It's taken too long to uncover, but we are finally monitoring the route some pilots are taking between their class 5 w-space home and empire space. We should be able to identify passing ships early and, if good targets, intercept and engage them. We're in a class 3 system a low-sec system away from home, which holds the K162 to the C5 and exit to high-sec the C5ers are using. There is also a K162 from class 2 w-space, with its own connection to high-sec, and an outbound connection to class 3 w-space, but those are red herrings. Fin's watching the C5 wormhole, Aii is scouting the adjoining C3 for more targets, and I'm sitting in high-sec watching for returning pilots.
We may have missed all of the action already. It took a while to realise just which wormhole ships were being taken through, and both connections along the route have been stressed to be below half-mass already. The high-sec system has some capsuleers coming and going, but none of them are from the class 5 system. A Buzzard warps to the wormhole as I sit cloaked nearby, but he is unaffiliated to any of the w-space corporations in the constellation behind me, and has simply scanned the wormhole on his travels. The covert operations boat jumps to C3b without my following him, not seeing a big need to waste my time failing to catch an agile, cloaking ship on a direct connection to high-sec, and jumps back out again a minute later. That was exciting.
More exciting is Fin engaging an interceptor. The ship appears from the C5 and Fin pounces, aided by Aii returned from the empty C3c, but the interceptor burns away from the pair to evade their clutches. But now we've shown the C5ers that a couple of strategic cruisers are lurking maybe some bigger ships will come, as strategic cruisers make tempting targets. I jump back from high-sec to C3b to add my Loki strategic cruiser to our small cloaky fleet, but I am already late to the party. The C5 wormhole flares and a couple of Legions have jumped through to attack our Tengu and Legion, demonstrating how strategic cruisers are the ship of choice for w-spacers.
I'm warping to the wormhole as the assault begins, but don't even get there by the time Fin is suggesting we abort. I'm generally happy to pull out and not risk my ship, but I am aware of my risk-averse nature and decloak to add my guns to try to cure myself. One of the enemy Legions is the target of Fin's capacitor neutralisers, so I make him my primary target and start shooting. But the situation looks bleak, and not because we are outmatched, but because we are soon outgunned. The wormhole flares again and more strategic cruisers pour out of the class 5 system, three Proteus ships coming through to get a piece of the action.
I see Fin warp clear, which is surprising but a relief. I know that my cloaky Loki is far from resilient, and that without Fin's neuts my firepower against other, probably non-covert strategic cruisers will not be significant, so take my cue to leave. One of the hostile ships has my warp drives disrupted, leaving me one direction to go, and I jump through the wormhole to the C5. I waste no time moving away and cloaking on the other side of the wormhole, seeing it clear and not waiting to be followed and threatened, making me safe. Aii's Tengu, on the other hand, looks to be the primary target, and he's not getting clear. He manages to eject a moment before his half-billion ISK ship explodes around him, and my scouting has an escape route direct to high-sec available for him to use.
That was short and explosive. We spent a fair amount of time stalking and monitoring the systems, and the engagement was over in what seemed like seconds. Now Fin's in low-sec and looking to repair her depleted armour, Aii's in high-sec and heading to buy a replacement Tengu, and I'm in the C5 and watching even more ships pile on and through the wormhole. A Loki, more Legions, and even more Protei appear, followed by a Zealot heavy assault ship and Falcon recon ship for good measure. All of those ship transits have even stressed the wormhole so that it is critically destabilised. Getting back to the C3 would be tricky enough with so many ships around without having to worry about the wormhole's survival too.
I have to work out what to do. I am isolated from home, but there are plenty of ships waiting to catch me if I try to leave this system. And now there are ships ready to catch me on this side of the wormhole too, with a Phobos heavy interdictor, two Protei, a Loki, and an Oracle battlecruiser all looking to make my day worse. I can't say I care about the HIC's warp bubble, but having so many pilots ready to catch me doesn't give me a warm sense of survival. Thankfully, Fin has repaired and is in a covert Legion, happy to scout the other side of the wormhole for me. If it's clear, which I doubt, a dash through the wormhole won't be so suicidal.
