Looking for a ladar site

18th November 2011 – 5.27 pm

I'm alone at home today, with one extra signature to keep me company. Or maybe I'm not entirely alone, as the signature turns out to be a K162 from class 3 w-space. I also resolve our static wormhole and bookmark its position, but my first jump will be through the K162 to explore C3b. It's my third visit to the system, according to my notes, the last one being six months earlier. I have the location of a tower in the system but it's not in range of the wormhole for my directional scanner to detect it, which means anyone at the tower cannot detect me using d-scan either. I launch probes and blanket the system before warping off to see if the tower is still there.

My blanket scan shows me four signatures and a lone anomaly as I drop out of warp outside the still-present tower. There are no ships and no pilots at the tower, unsurprisingly, given none showed up on my combat probes, but as I arrange my probes to start resolving the few signatures here a Manticore stealth bomber warps in. I belay my scanning and throw the probes back out of the system, but it may be too late. I wonder if the stealth bomber was monitoring the wormhole when I entered the system, only choosing not to engage because he didn't think he could do much by himself to a strategic cruiser. His swapping the Manticore for an Osprey cruiser and warping out of the tower makes me think not, though. I may have a target.

I try to follow the Osprey as it leaves the tower, pointing my Tengu towards a customs office initially. The tower is right on the edge of quite a large system, making it difficult to gauge a destination, as it only takes tiny differences in a ship's vector to result in a large change some 50 AU away. And it seems I guessed incorrectly, dropping out of warp near the customs tower with the Osprey nowhere to be seen, although the cruiser still appears on d-scan. I sweep my scanner around looking for the ship, finding him to be in apparently empty space, which could mean a gravimetric or ladar site, or maybe a wormhole. Because he's not sat on the wormhole heading homewards I will need to find hime using my probes.

I have already estimated the cruiser's distance from my position near the planet and noted that another planet would put me several AU closer. I warp across to that planet to continue my search, knowing that being closer reduces errors, and start sweeping d-scan around until I get the cruiser in a five-degree beam. I make a new estimate of the range and start moving my probes around where I think the cruiser is doing whatever he's doing. There is still no sign of a jet-can, but the cruiser isn't moving either. I'll find out soon enough, as I'm just about ready for a scan. But a final check of d-scan has the Osprey gone.

This actually sounds like the best time to scan for the ship. It's likely that he's harvesting gas and choosing to warp back to dump each load at the tower, instead of jettisoning it in to a canister for later collection by a hauler. With him out of the site, and out of d-scan range at the tower, I can call in my probes, scan the site, and recall them with no risk of them being seen. I have a window of maybe thirty seconds, if he drops his cargo and turns around immediately, which is enough time for a couple of scans, so I get to it. My probes come in, scan, and get no results. No results? I can understand not finding the ship but to completely miss the site is a big error, and without even a blip on my probes I can hardly correct the error and try again quickly. I throw my probes out of the system and warp off to the tower, scratching my head.

I suppose the cruiser could have sucked up all of the gas in to its hold, particularly if it had simply finished harvesting that it started earlier. But getting back to the tower sees no sign of the Osprey, and warping back to my previous position has it once again out in space, and looking to be in the same spot. Either he's not harvesting gas and is sitting in empty space, or my first attempt was really poor. At least I can try again. I narrow down his position on d-scan, get his range, and arrange my probes. And I think I see what I did wrong. In converting astronomical units to kilometres I confused myself a little, pushing the central 'anchor' probe in the wrong direction in relation to the ship. I should have brought it closer to me by half-an-AU, not further out. That introduced the error which I am now correcting.

It's lucky the Osprey warped out when it did. Lucky for me, that is. He didn't see my probes completely miss his position, giving me this second shot. I think I've got him now and scan again, getting a 100% hit on both the ship and the ladar site. That's better. I recall my probes and wait and watch, wondering if the Osprey has noticed. I'm also working out what to do. I could warp in to the site, getting in to a good observational position from where I can jump quickly, but I have had bad luck with warping through clouds and getting decloaked too early. But the main reason for warping to the site is to get a better fix on the ship, whereas I have the ship's position down to a kilometre or so, thanks to my combat probes. I will throw caution to the wind and warp directly to the Osprey, which is my target after all.

The only risk with warping directly to my target is if he is in the midst of warping out when I land and decloak, but that risk is slight. Besides, d-scan still puts the Osprey in the ladar site and if he was going to warp away because of seeing my probes he would have done it by now. I engage my engines to send me on top of the target and, decloaking through one of the clouds, almost ram the Osprey as I drop out of warp. I lock the cruiser and disrupt its warp engines, my launchers spewing missiles that start chewing through the target's shields. Some drones are launched, which I ignore initially as far from threatening, until I see they are more damned ECM drones. I wait for them to lock on and work their mojo on me, ready for another victim to warp away free.

The ECM drone swarm around me and lock on, but, like most Caldari ships, once the Osprey's shields are gone the ship's armour and hull are ripped apart like a finger going through wet toilet paper. The ECM drones don't spare the ship this time, launched a little too late to make a difference, but they save his pod. Indirectly, at least. The pod is ejected from the exploding ship and I gain a positive lock, my warp disruptor already selected so that it activates on the next locked target. But I forget about the reciprocal locks made on the ECM drones buzzing around me, my automatic acquisition systems already having selected one of them as my next target. Instead of disrupting and shooting the pod my weapons systems activate on a dumb drone, and by the time I cancel the first module cycle the pod has warped away, losing me the kill. I hate ECM drones.

I should have paid more attention to the accidental threat of the drones, but I was more concerned about them breaking my lock on the Osprey than the effect they'd have when going for the pod. Even so, I should develop the situational awareness that lets me recognise these circumstances and adapt to them. Rather than accept the Osprey as escaped and think about what I'll have as a midnight snack I should be considering the effects of the drones and cancelling my ship's target lock on them, just in case the ship explodes and the pod flies in to my sights. I can work on this. For now, I loot and shoot the wreck of the Osprey and scoop what remains of his flight of ECM drones in to my hold, before warping back to the tower to see what happens next.

I get an insult for my efforts! I think it's an insult, anyway. Apart from that, the pilot regains his modesty by boarding a Buzzard covert operations boat. It looks like he will scan for the wormhole that brought me here, although he probably won't find anything new, my having jumped through a K162. I could scan too, but I'm not that interested in finding a static exit to low-sec, and there is still a second class 3 system connected to our home. I leave this pilot alone, jump home, and explore beyond our static wormhole. I find another occupied system and a couple of pilots in Tengu strategic cruisers, but they are floating motionless inside the force field of a tower. I make a note of all the anomalies here, in case the pair of Tengus do anything, but a while of monitoring sees no change. I'm a busy capsuleer, I could be doing something else, so I head home and go off-line.

  1. 3 Responses to “Looking for a ladar site”

  2. Do you have auto-lockback on or did you target the ECM drones manually? Because autolockback is bad.

    By Planetary Genocide on Nov 18, 2011

  3. What @PG said..
    Didn't think auto-lockback was even something that happens when drones "target" you.

    By Easy Eve on Nov 18, 2011

  4. I've never turned auto-lockback off. It is a bit irritating and rarely useful, but I like that its an early indicator that I'm being engaged, with the effective audio alert of my own targeting systems locking on.

    By pjharvey on Nov 20, 2011

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