Hunting in w-space

5th December 2010 – 3.19 pm

I scan our home system as the tower gets stronger. Fin is anchoring some more guns around the perimeter, to deter any unwanted attention. I resolve the system's static wormhole but keep it closed, although Fin assures me she doesn't need to go outside of the shields any more. I also note the appearance of two more anomalies, and a couple of new signatures. One of them is a second wormhole, the fatter signature looking more like a K162 than the previous wormhole I resolved. The other signature turns out to be a third wormhole, again looking less like the static wormhole and more a K162. As the K162s must already be active I decide to visit them to see where they come from.

The first K162 has been opened from a class 5 w-space system, the second from a C3. I jump through the wormhole to the class 3 system, hoping to find softer targets than may be present in the C5, noting on my arrival in the system that the wormhole is a random outbound connection and not the static wormhole for the C3. There is a territorial claim unit visible in the system, and a tower can be seen on my directional scanner. Pointing myself towards the TCU locates the tower too, a piloted Pilgrim recon ship sitting passively inside the force field. The system is otherwise inactive, and I don't feel compelled to scan for the static connection just yet, as there is still the K162 from the C5 to investigate.

I jump home and warp to the second K162, confirming my intuitions about the relative strengths of the signatures when scanning. Entering the C5 and hitting d-scan gets my pulse pumping, as I see a pair of gas miners. It is an instinctive reaction but, as I pull up the system map to find the most distant planet to warp to, I realise it is the right conclusion. A pair of cruisers, a Thorax and Moa, are on d-scan along with four Sleeper wrecks. The two cruisers could not possibly be effective against Sleepers in a class 5 system, but their configurations are good for mining gas. And only four wrecks suggests the combat took place in a mining site, where only a few Sleepers protect the resources found in w-space.

I'm looking for a ladar site. First, I must launch probes covertly, which is why I have warped to a distant planet. Another check of d-scan confirms that I am out of range of the two cruisers, and I launch scanning probes before moving them dozens of AU out of the system as a precaution. I warp back to the inner system, where the gas miners can be found on d-scan, and start narrowing my beam to locate them. My probes are now far out of d-scan range, but I can still manoeuvre their virtual positions without moving the probes themselves, which I find most useful. Sitting in the system map I centre the view on my ship and sweep around with d-scan until I find the cruisers. I then position one of the probes' boxes in line with my ship and the scan result. The angle of d-scan can then be reduced and I can narrow down the position of the two ships, with the probe's box acting as the reference point, a handy point to return to where I know I can 'see' the ships using a certain d-scan setting.

With several refinements of the d-scan angle and re-positioning of the reference probe I get a good bearing on the cruisers. Determining the range is easier, and simply a matter of adjusting a variable and seeing when the ships appear and disappear between two points. Using an approximate value of one hundred and fifty million kilometres for one astronomical unit makes this process quicker. What is difficult is translating this distance in to a position for the probes, particularly in three dimensions. But I have managed to work out that a probe's AU range has that AU radius, not diameter. A second probe box is used to get the range. I can swing my view around in the system map to help position the probe's box the several AU away from me that the cruisers are, then swing back to my reference box to align the range probe's box to be along the right vector. Keeping the two probe boxes different sizes helps distinguish them.

I have a good bearing and range, and one of my probe boxes is sitting approximately where the cruisers look to be. Now I move the rest of the probes in to a standard scanning configuration around the locator probe, taking care not to move my carefully positioned reference by mistake. As I am using a centrally position reference probe I have launched five probes in total, to keep the central probe in place and have four others around it. This configuration also lets me drop the range, and increase the scanning strength, of the central probe without compromising the effectiveness of the probes in the cardinal points around it, which will give me a stronger hit on any signature found. Now it's the moment of truth, to see how good my d-scan locating has been.

I hit the 'scan' button and see my probes warp in from far out of the system, then count down as they scan the area. I get a good hit, but not quite good enough. But at least I have been accurate enough to get a single point, and not a ring or sphere. A quick adjustment to the probes' positions and I hit 'scan' again, the second result coming back with a 100% strength on the ladar site. Just as quickly, I recall the probes, hoping that I was lucky and found a twenty second window where the two pilots were not monitoring d-scan. I warp to the ladar site to within a hundred kilometres, holding my cloak, and see the Moa and Thorax huddled around a conveniently bookmarkable jet-can. I hold my position for a few seconds, and am pleased to see the two ships continue to mine obliviously. We've got them!

I warp back to the wormhole and jump home, returning to the tower to see Fin in an Onyx heavy interdictor, ready to capture both the miners and their pods. I've been relaying my information to her as I've progressed, so there is no surprise or rush. All we need to do is work out what I'm piloting. My Tengu strategic cruiser or Widow black ops ship both seem too expensive for the task, as well as being somewhat overkill for two probably unarmed cruisers, and I settle on taking my Manticore stealth bomber. It is quite flimsy, but the torpedoes and a fitted target painter will be more than enough to wreak havoc. Choice made, I board the Manticore and we warp to the C5 K162.

We jump in to the class 5 system and enter warp directly, knowing that the ladar site is in d-scan range of the site. As we drop out of warp it doesn't look like the miners are expecting us at all, and the Onyx's warp bubble activates with both the Thorax and Moa inside. Both ships are quickly targeted and missiles start pummelling the Thorax, called as the primary target before entering the system, the pilot's pod soon ejected in to space as the ship disintegrates. My torpedoes make quick work of the pod, also trapped by the bubble, before I turn my attention to the Moa that Fin is shooting. The second cruiser is just as quick to explode, ships fitted for mining not known for their defences, and the pilot is corpsified with his colleague.

It is a quick and smooth operation, much as it should be for slaughtering two gas miners. The wrecks are looted and corpses scooped, and now we think about collecting the mined gas. Fin reminds me that I haven't even fully checked the system for towers yet, which is rather negligent of me. It is possible that a battleship fleet was sitting ready to engage Sleepers and could have been called by the miners to repel us. Thankfully that isn't the case, but I could have been more cautious instead of geting excited so quickly. There is indeed a tower in the system, in the opposite direction from where I warped to drop probes earlier, and there is no one home, neither ships nor pilots. Learning this, I call Fin back in to the system, now in her Bustard, to haul the gas home to claim as our own.

Hauling the stolen gas is straightforward, as I keep an eye on the tower in my cloaked Manticore. Fin even comes back to salvage the Sleeper wrecks in the ladar site, but we get nothing interesting as a result. A Viator transport ship is on d-scan briefly in the C5, and some scanning probes are seen as I exit, perhaps a pilot searching for a way for the miners' new clones to get back in to w-space. But there isn't much point in turning a good position around to potentially become targets ourselves. Fin and I have had our excitement for the night and decide to get some rest.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.