Followed home

31st July 2014 – 5.40 pm

Back home from our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, dump the meagre loot from the successful Epithal ambush, and warp away to a safe spot to go off-line for the night. At least, that's my intention, until I spot a Helios bearing our neighbours' name on my directional scanner. Maybe I should add insult to injury and try to catch the covert operations boat.

Maybe I should, but it's late, I'm tired, and I don't even know if the Helios remains in our system. His blip on d-scan could have been from him through our static wormhole back to his home. Still, if he saw me return and thinks I'm retiring for the night maybe he'll do something a little careless, like try to collapse the connection between us.

Hmm, killing the wormhole doesn't make too much sense, really. If I'm not going to bother them again, why collapse it? If I am still a threat, why send their Orca industrial command ship my way? Still, I warp towards our static wormhole just in case, and get a good indication that the Helios is here. I think seeing the cov-ops decloak thirty kilometres from the wormhole to launch probes is hard to argue against.

So the scout is in our system, where there are no other wormholes, and he'll want to head home at some point. I think I can spare a few minutes lying in wait whilst he scans, just not in my Proteus. I don't stand a chance catching the Helios in my strategic cruiser, but we have better ships in our tower. I warp across, swap to a Flycatcher interdictor, and warp back to the wormhole, immediately jumping to C3a.

I have no idea if the Helios saw my Proteus enter the tower, the Flycatcher leave, or the same ship under its probes or when I jumped to his home system. Either way, he has to come back through this wormhole at some point or be isolated. I can wait and listen for the wormhole to crackle, not needing to pay too much attention, relying on the interdictor's fast locking time and interdiction sphere launcher to help snare the cov-ops.

I muck around on a second screen as I listen for the wormhole to register a jump, regularly checking d-scan in case some unwanted attention comes my way, but nothing. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. If the Helios pilot is smart, he'll wait until I get bored, then cross-jump with me as I return home. If he times it right, I'll not stand a chance at catching him, and only risk polarising myself if I even try.

Wait, wait, wait. It clearly doesn't take this long to scan the few signatures in our system, particularly in a dedicated scanning boat, so either I was spotted and the pilot's being cautious, I somehow missed the Helios returning whilst I swapped boats, or he's not planning to come back. Or a new connection has recently opened and he's heading backwards even deeper in to w-space. You never can tell.

Maybe the pilot is considering trying to jump and run. I hope so, as I'm considering getting some sleep, always a good state of mind to be in when loitering on a wormhole in w-space. I think that makes it time to give up and go home, regardless of the location of the Helios. With any luck, the cov-ops pilot will notice and go home himself, leaving us alone.

I jump back through the wormhole, having seen and caught nothing, and hold my session-change cloak. Not a soul. Not on the wormhole, not in space, not even any tell-tale scanning probes or additional signatures. Fair enough. I warp to our tower, swap back to my Proteus, and, well, head back to the wormhole for a final couple of minutes. I hope to see the Helios leave, but still see nothing. Oh well, I'll just keep it in mind that we have a possible scout in the home system, though I doubt he'll be up to much mischief by himself.

Brute force and strategy

30th July 2014 – 5.11 pm

Decloaked outside an active tower, jammed, and being plinked by a gun. It's not a great situation to be in, particularly where there are two piloted ships inside the force field of the tower, but at least my warp engines aren't disrupted. Not yet, anyway. I have to get clear before that happens, so spin my view around, pick an arbitrary moon, and align for warp. Thankfully, my warp engines engage, and I get clear of the moderately angry tower and entirely disinterested pilots.

I make sure I re-activate my cloak in warp, dropped because of finger trouble, and it's good that I do. The arbitrary moon I warped to is the one I left a minute ago. I land outside another active tower, inside one of the warp bubbles scattered around. I'm not having the best of evenings, really. At least my cloak holds and the bubble does little but delay me a little. For a second time in as many minutes, I manoeuvre out of the bubble and warp to the tower with the piloted ships, making sure I don't touch the cloak button this time.

I'm tempted to call it a night, but I suppose I ought to scan before going home. The locals aren't likely to do anything after my appearance, if they were paying attention, but as we've had this neighbouring class 3 w-space system two days in a row I may as well update the bookmarks of the sites here, in case lightning strikes thrice. It won't take long, with most of the gas already noted from yesterday, and I bookmark another gas site and three new wormholes.

