I shrug to myself. I hardly ever fly Caldari ships, unless the Gila counts (it doesn't), so I pull up some fitting schematics Bre had sent me and started reading off the module list.
"Three 125mm rail guns. Damage Control Unit, Magnetic Stabilizer, and Overdrive. All tech 2. Ditto for the afterburner, but we don't need tech2 for the warp scrambler or the web so just see what we've got in the closet."
I scan Bre's notes, which called for a shield extender, but there'd been some new tech released on the market that I wanted to try out. "Drop one of those new Medium Ancillary Shield Boosters on there too, and re-rig the shields for stronger resists to any damage type where it looks like I've got holes."
I watch the assembly drones do their work in my hangar, and like what I see. The Merlin isn't the fastest frigate out there, but the afterburner would push me close to nine hundred sixty meters per second if I treated it nice, and well over a klick per sec if I used the spurs a bit. The rails didn't hit that hard, but if I followed Bre's "instructions for not going boom as much", I'd be sitting pretty far outside any comparable enemy ship's ability to return fire, while still keeping it pinned and whittling it down.
"Ship assembled, Pilot."
"Register it with flight control as Radagast, and let's go."
I wave my hands. "Somewhere in the Bleak Lands. I don't much care." I'm tired of trying to fight pilots while Caldari troops throw missiles at me. If I could stay moving, Amarr troops assigned to complex defense would miss. A lot.
Thanks to the placement of our home base of operations, I'm in the warzone quickly (we're roughly equidistant from either), and start poking around a bit, until I find system with no complexes open and an Amarr war target in the local channel. No stations, only one star gate. I scan for and warp to the minor Amarr complex, which should restrict complex access to tech1 frigates like my Merlin, destroyers, and faction frigates -- just the thing to filter a fight.
I still haven't entered the complex, because I can see the other pilot on a 'short' d-scan (limited to a three hundred sixty degree scan with a range of 21 million km), but he's not dropping on the acceleration gate, and he's not already inside the complex. In short, I can't get him to engage, which probably means he wants me to enter the complex and get a bunch of Amarr goons shooting at me first. I understand: this is New Eden, where 'fair' means 'I have an advantage.'
"Whatever," I mutter under my breath and activate the gate that will send me into the complex. I'll take on the Amarr defenses if it gets me a decent fight.
Time passes, during which I largely ignore the Amarr ships who can't hit me and destroy the few that can. Sure enough, the enemy builds up to about twenty-five ships and here comes the other pilot, flying an Incursus, which is the main ship I've been flying in the Faction War, until today -- I feel like I have a very good idea what it's going to be able to do. It's scary, but it's usually short range, and I like this fight for me.
The other pilot likes it too, I guess, probably because my Merlin looks like a disco ball right now with all the Amarr lasers flying around me.
I let him get in to about 15 and try to keep him at about 8km, but I'm a bit faster than he is, so I'm getting away and out of range of my warp scrambler. I've been manually piloting up to this point, but right now it's just making things harder for no benefit, so I simplify.
"Aura, hold the ship at a range of 6.5 kilometers."
"Confirmed, 6.5 kilometers."
The merlin swings around, I drop the web and scram onto the other ship once I slide back into range, and go to work. The railguns aren't hitting too hard, but he really can't do much to me at this range, except for his drone, which I ignore -- it's doing a little damage, and the Amarr are hitting me a little because I'm matching his speed instead of maintaining my best transversals, but the Ancillary Shield Booster is easily keeping my shields up -- I just hope the fight's over before the thing runs out of charges.
"Guns are ready for overheat," Aura reminds me.
"Leave em for a bit," I murmur, watching readouts and keeping an eye on the Local channel to see if my opponent will get more back up. I've flown the Incursus a lot, so I know pretty much how it works. His shields are gone in no time, but the Incursus is usually an armor-tanked ship, often relying on energy-hungry repair modules. I dent his ship a bit, watch him rep, and keep the pressure on so he's got to use his capacitor booster to keep the lights on. Eventually -- sooner rather than later, he'll need to reload that booster, his repair cycles will lag a bit and --
"There! Overheat!" The rate of fire on the railguns increases dramatically as their barrels start to glow. Diagnotics tell me I've punched through the armor into the hull structure in a couple places by the time his reps get back online.
One more cap charger reload like that, and he's done.
Our speed is all over the place now; he's starting to think that maybe he wants to get out, but with the web on him and my greater speed even at the best of times, all he's doing is flailing. The only problem is, keeping range during his flailing means I'm taking more laser fire and my shield booster is working harder -- he's not the only one getting low on charges.
I don't see the signs of his charge reload yet, but I can feel it coming, so I keep the guns overloaded, push him as hard as I can...
And it's over. First solo kill. Ever.
"Bringing ship to full stop."
I blink. "What?"
"Target ship no longer on scan. No target from which to maintain requested range. Stopping engines."
"Wha- NO!" I flip the ship back into motion, hauling it into alignment with a celestial in the system -- I don't even care which one, so long as it isn't anywhere near the place where Aura has basically parked my ship in front of (now thirty) angry Amarr ships. "Align to warp!" The klaxon warning of imminent shield failure whoops behind me. "And overheat that damned shield booster!"
"That module is out of chargers. Reload?"
"HELL no!" The ASB's an outstanding defensive module, but the one-minute reload time for the charges would be the end of the ship. "Run it off our primary capacitors." The drain would be unsustainable, but it should last long enough to get us out of trouble.
It did. Barely.
By the time the Merlin gets into warp, the Capacitor is dry as a bone, and the ship had taken severe armor and structure damage -- embarrassing, since the pilot in the 'real' fight hadn't even managed to get through my shields.
Still... alive is good.
Alive is really, really good.
Boring fight for anyone else, I'm sure, but I was really really happy with it -- the ship did exactly what I was hoping, I didn't screw anything up too badly, didn't forget too many things in the middle of the fight (could have overheated the guns sooner, and forgot to overheat the ASB at all until the end), and got my first 1v1 kill. Achievement unlocked, and all that. Fine way to start the day.