Header image by Major Sniper.
Fights take place on many different scales in EVE Online. This article is not about a huge Time-Dilation fight over an IHUB or Citadel in sovereign nullsec space, but is about a small fight in the system of VSIG in Syndicate on the morning of September 6, resulting in the defender losing a Rorqual and a Thanatos. While the losses in this skirmish are dwarfed by large fights that many people hear about in EVE Online, the intensity of this fight, on a different level, was as rewarding as any of those fights. The reward was the same one an old hunter would feel as he returned to his home with the carcass of his prey slung over his shoulder: the feeling of a job well done, of knowing his patience and determination to achieve a kill had paid off. While written from my point of view, I want to acknowledge that I give full credit to everyone involved in this skirmish, for I could not have achieved this kill without aid.
The Hunt Begins
My story, or at least the parts relevant to this story, begins around the region of Syndicate. With my alliance, Iron Armada (FLEEP) deciding to deploy close to the region, I decided to make myself useful. When there were no scheduled alliance operations, I busied myself with hunting the inhabitants of the region and making a menace of myself. While many of my kills were small, with most valued around the 100m ISK mark, occasionally I found myself a high-value target, an Orca, or a PVE Sin. Yet, one target eluded me and it embittered me.
While hunting around Syndicate, I kept stumbling on a Rorqual pilot, who, shielded by a Thanatos, countered my preference of hunting in cheap, disposable ships. He escaped me by 5 seconds the first time my hunter landed on him, although I knew I wouldn’t have been able to kill both his Rorqual and the Thanatos in any sort of solo style drop. He also liked to mine in a very large, hard-to-scan system in Outer Ring. My second time successfully finding the Rorqual, I dc’d, leaving my cyno ship to die, killed by the target’s Thanatos. As you can imagine, these close calls drove my desire to kill my prey.
At this point I decided I would watch my prey from a distance, find his tactics, and decide upon my best strategy to kill him as I established more and more behavioral patterns. Then, something interesting happened. Late one night as I was roaming through Syndicate in a solo Typhoon, I came across two Vengeance pilots who wanted me to stir up the locals so that they could grab some kills on any potential light ships that tried to attack me. I struck a deal with the Vengeances, but due to some poor decisions, my Typhoon died to a V.e.G.A (VEGA) Fortizar. We continued our roam together. The Vengeance pilots, belonging to a corporation called Malfunctioning Misfit’s (M.MS), reshipped into Brutix Navy Issues and we eventually killed a Machariel and that got conversation flowing as we celebrated the kill.
During the roam, I expressed to one of the pilots, Ria Melca, my interests in the Rorqual and how vulnerable he was. After assessing a previous Rorqual loss by the same pilot and the associated battle report, I knew the target only had the possible escalation path of 1 or 2 Dreadnaughts. Ria told me that the Rorqual might mine with his alt in local, so we decided to check it out. The following day, Ria, now enthused by my assurances that this was a target we could kill easily if we did it the right way, sat cloaked around the Rorqual as he mined. It was late at night; though we watched the Rorqual, and tried to reach out to friends to come and help kill it, neither of us received any reply. However, the critical piece of our plan had been found, the chink in the Rorqual pilot’s armor: he trusted one of us and this would be his downfall. We knew the kill would come; we just didn’t know when, so we agreed we would allow him to keep mining while we watched him and bided our time.
The Moment To Strike
The next day, I woke up late and as I rolled out of bed, I checked my Discord messages and I saw a simple message:
I quickly rose and got to my PC, turning it on while wiping the tiredness from my eyes. Ironically, as I logged on, I heard Ria discuss that the Rorqual pilot had traded him a Cyno and 500 Liquid Ozone. Today felt like the day. Wisely, I’d pre-staged my ships in a position where I could respond to this notification easily. We had discussed our plan in detail before, obsessing over the slightest details; now, we had to put our plan into practice. I like to be aware of every piece in motion, and while I trusted Ria and his friends, I was also aware that there was another possibility here. It was possible that I was being hunted and that my new friends were actually using the Rorqual as bait to kill me. At this moment, logged in and in fleet, I had to make a decision: should I place blind trust in people I had worked with only once before, or should I not. Like many people, I assumed my friends would rather kill a Rorqual and a Thanatos instead of just one Thanatos. As I was analyzing all this in my head, before we made our move, the Rorqual de-cycled his Industrial Core and warped away. Had we missed the target?
To make matters worse, at this stage the power in my house decided to go out. Thank god I have a laptop and a cell phone I could use as a hotspot. Unfortunately, neither of these were fully charged and were almost dead. M.MS could provide the cyno and the Dreadnaughts needed to kill our targets, but my Thanatos was meant to be the heavy tackle that could keep the Rorqual pinned down until our Dreadnaughts had killed the target’s carrier. We needed me to make the drop happen, but I was on a limited schedule. I shut my laptop and waited till the last moment to turn it back on and log back in. The enemy Rorqual warped back to his belt and entered his core cycle again. It was go time.
I booted up everything and logged back in, which for some absurd reason took 5 minutes. Everything hinged on the next few minutes, as the Rorqual had green cycled his Core for a second cycle. If we were going to attack, it had to be now.
I logged back into the game and undocked. As the tackle landed and the cyno went up, I jumped and the Dreadnaughts jumped. This was the moment. Was I going to die, or would we kill the Rorqual? Our cyno was on the enemy’s Thanatos and the Rorqual was 170 km away. I initiated warp on my Thanatos as he placed a Mobile Depot to store his mining drones. Time was of the utmost importance. The Dreadnaughts entered siege and began to fire away at the enemy Thanatos as my carrier still hadn’t entered warp. I placed sirens on the Rorqual to keep him tackled until I landed on him, but his depot was still anchoring.
Luckily, an M. MS Hurricane, belonging to a new recruit, landed on the Rorqual and at 4 seconds, as my Thanatos entered warp, the Hurricane killed the Mobile Depot. We all celebrated. Our killmail was going to be worth so much more now. I landed on the Rorqual and made sure I had it hard pointed, checking my laptop’s power levels. I was sitting at 5% battery: 4 minutes of power left. We were going to be cutting it close.
As the enemy Thanatos died, the Dreadnaughts left siege and initiated their warp down to the Rorqual. I checked again: 2 minutes of power. I began to align out, knowing if I dc’d on grid, I would be stuck in space until my PvP timer ended. No one wants to suffer that fate. Our Moros landed and established a scram on the Rorqual and I warped off. My work was done. Now, the fate of the Rorqual was out of my hands, another thing I don’t like. As I docked, my laptop died. I was now fated to listen to the fight on Discord and hope things went our way. As the Dreadnaughts sieged again, the Rorqual began to melt under the pressure, unable to sustain itself against the incoming damage. Eventually it died and the clean up began. Satisfied with the kill, the operation completed, my phone chose this moment to also run out of battery. I smiled to myself at a job well done. The battle report can be found here.
When my power was finally restored, we debriefed and divided the loot between us all. Our plan could not have gone any better, including our analysis of our target’s behaviour, with patterns that were predictable. I have said it time and time again and I will repeat it here: the moment you become predictable, you become an NPC and you will die. This kill would not have been possible without a rare thing in EVE Online, mutual trust, between Ria Melca and me, two complete strangers who had never really worked together before. This trust, and drive to succeed, allowed us to put the pieces into play that enabled the kill. While I will claim credit for the idea, and spotting the target, it was Ria who helped with the groundwork in establishing our target’s patterns and confirming our suspicions. If anyone wants to take a lesson from this article, it is this: never become predictable, and if you are hunting, look for those patterns and your kills will follow.