Saturday, July 25, 2015

Leaving So Soon?

        “Last day. Capricorn 29’s. Year of the city: 2274. Carousel begins.” -- Logan’s Run

“Oh, gods dammit!”

I cursed under my breath as I flopped down onto my couch. Kicking off the boots from my feet, I opened my jacket and rested my head on the back of the couch, feeling queasy.

It had not been a good month - I had had nothing but losses. And most of the time, I couldn’t even blame superior numbers (though it did happen) - often enough it had just been me doing simple mistakes. And sometimes, it had just been me in the wrong place, in the wrong ship, against the wrong enemy, who could shoot first.

I looked towards the wet bar, but forced my eyes away from it again. Getting drunk would be worse than just ‘bad’ right now.

I knew - it was my choice to prowl the factional warfare zone on my own, without backup or links; but in months like this, it was hard to keep going.

Suddenly, the quarters which had been sufficient for me for years, felt claustrophobic. I missed the sky, the rolling hills, the smell of the forest in the afternoon…

Fighting off an attack of vertigo, I made my way to the computer console, and activated it.

“Drake…”, I unceremoniously began the message recording. “Life sucks, and I’ll be at … our place for the next week. It’d be nice if you could drop by some time.” I paused, looking at the screen, unsure what to say more, then I added in a soft voice. “I love you.”

And before I could question myself, I finished the recording and sent it off. Ignoring my churning stomach, I went to pack the necessities I’d need for the week - it didn’t take long. Duffel slung over my shoulder, I stopped in the entrance doorway and I looked back at what I had called home for the last years. Strange how little impact my presence had made in those years.

I shook my head and stepped out, and the door fell shut behind me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Fly in the Ointment

TomyLobo> Sending your ass where you came from

I laughed in my pod as the Loki entered the wormhole, its weaponless hull showing significant armor damage. Courtesy of my torpedoes. A buddy of his had shown up briefly before, in a Paladin, but he didn’t matter, staying at his safe spot 90km away The Loki Pilot wasn’t too bad, actually, requiring me to manually pilot in order to intercept him on his Micro-Warp fueled orbits. And he had the power of backup, whereas I was on my own.

Unfortunately for him, I had long stopped caring about numbers and combat record statistics. Instead, I was out here just to annoy him.

I knew that I had been too far away from this particular wormhole to give effective chase, but I went for it nonetheless. When I emerged on the other side, the Loki vanished from my local scan. Cloaked? Warped off? I didn’t stay to find out- instead I returned to the w-space system we had come from. Because that one, I knew, had a Paladin mowing through Sleeper sites.

I was under no illusion that I could take on a Paladin by myself, but maybe my torpedoes could make the crucial difference in breaking his tank against the Sleepers? Before they turned to kill me, of course.

I would never know: he launched a flight of light drones, which would be a death sentence for my Purifier. Back to d-scan then.

Hmm… the Loki was back on scan - probably scanning out  the other exits from this Anoikis system. I ignored it - if I attacked it, it would just play the same wormhole game as before. But there were also two Ventures on d-scan… i hesitated for a moment, and then sent out my probes to scan out the nearby non-combat sites.

Please please please … Yes!

My probes got a solid hit and I warped to the site where now three Ventures were going about their business.

I was under no illusions when I went in. My single point could not hold them, my torpedoes could barely scratch them, their combined drones could kill me in an instant. but maybe I could get off by sheer alpha?

…Nope. The Ventures warped out as soon as I decloaked and sent my torpedoes racing towards my closest target. I didn’t blame them - I’d have done the same.

But it also meant that my fragile-to-begin-with cover was truly blown. I started to warp around the system randomly, only to eventually return to the gas site I had chased off the Ventures earlier. When I had left, I had spied some abandoned Tech-2 drones. which could be beneficial to my cash flow.

Bad mistake. Their Paladin pilot had downshipped into a Destroyer, and was just waiting for me to go after those drones. The encounter ended quickly.

