Running foul of rocks

24th October 2011 – 5.00 pm

Another day, another empty home system. Scanning my way out of here is simple as always but picking a direction is not as straightforward as usual, there being a second wormhole present today. Along with our static wormhole to class 3 w-space there is also a K162 from class 4 w-space. The system behind the K162 should offer more hope for activity than going through our static connection, as the wormhole must have been opened by a capsuleer, but as no one is in our own system and the C4 occupants, if there are any, are unlikely to pass through to the C3 to shoot Sleepers there instead, it's probable that there is no one awake in the C4 at the moment. Even so, I'm going to the class 4 system first, if only to exhaust my options in that direction.

Sure enough, the C4 is sleepy. My directional scanner shows me only two towers nearby and no ships, and launching probes and blanketing the system finds nothing more of interest. The four signatures present are few enough to resolve quickly, finding only rocks and a couple of magnetometric sites to go with the wormhole I jumped through, and apart from a couple of strategic cruisers appearing sequentially and briefly at one of the towers, there is nothing to see here. I imagine the two pilots were checking their skill queues or similar, which would account for their short stay. I'm not going to loiter with intent for capsuleers that aren't here and may not be returning, so I turn my ship around and head towards our neighbouring class 3 system.

That's just great. I see a Hulk exhumer, mining drones, and a jet-can on d-scan and today's the day I am spat out less than a kilometre from the wormhole. I have a lot of distance to cover before I can cloak my Tengu, which will give the Hulk pilot enough time to see me. I could jump back home and return again, hoping for a better transit, but I'd rather not give the miner another four minutes of time to decide he's had enough of shooting rocks for the day whilst I wait for the polarisation effect to end. I make my move, burning away from the wormhole and cloaking as soon as I can, and once cloaked start refreshing d-scan to see what happens. It looks okay, as the mining drones haven't been recalled, so I may not have been spotted. That may also bode well for the pilot not seeing my scanning probes when I hunt him down like a dog.

I open my system map and find the farthest planet from my position. It is out of d-scan range of the wormhole but only just, and depending on where the Hulk is mining I may not be able to launch probes covertly. But warping out there thankfully finds it to be out of range of the Hulk and I launch my combat probes, returning to the wormhole where I start my search for the exhumer. Actually, first things first, I must locate the tower also visible on d-scan, as there is an Orca industrial command ship and Pilgrim recon ship also in the system and it would be good to know if either is piloted. Finding the tower is easy enough, where I see the Pilgrim piloted and the Orca not, and I think I should be safe enough to engage the Hulk, once I find it.

I narrow down the position of the exhumer, looking like I am close enough to get a decent bearing without angular errors creeping in, and I arrange my probes around where I think the Hulk is. I get myself ready and hit 'scan'. The probes warp in from their distant position, scan the space they've been assigned, and send me the results. They're good. The Hulk and its drones have been resolved to 100% on the first attempt, giving me a beacon to warp to even though the gravimetric site is still a little fuzzy. I recall the probes but hold my position for now.

The pilot may be paying attention and it would do me no good to warp in to an empty gravimetric site, potentially giving away my ship class, if he is already warping out. And judging by d-scan the pilot did see me, as the mining drones are gone, no doubt recalled as the exhumer aligns to warp clear. I remain sitting cloaked off the tower to see the Hulk warp in to its force field. My scanning is good, my hunt unsuccessful. I stay to see what happens next, the pilot curiously swapping to a Purifier stealth bomber and warping apparently towards a planet, which seems like odd behaviour. But he's back to the tower soon enough, where he changes in to a Mammoth hauler. That's more like it.

I would imagine the pilot is after the ore he mined, which wil be in the jet-can in the gravimetric site. And as the jet-can will be close to where the Hulk was mining my current bookmark to the Hulk's last-known position will serve me well now too. Of course, unless the pilot's a complete idiot, and his actions so far suggest otherwise, he will be fitting warp core stabilisers to his hauler, to counter a single ship's attempt to prevent his escape. That won't let him flee an Onyx heavy interdictor, though, and if only I were scouting for an Onyx that would mean something. The best I can hope for is that the pilot's a complete idiot. I sit and watch the Mammoth for a couple of minutes, and then he's off.

