Leaving the class 3 w-space system for high-sec takes me to a system in Metropolis, and puts me close to nothing. The Mammoth hauler that returned to C3a must have had a long trip, or paid over the odds for the silos he brought home. But that capsuleer's gone off-line, and I am here to look for more connections to explore through. I launch probes and scan, resolving all three extra signatures to be wormholes. The outbound connection to class 2 w-space would be more attractive if it weren't close to death, a K162 from more high-sec empire space is as interesting as a stargate, but the stable K162 from class 2 w-space offers promise.
From the wormhole inside C2b, a tower and Guardian logistics ship are visible on my directional scanner, and plenty of space stretches out of range to the other side of the system. As I am orientating myself an Anathema decloaks on the wormhole, the covert operations boat jumping to high-sec a moment later. Did he see me? I can't say, but the more important question is whether he is local. I locate the tower with the Guardian nearby, and see that the Anathema pilot is not associated with the owner corporation. But exploring the system finds a second tower, this one with a piloted Condor frigate inside its force field, which the Anathema is affiliated with. He's local.
There's not much I can do about a cov-ops, and particularly not one in high-sec, so I get back to scouting. A blanket scan of the system reveals twenty-two anomalies, ten signatures, and three ships. Three ships? The Guardian, Condor, and... what? The system is vast and d-scan barely stretches beyond each planet, so I am more relying on the ship to come to me than getting me to it. A subsequent blanket scan shows the ship persists but it doesn't look like it's coming to this tower. I warp across to the first tower, where remains just the unpiloted Guardian, and another scan now shows four ships. Returning to the second tower still has just the Condor, and a new scan has returned the system to holding two ships. I suspect a wormhole.
I scan through the signatures to resolve a K162 from class 4 w-space, which I suspect is where the ships came from, or went to. Others are just rocks, gas, radar and magnetometric sites, plus the second static connection leading to class 3 w-space. I approach the K162 to see what activity there is to find, when the wormhole flares. It seems the ship is coming to me after all. A Probe frigate appears, aligns, warps. It headed almost directly downwards, which would have it aiming for the wormhole to class 3 w-space, so I flip my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser around and warp behind the frigate.
Engaging a cov-ops on a high-sec wormhole is an exercise in futility. A scanning frigate, on the other hand, whilst able to cloak cannot then warp, making it possible to catch. And one transiting between w-space systems won't involve Concord should I find myself getting aggressive. Even better if the Probe doesn't even leave the system to provoke a chase. I drop out of warp short of the wormhole to see the Probe in a similar position, but diametrically opposite the connection to my own ship. I approach slowly, cloaked, to gauge when to follow the frigate to class 3 w-space, but it seems he is distracted. I note that my Loki is now almost on top of the wormhole and about to get decloaked by physical proximity, and decide to take my shot.
I reveal my strategic cruiser, get its sensor booster active, and light my micro warp drive to surge my Loki towards the Probe. My targeting systems get a positive lock as I burn at the frigate, letting my autocannons open fire. The first hit glances off the shields, barely registering, but the second lands after I give the Probe an almighty shunt. The bump must have aligned our ships, as the tiny ship is ripped apart, discarding the now useless pod in to space. I grab the pod for myself, crack open the hard shell to get at the meat inside, and scoop, loot, and shoot.
Oops, it seems the pilot was only a month in space. I counted the rings. I'm sure he won't mind that I callously podded him. It happens to all of us occasionally. Speaking of which, I should check C4a to see what could be waiting for me now, and jumping to his home it seems that I may have poked a wasps' nest. Ships galore appear on d-scan, and a Tengu strategic cruiser looks to be flitting here and there, dropping from d-scan before reappearing a minute later. Locating the two towers shows that all the ships are piloted but for a Cyclone battlecruiser, and although I silently urge a Bestower hauler to collect planet goo I suppose I should be more concerned about the movements of the Tengu and now Pilgrim recon ship, particularly if the Probe's new clone is feeling communicative.
There is enough space to let me launch probes covertly, and a blanket scan shows me there is little to find, with five anomalies and three signatures, and even fewer ships than I counted a minute ago. The two unknown signatures become a radar site and K162 from class 3 w-space with little effort, the wormhole tempting me despite the late hour and potential for hostile ships on the other side. Or perhaps because of that potential. I poke my prow through to C3c, where only a tower and Heron frigate light up d-scan, which is boring enough to send me back to C4a and on my way home without further inspection.
I cross C4a and return to C2b without bother, where I realise the connection to C3b, where the Probe was heading, remains unexplored. I take a look through that wormhole too, to sate my curiosity, and enter a system that is quite familiar to me. My seventh visit to the system is rather less interesting than the last, three months ago, as three towers have been reduced to one, and in that one is a dull Ibis frigate. An unpiloted Ibis frigate. A blue, unpiloted Ibis frigate. Dull indeed. I turn around again, jumping to C2b and warping to the high-sec connection heading homewards, where I see a fresh warp bubble anchored.
The bubble is not covering the wormhole, not that my interdiction-nullified Loki would notice if it were, but is anchored in line with the tower holding the Guardian. I am not sure who planted the bubble, and for what purpose. Any ship coming from high-sec would see the bubble and could easily route around it, and the only ship in the nearby tower is the unpiloted Guardian, which I don't imagine will come this way any time soon. Whatever its origin and purpose, I find that I don't care, particularly not at this late hour. I'm going home with a corpse in my hold.