As I resolve the last signature the Kryos hauler is swapped for an Epithal hauler. Well, that's interesting. It's quite possible the pilot and his buddy were paying zero attention fifteen minutes ago when my Proteus strategic cruiser appeared for their amusement, and even though there are wormholes a-plenty in the system the capsuleer may still think his Epithal is safe in collecting planet goo. He's got a point.

I'm not going to give up on the gooer without even trying, though. The 'look at' function has been fixed, so a ship can be watched as it aligns, and although I am not in my modified Loki strategic cruiser and its obscene amount of warp disruption, I have a plan for how to make my Proteus work for me. I've only been pondering it since the ship swap a couple of minutes ago, but it's good to be prepared, particularly when the Epithal starts accelerating.

I see in which direction the Epithal is headed and start accelerating my Proteus towards the same customs office. As soon as the Epithal warps, I initiate the warp command. Let's see if my plan works. The first step is not to drop short. I have tended to warp to the customs office at ten kilometres, so that I can hold my cloak. This lets me ensure my target has come the way I think and give me a moment to assess the situation. It can also leave me out of warp disruption range, though, and, in this case, the Proteus's blasters demand closer range. Today, I aim to land on top of the customs office and the Epithal.

I drop out of warp snuggling the customs office. The Epithal is here, of course. Where else would it be? Now to get the rest of the plan working. The Epithal is already reacting, turning to warp back to his tower. Having been decloaked by proximity, I target the Epithal and get a positive lock with little delay, and attempt to disrupt his warp engines. Of course, this isn't going to work against a poorly designed ship, but I've got to try. I also throw my web on the Epithal. Not the best idea generally, because if he's already accelerating this can slingshot the ship in to warp. But I cut the web after the first cycle. His top speed is diminished then re-established, hopefully extending his time-to-warp.

Ambushing an Epithal in w-space

Even as I adversely manipulate the Epithal's speed, my blasters are raking through the hauler's shields, as are my drones, launched as soon as I was able to, all in an effort to get maximum damage inflicted on the Epithal in the shortest time. It works. All of it. I drop on top of the ship, slow it from warping away, and throw enough damage its way to destroy the silly hauler.

Ambushed Epithal explodes under fire

I aim for the pod too, but an alert pilot can easily evade a slow-locking Proteus. I loot and shoot the wreck, reload my guns, and warp clear, thankfully not seeing the Taranis interceptor coming from the tower to help his chum. The victim, now safely back in the force field, says that I missed out on, I dunno, something. A more expensive kill, I suppose. That's true, and it would have been more fulfilling to pop something worth more than a couple of million ISK, but I see that as an inherent issue with the hauler redesign. It really shouldn't take so much planning and effort to pop such a basic ship, frankly.

Missed out on destroying some expensive robotics

I'll take the moral victory here. I caught and destroyed an Epithal fit with three warp core stabilisers, after having been uncloaked outside the tower some twenty minutes earlier. That satisfies me for the night. I almost don't bother checking the wormholes I resolved, but I think twice and decide to do so after all. I may as well open more connections in to this system, if only out of spite. I warp around to a K162 from null-sec, the static exit to low-sec, and an outbound link to class 1 w-space. That's worth a look, but the occupied system is inactive and the hour draws on. It's time to go home.

Throwing myself at a tower

29th July 2014 – 5.26 pm

All looks clear at home. A casual inspection of the signature count compares to the bookmarks I have, but checking the gas sites sees that two have dissipated. That gives me two new signatures to identify before I can safely assume the system is clear. Thankfully, we live in class 4 w-space and that means, as a general rule, we only see K162s, and those signatures are around as chubby as our static wormhole. A blanket scan is enough to show that the new signatures are not wormholes.

A lack of other connections is a good start, considering that I have finally remembered the four Gecko drones in the hold of my Proteus strategic cruiser. When did I steal them? Some days ago, that's for sure, maybe a week, and I've been flying around with them taking space since. With no one around in the home system I can drop them at the tower without being seen, so that's my first task, and easily accomplished. Now to scan.

