You can't park there, sir

31st May 2010 – 3.55 pm

The contents of the bookmarks can look interesting today. I copy them all in to my Buzzard's systems and head out to explore. Our home system's bookmarked static wormhole is present and stable, signalling the bookmarks are current, and I jump through to the class 4 system. There is no activity here, only magnetometric and radar combat sites bookmarked, so I warp directly to the next connection and jump through to where it looks more promising.

The C2 is occupied, and I know this before I even make my first sweep with the directional scanner. There is a bookmark to the tower already made and copied in to my nav-comp. I make this my first destination. As I enter warp I punch d-scan and examine the return, noting probes in the system as well as a few ships, including strategic cruisers. Arriving at the tower gives me more information, the least of which being that this bookmarked location avoids the large warp bubble anchored near the tower. I also see that most of the ships visible on d-scan are in the tower and unpiloted, although the Tengu strategic cruiser is elsewhere, as is a Zealot heavy assault ship. Not in the tower, but neither elsewhere, is a Drake battecruiser.

The Drake I see is sitting stationary above the tower, near its defences. Checking his details, the pilot doesn't belong to the corporation or alliance of the tower owners, but he is neither shooting not getting shot by the defences. I have no idea what he's doing. The Drake is floating next to a giant secure container, which lets me get a reference to his location to bookmark whilst I consider the situation further. I check d-scan again and the zealot and probes are still visible, but the Tengu has gone. With a bookmark to the tower and to the Drake I warp away, moving around the system to get full d-scan coverage with its limited 14 AU range. The Tengu is no longer in this system, although it could be cloaked I suppose, and when I warp back to the tower, using my new bookmark to land closer to the Drake this time, the Zealot has disappeared too. The Drake is looking more like a valid target now he seems to be the only other ship in the system. All we need is a plan.

There are three engineers available, including me. We can easily get the firepower needed to destroy a Drake, even with its impressive shield tank. But we still can't reason why it is there. The lack of purpose or rationality in its position makes us suspect it is acting as bait, but even then we cannot work out what it is bait for. Our first plan is to warp in to his position with ships optimised for DPS, and defensively rather weak as a result, hoping to destroy the Drake as quickly as possible and flee, but the uncertainty of the tower defences turning on us raises doubts.

A second plan is made, one we all agree on, and we each board a stealth bomber. We will bomb the target and sustain fire with torpedoes until we either have to flee from the tower's defences or the Drake itself. We all load the same bombs, ignoring ship bonuses to specific damage types in preference for being able to launch a single volley of three bombs without the first bomb to detonate obliterating the other two. Our siege launchers remain loaded with specific torpedo types for the bonuses. Now we need to co-ordinate launching the bombs.

We have struggled in the past in manoeuvring several stealth bombers around whilst cloaked. A recent operation resulting in what can only be described as an embarrassment as an unintentional decloaking from getting too close to another bomber see bombs launched hastily at the wrong time, and one in a different direction. But this time it should be easy. The Drake is stationary and time doesn't appear to be a factor. We each have a copy of the bookmark to the Drake's location. We jump in to the system and two of us bounce off a different planet to land at range from the Drake, the third approaching directly from the wormhole. All three stealth bombers land 50 km away from the Drake approaching from different vectors. Now we move within bombing range, our approach lining us up for a bomb launch perfectly.

When in range we cut our engines and come to halt. With all three bombers in position and ready a short count is given to synchronise launches. All three bombs landing at the same time should hit for a significant amount of damage, and the closer in time they all detonate the sooner we can sustain the damage with torpedoes. The countdown is given, cloaks are dropped and bombs are launched! They glide slowly towards the still-inert Drake as my active weapon systems lock-on to the target. The bombs detonate, knocking the shields of the Drake down to almost nothing in an instant. That's impressive. I paint the target and move closer so that I can activate the warp disruptor, launching torpedoes as I go. My colleagues do the same. The Drake's armour is not as impressive as its shields and is quickly deteriorating. Its pilot is even awake, returning fire but now unable to warp away, and although I take some damage it is not enough to make me disengage, not as we are breaking through the armour to the Drake's hull. Before we are in any kind of danger the Drake explodes.

Seizing the opportunity, I start to acquire a lock on the pilot's ejected pod, activating my warp disruptor in advance to hold him if I am quick enough. I expect the pod to warp off, so I am surprised to see a positive lock and the warp disruptor activate, but not so surprised that I fail to launch torpedoes. In fact, all three of us jump on his pod just as quickly, each of us contributing to the pilot's icy death in space. We loot the wreck, having to share it between the stealth bombers because of our limited cargo space, scoop the corpse, and destroy the empty and useless wreck. We warp out of the pocket quickly and cleanly, no ships seen and the tower defences leaving us unscathed, making it back to and through the wormhole and to our tower.

We are still none the wiser about what the Drake was doing there, although the probes that we loot show that it was probably scanning the system. Why it was doing so at and outside the system's tower is a mystery. It also seems like its shield hardeners weren't active, which if true is a little foolish for a ship that ideally should have the capacitor energy to sustain them indefinitely. Never the less, the earlier scanning and later scouting to find the strangely positioned Drake is followed by a good plan that is executed smoothly, resulting in a satisfying kill. This is the sort of team-building exercise that makes me feel warm inside.

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