Leaving combat to meet a hauler

24th January 2012 – 5.48 pm

I'm back, what's cooking? A fuel BPO, which is apt for my apparently off-hand comment. Apart from that, I imagine we're sandwiched between two systems of absent pilots. Glorious leader Fin confirms that for our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, but jumping through the K162 in our home system to class 4 w-space shows that there are now no pilots there. My earlier destruction of a planet goo hauler doesn't appear to have caused any ripples. Maybe we can try again in the C3, where a Badger hauler looks poised to make itself vulnerable. Fin and I take a pair of stealth bombers in to our neighbouring system to stalk the industrialist.

Warping to the tower has me doubt the likelihood of any action in this C3. The two pilots at the tower are the same as I saw earlier, albeit now with the Prorator transport swapped for the rather less able Badger, but the Buzzard covert operations boat probably hasn't moved in the past three hours. The odds of them becoming active just as we turn up seem slim. Maybe we can use that to our advantage, though, as there are plenty of Sleepers to shoot here, and all of the sites are out of d-scan range of the tower, clumped in the centre of the system with the tower anchored to a moon around the outermost planet.

Before we get too excited, it's best we collapse the K162 in our home system. Although there's no one home at the moment the circumstance could change at any time, potentially bringing ambushing ships in to our path. We throw a pair of Orca industrial command ships both ways through the wormhole, then follow up with one more Orca trip behind a Widow black ops ship, collapsing the wormhole with no drama. And so isolated, making a quick scan of the home system just to make sure, we board our Sleeper Tengu strategic cruisers and jump back to the C3 to make some profit, starting with the magnetometric site I resolved during earlier exploration.

Clearing the magnetometric site of Sleepers is straightforward enough, even if we trigger a new wave a little early to bring us three battleships at once. It's still only a class 3 w-space site, nothing to panic about. As is our tendency, we salvage and loot the site before moving in to plain anomalies, and we get a better haul than yesterday's magnetometric site, even if we have no deserted Talocan cruiser today. Dumping the loot at our tower, we're back in our Tengus and jumping to the C3 for some simple anomalies, warping to the first of the dozen or so decent ones present.

Sleeper combat itself isn't a particularly taxing task, but it's what goes on around you that you need to be aware of. I'm updating my directional scanner regularly, looking for early warning of any potential ambushers, when, mid-way through the second anomaly, I spot a Bestower hauler somewhere in the system. That's peculiar. I ignore the Sleeper frigates beginning to swarm around me and the two battleships that tickle my shields, sweeping d-scan around to look for the Bestower. I'm assuming he's accidentally come out to collect planet goo without realising a couple of Tengus are stealing his anomalies.

I think I've found the Bestower. I warp myself and Fin towards a customs tower, leaving the Sleepers behind for now, to drop out of warp at a bare customs tower orbiting the planet, no Bestower nearby. Assuming the hauler's moved on, I sweep d-scan around again, even though I know chasing a pilot collecting planet goo can be an exercise in frustration, only for the Bestower to appear in front of us, warping in to the customs office we happen to be sitting on. I may have guessed his previous location incorrectly, but I seem to have been lucky in going to his next destination.

I can only imagine what's going through the Bestower pilot's mind as his ship slows out of warp to see two Tengus waiting for him. Personally, I'm quite happy to see him. Not only is chasing a hauler between customs offices frustrating but doing so in a ship without a warp disruption module seems masochistic. But for the Bestower to drop in our laps like this, landing on top of us, waiting and ready, we have the maximum amount of time to get the kill even if we can't electronically prevent him from warping.

The Bestower's active warp engines prevent us gaining a target lock, but we keep trying until, eventually, the hauler's engines cut out. And, before we know it, it's a flaming ball of blue fire. My covert Tengu makes quick work of haulers, but our Sleeper Tengus, with more launchers and damage upgrades, chomp through the Bestower in a single volley of missiles. We aim for the pod but, neither of us fit with sensor boosters or warp disruptors, it unsurprisingly gets away. We loot and shoot the wreck, and we're back in warp to our wormhole. I imagine Sleeper combat is over until we at least see what the repercussions will be.

We ought to salvage the first anomaly of wrecks first, which will let us realise the profit whilst simultaneously seeing if any pilots will come looking for us. We pilot a Noctis salvager and Manticore stealth bomber, and sweep up all the loot without interruption. I suppose if the locals weren't looking for us before they'll be hard pushed to locate a despawned anomaly. Fin heads homewards, I go to the tower to reconnoitre the response. Well, something's happening. A Manticore of their own is boarded and warps off directly below the tower, probably some misdirection. And the second pilot boards a Drake, which could be bait or their best response. Either way, it looks like we may have a little scrap.

The Drake warps away but, as I know the inner system is all out of d-scan range of the tower, realise he hasn't gone far. And then the Drake launches scanning probes, and my hopes for a confrontation drop a little. There are a few more movements, the Manticore not seen again until it returns to the tower and boards a second Drake. There is some excitement as the scanning Drake moves, bumping off a hangar a few times, but all he does is visit a second hangar, recall his combat scanning probes, and warp out to relaunch core scanning probes. We are in for a bit of a longer wait.

The excitement is all too much for non-scanning Drake, who goes off-line before too long. Still, there is the chance the scanning Drake will reconnoitre our K162, where we could catch him. We just need to be sly. As I'm monitoring the tower Fin creates a point far enough away from the wormhole to be able to warp to it, then plants a Widow cloaked at that point. Should the Drake warp out to our wormhole, Fin should be able to warp to meet it at whatever distance it chooses to drop short, giving it a surprise.

But, sadly, the Drake doesn't leave the safety of the tower, even after the probes are recalled. Or have expired. Maybe the pilot is happy simply to know that we came through another wormhole, without needing to know if that is from w-space or k-space. Whatever his reason, it is too late to go back to shooting Sleepers, and we're not waiting any longer for nothing to happen. It's a rather anticlimactic end to the evening, but we're over a hundred million ISK richer and have another kill chalked up. That's a pretty good result.

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