I've been playing Eve consistently for the past five years, and have spent all of that time in null-sec (I did start out in high-sec in the two years prior, but that was intermittent). I really should know some things that I clearly don't know.
Recently, I've undertaken to begin market seeding and contract stocking for NC. This is a new thing for me, and it involves a lot of learning. While you do need to mark up the costs from Jita prices, I don't want to gouge anyone, and have been pricing my contracts beneath the least expensive alternative as a way of letting the market dictate an appropraite markup. Really, if I want to make the most isk, then, the trick is in velocity, not margin. It's taken some time to understand which ships move the fastest, letting me reuse those contract slots and keep the stock flowing. I'd say I've done a good job at that.
But, there's one huge piece I'm not doing well. Case in point.
Yeah, that happened. I'm a terrible jump freighter pilot.
When I bought my jump freighter, my corpmates gave me a lot of advice. We'd lost a number of JFs recently, and they wanted to make sure the same thing didn't happen to anyone else. For instance, they told me to have an exit cyno at hand in case of emergencies. So, as I undocked, I dutifully had my emergency cyno character in postion at a cyno perch, fueled and ready to go.
Ironically, it wasn't low-sec or null-sec that concerned me. A 10 lightyear jump range gives you plenty of options, and being able to travel by cyno makes those areas of space remarkably safe. No, it was high-sec that had me worried. I wasn't too concerned about jumping out from Jita with a full cargohold; that was a simple station-to-station cyno jump, then a dock. No, it was getting back to high-sec that worried me. I'd have to take gates, and I've interacted with Goons' Miniluv often enough to know they might just gank an empty jump freighter for the fun of it.
But, NC. is at war perpetually. I have two characters who can fly a jump freighter, and both of them are "mains" in a sense, combat characters who would be wasted as pure JF characters. I had previously separated them in different corporations, but I found my options and enjoyment limited by not having them together. I really didn't want to drop corp just to avoid a war dec for one trip.
But, the real kicker was that my previous experience at war was actually misleading. As I mentioned, I've played in null and low-sec for five years, and in all that time, my corps have been wardecced nearly constantly. But, it never seemed to bother me before. In fact, rarely did I ever come across a war target in high-sec. The whole idea of a war target posing a serious and immediate threat that I couldn't cyno jump away from just didn't seem real.
So, as I made my way to the Nonni gate in Aunenen, cargohold empty and exit cyno at hand in Aunenen, I was feeling pretty confident. If I saw war targets on grid, I'd simply light the cyno and jump away to safety, right?
As I entered Nonni local, the area around me was clear. So, I aligned out to warp to the next gate in the chain. As I hit about 20% speed, I saw a war target interceptor enter grid and begin its deceleration. Quickly, I alt+tabbed to my cyno character and lit my cyno, then swapped back to Valeria and right clicked on my capacitor, working my way through the menus to jump to the cyno.
The jump never happened. Instead of a "Jumping" message, a warp disruption icon appeared above my capacitor. I was caught.
I'm sure you can imagine how I felt when my 7-billion jump freighter was pointed by a war target. The pit of my stomach suddenly became very, very large.
But, I've been caught before, and to my pleasure, I didn't panic or shut down. Instead, I did the only things I could; I started to slow-boat back to Aunenen with my jump freighter and undocked Talvorian in a desperate rush to get to Nonni in a combat ship to attack the interceptor. But, I was about ten jumps away.
Things looked grim for our heroes.
I watched local, but didn't see a spike as Talvorian reached five jumps from Nonni. I was still slow-boating, but very slowly indeed, and was still more than 10 km from the gate. Then, dscan showed a number of black ops battleships in warp. Very soon, they landed and began applying damage. With there being no point anymore, I turned Talvorian around.
Then, the negotiation began. I received a convo request from the leader of the war targets, requesting a 3 billion ransom. Now, the only thing worse than losing an Anshar is the possibility of losing both an Anshar and 3 billion. How much faith did I have that they would honor the ransom?
So, I proposed an alternative. If they let me dock, I'd give them 3 bil. It was an offer I fully intended on honoring. After all, if I did renege, I'd be giving them a reason to hunt me down, almost guaranteeing I'd be unable to move that jump freighter with that character again. Breaking your word never helps if you're trying to keep a low profile.
We went back and forth for a while as it became clear I wasn't going to make it through the gate. In fact, I was about 37 km away now as a result of some good blops bumps. But, I also wasn't going to give them any isk before I was clear. I've been burned by merc and wardec corps in the past, and wasn't going to pile insult on injury without something to show for it.
In the end, I told them to pop it if they weren't willing to have a little faith, and they obliged me. I congratulated them on the catch, but admitted that I would have honored the 3 bil if they'd have let me go. Their killboard is a little more green, but they're no richer.
So, given that I didn't have a neutral JF pilot I could use, what ended up killing me? Was I just the victim of a completely random, lucky catch by that interceptor pilot?
I doubt it. Chances were very good that they had a neutral in Aunenen watching the Nonni gate as I approached, who reported me coming into system. Chances are they were on the way long before I loaded grid. And, unlike every other time I saw war targets in local, this time I was flying the most expensive kind of ship that can fit in high-sec. I was worth hunting down; I wasn't beneath their notice anymore.
And that really was the key. I honestly didn't have a chance. This experience has taught me that there really isn't a practical solution for moving a jump freighter through high-sec while wardecced. Having an exit cyno didn't help, as the system traffic of a typical high-sec system obscures incoming ships unless you're dscanning at various ranges, and the time it takes you to light the cyno, switch clients, and navigate through the menus to jump is longer than it takes for an interceptor to target and point you.
Suffice to say, I'm not a jump freighter pilot anymore. I'll leave that to the people who have the neutral alts to do it more safely. But this loss did highlight the limitations of experience. It's very easy to overlook the differences between two situations as a result of categorization. In this case, just because war targets haven't harassed me in the past in high-sec doesn't mean they don't pose a significant threat. The experience taught me the wrong lesson; it should have taught me that my subcaps were beneath the notice of a dedicated high-sec wardec group.
It's very easy to learn the wrong lessons as you fly through space. Often times, we can't recognize the differences until after we've come face-to-face with the foolishness of our decisions. No matter how long you fly, you're bound to make mistakes. All you can do is move forward, adjust your thinking, and find a way around the problem.
Even if you're 7 billion isk poorer for the mistake.