Saturday, May 31, 2008

I take on six ships at once in my Thorax!

I'm doing some business-related travel for the next couple of months, so I don't know how often I'll be able to post updates. I am finding time, sometimes lots of time, to scour the belts--I'm just not sure in advance when those times will be.

Anyway, I stumbled across the strangest thing today 250km off a moon in lowsec; 6 spaceships without pilots. As I slow-boated my way to optimal range, I pondered what might have happened. Had there been a POS taken down, and these were the ships deemed worthless by the marauders? Did someone drop a bookmark in warp, thinking it to be a safespot, without realizing it was on the same scan grid as the nearby moon? Was it a trap (I always think of that one too late)?

A couple of industrials, a Celestis, and some shuttles. I blasted 'em all to bits, then looted the wreckage: millions of ISK in fittings, mostly expensive named or high-tech cargo expanders. Nice.

As I sat at a safespot of my own, waiting for things to cool down with the sentries, it occurred to me that I know how to fly a Celestis; I could have docked it in a nearby space station and had an even bigger moment of serendipity.

Guess that's why they don't call Ka Jolo the sharpest pirate in three systems!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another look at the Thorax

A week ago, I lost my last interceptor in lowsec when, already critically damaged from battling a Vexor, I found myself tackling a simple T1 cruiser for my gang. I was pretty much out of ISK, to be honest, so I shone my flashlight into one of the dusty back corners of my hangar. Sitting there was a fully-fitted and insured Thorax, a Gallente cruiser class of some repute. I remember flying the Thorax before, and feeling clunky and vulnerable in it. But given the choice between flying a Thorax or sitting in the station bar listening to some miner talk about volume, ore, and profit ratios, I decided it was time for some Thorax piracy.

To my happy surprise, the Thorax didn't seem as clunky or vulnerable as I remembered. I was killing targets, and some targets went down easily to my Thorax that would have been a handful in my Taranis. The reasons I was having a better experience with the Thorax this time around, I am sure, have a lot to do with my higher level of experience as a combat pirate combined with my deeper understanding of weapons systems, defenses, engineering, navigation, and many of the other skills that go into operating a space-faring vessel. Even when after a few days I managed to sell some loot and scrape together the ISK to buy and fit a new Taranis and a new Crow, I decided to stick with the Thorax until it was destroyed, and see how far it would take me now.

My first three kills in the Thorax, as part of the gang I was in when I lost my Crow, were a Retriever, another Thorax, and a Rupture; those kills boosted my confidence that I wasn't a walking target symbol. My first solo kill was a Hulk, though I almost bugged out when a friendly competitor showed up in his Vagabond (I wasn't sure whether "friendly" or "competitor" would be more operative). Next I killed a Rifter, probably just to prove to myself that I'm not afraid of them. Then, reminding myself that a Thorax can tank sentry guns long enough to pop a hauler and scoop the loot, I killed a couple of industrial ships and was rewarded with a couple of expanded cargoholds and a Heap-Load of Garbage. After hunting fruitlessly for a hauler that didn't seem to be working the bottom rung of industry, I went back to the belts.

I had a very nice fight with an Ishkur; he managed to take out all of my ECM drones, but they bought me enough time to put an end to him. The pilot got out with his pod, and we had a nice chat; I ended up inviting him to consider joining our corporation. Later I accepted a couple of 1-vs-1's with him (we agreed to stop when one of us got into structure), and did even better; I got him into structure in both instances before he got through even half my shields. In one of the fights, he said my drones never let him get a lock, not even once.

After that confidence-booster, I ganged up with some corpmates again and we killed a Taranis. My three ensuing kills (1 2 3) were solo kills against cruisers, two of them Thoraxes; by now I was appreciating the edge given me by my high levels of skill in gunnery and drones.

I thought my next fight was going to be an exciting one; I spied a Megathron and a Badger at an asteroid belt in Indregulle, and hoped I could jam the battleship long enough to kill the hauler and scoop its loot. Sadly for all concerned, once I tackled the Badger the Megathron scampered off, and I found nothing to salvage from the Badger's wreckage. He had fitted a civilian afterburner and . . . nothing; the afterburner and the ore he'd been picking up went down with the ship.

Later, I scanned a Brutix in the direction of a belt in Loes. I headed for the belt, hoping he was there rather than at the planet, moon, or space station that were all along the same line-of-flight; I'd deduced that the pilot couldn't be very highly skilled. Unlike the Megathron that had left his mate to die alone at a belt in Indregulle, this battlecruiser pilot cursed and threatened and smacktalked and generally gave me my money's worth; what he didn't give me was the ransom I asked for. No problem, I collected my due reward, in modules and cargo fished from his wreck. Then, on my way back to my home station with all the loot I could stuff in my hold, I saw a Stabber at an asteroid belt. I jettisoned my cargo and warped to the belt and smacked that cruiser down without him ever getting a lock on me.

