Stalking stealth bombers

23rd July 2014 – 5.16 pm

The Hound eludes me. The stealth bomber is far from the cluster of rather larger ships and their drones that are shooting the off-line tower in our home w-space system, for whatever reason, but I can't get myself close enough to catch him. Thankfully, other options have turned up. More stealth bombers have appeared, one Nemesis and two Manticores, and the Nemesis looks to be getting a bit close to some of the defences.

I think that makes the Nemesis my new target. The defences can be bookmarked, making them easy to approach by warping, and are far enough from the rest of the fleet that I should be able to engage the ship without repercussions. That is, if I can catch it. Either I'm really bad at gauging ships' vectors, or my Proteus strategic cruiser accelerates in and out of warp like a freighter. By the time I bounce off a moon around this same planet and return to the tower, the Nemesis is nowhere near my estimate.

They're all moving too quickly. That's my excuse. I think I get lucky when a Manticore pauses, but he's just faking me out, moving again when I try to drop on top of him. But, finally, after far too long, I get close enough to feel positive about an ambush. I get a good bounce and am not only close to one of the Manticores but our positions are converging. Twenty kilometres, nineteen, eighteen. It's looking good.

Finally getting close to one of the stealth bombers

I push my Proteus to lead the stealth bomber, trying to keep our ranges closing. I don't even need to get on top of the ship, as my targeting systems will suffer a recalibration delay, which I can use to pulse my micro warp drive and zoom in close. As it turns out, I don't really need to do that, as I get within ten kilometres when cloaked, but I do it anyway. It's now or never, and I decloak and get my systems hot.

Not a great shot, that one

Pulsing my micro warp drive I close the range to the Manticore quickly, gaining a positive lock when I can. I've got him. Now, if only I could hit him with my guns. I'm a little nervous, what with a substantial fleet sitting fifty kilometres away, but that shouldn't affect my targeting computers. My speed does, and my blasters are having real trouble tracking the tiny target. I cut the MWD and slow my speed, at which point I start getting good hits. Well, maybe one good hit. The Manticore isn't known for its defences.

Manticore explodes, ruining my visual sensor array

The stealth bomber explodes in a flash that blinds my space vision. I aim for the pod, not really wanting to hang around too long, but it seems to be lingering for longer than it should and I notice ships are warping out rather than heading my way. But something is stopping me from getting a positive lock. Ah, a Falcon recon ship has decloaked and is jamming me. Time to bug out. I align to a nearby moon and accelerate in to warp, reloading my guns and cloaking.

I warp back to the tower, wanting to see what's left. All the drones, plus the wreck of the Manticore. No ships are left, although they all remain in the system, as visible on my directional scanner. That shows they are uncertain of who is out here. That works for me, seeing as they've left half-a-dozen Gecko drones behind, plus loads of faction drones. I'll have some of them, thanks.

Fleet has left some Gecko drones behind

Grabbing some drones isn't worth losing a strategic cruiser over, and I approach the task of scooping the Geckos with some caution. I align to a pair of the drones and then set manual control to ensure my ship doesn't stop when reaching the drones. I decloak, grab one, two, three Geckos, and re-activate my cloak. All looks good, so I aim towards another pair. Decloak, scoop, no scoop. My hold is full. Never mind, burn away from the drones and cloak. I'm safe, with four new Geckos for me.

Now to reconnoitre the ships' new position. My probes are still available, and it's a simply matter to resolve the signature in the system with the ships on it. The pod sits elsewhere, almost certainly as bait. I've seen ships come and go, strategic cruisers mostly, so I won't be suckered in to anything overly foolish. I merely warp to the wormhole to see a K162 from class 2 w-space pulsating from being stressed to half mass, with some ships on it.

Bait pod leaves our home system

The fleet hasn't quite given up, as more ships come and go, including the bait pod going back. Naturally, given the state of the wormhole, the battleships don't return, but battlecruisers and strategic cruisers come in and warp to the off-line tower. I think they are here only to claim their drones back, which they do, but they start shooting the tower a bit more. I still don't understand why they want to.

I can't do much more. I'm almost tempted to stay and find out what they do when the tower explodes but I have no idea how much longer they'll be. As luck would have it, as I am about to head off-line the ships all leave. Well, I think they all do, but I haven't been counting. I also get a conversation request, from a charming fellow in the fleet.

We have a pleasant chat about why they didn't see me, what I didn't see that could have ruined my evening, and that my interruption caused them to find a wormhole they were using was now at the end of its life, hence their departure. I don't quite get an explanation of why they were shooting the tower, but that's okay. I don't mind a little mystery.

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