Friday, 28 May 2010

Fight Club

So it was time for the sceond round of the Freebooters CEO Duel.

Some might question the wisdom of having a scrap in low-sec to determine a corp's leadership but it definitely shouts bravado and style.

The defending champion Seismic Stan was down to his last two ships, but had a clear advantage over his rival in being sober this time. That said, Greenbeard the challenger and former leader and founder of Freebooters still had four ships to play with.

In attendance was yours truly to report on the event. And a popular event it was! Not only were a few regulars from the Old Pond Pub invited along as spectators, but many uninvited guests also dropped by to witness the fight. Or were they just trying to kill us? Well possibly so, but they held their fire and were there to see the match unfold, and that makes them an audience. A psychotic and dangerous audience to be sure, but an audience!

And the fight was on.

Well actually, the fight wasn't on. Greenbeard had spent the previous week carefully selecting and fitting his remaining ships but after a heavy day of drinking found that the details of his carefully laid plans now eluded him. Meanwhile, in a show of true sportsmanship Stan was evening the playing field by hitting the booze himself while shouting “get on with it,” over the communication channels.

Finally Greenbeard undocked loaded with ammo. With luck, it may even have been the right ammo. The two rivals squared off and warped onto the field. Greenbeard in his victorious Rifter from the previous round, while Stan arrived in a Vexor, a frigate killer if there ever was one. I had spoken with Stan previously in the week and had a good idea at what that baby was packing. Let me tell you, that Vexor was pumped to eat Rifter for breakfast.

But the Rifter proved it's worth and didn't go down easy. Greenbeard skilfully targeted the Vexor's flight of drones forcing Stan to recall and relaunch them through out the fight, and by the time that Rifter exploded it had significantly damaged Stan's defences.

Greenbeard swiftly returned in another Rifter and once more engaged that nightmare of all pirate frigates. It was another victory for Stan, but by no means an easy one, and again not without cost. The Vexor was into half armour, and would have to remain on field to face Greenbeard's first cruiser.

Fortunately for Stan, his rival was about to make what would prove to be a fatal error.

Warping onto the field in a classic Minmatar cruiser Greenbeard returned with a deadly Rupture. However he confessed over the comm channel that he had forgotten to load something very important into it's cargo-hold. What could it be? Rum? Boosters? Exotic dancers? It certainly wasn't ammo, because that Rupture made quick work of the already damaged Vexor in a swift engagement, and barely took a scratch.

It was last stand time for Stan. He was down to his final ship. Even if he managed to beat that Rupture, Greenbeard still had another cruiser remaining. What would he bring to the fight? I knew Stan had spent a week training up to fly a Vexor and that normally he was a dedicated Caldari pilot and highly skilled in the use of missiles, so I had a strong suspicion on what his final choice would be.

Stan warped in at long range in a Caldari Caracal. In the ensuing battle Greenbeard's previous error became apparent. He had neglected to load capacitor charges into his cruisers cargo hold. Unable to close to auto-cannon range with the Caldari cruiser the Rupture was steadily pounded by long range missile barrages and inevitably fell.

This was it. Both combatants were now down to their final ships. But before we could discover what Greenbeard's final choice would be, the proceedings were suddenly interrupted!

Long Jack (He be long, and he be Jack, and he be flying an covert ops.) reported that combat probes were in the vicinity. It seemed the secret location of the duel was no longer secret, and members of T-Wrecks a nefarious band of pirates were suspected to be inbound.

We adjourned to safety.

At least most of us did. Unfortunately in a tragic accident Sevrida, an invited guest to the proceedings and frequenter of the Old Pond Pub, was targeted by the sentry guns of the Freebooter's POS. Thankfully her escape capsule emerged unscathed and she was able to witness the remainder of the event.

Meanwhile the Freebooters had been having words with another regular of the Old Pond, none other than Sar'duakar who was a T-Wrecks member himself. Proving themselves to be honourable foes, the T-Wrecks agreed to lay off, and the duel resumed.

Greenbeard's final choice turned out to be another Minmatar classic. He returned in a swift and agile Stabber, a cruiser very capable of running down a long range Caracal. While warping in at 100km Stan would have use very inch of his initial range to wear his opponent down.

The final fight was on. Whoever won this bout was leader of the Freebooters!

The Stabber closed in, but swift as it was, it's microwarp-drive boosted signature meant that Stan's missiles were hitting hard, and by the time Greenbeard had achieved auto-cannon range he was already into half armour.

