Going after gassers

3rd August 2012 – 5.12 pm

Let's not mess up an easy kill today, shell we Penny? Assuming, of course, that I get another fat target like yesterday's miner. But in finding the miner after collapsing our static wormhole, and not scanning the class 3 w-space system for an exit, I may have inadvertently shut Shev out. I don't know for sure, but as no exploration bookmarks have been made yet it's a possibility. I should at least scan my way to empire space so that he can get back if he is stuck in a station.

Scanning sees all the gas in the home system has dissipated, and nothing else unwanted has drifted in to take its place. We still have some rocks and sites full of Sleepers, but nothing unmanageable, leaving me with just our static connection to explore beyond. Jumping in to C3a has a tower appear on my directional scanner but no ships, which is a fairly standard result. Warping around finds three towers in total, which is one more than on my previous visit three months ago, and they are in an unconventional configuration. One is fairly standard, another has hangars but no ship arrays and is owned by a one-member corporation, and the third is a tower protected only by an unpiloted battleship.

The Abaddon is the only ship I can see in the system, so I launch probes and scan. With such a quiet system I hope that the two anomalies and eight signatures hold more than the static exit to high-sec, but it doesn't look good. Even though my first hit is a wormhole it doesn't last long enough for me to warp to it, and when I resolve the exit to high-sec empire space only to find it at the end of its life I have to wonder where that first wormhole led. Rocks and gas, gas and rocks, until the last signature thankfully resolves to be wormhole, it's signal strength indicating an outbound connection.

A T405 connection to class 4 w-space is not just another wormhole. A C4 connection is enticing, as it will contain another wormhole to more w-space to continue the constellation at least one step further. Jumping in has a clear d-scan, and a blanket scan of the system shows me six anomalies and twelve signatures, but no ships. A tower sits empty around a planet, which I monitor as I sift through the signatures. No one turns up as I resolve what turns out to be the static wormhole first, spending the rest of my time ignoring rocks and gas. More w-space doesn't always mean more opportunity. And the wormhole from this C4 leads to a C3, which gives me a strange sense of deja vu.

In to C3b, and along with a tower I spy some ships. A Maller cruiser and jet-can could mean some gassing is happening, but what are the odds? A Drake battlecruiser and Cormorant destroyer could indicate Sleeper activity is being quelled, but a lack of wrecks makes that less likely. And a Buzzard covert operations boat without obvious matching probes probably means there is no scanning occurring. Looking for the tower using d-scan finds it soon enough, but without the Maller, Cormorant, and jet-can. There is gassing in progress! The hunt is on.

Warping to the edge of the system to launch probes finds a second tower, with a Reaper presumably in its shields, but that's okay. I made a safe spot out of d-scan range of any planet on my way here, so without even checking to see where the tower is or if the frigate is piloted I warp back to that spot to launch my probes. And with my probes launched and safely out of the system I pay a visit to the first tower, where I see the Drake and Buzzard unpiloted, and get a rough estimate of the distance to the Maller. Apparently the Cormorant has left, but as the cruiser remains I think it's safe to say I haven't been noticed.

The Maller is about 12 AU from the tower, which is a fair distance to try to scan him accurately. I note which planet the ladar site must be closest to and warp there, just as Aii wakes up and asks me what's happening. 'I'm hunting a gasser. Home, C3a, C4a, C3b. Bring an Onyx.' Always happy to come in hot, in his own words, Aii boards the heavy interdictor and starts navigating the constellation as I locate the Maller, still sucking in gas. I get a bearing the cruiser, then confuse myself on the range again, but arrange my probes ready for a scan.

I've taken long enough in finding the Maller that Aii is sitting on the wormhole to this system in C4a, so we're ready. I warp over to the wormhole, call for Aii to jump and hold his session change cloak, and hit 'scan'. Nothing. Nothing? Crap. I throw my probes back out of the system to be out of range of d-scan and compose myself. Aii confirms that the Onyx has a cloak fitted, so he breaks the session change cloak and activates the module one, and I warp back to the closer planet to try to find the Maller again. I managed to throw my probes directly upwards when making them disappear, which means I only need to bring them directly downwards and interrogate them along one plane to find the Maller this second time. And he's still there, still gassing.

I got the range wrong on my first scanning attempt, which was a bit of a newbie mistake to make, but I correct it this time. I push my probes away from me a little, if measurements in astronomical units can be considered 'a little', and warp back to the wormhole once satisfied. I'm ready again, and my clumsiness may have worked in our favour, as the Cormorant is back and with the Maller. Aii's Onyx should trap them both nicely, if I can get it right this time. Aii aligns towards the planet we're aiming for, to accelerate him in to warp, and I scan a second time. A solid hit on the Maller and Cormorant is just what we need.

My reactions are better than yesterday, that's for sure. I recognise the 100% hit on the two ships and immediately recall my probes, apparently having banished whatever fuzzy-headedness afflicted me the day before, and get everything moving smoothly. I call for Aii to decloak, confirm that the Onyx is free to warp, and send us both warping towards our targets. We get to the ladar site in time to see the Cormorant warp out. Whether that's because of luck and he was already leaving, or good reactions from seeing the Onyx on d-scan, we can't say. But the Maller has no such luck, and the HIC's warp bubble engulfs the cruiser for our entertainment.

It's a trivial matter to pop a gassing Maller using two combat ships. There is a pause after the pilot's pod is ejected in to space, but still trapped by the bubble, which maybe makes the capsuleer think he could pay his way out of dying. But no, I'm just waiting for Aii's slower sensors to lock on to the pod so we can share the vicious pleasure of creating a new corpse. Lock and pop, job's a good 'un. We scoop, loot, and shoot, gaining us even more expanded cargoholds and a bit of gas. I think it's more rewarding to harvest gas using guns and missiles than specific harvesting modules. Now let's get home before the galaxy resets.

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