Gas and data. I nearly warp to our static wormhole to start exploring, but realise that a slow start to the evening in an anomaly may be a better idea. Keep the ISK flowing, and all that. At least, as long as I don't lose the Golem. What are the odds? I warp back to the tower, swap to the marauder, and head out to the same old anomaly as always, for some smooth Sleeper slaughter.

Bright cloud in a class 4 anomaly

All goes swimmingly, even if the clouds of blinding doom remain, and I bring home most of the loot in the Golem and what's left swept up by a destroyer. That's about ninety million ISK made, now for a quick poke around. Back in to my Proteus, warp to the static wormhole, and jump through. Updating my directional scanner on the K162 in the class 3 w-space system has a familiar sight, kinda, with a lone canister labelled 'Go away'.

Why should that can ring a bell? Ah, maybe because I was here only yesterday, when we had the same neighbouring system. I still have the bookmarks in my recycling folder, which I recover, apart from the wormholes which must be dead by now. I see two new anomalies and maybe a couple of new signatures, but I'm not counting. I just launch probes and perform a blanket scan. Hey, two ships, one fat, one skinny. Surely the Epithal hauler and Helios covert operations boat aren't still idling since yesterday.

I warp across to the tower, thankfully using yesterday's bookmarks to head directly to the tower with the ships and not the one with the bubble traps. Or so I think. I still end up in the bubble of the tower without the ships, which is dumb and confusing, and I realise that I actually labelled the bookmarks incorrectly yesterday. That explains why I kept going to the wrong tower.

I reverse carefully out of the warp bubble and head to the tower where I expect to find the ships, correcting the bookmark labels as I go. It takes three attempts. I'm not too smart sometimes. But I get the tower bookmarks ship-shape and land outside the tower where I don't see an idling Epithal and Helios, but a Kryos hauler and Taranis interceptor. They're both very idle, but they've at least swapped ships over a period of a day.

Decloaked outside of a tower

The pilots may be idle, but the tower is not. I see an ECM effect applied to my Proteus, which is a most curious sight when my ship is cloaked. It's a less curious sight when my ship isn't cloaked, which it isn't, even though it should be. Crap! What happened? Damn, I know. I suffered finger trouble when editing the bookmarks and hit the wrong button, dropping my cloak. Now a gun is shooting me, as well as the ECM continuing to jam me. I've got to get out of here, before a warp disruption effect hits!

Black hole to black hole

28th July 2014 – 5.42 pm

Heading back home, I take a diversion in to null-sec. I ignore the K162 from null-sec in the first class 5 black hole system, because if someone opened it and came through then they would have done the same to any other wormholes. The outbound wormhole to null-sec in the class 6 w-space system is more appealing to me, as it may lead to a system with wormholes as-yet unfound by wandering pilots.

The wormhole takes me to Insmother, where one pilot leaves the system shortly after I enter. Two other signatures beckon to me, and I launch probes and resolve a combat site and wormhole. It's an N432, which, after the two crappy, messy, black hole C5 systems so far, doesn't look like a great option. It's still an option, though, so I take my Proteus strategic cruiser through.

My directional scanner shows me nothing from the K162 in C5c, the discovery scanner pings loads of anomalies. There's no black hole, which is something, and I find occupation around a distant planet. There are no ships in the force field, so no one to stalk, but with only three signatures I think I can afford the time to see where the static wormhole takes me.

The two unknown signatures, the wormhole I came through already known, are a data site and weak wormhole, which turns out to be a connection to class 1 w-space. How lovely. I poke through, hoping to find a soft target, but see only a tower and a pair of salvage drones. They're not fooling me, even with no wrecks in the system. That just means they've done their job, good drones, it's the lack of ships that makes me suspect nothing is happening.

I locate the tower and sift through the signatures. It won't take long, as they are mostly chubby. Naturally, nearly all of the signatures resolve to be gas sites, and the only wormhole is a static exit to low-sec at the end of its life. That's this direction exhausted, so back I go. To C5c, out to null-sec, in to C6a, back to our neighbouring C3a, and through it's static wormhole to low-sec.

