probably salvaging.”

My warp bubble collapsed and expelled my back into normal space. Empty normal space.

“Damn, they’re gone.”

[ Gate fire! They’re coming out! Jump! Jump! Jump! ]

In my pod I nodded - the idea was to hide the fact that there had been a gang waiting at the gate, by jumping in before our targets emerged on the other side.

A few seconds later, the gang landed next to me.

“Sorry, I was too slow finding them.” I apologized. “Or they got spooked by my probes.”

[ Nah, don’t worry, it was a long shot - you came closer than I ever would have. ]

That cheered me up a little.

And now that I think about it - the hunt had been great fun. Even though we didn’t get the kill in the end, I did manage to scan them down! Maybe I should look into flying CovOps full time...

[ How many wrecks had been here? ] That was Johanna.

“Six, maybe eight. ” I answered, then realized the meaning of it: there were no wrecks around us, which meant...

[ They finished salvaging before we could get here. ], voiced Johanna the inevitable conclusion. [ Just not enough time. ]

[ As I said, we gave it our best shot - next time we'll do better. And there is a good chance that they’ll be back. You bookmarked the Noctis’ safe spot? ]

“Yes, yes I did.” I replied with happy satisfaction. “And boy, am I going to keep it!”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Way Of Life

[Welcome to Amarr - Emperor Family Station]

It was an old trick, but the soothing, de-sexualized voice of Station Comm’s never failed to distract me from the actual act of undocking - the shutdown of all external sensor feeds, the ejection of the pod, the expulsion back into the real world, into real air.

In the promo videos you only get to see the strapping capsuleer standing proudly on the balcony in front of their current ship, preferably capital class or better; but reality is much less glamorous. The details... let’s say there is a lot of coughing involved. And dry heaving. And ascramble for clothes.

Aaaaaand Cut! for the camera.

On this particular day, however, I was way beyond such trivialities - I pretty much didn’t start registering my environment until I rested my head on the pillow of that ratty old Minmatar excuse for a pillow.

Behind me were two days of roams, of intense fighting.

First, there was the Agony Alumni Roam - advertised as a Frigate-hull roam for alumni, we quickly were recommended to stage a battlecruiser as well... and ended up holding down a Carrier-supported battleship gang long enough for enough DPS arrive from nearby pirate corporations to take down the whole gang. And not even fifteen minutes later, we were back in space, trying to hunt the very same pirates who fought along our side before - and vice versa.

And today, a battlecruiser roam with friends of my alliance - the level of sophistication was below Agony class standards, but the heart was in the right place, and in the end that’s all that counts.

Of course the non-Capsuleers don’t see it that way, which is the reason why for once I chose to stay in these rinky-dink excuse of ‘Captains Quarters’. Facing yet another gathering of placards proclaiming “It’s just a game for you!” or “You don’t give a damn about the Real People!” was not what I had in mind for relaxation.

The protesters weren’t completely wrong, mind you. Some of us really consider it just a game. And in the heat of the battle, most of us capsuleers tend to forget our mortal crews, the danger we put them in. When push comes to shove, we become our ships. And that’s just it.

We feel every impact of an enemy projectile as if it broke our very own skin; the burn-through of enemy ECM as if a haze is lifted from our eyes; and most importantly, we know that the survival of our ship is dependent only on whether we would be able to outsmart our very human enemy.

There was nothing like it.

But even un-podded, like I was now, our capsuleer life didn’t stop. Even un-podded, we never stopped asking ourselves what we could have done better to defeat our opponent. Or, in the case of CEOs and alliance leaders, how to keep our organization alive and humming.

Heck, myself, I even had read up on accounting, just to run my corp!

And if we failed, for most of us, it wasn’t just a statistic on a high-score list - instead, it was personal.

The embarassement you felt when being defeated by a nominally inferior opponent; the pride warming your heart when your alliance boss commends you on your recent battle successes, even though all you did was flying an Interceptor for a gang of random people - all this went beyond the mere identification with your ship.

Everybody knew that being a Capsuleer was not the end-all of things - that sooner or later we all would return to our pre-Capsuleer lives, by choice or by necessity - even myself. But until then, it was fully up to us what to make with our time.

And as far as I was concerned, time was too precious to waste on playing to be something. Either be a capsuleer, or don’t.

Your choice.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Next Time, Just Pay The F'ing Ransom!

One last salvo from my lasers, and the Blood Raider Apocalypse exploded in a nice, shiny fireball.

