Well, it’s been six weeks and a couple of patches since I’ve played EVE. I had some internet problems, I had to do some travel, there was some work stuff, there was some family stuff… and, y’know, I just wasn’t feeling the EVE lust. It happens.

So, this was the dustiest login I’ve ever had to do. As usual after patches, I had to redo all my settings. I had to pay a bunch of office rent bills, and I think I’ve got to go collect some stuff from offices that got repossessed. My skill training was done (not long done though, I managed to polish off Advanced Weapons Upgrades V during the break). I didn’t remember where anything was, or where I was.

Changes-wise, the two big ones affecting Ironfleet seem to be the new junk cleanup routines (sob, all that lovely salvage that went poof) and the removal of the “refine shuttles” cap on Veldspar prices.

The junk cleanup was hard on Ironfleet in one sense — probing down old shuttles in ancient safespots with goodies in the cargo was one of my best entertainments in the game — but the manifest benefits to the game cannot be denied. And the cleaner roid belts make salvage a lot easier, especially as it’s easier to find the Giant Secure Containers that aren’t anchored, now.

So far, all I’ve done is one survey of the belts in my current local system. Found a Catalyst mining into a free-floating Giant Secure Container, so I went for a cargo ship. Catalyst was gone when I came back, so I scooped container and ore (not a lot of ore) without drama. In the next belt over, I found a guy in a Retriever barge, jet-can mining; he had enough ore to fill up my hauler, so that was nice. We had this conversation:

Sterling Wilkes: What is your problem?

Marlenus: No problem.

Sterling Wilkes: Janfot.

Marlenus: And a happy rumfut to you too, sir!

Ironfleet Towing And Salvage is back in business, baby!

Today I espied a Hulk mining into several jetcans. So I hopped in my Crane transport and went to get some ore.

I’d flipped the first full jetcan of Veldspar into an Ironfleet can when the Hulk woke up and launched five drones. I responded with heavy missiles, and after things began to settle, it was clear that I could tank the drones for a very long time but not forever, and that the Hulk could probably tank me for longer than that, but again, perhaps not forever. So I resolved to blow up some drones.

Reloading with precision missiles…

Start over. After cussing out my crew for failing to stock up on precision missiles, I went back to shooting heavy missiles at drones. And the hulk pilot began micromanaging his drones, pulling them in after I had begun to hurt whichever one I was shooting at. But I was battering them each time, and he was running out of drones with armor and structure left.

Finally, I popped a drone. By now I was at about half shields and about half cap, and beginning to think that (if he did not have another set of drones in the bay) I could turn my attention back to pounding on the hulk.

Which is when his corpmate in a Drake warped in and began unloading heavy missles onto me in 7-missile volleys from point blank range. Time to go!

My Crane is a stout ship, but it’s just a hauler, and we were already low on shields. The second volley hit me just before I hit warp, and I got away with a substantial dent in my armor. It’s questionable whether I could have weathered volley number three, and number four would have been certain death.

Of course I came back in a stealth bomber to see if I could defend the Ironfleet can. And, indeed, the Drake did not seem to be fitted with a full Drakish tank, as I was able to beat well into its shields until it chose to leave. But the hulk pilot came back in an armor-tanking battleship that I could not scratch, and there was no more that I could hope to accomplish with the ships available to me. We danced a bit and I launched a lot of missiles for the pleasure of the noise, but in the end, I had no choice but to blow up the Ironfleet can (full of veldspar!) to keep it out of enemy hands, and then return to my hangar.

Conclusion, tentative: If the Hulk pilot had failed to get backup, I might have been able to take him.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m not a combat pilot.

If I’m in a fight, either (1) I screwed up and I’m trying to leave, or (2) I’m pretty sure I’m going to win, meaning, I’m pretty sure my ship can gank the other guy’s ship and be gone before the backup arrives. I’m not there for honor, glory, adrenaline, or “fair fights”. Either I think the guy’s ship will drop some salvage, or I think killing him will be to the political advantage of Ironfleet.

