A Stabber stabbed

5th January 2011 – 5.57 pm

There's no one here but me, I think I'll hunt in the class 3 w-space system next door. Of course, that means finding the home system's static wormhole first, but that's a formality. Jumping in to the C3 sees a tower and a Tengu strategic cruiser on my directional scanner, and locating them both is easy enough as the Tengu is sitting unpiloted in the tower's shields. And having warped away from the wormhole to find the tower has put me close enough to now spy the Stabber cruiser, Hurricane battlecruiser, and Sleeper wrecks elsewhere in the system. I'm in luck.

I punch my on-board scanner in to life, not wanting to waste time launching probes if I don't have to, but the ships don't appear to be in an easily-found anomaly. A jet-can also visible on d-scan, and the minor Sleeper wrecks, instead suggests that the ships were interrupted whilst mining. Let's see if I can continue that trend. The Hurricane disappears and a Noctis joins the Stabber, and there is no way I will be able to catch the salvager before it grabs the few wrecks of ladar site guardian Sleepers, but I can still resolve the site being used for their continuing mining operation.

I warp away from the inner system to the outer planet, where my hope to launch probes discreetly is scuppered by the presence of a second tower. An Orca industrial command ship looks to be there too, but I ignore it for now so that I can concentrate on the target. Luckily, there is another planet I can use that is out of d-scan range of both towers and the mining Stabber and friend. I launch probes and move them out of the system quickly, warping myself back to a planet close to the miners so I can trace their position.

Only the Stabber remains in the site with the jet-can, but I am able to narrow down his location in space using d-scan. I get the ship in a five degree d-scan beam and gauge its range to be between 2 and 2·5 AU away, and not far off the ecliptic, letting me place my scanning probes confidently. I pause for a second, getting myself ready, priming my reactions to the results of the scan, and call my probes in. The first scan is perfect, a 100% hit on the ladar site! I recall the probes immediately, bookmark the site, and warp in to drop only a little short.

My ship doesn't fly through the gas clouds and decloak, letting me see the Stabber mining by itself. The pilot uses a jet-can for convenience, letting him store all the collected gas which won't fit in his cargo hold. The can also lets me create a bookmark of the ship's approximate position, although I really should have been prepared with combat probes so I could resolve the ship's position directly, negating my having to warp in to the site like this. But at least I can confirm that the Stabber hasn't seen me, not that he had much opportunity this time. I was pretty quick. And, if he has only just had to fend off the Sleepers, he has probably only recently started mining and will be here for a little while longer.

I warp out of the site, briefly stopping to check the tower and seeing only the unpiloted Tengu still, and jump home. I board my Onyx heavy interdictor, which looks like the best choice of ship today. The wormhole connecting our systems is also out of d-scan range of the mining Stabber, which will let me get in to warp before potentially being spotted, and give me a few extra seconds leeway. I swap out the second bubble, probably not needing the scripted point for assaulting a single ship, instead fitting another heavy assault missile launcher for maximum firepower. I want this to be quick.

I return to the C3, now in the HIC, and quickly check d-scan. Not seeing the Stabber sharing space with the tower, suggesting it is still mining, I warp to my bookmark of the jet-can. The Stabber is indeed still there, gas harvesters active, as my Onyx drops out of warp to engulf it in the fearsome warp bubble. My launchers fire and start pounding on the shields of the cruiser, as I keep a watch on d-scan in case the Hurricane and salvaging pilot from earlier reappears, but it's the Stabber that catches my attention again. He's shooting me. Granted, they are only light missiles, and my HIC can regenerate the damage quicker than he can inflict it, but he's not going down without a fight. Even so, he's going down.

The Stabber explodes and the pilot's pod makes a break for the edge of my warp bubble. As I manoeuvred my Onyx to hug his cruiser the pod has quite a distance to run, and I lock and shoot even as I move to follow. He doesn't really have a chance, but I admire the tenacity, unwilling to accept his fate and no doubt hoping I'd make a stupid mistake. The pod pops and I scoop a fresh corpse in to my hold. I loot the Stabber and destroy its wreck, then clear the pocket quickly. It's another smooth kill.

My use of d-scan was good as before, but my probe positioning has never been better. Getting a positive hit on the first attempt was excellent and saved valuable time during which the probes would have been visible to the pilot. I am a little lucky with my choice of ship, as using the Manticore stealth bomber in this case may have seen me flee from returned fire, although I'm not sure how much the light missiles would have damaged the smaller ship. A bomb would also have destroyed the jet-can, though, whereas it now remains, letting me return in my Crane transport ship to collect it stealthily.

I'm not sure at first what happened to the Hurricane and Noctis pilot, but the Stabber's continued presence in the ladar site offers a suggestion. I think the pilot ejected from his cruiser when the Sleepers appeared, preventing the ship from appearing as a threat to the w-space rats, and the miner swapped to the Hurricane to shoot the Sleepers and then the Noctis to salvage them, before returning in his pod to board the Stabber and continue where he left off. It's only a guess, though. He could also have used a puppet for the task, and wasn't able to call them back whilst under attack from another capsuleer and trying to flee.

It only takes one trip to the ladar site in my Crane to haul all the gas back, although I fit the Crane with expanded cargohold modules and giant secure containers. But, like I say, if the Sleepers had only just appeared he perhaps hadn't been mining for long. I return safely to the tower with 1,500 units of fullerite C70, and 1,560 units of C60, which seems like a decent haul. I drop it in our hangar and take a few minutes to enjoy the remnants of the thrill of the hunt still coursing through me.

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