Finally, today. On the last day of this Thorax's week of honor, I killed a cruiser and two destroyers. What was different about these three kills was that in each instance I was also able to lock and pod the pilot; I hadn't managed to do that with my Thorax until today.

And then, just as I jumped into Hevrice, another Thorax warped to the gate. He was not flagged as a criminal, but I kept my eye on him, hoping he'd be tempted by my red-flashy status into opening fire. He did! I quickly locked him and my drones shut him down; unfortunately for me, he was pretty fast and I couldn't quite get into range for my small guns. Then a Vexor jumped through the gate, and also locked me. He unleashed a mixed bag of drones on me, including some high-tech Ogres. I watched as my shields dropped to zero, and noted that my capacitor was steadily being depleted. I realized the Vexor was right next to me, and re-directed my guns to the Vexor, leaving my ECM drones on the Thorax. It was the right move: the Vexor's shields started dropping, and fast. But it was too late. I ran out of cap (or maybe the Vexor leached my power out) just as the Thorax finally got a lock on me, and with no armor repairer, I knew I didn't have much time. I confirmed that I was, in fact, warp scrambled; I micro-managed my capacitor to try to take that Vexor with me; but in the end, my Thorax went down.

I write this as I travel to my home station in my escape capsule, vowing that I would not let that noble cruiser go without this memorial. The insurance payout has already registered on my wallet, and I'm realizing I've had quite a profitable seven days. My experiences this week in the Qlobber have renewed my hope of someday acquiring the expertise necessary to fly a Thorax that truly shines--a "gankerax" that fields larger guns. But more than that, they have changed my mind about Thoraxes at the skill level I hold right now.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Knowledge is Power

Some people are saying I've been quiet lately. They're saying, "Ka Jolo, what's going on? Why aren't you writing about your latest ship?" Well, what's going on is I'm polishing my competencies with the ships and modules I'm already flying, morphing from a dangerous interceptor pilot into a deadly interceptor pilot.

Early on in my career, I achieved competency at flying Incursus-class frigates, then took some time to upgrade my skills to be able to use high-tech guns and drones. I qualified for cruisers, battlecruisers, and battleships, then brushed up on my learning skills themselves. After that, I turned my attention to interceptors, first getting signed off to pilot Taranis-class interceptors, then Crow-class interceptors built by industrialists who are Caldari like me. Before I start spending my hard-won ISK on the next ship class that's tugging at me--the Ishtar-class heavy assault ship--I want to maximize my skills at all the systems required to effectively fly such a killing machine.

Over the past couple of months, then, I've been studying deeper and broader in all subjects that affect gunnery, drone operation, and (to a lesser extent) missiles. Each new level of understanding I've gained has delivered immediate benefits in the ships I'm flying now: accuracy, range, and rate of fire, drones that are faster, harder-hitting, and more durable; missiles that fly farther, faster, and that hit with more effect. During the next few months, I'll upgrade my skills further to be able to operate high-tech missiles and larger drones and turrets, but not before delving into the mechanical, engineering, and electronic aspects of space ships themselves. I'll be able to do more with less energy when all is said and done--fit more modules, bigger guns, fly farther and faster, repair more damage, and the like.

In fact, I don't expect to qualify for heavy assault ships until November, and I'm not sure I'll be comfortable enough with my HAC proficiency to spend my ISK on one until sometime in December. Obviously, I'm not the "I just can't wait...!" type of pilot. I take great satisfaction in my achievements as an interceptor pilot. I like my life as it is now, and am content to be very good at what I do; I choose to focus on what I can do now rather than what I may do with some other skillset sometime in the future.

It may be appropriate at this time to mention the role my corp and alliance play in my job satisfaction, especially in light of my previous post which focused on the elements that made me feel dissatisfied. One of the skills I'm developing right now is small gang warfare; my corp leaders are providing opportunities for me not only to participate in small gangs but also to command such gangs. As a result, I've taken part in encounters I would never contemplate solo--not even if all I knew about was the bait (during our last fleet action, we attacked a battleship that had a slew of battleships and HAC's waiting in backup), and I've flown battlecruisers and battleships in anti-POS actions and territorial patrols in nullsec (almost embarrassed at my dps and defensive capabilities). All of this adds up to valuable combat experience. In the meantime, my corp leadership is content to allow me to cruise the belts of low-security space as long as I continue my good record of answering calls-to-arms in nullsec; alliance command can hardly begrudge me my lowsec kills when I'm also making a respectable showing on the nullsec killboards.

Don't expect much to change for me in the month or three ahead. I may fly cruisers more, especially once I figure out how to power larger-sized turrets on my Thorax, and then I may explore the limitations of the Brutix and Myrmidon-class battlecruisers. I may take some time out to grapple with the dynamics of electronic warfare. But the clock is ticking . . . I expect to be an Ishtar pilot to be feared by Christmas. See you then!