I like the way this EVE University director makes a similar point, howbeit he’s talking about having numbers on his side rather than (in my case) careful use of the rock-scissors-paper mechanics:

One war target took exception to my Scorpion, suggesting that I wasn’t playing “fairly”.

Let’s get this straight. The “fair” comes once a year, in the fall & features corny dogs & caramel apples. If I’m in a “fair” fight, then I’ve made a mistake. I want every engagement to be a 50 vs 1 insta-pop. CCP says that Eve features non-consensual combat. Fine. Those that would stoop to war dec’ing a training corp have no moral ground to cry for “fair” fights. They deliberately sought un-“fair” fights from the outset and cry out for “fair”-ness only when they are on the short end of the stick.

When you war dec the Uni, you must expect to fight overwhelming fleets of small ships piloted by the most bloodthirsty nOOb’s ever seen, backed by loads of electronic warfare and a few specialized big ships flown by the Uni’s most experienced pilots. Either that, or you must expect to stay docked.

Repeat after me, the fair comes once a year!

It’s not the most profitable salvage I do, but the peaceful scooping of unanchored “secure” cans is very satisfying. Perhaps I played too much Pac-Man as a child?

In any case, I was sweeping the belts when I came upon one Curse Straken, mining in an Osprey. His ore, he was putting in a Large “Secure” Container.

With flashing green nav lights.

Named — I shit you not — “Container #9″.

So I zoomed out, and sure enough, he was surrounded by an entire canstellation of unanchored large secure cans. They were carefully spaced five kilometers apart, as if the hauler pilot who launched them for him had a clue, but it appeared Curse had not been briefed on the anchoring procedures.

So I began scooping.

After scooping the fourth can, my chat window pops up. Curse Straken wishes to converse with me. I accept the chat and begin motoring to Container #5”.

[ 2008.01.26 23:54:11 ] Curse Straken > dude, what are you doing
[ 2008.01.26 23:54:20 ] Marlenus > Salvaging
[ 2008.01.26 23:54:31 ] Curse Straken > why u taking my containers?
[ 2008.01.26 23:54:42 ] Marlenus > They aren’t yours, they are floating loose in space?
[ 2008.01.26 23:54:56 ] Curse Straken > uhh no, theyre mine
[ 2008.01.26 23:55:03 ] Marlenus > Sorry to say it, but no they aren’t.

*SCOOP*

At this point, he began locking me. Really? A visit from Concord? And I get to watch from the expensive seats?

Sadly, no. I finished my scooping unmolested, and went on my way.

Today I was giving an EVE demonstration to my friend, the one who wrote the poem. So I took my covert ops frigate out looking for some ore to salvage.

Found a pair of hulks mining into a jet can. Interesting. I’ve met some very dangerous hulks. If they launch tech II combat drones, they can dramatically out-damage my one-gun hauler. They can tank well, they can warp scramble, they can web. The question is, can they do all of those things at the same time?

Answer: yes. But how likely are they to be doing all those things while fitted for optimal mining?

More data needed.

So, home to get the Crane, back to get some ore. Grabbed a load, flipped the rest of the (nearly-full) jet can into an Ironfleet can.

Fweep fweep fweep, Captain Kronos in the hulk wants to play. Captain Kronos is trying to warp scramble YOU! Drones have been summoned and instructed to devour YOU.

Ok, start shooting and claw for distance, I want to outrun this guy in case the damage curve is against me and I need to warp out.

Hmm, 21 m/s top speed? Friends, we are webbed, this just got SERIOUS! How many points of scramble does he have? Now we may have to win — how’s the damage / tanking going?

Damage, not so good, his shield is barely scratched. My tank is dropping fast, he launched some nasty drones. Time to turn on the shield booster.

I’ve improved my shield gear considerably since the last time I met a hulk, but I know my setup is not cap stable. Looks like I’m holding my own while the cap holds, though. I’d better pop some drones if I want to win this thing.

