Having gained enough of a standing with the Caldari Navy to contact agents offering level three missions I accepted my first level three mission recently. I just as quickly warped out of my first level three mission, limping back to a station to repair extensive armour and hull damage, although I was keen not to abandon the mission if possible. Heading back to my high quality level two agent I started running missions back-to-back in an attempt to earn enough money to buy and equip a ship that could take on the third level mission successfully before it expired.
Trying to earn around 40,000,000 ISK within a week is a tall order, but with Penny Ibramovic's Salvaging Operations being able to earn a healthy amount in a short time I was optimistic if not confident in achieving my goal. With time getting short I wondered if a sly tactic might be successful, sniping from range one ship at a time, but this just led to my losing a Caracal and a couple of million ISK in the process. Even when I could finally afford my Drake I still needed to insure it, and that led to a race to the finish, with just hours to go before the third level mission expired. But I got there. I had a fully insured (after a momentary lapse of memory) and fitted Drake, ready to take on the mission properly.
My Drake, the Coiled Snake, was fitted with a shield booster, shield extender, four shield hardeners specific to the mission, and bristled with heavy launchers replete with Scourge heavy missiles. So confident was I in being able to complete the mission now that I kept my newly bought stock of heavy missiles in the cargo hold, over 2,000 of them. I considered that if I lost the ship losing the missiles too would be the least of my concern, and it also meant that I would be highly unlikely to run out of missiles during the mission. Feeling prepared, I jumped back to the mission's system and warped to the deadspace pocket to confront the hostile ships making up the blockade.
The rain of missiles began quickly, heavy and light missiles pounding against my shields with no respite between shocks. Both thermal and kinetic damage missiles were hitting me, but my kinetic and thermal active shield hardeners were doing their jobs, as my damage resistance with a pair of them active was around 80%. The constant barrage still took their toll on my shields, and with my own heavy missiles doing a surprisingly little amount of damage to the enemy I wasn't going to survive if I stayed in the deadspace pocket. I bravely fought on to take down at least one foe before warping back to a station to recharge my shields back to full and repair some small damage to my armour.
Taking down just that one opponent was terribly difficult! A Dire Pithum Mortifier, it had its shield booster running constantly so that even in the time between missile volleys from my Drake it had recovered some shield strength, and a full hit of six heavy missiles only put a slight dent in the shields. It took almost a full complement of thirty heavy missiles in all six launchers to destroy it. I had looked at the tactical readout on the hostile ships and realised that I wasn't up against cruisers and frigates but battlecruisers and destroyers. The worst I have encountered on level two missions is maybe a couple of cruisers accompanying some frigates, so this is a huge step up in difficulty. It doesn't help that my previous failed attempts to clear the blockade had called in reinforcements, so it seems I was fighting two waves at once.
With my shields and armour back at full strength, and all launchers reloaded, I warp back to the deadspace pocket. Oh, right, I forgot to recall my drones when I warped out in a rush, and they'd been busy making friends whilst I was away. Needless to say, they don't last for long and I watch as they explode as I lock-on to more targets. Missiles fly my way again, and this time I manage to take out a couple more targets before warping out. A third endeavour, and a few more targets are destroyed before making another tactical retreat. The fourth time I encounter the blockade, because their number is reduced by even a handful the constant rain of missiles has turned in to more of a drizzle, and my hardeners and booster are far more able to handle the smaller inflicted damage whilst I send my own missiles the enemy's way.
Another battlecruiser falls, and another, and my sole assault launcher is taking down the destroyers too. The fight not only becomes manageable, it seems I am going to be victorious! With a satisfying explosion the final ship in my overview is destroyed. I am left with plenty of time to start clearing up the salvage from the wrecks before handing in the mission as complete. Except my journal isn't indication success and... wait, another wave has warped in. Another nine battlecruisers and three destroyers have been alerted to the battle and are homing in on my location. I fire up my launchers again and have to make another temporary retreat to recharge my shields.
One thing I notice is that this second wave of ships is only firing kinetic damage missiles. Warping back in I only activate my kinetic shield hardeners, leaving the heat dissipation modules inactive, but for some reason I am taking an awful lot of damage when compared with earlier. Crap, it's a new ship and I'm not used to the new layouts, it turns out I have turned off the ballistic dampeners and the heat dissipation modules are the active ones. I rectify this and the damage taken is now actually reduced as expected. When I get back to a station I notice that the modules do not appear on the HUD in the order that I expect them to appear in relation to their fitting, and I had indeed initially turned off what should have been the correct modules. I'll have to look in to why the order may change between fitting station and HUD.
Having taken down two waves at once this third wave is not as problematic, although it is still a challenge. As if it isn't enough of a challenge, two more waves of battlecruisers and destroyers appear in sequence. Just when I think I've cleared the blockade more ships arrive, and the time it is taking me to destroy the battlecruisers I wonder if I'll ever end the mission. On top of that, the mission expiration time is getting ever nearer, with less than an hour left on the clock. With two battlecruisers and six destroyers left shooting me I finally manage to kill the leader of the rats and I am recalled to my agent to report my success. With all the wreckage, and its ISK-earning salvage, floating helpless in space I was keen to destroy the final few ships so that I could make a tidy profit.
The only problem with the plan to clear up the battlefield were the Despoiler destroyers. There are two in the deadspace pocket and they both are jamming my targeting systems. Normally this is a minor annoyance that can be tolerated, but at the moment it is a major frustration and impediment. By the time the jamming has worn off and I have locked-on to my target again the battlecruiser's shields have recharged all the damage my heavy missiles had previously done to them, so I was wasting all my missiles. On top of that, the destroyers are hardly affected by my heavy missiles and their own shields boosters were repairing the damage my single assault launcher was throwing at them. I need a new plan.
With only two battlecruisers in the pocket I jump back to where I had stationed my new Caracal, Red Panda. I fit kinetic shield hardeners and a full complement of assault launchers and head out to take on the destroyers. Concentrating fire on the destroyers and letting my shields suffer the Scourge missiles from the battlecruisers I am able to destroy the smaller craft. Once this is done I retrieve Coiled Snake and finish the battlecruisers. I am left with an battlefield empty of enemies at last. I am also left with about fifteen minutes before my mission expires!
I warp out and jump to my agent's system, before reporting in the completion of my mission. It was a big effort to prepare myself and complete the mission within the week, and I achieved it. I just hope that not all level three missions are as difficult or involved, as I quite enjoy doing things other than playing EVE Online.