Stinging a Scorpion

24th May 2011 – 5.44 pm

Glorious leader Fin's trying to clear some gas, so I think it's best I leave the system for a bit. The static wormhole is easy to find, perhaps a bug surfacing in the Sleepers' technology causing it to appear in the same place as yesterday, and I jump in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to explore. My directional scanner shows me a tower and a host of warp bubbles in the C3, but no ships, and I launch probes to scan. The system map shows me how small this C3 is, such that nothing is hiding out of range of my sensors, and I can skip straight to sifting through signatures, not needing to keep my probes from being seen.

The first fat signature I resolve is a wormhole, which I keep unvisted for now in case we want to engage Sleepers in any of the eleven anomalies here, but a second wormhole changes the circumstances. My natural inclination is to visit both wormholes in the hopes of finding a K162 leading to an occupied w-space system, full of hapless miners who don't know how to use d-scan—and a pony too, whilst I'm wishing—but the extra wormhole could also be a random outbound connection that is best left closed whilst we shoot Sleepers. There is no way of knowing without visiting the wormholes, and potentially opening the connections. As Fin is keen to earn some iskies this evening, after some recent fuel and ship purchases, we decide to assume the connections are both outbound.

I continue scanning, looking for further connections and possible ambush locations should the local corporation wake up, finding only rocks and gas for my efforts. I also spot a strategic cruiser appear in the system, but it's only Fin getting a head start on the first of the four good anomalies we are looking to profit from. Resolving and bookmarking the final mining site in the system I recall my probes and head home, returning a minute later in my Golem marauder to join Fin's Tengu. We rip through the Sleepers, I sweep loot and salvage in to my hold, and the first anomaly is cleared. Fin has to take a quick break, curtailing our Sleeper shooting for now, so after I dump the fifty Miskies of profit at our tower I take my Buzzard covert operations boat back out to open the scanned wormholes.

As it turns out, I'm probably not opening either wormhole. I'm certainly not opening the K162 coming from class 4 w-space, and I can only assume that the scout that did open it also found the C3's static exit to low-sec empire space. There is more to explore after all. I briefly jump out to low-sec, to bookmark the other side of the connection just in case I need to make use of it, and head in to the C4. D-scan is clear from the wormhole, no ships or towers visible, and I take a chance in launching probes without warping elsewhere first, hoping that no one will cross my path as I do. A blanket scan of the C4 reveals no anomalies, four signatures, and three ships.

I suspect the ships all to be at a tower in the C4, and a bit of exploration confirms that. But the two cov-ops boats and the Tengu are all piloted, so there may be some activity to poke with a stick. I lurk at the tower in the C4 for a while, with Fin returning in the meantime, but nothing happens. The most activity I see is the refinery being operated, which also could be one of the pilots restarting it, and a sure sign that these ships aren't moving from their tower. My hope that they would seek anomalies in the C3 is dashed, so I head home, get back in to my Golem, and warp with Fin back to the C3 to continue our evening of Sleeper combat.

I initiate squad-warp as we enter the C3, then cancel after hitting d-scan. I was rather casual about checking d-scan in what I considered to be an inactive system, but I shouldn't have been. A dozen scanning probes are now in the system, which is a sure sign of activity. Fin returns her Tengu from the anomaly to the wormhole and we would jump back, but my recent return passage has polarised my pod, preventing the Golem from passing back through the wormhole for a few minutes. Thankfully the scout is using only core scanning probes and my ship won't appear on them, and he is likely too engrossed in scanning to also refresh d-scan, probably keeping our presence unknown.

And this is why I use combat scanning probes. Inactive systems don't always stay inactive, and it gets tedious to switch between the scanning and d-scan panes just to check that nothing has changed. It is easier to let the combat probes pick up changes in system activity. I noticed Fin's Tengu enter the system earlier and was ready to react, and if I were this new scout I would see both the Tengu and Golem. For my battleship to remain 'hidden' whilst I wait out the polarisation effect is great for me, but an opportunity lost for the scout. At the very least, we remain unknown information to the visitors.

The polarisation ends and I jump my Golem home, Fin's Tengu following. It seems a little unlucky to warp away from the C4 tower moments before the two cov-ops boats come out to scan the C3, but at least we reconnoitred them and spotted their probes. Now we can lay an ambush, as we get my interceptor and Fin's heavy interdictor sitting on our static wormhole in wait. And we certainly do wait. It's possible the scouts took a fortuitous glance at d-scan and saw our two ships and continued to scan, knowing it to be safe, but not wanting to venture through any wormholes. Fin thinks we can modify our ambush to cut off their route home instead, and we jump in to the C3 and, seeing there are no longer any probes on d-scan, warp across to the K162 to the C4. I jump in to the C4, Fin holds in the C3, but all I see is empty space at the wormhole and, bouncing off a moon close to the tower, the same three ships where they were before. It looks like we scared them back in to inaction.

