Bagging another barge

21st September 2010 – 5.19 pm

I'm sat cloaked in my Buzzard monitoring our static wormhole as battleships and an Orca jump through. The wormhole is being collapsed intentionally by a corporation fleet, hoping to find better opportunities through a different gateway. I have already launched probes from my covert operations boat and made a pre-emptive scan of our system, ignoring the few returned signatures. When the operation to collapse our connection is complete I can perform a second scan where the only returned signal must be the newly spawned static wormhole.

The wormhole flares one last time as it disappears, our Orca industrial command ship returning home to join the rest of the fleet. They warp back to our tower and I start my fresh scan. I get no results initially and note that it takes around thirty seconds before a new signature is picked up by my probes. I am able to resolve the new static wormhole easily enough and warp to its location, holding briefly so that other scouts can warp to me. I jump through to the class 4 w-space system to see only celestial bodies and combat probes on the directional scanner. I bookmark the return wormhole and warp around to confirm that the system is unoccupied before launching my own scanning probes.

Three capsuleers scanning a system makes for light work, calling out the signatures we are able to ignore in favour of looking for wormholes. Lots of rock and gas sites are overlooked until the static connection is found, a wormhole to another C4. There are no other wormholes in the system and I jump through to the next system, still none the wiser about whose combat probes I saw. D-scan shows me a tower and ships in the system, and although there are no Sleeper wrecks there are jet-cans visible. Performing a narrow-beam sweep of d-scan shows a Cormorant destroyer is not located at the tower but although it is named GAS-GAS the Cormorant is not in the same location as a jet-can.

I continue my sweep to locate the tower and the rest of the ships, my colleagues not jumping in to join me whilst the presence of targets remains a possibility. D-scan lets me find the tower and some of the ships, but not all of them. A piloted Iteron hauler is at the tower but a Raven battleship, Covetor mining barge, and the Cormorant are elsewhere in the system. And I can co-locate the Raven, Covetor, and a couple of jet-cans. We have targets. The fleet returns to our home system to board combat ships as I warp to a distant planet to launch combat scanning probes outside of d-scan range of the target ships. Once launched, I move the probes far out of the system and return to the inner system to hunt the Raven and Covetor.

It looks like the Raven is providing protection for the miner, which gives us a more satisfying target to shoot. But we can't engage the ships unless I find them and my skill in positioning probes from a d-scan result still needs practice. I get a bit of luck, bad that turns to good. I try to narrow the d-scan resolution more and more to locate the two ships but I keep losing them, not sure which direction to continue the sweep. It is rather frustrating, until I realise that the site they are in happens to be almost directly below the planet I am not orbiting. Their position relative to mine makes it awkward to locate their bearing using d-scan, but gauging a distance along a vertical axis is much easier than along a diagonal.

Having a good range on the ships and knowing them to be below a certain planet I warp to a nearby planet and continue using d-scan. I am starting to triangulate the ships' location and am just about ready to activate my combat probes when the ships disappear from d-scan. Of course, they haven't left the system, only my narrow five degree beam. I don't want to disappoint the small fleet looking to engage the targets and it is suggested that I scan the site anyway and bookmark the jet-cans still there, for easy reference should the ships warp back. I get my probes scanning and resolve the site within two attempts. The second scan is interesting, because rather than the return signal being only the gravimetric site I also now see the Covetor. He has returned.

I call for the fleet to jump through the wormhole they're sitting on as I warp back to it, probes already recalled, landing thirty kilometres away so as not to decloak my ship on the entity. With some confirmed jumps and flares seen I initiate warping of the squadron to the location of the Covetor in the gravimetric site. I allow the warp command to carry my Buzzard too, as the Raven is absent and the Covetor poses no threat even to my cov-ops boat, and I would like to see the fruits of my scanning. In warp to the site I drop my cloak, aware of the sensor re-calibration delay that prevents targeting locks for fifteen seconds or so, so that as I drop out of warp a few kilometres from the Covetor I can lock the ship and disrupt its warp engines immediately. If support for the Covetor turns up I'll need to run, but my agile ship can help secure the mining barge for the fleet's guns.

The small fleet arrives and quickly pops the mining barge, cutting through its fragile hull and throwing the pilot's pod out in to space. The capsuleer doesn't waste any time fleeing to his tower, getting his pod safely clear. I move away and cloak again to protect my own flimsy ship, letting me warp to the tower in the system to see what activity we have provoked as the Covetor wreck is looted. A Nemesis stealth bomber and Wolf assault ship are prepared by the locals but they don't take them outside the tower's shields. What is interesting is that the Cormorant seen earlier is still not returned to the tower.

A bit more use of d-scan and combat probes gets a solid hit on the Cormorant's location, and warping to it reveals why the destroyer isn't concerned about hostile ships shooting miners: the ship is abandoned. We think about stealing the ship and returning it home with us but the gains don't outweigh the hassle of getting a capsuleer out here in his pod, particularly as the locals could move their stealth bomber around. 'If we can't have it, no one can', declares one pilot, shortly before the Cormorant becomes a wreck. And it looks like our operation is over. If I had just been a bit quicker with scanning we could have added another Raven to our list of kills. Hopefully more experience and practice will lead to improved scanning times. For now, I just head back home and to bed.

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