Fin gets back to C3b and the wormhole to see three Legions and a Proteus lurking, although they start jumping back to the C5, which I get to see myself. It looks clear, but only because two Legions were cloaked, and they only decloak to jump home too. This extra mass through a critical wormhole can't be helping my return home either. Fin reports the C3-side of the wormhole as being clear again, so do I try to get home or do I lay low and play it safe? I've run the gauntlet before, and although I didn't make it that time the failure is not what is keeping me from trying again.
The last time I was in this situation the collapse of the wormhole would have isolated me from home. This time, the C5 is merely a branch off the main w-space constellation. The collapse of its static wormhole will only spawn another connection to class 3 space, which will hold an exit to k-space. Once out to k-space I can link up with the rest of the already-mapped w-space constellation that can guide me home, so I lose nothing by watching the wormhole die. And, sure enough, the wormhole is killed by the locals. As it implodes, Fin says that 'one of these days we will get Penny to stop making predictions'. Yeah, I suppose I did kind of say we'd catch something or die trying.
I'm not really in trouble yet. The pathetic attempts at smack-talk from the locals barely register with me, and I can't help but giggle at the offer of giving up my Loki for a way out of the C5. I've already made a safe spot out of directional scanner range of any planet, used that spot to launch probes, performed a blanket scan of the system, and returned to where the wormhole used to be so that I can monitor what's happening by the time they suggest I give myself up to them. They only don't realise that I've got probes because I know what I'm doing and have kept them hidden, whilst surveying the system and seeing a lack of anomalies and only four signatures to resolve to find the new static wormhole. I have only delayed scanning for it because I want to see how aggressive the locals are in guarding the new connection.
It takes another minute but eventually scanning probes appear on d-scan. I suppose they are looking for the new wormhole after all. I'll scan for it too and see how safe it will be for me to leave tonight. I pick the signature near the outer planet to resolve first, as that will keep my probes hidden from d-scan for longer, and as luck would have it I resolve a wormhole. Warping and dropping short shows it to be the new static connection, and it looks clear. Clear? How can it take so long to resolve one signature? There are only four signatures in the system and I can only assume that bookmarks for the three other signatures are already held in a shared corporation folder. The locals should already be swarming around this wormhole looking for me. Damned amateurs.
I approach the wormhole and jump, appearing in a class 3 system with no one around. D-scan shows me a tower and four ships somewhere, and the complete lack of threat from the C5ers has me even considering ambushing one of the three haulers if they turn out to be piloted. My notes from ten months ago point me towards the tower, where I find none of the ships have capsuleers and so I have no targets. Okay, let's get myself home. I warp out, launch probes, blanket the system, and return at range to the C5 K162, and only now has a Legion jumped through from that system and cloaked. After their show of force and subsequent bluster, it's rather embarrassing for the C5ers to see that they can barely scan their way out of their own system.
I would say 'the race is on' now that the Legion has entered the system, particularly as he warps away and launches probes, but I'm feeling no tension here. I sift through the twenty-one signatures with a slight sense of urgency but only because the evening's getting late and I have no idea where I'll be spat in to k-space. I resolve one wormhole that turns out to be a K162 from null-sec, and a second that is the static exit to low-sec. I note that the Legion's probes aren't anywhere near the wormhole, recall mine, exit w-space, and move away from the wormhole in low-sec and cloak. It's a shame that the C5ers can't just throw as many ships as they have available to become effective at scanning, to match the simplistic way they fight.
My exit has brought me to the Black Rise region, two hops from high-sec and then seventeen to the entrance to C3b. I'm not going to bother scanning for possible short cuts, as the high-sec route is simple and easy. I don't even look behind me as I warp away from the wormhole, curious only about whether the C5ers are still talking to me in their home system or not. It wouldn't surprise me if they were. Hop, hop, hop. High-sec passage is nice and uneventful and I soon make it back to the system the C5ers were using to move ships between empire space and w-space, only now I make use of the connection to get closer to home. In and out of C3b, across low-sec, in to C3a, and home. Even if, ultimately, I was in no real danger, it's been quite a night.