Interrupting a tower attack

27th December 2010 – 5.54 pm

Leaving the boring Orca behind finds some activity. The industrial command ship turned out to be simply warping between towers, but in this adjacent class 3 w-space system my directional scanner reports both ships and drones present, and drones are only launched in the field. There are also two towers in the system, although seeing just the one force field has me supposing that the ships and drones are attacking the off-line tower, hoping to destroy it and claim the abandoned defences, which would also account for the lack of wrecks.

Locating the off-line tower confirms my suspicion, as the ships are coincident with the d-scan return. I warp my ship to their position, still in my Manticore stealth bomber, and see that the tower is indeed being slowly whittled away. A Hound stealth bomber joins three battleships in the activity, the Tempest, Typhoon, and Abaddon all adding their drones to the attack for extra damage. I doubt I'll make much of a dent in any of the battleships, even with Fin soon to join me in a second Manticore, but the Hound is a feasible target. A couple of bombs lobbed in its direction and maybe a volley or two of torpedoes should see it pop.

I line up my ship to get a good attitude on the Hound, and wait for Fin. But the Hound pilot has other ideas than his ship exploding around him, his spider-sense tingling as he warps away, back to the on-line tower in the system. I hope he is just returning for more ammunition, having used all the torpedoes in his small stores. When Fin joins me, warping close to my position as a convenient reference point, I go searching for the Hound. Finding him sitting quietly inside the shields of the on-line tower, and away from the hangar, makes me think he's been distracted and is not coming back soon. But that's okay. Even if we can't pop one of the battleships a couple of well-placed bombs should be enough to give them the willies.

Fin has lined herself up nicely, where a bomb looks like it will encompass all but the Abaddon, which is sitting somewhat further away from the tower than the other two battleships. I leave the Hound behind and warp back to rejoin her, dropping short of her position at twenty kilometres, which she says will keep us adequately separated yet both in good bombing positions. 'I'm coming from the third planet', I say, with a niggling feeling that perhaps I should have mentioned this before entering warp. And I really ought to have done so, as my vector back towards the tower sends my Manticore almost directly through it, the battleships, and the drones, and my cloak is dropped involuntarily as a result.

Our element of surprise is gone, as is any advantage of coordinating bomb launches, as my stealth bomber must be noticed by the other pilots as I warp in. But I am not about to turn around and leave just because I've been caught being unprofessional. Time is short now, my ship already decloaked, so I turn and point at the Tempest, which is the best distance away from me, and launch my bomb. As I wait for the explosion I get a positive target lock and start disrupting the battleship's warp drives, just so that it can't escape from scuttling my skiff. The bomb hits, destroying a drone and hurting the battleship, but far from threatening its destruction.

I follow the bomb with torpedoes, hoping that the Tempest's defences have been compromised for more firepower for its tower operation, although in retrospect I am not sure wishing for more firepower is particularly helpful. I already gauged what I was facing when sizing up the Hound as a target, knowing that the battleships would take a while to lock on to my small hull, so am happy to fire a few shots before fleeing. What I didn't count on was any of the ships to be fitted for PvP, although it makes sense to prepare for that during such a highly visible operation. The Tempest returns my disruption of its engines by disrupting my own, preventing my own escape, as it sets its rather dangerous drones heading towards me.

Thankfully, I am not entirely inexperienced. I know this is a fight I won't win and that my own point on the target is more a bluff than real threat. I may have locked the Tempest and started firing, but immediately after the bomb launch I also aligned to a convenient celestial object and tried to keep my range from the battleship. And, now that I am pointed, I engage my reheat to surge my Manticore further out of range. It only takes a few seconds before the Tempest's point drops off my ship, having exceeded the range of the warp disruption module, and my mashing of the 'warp' button flings my ship out of harm's way. I cloak as soon as all target locks are dropped from my ship, and remember to breathe again.

The Tempest dropped to below half shields, which isn't bad for an improvised hit and run, and my Manticore hasn't taken any armour damage. And now it's Fin's turn. She watched my hapless display remaining cloaked, choosing quite sensibly not to launch her bomb directly towards me, and now she has a clean shot. The Tempest may be gone, but the Typhoon is in her sights along with a bunch of drones. Fin decloaks, launches the bomb, and pop goes a Garde. She wisely decides to cloak again and move away rather than shoot and get shot, and we are both alive and safe, our disruptive mayhem complete!

Not knowing what else lurks behind cloaking devices, the battleships unsurprisingly warp away from their operation and return to their tower. A couple of pilots board pointier ships, one in to his own Manticore, but none apparently return to shoot the tower. I scoop the few drones left behind by the spooked ships, undisturbed, and after a bit more loitering and monitoring both Fin and I leave the system and head home for the evening. I fly-by their active tower on my way out of the system and, for the first time, notice that all of their defences are incapacitated. It looks like the battle for the system happened recently and they are working quickly to demolish the losers' tower.

Now that we have interrupted them the off-line tower's shields will regenerate, perhaps substantially, and their operation may almost have to start again. Such is the capriciousness of null-sec space. Sometimes you can't help but be a tool and ruin another capsuleer's day for your own amusement.

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