Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Silent Night, Cacophanous Night

I've been going through a bit of a dry spell. No kills over a period of several days. Today was shaping up for more of the same: plenty of other pirates out there, most higher than me on the food chain, but nobody larking about the belts in a ship too advanced for their abilities. I took advantage of the calm to haul some loot to my home base.

One problem with T1 frigate piracy is our holds are so small. It is not uncommon for me to kill a single ship and be unable to fit all the loot in my hold--especially if my victim had been mining or ratting and looting himself. One result is that I end up with little caches of loot all over the region. Some of that loot is quite valuable. Tonight, I cherry-picked some of the loot at one of my frontier hub stations, and filled my hold with T2 modules to take home and transfer to a trader who can get top dollar on everything for me.

So of course, as soon as I had my hold packed to the brim, I spied a Retriever all by himself on an asteroid belt. As soon as I got a fix on his exact location, I jettisoned my precious T2 cargo and warped to his belt. As my weapons systems overwhelmed his defenses, I tried to open a ransom channel, but my victim not only refused to talk with me, he blocked me from ever contacting him in the future. I blew up his ship, blasted his pod, and scooped up his drones. Then I inspected his wreck...and saw that I had a problem.

In addition to a nice T2 cargo expander, my victim had several hundred thousand ISK worth of ore in his hold. Normally I ignore ore (I'm a pirate, not a miner), but if this guy came back to salvage what he could of his wreck, I wanted him to know I was the beneficiary of all his hard work. So, I filled my hold with what I could, warped to a safe spot in space, and jettisoned the cargo; then I went to my earlier vantage point and recovered what I'd jettisoned there--it was all too accessible to anyone who might wander by. After depositing that cargo with the loot at my safe spot, I began making trip after trip to the wreck, filling my hold with pure jasper and pristine jasper again and again.

Eventually my global criminal timer expired, and I began hauling the ore directly to a space station. When the wreck was emptied, I began transferring cargo from my jettisoned cargo container at my safe spot to the safety of the station.

And then a Vexor showed up on my scanner. Now Vexors are deadly, but I've killed them in my Incursus before--and this pilot had only a month experience, and according to my scanners was fielding a mixed bag of T1 drones. I decided to risk it--and boy, am I glad I did. The Vexor dropped fast; he didn't have much of any kind of tank, to be honest. And because it was Christmas, both the Prototype Cloaking Device he had fitted and the two T2 cargo expanders he had in cargo all survived the battle.

I took me several trips to transfer the Vexor loot to my jettisoned cargo can in space. When my new criminal timer expired, I resumed transfering the Retriever and Vexor loot to my locker in the space station. With less than two hundred cubic meters of ore remaining, my jettisoned cargo container finally lost structural integrity, and I could sit back and take a deep breath. I estimate I made 20 runs with cargo, from belt to safe spot, planet to safe spot, safe spot to space station, belt 2 to safespot, and more safespot to space station. The whole process was time-consuming, tedium interrupted by brief spurts of intensity, and...profitable.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Serendipity, baby!

I just made several million more ISK yesterday in the course of my lowsec adventures--and it wasn't through piracy, ratting, bounties, mining, or running missions. I'm talking about looting wrecks left by others.

Yesterday I jumped into a normally placid system, and immediately sat up straighter when I noticed the large number of ship transponders showing up on the local frequencies. As I maneuvered around the system scanning belts and moons and planets and running background checks on the ships I could detect, it became clear that in addition to some pretty nasty characters there were one or two pilots of the caliber I could handle--if they were flying alone. No two of the pilots in local were from the same corporation, but I suspected a mixed gang.

