Waiting for a tourist

20th April 2011 – 5.42 pm

Roaming our neighbouring system is short-lived. I take my Manticore stealth bomber out for a look in the class 3 w-space and am happy to see ship activity. A Drake battlecruiser is at one of the two towers, along with a Buzzard covert operations boat, and I can see a Myrmidon battlecruiser on my directional scanner. I warp to the other tower to check that the Myrmidon is there and fly directly through the tower's force field, dropping my Manticore's cloak. I feel suitably stupid as my supposedly covert ship becomes visible to the glare of four pilots at the tower, and warp away before the defences start shooting. I think it's time to collapse our static wormhole and start again.

Scanning afresh, glorious leader Fin resolves our new connection to class 3 w-space. Jumping in puts us in d-scan range of a tower but no ships, and blanketing the system with probes confirms a lack of activity. Also revealed is a second tower, no anomalies, and eleven signatures. I take it upon myself to locate the towers and create bookmarks at suitable monitoring positions, whilst Fin starts to sift through the signatures. The first wormhole she finds is interesting, being a random outbound connection to further class 3 w-space, the second is the system's static exit to low-sec empire space.

Fin heads to the exit to check the destination system in k-space, but as she gets to the wormhole a Cheetah cov-ops boat appears, launches probes, and cloaks. Any activity is interesting, but there's not a great deal we can do about a cloaked scout, at least not for the moment, so we leave him to it for now. Fin exits to low-sec, I warp to the N968 wormhole to the second C3 system. The w-space connection is now in its end-of-life stage, giving a few more hours before it collapses naturally, but I'm never particularly comfortable using an EOL wormhole. I jump through to see if any opportunity awaits and, although there are plenty of anomalies and signatures, there are no ships in the system. I jump back to the first C3.

There's little to do for the moment, but rather than collapse our static connection again we decide to take a little time to see if we can catch the scouting Cheetah. Presumably from his actions he is a tourist from low-sec and will be heading back in that direction. We head home to swap ships, Mick and I boarding interceptors, Fin choosing her Flycatcher interdictor, and we settle down in a little camp on the exit wormhole in the C3. Mick jumps to low-sec to cover the escape route more effectively, whilst Fin inflates a bubble on the wormhole in a bid to panic the Cheetah in to wanting to leave sooner rather than later. I loiter on the exit wormhole in the C3 looking menacing in my Malediction.

The Cheetah pilot isn't fazed by the presence of an interdictor and interceptor in the system. Either that, or he simply doesn't notice us. It's difficult to tell if he's experienced and nonchalant or green and naive. Whatever his familiarity with w-space we are now in a waiting game, the Cheetah's escape primarily determined by our levels of patience. Our combined level of patience is not terribly high, but I am more confident in catching a cov-ops boat when in an interceptor than otherwise, and the exit to low-sec lets us chase him back in to k-space without fear of Concord reprisal. With Mick and Fin covering the exit I consider it prudent to sit on our K162 heading home, just in case our target heads deeper to w-space.

We may not have long to wait for this Cheetah after all. His ship appears on d-scan, but not physically at either of the two wormholes we're stalking. I sweep d-scan around trying to locate him, and am surprised to see that he appears to be on a direct line between our K162 and the static exit of the C3. He's definitely not at the wormholes themselves, and Fin suspects that he's perhaps sitting off-grid. That's okay, we have just the ships to get to him quickly if that's the case. I warp to the exit wormhole, where I can align back to the K162 and burn in my interceptor at five kilometres a sceond, hopefully to surprise the Cheetah pilot. Instead, as I regroup with Fin at the exit and before I can even turn my ship around, the Cheetah surprises us.

Our cov-ops target warps to the exit wormhole, uncloaked and vulnerable. I earlier rejected the idea of anchoring a bubble on the wormhole because the Cheetah could have cruised through it cloaked and we wouldn't know until he jumped out. That's why Mick is in low-sec at the moment, to be more prepared to catch the target jumping out of w-space. I'm readying myself to follow the Cheetah in to Mick's clutches, making sure I have the wormhole selected for the inevitable jump. And even though I am fully expecting the Cheetah to jump out I am not going to idly sit back and wait for him to do so, instead trying to get a positive target lock as the cov-ops drops out of warp. I get the lock and, with all systems hot, disrupt his warp engines and start shooting.

Fin joins in the assault, as I prepare to jump behind the Cheetah out to continue the fight in low-sec space. But he doesn't jump, and our weapons blast their way through shields, armour, and then structure until the ship explodes. Now escape is harder, as the session change timer prevents the pod from jumping through the wormhole, and even if the pilot weren't obviously disorientated Fin's Flycatcher can launch a warp disruption probe to stop him fleeing. We easily catch the pilot's pod and make a fresh corpse to scoop, looting and shooting the wreck too to leave no trace. Poor Mick asks what's happening and can only jump back to see our two ships looking smug but guilty. We honestly thought the Cheetah was going to jump out.

Ambush complete and successful, we've exhausted our options in this system. We return home and collapse our wormhole again, the new one connecting us to a class 3 system holding allied pilots, giving us a benign constellation and a good opportunity to relax. The calmer period gives me time for reflection, and I think I may be able to explain the Cheetah's odd choice of actions. Fin noted earlier, shortly after noting the appearance of the Cheetah, that the low-sec scout was scanning the wormhole he'd just entered through. It's possible that the pilot mistakenly resolved the wormhole without realising which one it was, and he dropped out of warp thinking it to be a different exit to low-sec. If he thought that, he may have preferred to try to warp away rather than jump out, causing his curious behaviour.

I don't know for sure why the Cheetah didn't jump, and we can't ask his corpse, even if we throw him a tea party with all the other corpses. Maybe I need more jelly and ice cream. I can work on that tomorrow, as now it's time to get some sleep.

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