Orcas don't shoot back, do they?

24th August 2011 – 5.38 pm

All seems quiet at home, I'll scan and see what's out there today. Judging from recent experience I'm guessing 'nothing', but my optimism carries me forwards. There is just the one wormhole to find at home, and I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A Prorator transport ship and a tower are visible on my directional scanner, and I find one inside the other with a bit of warping around. The transport is piloted and, being a transport, would be hard to catch. At the moment he's not moving, so I warp to a distant planet to launch probes covertly and blanket the system.

There's little to see here, my scanning probes returning only two anomalies and three signatures, one of them being the K162 home. I return to the tower to keep an eye on the Prorator, and as he appears to be asleep at the moment I think I can quickly resolve the two signatures without his noticing. I scan and bookmark a gravimetric site and the system's static wormhole within a couple of minutes, recalling my probes without the Prorator so much as flinching. A visit to the wormhole shows it to be the regulation C3 exit to low-sec empire space, but unfortunately reaching the end of its natural lifetime.

I don't have anywhere left to explore, so my best option is to return to watching the Prorator sit stationary at the tower. It's not terribly exciting, but you never really know what's going to happen. For example, a Hulk exhumer could turn up, a new contact warping in to the tower. Seeing a mining ship arrive when the only available site in the system is full of rocks is quite arousing, but as the Hulk's first action is to move towards the hangar I doubt I'll be so lucky this evening. Then again, maybe I'll be even luckier, as the Hulk is swapped for an Orca!

Not only is the industrial command ship pulled out of the hangar, it starts moving, aligning out of the tower. When the Hulk turned up I orientated myself with the positions of the gravimetric site and wormhole in relation to the tower, and it looks like the Orca is headed to the wormhole. Surely he couldn't be that carefree, to take such an expensive ship out of the tower without even a cursory check of the system, but I can't otherwise explain his actions. A second new contact arrives in a Buzzard covert operations boat, making three pilots in total, but the Buzzard disappears again and I've only got eyes for the Orca.

When I see the Orca apparently align to the wormhole I get my Tengu aligned too, making sure my strategic cruiser won't be embarrassingly left in the wake of such a sluggish ship. The Orca indeed enters warp and I surge my own boat towards the wormhole, aiming to drop short. I'm not sure what the Orca's plans are, whether it is to collapse the wormhole early or to make one last brief visit to empire space, and I want to see what it does before revealing myself. I should have plenty of time to make a decision, whatever it does, as the Orca hardly turns on a sixpence, and low-sec gives me the opportunity to give chase without fear of Concord intervention.

I drop out of warp to see the Orca on top of the wormhole, but it is not jumping out of the system. The big ship also isn't sitting still, slowly turning its bulk around, and it looks to me like the pilot was not expecting the wormhole to be in its death throes. This means the Orca is probably aligning to warp right back to the tower, and if I don't want to miss this rare opportunity to engage the ship I need to strike now. I decloak, burn towards the Orca, and gain a positive target lock. I disrupt the Orca's warp drive and missiles spew from my launchers. The Orca may be mostly defenceless, and this one isn't launching drones at me, but it has plenty of ship to destroy.

A plaintive call is made in the local communication channel, although it may not be directed towards me but the Orca's colleagues. I know there are two pilots available, one of which was definitely active, and I suspect I'll be seeing company soon. The question is whether I can blow up the Orca first. Its shields are nearly gone when it finally jumps in to low-sec, daring the dying wormhole to buy it some time. I follow and get my systems hot, ready and waiting for the Orca to reappear, but he's staying as quiet as he can for as long as he can.

There is no movement from the Orca to try to warp clear, nor any to return through the wormhole, and this doesn't surprise me. Jumping through the wormhole was not an evasive manoeuvre as such, he is simply using the impervious session change cloak to give him a minute or so when I can't shoot him and his colleagues time to get in to combat ships and come to his rescue. This much is obvious. It is also a trick he could perform twice, jumping straight back in to w-space once the cloak fades, which would give the cavalry more than enough time to come to his aid. At least, he could do it twice if he hadn't been spat him out to low-sec almost eight kilometres from the wormhole, leaving him three kilometres to cover before being close enough to jump home.

