The Forge Region – Anttanen Constellation
Uitra System – Planet VI, Moon 4
State War Academy Station
17 March YC 121
The meeting with Tarumo was disappointing; they still didn’t have any solid intel on Tahamar’s whereabouts. Once again, I was forced to wait.
My ennui didn’t last long though, as a day later I received a nice surprise by email. Remember I talked about Reyg Xander and his award-winning story Warp. Pod. Repeat.? After reading the piece I got excited and sent Reyg a message in which I congratulated him on winning the prize and asked if he could answer a few questions about his experience. The most I hoped for was an email exchange but, unexpectedly, Reyg suggested to meet me in person. Moreover, he had kindly agreed to contribute his story to this blog as a guest author. I was absolutely delighted and invited him to visit me at the place of my current residence.
The meeting was arranged at The Abyss bar which provided the best view in the station. I came well before the appointed time and was incessantly checking the list of capsuleers in Neocom. After what seemed like an eternity Reyg’s name finally appeared in the local channel. I looked in the direction of Unpas gate and soon spotted an Algos coming out of warp and approaching the station. I could bet 100 to 1 it was Reyg, as Gallente destroyers were a rare sight in a Caldari rookie system. Ten minutes later Reyg appeared at the doorway and looked around, his eyes adjusting to the subdued lighting of the lounge; seeing my handwave, he nodded and walked toward me.
“Hi Vlad. Nice to meet you,” said he shaking my hand.
“Nice to meet you too, Reyg. Thanks for accepting my invitation,” replied I, and then added apologetically, “You know, I have only now realised that Caldari War Academy is probably not the best place for a Gallente pilot to visit, what with that unending war between our empires.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” said Reyg reassuringly, “I understand this is a capsuleer-only establishment, and we, pod pilots, are a cosmopolitan bunch.”
I felt relieved, “That’s true, baseliners are not allowed here. So, how about a drink? I am a host so I am shouting.”
“Good idea. Otherwise, what’s the point of meeting at a bar?” smiled Reyg.
I went to the bar and got whiskey and Quafe for Reyg and Hybrid Charge cocktail for myself. The cocktail was a bit strong for that time of the day but I felt I needed something to calm my nerves. The truth is, I was bursting with excitement – after all it was the first time I was meeting a real fighter pilot.
Having returned to the table I raised a toast to Reyg’s win in Pod and Planet Contest. We said “Cheers!” and sipped our drinks.
“To be honest, I hadn’t expected to win a place or anything,” said Reyg, “but I reckoned based on the relatively few stories about space combat, I’d have a shot. When I learned I’d won something I was fairly surprised considering it was my first time writing fiction.”
“Really? First time and got a prize? Unbelievable,” I shook my head in amazement. “I thought one had to be an accomplished writer to compete at that level. So how did you decide to enter the contest?”
“I’d seen the writing competition pop up on one of Galnet forums and read a number of the previous winning entries, noting that many of the stories were similar to the Eve chronicles – character-focused and tended not to involve ship fights. Then, I sat back for a bit and thought about what a good tale would be to tell. You know that sci-fi film where an office rat becomes a soldier and finds that every time he dies he returns back in time remembering all his experience and gets better at fighting with every death? Can’t remember the title.”
I nodded, “I know what you mean but can’t remember the name either. It’s a pretty old one.”
“Yeah, it was shot at pre-capsuleer times and depicts a grunt’s experience. I figured I could take that idea and apply it to space combat with the small amount of solo fighting I’d done. Then I had do go out and get a bunch more experience…”
“That’s a pretty brutal way to research a topic for a writing contest,” laughed I. “How long did it take?”
Reyg gave me an answer but asked me to publish it only after the story as it contained some spoilers.
“Do you plan a sequel?” asked I.
“Maybe. After succeeding this time, I am considering what might make for an interesting follow-up, there’re plenty of options: different ship types, maybe small gang, different locations…”
I then remembered how Aura and I argued whether solo fighting could be called a sport. I believed it was a sport because it had a spirit of competition, but Aura had a point – there were no spectators and no sponsors who would pay a pilot indecent amount of money for painting their logos on the armour. So my next question was about the economic side of that pastime.
“How much does it cost to have such fun? Or do you actually make money off it?”
Reyg waved his hand dismissively, “The Algos fit costs all-up around 12 million kredits, so it’s dirt cheap to fly, and often cheaper than the other pilots that I engaged. I made the most money from the writing prize, but looting your opponents’ wrecks or finding abandoned ones can cover the already low cost.”
“You are probably the only pilot in New Eden who managed to cover the losses by writing after-action reports,” guffawed I. “By the way, why Algos?”
