Finding myself at something of a loose end I contact my agent asking if he has any work to keep me busy for a little while. He mentions something about a hidden stargate being blockaded by pirates and could I deal with it, because the navy has an obligation to protect citizens and traders. I grab the mission briefing from his desk, 'I'm on it, chief!'
The intelligence suggests I'll be fighting Guristas, so I ensure I have the right shield hardeners fitted for the expected kinetic weapons, with a bit of thermal damage mitigation as well, and run system tests to check their integrity. My launchers are almost empty of Scourge heavy missiles, but I have a couple of thousand in the hold and it's easier to get the ship's computer to reload them all at once than do it manually in dock. My drone bay is full again, after losing my last load of drones in a courageously fought victory. I'm ready to go.
Preferring to make use of my memory as much as possible I pull out my paper system maps and see that I have three jumps to make to get to the required system. I eschew the navigation computer and autopilot and fly my Drake battlecruiser manually through the stargates before punching in the deadspace coordinates. The rats aren't happy to see me, open-firing almost as soon as my warp drive disengages. I am facing a dozen or so rats, not a big deal, but there is a stasis tower that will slow me down if I don't do anything about it, making it my first target.
I launch four drones from the bay and start locking on to targets, trying to gain a tactical overview of the situation as my missiles destroy the stasis tower, several missiles a second thundering against my shields. As the tower's explosion signals my ship's ability to reach full thrust again I get a message from the computer that a nearby pirate gang has arrived to reinforce the blockade. More missiles and some cannon fire adds to the constant barrage on my shields, and I notice that the shields are taking quite a hammering. Whilst I have faced some heavy odds in previous missions the last time my shields were depleted this quickly was during my first level three mission, The Blockade. That was an immense battle, requiring several tactical withdrawals, and nothing like I've faced before or since. It's a good thing I'm not being asked to clear another blockade.
Come to think of it, I haven't checked the codename of the mission since I accepting it, even though I generally tend to. I remember reading about the stargate and having to blow up some rats, the destination system was important to note and I read that, and I couldn't help but see that the reward was huge, but I put that down to working with a higher quality agent than before. I'll get the call up the briefing again whilst my heavy missiles try to make a dent in that Guristas battlecruiser. Oh, it is The Blockade. I really need to start paying more attention to the mission briefings, as I am beginning to suspect it offers important information.
On the other hand, ignorance is bliss. Had I known I was facing The Blockade again I may have coughed a little and feigned a cold, telling my agent I'll just go to bed with a Lemsip if it's all the same with him. Blithely accepting the mission and ending up in deadspace gives me motivation to complete it successfully.
A particularly solid missile blast knocks me out of my reverie. It seems that destroying the stasis tower is a double-edged sword, allowing my ship greater agility but triggering reinforcements. I am facing two waves of rats at once, but with one group still considerably outside of my targeting range my options are limited and easier because of it. Locking on to targets I plot a course for Coiled Snake to take me away from the second wave whilst maintaining a good distance from my current targets, and my launchers continue their constant firing. I focus fire on the less threatening targets, because although I may be taking more punishment from some other targets the lesser ones are destroyed more quickly and are less likely to trigger even more reinforcements.
This tactical manoeuvre works well and I am able to withstand the onslaught of several waves, almost controlling when the next wave will warp in. It is only when what must be the final wave arrives that I find I need to modify my strategy again. Dire Pithi Despoilers from over 100 km distant manage to jam my targeting systems, dropping all my locked targets. This is really annoying. Don't get me wrong, it's annoying normally, but as I am fighting battlecruisers with shield boosters by the time the noise from the jamming module clears and I have regained lock half the damage my missiles previously inflicted has been recharged on the target's shields. There are four Despoilers, all trying to jam me at different times. How typical of Dire Rats to be an irritating pest.
What is needed is a bold move. I swing the nose of the Drake around and point it in to the middle of the newly warped-in wave of rats, maximising my closing speed with the Despoilers. As soon as they come within range I focus all fire—missile and drone—on the jamming craft. My lock is dropped a few more times but it is not long before all the Despoilers are nothing more than floating wreckage, ready to be salvaged, and I can continue attacking the battlecruisers without being jammed. I have taken a significant amount of damage by heading almost in to the centre of the final wave but my shields are still holding. My launchers are also still firing, explosions marking each rat's demise one by one until my radar is clear of red blemishes.
It is incredible. I faced a similar blockade before and could hardly last a minute before having to warp out of deadspace to recharge, and occasionally repair, taking me hours to fight my way through all of the battlecruisers and destroyers. But now both my ship and its pilot are more capable. I have had more training in the use of shield hardeners, drones and heavy missiles, as well as in other areas that could have a secondary effect. My Drake is fitted with more appropriate modules, boosting its shield strength and recharging capability, with grateful thanks for the helpful advice that guided me. And I have more experience in deadspace battles. My shields and capacitor were never depleted, my missile bays were never empty, and all four drones made it back in to the bay.
What a difference a few weeks can make. On top of the satisfaction of defeating The Blockade with considerably more ease than before I also have the mission rewards and bounties to look forward to. Making the jumps back to my current base I report in to my agent. I gain the mission reward as well as the bonus time reward for being efficient in clearing the blockade, a healthy 1.3 million ISK. Notice comes of the bounties I am owed for killing pirates, boosting my wallet by another 5 million ISK. Even after replacing the couple of thousand heavy missiles I fired in total, and replenishing my stocks with an order of 10,000 missiles, I am in profit by 6 million ISK.
Another successful mission!