Where did all the anomalies go? I'm sure we had more than this yesterday. Damned blues, passing through and stealing our loot when we're out. There's not even a wormhole to trace their route backwards, leaving me with just our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to visit. And, of course, there's a tower with no one home in C3a, although it's under different occupation than four months ago. But locating the new tower gives me some early thrills, as I drop out of warp under three kilometres from its force field. Emergency manoeuvres, ensign! Reverse thrust, full impulse power! Or whatever engines we use out of warp! I dunno, push that button or something!
My cloak holds and I back away from the tower's force field smoothly enough. And as the tower belongs to a four-pilot corporation I doubt anyone will coincidentally come on-line just because I've turned up, leaving me four anomalies and seven signatures to scan for wormholes. Gas, wormhole, gas, wormhole, gas wormhole—going in circles is making me dizzy, but they are each discrete signatures. I ignore the static exit to low-sec empire space in favour of the more interesting wormholes, which are K162s from class 5 and class 2 w-space, the latter stressed to below half mass.
A mass-stressed wormhole is indicative of activity, and my first choice of direction to explore. Sadly, all that my directional scanner cares to show me in C2a are three towers and a pair of drones copulating in the depths of space. There's not even any space in the system out of range of d-scan, so what I see is what I get. Given that it's such a small system with so few moons, I get curious and point d-scan at each of the planets. Unsurprisingly, each moon either has an active tower on it or a small tower anchored to militate against staging towers for hostile takeovers.
I may as well poke the system with probes, and the three anomalies and five signatures don't take long to distill down to rocks, gas, and two more wormholes. The second static connection leads to high-sec and is immediately tagged as distinctly uninteresting, but the other, weaker wormhole must be outbound and leading to more w-space. I still follow a safety procedure before pushing on, though, and pop out to high-sec to get a way home, through the Kador region today.
Actually, the high-sec exit is not as uninteresting as I first suspected. I'm only four hops from an academy system selling skill books I'm keen to buy. I can't ignore this felicitous connection, so spend a few minutes using stargates in high-sec instead of wormholes to collect some new skills to inject. I feel productive. Now back to C2a and on and through the other wormhole, which takes me to class 4 w-space, where a tower and Buzzard appear on d-scan from the K162.
The covert operations boat is in the tower and looking decidedly inactive, without any probes in the system. Rather than stare at a ship that I can't catch even if it left the tower I warp away, launch probes, and take a look around. One of the fourteen signatures mixed with the three anomalies looks distinctly wormholey, and for good reason. The signature resolves to be the system's static connection to class 3 w-space, which is a good enough result for me. Onwards.
Hot damn, C3b is 180 AU across. No wonder the occupation from my previous visit six months ago has since moved out, as it takes a couple of blanket scans just to see what is roughly in the system. At least those scans point to new occupation, thanks to a ship left floating inside the tower's force field, but I don't care for an empty Badger as much as I don't care to scan this hideously vast system. I still have that C5 K162 back in C3a to explore through, whereas this C3 has perhaps only an exit to high-sec.
Back to C4a, across C2a where the Buzzard still sits idle, and in to C3a, where a pod appears on d-scan. Warping to the tower doesn't see the pod, and it disappears from d-scan before I can trace it. On a whim, I reconnoitre the exit to low-sec, reaching the wormhole as it flares. A Thorax enters from low-sec and warps to the C5 K162 before I can even get within range to decide not to engage it for being a cowardly coward. Still, I follow it, like the bravity brave scout I am, to see the once-healthy K162 now also sitting at half-mass. It looks like my choice of way to go was poor today.
I'm not sure whether to poke inside C5a or wait on the wormhole and update d-scan, waiting for more ships to pass to and from low-sec. I decide discretion is the better part of not exploding when a Rapier recon ship blips on d-scan, more so when it doesn't jump past me to C5a. There's something happening here that I'm clearly not privy to, and I really ought to observe more before jumping in. Then again, when a Cheetah cov-ops appears at the local tower maybe the jig is already up.
Whoever is moving ships around must also see the local pilot, and either adapt their logistics to account for a possible ambush attempt, or bring more ships to attempt their own ambush. Sure enough, the C5 wormhole brings a Loki in to C3a, the strategic cruiser cloaking once moved away from the K162. And with the Cheetah now spewing probes in to the system I doubt I can be much of a surprise to anyone, unlike the Tengu strategic cruiser that also comes from C5a. I have to say, though, the surprise is more the dozen ships that appear as one behind it.
The single wormhole flare hid the numbers of the fleet, probably all appearing at the same time because of a squad command, and I skitter away from the wormhole thanking my luck that the earlier activity I missed I am now continuing to miss. None of the cruiser hulls are spat from the wormhole close enough to me to decloak my ship, letting me watch instead of becoming involved in some improvised interpretive dance.
That could have ended badly, given the firepower and logistic support available, as well as their apparent cohesion. And it doesn't matter that an Omen cruiser straggles behind the main fleet by a minute or so, passing through the wormhole to join them in heading to low-sec. I magnanimously let him pass too. Whether they are wormhole residents going to low-sec for a roam, or low-sec tourists heading home after a scrap, I don't know, but best of luck to them either way.