Stalking strategic cruisers

13th November 2012 – 5.06 pm

Glorious leader Fin saw some industrial ships in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system earlier. I interrupted her stalking by bringing her to a class 5 system connected to our home in the hopes that my ambush of a planet-gooing hauler would provoke a response. It didn't, and we wasted time watching ships being swapped. Now we're heading back to C3a in the hopes of finding actual activity, and not the fake kind we got duped in to monitoring. We jump through our static connection and warp to the tower, Fin nearly getting caught in a decent warp bubble, and although bubbles aren't a care for me I have my own problem in nearly ramming a tower defence.

Our ships remain unnoticed, mostly because the two pilots who were here earlier are now gone. That's a pity, but there still may be other pilots to find. I launch probes and scan, man. I scan. The fifteen signatures surrounding the two anomalies are nearly all gas, with three wormholes sprinkled in the mix. Fin scouts as I continue to scan, the three weakest signatures only resolving to be rocks, and reconnoitres the static exit to low-sec, a K162 from low-sec that's at the end of its life, and an N968 outbound connection to more class 3 w-space. She exits through the static wormhole to appear in Domain, and returns after bookmarking the K162 to head to C3b. Finished scanning, I follow behind.

I was only in C3b ten days ago, when nothing of interest happened, so I know where a tower should be and that the static wormhole will lead to low-sec. We launch probes and blanket the system, revealing three anomalies and six signatures, as I warp off to check the tower. Or I would, if only I would warp to the right planet. My confusion in landing in empty space is cleared when I warp across the system to see the tower remain, and settle down to scan. More wormholes are found, with a K162 from class 2 w-space and a second from class 5 w-space accompanying the static connection. Fin goes C5wards, and I jump to C2a.

Three Tengu strategic cruisers appear on a first check of my directional scanner, along with a tower. A quick adjustment gets me excited, as I see a bunch of Sleeper wrecks in the system, and I punch my passive scanner to quickly find all the anomalies nearby, alerting Fin to the active pilots as I do. Another update to d-scan sees a Noctis salvager appear, a narrow beam putting him at the easily found tower. It seems these pilots are local and shooting Sleepers in their home system. I locate the anomaly the Tengus are in as Fin heads home to get a ship-killing Legion strategic cruiser.

I have a couple of minutes to kill before turning to the ships, so explore the system. I engaged a Mammoth hauler on a high-sec wormhole the last time I was here, mostly to cause disruption, and although I have three towers listed for then there is only one now. Oh, that's right, they were moving out, hence the hauler trips to high-sec. Satisfied that there are no obvious surprises waiting for us I warp to the tower, where the Noctis no longer sits. He's with the Tengus, and as I have the anomaly noted I warp in to see the four ships together, the strategic cruisers running remote-repair systems and keeping the Noctis safe. That's okay, as Fin is keen to catch a Tengu or two in preference to the salvager.

Three Tengus each repairing the others could be tricky to disrupt, but with some strategic use of capacitor neutralisers and perhaps some panicky flight by our targets we should manage it. Running remote repairs is heavy on capacitor usage, so even a moderate drain should have the ships run in to trouble. First we have to get in to position and tackle them. The first anomaly is cleared of Sleeper wrecks by the salvager before I even reach it, but I get to see the four ships. The Three Tengus warp off as one, letting me follow, leaving the Noctis as it cloaks in the cleared anomaly.

Entering the second anomaly sees the strategic cruisers huddled around the cosmic anomaly again, which greatly simplifies our ambush attempt. Fin is warping to the C2's K162 now, and I explain the situation. I am in a monitoring point and ready to warp in to the cluster of ships. The targets are sitting in the heart of the anomaly, and that's her focus. I hand command over to her now, as Fin is in the killer ship and will be calling the shots. She enters the system, moves from the wormhole and cloaks, and pauses to gauge the reaction. 'No movement here.'

All looks good. I'm unsure, but ready to pounce. Fin's warping to the anomaly, saying she'll decloak when she gets close, to absorb the recalibration delay. And as Fin's on her way, I push my own ship forwards, warping to be close to our targets but without forcing my cloak to drop. My warp engines decelerate and I hold my cloak, waiting for Fin's Legion to appear in front of me, so that I neither startle the pilots nor take excessive damage early. But I don't see Fin, and even though my ship is slowing the Tengus continue to move. I watch as the three ships warp past me, still with no sign of Fin's Legion, the silence broken by strained despair from my partner.

Fin warped to the wrong point, moving to where I was positioned, some two hundred kilometres outside of the anomaly, instead of to the cosmic anomaly. Her decision to decloak early was sound, but didn't help when she appeared so obviously far from our targets. Mistakes happen, and although we miss the chance of a neat kill this isn't a particularly bad mistake to make. Besides, I managed to get close enough to the Tengus to tackle one of them, if only I'd been bold enough to do so, or had known sooner that Fin was behind me. But her ship doesn't appear on my overview, to avoid blue-on-blue aggression, and I was concentrating on the ships in front of me, so I didn't realise what was happening. It doesn't matter. The hunt was exciting all the same.

One Tengu back at the tower gets swapped for a Hound stealth bomber. A second is renamed as the system's star, and goes off-line with the third. The Noctis becomes a Prowler transport, and warps away, not to be seen again. The Hound doesn't move. We've scared the constellation in to inaction, which I suppose is an accomplishment, and although I wonder if the C5ers I poked earlier are waiting to ambush our return we get home without passing another ship. It's an anticlimactic ending to the evening, but we had a hunt and know what we did wrong. We can do better next time.

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