Crossing paths with a Sabre

8th September 2014 – 5.33 pm

Hopping back in to my Proteus strategic cruiser to go scouting through our constellation, it's oddly comforting to be able to cloak again after a spell in a Golem marauder and a test firing in our Revelation dreadnought. No one can see me fly! Maybe I can sneak up on others. Probably not through an outbound wormhole, but you never know. I jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system to find out.

Nothing appears when I update my directional scanner from our K162, which isn't a terrible result yet, not with a couple of planets out of range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, looking for ships and finding two, along with seventeen anomalies and eight signatures. The two ships don't look exciting, though, having tiny signatures that already convince me they are covert operations boats floating empty inside a distant tower.

I should at least check to see if there are pilots potentially watching for me, and warping across the system indeed sees a tower on d-scan, but no cov-ops ships. Instead, I see a Sabre interdictor and Drake battlecruiser. The interdictor, sure, it is based on a destroyer hull and isn't particularly big, but what Drake has such a small signature? Not this one, in fact, as updating my probes pings the fat ship now.

Obviously a ship swap has taken place, so it is no surprise to see the Drake piloted when I locate the tower. The Sabre is empty. Is the lone pilot considering an excursion to exterminate some of the Sleeper population? I'd like that, as it could be fun to spend an hour or so chipping away at a Drake's shields. Or maybe I'll spend an hour watching a pilot idle. I should scan whilst I wait.

All of the signatures in C3a are far enough from the tower that my probes will remain out of d-scan range, and there aren't many either. I resolve four gas sites—which I bookmark, in case the Drake wants to clear one of those of Sleepers—a data site, and two wormholes. A second wormhole already would suggest the Drake pilot isn't going to be up to much, even if the silly discovery scanner hasn't alerted his non-scanning ship to our K162. The pilot's swapping to a Corax destroyer—perhaps the first ship I saw under my probes—is another good indicator that the Drake won't go anywhere.

I'll check the wormholes. The static exit to low-sec looks like it leads to Metropolis, but the reds are softened somewhat, more suggestive of Molden Heath. The second wormhole is a K162 from null-sec, which I use before the U210, taking me to a system in Esoteria which I share with two other pilots. One appears to be scanning, with core probes visible on d-scan. I loiter on the wormhole for a minute, but the scout isn't interested in w-space, recalling his probes and leaving the system, not past me. Scanning the other signature identifies a combat site, so he didn't go that way either and must have used a stargate.

With nothing in null-sec for me, I head back to C3a and across to the low-sec exit, jumping through to appear in Egbinger, Molden Heath, with a dozen stinking pirates roaming the system. There are the same number of signatures, surprisingly, and I ignore the locals to scan. A quick check for wormholes pulls up a few, not that I'm optimistic about the results.

The first is as I suspect, a K162 from more low-sec, the second a K162 from null-sec. A third wormhole connects to w-space, being a K162 from deadly class 6 w-space, and a fourth is an N944 outbound link to more low-sec. I don't know if empire pilots like all these extra wormholes, but they are frustrating non-results for me. It's almost a return to the days of the 'unknown' signatures that resolved to be combat sites, wasting scanning time when looking for w-space.

Sabre jumps in to low-sec from class 6 w-space

I can at least check the C6 system for activity that will squash me like a Sleeper frigate, because that's fun, and I warp across to the C6 K162. Before I jump, though, the wormhole crackles with activity. A Sabre appears in low-sec, alone, and warps to the N944, judging by his direction. Well, whatever. He's gone from the system, no one follows, so I continue onwards and jump to C6a. The wormhole is clear, d-scan is clear, and, oh, the system is tiny. Nothing sits out of range, giving me no occupation and no activity. Okay, it's time to go home.

I jump back to low-sec and, huh, the Sabre looks to be waiting for me. I am almost certainly polarised, so even though the other ship is only a Sabre I don't want to be caught by anything else. I still have my session change cloak for a little while, so I tag the Sabre pilot and check the other pilots in the system. He appears to be alone. That's only weird because another ship decloaks at that moment, a Viator transport revealing itself on the wormhole without the Sabre doing anything about it.

Sabre returns with a Viator in tow

Maybe the Sabre isn't alone. Maybe he is. I don't think I want to gamble my Proteus over it, though, and simply move from the wormhole and cloak. The Viator jumps through to C6a, the Sabre waits a moment before following, and all looks to be clear. That works for me, as I was going home anyway. I make a diversion to check the tower in C3a on my way back, the Drake/Corax not in the force field or the system as a whole, leaving me to return home to get some rest. Or to scan the new signature the silly discovery scanner insists on showing me. Thankfully, it's just a relic site. I'm going off-line.

Music of 2014, part 3

7th September 2014 – 3.54 pm

What a corker of a selection I've managed to make for my third collection of music this year. I like to think it's because I've got impeccable taste in music, but it's rather obvious that I've just got a bit lucky with my selections this time. Even so, it's fabulous when I get this lucky, as it gives me some amazing music to enjoy.

There's no chance of my passing over the latest album by White Hinterland, given that previous album Kairos is perhaps one of my most-played CDs. Baby is another change in direction for Casey Dienel, albeit not as major as between the first two albums. Her focus remains on keyboards, samplers, and Casey's strong vocals, but this time without the backdrops created by Shawn Creedon. It's a tentative first listen for me, as the feel of the music is definitely not within my normal range of genre, but perseverance pays off. Curiously, it is the vocals that engage me first, despite their somewhat operatic feel being more out of my normal range than the predominantly electronic music they power over, but Casey's voice will do that to a person. Once locked in to the vocals, the electronic music is freed to take shape, adding further contours to the songs that imbue each other them with a keen identity. Baby is another fine album by White Hinterland.

