Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Return to Providence

So I went and bought a Cynabal.

I first encountered this beast of a ship as a young pilot. Hearing corpmates under attack I had undocked in a Thorax and quickly found myself out-ranged, out-manoeurved and out-gunned. It was a decisive introduction to a ship that speed-tanks like a frigate and shoots like a battlecruiser.

Oneday, I vowed to myself, I would fly such a ship.

Leaving Providence behind me for a while, I returned to Rens and browsing the auctions found a Cynabal at a price too low to resist. Even though I couldn't yet fit it with the Tech 2 Autocannons this ship deserves I went ahead and bought it anyway.

But what to do with it? It was not a ship I could afford to lose in random confrontations with hostile capsuleers. The insurance simply didn't cover a fraction of the ships market value. I would have to be careful. In the end I decided to run missions with it. Working for the Republic Fleet would enable me to cheaply purchase their specialised ammunitions, and they had plenty of lucative agents in low-sec.

So wandered around Molden Heath for a few weeks. The Cynabal slaughtered level 2 missions, laughed in the face of level 3 missions, and blasted through level 4 missions as if it were a battleship.

Did the local pirates come after me?

Yes, yes they did.

Could they catch me?

Not a chance.

Finally the day came when I removed those worn out Tech1 guns and fitted four shiny new Tech2 Autocannons. It felt as if my work was complete. It was time to move on again. My eye was drawn to the maps of Providence. I had been watching the slow fall of the region each day, and now the light of CVA had finally diminished and gone out.

Or had it?

There in the middle of the region, surrounded by enemies one alliance of The Holders still held out, and infact appeared to have taken at least one system back from AAA.

Paxton Federation.

I decided to head back in and have a look around. After fitting a stealth Ishkur in Rens I quickly travelled down to the border of Providence following the Autopilot's shortest route to 2-TEGJ. Entering via Dital, I found the gates unguarded and cautiously crossed the hostile terrority of the border alliances.

Soon enough I found myself outside the Paxton station of Ragnar Anchorage. A small fleet of Paxton ships were repairing the station's shields, and I was warned of hostile reds in the neighbouring system. I docked up and inspected the station's market. The economy of most null-sec systems are generally poor with almost no trade at all, but Ragnar seemed in good shape with a fair variety of Tech2 modules for sale. It looked like haulers must be getting in and out of this area on a regular basis and as the day passed neutral pilots came and went in small numbers.

The place seemed more alive than during my previous visit, and as I headed out into the belts small roaming gangs came and went, but I was able to chain battleships without incident, if not without risk.

So it seems I was premature to herald the demise of Providence. It may still be under siege but it is far from fallen.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Fall of Providence

So I went to Providence to cover the war.

Partly I wanted to find a story, but mostly I wanted to experience the famous neutral-friendly region while it still existed. I was and still am a young capsuleer. Running errands for the Gallente Navy in Sinq Laison had grown stale and I wanted to explore more dangerous territories.

I bid farewell to my former corp, liquidised my assets and headed for Rens. There I installed a back-up clone and purchased an Atron. Fitted for speed and with a cloaking device far more expensive than the ship itself, with luck it would allow me to evade any hostiles I encountered.

From the busy trade centre of Rens I then crossed the sparsely populated region of Derelik, home of the Ammatar, and travelled to it's border with Providence itself. CVA and it's allies, otherwise known as 'The Holders', were said to patrol the low security frontier of Derelik and indeed I found some of them bottled up in the border system of Assah.

The Local communications channel spiked regularly during the few days I spent in Assah. Small fleets of 20 or 30 ships from the power-bloc of alliances at war with Providence passed through regularly on their way to G-5EN2, while the few pilots of The Holders seemed content to watch the traffic from the safely of the local Ammatar Navy station.

I had come late to the war. The major fleet battles had already come and gone. Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers its enemies were deploying, the Holders were now avoiding major confrontations. Studying the star atlas it looked as if there were 3 possible routes I could take to reach the interior. All of them were said to be guarded. In time I would try all three, but my first crossing was through G-5EN2 itself.

The Assah side of the gate was clear as I approached it. If guardians watched this gate they were cloaked. Anything could be on the other side however and it was with some trepidation that I jumped through.

To my pleasant surprise the G-5EN2 side of the gate was deserted. My Overview did not suddenly fill with hostile reds. Swarms of interceptors did not suddenly materialise to warp scramble my ship. The only presence appeared to be four lonely mobile warp disruptors shimmering in the distant light of G-5EN2's sun. Local communications displayed the fact that a handful of hostile pilots were in the system tracking a CVA lone wolf, but for the time being the door to Providence had been left wide open.

I scouted further. The next few systems contained Sovereignty Blockade Units steadily counting down with a handful of pilots presumably keeping watch, but the gates were clear and I moved on. Entering the interior systems I crossed one empty system after another and marvelled at this strange calm in the middle of a war zone. In the asteroid belts pirates of the Sansha Nation lurked untouched. Providence was empty. Nothing stirred. I was alone amongst the stars.

Finally I found a populated system. A dozen or more pilots of CVA were present, but they left me alone. Even in the middle of a war The Holders were not attacking neutrals such as myself. I could have anybody. I could have been a spy, but they were sticking to their NRDS policy never the less. For a modest docking fee I was allowed to enter their station freely, and discovered that the local market still had a few commodities for sale. I bought a shuttle, left the Atron behind and ran the gauntlet back into Empire Space.

I would return with an assault frigate and spent several days hunting pirate battleships amongst the belts and explore further with the trusty blockade running Atron. At times the entrances to Providence were indeed guarded and I would spent tense minutes evading orbiting interceptors and heavy cruisers at gates surrounded by the shimmering fields of warp interdiction spheres. Often the way was clear however. The small alliances that had taken over the border systems did not have the pilots to provide around the clock coverage.

As the days past one system after another slowly fell to the attackers without contest, and the freedom of the interior of Providence grew ever smaller. It seemed like a strange slow form of suicide. In the aftermath of the major battles that had swept aside all resistance, the AAA power-bloc had initially relented and offered favourable terms of surrender to CVA and it's allies. However for reasons of their own, the CVA leadership had rejected them and the siege of Providence had begun. The end was coming and it seemed inevitable.

One fateful day it ended. Having coming to the conclusion that I would not witness any major fleet engagements in Providence I decided to pack up and leave. My connection was poor however and as I made my final jump in Providence my connection failed entirely before I reached the other side...

My clone awoke some short time later in Rens. Providence may have fallen without a whimper, I however left with a bang.