Pointing towards a Probe

15th March 2013 – 5.16 pm

I'm late. Late enough for the w-space constellation not only to be scanned and mapped by my glorious leader, but also to have her and Aii both in empire space selling our recently accumulated loot. So what is there for me to do? Well, w-space can change at any minute, and scanning the home system is almost a warm-up routine for me now, so I launch probes to see what looks different. Nothing. Thankfully, Fin tells me that the class 3 system they used to exit to high-sec wasn't fully scanned. I have a purpose!

Our neighbouring C3 has been scanned, and the towers reconnoitred. I take another pass at both towers but no ships or pilots have made themselves known yet, and so warp across the system to jump to C3b. Cor, ships! A Retriever mining barge, Retribution assault ship, Oracle battlecruiser, Hurricane battlecruiser, and Bestower hauler all light up my directional scanner from the wormhole. There's a tower somewhere too, which triggers a thought: did Fin mention these ships to me in her sitrep? Yes, yes she did. 'All empty', she said. Damn.

I go to the tower in C3b anyway and, to my delight, one of the ships must be new. The Hurricane isn't empty, and although it's currently only floating inside the force field it may not stay there. I warp away, launch probes, and blanket the system as I warp back to watch the battlecruiser for movement. My combat scanning probes reveal six anomalies and six signatures, plus the ships which I ignore so that new arrivals are more easily spotted. And I'll scan whilst the local pilot looks like he's not paying attention.

A radar site, ladar site, wormhole, second ladar site all get resolved, which, along with the wormhole back to C3a and the already known exit to high-sec, makes six signatures. Rather than recalling my probes I take advantage of having them prepared and return them to a hidden blanket scanning configuration, confirming no new ships or signatures. And now I wait. I note that the Hurricane has actual guns fitted and not gas harvesters, so he's unlikely to be heading to the ladar sites, but if he wants to shoot Sleepers that would be okay.

I periodically update my combat scanning probes. I get a result too. Two extra ships blip on my probes, one of which turns out to be Fin's Bustard transport ship returning from high-sec, but the other remains unknown. It seems to be out of d-scan range of the tower, and so I don't know what it is, and by the time I decide to warp around to actively look for it the ship drops off the probes. In case it came from the other wormhole, I reconnoitre the connection, finding it to be a K162 from null-sec at the end of its life. I doubt a ship came this way.

With little other option I return to watching the Hurricane, who actually moves after a short while. The battlecruiser takes an unhealthy interest in his hangar, and although this indicates a possible change of ship it remains the Hurricane that aligns and warps out of the tower. It looks like he's gone towards the high-sec connection, which is easily confirmed, but I'm not too concerned that I can't catch him there. The phantom ship reappeared on my probes and has spat core scanning probes everywhere, which somewhat undermined my until-then covert posture.

Hurricane jumps from w-space to high-sec empire space

The high-sec exit is close to a market hub, albeit Gallente, and so the Hurricane may come back soon. No doubt not soon enough for him to be polarised, but Fin, always up for a scrap, suggests putting some big guns on the wormhole and seeing what comes our way. It's a better plan than my lack of one, so Fin boards an Oracle and heads my way as I sit and watch the wormhole for activity, whilst monitoring the scout's probes on d-scan.

The scanning pilot seems inexperienced. The only signature near the wormhole I'm on is the wormhole itself, and as the tower is out of d-scan range that puts it over 14 AU away. There should be no reason for the scout's probes to continually blip in to range and disappear, unless he's resetting their ranges to greater than 8 AU and not scanning planet-to-planet. I'm almost tempted to offer some advice. But, finally, the mystery ship reveals itself, to Fin on d-scan and me on my combat probes. 'It's a Probe', says Fin, moments before the frigate drops out of warp near the wormhole.

'Near the wormhole' is a bit misleading. Space is big, certainly, but eighty kilometres away is not particularly near in the context of trying to catch the frigate. He also sees Fin's Oracle sitting brazenly on the wormhole, and is perhaps wondering how best to leave. 'If he's sensible, he'll warp away and back to land directly on the wormhole', says Fin, quite wisely. Instead, the Probe cloaks. Now, Probes can't warp cloaked, so it will be obvious if he starts to leave. As he doesn't, I can only assume he is crawling towards the wormhole at best speed. Maybe I can intercept him.