Another slow burner comes from Coves with their album Soft Friday. Most of my favourite albums creep up on me, but it's difficult to tell which are slow burners, which just aren't clicking, and which are simply poor efforts. Fuzzy guitars and dreamy vocals make me think Soft Friday will at least keep me mildly entertained until another album comes along, but, again with repeated listens, it's when I find myself idly humming a refrain that I initially can't place and then realise it's from the album that I realise Coves have their hooks in me. For that, I am glad. Rather than letting the music wash over me as a pleasant distraction, I can really listen to it and appreciate the nuances within the songs. It's still fuzzy guitars and dreamy vocals at its heart, but Coves has some really good fuzzy guitars and some really dreamy vocals, and is becoming a firm favourite album of this year.

The minimalist electronica of Psychic 9–5 Club by HTRK is relaxing, calming. In its way. There is an undercurrent of difficulty within the music and vocals, adding corners to the smooth landscape. It's immediately gripping, even feeling like it would have some obvious mainstream appeal, and there is a flow to the album, although it's perhaps less floating in a sensory deprivation tank and more a feeling of sinking. But still in a good way. The muted, low-frequency blips play with the electronic rhythm section, often contrasting with and against each other, vocals adding highlights just where they are needed. The only aspect of Psychic 9–5 Club that works against it is the time of year I buy it. Although starting strong within the playlist, delving deeper in to Coves and Fear of Men makes me want to listen to HTRK less. That isn't an issue with the album itself, though, more a reflection of how strong the rest of the albums in this collection are.

Bo Ningen's third album, unashamedly named III, could be summed up as more of the same psychedelic rock as their previous two albums. That would be underplaying the level of commitment Bo Ningen have. Yes, it's more of the same, but the same pumping bass-lines, energetic drumming, and wailing, squealing, screaming guitars that coalesce in to a well-defined polyhedron that's so sharp on every one of its myriad corners that you're going to get cut. The apparent production difficulties that had the sound levels so muddled on second album Line the Wall have been left behind, with every instrument and vocal clear and piercing. There is also the first song where the London-based Japanese band sing in English, and a collaboration with Jenny Beth of Savages. The low point is the slow and long Mukaeni Ikenai, which when not impressed by it live I hoped it would translate better to recording, but it doesn't. But that's small fry when the rest of III is a pulsating, pounding aural violation that keeps Bo Ningen rising.

I have a curious relationship with Fujiya & Miyagi. I really like their music, I find their lyrics to be uninspiring. First album Transparent Things kept me very much entertained, and the lyrics felt quirky. Second album Lightbulbs unfortunately emphasised the lyrics and turned me off the band. I came back for Ventriloquizzing and worked out that it is best to consider the vocals as foreign language. That's the method I continue to use for fourth offering Artificial Sweeteners, where the lyrics once again rely on saying one line, normally rather nonsensical to start with, then repeat it with a different cadence, normally more than once. The soft, soothing vocals help ignore what is spoken and allow the lyrics to be heard more as another instrument, adding to the stripped down guitar and excellent keyboards and sampling. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fujiya & Miyagi's strength remains in their instrumental works, another two songs being instrumentals on Artificial Sweeteners, where the music is unencumbered and can flow freely. The music is great, the vocals are great, the lyrics work when not parsed, and it all adds up to another good album.

What a great find in Fear of Men. An almost unbearably sweet voice opens with the simplest of tracks in Alta, which ramps up to segue in to Waterfall, where the vocals remain pure and the music swells and declines around them. There is a touch of GLaDOS in the vocals, but with a whole load of fragility in place of the menace, and you can't help but feel touched by the lyrics because of this. It's not just the sublime quality of the voice that draws you in to the lyrics, but the lyrics themselves, ripe with metaphor that I wouldn't be able to explain but still enjoy trying to read meaning in to. For this, it is worth reading the lyric book, thankfully included in the CD case. The landscape of the songs is perhaps defined by the drums, and although the machine gun-like bursts seem perhaps overused at first, they become an expected and welcome motif of the album, and there is plenty of texture added by excellent use of the cymbals and off-beats. The jangly guitar further adds to making this as close to a perfect album for me as there can be, and are perhaps suitably put to best use in the final song, Inside, before a refrain for the opening track closes the album. Fear of Men have created an album that has been played more than any other in my collection in the past two years, and Loom continues to be the album I want to listen to more than any other. It's a rare find indeed.

Sleepers and a Revelation

6th September 2014 – 3.46 pm

A few days away from space must mean the gas is gone. Seems so. Just about everything has gone, in fact. Still, two good anomalies have popped up, available to be cleared, and a single signature means a single wormhole, our static connection to class 3 w-space. That makes it time to slay some Sleepers.

I swap my scouting boat for the Golem marauder, do a systems check, and head out. The Sleepers are waiting for me, I bring some gunboat diplomacy, and launch a silly mobile tractor unit to make the ISK-making stupidly easy. I wonder if shooting the structure in the site would disable all of the Sleeper drones within range. Surely not, as that would be a serious design limitation. But who knows?

Shooting Sleepers and salvaging wrecks simultaneously in a Golem marauder

The drones in Oblivion don't just act at the speed of plot in the climactic final battle, they are also apparently entirely governed remotely. The first wave of drones is defeated, the surviving humans set in motion their sacrificial plan to destroy the Tet, but to add further tension a second wave of drones is sent towards the base. Oh my, how will they survive this new wave?

