Coming from the other direction

11th January 2011 – 5.46 pm

I wonder if we've had visitors. As the home system is not stabilising I can't be the first pilot to be here today. But maybe glorious leader Fin was busy earlier harvesting gas. There is no sign of anyone currently in the system, so I launch probes and scan, looking for a K162 as much as our own static wormhole, although I find the latter first. I scan a little longer, hoping to resolve a K162 sooner rather than later, but there are too many signatures for me not to instead get bored and jump through to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.

The C3 has a Scorpion battleship and a tower visible on my directional scanner, and both are found together, the ship unpiloted in the tower's shields. I start to scan the inactive system, ignoring a couple of sites until I resolve a wormhole. The connection isn't the system's static link, though, but a K162. The dark blue and green colours seeping through make me think it is from a class 2 w-space system, which offers some more interesting hunting ground, but inspecting the wormhole reveals it to actually come from null-sec k-space, which is rather more disappointing. I keep scanning, finding a second wormhole. This one is more interesting, being a second K162 and coming from class 5 w-space. Before I explore that I still have the static wormhole to find, the last signature turning out to be an exit to low-sec empire space. I quickly check the exit system—only five hops from Amarr is a good result—before jumping in to the C5.

D-scan shows plenty of potential activity in the class 5 system. A Thanatos carrier, two Orca industrial command ships, a Proteus strategic cruiser, two Loki strategic cruisers, and three Legion strategic cruisers are all seen, as is an active tower and a bunch of drones. It looks like something is happening. I locate the tower, which also finds me the Thanatos and two Legions piloted, and two unmanned Orcas, but that leaves the other ships elsewhere in the system. I am able to warp out of d-scan range of the tower and all the ships, where I can launch combat scanning probes undetected, move them out of the system, and warp back to start looking for the ships.

Sweeping d-scan around gets an approximate position of the Legion, Loki, and Proteus, and they seem to be at a site. But there are no wrecks and nothing else sharing the d-scan reading with them, and even if I could believe that these pilots would take strategic cruisers mining there are no jet-cans visible. I'll soon find out what they're up to, though, as I position my combat probes at the bearing and range I've gauged using d-scan. I punch the scan button and—yes!—get a 100% hit on the Legion and Proteus, 99.74% on the Loki, and 100% on, oh, a wormhole. My finger was poised on the 'recall probes' command, and my scanning probes are quickly returned to my hold, minimising their time visible to the other pilots. Now I can see what's happening with my own eyes.

I warp to the wormhole at range, dropping out of warp to see the strategic cruisers huddled around a K162 from high-sec. And as I take in the situation the wormhole flares. A Drake battlecruiser appears long before the session change timer ends, making me think he is with the other ships, but the shooting makes me think otherwise. A few volleys of fire are spat between the ships before the Drake jumps out again. Naturally, the cruisers don't follow, not seeing any point in entering Concord-protected space, and it looks like they are simply guarding the unexpected entrance to their home w-space system. A few minutes later the Drake returns, this time with an Armageddon battleship for company. Again, the ships open fire on each other, testing each other's defences before the two interlopers jump out.

There is not much I can do here in my Buzzard covert operations boat. But I can add to the havoc in a Manticore stealth bomber, particularly when recruiting the now-appeared Fin to join me. I make my way homewards, swap ships, and go back with Fin in tow. With a little luck, and some good timing, we may be able to launch co-ordinated bombs against weakened ships and maybe get an opportunistic kill. But we can't be spotted until we're ready, which means we need to be careful when entering the C5 and approaching the wormhole. I've shared all my bookmarks with Fin and, when we get to the C5, agree which direction we'll use to warp to the wormhole. We both pick a different planet to 'bounce' off, which will let us warp to the K162 at a suitable bombing range without threatening to decloak each other.

Getting back to the wormhole finds it relatively inactive, though. The strategic cruisers are still there but the wormhole sits dormant. It's not surprising, there are only so many times you can jump through and test defences before realising nothing is going to break, and it takes a few minutes for Fin and I to make the journey here ourselves. We've probably missed our opportunity. Never the less, we prepare for a bombing run anyway, getting both of our ships on the same horizontal plane as the wormhole and within thirty-five kilometres, close enough for a good detonation but distant enough to avoid most warp disruption effects. And, as we sit in position, all the ships warp away, back to the tower.

Hunting requires some patience, though, and I am content to lurk for a little longer. Nothing is quite as effective at encouraging people to make silly mistakes than having them think they're safe. After a little waiting a Loki warps back to the wormhole and jumps through. I imagine he is scouting, checking the exit for signs of ships on the other side. And, if he is experienced, checking the local communication channel for the pilots who have been poking his colleagues. He jumps back soon after and warps directly back to the tower, without even waiting for the session change timer to end. Warping away so soon is the important part, as it reveals his self-assurance that the wormhole and his home system is clear of intruders. Little does he know.

The occupants may think they're safe from further incursions, but that doesn't automatically mean they'll reveal themselves. They could just go to sleep. But there still is some activity, a Guardian logistics ship and pilot's pod appearing at the tower, as witnessed on d-scan. And, shortly after, the pod warps to the K162 and jumps in to high-sec. Excellent! I strongly suspect the pilot will return, in a ship, and believing the w-space system to be fully in friendly control. He will decloak early and warp to the tower, just as his colleague in the Loki did, which is exactly the kind of opportunity we've been waiting for. I reposition myself and call Fin closer, not wanting to rely on a bomb for this task. The bomb will take too long to detonate and we'll need to be close enough to get a point on the target, and the wormhole could spit out the returning pilot anywhere in a five kilometre radius from it. That's too unreliable for a bomb launch. I will wait for the ship to reveal itself, identify it as quickly as possible, and decloak and point at close range.

The wormhole flares! I get an adrenalin hit and get my systems hot, watching my overview eagerly to see what ship will appear. It's a Prowler transport ship, a good target! I decloak and lock the ship, point hot to prevent it warping. The pilot indeed initiated warp almost immediately after entering the system, so he won't be able to jump back to high-sec for long enough for each of us to get a couple of volleys of torpedoes against him. Except the Prowler is rather agile, and slips in to warp a split-second before my targeting systems get a positive lock, leaving my warp disruption module nothing to affect. 'I suggest we both back off', I say, understanding only too well what will happen next. And, sure enough, a Proteus and Legion warp in to the wormhole. But we're cloaked and moving away, they won't find us easily.

Oh well, so close to catching the ship but it remained just out of reach. It was a good plan, though, and good reasoning based on experience and the pilots' behaviour. We probably don't have much more we can do here now, as the system is back on a high-alert level. We may as well head home, which we manage without being overtly spotted. Fin uses our spare time to take to Amarr a Crane transport ship stuffed with loot to sell, whilst I stay in our neighbouring class 3 system to reconnoitre. Some ship movements are seen on d-scan, suggesting the C5 inhabitants are perhaps checking to see if we came from this direction and not high-sec. After a few more signs and disappearances of ships I warp to the wormhole to see what they're up to, finding out that they were actually collapsing the connection, there now being only empty space at the bookmarked location. They are isolated again, and we are left with a quiet C3. Fin sells the loot, we each get 220 Miskies in profit, and we both return home to get some rest for the night.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.