My idea to bump in to the Probe has two problems. First, I didn't quite see which direction the frigate warped from, which means I can't really align my ship to his. However, I can reasonably expect the Probe to have warped from a celestial object, so pick the likeliest one and send my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser in that direction. But, second, two cloaked ships won't interfere with each other's cloaks. If I'm to reveal the Probe, I need to reveal myself. If I do this too early, the Probe will be able to flee, or perhaps move out of the way, even if he'll be crawling whilst cloaked. If I reveal myself too late, I'll whiz right past my potential target without knowing it.

I'll do my best. I crawl to about fifty kilometres from the wormhole, which I figure the Probe could in no way have reached in this time, then shed my cloak and burn hard to close the rest of the distance quickly. With any luck, the pilot will have no time to react. Or be thoroughly spooked by the sight of a strategic cruiser barrelling towards him. I get within ten kilometres of the Probe and he looks to panic, decloaking and trying to get the hell away from me. At least, that's what it looks like. I'm pretty sure I didn't get close enough to nudge him, as my micro warp drive wouldn't have got me so far away within such a short time.

Either way, it seems like the worst time possible to run. Hence the panic, I suppose. It puts the Probe in range of my warp scrambler, whereas waiting a couple of seconds longer would have seen me speeding past him. I won't complain, though. I try to gain a positive lock, getting my offensive systems ready, but the frigate gets lucky and warps clear a split-second before I am able to stop him. I try to follow, again not really seeing which way he went, as my ship was past his new vector and concentrating on targeting the frigate, but I think I have a good idea.

Probe makes its way directly to the high-sec wormhole

I enter warp, cross the system, and manage to completely miss where the Probe went. I return to the wormhole in time to see the frigate land just as Fin predicted, and watch it jump safely to high-sec. Ah, right, Fin and her Oracle, waiting for the Hurricane. You know, I don't think he's coming back soon, and we've probably had our fun here. Time is drawing on, so we head back the way we came, without a kill but with some minor excitement, and go off-line in the home system.

  1. 5 Responses to “Pointing towards a Probe”

  2. I'll take that bit of advice! :) Just re-upped my accounts and been lazily "strolling through WH chains in my proteus, looking for targets of opportunity while attempting to practice my probing capabilities. Pretty sure I'm getting fairly quick at it but don't really have anything to judge my speed and efficiency against.

    But your comment makes me curious. While I realize most sigs (radar, mag, ladar, and grav) are generally near planets, (within 4au was it?) does that go the same with wormholes? Or can they pretty much be anywhere in system?

    By Selina on Mar 15, 2013

  3. Welcome back, Selina.

    Sites will appear within 4 AU of planets, yes, and the same is mostly true of wormholes. Whilst I have found wormholes to be up to 6 AU from a planet occasionally, they won't spawn just anywhere. They will always been near a planet. I've also not managed to miss my probes picking them up using a standard cluster set at 8 AU range.

    As I intimate in the post, scanning will be quicker by hopping probes planet-to-planet and working down from an 8 AU range than by continually reseting to 16 or 32 AU range, and scanning each range increment down. You won't miss any signatures, you'll identify them more quickly, and skipping an extra scanning phase or two will speed up the process.

    Best of luck in finding targets!

    By pjharvey on Mar 15, 2013

  4. Penny is generally correct, but I've seen wh's farther from celestials than 6 AU. IIRC I have seen them up to 8 AU from the nearest planet in larger systems, but it's rare. It never hurts to do a final blanket scan of the whole system "just in case" after you've done all the planets individually.

    By Gwydion Voleur on Mar 16, 2013

  5. Thanks, Gwydion.

    You also may be asking, if sites appear within 4 AU of planets, why scan with a cluster of probes set to 8 AU range? After all, a similar cluster of probes set to 4 AU range will detect all of those signatures, as the range is the radius of the probe's scanning sphere and not its diameter.

    It's a good question, thanks Penny.

    The answer is that although you probably will detect all of the signatures around a planet with probes set to 4 AU range, what you won't do is detect all of the signatures with more than one probe. This will result in rings and spheres of uncertainty, instead of dots that can be followed with a confident subsequent scan.

    Using a cluster of probes set to 8 AU range to planet-hop when scanning will find all signatures, and find them as dots and not rings or spheres. As a result, your total number of scans, and so your overall scanning time, will be reduced.

    By pjharvey on Mar 16, 2013

  6. Thanks for the knowledge! I'll definitely keep this in mind as anything that can speed things up are highly welcomed. Especially now as I sit in a class 3 with nearly 20 sigs to sort through...

    By Selina on Mar 16, 2013

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