There were some additional signatures in this system in Kador, hence my return having found nothing of interest in the other direction, and there is even another pilot scanning who I'm hoping will venture in to potential data or relic sites. I need to scan them first, and hope he's not skittish about other pilots being in the system. Wormhole, skinny wormhole, data site, data site, combat site, and data site. That gives me decent options, and as I can't see another ship under my probes to suggest a data scavenger, I reconnoitre the wormholes.

The first wormhole is a connection to more low-sec empire space. The second is an outbound link to class 1 w-space. It's an easy choice to make, and I jump to C1b. It seems to be the night of the black hole. Two black hole systems behind me, and now this one too. Updating d-scan shows me a tower but still no ships, and the system is tidy enough that I launch probes to check the two anomalies and six signatures for further connections.

Two more wormholes. The O833 link to class 3 w-space is interesting, but less so given its EOL state, and although the static exit to high-sec could be convenient for someone it's not to me at this late hour. Maybe that scanner in low-sec has found a site to be vulnerable in by now. I head back to take a look.

The capsuleer remains in the system, easily visible in the local channel. I even see a Cheetah covert operations boat on d-scan, but pinging the data sites doesn't find him. He is skittish about other pilots in the system, as even a wider sweep no longer shows the Cheetah. He's cloaked. Good for him, but it means I'm not catching anyone tonight. I'll just head home.

Dangerous black holes are messy

27th July 2014 – 3.45 pm

I fear the home system may have stagnated with time, but it seems w-space continues even without me. My ego doesn't like this revelation, so I choose to ignore it. The new signatures have clearly only just appeared, thus prompting their need to be scanned by me and only me, so I launch probes to fulfil my destiny. A wormhole, three gas sites, and, oh, a second wormhole. Maybe some other capsuleers exist external to my reality. I think I can live with that.

It seems I have options. Bouncing between the two resolved wormholes, I find our static connection to class 3 w-space and, huh, empty space. The respective signature has disappeared too, so I must have resolved the wormhole during its death throes. That's a shame, as I like watching their final struggles, the very fabric of space holding them together getting ever more intangible, until the wormhole's collapse in to nothingness is punctuated by a last desperate gasp. I'm quite sane, you know.

It seems I don't have options. At least our wormhole remains healthy, either untouched by the unknown intruders or already suffered the churn of life-and-death and respawned for my exclusive use. Yep, the latter option is probably more likely. I jump to C3a and update my directional scanner.

D-scan shows me nothing, although there is only the one planet in range. I launch probes and blanket the system, being shown thirteen anomalies, five signatures, and two ships. One ship is fat, one tiny, judging by the signature sizes. My notes also point to a tower being in the general direction of the ships, so I think it's fair to say that they will be inside the force field. I warp across to see if that is the case, and if they are piloted.

I land outside the tower and on the edge of a bubble. I'm safe, but I notice that the ships aren't at the tower. They're still probably not out in space, though, as updating d-scan again sees a second tower along with the Epithal hauler and Helios covert operations boat. I locate the new tower, pop across, and see both ships piloted and quite idle.

I'll scan, starting with the wormhole home. That's not because I got flustered after jumping in to the system, pressing buttons and pulling levers seemingly at random, and somehow managing to move away from the wormhole and launch probes prematurely, warping away in a confused state without having bookmarked my way home. No, scanning the wormhole I just warped away from is standard procedure, obviously.

The signatures in C3a are a wormhole, a tiny wormhole, some gas, and some more gas. Fascinating. I'll hit the static wormhole first and get the low-sec exit before reconnoitring what must be an outbound connection. That's what I do too, because I certainly don't warp to our K162 so that I bookmark the wormhole itself and not its scanned result, but forget this mid-warp and wonder why I've managed to find a K162 to class 4 w-space and not an exit to low-sec. Obviously.

Wormhole from class 3 to class 6 w-space

C3a's static wormhole takes me to a system in Kador, where a bunch of signatures could be interesting, but I've already found a potentially interesting wormhole. Back to C3a and across to an A982 connection. Okay, an outbound wormhole to deadly class 6 w-space is definitely interesting. The blood-red pulsating tear in space-time is about as welcoming a sight as you get in w-space too, so without hesitation I approach the connection and jump through.