Yet, … I claimed victory. I had managed to distract their attention for quite a while, or so I liked to think, and them eventually podding me back to k-space was actually doing me a favor - I wouldn’t have been able to find my way back otherwise.

Op Success.

…except for that damn cloning headache…

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Rendezvous With Artemis

        “Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.” 
          - Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

“Sorry, sweetie, but something has come up.“ The mohawked Civire smiled apologetically, the emotion belying the strictness of his uniform. “This mission might take a week or so, and of course I’ll have to observe op-sec. You know how it is.”

I nodded to myself. Flying for different corporations invariably came with the difficulty that our schedules often conflicted. This time, I was on the receiving end.

“I’ll see you again once I get back,” continued the pre-recorded message on my holo display, “until then - Good Hunting!” He looked as if he wanted to add something more, but then he smiled again and the recording ended.

Well. That certainly put a damper on that evening’s entertainment plans - I would have to go to Plan B. But what ship to take? I still had a few ships left in my hangar, but after my recent experiences I didn’t feel like going out in a frigate again. Too often I was simply outnumbered and outgunned, assuming that I found a target.

I lazily scanned my inventory list when my eye caught on an entry: tucked away in a corner of my hangar was the Purifier I had used years ago to explore Anoikis. The fit was still viable, and the recent reports about the Unidentified Wormholes had made me curious. I made up my mind: instead of hunting, I’d do some old-fashioned exploration for a change.

I entered the commands to have the crews get the Purifier flight ready, and then grabbed my jacket to make my way to the hangar myself, a spring in my step.


Two days later I remembered why I had left Anoikis in the first place, and the spring certainly had left my step. The first day I had embarked on a hundred-plus jump journey, but despite visiting dozens of systems with a Jove Observatory, no Drifter wormhole was to be found. There had been a bit of excitement when I passed through the Bleak Lands, with a neutral Armageddon going suspect on a gate with hostile onlookers on the grid - but of course same onlookers also prevented me from contributing more than just a symbolic shot at that Armageddon.

The second day I started following the various wormholes I scanned out, hoping that maybe I could find some careless site runners or miners. But what I found was empty systems - many remnants of once busy settlements, now reduced to powerless POSes with only their defenses left behind. The few active settlements I found, well, they were on a different schedule that I was, and none of their pilots was awake. I had been able to intercept a lonely hauler - about the only ship I had seen in space - but his warp core was stabilized, neutralizing my point, and he warped off before my second salvo even landed.

All in all, a rather frustrating experience, and now I was scanning through various signatures of this Anoikis system, trying to find a way back into normal space, back home. All the other signatures in this system had been Sleeper sites, so hopefully this last one… Yes! A wormhole!

I recalled my probes and my Purifier sped through the void towards the exit, which lead to… null-sec! I smiled in my pod, and actived the jump drive. Goodbye, Anoikis; hello, normal space!

Emerging from the wormhole, I oriented myself. I was deep in the Great Wildlands, and it would be a long trip home - but there was also an Unidentified Wormhole in the system. Hmm - I was tired, but on the other hand, this was why I was here. Might as well check it out.

When I arrived at the wormhole, it was just in time to see three Drifters vanish through it. Knowing their reputation, I gave them a few minutes and then followed through the wormhole myself. The other side… was not that much different from the other w-space systems. Except, there was a beacon - ‘Vidette’.

At the beacon I found a few Sleeper structures, and an Acceleration Gate. Naturally I took it, and was deposited in a deadspace area patrolled by Sleepers. Thank gods I had reactivated my cloak during the warp! A spatial rift was pulsating nearby, but I was more interested in the Acceleration gates leading further. Maybe, if I crept up on one and and dropped cloak only in the last moment…

It took several agonizing minutes, but my plan worked. The Sleeper patrol immediately targeted me, but was unable to prevent me from warping deeper into the pocket.

