Hunting a Hoarder

4th August 2011 – 5.36 pm

There's no one here. I'm used to that from our lesser populated class 4 w-space home but I thought our second tower in the rather more demanding class 5 system would have a little more bustle to it. I could hide somewhere too and get an early night for a change, but it would be rude not to at least see what's happening in the neighbouring system. The single bookmark in our shared can points towards the static wormhole but no further, so I even have some exploration ahead of me. I shouldn't be long.

My directional scanner shows me nothing on interest from the K162 in the C4, and I warp away to launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system. I check my notes in warp to find this is my third visit to the system, my last being six months earlier. My probes show me six ships present, all of which I find at the tower, once I locate its new position and update my notes. The larger ships are all empty but a Hoarder hauler has a pilot, and an active one too.

Before I can get my camera drones to focus on it the Hoarder is warping to a customs office. Thankfully—for me—it is the customs office around the planet where the tower's located, making it really easy to identify. It still takes a few seconds to get my Tengu strategic cruiser turned around out of and back in to warp, and my lagging behind the hauler makes me cautious. Instead of decloaking during warp, to negate the recalibration delay that prevents targeting, I hold my cloak to make sure the Hoarder is not efficient in collecting planet goo. If he is already warping out by the time I get there and he sees me, my ambush will be foiled. But I am too tentative this time, it seems.

I try to ensure the Hoarder isn't aligning out to his next port of call before I decloak, but my own drifting speed is confusing my poor brain. I stay cloaked until I am sure, and I am only sure when a few seconds later I finally see the ship turn to align out. Now it really is too late to decloak and try to get a positive lock. What I have really been hoping for is to follow him to his next destination and get a better jump on the hauler before he can react. But instead of a second customs office the Hoarder returns to the tower. That's okay, he could be cautious and taking care to drop off each collection before continuing. Or he may have finished and just sit stationary in the tower for the rest of the evening.

Watching the Hoarder do nothing gives me enough time to kick myself about being over-cautious and to analyse what I could do better next time. And, as if the pilot has just been giving me thinking time, all the better to catch him, the Hoarder starts moving again. I am looking directly at the ship so I can see where he heads, but this far out on the edge of the system gives little angular separation for most of the planets and I have to make a fair guess as to which one he's aiming for. But having them all in roughly the same direction means that my general alignment towards the star, already calculated as being a beneficial vector to sit on, lets me enter warp and follow quickly.

It looks like I got a good bearing on the ship, or made a good guess. Either way, I drop out of warp to see the Hoarder sitting once more at a customs tower. No caution for me now, I decloak as soon as I confirm his presence, before my warp engines even disengage, and as haulers can't turn on a sixpence I am able to get a positive lock and start firing my launchers. The Hoarder explosively disintegrates and throws the pilot's pod in to my warp disruption module's clutches. A few more missiles are fired and I scoop the corpse, and loot and shoot the wreck. Job's a good 'un.

The system is quiet now, giving me time to scan. I don't get far before a Hound stealth bomber appears at the tower, and I quickly resolve the wormhole that I've found before throwing my probes out of the system. I try to work out if the Hound is a response to my aggression or a coincidence, but as the Hound stays at the tower and all the signatures in the system are over 50 AU away I am able to continue scanning, keeping an eye on the stealth bomber as I do. I find only two radar and two ladar sites, completing my scanning, and the Hound hasn't even twitched. I leave him behind to explore the class 3 system beyond the wormhole.

A clear d-scan welcomes me to the C3, and I launch probes and scan. There is a tower here, which you wouldn't know from the mess of anomalies and signatures also present, over forty of each cluttering up the system. There is a piloted Buzzard covert operations boat at the tower, apparently inactive, and although I could scan further a newly arrived colleague of mine zipping past me straight to the exit to high-sec empire space discourages me somewhat. Apparently the whole constellation was mapped earlier and I've been effectively stumbling in the dark because the bookmarks weren't copied in to our can. Never mind, I got myself a new corpse for my collection, I can call this a successful evening and still get a relatively early night.

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