A shock to the system

10th August 2009 – 5.29 pm

It's quiet in the w-space system. Too quiet. But then another engineer turns up at the tower and we decide to strike hard at some of the more exotic asteroids lurking in one of the gravimetric sites. The rather large arkonor asteroid that was in the site has already been ravaged by lasers, but rocks starting with most other letters of the alphabet are still present. My companion engineer for the trip has even specially trained in mercoxit mining because of the availability of this rare ore in these frontiers. When selecting my ship I find have a brand-new Retriever waiting for me, a gift I was unaware of when I suggested going mining, which is a super surprise and a great start to the day.

After setting up a staging point, from which it is possible to warp to any asteroid in the field, I start extracting ore from a large bistot rock, in case we need to make space gravy, whilst my companion targets the mercoxit, to make use of her new skills, and mining drones busy themselves around an adjacent asteroid of gneiss. We're eventually joined by another engineer, who helps in mining the gneiss, soon causing us to have to grab an Orca out of the tower to haul back our full cans of ore. The operation is going swimmingly, and we even witness the mercoxit outgas to create a yellow cloud of explosive particles surrounding the asteroid, although we have been careful not to get too close. It's a most pleasant afternoon.

The soothing pulse of mining lasers is interrupted with a shout to warp out, warp out immediately, and different and more destructive noises shatter the tranquility. It is only then I see the intruding ship, but realise I can do nothing in a Retriever and obey the order to warp back to the safety of the tower, all the while my colleagues being attacked. One Hulk is lost, the pilot fearing for her pod, a second follows soon afterwards, this pilot not being as lucky as his pod fails to escape the pirates. Back at the tower the few of us around jump in to attack ships, but there is little we can do. As much as I want to repel the attackers I realise that getting more ships destroyed is no help—a lone PvE-fitted Drake is hardly a force in PvP—and by the time we are organised with enough attack ships the pirates have looted and salvaged the wrecks and moved on.

The ambush was quick and brutal. Sometimes the deceptive solitude of w-space can make you forget you are in a null-space system. Even though passages in and out of the system are variable and not straightforward to locate, they are there and available for anyone to use, and the lack of intelligence available by monitoring the local channel means extra vigilance needs to be paid to other means of surveillance. In the frontier systems of w-space there is no law enforcement to respond to unprovoked attacks, so we need to be prepared ourselves.

Apart from continued use of the directional scanner to monitor for other ships and probes, there are probably a few steps that can be taken to avoid further loss of clones and ships. A battleship can escort the miners, even if it is only parked in the asteroid field, as a show of force, because surely the sight of only unarmed and poorly defended mining ships in the area was a huge temptation to the attackers. We perhaps could mine asteroids in completely different sections of the field, so that multiple losses could be better prevented, although I would doubtless feel like an onyx at a watering hole. The jet-cans could even be given bogus names, discouraging the careless pirate whose glance at the scanner shows several extra Ravens in the system.

One idea that might be worthwhile, even if it sticks in the craw, is to sacrifice some yield for survivability. This isn't high-sec mining, where the only real danger is having your can flipped, and the goal is to tailor skill training and fit ships to squeeze as much ore out of a rock per optimised cycle time. But the ore is not worth anything if it doesn't make it back to a station to be sold, and in null-sec this is clearly a danger. Perhaps it would be better to fit survival modules to the mining hulls, such as warp stabilisers and shield boosters, to provide the capability and the extra few seconds of shield or armour that enables escape. The yield per cycle would be reduced, but we'd get it all. A miner may view this opinion differently, though.

Above all, the attack reminds us that we are not as safe as we sometimes feel. I feel lucky that I escaped unscathed again. I wonder if perhaps I am a little too quick to run, but I know that the doubt is caused by a feeling of helplessness and try to shrug it off. There is little I could have done to help in a Retriever. Part of me thanks my friend for naming the ship for me, as I can't help but feel that piloting a ship called Lassie Comes Home was like a protective talisman, however silly it sounds. Even though we are a little shaken from the attack we are not deterred, everyone active in the w-space system and taking our aggression out on Sleepers in short time. We will endure.

  1. 2 Responses to “A shock to the system”

  2. I am still a bit surprised at my overall response to the incident. I was greatly saddened by the loss of one of my "children", but either I'm in a weird denial place, or I'm actually OK with it. It happens and we move on. Maybe a bit slower, but we move on.
    Additionally, we now get to rethink and re-evaluate plans and procedures, which is an invaluable tool in and of itself. If anything, our debrief has been all to brief and/or missing. Hopefully this will continue to spark more dialogue and interaction. I certainly think it's generated more interest in what we're doing out "there".

    By Kename Fin on Aug 10, 2009

  3. The debrief is difficult to achieve. I tried a bit, but I was sensitive about being dispassionate after capsuleers had lost ships and a clone. It looks like the engineers have adapted nicely, all the same, being more aware of the dangers and compensating for it.

    As for losing ships, it's curious. Maybe it's because we name the ships and can never get the same one back that makes it seem more of a loss. I know that I can't simply give the new ship the same name as the old, because it isn't the same ship, just like naming D&D characters. I moped around a bit myself when losing Lightness of Being to Sleeper fire, but I think the process of buying and fitting a new Drake gave me time to accept the loss. But I can't explain why I get attached to the ship in the first place.

    I also think not every capsuleer feels this way about ships, with pirates probably not expecting them to last long and others seeing them only as tools.

    By pjharvey on Aug 12, 2009

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