Looking for something to shoot

2nd April 2011 – 3.53 pm

Scanning is already done by the time I turn up. We not only have a decent chain of w-space to explore but there is an exit to empire space a mere seven hops to Jita, where both Fin and Mick decide to go shopping. I spin my ship for a while, having a niggling feeling I should be more productive somewhere else, until the two return. A couple of Drake battlecruisers are spotted by Mick as he travels through our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, and once he drops off his bought loot he swaps ships to track down the two ships.

Jumping back in to the C3 Mick sees no sign of the Drakes, but there appears to be a Heron frigate somewhere in the system. The Heron isn't cloaking, isn't at the local tower, and even appears to be on a celestial object. Mick warps to the planet to see the frigate sitting stationary next to a cargo container, apparently oblivious to his vulnerability. Fin and I scramble our stealth bombers to get a piece of the action, happy to peck at the occasional crumb thrown our way in the often bleak wasteland of w-space.

The Heron doesn't move as we manoeuvre in to close range, not wanting to waste bombs on such a small ship. We decloak as one, lock and point the ship, and start shooting. It pops in seconds, but no pod flies out in to space. I think the lack of a pilot explains the Heron's uncloaked and stationary tendencies. The few probes we pluck from the wreck could be handy and the ship itself is cheap enough that we didn't really need to recover it. And as none of us noticed it was unpiloted at least it served as a combat exercise.

Now that I've been dragged from our home system I have the impetus to continue roaming, although as I go I rewrite the bookmarks to be easier for me to parse. I jump through a K162 wormhole in this C3 to a class 4 system, right behind Fin who is also out for more adventure, landing in a rather uninteresting and inactive system. The wormhole we pass through is a random outbound connection, though, and the C4 has a static link to another C4, and we continue moving away from home. The second C4 has a tower with three piloted ships nestled in its shields—an Archon carrier, Tengu strategic cruiser, and Helios covert operations boat—but none of the pilots are moving. With another couple of systems still to visit we leave them behind for now.

The next system on our path is a second C3, and again looks inactive. A tower is visible on directional scanner but there are no ships anywhere. We have one last system to visit, where apparently there was some movement earlier, and Fin jumps through the K162 in to a class 2 w-space system. She sees a large warp bubble engulfing the wormhole on the other side, but there are no ships there to pounce on capsuleers trapped by the bubble, nor any on d-scan. Ever one to provoke a reaction from hostile pilots, Fin starts shooting the anchored bubble, but quickly gives up using her Manticore stealth bomber to do so, heading homewards to get a more suitable boat for the task.

I hold in the C3, monitoring the wormhole, whilst Fin goes to get her Pilgrim recon ship, and am soon greeted by a flare, signalling the arrival of another ship from the C2. I watch and wait, wondering what will appear, when eventually a Proteus strategic cruiser reveals itself briefly before activating its cloak. I back off from the wormhole pretty quickly, being quite close initially, knowing that my own Manticore will be no match for the Proteus, but it looks like the cruiser is heading in a different direction anyway. He decloaks, launches probes, and cloaks again, which he repeats a couple more times in the next ten minutes or so, all the time maintaining a decent speed away from the wormhole.

We wonder if perhaps we can catch the strategic cruiser and pop it, given three of us and intuitions about how a cloaked Proteus may be configured. But its movement away from the wormhole and unknown intentions makes it difficult to catch in the first place, and needing to be stealthy or holding in a different system—bearing in mind we are now four jumps from our tower—adds to the difficulty. We consider our options, as Mick's Arazu recon ship tries to get close enough to the moving Proteus to catch it if it decloaks again, but it looks like the pilot's scanning is complete, as he appears briefly on d-scan and is then gone, along with his scanning probes.

The Proteus may be gone, but a second scout is in the C3. A Cheetah cov-ops is seen on scan briefly, and then noticed jumping in to the C2 in front of us. He doesn't stay long, though, waiting for his session change timer to end before jumping back and warping away, apparently to the exit to low-sec space also in this system. I don't try locking the cov-ops, knowing that a cloaking ship is just about impossible to catch without a physical bump, and his swift return makes me wonder what's on the other side of this K162 now. That no one followed is no indicator of safety, as the other pilots may consider catching a cov-ops without a bubble to be unlikely. But as Fin still wants to pop the bubble, and my Manticore is the best ship to elude potential aggressors, I agree to jump through to the C2 to take a look for myself.

A little trepidatious about what could scare away a Cheetah, I jump in to the C2 and see... only the warp bubble. There aren't even any ships on d-scan. Damned low-sec tourists, getting worried about a simple warp bubble on a wormhole. I move out of the bubble, make a bookmark that will allow me to warp safely to the side of it, rather than get pulled in to the bubble when warping directly to the wormhole, and check the rest of the system. There are no ships at the local tower, nor in the rest of the system, making it empty and clear for Fin to enter. Fin's Pilgrim starts taking the bubble down, my Manticore helping near the end to overcome the regenerating shield, and the warp bubble is destroyed with little fuss and no interruptions.

Back in the C3, Mick sees a capsuleer turn up at the tower. He appears piloting a Rapier recon ship, but swaps immediately to a Broadsword heavy interdictor. This could be interesting, particularly as a second capsuleer turns up in a Scimitar logistics ship. Fin and I return to join Mick in the C3 and monitor the situation. The Broadsword gets changed again, this time for a Cheetah, and the capsuleer starts scanning. He finds the static wormhole leading out to low-sec and warps there, with me and Mick following. The Cheetah jumps out to empire space, which probably means he'll come back once the destination system is noted.

Again, I doubt I could catch a cloaking cov-ops, but the evening is late and I may as well try before heading home to sleep. The wormhole flares, the Cheetah appears, and I decloak to try to lock on. I fail, of course, the Cheetah cloaking and moving away easily, but it could have worked against a less experienced pilot. This gets the pilot a little agitated, though, as he warps back to his tower and swaps in to a Claw interceptor, goading us a little in the local communication channel. He becomes even more excited when the Proteus from earlier returns from his scouting expedition, appearing on d-scan for a second.

We know the Proteus is not affiliated with us, and that he probably doesn't even know of our presence, but the excited local has no reason to suspect this. The Proteus pilot is probably then a little nonplussed when a new local communication suggests he is now being brought to bear against the interceptor. We have no reason to clear up whatever confusion is occurring, and I only engaged because it would be my last action for the evening. We turn around and head home, leaving the Proteus pilot wondering what's happening and the Claw probably talking to himself.

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