“Consider it a sacrifice to Bob”

I paused to consider the situation, consciously decided “Screw it”, re-shipped into my salvage-equipped Coercer-class destroyer, and aligned toward the wormhole.

The night had started normally enough.  I logged on to find the usual gang of ruffians running sites in our “static” for a little ISK.  I joined in with my Oracle — an “attack battlecruiser” that can pack battleship-sized weapons on a battlecruiser-sized hull — and we started chewing through sites.  We finished all the sites, salvaged the goods, submitted the loot report, then destroyed the wormhole behind us by pushing enough mass through it to cause it to collapse.

But we had a bit of a problem: we just had too many people.  A typical Class 3 site returns about fifty to seventy million ISK per site in loot, and despite our four-minute warp-to-warp times, the amount of people online  ready to participate meant our ISK per hour ratio would be fairly low.  In general, 100 million/hour is a benchmark for “profitable activity”, and ten people running sites together was going to be far below that threshold.

So we split up.

I know, I know. Anybody who has ever watched any horror movie about being in the wilderness knows that you don’t split up. It just makes you easier for the bad guys to catch.  But we had an inbound Class 4 wormhole and a group capable of running it. They’d even asked if the rest of us wanted to come with, because the greater profitability of the Class 4 over a Class 3 meant a ten-person fleet might be viable for making ISK as long as we completed sites quickly enough.

Unfortunately, our current C3 fleet doctrine is a bit glass-cannonish.  The ships we have available for site-running, by and large, are just not equipped for the extreme range and extreme damage durability requirements of Class 4 wormholes.  One day, I’m certain we’ll dream up a reasonable fleet doctrine for running Class 4 and Class 5 wormholes that we find ourselves attached to, but as a practical matter most of our site-running will usually be in our static Class 3 connection, and our low-skills-required Class 3 fleet composition rocks that specific class of wormhole very, very quickly.  Four minutes is pretty typical; extra ships beyond our core six-ship doctrine (including salvager) don’t typically speed it up a whole lot.
We split up our comms chatter into two channels for the two teams, and proceeded with running sites. A few minutes in, though, we received word that we’d lost a Noctis in the Class 4.

We have a little history with the corporation involved in that killing. Basically, on the Test server (“Singularity” or “Sisi”), we’d relocated from our home wormhole to another empty one to test some play mechanics during capital escalations.  As part of the mirroring process, the game developer CCP removes all player-owned starbases to prevent intel-gathering on the test server.  However, if ships are left floating free within those starbases, those ships remain.  Our intrepid numbers-and-logic guy, “5ilent”, found this free wormhole with some capital ships floating in the vacuum, brought in a starbase and supplies for escalation testing, and one night we got together for testing.

Well, within a few minutes a Dreadnaught showed up at our new POS on the testing server and began shooting it.  He seemed unhappy when I reminded him in Local chat that aggression outside of specific systems is prohibited on the Test server, and can result in a ban.  Nevertheless, he continued aggressing our tower, so we blew him up — and his pod, too — in hopes that we could continue our testing unmolested.

Unfortunately, a few minutes later some corp-mates of his showed up in additional Dreadnaught-class vessels.  It came to light that on the live server, “Tranquility”, the Class 5 we’d taken over was the home system for these pilots. As part of the negotiation, the Dread pilots ejected, gave us their ships for testing, and went on their way. In exchange, we didn’t report the unprovoked aggression on their part, and everybody went away mostly-satisfied with the outcome.  They had torched our testing, but had made up for it in reducing logistics of bringing in additional Dreads for which we were grateful.

On the Test server, a multi-billion-ISK Dreadnaught costs 100 ISK. As a practical matter of ISK, the gesture on the part of those guys wasn’t a big deal, but as a diplomatic matter, it was an amicable solution that eventually allowed us to pursue further testing in a different wormhole. That said, though, the moment we saw the corporation name on the Noctis killmail, tensions were high.  We know that these guys definitely can bring a fight and are well-established with superior numbers and equipment to our own. With two months in the wormhole and some lost capital ships due to failed escalations, we’re still suffering some growing pains and could not readily financially support a capital-class battle yet.

“Yet” is the important word.  We look forward to happily blowing up other people’s capital ships and our own “Real Soon Now(tm)”, but can scarce afford it at present.  Everybody’s wallets are just now recovering from the eviction two months ago. Which seems a bit long, really… moving to a new wormhole is a tedious, drawn-out business.  I don’t look forward to doing it again any time soon.

A few minutes later, our security reported a Helios in our Class 3 scanning down the system with his core probes.  Our security folks began trying to determine where he came from, and eventually figured out a new Class 5 wormhole had opened into Moe, where we had stationed no security.  That was, apparently, the source of the Noctis killer, and was the home system of the guys with whom we’d had the incident on the Test server.