“Ok, you can come in now!”, I transmitted over comms, while setting my course towards the space cathedral. It was protected by two Raider frigates and cruisers each, but being non-Capsuleer ships, they stood no chance against my Absolution.

A blip on my scanner announced the arrival of a Noctis - Eta had arrived.

[ That’s a lot of battleships! ], she commented, referring to both the wrecks and the other battlegroup, 60 klicks off the cathedral.

“No worries, they are just flesh pilots, nothing I can’t handle.”

[ If you say so...]

Quickly dispatching the Raiders at the cathedral, I steered my ship towards the other battlegroup. It was the same mix of battleship and cruisers as the first one, if I kept up my transversal, my command ship should be able to mitigate the incoming damage.

“How’s the salvaging coming?”

[ So-so. Some loot suitable for reprocessing, but average overall. Uhm - you’re taking a lot of fire? ]

“Yah, they tend to do that. But my armor is holding...”

And indeed, having destroyed the last cruiser and now aimed for a tight orbit around one of the battleships, my armor repairers were doing a good job nullifying the incoming damage. Not fully, but well enough to destroy at least one of the battleships. Capacitor was at 40-something percent, and dropping rapidly., what?

“Gods dammit!”

Three of the battleships had put neuts on me, and soon I’d be dry. What to do?

Without thinking, I launched my Warrior drones, and shut down my lasers. Might as well do some damage, while I’m still on the grid, feeble as it may be. But it wasn’t enough - my cap dropped to 30%, then 20% - any second now my repairers would shut down.

“I need to bail - align to something useful, just in case.”, I advised Eta, while following my own advise.

Lumbering like a duck in molasses, my ship turned towards the next stargate and started accelerating. Cap exhausted, my repairers shut down, and soon some of the Raider shots penetrated the armor into my structure.

“C’mon...”, I implored the ship, spamming the warp command into the system, hoping to catch the cap recharge cycle before the neuts did. I even almost forgot to pull my drones in.

[ You’re on fire. ], commented Eta dryly, safe in her non-combat ship, [ As usual. ]

I was already pondering where to get the ISK for a new command ship when suddenly the warp drive caught, and I was propelled about 3 AUs away from the Blood Raider settlement.


Shutting down all non-essential systems, I directed all available power towards the repairers, and then pondered how to defeat this battlegroup. Multifrequency laser crystals would put me right back into neut range, and my token missile launcher simply didn’t do enough damage on its own. But wait a minute...

I called up the sensor recordings of the fight and played back the last few minutes.... yes! Moments before I had entered warp, all battleships had dropped their neuts - at a range of about 25km.

That meant I could take them with my Scorch crystals. I would be in fall-off and doing only a fraction of my possible damage, but it should work. I just would have to make sure that I kept within that 5km window of range.

A quick check back on my ship - yep, armor and capacitor are back to full. Even the shield had regenerated a bit.

“Ok, I’m coming back in - I think I know how to defeat them.”

[ Wouldn’t it be sufficient to just blow up the cathedral? ], inquired Eta. [ That would show the kidnappers that we mean business. ]

“It would,” I admitted, “but this is now personal. Plus, did you look at the bounties?”

A second of silence, then Eta whistled. [ Nevermind, carry on.]

“Way ahead of you!”, I smiled, as my Absolution dropped out of warp. The Raider battlegroup was glistening in the sun, just 80 klicks off me, again obliviously orbiting their tactical beacon.

I just had to not make a piloting mistake now, and this battlegroup would rue the day they kidnapped that something-or-other’s daughter. Indicators, well, indicated a fresh load of crystals and missiles in my weapons, and my crew was safely at their combat stations. I punched the afterburner for the approach.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Welcome To The Noble Exchange!

“Welcome, Madam, to the Noble Exchange! How may I be of service?”

“Of course, boots, this way please. I am sure Madam will be delighted by our selection.”

“If I may recommend the ‘Graeve’ boots - our latest addition, and at only 2,400 AUR quite affordable.”

“No, Madam, unfortunately I wouldn’t know about the prices of Command Ships.”

“I am afraid the ‘Graeve’ boots only come with heels. But if Madam would care to try them on - she would surely find them to her pleasing.”

“Five minutes - considering the exclusivity of our items, Madam will understand that we just can't put them on the shelves, for anybody to take.”

“Madam is correct about the safety scanner at the entrance, but one can’t be too careful in these trying times, yes?”

“Those? Those are ‘Trench’ boots, patterned after the footwear of soldiers millenia past. Crafted of genuine calfskins, reinforced around the foot and supple at the ankle, these boots won’t let you down!”

