Cat and mouse

6th March 2011 – 3.48 pm

It's just me at the moment, me and a bookmark. A rather familiar-looking bookmark, I have to admit, and I realise that it points to our static wormhole from yesterday, a wormhole that must have collapsed by now. I delete the old reference and go scanning anew, happy to see the Sleepers are returning fairly quickly to our system, and resolving our current static connection. I make a copy of the wormhole's signature position, which is approximate but good enough for Fin to follow when she turns up, drop it in to our shared can, and warp away to explore our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.

My directional scanner shows me a tower, an Iteron hauler, and Incursus frigate in the C3. I move away from the wormhole, cloak, and warp to the edge of the solar system so that I can launch scanning probes without being detected. But the planet out here has a second tower in range, and although there are no ships on d-scan it would be preferable to be entirely out of range of occupation to launch probes, so I warp to the other end of the system. This is where I see the system's third tower, along with an Orca industrial command ship and a Noctis salvager, both piloted. A Cheetah covert operations boat turns up too. Okay, the second tower had no ships, making that volume of space to be the most discreet place to launch probes, so I go back there.

Combat scanning probes finally in space, I send them out of the system and set them to maximum scanning range. The blanket scan reveals the five ships I have already detected, along with four anomalies and a mere three signatures, one of which is the K162 wormhole leading homewards. I locate the first tower to find the Iteron and now two Incursus frigates, all piloted, yet there remain five ships on a repeated scan with my combat probes. Maybe the Cheetah has cloaked. D-scan shows me core scanning probes out in the system, suggesting the Cheetah is actively scanning, and with only three signatures to resolve he should find our K162 easily.

I warp back to the wormhole home to see if anything happens. All five core probes get to within 1 AU of the K162, strongly suggesting the scout has resolved the connection, but even when the probes abruptly move away there is no sign of other ships, and no one jumps to investigate our C4. I imagine the scout warped here cloaked, made a bookmark, and warped away again. I keep myself hidden and my probes out of the system until I know how active the pilots are going to be. Glorious leader Fin turns up, though, which gives more options. I let her know what's happening and ask if she would put her Crow interceptor on our side of the wormhole, potentially to catch the Cheetah, and Fin agrees.

The probes have gone from the system now. The Iteron at one of the towers has been swapped to a shuttle, which I doubt is going to visit our C4, and I realise that he and the two Incursus pilots are all family. I also realise that the activity I've seen so far has been coming from the third tower, and warp out there. The pilot of the Cheetah is now in a Loki strategic cruiser, which warps away in the general direction of our K162. Abort, Fin, abort! I think she hears me, I'm sure she'll be okay. There is little I can do in my Buzzard cov-ops to help anyway, and as I now notice the Noctis here is unpiloted I decide I may as well scan the system whilst the Loki makes a fresh Fin corpse.

Resolving two signatures is super quick, even when one of them is a magnetometric site. The static wormhole in this C3 exits to high-sec empire space, although the current connection is reaching the end of its natural lifetime. Meanwhile, the Loki is spotted in our home system, Fin having retreated some three hundred kilometres away and now using her Crow for reconnaissance purposes. The Loki disappears, Fin unsure if he jumped back or cloaked, and so I warp to the tower in the C3 it came from to see if it returns. Not seeing any ships I wonder if the Loki indeed has cloaking capability, and has perhaps seen my scanning probes.

I warp to the K162 so that Fin and I can monitor both sides, making sure we know that the Loki leaves our system. When he decloaks a mere four kilometres from my own boat I am convinced he is in this C3, and let out a little yelp as I hurriedly back off, thankful not to have been decloaked from his proximity. The Loki launches a single scanning probe and cloaks again. Now that we know he's here, and he knows we're around, we can think about baiting him. We need a ship that looks like bait but can withstand a few good hits, as well as a ship that can dish out some damage. I think this may even be a good time to use my Widow black ops ship in anger. Fin considers the Maller cruiser to be a good bait ship and starts fitting it for survival.

Before we can put our probably foolish plan in to action a new ship appears on d-scan, a Tengu strategic cruiser now in the system. I sweep d-scan around on a narrow beam to see he's not at the tower but in an anomaly, and a Sleeper wreck has appeared. I warp in to the anomaly to see the Loki pilot has got bored with us and is shooting Sleepers, but it seems to me that making a target of yourself is an odd decision. And even though we don't yet have T3-killers we can get our stealth bombers out and hope to get another Noctis popped. I warp and jump home, share the bookmark I made of the wreck in the anomaly, and we take our Manticores to the C3.

Fin and I move away from the wormhole in the C3 and cloak. I warp to a nearby planet in order to give a different vector in to the site, so that we don't decloak each other in flight, and we both align our ships to the anomaly. Progress of the Sleeper fight is followed using d-scan, until the Tengu warps out. We stay out of the anomaly, in case the target is savvy and is waiting for it to despawn, because the site won't despawn if even a cloaked ship remains, alerting him to a hostile presence if he knows this. There is no sign of the Noctis, though, and I realise that the other anomalies in the system are outside of d-scan range. Thinking that the Tengu may be continuing combat, I warp to the pilot's tower to check the anomalies and see if I can gauge his plans.

As I arrive at the tower the now-piloted Noctis is warping out, towards the anomaly. I alert Fin, noting that it is the same pilot as was in the Loki and Tengu, and both of us warp in to the anomaly at range from the bookmarked wreck. The anomaly has despawned, making me think the pilot indeed was cautious to see if anyone was stalking him, but curious as to why he would even engage Sleepers in an easily found anomaly when he knows there are hostile pilots around, having seen Fin in her Crow. But those thoughts can wait. Fin says she has 'perfect alignment' to the Noctis, and I am looking good, if a bit close. I back away slightly before realigning to our target, and coordinate out launch. We're ready in seconds.

Two bombs glide gracefully towards the Noctis as I lock and point our target to prevent its escape, and two maximum-damage bombs is all it takes. The Noctis explodes to leave a smouldering wreck and the pilot's pod in empty space. I lock the pod, glad for my sensor booster again, and stop it from warping away, our barrage of torpedoes soon giving me a fresh corpse to scoop. The Noctis wreck is looted and destroyed, and we clear the anomaly. The pilots at the first tower, in range of d-scan of this whole event, seem oblivious or dispassionate over what's happened and don't even move, let alone come to the pilot's aid. That's good, we could probably even loot and salvage this anomaly for ourselves, there are plenty of Sleeper wrecks left.

Fin is the chosen one to receive a conversation from the podded pilot's new clone, somewhat bitter about his death. He mutters something about 'should have killed you when I had the chance' before abruptly closing the communication channel, indicating he just needed to vent. Punch a mirror, sir, it's not our fault you were caught. Fin pays the pilot no mind, swapping ships back home and returning to salvage our claimed anomaly in her... Crow? I know we need a fast ship to zip amongst the yellow wrecks, as we cannot use tractor beams on them, but that's rather ostentatious. It must be fun too. Fin recovers a little over twenty million ISK in loot, which isn't much, but more than we generally get from our w-space piracy.

There's little else to do in this C3. The other pilots remain as inactive since my arrival, and no one new appears at the tower of the podded pilot. The only excitement to happen is when I make a check of the wormhole out to high-sec. It is still alive and wobbly, and I have been hoping that the podded pilot would return and blindly warp to his tower, giving me a chance of catching him again. On my final check I see he does indeed return, but am there a few seconds too late, warping in as his Reaper frigate warps out. From his first reaction it's probably for the best I don't catch him a second time, he may have quit being a capsuleer.

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