The ops were cancelled and we went back to our system to re-ship to PvP.  Shortly thereafter, our scouts reported the neighbors re-shipping into capitals and tech 3 cruisers. There’s an inherent mass limitation on our interconnecting wormhole, so on either side we could only afford perhaps three capitals max, and doing so would slam shut the wormhole behind us, requiring a fully-committed battle and the destruction of tens of billions worth of ships.

We figured they were probably as disinterested in that outcome as we were. Some PvP is great. Destroying one another’s money-makers is kind of pointless unless there’s a personal score to settle.

With the fleet standing by as a display of strength, though, there remained the matter of the loot left sitting in the Class 3, ungathered and likely to de-spawn within an hour and a half if we didn’t begin salvaging it.  A couple of scouts went to go check the site, and our FC Nylon put out the call for someone to re-ship to a salvaging Destroyer with the following inspirational speech:

“Team, we have a lot of ISK rotting in the Class 3 next door. Can someone please re-ship into a Destroyer and attempt to go salvage it? Stay aligned and get your pod out if you get attacked, but if you lose your ship just consider it a sacrifice to Bob.  And we’ll learn what kinds of ships they have in our 3a1.”

Bob is the God of wormholes, who is appeased by the destruction of shiny ships.  And, apparently, less-than-inspiring speeches from fleet commanders.

I paused to consider the situation, consciously decided “Screw it”, re-shipped into my salvage-equipped Coercer-class destroyer, and aligned toward the wormhole.

I had recently made some changes to my Overview, and somehow ended up with a totally unusable view in which even if I clicked a wreck and selected “add wreck to overview”, it would not appear. A few minutes of futzing later, I finally got that problem resolved and started salvaging.

Reports trickled in from our scouts. “Anomaly 1 has already been salvaged. Anomaly 2 has already been salvaged. Anomaly 3 is partway salvaged.  There goes the Helios. That little ship is apparently equipped with salvagers.”

Yep, while we’d been re-shipping to face the expected encounter with our neighbors, their Helios had snuck around behind our fleet and grabbed our loot.

Well-played, little Helios pilot. Well-played!

With a reminder over comms to keep my Destroyer aligned, I checked the total in my hold.  67 million ISK from one data site.  I was, however, drifting too far from the wrecks. I pointed my Destroyer the other direction — not aligned to any celestial — to get closer to the 20km range of my tractor beams on the remaining few wrecks.  The team reminded me that they were facing off against a healthy-sized fleet apparently assembled in the neighboring wormhole’s starbase, and my destroyer had no backup because attack seemed imminent.

Seconds after I reversed course, a hostile Proteus tech 3 cruiser decloaked 35km to starboard and began burning to me.

The alignment time on a Destroyer is only about five seconds, but that was about four seconds too long; the Proteus pilot’s overheated long point grabbed my ship, and I knew it was done for.  I aligned to a nearby moon, hoping to get my pod out.

Bizarrely, though, this Proteus was not doing much damage. He was orbiting at perhaps 2 kilometers, but was very, very slow breaking the tank of my Destroyer, giving me plenty of time to think.

And I had only one thought.

“Loot is ephemeral. Killboards are forever.”

I selected all the loot in my cargo hold.

I clicked “jettison”, and confirmed “yes” to the standard question, “Are you sure about it?”

I targeted the cargo.

I then realized too late my fully-salvage-fit Coercer had neither guns nor drones to destroy a cargo container.

Oops.

That was dumb.

The Proteus pilot paused shooting just long enough so that I could watch while he scooped the container, continuing to hold my ship in place. I could almost hear his muted “Thanks for the full loot drop instead of half!” as he resumed firing and my Coercer went up in flames. My pod ejected, and I instantly warped to the moon to which I was aligned, then I piloted it back to my POS to re-ship.

A cloaky Proteus is a very difficult ship to catch. We dangled some more bait, but it was in vain; “ChrisLCTR” was far too canny to be taken in by our schemes. With twelve pilots now online, stuck in a stalemate in which neither side seemed willing to fully commit to a fight, we decided to roll the Class 3 and Class 5 wormholes. Our operation was clearly occurring during the neighbor’s off-time.

So we rolled the Class 3 away, wishing for the Proteus and Helios pilots to have a very long and difficult journey home. We then undocked an Archon with full fleet support and headed toward the Class 5 hole.

The neighbors sent a Hound covert ops frigate to orbit their side of the wormhole, and it stood silent vigil over our operation. Other than that, they took no aggressive action against our logistics and ECM-heavy fleet as we dissolved their static connection.

I’m pretty sure they left a scout in our home system, and I’m certain we are going to encounter members of Kill It With Fire again.  It was an interesting if one-sided skirmish of competing intelligence.

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