The Tale of Belgardion

It was a slow evening in Essence once again. Aeschee, Adirain, Lisbaetanne, Ladistier, Onne, Hulmate, Vitrauze - no sign of anything worth my while (not that I set the bar really high to begin with). At one point I scanned down an Enyo at a planet, but it must have cloaked when I landed roughly 80km away from it. Weird.

But that was by far not the weirdest incident on this otherwise uneventful roam.

Later - I was actually on my way back to Hevrice to call it a night - my scanner spotted a Thorax in Aeschee. It had not been renamed, so the pilot's identity was immediately apparent. Two months ago he got his capsuleer license. Showtime.

I managed to get a point on him and the ensuing fight hardly was a fight. He went down quickly without any resistance. Being the savvy businessman I most certainly am, I quickly locked and pointed his pod, asking for the usual rookie-fee of 5 million ISK. He decided not to pass on this exclusive offer and paid without any fuss.

A model customer indeed, who greatly contributed to the whole procedure going along smoothly from beginning to end.

But I promised this to get weird, didn't I?

Well, I had not looted the wreck yet, so I went to rummage through the cruiser's remains. I was pleased to collect a pair of meta 4 medium railguns and some other named modules. "That's nice," I thought as I was warping to a safe spot, "now let's see how much this stuff is actually wor- SWEET MERCIFUL MOTHER OF BOOTY!"

I was checking on a hardly spectacular power diagnostic system - regional markets however sold it for fifty million ISK. It was no faction equipment, nothing you would find in any complex; the thing was you couldn't find it anywhere anymore, markets being the exception. Archaic, outdated technology, not being produced anymore, but still worth a small fortune to collectors.

So this is how I swooped roughly 70m from Belgardion in one go.

I knew now his clone must have been worth a lot more than 5 million ISK, but I couldn't care less. It just could not have possibly gotten any better, really.

Except that it did, right the next evening.

I found Hevrice to be unattended when I headed out. Some young pilots seemed eager to seize this opportunity. Can't have that, naturally. While waiting out my global criminal countdown, a Merlin decided to play. But neither can we have that - piracy is serious business after all.

Now this of course isn't better than getting 70 million ISK out of one engagement. But three kills within 20 minutes is quite a good omen for things to come.

I wouldn't be disappointed: Belgardion was in Aeschee. It was time to look for that ratting boat of his.
There was no such thing to be found. Instead, "Belgardion's Iteron Mark II" presented itself on scan. And of course I was able to narrow him down to an asteroid belt. Oddly, he wasn't there.

But he had not moved, either. Further scanning pointed me to Aeschee IV's only moon. And a small control tower. Nothing else.

"He can't be serious" is what I must have thought while warping in, landing right on top of his industrial.
There was no way he could have threatened my Taranis as I pointed him. Another ransom was due:
Jaxley > Hello again.
Jaxley > I wonder what your ship has loaded. 20 million to buy it free?
Belgardion > Hello again.
Belgardion > Actually, I don't have nothing.
Jaxley > Well, your pod was worth something yesterday.
Jaxley > It won't be at risk for the same sum.
Belgardion > Yes, you're right. Here's the money.
Jaxley > Always a pleasure doing business with you.
Jaxley > Thank you.

Sigh. I played with the thought to demand 50 million ISK. He was sitting next to his undefended tower after all, wasting no thought about setting it up in one of the most hostile systems around. And he didn't hesitate to fit a 50 million ISK module before on a cruiser he could barely fly. I'm sure his cerebral cortex was plastered with some of the most expensive implants to date, I'm sure he had the money, I'm sure he would have paid up.

You just got to be baffled in the face of a fellow this clueless, who throws ISK around in such vast proportions. And apparently, you also grow soft.
I informed him about the danger of setting up a control tower in a place like Aeschee and referred him to EVE University before disconnecting him from my channel.

This already rather entertaining episode didn't end there just yet. Yes, it gets even better.

He kept warping to the moon - now safe from me, but nobody said anything about my corporation. So being the good comrade I most certainly am, I informed other Tuskers about this curious fellow in the helpless ship, who had enough ISK for everybody. Noir Avla thus made haste to the moon for some bonus cash.

Belgardion managed to escape this time, but - as Noir noticed - not before he commanded his tower to unanchor.

If you take another look at the ransom negotiations, you will see that it did not involve the control tower in the slightest way. It was still fair game for me as well as for everyone else.
I therefore went to get an industrial myself, while Noir made sure the unanchored tower would stay where it was. A short while later, I loaded the 100 million ISK package into my cargo hold. The path back to Hevrice was clear and the tower safely stored, ready to be thrown on the market.

