Note: The events I'll be covering in the next few blog posts are written from the point of view of the pilots involved, at the point in time when the events took place. As will become evident, there was a definite and profound "fog of war" in effect that left us making best guesses that sometimes turned out to be right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes... well, sometimes it was just a red herring just didn't end up mattering that much.
Some folks might feel compelled to leave a "LOL I can't believe you thought/did that" post, but the fact is when you're in the middle of an event, you can't easily look at all sides -- you make your best guess, and you make a move -- even a bad move is better than no move at all. Some of what we believed at the time turned out to be wrong or incomplete, but in most cases our actions (though they might have come from false assumptions) turned out to be the right moves at that time.
"Dude, we need to talk about Dolby," Em says as he and Shan pull me into a private voice channel. "Did you hear about the thing yesterday?"
"Yesterday?" I frown. "He said he lost a couple ships. I guess he's been using the high-sec and low-sec connections and going out and mining or something when no one else is on with him."
"And since he never logs off..."
"So..." Shan's voice is quieter, but I've found it's worth shutting up and listening to him. "Apparently, after he lost his second ship yesterday, he ragequit, uninstalled EvE, and broke his keyboard."
"Then he took a nap," Shan continues. "And when he woke back up, he got a new keyboard and started reinstalling EvE, so he could self-destruct all the ships he still had left."
There is a long silence.
Have you ever actually felt like you were a rage comic?
I try again.
"How did you..."
"He told us," Em says, "on voice comms. I don't know how much is BS, but --"
"Well, there's only two possibilities," I say. "One: he's telling the truth, and he's an incredibly unstable person. Or Two: he's lying, and he's a drama queen. Either way..."
"Either way, he needs to go," Em finishes the thought for me. Wormholes are a lot of things, but what they aren't is forgiving. Like fox holes, you need to be able to trust the guys next to you, and if you can't, one or the other of you needs to go.
"Yup. Let's talk to Cabbage."
Cab isn't on at this point, due to timezone differences, but Pax -- a director in the same corp -- is, and we get his take on things, which unsurprisingly meshes up pretty well with ours. Plus, he's able to verify that none of Dolby's ships are missing (aside from the ones he'd already lost), so we know at least some of his story is hogwash. The discussion goes on for a bit, eating up most of the time I'd expected to spend online that evening. I hate drama like this in any kind of MMO, and when it comes up, I tend to attack it with a flamethrower. As far as I'm concerned, a chunk of wasted time one day is better than hours and hours of wasted time spread out over months.
Pax logs out for the day, and Em and I continue the conversation, trying to backtrack through everything that happened, which allows us to put together a bigger picture of the "Dolby situation." -- a picture that keeps getting uglier.
"Apparently, he wasn't just mining out in highsec," I report to Em, after a brief email conversation with a corp mate. "He didn't want to leave the ore in jettisoned canisters, so every time his cargohold was full, he would carry it back into the wormhole to leave at Cab's tower, which --"
"Yeah. I know." I check the time. "Are you in the system?"
"Jita," he replies. "Trying to wrap up some market stuff from a few weeks ago. Need me to come back?"
"Nah." I check things over from the vantage point of my cloaked scout ship, sitting at a safe spot in the system. "Everyone else is asleep, so I'm heading out. We can deal with this tomorrow. Let me know if you see Cabbage."
"Talk to you later."
I've just closed down the game and the voice chat when another thought occurs to me.
Where did he lose those ships?
One of the (I believe) unique features of EvE as an MMO is that it captures any PvP-related kills and funnels them to the game's API, which allows websites to pull that information and display it in easier-to-read formats. Certainly, there's a quite a bit of violence in the game's early history that predates this API, but for most pilots it means that every loss and victory they've ever experienced in PvP in EvE is saved and available for review. I pull up one of the most commonly used public "Killboards" and type in Dolby's name, then flip to the "Losses" tab.
I reopen voice comms as soon as I start reading, and find Em still in the channel.
"Is it later already?"
"He lost the last two ships inside our system," I say, still scrolling through the information and scouring the page. "Each one was a solo kill."
"Same guy both times?"
"Nnnno." I check time stamps. "Six hours apart, different pilots. Looks like they were both flying covert-fit tech 3 cruisers; a Tengu and then a Loki." The icons next to the portraits of Dolby's attackers catches my eye, and my stomach sinks. "They were both from the same corp, though."
"That," says Em. "Is not good. How..." I can almost hear him shake his head. "How does he not tell people stuff like that?"
Out of habit, I log back into EvE, although there's nothing I'm currently doing that requires I be online; EvE's metagame is rich and potentially dangerous, but doesn't often require the participants be sitting in a ship. Once logged in, I basically ignore the game screen and turn my attention back to research.
"Maybe they're just from yesterday's neighboring wormhole." While it isn't a comfort to know that there were enemy pilots in the system, it's a "typical" kind of danger, and one that 95 times out of a hundred will disappear when the connecting wormhole dies. If these pilots weren't just opportunistic hunters from a neighboring system, however, things might be --
I frown at the killboard. "Why do I recognize that alliance name?"
"The guys that killed Dolby. I recognize their alliance name." I turn back to the game screen for a second, where my Cheetah covert ops floats in open space, and open my evemail to scan through recent messages. "Oh. Shit."
"Who is it?"
"It's..." I rub at my face, unconsciously leaving my hand in a perfect "facepalm" position. "It's one of the alliances that was involved in that system assault last weekend." I lean back in my chair. "The guys everyone was told to watch out for, because they'd be looking for one of our systems."
"And they followed our drama queen miner back into --" Em cuts himself off. "Shit."
"Yeah." I flip through the killmails again, looking for more information.
"You think they're still in the hole?" Em snorts. "What am I saying -- of course they are."
It's like they could hear him.
Explosions burst from my system's speakers.
My attention is -- finally, and far too late -- brought back to my game screen, where a Tengu strategic cruiser -- the same one that attacked Dolby the day before -- has just dropped out of warp directly on top of me and opened fire. For a moment, I'm simply too surprised to act, and my attempts to burn away from my larger, slower attacker are thwarted by his scrambler, which offlines the Cheetah's microwarpdrive, giving him more than enough time to take apart the fragile covert ops ship. It's over in seconds, and I'm able to warp clear in my escape pod and get back to the relative safety of our tower.
I'd been so distracted by the information in the killboard I forgot to activate my cloak when I logged back into the game, and have been floating, completely exposed, in open space. It was far too easy a target to pass up -- I know I wouldn't have. Such a stupid mistake.
"They're still in here," I tell Em, my voice curt as I update the Message of the Day in our systems comm channel with a warning and instructions for our pilots. "Looks like you're going to have to come back after all."
"Yep," Em replies. "But I need the name of the system we're connected to."
I look out of the tower shields, and the stars all look like eyes, watching for my next move.
"Give me five minutes."