20th August 2010 – 5.14 pm

A new day means a new wormhole to find. I am hoping my early scanning will catch some capusleers being rather more cavalier about their attitudes to the directional scanner than in busier periods. But most of the time early scanning only results in empty w-space systems until I get ejected out to empire space. So it makes me tingle when I jump through our new static wormhole in to an active class 4 system. Two battlecruisers, a Ferox and Brutix, can be seen on the directional scanner along with a Heron frigate and Cerberus heavy assault ship, and, most importantly, Sleeper wrecks. I immediately start my on-board scanner running a passive scan for anomalies in the system.

There are a couple of jet-cans on d-scan too. And judging by the names of the two battlecruisers, which d-scan also reveals, the ships are likely mining gas. Sleepers come to protect gas clouds in w-space—I have no idea why—which also could explain the wrecks on d-scan. I will need to look for ladar sites, which means launching probes. The system is small, though, and I won't be able to launch scanning probes out of d-scan range of the ships. But there is a way to minimise my visibility. I fly to the outer ring of the system and decloak to launch probes, sitting with my display in the solar system map. As soon as the complement of probes is launched I whisk them all fifty AU away and hit the scan button to send the probes warping to my chosen distant point. Naturally, no signatures are returned, but my probes are now handily out of d-scan range of any point in this system. I can begin to narrow down my search of the gas miners using d-scan.

I get a bearing of the ships and jet-can, repeatedly narrowing d-scan's beam angle and adjusting the scan position to reveal their direction in space. Keeping my attitude I vary the range of d-scan until I also know how distant the ships are, within one AU or so. Now comes the tricky part in positioning the probes. I can get a reliable placement of the probes in the direction I require but I am still poor at judging relative distances in a three-dimensional space with few points of reference. Maybe I need to string some probes along a line, like some anal beads of probing doom, using their spheres indicating effective range to gauge my required distance. For now, I try to estimate the range as best I can and reposition the probes in to a scanning arrangement. I get ready to recall the probes should I get the solid hit I need and punch the scanning button.

My first scan is poor and I need to reposition my probes significantly. The second scan is better but I need a third to get a strong enough signal to warp to. I recall my probes, strongly suspecting that I have taken far too long not to be noticed, and warp to the ladar site. As I thought, I have been rumbled. The ships mining gas are aligning and warping out of the site as I enter, and I doubt it is because they are finished. I swap the Buzzard covert operations boat for my Manticore stealth bomber anyway, returning to lurk in the gas mining site to see what happens.

Regular checks of d-scan show that ships are being swapped, a Falcon recon ship appearing for a while as well as an Onyx heavy interdictor. These capsuleers are cautious and prepared. Then the miners return, right back to their jet-can and activating their gas harvesters. I find their tower in this sytem and check it for active ships, seeing the Falcon piloted and a second capsuleer sitting in his pod, perhaps waiting to see what ship would be most appropriate for the situation. I return to the ladar site to see the miners still collecting gas, like there is nothing to be concerned about. Even with only the Falcon prepared I think any assault I make will end badly for me, particularly alone. It's good that a colleague turns up to share in my foolhardy attack.

I quickly update my colleague with details of what I've found, blurting about gas miners with a Falcon for back-up, and I jump back home to swap the Manticore for my Onyx. The Manticore would be safer but it may not guarantee a kill, and I'm sure I'm risking the Onyx if I took it in alone. Now that I have support I think a bolder approach is justified. This attack may not end well but I am more confident about wreaking some havoc before dying myself. On hearing about the Falcon my colleague selects his Arazu recon ship fitted with sensor dampeners, to reduce the effectiveness of the likely ECM we'll face, and we jump in to our neighbouring system for glory.

My nav-comp has the jet-can of the miners bookmarked, where I aim my Onyx and its warp disruption bubble. I drop out of warp on top of the two battlecruisers and an unlucky Iteron hauler collecting the mined gas. The weak hauler becomes my first target, as I activate my bubble and trap the three ships. In fact, I've trapped four ships, as I am just as unable to warp away as any other ship in the bubble, which was my main concern about a solo assault. The Iteron explodes within seconds under fire from my missiles and I lock the pod and wake the pilot up in a new clone. I switch targets to the Hurricane battlecruiser mining gas, who is trying to escape, but as I start weakening its shields the Falcon decloaks nearby. The fight becomes more interesting.

