Parasitic mining

10th May 2010 – 5.34 pm

A target is spotted. Glorious leader Fin is heading out to high-sec empire space to buy fuel for our w-space tower when one of her regular checks of the directional scanner, necessary for survival in w-space, reveals a Covetor mining barge somewhere in the system. The Covetor is marked as a target because of the mining drones and jet-cans also on d-scan, a good indication that active mining is occurring. I only looked for wormholes where the miner is spotted, because the system is big and heavily occupied, so I need to get my Buzzard back in to the system to locate the active site.

Jumping in to the system shows nothing on d-scan, making me wonder if perhaps I need to jump further. But then I remember how big the system is and realise that if Fin has seen the miner it must be along the route to the next connecting wormhole. That probably puts the gravimetric site near the outer planet, where I warp to. The Covetor shows up but there is an Absolution command ship and Hound stealth bomber visible on d-scan too. Checking the nearby tower finds the two combat ships and, although they are not protecting the miner directly, that they are piloted makes them potential threats to consider. But first I must find the Covetor.

I use d-scan, focussing on the miner and gradually narrowing down the beam to five degrees, then adjusting the maximum scan range to get an approximate bearing and distance. Now I drop probes and position them as close to where I gauge the miner to be from my d-scan bearing, which I still don't find straightforward. Switching from my point-of-view in space to the system map takes a lot of concentration. I get a reasonably good first hit, but it still takes three scans before I can warp to the gravimetric site. I recall my probes immediately, although they have been visible for long enough to be spotted, and warp.

Dropping in to the gravimetric site has two consequences. The first is being almost blinded by the hideous brightness of a huge cloud that is present, even though I have my systems set not to display any bloom. The second is the damage I take by the same electric cloud, which decloaks my ship. I grab a bookmark of a jet-can near the Covetor before warping out quickly, but it seems the jig is up. Even if the miner wasn't alerted by my scanning probes surely a Buzzard warping in to his operation is a clue to pack up and leave. As I warp away I turn d-scan directly behind me and keep monitoring. The Covetor is still there and, more importantly, so are his drones. If the drones are not recalled his operation is continuing. I watch for a little longer, he stays put. It's my lucky day.

I warp back home and swap my Buzzard for the Onyx heavy interdictor. It may not be able to travel cloaked like the Manticore stealth bomber, but the HICs bubble will let me catch the pilot's pod as well as his ship. I just need to be careful of any support that may be called in. The HIC's bubble may stop any ship within the bubble from warping out, but as the HIC is the focus of the bubble it means I can't warp whilst the bubble is active either. But I have a plan. I make two wormhole jumps back and initiate warp to the miner's position. I am out of d-scan range at the wormhole so he can't see me coming, but I also don't know if he is still there, or if he's alone. Nervous excitement fills me.

Dropping out of warp in to the gravimetric site shows the Covetor is still mining and alone. I activate my warp bubble and trap him, locking and activating my weapons systems. It is just the one ship, making the engagement simple. I keep my bubble active and monitor its cycle time along with the integrity of the Covetor as my missiles tear it apart, constantly moving towards the ship. As soon as the mining barge is destroyed I target the ejected pod. Having kept close to the ship I am now close to the more agile pod, giving it less chance to elude my bubble and warp away. It also gives me the opportunity to loot the wreck on the move. As soon as I have a positive lock on the pod I activate my second, scripted warp disruption field generator. The script modifies the module to act as a single point instead of a bubble, allowing me to de-activate the bubble whilst holding the pod firmly in my control. More saliently, the scripted point only has a cycle time of six seconds compared to the bubble's thirty second cycle, allowing for quicker deactivation and escape. The pod pops, I scoop the poor capsuleer's corpse in to my hold, and I warp out immediately, the wreck already looted and no need to wait for my bubble to collapse. That's a smooth hit and run.

I return to the system in my Buzzard and warp to the tower near the gravimetric site. The two combat ships are still sitting motionless in the shields and there is no new activity to be detected. I wait a little longer but no one looks to be coming to claim the ore. Perhaps the miner really was working alone. It seems a shame to let the ore go to waste, but I am wary of trying to steal it myself as it would take a slow and cumbersome ship to pick it all up, or a many more trips in a more stealthy hauler. After a little more waiting and no sign of activity, I risk taking the corporation's Bustard out to grab what ore I can. Having myself been uncovered by damage from the gravimetric site's electric cloud the Covetor's fitted EM screen and small shield booster don't seem quite so strange, and I grab the looted items and fit them to the transport ship before heading out to collect the unrecovered ore.

I warp tentatively to the gravimetric site, shield hardener active. There is still no one around and I scoop a full hold of ore in to the Bustard, impatiently watching it align to the wormhole home. But I enter warp without interference and it looks like I will make it home safely. I jump through the wormhole and, argh, it's a trap! Someone waited for me to pick up the ore and has planted four small warp bubbles on the other side of the wormhole! My anxiety is not so great as to let me admire the execution of the trap, neither is it so overwhelming that I can't help but notice my bookmark to the corporation tower isn't active. This isn't a trap, I just warped to and jumped through the wrong wormhole. This one was found earlier and my trepidation at wanting to exit the gravimetric site quickly led to my mistake in identifying the right wormhole home. I know other pilots have got themselves shot for less. I wait for the session timer to elapse before jumping back and warping to the actual wormhole home, returning safely to the tower.

The first ore collection trip went smooth enough, ignoring my navigation issues, to convince me to go back for the rest of the ore. However, I am rather more concerned about this second trip, as I am fully aware that predictable patterns of movement are the most dangerous to make. I almost rely on other capsuleers being predictable in order to snare targets. But I go anyway. The lure of ISK is the downfall of many. There are two jet cans left in the site, about 14 km apart. I consider bookmarking the one further away and warping in and out, to limit my time in the site, but it seems quicker and thus safer to use my almost ineffective frigate-class micro-warp drive to close the distance between the two cans. I am able to retrieve all of the ore and return home safely, netting myself a profit of about ten million ISK in lazy mining for the evening.

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