Cruising behind a Caracal

12th April 2011 – 5.34 pm

There is a new exit to high-sec. One static connection of a class 2 w-space system connects to our class 4 home, the other to high-sec empire space, and the exit that was at the end of its natural lifetime is now gone. Fin is with me in this C2 and scans the new exit, guiding me to it with her covert operations boat, and I jump out to empire space to take a look around. The exit is pretty good, close to decent ship prices, for what I am looking at, but 'decent' is still 'holy crap, that's expensive', and I spend a few minutes cloaked by the K162 in high-sec wondering if I should really spend that much ISK.

It's not just the cost of the new ship that is deterring me from buying one. Bringing it home could be awkward, even through this high-sec connection. Or rather because of this connection, as the class 2 system is currently experiencing a corporate war, one tower sieged by another. The previous exit to high-sec had a warp bubble positioned to catch any ships trying to warp directly from the sieged tower to the wormhole, and the bubble is already gone. The fact that it has been collected, so soon after the wormhole dying naturally, indicates that the sieging corporation pilots are aggressively monitoring the system. Being here may be relatively safe for us, not being local, but it can't be the best idea to try to bring a ship home this way.

Actually, that's a good point. The warp bubble was picked up surprisingly soon after the wormhole died, probably by a Caracal cruiser I've briefly seen on my directional scanner, and if the siegers are as serious as they look to be about preventing easy evacuation they are likely to anchor a bubble on this new static wormhole. I'm not sure who would win in a straight fight between the Caracal and my Manticore stealth bomber, but I am keen to find out. It should be easy enough to engage the target, if my suspicions are right, as the behaviour will be predictable. The warp bubble will be placed directly between the tower and the wormhole, at a fairly close distance to the wormhole. All I need to do is position myself a suitable distance along that same vector and patience will bring the Caracal to me.

I have jumped back in from high-sec and so am almost on top of the wormhole. I align to the sieged tower and let my ship move cloaked in that vector until I am about thirty kilometres from the wormhole. A little step to the left puts me out of a direct path, so that I don't get bumped and decloaked, and gives me the option to engage or simply watch. At least, it will if the Caracal turns up as expected. And predictability is my friend again, as it's not long until the Caracal warps to the newly spawned wormhole and jumps out to high-sec. I am confident that on his return he'll head towards the tower, as I have, pushing his ship accidentally towards a potential ambush.

By now, Mick has returned from his wayward journey. Jumping through a different K162 away from home saw the wormhole collapse behind him, isolating him from our constellation. But he's scanned his away out of w-space, made the journey to the system our neighbouring C3 exits to, and scanned his way back in. Hearing of the possible ambush he is keen to join, swapping his scanning boat for an Arazu recon ship, hoping its sensor dampers will keep the Caracal from returning fire on us. The Caracal remains in high-sec, for longer than the session change timer requires, making it safe for Mick to jump in through the other, healthy static wormhole in this C2, connecting to our home system, and he warps over to join me. Fin swaps her ship too, adding a second Manticore to our fleet, and warps close. The Caracal's going to be surprised, I'm sure.

The wormhole to high-sec flares and the Caracal reappears. As expected, he moves directly towards the sieged tower under normal engines, putting distance between his ship and the wormhole. I have to jink a little more to the side to avoid the speeding cruiser colliding with me, but am excited to see him acting as I predicted. We just have to wait until he stops to anchor the warp bubble and we can execute the ambush. Except he doesn't stop close by, and indeed is moving much faster than I can possibly keep up whilst cloaked, the Caracal no doubt using a micro-warp drive to burn far from the wormhole.

Luckily, the Caracal's vector is not only predictable but between two known points. I bookmark my current position, warp to the planet he's heading towards, and warp back, dropping short by a hundred kilometres. Despite the time spent in warp, my effective progress of a hundred kilometres ahead of my previous position gets me within twenty kilometres of the Caracal, but only to see the ship disappear. I've no idea why the cruiser has a cloak fitted and he reappears again soon enough, and when he does his MWD once again pushes him outside of my range in seconds. I bounce off the planet a second time, bookmarking my position and dropping short on my return, but once more I am behind the Caracal's position and watching him burn away.

I make a third bounce off the planet, this time pulling up thirty kilometres ahead of the Caracal, who is now moving more sedately. Perhaps his capacitor is running low from the constant use of the MWD, but whatever the reason it seems like this is the best time to strike. We put in to operation the plan Mick has already formulated now that I have managed to get ahead. He and Fin initiate warp to my position and, when confirmed they are in warp, I decloak and engage the Caracal, now passing ahead of me but within warp disruption range. I don't launch a bomb, not wanting to risk range or direction issues, relying solely on torpedoes. Of course, I know that my torpedoes will have help soon, but the Caracal doesn't. He only sees a single Manticore and, perhaps feeling confident, turns to engage me.

My first volley of torpedoes rips through the Caracal's shields as his ship returns target lock, probably at about the same time he regrets turning his cruiser around. Mick's Arazu decloaks and damps the Caracal's targeting range to nothing, and Fin reveals her Manticore to add its firepower to the ambush. The Caracal doesn't stand a chance and doesn't even manage to launch a missile in reply before exploding in a shower of sparks. I lock his pod, manage to disrupt its warp drive, and the capsuleer wakes up in a new clone out in empire space. We scoop, loot, and shoot, collecting the corpse and any surviving modules before leaving no trace of the engagement, all of us moving away and cloaking.

It was a good observation that set up this kill. The prompt retrieval of the warp bubble on one wormhole, combined with its position relative to a sieged tower, made future behaviour fairly easy to predict. It was more a matter of time than behaviour, and although the hour was getting late this was an ambush worth waiting for. The Caracal's movement away from the wormhole wasn't entirely expected, but a bit of bouncing to and fro kept me in touch with the target. We ended up three hundred and sixty kilometres from the wormhole, which is quite a distance to travel but must have been much more of a surprise for the Caracal. Being caught by three cloaked ships in an apparently arbitrary point in space, so far from any fixed position, must have come as quite a shock. In fact, it was down to good communication and co-ordination by all three of us.

The local sieged pilot, who is still sitting in his Merlin frigate in the tower in reinforced mode, is made aware of our success and is happy to hear of the minor victory against his aggressors. He remains confident that his tower will survive the attack, but we're not so sure. There's not much else we can do about it, though. The other pilot in the system, colleague of the podded Caracal capsuleer, warps around the system like a headless chicken in his Hurricane battlecruiser. He's not visiting wormholes or the sieged tower, but maybe just bouncing around planets to monitor d-scan. Either way, he's not being overtly confrontational, or doing anything we can intercept, and the hour certainly is getting late now. Happy with our successful and well-executed ambush, we head home to get some sleep.

  1. 2 Responses to “Cruising behind a Caracal”

  2. Wow! You make the killing of a standard cruiser an epic adventure...
    Grats on the skills you all got there.
    And I'm not talking about the learned skills... :)

    By Mis'tral on Apr 14, 2011

  3. Thanks. It felt epic at the time, even for hunting a single cruiser.

    By pjharvey on Apr 14, 2011

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