Ignoring a small issue can make it grow

16th April 2012 – 5.09 pm

Burn, baby, burn. Three gas sites and two rock sites have all evaporated in to the vacuum, which should make scanning simpler now. And indeed it is, with just the one signature in the whole system. I like this. I resolve our static wormhole—for it can be nothing else—and jump through to start exploring. Immediately my directional scanner shows me two combat scanning probes, along with a small canister that by itself is less interesting. The probes disappear shortly after I enter the system, although they are unlikely to have missed the appearance of our K162 in to this class 3 w-space system. Depending on the alertness of the scout and the abundance of signatures in this system, I may already have been passively spotted.

I have a tower listed in my notes from four months ago, along with the presence of a static exit to low-sec empire space, but the tower should be in d-scan range. It's all change here, so I warp out to explore. There's no new tower that I can see, but two Myrmidon battlecruisers and a Guardian logistics ship are somewhere in this C3. I activate my on-board scanner and reveal, cor, twenty-four anomalies. That is plenty to keep this small fleet busy, but it would help my finding them if they were actually in an anomaly, and with combat scanning probes whizzing around I doubt I can launch my own probes with any pretence that I won't be seen. Then again, I don't think it really matters, as the absence of wrecks on d-scan suggests the fleet is salvaging as they fight, so I may not have a salvager to wait for.

A warp bubble pops up on d-scan. I'm sure it wasn't there a moment ago. Why would the fleet be anchoring bubbles? Sod it, I'm launching probes. I warp far away from the centre of the system, to at least give myself a chance of not being spotted, and launch probes to blanket the system. A mere four signatures are in the system along with the three ships I've already spotted. I think it's safe to say that any competent scout will have seen our K162 appear in this sparse system. Still, I may as well hunt the three ships, even if I am not going to catch them, as it will be good practice for future live events.

I warp back to the centre of the system to get close to the fleet, checking my range to ensure as little angular error creeps in to my scanning. I appear to be in a good position, as the ships are roughly 1·5 AU distant. And now there are drones out and more wrecks. Oh, this hunt is surprisingly easy, as the ships are in a plain anomaly now, one that my on-board scanner has already detected. It's not really practice after all, but I warp in to the site to see that the fleet are indeed salvaging as they go, the Guardian pulling wrecks to his ship to loot and strip them for scrap. Maybe I didn't spot them earlier because they were planting bubbles as a response to my presence. And if they know I'm here I may as well scan properly.

I resolve a ladar gas harvesting site and two more wormholes in this C3. The static exit to low-sec is bubbled, with a jet-can placed presumably to decloak any ships caught by the bubbles but placed in a position that does not line up with any other object in this system. I was expecting it to be placed in line with our K162, at least. And I would also expect this second wormhole, a K162 from high-sec, to be bubbled, and maybe even our wormhole. I'm not quite sure what this fleet hopes to gain from bubbling that one wormhole, and not even the most dangerous one in the system!

The bubble on the wormhole to low-sec may not be a particularly effective deterrent, but three ships against my puny self is working. So, what to do, what to do. I pop out to high-sec to see where the wormhole leads, appearing in The Forge and only a few hops from Jita. The system is populated with a dozen or so pilots, but none from the same six-member corporation that the fleet in the C3 belongs to. I suppose they think they are pretty safe for some reason, perhaps because they've only seen one ship. They are almost right, if rather over-confident, because a single ship is often just a scout for a larger force. Today I may get that force behind me.

I consider ignoring the fleet and taking a Bustard transport ship to Jita to sell loot and buy fuel, but Aii appears and is coming home, and Mick has found a decent connection that can get him and a new recruit to the C3 before too long. All praise to corporate bookmarks! I jump back to the C3, head home, and swap my scanning boat for a rather more dangerous Legion strategic cruiser, returning to the C3 to start shadowing the fleet properly. I have all the anomalies bookmarked and have scanned the system thoroughly, so I shouldn't get any surprises, and now I can see how the fleet operates.

The Guardian and Myrmidons are sharing repair systems across their ships, but not capacitor juice. If we neutralise the Guardian, suggests Mick, we should be able to drop him quickly and turn our attention to the battlecruisers. The only trouble is how we drop on to them, as the Guardian's salvaging takes him away from the Myrmidons. But, first, we need to get everyone in to position. Aii jumps in to the C3 and warps home to get a Scorpion battleship, for some dastardly ECM support, and although his Tengu strategic cruiser appears on d-scan briefly the fleet continues engaging Sleepers. A few minutes later has Mick and Cuervia enter the high-sec system and warp to the wormhole. We're ready, now I need to spot the right opportunity.

Aii's on our static wormhole and ready to jump. Mick's on the wormhole in high-sec and ready to jump. Cuervia's entered the system to avoid Concord, the damned pirate. I'm watching the ships. The current anomaly has been cleared and one Myrmidon has warped away, so now I have to make the call as to engage the ships now or wait until they enter the next anomaly. Engaging them now means we have no Sleepers to contend with, but as the site is cleared they may warp away to the next one if I get my timing a little wrong. Then again, with one Myrmidon gone it is possible the fleet is about to stop for the night. We can't have that. I warp in to the cleared site from my monitoring point, decloak, and call for everyone to warp to my position.

I gain a positive lock on the Guardian and disrupt its warp engines, as I start sucking its capacitor dry and doing what damage I can with my pair of lasers. The two pilots still seem pretty confident that they know what they're dealing with, as the Myrmidon drops a warp bubble and starts anchoring it. They probably think its still just me, although Mick's Astarte command ship warping in should give them second thoughts. And Aii's Scorpion warps in seconds later to pile on the pain, shortly before Cuervia's Manticore stealth bomber decloaks thirty kilometres away and starts launching torpedoes.

Still, the warp bubble being anchored, although not yet active, is a little unsettling. Maybe we have not set the trap but waltzed in to one? I keep updating d-scan, as the Guardian starts taking serious armour damage, but see no changes. It's still just us and the Guardian and Myrmidon. Now it's us and a Myrmidon, as the Guardian explodes and its pod flees. The Myrmidon is going nowhere, Mick having called point on it as he dropped in to the site, and we wear it down more quickly than the Guardian. The battlecruiser explodes and its pod flees too, probably rather grateful that we were ruthlessly efficient and didn't wait for his warp bubble to activate and trap his pod here too.

This was a good pair of kills! Communication brought us together, and Mick's appraisal of the situation helped us defeat the pair of ships whilst taking minimal damage ourselves. But I can't help feel the targets were a bit too blasé about threats in w-space. It seems they saw our K162 appear, and probably my ship at least once, and all they did was bubble a wormhole that I had no use for. Leaving our K162 untouched, as well as the very convenient wormhole from high-sec, doesn't really make sense. And, as I mentioned, ignoring one ship often leads to dealing with a fleet. But, in this case, we really don't mind.

We loot the wrecks, chase the pods around w-space for a bit, and Mick borrows a destroyer from our tower to salvage the wrecks, getting us some extra loot. The pods remain one step ahead of us and my scanning, bouncing around from one safe spot to the next, until I eventually get bored and leave them alone, which is pretty much at the same time as they go off-line. Aii and I head back through the K162 to our home system, where we repair the minor damage to our ships, and Mick and Cuervia jump to high-sec to make the return journey to their class 5 w-space home. It's been a good evening.

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