It was a good full night last night. I'm on-line earlier today, and with less time to spare, so let's see what I can get up to. I don't have the best start, seeing that some corporation has stolen all of our Sleeper loot, the fiends. I like to keep it free-range, as we get better salvage that way, but it was still ours. Never mind, maybe I can find a way to replace it. Scanning the home system resolves a second wormhole, and perhaps the K162 from class 3 w-space leads to the home of the perps. I'll check it out. Cover me.
A tower and ships! That's an unusual sight on a directional scanner in a C3 system. My notes from thirty months ago are no help in locating the tower, just giving me information about a static exit to null-sec, and it may not matter anyway. Swinging d-scan around shows the Hound stealth bomber, Iteron V hauler, Noctis salvager, and Venture mining frigate all coincident with the tower, so unless the hauler is about to collect goo or the Noctis is preparing to sweep up after a fleet I doubt much will happen.
Locating the tower finds no pilots to go with the ships, which is a shame but not unexpected. At least the static wormhole may be worth looking for, so I warp out, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan of the system. My probes reveal five anomalies, eight signatures, and more than four ships. A second tower sits on the edge of the system and, like a good scout, I am already warping in that hitherto unexplored direction as the scan completes.
There may be more ships, but there are no more pilots, which keeps the count at zero for anyone else keeping track. In fact, there are three times as many ships inside the force field of this tower than there are pilots in the corporation that owns the tower. A three-capsuleer corporation owns this tower, an eight-capsuleer corporation owns the other. That may be meaningful, I'm not sure. The lack of pilots is meaningful. It means I'm scanning.
Gas, gas, a wormhole that's obvious for being AU from anything, a data site, a weak wormhole that must be the null-sec exit, some relics, and a final gas site. Checking the K162 sees it come from class 4 w-space, and has it crackle with a transit as I land. What's just come through? Whatever it is, the ship holds its cloak, no doubt taking a good look around with d-scan before making any initial movement. But there it is, a Helios covert operations boat, and it launches scanning probes.
What the hell, I'll take the shot. If I'm lucky, the pilot will be busy arranging his probes to notice me immediately, and his Helios whilst surrounded by probes won't be able to cloak to evade me. I shed my own cloak, activate my sensor booster, and surge towards the cov-ops. But it's in vain, as the Helios cloaks before I can get a positive lock, and his probes disappear, no doubt warped to different points around the system.
I'm not giving up yet. I point my Loki strategic cruiser towards the Helios's last known position and burn in that direction, hoping to give him a nudge and decloak the ship. It's not going to work, of course, as the Helios can move full speed under cloak, and is probably warping clear already, but I've shown myself and may as well give it a go. And so it is that the Tengu reveals itself on the same wormhole, and decides that I should become a target.
The other strategic cruiser locks mine, and I reciprocate the lock. I disrupt his warp engines, he disrupts mine. And, look at that, we're both shooting each other. Somewhat unfortunately, the Tengu has a warp scrambler fit and active on my Loki, shutting off the micro warp drive that I used to burn towards the cloaked Helios, which is how I am now over nine kilometres from the wormhole, a good four kilometres from being able to use it as an escape route.
But I'm not webbed, just scrammed, and as it is just his Tengu versus my Loki I'm actually pretty interested to see how this engagement will work out. I realise we're in a system with a wolf rayet phenomenon, which is hard on shields and boosts armour, but I doubt this is an armour Tengu. I simply aim towards the wormhole and keep shooting, easily getting within the jump radius and immediately getting more comfortable. I even start making pew-pew noises as my autocannons fire. I believe it's authentic.
The Tengu's shields are dropping, and although they aren't going down anywhere near as quickly as mine I suspect he's relying on a buffer fit, whereas I have active modules to replenish my own. I pulse one of the ancillary boosters just as the wormhole crackles, bringing in a—well, it really doesn't matter what it's bringing in. It's time to leave. And now is the best moment, when the session change timer will prevent an immediate return for the second ship. I jump through the wormhole to C4a, seeing a Broadsword heavy interdictor decloak in C3b as I do, getting away from the two ships to... jump in to the middle of ten. Balls.
I'm not stopping to count or identify the composition of the fleet I've jumped in to, that won't help me. What I do see, though, is that I am well over two kilometres from the wormhole—which will let me cloak immediately—and in a channel clear of hostile ships. Well, neutral ships, but what makes a capsuleer turn neutral? Lust for ISK? Sovereignty? Or are they just born with a heart full of neutrality? All I know is that I'd better get away from them, and the sooner the better. I don't need more ships swarming around this wormhole.
I pulse my micro warp drive to take me directly away from the wormhole, cloak, and jink whilst taking care to keep my distance from any ship. It works, I'm safe. I'm in the bubble of another Broadsword—how many do they need—but I'm safe. The fleet of strategic cruisers and HICs, sprinkled with assault cruisers and frigates, doesn't appear to be looking for me, but they don't really have to. I don't have an exit to k-space, and my only route home is through this wormhole, so the question now is who gets bored first. I'm hoping it's them.
The fleet jumps to C3b, leaving only a HIC and heavy assault cruiser behind, the HAC having hit the HIC's bubble on his way in and so too far to join his colleagues. Either they're waiting for my inevitable attempt to go back the way I came or they're trying to collapse the wormhole, also probably to force my hand. Meh, if it comes to it, I'll get myself trapped here and rely on my colleagues to find a way back to the home system for me. Better that than lose my Loki and have to run another ship-naming competition.
A couple of minutes pass and ships start jumping back, warping away from the wormhole when they do. I first think that's a peculiar concern about polarisation, but it's probably a reasonable precaution, even if it drastically reduces the number of ships waiting for me. Hmm, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have counted how many ships there are, how many jumped out, and how many jumped back. Is it safe to return myself, or are there still half-a-dozen pilots gagging to bag a Loki on the other side of the wormhole?
My polarisation is over, the wormhole looks suspiciously clear, I think I'll make a break for it. I steer around a Proteus strategic cruiser, not really in the way but I don't want any surprises, and am happy to see a couple more ships return and warp away as I do. Decloak, jump. A single Proteus is in C3b, but I suspect not for long. And despite being under two kilometres from the wormhole I reckon I can safely cover the couple of hundred metres in order to cloak. Move, pulse the MWD, cloak.
Job's a good 'un, just as the wormhole crackles, bringing in an Eris interdictor, the second Proteus, and a Broadsword. But I'm clear of them, and by the time the Eris launches an interdiction sphere I am even out of its warp-disruption effect—not that I care for warp bubbles in my Loki, it's just a nice measure. Still, I'd rather not be this close to the ship if I don't need to be, so rather than continue to slowboat I bounce off a distant object, the exit to null-sec seeming suitable, and return at range to monitor the wormhole.
Well, that was close. What looked like an interesting duel quickly turned in to a potentially deadly encounter. I was a bit lucky to be in the clear when jumping in to the fleet, but I kept my wits about me and acted calmly and rationally, bringing me back to where I started in one piece. And now, with no Loki to see and chase, the ships on the wormhole get bored and return to their class 4 system. No more movements come in the next few minutes, so I suspect the wormhole will stay there for now. I doubt I'll go back, but I'd better keep in mind what's behind it.