The pod that got away

17th January 2013 – 5.15 pm

Can anything be happening so early? I aim to find out. But I'll need to scan my way out of the home system, as just the static wormhole is waiting for me here. Of course, I can only know that because I already have scanning probes launched, so jumping to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system is little more than a formality. In C3a I see Heron, Heron, and Ferox on my directional scanner, along with a tower, and a few seconds later, after making sure I bookmark the K162 home, d-scan is down to one frigate and the battlecruiser. That's either evidence of activity occurring, or activity diminishing.

A visit to this same system from a month ago points me towards the tower, where I see the remaining Heron piloted and the Ferox empty. I don't suppose I'll be catching a gassing battlecruiser today. I warp out, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan of the system, which shows me a mere two anomalies and three signatures. There's no sign of the second Heron, or scanning probes. He's either off-line or in a different system. I'm guessing the two unknown signatures will be the static exit to low-sec—I'm sticking my neck out there—and a K162. Or a ladar site. I'm not much of a gambler.

The second signature is indeed a second wormhole, but it's not the K162 I expect. Even after hedging my bets, the weak outbound connection to class 5 w-space comes as a surprise, but a good one. It's even possible a fragile Heron came this way. But before I look for him I hit low-sec, through the system's static exit, to get a safety route home and to look for oranges. The faction warfare system in Minmatar space has pilots, none of them orange, and so after bookmarking the entrance to w-space I head back to C3a and beyond.

A tower but no ships grace d-scan in C5a. Along with no sign of locals or a Heron from C3a, there are no probes visible to suggest he came this way. That's okay, I can still scan for more w-space, and I already know I'll be diving down a C5-pipe from a visit fourteen months ago. At least I'm prepared. However, warping around and finding nine towers in the system catches me off-guard, although they are mostly configured with silos to run reactions, making it easy to find the tower holding a Buzzard covert operations boat, Stabber cruiser, and pod. Well, once I have ignored the other seven towers that creep on to d-scan when I get close to the ships.

I stop caring about C5a, it's proliferation of reaction-running towers, and the inactive pilots, and concentrate on looking for the next class 5 system instead. It should be easy enough, with seven anomalies and five signatures. Wormhole, magnetometric site, radar site, wormhole. The static connection to C5b is destabilised to half-mass, but still safe enough to use, which is good considering that the K162 from class 3 w-space is at the end of its life. The locals don't seem to be actively killing their wormhole, which makes it much less risky than poking through a dying link. I head to C5b.

Again a tower and lack of ships appears on d-scan, until I launch probes and blanket the system. Eight anomalies, twelve signatures, and an unexpected ship are picked up by my probes, and switching to d-scan shows a Sleipnir now in the system. The command ship appears to have come from C5a, and is soon gone. But was it passing through or checking the wormhole for something? I'll scan and see, holding on the K162 to C5a in case of more passing ships. And thankfully the C5 chain has ended early, as this system holds a static connection to class 4 w-space. I resolve a wormhole and initiate warp, just as the halved K162 behind me flares. Oops, too late to cancel the command, although I can throw my probes out of d-scan range quickly.

D-scan shows me a Bestower new to the system, which presumably is the ship coming from C5a. I think I know where it's going too, as I land next to a K162 from high-sec space, conveniently stressed to half-mass to indicate that plenty of ships have been moved between here and the class 5 system behind me. Naturally, the Bestower lands on the wormhole shortly after I do, and leaves w-space. I'd say it's worth waiting here a little while as I scan the rest of the system, in case she returns. Scan, scan, sc—that didn't take long. Before I can revert to my scanning groove the high-sec K162 flares. I hide my probes and align my cloaky Loki towards the C5 K162 in case it's the Bestower back so soon. It is, and I am in warp in seconds.

Again I arrive at the wormhole before the Bestower, and again I wait to watch her jump. I give her a couple of seconds to get comfortable, hopefully shed the session cloak, and follow behind. The Bestower isn't visible in C5a, but must have seen the wormhole flare. I get ready anyway, committed to the ambush, and decloak to activate my sensor booster. And thar she blows. The Bestower appears and sluggishly aligns away from me, perhaps knowing that jumping back to C5b is a waste of time. I dunno, it's got to be worth a shot of attempting to return to high-sec, rather than staying in a system with a damage-multiplying magnetar phenomenon. But, then, I'm not industrially minded.

I lock on to the hauler, get my offensive systems hot, and start shooting. Pop! It really doesn't take long to rip the Bestower in half, ejecting a fresh pod in to the cold of space. I aim for the capsuleer's second skin, only for my targeting systems to fail. I try again, and my systems don't respond. Lock, you bastard. No lock. The pod warps free as I look over my HUD to see what went wrong, only to find my high rack overloaded and ready to be used. I'm pretty sure I didn't order that, you stupid Minmatar piece of crap.

I've been hit by sticky keys again, a modifier being active when none was depressed. And I'm having trouble clearing it. Aiming to loot and shoot the wreck has my Neocom alerting me that I'm 'not in a fleet'. Okay, the Bestower was hauling a lot of gas in to the C5 to perform reactions for profits, but I don't need a fleet if I can't carry it all. I'm happy to destroy it. Thankfully, a bit of button mashing convinces my computer that I can, in fact, loot and shoot the wreck whilst not being in a fleet, and all is back to normal. Well, except I'm not carrying a frozen corpse in my hold.

At least I wasn't counter-ambushed whilst fumbling with unresponsive controls on the wormhole. And even though I didn't catch the pod, the gas the Bestower failed to haul home is a fairly costly loss, valued to be worth around two hundred million ISK. I stuff what I can fit in my hold, next to the new expanded cargoholds for my collection, and consider my options. I could press on, but that would be through a stressed wormhole of now-irritated C5ers, which could either mean the wormhole won't be here when I turn around, or big ships will be. I think I'll head home, grab a sammich, and come back later. If the wormhole's still here, so will the C4 further down the chain. If not, I'll have a new static connection to C5 space to explore.

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