Oh, good, more Sleeper patrols! …aand one of these Drifter battleships, close to the Acceleration Gate. Well, time to do my Sneak-and-Warp again. I ignored the Beta Access Unit - I wasn’t here for riches, just to do some sightseeing.

It happened faster than my ship’s systems could register it. One moment, the Acceleration gate was looming large ahead of me, in the next, I was in my pod, my Purifier having been reduced to a wreck by a single shot from the Drifter battleship.

Did I not activate the gate quickly enough? Should I have been already aligned when my cloak dropped? Questions for which I probably won’t get answers anytime soon.

With a mental salute, I turned my pod around and headed for the exit back to normal space.

Well played, Artemis Tyrannos, well played.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Get Out Of My Way!

"All I ask is a tall ship and a load of contraband to fill her with." -- Quark

“Well, hello there, little Svipul. I have seen you before.” I voicelessly spoke to myself in my pod. “And there is also your little friend, the Exequror, propping you up.”

The two ships were indeed still orbiting the Sasiekko gate in Sosala, a widely popular entry point into the Amarrian factional warfare zone, and this was now my second trip back in. They had ignored me before, and did so again this time, but my luck wouldn’t always hold. Looks like I had chose then wrong night to evacuate my collected loot from the various lo-sec system - but it was something I had delayed far too often already. And so I was now ferrying goods easily worth four times more than my fitted ship itself.

Just an hour before I had already tested my luck when I cross-jumped a Shadow Cartel cruiser gang on my way to Akkio - on the way back I played it safe and took a detour.

Speeding away from the gate, I pondered their setup. It was quite straightforward, actually: the Svipul engages targets, while the logi kept it repped against gate guns and target alike. And the logi being lawful, it could not be attacked first without inflicting gate guns onto yourself.

Soon, the station of Auga loomed large before my Tristan, and my docking request was accepted. There was another frigate hogging the undock - well, I could chill for a while the hangar crew loaded the rest of the loot into my ship. Luckily it all fit - a covert ops cloaking device taking up most the space. And by the time they were done, the pilot I had seen on the undock had left the system as well.

Undock, undock!

On the way back to Sasiekko I chided myself that I was even surprised at that gang setup - it was obvious, really. I just tended to not think in terms of backup or logistics, since by choice I never had any. But how would you break something like that on your own? Cruiser-sized logistics applied to a destroyer… my Tristan certainly wouldn’t  be able to break that, and a blaster cruiser might not be able to catch the destroyer.

Maybe an artillery cruiser, to simply alpha through the repairs?

The gate to Sasiekko fired, and I concentrated. I still wasn’t very much liked in hi-sec, and while the gate into Sasiekko wasn’t quite as guarded as the one into Keberz, sometimes people with itchy trigger implants were around.

Well, not this time. The roundtrip to the station was uneventful, and soon I was back in Sosala, cheerfully ‘waving’ at the Svipul pilot as he tried to resolve a target lock on my fleeting Tristan. My next loot cache was over in the Forge, a journey of about 40 systems.

Maybe I should stage some ships again in Sasiekko - I still had a jump clone there, and with faction warfare still hot, it could provide some excitement when our own home area was quiet. Maybe chase some of the mission runners, since the plexers often had warp stabs, nearby friends, or both.

Ok, one hi-sec system to traverse, and the in-gate back into lo-sec was often camped, so… Of course. Another logi-assisted Svipul.

And this one was more on the ball: he managed to lock me up and put me into half shields before my warp drive caught and propelled me to safety - his point had fallen short.

But when I sped away, I noticed that this Svipul had been assisted by not one, but two Exequrors.

I shook my head. Seriously?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Déjà Vu Of Sorts

“It is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.” -- Trinity

“Good morning!”, he called out as I entered the main room, freshly showered. “I made some coffee - want some?”


I walked over to him in his kitchen, and hugged him from behind, giving him a light kiss on his shoulder. “Good morning, handsome.”

