Slow salvaging scuppers sinking

15th June 2010 – 5.21 pm

My colleagues are out scanning, so I get a free ride through a couple of systems. I am guided to our static wormhole, warped across the neighbouring class 4 system to its static connection, and jump through in to a C5. Judging from everyone's temperament, and my use of the directional scanner, the systems so far are unoccupied. Another wormhole is found, this one leading in to a class 4 system that I last visited five weeks ago, which is also unoccupied. W-space is looking quiet today.

The K162 in the C4 is in an interesting position. The wormhole is farther outside the system than the outer planet, which makes it a relatively good safe-spot in itself. But it is also 4·5 AU distant from the nearest celestial body, which is further than the 4 AU limit that it is generally assumed signatures appear within. A standard probe spread makes finding such signatures more awkward, as the signal appears weaker when given less overlap of scanning coverage, particularly when the signature is outside the orbit of an outer planet. The wormhole's position may not be significant, although the next connection on today's route is found near to the one we enter through and is also over 4 AU from the nearest celestial body. At least the wormhole is found, and I jump through.

I bookmark the K162 side of the wormhole and check d-scan, not launching probes once I see two Tengu strategic cruisers, Sleeper wrecks, and a Cormorant destroyed somewhere in the system. Targets! Or, rather, the Cormorant is a single target, likely the salvaging boat following behind the two Tengu ships. I move away from the wormhole and cloak smoothly, starting a passive scan for anomalies where the ships could be fighting Sleepers. I find four anomalies and warping between them locates the Tengu cruisers, the Cormorant elsewhere salvaging judging by d-scan. It looks like the Tengus are finishing the last wave of Sleepers in this current anomaly, so I loiter and call for my colleagues to return to the tower to swap for sharper ships.

There are a few hops required to return to the tower and get back to the system connecting to this C4, and time is likely to be of the essence. Good salvagers can clear sites quickly, moving between wrecks fluidly and fast, which makes setting up in a good position to spring an ambush potentially difficult. I take advantage of the time before the last Sleepers are destroyed to bookmark a cluster of wrecks that looks like the best chance of snaring the salvager and warp out and in to the new position. And, luckily, the Tengus aren't terribly fast at shooting Sleepers and my colleagues are able to return to sit on the other side of the wormhole as the strategic cruisers finish and the Cormorant warps in to salvage. But then all three ships warp out again, leaving nothing but wrecks. A Tengu comes back alone and floats for a while. I have no idea what is happening and all I can do is relay the information to my colleagues.

The Cormorant returns to the site of wrecks and the Tengu warps out. It looks like salvaging will begin, but the Cormorant starts to move away from the wrecks, and slowly. This peculiar behaviour is only explained when the destroyer warps from his new position to a distant wreck, trying to take advantage of the 150 km minimum limit on warp travel to speed up movement between the separated wrecks. Checking d-scan shows a new Sleeper wreck appearing elsewhere in the system, suggesting that the Tengus have started fighting in a different anomaly, which should give us enough time to engage the Cormorant. But the salvager is so slow, crawling interminably between wrecks and again moving distant from them for a reason I cannot deduce.

All is made clear when the destroyer jettisons a can some 200 km away from the anomaly. He is making a point of reference he can warp to and from, far enough from all the wrecks that he can use it for each cluster of wrecks. This idea works quite well for mining sites, where barges are notoriously slow vessels. A fast and agile ship warps in to the site, burns away from all the rocks, creates a reference point with a can or a simple bookmark, then brings in the barges so they can move between distant rocks more easily. But for salvaging a simple anomaly this method is unwieldy and overly tedious. A destroyer can easily fit a micro-warp drive and remain cap-stable whilst salvaging, allowing quick travel between wrecks at speeds greater than 1 km/s, which really reduces the time taken to salvage.

It doesn't look like this Cormorant has any speed boosting modules fitted either, having crawled 200 km away at normal ship speeds. I appreciate the idea of dropping that jet-can as a reference, but with the time it took this pilot to drop the can it would have been quicker to bookmark each cluster of wrecks and warp in and out of the site. But at last he is clearing the wrecks with some kind of efficiency, even if it remains hopelessly sub-optimal, and it looks like he will get to the cluster I am sitting on soon. I tell my colleagues to get ready, and as the Cormorant warps back to his reference point and enters warp coming directly for me I call for them to jump and warp to my position.

The two ships enter the system and engage their warp drives as the Cormorant's engines drop the salvager out of warp almost on top of my position. I try to take advantage of the Cormorant's immobility when dropping out of warp to negate the sensor recalibration caused by my decloaking, hoping to lock and disrupt the destroyer before it even gets a chance to evade. But my sense of timing is awry. I manage to decloak and target the Cormorant, disrupting its warp engines and tickling it with my rockets, but the ships that next appear in the anomaly are not my fleet but the two Tengu strategic cruisers. I knew the anomaly they had gone to was close but I didn't think they could respond quite so quickly. I have no choice but to escape and call for the others to disengage just as they arrive.

We all clear the pocket with no loss and no damage, and I reflect on my poor timing. But even though I decloaked too soon it looks like my premature action may not be what caused the failed ambush. A Falcon recon ship appears on d-scan and it looks like our presence was either known or suspected, and our targets were primed to react to a threat. Despite reacting quickly the counter-attack is weak, not getting any points on our ships to prevent warping out. But they save their salvager. Our small fleet makes its way back through w-space to our home system safely. I think we could have popped the Cormorant if I had timed it better. I still get excited by PvP engagements and can be a little impetuous. At least it remains exciting.

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