The humans survive by destroying the Tet, which immediately incapacitates all the drones everywhere, the ones almost at the base dropping out of the sky like bricks. That's as dumb here as it was in The Phantom Menace. You would think that an advanced drone would have some kind of autonomous behaviour and internal control built in to its circuitry and programming, as a fail-safe mechanism against possible communication glitches and the obvious threat of jamming the control signal disabling the drone.

Golem against the Sleepers

Not only should autonomous control be obvious for an advanced drone, but it clearly exists. Jack goes down that hole in to some library to find a drone, and when ambushed is rescued by a drone's timely arrival. A fairly neat scene in itself. But it is established that Jack, so far down that hole, has lost communication with his base of operations and the Tet. If he's lost communications, then so has the drone when in the same position, surely. Yet the drone is just fine in that scene.

The climactic ending therefore just becomes an exercise in faux-tension building, adding a new threat that is neutralised by a coincidence completely outside the control of those in peril. Maybe I should pretend that the last Sleepers come close to breaking the shields of my Golem, sucking my capacitor almost empty, and it is only through determined self-sacrifice that I prevail. Or I sail through these two anomalies like I do all the others, and bring back an unspectacular 150 Miskies of loot and salvage.

I could go and scout through our wormhole now, but our system remains isolated from the rest of w-space, and there is one activity I'd really like to try out. A ship, in fact. It is, of course, the Revelation dreadnought that we built and fit. We still have that rogue tower from the previous occupants in our home system, partly because I kinda interrupted an external operation to take it down a short time ago. That gives me a fat, stationary, passive target to shoot at, perfect for the Revelation. I just hope no one interrupts me.

Swapping the Golem for the Revelation, I check that everything looks okay, not that I'd know. I make a sanity check, ensuring that no new signatures are in the system, and that I at least kind of know what I'm doing. I think so, and I don't plan to be out of the tower for longer than a test firing will take. That, though, will require starting a siege cycle, which cannot be cancelled, and will keep me quite firmly in one position in space until it ends. That's five minutes, I think. Well, I've just done the same with the Golem and its bastion mode, the dreadnought is just a little more expensive.

Taking the Revelation dreadnought out for a spin

I warp the Revelation out of our tower—its first flight!—and slowly, ever-so slowly, the dreadnought accelerates, enters warp, and crosses the system to the off-line tower. I've checked the range of the weapons, letting me drop out of warp within optimal range. I just want to loose a few rounds, see what this can do, and turn back. I lock on to the tower, start shooting, and am relatively unimpressed. I'm doing a decent amount of damage, and even though I'm only firing three guns instead of six or eight, or whatever, I'm only really matching one of our Oracle battlecruisers. Time to activate the siege module.

The dreadnought sucks down some strontium and enters its siege mode. The target lock on the tower drops immediately, which is a bit annoying, particularly as sensor resolution is severely hampered in siege mode. I gain a new target lock, eventually, and start shooting again. Holy cow, that's more like it. Standard hits are now doing an order of magnitude more damage than before, which is really quite impressive, and good hits are adding on to that. If only it were making a positive dent in the tower, but that's more a function of the tower and our pulsar than a drawback in the dreadnought's capability.

Shooting the w-space equivalent of a barn door

I keep shooting for the entirety of the siege cycle, dropping out of siege mode after the first cycle, and see what I've done to the tower. Shields are at 97%. Okay, so I'm hitting for some serious damage, and the tower would eventually be destroyed, but the process is still far too slow for me to do this alone, particularly as the siege cycle is actively fuelled by strontium, even if the lasers only require capacitor juice. Still, this was just a test firing, a display of what our Revelation can do. I'm impressed. I still don't know what we'll do with it, but it's a nice toy.

Empty systems or empty ships

5th September 2014 – 5.48 pm

Back in my scouting Proteus after diverting to high-sec, I can reconnoitre that second K162 wormhole in our home system. It leads to class 3 w-space, like our static wormhole, and hopefully there is activity somewhere behind it. I warp my strategic cruiser across to the K162, jump to C3b, and update my directional scanner. Just a bubble appears on d-scan, and not much sits out of range. I've got more scanning to do, I suppose.

I launch probes and perform a blanket scan of the system, adding two ships to the fourteen anomalies and seven signatures. They are both chubby signatures for the ships, making them relatively large, and I'm already guessing they are industrial ships. The lack of ore sites, all fourteen anomalies being combat sites, reinforces my intuition, which is then dashed as I cross the system and bump in to a Typhoon battleship and Tornado battlecruiser.

I don't literally bump in to the two ships, nor do I even see them in space immediately, despite warping directly to a moon with a tower anchored to it. There is a second tower around a different moon, which is where I find the two ships floating unpiloted. It's not terribly exciting, much like scanning this C3 system. There's more than the static wormhole to find, itself an exit to low-sec Genesis, but only a K162 from low-sec Metropolis and K162 from null-sec Stain. No more w-space. I'll try through our static wormhole instead.

Leaving C3b behind me for C3a once more finds occupation but no activity. The tower visible from our K162 is the only one in the system, and a blanket scan shows me the seven anomalies and five signatures I'll be sifting through in the absence of any ships to watch. It's gas, mostly. Of course, there's one wormhole, there always is, and in this case it will be the static exit to low-sec. The static exit to low-sec that's at the end of its life.

I'm glad I made myself productive in the other direction earlier in the evening, although this conclusion to the constellation is rather anti-climactic. I suppose it doesn't have to be, as I didn't explore through the k-space connections in C3b, and I have a bit of spare time to try to spice up this evening. I'll take a look.

The null-sec K162 takes me to a system in Stain with no other signatures present. I don't care to try ratting, what with wanting to end the night positively, so return to C3b and hit one of the low-sec exits. The static wormhole will do, and I jump to a system in Genesis. Central Point, in fact, which may have some historical significance. I dunno, but I launch probes to scan the six extra signatures.

