3rd May 2013 – 5.23 pm
The gooer's gone, but not in his hauler. That's gone in a different way, blown to smithereens. That the pilot is now cloaked in a covert operations boat or off-line is of no consequence to me, particularly with plenty more w-space to explore. I could go backwards, with another outbound link in our neighbouring class 3 system available, but I came to this C4 through a separate outbound connection, which gives me at least the static wormhole to find that will lead to w-space. I'll continue here, launching probes to scan.
The few signatures resolve to give me a static wormhole to more class 4 w-space. Neat. There'll be more w-space beyond that system, which is good, because C4b is unoccupied and empty, holding eleven anomalies and fourteen signatures. I get my probes working for me, and pluck a K162 from class 3 w-space, one from class 5 w-space, and the static connection to class 5 w-space from the minor mess. The C3 is likely a dead end, so is my first choice to investigate.
Notes from a visit to C3b one month ago point me to a tower where no one's home, and inform me the static wormhole leads to high-sec. I could poke the system for K162s, but not with more systems behind me. I jump back to C4b and explore through the K162 to C5c. Even if it may be another dead-end system, the K162 has the potential for activity. On the other side of the wormhole my directional scanner shows me a tower, Loki strategic cruiser, Noctis salvager, and too many drones. I don't suppose anything is happening in this system either.
The drones are in space—perhaps in an anomaly, I don't care to check—and the two ships are inside the tower's force field. The Loki is piloted and doing about as much as the empty Noctis. I'll leave the capsuleer to his navel contemplation and push deeper in to the constellation, back through C4b and in to C5b. D-scan is clear from the K162, so I follow my standard operating procedure and launch probes, perform a blanket scan, and warp away from the wormhole to explore the planets out of range.
Five anomalies, twelve signatures, two towers, one ship. The Anathema cov-ops is piloted at one of the towers, but goes off-line moments after I find her. This gives me an inactive system to scan, and I resolve a weak wormhole that leads to a class 3 w-space system. It's good enough, and probably heralds the end of this arm of the constellation, so I jump through to see what I can find out here. A tower, no ships, and a black hole. Nothing is out of d-scan range either, so with that other wormhole all the way back in C3a I declare exploration to be over in this direction.
C5b to C4b to C4a through a wormhole now at the end of its life. Bouncing off the tower sees the Buzzard back and now joined by a colleague in a Cheetah cov-ops, but I ignore them and return to C3a. Warping to the outbound link to C5a has me scratching my head for a minute, as I hear the familiar pulsing that comes from a mass-stressed wormhole. I'm sure the connection was fine when I reconnoitred it earlier, and I was probably the first pilot to visit it. How come it's now sitting at half mass?
The obvious answer becomes clear when a Helios cov-ops appears and jumps to C5a, followed by a flare and Orca industrial command ship coming in to C3a and jumping straight back to C5a. The wormhole was found by an active corporation and is being collapsed. On the one hand, it looks like I'm too late to crash any party. On the other hand, a corporation vigilant enough to find a wormhole that didn't even bring any visitors, and active enough to keep themselves isolated, is perhaps a corporation I wouldn't catch vulnerable.
I sit and watch the wormhole, now in a critically destabilised state, out of curiosity, but the C5ers don't return to finish the job. That's curious, but not as curious as the Iteron visible on d-scan. C3a was empty of ships earlier, so is this hauler local? And gooing? Maybe, and I've been too keen to watch a wormhole collapse I can't even affect to keep d-scan updated. The Iteron's out of the tower already and, by the looks of it, bouncing between customs offices. Never mind, it gives me my second chase of the night.
Be quick, my Loki, for we are one step behind. But my strategic cruiser stays behind the Iteron, and when I try to get ahead I merely end up missing the hauler entirely. The last I see of the pilot is him back at the tower, swapped to a Proteus strategic cruiser, and disappearing after warping away. I suppose the odds of me catching an efficient planet gooer are slight, but I probably could have been paying better attention to my surroundings. I fly past the C5 wormhole again, seeing it still there and sickly, and turn my Loki back towards our K162 to head home for the night. Or not.
A Viator has appeared on d-scan, which I catch on a routine final check before approaching the wormhole to jump. I turn my Loki around and warp to the tower, but this pilot is as quick as the Iteron. He knows what he's doing, and isn't hanging around. I'm kinda at a greater disadvantage with the Viator than the Iteron, as the transport ship is much more agile than the basic hauler. But I may have one advantage, given that I think I spotted the pattern the Iteron pilot was flying. Considering the short time between pilot sightings, the two may be related and follow similar patterns.
The Iteron looked to go from the outermost to innermost planet, methodically, perhaps trying to subvert the expectations of most ambushers. I'll assume the Viator will do the same and, rather than try to chase the transport, catch it with cunning. I plant my Loki around a planet half-way along his course and wait for the target to come to me. Ah, but if only it were quite as simple as that. I reach my customs office of choice but, because of the size of the office, range of my warp scrambler, and likely approach vector of the Viator, I know I can't stay where I am and have the transport land in my lap.
I manoeuvre my Loki around the office, careful to maintain my cloak, so that I am closer to where the Viator will drop out of warp. If I'm right, that is. I flick d-scan around and find the Viator at the fourth planet. I'm on the third. The transport should be coming my way next, which I can keep tabs on using d-scan pointed at the other planet. And, luckily for me, the Viator isn't warping cloaked, which will give me a visual indicator as the ship decelerates out of warp. I'll use that time to soak up the recalibration delay caused by decloaking.
D-scan is punched at regular intervals. He's there, there, there—here. I see the Viator drop out of warp having come from the other planet, and my manoeuvring has paid off. I still need to get closer to get in range of my warp scrambler, but it looks to be only a few kilometres instead of over ten, and I start moving before the Viator even has the chance to react. I drop my cloak, activate my micro warp drive, and burn towards the transport, getting my sensor booster on-line once I am moving fast. I gain a positive target lock, and my scram activates before he can turn and flee.
Autocannons chatter as the Viator turns from me, but he's not going anywhere. I slow to a normal thrust and settle in to a nice vector where my guns do optimal damage, chewing through the armour, shields, hull. The Viator goes pop, the pod goes in to warp. That was a nice trade, losing an Iteron to catch a Viator. I don't think it's a valid strategy in general, though. I loot and shoot the wreck, watch the pilot back at the tower board a Helios cov-ops and disappear, and I head home to go off-line two gooer kills richer for the night. And, despite the extensive map, both were within two jumps from home.