First blood

18th March 2010 – 5.51 pm

I wake up at the tower in w-space in a freshly cleaned system, shortly after the galaxy has been rebooted. I am ready to enjoy a relaxing time scanning. I even find a wormhole on the first signature I resolve! Of course, it helps that the two lowest strength signatures are the already-bookmarked radar sites, the highest strength is obviously the bookmarked gravimetric site, and there are only two other signatures, but I still take this as a small victory. I resolve the other signature anyway, finding a ladar site. I warp to the wormhole and jump through.

Next door is system J123458, so close to being harmonious. The system is occupied, and I find the tower easily enough on the outermost planet using the directional scanner, as the planet only has two moons in orbit. The corporation's scanning man turns up at this point and he joins me in the system for some co-operative scanning efforts. Interestingly enough, we both pick the TUM signature to resolve first out of more than the dozen or so available. Clearly there is something inviting about it, and it indeed turns out to be a wormhole. My colleague stays behind to finish the current system, I jump through to scan the next one.

I find myself in a w-space system we've visited before, about two weeks ago. But my scanning is abruptly cut short when my colleague not only has found a couple more wormholes, but jumps through one of them to find some active miners. There are two Retriever mining barges and an Iteron industrial ship on the directional scanner, although the system itself is unoccupied. He starts trying to narrow down their location using d-scan, and tells me the signature identifier for the wormhole leading in to the miners' system. I jump back one system and find and bookmark the wormhole independently, then head back home to our tower to swap in to my Onyx heavy interdictor. I choose the HIC above the Manticore stealth bomber because the HIC's bubble can warp-scramble multiple targets easily, and with my wingman I won't need to sneak up on the targets.

We formulate a plan. My colleague wonders whether to use combat probes to find the ships, or scanner probes to find the site. I suggest scanner probes to find the site, because they will seem less threatening to the miners if they spot them on d-scan. Combat probes will spook them immediately, and we can't rely on them being as oblivious as the Hulk was in a previous encounter. When the site they are in is found the probes can be recalled, the site warped to, the rock they are shooting bookmarked, and then we can warp on top of them. The scan man gets me to sit on the other side of the wormhole just before he starts scanning, to give us the best chance of catching the miners unaware. He will grab the bookmark, get me to jump through the wormhole and hold my cloak, then warp me directly to the miners rather than try to exchange the bookmark between ships. It's all a matter of speed.

The scanner warps out of d-scan range of the miners to drop his probes, and quickly gets a hit on the gravimetric site they are using. He is damned good at scanning, and if this plan works it will be because of his sklls. He recalls the probes whilst warping to the site, and finds the miners shooting rocks easily enough. With a fresh bookmark he warps out and gets me to jump in to the system. As soon as he drops out of warp I am moving, and this is the critical time. My pulse is racing, adrenalin pumping, I am warping in blind to the site, and my ship is now visible on d-scan. I get ready to fire my systems in to life, the first one being the HIC's warp disruption bubble, which I will inflate as soon as I am out of warp, hopefully catching all three flies in my amber.

I see the gravimetric site zoom towards me, and the Retrievers and Iteron appear. The final couple of seconds of warp seem to take ages, but I drop to sub-warp speed and get my bubble up. All three ships are trapped! My eagerness to activate the system is too much, though, and punching the button one too many times has switched it off again soon. I have thirty seconds of warp bubble, then I must reactivate it or lose the active warp disruption sphere. I lock targets and start firing my missiles. The mining barges and industrial ship are really flimsy compared to any combat vessel and crumple quickly, wrecks ejecting bare pods in to harsh space. The pods are also trapped in my bubble. I lock them too, their tiny signature radius taking my systems ages to recognise, and my heavy missiles aren't as effective against the pods as the ships. Yes, I attack the pods too, going for the full kill.