“Hmm, I could get used to that.”, he replied. Turning around, he gave me a kiss on my forehead, and handed me a mug. “Here - enjoy.”

Leaning against the counter, I took a sip while he poured himself a mug as well. It was indeed good coffee!

“I didn’t know that making coffee is so strenuous that you had to take off your shirt for it!”, I teased.

He grinned at me and winked. “Look who’s talking! Besides, I know you enjoy the view.”

Well, he was correct on that. Genetics had given him an enviable muscular build, and while the look of his prosthetic arms had taken some getting used to at first, I could no longer imagine him without them.

“Want anything to eat? I for my part am starving!”

I took another sip. “No, thanks, coffee is enough. But you go ahead - it is your kitchen after all.”

“As you wish.”, he smiled and turned back to his preparations.

Slowly drinking my coffee and watching him, I thought back over the last couple of days. We had met by chance at a social event, and found that we went along well. He was an outlaw like myself, only more successful, flying for an established low-sec alliance. After the event, he had asked me out for a drink, and then surprised me by not joining me for the night. It took another evening, and some obvious moves on my part, to make that happen, but it had been worth it.

A memory of the previous night ran through my mind, and I grinned. Oh yes, definitely worth it! Except… I had the suspicion that he expected this to turn into something more. Some of the comments he had made…

I sighed, and emptied my coffee.

“Everything ok?”, he asked, turning around, a full plate in his hand. I nodded neutrally. “Yeah, no worries. Let me just top this up and I’ll join you.”

Mug refilled, I slowly walked to the table where he had sat down, and seated myself at a right angle to him.

“So, what are your plans for today?”, he asked between bites.

“Work.”, I replied with a slightly sad tone. “I would have loved to stay longer, but…”

“I would have loved that, as well.”, he teased, then continued: “That’s about the POS, isn’t it? You hinted something before…”

“Yup. This little two-man corp who had war-decced us?” I took a sip. “Apparently they had found an offline tower of ours and thought ‘Yay! Easy target!’ Of course they didn’t tell us that, but once we started investigating them, their MO became obvious. So we found which of our towers was offline, and took it down.”

He laughed. “Nice! They probably weren’t happy!”

“We may never know.”, I laughed back. “And they are going to be even more unhappy today!”

“How so?”

“Well, part of our usual war target investigation is to run locators on our hostiles. One of them we found somewhere out in the Forge, and since one of our pilots had nothing better to do, he took a CovOps out there and snooped around a bit. And by pure chance, he found their POS.”

“Ooops.”, he grinned.

“Ooops indeed: a small tower, three labs, no guns, no hardeners. So two days ago we hit it and put it into reinforce.”

“And now that it’s coming out, you’re going to hit it again.” he completed the thought. “Did they add any defenses in the meantime?”

I shook my head. “Nope. We’re wondering if they even paid attention to the structure attack notification.” I emptied my cup. “But, yeah, that’s what’s up. While I can’t go on the op itself, I should at least be at base, in case something escalates.”

“Understood.”, he nodded, then touched my arm. “Thank you for two wonderful days.”

“No, thank you.”, I smiled, then leaned forward and kissed him on the lips, running my hand through his mohawk, procrastinating. Finally he broke the kiss.

“Go. You have a POS to kill.”

“Right.” I got up, put on my jacket, and collected my few other belongings - as usual, I had been traveling light. Finally I walked back over to him - and a sense of déjà vu stopped me. Suddenly I didn’t want to just walk out like I had done with so many others before, or like it had happened to myself. 

“Listen, usually I don’t do this,” I began slowly, “but I’d like to meet up with you again. If you like. Even if it’s just for drinks and conversation. I don’t often meet people who understand the outlaw life.”

He smiled at me, then took my hand and kissed my finger tips. “I was afraid you’d never ask. Of course I'd like to - and then you can tell me all the unclassified details from your op.”

“It’s a date, then.” I briefly kissed him on the lips again, then straightened up. “Sorry, but I gotta go.”