Three combat sites and three wormholes is a decent result from low-sec. One wormhole is a K162 from class 3 w-space, the other two are K162s from class 2 w-space. They've got to be worth a quick look for activity, and as I end up near the K162 to C2c I jump through that one first. Two towers and a lack of ships is not what I'm looking for on d-scan, and no signatures or anomalies lie outside of d-scan's range from the wormhole. I'll try a different system.

Signature cluster in the centre of a class 3 w-space system

From one class 2 w-space system to another, via low-sec, and updating d-scan sees nothing this time. One ore site and two planets sit out of range, leaving the possibility of miners or a planet gooer being active somewhere. It's not likely, admittedly, but a blanket scan of the system with combat probes reveals a couple of ships somewhere. That somewhere isn't the ore site, though, with the ships on the other side of the system to the anomaly, so I warp towards what I suspect is, and indeed find as, a tower. Neither the Thrasher destroyer or Mammoth hauler that my probes detected is piloted. Let's look at that C3 instead.

Out to Central Point, across the C3 K162, and in to the last system of the night. A tower and no ships on d-scan, a puny three signatures on the silly discovery scanner. At least that implies frequent activity, and encourages me to warp across to check the anomalies lying outside of d-scan range. Nope, nothing and no one. Not only that, but one of the signatures has disappeared, silly discovery scanner, which I assume to be a wormhole imploding. It's late enough that I take my assumption to be true, and turn my Proteus around to head home.

Vaguely reckless logistics

4th September 2014 – 5.38 pm

The gas is still here? What the hell, space, get your act together. There are three more signatures in the home system too, probably more gas to taunt me, letting me know that the gas will never leave. It will never leave! I'd best scan it to make sure, before deciding to go exploring as usual, because I'm never going to suck on gas and there are currently no good anomalies.

One new gas site is hardly a surprise, but a pair of K162 wormholes is pretty neat. One comes from class 3 w-space, which is not much of a change from heading through our static wormhole as I normally do, making the other from class 2 w-space more attractive. Maybe this C2 system actually connects to class 4 w-space daily, giving it the exit to high-sec I only found incidentally the other day.

I take my Proteus strategic cruiser to C2a and update my directional scanner, which shows me a tower and no ships. The wolf-rayet phenomenon I can see without checking d-scan. There's little else to see, though, the silly discovery scanner pinging one anomaly and three signatures to my ship without even asking me first. I feel violated.

Three signatures is all I am shown

The anomaly is an ore site and out of range, so on a whim I warp directly to the site. If there's activity outside of d-scan range I should find it, if not I can launch probes in a relatively unexpected location. Or I can warp to empty space. The ore site has apparently gone. Well, the ore has gone, the site remains on the discovery scanner. I dunno why.

I still don't launch probes, with or without a site that doesn't have massive rocks, as warping here has brought me in to range of another tower, this one with ships visible on d-scan. I suspect pilots, and start locating the tower to see which of the Orca industrial command ship, Epithal hauler, Magnate frigate, and pair of shuttles are active. The industrial ships, presumably.

Nope, not the industrial ships, the Magnate and shuttles. They are the ships with capsuleers, which would only be peculiar if the pilots were actually active. I imagine they've finished for the day, perhaps after the ore site did or didn't disappear. I'm not catching shuttles, anyway, so warp away to look for another tower that, now that I've checked them, my notes suggest could be in the system.

I find the third tower, excitingly with an empty second Orca inside its force field. I find some empty space in which I launch probes, and head back to the tower with the pilots. Well, it had pilots, now it doesn't. My blanket scan of the system with combat probes shows just three ships too, the two Orcas and the Epithal, confirming that the pilots have finished for the day. It's just me, so I scan.

Scanning two signatures doesn't take long, particularly when one is a fat gas site that is ignored, and I am soon jumping through a high-sec exit to, ooh, an old mission base of mine in The Citadel. We're only four hops to Jita too, which seems like an opportunity I should take. I take my Proteus back in to and across C2a to the home system, warp to our tower, and swap to a Bustard transport, which I fill with loot and plunder.

I hope no one's watching this. I've not really scouted beyond a single system, when two more connect directly to our home, and probably more beyond that. I'll probably be fine. I take half-a-billion ISK in loot back out of the tower and in to C2a, only just now realising that perhaps I should have taken a bit longer to avoid polarisation issues, and thankful to see C2a as devoid of activity as I left it a couple of minutes ago. I warp to the high-sec wormhole and exit w-space.

Undocking from Jita will throw you in to congested space

A stargate hop in one direction takes me to a reputably buyer of Sleeper loot, and backtracking and adding four more hops takes me to Jita, where I sell the salvage and plunder. We are space rich(er by a little bit than a minute ago)! I spend a chunk of the newly gained ISK to fill the capacious Bustard with tower fuel, not that we need it desperately, but because I really don't want to need it desperately, and head back home. High-sec is easy, C2a remains quiet, and no one waits for me on the wormhole in our home system. Getting to the tower lets me store the fuel in a hangar and gain a warm sense of being productive. Now, how about that other K162.

Interrupting rock chomping

3rd September 2014 – 5.18 pm

Moving on, I think I'll explore C5b. The wormhole to that class 5 w-space system is a K162 in this one, meaning the wormhole was opened from the other side, giving the possibility of activity. Then again, there is a potentially active pilot idling in an Anathema covert operations boat in this C5 system, who latched on to the wormhole I came through from class 2 w-space, thanks to the silly discovery scanner. If he's on top of wormhole appearances, I can probably assume that either nothing is happening in C5b, or the C5b locals are aware of the Anathema and won't be caught in a compromising situation.

