"Is the hole dead?"
"I'm going to kill him, then buy him a new ship so I can kill him again."
"Is the hole dead?"
"Lucky bastard. Only reason he and his stupid hauler are alive right now is because the hole didn't collapse, and I'm sure it will if I go out after him."
There are many times when I am called upon to act as the voice of reason and diplomacy for my wormhole brethren.
When Dolby finally gets on our comms channel a few minutes later and asks if he can come back in to fly out his two Drake battlecruisers -- that is not one of those times.
Em handled that conversation.
"Seriously, are we sure he's not working for the guys in our hole?"
"The guys that blew up two of his ships?"
"Camouflage! No one would ever suspect!"
"I suspect everyone." (This last from CB.)
"Let's just assume he's dangerously, smoking-while-pumping-gasoline stupid, and move on."
Once that bit of drama is past (and Em has informed Dolby that his precious Drakes would be returned to him at some later date), we settle in and get ready for the final push. The time is (slowly) coming for the low-sec connection to die, and most of our pilots are online and ready to go. As soon as the aging connection finally wobbles, falls, and breaks its hip, Tweed starts scanning.
"Probes on scan."
"That was fast."
And it is. Something has changed: the Loki pilot is scanning far faster than he had the night before, when we'd joked that the last pilot left was the guy who tried to avoid scanning whenever possible. That was no longer our impression, especially when the pilot actually beat everyone but Tweed to the new wormhole.
Though, to be fair, this was partly because we had all stayed in cloaked-up ships and delayed reshipping until his probes went out, since we know how hard it is for a single pilot to scan quickly and still watch d-scan -- we were hoping to catch him by surprise with ships he wasn't suspecting, and it actually seemed to work. Like his fellow t3 pilot from the day previous, he engages the first Orca that lands, apparently thinking Berke is alone, though he quickly disengages and jumps to the low when our other pilots land on site. Still, we fell pretty good about this: despite his cloaking ability and almost 24 hours in which to observe us, we had managed to conceal our numbers, like Sand People.
This pilot is also making much more agressive choices in an effort to get his comrades back into our hole, including not waiting out the polarization timer before reentering the system, risking being pinned against the hole if we can catch him, but (correctly) trusting on his cloak and speed to get away.
On the seventh hole (the first one today), he pops out just long enough to get a destination system for his friends to fly toward, then jumps back into the hole and gets away before we can target or catch him. We crash the hole and make good time for the eighth, which sees pretty much exactly the same scene play out again, although when the loki jumps back into the hole and cloaks before warping away, Shan is able to get close enough to him with a surge of his Hurricane's microwarpdrive to decloak him again -- but not to bump him off course before he gets away; a near miss.
"Hold on that last jump," Em calls. "Leave the hole standing for a minute. We need to think about this."
"Yeah." Em pauses. "We're just going to end up doing this thing over and over again, and eventually something's either going to go wrong for us, or him -- and it's more likely going to be us, since there's more of us. It's a war of attrition, and it's going to cost us pilots trapped outside again. We need to try something new."
"Sounds good. But..."
"Can you..." Em begins, "work out a jump that we can do, with some but not all of the pilots we have available, that will kill the hole with a single jump?"
"One-way or out-and-back?"
"Out and back."
I look over the list of pilots we have and nod. "Sure. Me, Bre, and Cret in battleships. Si and Berke in Orcas."
"Okay," says Em. "Okay. Good. So here's what we're going to do..."
Enemy probes are already on d-scan, anticipating the death of the old hole and the appearance of the next.
"This guy really wants this one."
"I hope so. We need him in a rush."
All the pilots involved in the new plan are sitting at their respective towers, readying new ships, but NOT reshipping into them. CB is floating in our shields, ready to jump into his Sabre interdictor, which is a ship we hadn't made any use of up til now, simply because cloak-equipped tech 3 ships are also often fit with Interdiction Nullifier modules that let them ignore the Warp Disruption "bubbles" the Sabre can launch at a moment's notice. While we'd crashed hole number eight, however, Tweed had noticed that this Loki didn't seem to be configured that way.
"You know you're going to get blown up," I say to CB.
"Oh yeah." CB tone is sanguine and dismissive. He has a peculiar collection of names, related to his many Sabres -- not deaths, but all of the Tech3 cruiser pilots who have specifically targeted and destroyed his ships in retaliation for dropping warp disruption bubbles that might cost them their shiny ships.
"All right then," I say. "Here we go."
Berke jumps back into the system, the hole dies, and Tweed starts scanning, doing everything he can to not just beat, but bury the opposing pilot, tightening his scan probes two range brackets at a time rather than one, risking losing the signature entirely in an effort to give us enough time to pull off our maneuver. He gets a lock on the hole, warps to 0, and we send two Orcas and three battleships to his location. As soon as they land, all the ships (including Tweed's) light propulsion mods to increase their mass and jump through the hole, dropping its stability by just over half with a single jump.
Then, we hold.
The enemy loki is still scanning.
"Okay, everyone else, warp to the hole."
The rest of our pilots drop in and hold, ready to attack the Loki as soon as he lands. They include two battlecruisers, a Tengu strategic cruiser, and CB's interdictor, sitting directly on top of the wormhole.
The probes vanish off d-scan, and CB launches his warp disruption bubble. The Loki lands seventeen kilometers off the hole and burns for the exit, targeting CB's Sabre and popping the fragile ship in three volleys, but as he does, two of our pilots get warp scrambling fields on him, and Em decloaks his Falcon and starts jamming the Loki's targeting systems.
Now, it's possible that with so much going on, he simply never notices that the hole is already visibly destablized past the halfway point. It's equally (perhaps more) likely that he does notice, but faced with two scrams on him, a warp bubble, and more ships than even a tech3 cruiser can easily manage, he chooses to jump through the wormhole over the more explosive alternative.
In any case, he jumps. Our scout inside the hole calls it out, and as he does, all our big ships fire up their engines and jump back, leaving him hanging in empty space.
Tweed (also stranded out in low-sec, but safe-as-houses in his covert-ops ship) gives the pilot a smile in the local comms channel, and gets a reply.
"Thanks man. It was... It was fun."
And Tweed's right. It was.
Now let's never do it again.