“Of course. Good hunting!”

With a last smile, I turned and headed towards the exit, thoughts churning.

What had I gotten myself into this time?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wars and Other Setbacks

        "The one good thing about repeating mistakes is you know when to cringe."

“So, who is he?”

Eta’s question caught me unaware, and I almost choked on my coffee.

“Who is who? The guy who war-decced us?”

Eta’s eyes gleamed. “No, the guy who you are having the hots for.”

I sighed mentally. It was always fun to meet my sister and catch up on the recent events, but she had a way of changing topics which always tripped me up.

I shook my head. “There is no guy.”

“Tut-tut,” she wagged a finger at me, “I know this expression of yours. So who is he, so that I can break his kneecaps if he doesn’t behave.”

I grimaced. “Can we please not talk about that?”

“I knew it!” Satisfied, she leaned back and took a sip of her drink. “Now this war of yours - what was that all about?”

“We weren’t sure at first,” I replied, happy to be back on safe terrain. “As we haven’t annoyed people recently - at least not too much - we thought: trade hub campers. But then my old corporation suddenly got a structure notification: somebody really wanted their POCO in Akhmoh.”

“Ah, that’s why you had me prepare some Scythes!”

“Yes.” I took a sip from my coffee. “Unfortunately the stars weren’t aligned for us: the POCO came out at an inopportune time, Akhmoh was too remote for us to form a good response, and worse: our scout told us that all POCOs in that system had been attacked. Our war-deccers were intent on controlling the system, while we weren’t, so it was an unwinnable situation.”

Eta nodded. “Kinda like the Flyers in their old home system.”


“But what did you do then? I don’t think that your boss would just roll over.”

“And you’re right on that.” I grinned. “Remember Aunt Xi’s operation?” Eta nodded, and I continued. “Well, she sent down an agent, and as soon as our POCO popped, her agent set up an empty gantry, away from the grid.”

Eta looked confused. “But what good does an empty gantry do?”

I counted off my fingers: “One, as long as the gantry is there, nobody else can claim the spot. Two, as the gantry has no subspace beacon, it needs to be probed out. And three, even the gantry has 15M structure to chew threw.” I smiled. “So you see: pure harassment, and it’s not too expensive either.”

She laughed. “So that’s why Auntie got war-decced as well - I was already wondering. They did take out the gantry, I presume?”

“Yes, they did. And a number of our other POCOs along the pipe as well, just because. But they kinda lost interest - some of our POCOs survived, as did another empty gantry.” I looked at my cup. “So in essence we now have an undeclared truce until the wars expire.”

“And then, will you rebuild?”

“Doubtful. The income wasn’t that great, and as this war has shown, they exposed us too much.” I sighed. “It was nice while it lasted.”

“Don’t I know that feeling.” Eta looked pensive for a moment, then gestured her drink at me. “So, when are you going to see him again?”

I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t repress the visual memory of a back vanishing into the crowds of a station.

“I really don’t know,” I replied quietly. “Maybe never.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Behind Hostile Lines

        “If you are going to kill me, then do so. Otherwise, I have considerable work to do.” -- Lennier (Babylon 5)

The warp drive of my Tristan fell silent, dropping me out of the warp tunnel back into normal space. A mere 100 km from me, the gate was gleaming in the reflection of the region’s nebula. I hovered there for a few seconds, orienting myself. There was a planet behind me, which put my warp-in point close to the trajectory between the planet and the gate.

I sighed mentally - this would be one of the more tedious gates.

With the routine of an action done dozens of times, I fired up my micro warp drive and directed my ship into a direction which would come no closer than 50km to the gate. Given the general emptiness of the region, it was an acceptable compromise between safety and time. Making tacticals wasn’t directly related to my objective, but since I was here anyway…

When I had embarked onto this little expedition, I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect. Sure, I knew that there would be lots of empty space, leaving me to do my thing, but when I ran into people, I had expected a bit more resistance.