The Caracal and Stabber locked horns at close range, and auto-cannons swiftly torn through the Caracal's shields, but to no avail. Stan suddenly activated shield and capicator boosters, and steadily kept up the missile barrage. The Stabber already badly damaged swiftly went into structure and exploded.

Stan had won! Though a younger and less experienced pilot that his rival, he had conquered by force of arms and retained his position as CEO. Congratulations were given as Stan gloated over the vanquished Greenbeard. With blood pumping with the joy of battle, the victor offered to fight with any new takers, even going as far as offering combat to Yvella's rather imposing Amarrian battleship.

Well, I couldn't let him do something as foolish as that, and surreptitiously activating my Celeste's afterburner I sneaked into warp scramble range...

I don't care for violence, but sometimes it's necessary for a giggle.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Need For Speed

So I went and lost the Cynabal.

I had bought the beast back in February for a bargain price, and had enjoyed blasting around Molden Heath for a time building my standings with the Republic Fleet. But upon returning to the war-zone of Providence I switched to piloting expendable ships whose loss wouldn't bother me. So for a few weeks the Cynabal sat in the dock at Assah and collected dust.

One day while browsing the Contract Auctions I noticed that the market value for Cynabals had risen dramatically. So much so, that I could make a cool 100 million profit if I sold it. Tempting as that prospect was, I had an instinct that the price hadn't yet topped out. If I waited perhaps another week or two I could conceivably double my money.

In the meantime I had the desire to get my hands on a Sister's Expanded Probe Launcher. The experience of running around null-sec chasing after news hot-spots had convinced me that I needed the best in scanning technology that only the Sisters Of Eve could provide. It would mean taking a jaunt back into my old home of Sinq Laison and running errands in Gicodel for the Sisters, but what ship should I take? I had sold off my old battleships from my former days in that region, and was disinclined to have a new one built just to run a few missions.

My eyes alighted upon the shiny black carapace of the Cynabal.

It had dodged pirates and run high level missions in Molden Health, it could certainly handle a few missions for the Sisters. What could be safer than taking it for one last spin in high-sec before putting it up for auction in a busy trade hub?

So I powered the beast up and set course for Gicodel. There were a few low-sec choke points along the way, most notably Amamake, but an Angel Cartel assault cruiser is not easily caught and I quickly passed through without incident. Upon arrival at the Sister's station I contacted my old agent there and was offered a bounty to introduce some undesirables to the joys of 'Zero-G-Ballet.'

No problem. Piece of cake. Walk in the park.

The thing about a speed tanking ship, the important thing, the thing you must always concentrate upon, is this. You must absolutely, without fail, never, never, never allow yourself to get webbed.

Especially when the incoming missile spam is blotting out the sun.

As I floated alone in my escape pod, surveying the field of glowing scrap metal that had been 300,000,000 ISK worth of cutting edge faction cruiser, I contemplated that often repeated truism in EVE, while quietly and repeatedly head butting my control console.

“Never fly what you can't afford to lose.”

Thursday, 13 May 2010

End Game

So I was licking my wounds in Assah.

Earlier that day I had lost a Myrmidon in an ambush executed by Important Internet Spaceships League. After disconnecting in a mission in Nakah, I had warped back in, only to find a hostile Ishtar and Vagabond lurking at the mission's acceleration gate. I immediately tried to activate the gate, but the Myrmidon is not an agile ship and as it turned I heard the disturbing sound of screeching hull metal as it caught on the gate's superstructure.

I was quickly locked and scrambled. With shields dropping fast I deployed a flight of medium ECM drones and targeted the Vagabond with a bank of gyrostabilised autocannons. The incoming damage abated momentarily, but by now the Ishtar had deployed it's Garde II sentry drones, and the Myrmidon started coming apart at the seams.

Well low-sec isn't without it's risks.

I escaped to Assah in my capsule. In the middle of a protracted debate with my insurance agent over what constituted negligent piloting I happened to notice a small fleet entering the system. A quick glance at the local communication channel revealed a curiosity. Unlike most fleets which are made up of pilots from a single corp or alliance, this one was composed of random pilots. Intrigued, I hung up on the agent and undocked in an Atron.

I had a hunch they had headed into Providence, and upon jumping into Final Stand's system of G-5EN2 my guess proved correct. I found them at the next gate in, at which point Seismic Stan from the Freebooters joined me in tailing this unusual fleet. Sadly we lost track of them as they jumped out of the crossroads system of 9UY4-H. Who they were, or what they were planning remains a mystery.

