Hunting a hulking miner

16th February 2011 – 5.39 pm

We have about two weeks' worth of fuel left in the tower. That is plenty for now, but I should start thinking about bringing some more in, to avoid future panics. I set about scanning, looking for an exit, or targets. The wormhole is nice and obvious on the outskirts of our home system, and I jump through to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A tower and quite a few ships are visible on my directional scanner, so I move away from the wormhole and cloak without launching probes. My notes show I've been in this system before, about eleven months ago, back when my notes weren't as detailed and I didn't list tower locations. I look for the tower and ships, which turns out to be easier than usual because there are only four moons on d-scan currently. And amongst the clutter of ships and tower defences I see that a Hulk exhumer is out and mining. I have a target!

I can't conscientiously hunt the Hulk without finding the other ships in the system, though. They are pointy and plentiful enough to pose a problem should I be able to engage the miner, which will affect my choice of ship, but only if they are piloted. A lot of empty hulls would let me bring in my Onyx heavy interdictor and safely trap the Hulk and its pod, whereas even a couple of combat pilots ready to scramble would see me choose a stealth bomber to get in and out quickly and quietly. So I hurriedly locate the tower, hopefully before the miner decides he's collected enough rocks for now.

There certainly are other pilots in this system. At the tower is a Drake battlecruiser, Devoter heavy interdictor, Stiletto interceptor, Osprey cruiser, and a shuttle, all piloted. Both the Devoter and Stiletto make me want to take care, particularly if they are active, and drawing my attention away from the overview shows that they are. Most of the ships are outside of the tower's shields, engaging in what must be simple manoeuvres, making them alert and ready to respond to an SOS. I may still have time to pop a Hulk, but even if I don't I'm willing to give a go. First I need to find it.

I look around the system to see if I can launch probes covertly, out of d-scan range of both the Hulk and the ships at the tower. Whilst there is are a couple of planets out of d-scan range of the tower it seems that the gravimetric site the Hulk sits in is positioned a little more centrally, and I can't avoid his d-scan attentions. I won't find him without scanning probes, though, so I have to take the risk. I decloak, launch probes and move them out of the system, and re-activate my cloak as quickly as I can. Taking another look around with d-scan suggests I wasn't spotted, as the Hulk remains where it was. My moving around the system has also given me a better idea of where the Hulk could be, which will reduce the time it takes to find him using d-scan.

I warp to a planet I think is close to where the Hulk is mining and starting refining his position using d-scan. I am able to narrow down his bearing to within a five degree beam, after which changing the range of d-scan places him between 3·5 AU and 4 AU from me. Using this information I carefully place my combat scanning probes, using a spread of four probes with a fifth in a central position. I'm ready to scan. I call the probes in from their distant hiding place and they get to work, but my placement is ever-so-slightly off. A 99.99% hit on the Hulk is pretty good for a first estimate, but not enough to warp to him. I need a rapid adjustment and a second scan to get a 100% hit, which I can bookmark and warp to, at which point I recall the probes and hope the pilot didn't choose those dozen seconds or so to check d-scan.

It's time to swap ships, to bring in my Manticore for the kill. Except I've been spotted. The Hulk is gone from the gravimetric site, as detected by d-scan, and although he could simply be running out of steam the coincidence in timing is strong. It seems the second scan was one too many, although I could quite possibly have been spotted on the first scan too. I return home anyway, taking care to approach the wormhole manually for the last few kilometres, still trying to reduce my time being visible to d-scan. I swap the scanning boat for my Manticore stealth bomber, and head back to the C3, where I jump in and cloak smoothly. I warp to the tower to see the Hulk and now a Bestower hauler also in the shields, and neither are looking like they'll be heading out any time soon.

I stay to monitor the tower for a while, where some activity occurs. One of the pilots swaps to a Buzzard covert operations boat and warps off, although I don't see evidence of any scanning probes being launched. The Drake warps to the gravimetric site, maybe trying to provoke a reaction. And he is a good target, just not when I am by myself and an interceptor is nearby to assist the Drake. He warps out again and back to the tower, where the pilots seem to be settling down, withdrawing from a system that could have hostile visitors. I don't blame them, but it means I am not getting a Hulk kill today. Within a few minutes the pilots and their ships start disappearing, clearly logging off, until none remains. It looks like it is time for me to take a break too.

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