Maybe not C5b. That still leaves me the static wormhole in C5a, leading to C2b. Kinda, I suppose. The C5a scout has probably gone that way too, but I can't say how deep, and more wormholes may have opened further down the chain. Or I could keep going until I hit k-space and scan for wormholes out there. I don't think there is a good option, really, but I'll go to C2b anyway.

Jumping to class 2 w-space and updating my directional scanner sees nothing, and the system map shows just the one planet out of range. I launch probes and perform a blanket scan, revealing nine anomalies, four signatures, no ships. Warping to the far planet finds occupation, at least, and as no one is home I sift through the signatures looking for wormholes.

The static exit to high-sec from C2b leads to a system in Sinq Laison, much as the one from C2a did. Indeed, the two exit systems are five hops apart, both close to Dodixie. That's not terribly interesting, though. The other static wormhole in C2b leads to, ooh, class 1 w-space. In I go, hoping to surprise someone, but only seeing a tower, lots of bubbles, and no ships on d-scan from the K162.

Scouting C1a finds four more towers, still no ships, and my notes point towards a static exit to high-sec. I'm bored of this system already, but with probes launched I can't help but poke the signatures for possible K162s. Resolving three wormholes is mildly interesting, finding a K162 from class 4 w-space, the high-sec exit, and a second K162 from class 4 w-space, this one at the end of its life. I'll hit C4a, through the healthy wormhole.

A tower, no ships. Warp, launch, scan. Three anomalies, fourteen signatures. This being class 4 w-space, and having entered backwards through the static wormhole, I feel safe just poking the chubby signatures looking for K162s, and I find one. Another K162 to class 4 w-space. I continue my scouting in to C4c, where—hello!—there are three Retriever mining barges visible on d-scan, along with a clutch of mining drones. That's it, not even a tower.

Three Retrievers out in w-space

It looks like I've found activity, and miners at that, right when I appear in the system well under two kilometres from the wormhole. I do what I can with the situation, bookmarking the anomalies—three ore sites, one combat site—and moving from the wormhole, pulsing my micro warp drive to get clear as quickly as possible, and cloaking.

As I move and cloak I am in the system map, pointing d-scan at the anomalies. I find the mining operation, and I accelerate in to warp. It seems, though, that the mining operation has seen me too. Even as I enter warp, d-scan now only shows me one Retriever, two drones. The ships aren't split amongst the anomalies either. One drone. The best I can hope for is that the pilot of the one ship left is asleep, but I doubt that. No drones. I drop out of warp in the rock field barely in time to see the warp trail of the last Retriever leaving.

Just one Retriever left

I don't suppose there is much I can do now but revert to scouting. There are a mere two signatures in the system, and my curiosity at least wants me to find out if the miners are local or from another system further back. I warp away from the rocks and answer my question before launching probes, by bumping in to a tower holding the three Retrievers, plus a Buzzard cov-ops. If these aren't the same ships, that's one hell of a coincidence.

Two signatures in the class 4 w-space system

The four ships become five, making me briefly wonder where the new contact came from and why, until I realise the immediacy of the barges' departure. The locals had eyes and ears on the wormhole, and my entrance was seen directly, not merely caught on d-scan. Good for them. A minute passes and the ships blink off-line in succession, soon leaving me alone. I suppose I can poke that other signature, but I already know it won't be a wormhole. Probably a data site. Yep, a data site. Time to head back.

C4b to C4a, to C1a, to C2b, to C5a, to C2a, and one jump from home I see scanning probes on d-scan along with an Imicus frigate. It's late, I'm tired, but I can't resist. D-scan doesn't show the Imicus on a wormhole but at the system's star. He's not there for long, at least not long enough for me to see him, and the frigate blips off d-scan. I have no idea which wormhole he's jumped through, or if he simply cloaked, and I know I should forget it and go home to rest, but the silly discovery scanner is showing me a new signature. I really wish it would just shut the hell up.

I launch probes and scan what is obviously a new wormhole, and warp across to see a K162 from more class 2 w-space. I have to investigate. Jumping to C2c and punching d-scan sees towers and ships, the interceptor and assault frigate in a good position annoy my strategic cruiser if I got caught in the wolf-rayet system behind me, and seeing the message in the local communications channel doesn't so much rattle me as convince me not to get embroiled in the middle on whatever's happening.

Are you talking to me?

I have no idea who the speaker is, or who he's quoting, or who they are expecting. I do know I'm not staying to find out. I turn around, jump back to C2a unmolested, and warp across to the wormhole that takes me safely home.

Watching the discovery scanner in action

2nd September 2014 – 5.40 pm

That gas still hasn't gone yet. I bet that extra signature in the home system is more gas, just to prolong my discomfort. Or maybe it's a second wormhole, a K162 from class 2 w-space that will have a second static connection to high-sec empire space. That's a decent option, as it could give me a chance to export some of the loot I've been accumulating recently.

Jumping to C2a and updating my directional scanner sees little, although there is a can labelled 'myrmadon charges', which intrigues me. All I have to do is find the myrmadon. To help, I launch combat scanning probes and perform a blanket scan of the system. No myrmadon here, not that I really know what I'm looking for, but unless it is an anomaly, signature, or drone, it's not in this system.

myrmadon charges

Switching filters to look for structures as possible signs of occupation sees a bunch of them dotted around here and there. They just cause me to waste time warping to a couple of points around the system, though, as I only find off-line towers, nothing active. At least I see the drone is a humble mining drone, nothing to care about rescuing. Talk to the rocks, man.

