Pop and plunder

26th October 2010 – 5.10 pm

I'm sitting at the tower, watching the ships come in and then go back out again. A new exit to high-sec space has been found in a connecting w-space system, and although it is nineteen hops from Jita it is convenient enough for some capsuleers to want to use it. I'm content to laze about for now, more interested in learning what a scout finds in the class 4 system that connects in to our own. And he appears to have found some activity, an Iteron hauler looking like it's about to move out of a tower. I get my Manticore stealth bomber warping to the K162 and jump in to the C4.

The scout reports that the Iteron has warped to a planet and that he has its location, and I warp to join my colleague. As I drop out of warp I see my colleague's stealth bomber, the wreck of an Iteron, and a capsuleer's pod. Before I am back under normal engine control I drop my cloak, activate a sensor booster, and get the warp disruption module hot. Once my warp engines have cut out completely I am locking on to the pod and snare it, the primed warp disruptor activating automatically on a positive lock. The pod disappears, replaced by a rapidly freezing corpse.

We loot the wreck of the Iteron, scoop the corpse, and go our separate ways. I head off to reconnoitre the tower in the system, my colleague elsewhere. Having just shot the only pilot seen at the tower there probably isn't much more to see, but I just want to make sure. One object catches my eye at the tower, a canister nestled within the defences outside and above the shields. It is not a secure container and so free for anyone to open, so I think I'll make a fly-by to see what the can contains. I bookmark its location and warp out and back in to get in to a better position to start my approach, not wanting to linger for too long because of the active defences of the tower.

I start to approach the can when a Helios covert operations boat warps in to the tower. It looks like someone else has woken up, perhaps as a consequence of the recent death of his colleague. I stop my approach to see what the new pilot does, and then I back off slightly as the Helios moves directly upwards, as if heading for the can himself. I manoeuvre my Manticore so that it is aligned to the can and at the optimal bombing range, and wait. The Helios crawls along slowly, only gaining a burst of speed once outside the shields that probably comes from a fitted micro-warp drive. The Helios is indeed aiming for the can that piqued my interest, and am now lined up to.

I hold my position until the cov-ops boat has reached the can, and only once it has come almost to a halt do I decloak and launch my bomb. The pilot is taken unawares but he is not oblvious to my appearance. His Helios surges back towards the tower's shields, racing against the ponderous bomb heading his way, and it looks like he's going to make it. The ten-second flight time and fifteen kilometre explosion radius of the bomb means he has to exceed 1·5 km/s in a straight line, which he may achieve with an MWD fitted.

But even though an MWD can give a ship the speed it needs to escape a bomb, the corresponding increase to the signature radius makes any explosion much more damaging. Indeed, a single bomb probably shouldn't destroy a covert opertions boat, but this one does. Mere metres from the safety of the shields the Helios pops, caught on the edge of the bomb's explosion, damage intensified by the active MWD. The ejected pod flees, warping away to some distant position. Getting the pod away safely like that seems eminently sensible, not trusting moving normally even the short distance left to the shields, but I can't say I think the capsuleer is sensible or wise. After all, he was accessing a can outside of the tower's shields.

I don't quite understand the strange popularity of storing cans outside of the tower, a habit I'm encountering more of lately. The tower's shields make anything inside invulnerable even to being targeted, let alone shot, and there are no restrictions to accessing cans. The only benefit to having a can outside the shields that I can see is so that pilots without clearance to enter the shields can still access the can. But if that's needed it makes more sense to place the can in a safe-spot in the system, where it cannot be found except by being guided there. It also makes more sense to use a secure container rather than a standard can, which limits access rights, although I can't find out what was being stored in the can any more as it too was destroyed in the explosion. A giant secure can would have survived. I wonder if I've just destroyed both the locals' current bookmarks and their scanner.

Pondering aside, I have a wreck to loot. The Helios popped right on the border of the shields, which will make recovering the loot a little more tricky, as proximity to the shields will interfere with my cloaking device. Rather than rely on re-activating my cloak I burn towards the wreck, loot it, and warp out. It takes me a while to align but the tower defences don't lock on to me, and the Helios pilot's pod returns to the tower to see my Manticore escape with a covert operations cloaking device and some Sisters core probes. The bare pod then starts to on-line defences, which I think to be a reaction to our attacks but my scouting colleague looks with keener eyes. He notices that almost no defences are actually on-line at the moment, and it is possible that the tower is just being set-up. He even considers the Iteron was warping to the nearest planet so that it could warp back to the defences, making the trip outside the tower quicker than under normal velocities.

That's a point, the unanchored defences can simply be picked up by anyone at the moment. And only one defence can be brought on-line at a time, and it takes a few minutes for each. I take the Manticore home and swap it for my Crane transport ship, just as stealthy but trading weapons for cargo space. I bookmarked the position of one of the unanchored defences before I left and, back in the adjacent system, warp to within ten kilometres of it. It is a simple matter to guide my agile transport ship close enough to scoop a couple of closely clustered gun batteries before cloaking again. Not being able to carry more I warp back to the wormhole connecting to our home system, but also not wanting to be polarised by quick multiple trips I jettison the gun batteries on the wormhole and return to the tower for more looting.

I am able to scoop four guns and two defences before the pilot gets frustrated enough to call in help, a Tengu strategic cruiser appearing as a show of force. The Tengu could probably lock on to my Crane quickly enough such that it deters me from taking any more defences, instead switching back to my Manticore to line him up for second bomb launch. A single bomb will only graze the Tengu, and although I hope to get more pilots to increase the damage there is no one around. Nor are they needed, as the Tengu gets bored and wanders off within a few minutes, letting a colleague in another hauler continue collecting defences.

We end up snatching all but one of the defences above the tower, leaving the owners' once symmetrical configuration looking decidedly lopsided. All of the defences dropped at the wormhole are picked up by a suitably capacious hauler, letting us claim them all as our own once recovered to our tower. A couple of kills and stealing defences as the owner can do nothing but watch, piracy is such a lark!

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