Not close enough

22nd January 2011 – 3.31 pm

There's an interceptor in our system. Fin's here too, and I think it's her Crow I'm seeing on my directional scanner. Ever since we've moved in to this class 4 w-space system there has been a wayward jet-can lurking somewhere, perhaps dropped in a safe spot by the previous inhabitants, and it's been nagging at Fin. Now that she has a really fast ship at her disposal Fin can blast off the ecliptic plane in her continued search, rather than relying on repeated warp flights between ever-closer bookmarks. But it will still take an epic journey to get close to the can, and I suspect Fin will have to tolerate its appearance on d-scan for a while to come.

Today's constellation has already been scanned—hence Fin's flight of fancy—leading from home to our neighbouring C3, and then inevitably out to empire space, but there remains some confusion. 'What is it called', Fin asks, 'when the security status is over 0·4?' Ooh, good question. I used to know this, but haven't seen it for ages. Whatever this 'not-low-sec' is called, the exit system is in the Kador region. The class 3 system also has four anomalies and a gravimetric site, along with a Zephyr exploration ship, Nocits salvager, and Buzzard covert operations boat all unpiloted at the local tower. I now have a full sitrep, what a partner.

I board my Manticore stealth bomber to take a fresh look at the C3. But before I head out I swap out the siege launchers for faster cycling units, now that I have the grid available from completing my training in advanced weapon upgrades—which incidentally rewards me with the elite core competency certificate at last. The faster launchers may have been enough to get the Noctis kill yesterday, which is another oversight on my part. Anyway, neatly refitted I take my Manticore next door, where three Tengu strategic cruisers and a Hurricane battlecruiser on d-scan are new. There are no wrecks yet—oop, now there's one. It looks like we have activity.

Fin is close behind me, in her own bomber, and she warps off to check the local tower. I open my system map and sweep d-scan around to check the four bookmarked anomalies, easily placing the combat ships in one of them. I warp in to see them engaging Sleepers, and am pleased to see the anom sits high on the ecliptic plane, which will let me warp from any nearby celestial object to any of the wrecks being made without danger of being decloaked. On top of that, if I warp in to bombing range of one wreck I should be within suitable range of any of the wrecks, which promises to make ambushing a salvager particularly smooth today. I warp out of the anomaly, keeping a tight d-scan beam on it to monitor the slow progress.

The Sleepers are slowly converted to wrecks and the Noctis becomes piloted back at the tower. The salvager warps to the anomaly, which I pick up on d-scan as I warp back in myself. I am in a good position for a launch straight away and, finally, the Tengus warp out. But just as Fin warps in to join me for the slaughter a Tengu warps back. That's awkward, but won't stop us from attacking. We just need to be more careful. Or we just need to wait another ten seconds, and the Tengu warps out again. Okay, we're ready. We co-ordinate our launch and two bombs sail towards the bulky salvager, detonating viciously on its position. I fire torpedoes and burn towards the badly damaged Noctis, getting in to range of my warp disruption module, but, no, he warps out! The ship must have been aligned and started his warp drive soon after seeing the bombs.

Two chances of a Noctis kill in two days, and both blown. The two of us cloak and warp away from the anomaly, knowing that Tengus, or worse, could appear soon. And I start to do some maths, irritated that I am being careless in catching ships of late. I know that a colleague, long ago, got caught in the explosion of his own bomb and effectively blew himself up, and I am still careful to avoid that, but maybe I'm worring about nothing.

The bomb flight lasts ten seconds and reaches a distance of thirty kilometres, where it explodes with a radius of fifteen kilometres. That puts me fifteen kilometres from the edge of the explosion, which I would need to cover in ten seconds to get caught by the blast. I only have a reheat fitted which, at full burn, doesn't quite get my Manticore up to one kilometre per second, making my maximum distance travelled from launch at under ten kilometres. Even if I were going at full pelt on launch I wouldn't enter the detonation zone, so I have no reason to be concerned about being hoisted by my own petard. This is good to know and I can be confident about future manoeuvres.

My maths is too late to help today's attempt, though. The Noctis looks hardier than I gave it credit for. I thought the bulkier ship would be hit harder by bombs than the smaller destroyers, but it seems that ORE have taken the inherent vulnerability of salvagers in to account. Sitting in one position and having no weapons and minimal tank fitted certainly isn't good for survival in lawless space, and the shields and armour of the Noctis look to be beefed up enough to at least give the pilot a chance of escape. Twice two bombs haven't been enough, whereas a destroyer would have been dust. And it looks like I can't be sloppy, forgetting target painters or warp disruptors. Mind you, if the introduction of the Noctis means I need to improve my act then I only see it as a positive move.

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