Frazzling a Ferox

23rd September 2010 – 5.34 pm

Many of us are familiar with war films. Specifically, where a sniper has surprised a unit and shot a soldier without killing him, tempting the others to come to his aid. The injured soldier's cries of pain can be too much to bear, particularly when the sniper takes an occasional extra brutal shot to provoke more emotion in all those involved, until the pressure bursts and either more targets can't help but present themselves or the sniper finally kills her incapacitated victim. I imagine the pilot of the Machariel and his colleagues at the tower in our neighbouring class 4 w-space system are only too aware of the ploy.

Our static wormhole is opened and a scout goes through to the neighbouring system to find it occupied. The tower is located and an expensive Machariel faction battleship is inside the shields along with some other ships, all of them piloted. But what the directional scanner also shows is a Ferox battlecruiser elsewhere in the system, its singular presence and lack of accompanying Sleeper wrecks perhaps indicating it is mining gas. That makes it a target, our target. I turn up as a small and vicious corporation fleet is congregating on our side of the wormhole waiting to get the signal to strike at the Ferox, and I join them in my new Sacrilege heavy assault ship.

We don't need five combat ships to engage a single Ferox, particularly one that is mining, but we are looking at the bigger target. We want to bait the Machariel out and take him down. The Machariel pilot is not just going to throw his ship away, though, and tipping our hand early by showing our whole fleet is only going to convince him to stay away. But if we send in just one or two ships that look like they could be easily overpowered by a battleship with support then perhaps we can lure the Machariel in to a fight. I am volunteered to act as bait, my stumbling ineptitude a better substitute than any acting, but not in my Sacrilege. There are concerns about the Ferox having warp core stabilisers fitted, which would allow it to escape a simple one- or two-strength point. My Onyx heavy interdictor's bubble, on the other hand, will ensure it cannot escape.

I swap ships back at the tower and return to the wormhole in my Onyx. Our scout in the system is about to release his probing skills on the Ferox's position and calls me to jump through the wormhole and hold my position, which preserves the session change cloak. On the other side of the wormhole I take the thirty seconds or so available to me to bookmark the way home, remembering all the times I've forgotten and the troubles it can cause. Then I am in warp, initiated by the scout who sits cloaked near the wormhole and has successfully scanned our target. My Onyx lands on top of the unsuspecting Ferox, who is immediately encapsulated in the futuristic amber of a heavy interdictor's warp bubble.

I lock on my weapon systems and start shooting the Ferox. But not too much. I want to give the pilot time to alert his colleagues that he is under attack and perhaps they should come to his aid in, oh, I don't know, a battleship maybe. Something big and powerful, certainly. So I don't quite anticipate a Badger industrial ship joining us, particularly as it drops out of warp in the middle of my warp bubble. The hauler must have entered warp before the interdiction sphere was activated, coming to collect some of the gas being mined, and couldn't turn around mid-warp to escape also being caught. I turn my attention to the Badger as it tries desperately to flee from the bubble.

The industrial ship is made of tinfoil compared to combat ships and crumples after only a few missile volleys. The pilot's pod is ejected in to the warp bubble and, after a bit of advice from colleagues, waiting patiently on the other side of the wormhole, I decide to destroy the pod and re-focus on the Ferox. One ship is destroyed, one pilot dead and returned to empire space, and the Ferox is again getting shot, helped by our scout in his Loki. There is still no sign of retributive action from the local tower, the Machariel refusing to move, despite our aggressive but limited assault.

I purposely restrict my damage output, which isn't that difficult in an Onyx. The Ferox looks like it has a minimal tank in effect, its shield repairing a minor amount occasionally, and I make sure I do enough damage to keep the shields steadily depleting whilst taking my time to punch through to the weaker armour of the Caldari ship. I resort to activating only one or two of my launchers at a time to make myself appear weaker but still menacing, and still the Machariel stays inside its tower. There is some movement of ships at the tower, a couple of battlecruisers launched and manoevring, but none come out to play.

I finish it. The Ferox pops under a full onslaught of heavy assault missiles and I don't waste time podding the pilot. I scoop the two corpses and loot all I can carry in my hold, but I don't destroy the wrecks. Instead we get a salvager in to the system to my location, as well as a hauler, and we clear up the site to leave no trace by taking everything back with us. The mined gas is collected, the wrecks are salvaged. It is a last effort to convince these 'high skill point chickens with expensive toys', as a colleague calls them, to come out and fight. But we leave the ladar site and system without encountering another ship.

Maybe they have seen the films and didn't want to risk being caught in such a trap. Maybe I should have let the first pod escape back to its tower. But even in our early days of being carebears in w-space we would have thrown ships at the intruders, knowing we were racing to our doom, and not just cower in our tower to leave our colleagues to die alone. And all that's changed these days is that we use more expensive ships, losing them fairly often too. Baiting the Machariel would have been the ideal result but we would have been happy simply to scrap with some battlecruisers. Our neighbouring system is not going to provide any more action, though, and we begin to collapse our static wormhole so we can continue to be productive.

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