It looks like the Iteron pilot ejects early, perhaps hoping the ship itself will deflect my attention from the new pod. It works. I am trying to position my HIC to optimally snare all three ships at all times, whilst they sensibly head off in different directions as fast as they can in order to get out of the bubble and warp to safety. I desperately try to keep my bubble on everything I can whilst using my secondary, script-loaded warp disruption field generator as a longer-range point on anything that looks to be escaping the bubble. Trying to keep all ships scrambled, whilst shooting them and selecting targets between ships and pods in an order to prevent escape is a lot of computation for my newbie self. The first Retriever pilot is killed, his pod destroyed. The Iteron pilot gets away as I blow up his ship, but I have the second Retriever pilot's pod in my sights. He, too, escapes, my bubble shutting down as pod reaches half its structural integrity. I don't know if I accidentally mashed the key to deactivate the bubble, or if I somehow run out of capacitor energy to run it, but the bubble collapses and in relief he warps away before I can destroy his pod.

Meanwhile, my colleague has warped back to our tower to bring a Myrmidon to the fight. Despite jumping as soon as he initiates my warp to the miners, by the time his Myrmidon arrives the engagement is over. It was really quick! We are left with a few wrecks to loot and salvage, and some jet-cans of ore. We both linger in the site a little while, looting the wrecks of a few Tech II systems that survive the attack, regularly checking d-scan to see if the surviving miners are coming back in anything bigger, but there is no activity. Retrieving the ore for ourselves seems a bit risky, with an intermediate system to pass through, but only an industrial ship and scanning covert operations boat have been seen in that system. And the miners are not coming back.

The Myrmidon stays in the system, but out of the gravimetric mining site, as I head back to our tower to get a Bustard transport ship. It takes two round trips to recover all of the ore mined and temporarily stored in the jet-cans, and I bring back 48,000 cubic metres of ore. That would normally take me hours to collect. This extreme mining is rather more exciting and more my cup of tea than shooting rocks.

According to a translation tool, the Russian says 'well thank you' in local communications as he flees. Maybe he mistakes my inexperience as compassion. I am still struggling to justify killing industrial ships that pose no direct threat, but killing pods is different. On a pod's destruction, the clone inside is killed and a new clone wakes up in a vat somewhere. I think in w-space the only place a new clone can be activated is back in k-space, which makes getting back to the w-space system a time-consuming process, considering the arbitrary location of wormholes appearing almost anywhere in high-, low-, or null-sec space. That is if the route in and out of w-space has been mapped that day, as the possibility exists that you are back in k-space with no known route back to your w-space system until a colleague turns up to guide you back in.

Letting pods escape allows them to return to their tower and potentially change ships to return in much more aggressive hardware, and maybe even in greater numbers. Killing the pods prevents quick reinforcements, or any at all. I still can't justify attacking unarmed ships beyond 'because I can', but pod killing serves a purpose. And now my HIC has been christened with capsuleer blood, the new corporation gaining a corpse as a trophy in our hangar. Three ships and one pod is a good start to the day. I'll do better next time.

  1. 4 Responses to “First blood”

  2. To explain the picture a little:

    Out at the 5 km tactical overlay marker on the left is a Retriever mining barge desperately trying to run away.

    To the left of the 5 km marker at the top-right is the pod of the first Retriever pilot, represented by a distorted figure-of-eight and surrounded by a missile explosion. The Retriever is destroyed and now a wreck, represented by the yellow downwards-pointing arrow.

    The target at the bottom of the screen is the Iteron hauler, the pod just above it being the indication that the pilot has ejected from his ship. At the moment of the picture, I haven't realised this so don't have his pod targeted.

    The two diamonds are the jet-cans the miners were using to store the mined ore.

    By pjharvey on Mar 18, 2010

  3. I'm loving your writeups.

    I get this sense of anxious opportunism, the precarious desolation of WH living. A moment away from being discovered by intruders, or discovering a juicy kill.

    Or at least that's what I get out of it.

    It really makes me want to find and join a good WH corp. A group that works together in the fringe of space.

    I joined a 0.0 alliance, but it's really not what I'd hoped for. No idea how to find a good corp though, I've had crappy luck so far, and I'm guessing WH corps are even harder to find a good fit.

    By Stark on Mar 18, 2010

  4. Grats on getting the HIC's first blood! I am really enjoying your writing about the adventures of the Wormhole Engineers.

    By Jaggins on Mar 19, 2010

  5. Thanks for the kind comments, chaps.

    Stark, the Wormhole Engineers [WHEN.] are recruiting, so if you are interested in venturing out to the deadly stillness of w-space feel free to get in touch with Kename Fin, our recruiter and mastermind.

    By pjharvey on Mar 19, 2010

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