“I’m afraid that is not possible - while Madam is, well, female, these boots aren’t.”

“To my deepest regret, the question whether feet are feet is outside of my area of expertise. Now if Madam would be so kind and remove her hands from my throat?”

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a Snowball Refrigeration Module is not in the line-up for the Noble Exchange. And if I may be so bold, I have my doubts it is ever going to be.”

“Madam, while I do enjoy the occasional snowball fight like the common man, may I remind Madam that the Noble Exchange deals in fashion?”

“My deepest apologies, Madam, but I really have to ask Madam to leave now.”

“A nice day to you, too, Madam.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Walk in a Station

With a last shudder, the FF Duolith nestled into its berth in our home station, and the engines of the Obelisk-class freighter fell silent. I issued some final commands to have the collected ore transferred towards the station’s refining facilities, then began the not-too-pleasant process of unpodding. Automated systems disentangled my pod from the ship - this hadn’t changed - and then moved it towards my quarters.

Correction: towards my Captains Quarters, Minmatar issue. Guaranteed to give every slightly claustrophobic capsuleer an anxiety attack, especially when returning from the Big Void. Heck, I had seen slave quarters more luxurious! And there was this door, closed “due to ongoing construction”. Supposedly it would open one day soon, revealing new station establishments worthy the rank and riches of a capsuleer. Until then, we were asked to wait in patience.

Well, at least we were given a couch to wait on.

Luckily the station commanders everywhere shared such sentiments, or at least missed the ISK we capsuleers used to leave in their stations. As a result, private gliders had shown up at hangar balconies, “compliments of the station”, to whisk us away to whichever part of the station piqued our interest.

In my case, I was simply heading towards the nearest station access port, to take the transports towards our corporate headquarters. A ‘State of the Corp’ meeting was on the agenda for today, which sounded grander that it was: in general, these meetings were just an excuse to get together and shoot the breeze, as well as breezing through some shots.

Walking from the glider to the nearest transport belt, my attention was invariably drawn to the monitors showing the latest news and advertisements. Apparently the militias had picked up the gauntlet which Pandemic Legion had thrown down in in the factional warzone, with the militias actually getting some kills against PL. Still - Supercaps in Lo-Sec just rubbed me wrong.

Heck, it was wrong, front and back.

It meant that the 0-sec regulations introduced just a year ago had truly sucked the life out of the sovereignty warfare, with its participants now seeking their kicks in lo-sec. And the instance in charge, the Concordiat, was more interested in pouring its funds into their ‘New Capsuleer Recruitment’ programs.

Not that I disagreed with the New Capsuleer drive in principle - the pool of pilots who could handle a Capsuleer’s life in its current form was pretty much exhausted, and in order to draw in new blood, increasing degrees of handholding were unavoidable. But at the same time, the slashing of funding across the board was making it ever more difficult to retain veteran pilots: to name just one example, the explorers amongst us were yearning for new regions of space to explore - something only a properly funded DED could unlock. And if veteran pilots like that handed in their licenses and stopped paying the associated fees, there was a good chance that the Concordiat would go bankrupt before their New Capsuleer plans came to fruition.

Talk about a waste of potential awesomeness.

However, that possibility was still very far down the road. For the moment, the Capsuleer’s Council - though 0-sec heavy in composition- was making progress in lobbying the Concordiat to restore at least some of the original funding. And as long as the Council would continue pushing, our way of life might still be saved, in one form or other.

And in the meantime, I would keep flying. Not just to show that the Council was indeed representing active capsuleers, or because there were still goals I intended to achieve in New Eden, for myself and for the Corp, but mostly...

An announcement interrupted my musings - it was time to debark.

Hopping off the transport, it was only a few steps towards our headquarters. When I entered, I could hear the voices coming from the common room, telling about their latest adventures, big and small.

In the end, my reason to continue as capsuleer came down to this simple thing: People. Not just my corp mates and family, but also all the hostiles past and future. Every encounter, good or bad, added to our lives, let us grow - and in the process, we wrote New Eden’s history, the only history it would ever have.

And as far as I was concerned, that was reason enough to keep undocking for.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For Once, Good News

“Very well, that would be 100k for each gate jump, and ...”

An incoming message indicator popped up on my terminal.

“... hang on a minute, please.”

Taking the nod of my conversation partner as agreement, I pulled up the incoming message and read it.

And I couldn’t believe it.

I read it again.

[Good news, I presume?]

“Eh, what?”

I felt a flush of embarrassment coming on, but that wouldn’t do in a business negotiation, so I suppressed it.