Not that people didn’t try, and got some practice in out-flanking and out-boring potential hunters - because re-shipping out here was a pain - but so far only one pilot, going by the name of Sativa Angel, had been showing tenacity.

First I had seen her idling in an Executioner at a gate, while I was burning yet another tactical. For a moment I was tempted to engage her, giving myself a 50:50 chance, but then I reconsidered: I wasn’t here for fights. So I kept burning, while keeping an eye on her velocity. But she didn’t follow, and soon I could warp off, to enter the next system over.

But the systems were arranged in a loop, and soon we came across each other again, in a replay of our first encounter. This time she burnt towards me, but couldn’t quite match my own speed. When I explained to her that I wasn’t going to fight him, she sounded disappointed, but relented and went on to chase other prey.

Fate, however, wasn’t done with us. Many systems later, I jumped into what I knew would be one of the few busy systems - and there she was again. This time in a Heretic.

I could have crashed the gate, but I was in a promising position, about 20 km away. Turning my tail at her, I took the chance and ran. Almost immediately she launched a bubble and started chasing after me.

I hadn’t quite judged the distance correctly and ended up inside the bubble, even if barely. Leaving it took long enough that she could catch up a bit, and launch another bubble. And again.

With dismay I noticed that she was slightly faster than me, and would soon catch me. And worse, there was no warp-out point into the direction I was flying - the closest celestial was into the opposite direction. But maybe, if she was scram fit…

I started turning, trying to fly a wide turn too keep my speed up, every moment fearing that a new bubble would go up or that she’d have a long point after all. Finally my chosen celestial appeared in front of me, and I held my breath as I triggered the warp drive.

The engine caught! I had gotten away - with more luck than skill!

To her credit, Sativa took the lost chase well, and I made sure that I steered clear of her the rest of the night.

I wasn’t always that lucky - sometimes I got distracted, other times I passed out from exhaustion in an unsafe place - but knowing that this one time I outran a superior ship? Priceless.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Coffee, Black, And Keep It Coming

        "Hello world. You're looking painfully bright and a bit fuzzy today." -- @Gitte, FF 2015

The cup of coffee was a welcome warmth in my hands, the beverage doing its best to clear up the hungover haze in my mind. The events of previous night had been.... interesting, and involved a few drinks more than I cared to remember.

Taking a sip from my coffee, I rested my elbows onto the little table and looked through the window out onto the promenade. The din of the breakfast diner faded into the background as I tried to sort my thoughts.

It had been a curious three weeks which had led me here, ever since the recent capsuleer conference. In the previous years, I had enjoyed these conferences - mingling and partying with fellow pilots on neutral grounds, getting direct access to officials from organizations like the DED - but this year... even though there had been mingling, I had more vivid memories from my little field trip into the icy wastes of northern Yulai III than of the conference itself. I used to return from these conferences re-energized, eager to haunt the space lanes, but not so much this year.

Part of the reason, I mused, was that it’s hard to be enthusiastic when one's combat record shows hardly anything but losses. Granted, there had been high points, like chasing off a Navy Vexor after killing most of its drones, or the fight against a Sabre which against all odds my Vengeance survived in deep structure - but most of the time potential targets either warped off at first sight, or called in their friends to outnumber or outgun me. I kept undocking with a brave face, but inside I wound up ever tighter. Getting drunk with other pilots helped me sleep, but was only masking the problem.

The coffee was bitter on my tongue.

I had to make a change, even if only for a little while. Do something else. Maybe go undercover, or do some recon work. Our alliance did have a number of standing recon objectives which I could do without necessarily wading into losing fights left and right.


The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. It would give me a goal, something to do, while I considered my next steps.

Yes. Recon work it would be.

I emptied my cup, refilled it from the carafe, and finally dared to remember the previous night.

Because, in between the many drinks, an offer had been made. A very tempting offer. But going along with it would mean commitment, would mean deeply trusting someone, something which no longer came easy to me. Even worse, I would have to keep it a secret; even from Eta, who I usually was able to tell everything. And what if the offer had been just a drunken mistake?

