Wondering how to catch a fly

4th March 2010 – 5.56 pm

I give up early on scanning this evening. I jump in to my Buzzard to lend a hand to our scanning man, but when he tells me that there is a warp disruption bubble set-up one way, a bubble and a carrier another, and the third way has an exit to a high-sec island, there doesn't seem much point exploring today. The systems are scanned and overtly protected, and our route to New Eden involves some low-sec space. My Crane, my favoured method of travelling low-sec, is still sitting somewhere in Amarr, which doesn't help when needing it to get through low-sec to Amarr to pick up my Crane. Recursion is a harsh mistress.

Even if I don't scan for wormholes or sites of specific Sleeper interest, I spy an Anathema turn up briefly on the directional scanner. Having been startled by and run from an Anathema before, I now know that it is only a covert operations boat, the Amarrian equivalent to the superior Buzzard I fly. It is no threat by itself, and I have a shiny new Onyx that I have little experience of piloting. I wonder if I could set an ambush for the snoop. I probably won't be putting myself in to danger, I hope to get a better idea of how the Onyx works, and I am quite unlikely to actually get in to a position to shoot anyone. It should be fine.

If the Anathema is in our system, and the only exit available is our static wormhole, then it must pass through that sooner or later. The plan seems simple enough, I merely need to sit the Onyx on top of the wormhole and, well, make up the rest of the plan. It is almost inevitable that a warp-scrambled ship will jump through a wormhole if it can get close enough, and even with a HIC's warp bubble covering it a light-hulled cov-ops boat should be able to burn to the exit before popping. I fully expect to have to follow the jumping ship to the other side, where I will need to warp-scramble it again. The problems of hull polarisation effects of multiple jumps will prevent the target from escaping through the wormhole again, so as long as I can stop it from warping after it jumps I should have time to attack.

With the assumption that the Anathema is in our system, I decide to lock and warp-scramble the ship using a warp disruption field generator module loaded with a script. The script replaces the bubble with a single point of infinite strength, which is just fine for a single target. I am expecting to jump straight through the wormhole anyway, so I don't want a bubble to inhibit this. As I'm pondering all this, our scanning man returns from his sortie and jumps through from the other side of the wormhole to where I am stalking in my Onyx. This is a good chance to try to lock and warp-scramble a cov-ops boat. As soon as his ship is visible I start to gain a lock, but he warps cleanly away before it completes. I'll need a bubble to catch someone coming in.

I have only assumed that a HIC's bubble prevents jumping through wormholes. I know that it inhibits the HIC warping, as the HIC is in its own warp disruption bubble, but I haven't tested jumping yet. It doesn't look like the Anathema is in the system anyway, as there are no probes visible on d-scan, making it likely that I saw the ship moments before it jumped out of the wormhole. It looks like I am here for a test flight only. I punch my primary warp disruption field generator and the glorious sight of HIC's bubble balloons out from my Onyx. The thirty-second cycle makes timing of the bubble important, which is the cause of my reluctance to rely on it for a wormhole ambush without testing to see if I can jump with it active. I try to jump, and I am sucked through to the neighbouring w-space system as normal. On the other side of the wormhole, my systems are all reset, and I can generate another bubble immediately.

It looks like the best chance of a successful trap depends on the direction of travel of the target. I don't want to hold an active bubble all the time, because if a ship in my current system bounces off it they may just turn and flee, gaining me little. I'll need them to jump, where I can follow and bubble, polarisation effects then solidifying the trap. But if someone comes from the other side of the wormhole the HIC's bubble will be needed, as my systems will not guarantee a lock on the target in time to warp-scramble them. If they jump back, I can follow and bubble again, at which point they are again polarised and warp-scrambled. This needs me to be alert, but if I am setting an ambush I really ought to be alert. I also don't want to throw up a bubble too early when a ship jumps in to my system. It would serve me best to watch for any additional wormhole flares, indicating additional ships jumping, before creating a bubble, otherwise I could find myself in the middle of a hostile fleet stuck in my own amber.

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