I'm just going to have a little poke around the constellation. Nothing much, you understand, as I'm not even supposed to be here today. But the inexorable pull of exploring new systems has my coming on-line to see what I can find in w-space. Two extra signatures in the home system aren't echoes either, giving me a bit of gas that I try to ignore and an actual-to-goodness K162 from class 5 w-space to investigate. Maybe there are ships flying around!
Nope, nothing in C5a. Well, nothing immediately obvious, although only a single planet lies in range of my directional scanner. Still, launching combat probes and performing a blanket scan of the system reveals eight anomalies and five signatures, without a trace of ships, and warping around doesn't find a tower. There were six towers five months ago. Losing one is unfortunate, losing six sounds like a good party. The lack of occupation indirectly points to another K162 being in the system, and scanning finds it easily enough. The wormhole takes me to class 4 w-space.
There's occupation in C4a but still no ships, but apparently some bookmarks. I don't think I have kept them from my last visit, being three years ago, and it seems that we connect to our corporation's sister system. But it only seems that way. The reason why the wormhole I entered through is not similarly bookmarked is because no one from our other half has scanned today, leaving both bookmarks pointing at empty space instead of connections. That's a shame, as it could have saved me some time.
Four anomalies and ten unscanned signatures in C4a get whittled down to just the one K162, again from class 4 w-space, so I head further backwards in what looks like one of those evenings of scanning a perpetual chain. Again, d-scan is clear, one planet is in range, and the almost-messy system holding ten anomalies and fifteen signatures is unoccupied. But this time I get a choice of direction, as the constellation forks with two K162s from class 2 w-space and a K162 from class 5 w-space. Maybe it tridents.
C2a first, and I'm greeted by one tower with no ships on d-scan and one planet in range. Exploring reveals two more towers still without any ships, and although I feel like turning around immediately I feel compelled to scan for the other static connection. I can spare a couple of minutes, and the five anomalies and five signatures are sifted through until I resolve the exit to high-sec, which I poke through to appear in a system in the Tash-Murkon region. Whatevs.
Back to C2a, in to C4a, and through the other C2 K162. D-scan is clear once more, but this time it's with one planet out of range. Even so, that planet holds the tower, but as it is as lacking in ships as every other system so far I find myself launching probes to scan again. Fifteen anomalies, seven signatures, and the high-sec exit is joined by a K162 from class 5 w-space that is sitting at half mass. That's almost interesting, as it implies the wormhole is in use. Maybe the occupants are using the high-sec connection to import or export items.
I check the C2b exit—it chucks me out to a nondescript system in Essence—before taking a closer look at C5c. Returning to w-space and the K162 has no change in the wormhole's condition, so it doesn't look like it's being actively collapsed and should be safe for me to jump through. My strategic cruiser doesn't have enough mass to destabilise it significantly. And in I go, to see a few drones, some core scanning probes, and some bubbles on d-scan. That's it, at least until I consider exploring, at which point an Orca industrial command ship appears on d-scan. That is interesting.
The Orca drops on to the wormhole and jumps to C2b. Is he mid-way through collapsing the wormhole, and about to polarise himself in front of my Loki? I hope so, as that would give me a nice fat target to shoot. Oh, or maybe he's using the high-sec connection as I assumed not ten minutes ago. Nope, the wormhole crackles and brings the Orca back to C5b, right in front of me, with nowhere to go. I decloak, wait for the sensor recalibration to finish, and then experience an unsettling sensation as the wormhole disappears. Apparently it was closer to collapse than I assumed. It didn't even drop to critical levels when the Orca jumped out.
This is trouble. I don't mean having to find my way home. That's a minor irritation. Trouble is being decloaked in the middle of space with no wormhole to jump through on top of a target that has probably already called for help to come. And this ship isn't a Mammoth, it won't break apart by disrupting its warp engines. Ships will be swarming over me before I could break the Orca's shields, let alone its armour, and with no escape route I will end up dead. I take the sensible if unexciting manoeuvre and cloak and jink. Thankfully, my cloaking is not impeded by a Revelation dreadnought this time.
Help was already here, it seems. Barely have I re-hidden my Loki than one allied to the Orca decloaks nearby. I'm glad I was thinking clearly, particularly as losing my ship would mean losing my pod, given that I'm in a system whose only wormhole I know about has just been collapsed. I need to scan for the new one, and I kinda need my ship to do that. And once I get away from the two hostile ships and launch probes, I remember about the already present core probes. The locals will be ahead of me in looking for the replacement connection. And there's only one signature in the system, making finding it trivial. It's good, then, that I'm a fast scanner.
I resolve the new wormhole, warp to it before the core probes disappear, and jump through to C2c without any direct threat or ships following me. Now to find my way home. The class 2 system is unoccupied and inactive, which gives me no distractions, but my notes from two months ago tell me I found a wormhole to class 5 w-space on that occasion. That will mean the other static wormhole leads to null-sec, and that isn't ideal. But maybe it will have to do. I launch probes and start sifting through the sixteen anomalies and twelve signatures.
Two wormholes are resolved almost on top of each other. The first is a K162 from high-sec, which seems too good to be true, and the second is another K162 from high-sec. I would consider myself lucky, had I not just been isolated from our constellation and almost caught by a Loki. A third wormhole is an outbound connection to low-sec, leading to the Placid region, indicating that my notes from a previous visit aren't accurate. But I don't care to determine the other static wormhole tonight. It's late, and I want to go home.
I recall my probes and check the high-sec connections. One comes from Sinq Laison, fifteen or twenty hops to get back to one of the C2 systems. The other takes me to Devoid, a dozen hops to C2a's entrance. That'll do, pig. Again, I feel glad that I scanned and found those two exit systems, but had I not scanned I wouldn't have found the fateful half-mass C5 K162 that got me in to this mess. Still, although it's not been quite the adventure that I wanted my exploration gave me a minute or two of excitement. I ponder on the decisions I made as I make the peaceful journey across high-sec, back in to w-space, and across four empty systems that take me home.