Heavy missiles versus drones, tricky. I’m doing surprisingly well, about to pop the first drone after several shots, shields holding, cap getting shaky, when I realize that I forgot to swap in the precision missiles when I switched targets. I wonder if I dare pause to reload? I guess I’ll swap ammo after the first drone dies.

Hey, I wonder how his cap is holding? Am I actually warp scrambled? I haven’t actually tried to warp away yet, maybe I should? No, if I can pop a drone, I might could still win this thing, or at least get a chance to pound on his tank long enough to figure out if I can break it. One more shot and the drone should be …

[ — YOU HAVE BEEN DISCONNECTED — ]

Doh!

I really figured I was dead, if he actually had me scrambled. But I logged back in quickly and found myself a million clicks away and warping back. Whew! Got back, he was gone, now we’ll never know.

Docked.

My friend says “Don’t you still have a can full of ore back there?”

So I looked around my hangar and found a big bristly missile-y ship. And zoomed back to the scene, 100 klicks out.

There’s Captain Kronos, forty clicks away and flashing red. In a Vagabond.

“Computer, what’s a Vagabond?”

By now I know enough to know that when I find myself asking that question, the answer is never good. So I’m clawing for missile distance and hitting the afterburner.

Heavy assault cruiser, you say? I guess that explains why my default heavy missile loadout is hitting him for .7 hitpoints per shot.

Hey, now my missiles are hitting for 70+ a shot, but he’s RIGHT HERE! And what’s all this racket that sounds like autocannon? How he get here so fast? WARP! WARP! I don’t know who’ll win, but I want this flapping rattling nightmare OUT OF MY FACE!

If he had warp scramblers, he didn’t use them, because I was very gone, very soon. While warping, I reflected that maybe my missiles started hitting better when he hit the microwarp drive. Then my computer chirped and I got the report on Vagabonds. Let’s see here, “…the fastest cruiser invented to date… lightning strikes … fastest vessels to ply the spacelanes….” Ah. No surprise he got to my lumbering missile tub in no time flat.

Captain Kronos, you may keep the ore you jettisoned.

At least for today.

A couple of the day’s events:

1) Got notice that Ducky had failed to pay his war bill. So that war will be over in another hour or two. Apparently it was a typical nuisance declaration; every time I checked, Ducky was at least 32 jumps away.

2) Got smacked-talked with greater-than-usual intensity, after finding some mission salvage while surveying a system and salvaging a battleship wreck. Lachlann’s opening remarks will give you the full flavor of the conversation:

Lachlann > attention all mission runners in system
Lachlann > Marlenus this fuckwit is a salvage thief

Of course there was rather a lot more in the same vein after that. There was talk, for instance, of shoving missiles up my arse. Just by way of example.

After more friendly salutations of that sort, Lachlann turned to bluster and menace, or his best efforts at same. First:

Lachlann > you will be taken care of
Lachlann > i prefer to pay someone to scrape you off the bottom of their shoes

Then, of all things, he links to this brand new forum post:

I hate salvage thieves. There are some operating in my area of Caldari space and I want them taken out. Unfortunately I’m stuck in a research alliance atm so I cant take care of the problem myself. There are 7 members in the target corp and I want them destroyed. Please evemail me if you are interested

As I’ve mentioned before, VampireZim once hired Murder-Death-Kill to come after Ironfleet, but they never even showed up in local. We’ve never worried about mercs since, nor seen any either. Promises to hire some? Now, those we’ve got a pretty big collection of.

Some interesting facts about Lachlann:

1) He’s a member of Spear of Destiny, which has four members.

2) Spear of Destiny is a member of ZZZ, an alliance “dedicated to offering alt corporations and science related corporations a way to safely work with their blueprints in empire.” According to this thread, ZZZ has more than 500 members (seems hard to believe, but the members tab won’t open in game, so maybe?) and more than 130 mobile laboratories (in at least four systems, helpfully named).

