Salvager's supernatural senses

27th December 2011 – 5.06 pm

The home system is clear. I can use this time to update my skill queue, and it's going to take some time. I still don't have a particular plan for my skill training, leaving me floundering to pick skills here and there to train from IV to V on the grounds that having them 'would be nice'. At least my view about what constitutes a long skill training time has adjusted appropriately. I remember when I would feel like I was dragging my heels if I wasn't updating the queue at least every other day. Now any skill taking under ten days long to train feels short and worth sticking in the queue, which, I suppose, only complicates choosing.

Eventually I find a skill that could use a small bump for over a week's training time and update my queue. A second scan of the home system confirms that, amazingly, no new signatures have appeared in the time I spent procrastinating, so I resolve our static wormhole and jump in to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system. My directional scanner is clear, only showing me a single planet near the edge of the system, which is good, as this time I have been spat out under a kilometre from the wormhole. I burn away from the K162, launching my scanning probes as I do, and cloak as I throw the probes out of the system.

I have warped to an inner planet before my probes are arranged for a blanket scan of this C3, d-scan already showing me a tower, Cynabal cruiser, and Sleeper wrecks. My notes let me know where the tower probably is here, having last visited only three months ago, whilst I narrow d-scan's beam and try to locate the Cynabal in the anomalies. I find him, but with no Sleeper wrecks. The cruiser then strategically changes in to a Tengu, although widening d-scan to an all-encompassing beam again shows the Cynabal elsewhere and that there are now two ships in the system.

My fiddling with d-scan has also shown that most of the wrecks are in a despawned anomaly, which would be more of a shame if there was a Noctis salvager available to shoot. I would guess that the Cynabal and Tengu are shooting Sleepers and a third ship will sweep up behind them, but no new wrecks appear and no current wrecks disappear. I have no idea what either ship is doing. Only when the Tengu disappears again, making me wonder if he's covertly configured, and the Cynabal turns up in the despawned site does it look like it's the cruiser salvaging.

I have been warned before that the Cynabal is a superfast cruiser, one that could easily cause me problems if paired with a second combat ship, like a Tengu. Because of the circumstances I am not thinking about engaging the Cynabal, but I can still spook him and cause disruption that way. D-scan lets me find the despawned site with some degree of certainty, and I cluster my combat scanning probes in a 4 AU pattern roughly where the Cynabal is salvaging, and scan. The first result is a healthy 84% hit on the cruiser, the second shows him gone from the despawned site. A few seconds later has d-scan show him having left the system. Job done.

The retreat of the Cynabal leaves me with fourteen signatures to sift through, although I will be wary of any K162s I find in case I jump in to a waiting ambush. I resolve a wormhole early on but it is only the static exit to low-sec empire space, and although it's not impossible that the visitors came through here its location doesn't tally with the snippets of intelligence d-scan has been feeding me. Then again, it's just gas, gas, gas out here, and before I get the whiff of another wormhole a ship appears on my scanning probes, confirmed by d-scan as a Probe frigate. The ship's accidental appearance within my probes' spheres of influence lets me resolve its position within a couple of scans, and I warp to its position.

In the hopes that my scanning the Probe's position seems more incidental than on purpose to the pilot I rearrange my scanning probes so that less of them are in d-scan range, whilst not letting them all disappear as if I have recalled them having got my desired result. I hope to keep the Probe in the despawned site as I line him up for a shot, assuming he's watching d-scan as the Cynabal did, if it isn't actually the same pilot. My plan doesn't quite work immediately, the Probe having moved from his scanned position by the time my Tengu has warped to it, although he has brought me to the despawned site, with some wrecks still to be salvaged.

I bookmark the wrecks left in the site, now in three disparate groups, and bounce off a nearby planet to get closer to them. The Probe has warped out of the site by the time I get back, hopefully just bouncing out himself to cover the distance between the wrecks quicker and more safely. I keep shifting my scanning probes around to make it look like I am merely scouting the system, until the Probe returns. I find myself sitting near the wreck the Probe didn't choose, as it draws close to the other remaining pair. I could wait, but suspect the frigate may take long enough to salvage two wrecks for me to bounce out and back to his position, and if that doesn't work I should still have time to relocate to the last wreck whilst the Probe makes the same manoeuvre.

I warp out of the site, flip my ship and warp right back, only to land next to the two wrecks to see the Probe now at the one I just left. It's like he can sense my cloaked ship. I would feel less paranoid about that if it weren't for only one of the two wrecks I've landed next to being looted and neither being salvaged, whereas the single wreck I just left is being looted and salvaged by the Probe. Surely the frigate must return to these two wrecks, loot the other one, and salvage them both. That is, if he can't see through my cloaking device. The lone wreck is salvaged and disappears, the Probe warps out, and I get ready to receive him with open launchers.

Catching the frigate should be easy. It can't warp cloaked, and although agile and potentially fast I will be able to watch it drop out of warp and time my decloaking to negate the recalibration delay I'll suffer. Knowing that he will warp to the wrecks gives me his position to a degree of certainty too, and I am close enough to the pair of them to be able to snare and keep pace with the frigate when it tries to flee. I feel like I am in a good position. All I have to do is wait for the Probe to return and finish salvaging, which he has so far done so thoroughly in this despawned and apparently safe site.

He's not coming back. The Probe drops off d-scan and makes no reappearance in the site, leaving me sitting like a lemon between the two yellow wrecks. Maybe the unlooted wreck is only from a Sleeper frigate, offering little in the way of ISK, but these are the only two wrecks left unsalvaged. Unless my cloaking device is on the blink, or the pilot had supernatural senses, I have no idea why these wrecks would not be claimed. I wait a bit longer, and wait, and wait, and wait, hoping that the Probe's hold was full and he had to lighten the load before returning, but he doesn't come back.

D-scan shows me a Heron frigate appearing and disappearing, as well as a Manticore stealth bomber, but there is no sign of the Probe and neither ship detected by d-scan looks to join me in the despawned site. Maybe I should have persevered in resolving the final few signatures in the system, as it looks like there must be a K162 here and that some easy targets are passing through it at the moment. I have since recalled my probes, though, and I dare not warp out of the site now, not after sitting so patiently with these tempting wrecks.

And now a Dramiel appears, a frigate as fast as an interceptor and potentially deadly for my Tengu. I back off from the wrecks a little in case it warps in to the site, but it seems to be acting more as a threat. It's working, too. The Dramiel won't be able to defeat my Tengu by itself but neither will my Tengu be a credible threat to the fast Dramiel, and if the frigate snares my bulkier ship allies could be called in to finish me off with superior firepower. When a Helios covert operations boat appears on d-scan and starts launching probes it's time for me to leave. If they find the K162 home and stalk it I could end up either isolated or dead.

It's time to go home. I'm still paranoid that the Probe saw through my cloak somehow, as absurd as that seems, but I really could have and should have popped him. Rather than bouncing around and letting my target control the field I should have picked my spot and waited, which I suppose I did but too late. I leave the C3 behind me without a kill and with little to show for my evening. But I also leave it without anyone waiting for me, or anyone following me. I settle down for the night, safe in the home system.

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