Bombing a Bestower

6th January 2011 – 5.58 pm

I can't be lucky two days in a row, but let's see what's in our w-space constellation today anyway. Or I would, if our home system weren't getting swamped with Sleepers. This is supposed to be space, vast and empty, but we have so many ladar sites we almost have a breathable atmosphere. The number of bookmarks denoting sites of specific Sleeper interest in the home system is beginning to make spotting the new signature extraneous to any pin rather difficult. I shall have to re-scan the entire system soon, hopefully to delete any erroneous bookmarks pointing to defunct locations. But, for now, I slog through a few wrong guesses until I resolve today's static wormhole, and jump through to the class 3 w-space system beyond.

A tower and a couple of ships are visible on my directional scanner in the C3. Finding the tower finds the ship, both the Hoarder transport ship and Probe frigate unpiloted inside the shields. The wormhole I passed through and tower are both on the outskirts of the system, though, possibly leaving activity masked in the inner system. Warping to a more central point finds there to be a complete lack of activity, and launching probes and scanning finds there to be not much to do either. Only three anomalies are present, and the two signatures are the wormhole homewards and the system's static connection. Naturally, the static connection leads out to low-sec empire space, and checking the exit places me in the desolate Aridia region.

It doesn't look like much is going to happen today, unless we collapsed our own static wormhole, and I'll need glorious leader Fin to turn up to accomplish that. For now, I'll just head home and take a break. Or I would, if taking one last look at the tower in the C3 didn't now hold a piloted Drake battlecruiser. It may be worth hanging around a bit longer, but not in my Buzzard covert operations boat. I go home as planned but only to swap in to a Manticore stealth bomber, returning to the class 3 system and loitering by the tower to see what the Drake pilot does. I note that this is a pulsar system, much like home, and that shields are boosted, which will make the Drake rather more formidable, at least from a defensive standpoint. I am quite pleased, then, that the pilot changes ships, boarding a Magnate frigate instead.

I am getting more interested now. The Magnate cannot fit a covert operations cloak, which will make catching it much easier than a cov-ops capable scanning boat. But if may be even easier than I imagine, not having to wait for the ship to warp to a wormhole, as the Magnate starts moving under normal engine power towards the edge of the tower's shields. I am about fifty kilometres from the edge of the shields myself, which is too far to launch a bomb or to disrupt the warp engines of a ship, and so push my Manticore forwards to close the range, generally aiming to intersect the Magnate's path. I get within thirty-five kilometres of the shields when the pilot changes his mind and turns around, which is a bit of a shame. He then jumps in to a Bestower hauler, and starts moving in the opposite direction.

We are at the edge of the system and there are no celestial bodies I can warp to and return, to 'bounce' back in to a favourable position on the other side of the tower. But my magnetic personality exerts its invisible pull, the Bestower turning around and again the pilot crawling to the edge of the tower's shields. The hauler pops a giant secure container, but it doesn't stop moving. I start to move closer, preparing for the opportunity I don't expect I'll get to launch a bomb, and still the Bestower moves further from the tower. And now it is out of the shields, and still moving. I'm in range for an attack but I hold for a few more seconds, letting the Bestower get a little further out of the shields to make its retreat slower. Now is the time.

I decloak and launch my bomb, locking the target and manouevring closer so that I can disrupt its warp engines. Wary of the active tower defences I let loose my first volley of torpedoes too early, seeing them vaporise in the bomb's explosion, ending up costing me time. But the bomb hits, and hits the Bestower hard. I have burnt towards the hauler and now have a point, and as subsequent volleys of torpedoes successfully hit the soft target I align away from the Bestower and towards the wormhole home. I'll hold as long as I can but want to be ready to flee should the defences start firing.

The Bestower pops and ejects the pilot's pod in to space. My Manticore has a sensor booster fitted to help try to capture pods, which is no easy feat, and I must have really disorientated this one. I get a positive lock, disrupt its warp drive, and start shooting. The pod doesn't last long and the poor, unsuspecting pilot is thrown in to the harsh vacuum of space, only a few kilometres from the safety of his tower's shields. Except he's a she, sorry madam. I simultaneously warp away and cloak, somewhat surprised and relieved that the defences didn't engage me.

I head back to the tower, creeping under cover of my cloak towards the wreck, despite the defences not seeming to be set to shoot unallied pilots on sight. I scoop the corpse, and loot and shoot the wreck before cloaking again for safety. I recover three shield extenders, two cargohold expanders, and a prototype cloaking device. Analysis of the wreck shows that a probe launcher and scanning probes were destroyed in the explosion. I assume that the pilot was moving out of the shields to launch the probes and scan the system in the Bestower, although that's a curious choice given the availability of the more suitable Magnate. Not only that, but manoeuvring under manual power so slowly out of the tower is a poor choice.

I often say that predictability is dangerous. Repeated movements are the easiest to interrupt and, in the same way, an unchanging path is the easier to follow. I have no doubt that crawling out of the shields to launch probes worked fine every day for the past six months, and that it was sheer luck that put me in the right place at the right time, but had the Bestower warped to an arbitrary point in the system, or even on the same grid, I would not have been able to be in the right place at all. It is not possible to eradicate all predictable actions, but you can militate against many threats by adopting simple safeguards.

The class 3 system is deadly quiet again, and I don't suppose it will be waking up any time soon. I jump home, drop the loot and corpse in our hangar, and take a relaxing break.

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