Catching a cruising cov-ops

6th October 2012 – 3.12 pm

I should probably get that replacement Falcon recon ship we need, but scanning calls to me. Our current constellation may seem superficially dull, with just a class 3 w-space system holding four connections to empire space, but those empire systems could hold their own connections to adventure. As much as I realise we ought to have a Falcon, and that I shouldn't leave necessary logistics to others, my exploration itch still needs scratching.

I jump my covert Loki strategic cruiser from one high-sec system, where I just got some nice loot from a Sansha frigate, back to w-space and warp across to exit to one of the two low-sec systems available. Launching probes and scanning reveals a healthy six signatures, which resolve to give me some options. An outbound connection to class 1 w-space is always good to see when flying a strategic cruiser, the K162 from class 3 w-space could hold activity, a radar site can be ignored, and although the outbound connection to class 5 w-space is interesting it has been stressed to half-mass has probably seen all its action already. I choose to visit C1a first.

My directional scanner is clear from the wormhole in C1a, with only one planet in range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, showing five anomalies, five signatures, and two ships. Judging by the position of the ship signatures they are probably both sat in a tower's force field, and a bit of exploring shows this to be the case. But the two Hurricane battlecruisers are piloted, which holds some promise. And they are joined by a Cheetah covert operations boat warping in to the tower. I don't see any probes, though, so either he's just finished scanning or is returning from scouting elsewhere.

A fourth ship appearing on my combat scanning probes is interesting, more so because d-scan doesn't reach to wherever it is, and loitering outside the tower doesn't bring him to me. Another blanket scan confirms the ship is still in the system and still not coming to the tower, so I warp in its general direction to try to identify it. Naturally, the mystery ship disappears before I get close, and the Cheetah has gone too. I'm left with the two Hurricanes at the tower and some curious movements I'm not privy to.

I may as well scan the inner system for wormholes. The Cheetah may be around, as could another cloaked ship, but at least the battlecruisers are too far away to see my probes. One wormhole pops up quickly, as it would with only five signatures to scan, and I warp to see a static exit to low-sec that's reaching the end of its life. I move my probes on, picking up a magnetometric site, as a Cheetah decloaks at the wormhole I just happen to be sitting on. But the cov-ops isn't close to the wormhole, and has decided to close the distance by dropping his cloak and burning towards it. Maybe something other than the wormhole is reaching the end of its life.

It looks like I can approach the Cheetah on a decent intercept course, and even though I realise the cov-ops will only have to cloak to avoid my attention—which my recalibration delay would give adequate time to do—I decide to take a shot at it. I move my Loki towards the Cheetah and wait until we are about thirty kilometres apart, then strike. I decloak, activate my sensor booster and micro warp drive, and burn towards my target. The seconds of recalibration tick down and still the Cheetah remains visible, still gunning for the wormhole, letting me gain a positive lock.

I start shooting the tiny ship but the blows are glancing, because of our almost orthogonal paths. But, before long, I am cruising behind the Cheetah and we are almost aligned, at which point my guns rake through the remaining shields and armour in a single blast, ripping the hull apart a couple of seconds later.

The cov-ops doesn't make it to the wormhole. The ejected pod doesn't escape either, perhaps still hoping that it would take more than the session change timer to lock on and pop him, but autocannons are brutal against pods, and a new corpse is born to space.

I scoop, loot, and shoot, bagging me more than the usual expanded cargoholds of planet gooers, with a covert operations cloak and Sisters expanded probe launcher being nice finds in the wreckage. I cloak my ship again and warp away, only seeing the reaction of one of the Hurricanes warping in far too late under my combat scanning probes. But I get a second reaction, as a minute later my neocom blinks. I've got mail. It's not spam! I think maybe it's some more hate mail, but it turns out the podded pilot knows the score. 'I was careless.'

I can't argue with that. But it's also not the whole story. 'And I got lucky', I reply. A few seconds either way and the Cheetah would have been fine, either because I wasn't there in time, had warped away, or didn't react before the ship could reach the wormhole. Still, we make our own luck to some extent, and I chose to swap the potential of ganging up on Hurricanes for a shot at a cov-ops frigate. I didn't know the ship was worth ninety million ISK, or that the pilot's head was worth twice that. I just wanted a pretty explosion and new corpse for my collection.

Returning to the local tower sees the two battlecruisers back doing nothing, and joined shortly after by a new Cheetah and their own Loki. The Cheetah moves out of the force field, launches probes, and moves back in to the safe embrace of the tower. It seems that my entrance will soon be found and we are now outnumbered. I would say it's time to leave this system behind me, particularly as I have more options to explore.

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