Opportunistic test-fire on a small tower

28th January 2011 – 5.07 pm

A conspicuous wormhole is a good wormhole. At least, it is in the home system, either to go out exploring or to warn of potential invasion. Today, as is the more common case, I am heading through our static wormhole to explore our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A punch of my directional scanner on the other side of the wormhole sees an operational tower and a couple of Mammoth haulers, but not many defences. Finding the tower reveals the haulers, and also my overestimation of its defences. What I saw on d-scan were only some hardeners. Quite a few shield hardeners, it must be admitted, but that is the entirety of the tower's defensive systems. No gun or missile batteries, no warp disruption modules, no stasis webifiers. The complete lack of retribution is almost an invitation to shoot the tower.

It's just me in my Buzzard covert operations boat, though. And even if I swapped for a bigger ship it would still be just me, and until I get my dreadnought I don't think it's worth spending time slowly whittling away at the tower's shields. I launch probes and scan, my first intention, to see twelve anomalies and seven signatures to resolve. I bookmark all of the anomalies, in case of an ambush or ISK-making opportunity, along with a radar, gravimetric, and three ladar sites, before finally getting to the static wormhole. Today's exit leads to null-sec k-space. I poke my nose out to get the destination system, although I don't appear to be quite as motivated to increase the number of red dots of exploration on my system map these days. I return to w-space, through the quiet C3 to home, and, with nothing happening, take a break.

I return later to see Fin has discovered and noted the defenceless tower too. Unlike me, she's started shooting it. Now I feel like I can help. I have to borrow Fin's Nighthawk command ship to maximise my chances of making a difference, but the Nighthawk's presence is short-lived when I realise the tower's shields are resistant to kinetic damage. 'Switch to your Sacrilege', suggests Fin, which sounds like a good idea. The Nighthawk's bonuses only boost kinetic damage, but the Sacrilege's apply to any heavy assault missile type. I board my heavy assault ship, updating its fitting to include Tech II launchers and filling the low slots with damage enhancing ballistic control systems. The only snag is that we aren't quite stocked with many non-kinetic missiles, only having about four thousand EM assault missiles. It will do for now, I just need to tweak my skill training.

My Sacrilege blasts away at the tower alongside Fin and the puppet, the idea being to 'see how fast it goes with two-to-three of us on a small tower'. We can spread a little pain whilst gathering data for later experiments. The shields are being knocked down too, slowly but surely. More surely than against the large faction tower in our pulsar system, too. And, before long, my skill training completes. I can now shoot large energy turrets, almost as good as the professionals! I change ships again, swapping the Sacrilege for more Amarrian weirdness. I'm sure as a Caldari I shouldn't be doing this, but I warp away from our tower and back to the C3 in an Armageddon battleship, bristling with lasers.

I'm not entirely convinced that I can strictly be thought of as attacking the tower, not with the Amarr battleship and large energy turret skills both sitting frivolously at level one, even though big beams of coherent light shoot out from turrets at regular intervals. I'm probably doing as much harm as a light-show at a Muse gig. But the tower's shields are now down to 50% and falling, thanks to Fin's and the puppet's real skills. The question now is if the tower has any strontium in its fuel bay. Without it, the tower won't go in to reinforced mode and we can continue shooting until it is destroyed. With it, the tower will become invulnerable for as long as the strontium lasts and we will have to go home.

It seems like too much of a gamble to plant a small tower in a w-space system, particularly one connected potentially daily to null-sec, and rely on shield hardeners alone to deter attackers. But if the owners consider themselves that safe from harm then maybe they also consider strontium to be excesssive, despite its one-time installation cost for guaranteed protection. Time will tell, once we knock the shields below 25% and damage starts blasting through to the armour, which is going to happen quicker than expected. We get below the peak recharge rate of the shields without any fuss and Fin and I get more interested to see what will happen next. A speck of damage hits the armour and, sadly, the strontium kicks in. And not just a generous amount of strontium, but the maximum that fits in the bay. The tower enters reinforced mode, which it will stay in for the next forty hours.

There's no chance of waiting for the timer to end and the tower to become vulnerable again, as our static connection to this system only lasts sixteen hours itself. The chances of finding this system again are tiny, even if I've managed to re-open a consecutive connection to a system unintentionally once before, making the only hope of continued assault to be to stay in the system. Remaining here for the next two days is a boring proposition, then having to get home via null-sec unnecessarily risky, all when there is no guarantee that the occupants won't turn up in superior numbers and bigger ships to vent their anger at us. But we did it! Just the three of us, with moderate-to-meagre skills, forced a tower in to reinforced mode in quite short time.

It's good to know we can assault a tower, and maybe I can advance my battleship and laser skills to make the next assault easier, particularly if we want to finally get rid of the abandoned tower at home. Before we leave this C3 behind us Fin takes her interceptor back in to the system, burns away from the wormhole, and just off-grid drops a jet-can. By renaming the can she sends our best wishes to the occupants, for when they come to survey the damage, and have to repair and resupply. Leaving it just off-grid almost ensures that they will never be able to locate the can, particularly when our wormhole collapses of old age, keeping it in their system as a niggling reminder.

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