Quick crack at a battlecruiser

30th October 2011 – 3.04 pm

I'm not expecting much tonight, only looking to poke around our neighbouring w-space system. No one and nothing is in our home system, giving me a suitably low-key start to the evening and leaving just the static wormhole to resolve as a new signature. Jumping through to the class 3 system beyond has my directional scanner showing me what looks to be an empty system, with only celestial objects visible, but there are three planets out of range to explore. I launch scanning probes and start to arrange for them to blanket the system as I cloak my covert Tengu strategic cruiser.

A single ship is somewhere in the system, along with four signatures and three anomalies. I should find that ship, to at least confirm it to be simply floating unpiloted in an on-line tower, so that I can get on with and conclude my lazy evening. The three planets out of range of d-scan are all in different directions, which is unusual and inconvenient, but it means the rough location my combat scanning probes give me for the ship can only put it near one of those planets. I warp in the direction of the far planet and, when in range, update d-scan. My expectations are confounded when not only do I not see a ship but neither do I see a tower on d-scan's results.

Maybe my probes' rough scan at their maximum range really could put the ship 30 AU in the other direction, but I doubt it. I get a subsequent scan from the probes and confirm the ship is still in the system, and from its new position it looks like I passed it in warp. I could come up with half-a-dozen theories as to what the ship's up to but I may as well wait until I at least get an identification of its class before speculating too wildly. I warp back across the system and further, to the most distant planet, where d-scan now shows me a tower and a Drake battlecruiser. My probes are still returning just the one ship, so that's my target.

I look for the tower and easily locate it as being at one of the mere three moons around the planet, and warp directly in to a warp bubble scattered with a few canisters. Somehow my Tengu remains cloaked, coming to rest almost in the centre of the bubble, and even though I am safe I am still troubled. Where's the tower? I double-check and there are only three moons here, and the tower definitely can't be on the other two. I scrutinise d-scan more carefully and determine from the presence of a force field that the tower is on-line and someone hasn't simply scattered off-line hangars and arrays around away from the moon as a prank. Besides, the Drake is here, somewhere.

I try warping to the moon again, knowing that you cannot gauge your proximity to it from its distance measured by your instruments, but my warp engines stay silent. In retrospect, that was doomed to be useless. My Tengu has the interdiction nullifier subsystem fitted, which negates any warp bubble effects. I wasn't dragged in to this bubble, I just happened to fly to its location, so it didn't stop me from reaching my planned destination. The tower simply isn't here. Thankfully, perhaps, the Drake has also gone again, leaving me alone on the outskirts of the system. I call in my scanning probes, cluster them tightly around the planet, and scan for the tower. I get a perfect hit, naturally, and warp to the results. Thar she blows. It looks like the tower is off-grid from the moon's orbit, which is decidely queer and defensively intriguing. It also makes the bubble trap much less threatening, as there is essentially no one monitoring it, even when at the tower. Even if my Tengu had been decloaked, unless any local pilots were updating d-scan regularly I would not have been spotted, and the tower wouldn't have been able to shoot me either.

Having finally located the tower I make a solid bookmark so that I can find it again, throw my probes out of the system once more, and warp right back across the system to look for the Drake again. My probes, back in to their blanket-scan configuration, show the ship is still around, so he's not jumping between systems, and once I drop out of warp I place him easily in one of the three anomalies present. That's good, that makes him a target either in his Drake or, more likely, in a salvager. I warp in to the anomaly to get eyes on the ship, and I review the idea that I'll get a shot at a salvager as the Drake is tractoring wrecks in to be looted. But the empty wrecks remain around the battlecruiser, with no salvaging beams in sight.

I could wait for a salvager to appear, or I could shoot the Drake. She's taking hits from the Sleepers to start with and I have the element of surprise, although the capsuleer is old enough to be suitably trained to field a decent ship. The salvager would give me the best chance at a kill but I've been hitting soft targets for long enough that I may be getting a bit reckless in wanting more. I could really use a wingman for this, but I wait for one more Sleeper cruiser to explode before warping on top of the Drake and engaging her directly. I decloak as I drop out of warp, get a positive lock on the battlecruiser, and start firing. Well, damn, even though there is some hull damage on the Drake its shields are barely scratched. And, as if that weren't enough, here come the ECM drones.

I can't say I'm surprised at seeing the ECM drones, as they are an obvious counter-measure against ambushes in Sleeper sites. As Sleepers themselves aggressively engage drones it makes using them relatively pointless against the Sleepers themselves. Unless you micromanage the drones, have a voluminous drone bay, and are happy to treat them as ammunition, any drones sent against Sleepers will be popped with impressive efficiency. And if you're doing nothing else with your drone bay in w-space it makes sense to carry some ECM drones in case of surprises. You'll need to replace them occasionally, but it's less expensive than replacing ships. The drones set upon me get their inevitable jam on my targeting systems and, despite my best efforts to prevent it, the Drake warps out of the site.

Considering the healthy state of the battlecruiser's shields I don't think I was going to defeat him anyway. I probably should have waited for the salvager this time, but at least I am getting less nervous about throwing a ship in to this kind of situation to see what happens. Then again, maybe it is more of an unconcerned response to my current isolated existence, subconsciously pushing myself in to a downwards spiral of expensive failures from where I can convince myself I'm happier staying out of space. Let's hope not, though. Back to the moment, the Drake is gone. I scoop his abandoned but effective ECM drones and loot an untouched Sleeper wreck before warping out of the anomaly myself.

I monitor the pilot at the tower, from my new bookmarked position. She warps back in to the anomaly, my Tengu following behind only in time to see her warping right back out again, after which she launches a second Drake and sits in that at the tower. Whilst she ponders what to do next I scan the few signatures that are here, resolving a chubby wormhole, rocks, and more rocks. As the Drake isn't moving I warp to investigate the wormhole, finding it to exit to low-sec empire space, and jumping out to the Metropolis region. Scanning reveals two extra signatures in the system, but they are only an Angel outpost and some stupid drone site, no more w-space to explore.

Being by myself in the low-sec system I warp off to pop a few Angel rats for a bit, but they turn out to be scattered far too far apart for my short-range heavy assault missiles to cope with easily, and I am not spending ages burning towards low-value rats. I'm heading back to w-space. The C3 remains as I left it, one piloted Drake and one empty Drake sitting passively in the strangely off-grid tower, and jumping home sees no overt signs of change. I would say I have completed my poke around the neighbouring w-space system, and hide in a corner of space as I go off-line for an early night.

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