Bumping in to a familiar clone

27th June 2010 – 3.20 pm

I've missed some action. I turn up at the tower just as a small corporation fleet is returning from successfully engaging a couple of combat ships. It's always good to see kills with no losses posted on our kill-board. The engagement may mean there is no one around for me to shoot, though. I grab my stealth bomber and go for a roam anyway, hoping to find a straggler or a careless capsuleer in a different system.

I forget to synchronise my bookmarks with those in the shared can, instead having to rely on the few I made earlier. I speed through the C4 and following system to land in the C6, where I warp at range to the previously unshielded tower that was being attended by some weak industrial ships. The tower is now on-line and protected by a force field, suggesting that the earlier operation was perhaps bringing fuel to the tower rather than stripping it down to be moved. I doubt I'll find any ships I can engage in this heavily occupied and dangerous system, and head back.

Returning through our neighbouring C4 lets me see some reported probes on the directional scanner, likely belonging to the pilot of the Helios covert operations boat in the system's tower. It is the same pilot as seen in the Hulk exhumer earlier and I am curious to see what he will do after he finishes scanning. But then I see a second ship on d-scan, a Probe frigate, and consider who is really scanning. The Probe remains visible on d-scan and I wonder if he has wisely created a safe spot to sit in or if I can find him using d-scan. I am able to narrow my search until just the Probe and a single celestial body share the same scan result, and I warp to that body.

I see the Probe. He is uncloaked but over 100 km away, and I can't see a suitable celestial body opposite me which I could 'bounce' off to warp in closer. But the Probe also isn't moving, merely bobbing in the gravity well, and as I am cloaked and he is scanning I may be able to get within range before he moves off. I start approaching the ship at maximum speed, not daring to decloak to burn towards him but appreciating the time it will take to close the distance. As I approach I recognise the pilot's name. I am sure I have met him before, in some capacity, and a quick search through our records shows that he is one of the five miners popped and podded when passing through their system a while back. I imagine he'll be pleased to see me again, if I can get close enough.

I get within 50 km of the Probe frigate and still it doesn't move. I am getting a little excited stalking this prey, but know that I must hold my cloak until I am at least within 20 km so that I can get a warp disruption point on his ship to prevent him warping away. I creep closer and after 100 km of patient sailing I decloak and get all my systems hot. The warp disrupter activates and my siege launchers fire volleys of torpedoes towards the Probe, its signature radius increased by my target painter. The pilot is alert, or his system alarms wake him up, and the Probe starts burning away from me after the second volley of torpedoes.

I don't realise until it is almost too late that the Probe must be using a micro-warp drive. He just about gets out of range of my warp disrupter and is close to warping clear when the third volley of torpedoes pops his ship. The ejected pod warps away safely, despite my attempt to lock it. At least I am not kicking myself for not activating my webbing module to slow his ship down. I loot his wreck and find standard modules, including an improved cloaking device. It looks like he forgot to engage it when he started scanning. I cannot grab the bulky cloak myself and ask a colleague to come and loot and salvage the wreck. I lurk in my Manticore to provide a reference point to my colleague, but I am also hoping the escaped capsuleer will risk returning to recover what he can from the wreck. It is unlikely, though.

Whilst lurking quietly by the wreck I wonder if the popped pilot's system today connects to ours again. I haven't noticed it so far, suggesting a new wormhole has opened in to this neighbouring C4. With the Probe wreck looted and salvaged I head home and grab my Buzzard to check for a new wormhole. A quick scan reveals the new connection but jumping through doesn't present the system I have in my notes for our previous encounter with this miner. Indeed, the system is unoccupied, so I launch probes and scan again, helped now by scan man who is keen to be kept current on the local systems. An incoming wormhole at the end of its natural lifetime is found. Assuming that the Probe scanner came through here there must be at least an hour of life left in the wormhole and I risk jumping through.

The class 4 w-space system again does not match the one in my records, but I see a tower and ships on d-scan. I find the tower, which finds me the Probe pilot and miner I have now popped twice. He is sitting passively in the tower's shields with a colleague, someone else we popped and podded a couple of months previously. They have apparently moved systems, one that our corporation visited and engaged Sleepers in about four months ago, when the system was still unoccupied. They are not doing anything now, unsurprisingly reluctant to venture out after just being shot. Meanwhile, scan man has found another EOL K162 in the previous system, poking his nose through to see probes on d-scan. We may be able to catch another one of their pilots.

I call for another colleague to warm up his Phobos heavy interdictor as I warp back to our tower to get my Malediction interceptor. I may be able to bump-decloak a ship moving away from a wormhole, which will be made much easier if a heavy interdictor's warp bubble also prevents it from entering warp quickly. But as we get back to the EOL wormhole, through which we are hoping an unlucky scanner will jump, the connection implodes, dying of natural causes. It looks like there will be no more action for the time being. We head back to the tower to rest, me with a warm glow of satisfaction from the Probe kill.

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