Replacing the Manticore

24th April 2014 – 5.51 pm

There's nothing to report on coming on-line. Gas, anomalies, the static wormhole. I resolve the wormhole and jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system hoping to find more, but only the black hole is obvious from the K162. My directional scanner is clear. It's a big system, though, so I launch probes and perform a blanket scan. Six anomalies, nine signatures, and a bunch of drones. No ships, so the drones are either abandoned or in a bubble around a tower.

My notes tell me where the tower should be, and as the location is in range of our K162 and d-scan shows me nothing it looks like the tower is gone. Except I see that my overview remains in PvP mode from yesterday, set to not show me anything inconsequential, only threats that are likely to kill me. I switch back to my standard overview and, lo and behold, a tower and drones blink in to view.

So there's a tower and drones on d-scan. There are still no ships. I warp to where the tower is and, well, it's not exactly here. A tower is, but it is off-line and all but a couple of incapacitated defences float nearby. Still, the new tower is around the same planet and is straightforward enough to find, where the drones aren't in a bubble trap after all. It doesn't matter, I'm not going to look for them. I will look for wormholes, however, and scanning bags me five of them.

A K162 from low-sec is at the end of its life and uninteresting, a K162 from null-sec is healthy and possibly Plan B, the third is the static exit to high-sec and leading to Kador, the fourth a dying K162 from class 2 w-space, and the last is a K162 from high-sec Domain. It's a fairly standard spread of connections, nothing particularly inspiring, but the link from Domain takes me to a system only two hops from Amarr. This is a good opportunity to replace the stealth bomber I lost.

Popping rats in a high-sec anomaly

Or I could pop some rats in a basic anomaly whilst scanning the two extra signatures in the system. Pop pop pop. No fancy rats appear, but I resolve a pair of wormholes. Still, responsibility kicks in and I decide I really should get a replacement Manticore, so I take my Loki strategic cruiser home, dump it at our tower, and return to high-sec in my pod. Hop, hop to Amarr, buy a ship and fittings, and take the stealth bomber back towards w-space.

I pause in the exit system, knowing that I could roam effectively in my new Manticore through the pair of wormholes I have scanned here. I won't be able to scan further back, but a quick look won't hurt. The first wormhole is a K162 from class 2 w-space, which I return to and jump through after seeing the second, a K162 from null-sec with the upside-down 'A' of Malpais that signifies the Perrigen Falls region.

Taking my Manticore to class 2 w-space and updating d-scan shows traces of activity, some drones and two combat scanning probes. I move from the wormhole and cloak, loitering to see if the probes start moving around. They do, but it takes a while to see any change. At least someone is active. I hold on the wormhole, waiting for the scout to finish scanning, and when the probes disappear I wait for a ship to come past me. With any luck, he'll jump out to reconnoitre the exit and return polarised to me. And he'll be in a tricked-out frigate. With a head full of expensive implants. And be carrying a pony.

Pod drops on to the wormhole and jumps to high-sec

Just as I think no one is coming my way a pod appears on d-scan. The pod unsurprisingly drops on to the wormhole and leaves w-space for high-sec. Well, we're close to Amarr, maybe he's gone to get his own stealth bomber. I hear all the cool kids are doing that now. Or maybe he's gone to get a new hauler, which he'll stuff full of capital parts. And a pony. With sparkles in my eyes I continue to loiter on the wormhole, waiting for the pilot's return, but after a while I realise he probably isn't, and that I'm essentially doing nothing.

Maybe something else is happening in this class 2 system. I've not had a look around yet. I leave my position to explore, locating a tower on a distant planet, with an Omen cruiser, Drake battlecruiser, and Buzzard covert operations boat inside its force field, the Drake and Buzzard piloted. The two capsuleers are doing about as much as I was, and I realise how much time I've consumed. I should probably have been more active. Maybe I should have brought a scanning-capable ship along after all. I head back to high-sec and, seeing no oranges in the local channel, decide to head home.

Hail Mary on a marauder

23rd April 2014 – 5.15 pm

We retreat. Mick and HR head back through the wormhole to the home system, and I am in a tactical spot some distance from the wormhole in this class 4 w-space system. Hostile ships mill around the wormhole in the distance but they don't follow my colleagues through; they are happy to dictate where any further engagement happens, forcing us to come to them and, potentially, polarising ourselves should we try to flee. I suppose it's a balancing factor: those who most want to fight must put themselves in a dangerous position.

I am ready to come home and warp to be in jump range of the wormhole, but Mick would like a second crack at the ships. He and HR talk about ships that we have that could upset our opponents, pondering choices and selections. Personally, now that I think about it, I'm more interested by the Golem marauder that's still on the field. Although not particularly vulnerable, some hundred kilometres from the wormhole, oblique to my position, given that anyone coming in to the system has to get past the combat ships slowly circling the wormhole, that he remains in the same position surely isn't a good idea.

I take a look at the relative position of the wormhole, Golem, and distant planets. He's not directly in line with any of the planets and the wormhole, but he's not far off either. I think I could get my Manticore stealth bomber in a decent position to provide a warp-in point for my colleagues, and in little time. Our ships wouldn't be able to get to the Golem quickly normally, but by positioning a ship in the fleet sufficiently beyond the target, a fleet-warp command can be initiated, aimed to drop short of the distant fleet member and on top of the target.

