There's plenty to explore today, judging by the number of bookmarks stuffed in to our shared can. No one else is around at the moment, so I jump in to my Manticore stealth bomber to take a solo roam around our w-space constellation. Our neighbouring class 3 system has been settled by capsuleers since my last visit four months ago, but only an unpiloted Iteron hauler sits inside their tower currently. Bookmarks point me towards the static exit to null-sec, and a random outbound connection to class 2 w-space. I warp towards the second wormhole, preferring to stay in w-space.
I have bookmarks for the two static wormholes in this C2, which lead to class 4 w-space and high-sec empire space. There are also two towers, which presumably hold the rather large ships I can see on my directional scanner. Warping to the first tower finds the Nidhoggur carrier, Naglfar dreadnought, Orca industrial command ship, and Bustard transport ship, all unpiloted inside the shields. The Iteron hauler, the only other ship in the system, is not here but easily located at the second tower. It is also piloted, which gives me some hope of catching him collecting planet goo.
I watch the piloted Iteron at the tower for a while but he does nothing. Even if he's asleep he must be safely buckled in to his pod, barely in any danger of slumping over his controls and sending his hauler warping off in a random direction, and I'm not going to get an easy kill. I leave him behind for now, jumping through the static wormhole leading to class 4 w-space. The C4 is unoccupied and uninteresting, and connects to a second unoccupied and uninteresting class 4 system. The second C4 has a static connection to class 1 w-space, which I jump through to be greeted by only the one bookmark.
Scanning stopped in this C1, it seems. At least the earlier scout had the good sense to bookmark the K162, so that even if I absent-mindedly warped off I could get home again, but that's the extent of the exploration in to this system. Not only do I have no bookmark for the static wormhole there is also no bookmark for a local tower, although I see a tower and Badger hauler on scan. I'll have to find it for myself, which is hardly a bind. I find the tower, and although warping to it also finds the Badger it is only to see the hauler is on his way out. I land as the piloted ship warps, preventing me getting a good bearing on his direction, but I am hoping he is collecting planet goo and guess at his general direction, warping my Manticore towards a distant customs office.
I drop out of warp to see nothing but the customs office, but a punch of d-scan reveals where the Badger was really headed. I see a Hulk exhumer and jet-can! The Badger was collecting ore, not planet goo, and it seems the miner is still active. If only I had scanning probes, I could hunt him. But I don't, and I can't. At least, not with my current configuration. And I am still by myself and now five jumps away from home, the travel time making multiple ship swaps infeasible. But I'm not going to give up without trying. I rush my Manticore home and, at our tower, reconfigure it a little. I remove the bomb launcher to fit a probe launcher, but I hold little hope of being successful in this hunt.
There is no way I can squeeze a powerful expanded probe launcher on to my stealth bomber, meaning I can't use the bulkier combat scanning probes. Being stuck with core scanning probes will restrict me to searching for the gravimetric site and not the Hulk directly, which will add a further step to the hunt, having to warp in to note the ship's precise location in the sprawling cluster of rocks, then warping out and back in before I can begin the ambush. My Manticore also doesn't get any bonuses to scanning, unlike my Buzzard covert operations boat, neither is it rigged for scanning, both of which will make it more difficult to get a positive hit. But it's better than nothing.
Back in the C1 I find a planet out of d-scan range of the Hulk and the local tower, the large system being a help here, and launch my core scanning probes and move them out of the system in preparation. I warp across to the other side of the system where I saw the Hulk on d-scan, happy to see him still apparently active, and start to narrow down his location using d-scan. His position high above the ecliptic plane makes the Hulk initially awkward to find, but I soon have him within a five degree deviation on d-scan, and just under 3 AU away. I position my probes carefully, arrange them in a suitable pattern for maximum strength, and check d-scan one final time to ensure the Hulk is still there before hitting 'scan'.
Not only is the Hulk in the gravimetric site but so is the Badger, which may work in my favour. If they are busy collecting ore they may not be watching d-scan. I start my scan and am disappointed to see a mere 40% return signal on the site. My positioning can't have been that bad, and I think my unbonussed, unrigged Manticore is struggling to give a better result. A hasty reposition and second scan gets the result up to 97% strength, and it is on the third scan that I am able to get a full strength signal and warp in to the site. Unsurprisingly, with my probes being visible for almost thirty seconds, the Hulk has gone, leaving nothing behind either.
I didn't expect much from scanning in the Manticore, but it was still a little frustrating. I still think it was my best option, instead of warping home multiple times to swap between Manticore, Buzzard, and Manticore. Then again, perhaps I could have made a rudimentary safe spot in the unoccupied adjacent C4, ejected, taken my pod home, brought the Buzzard out, and swapped ships only one jump away instead of five. A little elaborate and risky, but probably more likely to succeed. I could also splash out on a scanning strategic cruiser, for future occasions like this, but that still seems a little ostentatious.
I warp to the local tower in the C1 to monitor the occupants, and it seems possible that I wasn't spotted after all. The Hulk is sat next to a refinery which has just started operating, and the Badger is nowhere to be seen. Considering a jet-can of ore wasn't abandoned in the gravimetric site, and the Badger warped in moments before I started my scan, there is a chance that the mining operation came to a planned conclusion instead of being interrupted by me. That's interesting, and makes my bookmark to the site more valuable, because if they don't suspect an ambush they may come back later to continue. But, for now, I am getting hungry. I head home, ignoring the Iteron still doing very little in the C2, to grab some food.