Then I jumped into an empty belt to scan the other belts nearby, and saw the carnage of a recent engagement. The wrecks of a mining barge, a frigate, and a cruiser were drifting through space, still flashing as electrical components shorted and arced. I detected a Tristan and a Myrmidon in scan range, but decided to take a chance. I engaged my microwarpdrive and set a tight orbit around the mining barge wreck. Paydirt! I quickly looted a low-tech strip mining module (worth more than 5 million ISK) and some mining drones. Then I checked the cruiser; again I was in luck, scooping up a T2 shield booster. After a quick rifle through the frigate's hold, my cargo hold was full and I set course for a neighboring system where I could unload my booty in a space station locker.

I had just skimmed the cream on my first inspection of the wrecks, taking only items I recognized as having high value. Now I wanted to go back for more. I approached the asteroid belt cautiously, half expecting some of the pilots in local to be there reaping the rewards of their perfidy. But no, the belt was still empty. Expecting a trap, and ready to warp away in an instant, I again began filling my hold. Suddenly, the Tristan warped into near space. I got out fast; he could have been there to tackle me for his friends. I again went to the space station to offload my loot. Amazingly, when I went back for a third serving, the belt was empty again and I was able to empty all three wrecks of their surviving modules and cargoes, and even had room to scoop up some drones orphaned by the battle. I probably garnered 10M ISK in modules from this chance discovery.

Once, I came across the wreck of a stealth bomber at a stargate. At first, I ignored it; I've been burned too many times looting apparently unlooted wrecks at gates. It is common for ships to be cloaked, lying in wait for opportunists who leave the relative safety of the gate's activation range and take the bait of a large outlying wreck. But I passed through the gate several times, and once there was no other pilot showing on any of the local frequencies; I took a chance and sped out to the wreck. Ka-ching! I looted a covert ops cloaking device, some very expensive cruise missile launchers, and some other premium-grade modules, which I was able to sell for tens of millions.

So, to the list of things that are not beneath me, you can add scavenging.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are you feeling lucky?

There's a price on my head. A 20,005,000 ISK bounty to the first one that pops my capsule.

It's got me looking over my shoulder a lot. As I roam through space, I get target-locked by the oddest people. Friends comment on such a "nice" bounty, and I wonder what those who aren't so friendly are doing. And when my ships do go down, I don't sit around in my capsule to trade "gf"s.

From what I've gleaned from the radio waves, the common practice for the likes of me is to collude with a mate to take a quick trip to the clone vat and share the bounty. Sure, I could use 20M ISK. I've even discussed doing just this with a corp-mate.

But you know what? I've decided to let this one play out as intended. Somewhere out there in cold space are pilots I've defiled. They were productive members of society, generally, mining valuable ores from asteroids or battling criminal riffraff. Then I dropped in on them. Without saying a word, I held them down and pounded them to death. In most cases I then wordlessly pinned down their capsule and popped it like a grape. Did they like it? Doubtful. They could have screamed, they could have cried, they could have crawled whimpering back to their mommies, vowing never to return to space; yet in most cases, they kept their dignity.

Some few of them identified me as a public enemy, using their hard-earned cash to make their point. An honorable response, and one bound to bring them a measure of pleasure some day. Respect to them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bleh

After my great success yesterday in a Vexor, I thought I'd take a Thorax out for a spin. I've been working on some basic skills that should be improving my success in cruisers. Unfortunately, I'm not as pleased yet with my Thorax as I am with my Vexor.

With my skill level, I thought it best to go for a small-blaster Platerax. I just don't have the ability to fit mediums effectively. I set out to roam around a bit, and hung out at some gates hoping to jump a macro hauler.

I attracted a lot of unwelcome attention, sitting on a gate flashing red and all. Most experienced PvP'ers that came by tried to target me. If they were big and scary, I'd jump on through or warp off to a safe spot in space. But a couple of times I thought I'd give it a shot.