Since I was now in Providence anyway I decided to have a poke around, and wandered randomly for a while before heading towards the interior Paxton system of 2-TEGJ.

It was there I made a real discovery. The Paxton station of Ragnar Anchorage was reinforced.

Stunned, I scouted the system, and quickly found Sovereignty Blockade Units deployed at every gate. I docked at Ragnar and inspected the station's market. It was cleaned out.

In previous visits I had heard of enemy fleets attacking 2-TEGJ and the neighbouring system of MH9C-S, and had seen Paxton ships repairing the Ragnar Station. But until now The Holders had always stood their ground and repelled these attacks.

I jumped to MH9C-S.

Pax Vulcan was reinforced. Blockade Units stood at every gate.

All across Paxton space I heard that story was the same. The alliances of New Providence were flexing their muscles and had come to sweep away the last of the Old Providence order. I made a note of the time left on the stations' reinforcement timers, and placed reconnaissance bookmarks. When the war came I would be waiting there ready to report it.

Two days passed.

I made my way into Providence. Half way to 2-TEGJ, I was accosted by pilots from Shock And Awe. I had previously been unaware of their involvement in Providence, but it seemed they were part of the force attacking Paxton. Were they seeking sovereignty of their own, or merely fulfilling a mercenary contract? I didn't have time to find out.

I jumped into 2-TEGJ and warped into position, cloaking above the Ragnar station. 30 minutes remained before the station exhausted it's emergency fuel and it's reinforced shields dropped. I checked local. Only 30 pilots from both sides of the conflict were in system.

Listening in to my running commentary over the OLD POND PUB channel, Seismic Stan and Greenbeard decided to come and join me, crossing Providence in a pair of stealth bombers. Perhaps they intended some skulduggery, or merely wanted to witness Paxton's last stand for themselves.

The minutes ticked down.

Ragnar Anchorage came out of reinforced mode. Nothing stirred.

I began to suspect I had misjudged where the action would take place. Local had dropped off to 20 pilots in system, with no sign of impending chaos. Then I spotted something on the scanner, an inbound carrier of the Archon class. I watched as it docked up feeling sure that the battle must be taking place in another system.

The Archon re-emerged minutes later, and aligned to MH9C-S.

This was as good a lead as any. I warped off in pursuit and jumped into the neighbouring system. Local displayed over 300 pilots. This was it. I warped to my bookmark above Pax Vulcan and cloaked. 20 minutes remained on it's reinforcement timer. Perhaps this then was where the first blow would fall. I edged in closer to the station below me to get a better vantage point, while Stan and Greenbeard scouted around the system.

The minutes ticked down.

Suddenly local dropped off to 100 pilots. An inspection showed all who remained were Paxton. The enemy fleet had clearly left system. Greenbeard reported finding wreckage at one of the gates, a skirmish perhaps.

The shields on Pax Vulcan dropped. We waited.

Below me a Harbinger battlecruiser warped in off station, and was soon followed by a Hurricane of the opposing faction. The two ships circled each other, their personal duel seeming oddly out of place in a war-zone. My attention however was now turned to my scanner as local spiked back over 300. On scan were more battleship signatures than I could count, a number of capital ships and two titans, but below me all was quiet. Then over the local communications channel came a war-cry.


Whatever heroism took place that day I missed. But out numbered 2 to 1 the Paxton fleet must have been engaged in a truly desperate struggle. A short while later it was over. The local channel filled with calls of 'GF' – good fight.

However while I sat watching the station, Stan and Greenbeard must have located the battlefield for now Greenbeard confided, “we're about to try something funny. It's pretty much going to be curtains for Seismic, but it'll be funny and that's important.”

They were of course flying Stealth Bombers.

Oh dear.

Just then a Tech3 cruiser flown by a AAA pilot warped onto station. It was quickly followed by the victorious enemy support fleet.

New Providence had arrived.

The two Titans followed, dwarfing the massive cluster of battleships just off the stations bow. A swarm of countless drones enveloped Pax Vulcan.

High above and disturbingly close to my hiding spot, the enemy capital fleet took up position and deployed it's fearsome arsenal.

Slowly but inevitably, the station's defences buckled beneath this onslaught, and when it was finally done the fleet of New Providence broke up and departed with this final taunt to it's vanquished foe.

"Where oh where could CVA be?"

Where indeed?

I found some clue to that question as I made my way out of Providence via the Misaba gate. Moderate numbers of New Providence pilots were in system, and I passed a field of wreckage as I jumped out of the region. It would seem pausable that they sent another fleet here to block any CVA reinforcements, but I have no evidence to confirm that one way or another.

