Chasing transports

26th May 2012 – 3.47 pm

A bookmark to an unvisited wormhole welcomes my appearance, and rocks, more rocks, and gas do not. But a new signature in the home system may compensate for the missing sites. Two new signatures, in fact, as the bookmarked wormhole has apparently been visited and died of old age already. I feel I've missed something. The two signatures are both wormholes, one naturally being our static connection to class 3 w-space, the other a K162 coming from class 5 w-space. Both wormholes are healthy, so I jump through the K162 to see who's waiting for me.

No one is on the wormhole in C5a, and there is nothing but a planet and moons to be seen on my directional scanner. I warp across to the far side of the system, passing a tower and Tempest battleship, Probe frigate, and Hoarder hauler as I do. I drop out of warp out of d-scan range of the tower, so launch probes, throw them out of the system, and turn around to locate the tower. The travel back to the inner system gives me time to perform a blanket scan, which shows me just the three ships d-scan has detected, along with ten signatures and seven anomalies. I find the tower easily enough to see all three ships float unattended, which makes me think it's worth a poke at the signatures here.

Gravimetric, radar and ladar sites. It's all rather mundane. As there's no route backwards it's forwards I go, although I manage to enter warp just as a Crane transport ship flies in to the tower. I can't stop myself now, but instead of jumping home I return to the tower tout de suite. I'm not quite sure why, beyond a basic desire to know what's happening, because I am in the wrong ship to catch a cloaky transport and the Crane's presumably just come back from whatever trip he made to empire space. He's probably not going to go out again. I'll leave the pilot to snooze and see what's happening on the other side of the constellation.

I jump home, warp across to the static wormhole, and enter our neighbouring class 3 system. There's little to see on d-scan, but as this wormhole is clearly in use I warp away to launch probes, before exploring the system. My records put me here seventeen months ago, when I bomb a Badger hauler collecting gas and then also bomb a Drake battlecruiser sitting on a connection to low-sec empire space, but my notes are out of date now. The tower that was here then should be in d-scan range, but it looks like new settlers have moved in, with four ships appearing under my combat probes. Warping across the system finds a Thanatos and Chimera carrier, Iteron hauler, and shuttle all unpiloted inside a tower's force field, which is a little uninspiring.

Instead of watching a boring tower I loiter by our K162 as I scan, which pays off when I see the Crane again, as it blasts past me presumably on its way to low-sec. I don't try to catch it, merely gauge its vector and start scanning for the wormhole it must be using. And although the transport, if he's even a half-decent pilot, will have seen my probes, he probably also thinks he's safe in the Crane against a scout. He'd be right, too, but once I resolve the wormhole he went to I return home and swap my Tengu for a Manticore. The strategic cruiser is a very capable ship, but the stealth bomber has no sensor recalibration delay on decloaking, is faster and more agile, and can lock a target more quickly. Maybe the Crane won't expect this.

I head back to C3a and inspect the wormhole I found, which turns out to be the static exit to low-sec. Now I could wait in w-space, but sitting on the wormhole in low-sec is probably better in this case. The populated local communication channel will give me positive identification of the pilot, as well as advance warning of his approach, and being low-sec I can still engage on either side of the wormhole without Concord intervention, although my almost-recovering security status will complain strongly if I have to give chase this way. The only complication would be if the C5 pilot can identify me from our corporation, after scouting our home system.

And so I wait. The low-sec system isn't quite Bant in the Genesis region, but certainly Bantish and not well-travelled. A new contact from the C5 corporation appears in the system, and he's not coming from a stargate. The wormhole flares moments before a Viator transport decloaks and warps towards the stargate to Korridi. It's a fair old distance to the gate, which gives me intelligence on the kind of timings I'll be working with, as I'm hoping to jump back to w-space and hold my session change cloak for a less-obvious ambush. Even so, it's quite a few jumps to any market hub, and I imagine I've still got a wait ahead of me.

And it's the Viator I see again first, not the Crane, but it's all the same to me. I hold on the wormhole as I estimate when the Viator is entering warp, and jump to C3a whilst I hope the transport is still more than a few seconds away from seeing the wormhole. In C3a I hold my cloak and wait for the wormhole to flare. Now I get ready. As I expected, the Viator sees nothing untoward happening and points his ship towards the next wormhole almost immediately. As he probably didn't expect, my stealth bomber decloaks and tries to stop him doing so. Blockade runner transports are nippy buggers, though, and he evades my clutches. Never mind, I set myself up here so I could give chase all the way back to the C5.

I warp behind the speedy Viator and catch up with him on our K162. We both jump to my home system, where I try to catch him again, and again watch as he warps clear. This time, despite following at my best speed, I reach the K162 to C5a only in time to see him jump, and don't even see his ship cloak when I follow in to the class 5 system. I call his bluff and loiter on the wormhole, thinking he's not as fast as he seems and is sneakily holding his session change cloak in the hopes that I'll jump out or warp away. But it looks like he really is as fast as he seems, as after a minute or so I decide to cloak and check the tower, where the Viator comfortably sits safe and sound.

That's probably my fun for the, oop, he's off again. The Viator wastes no time in making a second trip, clearly not fussed about my puny stealth bomber interception attempts. I don't blame him. But as the Viator heads to low-sec my glorious leader turns up to even the odds. We can't stop the transport now, but maybe we can on his way back. I loiter in C3a on the exit wormhole, not thinking it's worth showing my face in local low-sec now, as Fin prepares a Flycatcher interdictor and plants it on our static connection. We wait again—well, I wait again, Fin waits for the first time this evening—and soon enough the wormhole flares. It's the Viator. I leave him alone, simply alerting Fin and following behind the transport to our K162.

The Viator jumps, and so do I. We are both greeted by Fin's Flycatcher and a launched interdiction sphere, providing a short-lived warp bubble, and this gives the Viator pause for thought. The transport makes a run for it, but back out to low-sec and not to his home system. He flees through the wormhole, evading my clutches again in C3a, getting back to where warp bubbles cannot be used, and disappears out of the system. Fin and I reset our positions, with me scouting ahead and Fin sat on a wormhole, but this time we move one system across in the constellation, just to defy expectations that little bit more. I don't think we'll see any other ships come our, oop, the wormhole flares and a new contact appears. This one's in a bare pod.

The pod warps towards the K162 to C5a as, in a show of extremely good if unintended timing, Fin jumps in to the home system from the C5. I update d-scan, not having given chase, as catching a pod is harder than catching a transport, and watch as the pod becomes a corpse. 'He did... nothing', says Fin. Well, he died. That's something, right? Maybe he was a deer that froze in the headlights of a bubble-launching death-machine. Who knows? Now I'm really not expecting any other pilots to head our way, after this serendipitous kill. But if they do, Fin anchors a a drag bubble that will drop short anyone warping directly between the two wormholes in our system. We wait and hope for another pilot to try to get home, but no one comes.

I scout C3a and it looks empty, but w-space with cloaky ships would, and checking low-sec has the Crane pilot in the system but nowhere to be seen. Again, you have to expect that of cloaky ships. I've seen him, he's seen me. I think it's time to call it a night. We've had a good chase, spooked a Viator good and proper, and got a random pod kill. I'd say it's been another successful evening in w-space.

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