Probing for a planetary popping

22nd October 2011 – 3.02 pm

With only a little time planned to spend in space today I'm not expecting to do much more than take a short look around, starting with the home system. An unexpected signature has appeared which when resolved turns out only to be more gas, leaving me just the static wormhole to explore through. I activate the ladar site, resolve our wormhole, and jump in to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system, where a tower, Noctis salvager, and Buzzard covert operations boat all appear on my directional scanner. There are no wrecks or combat ships visible on d-scan, so it doesn't immediately look like I've stumbled across some action, and although the system is big enough to hide activity outside of d-scan range the only two anomalies a passive scan reveals are both close enough that I now expect to find nothing happening.

Locating the tower is a simple enough matter, where I indeed find both ships unpiloted. That's a shame, but not unexpected. Warping to the outskirts of the system to launch scanning probes accidentally finds a second tower, but this too is empty of pilots. So with no one home I launch my probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, sending my ship back to monitor the first tower, as at least there were some ships there. Hullo, my combat scanning probes have picked up three ships, and unless I'm more vastly mistaken than a man who believes that Hilaire Belloc is still alive the Noctis and Buzzard add up to only two. And there is the third, now nestled inside the first tower's force field, a Badger hauler piloted and looking nice and squidgy.

I'm glad I was cautious when blanketing the system with my scanning probes, positioning them far enough out of the system so they remain out of d-scan range of any ships here. Even though I wasn't aware of the arrival of the new ship my caution has let me remain undetected, whilst still having probes out. I don't think I'll need them to catch a Badger collecting planet goo, though, so I keep my probes in their blanketing configuration for now, requesting the occasional scan for them in case more ships appear, and sit and watch the hauler for movement.

I don't think disappearing in a puff of disconnection smoke counts as movement, but there goes the Badger. Never fear, though, a third ship still appears on my scanning probes, so it looks like it is only pilots that have been swapped. But if only that were the case, as the new pilot turns up not in a simple hauler but a Crane transport ship. Those are buggers to catch, being cloaky and agile. Even so, I'm not going to give up before even trying, so I continue to sit and watch the piloted ship. And I sit and watch, and watch as I sit. He's not doing anything, and there are only seven signatures in the system to scan, I may as well look for wormholes and hope for more activity elsewhere. I bring my probes in to the system and start scanning.

Now he moves. Or, rather, now the pilot changes again. The Crane poofs out of existence to be replaced by a Bestower hauler, according to d-scan. Again, I was cautious, starting my scan on the outskirts of the system where my probes would be out of d-scan range of the tower, which lets me fling them back out of the system hopefully without them having been detected. And I would be sitting and watching the Bestower, but it hasn't appeared at the tower yet. Still it lingers on d-scan, so it is around somewhere, I just need to find it. I narrow d-scan's beam and sweep it around, looking like I find the Bestower at a nearby customs office. I kick my Tengu strategic cruiser's warp engines in to life and zip across to try to catch him.

Dropping out of warp at the customs office finds no Bestower. My first reaction is that I missed him at this collection point and start sweeping d-scan around to find his next port of call, but he doesn't appear to be at any other customs offices either. On a hunch I reduce d-scan's range to a mere 1 AU and make another 360° check. Sure enough, the Bestower is visible, putting him around this planet. I narrow d-scan's beam again and point it directly at the planet, and there is the hauler. Time to warp in to greet him.

I can't really extend much of a greeting from a hundred kilometres away, not with my ship's configuration, but I can get closer. I bookmark my spot and turn my ship around to bounce off the customs office again, to warp back in a further hundred kilometres away and put enough distance between the two ships for my warp engines to be useful. It seems like a good plan until I realise only after I bounce out that my nav-comp won't be able to use the neutral ship as a beacon to warp to, and only leave me more distant from my target. But maybe I can rely on the ship being a beacon, as I also remember I have combat scanning probes launched and that a successful scan of a ship can be used to warp to its position. Scanning a ship sitting on a planet is trivial too, and as I bounce off the customs office I cluster my probes on top of the planet, ready for a scan.

I am now far enough away from the hauler to be able to engage my warp drive. My probes are in place. I manually align towards the Bestower to save a few seconds, and call my probes in. A 100% scan is inevitable, allowing me to warp directly on top of my target, decloaking my Tengu as its engines start to cut out. My systems are hot and locking on to the Bestower before he can even react, missiles ripping through shields and armour in a few destructive hits. The pilot's pod is ejected in to space from the wreck of the industrial ship and I am quick enough to catch that too, preventing its escape and cracking it open to give me another corpse for my macabre collection.

I scoop, loot, and shoot the wreck. I can't carry the planetary command centres the Bestower had in its hold, so they become space dust, contributing to the rings around the planet. Job's a good 'un. It looks like the pilot was configuring this planet for goo creation, which perhaps explains why he was out here and not collecting at the customs office, and why he was slow in reacting. With all evidence of my crime collected or destroyed I cloak my Tengu once more, throw my probes back out of the system, and return to take a look at the tower. Ah, another Bestower is piloted inside the force field now, maybe a relation of the corpse I'm carrying. I would be amazed if he was careless enough to wander outside of the tower now.

I sit and watch the Bestower for a while, although I'm not giving it my full atention. I deal with some paperwork whilst listening for the Bestower's engines to fire up but nothing happens, unsurprisingly. Paperwork complete, I've got no reason to stay here any longer and head homewards, recalling my probes shortly before they were due to expire in the void. I didn't even find out where the C3's static connection leads. Maybe I will next time I'm there. To end the night I drop off the corpse and expanded cargoholds in to our hangar, and prepare some bubbles to relax in.

  1. 2 Responses to “Probing for a planetary popping”

  2. It's funny because I'm pretty sure you can put up command centers while in a pos

    By Planetary Genocide on Oct 23, 2011

  3. Well don't tell anyone.

    By pjharvey on Oct 23, 2011

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