One last thing.

Before I left the region I made a short tour around every Paxton station. All had been hit, or rather all but one. Out on the southern tip of Providence in D-GTMI the station of PXF IncendiaAstrum Fenix still stands untouched and invulnerable, at least for now.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Pistols at Dawn

So I was invited to a duel.

But this was no mere scuffle outside a station. At stake was the leadership of a corp known as Greenbeard's Freebooters, an organisation with a long and murky history.

I had run across the Freebooters in the system of Assah, and been intrigued by the journal published by it's present CEO Seismic Stan ( It seemed that after a long absence the original CEO and founder, none other than Greenbeard himself, had returned from the shadows of obscurity. This grizzled veteran from the early years of EVE was not about to take orders from some young whipper-snapper, and demanded that the matter be settled by arms.

There are roaming pirates, calculating mercenaries and righteous wardens through out the Derelik and Providence regions. But the Freebooters though few in number, have a certain style and character that separates them from the pack.

Did I mention that this duel was fought while both parties were, if not drunk then several steps down the street from sober?

Did I mention Long Jack? (He be long, and he be Jack. And in the event he be not able to get online and umpire this duel.)

Did I mention the OLD POND PUB and it's menu of Rum, Rum, Molotov Cocktail, and Rum?

And so it was I found myself hanging in space in a cheap-fit Maulus with not an implant in my body. I might like the Freebooters, but as a bunch of self-confessed ex-pirates I wasn't about to trust them further than I could throw them. Below me the two combatants had warped in and faced off. By prior agreement each of them had three Tech1 frigates and two cruisers at his disposal. The winner would remain on field while the loser returned with his next ship.

Seismic Stan being a dedicated Caldari pilot had turned up in a Merlin, while the more experienced Greenbeard had surprisingly followed suit and also brought his own Merlin to the fray.

The two vessels circled each other and locked. The fight was on.

Missiles launched across the starry void, and railguns blazed, with neither combatant able to penetrate past the shields of the other's ship. It looked like this would be a drawn out affair. But Stan's concentration lapsed and he was suddenly into armour. Keeping up his bombardment, Greenbeard wore his rival's armour down and it looked like this round would quickly be decided. As his ship caught fire and started trailing smoke and debris, Stan was forced to play his hidden ace. It seemed his Merlin had an ECM, concealed until this moment but now bought into play, and Stan used it to devastating effect. Unable to return fire Greenbeard was now forced to sustain Stan's merciless bombardment and pray that a break in the ECM's cycle would allow him to finish Stan off. But it was not to be. Greenbeard's shield faltered and his armour and structure quickly followed.

Stan's Merlin had won the first round, but now he would have to remain on field with a battered and burning ship.

Then warping in out of the sun, Greenbeard returned with his next vessel. The distinctive silhouette of a Rifter unmistakable as it quickly locked the limping Merlin and dispatched it with a few sharp volleys from it's autocannons.

Greenbeard's Rifter was perhaps a predictable choice, but an effective one. More importantly it had won without taking any significant damage. What would Stan's counter be?

A Kestrel warped onto the field and quickly started increasing the range between the two rivals. Stan had a plan. Fitted with long range missiles and a tracking disrupter, the Kestrel kept the Rifter at bay and denied it the use of it's shorter range guns. Greenbeard's shield steadily dropped and he was into armour. While Stan's Kestrel was taking some damage, the Rifter was taking more and it looked like another win for Stan.

Then as the Rifter just started to go into structure it flipped over and burned away from it's foe. Greenbeard also had a hidden card to play, because this Rifter wasn't merely buffer tanked, it had an armour repairer fitted. With his armour renewed Greenbeard returned to the fray a short while later and steadily wore the Kestrel down.

Another win to the grizzled old veteran, but this time leaving him in a significantly damaged ship.

Stan warped in with his final frigate, another Kestrel. As a dedicated Caldari pilot his choices were limited, but with luck an already damaged Rifter would not withstand another bout.

As the two ships closed, Stan activated another ECM and locked the Rifter's targeting system out. With missiles pounding on the defenceless Rifter it looked like the younger pilot could pull this off. But autocannons are unforgiving beasts, and with a chance break in the ECM's cycle the Rifter swiftly turned and tore the Kestrel apart.

There's a reason why people fly Rifters.

And with that the duel was adjourned for the evening. Greenbeard with two frigates and two cruisers remaining, to fight Stan's choice of two cruisers. The contest for the leadership of the Freebooters isn't over yet.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

West Side Story

So I was sneaking out of a bubble camp.

