Spotted planning an ambush

8th March 2012 – 5.01 pm

It's a beautiful but mysterious process. I see scanning probes in the home system, leave for a few minutes, and return for them to have metamorphosed in to a rampaging fleet of destruction. It's nature's wonder, really. This time, the fleet consists of seven Tengu strategic cruisers and a single Loki strategic cruiser, but the Loki blips off my directional scanner before too long. Maybe he's a stray scout or, heaven forbid, the fleet's salvager. Either way, my decision to export our loot by taking a stealth bomber out to empire space is starting to look good now. Without having to warp in to our tower and reveal myself and my intentions to the fleet, I am in a much better choice of ambushing ship than my scanning Tengu. All I need to do is find the site where the fleet is engaging Sleepers and wait for my opportunity.

The fleet is not in a plain anomaly but a radar site, which suits me nicely. I was thinking that we should get rid of those sites soon, as they are starting to clutter up the system, but they work well as honeytraps. I warp in to the radar site to see the seven Tengus and Sleeper drones lob dozens of missiles backwards and forwards. I get myself in to a suitable spot to watch the combat and wait for a salvager and hacker, a comfortable distance away from all the action, only to have my ship become completely unresponsive. That's just great. My stealthy reconnaissance is going to be ruined as I am forced to power-cycle my ship's systems, deactivating the cloak and letting the invaders know my Manticore is here and watching them. Call me pessimistic, but that doesn't bode well for an ambush.

I get my Manticore back on-line and responding to my inputs, cloaked and waiting in the radar site, in time to see the last Sleepers being destroyed by the Tengus. There is a Heron frigate now on d-scan but no sign of a Noctis salvager yet. The Heron warps in to the site and starts hacking in to the Sleeper databanks, the Tengus milling around for a bit before warping away. Despite thinking I'd be spotted for sure it looks like I have a shot on the hacker ship. I may as well wait until the Heron has looted a few more cans, as unlike salvagers the hacker's path can be easily predicted, the immovable databanks needing to be visited instead of tractored to the ship, and it will need to be stationary for at least a handful of seconds at each stop in order to hack in to the can. That makes the ship nice and vulnerable.

I keep watching d-scan and note that one of the Tengus has left the system. Maybe he's gone to get the Noctis, but it seems a little odd that he'd engage in combat in the first site only. It would make more sense to blitz through all the sites and send more than one salvager out afterwards. Anyway, I have my sights set on the Heron, and I warp closer to the databanks to line up my shot. I haven't loosed a bomb in quite a while and I don't want to make an embarrassing mistake. Damn, maybe I should hold off for now, as a Taranis interceptor has appeared on d-scan, warping in to this cleared radar site with the expected Noctis salvager. This doesn't look good at all.

I must have been spotted. I doubt the fleet would sacrifice a strategic cruiser in firepower in order to provide protection for their salvager otherwise. I curse at the glitch that required the power-cycle, as I was already thinking of going for the double-kill. I had the Heron in front of me and all I was waiting for was the Noctis to appear on d-scan. I could have waited a few beats, popped the Heron, then pounced on the Noctis as it inevitably warped in to the site. Now I don't stand a chance. I know what interceptors can do to stealth bombers, which has led me to protect a Noctis with an interceptor in the past, scooping the corpses of two stealth bomber pilots on one occasion. It would be suicidal for me to attack in my own stealth bomber with an interceptor guarding the Noctis. At least I have the experience to realise this, rather than gaining such experience today.

The Heron is only being protected by the interceptor tenuously, but the distance between the frigate and salvager is far too small for me to consider engaging. The interceptor could cover the distance in the blink of an eye. I'll have to let this one go. At least for now. The site is hacked and salvaged, the ships disappear out again, probably to their K162 that must have appeared here since I scanned earlier. I track the Tengu fleet to a second radar site and watch the combat again. This site actually looks promising for me, as the fleet is sitting far from the databanks and the Sleepers are moving to the Tengus. All the wrecks are clustered around the fleet and not near the databanks, which may separate the Heron sufficiently from the Noctis/Taranis pair to give me time to attack.

It's not enough to hope for a good shot. We make our own opportunities. I survey the site and manoeuvre my Manticore, using various points of reference to bounce around, until I feel suitably situated. I think I have the perfect spot to loiter. I am within bombing range of the databanks but on the far side of the structure from the wrecks, increasing the separation between me and where I think the interceptor will be, as well as having a planet almost directly ahead of me to give a convenient reference for a speedy exit. I don't just make this up as I go along, sometimes I really think it through. Now I wait as the site is cleared.