At least I think I did.

“You could say so.”, I answered in my best business-like tone. “It looks like that our difficulties, which we talked about before, ... decreased.”

[I see.]

The black-haired woman on the holo-communicator frowned.

[So I take it you no longer need our services?]

Now it was up to me to frown. Granted, the war had been retracted, but there was still one day left during which fighting could occur. And a multi-day backlog of missed deliveries, which was just getting larger by every minute passing. And there was still a chance that the war would be re-declared, in defiance of the spirit of the Yulai Concordance rules.

I made up my mind.

“No, on the contrary. We will still need your courier services until CONCORD gives the official ‘all clear’.”

The black-haired woman nodded.

[Very well, I am glad that we could come to an agreement. I will send you the contract, and as soon as it has been signed and escrow payment being submitted, one of our couriers will check in with your office to arrange the details.]

“Agreed.” I acknowledged.

[Pleasure doing business with you.]

The holo-display flickered and briefly broke into static before shutting off - the connection was terminated.

The courier contract would cost my corporation a few million ISK, but at least it would bring our products back on the market. And while I probably should have negotiated a contract like this sooner, the old adage of ‘late being better than never’ still held.

I almost didn’t dare to pull up the local occupancy statistics - but it confirmed the message: our war targets were no longer in the system.

Granted, in terms of ISK and number of kills, we had been steamrolled - but in terms of sheer stubbornness...

... I think we won.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shock Your Sensors

Jessie Arr> Okay, which one of you is gonna 1v1 me?

  • Elusive Targets
  • Roam Footage, no less than 5 hours
  • One Pilot, with delusions of creativity
Combine in a wormhole, stir well, and let simmer for five to six weeks.

High-quality version stored on EVE Files .

Caution - Video production may cause: Misplaced perfectionism, Spiced Quafe addiction, AV Equipment envy, Drop in killboard stats, Loss of sleep, Mail backlog, and BlasterTag tournaments amongst bored crew members.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


With a barely audible hum, the lights in my quarter turned on, as well as a receiver set to a local music station, both controlled by a timer. Itís not quite the same as a morning sunrise with birds, but on a space station it had to do.

Time to get up.

Throw back blanket, swing the legs out of bed, let the torso follow the movement.

Get onto your feet - good. Now turn left, and pad into the bathroom. A splash of cold water into the face, and now there, there is the shower. Enter it.

No, not with your clothes on, dummy! Yes, better. Enter shower, turn it on.


The hot water cleared the last sleepy fog out of my head, and let me start planning for the day ahead; including, but not limited to, breakfast. Though breakfast was probably going to be the high point of the day.

Turning off the water, I grabbed a towel.

In the last weeks one of the corps in the alliance had essentially folded, its members leaving for the excitement and systemically upgraded riches of 0.0 . We were staying in contact, as you never know when one might need a discreet hauler or a boat bristling with weapons, but it had gotten undeniably quieter in our corner of New Eden.

Fresh clothes, and I shook out my hair and grabbed a brush to attack the tangles. Each time I got podded, it seemed to take weeks for my hair to stop tying itself into knots, probably out of shock that it happened again.

I grimaced at my reflection in the mirror as the brush caught a particularly stubborn knot.

The people in our corp on the other hand happily didn’t feel the need to rush into 0.0, preferring the challenges of industrialism in Empire space. Sure, we could have used a few more corps in the alliance, or maybe needed to consider moving into a different alliance, but independence and friends are hard habits to walk away from.


I just couldn’t forget the moment I got podded outside Hemin station a few days ago. Before, I had been able to walk away from an Agony class with just the lessons learned, but not this time. I just had to close my eyes, like this, to feel it again, the combination of absolute excitement and utter exhaustion...

The brush caught again, in full mid stroke. I looked at my mirror self.

"Oh, fuck it."

When I entered our Corporation offices some time later, Eta was already there, studying her nanotec notepad while nursing a cup of steaming coffee. Hearing my steps, she looked up.

"Good Morning! How did you...". She stopped mid-sentence as the sight truly registered with her. "You Cut Your Hair?!"

"Good morning to you, too." Ignoring her shocked expression, I leaned over her shoulder, peeking at her notepad. "What’cha working on?"

"But... Hulkageddon preparation... but... - Your Hair!"

"Oh, that?" Running a hand over my scalp, I raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her. "Like it?"

"Ehrm." She took a deep draft from her cup, stalling, and burst into a cough as some of the liquid went down the wrong passage.

"I hate to admit, not too shabby", she managed to croak eventually. "But still, it took you years! And why?"

