Counter-ambush with a twist

6th May 2011 – 5.05 pm

Fin warps back to our tower to drop a bookmark in our shared can, politlely letting me jump ahead in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. I'm not sure why, as I completely missed spotting the wormhole amongst all the other signatures and had to follow behind just to get here, but I'm always happy to take point in exploring. Today sees a Drake battlecruiser on my directional scanner in the C3, along with an off-line tower, but no wrecks. Within a few seconds a Rokh battleship arrives to accompany the Drake, and now a Myrmidon battlecruiser too. I pause for a little longer, expecting tell-tale signs of combat to show, but drones are not launched and wrecks are not appearing.

The C3 is fairly large, and its 45 AU radius easily gives me somewhere discreet to hide whilst launching scanning probes. I am looking for an active tower, as well as a potential anomaly or wormhole where the combat ships are lurking. I blanket the system with my probes and find six ships present in total, along with what looks like an active tower, and nine anomalies. I head off to find the on-line tower, where I see a Crane transport ship, Buzzard covert operations boat, and Hoarder hauler all piloted. Now to find the combat ships.

Checking my notes finally shows that I was in this system four months ago. Although knowing that the system was unoccupied then doesn't really help me now I have the location of the off-line tower listed, and I wonder if the ships are all there and trying to destroy the it. But warping directly to the moon I have listed in my notes sees only the off-line tower there. Fin has a better idea, musing that the Rokh and Myrmidon could feasibly be harvesting gas, although the Drake's presence is anomalous. As I am fiddling with d-scan to get a bead on the combat ships the Rokh and Myrmidon warp out, leaving the Drake behind.

I think Fin's right, they are mining gas, and the Drake is there to repel the inevitable Sleeper attack, which looks to have just started. This is good timing, as I have their location refined to a five degree beam and approximately 3 AU away. With the tower out of d-scan range and the Drake occupied with shooting Sleepers no one may be monitoring d-scan. I arrange my probes and hit scan, hoping for a positive first result, so that we can ambush the mining ships when they get back, but my mojo is lacking today. It takes two further scans to get a result I can bookmark and warp to, and even then it is for the Drake and not the ladar site.

Poor scanning notwithstanding, I can still warp in to the site to get a decent bookmark for an ambush. But when I drop out of warp in my cloaked Buzzard I am rather disheartened to see a Tengu strategic cruiser and Onyx heavy interdictor arrive to engage the Drake themselves. We've been beaten to the punch. Or maybe we haven't, as Fin suggests taking on the Tengu in a counter-ambush. That sounds like a good plan, particularly as the aggressors probably won't be expecting a response to come from a different w-space system than this C3. We have the ships to attack the Tengu too, Fin pointing out that it is as 'good a time as any to lose our Legions', boarding her strategic cruiser as I head home to get in to a second.

We warp back to our static wormhole, clear about our primary target of the Tengu, whilst I point out that neutralising the capacitor of the Onyx may help in a pinch as it can force the warp bubble to deactivate. Knowing that time is of the essence no bookmarks have been shared yet, so as we jump in to the C3 I pause briefly as Fin bookmarks the wormhole home, in case of emergency, and I punch d-scan. The Drake appears to be surviving so far against the Tengu and Onyx, which isn't too surprising, and note the appearance of a Manticore stealth bomber from somewhere. All looks good otherwise, and I warp us to the approximate location of the engagement.

Dropping out of warp puts me on the wrong side of the Onyx to get to the Tengu, forcing me to burn through the warp-disrupting bubble to engage our target. It is unfortunate but the kind of risk needed to get a good kill, and I push directly towards the Tengu. What's more unfortunate is seeing five more Tengus warping in to our position. Regardless of whose side they are on, I am sure it is not ours, and within seconds of the start our assault has become a rout. I'm not sure where Fin is and I don't think I can help her if I did know, all I can concentrate on for the moment is getting straight back out of the Onyx's warp bubble.

I continue to neutralise the Tengu and fire missiles its way, but I am moving away from it and trying to find the edge of the warp disruption effect. I'm not convinced that will get me completely clear, as the Tengu itself has a point on my ship, but I am also thinking about my pod now. For a second the Onyx's bubble drops, but it really is just a second. It looks like Fin's neutralising the capacitor of the Onyx to give us a better chance of escape, and so I switch my neuts across to the HIC too. Mind you, I probably don't have thirty seconds left to survive, which is the guaranteed cycle time of the bubble once activated, as my armour is already badly damaged, alarms sounding everywhere.

I'm surprisingly unpanicked considering the circumstances. Admittedly, I have not been thinking with particular clarity up to this point but now I am calm and rational. I spin my view around and spy a convenient planet in a direction directly away from the Onyx and fleet of Tengus, and I bear in mind how ships' engines react when engaging warp drives. When activating warp drive and external factors prevent it, the ship's drives default to their previous state. This unfortunately can often be sitting stationary, which doesn't help when needing to achieve three-quarters normal velocity to enter warp. But if you align your ship first then when you are prevented from entering warp your engines will default to being aligned, ready to warp instantly.

I align to the planet I've spotted and start mashing 'warp'. I am not clear of the warp bubble and one Tengu has its point on me, but if they make a mistake, or I survive just long enough to get clear, I am out of there. My Legion doesn't make it, disintegrating around me in an explosion of lost skill points. Ejection to avoid the loss wasn't on my mind this time, probably because my pod would still be in the HIC's bubble, and it seems my pod still is inside the warp bubble. I align again and return to mashing 'warp'. It only takes a couple more seconds and I am free, travelling faster-than-light to my saviour of a planet. It seems I got close enough to the edge of the HIC's bubble in my Legion that the Tengus weren't quick enough to lock my pod before I could make it just over the edge. I hope Fin's okay.

I bounce off the planet to a second, wary not to warp directly to our K162 in case the session change timer hasn't expired when I get there, and not staying in one place for more than a second. I doubt anyone is chasing me, but I won't be caught if it can be prevented. I check the timer has ended and warp back to our K162, jumping home and reaching the tower safely. I don't suppose the fleet hasn't found our newly opened wormhole yet, which is good. And Fin is roughly okay, despite losing her Legion too. That was only to be expected, considering the circumstances, but her pod was trapped and ransomed. The good news is that they honour the ransom and let her go, reuniting her pod with mine in our tower's force field.

That's pretty frustrating. Two more strategic cruiser losses for no kills, and still our Legions remain effectively untested. They should be capable of defeating other strategic cruisers, or bigger ships in some circumstances, just not in the face of overwhelming force. Fin points out that we got the target Tengu down to 50% shields, and that was after I had already stopped paying attention to attacking and was trying to escape. Some recovered skill points, a new Legion, and I'll be trying again when the next opportunity arises. Today looked like a good chance, either ambushing the gas harvesting ships, or counter-ambushing the Tengu and Onyx, but we fell for a trap that we once tried ourselves, sending out minimal force to provoke a response, with greater numbers waiting in the wings.

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