Ship-spotting and hauler-popping

7th September 2012 – 5.29 pm

It seems our sister system had fun with our linking wormhole after I left yesterday. They baited a fleet that was trying to close the wormhole, the fleet not realising that owning both systems gave our pilots increased boldness and a second staging point, and successfully routed them with some good kills. Now let's see what remains of home after that ruckus. Quite a lot, surprisingly, with seven signatures under my combat probes where I have only one bookmarked. Two rock sites, two gas sites, and a radar site leaves just the static wormhole and one way to go, so I jump to our neighbouring class 3 system to explore.

My directional scanner is clear from the K162, letting me launch probes, perform a blanket scan, and warp clear relatively safely. Two anomalies, nine signatures, one tower, and my notes from six months ago have me looking for an exit to low-sec. I resolve gas, rocks, a magnetometric site, and three wormholes. One of the wormholes didn't look chubby enough to be a K162, so even though I'm expecting to see an outbound connection I only find two K162s. I suppose I wasn't paying much attention when scanning. The K162s come from null-sec k-space and class 4 w-space, giving me an obvious direction to continue my roam.

C4a has a tower, Orca industrial command ship, Chimera carrier, and Cheetah covert operations boat on d-scan, and even though I'm spat in to the system seven kilometres from the wormhole and on the cosmic signature I'll keep an open mind. But, no, there are no pilots to be found when I locate the tower. I get back to scanning, looking for K162s, to have nineteen anomalies and twenty-six signatures light up my probes. I'm sure the locals don't want this mess, and I spend a minute warping to activate all of the anomalies so that they'll automatically despawn within a few days. No need to thank me, chaps, it's just what I do.

Sifting through the signatures in C4a has only rocks and gas, and I'm not wasting time looking for non-existent outbound connections, so I head back to C3a and out to null-sec. Hullo, that's a lot of pilots. Over a hundred capsuleers populate the local communication channel, and although there aren't many ships on d-scan I spot an Erebus. It's not often I get to see a titan so start to look for it when the local population drops by half in an instant. Something must be happening, and I go to look for that instead. I don't find it, which is probably because the pilots left the system, but I do find a second titan, this one an Avatar sitting in a tower with two bugs for company.

What the... The Avatar projects a blue wobbly field and, moments later, a Loki strategic cruiser is disintegrated by a red beam and shocking sound. A minute later a Guardian logistic ships suffers the same fate, which I hope is actually a jump bridge effect, having never seen one before. It looks painful. Still, nothing is happening here that I can affect, and I'd rather not arouse too much suspicion by being conspicuous, so head back to the wormhole and in to C3a once I see that the Erebus has disappeared from d-scan. And before I can warp across C3a to exit to low-sec to scan, a stealth bomber appears in the system.

Warping to the tower finds the Manticore, and I alert Aii to its presence, in case the ship is headed the way of my gas-harvesting colleague. But it seems like the Manticore's only just got here, and is joined not soon after by a second pilot in a Viator transport ship. I watch the pair for a while, keeping Aii up to date with absolutely nothing happening, until the Viator finally moves. The transport only gets as far as a hangar, which is pretty dull, but more interesting is the other pilot's swap from the Manticore to a Badger, and the hauler's immediate exit from the tower towards a customs office.

I'm right behind the planet gooer, dropping out of warp at the customs office to decloak and brutally gank the industrial ship. The pilot ejects early, seeing no reason to go down with the Badger, and the ship pops, the pod flees, and I loot and shoot the wreck to add another expanded cargohold to my collection. Safely back at the tower, the pilot isn't too happy with my ambush but understands that it's part of w-space life. He's back in the Manticore, the Viator pilot swaps to a Helios cov-ops , and a third pilot in a Helios cov-ops appears. All three warp out of the tower and cloak, leaving little to do but watch empty space.

I choose to watch empty space near the U210 exit to low-sec, as it looked like the Manticore may have come this way, perhaps expecting me to exit through the wormhole. And even though I see no ships come or go, the Manticore appears on d-scan. He not only appears, but persists. Maybe he's taunting me to find him, in a peculiar way, wondering if he can spot my scanning probes or lure me in to a trap. And who am I to deny him? I warp out, launch my probes again, and return to look for him using d-scan.

I get a fair bearing and range on the Manticore, but I really don't try to place my probes with any real accuracy, as I'm not expecting to catch the stealth bomber. After all, it can cloak and warp away easily enough. Still, I scan once, twice, and on the third attempt get a solid hit on the small ship. I recall my probes, bookmark the Manticore's position, and warp in to see what's happening. The stealth bomber's sitting in empty space, doing nothing. If this is a trap it's pretty ballsy, and I've already called Aii in for reinforcements. With Aii's tengu strategic cruiser in warp to me I decloak, burn towards the Manticore, and lock on.

The Manticore doesn't react, unless you call exploding to gunfire a reaction, although the pod flees almost instantly and before Aii even reaches me. Sorry about that. But almost instantly? I think I can still catch the pod for you, Aii. I bring my probes back in, scan pretty much where the Manticore was, and get a 100% hit on the pod. That was an emergency warp, the pilot not in control of his pod. I warp to the pod, call for Aii as I disrupt its warp engines, and together we create a new corpse. Considering the 160 Miskie value of this pilot's head, I don't think he will be pleased when he wakes up in a clone vat tomorrow.

I'm not quite sure why people are lingering in space waiting for me to find them, and it kind of feels like cheating. But I'm not going to complain, at least not until it happens to me. I think I need to be careful about how long I leave it between getting any kills and going off-line. And so I do. I head home, dump our new corpsicle friend and the looted modules from the Manticore in our hangar, and hide in a corner of the system for a suitably extended period before going off-line to get some rest.

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