"Guess I thought it was time for a change." I replied matter-of-factly, and switched topic. "How are we on Hulkageddon prep?"

Eta gave me a curious look, but followed my lead. "We’re as prepared as we can be: POSes are topped off, enough reaction material for weeks, and all current production can be done here in the station."

"Good," I nodded, "and with the one low-sec POS taken down, we should have more than enough fuel in stock, avoiding needless hauls. What about the inquiry from the Grav ... ex-Grav guys?"

"Regarding building a Thanatos or two?" She tapped on an entry on her notepad. "I haven’t run the exact numbers yet - but I have a feeling that we won’t be able to do it at market cost, not unless we can produce either the BPCs ourselves, for which we don’t have the BPOs, or mine the minerals..."

"...for which we don’t have the miners." I straightened up again. "I can’t say I’m surprised. Anything else?"

"Well...", she swiveled to look straight at me. "You could tell me why you gave me Director roles. Are you planning on going somewhere?"

"Uhm, yes." I admitted, caught on on the wrong conversational foot. Lamely I added, “I may be a while.”

"I see." she said coolly. "And where are you going?"

"Not exactly sure yet. w-space, I think."
"I see." she repeated, then gave me sly smile. "Took you long enough."

"I meant to tell...", I began, then realized what she had just said. "...come again?"

"You heard me." She leaned back, enjoying my perplexion. "Sheesh, you have been grumpy since you stepped out the clone vat; and I know you well enough to deduce why. And gods know you need a break!"

I raised my hands in defeat. "I can’t keep anything from you, can I?”

"Nope!" she agreed smugly, bounced up from her chair and gave me quick hug.

"Now go! Hunt some pod!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Karmic Balance, Or Something

[[ Autopilot jumping. ]]

Aura’s announcement barely registered with me - I was conferring with Eta as to what she could produce next. Nanotransistors were still a sought-after commodity, but we were getting uncomfortable: two months of a continuous price increase was just too good to be true. Granted, the price of the input materials was rising as well, but sooner or later it had to top out.

[[ Autopilot disabled. ]]

Ah, excellent - I had arrived. That was quicker than I expected!

...waitaminnit - that had been too quick. Putting Eta on hold, I shifted my attention back to my sensors

Aha! I was in Ashab, only one hop into my journey, aaand there was a Curse warp-scrambling me, and now launching Warrior IIs.

Wasn’t it a bit early for Hulkageddon? And did this pilot really think he could take out my freighter before Concord got him?

Anyway - I aligned my freighter back towards the gate and brought the engines to full power. Progress was slow however, a Crane from the same corp was enjoying himself by bumping me off course.

My shield was gone, and my ship informed me that I was taking armor damage.

...ehrm, Concord?

Did we get war-decced, and I didn’t get the memo? But then the whole corp would be able to attack me, like the Harbinger who now had a lock on me, and they didn’t.

[ Hold on, I just switched into my Drake - I’ll be there in a few minutes. ]

Eta! I had completely forgotten that she was still listening in on comms. Her Drake could easily take down the Curse, but...

“Negative, stand down. We can’t have him get kill rights on you.”

[ Awww! ]

I heard her disappointment, but I knew she would obey. Another comms message came in - but this time it was a request for a private conversation, from a member of Brick Squad alliance. What the...?

Astroid Mistress > you ok
Druur Monakh > I'm only in 50% armor, but otherwise yes.
Astroid Mistress > why arent you heading to gate?

But I was heading towards the gate! That gate over there, which was still ... behind ... me.

Druur Monakh > Stupidity, I guess, I confused the gates :(

Damn! Hastily I changed course, pointing the ship towards to right gate this time - but my mistake had cost me precious minutes.

Astroid Mistress > I will help you
Druur Monakh > I'd apprecieate that
Astroid Mistress > I will try and bump you closer

Moments later, a shudder went through my ship - Astroid’s freighter had made contact, and propelled me towards the gate. But it was still a long way to go.

Might as well use the time to figure out why I was in this situation in the first place. ‘AMSF Celestial’ - the name didn’t ring a bell with me. Maybe my Combat Log would give a clue... He has kill rights on me?!

No wonder he caught me unaware - it’s the first time anybody had kill rights on me ever! But why?

A cursory check of the outside world - yes, I was still putt-putting towards the gate, and was about to hit structure - and I went back to investigate my foe. Let’s see what the public records have on him...


[ Eh, what? ]

“The carrier shoot in Teshkat, two weeks ago. He was one of the attackers we popped, and now he has kill rights on me.”

