It’s the day after the CB and I lost a couple ships and, perhaps predictably, I’m back in an Incursus, capturing a complex in the same system as yesterday.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no war targets in-system, though I’m not entirely alone; there are couple neutral pilots around — unaffiliated with the war, and (in my experience so far) fairly likely to simply ignore pilots out in complexes and carry on with whatever —
A ship warps into the complex, and Aura’s recognition software immediately paints it a bright and flashy red in my overview display, indicating a pirate with a security rating so low they would be attacked immediately in high-security space.
So much for my experience so far.
The pilot is in a Merlin — a frigate that, like my Incursus, has seen a recent overhaul and some very significant improvements in combat functionality — and it’s closing with some very good speed.
Normally, I’d be so damn happy to have a one on one fight on my hands that I’d probably fling my ship straight at the Merlin and forget to lock my guns, but it’s one of those situations where I’m feeling a serious urge to leave a raincheck. I’m in the middle of a Caldari complex, and for whatever reason, the defenders of this particular plex are really stressing my ship’s defenses; sometimes, I wouldn’t care at all about adding another attacker, but the current flights of Caldari missiles are no joke, and I realize I need to disengage.
The pirate doesn’t seem inclined to let that happen.
As I said, she’s moving quite fast — faster than my Incursus, at any rate, even with my afterburner overheating, and on top of that she’s got a “long-point” warp disruptor fitted and can keep me from escaping from as far as twenty-four kilometers away. The good news is I’m able to keep her far enough away that she needs that long-range disruptor — the bad news is she’s firing railguns, and can still hit me from that far away. Rocinante II sports neutron blasters; far more damage, but something like a tenth the effective range of comparable railguns.
Not that the range of my guns really matters, as I’m looking to get out of the fight, not get further in.
Still, as I tear ass away from the center of the complex and out into open space, everything that’s happened so far is actually giving me some good information and a few ideas. Once upon a time, I used to fly with OUCH – The Open University of Celestial Hardship — a training organization focused on new pilots coming into nullsec for the first time. While with them, I flew a lot of Merlins, and while the ship’s gotten an overhaul, a lot of its utility functions remain the same. Railgun-fit Merlins have always been more common than Gallente ships using those guns, and part of the reason is the fact that the Merlin can fit something like an afterburner, a webifier, a warp disruptor or scrambler, and a reasonably decent shield tank, and basically hold enemy ships at arm’s length and plink away at them at a longer range where the enemy ship can’t do nearly as much damage. It’s called kiting.
Sometimes, especially in small ships, you’ll see people using “orbit” and “keep at range” commands to stay in their sweet spot for maximum effectiveness, rather than trying to manually pilot in the small fast ships that often react too quickly to be handled by a pilot in the middle of combat. Usually, this is fine — the ships will sometimes blow their orbit and readjust, but in general they come about so quickly that the readjustment isn’t a serious problem.
Unless they’re flying against another small, fast ship. Then you can try something called a slingshot.
I’ve been practicing slingshots for awhile, because they’re very useful with a short range ship like the Incursus; the basic idea is to haul ass in a straight line (I was already doing that) and force an orbiting pilot into an elliptical rather than circular orbit — once that happens, the autopilot in the other ship will try to readjust when the orbit sweeps too far out, and will turn and fly straight at you to reacquire the correct range.
That’s when you turn around and fly right at them. If the other pilot doesn’t react in time, you’re right on top of them in a few seconds.
Again, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for right now, but it was close.
My guess was that the other pilot was fairly happy with the current situation, but that in an ideal world, she’d be bit closer, and I’d be futilely trying to chase her down, because that’s how kiting works best. Given that, she’s probably set the ship to orbit at what she’d decided was her ideal range, and the ship’s autopilot was doing everything it could to obey.
I watched, waited for the ship to lag out an extra kilometer, watched its relative velocity to mine drop as the ship came around on me…
…and launched my single combat drone.
This wasn’t such a huge offensive move on my part, but my hope was that it would distract the other pilot for a few seconds as they dealt with the change in our relationship. I was delighted to see that the pilot actually switched targets to the drone — probably knowing it was the only one the Incursus could field and that my long-range offensive capability would be entirely gone if it was taken out — if she was watching the drone, she wasn’t watching me.
I flipped my ship a hundred and thirty five degrees, overheated my afterburner (again), and burned back the other direction with the Merlin forty-five degrees to port. If I’d been trying to close with her, I’d have burned straight at her, but I didn’t want that.
I wanted to get just close enough that her autopilot thought I was too close.
Sure enough, just as I was about to pass by the Merlin, I saw the other ship react to our dwindling range by actually turning away from me and burning out.
I turned another forty-five degrees to starboard, putting the Incursus ass-end to the enemy, and watched as our range streeeeeeeeeeeeetched past 15km, 20, 22, 23, 24…
25, 26, 27, and then 3006, 1,015 and gone, as I warped away.
“Whoa,” the pilot said in local. “Nice flying.”
“Thanks!” I replied. “I would have stuck around, but those complex defenders were beating me up. Another time?”
“Sure,” she replied. “I’m honestly kind of surprised you got away. I need to work on this kiting thing.”
I thought back to my encounters the day before. “Let me give you the names of some pilots you can practice on…”