Fin's next door, and is a bit of a dawg. She's heard I like finding wormholes leading to class 3 w-space systems through wormholes leading to class 3 w-space systems, and has delivered. I jump to our neighbouring system, get a sitrep on the three towers, unpiloted Prorator transport, and sleeping capsuleer in a Coercer destroyer, and warp across to the N968 to explore deeper in to the constellation as Fin continues to scan. I enter C3b a moment after she resolves a K162 from class 2 w-space, which hopefully means we will both have interesting space to roam through.
It's my fourth visit to this C3, and although the last time I was here was only two months ago the tower I saw then has been cleanly taken down, yet to be replaced. The unoccupied and inactive system holds seven anomalies, all our favoured type, and eight signatures, which resolve to be rocks, gas, and a static exit to low-sec empire space. A K162 hides itself away to be found last, right after I announce that there aren't any K162 wormholes in the system, which makes me look quite the professional scout. But I carry on regardless, through the inbound connection to another class 3 w-space system. I hope it's not the one I used to get here in the first place, or my reputation will truly be in shambles.
Luckily, C3c is indeed a different system to C3b, at least I can claim that without anyone able to contradict me, and I see ships. Two Cerberus heavy assault ships, an Ishkur heavy assault ship, Falcon recon ship, Onyx heavy interdictor, two Tengu strategic cruisers, and an Impel transport look intimidating enough, but there is also a tower visible on my directional scanner and no sign of wrecks. I'd expect to see wrecks of other capsuleer ships more than Sleeper wrecks with these ships too. My last visit to the system was eight months ago, and there are no updates needed to my notes. The tower is in the same location, where I see all of the ships floating empty.
Having no pilots to hunt is a shame, but a passive scan of the system makes me question how often the pilots are actually active, as there are a whopping forty-six anomalies present. I suppose if they prefer to chase capsuleers than Sleepers then the anomalies just clutter up their scanners, so as a favour to them I take a couple of minutes to activate each and every one of the Sleeper sites. I would like to say the locals will be happily surprised to see a clean system within a few days, but I doubt they'll even notice. And now I'll scan, having just shot myself in the foot by leaving forty-six labels on the system map that can't be hidden. Have you tried scanning with so many labels obscuring everything? Scan first, activate second, people.
There are only fifteen signatures to sift through—maybe the locals are industrialists who leave combat ships on display for intimidation purposes—and at least the labels are only cosmetic and don't get in the way of manipulating probes. A static exit to low-sec is resolved early, followed by a K162 from class 5 w-space that's pounding with the menace of an over-stressed wormhole, this tiny connection currently sitting at critical mass. A K162 from class 3 w-space and N968 outbound connection to more class 3 w-space round off the wormholes to be found, and I ignore the other sites to jump through the N968 to look for trouble.
Maybe I've found trouble too. A Maelstrom battleship, Drake battlecruiser, and Noctis salvager all sit on d-scan alongside a tower and two Buzzard covert operations boats, but still I see no wrecks. My notes put me in this system eight months ago, when it was occupied by reds, and it still is, with the tower in the same location and none of the ships piloted. Opening the system map to find a safe place to launch probes notices a neat feature of the tower location, in that it is 13·33 AU from the farthest planet in one direction, and 13·33 AU from the farthest planet in the other direction. Considering that d-scan's range is a little over 14 AU this is a pretty convenient position. Still, no one's home to see me, so anywhere is safe to launch probes right now.
Seven anomalies and six signatures have a static exit to low-sec as the only obvious wormhole, putting me at the end of this chain. I exit w-space to appear in a system in Metropolis, which is about enough empire space I'm ready to endure at the moment, and I return to C3e to explore a different arm of the constellation. C3c has the critically destabilised C5 K162, but Fin and Aii have been busy finding their own wormholes, giving us a handful of empire connections, including a couple in high-sec, so even if the K162 collapses behind me I can get home. I'm happy to risk the dodgy connection, and jump through.
The wormhole survives, and there looks to be lots happening. Thirteen combat ships, including three carriers and two dreadnoughts, look to be creating Sleeper wrecks, whilst four haulers and two towers round off the d-scan result from the wormhole. A passive scan of the system throws up five anomalies, and Sleeper wrecks are obviously in one of them. A quick check of my notes places me here seven months ago, where I remember quite well popping a Crane transport ship installing a customs gantry. Good times. But let's see what's happening today, particularly as the two towers are not where I expect them to be.
Reconnoitring the local space sees an anomaly holding a Raven battleship, two Moros dreadnoughts, a Loki strategic cruiser, two Huginn recon ships, and two Chimera carriers, and the four haulers are the only unpiloted ships at the towers, where plenty more combat ships float in readiness. Checking the rest of the system sees core scanning probes out, making me wonder if I was spotted and someone is looking for new connections, but if the locals were competent then surely they would have either finished collapsing their wormhole with a HIC or had a scout sitting on it to see strays like me enter. I also find a second tower, which has a piloted Loki not doing much.
System scouted, it's time to monitor the combat. In warp to the site, d-scan shows me two Noctis salvagers deployed, along with ECM drones, which intrigues me. Entering the site explains all. A single Sleeper frigate remains, held at bay by the ECM drones, whilst the Noctes salvage under close guard of the rather impressive fleet. I would guess that the locals are farming the anomalies, relying on Sleeper reinforcements to arrive daily than clearing the sites completely and waiting for new ones to spawn. I think that's how it works. It also means that, with a full fleet around them, I won't have much of a shot at the salvagers.
The wrecks are cleared and the fleet moves on, warping not to a tower but a second anomaly. I follow behind to see that the anomaly has already been all but cleared of Sleepers, and only salvaging duties remain. Again, the fleet protects the Noctes, and I shy away from engaging. Aii suggests that the dreadnoughts probably wouldn't be able to hit me, at least not quickly, and that I may get a shot. But the carriers could probably deploy fighters, the final Sleeper frigate may be the scramming kind and hold me to die whilst local reinforcements are called, and I don't realise any of this until the second site is swept of wrecks and the fleet is gone.
It looks like combat is finished too, as the fleet warps back to a tower. I spy a Manticore stealth bomber amongst the ships, which looks new, and although I wonder what he'll get up to next I am a little concerned that if he has come back from roaming then even the stealth bomber's tiny hull may have pushed the sickly wormhole to its demise. I'd better check. And, balls, it's gone. I check my ship's systems to ensure they're still operational, as sometimes a crash will prevent the external cameras from updating, but everything responds. The wormhole really isn't there.
I need to scan my way out of the system and back home. At least the system holds a static connection to class 3 w-space, so k-space is only one more jump away, I just need to get lucky with where it exits to. Actually, I also need to get lucky with the C5 locals too, as a blanket scan reveals just the single signature, which makes scanning rather trivial. So trivial, in fact, that it looks like the locals have already found it and have started to collapse this new connection too, as suggested by the battleship appearing under my combat scanning probes along with the wormhole. This could be awkward.