Strategic cruiser and salvager

14th January 2012 – 3.10 pm

Well, look what we have here. A Tengu, Drake, and Noctis, not a tower in sight, and wrecks spread all around. It looks like I was hasty in assuming this class 1 w-space system was uninteresting, after finding six ships all unpiloted inside a tower. Warping to the outer reaches of the system, where my directional scanner couldn't extend to from the K162, has found activity, activity Fin and I can shoot, as long as I can find them. I already have scanning probes launched, a blanket scan revealing these three extra ships even before d-scan showed them to me, so I can see all the local anomalies in virtual space in the system map. Swinging d-scan around in a tight beam shows the Drake battlecruiser in one anomaly, the Tengu strategic cruiser and Noctis salvager in another.

It's a bit of a concern that the Tengu appears to be protecting the Noctis, but I warp in to the cleared site anyway to take a look. I arrive to see the Tengu leave, presumably satisfied that the Noctis is okay here and off to rejoin the Drake for more Sleeper combat. I am too far to engage the Noctis but too near to warp closer. My best option is to bounce off the closest planet and get in to better position, but knowing the efficiency of the Noctis even this probably won't get me in to position in time. Sure enough, I get back to the site to see the Noctis salvage the last of the wrecks, my efforts to use little tricks to warp on top of him failing, and the salvager warps out of the site to stay safe, looking to end up in empty space.

I have the second site the combat ships have moved to and I follow them. It's good to know the Noctis warps in, probably using the Tengu as a beacon, before the site despawns, letting me create a suitably distant point where I can patiently keep watch of the combat, although I am reminded that a cloaked ship no longer keeps a site alive. And whilst I watch the Tengu and Drake shoot the Sleepers I am communicating with Fin. I am a few systems down the rabbit hole from Fin now, having scanned out of our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, across two class 2 systems, and in to this C1, whereas Fin went backwards through a K162 in C3a to a class 4 w-space system. Her targets aren't up to much, though.

I was happy to take a shot at the Noctis by myself, should the opportunity present itself, but now that the fleet is continuing we have time to think about tackling the Tengu. It is a tougher target, the Drake may stick around to help fight back, and I'm limited to using my covert Tengu, as I won't have time to get a ship killer that I lost in a foolishly optimistic ambush of null-seccers anyway. We'll definitely need energy neutralisers to suck the Tengu's defence capabilities dry, which limits Fin's choices too. She swaps out of her covert Tengu in to our second ship killer and starts heading my way.

Despite initial reservations, I would say we have an excellent chance in this fight. The Tengu and Drake are making a meal of the Sleeper frigates in this C1 anomaly. Not only that, but I have a plan that may net us two ships at once. Fin doesn't reach me by the time the second anomaly is clear, and I note that, again, the Drake warps off to the next anomaly—which I find easily enough as I see which direction he leaves the site—whilst the Tengu guides the Noctis in to start salvaging. All the while, the Tengu doesn't move. I think if we time it right, which looks straightforward, all we have to do is wait for the ships to clear the third anomaly and we should be able to drop on top of the Tengu shortly after the Noctis enters warp. We hold the Tengu as we pop the Noctis, then take the Tengu down. If the Drake reappears as well then we simply get a third kill.

I follow in to the third anomaly, ignoring the Noctis salvaging in the second, eyes now on the bigger prize. I have plenty of time to get to a suitable position that keeps the ships in warp range and lets me watch combat. I note which wrecks are close to the stationary Tengu and keep Fin updated as to what's happening, my glorious leader now waiting patiently on the wormhole leading in to the C1. This third site is in d-scan range of the K162 and we don't want to spook the fleet should Fin's entrance be spotted, otherwise I'd call Fin in to join me, all the better to strike at the right moment. It's not long before the Sleepers are purged from this site too. Get ready.

This isn't right. The Tengu's moving and the Drake isn't. I don't want to call Fin in yet because I don't know if the Noctis is coming, which should be heralded by the Drake's moving in to the next site. I think we need to strike now, this change of behaviour is too odd to ignore. I call Fin in and to warp to the site as I close the distance to the Tengu myself, having to use one of the wrecks he's moving away from as a reference. The Drake is turning at last and leaves the site. I try to get close enough to the Tengu to guarantee a hard burn will let me bump it and hopefully keep it in the site until I can lock and disrupt its engines, and as I do the Noctis swoops in above my cloaked Tengu. It's now or never.

Fin has arrived and is aiming for the now-turning Tengu, the ship manoeuvring to point in the same direction the Drake left the site. But the Tengu's drifting, intentional or otherwise, has taken it too far from the core of the wrecks for Fin to activate her warp disruptor. I try to react and get a positive lock, but the Tengu warps out whilst my sensors recalibrate after decloaking. Well, that just leaves my Tengu, Fin's Legion, and your Noctis here, Mr Noctis. It's not as great a target as the Tengu but the Noctis will do, and we make quick work in shredding its armour and hull, although the pilot is prepared for the explosion and warps his pod cleanly away.

I loot the wreck, or try to, bumbling with the loot strewn all over the place and too many metal scraps to fit in to my cargo hole, as the Drake warps in to see what the fuss is all about. He warps right back out again, too, and I miss my chance to pick a decent fight with another ship as I continue to struggle with metal scraps, locking the Drake but not having my warp disruptor active quite quickly enough. I shoot the empty wreck of the Noctis by accident, launchers loosing a volley that was meant for the Drake, but I'll pretend I was just venting my frustration at the bulky scraps.

The loot is poor, which is only to be expected from class 1 anomalies, and I count around twenty million ISK in loot and salvage in my hold. But, hullo, analysing the wreckage shows that there was plenty of really good salvage destroyed, none of it dropped off between sites. It looks like we just denied the fleet over a hundred million ISK in invested time. We may not have got the Tengu, nor the profit, but the Noctis turned out to be a good kill, and even better still when we realise it had a warp core stabiliser fitted. Had I struck earlier I may have had the salvager slip between my single-point-of-disruption fingers, and it was Fin's extra point that made all the difference.

It's obvious now the fleet were not local. A new ship appears on my combat scanning probes, still in space and still in their blanket scanning configuration. It would be fun to drop on top of an operation to collapse a wormhole, and I rearrange my probes to scan close to where I saw the Noctis disappear out of the first anomaly. Yep, there's a wormhole, and it's a K162 from more class 2 w-space. Fin and I loiter on the wormhole, close enough to follow whatever ship may be pushed through next, comfortable that the connection isn't yet stressed to any destabilising effect. And we wait.

No one's coming through. Whatever ship I saw on my scanning probes was probably just reconnoitring the system, seeing if we were still around, which is tricky to achieve with cloaky boats. That doesn't stop me from entering the C2 and taking a look around what could be their home system, though. And jumping in sees only one planet within d-scan range. A bit of exploring finds their tower, with all three pilots inside its force field, the ex-Noctis pilot in a pod, the Tengu pilot in the Tengu, the Drake pilot now in a Scorpion battleship. But they do nothing, and although there are core scanning probes in the system and my own probes only reveal two signatures to scan it seems about time to head home and get some sleep. No Tengu kill tonight, but it's been a good evening's hunting.

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