Grabbing at a gooer

10th April 2014 – 5.14 pm

I'll have another go at finding ships to shoot in w-space. There are no incoming connections to our home system this evening, making it a straightforward start, if one not holding much promise. Resolve, warp to, and jump through our static wormhole, where updating my directional scanner sees two towers, a bunch of drones, and no ships. Ah, but core scanning probes are already out.

I'll loiter by the wormhole for the moment, see if anything comes my way. My notes tell me my last visit to this class 3 system was fourteen months ago, when there was no occupation, and that there is a static exit to low-sec. Well, that's about all I can do from the wormhole, except wait for a ship that may not even come my way. I ignore the scout, warp away, and launch probes to scan the system for myself.

Warping back to start locating the towers, performing a blanket scan as I do, has the other scout's probes disappear from d-scan. That's unfortunate, but perhaps not too unfortunate. Covert operations boats are difficult to scan, and he may not actually be aware of my presence. I'll press on, mostly ignoring the scout but still curious as to which direction he went. I'll probably find out by scanning the seven anomalies and ten signatures. No, eleven signatures.

Call me irrational, but I imagine that new signature in the scanning results is currently the most interesting. I resolve it first, warping to the unsurprising result of a wormhole to find, oh, only a K162 from null-sec. Even so, a ship may come through, so I orbit the connection as menacingly as a cloaked ship can as I continue scanning, my probes havind detected two more wormholes when resolving this one.

Nothing comes through the null-sec wormhole, and I resolve three more in total in the w-space system. My probes also detect two ships at one of the towers, and when they were clustered over the planet too. I cross the system to see pilots in a Helios cov-ops and Prophecy battlecruiser inside the tower's force field, pilots I can only assume have seen my combat scanning probes. On top of that, a final blanket scan reveals another new signature. It's all go.

Oops, those are ships my probes are detecting

I resolve that new signature, that new wormhole, and as there is no movement from either ship in the tower I decide to reconnoitre what I've scanned. If only I'd updated d-scan before initiating the command to warp I may have spotted the Epithal new to the system before warping away from the tower, the tower the hauler warps in to. All I can do is let my Loki strategic cruiser take me to a disappointing T405 outbound connection to class 4 w-space, before turning it right around to head back to loiter outside the tower.

Of course, the Epithal won't be collecting planet goo, right? Because the system isn't secure, what with all the wormholes, and the probes whizzing around, right? So explain to me, hot-shot, why it's not at the tower where I get back there. The Prophecy has gone too, but updating my probes, reverted to their blanket-scanning configuration, has one of the two still in the system. Taking a punt that the Epithal hears the call of the goo, I warp towards a customs office out of range—that's all but the closest, so plenty to choose from.

The Epithal is not at this customs office, but the hauler is now visible on d-scan. So it's not the Prophecy, and he does appear to be gooing. All I have to do now is be at the same customs office, at the same time, and stop a ship that can routinely fit four warp core stabilisers. Sounds easy enough. Bouncing to another customs office, hoping to get ahead of the route, doesn't help, and the Epithal drops off d-scan. That may be good. If he's dropping off goo at the tower, and I catch up with him there, I may be able to see his next destination.

I drop out of warp outside the tower with no Epithal to be seen. At least, not on my overview. D-scan has the hauler, and with just the one customs office in range I think I have a fair idea where he is. And at least this time I am able to cancel my warp command as the ship returns to the safety of the force field a second later. Thankfully, he's not quite finished. Not so thankfully, we are so far away from the inner system that many of the planets lie on coincident vectors. All I know is that the Epithal is aiming for a customs office around one of them.

Epithal aligns to a distant planet

I make my best guess at the Epithal's destination and enter warp behind it. A bit of luck, a bit of skill, a bit of experience; all mixed together, I drop out of warp near to the Epithal, but perhaps lagging by a few seconds. There's no time to waste. I decloak on decelerating, get my sensor booster working, and am ready to lock on to the ship as my Loki exits warp. The lock is positive, my warp scrambler maybe does something, and autocannons start chattering. I'd better overheat them too, because whatever the outcome here, it will be quick.

Catching up with the Epithal

The Epithal turns to flee, I surge forwards, micro warp drive active, slamming in to the hauler to prevent it aligning for warp. It seems to work, but it's a temporary measure. I back off and line up for a second ramming manoeuvre, but my target lock drops. Has a full rack of warp core stabilisers thwarted me again? Not this time. The Epithal's shields are gone, armour depleted, and there is no more structure. The hauler explodes in front of me. It's a glorious victory.

Aiming to bump the Epithal

Epithal explodes!

The pod flees, sadly, leaving me a wreck full of toxic metals to destroy, and a dust cloud to analyse. Only two warp core stabilisers fitted? Well, that's peculiar, and it's made me waste a chunk of nanite repair paste on my heat-damaged guns. I had him in my grasp all along. Damned silly ship design, if you ask me. But I got him all the same. I reload, activate my cloak, and start to repair my guns, warping back to the tower as I do.

