Low-sec Retribution

1st May 2011 – 3.25 pm

Glorious leader Fin's here and scanning. She resolves our static wormhole almost as soon as I arrive, letting me ride on her coat-tails to jump in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system right behind her. The directional scanner shows no sign of ships, letting us launch probes and take a look around. A blanket scan of the system shows ships and a tower, as well as nine anomalies and five signatures. I go looking for the tower and run headlong in to the first well-thought-out bubble trap I have encountered in w-space. The cans are not spread willy-nilly in the warp bubble but placed anticipating the direction of arrival, not only decloaking my ship but surrounding me such that my best chance of survival is to burn in to the bubble.

A one-second burn in to the warp bubble lets me safely re-activate my cloak, thankfully before the tower defences take exception to my presence, and I can quietly manoeuvre back out of the bubble to make a bookmark that will ensure safe subsequent visits here. And all the ships seen on my combat probes—a carrier, and some battlecruisers, stealth bombers, recon ships, and industrials—turn out to be unpiloted, so no capsuleers I'm aware of saw my arrival. Confirming the lack of capsuleers in the system means we can scan, Fin efficiently finding two wormholes. The opportunity for more exploration looks to end when both connect to low-sec empire space, though, one wormhole being the system's static connection and the other a K162.

We each check the destination system beyond one of the wormholes, Fin exiting to the Kor-Azor region, whereas I am greeted by bacon's lesser relation, turning up in the Ham system in Khanid. But maybe it's not so bad here, a brief check of d-scan showing me a Retribution assault ship and some wrecks somewhere in the system. I move away from the wormhole and cloak, and start a passive scan. Whilst the thirty seconds tick down I sweep d-scan across asteroid fields, stargates, and stations, not finding the Retribution at any of them. The passive scan completes and a lone anomaly appears highlighted in my system map. D-scan puts the Retribution there, which is convenient.

I've alerted Fin already and we have decided to try engaging the Retribution, despite my confusing it with the Absolution command ship. My poor ship recognition skills explain why I merely defer to Fin's suggestions for our own ship selection, happy with me in my Sacrilege heavy assault ship and her in a Flycatcher interdictor. We can't use the warp disruption probe launcher in low-sec space, of course, but the number of advanced rockets the Flycatcher can spew is impressive. Combat fleet formed and bookmarks shared we warp across the C3 and jump in to low-sec. The pilot is still in the anomaly and we enter warp to greet him with firepower.

Our ships land in the anomaly where the Retribution is shooting rats, but he warps out before we can get a positive lock and disrupt his warp engines. That's rather anticlimactic but I suppose not unexpected. There's not much to do now but warp back to the wormhole. The Retribution doesn't jump out, though, which is easy to tell in empire space where the local channel transparently shows every capsuleer present in the system, and perhaps because of this the pilot isn't afraid to swear at us in Russian. At least, I assume he's swearing at us. Yep, okay, that's swearing.

The invective is definitely aimed at us too, which should be obvious from our interrupting him, but also because there is no one else in the system. That's another convenient feature of a populated local channel, being able to tell when reinforcements arrive. With no one else around we can't really take seriously this pilot's attempt to extort ISK from us to escape our own fates, even if we would normally. What's more curious about his behaviour is that within a minute his Retribution returns to the anomaly. We could try to catch him again, but not in our current fleet configuration, as we've already seen that he has time to warp clear.

I will take advantage of another difference between w-space and empire space, in that empire rats rarely change targets once attacked. Warping in to a w-space space anomaly to engage other capsuleers always carries the risk that the Sleepers will turn their attention to you, but empire rats will continue shooting your target, happy to remove the original threat to them first. My plan is to bring my stealth bomber in to the system, benefit from its cloak and lack of recalibration delay to gain an initial lock on the Retribution and disrupt its warp engines, then have Fin join me and take over, letting me flee if I start taking too much damage. It seems like a good idea to me.

I disappear from the local channel for a couple of minutes as I make the journey home through w-space, stow the Sacrilege, and board my Manticore. I get back to low-sec and am quick to activate my cloak, so that even though the Retribution can see I've returned he won't know what ship I'm in. For all he knows, I've jumped in through a stargate on the other side of the system. It is simple enough to warp in to the anomaly again, seeing the Retribution taking on two rat battleships almost forty kilometres away. That's a little far for my warp disruptor to have effect and I start closing. I'm initially concerned that the Retribution will be aligned and ready to warp out again, but I see that he is in a tight orbit around one of the battleships, mitigating some damage with speed.

The Retribution's orbit around the rat works to my advantage, as he is soon within twenty kilometres of my Manticore, easily close enough to get a point. I call Fin in and, once she confirms she's in warp, I decloak and get my systems hot. The Retribution has no time to react. I get a positive lock, disrupt his warp engines, and burn in close to prevent his escape, throwing torpedoes at him as I do. Fin arrives and adds her rockets, the remaining rat battleship continuing to shoot the Retribution too. I get ready to warp out but the Retribution is barely scratching my shields, my main concern now being running out of capacitor juice. Our combined firepower overcomes the assault ship's tank, and once his armour is pulverised our target explodes.

Fin and I have already agreed to let the pod go. There's no real gain in killing the capsuleer, unlike in w-space, and getting the Retribution is satisfying enough. And it's the first loss in security status for both of us, which is quite exciting! We loot the wreck, finding some nice salvage that he's collected, along with Tech II lasers and Imperial Navy crystals, and warp back to the wormhole. The big, red global criminal cool-down looks quite imposing, but I ignore it and jump back in to the C3, wormholes apparently blind to injustice.

Excited by our low-sec piracy, we check the other low-sec system for signs of activity. Despite there being a dozen pilots and plenty of ships around, it seems they are not making targets of themselves but perhaps trying to make targets of others on stargates. We're both happy with our single kill for the night, and end the evening by making opportunity of Ham being only three hops from Amarr and buying some more stocks of fuel for our tower. We make two trips each, filling up our Cranes in Amarr and avoiding the gate camp between high- and low-sec on our way back. Despite there being a bit of a brouhaha, as two Hurricane battlecruisers and an Onyx heavy interdictor catch a third Hurricane, we both safely return home with a couple more weeks' worth of fuel to keep us going.

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