Scouting for scouts

26th December 2010 – 3.57 pm

There are twelve scanning probes in our home system, which is not only enough for anyone but too many for just one pilot. We have at least a couple of visitors. In an attempt to keep a low profile I swap the Buzzard covert operations boat I sleep in for a Manticore stealth bomber, warping out of the tower and cloaking. Personally, I loiter outside local towers when scanning in a system, so that I don't need to watch d-scan too carefully to miss a capsuleer's arrival, but others probably have different operating methods to me.

Glorious leader Fin is in the system too, cloaked herself, and updates me. She abandoned the collapsing of our static connection when the probes appeared on d-scan, a couple of trips in an Orca industrial command ship already having reduced the mass allowance of the wormhole to below half. The scanning pilots must have opened a new wormhole in to our system, and they are newly arrived. As the visitors are likely simply exploring, and not about to throw more ships through the wormhole, I swap ships back so I am once again in my Buzzard, and I add my own scanning probes to d-scan to look for the K162 that must be in our system.

The K162 connection is relatively easy to find for me, despite the couple of dozen signatures present in our home w-space system. I have most of the sites bookmarked and can quickly ignore them, only needing instead to focus on unfamiliar signatures. By contrast, the visitors have a bit of work ahead of them before they find our static wormhole to the class 3 system, which gives us an advantage in time. Not that I know what that advantage will do, but it's there. I warp to the wormhole, confirm that it is a K162, and that it is coming from a class 5 system, and jump through.

No one waits for me on the other side of the wormhole, the C5 system looking clear. Warping around finds a battleship wreck and corpse somewhere in the inner system, which is interesting, and the outer system holds a tower with some scary ships. But the Nidhoggur carrier and other smaller ships are all unpiloted, and the tower itself is undefended. It's possbile that the two scanners have come from this system, but it is also possible that they have come from another system beyond. The corpse in the system concerns me, but I can see no obvious cause for the cadaver.

I don't scan the C5, unsure whether there is a K162 leading deeper to w-space or not, but happy to consider the system inactive. And with the scouts currently in our system no doubt having to return this way, and no one in this C5, I have a plan for some disruption. Fin boards an Onyx heavy interdictor and comes to the C5, and I change to a Malediction interceptor to join her. We set up camp on the wormhole in the class 5 system, Onyx bubble activated, and wait for the scouts to return and jump, hopefully unsuspectingly, in to our trap.

We wait patiently, again a little hampered by our lack of numbers in not having eyes in our home system or the C3. All we can do is assume that the scouts are still active and planning to return. But either we lack patience or the scouts are slow, and our uncertainty of their location makes us want to be more productive. Luckily, Fin has a new plan. Rather than continue with collapsing our static wormhole we could collapse this class 5 system's static wormhole, the one we're sitting on, denying the scouts a route home at the same time as isolating us.

The plan is put in to action. Fin uses an Orca to start sucking mass allowance out of the wormhole coming from the C5, and I plant my interceptor on our own static wormhole, ready to raise the alarm if the scouts return. I get curious, though, and jump briefly in to the class 3 system, finding no ships and no probes. Maybe they have found an exit or deeper w-space connection and are exploring that. Either way, I return to our home C4, and change ships again, this time in to my Widow black ops ship in case its mass is needed to help collapse the wormhole. Fin instead opts to use a narrowly fitted Maller cruiser of her own design, built for collapsing wormholes with only a 100 MN micro-warp drive fitted to add mass, and I again sit cloaked on our static wormhole waiting for activity.

The Maller finally destabilises the wormhole enough for the Orca to be brought home and the connection from the C5 collapsed. Just as this occurs, our static connection to the C3 flares, as ships jump in. 'Fin, come back!', I yell, urging her to make the jump as soon as possible, as Cheetah and Helios cov-ops boats appear and disappear, cloaking and warping to their K162 homewards. I throw my Widow in to warp, still enjoying this agility in a battleship hull, hoping to catch the small ships in empty space, but knowing already that my targeting systems and speed will be no match for the interloping pair. At least I end up in empty space, the Orca having returned and collapsed the wormhole, and I even see the Helios still in the system, although I am unable to gain a positive target lock.

I hurry back to our tower to ditch the Widow and return to my Malediction interceptor, but it's too late. It looks like the Cheetah jumped in to the C5 in the nick of time, and although the Helios is isolated it clears our system and warps across the unscanned C3. We were so close. We nearly forced two ships to warp in to empty space where their wormhole once was, and we nearly caught at least one of them in doing so. My mistake was getting out of my interceptor, pretty much the only ship that stood a chance of locking the scanning boats, but you can only have so much patience and time to spare. And the action certainly made for an interesting start to the evening.

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