Survival Training

•February 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In my last post I mentioned that I was now actively helping patrol the systems of Providence, under the command of my superiors at AUF. This is generally accomplished in a small, free roaming fleet or gang. Since the vast majority of the combat hours I’ve logged since leaving the accademy have been in the service of one agent or another, flying solo or paired up with Suri, I find myself a little wet behind the ears. Fortunately, the fleet- and wing-commanders of AUF are well versed in the tactics of survival and combat in low- and null-sec space, and are more than willing to share their expertise.

To that end, I’ve been receiving some valuable survival training. Training is delivered in-flight during our regular roams through Providence, or through dedicated sessions for things that require more hands-on practice. Perhaps one of the most useful of these hands-on training sessions has been in the use of the on-board directional scanner all capsule-fitted ships are equipped with.

Simply put, the directional scanner allows a pilot to quickly determine the approximate location of another pilot in system. Unfortunately, the pirate factions that haunt the asteroid belts and keep agents runners busy are invisible to these scans, but other capsuleers are not. Thus, the scanner is a valuable tactical tool for both offence and defense.

Offensively, the scanner allows you to determine target locations and ship types, allowing you to assess the strength of your enemy and engage on your terms. Defensively, the scanner allows you to detect the approach of an enemy ship or ships, giving you time to get away before they land on top of you.

I don’t have space here to go into details on using the scanner; that’s something much better learned through guided practical experience. However, a little reading can go a long way, so if you’re interested in some self-directed study, I highly recommend purusing one of the many scanning guides; there’s a decent one here, for example. It’s not nearly as difficult to master as it sounds when you read about it, so find a safe system with active pilots and have a go, too!

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Career Diversification

•February 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

As I mentioned previously, a lot has been going on. 12 days ago, I accepted an entry-level position with Aurelius Federation [AUF]. The corporate headquarters in Mamet are conveniently close to my personal base in Dresi and the move opens up a range of opportunities. AUF, as a member of Apotheosis of Virtue [AoV], has good standings with Curatores Veritatis Alliance [CVA] and thus is able to take advantage of the resources available in the Providence region.

AUF takes pride in defending the territory its allegiances provide access to. As a result I have, since joining their ranks, been actively participating in ‘roaming’ through Providence and adjoining territories, hunting enemies of our alliance and keeping our systems safe. I’m sad to say that I have yet to have the pleasure of destroying any intruders. However, inexperienced as I am in this type of action, I’m happy to receive my basic training in relative safety. And the more experienced capsuleers of AUF are extraordinarily generous with their time to help new members learn the tactics of survival in potentially hostile space.

Happily, my agent-running partner-in-crime, Suri, has also taken a position with AUF (in fact, it was she who first made contact with the corporation), so I have at least one familliar face in fleet. We try not to tax our Fleet- and Wing-Commanders too much with our thirst for new knowledge!

To our new friends at Aurelius Federation: fly safe! I look forward to continuing to fly by your sides.

Focused Study

•February 20, 2009 • 1 Comment

Having learned the essential ins and outs of the Retribution Assualt Frigate, and begun putting the ship to work, I realised that this awesome little ship still had a lot more to offer. A lot has been going on recently (which I’ll write more about later) but, through it all, I’ve made the time to deepen my study of Amarr weapons technology. As a result, I have been able to upgrade to Medium Pulse Laser II guns with Confluence and Scorch crystals.

I’ve never enjoyed flying a ship so much since my first flights at the accademy. Able to take down anything from an Interceptor to a Battleship whilst barely taking damage from any but the fastest moving enemies and/or the fastest tracking turret weapons, the Retribution promises to serve my needs in a broad range of tactical situations. This ship and I will share a long and productive relationship together.

On a side note, I wrote before about my efforts to work my way up the agent running career ladder. I’m pleased to say that hard work (and some reading up on how to make best use of the connections I have), I am now qualified for Lahara’s roster. And yes, my Retribution is serving me well!

Seeking Retribution

•February 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

One of the most unfortunate consequences of my extended down-time was a cessation in my studies. As a capsuleer I normally maintain a steady program of knowledge acquisition to ensure the continued development of my skills as a pilot, amoung other things. Naturally, now I’ve been cleared for flight once again, I have resumed my studies. I decided to focus specifically on advancing my understanding of various topics with which I was already familiar, with the objective of raising the level of technology I am able to use. As a result, I have recently qualified as an Assault Frigate pilot. It seemed, therefore, that a Retribution would serve my goals very well.

It took a couple of days for my market broker to locate a ship at the price I wanted but, that done, I was quickly able to get it fitted and ready to fly. The weapons tech I’m using isn’t the most advanced available (although that is soon to change) but I made the investment across the board for the rest of the ship’s modules, ensuring I would get the best out of this advanced frigate platform. I’ve flown everything from frigates to battleships from both the Amarr and Gallente line-ups, in the past but never before a ship this advanced. I wanted to make sure I would get to keep it for a good long time!

