Getting lucky with gassers

3rd January 2013 – 5.18 pm

The early Penny catches the planet gooer, so the traditional saying goes. It seems to have worked out for me in the past, so I'm awake in the home w-space system, scanning for wormholes, to see if I can find an unawares pilot to ambush. And would you look at all those signatures. Six of them is quite a bounty, although three turn out to be new pockets of gas. That still leaves me with an extra wormhole, a K162 from class 5 w-space. I'm tempted to head in the other direction, through our static connection, to scan C3a out to k-space for an exit, but some days I like to live dangerously. I jump to C5a.

A tower sits proudly on my directional scanner from the wormhole in class 5 w-space. Along with the tower I see a Reaper, Inquisitor, and Ibis frigate each, which aren't really C5-like ships, and I suspect there's no one active at the moment. Locating the tower confirms my suspicion, and exploring the system finds nothing else of interest, which points to there being another K162 to find heading backwards. I launch probes to scan, revealing six anomalies and seven signatures, and a covert operations boat near one of the signatures. I have to assume that by the time my probes have detected the cov-ops the cov-ops will have seen my probes, so rather than try to conceal them I simply keep scanning, noting the presence of a pilot.

The only wormhole in C5a I resolve is a K162 from class 6 w-space, otherwise it's just rocks and gas out there. I suppose the scout came from C6a, or further back, and if he's seen my probes then any colleagues of his will be warned of my approach. So be it. I jump to deadly w-space, understanding it to be potentially more deadly than normal. But nothing greets me in C6a, at least on the wormhole itself. D-scan, however, shows me a Myrmidon battlecruiser, Moa cruiser, and jet-can, with no tower in sight. Not gooers, but gassers. And not only has a scout potentially seen my probes in the next system in the chain and warned these pilots, I am spat under a kilometre from the wormhole, leaving me a veritable chasm to cross before I can cloak. That's bad luck.

I move away from the wormhole, activating my micro warp drive, and cloak as soon as I can. Updating d-scan sees the Myrmidon and Moa still in the system, which is lucky. Now to get some probes in to space so that I can hunt them, but opening the system map shows this C6 to be tiny, with a distance of 9 AU to the farthest planet. I would say that's bad luck too, but just as I got clear of the wormhole with a bit of jamminess I warp across the system to see that the ladar site the ships are in is very nicely placed indeed. For me, anyway. I can just about get far enough away from the ships to drop off d-scan, letting me launch probes and get them out of the system without being seen.

With probes available, I return to be closer to the gassing ships, and start to hunt them. I narrow down their position in space using d-scan on a tight beam, and estimate their range at approximately 4·3 AU from my position. I get my probes arranged around where I think the two ships are harmlessly sucking, take a calming breath, and hit 'scan'. It's a good result. 100% on both ships, if not on the site itself, but a first-scan hit of 65% on an instrumental core reservoir ladar site in a class 6 system is probably pretty good. Besides, I don't want to warp in to the site, but to the ships. And that's what I do.

I warp directly to the ships, dropping only slightly short, not caring to reconnoitre the site this time. Despite what the situation has looked like, every step of the hunt has gone my way, and it has filled me with confidence. And it looks good. Not only do I drop out of warp next to a pair of apparently oblivious gas harvesters, but to my delight the pilots are reds. Hitting enemies of our corporation is always a more rewarding experience. This cheeky couple is even evading the Sleepers in this site, the sneaky bastards. Luckily, I'm sneakier than they are. I decloak, pick the Moa as the softer target, and pounce.

The recalibration delay is soaked up quickly enough, and my weapons systems are hot and locked on to the Moa before it has too much time to react. The Myrmidon bounces out of the site as I consider giving it a bump to try to keep it close, but that's okay. I doubt I'd be able to grind against it for as long as it takes to pop the Moa, and I'm happy with getting just one of the two. The cruiser's not going anywhere either. Prevented from warping, the pilot has little to do but watch with me as his shields, armour, and hull turn from white to red, culminating in the Moa exploding.

Can I get the pod too? Yes, I can. I was expecting the pilot to be more alert and getting clear, but it looks like he was disorientated. Or confused. I think he was wondering why the two warp core stabilisers he had fitted were malfunctioning, perhaps already drafting a snotty letter to the manufacturer and demanding compensation for his Moa, and had given up on getting his pod clear. The confusion effect makes me glad that I finally made the change to fitting a Shadow Serpentis warp scrambler to my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser. The relatively close ten-kilometre effective range is made up for by the three points of warp disruption, instead of the single point I had fit previously. I would say that the swap has been worthwhile.

I scoop, loot, and shoot, then get the hell out of the site. The pilots were clearly not expecting me, but that's not to say they won't be back, and in greater numbers. Fin and I have been counter-ambushed in such a manner before, and gloating to myself works just as well when cloaked as in plain sight. And with the system now quiet I get back to normality, re-launching my probes and blanketing the system. Seventeen anomalies and twenty-two signatures would maybe make me pause, based on how much scanning I've already done, and what action I've been involved in. But as any wormholes heading backwards would only lead to pilots of the corporation I've already ambushed I have a different reason to ignore this system for now and head in the other direction. I think I'll just poke my nose through our static wormhole to C3a and then break for a celebratory sammich. Hunting can make me hungry.

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