[ Geez - some people really know how to carry a grudge! ]

Outside, the gate loomed large in the sun, and I was actually almost in jump distance.

Astroid Mistress > I think you will be fine
Astroid Mistress > I would log when you jump
Druur Monakh > It'll be close :)
Astroid Mistress > I hope you make it

300 meters ... 200 meters ... 100 meters ... and Jump!

On the other side, I began the process of ‘logging off’: shutting down all communications between my pod and the ship’s system, to trigger the Concord-mandated emergency warp-and-cloak system. A cheap trick, to be sure, but then again attacking a freighter wasn’t exactly a heroic gesture either. I was just about to give the final instruction, when the Curse appeared on grid.

Damn! He must have de-aggressed sooner than I thought! Still - what choice did I have? I gave the command, and was instantly dropped into neural darkness.

Through the amniotic fluid, I could feel the vibrations of the warp engines, as they powered up - only to be disrupted by the Curse’s warp jammer. ..and yes, those other vibrations were caused by the projectiles renewing their assault on my ship. My attacker now had fifteen minutes to chew through the freighter’s massive structure before the emergency cloak would cut in. And I wouldn’t know the result until the 15 minutes had elapsed - nothing to do but wait, and reflect on what happened.

On the one hand, it was good to see that solidarity amongst freighter pilots still existed, even from members of more combat-oriented corporations.

On the other hand... aligning towards the wrong gate? Really?! Especially after all that pride for doing the Interceptor class?!

Karma, definitely.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Advanced Education

Deep in lawless space, a star gate fired; the flicker of the warp bubbles around the gate momentarily outshone by the flash of the gate.

Then, for a few seconds, nothing.

Suddenly, a Malediction appeared, close to the edge of one of the warp bubbles. The engines fired up, glowing with a painful blue tinge, the interceptor takes up speed towards a near celestial. A puff of vapor indicates the launch of a scan probe, then the interceptor cleared the edge of the bubble and warps off.

Fleet Comms crackled with a new message.

“Recon - Druur in 9M-. Gate bubbled, grid clear, Brutix on directional, four in Local, scanning for anomalies.”

While talking, I was already working on my next task: dropping a midway safe spot to double back to. As I dropped out of warp, the probe finished its scan of the system. Directional was still clear, and under my mental instructions, the interceptor aligned back towards my mid-safe, while I was checking the scan result.

Odd, just one Angel Yard in the system, even though this system had been upgraded to Military-7 level. Well, since I was here, I might as well check it out.

The Malediction nimbly responded to the new course and leapt into warp. I hit the directional scan again, completely forgetting to restrict it to my flight direction. Not that it mattered - it was still uneventful.

“Recon - 9M- update. Only one Angel anomaly in system, which is ... ” - my ship dropped out of warp - “... inactive. No other anomaly on scan.”

An indicator signaled that local comms had become active, but I ignored it - I didn’t speak the local dialect anyway.

[ Did you try moving your probe? ], inquired the FC and instructor.

Good point! And while I was sure that I had been scanning at maximum range, I hadn’t really verified it, hm?

The probe launcher burped and another probe sped away. A quick check - yes, it was set to 32 AU - and I triggered another scan while checking on the local map that the probe would indeed cover the whole system. The scan ended... again no further hits.

“I did that - the probe covered the whole system, and still nothing. And d-scan is clear.”, I reported back, and added with a bit of embarrassment: “I have no idea where the locals are.”

[ Hmm - ok, come back. ]

For a second I considered checking the belts, but by this time the locals surely had POSed up, if they had any sense. With a mental shrug, I turned my ship back towards the gate and entered warp. Back in QPTT-F, I met up again with our little fleet: 10 or so interceptors, flown by nervous students like myself, and a DPS wing flown by Agony Unleashed.

Our task: practice the art of skirmishing by finding and holding targets for the DPS wing to kill. And while the Instructor/FC did orchestrate our movements in general, scouting out the individual systems was fully up to us.

The roam had been uneventful so far - a few close misses, but mostly empty systems. Word from our little fleet probably had preceded us, but as the real goal of the class was the art of the hunt as such, we didn’t mind that much. Besides, just doing all the scouting tasks kept us more than busy - it was a far cry from our previous experiences as fleet peons, or as dwellers in the slower paced w-space.

Onwards we pressed, leaving Scalding Pass for the open spaces of Insmother. And there, finally, we got our first engagement - almost by accident, actually. One of us had warped to the Sun as part of his scouting procedure, when suddenly a Cynabal showed up on his grid. The cruiser was quickly tackled, and the fleet poured in to lay the killing blow. As the fight was going on, a Raven landed on grid as well. He, too, found his end at the hands of the DPS wing.

