Hunting a hacking Heron

27th March 2012 – 5.46 pm

All looks quiet at home, but looks can be deceiving. Our tower has been busy whilst we were sleeping, getting hold of and popping a Raven battleship that was, um, maybe wandering by? I can't really say, although I'd like to know the story behind his fate at the hands of our automated friend. Thanks, tower! Have a fuel pellet. This happened many hours ago, so that there isn't even a wreck left behind to loot and laugh over, and probably not a wormhole either. I'll scan and take a look.

Nope, there's nothing unexpected in the home system. The same signatures that were here yesterday are here today, only with the static wormhole in a different place. Let's see if I can have as much fun as our tower, and I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to explore the constellation. A Buzzard covert operations boat and Drake battlecruiser are visible on my directional scanner in the C3, along with a tower, but as there are no probes and no wrecks I doubt there's anything actually happening here.

The tower's in the same place as it was nine months ago, when Fin and I shot Sleepers in this system, and both the Buzzard and Drake are here and piloted, but neither are doing anything. It looks like the capsuleers are... brothers? Cousins? Weirdly related in some way, at least. I open the system map to see if I can warp out to launch probes, but find I'm in another tiny system with only five moons dotted around seven planets. Then again, two inactive pilots sitting in a tower are probably not watching d-scan. I'm sure I can launch probes without being noticed.

In fact, I bet I could scan without being noticed, particularly as there are only four signatures here and I already know about our own K162. I whiz my probes around, resolving a gravimetric site, ladar site, and static exit to low-sec empire space. That was easy. I warp in to both sites to make strategic monitoring points, in case the locals wake up, and float past the tower one more time to see nothing changed. I'm not waiting here watching paint dry, so head out to low-sec.

With a signature identifier of STD I am expecting the static wormhole to lead to Aridia. And it does, woo! As I launch probes and scan, the three capsuleers I share the system with dwindle to one, but one is still too many to take advantage of the Blood Raider anomalies here. That's okay, because along with some space rocks I resolve a nifty K162 from class 1 w-space. I jump in to an empty-looking system, with just an off-line tower within d-scan range, but there are two planets at the opposite ends of the system to investigate.

One of the planets doesn't hold a tower, at least, and now that I am away from the wormhole I take a few seconds to launch scanning probes. I arrange my probes in a blanket configuration and interrogate the whole system as I warp across to the other far planet, my probes showing me a single ship somewhere in that direction as I am in warp. D-scan doesn't reveal a tower, though, just a Drake by itself. Well, not entirely by itself, as the battlecruiser is surrounded by Sleeper wrecks. That's exciting.

A Heron frigate joins the Drake in space but I cannot find them easily. The two ships are not in an anomaly and must be in a radar or magnetometric site, which I'll have to scan for to find them. Still, I have probes out and I may be lucky, as the number of wrecks isn't going down. It's possible the two ships are taking a break in what they consider to be a relatively safe position. I think it's worth making the effort to scan the site they're in, at least. I get a good bearing and distance to the ships using d-scan, arrange my probes around where I think they are, and get ready to scan.

It seems I was a bit conservative with the probes' ranges. My initial use of d-scan to get the bearing of the ships and gauging the distance using the probes' virtual spheres was almost perfect. I could easily have knocked the ranges down another notch to get a better result. It doesn't matter, as it turns out, but perhaps only because a passive-fit Drake has a pretty chunky signature radius. I get a poor hit on the radar site itself, a surprisingly better result on the Heron, and a 100% hit on the Drake. I don't need a second scan. I recall my probes, bookmark the Drake's location, and warp in to take a look.

I see now why the Sleeper wrecks were persisting for so long. The Heron hacked all the Sleeper databases to start with, completing that task before moving on to loot and salvage the Sleeper wrecks. He's quite far from the Drake, and thus me, but he is also salvaging the wrecks one at a time and without tractor beams. The Heron isn't really built to be a salvager after all. I have plenty of time to reposition myself, and I spy a decent wreck to wait near. I bookmark the wreck and warp out, bouncing off the nearby planet to get closer.

The Heron continues to salvage as the Drake merely watches on. I sit quietly cloaked, waiting for the right moment. Here he comes, towards the wreck I'm loitering by. When he starts salvaging I'll pounce, as he'll be distracted from looting and too close to the wreck to cloak or escape easily. The Heron gets in range, his salvaging module activates, and I decloak. I burn towards the Heron as my systems recalibrate, then lock on to the frigate and viciously rip the tiny ship apart with my assault missiles. Pop goes the Heron.

I aim for the pilot's pod and get a positive lock on that too. My warp disruptor is ready and latches the pod to local space, where it sits only too briefly before it cracks open to spit a fresh corpse in to space. I scoop the corpse, and loot and shoot the wreck as the Drake warps out of the site. Maybe I could have gone for the bigger target, but I know my covert Tengu strategic cruiser can't chew through a well-fitted Drake and I'd rather have the kill and loot than simply shooing the pilots away. And I get some loot, but not much. A few datacores, some salvage, some basic Sleeper loot. It's worth a few million ISK, though.

It's not worth my time to loot the other wrecks here, so I ponder the questions of where the Drake is and where he came from. He remains in the system for a couple of minutes, long enough for me to launch my probes again, but then he's gone. I could sift through the eleven signatures to look for a K162 but I don't think it's worth the effort to spend too long hunting someone who knows I'm here. I check low-sec to see if the pilot headed out that way but if he did he's moved on again. But I'm out in a low-sec system in Aridia by myself, so I pause to pop a few rats, as I continue to work on my security status.

I take it easy in an anomaly in low-sec until another pilot enters the system, then head back to w-space. I return to C3a to see no change in circumstances, with the Buzzard and Drake still sitting inside their tower. I could wait to see if they'll be active, but as it looks like they've done nothing whilst I scanned low-sec, found another system, hunted a couple of pilots, and got myself a podding, I doubt it's going to happen. I've had a fun evening already, so I think I'll head home for a relatively early night.

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