I'm back in space and ready to see how the constellation looks a few hours later. The home system is clear, with no new signatures threatening, and the tower in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system is back up to holding two Heron frigates with the Ferox battlecruiser. The Herons may be piloted but, as they have potentially been on-line and in the tower for hours, the odds of them becoming active within a short time of my turning up are slim. I ignore the locals and blanket the system with my probes.
I already know what I'm expecting to see. I'm scanning to see what I don't expect. The outbound connection to C5a remains, but the static exit to low-sec empire space has been replaced. I resolve the new U210, bookmark its deadspace signature from the scanning interface, and ignore it for now to see what the C5 locals are up to. I popped a hauler of theirs bringing in gas from high-sec to run reactions earlier, so I'm interested to see what they are up to know, and what precautions they are taking.
Going off-line is a pretty good precaution against losing ships, but it's kinda cheating a little. Warping around the many towers in C5a finds no ships, but at least they've kept their static wormhole open. The connection's sitting at half-mass, but it was earlier as well, so it's not like this is a threatening sign. I jump through, to C5b, where again no one's home, and I have a static connection to class 4 w-space to find. I felt it prudent to pop the Bestower and retreat instead of spending all my time scanning earlier. I think I made the right choice.
The first signature I resolve is the static wormhole, which is a time-saver. A crude check for K162s finds nothing, and I don't care to spend ages looking for random outbound wormholes when I already have more w-space to explore. Onwards! Jumping in to C4a has a Vulture and tower visible on my directional scanner, and my first thought is to wonder if the command ship is boosting a fleet elsewhere in the system. Probably not, as a quick passive scan reveals just the one anomaly, and that's within d-scan range of my ship.
Locating the tower finds the Vulture unpiloted, and blue. Those damned blues. I'll scan forwards. Five signatures makes leaving the system quick, and through a static connection to class 1 w-space. That's a pretty soft C4 to live in, and pretty awkward for moving ships and hauling loot, I imagine. But that's not my business, and I jump to C1a and hit d-scan. Nothing. My notes from a little over three months ago agree with the system being unoccupied, and although I didn't scan then I do now. Twenty one anomalies, twenty signatures. Capsuleers don't come here much it seems.
Hello there. A K162 linking class 1 w-space with class 1 w-space is lovely, and rare. I can finally update my guide to wormhole colours with an authentic Penny-captured image, as well as having another C1 system to explore. I make sure I also resolve the static wormhole in C1a, but ignore it for now to see what's in C1b. A clear d-scan result and a magnetar phenomenon. There's more to see, though, so I launch probes and blanket the system. Three towers, no ships; one anomaly and five signatures. I've lost interest already.
I have scanning probes launched, and as K162s are so very chubby it would be churlish not to poke around for them. I find one with a capsule on it. Oops. I bet the pilot has seen my probes. Still, no matter, and it's not even a K162, but the C1's static exit to high-sec, which makes spotting a ship on that connection rather less appealing. And that the pod has gone from the system, and given that he must have been jumping from and not to high-sec, I am sure I have an actual K162 to find. And there she is, a K162 from class 5 w-space stressed to half-mass. Fancy that.
I jump through to C5c, a rather curious class 5 system. It was unoccupied eight months ago, and remains unoccupied now. Whether the C5 is unattractive owing to the static connection to class 1 w-space, or the black hole lurking like a Sarlacc, I can't say, but whatever it is it's keeping occupation at bay. I have more scanning to do, and two obvious wormholes stand out from the four anomalies and nine signatures. One is an outbound connection to null-sec, the other the inevitable C5 K162. And C5d has an impressive collection of ships on display. Six dreadnoughts, four carriers, two freighters, seven industrial command ships, six strategic cruisers, and many others, split amongst six towers. That's a fair bit of ISK just lying around.
There are no wrecks in C5d, and rather than spend time tower-locating and ship-spotting I'll leave what is probably a dead end alone and head back the way I came. Poking my prow through the exit to null-sec in C5c has me in a system in Fountain with two other pilots, which is about as much interest as I can show that system, and returning to C5b and jumping to C1a from C1b stresses the connecting wormhole to half mass. That's fine, as I doubt I'll be coming back this way. Checking the static wormhole for C1a shows it to connect to null-sec, perhaps giving a reason for the continued lack of occupation, and I find myself in Stain with eight other pilots. Whatever, null-seccers.
C1a, to the blue C4a, and back through C5b to C5a. Now some folks have woken up, with some combat ships and a logistics boat on d-scan. There are no wrecks, though, and as I'm warping around to see who is where a pilot drops from his Probe frigate and self-destructs his pod. That's weird, particularly considering there being an exit to high-sec one jump away, which was good enough to haul gas through earlier, but I suppose you have to expect such behaviour from a capsuleer named Loco Kamikaze.
Bored with watching simple ship changes, I leave C5a for C3a—back down to one Heron—and exit to low-sec. The system in Kor-Azor has three pilots, who I ignore whilst I scan, resolving a K162 from class 2 w-space that looks attractive. But the Inquisitor frigate flitting around intrigues me too, particularly as he appears to be coming and going to the easily found Abandoned Battlefield in the system. I warp to the celestial beacon, note that now it's just me and him in the system, making him unlikely to be any kind of bait, and approach in my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser, with the Jaws theme playing in my head. And I'm kinda humming it to myself, but don't tell anyone.
It's been a while since my security status took a hit, and it's probably because the brief thrill of being a criminal isn't worth the time it takes to rat my way back up. But the red mist has descended. I decloak, lock on, and blow the living crap out of the Inquisitor before it can realise what's happening. Damn, I'm mean.
'You could do a catch and release', suggests Mick, when I link the slaughter mail. I could, but I quite like explosions. They learn better with explosions too, I'm sure. Anyway, the brief weapons test is finished—it wasn't really 'combat'—and I head to C2a, where a Helios and corpse appear on d-scan. That's interesting.
The covert operations boat isn't cloaking. He's about 4 AU below the wormhole, which makes it worth trying to scan for him. I warp out, launch probes, and go for a scan. It's good, but not great. In fact, I can't get the scan from good to great without launching two more probes, and it's only when I warp in that I realise why I was able to muck around for so long without the Helios cloaking, warping, or jumping away. The ship is unpiloted, and probably unpiloted by the corpse floating next to it. I know scanning can sometimes feel like a chore, but this is protesting the effort to an extreme level.
I can take credit for the kill here. I scoop the corpse and shoot the Helios, and will happily hand-wave the lack of pod kill when I drop the new corpse in to our hangar. It all happened too quickly for it to register formally, I'll say. Back me up, okay? Why else would I have the Helios kill and the corpse? And bringing back a body helps divert attention from this C2 being where Fin and I embarrassingly popped an apparently abandoned Orca industrial command ship at a customs office, instead of piloting it home. I could scan for the C2 and low-sec static wormholes, but I've done enough of that and it's getting late. I've been evil in low-sec and collected some booty from the Helios wreck, and feel good about heading home for the night.