Hearing about the Golem remaining on the field and understanding its value, both to the owners and in ISK terms, has us making it our primary target. Essentially, if we kill any target it will be the Golem. I bounce off a distant planet from the wormhole and start manoeuvring my Manticore to provide the fleet a warp reference. It doesn't take long. The Golem just sits there, motionless. On top of that, the combat ships warp away from the wormhole, the pilots swapping to battleships.

The locals aren't escalating the conflict, they are killing the wormhole instead. A Dominix, Raven, and Armageddon are all employed in pushing mass through the connection, which limits the time we have available to make our move. It could also limit what ships we can bring through, particularly when the wormhole drops to its half-mass state. But once the Raven warps away the wormhole looks clear on both sides, the Golem still refuses to move, and we have two Dominix battleships of our own we're ready to bring in.

Our fleet moves. They warp to the wormhole, jump, and warp to drop short of my position. It's right about now that I realise requiring the ships to warp a hundred kilometres and calling for them to warp a hundred kilometres short of my position can actually be different objectives. It seemed so clear in my head, but I've screwed up. Our Dominices make the warp and only advance fifty kilometres. I'm really not that smart sometimes.

Jumping the stationary and alone Golem

Thankfully, our battleships cross the remaining distance with some speed, and I get my Manticore burning towards the Golem to make sure it won't warp away before they get close. He's caught. I paint the target and start lobbing torpedoes his way, as our Dominices catch up after my error and apply their own, significant damage and electronic warfare. The Golem realises he's in danger and enters bastion mode, hoping to keep his marauder afloat for long enough for help to arrive.

Help arrives. The same ships as before, but this time we're ignoring them for the Golem. The marauder's shields are dropping, our firepower is strong. The Golem still fights, targeting my Manticore to try to get rid of me. It works, as the first hit shreds my shields for the second time this evening. Also for the second time this evening, I bodge my exit strategy, clearly not having thought about it in advance, and aim the wrong way to start with. This time, unlike the previous occasion, I am not able to rectify this mistake quickly enough. A second volley of cruise missiles hits me, and my Manticore explodes.

Incoming fire from the ailing Golem

I would say my ship died this time because I am closer to the Golem, so his missiles get to me sooner. I think it's more accurate to say that I was lucky the first time that the Golem was so far away. Never the less, now is not the time to sit like a lemon. I warp my pod away, and bounce back to the wormhole, jumping home immediately. My part in the combat is over for now. I regret losing my ship, wanting to have done more, but I just hit a reload cycle and was being forced to warp away anyway. Given the current state of the fight, I probably did as much as I could. Except provide a better warp-in.

Falcon makes a crucial appearance

The Golem was intact but really suffering when I left it. It's taken even more damage now, but the hostiles have realised that they aren't going to fight our ships off the high-value target, and finally bring in their ECM support instead. It's a frustrating but understandable tactic, and it works. The Golem drops from bastion mode, aligns out, and when a successful jam hits both Dominices at the same time the marauder warps clear. '28% hull structure', says the Golem pilot in the local channel, 'I was shitting myself'. I would have been too.

As for our ships, Mick gets clear, HR doesn't. We lose a Dominix to the fleet, on top of the Manticore, and the Ishtar in the earlier engagement. Whilst we made mistakes, I think we did pretty well. After all, we don't know what mistakes the other fleet think they did, and I would consider leaving the Golem where it was to be their biggest one. Yes, we lost a couple of ships, but our plan was to throw a Hail Mary at the marauder. The excitement, no doubt on both sides, was well worth our time and ISK.

Back-and-forth with bait

22nd April 2014 – 5.11 pm

I'm feeling more positive after yesterday's playful encounter. What's up for tonight? A ship in our home system, for a start, which my combat scanning probes inform me of. Warping across from my safe spot lets me see the Golem marauder on my directional scanner, and switching overviews and repeating the scan sees a Sleeper wreck. Just the one wreck, mind you, and now no longer a Golem.

Did I scare the marauder off, or was his ship just not up to the job? I can't believe the latter option, not with only the first Sleeper in the anomaly popped. I find the anomaly, make a perch, and wait a while, pondering the situation. He's back, so say my probes, but d-scan is showing me a Noctis salvager. That's curious. I update my probes and the ship is still somewhere, but the Noctis is gone. Cloaked? No, probably near his wormhole, as it is the salvager my probes are detecting, not the return of the Golem that I assumed.

The Noctis leaves our system. If the pilot's not going to continue here, I'll scan for his wormhole. Calling my probes in to the system is the perfect time for the pilot to return, of course, this time in a Tengu strategic cruiser. I scramble to get my probes out of the system again, no doubt too slowly, but the Tengu persists on d-scan. He's not in the anomaly, or any site, but he does seem to be on our previously scanned static connection. I warp across to take a look.

Bait Tengu near our static wormhole

Well, a pilot called 'Yummy Worm' in a Tengu some seventy kilometres from the wormhole. 'Could be some kind of bait', says a newly arrived HR. Call me suspicious, but I think he's right. I go back to scanning for the apparently new wormhole, resolving it quickly and warping across to see a K162 from class 4 w-space. I don't quite fancy jumping through this one, because if the Tengu is bait then his support fleet will be right on the other side. So what to do?

It's a bit of a stalemate, until Mick arrives. He's always up for a scrap, and knows much more about ships than I ever will. He encourages us to swap ships and I have no hesitation jumping in to a Manticore stealth bomber to see what we can do. My decision to reveal myself on d-scan, indirectly showing the Tengu my intention, is perhaps a bit rash, but at the very least it could spark a reaction. It does. The Tengu aligns away from our wormhole and back to his, warping and jumping as Mick and HR appear at our tower to also swap for much pointier ships.

My Manticore should be safe against whatever is waiting, so I drop my cloak, burn to the K162, and follow a few seconds behind. The wormhole is clear. A Noctis is on d-scan, along with a tower. No Tengu, no support. 'So it was not bait.' Maybe. Maybe not. There's a lot more space outside d-scan range of the wormhole, and as HR joins me in the system I decide to go on a reconnoitre.

Four more towers are in the inner system, one with an empty Charon freighter, another with the Tengu and an also-piloted Cerberus heavy assault cruiser, presumably the support for the bait. One more tower is further distant but with no more ships. The Tengu and Cerberus do nothing, and if it is just them then better timing by us could have got us a couple of kills. But who knows who is watching in w-space?

HR has a new contact at the tower with the Noctis, which warps to the furthest tower. I follow him as the Tengu heads HR's way, and I see the Proteus strategic cruiser get swapped for a Falcon recon ship and warp to a nearby moon lacking a tower. That's initially odd, but it allows the despised ECM boat to cloak and warp elsewhere whilst keeping its vector unknown. Still, there aren't many locations it could be heading, not with HR calling the Tengu being in warp to the wormhole.

Maybe the Tengu was bait after all, and is continuing to be bait, now with greater support. But we feel we're in a better position too, particularly if I hold back in my Manticore and ambush the Falcon as soon as it appears. I make some tactical bookmarks at the wormhole, on the assumption that the Falcon will appear at its optimal range, as Mick jumps from home to engage the Tengu directly.

Ishtar vs. Tengu

Mick's Ishtar HAC and the Tengu trade blows for a short while, before the Cerberus makes an appearance on d-scan. I see it so I call it, still waiting for the Falcon to decloak. Still no Falcon, but a Golem is incoming. A Golem? Who would have expected that? The marauder warps from a different direction, plants himself a healthy distance from any direct threat, and starts firing. 'Hit the Cerberus, with everything', says Mick. Roger that.

Golem warps in to join the fray unexpectedly

Losing the Ishtar

I warp my Manticore in close—too close, I must have given the wrong order—and HR follows suit, but it's too late. Mick admits that he wasn't able to control the range as he wanted, and his Ishtar explodes. HR flees, I fumble with decisions again, taking my Manticore in a stupid direction before being more sensible, suffering a single volley of cruise missile fire from the Golem as a consequence. My shields are stripped, but I get my Manticore safe. And where was the Falcon? It not appearing is almost as annoying as one appearing.

Ever get the feeling you're being watched?

21st April 2014 – 5.09 pm

You never can tell who's watching you in w-space. The scout in an Anathema covert operations boat of this class 3 w-space system has moved back in to the force field of his tower, after being decloaked by a colleague in a shuttle, and wisely, considering I was watching. Another minute and I would have got myself in to a position to have taken a potshot at him. The Anathema may be safe, the ten-or-so other pilots may be just floating inside the tower with him, but this Tayra hauler is curiously inching towards the edge of the force field.

Taking a closer look at the Tayra sees its vector taking the ship towards an anchored defence. Quite why he's headed that way I can't say, but the defence gives me a good beacon to warp to. At least, as long as the Tayra continues his path. I don't know if he will, but best to get in to position and be disappointed than have to react quickly and miss the opportunity. I bookmark the appropriate defence and bounce off a nearby moon to get myself nice and close.

The Tayra keeps coming. Now I'm back to my earlier question of how long it will take the tower to lock on to my Loki strategic cruiser. Or, more to the point, how long do I have before I get my ship destroyed just for a simple hauler kill? I think I can risk a short period decloaked near the tower. If the Tayra is fit for hauling its defences should be weak. If it looks like the Tayra is well-tanked I will warp clear.

Tayra crawls out of its tower's force field

Here he comes. Outside of the force field now, but I let the Tayra keep coming. The closer the better, for my weapons, for my tactics, and for lessening his chance of escape. Now seems like a good time. I decloak and align my Loki away from the tower, towards a moon, and activate my sensor booster. Once the recalibration finishes I gain a positive lock on the Tayra, disrupt its warp drives, and start shooting.

Tayra continues towards the tower defence

The shields drop quickly, as does the armour, and as it looks squishy I hang around long enough to see the hauler explode. But no longer. As soon as the explosion comes I am in warp, ignoring the ejected pod, however tempting it may be to try to catch. I get clear and cloak, and realise I have some scratches to my shields. It seems it took about ten seconds for the small gun batteries to lock on to my Loki, but thankfully the warp scrambling batteries take longer, as expected.

Tayra explodes, I warp clear

I go back to the tower to admire the wreck I created. The Executioner frigate comes out of the force field to take a look too, after making rather fast orbits around the tower up to this point, but I don't think he's admiring the wreck. I see from the kill report that the Tayra was carrying some more defensive batteries, four of them, and three survived the explosion. The frigate can't carry them, neither can the Anathema that comes to take a look, so the wreck remains partially looted.

The locals aren't going to leave the wreck that way, not judging by the way a Raven battleship, Navy Drake battlecruiser, and Caracal cruiser all lurk precipitously close to the edge of the force field, like they are protecting an asset. Their presence is explained when another pilot prepares a Bestower hauler and starts chugging towards the wreck. They are going to collect what's theirs. And I'm going to let them. Or, at least, I'm not going to get foolishly caught for nothing.

Escort forming for the salvage operation

'Why don't you bomb it?' Mick has the best ideas, and reminds us that we have other ships in our hangar. Fin's available and at our tower, but she has to hurry. The Bestower is almost looting the wreck as I ask her to get a Manticore to my position. Well, not quite my position. I bounce off a moon to get in to optimal bomb-launch range, in time for Fin to have entered the system. She warps to me, as I manoeuvre out of her way to avoid getting decloaked, and we praise the warp acceleration changes that get her in to position so quickly.

Bestower loots the Tayra wreck under escort

The Tayra wreck is looted and the Bestower is already turned back towards the force field, its multiple-ship escort also out of the force field ready to engage anyone rash enough to try to catch their second hauler with a strategic cruiser. I think it is safe to say they were not expecting a stealth bomber to appear, not by the way Fin decloaks, launches a bomb and a volley of torpedoes, and warps clear without hassle.

Fin launches a bomb at the retreating Bestower

Bestower becomes wreck

I watch all of this from my vantage point, particularly enjoying the bit where the Bestower explodes with the bomb's detonation. I'm not the only one who enjoys the show. A capsuleer unaffiliated with us or the locals pipes up in the local channel, just to show how entertaining this is. You never can tell who's watching you in w-space.

We've got an audience

The three batteries that were collected by the Bestower are now reduced to two in the wreck of the Bestower. What will the locals do about them? They will prepare a Noctis salvager to collect them, apparently. That makes sense. It has the capacity, and can be fit to survive one bomb, maybe two. If we can't kill the ship, what can we do? 'Shall I torpedo the wreck?' I consider this for a second. Sure, why not.

Fin pops the wreck of the Bestower, surviving defences still inside

The Manticore has no recalibration delay, so can target on decloaking. Fin aligns her Manticore ready for warp, decloaks, unloads a volley of torpedoes at the wreck, and gets clear. The wreck is gone, taking the remaining defences with it. The locals may not be happy with that result, but at least it provides a resolution. We also found it rather amusing. For a pair of hauler kills, this has been a most entertaining evening.

Pausing on the way home

20th April 2014 – 3.43 pm

I have a plan. I got podded last night, under frustrating circumstances, and will be starting the evening in high-sec. I plan to buy some cheap ammunition, throw a capacitor-sucking shield booster on to my new Loki strategic cruiser, and cruise high-sec anomalies popping rats in a therapeutic manner, hopefully finding the odd piece of good loot in the process.

That's the plan, and like most others of mine it falls over immediately. My glorious leader has been busy already, having scanned a not-insignificant w-space constellation to provide me with three routes home, two through a high-sec connection. I can't say this is a bad result, though. Going home seems like a better use of my time than crushing some puny high-sec rats. I set my auto-pilot destination and start hopping stargates.

Fin also tells me of the Zephyr exploration ship she caught and killed. It's good to see one of us doing well at the moment. But she punctuates the kill report by pointing out how the w-space constellation appears to be becoming more active. I'm sure I'll almost certainly probably be fine. At the very least, I can jump in through the high-sec wormhole, take a look at my directional scanner, and go back to Plan A if I get the jitters.

Twelve hops through high-sec. Nothing much happens. It gives Fin a chance to call out ships and pilots visible in the systems she's passing through, taking a ship out to high-sec to conduct some business. The exit she's using, the one I'm headed for, is only two hops from Amarr. That's pretty convenient. It also lets me act as scout for her return. I can do that! I'm already regaining my confidence in moving through w-space.

I get to the exit system. No oranges in local, but I don't think any corporations from our constellation have been tagged. I can do that whilst Fin is away. The wormhole is clear in high-sec, jumping to the class 2 system sees nothing on the other side of the wormhole, and d-scan shows me some towers to reconnoitre. Seven towers, in fact, along with a few ships to check for pilots.

A Scorpion battleship is piloted in one tower, a Buzzard covert operations boat and Dominix battleship are piloted in a second, and a Legion strategic cruiser is piloted in a third. None of the ships or pilots looks to be considering doing anything, though. Moving on, I head to the wormhole to C3b, but I've no time to do a full reconnoitre of the next system. Fin's on her way back.

I jump through a clear wormhole to see four towers on d-scan, plus a Loki, two Dominices, and a Helios and Buzzard cov-ops each. There are no wrecks and d-scan suggests our next connection is clear. I continue my run to the next system, our neighbouring class 3 system and so the last in the route home. The first aspect I notice is the palindromic J-number, which probably shouldn't be a priority, so I punch d-scan and see two towers and eleven ships. They're probably not up to much.

Not much, but something. Core scanning probes are whizzing around, but they are only core scanning probes and not combats, so they won't detect Fin's Bustard transport coming through. Fin enters the system, warps to our K162, and jumps home. I ask Fin to let me know if anyone ambushes her, as I loiter in C3a to see how many ships are piloted and what they are up to.

C3a is a compact system. Four planets, both towers around a planet with two moons. It's pretty simple. One tower is pretty much bare, just an empty shuttle inside the force field, the other holding the rest of the ships, all of them piloted. Well, I think it's the rest of the ships, as I don't count ten, but d-scan shows me none elsewhere. One appears abruptly, a shuttle warping to land on top of and decloak an Anathema cov-ops a few tens of kilometres outside of the tower's force field.

Probes clustered outside a tower

Decloaked by your own colleague!

I consider my options against the Anathema. It looks like he's aligned between a tower and distant planet, so I could probably bounce close to him. But how long will it take to pop the cov-ops, and how long will it take the tower to lock on to my ship? Fin reckons I have a ten-to-fifteen second window, but that will be for the guns. I remember hearing that the warp scramble batteries take longer.

Barely remembered hearsay is the best kind of indicator to rely on, so I turn my Loki around, bounce off the right planet, and warp back to, well, the wrong tower. It doesn't matter, as by the time I get to the right one the Anathema has wisely moved back in to its force field. That's my limited fun over, and Fin's too. She briefly considers heading back to high-sec for another run, but agrees that a convenient connection doesn't justify getting greedy. If anyone was watching we'll just lose, and this feels like the kind of constellation where someone is watching.

Red ring of death

19th April 2014 – 3.16 pm

I found myself some minor excitement, now it looks like there may be some miner excitement. The EVE University-held class 2 w-space system I'm in has a single anomaly, an ore site, and a Skiff exhumer coincident with it, according to my directional scanner. Of course, there are also six towers that I can see, a bunch of other ships, and I've only just engaged a Talwar destroyer and Sentinel frigate on a wormhole in to this system. The Skiff's got to be bait, right?

'Yes', says Fin, the Skiff must be bait. It's not like I need confirmation, but getting a sanity check is always welcome. I warp in to the site to take a look anyway, and the exhumer looks authentic from a distance, sitting next to an arkonor rock. It even warps away, disappearing out of the site for a minute, before returning to the same spot, as if it has just dropped off a load of ore. It's good acting, but it's a ruse.

Bait Skiff

I warp closer to the Skiff, close enough to see the hull shimmer with an active tank, easily close enough to see that its mining lasers aren't active. It's not even mining. It's miming mining. Oh sure, I'm still tempted to shoot it, just to find out that of course it's bait and I shouldn't shoot it, but I actually listen to sense and just take my word for it. I warp away, leaving the mimer alone, and reconnoitre the system properly.

It's a small system, everything sitting in range of d-scan, and only six moons around the planets. The C2 is saturated, no doubt a conscious plan by EVE Uni to help protect their presence in w-space. The ships in the system are evenly spread amongst the towers, which I only detect using d-scan. I don't much care to ping each tower and confirm pilots. I bet EVE Uni has rules about not leaving unpiloted ships floating inside force fields.

I launch probes to scan. Apart from the one anomaly there are three signatures: the wormhole I entered through, and the two static wormholes. I ignore the first and resolve the other two, an exit to high-sec and a connection to class 3 w-space. The C3 wormhole has a Raptor interceptor land on it as I warp away after bookmarking its location, which is good. The interceptor is back in this system and not loitering on the other side of the low-sec entrance. It's perhaps a good time to try to get out the way I came.

I warp to the K162 from low-sec, see no ships, and jump through to a waiting Talwar, Sentinel, and a third ship, which I only later identify as a Proteus strategic cruiser. I am also under two kilometres from the wormhole, making it impossible to cloak immediately. Time is of the essence, as my appearance will no doubt have whatever EVE Uni pilots available warping to the wormhole, so I move, try to cloak, and get targeted pretty much immediately.

Greeted by EVE University ships in low-sec

There's not much I can do in low-sec. Even if I could pop the Talwar and Sentinel before help arrived, the Proteus will hold me in place easily enough. I dive back through the wormhole to C2b. The wormhole is clear, I am nearly four kilometres from the locus, so I move and cloak. Come on, stupid ship; move and cloak. Ah, great. Apparently my first command was recognised, just flowed back to me with undue latency.

Not only did my cloak activate, making me safe, but the repeated command was not met with the usual 'damn, fool, your cloak already be active! Quit fucking with the buttons', but a resigned sigh of, 'whatever, I'll switch it off, make your mind up next time'. The first I know of this is seeing the red-ring of cloak inactivity surrounding my module. I didn't even see the green ring.

Did I mention the Raptor warping on to the wormhole in C2b as I moved from the wormhole? Yeah, he turned up to see my Loki strategic cruiser decloak for no reason, and doesn't hesitate in locking on to my once-more visible ship. Great. A glitch takes me from being polarised and safe to polarised and dead. I do what I can, which is target the Raptor, scramble his drives, and start shooting, but the Talwar and Proteus come from low-sec, and just about every ship in the w-space system comes to pile on Penny.

EVE University welcomes me back in to their w-space system

When I say just about every ship piles on me I am apparently understating. The Skiff even turns up. At least there's no ECM to frustrate me further. I rake through the Raptor whilst burning my ancillary shield boosters to stay afloat, but the incoming damage is massive. It was hurting badly, but I can't even tell if the interceptor is still in range when my Loki explodes around me. Not that it matters. I aim my pod for the high-sec exit, and even that goes wrong. I am caught again, and unceremoniously woken up in a clone vat.

Wreck of the Sammich

Maybe I should have taken the safe route to high-sec in the first place. That's kinda boring though. What irritates me is that I was actually safe, it wasn't my actions that got me caught. I couldn't trust the cloaking command to have gone through if I was getting no feedback. What if it hadn't? How long do you wait? There's no point lingering on it, though. I do, of course, there's just no point to it. To bring the evening to a close I update my clone, buy a new Loki from Jita, and find a quieter system to dock in overnight.

Flirtation with EVE University

18th April 2014 – 5.09 pm

I come on-line to see my glorious leader and a trail of bookmarks. I follow the trail to see where they lead, which is first unsurprisingly in to a class 3 w-space system. My notes tell me that the exit goes to low-sec empire space, and combine with my directional scanner to inform me at-a-glance that the tower I see is different than the one a year ago. The tower from my last visit should be well out of range, some 50 AU away.

The tower in range is small and has just about no defences, only shield hardeners. 'Yeah, I thought about it', says Fin, clearly understanding the implicit desire to test the tower for strontium. But even if the second tower didn't remain on the edge of the system, albeit also without ships, shooting a tower is still a tedious endeavour. I just take my Loki strategic cruiser on a tour of this system.

Fin has scanned the static wormhole, finding a K162 from high-sec in the process. The K162 is at the end of its life now, but the exit to low-sec is healthy, the devil-man of Heimatar shining through. I jump through to see what else may be out there, landing in a faction warfare system with six extra signatures to scan. No wormholes, though, just a couple of combat sites and plenty of gas.

Nothing in low-sec, nothing in C3a. What to do? I'll hop a gate, hopefully not too dangerous a proposition in a faction warfare system, and see if I can find better opportunity. The stargate is safely crossed, taking me to a more active system, again with six signatures. The combat, data, data, and relic sites are disappointing, but at last a wormhole! And, in warp to the first, I resolve a second.

Astero near C2 K162 in low-sec

Landing near the first wormhole sees a K162 from class 2 w-space, but more interesting is the Astero frigate also here, also investigating the connection. Unfortunately, the Astero warped in from a different direction, at as cautiously a distance as I chose, putting her rather too far for me to hope to catch. But she's just sitting there, examining the wormhole, giving me a chance of getting in range. I start edging closer, closer, but the Astero finally gets its bearings and burns towards the wormhole, jumping through when in range.

I won't catch the Astero, not even if I decloak and burn to the wormhole myself. I still get closer anyway, decloaking and activating my sensor booster in case she comes back out polarised, but whatever the pilot sees in the C2 it is enough to keep her attention. Never mind, I have another wormhole. It's another connection to class 2 w-space, this one outbound, and with a Talwar destroyer and Sentinel frigate sitting on it.

Talwar and Sentinel on a wormhole in low-sec

Both destroyer and frigate warp before my ancient reactions catch up with my senses, but never mind. I have my own C2 system to explore, albeit through a poor outbound wormhole. Or maybe I don't, as the Talwar returns before I crawl cloaked in to jump range, followed shortly after by the Sentinel's reappearance. Now I'm curious. Curious enough to check the pilots' affiliation. EVE University.

These being EVE-Uni pilots doesn't bode well for my solo ambush, not with so many pilots in the system. But what the hell, right? I decloak, get my systems working, and target the Talwar first. He seems like a threat. I gain a positive lock, scramble his engines, and start shooting, stripping his shields quickly but without knowing if that's good or not. Maybe he's armour-tanked. Whatever his situation, the pilot predictably bails out through the wormhole. Let's see what the Sentinel does.

The frigate's shields drop precipitously too, but the Sentinel is pretty nippy. He zips out from under my warp scrambler, far enough that he may have thought he was merely disrupted, and warps clear. Okay, let's chase that Talwar. I jump to C2b, see the Talwar on the wormhole still, and re-engage. Yep, he returns straight back to low-sec. I'm not foolish enough to polarise myself in such a situation, where my target almost certainly has plenty of back-up and I have none. I just push away from the wormhole and cloak, as a Stabber cruiser warps in.

Stabber warps in as I move from the wormhole and cloak

The Stabber's pilot is in EVE-Uni too, so I suppose this C2 is under their control. If that weren't confirmation enough that not continuing the engagement polarised was a sensible move, once the Stabber fails to find my cloaked Loki and jumps to low-sec only to have a Raptor interceptor follow seconds behind it is pretty convincing. It looks like I've found myself some minor excitement.

Finding Impass

17th April 2014 – 5.52 pm

There's no change in space, as far as I can tell. That's a little over 14 AU, for what it's worth, and I'm fairly sure space extends at least a little beyond that. Perhaps I should take a better look around than merely punching my directional scanner in a safe spot in the home system. I launch probes and scan my way out, which is through our static wormhole, as usual.

Ships! I see ships! Not on the other side of the wormhole, thankfully, but on d-scan. And with a tower also visible. Still, ships. An Oracle and Hurricane battlecruiser, Manticore stealth bomber, Flycatcher interdictor, Curse recon ship, and Cerberus heavy assault cruiser. It's a motley bunch, and with no wrecks visible I'm supposing they aren't up to much.

A visit to this class 3 w-space system from only two weeks or so ago should have the tower unmoved from its previous location, which lets me quickly warp to it and see that all the ships are floating unpiloted inside a force field. Back to scanning. It's a messy system, fifteen anomalies and twenty signatures to sift through, with three wormholes amongst the gas, relic, and data sites.

The first wormhole is the static exit to low-sec, looking like it leads to Aridia. The second is just a K162 from null-sec, but the third is a K162 from class 2 w-space. That's what I'm after. I get the exit in Aridia first, just in case I encounter trouble, and note the opportunity of extra signatures in the system. But w-space first, and back through C3a to jump in to C2a.

Over ten towers are visible on d-scan in the class 2 system. Eleven, in fact. There are also two Dominix battleships somewhere, but still no wrecks so probably no activity. I can't be bothered to locate all of the towers, as it takes time and effort for generally no benefit, however much I like to keep notes, but looking for the ships seems like a good idea. One Dominix is piloted in one tower, the second piloted in a second, neither doing anything. That was fun.

I leave Fin watching a ship or two come in through C2a's static exit to high-sec that she has resolved, and monitoring a more-distant tower that has angrier-looking ships floating inside it, and return to Aridia to look for better opportunity. It's not often I consider scanning Aridia to be a good idea, but it's bound to happen occasionally. Actually scanning the four extra signatures only finds three combat sites and a pocket of gas, though. Stupid Aridia.

Clone soldier rat in low-sec

At least I find a clone soldier trying to mind his own business in a rock field. Popping him for security status gain would be less stressful if a new contact didn't appear in the system as soon as I engaged the rat. I align my Loki out and keep shooting, thankfully popping the rat without interruption. But now what? I think I've exhausted my options. That is, until I remember the null-sec K162 in C3a.

Another system to explore, and is that a ratting carrier I see on d-scan? Maybe, but probably not any more. There are rat wrecks galore on d-scan, but it looks like the Thanatos has retreated to the safety of a tower on my appearance in the system. Never mind, there are extra signatures to check for wormholes, all four resolving to be combat sites. Balls to it, I'm going home.

Wait a minute. I'm in Impass. This is a neat realisation, as it is one of the two regions I was yet to visit for my collection of New Eden wormhole colours. I'm glad I noticed before going off-line, or I'd have been a mite upset. I jump back to C3a, grab the requisite images of the colours shimmering through the wormhole, note the nebulae they represent, and feel like I've made some progress this evening before heading home. It's a good feeling.

Null-sec to null-sec to null-sec

16th April 2014 – 5.47 pm

Screw the Sleepers, a statement more meaningful were there many left in our home system. I paid my dues to maintaining our presence in w-space yesterday, culling plenty of the drones to help keep our wallet healthy with ISK, and today I am off exploring. Our neighbouring class 3 system seems like a good place to start, what with it being through my only choice of wormhole, so off I go.

Our static wormhole turns out to be not such a great choice of direction after all, an empty return from my directional scanner almost making staying at home preferable, particularly when there is only a single, moonless planet out of range. But our neighbouring system is often merely a gateway system, a link to further exploration. I launch probes and scan.

Thirteen anomalies, eleven signatures, and an exit to null-sec to hunt down. Great. Gas, relics, gas, gas, gas. So much gas. No one's been through here for a while. That weak wormhole is almost certainly the K346 I'm expecting, so I warp directly towards it. Yep, it's the exit, and probably the only wormhole I'll find amongst the weak signatures. I ignore the rest and head out to null-sec.

I'm spat in to a system in Cobalt Edge that lacks pilots. I shall rat and scan. I can just about manage that, with two rock fields and one extra signature, and all looks rosy. A rock field presents a rat battleship, and the signature resolves to be a wormhole. But the joke's on me, as it's an S199 wormhole, leading from this null-sec system to another null-sec system.

Drone battleship rat in null-sec

Well, wormholes are better than stargates, so I jump through to appear in Feythabolis, alone again, but this time lacking signatures to scan. I try to rat, a cruiser being plenty in a system where I'm not scanning, and I suppose it's either hop a stargate or head home and collapse our static connection. The former's easier than the latter, and I like to follow the path of least resistance.

A ratting Tengu strategic cruiser and Machariel faction battleship look interesting on d-scan, more so when they don't appear to be bugging out, rather less so when no anomaly matches up with their location. But I have a signature to scan and can get out of d-scan range of the ships, so launch probes and use the ratting ships as hunting practice.

I assume my targets are hiding in a despawned anomaly, and may not be expecting my combat probes to find them quite so quickly. I get a decent bearing and range, cluster my probes around where I think they are, and scan. It's a good hit on the Machariel—it would be embarrassing if it weren't—and almost resolve the Tengu's position. I send my probes back out of the system and warp in to see what's happening.

Ah, the pair are in an 8/10-rated DED site, which explains both why there isn't an anomaly visible for the site and why they aren't running. Well, the second bit is only explained when I drop out of warp near an acceleration gate, a ratter's version of the discovery scanner for d-scan. You can't get through the gate cloaked, so anyone coming for you will be made obvious early enough for you to escape. Fair enough.

Ignoring the ratters I scan the signature in the system. It's a relic site, how dull. Hop a gate, move out of bubbles no one's monitoring, and scan three signatures whilst ratting. Gas, wormhole, wormhole. Great in the scanning interface, not so great when one wormhole is a dying outbound link to class 5 w-space and the other is dead-on-arrival empty space. Hop a gate. No pilots, three signatures again. Data, data, data. Worse than relics.

Laser light-show from the Sansha rats

There's one more system to complete the circuit. Hop a gate. No pilots, four signatures. Data, data, wormhole, data. The wormhole is another S199. Ha bloody ha, space. Still I go through, because why not, and appear in Stain this time. Again I'm alone, with two extra signatures to scan. Okay, I'll do it, but this is definitely the last system. Relics and more relics. That's it, I'm outta here. At least the Sansha battleships give me a good light show before I leave. Thanks, chaps.

Relaxing by making ISK

15th April 2014 – 5.51 pm

I've calmed down a little about yesterday's Epithal encounter. A little. Okay, not really, because nothing's changed. It's just best not to dwell too much on it. An evening spent blowing the crap out of Sleepers would probably offer some light relief, though, so with glorious leader Fin available and no incoming wormholes, we prepare a small fleet to fend off the indigenous population.

Once again I board a Golem marauder, but screw torpedoes. I'm switching to cruise missiles this time. Don't get me wrong, I much prefer the involvement in maintaining range on Sleepers that naturally engage us from further out than torpedoes hit, it's just that there are other circumstances to take in to account. Mostly, the vulnerability of the marauder, particularly when in bastion mode.

Nothing much changes between a torpedo Golem in bastion mode and a cruise missile Golem in bastion mode, apart from the stupidly long, order-of-magnitude greater range of the cruise missiles. It is this increased range that I want to exploit, naturally, but not for the range itself. Rather, the range lets me keep the Golem in a less risky location within the anomalies.

The torpedo Golem has to be close to the Sleepers, which puts it close to either structures within the anomaly or wrecks of other Sleepers. This makes it easy for an ambushing tackler to get close to the marauder, prior to a fleet warping in for the kill. Warping the Golem in to the anomaly from an arbitrary direction and keeping it sat well over a hundred kilometres from any wreck or structure, on the other hand, significantly mitigates the risk from proximity.

Mitigates, not militates against. Bastion mode still immobilises the ship for a minute at a time, which keeps the marauder an attractive target, as one that can't immediately move when threatened. But we do what we can, and early detection of new signatures combined with an awkward positioning of the Golem should go some way in to keeping it safe from hostile intruders. That, at least, is my reasoning.

So off with the torpedo launchers, on with the cruise missile launchers. We apparently don't have a decent stock of expensive cruise missiles, standard ones will have to do, but the damage should be consistently applied between waves, with no intra-site positioning required. My main concern is with how slow they'll cycle, but I think that is more a reaction to using low-quality launchers previously. Now that I can use the Tech II variants I am hoping I won't be frustrated. Let's see.

Golem in the blinding cloud of a w-space anomaly

In to the first anomaly, with Fin besides me in a Tengu strategic cruiser, and in to bastion mode. Probably. I've managed to warp us in to a blinding gas cloud. Still, activate the launchers and hope the missiles can find their way to the target. The Sleepers won't know what's hitting them. Yeah, they're not quite as satisfying or devastating as torpedoes, but the damage is decent, the range projection is stupidly good, and not having to gauge micro jumps certainly saves some aggravation. One wave goes down, just select a new battleship as a target from the new wave and continue shooting.

Exploding Sleepers with cruise missiles

It's almost relaxing, like fishing in space. Simple target selection, my picking off the battleships as Fin's Tengu works on the smaller ships, and checking the discovery and directional scanners. No moving required, no following, just sitting and shooting. The lack of messing around gives me time to once again ponder on the relative squishiness of the first wave of battleships. Whether there is a reduction in mutual remote repairs between the Sleepers, or they are a kind of bait to lure us in to the stronger second wave, I can't say. Either way, it's an easy pair of kills.

Three anomalies cleared already. This is going smoothly and efficiently, I have to say. I'm glad I've experienced the torpedo Golem too, but sticking the marauder in bastion mode far out of the site does seem a more sensible option, one that requires the range of cruise missiles. Four, five, and we even have time for a sixth, pretty much clearing our system of profit. Well, nearly.

Swapping the combat ships for Noctis salvagers does the clearing up, leaving behind them a much tidier system to bring back a healthy collection of loot and salvage. Once we get all of this out to empire space to sell it will all pad our wallet with another half-a-billion ISK. That's a good result of a quiet evening, and should help fund some future foolish adventures.