Today a few of us went mining in the dangerous, lawless, resource-rich 0.0 system of U3K-4A. It was a momentous day, this was something we’d wanted to do since the earliest days. We’d looked out and said “One day, we want to be out there, and we want to do dangerous, exciting things, earning buckets of money in the process.”
But there was something else on my mind as we flew the space-lane to U3K. It had been three months since I last went to U3K, and it hadn’t been an easy time.
The Great Wildlands is a region of space designated with a security status of 0.0. This means there is no law there. No police, no sentry guns, and very few space stations. It means it is filled with NPC pirates, and is home to rich, untapped deposits of valuable ores.
StateCorp has been part of a group that has been trying to claim control of the Great Wildlands. We’re with the ‘Foundation’, who have been battling opposing faction the ‘Keiretsu’ for some time. Earlier this week, hostilities ended, and it looks like it may be permanent this time. If it wasn’t for this ceasefire, we would never have been able to go mining today.
But three months ago, we were pretty far from a ceasefire. It was hell out there, and it was then that I had chosen to take my first look at 0.0 space.
I took my first trip to see the sights of the Great Wildlands, and to attempt to join in with the war effort. I logged on to teamspeak, and asked if anybody needed a hand. I was informed a group was gathering at the station in E02-IK, in the centre of the Wildlands. I jumped in my ship and headed off.
I’m no battleship pilot. All I had for player versus player combat in those days was a Vigil tackler frigate. With a warp scrambler, a propulsion web, and a speed of three kilometres per second, I was the one that would prevent an enemy from escaping. That was the theory. I’d never even used a warp scrambler before.
When I reached E02, the situation had drastically changed. Two friendly ships had been destroyed, and their pilots’ escape pods shot down. Half of our force was trapped inside the station, with an angry mob of red blips circling outside. The rest were in ’safespots’ scattered around the system.
A safespot is a co-ordinate in deep space. You can’t warp to a safespot unless you own the bookmark with the co-ordinates. There are other ways in, but they take time or special equipment. I joined my gangmates at one of a number of spots overlooking the station. We were close enough to see the foe on our overview, but not close enough to be shot at.
I should reiterate that this was my first time in 0.0 space, my first time in a player versus player situation, and my first time in a safespot. I watched them move around, from gate to station to gate. From station, to moon to moon. At one point, they began warping rapidly to positions all around me, what I can only presume were safespots already compromised, found and exploited in previous engagements. Did they have a bookmark for the one I was using? My gangmates were confident, but I was not. Yet I stayed and watched with helpless fascination.
I was losing concentration, looking at message boards in a reduced browser window while I waited for the situation to improve, waited for more allies to come online so we could gather a serious threat to the swirling currents of red lights moving in front of me. Somebody on teamspeak shouted a warning, mentioning me by name. I jumped, and flicked back to my screen. One of the Keiretsu had broken off from the group and was flying straight towards me at a speed I hadn’t thought possible before that day. What had seemed a very comfortably safe distance a few seconds ago was rapidly dropping into nothing.
I warped away as quick as my fingers allowed. I didn’t fancy tangling with an interceptor.
The alliance chat channel had been filled with talk of a group gathering up in secure space to come down and rescue us. The Eve map has a feature to overlay the number of pilots in space, and our saviours were now appearing as a small orange blob further up. The giant red blob of our besieging foe must have noticed, because they began moving off to challenge them at the chokepoint system of B-VIP9
As they did so, somebody noticed a straggler. An enemy’s raven battleship warping to an observing safespot around the station, just like ours. He was probably intending to keep an eye on us, and watch what we do.
I had taken to huddling against an interceptor ally, not wanting to be alone again after my earlier near-miss. He immediately began belting toward the enemy battleship, just as the enemy had to me earlier that night. I marvelled at his boldness. He may have been flying a rare tech II ship, costing millions of isk, and requiring scores of advanced skills, but it was still just a frigate. He was a speck of specks against the mass of the missile-laden raven.
He called out on teamspeak, and I realised the plan. He reached the enemy ship, and the others nearby me warped in, using the interceptor as a reference point. My heart racing, I did the same.
Up close, it was even more terrifying. I don’t know why I expected any different. Here I was, next to another player in an engine of destruction, who was probably going to try to kill me, and probably could in a matter of seconds if he took the time to lock on. I had met unfriendly battleshups before, but in every case before, I had run away. I had run as fast as I could. I looked around, and we had no battleships of our own. There were only frigates bearing down on him. What could we accomplish here? What were we trying to do? I hesitated.
