Just another day in w-space

6th November 2013 – 6.28 pm

I am back for more. More what? Sleeper slaughter, perhaps. My glorious leader is on-line, sucking gas out of our system, and that's about it. She's kept our static wormhole closed, but the half-mass K162 from class 4 w-space still appears to be here and looks to be as healthy as earlier. I poke my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser through to take a look and nothing seems to have changed. I launch probes and scan anyway, in case one signature died to be sneakily replaced by a new K162, but there's nothing but gas amongst the chubby signatures. I think we should make more ISK.

This session should proceed somewhat quicker than earlier. We got our eye in with our first foray in to the black hole system, and we have a better idea of how to mitigate its effects. On top of that, our new recruit is on-line and available to salvage behind us. Even better, despite his name being somewhat unremarkable besides being difficult to remember, his initials are HR. We have an HR department! I'm sure he's happy about this realisation.

The first site is cleared of Sleepers with little fuss and all looks to be going smoothly, right up until Fin disappears off-line as the last of the Sleeper battleships explodes. Well, we may as well get HR in here to salvage whilst we wait for Fin to return. And she does return, letting us leave our Noctis to be vulnerable by himself as we blast through warp towards the next anomaly.

A second anomaly is cleared, and moving on to the third is making me feel more comfortable about Sleeper combat in black hole systems. I know our Golem marauder can have trouble getting in to torpedo range of some Sleepers in class 3 w-space, and its bulk doesn't lend itself to the speed boost offered by black holes, but zooming around in a pair of Tengu strategic cruisers actually isn't that bad. Although I still prefer the boosts to shield and capacitor offered by the pulsar phenomenon in our own system, I don't think I'll discount black hole systems immediately in the future.

As HR warps in behind us to sweep up the third site's worth of wrecks, and Fin and I head towards the fourth anomaly, the latency we experienced earlier returns. It's been spluttering here and there, but in this site it finally gets too much for me. I was procrastinating about moving on after the third anomaly, Fin convincing me that we were on a roll, and I don't think I have the patience to persevere after this. I call the operation as nearing completion, and we concentrate on finishing cleanly. It's just a bit of lag, after all. It's not the end of the world.

Those extra ships on d-scan, though, the ones not in our fleet, they could be the end of the world. 'Flee.' I give the command, perhaps understated a little, and already I'm throwing our Tengus towards the wormhole home, having initiated a squad warp. But HR needs to know and leave too, as he isn't with us and doesn't benefit from the fleet commands. The problem, however, is that no new signatures have appeared in the system. I don't much care for the discovery scanner, and really don't like how it makes this kind of operation a good deal safer. ...under the specific circumstances of being in a closed system. This system isn't closed.

We have an open wormhole, and that wormhole leads to our home system. That means, unfortunately, that the new wormhole must have opened in or beyond our home system, and that the fleet came from that direction. This is unfortunate because it means we could be running directly towards the fleet. I enter warp as a Legion strategic cruiser drops in to the anomaly near our Tengus—or perhaps decloaks as primary tackle—and I worry that Fin's been caught, as she is not beside me in warp.

I'm more worrying about whether the fleet has left a ship or two on the wormhole or not. I land by myself, and jump home immediately. Still no ships are visible on my overview, so all looks clear. Perhaps the fleet wasn't sure whether we came from this direction or further back, or were simply confident at catching us. I can understand that, and it was only my persistence with updating d-scan that saw the threat in time to get us clear. Well, to get me clear, as I'm still not sure who else is coming back.

HR says he warped when I gave the warning, so I hold on the wormhole for a few seconds, given that it looks clear. A crackle indicates a ship transit, the fleet interface changes to show a green tick of integrity—whoever just entered the system is a squad member—and I give a new squad-warp command. It's Fin. She got away from the Legion in time and with no one following. Our twin Tengus warp clear from the wormhole and in to our tower. That saves a billion ISK in potential losses. Now how about our Noctis?

HR is a few seconds behind us. Sadly, so is the hostile fleet, who have already jumped back to our home system their Dominix and Scorpion battleship, Loki strategic cruiser, and Guardian logistics ship. I see them, drones out, waiting for our Noctis, as I warp a Falcon recon ship to the K162 in a bid to provide some kind of support. But HR is in trouble. He's jumped in to the mess of ships and drones and only sees one way out, which is back to the C4. But I counted five ships on d-scan, which means their Legion is waiting for HR to try to escape that way.

Sure enough, our Noctis, still stuffed with loot, almost making me regret telling HR not to make repeat trips to our tower to dump the loot between anomalies, jumps back in to the waiting sights of the hostile fleet's Legion. Still, the loss of some potential ISK that we collected, and a single Noctis, isn't so bad. We got our Tengus home, after all. 'Ha ha!' It sounds like our new pilot is embracing the inevitably of his death in good spirits. Or maybe not. 'I've burnt away from the Legion!' Ah, good show!

But just as I am marvelling at the keen piloting skills of our Noctis pilot, another, less-encouraging thought occurs to me. The K162 was mass-stressed before we started using it. The fleet has thrown a pair of battleships through the wormhole both ways, plus a few more smaller ships. How much more can it take? I check my information screens and realise the bad news: the wormhole is critically unstable and on the verge of collapse. It may implode with the next jump.

I ask Fin to get a Buzzard covert operations boat to the wormhole and in to C4a immediately, so that if the fleet feels a little aggrieved at catching nothing and tries to isolate our salvager we can get him out of that system again. But before she can react, the wormhole crackles, returning the Legion to the rest of the fleet. And, as one, they align and warp away.

The wormhole survives, even closer to imploding now, but I think that's why the fleet is leaving. There's not much they can do safely with their current ships. On hearing this, HR checks his polarisation timer, sees that it has expired, and, with my updates, returns to the wormhole and jumps home safely. Only just safely, though. The wormhole collapses behind his Noctis, but he warps away to our tower unmolested. Perhaps it was good for him not to have made more trips to dump the loot after all.

Both Tengus safe, Noctis safe, and three hundred million ISK in loot recovered safely. And a bit of excitement at dodging pointy ships in a black hole system and on a wormhole that's close to collapsing. All that's left to do is scan the wormhole the fleet used, which Fin does, and monitor further movements. A couple of pilots reship to stealth bombers and come and go, presumably hoping to catch the Noctis's return, but once they realise the K162 has gone they disappear home. A few massive ships drag their wormhole to implosion as they go, leaving us alone again, pretty much making it sleep o'clock at the end of an unexpectedly exciting evening.

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