Bubbles are meant to inconvenience others

4th March 2011 – 5.29 pm

The rocks are dead. The mining sites that I activated a few days back have despawned, leaving nothing but empty space where they once were. That's nineteen bookmarks I can remove from my folder, and nineteen fewer pins in the system map to confuse my finding our static wormhole each day. Naturally, a few more sites have appeared that I didn't know about, but scanning is much quicker now without all the clutter. I am soon warping out of the tower and jumping in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.

Exiting the wormhole in the C3 is beautiful, as I find myself past the outskirts of the system, beyond the outer planet and out of d-scan range of all other celestial objects. It's a shame that there are no pilots to hunt here, as this is the ideal wormhole position for covert operations. A blanket scan reveals only a single drone or probe in the entire system, along with eleven anomalies and over a dozen other signatures. Warping around finds an off-line tower and lets me idenfity the drone as a Hobgoblin, but there's little else for me to do but start sifting through the signatures.

I resolve a wormhole, but refrain from visiting it in case Fin turns up and we want to make some iskies from the good number of anomalies here. A second wormhole is interesting, though, and cannot really be ignored, in case it is a K162 that could bring hostile pilots in to this system. It could also lead to more w-space, whether an incoming or outbound connection, which could mean finding activity. Judging by the relative strength of the signatures, though, I am guessing that this second wormhole is an exit to null-sec k-space, the first wormhole perhaps being a K162 instead. I'll keep scanning for now, just to make sure I've found everything.

A third wormhole crops up, almost making this system a junction, and once I resolve the final few signatures I warp to each wormhole to see where they lead. The second wormhole is indeed the system's static exit to null-sec, as I suspected, and reaching the end of its natural lifetime. The other two are a K162 from class 5 w-space, which is unstable but not critically so, and a K162 coming from another class 3 system. I imagine the C5 K162 was destabilised by a fleet coming and going, who probably also opened the exit to null-sec earlier, making them probably inactive for now. The wormhole from the C3 is healthy, meaning it was opened later and that pilots may still be active, making it my first choice to visit.

Jumping in to the second C3 system sees lots of ships appear when checking my directional scanner. A Widow black ops ship, Nighthawk command ship, Loki strategic cruisers, Machariel battleship, Chimera carrier, and Broadsword heavy interdictor are all big and scary, and those are just the few that grab my attention. I also detect three towers, which I set about locating. I find the Loki and Machariel piloted in one of the towers, the Loki moving but only in a lazy orbit around a hangar. A pilot speaks something inconsequential in the local channel, but I doubt it is directed at me. Unless the locals have a scout watching the wormhole they don't know I'm here, and I'm not about to make the mistake of introducing myself.

As I bookmark a convenient position around the third tower an Iteron hauler warps in. A moving industrial ship makes me think it's time to swap from the scanning boat to my Manticore stealth bomber. I make the short trip home and bring my Manticore back to the active C3, returning to the tower where I saw the Iteron. He's still there—or gone and returned—but not for long. The hauler moves and I watch him closely, seeing the ship's vector send it to a distant planet. I assume he's collecting planet goo and warp my Manticore to the customs office, looking to get an easy kill. But the Iteron didn't warp here, he must have gone to a moon instead. And as d-scan shows a further tower I imagine he's there now.

I find the tower and warp to the moon, where I do indeed find the Iteron. I don't find him where I expect to see him, though, which is inside the safety of the tower's shields. Instead, he's some three hundred and fifty kilometres away, sitting silenty in empty space. It's such a tempting target, but I have no idea how to cover that much distance quickly, as ships cannot warp to other ships unless they are in the same fleet. I suppose I could offer a fleet invitation and see if he blindly accepts it, but it's quite a gambit and decide against it.

I may have some luck getting closer if I warp away and make a quick bookmark, bouncing back off a planet. I give it a go and manage to close the gap by over a hundred kilometres, but that still puts the Iteron two hundred kilometres away, slightly out of range of my torpedoes. There's nothing for it but to crawl cloaked towards the still-stationary target, and I start the slow journey to his position. But what a tease, I barely get close and he warps in to the tower, finally finished with whatever he was doing. Never the less, I spur my engines back to life and keep my forward momentum.

The point the Iteron sat at is not an arbitrary point as such. I warped to the moon, more or less, and landed far from the Iteron, which means the hauler must have warped to a bookmarked position and not the moon itself. And if that's a bookmarked position he may warp back out to it, which is why I am continuing my push to get in to range of that spot in space. To confirm my suspicion a Noctis salvager warps to roughly the same position, but still I am too far to wreak any havoc and have to watch silently as it pauses, turns, and warps to the tower. It's rather curious behaviour, and I'm glad I didn't stop moving.

I push onwards, not quite sure of the exact range I'm aiming for but confident I am heading in the right direction. When an Imicus warps in just eighteen kilometres from me I think it's safe to cut my engines. But I'm not going to engage the frigate, as it is rather small reward for the time I've spent getting here. I'd prefer to wait for a meatier ship. The Imicus doesn't spend long in this bizarre junction, but I use his appearance to adjust my position for the next ship to appear, getting more in the horizontal plane and in a better bombing range, also ensuring I make a bookmark in case I need to warp away and return.