First an Incursus jumped in. He sized me up for a few moments, then started targeting me; I locked him right back. I didn't want to tank the sentry guns, so I waited for him to agress, and after a few more moments, he did. By then I'd already set a course for a close orbit around the frigate; now I launched my drones and engaged my 20km warp scrambler. The Incursus pilot simply kited me around for a bit, staying out of webber range--and far out of range of my guns. He leisurely popped one of my drones while doing so. I saw how this was going to go, and didn't like it. I recalled my remaining drones, managed to get out of range of his scram, and warped away.

Then, as I was preparing to dock at a space station, a Harpy sitting 20km off the station thought he'd give it ago. Why not? I locked him, launched my drones, and set a course directly at him. Again, he easily stayed out of range of any of my modules; again, one of my drones popped. A second drone simply disappeared from the overview--I'm not sure what happened there; they were all well within my control range. I recalled the other drones and warped out. I then had to listen to a third party annoyingly announcing in the local radio bands that I'd left a drone behind, how he was going to scoop it up, how it was worth a million ISK, how that was just free money for him, etc. ad nauseam. All I could do as I docked up was shoot back, "I remember my first million!"

Neither the Incursus nor the Harpy was able to do any damage to me (I've learned well that discretion is the better part of valor); I'm not sure either was at the point yet where they even tried, by the time I broke contact. On the other hand, my drones (the same kind I used to take down four ships in one extended engagement yesterday) didn't hurt either of them much, either. Both frigates should have been easy prey. Were they able to outmaneuver the drones, since I wasn't able to web them? I don't really know.

I'm reminded that the Vexor class cruisers come with bonuses to drone damage and durability; perhaps that was a key factor in the different performances of the same type of drone. Or perhaps the pilots I encountered today were just more experienced, and had better strategies for dealing with drones. We shall see. I look forward to gaining more experience with both Vexor- and Thorax-class cruisers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Glory!

What a day this was! I had a fight like none I've fought before--and emerged victorious and with the modules of mine enemies in the hold.

It didn't start off so good. While prowling systems in my Incursus, I came across a whole party of juicy targets, a mining op: 2 Mackinaws, 2 Thoraxes, a Brutix, a Myrmidon, one or two other ships. Obviously way beyond me in anything I can fly, and I'm sort of between corps at the moment; my old one is inactive, and I (and a half-dozen others) have been waiting for a director of the new one to interview us to get us into that guild. I spied a blue in local a few systems away, but even though he had a Hyperion, he didn't think the two of us could take on the ships I'd described. Half an hour later, we found another possible allie who could bring a Dominix, so the fight was on. Most of my experience has been solo fighting in an Incursus, so I felt a bit out of my element as I tagged along in a Vexor.

We were instructed to be ready at the gate of the system our targets were in; then there was an ambiguous statement such as "We'll target the Mackinaws first, then the Myrmidon..." which apparently the other pilot knew meant to jump and warp, but I thought it was just discussion. When nobody said anything for a while, and I noticed they had both jumped, and nobody would answer my questions, I figured they were busy fighting and jumped in and warped to them. There was already one battlecruiser wreck, and the fighting was going on about 50km from my position. An Iteron warped in about 25km away, so I tried to tackle it, but it slipped away again. At this point my mates had taken down another cruiser, and the rest of the opposing gang got away. I never fired a shot! My ad hoc friends expressed their appreciation for my scouting, but I obviously have a lot to learn about gang combat.

But then...

Several hours later, I managed to get on less than an hour before down time. I was near the scene of today's earlier action, and casually warped to the same belt in my Incursus. There were a lot of rat wrecks, and an Enyo. Fortunately, he was about 50km away, so I scooted right out of there. An (inconclusive) encounter with an Ishkur yesterday led me to think I might be able to take an Enyo if I was in my Vexor, so I went one system over where I had one parked, and came back in it.