There are lots of anomalies, few signatures, thirty-five and five. Out of the five, there is one fat signature, one potential K162. Scanning it even finds a wormhole, a K162, but only one from high-sec. Along with that, I also resolve two more wormholes, and identify and ignore a gas site. I check the K162 exit first, leaving w-space to appear in Sinq Laison, four hops from Dodixie. That could be good for exporting, depending on the other wormholes.

I return to C2a and warp to see where it's static exit to high-sec leads, but warping to the two wormholes first sees an exit to null-sec, which is peculiar, and then an outbound connection to class 5 w-space. Now it makes sense. These are the two static wormholes, and the connection to our home system is a random link. That makes sense of the lack of occupation too, as C2 systems with C4/high-sec static wormholes tend to be snapped up.

I've opened it, I ought to use it, so I jump through the wormhole to C5a. A messy, eccentric C5a, with a black hole. I'm guessing there is no occupation in this system either, but, just like my first guess, I'm wrong. A blanket scan adds seven ships to the twenty-two anomalies and eleven signatures. Warping away from d-scan range of the first planet to be in d-scan range of the second sees the ships, plus a tower.

Eccentric class 5 w-space system

Locating the tower and warping there finds just an Anathema covert operations boat piloted, leaving the three Buzzard cov-ops, and Armageddon and two Scorpion battleships empty. As the Anathema is doing nothing, I start scanning. That seems to prompt activity, although I'm pretty sure it's not because of me but the silly discovery scanner pinging the new signature to the Anathema.

The cov-ops warps out of the tower, launches probes, and cloaks. I identify loads of gas and resolve two wormholes, and as I turn to accelerate towards one of the wormholes the Anathema reappears and warps back in to the tower. That he decloaks to warp is interesting, as it implies he doesn't have a cov-ops cloak fit. Normally that wouldn't matter, as the tiny, agile ships could easily evade the attentions of my Proteus strategic cruiser. In a class 5 w-space system with an inertia-imposing black hole, however, I may stand a chance.

I stop my Proteus and watch the Anathema. I don't know why, really. Yeah, I may have a chance of catching the cov-ops, a slim chance, but only if he actually jumps through the wormhole and returns polarised. Well, there he goes, aligning and warping, and I follow, rather slowly, also being afflicted by the black hole, the cov-ops naturally heading to the new wormhole the discovery scanner annoyingly told him about.

The Anathema drops from d-scan before I reach the wormhole, and I don't know if he's turned around or jumped. If I had kept my combat probes out I could perform a blanket scan and count the number of ships, but I haven't, so I can't. If he jumped, will he want to explore, leaving me sitting on the wormhole like a lemon? Maybe. Personally, I don't think he'd jump if he wasn't going to explore, and I don't see much point in waiting here. Not right now, anyway. As I see it, if the Anathema explores and finds the high-sec K162, maybe he'll take a fatter ship out of the system.

As I consider the possibility of catching a hauler, I bounce around the two wormholes I've resolved. One is a K162 from more class 5 w-space, the other is C5a's static wormhole to class 2 w-space. And there's the Anathema briefly back on d-scan. Maybe I could have waited, or maybe he is a mean scout and has found the high-sec K162. I warp back to the tower to see what the pilot does. Hmm, probably nothing, not with a C5 K162 connecting in to his system, and not when he would be a fool not to realise that someone must have opened the K162 back to C2a. Sure enough, a few minutes of watching sees no change. I should probably move on.

Low, low, low

1st September 2014 – 5.52 pm

It's still just me and gas. I can't quite manage to release it from my system. That makes our home system closed, though, but without any good anomalies popped up, I'm out of here just as soon as I find our static wormhole. I warp to yesterday's bookmark on a whim and, hey, it's moved today. Okay, I'll scan for the wormhole.

Ships! A Pilgrim recon ship, Onyx heavy interdictor, Legion strategic cruiser, Falcon recon ship, and Caracal cruiser are all in our neighbouring class 3 w-space system somewhere, and I'm guessing they're not shooting Sleepers. As there aren't any wrecks, I'm guessing they're not doing much of anything, particularly as they share a place on my directional scanner with a tower.

The tower is straightforward to find, being around the innermost planet, which only has a single moon, and I warp to it directly from our K162. Five ships, no pilots. Fine, no one's home. I warp away from the tower, launch probes, and perform a blanket scan of the system, revealing three anomalies and four signatures. That's not much, and it doesn't take long to identify the signatures as two wormholes and one data site.

C3a's static exit leads to low-sec, um, Derelik or Devoid, I can't tell which, the colours are pretty similar. I won't find out just yet either, not with a K162 from class 2 w-space looking far more inviting. I jump to C2a, update d-scan, and see nothing. Opening the system map shows me just one planet is in d-scan range, hopefully the cause of the blank result, and I launch probes and blanket the system.

Little to see in the class 2 w-space system

Hey, there's a ship under my probes, somewhere near that territorial control unit. I warp towards the TCU, hoping to find activity, but getting caught in a bubble outside of a tower that holds an empty Orca industrial command ship. Updating d-scan as I crossed the system spotted five more towers, obviously without ships, and with only two anomalies and four signatures I don't care to waste time finding empty towers. I'll just scan.

One gas site, one data site, two wormholes. The wormholes are both of this class 2 system's static connections. I used one to get here, from C3a, the other leads out to, huh, high-sec Molden Heath. I didn't realise there was such a place. The high-sec system holds one pilot, not orange, and one extra signature, not a wormhole. Back I go.

In to C2a, across to C3a, and out to, ah, Derelik (my balls). A couple of pilots are in the system, a couple of extra signatures have my launching probes. I ignore the combat site and warp to the wormhole, disappointed to see what turns out to be just a connection to low-sec Tash-Murkon. Whatever, it's a wormhole, I'm gonna use it.

