Thursday, April 24, 2014

Plans Change

It's corp night.  We are all on together, and rolling our hole looking for a decent system to run sites in.  Or we might run stuff in and out if we find a decent route to highsec.  We've already rolled a few times.  We're not getting too much luck tonight.  I pop the last hole in an Onyx.  On to the next.

Jayne goes in first, and it sounds good.  Lots of anoms, including several Barracks and Sanctums, which are the best sites for a fleet that can handle them.  Also lots of sigs.  He starts scanning while I enter in my Manticore.  There is one tower on scan from the wormhole.  I fly to the outer system to verify that it has no others.  It does not.  That's good.  I pop probes at the outer planet and join the scanning.

The scanning is not so favorable.  The system has a C2 static, but also two incident C5s.  C5s are where the big boys live; we must be cautious.  I enter C5a for a look around.  It has three ships on scan: two Cheetahs and a Falcon.  Also four towers, and four more in the outer system, with a probably empty carrier.  But those three might be around.  I find their tower, and sure enough: all three ships are manned.  They do look long-idle, at least.  But it's not a good sign for running sites.  We'd have to pop it over at least five minutes, and they'd probably notice.

I return to C4b, then warp to over to check the second C5 system.  This one is much less dangerous in appearance, being unoccupied.  So I return to C4b and go to sit watching the wormhole to C5a, the more dangerous one.

Meanwhile, Jayne is in C2a.  It has a highsec exit, which turns out to be six jumps to Jita.  That's pretty nice.  On the downsite, there are several towers.  Still, maybe we will do logistics after all.  If we picket all the wormholes and keep dscanning the towers, it should be pretty safe.

As we are considering what to do, I hear wormhole noise.  It's the C5 wormhole, and... it's a pod.  I tell the guys.  A pod?  It warps off.  Evidently they want to get a new ship in.  Jayne watches as it enters C2a, then warps to the highsec exit.

Ah, now we have a new purpose: ambush this guy on the way back in.  We have no idea what he is going to get; it could be a battleship, a T3, a stealth bomber.  Anything.  And we don't know how long it will take it.  It should not take long to fly to Jita and back, but buying a full fit can take a while.  We don't want to be caught ourselves while waiting.

We compromise a bit.  We go with cloakies in C4b and C2a.  Jayne sets an alt picket on the highsec entrance; his main gets his trusty Stratios.  I picket the C4b->C5a wormhole with my alt, and get in an Onyx, which I sit at in our system at the wormhole to C4b.  Depending on what comes in, I will cross into C4b and  warp over to stop it.  John gets his Ishtar and waits with me.  Timmay and Jeedmo get in stealth bombers, and sit in C4b at the wormhole to C2a.  They are tackle and/or DPS, depending on what comes in.

Now we sit.  Boring, but that's the nature of hunting.  Time passes.  How long does this guy need?  Maybe he is not coming back.  Wants to be part of Burn Jita or something.

Jayne reports that an Epithal has appeared on scan in C2a.  It did not come in from highsec nor did it come down our way.  It must be from some other wormhole headed out, or local.  After a bit of confusion on this point, Jayne locates it at one of the towers in C2a.  Well.  A bird in the bush, but a bird in the bush is better than a bird that might not be coming back.  So, we switch up.  John and I refit into bombers.  We'll go lurk at the tower.  I am a bit unhappy to bring all these ships into C2a where our targets can see us.  But Epithals need three scramblers to stop reliably.  We will have that.  Timmay and Jeedmo remain on station in C4b, cloaked at the C2 wormhole.

While we are in transit downstream, there's another change: a pod appears in C2a.  It's at a second tower there.  So Jayne and John end up at the first tower watching the Epithal.  I go to the second.  What will the pod do?  What will the Epithal do?  Nothing, it appears.  Both sit there.  Doing PI, probably.  We can tell from their names that they are alts of the same guy, so I have some hope that he did not see us enter.

We sit for a while, watching.  Then Jayne reports wormhole noise, on the highsec.   Probably the guy who went out.  I tell people to get ready to go to the C2 wormhole.  What will it be?  It's... an Epithal!  (And it is the guy who went out.)  Timmay and Jeedmo get ready in C4b, while Jayne, Hiljah, and I warp to the C4 wormhole.  Hiljah and I warp at 10 so as not to reveal ourselves.  We tell Jeedmo and Timmay to get uncloaked and ready on the other side.

As I land on grid, I can see the Epithal entering the wormhole.  I tell the guys on the other side to be ready.  I also see Jayne's Stratios uncloak and jump, and I expect the Epithal saw that too.  I tell the other guys to expect the Epithal to jump back.

There is a pause.  I get into orbit at 2500m and turn on my sebo.  Then I decide that 500m is better.  Chatter; the guys say the Epithal jumped back.  Now he is polarized and cannot escape except by warping.  I am ready.  The guys cross too.  Everyone decloaks: Timmay, Jayne, Hiljah, me.  Another pause.  There is the Epithal. I lock him, and move towards him.  My torpedoes fire but hit nothing; he's popped before they even reach.  This is unexpectedly fast.  I try to lock the pod but the pilot is alert (yeah, anyone would be), and warps immediately.  Jayne's alt see it exit into highsec.

The wreck is empty.  The Epithal was completely empty and completely unfit.  I warp back to the second tower.  I tell Jayne to blow up the wreck.  Although the attack seemed long, it was really not more than a half minute.  If the locals are dscanning much, they should have seen it.  But they might not be dscanning.  They are still where they were in the same ships.

Now we return to the towers and wait.  After a while, the Epithal starts to move.  We alert; it stops.  Then it moves again.  Not aligning to anything we can see.  And it stops.  And then again, it starts moving toward the local SMA.  And stops.

Then the pod at the other tower, which I am watching, refits into an Epithal.  It immediately starts aligning.  Game on!  I am watching it up close.  It is hard to see where it aligning because of the glare from the sun, but I can turn the view to make the Epithal obscure the sun enough to read that it is planet II.  Guys: he's headed to planet II.  He warps, then I warp to the customs office at 10km.

Meanwhile, Jayne and Hiljah are reporting the same thing: their Epithal has aligned... to planet I.

I land on grid, and there is the Epithal, 11 km from me.  I head towards him, then uncloak and get my systems on.  I cannot hold an Epithal by myself, so I surge toward him on microwarp to bump.  As I get close, my first volley kills him.  Boom.  The pod is out, and I click to start the lock, and get my scrambler working.  I lock it!  I wonder why he does not die for a few seconds before I realize my torps are not firing.  Oops.  I fire the torps.  It takes two rounds.  Squish.  Amped on adrenaline, I scoop from the wreck, getting a prototype cloak and a cargo expander II.  (What?)  Then I scoop the corpse and microwarp out of range of the CO and wreck to cloak.  (Finally I notice Hiljah is on grid.)  I don't pop the wreck this time, because we won't be around much longer.

Meanwhile, about the same thing happened at the CO at planet I.  Jayne uncloaks and kills the Epithal.  The pod escapes him.  Like the other Epithal, this one was also sporting a cloak and cargo expanders.  But this one had full warp core stabilization.  Jayne was not tackling it; it failed to escape because it had almost no tank.  Guys, put a nice cheap large shield extender on your fit.

It's getting late, and probably nothing more is going to happen here.  We head home.  A good night after a slow start.  We didn't run any sites, or get any large prey, but it was fun to get what we got.  It's unfortunate that Jeedmo didn't get on any killmails.  I want to blood the new guy.

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