I'd originally warped into the Enyo's belt at zero, and had noted the distance from there to his wrecks; I figured there was a fair chance he was still at the belt, looting--especially as I'd seen a couple of rats still alive when I'd left. So I warped to 50km this time--and right into a hornets' nest. The Enyo was still there, alright--and so was a Moa and a Thorax. Right then and there I figured I was toast, but hoped to take at least one of the ships down with me. I'd dropped right on top of the Enyo, quickly scrambled his warp drive and webbed his engines, deployed my drones on him, engaged my microwarpdrive, nos, and damage control, and took a deep breath.

He didn't go fast, but then he did go, and not all that slowly, either. The Moa was in range so I targeted him next; now he went fast. I turned to the Thorax, who by this time had me down deep into my armor; I was having cap issues, and had to watch my repper like a hawk. Just then I noticed an Exequror and a Claw had jumped into the fray--and the Claw was within range of my stasis webifier! I webbed him and redirected my drones his way; his tank was nonexistent, and down he went. I turned my attention back to the Thorax, my real threat as his punishing DPS had shredded my armor and was now melting the very structure of my Vexor. Dang, he broke my lock! Oh wait--the Thorax and Exequror were retiring from the field of battle.

There I stood, with the wreck of an Enyo, Moa, and Claw mingled with the older Serpentis wrecks, a handful of my downed enemies' now-silent drones, and all five of my own beautiful drones. I reloaded, recalled my drones to their bay, made sure my damage control was still active, nursed my armor repairer, and begin slowly moving among the wrecks, transferring whatever modules were still usable to my holds. My shields were gone, though they were slowly regenerating; my armor was gone, leaving my repper a big job to do. And my structure--30% gone; ignited gases were bleeding into space, giving my ship the appearance of being on fire.

And then the Thorax and Exequror came back to finish me off. Again, the Thorax layed off out of range, and since the Exequror was in range of my scrambler the Exequror was my target. Quickly I had him scrammed and webbed, and my speedy drones were on their way with death and destruction. Fortunately my cap had had a chance to recover a bit, and I was able to keep my repper running and engage my guns and nos. The Exequror dropped; rather than turning to the Thorax right away, I decided to provide a little deterrence for anyone else thinking of dropping back into the party; I locked the Exequror pilot's capsule, and popped it. I turned my attention back to the Thorax just as, once again, he decided things were too hot for his liking.

I finished looting my booty--from four ships now, rather than three--and decided not to scoop up the enemy's T1 drones; one of the pilots had appeared on my computer overview 250km away in a Rifter, and my imagination was full of theories as to what they would throw at me next. So I keyed in the coordinates of a safe spot deep in empty space, and barely had time to register the Thorax flashing on my near-space overview yet again as I warped out.

I exchanged GF's with my opponents and a few general remarks in local, and one of them convo'd me. We agreed they probably could have had me, and we both expressed our enjoyment of the whole encounter.

My first assault frigate kill...my first interceptor kill...my first one-on-four. I savored the sweet burn of adrenaline coursing through my veins as my Vexor slowly cruised through deep space, watching the red bars diminish on my shield and armor displays, and watching my capacitor recharge...and wondered what ever happened to that Hulk.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Now what?

I've had a pretty good 24 hours or so, killing a Velator, 2 Navitas's, an Imicus, a Slasher, a Tristan, a Catalyst, and a Vexor...all by myself. I also lost a Vexor to a Brutix (just as I broke his tank), and an Incursus to a Curse (just as I had another Catalyst into taking hull damage). I got a good dose of adrenaline to feed my habit and some fun hunting. But something's missing.

My once-fearsome band of pirate mates has withered and shrunk to a handful of pirates emeritus and young bravos. The savvy buccaneers in their prime have disappeared from the scene. A few days ago those of us left got together and decided to leave the corp in the hands of the ancient spacefarers, and throw our lot in with some other corporation. For all that we know, there is so much more yet to be learned, and no one at the present to teach us.

I have every reason to expect that I will soon be admitted to the Black Rabbits Academy any day now. What I'm hungry for is the chance to observe veteran pirates in action, and to benefit from their long experience.