I jump to a system in Tash-Murkon that looks decidedly uninteresting, made only slightly better by having four extra signatures. I launch probes to scan them. I don't bother with a blanket scan first, the silly discovery scanner showing me the approximate locations of the signatures, and the local channel making any and every pilot aware of my presence.

My probes guide me towards three combat sites that I don't care about, and one wormhole that, as it turns out, I also don't care about. I've resolved another wormhole connecting two low-sec systems, whoop-de-doo. I bet low-sec people are happy with these new connections, but they feel like duds to me. I poke through anyway, appearing in a faction warfare system in Black Rise full of filthy pirates, probably, and with three extra signatures.

I'll give space one last chance. Launching probes and scanning the signatures in the Black Rise system gives me a combat site, a wormhole, and some relics. This wormhole doesn't connect to more low-sec space, but it doesn't get much better by being an S199 connection to null-sec. I keep going, forgetting my 'one last chance' warning, and jump through to Syndicate.

No one else is in this null-sec system, which would be nice in my ratting Loki strategic cruiser, not so good in my scouting Proteus strategic cruiser. And my scouting really does end here. There's just one signature in the system, the wormhole I'm sitting on, and I'm not resorting to using stargates to find any more wormholes that lead nowhere interesting. I'm going home.

Seeing orange in low-sec

31st August 2014 – 3.22 pm

It's just me, a pocket of gas, and our static wormhole to start off the evening. There are also a couple of good anomalies, double what we had yesterday. I am tempted to leave them another day, see if they turn in to four for tomorrow, but I like keeping the ISK flowing, so it's probably best to clear them whilst our system is closed. Tomorrow could bring more anomalies, but it could also bring more wormholes, or even a hostile fleet intent on stealing from us. Bastards.

I warp to the tower, swap to the Golem marauder, and perform a systems check. Everything looks good, the ammunition in my hold looks plentiful, and the silly discovery scanner updates to show me nothing has changed from thirty seconds ago. I'm ready to shoot some Sleepers. Warping to the first anomaly and launching the also-silly mobile tractor unit lets me concentrate on popping Sleepers and watching the two scanners.

Golem versus Sleepers

Eventually, Beech manages to capture Jack, with the great reveal that they are the humans and the Tet are actually the alien invaders, who are now sucking our planet dry with the unwitting help of Jack. Does he take time to explain this rather significant development carefully to Jack? No, he lets Jack go. Why does he let Jack go? Because Beech is an idiot. No, Jack isn't likely to keep all this information to himself or work out what's really going on, and if he does it will not be in the short amount of time necessary for Beech's plan to succeed.

If Jack's really as smart as Beech suspects, he will listen to reason and logic, particularly when presented with empirical evidence, and come to a good decision. Letting him go after going to so much effort and risk to capture him in the first place is namby-pamby film logic that makes no sense when absolutely needing that person to fulfil a vital role in the survival of the species and the planet. Meh, we've got time, I suppose. I actually think Sleeper combat is more interesting than Oblivion. One anomaly is cleared without fuss, and I take what loot the silly MTU has collected for me back to our tower in the Golem before moving to the second site.

Sweeping up the final wrecks in a destroyer

Nearly two-hundred million ISK is a good haul of loot from two sites, pulling up the average after the previously disappointing anomaly, and I even have a bit of time left to explore through our static wormhole. I swap back to my Proteus strategic cruiser, warp to the connection, and jump through. Two towers and a ship appear on my directional scanner from the K162, but the ship is only an Ares interceptor and almost certainly not up to much by itself.

I bookmark the anomalies in the system—and the wormhole home—and warp away to see if anything is happening outside of d-scan's limited range. Oh, probably not. The second planet is initially in range, where the two towers and Ares are. The first planet is 20 AU distant, hugging the system's star, and lacking moons. There are a couple of signatures and anomalies out there, though, so I suppose activity is a technical possibility.

Two-planet solar system in w-space

Warping to the inner planet finds that, no, nothing else is happening. That's a shame, as a previous visit had my catching and podding two stealth bombers, before we lost a Drake that rattled amongst Sleeper structures trying to escape from a couple of battleships. Bereft of much else to do, I launch probes, blanket the system, and warp back towards the second planet to start looking for the towers. I ignore the boring shell of a tower, the same as from the last visit, and head for the tower with the Ares. The interceptor is piloted and moving, but only moving in eccentric orbits, bouncing off hangars, in a way that suggests the autopilot is in control. I can ignore this capsuleer and scan.

Thirteen anomalies and five signatures are reduced to two signatures of interest. One is the static exit to low-sec, bearing the unmistakable brown of Aridia. The other is a K162 from null-sec with almost no colour to it, just a glow of background radiation. I check the K162 first, being taken to a system in Deklein again, somehow not recognising it from yesterday. Today, over twenty pilots are in the system, and a whole bunch of ships are potentially out and about. That is, until I appear. Flicking d-scan around sees the mining barges and exhumers nowhere near the ore sites but around planets with towers. Never mind.

Back to C3a and across to and out the U210. This is more interesting. I share the system with just one other capsuleer, painted bright orange. His corporation matches that of the one in C3a, and I can see a Venture mining frigate on d-scan. D-scan is the only place I can find it, though, as sweeping across the ore sites or rock belts can't pinpoint the ship's position. I suppose he could be in a cleared gas site, if they exist in empire space, but this system is so small that I can't get out of d-scan range to launch probes, which is more of a drawback when the local communications channel highlights my presence.

