A cloaked ship is not a safe ship

7th November 2011 – 5.01 pm

This is more like it. Combat ships, drones, and wrecks, all on my directional scanner. There are industrial ships and a tower as well, but who cares. A little w-space constellation spread out from a hub of a class 3 system connects in to our home system today, which has already given me five systems to explore and scout. I found some pilots but almost no activity in that direction, whereas jumping through our static wormhole has capsuleers shooting Sleepers and what I hope is an active Noctis salvager clearing up behind them. I don't examine d-scan too thoroughly for the moment, even to the extent of ignoring how many combat ships are out there, concentrating instead on completing a passive scan of the system as quickly as possible to try to locate my prey.

Only six anomalies are in this C3, making locating the Noctis rather swift. He's by himself in an anomaly, salvaging the wrecks his colleagues have made of the Sleepers, whilst presumably the combat rages on elsewhere. I'd look if I were concerned about being caught in a counter-attack, but rarely do fleets engaging Sleepers employ interceptors. Besides, I know how quickly a Noctis can salvage, and I'd rather catch him before the fleet decides they've had enough for the night, lest they linger in the final anomaly to protect their salvager. I can't have that.

I warp in to the anomaly, dropping far short so that I neither decloak on a Sleeper structure nor on a wreck, should the Noctis be forty kilometres away salvaging amongst a different clump. But it means I have to bounce out and back, to get in to the anomaly close enough to see my target but far enough to warp directly to him. On my first look only three wrecks remain, and none close to the Noctis. I can't really bookmark them as reference, and my puny brain doesn't register that I could bookmark the cosmic anomaly, which it looks like the Noctis is sitting on. I'll just have to wing it when I get back.

Damn the efficiency of the Noctis! I get back to the anomaly and sitting in warp range as he has the now-two remaining wrecks pulled in tight to his ship, and although they would normally offer me a beacon to warp to he has them locked by his targeting systems, which interferes with their warp signature. Something like that, but it means I can't warp on top of the ship, leaving me sitting here like a lemon. Ah, praise the efficiency of the Noctis! One of the wrecks is salvaged before the pilot can loot it, leaving a canister floating where the wreck used to be. A free-floating canister, my beacon to warp to.

I need no second invitation to get closer to the Noctis and I surge my covert Tengu strategic cruiser in to the heart of the site. However, I remain cautious. The site is salvaged, the Noctis may be moving to warp out to a safe position. Relative movement is difficult to discern when in warp and so I drop short of my target by ten kilometres, the minimum calibration of warp drives, just to make certain I don't decloak and give away my position only to see the Noctis warp clear. The good news is that he doesn't warp out. The bad news is that he cloaks instead.

I try to react quickly to the Noctis cloaking, my ship pointing directly towards it when dropping out of warp, but now gyroscopically righting itself to the ecliptic plane, maybe to stop the more squeamish capsuleers from accruing unwanted liquids, and bits of carrot, in their pods. I revert the corrections to my Tengu's attitude and request full speed ahead, hoping to bump the Noctis and reveal it once more. I wait as seconds pass and no ship is seen, pulse increasing in a fascinating way for having an empty overview, until the Noctis blinks on to my display once more. Game on.

I get my systems hot and target the salvager, disrupting its warp drive and loosing missiles to shred its shields and armour. I probably have an additional advantage here, the pilot perhaps considering himself safe when cloaked and perhaps not paying his normal amount of attention, or even in the back of the ship grabbing a drink, but when the ship pops explosively his pod manages to escape my clutches, warping freely away. I was only a split-second away from capturing him, though, and adding a new corpse to my collection. Instead, I loot and shoot the wreck of the Noctis, getting it in the right order this time, and cloak as—look out!—a Drake warps in to the anomaly.

The battlecruiser isn't close enough to my Tengu to cause any problems, but ships drop out of warp with huge deceleration and you can never quite tell where they'll end up at first blush. I pulse my micro warp drive as I cloak, giving me one cycle of full burn before it becomes unusable, and change to an arbitrary attitude. An attitude, as it turns out, that pushes me rather close to the second Drake that comes, seemingly tardily but probably as quickly as he could, to his colleague's aid. Rather than try to crawl away from the second battlecruiser out for vengeance, and still not knowing how many other ships will follow, I decide to warp out to be safe.

I bounce off the K162 home, dropping short to maintain my cloak's integrity, and warp back to the anomaly at my long-range position. Two Drakes and two Tengus had turned up by the time I was in warp, and now there are two Drakes, a Tengu, and a Maelstrom battleship. I think today I am lucky I didn't catch the pilot's pod, because if I had I may not have had time to crack it open before the fleet warped in, and if only one of them had a warp disruptor fitted I may not have escaped. As it turns out, I get the Noctis kill and have twenty million ISK of stolen loot in my hold as a reward. I think I'll drop that off at the tower, heading out of the C3 to do so.

  1. 3 Responses to “A cloaked ship is not a safe ship”

  2. You seem to have a knack at catching those pesky noctis's grats on the escape.

    Zandramus

    By Zandramus on Nov 7, 2011

  3. Ooooh you sneaky sneaky pilot you.

    One day... a cloaked ship is not a safe ship will apply to you... and i'll laugh when i read the entry xD

    By Planetary Genocide on Nov 7, 2011

  4. Oh, these posts are cautionary tales for me too.

    Being the hunter gives me a perspective on being the hunted, letting me see how easily a ship can sneak up on and ambush its prey. I'm bound to be caught at some point, though, but as long as I learn from any mistakes I make they won't be made in vain.

    By pjharvey on Nov 7, 2011

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