Scouting stalls

16th March 2011 – 5.36 pm

Operation Recover Fin moves on to its third attempt. There is a slight delay as I have to wait for a wormhole to collapse, yesterday's foray in to class 3 w-space being late enough for the static wormhole to linger in to the early afternoon, but it gives me an opportunity to ignore all the signatures in the sytem in preparation. As I pace around my cockpit impatiently I occasionally hit the scan button to get an update from my probes, even though I can see the static wormhole a few dozen kilometres in front of me. One such impromptu scan reveals a new signature which, if a wormhole, must be a K162 for it to have appeared before the current static connection dies.

I resolve the signature and, seeing that it is indeed a wormhole, I warp back to our tower to swap the Buzzard covert operations boat for my Malediction interceptor, zipping off towards the newly scanned connection in the hopes of ambushing a scout. But I don't find a K162, just the C247 designation of our static wormhole. I suppose I was looking at an echo just now, warping back to see that, yes, the previous wormhole is now no longer. I return to the tower and swap ships back, taking my Buzzard through the wormhole in to the neighbouring system, to look for an exit to k-space.

Or maybe I'll get my interceptor again. I'm not feeling particularly capricious, but my directional scanner shows me several core probes in the C3, a quick adjustment putting all of them within 4 AU of our K162. It is flimsy evidence of probe convergence, but if there is a chance a scout in this C3 may be heading my way I would quite like to meet him. I wait until I can jump back home, then break my cloak and do so. I swap boats again, taking my Malediction to sit on our side of the static wormhole to the C3.

I wait for a little while, wondering if the scout will obligingly jump through the wormhole or simply make a note of the wormhole and go home, my question answered when the wormhole flares! I get my weapon systems hot and wait for the ship to appear, understanding that any sensible pilot will at least wait for the session change timer to end. It doesn't take long for the Helios cov-ops boat to finally reveal itself, and as fast as my interceptor's systems are I cannot lock on to a ship jumping back through a wormhole.

There aren't many options a pilot can take to escape. He can either try to warp away, jump through the connection, or stay and fight. I was expecting one of the first two and am fully ready to follow the Helios back in to the C3. I break my cloak at the earliest opportunity on the other side of the wormhole, so that I can fire up my weapon systems again. The Helios now can only warp away or fight, as his ship is polarised from the recent transit, and he unsurprisingly tries to flee. What surprises me is that I don't need to bump his ship to decloak him, gaining a positive lock immediately. That's fine by me, and I start firing rockets towards my target.

The Malediction is more of a tackler than fit for damage, but even a few rocket launchers are more than a match for a fragile cov-ops. The Helios explodes in a beautiful fireball, ejecting the pilot's pod in to space. I try to lock the pod too, thinking it easy, but it warps away in a flash. Maybe I should have bumped the ship at speed to disrupt the alignment at the moment of destruction. But missing the pod is okay, I've popped the ship. I loot the wreck, grabbing the cov-ops cloak, but can't take it all. I leave the warp core stabiliser behind, as well as some standard ammunition, and destroy it along with the wreck. D-scan looks clear again, and I jump home.

It looks like the Helios had fitted two warp core stabilisers, and may well have been relying on them to evade unwanted attention. It's a shame, for him at least, that I put the full force of my interceptor's warp disruption and warp scrambler modules on his ship, crushing his engine's warp strength. And this isn't the first time I have overwhelmed a ship's boosted warp strength to the bemusement of the owner.

It's odd that the Helios didn't try his luck getting away on our side of the wormhole, though. Of course, he probably thought that he'd need to get past me again anyway, on his way back, but it makes sense to try. First, it's good practice in evading an interceptor. Second, if you fail you can jump back as you initially planned. Third, if you manage to get away, you have the option to wait for at least a few minutes before coming back so that, fourth, on your way back you again get two attempts to escape the interceptor, even if the second then puts you back on the wrong side. It's all about survival. But it's probably more odd that the Helios didn't even unleash his Hobgoblin II drone on me.

I swap boats again, back to the Buzzard, to finally scan the C3 for an exit. I was looking to bring Fin home, I haven't forgotten. There is no one waiting on the other side of the wormhole, and no change on my directional scanner. I omitted mentioning earlier that a tower is visible on d-scan from the wormhole and I only mention it now because something is missing. I don't see the pilot's pod, nor did I see it before I jumped out of the system. I don't think the Helios pilot is local to this C3.

I've been in this system before, but it's all change. One tower in my notes is gone, the other off-line, and a new one has been anchored and brought on-line, but it has been six months since I last paid a visit. I update my records, notice that the system holds an exit to null-sec k-space, and only launch probes to scan because I want to see where the Helios came from. I indeed find a K162 leading back to class 4 w-space, but I leave it alone. Either the pilot is planning his own ambush, or he won't come out to play again for a while. Besides which, none of this gets me closer to getting Fin back. I return home and, with the help of a puppet, collapse our static wormhole to start anew. But before I scan a second time I need to take a break.

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