If it does get any better than this, I would very much like to hear. You really can't expect me to believe you, though.


Money on the Airball

My current collection of ships makes me quite proud; my whole fleet currently is worth more ISK than ever before, yet I would still be able to fully replace even my more expensive shinies.

While there aren't whole stacks of one or two specific hulls, I enjoy the tough choice before each roam. All ships are the size of frigates, but each of them has it's own flavour and character.

Depending on the mood, I most likely have a perfect fit. Going postal with all-out firepower? Bring out the Taranis. Care for some more nuanced piloting? Hop into the Crusader. Back to the roots? Incursus it is. Want to annoy Rifters? Let's grab a Punisher. Want to annoy everyone else? Rifter.

Or how about just being silly? Rummage through some of the cheaper loot and slap it on an Atron.
Why yes, today this just might do.

And it did indeed.
Airball - as I had lovingly dubbed it - features two light electron blasters, an afterburner, a warp scrambler, a damage control unit and a small armor repair system. All tech 1 of course, so the whole ship is worth about 50,000 ISK, give or take.

So I head to Essence in order to find the typical rookie pilot, who has the brilliant idea to mine or rat in lowsec

What I find is hardly a typical rookie. The good fellow is so much more than that. He is wanted. Wanted so badly that someone invested 23,000,000 ISK - twenty-three million - on his head. Furthermore, he has been a member of his first corporation for over four years.

I know this guy, I have seen him before when he and his friend - who is again with him - fled from my Rifter that time. He in a Catalyst, she in a Thrasher. This incident made me feel really scary and actually caused me some trouble looking into the mirror for the next few days.

Anyway, he is there in an asteroid belt, his friend is with him. Today I shall be a bounty hunter in an Atron, still scary I guess, but hopefully not as much. No wait, fighting alone would be silly - despite my scary appearance, they won't have much trouble against me. Luckily, fellow Tusker Novantco is in the system flying a Thorax. He should be able shoot them pretty dead pretty quick, I should be able to lock the little Fabergé-egg in time.

I'm able to point his Catalyst, no sign of the Thrasher. I'm surprised at the damage I deal, that is before I notice the rats shooting him. Novantco lands to seal the deal, right after I shut off my warp scrambler in anticipation for the pod to appear on my overview.

Poof goes the Catalyst and - augh, will you lock already?? Point!

Before we can decide whether to ransom him or not, the Thrasher joins the scene and we commence the pinata. Well, I do, Novantco is having a bit of trouble with two rats disrupting his warp drive. The Thrasher is gone again, but I don't want to waste time negotiating in the middle of Aeschee. Little Airball does a very mediocre job of breaking the egg. A third rat manages to nibble through my paper-thin shields, but the armor repair unit keeps me out of serious trouble so far.

By the time Novantco frees himself from the other rats' nefarious grasp, wanted criminal and notorious idunnowhat Shanks Blackburn is finally floating dead in space. Ka-ching! 23,000,000 ISK, mine, all mi- alright, half of it mine. Wait, what? 4,600,000 corp taxes?

Bloody pirates...

Anyway: a payout of 9,200,000 ISK while flying a 50,000 ISK ship still is pretty good I think. Next stop: Adirain.

Oh, what do you know? A Brutix in a belt, whose pilot is way too young for it, using Hammerhead I drones, no one else in the system. This could be good epic.

I have no trouble pointing the battlecruiser and I easily avoid the drones. The energy neutralizing field that suddenly pops up might however be a problem. Oh, nevermind, he jammed me. Aw man, this could have been epic legendary.

I warp out unscathed and inform my corpmates. Kirith enters the system just as I try to get another point on him, but I only see the Brutix warp off to the highsec gates.

A while later I decide to dock up in Adirain for a bit. This is the point where karma decides to put an end to my Atron and its ridiculous luck boosting abilities. My global criminal countdown hasn't expired yet and all systems feel like falling into a brief coma. All instruments are completely frozen for ten seconds. Then I hear nothing but the screeching alarm sounds, seeing nothing but my pod next to Airball's remains.

After mourning my loss for a good hour, I check our killboard. Turns out the Brutix had a little accident after all.

Here is an excerpt of local coms from when it escaped before:
Jaxley > Neuting and jamming Brutix... I bet he had warp stabs, too.



Well! I wouldn't have expected to have some good stories to share again already, but it has been a pretty awesome day.