I already aligned my Tengu strategic cruiser to the gravimetric site and follow behind the Mammoth almost immediately. I drop a little short, in case the pilot is faking me out to see if I'm paying attention, giving me the option to remain cloaked if he decides to warp in at range. He doesn't, he's at the jet-can, so I decloak and, well, wait for my dumb systems to recognise and update my display with all the different rocks here. This seems like an activity that could be performed in warp, when the destination is determined and a pilot has little to do, not when dropping out of warp on top of a target. I try to get a positive lock on the Mammoth during the half-second windows when my ship is responsive to my input, and I manage to do so only for the hauler to warp clear almost immediately. I wasn't even able to burn torwards and bump the ship.

The next time I'm hunting in a gravimetric site it may be best to reconnoitre the site first, so that the visual display of all the rocks is cached and doesn't need to be loaded dynamically. Even so, the hauler was clearly warp-stabilised. Maybe I could have popped his fragile hull with two volleys of missiles, maybe he would have got free anyway. Either way, my opportunity is lost. Out of spite, I shoot the jet-can of ore the miner wasn't able to collect, regain my cloak, and warp out of the site. Back at the tower the Pilgrim wakes up and warps out—or maybe goes to sleep and warps out, it's hard to tell—but I ignore him and the Mammoth now and decide to scan the system.

Resolving a wormhole sitting out at the far planet makes sense of the Purifier's earlier actions, the pilot assuming the scanning probes he saw having come from the direction of this K162 from class 5 w-space, and I jump through to see what's there. A few ships are unpiloted at a tower in the C5, although a Crane transport ship disappears before I get there from the wormhole, and there are scanning probes in the system. It's odd that the probes are clustering around the wormhole to the C3, though, as the locals should already know its location to have opened it, suggesting either other pilots opened it or different pilots are scanning it. I'm guessing there's another K162 to find.

Fin's here! My glorious leader has returned. As she works out which way is 'up' in space I scan the C5 to find only two extra signatures, both of which are wormholes to more class 5 w-space. One wormhole is reaching the end of its natural lifetime, the other is in rude health, and I jump through the healthy connection for more exploration. I only find a tower holding an empty Bustard transport ship in this second C5, so I turn myself and head home to welcome Fin back to w-space. She's already found her way to the C4 connecting in to our home system and reported that the Tengu is back, and we think about luring it out of the tower in to an ambush. I warm up one of our killer Legion strategic cruisers and plant it ready on the wormhole whilst Fin warps to an obvious point in the system, decloaks, and acts as bait. Welcome back, Fin!

The Tengu either doesn't take the bait or doesn't even see it, leaving Fin making newbie mistakes for no audience. It's getting late too, and with occupied connections on both sides of our home system there seems little point in trying to shoot Sleepers, and too much effort to collapse both the wormholes. It's been an eventful evening, now it's time to get some rest.

  1. 4 Responses to “Running foul of rocks”

  2. Well, some cherries you get to pop, some you don't. Like this time, when I got 4 people on me after a can flip and the miner got away.
    Maybe I need a Machariel or something like that, for such occasions... :)

    Anyway, thumbs up for the nice post/story. :)

    By Afandi on Oct 25, 2011

  3. Yep. Win some, lose some. And that sounds like a great excuse to buy a Machariel.

    By pjharvey on Oct 26, 2011

  4. Actually I like the ship because of the name, since I like everything angel-themed. If I ever buy a Machariel, I'll probably spend 30 min to choose the name..." Zeruel or Gabriel...Shogouki O_o?" and so on. :)

    By Afandi on Oct 28, 2011

  5. Only thirty minutes? I envy your speedy naming process. It usually takes me several days to think up a name, and then I ask someone else for ideas.

    By pjharvey on Oct 30, 2011

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