Hollow threats

25th February 2011 – 5.02 pm

Fin's been busy, scanning her way out of our class 4 w-space home, through our C3 neighbouring system, and out to the arse-crack of New Eden that is Aridia. Sadly, apart from a couple of covert operations boats, whose origins are unknown, there is little to see or do in the class 3 system and Fin's work is being undone as we try to push our wormhole over the edge of stability. A couple of trips in an Orca industrial command ship on refining runs has already reduced the wormhole to below half mass, so it only needs a bit of a nudge to complete the collapse. A coordinated jump with a Raven battleship and the Orca sends the wormhole in to oblivion, and we start the day afresh.

The new static wormhole is scanned and we are back in C3 space, a different system hopefully offering better opportunities. There are lots of warp bubbles visible on my directional scanner, along with an off-line tower, but no direct signs of activity. I am free to launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, finding seven anomalies and only three signatures. Scanning here will be easy. Exploring the rest of the system finds a second tower too, this one on-line and really quite poorly defended. There are three active defence batteries, which could easily be incapacitated, and no hardeners for the force field, making the tower an inviting target to siege. But scanning finds two other wormholes in the system, the extra connection beyond the static wormhole presenting a risk.

The second wormhole turns out not to be a K162, which would strongly suggest activity in the connected system, but an outbound wormhole to another class 3 system. The best option is to check the second C3 for activity and if none is found assault the tower in relative safety. I jump through and immediately see Sleeper wrecks and a Legion strategic cruiser on d-scan. Admittedly, the Legion probably won't be scanning any time soon, and we could probably start shooting the tower in the first class 3 system, but the Legion presents a better target. If only we had the ships to deal with him, whilst also being able to fend off Sleepers. Until we get those ships we should probably wait until he salvages. But first I need to find him.

I start a passive scan of the system, not wanting to launch probes, as Fin returns home to launch her Manticore stealth bomber. I soon find the anomaly the Legion is in, and warp to it so I can bookmark a couple of suitably positioned wrecks. Bookmarks made, I head homewards, dropping short of the wormhole and manually navigating the last ten kilometres so that my ship's visible time on d-scan is minimised. On the other side of the wormhole I copy the bookmarks I have made and jettison them for Fin to pick up, on her way here, before heading homewards to get in to my own Manticore. On my way out of the home system I spot core scanning probes on d-scan, giving us visitors. I pay them no mind for now, as we already have a target, we can come back and deal with these new pilots later.

We have a problem. Fin's Manticore appears in the second C3 a mere forty-five metres from the wormhole, giving her almost a full two kilometres to travel before she can activate her cloaking device and disappear from d-scan. She could immediately jump out, wait for the polarisation effect to end, and try again, but those three minutes of polarisation could mean the difference between success and failure themselves. She gives it her best effort in moving away from the wormhole, hoping the Legion pilot is not paying too much attention. The strategic cruiser warping away and being replaced by a Magnate frigate suggests he was being vigilant with d-scan. Never mind, there isn't much to be done about randomness. Besides, the Magnate can't warp cloaked, we may still get a shot.

Probes are launched, and presumably the pilot will be looking for the new wormhole that has opened in to his system, the only means for unfamiliar ships to enter. If he wants to investigate the wormhole directly he will need to fly out to it, and as he can't warp cloaked, I have an idea. We get both of our Manticores on a direct line between the K162 and the local tower, at different ranges. If the Magnate is predictable enough, he will warp directly from the tower and appear on one of a few distinct points. With our positioning, we should be in with a good chance of snaring him as he lands. The most likely circumstance is that he will cloak as soon as he lands, breaking our lock, and we'll need to burn the range to bump him, at which point he will be aligned and ready to warp away. But if he were that experienced he would probably be in an Anathema cov-ops boat, not a simply frigate.

Mr Legion talks to us in the local channel, asking 'where you from?', in a curious dialect. We don't answer, we just want to shoot him. And when his Magnate appears on d-scan I think we may get the chance. I sweep d-scan around, seeing that he's not at his tower, and it looks like his ship is coincident with a planet. I break formation and warp to the planet, dropping a little short just in case, but he's gone already. Actually, he's right there, in front of me! His ship has decloaked, and I rush to try to lock the frigate and disrupt its warp engines. My first attempt fails, as I forget I am still cloaked, and by the time I have dropped the cloak and am a split-second from getting a positive lock with my disruptor hot the Magnate warps away.

Damn, that was close. Also, 'just in case'? Just in case of what? I drop out of warp on top of him and decloak a frigate in my stealth bomber? That sounds like the best plan! I shouldn't have been so cautious in this instance. The pilot gives a little chuckle in the local channel, but I'm not sure what he's so happy about. I'm not the fool who warped to zero on a celestial object with hostiles in the system. He points out that 'friends are on their way, we will find you'. Big words, but they sound hollow. After all, he had to ask us where we were from, even when he was actively scanning the system. I don't think he has the skills to find us.

I spend a little time finding the towers in the system, all four of them. An Executioner frigate is now on d-scan, finding it at a tower showing it not to be a new presence but the Legion pilot still. I keep an eye on him, so I can see which direction he warps away in, if he decides to move, waiting for perhaps another silly mistake. When he finally moves he warps to apparently empty space before disappearing from d-scan. I assume he has jumped out of the system, although I doubt he'll be back with his 'friends' to hunt us down. His friends all sound about as imaginary as mine. But his departure leaves us with no one else to stalk, and we turn around and head home.

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