Missing a Magnate and mashing a Mammoth

21st February 2012 – 5.11 pm

I'm back, and curious to see if my earlier scouting will bag me any targets. I have a few systems to roam through, so ditch my scanning boat for a stealth bomber, aiming the Manticore towards our static wormhole once my system checks are completed. Core scanning probes are visible on my directional scanner in the neighbouring class 3 w-space system, although there aren't any ships at either tower. My glorious leader is around but not in w-space just yet, having had the sensible idea to export our loot and bring back fuel for the tower. Jumping from high-sec empire space to a class 2 w-space system bordering our neighbouring C3 and then in to the C3 itself has her see a Buzzard covert operations boat somewhere in the system, which sounds like my target. It will be slippery but I'm ready to try to catch the scout.

Fin stores the fuel and stows the Bustard transport, and chooses a Flycatcher interdictor to help with the hunt. Although the interdiction sphere launcher has a relatively long cool-down between charges, the destroyer-hulled ship is more agile and better able to intercept a cov-ops boat than the bulkier heavy interdictor. To make the ship more able Fin has fitted a sensor booster too. We should give the Buzzard a run for its money. At least, once it finishes scanning. There were only three signatures in this system a couple of hours ago, surely it can't take this long to resolve them all, particularly not in a cov-ops frigate designed for such exploration.

Finally, the probes disappear from the system, recalled to the ship that launched them. The only question now is where the scout will go first. Fin is sitting on our wormhole in the home system, I am on its K162. Not a Buzzard but a Magnate appears—local, judging by its name—and not on this wormhole but elsewhere in the system. That's good news and bad, as the frigate will be much easier to catch than a cov-ops that can warp cloaked, but there's no guarantee the Magnate will warp close enough to our wormhole to catch him. I don't think we should wait for him to come to us, I think I should find him first.

I think about checking the class 2 system, warping to that wormhole, but when the Magnate reappears on d-scan I open the system map and interrogate the other wormholes. The frigate's moved to the exit to low-sec, and now he's dropped of d-scan again. Maybe he jumped. I warp to the wormhole and loiter with intent, happy to see the wormhole flare a minute later. The Magnate has checked the exit and returned, now polarised and about to reveal himself to my waiting stealth bomber. I decloak and... she warps clear. But she hasn't warped to the tower. Her vector was almost directly upwards, which would take her to the wormhole to C2a. I follow behind.

I get to the wormhole in time to see the Magnate jump to the C2. I follow behind, ready to catch her on the wormhole in the C2 or, more likely, to follow and catch her return. I decloak and activate my sensor booster, which will allow for a super-quick lock on a target, but have the wormhole selected in anticipation of the Magnate jumping right back home. Ack! I've been caught in the heat of the chase and have forgotten about the one weapon that would make a difference here. I call Fin in her interdictor to jump to C3a and warp to the C2a wormhole, ready to bubble, but I imagine I'm too late in doing so. Damn my lack of awareness.

The Magnate appears and, sure enough, jumps back to the C3 where, sure enough, Fin hasn't managed to break the laws of physics and warp to meet her yet. I follow and again miss getting a positive lock. The Magnate aligns and warps almost instantly. The frigate's not even relying on warp core stabilisers to keep it safe, as I'm simply not even getting a positive lock, not even with a sensor-boosted stealth bomber. It would be impressive if it weren't frustrating me. Fin arrives on the wormhole and I apologise for being so slow in calling her across. The Magnate looks to have gone back to its tower, and with the chase apparently over Fin heads home for the night.

I reflect on the hunt for as I warp to the local tower to keep an eye on the Magnate, only to find the ship has gone. The capsuleer's off-line, I imagine, making it time to go home too. I warp to our wormhole, dropping short out of habit, and see it flare. Could it be...? I decloak and get ready for one last attempt, and the Magnate appears and slips through my targeting systems yet again. That's one tricked out frigate. I follow back to the tower again, where the pilot swaps the Magnate for a Legion strategic cruiser and appears to warp towards the C2. I tentatively warp to the wormhole myself, wondering what the pilot could do with Legion if she can make a Magnate impenetrable, but don't see a jump through the connection.

I hold for a minute before jumping to C2a myself, where d-scan shows me nothing but an empty system. Maybe the Legion is covertly configured, or maybe now the pilot has gone off-line. Either way, I've lost her. But jumping back to C3a has new contacts, one in a Loki strategic cruiser and the other in a Viator transport ship. The Loki, at one tower, is beyond my means in a stealth bomber but the Viator, at the other, could be a target. It can cloak, though, so even if it collects planet goo it could evade me. And surely the pilot of the Magnate has warned her colleagues that a stealth bomber with intimate knowledge of the system is making a nuisance of itself here. Despite my new targets probably being warned, I lurk outside of the tower holding the Viator for now.

The Loki drops off d-scan, making me wonder where it is until it warps in to this second tower and reappears. It's good to know it can cloak. It's even better to see it swapped for a Mammoth hauler. Now that is a nice and soft target to end the night on. No sooner is the hauler boarded than its engines engage, and it is off to the inner system. I try to see where it is headed but narrow azimuths between each planet from this far out makes it tricky. I make my decision and warp behind the Mammoth, watching as it warps to see that I am indeed heading to the same customs office.

My stealth bomber is perfect for this kind of ambush, and certainly much better than my covert Tengu. There is no recalibration delay on decloaking and the torpedoes fired from siege launchers hit these big targets much harder than the heavy missiles of the strategic cruiser. It really is a simple matter to decloak, lock on to the Mammoth, and destroy the ship in a single volley. However, when my sensor-boosted ship has locked on to the ejected pod and is now shooting that, I realise that the magnetar phenomenon in this C3 probably gave my torpedoes a helping hand in popping the Mammoth in one hit.

Pop goes the pod, and I scoop, loot, and, hmm. I would normally loot and shoot the wreck after scooping the corpse, but there is a fair amount of planet goo that has survived the explosion. I think I'll have that. It's a bit risky, but with a bit of care I should be okay. I jump home, swap to a cloaky Crane transport, and return to the customs office in C3a. I can't take all the loot in one haul, so I grab what I can, drop that off in a jet-can in a safe spot, then go back for the rest. The jet-can as an intermediate spot helps keep the stolen goods safe from others and prevents polarisation issues from jumping between systems too quickly. I can hide in the safe spot and wait for the polarisation effect to disperse before taking each load home, in case I get jumped myself.

All is quiet. I get all the planet goo safely home, where it sits in the hangar with a freshly frozen corpse. Despite the Magnate evading my lock, I manage to get a ship kill and podding this evening. Yep, I caught a pod but not the frigate. Still, whatever the ship-fitting skills, you have to admire capsuleers who don't communicate important information, like hostile pilots roaming the system.

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