…but on the other hand, the possible payoff…

The scraping of a chair pulled me out of my thoughts, and I saw my companion from previous night taking a seat across from me, looking about as ragged as I felt, sunglasses shielding the undoubtedly bleary eyes.

And suddenly I knew what my answer to the offer had to be, and I smiled.

"I'm glad you came."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Derelik Irregulars

The misshapen asteroid loomed large in my sight, slowly rotating along its long axis. Orbiting above the barren wastes of Otsela VIII, it would not have been particularly noteworthy, if it weren’t for the forcefield-guarded opening leading into its hollow inside. Years ago, an enterprising entrepreneur thought it a good idea to install an exclusive nightclub inside this lump of rock - for pilots with ISK to burn, and outside the reach of meddling regulations. I hadn’t even known about its existence - until the invitation arrived.

I hesitated, bringing my Vengeance to a stand-still. I had an inkling how this invitation might end, and while desirable, it would make my life even more interesting. As if the last weeks hadn’t been exciting enough.

Unbidden, my memory returned to that evening a few weeks ago, which had brought me to the brink of resigning my license. If it hadn’t been for that Detei…

Still, I had made changes: I had stepped down from joining our public roams as line member; instead, I was now tagging along as irregular free-roaming skirmisher, to support the roam’s primary skirmisher. It gave me the satisfaction of being my own master, while still contributing to our common goals. And subsequently, I found new energy to pursue my solo flying, even if my recklessness sometimes scared even myself.

Then the war broke out.

For reasons unknown, Forsaken Asylum war-decced our little alliance, and for once, our fearless leader decided to fight back. We had the people, we had the fleet practice, we had Catalysts, and we had friends. The Final Stand, upon hearing of our war-dec, allied with us and was promptly revenge-war decced by Public Enemy. So we formally allied with The Final Stand in return, and the war was on!

Of course in the beginning mistakes were made, but soon we fell into the groove and started hunting our war targets, instead of being hunted. People sympathetic to our cause chipped in with free intel and support, and we were able to put the hurt onto our targets, ultimately completely dominating our timezone. NPSI at its finest.

Those were two interesting weeks, even if my own contribution was limited to convincing Eta to live part-time in our region, for scout and hauling services. At the end of the war, our losses amounted to about 160M ISK, but our kills were valued at 1.7B ISK.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Straya, another corp with people we knew and were fond of, found itself war-decced by the Break-A-Wish foundation, with the goal to take out the POCOs Straya owned. Having just come out of our own wars, we didn’t want to formally enter a new one - but we were more than happy to help out with neutral eyes and logistics, as did others. So began a still-ongoing game of whack-a-mole: Break-A-Wish would reinforce the POCOs one day, the next day we would roll in with numbers and repair them again.

And while all that was going on, our fearless leader asked me one late night if I could light a cyno in our home system for an acquaintance. Of course I agreed, and one small incident with POS guns
later, my cyno lit up, and my heart stopped for a moment when a Pandemic Legion titan and super-carrier appeared next to me.

The reason for the presence of the two super-caps became clear a day later, when the titan driver contacted me and asked if I could give him intel about the POCOs in our system, specifically about their reinforcement timers. Something about a private deal to take out some of those POCOs. Having nothing else to do, and with the rest of the alliance toying with Break-A-Wish, I agreed and we fleeted up. And since I was in fleet, I ended up helping with the shooting as well.

My day wasn’t over, though, as the deal had been just to destroy the POCOs, not to replace them. Loathe to leave planets unoccupied, I recalled my aunt’s little operation and made some quick calls. And when the last POCO exploded, I bid farewell to the PL pilots, and turned towards the next hi-sec system, to escort in a hauler carrying half a billion worth of POCO construction materials.

