Buzzing a Buzzard

15th February 2012 – 5.38 pm

I get back to the home w-space system as my glorious leader arrives. I'm not staying long, though, simply swapping to a stealth bomber and returning to our neighbouring class 3 system, where I noticed a lone pod on my directional scanner. I update Fin to the situation and warp to the tower to see the pod where I expect it to be, floating in the force field. He's not doing anything, unsurprisingly, and as I still have another wormhole to explore in this system I leave him for a few minutes to get settled. I warp my Manticore to the K162 from class 6 w-space and jump through.

Six ships and a tower are visible on d-scan from the wormhole. I locate the tower easily enough and see that not only are there no pilots here but there are also almost no defences protecting the tower. Only four guns are dotted around the force field, and there aren't even any hardeners safely ensconced inside the shields. For a tower in class 6 w-space I'm amazed that it remains intact. Still, there's no one here and nothing happening, and I don't quite fancy shooting it for hours on end, so I head back to C3a to see if the pilot in the pod is up to any mischief yet.

There's no change in our neighbouring system. I'm hoping my earlier assault on a visiting fleet's Noctis salvager went entirely unnoticed by the local pilot. He wasn't around when the fleet came in and started shooting Sleepers in the few anomalies here, nor when I surprised the Noctis pilot hard enough to scoop his corpse in to my hold, only turning up when I took the opportunity to loot and salvage the few Sleeper wrecks that remained when the fleet scattered back to their class 5 system connecting to this C3. Morbid tea parties aside, this is pretty much why I scoop corpses and shoot wrecks, because it leaves no physical trace of earlier ambushes. I imagine pilots are more likely to be active if they arrive in a system that doesn't contain wrecks and a corpse or two.

It's not the pod pilot who makes the first noise, though. A new contact pipes up in the local channel, perhaps making a faux pas, perhaps not. He's in a different corporation but the same alliance as the pod, and addresses him directly. And apart from knowing that this second capsuleer must be in the C3 I have no idea where he could be or what ship he's in. This is the only tower here and I've seen no other ships come in or out. And now there's more activity. The addressed pod pilot boards a Helios covert operations boat, warps to a safe spot, and launches probes to start scanning. His aren't the only probes in the system, though, the other pilot looks to be scanning too. More interestingly, even though the Helios is in a safe spot he doesn't appear to be cloaking. I wonder how long he'll stay like that.

I need a different boat if I'm to catch the careless Helios. I head home and swap my Manticore for my scanning Tengu strategic cruiser, with Fin planting an interceptor on our wormhole in case of visitors. Sadly, the Helios has found the control to activate his cloaking device by the time I get back to the C3, leaving me little to do but wait with Fin, albeit on the other side of the wormhole to her. I'm now in a worse ship than before, the speed and locking time of the Tengu rather less suitable than the stealth bomber for catching a cov-ops boat, but it's the best I can offer for now, and at least I can alert Fin to any movements on this side of the wormhole.

Here's movement. It's the talkative fellow, in a Buzzard cov-ops. He's found our wormhole first and is keen to take a look inside, perhaps prompted by his ship decloaking my Tengu when he drops out of warp almost on top of me. I tell Fin he's coming through, but the agile little bugger evades her interceptor and gets clear of the wormhole. 'Want to get a HIC?', Fin says. That's a jolly good idea, certainly much better than my sitting here looking dumb. I jump home, warp to our tower, and get an Onyx heavy interdictor warmed up. I check its systems, swap out the cloaking device for another missile launcher, and warp back to the wormhole, jumping right back to the C3 and inflating the warp bubble.

I get the bubble up immediately because timing is important and I feel safe doing so. We're only waiting for a Buzzard, and any ships that warp in to my position will hit the edge of the bubble and give me a chance to escape homewards. And here's the rest of we, as Fin jumps in to join me in our bubble trap. Except that's not Fin, it's the Buzzard! My bubble's up, but I have no interceptor. I need to try to prevent the cov-ops from cloaking, and the only way I can do that is by locking on to him. That's fine, as I need to do that to shoot at him anyway, and to my surprise I gain a positive lock, even as the Buzzard starts burning hard past my bows.

Missiles pepper the Buzzard's shields, its speed mitigating much of the damage, and a bit too late I activate the web module that Fin thought about adding to the Onyx. Good choice. It slows the cov-ops down just enough, letting Fin enter the system and pounce on our target. Now he's going nowhere. Well, by 'nowhere' I mean the edge of my bubble, and there's not much I can do about that. But even if he gets outside my bubble he's not going much further with his ship, as Fin has a vice-like grip on the Buzzard. I try to move closer to the combat but the bubble's penalty to my velocity means that even at full burn I can't cover the two kilometres or so needed for the Buzzard to explode where his pod will also be trapped. The cov-ops is destroyed, the pod warps free. I should probably train my heavy interdictor piloting skills that final level.

We loot and shoot the wreck, my second kill of the night and Fin's first. And this really is Fin's kill, being sharp and getting me moving when I was sitting like a lemon. If she hadn't been here the Buzzard would hardly have noticed a threat. But I think the Buzzard also made a mistake in our favour. It looks like when he jumped back here the pilot made a bee-line for his tower, which unfortunately sent him flying through the wormhole's locus, preventing him from cloaking immediately. Had he turned directly away from the wormhole he probably would have been able to cloak and avoid my target lock. But his panic is our gain.

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