Updating d-scan in C6a sees a tower and ships, but no wrecks, and the discovery scanner shows me a messy system. I locate the tower and find no pilots, and as the mess is mostly the twenty-five anomalies, not the seven signatures, I think I can spare the time to scan. Two wormholes are found, which seems like a good result until I warp to them. The static wormhole to class 5 w-space is only joined by an outbound link to null-sec. C5a, then.

Mess of a class 5 w-space system

Jumping in to C5a has d-scan clear, a black hole looming ominously below, and even more mess. I'm not feeling positive about occupation or activity, even before I see that only one planet is out of range. Nope, no one here. I sift through the twenty-seven anomalies and fifteen signatures, again getting two wormholes as a result. My notes already let me know the static wormhole leads to more class 5 w-space, and this time the null-sec connection is a K162. Great. In to C5b.

Another mess of a class 5 w-space system

Another clear d-scan, another black hole, another messy system. Even as I am presented with a striking visualisation of my optimism being red-shifted through the butt-hole of w-space, I launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system. Twenty-two anomalies, twenty-two signatures, no ships, no occupation. No interest. I'm going back.

Epithal escort

26th July 2014 – 3.29 pm

Heading home through a quiet w-space constellation, I can't resist poking out to low-sec. Our neighbouring class 3 w-space system holds a number of wormholes to other w-space systems, all occupied, none with any ships, but I've yet to exit w-space so far tonight. I'd be remiss if I didn't at least get the exit system to see if logistics are a possibility. Ha! Just kidding. I want to find a newbie in a frigate distracted in a data site. Or other wormholes where I could pit my strategic cruiser against a battleship. Maybe something in-between.

I drop on top of the U210 and jump through, appearing in a system in the Khanid region. There are a few pilots in the system with me, most with flashy skulls that probably indicate they want to be friends, but I'm interested in the four extra signatures. I launch probes and scan, resolving a data site, wormhole, some relics, and another wormhole. Looking good, Billy Ray!

The first wormhole in the low-sec system connects to a system in Lonetrek, which is obvious from the amazing greyness projected through the connection. I then notice the wormhole identifier, have no idea what it means, and open the information panel to see that it leads to more low-sec. High-sec may have been interesting, more low-sec less so at this point in the evening. The other wormhole is a K162 from class 2 w-space, almost worth a look through except for it being at the end of its life.

I check the Lonetrek connection anyway, just to discharge my responsibilities, and end up far from anywhere interesting, with one pilot in the system, and only one other signature that I can pretend is a combat site and safely ignore. Time to go home. Low-sec, C3a, home, and I would go off-line, but Aii appears. How can I not say hello?

Aii disappears through the K162 at home in to class 2 w-space, taking his Epithal hauler out to high-sec. In crossing C2a he calls out a new Manticore stealth bomber in the system, which piques my interest. I follow a minute or so behind Aii, and indeed see a Manticore new to the system, as well as the idle Venture mining frigate, and an even-newer Epithal.

I make sure the Epithal isn't Aii's, and set about to finding it. It's not difficult to do in a system with so few planets, even when most of them are covered with towers, but still the Epithal disappears before I can locate it. I think it was replaced by this Proteus strategic cruiser. It's as the system starts to get active that I feel I should remind Aii of our last visit to the system, with the bait Myrmidon and the ambush we fell too. He remembers where I don't, so I have to look it up. Dumb move, indeed. I blame myself.

Aii's out in his hauler and is coming back, and ships are building up in the bridging system. That's not a terrible position to be in. Sure, the Proteus will be a tough nut to crack, but if the Manticore can be tempted to attack Aii I'm sure I can discourage it by forcing it to explode under fire. If the locals are a little impetuous, Aii may even have a high-sec wormhole to flee through.

I locate the Manticore, which is in the tower with the inactive Venture, and watch as it aligns and warps to the high-sec wormhole. That's a lovely sight, seeing the stealth bomber maybe provide a target for us, and being able to watch the ship align again. I'm glad my crossed circuits have been fixed. I follow the Manticore, but stealth bombers are difficult to track, and I can't tell if he jumped to high-sec or is lurking cloaked. Or is now somewhere else. Either way, I'll sit and wait.

