Some gas has gone, some rocks have come. Or some gas has been compressed to rocks. Either way, the home w-space system remains as untidy as it was yesterday, and I have a whole cluster of bookmarks waiting for me. Let's take a look around the constellation to see if anything is happening, which starts with only one direction to go. Jumping to our neighbouring class 3 system has nothing visible on my directional scanner, and bookmarks pointing to a static exit to high-sec empire space, a K162 from low-sec, and an outbound connection to more class 3 w-space.
Exploring C3a finds a threadbare tower with a few defences that are all incapacitated, and only an Orca and Noctis sitting inside the force field. There isn't even a hangar to hold more ships, so the unpiloted industrial command ship and salvager are all this system has to offer. I suppose the static connection to high-sec didn't help this corporation too much in the end, except perhaps to export their assets with a modicum of safety. There's nothing else to see, so I press on to C3b, where a tower and a lack of ships is all d-scan shows me. More bookmarks point the way to a static exit to low-sec, a K162 from high-sec, and a K162 from class 2 w-space.
I was last in this C3 five months ago, when a slippery Magnate evaded me quite effectively. But he then neglected to tell his colleagues I was roaming the system and I popped a planet gooing hauler. There's been some change since then, with towers being moved around, but there remains two and they both sit empty of pilots. Nothing's happening, so I continue exploring by jumping to C2a, where the constellation stops. The only bookmarks for this system point to the C3 I just came from and the second static wormhole to high-sec, and a poke around locates three empty towers. I suppose I'll be exiting w-space and scanning an empire system.
No, actually I'll head home and collapse our static wormhole to give me a fresh constellation to explore properly. I have time and I'd prefer to do that than rely on empire systems to hold more connections to w-space. I grab an Orca and thrust it through our connection, noting the mass I'm adding with each trip, and waiting for the polarisation effect to dissipate when necessary. It's all rather simple, until I jump to C3a and hear the wormhole flare a few seconds later. Shit! Have I been watched? Who has followed me? How much danger am I in?
I hold my session change cloak in the Orca to see who appears, but no one does. I decide to make a break for it, which isn't easy in a whale of a ship, and jump home, breaking my cloak immediately and warping back to the tower. No one follows, and continued hammering of d-scan shows no other ships appear during the four minutes of polarisation. Are they waiting for my next trip, so that they are not polarised even though I will be? Did they not actually see me? Or was it just a bizarre echo of my own jump that I heard? Either way, I have only one more round trip to make to kill the wormhole, so let's get it over with.
I warp the Orca to the wormhole, jump out to destabilise the wormhole to critical levels, as expected, and return. The wormhole collapses, no ships appear, and I warp back to our tower unmolested. Echo or not, at least I'm awake and have my blood pumping. I'll scan for our new static connection and see if I can find other pilots before the adrenalin wears off. Jumping to the new neighbouring system has a shuttle, Orca, and tower on d-scan, which is a pretty unremarkable result. I'm curious but still not impressed when the shuttle looks to be in empty space and not at the tower—it's probably just been abandoned—but perk up when I locate the tower to see the Orca piloted and the shuttle warp in to join the larger ship.
Already pumped on adrenalin and perked up, imagine my reaction when the pilot of the shuttle swaps in to a Covetor mining barge. Oh my. And he warps! What is this curious tingle I'm experiencing? I think my timing is remarkably good today, as it looks like the pilot has just used the shuttle to find a nice rock to mine, and has taken the Covetor out to chew on it for a bit. I'm even in a system big enough to hide me as I launch probes, so the hunt is on. With my probes safely out of the system I return to the tower to start locating the Covetor, as it seems to be around the planet closest to whatever gravimetric site the barge is in.
I refine d-scan to have the Covetor in a five degree beam, and then set the range gate to have him, um, 5·6 AU away? That sounds awfully far. I check my system map to confirm that there isn't a planet closer to the site, then recheck my d-scan settings only to have lost the Covetor now. Nope, there he is, in the tower. I really hope he's back just to drop off the first full hold of ore, and it looks that way. A minute later the Covetor has warped away again, and back to where my datum probes are pointing, only now he's 4·5 AU away. That sounds better, and even if I don't know if my maths was wrong the first time I work with what I've got.
I arrange my probes around the datum, make one last check that the Covetor hasn't moved, and scan. I get a fuzzy hit on the gravimetric site but a 100% result on the Covetor, although I must be out of practice as it takes me an extra couple of seconds to work out that I have a positive result and need to recall my probes. But I do it, and send my Loki strategic cruiser in warp to the mining barge's position, bookmarking it once in warp for reference. I land near what I assume is the Covetor in what I also assume is a gravimetric site, and approach the mystery ship as my systems update to draw the barge and all the rocks around me.
The full power of my 6502 is brought to bear, and finally I can see the Covetor and its mining lasers active on the rocks surrounding us. My approach has me in good range to burn and bump the Covetor, so let's go! No, not you, Covetor, damn you. I decloak and activate my micro warp drive just as the Covetor's lasers abruptly stop and the mining barge enters warp. In my surprise I poop a scanning probe instead of reactivating my cloak, just to enhance my embarrassment, but manage to recall it and re-activate my cloak soon enough. Warping back to the tower dashes my hopes that I somehow wasn't spotted still, as the Covetor goes off-line, followed by the Orca. But what happened?
I can only assume that the pilot was being vigilant with d-scan and saw my probes, which wasn't helped by my poor reactions in reading my first scan and recalling them. But not being able to see the ship for a few seconds was something of a hindrance too. I know I should shoot first and render rocks second, but the last time I tried that the general unresponsiveness let my target get away anyway. I was hoping that a little patience would guarantee me the kill. Maybe I should shoot first and take pictures of the explosion, not of the pretty mining lasers. Whatever, as these opportunities don't come along often it's a particularly disappointing result. I'm going home to pout.