There is no escape

31st July 2010 – 3.38 pm

I feel like finding the w-space equivalent of a squirrel and punching it. My attempts to locate vulnerable salvagers only results in chasing my own tail, in-between far too many client crashes, and failing to recognise a juicy gas miner target has me kicking myself. But warping home perhaps finds me that squirrel, the shadow of a Cheetah covert operations boat lingering on the wormhole leading home.

I already know that my Manticore stealth bomber will not be able to lock the target before it cloaks, as even my Malediction interceptor cannot do that, neither will it get a positive lock and disrupt the engines of the Cheetah if for some reason my target decides not to cloak and just warp away, as I found out when chasing frigates recently. But for the first time this evening I have a target ship appear on my overview, and I would rather fail owing to technical reasons than my own ineptitude. I jump through the wormhole without delay.

My Manticore appears in our home system just as the Cheetah is entering warp. The cov-ops boat is not heading towards a planet and is certainly not one of our ships, so I assume it is warping to the K162 wormhole found in our system today. I give chase. I am already moving when I engage the warp engines and fortuitously happen to be mostly aligned in the direction of the K162, which thrusts the stealth bomber in to warp satisfyingly quickly. I drop on to the K162 moments after the Cheetah, and we both jump at almost the same time.

On the other side of the wormhole I spy the Cheetah and start rabidly clicking the overview. The first double-click of many on the overview sets my Manticore approaching the Cheetah and a sneaky press of the control key in the mix activates my targeting mechanisms. Running a finger over the control panel gets all my systems hot, although care is taken to avoid activating both the bomb launcher and cloaking device. And somehow, much to my surprise, the Cheetah is locked and its engines disrupted.

I have no idea why the cov-ops boat didn't cloak safely, as we are distant enough from the wormhole to do so. I am also not entirely sure why it isn't jumping back through the wormhole to disengage. But in all honesty I don't care, my torpedoes are slamming in to the tiny frigate-sized hull with impressively huge explosions and the w-space squirrel is just sitting there and taking it. A few more volleys chews through the shields, armour and hull, and the pilot's pod is ejected in to space. I don't need any encouragement to continue my attack and lock and disrupt the pod too. It doesn't last long against my torpedoes, even if I don't understand how the pod isn't able to evade my clutches, being even more agile than a cov-ops boat. It's all over. My Manticore is the only ship on the grid again.

I reload my launchers, scoop the poor capsuleer's corpse in to my hold, and loot the wreck. With the loot safely stored I destroy the wreck of the Cheetah and jump back through the wormhole, warping home to our tower. The loot I scoop is enlightening. Two modules not destroyed in the explosion are a pair of warp core stabilisers, designed to negate the effects of warp disruption modules by increasing the strength of the ship's warp drive. Checking the kill-mail shows that the stabilisers were fitted in the low slots of the Cheetah, giving it a warp strength of three. I think I now understand what happened.

The Cheetah pilot probably didn't cloak because he thought he didn't need to, being able to escape safely even if targeted and disrupted. He may then have wondered why his ship wasn't warping away from my Manticore, perhaps even thinking that he was the victim of a system bug, mashing his warp button to no avail. It wouldn't surprise me if he then just gave up and sat in his pod, wondering just what was happening. At least, until he woke up in a station somewhere in empire space.

My Manticore is fitted with both a warp disruptor and a warp scrambler. The scrambler is a short-range module that not only disrupts the target's warp engine but also any micro-warp drive fitted, thus greatly reducing a target's escape speed. The disruptor only disrupts warp engines but works from a greater distance than the scrambler, making it useful for targets I want to bomb first or those unlikely to be fitted with an MWD. The warp scrambler has a disruption strength of two, the disruptor one. Engaging the Cheetah on the wormhole, I just happened to be in the kind of mood where I turned on all my modules, regardless of their effect, as well as in range of both the disruptor and scrambler. My modules' combined disruption effect was three, countering the carefully considered addition of the warp core stabilisers on the Cheetah.

I suppose the kill is lucky. But there is a reason why I have both the disruptor and scrambler fitted, even if I never really intend them to be activated on the same target at the same time. I think we make our own luck. At least my blood-lust is sated, which lets me rest easily for the night.

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