It's been a few hours since the curious incident of the exploding planet gooer, so what's changed? For a start, our static wormhole is now in its end-of-life stage and has been destabilised to half-mass. That it is EOL can be explained by the wormhole no doubt having been opened by scouts coming from another class 4 w-space system connecting to us. That K162 was at half-mass when I found it, so although my own transits through our wormhole didn't destabilise it, those from our neighbours perhaps did when they inevitably came through to explore our system. What's more curious is that the K162 from C4a is now critically unstable.
It's quite possible our C3 neighbours scouted further back in the constellation, to see just who they are sharing w-space with today, but what they pushed through the wormhole to destabilise it so much I can't say. Either way, they would have found a C4 system with no occupation and no other wormholes, and our home system must have looked relatively quiet too. And although I don't know how much life is left in our wormhole, that the C4 K162 lives should mean that our connection will survive at least long enough for me to poke through and see what our neighbours are up to now.
An Iteron appears on my directional scanner from the K162 in C3a, which wasn't there earlier. There's a tower too, one of three, all of them out of d-scan range of the others, so it's easy to locate the Iteron and see it piloted inside the force field of the closest tower. Not really thinking I could catch two planet gooers in the same system in the same day, I watch the Iteron anyway. You never know, and the locals may think our system is dormant now, after the excitement a few hours earlier. But the hauler goes off-line within a few minutes, which makes the appearance of a Drake battlecruiser on d-scan appealing.
Looking for the Drake has the ship in one of the ladar sites I scanned earlier. I fully resolved the few sites, all gas, knowing I'd be back and hoping to catch a ship watching for probes but with me needing none, but I didn't think that a likely scenario. I would say that external scouts opening our wormhole so that it is now EOL is working to my advantage. The locals probably think I'm sleeping. But I'm here and ready to ambush a ship. I just need to not get carried away.
The ladar site is too close to warp in to it directly and expect not to be decloaked by a gas cloud, so I warp to a distant planet so that I can return along a vector closer to being parallel to the ecliptic plane. I check d-scan as I warp to the planet, knowing that it puts me in range of another tower, and kick myself for not warping to the tower directly. I see more ships, and although I can reliably say which ones are piloted—the Venture mining frigate, Megathron battleship, second Drake, and Ibis frigate are new to the system—I cannot know they are actually at the tower. But never mind. At least I know which site is active.
As my ship turns to warp in to reconnoitre the ladar site, an update to d-scan shows the Megathron and second Drake disappear. Unsurprisingly, they have moved to the ladar site to join the first Drake in shooting the Sleeper Sirius guns that have appeared to prove a threat to mining ships. A single Drake would be a neat target. Two and a battleship are too much for me to tackle by myself, so I wait. The ships are likely to be replaced by gas-suckers at some point, and those I will be able to ambush. I think.
I'm not entirely sure if I will be able to get close to gassers without probes. I am in the ladar site, the clouds are in front of me, as will be the ships, but my warp engines may not have a beacon to lock on to. I can't warp to a ship not in my fleet, and offering a fleet invitation may be a little suspect. And although I could warp to the gas clouds they are often big and fluffy enough that their cosmic signature could be many kilometres away from the sucking ships. But I only think about this now because I have little else to do as the combat continues. It may not even be a concern.
There goes the last Sirius gun. The three ships warp away, but not to the tower. It's easy enough to find them again, in a second ladar site, thanks to my earlier scouting, but as I make a second tactical perch I am a little dismayed to see a lack of Sleepers. The Megathron and two Drakes are nestled up against a pair of Ventures, apparently acting as muscle for the operation. I couldn't take the three combat ships before, I can't take them now. Perhaps they are configured purely for Sleeper combat and are not fitted with warp disruption modules, which would let me warp in, pop a Venture or two, and get clear with some shield damage. But do I risk my Loki strategic cruiser on how the other ships are fit?
Thankfully, there's no need to risk a hit-and-run. The combat ships warp to the other ladar site again, taking the Ventures with them before this cloud is fully harvested, but apparently only for bookmarks to be made of the clouds in the other site. By the time I have got to my first perch the ships are gone, back to sucking on the cloud where I first saw them, only now the combat ships are gone. Maybe they are gone to clear another ladar site of Sleepers, or to relax in a tower after a job well done. I don't really care. What's important is that they are not here, with the Ventures. And me.
I should be in luck with getting close to my targets too. The Ventures are further from the gas cloud's signature than my warp scrambler works, but not by far. That shouldn't be a problem, both because my targeting systems will need to recalibrate after decloaking, which will let me burn in to range easily enough, and because the last time I shot a Venture it evaporated with a single volley from my autocannons. If I'm lucky, I can bag both ships, and maybe even catch a pod.
One last check of d-scan sees no imminent return of the combat ships, so I push my ship in to warp, aiming for the heart of the cloud and within reach of the two Ventures. I'll be working on instruments again, as the cloud is generating an awful lot of light, but my overview should let me know what's going on, even if I can't see explosions. As my ship decelerates from warp I watch for the moment my cloak drops. When it does, I activate my sensor booster first, micro warp drive second, and surge towards the two frigates. My targeting systems become responsive after a few seconds, and I aim for both ships, gaining a positive lock on both.
One Venture is arbitrarily chosen for the first autocannon volley, and disintegrates. I reactivate my guns on the second as I attempt to lock the newly ejected pod, watching as the capsuleer flees and the second Venture crumples as quickly as the first. The second pod isn't so lucky in getting clear, and I catch it before the pilot can get clear.
I crack the pod open as Sleepers appear to join the fun, and although I personally think the fun's all over the Sleepers have other ideas. There is still a Loki for them to play with, being somewhat indiscriminate with their targeting when it comes to non-Sleeper ships, so I scoop the corpse and loot the remnants of the Ventures before twisting my ship back towards my perch.
Clear and safe, I reload my guns, cloak, and relax. Actually, I can relax at home. Our wormhole was dying when I left it, and it's possibly not there now. Rather than risk getting isolated just to bask in the aftermath of a couple of simple but rewarding kills, in a system where the most that will now happen is for me to be hunted, I warp across to the K162 still wobbling away and jump home. Now I relax. This has been a good day. An early gooer kill stopped my dry spell, and the decision to fully scan the system made catching a couple of gassers later much easier than having to employ combat scanning. I think I'll ignore our dying wormhole, even with the C4 K162 now dead and gone portending its imminent demise, and enjoy an early night after a decent day's hunting.