Housewarming in the cold of space

21st December 2011 – 5.24 pm

I'm fed and watered, and ready to see if my earlier reconnaissance will reap any rewards. Before I get carried away looking for targets I launch probes and scan the home system, ensuring I'm not about to be made a target myself. No new connections have opened up here, so I can go abroad and wreak havoc. But I'm not taking my covert Tengu strategic cruiser, swapping it instead for a Manticore stealth bomber. The Tengu is an able ship and fitted to scan for new connections, but a stealth bomber can strike quicker and harder before dissolving in to the background again. For this kind of expedition I prefer the single-minded approach offered by the Manticore.

Stowing my Tengu and boarding my Manticore, I warp across the system and jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. I see a Maelstrom battleship and Blackbird recon ship on my directional scanner, which looks unchanged from earlier. I'm happy to assume them both unpiloted at the tower, particularly with no wrecks on d-scan, and warp across to the K162 from class 4 w-space to see if anyone has woken up in that system instead, but I'm not about to find out. The connection is now reaching the end of its natural lifetime, and without having scanning probes fitted I am not going to risk the wormhole dying and leaving me no way home. If I have time and find nothing elsewhere I can come back this way in my Tengu.

I head out to low-sec where I have a choice of two paths, and like earlier I choose the K162 from class 1 w-space over that of the K162 from class 3 w-space. And it looks like I have made the right choice, as a Drake battlecruiser is loitering with intent on the K162 from the C1 as I land near the wormhole. I wait and watch as the Drake approaches the wormhole and jumps to w-space. A Drake is a hefty target, but a Drake in a C1 may well be good target to flex my Manticore's offensive muscles at. I don't want to spook him, though, so I sit on the wormhole for a couple of minutes, to let my potential target find his way and get cosy first.

Jumping in to the C1 a short time after the Drake entered sees no ships on the wormhole and none on d-scan. I have a couple of anomalies bookmarked from earlier but run a second passive scan now, in case more Sleepers have appeared to confuse my search, still finding just two. I warp to the inner system to get within d-scan range of the anomalies, hoping to find the Drake in one of them, only to have the wormhole flare behind me as I enter warp. I don't see what ship entered the system, although my hope that it is a salvager is forgotten when d-scan now shows me a tower in the system and a bunch of ships. I don't know how I missed spotting this tower earlier, it must have been some pretty poor scouting. Bad Penny, no biscuit.

A Prorator transport ship, Noctis salvager, Magnate frigate, Bestower hauler, Anathema covert operations boat, two pods, and the Drake I followed are all at the tower, only the Noctis and Magnate unpiloted. I notice the ship maintenance array being anchored, which makes me check the rest of the tower. There are only rudimentary defences above and below the tower at the moment, and other defences are scattered inside the force field, all off-line, which the Bestower is now moving to collect. I don't think I missed this tower earlier, I think it has been raised in the time since I scouted through here. It's funny how a few hours can make such a difference. And as the pilots still appear to be moving in I may be able to cause some disruption to my benefit.

The transport warps out of the tower towards low-sec empire space. I follow and consider waiting on the wormhole for his return, but a cloaky transport ship will be difficult to catch. A basic industrial ship like the Bestower will be easier to catch and pop, particularly when he makes himself a target outside of the effectively undefended tower, so I return to watch him closely. I achieve little in the time it takes for the Prorator to return, dump more defences inside the tower, and warp out again, and just as little by the time the pilot of the Drake dumps his battlecruiser, goes out to empire space, and returns in a Badger hauler. Only now do I realise the Bestower isn't about to make himself a target outside of the tower, accomplishing all he can from the inside for now, damn him.

I have another thought, one that compels me to visit the wormhole and check its condition. The new locals have already brought in a tower, hangars, defences, and a bunch of ships, and connections to class 1 w-space do not allow too much mass through them before collapsing. If I'm not careful I could get isolated in here, particularly as more ships are being passed to and fro through the wormhole. Thankfully, I drop out of warp near the wormhole to see it looking okay. Better than okay, really, as a second Bestower is sitting on top of it, probably aligning to the tower. Having wasted a bit of time already and hoping my Manticore can lock a hauler quickly enough I decloak and, damn, watch the Bestower warp clear before my warp disruptor can prevent him.