The Proteus drops off d-scan, replaced by a Flycatcher. That looks like a potential ambush being arranged for a hauler passing through the system, and one better for me to counter than having the Proteus available. Now to get Aii home and see what happens. But before he reaches the wormhole the Flycatcher disappears. I suppose a better place for it to wait would be on our wormhole, to catch its target on a connection with w-space on both sides.

I warp to our K162 to look for the Flycatcher, not really knowing what I'm expecting to find. It'll be on the other side, Penny, and you won't see it by peering through, no matter how much you squint. I wasn't really squinting, honest. Back to the high-sec exit, where Aii is ready to return home, and in he comes. His Epithal appears, aligns to warp, and warps. No stealth bomber, no Flycatcher. Fair enough.

Escorting Aii's Epithal

I follow behind Aii to the wormhole home, dropping short to maintain my cloak and wait on this side of the wormhole. If Aii is caught and has to run, I can engage here and chase back to our home system, where the ambushers will be polarised and I won't be. Or Aii can jump home and warp to our tower unmolested by any ships waiting, because there aren't any. That's a little disappointing.

Aii was noticed, though. The idling Venture wakes up to see the unfamiliar Epithal on d-scan, swaps to a Talwar destroyer, and warps to the wormhole to our home system. Not on top of the wormhole, though, but thirty kilometres away, and I only notice as he turns and warps away again, as clearly too late to ambush Aii's Epithal as I am in noticing the new contact to do anything about it. Never mind. I suppose it's time for bed.

Simple noodle around w-space

25th July 2014 – 5.52 pm

Just a quiet night noodling around will do for me, I think. I suppose it depends on what I'll find, but I won't force anything if circumstances don't look positive. It's also been a few days since I last left the home system, what with a fleet coming to us and then engaging Sleepers for a bit. Let's see if I can remember how to scan.

The previous day's bookmark sits underneath today's wormhole, so it has either remained closed for a while or has stubbornly refused to move. Mind you, as a bit of gas in the home system is joined by a second wormhole I think I can safely say our static connection is now open. The other wormhole is a K162 from class 2 w-space, and as it has opened in to us it has a better chance of holding activity than the system in the other direction. I jump through the K162 to C2a.

Nothing waits for me on the wormhole, and updating my directional scanner sees five towers and a single ship. Is the Venture mining frigate in or out? I open the system map and start poking the anomalies with a tight d-scan beam, moving on to the planets when I find no ship. The Venture is in, it seems, with it being coincident on d-scan with one of the towers.

The towers are straightforward to locate in the system. Despite there being so many of them, four more being brought in to range when looking for the Venture, albeit with no more ships, there are not many moons at all. I can note the tower locations without visiting most of them, which is handy, and warp directly to the Venture to find it piloted and quite inactive.

My notes for the system show that Aii and I were baited by a Myrmidon battlecruiser and subsequently ambushed on our last visit, both losing our strategic cruisers. I don't remember that, curiously. But, I suppose, I have lost so many Lokis. Nothing's happening in the system tonight, so I quickly poke the signatures. Quickly, because there are only six of them. Data, wormhole, data, relics, and the static exit to high-sec. Easy-peasy.

The high-sec exit leads to Sinq Laison, is five hops from Dodixie, and has three extra signatures. Thankfully, the wormhole is at the end of its life, so I don't feel any need to go to stinking Gallente space, and I return to C3a to reconnoitre the other wormhole. It's a K162 from class 2 w-space, and unfortunately also EOL. Fair enough, I suppose I'll head back the other way and look in to our neighbouring class 3 system.

The wormhole is clear, d-scan is clear, and just one planet sits out of range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan as I warp to the far planet, which my notes suggest holds occupation. My probes show me seven anomalies, eight signatures, and no ships, and my overview shows me no tower. D-scan does, though, it's just not the one from my last visit. It's easy enough to find, conventionally anchored to a moon, so I settle down to scan again.

Wormhole, wormhole, gas, wormhole, wormhole, data, and data. That looks like a good result to me, and off I go to see what wormholes I've found. The static exit to low-sec is obv. That is, its identifier is OBV. There is also a K162 from class 2 w-space, an N968 outbound connection to more class 3 w-space—in fact, I think I'd best jump through that now, in case I've just opened it.

