I'm boned. In looking for some rats I instead found a bunch of wormholes, and have chosen the wrong door. It all looked as benign as any other jump I made to start with. The system in low-sec empire space was empty apart from me, the wormhole was clear of ships on the w-space side. But between warping away to find the pair of towers my directional scanner was showing me and wondering where all the ships were I've managed to be on the wrong side of a fleet collapsing the wormhole I used to get here. I'm pretty sure I can't use it to go back the way I came.
I think about making a run for the exit. I could manoeuvre through the loitering ships to get close enough to the wormhole to jump with little risk, even burning to get in range should I get accidentally decloaked. But I have no idea how many more jumps the wormhole needs before it collapses, which could send a dozen combat ships following me in to low-sec looking for a prize trophy of my strategic cruiser wreck. That's not even considering how many ships are currently in low-sec, waiting to jump back to add their mass to the wormhole's limit. On top of that, if my timing is bad I could make a break for the wormhole right as the last ships are jumping back to w-space, the other side of the wormhole already collapsed. That would leave me burning through the middle of a fleet with no escape route. I've been in that situation before, and it didn't end well.
I have to accept that I'm stuck in this class 2 w-space system for now. It's not the end of the world, and I'm not really isolated from the home system either. I exited w-space through our neighbouring class 3 system's static wormhole, and I can get home that way too. I just need to get back to empire space, and as the wormhole this annoying fleet is collapsing is a static wormhole to low-sec another exit will pop up soon enough. What I should be doing right now, after accepting my fate, is warping out to launch scanning probes. I could perform a blanket scan of the system, ignore all the signatures, and find the new static exit easily once it appears. But no. Instead, I watch with morbid curiosity as the final ships jump back from low-sec and kill the wormhole.
That's that. If I'm to get home this evening I definitely need to scan now, so I warp out and launch probes. I note that the scanning probes I saw earlier are still in the system, according to d-scan, and it's possible the locals will be chain-collapsing the exit. Maybe they saw an intruder, possibly me, and are looking to catch whoever they saw, or at least trap them. I've been in this situation before too, where I've had to race to resolve the new connection before the locals get their ships in place as a credible threat to my safety should I try to get past. Luckily, I'm pretty good at scanning. Even more luckily, there are only five signatures in the system, reducing the number of blind alleys. But I also realise that the local scout is using seven probes to my five and has probably ignored the irrelevant signatures already.
I stumble over a ladar site in my race to find the new wormhole, but the A239 appears as the second signature under my probes. Well, I have to assume it's the A239 until I warp to it, what with class 2 w-space systems holding two static connections, but I drop short of the wormhole to confirm that it does indeed lead out to low-sec. I am surprised, and a little flattered, that I am the first ship here. I didn't think I was that fast at scanning. But it also means I dropped quite a bit short of the wormhole, as I had expected to fly in to the fleet again. I could decloak and burn to the wormhole, or I could crawl there cloaked the whole way. Revealing myself, although quicker, seems riskier, as I am aware that some cloaked ships comprise part of the fleet, so I start the slow crawl to the wormhole hoping I can still get there in time.
Ten kilometres, eight, five. Still no ships have warped in. These capsuleers need a better scout. I finally decloak, jump to low-sec, and burn away from the wormhole on the other side without waiting for the session change timer to end. If I get caught here my only escape route would be back in to the C2, which is no escape route at all, so I may as well run whilst I can. And it's only about ten seconds after I clear the wormhole and cloak that it flares, signalling the arrival of another ship. A Loki strategic cruiser was hot on my tail, and although it looks alone it has actually dragged a bunch of other ships behind it. I watch in silent admiration as within two minutes of my exiting to low-sec the new A239 is destabilised to half-mass and then critical mass. These pilots may not be able to scan quickly, but they can definitely mobilise quickly.
I'm out of the system of ever-collapsing wormholes. That's certainly a foot forward and even though I knew I wouldn't be isolated I was certainly concerned about getting home. The wormhole I used to enter the system was one stargate hop from the K162 to our neighbouring C3. By forcing me through a different wormhole I could have ended up in any low-sec system in New Eden, and this one is twenty-eight hops away. That's quite a few jumps to make in itself, and it could be worse if I run in to any hot systems with gate camps. The evening's already late too, and I'd rather not have to make that many jumps. So I do what I do best, and launch probes to scan. I could get lucky and find a wormhole linking two low-sec systems together to get me home quicker, but I'd settle for a w-space bridging system too.
What I don't expect to see amongst my scanning probes is a titan. A Leviathan is somewhere in this system, along with a couple of supercarriers, the ship massive enough to be identified with even the roughest of scans. This system in the Khanid region is one hop from high-sec and two in another direction from null-sec, so I suppose it shouldn't be surprising to see big ships here, but I've only ever bumped in to titans once before in person. I want to see this one too. I resolve its position, apparently around a planet and so perhaps not involved in anything but logistics, and warp to it. There she is, a rather uninteresting ship from the Caldari designers except for its size. But what a size that is. The two supercarriers are dwarfed by the titan, making them look like little more than cruisers.
Sightseeing out of the way, I get back to looking for shortcuts home. The one signature in this system happens to be an outbound connection to class 1 w-space, which seems quite lucky. Jumping in puts me in an occupied system with only unpiloted ships floating in the local tower, and a mere eight signatures to sift through. I soon find a wormhole but not the static connection, this one a K162 from class 2 w-space. That's good too! The C2 connects to this C1 and so will also connect to k-space with its other static connection. If the exit in this C1 doesn't pan out I have another option to try. And the C1's exit leads to a high-sec system in the Tash-Murkon region, dropping my journey down to twenty-one jumps. That's a decent improvement, but I think I'll look in the C2 to see if I can make it better still.
The class 2 system is occupied but not empty. Two haulers sit inside the force field of a tower around a distant moon, which is enough to distract me for a few minutes. I remind myself that I'm trying to get home and, with the haulers unmoving, I warp away to launch probes only to see a new Hoarder hauler appear at a tower in the inner system. If this pilot has just woken up he may want to collect planet goo, so I watch him instead. Nope, he's just shifting materials around for manufacturing in the assembly array, and I'm still wasting time that I should be using to get home. I finally get down to scanning, sifting through a puny five signatures to resolve another static exit to high-sec. This one gets me a whole two jumps closer to home.
I'm glad I wasted that half-an-hour in the C2 so that my trip home would be nineteen jumps instead of twenty-one. That was time well spent. I could scan further but I think I've shown the folly that can ensue as a result. No, I simply point my Tengu towards the highlighted stargate and accept that I'll be going home by the plebeian route. At least most of the journey is through high-sec, letting me warp point-to-point without thinking about my surroundings or having to cloak. All I need to concern myself with is remembering when I hit the border between high- and low-sec, which passes without incident. In fact, apart from crossing paths with a couple of ships deeper in to low-sec, all of the stargates remain clear, even if the systems themselves don't.
It is actually a rather simple matter to get back to the low-sec system where my adventure started, and once there I warp to the wormhole and return to w-space as if nothing had happened. I see on d-scan that an Anathema covert operations boat has joined the two unpiloted carriers in the class 3 system, but that barely registers. I've seen so much more tonight. An Iteron hauler throwing itself at me, my security status plummet to new lows, a significant w-space fleet collapse my way home, a Leviathan titan, and plenty of stunning nebulae shift as I cross region after region. It's been quite an adventure.