The wormhole may allow more transits between w-space and empire but I've shown my hand now. Even if the locals try to move more ships and haulage in to the C1 they will be alerted and prepared. I imagine they will even fit warp core stabilisers, which my Manticore cannot counter. Even so, I reactivate my cloak and hold on the wormhole. There is a detail about this class 1 w-space system that I have omitted so far but becomes important now. This C1 holds a black hole phenomenon, which, although weakest in a class 1 system, significantly increases ship inertia. Coupled with an increase in ship velocity a black hole makes for much longer alignment times for ships entering warp, which is just what could make a quick-locking stealth bomber fitted for maximum alpha strike happy.

The Prorator comes out of the tower again and passes my Manticore still cloaked on the wormhole. I can't stop him jumping and I'm still not going to chase the cloaky ship. Instead I return to the tower to see what precautions the locals may be making now they know a Manticore is in the system with them. Not much, apparently. Nothing obvious beyond sending out the Anathema to look for new wormholes, which he probably won't find. I try to catch him as he warps to a planet to launch his probe, but fail to guess how far short of the planet he drops, leaving me to watch from a distance as the cov-ops moves away and cloak. Back at the tower the pilot of the Badger stows the hauler and sends his pod back to low-sec, which seems like a good time for me to return to loiter on the wormhole for a juicy bite.

Waiting takes its time. But my patience is rewarded with the wormhole flaring, indicating a ship entering the system. Now I just have to hope my reactions are good. I need to spot the type of ship and decide whether to engage or not, which itself will require good reactions. There he is, a Mammoth hauler. Definitely a target. I decloak, gain a positive lock, and start firing. My first volley of torpedoes slams in to the hauler's shields as I burn hard towards my target, hoping to use my tiny hull to bump the big industrial ship off course, increasing his alignment time, on the assumption he has fitted warp core stabilisers. My bump may have worked, and even though I didn't push the bigger ship far off course it is enough, as my third volley of torpedoes shreds the remains of the structure and the Mammoth explodes in a flash of blue light.

I'm not stopping my assault with the destruction of the Mammoth. The pilot's pod is ejected and, session change timer active and not being able to escape through the wormhole, he has only one way out of here. I stop him, gaining a positive lock and disrupting the pod's warp engine, cycling my launchers once more to introduce the pilot to the real harshness of space. But a calm voice tells me that my capacitor is empty, and as luck would have it the module demanding more juice right now is the warp disruptor, which deactivates and lets the pod flee, deep in armour damage and only one volley away from being ripped apart. I was so focussed on bumping the Mammoth that I forgot to turn off the energy-hungry micro warp drive, depleting my reserves and thwarting my killer tendencies.

I'm not going to complain about having the pod get away. Popping it would have been a nice bonus but in this instance popping the ship is enough, particularly when I see the Mammoth was stuffed to the tusks with drones, charges, and ammunition, and definitely when I confirm that the hauler had two warp core stabilisers fitted. I'm glad my experience and intuition was correct. I grab what faction charges and ammunition I can carry and destroy the rest with the wreck, putting the loss at around a hundred million ISK in total. That's got to sting a little. Welcome to your new home, boys.

  1. 2 Responses to “Housewarming in the cold of space”

  2. Fantastic job, glad you weren't around for our exit from the wormhole. Though would have made it interesting I ended up blowing up a bunch of t1 ships we launched from the ship maintenance bay so it could be packaged. The I was a bit surprised at the 1 hour timer to unanchored the large tower. So we just left a cloaky hauler to deal with that.

    Having a bad day today, had a stress test scheduled, had to take the cat to the vet where I had to have him put down as he was having heart failure and drowning. So it was best for him to not suffer any longer.


    By Zandramus on Dec 21, 2011

  3. Sorry about your cat, Z. It's always tough to lose a companion.

    By pjharvey on Dec 22, 2011

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