“I’d noticed that most solo fighting in low-sec is done in frigates of some sort, or destroyers, and wanted to have a wide engagement profile. My drone and hybrid skills when I started were the best, and the Algos is cheap to fit, where you can use meta modules along with T2 drones and still have enough damage output and defence on top of an oversized afterburner.”
“Algos looks like a natural choice for a Gallente pilot but did you fly any other ships for solo fights?”
“For solo it’s mostly been the Algos, but I must confess that my favourite ‘solo’ kill was with a Confessor,” said Reyg and added with a smile, “No pun intended.”
“Confessor? That’s an Amarrian tactical destroyer.”
“Yep, I can fly those too,” his eyes lit up as he recollected the encounter. “So I was living in a C13 wormhole and flew around in an Astero. One day this Probe shows up and starts going through a relic site. I warp the Astero over to have a look and this Minmatar guy’s just swimming about, hacking cans. Astero’s fit is no good for a solo fight, so I’d need a Confessor. But then I can’t warp directly to him with the Confessor, and combat probing would alert him, so I save a rock that’s on the far side of the next can relative to my safe spot as a bookmark.”
Reyg moved glasses on the table to indicate the disposition and continued, “Moving my pod from the Astero to the Confessor (conveniently out of d-scan range), I hastily warp at 10-km range from the rock and swap to offence mode. I land within laser range of this wayward explorer, targeting his ship near-instantly and, with the help of Wolf-Rayet effects, melt his rust into loot with two volleys. Poor guy didn’t even know what hit him!” he finished triumphantly.
“‘Melting rust into loot’ – that’s a good one,” chuckled I, although, planning to become an explorer myself, I had mixed feelings about this story. Then I remembered something from Reyg’s profile.
“Talking about explorers, you’ve spent almost a year in Signal Cartel – a notoriously peaceful corporation dedicated to exploration. Was it before or after you became a solo fighter, and how come you made such a U-turn?”
Reyg smiled and got a faraway look in his eyes, “Signal Cartel was before I took up solo fighting, when I was space-poor and spent my time evading interceptors and gate-camps in null-sec while I scavenged for relic sites. Eventually I decided I wanted to experience more variety in what New Eden had to offer.”
“Ah, so that’s when you moved to low-sec. I understand that those low-sec contested systems that you mentioned in your story are a favourite spot for capsuleers looking for one-on-one engagements, just for fun. At the same time there are faction militias which fight each other to gain control of those systems. Have you had any encounters with them?”
“Hmm… Can’t say for sure. If you give me a minute, I can check the logs.”
“No problems, take your time. I will order another round while you are checking. Same for you?” asked I.
Reyg nodded and pored over the records on his datapad.
When I came back with drinks he looked up and said, “It seems a number of fights were with faction militia pilots. The Hecate, for instance, was ironically,” he looked around roguishly and lowered his voice, “a Caldari State pilot. Since the complexes are used by both militias and unaligned pilots, seeing faction pilots is a common occurrence. Often a lot of the militia pilots are grinding missions so will warp off as soon as you land.”
We raised our glasses and toasted to success of our faction militias which was a cheeky one, given the state of affairs between our empires.
Encouraged by alcohol, I made so bold as to share my secret aspiration, “Look Reyg, I got really excited about solo fighting after reading your story, and although Aura objects, I think I might take it up myself in future.”
Reyg raised his brow, “Aura?”
“Erm…” I mumbled embarrassedly. “It’s a long story, just ignore it. Anyway, I wonder if you could offer any advice to a rookie solo fighter.”
“Sure. There’s a lot of action around Tama due to its proximity to Jita, the surrounding systems (I usually take a non-Tama path to get to) tend to have more solo combat-focused pilots warping about. Alternatively, the Minmatar low-sec regions seem to have pilots that want to engage everything with anything. As for actual combat tips, every time I won or lost I’d figure out why that happened, and what I could do better. Pilots often get the shakes when starting fighting other capsuleers so focusing on improving one or two aspects of a fight each time helps reduce the initial mental load.”
“Cool, thanks for that. Not sure when I gather enough courage and, for that matter, kredits to get into solo fighting but, who knows,” I winked, “maybe we will meet sometime in one of those low-sec plexes and you can teach me a practical lesson. I hope you plan to continue your solo combat career?”
“Oh yes, I do have plans. For example, I’ve been toying with a dirt-cheap Rokh fit with meta guns that’s about 30-40 million after insurance to take on (extra) small gangs and slightly larger targets with though. Unfortunately,” sighed Reyg, “I have some planetside operations which require my close attention, so I am not flying as much as I want to these days.” He looked at his watch, “And those operations now demand my presence at a different location.”
Reyg finished his drink and stood up indicating that the meeting was over. I warmly thanked him for the opportunity to meet him, we shook hands and parted our ways wishing each other to fly safe.