Tale of two Iterons

9th April 2014 – 5.33 pm

I see no change in the constellation on my way home. It's all quiet on the w-space front. Or the w-space behind, considering I've only explored through a K162 connected to our home system. I'm hoping I can find something better, anything really, through our static wormhole. A decent exit, for example, one that Fin can use to come home after getting isolated last night when getting fuel. Speak of my glorious leader, here she is.

The backwards arm of the constellation has provided us with a few exits already. One goes to Khanid, but as the replacement high-sec exit to Khanid yesterday was poor I'm guessing this low-sec one will be worse. Another exit to Aridia would be bad enough by itself, made worse by it being at the end of its life, and not helped along by my not passing through it to get the exit system. The other side of the dying wormhole could be anywhere in the region. Null-sec Fountain probably isn't even worth mentioning.

Our neighbouring system holds another hope for a good connection, given that class 3 w-space always exits w-space. I jump through our static wormhole to find out, although seeing a tower and Iteron V hauler when updating my directional scanner on the K162 has my pausing to resume scouting for activity. Sweeping d-scan around to locate the tower finds it, but not the Iteron. Is it out collecting planet goo? Maybe not, as d-scan puts it in empty space. D-scan also shows me the Iteron's name, 'Try to catch me'. Challenge accepted! But I'm doubting the ship is even piloted.

I'll just scan for the Iteron. It's a fat old ship, this won't be difficult. Indeed, two scans later and I have its position, as well as identifying a wormhole near to the ship. Near to, not coincident with, so the Iteron isn't loitering on a connection. I resolve the wormhole as I warp to the industrial ship, dropping slightly short to see that, yep, the ship is empty. Well, empty of a pilot, but I imagine that means it is also empty of cargo. Still, I should probably nick it.

Empty Iteron in class 3 w-space

I finish scanning, given the apparent lack of activity in the system, plus my notes informing me that there should be a static exit to high-sec to be found. That bodes well for bringing Fin home. I think I just resolved it too, identifying and resolving a second, chubbier wormhole in the process. A third wormhole, skinnier than even the high-sec exit, and a fourth also-chubby wormhole round out my scanning results.

The exit to high-sec is first, and it looks good, the colours shimmering through almost certainly showing me a connection to the Tash-Murkon region. I have also resolve a K162 from null-sec, an outbound link to class 5 w-space, and a K162 from low-sec Khanid. Naturally, the high-sec exit looks like the best option for Fin, so I jump through that first and relay the exit system to my colleague. 'Twelve jumps, on my way.' Excellent, and w-space is inactive. But I have just opened a wormhole to a C5.

I probably ought to check the other wormholes in C3a, in case there are hostiles that could intercept a returning industrial ship. The null-sec system first, because it's probably empty. Yep, the system in Pure Blind has no pilots, no other signatures, and I can't even find a decent rat to pop. Back to C3a and on to C5a, with the perverse hope of not finding anyone still, but with my hopes dashed before even getting there. D-scan has combat scanning probes in C3a.

I wonder. Will the scout look for that abandoned Iteron too? Will they send someone to collect it? Rather than get a low-value industrial ship, maybe I can get a low-value kill out of already having scanned its location. I warp back to the hauler and loiter with intent. With any luck, this scout will think the Iteron being bait to be as ludicrous an idea as I did.

Keeping d-scan updated, to catch sight of any wormhole transitions or incoming pods, sees a different sight. A Miasmos hauler is in the system. Using the high-sec wormhole? Nope, he's at the tower. I doubt he'll do anything with combat scanning probes whizzing around, but I've seen pilots act with rather less care to their environment. I can probably loiter by the tower and watch d-scan for possible Iteron-jackings, so move my ship to do that.

Fin makes it to the high-sec exit, notes an orange pilot in the system, but makes a dash for home. As she does, a new Iteron appears on d-scan. I can't find it, it doesn't warp to the tower, and it's gone. That's almost certainly because it was Fin passing through, apparently not in the Orca industrial command ship that I expected. It gave me a minute of excitement, though. Ignorance really can be blissful.

Fin collects the errant Iteron

Still the Miasmos does nothing, still the combat probes are scanning... something. There really aren't that many signatures. As we now have a spare pilot, Fin drops to her pod and comes to collect the abandoned Iteron, with me shadowing her movements. It's a simple collection, though. Fin warps in, boards the Iteron, goes home. 'There's nothing in it, but it's fit for cargo.' I'm sure we can make use of it. And with Fin home, the Iteron claimed, and the Miasmos remaining stationary, I think that's a good time to call it a night.

Mirror constellation

8th April 2014 – 5.46 pm

We need to get rid of some of these sites. The home w-space system is getting awfully cluttered with gas, rocks, Sleepers. What must visitors think? Maybe I can ask them, all I have to do is pop through this K162 from class 4 w-space. But jumping to C4a sees a tower with no one home, my directional scanner detecting no ships. I may as well be in class 3 w-space.

