The system is the same one as the one we connected to last night, and there are still plenty of things to do. Bre and Ty are on hand from our corp, as is hurricane-flying Shan from ...
You know, it's going to be annoying referring to them as "that other corp in our system", so they need a name. Let's call that other corporation "Walrus".
Where was I?
Right. Shan from Walrus is also around, so we all get into pointy ships and hop over to the next system to make some isk. We take down three or four sites, then Ty swaps to a salvaging ship while Shan and Bre fly overwatch.
That turns out to be a worthwhile precaution, since both pilots spot scanning probes in the system just as Ty is melting down the last ship. We warp to the wormhole and get out, but once back safe in the tower, I'm disinclined to sit and twiddle my thumbs, so the Shufti heads back to the other hole for a shufti, while Shan takes the opportunity to haul out his portion of the loot do some shopping -- lots of advice from lots of more senior pilots has him searching for a pile of new skill books.
There are at least two ships active in the other system, but the Purifier-class stealth bomber only appears for a few moments here and there. (I'm honestly not sure why the ship (which can fly cloaked at all times) shows up even that much.)
The second ship is considerably easier to locate, since (a) the Badger Mark II industrial hauler cannot fly while cloaked and (b) it seems to be sitting at the local corporation's tower.
Except it's not at the tower, exactly; it's near the tower. I drop out of warp to see the Badger -- utterly inexplicably -- orbiting the tower, just outside the protection of the tower's shields.
In all honesty, I just sit there for a few minutes and watch the guy, because I can't quite figure out what he's doing, and after thinking it over, the only answer that comes to mind is "orbiting the tower, outside the shields."
I mean, maybe he thinks he'll lure someone into attacking him, relying on the tower guns to destroy his attackers before he dies, but I happen to know from personal experience that will not go well.
Now, I've suffered losses within firing range of my own tower in the past, so perhaps I should leave him to his own devices and spare him the pain that I have suffered.
Or (and I'm just thinking out loud here), we could provide this pilot with a valuable learning experience.
I think it's clear which option I'll choose. I'm a teacher at heart.
I set up a couple of useful bookmarks, and skitter on back to our tower, where Bre is already waiting in her Manticore-class stealth bomber. Ty reships into his fragile-looking Hound-class bomber, shares half the bookmarks, and we're off.
The plan, such as it stands, is simple:
- Jump to our bookmarks, which are both in good position for a fly-by of the tower, but far enough apart that neither pilot will decloak the other before we're ready to start shooting. (This placement is made much easier thanks to Bre, who can fire her torpedos from approximately a million jillion kilometers away.)
- Align toward the sun and start moving that direction.
- Drop cloak at the best possible range to the target and blow him up.
- Warp off before the guns on the tower can target either of us and blow our flimsy ships to smithereens.
Everything works out exactly as planned. If anything, the badger goes kerblooey even faster than I'd expected, and apparently it was faster than the badger pilot expected, because his escape pod sits in space long enough for Ty to lock and shoot it as well, sending the pilot's consciousness back to a clone backup somewhere in known space.
We warp off before the tower guns even finish locking our tiny ships.
The Purifier appears briefly on d-scan, perhaps coming to check on the remains of his corpmate's ship, but leaves the wreck intact, so Ty sneaks up on the remains of the assault and quickly grabs the contents of the wreck, destroys it, and scoops up the floating, frozen corpse of the pilot while Bre waits for the purifier to make a move, but nothing happens, and we return to our tower to exchange reserved but heartfelt high-fives and review what the Badger had in its pocketses.
It is the loot from the wreck that finally explains what the hauler pilot was doing, although it offers no insight into why; Ty retrieved a probe launcher and a half-load of scanning probes from the wreck, which means that it was the industrial hauler, not the stealth bomber, who was the source of the probes we'd first spotted in the system. Scanner-Badger. That's a new one on me, and I think someone should tell the pilot he doesn't have to be outside the shields to control the probes -- only to launch them.
Maybe that's a discussion he can have with his corpmate in the purifier while he's flying his new clone back to the tower.
I'm pretty much done with our neighboring C2 connection, but I wait a bit to collapse it out of consideration for Shan, who is still on his way back from the nearest university skillbook library. While I wait, I reflect on the fact that the badger kill marks Ty's first actual PvP kill. Not exactly a trophy catch, but still, we made a plan and we executed it (and the pilot) successfully, without losses (in fact, without taking any damage); that's a pretty good first-time.
Bre, of course, has far more hashmarks on her killboard thanks to her time with OUCH but this is the first she's ticked off since leaving the Curse region, and her first in the Manticore, so while she's more nonchalant about the whole thing, I can tell she's pleased.
Shan returns, and we crash the hole while he scans for the new connection. Once again, we've connected to a promising c2, with a double handful of sleeper infestations on scan and dozing if not entirely absent locals to keep an eye on.
Wil (and, a bit later, Gor) join us for the shooting, which goes relatively smoothly, except for minor problems we encounter with the wildly different effective ranges on our ships, and a bit of tension when all the sleepers in an ancient hangar decide to go after Shan's somewhat undertanked Hurricane simultaneously. Still, it's all fairly straightforward until we spot scanning probes in the system and our d-scan suddenly lights up with over a half-dozen pointy ships somewhere in the vicinity of the local tower. Time to bug out back to the connection home and do some recon.
Deju vu, I tell you.
It turns out that most of this aggression is a ruse, albeit a fairly effective one; the single pilot who logged in and spotted us on d-scan merely launched probes right outside the tower shields so that they would show up on d-scan, then launched a half-dozen potentially-dangerous-yet-unpiloted ships out of their ship hangar to give the impression of a mobilizing defensive force. Once that's been determined it's probably safe for use to finish what we started.
Gor is feeling reckless, however, and since the anomalies we need to clear salvage from no longer appear on scan for easy enemy scouting, he decides to risk his Noctis-class industrial salvager. It's a far more expensive ship than the cheap destroyers we generally use for salvaging, but with Gor's skills and the bonuses from the Noctis itself each site can be cleared in a fraction of the time. Gor's experience as a miner serves him well in this case, as he never stops moving in the sites and stays aligned to convenient celestials at all times, ready to warp out at a moment's notice.
We're left with one half-finished site, and Bre and Ty jump back in there to finish it off. Risky, given our audience of one at the nearby tower, but I suspect he's already played the best hand he had to play. We've called his bluff, and he didn't have anything to back it up with.
My guess looks like the correct one, as we finish off the sleepers, clear the salvage, and return to our own home system without incident.
Wil's still looking for further violence, so we wrap up the day with a single 'radar' signature in our home system, hacking the ancient sleeper technology and adding it to the day's pile of loot, bringing the total to...
Wow. 240 million. And a rare scanning-badger kill.
Pretty good day in our new home.