Don't ever do any ratting or mining at an asteroid belt in Ouelletta. Ever. This small lowsec system is along the pipe from the Placid region of space to the Essence region, so every pirate or opportunist in three regions passes through regularly. To make matters worse, every one of the three asteroid belts in Ouelletta is within scan range of both the pipe's incoming and outgoing stargates. Show up at an asteroid belt in Ouelletta, and within seconds--literally--everyone in the system will see it, and every pilot entering the system will notice it.
I passed through Ouelletta yesterday, as I often do, and noticed one of my corp mates cruising at a safe spot in the system, waiting for some rookie pilot to jump in from Jufvitte to try their hand at the famed rats and ores of low security space. Knowing that any young pilot straying far from the sentry guns at the stargates or space stations would not live long to regret it, I continued on deeper into Verge Vendor lowsec space. I've been on something of a roll lately, racking up a string of decent-if-not-spectacular kills, and hadn't been podded for many many days. I hadn't jumped three systems away, however, when another corp mate called for assistance at a space station in Placid, and I turned my Taranis around and headed back.
When I jumped into Ouelletta on my way to assist my mate, at first I couldn't believe my eyes. All that showed on my scanner was a Hulk. I entered the command for a fresh scan, wondering if my directional scanner display was showing stale results from another system. But the new results confirmed that a Hulk was in the system, and nobody else--not even my corp mate I'd thought was camping the system--was showing up. I narrowed my scan arc to 5 degrees, and found the Hulk in the direction of the first asteroid belt I checked. Half believing I was warping into a trap, I set a course to the belt and activated my damage control systems. My corp mate would just have to wait.
I'd like to get a ransom some day from a Hulk, so I didn't immediately go for the jugular like I ususally do in my Taranis. Instead, I set a wider orbit around my target to avoid any stasis webifier he might have fitted, pinned him in place with my warp disruptor, targeted some of his T1 drones, and began shooting them down. I opened a private ransom channel with my victim and asked for 20 million ISK as I finished off his drones. As I switched my fire to his vessel, my target accepted my demand and asked that I hold fire. I'd chewed right through his shields and armor in no time--I ordered my drones to return and orbit my ship, and de-activated my blasters.
I'd given the Hulk 30 seconds to pay, but figuring I could finish him off within seconds, decided to let him have some extra time. However, time dragged on and I wasn't seeing any action in my wallet. "10 seconds," I broadcast to my target, then "5 seconds" about 15 seconds later. Paying a ransom is simple with standard New Eden microcomputer systems; all my victim had to do was right-click my image on his local communications channel and select "give money" from the menu that would appear. I began to suspect that my target had no intention of paying the agreed-upon ransom. As it was clear he was repairing the damage I'd done to his armor, I decided to remind him of the peril of his situation; I opened fire again with my blasters (keeping my drones in reserve), and knocked him back down into structure. "Time's up." I refreshed my wallet display one more time; no deposits. I activated my guns again, and the Hulk blew up.
I was unsuccessful in catching the pilot's pod, and was further annoyed by what he communicated in my ransom channel: "Why did you kill me? I would have paid you your ransom if you'd given me more time!" More time?! I'd bent over backwards, stretching my 30-second time limit to three times that. Bah! Why is it that whenever I kill someone and ask for ransom, I end up getting lectured about how to do my job? The Hulk pilot then informed me he was putting a 20 million ISK bounty on my head instead of giving me the funds in ransom. Yeah, whatever.
Before I could properly evaluate the loot in the Hulk's hold, an Exequror-class cruiser arrived at the scene. Forgetting about my loot for a moment, I quickly targeted, tackled, and destroyed the cruiser--and the pilot's capsule, when it showed up on my overview. I was in no mood to ransom such an inexpensive ship. I suspect the Exequror was the backup my Hulk friend had been hoping would arrive before the conclusion of our engagement; both pilots were in the same corporation, though it was one of the big mega-corporations and it may have merely been coincidence.
I then turned back to the Hulk's wreckage, moderately pleased with my haul; although the three T2 strip miners were beyond repair, I managed to recover a half-dozen other T2 modules and a named armor hardener, worth maybe 10 million ISK. I had to make several trips to a safe spot in space with the loot, wanting to remove as much as possible from the high-risk asteroid belt before other pirates showed up in the system. On one of my trips back to the belt, a shuttle was on the scene; I shot first--well, I shot him dead, no questions asked, then or later. (He mailed me a few minutes later, mocking me for being so bold as to attack defenseless shuttles.) No loot to speak of in the wreckage of the cruiser and shuttle.
Finally the heat was off of me, and I could safely approach a space station without drawing fire from sentry guns. I began to make trips from my loot cache in space to a local space station. The cargo space on my Taranis doesn't hold much, and I was hauling some very large modules, filling in the corners with Golden Omber the Hulk had been mining. By this time a very experienced pirate was in the system, and he parked his stealth bomber right at the undock point of the station to which I was transferring loot. I kept a close eye on him, but managed to get most of the loot to safety without incident.
As I left the station for my last trip to my loot cache, however, the stealth bomber fired a full salvo at me, knocking my shields out and biting into my armor. I calmly assessed the situation, decided I could probably have killed the bomber if I'd reacted right away, but decided to re-dock for repairs before taking a second salvo. Repairs completed, I undocked and attacked my foe; he docked up in turn. I retrieved my last load of booty and dropped it off in the station. Then I set out for my base a few systems away, thinking to come back in an Imicus fitted with cargo expanders to pick up my haul.
Back in Ouelleta with my Imicus, I first darted over to the asteroid belt. I tried to salvage the wreck, but quickly learned I just wasn't skilled enough to salvage such a high-tech mining barge. I contented myself with grabbing a hold full of ore from the Hulk wreck, and set a course to the nearby space station. I'd seen a Taranis on scan as I entered the system, and sure enough my scanner showed him at the belt I'd just left--that crafty old pirate was still out to get me. (And why not?)
In the space station, I found I could load all the modules recovered from the Hulk and Exequror wrecks, the frozen corpses of the cruiser and shuttle pilots, plus most of the Golden Omber I'd scooped up. Daydreaming about what I could buy once my loot was sold (a new Taranis maybe, fully fit?), I undocked. And there sat my stalker, flashing red--this time in an Enyo-class assault frigate.
I acted quickly this time--too quickly. I tried to warp to the stargate to get out clean; as soon as I activated my warp engines, however, I lost the temporary protection of the undocking systems, and that Enyo had me locked down, fast. Because I'd acted so quickly, the space station docking setup had not had time to cycle, and I could not re-dock into safety. My Imicus--and my loot--was lost. I kept spamming the warp button, but to no avail; things seemed to go in fast-motion as my capsule was also tackled and destroyed. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in a medical clone bay several jumps away, feeling disoriented.
Before I could forget, I negotiated an upgrade to my medical clone, making sure that if I get podded again soon I wouldn't lose any of the knowledge that let me pilot with what skill I've gained in my short career. Then, as I sat there taking stock of my situation and trying to come up with a plan, a thought occurred to me.
I opened a long-range private communication channel with the pirate that had killed me. Considering the outcome of our engagement, he was very decent with me. I asked if he'd received a bounty for killing me. He hadn't noticed, but checked while our connection remained open. Why yes--he was 20 million ISK richer, having done the region a real service in ridding it of an outlaw such as myself. It was Karma, alright; the pilot that couldn't figure out how to transfer 20 million ISK to me to save his expensive ship, fittings, and cargohold of ore--that same pilot had promptly and efficiently managed to set a bounty on my head, sometime in the 60 minutes before I shuffled off my mortal coil.