[ Maybe we should just wait here, and let the targets come to us! ]

But of course staying wasn’t an option. With renewed energy we moved on, scouting system after system, until about an hour later we came across a Drake and a Raven at a gate to 2-Q4YG. Disruptors were activated and found their targets, but these two pilots stayed calm and approached the gate to jump to safety. However, the FC had anticipated the move and sent a couple of interceptors ahead. Trapped on either side, both ships made valiant attempts at escape, but in the end both succumbed to our DPS wing.

But the tide was about to turn. The Raven pilot had just warped out his pod, when suddenly new ships joined our party: a small gang comprising of a Hurricane, a Sabre and a Huginn showed up. Absolutely deadly enemies for an Interceptor.

[ Burn out! Burn out! ] came the urgent command on comms, but the fleet was already scattering away from the gate, to re-assemble in a safe spot until the immediate danger was over.

But we knew that whoever was leading this gang wouldn’t stop hunting us, and the decision was made to head back home. Besides, we had been on the go for almost four hours at that point, and everybody was starting to lose concentration, which sooner or later would lead to a fatal mistake. The enemy gang continued to chase us for a while, but couldn’t really keep up with our speed; and once they took a wrong turn in 1V-, we no longer had to worry about them and reached MDD-79 without any further opposition. The class officially ended at this point, yet we kept the fleet going for those of us who needed to traverse the Hemin-Doril pipe towards Empire.

As I navigated my trusty Malediction through the gates, shaking inside my pod from exhaustion, I couldn’t help pondering how the last hours had changed us. When we started our roam, many of us had still been skittish to jump

[ RMOC gate in Hemin clear ]

into an unknown system, or even to speak up on fleet comms. But now, jumping

[ Be advised, Utopia gate in Doril is camped ]

through gates and providing informal recon

“Jorund gate in Doril: one Hurricane at a TAC”

was something we just did.

And knowing that I now had this experience at my disposal, should I ever need it - that was a good feeling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bring Me The Head Of Kirith Kodachi

“Look at the Caldari over there. I say: Miner.”

I followed Eta’s gaze. “You sure? He looks awfully dapper to be a Miner.”

“Very sure. I’ve come across his type - they like to spend their ISK on clothing, to make up for all the boredom in the belts.”

“Hmm... you may be right.” I scanned the crowds passing by. “How about her - Minmatar, short hair, bearing 200?”

Eta scanned the crowd. “Hmm... combat pilot, definitely. I’d say... sub-capital.”

Taking a sip from my drink, I nodded. “Agreed. I’d even go so far and say: scout, or at least fast tackle. She’s used to getting podded - you can see it in her eyes.”

“You’re right.” Eta’s eyes followed the pilot as she weaved through the crowd. “Cute, though.”

I grinned, and took another sip. Since CONCORD had imposed a lengthy no-fly period, ostensibly in reaction to the increased reports of Sansha incursions, Eta and myself had taken to chilling out in a Carthum station in Pimebeka. The bar we selected provided the ideal combination of hearty drinks (at least for me), and a good overlook over the station’s promenade.

Finding my glass empty, I waved to the waiter for a refill, and was just about to return to our game of “Guess Their Profession”, when my personal communicator chirped,
I looked inquisitively at Eta, but she just shook her head: she wasn’t expecting a message either.

According to the comm’s display, it was a live holo call from EL8 in Pure Blind, which meant...

“Hello Heloisa. Long time no see!”

[ I could say the same! How’s it going in Industrial land? ]

“Same old, same old. Missions, planetary overlording, keeping the ship baking ovens hot, the usual.”

[ Plus some fighting - I see 14 kills on your record. What happened, and why didn’t you invite me? ]

I cleared my throat. “First of all, I did invite you - but you said you were busy with some kind of advanced training....”

[ Bah, details... ]

“...and second, on at least half of these kills I didn’t even do any damage. So as far I am concerned, they don’t really count.”
[ Still, they are on your record now. But tell me, what happened? ]

“Well... you remember that original idea was the Kirith Kodachi, on account of his six year anniversary, would jump his carrier into a lo-sec system and then give everybody half an hour to kill him. You could say that the event snowballed a bit...”

The first sign that this event wouldn’t be just a little shootout was when Noir announced that they would send a body guard for Kirith. Other capsuleers also announced their support, and quickly there were rumors that a cap-drop from one of the larger 0-sec alliances was in the planning. An announcement on GalNet news was then just the cherry on top.