If anyone were home I bet they'd be berating me for our system. This one is much neater, a blanket scan revealing only four anomalies and four signatures. I'm frankly a little surprised that the locals aren't in our system tidying Sleepers away. That is, of course, assuming the locals were the ones who opened the connection to our system. It's just as likely there rabbit hole goes further back.

I'm not convinced there's a wormhole to be found, though. None of the signatures look strong enough to be a K162, not that this stops me from poking them anyway. Besides, I spot that one of the signatures is split under my probes, which means both that it is stronger than it appears, and that it is a fair distance from the centre of my probe cluster. Only the signatures of wormholes tend to loiter so far from planets, and this one turns out to be no different than the rest.

I drop out of warp next to a K162 from class 3 w-space, giving me a weird mirror sensation of going both backwards and forwards at the same time. Jumping to C3b—saving C3a for the system through our static wormhole—adds to the weirdness, with ships appearing on d-scan as well as a tower. Okay, but I bet I find no pilots in them, and I don't. The Nereus hauler, Merlin and Heron frigate, and pair of shuttles are all empty inside the force field.

Back to scanning. My first impression is that the system is a bit messy, but the sixteen anomalies and sixteen signatures only look bad compared to the previous system. It's not much for w-space, not really. From the signatures come three wormholes, as well as a second Heron that comes and goes before I realise what d-scan shows me. It's probably from a wormhole, it probably won't sit up waiting to be caught like the one from the other day.

The Heron launches probes somewhere in the system and settles down to scan. In that case, I'll reconnoitre the wormholes. The first is the system's static exit to low-sec, Khanid by the looks of it. The second wormhole is a K162 from class 3 w-space, and, hello, the Heron is decloaked again, a quick update of d-scan in the system map putting him on the U210. Back I go, naturally nowhere near in time to actually see the Heron, but as his probes have gone I think it's safe to assume he jumped out. I wonder if he'll come back again.

I decloak, activate my sensor booster, and get cosy with the exit wormhole to low-sec, waiting for the Heron's return. He should be back by now, if he was just taking a look at the exit. Or now, if he is cautious enough to wait for polarisation effects to expire. Nothing. Well, I'm here, I may as well poke out to low-sec myself and see what's there. One pilot, young, not obviously in space. No Heron, no probes. Never mind, back to w-space.

The third wormhole in C3b is a K162 from class 5 w-space. That's mildly interesting, but the C3 K162 is more likely to terminate sooner, so I head there first. D-scan is clear in C3c, a blanket scan only being used to look for ships. The discovery scanner is already showing me one other signature. But I suppose I was right that this arm of the constellation would terminate quickly. My probes show no ships, exploring finds a tower, and scanning the static wormhole sees it exiting to Aridia. I can't say I mind, not when the wormhole is almost dead.

Back I go, C3b and in to C5a for a quick peek. A lone drone on scan looks a bit depressing, without even a friend to talk to, but a blanket scan reveals nine ships that could come to pick it up at some point. There are also five anomalies and six signatures, one of the anomalies being a ghost site that looks rather less tempting with the occupation and ships in the system. Locating the tower and seeing no pilots in the mix of scout and combat ships doesn't put me sufficiently at ease to consider the easily found ghost site either.

Maybe if I scanned C5a and found this system to be a dead end I could risk the riches of the ghost site. A couple of wormholes pop up, one is just a K162 from null-sec Fountain, but the other comes from deeper class 5 w-space. Checking C5b for occupation and activity finds neither, which probably means more K162s wait to be discovered, but I think I've had my fill of exploring empty w-space. And assuming it's empty doesn't make the ghost site a better prospect. I'm going home.

Death of a wormhole

7th April 2014 – 5.58 pm

Maybe we can get fuel. The K162 from class 4 w-space coming in to our home system has been collapsed, halting the passage of mostly uncatchable covert ships, but the connection to class 2 w-space remains healthy. Of course, ships have been coming and going from there too, but as they belong to the 20-Minuters maybe we can work out some kind of agreement.

'Are you suggesting WHEN and the 20-Minuters do not shoot each other tonight?', says Bjurn Akely, when asked if we can safely take an Orca industrial command ship through his system. I think he remembers our first meeting, when I accidentally tried to kill him. But he's cool with the idea, as we haven't tried to shoot them so far tonight, and as their exit is only two hops from Jita it would be churlish to deny another w-space corporation such convenience.

The only problem now with the exit to high-sec is that it is also dying. Fin thinks that perhaps we have a couple of hours left, confirmed at first by our new temporary allies, but that estimate gets dropped down to 'could die at any minute'. Yeah, we'll probably be okay. Fin heads out to high-sec to get some fuel, I turn the other way to see what's through our static wormhole to class 3 w-space.

My directional scanner is clear when I explore through the wormhole, and launching probes and blanketing the system reveals nine anomalies, ten signatures, and some drones. My last visit being only a month ago lets me warp directly to where the towers should be, and one tower has been torn down in the past few weeks, the other two remain. Obviously, there are no ships.

Sifting through the signatures gives me gas, a data site, and three wormholes, one skinny. A K162 from class 2 w-space is interesting, but before I can get too interested in it Fin tells me she's returning from Jita and needs some guidance getting back in to w-space. The bookmark to C2a's high-sec K162 is missing. That's not a problem, mostly because the wormhole isn't there any more. It's dead.

I'd better scan the replacement high-sec exit, although it's not guaranteed to get Fin home tonight. I also marvel at the 20-Minuters' home system. It's vast. There are also towers dotted everywhere, which, given that I've no need to be covert, I find using a more efficient method than d-scan. I clump my probes over a planet, zoom in close, and see what moon the structures are all on. But, yes, wormholes.

The only new wormhole in C2a is the re-spawned exit, this time leading out to a system in Khanid. 'Eighteen hops.' That's a lot of distance to cover in an industrial ship this late in the evening, and Fin decides to call it a night. We can get her back again soon enough. I turn around and return to reconnoitre the other wormholes in C3a, where warping to the static exit to low-sec sees the colours of The Forge rippling through. Well, damn.

Still, the wormhole leads to low-sec in The Forge, which isn't a great environment for industrial ships. I don't try to wake Fin up. Instead, I wonder who's woken up in C3a, as scanning probes that aren't mine are active. I doubt they belong to an Eris interdictor that blips on d-scan, and although I consider taking a peek in to C2b I decide against it when a Proteus strategic cruiser appears somewhere in the system. I'd rather not make a mistake because I'm tired, and decide to get myself safe in our home system, ready to get Fin home tomorrow.

Border patrol

6th April 2014 – 3.32 pm

My glorious leader is keeping a watch for activity. Fin has even tried to catch a ship, but it was one of those annoying Kryos haulers and so naturally failed, leaving us with a connection to class 2 w-space coming in to our home system and some active pilots who know we're around. Well, they know Fin is around, not me. Not yet.

Fin also reports some cloaky strategic cruisers as being active. Most notably, when she waited in an interdictor for the Kryos on the high-sec wormhole in C2a, she was a little surprised when the wormhole crackled and brought in to the system Loki, Loki, Tengu. 'I ran to high-sec', and so did the Kryos she was shooting. The pair chatted whilst waiting for polarisation to end, then went back to their respective home systems. Sounds entertaining.

Now Fin sits and watches the C2 K162 in our home system, having so far only seen a Buzzard covert operations boat come in and go out again. And it's back in to the system as Fin finishes her sitrep. I think I should scan this signature unaccounted for by our current bookmarks, so launch probes and get them working. I resolve a wormhole, not much of a surprise, as a Manticore stealth bomber comes in from C2a and cloaks.

Warping to the other connection in our home system sees a K162 from class 4 w-space throbbing with the stress of sitting at half mass. Either Fin got distracted by the C2 K162, or this wormhole is actively being collapsed. I approach the connection and loiter, knowing that if it is being actively collapsed I should see another jump soon. I don't, so it isn't.

I'm on the C4 K162, Fin the C2 K162. A Probe frigate warps to my wormhole, turns, and warps out again before I've barely reacted. The ship jumps past Fin to C2a. The Probe jumps past a shuttle too, curiously sitting on top of the C2 K162. It's an odd choice of ship for bait, assuming it's trying to flush out Fin again, because anyone with experience knows it is too small to be locked quickly enough to be caught without a bubble. We ignore it.

We sit and we wait. We're really just monitoring our borders, not even enforcing them, just waiting for our w-space profiling to pick out a good target to haul aside for questioning. A cloaky Loki from C2a is perhaps a decent target, if we could catch it, and as it doesn't come my way I think we might struggle to do that. I also think Fin's seeing all the action. At least, until the Manticore makes a reappearance, dropping on to the C4 K162 and jumping through. Still nothing we can catch, though.

Manticore jumps past me to class 4 w-space

I think my minor excitement is over, but apparently not. A Proteus jumps from C2a past Fin, who tries to catch the pilot's name as the strategic cruiser cloaks. 'Bjurn Ak... something.' No way. Bjurn Akely is poking around our system. I wander in to a channel he lurks in and say hi, in my inimitable way, to see what's happening. Oddly enough, he's trying to catch some ships, but the ones coming from the C4 connecting in to us. Maybe we can help.

Or maybe we can't. More activity comes from my location, an Astero frigate jumping past me to C4a, followed by a Probe frigate. But the timing of the latter jump and the wormhole's crackle doesn't feel right, particularly when the frigate's jump apparently drops the wormhole's mass to critical levels. And so it shouldn't feel right.

Orca crashing the wormhole

A Tengu appears from C4a, but I'm expecting another ship, a bigger ship. There it is. The Tengu jumps back as an Orca industrial command ship sheds its session-change cloak. The Orca follows the Tengu through the critically destabilised wormhole, collapsing the connection. That's our source of ships gone. Now what do we do?

Causing ripples

5th April 2014 – 3.38 pm

I'll leave this class 2 w-space system alone. The one hauler I tried to catch got away and was replaced by a scout, who disappeared. I doubt anything interesting will happen here. But that's okay, as I've not been through our static wormhole yet, which could offer all sorts of wonderful opportunities for seeing towers empty of ships and scanning my way out to known space. How can I resist? I head home, warp to the wormhole, and jump through.

Hey, look, my directional scanner is showing me a tower with no ships! I can hardly contain myself. Checking my notes has my last visit being recent, just three months earlier, giving me a location for the tower. I also find out that the static exit will lead to null-sec. That's something to aim for, I suppose, and maybe I can scan there for more wormholes whilst ratting for profit and security status. Or, you know, find other w-space connections in this class 3 system first.

Launching probes and blanketing the system reveals thirteen anomalies and a puny five signatures, only two of the signatures being chunky. One will be our K162, the other is merely gas. That's my hopes for finding a decent connection ruined, as exploration through outbound wormholes still feels lacklustre, but I'm aiming to modify my perception. Still, there's always the null-sec exit, which, thankfully, looks to be the first skinny signature I choose to resolve.

Yep, I drop out of warp next to the K346, shimmering with the blue lightning bolt of Malpais. I could stop scanning now, but don't, because I'm not too bright. Data site, relic site. Yeah, I could have stopped, but it's probably good to know what's around more fully. Now out to Malpais, see what null-sec holds, which apparently is a lack of pilots and a lack of signatures.

So I can't scan, but I can still rat. I warp around rock fields looking for a decent rat ship to pop, and although I find one I also find its friends. Three battleships flanked by a few frigates is probably too much for my casual-feeling self, and when warping to a different rock field has the same small fleet apparently following me I decide to hop a stargate and try again in a different system.

System hopping takes me to potential activity, with a dozen pilots in the system, lots of anomalies, and a single signature. Checking for ships finds some, with Mackinaw exhumers, a Rorqual, and a few combat ships somewhere. Probably in a tower, but you never know. Getting closer sees a Blackbird recon ship on d-scan apparently popping rats in an ore site, but gone before I can get my Loki strategic cruiser close enough to see. The mining ships are predictably floating inside a force field.

As I lurk and watch the locals, I am apparently causing ripples in a mostly ignored intel channel. It seems the miners are getting their knickers in a twist about my being in the system. My spies are everywhere. Although I am looking for wormholes I would certainly trouble the miners if they didn't pay me any heed, and I can't say I'm concerned when the locals break out their combat ships, not when they don't take them out of their tower. Besides, the one signature in the system turns out to be a combat site, so I lose interest in hanging around.

I go forwards again, knowing that my route makes a triangle that will take me back to my exit, but only in to a system with three other pilots and a lack of signatures. That sends me back to the exit system, where I don't bother trying to find any rats to pop this time, and simply head back to w-space. Seeing no change in C3a makes this the end of the night for me. I jump home, hide in a quiet corner of space, and go off-line.

Racing a Kryos

4th April 2014 – 5.43 pm

I'm going to have another stab at getting the required skill book. It's not exciting, but it's a goal. Maybe my glorious leader can help, particularly as I see that she has created a bookmark in to our system from class 2 w-space. That connecting system will also have a static exit to high-sec, which could get me close to the book I'm after.

Indeed, Fin has already gone through C2a and in to high-sec, buying some fuel for our tower, but has left her cloaky Loki strategic cruiser in Amarr. So what are you piloting, a scanning Orca? A Velator, apparently. It would probably be better to swap the ugly rookie frigate for an industrial command ship. As it turns out, the Velator is being used as a shuttle, to get Fin back to her Loki.

If Fin's going for her Loki, that must mean we are still close to Amarr. 'The exit is okay. It's in Lonetrek, close to both Jita and Amarr.' Sounds good to me. If I can't find what I want here, I don't think the galaxy will hold it. I point my own Loki towards the C2 K162, warp across, and jump through, updating my directional scanner immediately afterwards. Huh, there's a Prophecy battlecruiser in the system. 'Empty, at the tower.' Okay then.

I can't leave the system whilst its status remains in a partially known state. I locate the tower, confirm the Prophecy is still empty, and explore the edges of C2a. There are more towers, quite a few more, and some ships to go with that. Sadly, none of the ships are piloted, not the haulers, not the lone Venture mining frigate. Fair enough, I'll head out to Lonetrek.

Would you look at that. One book—not the one I'm after, admittedly, but a related one that I should also train—is available in this very exit system. How convenient. The other isn't, but Fin's checking the local markets as she passes through them. I'll grab this one and maybe head in the other direction to her.

I dock, grab the book, and head back out to space. My intention was to aim for a specific stargate, but the orange Kryos undocking at the same time as me rather catches my attention. He's off, and not towards a stargate. Sod the skill book, I'm racing this hauler back to the wormhole. But although industrial ships are generally quite slow, I see no trace of the Kryos when I drop out of warp to the entrance to C2a. That's a little peculiar.

I don't jump back to w-space just yet. I didn't see the exit vector of the Kryos, and given my intuition that I should have got here first I don't want to jump through the wormhole and give away my position for nothing. A quick check of the local channel sees an orange pilot is still around, and although I don't recognise the name I'll assume he's in the Kryos. I'll just wait and see.

Kryos hauler on a wormhole in high-sec

Here he comes, a good minute later than expected. He must have taken a diversion. Now for the difficult part. This is a high-sec wormhole, giving the pilot an easy escape route—assuming he's polarised, and as I can't determine that I shall assume he isn't. I don't want to follow too soon, because that will alert him to my presence and he can escape. If I follow too late, he will be able to enter warp and flee in w-space. I need to get the timing right.

I watch the Kryos go through the wormhole, pause for what I think is the right amount of time for him to decloak and align for warp, and jump behind him in to C2a. There he is. Decloaked, accelerating. I pounce, shedding the session-change cloak and activating my sensor booster, and aim for a positive target lock. Nope, not this time. The Kryos warps clear.

Kryos warps clear

Maybe I got the timing wrong by a second. Maybe the ship is rigged to enter warp more quickly. Maybe the poor—or awesome, depending on your point-of-view—ship design of the Kryos let the pilot fit a full rack of warp core stabilisers. Either way, he's gone and I'm not doing much good on this wormhole. I warp to the scouted tower around the planet the hauler went to, in time to see the pilot swap to a Buzzard covert operations boat, warp out of the tower, and disappear. Oh well, at least Fin has picked up the skill book I'm after. That's something.

Heron of happenstance

3rd April 2014 – 5.14 pm

I could use a new skill book. Sure, it's for another skill that I may need at some point in a mythical future where I fly a different ship, but as skill training takes finite time it's best to get this kind of logistics out of the way before I actually need it. In fact, we may have a copy of the book in our hangar, which I'll check once I find out what this new signature in the home system is. Gas. Okay, there's probably no one watching, let me look in our hangar. Nope, not the book I'm after. I'd best get myself to empire space.

With one way to go so far, I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to see nothing when updating my directional scanner. Opening the system map has nothing out of range too, and an adjustment to d-scan's filter suggests new occupation may be difficult. Counting the off-line towers and counting the moons shows that there are still four more places to anchor a tower, though, the invasion-delaying small towers littering the system not quite covering all options. Still, that doesn't help my finding a skill book, so I launch probes to scan.

A blanket scan reveals a mere three anomalies and seven signatures, and as my notes show the previous occupants were here as late as five weeks ago I have to wonder if they moved out after fully depleting their system and getting bored. Hopefully they've found a new home to plunder. What's here now are five gas sites and one wormhole, which is pretty straightforward. I exit to low-sec, through a brand new, totally stable wormhole to a system in Metropolis, nowhere near any seller of the skill book I'm after. Still, there are two extra signatures to poke.

The low-sec system gives me another wormhole to explore through, not a miraculous connection to another empire system with the required skill book for sale, but a K162 from class 3 w-space. My probes even pick up an industrial ship in the general volume of space near the wormhole, but racing it there doesn't find the hauler. He was probably just crossing the system, warping stargate-to-stargate. I hear some pilots do that. Me, I use wormholes, and jump to C3b.

Ah, I appear in the w-space system around seven kilometres from the wormhole. I doubt anyone has been this way in hours. D-scan is clear too. Launching probes and scanning reveals seven anomalies and fourteen signatures, and some ships. My notes come to my aid, pointing me directly towards a tower I last saw five months ago, where all six ships my probes detected float empty inside a force field. I'm back to scanning for wormholes, and I come up with one. Just the one. A K162 from low-sec Domain.

Exiting w-space again gets me no closer to learning a new skill, and two extra signatures in the low-sec system resolve to give me another wormhole, this one an outbound link to class 3 w-space. Whatever, let's see what I can find. Not much, with d-scan clear from the wormhole, and a blanket scan having no ships, just sixteen anomalies and seven signatures. Two wormholes crop up quickly, a K162 from class 4 w-space and a second coming in from null-sec Catch. A third wormhole is found in the inner system, which interests me until I remember I entered through an outbound connection and I've only found the static exit to low-sec. The dying static exit to low-sec.

A Heron frigate on d-scan spitting probes is interesting. It would be more interesting if it were on my overview, and as I can't tell where it is or where it came from there's not a great deal I can do. HR even reminds me that 'Herons are pretty hard to catch', which is true. I should just explore through the C4 K162, and doing so shows that I am too late. A corpse sits on d-scan without even a wreck, and a blanket scan reveals two signatures too weak for either to be a wormhole. Well, one is the wormhole to C3c I just came through, but the other definitely isn't a K162.

Corpse floating near a rock in w-space

My probes reveal a ship somewhere in the system, but it's not exciting. A shuttle in one of two towers, empty. I poke space with d-scan to see if I can find the corpse, and there it is in an ore site. 'Someone beat you to it.' Yep. Unless I see the Heron, that's all for me for tonight. Back through the wormhole and, hey, there he is. It's the Heron, sat on the wormhole, launching probes. How about that.

Locking the Heron on the wormhole

I pounce, not suffering from recalibration delay from decloaking, but forgetting to activate my sensor booster. The slow lock finally completes on the frigate, and a couple of volleys from my autocannons rip apart the tiny, unresponsive ship, ejecting the pilot's pod in to space. That was quick, but not so quick that I didn't get the sensor booster active, making catching the pod a little smoother. One more volley from my guns and a fresh corpse floats before me.

Heron wreck and corpse

The pilot looks to be from C4a, and I'm not sure if finding him here is coincidental or the obvious place to look. Either way, the Heron was a little tricked out, and the pilot's head had some value plugged in, resulting in a six million ISK ship and forty million ISK in implants destroyed. I'm okay with this result. No skill book, but a little bit of unexpected excitement to end the evening keeps me entertained.

Single-handedly destroying new player retention

2nd April 2014 – 5.03 pm

It looks like a standard start to my evening, but it's easier than normal. It seems our static wormhole collapsed in on itself and spawned a tiny Big Bang—so, a bang, I suppose—for its replacement to be on the same locus. I warp across to take a look, the wormhole being the only change of signature since yesterday, and, sure enough, I drop next to a healthy connection to class 3 w-space. Let's see what's there.

No tower is visible on my directional scanner, but I do see a flight of armour repair drones and a Minmatar frigate wreck. That's almost interesting. I wonder what happened. Launching probes and blanketing the system reveals only sixteen anomalies and eight signatures, no ships, so I can't follow any fresh traces of activity. But I can point d-scan at each anomaly, in the system map, and find the wreck that way. Not the drones, though; they are elsewhere.

At first I think the frigate was foolish enough to warp in to a wave of Sleepers, but the anomaly is an ore site. I still don't understand why ore sites were moved to be anomalies. But, anyway, I warp in to take a look at the wreck, see if it's been looted, and see no sign of it. I don't think I was wrong about the wreck being in this site, though, as updating d-scan now doesn't see it anywhere. I confidently place the time-of-death of the frigate as two hours ago, and move on to exploring the system properly.

It's my seventh visit to the system, the last being four months earlier, when nothing notable occurred. The tower that was here has gone, its replacement easily located. Sifting through the signatures resolves one wormhole, probably the static exit to low-sec, but also a second. Am I to be blessed this evening? Maybe, when a third wormhole is resolved, followed by a couple of data sites to round off the results.

The scanning results aren't as good as first suggested. One wormhole is dead-on-arrival, the other two being a K162 from low-sec and the static exit that clearly leads to Domain. HR volunteers for K162 duty, so I go through the U210, where the system in Domain has one other pilot and five additional signatures. I launch probes to scan as further pilots enter the system, and find a combat site, wormhole, combat site, relics, and an Imicus frigate warping to the C3 K162.

Imicus approaches a wormhole in low-sec

Hello, little Imicus. Will you come closer? No? Then I will come to you. Don't be scared. Oops, I somehow managed to decloak my Loki, activate my sensor booster, and disrupt the Imicus's warp engines whilst loosing autocannon rounds its way. It was probably all an accident of muscle memory. What can I say? A couple of rounds is enough to pop the frigate, and the pod warps away a few seconds later, letting me loot nothing of value from the wreck.

Imicus wreck and pod near a wormhole in low-sec

Now to reconnoitre the wormholes. One is a C3 K162 with, hello, a Magnate frigate sitting on it. Will you sit still, Mr Magnate? Ah, no, he warps away almost immediately. Fair enough, but he looks to be heading to the other wormhole I've resolved. I follow, decloaking during warp to absorb the recalibration delay, but the frigate drops from d-scan as I get close. He could have warped away again, but he could also have jumped through the K162 from class 2 w-space.

The dying K162 from class 2 w-space, mind you. It's quite possible the Magnate will be returning to low-sec pretty soon, if he's just having a look around. I burn to wormhole and, yep, the connection crackles, the pilot reappearing in the local channel. I get ready to catch him, the Magnate shedding its session-change cloak within seconds, and I try to get a positive lock on the polarised frigate. Maybe I do, maybe I don't. I first think he was agile enough to warp clear, until I realise he was just out of range of my warp scrambler. Either way, he gets clear.

Polarised Magnate evades me on a wormhole in low-sec

Hello, I have a conversation request. How lovely! It's obviously the Imicus pilot from a few minutes ago, probably wanting to congratulate me on my prowess for using a strategic cruiser to destroy his basic frigate, and to compliment me on keeping space dangerous. And I suppose he is, but using much bigger words and different metaphors than I would have employed. Either way, it's nice to meet a new pilot.

Chatting with the Imicus pilot

As I wait for each new challenge to my worth as a capsuleer to arrive, I warp back to the C3 K162 to see what other activity I might stumble across. Jumping back to w-space and updating d-scan sees a tower but no ships, and warping away to launch probes only bumps in to two more towers still without ships. I launch probes anyway and scan for K162s, chubster signatures only, and resolve two. One is a K162 from high-sec, the devil of Heimatar shining through, the other a K162 from null-sec. I'll take a look at that second one.

Jumping to null-sec takes me to a system in Tenal devoid of capsuleers, which gives me an opportunity to go ratting and recover some of the security status loss from my jab at the Imicus. There are also two extra signatures to be resolved, and I find I either can't resist scanning them to alleviate the tedium of ratting or I have a scanning problem. Whatever, both signatures are combat sites and ignored before I even find the pair of battleships flanked by frigates.

I pop the escorts, then one of the battleships, and call it a night. I've had my fun, and not found anything in this direction. HR hit a minor hub of wormholes through the K162 from C3a, scouting through which finds some ships and pilots, but no one outside of a tower or showing any intention to move outside of a tower. It's time to call it a night, and we both head back home.

Scouting scouting boats

1st April 2014 – 5.41 pm

Fin's here, but is she really here? Judging by bookmarks pointing to a K162 from class 4 w-space and the originating side of that wormhole, I'm guessing not. 'I was not going to do anything stupid', my glorious leader says on seeing my coming on-line. Yeah, she's probably in the C4. Need a hand? But actually Fin's in our home system, and is simply planning on crashing the connection, after establishing C4a as being unoccupied. Seems almost sensible to me.

I warp to the wormhole in my cloaky Loki strategic cruiser in anticipation of jumping through, in time to see Fin shove an Orca industrial command ship through it. Maybe I should get the Widow black ops ship instead, a pairing of ships we've found to be quite suitable for wormhole collapsing. But, of course, other ships have come and gone, the wormhole diminishing to half mass on my trip out of the system. I'd better pause for a minute and do some maths.

Yep, I think we can collapse the wormhole safely, it will just need Widow trips from now on. Fin goes out and back, I go out—and notice the black hole, perhaps the reason no one lives here—pushing the wormhole to critical levels. Jumping home again has the wormhole implode. Maths! Now to explore without leaving a back door open.

Back in our scanning boats. Fin resolves our static wormhole and jumps ahead of me, seeing a tower but no ships on her directional scanner. That sounds about right. As she starts to scan I follow behind, exploring to locate the tower instead of tripping over Fin's probes. Towers, in fact. Two more crop up at the edge of the system, as well as a Hurricane popping on d-scan.

The same Hurricane drops on to C3a's static wormhole that Fin has resolved and jumps to low-sec, presumably having seen our probes. That's a shame. A Navy Vexor cruiser now becomes visible on d-scan at the outer towers, and warping across to get eyes on it sees it drop to a pod and warp towards the U210. Another local pilot exits to low-sec Verge Vendor.

C3a may be a bust, but Fin's resolving plenty of wormholes. Along with the static connection she finds a K162 from null-sec, a K162 from class 5 w-space, a dying C5 K162, and an outbound wormhole to class 2 w-space. Meanwhile, a Helios covert operations boat appears at the tower I'm loitering near, dropping to a pod, back to the Helios, down to a pod, and warping to the low-sec exit.

What can be so interesting in Verge Vendor? As Fin explores in to C2a, I head that way to find out, appearing in Hevrice, a system whose name seems familiar for the wrong reasons. No oranges are amongst the couple of dozen pilots, though. There are no other signatures in the system either. I could explore elsewhere, but I'm feeling lazy. I lurk by the wormhole hoping the oranges bring back a ship we can tackle.

Cheetah jumps from low-sec to w-space

An orange appears in the local communications channel of Hevrice. I wait to see if he gets past the inevitable gate-camp, and he does, but only to jump a Cheetah cov-ops in to w-space. That's barely worth chasing without a more suitable ship, and although we could probably get one it seems a bit late now. 'Both warped', says Fin. Both? 'Cheetah and Helios.' That's peculiar, because only the Cheetah jumped past me. And because the Helios must have decloaked to warp. 'They are scanning now.'

A new orange appears in Hevrice, but again it's just a cov-ops, the Helios jumping past me to C3a. Still small fry, still too agile for me to try to catch. It's all a bit boring so far, but I suppose we can't expect much more if the locals suspect activity in their home system. Still, it's boring enough for Fin to call it a night. I'm leaning that way too, particularly when an unaffiliated pilot exits C3a to low-sec, warping away in yet another cov-ops. There's really not much to catch.

Helios exits w-space for low-sec

Fin has the right idea. I jump back to w-space and, not quite wanting to give up just yet, bounce off the far tower to see if anything has changed. And it has. I see a Navy Omen cruiser, Navy Vexor cruiser, and Astero frigate floating piloted inside the force field. But maybe they see me, as the Vexor swaps to a Cheetah and the Astero warps away, towards the C2 wormhole, dropping off d-scan when I follow. I suppose he's gone in to scan the system, and even if he's not and will come back polarised I've had experience of trying to catch these. Not in a Loki. I've had enough of watching cov-ops, it's time to go home.