Tales of null-sec are often heard from the safety of high security space. Long have we Freebooters been content to hear from afar the stories of epic fleet clashes, hot-drops and anomalies made of pure ISK. But no longer.
Here begins a grand experiment to see if a motley collection of rookie pilots, missioneers and - most importantly - relatively casual players, can cut it in the unforgiving depths of null-sec; a place where CONCORD has no hold and every pilot in local can ruin your day.
Planning the Exodus
Having been accepted into Split Infinity alliance, we had to figure out what we needed to take with us and how we were going to get it there. In fact, even before that we had to come up with a way of getting ourselves there without getting reduced to tiny carebear pieces.
Also worthy of consideration was the readiness of our pilots. Teh Smit and myself were long enough in the tooth to be prepared for the undertaking, but Lozyjoe and Caveat had only been playing for a few months and this was likely to be quite an upheaval for them. Freebooter old-timers Long Jack and Karpov have seemingly disappeared into the ether, so we couldn't factor them in.
We needed a plan, after all as ex-Royal Marine Commando Karpov likes to say, "don't forget the Law of the Seven 'Ps'*". Eventually we came up with a four-stage strategy to ease us into our new lives. I affectionately called it Operation Adama.
It went something like this:
Phase One: Beach Head
Our initial objective was to get some kind of presence in the alliance home station system of KW-OAM. With a thirty-one jump hellride through the null-sec regions of Curse, Catch and Tenerifis ahead of us, we needed to exercise extreme caution. As our application had just been accepted, we would at least be 'blue' to the residents of the last few systems, but it was still a high-risk journey.
Teh Smit and myself were the only T3 strategic cruiser pilots amongst our number, so we headed out, taking comfort in our ability to cloak and warp unfettered through interdictor bubbles. In spite of this, I was still paranoid enough to fit a warp core stabiliser and an emergency ECM to my Tengu, just in case. Teh Smit opted for a massive armour tank on his Legion and as such had the agility of a brick. Over the course of the journey, this resulted in me creeping ahead, so I unwittingly became his scout.
Surprisingly, it was a fairly eventless journey, punctuated by some vague attention from a lone Stealth Bomber for a couple of jumps, but he soon lost interest. As we made our way through the last few systems, we idly speculated that the occasional pilots seen in local were essentially farmers and we were flying through the blackest of rolling countryside and verdant anomalies.
We arrived in 'Kaydub' without incident and were able to make first contact with our new alliance compatriots. They were welcoming.
PHASE ONE OBJECTIVE: COMPLETE
Phase Two: Reinforcements
Loz and Cav had only been playing EVE for a few months and had settled into a high-sec missioning and manufacturing 'carebear' routine. They were understandably a little edgy about stepping outside their Empire safety bubble. The main priority for them was to obtain some jump clones so they would be able to retreat back to high-sec as they needed.
After learning Infomorph Psychology, they were able to apply to briefly join Estel Arador Corp Services to acquire the jump clones. This is a fantastic corporation that exists solely for the purpose of allowing newer players to get jump clones without having to spend weeks grinding through missions. With their jump clones purchased, Loz and Cav returned to Greenbeard's Freebooters with the new-found ability to leap from one side of the galaxy to the other once every 24 hours.
Then they mustered for the journey; surprisingly Karpov put in an appearance to join Kasmira Dufay, Loz and Cav, all of whom were in T1 frigates fitted for escape and evasion. Their journey was to be much shorter than the first foray, as they'd be using the Against All Authorities (-A-) jump-bridge network that we'd since learned of.
They plunged into HED-GP, a notorious null-sec system adjacent to high-sec, and successfully warped to the POS that was host to the first of the jump portal arrays. Unfortunately, they found it to be camped by a Red Overlord interceptor, who wasted no time locking and opening fire. The Freebooters were forced to dive inside the POS shield for cover, with the jump portal array frustratingly beyond reach 40km outside the shield.
I'd optimistically been hoping they would enjoy an eventless journey, but at least they were getting a relatively gentle taste of null-sec. After a quick enquiry in alliance chat, it transpired that the Red Overlord pilot was 'sort of' on the same side as Split Infinity, at least insofar as both organisations were fighting under the -A- flag against White Noise. However, the Split Infinity and Red Overlord alliances were neutral to each other, so aside from -A- led operations aggression should be expected. Despite this, there is apparently a 'gentleman's agreement' in place to not aggress at jump-bridge sites. Clearly this Red Overlord pilot was no gentleman.