I haven’t had many chances to shoot at Empire research POSs, but it would sure be fun to take some potshots if I have another occasion to try the Chebri / AC-ME / INDY defense. I’d have to recruit some battleship-flying friends, but with targets like those, that won’t be an insurmountable problem. Plus, if they really have that many customers, there will be a wealth of soft war targets flying in and out of the pertinent systems. Stealth Bomber field day! I almost hope it happens.

Frankly I’m surprised a mercenary corp hasn’t already decced ZZZ and locked down their systems until substantial protection money is paid.

I spent much of yesterday visiting with an old and dear friend I’ve known since our college days. I played my first-ever game of Dungeons and Dragons with him, just to give you an idea, and we’ve enjoyed many of the same computer games over the years. He’s a responsible fellow these days, pursuing a respectable literary trade, and he takes care to avoid MMORPGs in the manner (he says) of an alcoholic who avoids taking his first drink of a promising new intoxicant.

So anyway, when he made inquiries about what I’ve been doing lately, the subject of Ironfleet and its recent EVE wars came up. And so I spent much time and enthusiasm (far more than was polite, I’m sure!) telling him all about it.

Today I get an email from him. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sing, muse, of flaring wrath among the stars,
Hot passions in the dark and empty cold
Where vacuum waits with endless appetite
For any scrap that war will toss away.
In Ahynada Vryder’s Iteron died,
Flash-frozen wealth tumbling in stellar winds,
Its alloys scattered, its weapons free
For scavengers who scent the kill
And scan the dust for broken treasure.
Torpedo Ted had won a golden prize,
Had chased it from the Isaziwa belts
To Oiniken in his tiny Kestrel.
Rockets only, ancient rockets, fired
And fired again, as Torpedo Ted
Pursued his giant prey into Ahynada,
Rockets racing through the void, rockets piercing
Into the helpless, silent Iteron,
Which bleeds its oxygen into the night
Until the last triumphant, deadly flare
Seeds the void with blood-stained plunder.
Vryder lived to see the ship explode,
His tumbling pod a tiny hope of life
Against the infinite and empty night,
But he had mocked his enemies too much
And so the rockets came, and all was still.
Why came the Iteron to die
Unsuspecting in Ahynada?
Fleeing war, AC-ME sought to move
Away from Isaziwa, home to battle.
They packed their shining ships with wealth of worlds,
Marvels of design, improved with life after life
Of human genius, microscopic circuits
Wiser than prophets, and alloys stronger
Than ancient steel, and arms Hephaestos
Never saw as he shaped the mirror shield
Of all-conquering Achilles.
Ores too they brought, ready for the shaping
Into yet more marvels, and all they loaded
Into their ships and left for Rairomon,
Leaving Isaziwa a prey for war.
There lurked the patient Iron Fleet,
The shadow ships, that sought unguarded prizes,
Salvaging what others did not think was lost,
Jackal–like, who never challenged lions,
But whom the lions could not chase away.
There was wrathful Chebri, war’s beginner.
Unwitting tyrants are the worst of all,
For they will sacrifice not just themselves
But all around them. In righteous rage,
Believing they defend a universal law
That is nothing more than their own wills,
They bloodily impose their private dreams
Upon the world, and with the best intentions
They crush dissent for the cause of freedom.
The universe may freely give its wealth:
Its ores lie open, free to all who mine
The asteroids, but we are not so free.
Through years of guns and blood we carve out laws
To turn the open ore to private wealth.
But yet the best of human laws are gray.
If labor makes the right of ownership,
Does ore belong to those who carve it free
Or those who ship it home? The Iron Fleet
For years has wrenched a living from the void
Salvaging, and says that space-cold ore is free,
Unbound by mere intent of later claim.
Marlenus knows the letter of the law
And his Iron Fleet brings him wealth
And keeps the space-lanes clear of salvage.
But miners counting cans of wealth-to-be
When their haulers come, until the salvage
Claims their dreams and leaves their labor empty
Curse the Iron Fleet, and Chebri swore
That missiles should mend what law could not,
And AC-ME’s claim to private wealth extracted
From the public space should brook no rival.
There was no place for Iron Fleet in Chebri’s
Dreams, and so she armed for sudden war.
War she wanted, abrupt, bloody and bold,
Crisp combat and quick conquest, but
Space is too deep to force a single battle.
Though AC-ME and INDY besieged the Iron Fleet,
The ships slipped away, cloaked and concealed,
Lurking in the star-lanes silently,
Waiting for the moments the guard went down,
Then striking, turning, vanishing again.
Here Aeternus Kahn killed the Iron Mistress,
There Garrik lost a lonely mining barge,
As patient, silent war lurks in shadows,
Until in Ahynada the rockets rip open
Boastful Vryder’s dying Iteron.
Now come negotiations, and now comes peace,
If peace it is. Anger does not end,
When legal war is allowed to lapse,
The hope of wealth will lure ships back to Isaziwa,
To mine and salvage, to claim what is free.
The ore remains, unbleeding, while all around
The ships will fight and die and come again.
Marlenus and Torpedo Ted have won their names,
Vryder and Aeternus Kahn, and while this war
Is spoken of, the Kestrel’s kill is famous.
But in the cold infinity of space, more war
Will come, more names, more kills, more tumbling ruin.

