Returning fire

23rd January 2011 – 3.42 pm

The Noctis got away, but the activity doesn't halt. Our bombing run on the salvager sees the alert pilot escape from my inept clutches, thwarting glorious leader Fin's kill, leaving the Sleeper wrecks still in the anomaly. And it doesn't look like the local pilots want their profit go to waste, as I loiter cloaked in my stealth bomber at the tower in this class 3 w-space system. The pilots of the two Tengu strategic cruisers and single Drake battlecruiser stay in their ships, the Drake moving towards their hangar array before warping away, back towards the anomaly.

It makes sense to refit the battlecruiser, cramming its many high slots with salvagers and perhaps fitting a warp core stabiliser or two. The Drake's hefty shield will easily protect it from a couple of bombs and a few volleys of torpedoes, which will give it time to escape, if it doesn't outright discourage an attack that should likely fail. And no further attack leaves it in peace to loot and salvage the wrecks. But Fin and I are game. I've seen how a Drake explodes with a co-ordinated triple bomb launch and a few torpedoes, so maybe two bombs and a bit of time will be enough, particularly with a couple of sensor dampers hopefully preventing the Drake from returning fire.

I warp back to the anomaly to see the Drake slowly crawling to the first of the remaining wrecks. Fin is already at the site and in position, so after a little manouevring we are ready to go. We co-ordinate our launch, decloaking simultaneously to send our two remaining bombs towards the battlecruisers. Oh, hullo, a third Manticore decloaks and launches its own bomb, but he's not with us. I try to adjust for the new ship's appearance, pegging the bomber as a softer target, but I'm caught in his bomb's detonation and he's not in mine. I get a hefty shock to the system, followed by a Manticore and Drake shooting my small ship, even before I have locked and launched at the third bomber. My ship pops, releasing my pod in to vacuum, and I hurry to warp away to safety.

Fin, however, is not quite as fortunate. Her ship too is destroyed, but her pod doesn't escape. A new Fin wakes up in a clone vat somewhere in empire space. She sets about buying a new ship and returning to w-space, and I realise I also need a replacement ship. I turn my pod around and fling it towards the exit wormhole, which leads out to a convenient high-sec system in Kador today, to go shopping. The wormhole is reaching the end of its natural lifetime, and neither of us knows how long it has left, but buying a new Manticore shouldn't take long. And as I hit the market for a ship and fittings I reflect on my mistakes.

I know I cleared the anomaly after our unsuccessful ambush on the Noctis, but I wasn't sure if Fin did. I imagine so, but I didn't ask. On warping back in to the site, to line up the Drake, the anomaly was still there, structures and all, instead of being wrecks floating in empty space. Anomalies disappear relatively quickly, as long as ships aren't present, and this one should have been empty for long enough. If I had checked that Fin had cleared the site its continued existence should have alerted me to the presence of a cloaked ship. That was one mistake.

Also, the Drake was moving awfully slowly towards the wrecks. I know that Drakes aren't particularly fast normally, but this one could have warped in to a better spot to begin with, or at least started tractoring wrecks towards it—if it intended to salvage them. Its lazy speed should have been another warning sign that this was a counter-ambush. But I only saw another target. I should be smarter than this and have been more prepared to escape, or simply not engaged what ought to have looked like obvious bait.

Hopefully I'll learn from my errors for the future. For now, I have my new ship to assemble. And being a bit picky about wanting a cloak and bomb launcher, plus ammunition, before taking the ship home I find that shopping isn't all that quick today. My purchases send me through a dozen systems as I go hither and thither, even accidentally buying a module in the completely opposite direction to my current destination, not checking my atlas but only going by the number of jumps to the system. But eventually I have a fully fitted ship, and I'm heading home.

Fin has her Manticore ready too and is already back in w-space. 'Oh no!', she cries. What, has the wormhole gone? 'No, I just thought about my poor corpse. What are the bastards doing to her?' I wouldn't worry about it, what sicko does anything but leave them floating frozen in space? Indeed, jumping through the very wibbly wormhole sees Fin's corpse still in space, according to my directional scanner, which also picks up some scanning probes. I move away from the wormhole and cloak, adjusting the range on d-scan to confirm that the probes are converging on the wormhole I just entered through.

And, to answer how much life it has left, the wormhole dies behind me, seconds after I jump back to w-space. That was lucky, but it must be a bit confusing for the scanner who has just resolved its location. A Drake warps in and I can almost sense his bafflement at not seeing a wormhole. I also resist the temptation to bomb him for giggles, choosing instead to warp homewards. I jump home and return to the safety of our tower, parking my new Manticore in our hangar.

The evening ends with a chuckle, despite losing two ships and a pod. Out in high-sec, both Fin and I named our new ships in isolation and brought them home without mentioning our names. I nearly always struggle with naming ships, this time choosing Lorem Ipsum, latin placeholder text. It tickles me, then, that I see Fin has named her new ship Ellipsis. I suppose we were both in rather a hurry to get home.

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