It's just me and my shadow. Hopefully my shadow can find someone to shoot, because I've not been doing well lately. I wonder if the unidentified signature in the home w-space system could lead to an incautious pilot, but as it resolves to a radar site that pilot would have to be me. I'm not about to tackle class 4 w-space Sleepers solo, so warp to our static wormhole and jump to the neighbouring class 3 system. A tower and no ships is a humdrum result on my directional scanner, but a C3 I've not visited before lends some air of the unknown to my evening. I have a system to explore.
I warp away from the wormhole, launch probes and blanket the system, and head back to the inner system to locate the tower. My probes show me five anomalies, seven signatures, and no ships, which seems about right, and I settle down to scan what little there is here. The first signature becomes a wormhole, and feels like an exit to high-sec empire space, in pretty much the same way that the second signature does. One of my intuitions must me wrong. A third wormhole is chubbier and is likely a K162, after which I'm left with just a ladar site and two radar sites.
The wormholes turn out to be a lovely outbound connection to class 2 w-space, the expected static exit to high-sec, and a K162 from class 4 w-space, giving me some good options. First, I exit to high-sec and bookmark the empire-side of the wormhole—in the Domain region today, and relatively close to Amarr—to give me a route home should everything go pear-shaped, before warping back across C3a to explore in to C2a. An equally dreary tower holding no ships is visible on d-scan from the K162, although I am slightly perked up by three drones floating somewhere in the system.
I was only here a month ago, and although the tower's listed in my notes the static wormholes are not. The abandoned drones feel familiar, but I'm drawing a blank. I have no other notes to distinguish this system from another either, so I ignore any sense of deja vu and get down to proper scouting. I warp out, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan. Fourteen anomalies and eleven signatures shouldn't take long to sift through, but I think I'll leave them for now and look in C4a instead, as the K162 may have some activity occurring behind it. And maybe it does.
Four carriers, one dreadnought, a Drake battlecruiser, and a Mammoth hauler are on d-scan in C4a, along with three towers. It's all crammed in to a tiny system holding six planets and nine moons, and around 8 AU across. I locate two Archons and the Mammoth at one tower, no ships at the second, and the two Thanatos carriers, Moros dreadnought, and Drake at the third, along with a newly arrived Buzzard. The covert operations boat is piloted, as is the Drake, but that's all the capsuleers I can see. And I see one less now, as the Drake warps out as I am orientating myself.
It looks like the Drake went to C3a, which makes me wonder if the Buzzard will swap to a salvaging ship to sweep up some wrecks. But a Drake would make hard work of class 3 w-space anomalies, and just as I think about finding out what he's actually up to I find out anyway. A new contact warps in to the tower in an Orca industrial command ship, followed by the returning Drake. It looks like the battlecruiser was flying escort to the Orca, wisely scouting the route back from what was likely a logistics run to high-sec. And as the Orca is back, and being escorted when in w-space, I probably don't have anything more to do in this system.
The Orca is ditched and the pilot boards a shuttle, and he warps out of the tower towards C3a, following a minute or so behind the Buzzard pilot, also now in a shuttle. I would say they are heading out to empire space to collect some ships, which could actually give me a possible target or two. But lurking on exit to high-sec, so that I can identify the ship and intercept it on the connection to C4a, I realise that all I've reduced myself to waiting on a wormhole for nothing again. At least this time I'm not in an interceptor, I suppose. I wait a few more minutes anyway but nothing comes my way.
A Drake has appeared at the C3a tower now, but he's not doing anything. A nose in to C4a has a single piloted ship also doing nothing. And it's only when I decide to finally scan C2a that I realise that the connection to the system is outbound, giving both of C2a's static wormholes to find, which includes one to more w-space. I'm spurred on knowing that I have more w-space to explore, and further motivated when I resolve a static connection to class 1 w-space. I bookmark the second static wormhole—an exit to high-sec making this a pretty weak C2 overall—and dive headfirst in to C1a.
D-scan is clear from the K162, but warping around finds a tower with a couple of ships. The Raven is interesting, as the mass restrictions on wormholes in to class 1 w-space mean the battleship was built here, and the Iteron hauler could be a target. But locating the tower finds it to be owned by a blue corporation. That wasn't in my notes from my previous visit. Regardless, neither ship is piloted, and I don't care to scan for another exit to high-sec, so I turn around again. C2a hasn't woken up, the Drake still sits lonely in the C3a tower, and warping to the exit to high-sec has me pass a Blackbird in warp.
The Blackbird may be an ECM boat and able to break target locks with ease, but it is also just a cruiser and if it's unlucky could pop quickly. I flip my Loki strategic cruiser around to chase it across to the C4a wormhole, presumably its destination, but I am too late. I poke in to the system anyway, seeing the cruiser on scan, before watching the pilot warp back to the wormhole in a pod and head back out to empire space. I give him a minute to clear the wormhole before I follow, as I was going that way anyway. What I don't expect to see is the pod sitting on the exit wormhole when I get there. Maybe he's slow, or maybe he's distracted. Maybe I should find out.
Before I make up my mind, the pod jumps through to high-sec. That's a damned shame, because if I'd followed a few seconds earlier, knowing that my guns insta-pop pods, I may have got a sweet opportunistic kill. Now I probably have a fair wait until the next ship is brought back. I exit to high-sec and, within a minute, see another C4 pilot appear in the local communication channel. That's lucky. Even luckier, I notice and jump back to w-space before he appears on the wormhole. I move away from the wormhole and cloak, knowing that I cannot reliably engage on this connection, and align my ship towards the C4 K162 in preparation. That's when my Loki turns on a sixpence and flies back through the wormhole.
My decloaking is a little bad luck and a little lack of awareness. It's down to chance that I appeared in C3a on the opposite side of the wormhole to the direction I wanted to travel, but I could have mitigated the likelihood of hitting the wormhole when aligning by moving in the z-axis first. I burn away from the wormhole again in order to reactivate my cloak but not before the wormhole flares and a Drake appears, catching my brief exposure. The battlecruiser warps away and I am left feeling silly. Admittedly, I wouldn't have engaged the Drake by myself, but being seen pretty much discounts any further ambush opportunity. But that's okay, as I am getting hungry.
Belay that cooking, cadet! I am reminded that my head is getting full of skill points again and that I ought to upgrade my clone. I could leave this for another day, but with high-sec connections all around me it would be churlish not to take advantage of one of them. I choose the one through C2a, as it won't have C4a pilots going to and fro and maybe looking for a dumb Loki pilot. I head out to empire space, make a simple journey, pass a recent massacre on a high-sec stargate, and upgrade my clone at a medical centre.
Returning home is just as straightforward, sticking with a high-sec route tonight, and although the journey is a little time-consuming its purpose is necessary. And it's also done. Now I can get some food.