I’ve seen the whining on the forums ever since Trinity about the general increase in loot sizes, but (what with the wars and all) I haven’t had a chance to do much mission salvage. So, I’d noticed that my cargo holds were filling up faster, but it wasn’t a huge deal for me.

Today I was surveying a system in my survey vessel when my probes showed me a Cormorant above the ecliptic and far from any asteroid belt. That usually means a mission salvager, so I warped in to see what the pickings looked like.

And my crappy internet connection picked that moment to die.

By the time I got back online and finished my warp, I found myself looking at about thirty widely-spread loot cans in open space — pretty clearly the remains of a turned-in mission by somebody who salvaged the wrecks, but left (or cherry-picked) the loot. Some of the loot cans were named to indicate poor quality loot, so I assumed a cherry-picking — but when I sampled the first can, it had named gear for laser-battleships in it, more than would fit in my frigate.

Time to inventory my regional vessels.

No hauler within several hops. No Badger II available in system. But there’s a creaky old Badger in the junkyard around Moon 10, she’s cheaper than the first item of loot I just looked at. She’ll do.

Buy the Badger, any afterburners in system? No, but there’s a frigate microwarpdrive, she can run that thing all day and it will double her speed. Duct tape that bad boy to the stern and let’s go salvaging!

And that’s when the true horror (well, horror for mission runners, it’s really a dream for a hauler-pilot like me) of the size of Level IV mission loot began to sink in. Large lasers, large armor repairers, torp launchers, large armor plates, heavy cap gear, the usual assortment — my gut tells me it would have been two or three trips worth in my well-fitted salvage destroyer pre-Trinity. But I tell you what, I was beginning to fear it wouldn’t all fit in my Badger before I finished cleaning up that canstellation — in fact, I wound up with nearly 4,500 cubic meters worth of loot, out of a single stage of one mission.

Clearly my days of speed-looting in a nimble kestrel are over. And the salvage destroyer concept is getting long in the tooth. Unless CCP finally coughs up a specialized salvage vessel, the humble hauler clearly has a bright future.

So I found myself at loose ends today, and decided it was time to go clean up some of the dangerous jet cans that litter the spaceways. And so it was that I found myself in my Crane, with a cargo hold full of Dense Veldspar, looking at an angry Osprey flashing red at me and attempting to gnaw me to death with three light drones and an occasional light missile.

Pish, tush. “Captain to Gunnery, would you be so kind as to crank up the heavy missile launcher we carry around at great expense for just such an eventuality? Oh, and you might as well warp scramble this boyo, he’ll probably try to leave long before we crack open his carapace and start scraping out the greasy goodness inside.”

And so we began tossing heavy missiles at the guy.

They were having remarkably little effect.

A genuine mining cruiser (which this guy was, I’d counted at least two lasers burning) is usually not very heavily tanked or gunned. This guy? Tanked better than most.

