Making a target of myself

2nd December 2012 – 3.00 pm

There's nothing much to do at home. Some anomalies, two signatures. Rocks and the static wormhole. I'll see if our neighbouring class 3 w-space system holds some entertainment. A Loki strategic cruiser, Hound stealth bomber, and Cheetah covert operations boat is an interesting mix of ships, and any of them being active could offer some opportunity. Two towers are also visible on my directional scanner from the K162, though, so there's no guarantee of any pilots, let alone activity, and a lack of wrecks makes me think that the Loki at least isn't up to anything. Let me find the towers.

One tower has no ships, the other no pilots. It looks like I remain alone in space. I launch probes and scan, revealing one anomaly and six signatures, which hopefully will hold more wormholes than only the static exit to null-sec I found here fifteen months ago. But, no, the other signatures are rocks, gas, gas, and rocks. A Buzzard cov-ops appears and disappears at the tower as I resolve the static wormhole, and although it looks like he only appeared to update his skill queue, I wasn't paying as much attention as I could have. He's gone now, anyway.

Checking the null-sec connection takes me to an empty system in the Tenal region, where ratting and scanning bags me a cruiser and resolves merely a radar site, although there are plenty of anomalies full of Gurista rats and drones. I want to head home and collapse our static wormhole, but the null-sec radar site tempts me to bring a Drake back to see what loot I can recover. I pause jumping back to C3a, as core probes are on d-scan, but decide to ignore them and continue. And the answer to my query is no loot, as my sub-optimally fit battlecruiser doesn't quite hold up against three waves of rats at once, when I pop the wrong ships to start with.

Never mind, as none of the rats are preventing my ship's warping, and I return to C3a and head home, registering the core scanning probes still visible on d-scan in our neighbouring system. Rather than collapse our wormhole I think I'll see what happens with those probes. I won't wait in an interceptor, partly because that almost guarantees no one will jump through our wormhole, and partly because scanning in strategic cruisers has become prevalent, and my little Malediction would only have to flee as fast as its micro warp drive could take it. Which is pretty fast. Instead, I loiter by our static wormhole, in the home system, in my cloaky Loki.

It takes a little while, but the scout finishes scanning and jumps to our system. The wormhole flares, I wait for the pilot to shed his session change cloak, and the Buzzard from C3a appears. Well, a Buzzard, as I have no idea if its the same one, but still a Buzzard. The cov-ops moves and cloaks, and I think it's just fine if he wants to take a look around our system. He can even scan, as there's not much to find, and I think I have enough time to hit our tower, swap to my Malediction, and return to the wormhole to wait for the Buzzard to go home.

I jump to C3a in my interceptor and position myself in the middle of the wormhole. There's no point waiting for the pilot in the home system, as he would jump through and I'd have to give chase. And by waiting in C3a, if the Buzzard takes time to scan, I will be able to engage on this side and give chase back through the wormhole without polarising myself, whereas my target will become polarised if he has to jump back to flee. I also know that he will be coming back this way, instead of guessing that maybe a pilot will explore through a wormhole. The only trouble now is having to intercept a cov-ops, which is tricky, even in an interceptor.

I don't have long to wait before the Buzzard returns to his home system, the wormhole flare alerting me to the fact. I get my systems hot, micro warp drive active, and watch for the ship. There he is. I go for a target lock and fail, the Buzzard cloaking, but I have my Malediction pointed his way and accelerating hard. I have a good feeling about this, but one that dissipates as quickly as I hit the ten kilometre mark away from the wormhole. I somehow managed to miss bumping the Buzzard and disrupting his cloak. Oh well, it happens.

Rather than jump home immediately I reset my position and keep watch on d-scan. I am in no immediate trouble, the ships at the tower remain the unpiloted three from earlier, and I am in no danger of becoming polarised. I can wait. I keep d-scan updated, and after a couple of minutes see a Manticore new to the system. I didn't see the Buzzard appear, which I would expect from it returning to the tower to re-ship, but maybe I have just been a bit lazy in keeping d-scan current. And, you know what, I quite fancy making my interceptor a target for a stealth bomber.

I hold on the wormhole and wait. The Manticore doesn't hide itself, not even when warping to greet me, which I consider a mistake. I can see the direction it comes, its range, and aim myself appropriately long before it launches its bomb. Even so, I don't make best use of this information, instead waiting for the bomb to be launched and land on top of me before moving. I am cautious about lighting my micro warp drive and flaring my signature radius significantly, which would increase the bomb's damage. But I am not in a normal fast ship. The Malediction can hit close to 5 km/s, which is easily enough to burn out of the fifteen kilometre blast radius of the bomb before its ten second fuse runs down. But, like I say, I'm being cautious.

I watch the bomb approach, but don't sit still and do nothing. I move to engage the Manticore, which even under normal speed closes the gap to be within warp disruption range before the detonation. And it's a big blast. The Manticore locks on and target-paints my tiny ship, making the explosion more impressive, and it takes out my Malediction's shields and most of the armour. If only he hadn't used an electron bomb but the kinetic version that the Manticore gets a bonus for using, I may have popped. I'm glad I don't, and not just because of the obvious reason. Sad Panda, my Malediction, has been with me for a long time. I wouldn't want to lose her to a silly mistake.

My reactions are a little slow. The bomb's hit distracts me a little, and it takes a couple of volleys of torpedoes to wake me up. I activate my micro warp drive and get to top speed, closing with the Manticore in the blink of an eye, its torpedoes now spending their entire flight time trying to catch up with me, and failing. I get my launchers spewing rockets at the stealth bomber as I buzz around it, inflicting significant damage and receiving none. And then I run away. Or, at least, that's what it looks like.

I will blame sticky keys, as for some reason my targeting systems lock on to the wormhole and my command to orbit the Manticore is instead interpreted to mean for my interceptor to orbit the wormhole. It must look like I'm running away to the other pilot, because I dash away from him at full speed, sitting at 30% armour. A mistake like this in any other ship would have been imperceptible, but moving at top speed in an interceptor has minor mistakes amplified to be very noticeable indeed. I quickly try to cancel the commands and revert to orbiting the bomber.

I get my Malediction turned around, though, and am easily back in range of the Manticore before it could even think about warping clear. Once more I am orbiting the bomber, its torpedoes still unable to catch up with me, as my rockets shred shields, armour, and hull. The Manticore explodes. Somehow, even in my interceptor, I miss catching the pilot's ejected pod, and I watch as it warps back to the local tower. That's cool, as this was a good fight, if quick, and in this case I am glad I missed the Buzzard first.

I loot and shoot the wreck, returning afterwards to sit on the wormhole, although feeling a little more vulnerable than before. My shields are recovering after the bombing, and have been since I turned on my MWD, as I really didn't take another hit from the chasing torpedoes, but my armour is depleted. Watching d-scan has a Tengu appear in the system, the strategic cruiser sitting alongside the escaped pod, which makes him a new contact. It's time to make a tactical withdrawal. I return home, repair the Malediction, and swap back to my Loki. I loiter on our static connection, not really expecting to do any more and just winding down after the fight. No one jumps through to see what I'm up to, so after a while I hide and go off-line, no doubt leaving the C3 pilots with the fear of Penny in them.

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