I had lost my Ishkur earlier that day after fatally underestimating the tackle range and speed of an overheated Arazu, and had reverted to moving around Providence in the speedy little Atron. Halfway out of the bubble I suddenly realised something.

The gate campers were not actively trying to find me.

Somewhat puzzled I took a closer look at my combat overview. The CVA alliance tag suddenly leapt out at me, and I realised I had just spent tense minutes evading a camp that had no intention of actually shooting me.

Not to lose face, I kept the cloak up and carried on regardless. At which point the campers packed up their interdiction sphere and left, with what I can only imagine was a collective rolling of their eyes.

Still, a small CVA camp in Providence, that was interesting.

Things became suddenly more interesting a few moments later as local spiked and my combat overview filled with battleship signatures. Mentally reviewing my last will and testament, I watched on in awe as golden hulled Amarrian warships aligned to their destination and, much to my relief, departed...

I had not been in western Providence for a month, and it was turning out to be a very different place compared to my previous visits. Back then the Misaba pipe had been locked down and blockaded by CVA's enemies, but now it seemed that The Holders had the upper hand here.

As I moved down the pipe I found a few pilots of Chaos Theory taking cover inside their stations, and discovered to my surprise that some oversight allowed me to dock at them. I was however barred from making use of their repair faculties it seemed. They were a tight lipped bunch, but as I undocked one of their heavy assault cruiser pilots kindly followed me out, and bid me a farewell salute of hybrid ammunition.

I moved on, laying a series of reconnaissance bookmarks, and I as lurked off gate the second major fleet of the day warped in. But this time it was a Cursed Alliance fleet. I would later learn that they had attacked a POS in Paxton's MH9C-S system. If eastern Providence was now the domain of small roving gangs of pirates and mercenaries, then the western side appeared to be dominated by fleet warfare.

Still, my journey had not revealed any Sovereignty Blockade Units, nor any sign of Capital Fleets. But perhaps this was some form of gentlemen's agreement to limited warfare between old and traditional enemies? After studying the public forums of Ushra'Khan I found circumstantial evidence that this might be so. It seemed they had had a mutual agreement to remove spies from each other's organisations in the past and perhaps still held to this and other arrangements.

Travelling on, I came to the southern tip of Providence, two jumps out from the strategical gateway of HED-GP. My star atlas reported major ship losses there, and I was curious to take a look. But the day had grown late, and the loss report was steadily decreasing, a sure sign that I had long missed whatever confrontation had occurred there. And so docking up at a Paxton Station I powered down the Atron and retired.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Other NRDS in Providence

So I was snooping around Providence in my scanning frigate.

I had previously discovered a Daisho Syndicate station up near Paxton space which had let me dock and I was curious to see what other stations were open to neutrals. Sadly the ones in the former Sev3rance constellation considered me persona-non-grata, so I moved on after dropping a speculative probe or two.

One of the new alliances in Providence was reportedly operating a NRDS policy in it's system. I had yet to visit them in my travels around the region and seeing how close they were on the map I plotted a route and headed off.

However along the way I found myself caught inside a dreaded interdiction sphere as I jumped into the system of XH7-QV. Sod-Atlas (sic) gate campers circled me like sharks. I aligned and cloaked. I had been worried that the Imicus would not be fast enough to 'bust a bubble' compared to my trusty blockade running Atron, but after a few close sweeps I was clear and warping to a handy celestial.

A quick look at the next gate revealed it to be clear and I jumped into YWS0-Z, the home of The Star Fraction who immediately hailed me and warmly welcomed me to their system. Normally upon entering a new system in Providence I'm usually ignored or welcomed with live ammunition, so this threw me somewhat.

Their newly built outpost of Taz Norlonto was indeed open for business, and no fee was charged as I docked. The station's market had been seeded with a few commodities, modules and smaller ships, and a selection of services including a reprocessing plant, repair bay and medical facilities.

A quick cruise around the 13 belts in the system revealed the usual selection of Sansha Nation rats actively being hunted. However scanning revealed an additional and impressive number of anomalies. Being only 2 jumps out from the Assah entrance, YWS0-Z looks like it could become a busy commerical hub for Providence, and a handy base for exploring deeper into the region. Though while The Star Fraction confirmed that they observe a NRDS policy they do not enforce it on visiters, so watch your back if you seek your fortune here.

After laying a few reconnaissance bookmarks, I headed back to Empire Space with a view to returning to this neutral friendly system in the near future.

I think I could like it here.