I just have to say how happy I am with the way the Tuskers corp is growing. New members are being added every week, and I'm impressed with the caliber of pilots we're attracting. As a fairly new corporation, it is difficult for us to attract long-time PvP pirates with many skills. Yet I resolved from the beginning not to accept just any applicant into the Tuskers. We have no minimum skillpoint requirement, and as a result the typical Tusker flies a T2 frigate class or two at best. But we do require every new Tusker pilot to already have at least 5 solo kills under his belt--at least two of which must be kills of a ship class greater than that flown by the Tusker candidate. I'm sure many impatient pirate wannabe's turn away at this requirement; but the ones that persevere find themselves surrounded by mates of like mindset.
I also require quite detailed skill and wallet and journal information of all Tusker candidates; I'm sure this winnows out some otherwise qualified pilots. But poring over their educational and financial records helps me identify other pilots with whom they may be in league, spot those with certain irregularities that could result in their wallets going deep into the negative, and establish trust up front. Finally, I'm amused to report that I have actually turned away several candidates simply because they were unwilling or unable to join our voice comms during fleet operations.
Let me tell you how my day went today; to me, it was a testimony to the Tusker quality far beyond our experience level.
"There's a Hyperion in Costolle with a two-month old pilot." This from Nupe, a Tusker who frequently flies with a ship-probing wingman. He'd found a Gallente battleship, and according to public databases, the pilot had only received his captain's papers a couple of months ago.
"I'm two jumps out; on my way." But by the time I reached Costolle, the Hyperion pilot had left the system. I stayed in the fleet with Nupe, and we worked our way over to Ouelletta, where I'd seen a Vexor flitting about earlier. Nothing this time. Nupe wandered back to Melmaniel; just then the Vexor did show up on my overview, and I charged in to make the tackle. Nupe immediately put his Hurricane-class battlecruiser in warp to the Ouelletta gate.
I tackled the Vexor with little difficuly in my Thorax, fit with heavy plate armor and small blasters. My ECM drones began buzzing around the Vexor, but his real DPS was in drones of his own, and they were on me. The Vexor was fast, and I had to manage my microwarpdrive, stasis webifier, and ship navigation closely as I struggled to keep the point-blank range dictated by my blasters. Unfortunately, my drones missed a jam cycle, and at that range the Vexor sucked my cap dry--he had modules that could drain my own cap, and perhaps take a little for himself while they were at it. As his drones bit deep into my armor, I shut down my guns and managed my modules even more intensely, struggling to keep the Vexor's warp drives disrupted, struggling to keep in range, struggling to fit in a repair cycle on my armor when I could...but it wasn't enough. "Get that Hurricane here! I'm not gonna make it!"
Finally, the powerful 'Cane arrived on the scene, ponderously bringing it's heavy guns to bear on the target; I just couldn't take any more of a pounding, and as the Vexor's drones began to bite into the very structure of my ship, I jumped out. I'd hoped my friend in the battlecruiser would be able to finish the job, but the Vexor also managed to escape before the 'Cane could re-establish the tackle.
That's the life of a belt pirate--and I'm sure the Vexor was every bit as much a pirate as were we. I listened with distaste to the Vexor pilot's smack talk (Bulldags'hunter was the name he chose to go by), crowing about how he would have killed me (if only I'd stupidly stood still and let him do it), and taunting us for not being able to keep him tackled (hello?). As you may expect, all I said in return was, "gf."
Nursing my grudge from the safety of empty space, I was nevertheless powerless to engage the Vexor, now coyly keeping out of sight. As Nupe and I sat there, waiting for the authorities to cool down and allow us to once again jump through a star gate or dock in a space station unmolested by sentry guns, Nupe's wingman reported that the young Hyperion pilot was back--and he was right next door in Melmaniel!
Oh, how time crawls when you have such a target so close, and yet so far. The remaining minutes until it would be safe for us to jump over to Melmaniel seemed like hours. But finally, they passed. "I'm docking real quick to rep my hull and replinish my ammo," I reported. Nupe and his slower spaceship headed right over to Melmaniel.
"He's still here...he's not in deadspace! He's at a belt!" This seemed too good to be true. As I jumped into Melmaniel, I received a report of the exact asteroid belt the Hyperion had just warped to, and set my warp engines to get me there. Once again, the short time I was in the wormhole stretched. Was I jumping into a trap? How would a low-tech cruiser and battlecruiser fare against such a fine battleship? Would we be able to break his tank? Would he chew us up with his own DPS? Why didn't I refit with bigger guns?
At last, I dropped out of warp and onto the Hyperion. I keyed my comms, "He's here! Warp to me now!" At the same time, I set course for a tight orbit around the target, catching him just as he was approaching some of the local "rats" polluting the asteroid belt. "Engage the warp disruptor! Engage the stasis webifier! Drones, engage target!" The fight was on, complicated by the decision of one of the rats to take the battleship's side against me.
It seemed to take forever for Nupe to arrive in his slower Hurricane, but I still had some shields left when he finally did arrive. Slowly, slowly, we ate away at his shields, then started nibbling at his armor. I made the decision to demand a ransom, and opened up a ransom channel with our target; he hemmed and hawed and asked for assurances that a ransom would be honored, but after going well beyond the 30 second deadline I initially set no ISK was transferred; no problem, Nupe and I were quite happy to chalk up a battleship kill. (Later, the battleship pilot told me he was going to pay the measly 50M ransom we demanded, but couldn't figure out how; I believe him, given the rigs and all that he lost with that ship. Somehow my mates, using the same ransom channel, don't seem to have the problems I do exacting ransoms.
