Shooting through clouds

3rd March 2011 – 7.48 pm

I return to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system in my Manticore stealth bomber, looking for trouble. Two pilots sit inside the shields of the tower in the system, one in an Iteron hauler, the other in a Megathron battleship, but the Megathron isn't there for long. Just as I spot on my directional scanner an Arazu recon ship somewhere in the system the Megathron warps away. Spinning d-scan around shows the battleship didn't go to one of the two wormholes here and remains in the system. I soon locate the ship to be at a moon, where I follow to see what he's doing.

Dropping out of warp at the moon reveals the Megathron to be shooting an off-line tower, and all by himself. I ponder my options for engaging him—I won't pop him before he melts my tiny hull, getting a different ship could be risky as he has potential support nearby, and even refitting to attack at range with remote sensor dampers would let him warp away with no fuss—but I'm not given long to think, as he warps back to the tower. Maybe this was only a test-firing, either against the tower directly or to gauge the effectiveness of the ship's weapon systems in general.

The Megathron's return to the tower could be because his colleagues are waking up. A Helios covert operations boat turns up, the pilot switching to a Thorax cruiser, and a Buzzard cov-ops boat arrives to see its pilot swap in to a Drake battlecruiser. And they warp off as a pair, before I even get a good look at the direction they head. My first thought is that the cruiser is collecting planet goo from the customs offices, but d-scan shows me the two ships are actually in a ladar site, one I scanned earlier. I may have a soft target to hit. The Drake's presence is awkward, though, but it doesn't make a successful strike impossible.

First I need to reconnoitre the ladar site, as the Thorax, presumably the ship harvesting the gas, won't be at the deadspace signature but inside one of the gas clouds. And I need to get in to the site without decloaking from passing through clouds, which would rather give the game away early. The system map helps here, as I can see that one of the planets is on roughly the same horizontal plane as the ladar site, and warping from that planet to the site should let me avoid the gas clouds within. I bounce off the planet, warp a little short of the signature, and arrive cloaked to see the Thorax harvesting away.

I can get a good look at the Drake now. His position away from the cloud shows he isn't there to gather gas, and the hull is shimmering with what must be active shield hardeners. I would say the Drake is acting as muscle for the Thorax, not because of me but as protection from the Sleepers that are expected to turn up. The Drake and I sit and wait, watching the Thorax at work, both of us wanting the Sleepers to turn up so the Drake can get back to doing nothing at the tower. But the Sleepers are taking a day off and, luckily, the Drake thinks that he can too, warping out of the site once certain the Thorax won't be molested by w-space denizens. Now's my chance.

I've passed the time so far by manoeuvring to be on the same horizontal axis as the Thorax, which will make my approach more convenient. I crawl closer to the cruiser, my tactical overlay visible as I scrutinise the gas cloud. I know that the cloud will decloak me, I'm just not sure at what point it will. I am tempted to warp out of the site and back in, using the jet-can being used by the Thorax as my reference point, knowing for sure that I'll decloak but taking a quick shot as soon as I am able. I don't like losing visual contact with my target, though, and it looks like I can get to thirty kilometres of the Thorax before I encroach on the cloud. That's enough to launch a bomb and get in to warp disruption range before the cruiser can escape.

I close in for the kill, cackling to myself, the Thorax pilot nicely oblivious to my presence. That is, until I get to fifty kilometres from him and the gas cloud interferes with my cloaking device. I still look to be a good twenty kilometres from the physical boundary, I should be cloaked! My plan is scuppered, but I still take my best shot. And, as it turns out, my best shot in this case is pretty poor. I launch my bomb a couple of kilometres too early, seeing it detonate just short of the cruiser, and only get one volley of torpedoes fired before the Thorax warps away, barely dented. I have to warp away too, to re-activate my cloak.

That was unfortunate. It is clearly difficult working with amorphous objects, but I expected the physical representation of the cloud to have better defined edges, considering the implications. At least I know for future attempts that warping out and in is probably the plan most likely to succeed. As for the locals, there is a small flurry of activity as notice of my presence no doubt ripples across communication channels, and after a short while the Arazu is very obviously spotted heading to the ladar site. In fact, warping back there myself, the recon ship is in plain sight, despite it being able to cloak.

The Arazu is protecting the Thorax, now back to harvesting gas, and whilst the Thorax likes the deterrent effect I think he'd rather I get my comeuppance. The Arazu cloaks, perhaps under orders, to make it look like the operation has reset. But even with the Arazu for protection the Thorax is no longer jetting the gas to be collected later, instead returning to the tower with every full hold. That must be tedious for him. And as tempting a target the Thorax is, I am careful to remind myself about the Arazu's abilities before thinking about a second bombing run. As I thought, the Arazu has a bonus to warp disruption module range, which means I would not be free to hit and run even from a moderate distance. I think I'll leave them to it and keep my ship, heading home instead to get some rest and reflect on the hunt.

  1. 2 Responses to “Shooting through clouds”

  2. Nice post, but I thought I should mention the Arazu is a recon class ship, not a HAC. :)

    By Gray on Mar 3, 2011

  3. Oops. You're right, of course, and I've updated the post. Thanks for the correction.

    By pjharvey on Mar 4, 2011

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.