Targets in two directions

23rd July 2012 – 5.32 pm

All is clear at home, and corporate bookmarks have the w-space constellation mapped out to low-sec. It looks like I'm going roaming. A check of the home system has no new wormholes, and jumping to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system brings back memories. In one of my earliest recorded systems, I see that the last time I was here I popped a large warp bubble in a stealth bomber. All has changed in the intervening two years, with the system now occupied, but the tower is empty of pilots and ships, leaving me exiting through the static connection to low-sec empire space.

Three pilots in the system in Essence stops me ratting, but scanning reveals two additional signatures, both of which look wormholey. And I get two for two. Disappointingly, the first wormhole is a K162 from more low-sec space, although it could offer another system to explore. The second is a K162 from class 3 w-space and looking good, until jumping in has me appear eight kilometres from the wormhole, so there is probably no activity here either. I scout the system, finding a tower but no ships, and scanning only reveals a single gravimetric site and nothing else. No other wormholes, no other sites, no anomalies.

What do I do now? I update Fin on the situation, and think about scanning C3a for new connections. But as I am making a monitoring point in the gravimetric site, for want of a more interesting task, a Probe frigate appears on my directional scanner, giving me a pilot to watch do nothing. My glorious leader is happy to scan C3a as I waste my time, and thankfully finds a wormhole almost at the same time as the Probe goes off-line, having continued to do nothing since its arrival. I head back to low-sec and in to C3a, warping to reconnoitre through the K162 from class 4 w-space that Fin has resolved.

A tower and Cheetah are on d-scan in C4a, which are easy enough to locate in a system with eight planets and nine moons, and all of them in d-scan range. The covert operations boat is piloted but inactive, although the appearance of a new contact in a Drake battlecruiser perks me up a little. I sit and watch as Fin continues to find wormholes in C3a, this one a K162 from class 2 w-space. She goes in to take a look around, finding plenty. Three towers and quite a few ships light up Fin's d-scan, and a recently arrived Mick follows in to the C2 to help Fin scout them all. I leave this dull C4 behind me to help too, but hold on the K162 in C3a in case we have valid targets and need a different ship brought in. There are only so many scouts required to recon a single system.

We may have targets. Fin sees wrecks on d-scan, but can't see any ships to go with them. She continues locating towers and pilots, as Mick manages to launch probes out of range of anyone before looking for the sites. I sit and hold on the K162, in my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser, and watch as the wormhole flares and a Cheetah moves away and cloaks. He's local to the C2, but his presence in this C3 is unclear. He warps away and launches a single probe, making us think he's looking for new signatures. Even so, a combat scanning probe in the system, and potentially the Cheetah monitoring the K162, makes my presence awkward. Mick and Fin will need to engage any ships first before I jump to join them, or our intentions could be inferred. That is, if we find targets.

Mick places a Drake in a site with wrecks. The battlecruiser could be salvaging, and although a Cormorant warps in to join the Drake, the destroyer a more likely salvaging ship, they could both be salvaging. Mick scans the site but feels rusty. 'Miss. Hit. Warping in.' The Cormorant is out of the site by the time Mick gets there, and the Drake is aligned to leave, warping without Mick decloaking. Maybe they saw his probes, but at least we can see their reaction. There are more pilots than just these two, with movements that suggest some ships are being shuttled through the exit to high-sec the C2 has, which along with the three towers makes it awkward to gauge exactly what any of them are reacting to.

Ships get swapped, the Drake returns to the site and leaves again, and Mick refocusses to scan for a second site of wrecks. I think the ship's return suggests a trap, but that has rarely stopped us taking shot anyway. Mick asks if we want to try, prompting Fin's reply that 'it's been a while since I lost a Tengu'. Whatever happens, our three covert strategic cruisers are probably not enough to overwhelm the Drake sufficiently, so I am sent home to get a more destructive ship. I remain concerned with the Cheetah's monitoring of the C3, though, and rather than head directly home, with a bit of time on my hands, I divert in to C4a to see what the pilots there are up to and hopefully misdirect the scout.

The C4a Cheetah and Drake have gone from d-scan, but a Bestower has replaced them. How exciting, maybe the hauler is collecting planet goo! I sweep d-scan around but can't place the hauler at a planet, so warp towards the tower. But the Bestower isn't at the tower either, making him elsewhere and vulnerable. I must find him. Oh, here she is, warping back from collecting planet goo. The hauler moves to a hangar in the tower, but not one that holds ships, and I watch expectantly to see if she'll empty her hold and go out for another run. Yes, ditch your goo and go out again. You know you want to. Yes, she does!

I watch the hauler move away from the hangar and align towards a customs office. The nearest customs office, in fact. I align my ship in that direction too, holding my speed until I see the Bestower enter warp. I'm right behind it and decloaking as I drop out of warp at the customs office. I decloak perhaps a little early, as the Bestower looks to be turning in a panic back towards the tower. A little early for me, still too late for the Bestower, as I burn hard towards my target, gaining a positive lock and activating my guns, and instead of bumping the Bestower I blast through the exploding ship.

My warp disruptor once again fails to snare the capsuleer's pod, despite it looking like I got a positive lock. I am beginning to wonder if my systems are malfunctioning. But never mind, as I loot and shoot the wreck of my latest victim to gain yet another expanded cargohold for our growing collection. And as I reload my guns it sounds like Mick and Fin are ready for me. If only I weren't in completely the wrong system. I head back to C3a, then home, and swap my Loki for a Nighthawk command ship at the tower. Mick is about to scan for a pair of Drakes and a Stabber cruiser, and would like a bit more damage to add to the assault. I am on my way back out of the home system as he resolves the position of the targets.

I jump to C3a and warp across to the C2 K162, but before I get there the Drakes and Stabber have warped clear, evading the attentions of Mick and Fin. I have little to do when landing on the wormhole but warp clear again, as I don't want to make my ship a sitting duck. I bounce around making safe spots, still aware of the Cheetah that hasn't been seen since coming from the C2 and its combat scanning probe. And, on the understanding that we have shown our hand fully now, it's time to call the operation over. There's a touch of disappointment in feeling the ambush was fluffed, but hunting in w-space is rarely straightforward and Mick managed to resolve both sites with some skill. There is also a small sense of accomplishment when, on the way home, I mention my admittedly soft kill of the Bestower.

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