Heron hounding

18th August 2010 – 5.38 pm

I'm going out to roam, and I'm not alone. Another scout is ahead of me in his Proteus strategic cruiser, looking for targets. The three class 4 w-space systems linked as a chain to our home system are quiet, the C5 further along only showing a glimmer of activity with a piloted Helios scanning from within a tower. The C3 looks quiet until a Badger hauler and Raven battleship are reported by my companion not to be at the system's tower. I push my Manticore stealth bomber through the wormhole in to the class 3 system as my colleague locates the ships. The Badger is at a customs office around a planet, the Proteus cruiser closing on him.

I warp to where my colleague is stalking the Badger, dropping out of warp ten kilometres early so that neither of our two ships drops its cloak unintentionally. The Badger is just sitting at the customs office but he could warp away at any moment. I am asked to get the 'point'—to lock and disrupt the target's warp engines. A major benefit of piloting a stealth bomber is the lack of sensor recalibration delay when decloaking, enabling me to lock on to targets immediately where other ships have several seconds of delay. I move in to range of my warp disruptor, decloak, and lock and point the target. My launchers go hot and fire torpedoes, the Proteus decloaking to add its superior firepower to help destroy the brittle industrial ship.

Snaring the Badger is easy, as it is bulky and slow to turn. Catching the ejected capsuleer is rather more unexpected, the pod's tiny signature radius easily able to evade weapon system locks and warp away. That my Manticore manages to get a positive lock and disrupt its warp drive is surprising. I hold the pod for a few seconds without firing, not because I am stunned at catching it and neither because I'm thinking of a ransom, but so that my colleague in his slower-locking Proteus has a chance to join in the wanton massacre of another capsuleer. It only takes a few seconds and I am scooping the corpse in to my hold and looting the wreck.

We cloak again and wait to see if the Raven comes to investigate the disturbance or try to recover some of the loot from the wreckage, but he remains quiet in the tower. My colleague begins looking for the new static wormhole in this C3 system, the previous one having collapsed recently, whilst I warp to the tower to see what response is being made. It's not retaliatory. A Heron frigate warps away, launches probes, and returns to the tower to start scanning, either looking for the way we came in to the system or a way out in order to get the new clone of his colleague back home.

A new wormhole is found by my companion in the Proteus and I warp to his position. The wormhole leads to system GBGG-0 in the Stain region of null-sec k-space. The Heron in the class 3 w-space system is still scanning when I jump back, as implied by probes being visible on d-scan, and I also see that I somehow managed to miss spotting a second tower in the system. As I investigate the second tower the probes disappear from d-scan, suggesting the Heron has found what he's looking for and has recalled them. On a hunch I warp to the wormhole leading to null-sec space. The Heron is here but far out of my range, as he warped only to reconnoitre the wormhole and drops 100 km distant from it. I return to the Heron pilot's tower in the system to keep a direct eye on him.

By watching the Heron directly I can better catch him when he warps away. I switch to the system map and note the positions of the two wormholes, one leading homewards and one to null-sec, relative to other celestial bodies. I exit the system map and keep a close watch on the Heron, so that by noting which way his ship aligns prior to warping I can tell where he is going and warp there myself, hopefully more quickly. And he's moving, towards the K162 judging by his orientation. I punch my warp drive in to action, aiming to drop out of warp 100 km from the wormhole in the hopes that the capsuleer's behaviour is consistent. As we are warping from the same grid to the same grid I am expecting to land almost on top of the Heron, our angular difference made insignificant over the millions of kilometres we're travelling.

The Heron pilot indeed follows his previous behaviour and drops out of warp 100 km from the wormhole. My Manticore gets to him moments later, only 13 km away from my target. I decloak and start to lock on to the frigate, but he is able to cloak to evade electronic capture. But that's okay, his ship cannot warp whilst cloaked. I am already moving towards his ship and I burn my engines hard towards his last position, looking to bump in to him. And I do, the two ships' collision systems activating and the coherence of the Heron's cloak failing. I again start to train weapon systems on to the Heron but he warps away before I get a positive lock.

That manoeuvring was cool and clever. The Heron pilot didn't panic and must have taken the time whilst cloaked to align back to his tower. When he was decloaked he was already pointing in the right direction and entered warp quickly, before I could lock on to him. I probably would have caught a less experienced pilot. Now he's back at the tower and I am back watching him. He is swapping ships, leaving his Heron to board a Condor frigate. And again he's moving, this time to the wormhole leading to null-sec. He knows there is someone looking to catch him so I assume he will change his behaviour. I warp directly to the wormhole, hoping that he is going to jump and that I can follow in to lawless null-sec space if I need to. But he is not leaving the system and this time drops his ship 70 km from the wormhole. I don't give up and instead lock the Condor, able to launch a volley of torpedoes but too far away to disrupt its warp engines, but the Condor is back in warp before the torpedoes get close.

A communication appears in the local channel. 'Nice try', says the pilot of the Condor.

'I'm giving it my best shot', I reply.

'Did you read the name on the side of the ship?', he asks.

'Yep. 'No Catch'. I'm optimistic.'

Our small exchange grows in to a respectful conversation about evading gate camps and falling asleep at customs offices. I almost feel sorry for podding his colleague but 'it happens', he says. Indeed it does. The chase afterwards was invigorating too and I think he enjoyed frustrating my efforts. We talk a bit more about life in w-space and then we bid each other to fly safe as I make my way homewards. It's exciting to shoot other capsuleers, but it is also rewarding to communicate with them.

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