One in three

18th December 2012 – 5.15 pm

I won't get the same neighbouring class 3 w-space system three days in a row, so I won't see my new chum again. I can't say I'm disappointed. The corporation mostly did nothing. Even so, I'm always interested to see what I'll stumble across each day, so I launch probes, resolve our static wormhole, and jump to C3a. It's not yesterday's system, but it should perhaps be familiar, what with this being my sixth visit to this C3. Then again, my last visit was ten months ago, and I can barely remember what I had for lunch. A sammich, I think.

My notes point me towards a tower, which is potentially the one my directional scanner is showing me from the K162, and an exit to low-sec. There are no visible ships, but rather than launch probes in range of a pilot coming on-line or returning to the tower, I warp out to a distant planet. I bump in to no more towers or ships on my journey out, and I launch probes presumably with no one noticing. I throw them out of the system and arrange a blanket scan, warping my Loki strategic cruiser to where my notes suggest the tower should be.

The tower remains where I left it, and my probes show me a system that doesn't look regularly visited, with sixteen anomalies, eleven signatures, and a curious four ships. The ships are clustered around another planet on a different edge of this fairly big solar system, and it's possible a second tower has been installed. I warp across to find out, but instead of finding a second tower with some empty ships I see a Retriever and three Procurer mining barges. And here's me with combat scanning probes already covertly launched. How convenient.

I narrow down the bearing of the mining operation using d-scan until the ships are in a tight five-degree beam, and then gauge their distance from me. I put them pretty much 1·5 AU distant, and almost on the ecliptic plane, which makes it easy to arrange my probes. I align one probe with a 1 AU range between me and the miners, and a second with a 0·5 AU range with its sphere slicing the first probe's box. The miners should be right in the centre of that second box. Most of them, anyway. It looks like the Retriever's retreated.

That still leaves three Procurers mining away. I go for a scan and get a perfect result. Later examination of the scan reveals just how deliciously good it was, with the ships lit green right in the middle of the central probe, with their ranges reported as 1·50 AU. But all I need to know is that I can bookmark and warp to their position, as I recall my probes to get them off d-scan as quickly as possible. Warping in, I aim to drop a little short of the miners, as I know my systems will have to adjust to the sudden appearance of big rocks, and I'd prefer to control my appearance. And all looks good.

The Procurers are clumped together, stationary, acting like there isn't a cloaked miner killer ten kilometres away. I'll have to correct that. I start to approach, pondering how best to disrupt the warp drive of one and hopefully bump one other, to see if I can pop more than one of the three ships. I have no web module on my Loki, so my technical demonstration of holding two ships with one point won't work today. And I have to accelerate my plans a little early, as a big rock between me and the barges interferes with my cloak, revealing me, so I accelerate my Loki accordingly, burning towards my targets.

I lock on to the ships, pointing one to keep him from running, and ramming a second, to knock him out of alignment. The third flees a few seconds later, ignored by my attentions. My guns pepper the first ship's shields as the second no doubt continues to try to run, and he enters warp before my too-tentative attempt at ramming him again makes contact. I suppose it doesn't really matter, as my guns are taking a while chewing through the trapped Procurer, and I doubt I could have kept bumping the other ship long enough.

I have one ship in my grasp. It is a formality to pop it, although I keep watchful eye on d-scan in case help comes to free him. No one comes, and the Procurer explodes. I aim to catch the ejected pod, only for me to realise that my impromptu decloaking disrupted my normal operating procedure, and my sensor booster isn't active. Damn, the pod warps clear a split-second before I am able to crack it open. It would have been really close had I remembered about the sebo.

Never mind. I loot and shoot the wreck, and the canister nearby that probably holds rocks, because I can, and reload and retreat. I feel good about the hunt for a few minutes, as I realise that the miners aren't local to the C3, then realise that I only got one of the three ships, and not even the pod that came with it. In earlier days, I would have swapped boats and dropped an Onyx on the small fleet, the heavy interdictor's warp bubble preventing all ships and pods from fleeing, giving them plenty of time to relish their inevitable slaughter and reactivation in a new clone.

Scouting in a strategic cruiser is a much more flexible arrangement, particularly when scanning takes me several systems away from home and changing ships becomes impractical. But they are not the best ship for every situation. Dropping short in front of the Procurers, I could have taken a moment to see they were all blissfully unaware of having been scanned, and not running, and safely gone to swap for a HIC. It may not have worked, perhaps having the Onyx spotted in warp on its way to the miners, but it would have been more exciting.

Still, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for the successful hunt. I shouldn't take that away from myself. Now I pop probes out again and scan the system properly, finding five more rock fields, two gas pockets, a static exit to low-sec, and a K162. I was already thinking about leaving any K162 alone, on the assumption that it brought the miners here, partly because of the threat of repercussions, but mostly because they would be expecting me and probably not come out to play again. But warping to it sees that the K162 comes from low-sec empire space, and warping to the static exit shows that to be at the end of its life, which narrows down my options.

I poke out to low-sec through the K162—halved in mass from the mining operation—where I see two of the three miners in the local comms channel, and one more capsuleer in the same corporation. Maybe he's the Retriever pilot. But they are not on the wormhole or visible on d-scan, so I ignore them and consider scanning for more wormholes. No, I won't scan. My time is now probably better spent crashing our static wormhole and uncovering a new constellation. I've had my fun in this one.

  1. 2 Responses to “One in three”

  2. This is one of the few situations in which a Stealth Bomber may be preferable to a T3 cruiser. Odds are a bomb (haven't tested this post miner-buff, tbh) would have annihilated the Procurers, leaving only the Retriever to be pointed and torpedoed. Still, nice work.

    By Gwydion Voleur on Dec 19, 2012

  3. Yeah, I really should have realised I could have done better in a different ship. Popping one miner is fun, but getting them all is serious business.

    By pjharvey on Dec 21, 2012

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