First of all my newest tool of the trade got delivered to Hevrice: A sparkling Crusader. Holy smokes it looks good. Two symmetrically aligned main compartments, which are housing gigantic thruster units and the technology for the ship's weapon systems and other electronics. Between them sits the minimalistic compartment for the crew, which is also containing the capsule. Everything is wrapped in polished golden metal, featuring blood red colour patches and glimpses into the vessel's innards. It just might be the ship you'd be most inclined referring to as "she", a true femme fatale, but I for one am just not that old fashioned (you may notice I'm tempted, though). Come to think of it, nothing you would expect from Amarrian engineers.

But the Crusader isn't just looks; it's a tough competitor, too. It is the second fastest interceptor, only surpassed by the Stiletto, slightly ahead of the Ares. But other than the two, it packs a much meaner punch and isn't made of tinfoil. It would be my personal #1 if it weren't for the Taranis - can't beat brute blaster force, one more mid slots and two small drones. Actually corpmate Suleiman Shouaa claimed otherwise, but I can't see at least the fit I'm flying win against a Taranis of mine.

Now, moving on to some after action reports!

The moment Fadeaway is embraced by the dark voids of space for the first time, onboard scanners reveal a Tristan nearby. A quick check with local coms confirms the pilot to be a couple of months old, apparently having hardly any combat experience. Awesome.

A narrower scan angle suggests that his position must be within another cluster of asteroid belts. I warp to a safespot closer to the cluster and keep scanning. There he is, top belt. I leap in.

My interceptor comes to a halt, but isn't able to intercept anything. Did he move? More scanning points to a moon, but no Tristan there either. I warp to the planet to give my scanner a better look from there. Oh hey, there it is! It's 100km away though and the pilot makes the wise decision to cheese it.

Apparently he intends to leave Hevrice through the Jovainnon stargate. This guy behaves like he's got some business in lowsec, so I trail him for a bit. Through the gate he goes, I follow. Jovainnon is a very compact system, so he moves on to Aeschee. He may try to lose me there - the system spreads widely and there are more ships in space.

I delay my jumps a bit longer to make him think I lost interest - an attempt to make him less aware of my presence in Aeschee's crowded local coms. It doesn't seem to work, he still keeps hopping around like some lass covered in- well, he hopped around a lot.

He takes a break at the gate to Adirain before he makes the jump. Again I wait before I go after him, but he is still sitting at the gate regardless. I decide to have played his game long enough and jump straight back into Aeschee again, about to look for another target elsewhere. Screw him.

At least that's what I want him to believe. Thirty seconds later I'm back in Adirain, the Tristan is nowhere to be seen on my tactical overview or scanner. His pilot still is in the system though. I cross my fingers and select the top belt of the densest cluster as my warp destination.

Yes, yes and yes! Point, pew and 'splode!

Upon pointing his pod as well, being the nice chap I am, I invite him to a conversation regarding the price for his life. I am in fact so nice that I ask him whether or not he might want to save it before I suggest a nominal fee. There is no response from him, I let my lasers answer for me.

Ah, an excellent display of a hunter and his prey. No faction loot in all of New Eden could give me more satisfaction.

The roam didn't end there, though.

I drop off my loot and go observe Adirain a bit longer. After the system refuses to give me any more targets, I head for Aeschee again to check some of its other adjacent systems. I however notice something rather interesting on scan: a Cyclone battlecruiser. It has not been renamed, the young pilot and his interest in Essence's lowsec is known to me.

Half-hearted I scan the belts - he surely must be on a mission. Nope, he is not, so I make haste to the asteroid belt he's in. His heavy guns have no hope of ever hitting me, his dronebay for some reason is not in use. Bottom line: he doesn't stand a chance.

I strive to be even nicer than before and give him an opportunity to keep both his ship and his life. There again is no response, but luckily my lasers again have plenty to say.

The fee of 50 million ISK might have been a tad bit steep, but the "I won't get to see some awesome fireworks"-tax just doesn't come cheap in cases like these.


Thar She Pews

After somewhat of a slump, things are starting to look good again - first of all my ISK efficiency. I didn't score some faction loot or a juicy ransom, but there has been more loot money than insurance payouts.

Speaking of targets - the belts somehow seem to see more visitors again. I don't know if it's coincidental, but they came back around the time Adirain got to see a little less of a certain nuisance: "Bundschuh" - former members of Chains of Chaos - often used to camp the stargates to highsec and has barely been seen outside of Adirain. I like to think that The Tuskers are at least one of the reasons they seek their tiresome business elsewhere. Either way, good riddance!

