Spooking a salvager

12th December 2010 – 3.42 pm

I am left a single bookmark, pointing to our home w-space system's static wormhole. I shall take advantage of this act of generosity and explore what lies beyond. Jumping in to our neighbouring class 3 system shows promise, as there are sisters core scanning probes and some armour maintenance bots visible on my directional scanner, although closer scrutiny reveals no sign of any ships. I wonder what the bots are doing by themselves. I have a wander around the system, thinking that perhaps the bots were left behind by active capsuleers, but all I find is a tower on the outer planet where only a Helios is piloted, the covert operations boat likely responsible for the probes in the system.

The Helios isn't the only boat at the tower, merely the sole one piloted. A Chimera carrier not only attracts my attention but deflects it from all the other ships. It surprises me, then, that launching combat scanning probes reveals loads of anomalies present in the system. I don't quite see the point of having a carrier if the indigenous Sleeper population isn't then culled regularly. But the reason I launch combat probes and not core probes is so that I can find the bots in the system, which I do. I warp in at range to empty space, the bots floating completely separate of any anomaly or sentient presence. I make a note of their location and return to monitor the Helios at the tower.

I would monitor the Helios at the tower if it was at the tower, but now it has disappeared. Continued scanning of my own finds a K162 wormhole coming from a class 4 w-space system, and I suspect the Helios pilot of going out to explore. Sensing an opportunity, I jump home, swap the Buzzard cov-ops boat for my Malediction interceptor, and head back to the C3. On returning to the system I see I am too slow, the Helios again on d-scan. I warp to the K162 anyway, but not in time to see the Helios. I jump back home again, loitering on our static wormhole in the hopes that the Helios pilot picks up the new signature and jumps in to take a look, but I don't expect much.

I wait until I get bored and jump my interceptor back in to the C3. The probes have gone, as has the Helios. Never mind. I board my Buzzard again and continue scanning, pausing to collect the nine maintenance bots idling where someone left them. I only have one more signature to scan in the C3 now, making it the static connection. And, what a surprise, it leads out to low-sec empire space. Checking the destination puts me in the Aridia region again, the same dead-end system as before and hopelessly far from any system of interest. But there is another system to explore, so I warp across the C3 and jump in to the connecting class 4 w-space system.

The wormhole leading in to the C3 is the system's static connection, so I am not expecting to find another one here if there is occupation. And a Tengu strategic cruiser indicates activity, although it disappears from d-scan promptly. Warping around finds two towers, and it looks like the Tengu has retreated to one, joining a Nidhoggur carrier and Vargur marauder amongst other ships. But by the time I locate the tower and warp to its moon most of the ships have gone. I return tentatively to the wormhole leading to the C3, dropping short by a margin, and hold position. Sure enough, a flare comes soon, the Tengu appearing and warping in the direction of the tower I just left.

Not quite knowing if the wormhole is clear on the other side, but assured that at least the Tengu—the only active ship I have noted—is not there, I move towards the connection and jump through. And there are the other ships, the Vargur and a Legion strategic cruiser waiting in the C3. I patiently wait for the session change timer to end, and move away and cloak. The big combat ships unsurprisingly don't make an aggressive move against my tiny cov-ops boat, but I lurk for a while to see what they will do. I assume they are lining up to blast through the many anomalies in the system and, when the Tengu rejoins them, all three ships warp off. I have the anomalies bookmarked and using d-scan easily find the ships shooting Sleepers in one of them.

I think about leaving them to it, knowing that I cannot do much alone. And then I realise that a salvaging boat will probably follow behind them. I bookmark a wreck in this first anomaly and jump homewards, again swapping the Buzzard but this time for my Manticore stealth bomber. I go straight back to the C3 where it looks like I won't have to wait long, a Thrasher destroyer already on d-scan. I warp to the bookmarked wreck in the first anomaly to find the Thrasher alone, the combat ships having moved onwards. The anomaly hasn't even despawned yet, which is a little careless. But I drop out of warp a little too short to be in ideal bombing range for wanting to get a point soon afterwards. I line up the Thrasher and approach, getting ready for a bomb launch.

Before I get in to a decent range the Thrasher bugs out. I could loiter here in the anomaly and hope he returns, but there isn't much point when I can more easily monitor ship movements from their wormhole. I reach the K162 coming from the C4 and park a fair distance away, taking care to adjust my vector to be unaligned from the anomaly, where I see the last of the ships jump out of this class 3 system. None of the ships now remain here, leaving me alone again. It's possible that the combat ships were holding station on the wormhole and being vigilant with d-scan, noticing my steatlh bomber and telling the Thrasher to get out, particularly as two of the pilots saw my Buzzard earlier. They know of a presence in the w-space constellation and were diligently looking for additional warning signs.

Even so, a single bomb will not pop a destroyer. At least, not if the micro-warp drive is inactive. And a lone stealth bomber in the company of two hostile strategic cruisers and a marauder is suicide, the bomber begging to be turned in to arcing electrical circuits. I understand that it is good to be cautious, but absent any other signs I wonder if these pilots are being a little over-sensitive to threat. Certainly, a colleague and I previously pop a salvaging boat with battleships nearby, but I wouldn't say they were 'guarding' the salvager. And although I may risk launching a bomb with a Tengu, Legion, and Vargur surrounding a salvager, I wouldn't hang around trying to finish the job that one bomb wouldn't accomplish. The Thrasher would take damage, but it wouldn't be destroyed, and the other ships would barely be scratched.

Now there are wrecks waiting to be looted and salvaged, but no one seems to be willing to do it. I am not about to claim the wrecks as my own, not with the possibility of the other pilots still being active and perhaps swapping in to pointier ships. And I won't willingly give up my position or ship class by jumping in to the C4 to check on the activity, as I would rather keep them guessing. So I wait.

Wait, wait, wait.

The wormhole a few tens of kilometres in front of me flares, but nothing appears for a while. A Jaguar assault ship eventually decloaks, probably not by choice either, and it immediately jumps back to the class 4 system it came from. I suppose it was making a quick check of d-scan, checking for other ships and, perhaps, counting the number of wrecks visible. I'm thinking about salvaging them, sir, but not quite yet.

Wait, wait, wait.

The Jaguar returns to the C3, warping off to what looks like the seventh planet in the system. A couple of minutes later he returns from a different direction, having warped around the system a bit to gain full d-scan coverage. I imagine he still sees no other ships, and no reduction in the number of wrecks from the first anomaly. I want my kill, and I am willing to wait for it.

Wait, wait, wait.

It doesn't look like they're coming back, and they're not even sending any more scouts in to look around. It's time to get my own salvager out and recover the loot from the site. I go home and board my Cormorant destroyer, taking care when returning to the C3 to check d-scan for the Jaguar, or other ships, but seeing nothing out of the ordinary. I warp to the bookmarked wreck again and start pillaging. I cannot tractor the yellow-coded wrecks to my ship and have to move to each one, which increases the time it will take to clear the site, and my vulnerability, as a result. But the other ships don't come back, letting me loot and salvage all the wrecks and return home safely. I would have preferred the kill, but thirty million ISK in loot and scaring a marauder away is a fair reward for my patience.

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