A super-simple start to this evening. My glorious leader has left a trail of bookmarks for me to follow, in to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system and out to empire space. No scanning required. So, what's out there? Nothing is on our K162 in C3a, or on my directional scanner, but only one planet is in range. It may be worth sweeping the system, just in case of changes, and I launch probes and perform a blanket scan as I warp to where a tower was ten weeks earlier.
The tower remains, no ships or pilots are to be seen. There's nothing else of interest beyond the two bookmarked wormholes either. Checking the static exit to low-sec first sends me to a system in Derelik, where the presence of plenty of pilots is probably explained by the pair of cynosural beacons. The lack of obviously hostile activity and five extra signatures in the system looks welcoming to me, and I launch probes to scan.
Three wormholes, two gas sites. That's a decent result. Two of the wormholes are disappointing outbound connections to class 3 w-space, but one is a K162 from class 3 w-space and my best bet for finding activity. Jumping to C3b sees a tower and no ships on d-scan, with nothing out of range, but that may just mean I have more wormholes to scan for amongst the sixteen anomalies and four signatures. Like, for example, that one signature floating far from any planet, almost obviously a wormhole. It is, a K162 from class 2 w-space. That looks good to me.
D-scan is clear from the wormhole in C2a, with plenty of space out there to explore. A blanket scan reveals three anomalies, eight signatures, and no ships, with a cluster of structures around the furthest planet. Warping in that direction finds the expected tower, and sifting through the signatures resolves only one other wormhole, the second static connection leading out to high-sec Kador. That's pretty dull, more so than exploring through outbound wormholes. Back through C3b to low-sec, and out through one of the X702s.
C3c has an Orca industrial command ship and Epithal hauler visible on d-scan, along with a clutch of six towers that will make finding the ships a little awkward. On top of that minor frustration, the discovery scanner is clearly blinking just the two signatures in the whole system, so my presence can be obviously inferred by any active paying attention. Never mind, I'll look for the Epithal anyway, because why not compound the frustration of one oversight made to the w-space environment by trying to hunt a second?
Looking for the towers with d-scan doesn't find the one with the Epithal. Thankfully, I make a sanity check early on and realise that this is because the Epithal is no longer around. Or maybe the hauler's no longer in range. Two planets are too distant to be covered by d-scan, so I pick one and warp to its customs office in case I catch the Epithal at large. I don't, but instead find two more towers holding a couple more ships, a Buzzard covert operations boat and Tayra hauler.
Locating the Tayra finds it empty, but now two Buzzards and a Retriever mining barge are floating alongside it inside one of the towers' force fields. It smells like bait is being readied, what with the scanning ships piloted and the discovery scanner hardly being coy with announcing new signatures. One of the Buzzards warps away and launches probes, suggesting they're not quite sure what's out there, making me more interested in whether the Epithal is still active.
I would say the Epithal is active, given that the ship is back on d-scan, but on d-scan by this distant tower and not where I first saw it. Of course, it could be in the second tower around this planet, but I'm already warping my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser to the local customs office. No time for d-scan. The Epithal is here, currently stationary, but thirty kilometres from me, having warped in from the opposite direction. I've only recently been in the same situation, so I know what to do.
I crawl cloaked to get in to a decent range from which to pounce, and today decide that twenty kilometres is good enough. I decloak, burn towards the Epithal, and activate my sensor booster. Gaining a positive lock I start shooting but have to try my warp scrambler twice, still not quite in range the first time, but only by a kilometre or so. Now I have him—perhaps. I keep burning towards the hauler, overheating my guns just in case I need to, and try to bump him out of alignment. The customs office gets in my way a little, but I give the hauler a nudge anyway. It's not enough.
I turn to try to shunt the Epithal properly, but only succeed in watching the hauler warp clear from my super-advanced death-machine, guns delivering 110%, expensive faction warp scrambler the best ISK can buy. It's disappointing how a basic, tin-can hauler can be easily and cheaply fit to survive and evade a dedicated combat vessel without even needing to compromise its hauling capacity or ability.
There's nothing wrong with giving a hauler a dedicated cargo bay or the concept of warp core stabilisers by themselves. But ignoring that the low fitting slots used to force a choice and compromise on haulers between warp core strength and expanded cargo space apparently was completely ignored in the redesign, which is compounded by the drawbacks inherent in the warp core stabiliser module have no real impact on a hauler's role. Slap them on, carry as much as usual, and suffer no negative effects during your normal routine that might make you compromise your fit. Add some extra tank to that, and you can survive a couple of nudges as you align to warp clear.
Needless to say, my positive attitude has been somewhat deflated. Previously, if a hauler escaped my clutches by using warp core stabilisers I would shrug it off, given that the pilot must obviously be continually frustrating his own efforts for the occasional times he's ambushed. I'd also get a shot at another ship sooner or later, one whose structural integrity was compromised by expanded cargoholds. But now it's just too cheap and easy, there is almost no risk in hauling in a w-space system. There's no point in my staying in this system, and I've lost the desire to see what's through the other X702. I'm just going home.