Escorting, roaming, hauling

28th October 2010 – 5.30 pm

The constellation is mapped, leading a merry route four systems to high-sec empire space. I think I'll take my Manticore stealth bomber out for a roam and see what I can find. Our neighbouring class 4 w-space system is compact and empty, letting the directional scanner see all of nothing without having to move from the wormhole. But the empty system turns out to be a good start, as I am asked if I would scout the route to empire space for a Bustard transport ship heading out from the tower. I'm being helpful!

I move on from the C4 and jump through its static wormhole in to a class 5 system, where the safety of the Bustard may not be assured. A Dominix battleship is visible on d-scan, along with some Sleeper wrecks. I start a passive scan for anomalies, my Manticore no longer fitted with a probe launcher, and start to alert colleagues about a possible target, but the Dominix turns out to be another colleague who's not paying too much attention to corporation communications. I briefly consider shooting him anyway, but as he's clearing ladar sites I'd have to swap ships to scan his location. In retrospect, I probably should have realised that a battleship is unlikely to be engaging Sleepers in a class 5 system anomalies by itself.

The system is declared safe for travel. I also now recognise it from my notes as being the system where we pop and pod two gas miners, before putting the defenceless tower in to reinforced mode. Unsurprisingly, the rather temporary-looking occupants have since vacated the system. I push onwards to the next wormhole, which sucks me in to another C5 system, but one where there are lots of big ships on d-scan. There is a tower too, and finding it finds the ships. Two Scorpion battleships, an Anathema covert operations boat, and a Manticore are all piloted at the tower, plenty more ships—battleships, battlecruisers, and a carrier—also sitting unpiloted in the shields. But they seem to be passive enough for the Bustard to pass through unnoticed.

I leave the class 5 systems behind and jump in to a C2, one that is big enough to hide ships from d-scan naturally. Warping around locates a tower holding an unpiloted Raven battleship inertly in its shields, leave the system otherwise clear. I don't bother reconnoitring the exit wormhole to high-sec as there are no warp bubbles on d-scan and any threat from a cloaked ship can be bypassed by simply jumping through the wormhole to Concord-protected empire space. Instead, I leave the Bustard to its own devices and warp my Manticore to the C2's second static wormhole, jumping in to the class 3 system beyond.

The C3 is unexplored. No bookmarks guide my way here, not even for the wormhole leading homewards, so I make sure I do that myself. The system is interesting for containing only two moons across its seven planets, but that's all the system is interesting for as neither of them hold a tower in geostationary orbit. I head back the way I came, jumping first to the C2 and then in to the second of the two class 5 systems. There has been some change in ships at the tower but nothing particularly enticing. And as colleagues shot and popped a Badger hauler in this system earlier it is unlikely that any activity will pick up again soon. Even so, watching one of the pilots swap ships back-and-forth is perhaps as close to action as I will get this evening.

A Crane transport ship gets swapped for a Merlin frigate. The Merlin visits the tower's silos, before being swapped for a Badger. The Badger is swapped back to the Merlin. I'm amazed that after all this I am alert enough to spot the Merlin warping away from the tower. Thankfully, before I was hypnotised by the ship-swapping I checked the relative position of the tower and the two wormholes in the system, letting me realise that the Merlin's vector is taking him towards the wormhole leading to the C2. I follow, if a little behind him—I should be considering aligning to a bookmarked wormhole now that it is possible—and jump in to the C2. The Merlin is decloaked and I try to disrupt his engines, but he warps away before I get a positive lock. Checking his direction shows he is heading towards the exit to high-sec, predictably enough.

I camp the high-sec exit for a little while, hoping perhaps to panic a tourist, but no one comes through to w-space. Instead, I visit high-sec myself, although only after I return to the tower to swap ships myself, in to a transport ship stuffed with ore which I take to Tash-Murkon Prime so that we can get better refining yields than out in w-space. It is a simple matter to get out to high-sec and return, particularly with corporation pilots guarding a few of the w-space connections. But one of our pilots, in a Bustard transport ship, finds the Merlin from earlier. Come back to camp the exit to high-sec himself, the Merlin engages our Bustard, but our pilot isn't concerned.

A few rockets barely make a dint in the Bustard's shields, the pilot instead trying to act vulnerable whilst luring the Merlin away from the wormhole. The transport ship can easily warp away when it pleases, its boosted warp strength an advantage of the class of ship, but acting like it is in trouble by figuratively listing encourages the Merlin to continue attacking. The only real concern is if the Merlin is tackling the ship as a spearhead of a fleet, but it doesn't appear so. And our pilot has been communicating all this to colleagues, who turn up to surprise the Merlin now a little separated from the wormhole, but only a few shots hit his shields before the nippy frigate manoeuvres close enough again to the wormhole to jump out to empire space. Two webs did not slow him down quite enough. Our Bustard gets home safely, and the evening draws to a close.

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