Somebody shouted down the teamspeak, and I remembered my role. I began my approach and locked my weapons. My autocannons began rattling. I turned on the propulsion web, and the growing black shape was lit up with a pulsing glow. A rocket slipped from my launcher. I reached for the warp scrambler, but he was gone, only a warp trail leading to the stargate left behind. Just as two friendly battleships were undocking from the station.
I took a step back from the desk. I breathed. This was what I had come down for. I felt a fool for messing up, but I ignored it. This was the tensest piece of gaming I had ever partaken in.
The others, however, felt it was just beginning. Our second force gathering in secure space had drawn away the mob assailing us, which left us free to go to war. We were behind enemy lines, with the enemy fleet now a long way away. We could give chase, but we were too few to give them a real challenge. Somebody reported there was a Keiretsu mining operation in U3K-4A. We set off to ruin their party.
I had never met these people I was flying with before that night. I was invited into their gang because our corporations were allies, but StateCorp had done very little in the conflict so far. I had been waiting in that system with them for several hours now, though, and I could recognise all of their voices over the teamspeak, even if I couldn’t yet put those voices to in-game names or ships. They had been much more forgiving of my newbieness and ignorance than I had hoped, and we were having a blast.
I stuck with my interceptor friend, and we headed down towards our quarry. U3K-4A is a dead-end system. There’s a short series of jumps towards it, and then there’s no way out but to go back through that same series of jumps. It’s a valuable system, with the most valuable of ores. But it can also be a deathtrap. There was no escape for those miners now.
But halfway down there, a warning was given. The miners weren’t mining any more. There were enemy coming up behind us. There were more in the U3K corridor. In the travel, we had become seperated. In the confusion and indecision, we split further. Enemy rushed into the system. The two gangmates I was still with retreated to a safespot, and I followed, desperate for somebody to tell me what to do.
A battleship, an interceptor and a frigate (that’s me). We hung at the safespot as the enemy moved through. There were now more of them than us. So we sat, and listened to the chatter in the foundation’s chat channel. We listened to news of the battle at B-VIP9, and waited for word on the others of our group. We talked amongst ourselves in our shrinking teamspeak channel. We chatted, and joked.
I think it was my battleship friend that pointed out the enemy were probably trying to probe scan our position. I mentioned earlier there were ways to crack a safespot. With the correct skills, one can use a specialised probe launcher, calculate the position of another ship, and then warp to it, without the need for a bookmark.
We began shifting position. As long as we kept moving, the probes would never give an accurate lock, so I was told.
The prober gave up after a while, and left. We were alone in the system again. It was decided we would move back to E02 to meet up with others. So we began our journey out from the dead-end of U3K. The systems were all empty, except one.
We emerged from the stargate into that system, and were greeted with the largest single collection of red blips surrounding us I have seen in my Eve life. It would have shown up like a small nuclear explosion on the map, if only one of us had looked before we jumped.
Crap, was about all I could think of. We had a brief period of time after emerging from a gate when we would be cloaked, allowing us to take stock of the situation. Crap.
My ship gave the distinctive liquid moan as the cloak effect wore off. The battleship friend called out a primary target. I thought he was mad. But I slowly clicked, locked, and approached. Mad. And as I did so, the greatest fireworks display I’ve ever seen, in Eve or the real world, was played out on the hull of my new friend’s battleship. Rivers of missiles flowed towards him.
He changed his mind, and told us to run. The interceptor friend warped to a safespot. My finger hovered over the button to follow him, but the scene in front of me amazed me. When my room turned orange in unison with the destruction of the battleship, I realised I had lingered too long. I warped away.
An interceptor, a frigate (that’s me) and an escape pod. We waited at the safespot together. We cursed our group stupidity. We mused on lessons learned. We bemoaned our alliance’s apparent lack of organisation, and admired our foes’.
We checked the chat channel for the status of the E02 station. It was hostile. We inquired as to the status of the B-VIP9 chokepoint system, leading back to safe space. It was severely hostile. We sat in solemn silence for several minutes. This was beyond trying to claim a kill. This was now down to getting out alive.
My friend the former battleship pilot made the decision to make a dash for the station. The escape pod’s natural difficulty to lock, combined with an ‘insta’ bookmark that cut down on travel time, he thought he had a good chance. We waved him off, and he warped away.
My friend the interceptor pilot made the decision to make a run for empire space. In an elite frigate as fast as his, he thought he had a good chance. He also said that I might be able to do it as well. It may only be a tech 1 frigate, but it’s one of the fastest out there, he said. I said I’d consider it. We said goodbye, and he warped away.
I hung in space for several minutes. I considered it. Then I logged off. I’d had enough tension for one night. I’d escape in the morning.