We take our ships home again, swap back once more in to our Tengu/Golem pair, and head in to the C3 for our third attempt to shoot Sleepers. It's our plan, we're going to stick to it. Would you believe it, there are now two Tengus on d-scan! And, of course, both of our ships are polarised and can't return home immediately. We could try to assault the Tengus, arguably being in a slightly more capable configuration, but with no warp disruptors fitted there isn't much we could do besides scare the ships away. It looks like we're having that effect anyway, as although I manage to locate one of the Tengus in an anomaly the other has gone. The second disappears soon after the first, too.

It's at this point that I need the brains of someone like Fin to say what should be obvious: there could be a new wormhole opened in to the C3. We probably haven't been seeing the C4 capsuleers come and go but a new fleet find the system, scan it, then come to plunder some Sleeper profit. The polarisation effect ends again and we jump home, Fin swapping to the Tengu-killing Legion strategic cruiser and me in to my Buzzard to find the wormhole. I jump back to the C3, launch probes, and blanket the system. I'm glad I took time to note all the sites earlier, as now I disregard them all to leave one new signature. Quelle surprise, it resolves to be a wormhole. Warping to the new connection shows it to be a K162 from class 2 w-space, and just as I am bookmarking its position the wormhole flares!

Apparently ignoring the session change timer, a Scorpion battleship appears in front of my cloaked Buzzard. Curiously, he turns back towards the wormhole and, presumably as soon as he can, jumps back to the C2. To answer Fin's earlier question, yes, I think the appearance of our Tengu and Golem was scary. It's unlikely the Scorpion pilot came to reconnoitre the C3, as there are better ships for that purpose, and the only reason a battleship will be pushed through a wormhole and returned so quickly is if the intention is to collapse the connection! The Scorpion has left the system, Fin enters from another direction and warps to my position near the wormhole, and I head home to swap to a pointier ship.

For the first time this evening I am glad of the polarisation effect. The Scorpion pilot's passage gives me almost four minutes to get home, change ships, and return ready to ambush whatever is pushed through the wormhole next. Fin's taken the Legion, but I have plenty of choice left in our hangar. I plump for the Sacrilege heavy assault ship, which should give plenty of firepower for a quick attack, and I head back to join Fin waiting eagerly on the C2's K162 for the next transit. Her plan is to lock whatever jumps through, then follow it back to finish the job. That sounds good to me. I make a quick check on the status of the wormhole, noting it not to be reduced to half mass yet and therefore safe for both of us to use.

It isn't long before the wormhole flares again, this time the pilot deciding to hold his session change cloak. The cloak doesn't last forever but the Scorpion disappears again anyway, it jumping back to the C2 to flee the two rather threatening ships suddenly appeared. Fin and I follow, easily getting a lock on the slow and bulky battleship on the other side of the wormhole, and missiles start pounding in to the Scorpion's shields and then armour. I am a little cautious at first, as the battleship can sport some heavy armament, but even though the Scorpion targets me I am not being hit. Neither am I being jammed, which is also to be expected from the ECM ship, but maybe the Legion is getting all the attention.

Moments before our missiles rip through the remaining structure of the Scorpion the pilot ejects. I see his pod leave the sinking ship but can do nothing to prevent it warping clear, as the battleship explodes behind him. We loot and shoot the wreck, and pause to see what will happen next. There are plenty of ships on d-scan in this C2 and there must be at least a second pilot, but no one came to the Scorpion's aid. A ship warps in seconds after we shoot the wreck, but it is only a Merlin frigate and neither a threat nor much of a target. We both target and shoot it, but the Merlin burns out of range quickly enough. It looks to me like it is trying to draw us away from the wormhole and I'm not falling for that. I order a tactical withdrawal, and Fin and I jump back to the C3 and retreat to a relatively safe distance from the K162.

As we wait to see if any more ships will follow behind we exmaine the record of the Scorpion's destruction. It's no wonder the assault went smoothly, the Scorpion had no weapons fitted and only multi-spectrum ECM modules. It looks like the battleship was configured solely for collapsing wormholes, with minimal defensive capability. I hope the pilot now realises how ineffective multi-spectral ECM is, particularly considering that with seven fitted he could easily have squeezed a racial jammer of each type on to his ship. Had he done so, the Scorpion may have been able to warp away from us today.

There is not going to be a counter-attack. No one jumps through the wormhole from the C2, and I'm not going to jump back in to see what's happening. If they are waiting for us it will be with ships that they are confident will kill us. If they are not waiting for us then there is nothing to see. We're both happy with our Scorpion kill, anyway. We took the information available to us, inferred the presence of a new connection, recognised the behaviour associated with collapsing a wormhole, and mounted a successful assault against a battleship. We didn't know at the time that it was unarmed and defensively neutered, we just got lucky, making it still an exciting assault.

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