Better luck finding targets is one thing, but the one thing that really bugged me was my recent lack of concentration when engaging them. As you may have read in my previous update, arrogance and poor judgement led me to lose ships in some embarassing ways. I was flying ships I had become very familiar with every day, coming out on top rather often. As a result, I ignored very much possible "What if?" scenarios, didn't consider exit strategies or just made very avoidable mistakes during the combat routine.

Playing on high stakes didn't seem to work that well anymore - defeats in Taranises looked just as amateur as lost Incursuses. I had to think of something else to straighten up again.

To sum it up, flying an Incursus all the time felt mind numbing and flying a Taranis rather supports hybris than helping to get rid of it. I needed new ships, ships I was unfamiliar flying, ships I needed to get used to.

The obvious choice was the Rifter. I didn't want to go for the obvious choice. Rifters are too darn good anyway; I might have gone into fights saying "Whatevs, I got a Rifter, he's got nothing on me, Imma go Kirith on his ass" and then I would have died horribly once again.

What else then?

How about cruisers? Fighting in a Thorax is a heavy hitting fun frenzy each and every time, but when I roam in it, I miss the speed with which frigates cover several systems within a few minutes. Sitting and waiting makes me feel bored sooner than jumping between systems, boredom makes me do stupid things.

So, frigates... Competitive frigates other than Rifters. Merlin? Tristan? Ew, rockets. Punisher? Well, what else is there? Nothing is what, so Punisher it was.

Tailoring a fit I could be satisfied with proved to be really hard with this Amarr vessel. Even when I had found something that should work, I could immediately think of a dozen reasons why it absolutely won't and that failure will be imminent on the very maiden voyage. Perfect.

On the first few roams I was on the edge on each gate jump, on every new ship on scan and I was putting some serious strain on the onboard scanner. That familiar, almost embracing paranoia was back.

The first kill didn't involve a tough fight, but it was in Adirain - the "old" Bundschuh-infested Adirain. I was able to make haste with what you barely could call loot as one of their ships entered the belt. I'm not saying I wouldn't have checked my overview in time if I had been flying an Incursus, but who knows; maybe I was already paying better attention than in recent days.

Well, granted, not all the time...
As I was looking for a more serious test some days later, I scanned down two very young Rifter pilots in an asteroid belt. The strategy here would be to take them down quickly, so in I went and engage them with overheated guns I did. They in turn had me webbed and were fighting back. Good for them, but soon one of the Rifters exploded. They both didn't do much damage given their few days worth of training and inferior weapons, so his friend was soon to follow. Except he did do no such thing. My guns stopped firing. They were displayed with neat little red rings of death around them. Cue the profanities.

Alright, you don't get back on the horse right away. The loss was my own failure and no reason not to give the Punisher a real chance to finally prove itself.

Before a real opportunity arose however, some fellow pirates asked for assistance in taking down a Drake in Lisbaetanne. I agreed to add a bit more firepower to the three HellFleet Rifters. The Drake went down after a while without much problems. However, I realised that I needed more staying power. The Punisher doesn't exactly do a good job outrunning larger weaponry, so I had to go back to the drawing board  and readjust my fit.

The easiest solution was of course an armour repair system. First all new lasers, now more complicated capacitor management - very well, one more good reason to pay attention.

And what can I say, the revisited package works like a charm. First to notice was Eviwyn, one of the participants of the Drake kill the day before. Finally I got her to attack me for once - always has been reluctant before when I was out in my Incursus. Weird. Anyway, it provided just the right challenge to get used to the new repair unit a bit. The fight also proved to me that with more practise, I'll be able to take on more expensively fitted Rifters, whose pilots may be prepared better.

Another nice engagement took place at the Hevrice stargate in Jovainnon, where a Merlin was so kind to attack me. Thank you, Sir, don't mind if I do.
All qualities of the Punisher became apparent during this fight: The Merlin's damage was negligible while I was able to cause serious damage beyond blaster range and the little damage his rockets could cause was patched up easily.

Bottom line, I like the Punisher so much that a Crusader will soon be on its way to Hevrice.

You obviously see a pattern here, but I've got just the thing to avoid the same trap of overconfidence and daily rut I got caught in before: I am currently training Minmatar Frigates V. Got to maintain variety some way, and we have already established above that there is no other choice in the frigates segment.

Plus - at least just once - I wanna go Kirith on their asses.