My inexperience makes me falter, unsure whether to target the Falcon or continue with the softer targets. As the Falcon appears to be causing me no problems I ignore it, which is probably my first mistake. I think my colleague in his Arazu is doing a good job of reducing the targeting range of the Falcon to make it ineffective and I ought to use this time to destroy it or shoo the ship away. Instead I continue shooting the Hurricane, at least until a Manticore decloaks to launch a bomb at me. It's an interesting manoeuvre for the stealth bomber, not only because my Onyx can easily withstand a bomb blast but because the bomb is indiscriminate in its targeting, damaging everything in its fifteen kilometre radius explosion. Another odd decision of the Manticore's pilot is to move in to my Onyx's warp bubble. Prevented from warping away, and knowing how fragile stealth bombers are, I have a new target. The Manticore pops quickly, the pilot podded for his error.

I flit back between the Hurricane and Falcon, now deciding that the Falcon is the priority target but tempted by the Hurricane's lack of shields and diminished armour. And the combat is starting to turn. The Falcon is neutralising the energy in my capacitor to a debilitating degree and my Onyx cannot even power its warp disruption bubble for a few seconds, until I get just enough capacitor energy back to re-activate it. When I start to concentrate fire on the Falcon his ECM jams my targeting systems. Maybe I should have kept the bubble down and tried to warp away, a notion that gets stronger when my colleague is forced to flee when his ship starts to get torn apart by drones of more support ships warping in. And without his recon ship in support I become a sitting duck.

The Falcon is in full control of my systems, keeping me unable to lock any targets and depleted of energy to power my systems. I am floating helplessly in space as a Harbinger battlecruiser and Navy Issue Megathron battleship keep my warp engines well and truly disrupted. I am regretting my impulsive decision to swap my normally fitted reheat with a micro-warp drive. I had hoped the MWD would perhaps let me burn away from trouble more effectively, to let me get out of range of warp disruption effects and warp away. But the warp scramblers trained on my Onyx disrupt warp drives effectively enough to affect MWDs too. It doesn't look like the Falcon would let me keep enough energy to use even a reheat, though. With no systems active and two powerful combat ships pounding on my shields the Onyx doesn't last too long. My ship explodes around me.

I am prepared for this moment. Not only did I mostly expect to lose my ship in this assault but I am aligned towards a celestial object. I have also been rapidly hitting the 'warp' button, on the chance that both ships stupidly drop their points on me at the same time. They don't, but my pod warps away safely and I am able to get back through the wormhole and to the safety of the tower. Before I leave the system a couple of capsuleers say in the local channel that it was a good fight. I do too, because it was a good fight. It doesn't matter that I lose my third Onyx, the combat was as exhilarating as my attack was impetuous.

Looking only at the numbers the loss of the Onyx is not balanced against the ships I destroyed. Taking in to account the two pilots I managed to slaughter in their pods makes the result look better, but perhaps still not in my favour. However, seeing that the Manticore had an advanced spaceship command skill book in its hold when it flew in to my bubble to be killed, valued at forty-five million ISK, as well as a set of strategic cruiser subsystem skill books, my assault starts to look more like a victory. But that is just the numbers and the combat was worth engaging in for the combat alone. I don't think we're quite finished yet either, as my colleague and I board our own stealth bombers and return to the neighbouring system.

  1. 3 Responses to “Counter-strike”

  2. I enjoyed this post but at the end all I remember is "anal beads of probing doom", thanks for making me nearly choke on my coffee :)

    By Mdih Lihu on Aug 21, 2010

  3. I wonder why the arazu didnot take care of the Falcon.
    Falcon with neuts, thats an approach I didnot think of.
    Hopefully I will be there next time for support.

    By Stonie Bandit on Aug 22, 2010

  4. He did, Stonie, for quite a while, which is why I stupidly kept shooting the miners instead of thinking the Falcon a real threat. Once the hostile drones were swarming all over the Arazu he tried to deal with them but was forced to retreat, and that meant the Falcon could unleash its full capability on me.

    And it certainly is one of my more evocative similes, Mdih. I'm glad it resonated with you.

    By pjharvey on Aug 22, 2010

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