Monday, December 23, 2013

A Prowler Gets Lost

It's Sunday evening.  All weekend we have been moving in to our new system, and out of the old.  (At the old we popped a wormhole moving out ships and running in and out with transports.  This is not easily done.)

We are all tired of moving, but it is almost done.  We have our Raven fleet in the new system.  We are ready to make some money.  Our new system has built up sites to an alarming degree.  Time to trim that down. 

But first, of course, comes operational security.  We have two wormholes open: our static which has just gone EOL, but has hours to live according to when we marked it.  And a K162 coming from C5.  It is also EOL, so I don't expect it to be a problem.  In fact I am hoping it goes away soon, because I don't really want to pop it with unknown C5 denizens to deal with.  I've been sitting near it in my Buzzard, watching, for hours now.  Half an hour ago, a scout popped through and immediately left.  And according to, the guys on the other side are active in US time. 

The wormhole sounds again.  I expect a closure attempt.  But instead it's a Prowler.  It moves off the wormhole and cloaks.  I sit and watch for a few seconds: will it go back?  Is it trying to get out?  It does not immediately back out.  Hoping to see it, I warp to our static wormhole.  But I do not see it.  Still, I am pretty sure it must have left.  Why would it have entered our system at all?  You don't scout in a Blockade Runner.

There is a good chance it is making a quick run out for supplies of some kind, and will return as fast as possible.  In fact there is a chance it is only going to trade stuff in the nearest station to a hauler alt.  I warp to our POS and reship into my Manticore.  Then I fly back to our static, orbit at 2500, and wait. 

Jayne comes on.  We discuss the situation.  The guy obviously knew where he was going.  And that he took the chance on the upstream EOL wormhole suggests he knew its timing.  So the two wormholes being EOL is no coincidence: the C5 guys evidently scanned down our system, instantiating our wormhole.  We don't know the timing, so we cannot risk popping the K162.  But we can pop our static safely, since we know it was created later than the other.

Jayne gets the Orca and Scorpion ready.  He flies to the static, and makes the first Orca pass.  I cease my hunt and fly to the K162, to watch it.  If it expires, we want to know immediately.  I land on grid, and it is still there; but literally as I am saying "It's there" -- it vanishes.

Well.  One less thing to worry about.  It is possible our friend in the Prowler will try to come back, but we now believe that he was just flying out.  We stop our popping attempt -- our static is probably very short on life, and we really don't want anyone trapped out.  Instead of popping it, we will fall back to the second best opsec method: eyes (really more ears) on.  We'll place a cloaked scout there to watch and listen while we run sites.

Tim appears, and we divvy up the tasks.  Most of us get Ravens and load up missiles.  We set our picket on the static.  Now we dive into our tangled mass of Frontier Barracks.  We are trying out a spider tank, taking advantage of our wormhole effect.  We think it should work, and it does quite well.  With five Ravens, we tear through the sites at a good clip.

We are midway through the third Barracks, when our scout announces wormhole noise.  Uh oh.  Then: it's a Prowler.  It's the same guy.

We all laugh.  This guy is screwed.  I realize there is a chance to catch him if backs out.  So I order my Raven back to our POS.  Ever so slooowly, I turn and warp.  And ever so slooowly glide out of warp.  Now I can reship, and warp quickly to our static.  After sitting on it for a moment, I realize the only chance to get him is on the other side.  So I jump through.  This is risky -- the wormhole may expire at any moment.  But I figure the chances that the Prowler will run for it are very good.

I orbit the wormhole at 500m, get my sebo active, and wait.  (Meanwhile I am still fighting sleepers with my alt.  It's distracting.)  I dscan to make sure there are no obvious threats, and there is nothing on scan except customs offices.  This is perfect.  On coms, I determine that our picket is actually another bomber.  I tell him to orbit in close; if the Prowler comes out and I lock him, he will attempt to flee back in.

We continue to grind the sleeper site.  I am on edge, waiting.  The site is complete, and -- oops -- I am squad commander.  We individually warp to the next.  We resume grinding.

After about five minutes, I am getting nervous about being out.  Obviously the Prowler is not trying the quick dash.  I am increasingly worried about being trapped out.  So I come back in, and resume my orbit at 500m.  Our scout goes off to reship and join the bash.  We figure not to lose DPS, and there is still a chance (though less) to get the Prowler if it goes for it.

In a minute, the wormhole dies.  Well.  Back in just in the nick of time.  I warp back to our POS to reship and resume grinding sleepers.

Now we have a new potential problem: the Prowler may attempt to scan out.  If it does and we are not aware of it, we have a huge opsec hole and deserve to have a fleet drop on us.  So we move our fleet booster to within dscan range of the new wormhole's location.  He is to watch for probes there.

I'm not here
The rest of the night passes without further incident.  We do not see any probes from our unhappy guest.  We complete six Barracks and another Frontier Command Post before growing bored.  Then we go to do even more boring Interbus CO grinding.

This is so automatic if you do it in Vexors, that you're actually not playing the game.  One guy gets squad leader duties, and has to keep an eye on the discovery scanner.  If any new sig appears (and in the Odyssey era, changes are pushed to the client), the squad leader fleet-warps everyone to safety.  Everyone else can watch TV.  I am composing a blog post.  As I write, we've killed a CO and started in on the last one we need to blow up to get our PI established.

As for the Prowler?  I don't know.  He did not leave; our scout would have seen or heard.  So he must still be in the system, unless somehow we missed him leaving.  My best guess is that he logged off when he found his K162 poofed.  He will be attempting to scan out sometime in the future, probably when the system is not crawling with hostiles.

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