The following days were luckily less eventful, allowing me to catch up on sleep, with probably the most noteworthy moment being when a miner learned that it is not a good idea to profanely insult combat pilots in public. It took the loss of his Covetor, but he did clean up his act afterwards.

Interesting times, indeed. And now I was following an invitation to drinks from a pilot which I had only briefly talked to before.

The engines of my Vengeance fired up again, and I smiled as the ship moved towards the asteroid’s entrance.

Because, hey, what could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way

The heavy door to my quarters fell shut behind me, and I slumped onto the floor next to it, leaning back against a wall. Already the first pangs of regret for my earlier outburst were beginning to seep in, but a swig of this extraordinarily exquisite brandy managed to keep them at bay.

…rrright, I’ll probably had to compensate ONS for this bottle of brandy, plus any damage I might have caused to their lounge. I might also have to apologize to that Detei which I had almost hit with my helmet.

And this year had begun so well! After Kitten had set my head straight, I had called in to take my yearly Navy Reserve service early, to return back to space fresh and re-invigorated. And for a while it had worked: with renewed energy I had begun shuttling out the ships which I had left behind in Sasiekko when I left Factional Warfare over a year ago.

Of course, I could have just contracted the ships to one of the major shipping corporations, but where is the fun in that? No, my plan had been to fly them one by one from Sasiekko to our new home, all the 20-or-so jumps through lo-sec, seeking fights along the way. And fights I got! One my very first journey, I had to play cat-and-mouse with a roving gate camp in Molden Heath; on subsequent trips I lost a fight with a Comet; underestimated an Exequror; and raised the ire of a Grandpa who yelled ‘Get Off My Lawn’, fired his shotgun, and then his family piled on as well.

And most recently the brawl in the large Amarr compound: I had warped my glass-cannon Harbinger onto a duel between a Malediction and an Atron, and happily started shooting both of them. The Malediction started shooting back, word spread fast, and the brawl turned into an exciting 9-way fight, with my Harbinger in the middle, dishing out as well as it took. In hindsight, I should have kept my ECM drones on the Malediction, while concentrating my fire on the Jaguar which had snuck up onto me - but overall, I had fared better than I initially expected.

But - and I took another drink from the bottle - when I later looked at my official combat record, I saw many kills I didn’t remember being involved in. It had taken me a few minutes to remember that those had been done on our open roams, like that big Drake fight. Roams in which I had been increasingly disinterested in bringing the requested ship types, or in paying attention; disinterested even up to the point that I’d disengage my weapons early to make sure that I would not get that final blow.

It had then come to a head on our Assault Frigate roam just that night. Commanded by John Hexis, who had shown himself to be as good at FCing as he was at scouting, he had led our merry band through a number of fights already, when eventually we came across a lone Brave Tristan at a gate. Sensibly, John ordered the fleet to move on, but I chaved: This could have been an interesting solo fight - a fight I could even have won - but on the other hand going against the FCs orders could bring the whole fleet in jeopardy, and would at minimum undermine John’s authority.

Something had snapped in me at that moment, and I unceremoniously dropped from the fleet right there and then: I would have become a liability to them if I had continued. I must have sat there at the gate for a good half hour, brooding, not moving, before finally a random pilot had guts and engaged me. Had I been paying attention, I maybe could have won - but even so, getting him into low structure even after he had a half minute head start was still something.

I didn’t remember how I got back to base; my next conscious recollection was throwing my combat helmet across the ONS lounge, and walking out with their brandy.

…of which there was still about half left. Good!

I closed my eyes, leaned back against the solid comfort of the wall. I loved this alliance and its people - it was finally a place I was able to call home again. It was good to again have stuff which I could help to defend, good to have people rallying at the spur of the moment, good to have people I liked being around with. People I didn’t want to let down. But as tonight had shown, I could no longer do roams as regular activity, even though they were a large part of our alliance’ mission. Yet at the same time I was too painfully aware that I still sucked at flying solo, and probably always would be. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I took another drink.

Well, crap.