Too late for a Tengu

14th November 2011 – 5.20 pm

I get the call. A Tengu is flying solo in our neighbouring system, shooting Sleepers. That strategic cruiser sounds like an excellent target. If only I hadn't been distracted and turned up late we may have had a chance of catching it. Fin catches me up when I finally arrive, as I make a dash to copy the required bookmarks and swap to my Legion strategic cruiser ship killer, telling me that the Tengu has only just warped out of an anomaly. Damn my timing, but that's not to say he won't be back. Fin takes the opportunity to swap her scouting boat for a second Legion, now that we are both here, and returns to the C3 to continue scouting.

The Tengu is back in an anomaly, potentially giving us a shot, even if we don't know why he bugged out initially, but Fin's return is a little awkward. She's been pushed out of the wormhole too close to cloak immediately. There's not much you can do in such a situation but burn hard and hope for the best, and it seems that extra second being visible has blipped her Legion on to the Tengu's directional scanner. He leaves the anomaly again. I suppose we're not really undeterred by this as such, more pressing on regardless. It would be more foolish to assume the Tengu is leaving for good and miss the kill than wait a few minutes to see if he comes back a third time.

Fin warps around to scout the class 3 w-space system. There is no much sign of the Tengu, little more than a blip here and there, making us wonder where he's come from. The C3 is currently unscanned for us, Fin spying the Tengu and keeping herself hidden so far, but it looks like there is no support for the solo ship. No combat support, at least, as a Noctis salvager appears on Fin's d-scan, which she starts to hunt instead. The Noctis warps in to a completed anomaly and begins salvaging, an anomaly that Fin knows of and can visit herself without having to scan for the ship.

Now we have a decision. We could assault the Noctis, or wait for the Tengu to return. I think we would both prefer the Tengu in our sights but any kill is a good kill, and I am trying not to taint the decision. I have popped a number of Noctes recently and would happily let this one get away if it meant the Tengu returns, but Fin is only recently back from an unwanted absence and could use all the action we can find. Besides, unless the Tengu pilot is a complete idiot, or he didn't actually see Fin's Legion on d-scan, he won't be back. So, any kill is a good kill, the Noctis is our target.

Fin moves in to position. I'm sitting on our wormhole waiting to be called in, even if two Legions are complete overkill for an unarmed salvager. I may not get there in time from here, but I can't risk jumping in to the system in my unstealthy ship and spooking the salvager too. 'Get ready.' I'm ready. There's a final bit of manoeuvring, some helpful advice on trying to prevent the salvager warping out early, and then Fin goes for its throat. Sadly, the pilot isn't an idiot and had his ship aligned out of the site, letting his warp engines engage almost immediately. The Noctis escapes.

The Noctis doesn't leave the system, though. Fin tries to locate its position, seemingly floating in empty space, and it could be sitting on a wormhole. I swap boats to get back in to my covert Tengu, ready to find the Noctis using scanning probes, but by the time I enter the system the salvager finally has left. I look for the supposed wormhole anyway, as we may as well scan the system now that it's empty of targets, finding an exit to null-sec. The exit wormhole is too far from where Fin pegged the Noctis, as sitting on the connection would put the ship out of d-scan range of Fin's boat, but all I can otherwise find in the right volume of space is gas.

Nearly all the signatures in the C3 are ladar gas harvesting sites, the sole exception being a single gravimetric site holding rocks. Well, that and the static exit to null-sec, I suppose. Oh, hullo, and this missed signature that a final, confirmatory blanket scan reveals. Whether it is a new signature, or I just passed it by, I've found another wormhole, this one an enticing outbound connection to class 1 w-space. Scanning probes that are not mine are now whizzing about the system, the Tengu pilot back and scanning for wormholes himself, presumably, but I am more taken by the opportunties in the C1. Fin watches the C3 as I look for new targets for us.

D-scan is clear from the K162, a blanket scan being more exciting by showing me nine ships in total somewhere in the system. I warp off to find them, a little disappointed to see a third are shuttles, but perking up when seeing two pilots, one in a Noctis. The other is in a bare pod, and they are both inside a tower's force field, as are the rest of the unpiloted ships. As much as I'd like to think the pair are about to start shooting Sleepers in any of the 13 anomalies here, particularly when the pod pilot boards the Drake at the tower, it doesn't turn out that way. The pilot steers the battlecruiser to a hangar, stows it, and is returned to his bare pod.

The pilot repeats this manoeuvre with the other ships here, continuing with the shuttles. One-by-one he boards a shuttle, navigates it the few hundred metres to the hangar, stows it, and moves back for the next ship. The situation doesn't look brighter with the shuttles out of the way, as he just keeps going with the bigger ships. He boards a Ferox battlecruiser next, but even this pilot is getting bored shuffling ships around, taking his time taking it to the hangar. I've watched enough, he's only tidying up. I head back to the C3, not bothering to scan the C1 for wormholes, where little has happened but scanning.

It's all gone a bit quiet since the start of the evening. Fin returns home, getting understandably sleepy, and all I can report for the next couple of minutes is that the scanning probes disappear. Rather than send a covert ship to scout the wormholes found, the scout gets naked and bounces his pod around, which is a novel method but hardly inoccuous. Having determined that the Tengu pilot didn't come from the C1 I poke my nose through to null-sec, finding the system to be empty of other pilots. Only now, as I recount these events, do I realise that perhaps the pilot is a nomad, or maybe hunting the local capsuleers in this C3.

A nomad or stalker would explain the ships' disappearing with no destination, the safe spots already created, the two-man corporation of the Tengu and Noctis pilots. It would also perhaps explain the brief appearances of a Bestower hauler, only detected, never seen. If the pilot is stalking the C3, or roaming system-to-system, he must be configured to remain hidden, probably with a bigger ship sat safely in the system that has a ship maintenance bay. But even with that insight there's little left to do, so I return home to get some rest. It's a shame we missed the Tengu.

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