. . . if you don't count sentry guns.
While waiting for all my corp mates to get their gear down to our new office in preparation for moving out into 0.0, I've been prowling the nearby lowsec systems but after days of hunting had no kills. Hungry for blood and impatient, I clone-jumped back to Verge Vendor, a region that holds many a fond memory for me. After a fruitless loop up into Placid earlier in the day, I set out a second time, this time towards Essence. I struck gold after a single jump.
Jovainnon is not normally a great system for hunting. It is the hub for dozens of pilots that frantically go on courier mission after courier mission, jumping from station to gate to gate to station and back again, 23 hours a day, 7 days a week--continually under the benevolent shadow of government sentry guns. Flying frigates, as I almost always do, I leave these ships alone. I popped one or two, back in the day, flying my Thorax-class cruiser, but was disappointed in the loot I could recover from the wrecks; odd things such as dolls could be found among the jumble of cargo expanders, and that is about all. Typically my local communication frequency shows 20-30 such pilots in the system, and only very rarely is there a miner or ratter at one of the belts.
Today as I jumped in nothing was any different. There were a Punisher and a Drake on the gate; the Drake was flashing red--meaning the sentry guns wouldn't pound me for attacking him--but those Drakes have some mighty tanks on them. I entered the coordinates for the next jump gate on my way, and warped off.
But as I warped away, I overheard on my short-range radio the system officials inform the Drake pilot that he was engaged in unlawful activity, and they opened fire from the sentry guns and billboard. I wondered how much a single Drake could tank . . . but really, I had no idea. Presumably the vessel could tank the sentries well enough while he destroyed industrial ships; but if Drakes are known for their tanks, Taranis-class interceptors fit like I was are known for their damage-dealing capability. I called up the Drake pilot's records, and found that he had more hours at the helm of a space ship than did I . . . but not by too much of a margin. Impatient for some action, I turned right around when I dropped out of warp and went back down the warp tunnel I'd just left. Would the Drake still be there, or would he warp away from the sentry fire after having killed his prey?
I dropped out of warp, and immediately a red symbol began flashing from my computer overview monitor--an outlaw ship (other than me, of course) was in the vicinity--and it was the Drake! I got a lock on him, and as I was already practically on top of him, immediately engaged my warp disruptor, stasis webifier, and launched my two T2 Hobgoblin drones as I set a close orbit around my quarry.
At first, the Drake didn't seem too worried; it was several moments before my sensors indicated he had a lock on me. But once he had me in his cross-hairs, I felt it. Heavy missiles began slamming into me; I watched as first my shields indicator, then that for my armor, began to turn red, 20-40% at a time. The display of damage to the Drake, however, barely registered at all what I was pouring out from three T2 Light Ion Blasters and those two drones. Part of me was very worried, but another part of me was happy my weapons were registering at all. I was also concerned that the Punisher at the gate was still there; he could engage me at any time, if he wanted to, because of my outlaw status--and unlike the battlecruiser with which I was engaged, the Punisher's weapons would be ideal for hurting frigates.
The Drake had about 65% shields when I engaged him; by the time he'd knocked me into structure, he was down to 20% shields. I began making preparations to try to warp away. Normally, this wouldn't be too much of a concern when facing a Drake-class battlecruiser; they tend to rely on other ships to tackle their opponents. But this pilot was ganking industrial ships as they jumped through the gate, and there was a good chance he was fit to pin them down in the process. But as my finger hovered over the button that would engage my warp engines--if possible--I hesitated. In a Taranis fitted with a T2 Damage Control System, half my defenses were in the structure, rather than the shields or armor. The Drake, on the other hand, had all his defenses in his shields, and he was down by this time to 10%, taking all my firepower plus the sentry guns. Slowly I drew my hand back. Wait just a little longer. . . .
I broke the Drake's tank with about 75% structure left (well, the sentry guns and I did). I was relieved to see the rate of damage really pick up speed now that, his shields gone, my guns were biting into his armor. Still, my own margin for survival kept narrowing. As I kept switching my gaze from my own damage indicator to my target's, I grew more and more confident. Sure enough, I brought the mighty battlecruiser down!
I got out of there fast, not even taking the time to loot the Drake's wreckage. With just 10% of my structure left, I was very gun-shy around that gate; the Punisher was still there, and could have had an easy time of me, and even a Navitas jumping through the gate with a point and a mining laser might have been able to finish me off. But what loot might I have left behind? I sat at a safe spot for a few minutes, greed battling caution, watching my shields slowly recover. Impulsively, I pointed my badly damaged interceptor back to the gate, and engaged my warp engines. The Punisher was still there; now, though, I thought I might make it to the gate if he attacked me, thanks to my rejuvenated shields. I briefly engaged my microwarpdrive and orbited the Drake . . . and recovered about 20 million ISK in T2 modules that had survived the encounter! Woohoo!
Cargo hold filled to capacity, I jumped through the gate and set a course to the space station where I kept my loot in this region. Without even taking the time to unload my cargo or make repairs, I ran over to a Vexor standing by in my docking bay, and headed back to the gate; there were still 6-10 wrecks at that gate, and with the way my luck was going, who knew what I might loot? My optimism had me at the con of a cruiser with more than twice the capacity of my interceptor's hold. I went through the wreckage of the nearest industrial ship, but found only a half-dozen T1 cargo expanders. As I sailed toward the next wreck, though, the Punisher (still there) locked me, and then a Celestis arrived on the scene. I wasn't too worried--a Vexor could handle those ships--but I did grow cautions.
They opened fire on me, and although I activated my armor repairer, I didn't immediately return fire. As things stood, I could jump through the nearby gate immediately, but my attackers would be barred from jumping right away because of their shooting. My caution paid off, for within moments I picked up a Raven on scan; he dropped out of warp in our vicinity and locked me. Deciding not to push my luck any further, I approached the gate and got out of Dodge (down to 25% armor in no time flat).
Back in the stateroom I rent in the nearby space station, I gloated over the killmail I'd received. I'd recognized that I'd scooped up some good loot right away; only now did I learn that the vessel I'd destroyed had been rigged out with some very expensive modifications to enhance his defenses. How sweet!