Changeable conditions

22nd July 2011 – 5.45 pm

A corporation fleet is in our neighbouring w-space system shooting Sleepers. I could join them, if I were feeling sociable, or I could scout for the safety of the fleet, which suits me better. My choice is helped in that a Buzzard has been detected by the fleet in the class 4 system, making my first task to look for new wormholes. I jump in to the system and launch probes, warping my covert Tengu strategic cruiser over to the static connection to further class 4 w-space so that I can directly monitor any movement between the two systems whilst I scan. I sift through the rocks and gas to confirm no new wormholes are present, and jump through to C4b to see if the Buzzard has returned this way yet.

'Fleet on K162.' Having given a taut warning about a hostile fleet on the other side of the wormhole I can take time to determine ship classes. Sleeper combat stops and our fleet bugs out of the anomaly to get home safely, as I make note of a Devoter heavy interdictor, Loki strategic cruiser, Hyperion battleship, Legion strategic cruiser, Drake battlecruiser, and Manticore stealth bomber all clustered on the wormhole. And now that I have sufficient information about the hostile fleet, one that certainly isn't out to engage Sleepers, I can think about evading them.

I could simply jump back through the wormhole to C4a, but I should follow my own wisdom. Jumping back would polarise my ship and give me one chance to flee. Trying to evade the fleet in this system would give me a chance here and, if unsuccessful, the same chance when jumping back. I move but have unluckily appeared too close to the wormhole to cloak immediately, and the hostile ships lock on to and start shooting my Tengu. A second later I am jumping back to C4a, and additional flares indicate I am unsurprisingly being followed. I know I am polarised and that I can't jump back a second time, so I don't wait for the session change timer to end and simply move and cloak, which works this time.

The Hyperion and Devoter appear, the HIC's warp bubble covering the wormhole, but I am safe. Our fleet is safe too, thanks to the warp bubble, as the hostile ships are trapped themselves at the wormhole and can't warp across to our K162 for some potential interception of our PvE ships. I ran some nifty interference. I warp away from the wormhole and the threat of the ships, and return to sit at range to monitor further activity as our fleet reconfigures with thoughts of engaging the hostile ships. Their numbers and ship types are known and we could probably give them a bit of a slap.

My colleagues swap from shield- to armour-tanked ships, throw in a couple of Guardian logistics ships, and they warp out ready for action. Our decision to attack is bolstered when I make a new contact at the wormhole, an Orca industrial command ship pushed through in what looks like an effort to collapse the connection. This is a defensive posture and one that my colleagues are keen to abuse. They jump in to the system and, as I am sat a fair distance from the wormhole, giving a handy position to warp to that will avoid them getting dragged in to the HIC's bubble, they warp in to engage. The close range ships warp directly to the wormhole, the support warping near to me.

Three battlecruisers assault the Devoter, the pair getting on top of the HIC being watched carefully by our Guardians. The Devoter takes heavy damage and can do little but jump back to his home system, the confidence of our own pilots urging them to follow. The support ships have to burn to the wormhole to jump through too, and even though this seems like a bad idea to me I approach the wormhole to add my missiles to the combat. I don't like the idea of our support ships fighting at zero range, and on the other side of a wormhole to home, and on a wormhole where a heavy interdictor is deployed. But the fight looks to be going our way and I will contribute the best I can.

The Guardians have jumped to C4b and there are no hostile ships in this system any more. I drop my cloak and burn the last twenty kilometres to the wormhole, jumping as soon as I get in range. At least, that was the plan. My nav-comp informs me I still have combat probes launched in this system, which I was using to detect additional ship movements, and rather than leave them stranded I cancel my jump to recall them. And in the few moments that the probes are warping back to my position I hear a colleague say 'we should possibly run'. There's no point jumping in to the middle of a slaughter and, as our ships start returning, I burn away from the wormhole and regain my cloak.

The hostile fleet may have dispersed when our Sleeper fleet bugged out, and only had minimal presence for what they probably saw as a mopping up operation to collapse the wormhole, but they quickly return when under attack, and in greater numbers. The Devoter returns behind our fleet, along with seven strategic cruisers—two Loki, two Proteus, two Tengu, one Legion—and a Drake battlecruiser. The HIC's bubble inflates once more and we are pushed on to the back foot. Our Hurricance is first to pop, the pod caught in the bubble and our pilot killed. A Harbinger soon follows, also caught in the bubble.

Our Guardians have escaped the bubble and have been trying to keep the fleet alive, but a strategic cruiser has chased them down and has disrupted the warp engines of one. It's not going to be able to break free, but there's no point in losing both ships and she tells the second to warp clear, which he does. I can do little but watch the destruction, knowing that my ship will be destroyed if I reveal myself. In the end, we lose four ships and two pods, for no kills ourself. I suppose the battle turned when we surrendered our favourable conditions to move in for the kill, and without a scout on the other side of the wormhole it was always going to be dangerous. At least we put up a fight.

The hostile fleet loiters in the class 4 system only long enough to loot and salvage our wrecks, disappearing back to their own system shortly afterwards. One more jump comes from the wormhole, not the Orca I am expecting but a Widow black ops ship, leaving a couple of minutes later to finally collapse the wormhole. Now that we are isolated from each other our own salvaging boats come out, and start sweeping up the Sleeper wrecks from the earlier, rather more benign combat. We will probably post a loss on the evening, but it was interesting and exciting.

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