A massed fleet of one

14th May 2010 – 5.11 pm

I am flying solo again. I head out to scan, hoping to find some juicy miner targets. Resolving the location of our system's static wormhole I warp to it and jump through to find I am spat out over 9 km away from the wormhole. This is further than I recall happening before and a distance that would make running back more difficult. It is good that the only object within 14 AU of me is the system's outer planet, although the vast size of the system may make scanning a little tedious.

With nothing showing on d-scan I drop probes to get my initial reading of the wormhole, to get its signature for comparative scans, and warp to the centre of the system to start looking for occupants. I don't see any towers, but the Covetor, Retriever and Procurer mining barges with accompanying jet-cans are an exciting d-scan return. As I left my probes around the outer planet they are too far away for the miners to get spooked, so I make use of the directional scanner to narrow down both their bearing and range from my current position. This I can do. Positioning probes accurately using this information is still difficult for me.

I try to get a better idea of transitioning between my live view and the system map by using the map browser to determine north. I normally try to triangulate my bearing using celestial bodies, but it would be convenient if I can get a quick and accurate bearing from the map browser. I can't, because the interface doesn't want me slaughtering innocent miners, but I plant my probes in the general direction of the miners despite this. It takes me a few attempts to resolve the gravimetric site and once I have a solid hit I recall my probes and warp to it at range. The miners haven't reacted to my probes being visible on d-scan and are still happily mining away, gracefully dropping a jet-can for me to bookmark. It would be rude not to use the can as a reference point.

I warp back to our tower, knowing that I haven't scouted the rest of the system to see what other ships are around, but this is too good an opportunity to pass. My Onxy heavy interdictor is launched and I warp back to the wormhole. I know I am far out of d-scan range when entering the neighbouring system, so I am confident I will catch the miners before they can warp out. I engage my warp drive and get ready to activate my systems. The Onyx lands right in the middle of the four ships—a Bestower has come to pick up there ore, which is a pleasant surprise—and my warp bubble snares them all. I lock my weapon systems on all the ships and start shooting.

It doesn't matter the order in which I shoot the ships, but I need to destroy the pods as they eject. A pilot's pod is much more agile and somewhat quicker than a mining barge, as well as being more difficult to lock and hit, so I want to shoot the pod before moving on to the next ship. It is only when the first pod is almost out of my bubble that I realise my heavy assault missiles (HAM) are no longer damaging it. That the pod is almost clear of the bubble doesn't matter, as my scripted warp disruption field generator extends further and can be used, but I didn't realise using HAMs would be quite so short-ranged1. My choice is either to move towards the pod to catch it and potentially lose the other three ships, or let it escape and not make the same mistake with the others. The choice is obvious and I destroy four ships, three of the capsuleers also waking up in new clones.

The wrecks are looted, corpses scooped to my hold, and I warp out of the pocket in quick succession. I don't want to linger for long, particularly as I have no fleet behind me. I still don't know if the system is occupied, so I switch back to my Buzzard and come back to take a more thorough look around. I find a tower in the system, holding a Chimera carrier in its shields! It is unpiloted, but I am tickled at my apparent audacity of launching an attack with this imposing capital ship in the system. I return to the scene of my crime to see if it is perhaps safe to grab the ore left behind, but when I get there d-scan shows me probes, a Cheetah, and a Hurricane battlecruiser nearby in the system. They seem to be looking for someone. I warp out to the K162 side of our wormhole to see if the probes are moved out there, in case the occupants could come through to our system, but they don't. Back to the gravimetric site and the Cheetah is poking around the wrecks, and Typhoon, Abaddon and Armageddon battleships are now launched.

A Badger Mk II warps in to the mining site to collect some ore. I return to our tower to swap in to my Manticore stealth bomber, perhaps to pop the cans, wondering if maybe this would have been a better choice than returning in the Buzzard the first time. Jumping back in to the system I know that if I warp to the site from the wormhole I will have 80 km of rocks or so between me and the wrecks and cans, remembering the orientation of the site from previous visits. Instead of warping to it directly I bounce off a planet on the opposite side of the site, which drops me out of warp in completely clear space and with an excellent line-of-sight to the target cans. Watching d-scan only gets me more nervous, as the number of battleships and other combat ships increases. I have to admit that I am impressed that they can gather so much support in such a short time, although I have to wonder why none is in the gravimetric site itself.

The Badger warps back in, and he's alone! This is too tempting an opportunity to pass on and I am quickly in the perfect position to launch a bomb. I decloak and launch, locking on to the Badger to finish the destruction with my torpedoes, this time remembering that I have a warp disruption module. But just the bomb is enough to turn the industrial ship in to twisted, smouldering metal, the pilot's pod ejected in to vacuum and free to warp away. I burn towards the Badger's wreck to loot it before warping away, and get a chuckle when d-scan now shows a Sleeper wreck. The battleships aren't looking for me after all. With that revelation I don't jump home but return to the gravimetric site to lurk for a bit longer. I doubt much else will happen, particularly as the bomb destroyed the wrecks and jet-cans—although five giant secure containers curiously remain—but I am interested to see what occurs next.

A Typhoon battleship warps in to the gravimetric site, looks around for a minute, then warps off. All the battleships are no longer on d-scan and only the one Sleeper wreck is visible. Curiouser and curiouser. I warp to the system's tower to see what's happening and see no change in activity. I am left wondering where all the ships have gone. It is only when I check the kill mails that everything starts to make sense. The miners I popped and podded are from a Russian corporation, the tower I am monitoring, and its Chimera carrier, belong to a different corporation. The Russians probably scanned this system and were wary of the carrier but considered the system relatively safe, as long as the capital ship remained unpiloted.

What perhaps the Russians weren't expecting was another connection to open in to the system, which I created when I scanned and jumped through our home system's static wormhole. A heavy interdictor then blows the crap out of four of their ships and pods three pilots. A bit later, a stealth bomber squirts lemon juice in the eye of the pilot that escaped—for it was the miner who escaped who piloted of the Badger. I was tickled finding out that nugget of information. The information the Russians have about numbers and attackers is probably muddled and difficult to determine, and perhaps they think I belong to the occupant corporation, maybe even alerting the carrier pilot to wake up and cause trouble.

I don't quite know how else to explain how a fleet of half-a-dozen battleships abandons the system after fighting only one Sleeper, not even stopping to collect all their drones. Maybe there is a more rational explanation for their actions, but I like the idea that little me scared away a Russian fleet all by myself.

1. It is only later that I realise I was fighting in a black hole system, which adversely affects the range of missiles. In a normal system the HAMs extend beyond my HIC's bubble, as expected.
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