By the time the hanger techs had finished installing everything into the ship, it was getting late—and I was getting tired, not least from the headaches of figuring out the nitty details of fitting so many advanced modules with which I had little prior experience. But, with the job finally completed, I was eager to put the Retribution through its paces. With a final green-light from the mechanics and techs, I gave my crew the nod: it was time for a shake-down run. Pre-flight checks were completed quickly and efficiently and, as clearance to undock was given the little frigate was launched, and I set course for the nearest asteroid belt. A field of rocks provides useful oportunities for fine-tuning tactical maneuvers when checking out a new ship, as well as some soft targets to cycle test all ship functions. Soft Blood Raiders in this case.

Belt rats in high-sec space provide little work-out though, especially for a ship of this caliber. Fortunately, my agent-runner friend was out taking care of some business (not for Lahara, as it happened, but for one of her lower-level collegues) and was more than happy to have me tag along to give the Retribution a bit more of a work-out. I was a bit nervous, not being sure how well the little ship would stand up to the enemy forces my friend expected to be dealing with, but was reasonably sure I could avoid drawing too much fire if I hung back and let her lead us into the fight.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The Retribution performed well beyond my expectations. The Assault Frigate had more than enough speed to evade most of the enemy fire that came my way, and the advanced armour plating and damage control systems I’d fitted did a great deal to minimize the damage the ship suffered from those shots that did land. My repair teams were well able to keep up. I’ll be happier when I’m able to upgrade the pulse lasers for some increased damage output, but this ship can surely take a beating.

In fact, the very next night I found out how little I’d explored the limits in that regard. Lahara had given my friend a rather challenging assignment, and she was having difficulty getting the job done alone in her Apocalypse. Facing multiple Angel Cartel hostiles in ships ranging from Frigate-class all  the way up to Battleship-class, it was looking like a long, drawn out fight ahead. I almost had my crew transfer back to my trusty Harbinger. However, the Angel Cartel had several Iterceptors in their fleet and the Retribution seemed better suited to dealing with those. Our plan was the same as the previous night: Suri would warp in first and draw enemy fire to her Battleship-class Apocalypse; I would follow and concentrate on taking out the Interceptors—followed by the other Frigate- and Destroyer-class ships, if we lasted that long.

Good as our plan seemed to us, reality was less pleasant: the Angel ships quickly shredded Suri’s shields and were working through her armor at an alarming rate. I’d barely taken down the first of the Interceptors when Suri’s voice crackled in through the static on comms: “They’re tearing me apart! I have to jump out now. You’d better follow before you get their full attention.” What Suri didn’t know was how little damage I was taking from the few Angel ships that had already focused fire on me. In fact, the smaller class ships were giving me much more trouble than the Battleships or Cruisers. The larger ships’ guns were finding me too difficult to track. As a reult, I was able to hang in and take down another Interceptor before warping away.

Much encouraged by my Tactical Officer’s report as I followed my friend out of the line of fire, I began to form a new plan. Suri and I re-grouped for field repairs and agreed a new strategy: this time, we would warp in together. I would continue to work on clearing the last of the Interceptors and the other Frigate- and Destroyer-class ships, as before. But this time, Suri would deploy her drones to support my fire against those smaller targets, rather than have them follow her guns to the larger targets.

Combined fire from my Retribution and Suri’s flight of five medium-sized drones made short work of the remaining Interceptors and we were quickly able to move on to the lower-threat frigs and desis. Sustained fire from a number of the twelve Apocolypses in the Angel fleet was more than Suri’s ship could withstand for long, though, and she was soon forced once more into retreat. With growing confidence in the Retribution, however, I elected to stay the course a little longer (much to the incredulity of my crew). Before I knew it, we were bearing the full brunt of twelve Battleships, three Cruisers, two Destroyers and a couple of basic Frigates. The weapons crew were working flat out, the repair teams were being run ragged, but the Retribution was holding together and clearing through the enemy forces from the bottom up.

Secure comms crackled to life again as Suri checked in. “OK, I’m patched up and ready to make another run at the Cartel. Where are you?”

“Still engaged,” I replied. “I’m finishing off the last of the Destroyers now, but I expect I’ll need your fire-power to take down anything bigger, so come on back.” For a moment or two, there was nothing on the comm channel but static. Then:

You’re still there? How many hostiles are engaged?” I rechecked the tactical overview to be sure I had the count accurate, then relayed the information. “You’re taking fire from all twelve of the Battleships, and the rest?” I could hear the disbelief and, frankly, would have shared it if I hadn’t been the one on the receiving end of all those weapons!

“That’s right,” I replied, “Well, some of the Angel Battleships are out of gun range, but all have me locked so you should have no problems re-engaging. Come on back, I’m on the first of the Cruisers now and I don’t have enough fire power to break him alone.”

