Caught by a Crow

24th August 2010 – 5.35 pm

'There's sites to be done' and without a full fleet in sight. I eagerly launch Pengu, my Tengu strategic cruiser, and declare myself ready! We warp to our static wormhole and jump in to today's neighbouring class 4 w-space system, its own static connection scanned but left unopen for now. My Tengu joins two Legion strategic cruisers and we engage Sleepers in anomalies, the combat smooth and practiced now. Well, it should be if a certain Tengu pilot paid more attention to which ships trigger subsequent waves of Sleepers. The two webbing Sleeper battleships in the second wave cause enough problems without the webbing frigates of the first remaining, and I have to warp out before my shield is vapourised.

Dealing with two waves of Sleepers is only a minor inconvenience, though. Warping back in to rejoin my colleagues quickly sees the prioritised targets despatched and the anomaly is cleared without any further fuss, as is a second site. But that's all for now. A salvager works behind us to collect the loot, leaving me free to explore in my Buzzard covert operations boat. I jump back in to and warp through the neighbouring C4 to the unvisited wormhole, a connection to a class 5 system. Jumping through puts me in an unoccupied system with plenty of signatures to sift through. A fat signature feels like a K162 but turns out to be what looks like the system's static connection, to another C5. I jump onwards to continue my exploration.

Three towers sit forlornly in this system, only one with any defences surrounding it and each of them bereft of shields or capsuleer attention. I launch probes and scan. I get some gas but also quick relief in the form of a wormhole. I have found an exit to null-sec space but not the system's static connection, a bit more scanning needed to reveal a wormhole to another C5. I jump through. An abandoned tower and a lack of activity is here too, and only three signatures to resolve. I am soon through the system's static connection and in a class 4 system, and I see activity.

A Golem Marauder, Scorpion Navy Issue battleship, Tengu strategic cruiser, and Ferox battlecruiser are all visible on d-scan along with some Sleeper wrecks. The combat scanning probes in the system probably belong to this fleet too, making them not only well-equipped but also well-prepared to spot any new entities in the system. Maybe this is too much activity to find. But perhaps a separate salvager ship will be left behind to become a victim of stealth bombers. I use my on-board scanner to look passively for anomalies but the ships are not in either of the two left in the system.

I head to the outskirts of the system and decloak to launch probes. I can still see the ships on d-scan, which means they can see me. I try to limit my time decloaked as much as possible and quickly move all my probes 100 AU or so out of the system and hit the scan button, warping them out of d-scan range. Now I warp back to the inner system and use d-scan to get a bearing and range on the ships. Finding one of the ships turns out to be trivially easy, as the Tengu and I both use the system's star as a default location. The potential for accidental encounters like this is why I don't warp to zero. The Tengu is joined at our hot-spot by the Scorpion, as I busily increase the separation of our ships, and they both warp off to another site. Now I need to use d-scan.

I am able to get a fairly good bearing and range on the ships in the site they warped to and I move my probes in to an approximate position. I doubt I will get much time before I am spotted, if I haven't been rumbled already, so I need to make this scan count. I am still having trouble gauging diagonal distances in the system map, though, and my scanning takes a couple of attempts before I get even a rough return. It's my own fault. I know that they are not in an anomaly, are in combat and not mining, and radar and magnetometric sites are more difficult to scan. I should be using combat probes to find the ships, not core probes to find the site. I eventually find it, but 'eventually' is generally too long when timing is critical. As I warp in to see what is happening I leave my core probes scatted around the system to give the impression I am scanning in general and not looking for them in particular, but I doubt my bluff is effective.

Inside the magnetometric site the ships remain in combat. The capsuleers probably aren't too worried about pipsqueaks interrupting them and a big fleet will be spotted early by their combat scanning probes. But I can still bookmark the wrecks and return with a stealth bomber to try to foil their salvaging. I have been relaying all the information to my colleagues and when I swap the Buzzard for my Manticore back at our tower I am joined by two more stealth bombers for the journey back to the active system.

The combat ships are gone and it looks like only salvagers remain in the system. The magnetometric site is empty of ships and I warp out to keep it empty. My cloaked ship is enough to keep the site from despawning and I don't want my presence to be inferred. A Crow interceptor is spotted on d-scan, showing that either the capsuleers suspect they are under threat or they are suitably paranoid about w-space operations. As the magnetometric site is the only site I was able to resolve there is little to do but wait for a ship to arrive. So we wait.

Eventually a Drake battlecruiser appears in the magnetometric site, shortly followed by the Crow. The speed of the interceptor and its tackling capabilities is a big threat to our stealth bombers. One of our fleet heads home to swap his ship for a Jaguar assault frigate in order to deal with the Crow. This will leave our two remaining bombers free to attack the Drake and we get in to position as our colleague jumps across systems. We hold patiently as the Jaguar makes the return journey, there being enough wrecks left to loot and salvage to ensure the Drake's continued presence. The Jaguar jumps back in to the system and enters warp to the site. Our attack is seconds away.

As the Jaguar is in warp our primary target leaves the site! Maybe the capsuleers don't care too much for salvage and only want the loot, or the Jaguar is quickly spotted on d-scan and the Drake clears the site. Either way, the Jaguar is warping in to find only the Crow and the assault ship is quickly tackled by the interceptor. I decloak and launch torpedoes at the tiny ship, hoping to distract the pilot and let our Jaguar escape, but the Crow is as much of a threat to me and I warp out before it gets too close. I don't stay out of the site, though, warping back to be ready to provide any support I can.

Getting my Manticore back to the site I see a Tengu has joined the Crow in attacking our Jaguar. 'Shoot the Tengu', says my troubled colleague. Right-o! I decloak and target the Tengu, firing my siege launchers at the strategic cruiser, probably rather ineffectively. Never the less, the Jaguar manages to warp out of the site, which is my cue to leave too. I doubt my Manticore scared the Tengu or the Crow and I suspect the Jaguar had forced the Crow to disengage, allowing his own ship to escape. But at least we all manage to escape, able to leave the system safely. Before we exit a comment of 'thanks for the exercise' is made in the local channel. Yes, it was good practice and although we still have plenty to learn we are continuing to get in to engagements.

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