Messy class 3 w-space system

In to C3b, where d-scan shows me a tower and no ships, and the discovery scanner a messy system. I can't be bothered to sift through all of these signatures for potentially nothing, particularly with no change in the system since three months ago, so ignore it all and head back to the other wormholes in C3a. The last wormhole I warp to in C3a is, hullo, a V301 outbound connection to class 1 w-space.

I dunno why I'm so excited by the C1 link. I don't suppose the chance of finding activity is any higher, although maybe what activity there is could be easier to engage. But that's probably just a superficial assumption based on the class of w-space and has nothing to do with the type of capsuleer to be found there. Either way, I'm going in!

Decent bubble trap around a w-space tower

A tower, no ships. No notes either. It's a new system to explore, but that's about it. At least there are only three anomalies and five signatures, so I can make a note of the static exit without too much effort—once I squeeze my way out of a decent bubble trap around the tower. It goes to low-sec, and Kor-Azor in particular today. That's it for this system too, I suppose.

Two planets, one moon

Back to C3a and across to the C2 K162, for one last chance of finding ships. I jump through, update d-scan, and see the standard empty tower in the system. The two unsupported mining drones aren't fooling me, there's nothing happening. Of course there isn't, look at the system: two planets and one moon! It's a bedsit, making it no wonder the locals aren't home. I would bemoan the lack of activity, but I got what I wanted, which is a bit of noodling around w-space for an evening. It'll do.

Clear two, clear a third free

24th July 2014 – 5.54 pm

I look to be alone to start the evening. But, then, I did yesterday too, and there turned out to be a substantial fleet in the middle of our system. Launching probes and performing a blanket scan doesn't return any ships, but that doesn't mean there are no ships. Not that I'm paranoid, but I can't help wondering if my interrupting the fleet's plans caused enough resentment for them to plant a ship or two in the system to interrupt me.

I know how to find out if there's anyone out there. As it's just me, some gas, and our static wormhole, I warp to our tower, swap my scouting boat for the Golem marauder, and take it out to the one good anomaly we have available. Nothing so far, but I have only just got here. I target the Sleepers, start shooting missiles, and launch the silly mobile tractor unit in preparation of raking in the wrecks.

New signature alert! The discovery scanner pings another anomaly at me, similar to this one, in fact. Damned discovery scanner, encouraging me to continue making ISK when I just wanted to start the evening feeling productive. I can't ignore the opportunity, though, although I can accidentally ignore my weapon timers. I think the blinding cloud my Golem is sitting in has something to do with that.

The first anomaly is almost clear when a new contact appears! It's okay, it's just my glorious leader turning up. Fin should help speed this up too. I finish the final Sleepers, drop the gathered loot at our tower, and warp out to clear the second anomaly whilst we're on an isk-making roll. No interference yet. I'm not even interfered with by a Tengu strategic cruiser, Fin suffering from the same problem I had when looking to take one of the Tengus to the neighbouring system recently. It seems neither of us can remember how to fit it for local repairs.

Golem versus the Sleepers again

It's just me and the Golem in the second anomaly, not even a blinding cloud to obscure my presence. I'm exposed! But the Sleepers are converted to wrecks without problem. A bit of minor sweeping up in a destroyer and I've finished my ISK-generation for the evening, bringing back a tidy 180 Miskies. Or so I think. Fin has accidentally taken her Tengu in to a third anomaly, thinking we'd be continuing. Well, never mind, we're not always in control of our destiny.

Back in to the Golem and to the third anomaly. We're getting more familiar with this type, and although the Sleepers seem tougher than in the previous anomalies the combat is just as straightforward. Pick a target, shoot a target. Fin cleared the frigates before I got here, which was thoughtful, although doing so has left a bundle of wrecks on the other side of the anomaly. That's okay, the MTU can sweep up the new wrecks and we can loot and salvage the others afterwards.

The third anomaly is cleared of Sleepers. We wait for the guns to evaporate and I head back in to the site in a Noctis salvager. It's been a while since I've used one, and in doing so I realise that it really is a shame. The range of the tractor beams, the cycle time of the salvagers, it really is a salvaging machine. The mobile tractor unit now feels even more of a travesty to w-space life, after just five minutes in a Noctis. But whatever.

