Hasty Hulk hunting

1st April 2011 – 5.28 pm

I'm spinning my ship at our tower, but I must be getting a bit dizzy. I think I saw our scout report five wormholes in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. Not only do we have two exits to high-sec empire space—one the system's static wormhole, the other a K162—but also two K162s from null-sec k-space, and a T405 outbound connection to class 4 w-space. The exits to high-sec would be convenient if I had plans to visit empire space, those to null-sec could get me more red dots of exploration, but the outbound connection to a C4 is the one that offers opportunity to hunt. I shoot my Manticore stealth bomber towards our static wormhole, jump through, and piggy-back on our small fleet to get a bookmark to the T405.

A scout has already entered this new class 4 system. He punches his directional scanner to see a Hulk exhumer, Heron frigate, Orca industrial ship, and a tower, also noticing some scanning probes flying around the system. Our scout locates the tower, intrigued to see the Hulk is not there, nor the Heron, and warps away to launch combat probes out of d-scan range of any of the ships. But the Hulk moves, returning to the tower, making Mick think he was spotted. Even so, he points out, there is a Heron to find, maybe somewhere around the third planet. I jump in to the system, move away from the wormhole and cloak, and start looking for the Heron.

The scanning frigate is easy to find. A little too easy, really, as he's sitting at zero on the third planet, uncloaked and stationary. I don't engage, though, because maybe the Hulk pilot hasn't actually spotted us yet. After all, swapping over to the Orca and warping away is not often a sign of retreat. But it certainly is a tempting target. Mick tries to scan the massive ship as it is out of the tower and vulnerable, but his excitement overwhelms him a little and cannot resolve the ship before it returns. I'm betting that we haven't been spotted and that the pilot was using the Orca to collect mined ore, and he went to and from a gravimetric site. Mick confirms this, using the rough bearing he already has to resolve the gravimetric site by itself, no ships around.

Warping in to the site shows that there are still arkonor and bistot asteroids to be mined, and perhaps the Hulk isn't finished for the day. I hold off engaging the Heron a little longer, now temptingly right in my sights, only a few kilometres away, seeing the possibility of popping both ships. If Mick can lock and disrupt the Hulk in his Helios covert operations boat, which should be safe enough against an exhumer, then I can assault the frigate before warping to help take care of the miner. And with Fin now also in the system in her stealth bomber, and ready to ambush the Heron with me, it sounds like a good plan. But just as Mick is trying to get in range of the Hulk, now back in the gravimetric site, the Heron starts to move!

Not wanting to lose my shot I decloak, activate my sensor booster and warp disruptor, and try to lock the Heron. Being not quite quick enough I am left seeing the frigate warp away, and now my presence is known the Hulk is bound to be alerted. I warp to Mick's position, hoping him to be close to the Hulk, but find he's hundreds of kilometres away. That's actually okay, because even though I can't warp directly to the Hulk my nav-comp can lock on to the asteroids to let me warp closer. I pick a rock and warp to it, wanting to be as quick as possible, assuming that the Hulk is at this moment aligning to warp away to safety.

My Manticore bounces off the asteroid, decloaking in the process, which I expected would happen. I reorientate my ship and am a little surprised to see the Heron now sitting next to the Hulk, wondering if they don't have communication channels that work over ranges longer than a few kilometres, but that just gives me two targets. I lock on to both ships, disrupt the Hulk's warp engines, and launch torpedoes at the Heron. I need to stop the primary target from leaving and am hoping to get an opportunistic kill on the Heron, not expecting this second attempt. The Heron is unsurprisingly alert and warps clear, free to do so, with significant damage but an intact ship, and so I turn my attention to the Hulk. Mick has arrived now and is adding his systems to the assault, but Fin has unfortunately dropped out of warp too far to be of use but too near to warp directly to us.

I quickly vapourise the Hulk's shields with my torpedoes, the armour soon following under the sustained fire, and then we stop. The pilot asks in local if we are after a ransom, but he gets no reply. I'm just waiting for Fin to get in on the action. I'm aware of the fled Heron, though, and keep a watch on d-scan. When I see a Legion strategic cruiser appear in the system I alert my colleagues and we open fire to crush the Hulk while we can. The exhumer pops, the pilot's pod evades us, and we shoot the wreck and cloak for safety. But no Legion arrives to chase us away, and all the while more ships are appearing on d-scan. Something fishy is happening here.

Mick warps to the local tower to see the ships visible on d-scan were simply being launched by the pilot of the Heron. His simple bluff was to make us think help was on its way, and it worked. It didn't save the Hulk, though, so I'm not convinced of the overall utility of the bluff, but pilots slower in destroying the ship, or more panicked by the implied presence of a strategic cruiser, may have bugged out early. 'Our turn', says the ex-Hulk pilot in local, and I'm intrigued to see what will happen next. And not much happens to start with, giving me time to reflect on my actions.

I was acting quickly under the assumption that the Hulk was in the midst of fleeing, and I don't think my actions were unreasonable. I could have been much more effective, though. What I could have done was warp to the asteroid to drop ten kilometres short, letting me hold my cloak for a couple more seconds. From there, I align to the Hulk, decloak, launch a bomb, and lock both ships, pointing the Heron, to stop the more agile ship warping, expecting the exhumer to take much longer to align and escape. The bomb detonation by itself may pop the Heron, at most needing a volley of torpedoes to finish it off, at which point I can switch my focus to the Hulk, disrupting its warp engines before it leaves. I could then have held it at low armour for my colleagues to arrive. That sounds a much better course of action. With more experience, and further reflections and analysis, I hope it will become second nature to think aong these lines. And we didn't lose the Hulk, which was always our primary target.

As for the locals' response, it appears to be bluster. A Buzzard cov-ops is sent out of the tower to launch probes and scan, hardly a major threat, and rather careless too. There are GSCs far out of the tower's force field, and defences scattered all around the spherical shield, letting me bounce to and fro to get in to bombing range of the Buzzard launching probes just oustide of the shields. I launch my second bomb, but a little too hastily, hitting a defence but not the Buzzard. Yet still we get no response. Fin resorts to asking if this will take long, as we have beds to get to, and apparently it will.

We loiter long enough to watch the pilots slowly stow back in to the hangar the ships they haphazardly launched as part of the bluff. Wasting our time seems to be the extent of their revenge, which we decide to deny them by turning around and heading home.

  1. 2 Responses to “Hasty Hulk hunting”

  2. "I could have been much more effective, though. What I could have done was [bunch of stuff]. . . That sounds a much better course of action."

    Nope. Your initial instinct was right and you did the correct thing. Take the sure high value target every time. The Heron would have been the cherry on the sundae, but if you had missed the Hulk they would be laughing and thinking they got off easy just losing a T1 frigate. Too many variables, too little time.

    By Gwydion Voleur on Apr 1, 2011

  3. True enough, and my aim was to ensure the kill first and foremost.

    Tangentially, I may try that 'bunch of stuff' technique when writing later posts. It looks like it could be a great time-saver. 'I went scanning, a bunch of stuff happened, and I got my pod back to our tower.'

    By pjharvey on Apr 3, 2011

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