Post-Easter Rollercoaster Ride

No, not that one, though the fair is in town.

I’ve been slacking a bit on my updates about EVE. When I last wrote about it, I had just gotten accepted into EVE University under the new and much simpler ruleset, and spent a lot of time setting myself up. After which I spent some time in the mining camp and made a decent amount of money. I should probably do that more often, especially with the expected rise in mineral prices that will happen after the next patch (when they’ll remove mineral drops from most of the NPC enemies). But, to be honest, while I like mining, it can get boring after a couple of days. I was looking for other things to do.

How I Got My Egg Basket Blown Up

How’s that for an Easter analogy? (Alright, alright, a Euro into the pun jar.)

I returned home from a family weekend on Sunday evening, just in time to catch a class. “Low-Sec Hauling”. Ooooh! The great outdoors! Running through the equivalent of countryside a couple of centuries ago, mostly empty and peaceful, but with the occasional highwaymen. That sounded interesting. We got taught a couple of the important basics (use a cheap ship until you know what you’re doing, fit it with warp core stabilizers so you’ll be able to get away from many gate camps, etc.), and off I went. I spent Sunday and much of Monday running back and forth between regulated high-sec and lawless low-sec, leaving pirates in the dust several times. I was invincible!

You know what happens after such delusions of grandeur take grip. You’ll be humbled, big time.

I started my Tuesday evening in Jita (the main trade hub of the EVE universe) with my low-sec hauling ship. I had gotten some good deals on courier contracts the day before, coming from Hek (a secondary trade hub). I was looking for something worthwhile to transport back there. Sure enough, I found a decent courier contract, and filled the rest of my cargo space with some commodities. I programmed the flight computer to get a route, and got going. I jumped, and jumped, and jumped. Jita, Sobaseki, Iyen-Oursta, … my after-work slump was setting in, but I was in the flow of hauling. Space Trucking, baby! Ambeke gate, warp&jump. Criele gate, warp&jump. Rancer gate, warp&… wait a second. Rancer? Rancer?!

… Oh crap.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Rancer is a well-known system in EVE. It is one of the maybe 15 or 20 I can properly spell, even though I’ve never been there. In fact, I know it well because I’ve never been there. Rancer is an infamous pirate system. It probably is the most infested system in all of EVE. You never go there, unless you bring a lot of guns, and friends with even more guns. How on Earth did I end up here?

  1. It is a low-sec system, so I typically have the autopilot set up to avoid them altogether. Flying a low-sec hauler, I of course disabled that safeguard.
  2. You can configure the autopilot with a handful of systems that it is to always avoid. I was absolutely positive that I had put Rancer onto that list. It should be the very first system on that list, right? Well, yeah.
  3. I had foolishly assumed that routes would be symmetric. I hadn’t flown through any dangerous low-sec areas from Hek to Jita the day before, so it should be the same reasonably-safe route back, right? Guess I learned that the autopilot doesn’t work that way. (Though I’m still not sure why.)
  4. I typically check where I’m jumping to. The last failure in the chain of events was clicking before reading.

When I realized mid-warp that I was about to jump into the pirate capital of the universe, I frantically clicked buttons… Abort, abort, jump to somewhere else, do anything! But to no avail. I dropped out of warp right next to the gate, and immediately jumped through before any of the other commands registered.

Sure enough, I was greeted by almost a dozen pirates on the other side. They were too many, so they scrambled my warp drive before I could get away, then played around a bit with my ship before blowing it up.

Ouch. I will not link the killmail, it’s rather embarrassing. I lost more than half of the money I had saved up with that mistake. I cannot really blame anybody but myself though. The loss was the result of a chain of stupid mistakes on my side. It’s not like the pirates came out of their system to gank me in high-sec. I probably would’ve been annoyed in that case. No, I jumped right into their backyard to say hello. It’s mostly annoying because I lost a large percentage of my ISK. I’m not that rich though, so if I want, I can just go and buy two PLEX for about what I would spend for a decent dinner, and end up with more than I had.

I guess “be careful” isn’t a lesson you learn by reading, but rather by doing.

My First Fleet, And How I Nearly Saw A Carrier For The First Time

The whole encounter left me with a bit of sour aftertaste. I decided the best to make out of that was to fit another low-sec hauler right away and get started again, to offset the bad experience with some more good ones. I did a couple of low-sec runs, but ended up in another heavily populated low-sec system. I was really happy when I managed to get out of there without any issues. I felt like I maybe needed a day or two to relax and not risk as much. The ship isn’t too expensive, but buying all the modules to refit it is annoying, and I tend to have expensive implants in my pilot that aid skill learning speed, but are lost when you get blown up. Thankfully, a class came by that evening that talked about fleet mechanics, with an extended practical part. So I jumped into the prepared implant-less PvP clone, bought a cheap frigate and fitted it with some even cheaper tackling modules, and joined the class. Blow up, get blown up, it doesn’t matter if all you lose is a million ISK or two.

There hadn’t been a lot of fleets out of the EVE University’s home station for some time. A lot of the more PvP-inclined people have moved into a special low-sec camp recently, so there was little going on in safer space. In no time, we had almost 50 people. It took a lot of time to get the fleet together, mostly because the professor went through all the steps of forming a fleet in great detail. I can’t say I followed all of that, because I was missing some basics, but I think I got the gist of it.

Then it was time to undock. Off went our kitchen sink fleet (no specific setup, everything was welcome except the proverbial kitchen sink). Some of us learned our first valuable lessons: the difference between an “offensive” and a “defensive” gate camp (never had heard of that before), and that “warping to a gate” is not the same as “jumping through the gate” (I got that right and didn’t jump early! Yay me!)

The EVE University Educational Kitchen Sink Fleet sitting at a warp gate. Well, at least the part that didn't jump through instead of warp to it...

After two jumps, our scout reported unusually high activity in the low-sec system we wanted to visit as part of the training. Ooooh, pirates! We gotta shoot pirates?

Sadly, no. It turned out that, while we weren’t quite sure what exactly was going on, it was definitely a size or two too large for our fleet. There were a carrier, another capital ship, and a lot of support gathered in that system. It seemed they were quite nervous when they realized there was a 45-people fleet sitting one system over – we got the occasional scouts checking in on what the hell we were doing sitting at that gate.

Our Fleet Commander made his discussions with the Scouts public to the whole fleet (not something that happens every time, I was told), and the way they went about figuring out who was in that system at which time, and why, was pretty impressive. Most of that went over my head at first, but our Fleet Commander did a really good job of explaining to us how they went about gathering the intelligence.

This is were we sat for almost an hour, listening to the class in space.

So, in the end, no shot was fired, but it was a nice first experience. Our Fleet Commander / class lecturer, Turhan Bey, was a very nice person, and my hope is that I’ll fly in fleets with such people for the most part. He was definitely the antithesis to the “ugly EVE griefer” stereotype.

I think I should read up a bit more on the introductory Fleet classes, to be prepared for the next time I might have a chance to fly around in a fun edu fleet.

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