Hulk hammering

26th January 2011 – 5.37 pm

Scanning again, I jump through our static wormhole in to another pulsar system. Our home class 4 w-space system holds a pulsar, nicely boosting shields and capacitors, and this C3 gives the same benefits. If I find any ships here, I had better take stronger shields in to account. Nothing is visible on my directional scanner from the wormhole, but the system looks big. I bookmark the wormhole home and warp away to explore.

Moving to a different part of the system has a tower appear on d-scan, and a Hulk exhumer too. I may have a target! I locate the tower, where the Hulk warps in a couple of seconds after I get there myself. The pilot of the exhumer swaps ships, boarding an Iteron hauler and surging away under warp drive shortly afterwards. I may not have a target, perhaps turning up just as the mining operation finishes. But I won't assume so just yet, instead warping away from the tower myself in the same general direction as the Iteron. And, indeed, it looks like I'm not too late, as a second Hulk shares space with the Iteron.

I launched probes back at the wormhole, where no one could see me on their own d-scan and it was safe. I moved them out of the system to keep them out of sight, and now I can make use of them. First I need to use d-scan to narrow down the location of the still-mining Hulk, joined again by the first Hulk along with a Covetor mining barge—it looks like I could get quite lucky here. And my skill with d-scan is improving, or maybe I'm just getting better at positioning myself close enough for differences in arc to be minimised. I narrow down the bearing and range, position my probes carefully, and call them in to scan.

No longer relying on core probes to scan targets, I had combat probes loaded in to my launcher when entering this C3, and this is what I am now using to locate my targets. The first scan is excellent, getting 100% hit on both Hulks, the Covetor, and the gravimetric site they are in. The cosmic signature for the site may be a hundred kilometres from any rocks, but getting a hit on the ships directly means I don't need to warp in to find out, which entails a risk of getting decloaked and spotted in the process. Thanks to the combat probes I can warp to within a couple of kilometres of any of the targets.

As I make bookmarks of the scan results I warp away, but not back to the wormhole yet. Before I leave I want to check the local tower, not wanting to be negligent or sloppy. And it's good that I check, as a Tengu strategic cruiser is now present and piloted by the Iteron pilot. He's active too, moving out of the tower to launch scanning probes. I wonder if he's just passing the time, or if my presence has been noted. Either way, the obvious choice of the Onyx heavy interdictor for this operation is no longer a good option, despite its capability of capturing all ships and pods it its bubble. The bubble would trap me too, and if the Tengu is called in I don't want to be a sitting duck of my own making, potentially losing more ISK than I destroy. I'll bring in my Manticore stealth bomber instead, which should give me the firepower needed to bring down a Hulk or two, whilst providing the agility and stealth to flee if necessary. And so I warp back to the wormhole, jump home, and swap ships at our tower.

Jumping back in to the C3 is simple, as the mining site is out of d-scan range and I won't be made by the miners. I warp to my bookmarked location of one of the Hulks, aiming to land thirty kilometres away in case I get decloaked by a rock and need a hasty launch. But I arrive cloaked and away from any rocks, giving me a good view of two Hulks busily mining. I manoeuvre a little closer, to get within comfortable range for disrupting their warp drives, and decloak and launch my bomb.

As the bomb glides towards its detonation point I lock them both and paint the one I have arbitrarily designated as my primary target. There's a mighty explosion and both Hulks take damage, the painted one considerably more, and I start firing my siege launchers, sending torpedoes towards my first target. Hulks are hardy, and the pulsar's boost to its shields making it more so. I risk flicking my warp disruption module between the two ships, hoping that neither of them has the good sense to align first before trying to enter warp, and keep both Hulks unable to escape.

But my desire to destroy both targets causes an unfortunate instance. The first Hulk finally pops and I am quick enough, thanks to my sensor booster, to lock on to the pilot's pod. But still the pod warps away, a split-second before I can get the warp disruption module active on it. Normally, with a lone target, I can get the point hot and it will activate on the first locked target. But with a second ship—in this case, the other Hulk—already locked the point will automatically activate on to that, regardless of any targets currently being acquired. So the point keeps the second Hulk in my sights, but the pod of the first flees.

Regardless of the pod's escape, I still have one Hulk destroyed and the other in my sights. My point holds the second Hulk and, the only other ship here, he becomes my next victim. His ship didn't take as much damage from the bomb, not being painted to increase its signature like the other one, but I have plenty of torpedoes. What I don't have is time. I knew about the Tengu back at the tower, and as soon as I began my assault I started punching d-scan, every couple of seconds, fully expecting the strategic cruiser to arrive. And now I see it. The ship hasn't got to the gravimetric site yet, but it is on d-scan, heralding its imminent arrival.

I prepare for the Tengu by aligning my Manticore back to the wormhole home, still shooting the second Hulk. The Tengu flies in close to the wreck of the first Hulk and, when it looks like its warp engines are about to cut out, rendering its targeting systems active, I warp out myself. The second Hulk still has healthy shields and would easily have survived long enough to see the Tengu rip me to shreds, so I am not losing a kill by bugging out. And my preparation means I don't even get shot, and thankfully don't lose an Onyx. I get clear of the site and cloak again, soon finding myself back at the wormhole home.

I don't jump home, though, as I am in no immediate danger—the locals don't appear to know about this connection yet—and instead move away from the wormhole. I send my Manticore back to the gravimetric site, close to the wreck of the Hulk, and no one is there. I loiter for a short while, wondering if anyone would be stupid enough to come back so soon to loot the smouldering remains of the Hulk, but deciding it would be far too reckless to expect anyone to do so. I visit the tower instead, seeing the Tengu, Hulk, and Covetor all nestled inside the shields. I don't see the pod of the destroyed Hulk, though. At least, not until he warps back to the tower in a Bustard transport ship. Hang on, did I miss him?

Another quick check of the gravimetric site shows just how foolish some capsuleers can be. The Hulk's wreck is now looted, no doubt by the Bustard, and I can only have missed him by a few seconds! Recovering the surviving modules from the wreck may have worked this time, but it was a remarkably incautious action. Perhaps the Bustard's shields would have withstood a bomb, and the increased warp strength enabled it to warp out again, but a ship and his pod was still a big risk to take for bringing home a few million ISK of standard equipment.

Beyond collecting their own salvage, there doesn't seem to be any more current activity. There is little point in waiting for them to feel safe again, and if they return to mine the chances are there will be a counter-ambush—at least, I am safer to assume there will be one—so my best option is to return home and take a break. I have no loot or corpse to deposit from my assault, but I can bask in the satisfaction of getting another clean kill.

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