The Hunt

I should preface this by saying that I am not a ganker by trade. I will not shoot an industrial ship in the course of standard operations, and prefer to avoid shooting unarmed targets. In lowsec, though, paranoia is standard protocol and anyone can be considered a threat when running system security.

I dust off Pantycore, my torpedo-fit stealth bomber – now with a medium shield extender and only one target painter – and undock to do my usual evening routine of local surveillance and security, logging wormholes and such.

In Nikkishina there are a decent handful of cosmic signatures, so I warp to my preferred tactical, deploy probes, and cloak up.

No wormholes to be found, but there are a good number of exploration sites. In a moment of curiosity I set my directional scanner to 360° at maximum range and activate. There are the usual smattering of combat frigates, a heavy interdictor, and a Heron.

Wait, did I read that right?

Heron. Uncloaked. In low sec. I scan again. Still there. I wait thirty seconds, pull the scan range in to 5 AU, and scan again. Still on scan.

It’s a trap, Quat. Don’t do it.

I’ve learned my lesson about shooting flies with a cannon, so I bookmark the sites, warp back to Ishomilken as fast as I can and swap into Marie, my rocket-fit version of Pantycore. Within seconds I am back in-system, cloaked up, warping to the first site.

There he is. A lone recon frigate, buzzing around between the cans. He selects one and sits on it for what feels like an eternity. I then realize he is hacking. He is hacking, uncloaked, and seems to have no idea I’m there.

I dial in an approach vector and pull within 10 klicks of him. I can see the beam from his relic scanner; he appears oblivious to the dangers of Nikkishina. Or he has buddies waiting to warp in. I pull up his pilot info. He’s Russian. That’s helpful. I check local intel… no other Russian pilots as far as I can tell. I decide to pull into rocket range when he spins around and warps away. I panic for a moment. Did my cloak drop? No, it’s still active. He disappears from scan and I figure he’s moved on to another system. While I’m weighing my options as to where to go next he shows back up on scan. So he just hit station. Probably had to drop loot. He warps back in, right on top of the beacon, and makes a beeline for the next can.

This is my chance.

I manually dial in my approach to his destination, making sure to steer clear of the structures around us.  I come to a stop at 5 km from the can and wait. He takes a while to reach it but immediately upon arrival goes to hacking. One last check of local shows that we are now more or less alone in-system. I take a deep breath and drop my cloak.

I begin targeting him, then  activate and overheat my entire combat rack – rockets, warp scrambler, and stasis webifier; I want this to be a short engagement and I want it to end in blood.

My targeting computer beeps to indicate a successful lock and my systems kick into gear. Rockets pound away at his little frigate. His shields and armor are dust before he can stop hacking, and by the time he tries to move it’s too late. His pod is blasted free as the last volley arcs in for the kill. I collect the contents of his shattered ship and warp back to my tactical, leaving him in his pod.

I smoke a cigarette to calm my nerves and head back into Ishomilken to swap back into the Pantycore and resume my roam. I extend my scanners again to see what’s in the neighborhood before docking. Something and a Helios.

CovOps? Shiny!

I look at my probe scanner. No signatures in-system. I buzz to each of the faction warfare complexes in system and do a short-range scan at 90°. Nothing. But he still shows up on omni.

I bounce to my safe and think on this for a moment. Of course! He’s at a safe!

I skip merrily back to station and return with my own CovOps, a Buzzard named Wolfhound, deploy combat scanner probes and engage my cloak.

There he is, right next to that other ship. Shit; that other ship is a Hurricane. I make sure I’ve got plenty of backup on hand and get to scanning. I can’t quite get decent resolution on the Helios but the Hurricane lights up like Christmas. I bookmark its location and warp to 50 km as a precaution before calling for warp-in.

Seconds later, I arrive at my destination and see my targets. They’re at a POS, inside the force field. I check local to see if I can ID the pilots.

Local is clear. Only friendlies and myself in-system. Whoever owns these ships, isn’t hanging around here.

The rest of the night was unremarkable. I got back into Marie and stalked a Magnate for a while but could never quite get a shot. I lost track of him our second time through Mara.

I owe a nod here ( o7 ) to Chance Ravinne. In the wee hours of the morning on the day I bought and fit my first Manticore, I stumbled across his stealth bomber videos – something anyone looking to fly them should watch. I saw you on a gate the other day, buddy. Fly dangerous and here’s hoping we’re never in one another’s sights.

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