Another new signature has popped up in the home system during sammich time. Resolving and warping to the signature shows it to be a K162 from class 2 w-space, giving me a different direction to go, and maybe some fresh activity to find. But maybe not immediately, not with a complete lack of ships visible on my directional scanner. There are two towers and lots of drones somewhere, but, with nothing out of range, that's it. I'll be launching probes to look for more wormholes.
A blanket scan reveals six anomalies, seven signatures, and... a ship? Switching back to d-scan sees the Iteron now in the system, but where is the hauler? And did he see my probes or Loki strategic cruiser? I hope not. Luckily, the towers are easy to find, with both being around a planet with two moons. I warp directly to one to see no Iteron, and bounce to the other where the ship is. I think.
I don't see the Iteron immediately, but it catches my eye when I see movement two hundred kilometres above the tower. I have no idea why he's up there, and don't have long to consider it before the hauler drops back in to the safety of the tower's force field. A handful of seconds pass and the Iteron's moving again, aiming to warp back above the tower, by the looks of it, although a hangar is impeding progress. A dozen bumps off the structure convinces the Iteron pilot to navigate laterally out of the tower, and then he warps up and away, presumably to a wormhole.
As I watch d-scan for the Iteron's inevitable transition I spy a Purifier stealth bomber in the system too. He could be at the other tower, I don't know, and I don't care too much. He's more of a target than a threat and I want to find where the Iteron went. I saw the hauler's vector on exit, making it simple to resolve the wormhole. Two scan cycles later and I warp to what turns out to be an exit to high-sec, one that has been used a fair bit already, given that it has been stressed to be below half mass.
The question now is whether the Iteron will return to w-space quickly enough to be polarised. I've seen it happen before, so I'm willing to wait and see. And, apparently, I'm willing to wait even longer, on the off chance that I can catch and destroy the hauler anyway. I don't fancy my odds, as the ship could simply return to high-sec, where it will be protected by Concord. But surprise can work wonders.
So I hold on the wormhole and wait. And wait a bit longer. And wait long enough that it will be me who is surprised. But, eventually, the wormhole crackles. I don't spring in to action, just get my attention focussed on the space around me again. I may have been better off decloaking ready for the salvager the other day, but I can't have this pilot the least bit prepared. I need him to show his ship before I make a move, so that he has initiated warp and is comfortable. The extra step of needing to cancel warp before being able to jump back through the wormhole may just be the time I need.
I hold my module cloak, as the other ship holds its session change cloak. He waits a suspiciously long time before doing anything, and I have no idea why. It makes less sense when the pilot eventually does show himself, sending his shuttle in to warp towards one of the local towers. He can't have been polarised, the shuttle is almost impossible to catch, and he was on a high-sec wormhole in his local system. Whatever, it's not the pilot I'm interested in.
Or was it the pilot I'm interested in, and he's taken the Iteron out and brought a shuttle back? Dammit, I really need to start paying attention to names. Watching d-scan, still not wanting to abandon the wormhole, I see the shuttle get swapped for an Anathema covert operations boat and disappear, making it seem that I may well be waiting for nothing. It won't be the first time, but I think now is the time to poke out to high-sec to see who and what is there, and how far away a market hub is.
The wormhole takes me to Khanid, and a system only three hops to Amarr. That seems like an awfully short distance for a basic hauler to cover considering the time he's been gone. Maybe he's not coming back. There are no oranges in the local channel. At least, not to start with. But as I ruminate over my options an orange pilot appears. Is that the Iteron?
I ping d-scan, watching for ships coming this way, but see none. I hold on the wormhole for as long as I dare. I want to jump late enough to only need to use my session cloak back in C2a, so that there is no recalibration delay, but if I jump too late the Iteron will see my transit and be alerted to my presence. I don't even know if it's him, so rather than risk being seen by another party I jump. I wait on the wormhole, holding my session cloak, listening for the tell-tale crackle of a ship coming my way. But nothing. The cloak drops, and I am forced to activate my ship's cloak.
Still I wait. Yes, I'm stubborn. The wormhole crackles not a minute later. It's the Iteron. Here I go. I decloak and, because of the circumstances, ignore activating my sensor booster immediately. Instead, I opt for the micro warp drive, surging my Loki towards the returned Iteron, hoping to drive it away from the wormhole by slamming my ship in to his. Now for the sebo, and I gain a positive target lock as I ram the Iteron and knock it away from the wormhole. I hope it's enough.
My autocannons chatter, I slow my boat down, needing to back away before I can get enough momentum for another bump, and, crap, lose my target lock. No, the Iteron hasn't exploded, he's jumping back to high-sec. My bump wasn't quite enough, pushing the hauler only almost out of jump range. I think the pause was the pilot working out that he had to cancel his warp command before giving one to jump through the wormhole. I would like to think it was close, but it's hard to tell. I'm pretty sure that's the last I'll see of the Iteron, though. And, after all the waiting, it's late. I'm going home.