It seems I'm active a little too early today. Resolving the only wormhole in our home system drops me out of warp on top of a rather wobbly connection, it being the aged one from yesterday instead of a fresh link. Doing some sums shows that it should die of old age within ten minutes or so, and I launch my scanning probes again and keep myself entertained away from the cockpit, refreshing the scan every so often. After a short wait an unfamiliar signature appears, signifying the appearance of a new wormhole and the death of the old. I resolve the signature, warp to it, and jump in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system.
That's one well-defended tower. The defences are bristling all around the exterior of the force field, like a hedgehog curled up in to a spiky ball, with a stack of shield hardeners looking like the amps at an arena concert. I suppose the thirteen-strong owner corporation really doesn't want to leave itself vulnerable in here. They seem fairly active too, or at least the system is regularly visited, as there are only four signatures and one anomaly present, and only one is a site of specific Sleeper interest. I bookmark the magnetometric site, note the exit wormhole to high-sec empire space, and jump through the K162 to explore the other class 4 w-space system connecting to this C3.
My directional scanner is clear from the wormhole in the C4, and I warp away to launch probes just in case the wormhole is being watched. Two anomalies, four signatures, and no ships are in the system, and I am able to locate a tower here. I resolve the signatures, bookmarking a ladar and two gravimetric sites, before thinking to check the status of the occupying corporation, at which point I find out that they are blue to us and therefore allies. I suppose I won't be using these mining sites as ambush points now. At least I didn't spend too much time scanning the few signatures here, but I have run out of w-space to explore.
I head back to and through the C3 out to the high-sec system, launching probes to see if there is much opportunity to shoot a few rats. A second wormhole in the system looks interesting, and even more so when I find it to be a K162 from class 1 w-space. I jump in to take a look around, locating a tower but no ships or activity, and scan to bookmark the few sites here should someone wake up. But without another wormhole in the system it looks like I really have run out of space to explore, and without any anomalies in the high-sec system I even have nothing to shoot. But at least in high-sec the stargates are safe to use, and I pick one of the four in the system to jump through to continue looking for rats.
I only get to the other side of the stargate before I turn right back around. A review of the pilots in the local channel shows a pilot from the C1 in the system. More than that, he warps in to the stargate, seemingly on autopilot, in an Imicus frigate. This poses a dilemma, as my Buzzard covert operations boat could feasibly pop the frigate but probably not on the wormhole. If I jump in and cloak my targeting systems will suffer a recalibration delay easily long enough for the frigate to warp away. If I hold off from jumping in to the system until the Imicus goes first then he will be alerted by the second flare and potentially hold his session change cloak until it is safe to jump back to high-sec and be protected by Concord.
I don't think I'm catching this Imicus in my current ship, and although a stealth bomber's lack of recalibration delay when decloaking would help I won't have time to make the journey home and back again. My best bet is hoping that the pilot will continue to be active once returned to his w-space system from empire space, and head home to get my Manticore anyway. I pause briefly in the C3, a Buzzard and scanning probes now visible on d-scan, but chasing a cov-ops boat can be an exercise in frustration and he may even be from the blue-occupied C4, and I continue on my way. Sure enough, the Imicus pilot has entered the C1 safely by the time I have crossed the C3, swapped ships at home, and made it back to high-sec, but my expectations are met as I see a new Iteron hauler on d-scan in the C1, which must be the pilot remaining active.
The Iteron may be collecting planet goo, but rather than warping around blindly I first make sure he isn't sat stationary at the tower. Confirming the ship is elsewhere in the system I start spinning d-scan around to try to locate the Iteron at a customs office. It looks like he's at one of the planets and I charge towards his current position, aiming to drop short so that I am not decloaked on landing in case he warps off. He's still there when my warp engines disengage, but I wait a couple of seconds until I am sure he's not aligning out to his next destination. Happy to see the Iteron is not moving I decloak and lock on to the ship, disrupting his warp engines. It only takes two volleys of torpedoes to rip through the hauler, and my sensor-boosted stealth bomber is quick enough to stop the pod escaping too.
I scoop, loot, and shoot. There isn't much to recover from the Iteron, as it looks like the pilot hadn't even collected an initial load of planet goo. The engagement is all rather ordinary too, but the hunt was interesting. I was lucky to arbitrarily jump in to the system along the pilot's flight path, and to have the time to swap ships that lets me catch him in a vulnerable moment. There's nothing else to do here for now and I can head back to the C3 to investigate the Buzzard pilot. Probes are still visible on d-scan in the other system and I loiter on the exit to high-sec, because if he uses this wormhole I can see if he's blue, or if not I may be able to catch him if he returns immediately and is polarised. But the probes disappear from d-scan and no ships pass me. I think I'll leave him alone and head home to take a break.
'Penny? Was that you in the Manticore?' I'm not being addressed in the local channel but our corporation's public channel, as it turns out that the Buzzard pilot is old chum and alliance member Marham, sitting on our static wormhole and seeing me jump in. It seems that both of our class 4 home systems are connecting to the same C3 today, which is a nice surprise. And just as I was disappointed to have bookmarked the sites in his C4 only to have to discard them as ambush points Marham has to ignore as potential spoils the Orca industrial command ships sitting inside our tower. He gracefully shares some intelligence on the C3 occupants with me, whilst I let him know about the C1 in the high-sec system. Apart from the two of us it is all quiet in w-space, though, and I stow my Manticore and get some food.
Ideas of later collaboration with Marham and colleagues are dashed, sadly. I return to a sitrep that both he and Fin were targets of a counter-ambush when they were aiming to engage the C3 locals. Another hostile fleet appeared, consisting of strategic cruisers, recon ships, a battleship or two, and a heavy interdictor, and locked down our w-space constellation, sending Fin and Marham back to empire space to wake up in new clones. They even sat in wait for over an hour to catch Fin coming home through the aging and wobbly wormhole, showing their levels of patience and dedication to disrupt normal operations. I am not going anywhere this evening and merely help monitor local traffic and intelligence for a while before settling down for the night. We'll get back to normal tomorrow.