The Heron warps in first again and the Tengu fleet warps out. The Heron warped to almost where the fleet was and now burns hard to get to the databanks. He is followed by the Noctis and interceptor, who do indeed land in the heart of the wrecks and far enough away from me to allow a decent shot at the Heron. It seems like an oversight to have the hacker vulnerable for a fleet that is protecting its salvager, but I suppose a simple frigate collecting Sleeper datacores is hardly an expensive loss, particularly when compared to a Noctis looting and salvaging Sleeper wrecks. Either way, I'm going to blow it up.

The Heron is hacking the databanks ahead of me. I align to the planet, decloak, and launch a bomb. I hold my position, pausing in the site to gain a positive lock on the Heron. The bomb has a ten-second flight time and doesn't do as much damage to smaller hulls. I feel I need to disrupt its warp engines and activate my target painter on the ship in order to stand a good chance of getting the kill. And, just for good measure, I launch a volley of torpedoes a couple of seconds before the bomb detonates, but I don't need them. The Heron tries its hardest to burn away from the bomb, perhaps even attempting to warp clear, but he is caught in the explosion and his ship pops. I am tentatively aiming to snare the pod even as I engage my warp drive, survival instinct taking priority over my learnt predatory instincts. The interceptor may have been over seventy kilometres away when I decloaked, but it could be on top of me in seconds.

I warp clear, leaving the site behind me and cloaking as I do. I bounce off the planet and get back to my safe monitoring position to see a curious sight. A new Sleeper battleship has appeared in the supposedly cleared radar site. It's definitely the site I just left, as the wreck of the Heron floats near the battleship, but I don't know why a new Sleeper has appeared.

The anomalous Sleeper battleship has scared off the Noctis and Taranis, though. Even better, the site despawns as I watch amusedly, taking the Sleeper with it. Now completely clear, even of structures, I warp to the Heron wreck and loot and shoot it, grabbing over a hundred datacores and a handful of decryptors as trophies. It's a low value kill, but picking off the Heron under the nose of an interceptor, even if he wasn't specifically guarding it, makes it high in satisfaction.

I think about looting some of the Sleeper wrecks in this empty site, as each battleship wreck could net me over seven million ISK, but before I get myself entangled amongst the wrecks the six Tengus warp in. I suppose they came back to shoo away the anomalous Sleeper, so seeing it gone they have little to do but warp away again and signal the site safe for the salvager. I also spot an Arazu recon ship on d-scan, showing that the fleet won't accept any more losses. That's okay, I've had my fun for tonight. I've also had my fair share of stupidly risky second attempts to know that they are really not advisable, saved each time only by mistakes made by the target, and this time I will take my own advice to not try again in the face of prepared countermeasures. I warp across the system to hide in a safe spot, out of d-scan range of the fleet, and go off-line.

  1. 4 Responses to “Spotted planning an ambush”

  2. It was smart not to go for the hacker/salvager kill with the Taranis there, but did you consider going for the Taranis itself?

    The first thing most guard frigates do when they see a bomber uncloak is to burn straight for it, MWD blazing. If you place yourself correctly and your timing is just right...

    It takes a bit of luck as well in terms of how his tank is fit and his reaction time, but it can be done and as an added bonus it is probably very embarrassing for the other guy. I was still smiling ear to ear for an hour after I got this guy:

    By Gwydion Voleur on Mar 8, 2012

  3. Yeah, that's a nice kill! I bet you were chuffed.

    It didn't really occur to me, because I consider ceptor pilots to be generally competent, for some reason, and I knew that if it didn't go according to plan I would probably be waking up in a new clone.

    I suppose if I got aligned just right, was far enough away, and got a little luck it could work. It's a possibility to consider in the future.

    By pjharvey on Mar 8, 2012

  4. This reminds me of doing missions in NPC Null...

    We saw we were getting probed and just so happened to get that mission where a gas cloud does damage to you.

    So we all warped to it like we were going to do the mission and we just sat there aligned.

    A few minutes later a buzzard exploded about 10km away from us from the AOE gas cloud!

    Was a good laugh...

    By Abbadon21 on Mar 8, 2012

  5. That does sound pretty funny, and a nice move to make.

    By pjharvey on Mar 12, 2012

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