All that came back over the comm channel was a rather quiet, “On my way…”

From there, it was simply a matter of focusing our fire. The Angel Cartel fleet continued ineffectually to engage my Retribution, leaving Suri’s Apocalypse free to rain havoc on their forces. With her calling targets based on her position and me, in the faster ship, simply moving where I was needed while continuing to out-run the enemy missiles and guns, we were able to grind them down without further need for retreat.

I had to be a little careful when moving from target to target; speed is little advantage when flying directly into enemy fire head-on! But as each target fell, the work-load on my repair crews was reduced. I’m sure the damage my small pulse lasers did to the enemy Battleships played little part in their destruction, but as long as they continued futilely to focus fire on a ship they could barely hit while ignoring the larger threat of the hostile Apocalypse in their midst, Suri was more than happy to have me stick around!

I over-heard enough of the chatter amoung the crew as we squared the Retribution away in its hangar for the night to know they feel the same as me: I love this ship!

Reaching For The Top

•January 31, 2009 • 2 Comments

With my sights set on the higher-level agents, and the ISK and glory that their assignments promise to provide, I made use of some down-time to do a little research. I was looking to figure out how much work I’d need to do to move to the next rung on the ladder. Unfortunately, I found that the next rung was rather a long way away—in terms of jumps, that is.

I’d been working, thus far, for Civic Court. It turns out that none of their higher-level agents were located anywhere near Dresi, my chosen base of operations. I had two options: relocate, or switch allegiances. Further research revealed that the Emperor Family corporation had a local agent, Bahyaron Lahara, who would fit my needs, and I already had some favour with Emperor Family by affiliation with Civic Court. Combined with the fact that a close friend already had a newly-formed working relationship with Lahara, it seemed like a good option. That left the question of how to curry sufficient favour with Emperor Family to get Lahara’s attention?

After asking around a little, I determined that (through the kindness of my friend’s willingness to share her rewards with little in return) I could rapid-fire run missions for Emperor Family agents at a level I had access to and quickly gain sufficient standings with that corp to get onto Lahara’s roster. Plan set, it was time once again to shop for a ship…

I’ll post details on what I bought, and how it worked out, shortly.

Agent Ladder

•January 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After my long hiatus from active duty and, having retreated from the forntiers of Vale of the Silent back to Dresi, I needed a gentle re-introduction to the life of a capsuleer; I felt too rusty and lacking in confidence to jump back in with both feet. So, I decided to start at the bottom and work up as if I were a fresh, green agent runner. Seeking out a sleazy, low-level agent for some easy assignments seemed a low risk way to find my feet—and a low cost way to re-hone my combat reflexes, if they should prove so atrophied as to lead to ship losses.

Thus, with a freshly fitted Frigate-class Punisher docked in my hangar, I went in search of an agent from whom I could get my first assignment. Avenoz Sadna, of the Civic Court Accounting’s Legal division, obliged me. I am happy to report that, following several quick missions run at Sadna’s behest, my confidence was rapidly returning. Time to move up the food chain…

I hopped over to Hiroudeh (the better to avoid bumping into Avenoz Sadna now I’d decided to leave her behind) and made contact with Sharir Baibenoh, an Internal Security agent with Civic Court Tribunal working a tier above Sadna’s level. A day of looking after her interests had my Khanid blood pumping and my thirst for the fight fully restored. It was time to get serious—and move up the food chain once more!

I returned to the Civic Court Accounting facility near Dresi I, where an agent I had once had a good relationship with was stationed. Arina Raamalar was surprised to see me after so long (it had been perhaps two years since I had last worked for her), but was immediately able to find an assignmet for me. A good agent can always find you something, I guess.

Of course, a lowly Punisher wasn’t going to cut it for agent assignments at this level, so a new ship was definitely in order. I’d managed to track down my favourite market broker by this time, so I had him gather up what I would need: a Harbinger fitted with a solid tank and the best weaponry a sane amount of ISK could buy.

I’m enjoying my work for Arina, and she’s a wonderful agent to boot. But my ambition has been stirred and I find myself casting an eye towards the next rung on the agent ladder. I’ll need to build up my reputation a little more to get through those doors, though…

Re-Awakening

•January 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

A year and a half I’ve been away. Perhaps, as the trauma subsides, I’ll find myself able to talk about the unfortunate clone activation problem that left me out of action for all that time, or the difficulties I’ve faced with my recovery. For now, suffice to say that I am once again finding my feet (or wings?) and enjoying life as a capsuleer.

I’ve rented quarters in Dresi, my old base of operations before my ill-fated move to Vale of the Silent. I’ve formed working relationsips with several agents and I’ve managed to scrounge together a few ships suitable to the range of assignments they are offering. The life of a mission runner may not be the most exciting in New Eden, but it’s safe and steady work.

That is exactly what I need for now, at least until my wings are firmly planted and my feet fully spread—or something like that.