I get home safely, all the wrecks looted and salvaged, the third anomaly pulling in about cool hundred million ISK for us. That's over a quarter-of-a-billion ISK in potential profit collected this evening. Maybe we didn't leave our home system, and neither did I yesterday, but there are still activities to keep us engaged.

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.

Trying to catch a Womble

22nd July 2014 – 5.30 pm

Fresh in space, all looks clear. Our gas site has been swept away, and although a new signature has popped up I wouldn't be surprised it if were just replacement gas. I launch probes, perform a blanket scan, and, huh. There are a dozen or more ships along with clouds of drones in our system. That doesn't seem normal.

I'm cloaked and warping to the inner system, from one of my safe spots at a far edge of the system, at which point I update my directional scanner. Yep, ships and drones. Three Dominix battleships, a Rattlesnake battleship, three Vexor Navy Issue cruisers, and enough drones to make a hive. Now I'm pretty sure they aren't ours.

Thieves! I think! I poke our anomalies with d-scan, expecting to find the fleet, but I find nothing. I do it again, because where else would the fleet be? I've got no notifications about damage to our structures. I still can't find the fleet, neither can I see any wrecks. But why the ships, why the drones?

Okay, I've narrowed down the fleet's location to a planet. I warp across to the customs office, dropping in from high above the ecliptic plane just in case they are at an odd range, but they aren't here. Of course they aren't, I just told myself I'm not receiving damage notifications from our structures. They are around this planet, though.

Finally, there they are. I poke each moon with d-scan, not knowing what else to do, and locate the fleet. They are gathered at the off-line tower in our system, the one we've been too lazy to tear down since displacing the owner corporation when we moved in. Well, I say 'too lazy', I more mean that destroying a faction tower under the influence of a class 4 w-space pulsar is a bit too tedious to contemplate under normal circumstances. That just makes it weirder that this fleet, who don't even live here, are doing just that.

Fleet shooting the off-line tower in our home system

I'm rather ambivalent about this action. On the one hand, who cares if the tower is removed? It gets rid of some clutter, and hardly changes our landscape. On the other hand, I was kinda hoping it would serve as a good target dummy for my Revelation dreadnought, if we ever get it fully armed. On the gripping hand, why destroy a valuable piece of hardware if we may be able to unanchor and sell it for ISK within the next six months?

I don't know why they are shooting the tower, and it's not like I can do much about a fleet as big as this. However, although most of the ships may be hugging the column in a rather suggestive manner, a lone Hound stealth bomber is orbiting at a healthy distance from the rest of the fleet, lobbing torpedoes as it goes. That's a ship I can pop, hopefully without the fleet being able to interfere in time. I just need to catch it.

Hound far from the fleet makes a target

Piece of cake. I can't warp directly to the ship, but there is the tower slap bang in the middle of the grid as a focal point, the defences above and below the tower give me some z-axis reference points, and there are planets and moons all around I can bounce off to get in to range. This shouldn't take more than a couple of tries. I make a bookmark of a defence, check the Hound's position and vector, and bounce off a suitable moon, returning to be, well, nowhere near.

Nil desperandum. That was my first effort, and I at least got closer. Now I can better see how the Hound is moving and get the jump on him with the next bounce. So confident am I that I ignore a newly arrived Nemesis stealth bomber and warp away to come back, uh, nowhere near the Hound again. Third time's the charm, obviously. I use the tactical overlay, gauge the right distance and vector, bounce off a moon, and bloody hell, what am I doing wrong?

I bet the old saying is fourth time's a charm, and it must have got corrupted by people who were clearly more skilful than me. I bounce my Proteus strategic cruiser off a moon and back to the tower, and get my best result so far. I am still around forty kilometres from my target, though, and I'm pretty sure my weapon systems don't have that kind of range. Plot an intercept course, Mr Data.

I try to crawl cloaked to get closer, but the Hound is booking it, and although the speed suggests an active afterburner and not micro warp drive, he's heading away from me again. Balls to it, Mr Data, let's just bounce off a moon again, because obviously that's going to work this time. I get back to the tower once again around forty kilometres from the Hound, once again on a diverging course. You know, at this point, I think I'm just wasting warp fuel.