Rylack, the newest Tusker, joined us about this time, and we set off through Heydieles and Old Man Star to Aeshee, hunting and probing for suitable targets but having no luck. Joc, and original Tusker, caught up with the fleet as we checked out Vitrauze, home of the Hellcats. Our scout caught a glimpse of Mynxee, CEO of the Hellcats (an all-female pirate corp), blogger, and something of a friend, just as she ducked into a station in her Rupture.
This put me in a "situation." Our corp had just been discussing allying with the Hellcats and the Python Cartel; I reiterated our "no blues" policy, and have been trying to talk about how it is possible to have friends that one still might fight, using intel channels instead of alliances, etc. In this case, I ordered a camp at Mynxee's station, and then I warned her not to come outside. "Sometimes reverse psychology works," I told the fleet, "If she doesn't come out, good, I warned her and she heeded the warning; but if she does, I can say she can't say I didn't warn her." Mynxee wisely chose to stay inside the space station, but she did admit how much she was dying to come out just because I told her not to. Heh.
Patience not being our strong suit, the Tuskers aren't much good at camping, and within just a few minutes we were headed back towards Verge Vendor. As we neared Hevrice, I told everyone we would be taking a break there, so people could replinish supplies, grab a smoke or a cup of tea, and regroup with a couple of other Tuskers who were in the area. But this idyllic plan was not to be.
In Hevrice, we found a Vexor zipping from point to point in space. Almost immediately, Mynxee showed up in her Rupture, and she and the Vexor appeared to be working together. Within minutes, Bulldags'hunter, the Vexor we'd encounted earlier in Ouelletta, was on the scene, keeping to himself. After a few frantic moments of chasing targts around, I ordered the fleet off-grid and left one scout to probe out a target in a safe spot. Occasionally one of our targets would pass by, warping along a wormhole from one point to another. I docked my Thorax and came out in a Crow, the better to tackle a fleeing target. A third Vexor was sighted in the system. Finally, our scout got a fix on Mynxee and her ally, but he was several hundred kilometers away, cloaked. As he stealthily closed range, Joc parked his Thorax at an asteroid belt, acting as bait, hoping one or more of our targets might attackhim.
As our covert ops ship got within 50 kilometers of the Rupture and Vexor, the other two Vexors took our bait. "Fleet! There's a Vexor here! There are two here! Warp to Joc!" I instructed our covert ops friend to continue closing range with his targets; the rest of us warped to Joc and made short work of the first target there--local down one Vexor, though at the cost of Joc's cruiser. Bulldags'hunter and our target were apparently working together, but when "Bh" realized they'd sprung a trap, he managed to elude us and warp out. "Gf," I broadcast on the local hailing frequency.
Before we could properly loot the Vexor and recover intact modules from the wreckage of our mate's Thorax, our scout reported he was in range of the Rupture and Vexor, and we'd better come fast because they were aligned to warp away. Needing no further encouragement, we warped to our scout's position. "Vexor is primary," I confirmed, but that Vexor was fast and I was having trouble catching him, even in an interceptor. Not wanting our targets to have time to think, I changed course to a wide and fast orbit of the Rupture. "Strike that, the Vexor's too fast. Rupture is primary." I tackled Mynxee, and in due course she went down.
The Vexor had closed range to aid Mynxee, and I managed to get a point on it. "Vexor tackled!" With only one target left, our focused fire did not miss, and the Vexor dropped fast. We briefly engaged our targets in several rounds of admiration and respect on both sides, veteran combat professionals acknowledging one another after a fight. We loaded up on loot, then made a few trips to our earlier Vexor encounter, transporting loot to a jettisoned cargo container as we waited out our Global Criminal Countdown.
Another Tusker left the station in his frigate, only to encounter Bulldags'hunter waiting just outside. The Vexor pilot and his drones killed our man; what a frustrating way to begin one's day. When our GCC was up, we warily transported the loot back to the station, slipping by the Vexor now that we knew his game, but noting his hostile position right outside our headquarters. The fleet was down to just Nupe and I again, and we decided to take Bulldags'hunter if we could. It would be tricky; our quarry had already slipped away intact from several engagements today, and nothing would be easier for him than to simply dock up if we broadcast our intentions.
I refit my Thorax for pure gank, replacing the small blasters with high-tech heavies, replacing the armor with Magnetic Field Stabilizers to maximize my damage, and replacing my ECM drones with deadly Hammerheads. Our plan was for me to undock first and engage the flashy-red Vexor, and for Nupe to come out ten seconds later, by which time we hoped Bulldags'hunter would already have fired back--giving up his chance to dock immediately.
I am undocking now; undock in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5..." I stopped broadcasting as my overview display resolved. Target Vexor; engage warp disruptor; engage stasis webifier; don't launch drones yet--let him think I have ECM's...
"4, 3, 2, 1, undocking!" Nupe picked up the count. Between the heavy guns on that Hurricane and the DPS I was spitting out in my Gankerax, the Vexor's shields and armor just seemed to melt. But he hadn't returned fire yet--and he docked before we could finish him off.
"Stay on station," I told Nupe, "Let's see if he tries again." To our surprise, he did try again; perhaps he thought we'd been on our way out, and he was hoping to catch a straggler--for while his shields had been replinished, he'd not taken the time to repair his armor damage. Within seconds he was locked and taking everything we could throw at him; then, once again, he was gone from the overview. Had he docked again? No! There was his capsule! We failed to lock the capsule, but basked in the afterglow of a successful engagement. I recalled the drones, scooped the loot, and docked back up.
That was it for me today; I spent an hour in my office, compiling lists of loot, checking local prices, and dividing 24.2 million ISK among the pilots who had lost ships or participated in today's battles (and that was not counting the Hyperion's wreck, which disappeared before we could recover anything from the wreckage).
A good day to be a Tusker. A good corporation.