Noodling with a Noctis

16th September 2011 – 5.48 pm

I'm going home. Scanning has unconvered a fair few w-space systems but has taken its toll on my time. I leave behind the Bestower hauler I'm watching, who still doesn't look like moving, to jump backwards through a couple of class 5 w-space systems. I am ostensibly checking for activity as I make my journey but as the systems are unoccupied it is an unsurprisingly futile endeavour. That is, until I reach the class 3 system one jump from home. Two Tengu strategic cruisers are in the C3, along with a number of Sleeper wrecks. That many wrecks means they aren't salvaging as they go, giving me at least a chance to stalk a salvager, but it seems that they are being vigilant with d-scan, as one of the cruisers disappears. I've probably been spotted.

I warp to the K162 from class 5 w-space where I suspect the Tengus are from, the only other system in today's constellation where I saw any ships, to see the second Tengu loiter on the wormhole for a while before jumping out himself. It is possible that the pilots coincidentally finished their operation shortly after I entered the system and that they'll be back with a salvager, but checking the sites they were in suggests otherwise. The Tengus were clearing the magnetometric sites in this C3, and one still has Sleeper ships in it. I spooked them.

Hold on, the wormhole flares, and a Noctis appears. The salvager warps away and I can only conclude that he's heading to the finished magnetometric site, probably assuming that it won't be trivial for me to find, unlike basic anomalies, giving him a chance to spot the scanning probes required. He'd be right, but not entirely. I came through this C3 at the start of tonight's exploration and, thinking that maybe Fin and I would shoot some Sleepers ourselves, resolved and bookmarked the magnetometric sites here. I have, in effect, already found him.

I warp in to the site to see the Noctis casually salvaging Sleeper wrecks, probably updating his directional scanner to look for probes, probably unaware I am looking over his shoulder. I'm just a little far away to poke him but that's okay, I bookmark a wreck close to the ship and warp out. Bouncing off a planet I warp back, getting ready to engage the hapless ship, but I make an elementary mistake. I forget to check which direction I'd be warping in from, merely picking the closest planet for the shortest travel time. Warping back in to the site sends me straight through the Sleeper structure, inadvertently dropping my cloak early.

I can't complain too much at flying through the structure, as it saves me having to drop my cloak manually and waiting for my warp engines to cut out soaks up the sensor recalibration delay. My systems are hot, I'm ready to, uh, why am I cloaked again? By the time I've decloaked a second time and my sensors have recalibrated the Noctis is in warp out of the magnetometric site. I'm even too disorientated to think to follow the ship, knowing where it is running, until all I can do is jump in to the C5 to see it warp safely back to its tower. I could easily have engaged it on the wormhole if I'd been a few seconds quicker. That was a debacle.

So what went wrong. My best guess is that I didn't realise the structure decloaked me until after I deactivated the cloaking device manually which, as it is a toggle, reactivated it instead. What a mistake to make, and my evening looking for a target has gone to waste. Then again, that depends on how bold I'm feeling. After checking the other connecting systems in this C3, and finding no activity still, I realise that spooking the salvager probably means he isn't coming back, and there's no one else around. There is, at least, all those lovely Sleeper artefacts to analyse for some free iskies. I head home, swap my Tengu for an analysing boat, and jump back to the C3.

I warp in to the magnetometric site and start analysing the first artefact. I grab a couple of low quality wrecked items and move to the next, when the Noctis reappears on d-scan. I'm actually surprised to see him return to the system. The Noctis is completely unarmed and my Blackbird cruiser is safe to continue analysing, but I have to assume that the salvager has some support either cloaked or on its way, and I bug out of the site after having analysed just the one artefact. If I thought the salvager was coming back I would have returned in my Manticore stealth bomber, which is a much better ambushing boat. Hey, maybe I should do that.

I dump the puny loot at our tower and board my Manticore, jumping back to the C3 to see the Noctis still alone on d-scan. I warp in to the site and see he's taking precautions, knowing there is a hostile ship around. The Noctis is far out of the site, relying on the bonuses to tractor beam range to pull the wrecks to him and keep him away from harm. The salvager is also aligned to a planet for easy escape should a threat appear. That's good practice, but I can see which planet he's aiming for and I align my stealth bomber there too. He finishes a cluster of wrecks and warps out, no doubt to return at range from another cluster, and I warp right behind him.

The Noctis drops out of warp at the planet, shortly before I do, and he's in range and looking like a fat target. I decloak, can target him without delay, and get all my systems hot. But whilst the Noctis looks chubby this one is pretty agile, it turning on a sixpence and warping out before my warp disruptor can stop him. Maybe he's come prepared with warp core stabilisers, but it more looks like I'm simply out of practice at flying my stealth bomber. I'm pressing buttons and pulling levers, but nothing's happening as it should! How embarrassing. I warp back to the site and watch the Noctis again, seeing him align to a different planet, but now he's even more cautious and has called in a Cerberus heavy assault ship for support.

I've had my chances, two good ones, and blown them. I could even have continued my analysis of the artefacts to get some profit. I am even tempted to engage the Cerberus, as it looks like it is just the two pilots who are active, and the Noctis can't go to its aid, but I'm not sure what ship would be best to throw at it. I really need to familiarise myself with my ships again, or I'll just keep making silly mistakes. For now, I think I'll just go home and get some sleep.

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