Successful scanning sends us a ship

24th September 2012 – 5.03 pm

Fin's here, which is always a good sign. A lack of bookmarks may indicate she's currently gassing it up, but it turns out that she's just arrived and is launching scanning probes, just like me. That's just a coincidence, though, and we're probably not the same person. Yesterday's new pocket of gas has already been sucked up by Aii, which makes today's new pocket of gas a welcome sight, in a way. We also have new rocks and a K162 from class 2 w-space to go with our static wormhole to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system. I'll go backwards again.

I made a Bhaalgorn pilot squeal like a small kid the last time I was in this class 2 system, when I bombed the battleship for giggles and nearly got caught as a result. Good times, but all I find here today is a tower with an empty Bestower hauler in its force field. Worse still, the tower and ship are owned by blues. Still, other pilots could wander in to the system and try to steal its resources, so I take time to scan the five anomalies and ten signatures, although I bore quickly and end up looking only for other wormholes. I find them, too, as an obviously distant signature becomes a K162 from class 5 w-space, and some less obviously wormhole signatures are resolved as a static exit to high-sec empire space, two K162s from class 2 w-space that are at the end of their natural lifetimes, and a nifty outbound connection to class 2 w-space.

As the EOL wormholes are tagged as C2b and C2c I find myself jumping through the healthy outbound connection to C2d, where an Anathema appears on my directional scanner. He remains for longer than he should, making me wonder if the ship is empty and abandoned, but disappears just as that thought forms. I suppose not then. Opening the system map shows that there is nowhere to hide, and so no occupation, and the only interesting object on d-scan is a rather presumptuously named jet-can, requesting capsuleers 'contact us before settling here'. I'm sure pilots will heed that, sir. But I don't think too many corporations will want this system, as along with a K162 from class 3 w-space I resolve the static connections to lead to class 5 w-space and exit to null-sec k-space. Those won't be friendly neighbours.

I'm more interested in the K162 from class 3 w-space than the potential for diving head first in to a chain of class 5 systems, although an unoccupied system with a single mining drone littering empty space isn't much of a find. The tower that was present four months ago has been ripped to shreds, leaving me to scan once more to look for activity. A K162 from low-sec isn't terribly interesting, neither is the static exit to null-sec, but an A982 outbound connection to deadly class 6 w-space is. It is even more interesting when jumping to C6a sees ships and no tower, along with a few Sleeper wrecks. But the Proteus strategic cruiser, Legion strategic cruiser, Absolution command ship, and two Guardian logistic ships will be no match for the class of Sleepers found in these anomalies, so I can only suppose they are clearing a gravimetric or ladar site in preparation for harvesting the resources.

A Noctis salvager clears up the wrecks, there being only a handful pretty much confirming the location probably being a ladar site, and the fleet disappears. Sadly, they don't go before I have to move away from the wormhole, and although I am practiced at cloaking quickly I may well have appeared briefly to a vigilant fleet. But the ships go and I appear to be left alone, which is good considering there is essentially nowhere out of range of the site the fleet was in. I take the opportunity of the ships' absence to launch probes and blanket the system, revealing a whopping forty-three anomalies and forty signatures, but I don't scan yet. I want to see if any miners will come.

A ship appears on my blanket-scanning probes, but it's gone soon after. If the fleet is collapsing its connecting wormhole I should find out sooner rather than later, so I don't waste time waiting for ships that aren't coming, and I take what could be polarisation time to make a quick sweep for K162s. I find a wormhole that's not a K162, instead resolving the system's static connection to class 5 w-space, but a second attempt gets a K162 from more class 6 w-space. And moments after landing near the wormhole, my probes thrown back out of the system, the K162 flares. An Exequror cruiser appears and warps to what must be the ladar site, which looks like a juicy target, but he's followed by a Falcon ECM recon ship, who warps curiously to the system's fourth planet.

Maybe I was spotted, or maybe the Falcon is a precaution the fleet can spare as gas is hoovered in to the Exequror. Either way, I'm hunting the cruiser, and Fin's coming along to help. I suggest bringing a stealth bomber, rather than a heavy interdictor, because I think we should employ hit-and-run tactics, given the real possibility of a response. I'm a few systems deep in to the constellation, however, and it takes Fin a little time to recover her own gas and bring a Manticore my way, although that gives me time not only to use d-scan to get a bead on the Exequror but also triangulate its position. I loiter by the C6 K162 and get my probes in to position, warp to planet near the Exequror to check they are good, and then do it again at the K162 to C3b. They all line up, making me pretty confident I'll get the cruiser in one scan. It's a shame then that we may not get to shoot it.