Hullo, the wormhole to C3a crackles. Is it the Ares come to shoo me away? Whatever ship it is, it holds its cloak for as long as possible. And, no, it's not the Ares, it's a Buzzard, the covert operations boat warping clear as soon as it becomes visible. That gives me two potential targets that I can't catch in my current ship, in a system where it's obvious that I'm here. Maybe I can change that.

Buzzard jumps to low-sec from class 3 w-space

I jump back to w-space and warp homewards, pausing at our K162 to update d-scan, seeing the Ares still at the tower. The Buzzard is a new contact, in that case. I jump home, warp to the tower, and consider what ship to take back. My first thought is an interceptor, until I remind myself of the Flycatcher interdictor we have. That should do for catching agile ships. I swap to the interdictor, return to C3a, and warp to loiter with intent on the exit to low-sec.

The wormhole is out of range of the Ares, so hopefully I don't get in to immediate trouble with him, if this interdictor would even have trouble with an interceptor. It's only whilst I wait for either the Buzzard or Venture, or both, to come back that I realise bubbles can't be used in low-sec, so if either jumps back then I could miss whatever chance I have of catching them. Then again, the Flycatcher has insanely good sensor resolution, enough to catch a cov-ops before it cloaks. On the gripping hand, it also only has a warp disruptor. The Venture's increased warp core strength and lack of interdiction bubble would let it evade me in low-sec.

Well, I've made my decision, I'll just sit and wait and see what happens. Updating d-scan regularly doesn't see an Ares heading my way, not that the warp acceleration changes would give me much warning. Listening for the wormhole to crackle with a transit hears nothing. I can wait a bit longer. And I wait a bit longer. I wait a bit longer still, not quite in contravention of my own orders, but it seems clear that the Buzzard and Venture are in no rush to come back, and I'm in no position to catch them in low-sec. It's time to give up on what was a half-hearted plan to start with. Never mind, I'm sure it is the thought of combat that counts.

Dying wormholes end scouting

30th August 2014 – 3.51 pm

The previous sites have gone, two new signatures and two good anomalies have appeared. Can I clear the anomalies, and maybe get closer to ending my cathartic analysis of Oblivion, or do we have an extra wormhole? Scanning resolves a pocket of gas, one wormhole, and a second wormhole. Oblivion will have to wait.

The second wormhole is a K162 from class 3 w-space, but is wobbling away at the end of its life. That somewhat restricts my options in this direction, particularly when I have no idea how much longer the wormhole will last before imploding. More importantly, did whoever come through this connection also hit our static wormhole, opening that over twelve hours ago and almost forcing me to stay at home?

I warp across to our static connection to see that, thank goodness, the wormhole is stable and healthy. Maybe it will enter its end-of-life stage soon, but even if it does that still gives me a few hours to go scouting, which is plenty of time. I jump through. Updating my directional scanner from our K162 sees four cans and not much else, and really not much else with the ever-disappointing discovery scanner showing me that all the anomalies and signatures are in d-scan range. There's no activity in C3a.

Small cluster of signatures revealed by the silly discovery scanner

I launch probes and perform a blanket scan, which offers extra information over the discovery scanner. I already know the five anomalies are all ore sites, and that there are five signatures. My combat scanning probes also tell me that the signatures are all chubby, giving me all gas sites or K162s, and that there are no ships and no structures. No activity, no occupation. I'll scan the signatures, which won't take long.

Gas, gas, gas, and a wormhole. It looks like I'm going to low-sec, and low-sec Tash-Murkon, by the looks of the U210's colours. I exit C3a to be in Sagain, but I won't repeat the obvious pun, and launch probes to poke the rather impressive-looking eight extra signatures. Well, impressive-looking until interrogated, as they are all combat sites bar two wormholes, one of which is weak and thus outbound.

Two wormholes is better than none, and I warp to the chubby one first. It's a K162 from more class 3 w-space. I can dive in and check out this system before warping and perhaps opening the other wormhole. It's not like finding outbound connections offers a particular advantage any more, sadly. Finding your ship spat over six kilometres from the wormhole when entering a w-space system isn't a positive sign either, which is what happens when I enter C3b.

Even more minimal w-space system

D-scan is clear and there is again not much to see, with a few anomalies and just two signatures. There are no ore sites this time, just combat anomalies, giving weirdo occupants—if there are any. Nope, no structures again, according to my probes, and of the two signatures one is chubby, one is weak. The chubby signature is the U210 I entered through, meaning the other one is definitely not a K162. It could be an outbound connection, but it's much more likely to be a data site and a waste of time in scanning.

Back to low-sec and across to the other wormhole, which lead to class 5 w-space. Whatever, I continue my w-space scouting and enter C5a, updating d-scan to see a small bubble somewhere, just not on the wormhole. A black hole lurks in the distance, making me suspect that I won't find occupation here either. A blanket scan reveals a messy system, with twenty anomalies and eighteen signatures, and although there are no ships there are plenty of structures. Unfortunately, the structures are all concentrated on the planet within d-scan range, and all I'm seeing are remnants of an off-line tower. There is no active occupation.

I've found nothing so far, hardly encouraging me to continue, but I've got probes launched and I am okay to give scanning another go. I don't care to list close to twenty results, but I would like to point out all the data sites that take too long to identify. A bit of gas eases the scanning burden, and I end up with two wormholes for my troubles. The second is only a K162 from null-sec, though, which takes me to a system in Deklein where a ratting Dominix battleship can only be found inside a tower's force field after I appear.

I return to C5a and warp to the static wormhole for my last chance of finding activity, only to drop next to an H296 connection to further class 5 w-space that is close to death. I didn't risk an EOL wormhole in our home system, I'm certainly not going to risk diving in to deeper C5 space for potentially nothing. The constellation is ended. It's been dullness in scanning tonight, but at least I was out here doing something.