Stealing from the neighbours

25th March 2011 – 5.38 pm

'There may be angry poppets next door', says Fin, as she has to dash off for a while. I launch my Manticore stealth bomber to take a look for myself, a bookmark pointing to our static wormhole waiting for me in our shared can. Jumping in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system puts me in directional scanner range of only one planet, with nothing else visible, which is good for covert operations. I move away, cloak, and warp to the tower I've been informed about. Two Drake battlecruisers, a Proteus strategic cruiser, and Armageddon battleship all sit piloted in the tower's shields, but more interestingly I see a Wreathe hauler and Noctis salvager are elsewhere in the system.

Looking for the two missing ships reveals a second tower, easy to find around the inner planet's only moon, but only the Wreathe sits inside its shields and the ship is unpiloted. The Noctis remains unaccounted for. Assuming it is out salvaging I start a passive scan of my ship's on-board sensors, hoping to catch the Noctis salvaging in an anomaly before it has despawned. But out of the many anomalies picked up by my scanner I cannot isolate the Noctis in any of them. I start a second scan from a different point in the system, getting closer to the Noctis, knowing the short-range limitation of the on-board scanner, but again I cannot find the salvager.

Eventually I locate the Noctis, but it's not difficult when he warps back to the active tower to drop off the loot he's collected. A Loki appears too, making me wonder if the strategic cruiser has a cloak and has been protecting the Noctis or if he's only just arrived. If he guards the salvager my ambush will be short and probably end up with the wrong ship exploding, so I may need to be careful. Of course, care only needs to be taken if the fleet goes out to fight Sleepers again. If they merely stay at the tower then I won't even get the opportunity to throw my ship at a Loki. My passive scans revealed another twenty anomalies here, and an active scan would probably find more, so I may get my chance.

The Loki moves out of the tower, slowly, and launches a scanning probe. Only the one probe is launched, which suggests to me that he's searching for anomalies, or maybe new signatures. But if he's looking for new signatures it doesn't show, as after I loiter for a little longer the fleet warps out. Mind you, they are heading in the rough direction of our K162 home. I send my Manticore to the outer planet and confirm that they haven't found our wormhole before starting another passive scan, picking up three anomalies and placing the fleet in one of them.

I warp in to the anomaly to get a decent bookmark, narrowly avoiding a rather large rock decloaking me, and alert our newly returned colleague of this increased activity. The size and composition of the fleet against this class of Sleeper makes combat quick, and they are soon warping out again. I follow and find them in a second anomaly, back near the centre of the system. There is no sign of a Noctis going out to salvage, and considering the limited pattern I've seen so far it looks like salvaging will be completed after combat, which makes a guard more likely. Then again, a second bomb from an additional stealth bomber may pop the Noctis without needing to hang around, so we may still be in luck.

We have to wait for the fleet to stop shooting Sleepers first. Although they are sweeping through the anomalies quite quickly there are enough sites for them to be kept busy for a while. A third anomaly puts us closer to the K162 again, as I shadow the fleet from site to site, and I get a different idea. These anomalies at the edge of the system are almost out of d-scan range of the tower, and definitely out of range of many other anomalies. If the fleet isn't going to salvage behind them, maybe we can do it for them.

Fin's returned and rather than get her in a third stealth bomber I request she pilot a salvaging destroyer. She boards an old Catalyst we have lying around, not seeing much work since the arrival of the Noctis, and warps to our static wormhole and holds position. I keep shadowing the fleet, and with colleague Mick shadowing me for bookmarks he can guide Fin when the time is right. The fleet takes a short pit-stop at their tower but is soon warping off to another anomaly, this one out of range of the distant sites, full of wrecks. I call Fin in, Mick warps her to the first anomaly, and we start stealing loot.

Popping Sleepers in a strong fleet is quicker than salvaging yellow wrecks, and the fleet warps to another anomaly with Fin still having two wrecks to clear. The new anomaly is in d-scan range of the first anomaly and the fleet must see Fin's Catalyst on d-scan, as they bug out immediately, although only to return to their tower. This change in behaviour gets me calling for Fin to head home, which she does, with a nice little haul for no combat. The fleet sends out a scout, who launches combat scanning probes whilst the other ships remain inside the tower's shields. It is a fair reaction to an unknown ship appearing in their system, although a little canny use of d-scan may have keyed them in to what was occurring.

It's possible we could have got another Noctis kill, but there was no telling when the salvager would arrive, nor how well it would be guarded. We could also have got a bigger haul had we been more cautious about staying off d-scan, but I think we did quite well considering the circumstances. And it looks like our timing was unintentionally better than expected. Even though the fleet gets an all-clear signal from their scout and warps back to continue in their fourth anomaly they warp right back out again, as a second unknown ship appears on d-scan. It looks like another capsuleer has come in to scout the system, sending the fleet home as a precaution. They did all the work, we got some of the profit. And unless the unknown ships can be repulsed the remaining loot may end up perishing in space.

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