Of course he tried to flee, but my Crane had the speed to control the range, and the cap to maintain the scramble forever.

His shield eeee-ventual-eeeeeey was gone, and so I paused to switch ammo to a more armor-eating flavor. Dang if he didn’t regen enough shield while I did that to make it unbreakable with the new ammo! I had to switch back to EMP, and stay there.

By this point I’m noticing that he’s got a corp tag and an alliance tag. This salvage operation is taking entirely too long, and I’m starting to worry about a passing battle fleet landing on my head. Nothing for it but to stay alert and keep pounding him. Shield regen is enough to make the project slow, but I continue gaining.

Finally he explodes. The killmail makes the problem clear — he’s fitted a Tech II Medium Shield Extender and a small (but best named) shield booster:

2008.01.15 20:22:00

Victim: eracklionne
Alliance: Zenith Affinity
Corp: Pleasure and Pain
Destroyed: Osprey
System: [redacted]
Security: 0.7
Damage Taken: 10224

Involved parties:

Name: Marlenus (laid the final blow)
Security: 1.2
Alliance: NONE
Corp: Ironfleet Towing And Salvage
Ship: Crane
Weapon: Thunderbolt Heavy Missile
Damage Done: 10180

Name: Guristas Arrogator / Guristas
Damage Done: 44

Destroyed items:

XeCl Drilling Beam I
Bloodclaw Light Missile
75mm Gatling Rail I
EP-S Gaussian I Excavation Pulse
Small C5-L Emergency Shield Overload I
‘Dactyl’ Type-E Asteroid Analyzer

Dropped items:

Expanded Cargohold I, Qty: 3
Dense Veldspar, Qty: 4941 (Cargo)
Medium Shield Extender II
Standard Missile Launcher I
1MN Afterburner I

All in all, an unusual mining cruiser fit, especially mounting only two mining lasers and that monster extender.

I’m still a little bit amazed he didn’t get some help in the time it took — do you know how long it takes to deal 10k damage with a single heavy missile launcher? (According to my logs, it was almost eight full minutes the way I did it, which included time for some errors on my part.)

The next part was almost more fun. While I was crawling back to pick up some more ore, he came back in a Raven!

Who mines in a cruiser when they have a Raven to play with?

Well, I saw his Raven and called with my Manticore. It “felt” like he didn’t really have the Raven skills and fittings he needed yet, because in just a few volleys his shields were below half and he chose to leave.

All in all, a fun outing on the salvage grounds.

As you might imagine, aggressive salvaging attracts a fair few war declarations. Most are pure nuisance declarations by the alt of a friend of an unhappy person. Typically these are from small corporations in distant space and we never see a hostile in local. When I don’t know the people and I don’t know the causus belli and nothing ever happens, I don’t always bother even mentioning these on the blog.

I’m only mentioning this one (from a one-man corporation called Empire of Ducky, starring, you guessed it, Ducky) because the timing is a little suspicious, coming right after a pissed-off Chebri retracted her war under pressure from the INDY folk (we all understand I’m speculating based on the best info available to me).

Ducky (actually, Duckeye, but Ducky sounds funnier) sounds like somebody who could be a Friend of Chebri. His corp title is “God”, he carries around a 25,000,000 isk bounty, and his bio says:

Within me there is a destiny; to live a greater existence and become an ultimate power….Free to decide who lives and dies in the world that I will rule as my own, and it will be perfect, a perfect world! I WILL BE JUSTICE!! I WILL BE THE GOD OF THE NEW WORLD, SAVING IT FROM EVIL AND RIDDING IT OF FEAR!! THOSE WHO BETRAY AND STAND AGAINST GOD ARE EVIL AND WILL BE SWIFTLY DEALT WITH!! BOW BEFORE GOD OR BE DESTROYED!!

Sorry, Ducky Dude, but here at Ironfleet we don’t do a lot of bowing. Plus, my locater agent says you haven’t even bothered relocating to my region of space, yet.