Baffling some battleships

31st October 2010 – 3.40 pm

Preparation for moving between w-space systems continues. We have a scanned exit to low-sec empire space available through a class 2 system, but the second static wormole in the C2 hasn't yet been found. It will head further in to w-space but that connection may present a better exit, even in to high-sec space. I take my Buzzard covert operations boat out to take a look, passing uneventfully through our neighbouring class 4 system, noting a lack of occupation but some scanning probes visible on the directional scanner. I don't know whose probes they are but I ignore them for now.

Jumping in to the C2 takes me in to a system I visited three weeks earlier. The system was unoccupied before but now some capsuleers have moved in. Only an unpiloted Heron frigate sits inside the new tower's shields, with a couple of containers floating in space outside of the shields, which seems like a stupid place to put them. No one is home, so I launch probes and begin to scan, finding mostly gravimetric sites. A second scout investigating the scanning probes seen in the C4 has more luck, resolving a new K162 wormhole in the system, coming in from another C2. He jumps through to investigate the system only to find a clump of battleships calmly waiting on the other side of the wormhole.

My colleague jumps back to the C4, leaving the Raven, Rokh, Typhoon, and three Dominix battleships, an Exequror cruiser, and Thrasher destroyer, none of them looking to follow him to engage. He thinks they are equipped to fight Sleepers, probably fitted with remote repair capabilities. And I've found the second static wormhole in the scanned class 2 system, leading to another C2. But I don't jump in yet, waiting to see if we are to pit ourselves against the battleship fleet. It isn't terribly likely, as we lack both pilots and ships in w-space because of our impending move. The battleship fleet enters the C4 and warps to a Sleeper site, which my colleague starts to scan.

The unfamiliar fleet is found in a radar site. They still appear to have a scout in the system, one who has planted scanning probes on each wormhole in the system, but despite this care the fleet hasn't fled at the sight of my colleague's probes on d-scan. Either they aren't worried about his lone Loki strategic cruiser, which they must have seen when he jumped in to their C2, or they aren't monitoring d-scan carefully, relying instead on their scout's probes to alert them to the presence of other ships. But it doesn't really matter, as without a significant fleet ourselves we can't really engage them directly, and I have jumped onwards in to the next C2.

I find an off-line tower and a lack of activity in the C2, with a wealth of signatures to scan through that an unoccupied system generally holds. Sifting through the signatures resolves a second exit to low-sec empire space and a K162 to another class 2 w-space system, but my colleague's updates on the battleship fleet gets me thinking. Maybe we can't engage the fleet directly but we could still attack their salvager. Scanning can be continued later, for now I return homewards to change ships. Passing through the C4 is straightfoward enough. Even with a scanning probe on the wormholes a Buzzard won't raise any alerts, particularly if extra probes don't. I get back to our tower where I swap the Buzzard for my Manticore stealth bomber, warping out to sit and wait on our static wormhole.

The radar site is cleared of Sleepers. Two battleships warp out, the others remain, and the Exequror and Thrasher turn up shortly. The Thrasher hacks the Sleeper databanks whilst the Exequror salvages the wrecks, my colleague watching all the while. He considers the options, noting the remaining battleships sitting some eighty kilometres away from the Exequror, further than they were shooting Sleepers. It looks like it should be safe to bomb and point the cruiser, the Loki uncloaking to add his weapons to destroy the cruiser before we warp out away from the battleships. That's the plan, now we put it in to action.

My colleague is in a good position, calling me to jump in to the system and cloak, which I do. And then I am warping to his position, and I can feel my tension rising. I am only attacking a salvager, but under the noses of four battleships. I drop out of warp as the last wreck is salvaged, only a canister remaining for the Exequror pilot to loot. I align my Manticore quickly—which is difficult in the high inertia of a black hole system—and launch a bomb. The glide path is rather skew but the cruiser pops before my first volley of torpedoes can reach it, the Loki helping with the Exequror's quick demise. The pod is ejected and I get my warp disruptor hot again, gaining a positive lock on the poor pilot's pod with a little help from a sensor booster. Siege launchers fire more torpedoes but large explosions aren't terribly effective on the tiny pod, and I only risk two volleys before warping away from the battleships.

I don't see the pod explode, but my colleague does. He stays in the site long enough to finish off the pod and declare the loot in the wreck to be 'crappy', still able to escape from the battleships afterwards. The big combat ships were outside of their optimal range and had no modules to disrupt warp drives, and our Loki was never under any real threat. But although we are both safe I want to go back for the corpse, to add it to our growing collection. It's risky for no real benefit, but I'm not too bright. I made sure I bookmarked the cruiser's wreck as I warped out of the site and it is simple to warp back to that location, dropping twenty kilometres short so that I can hold my cloak and line up to grab the corpse.

Swooping past the wreck to scoop the corspe is pretty easy, but the solid triangle on my overview of an unlooted wreck entices me to loiter, opening the wreck to find the crappy loot that my colleague left behind. I should have paid attention, particularly as my targeting systems return positive locks on the battleships who are now shooting me, preventing me from cloaking and, well, not actually damaging me. The ships are still out of their optimal range and my small signature radius is probably mitigating what little flak from the guns is reaching me. Even with the increased inertia of the black hole system I have time to align and warp away with barely any damage inflicted, and with a fresh corpse in my hold.

The engagement was odd. The fleet seemed prepared and cautious, planting a scout in the system and scanning probes on each wormhole. Yet they ignored the scanning probes not belonging to them and did not move to protect their salvager. The result is a lack of loot for them and a kill for us.

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