Myself, I had drummed up support inside our alliance, partly because it promised to be an entertaining event, but also because in light of our renewed 0-sec aspirations it was time that we exposed ourselves to some actual combat. But in all that, we had no idea of what opposition we would face; an uncertainty which expressed itself in our fleet composition: we had all from short-range frigates up to battleships.

Myself, I took a break from my usual battlecruisers and for the first time ever fielded an Armageddon-class battleship. Considering the possibility of an ECM-backed cap-drop as well as lack of logistics, I decided to forgo some of the DPS output in favor of a single rep buffer tank, to give me some survivability. But just in case, I also prepped four battlecruisers to fall back on.

I needn’t to have worried, though: when we arrived in Teshkat, the fleets were forming (a temporary truce between the attackers and defenders was in place), and not only was there a logistics wing in place, the defender fleet was even backed by a carrier. We gathered at the top station in the system, and seeing that there were a number of normally industry-minded pilots in the fleet, the FC ran us through a number of broadcasting and targeting exercises. The number of pilots in system steadily increased, soon reaching 250 and increasing even further. Finally the word came: Kirith’s carrier was at the customs office at planet IX! The FC put the fleet into warp, and the fight was on!
I sent out a flight of Valkyries, and settled into an orbit around our fleet carrier. My shield was dropping, but I couldn’t see where the fire was coming from: even with our fleet removed from the tactical overview, the list of ships was still longer than could be displayed. Our FC started calling primaries and hundreds of weapons discharged into space.

The attackers had brought a fleet similar in composition to ours: a large number of battlecruisers, supported by battleships, logistics, stealthbombers, and a smattering of cruisers and frigates. No carrier on the attacker side however, and with Noir having upped their presence on the field in anticipation of a cap-drop, the defenders outnumbered the attackers about 2:1.

Quickly the weaknesses in my Armageddon fit showed: most primaries were at the outer limit of my Scorch pulses, and my choice of ECCM over a sensor booster meant that smaller targets exploded before my locks resolved. Nonetheless, some of my shots landed, and while the attackers appeared to lack organization, our fleet picked them off one by one.

I recalled my Valkyries, which were just being chewed up on the field, and instead sent out a flight of Warriors. Whoever had been shooting me must have been eliminated, as my shield had recovered to 70% strength, and I was just about to target the next primary when we got new arrivals on the field: The Goons sent their regards, in form of a Thrasher/Blackbird fleet.

However, even their numbers weren’t large enough and after decimating most of their fleet, they withdrew mostly to wreak havoc all across the the system.

And so it continued: the attackers continued to press on, but never reached the critical mass to turn the tide in their favor. At times all attackers were so far out of my range, that I didn’t have anything left to shoot at.

Eventually, Kirith declared the defenders to be victorious - but since the goal of the event had been to destroy his carrier in celebration, he asked that both attackers and defenders would renew their attacks on him.

We didn’t need to be asked twice: all pilots directed their fire onto the carrier, and under the onslaught of the two fleets combined, the carrier died within three minutes.

And my Armageddon was still alive.

[ Uhm - I see a kill mail for your Armageddon? ] - Heloisa’s question brought be me back into the there and then.

“Yes, that happened in the aftermath.” I took a drink from my glass, which had magically refilled. “After the carrier exploded, most people left for home, but some stuck around - some to loot, others for lack of something better to do. So inevitably somebody started shooting somebody else, and for a while it got interesting again.

My Armageddon had been tackled by a Hurricane, so when the last of the defender fleet withdrew, I couldn’t follow. I then made the mistake of wavering too long whether to shoot the Hurricane, or sent my ECM drones against it. By that time, I was under fire from ten or so other ships, and my single armor repairer couldn’t keep up.

And thus endeth the story of my Armageddon - her life was short, but glorious!”

[ Hear hear - I drink to that! ]

We sat in silence for a moment, then Heloisa spoke up again.

[ I got to get going - things are about to get interesting again up here. Fly dangerous! ]

“Same to you - until next time!”, I replied and her image winked out.

I turned to Eta. “You have been awfully quiet?”

“I didn’t exactly had much to add, now, did I? All I managed to do was to get my CovOps popped while filming the whole thing. Probably ruined half of my footage.”

“True, true. And that happened even though you named it ‘Cameraship - Have Mercy!’“

”People are so inconsiderate these days!“

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Umokka X-4 - New Years Eve

Sometimes, it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the show (click for full-size picture).