So one jump into their new lives and they were already up to their armpits in a diplomatic incident, pinned down and under fire. The Red Overlord interceptor orbited the jump portal array menacingly. Kasmira Dufay poked her Rifter out beyond the shield and and the interceptor reacted, engaging immediately. Bravely, Kasmira fired back and suddenly it started to look like the interceptor wasn't so menacing. The interceptor clearly agreed and bugged out. Our intrepid rookies took advantage and made a bolt for the jump-bridge, thankfully getting away clean.
The remainder of their journey was quiet (albeit unnecessarily slow due to Cav's failure to fit any kind of propulsion booster) and they hopped along the jump-bridge network without further trouble, arriving safely in Kaydub.
PHASE TWO OBJECTIVE: COMPLETE
Phase Three: Exploration and Integration
This brings us more-or-less up-to-date. Although we've not had much opportunity to find our feet and learn what is out here to explore in Tenerifis yet, we have already taken on a few anomalies and found them to be as lucrative as level four missions (aside from the lack of loyalty points accrued). There's certainly more than enough PvE content to challenge the rookies.
Amusingly, our resident rock-worrier, Lozyjoe, was sent into a joyous delirium when she saw the mining opportunities, fervently referring to her scrapbook of geek notes.
During our short time in residence, some of us have already attended a condensed version of a basic PvP lesson, hosted by one of the alliance's leading Fleet Commanders. I have also had the opportunity to get in on a small gang roam that was quite successful. I have been impressed by the knowledge and the experience of many of the current alliance pilots, I hope that we can find a way to contribute to their combat efforts.
Gaining an understanding of the gameplay differences in null-sec is going to take a little time, but the theory is that as part of a community, corp members will be able to join in with the more challenging events as part of a larger force.
To this end, encouraging corp members to make use of the alliance communication network is key, with access to knowledgeable and friendly players on voice-comms and a wealth of shared information on the forums. Already it's clear that being part of a null-sec alliance is a far more interactive experience than the oddly isolating gameplay of high-sec.
I just need to stop the rookies from jump-cloning back into high-sec the moment I log off.
PHASE THREE OBJECTIVE: ONGOING
Phase Four: Consolidation and Profit
In order to get comfortable operating on a day-to-day basis out in null-sec, it is important that we find some kind of revenue stream. At the very least we need to be able to cover our costs, contribute to the alliance community and ideally to be able to expand our interests and make a profit. Most importantly though, it needs to be fun. So to give us the best possible platform for entertainment and success, I decided to invest a significant portion of our corporation funds in a POS with some manufacturing and refining capabilities.
Before his departure from New Eden, Greenbeard had steadily built up a reasonable collection of blueprints that have been gathering dust in various bolt-holes around the cluster. Finally, they could be put to use again. Combining Lozyjoe's fondness of industry and the making use of these forgotten corporation resources would surely be a recipe for success. All I needed to do was make it happen.
I've had some experience with POS management in the past, but I'm by no means an expert. However, with some sage advice from alliance members and some tinkering in EVEHQ and EFT, I came up with a shopping list of POS modules, ships and other resources that would kick-start our null-sec enterprise. Now just to get it there.
A friendly alliance industrialist with access to a host of big ships offered to help out and we arranged a high-sec meet-up to transfer the goods. Unfortunately, I didn't get time to gather Greenbeard's 'treasure' in time for his departure. No matter, I'd got the hang of these runs through hostile space and was confident I could safely make the journey. It would be useful to get my Sisters fitted Covert Ops ship down there anyway and it didn't make sense to put all our eggs in one basket, did it?
Sadly, it turns out that this approach was more of a case of putting some eggs in the basket, whilst hurling the remaining ones at a wall, as this killmail proves.
We've now got a nicely set-up corp POS in Kaydub, but starting manufacture may be a little tricky. I'm just glad Greenbeard wasn't around to witness this.
Now we really are back to being a rookie corp.
PHASE FOUR OBJECTIVE: Erm...
*Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance