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.

Stale wormholes leads to Sleepers

21st July 2014 – 5.56 pm

I'm following behind Mick's scouting again today, seeing what he's found. Ah, our static wormhole. Good man. Jumping through and updating my directional scanner sees nothing in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, and checking my notes has my last visit twenty months ago. Since then, two towers have been torn down, and either one remains or the new occupiers have erected it in the same place as the old one.

I find the remaining tower after launching probes and performing a blanket scan of the system, which shows me two ships along with fifteen each of anomalies and signatures. The ships are an unpiloted Crane transport and Rapier recon ship, floating inside the tower's force field, giving me nothing to watch. I suppose I'll scan.

The signatures mostly disguise gas and relics, with the wormholes present being those Mick scouted earlier, the only exception being that the dying K162 from class 4 w-space is now collapsed and gone. That's a shame, as the other two wormholes are merely k-space connections, one the static exit to low-sec, the other a K162 from null-sec. I'll make do with what I have.

Warping to C3a's static wormhole sees the familiar colours of The Citadel shining through. At least, it had better be The Citadel on the other side, with the number of times I've mistaken The Citadel for The Forge recently. They also aren't so much shining through as wobbling like jelly, as the wormhole is at the end of its life.

I poke through to low-sec anyway, if for no more reason than to check that it is indeed The Citadal, which it is. The system is close to Jita, but the journey would involve travelling through faction warfare systems, a route I'd rather not take. Back to C3a and across to the null-sec K162, where the 'A' of the Malpais nebula signifies Perrigen Falls on the other side. I'll take my word for that, as this connection is EOL too.

Dying wormholes everywhere. What to do? Kill our own, I suppose, out of kindness. I head home, wait for polarisation effects to dissipate, and start the process of destabilising our static connection. It takes a few trips with massive ships, but the process is straightforward. The wormhole collapses on schedule, without interruption, and with my ending in the home system. Job's a good 'un.

Our system is isolated. I think I'll take this opportunity to clear a couple of anomalies and make some iskies. I drop my scouting ship at our tower and swap it for a Golem marauder. I check I have enough ammunition, and warp to an anomaly to engage the Sleepers. It all feels a bit weird, too. Considering home system Sleeper slaying has been the norm for so long, spending just one day in a C3 magnetar system has corrupted the experience a curiously significant amount.

Engaging Sleepers in the home w-space system

It feels like my shield repairer isn't as efficient, but the C4 pulsar gives the Golem a considerable boost to its shields, so the amount repaired is the same and it's the percentage repaired that is lower. The incoming damage is perhaps greater too, even from C3 magnetar Sleepers to plain C4 Sleepers, making the repairs seem less effective. The strangest change is that I appear to be using less ammunition to pop more ships. That I can't explain.

I shoot and let the silly mobile tractor unit loot. I occasionally transfer the loot from the MTU to the Golem's hold, and the first time I do that I wonder who left this salvage in here. Surely I was the last one to use the marauder. And I was, but I have also been salvaging more wrecks, like right now in this site. That's where it's come from, Penny.

My Golem is there somewhere

Mystery solved, I turn my attention to watching my scanners and shooting Sleepers. The first site is cleared, I fly past our tower to drop off the first haul of loot, and move on to the second site. As an added precaution, I park the Golem in a fog bank, somewhere no one will think to look for me. And they don't. Two sites are cleared without problem, letting me bring back 175 Miskies in loot and salvage for the evening.

Scuttling a Skiff

20th July 2014 – 3.10 pm

I'm heading home, through a really convenient wormhole from high-sec to low-sec, when I remember the other wormhole I scanned. It's in this low-sec system, and I haven't reconnoitred it yet because it's an outbound wormhole, not wanting to open it immediately if it wasn't already open. It's a long shot that it remains unopened, perhaps, but it's worth swinging past in case anything interesting is inside. Just a peak.

Dropping out of warp near the cosmic signature sees an R943 wormhole, leading to class 2 w-space. That's not a bad option, although this late in the evening I doubt I'll be diving too far down a new constellation. I approach, delcoak, and jump through, updating my directional scanner once back in w-space to see what's out there. Three towers, an Orca industrial command ship, and a Skiff exhumer.

Is the Skiff out of the tower? Is it bait? Poking the visible anomalies with d-scan sees that the exhumer is indeed out of the tower, and as the discovery scanner is only showing me three signatures it is possible this system is closed, the wormhole I'm sitting on only just having been opened. Of course, that means the discovery scanner will be showing the new signature to the Skiff soon, so I ought to make best use of my time.

Skiff chomping on bistot rock

I warp in to the ore anomaly, dropping short in an attempt to make a perch as I head in, and get a decent result. The Skiff is almost two hundred kilometres from me, quite happily chewing on a chunk of bistot. It's a high-end ore, the system looks clean, and the wormhole has either only just been opened or been open for ages. The probability that this Skiff is bait is fairly low.

I doubt anyone would be able to scramble bait and hide a fleet in under a minute, or that a bait ship would want to chomp on rocks for more than the half-hour our logistics run has taken. I'm going in. My good position allows me to warp in closer without any additional manoeuvring, saving some time, and getting closer makes the circumstance look just as good as from afar. Better, really, as I now I am almost in range to strike.

Just a few kilometres to cover cloaked, and I decloak, lock, and start shooting the Skiff. I disrupt the exhumer's warp engines, unleash my blasters at the boat, and set some drones free, all whilst nervously watching my overview and updating d-scan for any surprises. All looks clear.

Proteus ambushing Skiff in w-space

I'm getting some hits in but the Skiff feels tough. I think that's a result of my cautious range giving my blasters a hard time. As this seems like a straightforward ambush I get closer, drop my speed, and watch the Skiff wake up. He launches his own drones, although combat drones seem a poor choice. As much as I dislike the ECM mechanic, ECM drones against a single attacker would be a much better option for survival.

Drones are launched by both sides

The Skiff's drones try to get my own drones down, and when that fails go for me instead. I'm in a Proteus strategic cruiser, though. They're not going to have much effect. Indeed, my blasters and drones drop the Skiff's shields and rip through its armour and hull before my own shields are in trouble, and I don't even rely on them.

Skiff exploding

The Skiff explodes. The pod flees easily enough, and I move to loot and shoot the wreck, taking a whole bunch of mining crystals and leaving the ore. It looks like I've got time, so I grab the drones that have stopped shooting me, before reloading my guns and warping back to my perch. That was a lucky catch, and a good, opportunistic kill, estimated at a little under two hundred million ISK.

I orientate myself, locate the towers, and find the pod in a force field with the Orca, which itself is piloted and was no doubt providing boosts to the exhumer. With no ship to boost, the Orca suffers a minor crisis and blinks out of existence. I'll disappear too. I wasn't intending to be long anyway. ISK, fuel, and ambushing a miner. I think I can reward myself with a well-deserved sammich.

Converting loot to ISK to fuel

19th July 2014 – 3.55 pm

My glorious leader comes on-line as I bring our Golem marauder home. I've pillaged and plundered my way through a handful of anomalies in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system, making a decent amount of profit already. What do we do now? 'Do you want to roll the wormhole to see what else pops up?'

We could collapse our static connection, I suppose, get a new neighbouring system. But the evening's pushing on and killing a wormhole takes time, and a fair bit of dead time at that. I don't fancy taking on more Sleepers either, having had my fill of them already. I think I'm happy hitting C3a's static exit to low-sec and seeing what we can find out there.

Back in to my covert Proteus strategic cruiser and to the neighbouring system once more. Oh, before I open the static wormhole I suppose I should locate the second tower that I missed seeing before bringing the Golem in to shoot Sleepers. That was some good, thorough scouting earlier. Still, no one was there, my combat probes showing me that much, and at least I noticed it at some point.

I locate the second tower for reference, note the corporation, and head to the static wormhole for the first time. Hey, that looks like Tash-Murkon on the other side. Low-sec Tash-Murkon, perhaps, but it could still be a good connection. After all, it is The Citadel of Amarrian space.

Exiting C3a indeed plants me in the Tash-Murkon region, in a system eight hops to Amarr, holding four besieged anomalies, two extra signatures, and one capsuleer in the system. Binary-tastic! I launch probes to scan, ignoring the besieged anomalies, and resolve wormhole and wormhole. Not bad, with a Forgey-looking high-sec K162, and a wormhole that's obviously outbound from its weak signature, which I leave unvisited for now. This high-sec wormhole could be good.

I jump from low-sec to high-sec without using a stargate, and appear not in The Forge but The Citadel. I really should know the difference by now. Still, The Citadel! It's the Tash-Murkon of Caldari space, and a mere four hops from Jita. W-space to low-sec to high-sec, all using wormholes, and getting us almost on top of the primary trade hub of New Eden. That's a result, one I can't ignore.

Do we want to sell loot and buy fuel? Yes we do, Penny. Yes we do. We split the tasks, what with buyers of Sleeper loot in Caldari space not being at Jita. I head home and grab all of the loot to shove in to the hold of my Proteus. It's all quite thin and small, easily fitting in my cargo with room to spare, and maybe a bit safer than in an industrial ship. Maybe. Now back through C3a, to low-sec, to high-sec, and four hops in a different direction.

I sell our loot, plumping up our wallet nicely for Fin to spend on fuel and fuel-making products. She's taken the Bustard transport directly to Jita, along with the salvage and booty from exploded ships, making us even more ISK. Not that our situation was a little trepidatious recently, but it looks like we've turned ourselves around nicely. We just needed that little motivation.

Fin's considering making a second run for more fuel supplies, which sounds like a good plan. Personally, I'm getting hungry for a sammich. I've been in space for a while and could use a break, which is a shame as it means I don't realise our high-sec connection almost sits on top of the dreadnought guns that I abandoned to get some fuel blown up in low-sec. I'll blame that on my low blood-sugar levels, which I head home to rectify.

Nicking from the neighbours

18th July 2014 – 5.48 pm

Fuel and ISK. ISK and fuel. The two are inter-related somehow, if only I could work out the connection. I need to perform more measurements, but perhaps not today, not when most of our anomalies have been stolen by brigands. I'd better launch probes and see what's out there in space. A bit of a scan sees that it's just gas in our home system, so whatever ne'erdowells came in to our system are long gone, leaving me only our static wormhole to explore through.

Nothing but bubbles greets me in the neighbouring class 3 w-space system, all on my directional scanner, none on the K162. The system was scouted earlier but anything could have happened in the past half-hour. Or six hours. I launch probes and blanket the system, revealing six anomalies, eight signatures, and one very fat ship. I bet it's a carrier. My notes say a tower is at that one planet out of range, where the ship signature is, and I believe them. I warp out to take a look.

The ship is a carrier, the Thanatos floating unpiloted inside the force field. I scan for wormholes, noting the two resolved earlier were at the end of their lives. They are both gone now, leaving me relics, gas, and one wormhole, plus our K162. I think I can assume that wormhole is closed, being the replacement static exit to low-sec, and rather than open it to explore empire space I'll keep it closed to plunder the system. Remember, it's evil when pilots do it to us, but fine when I do it to others.

Three good anomalies are dotted around the system, with a magnetar phenomenon to boost the damage dealt and received. All I need is a ship suitable for shooting Sleepers, preferably one we can afford to lose should a wormhole open up unexpectedly. I head home and dig through our hangar looking for a Tengu strategic cruiser, finding four but none fit for local repairs. They are either covert scout boats or configured for remote repairs, and I don't think I can swap them over easily yet.

No Tengu, then. That leaves the Golem. Well, the sites should be cleared quickly, and we bought it to shoot Sleepers. It's just been a while since we took it through a wormhole. Let's do it! I take the marauder to C3a and make use of the silly discovery scanner to gather free intelligence, seeing no change in signatures. In to the first anomaly, happily in range of the tower so that I can d-scan for ships, and start the explosions.

Golem versus the C3 Sleepers

I seem to be taking a lot of damage. I suppose I'm in a magnetar system, and my shield booster is repairing a lot of damage with each cycle, so it's manageable. I sweep through the Sleepers, even the frigates, pinging d-scan and the discovery scanner for threats, the only new signature being a fourth good anomaly that springs up once I've cleared the first. Why, thank you. I would like more ISK.

I hang around to loot and salvage all of the wrecks with the silly mobile tractor unit, leaving nothing behind, as the Sleepers like to get much closer in this C3 anomaly than the ones at home. I move on to the second anomaly to repeat what I did in the first, with the exception of additionally crapping myself when the MTU launches. Yeah, you launched it, Penny, you should have been prepared for that. Still, it's good to be paranoid about new objects in space and on d-scan.

Apart from the MTU panic, the second site is cleared without fuss. I take the opportunity to head home and drop off the loot I've recovered so far, which also lets me check for new signatures in the home system—without needing to scout, obviously. Hostiles appearing in our system is a secondary threat, after all. All is clear, though, and I head back to clear the third and fourth anomalies.

Magnetar phenomenon in class 3 w-space

The third site is finished without anyone interrupting me, although I finally work out that the increased damage I'm taking is a combination of the magnetar boosting damage and the lack of a pulsar not boosting my shields. I'm pretty smart. I also shake up the target selection in the final wave of Sleepers, popping both battleships before switching to the frigates, saving me some incoming damage and looting time. The battleships loiter at twenty kilometres, so popping them first gives the MTU time to drag the wrecks close, whilst the frigates all close to salvaging range. It's a good change.

The fourth site is much like the second, with the launch of the MTU causing more than mild panic at first, before settling down to watching my scanners. It would be upsetting to be caught in this site, given that I only saw and planned to clear three to start with, and luckily all remains quiet for this one too. I take the Golem out of the cleaner C3 system and back to our tower, where I dump all of the loot for the evening, making us around two hundred million ISK richer. That's some good profit.

Aiming for space

17th July 2014 – 5.30 pm

I'm going home, but I don't get there. Thankfully, it is not a fleet of dozen strategic cruisers and their heavy interdictor pal waiting on the other side of a wormhole that stops me, but just my directional scanner. Specifically, seeing two Venture mining frigates in a class 3 w-space system that weren't there before. That they are here now may be indicative of new activity.

This C3 has had faux activity for most of the evening—ship swapping and bringing tower defences on-line mostly—so I'm not holding out much hope that anything is happening now. Still, I can't resist swinging past the tower on my way through the system, particularly as it takes little time and effort. If both Ventures are there I can go home. If not, I have potential targets.

One Venture is at the tower. I update d-scan again. Considering all the ship swapping I saw earlier I may have just missed one boat being put in a hangar whilst I was in warp. Not this time. The second Venture is still on d-scan, its indeterminate range making it clear that I really am not seeing it inside the tower's force field.

I'd like to find that Venture, maybe introduce it to my guns. To that end, I warp away from the tower to a distant planet, launch scanning probes, and throw them out of the system. I perform a blanket scan too, partly out of habit, partly to give me an initial, if rough, bearing on the frigate. The blanket scan completes as I drop out of warp back at the tower. I don't yet know if I have to get closer to the Venture to hunt him effectively.

I see the blip of the frigate under my combat scanning probes. It is a rough bearing, though, because of the extreme range of my probes being used, but it's a start. I'm also kicking myself a little for not having fully resolved and bookmarked the gas sites in the system when scanning it earlier. I can't really blame myself. There are several wormholes leading here and there, and there are few pilots who would huff on gas in such a Swiss-cheese of a system.

That's a good point. The wormholes are all resolved and bookmarked, with their signatures referenced. I can ignore them, if only to declutter the scanning results. That leaves three signatures, plus the ships. Now to find the Venture. I swing d-scan around on a sixty-degree beam until the frigate is in view, then keep on narrowing the beam and making adjustments until it is down to five degrees with the Venture showing up.

The range is easier to gauge. Start at 1 AU, and keep shifting it upwards an AU at a time until the Venture appears. Now halve the step and go down, and continue making similar adjustments until I can't reliably position a probe with a further level of adjustment. 2·75 AU. I can gauge that by shifting the probe range sphere between 2 and 4 AU and estimating. Done. The Venture should be sitting almost at the centre of my cluster of probes.

I check the Venture's relative position in space, leave the system map, and accelerate my ship in that general direction. That should save a bit of time when entering warp. Now to scan. I call my probes in and... nothing. Damn, I must have caught him with a full hold. I throw my probes back out of d-scan range of the system, not as smoothly as I'd like but it gets done, and watch for movement at the tower. Yep, the Venture warps in.

Probes find nothing this time

Will the Venture go back out again? I wait for a minute, hoping he's just ditching some gas, not entirely au fait with just how much gas a Venture can hold, or how much is in an average gas cloud. Actually, Penny, look at that scanning result again: there's no Venture, but there's also no gas site. No, I don't suppose he's going back.

I hold out a couple of minutes longer loitering by the tower, in case the Venture plans to clear another site, hopefully having been distracted enough by warping out of the previous one to have seen my probes looking for him, but it seems not. I get the hint when the Venture is swapped for a Cheetah covert operations boat. Never mind. After all, it is quite late already. I'll just go home and kick back.

Sore Sabre

16th July 2014 – 5.14 pm

No, it's not good enough. I'm not going off-line yet, screw the two systems connecting to us whose occupants can't be arsed to collapse their waveforms to either be active or inactive and not some weird superposition of both. I'll scan at least the class 3 system through our static wormhole, whether someone pays attention to me or not, and with any luck I'll get out of this w-space constellation, across an empire gap, and in to better w-space.

Jumping back to C3a also makes me change my mind immediately, now that I see a Venture mining frigate new to the system on my directional scanner. Just in case he decides to want to suck gas, even in a system that is obviously open to hostile environments, I warp to a distant planet and launch combat scanning probes. My plans change quickly again, when an unknown capsuleer pipes up in the local communication channel.

You know there is, don't be coy

I call up public information on the chatty capsuleer and, yeah, he's not fooling anyone. An eleven year-old pilot and member of IBLAP, he may talk like a newbie but he knows what he's doing. My only concern now is what kind of support he has behind him, and where 'behind him' is. I start scanning, calling my probes in to resolve three wormholes and ignore three gas pockets.

A Venture is on one of the wormholes briefly, whilst I'm scanning it, so I reconnoitre that one first. It's a K162 from more class 3 w-space. Quite why the Venture was on the wormhole I can't say, but maybe I shouldn't go that way myself. That leaves me a K162 from null-sec and static exit to low-sec, and as I'm assuming the IBLAP pilot came in from null-sec I'll be heading to Aridia.

The exit from C3a obviously leads to Aridia, where one pilot and five extra signatures wait for me. The pilot stays hidden as I resolve gas, a wormhole, some relics, more gas, and a combat site, and as there are no stations in the system I'm supposing the pilot will stay hidden as long as I stay in the system. In that case, it's a shame that the wormhole is at the end of its life. It only leads to more low-sec space anyway, so it's no great loss.

Now what to do? Try C3b, I suppose, even if it has been found by the C3a locals. I can still make use of its static exit to look for better w-space. I return to C3a, warp to the wormhole, and maybe I'm a bit late. A Cheetah covert operations boat blips on d-scan, spews probes, and cloaks whilst I am in warp, and when I drop near to the wormhole I can see the Cheetah came from C3b by the probes he's yet to fling off in to some pre-arranged pattern.

Probes spat out on a wormhole in class 3 w-space

Cheetah recalls probes and jumps through the wormhole

Nope, the Cheetah was just taking a peek in this C3 system. The probes disappear from the wormhole, then from d-scan, as they are recalled and the Cheetah jumps back to C3b. I give him a minute to get clear, and follow. Probes are visible in C3b too, perhaps the Cheetah's, and d-scan is clear. I launch my own probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, revealing fourteen anomalies, six signatures, and six ships. I bet they're out by the only planet out of d-scan range. I'm smart like that.

Two towers are on-line, the six ships inside one of them, all unpiloted. I'll scan. Wormhole, relics, gas, wormhole, wormhole. The result looks reasonable, but warping around ruins it a bit. A K162 from null-sec is okay, the static exit to low-sec Metropolis is at the end of its life, and my last hope is a K162 from class 5 w-space. That'll do, I suppose. Uh, where did that Orca come from?

I am still a good distance from the C5 K162 when the industrial command ship appears and jumps through. As it didn't warp here its jump is a clear indication that the wormhole is being forced closed. A little sigh escapes from me, then my breath is held. The Orca is polarised, the wormhole isn't destabilised even to half mass yet. Am I close enough to jump through and catch the massive ship, given it is slow to enter warp? If there are antagonists escorting the Orca I can always escape.

I've not seen any other ships come or go, and just the one pushed through the wormhole. Giving chase has got to be worth a shot, particularly for a fat, expensive target like an Orca. I decloak, burn towards the K162, and jump through. I don't see an Orca on the wormhole with me, but there's a Sabre interdictor on top of the locus. The Orca is visible on d-scan, as is the Cheetah I previously saw and a tower. Only a Sabre? This actually seems like a good opportunity.

Only a Sabre waits on the other side of the wormhole

I move my Proteus strategic cruiser, shedding its session-change cloak, and engage the interdictor. I gain a positive lock easily enough, which he reciprocates, and we start trading shots. Mine hit rather harder than his, and the Sabre jumps through the wormhole to C3b within seconds. I don't even register how much damage I've done so far, although I see that my shields are barely scratched. That's impressive, for an armour boat.

I don't follow the Sabre. He could be deliberately trying to pull me through the wormhole to polarise myself, at which point his support fleet decloaks, which would be a decent trap. I just reload my guns and settle in to an orbit of the wormhole to see what happens. What happens is the wormhole crackles, bringing the Sabre back, at which point he warps away as quickly as his ship can align, sadly a little quicker than I can target his ship.

Sabre returns looking embarrassed

Not embarrassed, angry, dunno why

As the Sabre disappears in to the distance the pilot insults me, critical of my ability to fit my ship properly, apparently. He's just a bit sore, that's all. I stick around the wormhole a little longer, ostensibly trying to avoid polarisation issues, and head back when nothing much happens for a while. The good news is that my Proteus drops the wormhole to half mass as I return to C3b. I like to help in any little way that I can. I feel good about myself. I can head home and sleep well tonight.

Almost something happening

15th July 2014 – 5.47 pm

Losing a Bustard transport full of fuel and buying a replacement has somehow cost us a wad of ISK. Therefore, my plan tonight is to make some ISK back, nominally by thoroughly exploding whole sites of Sleepers. Two new signatures in the home system have other ideas, though, particularly as scanning reveals one of them to be a secondary wormhole. I suppose I'm scouting instead.

A K162 from class 2 w-space accompanies our static connection to class 3 w-space tonight, and as it's often better to check backwards before going forwards I jump through the K162. Updating my directional scanner from the wormhole in C2a sees a tower and Epithal hauler in the system. Ho-hum. More interesting are my notes, telling me that my previous visit was a mere two days ago, when the locals were adamant on my not using their system for logistics. Not that I'm bitter. Gits.

I didn't do much scouting in this system the last time I was here, which amounted to noting the system was occupied judging by the ships that tried to kill me on the wormhole. Nothing so overtly threatening today, but I wouldn't put it past the locals to try again. Previous behaviour is an excellent guide to present behaviour, after all.

The tower is straightforward to find, being around a planet with a single moon, where I see the Epithal piloted but idle. It's a decent location too, central and with everything in d-scan range. I can easily see that there is no other occupation and no activity in the system. At least, for a minute, then a Dominix warps in to the tower, the battleship giving me brief flashbacks.

I can't do much to a Dominix by myself, I imagine, and my first thought is that the battleship is here to crash the connection to our system. They did it before, but I suppose they knew I was around then. Trading ammunition at high velocities kinda gives away your presence. My scouting seems to be more stealthy today, although maybe not for long, as the Dominix is swapped for an Anathema covert operations boat.

The Anathema does nothing, disappears, and a relative of that pilot comes on-line in a shuttle. He also does nothing until replaced by a new contact in a second Epithal. Be still my beating heart. He blinks off-line, alleviating any potential frustration at trying to follow or catch a planet gooer in the most dangerous class of space, and the Anathema is back. This is riveting.

I leave the indecisive pilot behind to head home and through our static wormhole to see what's happening in C3a instead. A tower with four ships looks more interesting already, with a nice mix of a Tengu strategic cruiser, Punisher frigate, Orca industrial command ship, and Cheetah cov-ops. There being one Sleeper wreck in the system only adds to my interest.

A Sleeper wreck, but no anomalies. I locate the tower, to account for the ships and any pilots, seeing the Tengu missing and the other ships all with capsuleers aboard. The strategic cruiser is out and about, somewhere I'll need to scan to find, and help for him is possibly a short warp away. I'm game. I get out of range, launch probes, and return to the tower to get a bearing on the Tengu, which seems as good a place as any for now.

The tower's actually a brilliant place to start looking for the Tengu, if only because he's here, inside the force field. Staring at ship changes has missed this opportunity, whatever it was, and now I find myself staring at a ship I hope moves again. It does, getting friendly with the Orca, before accelerating in to warp. Excellent.

Tengu snuggles up to Orca

I see where the Tengu goes, follow behind to the planet I assume is nearest his destination, and start hunting. Trying to narrow down the strategic cruiser's location with d-scan is made more awkward when the ship disappears, but I find him again soon enough when I warp back to the tower. I don't know what just happened then either.

The Tengu was friendly with the Orca, now he's hugging the tower. That gets tiring, apparently, so the Tengu moves towards a hangar, stares at it for a minute, and returns to snuggle up with the Orca. It looks like he's doing nothing, but I see some tower defences being brought on-line. Whatever, dude, I'm taking another look in C2a.

Through our K162, across the home system, and through another K162 in to C2a for the second time tonight. A pod and Anathema are visible on d-scan, the pod disappeared by the time I warp my ship to the tower. There really is a whole lot of almost-nothing happening. I'm calling it an early night.

Getting fuel is easy

14th July 2014 – 5.51 pm

Mick's been scouting and has scanned a whole bunch of wormholes. That saves me some time and gives me some initial options. There are also a few high-sec exits scattered around but, like yesterday, the class 2 w-space system connecting in to home holds aggressively hostile pilots that Mick bounced off. That's cool, I'll look forwards.

Through our static wormhole to the neighbouring class 3 system and update my directional scanner. A tower and Buzzard covert operations boat are in the system, and warping to the tower, already bookmarked by Mick, sees the cov-ops empty. C3a holds an exit to low-sec, which is marked as being at the end of its life, if not being as good as high-sec weren't enough reason to move on anyway.

C3b, connected to C3a, has a high-sec exit. I'll see where that leads. C3b itself has a tower and no ships in the system, the inactivity quite calming when remembering last night, and exiting to empire space has my appearing in a system in Khanid. Holy crap, I'm only five hops to Amarr. This is the point where I'd rub my eyes and do a double-take, but pod goo can sting, so I just pretend.

Five hops to Amarr. I don't even turn around to drop off my Proteus at our tower, but take my strategic cruiser directly to the major market hub. Because of regional borders I have to hold my impulse to buy until I actually reach Amarr, but once there, and warping to dock, I grab a new Bustard transport from the market and, well, pause for thought. How does one fit a deep space transport these days?

Undocking from Amarr

I make a few reasonable guesses about what would be appropriate modules for the Bustard's fitting, helped by some advice from a newly arrived Fin, herself on her way to Amarr, and throw the modules on the transport. Now to stuff it with fuel. That bit's easy, and I'm soon back in space and heading home. High-sec is easy too, and stargates are hopped without worrying about what ships may be on the other side.

In to C3b, across to C3a, and return to the home system. I dump more fuel in to our tower and consider making a second trip. Being predictable is rarely a good idea, and you never know who's watching, but tonight's convenient exit cannot be ignored. Besides, circumstances are working our favour. Fin is in Amarr in her pod, balking at the inflated prices of deep space transports. My Proteus is also in Amarr, swapped for the Bustard I bought. I have to go back out, Fin has to come back in. Let's join forces!

I take the empty Bustard back to high-sec, noting a Cheetah covert operations boat new to C3a, and a Viator transport blipping on d-scan in C3b. A bit of activity that could perhaps cause problems, but our Bustard will have a Proteus escort on its return. Through stargates to Amarr, buy a whole new cargo of fuel, and trade it in the station with my glorious leader.

Fin takes the Bustard out, I take my Proteus out. We hop stargates asynchronously, my getting to the wormhole to C3b first. Not first by much, indicating the Bustard is quicker than I think, or my Proteus slower. Either way, I have a few seconds to jump in to C3b and scout ahead of our transport. All looks clear. All still looks clear when Fin jumps in, aligns, and enters warp towards C3a. I should probably follow.

Fin pilots the new Bustard home with more fuel in its hold

Core probes are evident in C3a, almost certainly belonging to the Cheetah I saw previously, and as he's still scanning there is probably little threat on our wormhole out of the handful in the system. Fin takes the Bustard home without incident, returning us to a comfortable status once again. Fuel, a decent transport ship, and no losses. That was easy. Why did I have to make it so difficult for myself yesterday?

There's always time for a salvager

13th July 2014 – 3.13 pm

Back in to my Proteus strategic cruiser, looking for more wormholes. That elusive connection to empire space that doesn't take me through a notorious low-sec gate camp must be somewhere, although it's not like I absolutely must find it this evening or our tower will go off-line from wanting fuel. That's a scurrilous charge spread by the automatic notification system sending disinformation to the corporate directors at regular intervals. Still, a decent high-sec connection would be nice.

The high-sec exit from C3a leads to a big high-sec island in Placid, the borders camped by opportunistic pirates. I found this out by losing a Bustard transport full of fuel to them. A C2 K162 then opened up to our home system, promising a new high-sec exit but delivering an angry Myrmidon battlecruiser and his Dominix chums, the battleships collapsing the hostile connection after I fled their attentions. A C5 K162 in to home provided a half-decent high-sec exit, but that died of natural causes before I could use it. What else can I try?

Maybe that T405 outbound connection to class 4 w-space in our neighbouring class 3 system leads somewhere. It's got to be worth a look, so I take my Proteus through our static wormhole, across C3a, and in to C4a, where my directional scanner shows me nothing from the K162 and the discovery scanner little elsewhere. Three anomalies and two signatures, which will be this K162 and the static wormhole to wherever. I'm here to find that wherever, so I launch probes and resolve that other signature, too easily located to waste time with a blanket scan.

