Catching up with a Catalyst

8th November 2012 – 5.01 pm

Let's see what I can find today. Not much, it seems. Our neighbouring class 3 w-space system is unoccupied and inactive, with just the skeleton of a tower around a distant planet, and only has the exit to low-sec empire space to go with drifting rocks and gas. Low-sec today is a system in the Genesis region, bustling with pilots and no more wormholes. As I reach the end of the constellation early it seems like a good time to collapse our static connection and try again. That, or snuggle up on the sofa and watch a film, so I'm hoping I'm not wasting my time getting in to the Orca.

After the round trip with the industrial command ship I push a Widow through the wormhole, the black ops ship not destabilising the connection as it returns home. Which, again, is excellent, as it means two fat Orcas is enough to crash the wormhole as I return home, with as little risk as there can be with killing a connection. Scanning for the replacement wormhole and jumping to the new C3a has a tower on my directional scanner with ships! Still, I doubt the mix of a Megathron battleship, Phobos heavy interdictor, and Thanatos carrier are up to much, particularly with no obvious wrecks in the system.

A seventh visit to this C3 perhaps makes it my most visited w-space system, through different wormholes, and my notes take me to the tower to see all three ships unpiloted as expected. I warp out, launch probes, and start scanning the six anomalies and nine signatures. Rocks, a wormhole, a wormhole that feels like an outie, a second chubbier wormhole, a radar site, another probable outie wormhole, a fourth wormhole, and finally gas. I leave the outbound wormholes untouched for now, not wanting to open them until I have to, and hit the chubbier connections. The first is the static exit to low-sec, which leads me to bookmark a K162 in the Kador region. The other two chubby wormholes are both K162s from null-sec k-space, which I don't care to visit at the moment.

The wormholes I took to be outbound connections indeed are, one leading to class 2 w-space and one to class 3 w-space, which are both good options. I choose the C2 first, for also offering a second w-space connection that the C3 won't guarantee. All is clear on d-scan on entering C2a, with just the one planet out of range. A blanket scan reveals one anomaly, seven signatures, and two ships, which turn out to be an Imicus frigate and Catalyst destroyer, both piloted, at a tower around that distant planet. This is looking good, particularly as my notes indicate this C2 having static connections to class 1 w-space and high-sec, as the pilots could easily become active in the home system or abroad in the C1. Even better, all of the signatures are in the inner system, far enough away from the tower that I can resolve them without my probes being seen. I get to work, keeping watch for any movement.

One radar site, two rock sites, three wormholes. The two static connections are joined by a K162 from more class 2 w-space, making me feel very optimistic about this constellation. And reconnoitring the connections shows me scanning probes in the system, cores, thankfully, so that I probably remain unknown, and either from the Imicus or a scout active from the second C2. Even better, the Catalyst is out of the tower. But where? I wish I could tell. Sure, some dumb ship has some useless vanes re-attached, but repeated messages and bug reports about system map labels preventing bookmark interaction continue to be ignored, a real problem that makes w-space navigation and interception more than frustrating.

D-scan is showing me the Catalyst sitting on an 'unstable wormhole' in the system map, but which wormhole? There are five of them, and I can't access the information purposely stored in my bookmark data because of labels that cannot be disabled. The best I can do is guess at one, align my ship, and see which way it points. So very futuristic. At least my first guess is lucky, and I'm aligned in the right direction, so I warp towards the wormhole to C1a in the hopes of seeing the Catalyst sitting vulnerable. I see the Catalyst, but not exactly vulnerable.

The destroyer appears but, not seeing the wormhole flare and not knowing if he has a cloak fitted, I don't engage. Unsurprisingly, he warps back to the tower within a few seconds, and undoubtedly before I could have got a positive lock. If I had to guess, I'd say he was cloaked and aligning himself, taking care scouting w-space in a ship that doesn't lend itself to w-space scouting. With any luck, he is getting ready to be active in C1a, where I can catch him more easily. And Fin can help too, turning up and bringing her ship my way, after giving her a quick sitrep.

I take my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser back to the tower, to lurk outside the force field, waiting for the ships to make another move. But I am drawn away when Fin enters the system and sees a pod on d-scan. She checks the wormholes and finds nothing, so I return to the inner system to help look for the pod, which probably doesn't care that core probes are whizzing around, at which point the Catalyst reappears on d-scan. He's out of the tower again, and probably reconnoitring another wormhole. Guessing he'll be on another of the K162s, still scouting the connections the I'm supposing the Imicus is scanning, I warp to the K162 from C2a, as does Fin.

I warn Fin not to engage, as I know how tempting it is to pounce, saying that he could be cloaked and aligned, making his escape easy. But as I land I see the wormhole flare, which changes the situation. The Catalyst landed here, jumped out, and has jumped back. That makes him polarised, and very vulnerable indeed. Before the wormhole settles I have my Loki decloaked and my sensor booster active, telling Fin to engage, as I watch for the Catalyst's appearance. There he is, perhaps realising that the session change cloak won't do anything for him now, and I claw at him with my targeting systems.

A positive lock. My guns activate at the same time as the warp disruptor, and the destroyer's shields, armour, and hull disintegrate with little resistance. The Catalyst explodes to give me a new target. In my haste to capture the pod I lock on to the wormhole by mistake, a split-second before the pod. But I see this and react. The wormhole has a much fatter signature than the pod, so is locked more quickly. I hold off getting my weapons hot as I correct my mistake, dropping the positive lock on the wormhole as soon as it is made, then getting my guns and point hot as my targeting systems bear down on the pod. Got him. He's going nowhere but to a clone vat somewhere in empire space.

I scoop, loot, and shoot, ending up with a corpse that Fin notes was worth five times more than a ship. That was a nice little kill, even if I wonder if maybe we could have caught him in something bigger. Still, it feels like I've been through a dry spell recently, and you take what you can get. And that pod is persisting on d-scan, despite all that's been going on around it.

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