Bumbling behind a Bustard

26th October 2011 – 5.50 pm

I'm back, and wondering just how much of the w-space constellation from earlier still exists. A K162 in our neighbouring class 3 system started looking a bit peaky as I returned through it from my scanning expedition, the collapse of which would cut off half of the systems worth roaming through. Glorious leader Fin is here and I look to her for an update, but she's only just arrived herself and is busying copying the bookmarks I left earlier. Rather than take my stealth bomber out for a look for potential targets I think I am better served staying in my covert Tengu strategic cruiser, equipped with scanning probes, so that I can find more systems instead.

My plan doesn't get me as far as the C3, as I stop short of our static wormhole to see a mixture of core and combat scanning probes in our home system. I maintain my cloak, and Fin and I loiter on the wormhole to see what happens. What I would like to find it is who the pilot is, what ship he's flying, and where he is from. It may be better to leave a covert operations scanning to return and report no activity so that we can hit bigger ships later than to try to stop a ship we have little hope of catching in the first place. Reconnoitring the target is all rather reliant on us seeing him, though, and as no ship passes through the wormhole once the probes disappear from our system we don't get much useful information.

We do get some information about the pilot, however. As he doesn't pass us to return to the C3 I think we can be confident that a new wormhole has opened up in to our system. I warp away from the wormhole, launch my own probes, and scan the system myself. Sure enough, there is a new signature and it resolves to be a wormhole, a K162 from deadly class 6 w-space no less. I jump through to take a dekko at the system, seeing lots of ships appear on my directional scanner, mostly combat ships, including a couple of Chimera carriers, but with a sprinkling of spare Buzzard cov-ops boats. I've even been here before, four months ago, but my notes for occupation only state 'yes' and not the tower locations. As there are five towers on d-scan I think I'll leave my notes vague for now, content to monitor direct activity at the wormhole, which for now is none.

I'm not entirely sure what we can achieve at the moment. Even if living in a class 6 w-space system doesn't indicate anything above strength in numbers, there is nothing to say they aren't competent either. It would be beneficial to see how many pilots are awake and active too, because just the one scout would make us much safer in collapsing the wormhole, but a dozen pilots waiting to rampage through the constellation will see us hide for the evening. Finding the ships spread over at least five towers will take time, though, and time we could spend in better ways. A couple of return trips with an Orca industrial ship and Widow black ops ship pair will kill the connection and not take too long, and even if we don't get to do much more with the evening at least it keeps the profit in our anomalies relatively secure. I jump back, cloak, and start counting down the minutes for the polarisation effect to end.

There is a logistical delay but we get ready to start collapsing the unwanted wormhole, when a Bustard transport ship jumps from the C6 to our system. It aligns and warps to our static connection, undoubtedly heading to empire space, and it doesn't change our plans. It is tempting to sit in wait for the Bustard, modifying our fittings to militate against the increased warp strength of the transport, but trips to empire can take a while and I'd rather not sit around for nothing. Besides, killing the wormhole would isolate the pilot and, if we're lucky and no one spots and communicates the death of the wormhole, send it warping to empty space where we can better trap it. What changes our plan is a second flare from the wormhole, a Buzzard appearing and warping away. As Fin suggests, it may well be a scout for the Bustard, watching our tower where Fin now sits.

A second active pilot watching our home system makes collapsing the wormhole reckless. If even one more pilot is available, and you have to reckon there will be at least one, considering the scout is in a cov-ops boat and not a strategic cruiser or stealth bomber, the movements of our massive ships will be relayed home and we'll get ambushed. So rather than collapsing the wormhole we'll try to catch the Bustard. A Buzzard can't prevent a quick engagement, if we get it right, which means distracting the scout. Fin swaps boats and warps off in a random direction, hopefully to fake-out the scout to follow so that I can sneak in to the tower and add more warp disruption strength to my ship, but our timing is a little off. Earlier than anticipated the Bustard is back, it warping across our system and returning to the C6 as I am refitting my Tengu.

I hurry the refit and warp out to the K162, seeing nothing on the wormhole or d-scan, and jumping through to see no sign of the Bustard on the other side either. Fin joins me, a second too late for her to react to my request that she stay in the home system, and all we can do is sit in empty space. I return home and cloak, wondering what we can do next, when Fin reports the Bustard reappearing at the wormhole. He's going out again! I align my Tengu towards our static wormhole in preparation, knowing that I will have a better shot in the C3 without the sensor recalibration delay that I will suffer if I decloak here, and having more time to engage being further away from the class 6 system, and watch the Bustard jump in and prepare to warp. I surge my Tengu forwards before the Bustard is in warp, letting me hold my cloak and confirm the transport has come to the wormhole before I follow him in to the C3.

In the C3 the Bustard is making a run for the static exit, perhaps relying on his increased warp strength to keep him safe, but I have enough disruption to stop him. I get a positive lock on the ship, disrupt its warp engines, and start shooting. Except I start shooting empty space, the Bustard warping off as if I weren't there. I would call the pilot paranoid, fitting his Bustard with extra warp core stabilisers, but as I was actually out to get him that label doesn't really fit. But never mind, a Maelstrom battleship has warped in to the wormhole, perhaps to attack the Bustard itself but probably to defend it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I lock on to the Maelstrom instead and holy crap half of my shields are disintegrated in one volley from the battleship. Maybe I should have been a little more oblique in approaching it.

To use another proverb, discretion is the better part of valour. I disengage from the Maelstrom by jumping back home through the wormhole, moving away and cloaking immediately upon re-entry. Unfortunately, I called Fin in to come and help tackle and shoot the now-gone Bustard, and her ship sits visibly on the wormhole as the Maelstrom jumps through. She manages to evade the battleship's weapons and is able to cloak safely, but it looks like our evening is ended. A Tengu has appeared on the system, Fin locating and monitoring it on the K162, showing the that occupants of the C6 are awake and prepared to defend their transport. The most we can realistically achieve, without risking expensive ships against unknown numbers, is a long-range engagement where we shoo the ships from our system, but that would only put them a simple jump away and is hardly productive for us. It's time to hide and come back another day.

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