Ambushed on the prowl

25th May 2011 – 5.03 pm

I'm so proud. I spot the wormhole's signature out of the dozen or so littering our inner system, recognising the strength and positioning of the two split signals. A brief search finds no more likely looking signatures and I warp to the static connection, jumping through to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A quick check of my directional scanner has me jumping right back home again, the four core scanning probes sending me scuttling to plant my Malediction interceptor on the wormhole. I have no idea if the scout will head this way, or jump in to our system, but I'm prepared to wait to find out.

Settling down, listening for the flare, I check d-scan more thoroughly and reference it to my notes. The d-scan result persists across jumps, as long as I don't refresh it, so I can see that no ships or towers were detected, and only the four probes. My notes tell me I was in that system only four months ago, and although it was occupied then it may not be now, as the tower should have been anchored to a moon visible to d-scan. The tower was moved cleanly, though, as no defences or the off-line tower remains. Checking a separate source shows me that the C3 has seven planets, with d-scan only showing six, so it could still be occupied and active.

Glorious leader Fin turns up and is happy to join me in waiting for no one, bringing the Onyx heavy interdictor to pair with my interceptor. And we wait. And wait a bit longer. And the scout wins, as I get bored and decide to take a look for him. I jump in to the C3, see no probes on d-scan, and point my ships towards the outer planet. As I get closer I refresh d-scan to see a tower and four ships appear, the Prowler transport ship, Hulk exhumer, Mammoth hauler, and Heron frigate probably all sitting inside the tower's shields. I wonder how many are piloted. I won't bounce my Malediction off the tower to find out, or even loiter to find the right moon, but head back and swap to my Buzzard covert operations boat.

Warping back to the wormhole is speedy in my interceptor, but a casual last check of d-scan as I am about to jump home sees the Prowler once more. The tower is out of range now, so seeing the transport ship means he is moving. I spin d-scan around and check the customs offices, hoping that I can catch him collecting planet goo, but don't see him. Reverting to a full-system scan has the Prowler gone, no doubt left the system. I jump home, swap to my scanning boat, and go back to the C3 to find where the Prowler went. With any luck, we can catch him on his way back.

I launch probes at the wormhole and start scanning, warping off to locate the tower and see how many pilots are awake. I try to keep my probes out of d-scan range of the tower initially, but finding that the Heron, Hulk, and Mammoth are all empty makes me more cavalier, and I throw my probes around the system with gay abandon. I concentrate my efforts away from the tower initially, as I saw the Prowler on d-scan from our K162, and I resolve a wormhole soon enough. The connection to high-sec empire space is probably what the Prowler used, even if it is a K162 itself and not the system's static wormhole. Just to make sure, I keep looking.

A second wormhole in the C3 is also a K162, this one coming in from low-sec empire space, and, along with a few ladar sites, that exhausts the strong signatures. I suspect the static wormhole leads out to null-sec k-space, and looking at signatures of about half the normal strength finds the K346 shortly after a new ship appears at the local tower. A Harbinger battlecruiser warps in, which the newly arrived Mick sees, and I am relying on the pilot not being attentive as he's waking up whilst I finish my scanning. I am sure there are no more wormholes to find and recall my probes, as Fin jumps through the high-sec exit to appear in The Forge, and conveniently close to Jita. I think it's safe to say the Prowler left using that wormhole.

We can ignore the Prowler for now, what with the Harbinger here to bait instead. A rough plan is to stick the Onyx on the wormhole to high-sec and try to get the battlecruiser to engage, which will probably only work if the Prowler returns and calls for help, as the wormhole is out of d-scan range of the tower. Mick and I stay hidden for now, making Fin look vulnerable, but his Loki strategic cruiser and our hangar at my disposal should give us the advantage. I jump home, with Mick keeping eyes on the C3 tower, and swap the Buzzard for my Legion strategic cruiser, warping to our static wormhole to wait for the signal to jump in and engage.

The Legion is probably overkill against a Bestower hauler, which the Harbinger pilot has now enticingly switched to. I swap again, to a Manticore stealth bomber this time, which lets me lurk cloaked in the C3 and be more readily available whilst still having more than enough firepower to pop an industrial ship. At least it looks like our HIC on the wormhole will be useful, because if the Bestower warps to the high-sec connection he will hit the edge of the bubble and be caught too far from the wormhole to jump and close enough to be engulfed by the Onyx. If only the Bestower would move out of the tower.

We have a new contact. Five combat probes are on d-scan in the C3, and they appear to be concentrating on Fin's Onyx. It looks like our bait is working, only for unknown aggressors, and I will need more than my Manticore again. Getting used to finding ships in the hangar, I am once again in my Legion and sitting on our wormhole in preparation. When a Drake is spotted I am warping back to the hangar yet again, this time swapping to the Sacrilege heavy assault cruiser, which seems like the best choice against the Caldari battlecruiser. Contact is made in the C3 as I am returning to our wormhole, and Fin announces she has the Drake. I jump in to the C3 with due haste and warp to her position, getting ready for combat.

I drop out of warp to see the Drake being rightfully pelted with missiles, and I lock and start shooting it myself. It's only after I launch and add my drones to the fight that I realise the Loki nearby isn't Mick, it's a second hostile. More contacts are made! A second Loki and a Brutix battlecruiser are warping in, and it is with regret and some sense of urgency that I recall my drones and turn the Sacrilege around, initiating warp back to our K162. More ships still turn up and I am locked by the hostiles as I am still aligning out. I watch my velocity steadily increase, not knowing if it will suddenly drop to indicate my engines have been disrupted, but whoever has targeted me is not stopping me from leaving. I enter warp and leave the fray behind.

Mick has left too, exiting the system using the connection to high-sec, but Fin was drawn off the wormhole. Already slightly askew in the direction of the local tower, hoping to catch the Bestower further from the wormhole, it was difficult to tell if the Drake had bounced off her bubble and was retreating or trying to pull her ship further away from safety. The Drake's motive is clearer when the Harbinger, Brutix, Vagabond cruiser, and two Lokis also warp in, and now Fin is some fifty kilometres away from jumping, engines disrupted, and heavily webbed. There's not much left to do but listen as Fin counts down the kilometres, getting twenty-five kilometres from the wormhole before the hefty tank of the Onyx finally crumples, the heavy interdictor exploding.

Fin's pod gets away from the aggressors, thankfully, and she returns to our tower understandably feeling rather deflated. It seems that a scout from low-sec found the connection in to the C3, saw the Onyx on d-scan, and promptly scanned its position before calling in the fleet. Whilst it looked like an opportunity for us to surprise the aggressors, what I should have realised was that any fleet feeling strong enough to pop a HIC would have the firepower to swat Mick and I aside first.

No doubt satisfied with their kill the aggressors leave the system, back the way they came. They aren't loitering to wait for superior numbers to arrive to counter their fleet. We can use the convenient exit to high-sec ourselves now, Fin heading out to buy a new Onyx for our hangar. I stick my Widow black ops ship some distance from our static wormhole in defence, and Mick continues to reconnoitre the C3. And as we sit passively, the Prowler we initially were waiting for jumps in, ignores the session change timer, and warps back to his tower, oblivious to the evening's activity in his home system.

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