As soon as the Orca appears I pounce once more and resume my attack on the hapless industrial ship. I burn towards him too, bumping the Orca to knock it off-line from his approach to the wormhole, his already sluggish ship slowed by my active web. I need to keep it away from the wormhole to have a chance of getting the kill, and my tactics look to be working. All I need to do now is survive the firepower of his friends coming through the flaring wormhole. A Drake battlecruiser appears and starts shooting, joined soon after by what I take to be a second Drake, but later realise to be a Tengu. The Orca's shields are long gone, its armour almost depleted, but now I am taking damage. I need my own boat to hold up for me to get this kill.

I am finally hitting the Orca's hull, all my damage getting through to the structure of the ship, but what a structure. Each volley hits for considerable damage, but there is so much of the ship that I'm not sure my own defences will last. My shields are being worn down by the two missile boats and however much I'd like to see the mighty explosion of another Orca it's not going to happen. My shields are below 15%, the Orca's hull has only just dropped to 60%. I don't want to risk the integrity of my own flimsy armour and hull when there is still a significant amount of damage needed to be inflicted upon the Orca, so with some regret I abandon the attack and jump back to w-space.

Back in the C3 I move away from the wormhole and cloak, safely hidden before the other ships return themselves. They clearly know they are there to protect the Orca and although popping my ship may achieve that they are taking a purely defensive stance. The Tengu and Drake don't jump until the Orca does, and they don't warp away from the wormhole until the Orca does. That's sensible, because if they had warped early I would have pounced on the vulnerable Orca again. As it is, I simply warp back to the local tower and watch my shields recharge as the Orca pilot swaps to a Loki strategic cruiser.

I made a couple of mistakes. First, even though I knew the Orca was holding his session change cloak for as long as possible, and I shed mine immediately, I didn't take the opportunity to reload my launchers. In the end it probably didn't matter, but it was dead time that I should have used to better advantage. The second mistake was more unfortunate. I recently swapped out my advanced missiles for standard missiles when it looked like I'd be shooting a few rats in low-sec, and didn't change them back, despite carrying both types in my hold. I may have been shooting basic missiles at the Orca, perhaps dropping my damage by 30% or so, which is particularly galling when the Orca's massive size would have been perfect for anti-ship missiles. I don't think the extra damage would have been enough to pop the Orca as I left it, but I may have been more tempted to make use of my armour to get the kill.

Despite my mistakes I was alert and perceptive to the situation. I reconnoitred the system, made the best use of the Prorator's apparent inactivity to scan covertly, and identified contacts and ship movements. I got myself in to a postion to engage an expensive and vulnerable target, and it was only subsequently savvy manoeuvring by the target that allowed its late escort to rout me, and only after I identified and denied access to the same manoeuvre a second time. And now the three pilots are sitting passively in their tower. Whether they'll hunt or bait me is unknown until all three log off in quick succession. I suppose I have suppressed activity in this system, and until the exit wormhole dies I won't have anything more to do. I may as well go home.

  1. 4 Responses to “Orcas don't shoot back, do they?”

  2. If it had been critical mass instead of eol, you would have won

    By Marcus McTavish on Aug 24, 2011

  3. Naw. If the wormhole had been critically unstable the Orca would be stuck out in low-sec and I'd be left staring at empty space.

    Wormholes collapse immediately, with no grace period for extra ships. We've witnessed this a few times, perhaps the best example I have on record being my run-in with a Revelation.

    By pjharvey on Aug 24, 2011

  4. Fantastic read...you had a great battle with those guys despite not destroying the orca. Those pilots will surely need to re-upholster their furniture. Unless they're minmatar.

    By SFM Hobb3s on Aug 24, 2011

  5. Close but no cigar.

    By Efraya on Aug 31, 2011

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