The static wormhole leads to more class 4 w-space. How tedious. But maybe that C4 leads somewhere good, and it's not like I have a much better option elsewhere. I approach the wormhole and, well, pause. I should probably scout this system, as the lack of anomalies and signatures implies occupation, and I ought not to consider this system as a logistical route without knowing what could stop me. Much like venturing through low-sec.

I perform a blanket scan to see if anyone else may be out there and see two ships light up my combat probes. I warp across the system, updating d-scan as I go, and notice the presence of two towers, a Golem marauder, and Coercer destroyer. I start looking for the towers, having trouble until I realise my warp took me to a planet out of their range. Curiously, though, the Golem remains on d-scan. Is he shooting Sleepers?

Yes, yes he is. Switching overview settings and updating d-scan sees Sleeper wrecks all over the place. What a night and time to find a ratting Golem in w-space. Of course, it's not like I am really tight on time, already having stayed an hour longer than normal, just to find an exit to refuel our tower. Lies! I should probably leave the Golem alone, particularly as I probably can't break it with my Proteus alone. That's what I think, anyway, as I warp towards the anomaly where the Golem is, just to take a look.

Coercer surrounded by wrecks

The Golem is no longer in the anomaly when I drop out of warp, but the Coercer is, surrounded by wrecks pulled in by a mobile tractor unit. Of course they've used an MTU, it's too powerful a tool in the w-space environment, breaking the previous dynamics in favour of being static and staid. But now is the not the time to bemoan the continuing diminution of w-space, not with the rate the Coercer is sucking up salvage.

I back off to my perch, turn my Proteus on a sixpence—if the sixpence had the radius of Pluto's orbit—and warp in to the anomaly to drop on top of the Coercer. He's an efficient bugger, as by the time I am out of warp and decloaking to ambush him, the destroyer has salvaged the last wreck and scooped the MTU. That's okay, as I still catch him, disrupting his warp engines, and blowing the crap out of the Coercer.

Ambushing the salvaging Coercer

Salvaging Coercer pops under blaster fire

The pod warps clear easily enough, leaving me a wreck to loot and shoot. Huh, a few measly modules as plunder. I think the Golem nicked all the Sleeper blue loot as it left, but analysing the space dust from the Coercer explosion says otherwise. The destroyer and its cargo was worth almost 120 Miskies, and I'm left with about ten million. It's just not my night. And I still don't have any fuel, which I don't need urgently, not at all.

I should probably not head forwards through this system's static wormhole. It's not that I'm expecting the locals to watch for me and retaliate, but more that it could be something that they would do. That settles it, really. I have to use C3a's high-sec exit and blast my way through that low-sec gate camp. I can't really afford to fail now—not that we're desperate, I've just fallen to social pressure and made a bet with my cat that I will get through successfully—so ship choice will be important.

Let's assume, solely for argument's sake, that I need to bring home at least a day's worth of fuel. That sets a limit on the size of the ship's cargo hold. Let's also assume, solely because I've already been caught and blown up by it, that there is a gate camp in low-sec. That demands a ship that can evade said gate camp. Luckily, there exists such a ship: the Crane blockade runner transport. Cloaky, agile, with a hold just big enough for my needs. Let's do this.

I head home, drop the Proteus for the Crane, and head out through C3a to high-sec. Dodixie is the nearest market hub, which is fine. I have to hit a low-sec choke point whichever direction I go in the extended high-sec island that is Placid. Going out is easy enough, and I see the camp is still on the gate ready to catch unwary travellers from connected high-sec. Wrecks are littered everywhere, and some of them must be fresh. Oh goody.

In to Dodixie, buy fuel, and head back. Here we go, in to low-sec. Yep, the camp hasn't given up yet. I'm in a more suitable ship this time, as well as not having the bad luck to appear within cloak-interfering distance of a previous victim. The ships are also suitably distant from my Crane. Time to put my faith in the cloak. I hit the command to enter warp, activate the cloak, and hope.

Running the blockade in my Crane blockade runner. Oh, I just got that.

Nothing happens. At least, there is no obvious reaction from all the flashy, skull-painted battlecruisers. My Crane cloaks, aligns, and enters warp. Thank goodness. I hop the next stargate, cross that low-sec system, and get back to high-sec, leaving me a simple and safe w-space system to cross to get home with fuel that I can't stress enough how little we actually need it this evening of all times. I dump the fuel in the tower and slump in my pod. What an evening. I'll have to do it again soon too. Well, not exactly that, I hope, but you know what I mean.