The Myrmidon battlecruiser that appears next is perhaps a little bigger target than I want to engage, as I can't tell how it is configured. I have seen some Myrmidons fit as gas harvesters, but a combat battlecruiser, particularly one with drones, will chew me up pretty quickly whilst absorbing the damage I can throw its way. The Myrmidon warps to the tower, then disappears off-grid again, d-scan showing its drones to be out. A passive scan of my surroundings reveals no anomalies, and the Sleeper wrecks that appear are only small, so it looks like the Myrmidon is fighting only the guardians of a ladar site. As he does, a Drake battlecruiser warps to the point in front of me and then to the tower, another ship I can't really hope to engage successfully. But his transit makes me realise the situation.

I think I can explain the strange behaviour of the pilots. The tower nearby is protected by almost a complete ring of warp bubbles, and it looks to me like the ships are warping to this distant position in a bid to avoid being dragged in to a bubble, bouncing off this spot to get in to the tower. If that's the case, those are some really stupidly placed bubbles. When I warped to this moon I was unmolested by any warp bubble, making them useless for catching unwelcome visitors. And there can't be a much more stupid operational decision than making it impossible to warp directly in to the safety of your own tower. I hope I can show them vividly the dangers of relying on an obscure but predictable procedure.

A Noctis salvager has warped out to be with the Myrmidon, obviously the ladar site now cleared of Sleepers. If he is warping back to this tower, and uses their standard procedure, he's in for a shock. And, sure enough, the salvager warps to the point my Manticore now sits nicely aligned with and in ideal bombing range. I wait a few seconds as the Noctis continues to drop out of warp before decloaking and launching a bomb. I try to gain a positive target lock but the salvager is still slowing, interference from the active warp engines confusing my targeting systems. I may have mis-timed this, not realising how ponderous the engines are, as being in warp will prevent damage from the bomb too. But his engines cut out and I get my target lock just before the bomb detonates.

I activate my target painter for maximum effect and follow up the bomb with torpedoes, as the Myrmidon warps in behind the Noctis to the same point in space. I align my Manticore and get ready to enter warp, but the Myrmidon doesn't engage. The battlecruiser simply warps to the safety of the tower, saving himself at the cost of the Noctis. Not just the Noctis, though, as the ship explodes and my sensor boosted stealth bomber snares the pilot's pod too. A few more torpedoes and a frozen corpse floats in space in front of me which, after I destroy the wreck of the Noctis, is all that is left of the salvager.

I warp out and cloak, still expecting at least the tower's defences to start shooting me, but I am entirely unmolested. I return to my bookmarked location, happy to see the corpse floating in the supposedly safe staging point. I don't scoop the corpse this time, as I don't want to announce that I am still around. It also serves as a decent marker, at least for the short time the body stays there. The position of ships cannot be bookmarked directly, or warped to, but the corpse is an excellent reference point. In fact, despite having a nearby position saved, I bookmark the corpse's position, which I squirrel away in a suitable folder. If I ever return to this system it may be worthwhile to keep this particular location handy.

The moral of today's adventure, much like after many of my engagements, is: don't be predictable! Certainly, an arbitrary point three hundred kilometres from your tower is a fairly safe position to warp to, but not half-a-dozen times over such a short period. I only got there and sat there because so many pilots were making themselves vulnerable in the same place. The Iteron pilot's first sloppily extended visit made it much easier, without a doubt, but I would probably have got the kill anyway, with the amount of traffic there was. And I am really pleased with this hunt, as it rewarded observation and patience. I return home, seeing that no more ships dare to move from the tower now, with the rosy warm feeling of a lesson taught.

  1. 5 Responses to “Bubbles are meant to inconvenience others”

  2. nice little kill. Very nice strategy to get him too.
    Man, after browsing through some other blogs, and coming back to this one, i have to say i really like the simple layout and the little cropped pictures you include. It does a good job of illustrating the story, adding dimension, and mixing up the text and images. =) o/

    By CK Terson on Mar 5, 2011

  3. Hi, great stories you have here!
    I love to read your blog, it has deep in it and is very inspiring.
    Good luck !
    P.S. I've added Tigerears to my blog, hope more people will find and enjoy it.

    By Munny on Mar 5, 2011

  4. Found a similar situation in another wh. Unfortunately only 2 ships used the spot then logged. Bm'd the spot for future use and immediately changed a spot I had been using to drop probes on grid from our pos.
    Complacency kills.

    By Fyreax on Mar 6, 2011

  5. Would you have found the spot they were warping to if it has been off grid of the POS?

    I have strategic bookmarks on grid around my POS, it can be useful, e.g. to reload guns, but I mostly use off grid ones when I warp in and out of the POS. Would you still bother to find someone if she was using always the same off grid spot?

    By Damien on Mar 6, 2011

  6. Thanks for the comments, chaps.

    That was probably a good decision to change your probe launching spot, Fyreax. Maybe as well as ensuring they 'don't be predictable' pilots should be careful that they 'don't get complacent'. I was certainly lucky that there was enough traffic to get to the bookmarked spot and then catch a pilot.

    Going off-grid would certainly change the circumstances, Damien. It would not be immediately obvious how far off-grid the ship was going, whether adjacent to the tower or a good fraction of an AU away. Getting the right vector to appear on the same grid may be very difficult to guess at too, and the whole process would likely need to involve scanning probes. So, no, I probably wouldn't have found them had they been off-grid.

    By pjharvey on Mar 6, 2011

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