Looking for a Noctis and finding a Sleeper

24th January 2013 – 5.17 pm

I need to get home. This new clone is already itching from being in empire space, surrounded by so many other capsuleers all talking freely in public channels. Weirdos. I wake Constance up, my life-line to the home w-space system, only for her to roll over and go back to sleep when she sees our glorious leader already scanning for an exit. Fin's in our neighbouring class 3 system, and has resolved the static exit to low-sec. That should be good enough for me, even if the wormhole leads to a system in The Bleak Lands and is eighteen hops from Jita, where I casually stopped for a bite to eat.

I have a new clone, new implants, and a replacement Devoter, having lost my pod and the heavy interdictor after making a naive fitting decision. C'est la vie. I undock, autopilot set, and warp to the first stargate along the route home. Hop, hop, hop. How will low-sec treat me? Like a ghost. Of course, it helps when Fin scouts ahead of me, but there is nothing and no one waiting on the stargates, and it's a simple matter to enter w-space and return to relying on my directional scanner to show me nothing and make me paranoid about everything.

Home again, I stow the Devoter in our hangar and swap to my cloak Loki strategic cruiser, so that Fin and I can go roaming for targets. The low-sec connection wasn't the only wormhole Fin resolved in C3a, there being two links to class 5 w-space too, one K162 and one outbound. We pick one each, warp off in different directions from our K162—I assume, as we are both cloaked—and, well, I stop short. The wormhole I land near is pulsating quite noisily for such a tiny disruption of space-time. It seems that the pilots on the other side have made an effort to kill the wormhole, pushing it to a critically destabilised state.

I hold near the wormhole for a few minutes, wondering if the C5ers are going to throw another ship through to try to finish the job, hoping that they get as unlucky as me earlier and become isolated in this C3. But they're more cautious, or less motivated, and apparently decide to leave the wormhole not-quite-collapsed. Fin's wormhole is healthy, at least, and it leads to the system where a while back I miss catching a warp-stabilised Noctis salvager in a ladar site, and then bump in to its baity destroyer replacement. There's no one home today, but, then, the ships we encountered before weren't local either.

Neither of us really fancy diving down a chain of class 5 w-space at this hour, and consider heading home happy enough with my return. But my notes from the previous visit to C5a help change our minds, as I see that the system has a static connection to class 3 w-space. That should terminate the constellation nice and soon. And, as Fin says, 'we would be remiss if we did not at least check it'. Quite so. We launch probes and scan. Fourteen anomalies and fifteen signatures get whittled down between the two of us, Fin resolving a couple of K162s from more class 5 w-space, me finding a K162 from null-sec, and both ignoring plenty of gas, before the static wormhole is eventually discovered.

I jump to C3b to take a look around. D-scan is clear from the K162, a blanket scan reveals ten anomalies and thirteen signatures, and my notes point me towards a tower that turns out to be heavily bubbled. It's all a bit mundane. Fin, on the other hand, has poked through to one of the class 5 systems and has found a Tengu and some wrecks. The strategic cruiser, however, is not in an anomaly, and the size of the Sleeper wrecks suggests the pilot is flitting around the rock and gas sites, looking for some quick ISK. I ignore the dull C3 and head back to help Fin look for the Tengu.

By the time I find the right wormhole, having somehow returned to C3a first—if only there were some handy table to let me identify wormhole class by colour, and avoid making such mistakes—there are only wrecks, no Tengu. That's good, as it lets me move away from the wormhole and cloak, and the system is big enough for me to warp out of range of any wrecks to launch scanning probes. I bump in to a tower in launching probes, but with only an unpiloted Helios covert operations boat floating in the force field, so I suspect the Tengu not to be local.

Probes out, I warp back towards the inner system, where I discern multiple sites holding Sleeper wrecks. I pick one cluster of wrecks and hunt them as I would a ship, getting a range and bearing using d-scan, and arranging my probes around the estimated position. And as we suspect the wrecks to be in ladar and gravimetric sites, the sites won't have despawned yet and it should be possible to scan for them. I can't think of a reason why not to do this whilst the system is clear, and am about to call in my probes when the system becomes not clear. There's a Noctis on d-scan. Good. And a Manticore stealth bomber blips on d-scan too, which is even better. We may have two targets to pop.

I have to wait for the salvager to come to me, which could take a while, depending on his choice of sites. The Noctis should give me a much fatter target for my probes to lock on to, but it also holds a capsuleer who could be checking d-scan occasionally. With any luck, he'll be too busy looting to update his scanner. But judging by his speed in salvaging, he is perhaps more focussed on updating d-scan. That gives Fin time to get to my position and for both of us to align roughly in the direction of the wrecks my probes are clustered around. So when the Noctis finally warps to the site, we are quite ready to ambush him.

Okay, not quite ready, as our fleet structure is upside-down. I call my probes in to scan, get a good result, and try to warp the pair of us to the salvager's position. I don't register why I can't warp our two ships as one, but instead of wasting time trying to work out why I simply throw my ship in to warp and prepare to call Fin in to follow. Fin, not troubled by being in warp, sees the problem in my not being the squad leader, and so unable to issue squad commands, and adjusts the hierarchy appropriately. It's a little late, but it doesn't really matter, as the Noctis isn't in the ladar site when I get there.

It's possible the Noctis saw my probes when I scanned, but I'm not entirely convinced, mostly because of the Sleeper cruiser that I can see ahead of me. And I happen to be around a hundred kilometres from the deadspace signature, wrecks, and presumably newly arrived Sleeper, which suggests I scanned the Noctis as he was already leaving, particularly as a few of the wrecks are looted. Something peculiar occurred, and it could be that the Noctis simply didn't want to be popped by the Sleeper. Whether that means he's coming back in a combat ship, abandoning the site, or actually did see my probes waits to be seen.

I make a couple of strategic bookmarks in the ladar site whilst hoping for the Noctis to return, getting Fin in to position at the same time. Instead of the Noctis, or the Tengu, d-scan next shows us an Anathema, the cov-ops not even bothering to cloak. Maybe I scan his position and at least give us a ship to shoot. I warp out, relaunch my probes, and come back to roughly scan the tiny ship. Or I would, if he were stil around. But I got a good idea of where he was, and two scans later I've resolved a wormhole, which turns out to be a K162 from class 6 w-space. That's neat, and means we can give chase too.

Of course, we can only give chase if there happens to be a ship to chase, and there currently isn't. The Anathema isn't showing itself, the Manticore could be anywhere, and the Noctis and Tengu haven't returned. Fin waits in the ladar site, me on the wormhole, but minutes tick along with no sign of any activity. Perhaps the Noctis saw my probes, and is paranoid of getting shot. Then again, Fin and I are stalking him, so it's not really paranoia. Or maybe he doesn't care enough to make a couple of trips to pop one Sleeper cruiser and salvage a handful of wrecks. I don't really blame him either way. But with nothing coming our way, it's finally time to call it a night. It's a slightly disappointing end to the evening, but at least we got a hunt.

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