We met in the third belt, in a jagged strip of dense veldspar. As rocks drifted and bounced fine metallic mineral sprays would sparkle like glitter in the spaces between asteroids.
I arrived in a dependable Punisher with a dual light pulse laser setup, a web, scram and afterburner, and otherwise fitted for a fast armor tank. I piloted her through a warp tunnel and was spit out between two of the largest boulders in the belt. At first nothing appeared on scan but I assume it was my proximity to dense minerals disrupting sensors, because a Rifter menacingly drifted sideways out from behind a distant boulder. I saw her tail glow blue as a microwarpdrive propelled my enemy toward me at break-neck speed. We’d agreed not to destroy each other’s escape pods if it came to that, and suddenly I was worried that this would not be honored should I go down first.
This was a pirate used to losing ships, recklessness, treachery. He likely had me pegged as a highsec carebear who would be stumbling nervously into the engagement. I needed to shake things up. My own exhaust flared a lesser shade of blue as my afterburners launched me forward as well, angled for collision. I had to think like a pirate, that death is not to be feared, that pain is welcome, risk is reward. It was a game of chicken.
Our targets locked. I lanced multifrequency pulse lasers forward, creating rippling islands in the smooth shell of his shield. I overheated those turrets from the get-go. For his part, his autocannon barrels spun and sent antimatter slugs into my own shields. In only a few shots I was down to 15%; my strength would be my armor.
Passing blurred mineral debris out my viewport I came within 10km, 5km, 2km and closing. No one twitched untiol the last half-second when each of us angled our noses aside just a few degrees before the impact rocked us in our pods, emitting a shrieking photon grind of shield on shield as both vessels glanced off in a lazy spin. We recovered, my ship coming under control just in time to avoid smashing into the nearest veldspar chunk.
We came about once again, beginning to tightly circle as we chipped away at each other. I left my AB on as his MWD was off and my speed tank was helping me to gain an edge; I was 10% into my armor, whereas his shield were down to 10%. As his shields were the powerhouse equivalent of my stalwart armor, I was perhaps a hair ahead of him at this point. Choosing to hide it up to this point, I engaged the stasis webifier to slow him down enough to take some pulverizing pot shots. I took the time to make a wider loop in order to bring my Punisher to bear straight on for the web-assisted barrage I was about to let fly. As I arced away momentarily, firing from rear turrets, he overheated his speed mods and fired up his microwarp drive, barreling toward the outside edge of my web range. I fired one full barrage before he escaped my web range, making an extended S-curve to come about at 15k range beyond my molasses effect. Then he let fly, his turrets now overheated as his engines. Antimatter rounds came crashing in faster than my armor repairer could mend. Pieces of hull and fuselage were being scraped off into the oblivion, the debris of my ship spinning in all directions, some of it impacting sensors. I was being torn apart.
AB still active but capacitor running distressingly low, I broke off. His shields were down now but his paper-thin armor was holding, while mine was down to 33%. I propelled myself amidst the two asteroids I had originally warped in between and banked left, placing one of the between us just in time for the rock to catch incoming antimatter fire. It literally erupted in a rocky spray, confusing targeting computers and glancing off hulls.
I was forced to continue this pattern, swaying left and right between large and small veldspar deposits to allow them to intervene in the path of his autocannons to my hull. I let my turrets and mods cool down. Armor was back up to 55% but was looking worse for wear due to mineral impacts. I would need to make a move.
A well-placed shot threaded through the rocky debris, through where my shields once were, and deep into the armor of my port wing, slicing it off in a smooth action. The golden metal fin went mad-speed flipping end over end and stuck edge-first into another deposit like a shuriken. I brought her about, now continuing to overheat my turrets, now adding my afterburner to the list. From a lazy arc I jerked my nose at him and launched forward through a trio of concentrated veld chunks. Lasers pulsed ahead and bit deep into his armor. Flames erupted and trailed only my frigate as we blasted past each other and came about for another pass. I was in poor shape. Breaking from the 2nd pass formation I pulsed the AB and began to jet toward the edge of the asteroid field. I couldn’t afford 800 million ISK, that’d been a bluff; But maybe I could save face and my life if I could disengage. That way I could save face, and perhaps some alternative payment could be made. I’d bitten off more than I could chew; no one mod of tactic had countered me, just a superior pilot who had planned better. My weapons did not damage his ship as much as his ship’s weapons damaged mine, because of the types of tank mods we had used. Maybe he got lucky in this regard. I thought not.
Another autocannon round broke the last of my armor apart and passed through the center-left of my Punisher.
The round had passed through some vital systems. Instantly I felt gravity and inertial stabilizers drop off. The biofluid in my pod crèche began to drift upward in perfect bubbles. Fear, adrenaline, anxiety.
Another round clipped off the starboard wing, and the transfer of kinetic energy caused my ship, now resembling more of a pinched, golden cylinder, to enter an involuntary spin. With no gravity the centrifugal force made things inside a trial, and I mentally flailed to gain some sort of control in the anarchy. One of my engine ports erupted in fire and I was at half speed while the afterburner flickered between life and death. Behind me PirateXYD dodged furiously to close the distance while avoiding the asteroids in the belt, picking off pieces of my ship with his staggered incoming fire. At this time I right the ship just in time to see the mineral field fall away on both sides. Inertial dampeners came back online for a final few seconds and so I took the opportunity to funnel all other remaining power to the warp engines as I passed 2k from the nearest veldspar.
In the time it took to align I lost more of my ship, until I felt staggered that she was holding together at all. He released a final spray of ammo as his dented Rifter came roaring straight at me, and the welcome embrace of an azure warp tunnel gathered what remained of my vessel and transitioned it from the normally 3-dimensional universe. There were further internal explosions within the warp tunnel itself but fire control teams, no longer dealing with incoming fire, were able to cover them off. Trailing pieces of myself, the tunnel deposited me at our Corp headquarters at the bottom station. He emerged back into realspace hot on my heels but in such close proximity to the law and order of a public space station, he could only watch me enter docking queue and then disappear into the station.
Aftermath next time.