As I check my probes from the C3b K162 as Fin approaches, a Buzzard covert operations boat appears, belonging to the C6ers and having scanned and discovered the entrance I used. They were clearly suspicious of the Loki strategic cruiser that blipped on d-scan as they cleared the ladar site of Sleepers. And now it looks like the Falcon will be sitting on this wormhole to monitor for traffic. That puts a damper on our ambushing plans, particularly as two Talos battlecruisers jump from C6b and warp to join the gasser. But maybe we can use this knowledge to our advantage. Fin's at the wormhole and ready to jump, and I am ready to scan for the Exequror. I am pretty sure I know what is expected, and what will happen, so I update Fin with a change of plans.

I warp across the system and tell Fin to get ready. She knows what to do. I call my probes in to scan, and Fin jumps in to the system, which will obviously register with the Falcon. I get a solid hit on the cruiser and recall my probes, telling Fin to warp as I do. But she's not heading to the ladar site. I have measured the C6er's expectations and updated our own, having Fin warp to join me on the K162 our target is using. Sure enough, we've faked them out. The Exequror warped out of the ladar site on seeing the probes, or on instructions of the Falcon seeing a Manticore jump and enter warp, but all he has done is leave his two battlecruiser escorts in an empty ladar site to enter our modified ambush. The Exequror drops out of warp on the K162, jumps, and is followed by my Loki and Fin's Manticore.

But it seems we were a bit too keen. We jump too early and the Exequror registers the extra wormhole flares before trying to clear the wormhole on the other side, letting him hold his session change cloak. We get ready to engage anyway, and I get a positive lock when the cloak inevitably drops, but the cruiser merely jumps back to C6a. And this is when I spot the error in my updated plan. We should have also anticipated this reaction and had one of us remain in C6a to intercept the cruiser's return. As it is, we don't know whether the escorts are now waiting for us on the other side of the wormhole, and we'll be as polarised as the Exequror if we jump to find out. I decide discretion is the better part of valour and call to hold in C6b whilst the polarisation timer runs down.

I am still calling this a minor victory. We may have goofed slightly in the details, but we outsmarted the wary and supposedly prepared fleet. Seeing the Exequror warp by itself to the wormhole where both Fin and I waited for it, as the two Talos battlecruisers patiently expected us to fall prey to them in the ladar site, was a moment of beauty. A slight modification and we probably would have popped the cruiser too. We'll know for the next time. For now, we return to C6a once possible polarisation effects are negated, not having any of the strategic cruisers from the many towers in C6b coming to welcome us in the meantime, and appear in empty space. If anyone was waiting for us, they aren't any more. The Taloses are even gone. If I had to guess, I'd say they are on the wormhole in C3b hoping to catch our exit.

The Exequror is still around, though, just not in the ladar site. I place him about 1 AU from a planet, and launch probes to try to catch him only to have the cruiser return to the wormhole and jump to C6b before I can get completely organised. Fin gives chase, but we were both a bit far from the wormhole to catch the cruiser in time. I don't regret not scanning the Exequror near the planet, though, as the Falcon was probably guarding it there, and as a Proteus decloaks on the K162 before long I can only assume that the strategic cruiser was waiting with it too. But the Proteus doesn't decloak to reveal itself arbitrarily. It's aiming for me. I prepared myself for the Exequror jumping back should Fin engage it and decloaked to negate the recalibration delay, only cloaking again when Fin said it got away. The Proteus saw me, aimed my way, and decloaked to try to reveal me. It works too, although I manage to manoeuvre out of the way and re-activate my cloak before I'm caught. I need to watch myself sometimes.

All the ships return to C6b slowly. The Proteus watches the Taloses come back from C3b and jump home, as does the Falcon, and Fin takes a moment to warp to the ladar site and pop the jet-can the Exequror was using to store his gas. All is quiet again, making it time to head homewards. It was a fun little hunt, even if no ships were lost on either side, and shows once again that if you can predict what the other side will do you will be at an advantage.

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